Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Gary Shumway Makes a Fool of Himself

Remember Gary Shumway, the clueless dolt from redpills.org? Well he’s back with yet another idiotic attack on me based primarily on his own ability to think and observe. He’s all upset about my post on Ron Paul and evolution, particularly about a comment that he falsely believes was written by me. Quote below the fold:

We also read amongst the buzz comments by ‘me’ (who I will assume to be the poster, Ed Brayton himself. It sure sounds like him and if it is not him, then it is safe to say Ed would agree with ‘me’) joking about Ron Paul:

He’s such a frigging baffoon {it’s actually spelled buffoon, lol}.

PaulTards like Trey and Evan {Trey and Evan posted generally positive comments regarding Dr. Paul} above never fail to show up on the intertubes to rationalize this sort of moronic nonsense; having hitched their wagons to someone who is certifiable crazy {Guess ‘me’ had inside information, I’d like to see it} they don’t have the ‘tools’ needed to disengage from impending doom {now that’s scary}. Which makes Ron Paul look even worse.

And the vicious cycle continues.

It would seem trivially easy, to anyone with an IQ above room temperature, to figure out whether the comment from “me” was actually written by, well, me. It’s not as though I don’t comment on my own blog. Indeed, I have a good dozen or so comments of my own on that very thread. Even the minimally observant would quickly discover that I comment on my own blog in my own name, not as “me.”

No, I did not write that comment. And no, I don’t agree with it. That comment was one of (sadly) hundreds of comments on that particular post that were all heat and no light. Both the Ron Paul haters and the Ron Paul sycophants (I am neither; as I expressed in some detail, I find a great many things about Ron Paul to be applause worthy and a few things to be rather disturbing, enough to keep me from voting for him) tended to engage in this sort of name calling rather than offer anything of substance.

By the way, Shumway shows his own cluelessness about science when he writes:

{Theories by definition are not proven (except in small minds like Ed’s.) Thus, not accepting a theory is certainly a justifiable position, regardless of what the zealots might otherwise opine and scoff. Interesting when people disagree with leftists such as Ed et. al. that are they pronounced ‘certifiable’. So much for being liberals. They aren’t. They are just as dogmatic as the religious fringe. They are actually minimizing their own position when they denigrate the opposite fringe. Now if Dr. Paul did not accept gravity, the laws of thermodynamics, or laws of motion, etc. then maybe one could look askance as to why but a theory, by definition, is “a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural, in contrast to well-established propositions that are regarded as reporting matters of actual fact.” Not accepting a theory is rational and justifiable.}

Unsurprisingly, he pulls his definition of “theory” from a general dictionary (dictionary.com) rather than from a science dictionary. That is emphatically not what a theory is in science, as I’ve explained ad nauseum over the last few days. In the vernacular, theory means something like “an unproven conjecture”, but in science it means something quite different.

A scientific theory is a well tested explanation for a wide range of data. In science, theory is the highest level of certainty assigned to an explanation, not a step on some mythical ladder of certainty on the way to “fact” (which in science is just a bit of observational data) or “law” (which is nothing more than a formal statement of a repeated observation of how matter behaves under a specific set of conditions.

Those who have no grasp of the philosophy of science labor under the false perception that science begins with a hypothesis or a theory which, when “proven”, becomes a “fact” and when really, really “proven” becomes a law. But this is utter nonsense. As was explained in my post on fact and theory in science, theories are never considered “proven” and they do not “become” facts; rather, they explain facts.

The whole purpose of science is the development of theories. Theories are explanations that work, that have been tested repeatedly and that make accurate predictions and retrodictions about a wide range of data (facts). Theories do not become anything but well validated theories. Theory does not mean “not yet proven” because no explanation in science is ever considered proven beyond all doubt. As Gould said, the highest level of certainty we can get in science is “confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.”

The theory of evolution, like the theory of relativity, the big bang theory, the germ theory of disease, the atomic theory and many other well tested theories, has reached that point. It is so successful at explaining such a vast range of data, and has predicted the nature of so much new evidence, that one can only withhold provisional assent out of ignorance.

Does that mean it’s perfect, that every single question has been answered? Of course not. But that is true of every single scientific theory. The example everyone likes to use about an idea in science that is “proven”, yet there is much about gravity that we do not understand. There are still many questions to be resolved between the general theory of relativity and a theory of quantum gravity.

Why, then, does evolution get singled out as tenuous when every single scientific theory in the world has unanswered questions? Why don’t people harbor the same doubts about gravity or the germ theory of disease? Because in most cases, those theories do not challenge their religious views. That’s the bottom line.

As for Shumway, perhaps next time he could spend, oh, 30 seconds actually thinking and observing before he falsely accuses me of writing something I did not write. Perhaps, if he’s an intellectually honest person, he might even offer an apology for jumping to a false conclusion that was so easily avoidable. Yeah, I’m not gonna hold my breath either.

Want the punchline to all this? Here’s how they describe the meaning of the blog’s name, Red Pills:

‘Red Pills’ is a metaphor for truth and knowledge as per the movie, ‘The Matrix’. Optimally each post and your related comments encapsulate the truth. We seek the truth, where and how ever far it takes us.

Uh huh. The truth about whether I wrote that comment could have been easily discerned with about 10 seconds of thought and observation. I guess we’ve found out how far they’ll go to “seek the truth.”