The real enemies of good science


I’m still tuned in to the basal level of creationism in this country, and still keep an eye on the fools who are still making noise. But yesterday I was alerted to this new video by “Dr” Grady McMurtry titled 25 proofs the Earth is young, and I couldn’t believe it. The guy is a buffoon, he was pompously declaring the same old crap creationists have been squirting out since George Mcready Price, and I just didn’t care. Flood geology, from a guy who knows less geology than I do, are you fucking kidding me? In 2018?

The world has moved on. Those ideas are so dead that they rely entirely on surprising the media with how stupid they are to get any attention — the flat-earthers are the same way. What anti-science fantasy can we come up with that is so knuckle-draggingly idiotic, so irrelevant to the way the world works, that television crews will flock to us to put us on cable, that we’ll get mentioned in the New York Times, that will get us a big feature in an online magazine?

Sure, there are people who deeply believe — the piety of yokels is still inflating the gas-bag of creationism, and a few frauds are making bank off all kinds of absurd claims. Yeah, you can rake in the bucks and the media attention if you build a big building with a boat-like facade and claim to have the evidence for Noah’s Ark, and we should continue fighting against that (it is necessary that the religious con artists not think they can get a free pass despite lying to the public), but at the same time we should be aware that these are just the flamboyant excrescences of a rot that has a deeper and more dangerous core.

Holly Dunsworth cuts to the chase (I’ve been noticing that a lot of anthropologists are coming to the forefront in the battle against evolutionary ignorance):

Evolution educators—even if sticking to E. coli, fruit flies, or sticklebacks—must confront the ways that evolutionary science has implicitly undergirded and explicitly promoted or has naively inspired so many racist, sexist, and otherwise harmful beliefs and actions. We can no longer arm students with the ideas that have had harmful sociocultural consequences without addressing them explicitly because our failure to do so effectively is the primary reason these horrible consequences exist. The worst of all being a human origins that refuses humanity.

So many of us are still thinking and teaching from the charged tradition of demonstrating that evolution is true. Thanks to everyone’s hard work, it is undeniably true. Now we must go beyond this habit of reacting to creationism and instead react to a problem that is just as old but is far more urgent because it actually affects human well-being.

Bad evolutionary thinking and its siblings, genetic determinism and genetic essentialism, are used to justify civil rights restrictions, human rights violations, white supremacy, and the patriarchy. As a result, evolution is avoided and unclaimed by scholars, students, and their communities who know this all too well.

I still think religion is a major driver of bad science in this country, but it’s also become obvious that non-religious people — some of the atheists I used to hang out with — have found a way to become assnuggets who are just as deplorable as Christian fanatics, and the path they’ve taken to turn into corrupters of culture and science is exactly what Dunsworth describes: genetic determinism and genetic essentialism. They’ve gone from using the Bible to justify misunderstanding evolution, to using their misconceptions about genetics to justify misunderstanding evolution, and along the way, they’re revitalizing bigotry and nationalism and revisionist history. In some ways, they’re worse than creationists. Creationism is a joke, its religious underpinnings are simply too obvious. When you promote a more subtle (usually) racism and misogyny while donning the mantle of Science™, you’re more effective at fooling the moderately well-educated.

YouTube is the most obvious example of the decay in full flower. You can find plenty of delusional know-nothings like Grady McMurtry babbling away, but far more influential are the swarms of alt-right/classical liberal/centrist/whatever-the-fuck-they-call-themselves atheists and so-called skeptics who preach a purely secular version of contempt for races and sexes, while claiming they have the imprimatur of evolution. They don’t. They’re little more than 19th century bigots pretending to be scientists, busily tainting good science with fascism and Victorian nonsense.

That looks to be the next big fight, not against the dopey inheritors of Seventh Day Adventist mythology, but against the unthinking champions of 200+ year old pseudo-scientific racialist ideas.

Comments

  1. Sean Boyd says

    …the dopey inheritors of Seventh Day Adventist mythology…

    You’ve been touched by the holiday spirit! For this is a way more generous characterization than is deserved.

    As far as the “next” fight: it’s the same ongoing fight, don’t you think? The SDA and their ilk have the…courage?…to stay true to what they believe, as ridiculous as it is. Haven’t stepped foot in an SDA church in about 30 years now, but I doubt the message has changed one whit: I know they love them some Ellen White, at any rate, ‘cuz she’s a prophet, dontcha know? The modern day phrenologists and eugenicists, though, find new and fancy ways to dress up the same old ideas. But they are the same old ideas. Victorians and their bullshit about race and sex is the obvious parallel to the tech-bros and their bullshit about race and sex. But I’m betting someone who knows more history than I could find parallels in most any generation. It’s not quite the same, but the Red Scare comes to mind…we must be afraid of the commies, and the US certainly leveraged science in that particular othering.

  2. Zeppelin says

    Racial pseudoscience coming from self-proclaimed skeptics is really weird to me. Like, how can they not see the creationist parallel? Anyone can tell they’re working backwards from their pre-existing world-view. They’ve all watched hundreds of hours of Youtube videos debunking that exact process!

    I mean, what are the odds that modern genetics research would perfectly replicate a caste system and attendant stereotypes specific to your culture, invented centuries before the discovery of evolution (nevermind DNA)? It’s just as outlandish as trying to fabricate scientific support for one specific mythological creation narrative out of thousands.

  3. microraptor says

    Zepplin @2: Well, it’s because they’re tots special and are so much smarter than those creationists. They have Really Rational Minds that can’t be fooled, so even if it sounds really similar to stuff they themselves have made videos about other people falling for, they’re different because they’ve figured out what’s the truth.

    The Dunning-Kruger effect is a powerful force.

  4. unclefrogy says

    yeah. Before i started reading this blog and seeing arguments about creationists I very seldom ever ran into creationists at all nor thought about them much until george w shurb . Butthey’re little more than 19th century bigots pretending to be scientists, busily tainting good science with fascism and Victorian nonsense
    that is what was bothering me the most.
    uncle frogy

  5. unclefrogy says

    yeah. Before I started reading this blog and seeing arguments about creationists I very seldom ever ran into creationists at all nor thought about them much until george w shurb . Butthey’re little more than 19th century bigots pretending to be scientists, busily tainting good science with fascism and Victorian nonsense
    that is what was bothering me the most. It still is. The depth of unscientific understanding is truly staggering.
    uncle frogy

  6. unclefrogy says

    yeah. Before I started reading this blog and seeing arguments about creationists I very seldom ever ran into creationists at all nor thought about them much until george w shurb . But

    they’re little more than 19th century bigots pretending to be scientists, busily tainting good science with fascism and Victorian nonsense

    that is what was bothering me the most. It still is. The depth of unscientific understanding is truly staggering.
    uncle frogy

  7. kevinalexander says

    I used to call it the Allnutt fallacy for the Humphrey Bogart character. Even if you could find a parallel universe where Peterson’s fantasies were true it still wouldn’t matter. The Katherine Hepburn character said it best: “Nature, Mr Allnutt, is what we were put here to rise above.”

  8. lanir says

    I don’t understand the need to put down other people like this. I guess I should thank the bullies and assorted other jerks and snobs that tormented me in school? Experiencing discriminatory behavior, even if the causes and excuses are different, helped me reach positive, useful thought processes faster when confronted with cultures and concepts outside my own. Frankly the first minority subcultures I was exposed to were kind of terrifying. I had enough issues meeting and interacting with people in my own culture, nevermind one that felt foreign to me! But like jealousy, it was quickly apparent to me that the problem was entirely inside my head. The people in this subcultures might have ideas I disagreed with but they were still people. And their subculture had concepts that were relatable. And even as I felt the most lost while interacting with it there were people who took the extra effort to laugh along with me while I stumbled through trying to understand something g outside my experience.

    This stuff is easy. I don’t get why supposedly smart people can’t figure out that the problems they obsess over live entirely between their ears.

  9. joebiohorn says

    Quoting from above: “what are the odds that modern genetics research would perfectly replicate a caste system and attendant stereotypes specific to your culture, invented centuries before the discovery of evolution (never mind DNA)?” Can anyone cite a specific example of published work in which any credible scientist makes such a claim? I certainly have not run across any. While I’m here, dare I suggest that Professor Myers’ rantings on “genetic determinism” etc. have more to with political ideology than insistence on scientific rigor.

  10. willj says

    the flat-earthers are the same way. What anti-science fantasy can we come up with that is so knuckle-draggingly idiotic, so irrelevant to the way the world works, that television crews will flock to us to put us on cable

    Yeah, there’s that group. And then there’s groups like the Amish, of whom a substantial portion believe the earth is flat, although it’s not much of an issue for them. The have an isolated eighth grade education at best, with not much science.

  11. says


    joebiohorn @ 8
    : He may fall outside the definition of “credible scientist” at this point, but I would point to the example of James Watson who has for decades at this point been abusing his position in the public eye as “the DNA guy” to peddle his backward, racist and sexist notions. It’s not “published work”, of course, in the formal sense because he has no science to back up his repellent claptrap, but there are plenty of laypeople in the general public who must think, “well, if the ‘DNA guy’ thinks it, maybe there’s something to it…”

  12. chrislawson says

    joebiohorn:

    1/ PZ was talking about YouTube atheists and skeptics, not the published scientific literature. Which would make sense given that he is talking about the way many of the atheist/skeptic vbloggers misrepresent the published body of knowledge.

    2/ Having said that, there are plenty of examples of bad evolutionary science promoting cultural biases as biological fact in the published literature. Here are some examples: women’s surveyed preference for pink is somehow biological and story of a rescinded paper arguing that black women are less attractive than women of others races because of biology, not culture, or how about this one (PDF) showing that there is no discrimination in women’s earnings, it’s just that women are evolutionarily predisposed to not want to earn money as strongly as men. All in peer-reviewed journals (although strictly speaking, I do not think Psychology Today should be considered a scientific journal, but it seems to be by plenty of naifs on YouTube and in the media).

    3/ Outside the scientific literature, there are plenty of examples of books like The Bell Curve and 12 Rules For Life written by people outside their field of knowledge who nevertheless present themselves as having scientific expertise on evolution, explaining why blacks are evolutionarily determined to be stupider than whites/asians, and women should be forced to marry monogamously and not be allowed to divorce, as is their biological destiny. (Infamous quote from the latter: “feminists avoid criticizing Islam because they unconsciously long for masculine dominance.”)

    4/ This leads me to the conclusion that your having never run across any of this “stuff” is due to your lack of knowledge on the topic, which is fine, we all start out in a state of ignorance, but in that case why wade in defending something you know nothing about and castigating those who have more knowledge than you? Oh, wait, I get it now. You know perfectly well that this “stuff” exists in the scientific literature, but you find it easier to deny that it exists than defend it.

  13. joebiohorn says

    Cat Mara and chislawson. Read again what I posted. I was specifically asking about the claim that there are some serious scientists who assert that “modern genetics research PERFECTLY REPLICATES a caste system and attendant stereotypes specific to your culture, invented centuries before the discovery of evolution (never mind DNA)”. That is a pretty extreme but precise claim that goes far beyond generalized (and reprehensible) racism. Can you document it? As to my qualifications, I’m a retired Professor of Biology at a major research university who taught, among other things, numerous offerings in both genetics and evolutionary biology. My position is that you treat people fairly and with respect regardless of whether or not there are significant genetic differences. Ever heard of the naturalistic fallacy?

  14. DanDare says

    @jobiohorn you are not expressing yourself clearly.
    Zeppelins comment was of the form “if someone points to science that supports their social constructs exactly then it probably doesn’t “.

  15. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    @11: How about Jordan Peterson, a psychologist who states exactly that? Picking on a bit of polemics is fairly silly since, as everyone has noted, Zeppelin was talking about YouTube commentators and not published scientists, but the fact is that, as Lewontin documented fairly well, there’s quite a bit of semi-qualified to outright qualified (but dishonest, bigoted and/or ideologically motivated people) who think so. Take Richard Lynn and Philippe Rushton. Those guys publish in peer reviewed journals constantly, using discredited methodologies with explicitly racist funding to promote the idea that our racial caste system is essentially natural and even that some people need to be phased out. Lynn and Rushton aren’t minor: they’ve massively contaminated the IQ literature, they led to the Bell Curve, and they’re some of the leading scholars on racial psychometrics, precisely because it took so long for others like Wicherts to start sticking it to them. We can also say the same of any right-wing microeconomic/classical economics theory: even if the theory itself doesn’t actually justify this claim, plenty of the theorists (you can see this all over the libertarian sphere from CATO to Reason) argue that the present distribution of wealth is due precisely to a just aggregation of merit. So even if we want to talk about published academics, I think your standard can still be met.

  16. chrislawson says

    joebiohorn@11–

    My apologies for misreading you. I’m vefy happy to hear we both share the view that genetic differences should not lead to inequitable behaviours. But it appears you also misread Zeppelin’s original comment and PZ’s original post and you used sneering language as a substitute for argumentation and just now you were condescending about the naturalist fallacy when not only is every regular on this site extremely aware of the fallacy, it was the very subject of Zeppelin’s comment. (Zeppelin was pointing out a reason why the naturalistic fallacy is a fallacy, even if the exact phrase “naturalistic fallacy” was not used.)

    Anyway, now that we’ve cleared that up, if are still looking for examples of genetic determinism in public discourse, I refer you back to the papers I linked to, the Bell Curve and 12 Rules books, and Cat Mara’s pointer to James Watson’s contentious statements on race.

  17. joebiohorn says

    @chrislawson
    Just curious. Would this count as “sneering language”?

    “The guy is a buffoon, he was pompously declaring the same old crap creationists have been squirting out since George Mcready Price, and I just didn’t care. Flood geology, from a guy who knows less geology than I do, are you fucking kidding me? In 2018?

    The world has moved on. Those ideas are so dead that they rely entirely on surprising the media with how stupid they are to get any attention — the flat-earthers are the same way. What anti-science fantasy can we come up with that is so knuckle-draggingly idiotic, so irrelevant to the way the world works, that television crews will flock to us to put us on cable, that we’ll get mentioned in the New York Times, that will get us a big feature in an online magazine?

    Sure, there are people who deeply believe — the piety of yokels is still inflating the gas-bag of creationism, and a few frauds are making bank off all kinds of absurd claims.”

    Trust me, I don’t have any sympathy for creationist nonsense, I’m just trying to get a calibration on what language I’m allowed to use on this site.

  18. Zeppelin says

    @joebiohorn

    Re. “sneering language”: Can you see how sneering at your fellow commenters, especially when you clearly haven’t been paying attention (they all understood my post perfectly well, while you confabulated the idea that I was making a claim about “serious scientists” when I actually wrote “self-proclaimed skeptics”, i.e. opinionated amateurs)…can you see how that might be somewhat worse received than sneering at people who are 1. not here to be insulted by the sneering and 2. considered idiots by commentariat consensus?

  19. says

    @joebiohorn: It’s clear from your responses that you’re just a posturing tone troll here to derail the conversation. I regret the time I wasted responding to you in good faith. Blocked.

  20. chrislawson says

    joebiohorn:

    I’m not sure of the value of continuing this conversation, but for what it’s worth , the sneering language I was referring to was this:

    While I’m here, dare I suggest that Professor Myers’ rantings on “genetic determinism” etc. have more to with political ideology than insistence on scientific rigor.

    and then:

    Ever heard of the naturalistic fallacy?

    Nobody ever accused you of being sympathetic to creationism. Given that this is the nth time you have completely misunderstood the conversation in this thread, and given that you have still not acknowledged that your criticism of Zeppelin’s comment was mistaken, and that you have not acknowledged any of the examples I gave of things you claimed did not exist, well, as with Cat Mara I don’t really believe that you are arguing in good faith. Either that or you have mild receptive aphasia in which case you have my sympathies but maybe you should run your comments by someone before posting.

  21. joebiohorn says

    @chrislawson
    OK, you’re on to something. I’m pushing 80 and my mental faculties may not be up to your sophisticates posts. Perhaps you could cut me some slack. You know, equal opportunity stuff. Still, I expect I’ve forgotten more biology than you ever knew.

  22. says

    19 joebiohorn
    I sympathize with your horrific loss of memory. In a discussion of this kind, it’s probably more important to remember things than assert how much you used to know.

  23. joebiohorn says

    @Kip T.W. Still, here’s what I do know with a pretty good degree of certainty: Professor Myers’ rantings on “genetic determinism” etc. have more to with political ideology than insistence on scientific rigor. Here’s a thought experiment regarding genetic differences in cognitive abilities: I think we can agree that humans are smarter than chimps and, by inference, our last common ancestor. The most basic evolutionary theory tells us that, for that divergence to have taken place, there must have been heritable differences in “intelligence”, however we might define that term, throughout the period of divergence.. Wouldn’t it be remarkable if we live in the unique moment when no such diversity exists? And a telling quote: Stephan J. Gould insisted in several publications (e.g., I think, “The Mis-measurement of Man”) that there was no such thing as “general intelligence” but later, in a different context, asserted that Ricard Lewontin was “the smartest person I ever knew” Think about it.

  24. says

    21 joebiohorn
    “Here’s what I do know…” You seem to “know” with your gut. Pardon me if I don’t choose to wallow in bile posing as intelligence.

  25. joebiohorn says

    @Kip T.W. So you choose to engage in ad hominem “arguments” without even attempting to address the logic of my previous post? I take that as a concession that you have no logical rebuttal.

  26. John Morales says

    joebiohorn to Kip:

    And, still, you do not address the LOGIC of my previous post. Want to give it a shot?

    Your previous-to previous-post, actually.

    (Can’t really complain that you get what you give)

    The most basic evolutionary theory tells us that, for that divergence to have taken place, there must have been heritable differences in “intelligence”, however we might define that term, throughout the period of divergence.

    But PZ has never disputed that; point being, two embryos may have equal genetic potential for intelligence, but after reaching adulthood they may vastly differ. Development and environment matter too.

  27. says

    Are you going to acknowledge that this (my emphasis):

    I was specifically asking about the claim that there are some serious scientists who assert…

    Is simply not was what was being claimed? You were arguing against something that nobody said. Perhaps you can tell us what that fallacy is called?

  28. ColonelZen says

    Merging the humainities and evolution?

    How about cooking? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7_XH1CBzGw

    I don’t know if Dr. Herculano-Houzel’s hypothesis is considered consensus as yet, but off the top of my head I’d think it quite likely at least in broad to reflect truth. And anyone who dissolves brains for better purposes than watching the idiot box is OK in my book!

    — TWZ

  29. KG says

    joebiohorn@various,

    Could you point us to where PZ has asserted that there are no genetic differences in cognitive potential among people today? Because if you can’t, it should be evident even to you that you’ve been arguing against a straw man.

  30. ColonelZen says

    joebiohorn:

    “last common ancestor” by which definition of species? Cladistic, morphological, embroyological, genetic …. and then for which genes, which elements of morphology.

    Given a specific enough definition, sure you can in principle say there was such an entity at such and such a time who was “last” common ancestor. But the distinctions of taxonomy are artificial, and any arbitrary selection changes the “last common ancestor”.

    You are pretending essentialist differences which do not exist in nature.

    Particular point…. you are indexing on “intelligence” (as if we had some clear operational definition, which we most certainly do not!)…. Well, for any “last common ancestor” that you may wish to designate, there were at that time most probably not much distinction in intelligence between pan and homo. It’s even possible that for many generations pan could have averaged higher while our ancestors developed other skills.

    For that matter, for almost any objective measure of intelligence (note that you can’t prove to me that someone who speaks only Mandarin is “intelligent” by speech acts, and I would presume he would say the same of me) there are still humans born who are less capable than the brightest chimps, and likewise intelligent chimps born which rivals at least the lower end of average human intelligence.

    I’d say that if we are really objective, it’s much, much closer than saying the extremes overlap. Humans are acculturated to behaviors we consider “intelligent” … and we subjectively define “intelligence” as behaviors and interaction concordant with our biological norms. Throw those out in favor of more objective standards and the amount of difference for individuals is not that great.

    What I suggest is different is biological investment in being part of a biologically successful cultural grouping. The individual’s intelligence is much less significant than the ability of the social aggregate to construct in the enviornment in which breeding groups can successfully flourish.

    — TWZ

  31. joebiohorn says

    Humans write books and symphonies, send rockets to mars, flourish under an enormous range environ mental conditions and exhibit a remarkable range of social organizations and behaviors. Chimps don’t and CAN”T. I don’t think we need a fancy definition of intelligence to conclude that humans are smarter.

  32. consciousness razor says

    Humans write books and symphonies, send rockets to mars, flourish under an enormous range environ mental conditions and exhibit a remarkable range of social organizations and behaviors.

    But it’s interesting that Wernher von Braun wrote no significant music, and Gustav Mahler never designed anything to go into outer space. I guess we can at least say they were both smart enough not to take credit for the other’s work.

    Sure, Mahler died a year before von Braun was even born, but it was a smart move nonetheless.

  33. ColonelZen says

    joebiohorn:

    You did NOT address the reality I asserted, that evolution works upon breeding populations, not upon individuals. Humans are NOT smarter than chimps as a universal truth among individuals. By MOST measures of intelligence (but there’s no denying a variety of selection biases here) most indivdual humans would outperform most chimps. But not all humans would outperform all chimp …. and being aware of some amazing progress in AI sometimes arising in algorithms that don’t look a bit like any form of cognition humans might be doing, I’d well aware that the bias towards ascribing intelligence to behaviors rather than to objective measures of task performance in a paucity of situational information is pandemic. I will, in deep confidence restate, the speculative hypothesis I offered above: IF we at some point arrive at a consensus operational definition of intelligence applicable to non-human animals, humans of wildly varying cultures and upbringings, and our rapidly emerging machines, then I submit we will find the intelligence gap between individual humans and individual chimpanzees will be much more narrow that is commonly assumed.

    What is almost certainly true is that almost any grouping of more than a handful of mutually sympathetic humans will adapt and flourish in a wider range and more rapidly changing environmental conditions than any similar sized grouping of chimps. Our big brains seem much more an adaptation allowing social groups to manifest a collective functional intelligence manifested in the actions and communications of individuals rather than overt manifestations of intelligence by the individual.
    And as consciousness-razor pointed out above, we often choose people as avatars of our social achievements…. but Mahler had a rich history of previous composers (and by then well developed musical notation), not to mention the technical competence of a civilization with the engineering skills to construct his orchestras’ instruments, to say nothing of the social organization to bring them together in common purpose to perform. LIkewise just how many rockets would VB have built had he startted on an African savannah with no metal save rare outcroppings of copper, and no protracted history of science and engineering?

    The point being that our “intelligence” is a communal manifestation much, much more than it is an individual attribute. And as such it is no surpise that those with more, and more positive interaction tend to exhibit intelligence (as we communally attribute it) than those who’s communal interactions are limited and constrained. Almost nobody I’ve heard of denies that individual variations in skills – some heritable – affect how and how well such interaction will affect that individual’s long term performance. But neither inheritance nor social interaction – save at the extremes – are separately determinant.

    — TWZ

  34. joebiohorn says

    OK, I’m going to wind this up, at least four me, by going back to a bit of PZ’s initial post that set me off in the first place: “swarms of alt-right/classical liberal/centrist/whatever-the-fuck-they-call-themselves atheists”. I proudly count myself as a “classical liberal” and I deeply despise the alt-right. Conflating these two is either profoundly ignorant or deliberately insulting. Take your pick. For me, the biggest threats to science are, sadly, somewhat symmetrical. The well-known evolution and climate science denial on the right and, from the “control left”, enforcement of beliefs that can’t be questioned and questions that must not be asked. As a liberal, I am actually more troubled by the latter.

  35. John Morales says

    joebiohorn:

    For me, the biggest threats to science are, sadly, somewhat symmetrical. The well-known evolution and climate science denial on the right and, from the “control left”, enforcement of beliefs that can’t be questioned and questions that must not be asked. As a liberal, I am actually more troubled by the latter.

    Since you have bowed out, I guess it’s pointless to wonder what specific beliefs and questions from the “control left” you imagine are detrimental to science. I presume things such as recognition of gay/gender rights is to what you refer.

    But sure, I get that you prefer ecological catastrophe and concomitant social disruption to a caring society. After all, someone pushing 80 won’t live to endure what’s coming, so no biggie.

  36. joebiohorn says

    @John Morales I am absolutely a supporter of gay/gender rights (and, of course, women’s rights which I assume you omitted by simple oversight), but those are questions of social policy, not science. No, I’m talking about questions like “Do men and women, on average, have different aptitudes or ambitions?” Is there any genetic contribution to different average performance among ethnic groups on various standardized tests (e.g., Asians typically doing better than “whites”, again, on average)? Is there any genetic contribution to the preponderance of African Americans in many athletic events at elite levels? Is it just culture or could genes be a factor in the vast overrepresentation of Jews among elite scientists? I assume you get my gist.

  37. ColonelZen says

    I’d point out also and simply that “classical liberal” is as much a mythology as Christianity is. Is that JS Mill … writing in a world of less than a billion people before there was any remote understanding of ecological interdependence, and equally before Keynes elaborated quite brilliantly how zero-sum economics policies doomed thier societies to catastrophic boom-bust cycles (viz the US post Civil War).and even more so before two world wars made it crystal clear that no society can pretuend total isolation from others. Or Adam Smith who hated banks and collective capitalism (i. e. corporations) with justifiable Scottish bile. Or does he mean Madam Rand and her superman fictions which literary merit is higher as dull comedy than as moral parable?

    I agree that the “left” has (and always has had) a problem of not addressing the fruitcake brigade in its own ranks, But other than as a target for conservatives the squirrel-bait section has never had substantive real power on the national level and only very rarely outside of college campuses on the local level. But as much as hyperbolic hysterics are often an abatross and annoying distracton they DO occasionally bring to the fore genuine issues that merit attention.

    On the other hand the right’s version of the fruitcake brigagde, an unholy marriage of the theocratically inclined and the carrion fowl of rapine exploitation have consumed the republican party to the point where there’s naught but an empty zombie of the ideals of rule of law, stewardship of resources across generations, and fiscal conservatism.

    — TWZ

  38. John Morales says

    joebiohorn, thanks for the clarification.

    Is it just culture or could genes be a factor in the vast overrepresentation of Jews among elite scientists? I assume you get my gist.

    As I make it, you keep seeing a dichotomy where there is none, and you keep writing as if people who aren’t genetic determinists believe that genes have zero factor, and so that is the straw dummy against which you cavil. Were others to think you utterly discount development and culture regarding differences between people and you thought it was only the genes that mattered, they would be making the equivalent (if converse) error. But they are not.

    Based on your response, I infer you have a problem with the very concept of affirmative action, possibly because you believe everyone has equal opportunity already, because I can’t offhand think of any other policy areas where the “control left” has had success with what you believe is anti-scientific thinking.

  39. KG says

    I see joebiohorn was, as I thought, completely unable to cite any instance of PZ denying that there are genetic differences in cogniotive potential between people today. Instead, he continued to belabour the unfortunate straw person he’s constructed.

    I proudly count myself as a “classical liberal” and I deeply despise the alt-right. – joebiohorn@36

    Now that’s funny! I really did LoL!

    The well-known evolution and climate science denial on the right and, from the “control left”, enforcement of beliefs that can’t be questioned and questions that must not be asked. As a liberal, I am actually more troubled by the latter.

    Which of course places you squarely among the apologists for the alt-right, as well as making you a barefaced liar. The left, at least in the USA and other politically pluralist countries, has no power to enforce beliefs or prevent questions being asked, despite sporadic instances of real intolerance, and much more frequent attempts to ensure that expressing repugnant and bigoted views has social consequences. And to place this spurious threat above that of the denial of anthropogenic climate change by the current leadership of the world’s most powerful country as a threat is a piece of breathtaking stupidity quite typical of those who call themselves “classical liberals”.

  40. says

    The people pushing blind watchmaker evolution, ie evolution by means of blind and mindless processes, are the enemies of science. That would include PZ Myers.

  41. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    I don’t think anyone’s claiming that watches are the product of evolution (at least not directly; I suppose watchmakers, even the blind ones, are).

  42. Onamission5 says

    @somebodysdad:

    I suppose real science is when you attribute the function of natural processes to the invisible, all controlling hand of a specific religion’s deity you just so happen to believe in.

  43. Owlmirror says

    @sombodysdad .:

    The people pushing blind watchmaker evolution, ie evolution by means of blind and mindless processes, are the enemies of science.

    Well, it sounds like you believe that there is something aware and mindful that’s involved with evolution. Do you think that this being (or beings? your wording is vague) is made of something else that isn’t aware and mindful, like atoms? Or do you think that atoms are aware and mindful themselves?

    Be clear.

  44. says

    Onamission5- Same to you- when you have the evidence to support your position science will listen. But right now there isn’t any scientific alternative to Intelligent Design

  45. says

    Owlmirror- All I know is that codes only come from intelligent agencies. And organisms are ruled by codes. All of our knowledge, which is based on our observations and experiences say that codes only come from intelligent agencies. 100% of the time.

    That means the evidence says there was at least one intelligent agency capable of producing living organisms.

  46. larpar says

    somebodysdad @#50
    You claim intelligent design.
    My position is that I don’t believe you.
    Cite your evidence. And remember, incredulity is a fallacy.

  47. says

    larpar- I don’t care if you don’t believe me. You don’t have a scientific alternative to ID. And codes are such evidence as are all of the molecular machines.

  48. says

    I don’t care what they say. They don’t have a scientifically alternative to ID. They don’t have a mechanism capable of producing codes. So clearly what they say is due to personal bias and has nothing to do with science.

  49. Rob Grigjanis says

    larpar @56: Our intrepid IDer will not be impressed. His position seems to be that any order in the universe*, including the existence of physical laws, is evidence of intelligence design. That level of naïveté is utterly unassailable. One sits in awe…

    *Codes! Newton’s law of universal gravitation, Einstein’s field equations, the Schrödinger equation; all codes, written into the fabric of the universe! And only intelligence can produce codes!

  50. says

    Clearly Rob Grigjanis doesn’t know what a code is. What do you have to explain the laws, Rob? Anything that has a science basis? I doubt it. Do you have anything that can produce codes, Rob- besides intelligent agencies? No, you do not. Clearly the naïveté is all yours.

  51. Rob Grigjanis says

    sombodysdad @59: I can describe the laws; that’s what science is, you nitwit. Your “explanation” is infantile. You see patterns in architecture. Then you see patterns in Nature and conclude that Nature must have an Architect. It would be hilarious if there weren’t so many like you.

  52. says

    Rob, you are the infant here. You may be able to describe the laws but you sure as hell don’t have anything that explains their existence. And that is also what science is, you dipshit. And no, I do not think as you say. Clearly you have serious issues and should seek help.

  53. says

    I can explain anything and everything in the universe! It’s all because of a bearded man nobody (barring lunatics and for-profit preachers) ever sees, who has infinite power he mostly uses to give sports teams the victories others ascribe to superior ability or luck!

    Where’s my Nobel prize?

  54. larpar says

    Rob Grigjanis @# 58
    “That level of naïveté is utterly unassailable.”
    Interesting hypothesis. There is enough evidence in this thread to make it a theory, A couple more inane post, and we can make it a law. ; )

  55. says

    Hi Kip- I have noticed that no one has ever won a Nobel Prize for finding evidentiary support for natural selection’s alleged ability to be a designer mimic. If someone could demonstrate that stochastic, ie blind and mindless, processes could produce the codes that rule biology that would be Nobel worthy. That would be one of the greatest scientific discoveries of all time.

    By the way, Intelligent Design doesn’t try to explain everything. Of course accidents still happen. Cars and roads are designed but accidents still happen.

  56. says

    Whatever Kip. If your position had some actual science and evidentiary support then ID would be a non-starter. So you can act like an infant all you want. Your tantrums will be support for anything besides the fact tantrums are all you can muster.

  57. says

    You’re right. I should leaven my fact-free tirades with some real science words, like all the best grifters do. In the ribonucleic future, I’ll try to do mitochondrially better.

  58. says

    I really love folks like sombodysdad. So proud, so fractally wrong.

    You keep insisting that there needs to be a designer. Yo have yet to provide one iota of evidence to support this.
    You can explain anything and everything in the universe! It all just happened just because it could!
    This is an example of an argument from personal incredulity. It doesn’t matter what you personally find ridiculous, that is not an argument against it. You need evidence, which so far you have not presented.

  59. Saad says

    sombodysdad

    By the way, Intelligent Design doesn’t try to explain everything. Of course accidents still happen. Cars and roads are designed but accidents still happen.

    [that Nathan Fillion gif]

  60. larpar says

    sombodysdad @# 70
    Strawman, another logical fallacy that you don’t understand (or choose to ignore).

  61. Jazzlet says

    Pattern making brains are going to see patterns all over the place, whether the pattern is there and meaningful or not. That seems to be extremely difficult for many people to understand.

  62. says

    Yes, myek waters. The evidence says there needs to be an Intelligent Designer. Biological organisms are ruled by codes. All of our knowledge, via observation and experience, says that codes only come from intelligent agencies. There isn’t anything in our knowledge base that says nature can produce codes.

    That said, what is your evidence? What evidence says that stochastic processes produced the codes that rule biological organisms? How can you test the claim that stochastic processes could produce them?

  63. says

    Jazzlet- what about the patterns seen by phylogeneticists? I am not an IDist because of mere patterns. It’s the overwhelming evidence starting with our very own planet and what it took to make it the way it is.

  64. says

    “A straw man is a common form of argument and is an informal fallacy based on giving the impression of refuting an opponent’s argument, while actually refuting an argument that was not presented by that opponent.[1] One who engages in this fallacy is said to be “attacking a straw man.” ”

    larpar tried to refute ID by the ole “who designed the designer” rhetoric. Yet I never put forth any arguments about the intelligent designer beyond that one must have existed- the evidence calls for it.

  65. chigau (違う) says

    set-it-and-forget is really lame.
    “set-it-and-forget-it” or “set-and-forget” both scan better.

  66. says

    @sombodysdad
    Enemies of science you say? Fascinating. Give me a definition of science and biological evolution and I’d be interested in how a relationship like “enemies” is possible.

    Since I can type evolution into pubmed and find loads of examples of research using biological evolution your use of science looks dishonest. I can’t find any intelligent design in there. It appears to do no work in science.

  67. says

    The evidence says there needs to be an Intelligent Designer.
    Nope.

    Biological organisms are ruled by codes.
    Nope. Mostly they are ruled by chemistry. What are these codes you speak of?

    All of our knowledge, via observation and experience, says that codes only come from intelligent agencies.
    You have no clue what you are babbling about.

    There isn’t anything in our knowledge base that says nature can produce codes.
    Your knowledge base is sorely out to lunch.

  68. larpar says

    somebody’s @# 79
    I don’t need to make a case. You are the one asserting an intelligent designer. You have the burden of proof. Your attempts so far have been nothing but logical fallacies.

  69. ColonelZen says

    Logical fallacies. larpar’s question of “who designed the designer” is NOT a strawman fallacy. It is a refutation of sombodysdad (the poor kid! think of the childrens!) thesis that complex functionality requires a designer. As any designer is complex and functional accepting sobad’s thesis imputes that said designer, having functional compexity as to have implemented said codes, must also have a designer. larpar’s assertion is that sobad’s thesis is a variant on question begging, aka petitio principii, extended and conjoined as a Denying the Atecedant. On one hand sobad assumes the antecdeant assumes that the complex must have a designer, begging the question of there being a designer (ergo affirming the consequent) and simultaneously denies that his designer therefore must have a designer (denying the antecedant).

    That one can equivocate between fallacies is no evidence of an argument’s truth. It’s rather rather stronger evidence of its silliness. Which is moot anyway. Argument proves nothing about the real world. one needs kick it and measure the blood that collects in one’s boot. That’s how we get a measure of the real.

    When an argument yields successsful real world predictions of things that go bang, clang, thud, splat or boom (or can reliably, distinguishably and consistently be made to yield such) then, an argument is worth listening to. Not before.

    — TWZ

  70. ColonelZen says

    Oh, forgot. Above it is pointed out that DNA and others are NOT code, not information but chemistry (or biology, or physics). There are patterns that we recognize as significant in the generational persistence and other functionality manifest therein.

    Where the patterns come from is not an issue. write down any patttern of binary options you choose, and start tossing a coin. Enough tosses and if the toss is truly random and eventually the pattern will occur (and while there’s no guarantee of specifics we can, rather oddly predict EXACTLY how many tosses it ill – on average – take for the pattern to occur). Patterns of more complexity arise in random events all over.

    The non-physics-y never get this. There are patterns all over created by randomness all the time. Randomness IS complexity. PZ, a year or two ago posted an illustration … a beaver dam takes MUCH more information to describe at a consistent resolution than does the typical concrete dam. It takes energy to REDUCE complexit. And given that entropy IS information is information it takes additonal energy to preserve simplicity … to enable patterns to persevere across time. The beaver dam is more complex than the concrete… but it took more energy to create the concrete dam… but the energy of the spring rains will destroy the beaver’s dam, while even without much maintenance most concrete dams will last a century or more.

    It’s not the creation of patterns that is surpising. Life’s great trick is the preservation and promulgaton of successful patterns. Which is EXACTLY the specific issue that Darwin and company addressed, and now is being found in life down to the molecular level. And that’s not surprising either. The thermodynamics of entropy and enthalpy at the chemical level are VERY well studied, and is part and parcel of researches into how life began. Hint for the sobad … persistent and reproducing patterns are NOT unusual, and their energy dynamics NOT extraordinary. You can buy a two dollar kit to grow sugar crystals if you’re too lazy to do it on your own. There’s no miracle there… simply that we haven’t yet found out the chemical pathways to make the particulars of life as we exist. The issue isn’t that there aren’t any… its that over a half billion years and a planet’s surface, there are too many possibilites to know which one really caught.

    — TWZ

  71. Owlmirror says

    who says the Intelligent Designer needed a designer?

    Well, you can’t have it both ways. After all, if “nobody says” that DNA requires an intelligent designer, then we can just ignore everything you say. If all that’s required for your argument is for someone to say it, then all that’s needed on the other side is to say things like “an Intelligent Designer would need its own intelligent designer, if it existed”.

    And the “arguments” you make for an Intelligent Designer being unconditionally necessary for DNA to exist can be turned around and made to be arguments that another Intelligent Designer was unconditionally necessary for the first Intelligent Designer to exist, and so on back down the line.

    What would you describe your position as even being? YEC, OEC, or ID-proponent (that is, you accept that most of geology, paleontology, and cosmology are correct, and you only reject the naturalism of evolutionary biology)? It certainly looks like the latter, but I don’t want to jump to conclusions.

  72. Onamission5 says

    Somebodysdad @51: It would be nice if you could at least pretend to respond to what I actually wrote rather than responding to what you’d prefer me to have written.

  73. Owlmirror says

    @sombodysdad ., #80:

    Jazzlet- what about the patterns seen by phylogeneticists?

    But the patterns seen by phylogeneticists support descent with variation; evolutionary biology. There’s no ID there.

  74. Owlmirror says

    @sombodysdad ., #78:

    The evidence says there needs to be an Intelligent Designer. Biological organisms are ruled by codes. All of our knowledge, via observation and experience, says that codes only come from intelligent agencies. There isn’t anything in our knowledge base that says nature can produce codes.

    You know, when Michael Behe testified before a judge about his belief in ID, this is not the argument he used. He referenced biological structures, not the mere existence and structure of DNA itself. DNA is not a code in the same way that a human message might be called a code.

    Why do you think that an ID-proponent biologist didn’t use your argument?

    He also wasn’t so overconfident as to argue that there needs to be an Intelligent Designer, just that he thought it was a reasonable inference. The paragraph in “Pandas and People” that led to Kitzmiller v. Dover was very cautiously worded.

    Why do you think that ID-proponent biologists didn’t assert your overblown conclusion?

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