Pharyngula

What a strange argument

Melanie Phillips is fulminating against Dawkins for the strangest of reasons. She chews him out for dismissing dowsing, crystal healing, conspiracy theories, reptoids, etc. as charlatanry — not because she believes in any of that nonsense, but because, in essence, it’s all Dawkins’ fault. You see, once upon a time, everyone was too busy believing in rational religion to dabble in magical thinking, but once science caused the collapse of Christianity, the irrational woo-woo silliness rushed in to take its place.

Whoa. Now there’s a twisted chain of thought.

I don’t suppose we should wonder whether people believed in superstitious silliness before Darwin or even before Bacon. I guess we aren’t supposed to notice that the Christian beliefs in chanting entreaties to an invisible man or nibbling on enchanted crackers in a ritualistic cannibal feast are, well, irrational. Or that perhaps the ready substitution of magical thinking for religious piety suggests a rather obvious equivalence between the two. And please, no one should bring up the unfortunate coincidence that it isn’t atheists who are standing in line at Lourdes or seeing Mother Teresa in a tortilla or letting televangelists thwack them in the forehead or are sending in $10 bills with their paper prayer mats.

After all, if Melanie Phillips thinks those obvious observations are irrelevant to her claim, who am I to argue?

Now somehow, in all this complaint that science has driven away the religious defense against irrationality, she comes to the weird conclusion that science itself is irrational, and that one of Dawkins’ own arguments should be turned against it.

There is no evidence for this whatever and no logic to it. After all, if people say God could not have created the universe because this gives rise to the question “Who created God?”, it follows that if scientists say the universe started with a big bang, this prompts the further question “What created the bang?”

That’s nice. I think that’s a good question. I also think physicists are thinking about it right now. The point of the “Who created god” question, though, is to point out the inadequacy of the “goddidit” answer, and in particular, to address the argument that everything must have a creator, since that obviously isn’t true for at least one thing. The Big Bang is a singular event, with no intimations of eternity or causality — that remains to be determined.

We aren’t done with the twisty paths of Phillips-brand logic, though, because the next argument against the rationality of science is that scientists don’t like Intelligent Design creationism. This is a certain sign that scientists are irrational, of course.

These findings have given rise to a school of scientists promoting the theory of Intelligent Design, which suggests that some force embodying purpose and foresight lay behind the origin of the universe.

While this theory is, of course, open to vigorous counter-argument, people such as Prof Dawkins and others have gone to great lengths to stop it being advanced at all, on the grounds that it denies scientific evidence such as the fossil record and is therefore worthless.

Yet distinguished scientists have been hounded and their careers jeopardised for arguing that the fossil record has got a giant hole in it. Some 570 million years ago, in a period known as the Cambrian Explosion, most forms of complex animal life emerged seemingly without any evolutionary trail.

These scientists argue that only ‘rational agents’ could have possessed the ability to design and organise such complex systems.

Well, yes, we do think that idea is worthless. It’s not true that complex animal life emerged without any evolutionary trail: we’ve got the pre-Cambrian fauna as fossil evidence (although the connections with later organisms are complicated and murky), and most importantly, we’ve got molecular evidence of pre-Cambrian evolution, and of the relatedness of multicellular life to bacteria and protists, for instance. There is no “hole”, although there is a stretch of ambiguity.

Her argument for the irrationality of modern science does have one significant assertion. She’s found a rule we follow that is so perverse, so bizarre, so incomprehensible, that it automatically demolishes the scientific position. It’s one that that pinnacle of rational thought, evangelical Christianity, does not follow, so it’s a fault we can pin directly on those absurd scientists. I’ve put it in bold below so that you don’t miss it.

Whether or not they are right (and I don’t know), their scientific argument about the absence of evidence to support the claim that life spontaneously created itself is being stifled – on the totally perverse grounds that this argument does not conform to the rules of science which require evidence to support a theory.

She does have a point. That “perverse” business of requiring evidence to support a theory is one we’re a stickler for, and we’re clearly using it as a flimsy excuse to browbeat those poor ID creationists. Her argument would be much more telling if it were the case that science actually supported a theory of evolution that lacked evidence, but that isn’t the case.

Next time she writes on this subject, though, I do hope she makes that point much earlier in the essay so that I don’t have to wade through all the rest to get to the laughs.

Comments

  1. #1 Rob G
    August 7, 2007

    This is the Daily Mail you’re talking about, which has pieces like this.

    Yes, it’s supposed to be funny, but…

  2. #2 breakerslion
    August 7, 2007

    “These findings have given rise to a school of scientists promoting the theory of Intelligent Design, which suggests that some force embodying purpose and foresight lay behind the origin of the universe.”

    They have a school now? Not just a Flintstone’s Nauseum, I mean, Museum?

    “Professor Howard, Professor Fine, Professor Howard, report to the Headmaster’s office!”

    Or maybe she meant they travel around in a great bunch underwater?

  3. #3 NC Paul
    August 7, 2007

    The Bible provides a picture of a rational Creator and an orderly universe – which, accordingly, provided the template for the exercise of reason and the development of science.

    Has this woman actually read the Bible?

  4. #4 Numad
    August 7, 2007

    “After all, if people say God could not have created the universe because this gives rise to the question ‘Who created God?'”

    That’s just a straight lie right there.

  5. #5 Lago
    August 7, 2007

    “Whether or not they are right (and I don’t know), their scientific argument about the absence of evidence to support the claim that life spontaneously created itself is being stifled – on the totally perverse grounds that this argument does not conform to the rules of science which require evidence to support a theory.”

    I have been trying to think of something to say on this above, but as I try, only, “Blahbleepablooeh?” keeps coming out in weird varying versions…

  6. #6 Shawn Wilkinson
    August 7, 2007

    Less religious whackery, more masked boobies!

  7. #7 Brownian
    August 7, 2007

    Oy, what an idiot.

  8. #8 Janine
    August 7, 2007

    Can we retrofit this argument so that Dawkins is also to blame for the popularity of mediums in England during the Victorian era. Something must of shaken the faith of those fine christians

  9. #9 robd
    August 7, 2007

    “The Bible provides a picture of a rational Creator”

    Uh, no.

    A rational creator with any sense of human behavior would have created a fence around the apple tree.

  10. #10 Bob L
    August 7, 2007

    Whether or not they are right (and I don’t know), their scientific argument about the absence of evidence to support the claim that life spontaneously created itself is being stifled – on the totally perverse grounds that this argument does not conform to the rules of science which require evidence to support a theory.

    The lack of proof for ID is proof for ID. Oh that is hilarious. She must have just read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

  11. #11 Kristjan Wager
    August 7, 2007

    Both Anthony Cox and I have taken on that stupid column.

  12. #12 mndarwinist
    August 7, 2007

    I think it is the fault of the police that we have all these different gangs today. Only if they had turned a blind eye on the Mafia…
    I am really at a loss on how to finish this.

  13. #13 MikeG
    August 7, 2007

    “The Big Bang is a singular event”

    HA! I want that on a t-shirt. I’ll have a beer with anyone who laughs.

  14. #14 BD
    August 7, 2007

    Melanie Phillips is generally wrong about a great many things, this is just the latest thing she is wrong about. She is a UK Neocon and if you can picture Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter or Pat Roberts saying it, it will come out of her mouth or pen.

  15. #15 Blake Stacey, OM
    August 7, 2007

    MikeG:

    You’re on.

  16. #16 Jonathan Vause
    August 7, 2007

    Why do so many of you ScienceBloggers waste your life reading the UK tabloids? Come on, people, there’s a real world out there

  17. #17 DutchDelight
    August 7, 2007

    “The heart of the Judeo-Christian tradition is the belief in the concept of truth, which gives rise to reason.”

    I’ve read the whole post, it like this, all the way down.

  18. #18 MikeG
    August 7, 2007

    Blake, it would be my pleasure to have a beer with a Molly winner. Maybe you can teach me to post more interesting comments!

  19. #19 SEF
    August 7, 2007

    You see, once upon a time, everyone was too busy believing in rational religion to dabble in magical thinking, but once science caused the collapse of Christianity, the irrational woo-woo silliness rushed in to take its place.

    That’s actually a very old / traditional (and hypocritical) apologetic for religion. It forms the basis for some famous quotes – naturally being regarded as no less quote-worthy by the undiscerning for the minor detail of the sentiment expressed therein being factually untrue! To them, the idol-worshippers, perceived eminence is everything and real evidence is nothing.

    Previous examples:
    GK Chesterton
    Umberto Eco

    Probably the closest it comes to being true is that crazy people who go regularly to mainstream churches are slightly less likely to do crazy things of the murdering people kind than isolated religious people are (somewhere about the place there is research on this!). Basically, that’s because the socialised crazies then have at least some human contact and some people telling them, in an authoritative manner, that their craziness is unacceptable. However, those functions could be performed better in other ways (plus there’s some self-selection there anyway!). So it isn’t enough of an excuse to keep religion around and it certainly doesn’t stop all the crazy and atrocious things which even mainstream religions believe and do.

  20. #20 Coragyps
    August 7, 2007

    Hey, breakerslion! Don’t be dissin’ my heroes like that…

  21. #21 Tom
    August 7, 2007

    In case any of your readers dont already know this – the Daily Mail (or the Daily Hate as I call it) is a foaming-at-the-mouth rabid right-wing rag. Unfortunately it is also very popular, especially with people who like to get their opinions ‘ready made’.

  22. #22 birdiefly386sx
    August 7, 2007

    Whether or not they are right (and I don’t know), their scientific argument about the absence of evidence to support the claim that life spontaneously created itself is being stifled – on the totally perverse grounds that this argument does not conform to the rules of science which require evidence to support a theory.

    Well, that and they don’t have anything but big talk and crap theories.

  23. #23 Brownian
    August 7, 2007

    She hits the nail on the head with this sentence: “Whether or not they are right (and I don’t know), their scientific argument about the absence of evidence to support the claim that life spontaneously created itself is being stifled–on the totally perverse grounds that this argument does not conform to the rules of science which require evidence to support a theory.”

    Well, not the whole sentence. Just this part: “I don’t know.”

    Thanks, Melanie. Anything else you’d like us to know you’re ignorant about?

  24. #24 Sastra
    August 7, 2007

    Since a lot of the folk who believe in so-called New Age nonsense like alt med and mediums also purport to be Christian, there’s yet another nail in the coffin of her argument.

    These findings have given rise to a school of scientists promoting the theory of Intelligent Design, which suggests that some force embodying purpose and foresight lay behind the origin of the universe.

    Ha! Look, look right here — they’re doing it again! A belief that “some force embodying purpose and foresight lay behind the origin of the universe” could easily be said to describe the sort of vague, unspecific, hovering-in-the-background no-clash-with-science God-works-through-nature type belief that a theistic evolutionist might hold. So that’s not a proper definition of “Intelligent Design” at all. ID, like all forms of creationism, involves believing that God had a direct, miraculous finger in events, working against Nature in order to perform His magic.

    By conflating ID with general belief in God, they seek to gain credibility. It’s the old bait-and-switch; trying to sneak the irrational magic by the unwary by resting it on the back of a similar, far more reasonable belief. Given this definition, ALL theists reject evolution, on every level.

    Caught ‘em again.

  25. #25 SLC
    August 7, 2007

    As I pointed out on Mr. Wagers’ blog, Ms. Phillips also claims that Prof. Dawkins says that Darwinian evolution explains the origin of life. This, of course, is utter crap as neither Prof. Dawkins or any other biologist makes such a claim. Proof positive that Ms. Phillips is an ignoramus.

  26. #26 Ginger Yellow
    August 7, 2007

    The funniest thing is that she’s writing this in the Daily Mail, the single most effective and consistent propagator of woo in Britain. It buys into everything, from MMR->autism to the Bible Code to crystals to astrology.

  27. #27 Dahan
    August 7, 2007

    Damn, that made my head hurt. I’m getting to old to be able to try to do the mental gymnastics these loons ask us to do. What an amazing amount of crap. How do they think this stuff up? Sit around with a gallon of cheap wine and ask questions like “What can we pin on the non-theists tomorrow?”?

  28. #28 Janine
    August 7, 2007

    Personally, I think the woo-woo stuff is much less dangerous than religion (some hokey alt-med stuff to be excepted from said generalization).

    Posted by: writerdd | August 7, 2007 06:02 PM

    I am afraid you are wrong here. Check out “The Secret”. Ask the universe for good things and you will get what you ask for. This is the idea of ‘like attracting like’. Conversely, if you think of cancer or other bad things, you will get that. In other words, if you get ill or injured, it is your fault. Yep, that is as bad as the christian idea of original sin.

  29. #29 Zeno
    August 7, 2007

    it isn’t atheists who are standing in line at Lourdes or seeing Mother Teresa in a tortilla

    Oh, damn, has Mother Teresa started working the flat-bread circuit? The Virgin Mother is going to be pissed. I wonder who will find the first muffin, tortilla, or toasted cheese sandwich in which Mary and Teresa are trying to elbow each other aside so as to control that crowded space? It will be miraculous.

  30. #30 386sx
    August 7, 2007

    The Virgin Mother is going to be pissed. I wonder who will find the first muffin, tortilla, or toasted cheese sandwich in which Mary and Teresa are trying to elbow each other aside so as to control that crowded space?

    Lol, the Mary and Teresa mud wrestling tour appearing live at your neighborhood tree stumps.

  31. #31 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    August 7, 2007

    [Melanie Phillips:]
    “So, um, I don’t know the first thing about science. But since my religion imagines that life started when the universe started, scientists must think so too. And life, that means evolution, right?

    I know one thing though – as I’m no longer allowed to imagine up things I like to know for certain, it is unfair that science have facts to know. I rather don’t know at all!”

    But the part I laughed most at was when she fantasies that “DNA evidence” implies that abiogenesis won’t work, while she “don’t know” whether to accept creationists claims or not.

  32. #32 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    August 7, 2007

    [Melanie Phillips:]
    “So, um, I don’t know the first thing about science. But since my religion imagines that life started when the universe started, scientists must think so too. And life, that means evolution, right?

    I know one thing though – as I’m no longer allowed to imagine up things I like to know for certain, it is unfair that science have facts to know. I rather don’t know at all!”

    But the part I laughed most at was when she fantasies that “DNA evidence” implies that abiogenesis won’t work, while she “don’t know” whether to accept creationists claims or not.

  33. #33 frog
    August 7, 2007

    The best is: Dawkins pours particular scorn on the Biblical miracles which don’t correspond to scientific reality. But religious believers have different ways of regarding those events, with many seeing them as either metaphors or as natural occurrences which were invested with a greater significance.

    The heart of the Judeo-Christian tradition is the belief in the concept of truth, which gives rise to reason. But our postreligious age has proclaimed that there is no such thing as objective truth, only what is “true for me”.

    For para 1: “Metaphors”! Either the parting of the Red Sea is a miracle, or one really terrible metaphor. Really terrible one, which leads the believer to see a miracle. Why do Christians try to claim that their beliefs are metaphors, when so many of them make terrible metaphors, about par with the weekly creative writing exercise in a freshman writing course?

    Para 2: Who has declared that there is only what’s “true for me”? That’s exactly what the authoritarian churches have always claimed – that’s what’s true for the pope is what’s true, regardless of objective evidence. So a few Parisian philosophes have replaced the pope with the people. Same crap, new pants.

  34. #34 Don
    August 7, 2007

    ‘It was GK Chesterton who famously quipped…’

    No it bloody wasn’t. It was Cammaerts. And even if it had been, how the hell does sticking Chesterton’s name on to a smug platitude make it true?

    Silly, silly woman.

  35. #35 SEF
    August 7, 2007

    It was Cammaerts.

    Eg: as per the misattribution section here

    However, since when have the religious cared much about fiddling small details such as truth and accuracy anyway?! Their whole world view is an elaborate (and generally vile) fantasy. They frequently demonstrate that, for them, it’s all about lying for the big picture cause – and, also as already mentioned, the idol/hero-worshipping thing comes naturally to them, given their established predilections for imaginary super-being friends.

  36. #36 Ian H Spedding FCD
    August 7, 2007

    Back in the UK, my parents took the Daily Mail as their regular newspaper for many years. I know what it’s like.

    If it told me the sun rose this morning I wouldn’t believe it until I’d checked out the window.

    As for Melanie Phillips, I wouldn’t even line the cat’s litter tray with what she writes.

  37. #37 frog
    August 7, 2007

    That is actually a very interesting misattribution, because it’s tied to Chesterton’s “It’s the first effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense.”

    Now, any one with an ounce of sense knows that common sense is just another word for common stupid. Nothing important in the world is the way you learned it at Momma’s knee. So, this conflation of common sense being lost without God, with a lack of belief in God meaning a belief in everything, shows a double stupidity: not only the gullibility of the religious, but the general gullibility of thinking that your intuition means anything outside your circumscribed social group.

    Whenever anyone says, “Well, it’s common sense,” I know to throw them in the pile with astrologers, witch-burners and Christians.

  38. #38 JOHN
    August 7, 2007

    Only in America, will science overtake religion becuase their is so much free speech. Its a good thing.

  39. #39 386sx
    August 7, 2007

    But the part I laughed most at was when she fantasies that “DNA evidence” implies that abiogenesis won’t work, while she “don’t know” whether to accept creationists claims or not.

    She’s had it out for Dawkins and evolution for years. Obviously she’s been swallowing a bunch of creationist propaganda.

    Here’s a quote from 2002:

    “Scientists like Dawkins say such questions are unanswerable and therefore should not be asked.”

    Yeah I’m sure Dawkins doesn’t want anybody asking questions.

  40. #40 Adnan Y.
    August 7, 2007

    “Blahbleepablooeh?”

    Ba-weep-gra-na-weep-ninny-bong.

    (I think this shows my age) O_O

  41. #41 cbutterb
    August 7, 2007

    Whether or not they are right (and I don’t know), their scientific argument about the absence of evidence to support the claim that life spontaneously created itself is being stifled – on the totally perverse grounds that this argument does not conform to the rules of science which require evidence to support a theory.

    PZ, I parse this sentence as asserting that the reason the grounds are perverse is that ID actually does conform to the evidentiary rules of science (because of the Cambrian Explosion); I don’t think it’s saying that it’s the rules of evidence that are perverse.

    Which would still make her wrong, but not because she’s cheekily pshawing the value of evidence–after all, she had just offered alleged evidence by citing the Cambrian.

    I could be wrong; her phrasing is ambiguous.

  42. #42 Paul Flocken
    August 7, 2007

    I wish you had an open thread; oh well.

    I can just picture PZ as the new union boss.
    http://www.usatoday.com/tech/webguide/internetlife/2007-08-06-blogger-union_N.htm

  43. #43 Greta Christina
    August 7, 2007

    Okay. Now that I am done shrieking in uncontrollable hysterical laughter, frightening both the cats and my girlfriend, I would like to say this:

    “And please, no one should bring up the unfortunate coincidence that it isn’t atheists who are standing in line at Lourdes or seeing Mother Teresa in a tortilla or letting televangelists thwack them in the forehead or are sending in $10 bills with their paper prayer mats.”

    I would also like to point out that it isn’t atheists who are buying healing crystals, getting their chakras aligned, or channeling their spirit guides.

    I know/ have read a huge number of people who were raised with conventional religion and have abandoned it… but still feel compelled to say things like, “But I pursue my own spiritual path.” Which, since I live in Northern California, seems very often to involve things like healing crystals, chakras, and spirit guides.

    Admittedly this is anecdotal, but what the heck: It isn’t atheism/ rationalism/ naturalism that paves the way for a belief in New Age woo-woo nonsense. When you’ve been raised with religion, I think it’s very hard to give it up altogether.

  44. #44 Ted Powell
    August 7, 2007

    #36

    Either the parting of the Red Sea is a miracle, or one really terrible metaphor.

    or a natural phenomenon.

    IANA Hebrew scholar, but I’ve read that Yam Suph is generally taken to mean Sea of Reeds, a much shallower body of water.

    According to Exodus 14.21(NIV)

    all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land

    Moses, as someone who had spent significant time hanging out in the desert, was very likely aware of what a strong east wind would do, and was probably a fairly good weather forecaster, besides.

    Note towards the end of Exodus 13 they spent some days and nights following around pillars of cloud and fire. Then (I suggest) when Moses figured the weather was right:

    the LORD said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. …”

    Sucking in the Egyptians when he knew he had a secure line of retreat I interpret as military strategy, not as a miracle.

    The bit about stretching his hand out over the sea was (IMHO) simply showmanship.

  45. #45 Tom Foss
    August 7, 2007

    Adnan Y (#43):

    Ba-weep-gra-na-weep-ninny-bong.

    (I think this shows my age) O_O

    I wonder how many other people actually get this one.

    Ted (#47):

    …or a natural phenomenon.

    IANA Hebrew scholar, but I’ve read that Yam Suph is generally taken to mean Sea of Reeds, a much shallower body of water.

    I’ve heard the Sea of Reeds thing before, and it really sounds like a stretch to me. I could see where it might be true, but I find it a lot easier to believe that the story is primarily fiction, rather than conflated history. Especially given the dearth of evidence to suggest the Hebrews were ever enslaved by the Egyptians.

    I know the Daily Mail is a steady job, but with writing this poor, Melanie’s never going to make it as a paperback writer.

  46. #46 tony
    August 7, 2007

    Tom Foss: oh dear! just had lyric flashback to my first band in high school!!!!!!!

    not a good memory!

  47. #47 Epistaxis
    August 7, 2007

    There is something to be said for (or, rather, against) Maoist-style regimes that simply ban religion, the effect tending to be that the population opens up to even zanier superstitions. But that’s a top-down approach, and Dawkins’s works from the bottom up, educating and questioning rather than imposing.

  48. #48 Kimpatsu
    August 7, 2007

    I’ve crossed swords with Phillips in the past, as has Ben Goldacre (the Bad Scientist). Melanie is a stauch supporter of the notion that vaccinations cause autism. I wrote to her at length explaining why she was wrong, and I got back a six-word answer: “I stand by what I wrote”. She sees herself as a tireless crusader fopr the underdog against scientists, who are all made and live in ivory towers.

  49. #49 Monado
    August 7, 2007

    News flash: Moses didn’t exist either.

  50. #50 Mooser
    August 7, 2007

    Speaking of creationists, The Seattle Times seems to feel that being President of the Discovery Institute makes Bob Chapman qualified to write about Iraq. The article, No Surrender uses the standards of “Creation Science” to divine the consequences of leaving Iraq. They will come to get us.
    How did I know that was what he would say?

  51. #51 Mooser
    August 7, 2007

    If the peace party in late-19th-century England had held back Gen. Charles Gordon before the Battle of Khartoum, the “Mahdi” (Mohammed Ahmed) of the Sudan would have prevailed and the history of the region would have been rewritten. But, Gordon pressed his attack. Relief troops from England were delayed, Gen. Gordon himself was killed in battle, and Khartoum for a while was lost. But new British and Egyptian troops ultimately prevailed. The would-be Mahdi and his movement were destroyed.

    Bob Chapman, President of the Discovery Institute

  52. #52 Brain Hertz
    August 7, 2007

    the knee-deep stupidity in the article is nicely eclipsed by one of the Daily Mail commenters (and from the whole comment I’m quite sure he’s serious):

    Dawkins big bang theory is laughable…

    Common sense tells us that to cause an explosion there needs to be at least three constituents, the explosive material and a match to light the fuse so my question to Dawkins is who was holding the match?

  53. #53 hoary puccoon
    August 8, 2007

    Melanie Phillips keeps saying ID, but she clearly doesn’t know what ID is. What she’s talking about is abiogenesis and a kind of Francis Collins style theism. Do you think the Disco Institute gang will jump in and say, ‘Oh, no, that’s pretty mainstream. We actually stand for Go– ah, the Intelligent Designer stepping in and making malaria quinine resistant because He didn’t think African had enough problems!’?
    No, the DI will claim her article as a victory for their side, sliding past the point that ID has to be completely misrepresented to be acceptable to the British public.

  54. #54 Dave C
    August 8, 2007

    mmmm Christianity is rational because it uses evidence and reason from the bible.
    then later rationality and reason is wrong because who needs evidence before doing things.
    This Phillips person seems to think reason is great at the start of her post and tries to explain how Iron age superstition is in fact rational but by the end of her post completely turns 180 degrees around.
    Soooo by her last few paragraphs her first claim is complete and utter crap.
    Damn religious neocons are really the same the world over… complete bull-shitters and awful debaters, and I am not that good at debating but you could really defeat this one with her own short opinion piece.
    Wow a classical English education is really not worth the cost

  55. #55 Interrobang
    August 8, 2007

    I wonder who will find the first muffin, tortilla, or toasted cheese sandwich in which Mary and Teresa are trying to elbow each other aside so as to control that crowded space?

    Now I want one of those plastic things like those ones you can get to put on grilled cheese sandwiches to toast your initial in the top, that shows Mary and Mother Theresa duking it out.

  56. #56 tigtog
    August 8, 2007

    I would also like to point out that it isn’t atheists who are buying healing crystals, getting their chakras aligned, or channeling their spirit guides.

    This atheist must confess to buying a few “healing crystals” over the years, but only because they were particularly pretty pieces of coloured rock that I like to use as suncatchers.

    Definitely never had my chakras aligned or channelled spirit guides, although I nearly once put my shoes under the bed of a young man with a penchant for such woo, but then I didn’t want to talk to him.

  57. #57 hinschelwood
    August 8, 2007

    Fairly typical of Mad Mel. I haven’t heard this argument before, she’s obviously been extending her version of logic recently.

    She was/is one of the biggest anti-MMR cheerleaders in the UK. I remember Ben Goldacre performed the most fantastic and complete take-down of her nonsense in the Guardian. It was so damning, she wrote a response in the same paper, just so that Guardian readers could get a taste of her insanity. She had clearly got no idea of what she was talking about at all, her ideas of statisics were totally wrong, and yet she continued to insist that MMR was dangerous.

  58. #58 Andrew
    August 8, 2007

    I think the best Mad Mel column was back when she was still writing for the Observer. Britain’s moral decline could only be arrested by everyone obeying a single strong spiritual leader, and the Archbishop of Canterbury was obviously not the man for the job. No, the man for the job was the Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks. So basically, everyone in the UK ought to become a Jew. I suppose we’re most of the way there, since we already believe we’re the chosen people.

  59. #59 uriel
    August 8, 2007

    They have a school now?

    Unfortunately, I sure they do. Many schools. A plethora, in fact.

    A plethora of pecant pinatas. To paraphrase El Jeffe.

    I have no doubt we’ll have targets to swing at for the rest of our lifetimes.

    Grim as that may seem.

  60. #60 josh
    August 8, 2007

    “Ms Phillips comes in for a lot of slack but I complete support her ideas. I would like to publicly declare that I believe whole heartedly that science is destroying our faiths and beliefs, simply by overpowering and using ‘facts’ to denounce religion.

    – Stewart Holmes, Scarborough, UK”

    reposted from the comments of her origonal article. Cor, us silly scientists and our “facts”.

  61. #61 Dylan
    August 8, 2007

    She was also on radio 4 last week arguing that fairtrade goods are wrong because those children in the sweatshops really want to work. Charming.

  62. #62 CraigF
    August 8, 2007

    “Ms Phillips comes in for a lot of slack but I complete support her ideas. I would like to publicly declare that I believe whole heartedly that science is destroying our faiths and beliefs, simply by overpowering and using ‘facts’ to denounce religion.

    – Stewart Holmes, Scarborough, UK”

    I had thought that this one was a joke – a bit like Stuart Lee’s “Well, you can prove anything with facts, can’t you?”

    You never can tell with the Daily Mail though.

  63. #63 Bone
    August 8, 2007

    “Cor, us silly scientists and our “facts”.”

    Even if scientist used bullshit it would be preferable to the inane spew from our gal Mel.

  64. #64 Drowned
    August 8, 2007

    re: the comments attributed to Stewart Holmes

    This may be a real comment but it’s getting increasingly harder to tell on UK newspaper message boards. The forumistas on Goldacre’s Badscience blog have started a game whereby you score points for the most ridiculous comments posted. I can’t remember the rules exactly, but it was of the sort where you get five points for linking your new consiparacy to MMR, two points for a ‘I’m a mother so I should know better than scientists’ line etc. The scare quotes of ‘facts’ suggest to me that this is one such post. It’s great fun to play and just as amusing to watch.

  65. #65 reason
    August 8, 2007

    #41
    “Only in America, will science overtake religion becuase (sic) their (sic) is so much free speech. Its a good thing.” JOHN

    Huh??? If this guy is a troll, he makes the other trolls look smart! Or is it a send up of a troll.

  66. #66 Tony Jackson
    August 8, 2007

    Take a look at the messages left over on her web article at the Daily Mail. OK, this one has got to be a prank. Come on own up, who sent it?

    “Dawkins big bang theory is laughable…imagine being in the local having a pint with friends when one of them says, ‘Hey, I’ve discovered the origin of the universe. It started with a big bang which developed all the material in the universe in an instant. In one billionenth of a second there was nothing and then there was everything.’ I don’t know about you but I would say, ‘Yeah, right, is it my round?’ But when someone with the ‘pedigree’ of Dawkins says it the world gasps and accepts this crazy theory as being right. Common sense tells us that to cause an explosion there needs to be at least three constituents, the explosive material and a match to light the fuse so my question to Dawkins is who was holding the match?”

    Ha ha, very funny

  67. #67 Jim A
    August 8, 2007

    Andrew:–that brings new meaning to the hym “New Jeruselem,” doesn’t it?

    “God created the universe, but we we don’t know where God came from.” and “The universe started with the big bang, but we don’t know what caused it.” are logicly equivalent. They both contain a big “don’t know.” Saying that the other side’s “don’t know,” invalidates their position and proves one’s own is simply stupid. The question is, does God really help to explain the universe? Personally, I don’t think so.

    Theists are to some extant caught in a quandry in an attempt to “prove” the existance of God. The actions of an interventionist God who is actively involved in the day to day workings of the universe are subject to alternative explanation. When events (weather, earthquakes, floods, disease etc.) can be explained as naturalistic phenomena, what need then for God to explain the universe. If they rely upon a “clockmaker God,” who set everything in motion but has left it alone since, than like lumineferous aether we have to wonder “Is ‘wherefor God?’ and better than ‘wherefor the big bang?'” So many are left with the idea that biblical times were an age of miracles, and that lately God has been taking a “hands off.” approach. Explaining why God became less interventionist the more scientific we became is left as an exercise for the reader.

  68. #68 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    August 8, 2007

    Speaking of a time that preceded the Big Bang is like speaking of a place north of the north pole.

    That is Stephen Hawkings’ clever analogy for big bang cosmologies, especially apt for his and Jim Hartle’s no-boundary cosmologies.

    However, other cosmologies makes that problematical since worldlines may continue backwards, say from the end of inflation for eternal inflation cosmologies. While each worldline must end in a singularity, there may always be worldlines that go further back. (For sure in an infinite cosmology, I believe – no finite fluctuation can be large enough to extinguish all of them. But I digress.)

    To supplement the microscopic arrow of time that thermodynamics supply, some believes a causal patch of spacetime needs to have a macroscopic arrow ‘to remember states’ between measurements and so make sense of them. In our observable Hubble volume that is provided by gravitational collapse, but in an inflation scenario that finite local arrow is replaced by the expansion of the multiverse.

    So depending on the cosmological model, there will be a full solution for time. The problem is rather to explain the form of any initial state. Melanie Phillips philosophical problem now looks like a regular physical problem – too bad for her.

  69. #69 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    August 8, 2007

    Speaking of a time that preceded the Big Bang is like speaking of a place north of the north pole.

    That is Stephen Hawkings’ clever analogy for big bang cosmologies, especially apt for his and Jim Hartle’s no-boundary cosmologies.

    However, other cosmologies makes that problematical since worldlines may continue backwards, say from the end of inflation for eternal inflation cosmologies. While each worldline must end in a singularity, there may always be worldlines that go further back. (For sure in an infinite cosmology, I believe – no finite fluctuation can be large enough to extinguish all of them. But I digress.)

    To supplement the microscopic arrow of time that thermodynamics supply, some believes a causal patch of spacetime needs to have a macroscopic arrow ‘to remember states’ between measurements and so make sense of them. In our observable Hubble volume that is provided by gravitational collapse, but in an inflation scenario that finite local arrow is replaced by the expansion of the multiverse.

    So depending on the cosmological model, there will be a full solution for time. The problem is rather to explain the form of any initial state. Melanie Phillips philosophical problem now looks like a regular physical problem – too bad for her.

  70. #70 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    August 8, 2007

    So depending on the cosmological model, there will be a full solution for time.

    Rather, effectively so. Volumes around cosmological singularities excepted for the time being.

  71. #71 mark
    August 8, 2007

    I’ve noticed that many, perhaps most, of the most devout believers in dowsing are also rather religious (some day I’ll write about my encounter with the dowser and the Holy Water).

  72. #72 Sastra
    August 8, 2007

    I would also like to point out that it isn’t atheists who are buying healing crystals, getting their chakras aligned, or channeling their spirit guides.

    There are people who don’t believe in any god or gods, but DO believe in various forms of magic. Atheists who buy into woo — yes, I’ve met them. If you make the “higher powers” vague and impersonal enough, it’s easy to classify them as “not God.”

    When most of us here refer to “atheists” in general, we’re talking about various forms of nontheistic humanism. If an atheist advocates the use of science and reason as the best way to understand reality, and this is why it’s unlikely that God exists, then they’re a form of humanist.

    If someone believes that personal experience, intuition, and “other ways of knowing” are reliable guides to truth, but there is no God, they’re not. And if an atheist scorns both science and religion because “they try to push you around and tell you what to do” and scientists developed the atom bomb and Christians kicked my dog so that shows they’re false — science doesn’t work and there’s no God — then they’re not humanist either. They’re atheists, but for really bad reasons.

  73. #73 Andrew
    August 8, 2007

    Advocating the use of science and reason as the only means of discovering truth makes you a rationalist, not a humanist, although the two groups tend to overlap to a large extent. Broadly, humanism means deriving values from human qualities rather than from some external source – there have been plenty of religious humanists, and it’s not at all incompatible with theism (as the Oxford Companion to Philosophy puts it, “the Renaissance humanists were far from being atheists”), or with a worldview which says that morality, for example, is derived from non-empirical premises.

  74. #74 Rey Fox
    August 8, 2007

    tony: Probably because the article you describe sounds like the one in this month’s Fabulous Issue of Seed Magazine! In Stores Now!

  75. #75 Bob L
    August 8, 2007

    If the peace party in late-19th-century England had held back Gen. Charles Gordon before the Battle of Khartoum, the “Mahdi” (Mohammed Ahmed) of the Sudan would have prevailed and the history of the region would have been rewritten.

    WTF? Where does guy get his history? Gordon was sent to Sudan because the British government wanted to evacuate it as a useless patch of sand and that loony Xian pedophile Gordon disobeyed orders and tried to fight it out.

  76. #76 tony
    August 8, 2007

    AHHH

    That’s why I couldn’t find it!!!!!!

    I read a similar article on branes sometime past in Sciam – hence the mental confusion.

    BTW: This month’s Seed was a great read. I need to subscribe – picking it up at the airport is too chancy!

  77. #77 cm
    August 8, 2007

    Her essay is one of the rare occasions in which one can find incorrect or unsupported sentences in the almost every paragraph once she sets the background about Dawkins and the New Age. It’s as if it was written as a exercise in a student’s workbook on critical thinking. Here are some sentences from her piece which are unsupported or wrong:

    – What previously belonged to the province of the quack and the charlatan has become mainstream.

    – The truth is that it is the collapse of religious faith that has prompted the rise of such irrationality.

    – We are living in a scientific, largely post-religious age in which faith is presented as unscientific superstition. Yet paradoxically, we have replaced such faith by belief in demonstrable nonsense.

    – It was GK Chesterton who famously quipped that “when people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing – they believe in anything.”

    – In fact, reason is intrinsic to the Judeo-Christian tradition.

    – The Bible provides a picture of a rational Creator and an orderly universe – which, accordingly, provided the template for the exercise of reason and the development of science.

    – But religious believers have different ways of regarding those events, with many seeing them as either metaphors or as natural occurrences which were invested with a greater significance.

    – But our postreligious age has proclaimed that there is no such thing as objective truth, only what is “true for me”.

    – That is because our society won’t put up with anything which gets in the way of ‘what I want’.

    – This has meant our society can no longer distinguish between truth and lies by using evidence and logic.

    – The most conspicuous example of this is provided by Dawkins himself, who breaks the rules of scientific evidence by seeking to claim that Darwin’s theory of evolution – which sought to explain how complex organisms evolved through random natural selection – also accounts for the origin of life itself.

    ok, I’m getting tired. But it is really just one awful misstatement after another.

  78. #78 Mooser
    August 8, 2007

    WTF? Where does guy get his history?

    Same place he gets his “science”.

  79. #79 frog
    August 8, 2007

    Ted Powell: “Me: ‘Either the parting of the Red Sea is a miracle, or one really terrible metaphor.’

    …or a natural phenomenon.”

    Ted, are you trying to claim that you can link the final story to a single, determining event? That’s like trying to link “A Phule and his Money” to military events of the civil war. Sure, it was influenced by historical military events, but the Phule series is sci-fi – it’s not actually a historical novel.

    Now, I’m sure that there were numerous times when people around 1k BCE left the cities of Egypt in a huff to settle in the “Wild East” of the levant, sometimes even led by crazy prophets. Those stories were propagated through the centuries, and eventually were combined and edited to make a historical polemic.

    But to go from that sequence of events and claim that there was “A” exodus is well… kind of loony. Like claiming that “Stranger in a Strange Land” is a historical description of the founding of Christian Science.

  80. #80 negentropyeater
    August 8, 2007

    This was Melanie Phillips – phase 1

    This is phase 2 :

    “We, by far the dominant sub-species of the human kind, who value irrational thinking and scientific illiteracy, demand from the minority sub-species who value rationel thinking and scientific litteracy that they stop doing what they do as they are causing mayhem and destruction within our dominant sub-species”

    Guess what is phase 3…

  81. #81 hen3ry
    August 8, 2007

    Well, at least the Daily Mail has moved on from its continuing quest to classify all substances into those that either cause, or cure, cancer. This has been, as far as I can work out, the main thrust of their published output to date. Hooray for branching out into other forms of crazy.

  82. #82 Arnosium Upinarum
    August 8, 2007

    John #41 says, “Only in America, will science overtake religion becuase their is so much free speech. Its a good thing.”

    Yeah, a Good Thing. But science doesn’t in the slightest need to to “overtake religion”, in the implied sense that science has been lagging behind it all along. The truth of the matter is that, with the very first forays of the human imagination applied towards an empirical means of ascertaining the larger truth (conducted thousands of years ago) and every subsequent such attempt (having multiplied exponentially since then) science has famously shown itself as a superior to religion as a method of ascertaining the truth of natural reality.

    Religion has been left in the choking dust for several centuries now. Why can’t people back there leave it to die? Or do they just love choking in the dust?

  83. #83 Arnosium Upinarum
    August 8, 2007

    MISTER Torbjörn Larsson #73, an ignorant dunderhead, says, “That is Stephen Hawkings’ clever analogy for big bang cosmologies, especially apt for his and Jim Hartle’s no-boundary cosmologies.”

    How INCREDIBLY CLEVER of you to point out something that just isn’t true. I’ve been around long enough in the cosmology business to have noted that analogy brought up by quite a few colleagues who have noted how apt the analogy is to the mathematics that get quashed by the singularity, and I myself independently came up with it long before I heard it from any of the others. It is an OBVIOUS analogy, sir, that comes directly about from the math. It is NOT trivial.

    This is quite a few YEARS before it got POPULARIZED by Hawking. LONG before he had published or even thought of his celebrated “no boundary proposal”, which in any case was entertained in myriad forms by lots of other theorists before Hawking’s pronouncement made it popular. If you doubt me, check the literature.

    Yet, once YOU identify MY comment as connected with Hawking’s, you equivocate grandly on alternatives to Hawking cosmology.

    However, NOTHING you say even REMOTELY impinges on the problem of singularity. You merely show off how much you (don’t) know by talking about things that have absolutely nothing to do with YOUR problem with what I said about singularity. Why do you do that?

    I think maybe you just like to show off how smart you are(n’t).

    Where do you get your education from, sir? You sound much like an idiot who thinks he has actually gotten one.

  84. #84 Arnosium Upinarum
    August 8, 2007

    Larsson #74 in trussing up his own quackery says, “So depending on the cosmological model, there will be a full solution for time.
    Rather, effectively so. Volumes around cosmological singularities excepted for the time being.”

    Ooooh. I see. For the “time being” we cannot permit any direct talk about the singularity. How nice of him to set the rules of engagement.

    Consummate dunderhead.

  85. #85 Arnosium Upinarum
    August 8, 2007

    tony #77 says, “The big-bang is only the ‘rebound’. At no ‘time’ is there ever a ‘real’ singularity – and at no ‘time’ is there ever a ‘time before’ the big bang. it’s cyclic…interesting theory.”

    Yes, indeed, theories which attempt to circumvent the dreaded singularity abound. Yes, many are interesting. No, none of these theories ever accepts what Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity (GR)leads to, and that is a condition of spacelessness and timelessness: a “singularity”.

    One would think that a theory that is so simple and has been so astonishingly confirmed (to an accuracy of many orders, which is gaspingly UNHEARD OF in any other arena of physics, let alone other branches of science) would be trusted after all this time. Yet, it has survived the rigors of the most intense scrutiny ever aimed at any theory in any of the sciences. Ever. (Sorry, that includes evolution, but evolution isn’t wrong just because we can’t as easily quantify something that intrinsically complex – its STILL a FACT based on an equivalent AVALANCHE of data). And GR has come out every time to be accurate to an incredible degree that cannot be matched by any other discpline.

    To me, that says something really quite important: it must have a handle on a basic truth of natural actuality.

    Singularity (nothingness) must be accomodated, not worked around!

    BTW, don’t listen to Larsson. He doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about.

  86. #86 frog
    August 8, 2007

    Arnosium,

    Doesn’t GR fail when you get down to Planck scales? Wouldn’t a singularity have to be described down to that scale? Wouldn’t that imply a problem in GR and cosmology?

  87. #87 tourettist
    August 8, 2007

    I tried to post a polite comment on the Daily Mail site, mentioning scientific reasons behind Phillips’ so-called “hole” in the fossil record.

    My comment got rejected. I think I violated their terms of service by resorting to fact.

  88. #88 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    August 9, 2007

    tony:

    Yes, that is an example of one of the other types of cosmology which embeds our bigbang universe in some larger setting.

    Personally (not a cosmologist), I’m not so taken by cyclic cosmologies because they seem to raise a lot of questions and problems that others don’t, though I’m sketchy on the details.

    And the brane versions seems to have very specific problems with current data. They are apparently good science though, because they are that testable. :-P

  89. #89 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    August 9, 2007

    tony:

    Yes, that is an example of one of the other types of cosmology which embeds our bigbang universe in some larger setting.

    Personally (not a cosmologist), I’m not so taken by cyclic cosmologies because they seem to raise a lot of questions and problems that others don’t, though I’m sketchy on the details.

    And the brane versions seems to have very specific problems with current data. They are apparently good science though, because they are that testable. :-P

  90. #90 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    August 9, 2007

    Arnosium Upinarum:

    This is quite a few YEARS before it got POPULARIZED by Hawking.

    Of course I just identified ownership, not precedents.

    But who are most ignorant here, the one who claims that there is only one subset of cosmologies, or the one who informs a readership of other possibilities?

    NOTHING you say even REMOTELY impinges on the problem of singularity.

    I didn’t adress that but the description of cosmological time, obviously.

    Where do you get your education from, sir?

    What does it matter, since I am not a cosmologist? But FWIW I’m a PhD in solid state electronics. You can find my scholarly output on Google Scholar, and my patents in US patent data bases.

    So, what are the education of an anonymous blogger who claims to be in “the cosmology business”, and gets into a tissue when commenters do what they are here for, i.e. comment?

  91. #91 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    August 9, 2007

    Arnosium Upinarum:

    This is quite a few YEARS before it got POPULARIZED by Hawking.

    Of course I just identified ownership, not precedents.

    But who are most ignorant here, the one who claims that there is only one subset of cosmologies, or the one who informs a readership of other possibilities?

    NOTHING you say even REMOTELY impinges on the problem of singularity.

    I didn’t adress that but the description of cosmological time, obviously.

    Where do you get your education from, sir?

    What does it matter, since I am not a cosmologist? But FWIW I’m a PhD in solid state electronics. You can find my scholarly output on Google Scholar, and my patents in US patent data bases.

    So, what are the education of an anonymous blogger who claims to be in “the cosmology business”, and gets into a tissue when commenters do what they are here for, i.e. comment?

  92. #92 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    August 9, 2007

    Arnosium Upinarum:

    trussing up his own quackery

    I have references, of course. I just didn’t think they were needed here. (Or in a detailed discussion – the cosmological arrow of time and cosmologies outside the new concordance cosmology are old results.)

    No, none of these theories ever accepts what Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity (GR)leads to, and that is a condition of spacelessness and timelessness: a “singularity”.

    Not so, to handle cosmological singularity theorems are a requirement for these theories. For example, by Borde’s et al singularity theorem, inflationary spacetimes are past-incomplete.

    This is why Guth et al think eternal inflation must have a beginning, not necessarily unique. While Linde notes that backward extended worldlines doesn’t necessarily have an upper bound. I discussed that above. But the above review article by Guth summarizes well.

    Say, you don’t happen to have a quack agenda here?

  93. #93 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    August 9, 2007

    Arnosium Upinarum:

    trussing up his own quackery

    I have references, of course. I just didn’t think they were needed here. (Or in a detailed discussion – the cosmological arrow of time and cosmologies outside the new concordance cosmology are old results.)

    No, none of these theories ever accepts what Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity (GR)leads to, and that is a condition of spacelessness and timelessness: a “singularity”.

    Not so, to handle cosmological singularity theorems are a requirement for these theories. For example, by Borde’s et al singularity theorem, inflationary spacetimes are past-incomplete.

    This is why Guth et al think eternal inflation must have a beginning, not necessarily unique. While Linde notes that backward extended worldlines doesn’t necessarily have an upper bound. I discussed that above. But the above review article by Guth summarizes well.

    Say, you don’t happen to have a quack agenda here?

  94. #94 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    August 9, 2007

    Arnosium Upinarum:

    so astonishingly confirmed (to an accuracy of many orders, which is gaspingly UNHEARD OF in any other arena of physics, let alone other branches of science) [Bold added]

    Wrong, as even TalkOrigins can tell us:

    The stunning degree of match between even the most incongruent phylogenetic trees found in the biological literature is widely unappreciated, mainly because most people (including many biologists) are unaware of the mathematics involved (Bryant et al. 2002; Penny et al. 1982; Penny and Hendy 1986).

    For a more realistic universal phylogenetic tree with dozens of taxa including all known phyla, the accuracy is better by many orders of magnitude. To put the significance of this incredible confirmation in perspective, consider the modern theory of gravity. Both Newton’s Theory of Universal Gravitation and Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity rely upon a fundamental physical constant, G, the gravitational constant. If these theories of gravity are correct, independent methods should determine similar values for G. However, to date, very precise independent measurements of the gravitational constant G disagree by nearly 1% (Kestenbaum 1998; Quinn 2000). Here is how David Kestenbaum describes the current scientific status of the theory of gravity, as reported in the prestigious journal Science:

    “While the charge of the electron is known to seven decimal places, physicists lose track of G after only the third. For some, that’s an embarrassment. …” [Bold added.]

    [Of course one can discuss the precision of tests within different physics areas more. It was just a convenient source to throw into the controversy.]

    Nevertheless, a precision of just under 1% is still pretty good; it is not enough, at this point, to cause us to cast much doubt upon the validity and usefulness of modern theories of gravity. However, if tests of the theory of common descent performed that poorly, different phylogenetic trees, as shown in Figure 1, would have to differ by 18 of the 30 branches! In their quest for scientific perfection, some biologists are rightly rankled at the obvious discrepancies between some phylogenetic trees (Gura 2000; Patterson et al. 1993; Maley and Marshall 1998). However, as illustrated in Figure 1, the standard phylogenetic tree is known to 38 decimal places, which is a much greater precision than that of even the most well-determined physical constants. [Bold added.]

    Seventy-five independent studies from different researchers, on different organisms and genes, with high values of CI (P < 0.01) is an incredible confirmation with an astronomical degree of combined statistical significance (P le;le; 10-300, Bailey and Gribskov 1998; Fisher 1990).

    Rather funny that they happened to compare with gravity theory, don’t you think?

  95. #95 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    August 9, 2007

    Arnosium Upinarum:

    so astonishingly confirmed (to an accuracy of many orders, which is gaspingly UNHEARD OF in any other arena of physics, let alone other branches of science) [Bold added]

    Wrong, as even TalkOrigins can tell us:

    The stunning degree of match between even the most incongruent phylogenetic trees found in the biological literature is widely unappreciated, mainly because most people (including many biologists) are unaware of the mathematics involved (Bryant et al. 2002; Penny et al. 1982; Penny and Hendy 1986).

    For a more realistic universal phylogenetic tree with dozens of taxa including all known phyla, the accuracy is better by many orders of magnitude. To put the significance of this incredible confirmation in perspective, consider the modern theory of gravity. Both Newton’s Theory of Universal Gravitation and Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity rely upon a fundamental physical constant, G, the gravitational constant. If these theories of gravity are correct, independent methods should determine similar values for G. However, to date, very precise independent measurements of the gravitational constant G disagree by nearly 1% (Kestenbaum 1998; Quinn 2000). Here is how David Kestenbaum describes the current scientific status of the theory of gravity, as reported in the prestigious journal Science:

    “While the charge of the electron is known to seven decimal places, physicists lose track of G after only the third. For some, that’s an embarrassment. …” [Bold added.]

    [Of course one can discuss the precision of tests within different physics areas more. It was just a convenient source to throw into the controversy.]

    Nevertheless, a precision of just under 1% is still pretty good; it is not enough, at this point, to cause us to cast much doubt upon the validity and usefulness of modern theories of gravity. However, if tests of the theory of common descent performed that poorly, different phylogenetic trees, as shown in Figure 1, would have to differ by 18 of the 30 branches! In their quest for scientific perfection, some biologists are rightly rankled at the obvious discrepancies between some phylogenetic trees (Gura 2000; Patterson et al. 1993; Maley and Marshall 1998). However, as illustrated in Figure 1, the standard phylogenetic tree is known to 38 decimal places, which is a much greater precision than that of even the most well-determined physical constants. [Bold added.]

    Seventy-five independent studies from different researchers, on different organisms and genes, with high values of CI (P < 0.01) is an incredible confirmation with an astronomical degree of combined statistical significance (P le;le; 10-300, Bailey and Gribskov 1998; Fisher 1990).

    Rather funny that they happened to compare with gravity theory, don’t you think?

  96. #96 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    August 9, 2007

    Arnosium Upinarum:

    Wrong format. The last part should be:

    Nevertheless, a precision of just under 1% is still pretty good; it is not enough, at this point, to cause us to cast much doubt upon the validity and usefulness of modern theories of gravity. However, if tests of the theory of common descent performed that poorly, different phylogenetic trees, as shown in Figure 1, would have to differ by 18 of the 30 branches! In their quest for scientific perfection, some biologists are rightly rankled at the obvious discrepancies between some phylogenetic trees (Gura 2000; Patterson et al. 1993; Maley and Marshall 1998). However, as illustrated in Figure 1, the standard phylogenetic tree is known to 38 decimal places, which is a much greater precision than that of even the most well-determined physical constants. [Bold added.]

    Seventy-five independent studies from different researchers, on different organisms and genes, with high values of CI (P < 0.01) is an incredible confirmation with an astronomical degree of combined statistical significance (P < < 10-300, Bailey and Gribskov 1998; Fisher 1990).

    Rather funny that they happened to compare with gravity theory, don’t you think?

  97. #97 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    August 9, 2007

    Arnosium Upinarum:

    Wrong format. The last part should be:

    Nevertheless, a precision of just under 1% is still pretty good; it is not enough, at this point, to cause us to cast much doubt upon the validity and usefulness of modern theories of gravity. However, if tests of the theory of common descent performed that poorly, different phylogenetic trees, as shown in Figure 1, would have to differ by 18 of the 30 branches! In their quest for scientific perfection, some biologists are rightly rankled at the obvious discrepancies between some phylogenetic trees (Gura 2000; Patterson et al. 1993; Maley and Marshall 1998). However, as illustrated in Figure 1, the standard phylogenetic tree is known to 38 decimal places, which is a much greater precision than that of even the most well-determined physical constants. [Bold added.]

    Seventy-five independent studies from different researchers, on different organisms and genes, with high values of CI (P < 0.01) is an incredible confirmation with an astronomical degree of combined statistical significance (P < < 10-300, Bailey and Gribskov 1998; Fisher 1990).

    Rather funny that they happened to compare with gravity theory, don’t you think?

  98. #98 eddie
    February 11, 2008

    Help! My sanity is slipping;

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/programmes/beyond_belief/index.shtml dated 11 FEB 08

    They’re not giving up on that stuff, are they. Is my trust in the BBC just as irrational?

    Also, in comment #51; Not disagreeing, but

    “There is something to be said for (or, rather, against) Maoist-style regimes that simply ban religion, the effect tending to be that the population opens up to even zanier superstitions.”

    I think there is a basic misunderstanding. It’s similar to the old ‘hitler was an atheist’ nonsense. The truth is that Hitler, Stalin, Pot, Mao, were POPES. It’s what ‘fuhrer’ means. They didn’t ban religion. They banned competing religions.

    All that nazi stuff about ‘third reich’ was about continuity with the holy roman empire and that of Frederick the great (barbarossa).

    Also, I consider MelPhi to be a child killer;

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/health/article701459.ece

    P.S, On a lighter note – Is John #41 the new John 3.18?

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