Esoteric Dissertations from a One-Track Mind

March 25, 2009

Questioning Evolution

Filed under: Education, science — Tags: , — codesmithy @ 8:55 am

One of the themes of “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” was that there was a dogmatic rejection of Intelligent Design in academia.  There is, in fact, no dogmatic rejection of Intelligent Design on the part of academia.  An acceptance of Intelligent Design as an intelligible explanation for aspects of nature would signal that we had entered into a new dark age.  The most succinct reason Intelligent Design isn’t a good scientific theory is because it doesn’t explain anything.  It is consistent with any and all facts we could discover about the universe including incorrect ones.  We find a natural explanation for the bacterial flagellum, the designer moves on to explain some new mystery.  Intelligent Design is no more than dressed up ignorance and no better than saying “I don’t see how this could have come about naturally, so let’s say Fred did it.”  

Sure, animals look like they have been designed, in the same way the Sun looks like it goes around the Earth.  Darwin explained how we got it backwards.  Animals adapt to their environment through a combination of mutation, inherited traits, differential survival and reproduction.  Darwin presented a substantial amount of evidence to support this view.  Since his time, every piece of credible evidence we have found has supported the general framework he proposed making it one of the best supported scientific theories in history. 

When people say they don’t feel secure about questioning evolution in academia, I say good.  It means reason is still prevailing.  If you choose to question evolution, you better have something more than your ignorance, because if that is all you bring to the table, you have just proven, beyond any shadow of a doubt, your incompetence.

Just like we wouldn’t want a detective who would throw up his hands at every mystery and declare a ghost must have done it, we don’t want to institutionalize ignorance with Intelligent Design.  Making the best decisions possible is contingent on having an accurate view of reality.  Science has proven itself to be the unmatched leader in enhancing our understanding of nature.  It is unfortunate consequence of our limited capacities that scientific knowledge has become so vast that it requires specialization to continue to make rapid progress.  Still, it is criminal to deny children a broad, basic and accurate understanding of what scientists have discovered even if we can‘t present every last detail.  

So, no, it isn’t dogmatic.  It is having standards.  Evolution meets a incredibly high standard for evidentiary support.  The reason why Intelligent Design can’t compete with evolution isn’t because of bias or discrimination, it is because it is remarkably inferior and if you can’t understand that then you have no business in the education system.

March 21, 2008

Expelled from Expelled

Filed under: culture, film, science — Tags: , , — codesmithy @ 7:42 am

This is why reality will always be stranger than fiction.  PZ Myers, biologist and associate professor at the University of Minnesota, Morris, was not allowed to see an advance screening of the movie “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.” A movie he was interviewed for under false pretenses.  Well, apparently the producers of the movie anticipated that PZ Myers might make such an attempt at their screening.  However, what they didn’t seem realize was that Richard Dawkins was going to be in Minnesota for the 34th Annual Nation Conference of American Atheists.  So while they kept Myers out, they let the Dawkins in.  Apparently there was a Q and A session after the movie where Dawkins asked why PZ Myers had been, well, expelled from seeing the film.  Here is an account from a Christian perspective.  (h/t Chris)

I must say, Dawkins is a brave man.  If it were me, I would watch the film, keep my mouth shut, and leave.  However, it is exactly that type of tenacity which makes Dawkins such a strong advocate for reason, and entertaining to watch.

February 7, 2008

Rollins on Evolution and the New Dark Ages

Filed under: culture, history, politics, religion, science — Tags: , , — codesmithy @ 11:22 am

Below is Henry Rollins “Teeing Off” on Intelligent Design and Creationism.

(h/t Pharyngula)

Although Rollins is being bombastic when he declares  “the new dark ages are upon us,” it is important to recognize that Creationism and its secular facade Intelligent Design are throw backs to that era.

The central theme of the dark ages was: the bible, it has all the answers you’ll ever need.  If one wonders why people thought the Sun goes around the Earth or why the Earth was flat, one doesn’t have to look too much farther than the bible.  It wasn’t that the human race was profoundly less intelligent during the period, in fact many people were very well educated, in bible study.

For example, in Matthew 4:8: “Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;”  Ok, how is that possible if the world were round?  Maybe, the devil was capable of conjuring a vision to Jesus.  However, if that were the case, why take him to an exceedingly high mountain?

For the geocentric point of view, we have versus such as 1 Chronicles 16:30: “Fear before him, all the earth: the world also shall be stable, that it be not moved.”  Well, if the world cannot be moved, then it certainly isn’t going around the Sun.

A longer argument and more examples can be found in “The Flat-Earth Bible.”

As obscure as these passages are today, members of the clergy were likely to be very knowledgeable of these verses and their implications.  This is why people like Galileo Galilei were convicted of heresy for their discoveries and forced to recant their findings.  It is not enough to merely mention that people at the time believed the Sun went around the Earth, or the Earth was flat.  The reason that people believed those things, and in fact, defended them so religiously, was because that is what one would logically conclude from reading the inerrant and divinely inspired text.  An embarrassing fact that is helpfully excluded from most mainstream discussions on the topic as it is always left as a mystery to why people believed such “crazy” and demonstrably false ideas.

In this respect, we denigrate people of the middle ages at our own peril.  The intellectual underpinnings of that era have not disappeared.  When facing any foe, it is important to know exactly what you are dealing with.

October 20, 2007

Kenneth Miller on Intelligent Design

Filed under: culture, politics, religion, science — Tags: , — codesmithy @ 11:47 am

Kenneth Miller provides a thorough debunking of the intelligent design movement, provides evidence that it is, in fact, a repackaging of creationism and shows some of the intellectual dishonesty of those who evangelize it. It is a great talk, full of interesting science and some humor. The most powerful part of the presentation is exploring the irreducible complexity argument. Irreducible complexity makes an intrinsic amount of sense. If I have a watch, and I take out a gear or the battery, it ceases to function. If I take a human body and take out the heart, brain or lungs it will cease to function. The argument goes because the brain can’t function without lungs, or the heart, all those pieces must have been in place from the start. The system is irreducibly complex because they are all interdependent and they don’t serve any useful purpose on their own. It follows that all the systems had to have come into being at once, presumably by someone or something who knew what they were doing. I don’t know if people make the argument about organs in the human body, because obviously it is false. Hearts, brains and lungs do evolve. It was rather a demonstration of how the argument works. Lest I be accused of bias, Kenneth Miller explains in the video why other poster children for irreducible complexity such as hemoglobin, bacteria flagellum, and the human immune system fair no better.

The problem isn’t with the irreducible complexity argument itself, it is just that there is scant evidence to support it. In fact, evidence that proponents of intelligent design point to on one day such as bacteria flagellum can be explained in an evolutionary way and a careful examination of the evidence shows that evolutionary case is supported better. In fact, one of the most controversial aspects of evolution, that humans and great apes evolved from a common ancestor, is supported by evidence that intelligent design can’t explain well, such as endogenous retroviruses or the chromosome pair that got fused which Miller discusses. The best argument for intelligent design at that point is that designer did design everything. He/she/it just made look like evolution did it for some unfathomable reason, the deceiving, intelligent designer so to speak. I know people have fallen off that intellectual cliff in the argument, but for a movement that tries to present itself as a reasonable secular movement, the second a negative adjective is attached to the designer (which is just a euphemism for their God), I imagine some serious, tortured logic takes place to keep the pretense secular while dropping the negative adjective. In all likelihood, they try to avoid the inescapable conclusion.

However, Kenneth Miller does give some insight on where the attack is coming next. It is teaching the “controversy.” A controversy that is wholly politically manufactured and not scientific. It also comes from an attempt to discredit evolution by holding it to an impossible burden of proof. The reason is that it is impossible is that the people in the movement take it as an article of faith that evolution must be false because it contradicts their religious view of an inerrant religious text or their interpretation of it. That is not a rational standard, but rather an irrational one which is why Kenneth Miller’s remark that everything is at stake is not an understatement.

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