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The carpenter and the pyromaniac

A very familiar story: a creationist is told that her views are unsupported by any legitimate science, and in reply she rattles off a list of creationist “scientists”.

Here we are told by a creationist housewife — as she describes herself — defending her belief that the Giant’s Causeway is only as old as the Bible says it is, a claim which assumes, of course, that there is a definite chronology in the Bible which can be used to date the age of the earth, and that this chronology, such as it is, supersedes all other forms of chronology, because the Bible is, after all, the inerrant word of God. In response to Richard Dawkins claim that reputable scientists all agree that the earth is billions of years old, our doughty housewife responds with: “That’s a blatant lie,” And then she lists four “scientists” who accept the creationist dating of the age of the earth (and she might well have named more, because, if you google these names, you end up on sites with many more).

The word “scientist” is simply a label, and if you ignore its meaning, you can stick it on anything. I’ve always considered a scientist as someone who follows a rational program of investigation of the real world, and that the word describes someone carrying out a particular and critical process of examination. But apparently, to people with no well-informed knowledge of its meaning, “science” and “scientist” are just tags you stick on really smart people who reach a conclusion you like, or who have done the academic dance to get a Ph.D. as a trophy to stick on the end of your name.

That’s a shame.

Let me explain the difference with an analogy.

A carpenter is a person who practices a highly skilled trade, carpentry, to create new and useful and lovely things out of wood. It is a non-trivial occupation, there’s both art and technology involved, and it’s a productive talent that contributes to people’s well-being. It makes the world a better place. And it involves wood.

A pyromaniac is a person with a destructive mental illness, in which they obsess over setting things on fire. Most pyromaniacs have no skill with carpentry, but some do; many of them have their own sets of skills outside of the focus of their illness. Pyromania is destructive and dangerous, contributes nothing to people’s well-being, and makes the world a worse place. And yes, it involves wood, which is a wonderful substance for burning.

Calling a creationist a scientist is as offensive as praising a pyromaniac for their skill at carpentry, when all they’ve shown is a talent for destroying things, and typically have a complete absence of any knowledge of wood-working. Producing charcoal and ash is not comparable to building a house or crafting furniture or, for that matter, creating anything.

You can’t call any creationist a scientist, because what they’re actively promoting is a destructive act of tearing down every beautiful scrap of knowledge the real scientists have acquired.

Comments

  1. says

    Here’s the RationalWiki annotation of CMI’s list of “scientists” who support creationism. Includes veterinarians and a plastic surgeon. “My plastic surgeon said it, I believe it, that’s and end of it.”

  2. says

    None of these “scientists” can even explain how Giants’ Causeway could have cooled and cracked into those patterns in 6000 years or so.

    There is a word for these people, and it’s not “scientists.” It’s “liars.”

    Glen Davidson

  3. robro says

    PZ, you might be unfair to pyromaniacs by comparing them to creationists. As you say, a pyromaniac is obsessed with burning things and may have difficulty controlling that impulse. Frankly I would compare creationists with arsonists by which I mean people who are in it for money, and they don’t care who gets burned along the way.

    I suspect the simile carries for many creationist “scientists” who probably subsist on grants and speaking fees from churches and creationists organizations filled with gullible people looking for reassurances of their beliefs. These scientist are dishonest. They are really just con artists.

    I would add the obvious that a scientist is a person who does science. The modern understanding of that word describes a methodology for investigating and learning about the natural world. Scientists are just fallible people, and individually not very important to science. The authority of science is not based on individuals but the methodology. When creationists cite lists of scientists who support it, we should remind them that science is not based on testimonials, which is of course very popular in Protestant Christianity.

  4. Jerry says

    This woman could find four people she calls “scientists” to back just about any notion, flat earth, alien UFOs, Bigfoot, whatever, as long as you’re not too concerned about little things like credentials in a related field. No independent scientific society backs creationism, period.

    Regarding the RationalWiki list of creationist “scientists” that David G linked in comment 1… It may look impressively long, until you realize that there are more scientists in my building than on that list. If you weed out people working in unrelated fields (e.g. engineers) and medical doctors (who are not trained scientific investigators, by definition), then there are more scientists on my floor than on that list. So CMI is proud of being backed by an insignificant percentage of scientists? Gosh.

  5. ShowMetheData says

    Scientist = THD

    THD is a piece of paper like The Scareow’s “Doctorate of Thinkology”
    It’s the paper that counts, not the actual thinking

  6. quentinlong says

    It’s often said that Creationists can’t be scientists, but this is wrong: Being a Creationist and a scientist is no more difficult than being a baseball fan and a scientist. In both cases, we’re talking about someone with an extracurricular interest that’s completely unrelated to, if not just plain orthogonal to, the fact that they’re also a scientist. A scientist who is also a baseball fan isn’t doing science when they attend a ball game; a scientist who is also a Creationist isn’t doing science when they’re doing… whatever it is that Creationists do. And, just as attending a ball game doesn’t disqualify someone from being a scientist when they actually are doing science, so it is that being a Creationist doesn’t disqualify someone from being a scientist when they actually are doing science. When a Creationist is working in a field of science which they don’t regard as an intolerable affront to their religious beliefs, I’m sure that their work is no worse than the work of any non-Creationist in that field.

  7. says

    quentinlong

    I don’t think you realize how antithetical creationism is to science. Every aspect of science has to be discarded to be a scientist.

    It’d be like going to work as a feminist, only to go home and start your “extracurricular activity” of being an anti-feminist.

  8. AlanMac says

    Producing charcoal and ash is not comparable to building a house…

    Making charcoal is a real occupation, both historically and at present, requiring both knowledge and skill, not to mention hard, dirty work. So, in fact this “parable” works even better as the difference between a charcoal maker and a pyromaniac/arsonist. Both are “just” burning wood.

  9. Dick the Damned says

    …the Bible is, after all, the inerrant word of God.

    Bwahahahaha. They couldn’t even get the name of their Bible Bogey right – called it Jehovah – when Yahweh is a closer call.

    If the 17th C scholars couldn’t even get the name of their god-thing right, what other cock-ups are there?

  10. What a Maroon, el papa ateo says

    quentinlong,

    Being a scientist requires a comittment to the notion that there are laws of nature that govern how the world works, and that cannot be broken. Being a creationist (or nearly any form of theist, but especially a creationist) requires a belief that the laws of nature can be suspended and broken at will by a supernatural being and its minions.

    Now it’s possible to hold the two beliefs in the same mind–the human brain is remarkably plastic that way–but they are fundamentally incompatible, in ways that being a scientist and a baseball fan aren’t. In fact, it’s entirely possible to apply scientific principles to the study of baseball, but if you do that to creationism, it just falls apart.

  11. kieran says

    As someone who sets fire to things I object being compared to creationists!
    The issue with creationists is that they don’t do the hard work. Jerry Coyne put up a list of how evolution could be falsified so why aren’t the creationists pouring millions into genetics research to do so? Is it because they won’t get published, if they did rigourous repeatable experiments how could we stop them? I think it’s two fold, fear of proving themselves wrong for some and fear of their flock finding out and the paychecks stopping.

  12. Owlmirror says

    It’s often said that Creationists can’t be scientists, but this is wrong: Being a Creationist and a scientist is no more difficult than being a baseball fan and a scientist.

    No, this analogy is wrong. There’s no antithetical concepts between baseball and science, while there are indeed antithetical beliefs between Creationism-belief and science.

    If you’d written “Christian” or “Religionist” or “Theist”, it wouldn’t be quite such a problem. Well, I might argue based on whether the religion makes any empirical claims at all.

    But Creationists do not just have a “hobby” or “extracurricular activity”. The are engaging in science-denialism; in specifically rejecting important findings of science. They reject the scientific method when it comes to anything regarding their religious beliefs.

  13. says

    I was once in an argument with a local creationist idiot, and when I said there were very few scientists who were creationists, he replied with an anecdote about someone he knew who had a degree in *computer* science, who had become a creationist (no doubt as a result of the lies told by this guy and his cohorts), so yes there are too lots of scientists who are creationists.

    I was so busy mentally counting the errors and fallacies in that statement that I, lamentably, was temporarily dumbstruck.

  14. raven says

    There is already a word for creation scientists, anti-vaxxers, Geocentrists and similar.

    It’s pseudoscientist.

    People like Hugh Ross or Wells the Moonie might have science Ph.D.’s. They may have even done science at one time. But right now, what they are doing is religion not science and they aren’t scientists anymore.

  15. says

    There are creationists who are scientists (and not just computer “scientists”) in the sense that they have a Ph.D in a relevant discipline, and get paid to do stuff like teach post-secondary science courses (and not just at religious colleges either) while performing research in the lab or field, and publishing the results thereof in peer-reviewed journals (again, not just the propaganda rags put out by the ICR etc.). Many of them are in fields not directly related to earth history or biology, so the necessary compartmentalization is likely fairly easy to sustain — their work is not in direct conflict with their dogma.

    Harder to comprehend are people like Todd Wood, Kurt Wise, Jason Lisle, Andrew Snelling, Steve Austin, and quite a few at the Disco ‘Tute, who have legitimate degrees in geology, paleontology (Wise was a student of Gould!), astronomy, bio-stuff, etc. The first two admit there is lots of evidence for evolution, and that their creationism is motivated at least partly by religious belief. The rest are just crackpots and liars.

  16. 'Tis Himself says

    THD is a piece of paper like The Scareow’s “Doctorate of Thinkology”

    It’s funny that after receiving the thinkology diploma the Scarecrow recites the Pythagorean theorem incorrectly:

    The sum of the square roots of any two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the remaining side.

    The theorem refers to right triangles, not isosceles triangles.

  17. Agent Silversmith, Vendor of +5 Vorpal Feather Dusters says

    I’d say that creationism is an example of a granfalloon. From Wikipedia: “it is a group of people who outwardly choose or claim to have a shared identity or purpose, but whose mutual association is actually meaningless.”

    It’s hard to imagine anything more stupendously meaningless than the ongoing drive to convince people that one tribe’s world formation myth, which looks just as fictional as the hundreds of other world formation myths when placed side by side, is actually true. Especially when its existence brings nothing but detriment, and not a single benefit.

  18. Owlmirror says

    It’s funny that after receiving the thinkology diploma the Scarecrow recites the Pythagorean theorem incorrectly:

    The sum of the square roots of any two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the remaining side.

    The theorem refers to right triangles, not isosceles triangles.

    And it also refers to “squares” (²), not “square roots” (√)

    Was the writer slyly hinting at the Wizard’s humbug? I hope so.

  19. Matt Penfold says

    And it also refers to “squares” (²), not “square roots” (√)

    And to be really pedantic only applies in Euclidean geometry.

  20. says

    PZ wrote:

    I’ve always considered a scientist as someone who follows a rational program of investigation of the real world, and that the word describes someone carrying out a particular and critical process of examination.

    You can do that and be a creationist. Take Fritz Schaeffer, for example. He is an accomplished computational chemist, but also a creationist who wrote Science and Christianity: Conflict or Coherence.

    Jay

  21. says

    A scientist who is also a baseball fan isn’t doing science when they attend a ball game

    The inaccuracy of your analogy aside, you obviously haven’t gone to a baseball game with Alan Nathan; Robert Adair; Randall Munroe; or Bob Lysak, one of my undergraduate advisors. Bob had us work out the equations of motion for a baseball inside a spinning space station for his classical mechanics final.

  22. escuerd says

    And it also refers to “squares” (²), not “square roots” (√)

    And to be really pedantic only applies in Euclidean geometry.

    And to be slightly less pedantic, it only applies to the sum of the two shorter sides, not “any”.

  23. johnsandlin says

    I suspect I could find a large number of religious experts to explain to her that the scientists, in fact, do have it correct; the universe is billions of years old.

    That doesn’t make the claim that the age of the universe is billions of years old any more true or false. It is that the consensus of the overwhelming majority of scientists engaged in the study of the age of the universe that allows us to accept that the universe is probably billions of years old.

    And by probably I mean we are about 99.99999% sure it is.

    jbs

  24. says

    You can do that and be a creationist.

    Considering Schaefer has basically lied about his noble nominations to promote creationism, I think it’s safe to say that he’s not the beacon of intellectual honesty, his other accomplishments aside.

  25. says

    Ing wrote:

    I wrote:
    You can [be someone who follows a rational program of investigation of the real world] that and be a creationist.

    Considering Schaefer has basically lied about his noble nominations to promote creationism, I think it’s safe to say that he’s not the beacon of intellectual honesty, his other accomplishments aside.

    First, if what you say is true, it doesn’t contradict what I wrote. Second, what’s your evidence for saying that Schaefer “basically lied”?

    Jay

  26. says

    I prefer the title “pyrotechnician” myself. It takes skill to mix mysterious chemicals together, bang them into a highly engineered tube, and make it go bye bye up into the air without going bye bye yourself in the process. It’s a rush. Too bad it’s illegal.

  27. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    It’s a rush. Too bad it’s illegal.

    That’s why we at the Pharyngula Saloon and Spanking Parlor use trebuchets and catapults for launching pyrotechnics. Plus we can turn an M-60 into an area jarring explosion using a small amount of properly aged grog.

  28. Stevarious says

    In response to Richard Dawkins claim that reputable scientists all agree that the earth is billions of years old, our doughty housewife responds with: “That’s a blatant lie,” And then she lists four “scientists”

    Your ‘doughty housewife’ wasn’t paying attention – Dawkins claim only involved reputable scientists. Not those morons who wear the term ‘scientist’ like it’s a lab coat you can take off whenever it’s convenient – like what it’s time for Sunday ‘services’.

  29. Agent Silversmith, Vendor of +5 Vorpal Feather Dusters says

    jt512

    I have no doubt that Fritz Schaeffer worked hard for his qualifications and achievements in computational chemistry. I’m also confident that he views its findings as the end result of many individuals’ ongoing rational investigation allied with critical analysis of evidence. He’d probably be most affronted at some ignoramus from another field of expertise claiming that alchemy is how things ‘really’ work.

  30. says

    Re #34: I can’t figure out why this post is addressed to me. Sure, the post mentions Fritz Schaefer, but it doesn’t have anything to do with what I argued.

  31. says

    The Discovery Institute prominently and frequently mentions the Nobel Prize in connection with Schaefer,[8][22][23] referring to him as a “five-time nominee for the Nobel Prize” despite the fact that Nobel Prize nominations remain confidential for fifty years. Intelligent Design critic Barbara Forrest, Glenn Branch and Reed Cartwright allege that in elevating mere speculation to a fact, the Discovery Institute is inflating his reputation.

  32. says

    In all seriousness: When I glanced at the title, I thought this would be about Jesus the carpenter and God the pyromaniac (a sadist burning people in hell).

    I like PZ’s article better. (But I also like that image of the hellfire God as a sick pyromaniac. Gotta use that somewhere…)

  33. sadunlap says

    Back when I used to do guest lectures on critical thinking and research I would open by going around the room, shaking hands with the students and telling them “I’m Brad Pitt. I’m a famous movie star.” (Few people look more Unlike Brad Pitt than I do).

    That was good for some laughs and to get their attention. I then explained “the naming game.” You can call anything anything. I can call myself Brad Pitt, but what do you think would happen if I turned up in Angelina Jolie’s bedroom and announced “Hi, I’m Brad Pitt, I’m your husband.”

    Will she

    a. Call the cops
    b. Beat the daylights out of me
    c. Both and not necessarily in that order.

    Naming is not magic.

  34. WhiteHatLurker says

    #36 @Ing […]
    Isn’t “elevating mere speculation to a fact” what the Discovery Institute does as its entire purpose?

    As an engineer, I’d be insulted if I were referred to as a scientist. Don’t know why these other purported engineers on the rationalwiki list would stand for it.

  35. Skeptic Dude says

    Carpenters can’t be pyromaniacs? Ever been to Burning Man? Case rested.

  36. microraptor says

    I just listened to that interview this afternoon, and the one thing I think Professor Dawkins missed was when he was telling her to read books on the subject he didn’t mention specifically to look at books written by geologist and biologists that specifically address the claims made by creationists and to check how well the refutations of creationist claims of a young Earth are addressed.

  37. fredsalvador says

    Scientists my arse – they’re all engineers! They’re ALWAYS engineers! What is it about engineering that predisposes people with a talent for it to also have a talent for bringing the stupid?

    Not just BRINGING the stupid, but actively throwing the weight of their engineering qualifications behind the stupid in order to make lay-people think the stupid is not stupid? The profession is a cesspit; we should load all of the engineers onto a rocket and fire it into the Sun before they bring any more stupid. It’s simple; put all of the engineers into a prison while scientists figure out how we’d go about getting a rocket to hit the Sun, then we would draw up the– oh, wait…

    As an engineer, I’d be insulted if I were referred to as a scientist.

    I think scientists would also find that insulting, wrench-monkey! :-D

  38. txpiper says

    Interesting discussion. I’m curious as to how the ‘they are not real scientists’ declaration would apply to Bacon, Galileo, Kepler, Pascal, Boyle, Newton, Linneaus, Hershel, Joule, Mendel, Pasteur, Lister, Maxwell and many others.

    I also have to wonder about the current fads. The idea that nucleobases formed in the upper atmosphere, or that incomplete collections of chiral amino acids cruised in on meteorites, or formed in the temperature interfaces of deep-sea vents or volcanoes might be appealing to ‘real scientists’, but only the ones who aren’t burdened with statistics and probabilities.

  39. ChasCPeterson says

    I’m curious as to how the ‘they are not real scientists’ declaration would apply to Bacon, Galileo, Kepler, Pascal, Boyle, Newton, Linneaus, Hershel, Joule, Mendel, Pasteur, Lister, Maxwell and many others.

    since all have been dead for decades or centuries, no present-tense declarations apply to them.

  40. madtom1999 says

    Ha – if you burn stuff in a calorimeter you can call yourself a scientist!
    Well except the koran maybe…

  41. txpiper says

    “since all have been dead for decades or centuries, no present-tense declarations apply to them”

    I see. The quaint guys who stuck to empirical evidence and repeatable experiments got to be the real scientists till the guys with the fantasies took over and got everything straightened out.

  42. says

    A pyromaniac is a person with a destructive mental illness, in which they obsess over setting things on fire. Most pyromaniacs have no skill with carpentry, but some do; many of them have their own sets of skills outside of the focus of their illness. Pyromania is destructive and dangerous, contributes nothing to people’s well-being, and makes the world a worse place. And yes, it involves wood, which is a wonderful substance for burning.

    From this point on, whenever I hear a creationist argument, it will register in my brain as FIRE! FIRE! FIRE! FIRE!

  43. Gnumann, quisling of the MRA nation says

    Dawkins claim only involved reputable scientists.

    Tbh, I got a problem with this one. Since you can’t really be a reputable scientist and a YEC, it’s a tautology.

    And argument from tautology is always bad, even in the service of good.

    A wast majority of scientists doesn’t have the same schwung, but it’s at least logically sound. The smarter (and thus more dishonest) of the YEC crowd are liable to call out the “reputable”-gambit anyhow.

    I’m curious as to how the ‘they are not real scientists’ declaration would apply to Bacon, Galileo, Kepler, Pascal, Boyle, Newton, Linneaus, Hershel, Joule, Mendel, Pasteur, Lister, Maxwell and many others.

    All these people were creationists? Source please?
    And no, by fiat doesn’t count. When we count famous racists and misogynists, we don’t count people like Darwin and Lincoln. Even though they would be judged by today’s standard.

  44. fredsalvador says

    Interesting discussion. I’m curious as to how the ‘they are not real scientists’ declaration would apply to Bacon, Galileo, Kepler, Pascal, Boyle, Newton, Linneaus, Hershel, Joule, Mendel, Pasteur, Lister, Maxwell and many others.

    If we’re making historical equivalencies they’d be “real scientists”, despite an unfortunate penchant for engineering and religion amongst certain of them.

    By modern standards they’re between one and five hundred years behind the curve, so they’d be “primary school students”.

    It really is irrelevant, though. Wether the discovery came from Dr. A.N Scienzatheist in a lab in Switzerland last week, or Xerxes The Eye-Gougingly Pious beside a camp-fire in ancient Persia, if it works, it works, and most likely always has worked in exactly the same way since the dawn of time ~14 billion years ago. The individual doesn’t matter. The ideas do.

    That’s how science functions, and it’s why creationists who pick holes in the postulations of Darwin and Pasteur or point to Newton’s religious dabblings are doin’ it wrong; and why atheists who point to Darwin’s works or Pasteur’s assertion that his experiments into biogenesis would sound the death-knell for spontaneous creation theories as dead-bolted evidence of their position are likewise failing to grasp the subtleties and nuances of this field.

    None of us do that, though. Do we? :-S

    I also have to wonder about the current fads. The idea that nucleobases formed in the upper atmosphere, or that incomplete collections of chiral amino acids cruised in on meteorites, or formed in the temperature interfaces of deep-sea vents or volcanoes might be appealing to ‘real scientists’, but only the ones who aren’t burdened with statistics and probabilities.

    In what way are statistics and probabilities a burden here? I’ll admit that the basic components of life having arrived on the Extraterrestrial Express does sound unlikely to me, even in my limited experience with abiogenisis, so if that’s what science was proposing then we could all be rightly sceptical.

    But it isn’t. It doesn’t need to. It’s highly likely (by which I mean, “99.9999999999999999999^% certain”) that the basic ingredients for amino acids and nucleotides, and therefore “life as we know it, Jim”, were abundant on our nascent Earth. They proceeded to react with each other under certain atmospheric and climatic conditions in a montmorillonite/ saline medium over the entire surface of the planet for billions (that is to say, hundreds and hundreds of millions) of years. When we consider that scientists have produced the basic biochemicals of “life” in laboratories under conditions designed to simulate those present during the early years of Earth over time spans far shorter than the ~4.6 billion years Earth has existed, thus proving that the theoretically-possible chemistry is ACTUALLY possible, it seems to suggest that, given what we know about life as it is now, the balance of probabilities is more slanted towards these basic biochemicals forming at some point than it is towards them not doing so. If all the stuff was there, the medium was conducive, the temperature, pressure, etc, were all right, and all of these factors were present and correct for such a gargantuan time-span… why wouldn’t these chemicals be produced? Unless uniformitarianism is wrong, and it demonstrably isn’t, why wouldn’t this stuff happen the way nature says it should?

    So, yeah. I’d suggest anyone “unburdened by statistics and probabilities” who says that abiogensis must be bogus because it’s so unlikely is probably misapplying statistics and probabilities to science, either because they have some mendacious need to finagle a controversy around empirical scientific postulates, or because they don’t understand the fields they’re discussing. Neither are mutually exclusive, as creationists take great pleasure in demonstrating every time they open their stupid gobs.

  45. empiricallyyours says

    Off Topic:

    Christian proselytizing in NZ has been confronted with the Keep Religion Out Of School Campaign.
    http://www.nzarh.org.nz/schoolcampaign.htm
    http://reason.org.nz/index.php/school-campaign/secular-education-network

    Their youngest member has even had death threats.
    http://m.wanganuichronicle.co.nz/news/keep-religion-out-of-schools-teen/1453467/

    All Pharyngula & FtB readers can show their support by visiting the links above or the Facebook one below. I know there are some Kiwi and Aussie regulars that would be interested.
    http://www.facebook.com/KeepReligionOutOfSchoolNZ

    Maybe someone with a bit of pull could get this a better footing than here on FtB, considering PZ and emails aren’t going so well at the moment. Unfortunately I was too late in getting the NZ Herald poll posted before it ended.

  46. jayarrrr says

    I know what happens when you mix vinegar and baking soda. Can I call myself a “scientist”? Why not? That’s “Science”, ain’t it?
    ;D

    Creationist “Scientist” is like unto a Psychic “Surgeon”…

  47. stanton says

    I’m curious as to how the ‘they are not real scientists’ declaration would apply to Bacon, Galileo, Kepler, Pascal, Boyle, Newton, Linneaus, Hershel, Joule, Mendel, Pasteur, Lister, Maxwell and many others.

    “since all have been dead for decades or centuries, no present-tense declarations apply to them”

    I see. The quaint guys who stuck to empirical evidence and repeatable experiments got to be the real scientists till the guys with the fantasies took over and got everything straightened out.

    As was asked, txpiper, which of the following scientists actively sought to impede science and or science education, and or were Young Earth Creationists who assumed that the literal reading of the Bible is an accurate description of the creation of the Universe?

    Or, were you trying to imply that modern scientists and students of scientists, and or anyone and everyone else who did not share your irrational hatred of science will eagerly crucify early scientists for not sharing their alleged God-hatred?

  48. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    txpiper, do you have any conclusive physical evidence for your imaginary deity yet? Or are you still proving you are a liar and bullshitter by presupposing your imaginary deity, along with your babble being anything other than mythology/fiction? Funny how every time you try to provide evidence for either presupposition it blows up in your face. Something to do with fallacious presuppositions perhaps?

  49. says

    Using old dead scientists as creationists is dishonest.

    The question is whether you can be an intellectually honest scientist and a creationist with the current massive butt load of data supporting evolution we have today.

    You cannot. You either have to compartamentaLIES, out right LIE, stick your buisness outside your feild and lie acting like you have as much authority as specialists do, etc etc.

    And furthermore IMHO it does show that someone is likely to be a shitty thinker because they have already shown that they model the world based on what they want to believe not based on data. Any accomplishments they have are remarkable either for how well they’re correcting their bias in their work via experimental set up, or for how lucky they are that the data fit their guesses.

    Being a successful scientist and creationist is like being like Katty Perry. Your success in your field isn’t exactly an endorsement of your own talent.

  50. David Marjanović says

    Interesting discussion. I’m curious as to how the ‘they are not real scientists’ declaration would apply to Bacon, Galileo, Kepler, Pascal, Boyle, Newton, Linneaus, Hershel, Joule, Mendel, Pasteur, Lister, Maxwell and many others.

    Well, duh. They did the best they could, with the evidence that was at their disposal before Darwin and Wallace published their paper. They are giants on whose shoulders we trample.

    Also, tales of Pasteur’s faith are commonly exaggerated.

    I also have to wonder about the current fads. The idea that nucleobases formed in the upper atmosphere, or that incomplete collections of chiral amino acids cruised in on meteorites, or formed in the temperature interfaces of deep-sea vents or volcanoes might be appealing to ‘real scientists’, but only the ones who aren’t burdened with statistics and probabilities.

    Show us your math.

  51. says

    When a Creationist is working in a field of science which they don’t regard as an intolerable affront to their religious beliefs, I’m sure that their work is no worse than the work of any non-Creationist in that field.

    Name a lifescience that isn’t such an affront?

  52. anteprepro says

    txpiper is a dumb fuck as always. We aren’t talking about Christians not often being good/real scientists. We are talking about creationists.

    Anyway, a look at dates.

    Bacon- Died 1625.
    Galileo- Died 1642.
    Pascal- Died 1662.
    Boyle- Died 1691.
    Newton- Died 1727.
    Linneaus- Died 1778
    Hershel- Died 1822 (his son, who died 50 years later, influenced Darwin’s research)
    Joule- Died 1889, no evidence of rejecting Darwin.
    Mendel- Died 1884, did his research in 1856-1863.
    Lister- Died 1912, no evidence of rejecting Darwin.
    Maxwell- Died 1879, no evidence of rejecting Darwin.
    Pasteur- Died 1895, no evidence of rejecting Darwin.

    Origin of Species- 1859
    Descent of Man- 1871 (this is also around the time that widespread acceptance begins)

    So, super genius txpiper is citing 7 people who died before the publishing of Origin of Species and 1 person who began their research years before it was published, as examples of good creationist scientists. Well, I agree with hir. The only way you can be a good scientist and a creationist is if evolution wasn’t even on the table when you were doing science. Bravo, tx. The only four who might have had a chance to reject evolution were Lister, Maxwell, Joule and Pasteur. And I am not seeing any solid evidence that they did. Good show.

  53. sadunlap says

    txpiper

    I’m curious as to how the ‘they are not real scientists’ declaration would apply to Bacon, Galileo, Kepler, Pascal, Boyle, Newton, Linneaus, Hershel, Joule, Mendel, Pasteur, Lister, Maxwell and many others.

    Just to name two, I find it interesting that you include Kepler and Bacon.

    Kepler and the perfect circles. Until Kepler most Europeans believed that the Sun, Earth, etc all described circular orbits. The disagreement with Copernican astronomy was over the center of the universe/solar system but Copernicus too (and Galileo) believed in circular orbits. In the religious view circles are perfect, God is perfect therefore everything goes in a perfect circle. Kepler hated elliptical orbits for that reason. But elliptical orbits is what we’ve got. So somehow religious people let go of the “orbits are circular because that’s what God would do” idea.

    On to Bacon. In Advancement of Learning book 1 he writes that the world itself is a kind of bible as it is the work of God. Given the plan he sets forth for subjecting explanations of evidence to objective forms of verification, the world, therefore, constitutes a more authoritative bible than the written one which has the filters of human perception, translation from language to language, etc. So the answers we obtain from nature trump (replace/overrule) answers we obtain from the written bible. The person who commissioned and approved the King James version of the bible had no problem with this idea. Bacon wrote Advancement of Learning in the form of a letter to his friend and patron, King James.

  54. says

    Ing wrote:

    When a Creationist is working in a field of science which they don’t regard as an intolerable affront to their religious beliefs, I’m sure that their work is no worse than the work of any non-Creationist in that field.

    Name a lifescience that isn’t such an affront?

    The question isn’t can you be in the life sciences and be creationist; it’s can you be a scientist and a creationist. Here’s what Fritz Schaefer is currently working on (from his research page).

    The potential energy hypersurfaces that govern elementary gas phase chemical reactions, including systems pertinent to combustion

    Fundamental problems in physical organic chemistry involving, for example, carbenes and other biradical species and systems such as the [n] paracyclophanes and [10] annulene

    Organosilicon chemistry, specifically the prediction and understanding of the properties of silicon analogs of both common and unknown hydrocarbon compounds

    Hydrogen bonding in systems as complicated as the adenosine-thymidene nucleoside pair

    The study of molecular and ion clusters pertinent to atmospheric chemistry

    Metal-metal bonds in organometallic chemistry

    The systematic examination of molecular electron affinities

    Quantum mechanical modeling of chemical vapor deposition (CVD) for systems such as gallium nitride.

    There’s no conflict between those research subjects and belief in God. So, yes, you can be a good scientist and be a creationist. It’s not as black and white as you would like it to be.

    Jay

  55. stanton says

    There’s no conflict between those research subjects and belief in God. So, yes, you can be a good scientist and be a creationist. It’s not as black and white as you would like it to be.

    Could you trust a scientist who, because of his/her religious beliefs, treats his/her life’s work as a roleplaying game fantasy?

    That, and simply believing in God does not automatically make one a Creationist. A Creationist is someone who believes that God created the world as described according to a literal reading of the Book of Genesis or other preferred holy text.

  56. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    It’s not as black and white as you would like it to be.

    Jay

    Actually it is. The compartmentalization necessary can be debilitating….

  57. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I’ll concede to Stanton, and go back to backing up hard drives.

  58. says

    Repeated

    You cannot. You either have to compartamentaLIES, out right LIE, stick your buisness outside your feild and lie acting like you have as much authority as specialists do, etc etc.

    And furthermore IMHO it does show that someone is likely to be a shitty thinker because they have already shown that they model the world based on what they want to believe not based on data. Any accomplishments they have are remarkable either for how well they’re correcting their bias in their work via experimental set up, or for how lucky they are that the data fit their guesses.

    Being a successful scientist and creationist is like being like Katty Perry. Your success in your field isn’t exactly an endorsement of your own talent.

  59. ChasCPeterson says

    yes, you can be a good scientist and be a creationist.

    I think this is true.
    You cannot be a good biologist and be a creationist, though.
    On account of duh.

  60. Owlmirror says

    There’s no conflict between those research subjects and belief in God. So, yes, you can be a good scientist and be a creationist.

    I don’t think anyone’s claimed that you can’t be a scientist and believe in God. Although, it has been pointed out that when doing science, you’re not doing religion, and when you’re doing religion, you’re not doing science.

    But creationism is more than just “belief in God” or “being an adherent of a religion”. It’s a denial of some principal of science — even if it’s just the principle of parsimony with respect to the God being believed in.

    When Schaefer says about some discovery, “So that’s how God did it!”, he’s confabulating that there is a “God” and implicitly denying the principles of parsimony and falsifiability.

    What other science does Schaefer deny? Does he have an explicit position on the age of the Earth and a claimed global flood a few thousand years ago?

  61. says

    @stanton: Yes, I would trust Fritz Schaefer’s research. He has published 1400 peer-review papers, which have been cited (excluding self-itations) nearly 30,000 times. So, apparently, his scientific colleagues trust his science.

    Nerd wrote:

    The compartmentalization necessary can be debilitating.

    I don’t know whether that is true or not, but apparently it isn’t always “debilitating.” Again, look at Schaefer (and I’m not a fan of his, or anything; I’m just familiar with his story because my girlfriend knows him).

  62. Owlmirror says

    When Schaefer says about some discovery, “So that’s how God did it!”, he’s confabulating that there is a “God” and implicitly denying the principles of parsimony and falsifiability.

    Actually, let me clarify that a bit: Simply believing that claim (“that’s how God did it”) does not in and of itself make him a creationist. He’s certainly not being a scientist in making the claim, though; the belief does not arise from science.

    But claiming that the belief “that’s how God did it” does arise from science would definitely make him a creationist.

  63. says

    @owlmirror

    Yes. He’s with Discovery.

    I don’t know whether that is true or not, but apparently it isn’t always “debilitating.” Again, look at Schaefer (and I’m not a fan of his, or anything; I’m just familiar with his story because my girlfriend knows him).

    He is lucky.

    Again PCR, radioactive racoons.

  64. says

    @Owlmirror: I’m not familiar with Schaefer’s specific beliefs, other that that he is a creationist.

    When Schaefer says about some discovery, “So that’s how God did it!”, he’s confabulating that there is a “God” and implicitly denying the principles of parsimony and falsifiability.

    Let’s talking about what real scientists do, not what philosophers of science think scientists do. According to Schaefer’s website, he “develop[s] theoretical and computational methods through mathematical models for describing and understanding the movement and function of electrons in molecules and to apply the theoretical methods to significant problems of broad chemical interest.”

    So, he’s developing and applying mathematical models to chemical problems. There is no variable in those models for God, and, as a mathematical modeler, I’m sure he understands the principle of parsimony better than you do (unless you’re a modeler, too).

  65. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I don’t know whether that is true or not, but apparently it isn’t always “debilitating.”

    Actually it is, as it is extremely difficult to keep imaginary things out of your professional writings. And I know we Chemists have trouble with that from C&E News. Linus Pauling and Rustram Roy come to mind. But, whenever global warming comes up, fuckwits come out of the closet to prove their idiocy. I don’t recall Schaefer per se, but that doesn’t mean anything, if he only writes once or twice a year. But it does affect how their peer reviewed papers are looked at.

  66. says

    There is no variable in those models for God, and, as a mathematical modeler, I’m sure he understands the principle of parsimony better than you do (unless you’re a modeler, too).

    Argument of authority…oddly with the authority also being the subject.

  67. Owlmirror says

    Let’s talking about what real scientists do, not what philosophers of science think scientists do.

    If a scientist believes in God, his belief really does not arise from doing science.

    There is no variable in those models for God, and, as a mathematical modeler, I’m sure he understands the principle of parsimony better than you do.

    Not if he believes in Christianity. He’s not extending his understanding to those claims of the religion that he believes in.

    (unless you’re a modeler, too)

    I don’t have to be a modeler to know when someone — scientist or not — is violating the principles of parsimony and falsifiability in believing that there is a God, and that this God has done certain things.

  68. says

    Ing, Nerd, et al, you are ignoring the evidence: a leading theoretical chemist, who’s won just about every chemistry except the Nobel, is a creationist. This conclusively proves that you can be a good scientist and a creationist.

    Ing wrote:

    I don’t recall Schaefer per se, but that doesn’t mean anything, if he only writes once or twice a year. But it does affect how their peer reviewed papers are looked at.

    What part of 1400 papers and 30,000 citations (and an h-index of 104, while we’re at it) did you not understand?

  69. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    This conclusively proves that you can be a good scientist and a creationist.

    Nope, it only proves good partioning….No good scientist can be a public creationist.

  70. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    What part of 1400 papers and 30,000 citations (and an h-index of 104, while we’re at it) did you not understand?

    Irrelevant to his belief in imaginary deities and mythical/fictional holy books. If he can keep it separate fine. Usually they can’t. Cognitive dissonance is hard to fight.

  71. says

    Owl wrote:

    I don’t have to be a modeler to know when someone — scientist or not — is violating the principles of parsimony and falsifiability in believing that there is a God, and that this God has done certain things.

    The point is that those violations of parsimony and falsifiability do not pertain to the scientific work that Schaefer does. He’s a theoretical chemist, not a theologian. His work involves development of mathematical methods to solve chemical problems.

  72. says

    Ing, Nerd, et al, you are ignoring the evidence: a leading theoretical chemist, who’s won just about every chemistry except the Nobel, is a creationist. This conclusively proves that you can be a good scientist and a creationist.

    Or that you can be lucky. Or have good grad students.

  73. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    His work involves development of mathematical methods to solve chemical problems.

    And this has nothing to do with being a fuckwitted evidedenceless presuppositional idjit on top of being a scientist. Compartmentalization must be extremely tight, and you know that. What part of that are you having trouble with?

  74. says

    And, Nerd, nothing in your last post has anything to do with the question of whether a person can be a good scientist and creationist, which is the topic of the post and the question at hand.

  75. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    JT512, being a creationist requires at least two fallacious presuppositions. 1) Their imaginary deity exits, despite the lack of evidence for one. 2) Their holy book is not a book of mythology/fiction despite the lack of evidence that is isn’t. So, where is the rationality and scientific backing of being a creationist? There isn’t any. Nothing but delusion on top of what else they do, including what they do for a living.

  76. says

    Also considering that he actively calls for a destruction of knowledge and reduction of collective understanding via miseducation, no even his professional success does not hide the fact that he is a bad scientist. he is working to reduce understanding on the whole not build it. His own breakthroughs do not change this

  77. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    which is the topic of the post and the question at hand.

    And you showed nothing to indicate they were compatible. Typical creobot loser talking….

  78. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    And JT512, until you show conclusive physical evidence for that imaginary deity, and that the babble isn’t a book of mythology/fiction, you can’t demonstrate that Schaefer is rational and scientific in his creationism. Trying to pretend the delusional liar and bullshitter is an authority actually hinders your inane and fuckwitted argument….

  79. says

    Nerd, I basically agree with that (#86), but that doesn’t imply that a creationist must be an idiot. Theoretical chemistry is hard subject. You have to be really smart to become a professor with an endowed chair, as Schaefer has, so Schaefer cannot be an idiot. I don’t know why he is a creationist (nor how he could be one), but I know it’s not because he’s stupid. Maybe he can’t get over childhood indoctrination or he had a “conversion experience” (which is a delusion). But it’s not true that all creationists are stupid.

  80. says

    Nerd, I basically agree with that (#86), but that doesn’t imply that a creationist must be an idiot. Theoretical chemistry is hard subject. You have to be really smart to become a professor with an endowed chair in theoretical chemsitry, as Schaefer has, so Schaefer cannot be an idiot. I don’t know why he is a creationist (nor how he could be one), but I know it’s not because he’s stupid. Maybe he can’t get over childhood indoctrination or he had a “conversion experience” (which is a delusion). But it’s not true that all creationists are stupid.

  81. says

    @Jt512

    You’re getting no where. For Nerd and others, definitionally if someone can’t overcome the obvious problems with creationism vis a vi the data they are using brain power into finding more efficient ways of being wrong and thus being idiots.

    It’s like asking how a serial rapist could be a bad person when he donates time to the soup kitchen.

  82. says

    Nerd, Schaefer probably isn’t “rational and scientific” about his creationism. But he’s a chemist. He only has to be rational and scientific about his scientific work to be a good scientist.

  83. says

    Which is a great analogy for Schaefer’s scientific career! His career is spent building up collcetive knowledge while his free time is spent on tearing it down (thus making him a shitty scientist over all)

    It’s like…someone who builds something but then also destroys it…if only there were a metaphor for that.

  84. says

    He only has to be rational and scientific about his scientific work to be a good scientist.

    I disagree for the reasons stated above.

    It’s like saying you’re a good librarian for carefully maintaining the Young Adult section, while actively burning books out back.

  85. says

    Ing, how, is what Schaefer is doing in his spare time tearing down the scientific knowledge he has spent his working career building up?

  86. fredsalvador says

    I don’t know why he is a creationist (nor how he could be one)

    Because as complex a field as theoretical chemistry is, it doesn’t preclude belief in the Bible or the God it pertains to evince. Chemicals interact according to immutable laws of nature; wether these laws were set forth by a creator god or are simply the logical result of physical processes is irrelevant. This is how nature works, so this is how you work with nature, or in Schafer’s case, how you make predictions about how nature works and design experiments to test those predictions.

    30,000 citations in the field of theoretical chemistry is all well and good, but until he amasses a body of work in fields related to “creation” (geology, paleontology, cosmology, etc) and uses his expertise to produce a credible, falsifiable theory that supports the Bible’s version of events, it’s pretty safe to take his assertions about the supernatural with a grain of salt.

    He won’t ever do that, though; not because he isn’t intelligent enough, nor necessarily motivated enough, but because if he ever does move into one of these fields he’ll soon find himself so beset by centuries of overwhelming evidence that his only recourse will be to do what other time-served working scientists who hold creationists beliefs end up doing; engaging in self-delusion to make reality fit their preferred narrative and tarnishing their credentials by lending them to bullshit.

  87. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Ing, how, is what Schaefer is doing in his spare time tearing down the scientific knowledge he has spent his working career building up?

    In case you haven’t noticed fuckwit, science requires evidence. Good, solid, and conclusive physical evidence. All religion requires is presupposition, thinking that something is true without regard to the evidence. Now, if you have conclusive phyical evidence your imaginary deity exists, or that the babble is inerrant, either present that evidence, or shut the fuck up about it. Because if you can’t put up, and can’t shut up, you are a confirmed liar and bullshitter. Your choice cricket, choose wisely…

  88. says

    Ing, how, is what Schaefer is doing in his spare time tearing down the scientific knowledge he has spent his working career building up?

    He works with the Discovery Institute as previously pointed out. And he promotes Creationism which is the tearing down of the collective knowledge.

  89. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Nerd, fuck off.

    Why should I? You are the one being the fuckwitted idjit, by presuming presuppositions, not evidence. So, why can’t you put up the evidence for your imaginary deity, or that the babble is anything other than mythology fiction? Because if you can’t, you do tacitly acknowledge that Schaefer is a liar and bullshitter scientifically when it come to creationism…

  90. fredsalvador says

    In case you haven’t noticed fuckwit, science requires evidence. Good, solid, and conclusive physical evidence.

    In the same way that Scahfer’s credentials in the field of theoretical chemistry don’t lend any credence to his untested, unfalsifiable assertions about Biblical Creation, you don’t get to impugne his unquestionable competence in his chosen field simply because he happens to hold stupid personal beliefs.

    Actual scientists wouldn’t do this, so neither should layfolk like you and I.

  91. says

    In the same way that Scahfer’s credentials in the field of theoretical chemistry don’t lend any credence to his untested, unfalsifiable assertions about Biblical Creation, you don’t get to impugne his unquestionable competence in his chosen field simply because he happens to hold stupid personal beliefs.

    But it doesn’t excuse him tearing down other fields and shitting on science as a whole. His general disrespect for the scientific endeavor outside of his own ship does make him a bad scientist.

    Bad both in terms of effectiveness and ethics.

  92. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Actual scientists wouldn’t do this, so neither should layfolk like you and I.

    I don’t necessarily question his professional ethics, but I would look closely at his papers for sneaking in of religious presuppositions, which has happened if peer review isn’t very rigorous. After all, I’m a scientist in real life (if my business card is to be believed).

  93. Gregory Greenwood says

    jt512 @ 93;

    Nerd, Schaefer probably isn’t “rational and scientific” about his creationism. But he’s a chemist. He only has to be rational and scientific about his scientific work to be a good scientist.

    It isn’t really possible to compartmentalise like that. The scientific method requires a worldview that privileges evidence over superstition, that attempts to view the world as it is rather than as you wish it were. Conversely, religion requires that you ignore the evidence in order to preserve your favoured mythology. It demands that you turn a blind eye to what actually is in favour of a fantasy you find more comforting. If you are doing that, then it will influence your work. If you look at, say, the chemical structure of a compound with the belief that it was designed and forged by an invisible superbeing, then that will inevitably influence your work, however subtly.

    There is also the fact that a scientist bears a greater responsibility beyond hir own narrow discipline – they bear a responsibility to uphold the scientific method and the rationality that lies at its heart. Creationism is untrue – it propagates a version of the history of our planet, the broader galaxy, and the entire universe that flies in the face of all that we know courtesy of careful scientific study in many fields, chemistry among them. It denies reason and evidence in order to push a theology with a toxic social agenda.

    One cannot serve the rational scientific method and such theistic delusion at the same time – the two are fundamentally incompatible at every level.

  94. says

    One cannot serve the rational scientific method and such theistic delusion at the same time – the two are fundamentally incompatible at every level.

    The books he does stack are so well ordered! What difference does it make if he burns all those others!?

  95. Owlmirror says

    The point is that those violations of parsimony and falsifiability do not pertain to the scientific work that Schaefer does.

    That’s precisely the point about compartmentalization.

    But it’s not true that all creationists are stupid.

    Maybe the problem is that the English language doesn’t have words to describe different kinds of stupidity.

    I absolutely agree that he’s not stupid about his field of expertise, and that he’s even very intelligent in that field.

    The problem is in applying intelligence at a meta-level; thinking about how he’s thinking; seeking epistemic consistency. Or rather, in his case, not-thinking about how he’s not-thinking; not caring about the inconsistency in the way he thinks about his religion. This might be called a kind of meta-stupidity.

    In a way, it’s a form of the Dunning-Krugger effect: He’s not unskilled or incompetent in his field, but he mistakenly believes that his expertise exempts him from needing evidence-based reasoning for his religious beliefs.

    You might be interested in learning about how intelligent people can make mistakes, and defend those mistakes:

    Cognitive psychology:
    http://www.virginiacampbellmd.com/blog/2011/9/27/cognitive-dissonance-with-carol-tavris-phd-books-and-ideas-4.html

    Neurology and other analyses of the brain (I haven’t listened to/read them all, but I thought the one above was very good indeed):
    http://brainsciencepodcast.squarespace.com/episodes-page/

  96. fredsalvador says

    But it doesn’t excuse him tearing down other fields and shitting on science as a whole.

    No, it doesn’t; and therefore refusing to call him a scientist is fine.

    His general disrespect for the scientific endeavor outside of his own ship does make him a bad scientist.

    Agreed. He’s still an eminently qualified and widely cited theoretical chemist who is contributing to the field. The important thing to get across is that, as respectable as that may be, it doesn’t validate his stupid personal beliefs.

    He’s a theoretical chemist; he isn’t a scientist.

    Bad both in terms of effectiveness and ethics.

    I won’t argue with the latter, but 30,000 citations tends to suggest the former is not the case.

    Nerd is a scientist, a chemist.

    Irony.

    And that’s what happens when we make assumptions; it makes an “ass” out of “me”.

    You still don’t get to piss on someone else’s credentials simply because he holds stupid personal beliefs, particularly not when said someone is obviously pumping out quality work.

    What you can do is make the point that the aforementioned quality work has nothing to do with the creation of the universe and as such he is not an authority on that subject. That, and refuse to call him a “scientist”.

  97. Owlmirror says

    You are the one being the fuckwitted idjit, by presuming presuppositions, not evidence. So, why can’t you put up the evidence for your imaginary deity, or that the babble is anything other than mythology fiction?

    Nerd, you’re being sloppy. jt512 hasn’t argued for God or for the Bible.

  98. says

    No, it doesn’t; and therefore refusing to call him a scientist is fine.

    No I just think he’s a shitty scientist. He succeeded at the initial goals and actively works to fuck up the long term ones.

  99. Gregory Greenwood says

    Ing: Gerund of Death @ 108;

    The books he does stack are so well ordered! What difference does it make if he burns all those others!?

    Afterall, those other books weren’t part of his section of the library, so it is not as though he has any obligation to not burn them…

  100. Owlmirror says

    No, I think Schaefer is a scientist, and should be called one. Maybe even a good scientist, or a great scientist.

    The problem is that putting together traits X and Y hints at (without directly stating) that X and Y are somehow connected.

    Something like:
    “Tom Cruise is a great actor, and a Scientologist.”

    Except that that’s not quite the best analogy, because being an actor and being a Scientologist aren’t antithetical. And I do think that being a good scientist, and being a creationist, are antithetical concepts (which was the whole point of the original post.).

    Maybe saying that someone is a great architect, and a terrorist? But that overloads the stigma, maybe. Too much negativity.

  101. Owlmirror says

    Maybe we can fix the phrasing by using “but”:

    Schaefer is a good scientist, but also a creationist.

  102. says

    Fredsalvador wrote:

    He’s a theoretical chemist; he isn’t a scientist.

    That sentence is self-refuting.

  103. txpiper says

    Shaefer’s objections are entirely reasonable.

    “My first concern is that, with the collapse of the Miller-Urey model, there is no plausible scientific mechanism for the origin of life, i.e., the appearance of the first self-replicating biochemical system. The staggeringly high information content of the simplest living thing is not readily explained by evolutionists. Second, the time frame for speciation events seems all wrong to me. The major feature of the fossil record is stasis, long periods in which new species do not appear. When new developments occur, they come rapidly, not gradually. My third area of reservation is that I find no satisfactory mechanism for macroevolutionary changes. Analogies between a few inches of change in the beaks of a Galapagos finch species and a purported transition from dinosaur to bird (or vice versa) appear to me inappropriate.”
    http://www.forananswer.org/Top_Ath/Schaefer_EvolutionTheory.pdf

    The first and third problems he mentions simply involve wholesale credulity in the presence of paltry evidence. His second objection however, is interesting in that Gould and Eldredge responded to the problem, not with evidence, but with an attempt to explain why there isn’t any.

  104. fredsalvador says

    I would look closely at his papers for sneaking in of religious presuppositions

    Would this work in chemistry? There don’t seem to be a lot of gaps in chemistry, even theoretical chemistry, into which God could easily be inserted without someone, somewhere, picking up on it.

    It does sound like fun, though; subjecting an emeritus professor’s work to the same level of scrutiny as that produced by some spotty undergrad simply because said professor chooses to place faith in drivel. Sounds like a more effective way of driving religious shite out of science than simply reserving the word “scientist” for people who don’t believe in specious nonsense.

    No I just think he’s a shitty scientist. He succeeded at the initial goals and actively works to fuck up the long term ones.

    Fair enough, although he’s a theoretical chemist. His long-term goals don’t involve disproving God or defeating theism’s stranglehold on humanity. His long-term goals have something to do with producing mathematical models for gas behaviour or some shit. That’s his “thing”, and he is apparently very good at it; so he isn’t really betraying himself by siding with creationists in arguments concerning scientific disciplines he is not qualified to speak on.

    No argument that he is betraying the principles of the endeavour as a whole, though.

    And I do think that being a good scientist, and being a creationist, are antithetical concepts (which was the whole point of the original post.).

    Antithetical to science, but not antithetical to competence in theoretical chemistry, obviously.

    Maybe the best answer is a whole new term for scientists who hold creationist views – something that acknowledges their competence in their chosen field while also marking them as intellectually dishonest and untrustworthy on matters beyond their ken.

    “Scienturd”, perhaps. Or “Derpatologist”. “Crankophile”.

    That sentence is self-refuting.

    Depends on how you define a “scientist”, really. Currently, you’re right; but language is a changeable beast.

  105. says

    Maybe we can fix the phrasing by using “but”:

    Schaefer is a good scientist, but also a creationist.

    I did that 92 posts ago! See my first post in the thread (#23).

  106. Owlmirror says

    Or maybe this perhaps overly-verbose formulation:

    Schaefer is a scientist, and he’s done some great science in his time. But he’s also a creationist, and as such, he’s either directly committed science-denialism, or indirectly supported science-denialism by more fanatical creationists.

  107. says

    Gregory Greenwood wrote:

    The scientific method requires a worldview that privileges evidence over superstition, that attempts to view the world as it is rather than as you wish it were.

    If you had written “view” instead of “worldview,” I would have agreed with you; however, the word “worldview” turns your statement into complete nonsense. The reason is that the scientific method is how you practice science. Therefore, the scientist only needs to adopt this view when doing his science. He doesn’t need to be scientific outside of his lab.

  108. says

    Owlmirror, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head (#120). I wouldn’t call that overly verbose in the least.

  109. Owlmirror says

    Shaefer’s objections are entirely reasonable.

    Except that they are unreasonable, inasmuch as they are — once again — arguments from ignorance and incredulity.

    And he has less excuse than you do.

    In that same article:

    Thus the 20th century witnessed a series of hoaxes, beginning in 1908 with Piltdown Man and continuing to recent fabricated fossil “discoveries” in China, that have been embraced as missing links by distinguished paleontologists.

    He may be a great chemist, but his knowledge of palaeontology comes from creationist sources, and he’s refused to educate himself from non-creationist sources.

    I’m starting to think that maybe “great architect/terrorist” is not such a bad analogy after all. He’s eagerly complicit with blowing up buildings that aren’t the ones he’s working on.

  110. says

    Owl, based on an old video clip of Schaefer in which he was talking about God creating the first biomolecules, I’m not sure that he denies paleontology. He may actually believe in materialist evolution or divinely guided evolution, or something more nuanced than God having created every species just as it is.

  111. Gregory Greenwood says

    jt512 @ 121;

    If you had written “view” instead of “worldview,” I would have agreed with you; however, the word “worldview” turns your statement into complete nonsense. The reason is that the scientific method is how you practice science. Therefore, the scientist only needs to adopt this view when doing his science. He doesn’t need to be scientific outside of his lab.

    I don’t think it is quite as easy as you suggest to just ‘turn off’ a belief system like creationism once one enters the lab. If it is so foundational, it will influence everything you do to some degree or other, and it is a belief system that makes demonstrably untrue claims about the nature of reality.

    I do not agree that a scientist’s obligation to be rational ends at the door to the lab. I still maintain that a scientist has an obligation to the scientific method that goes beyond hir own discipline, and that by promoting creationism, someone like Schaefer is undermining the process of accumulating evidence and basing one’s knowledge on that in favour of unevidenced, anti-scientific mythology.

    The very fact that he is prominent in his field, and yet publicly embraces creationism – a position that flatly contradicts other arms of science, as well as some aspects of chemistry, without any basis in evidence – will be used by creationists in a bid to lend undeserved credibility to their delusions. He is harming the broader scientific endeavour by aligning himself with the irrational, and thus affording those beliefs some measure of his own credibility and standing.

  112. says

    Gregory Greenwood:

    I still maintain that a scientist has an obligation to the scientific method that goes beyond hir own discipline . . .

    Or else what, they’re committing a thought crime? What does it even mean to have an obligation to a method?

    Regarding “hir,” is this the new non-gender-specific pronoun?

    [A]nd that by promoting creationism, someone like Schaefer is undermining the process of accumulating evidence and basing one’s knowledge on that in favour of unevidenced, anti-scientific mythology.

    The very fact that he is prominent in his field, and yet publicly embraces creationism – a position that flatly contradicts other arms of science, as well as some aspects of chemistry, without any basis in evidence – will be used by creationists in a bid to lend undeserved credibility to their delusions. He is harming the broader scientific endeavour by aligning himself with the irrational, and thus affording those beliefs some measure of his own credibility and standing.

    That I agree with.

  113. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    He is harming the broader scientific endeavour by aligning himself with the irrational, and thus affording those beliefs some measure of his own credibility and standing.

    And that was everybody’s point but yours from square one. And it is an utterly valid point, with txpiper as a prime example of a fuckwitted idjit attempting an argument from authority (except there isn’t an authority, just another OPINION from IGNORANCE AND STUPIDSTICIAN). These folks do hurt science in the long haul.

  114. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Tex, still no evidence for your imaginary deity, or your babble being anything other than mythology/fiction. In other words, you still are zero score and that won’t change until you find positive evidence for your deity and holy book. And you never go there….

  115. fredsalvador says

    STUPIDSTICIAN

    This should be the term for scientists who support creationism.

    With that in mind:

    Shaefer’s objections are entirely reasonable.

    I disagree, largely because objection number one provides us with the worst possible start.

    Talking about the supposed collapse of the “Miller-Urey model” (whatever the hell that is) as though it’s the death-knell of abiogenesis is not reasonable. There was no “model”. There was a hypothesis that was tested, and results were achieved. Turns out there was a miscalculation in the design of the experiment, which meant that while the results were technically valid, they had to be revisited – and they were, with adjustments made. Amino acids were still produced, except this time a greater variety of them. This position also ignores the 60 years of work done into prebiotic chemistry since Miller-Urey, some of which has produced nucleobases and nucleotides in addition to amino acids and other organic compounds in a reducing atmosphere – all without the intercession of asteroids, aliens, or deities.

    Even if there WAS a Miller-Urey “model” (there wasn’t), and this model WAS the only scientific postulation regarding the origins of life on Earth (it wasn’t), is it “reasonable” for anyone, upon the collapse of this “model”, to just say “fuck it, musta been God”? I don’t think so, given the observable evidence around us and the insight we have into the workings of nature. It’s certainly not conduct befitting a scientist.

    The wilful ignorance and misrepresentation present in this objection is, however, perfectly in line with the conduct one might expect from a stupidstician.

  116. Owlmirror says

    I’m not sure that he denies paleontology.

    The problem with the paragraph cited is not so much an explicit denial of palaeontology as the implicit dishonesty of offering a hoax and a deliberate composite as being in any way representative of palaeontological findings.

    (Context of “Piltdown Man“)

    Even worse, in some ways, is the insinuation that all fossils from China were/are fabricated because Archaeoraptor was.

    He’s implicitly denying paleontology by insinuating that it’s sloppy and/or dishonest.

    His criticism that follows, about evolution being bad at making predictions, is itself laughably sloppy. Based on what criteria?

  117. Gregory Greenwood says

    jt512 @ 126;

    Or else what, they’re committing a thought crime?

    Where, exactly, did anyone here produce the spectre of an Orwellian ‘thought crime’?

    What does it even mean to have an obligation to a method?

    If one wishes to claim the accolade ‘scientist’, then one should at the least be consistent in advocating reason and the scientific method. If you start promoting creationism, then you have aligned yourself with an anti-scientific group.

    Regarding “hir,” is this the new non-gender-specific pronoun?

    Yes – it is in common usage on Pharyngula as a more inclusive term and a means of referring to a person without assuming gender.

    That I agree with.

    Fair enough.

  118. txpiper says

    “…while the results were technically valid, they had to be revisited – and they were, with adjustments made. Amino acids were still produced, except this time a greater variety of them. This position also ignores the 60 years of work done into prebiotic chemistry since Miller-Urey, some of which has produced nucleobases and nucleotides in addition to amino acids and other organic compounds in a reducing atmosphere..”

    Well regardless of the experiment, for the results to be technically valid, it will have to be demonstrated in completely chaotic circumstances. Regulated heat sources, controlled electrical stimulation, condensers and traps in a closed loop do not naturally occur. Nor do ‘adjustments”.

  119. John Morales says

    txpiper, we already know you’re a radical skeptic, so much so that you imagine a magical being magicked life into existence.

    (A non-living magical being, obviously)

  120. says

    fredsalvador wrote:

    STUPIDSTICIAN

    This should be the term for scientists who support creationism.

    That should be the term for a statistician who denies Bayesian statistics.

    Jay

  121. says

    Gregory Greenwood wrote:

    If one wishes to claim the accolade ‘scientist’, then one should at the least be consistent in advocating reason and the scientific method.

    First of all, “scientist” isn’t an accolade; it’s a profession. Second, it’s not a question of whether someone wants to claim the title or not. A person either is a scientist—that is, he does science for a living—or he does not. Third, and most important, you are suggesting an unattainable standard. Every person I know—scientist or not—holds irrational beliefs, which, if he or she subjected to scientific scrutiny, he would find false.

    No one meets your standard of perfection. Linus Pauling had a bug up his ass about vitamin C. Many perfectly good scientists lose their minds when it comes to diet, and somehow think that “a calorie is not a calorie”; or deny the validity of Bayesian inference; or believe that they can beat craps with some moronic betting scheme. People have blind spots. Scientists have blind spots. It doesn’t mean that they can’t be accomplished scientists.

    Jay

  122. fredsalvador says

    Regulated heat sources, controlled electrical stimulation, condensers and traps in a closed loop do not naturally occur. Nor do ‘adjustments”

    Sure thing, Tex! Let me just set off this terrestrial planet I have sitting in my spare nascent solar system, and we’ll come back in 4.6 billion years to observe the results!

    PS: Disembodied sentient beings with the power to remake reality according to their whims don’t occur in nature either.

  123. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Well regardless of the experiment, for the results to be technically valid,

    Sorry Engineer, you don’t tell real scientists what is and isn’t scientific validity. It was a valid experiment, and you know that. You haven’t shown otherwise with scientific evidence from the peer reviewed scientific literature. Besides, similar results have come from similar experiments. You know that too, and simply try to create doubt where there is no scientific doubt about the outcome. Dishonesty all the way down. And that will be the case until you can show conclusive physical evidence for your imaginary deity….That has been the first intelligent thing you have needed to do for years. No deity, no creator. And you know that. And you fail to prove that…

  124. Owlmirror says

    Well regardless of the experiment, for the results to be technically valid, it will have to be demonstrated in completely chaotic circumstances.

    Because nature is complete chaos, right? All of reality just changes randomly, for no reason, all the time?

    Well, you don’t change, I suppose.
    Therefore, you’re not natural.
    QED.

    Regulated heat sources, controlled electrical stimulation, condensers and traps in a closed loop do not naturally occur. Nor do ‘adjustments”.

    So, there’s no heat in nature, no electricity in nature, no condensation in nature, and no cycles in nature. And nothing changes, because nature, in addition to being complete chaos that changes randomly, is also completely static and changeless. At the same time.

    Yeah, that totally makes sense.

  125. Owlmirror says

    No one meets your standard of perfection. Linus Pauling had a bug up his ass about vitamin C. Many perfectly good scientists lose their minds when it comes to diet, and somehow think that “a calorie is not a calorie”; or deny the validity of Bayesian inference; or believe that they can beat craps with some moronic betting scheme. People have blind spots. Scientists have blind spots. It doesn’t mean that they can’t be accomplished scientists.

    I think you’re going to far with that. Yes, scientists are humans and make mistakes. But they can at least strive to correct themselves, and strive for an epistemology that is as consistent as they can make it.

    Those who are actually good scientists but are also kooks (creationism is kookery) in one way or another are, I suspect, the exception rather than the rule.

  126. says

    Self-aware people do to correct their mistakes, but blind spots are blind spots. We all have them, I suspect, and by definition they are things that we do not recognize that need correction.

    I just had a talk with my g/f about Fritz Schaefer. It turns out she has known him for quite a while, and interacts with him frequently. She says he is highly intelligent, and that he isn’t just some scientific savant. His religiosity is inexplicable in light of his general intelligence.

    People have their weak spots. Condemning someone as a scientist (or a human being, as Nerd seems to do [viz “idjit”]) because they believe one unscientific thing is wrong—and frankly, if you were to apply this test to every scientist, I suspect that you’d end up condemning practically every one of them.

  127. John Morales says

    jt512:

    People have their weak spots. Condemning someone as a scientist (or a human being, as Nerd seems to do [viz “idjit”]) because they believe one unscientific thing is wrong—and frankly, if you were to apply this test to every scientist, I suspect that you’d end up condemning practically every one of them.

    Is it unscientific to believe something unscientific, in your opinion?

  128. John Morales says

    jt512, insofar as they believe something unscientific, they’re being unscientific. No getting away from it — it’s definitional.

    (Epistemological compartmentalisation accounts for it.)

  129. says

    jt512, insofar as they believe something unscientific, they’re being unscientific. No getting away from it — it’s definitional.

    Yeah, so what’s your point? Mine was, that we all do that, and prominent scientists are no exception to “all.”

    Jay

  130. Owlmirror says

    I just had a talk with my g/f about Fritz Schaefer. It turns out she has known him for quite a while, and interacts with him frequently. She says he is highly intelligent, and that he isn’t just some scientific savant.

    Oh, I can believe it.

    I’ve interacted online with David Heddle (who is not a creationist, but is a Christian). He certainly comes off as intelligent in general.

    But when discussing religion, he doesn’t seem to be aware that what he’s saying is terribly inconsistent, sometimes using English in a way that is inherently contradictory or incoherent. And when the inconsistency is pointed out, he either ignores this, or just says “I don’t know”. Point out inconsistencies too much, and he drops out of the conversation.

    I suspect that Schaefer would be similar.

    Just out of curiosity — and I realize this is an imposition on both you and your g/f — could you ask her to ask him if he still stands 100% behind everything he wrote ten years ago, in the article linked @#117? Would he modify anything at all? And could you report the answer here?

    I suspect that he will, and if anything, will double-down on his evolution-denialism. But I’d be interested to find out, either way.

    His religiosity is inexplicable in light of his general intelligence.

    Like I wrote @#109, learn more about the cognitive psychology of cognitive dissonance and self-justification.

    Condemning someone as a scientist (or a human being, as Nerd seems to do [viz “idjit”]) because they believe one unscientific thing

    But creationism isn’t just one unscientific thing. It is, once again, denialism about entire branches of science.

    Deism might be an example of “one unscientific thing”.

    and frankly, if you were to apply this test to every scientist, I suspect that you’d end up condemning practically every one of them.

    Like I wrote, I suspect that most scientists strive for consistency, rather than otherwise. But I have to admit, I might be wrong.

  131. John Morales says

    jt512:

    Yeah, so what’s your point? Mine was, that we all do that, and prominent scientists are no exception to “all.”

    The implication is obvious: when prominent scientists espouse unscientific beliefs, they perforce shed such cloak of credibility granted by their scientist status.

    (Or, in yet other words, appealing to their scientific status weighs nothing in terms of authority regarding unscientific claims — when they make those, they’re not speaking as scientists)

  132. sadunlap says

    Wading into the whole “what’s a scientist” mess.

    You can “do science” by accident. Some engineers in New Jersey did that in the 60s when they tried every way they could think of to fix their radio telescope and discovered evidence of the Big Bang without realizing it.

    The elemental mistake that the creationist housewife made is an argument from authority. Arguing whether a person can or can’t “be a scientist” leads us round in circles and does not produce much. Unfortunately the faction who believes that there exists a “right” way to “do science” correctly implicitly buy into the argument from authority – maybe without realizing it. Hypothetically, a creationist who works in biology or another science could make a worthwhile discovery that passes all objective tests of verification that can reasonably and feasibly apply. Accidents happen all the time. It’s just not remotely likely that the explanation of evidence that will pass verification will prove to be anything to young earth creationism. Thank you for playing – better luck next time.

    Instead of arguing over whether or not a creationist can “do science” I suggest answering the creationist housewife by explaining to her who Clair Patterson was and how he figured out the age of the earth. (She likely won’t believe it anyway, but it’s better than bogging down in an argument from authority).

  133. sadunlap says

    It’s just not remotely likely that the explanation of evidence that will pass verification will prove to be anything to young earth creationism.

    Sorry, proofreading error.

  134. txpiper says

    “So, there’s no heat in nature, no electricity in nature, no condensation in nature, and no cycles in nature.

    In close proximity to each other, no there aren’t. And you left out the traps.

    You seem to forget that the goal of such experiments is to support the idea that random events in a chaotic environment can produce orderly results. Controls and deliberate arrangements are not random. A ‘reducing atmosphere’ in highly-regulated circumstances doesn’t cut it.

  135. Owlmirror says

    Unfortunately the faction who believes that there exists a “right” way to “do science” correctly implicitly buy into the argument from authority – maybe without realizing it.

    But there is a right way to do science: falsify hypotheses, and go with the hypothesis that isn’t falsified despite your attempts to do so. That’s not an argument from authority; it’s an argument from methodology.

  136. Owlmirror says

    “So, there’s no heat in nature, no electricity in nature, no condensation in nature, and no cycles in nature.
    In close proximity to each other, no there aren’t.

    Gosh! Did you just now become omniscient, or have you always known everything?

    The places described here or here just doesn’t exist. Because you say so.

    I’m sure you’re glad that you get to play God, but I’m not impressed.

    You seem to forget that the goal of such experiments is to support the idea that random events in a chaotic environment can produce orderly results.

    Random events: chemical reactions.

    Chaotic environment: a mix of gases.

    Orderly results: nucleotides.

    That’s all that Urey-Miller was supposed to show could happen. It was always known that getting from nucleotides to life would be more complicated than that.

    Controls and deliberate arrangements are not random.

    Because showing that something is physically possible means that it can never happen except in those circumstances, right?

    A ‘reducing atmosphere’ in highly-regulated circumstances doesn’t cut it.

    And of course, chemical reactions in reducing gas mixtures in unregulated circumstances cannot possibly happen, because you say so.

    Got it.

  137. Owlmirror says

    Speaking of the age of the Earth, I note that Schaefer wrote:

    Let me preface these brief remarks by noting that I think the scientific evidence that God created [sic] the universe 13-15 billion years ago is good.

    Are you still a YEC, txpiper?

    If so, what makes you right and Schaefer wrong?

  138. fredsalvador says

    You seem to forget that the goal of such experiments is to support the idea that random events in a chaotic environment can produce orderly results.

    What is this creationist obsession with the alleged “randomness” of nature?

    Conditions on the early Earth were not controlled by anything other than the laws of nature. That’s not the same as randomness or chaos; in fact the conditions are perfectly consistent with what we currently know – and have known for decades, if not centuries – about the laws of force and matter.

    What’s going on in Miller-Urey, and all the other experiments which demonstrate that basic organic compounds can form in conditions like those present on early Earth, isn’t “bringing order from chaos”; it’s testing a hypothesis about the natural world under laboratory conditions calculated to mimic those you’d find in nature. The hypothesis turned out to be correct.

    If you have some problem with the science then you need to show which part of it is impossible in nature – simply positing that nature does not possess lab equipment and is therefore unable to spontaneously produce conditions that the equipment was designed to replicate is a phony argument.

    Controls and deliberate arrangements are not random. A ‘reducing atmosphere’ in highly-regulated circumstances doesn’t cut it.

    Early Earth conditions were a set of rigorously regulated circumstances, albeit ones we could only truly recreate by building another solar system and observing it for billions of years (so sayeth the second law of thermodynamics – the ACTUAL second law, not the “order to chaos in literal terms” Creationist version). Fire, molten rock and cyanide everywhere might be utterly inimical to complex life as we know it right now; that does not necessarily mean it was “chaos”.

    Sorry Engineer, you don’t tell real scientists what is and isn’t scientific validity.

    Snerk.

    Also, see #42 – it’s ALWAYS engineers. ALWAYS. What is wrong with engineers? Why are they like that?

  139. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    You seem to forget that the goal of such experiments is to support the idea that random events in a chaotic environment can produce orderly results.

    Irrelevant semantic fuckwittery. Typical irrelevant and meaningless word play by a fuckwitted idjit who can’t prove his imaginary deity exists. Without your deity you have nothing tex. And you have nothing, and you know that. You’ve tried and failed to prove your deity isn’t just a figment of your imagination. Which it is until you provide the proper evidence.

    When the reducing atmosphere of the early Earth is present, supplying heat and some type of energy uniformly forms more complicated molecules. Heat comes from many sources, volcanic, electrical discharge (lightning), sunlight, etc. Likewise, energy can come from electrical discharge and UV light. It works. Larger molecules form from simpler molecules. Demonstrated several times. The experiments are valid until you provide SCIENTIFIC evidence, not your personal incredulity, that they aren’t valid. Your OPINION is worthless, as you are a proven liar, bullshitter, and dishonest all the way down. And for SCIENTIFIC evidence, you need to publish your work in the peer reviewed scientific literature. And I’m sure you know txpiper, that you can’t get your unscientific nonsense published, which is why you don’t even try. Which means if you were a person of honesty and integrity, you would shut the fuck up.

  140. Gregory Greenwood says

    jt512 @ 135;

    First of all, “scientist” isn’t an accolade; it’s a profession.

    In a sense it is both – a person can have a scientific profession, such as being a physicist, that can lead to them being referred to in general terms as a scientist as a form of shorthand, but the term ‘scientist’ also comes with a certain freight of credibility in our society. To be a scientist is to be a person engaged in a search for the truth about the universe. It is to be viewed as someone who has standing in one’s field through the rigorous application of the scientific method. If you embrace such a fundamentally anti-scientific position as creationism, then you have turned your back on the scientific method as it applies to a great many fields of scientific endeavour. Your own work in your specific field can still be valuable, but your credibility and standing beyond the lab as someone whose knowledge is rooted in the scientific method has to take a hit, especially if you go on to try to hold forth on topics beyond your own field in a fashion that denies evidence and the worth of the scientific method itself, as a creationist chemist who casts doubt on fields such a paleontology and evolutionary theory necessarily must.

    Third, and most important, you are suggesting an unattainable standard. Every person I know—scientist or not—holds irrational beliefs, which, if he or she subjected to scientific scrutiny, he would find false.

    I do not think it an ‘unattainable standard’ to expect someone who makes their living employing the scientific method to accept the worth and application of that method beyond their specific field. By embracing creationism – even ‘old earth’ creationism – Schaefer is ignoring as vast body of evidence diligently accrued by the application of the scientific method because it doesn’t fit with his preferred beliefs about the origins of life.

    For Schaefer, it appears that the scientific method is just fine as applied to chemistry, but when one reaches biology it is suddenly better to put it aside and instead cleave to an idea that an unevidenced magic man in the sky created life. That is a fundamentally unscientific – indeed anti-scientific – position to adopt, and that is a problem when the person adopting it is a scientist. Doubly so when we know that Schaefer will be wheeled out by the creationist movement at large as an example of a ‘creationist scientist’ and thus a blow against evolutionary theory. It is expecting altogether too much that they would first point out that Schaefer’s field is unrelated to evolutionary biology, and unless Schaefer is prepared to go to great lengths to correct them, then the intentional misdirection will stand, and Schaefer’s standing and credibility as a scientist will be used to attack the scientific method itself, at least as it applies to evolutionary theory, paleontology, radiometric dating techniques and anything other aspect of scientific knowledge that pokes holes in creationism.

  141. says

    owlmirror

    But there is a right way to do science: falsify hypotheses, and go with the hypothesis that isn’t falsified despite your attempts to do so. That’s not an argument from authority; it’s an argument from methodology.

    FYI that’s not what the engineers in NJ did to win a Nobel prize (by accident).

    For more about this you may wish to read Paul Feyerabend’s Against Method.

    Arguments from methodology do not prove very effective against creationists any more than buying into an argument from authority. Feyerabend’s book brings up one case after another of a given scientific discovery that we now accept as the best explanation of evidence which in the course of its formation did not conform to the “rules” of how science “should be done,” one of which you mention. However, the creationists who try to throw Feyerabend at us to back up the fallacious claim that “there is no scientific method therefore there is no science” failed to read where (unfortunately it’s buried in a lengthy footnote) Feyerabend makes clear that at the end of whatever process you go through on the way to a discovery, looking back on it in retrospect you should see all the elements of objective forms of verification (falsifiability is only one of them) we typically expect from the “scientific method” before we will accept the explanation as the best one available. It comes down to verification.

    FWIW physicists tend to roll their eyes at the “science as defined by its method” idea as put in writing by Karl Popper (The Logic of Scientific Discovery). Leonard Susskind in The Cosmic Landscape referred to such people jokingly as “The Popperazzi.” Popper’s “you do it this way or you’re doing it wrong” does not give us anything useful.

    When countering inherently dishonest people making simplistic arguments, method is as much of a trap as authority.

  142. Owlmirror says

    [Going back up a bit]

    @sadunlap:

    Instead of arguing over whether or not a creationist can “do science” I suggest answering the creationist housewife by explaining to her who Clair Patterson was and how he figured out the age of the earth. (She likely won’t believe it anyway, but it’s better than bogging down in an argument from authority).

    But Clair Patterson’s work doesn’t make sense in a vacuum. It builds on work based on zircons showing that the Earth is at least several billions of years old, which in turn builds on work showing that radiometric dating works and that zircons (when they form) don’t include lead and do include uranium, which in turn builds on an understanding of chemistry, the structure of the atom, and the physics and chemistry of radioactive decay. And of course, there’s the work of all of the geologists prior to radiometric dating showing the relative ages of Earths strata, based on rough estimates of the processes of erosion, depostion, and uplift and folding and so on.

    (I recommend Doug MacDougall’s Nature’s Clocks)

    Just bringing up Patterson’s work might well sound like an argument from authority.

    It might be better to have in mind all of the facts associated with the age of the Earth in mind, and try summarizing those. (This did not work with txpiper, but then, I don’t think any argument works against txpiper. His brain rejects non-creationist science and resets too easily.)

    ======

    FYI that’s not what the engineers in NJ did to win a Nobel prize (by accident).

    Were they not trying to falsify hypotheses about the source of the radiation they were detecting?

    I grant that it was more complicated than that, but that’s kind of what my understanding was.

    And I wouldn’t exactly call it “by accident”. They had to be sufficiently knowledgeable in cosmology to know that the CMB was a prediction that had been made, and that the radiation they had found was consistent with being the CMB, once every other source of radiation had been eliminated as a hypothesis. I think “serendipitously” better emphasizes that they knew what they had found, at the end.

    For more about this you may wish to read Paul Feyerabend’s Against Method.

    Well, that’s me (and my methodology advocacy) told.

    Feyerabend makes clear that at the end of whatever process you go through on the way to a discovery, looking back on it in retrospect you should see all the elements of objective forms of verification (falsifiability is only one of them) we typically expect from the “scientific method” before we will accept the explanation as the best one available. It comes down to verification.

    I’ve been thinking about how to express scientific methodology more generally, and I would suggest something like this: Even when not using formal methods of hypothesis falsification, the methods of science involve seeking and finding ways to make new discoveries consistent with prior knowledge, or making two bodies of prior knowledge consistent with each other.

    However, since I recently listened to the podcast I linked to above @#109 on cognitive dissonance (the one with Carol Tavris), I think it would be fair to say that everyone seeks consistency, or pretends to. But pretending to seek for consistency, as creationists do, requires ignoring/rejecting/denying disconfirming data, or confabulating inconsistent excuses to explain disconfirming data away. So it might make sense to explicitly add “while not ignoring/rejecting/denying disconfirming data, and explicitly taking into account disconfirming data” to my paragraph above.

    Would you say that that would be consistent with Feyerabend’s “verification”?

  143. txpiper says

    “Are you still a YEC, txpiper?”

    Yes.

    “If so, what makes you right and Schaefer wrong?”

    I’ve heard Schaefer mention this, though he didn’t get into specifics about why he prefers an old earth. I wouldn’t be able to tell you why I think he is wrong without knowing more about how he arrived at his conclusions.

  144. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I wouldn’t be able to tell you why I think he is wrong without knowing more about how he arrived at his conclusions.

    You tell people how science is wrong? When you can’t even provide conclusive phyiscal evidence for your imaginary deity? Or show scientific evidence that radiometric dating is wrong, and only do a wave of the hand dismissal? Dishonesty all the way down tex, until you can grasp the concept you are wrong. The evidence says you are wrong. Only your overflated ego says otherwise.

  145. Ogvorbis: Dogmaticus sycophantus says

    I wouldn’t be able to tell you why I think he is wrong without knowing more about how he arrived at his conclusions.

    Why not? You regularly dismiss the work of biologists, virologist, palaeontologists, archaeologists, botanists, palaeobotanists, ecologists, palaeoecologists, physicists, geologists, and just about every other scientific discipline without any thought at all. What makes this one special?

  146. Owlmirror says

    I’ve heard Schaefer mention this, though he didn’t get into specifics about why he prefers an old earth.

    I kinda suspect that he’s a bit cagey about details because he doesn’t want to really piss off YECs.

    I wouldn’t be able to tell you why I think he is wrong without knowing more about how he arrived at his conclusions.

    Sigh.

    Posit, for the sake of argument, that at the very least, he “arrived at his conclusion” by accepting the basic findings of cosmology and geology and radiometric dating with respect to the age of the Earth.

    In the essay you cited, he specifically writes:

    A second successful theory, the atomic theory, is grounded in Schroedinger’s Equation and the Dirac Equation. Atomic theory is able to make many predictions of the spectra of the hydrogen molecule and the helium atom to more significant figures that may be currently measured in the laboratory. We are utterly confident that these predictions will be confirmed by future experiments. By any reasonable standard the theory of gravity and the atomic theory are good theories, well deserving of A grades.

    Radiometric dating is ultimately founded on the validity and soundness of atomic theory.

    What makes you right and atomic theory wrong?

  147. Ogvorbis: Dogmaticus sycophantus says

    What makes you right and atomic theory wrong?

    I’m gonna go out on a limb here and predict that txpiper’s answer will involve some form of “because god.”

  148. Owlmirror says

    I’m gonna go out on a limb here and predict that txpiper’s answer will involve some form of “because god.”

    He’s never been that straightforward.

  149. says

    FYI that’s not what the engineers in NJ did to win a Nobel prize (by accident).

    Were they not trying to falsify hypotheses about the source of the radiation they were detecting?

    No, they were trying to fix their radio dish. They thought it was broken.

    I grant that it was more complicated than that, but that’s kind of what my understanding was.

    No, they were trying to fix their radio dish. They thought it was broken.

    And I wouldn’t exactly call it “by accident”. They had to be sufficiently knowledgeable in cosmology to know that the CMB was a prediction that had been made, and that the radiation they had found was consistent with being the CMB, once every other source of radiation had been eliminated as a hypothesis. I think “serendipitously” better emphasizes that they knew what they had found, at the end.

    No, they were trying to fix their radio dish. They thought it was broken. They were not trying to rule out “other sources of radiation.” They were trying to find out what part of their dish was not working properly. They replaced each component part three times, cleaned bird guano off the dish and relocated a birds’ nest they found in it.

    They had no idea what they had found. “At the end” one of them called the Princeton Astronomy dept. to see if maybe there might be something out in space that might cause the static that made them think their dish was broken. They really had no clue. They had no knowledge of cosmology to speak of and did not know anything about CMB etc. One of them told an interviewer that only after he returned from Sweden, Nobel prize in hand, when he read a NYT science section article that explained what he had done did he understand what he had done. Not kidding, it was an accident. ZOMGitsChriss did a youtube video about this as well. The whole matter is actually a bit funny.

    I’ve been thinking about how to express scientific methodology more generally, and I would suggest something like this: Even when not using formal methods of hypothesis falsification, the methods of science involve seeking and finding ways to make new discoveries consistent with prior knowledge, or making two bodies of prior knowledge consistent with each other.

    Sorry, Feyerabend blows the “consistent with prior knowledge” part out of the water. Or actually Einstein did when he re-wrote the laws of thermodynamics with his paper on Brownian motion. But you’re getting warmer.

    However, since I recently listened to the podcast I linked to above @#109 on cognitive dissonance (the one with Carol Tavris), I think it would be fair to say that everyone seeks consistency, or pretends to. But pretending to seek for consistency, as creationists do, requires ignoring/rejecting/denying disconfirming data, or confabulating inconsistent excuses to explain disconfirming data away. So it might make sense to explicitly add “while not ignoring/rejecting/denying disconfirming data, and explicitly taking into account disconfirming data” to my paragraph above.

    Would you say that that would be consistent with Feyerabend’s “verification”?

    Sorry, now you lost me. No snark intended. If “seeks consistency” means “fits with the evidence” then I have to guess the answer is “kinda, sorta.” It’s a big can or worms which I am reluctant to get into before I think I understand the question.

  150. Owlmirror says

    Were they not trying to falsify hypotheses about the source of the radiation they were detecting?

    No, they were trying to fix their radio dish. They thought it was broken.

    Horn, not dish.

    They thought the radio horn was broken because it kept detecting microwave radiation no matter where they pointed it; they had hypotheses about why it kept detecting that radiation; they tried to fix it by falsifying those hypotheses.

    They were not trying to rule out “other sources of radiation.”

    Yes, they were. One possible source they thought it might be was New York City; another was the remnants of high-altitude nuclear testing.

    (source)

    They were trying to find out what part of their dish was not working properly. They replaced each component part three times, cleaned bird guano off the dish and relocated a birds’ nest they found in it.

    Horn, not dish.

    I grant that they also thought that the radiation might not have been from a source but rather a false signal resulting from some defect in the material of the telescope. But those were also hypotheses they tried to falsify.

    They had no idea what they had found. “At the end” one of them called the Princeton Astronomy dept. to see if maybe there might be something out in space that might cause the static that made them think their dish was broken.

    OK, they didn’t figure it out on their own. They talked to the cosmologists first.

    One of them told an interviewer that only after he returned from Sweden, Nobel prize in hand, when he read a NYT science section article that explained what he had done did he understand what he had done.

    I suspect that was facetiousness on his part, assuming he really said that. The paper they published was co-published with one by Dicke, Peebles, Roll, & Wilkinson which specifically described the cosmic background radiation as being what Wilkins and Penzias found. They specifically referenced each others papers.

    Full paper (Wilkins and Penzias, 1965) here (can be downloaded as PDF).

    Full paper (Dicke, et al, 1965) here (can be downloaded as PDF).

    Partial text from W & P (from Google cache, may have OCR errors I didn’t catch):

    […] A possible explanation for the observed excess noise temperature is the one given by Dicke, Peebles, Roll, and Wilkinson (1965) in a companion letter in this issue.
      The total antenna temperature measured at the zenith is 6.7° K of which 2.3° K is due to atmospheric absorption. The calculated contribution due to ohmic losses in the antenna and back-lobe response is 0.9° K.
      The radiometer used in this investigation has been described elsewhere (Penzias and Wilson 1965). It employs a traveling-wave maser, a low-loss (0.027-db) comparison switch, and a liquid helium-coo1ed reference termination (Penzias 1965). Measurements were made by switching manually between the antenna input and the reference termination. The antenna, reference termination, and radiometer were well matched so that a round-trip return loss of more than 55 db existed throughout the measurement; thus errors in the measurement of the effective temperature due to impedance mismatch can be neglected. The estimated error in the measured value of the total antenna temperature is 0.3° K and comes largely from uncertainty in the absolute calibration of the reference termination.
      The contribution to the antenna temperature due to atmospheric absorption was obtained by recording the variation in antenna temperature with elevation angle and employing the secant law. The result, 2.3° ± 0.3° K, is in good agreement with published values (Hogg 1959; DeGrasse, Hogg, Ohm, and Scovil 1959; Ohm 1961).
      The contribution to the antenna temperature from ohmic losses is computed to be 0.8° ± 0.4° K. In this calculation we have divided the antenna into three parts: (1) two non-uniform tapers approximately 1 m in total length which transform between the 2⅛-inch round output waveguide and the 6-inch-square antenna throat opening; (2) a double-choke rotary joint located between these two tapers; (3) the antenna itself. Care was taken to clean and align joints between these parts so that they would not significantly increase the loss in the structure. Appropriate tests were made for leakage and loss in the rotary joint with negative results.
      The possibility of losses in the antenna horn due to imperfections in its seams was eliminated by means of a taping test. Taping all the seams in the section near the throat and most of the others with aluminum tape caused no observable change in antenna temperature.
      The backlobe response to ground radiation is taken to be less than 0.1° K for two reasons: (1) Measurements of the response of the antenna to a small transmitter located on the ground in its vicinity indicate that the average back-lobe level is more than 30 db below isotropic response. The horn-reflector antenna was pointed to the zenith for these measurements, and complete rotations in azimuth were made with the transmitter in each of ten locations using horizontal and vertical transmitted polarization from each position. (2) Measurements on smaller horn-reflector antennas at these laboratories, using pulsed measuring sets on flat antenna ranges, have consistently shown a back-lobe level of 30 db below isotropic response. Our larger antenna would be expected to have an even lower back-lobe level.
      From a combination of the above, we compute the remaining unaccounted-for antenna temperature to be 3.5° ± 1.0° K at 4080 Mc/s.

    (I included the above because they explicitly reference trying to account for the radiation they were detecting by various methods — which are what I’m calling falsification attempts.)

    Sorry, Feyerabend blows the “consistent with prior knowledge” part out of the water.

    Examples?

    Or actually Einstein did when he re-wrote the laws of thermodynamics with his paper on Brownian motion.

    I think you need to expand on this. I have no idea what you mean.

    Sorry, now you lost me.

    Well, that paragraph was dependent on the one you’re implying was somehow wrong, so clarification will have to wait until I understand what you think is wrong.

  151. Owlmirror says

    Bleh. Not Wilkins; Wilson and Penzias.

    I think the “Wilkinson” on the other team got to me.

  152. Owlmirror says

    Sorry, Feyerabend blows the “consistent with prior knowledge” part out of the water. Or actually Einstein did when he re-wrote the laws of thermodynamics with his paper on Brownian motion.

    I see that Against Method is on Google Books, and pages 27 and 28 can be read, which explains that Brownian particles are perpetual motion machines of the second kind, and that in Einstein’s paper, “the consistency condition was violated”.

    So I have a better idea of what you meant, but I need to get a better handle on what Feyerabend meant — and maybe of how I need to modify my thinking or wording on the matter.

  153. says

    owlmirror

    So I have a better idea of what you meant, but I need to get a better handle on what Feyerabend meant — and maybe of how I need to modify my thinking or wording on the matter.

    Feyerabend will not likely make much sense in bits and pieces. Forgive my snark but maybe you could check out an old-fashioned print on paper copy from a library (full disclosure, I’m a librarian). [insert appropriate good-humored emoticon here – I have no clue].

    For my part I have to be a bit wary of repeating what I read in a vulgarization of science. Bill Bryson’s A Short history of nearly everything had the story about the Bell Labs engineers and the NYT story, etc. It’s entirely possible that one of the engineers was kidding. Or maybe not (co-authoring credit does not mean the co-author necessarily understood the whole paper).

    The point I am driving at (I hope this clarifies) with the whole Bell Labs engineers story is that a view of science “done properly” which limits “science” to a rigid set of rules that one has to follow has plenty of historical instances of discoveries coming about by someone not following said rules to make this a hazardous line of counter-attack against the lying creationist (and we’re really aiming for those other readers, audience members, etc. who could be reached). Just the fact that you and I are arguing about it (and we’re on the same side!) demonstrates that rational people can have difficulty nailing down what science “is” as defined as a process. Letting an anti-science person lead us down this rabbit-hole may not be the best use of our time.

    Maybe it’s best to leave it alone at this point and let you read Feyerabend for yourself (if you so please) rather than try to interpret him for you.

  154. Owlmirror says

    I’ve been thinking about the Wilson and Penzias business, and looking at the paper itself, I have to agree that they didn’t have a good idea what they had found. Their paper is pretty much a report of a finding; that of this universal microwave radiation. They eliminated as many possible sources of error as they could find, decided the radiation was real, and reported it, after talking to the cosmologists.

    The thing of it is, it did not have to be the cosmic blackbody radiation that Dicke et al. interpreted it as. It could have been some weird interaction between the solar wind and the magnetic fields, for example, or some other weird effect local to the solar system, but not actually cosmic. It could even have been a glitch from something they hadn’t taken into account. † They were as methodical as possible, but there might have been something wrong that they hadn’t taken into account — in which case their paper would have no doubt been retracted or corrected, and in any case, ignored.

    But the cosmologists were the ones who pointed out that this microwave radiation had exactly the characteristics to be expected from a universe that began with a burst of radiation.

    A similar example that came to mind was the point that Tycho Brahe made these very detailed and rigorous observations of the planets movements, and it was Kepler who collated that data and came up with a heliocentric solar system and planets in elliptical orbits around the sun, with laws of planetary motion derived from those observations. In other words, Kepler provided the theory tying the data together in a rigorous and methodical way, as Dicke et al. did for Wilson and Penzias’ data/observations. And Kepler’s elliptical-orbit heliocentric model trumped the Tychonian and Ptolemaic models, just as Dicke’s Big Bang model trumped the steady-state model of cosmology which appears to have still been in vogue at the time.

    I guess my point is that science is done by both collecting data, and theorizing rigorously from that data. I still think that hypothesis falsification is pretty important — how else can you be sure that your theory isn’t a mistake? How else can you honestly try to not fool yourself? I will have to read Feyerabend more carefully to see if he falsifies falsification, or what.

    _____________________________________________
    †: I thought of the example of the recent “FTL” neutrinos, as a similar report of something being a probable glitch — although the analogy doesn’t quite hold, since there wasn’t any existing theory in 1965 (or ever) that a universal cosmic microwave radiation couldn’t exist.

    The point I am driving at (I hope this clarifies) with the whole Bell Labs engineers story is that a view of science “done properly” which limits “science” to a rigid set of rules that one has to follow has plenty of historical instances of discoveries coming about by someone not following said rules

    Hm. I am not sure that the rules are that necessarily so rigid that Feyerabend’s examples are “violations” of them.

    Maybe it’s best to leave it alone at this point and let you read Feyerabend for yourself (if you so please) rather than try to interpret him for you.

    Reading Feyerabend for myself is exactly what I meant by the sentence you were responding to. But I’d also like to be sure I understand Popper and Kuhn.

    I have quite a bit of reading to do.