Apr 11 2008

Time Gets It Right, Then Fucks Up

Time magazine’s Jeffrey Kluger does his best to present a “fair and balanced” assessment of the propumentary Expelled. He gets a few things spectacularly right:

[Ben Stein] makes all the usual mistakes nonscientists make whenever they try to take down evolution, asking, for example, how something as complex as a living cell could have possibly arisen whole from the earth’s primordial soup. The answer is it couldn’t–and it didn’t. Organic chemicals needed eons of stirring and slow cooking before they could produce compounds that could begin to lead to a living thing. More dishonestly, Stein employs the common dodge of enumerating all the admittedly unanswered questions in evolutionary theory and using this to refute the whole idea. But all scientific knowledge is built this way. A fishnet is made up of a lot more holes than strings, but you can’t therefore argue that the net doesn’t exist. Just ask the fish.

It’s hard to imagine a more succinct and elegant way of presenting scientific reality. I think I’ll have this paragraph made into a little laminated card and carry it around so that nonsensical non-scientists and I can read it slowly together. Even your uncommon dumbass should be able to grasp it after several perusings and some help with the big words. It’s even got a brilliant metaphor at the end. And that’s why I feel a little bad about having to spank Jeffrey’s bottom now.

But spank I must. Just remember, Jeffie – this will hurt you more than it hurts me.

First off, your snooty I’m-so-above-the-fray tone starting out is just ridiculous. You say this:

There is nothing so tiresome as an argument that no one will ever concede–particularly if the participants don’t seem to know it. And there’s no place the fighting is growing more pointless than in the ongoing smackdown between evolutionists and advocates of intelligent

As if it’s an argument that can be conceeded. As if evolutionary biologists and science teachers can just throw up their hands, mutter “Fine! Your science is stupid, but if it makes you feel better, we’ll mention it.” The fight isn’t pointless, any more than the fight against racism is pointless. Some people will never get it. That doesn’t mean that the people who are on the side of reason can stop fighting the irrational just so you don’t have to listen to such tiresome arguments.

Let me let you in on a little secret, Jeffrey. If you give the religious fanatics a millimeter, they take a thousand miles. Fighting them is only pointless if you think it’s fine to teach fiction as science, it’s okay for the public to be lied to, and you don’t care much for the advances evolution allows science to make in fields like, oh, say, the medicine that keeps your sorry self alive.

For someone who understands science, that was a stupid fucking thing to say, and I think you know it.

Then you really screw the pooch:

In fairness to Stein, his opponents have hardly covered themselves in glory. Evolutionary biologists and social commentators have lately taken to answering the claims of intelligent-design boosters not with clear-eyed scientific empiricism but with sneering, finger-in-the-eye atheism.

Where do I even begin? Firstly, in fairness to Stein? Are you fucking insane? In fairness to a bald-faced liar who likes to pretend that evolution leads to mass murder? Stein lost his right to fair and balanced treatment a long fucking time ago.

But I digress. Let’s take on the second half of your remarkable pooch-screwing: the whole “covered themselves in glory” schtick. Give me a fucking break, Jeffrey. It’s largely thanks to your kind that “covering yourself in glory” generally means “being nice so you can be roundly ignored.” And what’s this bullshit about not answering the claims of IDiots with “clear-eyed scientific empiricism”? What’s this, a code phrase for “I really want to lick Ben Stein’s balls, so I’ll reference his Clear-Eyes commercials and pretend everyone’s a nasty, name calling atheist crank”? Is that what you intended? Because it’s sure as fuck how you sounded.

I know this is very hard for really-real mainstream journalists to grasp, but do your fucking homework. There’s this little thing we like to call research. Only bloggers and a few lonely investigative reporters seem to remember what it is. Let me refresh you: before setting up a straw man and burning him, Google the key ideas in your argument, you fuckwit. Wikipedia alone provides all the information you need. It even debunks the film’s claim that scientists are losing their jobs due to belief in intelligent design, which you worried over in an earlier paragraph (hint: they lost their jobs because they were shitty scientists. Nuttin’ to do with ID).

“Evolutionary biologists and social commentators” are still answering ID claims with “clear-eyed scientific empiricism,” but you lot never notice them, Jeffie. You only notice people who kick up a fuss. That could be a subtle clue as to why some of us have taken to using “sneering, finger-in-the-eye atheism,” no? I notice you have plenty to say about PZ Myers, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, but bugger all about Eugenie Scott, Ken Miller, Barbara Forrest, or any of the many other scientists and organizations who speak in calm, civil, “clear-eyed” scientific tones about the whole debacle. Could it be because they’re not being outrageous enough to get your attention?

Thank you for proving my point so succinctly.

Finally, you sneer at Hitchens for typing god with a lower-case g. What the fuck do you expect an atheist to do, Jeffrey? Atheists don’t believe in God, gods, goddesses, or deities of any description – why, then, capitalize a g? That’s not “tautology as typeography”, that’s truth.

There. I’m done spanking you. You can pull up your pants now. Here’s a hankie. Remember – you had nobody to blame but yourself.

And just so you know there’s no hard feelings, I’ll highlight the other bit you got right:

We’ve always been a lustily fratricidal species, one that needed no Charles Darwin to goad us into millenniums of self-slaughter.

I think I’ll make Ben Stein write that line a hundred times on his little blackboard next.

And class, let’s all tell Jeffrey how impressed we are that a writer for Time “We’re Conservative-Approved!” magazine managed to stay in touch with enough reality to realize that Expelled is a lying sack of screaming goat chunks. Not only that, but the middle of his piece, minus the whiny “scientists are being so mean, and everybody’s being so loud” bits, is amazingly good. If he could get over this “must be fair and balanced even if one side is flat-out fucking wrong on the facts” syndrome the media is currently suffering, he’d be genius.

Here’s your silver star, son. You may go now.