Framing Science

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“Behold the power and glory of the scientific method!,” quotes The Onion in a satirical spoof of science enthusiasts flocking to a wall stain of the image of Darwin (above.) The parody plays on the type of religious-like hero worship of Darwin and hardline atheist scientists that is common to some of the discussion threads here at ScienceBlogs.

As the Onion article hilariously describes of the sacred image:

Despite the enthusiasm the so-called “Darwin Smudge” has generated among the evolutionary faithful, disagreement remains as to its origin. Some believe the image is actually closer to the visage of Stephen Jay Gould, longtime columnist for Natural History magazine and originator of the theory of punctuated equilibrium, and is therefore proof of rapid cladogenesis. A smaller minority contend it is the face of Carl Sagan, and should be viewed as a warning to those nonbelievers who have not yet seen his hit PBS series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage.

Still others have attempted to discredit the miracle entirely, claiming that there are several alternate explanations for the appearance of the unexplained discoloration.

“It’s a stain on a wall, and nothing more,” said the Rev. Clement McCoy, a professor at Oral Roberts University and prominent opponent of evolutionary theory. “Anything else is the delusional fantasy of a fanatical evolutionist mindset that sees only what it wishes to see in the hopes of validating a baseless, illogical belief system. I only hope these heretics see the error of their ways before our Most Powerful God smites them all in His vengeance.”

Comments

  1. #1 Coturnix
    September 9, 2008

    Wow! You totally missed! It is doing satire of Christians by reversing the usual pareidolia where people see Jesus in a muffin and such. Shows how Christian pareidolia is meaningless and stupid.

  2. #2 Matthew C. Nisbet
    September 9, 2008

    Of course. But in doing so the article also shows how the rhetoric and behavior of many science enthusiasts–especially those who mix their science with their atheism–borders on the religious.

  3. #3 Anon
    September 9, 2008

    Wow, seriously? That’s the message you got from it? I’d say there are at least 2 degrees of separation between that article and your interpretation (let alone your misleading headline).

    Some could easily see this as poking fun at the religious–after all, it would be seen as ludicrous if what they describe actually happened, and yet we have all seen many examples of exactly such behavior on the part of this or that group of believers. Jesus in a potato, anyone?

    To suggest that this is poking fun at the scientists takes a bit of imagination. To further say, as your headline does, that it “Pokes Fun at Science Bloggers & Commenters”, is outright fantasy on your part. Nowhere in the article are science bloggers mentioned, or the role of something approaching an internet virtual community even hinted at. This is purely the product of your own imagination.

    You claim, in a nutshell, “[t]he parody plays on the type of religious-like hero worship of Darwin and hardline atheist scientists that is common to some of the discussion threads here at ScienceBlogs.” Even if we take that as a legitimate interpretation of the article (which, let me be clear, I do not), your headline is utterly misleading.

    Shoddy.

  4. #4 pam ronald
    September 9, 2008

    that is really good. Thanks!

  5. #5 Blair T
    September 9, 2008

    I have to agree with cortunix. This is a parody of religious belief not science. The title of your post is flat out wrong

  6. #6 Phoca
    September 9, 2008

    Where is this religious hero-worship of which you speak? I don’t see it on Scienceblogs. It appears to me to be a satire of religion, and highlights the fact that evolutionary biologists don’t share that kind of hero-worship of Darwin.

  7. #7 Becca
    September 9, 2008

    1) If you don’t experience “the power and glory of the scientific method” as a rapturous phenomenon, ur doin it rong.
    2) That’s not to say the relationship of scientists to truth is identical of religious believers to Truth.
    3) It is just a freakin stain.

  8. #8 Aaron Golas
    September 9, 2008

    Really? You see this as a swipe at evolutionists, rather than those (usually creationists) who accuse evolution of being just another religion?

  9. #9 Koray
    September 9, 2008

    I agree with coturnix.

  10. #10 Sigmund
    September 9, 2008

    “the article also shows how the rhetoric and behavior of many science enthusiasts–especially those who mix their science with their atheism–borders on the religious.”

    No it doesn’t. Its funny because it juxtoposes the idea of science followers behaving in a mirror image manner to the types from the religious community that fall for Virgin Mary toast. The reality is so different that its funny.
    In other words its humor derives from the fact that atheist scientists never behave like that and describing them acting in that way is jarring to our expectations.

  11. #11 Jason
    September 9, 2008

    Very nice! The article neatly pokes fun at both sides. Hopefully there won’t be too many vocal nonbelievers who just can’t take the joke. Darwin knows plenty of Christians won’t!

  12. #12 Warren
    September 9, 2008

    The parody plays on the type of religious-like hero worship of Darwin and hardline atheist scientists that is common to some of the discussion threads here at ScienceBlogs.

    Can you cite some references to support this claim?

  13. #13 cashmoney
    September 9, 2008

    That image appears to have really great hair, don’t you think?

  14. #14 Anon
    September 9, 2008

    Why didn’t you approve my comment? It truthfully pointed out a different interpretation, and more importantly truthfully pointed out that even if your interpretation is correct, your title is misleading.

    My comment was not spam, which you moderate for.

  15. #15 Anonymous
    September 9, 2008

    Of course. But in doing so the article also shows how the rhetoric and behavior of many science enthusiasts–especially those who mix their science with their atheism–borders on the religious.

    Of course. But in doing so the article also makes fun of people who are prone to seeing things in jokes that aren’t really there. It’s realy a meta-meta satire about joke pareidolia. People see what they want to see.

    That is, unless it is really meta-meta-meta satire making fun of me!

  16. #16 Randy
    September 9, 2008

    sorry matt, but the onion is clearly only poking fun at christians (actually most likely only Catholics) for their abilities to see holy figures in strange objects.

  17. #17 idahogie
    September 9, 2008

    It’s making fun of those people who claim that scientists are treating “Darwinism” like a religion.

    Think about it. The article shows what would happen if people actually did worship Darwin. The fact that nobody actually does is what makes it funny.

    I’m with Coturnix and Anon. You missed it badly.

  18. #18 tai haku
    September 9, 2008

    Once again you miss the point Matt – aren’t you supposed to be the communication skills guy?

  19. #19 Ian Paul Freeley
    September 9, 2008

    I dub this post:
    Humor Appreciation–Epic Fail.

  20. #20 Anonymous
    September 10, 2008

    well, that’s all the funny analysed right out of that then.

  21. #21 Michael X
    September 10, 2008

    This is simply classic Onion juxtaposition humor. It places the group least likely to engage in such silly behavior in the place of those who are. That’s what’s funny. It isn’t an actual critique of SB or its commenters. It didn’t even mention SB or its commenters. You seem to be reading what you want to see into this and actually missing the joke at the same time.

  22. #22 William Wallace
    September 10, 2008

    While it is silly to portray evolanders as thinking a random image was magical or somehow significant, (since no self-respecting evolander would be so obviously superstitious) the fact that many in the pandas thumb crowd push “Darwin day” does support the theory that Darwinism is in fact a religion of sorts.

  23. #23 Joss
    September 10, 2008

    God forbid different people finding different things funny about the article. I think that the funniest things are the comments and replies!

  24. #24 Valhar2000
    September 10, 2008

    But in doing so the article also shows how the rhetoric and behavior of many science enthusiasts–especially those who mix their science with their atheism–borders on the religious.

    By lambasting behaviour that science enthusiats never engage in, but religious people engage in all the time?

    You forgot to recite the 5 stanzas of that poem, Matt. Or something…

  25. #25 Lycosid
    September 10, 2008

    Joss,
    I’d be laughing a lot harder if Mr. Nisbet’s article was intended as satire as well.

  26. #26 gillt
    September 10, 2008

    How’d you arrive at the title of this post? I don’t see any obvious or subtle connection between the article and science bloggers/commenters. I hesitate to mention the uncharitable alternative: projection.

  27. #27 James Hanley
    September 10, 2008

    Wow, Matt, you have really demonstrated that you’re quite the tool. I never paid much attention to your blog before, and if this is the quality of your thought, I think I’ll continue not paying much attention.

    Perhaps you aren’t that familiar with the Onion. Check out this example, and tell me who you think they’re making fun of.

  28. #28 itchy
    September 10, 2008

    Sigmund is correct. There is exactly one side of the debate that displays this behavior, and it’s not the scientific side. That’s the hook for this joke.

  29. #29 William Wallace
    September 11, 2008

    While it is silly to portray Darwinists as thinking a random image was magical or somehow significant, (since no self-respecting Darwinist would be so obviously superstitious) the fact that many in the pandas thumb crowd push “Darwin day” does support the theory that Darwinism is in fact a religion of sorts.

  30. #30 Immunologist
    September 11, 2008

    This obvious parody does not target evolution as religion, as the DI would have it. Rather, it is a parody of religious folks who believe that every stain or knot hole or fungal growth that bears a passing resemblance to a religious icon (be it the deity or his mother) is a miracle to be worshiped and prayed to. I am surprised that those who undertake to tell us all how to “frame” science could have so badly misconstrued this parody. Ah well.

  31. #31 Der Bruno Stroszek
    September 11, 2008

    Just like commemorating Martin Luther King’s birthday means you worship Martin Luther King! And anyone who takes a holiday on Veteran’s Day is a polytheist who worships every single veteran!

    You’re not so good at the thinking, are you, William?

  32. #32 Larry Fafarman
    September 12, 2008

    To me, the article is too close to the truth to be satire. I was completely taken in — I didn’t realize that it was satire.

    As for the Darwinists in the article, their behavior is too realistic to be satire. We have the “I love Darwin” stuff (even a doggie shirt), the “Friend of Darwin” certificates handed out at a reunion of the Dover plaintiffs team, the ridiculous Darwin Day merrymaking, the Clergy Letter, the Darwin Sunday sermons, the Darwin-Lincoln crap, the evolution-is-central-to-biology crap, etc.. Then there is the logo of http://www.ThankGodForEvolution.com

    On the fundy side, there is an article titled “Evolutionists should not be allowed to roam free in the land” in the newsletter of the Creation Science Association For Mid-America. The article said,

    Evolution is the apologetic system of the end time religion. It will not be eradicated. Well, not until the antichrist kills all of them in order to promote and make way for worship of himself.

    Even then, it will not be the sane people (Christians) who will kill all the evolutionists, it will be the criminally insane folks who worship the antichrist, who will, incidentally, as the Bible predicts, be an Assyrian. . . .it is my theory that it will not, of course, be Christians who kill all the evolutionists, but Muslims who delight in killing both evolutionists and Christians.

    Nevertheless, I find it instructive and entertaining to analyze what should be done with evolutionists before their end comes. . . .

    Since evolutionists are liars and most do not really believe evolution we could employ truth serum or water-boarding to obtain confessions of evolution rejection.

    The banner of the CSAFMA says,

    O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with thee. Amen.
    I Timothy 6:20-21, KJV

    Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.
    II Corinthians 10:5, KJV

    Also, after the pro-ID members of the Dover school board were voted out, televangelist Pat Robertson said,

    “If there is a disaster in your area, don?t turn to God, you just rejected him from your city. And don’t wonder why he hasn’t helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I’m not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that’s the case, don’t ask for his help because he might not be there.”

    Also, Robertson said in a later statement,

    “I was simply stating that our spiritual actions have consequences and it?s high time we started recognizing it,” he said. “God is tolerant and loving, but we can’t keep sticking our finger in His eye forever. If they have future problems in Dover, I recommend they call on Charles Darwin — maybe he can help them.”

    Satire, my eye!

    Well, at least they should have saved it for April Fools’ Day.

    Also, we should distinguish between the terms “parody” and “satire.” There is some overlap in the meanings of the two terms, but “parody” usually means a deliberately distorted imitation of a specific work or a style of work whereas “satire” usually means ridicule of society in general. A “parody” can of course include satirical elements. This Onion article should be called “satire” rather than “parody” because it does not imitate any specific work or style of work.

  33. #33 Tony Sidaway
    September 12, 2008

    You seriously got the idea that this was a poke at science and not at the credulous religions?

    The fact that scientists don’t use the language of religion, but here are depicted doing so, suggests the opposite. It was a satire of religion.

  34. #34 Anon
    September 12, 2008

    “In fact” and “of sorts” cancel each other out, you must realize. Ford ownership is a religion “of sorts”. Cleveland Browns Fandom is a religion “of sorts”. Commenting on Framing Science is a religion “of sorts”.

    You could have saved some pixels by simply eliminating both phrases. But nice try at framing… it almost sounds like “of sorts” means something other than “but not really.”

  35. #35 Rob
    September 13, 2008

    I’m pretty sure this is a spoof on Fundamentalist Christians who make the claim that evolution is a religion. The actions portrayed are the kind of thing religious people do all the time. For example, the recent staring into the sun to see the virgin Mary in Italy where tens of people went blind. This is making fun of the people that say evolution is a religion because only religious people would act this way about a stain on the wall. Any person that understands evolution as being true (less religious people) would never treat Darwin in this kind of way because Darwin was anti-religious in his discoveries and theories. It makes fun of the idea that evolution is a religion because it is so clearly not a religion and actually very much the opposite.