Irate Christian E-Mail

A rare piece of irate e-mail.

Hi Mr. Rundkvist,

This is Gregory from the US. I was reading your thoughts on Dr. Moller and the Exodus Case. You criticize Moller for not trying to disprove his hypothesis. Tell me; do evolutionists try to disprove their theory? You know they could if they tried. It is the scientists job to gather evidence for his hypothesis. But you lefty liberals don’t want to believe in the Bible, so you go to great lengths to discredit scientific evidence that supports the Bible, no matter how irrational you sound.

1. Yes, biologists make a lot of experiments to see if evolution works or not, and so far all the data indicate unanimously that it does. Read up, don’t believe what your pastor says.

2. I don’t know about the general willingness to believe among lefty liberals. But I do know that you’re right about successful scientists: they do not want to believe in anything. They want to find out what the world is really like. And the idea that everything is exactly as set out in one of the several sets of >2000 years old religious writings worldwide, well, that’s just silly.

I wonder why the fundies tend to ignore me despite my bold posturing as a lefty liberal atheist. Probably they see me as irrelevant because I’m not an American.

Fundies everywhere, I grew up in Connecticut! I’m not only a lefty liberal atheist, I’m an elitist suburban East Coast lefty liberal atheist! I find Obama way too conservative! I favour a 30% income tax! I’m a feminist! Can’t you see, I’m even scarier than PZ!

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Comments

  1. #1 paddy
    October 7, 2008

    Odds of christian idiot replying to your carefully constructed criticism: zero.

    Odds of christian idiot finding scientific evidence to support the bible: zero.

    Odds of ever convincing him that he is wrong: well, zero.

    Is this called a zero-sum game..?

  2. #2 dogscratcher
    October 7, 2008

    If it makes you feel better, I’ll always think of you as a lefty liberal atheist.

  3. #3 WTFWJD
    October 7, 2008

    His argument wasn’t so bad, not bad at all for cretin inanity. Notice the lack of SHOUTING, the complete sentences, the lack of citations of babble verses, and the absence of neologisms.

  4. #4 Jason Failes
    October 7, 2008

    Irate Christians threatening to topple “Darwinian Orthodoxy” with their massive invisible pile of imaginary evidence remind me of short drunk guys who always want to pick a fight but, when push comes to literal shove, always have some excuse for not wanting to, as they say, “take it outside.”

    “I’m going to get that evidence-I’m getting it. Any minute now, unless you want to just give up now, ’cause I’m a 5th Dan in teh sciences and it would just be embarrassing if Jesus had to ride in here on his dinosaur and kick natural selection’s ass himself-I’m getting it…any minute…you’ll be sorry….after this beer…”

  5. #5 Martin R
    October 7, 2008

    There is one piece of faulty continuity, where Gregory starts by criticising scientists and moves on to bash lefty liberals. Alas, not all scientists are liberals.

  6. #6 Martin R
    October 7, 2008

    Greg, are you a short drunk guy?

  7. #7 NeuroTrumpet
    October 7, 2008

    This guy throws around the word “hypothesis” as if he knew what it meant. It’s clear that he doesn’t however, because then he’d know that hypotheses are validated only if the scientific tests cannot disprove it. In other words, evolutionary biologists try all the time to shoot down their own pedantic hypotheses, but they fail more often than not because evolution, it turns out, is true.

    On the other hand, gathering evidence only in support of a hypothesis seems to be modus operandi of “cIntelligent Design Proponentists.”

  8. #8 Felicia Gilljam
    October 7, 2008

    You criticize Moller for not trying to disprove his hypothesis. Tell me; do evolutionists try to disprove their theory? You know they could if they tried. It is the scientists job to gather evidence for his hypothesis.

    Make your damn mind up, man! Are we talking theories or hypotheses? Argh!

  9. #9 arby
    October 7, 2008

    Connecticut, eh? I’m going to have to rethink our whole relationship. rb

  10. #10 decrepitoldfool
    October 7, 2008

    Can’t you see, I’m even scarier than PZ!

    Oh please. What have YOU desecrated lately? To be really scary you have to, uh, drive a nail through a cracker or something.

  11. #11 Martin R
    October 7, 2008

    Watch it or I’ll do something really crazy, like eating the cracker. You’re dealing with a desperate man!

  12. #12 Ethan
    October 7, 2008

    Expatriates are not scary, because we’ve left the US and are no longer undermining its essential purity. Sorry. PZ will always be scarier than you (or me, but I don’t have a blog).

  13. #13 Martin R
    October 7, 2008

    Hrmpf. You’d think xenophobia would count for something.

  14. #14 Matt B
    October 7, 2008

    I say this guy’s a poe.
    What kind of self-respecting fundie reads the Sceptical Inquirer?
    But congratulations on your (first?) christian hate-mail, Martin.
    Way to go

  15. #15 Martin R
    October 7, 2008

    A poet? An Edgar Allan Poe? A po’ boy?

  16. #16 Matt B
    October 7, 2008

    Someone pretending to be a fundie. You need more hate mail then you’ll learn the terminology :)

  17. #17 Thinker
    October 7, 2008

    As so many times before, the immortal words of Tage Danielsson come to mind: “Without doubt we aren’t wise.” (My imperfect translation of his Swedish quip: “Utan tvivel är man inte riktigt klok”.)

    Think about that for while, Greg – consider why doubting is a better way than belief to reach an approximation of The Truth (TM). Then: welcome back to share your thoughts with us. May I suggest December 21st as a good day for that?

  18. #18 DianaGainer
    October 7, 2008

    Here in the Land of Fundies, I’m having a good giggle at all this. You know, Mr. Head of the Fundies, Himself (a previous Pope) once said, “Only Truth has rights.” That’s what the local brand believes. And of course only they know what the truth is. Trouble is, they don’t all agree with one another. So, rather than spin hypotheses or theories on the subject, they just damn one another to Hell. So the above-quoted poe must really only be pretending. He never got around to telling you where you were going to spend eternity — which, being an atheist, you wouldn’t have believed anyway, but which he, as a fundie, wouldn’t have realized, and would have thought he’d scored a really big point on you and given you nightmares. They’re a lot like 4-year-olds, with whom I’ve had lots of fun but unedifying conversations.

  19. #19 eric
    October 7, 2008

    I know how you feel. As an Engineering/Physics major from new york, that is a progressive liberal socialist, I also think obama is way to conservative… seriously he is, and get hated on by the fundimentals all the time. good thing I am more intelligent than they are so… I don’t really care about them. I am not an atheist, but I am not christian so I do fall on the same level of “your going to hell for not believing Je-SUS!” line of thought.

    One of my favorite past-times is going to christian get togethers and bringing up facts and stuff. sooo fun.

  20. #20 dveej
    October 8, 2008

    Excuse my slightly-off-topicality, but Did you REALLY grow up in Connecticut? If so, there goes my long-held and carefully-cherished belief that Americans who move to Sweden don’t last very many years and never fully adapt culturally – you obviously are fluent in Swedish and never post about being an American ex-pat in Sweden…or maybe I’m just dense and failing to get the joke, and you didn’t really grow up in Connecticut, but rather some-verige in Sverige.

    ?

  21. #21 Martin R
    October 8, 2008

    I was a Swedish expat in the US from age 4 to 6. Lived in Greenwich, Conn, attended Greenwich Country Day School.

    The main reason that I don’t still speak Kindergarten English, though, is that I started reading fiction in English as a teen.

  22. #22 Another Primate
    October 8, 2008

    You are much scarier than PZ!!! First time reader but not the last. Great blog and keep up the good work:)

  23. #23 Tom
    October 8, 2008

    I’m a short drunk guy, so I’m getting a kick out of these replies…

  24. #24 Tempyra
    October 8, 2008

    I guess, if you really wanted the sort of Americans who send Irate Christian E-Mail to be scared of you, you could change your middle name to Hussein? Would that work?

  25. #25 Martin R
    October 8, 2008

    Thanks, A. Primate!

    Tempyra, look, PZ’s middle name is Zachary, and still they fear him more. /-:

  26. #26 Jason Dick
    October 8, 2008

    I don’t know about the general willingness to believe among lefty liberals. But I do know that you’re right about successful scientists: they do not want to believe in anything.

    Well, the thing is, this is the scientific ideal. Different scientists succeed more or less in achieving this ideal, but I don’t think anybody does it perfectly.

    What typically prevents this from becoming a problem is that while individual scientists may (and frequently do) fail to achieve the scientific ideal of unbiased neutrality, different scientists usually end up with different biases, and so through continued debate, the scientific community as a whole is able to correct for these individual biases quite well.

    Now, I do think that scientists are, through training, significantly better on average at paying attention to the data and making unbiased evaluations than the general public, but I think it’s a mistake to claim that individual scientists are perfect at doing this.

  27. #27 Martin R
    October 8, 2008

    Please read again: “… successful scientists … do not want to believe in anything”.

  28. #28 Cafeeine
    October 8, 2008

    Tempyra, look, PZ’s middle name is Zachary, and still they fear him more. /-:

    Martin R, you really need to explain these things. Now you have me waiting for the first fundie to send Prof. Myers an e-mail addrsssing him as “PZ Zachary Myers”

  29. #29 craig
    October 8, 2008

    “Expatriates are not scary, because we’ve left the US and are no longer undermining its essential purity. Sorry. PZ will always be scarier than you (or me, but I don’t have a blog).”

    Oh how I long for the opportunity to leave this country so I can stop undermining its purity. Please, UK, France, Iceland, someone – let me in. I may be disabled and unemployable, but the US wants to be pure shithole and you can help.

  30. #30 Martin R
    October 8, 2008

    Caf, did you know that PZ’s parents actually named him Professor Zachary?

    Craig, Sweden is a pretty good place if you can stand six months a year of cold and darkness.

  31. #31 David Harper
    October 8, 2008

    Caf, did you know that PZ’s parents actually named him Professor Zachary?

    I’m reminded of Senator K Thorvaldson, one of the characters created by Garrison Keillor in his Lake Wobegon monologues. According to Keillor, “Senator” was the name his parents gave him, because they thought it sounded nice.

  32. #32 craig
    October 8, 2008

    Martin, I’m from Buffalo NY. I love cold and darkness. I get antsy and nervous when the sun’s out – it’s damned unnatural.
    Part of why I’m usually up all night and sleep all day.
    I’ve lived in FL, I hate it… moved back to NY to get out of the heat.

    I’d seriously love to leave, but countries all seem to have, like, requirements and stuff. Nobody wants disabled people coming in and going into their disability system and stuff.

    I’d take Sweden. I’ve heard Iceland is technically the happiest country though.

  33. #33 fester60613
    October 8, 2008

    Well, I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m a lefty liberal because I actually believe what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount. That must be very problematic for the fundies, eh?

  34. #34 Martin R
    October 8, 2008

    Jesus? Most unsavoury character, hairy anticonsumerist pinko commie. Certainly not somebody the Christian Right would want to be associated with.

  35. #35 Mr.Pendent
    October 8, 2008

    Just wanted to throw a definition in, since Martin seemed unfamiliar with it.

    When a previous commenter said that this guy as “a poe,” he was referring to Poe’s law, which states that

    “Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of Fundamentalism that SOMEONE won’t mistake for the real thing”

    My apologies if this was unnecessary…

  36. #36 AE
    October 8, 2008

    craig – Iceland *was* happy a few months ago. Now they’re probably more relieved that at least they still have geothermal energy and herring, as their banking sector has gone belly up.

  37. #37 PsyberDave
    October 8, 2008

    Martin, I had noticed that you speak English very well. I chalked it up to Scandinavian schooling and their emphasis on multilingualism. That you lived in Connecticut during the prime of your language acquisition years makes a lot of sense. You speak and write English very well. I wish I could speak another language with such aplomb. But I am not willing to work that hard.

    Here’s my Swedish: Het tor tala dragorlo ommgragladrem weioweh fiw Abba.

    See? Horrible. I am glad you post in English.

  38. #38 Sili
    October 8, 2008

    30% ?!!

    So you favour drastic, irresponsible taxcuts?!!

  39. #39 Buffy
    October 8, 2008

    Don’t you know that evolution is just a hypothesis? And in fundie-speak, “just a hypothesis” means “something half-baked nonsense scientists pulled out of their backsides”. If they’d learned about hypotheses in science class instead of church they’d know what they actually are, and that evolution is not “just a hypothesis”.

    But then again they wouldn’t be that perfect combination of frustrating, amusing and sad either.

  40. #40 Pavoreax
    October 8, 2008

    Hmm… I’m not sure the emailer will understand that doing experiments to see whether something works or not actually IS a process of attempting to disprove it. That may be the subtlety he has missed in his whole assessment of science.

  41. #41 KillerChihuahua
    October 8, 2008

    Clearly, the middle name is key to being scary. I strongly suggest you promote your middle name, or if it would not be considered “unusual” by the average American, you might want to consder a middle name change. I do think of you as a lefty liberal atheist, and if its any consolation, your last name is undeniably Swedish – which, while not nearly as scary as some names, is at least not Smith or Jones.

  42. #42 Martin R
    October 8, 2008

    Maybe I could begin using my wife’s family name, Zhou, as a scary middle name. There was a whole imperial dynasty by an identically transliterated name back in the Bronze Age. Scary!

  43. #43 Barn owl
    October 8, 2008

    Lived in Greenwich, Conn, attended Greenwich Country Day School.

    Ooooh, posh!

    Of course, I went through the public school system in a large Texas city, so, yeah, pretty much everything else is posh by comparison.

  44. #44 Kobra
    October 8, 2008

    This clown has never heard about that “falsifiability” thing, has he?

  45. #45 Elmo
    October 8, 2008

    I’m a scientist. In science, we study only natural phenomena, not supernatural. If, as many Christians believe, there were a God who created all things, perhaps by guiding evolution, but who reveals himself only to those with faith (so that the hearts of people might be made known, etc.), then we, as scientists, would never find evidence of him. Supernatural phenomena, such as divine creation, are outside the purview of science. We’re like a bunch of blind people claiming that stars don’t exist. How could we know given our tools? If people stopped attacking religion on a supposedly scientific basis, religious attacks on science would largely cease. They would no longer feel the need to make the ridiculous claim that creationism is science.

  46. #46 Elmo
    October 8, 2008

    Is evolution a falsifiable hypothesis? I can’t think of any hypothetical scientific discovery, short of discovering an obelisk like in 2001 Space Odyssey, that would displace evolution as the scientific explanation for the origin of species. Anyway, as far as I can tell, most Christians don’t object to the theory of evolution per se, but to people claiming that evolution invalidates their religion. The argument has become personal, and therefore, unproductive.

  47. #47 Garf
    October 8, 2008

    Whee, PZ linked you and what a good thing that is. Craig – come to Finland – it’s colder and darker than Sweden! :)

  48. #48 Martin R
    October 8, 2008

    Elmo, I disagree. Though it is possible to imagine a god that is invisible to science, that is not the kind of god that religious people actually believe in. See Victor Stenger’s book.

    Haha, you mean that religious people would become more tolerant if their beliefs were tolerated to a greater extent? Hardly. The conflict between science and religion lies in the central tenet of science that there are no sacred beliefs. Everything is open to questioning. Including religious/superstitious ideas, no matter how venerable.

  49. #49 Moses
    October 8, 2008

    Props to you!!!!

  50. #50 Elmo
    October 8, 2008

    It’s a straw man. It’s as if creationists were to lump all scientists together with the eugenicists of the first half of the 20th century. (A nasty movement which was vigorously opposed by churches, by the way, and thank goodness for that.) There is a wide variety of religious belief out there. To judge them all by their worst representatives is like saying that science is a failure that should be abandoned because of nuclear weapons.

  51. #51 Martin R
    October 8, 2008

    I’m more inclined to disregard the worst examples among the religious folks here in Sweden where we don’t elect them head of state.

  52. #52 David Marjanovi?
    October 8, 2008

    You criticize Moller for not trying to disprove his hypothesis. Tell me; do evolutionists try to disprove their theory?

    Of fucking course. Science is not some kind of quest for truth — it’s a quest for falsehood. We want to discover everything that is not the case. The basic question of science is: “If I were wrong, how would I know?”.

    Is evolution a falsifiable hypothesis? I can’t think of any hypothetical scientific discovery, short of discovering an obelisk like in 2001 Space Odyssey, that would displace evolution as the scientific explanation for the origin of species.

    A fossil rabbit skeleton in Silurian rock would spell deep, deep trouble for the theory of evolution…

  53. #53 Elmo
    October 8, 2008

    “Science is not some kind of quest for truth — it’s a quest for falsehood.”

    It would be more accurate to say that science is a quest for truth as tested by a quest for falsehood. And this only applies to hypothesis-driven science. It doesn’t really apply to exploratory, strictly observational studies. Most of the neuroanatomical work for which Santiago Ramon y Cajal is famous was not really hypothesis-driven. Rather, his work led to the positing of many hypotheses tested by other methods.

    “A fossil rabbit skeleton in Silurian rock would spell deep, deep trouble for the theory of evolution…”

    If such a fossil were found (assuming that it would not be disregarded as an artifact) it may be trouble for evolution, but it would not prove the truth of Christianity either. Neither does the absence of such a fossil invalidate the idea of some kind of divinely guided evolution. (Doesn’t Francis Crick believe something like that?) Evolution does not invalidate all religion, and all religion does not invalidate evolution. These things exist in separate spheres with very little overlap. The tiny intersection creates a lot of noise only because it’s become a front in a silly culture war, which like most wars, is unproductive and has more than anything to do with the desire of some humans (on both sides) to feel superior to other humans.

  54. #54 Malcolm
    October 8, 2008

    Is evolution a falsifiable hypothesis? I can’t think of any hypothetical scientific discovery, short of discovering an obelisk like in 2001 Space Odyssey, that would displace evolution as the scientific explanation for the origin of species.

    A cat giving birth to a dog.
    Or, as David mentioned above, fossil rabbits in the Cambrian

  55. #55 Elmo
    October 8, 2008

    “A cat giving birth to a dog.”

    This is the point I’m trying to make. If a cat giving birth to a cat is considered proof of evolution, it is not a falsifiable hypothesis. Rather, evolution is the only thing we can think of without positing extraterrestrial or divine intervention, the origins of which we would still have to explain.

  56. #56 Elmo
    October 8, 2008

    It wouldn’t hurt us to have a little humility. For 200 years we thought Newton was the last word in mechanics. For much longer, the Western world’s most learned men believed in the pre-Copernican model of the universe. And you know what? The model fit the existing astronomical data. (Of course, the model was tortured to fit to data.) Recognizing the inherent limitations of our disciplines will also make us better scientists as we will better understand what it is that we know, what we still do not know, and what we cannot know based on current methods.

    Religious people are not inherently opposed to science. Very few have any objections to medical research, for example. The religious people I’ve known have been very positive about my being a scientist. Then again, I don’t go around telling them that their beliefs are infantile or that their experiences are the wild delusions of weak minds.

  57. #57 Malcolm
    October 8, 2008

    This is the point I’m trying to make. If a cat giving birth to a cat is considered proof of evolution, it is not a falsifiable hypothesis.

    I didn’t say that cat giving birth to a cat was proof of evolution. You asked for something that would falsify the theory of evolution. I gave you an example. You seem to be confusing what is meant by ‘falsified’ and ‘falsifiable’. Just because evolution has not been falsified, that doesn’t mean that it can’t be.

    If such a fossil were found (assuming that it would not be disregarded as an artifact) it may be trouble for evolution, but it would not prove the truth of Christianity either.

    Are those goalpost heavy?
    Your original question made no mention of Christianity, or any other mythology.
    Do you seriously think that if evolution were falsified the only alternative would be that load of old dingo’s kidneys?

  58. #58 Kimpatsu
    October 8, 2008

    If you want to be as scary as PZ, you’ll have to do something unspeakable to a holy cracker first, Martin…

  59. #59 Elmo
    October 8, 2008

    “A cat giving birth to a dog.”

    Obviously, cats don’t give birth to dogs. This is something clearly observable in real time every day. The statement implies that the fact that cats give birth to cats is consistent with evolution. But it is also consistent with every religion on earth, and so it has no discriminatory power. Furthermore, even if there were some freak occurrence of a cat giving birth to a dog without artificial means, assuming we believed the report, it still would not disprove evolution. We would simply posit that occasional cross species reproduction confers a selective advantage (or at least does not confer a selective disadvantage). As for the rabbit, in practice, the occasional fossil evidence in the “wrong” geologic layer would just get dismissed as the result of disturbance (earthquakes, tectonic movements, ground squirrels, boy scouts…). Even if we found a lot of such fossils, the fact of the matter is, we would not concede defeat. We’d just adjust the proposed timing and/or sequence, as we do on a much smaller level all the time when we find new fossils.

    “If such a fossil were found (assuming that it would not be disregarded as an artifact) it may be trouble for evolution, but it would not prove the truth of Christianity either.”

    “Are those goalpost heavy? Your original question made no mention of Christianity, or any other mythology.”

    This whole discussion derives from an “Irate Christian E-mail.” I’m just discussing the post.

    “Do you seriously think that if evolution were falsified the only alternative would be that load of old dingo’s kidneys?”

    As I said, “Rather, evolution is the only thing we can think of without positing extraterrestrial or divine intervention, the origins of which we would still have to explain.” So go ahead. List some plausible alternatives to evolution to explain the fossil record and diversity of life on earth. I’m interested to see what you come up with.

  60. #60 Malcolm
    October 8, 2008

    Elmo,
    My point was that if some organism were to appear which obviously wasn’t genetically related to its parents, that would falsify evolution. That was what you asked for. An example of something that would prove that evolution was false. The same goes for the rabbit. If someone ever showed that any species existed at a time before it could possibly have evolved, like a rabbit before there were mammals, evolution would be false. Therefore, your claim that evolution can not be falsified is wrong.

    So go ahead. List some plausible alternatives to evolution to explain the fossil record and diversity of life on earth. I’m interested to see what you come up with.

    What?
    There is no other plausible explanation. That isn’t a weakness in evolutionary theory. If evolution were disproven, then we would be forced to come up with an other explanation. once more, that does not mean that evolution is not falsifiable.

  61. #61 BillyWarhol
    October 8, 2008

    The Flying Spaghetti Monster was all da Proof i needed!!

    ;))

    Good Riddance Bush + Brainwashed Flock*

  62. #62 Elmo
    October 8, 2008

    And my point is that evolution as a hypothesis is flexible enough to survive any plausible scientific discovery. (An animal giving birth to genetically unrelated offspring is too implausible to be useful here. It’s like saying that Zeus could come down and smite us all with thunderbolts for our unbelief, and then we’d know.) Do you really think that if a rabbit fossil were found in Silurian or Cambrian rock, that proponents of evolution would declare defeat? But let’s say for the sake of argument that there will soon be a series of startling and incontrovertible discoveries of rabbit fossils in Silurian rock, and that the scientific community rejects evolution as the basis for the origin and radiation of species. So, “without positing extraterrestrial or divine intervention,” what would the alternative hypotheses be? What are your non-”dingo kidney” ideas? Let’s have them.

  63. #63 Baka
    October 9, 2008

    Elmo’s just trolling you, Malcolm. Don’t waste too much time with him unless you find it fun. He’s convinced that if he shakes his head and says “nu-uh” and then demands that you synthesize from whole cloth an entire new theory that takes into account the diversity of life better than 150 years of research into the ToE, then he “wins”. And, it is this “win” that is the only goal that Elmo is after, not understanding and not compassion for those on the other side of the culture war.

    Elmo, you clearly have a sophomoric understanding of the theory of evolution. Someone has convinced you that the ToE is unfalsifiable, and that premise is now unfalsifiable in your own mind. You’re stuck. Until you can get rid of your own assumption on this point, I’m afraid you’ll never get anywhere with anyone that knows anything about the subject. Good luck with that.

  64. #64 Good Cristian
    October 9, 2008

    You G–dammed, satan worshippin, athiest libral. Overun by the demons of liberalism infectin the area you live like a stinking cloud. Whering womens clothing is an abomation.

    Godless fukin Swede – yer gonna brun!!!!

  65. #65 Martin R
    October 9, 2008

    *sings* “Burn, baby, burn. Dee, dee, deeee. Burn, baby, burn.”

  66. #66 Elmo
    October 9, 2008

    Please read my posts again without hostility. People are getting all upset over nothing. We’re just scientists discussing science. If you don’t think we’re stuck with evolution as our only available scientific option, just come up with another one. It doesn’t have to be good, just different. In my opinion, evolution in its most general sense of radiation of increasing complexity from simpler progenitors is all we have as scientists to explain the origin and diversity of life on Earth. The problem stems from the generality of the hypothesis, and this may be an insurmountable problem. No matter what observations we make in the future, we will put it into this context because we have no competing models. In practical terms, it is not falsifiable within the confines of science, and there is very little we can do about it. (What would Karl Popper do?) If you disagree, come up with a scenario in which evidence is found that causes the scientific community to reject evolution. What model might we turn to? I would enjoy reading it. But I would reiterate that just as we look back on pre-Copernican astronomers as primitives, one day our own understanding of science will also seem naive. If the string theorists turn out to be wrong, one day school children will read about that work and laugh at us. What if it turns out that use-dependent synaptic plasticity is not the basis of declarative memory? Well, at least that is a testable hypothesis. Given how much we have yet to learn, we would do well to exercise some humility in our dealings with the public. You know, the public that funds our work and pays our salaries.

    Baka na Kimpatsu, Nihonjin janakereba, Nihongo o tsukau no wa urusai yo. Nihonjin dattara, gomen. Oyasumi.

  67. #67 Felicia Gilljam
    October 9, 2008

    In my opinion, evolution in its most general sense of radiation of increasing complexity from simpler progenitors

    But … evolution doesn’t imply increasing complexity. It just happened that way for a few lineages. Back to the books, Elmo. :)

    But look at this in a historical context. I think part of the reason why evolution seems unfalsifiable to you is that, well, so far, everything fits. Whereas biologists interpret this to mean that evolution is probably true, you interpret it to mean that we’re just making things up to fit the theory. I don’t agree. Predictions have been made about what we should find in the fossil record as well as what molecular data should look like if the ToE is true. If those predictions had been wrong, the ToE would have been in for some trouble. But they weren’t. So far, all the evidence corroborates the theory, to the point that by now, it’s very difficult for us to come up with anything else.

    If you think that it happened a different way, because you’ve seen some anomaly in the evidence that people seem to be ignoring, you start working on a competing theory. That’s what Darwin, Wallace and others did. While doing it for fun, as a thought experiment might work, it’s a lot more difficult. Why, it’s very much like simply making things up…

    I’m rambling a bit here which is funny because I was going to finish by asking: Elmo, what’s your point?

    Also, I’m not Japanese and don’t speak the language, so this is a guess: are you telling Kimpatsu that one shouldn’t use japanese if one is not Japanese? Cause that’s weird. :)

  68. #68 DuWayne - not such a gud cristian
    October 9, 2008

    So did you feel for a moment, that you were up there in the ranks of hated atheists? Because I just don’t think you qualify if you haven’t had incoherent rants from illiterate fundies. And the email that inspired this post was just way too reasonably written and all to lacking in irony.

    Personally, I love you godless fucking Swedes. But once upon a time, I was a burgeoning fundamentalist (ironically, it was my inability to reconcile ToE with anything approaching my religious beliefs and maintain intellectual honesty that brought it all down) and I know how to play the part.

    I’m sorry that you can’t seem to attract the “right” sort of religious nuts (not really, because invariably they are my fellow Americans). I hope that you got a chance to feel the glee that must accompany the reception of such rants, even if only for a moment.

    Elmo -

    If you don’t think we’re stuck with evolution as our only available scientific option, just come up with another one. It doesn’t have to be good, just different.

    It’s not all that likely that anyone here actually believes that ToE is likely to be disproved or falsified. The objection is to your rather extremely unscientific take on it. You are clinging to ToE with a rigidity that is the antithesis of good science. There are in fact hypothetical circumstances in which ToE would be falsified. That they are exceedingly unlikely is irrelevant – unlikely as it is, the potential remains.

    That said, it really is exceedingly unlikely. It would require that a rather massive bar be jumped, a truly magnificent body of evidence would have to be disproved. But when we accept with your rigidity that ToE is that much as absolute, we are accepting a dogmatic approach that is absolutely the same and just as irrational as the most fundamental theist.

    Don’t be a fundie Elmo, science and reason does not need fundamentalism. In fundamentalism lies the seeds for the most magnificent destruction. In fundamentalism lies the seeds for impenetrable hatred. In fundamentalism lies the seeds for everything negative about revealed religion and does not require the good bits.

  69. #69 Elmo
    October 9, 2008

    Maybe I should have explained things in a more linear way and without digressions into attempted humor, but the last two posts continue to miss the point. Well, see you around.

  70. #70 Baka
    October 9, 2008

    Heh.

  71. #71 Mike McCants
    October 9, 2008

    “I’m even scarier than PZ!”

    Not “over here”. You’re on the other side of that little pond.

    “In practical terms, it is not falsifiable within the confines of science,”

    In practical terms, theories that are actually true will almost never get falsified. But if the theory was actually false, then someone, somewhere might discover something that would be evidence that it was false. So, if such evidence is conceivable, then the theory is falsifiable. I can conceive of “anti-gravity”, so if it is discovered, then the theory of gravity will need to be modified.

  72. #72 Malcolm
    October 9, 2008

    Elmo,
    The germ theory of disease is also extremely well supported by evidence and unlikely to be falsified any time soon. Should we be more open-minded about the humour theory of disease?

  73. #73 DuWayne
    October 10, 2008

    Elmo -

    It is not me who is misunderstanding here. It’s simple – there is always the potential that any scientific theory will be disproved. Thus it is that ToE is falsifiable, in much the same way that the germ theory of disease is falsifiable. Who knows? We may well discover that there is a god, that god has been fucking with us (or “allowing” Satan to fuck with us) and all that evidence really is a load of crap. Could be that all of a sudden it will be quite apparent that disease really actually is demonic in nature, that ToE is a load of shit and holy shit, the world is flat – resting on the backs of four (five?) elephants that in turn are riding a great cosmic turtle. While this is highly unlikely (well, except for the last bit), it is a glimmer of a possibility. Or (and probably more unlikely) maybe the germs really do thrive around the actual diseases we think they cause, instead of causing the diseases that folks get.

    All of that is exceedingly unlikely. It is probably more likely that I will wake up tomorrow, having been imbued with the ability to make things float by the power of my mind and start shitting gold bricks (not terribly likely, unfortunate, as I am about to lose my current home and probably have to drag my family across country back to midwestern hell). But it certainly is a wee glimmer of a possibility and while it is such – or there is any glimmer of a possibility we are actually wrong, it is falsifiable.

    Let me reiterate; rigid adherence to absolutes – even exceedingly likely absolutes that are supported by mountains of evidence, is fundamentalism. Fundamentalism is ugly, even when the fundamentalist is likely correct in their assertions. Fundamentalism and it’s bastard child, ideological purity are responsible for the vast majority of ills in the world, the rest are the result of malfunctioning brains.

    And because I love pedantry (who doesn’t really?), actually the theory of evolution has been falsified and completely restructured – more than once. Ultimately, it is probably being falsified right now and we will change the state of our understanding. I know that there are significant debates going on about lots of aspects of ToE and there probably always will be. In just the time I have been out of highschool (sixteen years) the text has been updated several times and what a kid learns now is rather different than what I learned about. Not because I didn’t get taught ToE, not because better people write the text books – it’s because our fundamental understanding of how evolution functions is very different today

    And guess what? The germ theory of disease, that’s changed too. Not as drastically as ToE, but then GToD is not quite as complex (at least not in the same way), as ToE.

    Full Disclosure; I’m not a scientist, I’m a high school dropout (I also like to curse a lot, not very genteel).

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