Back to basics

English: Science icon from Nuvola icon theme f...I originally created this blog to rant about strange beliefs, political douche-baggery and things that are not so vile. And to promote science in the process off course. Off late I seem to have posted more about stuff of little or no consequence

Back to basics then…

It’s disconcerting, no infuriating when people bash science and level all sorts of wild accusations at it whether to protect their own narrow reasoning, or to promote it, or even benefit materially from it. Even more infuriating are people who wax lyrical about faith, and worse still are those who debase science to promote ideological thinking and false beliefs.

Recently Steven Pinker wrote a brilliant article in the New Republic, where he reveals why science is not the enemy. [Science is not the enemy of the Humanities].

To whet your appetite, here are some choice passages:

  • One would think that writers in the humanities would be delighted and energized by the efflorescence of new ideas from the sciences. But one would be wrong. Though everyone endorses science when it can cure disease, monitor the environment, or bash political opponents, the intrusion of science into the territories of the humanities has been deeply resented. Just as reviled is the application of scientific reasoning to religion; many writers without a trace of a belief in God maintain that there is something unseemly about scientists weighing in on the biggest questions. In the major journals of opinion, scientific carpetbaggers are regularly accused of determinism, reductionism, essentialism, positivism, and worst of all, something called “scientism.”

  • Scientism, in this good sense, is not the belief that members of the occupational guild called “science” are particularly wise or noble. On the contrary, the defining practices of science, including open debate, peer review, and double-blind methods, are explicitly designed to circumvent the errors and sins to which scientists, being human, are vulnerable. Scientism does not mean that all current scientific hypotheses are true; most new ones are not, since the cycle of conjecture and refutation is the lifeblood of science. It is not an imperialistic drive to occupy the humanities; the promise of science is to enrich and diversify the intellectual tools of humanistic scholarship, not to obliterate them. And it is not the dogma that physical stuff is the only thing that exists. Scientists themselves are immersed in the ethereal medium of information, including the truths of mathematics, the logic of their theories, and the values that guide their enterprise. In this conception, science is of a piece with philosophy, reason, and Enlightenment humanism. It is distinguished by an explicit commitment to two ideals, and it is these that scientism seeks to export to the rest of intellectual life.

  • The second ideal is that the acquisition of knowledge is hard. The world does not go out of its way to reveal its workings, and even if it did, our minds are prone to illusions, fallacies, and super- stitions. Most of the traditional causes of belief—faith, revelation, dogma, authority, charisma, conventional wisdom, the invigorating glow of subjective certainty—are generators of error and should be dismissed as sources of knowledge. To understand the world, we must cultivate work-arounds for our cognitive limitations, including skepticism, open debate, formal precision, and empirical tests, often requiring feats of ingenuity. Any movement that calls itself “scientific” but fails to nurture opportunities for the falsification of its own beliefs (most obviously when it murders or imprisons the people who disagree with it) is not a scientific movement).

  • To begin with, the findings of science entail that the belief systems of all the world’s traditional religions and cultures—their theories of the origins of life, humans, and societies—are factually mistaken. We know, but our ancestors did not, that humans belong to a single species of African primate that developed agriculture, government, and writing late in its history. We know that our species is a tiny twig of a genealogical tree that embraces all living things and that emerged from prebiotic chemicals almost four billion years ago. We know that we live on a planet that revolves around one of a hundred billion stars in our galaxy, which is one of a hundred billion galaxies in a 13.8-billion-year-old universe, possibly one of a vast number of universes. We know that our intuitions about space, time, matter, and causation are incommensurable with the nature of reality on scales that are very large and very small. We know that the laws governing the physical world (including accidents, disease, and other misfortunes) have no goals that pertain to human well-being. There is no such thing as fate, providence, karma, spells, curses, augury, divine retribution, or answered prayers—though the discrepancy between the laws of probability and the workings of cognition may explain why people believe there are. And we know that we did not always know these things, that the beloved convictions of every time and culture may be decisively falsified, doubtless including some we hold today.

  • Just as common, and as historically illiterate, is the blaming of science for political movements with a pseudoscientific patina, particularly Social Darwinism and eugenics. Social Darwinism was the misnamed laissez-faire philosophy of Herbert Spencer. It was inspired not by Darwin’s theory of natural selection, but by Spencer’s Victorian-era conception of a mysterious natural force for progress, which was best left unimpeded. Today the term is often used to smear any application of evolution to the understanding of human beings. Eugenics was the campaign, popular among leftists and progressives in the early decades of the twentieth century, for the ultimate form of social progress, improving the genetic stock of humanity. Today the term is commonly used to assail behavioral genetics, the study of the genetic contributions to individual differences.

  • And the critics should be careful with the adjectives. If anything is naïve and simplistic, it is the conviction that the legacy silos of academia should be fortified and that we should be forever content with current ways of making sense of the world. Surely our conceptions of politics, culture, and morality have much to learn from our best understanding of the physical universe and of our makeup as a species.

Now please do yourself a massive service and read the article in its entirety at the link provided above.

Bobbie-the-Jean: 50 Reasons I Reject Evolution

Was pointed to this hilarious compilation thanks to The Observer from AvC. Enjoy!

Dinosaur Extinction

1.) Because I don’t like the idea that we came from apes… despite that humans are categorically defined and classified as apes.

2.) Because I’m too stupid and/or lazy to open a fucking science book or turn on the Discovery Science Channel.

3.) Because if I can’t immediately understand how something works, then it must be bullshit.

4.) Because I don’t care that literally 99.9% of all biologists accept evolution as the unifying theory of biology.

5.) Because I prefer the idea that a (insert god of choice) went ALLA-KADABRA-ZAM MOTHAH-FUCKAHS!!!

6.) Because I can’t get it through my thick logic-proof skull that evolution refers ONLY to the diversity of living organisms which reproduce with genetic variation, not to abiogenesis, or planet formation, or big bang cosmology, or whether God exists, or where they buried Jimmy Hoffa, or why the sky is blue, or how many licks it takes to get to the center of a fucking Tootsie Pop.

7.) Because the fossil record doesn’t comprise the remains of every single living thing that ever existed on this 4.5 billion year old planet, even though fossilization is a rare process that only occurs under very specific circumstances.

8.) Because science has yet to produce any transitional species… except for the magnitudinous numbers of them found in the fossil record which don’t count because… I uh, OOH LOOK! A SHINY OBJECT!!! *runs away*

9.) Because I know nothing about Darwin except that he had a funny beard.

10.) Because the theory of evolution (which, according to scientists, perfectly explains the richness and diversity of life on Earth) contradicts biblical literalism… ya know, flat Earth with a firmament that keeps out the water, talking snakes, people rising from the dead, bats are birds, flamey talking bushes, virgin births, food appearing out of nowhere, massive bodies of water turning into blood… etc etc.

11.) Because I think the word “theory” actually means: “random stabs in the dark” when it really means: “an explanation of certain phenomena that is well-supported by a large body of facts and often unifies similarly well-supported hypotheses” i.e. atomic theory, gravitational theory, germ theory, cell theory, some-people-are-dumb-motherfuckers-theory, etc.

12.) Because the fact that science is self-correcting annoys me. Most of my other beliefs are rigidly fixed and uncorrectable.

13.) Because I am under the severely mistaken impression that evolution implies someone in my very recent ancestry was a chimp.

14.) Because everything appears designed to my mind which was expertly tuned by nature to perceive design, probably as a survival mechanism.

15.) Because some secretly fabulous closet-dwelling televangelist (who unironically preaches hate towards gays) told me that evolution is Satan’s way of leading me away from God.

16.) Because that same guy (who was also caught snorting blow off a male hooker’s shiny naked ass) told me that God planted those fossils to test my faith.

17.) Because I’m 100% correct about everything 100% of the time and there is 0% chance that some snooty Oxford educated scientist with numerous honorary doctorates could possibly know something that I don’t.

18.) Because I don’t know that fossils are found in sedimentary strata corresponding to their age as one would expect if evolution were true.

19.) Because I don’t understand why, if we share common ancestry with chimps, there are still chimps. And when someone with more than three brain cells in their head inevitably replies: “for the same reason Americans share common ancestry with Brits but there are still Brits, I can’t follow the logic. It’s just too big a leap. Who am I, Evil Knievel?

20.) Because my mom dropped me on my head when I was a baby.

21.) Multiple times.

22.) On purpose.

23.) Because the idea that life evolved naturally over billions of years is infinitely less believable than the idea that an 800 year old man crammed two of every species into a giant wooden boat when the entire planet flooded, an event for which there is absolutely no geological evidence whatsoever and also makes no fucking sense at all.

24.) Because Jesus totally rode around on a fucking t-rex. He’s just that badassed. And also, did you know that t-rexes were vegetarians? Ken Ham says so and I believe it.

25.) Because I don’t realize that saying “microevolution is possible but macroevolution isn’t” is as stupid as saying “I can pick my nose for one second but I cannot pick it for 10 seconds.”

26.) Because the education system failed me miserably.

27.) …and then took a big wet dump on my face.

28.) Because I think that knowing how nature works magically obliterates all of its beauty.

29.) Because I didn’t know that evolution has been tested and observed in laboratories.

30.) Because when confronted with that, I refuse to believe it. It’s obviously a scientific conspiracy aimed at turning everyone on the planet into atheists… even though evolution says nothing about god’s nature nor whether he, she, it, or they exist.

31.) Because I’m too stupid to realize that Social Darwinism has nothing to do with evolution and is actually a pseudo-scientific bastardization that real science largely rejects.

32.) Because the planet and all the life on it was designed for humans… kinda like how the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY was designed specifically for the dust-bunnies that may accumulate on the floors.

33.) Because I don’t realize that if we actually found croco-ducks in the fossil record, it would falsify evolution.

34.) Because plenty of respectable people like Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, and Mike Huckabee (who are not scientists) don’t accept evolution, and that somehow validates my opinion.

35.) Because my mother didn’t know not to drink while she was pregnant. She also didn’t know not to repeatedly throw herself down a flight of stairs in an attempt to undo the accident of screwing someone who voted for Bush both times.

36.) Because I don’t know that “irreducible complexity” has been debunked a frazillion times by a frazillion different people and is no more credible an argument than “NEEN-er NEEN-er NEEN-er, I’m right and you’re wrong.”

37.) Because I have never seen a duck evolve into a cat over night, despite the fact that such a thing would be contrary to all known scientific disciplines.

38.) Because I have no imagination, learning is too much effort, I don’t like proven facts, change scares me, and I think deoxyribonucleic acid is something I’m supposed to clean my bathroom floors with.

39.) Because evolution means that I absolutely MUST reject everything else I know, abandon all my beliefs, and start aping around my house like a fucking monkey. OOOh-ooohh-ooohohh -OOOOOOHHHHHH!!!!!

40.) Because I haven’t put my cave on the market and moved into the 21st century yet. I’m waiting for the cave market to rebound from the recent financial meltdown.

41.) Because I don’t know what an atavism is and if you told me, I still wouldn’t believe it. Too weird.

42.) Because I don’t know that evolution explains methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and also provides the answer in preventing it from turning into a superbug and killing massive numbers of people.

43.) Because I don’t know that evolution is routinely used in medicine to diagnose and treat certain illnesses such as genetic ailments, bacterial infections, and viral infections.

44.) Because I believe there is a strong comparison between designed inanimate objects such as buildings, paintings, and watches (which we know were pieced together from identifiable components by human beings) and living organisms (which reproduce with genetic variation under the effects of environmental attrition).

45.) Because I see no significant similarities between humans and apes. *scratches my ass-crack then smells my fingers*

46.) Because I think I’m too special to have been crafted by any natural process and the entire planet, solar system, galaxy, and universe were created with me especially in mind.

47.) Because I unquestioningly swallow the ignorant anti-science bullshit spewed directly from the fraudulent stupid asses of people like Ken Ham, Ted Haggard, Fred Phelps, and Kent Hovind.

48.) Because I’m a freethinker and freethinking really means ignoring anything that contradicts what I already believe.

49.) Because I don’t know what confirmation bias is.

50.) Because despite the fact that in all my years of life, I have never seen any magic, I still believe magic is the answer to anything I don’t immediately comprehend.

Ladies and gentlemen, I rest my case. Quod erat demonstrandum, I fucking win. Take that you EVILutionists!