Mike the Mad Biologist

I See Stupid People: The Vox Day Edition

binoculars
To avoid permanent brain damage, the Surgeon General recommends that Vox Popoli be read only through the StupidVu9000

So Vox Day stumbled across my post about the utility of evolutionary biology (among other things) and he went berserk.

Maybe he came across the link by way of ScienceBlogling PZ, and since there’s no love lost between those two, he went nuts by association.

Maybe he read the word “emotional” in the post and became absolutely terrified that his tiny little penis would fall off.

Or maybe he’s just a complete fucking moron.

I’ll lay out what I meant by “moral”:

  1. Creationists argue that evolutionary biology will lead to all sorts of immorality, and that it should not be taught in schools (or taught in such a watered down manner that it will effectively not be taught at all). This means fewer people will be able to become evolutionary biologists, as well as a general public that is more ignorant of biology.
  2. As I described during my talk, and repeatedly discuss on my blog, including in the post that got Vox’s panties in a bunch, genomic based medicine (human and infectious disease), not to mention other areas of applied biology, relies on evolutionary theory, tools, and methods. All those articles about ‘decoding the book of life’ don’t happen without evolutionary biology.
  3. Developing vaccines, discovering new antibiotics, and finding new therapeutic treatments, which we do in genomics by using evolutionary biology, are moral actions.
  4. Denying the use (and existence) of these powerful tools, as well as the potential training of future scientists will impede our ability to cure disease.
  5. Reducing our ability to combat infectious disease is immoral.
  6. Therefore, opposing evolution, as creationists do, because it is theologically inconvenient is wrong, and supporting evolution is a good thing–a moral thing (and ethical too).

Granted, Vox’s reading comprehension skills are minimal, but this is a moral argument on behalf of evolution and against creationism (whose only contribution to fighting infectious disease is “pray”). Regarding the “emotional” component, that was referring to rhetoric. Rather than giving a dry, wonkish explanation of why you do the science that you do (more about that in a minute), we need to use language and explanations that touch not only logic, but human emotion. The creationists are great at this: what does the death and resurrection of Jesus have to do with teaching evolution? Nothing. But it is a useful rhetorical device. When we discuss why evolution matters for medical advancement–not how we do the science–there’s nothing wrong with playing the ‘disease card’–which is also a useful rhetorical device–because it’s true.

It’s also ridiculous that Vox makes me part of Dawkins’ atheist argument when I’m not an atheist. In fact, along with Razib, I’m one of the consistent defenders of religion (at least some religions) on ScienceBlogs. But because PZ agrees with a statement I made, I’m now an atheist? PZ wishes it were so easy…

And Vox also misunderstands what science is when he writes:

The EMOTIONAL and MORAL case for evolution? You can go ahead and write off TENS now, because what was once merely worthy of skepticism is rapidly approaching utter farce. With defenders like this, one need not even pay any attention to those openly attacking the theory, however credible or crazy they might be. So much for the claims to be objective science…

Science, including evolutionary biology, is simply a tool, albeit a powerful tool, that we can use to understand how the physical and material world works and how it came to be. It is not a theological belief system. I can use the tool of science for good (develop a vaccine) or evil (create a biological warfare agent). Why I would want to or should do either of these things is not a matter for science, but morality and, yes, emotion (make sure your penis is still there, Vox).

One more thing: when you write “A Mad Biologist sticks a philosophical gun to his forehead and splatters the room with what previously passed for his brain”, that doesn’t mark you as a tough guy. You just sound like a wimp pretending to be a tough guy.

Comments

  1. #1 Jonathan Vos Post
    March 27, 2008

    “One more thing: when you write ‘A Mad Biologist sticks a philosophical gun to his forehead and splatters the room with what previously passed for his brain’, that doesn’t mark you as a tough guy.”

    Let’s combine this thread’s central argument with that quote, to make a frame:

    “Guns don’t kill people. Creationists kill people.”

  2. #2 Orac
    March 27, 2008

    Developing vaccines, discovering new antibiotics, and finding new therapeutic treatments, which we do in genomics by using evolutionary biology, are moral actions.

    As I’ve pointed out before on multiple occasions, Vox is doesn’t appreciate vaccines and is prone to parroting antivaccinationist lies that he clearly doesn’t understand. Indeed, he’s recently served up some more antivaccinationist idiocy. I’ve just been too damned ill to give it the proper serving of not-so-Respectful Insolence that it so richly deserves. Maybe tomorrow.

  3. #3 Lynne
    March 27, 2008

    I like your explanation of why we do science. Because many denialist folks use emotion uncoupled from rationality, mentioning the emotional reasons we do science seems to confuse some people (or maybe they are idiots?)

  4. #4 Jim RL
    March 27, 2008

    Unfortunately, too many people (>0) still choose prayer over seeking medical attention. If these creationists think their hands are clean in creating general distrust of science and technology they are deluding themselves. You can’t rail on and on about the evils of science and modern society without creating dangerous ignorance.

  5. #5 Stuart Ritchie
    March 27, 2008

    Oh, I wouldn’t give little Theodore the attention he craves. I can imagine him sitting there in a darkened room, looking at all his blog comments, drooling down his chin and masturbating furiously.

    I have never, EVER, read a blog where the author misunderstands so much, yet screams and shouts quite so loud. He’s so insufferably arrogant and self-congratulatory I wouldn’t be surprised, after your comments about his penis, if he now posts pictures of his organ online along with the caption ‘LOOK! ITS REALLY BIG! I’M A BIG BOY! LOOK AT ME! LOOOOOK AT MEEEEEEE!’

    Is it not time that those of us with a vague level of intelligence leave Theodore, his supine wit and his inane commenters to wallow in their own sad, irrelevant little world?

  6. #6 Lynne
    March 27, 2008

    I like your explanation of why we do science. Because many denialist folks use emotion uncoupled from rationality, mentioning the emotional reasons we do science seems to confuse some people (or maybe they are idiots?)

  7. #7 Mike O'Risal
    March 27, 2008

    So Vox Day stumbled across my post about the utility of evolutionary biology (among other things) and he went berserk.

    Shortest. Trip. Ever.

    Saying that a guy who fancies himself the Voice of God “went berserk” is a bit like saying that Pat Robertson “suddenly became religious.”

  8. #8 Dan S.
    March 27, 2008

    To avoid permanent brain damage, the Surgeon General recommends that Vox Popoli [sic] be read only through the StupidVu9000

    Oh no no no, the guy in the picture is looking through the the StupidVu9000 backwards! That way the stupid is going to get gathered, concentrated, and appear massively enlarged.* For someone to be reading vox day that way risks brain damage at the very least – worst case, the head will simply explode from a massive overdose of teh stupid!**

    You need to look though the other end, so it appears even tinier and insignificant than it really is; that’s the only way to protect yourself against serious damage from stupidity exposure.

    * please forgive any basic errors re: stupidity optics – you see, I read voxie without taking appropriate safety measures, . . .

    ** of course, it may be that this is a merely a picture of someone trying to view the pictures discussed by Stuart Ritchie in the above comment, but still, dangerously misleading . . .

  9. #9 James F
    March 27, 2008

    It’s also ridiculous that Vox makes me part of Dawkins’ atheist argument when I’m not an atheist. In fact, along with Razib, I’m one of the consistent defenders of religion (at least some religions) on ScienceBlogs. But because PZ agrees with a statement I made, I’m now an atheist? PZ wishes it were so easy…

    But you were speaking at a Skeptics meeting…and there were…atheists there…and even…and even…*gasp*…gay people!

  10. #10 Bee
    March 27, 2008

    I am an atheist, and I sometimes defend religion – well, bits of it. This virulent idea that everyone must be entirely for or entirely against theists/atheists/scientists, and must never associate with ‘those people’, is, frankly, stupid… like li’l Weenie Vox.

  11. #11 Spaulding
    March 27, 2008

    but this is a moral argument on behalf of evolution and against creationism

    I think what you mean is that it’s a moral argument on behalf of teaching evolution.

    Moral arguments are, of course, not relevant to the historical evidence of evolution or to the predictive power of the theory of evolution.
    But I agree with your argument that suppressing or undermining knowledge of biology impedes medical progress. And that means death, sufferring, and disease that might have been prevented. And that should be judged as morally evil.

  12. #12 The Barefoot Bum
    March 28, 2008

    Do you mean future toddler chopper Vox Day?

  13. #13 Shoula
    March 28, 2008

    Vox is a nut.

    But what I like about his book The Irrational Atheist is that he exposed what Pro War Muslim hating bigots Hitchens and Harris are, and the many factual errors in their books.

    (Harris even makes excuses for pre-emptive Nuclear War in TEOF…p 129. Utter insanity.)

  14. #14 Shoula
    March 28, 2008

    Hey Bum, did you know abortion often involves chopping up fetues.

    And that they feel pain?

    Sure you did, but I bet you will make an excuse for it.

  15. #15 Shoula
    March 28, 2008

    Hey Mike the Mad Biolgist…you seem to know about Vox’s Penis.

    Tell me more. I never met a penis I didn’t like.

  16. #16 WATYF
    March 28, 2008

    I find this interesting. I’m inclined to believe that you have a better case for the science behind what you’re saying, and yet, you’re being entirely hypocritical and brash.

    You claim that Vox went “berserk” and “got his panties in a bunch”, and yet when I read his post, I found no such thing. On the other hand, you (the one making the claim of others “going berserk”) have 1) shouted expletives at him, 2) made several ad hominem attacks, and 3) insulted the size of his penis.

    I fail to see how he’s going berserk or how you have the ability to accuse him of it.

    But that is just an aside… the real questions are:

    How does evolutionary biology (as can be practiced and experimented on within a lab) relate to the theory of evolution (as speculated back through time)? I’m asking here… so this is the part where you educate me, not insult my penis.

    Also, what moral basis are you using to judge the “morality” of teaching evolution?

    Please let me know. Thanks.

    .

  17. #17 Norman Doering
    March 28, 2008

    Mad Mike wrote:

    …when you write “A Mad Biologist sticks a philosophical gun to his forehead and splatters the room with what previously passed for his brain”, that doesn’t mark you as a tough guy. You just sound like a wimp pretending to be a tough guy.

    That, and I have another theory. Vox writes stuff like that to provoke you into responding and getting him linked. In this post on my blog:
    http://normdoering.blogspot.com/2008/03/pox-on-vox-i-say.html

    Vox’s name is frequently popping up on blogs. It’s getting increasingly obvious that Vox is consciously trying to manipulate us by insulting us. Lately Vox has been daring us to read his book. For example in a recent post on Vox’s blog, “PZ whines about Expelled,” Vox complains about Ben Stein getting more attention from PZ than he does. He complains that, “Not even a woman scorned is as upset as the would-be scientific expert who is ignored as irrelevant.” And that line might be projection with Vox being the real scorned woman:

    Because, PZ, as we’ve already seen with TIA, whenever someone does make a strong case against secular scientists or atheists, these self-proclaimed champions of intellectual discourse suddenly go silent and try to pretend they’ve never heard of it.

    See how Vox Day tries to provoke PZ into reading and commenting on his book? He claims that the book is a strong case against secular scientists and atheists based only on his own insistence and a few echo chamber reviews he’s gotten.

  18. #18 Jonathan Taft
    March 28, 2008

    Norman are you referring to his freebook. You know, the one thats free. As in hes giving copies of it away. You know how if no one wanted to pay for it they wouldn’t have to. It being free and all. Also Im sure the atheist creator of the blog Unscrewing the Inscrutable would agree he is an echo chamber lol. Intellectually bankrupt Norman is intellectually bankrupt.

  19. #19 Norman Doering
    March 28, 2008

    Jonathan Taft wrote:

    Norman are you referring to his freebook. You know, the one thats free. As in hes giving copies of it away. You know how if no one wanted to pay for it they wouldn’t have to. It being free and all. Also Im sure the atheist creator of the blog Unscrewing the Inscrutable would agree he is an echo chamber lol. Intellectually bankrupt Norman is intellectually bankrupt.

    So what if it’s free? That doesn’t mean the guy doesn’t want attention. And even name recognition is important to any author who does sell.

    I actually reviewed one of the Chapters here:
    http://normdoering.blogspot.com/2008/01/just-one-more-of-vox-days-lies-andor.html

    Vox flat out lied about Sam Harris’ supposed errors and I told him that before he published the book. If you check out Brent Rasmussen’s review on “Unscrewing the Inscrutable” you’ll see I got into it with Vox himself over that and he argued in incredibly bad faith — trying to claim Sam meant all terrorists were Muslim.

    If you want to see intellectually bankrupt, then look in a mirror.

  20. #20 toodles
    March 28, 2008

    “based only on his own insistence and a few echo chamber reviews he’s gotten.”

    I hardly think Brent Rasmussen qualifies in that, and he was one of the first reviewers.

    http://www.unscrewingtheinscrutable.com/node/1727

  21. #21 Norman Doering
    March 28, 2008

    toodles wrote:

    I hardly think Brent Rasmussen qualifies in that, and he was one of the first reviewers.

    Actually, I think Brent’s review does qualify as an echo. Brent was going after the fact that whatever mistakes Harris, Dawkins and Hitchens made was irrelevant to his own atheism — so he bought into the claim made by that he had trashed those guys. Vox had to lie to do it and Brent just wasn’t seeing those.

  22. #22 Norman Doering
    March 28, 2008

    I forgot a word:

    …so he bought into the claim made by that he had trashed those guys. Vox had to lie to do it and Brent just wasn’t seeing those.

    That should be:

    …so he bought into the claim made by VOX that he had trashed those guys. Vox had to lie to do it and Brent just wasn’t seeing those.

  23. #23 WATYF
    March 28, 2008

    This is just way too much ad hominem and way too little substantive argument. I don’t care about Vox or how much attention you assume he wants (or how little you think his dick is). Address a specific argument and show it to be in error or else you’re just spouting hot air.

    Norman, I read your interaction with Vox (and I’ve read TIA) and the only problem I found with his assertion about Harris re: suicide bombers is that it was unclear in its intent. On page 15 he explicitly states (footnote 16) that he knows it was “up until recently” that the Tamil Tigers committed the most suicide bombings (i.e., he knows that the Tigers don’t hold that “crown” anymore). But when Harris says, “Why is it so easy–you-could-almost-bet-your-life-on-it easy–to guess the [suicide bomber’s] religion?” he *is* inaccurate, and that’s what Vox was referring to when he said that Harris, “strongly impl[ied] that almost all suicide bombers are Muslim”. If Harris had said, “Right now, today, muslims have a greater than fifty percent majority of suicide bombings”, then he would have been right. But that’s not what he said. Frankly, at that point, I would have reiterated that it was “up until recently” that the Tigers were the “most active”, and would have shown that even now that the muslims are “in the lead” the odds still aren’t that good, but the most I can chalk that up to (without intimate knowledge of Vox’s innermost thoughts, which, surprisingly enough, none of us have access to) is poor clarity of an argument.

    Yes, right now muslims hold the “title” of the most bombings, but they don’t hold the title of “all” or even “near all”, and they didn’t hold that title until just recently (and, looking at historical precedent, most likely won’t hold that title after we leave Iraq). You would still, even today, be an idiot to “bet your life” that any random suicide bomber on the planet is a muslim, especially considering all of history (not just the last couple of years).

    You then went on to contend that it is “religion” that “makes it easy” to become a suicide bomber, but as he pointed out, this makes no sense (due to the fact that gun powder and religion have been around for so long and yet wide-spread suicide bombing is a more recent tactic which is often tied to occupation. And that’s not to mention suicide tactics being used in WWII (motivated by nationalism in Japan, not religion) before it really “caught on” in the Islamic world. You have assumed this causation (of religion = “easy to blow yourself up”) without sufficient evidence. A much more likely (although still not “slam dunk”) hypothesis would be that being occupied as a country makes it easy to blow yourself up.

    Btw, just because you can produce an example of one or two would-be suicide bombers whose country wasn’t being occupied does not 1) disprove the hypothesis that occupation is a primary motivator for suicide bombing (far outweighing any religious influence) or 2) prove that religion makes it easy to blow yourself up. Isolated incidents of crazy people doing crazy things in the name of [insert religion, political cause, or social activism here] have been around forever. The fact that a single “un-occupied” religious guy got on a plane with a shoe bomb does not prove that religion makes it easy to blow yourself up any more than the fact that a gay guy once molested a little boy means that being gay makes it easy to molest children. If you can demonstrate sufficient correlation over time and then establish causation, then great… but at this point you don’t have either.

    .

  24. #24 Derek Gilbert
    March 28, 2008

    Mike: You take as self-evident the moral value of protecting and preserving human life. Please illuminate: Why do you believe this is so, and how does this differ from the views of those who believe God created human life?

    Also, please explain why a belief in a creator God precludes a desire to understand creation. My wife is a creationist with a degree in molecular biology and you appear to be arguing that she shouldn’t exist.

  25. #25 Norman Doering
    March 28, 2008

    WATYF wrote:

    You then went on to contend that it is “religion” that “makes it easy” to become a suicide bomber, but as he pointed out, this makes no sense…

    Are you saying it makes no sense that it’s easier to willingly die if you believe your actions will get you paradise? That it makes no sense that because Muslims had positive view of martyrdom (shahada) they might have an easier time convincing themselves to die?

    …(due to the fact that gun powder and religion have been around for so long and yet wide-spread suicide bombing is a more recent tactic which is often tied to occupation.

    There’s a lot more occupation than there is suicide bombing.

    And that’s not to mention suicide tactics being used in WWII (motivated by nationalism in Japan, not religion)…

    Says you. The Japanese were heavily influenced by Shinto beliefs.

    …before it really “caught on” in the Islamic world.

    And it caught on bigger than ever.

    You have assumed this causation (of religion = “easy to blow yourself up”) without sufficient evidence.

    So, paradise, shahada and the most suicide bombers so far isn’t reason enough for you?

    A much more likely (although still not “slam dunk”) hypothesis would be that being occupied as a country makes it easy to blow yourself up.

    What about other occupied countries? The French during WWII, Germany after the war? Africa and India under British rule…

    I think it’s your hypothesis that doesn’t hold water and in fact requires a certain amount of bad faith to make.

  26. #26 Alex Deam
    April 4, 2008

    Mike, I read your original post on “making a stand” etc and I totally agree. Vox cannot understand what you’re saying,that following the truths of science is 100% moral since it is science that cures disease not prayer or anything. I had a gander at Vox’s post on this and then looked at its comments section. You should have a look. It basically consists of one guy Cumquat, who seemed to be the only one making any sense, arguing that there is an inherent evolutionary moral compass in us, and that you don’t need a belief in God to have morals as there’s no use for them. I give you some of the retarded comments there:

    Nate: “”My response was, “In the last two minutes, someone died from a bacterial infection. We take a stand for him.” ”

    No we don’t. Disease thins the weak from the herd. We’re glad he’s dead… and we hope he died before his subpar DNA got into the gene pool.”

    Zion’s Paladin: “What advantages would people in history have had for developing something which tells them they cannot simply take what they want, they cannot have any woman they want, they cannot kill anyone for any reason, save self-defense?”

    These comments and more (possibly worse) besides show all the world view of the Nazis, the whole extreme form of social darwinism being put into practice ie “you are dying therefore you are weaker than me and don’t deserve to live because you weaken my species. In fact you are not a member of my species at all, you are sub-human.”

    Sick, sick, sick. Clearly Mike you are fighting the neo-nazis now, but we neo-darwinists shall never surrender

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