Saturday, September 3, 2011

Here we go again…

North is South, Up is Down, Science is Anti-Science and believing in woo is smart.

Austin Casey, Columnist, wrote a scathing attack on “liberals” and Jon Huntsman, because he understands the science of Creationism in a way that mere scientists could never hope to. Huntsman, in a pathetic attempt to appear “intellectual” to “liberals” accepts the obviously wrong “interpretation” called evolution. [end snark]

Yes, that’s right. Dawkins just got skuled in science by a relatively unknown right wing pundit columnist.

Seriously, it hurts my head. It’s been a while since I’ve done a line by line thrashing of right wing bullshit. Let’s get started.

Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman has been losing in the polls, so his solution is to distance himself from the other candidates by portraying himself as the rational candidate.

Obviously it couldn’t be that he actually bothered to learn something about the science of evolutionary theory. It’s just a political ploy for sure [end snark]. Personally, I do find the thought of a Mormon who accepts the scientific consensus that evolution is true to be a bit intriguing, but I’m not complaining about the only Republican candidate who appears to not mix his religion with his science. Or his politics apparently.

After hearing fellow candidate Rick Perry's doubts on evolution, Huntsman jumped at the chance to attack Perry, gain attention and make himself appear smart and scientific to the media and liberals.

Or he just called Perry out for being yet another wingnut douchbag that’s all too common in the Republican party now (e.g. Michele Bachman). The official Republican playbook is "Reject scientific consensus and play to fundamentalist religion, oppose the separation of church and state, and defend the top 1% by convincing the bottom 99% that you’re acting in their best interests.” Personally, I find Huntsman refreshing. I find it more likely he’s dead last because he spouts rationality instead of bullshit. He’s a Republican. If he’s being sane for political gain, he’s playing to the wrong crowd.

In an interview on ABC's "This Week," Huntsman warned that having anti-evolution views made Perry and the Republican Party people who "shun science."

No idea if he actually said that or not, but they do “shun science” as a general rule these days. Spend a little time learning about the science of climate change and bear in mind where the Republican party almost unanimously falls on the issue. The only alternative offered in contrast to the theory of evolution is creationism, which is backed by the overwhelming evidence which consists of approximately a page and a half from the book of Genesis, written approximately 3000 years ago.

Like most liberals, Huntsman thinks if he uses the words "science" and "evolution" in the same sentence he'll be called an intellectual.

No, he’ll need to do more than that to be considered “intellectual”, but he is in serious danger of being called “rational”.

But nothing Huntsman has said demonstrates he actually knows what science is. Science is fundamentally a search for the truth about the universe, and Perry's acknowledgement of the holes in evolution theory manifests a much better understanding of science than Huntsman's faith in scientists.

Now it gets fun. We’re being schooled in “what science is” by a creationist. There are no holes in the theory of evolution. There may be a few missing facts, but you don’t fill in the holes with “God did it”. In science, you fill in the holes by looking for more evidence. Accepting logical fallacies and demonstrating a complete lack of knowledge on the subject of evolutionary theory is a “much better understanding of science” in the same way that knowing nothing about any foreign countries gives you a much better understanding of foreign policy.

Nevertheless, a growing number of noteworthy scientists have rejected evolution and are noted creationists, such as Ramond Damadian, the inventor of the MRI machine; John Baumgardner, a physicist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and non-Christian scientists like Michael Behe, author of "Darwin's Black Box," and the famous philosopher of science Karl Popper.

There’s no dissention in the scientific community about evolution. But let’s humor him here.

Ramond Damadian: BS in mathematics, and an M.D. He was a medical doctor, not a biologist. He was, apparently, a fundamentalist Christian and a Creationist. That doesn’t diminish his contribution to medical science, but it does not make him an authority on evolution.

John Baumgardner: (from wikipedia) John R. Baumgardner is a geophysicist, young Earth creationist, intelligent design supporter and Christian fundamentalist. Again, not a biologist, and hardly impartial. You’d think a geophysicist would know better though.

Michael Behe, our non-Christian turns out to be Roman Catholic. And a biochemist. And a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute.  His main focus seems to be on the faulty argument of "irreducible complexity”.

Karl Popper. I’m not even looking this one up. By his own admission he’s a philosopher. No, wait, I am. Oh, he is indeed a philosopher of science: the science of economics.

We’ve hardly produced a list of detractors with credibility on the subject, but even if we had, it doesn’t matter. The scientific community is very nearly unified in their acceptance of the evidence confirming the theory of evolution. Very few theories achieve this level of acceptance. The only other theory I can think of that has this level of acceptance is the theory of gravity. I suppose it’s possible that a supreme being is actually holding us all down to the ground, but…

Believers in evolution cling to the theory like babies to their moms, but most are so scared of hearing a different interpretation of evidence they refuse to listen to any skepticism. They speak of evolution as a fact, when, in reality, science never produces facts — only results we can interpret.

This is where arguments like this start to burn me. Spouting woo is not skepticism. “Evolution is just a belief and only as valid as any other belief”, as though it’s some kind of religion. “God did it” is not a scientific theory, and skepticism is not putting your hands over your ears and shouting “LALALALALALA”. Skepticism is the process of approaching a given claim and looking for evidence that confirms it or disproves it. In fact the first thing you do in science when you have a hypothesis is try to prove it wrong. Saying “you don’t know X so evolution is wrong and God did it” is not skepticism. That would be the opposite of skepticism. A review of the evidence shows that the theory of evolution has mountains of evidence ranging from the dispersion of fossils in the geologic record to DNA. Creationism has a page and a half in an ancient holy book and a lot of logical fallacies. Skeptics have looked at the evidence and found that the theory of evolution makes it’s case and “alternative views” do not. Evolution IS a fact. Find me a rabbit in the pre-Cambrian and we can talk otherwise.

To put into perspective why evolution will never be considered a fact no matter how hard liberals and Huntsman want it to be, consider walking into a room and seeing a lit candle with matches next to it. It seems as though someone lit the candle with the matches, but it is impossible to be sure how the candle was lit because you weren't there when it was.

He intentionally shies away from saying “the scientific community”. It’s liberals and Jon Huntsman that “wants evolution to be true”. That liberals tend to believe evolution to be true is a correlation, not a causal relationship. If you don’t have a religious reason for denouncing science, you probably don’t have any reason at all for denouncing science. Liberals tend to be less religious than conservatives.

Now the candle analogy is interesting, and might be pertinent if there were no evidence whatsoever for evolution. Had we never found a fossil, had we never dug into the earth’s crust, had we never developed any kind of dating methods, then this might hold water. The analogy is “we’re here, we don’t know how we got here, so let’s make something up and call it science”. The evidence for evolution makes that analogy more or less worthless, but it does apply to another “theory” of how we came to be.

This is the classic Ken Ham “Were you there?” argument. It’s designed to be combative and is not conducive to constructive dialogue. It implies that if you weren’t there you can’t know for sure therefore you’re wrong, which ironically falsifies all religion by the same logic. Followers of Ken Ham would be well advised to abandon that question as an ideological tool and try a different question: “How do you know?” It’s a much better question which opens dialogue and could, potentially, lead to someone actually learning something.

The most telling sign Huntsman has no idea what science is comes from his assertion that "we need to stick to the facts" in reference to evolution.

What’s science got to do with facts, right? The scientific methods is about sticking to the facts, and and the theory of evolution is a great example of exactly that. Perhaps Huntsman knows this.

Scientific observations are classified into three categories: hypotheses, theories or laws. Hypotheses are the weakest interpretations of evidence, while theories garner more support. Laws are said to be the strongest explanations, but even they aren't facts.

Well, no. This is a hierarchy that doesn’t exist. A hypothesis is the equivalent of a scientific “guess”, which forms the basis of further experiments, but it must be testable. A hypothesis is more or less worthless until it’s been tested. At a certain point, a hypothesis that survives testing will become a theory (more or less). Theories have certain properties: they must predict future results or discoveries, and they must be falsifiable. “God did it” (that’s creationism in a nutshell, by the way) is not falsifiable or testable at all, which makes it not even a hypothesis. Scientific theories that have as much evidence backing them as evolution does are the equivalent of facts in science. in much the same way that 0.9999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999(etc.) is mathematically equivalent to 1. You can argue all day that it’s not, and that there’s holes in that argument, but you just sound stupid when you do and it proves you don’t know that much about math.

We are all familiar with the law of gravity, but we can't claim it's a fact. And yet evolutionists defend their theory like there's no tomorrow.

I’m afraid gravity is a fact. If you don’t believe me, feel free to float off in to space. “Evolutionists” defend the theory of evolution because it’s a fact. Scientific literacy is important to maintaining our status in the world, which has already suffered a lot of damage. You can tell me that 0.9(repeating) isn’t 1 all day, and I might defend that it is, or I might just call you a moron and save myself some time. Your belief has no bearing on scientific facts.

Moreover, the theory of evolution comes from one interpretation of available evidence. Contrary to Huntsman's claim, the Republican Party is proving more scientific because of its legitimate recognition of the gaps in evolution.

*sigh*. Belief without evidence is not science. It’s faith, otherwise known as religion. Accepting logical fallacies as truth is not science. Debating stupid is kind of pointless. Creationism is not an interpretation of the available evidence, it’s a denial of the available evidence. Intelligent design, is a denial of the available evidence as well.

To point out one weakness, evolution relies on the assumption that beneficial genetic information has been repeatedly added to genomes throughout the history of the universe. But not even Richard Dawkins, a leading evolutionary biologist from Oxford University, could name a single mutation that has added beneficial information.

Yes he has. 10 minutes with google. I did, however, find the same claim about Dawkins on several other sites, including (snicker). And that video has also been well debunked as clever editing.

Evolution is, at it’s heart, really quite simple and elegant. Any mutation that helps a creature to reproduce is beneficial and tends to become part of the gene pool in a given subset of the species by nature of reproduction. Those that do not help or hinder tend to get weeded out. It’s more like a several billion year game of Yahtzee than “God playing dice”.

On the other hand, it’s also possible we all got shot out the ass of a giant blob of spaghetti. We could teach that too, I suppose. I mean, I wasn’t there, so I can’t know for sure, right?

Evolution has so many gaps that refusing to search for new explanations of the evidence available to us would be completely unscientific, but Huntsman insists skeptics "run from science."

Here again, we’re confusing what skepticism is. Skeptics don’t “run from science”. Skeptics don’t just deny things they don’t want to be true. Skeptics examine evidence. Scientists, by the very nature of what they do (science), are skeptics. Rick Perry is not a skeptic, and neither is the author. The author is what’s known as a “pundit”. There’s a difference. I’m not going to google it for you.

The Republican Party doesn't need a candidate like Jon Huntsman, who has no clue what science is and refuses to accept that alternative explanations to evolution are plausible. It needs candidates like Perry who would allow the freedom for true scientific inquiry.

Oh, I think the Republican Party very much needs a candidate like Jon Huntsman to avoid becoming a complete joke. Once upon a time the Republican party stood for something other than religious blathering, anti-science, oppression of homosexuals and tax breaks for the wealthy. It wasn’t all that long ago. Things began to change with Reagan, but the TV generation has trouble remembering last week, let alone thirty years ago. Republicans need to take their party back from the iron grip the religious right has on it and try to make the party “Grand” again. GFL with that.

I’m not sure I entirely trust Jon Huntsman. To be honest I find it unlikely that any Republican candidate could have gotten elected to anything in the current political climate without spewing some kind of nonsense to somebody. I haven’t heard any BS from him yet, though. I do however, take issue with Glenn Beck wannabes trashing him for actually saying something sane. Sanity doesn’t seem to be appreciated on the right lately, and they’ll attack their own for it. It’s a disturbing and unfortunately common trend in politics now. Ideological purity is not a virtue to be coveted, folks. It’s more likely a symptom of leanings towards fascist thought. Diversity is good.

But at the same time, let’s be clear on what science is, what it is not, and stop these games of calling evolution a religion and calling religion science. If you want to believe the earth is 6000 years old and was created by a mystical invisible father figure, that’s your right but don’t call it science, call it what it is: religion. Don’t teach it in public schools, teach it in church where it belongs. And don’t attack your own for making your party look less insane.

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