Sunday, May 4, 2008

Someone is Wrong on the Internet!

Keeping up with Expelled! chatter is eating into my relax time. The latest skirmish can be seen here: How science gets swiftboated , an MSNBC piece by Alan Boyle. Excerpts from the comments section, including my two cents, below:
Rob Crowther Seattle WA: Expelled is not a film about Intelligent Design. Rather, it's about Academic Freedom.
Talk of "freedom" apart from the rules that define its limits is nothing more than pandering and feel-good-speak.
Joe, Michigan: For too long elitists have swiftboarded anyone who dared challenge Darwin. Wouldn't it be fair if MSNBC offered a counterpoint to this opinion? That's really the thesis of the movie, that those who dare question Darwin get excommunicated. [ed: clarity]
ID never met the admission requirements for science, so it can't be "Expelled":

1. ID proponents have offered no corroborative evidence that stands up to review.

2. ID proponents have not formulated their ideas in a manner that can be subjected to falsification or testing.

Saying "God created the world" isn't science. That doesn't mean people can't say this or think about this.
Gene: The point of Mr. Stein is that our children and the people who teach them are not allowed to consider certain evidence or theories. Only Darwinian/Naturalist models are allowed, which even scientists admit are flawed as we gain more knowledge of our physical world (e.g., the cell as 'simple'). Any 3rd grade science student knows that you can't find answers if you're not allowed to look at all the facts. And evolution is not a proven fact by any measure. This ongoing debate involves some of the smartest men and women. It's just that one side wants to quiet the other. What science book is that in? [ed: clarity]
If your car won't start, you'll try to figure out why. Maybe it's the battery. Will the lights go on? Maybe it's the starter. Maybe there's no gas.

As you puzzle over the problem, you'll stick to material, testable explanations. You won't bother with supernatural ideas. Does your exclusion of God from the problem make you an atheist? Of course not.

Natural selection is a well established, fundamental biological principle. Yes, it says nothing about God. But that doesn't mean it's something evil.

Expelled! is thinly disguised propaganda designed to manipulate the emotions of religious Americans. By associating images of Stalin and Hitler with science, the film undermines the public's trust in the scientific establishment.

Who stands to gain? Anyone promoting policies or selling products with associated risks and benefits that can't be fully appreciated without a strong scientific background. Poisoning public opinion toward genuine scientists makes the pseudoscientist's job a lot easier --and more profitable.
Joe, Chicago, IL: The “facts” don’t speak for themselves, but must be interpreted. That is, there aren’t separate sets of “evidences” for evolution without design and ID—we all deal with the same evidence (i.e., we all live on the same earth, have the same fossils, observe the same animals, etc.). The difference lies in how we interpret what we study.
A common pro-ID argument. It's true that we filter facts through pre-existing expectations or biases. To some extent, we see what we imagine we ought to see.

Yet science doesn't end here. If it did, we'd never make any intellectual progress.

After one cycle of looking at facts and creating an explanatory hypothesis, another cycle begins. We use our hypothesis to make predictions. Then we check to see how well our predictions match observed reality. The record of our observations becomes a new set of facts to explain. These facts may cause us to refine or abandon our original hypothesis in favor of some alternate explanation. But whatever the status of our explanatory model at that point, we will again subject it to some test. That test will produce new facts. Those new facts will be used to further refine our hypothesis. And on and on the cycle will repeat.

Thus we gradually bootstrap our way from superstition and guesswork toward a more realistic understanding of this world we share.

Tell me, ID proponents, what does your hypothesis predict? When will you subject your hypothesis to some test?
T. L. W. Hood, Wildomar, CA: Why are evolutionists so defensive?
Because, without a basic understanding of the scientific method among the general population, the enterprise of science becomes vulnerable to corruption.

We humans are fragile creatures at the mercy of our hopes and fears. Our needs are constantly getting in the way of our understanding of how things work.

Modern, controlled research is a relatively recent development in human history (post WWII for medicine, just to give some perspective). Every inch forward has been a battle. We could lose the whole, fragile system of scientific progress in a very short period of time. Superstition and pseudoscience are far more natural for us than rigorous, rule-based methods of analysis.

The fact that a well-educated person like Ben Stein cannot distinguish rhetoric from rational argument is concerning. The fact that millions of Americans will take this bad movie seriously scares the crap out of me.

If the day arrives when we can no longer respect and trust the opinions of mainstream scientists in their fields of expertise, we've lost our democracy. Once truth becomes a political commodity... then Hello 1984.


  1. Excellent summation, Tit. Truth has already become a political commodity, however, IMO. That doesn't mean that we can't still fight against this misuse. I for one, truly appreciate your vigilance.

  2. People with an agenda will use any means necessary to get what they want. That could mean they make up pure lies or twist facts. I do not think that some of these scientists who were fired from their jobs were on an agenda to re-educate all of american youth. They deserve credit for the real scientific work that they have been doing. Ultimately, there are more pressing issues to be discussed beside evolution and creationism. I found this blog because I googled 'natural stone wall' or something to that effect and found the post 'stone wall analogy'. My goal is to build my home with my bare hands (hand-powered simple machines included = P ) and to live in harmony, not in conflict, with nature. Such aspirations are becoming a bit more popular these days yet are anything but held by the majority. I say that to ask this - I have heard debates where each side asks "what has creationism done for modern science?" So, I would like to know how this debate benefits anyone anywhere for anything. I don't want to sound ignorant but... I think it's pointless. There, I said it!

  3. Hi Caleb. Thanks for stopping by.

    If we imagine the debate is pointless, we might wonder why so many people feel the debate is important.

    Or not.

    Some people just like turtles.

    Will you have internets in you hand built house?