Archive for category The Evolving World

NY haz teh Gay

By now you may have heard that the NY State Senate passed a marriage equality bill last night making NY the sixth, and so far largest, state in the US to allow same sex marriage.  That makes me pleased. I like knowing that that sort of progressive thought is alive and well in my home state. In fact, I read recently that 58% of the state’s population supports gay marriage. Of course, this didn’t stop my stodgy and backward thinking state senator, Joe Griffo, from voting against it. But I was a little surprised by the comments I saw on the local paper’s web site regarding the announcement. And by surprised, I mean I saw a lot of well considered and thoughtful remarks supporting it instead of the usual drivel there. Granted, there were the usual howls from the biblical crowd, but on balance it’s heartening:

http://www.uticaod.com/features/x177089819/NY-Legislature-legalizes-gay-marriage

It should be noted that NY won’t officially adopt this until Governor Cuomo signs the bill, but as he stated it to be a top priority, it would be extraordinary if he didn’t sign it.

Advertisements

1 Comment

“It’s not your average creation video”

This is true only to the extent that the video in question is narrated by a young-earth whackjob who looks and sounds disturbingly like Richard Dawkins. Watching the video is thus much like watching George Carlin deliver a speech in an impassive monotone about how bright and charming most people are, or seeing Sarah Palin offer her latest insights about superstring theory. Other than that, though, it’s standard creationist bullshit — allege that something that real scientists have elucidated is actually a quandary for them, then solve a nonexistent problem (or more to the point, something that is a problem only for YECs) by throwing up a Biblical model in its place. Boilerplate drivel.

You may have noticed that the guy who operates this blog, Ikester, himself doesn’t possess an especially deep understanding of that which he purports to debunk: Read the rest of this entry »

,

6 Comments

The “tipping point” model as an explanation for the maintenance of homosexuality

This is interesting and suggests that there may be a definitive answer to the long-standing question, “Is there an evolutionarily based explanation for homosexuality?”

Overly simplified, this “tipping-point” model (originally introduced by G. E. Hutchinson in 1959, and then later popularized by Jim McKnight in 1997 and Edward Miller in 2000) posits that genes associated with homosexuality confer fitness benefits in their heterosexual carriers. If only a few of these alleles are inherited, a males’ reproductive success is enhanced via the expression of attractive, albeit feminine traits, such as kindness, sensitivity, empathy, and tenderness. However, if many of these alleles are inherited, a “tipping point” is reached at which even mate preferences become “feminized,” meaning males are attracted to other males. In explaining this model, Miller asked readers to imagine a genetic system in which there are five different genes that place an individual along a masculine-feminine continuum. Each of the five genes has two alleles, one that pulls the individual to the masculine side and one that pulls to the feminine side. If a man inherited all of the feminine-pulling alleles (of which he has a 3.125% chance: .55), he will become homosexual. If he inherited less than all five of the feminine-pulling alleles, however, he would not be homosexual. Although originally proposed in simple form in 1959, this model was finally empirically tested in 2008 and 2009.

Behavioral geneticists at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research lead by Brendan Zietsch (joined by sexual orientation expert Michael Bailey and evolutionary geneticist Matthew Keller) found that psychological femininity in heterosexual men elevated the number of opposite-sex sexual partners, suggesting that their femininity was often attractive to women (think Johnny Depp). In addition, these researchers and those at Abo Akedemi University in Finland (lead by Pekka Santtila) independently predicted that if the “tipping point” model was correct, then heterosexual men with a homosexual twin should have more of the attractive feminine-pulling alleles and thus more opposite-sex sexual partners than members of heterosexual twin pairs. The Finnish group also measured the number of children and age at first intercourse between heterosexual men with a homosexual twin brother and heterosexual men with heterosexual twin brothers. While the findings did not reach statistical significance, data suggested that heterosexuals with a homosexual twin had slightly more opposite-sex sexual partners, slightly more children, and were a bit younger at the age of first intercourse than heterosexual twin pairs.

In other words, a certain amount of “femininity” makes straight men more appealing to women and increases the chances that they’ll pass along more of their genes. Too much and then men are simply gay, but the fact that they don’t reproduce is mitigated by the face that their close cousins–comparatively “woman-like” straight men–are busy passing along a slew of the same genes that apparently contribute to homosexuality. (Obviously this description is fraught with hazards. “Woman-like” as I’m using it here implies not a queeny bearing, but greater tendencies toward kindness, empathy, and other positive traits that can be found in men who present as perfectly “masculine.”)

It’s an intriguing idea, anyway, not that the homobigots–usually people whose comprehension of simple genetics is zero–will either understand or accept it if it ever comes to prominence.

4 Comments

Creationists react to Darwinius masillae

I can’t decide if this counts as theft of intellectual property or not. Anyway, PZ Myers wrote a post about how various well-known creationists have reacted to the 47-million-year-old fossil of a lemur-like proto-primate, and wouldn’t you know, he was filmed reading it out loud.

1 Comment

Someone sneak this video over the Texas border

A nice presentation about fossils and “transitional forms” that makes good use of basic analogy.

(H/T to REAL Science>

Leave a comment

The Discovery Institute: a shambling, sneering concern troll (3)

This is the last in a three-part series (the first is here, the second here).
Bruce Chapman had this to say yesterday:

[T]he new standards are just fine, an improvement, in fact. Now teachers can tell the kids about the scientific evidence in a variety of fields that seems to contradict the Darwinian account as well as the supposed evidence in support.

Interesting; I never knew that teachers heretofore were barred from discussing actual evidence of any sort. And “seems,” Bruce? And “supposed”? The sun “seems” to revolve around the earth, but we don’t teach kids that it does, because we have “supposed evidence” to the contrary.
Chapman has patently defined “evidence” in two wildly different ways here. Rarely does one see such bold equivocation within a single sentence, even from these guys. How mindless, and sold on hokum in advance, do people have to be to lend a shred of credulity to such weaselly presentations? (Of course, maybe this is just one more way of “framing science,” which means it may even be ethical since it’s not coming from someone with any interest in valid science.)
The DI crew and scientists both know that there is no scientific evidence against evolution. If such evidence existed, it would stand front and center on the DI Web site, probably linked in huge text at the top of the home page, and would be right next to the evidence supporting Intelligent Design creationism if that existed. The absence of these things alone should be sufficient to convince anyone of the flakiness of the entire ID “movement,” but unfortunately religion scrambles minds in a uniquely ugly way.
By referring to something that isn’t there, but which millions of Lone Star Staters need to be there, the DI gang foments uncertainty without the need to put anything scientific in its place, since they knows well the default position of the faithful. And technically, if teachers in Texas could be counted on to do their jobs competently and with integrity, the idea of “examining all sides of scientific evidence” in the world of biology morphs trivially into “examine the evidence for evolution” and everyone is happy.
But of course the public doesn’t know these things; otherwise, circuses like the one that was just conducted would never happen in the first place. At present, the burden of colossal, willful, angry ignorance is so great in Texas that it very easily overwhelms facts when left unchecked and usually does so even when facts are placed front and center and with due equanimity. Creationist teachers abound, and the DI knows full well that an abdication of teaching evolution implies the support–to whatever extent the teacher can get away with it–of evolution. The DI pretends to shun religious explanations for the diversity of life on Earth, but this is an obvious lie; their aim is to position students’ minds so that creationism can be molded into ID creationism.
Of course, these people are screw-ups, and so, despite all of the practice they’ve had honing their dishonest talking points, they can’t help but screw up here and there, often without any cloaking at all. Witness Casey Luskin:

Read the rest of this entry »

2 Comments

Hitchens on the Texas evolution battles

I’m referring not to the evolution of Texas itself, of course–there’s little evidence that this brand of evolution actually occurs, be it naturally or by dint of human intervention–but to the ongoing efforts to poison the public-school science-teaching standards there.
Christopher Hitchens has written a piece for Newsweek addressing the issue.

Perhaps dimly aware that they don’t want a total victory, either, [Don] McLeroy and his allies now say that they ask for evolution to be taught only with all its “strengths and weaknesses.” But in this, they are surely being somewhat disingenuous. When their faction was strong enough to demand an outright ban on the teaching of what they call “Darwinism,” they had such a ban written into law in several states. Since the defeat and discredit of that policy, they have passed through several stages of what I am going to have to call evolution. First, they tried to get “secular humanism” classified as a “religion,” so that it would meet the First Amendment’s disqualification for being taught with taxpayers’ money. (That bright idea was Pat Robertson’s.) Then they came up with the formulation of “creation science,” picking up on anomalies and gaps in evolution and on differences between scientific Darwinists like Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould. Next came the ingratiating plea for “equal time”–what could be more American than that?–and now we have the rebranded new coinage of “intelligent design” and the fresh complaint that its brave advocates are, so goes the title of a recent self-pitying documentary, simply “expelled” from the discourse.
It’s not just that the overwhelming majority of scientists are now convinced that evolution is inscribed in the fossil record and in the lineaments of molecular biology. It is more that evolutionists will say in advance which evidence, if found, would refute them and force them to reconsider. (“Rabbit fossils in the pre-Cambrian layer” was, I seem to remember, the response of Prof. J.B.S. Haldane.) Try asking an “intelligent design” advocate to stipulate upfront what would constitute refutation of his world view and you will easily see the difference between the scientific method and the pseudoscientific one.
But that is just my opinion. And I certainly do not want it said that my side denies a hearing to the opposing one. In the spirit of compromise, then, I propose the following. First, let the school debating societies restage the wonderful set-piece real-life dramas of Oxford and Dayton, Tenn. Let time also be set aside, in our increasingly multiethnic and multicultural school system, for children to be taught the huge variety of creation stories, from the Hindu to the Muslim to the Australian Aboriginal. This is always interesting (and it can’t be, can it, that the Texas board holdouts think that only Genesis ought to be so honored?). Second, we can surely demand that the principle of “strengths and weaknesses” will be applied evenly. If any church in Texas receives a tax exemption, or if any religious institution is the beneficiary of any subvention from the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, we must be assured that it will devote a portion of its time to laying bare the “strengths and weaknesses” of the religious world view, and also to teaching the works of Voltaire, David Hume, Benedict de Spinoza, Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson. This is America. Let a hundred flowers bloom, and a thousand schools of thought contend. We may one day have cause to be grateful to the Texas Board of Education for lighting a candle that cannot be put out.

So what say the creationist readers of this blog (if any?) Does this sound like a fair deal? Or, as I suspect is the case, does the Christ myth not admit of any “weaknesses”?

9 Comments

The Discovery Institute: a shambling, sneering concern troll (2)

This is a continuation of a post from yesterday, where I took great pains to introduce something no one else has figured out: that the Discovery Institute not only is filled with people who are dead wrong, but is a tremendous font of dishonesty, too.
Witness John West, unrepentant serial liar:

One has to wonder whether the Dallas Morning News reporter even attended today’s meeting of the Texas State Board of Education. It’s hard to tell from the garbled account the paper just published, which pretty much claims that the evolution dogmatists won everything … Most egregiously, the article fails to mention that the final standards preserve amendments added in January requiring students to “analyze and evaluate” the evidence for major evolutionary claims such as natural selection, common ancestry, and mutations.

West posted three separate entries on Friday complaining that the media failed to emphasize the “analyze and evaluate” nonsense. Yes, we get the point–West wants the media to do his job for him and behave as though there exists scientific controversy over whether evolution occurs. But there’s a problem with West’s perseverating, because if you repeat something over and over, even people sold on your bullshit from the gate are going to eventually expect some evidence backing up what you’re saying or implying. West, of course, does not offer any links, anywhere, to scientific evidence refuting evolution, in whole or in any part. He just leaves the idea of it floating around out there, the same great rank intellectual fart as always, hoping no one will notice that what he and his fellow prevaricators continue cheerfully waving in everyone’s faces smells like anything but roses.
Then there’s West’s most hilarious whopper–the basis for the “concern troll” reference in the title of this post and its partners:

Read the rest of this entry »

5 Comments

The Discovery Institute: a shambling, sneering concern troll (1)

Imagine a highly intelligent alien species landing on Earth and immediately availing itself of the knowledge humanity has acquired about how it and other organisms have, in biological terms, come to occupy their present niches in Earth’s various ecosystems. These aliens, armed with knowledge about earthly living cells and how information is chemically encoded therein, would quickly assimilate everything that has been proposed, tested, accepted, and rejected about evolution and evolution-like impostors (e.g., Lamarckism), and would surely be satisfied that evolution and its chief tenets (common descent with modification and natural selection acting on the substrate of genetic mutations) is sufficient–and even necessary–to explain the diversity of life on the third planet from what we call the Sun.
Given this, the aliens–who know nothing of religious thought–might be surprised to learn that a great many people are unhappy with this eminently satisfactory set of explanatory mechanisms, and are allegedly proposing alternatives. When informed of the movement known as “Intelligent Design,” they would no doubt peruse the writings put forth by the chief proponents of this alternative idea. Were they to visit Evolution News & Views, they would, availed of the Discovery Institute’s tireless insistence that evolution is a lie, have every reason to expect a compelling assembly of data- and experiment-driven presentations serving to build and bolster the case for ID. When, instead, they found not one example such a thing, only found page after page of hollow complaints about evolution unaccompanied by specifics about its alleged shortcomings, they would probably lose interest in our lowly species and toss a few supernukes over their shoulders as they sped off so as to guarantee that the worst of Earth’s poor thinking could never survive to infect faraway life forms who were themselves in the process of struggling to reach levels of genuine understanding about the world.
This is a long means of reiterating what most here already know: that the DI makes no pretense about trying to support its own “theory.” It never really did, but the bottom has really fallen out, for if you go to the EN&V site now and do a text search of the home page, the only mention of ID you will find is the hacks who contribute to this ongoing joke complaining perfunctorily that its critics just don’t get it. It’s quite blatant, but when attempting to stand by a dead ally, what can anyone do other than wail about those who desecrate the body?
Well, there’s the obvious–they can keep complaining about the unfair dominance of evolution, and so they do. But with the happenings in Texas in recent days, there’s a somewhat new twist: The DI is trying to portray itself as a champion of sound science and in the process making a heroic effort to keep a collective straight face. What its flacks are doing is nothing more than a clumsy rendition of the time-honored wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing gambit. Specifically, they are fixating on the amendment to the educational standards approved by the Texas State Board of Education that includes this language:

[Students must] analyze, evaluate and critique scientific explanations in all fields of science by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing, including examining all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations so as to encourage critical thinking by the student.

I’ll get to the problems with this, and how the DI lampoons itself in attempting to portray itself as an ally of science, in a post later today or tomorrow.

7 Comments

fRANK tUREK’S nAME nEEDS tO bE wRITTEN lIKE tHIS

“Awaken Generation” and its coterie of goons is yet another discovery I rather wish I hadn’t made, because I can’t help but point Internet fingers at something with a tractard-beam as strong as the one that blog has. Once again, Frank Turek has bent over and, with a hearty grunt, explosively shat some of the most foul, semisolid ultrastupid all over the back of my screen, or so it appears.
Frank has decided to be wrong today about various facets of evolution and morality. I’m not a psychologist, a biologist, or a philosopher, but I think I can ably handle Frank’s objections in his post, “Evolution Cannot Explain Morality.”

Some atheists, such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, insist that morality is simply the product of evolution. Common moral sensibilities (Don’t murder, rape, steal, etc.) help ensure our evolutionary survival. There are number of problems with this view:

I’m not sure Hitchens–a journalist, not a scientist–has had much, if anything, to say one way or the other about evolution, with or without describing its relationship to morality. I think Frank is merely grabbing the name of a well-know atheist and ascribing characteristics to him that seem convenient. This is because Frank is as lazy as he is ignorant. But this is not central to the post.

1.Rape may enhance the survival of the species, but does that make rape good? Should we rape?

I’m not clear where he gets the idea that rape is useful in terms of species survival. A female is obviously better off with a male around to help with child-rearing, and rapists aren’t known for sticking around to be fathers. There is ample consensual copulation (with or without the aim of procreation) among humans so that wanton, forced sex is not beneficial, even in the coldest mathematical view.
But even if it were, Frank’s question is about as stupid as questions get. We humans are not slaves to whatever processes have led us to what we are. We use birth control (the ultimate back-at-ya in the face of natural selection within an intelligent species, really), extract wisdom teeth, and do our best to treat and eliminate nasty genetic diseases. We circumcise a lot of our male infants, a procedure which has been shown to reduce STD transmission rates. We do this because we value life and fairness, not owing to some cosmic mandate.
Frank is confused about a lot of things, but here he seems to think that evolution implies that we aren’t supposed to interfere with our own inherited traits and tendencies in any way. In that case, since he’s presumably of a mind that we’re all born sinners, why fuck around and try to do any better? Just submit to inevitability.

2. Killing the weak and handicapped may help improve the species and its survival (Hitler’s plan). Does that mean the Holocaust was a good thing?

This is not even worth addressing except to note that Frank thinks “survival of the fittest” implies a need to consciously cull the ill from the herd. This is as demented as it is cynical and is, of course, something no sane scientist believes.

3. Evolution provides no stable foundation for morality. If evolution is the source of morality, then what’s to stop morals from evolving (changing) to the point that one day rape, theft and murder are considered moral?

If nothing else, Frank has no shortage of false premises. He’s a little short on “getting” stuff, though. If he had given this any thought, he might realize that a society collectively “evolving” in such a way to render murder and theft benefical is akin to expecting a fish species to thrive while losing its fins and gills. He thinks evolution is something that can just up and change course on a whim–I’m sure he envisions it as a conscious process, as he can’t see the universe in any other terms. And like a lot of fundies, he freely interchanges complex behaviors with genes. It gets worse:

4. Dawkins and Hitchens confuse epistemology with ontology (how we know something exists with that and what exists). So even if natural selection or some other chemical process is responsible for us knowing right from wrong, that would not explain why something is right or wrong. How does a chemical process (natural selection) yield an immaterial moral law? And why does anyone have a moral obligation to obey a chemical process? You only have a moral obligation to obey an ultimate personal being (God) who has the authority to put moral obligations on you. You don’t have a moral obligation to chemistry.

HI think he’s not so much making a straw-man argument here as he’s showing how utterly confused he is. He genuinely seems to think that biologists propose that “morals” are something tat can be neatly packaged in DNA and passed on to the next generation, like hair or eye color. His questions are meaningless; no one has a moral obligation to obey either “a chemical process” or God (I can freely fornicate, blaspheme, and have other gods before the Biblical one, all at the same time and while extending both middle fingers toward the sky and cackling. And don’t assume I haven’t done this.)

As I mentioned in an earlier post (Atheists Have No Basis for Morality), several atheists at a recent I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist event at UNC Wilmington struggled greatly when I asked them to offer some objective basis for morality from their atheistic worldview. They kept trying to give tests for how we know something is moral rather than why something is moral. One atheist said “not harming people” is the standard. But why is harming people wrong if there is no God? And what if harming people enhances your survival and that of most others?

This is more pathetic than anything else. I can see a panel of atheists struck silent by questions from this guy because he doesn’t ask anything more meaningful than a cocker spaniel would if it could talk. If he can’t understand why it’s intrinsically wrong to harm other people for no good reason even when there are no deities in the equation, he’s not just cum-dumpster dumb, he’s a menace.

Another said, “happiness” is the basis for morality. After I asked him, “Happiness according to who, Mother Teresa or Hitler?,” he said, “I need to think about this more,” and then sat down. This says nothing about the intelligence of these people- there just is no good answer to the question. Without God there is no basis for objective morals. It’s just Mother Teresa’s opinion against Hitler’s.

At this point it’s clear that Frank is telling us an apocryphal tale. Lying is the stock-in-trade of people like him, so I’m not surprised.

See also Neil’s post: Does our Morality come from our DNA?

You can if you want. I didn’t. I’d had enough by the time I got to the end of Frank’s mess.

6 Comments

John West, pathetic whining punk

Naturally, the troupe of clowns constituting the Discovery Institute, the primary American ganglion in the slimy and slithering beast known as Intelligent Design creationism, are closely following the goings-on in Texas. Even before today’s win for the good guys, John West was already making a complete ass of himself for the umpteenth time and with the usual barrenness of cogitation and lack of originality.

Apparently Texas Board of Education member Rick Agosto isn’t just content to censor science by removing any criticisms of evolution from the science curriculum. The San Antonio Democrat even wants to prevent citizens from expressing their disagreement with that censorship. This morning Agosto demanded that some citizens quietly holding signs stating “Don’t Censor Science” at the Board meeting take down their signs. He even called on security personnel to forcibly remove the signs, but Board chair Don McElroy intervened to stop that abuse of power.

True to form, West’s first sentence is an unapologetic lie. This is just one more example of the DI bitching about scientific orthodoxy without mentioning what these scientific criticisms are and where they come from; there’s clearly no censorship at work here. His second sentence is therefore a lie as well. I don’t know exactly what went on with the protesters, but color me skeptical when it comes to the accuracy of West’s reportage, and since the sign-holders were allowed to carry on, he really has nothing to complain about. Besides, that whole angle is, like everything else the DI upholds as central to the evolution “debate,” a red herring.

Agosto’s over-the-top behavior toward non-disruptive attendees at the meeting followed his earlier denunciation of intelligent design as not being based on science. Agosto doesn’t appear to have actually read anything by intelligent design proponents…

See, this is where credible people provide a summary of why their critics are wrong, or at least a link or two to some oft-referenced argument refuting the critics. People routinely link to well-known pages on talk.origins, for example, when a creationist lets fly with a canard about there being no transitional fossils or no evidence for speciation. West, of course, doesn’t offer any of this; he just tries to hand-wave away the idea that ID isn’t science. Sorry, John, lots of us have read things by intelligent design proponents, and they bear all the integrity and scientific content of an episode of a hardcore porn flick, except the acting in those is better.

…and his comments attacking intelligent design were completely gratuitous since the Board isn’t even considering adding intelligent design to the science standards.

Right; they’e trying to overturn evolution in favor of…what? A vacuum? It can’t be straight-up Biblical creationism, since that’s been illegal since the 1987 Supreme Court ruling in Edwards vs. Aguillard. So out with it, John–if Texas aimed to add ID creationism to its curriculum, you and the rest of the DI locusts wouldn’t be swarming around energetically, propagating even more bullshit than usual in an effort to make it happen?

Interestingly, at yesterday’s Board meeting Agosto used his right of personal privilege to bring back non-Texan Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education to speak before the Board. Because Scott spoke at the January meeting, she was supposed to be near the bottom of the speakers’ list yesterday in order to allow new people to testify.

Got that? Genie Scott is the executive director of the National Center for Science Education, and West (a Washingtonian) is complaining about her presence at a meeting held to determine critical amendments to the science teaching curriculum in America’s second-largest state because she’s not from Texas. It’s rare to see an argument that blatantly weak, even from this crew. Casey Luskin routinely shits on his keyboard when he tries to get in the trenches and argue science particulars, but at least his brand of stupid takes a token amount of routine fisking to expose. What West says here is just full-frontal moronic, and speaks to the DI’s global lack of of a tenable reason for opposting evolution.

But Agosto seems to have been more interested in hearing from arch-Darwinist Scott than hearing from his own constituents or other Texans patiently waiting to testify.

Quick! Someone add “arch-Darwinist” to the list of terms piling up here.

5 Comments

Following the Texas evolution fight in real time

Starting at 10 a.m. CDT today, the Texas Board of Education began a two-day process that will determine whether the nation’s second-most-populous state will trash its science education standards.

The Texas Freedom Network and Texas Citizens for Science are liveblogging the hearings. You can also listen to them live on the Texas Board of Education website.
If there was ever actually doubt over whether this row deals with legitimate concerns about what science to teach, consider who’s in Austin right now: Casey Luskin, the Free Market Foundation, and Focus on the Family, among others. I hope Luskin has to take a gram of Xanax to fall asleep at night, given that his job is literally to fly around the country and lie in ways intended to disrupt the education of American schoolchildren. Either he has no conscience or he squashes it with pharmaceuticals, but either way he’s somewhere between Dick Cheney and Charles Manson on the morality scale.

2 Comments

Obama, Oprah, “worm-reptile-monkey people,” and Texas textbooks

There’s a connection, believe me.
As reported last week by the Texas Freedom Network–an organization that truly has a task before it that makes the travails of Job look like a game of mini-golf–Texas State Board of Education chair Don McLeroy (no stranger to this blog) offered a ringing endorsement of a self-published anti-evolution book by Robert Bowie Johnson, Jr. No surprise there. You can read excerpts from the book in the TFN post, which in turn links to a full-text online version.
But if you really want to spend a few hours reading some fifth-degree, superconcentrated crazy, check out what Johnson wrote on his blog last summer when agitating against Barack Obama’s ultimately failed campaign for president of the U.S. This is a very long screed, divided into chapters, and every last bit of it is jarring even by creationist standards, perhaps because Johnson has a certain facility with words. I’m going to paste a paragraph chosen completely at random after giving the touch pad of my laptop a flick of the thumb and seeing where the scroll bar parks itself. Okay, here we go:

Read the rest of this entry »

3 Comments

Argument from gut (argumentum ad gastrum)

Good old Gribbit is at it again, railing against the idea of climate change and invoking his obligatory far-less-than-clever insults (e.g., “Church of Global Warming Idiots”).
One thing you notice about these scientifically illiterate, anger-driven ideologues–none of whom have any inherent issue with the idea of global warming, hating it only because they view it as a wholly liberal cause–is that when they’re not referencing pseudoscience or long-debunked myths, they’re arguing from the simple position of “Because I say so.”
I mean this (almost) literally. Check out this post (Gribbit has blocked incoming links from this site because he doesn’t want to know when he’s being lit up again, so you’ll have to right-click, copy, and paste into your address bar rather than click directly). Look how many times Gribbit tries to bolster his case with hollow bluster: He’s got an “All I’ve claimed is that man had very little to do with [global warming],” an “I assert that man’s contribution is insignificant,” and several other statements that reference nothing more than a personal belief system.
As is almost always the case with morons, the article Gribbit links to doesn’t say what Gribbit thinks it does. The researchers who did the study it references are not claiming that anthropogenic climate change is nonexistent; the study is nothing more than an effort to determine natural cycles. Like too many simpletons, Gribbit sees no shades of gray in anything. So he sees climate change as being all-human generated or all-naturally occurring–and hilariously, posits that Al Gore and climate scientists do as well.
Gribbit and others typically mention what a small fraction of the atmosphere actually consists of carbon dioxide by way of “proving” that carbon dioxide introduced into the atmosphere by human industry can’t possibly make a difference, to wit:

CO2 is a minority greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. THE MOST ABUNDANT GREENHOUSE GAS IN THE EARTH’S ATMOSPHERE IS WATER VAPOR. But I don’t hear Gore or any of his minions suggesting the asinine idea of draining the world’s oceans.

Never mind the fact that it’s added CO2, not the total amount, that is believed to have an impact. My body consists of about 45 kilograms of water, but I bet that if I ingested one one-billionth that amount of botulinum toxin or plutonium, it would disrupt my internal homeostasis more than a couple more kilograms of water would. That’s a less-than-perfect analogy, but hearkens to the fact that not all chemicals–even those labeled “greenhouse gases”–are created equal in terms of their net effect on their environment. Anyway, a genuine debunking of this meme is here.
Then there’s this stubborn canard:

Seeing how the earth has failed to warm since 1997, their statement about the shift occurring about the year 2000 seems to confirm what we’ve been saying.

The whole idea that the planet has been cooling since 1997 (actually, 1998 is the year normally used) is another crock. 1998 was an El Nino year, and is the warmest on record. But the fact remains that the planet as a whole has continued to warm. Of course, you can trust Gribbit’s word over that of New Scientist if you like.
Watching people who have no understanding at all of earth science–and no interest in an honest understanding–try to argue against climate change is really no different than watching a six-year-old jeer at the girls in his kindergarten class because they have “cooties.” In other words, it’s so unsophisticated it is almost quaint. although when adults are the ones doing the jabbering it’s mostly pathetic, and annoying.

12 Comments

Crap from an ID blog (pardon the redundancy)

I recently wrote about Michael Egnor’s concern trolling regarding Richard Dawkins, where Egnor took what is, to all but the most rabid extremists, a very easy position (that an Oklahoma politican’s aim to keep Dawkins from speaking at OU was wrong) in order to shepherd in numerous lies about Dawkins and mischaracterizations of his positions, including the claim–made three different times–that Dawkins advocates academic censorship.
The basic structure of a “stealth slam” essay like this one–not that it’s subtle to readers who are at all discerning–is, “It’s wrong to label football players stupid. Sure, most of them major in joke subjects, indulge in date rape, and take steroids, but that doesn’t make them dumb.” It smacks of an extended form of paralipsis.
Someone named Bradford writing at the ID creationism blog Telic Thoughts has, naturally, been suckered in (or chosen to ignore the obvious) in a post titled “Egnor takes the high road.” It’s exactly the kind of result Egnor aimed for and consists not of a high road but a pair of tired ruts leading through a manure-strewn pasture. But leave it the the Telic Thoughts crew to foment some of the worst denial on the Internet–after all, you’re talking about a group of bloggers who have taken up an indefensible, scientifically hollow position and mocked everyone not on board.
Seriously, what does it say about your “movement” when you have to praise your comrades for not advocating what Sen. Thomsen proposed? That it’s joke led by dishonest people, maybe? Apparently it’s striking when an ID proponent writes something that’s not wholly dishonest or uncomprehending.
It’s also obvious that IDers have little choice but to play nice, at least on the surface. Since they bring religion rather than research to the table, they have to use every tactic possible in order to gain exposure for their aims, and Egnor’s article, with its implied “our controversial theory, their controversial theory” stance, serves them well, or at least not as poorly as Pennsylvania school board members perjuring themselves on the witness stand.
Some of the lies in the comments are interesting, too–you actually see people defending Ben Stein and the well-documented duplicity on the part of the producers of Expelled.
In the end, though, these people are only babbling to themselves. They’re like the losers in Say Anything hanging out a the gas-station parking lot on a weekend night, drinking beers trying to convince each other that they don’t really want to be out with girls.

Leave a comment

Evolution for illiterates, deathmongers, and Elmer Fudd idolizers: First and last in a series

“Big Dog” read this post but chose to respond only in the relative haven of his own faeces-covered kennel, and with all the erudition one would expect. I’ll leave him a trackback and see if he bothers replying with anything intelligible.

“Science to support evolution, upon reflection, certainly just like there is science to support man made global warming.”

Translated into a complete sentence, this means that “Big Dog” admits that he was lying before and that he’s aware that there is science to support evolution. He believes, however, that he’s free to discard it because this science is, just like that underlying climate change, unreliable. Notice that he doesn’t mention a single supposedly debunked or questioned point.

“Both are theories so neither has been proved … There is no scientific consensus and obviously it is not settled or it would not be a theory.”

Hmm, that sounds familiar. Where have I…ah, I know! See comment #19:

No Kemibe the idiot… it is a theory. Definition of a theory is an unproven scientific hypothesis. Evolution is far from proven. Q: Where are the missing links you’ve been searching for for decades? Answer: They don’t exist. Ergo theory.

Of course, these guys are completely wrong:

“Biologists consider the existence of biological evolution to be a fact. It can be demonstrated today and the historical evidence for its occurrence in the past is overwhelming. However, biologists readily admit that they are less certain of the exact mechanism of evolution; there are several theories of the mechanism of evolution.”

As for “Big Dog’s” claim that there is “no consensus,” I wonder what his definition of “consensus” is. Must it be something that even a small scattering of nutjobs–people whose “work” has been demolished by their peers and who in some cases have been exposed in court as liars–do not disagree with?
Actually, I’d like to see “Big Dog” offer a single example of a controversy about the factuality of evolution within the scientific community. Just one will do. No recourse to creationist sites, please; we’re looking for evidence of scientific dissent here, not a “Big Dog”-style “I call bullshit!” I hope he chooses carefully; it is all but assured that his fervent Internet search will only yield a specious example of a counterclaim that everyone here is already familiar with. This is what happens when you stake out an untenable position and tell lies to support it.

“I know the arguments, we share DNA with chimps blah, blah. We also share about 90% with rats and look nothing like them (well meathead looks like one).”

No, “Big Dog” clearly doesn’t “know the arguments,” none of which include the words “blah, blah.” Indeed, he’s unaware that his statement about rats–which is, not surprisingly, incorrect, as rats and humans share “only” about 25% of their genes–only puts him further in a hole.
If affirming the common ancestry of all living things relied solely on phenotype (appearance) it would be easy to dismiss the majority of organisms as being unrelated to humans. However, scientists long ago began making predictions about the relative degree of “relatedness” between humans and different animals and groups of animals–apes, monkeys, other mammals, other vertebrates (including reptiles and birds), invertebrates (such as insects), even bacteria.
These predictions have been borne out by not only by gross examination of anatomical structures but by molecular genetics and other modern techniques. “Big Dog” thinks he can just throw out the fact that humans and rats and chimps share a lot of DNA because rats and humans do not, in his judgment, look anything alike–but he’s yet again wrong.

“We have not seen one animal evolve into another…”

Oh, really? Is that the royal “we” you’re using?

“…and if the fittest will survive then why worry about polar bears or others “victims” of so called global warming … Surely we will adapt to what ever happens or we will perish.”

If the fittest will survive then why insist that they be armed? How is protecting ourselves with weapons (i.e., through a change in the environmnent rather than in the organism) any different than protecting other species through mechanical, biological, or chemical means? Consistency isn’t the moron’s strong point, is it? And how does any of this relate to evolution–the real version, that is, not the wingnut’s “SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST=THOSE WHO CAN KILL THE MOST, QED” semi-private and canted definition?

“If evolution is what happens in nature and you guys believe in it then you can’t change what will happen so why worry about the world?”

Yeah, good point. Guns are perfectly natural, but what about other man-made stuff? Why build shelter for ourselves or mass-produce food? Or…hey, am I really arguing with someone who claims that evolution implies that people “can’t change what will happen so why worry”? Must be that kind of Friday.

“Ignorant? Hardly. I just disagree with what you believe which is not the definition of ignorant. Otherwise that would make us both ignorant, would it not.”

Ignorance is believing you can throw out what that element of the world that operates using facts understands because you dislike the implications. Ignorance is pretending that facts and opinions are interchangeable. Expressing violent rhetoric toward those with whom you disagree and especially toward those who actively put you in your place, while not itself ignorance, seems to accompany ignorance with uncanny frequency.
By a similar token, “Big Dog” is not an asshole for disagreeing with me, he is an asshole for a variety of other demonstrable reasons.

“I enjoy when tolerant folks stop by to call me names and be intolerant.”

I, of course, never said I was tolerant of liars and idiots in any meaningful sense, and would hate to be viewed as such.

“I don’t like meathead. If he died tomorrow I would throw a party.”

These are probably by far the truest statements in the entire comment.
The idea here isn’t to convince this guy of anything but to predict how he’ll respond. It’s unlikely that “Big Dog” can be bothered to click on the links I supplied, much less read what’s there; he often doesn’t bother reading much of what he thinks supports his positions, so the idea of him bother with material that exposes his lies and errors is far-fetched. I’m guessing he’ll dismiss the things I posted demolishing his ideas as liberal propaganda (a handy wingnut synonym for “things I can label lies no matter how well established they are) and consciously or unconsciously misconstrue something written here or in one of the linked articles in such a way as to pretend it agrees with things he’s said.
Actually, since he operates this way daily, it takes little prescience to let fly with such a forecast.

11 Comments

“Big Dog” on evolution

Yesterday, “Big Dog” complained that my characterization of his blogging as fact-starved was itself unsubstantiated. He, in the usual tradition, found it necessary to mention me in a post a few hours ago but has apparently blocked my comments from appearing on his site.
This need not be an extended pissing contest. To gain a sense of what this guy is about, here’s a rundown of the things he’s said over the years about evolution, easily uncovered in five or ten minutes of searching his verbal crap-heap.
“[P]eople who believe in evolution are an interesting lot. These folks believe in a theory that one species can evolve into another (though we have never actually seen this) and they believe that humans evolved from lower primates. Darwin’s theory also tells us that only the fittest survive which would include a species and individuals within a species. This seems to be where those who espouse evolution have a problem because every time a species becomes endangered they want it put on a list and they want all kinds of measures taken to protect said species. If the fittest survive and a species is not surviving then that species must not be the fittest. Seems that we would be interfering with the whole natural selection thing by getting involved … I have no doubt we can save a species if we try. The thing is, why should we. The people who believe in evolution should be forced to accept the whole thing or else they should stop pushing the evolution agenda and take it out of our schools … Besides, if Darwin was right, nature can just evolve some new primates.” (October 25, 2007)
The number of basic errors in comprehension in just this passage is alarming, but sets the tone for everything that follows.
“Though I do not believe in evolution, at least not in the Darwinian sense, I do believe that the fittest of a species survive in order for that species to continue to survive. Some creatures, unable to adapt, become extinct.” (November 23. 2007)
So how do these adaptations occur and what is the substrate for them if not genetic variation? God’s will across the board?
“I am not going to rehash the evolution idea and why it makes no sense or why people hold it as gospel truth despite the fact it has never been proven and that it is a theory. The theory of evolution is much like the theory of Global Warming in the minds of Democrats. They believe it so it must be true and they will repeat it as true so often that it will become ingrained in people. Global warming and evolution are taught in schools as if they are proven science and this is done to brainwash a generation of school kids so they grow up to be little tree-hugging liberals. The libs have to find a way to replenish their ranks because they are aborting their children thus removing future generations of liberals … [Mike] Huckabee’s position on evolution does not bother me and it would not even if I believed in evolution.” (December 16, 2007)
I admit I kind of gave up even before reaching the part about liberals “aborting their children.”
“Palin is pro life, a member of the NRA and thinks creationism should be taught next to evolution. I find no reason to be against someone who believes in the sanctity of life and who supports the Second Amendment. I also find it refreshing that someone would offer differing opinions on how we got here. Palin wants children to be given differing points of view whereas Reimer only wants them indoctrinated with an unproven, flawed theory.” (September 3, 2008)
Of course, “Big Dog” wrote this just before observing, with something less than prescience, “These people will make the mistake of underestimating Sarah Barracuda and will regret it. She is bright and fierce and will take them apart.”
“If Dr. Joan is right about evolution (no science to support it but…) then the fittest need to survive.” (February 12, 2009)
Note that in a quote posted above, “Big Dog” argued that animals bound to go extinct without humans intervening should in fact be left to die, but here is claiming that certain animals (wingnut humans, in this case) should be armed to protect their “fitness advantage,” just in case. Sheer brilliance.
As expected, there is lots of hand-waving here, but no attempt–not even a bad one–to explain why evolution is flawed, unsubstantiated, or whatever. Considering that “Big Dog” seems like the kind of science junkie who loses himself in Talk Origins and books by Lewontin and Dennett when he’s not masturbating to Rambo movies or attending gun shows, I’m as surprised as I am disappointed.
So rather that await further inevitable lies and bullshit from “Big Dog” and comment on them, I will wait for him to point if he chooses toward evidence that evolution is “an unproven, flawed theory” (as opposed to creation, which of course is supported by reams of well-corroborated evidence, or so I assume based on “Big Dog’s” bold statements). I doubt he will try, so I rather and pester him further as I’ve done for little good reason with Gribbit and others, I’ll write him off as a humorless joke.
Actually, the more material I dug up here, the more I realized that “Big Dog” is more plain stupid than dishonest, although he possesses both traits in such florid abundance that distinguishing which is the more crippling to his ability to generate meaningful verbiage is like deciding whether Peter Griffin is a worse father than Homer Simpson. The junk I harvested on evolution alone is bad enough, but it’s hard to not pause and gawk at the wrecked trains of logic and analysis that stuff piled atop. When any of these assholes starts preaching with the undiluted confidence of the howling moron about what Obama will do to ruin the country, I just point to their own equally confident bleatings about how Palin would be just the thing to guarantee a McCain victory in November. This shit will never stop, but it might get funnier.

8 Comments

“Big Dog” on evolution

Yesterday, “Big Dog” complained that my characterization of his blogging as fact-starved was itself unsubstantiated. He, in the usual tradition, found it necessary to mention me in a post a few hours ago but has apparently blocked my comments from appearing on his site.
This need not be an extended pissing contest. To gain a sense of what this guy is about, here’s a rundown of the things he’s said over the years about evolution, easily uncovered in five or ten minutes of searching his verbal crap-heap.
“[P]eople who believe in evolution are an interesting lot. These folks believe in a theory that one species can evolve into another (though we have never actually seen this) and they believe that humans evolved from lower primates. Darwin’s theory also tells us that only the fittest survive which would include a species and individuals within a species. This seems to be where those who espouse evolution have a problem because every time a species becomes endangered they want it put on a list and they want all kinds of measures taken to protect said species. If the fittest survive and a species is not surviving then that species must not be the fittest. Seems that we would be interfering with the whole natural selection thing by getting involved … I have no doubt we can save a species if we try. The thing is, why should we. The people who believe in evolution should be forced to accept the whole thing or else they should stop pushing the evolution agenda and take it out of our schools … Besides, if Darwin was right, nature can just evolve some new primates.” (October 25, 2007)
The number of basic errors in comprehension in just this passage is alarming, but sets the tone for everything that follows.
“Though I do not believe in evolution, at least not in the Darwinian sense, I do believe that the fittest of a species survive in order for that species to continue to survive. Some creatures, unable to adapt, become extinct.” (November 23. 2007)
So how do these adaptations occur and what is the substrate for them if not genetic variation? God’s will across the board?
“I am not going to rehash the evolution idea and why it makes no sense or why people hold it as gospel truth despite the fact it has never been proven and that it is a theory. The theory of evolution is much like the theory of Global Warming in the minds of Democrats. They believe it so it must be true and they will repeat it as true so often that it will become ingrained in people. Global warming and evolution are taught in schools as if they are proven science and this is done to brainwash a generation of school kids so they grow up to be little tree-hugging liberals. The libs have to find a way to replenish their ranks because they are aborting their children thus removing future generations of liberals … [Mike] Huckabee’s position on evolution does not bother me and it would not even if I believed in evolution.” (December 16, 2007)
I admit I kind of gave up even before reaching the part about liberals “aborting their children.”
“Palin is pro life, a member of the NRA and thinks creationism should be taught next to evolution. I find no reason to be against someone who believes in the sanctity of life and who supports the Second Amendment. I also find it refreshing that someone would offer differing opinions on how we got here. Palin wants children to be given differing points of view whereas Reimer only wants them indoctrinated with an unproven, flawed theory.” (September 3, 2008)
Of course, “Big Dog” wrote this just before observing, with something less than prescience, “These people will make the mistake of underestimating Sarah Barracuda and will regret it. She is bright and fierce and will take them apart.”
“If Dr. Joan is right about evolution (no science to support it but…) then the fittest need to survive.” (February 12, 2009)
Note that in a quote posted above, “Big Dog” argued that animals bound to go extinct without humans intervening should in fact be left to die, but here is claiming that certain animals (wingnut humans, in this case) should be armed to protect their “fitness advantage,” just in case. Sheer brilliance.
As expected, there is lots of hand-waving here, but no attempt–not even a bad one–to explain why evolution is flawed, unsubstantiated, or whatever. Considering that “Big Dog” seems like the kind of science junkie who loses himself in Talk Origins and books by Lewontin and Dennett when he’s not masturbating to Rambo movies or attending gun shows, I’m as surprised as I am disappointed.
So rather that await further inevitable lies and bullshit from “Big Dog” and comment on them, I will wait for him to point if he chooses toward evidence that evolution is “an unproven, flawed theory” (as opposed to creation, which of course is supported by reams of well-corroborated evidence, or so I assume based on “Big Dog’s” bold statements). I doubt he will try, so I rather and pester him further as I’ve done for little good reason with Gribbit and others, I’ll write him off as a humorless joke.
Actually, the more material I dug up here, the more I realized that “Big Dog” is more plain stupid than dishonest, although he possesses both traits in such florid abundance that distinguishing which is the more crippling to his ability to generate meaningful verbiage is like deciding whether Peter Griffin is a worse father than Homer Simpson. The junk I harvested on evolution alone is bad enough, but it’s hard to not pause and gawk at the wrecked trains of logic and analysis that stuff piled atop. When any of these assholes starts preaching with the undiluted confidence of the howling moron about what Obama will do to ruin the country, I just point to their own equally confident bleatings about how Palin would be just the thing to guarantee a McCain victory in November. This shit will never stop, but it might get funnier.

Leave a comment

“If you’re going to teach evolution, then you have to teach the other side so you can have critical thinking.”

These are the words of, in no particular order, a Christian, a halfwit, and a Florida state senator. Stephen Wise (and God sure does have a sense of irony when He hands out surnames, don’t He?), who represents the district that includes one of the fifteen most populous cities in the U.S., is apparently unaware that “have” and “obliterate” are not synonyms.
The issue itself is nothing new–Jesus-soaked politician agitates for end run around basic but (to many of the faithful) uncomfortable facts about the world and invokes variants of the usual backwater talking points: “Evolution is only a theory,” “Teach all sides,” and, of course, “I get a lot of hate mail so I must be doing something right.” But Wise’s use of a term he has heard but clearly misunderstands has me wondering how he would respond to the following statement:
“If you’re going to teach kids there was really a Jesus who rose from the dead, lives in your thoughts, and can save you, then you have to teach the other side so you can have critical thinking.”
Absolutely appropriate (inasmuch as the godless have any inclination to waste time trying to divest brainwashed people of their mythological ideas) and one hundred percent guaranteed to make goofball politicians like Stephen Wise balk.
Not surprisingly, Wise may not have been the dumbest person quoted in the article. Here’s what yet another Florida legislator, this one a state representative, had to say:

Hays said part of his beliefs come from his training as a dentist, which involved an extensive education in anatomy.
“How can anyone study the human body and deny that it was created by a higher power?” he said. “It is one magnificent collection of genius.
“It is not an accident that happened to come together.”

That’s right, the culmination of billions of years of adaptations–processes about which hypotheses were formed well before humans knew about DNA and have been resoundingly confirmed and demonstrated–is just too grand to consider, so let’s just declare “It’s no accident!” and be done with it. After all, what we’d expect in a godless world are organisms surviving and thriving despite the form and function of their organs, right? Hell, why don’t engineers build cars with the wheels on top?
How can this man’s patients trust him not to jam a dentist’s drill through their temples?

14 Comments

A detailed response to Jim Manzi

I originally wrote this as a comment in response to Jim Manzi’s questions about my criticism of his essay “Science and Religion in The New Republic” rebutting Jerry Coyne’s article (got that?), but it’s far too long for that, so I am posting it as a post-it.
Hallo Jim,
I wrote: “Manzi essentially tries to define ‘random’ as being ‘not governed by
physical laws.'” You replied:

I don’t think I ever said anything like that. What I said is that the
evolutionary operators of crossover, selection and mutation do not add
incremental randomness beyond that embedded in quantum-mechanistic
physical laws.

There are serious problems with this, as I believe biologists will again see you battling a straw man by talking about processes well downstream of the brand of randomness you suggest isn’t there. But I’ll let others deal with that and quote rather than paraphrase you this time:

“even the “random” elements of evolution — for example, mutation and crossover — are really pseudo-random. For example, if a specific mutation is caused by radiation hitting a nucleotide, both the radiation and its effect on the nucleotide are governed by normal physical laws.”

To state that events in the observable universe are governed by normal physical laws is (to a scientist, at least) trivially true, no matter how we classify these events based on their predictability. With your introduction of QM, photons, etc. into the discussion, you are setting the bar for what constitutes “random” well out of useful range. Events for which there are no discernible conscious underpinnings are random; calling these, or anything, “pseudo-random” adds a meaningless distinction, unless you can adequately define the difference between something with an outcome that is unpredictable and one that is perhaps predictably unpredictable, or something. To a biologist, UV rays that strike a strand of DNA just so because of an organism’s chance physical orientation, and thereby ultimately change protein synthesis in a significant way, are random. That’s it.
I wrote that you said, in so many words, that “…just because we have no reason to think [intelligence] was inevitable does mean we know it was not.” You responded:

Why is this false?

Of course it’s not false, any more than it’s false to say that no one knows if there are really microscopic purple cows orbiting Neptune. But is it useful or necessary? We have no reason to believe that God created the universe as is one hour ago and planted old-looking evidence around and memories in our heads just to mess with us–so we don’t. True, we don’t know for a fact that this proposition is wrong, but why act on this and not far more likely scenarios?
As Coyne explains in what I acknowledge is a lot of words, to claim that human-like intelligence is evolutionarily inevitable is not only unsupported, but problematic in that there are niches that would be expected to show this trait but do not, and, more tellingly. other traits that could just as strongly be termed inevitable (e.g., the elephant’s trunk) but aren’t–because the pathos, the pre-existing need created by faith, is not there. To claim that anthropoid traits we deem in advance to be cosmically special or desirable are evolutionarily, uniquely “inevitable” is simply special pleading.
Does this mean we will not learn differently someday? Not necessarily–but if new findings arise, this will not occur through prayer or revelation.
I wrote that you “play[ed] word games with “truth,” “false,” and “falsifiability’.” You replied:

The possibility of falsity and falsifiability are very different concepts. How is this a word game?

Okay, “word game” is not the best choice of words. I acknowledge the functional difference between logical falsifiability and falsifiability in practice.
But when Coyne and others speak of gods and their alleged interactions with the world being “not falsifiable,” he is, with a sharp gaze focused directly on how religion is actually practiced and discussions of theism coudicted, correct. Gods are, depending on the religion and the source, claimed to have all sorts of means of interacting with the physical world–through “miracles,” the creation of huge storms, what have you. Upon challenge, sophisticated theists like Miller speak of subtler influences on subatomic particles and whatnot, thereby withdrawing God into the shadows and conveniently rendering its supposed traits beyond observation and therefore non-falsifiable. In the event QM becomes more a science of cataloguing observations than theorizing, the answers of poeple out to protect the gods idea at all costs will simply shift accordingly.
The point is that if religious practitioners are forever tweaking the definiton of gods in order to explain their ineffability–really a silly idea given gods’ alleged supremacy and more–then they are guaranteeing that the existence of gods can never be ruled out, both functionally and logically. They are assuring falsifiability in terms of its relevance to how we gather and evaluate knowledge or define “truth.” Hell, ask a theist what evidence would be required to convince hm or her that gods are a false construct, a predictable outcropping of the human psyche; these very discussions and essays and postings demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that nothing could be sufficient for a committed believer–and the same is not true of nonbelievers.
So, Jim, your entire essay strikes me as an exercise in semantics and vague apologetics, not in the the sense of arguing for gods but in the vein of having not met Coyne’s argument anywhere near its heart. I fail to see how it rebuts Coyne’s points of, for that matter, fails to add to them, but in your defense I honestly can’t conceive of a coherent essay that would; I’d have to see it to know it, I guess.
Sincerely,
KB

1 Comment