More politicization of science

There are more stories out there about the corruption of science by Republicans. The National Park Service and Department of the Interior are messed up, with the Park Service rewriting documents to be “anti-environmental, pro-privatization and corporate use of the parks,” and the Interior simply making up nonsense about sage grouse.
Then we’ve got NCI fudging evidence to falsely support the claims of the anti-abortion lobby.

Bush has a lot of nerve claiming to be pro-science. He’s pro-Big Bidness, but he can’t even get that right—he’s willing to promote fake science to get a short-term advantage for business interests, but I should think any good capitalist would know that operating under a flawed representation of reality is going to lead to failure in the long run.

Heck yeah—Caroline Crocker should have been fired

…but she wasn’t. She was allowed to continue her educational malpractice until her contract expired, and then was not rehired—something that happens to adjunct and assistant professors all the time, with no necessary implication of poor work.

Caroline Crocker, if you’ve never heard of her, is the lead topic in an article in the Washington Post today, and you may also have read an account of her situation in Nature. She’s a molecular biologist who believes in Intelligent Design, and who was released from her position at George Mason University. Now she wants to claim that her academic freedom was infringed.

[Read more…]

Feeding the capitalists

I’ve gotten a few links to interesting CafePress merchandise today. You can now get the Immortal Pinkoski’s slogan, If you doubt this is possible, how is it there are PYGMIES + DWARFS?, on a t-shirt. Mona tells me that I can also get a fine selection of cephalopodous clothing, or samples of other interesting art—take a look at Platypus Rex.

It’s a good thing I have a wife who scowls at me when I put on something outrageous, ’cause otherwise I’d be walking around with the weirdest outfits.

Don’t be surprised—physics has always been a target

As long as I’m making addenda to posts, let’s hit up this one, too.

Some people have mentioned that they knew the creationists would come gunning for other domains of science sooner or later, and see George Deutsch’s remarks as confirmation. There is absolutely no surprise to the criticism of physics, and it’s been going on for a long while. Ultimately, the gripe the religious have isn’t with the simple facts, it’s with the process. Science is a tool that has been incredibly successful at digging into the nature of the universe, and religion is a proven flop next to it. That rankles, I’m sure.

Look at Philip Johnson and the Wedge document, too: they aren’t after just the idea that man evolved from apes. They’re out to demolish the whole enchilada. Their enemy is naturalism. Every science is a target.

Remember this: anything that isn’t learned by way of dogma and revelation is a direct challenge to the authority of religious leaders. Science, all of it, is a threat to the religious cash cow. And most daunting to the theocratic mindset, clawing your way to the top of the scientific heap doesn’t translate to the same kind of immunity to effective criticism we see in Christianity. They just don’t see how they can shift a scam that requires credulity to a paradigm that demands skepticism.

One more time

Wow, but this post has inspired so many misconceptions.

I do not think Muslims should be insulated from satire. I do not think there is parity between a cartoonist drawing a picture someone doesn’t like and a Muslim calling for the execution of the cartoonist. I am not on the Muslim’s side here, and I am uncompromising in condemning rioting and destruction as criminal.

I do think religion needs to be thoroughly criticized—you haven’t been reading Pharyngula for long if you think otherwise, and I thought I’d been quite careful to spell out that religion was a hate-amplifier in this situation—and I do think that Islam in particular needs to be taken down a peg or two (I only hesitate to say that because too many of our home-grown Christians would interpret it as approval for their sanctimony). I think some of those crowd photos show a deeply evil mindset at work.

But here’s the thing, that liberal-lefty perspective: those Muslims are people. You know, human beings with needs and desires and families and aspirations, etc. We have to live with them, unless you’re calling for their extermination or banishment (and no, we aren’t. I hope.) They’ve got this horrible, evil idea of religion stuck in their heads, and the long-term solution is to educate them and imbed more secular ideals in their communities—my objection is that I don’t see that the Danish newspaper was trying to do that. A majority poking a minority with a sharp stick is not a confrontation or an argument. It’s just being mean and petty. It’s yet another kick when they’re down to a group of people who are already marginalized.

I’d be curious to know what solutions are being planned in Europe. Maybe someone who thinks a sign that says “Butcher those who mock Islam” is irredeemable and ought to be kicked out of the country, but I suspect, optimistically, that most of the Muslims in Denmark aren’t quite that far gone; are there any constructive ideas to weaken the grip of religious foolishness on immigrant populations? Or is it all going to be a process of clumsily beating them down with simple force? Maybe some of the Danish readers here can tell us what is going to be done (oh, and if the solution is to prohibit the mockery of religion by newspapers, I’m doubly against that: it violates free speech, and it doesn’t address the real source of the conflict at all.)

I’m all for ripping into religion with wild abandon. I just think it’s obvious, though, that there is another dimension to this problem than simply the god business, and too many of us are ignoring the human/social issue to blame only a convenient religious handle on the riots.

Poor Superman


So, the Bush administration is going to try and be pro-science. Here we go.

In October 2005, Mr. Deutsch sent an e-mail message to Flint Wild, a NASA contractor working on a set of Web presentations about Einstein for middle-school students. The message said the word “theory” needed to be added after every mention of the Big Bang.

The Big Bang is “not proven fact; it is opinion,” Mr. Deutsch wrote, adding, “It is not NASA’s place, nor should it be to make a declaration such as this about the existence of the universe that discounts intelligent design by a creator.”

It continued: “This is more than a science issue, it is a religious issue. And I would hate to think that young people would only be getting one-half of this debate from NASA. That would mean we had failed to properly educate the very people who rely on us for factual information the most.”

Deutsch is 24 years old, having just graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism a few years ago. As a reward for being a loyal Republican party apparatchik, he has been generously appointed to be a Political Officer enforcing doctrine over a bunch of high-falutin’ rocket scientists. Shades of Lysenko!

It must have been a heady feeling to have the power to dictate ideology to a lot of scientists with Ph.D.s.

I wonder if it now feels terrible to have one’s stupidity and ignorance a matter of public record (“theory” does not mean what he thinks it means), and to have so thoroughly overreached one’s intellectual capacity that it will be emblematic of the Republican corruption of science policy for years to come? Or perhaps (and perhaps more likely) Mr Deutsch is basking in the high regard of his know-nothing peers in this administration, who probably think smacking a scientist with a Bible is a clever retort.

If there were justice, Deutsch’s political career would be dead now, and he’d have to make a living selling aluminum siding in Topeka. I fear he’s just improved his standing in the Republican party.

. The rot runs deep.

There’s more at Bad Astronomy and Stranger Fruit.

Add Cosmic Variance to the list. I think you’re going to see a growing righteous fury among scientists on this.

Pox-ridden houses

I haven’t commented on those Muslim cartoons so far. I’m conflicted.

Why, you might ask? It’s a clear-cut case of religious insanity, exactly the sort of thing I ought to relish wagging an arrogantly atheistical finger at. And of course I will, in just a moment…but the difficult part is that there are actually at least two issues here, and religion is only one of them.

There are some things a cartoonist would be rightly excoriated for publishing: imagine that one had drawn an African-American figure as thick-lipped, low-browed, smirking clown with a watermelon in one hand and a fried chicken drumstick in the other. Feeding bigotry and flaunting racist stereotypes would be something that would drive me to protest any newspaper that endorsed it—of course, my protests would involve writing letters and canceling subscriptions, not rioting and burning down buildings. There is a genuine social concern here, I think. Muslims represent a poor and oppressed underclass, and those cartoons represent a ruling establishment intentionally taunting them and basically flipping them off. They have cause to be furious!

I’ve seen the cartoons, and they are crude and uninteresting—they are more about perpetuating stereotypes of Muslims as bomb-throwing terrorists than seriously illuminating a problem. They lack artistic or social or even comedic merit, and are only presented as an insult to inflame a poor minority. I don’t have any sympathy for a newspaper carrying out an exercise in pointless provocation.

So on the one hand I see a social problem being mocked, but on the other—and here comes the smug godless finger-wagging—I see a foolish superstition used as a prod to mock people, and a people so muddled by the phony blandishments of religion that they scream “Blasphemy!” and falsely pin the problem on a ridiculous insult to a non-existent god, rather than on the affront to their dignity as human beings and citizens. Religion in this case has accomplished two things, neither one productive: it’s distracted people away from the real problems, which have nothing at all to do with the camera-shy nature of their imaginary deity, and it’s also amplified the hatred.

It also doesn’t help that their riots are confirming the caricatures rather than opposing them. Once again, religiosity turns people into mindless frenzied zombies, and once again it interferes with progress.

Somehow, people are assuming from this that I’m “sympathetic to Islam”. How, I don’t know; I thought I’d always been quite clear in my contempt for all religion, and I thought the last two paragraphs above were plain enough. I am sympathetic to the problem of being a minority immigrant; that’s one issue that is being ignored too much. As I said, the real problem is being exacerbated by bad religion that amplifies the hate.

I really don’t think a Muslim would find me to be a friend to their religion.