Pharyngula

What is wrong with journalists?

We’ve got a couple of appalling examples of awful journalism to scowl at today. The first is this credulous piece by Gordy Slack in The Scientist. I’ve been unhappy with Slack before — he sometimes seems to want to let creationist absurdity slide — and I got yelled at by some readers for my uncharitable interpretation of his review of the Creation “Museum”. Well, I think I’ve been vindicated now.

This article tries to give credit to the Intelligent Design creationists for some discoveries or interpretations. It’s wrong from top to bottom. Here’s his list, with my brief rebuttal; Jeffrey Shallit has a more thorough dissection.

  • ID gets credit for saying there are big, open questions in science. Scientists say this. It is not news. Go ahead, ask us, and we’ll give you long lists of exciting research questions. They won’t be invented or falsified controversies, as the DI is fond of puking up.

  • The cell is more complex than Darwin imagined. Scientists say this. The complexity of the cell was not figured out by creationists of any kind — it is the outcome of hard work by cell biologists and molecular biologists. It’s also not true that Darwin had a poor understanding of cellular complexity: as I’ve said before, the mid- to late 19th century was the period when the light microscope reached its optical limits, and there was all kinds of amazing work being done into developing new staining techniques and identifying new organelles. When do you think Camillo Golgi lived?

  • IDists are correct to say love is not an illusion. Scientists say this. Frankly, this is the most dumb-ass argument in a whole slop-bucket of dumbassery; that cherished, complex phenomena like love have a material basis does not in any way imply that they are not “real”.

  • IDists are right to say that some proponents of evolution are blind followers. Scientists say this. We don’t sit around thinking, “How can I get people to obey me?” The concern about improving public understanding of science is about getting people to be skeptical and ask intelligent questions. And just how can Slack give credit for noticing dogmatism among evolution supporters when ID is all about rationalizing dogmatic beliefs in a creator?

There is nothing in this mess that Gordy Slack credits to creationists that is actually something that they have done first. And then in conclusion he asks an utterly inane rhetorical question: “Should IDers be allowed to pursue their still very eccentric and outlying theory?” Has it ever even been suggested that creationists not be allowed to do research? More often, we’re snarling at ‘em to go get some reasonable evidence. Slack’s article was just plain bad, strawmen aplenty and the gullible acceptance of ID propagandists’ appropriation of basic ideas.

Here’s another example of godawful stupid journalism, this time from the New York Times. Academics in Philadelphia have done a wonderful thing: they have organized a Year of Evolution to celebrate the Darwin year; I praised this before, and it really is an excellent, positive way to celebrate and inform about science. (I should also mention that I’ve been invited to come speak in November. This is not necessarily why it is such a good event.) This is a fantastic opportunity for people in that region to learn about the amazing progress science has made in the last century and a half.

How does the NY Times article start? “In the long-running culture war between evolution and creationism, Philadelphia is firing the latest shot.”

What?

I’m wondering…when St Patrick’s Cathedral opens its doors on Sunday morning, will there be journalists there covering the latest assault in the war on reason? Would they even think to phrase it that way? When scientists gather, though, and try to present their work to the community … that’s fighting a war.

Now, since the NY Times is the greatest paper in America, and they have to excel in everything, when they screw up they don’t just make a little boo-boo and then correct their course and try to move back towards something reasonable — that would produce a mediocre article. No, they have to compound the error. They have to make it monumental. Who would be the worst person to consult to add ‘diversity’ to the article, to put it into the standard boring frame with two sides and nothing in between? Can you guess?

Of course you can. Ken “Wackaloon” Ham.

Please. This is insane. I can understand getting multiple sources for a story; I can see how if a doctor has just told you some important medical news, you might want to get a second opinion. But if that second opinion was delivered by an inebriated, unwashed schizophrenic the doctor obligingly dragged out of a dumpster for you, you might be unimpressed with the quality of his search for diverse, informed perspectives. This, however, is pretty much standard operating procedure at the Times.

Jerry Coyne asked an editor publicly about this policy.

I noticed that when the Times reported on the recent discovery of the transitional fossil between fish and amphibians (the “fishapod”), they asked a creationist for comment. As an evolutionary biologist, I was dismayed by this. Creationism is simply a discredited enterprise, and asking a creationist to comment on a new fossil is like asking a faith healer to comment on a medical advance, or an astrologer to comment on a new discovery about human behavior. I respect the newspaper’s desire to be objective and give opposing viewpoints, but don’t see the need to do that when the “opposing viewpoint” is simply a form of quackery.

Here’s her reply. It starts out well enough.

How to cover the politicization of science, intelligent design and other manifestations of what Mr. Fishkin and other readers call the war on science is a question that comes up again and again in the science department. We’re well aware that giving equal time to opposing views of an issue makes no sense when one side has no solid evidence to stand on. The old FCC idea of a fairness doctrine simply shouldn’t apply to science journalism.

Right. Philadelphia is planning a major event around the discoveries and evidence and ideas of evolutionary biology, and that certainly is newsworthy. Ken Ham has no solid evidence to stand on, so it makes no sense to call him up and asks for his opinion…but they did. As she said, this makes no sense.

So why do they bring in anti-intellectual reprobates and promote their ignorance to a kind of equivalence to scientific ideas?

Yet viewpoints that may strike scientifically literate people as absurd, dangerous or even evil have a way of making news that insists on being dealt with. In recent years creationism’s hip cousin, intelligent design, has grown to be a divisive issue at every level of society, from school boards to the White House. So it seems to me that a serious paper is obliged to investigate the phenomenon, beginning with the question ‘What is going on here?’

Wait — so now she’s claiming that bringing aboard an irrational wackaloon is the mark of a “serious paper”? Wow. I guess that makes World Net Daily one of the pinnacles of serious journalism. The NY Times must be trying to catch up with them.

If the newspaper was writing an article on the serious sociological and political issues of creationism, evolution, and education, then sure — bring in many sides, explore them, and weigh them, and try to come to a conclusion. Unfortunately, there are two observations that invalidate the editor’s defense.

One is that even in those instances where the topic warrants the inclusion of these multiple perspectives, journalists tend to just let them lie there, limp and unresolved. We have scientists and we have creationists, they disagree with one another, we can’t resolve this issue, we can’t suggest that maybe one side is the province of insanity and ignorance, we’re just reporters for the NY freaking Times. There is no investigation, only the bland, blinkered recitation of each side’s position.

The other problem is that in both the cases of the Philadelphia Darwin celebration and the discovery of Tiktaalik, the creationist side had nothing of substance to contribute, other than sullen, unfounded disagreement. Denial is not an argument. The newspaper does a disservice to work that has heft to it, that has a solid foundation of serious evidence behind it, when they take any event on the side of reason and reflexively pair it with some cretin who has nothing but a dogmatic denial of science and reason as his credentials.

It seems to me that that is not what a serious paper would do.

Comments

  1. #1 rimpal
    June 23, 2008

    Is The Scientist a serious scientific publication at all? It has always struck me as a publication that is within shouting distance of the Rivista Biologica and other such trash.

  2. #2 anon
    June 23, 2008

    wait – intelligent design isn’t science?

  3. #3 Helioprogenus
    June 23, 2008

    It’s not as though they have to totally ignore the fact that idiotic beliefs like creationism and intelligent design exist, but to allow them to compare equally to evolution is just fucking stupid. The true problem here is that just as the toxic effects of religion exist in the general population, the staff at the NY times are probably no different. Plenty of those idiots belief in omnipotent mythical beings, or other idiotic topics like artrology, alien visitation, advanced civilization predating the last ice age, etc. These bastards can’t keep their own heads clear of rubbish, how can we expect them to objectively analyze topics as important and diverse as evolution? As is often the case, they have their heads so far up their religious/spiritual asses, they cannot remain objective.

  4. #4 thalarctos
    June 23, 2008

    It seems to me that that is not what a serious paper would do.

    I was not aware that The Scientist was a serious paper.

  5. #5 RBH
    June 23, 2008

    Some of the best commentary I’ve read on this problem in journalism is in Lauri Lebo’s The Devil in Dover, which I strongly recommend to scientists and most especially to journalists.

  6. #6 echidna
    June 23, 2008

    The NY Times article seems to be written by someone who knows a little about creationism, and absolutely nothing about science. Given that the topic is actually about a science event, there is a strange lack of discussion of what the event is, or what the event celebrates; i.e. what has been achieved as a result of Darwin’s works. Science is almost invisible in the article. Pathetic.

  7. #7 SC
    June 23, 2008

    ID is “creationism’s hip cousin”?

    *choke*

  8. #8 James Brennan
    June 23, 2008

    She is right that ID is a phenomenon worth investigating and reporting, but that is like saying that the Nazi skinhead movement is worth investigating and reporting. It is. But to present it as a mainstream alternative is just bad journalism.

    There is no global warming. The holocaust is a lie. We never landed on the Moon. 911 was an inside job. Etc, etc.

  9. #9 Randy
    June 23, 2008

    Hear, hear!

  10. #10 WRHorton
    June 23, 2008

    On the ‘big, open questions in science’ topic, take a look at the 125th anniversary issue of SCIENCE, July 1, 2005 (vol.309, no.5731). In this issue a special section (pp.75-102) is devoted to a description of some of the big ‘what we don’t know’ questions in science. It’s a fascinating read, and if you don’t subscribe to SCIENCE, then your local library should have it on hand.

  11. #11 Brownian, OM
    June 23, 2008

    I just wish those IDists would get around to enlightening the other sciences, like chemistry and physics. Otherwise, those poor physicists and chemists won’t have any idea that:

    - There are big, open questions in science, and thus there must not be a single graduate student studying those fields, anywhere;
    - The universe is more complex than Newton imagined and the atom is more complex than Rutherford imagined, so we’re stuck with those anachronistic and incomplete models;
    - Gravitational and van der Waals forces are not illusions; and
    - Some proponents of relativity and redox reactions are blind followers.

    So please, IDiots, please bring your wisdom and insight to bear on these poor, neglected cousins of biology. To paraphrase a movie that is only a teensy more scientific than ID: “Help us Dembski-wan, you’re our only hope.”

  12. #12 Sir Jebbington
    June 23, 2008

    Mr. Ham said that in response his museum was planning its own exhibits on the origins of life.

    I wonder what that will be like, besides “God did it”.

  13. #13 James Brennan
    June 23, 2008

    So when the next NASA mission is launched will they include a rebuttal from a flat-Earther? And why aren’t they giving equal space to the Time Cube Guy?

  14. #14 Steve_C
    June 23, 2008

    “Magic man dun it.” or *POOF*

    that’s all they have.

    Somebody explain to me what god would need a fucking rest!
    He got winded? Blood sugar got low? Dehydrated? Not enough sprint training in the off season? Doesn’t want a cramp before he went back into the celestial waters?

    I don’t get it.

  15. #15 PatrickHenry
    June 23, 2008

    I noticed the Times article this morning, and when I blogged about it my title was “New York Times Promotes Ken Ham.” Getting a quote from a creationist regarding a Darwin celebration is like getting a quote from Osama Bin Laden about your Fourth of July plans.

  16. #16 Futility
    June 23, 2008

    The NY Times ceased to be a serious newspaper long time ago. Check out “Manufacturing Consent” by N. Chomsky & E. Herman or “The Real Terror Network” (E. Herman) for examples of their ‘objective’ reporting. One doesn’t need to subscribe to the other conclusions of these books but the fact is undeniable that there is a strong bias in their reporting.

  17. #17 windy
    June 23, 2008

    Wait — so now she’s claiming that bringing aboard an irrational wackaloon is the mark of a “serious paper”?

    You left out the worst part of the reply:

    Generally, I don’t believe it’s a good thing to suppress ideas that we might strongly disagree with. I would like to think that a false premise is its own worst enemy, and if readers are exposed to the positions and statements of those who champion mainstream science and those with a different agenda, they will make their own intelligent choices.

    Laura Chang implies that Jerry Coyne just wants to “suppress” creationism. Nice going, dumbass. And why does a science editor insist that viewpoints that aren’t science should get a fair hearing in the science section?

  18. #18 Patricia
    June 23, 2008

    Yikes! PZ him big mad. >:{

  19. #19 AndrewC
    June 23, 2008

    That gets me nervous, the origin of life thing. They should’ve never said a word to Ham. Can’t we make a rule that any attempt to get a designing/creating/inventing/magical entity into science is against the separation of church and state and must at least sway a majority of the national academy of sciences to even be considered? Something like that? Would that be too hard?

  20. #20 386sx
    June 23, 2008

    He rejected the possibility that Christians could believe in evolution. “If you take Genesis as literal history, then of course the two are exclusive,” he said.

    Well… yeah. Thanks! So are pink unicorns too.

    “Christians who believe in evolution are being inconsistent.”

    I thought he rejected the possibility that Christians could believe in evolution.

    There aren’t any Christians who believe in evolution. That possibility has been rejected! Thanks.

  21. #21 Steve_C
    June 23, 2008

    I do believe that Ken is using the No True Scotsman argument.

  22. #22 Rey Fox
    June 23, 2008

    ID is “creationism’s hip cousin”?

    Of course it is. Didn’t you see Ben Stein dressed up like Angus Young? Rawk on.

  23. #23 Aaron Boruff
    June 23, 2008

    OK. So rather than have legitimate scientists report science news, we have to listen to whacky creationists and this drivel about the culture war? Why? Because it is a better story?

    Isn’t there a watchdog group that monitors terrible science reporting like this? There should be.

  24. #24 Logicel
    June 23, 2008

    NYT is in a load of trouble; ad revs are dismal. It is no longer a pleasant/fruitful place in which to work–lots of staff have been let go in the last several years.

    Olivia Judson is one of the few bright spots there.

  25. #25 386sx
    June 23, 2008

    I do believe that Ken is using the No True Scotsman argument.

    That and the Captain Obvious argument:

    “If you take Genesis as literal history, then of course the two are exclusive,” he said.

    Well… yeah of course. Thanks a lot Mr. Ham!

  26. #26 onclepsycho
    June 23, 2008

    “IDists are correct to say love is not an illusion. ”

    I’m so TIRED of this kind of bullshit. Next time anyone brings “love” in a discussion about evolution or neuroscience, I’m going to kick him in the balls as an hommage to George Carlin.

  27. #27 Steven Dunlap
    June 23, 2008

    What’s wrong with journalism? The first issue is the mistake that most people make when they think that the “product” sold is “news.” The product is us. We are the ones being traded as commodities. Or more specifically our eyeballs. The newspapers make most of their revenue through advertising. The content only has the function of drawing our eyes near the ads surrounding it.

    As a librarian, I have had more experience dealing with journalists than I care to think about. Most of them are the laziest researchers ever. As students their professors train them to do research in a rushed and superficial manner because “in the real world” they will have to “make deadlines.” Media outlets do not like to hire journalists with masters degrees and therefore expertise in a given field because then you have to pay them more (for example, as a grad student in Russian history many years ago I recall patiently explaining the difference between the Politburo and the Central Committee to a man who had worked as a political correspondent in Moscow for a couple of years. It’s a bit like someone working as a White House correspondent without knowing the difference between Congress and the Cabinet). A Journalist “acquires expertise” in a given field by writing about it. As s/he accumulates a portfolio of articles in a given field, that then confers upon them the title of “expert” regardless of what a person with a Ph.D. in that field would think of the articles.

    Journalists follow a set of rules designed more for attracting readers/viewers than in providing useful information. They have a “rolodex” (now on computers, no longer literally) of people they call for comments. No time for research, must make the deadline you know. They do not bother to distinguish between when the facts lead to a given conclusion or when people are biased. Balance is just a matter of calling on all the kids in a class in a “fair and even-handed manner”, even when the “kids in the class” run the range from 3rd graders to Ph.D.s – all get called on. Also, journalists love controversy of any kind. That they’ll make an effort to look for and find. Voila! Enter Ken Ham and Ben Stein and the whole bestiary of wackaloons. They may be crackpots but they’re good for business.

    Journalism is not about providing information. It’s about selling advertisements. Once you accept this, everything falls into place.

  28. #28 Michael
    June 23, 2008

    This article tries to give credit to the Intelligent Design creationists for some discoveries or interpretations. It’s wrong from top to bottom…PZ

    This sounds from the top but does not go all the way to the bottom of the argument per say…

    “Design is a workable explanation for organized complexity only in the short term…Dawkins”

    Dawkins goes on to say…

    “It is not an ultimate explanation, because designers themselves demand an explanation. Ultimately they must have evolved by gradual degrees from simpler beginnings.”

    I generally look for “pattern recognition” than what science doesn’t know and not try to get in the mind of what a intelligent designer might ask…

  29. #29 Danio
    June 23, 2008

    Well hip fucking hooray for the NYT and their rock solid commitment to presenting both sides of the story, no matter how much they might strongly disagree with the premise of validity of one of those sides. I will look forward to seeing this impressive impartiality applied to their next story on Holocaust survivors, which will necessarily include balancing comments from David Irving and other Holocaust deniers.

  30. #30 386sx
    June 23, 2008

    “If you take Genesis as literal history, then of course the two are exclusive,” he said.

    He’s probably written a lot of articles and given a lot of lectures saying just exactly that in enough words to fill up entire articles and lectures. Thanks a lot Mr. Ham.

  31. #31 SEF
    June 23, 2008

    Hmm… Laura Chang reportedly only has a B.S. in communications (making it rather obvious what those initials should really stand for). Meanwhile she damns her own (mis)behaviour here:

    But in science journalism, it’s not what you know, it’s how you learn what other people know and how you convey that knowledge to other people.

    from which claim of hers we can see that she actively chooses to misinform herself from the worst possible sources she can find and then to misrepresent those as being valid and worthy ones. She evidently fails to apply any critical thinking or high standards of selection to the process. Her bosses similarly seem to have chosen the worst possible person they could from the available pool.

  32. #32 MRW
    June 23, 2008

    A link that will get you past having to register to read the new scientist article:

    http://www.the-scientist.com/news/print/54759/

  33. #33 Wowbagger
    June 23, 2008

    I agree with Steven Dunlap, #27: newspapers and magazines do not exist to provide information – they exist to sell advertising. If the advertisers put pressure on them to lie misrepresent in order to suck up to the fundy dollar then that’s what they’re going to do.

    If religionists are truly about ‘teaching the controversy’ then why aren’t churches inviting atheists to come and speak at their services?

  34. #34 Glen Davidson
    June 23, 2008

    I don’t know, I expect and even want the “other side” to get a quote or two in. I believe that they would include a faith healer’s or astrologer’s nonsense in an article regarding any controversy about these “issues”. To anyone knowledgeable, the pseudoscientists sound like idiots–otoh, to many naive and stupid people including them does suggest that they have something to say. So is it a wash?

    I don’t know if it’s a wash, yet I think they do have to include the dissenters’ voices. They don’t have to leave it at that, however, rather they could and should point out some of the stupid things Ham has said. I mean, sure, include Ham’s retort, just point out that he has no expertise in science, and that nearly everything non-trivial that he says about science is wrong.

    They really do have an obligation to vet their sources, and not to treat Ham as if he were the equal of Dawkins–for the sake of those who genuinely do not know the difference.

    As for Slack-ass, he should recognize that any time the IDiots are right about some “big question”, they’re merely derivative. They don’t do any science or good thinking, mostly they’re wrong in how they quote-mine honest sources, and they typically get even the innocuous and truthful claims right after having been corrected many times by the people on our side.

    I’m guessing that Slack hasn’t actually read anything on these matters in an actual science journal in decades. Both Science and Nature bring up the remaining questions fairly often, and they actually characterize matters reasonably well. The IDiots do not.

    Glen Davidson
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  35. #35 Wowbagger
    June 23, 2008

    Another problem is a lack of critical thinking skills amongst readers. They see an article in the newspaper or magazine and think, ‘oh, this person’s in the news; he/she must be an expert and therefore should be taken seriously’ – even when that person is a clueless hack shilling for cash or pushing a dishonest agenda.

    It’s described as a ‘culture war’ – which is accurate because in the minds of the public it’s not ‘science vs. anti-science’; they don’t know what that means. We do, but we’re in the minority.

    When it’s reported that a Liar-for-Jesus like Ken Ham managed to obtain $27 million for his stupid Flintstones park makes the less-perceptive think that maybe he’s got a point.

  36. #36 CJ Klok
    June 23, 2008

    So let’s rewrite the NYT quoted section to put it in perspective.

    “Yet viewpoints that may strike historically literate people as absurd, dangerous or even evil have a way of making news that insists on being dealt with. In recent years holocaust denial, has grown to be a divisive issue at every level of society, from school boards to the White House. So it seems to me that a serious paper is obliged to investigate the phenomenon, beginning with the question ‘What is going on here?’

    When was the last time NYT asked David Irving his opinion in any serious way…

  37. #37 True Bob
    June 23, 2008

    other than sullen, unfounded disagreement

    Of course:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k3HaRFBSq9k

  38. #38 ndt
    June 23, 2008

    One is that even in those instances where the topic warrants the inclusion of these multiple perspectives, journalists tend to just let them lie there, limp and unresolved. We have scientists and we have creationists, they disagree with one another, we can’t resolve this issue, we can’t suggest that maybe one side is the province of insanity and ignorance, we’re just reporters for the NY freaking Times. There is no investigation, only the bland, blinkered recitation of each side’s position.

    I’m convinced that’s what they’re teaching journalism majors these days. Judith Miller wasn’t an aberration at the New York Times, she just stuck out a little more.

  39. #39 rrt
    June 23, 2008

    I also agree with Steve Dunlap. This isn’t about trying to present useful, correct information. It’s about grabbing reader’s interest. In the recent flood coverage, show me one TV crew filming an empty flooded floodplain talking about a community’s success in keeping development out or selectively removing it, and I’ll show you a hundred crews filming poor sods swimming through their living rooms. And I’ll throw in a hundred viewers flipping from the first channel to one of the other hundred.

    Evolution being a settled fact among biologists is not news. A tooth-and-nail debate, whoever is trying to have it, IS news.

  40. #40 Neil B.
    June 23, 2008

    I don’t really understand what ID people believe (I mean, genuine “ID” about managed evolution or etc., not Paul-Davies type anthropic design about reasons for laws etc., such as I find attractive.) Unlike young-Earth creationism, I take “ID” to accept: acceptance of the rough scale of geologic history, and the validity of most fossil dating. (Hence, trilobites in 550 M BP, last dinosaurs around 65 M BP, etc.)

    To me, the key question is not whether a particular theoretical framework about evolution is true, but the continuity of life combined with evidence of change per se. IOW, if creatures are born (broadly) from other creatures, and species are different at different times, then there must be “evolution” of descendants over the ages regardless of the details. So, do IDers believe that members of new species just appear in a creative flash of smoke like a wizard? That would be rather tacky. It’s worse actually than just having them all made in one week.

    Has anyone asked? I remember a graph they had, based on “punctuated equilibrium” but showing vertical lines for different species over time, just floating there separated. I just don’t get what they imagine happened during the changes of life over the various eras. Especially interesting, when would this process be expected to stop? I mean, maybe a new critter is welling up in the jungles of Bolivia right now (too bad we can’t get the species back that we are driving into extinction more and more every day from development and population growth.)

  41. #41 echidna
    June 23, 2008

    IDists are right to say that some proponents of evolution are blind followers.

    No they aren’t. Accepting evolution despite not knowing the fine details yourself does not make you a follower. It means that you accept that experts in a field might know more than you do.

    For example, I accept that the succession of the monarchs of England as given in history books, even though I couldn’t even name all the monarchs myself (I’m not British), let alone talk in detail about the rules of succession, or even what evidence exists. I accept it because I know that any historian who was able to show, and prove, something different would receive accolades.
    I believe in the integrity of the process historians follow, and that it should be able to absorb the fallibility of individuals.

    Similarly with mathematics; most people accept the results of mathematics even though they may not be able to do calculus themselves. That does not make them “followers” of mathematics.

    With science; it is quite reasonable to accept the results of the scientific process even if you do not understand all of the fine details yourself. We can accept modern medicine without understanding the fine detail, even as we know that the current state of knowledge is not perfect, and that better knowledge will prevail in the future.

    In religion, though, the only check is the credibility of the individual speaker, and the suggestibility of the follower.

    Accepting the expertise of historians, mathematicians and scientists makes you part of an educated modern community. Accepting the interpretations of Middle-ages rewrites of bronze age religious texts that have no evidence at all to back them makes you a follower.

  42. #42 ndt
    June 23, 2008

    One is that even in those instances where the topic warrants the inclusion of these multiple perspectives, journalists tend to just let them lie there, limp and unresolved. We have scientists and we have creationists, they disagree with one another, we can’t resolve this issue, we can’t suggest that maybe one side is the province of insanity and ignorance, we’re just reporters for the NY freaking Times. There is no investigation, only the bland, blinkered recitation of each side’s position.

    Posted by: James Brennan | June 23, 2008 6:53 PM

    …Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction. Oh wait, the NY Times did report that without any investigation or analysis.

  43. #43 Wowbagger
    June 23, 2008

    I’m feeling analogical: science is about growing new hairs to cover a head; religion is about splitting existing hairs and convincing you that a greater area is covered because there are technically more hairs than there were before.

  44. #44 CalGeorge
    June 23, 2008

    First sentence of article sets the whole thing off on the wrong track:

    “In the long-running culture war between evolution and creationism, Philadelphia is firing the latest shot.”

    Creationists would love to have it thought of as a culture war – which suggests an unresolvable power struggle between opposing viewpoints, each with some claim to truth – when it is anything but.

  45. #45 386sx
    June 23, 2008

    I don’t know if it’s a wash, yet I think they do have to include the dissenters’ voices. They don’t have to leave it at that, however, rather they could and should point out some of the stupid things Ham has said. I mean, sure, include Ham’s retort, just point out that he has no expertise in science, and that nearly everything non-trivial that he says about science is wrong.

    That would definitely make for a much better article, because in the article Ham didn’t say anything. It was all emptiness void and vacuum. Seriously! Go ahead and read it. He says nothing at all! Nothing but a blast of empty air. Amazing.

  46. #46 Rystefn
    June 23, 2008

    Call ‘em out PZ! The world needs more people who see bullshit like this and refuse to sit quietly about it. Thanks for keeping your eyes open and saying “this is completely and utterly wrong” when it needs to be said.

  47. #47 Pierce R. Butler
    June 23, 2008

    What is wrong with journalists?

    They’re a bunch of damned atheist liberals, that’s what.

    Neither Slack nor The NYT even tried to get thoughts on this weighty matter from John Freshwater or Ben Stein.

    If Ham’s Curiosity Shoppe is planning what amounts to an off-site protest demonstration against ’09 Darwin commemorations, a token mention thereof might have some reportorial legitimacy – but failing to interview these heroically self-sacrificing battlers from the front lines, in a story purporting to cover the culture wars, is further unquestionable proof that the Liberal Media Conspiracy is alive and well among anti-American eggheads.

    Considering the recent outbreaks of self-righteous flame-farting observed locally, I hasten to add:

    /parody. (Got that, BH & tm?)

  48. #48 LisaJ
    June 23, 2008

    I read this article in the Scientist the other day, and I couldn’t believe what I was reading. It was a whole lot of words (quite a long article) about absolutely nothing by some idiot who clearly doesn’t understand any of the facts of what he’s talking about. It was ridiculous, and I was pretty much just waiting to see when you would post something about it here.

  49. #49 Wowbagger
    June 23, 2008

    It’s hindered by whether or not the pro-science side is getting noticed. It seems that the media is, for the most part, biased – and not toward science.

    We need another Carl Sagan – a ‘face’ for science.

  50. #50 raven
    June 23, 2008

    The NYT is pandering to their wingnut section of readers. All newspapers are in serious trouble because of the internet and are downsizing and treading water.

    Most have a web presence these days. Ironically their readership has never been higher but they end up giving a lot away free to the netsters.

  51. #51 Holbach
    June 23, 2008

    “The Scientist’? What a freaking misnomer! We should contact Scientific American magazine and have them lodge a complaint for misappropriation of a legitimate and scientific journal. The freaking curs! I think we are beginning to realize that we are not militant enough against the insane hordes. As Carl Sagan said last night in Cosmos; “We must not capitualte to superstition”. When all this insane crap surfaces, then I think that we are at the point where we won’t be able to stem the demented hordes, for they are pushing a lot more than we are. And shame on the New York Times for kowtowing to the likes of that demented moron Hambone, whose skull contains exactly that item. Are we going down in a wash of insane shit from these religious pukers? Damn, let’s not bolt the door after this scum has left and caused complete havoc.

  52. #52 SLC
    June 23, 2008

    The example from the NY Times cited by Prof. Myers is an example of the deterioration of that once fine newspaper. The late Walter Sullivan, who was the science editor of the Times must turn over in his grave at what is happening in his old bailiwick.

    However, an even better example of the crappy science reporting by the newspaper of record was the coverage of the Dover trial. At least in the early going, the reporting by the local York newspapers, particularly by Lauri lebo and Mike Argento was far superior to the reporting in the Times.

    I don’t recall if I previously recounted the following experience on this blog but it seems apropos. About 25 years ago, I was interviewed over the phone by NY Times science writer James Gleick (author of a biography of Issac Newton by the way) for an article he was writing for the NY Times Sunday magazine. About 2 or 3 weeks later, I received a call from his editor who read excerpts from Mr. Gleicks’ article and asked me if I had been quoted accurately. She also read other excerpts and asked me if they were technically correct (in fact, I had been quoted accurately and Mr. Gleick had gotten the technical aspects of the article correct). I told her I was amazed at this as I could not conceive of our local paper, the Washington Post doing such a thing. I somehow doubt that I would receive such a call today.

  53. #53 Kel
    June 23, 2008

    Journalists need to understand that objective journalism isn’t simply covering opposing viewpoints on the issue. It’s being free from personal bias and addressing the information at hand. Everytime there is an article on the holocaust, they don’t need to get the opinion of a holocaust denier. Why should it be different for science? It just feeds the already ignorant masses

  54. #54 Mike
    June 23, 2008

    Somehow my browser mis-rendered Gordy Slacks article in The Scientist. I got the main logo and some boxes along left hand margin. Then a pinkish title “What Neo-Creationists Get Right,” lots and lots of white space and a log in/register area.

    The rendering was so very apt.

  55. #55 Mike
    June 23, 2008

    Somehow my browser mis-rendered Gordy Slacks article in The Scientist. I got the main logo and some boxes along left hand margin. Then a pinkish title “What Neo-Creationists Get Right,” lots and lots of white space (until the left hand boxes ened) and a log in/register area.

    The rendering was so very apt.

    I was not about to register. To do so might encourage the editors to repeat their mistake.

  56. #56 Alan R.
    June 23, 2008

    Can we expect that the next issue of the New York Times’ “Religion” section will include quotes from PZ?

  57. #57 Keanus
    June 23, 2008

    The only thing hip about ID or creationism is that the two are joined at the hip–Siamese twins, if you wish, despite claims to the contrary from the DI. If one is present, so is the other.

  58. #58 Epikt
    June 23, 2008

    ID is creationism’s “hip cousin?”

    I guess, if your definition of “hip” is “wears a white belt and shoes and a bad comb-over, and drives a very large Buick.”

  59. #59 nipsey russell
    June 23, 2008

    looking forward to seeing you in philly!

  60. #60 Wowbagger
    June 23, 2008

    ID’s relationship to creationism is the perfect illustration of how you can’t polish a turd – but you can roll it in glitter.

  61. #61 Nicole
    June 23, 2008

    *Applauds*

    PZ, you rock.

    “But if that second opinion was delivered by an inebriated, unwashed schizophrenic the doctor obligingly dragged out of a dumpster for you, you might be unimpressed…”

    You owe me a new keyboard. :-D

  62. #62 Ray M
    June 23, 2008

    Since we’re so good at crashing online polls, why not use some of our collective energy to swamp the NYT with letters of complaint regarding this article?

    Perhaps they might sit up and listen.

    My neighbour is a former public editor of the NYT; perhaps I can get him involved, too.

  63. #63 Gordy Slack
    June 23, 2008

    Where in my piece did I suggest that the few points that creationists get right are their own invention or discovery? I said no such thing. Look, I don’t buy ID even in its most discounted forms, and I never have. The point I make in The Scientist essay is that hurling insults at IDers when they say things you agree with makes you look rabid, not rational. And it drives the growing number of Americans who already distrust the proponents of evolution further away. Which is a dangerous and stupid thing to do in times like these.

    My essay in The Scientist does nothing to promote ID; I’m just pointing out that everything IDers say isn’t wrong and that when they do say something true it would be better to keep quiet or say “good point” than to riddle them with insults. Why not save the humiliation treatment for the plenty that they say that IS wrong. It’s still a full time hobby.

    It surprises me that PZ is so pissed off by my efforts to understand why so many Americans reject evolution. If you ask them, and I have bothered to ask hundreds or thousands over the past two years, many will tell you that more than anything else, it’s the arrogant zealotry of cocksure ideologues that turns them off to evolution. They see people calling their intuitions and worldviews retarded and corrupt, and they march the other way. That’s one reason why we evolutionists have done such an abysmal promotions job even though we’re armed with the most delightful and seductive and potent theory ever. If we can’t sell evolution, we must be doing something wrong. Right? I’m just saying that we might start by resisting the urge to spit bile in the face of potential buyers.

    I like to watch PZ turn red and stomp around like Rumpelstiltskin as much as most of you probably do. (Otherwise, what would we be doing here? We’re not really learning very much here, are we?) So go ahead PZ, rant and rave about the idiocy of those who don’t see the world as you do or don’t write about it in a way that pleases you. It’s fun to watch, even when you’re ranting and raving at me. But I don’t want the point of my piece to be smothered by your performance art. The conclusion of my essay was not to answer the question, Should IDers be allowed to pursue their eccentricities? (Duhh!) That was kind of obvious. On their own time, of course they should. The real questions were 1) Would I hire anyone who doubted evolution to do research or teach in my department (if–YIKES!–I had a biology department!)? And my answer was, NO WAY! And 2) Would I want ID “taught to my own teenage son as an alternative to one of the most powerful explanatory theories to illuminate the human mind (i.e. evolution)?” HELL NO! Since the majority of Americans disagree with me on these points, I thought they were worth making.

    I wrote an entire book last year (The Battle Over the Meaning of Everything) saying it was a very, very bad idea to teach ID in science class. The journal Nature praised it. Niles Eldredge called it “magnificent–by far the best depiction I have seen of America’s culture war.” Michael Ruse called it “balanced and fair” and said “it should be on everyone’s must read list.” If PZ cares as much about evolution education as he says he does–and I don’t doubt it–maybe he should take the time to follow professor Ruse’s advice and try to understand what makes the other side tick. After all, even though they’re dead wrong about evolution they’re still highly-adapted products of billions of years of evolution and worth a look.

  64. #64 RT NZ
    June 23, 2008

    God made you out of mud…
    This is considered a credible rebuttal of evolutionary theory?

  65. #65 SC
    June 23, 2008

    Now this should be good…

  66. #66 Wowbagger
    June 23, 2008

    Gordy Slack wrote:

    If you ask them, and I have bothered to ask hundreds or thousands over the past two years, many will tell you that more than anything else, it’s the arrogant zealotry of cocksure ideologues that turns them off to evolution.

    What, as opposed to the humility of the idea that a omni-powerful being created the universe, put the earth at the centre (oops!) and everthing in it for our enterainment?

  67. #67 Kel
    June 23, 2008

    If you ask them, and I have bothered to ask hundreds or thousands over the past two years, many will tell you that more than anything else, it’s the arrogant zealotry of cocksure ideologues that turns them off to evolution.

    The irony of it being that the people who say this
    1) believe in the absolute certainty of an omnipotent omniscient anthropomorphic deity
    and
    2) Have no understanding about the degrees of certainty in science, let alone the meaning of the word theory.

  68. #68 Blake Stacey
    June 23, 2008

    If you ask them, and I have bothered to ask hundreds or thousands over the past two years, many will tell you that more than anything else, it’s the arrogant zealotry of cocksure ideologues that turns them off to evolution.

    Yawn.

    It may be what they say; it may be a pleasing formula to repeat. It does not have to be true. I find myself wondering how often the charge of arrogance is a convenient way of rationalizing rejection after the fact.

  69. #69 hephaistos
    June 23, 2008

    Somebody with the appropriate scientific credentials should contact the NY Times’s “public editor” about this journalistic fiasco. The PE acts as the readers’s ombudsman and does a pretty good job of investigating, evaluating, and then reporting on possible abuses by the Times reporters.

  70. #70 RT NZ
    June 23, 2008

    What Wackaloon Ham is selling is not answers but comfort ,the thousands of hillbillies that have gone thru his 1/2 ring circus don`t give a flying fuck about science,they only want assurance that somebody, somewhere loves them and that this life is not all that there is .

    Well, newsflash , people this is it , god aint listening he does`nt give a rats arse about your pathetic life . If he did exist he`d want your constant whining and demands to cease.

  71. #71 Wowbagger
    June 23, 2008

    It’s another example of the anti-intellectual sentiment that permeates the US. It’s something I first noticed when people who admitted they voted for Dubya said it was because he wasn’t, you know, uppity about stuff – he’s just one of the folks.

    How the hell can you want a leader who isn’t smarter than you? I’m reasonably intelligent; I want the person in charge to be able to blow my stupid ass out of the water on pretty much everything.

    Same goes for science.

  72. #72 Kel
    June 23, 2008

    How the hell can you want a leader who isn’t smarter than you? I’m reasonably intelligent; I want the person in charge to be able to blow my stupid ass out of the water on pretty much everything.

    Exactly! The drawback of democracy I suppose.

  73. #73 Wowbagger
    June 23, 2008

    Well, the drawback of a democracy where a disproportionate number of voters view the whole arrangement as a popularity contest at a charm school…

  74. #74 SC
    June 23, 2008

    Mr. Slack,

    You say that you’re “just pointing out that everything IDers say isn’t wrong and that when they do say something true it would be better to keep quiet or say ‘good point’ than to riddle them with insults.” Do you have a concrete response to any of the point-by-point criticisms of your original article made by either Myers or Shallit?

  75. #76 Ichthyic
    June 23, 2008

    If you ask them, and I have bothered to ask hundreds or thousands over the past two years, many will tell you that more than anything else, it’s the arrogant zealotry of cocksure ideologues that turns them off to evolution.

    the problem is, Slack doesn’t recognize projection when he sees it.

    If you ask a thousand people the same question, but refuse to even bother analyzing the answer, any conclusion made would likely boil down to little more than an argumentum ad populum.

    Is Slack really that uncritical?

    I agree, he’s quite a poor journalist.

  76. #77 Blake Stacey
    June 23, 2008

    On the rare occasions when a professional creationist says something which happens to be factually correct, they are still promoting a medieval, anti-scientific agenda. We cannot afford to lose sight of this fact, and we must continue to raise awareness of it. We won at Dover because we proved that “Intelligent Design” was a religious agenda in a rented lab coat; this it was on that day, and this it continues to be.

    Those rare instances of factual correctness do the professional creationists little credit, as after all, we’re talking about material which an inquisitive schoolchild can master. Lauding the cdesign proponentsist for getting an obvious point right is a little odd; implying that scientists have not already realized all those obvious points is deceptive, if not downright sinister.

  77. #78 Ichthyic
    June 23, 2008

    (Otherwise, what would we be doing here? We’re not really learning very much here, are we?)

    some of us refuse to learn.

    you need to work on that if you want to be a credible journalist, Slack.

  78. #79 Ichthyic
    June 24, 2008

    try to understand what makes the other side tick

    frankly, I have read your articles, and I really DON’T think you have the slightest clue about the psychology involved in authoritarianism.

    you COULD educate yourself, I suppose:

    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/316/5827/996

  79. #80 Ichthyic
    June 24, 2008

    The point I make in The Scientist essay is that hurling insults at IDers when they say things you agree with makes you look rabid, not rational.

    not if one goes the extra step of pointing out WHY the disingenuity of the things creationists say are what CAUSES the vituperative responses to begin with.

    It’s not only what they say, Slack, it’s also how and why they say them.

    frankly, that you manage to not notice this, and instead appear to assume that insults are thrown at creationists “at random” really suggests you don’t understand the real issues involved at all.

    which, of course, is exactly what PZ was pointing out.

  80. #81 Kel
    June 24, 2008

    Well, the drawback of a democracy where a disproportionate number of voters view the whole arrangement as a popularity contest at a charm school…

    Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job. – Douglas Adams

  81. #82 JM Inc.
    June 24, 2008

    Hmmm, I was looking at that “The Scientist” today at Chapters (that’s a major book store chain in Canada for you Americans) in terms of something to read while enjoying the in-house Starbucks’ espresso, as I often do; I actually looked through that article, very briefly. Seemed a little odd to me, but I didn’t dig too much into it, and now I’m even more glad that I picked up Free Inquiry instead.

  82. #83 Blake Stacey
    June 24, 2008

    Now that “authoritarianism” has been mentioned, we’d be remiss if we did not name-check Altemeyer. Authoritarian followers can easily attribute negative qualities to people in their “out-groups”. Pick your negative trait, and it’ll be invoked: arrogance, dogmatism, hatred, prejudice, Nazism. . . Those who are not authoritarian followers may find themselves with a severe case of broken irony meter.

  83. #84 Rob
    June 24, 2008

    What I’ve never understood is people saying that the material basis for thoughts and emotions make them less real. When I found out as a boy that there could be material evidence and justification for all these weird and uncomfortably ambiguous feelings, not only was it a comfort to an adolescent, it made them, to me, feel MORE real, not less so.

  84. #85 Blake Stacey
    June 24, 2008

    What I’ve never understood is people saying that the material basis for thoughts and emotions make them less real.

    Agreed. It’s like saying, I dunno, that air pressure isn’t “real” because at the nanometer scale, it’s just individual molecules bumping into things.

  85. #86 Heraclides
    June 24, 2008

    Mr. Slack,

    While I respect your general point about not just bashing people, there is an issue in the way in which you presented that some of their points aren’t wrong. It can read as if these ideas were ideas from the ID camp, i.e. something they brought to table. I believe PZ was trying to point out these ideas aren’t new and aren’t even from their camp. You should, of course, know that it is a useful ploy to give yourself credibility and “buy” some space, by presenting first some “facts” from the opposition, then slip your points of difference in later. These points would appear to, at least in part, be of that nature.

  86. #87 AndyD
    June 24, 2008

    Just as a matter of interest, if/when the NYT runs any story on any religious gathering or celebration, do they always seek out Dawkins, Myers, et al to trash it?

  87. #88 Wowbagger
    June 24, 2008

    What I’ve never understood is people saying that the material basis for thoughts and emotions make them less real.

    Ditto evolution – the main thing that the people I meet who dislike the idea seem to fixate on is the ‘descending from some kind of ape’ aspect. How is that a bad thing? At least we’ve achieved something instead of just getting it handed to us by a magical man in the sky.

    Somehow I take comfort in that.

  88. #89 JohnnieCanuck, FCD
    June 24, 2008

    Creationists occasionally say something that’s true and therefore we should praise them?

    When they are right, it is usually for the wrong reason. A journalist’s report on a new watch design that is said to be far more accurate than all others in existence, should not stop at the truth of the designer’s claim to have achieved sub yoctosecond performance. The twice a day part needs to be brought out as well.

    Do we do history a disservice if we do not credit David Irving and his ilk every time they make a statement that is true?

    If challenging the mistaken ideas of the faithful causes them to hold on all the harder, we’re defeated before we start. What should we do, invent an even better version of an afterlife as a carrot that we say can only be reached through critical thinking?

  89. #90 Wowbagger
    June 24, 2008

    Creationists occasionally say something that’s true and therefore we should praise them?

    Even a broken clock is right twice a day…

  90. #91 Brownian, OM
    June 24, 2008

    When they say that some proponents of evolution are blind followers, they’re right. A few years ago I covered a conference of the American Atheists in Las Vegas. I met dozens of people there who were dead sure that evolutionary theory was correct though they didn’t know a thing about adaptive radiation, genetic drift, or even plain old natural selection. They came to their Darwinism via a commitment to naturalism and atheism not through the study of science. They’re still correct when they say evolution happens. But I’m afraid they’re wrong to call themselves skeptics unencumbered by ideology. Many of them are best described as zealots. Ideological zeal isn’t incompatible with good science; its coincidence with a theory proves nothing about that theory’s explanatory power.

    I’d be interested to know how strong Mr. Slack’s faith in his family GP is. Then I’d be interested to know if Mr. Slack could explain the sympathetic and parasympathetic nerve systems, successfully remove an appendix, and diagnose lupus.

    Could he build a car from scratch? How about a computer? A lawnmower? What happens to the proteins in an egg as one cooks it? Could he explain that? Has he ever flown? Would he be able to calculate the fuel/air mixtures as he took off and landed?

    Because if one is required to exhaustively research every scientific principle before accepting it in order to deserve the appellation of ‘skeptic’, then I really doubt such a beast could exist within an average human lifespan.

    Using Slack’s criterion, anyone who has ever screwed together a bookshelf from Ikea and yet couldn’t temper an iron bar in a forge before galvanising it is nothing but a blind follower of metallurgy who came to their faith via a commitment to materialism and not the study of science.

  91. #92 RT NZ
    June 24, 2008

    Kel , if I could paraphrase Douglas Adams , anybody who wants to be a politician should be automatically disqualified from running for office.

    If not taken out and shot first.

    Brownian , 110% right .

  92. #93 Patricia
    June 24, 2008

    Slack, I’m sick of every gawd damned religious dickhead to come down the pike calling me arrogant. Its old. PZ has every right to be pissed off, IDer’s are stupid and wrong. You are a sissy. Your argument doesn’t wash. Pitching a hissy here will get you just what you deserve. I have nothing but cold contempt for someone that defends a fool simply for the sake of right to foolishness.
    Bring your bullshit to the school where my great neices attend Slack-jaw and I’ll be happy to join the Q&A. :)

  93. #94 Dagger
    June 24, 2008

    “In recent years creationism’s hip cousin, intelligent design, has grown to be a divisive issue at every level of society”

    Sure it has. That statement is quite correct. The question is why?

    Simple. Creation fantasies are boring. Old news. Relegated to the ramblings of a few religious nutjobs. Most rational, mildly thinking people know that. Now.

    But stand back… here comes *insert booming voice* INTELLIGENT DESIGN!!!

    We here know it’s just the same old shit in a new wrapper, but average Joe public doesn’t. I mean you’ve got to hand it to the spin doctors over at DI. They’ve done a masterful job of repackaging.

    It’s gonna take time and the continued efforts of PZ, Randi and others (us included) to show average Joe public it’s still the same damn thing.

    Personally I think the good news for us is that once ID is dead and buried beside creationism, the fight will be won. I mean seriously, they (ID’ers) are throwing everything they got into this fight. They aren’t holding anything back. It’s a live or die moment for them. It’s history in the making. The final fall of mass delusion has begun.

  94. #95 John Mashey
    June 24, 2008

    PZ once kindly pointed at my list of constructive suggestions regarding the press.

    It’s been a long time since the NYT has been my local paper, so I don’t generally follow many of their reporters.

    a) Is it worth any time to help the NYT improve?
    [Or is it hopeless].

    b) Is it worth any time to help the author of that piece?
    [Actually, mentioning that Judge Jones would speak is a useful service and deserves a few points in partial balance of the junk.]

    c) Is it worth any more time to help Laura Chang?

    d) If so, are there *constructive* suggestions for additional useful actions, and will somebody actually implement them?

    =======
    One thing I didn’t see mentioned: Greater Philadelphia is claimed by Milken Institute to be the 3rd leading biosciences area (after Boston & SF Bay Area). While one always takes such with a grain of salt:

    - PA in general has been pushing hard to attract biosciences companies & investments for jobs, and after all has universities with good strengths there. They’d really like to keep more of their students in PA, and expanding bioscience R&D is a good way to do it. especially after missing early opportunities in computing, they don’t want to miss this one, and Rustbelt states especially need to retool.

    - There *is* a reasonable cluster of pharma and other biosciences companies around Philly. Whether it is third or not doesn’t matter, it is a serious player in this turf.

    - PA folks (like some friends back at Penn State) needed the Dover trial like a hole in the head, and were seriously relieved at the result. Dover was located nearer to State College than they liked … i.e., in the same state.

    - Needless to say: while some people believe in ID no matter what, others might think twice when one points out:

    “Oh, you say you *don’t* want a branch of Scripps in Florida? You know, researchers who work at places like that care about what their kids learn in school. And you wouldn’t want your kids to ever get those well-paying jobs there, would you?”
    Google: scripps florida creationism intelligent design

    OR

    “Sorry, you can teach ID in high school, but your kids won’t get credit at UC Berkeley for it. You know that admission there is rather competitive, right?”

    Google: Acsi stearns otero dismisses

    [As an amusing note, Judge James Otero (who whacked ACSI's complaints rather thoroughly) was nominated by George Bush as was Judge John Jones... which goes to show what happens when you nominate judges who actually believe in the law.]

    Finally, I observe that states compete.

    Bio & Battelle have a useful 2008 report. The individual state reports are interesting. KY appears to do OK on biosciences, although nothing special, and a bit behind some of its neighbors. However, if I were a state bizdev guy in Indiana or Ohio, and competing with KY for some bioscience business, I might be very tempted to point out which state the Creation Museum is located in…

  95. #96 Kel
    June 24, 2008

    Does anyone else see the marketing possibility once Intelligent Design does out of fashion for Creationism Classic? to make it’s triumphant return to the marketplace?

  96. #97 Patricia
    June 24, 2008

    Shite, what a day. Hamtard gets over 800 insults, George Carlin hauls off and dies on us, and now Slackjaw the sissy blats.
    That’s damn near enough to put me off my sangria – *pffft!* G’night all. :)

  97. #98 k9_kaos
    June 24, 2008

    “In Philadelphia, organizers of the Year of Evolution want to promote the concept in Darwin’s anniversary year but have no interest in picking a fight with Christians who do not accept it, said William Y. Brown, president of the Academy of Natural Sciences, a participating institution.”

    So how is that “firing the latest shot” in a “war”? What a load of rubbish.

  98. #99 uncle frogy
    June 24, 2008

    >>>Wait — so now she’s claiming that bringing aboard an irrational wackaloon is the mark of a “serious paper”? Wow. I guess that makes World Net Daily one of the pinnacles of serious journalism. The NY Times must be trying to catch up with them.<<<<<<<<

    exactly how do you increase readership in the age of the internet?
    Not long ago they had to drop the subscription requirement for the online edition to try to hang on to readers!
    I guess they are reverting to “yellow journalism” to pump up interest. they must think if they can stir it up they get a bigger story and more readers. A nice riot by some religious fanatics would be just great. That and there is no such thing as “liberal media”

    its BS start to finish

  99. #100 Logicel
    June 24, 2008

    Slack wrote: I like to watch PZ turn red and stomp around like Rumpelstiltskin as much as most of you probably do. (Otherwise, what would we be doing here? We’re not really learning very much here, are we?)
    _______

    Wow. This says it all. This is why papers are in trouble. Slack, this blog is one of the many successful competitors to your newspaper. It is successful because we do learn new things, often have them cross-linked so we can in short-order expand our education, all replete with lively discussion (often festooned with further links).

    Your rationalizing about scraping the fallacy barrel (red herrings, strawmen) so thoroughly (only advantage I can think of in your doing so is that you have used up all the fallacies so there are none left for Ham into which he can sink his teeth) in order to quell the ‘culture wars’ make you appear like a two-bit, degree-earned-by-correspondence sociologist/psychologist and not a reporter stating the facts.

    I am glad you are not deluded and accept evolution. However, your embracing evolution makes your journalistic approach even more troublesome. Perhaps you need a career change, and become a teacher or a psychologist or a barrel-maker?

  100. #101 Logicel
    June 24, 2008

    It is an effective tactic when teaching a difficult subject to focus on what a student does well and the similarities between the student’s previous knowledge and the new information. However, Slack has not pulled this off in his so-called culture war quelling wonky approach.

    Instead, he could have stated that rationality is something that IDiots do use in their daily lives and how they can expand on this skill to grasp a new subject, that is, evolution.

  101. #102 Logicel
    June 24, 2008

    Here is a relevant link from Neurologica and Novell regarding criteria in determining junk science (medical in this instance) journalism:

    http://www.theness.com/neurologicablog/?p=301

    And Slack read the following link for a breakdown of an science article written by a journalist who gets it right:

    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=128

  102. #103 Terskac
    June 24, 2008

    Medical writers at the Times should balance their articles on medical science with comments by faith healers and witch doctors. Those psychos that prayed their kid to death last week would make interesting guest medical columnists. All in the name of fairness and balance of course. Both sides need to be reported.

  103. #104 Arnosium Upinarum
    June 24, 2008

    Hey, Gordy (#63): “Look, I don’t buy ID even in its most discounted forms, and I never have.”

    I actually had to read that twice more to make sure that I had it right the first time. Yep, sure enough, it was exactly as stupid as it looked the first time.

    I guess you therefore might buy ID in its most highly esteemed and chock-full-of-scientific-integrity form.

    Oh yes, we look, and we see. Right through you and your insipid equivocations.

    You aren’t very much good at being a bullshitter, are you?

    Maybe, if you laid off the extra booze, you might have sounded somewhat more convincing, at least to a vanishingly small extra number of readers who might then even have been persuaded that you were actually a writer too.

    You know what’s truly insulting? When an ass like you pretends to speak for the interest of science and the people science serves.

  104. #105 Gordy Slack
    June 24, 2008

    Way back in # 74, SC requests a concrete response to Meyers or Shallit’s point-by-point criticisms. Let me start at the beginning with Meyers:

    1) Meyers writes: “This article tries to give credit to the Intelligent Design creationists for some discoveries or interpretations.”

    I respond: Nowhere in the article do I give credit to IDers for “discovering” the simple ideas that 1) biogenesis, and abiogensis for that matter, are relevant to evolution, that 2) evolutionists can be driven by ideology, too, that 3) evolution’s accomplishments are far more complex than Darwin could have imagined and that that means evolution has more explanatory work to do than Darwin could have known (it is absolutely up to the job in my opinion, but it’s a harder job is all), and that 4) it’s understandable that creationists believe in a creator since many of them think they have daily conversations with one. Meryers’ basic misunderstanding of my essay is that he says I’m giving creationists credit for discovering those ideas. I don’t do that. Read the piece! I just say that when they say those things, they are not wrong.

    2) Myers writes: “The complexity of the cell was not figured out by creationists of any kind.”

    Slack responds: I never thought it was. I never said it was. I never even suggested that it might be. Where does Myers get that idea from my piece?

    3) Myers writes: “It is the outcome of hard work by cell biologists and molecular biologists. It’s also not true that Darwin had a poor understanding of cellular complexity.”

    Slack responds: Darwin was a genius. He had no reason to think the cell was more complex than he did. My piece doesn’t say or suggest otherwise. It just turned out that cells, along with many other things, are more complex than Darwin could have imagined. Again, biologists have to be able to explain that extra complexity. They will be able to, I think, it’s just that there is a lot more to explain than we thought. I think its a worthy, albeit not profound, point.

    4) Myers writes: “As I’ve said before, the mid- to late 19th century was the period when the light microscope reached its optical limits, and there was all kinds of amazing work being done into developing new staining techniques and identifying new organelles. When do you think Camillo Golgi lived?”

    5) Slack responds: Gogli lived from the middle of the 1800s to about a quarter of the way through the 1900s. What’s Meyers’s point?

    6) Myers writes: “IDists are correct to say love is not an illusion.”

    Slack responds: Yes, Myers is right that they are right. And the scientists who agree with them are right. And I am right. We are all right about that. That was my point: no one who has experienced love is tempted to say that it doesn’t exist. So why does Myers suggest that I am wrong? You tell me.

    7) Myers writes: “Frankly, this is the most dumb-ass argument in a whole slop-bucket of dumbassery; that cherished, complex phenomena like love have a material basis does not in any way imply that they are not “real”.”

    Slack responds: I can’t refute Myers’s point because, as with the earlier ones, it has nothing to do with my essay. I guess my refutation is, Myers misunderstood my point. Nowhere in the piece do I say or suggests that showing that love has a material basis suggests it isn’t real. My point was that, even if you could show that love was completely reducible to a material basis, very few if any of us would be tempted to say it wasn’t real. From the creationist’s point of view, the same holds for God. If you could show that what people thought was God was reducible to brain states or whatever, it still should not surprise us to find believers persisting in their belief. They experience those brain states as God and, unless they’re lying about this, those are very convincing experiences. I’ve never had one. I don’t believe in God. I’ve never experienced anything that’s even tempted me to. Nor do I believe God exists because other people think they experience Him. That would be ridiculous. All I’m saying is that if someone else thinks they directly experience God, I respect their attachment to and defense of that belief. I’m not convinced by it, I just respect their attachment to it. I think they’re wrong, but I understand why they think I am wrong. And I think their experience is relevant when we’re trying to understand their belief.

    8) Myers writes: “IDists are right to say that some proponents of evolution are blind followers. Scientists say this. We don’t sit around thinking, “How can I get people to obey me?” The concern about improving public understanding of science is about getting people to be skeptical and ask intelligent questions.”

    Slack responds: I agree and again there is nothing in the essay that suggest otherwise. I do think it might behoove some evolutionists, however, to spend a little more time thinking about how to get people to respect them. Inventing pretexts for rabid attacks on potential friends and allies isn’t going to do it I’m afraid. It just makes you look like assholes.

    9) Myers writes: And just how can Slack give credit for noticing dogmatism among evolution supporters when ID is all about rationalizing dogmatic beliefs in a creator?

    Slack responds: Much of ID is about rationalizing dogmatic beliefs in a creator, I agree. And that part of ID is ugly. That’s why I think it’s worth pointing out that some of the dogmatism among evolution supporters is about supporting atheism or naturalism or materialism or whatever. It can be ugly, too, especially when those dogmatists are in furious denial about what drives them. Even though evolution is a tight theory based in facts about the real world. What I say in the essay is that the ideology motivating a hypothesis doesn’t speak to the validity of the hypothesis. Saying that evolutionists can sometimes be ignorant ideologues, which is true, doesn’t touch the validity of evolutionary theory. Showing that IDers are motivated by a desire to prove the existence of God, doesn’t say anything about their hypothesis: that there is evidence of a design in the natural world. (Is it clear enough that I haven’t seen any evidence that they are right? I haven’t and I’m not holding my breath.)

    10) Myers writes: There is nothing in this mess that Gordy Slack credits to creationists that is actually something that they have done first.

    Slack responds: I don’t ever suggest that the creationists made any of these points first. I just don’t. It’s not a part of the essay. It has nothing to do with the essay. It’s a straw man of Meyers’s invention.

    11) Myers writes: “And then in conclusion he asks an utterly inane rhetorical question: “Should IDers be allowed to pursue their still very eccentric and outlying theory?” Has it ever even been suggested that creationists not be allowed to do research?”

    Slack responds: Yes, I do ask that stupid question in the essay. Rhetorically. Of course they should be able study whatever they want. The point is in the rest of the paragraph: 1) I’d consider it a bad use of resources in any decent biology department and 2) I don’t want my son’s precious little time studying biology in high school taken up with a marginal hypothesis like ID. Okay, they may not be profound points, but is it really loathsome and inane to argue that ID not be taught as science in our high schools or given cover as “diversity of opinion” in our university departments?

    12) Myers writes: More often, we’re snarling at ‘em to go get some reasonable evidence.

    Slack replies: That is my standing offer to IDers at DI and everywhere, When you have some evidence, call me and I will cover it. That would be a story! But I’m not holding my breath. Certainly there’s nothing so far.

    13) Myers writes: “Slack’s article was just plain bad.”

    Slack replies: Okay, there’s an argument I can’t rebut. Very scientific. Smart. Makes me proud to be associated with such an esteemed bunch of thinkers and critics.

    14) Myers writes: “strawmen aplenty”

    Slack responds: The straw men around here are of Myers’s making. Again, I never suggest in the piece that the basic ideas were the creative work of the IDers. It was not my point. My point was that it is ethically and strategically wrong to attack IDers and other creationists when they are saying true things. Save the attacks for when they are wrong or lying, which is often enough.

    Myers writes: “and the gullible acceptance of ID propagandists’ appropriation of basic ideas.”

    Slack responds: Me, gullibly accepting ID propaganda? Are you kidding? The IDers hate me much more than you do. I’ve spent the last twenty years of my life writing about and promoting evolutionary biology. But you guys who argue in packs–on both sides of this debate, both you and the IDers–can’t abide an orthogonal point of view. It’s yip yip with the hyena pack or be nipped, insulted, and laughed to death, right? That’s not only an ugly and cowardly strategy it’s also one that’ll help keep creationists in business for another century. While you’re misconstruing my essay and ridiculing me for trying to understand the ID movement, the creationists are laughing all the way to the Louisiana statehouse. The jokes on you. Too bad for the rest of us, it’s a deadly serious one.

  105. #106 SEF
    June 24, 2008

    @SLC #52

    At least in the early going, the reporting by the local York newspapers, particularly by Lauri lebo and Mike Argento was far superior to the reporting in the Times.

    I thought Mike Argento was the YDR’s only competent member of staff on that story. I didn’t regard the others as particularly good – and one (I forget which) was notably bad in being gullible in their reports.

  106. #107 Arnosium Upinarum
    June 24, 2008

    Ichthyic (#76): “Is Slack really that uncritical?…I agree, he’s quite a poor journalist.”

    He’s AWFUL. Not only that, he thinks that the whole issue is about a better “pitch”, that science and evolution are merchandise that would benefit by better SELLING practices.

    Would you buy a used car from this man?

    I wouldn’t give him a wooden penny for ANY of his thoughts. He doesn’t even recognize the difference between educational enlightenment and insult. If you go by his thinking, every teacher in America would have to be fired for “insulting” their students.

    Yes, he’s really that uncritical. To him, it’s all a game that needs a winning strategy. He’s an intellectual disaster.

  107. #108 Gordy Slack
    June 24, 2008

    Arnosium:
    By “most discounted form” I mean the weak ID proposition that it’s worth looking for evidence of design in the natural world. I’m comparing that to the “expensive form” or strong form, that says that there already is evidence of design. I don’t buy either proposition, the weak one or the strong one, the expensive one or the cheap one.

  108. #109 ngong
    June 24, 2008

    In his list of “worthy points”, Slack forgot to mention that both IDers and scientists agree that coffee should be poured into the hole of the mug, not outside. In fact, the IDers are probably more resolute on this point.

  109. #110 Heraclides
    June 24, 2008

    Gordy,

    I replied earlier in post 86. Whatever you might have meant your article convey, it can be read by others to say that IDers came up with these ideas.

    E.g. “Read the piece! I just say that when they say those things, they are not wrong.” — no-one is doubting that, but the way “those things” are presented can be read to mean that they came up with them.

    It could be rewritten to make it explicit that these ideas are not the IDer’s ideas, nor that they are particularly original (in the context of modern science), neither of which is clear in the article.

    With all respect, much of post 105 is a defense of your knowledge, but the issue to me is what the article conveys, not what you know or meant to convey.

    With that in mind, to my reading of it “I did not mean to give credit to IDers for”, is more accurate than “Nowhere in the article do I give credit to IDers for”. Could I suggest you try re-read your article with a mind as to how others might read it? Or pass it onto a independent/freelance editor or two for comment?

    (Just my reading of this. I’m trying to help out, so no brickbrats, please.)

  110. #111 Gordy Slack
    June 24, 2008

    Logicel re #100

    I don’t work for the Times. I work for myself. I’m the one who wrote the other story you didn’t bother to read.

    And you know I’m right about why you come here. It’s not to learn anything new. It’s to hear the same old tired truisms amplified in a feedback loop of self-congratulation. And then there’s always the hope that you could lure some sap like me in so that your sorry old gang of mangy retired hyenas can bark and laugh and prance about. No teeth, though. If they get close enough, the best they can do is suck till their gums bleed and they fall asleep.

  111. #112 Gordy Slack
    June 24, 2008

    Heraclides re # 110

    Okay, I hear you. I’ll reread the piece in the morning. I wonder if part of the problem comes from the subtitle, which I had nothing whatsoever to do with. But can you point to something in the piece that suggests that IDers or other creationists are the originators of any of those ideas? I don’t see it.
    If find the piece via PZ’s flame and read it fast assuming he’s right, then you might think I was apologizing for ID. But if you actually read the words, I just don’t see how you could.
    Thanks, though, for the reply. I’ll take a look with fresh eyes in the morning.

  112. #113 Logicel
    June 24, 2008

    GS wrote: And you know I’m right about why you come here. It’s not to learn anything new. It’s to hear the same old tired truisms amplified in a feedback loop of self-congratulation.

    You now can read my mind? You don’t know if I have learn anything new, I am the only one that knows that. And I have. This is only one blog in hundreds that I read.

    Though I was mistaken about who you work for, you still need to interface with outlets, including papers, to publish your work. And your insistence that frequenters of this site do not learn anything new, and just come here for the reason to self-congratulate themselves show to me that you are outside of the loop of what attracts readers like me.

    I appreciate the time you spent in delineating your rebuttal, but I am sorry, your article is still just a piece of lackluster fluff. Your intentions of smoothing out the shock that evolution has on religious believers is interfering with sharp reporting skills.

    Many of us are aware that believers believe their beliefs are real. When I worked with patients who had delusions, I would always balance out my stating that though the beliefs seem real to them, they are not.

  113. #114 Logicel
    June 24, 2008

    It could be rewritten to make it explicit that these ideas are not the IDer’s ideas, nor that they are particularly original (in the context of modern science), neither of which is clear in the article.
    ____

    Bravo, Heraclides! And bravo to GS who will reread his piece with Heraclides’ point in mind.

  114. #115 Michael
    June 24, 2008

    Gordy Slack

    I guess my refutation is, Myers misunderstood my point.

    Well Meyers did in fact understand your point, he is unhappy in the way you presented it because it gives a slight crack to ID. In your writing you allowed surprises in regards to the complexity of a cell such as “finding compelling evidence for a designer” you highly doubt that could happen. To me, I’m a Creationist, you were trying to write in such a way was to not be overly offending to the theists (including the likes of me) but still dismissing their beliefs of a designer. As the complexity of a cell in creationism goes like this…

    Nature laws cannot explain the irreducibly complex human machinery like a high end plastic molding machine, nor can it explain the engine contained in your car. The motors in the living cell do in fact bare a resemblance to human machinery, however bio-machines are so advanced in construction and operation compared to their human counterparts, thus indicating God’s signature in the creation.

  115. #116 Logicel
    June 24, 2008

    GS wrote: And then there’s always the hope that you could lure some sap like me in so that your sorry old gang…
    _____

    I can only speak for myself, but I want you to write good stuff so I can enjoy learning when reading.

  116. #117 MartinM
    June 24, 2008

    But can you point to something in the piece that suggests that IDers or other creationists are the originators of any of those ideas?

    Can you point to something in the piece that suggests that they are not?

  117. #118 Gordy Slack
    June 24, 2008

    Arnosium re 107
    I do care about evolution education a lot. And that makes me an intellectual disaster? Yea, I wish I were smarter and had more talent. I’d be a fool not to. But is it really my IQ that makes it bother me that millions of Americans think evolution is a lie? Do smart people like you not have to care about that? You don’t have to worry about legislation in Louisiana, and Texas, and North Carolina? You’re so smart that it doesn’t bother you that half of America sees evolution as a corrupting lie that’s destroying civic life? I think evolution is elegant and beautiful and fascinating, one of science’s biggest accomplishments and reasons for hope. But is it all I care about? No. Actually, I care more about what drives evolution, than I do about how to drive it. But I admit that I do care about both. So, while you might be smart, Arnosium, you’re dead wrong about that.

  118. #119 Nick Gotts
    June 24, 2008

    Journalism is not about providing information. It’s about selling advertisements. Once you accept this, everything falls into place. – Steven Dunlap
    Exactly.

    Do we do history a disservice if we do not credit David Irving and his ilk every time they make a statement that is true? – JohnnieCanuck, FCD
    In fact Irving, lying anti-semitic scumbag though he is, has better claims than any of the IDiots to have done real research (on some aspects of Nazi politics, not on the holocaust).

    Much of ID is about rationalizing dogmatic beliefs in a creator – Gordy Slack
    Wrong, Slack: All of it is about rationalizing dogmatic beliefs in a creator.

    By the way, this blog is hosted by PZ Myers, not “Meyers” (which seems to be the standard creobot spelling – I wonder how you came to make that particular error?), or “Meryers”.

    If you wanted to try your hand at some worthwhile science journalism, you could investigate why so many more Americans believe in creationism or “intelligent design” than is the case in any other rich country. In whose interest is it that they be credulous enough to fall for such garbage, and how has that credulity been achieved and maintained? However, that would require some real research, and critical thinking.

  119. #120 Interrobang
    June 24, 2008

    Michael, there are no “motors” in the cell; that’s a metaphor, much like much of the Bible. Humans think very analogically: time is a place or a journey, north is up, south is down, for instance. Metaphors help us get a handle on unfamiliar concepts at a minimal amount of rigour.

    Further, complex inorganic machinery like car engines may in fact start assembling themselves piece by piece over time (in ways that add up to seeming “irreducible complexity” which is nothing of the sort) if and when complex inorganic machinery starts reproducing itself without help from humans. Are you not related to your family? Don’t you see that machines don’t have offspring, and that is what makes the difference?

    Mr. Slack: I’m actually a professional writer, albeit not a science writer, and my degree is in rhetoric. There’s a time-honoured saying in rhetoric, which is “Don’t grant your opponent the first premise; otherwise you’ve lost the argument.” It seems to me as though you’re entirely too willing to give the ID crowd — with which you claim not to sympathise at all — the first premise and maybe a handicap on top simply because you are trying to score points with people who might gravitate to their message. Rhetorically and communicatively, I don’t think that’s a good strategy; it seems to lend their arguments entirely too much gravitas.

    Also, I think you misinterpret PZ’s communicative raison d’etre. He’s not trying to win over the mushy middle, he’s trying to shove the Overton Window away from its current position in the discourse, where ever more extreme religious views must still be treated with likewise extreme deference. But give a religious zealot an inch, and they’ll take a light-year or so, if they can.

    Incidentally, for someone who claims to be an atheist with no stake in creationisms of any kind, you use the word “evolutionists” a lot. That’s often a rhetorical “tell” of a stealth creationist, or it indicates that the creationists have managed to plant their terminology in your idiolect. Neither of those things is good.

  120. #121 Arnosium Upinarum
    June 24, 2008

    Gordy Slack (#106) says, “It’s yip yip with the hyena pack or be nipped, insulted, and laughed to death, right? That’s not only an ugly and cowardly strategy it’s also one that’ll help keep creationists in business for another century. While you’re misconstruing my essay and ridiculing me for trying to understand the ID movement, the creationists are laughing all the way to the Louisiana statehouse. The jokes on you. Too bad for the rest of us, it’s a deadly serious one.”

    My my. Touchy, aren’t we?

    Too bad you can’t see any distinction between promoting the facts and insulting behavior.

    Unfortunately, Mr. Slack, it ain’t a popularity contest. Winning is not the objective. Education is. Always has been.

    And no matter how often you whine on and on about it, education is NOT equivalent to ridicule. No, really, it’s NOT.

    Most people who embrace science and the concomitant appreciation of the natural world such discipline bestows have a maturity that happens to be utterly lacking in those who reject science, the evidence from the natural world it studies and the empirical thinking and logical reasoning required to practice it.

    Saying so isn’t insulting. It’s just a fact.

    To point out that the most vocal religious fundamentalists routinely and vehemently reject evidence in favor of a delusion isn’t an “ugly and cowardly strategy”.

    It’s just a fact.

    Suggesting that their followers, who hang on their every word as their sole source of information and instruction, exhibit a profound immaturity isn’t hyena-yip-laughing at them.

    It’s just a fact.

    Education – satisfying natural curiosity by teaching people about science and how it works and why it works so well, how knowledge is systematically acquired from evidence and how we are compelled to be sure of our tentative hypotheses and models by running them under ever-more challenging tests, promoting the application of reason and scepticism, and yes, how we endeavor to make all necessary self-corrections and help others to correct their conceptual errors wherever they may occur – isn’t an exhibition of bad manners.

    It’s a VIRTUE. A duty. A responsibility.

    The same kind that every parent and teacher in the history of the world has recognized.

    Excuse us if we step on any sensitive toes – NOT because we are pointing out that somebody’s belief is “wrong”, but because IRRATIONAL beliefs are constantly threatening ALL of us and undermining the ability of people everywhere to think rationally. THAT’s what’s dangerous. THAT’s the wrong that desperately needs correcting.

    Yes, many folks will get all bent out of shape over challenges to their beliefs, because they cleave so relentlessly onto them as the essence of their personal identity.

    Well, that’s too damned bad. Growing up is tough.

    Just because they may FEEL or CLAIM to be “insulted” doesn’t make it so. By precisely your own criterion, you yourself have managed to “insult” what you identify as “both sides” in what you’ve said here. Is this situation to be construed that only journalists such as yourself have the objectivity and moral authority to report, instruct and correct – and NOT be guilty of being insulting? Are you really that full of yourself?

    We do not need you to instruct us about proper conduct in what you are apparently so resistant in identifying as a legitimate struggle between ideologies. What are you afraid of? That reason might prevail and “win”?

    We certainly do not need you to lecture us about how “deadly serious” the issues are.

    The “joke”, sir, is on anyone naive enough to imagine that some long-term peaceful co-existence can be achieved between reason and irrationality of the most hideously dangerous order.

    Except, it’s not a “joke’. It’s not even a “game”. It’s just a little matter of survival in the long run.

  121. #122 clinteas
    June 24, 2008

    Gordy “This is what goes for a Journalist in the US these days” Slack wrote in No 111:

    //And you know I’m right about why you come here. It’s not to learn anything new. It’s to hear the same old tired truisms amplified in a feedback loop of self-congratulation. And then there’s always the hope that you could lure some sap like me in so that your sorry old gang of mangy retired hyenas can bark and laugh and prance about. No teeth, though. If they get close enough, the best they can do is suck till their gums bleed and they fall asleep.//

    Speak for yourself Gordy,i have learned a lot on this blog over time,I feel like Neo at the end of the first Matrix movie fighting the agents when i debate creationists these days,I immensely enjoy PZs biology posts,and nothing better than to bring to light the true delusional states of the believers that the odd murderous malevolent misogynistic creotard that will pop up here ever so often.

    Self-congratulation? Maybe it can appear that way sometimes,but what you call self-congratulation in a feedback loop is mostly sane and undeluded people agreeing on a aggressive openly controversial stance against creationist BS,and as anywhere else in society,some will be more sophisticated in their arguments than others.

  122. #123 Gordy Slack
    June 24, 2008

    Martin M re 117

    When I ask you:
    But can you point to something in the piece that suggests that IDers or other creationists are the originators of any of those ideas?
    You are silent. You can’t. There’s nothing there about that. The essay was not about who invented the ideas. It wasn’t the point.

    But then you ask, fairly enough,
    Can you point to something in the piece that suggests that they are not?

    I wish I could. Honestly, I thought it was kind of obvious. and, again, it wasn’t the point of the piece. About how obvious it was, clearly, I was dead wrong. Next time I will be explicit: Creationists did not discover that the cell is orders of magnitude more complex than Darwin thought; real scientists discovered that. Creationists say it is significant, and real scientists agree, though they don’t think it calls evolution’s validity into question. The vast majority of them concur on that. And the AAAS and the National Academy concur as well.

    But please, someone, grant me the fact that I don’t say anywhere in the piece that creationists came up with these ideas. And acknowledge that PZ’s whole objection to the piece was based on the allegation that I was asserting that. I can see how he made the mistake–I was not explicit enough–but it WAS a mistake.

  123. #124 Gordy Slack
    June 24, 2008

    clinteas re 122

    Okay, I’ll take your word for it. But I’m skeptical: In today’s immersion experience, far more cognitive calories were spent insulting my “slack-ass…poor excuse for…what passes as a journalist these days…pathetic…dumb-ass” self than were spent shedding light on anything at all. I am all for an aggressively open stance on all BS, including creationist BS, especially creationist BS, but I’m also in favor of making absolutely sure you’ve got a good target before you launch and for using the best weapons that cause the leas collateral damage. And frankly it gives me the creeps to see anyone–let alone a whole group of people–whether they’re evolutionist or creationist, just hungry to see a mushroom cloud wipe some poor hapless sucker like me out.

  124. #125 Logicel
    June 24, 2008

    Arnosium wrote: By precisely your own criterion, you yourself have managed to “insult” what you identify as “both sides” in what you’ve said here.

    Yup.

  125. #126 Arnosium Upinarum
    June 24, 2008

    Gordy Slack (#118) says, “I do care about evolution education a lot. And that makes me an intellectual disaster?”

    I don’t doubt that you in fact “do care about evolution education a lot”. That’s not what makes you an intellectual disaster. What the hell has an intelligence quotient to do with my statement? IQ has nothing whatsoever to do with it. I note that you just say incredibly dumb things, apparently, without realizing it. Hence: “you are an intellectual disaster”. A lot.

    To further wit:

    “But is it really my IQ that makes it bother me that millions of Americans think evolution is a lie?”

    Why do you ask such a silly question?

    “Do smart people like you not have to care about that?”

    I do not care a bean that you pose a silly question.

    “You don’t have to worry about legislation in Louisiana, and Texas, and North Carolina?”

    Yeah, I do, and I’ve done my part and continue to do whatever I can. Always have. The trouble is that you seem to think nobody ELSE BUT YOU notices these issues. Why is that? Why is this burden of care to be yours alone?

    “You’re so smart that it doesn’t bother you that half of America sees evolution as a corrupting lie that’s destroying civic life?”

    Ah, well excuse the hell out of me. And here I thought that all Pharangulites had been on top of that one for YEARS. Here comes the perky journalist who knows oh so much better, because HE’S actually encountered Creationists and IDiots FACE TO FACE, and he’s here to tell us all that our musings heretofore have all been Ivory Tower Bupkis. Thanks for setting us all straight. I don’t know how we should ever have managed without your wisdom and experience in these matters which we’ve had no inkling of.

    ” I think evolution is elegant and beautiful and fascinating, one of science’s biggest accomplishments and reasons for hope. But is it all I care about? No. Actually, I care more about what drives evolution, than I do about how to drive it.”

    Uhh, are you perfectly sure you understand what you are talking about?

    “So, while you might be smart, Arnosium, you’re dead wrong about that.”

    About what? That you care? I haven’t the slightest doubt that you care, although you will forgive me if I yawn at it.

    That I’m “smart”? Hardly – I’m just a typical ordinary science-enthusiast with a knack for reading truly ridiculous amounts of science material and stubborn enough to keep studying something I don’t understand until I do. UNTIL I do, I make it a habit not to speak on it – a habit you might adopt for your own benefit.

    You want “smart”? Take a good long hard look at PZ. Now THAT guy is smart. Trust me.

  126. #127 Logicel
    June 24, 2008

    GS wrote: And acknowledge that PZ’s whole objection to the piece was based on the allegation that I was asserting that. I can see how he made the mistake–I was not explicit enough–but it WAS a mistake.
    ______

    Obviously, only PZ can identify and rectify his own mistakes. But, you have convinced me that your main crime is sloppy writing. Maybe you need a holiday?

    As for the ferocious tone that can dominate some threads, it does not last forever–the commenters to these threads are international and live in different time zones. I find such an ebb and flow fascinating, and not a put off. If the tone ever got consistently rabid, I would without hesitation lop off this blog from my newsreader.

  127. #128 clinteas
    June 24, 2008

    Your poor happles sucker have done pretty ok against the amassed forces of reason so far,Gordy LOL
    You came over to debate with the people here constructively,I find that rather honorable.
    But amongst all the other things one can learn here,hanging around Pharyngula not as a hyena but someone with an open mind,one is what the right strategy of debating creationists is,and trying to reconcile or be nice,or listen to their delusions,is not.

  128. #129 Fernando Magyar
    June 24, 2008

    Wowbagger,

    Ditto evolution – the main thing that the people I meet who dislike the idea seem to fixate on is the ‘descending from some kind of ape’ aspect. How is that a bad thing? At least we’ve achieved something instead of just getting it handed to us by a magical man in the sky.

    Somehow I take comfort in that.

    So you are saying the Cichlids of lake Tanganyika should receive accolades for their incredible achievements in diversity? ;-{)

  129. #130 Logicel
    June 24, 2008

    Clinteas wrote: You came over to debate with the people here constructively,I find that rather honorable.
    _______

    Moi aussi, and refreshing to boot. Just contrast GS efforts to communicate with the joke that Nesbit considers to be communication.

  130. #131 Gordy Slack
    June 24, 2008

    Arnosium re 121

    Yes, I’m touchy. I’ve been called more insulting names here in the past several hours than in the rest of my life altogether. And for what? For writing an essay about how despite the fact that IDers say some true things, their work does not belong in universities or public schools. A whole gang of evolutionists abused me (not with truth, but with names! How absurd!) because I didn’t make those points exactly as they like them to be made. But so what? This isn’t about me, it about the facts, right? At least that’s what you said in your lecture, which is pretty good, really, just very strangely preached to me. I know all of that. I’ve been writing about it for years. But let’s stick to the facts? Fact number one: In all of this, no one has identified one thing in my essay that was either untrue or even objectionable. It was perhaps the tone or something that PZ hated and then it was me that was loathsome. Not my facts. Not even my points. I took the time to rebut PZ’s critique sentence by sentence and no one argued with my defense, they just kept whacking at the straw men set up by your fearless leader. They insulted my spelling, the name, my writing, my research, my gene pool, but no one called into question a single fact or contested a single point in my essay. So what’s up with that?

    And now, Arnosium, that you all have teased and insulted me, but not even touched the content of my essay, you say “we don’t need you” to do this, “we don’t need you to do that.” Clearly all “we” (read “you”) needed me for was to have someone to abuse. I hope it was fun for you. Glad to oblige, but just this once. Next time you can abuse yourself. I have better things to do.

  131. #132 Moses
    June 24, 2008

    You realize that it’s like this in everything “news media?” The “news media” isn’t about solid, in-depth stories, but sound-byte controversies that get them an audience so they can sell advertising.

  132. #133 Moses
    June 24, 2008

    And now, Arnosium, that you all have teased and insulted me, but not even touched the content of my essay, you say “we don’t need you” to do this, “we don’t need you to do that.” Clearly all “we” (read “you”) needed me for was to have someone to abuse. I hope it was fun for you. Glad to oblige, but just this once. Next time you can abuse yourself. I have better things to do.

    Posted by: Gordy Slack | June 24, 2008 7:05 AM

    Maybe, Mr. Slack, you should pull your head out of your ass and stop justifying yourself. Man up and admit you fucked up.

    In my world, when you fuck up this bad, you get sued and, unless your insurance premiums were up-to-date, they take away your house, your car, your practice and everything else you’ve worked for during the last 30 years. You just get mocked a little bit and insulted by people who are tired of apologists like yourself trying to find the non-existent middle-ground with a group of medieval thugs.

  133. #134 ngong
    June 24, 2008

    Maybe I’m overly sensitive, but it feels like the kind of article Uncommon Descent can have a field day with. Not to mention Nisbet.

    The proof will be in the pudding.

  134. #135 Moses
    June 24, 2008

    Journalism is not about providing information. It’s about selling advertisements. Once you accept this, everything falls into place.

    Posted by: Steven Dunlap | June 23, 2008 7:55 PM

    I try to tell people that all the time. The business model of newspapers changed dramatically in the ’60′s and ’70′s. Prior to that the model was generating revenue by the physical selling (cirulation subscription) of papers supplemented by advertising.

    Now some papers don’t charge at all and make all their money from advertising. Even some major papers are considering that model after Metro International showed you could make a ton of money by just giving the damn paper away. Founded in 1995, the company now has over 70 “local” newspapers distributed in 100 cities worldwide and about 42 million weekly readers.

    Ironically, the Metro International papers don’t do well in America. Part of is because they struggle to gain advertising after a brutal legal battle with the New York Times and related papers over its free distribution model and some exclusivity point-of-distribution contracts.

  135. #136 Gordy Slack
    June 24, 2008

    Moses re 134
    I’m sorry Moses, what exactly would I be sued for in your world? How exactly did I fuck up? Did I say something untrue? What was that? Please quote from the essay, if you can find your way there. Did I say something irresponsible? Please quote directly? Something hurtful? Something you didn’t like? What was that? Or do I just piss you off because….well, you can’t exactly explain it right? Oh yea, because I have my head up my ass. Oh, you’re a really good biologist, I can tell. Okay, next up! I need a triage nurse here.

  136. #137 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    June 24, 2008

    For writing an essay about how despite the fact that IDers say some true things, their work does not belong in universities or public schools.

    It’s much more than that and you are being intellectually dishonest by not owning up to it. You are giving the ID movement equal weight in your treatment of them by going to them as some sort of expert in the discussion when it has been shown over and over again that they clearly are not.

  137. #138 andyo
    June 24, 2008

    Gordy, I agree that you shouldn’t have been insulted as much as you have. But you should just let the insults slide and realize the actual gist of the whole criticism, eloquently put here by someone else’s comment lost in the bulk:

    In his list of “worthy points”, Slack forgot to mention that both IDers and scientists agree that coffee should be poured into the hole of the mug, not outside. In fact, the IDers are probably more resolute on this point.

    Posted by: ngong | June 24, 2008 4:14 AM

    Meaning that just the mention of those points as something even remotely worthy to consider, or even give a break to creationists because they say that (creationists=IDers of course), that was your fault. That was what PZ and most of us think implies undue and totally artificial credit to the creationists.

    And as someone else also mentioned, your use of “evolutionists” doesn’t give your position much of an air of professionalism either.

  138. #139 Jesse
    June 24, 2008

    i didn’t read every single comment carefully, but I have to say as a journalist myself my sympathies are with Gordy Slack, however much I might not agree with the the way he put together his piece.

    There are a couple of things people brought up earlier I thought to point out. Steve Dunlap said most reporters are bad researchers– that depends on the reporter and how much expertise he has in the area he is writing in.

    Most reporters aren’t hired on the beat you see them when the paper is published. That is, the guy writing science articles and the guy writing about the stock market often didn’t start off doing that. As one example. Malcolm Browne, who has a background in chemistry, cut his teeth writing pieces for the local military papers in Korea, and later working as a war correspondent in Vietnam. He only came to Discover Magazine much later (and I bet his background in the sciences was a help there). People get their beats moved all the time — sometimes out of interest as well. (Like, I might be interested enough in science that I want to write about it so I ask for that beat when it comes up. Reporters are naturally curious people, y’know).

    Most reporters also aren’t science geeks. I’m pretty unusual in that I studied physics and some math.

    Making deadlines is rather important — I don’t know how many times I have been asked to tackle a relatively complicated subject and told “I need this today at 5 pm.” If you think it’s easy you try it.

    Yes, we have a rolodex of sources, but not always. Sometimes you have to find them on your own. You try it with a subject you might know little about. Go ahead. And do it in an hour. And you have to talk to a real person.

    I’m not defending bad journalism, which happens a lot on the science beats when they assign people who know less to it (probably someone was on vacation, you’d be amazed how often that happens). But I am trying to explain a little bit about how the sausage is made and the constraints we work under. It isn’t like we’re paid a crapload of money, you know. (I started my best-ever paying job at the time in 1998 at $27,000 per year — in New York City. Lebo probably got $20K when she started — think of how hard that is).

    Most librarians I met are pretty helpful, by the way.

    The other issue GS brings up is one that I do think is salient. But I think he’s conflating scientism with science. The two differ. I’ve said here before and gotten flamed for making the radical suggestion that science is a tool for explaining the physical world — nothing more and nothing less (the second part being just as important).

    Science is less helpful for other kinds of questions. That doesn’t mean religion is any better, but at that point you get into issues that aren’t science to begin with. (“Shakespeare is great” is not a scientific hypothesis).

    Anyhow, I do see where he’s coming from when he says many people come off as arrogant and drive folks away. I used to argue that way too, and I found that saying “You are a stupid person for being religious” kind of ended the discussion. That wasn’t helpful, and it separated me in many cases from people I was writing about, making them less likely to talk. It also was a handicap to my understanding of why they believed what they believed, and why it was important. If you don’t understand that you can’t really change the Overton window was effectively, IMO.

    I’ve been in a lot of religious ceremonies that were nonsensical to me. But I didn’t tell everyone in the room they were idiots. I tried to engage them on other stuff. Seems to work better, is all, but I haven’t got enough data points to tell if it’s just me and the people I am familiar with. Plenty of people are willing to have proper evolutionary biology taught in schools. I don’t want to let the crazies get away with telling them “the teachers hate your religion.” So I don’t hand them a big honking target by saying “Religion is for stupid people.” I said “Hey, whatever you teach at home is fine, my family is Jewish, for instance, but if you want your kid to get into your favorite college and med school he needs this.” Amazing how some parents change tunes when they hear that.

    Or: “You know, us Jews went to public schools and one in every seven people in NYC is still Jewish after 100 years of this, so your faith is probably safe enough.”

    But that’s a political strategy issue, and open for debate and getting a bit off-topic.

  139. #140 Logicel
    June 24, 2008

    GS wrote: Next time I will be explicit: Creationists did not discover that the cell is orders of magnitude more complex than Darwin thought; real scientists discovered that. Creationists say it is significant, and real scientists agree, though they don’t think it calls evolution’s validity into question. The vast majority of them concur on that. And the AAAS and the National Academy concur as well.
    ____

    Sounds good to me. As I said I want you to be the best writer possible (which includes your own inimitable style) for my own enlightened self-interest, so I can enjoy learning when reading. Learning from your mistakes is part of that, no?

    You had mentioned that you would reread your article in the morning with fresh eyes, keeping Heraclides point in mind, and I certainly hope you do, despite the insulting tone directed towards you.

  140. #141 Julie Stahlhut
    June 24, 2008

    Is The Scientist a serious scientific publication at all?

    This is, of course, the publication that let Philip Skell rant, totally from personal incredulity, against evolution on its guest editorial page.

    The Scientist is pretty much a trade paper for the biotech industry — it’s not a peer-reviewed journal of original research, nor is it a popular-science magazine meant for a wide audience. It’s much more oriented towards the business of research than the research itself, although it does carry some mildly interesting puff pieces about researchers and their labs. All in all, a slightly better read for the bathroom than Entertainment Tonight.

  141. #142 negentropyeater
    June 24, 2008

    http://www.nytco.com/pdf/1Q_2008_Earnings.pdf
    1.”First-quarter 2008 operating profit was $6.2 million compared with $54.5 million in the first quarter of
    2007.”
    2.”Total revenues decreased 4.9 percent to $747.9 million from $786.0 million. Advertising revenues
    decreased 9.2 percent. Circulation revenues increased 1.9 percent and other revenues rose 7.2 percent.”

    Does anyone think the NY times is going to survive much longer as an indenpendent media group ?

    The best we can hope for is that it’s not Murdoch who swallows it.

  142. #143 MAJeff, OM
    June 24, 2008

    You are a sissy.

    No, Patricia, I’m a sissy. And it rocks.

  143. #144 Sili
    June 24, 2008

    I didn’t get the “hip” thing till I read the comments. I though they meant “joined at the hip” or something …

  144. #145 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    June 24, 2008

    I guess it depends on your definition of sissy? It’s the last word I would have used to describe you MAJeff.

  145. #146 MAJeff, OM
    June 24, 2008

    I guess it depends on your definition of sissy? It’s the last word I would have used to describe you MAJeff.

    Sure, I can throw a ball. But, I’m not the butchest thing out there. I get fussy with insults based in misogyny and homophobia.

  146. #147 MAJeff, OM
    June 24, 2008

    Ichy’s back!

  147. #148 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    June 24, 2008

    Sure, I can throw a ball. But, I’m not the butchest thing out there. I get fussy with insults based in misogyny and homophobia.

    Yeah I guess that’s kind of my point it some weird way that probably comes out wrong. I need more coffee.

    Ichy’s back!

    Oh shit! Everybody duck.

  148. #149 Bubba Sixpack
    June 24, 2008

    This just shows that we no longer have “journalism”. We have stenographers collecting “he said, she said” stories, along with innuendo, and dutifully parroting them.

    Perhaps they think of themselves as too ignorant to make a decision on what to print and what to laugh at. The irony is, they already make this decision, since they only print two viewpoints. In creationism, for instance, there are many more viewpoints.

    Furthermore, they make the decision to print the ravings of a reality-challenged Flintstone Bedrock dweller, instead of some of the less loony creationists.

  149. #150 Iain Walker
    June 24, 2008

    Gordy Slack (Comment #123):

    But please, someone, grant me the fact that I don’t say anywhere in the piece that creationists came up with these ideas.

    Consider the fact granted. However, when you say in your article “I also think creationists’ doggedness has to do with the fact that they make a few worthy points” and then go on to list them, you do give the impression of suggesting that these are points which are somehow specific to the ID position – which as PZ correctly points out, they are not.

    Thing is, these “worthy points” you attribute to the ID camp are really just rhetorical talking points which do nothing to advance any putative case against evolution or in favour of ID. In conceding those points, you’re not conceding anything to ID as an intellectual position, because they’re irrelevant to the evolution-vs-design debate. However, you’re conceding to their rhetorical strategy in a way that makes it look like you’re actually making a concession to the former.

    So while on one level I don’t particularly disagree with the thrust of your article, the way it is worded is ambiguous as to its intent, easily misread and generally less than helpful. Even if PZ misread your piece, I think he has the right of it – it really does look like the “gullible acceptance of ID propagandists’ appropriation of basic ideas”, even if that was not what you intended.

    Having said that, what I find most problematic about your piece is your third “worthy point”:

    The third noteworthy point IDers make has its roots, paradoxically, in a kind of psychological empiricism. Millions of people believe they directly experience the reality of a Creator every day, and to them it seems like nonsense to insist that He does not exist. Unless they are lying, God’s existence is to them an observable fact. Denying it would be like insisting that my love for my children was an illusion created by neurotransmitters. I can’t imagine a scientific argument in the world that could convince me that I didn’t really love my children. And if there were such an argument, I have to admit I’d be reluctant to accept it, however compelling it appeared on paper. I have too much respect for my own experience.

    This isn’t a valid comparison. Love (if by which you mean subjective feelings of affection) isn’t an object of experience – rather it is the experience itself. To talk of experiencing love is simply to talk of having an experience of a particular subjective character. However, when theists talk of experiencing God, they’re talking about experiencing an inferred object of said experience. There’s a disjunct between experience and object of experience which is not present in the case of “experiencing” love. The inference that the object of a religious experience is in fact a supernatural being (or that the experience has an object at all) is open to attack, in a way that is not the case with one’s mere awareness of feelings of affection.

    So I don’t know why you thought you had to make your third concession at all, since it appears to be based on a completely flawed analogy. The argument from religious experience isn’t “a kind of psychological empiricism”. It’s a case of begging the question, pure and simple.

  150. #151 ice9
    June 24, 2008

    #52–not so surprising. That’s a textbook description of fact checking when a source is a technical authority (as opposed to an opinion). Perhaps surprising now not because of a lack of interest in thorough fact-checking, but because of economy. (NYT op ed has been chewing over the “lost art” of copy editing lately–some interesting relevant bits there.) Critical point is when the reporter gives the story over to a new set of eyes (or more than one). Modern papers, always strapped, have reduced the number of eyes on stories; to reduce actionable errors they also reduce complexity and fall back to the simple “polarized balance” format we are lamenting, properly, here. That public editor should have acknolwedged as much, rather than hedging and whinging.

    By the way the real problem with Ham is not that he has no valid authority to comment; it’s deeper than that (apologies if this has been mentioned already.) The problem is that he’s eager. Ham has a transparent axe to grind (how’s that for a rhetorical figure!) That makes him appealing to the reporter on two levels: first, he’s available, probably happy to drop work on the new diorama of T. Rex eating coconuts to talk to a reporter on evolution issues. Second, he solves the reporter’s readability problem in the guise of balance by salting the story with some tasty adversarial bogosity to boost the lagging interest of readers. If I were the page editor I’d tinker the paragraphs to work Ham’s attribution in just before the jump. Reporting 101: don’t go to the easy source, the one jumping to get in print. It splits the thrust of the story and gives the source a chance to work the reporter. That call–that the source is a bad choice–is not likely to get noticed by editors these days. They’re busy avoiding libel suits and pure plagiarism or invention scandals. Ham’s a good source for some things–the story the NYT didn’t do on jesus-soaked pentagon prayer breakfasts, for example. A balancing source for the Philly program would be tough to find, you see, so the writer just defaulted to the eager beaver in the can.

    On the surface it looks like the NYT is just placating its creationist subscribers with some face time, but they don’t have any creationist subscribers. It’s just lazy, cash-conscious second section reporting.

    ice

  151. #152 ice9
    June 24, 2008

    yep. I was boring and repetitive, as far back as #27. Sorry.

    ice

  152. #153 Malcolm
    June 24, 2008

    I just read comment 105 by mister Slack and could help but feel that the whole thing boiled down to “I’m not good at communicating my thoughts.”

    Mr. Slack, if you are going to call yourself a science writer, surely when you include any mention of ID in your writing, it is your job to educate your readers as to why what these people are saying is wrong. To just write “Ken Ham says blah blah” without, every time, pointing out why it is a complete load of fettered dingo’s kidneys is doing your readers a great disservice. One of the reasons that so many Americans don’t believe in evolution is that people like Ken Ham aren’t simply shot down by the media every time they open their mouths. As a science writer, that is what your job should be.
    You might want to take a few lessons in communication first.

  153. #154 SC
    June 24, 2008

    Mr. Slack,

    Thank you for your response. I’ll now reply, without calling you any names that might offend your delicate sensibilities.

    Although you seem to be willing to admit that your article can be “misinterpreted,” you explicitly reject the possibility on several occasions that this interpretation is reasonable. In fact, it is a perfectly reasonable interpretation of your article. I second the suggestion that you have a few other people read it, as you seem incapable of seeing it with a clear eye yourself.

    Your article constantly attributes to the ID camp points and arguments that are not theirs. Even worse, these are points and arguments to which they have given a dishonest spin, which you do not challenge and indeed appear at times to accept. You seem, to be honest, frightfully nave concerning the IDers’ style of argumentation and deceitful manipulation of the facts, and it serves you ill in this article.

    Here are some examples:

    “What neo-creationists get right:

    An evolutionist shares lessons he’s learned from the Intelligent Design camp”

    [OK, you say you're not responsible for the subtitle, but the title alone is bad enough]

    American creationism’s resilience is tied mostly to its cultural and religious roots, in particular the Religious Right’s conviction that scientific naturalism promotes cultural relativism. But in the debate over evolution, I also think creationists’ doggedness has to do with the fact that they make a few worthy points.

    [As an aside, if making valid points were the basis of tenacity of a view in American culture, evolutionary theory would have triumphed in the public mind decades ago.]

    First, I have to agree with the ID crowd that there are some very big (and frankly exciting) questions that should keep evolutionists humble.

    Second, IDers also argue that the cell is far more complex than Darwin could have imagined.

    The third noteworthy point IDers make has its roots, paradoxically, in a kind of psychological empiricism….

    Which leads me to a final concession to my ID foes: When they say that some proponents of evolution are blind followers, they’re right.

    Can you not see how these statements would reasonably be interpreted as suggesting that the ID camp originated these arguments, has some special claim to them, and/or most importantly gets them (and their meaning and significance in terms of evolutionary theory) right? You sound a lot like a commenter here who’s particularly fond of pronouncing the most obvious facts as his own discoveries or insights and then declaring “I’m patently right.”

    Your specific points:

    It’s hard to draw conclusions about the significance of what we don’t know. Still, I think it is disingenuous to argue that the origin of life is irrelevant to evolution. It is no less relevant than the Big Bang is to physics or cosmology.

    Shallit has addressed these claims:

    (Judging from the context, it seems that Slack really means abiogenesis.) He continues, “I think it is disingenuous to argue that the origin of life is irrelevant to evolution. It is no less relevant than the Big Bang is to physics or cosmology.” This is just idiotic. Evolution is, by definition, what happens after there is a replicator to replicate. What came before is certainly relevant to biology, but it is not, strictly speaking, part of evolution itself. Even if some magical sky fairy created the first replicator, it wouldn’t change all we know about the mechanisms of evolution today. Slack compares the Big Bang to physics, but then he doesn’t compare the origin of life to biology, but rather to evolution. Isn’t it clear that the analogy is faulty?

    Do you understand what Shallit is saying here? Do you think the analogy holds up to his criticism? Do you still think it’s “disingenuous to argue that the origin of life is irrelevant to evolution”? On what basis? And if not, can we conclude together that this is not a valid creationist argument which deserves our respect?

    Myers argues:

    ID gets credit for saying there are big, open questions in science. Scientists say this. It is not news. Go ahead, ask us, and we’ll give you long lists of exciting research questions. They won’t be invented or falsified controversies, as the DI is fond of puking up.

    Note this last sentence. A commenter above links to an article that discusses the real ongoing questions in science. The ID crowd does not consider these exciting scientific frontiers. If they did, they would be actively pursuing research in these areas. To them, repeating that questions remain is merely a tool to try to convince people that evolutionary theory still has little evidence behind it. What creationists attempt is to mislead people by taking the fact that there are big questions in science (all branches of science, by the way – not just biology) and using it to suggest that the theory of evolution still lacks a solid foundation, that it contains unacknowledged gaps or weaknesses which, “evolutionists” should admit, call it into question. Nothing could be further from the truth. You play right into this when you refer to “questions that should keep evolutionists humble.” Humble in what sense? If there weren’t important questions still to answer, scientists wouldn’t continue to do research. None of this challenges the validity of evolutionary theory. I know you say that you recognize this, but your article suggests otherwise.

    Shallit also points out:

    I disagree with Slack that we’ve made little progress in understanding abiogenesis. (What is this paper, chopped liver?) But even if mainstream science has made little progress, what progress has ID made? Nothing. No scientific papers, no testable models, no predictions. Nada. Zilch.

    W

    hat is your response to this? Is science really “still in the dark about this fundamental question”? Our is this simply yet another god-of-the-gaps creationist talking point?

    Second, IDers also argue that the cell is far more complex than Darwin could have imagined 149 years ago when he published On the Origin of Species. There is much more explaining to do than those who came before us could have predicted. Sure, we also know a lot more about natural selection and evolution, including the horizontal transfer of portions of genomes from one species to another. But scientists still have much to learn about the process of evolution if they are to fully explain the phenomenon. Again, I have faith that science will complete that picture, but I suspect there will be some big surprises. Will one of them be that an intelligent being designed life? I doubt it.

    There may well be some “big surprises,” but unless you expect these to disconfirm evolution via natural selection (which you explicitly concede that you doubt), they will be entirely irrelevant to the subject at hand. This sort of confusion and ambiguity is precisely what ID advocates consistently seek to promote, and you’re playing right into their hands.

    Shallit responds:

    And so what? ID advocates weren’t the ones to discover the cell’s complexity, and they weren’t the first to observe it was more complex than originally thought. (Darwin, by the way, knew well that the cell was not an undifferentiated blob of protoplasm; the nucleus was discovered in 1833.) And Darwin got lots of things wrong, so why is it even relevant to modern evolutionary biology what Darwin thought 149 years ago? The ID advocates would only have a worthwhile point if mainstream biologists were denying the complexity of cellular processes. But they don’t. Mainstream biologists discovered the complexity. So what’s the point?

    What is the point? How is this a worthy creationist claim or a point in the creationists’ favor?

    The third noteworthy point IDers make has its roots, paradoxically, in a kind of psychological empiricism. Millions of people believe they directly experience the reality of a Creator every day, and to them it seems like nonsense to insist that He does not exist. Unless they are lying, God’s existence is to them an observable fact. Denying it would be like insisting that my love for my children was an illusion created by neurotransmitters. I can’t imagine a scientific argument in the world that could convince me that I didn’t really love my children. And if there were such an argument, I have to admit I’d be reluctant to accept it, however compelling it appeared on paper. I have too much respect for my own experience.

    Shallit:

    I don’t understand why something should be considered true simply because millions of people believe it. After all, there are probably millions of people who believe in witches, or that Elvis is still alive, or that 9/11 was a vast government conspiracy. But without evidence to support these claims, there’s no reason why I need to take them seriously. Slack’s comparison to “love for my children” being an “illusion” is remarkably inapposite. As a materialist, my guess is that love is, indeed, a product of neurotransmitters. But that doesn’t mean that the experience of love is an “illusion”. The neurotransmitters create the experience, but that doesn’t mean the experience doesn’t exist. Belief in a deity, however, is different. You can have the experience of a supernatural presence, but that doesn’t mean the experience corresponds to anything outside your head. I don’t see why Slack doesn’t understand the difference.

    Do you understand the difference? I was surprised to read at the end of your article that you’re currently writing a book about the neuroscience of epilepsy. I recommend that you follow the link someone provided above to NeuroLogica Blog for some insight into the materialist view.

    “All I’m saying is that if someone else thinks they directly experience God, I respect their attachment to and defense of that belief,” you assert. Well, I don’t. The role played by such experiences in the formation of people’s beliefs across the religious spectrum is well-known and undeniable. Do you really believe the argument from personal experience is something new or profound? That it’s not encountered here on an almost daily basis? That it hasn’t been dealt with in the past (see Sagan’s The Varieties of Scientific Experience, pp. 162-3, for example)? How is this a valid argument against evolutionary theory, worthy of respect or even praise? And if you’re considering it worthy, why don’t you throw in the moral argument, the argument from consciousness, etc.?

    It seems the argument you really want to make boils down to this: PZ Myers and all of you here are a bunch of meanies who are only interested in ridiculing those with whom you disagree. You’ve provided no evidence to support such an assertion, but if you want to believe it it’s neither here nor there. But you also appear to be making a claim that the behavior of atheists and supporters of evolutionary theory is in large part responsible for the tenacity of creationism in the US. You made this claim in your article, and have made it here with even greater vehemence (and more than a little pouting). This is entirely unsubstantiated. You are, at best, an amateur social scientist who is trying to pass casual observations, conversations, and other anecdotal evidence off as data, without engaging in any real research. Furthermore, there is at least some recent research to suggest that the presence of “strident atheists” is of benefit to the more “moderate” groups in these battles. But you don’t cite or engage with any empirical studies, instead choosing to draw from your personal experience. I’ll take that for what it’s worth.

    And by the way, please do a search for “Louisiana” on this blog before spouting off about others’ lack of concern.

  154. #155 Pierce R. Butler
    June 24, 2008

    Gordy Slack @ # 131: I’ve been called more insulting names here in the past several hours than in the rest of my life altogether.

    Jezus damn, mofo, you have led one sheltered life, y’know that?

  155. #156 Nick Gotts
    June 24, 2008

    The Scientist is pretty much a trade paper for the biotech industry

    – Julie Stahlhut

    I find that rather alarming. If the trade paper for an industry which is involved in a good deal of work with dangerous micro-organisms feels it can get away with printing anti-scientific garbage, what does that say about the expertise, intellect and integrity of the people running and working in that industry? It’s as if the trade paper for the nuclear industry was to include respectful treatment of “research” into perpetual motion machines, or editorial rantings against quantum mechanics.

  156. #157 eric
    June 24, 2008

    I recently asked my library to purchase Mark Isaak’s “Counter-Creationism Handbook” and they sent me a letter saying that that book was too old, but that they were going to buy Ken Ham’s new book “on the same subject.”
    That was really funny in a macabre sort of way.

  157. #158 Emmet Caulfield
    June 24, 2008

    ngong @#109

    IDers and scientists agree that coffee should be poured into the hole of the mug, not outside.

    Topologists, however, would vehemently disagree.

  158. #159 negentropyeater
    June 24, 2008

    When you go to the nytco.com website and look at the presentations their ceo Janet Robinson, makes to analysts and investors, you can tell, they are caught in a spiral that makes no sense.

    Instead of focusing on quality, they are focusing on trying to increase advertising revenues, cut costs and find ways to move the same business model online where they copy exactly the same mistakes.

    And the results are that, as I posted in #142 :
    1.”First-quarter 2008 operating profit was $6.2 million compared with $54.5 million in the first quarter of
    2007.”
    2.”Total revenues decreased 4.9 percent to $747.9 million from $786.0 million. Advertising revenues decreased 9.2 percent. Circulation revenues increased 1.9 percent and other revenues rose 7.2 percent.”

    So their fucked up strategy obviously doesn’t work, and they are continuing with it.

    They should make absolutely no compromise on the quality of their reporting. That’s what their brand should stand for. That’s their only chance of survival. And they do exactly the opposite. Good luck. They’ll be sold in a few months.

  159. #160 StuV
    June 24, 2008

    On the off chance that Gordy comes back:

    I’ve been called more insulting names here in the past several hours than in the rest of my life altogether.

    I didn’t know we had colonies on the moon already. Awesome.

    Anyway, you will find around here that if you say idiotic things, people will call you an idiot. And then some. If you call that “calling names”, stop saying idiotic things.

    Simple, no?

    For writing an essay about how despite the fact that IDers say some true things,

    Whoops. No, no chance of that it seems.

    Name one thing IDers say that is true.

    A whole gang of evolutionists abused me (not with truth, but with names! How absurd!)

    Mah woid! Do you need a fainting couch?

    because I didn’t make those points exactly as they like them to be made.

    Oh bull. You’re being intellectually dishonest to a spectacular degree, and you just don’t like getting called on it. If you can just admit that, we’ll talk.

    Fact number one: In all of this, no one has identified one thing in my essay that was either untrue or even objectionable.

    See above. Just because you do not understand it does not make it less so.

    Not even my points.

    Liar. “I didn’t mean it like that” and “Maybe I phrased it wrong”?

    They insulted my spelling

    What is your job again? If I was as bad at the fundementals of my job as you are, I’d expect to be ridiculed.

    but no one called into question a single fact or contested a single point in my essay. So what’s up with that?

    What’s up with that is that you are an idiot. Your points have been questioned by PZ and commenters over and over again. Who the hell do you think you are fooling? You are aware that we can read, right?

    Next time you can abuse yourself. I have better things to do.

    I sure as shit hope it isn’t writing about this issue, because you are clueless about it.

  160. #161 Citizen Z
    June 24, 2008

    Slack:

    That’s one reason why we evolutionists have done such an abysmal promotions job even though we’re armed with the most delightful and seductive and potent theory ever. If we can’t sell evolution, we must be doing something wrong. Right? I’m just saying that we might start by resisting the urge to spit bile in the face of potential buyers.

    Slack:

    So go ahead PZ, rant and rave about the idiocy of those who don’t see the world as you do or don’t write about it in a way that pleases you. It’s fun to watch, even when you’re ranting and raving at me.

    Slack again:

    And you know I’m right about why you come here. It’s not to learn anything new. It’s to hear the same old tired truisms amplified in a feedback loop of self-congratulation. And then there’s always the hope that you could lure some sap like me in so that your sorry old gang of mangy retired hyenas can bark and laugh and prance about. No teeth, though. If they get close enough, the best they can do is suck till their gums bleed and they fall asleep.

    Why on earth should we listen to Slack about how to “sell” things?

  161. #162 Iain Walker
    June 24, 2008

    Gordy Slack (Comment #105):

    My point was that, even if you could show that love was completely reducible to a material basis, very few if any of us would be tempted to say it wasn’t real. From the creationist’s point of view, the same holds for God. If you could show that what people thought was God was reducible to brain states or whatever, it still should not surprise us to find believers persisting in their belief.

    The way this is worded, this still seems to make the mistake of conflating the inferred object of experience with the experience itself. It wouldn’t be a question of reducing God to a brain state, but of reducing the religious experience. Whether or not that experience is in fact an experience of God, or whether it has any object at all, is a separate matter.

    Of course, this means that even if the religious experience were reducible to a brain state, it would not follow that it was not an experience of God, and so this would not in itself be a reason for believers to give up their belief. So you’re kind of right, but for the wrong reasons.

    All I’m saying is that if someone else thinks they directly experience God, I respect their attachment to and defense of that belief. I’m not convinced by it, I just respect their attachment to it. I think they’re wrong, but I understand why they think I am wrong. And I think their experience is relevant when we’re trying to understand their belief.

    If it’s just a matter of understanding how theists think, but not something you find convincing, then why present it in the original article as a “worthy point”? Unlike the other three points you cite, it’s not a creationist/ID claim which you think is broadly correct. It’s an admission that a certain aspect of creationist/ID psychology is understandable (albeit on the basis of an invalid analogy). But given that it is not the same kind of point/concession as the others, it looks rather odd to plonk it down in the middle of the list, without clearly distinguishing it (in terms of relevance and intent) from the others. That looks like sloppy composition (if not sloppy thinking) to me.

    All in all, your original article doesn’t seem to have been adequately thought through. And I’m saying this as someone who is broadly sympathetic to the general point you were trying to make.

  162. #163 negentropyeater
    June 24, 2008

    I mean people are blaming Slack, but the poor guy, what can he do if he’s just incompetent ? He just shouldn’t have been hired in the first place, if the NY times had been a reputable newspaper.

    Listen to what the ceo Janet Robinson, says, are the 4 key elements of her strategy :

    1. The first is introducing new products and services both in print and online. Our goal is to deliver our journalism in ways that consumers can access it wherever and whenever they want it and even in some ways they may not have envisioned.

    2. The second element in our strategy is to continue to strengthen our digital research and development capability. This supports the development of new products and alliances that help us build our business.

    3. The third element is to aggressively manage costs, as we have ably demonstrated through the expense reductions we have made over the course of the past several years.

    4. And the last element of our strategy is to rebalance our portfolio of businesses through both acquisitions and divestitures.

    But as the economy stumbles, we are seeing areas of weakness. Through April, our total advertising revenues decreased 8 percent, with three quarters of the decline coming from classified advertising. Given the slowing economy, we will remain very focused on cost reduction measures, which Jim will discuss, and on developing new revenue streams.

    Any word about the need to attract and keep the most competent Journalists by any chance ? Or on the strategic importance of making no compromise on the quality of the reporting ?
    She doesn’t really seem to care about these things very much, it’s all about new products, new capabilites, cost cutting, acquisitions..etc

  163. #164 Benjamin Franklin
    June 24, 2008

    Getting into the fray late as ususal (Damn, got to take that ‘early to bed’ shit to heart), but anyway-

    Kudos to G. Slack for defending himself here.

    Obviously, there has been misinterpretation.

    Pharyngulites would have preferred to see the article framed as “ID/Creationists use some of science’s valid points, but are still nothing but a bunch of silly asshats”.

    Slack is right about raging hyenas yipping, I see it frequently, not that there is anything wrong with that… but it does exist.

    The larger question, though, is how best to educate the millions who believe in YEC, those who ignore evolution as fact, and those who want religion taught as science in schools.

    A few days ago I was listening to a debate between PZ and Ken Miller. In the debate, PZ said “We need to attack religion.” Will attacking religion change the minds of the one hundred million plus adults in the US who don’t accept evolution? I don’t think so. It may change a few minds, but it will probably harden the opposition of many more.

    I sure don’t know the answer, and there doesn’t appear to be a single, or simple one, but It does seem imperative for us to change minds. What is the “wedge” that can be used? Could it be to really strengthen and narrow the issue down to refuting and dispelling young earth thinking?

    If long time frames are accepted, wouldn’t evolution and common descent be easier to accept?

    Sometimes I see the predicament as a group of folks who know that McDonalds has lousy hamburgers (and they are right), and wants to shut down all the McDonalds in the world. It just isn’t going to happen. But maybe, if folks got to try a better hamburger, some would stop going to the golden arches. What science needs is a better burger, not someone screaming that McDonalds’ burgers suck.

    What can we do to formulate an effective wedge strategy?

  164. #165 bipolar2
    June 24, 2008

    ** invoke methodologies, not just facts & theories **

    In practice, what does science have to say about arrogant religionists:

    With respect to science vs. western bible-based monotheism, the relationship is one-sidedly asymmetrical in favor of science. Science is the arbiter of which statements about the world, empirical statements, are or are not *known* — that is, are given the always provisional metalinguistic accolade, ‘is true.’

    Such statements are ‘methodologically fit’ according to the *relevant testing procedures within science itself.* This is the meaning of the scientific revolution — who certifies empirical knowledge?, who shall decide what statements are true?, and by what criteria?

    Neither ‘ethical fitness’ as in Heraclitus and his Stoic followers, nor ‘theological fitness’ as in Plato and his xian followers, is any longer considered a viable principle for assessing the truth of an empirical statement. (Not, of course, for 20% of the US population that claims the Sun revolves about the Earth!)

    Methodologically, whenever so-called sacred writings make claims about the natural world, they are subject to exactly the same forces of potential refutation as any other empirical claim.

    There is no “executive privilege” for God.

    bipolar2
    2008

  165. #166 StuV
    June 24, 2008

    Will attacking religion change the minds of the one hundred million plus adults in the US who don’t accept evolution? I don’t think so.

    Who said anything about changing anyone’s mind? The fight, the attack, is to keep religion out of politics, classrooms, science and our bedrooms.

    Coddling religion, as has been the norm for too long, has allowed intrusions on all those fronts.

  166. #167 David Marjanovi?, OM
    June 24, 2008

    Exactly! The drawback of democracy I suppose.

    I’d rather say that democracy works only when the voters have an idea of what they are doing. Democracy requires education.

    Nature laws cannot explain the irreducibly complex human machinery like a high end plastic molding machine, nor can it explain the engine contained in your car. The motors in the living cell do in fact bare a resemblance to human machinery, however bio-machines are so advanced in construction and operation compared to their human counterparts, thus indicating God’s signature in the creation.

    Now let’s look why I put this in Comic Sans.

    - You’re right that the laws of physics don’t explain how evolution happened. They explain why it can happen.
    - There’s a lot of stupid design in the so-called machinery of eukaryotic cells. Take the microtubules, that important part of the cytoskeleton that dynein and kinesin perform biased random walks on (one goes on average forward, the other goes on average backward, I forgot which is which). For, presumably, some reason (see below) there two tubulin proteins, ?- and ?-tubulin. ?-tubulin functions as a GTPase: when it contains GTP, the microtubule is more or less stable, when it contains GDP, the microtubule falls apart, and it can be induced to turn GTP into GDP, which in turn can be exchanged against GDP. ?-tubulin, on the other hand, contains an inbuilt GTP that just sits there and does nothing, yet costs energy to make. Why is that? Easy: everything is the way it is because it got that way. Bacteria and archaea have a single tubulin, and that one has the GTP function. (For historical reasons, and because it only forms strands and not tubes, it’s called FtsZ; its function is very similar to that of eukaryotic tubulins in detail, as is its shape, but the gross outcome is different.) Some common ancestor of all eukaryotes had a gene duplication that made two (? and ?) out of one. Because ?-tubulin was available, ?-tubulin was free to mutate in such a way that its GTPase function was lost, and that’s where we are today. Advanced? You call this wasteful tinkering advanced?
    - Then let us turn to DNA. DNA falls apart when stored in water. This, Michael, is burning stupid. We spend lots of energy to constantly repair our DNA. Alternatives are available (check out the Wikipedia article for PNA, for example), but no, we ( = all of known life, except those viruses that rely on the even less stable RNA) are stuck with DNA because… did we have a stupid designer, or a malevolent designer, or is just everything the way it is because it got that way?

  167. #168 David Marjanovi?, OM
    June 24, 2008

    I forgot to add my standard trope about DNA: When molecular biologists want to store DNA for a week or two, they put it in the freezer at -20 C. When they want to store it for longer, they put it into the ultrafreezer at -80 C. When they want to store it for even longer, they boil it in nitrogen. When they want to really keep it, they dry it and store it at room temperature.

  168. #169 llewelly
    June 24, 2008

    negentropyeater (#163):

    I mean people are blaming Slack, but the poor guy, what can he do if he’s just incompetent ? He just shouldn’t have been hired in the first place, if the NY times had been a reputable newspaper.

    PZ Myers:

    The first is this credulous piece by Gordy Slack in The Scientist.

    negentropyeater, Gordy Slack wrote the article in The Scientist – not the NYT article. About a quarter of the commenters here seem to have made the same mistake. Please, people, read more carefully, and double-check your attributions.

  169. #170 dkew
    June 24, 2008

    Mr Slack, you wrote a piece entitled What neo-creationists get right, in which you list their talking points and comment on the arrogance of scientists, without refutation. Of course we are offended! I didn’t need to come to PZ’s shrine to realize this – I commented (politely) on The Scientist hours before this thread began (and, appalled, sent him a link to the article). I appreciate that you wouldn’t hire a creationist for a small biology department, but does that imply you would for a big one? It’s good that you wouldn’t want your children being taught by a creationist – why should anyone else’s children be taught by one?

  170. #171 Tim Fuller
    June 24, 2008

    Scientists are expected to play fair with the cheaters? Play nice with the very goons who are trying to bring an American Talibanism into our society? Christian Madrasses????

    Sorry Gordo. We are going to play by OUR rules in the science debates and we are not going to be bullied by any Pope in sheep’s clothing, no matter how much of a Ham they might be.

    Enjoy.

  171. #172 Bill Dauphin
    June 24, 2008

    Mr. Slack:

    First, let me say up front that I’m responding to this comment thread, not your article per se, so don’t slag me off by saying “read the piece.” Further, please forgive me if this seems redundant, but I want to put a somewhat finer point on something I think the thread has been dancing around. Consider your rejoinder to Martin:

    But can you point to something in the piece that suggests that IDers or other creationists are the originators of any of those ideas?
    You are silent. You can’t. There’s nothing there about that. The essay was not about who invented the ideas. It wasn’t the point.

    But then you ask, fairly enough,
    Can you point to something in the piece that suggests that they are not?

    I wish I could. Honestly, I thought it was kind of obvious.

    It’s not only that it’s not obvious; the converse is implied by your inclusion of those ideas.

    You’ve said in this thread that you only meant to say creationists are not wrong about certain things. But in an article discussing a confict between two points of view, listing things one side is not wrong about is only useful if [a] those ideas are material to the conflict and [b] those ideas are in some way creditable to the side you’re saying is not wrong about them. Thus, the people who’ve assumed you’re giving creationists some kind of credit for those ideas are actually paying you a sort of compliment… because if you’re not giving creationists any sort of credit for those ideas, it makes no damn sense to mention them.

    At the risk of being Godwinned, I’ll suggest that there were plenty of things the Nazis were not wrong about… things they “believed in” that were actually also believed even by the Jews they were persecuting. But it would be pointless to mention those things in a history of the Nazis unless you meant to be saying that they were consequential in the story. If William Shirer had made a big deal out of the fact that Hitler believed in photosynthesis, for instance, critics would’ve assumed he meant something by that, and would’ve taken him to task if they concluded that what he must have meant by that was something bogus.

    I’m not suggesting any side of this issue is similar to the Nazis (nor, for that matter, that you are like Shirer); I’m just suggesting that it’s reasonable for your readers to assume you actually meant something dispositive when you included that not wrong list. You might not have thought the article was about who “owns” those ideas, but by including them at all, you’ve made thinking that’s what the article is about about a perfectly reasonable reading, and even one that’s implicitly complimentary to you.

    So what in the nonexistent Hell are you bitching about?

  172. #173 StuV
    June 24, 2008

    bipolar2
    2008

    Seriously… WTF?

  173. #174 Iain Walker
    June 24, 2008

    Citizen Z (Comment #161):

    Why on earth should we listen to Slack about how to “sell” things?

    It does seem to be axiomatic that those most concerned with issues of framing and presentation … just aren’t very good at it.

    That said, Slack does seem to be one of the good guys, and he does have a worthwhile point buried in his muddled article. I.e., if a creationist makes a valid point, then one should be honest enough to acknowledge it.

    Of course, one should then be prepared to explain why the point, although valid in itself, is irrelevant or otherwise fails to support the creationist position. Careless of him to leave that part out.

  174. #175 negentropyeater
    June 24, 2008

    llewell,

    mea culpa, replace “slack” with “hurdle” in my previous comment.
    Thx

  175. #176 negentropyeater
    June 24, 2008

    sorry, I’ve also managed to misspell your moniker…
    llewelly
    … and I’m complaining about bad journalism.
    As we say in french, “tel est pris qui croyait prendre”

  176. #177 Longtime Lurker
    June 24, 2008

    I really dig Gordy’s persecution complex:

    “And frankly it gives me the creeps to see anyone–let alone a whole group of people–whether they’re evolutionist or creationist, just hungry to see a mushroom cloud wipe some poor hapless sucker like me out.”

    Yeah, Pharyngulites call him an asshat, and it’s just like a mushroom cloud. I may be a nasty bastard at times, but only Samuel L. Jackson is a mushroom cloud layin’ mutha_____.

    Gordy, thanks for posting here, now please thicken your skin and ,next time, think really hard before handing IDers something else they can quote-mine to bolster their case.

  177. #178 Julie Stahlhut
    June 24, 2008

    The Scientist is pretty much a trade paper for the biotech industry
    - Julie Stahlhut

    I find that rather alarming. If the trade paper for an industry which is involved in a good deal of work with dangerous micro-organisms feels it can get away with printing anti-scientific garbage, what does that say about the expertise, intellect and integrity of the people running and working in that industry?

    If it helps, Nick, I find it appalling too. If I were in that industry (and it’s not impossible that I will be someday,) I would be even more pissed off. Research and development depend on people with expertise in science — not people who go off on crankish rants about scientific topics they refuse to understand, and not on “reporters” who parrot every vapid straw-man argument they’ve ever heard and use up valuable print space pontificating on them. (Love as illusion vs. reality? Scientists as blind followers? WTF? Has this writer ever actually met any working scientists?)

    All I can think of is that The Scientist is playing the ants-in-a-jar game — staging a few of these idiotic verbal wrestling matches and hoping people will find the stupidity entertaining enough to make them keep reading the magazine. It’s had the opposite effect on me; I used to skim that magazine because some of its profiles were interesting. Despite my not lifting a finger to renew my free subscription, they keep sending it to me, and my copy normally goes straight into the recycling bin these days.

    As for you, Mr. Slack: This arrogant, cocksure ideologue is going to continue to respect the scientific method as the best means for understanding natural phenomena, and refuse to confound it with approaches better suited for a pulpit, stump speech, or bedtime story. Furthermore, if your idea of providing useful information to biotech professionals is stating that “the cell is more complex than Darwin imagined,” does that mean you would begin a lesson on professional journalism with the sentence “A is the first letter of the alphabet”?

  178. #179 David Marjanovi?, OM
    June 24, 2008

    Comments 150, 151 and especially 154 say it best. Comment 166 also makes an important point.

    Anyway, you will find around here that if you say idiotic things, people will call you an idiot. And then some. If you call that “calling names”, stop saying idiotic things.

    Simple, no?

    Almost — the creationist troll(s) of the week will call you an idiot anyway :-)

  179. #180 Nova
    June 24, 2008

    Gordy Slack:

    When they say that some proponents of evolution are blind followers, they’re right.

    In your answer to this question PZ, you missed out that most people can’t intricately know all about science and how the world works. We trust the scientific method and community because we have seen it work – that isn’t faith, trust must be earned. While everyone should have a basic understanding of evolution, for those that don’t and believe it instead on the basis of it being accepted by the scientific community that isn’t dogmatic belief so long as it’s based on trust by observation on a system working elsewhere (the scientific method and community).

  180. #181 ndt
    June 24, 2008

    If you ask them, and I have bothered to ask hundreds or thousands over the past two years, many will tell you that more than anything else, it’s the arrogant zealotry of cocksure ideologues that turns them off to evolution.

    the problem is, Slack doesn’t recognize projection when he sees it.

    If you ask a thousand people the same question, but refuse to even bother analyzing the answer, any conclusion made would likely boil down to little more than an argumentum ad populum.

    Is Slack really that uncritical?

    I agree, he’s quite a poor journalist.

    Posted by: Ichthyic | June 23, 2008 11:56 PM

    He’s a reporter for the NY Times. Uncritical parroting of quotes has been standard procedure there since at least 2002.

  181. #182 ndt
    June 24, 2008

    Slack, where you mis-spoke was when you said creationists had some worthy points. They don’t. The points you listed in your article were either not made by creationists, or not worthy. The fact that cells are more complex than Darwin realized is, frankly, trivial. The fact that “love” is not an illusion is, I suppose, a worthy point but it is in no way related to the creationism/evolution issue. The fact that there are big questions in science is important to know, but it’s not exactly a secret, and it’s a point IDists and other creationsist seldom make.

  182. #183 Arnosium Upinarum
    June 24, 2008

    Benjamin Franklin (#164):

    Go fly a kite.

    In a thunderstorm.

  183. #184 SC
    June 24, 2008

    David Marjanovi? @ #179 – Thanks!

  184. #185 kcrady
    June 24, 2008

    Gordy Slack:

    The third noteworthy point IDers make has its roots, paradoxically, in a kind of psychological empiricism. Millions of people believe they directly experience the reality of a Creator every day, and to them it seems like nonsense to insist that He does not exist. Unless they are lying, God’s existence is to them an observable fact. Denying it would be like insisting that my love for my children was an illusion created by neurotransmitters. I can’t imagine a scientific argument in the world that could convince me that I didn’t really love my children. And if there were such an argument, I have to admit I’d be reluctant to accept it, however compelling it appeared on paper. I have too much respect for my own experience.

    I had an aunt who, late in life, came to believe that she’d had five children who had been taken away from her. Her “theory” wasn’t all that coherent, and I don’t recall her explanation of how and when the “children” were taken from her. Based on her claimed “sightings” of them, they didn’t grow older. One of her claims was that the children were present at her wedding. I was at the wedding in question as a child, and bored out of my skull because I was the only kid there. :)

    Now, if you had asked my aunt, she would have claimed to have experienced love for the children, and serious emotional pain at having them “taken” from her. Maybe her experience of love for the children could have been verified by scanning her brain while she thought about them.
    Nevertheless, the experience of the emotion of love (which is real) provides no evidence for the existence of the children (which were not real).

    Likewise, the existence of mystical experiences does not provide a “worthy point” regarding the existence of the Creationists’ god. Ask Sam Harris. If anything, the mystical experiences are evidence against all religions. Despite each religion’s exclusive truth-claims to being the One True Faith, “contemplatives” of all faiths and none (Buddhist monks, Christian nuns, animist shamans, even atheists like Sam) have the same experiences.

    These experiences can be regularly generated by employing meditative techniques, ingesting psilocybin or DMT, or using a Persinger helmet. So, sure, there’s a real phenomenon there. It’s just that the very evidence of the experiences themselves refutes the claim that some particular version of the Abrahamic deity (or any other particular human religion) is what’s being experienced.

    To my knowledge, there’s no evidence that these experiences relate to any external phenomenon, rather than “what happens when the parietal lobe shuts down.” Putting on a blindfold may generate the experience of a “realm of perfect darkness,” but that doesn’t mean you’re actually seeing some “place” that’s dark. It’s just what happens when the eyes aren’t providing input. In the same way, the shutdown of the parts of the brain that enable us to distinguish “self” from “everything else” creates a sensation of “oneness with everything.”

    Unless Creationists can provide some evidence that what’s being experienced by mystics is in fact their “Intelligent Designer” of preference, they’ve still got an empty glass. I don’t see any reason to let them pretend it’s half full.

  185. #186 Danio
    June 24, 2008

    He’s a reporter for the NY Times. Uncritical parroting of quotes has been standard procedure there since at least 2002.

    He’s not. I’m not sure if he has official affiliations or is considered ‘freelance’ but the article currently under scrutiny was in Scientist, and a previously trounced article he wrote about the Creation Museum appeared in Salon. To my knowledge, his work has not appeared in the NYT.

    Not that I disagree with your point about the NYT at all–quite the contrary. But if we’re not through giving Slack Willie the business yet, there is a wealth of material on which to ding him without conflating his errors with the equally egregious judgements of the NYT staff.

  186. #187 AC
    June 24, 2008

    If we can’t sell evolution, we must be doing something wrong. Right?

    Sadly, no. If one of the key insights of your theory is that humans share a common ancestor with all other species, and it’s not a god, some people will stick their fingers in their ears and yell “I dint come from no monkeys!!!” no matter what you do. Fear is the problem, and it always has been.

    I suggest repeating as often as possible, in as many venues as possible, the simple facts of the matter (including how misguided and needlessly afraid deniers are), and ignore the reactionary nitwits.

    If they can’t be marginalized, what else is even possible? That’s where journalism has to rise above spectacle.

  187. #188 ndt
    June 24, 2008

    My mistake. I confused the terrible “Scientist” article with the terrible “New York Times” article.

    While my other criticisms of his article still stand, I would like to apologize to Mr. Slack for implying he had any affiliation with that rag.

  188. #189 Ichthyic
    June 24, 2008

    (“Shakespeare is great” is not a scientific hypothesis).

    a statement is not a hypothesis.

    OTOH, “Why does someone think Shakespeare is great?” can be the basis for a scientific hypothesis.

    H1:

    Fondness for specific writers has a basis in past cultural experiences.

    H2:

    Fondness for specific writers has a heritable basis, or at least can be traced to a specific brain physiology.

    both are quite testable.

    you need to rethink the kinds of questions science is capable of providing meaningful answers to, Jesse.

  189. #190 Michael
    June 24, 2008

    Message #120

    Michael, there are no “motors” in the cell; that’s a metaphor, much like much of the Bible. Humans think very analogically: time is a place or a journey, north is up, south is down, for instance. Metaphors help us get a handle on unfamiliar concepts at a minimal amount of rigour.

    The comparison of molecular motors is valid and very literal as it’s has a universal joint, bushing, stator, rotor, drive shaft, and propeller. This is similar to that of a “designed” rotary motor which of course is made by humans.

    On the other hand you cannot see gravity, but you know it is there by it’s effects…

  190. #191 windy
    June 24, 2008

    you need to rethink the kinds of questions science is capable of providing meaningful answers to, Jesse.

    Dj vu – didn’t we have this same discussion with a Jesse a while back?

  191. #192 CJO
    June 24, 2008

    Michael, I urge you to read this essay on the subject by Mark Perakh. A snippet:

    ID advocates, including Dembski and Behe, incessantly reproduce images of flagella which are heavily doctored, without any disclaimers as to the great degree of idealization inherent in these images. Indeed, look again at the real electron photographs of flagella and/or at the images of their actual molecular structure, as shown above in Figs 4, 5, 6, and 7, and it becomes obvious that real natural flagella are far from looking like man-made machines like those whose artificially constructed images are shown in Figs 1, 2, and 3.

    It’s just an analogy, and a misleading one at that. Really. Go look at the pictures and read the essay.

  192. #193 Paul W.
    June 24, 2008

    CJO,

    I have to agree with Michael. That the bacterial flagellum is a machine, and specifically a motor, is a literal truth, not just “an analogy.”

    I’ve read Perakh’s piece, and while I agree with his basic point that Behe makes an invalid argument by analogy, and bolsters it with doctored pictures, calling the flagellum mechanism a motor is not where Behe goes wrong.

    Behe does make the flagellum “look like a machine” in misleading ways—making it look like a stereotypical “machine” to know-nothings.

    Lots of machines don’t “look like machines,” including most computer CPU’s—they’re just slices of rock with geometric patterns etched into and deposited onto them, but they are machines par excellance. Similarly, a genetic regulatory network is a machine par excellance, and many intricate GRNs make the flagellum motor look simple.

    The problem is not that these things aren’t machines, and “motors” or even “computing systems,” but that sophisticated machines simply don’t require sophisticated (intelligent) designers.

    You might want to read Dennett’s discussion of the terms “design” and “design algorithm” in Darwin’s Dangerous Idea. He makes a pretty good case that evolution should be regarded as a naturally occurring design algorithm, and hence an unintelligent”designer.”

    Having programmed some unintelligent design algorithms myself, I have no problem with that. I think there’s a deep literal truth to it, even if it has the inconvenient consequence of being easily misconstrued by IDers.

  193. #194 Steven Dunlap
    June 24, 2008

    Dear Mr. Slack,

    I will try not to sound like a barking mangy, retired, hyena. I do not bark, I’m not retired, and I’m a cat person. As for the other bit I do use a medicated shampoo.

    But seriously.

    You asked if this forum could teach people anything. It has helped me somewhat. I hope that the more considered posts do the same for you. I hope that this is one of them. Without vitriol I would like to point out a few criticisms I have with your article (which I just finished reading).

    First. Please read a chapter in Stephen J. Gould’s most excellent book Bully for Brontosaurus. The chapter title: “Justice Scalia’s misunderstanding.” Justice Scalia, as Gould points out, is not a stupid man. Neither are you. It’s not intended as an insult to say you have misunderstood an important point in the nature of evolutionary theory. Gould writes far better than I do so I will not try to paraphrase him here.

    “But scientists still have much to learn about the process of evolution if they are to fully explain the phenomenon.” Scientists have explained the phenomenon. What troubles me about that paragraph in your article is the transition from discussion of the complexity of the cell to that conclusion I quoted above. I do not see the connection. Perhaps some others in this thread could recommend a good text on cell biochemistry that addresses IDers contention that certain bio-chemical structures could not have evolved? (I read a great article on this topic some years ago but then lost it, sorry). Not to sound insulting but there’s much written about cellular and biochemical evolution. I’m just not seeing the dots connecting “oh, the cell is really complicated” to “There is something not explained by scientists.”

    The use of analogy in the paragraph beginning with “The third noteworthy point…” does not help matters much. First, there exists no way to verify what’s taking place inside someone else’s head. Analogies to love do not help any. We can only observe, measure and record behavior. Maybe this is the point you were trying to make? I don’t mean to put words in your mouth, only pointing out that the words I read did not tell me anything definitive. In other words, this appears to buy into the IDers contention that acceptance of evolutionary theory and natural selection somehow leads to atheism or that evolutionary theory or science or scientists attempt to deny the existence of God. There exists quite a lot of confusion on the part of creationists on this point. I’m afraid this paragraph of your article does not address any of these points directly or clearly and therefore confuses more than enlightens. For a better understanding of the difference between analogy and proof I suggest reading Francis Bacon’s Advancement of Learning in particular, book 2. Bacon also does a good job at the start of book 1 of explaining why scientific inquiry does not deny the existence of God while excluding divine intervention from explanations based on evidence.

    As for the contention that some evolution defenders are or behave like ideologues: yes, but so what? A person can only control his/her own behavior, not someone else’s. If I ever invent a machine that gets rid of all the ideologues but leaves everyone else I would think carefully before pushing the big red button. So should we all. Besides, in one corner we have a group made up of about 10% ideologues (made up number, unscientific guess) and in the other corner we have a group made up of 100% ideologues (observable evidence: hot air’s the only thing keeping them afloat, certainly not evidence). Which side do you criticize for having ideologues in its ranks?

    I suggest you read in Stanislaw Lem’s The Cyberiad the story “Trurl’s Machine.” Toward the end Trurl shouts in a rage “two and two is four! Two and two is four!” If you read this story and understand how Trurl feels, you may better appreciate how some of us feel when we encounter IDiots.

  194. #195 Bubba Sixpack
    June 24, 2008

    Gordy Slack,

    What is it like being an ignorant parrot, capable only of repeating mindless innuendo? What is it like being so incompetent that you have no idea whom to go to other than snake-oil salesman hacks to obtain answers on science? What is it like being nothing more than a highly-paid stenographer?

  195. #196 Steven Dunlap
    June 24, 2008

    Jesse @ #139

    Nice response, and thanks for the complement. We librarians do tend to be helpful by nature. It’s a scorpion and frog sort of thing.

    I noticed that you verified most of my points rather than refuted them. You don’t make much money? But mainstream media institutions do. Why are you not making much? Why do media outlets not hire journalists with masters degrees in the fields about which they write? Why have so many media outlets shut down their investigative reporting?

    My comment was intended to address PZ’s question: “What’s wrong with journalism.” Underfunded, understaffed, do not take an adequate amount of time to do a proper job and anyone can get almost any “beat.” That about sums it up.

    By the way, to be precise, I did not say all reporters were bad researchers, I wrote that most of them were lazy ones. My experience with journalism students entailed rather rude demands for an “executive summary” since they their professors told them “they did not have the time to read a lot.” OK, what sort of impression do you think you’re making?

    And another by the way: executive summaries are almost always lies. You can not summarize something without interpreting it. Therefore, any untruth in an executive summary can be defended as an interpretative statement. Government agencies and bureaucrats routinely lie this way, and do it all the time. They long ago figure out that journalists typically look no further. I’ve lost count of the examples (grossly understating the extent of clear-cutting forests, misrepresenting the effects of copyright legislation to name just two). Try it some time: read the full report then compare it to the summary.

  196. #197 CJO
    June 25, 2008

    PaulW, I agree with pretty much all of what you say. My response was specifically to this:

    The comparison of molecular motors is valid and very literal as it’s has a universal joint, bushing, stator, rotor, drive shaft, and propeller. This is similar to that of a “designed” rotary motor which of course is made by humans.

    I think this is just what I called it, a misleading analogy, and not for the basic idea, that the flagellum can truthfully be called a motor. It certainly performs that function, and the rest of that whole side of the argument is semantics. (As is “design” and design. I am comfortable with regarding natural selection as an a-rational designer — one, as you note, that is effective in many circumstances.) Exactly which terms you use in the vernacular just doesn’t matter at the end of the day, because there are more rigorous terms available for actual investigation at the level Michael claims, with Behe, to see these “universal joints, bushings, stators, rotors, drive shafts, and propellers.”

    The point is that the bacterial flagellum looks nothing like a rationally designed motor as the iconic ID illustrations would have it. It looks like a hastily constructed assemblage of a hundred strands of sticky wire, each of peculiar tensile and folding properties, hitched together into subassemblies that bear striking resemblance to other known biomolecular “machinery” (with or without scare quotes, I don’t care, as long as you don’t think the description explains much of anything).

    Finally, you said:

    The problem is not that these things aren’t machines, and “motors” or even “computing systems,” but that sophisticated machines simply don’t require sophisticated (intelligent) designers.

    And, again, I agree, but you don’t go far enough. Some sophisticated machines show hallmarks of in fact being the result of an a-rational design process, and emphasizing idealized picture-analogies over the results of closer study serves to obscure this fact. And calling something “a machine” or ” a motor” or even “sophisticated” just doesn’t add to our understanding very much, except by analogy; whereas, for the ID enthusiast, the mere words conjure certainty.

  197. #198 AndyD
    June 25, 2008

    Second, IDers also argue that the cell is far more complex…

    This sentence alone clearly gives a free kick to the creationists by implying that they are somehow challenging scientists with new insights into things scientists either don’t know or refuse to acknowledge.

    If you aren’t inferring that, then who do you suggest the creationists are arguing with when they argue such things? Prisoners?

  198. #199 baz
    June 25, 2008

    Slack: “But can you point to something in the piece that suggests that IDers or other creationists are the originators of any of those ideas? I don’t see it.”

    Let’s make this crystal shall we?

    Slack: “First, I have to agree with the ID crowd that there are some very big (and frankly exciting) questions that should keep evolutionists humble.”
    Slack: “Second, IDers also argue that the cell is far more complex than Darwin could have imagined…”
    Slack: “The third noteworthy point IDers make…”

    BULLSHIT!

  199. #200 baz
    June 25, 2008

    LOL! Commented on wrong article.

    Ho hum.

  200. #201 Paul W.
    June 25, 2008

    CJO,

    Good to know we agree. I had thought that you were agreeing with the text from comment #120 that Michael quoted in #190:

    Michael, there are no “motors” in the cell; that’s a metaphor, much like much of the Bible. Humans think very analogically: time is a place or a journey, north is up, south is down, for instance. Metaphors help us get a handle on unfamiliar concepts at a minimal amount of rigour.

    My point was that yes, humans do think very analogically, but that doesn’t mean the flagellum thingamajig isn’t literally and “rigorously” a motor. Humans use “metaphoric” reasoning all the time, but we can also abstract away from irrelevant detail and reason about set-theoretic classes.

    Too many people read Lakoff on ubiquitous “metaphoric” low-level cognitive processes and take home the message that everything’s just a “metaphor” in the high-level literary sense. Big mistake, IMHO.

  201. #202 Paul Riddell
    June 25, 2008

    After I quit working for weekly newspapers, and you haven’t seen real incompetence and arrogance until you’ve worked at a weekly (my favorite experience was the “Major General Editor,” his preferred title, who literally threw a temper tantrum because I got more and better reviews for my work than he did), I made an oath. If I come across a windfall in my future, or I just have enough in my retirement fund before I die, I’m starting a foundation with one specific purpose. This foundation is to hunt down particularly bad reporters and pay them a weekly stipend to finish drinking themselves to death. The problem with journalism today isn’t that journalism schools put out sneering little snots more worried about making connections (so they have a new hideout if/when they get fired for drug use, plagiarism, or sexual harrassment): it’s that not enough of those graduates drop dead from overdoses, liver failure, or terminal syphilis soon enough.

  202. #203 wirelessmurf
    June 26, 2008

    Few people argue that Intelligent Designers are the first and foremost people who have made the assertions above. One doesn’t have to be the first to come up with an idea to pick it up and elaborate upon it, or put it within a coherent framework of arguments. It doesn’t take away anything from Intelligent Designers to be second or fifth in putting assertions together. What I tend to notice about GOOD, SCIENTIFICALLY LITERATE IDers is that they take a large number of valid scientific observations and put them together in an argument that challenges Evolution (capital E) as an idea explaining the world.

    What a lot of IDers have as a legitimate complaint, and target for their criticisms is the basis of Evolution as it is being taught. The vast majority of people believing (and I carefully choose that word) Evolution do so on the basis of what gets taught up to and including high school.

    For the vast majority of people, their “serious” study of the sciences stops there. They don’t learn about the dissent, debate, etc. Evolution gets a nod in high school as a theory, but opposition to said theory is equated with religious fanaticism. In university courses, especially at the post grad level, the serious debates about the holes in Evolution get taught.

    But most people never get there, never get the dissent, and the argument (at least in my biology and advanced biology classes) tends to be framed in HOW Evolution works, not whether it works. In this way, by bringing attention to scientific notions that may well be known to insiders of the biological sciences, the Intelligent Designers bring attention to the masses.

    People get fired up about what is right and wrong because Evolution is no longer treated by its adherents as a theory that needs supporting or refutation. It is considered THE theory that explains human origins in a strictly material way, without God, spirits, or anything. As such, it is the standard for rationalism vs. religion, and it MUST be supported by those who wish to deny religion has any place in science.

    The problem is that Evolution seems to be seriously flawed, and the alternative is not Jesus riding a dinosaur and the earth being only six thousand years old. Because the debate is cast as “either-or” we ignore a lot of evidence that says “neither” be it the potential for truly advanced (but not similar to our modern) societies like Atlantis, or lost technologies.

    Most of my life, I “believed” in Evolution. Lately, based on scientific evidence, I have come to doubt it. I don’t have a firm replacement theory. Religiously I am agnostic to deist, and if it has validity, I think the Bible and many other creation myths are metaphor, allegory, or misunderstandings of the fragments of forgotten knowledge.

    Humanity, which includes Christian zealots, has done an awful lot to burn and destroy the knowledge our ancestors tried to preserve and impart (e.g. Library of Alexandria, which claimed to have “pre-Flood” documents, the entire historical records of Mayans, Aztecs, and other North American tribes, which purported the same).

    I do not think it is necessary, or necessarily good, to automatically have a replacement theory to replace one the evidence doesn’t support (like Evolution). It strikes me as getting into a rebound relationship after a breakup….too fast, without logical consideration. It is better to carefully weigh options with no preconceptions about what “must” fit.

    Note, I didn’t say that no evidence supports Evolution. I think there is evidence that trait selection and limited scale evolution exists among existing species, but I do not see, nor does the fossil record support, the notion of interspecies differentiation or alteration of the cellular levels. Admittedly, in the 1800s we had microscopes, but the cellular biology, especially at the molecular levels, was just not understood to a meaningful degree as some comment authors have suggested. There is trait selection. There is no evidence that a chicken becomes a lizard becomes a bat. We have made all kinds of assumptions, and then built timelines to fit our assumptions (and these timelines are often at variance with evidence later found, and often suppressed scientifically as “too anomalous” such as 250 thousand year old, triple dating method verified, artifacts demonstrating ancient civilization in MesoAmerica-at least 200 thousand years earlier than the most wild assumptions previous).

    Michael Cremo, author of Forbidden Archeology, wrote another book on Human Devolution (which I am just starting). I believe, in terms of believing the evidence fits the theory, rather than by any religious or philosophical attachmen, that human history and civilization are far older than we realize, and many ancient religious views and myths are the debasement of prior understandings of the universe.

    With some analysis, many ancient “religious” writings sound very much like quantum theory. Now, if your whole civilization was wiped out by a worldwide cataclysm, and 98% of the population as well, how would you preserve advanced scientific concepts if the few survivors you found were illiterate goat herders, nomads, etc.? You would likely found a new civilization, and your ancient science manuals would likely become the basis of sacred teachings (mastery of the lightning = electricity), your few technological artifacts would = magic. A few generations of this, and scientific knowledge would become religious dogma, passed on, given poetry, but not often even understood.

    Interestingly enough, some of the ancient Indian vedas read like flight manuals. Perhaps they actually were.

    Ancient people, even the ones we fully accept, didn’t think like us. It is possible they even had certain technololgies more advanced than some of our own, but did not have them widely distributed. There is a lot of informed conjecture about these topics, written by notables such as Hatcher-Childress, Graham Hancock, Cremo, Dunn, and others. What is clear is many of the basic assumptions of creationist, Evolutionist, and scientific mainstream conservative all go out of their way to ignore the mountains of evidence saying “D-none of the above.”

    If a single premise destroying fact exists, it must be reconciled, not ignored (which is what the mainstream scientific establishment often does regarding anomalous evidence) to the theory, or the theory can’t stand, whatever it is. It must be modified, or faith in it must be shaken.

    Unfortunately, because the mainstream scientific establishment sees Evolution as the cornerstone in the castle wall of scientific rationalism as a philosophical belief system, a lot more than the validity of a theory is riding on it. The validity of a secular belief system (religious in character despite its self identification) is tied to defending Evolution.

    To me, as a scientist/engineer, it is quite obvious that there are control mechanisms in nature we don’t understand just like wireless was a mystery in 1850. Even at a DARPA conference, I encountered scepticism that anything we “can’t measure” exists. By that token, electromagnetic waves, ultraviolet, infrared, UHF, VHF,VLF, etc. did not exist until we had the instruments to measure them. Had such a “scientific” mentality existed then, we never would have built wireless gear because a catch 22 of it not existing until we measured it, and no need to measure that which doesn’t exist would have been the status quo.

    Perhaps we will come to see that elaborations of quantum and superstring theory, if not something entirely new, will explain the potential of consciousness after death (something materialists deny entirely), or universal quantum control mechanisms that are the basis of intelligent evolution of life. The problem with current science is that it has limited itself to materialist views, not because we can be said to only exist, and entirely exist, in a material world, but because it was a defense mechanism against religion.

    For those who don’t know, by “separating” the physical and spiritual realms philosophically, scientists got the defense mechanism they needed against the Catholic Church so that ANY scientific enquiries into the nature of matter and energy could avoid the charge of heresy because it contradicted Church teachings. In this way, the scientists gave the Church “superiority” in all things spiritual, in exchange for being left alone to try to explain all things material, and “never the twain shall meet” became the order of the day.

    Now, this defense mechanism set the stage for the greatest explosion of scientific freedom known in our history, but at the cost of becoming its own dogma. For what we knew of the world at the time, and continue to profess to know (or claim to), the material and the spiritual don’t mix. Unfortunately, that might not be the case.

    Everything has a resonant frequency, and that includes matter, energy, etc. Light actually is radio, and what differs is the frequency and wavelength. How does that bake one’s noodle. A lot of people know this, mostly scientists and engineers, but the average person doesn’t (or have any idea what it means). Now, matter = energy…a lot of energy, as Einstein and Oppenheimer demonstrated, and Japan learned to dismay (and we all live in fear of).

    But matter also equals space, with the distance between proton and electron as being proportionate to the distances between the sun and the planets. To anyone with a serious scientific background, I am not saying anything new, definitely not original, and probably not even the 10th of it.

    So, we are all mostly matter, which is almost all empty space even at its densest, and that mostly empty space matter is also energy, and all of the energy has an expression that varies based on its frequency and wavelength.

    Does it not strike anyone else as possible that we only interact with matter and energy at our own approximate frequencies, wavelengths, and densities, which are likely to be but a tiny fraction of the potentialities of the universe? Is it so much to believe that perhaps what we call the spirit realm or God is an entire order of the universe that can have effect on our own, much as we only see a small portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, but can manipulate more and more of the rest?

    Is it so impossible to believe that beings we consider ethereal (very high frequency, low density matter/energy) may choose to manipulate our dense material forms, perhaps in a way that mimics the accelerated “punctuated equilibrium” of hyper paced evolution when new life forms are needed, but at the same time, does so in what we consider “intelligent design.”

    We talk about random chance and trait selection guiding evolution, but I don’t see that it works in the long term with complicated structures (like eyes), or in allowing one species to transform into another (and the evidence we has doesn’t demonstrate this either). On the levels we are talking about, devolution seems to often be a better guideline, and I can only wonder if this is what we have.

    Well, the problem to me isn’t whether evolutionists are right, or IDers. It is a question of whether any of them are right, or just cherry picking the evidence that supports their own philosophical leanings rather than sitting down and wondering if the scientific paradigm we have established works at all compared to a new look at reality.

    The problem is, we live in a modern, industrial (or post industrial) economy, where the science of the day passably works for our purposes, even if only imperfectly (e.g. current theories of electricity versus what visionary geniuses like Tesla demonstrated was possible if a fresh look were taken). Our current scientific views operate on the “good enough” principle, and the vast majority of people, scientists included, want something to believe in because it gives structure and meaning to their pursuits. Few people are comfortable building their philosophies on unstable foundations.

    So we do it anyway, and pretend the foundations are stable, even if it means we can’t build higher than three stories (to torture some metaphors) and hit sticking points when a re-evaluation of our basic assumptions may change everything. Unfortunately, not only do our current methods of thought work well enough to keep us happy and prosperous (by historical standards), there are HUGE established interests in maintaining the status quo, be it in academia, industry, or government. Entire careers, entire departments, and hugely expensive programs operate based on certain sets of instructions, and these have become entrenched interests that work very hard to kill competing ideas and ways of doing things while the idea is still sprouting, before it takes too much root.

    Because so many of these ideas are tied to government funding (of universities, research programs), and thus to policy, they become tied to politics, meaning that there is no free and open venue for airing opposing ideas, except via the net and some certain publishers. It is a shame though. The impact of bad science becoming political policy is that it causes the misallocation of resources on a gargantuan scale, and often retards, if not eliminates the possibility of new ideas gaining credibility when they threaten the old.

    And that is where we are today, and Evolution is just one of the bad old ideas that is being defended because no one wants to risk the idea of religious concepts gaining credence, and we have stupidly framed the whole debate as an “either-or” notion, which is what we humans seem to do, and is itself the legacy of a defense mechanism to prior intrusions into the pursuit of scientific truth by dogma. Now we have adopted the defense mechanism as its own dogma, and that, ironically, seems to be one of the big limiters of intellectual freedom in pursuing scientific truth.

    And while I didn’t mention it then, I will now. I think we ought to re-examine every ancient religious text, the older the better (and sorry, this eliminates quite a lot of Christian thought from medieval time forward) to see if reinterpreting it as science might open up areas where the two meet. Instead of assuming ancient pagan cult mystery teachings, or certain ancient Christian spiritual teachings, or the Rig Vedas, and such are myth and religion, we should see if these might have been history, science, etc. that became mystified through centuries of misunderstanding, transcription errors, etc. and thus became associated with religion because what they originally were, perhaps the nuggets of accumulated knowledge of a lost civilization became muddied by time and misunderstanding.

    Once we accept we *might* not be the peak of human civilization, and that perhaps the biblical Flood, alluded to by over 500 distinct non-Christian cultures (at least) as part of their human history, did wipe out civilizations of great power and antiquity, we might see that ALL of our modern theories are off the track. It might not mean, for instance, that Evolution doesn’t exist, but certainly a lot of our assumptions about time lines and pressures would be different if the catastrophism view of the world’s history were examined. It might reconcile anomalies with assumptions, and then we could start trying to get at the truth rather than trying to argue if one worldview, material versus spiritual, is the debate we really ought to be having.

    Unfortunately, debates of this kind tend to be settled by the side that can politically gain the most support, and truth doesn’t always win out (at least not on timelines most of us are comfortable with, as I for one am not happy to see real scientific progress get delayed by a generation or two…as typically happens, while mindsets catch up to the evidence).

  203. #204 Nick Gotts
    June 26, 2008

    GOOD, SCIENTIFICALLY LITERATE IDers – wirelessmurf

    Oxymoron alert! Oxymoron alert!

  204. #205 Nick Gotts
    June 26, 2008

    wirelessmurf,
    Evolution gets a nod in high school as a theory, but opposition to said theory is equated with religious fanaticism.
    Evidently, you do not understand what “theory” means in science. It means a coherent explanation of a body of data, usually large and diverse.
    In university courses, especially at the post grad level, the serious debates about the holes in Evolution get taught.
    Holes such as???
    alteration of the cellular levels
    What on Earth is this supposed to mean?
    There is no evidence that a chicken becomes a lizard becomes a bat.
    Possibly because none of these three is ancestral to any of the others.
    250 thousand year old, triple dating method verified, artifacts demonstrating ancient civilization in MesoAmerica-at least 200 thousand years earlier than the most wild assumptions previous
    [citation needed]
    Michael Cremo, author of Forbidden Archeology
    …and associate member of the Bhaktivedanta Institute, holder of an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Science and Theology by the Hungarian Bhaktivedanta College for Religious Science of Budapest – how dare you rob this man of his well-merited qualifications in the field of archaeology, wirelessmurf!
    Hatcher-Childress
    Of whom Wikipedia says:
    “David Hatcher Childress (b. 1957) is an American author of books on topics in alternative history. His works often cover such subjects as pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact, the Knights Templar, lost cities and vimana aircraft. [1] Much of his writing, particularly his claims for ancient technology, relies upon ‘channelled’ information from other writers. Within the academic community his works are not cited and his books generally dismissed. Although Childress regularly claims to be an “archaeologist,” in fact he has no college degree, having dropped out of his freshman year of college never to return.”
    Dunn
    Who?
    Hancock
    Oh yes, the discoverer of the “Face on Mars”.
    creationist, Evolutionist, and scientific mainstream conservative
    “Evolutionist” is not a term evolutionary biologists use of themselves; and what the hell is a “scientific mainstream conservative” as contrasted with a creationist and an “Evolutionist”?
    If a single premise destroying fact exists, it must be reconciled, not ignored
    If you mean the handful of “anomalous” objects and fossils Cremo pictures on his website, they are deeply unimpressive. It is true a single anomaly could show evolutionary theory to be wrong, but its provenance would have to be absolutely unimpeachable to overturn a theory that makes sense of such vast and diverse bodies of evidence.
    Now, matter = energy…a lot of energy, as Einstein
    Ah, the crackpot’s obligatory reference to Einstein.
    But matter also equals space, with the distance between proton and electron as being proportionate to the distances between the sun and the planets. To anyone with a serious scientific background, I am not saying anything new
    Very likely, and very sad. I understand that most well-known scientists, at least, are the recipients of reams of crackpottery similar to yours.
    Is it so impossible to believe that beings we consider ethereal
    Who is this “we”? I know of no “ethereal” beings.
    I think we ought to re-examine every ancient religious text, the older the better (and sorry, this eliminates quite a lot of Christian thought from medieval time forward) to see if reinterpreting it as science might open up areas where the two meet.
    This “we” again. Tell you what: you think it’s worth doing – you do it. Come back and tell us about it when you’ve finished. Make sure you don’t miss any of those ancient texts, we can wait.

  205. #206 MAJeff, OM
    June 26, 2008

    I think we ought to re-examine every ancient religious text, the older the better (and sorry, this eliminates quite a lot of Christian thought from medieval time forward) to see if reinterpreting it as science might open up areas where the two meet.

    I, for one, welcome the wisdom of our ancient ape overlords.

  206. #207 Andres Villarreal
    June 26, 2008

    I have just posted the following on Slack’s blog:

    “I have read the interchange of attacks and defenses carefully and have found some merit in both. Then I re-read your article and tried to pinpoint the detonating factor of it all.

    When you say that evolutionists have to humble down (not an exact quote, only the idea that lingers in my mind after reading) you are playing the same song the most rabid creationists shout every time.

    Creationists have some points right, and an article about them could be a good idea. But an article by an avowed evolutionist that can get misquoted as easily as this one is a step in the wrong direction.

    As scientists we should be careful explaining how every theory and hypothesis has a level of confidence, from the rock solid basic tenets of evolution to the speculative theories of origins of sex to the highly speculative theories of the start of self-replication.

    But the question of how to talk with somebody who is instinctively unable of imagining a world without his particular god (or gods) is not advanced with an article that seems (to the religious people) as a capitulation.

  207. #208 Brendan Borrell
    June 26, 2008

    Poor Gordy Slack! The guy just wants to promote the paperback edition of his book with a provocative essay, and, lo and behold, folks get riled up.

    But I’m not here to defend Mr. Slack, who has placed himself in the unenviable position of being a peacemaker to nimcompoops. I’m here to defend the The Scientist — which supplies a healthy fraction of my freelance income — and I’m here to defend the right of the NYT to publish a perfectly acceptable, not particularly creative, tongue-in-cheek lede.

    First off, the NYT lede didn’t just spring from the mind of a science illiterate journalist. The Year of Evolution has explicitly positioned itself as an antidote the creationist disinformation campaign. Sure, they carefully avoid the words “Intelligent Design” on their website, but the subtext is pretty darn obvious to anyone whose stayed awake since Dover. Frankly, journalists have come a long way when it comes to writing about evolution, and it’s been a long time since they’ve sought out a creationist viewpoint for “balance.” The so-called debate may be vacuous for those of us with passing knowledge of Darwin, but it’s still a real social phenomenon, which is the bread and butter of journalism.

    As for that trade pub that published Mr. Slack’s musings,The Scientist sprang from the mind of Eugene Garfield, the inventor of the Scientific Citation Index, in 1986, and has tooted along in its own funny, little niche ever since. It’s gotten several upgrades over the last couple of years, and the editors are as bright and knowledgeable as any science publication out there. Believe it or not, you can find some great writing in it. I highly recommend an excellent piece by Mr. Slack on a veterinary crime lab or how about his piece on a sleep psychologist who studies himself.

  208. #209 wirelessmurf
    June 28, 2008

    To Nick Gotts:

    You manage to slag off a whole series of my arguments, or assertions, without managing to even try understand them. You rip into Mr. Hancock as the “discoverer” of the face on Mars, and then denigrate the idea. 1. He didn’t discover it, but 2. He did write a lucid book about it. Your entire post is riddled with such idiocy, and you are being an idiot. At least make an attempt to understand what it is you are trying to criticize before you claim it is crackpottery.

    I bet you haven’t read his book on the face of Mars, or any of his books.

    You automatically refer to me as a crackpot, making an obligatory reference to Einstein, without ever elaborating on what THAT is supposed to me (obligatory reference = ?).

    But the intent is clear. You resort to a whole host of personal assaults because it alleviates, in your mind, the responsibility of addressing what I say. This is typical of fanatics. You cast aspertions on the PERSON rather than dealing with the issue. most of what you dismiss, I wager you have never read. You probably haven’t even heard of a whole host of what I mentioned, other than to try to google their brief bios to have something to insult, let alone read into the subject matter. While remaining wholly ignorant of any of the substance of any of the subject matter I alluded to, you feel confident in consigning it all to the realm of quackery.

    It does not make it tough to see how guys like Gallileo and Copernicus were persecuted, because while the educational pedigrees and positions have changed, the mindset of the “know nothing know it alls” remains the same…you “sir.”

    After a bit of such things, I quit reading your post beyond some quick skimming. I doubt anything would convince you of anything that you didn’t already make up your mind to believe. Brains like yours tend to be impervious to either fact or imagination because you discount any fact if it ventures to far beyond what you already think you know. Your dismissive tone is quite clear in this.

    I will say this, many of the breakthroughs in science theory occur from outside the institutions. The establishments get too invested in current paradigms, and those accepted into, and promoted up from within tend to toe the line. For those who are familiar with universities, this is nothing new. The doctor who discovered decades ago that ulcers were caused by bacteria and could be treated with simple antibiotics was called a charlatan and lunatic and slagged off for about 20 years even though his theory was easily tested (and proved). Atkins was called a nutjob on weight loss, even though he repeatedly proved a principle of weightloss and ketosis that essentially went back a few hundred years that had been touted by Banting.

    When it takes decades for officialdom to accept that which is easily proven, and so concrete, you can pretty much accept that it will be worse when things are a little more elusive or subjective. Worse, not everyone has the strength of their convictions to face decades of professional slander and ridicule, and will hang in to prove they are right (often at the cost of careers and prosperity). As a result, much excellent work is dismissed as crackpot theory because the only people who will pursue it do not have the academic standing to lose, who have already resigned to support themselves independently, and to whom being considered “on the fringe” isn’t something to be considered shameful.

    Just remember, the fringes are also usually the frontiers, and if we think that everything we are to discover must be related to what we already (think we) know, then we can forget too many paradigm changing breakthroughs.

    In fact, again and again throughout history, people who convince themselves that they know what is going on get control of establishments and then strangle debate unless it takes place in a way that they control things. They, like you, make personal attacks while remaining largely ignorant of what they criticize. Often, such people are fearful that everything ISN’T what they were told, and they don’t want to accept that everything they have believed in is just wrong (if not a lie).

    And my experience and reading (and I have a lot of each) indicates that so called secularists and scientists are no more immune to this than the most fervant bible thumper.

    There is no sense in trying to discuss things with you Gotts, and not because I have ANY fear of defending my ideas or facts and evidence. The problem is, people like you just take disagreement personally, and choose to slag people that disagree with them. It is not my intent, nor will I, spend hours typing things to educate you. From your previous post, and insults, it would just be a waste of my time and effort, and likely wouldn’t accomplish anything more than giving you a chance to hurl some more invective.

    If I am going to spend any of my time trying to teach or direct anyone to any knowledge, I want to know there is at least a *CHANCE* that it will be actually read and considered, whether or not it will be accepted. If I hadn’t painfully come to acquire the wisdom that there are just people like you in the world, self righteous, ignorant, yet insulting, I would get bothered and try to put a dent in your armor of ignorance, but it just isn’t worth it.

    For all of the people who go to universities and get degrees , there is only a small fraction who actually possess real intellectual curiousity and who will keep pushing their own intellectual boundaries and keep challenging the basic assumptions and delving into the full meaning of even the simple concepts. When I was younger, perhaps in my own arrogance, I just assumed because I did, most others would. Now, I realize, as you aptly demonstrate, that while I am not anywhere near unique in that regard, I am a rare bird.

    For the rest of you who actually like to learn new things, and to learn to take a new look at concepts you thought you knew, read:

    How Mathematicians Think:
    Using Ambiguity, Contradiction, and Paradox to Create Mathematics

    by a guy named William Byers of Princeton University Press.

    Then, use the perspective you (hopefully) got from that to tackle some of your old assumptions about history, science, human origins, whatever you actually used to think you used to know. Sometimes you will just confirm what you already thought you knew, but often there will be a new take on it. Then take a chance on reading something “out there.” Fingerprints of the Gods by Hancock, will likely enormously interest you into reading a few other books of his. Ditto the Hatcher-Childress books. “Forbidden Science” and “Forbidden History” and such might make other good, short primers.

    Then, if you read a few dozen (or more) of those books, with a fresh look and having chased up a number of the original sources, you want to lay criticism that I am actually still a crackpot, well, so be it.

    My argument is never with people who disagree with me from an informed and intelligent perpective. The problem I have, well that a lot of people have and encounter, is when you challenge someone’s beliefs, even calmly, and including so called “scientific” beliefs, you get attacked and dismissed by someone wholly ignorant of your position or what you are saying.

    And if you wonder what the nutshell of my arguments are on Evolution (and “evolutionists”) and Intelligent Design is (and contrary to said secularist ignorance, there are MANY who not only are scientifically literate, but are scientific juggernauts when you judge their academic qualifications, publications, research, and experience…the fact that they may have a contrary view to the secularist view of human origins doesn’t negate all they have learned, know, or done), then it is simply put:

    Both sides have good arguments, neither side has it right. We can’t discount what we call the realm of spirit (which may simply be a facet of scientific existance we don’t understand). Just because we have arbitrarily split the realm of “gods” and science doesn’t mean it reflects reality. It also doesn’t lend any definite credibility to anyone’s set of beliefs just because scientific evidence intersects religious teachings (e.g. the Flood). The ancient Jews could have easily recorded and survived the Flood without it meaning their god (if it was a god) is the only and right one.

    A lot of ancient eastern religions discuss the intersection of science and faith, by implication, and I personally think human history is a heck of a lot different than what we think. Part of the problem is we have this whole section of time called “pre-history.” The general way this is handled is that all of the “real” human achievements and civilization occured during “history” and most of the rest was just primitive scrambling. Anyone who knows about how entire ADVANCED civilizations have disappeared sans historical record (e.g. Hittites), knows that a worldwide catastrophe, or several, could easily have blasted a lot of what HAD been human achievement into pre-history. Even in modern times, islands have sunk (islands with cities and rich, prominent trading ports, that were contemporary with current nations still around today), and become considered “legend” (despite imperial records of same) within fifty years (only ceasing to be “legend,” despite all written records still existing when divers then discovered watches, buildings, etc., on the sea floor).

    If you want to find out what I am speaking about, read a few books by Frank Joseph, because what is alleged to have happened to Atlantis has happened in modern times (post 1600 and 1700s) and almost became considered legendary, were it not for lucky breaks. So if some civilization disappeared THOUSANDS of years ago, it really isn’t out of the blue to assume it to would leave little to less, and be considered legend (and dismissed by ignoramuses who refused to accept its possibility if it contradicted other of their beliefs, with them calling anyone who seriously investigated or wrote about said existing evidence as “crackpots” to justify their ignorant dismissiveness).

    Anyway, it doesn’t really matter if I have reached anyone on this. I am not here to “prove” I am right. Increasingly, I have an eastern philosophy about this. Those who are interested in learning and investigating will. Those who, as the Jesuits taught me, consider debate a useful tool for illuminating truth rather than a chance to attack those who disagree, will illuminate some truth in the course of their disputing what I have said (or coming to agree with it).

    The others, well, they can’t be reached, and there is no further point in expending effort on them. I just hope that perhaps one or two curious people will take it to heart that perhaps the answer is neither entirely materialistic, mechanistic random chemical chance, nor is it all gods, angels, and demons dancing on the head of the pin, but perhaps it is something else. I am confident that if anyone reads two or more of the books/authors I recommend, with an open mind, they will change a lot of their own assumptions about what constitutes the real state of science, even if their purpose in reading same is to understand me so they can refute my assertions. If so, feel free to write to me at wirelessmurf at yahoo dot com.

    But I also think that most of the people who want to refute me will do so without ever increasing their understanding of what I am actually asserting, and will choose to flame rather than debate. That certainly has been Nick Gott’s methodology, and he is typical of his kind.

  209. #210 SC
    June 28, 2008

    Nick Gotts,

    #209 may test your commitment to restraint. I hope you’re wearing your WWLD (What Would Lenski Do) bracelet.

  210. #211 Nick Gotts
    June 29, 2008

    most of what you dismiss, I wager you have never read. – wirelessmurf

    You’re quite right. I am mortal, and if I’m going to waste time, I prefer to do so enjoyably.

    After a bit of such things, I quit reading your post beyond some quick skimming.
    Pot. Kettle.

    It does not make it tough to see how guys like Gallileo and Copernicus were persecuted
    And now the obligatory reference to Galileo. Ah! But you do also reference Copernicus – that is unusual – perhaps because most crackpots are not quite ignorant enough to think Copernicus was persecuted. He wasn’t. Look it up.

    Just to answer one other point in your interminably parade of rubbish: the “Face on Mars” has now been photographed from other angles, showing it to be a natural rock formation. Oh, but I suppose that’s just a NASA conspiracy to hide the truth?

  211. #212 Nick Gotts
    June 29, 2008

    SC,
    Unfortunately I lack both the brilliance and the patience of Lenski – but I did get a few belly-laughs from reading wirelessmurf’s second tirade. (S)he’s rather endearingly silly, really, certainly a pleasant change from the endless creobots – maybe (s)he could be Pharyngula’s pet crackpot?

  212. #213 Nick Gotts
    June 29, 2008

    If I am going to spend any of my time trying to teach or direct anyone to any knowledge – wirelessurf

    I missed this on first reading. Please, please, DON’T. Think – it would take away precious time from your invaluable primary research!

  213. #214 wirelessmurf
    July 1, 2008

    It is sad folks. I hoped that ONE person would have something intelligent to say about what I wrote, on any salient point, of which there were several.

    People who are pretty much entirely ignorant on a number of subjects shouldn’t be dismissing anyone as a crackpot. I know, I know, it is a lot like the people who desperately don’t want to debate the wisdom of “affirmative action” calling anyone who disagrees with them “racists.”

    It is your short hand way of blocking the idea and notion that you not only might not be right, but to slander the very person who brings ideas you can’t refute to the table.

    Unfortunately, that is what passes for “scientific thought” amongst a large majority of people. Call people who challenge your assumptions crackpots, ignore their evidence, go back to framing the “debate” into terms and sides you are comfortable with, regardless of whether it accurately reflects reality. Hang out only with people of a like mind (dismissing all others as crack pots or fanatics), pat each other on the back as to how “enlightened” you all are, then react with surprise, anger, and scorn when someone finally comes in, shatters your paradigms, and demonstrates that in a free and open debate, your ideas are irrelevant and only appeared so in a closed loop.

    Considering, for instance, that such things do and have happened in recent history, on the world stage (e.g. USSR, collapse of communism, etc.), be it political, scientific, religious, or economic, such foolishness isn’t without precedent.

    It is sad really. You don’t even begin to understand that which you are dismissing, and with historically unprecedented access to information via the web and affordable books, your unwillingness to even want to understand ideas outside of your ken is nigh unforgivable. Your self imposed idiocy is just alien to me.

    At least I can claim to entirely understand the IDers, fundamentalists, secularists, evolutionists (and those who reconcile their religious beliefs with evolutionary beliefs), while taking the time to explore other options and question basic assumptions throughout (including “alternative” views on human origins and civilization). Can those of you who dismiss my ideas (and insult me) claim the same? I doubt it. Oh well, I am not suffering for your ignorance, but it would be nicer if your brands of stupidity weren’t so common (especially in institutions of “higher learning” where challenging assumptions are treated as threats to academic fiefdoms).

  214. #215 Nick Gotts
    July 1, 2008

    I know, I know, it is a lot like the people who desperately don’t want to debate the wisdom of “affirmative action” calling anyone who disagrees with them “racists.”
    Ah, so you’re a racist as well as a crackpot. Why am I not surprised?

  215. #216 negentropyeater
    July 1, 2008

    wirelessmurf’s website Ancient Engineers does provide a good laugh !

    We are in the business of uncovering the truth and understanding this world and its origins, whatever they may be. There is no room for dogma here, unless it is amply supported by the evidence.

    Debate is a tool used to illuminate the truth.

    Right now we are not trading, nor doing business. We do study a lot, hence the research aspect of the description. Additionally, engineering and scientific history, especially the information that is outside of the mainstream, has great appeal. If you are interested in the Templars, ancient navigation, vanished civilizations, and the evidence for the contributions of the above (and similar) to the world we live in today, this is your place.

    Ancient Engineers is an assorted group of engineers, scientists, and similar professionals of many different disciplines. What we all share is an interest in technology, history, civilization, and TRUTH. There is no dogma except a devotion to uncover the truth, and to increase the store of knowledge we have.

    The world is not what we think. Our history isn’t what we’ve generally been taught.

    etc…

    Seems ancient engineers is in the TRUTH business. I think it is a promissing business indeed.
    Also, I did take a look at the book suggestions, and we can see the focus of ancient engineers :
    Fingerprints of the Gods
    The Mars Mystery
    Supernatural
    Underworld
    The Sign and the Seal
    Keepers of Genesis
    Heaven’s Mirror
    Talisman
    Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings
    The True Story of a Lone Genius who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time
    Technology of the Gods: The Incredible Sciences of the Ancients
    Forbidden History
    Atlantis, and other Lost Civilizations

    To conclude, I think this comment from wirelesssmurf was quite funny (comment #209)

    When I was younger, perhaps in my own arrogance, I just assumed because I did, most others would. Now, I realize, as you aptly demonstrate, that while I am not anywhere near unique in that regard, I am a rare bird.

  216. #217 Karl Lembke
    July 4, 2008

    Actually, love is imaginary, unless declared real.

    (Does anyone still use Fortran?)

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