rational rejection of supernatural mythologies

Essential Whining

 Not content to con reputable scientists into their ridiculous movie about science’s rejection of the IDiocy of so-called ‘intelligent design’ creationism, the producers are now trying to lure logic-challenged students to whine about poor reception of pseudoscience in science classes.

 Those who are not sufficiently well versed in science or logic might continue to be fooled by the ID propaganda, which relies on a very old, and refuted argument to make the illogical proposition that ‘scientific accounts of evolution fail’ and that religiously motivated con artists have something to offer by way of explanation. They don’t. The design argument is based on the irrelevant analogy that human-designed creations are the product of intelligence, so, by their ridiculous reasoning, ‘life could not have arisen by chance and biological complexity could not have evolved by natural processes’. It could and it did, but these fools care nothing for the truth. This argument is unfounded and the claims of ID creationists that they have anything useful to add to scientific knowledge is an unabashed falsehood that rakes in contributions from the terminally deluded.

 Religious fundamentalists are so desperate about the refutation of religious dogma by scientists and philosophers that they must resort to ridiculous ploys such as IDiocy in an attempt to maintain credulity in the ignorant and the credulous. There is no grounds for debate about evolution versus creation because evolution has been overwhelmingly documented as a fact and creationism has been soundly disproven. The scientific theories that explain the mechanisms by which the fact of biological evolution has operated are incomplete but not inaccurate. This is the beauty of science–it is a work in progress, continuously being checked, refined, and verified.

 I do think that there is a place for discussion of IDiocy in university classrooms–disproving ID claims could enliven discussion of the likely mechanisms of abiogenesis, of probability calculations, and of the actual mechanisms of biological evolution; and, the rampant illogic of IDiocy would provide plentiful examples of fallacious logic for discussion of critical thinking. Beyond these applications, IDiocy has absolutely no truth value and no merit for education.

Blogs ~ The Discovery Institute doesn’t like smart college students ~ Expelled: No Intelligence Evident ~

Earlier Blog reactions ~ Pharyngula: I have obtained a stolen, pre-release clip of Expelled!, Denyse O’Leary: paranoid projectionist, More dribblings from the producer of Expelled, Expelled producer seems to be embarrassed about his sneaky tactics, Ruloff’s claims are not credible, Any conservative can make an ass of themselves on Fox: Ben Stein gets crazy, Betrayed!, Watch out, faculty: biblical literalism will be enforced, Expelled comes to the NY Times’ attention, Spiegel gets into the act, too: Bad: Ben Stein in Hot-Pants for Intelligent DesignExpelled movie producer exposes the holy hand of Intelligent Design :


October 28, 2007 Posted by | abiogenesis, creationism, critical thinking, education, evolution, logic, philosophy, religion, science | Leave a comment

Essential Deceits

 Scientists Feel Miscast in Film on Life’s Origin appears in today’s New York Times.

 Scientists, including Richard Dawkins and Eugenie C. Scott have revealed that their appearance in Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed was induced under false pretenses. 

 Reputable scientists have eschewed so-called intelligent design since its resurrection by American creationists a decade ago. Yes, resurrection. The argument for design dates back to the Greeks and was last rehashed by Christian apologist William Paley in 1802. This argument from analogy might fool creationists, who are, after all, already fooled, but it fools nobody with two neurons to rub.

 Part of the movies purpose was to whine about rejection of creationist pseudoscience by the scientific community. The rejection continues, and is seconded by NYT’s Cornelia Dean:

“There is no credible scientific challenge to the theory of evolution as an explanation for the complexity and diversity of life on earth. And while individual scientists may embrace religious faith, the scientific enterprise looks to nature to answer questions about nature. As scientists at Iowa State University put it last year, supernatural explanations are “not within the scope or abilities of science.””

The British government has released guidelines concerning the teaching of creationism and intelligent design in science classes. “The verdict: they are not science, and they have no place in the curriculum.” Better late than never. It reflects badly on American educators and politicians that they have too long displayed either ignorance of science or cowardly refusal to distinguish scientific reality from religious delusion.

 Of course the makers of Expelled needed to resort to Rampant deception! Eternally outspoken PZ Myers would have enlived the movie, but not in the way that the producers hoped. The arch-deceptionists could not reasonably have expected some legitimate experts on science to otherwise appear in a movie intended to promote unscientific creationist stupidity.

“If he had known the film’s premise, Dr. Dawkins said in an e-mail message, he would never have appeared in it. “At no time was I given the slightest clue that these people were a creationist front,” he said.

Others might have appeared, but would have been more prepared for deceptiveness-in-interviewing.

Dr. Scott, whose organization advocates for the teaching of evolution and against what it calls the intrusion of creationism and other religious doctrines in science classes, said the filmmakers were exploiting Americans’ sense of fairness as a way to sell their religious views. She said she feared the film would depict “the scientific community as intolerant, as close-minded, and as persecuting those who disagree with them. And this is simply wrong.””

Americans’ sense of fairness? This appears to be confined mostly to atheists who have too long tolerated religious nonsense. American fundamentalist theists are so woefully short on a sense of fairness toward genuinely free speech that they would sooner vote for a Muslim presidential candidate than for an atheist. American fundamentalist theists are so woefully short on a sense of fairness that they presume to tell other how to live their lives on the basis of 2,000 year-old moralistic pronouncements in a book that they attribute to a nonexistent supernatural deity so lacking in omniscience as to have concocted mythology fraught with inconsistency. 

Read more on other sites: Pharyngula: I have obtained a stolen, pre-release clip of Expelled!, Denyse O’Leary: paranoid projectionist, More dribblings from the producer of Expelled, Expelled producer seems to be embarrassed about his sneaky tactics, Ruloff’s claims are not credible, Any conservative can make an ass of themselves on Fox: Ben Stein gets crazy, Betrayed!, Watch out, faculty: biblical literalism will be enforced, Expelled comes to the NY Times’ attention, Spiegel gets into the act, too: Bad: Ben Stein in Hot-Pants for Intelligent DesignExpelled movie producer exposes the holy hand of Intelligent Design :

September 27, 2007 Posted by | atheism, creationism, education, evolution, fundamentalism, science | 3 Comments

Lies the Biased told us

The Church authorities feared that scientific knowledge would turn people away from religion en masse.

“My knowledge is weak on the immediate response after Darwin published.”

My goodness! Really? It’s so famous that I thought that every educated person in the Western world was aware of at least some of the response.

Darwin predicted the furor – and both his prediction and the furor are quite famous. In England, it was the C.of E., and initially the Royal Academy of Science as well as the universities. British scientists were mostly convinced within a decade of publication of the Origin of Species (1859). The Descent of Man was not published until 1871. I am confident that you are aware of the American “Scopes Monkey Trial” in 1925 and of the fact that American creationists continue to attack Darwinism.

Pictures are sometimes worth a thousand words: Darwin as an ape, cartoon, 1871. A caricature of Charles Darwin from the London Sketchbook, 1874. Caricature of Darwin’s theory in the Punch almanac for 1882, published at the end of 1881 when Charles Darwin had recently published his last book, The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms. Darwin as a monkey on the cover of La Petite Lune, a Parisian satirical magazine published in the 1880s. There are more cartoons out there and I’m sure that most Westerners have seen them.

“I’m not sure to which Church authorities you refer and I don’t have any evidence as to what they said. You’re statement sound a bit interpretive.”

I read of the reaction of Church authorities somewhere in a book by a Christian religious historian. Accuse him of being interpretive, but I took him to be reporting on the basis of his academic scholarship.  I have three such books and I wish that they were electronically searchable in the way that the Internet is! If they were, then I would give you the exact quote. I’m sure that the topic (not the book) is searchable on Google or another search engine. In the absence of such a facility for finding the original, I shall merely have to ask that you accept me on the word of an unbiased authority. I would not have said it otherwise.

“While you may think they excessively complimentary, it seems you are particularly derogatory concerning the human rationality before Darwin.”

Actually, I was being derogatory about human rationality since Darwin. You teach highschool. I think that the 11 plus examination has been abandoned, so I don’t know what measures are currently employed, but I presume that you are acquainted with average rational capacities. 

Sometimes the current received wisdom is faulty and an entire conceptual framework must be revised to adapt to a better, more accurate explanation.

“So the whole evolution thing could be completely wrong because we could have the entire conceptual framework wrong?”

I expected you to say this. Yes, that remains within the realms of theoretical possibility – remote possibility. The examples that I gave were specific examples of single special-case conceptualizations within large subject areas (cosmology and geology). Biology is one of the older sciences and biological evolution is acknowledged as an overwhelmingly supported empirical fact by unbiased biologists. The theory of evolution has itself been evolving along the same logical line ever since Darwin. That is the theory has been better refined by new observations, but its is vanishingly unlikely that the modern synthesis will ever be fully overturned, as creationists clearly hope.

Even if the current theory were overturned, rather than merely refined, this does not mean that the unutterably simplistic God-did-it-through-a-miracle explanation will ever be a viable alternative explanation.

Natural selection remains accepted as one of the mechanisms by which biological evolution occurs. Did you know that Darwin reached the insight because of Malthus‘ work on populations? Quite aside from whether or not you accept the principle of natural selection, I always find it interesting how one theory inspires another.

“Who’s to say that a better, more accurate explanation may be more compatible with special creation?”

Who? The unbiased experts in the field. Since there is no supernatural entity that could have brought about special creation, please don’t hold your breath on this every happening. I would not want you to commit suicide-by-anticipation.

“Or are there special interest factions that would immediately assume that such a conceptual framework cannot be true, or that would suppress it because it might turn people toward religion en masse.”

Theists fail to recognize that if there were a God scientists and not theologians would have been the first to know. Nobody would need faith because science would have provided empirical demonstration. If you want to promote deistic ideas and envisage God as setting up the Big Bang and the natural laws that enabled biological evolution then you would be removing the concept of God safely out of the reach of scientific testing. I think that such a deity would devolve the divine into nature.

Scientists originally believed that they were cataloguing the Works of God. The empirical facts eventually convinced most of them otherwise. I think that assuming that scientists simply refuse to see that God is behind it all is probably the commonest theist fantasy. “If only we could prove that for whatever nefarious reason of their own, scientists are simply refusing to see the Truth, then we can prove that God Did It.”

This is a false dichotomy because even if cosmology and the modern synthesis were demonstrated to be incorrect, this would not mean that God did it since there could, indeed certainly would, be a better explanation within the physical and not the religiously-motivated ineffable supernatural realm.

Behe . . . His university has posted a disclaimer about his nonsense on its website.

‘That was fun reading. Not only did his department post a disclaimer but several of his colleagues went out of their way to align themselves with Darwinism with statements on their own pages.”

Hardly surprising. It seems likely that Behe has only been retained on staff because of the protection of his having attained tenure before publishing puerile scientific heresy. Academics are fired pre-tenure for far lesser offences than biased stupidity. Behe’s probably a nice enough guy (he has a nice face), but its hardly surprising that his fellow scientists at Lehigh wish to distance themselves from his nonsense. It’s interesting that you choose to imply that their affirmations are laughable and yet probably applaud the scientists who signed the Declaration of Ignorance.

Scientific knowledge is not up for debate by religious special interest factions.

“I thought scientific knowledge was always up for debate.”

I should have said up for revision. Scientific topics are always open to debate (that is not science.)

Revision is not up to debate by religious special interest factions, which merely make unfounded criticisms based on a desire to prove The God Who Never Was.

I called it the so-called debate because the science is solid and the creationist side comprises only fallacious arguments: arguments from analogy, false dichotomies, arguments from ignorance, arguments from incredulity, red herrings, straw man fallacies, simple denial and outright lies, etcetera, etecetera, etcetera.

I believe that legitimate debate pertains only to topics that do not yet have a clear correct and incorrect.

“Isn’t that why it’s constantly being tested?”

Scientific knowledge is tested and refined by scientists – some of the most illustrious and influential of whom have included amateurs and monks. The special interest religious factions perform no experiments that can be counted as refining scientific knowledge (even Behe’s protein biochemistry efforts fall within the realm of regular science and cannot test for God’s miracles).

Those clearly religious factions, which lie about being religiously motivated, have generated no scientifically valid falsifiable hypotheses.  They do generate false and falsifiable philosophy, but lack the honesty to admit that they have been refuted. I suspect that many also lack the rationality to recognize this.

In the final analysis, it probably does not matter in so far as they are preaching to the already convinced who will gleefully believe whatever they are told no matter how unsupported or illogical. After all, isn’t that exactly how religions prosper?

(I wonder, if faith in the absence of empirical evidence is the point, then why should it really matter to deny scientific truths (cosmology and the fact of biological evolution). Doesn’t this fear of science reflect a fear that faith might indeed be unfounded? I think that the real problem is the fear that belief in Special Creation is unfounded. This is probably attributing too much logical awareness to some creationists, but others who can follow the logic will tell them what to think.)

It does matter in so far as damage to education and rationality matter. This is why American parents are suing school boards and winning.

Follow-through on The so-called creation versus evolution debate and Comment.

September 3, 2007 Posted by | creationism, education, evolution, logic, religion, science | 2 Comments

Absolutist Fears to Emotion

Because the WordPress system does not allow for modification of posting time, the following lengthy sequence is posted out of order:

Full sequence: Absolutist FearsComments Bouncing back to Dave , Comment; No Things in Moderation; Creation MythsComments; Conversions, Comments; My God is bigger than your god, Comments; Of must and men, Comments; Transcendant rhetorical devices, Comments; The so-called creation versus evolution debate, Comments; Apologetic creations, Comments; From the Cradle, Comments; West of Eden, Comments; The Clash of Titans, Comments; The place of Emotion, Comments .

September 2, 2007 Posted by | abiogenesis, atheism, creationism, critical thinking, education, evolution, Jerry Falwell, logic, morality, Pascal's Wager, philosophy, psychology, religion, science | Leave a comment

The Clash of Titans

<i>Philosophy of science, as I’m sure you well know, is not science.</i>

“But science is not science without an underlying (if sometimes unperceived) philosophy of science. Science cannot exist in a philosophical vacuum.”

Lets agree to distinguish between Philosophy of Science (I omitted the cap “S’), which is the discipline of professional philosophy that examines science as a whole, and the philosophical (thought) underpinnings of the scientific approach, which is what you allude to. I was referring to the former and you were referring to the latter.

Science is the logical descendent of metaphysics and has replaced most of the old metaphysical explanations. You are quite correct that scientific understanding is based upon prior scientific knowledge. Sciences can be categorized as theoretical and applied, though ‘applied’ is assumed and only ‘theoretical’ is typically used as an adjective. Sciences are also subdivided into hard (direct experimentation is feasible and ethical) and soft (direct experimentation is unethical).

I take you to be referring to the fact that within scientific methodology the process is to move from observation to educated guess (hypothesis based on current understanding), to prediction, to experimental observation or empirical observation (falsification or agreement with hypothesis), to theory, to more and more testing, to acceptance that the theory is sound. If a hypothesis or theory is falsified by reliable new observations, it is scrapped. “Based on current understanding” indicates that scientific knowledge provides an underlying framework on the basis of which hypotheses are formulated.

This process is quite different than Philosophy of Science, which would be more like my description of the theoretical underpinnings of scientific method.  

<i>the creationist campaign of discrediting science has resulted in many creationist with whom I have talked believing that all of science is a matter of pure guesswork</i>

“I think your causal link in pure speculation.”

Not so. I have talked with a number of creationists who have voiced exactly that opinion. If I were (shudder) to join one of the C vs E groups that have proliferated in e-space, I’m certain that I’d find more.

<i>that is exactly the phenomenon that I am talking about. You don’t like the implications.</i>

“All I am saying is that you are consistent in believing in the pervasive nature of this phenomenon. It’s not that I don’t like the implications. I believe your view is flawed.”

I don’t want to quibble on our definitions of pervasive. The problem is not that Americans (the creationist hotbed) are not particularly well educated in science. Most people in most nations are not particularly well educated in science. The problem is that unfounded creationist attacks on science encourage people to dismiss scientific expertize and expertize in general. This is the outcome of fallacious ad hominem attacks on any whose knowledge conflicts with whatever biased, special interest message is being promulgated. This anti-intellectual dismissal of expertize, which is associated with illogical thinking, is becoming more and more prevalent (over my lifespan) and has inherent dangers that spread beyond science classrooms. As a friend says, “All people think. It’s just that the quality of their thinking is not good.”

It could be that I have simply become aware of the phenomenon because the Internet has expanded my awareness. It could be argued that I have been protected from this awareness by mixing with science-educated people. Regardless of whether or not the prevalence of illogic is increasing, the fact remains that it is alive and kicking.

<i>I am sure that you are aware that science, by virtue of its physical nature, is necessarily religion neutral.</i>

“No, I am aware that science, due to it’s philosophical underpinnings, cannot be religion neutral.”

No, the philosophy of scientific investigation is religion neutral.  (As you said, there is an underlying philosophy to science.) Scientist recognize that scientific method is necessarily confined to examination of the physical world. This includes a great deal – everything from M-theory (superstrings) up to cosmology. The accumulation of scientific knowledge in an ever expanding sphere has inadvertantly shoved “God” into a vanishingly small corner. This is not merely a matter of scientific thinking, the founders of Logical Positivists such as Wittgenstein included professional philosophers.

There are more reasons to disbelieve in the purported “existence” of “supernatural” beings than the fact that science has provided verifiable explanations for what were formerly regarded as miracles. However, because science is founded in empirical facts, scientific knowledge is more threatening to theists than those other objections. As you have indicated, Christian apologists have had about 2,000 years in which to mount a philosophical defence against the Tree of Knowledge.

<i>However, given that science provides experimentally replicable evidence that explains origins, then that has the byproduct impact of rendering supernatural “explanations” superfluous, indeed falsified.</i>

“This appears to be a case of not just circular reasoning, but of concentric circular reasoning. Science provides replicable experiments that can be used as evidence supporting certain views about facets of biological history, within the framework of a certain range of philosophical systems. They provide no byproduct, because they cannot explain the how or why the initial processes began, much less broadly falisfy the existence of the supernatural.”

“Concentric circular reasoning” – cute, but inaccurate! As you stated earlier, the supernatural is hypothesized as being outside the natural, and you claimed that this is beyond scientific investigation, which renders science religion neutral provided that the supernatural does exist. 

However, if, as I contend, the supernatural cannot exist as a distinct supercategory because any interaction with the physical places the agent within the category of the physical, then science examines all. If you wish to claim that science is not religion neutral, then you are unintentionally assenting to the contention that science can investigate ‘all that is’ and that the supernatural does not exist. 

“certain views about facets of biological history, within the framework of a certain range of philosophical systems” – I assume that you are referring to the fact of biological evolution and the theories that best explain how biological complexity emerged. If so, you are failing to distinguish between abiogenesis (beginnings) from biological evolution (progress). Evolutionary biologists make absolutely no claim of explaining origins – that is the realm of chemists.

I am aware of the numbers games that intelligent design creationist play to try to eradicate the possibility of biopoiesis without supernatural intervention. I am not about to discuss chemical experiments, RNA world, panspermia etc. They are good hypotheses with experimental foundation and are in accord with what you call the philosophy of science. However, no experiment can replicate an entire planet and a great deal of time. If you wish to dismiss this explanation as special pleading, then I’d refer you back to contention that God is ineffable. 

However, I will say that knee-jerk creationist dismissal of the Miller-Urey experiment (etc!) is ridiculous. (Not you, them.) The experiment has since been repeatedly replicated with a better approximation of the primordial atmosphere, and did repeatedly demonstrate that amino acids spontaneously form within only one week. The planet had about 500 million years to cool before biological life is first recorded in the rocks. Biological life comprised only prokaryotes for another approximately 2.5 million years until Cyanobacteria stumbled upon oxygenic photosynthesis. The rest is fossil and molecular genetic history.

For creationists, but not for logic, it is either God the Creator or Darwinism. Creationist do not disbelieve the scientific facts because the science is not compelling, creationists disbelieve the empirical because they wish to believe that they were Created. (Even though the intelligent design defendants denied this in court, the motivation is God the Creator.)  Which, of course, was exactly what I was saying in the emotional-brain post. I have given that notion a little more thought. Your repetition of apologetic arguments did remind me that theologists have applied their cognitive powers to arguments for the supernatural. This, and the fact of human psychological need for explanations, does indicate that there is a huge neocortical component to the elaboration of religious beliefs.

This does not really alter my basic hypothesis that emotionally convicted belief is much more likely in those with early exposure.

Part 10 of response to No Things in Moderation.

Full sequence: Absolutist Fears4 CommentsResponse to Dave, No Things in Moderation, Creation Myths,  5 Comments, Conversions, No Comments, My God is bigger than your god, No Comments, Of must and men, No Comments, Transcendant rhetorical devices, No Comments, The so-called creation versus evolution debate, No Comments, Apologetic creations, No Comments, From the Cradle, No Comments, West of Eden, No Comments

September 2, 2007 Posted by | abiogenesis, atheism, creationism, education, evolution, logic, philosophy, religion, science | 1 Comment