Uncommon hypocrisy

I thought that silly Intelligent Design blog, Uncommon Descent, was going to have a new and enlightened comment policy, in which people would be allowed to criticize ID without risk of deletion. That’s what they said, at least. You knew it couldn’t be true: they’re already sharpening the knives to get rid of a persistent critic.

Someone by the name of skeech is cluttering up UD with impervious sophistry and wasting a lot of our time.

His/her latest thesis is that “according to biologists…” there is a “credible possibility that small incremental changes could have developed massive increases in biological information in a short time — followed by stasis.”

So, skeech assures us that “biologists” are universally agreed upon this proposition?

How about this and this?

Yes, biologists are universally agreed upon that. Skeech was being very conservative in his description — it’s more than a ‘credible possibility’, both relatively rapid changes and patterns of stasis have been demonstrated. The “this and this” mentioned were links I won’t repeat to the absurd Phil Skell and some ID guy at an evangelical Christian college. I guess those are the “biologists” he’s talking about (Skell, by the way, is a chemist). I’ll have to remember to waggle my fingers in the universal air-quotes gesture whenever I’m talking about the “biologists” on the side of creationism.

Then the real foolishness begins.

Darwinian evolutionary theory is a boiling, ever-changing, amorphous cloud that is impenetrable and completely immune to critical analytical scrutiny. It was designed that way, for obvious reasons.

That’s an amazing glimpse into the creationist mindset — apparently, they see design everywhere. Evolutionary theory was not designed. It evolved. There are a great many contributors to it, all pushing the boundaries in different directions, which is why grasping the depth of the idea is beyond these guys — it takes a lot of work to keep up with the literature, and the details can be bewildering (just try keeping up with all the comparative molecular biology work on developmental genes, for instance; it’s a deluge of papers right now). However, the core principles are straightforward and can be grasped by most people with a little effort.

Now watch: the angry kook emerges. How often has poor Albert Einstein’s corpse been dragged out and made to dance in defense of every new loony idea?

It should be noted that the “scientific” consensus in the early 20th century was the steady-state universe theory (that is, the universe is eternal, and has no beginning and no end). Those subscribing to the consensus were wrong (including Albert Einstein), and they put up a big fight until the end, when the evidence became overwhelming.

Continental drift theory was also ridiculed.

Wegener was the first to use the phrase “continental drift” (1912, 1915)… During Wegener’s lifetime, his theory of continental drift was severely attacked by leading geologists, who viewed him as an outsider meddling in their field.

Where’s Galileo? He forgot Galileo! We need to be able to use the “They laughed at Galileo, but they also laughed at Bozo the Clown” line! I need closure.

Oh, well. The operative phrase up there is “the evidence became overwhelming”. The evidence for Intelligent Design creationism is less than overwhelming; it’s definitely not at the level of “impressive”. It hasn’t even reached “thought-provoking” or even “hmmm…maybe”. It seems to be stuck at “non-existent”. They can invoke Einstein and Wegener as patron saints when they actually have something persuasive other than their religious certainty that there must be a designer.

The criticism we always hear from Darwinists is: Outsiders are not permitted to question the dogma, because they don’t understand the subtleties and the “science.”

You’re allowed to question it, of course. It’s just that when your criticisms reveal a dazzling degree of ignorance of basic biology, we’re going to laugh and dismiss your arguments out of hand. And of course, evolution is science — it’s not the ersatz “science” beloved of creationists.

The essence of Darwinian philosophy, presented as “science,” takes about 15 minutes to learn and understand: Random variation and natural selection explain everything — never mind the details, we’ll make up stories later to explain away the anomalies, contradictions, and improbabilities.

In the meantime, just have faith, and don’t ask any annoying questions.

This is not science, it’s religious indoctrination.

Wait, what happened to the “amorphous cloud”? Suddenly evolution is something you can grasp in 15 minutes. Yes, it’s true, though: random variation and selection are the basic principles that explain everything. But no, the details are important — we’ve got a century and a half worth of details, evidence, that we can go over. It’ll take a lot more than 15 minutes. We don’t need to make up stories (even though some do, admittedly), we can leave that to the defenders of myth.

I am amused that that little UD rant was prompted by a guy asking annoying questions, getting the administrators of UD to complain falsely that real science doesn’t let you ask annoying questions, while they do their best to suppress critics who ask annoying questions. The growing hypocrisy is just one more reason their blog is increasingly irrelevant…that and their vacuity.

Isn’t it nice of me to give them a link that will vastly increase their traffic? I should probably stop doing that.

Godless scientists have an ethical imperative to sit down and shut up

At least, that’s the message I’m getting. You-know-who is once again trying to insist that the ethics of scientists includes everything except speaking the truth, and I’m not going to get into it —let Greg Laden deal with the heat from the stupid ‘framing’ argument this time.

I will say that I’m damned tired of the vapid claim that “Science and religion are different ways of understanding the world.”. It ignores the essential fact that one of those two is a useful, practical, and powerful way of understanding the world, and the other is silly, wrong, and misleading — if it is a way of understanding the world, then so is Dungeons & Dragons. Of course, no one sane pretends that D&D is a portrayal of reality.

Privileging belief

A horrible little cult in Baltimore committed an ugly crime.

…they denied a 16-month-old boy food and water because he did not say “Amen” at mealtimes. After he died, they prayed over his body for days, expecting a resurrection, then packed it into a suitcase with mothballs. They left it in a shed in Philadelphia, where it remained for a year before detectives found it last spring.

The child’s mother, Ria Ramkissoon, and others are on trial for murder, reasonably enough. Here’s the kicker, though:

Psychiatrists who evaluated Ramkissoon at the request of a judge concluded that she was not criminally insane. Her attorney, Steven Silverman, said the doctors found that her beliefs were indistinguishable from religious beliefs, in part because they were shared by those around her.

She wasn’t delusional, because she was following a religion,” Silverman said, describing the findings of the doctors’ psychiatric evaluation.

Well. Why should the religion label excuse delusional beliefs?

Illinois! You elected John Shimkus? What were you thinking?

You have to watch this loon making his case for how harmless global warming is in testimony with Lord Christopher Monckton (thanks, England…really, we have enough wacky ideologues without you sending yours over here). Monckton dismisses the problem of CO2 by claiming that CO2 levels were much higher in the pre-Cambrian, and that the stuff is just “plant food”.

It’s plant food … So if we decrease the use of carbon dioxide, are we not taking away plant food from the atmosphere? … So all our good intentions could be for naught. In fact, we could be doing just the opposite of what the people who want to save the world are saying.

Yes, it is the material plants take up from the atmosphere to make sugar. It’s also a greenhouse gas. So? And what is this stuff about “saving the world”? It’s like the two of them are babbling about problems and arguments that no one is making — and we get more when Shimkus explain how he knows CO2 is not a problem. It’s because the Bible is the inerrant word of his god, and he knows god isn’t going to end the world with global warming.

The earth will end only when God declares its time to be over. Man will not destroy this earth. This earth will not be destroyed by a flood.

Could one of you voters out there in Illinois take Shimkus aside and explain to him with short, simple words and short, simple sentences that global warming isn’t going to destroy the world? It’s not an argument anyone is making. It could very well make the world more tropical, and it could be of some advantage to certain kinds of plants.

However, please note: human beings aren’t plants (well, most of us, anyway — John Shimkus does seem to share some similarities with root vegetables). The concern with global warming is change that will cause economic disruption and environmental disturbances and damage to places we like…like cities. Honestly, if nations collapse, we know that algae will still thrive. We just happen to generally take the side of humanity.

Oh, and you might let him know that the Bible is mostly wrong.

Religious people aren’t necessarily stupid…and atheists aren’t necessarily smart

Oh, no. Richard Lynn, the fellow infamous for trying to link intelligence and race, is in the news again, this time trying to claim a causal relationship between atheism and intelligence.

“Why should fewer academics believe in God than the general population? I believe it is simply a matter of the IQ,” Lynn told the Times Higher Education magazine. “Academics have higher IQs than the general population. Several Gallup poll studies of the general population have shown that those with higher IQs tend not to believe in God.”

I am always so tempted to simply accept this kind of claim — it’s wonderfully self-serving, obviously — but I can’t. I’ve known lots of religious people who really are brilliant, and I also know lots of atheists who were sincerely religious once upon a time, and there was no sudden increase in their native intelligence when they abandoned faith. And yes, I also know a few knee-jerk atheists who aren’t unbelievers because they’ve reasoned their way to that position. We live in a world with a range of intellectual abilities in different people, but anyone can be religious or infidel.

The difference is not in intelligence. It’s on the foundation of their education. Intelligent people who are indoctrinated into a faith can build marvelously intricate palaces of rationalization atop the shoddy vapor of their beliefs about gods and the supernatural; what scientists and atheists must do is build their logic on top of a more solid basis of empirical evidence and relentless self-examination. The difference isn’t their ability to reason, it is what they are reasoning about.

This is one of the reasons we godless need to be militant in expressing our ideas: there are children out there right now who have the potential for genius, but their talents are being shunted into the futile wasteland of religiosity. Yes, there are a lot of atheists in the topmost ranks of successful scientists, but it’s not because they are intrinsically smarter than someone who believes in gods — it’s because they more easily embrace the mode of thinking that is most productive and successful in scientific fields, and are less burdened with absurd presuppositions. Let’s stop handicapping our kids.