How to spot religion in science clothing March 1, 2009Posted by rationalskeptic in Evolutionary Theory.
Tags: creationism, Evolution, Intelligent Design
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At NewScientist magazine’s website, there is an article that perfectly explains the deceptive nature of the modern creationism movement, Intelligent Design.
AS A book reviews editor at New Scientist, I often come across so-called science books which after a few pages reveal themselves to be harbouring ulterior motives. I have learned to recognise clues that the author is pushing a religious agenda. As creationists in the US continue to lose court battles over attempts to have intelligent design taught as science in federally funded schools, their strategy has been forced to… well, evolve. That means ensuring that references to pseudoscientific concepts like ID are more heavily veiled. So I thought I’d share a few tips for spotting what may be religion in science’s clothing.
Red flag number one: the term “scientific materialism”. “Materialism” is most often used in contrast to something else – something non-material, or supernatural. Proponents of ID frequently lament the scientific claim that humans are the product of purely material forces. At the same time, they never define how non-material forces might work. I have yet to find a definition that characterises non-materialism by what it is, rather than by what it is not.
The invocation of Cartesian dualism – where the brain and mind are viewed as two distinct entities, one material and the other immaterial – is also a red flag. And if an author describes the mind, or any biological system for that matter, as “irreducibly complex”, let the alarm bells ring.
Misguided interpretations of quantum physics are a classic hallmark of pseudoscience, usually of the New Age variety, but some religious groups are now appealing to aspects of quantum weirdness to account for free will. Beware: this is nonsense.
When you come across the terms “Darwinism” or “Darwinists”, take heed. True scientists rarely use these terms, and instead opt for “evolution” and “biologists”, respectively. When evolution is described as a “blind, random, undirected process”, be warned. While genetic mutations may be random, natural selection is not. When cells are described as “astonishingly complex molecular machines”, it is generally by breathless supporters of ID who take the metaphor literally and assume that such a “machine” requires an “engineer”. If an author wishes for “academic freedom”, it is usually ID code for “the acceptance of creationism”.
If an author wishes for ‘academic freedom’, it is usually code for ‘the acceptance of creationism’
Some general sentiments are also red flags. Authors with religious motives make shameless appeals to common sense, from the staid – “There is nothing we can be more certain of than the reality of our sense of self” (James Le Fanu in Why Us?) – to the silly – “Yer granny was an ape!” (creationist blogger Denyse O’Leary). If common sense were a reliable guide, we wouldn’t need science in the first place.
Religiously motivated authors also have a bad habit of linking the cultural implications of a theory to the truth-value of that theory. The ID crowd, for instance, loves to draw a line from Darwin to the Holocaust, as they did in the “documentary” film Expelled: No intelligence allowed. Even if such an absurd link were justified, it would have zero relevance to the question of whether or not the theory of evolution is correct. Similarly, when Le Fanu writes that Darwin’s On the Origin of Species “articulated the desire of many scientists for an exclusively materialist explanation of natural history that would liberate it from the sticky fingers of the theological inference that the beauty and wonder of the natural world was direct evidence for ‘A Designer'”, his statement has no bearing on the scientific merits of evolution.
It is crucial to the public’s intellectual health to know when science really is science. Those with a religious agenda will continue to disguise their true views in their effort to win supporters, so please read between the lines.
Amanda Gefter is an editor for the Opinion section of New Scientist
The New York Times’ “On Darwin” page February 22, 2009Posted by rationalskeptic in Evolutionary Theory.
Tags: Biology, Darwin, Evolution
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Before, on, and after Darwin DayI made numerous post and links to some of my favorite articles, editorials, and analysis celebrating the occasion. The New York Times still has their Darwin page available, and it contains a wealth of information in one place.
The picture of young Darwin on the left links directly to the main New York Times page, but below are the images that contain the links to the five sections contained in the Darwin page.
Steve Darwin is the 1000th Steve… February 15, 2009Posted by rationalskeptic in Evolutionary Theory.
Tags: Education, Evolution
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The National Center for Science Education has announced the 1000th scientist to sign on for Project Steve. This project was used to show the level of support for evolution among the scientific community, and they asked only scientists named Steve, if they agree with the following statement: “the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry.”
The 1000th Steve is Steve Darwin, (no relation to Chuck):
TalkOrigins is back! January 13, 2009Posted by rationalskeptic in Evolutionary Theory, Science, Society and Culture.
Tags: Biology, Evolution, Intelligent Design
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TalkOrigins archive is back!
The site has been down because of some technical problems (I believe), and is the go to resource for information on the evolution/creationism “controversy.”
It is sad that in 2009 America there is a controversy over one of the most solidified scientific facts out there. But, since there is a controversy, this site will equip the everyday lover of science with the information, facts, and evidence to bash any creationists argument to smithereens.
Also, the National Center for Science Education is a wonderful organization.
Arrogant Ignorance:a horrible combination January 9, 2009Posted by rationalskeptic in Cosmology, Evangelical, Evolutionary Theory.
Tags: Biblical literalism, Biology, Christian comedy, Evolution
This Letter to the Editor appeared in the Dothan Eagle newspaper, and the best way to describe this man is: arrogantly ignorant. Such a classification is truly a sad one, but people like ol’ Bill may never see the truth of this issue, so I hope others can learn something from his ignorance.
The scientific method is the best way to find the truth about a specific claim. Many people do not understand that the most powerful tool in science is it’s self correcting mechanism. That is, when a theory is proposed, it is put under intense scrutiny by hundreds of others researchers. This is referred to as the peer-review process. If a theory passes this test, then it can be published in a reputable scientific journal. Once published, it is then put under even more intense scrutiny by even more scientists in the field. Then, if it passes this test, it can safely be said to be a scientific fact. Of course, in science everything is tentative and open to any new information that comes in. Unlike all religions and ideologies. This self correcting mechanism is what makes science the best tool humans have developed to understand the world around us.
1,) Grade school textbooks teach evolution as fact: Yes, and these textbooks need to be even more unequivocal in their proclamation of the fact of evolution.
2.)It is a monstrous lie that harms our children: Now, I am not sure if this guy is being sincere or not, but anyone who holds such a view has either deluded himself to the point of not recognizing reality, or is intentionally deceiving the ignorant among us.
The rest of his letter is logically invalid, because it is based on the false premise mentioned above. So, lets take a look at Bill’s monumental claim that, if true, would overthrow 150 years of scholarship. (I’m assuming Bill has a PhD in a field such as, cellular biology, molecular biology, genetics, paleontology, archaeology, or maybe physics?)
The scientific consensus is utterly clear on this issue, the theory of evolution is as air tight as the theory of gravity. Now that I think about it, why hasn’t Bill and his buddies written letters about the monstrous lie, that is the theory of gravity? This would be absurd because gravity has been proven in the laboratory, calculations, and in the consensus of the scientific community.
The theory of evolution has gone through the same extensive research, and has yet to be falsified. Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859, he made claims that could be falsified, yet after 150 years of research it is standing stronger than ever (which is a pre-requisite to be studied using the scientific method).
In the 20th century, the fossil record grew exponentially and filled in many gaps therein. But the most astonishing verification of Darwin’s claims was the discovery of DNA, this discovery showed a mechanism for natural selection.
Although, creationists try to be deceptive by saying they believe in “intelligent design” instead of “creationism,” they are not fooling anyone. The childish refrain continues in 2009, “there are gaps in the fossil record,” even though countless transitional species have been discovered (The creationist will insist on finding a transitional fossil to explain the transitional fossil).
Evolution is a scientific fact, and there is absolutely no controversy in the scientific community. The controversy only exists in the minds of people who believe in ancient mythology.
(Bill has zero understanding of big bang cosmology. Also, he must not know the definition of “track record,” because a lucid reading of his bible leaves no room for credibility, but I will leave that issue for another post)
I could go on and on, but I will stop now. Sorry for any grammatical errors.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Published: January 6, 2009
Grade school textbooks teach evolution as fact. It is a monstrous lie that harms our children.
The evolution theory says we evolved from the original Big Bang and later crawled out of a green slime from the ocean.
Here is one example of its ludicrous hypothesis.
Of all the mysteries surrounding evolution, the one that is most baffling to the evolutionists, is “water.” Where did all the oceans come from?
As explained on the National Geographic program, it came from a massive collision in space. As the Earth was cooling from the Big Bang, it was approached by a stray planet that was teeming with water. It collided with Earth, spilled its water onto the Earth, then careened off into space.
Talk about fairy tales. By the way, where did the stray planet get its water?
Come on evolutionists, surely you can develop a more plausible explanation that can be easier to swallow. Until then, I accept the Bible’s answer. After all, the 4,000-year-old book has a perfect track record.
The evolution theory is only 140 years old.
“15 Evolutionary Gems” January 6, 2009Posted by rationalskeptic in Evolutionary Theory, Uncategorized.
Tags: Biology, Evolution, Intelligent Design
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The magazine Nature published a wonderful piece this past week, of 15 evolutionary gems.
These 15 “gems” are relatively recent discoveries, and are extremely helpful in illuminating the solid scientific data pertaining to
evolutionary theory (not the the theory needs any more evidence, considering the current evidence is absolutely overwhelming in it’s breadth, depth, and scope).
(PZ Myers created a great outline of the article, from Pharyngula):
- The discovery of Indohyus, an ancestor to whales.
- The discovery of Tiktaalik, an ancestor to tetrapods.
- The origin of feathers revealed in creatures like Epidexipteryx.
- The evolution of patterning mechanisms in teeth.
- The developmental and evolutionary origin of the vertebrate skeleton.
- Speciation driven indirectly by selection in sticklebacks.
- Selection for longer-legged lizards in Caribbean island populations.
- A co-evolutionary arms race between Daphnia and its parasites.
- Non-random dispersal and gene flow in populations of great tits.
- Maintenance of polymorphisms in populations of guppies.
- Contingency in the evolution of pharyngeal jaws in the moray.
- Developmental genes that regulate the shape of beaks in Darwin’s finches.
- Evolution of regulatory genes that specify wing spots in Drosophila.toxin resistance.
- Evolution of
- The concept of evolutionary capacitance: the idea that environmental stress can expose hidden variations that are then subject to selection.