Pharyngula

Poor science standard in Minnesota

Our state science standards are being patched up right now, and while they’re mostly just fine, one sneaky provision is still on the books.

“The student will be able to explain how scientific and technological innovations as well as new evidence can challenge portions of or entire accepted theories and models including but not limited to cell theory, atomic theory, theory of evolution, plate tectonic theory, germ theory of disease and big bang theory.”

It’s the old ‘teach the controversy’ argument. While it seems innocuous, and we actually should teach kids how to address established theories critically, it’s really just a backdoor for teachers who sympathize with creationism to smuggle in instruction in intelligent design creationism. It’s also more difficult than it sounds. Even this article, which is sympathetic to good science education, gets the idea wrong. Here’s an example given of a ‘challenge’ to evolutionary theory.

The National Geographic article reports that the fossil, called Ardi, challenges portions of the theory of evolution that say the missing link between humans and apes would look something like a chimpanzee. For example, Ardi is changing our way of thinking about how hominids moved about. Its big toe splays out from the foot to better to grasp tree limbs. However, its foot contains an extra bone that keeps the toe rigid to help the hominid walk bipedally on the ground. The extra bone is not found in the lineages of chimps and gorillas. Also, the upper pelvis is “positioned so that Ardi could walk on two legs without lurching from side to side like a chimp,” researchers say, while the lower pelvis was built like an ape’s to accommodate huge hind limb muscles used in climbing.

No, no, no, no, no. There is absolutely nothing in the discovery of Ardipithecus that challenges any portion of the theory of evolution. It’s an observation of a historical quirk, a detail of the pattern of changes in one lineage. It’s the equivalent of finding an apple tree, watching the fruit fall, and noticing that one apple bounced left, and another bounced to the right — if you’re really, really interested in the distribution of apple bounces (in the way we’re personally interested in human evolution), it may be interesting…but it does not in any way challenge Newton’s laws of gravity.

See the problem? A lot of people misunderstand the concept of a theory; we’re going to get a crop of teachers who don’t know what they’re talking about who will intentionally try to sow doubt in students’ minds by putting forward claims that miscellaneous facts challenge evolutionary theory when they do no such thing.

The only way this standard could be at all useful is if the teacher actually understands deeply that the theories listed can not be currently challenged, except by inventing weird science-fictional ideas that are unsupported by evidence…like intelligent design creationism. I can think of observations that would contradict evolution, easy, but guess what? There are no alternatives, and the creationists certainly have not provided any evidence against evolution.

Comments

  1. #1 Glen Davidson
    January 27, 2010

    In a strict sense, the standard would depend upon whether or not there were innovations or new evidence that might go against the list. Well, why? Why wouldn’t old objections be as reasonable to use, if sound?

    Evidently those words are intended to help IDiocy, which claims its old wine in new wine sacks is in fact new wine (never mind that we prefer the old). There is nothing new since Paley, except the attempt to dodge the demand for any actual evidence for design, and the mindless chant that complexity proves design.

    If the complexity con is somewhat new, by no means is it new scientific or technological challenge or evidence against evolution. So if we follow the letter of the law, ID is right out as the BS it’s always been.

    The fact that they claim to have new scientific ideas, however, is the obvious practical loophole for which they aim. As long as this piece of rot is in the standards, I hope its implementation will be fought with intelligence and knowledge that ID has absolutely no new science, and has even left the possible-to-be science of Paley.

    In many districts it almost certainly will not be.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  2. #2 MolBio
    January 27, 2010

    What are the requirements to be a school teacher over there?

    Here teachers need to have appropriate degrees in education and their field (in this case science) to teach.

    I wonder if school education is just a collection of non-sense mutations to the body of knowledge. Passing on the misunderstandings. :p

    Supp question: Will they also teach the controversy of maggots, and spontaneous generation? :p

  3. #3 Maslab
    January 27, 2010

    Oh boy, yet another argument I’ll run in to soon enough.

    “But we have an offshoot of apes that proves we didn’t evolve from them,” or some such tripe.

    And when refuted, they’ll revert to comparing things that evolve to things that can’t, and claiming that the eye is irreducibly complex even after being shown that it’s not half a dozen times.

    As for me, I think that it may be a good idea to teach students the new arguments, if only to teach them to question those as well, and not just what they support. If that makes sense.

  4. #4 cervantes
    January 27, 2010

    The standard says students should be able to explain how new evidence can challenge a theory, not that they need to produce evidence that in fact does challenge evolution or any other theory. It also refers to challenging a portion of a theory and although the whole Ardi thing has been overblown, specific hypotheses about various evolutionary lineages and transitions get challenged all the time, and students ought to understand that.

    I don’t think it makes sense to freak out over language which is, in and of itself, entirely appropriate just because somebody might misuse or abuse it. The problem is not the appropriate language, it’s the inappropriate use.

    What you are really arguing for is that we need better science teachers. I don’t think the answer is standards that assume they are unqualified and put them in a straitjacket so they can’t do damage. That just damages the opportunity for good teachers to really teach well.

  5. #5 Uncle Glenny
    January 27, 2010

    Maybe instead of using the word “theory” science should use something else, like, say, “hegemonic paradigm.”

    Um, maybe not…

  6. #6 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 27, 2010

    I don’t think it makes sense to freak out over language which is, in and of itself, entirely appropriate just because somebody might misuse or abuse it. The problem is not the appropriate language, it’s the inappropriate use.

    Except that this is virtually the same type of language used across the country for the sole purpose to do just what PZ claims. It’s not that it might be abused, it’s that it’s put there specifically for the purpose of allowing an “in” for creationists and other pseudo-sciencey things.

  7. #7 souper genyus
    January 27, 2010

    I think it’s important to teach the tentative nature of science. It’s ability to correct itself based upon new evidence and insights is what makes science valuable means to progress knowledge. Kids should understand this. They should learn the difference between science and dogma, and why tentative conclusions based upon the findings of science are much more reliable and reasonable than conclusions drawn from dogmatism.

    I thought the wording was smart, since it didn’t single out evolution nor did it use the “just a theory” canard. It, instead, placed evolution within a list of theories that every ignoramus, including the most ignorant creationists, would whole heartedly accept as fact.

  8. #8 Celtic_Evolution
    January 27, 2010

    The problem is not the appropriate language, it’s the inappropriate use.

    Quite right… but as PZ points out, it is inappropriately used in the very example they give in the standard, regarding the Ardi fossil.

    Remove the poor example, and crop the provision to simply read: “The student will be able to explain how scientific and technological innovations as well as new evidence can challenge portions of or entire accepted theories and models.”

    Leave it at that, and I wouldn’t have too much of a problem with it.

  9. #9 Tulse
    January 27, 2010

    “Atomic theory”? What the heck? Is that code for challenging radiometric dating?

  10. #10 Glen Davidson
    January 27, 2010

    The standard says students should be able to explain how new evidence can challenge a theory, not that they need to produce evidence that in fact does challenge evolution or any other theory.

    You don’t know how new evidence or innovations can challenge a theory unless you have it. New evidence, especially if it’s a breakthrough, may challenge a theory in rather unexpected ways.

    If it’s merely a question of how “then new” evidence challenged this or that theory, then it should be written in that manner. That’s simply the history of science.

    The whole thing is a scam. In fact, it’s quite obviously so from the list, which has several creationist bugaboos (Big Bang–which they don’t necessarily oppose, but want to make a miracle, evolution, and plate tectonics), plus several thrown in to make it “look good,” and which they know no one will challenge.

    It’s devious from beginning to end.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  11. #11 Maslab
    January 27, 2010
  12. #12 Mr Ash
    January 27, 2010

    While these sort of provisions are always suspicious, at least it isn’t singling out evolution. The others might have been added to allow them to get away with it, but it does place evolutionary theory on the same level as cell theory and atomic theory, which I think even the Creationists accept.

  13. #13 ilgreven
    January 27, 2010

    If they were really serious about this standard, then the example they should put in is Stephen Jay Gould’s punctuated equilibrium theory.

  14. #14 vanharris
    January 27, 2010

    The National Geographic article reports that the fossil, called Ardi, challenges portions of the theory of evolution that say the missing link between humans and apes would look something like a chimpanzee.

    What the heck do they mean by “the missing link between humans and apes”?

    Darwin, somewhat presciently, warned that the last common ancestor of chimps & us might not look much like a chimp.

  15. #15 Glen Davidson
    January 27, 2010

    I could add that, yes, you could imagine this or that new discovery might do in a theory. Let’s say we find that organisms end up with what they need genetically, the moment the environment changes, and that this new genetic material didn’t arise from old genetic material.

    Well, fine, but that’s really a pretty dumb scenario. That doesn’t happen, what’s the point of bringing it up? What’s the point of bringing up the implications of “Yahweh” somehow appearing (and it’s not an ambiguous word) in every genome, but in different locations in every species?

    Sure, it’d be astounding, but it’s an idle fiction. A few of these things get thrown in once in a while anyhow, but no one thinks they’re very relevant to science teaching.

    I reiterate, we don’t really know what new evidence or innovations will mean until we have them in hand–unless, of course, someone is already looking for them with at least a somewhat reasonable justification for doing so.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  16. #16 IanM
    January 27, 2010

    A theory is not a hypothesis and miscellaneous facts don’t challenge the theory of evolution but contribute to it.

  17. #17 Tulse
    January 27, 2010

    Maslab, I know what atomic theory is — what I was wondering is why creationists would have a problem with it.

  18. #18 Gus Snarp
    January 27, 2010

    @vanharris – Obviously whoever wrote this doesn’t even understand what the “missing link” is, and it’s admittedly a bad term. As you pointed out, the common ancestor would have had humans and chimps both branch from it, not have occurred between humans and chimps. The fact that one potential step in the lineage of humans branching away from their common ancestor with chimpanzees has some unusual features says very little about the common ancestor. Can we just get people, at least those who are trying to write seriously about science, to stop using the term missing link, since it is so easily misunderstood and us the term common ancestor instead?

  19. #19 justawriter
    January 27, 2010

    What are the requirements to be a school teacher over there?

    In most of the smaller schools I’m familiar with it seems to be a qualification to coach a sport, preferably football or basketball.

  20. #20 Maslab
    January 27, 2010

    I honestly have no idea, Tulse. Besides radiometric dating.

    Or perhaps they just prefer to think we are made of dirt (or for those of us with internal reproductive organs, a rib).

  21. #21 christopher.shelton
    January 27, 2010

    “The student will be able to explain how scientific and technological innovations as well as new evidence can challenge portions of or entire accepted theories and models”

    It sounds to me like science teachers are now free to teach students how evidence provided by science and technology challenges what was once the accepted theory of Creationism.

  22. #22 cactusren
    January 27, 2010

    “Atomic theory”? What the heck? Is that code for challenging radiometric dating?

    Actually, I think this is referring to the various theories of the structure of atoms. This is one of those great stories that should be taught in science class as a demonstration of how scientific ideas change over time, based on new data and experimentation. You start with the “plum pudding” model of an atom, in which positively charged protons sit in a negatively charged goo. Then Rutherford’s gold foil experiment shows that atoms in fact have a solid nucleus surrounded mostly by empty space, etc. Somehow someone figured out that mass doesn’t correspond to atomic number, and neutrons are hypothesized as the reason for this… I’ve forgotten the whole story now, but this is the sort of thing that’s useful to teach students. First off, it can be told as a narrative, which is always more interesting than lists of facts. Secondly, its a demonstration of the fact that scientific ideas do change over time, and shows what sort of evidence is necessary to create that change. See also Alfred Wegener and his hypothesis of continental drift, which was (eventually) accepted and rolled into the theory of plate tectonics.

  23. #23 Chris Wellons
    January 27, 2010

    [...] the missing link between humans and apes [...]

    That should instantly set off any bullshit detector, even the generic brand ones. Humans are apes, creationist dummies.

  24. #24 Brownian, OM
    January 27, 2010

    It’s an observation of a historical quirk, a detail of the pattern of changes in one lineage.

    Much in the same way, I tend to think of evolution as analagous to history. (I know: like, woah, dude!) Now, I’m not aware of any broad theories of history (other than say, the field being mostly concerned with events in the past as opposed to say, future events), so I’m going to generalise, and any historians are free to correct me.

    Now, one of the things we ‘know’ from history is that a man named Temüjin united the Mongol tribes and founded the Mongol Empire, which grew to include over 100 million people (“Oh noes! We don’t have diaries from every single individual describing every single moment of every single day of each of their lives: gaps in the record! Gaps in the record!) and when he died his third son Ögedei succeeded him.

    Now, future historians might uncover new data such as books or birth records indicating that Ögedei wasn’t Temüjin’s son by blood. This would certainly change an aspect of Mongol history as we know it. It might even have implications for how we understand Mongol culture at the time, and our understanding of their systems of kinship and lineage may have to be redefined. It might even lead to some shift in how we evaluate evidence from historical texts. But it wouldn’t change history as an overarching concept. It wouldn’t mean that Genghis Khan didn’t live in the 12th and 13th centuries CE. It wouldn’t mean that the Mongol Empire with all its implications for historical events in other regions never existed. It wouldn’t mean we’d have to throw up our hands and throw out every history text and say, “Well, fuck it. We got that one thing wrong, so none of us actually know anything about anything that happened before any of us were born. The only reasonable conclusion is that every one of us was born last Thursday.” We’d simply still set about trying to understand the events of the past as well as we can with the caveat that the available information at any point in time is necessarily going to be incomplete. I mean, none of us were there, right?

  25. #25 kittywhumpus
    January 27, 2010

    The full set of standards is linked here:

    http://education.state.mn.us/MDE/Academic_Excellence/Academic_Standards/Science/index.html

    These standards will be adopted without a public hearing unless 25 people request one.

    The statement regarding challenges is redundant and unnecessary and is clearly there only to allow ID to get its foot in the door.

  26. #26 tsg
    January 27, 2010

    I don’t think it makes sense to freak out over language which is, in and of itself, entirely appropriate just because somebody might misuse or abuse it. The problem is not the appropriate language, it’s the inappropriate use.

    It’s not a question of “might”. We already know they will.

  27. #27 Brownian, OM
    January 27, 2010

    The student will be able to explain how scientific and technological innovations as well as new evidence can challenge portions of or entire accepted theories and models including but not limited to cell theory, atomic theory, theory of evolution, plate tectonic theory, germ theory of disease and big bang theory.

    It’s unfortunate that creationists and other anti-scientists use this to mean “shoehorn in Jesus & His Daddy wherever you can get one those atheist commie feminazi perfessers to admit they don’t know every detail”, because students should be able to do this, with every theory. Knowing how to recognise what pieces of evidence would invalidate entire theories is one of the best innoculations against wackaloon beliefs. If you don’t know how to do this, then you have no ability to call bullshit when some doofus with a copy of Fingerprints of the Gods tries to tell you “they found a gold chain embedded in a 600 million year old lump of coal” without specifying who “they” are. Extraordinary claims only require extraordinary evidence if you can realise what constitutes extraordinary evidence.

  28. #28 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 27, 2010

    It’s not a question of “might”. We already know they will.

    I go even further in that

    It’s not that we know they will, it’s that the language is there specifically to enable them to.

    Instead of it being like someone forgetting to lock the back door it’s like someone specifically leaving the back door unlocked knowing that their buddy is going to try and come in through it later that night.

  29. #29 vanharris
    January 27, 2010

    Gus & Chris, whoever wrote that crap ‘the missing link’ seems to still be thinking in terms of the Great chain of Being. How come the National Geographic is employing such people? Arrrrrgh!

  30. #30 bridget.blodgett
    January 27, 2010

    The sad thing is that this will be horribly abused but could be used as a great teaching opportunity. I had to go into my first year of my PhD studies to get into a class about the philosophy of science. Teaching Popper, Kuhn, etc would be great to fill this requirement and may actually make students think a little more about science and how it is a process developed by humans for understanding our world. Its something that is almost never addressed at any level below the graduate.

    It would also help people learn those theorists better and not abuse them so badly when making stupid arguments for creationism. Every time I seen Kuhn’s name anymore it makes me want to cry because I know what I am about to read will be an abuse of his wonderful ideas.

  31. #31 Big Boppa
    January 27, 2010

    Greetings all. I’m a brand new reader here so please be kind if I say something stupid or redundant.

    Why is evolution called a theory rather than a law? Evolution, in reference to the fact that organisms change over time, should be considered indisputable by now in the same way that gravity is an indisputable fact/law.

    Just wondering…

  32. #32 Abdul Alhazred
    January 27, 2010

    About being descended from apes, or having a common ancestor with living apes:

    Would it not be accurate to say that we are apes?

    That our “apeness” is defined by our common characteristics with other apes, rather than any particular putative lineage?

    As it might be “catness” for lions and tigers?

    In short — The “I’m not an ape” emotional argument against evolution can be refuted without even proving evolution.

  33. #33 Glen Davidson
    January 27, 2010

    Why is evolution called a theory rather than a law?

    I’m not sure of all of the specifics and reasoning, but it’s in part because laws are really pretty much just observations that something happens. Theories, in science convention, go beyond that, to at least partially explain a phenomenon.

    I always cringe to see people speak of the “theory of gravity,” as if there were only one. Gravity is hardly well enough understood to have a single accepted theory, although people generally don’t dispute Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity (but it doesn’t get to the most basic questions of why masses do warp space).

    Gravity has long been a law, by contrast, because clearly it works something like Newton observed, but much closer to how Einstein refined it.

    There’s another fact as well, which is that “law” is pretty much archaic. New observations of how the universe works are rarely, if ever, labeled “laws”.

    What Darwin himself did with such terminology is that he based his theory in part upon what he called “laws,” such as the “law of inheritance.” At least in his mind, he came up with a more broadly applicable explanatory theory based partly upon laws. Nonetheless, what he called laws in his day are not usually called laws today, because we have moved beyond merely observing “what has happened” to fairly well understanding why such things happen.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  34. #34 Gus Snarp
    January 27, 2010

    @vanharris – Well, the quote says that the National Geographic article says this, but doesn’t quote National Geographic. We can hope that the author of PZ’s quote misinterpreted the National Geographic article. I skimmed that one, but I can probably find the issue and double check.

  35. #35 tsg
    January 27, 2010

    Why is evolution called a theory rather than a law? Evolution, in reference to the fact that organisms change over time, should be considered indisputable by now in the same way that gravity is an indisputable fact/law.

    Just wondering…

    Briefly, a law describes phenomena, a theory explains why it happens. “Theory” in the scientific sense is not the same as “theory” in the informal sense. A scientific theory is an hypothesis that has survived rigorous testing.

  36. #36 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 27, 2010

    And theories do not graduate to become laws.

    If anything a scientific theory is above law (if the hierarchy worked exactly like that) because it explains a set of observations, phenomenon and data instead of just describing a phenomenon.

  37. #37 Big Boppa
    January 27, 2010

    Glen D @33

    Thanks, I get all that but I’m thinking more in terms of the semantics, particularly in regards to countering the ID argument/inanity by saying ‘no, evolution is not JUST a theory, it is an observable and indisputable fact, just like gravity or electricity’.

  38. #38 Glen Davidson
    January 27, 2010

    I should clarify that there are still “laws of inheritance” mentioned in genetics, but those of Mendel, not those of Darwin. But I think those are themselves generally considered to be a good way of remembering what happens, not “laws” in the sense that gravity still tends to be seen as a “law”.

    And I should have said that Darwin wrote of “laws of inheritance,” as he wrote of “laws of variation” and a host of other laws. Toward the end of his Origin he writes:

    Authors of the highest eminence seem to be fully satisfied with the view that each species has been independently created. To my mind it accords better with what we know of the laws impressed on matter by the Creator, that the production and extinction of the past and present inhabitants of the world should have been due to secondary causes, like those determining the birth and death of the individual.

    p. 488

    http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?itemID=F373&viewtype=side&pageseq=1

    His theory goes well beyond the rather meager observations of “what happens” that he called laws, and that we to some extent still do.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  39. #39 abb3w
    January 27, 2010

    PZ:

    It’s the equivalent of finding an apple tree, watching the fruit fall, and noticing that one apple bounced left, and another bounced to the right

    Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
    and sorry I could not travel both
    And be one traveller, long I stood
    and looked down one as far as I could
    to where it bent in the undergrowth
    [...]

  40. #40 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 27, 2010

    Robert Frost right?

  41. #41 Celtic_Evolution
    January 27, 2010

    Thanks, I get all that but I’m thinking more in terms of the semantics, particularly in regards to countering the ID argument/inanity by saying ‘no, evolution is not JUST a theory, it is an observable and indisputable fact, just like gravity or electricity’.

    Try reading this from “TalkOrigins”.

    It might help you understand how Evolution can be explained as both theory and fact…

  42. #42 Glen Davidson
    January 27, 2010

    Thanks, I get all that but I’m thinking more in terms of the semantics, particularly in regards to countering the ID argument/inanity by saying ‘no, evolution is not JUST a theory, it is an observable and indisputable fact, just like gravity or electricity’.

    Why not just say that evolution is a fact?

    We can’t really say it’s a law, since presumably an organism does not have to change appreciably, and may not do so between the time it becomes a “species” to the time when it goes extinct, whether that time be long or short.

    Of course IDiots will often say that a theory is not a fact, confusing (or equivocating, which some must be doing) that a phenomenon may be a fact while the theory is a good explanation for that fact. Well, that’s them, the mixture of ignorance and deliberate confusion is hard to bear, but gravity and evolution remain facts that we have observed and know, and the theory of evolution remains the only good explanation for what we observe in genomes, morphologies, and the fossil record.

    The theory of evolution explains the observed fact of evolution quite well, thank you. ID/creationism attempt to void the requirement for meaningful explanation.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  43. #43 IanM
    January 27, 2010

    Why is evolution called a theory rather than a law?

    The theory of evolution is the collected body of knowledge on the topic of evolution.

  44. #44 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 27, 2010

    Thanks, I get all that but I’m thinking more in terms of the semantics, particularly in regards to countering the ID argument/inanity by saying ‘no, evolution is not JUST a theory, it is an observable and indisputable fact, just like gravity or electricity’.

    That’s a function of the creationist not understanding how theory is used in Science not in the weakness of a theory.

    Think of it this way. Evolution is fact, but what we use to best describe evolution is the Theory of Evolution.

    Read this by Gould.

  45. #45 blf
    January 27, 2010

    Why is evolution called a theory rather than a law?

    Historical anachronism, hubris, and the precise term isn’t seen as too important: Scientific laws and scientific theories all, for the most part, have adapted to challenges (tests and attempts at falsification), have useful/interesting hypotheses built on top of them, connect well with other laws/theories, and remain relevant.

    They usually don’t start being called a law or theory, and there is no committee/senate/whatever that decides nomenclature. It’s mostly hubris and widespread acceptance that leads to something successful being called a law or a theory, or even something else (e.g., a principle, or…). They are, to the best of my knowledge (and without researching the etymology), basically synonyms—when used in a scientific sense.

    In a lay sense, and in other technical senses, the terms do or might indeed represent a significant difference.

  46. #46 GregGorey
    January 27, 2010

    If it makes you feel better, my (public) middle school was going to hold Bible classes, but backed down. It had been approved by state legislature and everything.

  47. #47 Big Boppa
    January 27, 2010

    Briefly, a law describes phenomena, a theory explains why it happens. “Theory” in the scientific sense is not the same as “theory” in the informal sense. A scientific theory is an hypothesis that has survived rigorous testing.

    This is what I keep stumbling over. I see evolution (lower case) as the word for the observable phenomenon of organisms changing over time and Natural Selection as the name for one of the theories used to explain how evolution works. So in that sense, evolution should be presented as a law of nature when countering the ID nonsense.

  48. #48 Kamaka
    January 27, 2010

    Big Boppa @ 37
    Rev. BDC @ 44

    The way I put it…Evolution is a fact, Natural Selection is an explanation of how it happens.

    And if I want to be snarky, I have a one word proof of Natural Selection: Australia.

  49. #49 Glen Davidson
    January 27, 2010

    Even the DI recognizes that “theory” is what is respected in science:

    Discovery Institute has published its own guide, The Theory of Intelligent Design: A briefing packet for educators to help them understand the debate between Darwinian evolution and intelligent design.

    http://www.discovery.org/a/4299

    There are many such misleading claims of “ID theory” on the DI site.

    Not that ID has a theory, to which fact Phillip Johnson credited (in part) the loss in Dover. Paul Nelson and Michael Medved have also admitted that ID has no theory.

    I don’t think we need to quit calling it “evolutionary theory,” or to cease from noting that it’s a fact (by all of the evidence) that life has evolved.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  50. #50 Big Boppa
    January 27, 2010

    Glen D

    I’ll have to take your word for it as I’ve never visited the DI site and don’t intend to ever do so.

    I was raised by, and ultimately escaped from, fundamentalist evangelicals so I’ve seen quite enough of that thank you.

  51. #51 MadScientist
    January 27, 2010

    “… the missing link between humans and apes would look something like a chimpanzee”

    Another day, another mountain of bullshit. The creatards sure are gifted with the useless ability to pack so many wrong claims into the tiniest of spaces.

    1. what the hell is a “missing link”? There is no such thing in evolution.
    2. humans *are* apes (they’re also primates though a BBC news item I saw seems to insinuate that humans are not primates). What dumbass would think we’re not apes?
    3. what exactly would look something like a chimpanzee?

    With what we currently know in the natural sciences, it would take nothing short of a miracle to invalidate the fundamental theories in each field. For the most part theories are only refined (such as Einstein vs. Newton – for most practical purposes Newton’s laws work well enough to predict things). There are many hypotheses which may eventually be invalidated but the validity of those theories in no way affects a significant portion of established science.

  52. #52 Poor Benighted Creationist
    January 27, 2010

    I don’t understand why you folks even waste your time commenting. Your randomly selected, gigantic brains have already figured out that The High And Glorious Theory Of Evolution (may it be praised and protected!) is a simple fact that any retard should acknowledge, and idiots who do not show it proper obeisance should be banished to Retard Land. May you all live long and prosper as you shower each other with intelligent points that arose from your mind and consciousness which in turn arose from primordial muck oh these many bajillion years ago.

  53. #53 Sastra
    January 27, 2010

    Poor Benighted Creationist #52 wrote:

    I don’t understand why you folks even waste your time commenting.

    We are all hoping that a nice, intelligent, but curious creationist will come in and ask some questions, so that we may clear up any confusions and misunderstandings, and all come to a happy consensus.

    Do you have a question, my dear?

  54. #54 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 27, 2010

    I don’t understand why you folks even waste your time commenting.

    Back at ya

    May you all live long and prosper as you shower each other with intelligent points that arose from your mind and consciousness which in turn arose from primordial muck oh these many bajillion years ago.

    yawn

  55. #55 Celtic_Evolution
    January 27, 2010

    I don’t understand why you folks even waste your time commenting.

    Clearly.

  56. #56 Volcanon
    January 27, 2010

    I’m glad for the comments, and for Dawkins and PZ constantly talking about it. Even 2 years ago, I was still an atheist and I knew evolution was correct(the earth being billions of years old pretty much seals the deal), I didn’t know about many of the details and had never had it properly explained. Not entirely surprising given our public education’s record.

  57. #57 Poor Benighted Creationist
    January 27, 2010

    From what I glean, there is no evidence from any sphere of science which cannot be 1. incorporated into the Theory of Evolution by its advocates or 2. explained away by same.

    Many of you read that and say “Exactly!”, not morosely but excitedly. Which is why the conversation kind of ends before it begins.

  58. #58 Volcanon
    January 27, 2010

    Sir you seem to have evolution confused with religion.

  59. #59 Poor Benighted Creationist
    January 27, 2010

    Volcanon you’ve unwittingly stumbled on to something.

  60. #60 tsg
    January 27, 2010

    From what I glean, there is no evidence from any sphere of science which cannot be 1. incorporated into the Theory of Evolution God by its advocates or 2. explained away by same.

    Fixed that for you.

  61. #61 Kamaka
    January 27, 2010

    idiots who do not show it proper obeisance should be banished to Retard Land.

    I don’t know if distinguishing truth from fiction amounts to obeisance (obeisance is a religionist thing), but flat-earthers and other such denialists do live in Retard Land. By choice.

    So it goes.

  62. #62 SteveM
    January 27, 2010

    Scientific “Laws” are generally expressed as a mathematical equation. For example, Ampere’s Law, Faraday’s Law, Gauss’s Law. Electromagnetic Theory is what explains the relationship and derivation of those laws. Not to say that the theory can’t itself be a set of equations (e.g. General Relativity), but I think this is the simplest way of thinking about the difference between law and theory.

  63. #63 vanharris
    January 27, 2010

    Poor Benighted Creationist, instead of coming here making snide comments, why don’t you do yourself & others a favour & actually read up on Natural Selection?

    Then you can ditch all that crap in the bible (or other superstition manual) along with your belief in something as absurd as the Yahweh god-fellah (or other superstitious & non-existent entities).

    You can liberate yourself from one of a set of absurd superstitions derived from the mythologies of Bronze Age Mesopotamian goat-herding nomads.

  64. #64 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    January 27, 2010

    Yawn, evolution is not religion. Funny, but only the religious, and definitely not the scientists, think that. It’s almost like they can’t get away from the logical fallacy that everyone must have a religion. That says a lot about their lack of cogency.

  65. #65 AnneH
    January 27, 2010

    Big Boppa, here’s a good beginning point for someone who is genuinely curious about evolution-
    http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/0_0_0/evo_toc_01
    (“The history of life: looking at the patterns” is most relevant as a refutation of the Ardi “controversy”)

    PBC, if you believe that your creator gave you a brain because he wanted you to use it (think ‘parable of the talents’ and that it is a sin not to use the gifts that you believe god gives you), and you wish to take up vanharris’ challenge, then you should visit that link too.

  66. #66 Volcanon
    January 27, 2010

    “Volcanon you’ve unwittingly stumbled on to something.”

    No, you’ve unwittingly stumbled onto something. As in, you have no wits so you stumbled into thinking that evolution is like a religion.

    Evolution has no canon, no holy book, and it is constantly being updated with new evidence and new ideas.

    Religion has basically been at a standstill from its inception.

    I fail to see the similarities.

  67. #67 Poor Benighted Creationist
    January 27, 2010

    Vanharris, I have done as you requested. I now believe I came from nothing and that the universe and all its life have no inherent value or meaning. For that I thank you. I am liberated.

    Nerd, you also are correct. The positions of Absolute Neutrality and Objectivity are held by those advancing the Theory of Evolution.

  68. #68 Eidolon
    January 27, 2010

    Poor benighted:

    O.K. – how’s about picking one argument that you think supports creationism and provide the factual evidence to back that up. We can then debate the merits of the evidence. Let’s see just how good your stuff really is. I take it that you feel it is very good indeed, so this should be a mere bagatelle for you. Otherwise you might just appear to yet another drive by troll.

  69. #69 Celtic_Evolution
    January 27, 2010

    Man… it’s sad when trolls like this PBC idiot make me miss the comparatively witty banter of piltdown man…

  70. #70 blf
    January 27, 2010

    [T]here is no evidence from any sphere of science which cannot be 1. incorporated into the Theory of Evolution

    Rubbish. Simple example: Supernova. More complex example: Nuclear reactors. Neither has anything to do with evolution, life, or biology—and hence nothing to do with the ToE—nor is there any sane reason to thing they should.

    (Pedants will point out that most of the elements life depends on and is made of were made in supernova. This doesn’t change the counter-example in any significant way. The ToE is not needed to explain supernova, nor does the ToE care where the elements came from.)

    … or 2. explained away by same.

    Not quite sure what you’re getting at here?

    Many of you read that and say “Exactly!”,

    Rubbish. See counter-examples above, the other replies.

    not morosely but excitedly.

    No. The sort of claims you’re making—which are neither new nor plausible—make most groan and a few loose their rag.

    Which is why the conversation kind of ends before it begins.

    In a sideways sense, you’re correct-ish here: Usually, the conversation goes nowhere because the person arguing against the entirety of the ToE has no idea what evolution is, won’t answer questions, repeats the same (and usually) inane questions/claims, and is generally incurious.

  71. #71 Sastra
    January 27, 2010

    Poor Benighted Creationist #57 wrote:

    From what I glean, there is no evidence from any sphere of science which cannot be 1. incorporated into the Theory of Evolution by its advocates or 2. explained away by same.

    But the dialogue is still open. Although the evidence has fit the evolutionary explanation so far, there could have been evidence — or could, in theory, still be evidence — which would not fit into the TOE. The popular example is “fossil rabbits in the Precambrian,” but there are other possibilities.

    In addition to asynchronous fossils, there could be: evidence of foresight or planning in evolution; discovery of a second genetic code (or a non-DNA/RNA/protein organism); or extensive Chimerism (like feathered wings on a bat or the proverbial flying horse) — any of which would force biologists to at the very least make some serious revisions in the theory. There are ways to prove the theory wrong.

    Your turn. Tell us, what do you think would prove Creationism wrong?

  72. #72 vanharris
    January 27, 2010

    Poor Benighted Creationist, why do you believe that you came from nothing and that the universe and all its life have no inherent value or meaning?

    That is irrational, & therefore is not at all what rationalists think. Rationalists are atheists. But there may be some atheists who are not rationalists. Is that where your confusion lies?

  73. #73 Kel, OM
    January 27, 2010

    The High And Glorious Theory Of Evolution (may it be praised and protected!)

    This isn’t about protecting the theory of evolution, but about keeping science science. Do you see the computer you’re on? It’s not because of magic, it’s because people have investigated how nature works. The electricity in your house, the food shipped in to you, the global telecommunications system, the medicine you take – all these are because people have investigated how nature works and come up with successful hypothesises that explain the evidence.

    If you were to disprove evolution tomorrow, I’ll gladly wave it away. But therein lies the problem, the opposition to evolution is coming from people who cannot accept that it’s true as opposed to following the evidence. It doesn’t matter to me whether modern evolutionary theory is right or not, if not I’ll move on. But for those who believe in Creation, it matters a whole lot.

  74. #74 Miki Z
    January 27, 2010

    It’s for this obvious reason that I think science students should be taught how scientific theories are refined or rejected. Otherwise, you get people who believe they can read enough on an established theory in 11 minutes to overturn it after a refinement of centuries.

    But the list “cell theory, atomic theory, theory of evolution, plate tectonic theory, germ theory of disease and big bang theory” looks like a minimum of what would need to be invalidated for YEC to not be demonstrably false. The inclusion of a list is disingenuous. The entire point of the scientific method is how you originate and demonstrate the falsity (or fail to) of a hypothesis.

    If you’re not already teaching how hypotheses are falsified, you’re not teaching the scientific method.

  75. #75 Brownian, OM
    January 27, 2010

    I now believe I came from nothing and that the universe and all its life have no inherent value or meaning.

    How dull. You trolls love to wave this about without realising you’re saying nothing. Does ‘meaning’ prevent suffering in any way? Does ‘meaning’ stop hurricanes, earthquakes, war, disease, torture, or rape? Does the inscrutable meaning you claim God gives life reduce in any way at all the pain a child born with Harlequin type ichthyosis feels, or make the few hours to days they survived before modern medical treatment that much more special?

    You people bandy about words like “meaning”, and yet you have no idea what they mean. What a bunch of superficial robots. Enjoy your fatuous life, idiot. I hope you find the spouting of platitudes to be deeply meaningful, whatever the fuck that word seems to signify to you.

  76. #76 Shadow
    January 27, 2010

    A law differs from a scientific theory in that it does not posit a mechanism or explanation of phenomena: it is merely a distillation of the results of repeated observation. As such, a law is limited in applicability to circumstances resembling those already observed, and is often found to be false when extrapolated. Ohm’s law only applies to constant currents, Newton’s law of universal gravitation only applies in weak gravitational fields, the early laws of aerodynamics such as Bernoulli’s principle do not apply in case of compressible flow such as occurs in transonic and supersonic flight, Hooke’s law only applies to strain below the elastic limit, etc.

    From Wikipedia (OK, not always the best source).

  77. #77 blf
    January 27, 2010

    Oops! Misplaced close paren. I meant to say: …repeats the same (and usually) inane) questions/claims…

  78. #78 Sastra
    January 27, 2010

    Poor Benighted Creationist #67 wrote:

    I now believe I came from nothing and that the universe and all its life have no inherent value or meaning. For that I thank you. I am liberated.

    Your sarcasm here makes me wonder something: is truth all about you? I mean, do you think that reality is under some sort of obligation to please you, make you important, or ‘give’ you meaning? If it doesn’t then, well — you just don’t want any part of it.

    Whether or not a science theory is true should have nothing to do with whether or not it makes you special, or makes you feel special. You should know that. You do know that. You would think very scornfully of an atheist who said something similar — that if there is a Creator God, then that’s just too annoying and depressing for them to accept, so they need to be wooed with flattery and sweet promises, if you want them to believe the truth.

    Reality is. Deal with it, either way.

    Nobody can “give” you meaning unless you want to take it for your own. This is true whether God exists or not.

  79. #79 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    January 27, 2010

    The positions of Absolute Neutrality and Objectivity

    Since I have no idea of what you are glibbering on about, please explain. I’m only a poor working scientist, and don’t understand advanced illogic.

  80. #80 creating trons
    January 27, 2010

    #52 Poor Braindead Creationist

    “Your randomly selected, gigantic brains…”

    You wanna get out a ruler?

    “…should be banished to Retard Land.”

    Its cos of people like you that I already live in retart land.

  81. #81 Miki Z
    January 27, 2010

    Nerd of Redhead,

    “The positions of Absolute Neutrality and Objectivity” are those taken by a True Neutral Monk who reads too much Ayn Rand.

  82. #82 tsg
    January 27, 2010

    Vanharris, I have done as you requested. I now believe I came from nothing and that the universe and all its life have no inherent value or meaning. For that I thank you. I am liberated.

    You’re going to need more straw…

  83. #83 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    January 27, 2010

    Thanks Miki Z. I’ve never read any Ayn Rand.

  84. #84 Brownian, OM
    January 27, 2010

    “The positions of Absolute Neutrality and Objectivity” are those taken by a True Neutral Monk who reads too much Ayn Rand.

    Remember: alignment is a tool, not a straitjacket.

  85. #85 Sastra
    January 27, 2010

    “…the universe and all its life have no inherent value or meaning.”

    What is the significant difference between something that has inherent value — and something that is only valued because people value it?

    Could there be something that has ‘inherent value’ which neither the creationists, nor the evolutionist, nor Christians, nor atheists, nor anyone else on earth cares about? What if it turns out that one, small, scrubby, little plant found in Lapland has Inherent Value — and if you have valued anything else (human love, learning, compassion, art, happiness) you’re just plain wrong, because all the Objective Inherent Value is in that plant, and you foolishly care about meaningless things that only you (and other human beings) value.

    Is that why we need to have “inherent value?” So we can check up to see if kissing our children goodnight is really worthwhile, or only something we thought was worthwhile, but it wasn’t?

  86. #86 tsg
    January 27, 2010

    If you’re not already teaching how hypotheses are falsified, you’re not teaching the scientific method.

    Which is precisely why the above language is redundant and unnecessary.

  87. #87 Jadehawk, OM
    January 27, 2010

    From what I glean, there is no evidence from any sphere of science which cannot be 1. incorporated into the Theory of Evolution by its advocates or 2. explained away by same.

    what an extremely silly and misinformed thing to say. The was majority of science has shit-all to do with the ToE. It’s you creobots who think that they are making arguments about the ToE when in fact they’re making (equally misinformed) arguments about nuclear and astrophysics, geology, astronomy, chemistry, neurology, history and archaeology, linguistics, etc.

    It’s just that none of these sciences and their theories conflict with the ToE; which is why we think it’s not wrong. But the ToE itself only deals with biology, and nothing else.

  88. #88 MetzO'Magic
    January 27, 2010

    Gus Snarp @ 34

    We can hope that the author of PZ’s quote misinterpreted the National Geographic article. I skimmed that one, but I can probably find the issue and double check.

    Spot on, Gus. The author of PZed’s quote does cherry pick from the original NG article. In fact, that article is online here:

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/10/091001-oldest-human-skeleton-ardi-missing-link-chimps-ardipithecus-ramidus.html

    I’ll let you peruse the article yourself to see how the author of the tcdailyplanet did his quote mining. But this bit of his own spin that he throws in is particularly nasty:

    What Ardi also tells us is that the theory of evolution is alive and open to, well, evolution.

    Not! As PZed says, Ardi challenges absolutely nothing substantive in the theory of evolution. Doesn’t sound like the guy has any creationist leanings though, so is it just shoddy science journalism as usual?

  89. #89 Paul
    January 27, 2010

    Man… it’s sad when trolls like this PBC idiot make me miss the comparatively witty banter of piltdown man…

    Based on the past week or so of Pharyngula commenting activity, there’s a better than random chance that Poor Benighted Creationist is Piltdown Man. He’s had 2 or 3 sockpuppet accounts removed just the last few days, and there hasn’t been a recent likely source for an influx of new trolls.

  90. #90 Miki Z
    January 27, 2010

    Thanks Miki Z. I’ve never read any Ayn Rand.

    If you made it past 15 years old, you’re not missing anything at this point. Her books combine the humor of Hemingway, the brevity of Tolstoy, the depth of Hubbard, and the poetry of Bulwer-Lytton. She founded a school of thought called Objectivism.

  91. #91 Tulse
    January 27, 2010

    What is the significant difference between something that has inherent value — and something that is only valued because people value it?

    And why does some supernatural being valuing something make that value “inherent”? My parents gave birth to me, but if they wanted me to become a doctor I wouldn’t see that as my “inherent” meaning.

  92. #92 Day
    January 27, 2010

    Why oh why, do these lunatics keep coming here, when they continuously get verbally slaughtered, since they don’t have evidence for show. It must be some kind of masochistic desire to be mauled. Maybe it’s a kind of virtual mortification. Yeah, that must be it.

  93. #93 Eidolon
    January 27, 2010

    Didja ever notice when you get really specific and actually want to work on just one idea, trolls scurry away.Like roaches into the dark.

    Still waiting PBC – just so ya know, my favorite is the Second Law. Still waitin’ on ya.

  94. #94 Miki Z
    January 27, 2010

    Why oh why, do these lunatics keep coming here, when they continuously get verbally slaughtered, since they don’t have evidence for show. It must be some kind of masochistic desire to be mauled. Maybe it’s a kind of virtual mortification. Yeah, that must be it.

    Many have expressed the idea that only those who feel threatened will offer an explanation. The distinction between teacher and preacher escapes them.

  95. #95 snurp
    January 27, 2010

    @Miki Z @81

    I could’ve sworn monks were required to be lawful. Did they change that for 4e?

    @PBC

    Did you really scurry off the second someone asked you to put forth a single argument? At least let us know what flavor of ridiculous you are.

  96. #96 Big Boppa
    January 27, 2010

    At least let us know what flavor of ridiculous you are.

    My guess would be perfectly shaped banana.

  97. #97 Merkuto
    January 27, 2010

    The image of apples falling and bouncing left or right made me think of “one flew east, one flew west, one flew over the cuckoo’s nest.” It often seems appropriate when discussing anti-science advocates.

  98. #98 Miki Z
    January 27, 2010

    I could’ve sworn monks were required to be lawful. Did they change that for 4e?

    I’ve honestly got no idea. I’m probably conflating it with Nethack.

  99. #99 shonny
    January 27, 2010

    Posted by: vanharris Author Profile Page | January 27, 2010 1:36 PM

    Gus & Chris, whoever wrote that crap ‘the missing link’ seems to still be thinking in terms of the Great chain of Being. How come the National Geographic is employing such people? Arrrrrgh!

    Rupert Murdoch (the FuckedNews etc owner) has some interests in NG, and then you know it is going down the gurgler, – fast!

  100. #100 https://me.yahoo.com/a/65L6hp58sJR27IqJ9Gqb4.TnnNo-#cf793
    January 27, 2010

    On an Orac post a couple months back about some homeopath, there was what I found to be a very insightful comment regarding popular attitudes towards science. He was talking about alt-med, but I think it applies to a lot of people. The author is Antaeus Feldspar, and I repeat his words here:

    Recently, I’ve come to suspect that a lot of them subscribe to a common delusion: that the meat of science, the really tough part, the part that separates the real scientists from the wannabes, is devising hypotheses.

    Which of course it isn’t. Any fool can concoct a hypothesis; there’s nothing difficult about it. Heck, it could be done Mad Libs-style: “[Dangerous disease] is caused by [substance], but the patient will recover with large doses of[purportedly 'natural' substance].” And any fool can rescue losing hypotheses endlessly: “The natural treatment would have cured the patient but it turns out that [real, actual medical treatment] poisons the body and undoes the benefits of natural treatment.”

    This is why I think it’s a mistake to go overboard in revering the ancient Greek “scientists” ? a heck of a lot of their work basically happened inside their own heads. Science isn’t “The earth is round”, it’s “Here’s the curvature I found using runners deployed to report the length of shadows in these two cities.” (Not to mention “Here’s what it would take for my observations to be wrong.”) On top of YEARS AND YEARS AND INSANE BORING BUTTLOADS OF CONFIRMATION. Not one magic experiment that single-handedly clinches it.

    A lot of folks think that our beliefs should be based not on knowledge but whatever happens to be The Truth? where The Truth can be whatever the heck we want it to be (but as metaphor for Truth, they use stuff like “The earth is round, which people used to not think, but they were Wrong-Wrong-Wrong”).

    I do feel that science academies should issue proclamations to the effect that “Law” is basically a archaic term grandfathered into modern science ? a relic from a bygone age of lone scientists like Newton. It takes a fair amount of semantics to get at why gravitation is a Law but not relativity.

  101. #101 Sastra
    January 27, 2010

    #100 wrote:

    I do feel that science academies should issue proclamations to the effect that “Law” is basically a archaic term grandfathered into modern science ? a relic from a bygone age of lone scientists like Newton.

    And this proclamation could even be a Law named after you!

    (I would have done it here, but your nick is lost in evil Yahoo website mess, at least at my end — I suggest that people logging in on Yahoo sign their posts at the bottom, so we can know it’s you ;)

  102. #102 Zetetic
    January 27, 2010

    Poor Creationist @ #67:

    I now believe I came from nothing

    Since as a creationist you believed that already, it must not have been too much of a stretch for you. Personally, I believe that we came from matter created at the formation of the universe. So far this conclusion is the only one supported by both logic and the available evidence.

    As for where the universe came from… While we currently lack the ability to describe it, it wasn’t “nothing” as in “God created the world from nothing”. There is a vast difference in implication between “nothing, period” and “nothing that we currently have the means to accurately understand or describe with scientific rigor”.

    the universe and all its life have no inherent value or meaning. For that I thank you. I am liberated.

    You believe that the only way something can have “value” or “meaning” is if it’s imposed upon you by an outside and superior entity? What a curiously childish sentiment. No wonder so many creationists hold a “might make right” outlook.

  103. #103 CJO
    January 27, 2010

    Remember: alignment is a tool, not a straitjacket.

    Uh-huh. It’s a tool for restraining crazy people, just like a straitjacket.

  104. #104 Miki Z
    January 27, 2010

    This is why I think it’s a mistake to go overboard in revering the ancient Greek “scientists” ? a heck of a lot of their work basically happened inside their own heads. Science isn’t “The earth is round”, it’s “Here’s the curvature I found using runners deployed to report the length of shadows in these two cities.” (Not to mention “Here’s what it would take for my observations to be wrong.”) On top of YEARS AND YEARS AND INSANE BORING BUTTLOADS OF CONFIRMATION. Not one magic experiment that single-handedly clinches it.

    You need a Tycho Brahe, with the patience to make tons and tons of observations, and a Kepler, with the nose to formulate a good explanation. Galilei observed the phases of Venus, and this could have ended geocentricism, but the real death knell was the superior predictive power of Kepler’s system. This relied on thousand and thousands of observation made over decades.

    That “Aha!” moment is more like “Aha! This confirms that I have 10 more years of work to do!” Ideally, we get scientists who can do the observations and formulate the rules, but there will probably always be more observers. This is not a bad thing.

  105. #105 llewelly
    January 27, 2010

    You need a Tycho Brahe, with the patience to make tons and tons of observations, and a Kepler, with the nose to formulate a good explanation.

    That’s right. If Tycho Brahe hadn’t lost his nose in a duel, astronomy wouldn’t have needed Kepler.

  106. #106 Blind Squirrel FCD
    January 27, 2010

    You need a Tycho Brahe, with the patience to make tons and tons of observations, and a Kepler, with the nose to formulate a good explanation.

    I saw what you did there.

    BS

  107. #107 Kel, OM
    January 27, 2010

    I now believe I came from nothing and that the universe and all its life have no inherent value or meaning.

    See, this is the nonsense that is creationism and why there will always be a disparity between those professing Creation and those defending evolution. It’s not a matter of science, it’s a matter of meaning and morality. This is the gamble almost every creationist I’ve come across makes: “evolution can’t be true because if it is then I don’t matter”.

    Why should it matter whether we matter as to the truth of an idea? Do you get hung up that gravity is a blind force instead of God’s hand invisibly pulling you to the ground? Is rain meaningless because it is evaporated water condensing high in the atmosphere then falling to the ground as opposed to angels crying? Does an earthquake lose something by being a product of tectonic forces instead of God shaking the ground? The question is why is it that we evolved through a few billion years of mutation as opposed to God infusing dirt with a soul should cause any existential anxiety?

    Is a garden only beautiful if there are fairies at the bottom? Is murder only wrong because God says so? Is the personification of blind forces necessary to the enjoyment and experience of this life? Or do you lament that every time you push in a pin that you’re crushing dancing angels…

  108. #108 Insightful Ape
    January 27, 2010

    It is amusing that finally, we’ve got a troll using accurate terms describing himself (herself). But then, it’s not like there is a shortage of trolls here…
    I guess if the pickings are generous enough everything becomes possible some day. Like one inhabitable planet in an endless universe.

  109. #109 Gary Radice
    January 27, 2010

    Theories, schmearies.

    In my view, the whole idea of teaching pre-college students to examine evidence for or against theories is misplaced. It is beyond their cognitive level and experience.

    I’d much rather teach kids at that age to examine the evidence in front of them that they can understand, and to come up with hypotheses and experiments to test their hypotheses.

    The car won’t start. Why not? How can you find out? That kind of everyday stuff. Is your car possessed by evil spirits, or maybe is it more likely that the battery is dead?

    Do that well, the rest will follow.

  110. #110 John Morales
    January 27, 2010

    Gary, it seems to me that you’re referring to critical thinking and hypothesis testing in the sense of problem solving, rather than to science as a process for discovery.

  111. #111 Gregory Greenwood
    January 27, 2010

    Poor Benighted Creationist @ 67;

    I now believe I came from nothing and that the universe and all its life have no inherent value or meaning.

    If one puts aside the idea of god for the, from a rationalist perspective, wholly reasonable cause of a lack of evidence, then the only logical conclusion one can come to is that we humans as a species are not massively important to the universe at large.

    The universe is quite literally unimaginably vast. It is believed to contain trillions (that’s right, trillions with a ‘T’) of galaxies each of which probably contains somewhere between 100 billion and several hundred billion stars.

    The universe is also of an age that boggles the mind. All scientific evidence indicates that the universe is roughly 14 billion years old.

    If one can step away from the extremely human-centric concept of Christian (or Jewish, or Muslim, or any other human religion) deity, then it is easy to see that it is the height of hubris to believe that one insignificant species of sentient ape.

    Upon one insignificant planet.

    In one insignificant solar system.

    In one insignificant galaxy.

    In what may transpire to be one insignificant reality is of such overwhelming import if viewed from a broader perspective.

    Does this mean that everything including all life that is known to exist and may exist in the universe has ‘no inherent value or meaning’? Yes, in so far as it has no inherent, universally applicable meaning that would be recognised by any given, hypothetical sentient species. There is no equivilent of the universal constant among value systems or concepts of morality even mong humans, still less among species with no common cultural or evolutionary history.

    Having said this, while we cannot claim that such things carry truly ‘inherent’ value per se, we can say that they are of value to us. We ultimately have to create our own sense of value in our lives. There is no evidence to suggest that any deity is going to do it for us, and if it did, what would that say about free will and personal agency? Wouldn’t we all be reduced to mere players in a peverse ‘Divine Comedy’? I would far rather believe that I am my own man. I own my triumphs and failures, and they help to make me who I am. I shudder at the very idea of of somekind of Orwellian godhead pulling my strings for his/her/its own reasons or even enjoyment. Such an utter surrender of the self to an unknowable alien consciousness seems disturbingly fatalistic.

    I doubt that this will make you feel any better, but you can rest assured that, while I have never met you in person and likely never will, you still matter to me. You have meaning for me. Your well being is important to me. Why? Because you are a human being, and all human beings are deserving of consideration and the maintainance of their fundamental human dignity. This is the essence of what consequentialist humanist morality is all about.

    If one does not rely on an ephemeral and unproven god, then all we have is each other. A case in point being the terrible Haiti catatrophe and the inspiring global response to it. Millions of people the world over gave aid to the victims of the earthquake. I think it is far better to believe that the assistance they gave was motivated by a genuine concern for their fellow human beings rather than a desire to buy their way cynically into the credit column with a divine moral auditor.

    One could try to claim that god inspired the giving, but if so why did so many atheists, humanists and agnostics contribute? Is god controlling their minds without their knowledge? Perhaps only every now and then to help out with terrible disasters like this one? But if god has the power to do that, why allow the disaster to occur in the first place? As a test of faith? As illusory ‘proof’ of a fiction of free will? 100,000 dead and rising in Port Au Prince alone seems a terribly high price to pay for god to keep his hand hidden. It is hardly the action of a beneficent deity.

    If one takes god out of the equation, however, then what is left is a worldwide effort of humns to help one another without regard to creed, ethnicity or nationality. Yes, there are those who see this event as an opportunity for profiteering and politiking, but they are in the minority. Most people just want to help becuase they hate to see other people suffer.

    I see no evidence that even a single life was actually saved by prayer. When the chips are down, all we humans have, and have ever had, is one another. If my life were imperilled, and I had a choice between actual help and someone praying for me (however sincerely and devotely those prayers may be uttered), I know which I would choose.

    Can you honestly say that you would take the incantation over the helping (human) hand?

  112. #112 https://me.yahoo.com/hairychris444#96384
    January 27, 2010

    Heck.

    I’m just wondering how some of these folks decribe their family trees…

    *ahem*

    Sorry…

  113. #113 Legion
    January 27, 2010

    We smelled blood in the water and came as soon as we could, but it appears there’s no more troll-meat left for us. Boo hoo.

    Why oh why, do these lunatics keep coming here, when they continuously get verbally slaughtered, since they don’t have evidence for show. It must be some kind of masochistic desire to be mauled. Maybe it’s a kind of virtual mortification. Yeah, that must be it.

    It’s because many of them are doubters of their own mumbo jumbo and so they come here to have those doubts confirmed. Let’s face it, most religious groups, large and small, won’t even allow the idea of the nonexistence of god to be discussed, so who they [the doubters] gonna call? Pharyngula, that’s who.

    The trolling is just another form of protective coloration that allows them to strengthen their unbelief, while pretending to do god’s work.

    Be strong Poor Creationist, you’ll kick that religious habit yet.

  114. #114 Rincewind'smuse
    January 27, 2010

    Miki Z,

    If you made it past 15 years old, you’re not missing anything at this point. Her books combine the humor of Hemingway, the brevity of Tolstoy, the depth of Hubbard, and the poetry of Bulwer-Lytton. She founded a school of thought called Objectivism.

    Priceless; best comment I’ve seen today

  115. #115 https://me.yahoo.com/a/65L6hp58sJR27IqJ9Gqb4.TnnNo-#cf793
    January 27, 2010

    My pen-name is Catchling; I’ll try to go by non-Yahoo login next time.

    On further thought on my notion of “proclamations”, I take it back on account of presumptuousness. (No need for a Catchling’s Law, lol.) Also, because the latest versions of the Wikipedia page on the subject actually make a pertty good case for “law” having a decent defintion, namely, that it is codified observation, but not explanation, whereas evolution is an explanation in addition to observation.

    Although I still wonder why there is no “law of adaptation”, the main observed evolutionary phenomenon. Probably because exact predictability withers in the realm beyond phenomena like antibacterial resistance and cave blindness. Something anti-evolutionists never cease to remind us (as though proponentism does make razor-accurate predictions of future adaptation).

    #105 llewelly:

    If Tycho Brahe hadn’t lost his nose in a duel, astronomy wouldn’t have needed Kepler.

    Astronomy owes quite a debt to the smelloscope.

    ? Catchling

  116. #116 Rincewind'smuse
    January 27, 2010

    snurp @ #95,

    Did you really scurry off the second someone asked you to put forth a single argument? At least let us know what flavor of ridiculous you are.

    Sarcasm and uninformed derision is the usual method of argument and argument from incredulity is the common theme;critical analysis of the actual facts surrounding the ‘controversy’ is not a requirement.

  117. #117 Gregory Greenwood
    January 27, 2010

    Hmmm…I may have slightly rambled off point in my last comment. My apologies.

  118. #118 Blind Squirrel FCD
    January 27, 2010

    Hmmm…I may have slightly rambled off point in my last comment. My apologies.

    No,no that was beautiful. It would take me a week to put something like that together. Pity that the people who need to read it probably won’t.

    BS

  119. #119 davej
    January 27, 2010

    They left out global warming, 9-11, and the moon landings.

    Here is something to read…
    http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/35088506/ns/sports-super_bowl_xliv/

  120. #120 raven
    January 27, 2010

    I now believe I came from nothing and that the universe and all its life have no inherent value or meaning.

    That is quite an improvement over the xian belief. The universe was made 6,000 years ago by an inept but genocidal maniac. Things went wrong at the beginning and the Babel Tower, Flood, and autoDeicide didn’t make much difference, if any. It will end any day when he gets it together enough to show up and slaughter 6.7 billion people and destroy the earth.

    So xians just sit around and hope for divine genocide to end their empty and miserable lives.

    Darwin’s and Hubble’s universe is self perpetuating and at 13.7 billion years old is only a baby getting started.

    BTW, the truth value of any claim doesn’t depend in the slightest on how much it resembles a warm, fuzzy teddy bear that dispenses antidepressants.

  121. #121 timrowledge
    January 27, 2010

    WRT theory and law – my view is that a ‘Law’ is a mathematical relationship between measurable things ( insert LaTex handwave tag here) that are important to a particular Theory.

    Thus Newton’s Law of gravity is a fairly simple relationship between the two involved masses, the gravitational constant and the distance between them. It an encapsulation of an important part of the theory of gravitation that Newton developed.

    Similarly, Ohm’s Law of resistance is some simple maths relating to electrical resistance theory.

    ‘Law’ doesn’t make it more important than ‘Theory’; in fact I’d posit that it is quite the opposite. A Law is a small part of a Theory that provides part of the supporting logic for the theory and often a way to make it useful by allowing calculations about it. I’m insufficiently expert to suggest suitable laws that are part of neo-Darwinin evolutionary theory but at a guess there is probably some maths that can be done regarding the survival of a species as a function of it’s ability to cope with its environment and breed. And these days there is likely a lot of maths that can treat genetic factors etc.

    Oh, I should close the handwave tag I guess otherwise you’ll all be wobbling around and unable to read.

  122. #122 frog, Inc.
    January 27, 2010

    I’m assuming they mean the neo-Darwinian synthesis and not “the theory of evolution”, since no such creature exists, right?

    Seems easy. Find a “mutating protein” that increases the mutation rate of specific regions in response to external events. There’s a million of ‘em you can come up with.

    That’s what they mean, right?

  123. #123 KillJoy
    January 27, 2010

    I always seem to comment on these things way too late. After everyone else has already said everything I want to say. I need to quit my job and just comment full time. Seems like the only way I’m ever going to be timely about it. At any rate.

    Blah blah blah blah.

    Life is as meaningful or as bleak as you make it blah blah blah preaching to the choir. The trolls are always gone by the time I get here.

    *SadFace*

  124. #124 Insightful Ape
    January 27, 2010

    davej, don’t forget the president’s birth certificate.

  125. #125 frog, Inc.
    January 27, 2010

    It would all be much simpler if all of science took up the old rule from physics that a theory is a piece of math(s) (and of course the necessary definitions to map parameters to observations).

    Then there would be no room for denialists, there would be a hell of a lot less useless hot air in many disciplines, and testability would be much simpler — eliminating a lot of fraud by ambiguity.

    We could then just call verbal explanations “ideas” as tentative first steps to a formal theory. So, Darwin’s Idea of Evolution eventually lead to Neo-Darwinian Theory, as exemplified by the Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium. Falsifying HW is easy — you find many observations under the range of HW that don’t fit HW. Disproving the “Idea” is hard, because it is verbal and therefore wishy-washy.

    But it won’t happen, of course.

  126. #126 Bill
    January 27, 2010

    I like trolls – they are funny.

    But seriously, it would be lovely to find a creationist who could actually intellectually defend their position. It would be fascinating.

    Of course, it isn’t possible, but it would be nice.

  127. #127 John Morales
    January 27, 2010

    Hey KillJoy, it’s all right. There, there.

    Pile on, dig in — temporal topicality is overrated, IMO; a good comment is a good comment nonetheless.

  128. #128 John Morales
    January 27, 2010

    frog,

    It would all be much simpler if all of science took up the old rule from physics that a theory is a piece of math(s) (and of course the necessary definitions to map parameters to observations).

    It would be, were not theories explanatory accounts for phenomena. But they are.

    Then there would be no room for denialists

    There would be no more room, but that would not stop them; it doesn’t now. That’s the very definition of denialism!

  129. #129 frog, Inc.
    January 27, 2010

    JM: It would be, were not theories explanatory accounts for phenomena. But they are.

    I don’t find words very explicatory, or even useful, except as a mental model. I find an equation useful. I find words useful as commentary — particularly upon other words.

    Really — which works? The words of special relativity, or the equations? The same applies at the quantum level — you can have endless late-night discussion over the words without explicating a damn thing, while the equations are useful.

    To avoid obscurity — which helps more to learn physics, Newtonian Mechanics in words or in equations? Frankly, I find the words a waste of time, except as a mnemonic for the equations.

    I’m not even sure what an “explanatory account” is. Sounds to me like a piece of old theology we haven’t managed to dump yet. Science should be after something well-defined — formal relationships, not a bunch of philosophical hooey.

    Talk-talk is fine for late night bull sessions or coffee break. But there is no “explanation” for the world — there’s no WHY — there’s only HOW, which can only be defined mathematically.

  130. #130 frog, Inc.
    January 27, 2010

    Now, to think of it, what I’m calling for is a radical break between “science” as a system for knowing how the world works, and “humanistic knowledge” as a system for knowing what the world means.

    History is about the analysis of meaning (chronologically) — not a science in this sense. Anthropology is mostly about analysis of meaning in terms of human networks — not a science in this sense. Literature is about the analysis of meaning in terms of sets of books — not a science in this sense. They all can be rigorous and evidence based — and are important areas of human knowledge.

    They’re just not the same kind of thing. One explains what something means. One describes what something is. The former can only be done verbally — the latter shouldn’t be done verbally at all. I think the traditional mind set of a “theory” is contaminated by the pre-modern common ancestry of both areas.

    DOMA.

  131. #131 Linnea
    January 27, 2010

    Standing ovation for Gregory Greenwood @111.

  132. #132 frog, Inc.
    January 27, 2010

    JM: There would be no more room, but that would not stop them; it doesn’t now. That’s the very definition of denialism!

    Denialism “works” because words are fuzzy things. You never see denialists question equations. They play word games — that’s the political reality. You don’t get “denialism” of HW equilibrium, or Lorentz transforms; you get lots and lots of mutterings in the form of words, where they can weasel around with ambiguities, with multiple meanings, or re-contextualize.

    Equations, you can’t do that. Then you are reduced to testing the equations, questioning observations or finding formal inconsistencies. There’s really no room for denialism.

    Denialism is a political posture — and you can’t play politics in the same way with observations and formal structures. Politics is a game of meanings.

    ID games with entropy is a perfect example. They never attack with equations measuring DS — no they always talk about violations of thermo II, rather than showing that something is a violation of thermo II.

    Why? Cause they can’t do it. So dump the words.

  133. #133 frog, Inc.
    January 27, 2010

    #100: Recently, I’ve come to suspect that a lot of them subscribe to a common delusion: that the meat of science, the really tough part, the part that separates the real scientists from the wannabes, is devising hypotheses.

    I’m not impressed by Orac. Hypothesis production is the tough part. It’s really hard to come up with a novel, productive idea that is practically testable.

    Coming up with bad hypotheses is easy. Coming up with a concise tractable idea that give you something predictive outside of your lab is hard.

    Takes years of practice, years of collecting data, mounds of background, to get that “intuition” that leads to something useful. A hypothesis isn’t something you pull out of your ass, “mad-libs style”.

    But then, I don’t see hypotheses as ideas you have before experiments. They came out of your experiments as identifications of what must be repeatable in them. That takes powerful intuition.

    A good question is hard to find. Running more Western blots — easy, could be done by an elementary school student.

  134. #134 John Morales
    January 27, 2010

    frog,

    I don’t find words very explicatory, or even useful, except as a mental model. I find an equation useful. I find words useful as commentary — particularly upon other words.

    I, too, prefer an equation to a ream of terms, when defining a mathematical relationship. However, without a definition of terms (in words) and a shared understanding (in words) of what the operations is, a formula means nothing.

    To avoid obscurity — which helps more to learn physics, Newtonian Mechanics in words or in equations? Frankly, I find the words a waste of time, except as a mnemonic for the equations.

    Words and equations can be mapped onto each other; if I write the second law F = dp/dt, where p = mv, is that more helpful than to say that the magnitude and direction of a force is the rate of change of momentum of a mass in that direction?

    I’m not even sure what an “explanatory account” is. Sounds to me like a piece of old theology we haven’t managed to dump yet.

    It’s an account (that, is, an exposition) that explains (that is, makes comprehensible).

    Talk-talk is fine for late night bull sessions or coffee break. But there is no “explanation” for the world — there’s no WHY — there’s only HOW, which can only be defined mathematically.

    Natural language and math may use different symbolism, grammar and syntax, and it is difficult to avoid ambiguity in natural language — but otherwise they do not differ. Both exist to express ideas.
    I think you’re making a distinction of terminology, not of semantics.

    Still, you can show me wrong: Care to try to provide a purely mathematical explanation for the new synthesis, or even to cite one¹? If you could do so, would it be shorter, or more explanatory than a textual explanation?

    ¹ Where any natural language is there merely as commentary, not as part of the explanation.

  135. #135 Peter H
    January 27, 2010

    Poor Besotted Creationist,

    “Intelligent design” is neither.

  136. #136 Sastra
    January 27, 2010

    frog, Inc #132 wrote:

    Denialism “works” because words are fuzzy things. You never see denialists question equations. They play word games — that’s the political reality. You don’t get “denialism” of HW equilibrium, or Lorentz transforms; you get lots and lots of mutterings in the form of words, where they can weasel around with ambiguities, with multiple meanings, or re-contextualize.

    Yes. And the word games often manage to fool the people playing the game. I once tried to convince a room of Spiritual Souls that “critical thinking” — skeptical rational analysis — was not the same as “critical thinking” — being judgmental, arrogant, close-minded, and putting other people down all the time because they don’t meet your narrow standards. This was very, very hard for them to follow. “No, they’re both about criticizing.” They’re connected. They’re the same.

    It would have been nice to use math.

  137. #137 BobbyEarle
    January 27, 2010

    Gregory Greenwood @111…

    Well said, sir!

  138. #138 John Morales
    January 27, 2010

    Sastra @136, I disagree (in a pedantic sense).

    Denialism “works” because words are fuzzy things.

    Words are fuzzy things, but denialism is, definitionally, a denial of something (regardless of its merits).

    Or, in the sense we’re discussing: denialism.

  139. #139 Sastra
    January 27, 2010

    John Morales #138 wrote:

    Words are fuzzy things, but denialism is, definitionally, a denial of something (regardless of its merits).

    Oh, I wasn’t disagreeing. But fuzzy thinkers tend to blur distinctions and slide between superficial resemblances, on the assumption that there’s a deep connection. Math is a language without any ambiguity. You can’t hide from math.

    And pseudoscience always gets the math wrong.

  140. #140 Sioux Laris
    January 27, 2010

    You kind of have to dig the list, don’t you? It screams “The following are the crackpot droolings held by the absolute cranks, and we are willing to accommodate them!”

    The question really is, why are we still NOT in the Dark Ages?

  141. #141 Peter H
    January 28, 2010

    Sioux Laris:

    Are you quite sure we are NOT still in the dark ages? The charlatans and snake oil sellers swarm as moths to a flame; we are in peril of being swept under the rug of unknowing and unresisting.

  142. #142 Steven Dunlap
    January 28, 2010

    Not to challenge PZ (I know better) but I think I have a better analogy to explain the ridiculousness of the passage he quoted in his post.

    My Grt Grt Grandfather enlisted in the Union army in 1864. There are a lot of unanswered questions about the circumstances of his enlistment and how he came to be wounded in combat. I came up with a screwy theory to explain some of this (never mind what, that’s not important). My brother demolished my theory with a much simpler explanation that fit better with the existing records. Does the disagreement between my brother and me over the specifics of our ancestor’s military service prove that the Civil War never happened?

    The leap from discussion of ardi to a “challenge” to evolution is about that extreme. I suspect that for many people who do not understand the theory in the first place an analogy using the Civil War may engage them a bit better than one using bouncing apples. Of course, an analogy proves nothing. But that’s another fight.

  143. #143 acastcia
    January 28, 2010

    Gregory Greenwood @ 111

    Great comment. I agree with Blind Squirrel FCD @ 118 that was beautyful. I’am kind of jealous that I don’t have the talent to express my thougths as well you did.

  144. #144 Legion
    January 28, 2010

    Gregory Greenwood @ 111

    I see no evidence that even a single life was actually saved by prayer. When the chips are down, all we humans have, and have ever had, is one another. If my life were imperilled, and I had a choice between actual help and someone praying for me (however sincerely and devotely those prayers may be uttered), I know which I would choose.

    Can you honestly say that you would take the incantation over the helping (human) hand?

    Most excellent good sir!

    We especially like that last bit about ‘incantations’ as it serves as a beautifully constructed but of evidence that the practice of religious belief, is indistinguishable from the practice of magic.

  145. #145 MetzO'Magic
    January 28, 2010

    The leap from discussion of ardi to a “challenge” to evolution is about that extreme.

    Yeah, that’s why the creationists jumped up and down and frothed at the mouth when Ardi was unveiled. Most of them still believe in the straw man that speciation was a linear progression, and that there are such things as ‘missing links’. They think Lucy was THE missing link, and now look, you’ve changed your mind again. Now you are saying Ardi is the missing link. You disingenuous evilutionists, you!

    The point I always try to hammer home when I’m dealing with a creationist is this: think of evolution as a humongous tree, with new species constantly branching off. We did NOT evolve from modern apes. Rather, we shared a Last Common Ancestor (LCA) with them. Ardi is just another branch in the evolutionary tree that we had not discovered until recently, because the conditions under which a creature becomes fossilised are extremely rare.

    In fact, if we ever do come upon the remains of one of our LCAs, we may not even realise it. Even our LCA is just another branch in the tree, and we have no idea what it would look like. All we could say would be that it’s the oldest specimen we’ve found so far that we could have theoretically evolved from.

    But they just don’t get it. Either they won’t read the scientific literature at all, not even popular science books, or their religious beliefs won’t allow them to acknowledge the facts therein. And the fact that the science journalists get it wrong so often, as evidenced by that article in the TC Daily Planet that PZed quoted, definitely doesn’t help matters.

  146. #146 The Tim Channel
    January 28, 2010

    As if we needed more proof that American innovation is going straight into the toilet:

    http://thetimchannel.wordpress.com/2010/01/28/the-sad-little-ipad/

    Enjoy.

  147. #147 MetzO'Magic
    January 28, 2010

    Agghhh. My first blockquote fail. The Preview doesn’t show up the problem like it ought to :-/ So the nested bit there is mine…

  148. #148 Gladsmuir
    January 28, 2010

    @MadScientist ref #51

    I think you are a little harsh on the BBC regarding their use of the term ‘primates’ not to include humans. Just like ‘theory’ has a different context outside of science, the context of calling someone an ape or primate is potentially insulting.

    I’ve appreiciated this much more after visiting Cologne Zoo and watching the baboons. They basically spend their entire day fornicating, fighting, eating and defecating. Being compared to that doesn’t leave a nice taste in the mouth regardless of the scientific reality.

    The BBC might not do a perfect job but they are pretty good at reporting science in a non-sensationalist way to the typical layman. For example today I read this:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8481448.stm

    What more evidence do you need for ToE than a picture of 2 little dinosaurs desparately trying to evolve into chickens before that meteorite they are watching impacts! ;o)

  149. #149 Strangest brew
    January 28, 2010

    #48

    ‘They basically spend their entire day fornicating, fighting, eating and defecating’

    Sounds like ‘bizzyness as usual in my house!

  150. #150 Strangest brew
    January 28, 2010

    #48 = #148…’sigh’!

  151. #151 Fred The Hun
    January 28, 2010

    Poor Benighted Creationist,

    I now believe I came from nothing and that the universe and all its life have no inherent value or meaning. For that I thank you. I am liberated.

    Your pretty damn close to the truth there bubba. Try wrapping your mind around the beauty of truth as exemplified in this wonderful lecture ‘A Universe From Nothing’, AAI 2009 by Lawrence Krause.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ImvlS8PLIo

    You are even more meaningless then you ever could possibly have imagined.

  152. #152 Gladsmuir
    January 28, 2010

    ‘They basically spend their entire day fornicating, fighting, eating and defecating’

    ‘Sounds like ‘bizzyness as usual in my house!’

    No arguements there – these things occur in my household too but I like to at least create the illusion of having other interests and a bit of culture by reading science blogs.

    Anyway, enough said on this line of conversation otherwise I might find myself exiled to the dungeon.

  153. #153 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 28, 2010

    The Tim Channel

    As if we needed more proof that American innovation is going straight into the toilet:

    and from your blog

    Dishonest criticisms: It won?t run Photoshop. The bezel is too wide. It costs too much. There?s no stylus input.

    I’ve only done a cursory look at the iPad but one of the only reasons I was interested in the iPad was for on-site editing of photos when I’m on a shoot / using it as a portfolio, session display for clients.

    I’m assuming if it doesn’t/won’t run photoshop the OS isn’t going to run anything other than “apps”.

    Now of course someone will probably attempt to write some nifty app for photo display that will be better than the current iPhone apps for that but for 500 bucks at a minimium…

    That is lame. lame. lame.

    I’ll have to look at it a little more.

  154. #154 Gregory Greenwood
    January 28, 2010

    Blind Squirrel FCD @ 118 and acastcia @ 143;

    Thank you, but I think that you are both far more eloquent than you give yourselves credit for. As you pointed out Blind Squirrel, the people who this comment is addressed to will likely never read it, or if they did read it would probably just dismiss it as heresy out of hand. KillJoy’s comments @ 123 about preaching to the choir reflect how I imagine we all feel from time to time.

    Linnea @ 131 and BobbyEarle @ 137;

    You are both too kind. I felt that I may have rambled on a bit. I am not so good at cogent and succinct comments. I fear that many people will lack the patience to read my entire spiel. I promise that my ego is not really so great as some of my posts may entail. Honest.

    Legion @ 144;

    I am receiving praise from an entire legion of demons (or one demon with multiple personality disorder – I do not know which) now? This is all starting to go to my head…

    “Thank you, thank you all! *cries* This is just so unexpected, I don’t know what to say *sob* I would like to start by not thanking god *sniffle*…”

    Unless, of course, I am just one more among your multitudes. We are Legion, after all…
    ;-)

  155. #155 Rorschach
    January 28, 2010

    While we’re at it, can the Tim Channel person maybe stop its shameless blog-whoring at some point ? It would be much appreciated.

  156. #156 Andyman
    January 28, 2010

    Re: iPad

    From the same website that brought you that biblical permission slip thing.

    http://failblog.org/2010/01/27/name-fail-photoshop-win/

  157. #157 Kamaka
    January 28, 2010

    @ frog Inc

    String theory is all math and is hardly giving clear, unambiguous answers.

    It may have no answers at all.

  158. #158 dannystevens.myopenid.com
    January 28, 2010

    So why can’t the science standards simply say “The student will no how to build multiple hypothesis based on evidence and how to test those hypothesis to destruction. The student will learn basic logic.”

  159. #159 Gus Snarp
    January 28, 2010

    @MetzO’Magic, Thanks for the link to the Nat.Geo. article. Sadly they did use the word missing link, but an intelligent reading of the article shows no conflict with evolutionary theory whatsoever. What it actually challenges is the flawed notions about evolution that we’ve known were flawed for sometime. It’s not a challenge, it’s another piece of evidence in support of the modern theory of evolution. While the article didn’t really say what the quote miners interpreted it to say, it certainly could have done a better job of situating this find with evolutionary theory for the lay audience who might read the magazine and not have the a priori knowledge to situate it themselves.

  160. #160 frog, Inc.
    January 28, 2010

    JM:
    Words and equations can be mapped onto each other; if I write the second law F = dp/dt, where p = mv, is that more helpful than to say that the magnitude and direction of a force is the rate of change of momentum of a mass in that direction?

    Yes — very much more so. Both still require a mapping of parameters on to observations, but the equation is concise and completely unambiguous. If you were a student, and you are given F = dp/dt, a mapping of F onto a measurement, and the same for p & t — you’re gold. But the words would still be obscure and arguable.

    Have you seen non-geometric proofs from the 16th century and earlier? It’s a testament to human genius that anything beyond plane geometry was done with natural language!

    It’s an account (that, is, an exposition) that explains (that is, makes comprehensible).

    Don’t find that useful. That doesn’t distinguish between “Creation” theory and a scientific theory. What I want to use theory for is a method by which I can transform a series of observations into a series of predictions of other observations. I don’t need it to be generally “comprehensible” — I need it to be mechanical.

    Natural language and math may use different symbolism, grammar and syntax, and it is difficult to avoid ambiguity in natural language ? but otherwise they do not differ. Both exist to express ideas.
    I think you’re making a distinction of terminology, not of semantics.

    No, in practice they are very distinguishable. A mathematical formalism can be turned into a mechanical process, but natural language in general can not (except in the trivial sense of being “representable”). And when practice and “theory” (in that sense) don’t match, we throw away “theory”. Natural language, in general, is not constrained by consistency — and it is almost impossible to show consistency. Natural language is just generally recursive patterns, while formal systems are much, much more highly constrained by demands for consistency and distinction.

    Still, you can show me wrong: Care to try to provide a purely mathematical explanation for the new synthesis, or even to cite one¹? If you could do so, would it be shorter, or more explanatory than a textual explanation?

    The synthesis is not a single “theory”. It is a set of theories, and no one has as of yet, formulated them systematically. Some of the elements are still ill-posed because they’ve been primarily proposed in natural language.

    In short, it’s a big project. I propose that it would be a productive project — but it’s clearly bigger than me. A simple and “obvious” theory (mathematical formulation) is only so in hindsight! That’s where it’s productiveness comes in.

    A mathematical formalism is actually boundable — so it would be shorter iff it was actually complete. With words, you never even know how much of the theory is described! You don’t know how much you’ve underdefined, overdefined, or just stepped into ambiguous crap.

    So, to summarize, my response is that because of a bad idea about what a theory is, the field has failed to properly lay the groundwork. It’s a huge improvement over Darwin’s idea — but it’s still only a short fraction of the way to where it needs to go. There are many formalisms to map “selection” unto “change of frequency of alleles”, but the hard work of unification is still left undone.

  161. #161 frog, Inc.
    January 28, 2010

    JM: Words are fuzzy things, but denialism is, definitionally, a denial of something (regardless of its merits).

    My point is that it’s only politically effective when “words” are put on the same plane as “maths”.

    Denialism is only a problem when your symbols and operators are fuzzy.

    Sastra’s example is what I’m getting at. It’s the “just a theory” game.

  162. #162 frog, Inc.
    January 28, 2010

    Kamaka: String theory is all math and is hardly giving clear, unambiguous answers.

    String theory is a family of theories, none of which have been tested yet. It’s not “a” theory with clear physical predictions. Otherwise, they’d be done. It’s just math, without being operationalized, that makes it “not physics yet”. F = dp/dt is physics, because the parameters can be defined in terms of observations — that’s where words, or diagrams… come in.

  163. #163 erizo
    January 28, 2010

    I think you misunderstand.

    Part of teaching science isn’t just teaching current knowledge and understanding but how we *got* to our current knowledge and understanding.

    Take your list. All of them are relatively simple conceptually, unlike particle/wave duality (which could easily have been added for high school physics): “cell theory, atomic theory, theory of evolution, plate tectonic theory, germ theory of disease and big bang theory”.

    That living beings are made of cells was controversial. As evidence came along the idea was altered, then elaborated, then challenged. It’s still being challenged, to be honest: cross-species sharing of genetic material has been shown to be far more widespread than judged possible 20 years ago. Atomic theory, from Democritus through Bohr. Evolution. Tectonic theory. Pasteur and the germ theory, neither the beginning nor the end.

    Not all of these has squat to do with even young earth creationinsm, much less old earth creationism. And for much of intelligent design natural selection, with a mild tweak, works just fine–and they have no problem with the rest.

    The problem is that many of these are historical. Moreover, things are still being tweaked. Ardi–not in the guidelines, to be sure–is a weak example but works. Not because it has much to say about *the* theory of evolution, but because it has to say something about *a* theory of evolution: how did H. sapiens evolve?

    The kind of reasoning and principles involved in that on-going debate is like in kind to that involving every other theory. Given old theory and new evidence, you undertake abduction (“this evidence is compatible with what revision to theory?”) and form a hypothesis. Then you find a way to falsify your hypothesis, and at the end you decide whether to update the theory or form new hypothesis?

    Disposing of something useful–a list of theories that have been worked over and amended time and time again–just because it *can* be useful to somebody else, is rather like making sure your kids are all neutered because one of them might rape or be raped and conceive. It solves a very, very limited and concrete problem based on paranoia, but really isn’t very productive. The requirement has a good, sound, functional, and very, very important purpose. Let’s not get rid of it because some public school teacher somewhere might misuse it.

  164. #164 https://me.yahoo.com/a/DgiEGD9kscDJEdF9A.79OTdYGt3M006DmA--#6c479
    January 28, 2010

    My oldest son’s teacher “taught” him that teeth are bones, and that mass is just another word for weight. And is still teaching that there are only three states of matter. He watches the science channel like other kids watch cartoons. I think he probably doubts almost anything she says at this point.

    So, though standards are important, there are more immediate concerns.

  165. #165 abb3w
    January 28, 2010

    Rev. BigDumbChimp: Robert Frost right?

    Yah. (I linked to the full poem.) I really think PZ should try using that one to explain evolution to the English majors’ fuzzy-headed faction.

    frog, Inc.: Natural language is just generally recursive patterns, while formal systems are much, much more highly constrained by demands for consistency and distinction.

    Formal systems usually use mathematics. Mathematics is usually founded on a variant of set theory. Set theory is not merely of recursive complexity, but recursively enumerable — and more, if you wander into infinite automata.

    I think what you’re trying to say there is that natural language has higher ambiguity.

    I’d recommend that you look into an introductory text on Automata Theory and Formal grammars. (Perhaps Linz, ISBN 0763737984 — or another edition, if easier on your local library/wallet.) From there, you’ll want to look at minimum description length induction (doi:10.1109/18.825807). Note the former is usually advanced undergraduate or early graduate level material, and the latter is a technical paper at the graduate/post-graduate level.

    frog, Inc.: A mathematical formalism is actually boundable

    Preferably, but not necessarily. Most mathematicians prefer to avoid infinite automata, but they’re a legitimate branch of mathematics.

    frog, Inc.: What I want to use theory for is a method by which I can transform a series of observations into a series of predictions of other observations.

    Mathematically, “prediction” may not be possible in a practical sense, depending on where in the complexity zoo the pattern described sits. In formal terminology, “recognition” may be the best that can be relied on.

    Which is to say, given a set of observations, identify (a) which hypotheses actually produce that set, and (b) which of those hypotheses is most likely to be able to describe additional data. These very roughly correspond to Popperian “falsification” and “simplicity” tests.

    frog, Inc.: The synthesis is not a single “theory”. It is a set of theories

    First: you’re using “theory” where in formal terms the correct term is better translated “hypothesis”. “Theory” refers to “the best hypothesis”, with the mathematical measure of “best” relating to the above-mentioned MDLI.

    Next, translating some of the mathematical formalism into something vaguely resembling English: two hypotheses, joined together by a finite (even if ad-hoc) rule, form a single new hypothesis, because the join of two Church-Turing Automata (CTA; more commonly “Turing Machine) via a CTA is still a CTA. An ad-hoc join simply makes for higher description length; it does not disqualify it from competition, merely handicaps it.

    Ergo, the synthesis is not merely “a hypothesis”; it is also “the Theory” at present.

    frog, Inc.: There are many formalisms to map “selection” unto “change of frequency of alleles”, but the hard work of unification is still left undone.

    Not really. From what I can tell, (doi:10.1098/rspa.2008.0178) takes care of the foundational transition from the thermodynamic level to more macroscopic ones, and from there it’s mostly just applications of the mathematics of non-uniform random walks. There’s some interesting questions for the biogenic transition from lone atoms to self-replicating life, for stuff about the development of the Last Universal Common Ancestor for cellular life, and a lot of interesting issues about the exact developments and relationships of contemporary forms, but mathematically all of those are at essence questions of the “which way did the apple drop?” variety that PZ referred to.

  166. #166 mothra
    January 28, 2010

    It seem like the correct terminology for ‘string theory’ is ‘string conjecture.’ It is not a theory for the same reason ID is not a theory, it cannot be falsified by experimentation. It is a mathematical idea that might relate to the real world.

    @111- I see a Molly in your future:
    “When the chips are down, all we humans have, and have ever had, is one another.”

  167. #167 Miki Z
    January 28, 2010

    It seem like the correct terminology for ‘string theory’ is ‘string conjecture.’ It is not a theory for the same reason ID is not a theory, it cannot be falsified by experimentation. It is a mathematical idea that might relate to the real world.

    This is no longer true. A quick search of Physical Review Letters turns up Dijet Signals for Low Mass Strings at the Large Hadron Collider (December 2008), Jet Signals for Low Mass Strings at the Large Hadron Collider (April 2008), Falsifying Models of New Physics via WW Scattering (2007) and others.

    ID isn’t even bothering to try and suggest what would falsify it.

  168. #168 frog, Inc.
    January 28, 2010

    abb3w:

    frog, Inc.: Natural language is just generally recursive patterns, while formal systems are much, much more highly constrained by demands for consistency and distinction.

    Formal systems usually use mathematics. Mathematics is usually founded on a variant of set theory. Set theory is not merely of recursive complexity, but recursively enumerable — and more, if you wander into infinite automata.

    I think what you’re trying to say there is that natural language has higher ambiguity.

    Nope — that’s not what I was saying. The recursion is what’s common — what’s distinctive is consistency and distinction. Distinction maps partially onto what you’re calling ambiguity. Natural language itself not only represents constantly varying values — but is composed of constantly varying values. Formal systems only do the former, they are all ultimately mappable onto a number theory with a few operators.

    Natural languages are not. They themselves can both be not distinctive in the sense used here, and additionally need not, internally, be self-consistent. It’s a major error to fail to see this distinction. All levels of structure in natural language can be inconsistent and ill-defined. Natural language is poetic; formal systems can only represent poetry (and poorly, at that! They miss the point, always)

    I’d recommend that you look into an introductory text on Automata Theory and Formal grammars. (Perhaps Linz, ISBN 0763737984 — or another edition, if easier on your local library/wallet.) From there, you’ll want to look at minimum description length induction (doi:10.1109/18.825807). Note the former is usually advanced undergraduate or early graduate level material, and the latter is a technical paper at the graduate/post-graduate level.

    Thank you, I still have my textbooks from compiler theory ;)

    frog, Inc.: A mathematical formalism is actually boundable


    Preferably, but not necessarily. Most mathematicians prefer to avoid infinite automata, but they’re a legitimate branch of mathematics.

    Problem of lack of precision in natural language. I meant, with a mathematical formalism, I can know whether I have all necessary and sufficient axioms for a system — even if they’re described as an infinite set (say, infinite automata). It’s clearly not generally subject to much argument.

    frog, Inc.: What I want to use theory for is a method by which I can transform a series of observations into a series of predictions of other observations.


    Mathematically, “prediction” may not be possible in a practical sense, depending on where in the complexity zoo the pattern described sits. In formal terminology, “recognition” may be the best that can be relied on.

    Which is to say, given a set of observations, identify (a) which hypotheses actually produce that set, and (b) which of those hypotheses is most likely to be able to describe additional data. These very roughly correspond to Popperian “falsification” and “simplicity” tests.

    Again, natural language problems. That is what I meant by predict — including retrodiction, paradiction, etc. Simply, that I can “cover” half the data and reproduce it a given approximation by looking at the other half. Or at least identify a “consistent set” of possible “other halves”.

    frog, Inc.: The synthesis is not a single “theory”. It is a set of theories


    First: you’re using “theory” where in formal terms the correct term is better translated “hypothesis”. “Theory” refers to “the best hypothesis”, with the mathematical measure of “best” relating to the above-mentioned MDLI.

    Next, translating some of the mathematical formalism into something vaguely resembling English: two hypotheses, joined together by a finite (even if ad-hoc) rule, form a single new hypothesis, because the join of two Church-Turing Automata (CTA; more commonly “Turing Machine) via a CTA is still a CTA. An ad-hoc join simply makes for higher description length; it does not disqualify it from competition, merely handicaps it.

    Ergo, the synthesis is not merely “a hypothesis”; it is also “the Theory” at present.

    Yes — of course two “maths” put on the same page is one single bigger “math” as long as they have a common “term” (operator, parameter…) AND ARE CONSISTENT. That’s all your saying there.

    My point is that a) that consistency is ill-defined in terms of natural language; b) “Best” is ill-defined in terms of natural language. It’s only when you turn it into a formal system that those words mean much, beyond endless political gamesmanship.

    That’s where the practical problems lie — and the only real problems are practical problems. I see that as the major flaw in your flow of thought. You can reduce NL to FS — but that’s not what we really do, is it? Use the FS subset of NL?

    frog, Inc.: There are many formalisms to map “selection” unto “change of frequency of alleles”, but the hard work of unification is still left undone.


    Not really. From what I can tell, (doi:10.1098/rspa.2008.0178) takes care of the foundational transition from the thermodynamic level to more macroscopic ones, and from there it’s mostly just applications of the mathematics of non-uniform random walks. There’s some interesting questions for the biogenic transition from lone atoms to self-replicating life, for stuff about the development of the Last Universal Common Ancestor for cellular life, and a lot of interesting issues about the exact developments and relationships of contemporary forms, but mathematically all of those are at essence questions of the “which way did the apple drop?” variety that PZ referred to.

    I loved that paper. Read it when it came out.

    Only problem is that biologists are interested in “which way did the apple drop”? So they need a “model” (in the physics sense, not the cartoon sense) — “Natural selection for least action”, even if correct (which I’m not sure it is) — is useless in practice. Until a model is applicable it’s not a scientific theory — it’s still just “string theory”! In other words, it makes no “pattern recognition” from real-world measurements to other real-world measurements.

    Call me when biologists start teaching that paper!

    That’s not just snark — the very existence of the possibility of a unifying theory of natural selection (in this sense) is unknown to almost all practicing biologists. Drop by a medical school or biology department and survey how many people are even aware of the paper. Compare to the awareness of equivalent papers in other fields, such as chemistry or physics.

    Chemists at least know that guys like Doug Henderson exist! They may find it irrelevant to their work, or over-simplified or … but the existence of fields such as compressed fluid theory is actually known.

  169. #169 Miki Z
    January 28, 2010

    Hmm. I seem to have munged the links, but they still point correctly.

  170. #170 frog, Inc.
    January 28, 2010

    mothra: It seem like the correct terminology for ‘string theory’ is ‘string conjecture.’ It is not a theory for the same reason ID is not a theory, it cannot be falsified by experimentation. It is a mathematical idea that might relate to the real world.

    Not exactly. A “String theory” is at least well-defined. They may be lacking in the “operationalization” part — but it’s ultimately doable. It is, at least a “conjecture”.

    ID isn’t even a conjecture. It’s just a string of words that are grammatically well-formed. Even if they defined their measures, there’s no “theory” at all there, at least that I’ve seen. It’s fundamentally untestable — as opposed to untestable so far.

    It’s not even denialism. It’s just bad poetry.

  171. #171 Gregory Greenwood
    January 28, 2010

    mothra @ 166;

    @111- I see a Molly in your future

    Thank you kind sir or madam as the case may be.

    By the way, how is Godzilla getting along these days? ;-)

  172. #172 frog, Inc.
    January 28, 2010

    Arrg — ScienceBlogs is dropping my ems across paragraphs. But my style is quite distinct from abb3w — I don’t think anyone will mistake my portions for abb3w’s.

  173. #173 a_ray_in_dilbert_space
    January 28, 2010

    In some ways, I think Karl Popper may have created more problems than he solved with his doctrine of falsifiability. Yes, it was a brilliant insight that managed to summarize a lot of what we actually do in science. However, because it is a relatively simple idea embedded in a matrix of rather complex methodology, it tends to be the only thing most people remember about Popper’s philosophy of science–or for that matter about science in general.

    The thing is, though, that to be falsifiable, a theory has to be fairly simple. A theory that has been built over a period of decades and which has amassed a long list of accomplishments and evidence is very unlikely to be “falsified”. It may break, but the theory that replaces it will likely look very much like its predecessor with a few key modifications in the portion of the theory that broke.

    Creationists, climate denialists and other anti-science types see this and claim the theory is not “scientific” because they can’t break it easily. In reality, robustness is what you expect in an established theory.

    Even String Theory (some versions anyway) is falsifiable in principle, even if you would have to accelerate particles up to energies commensurate with the mass of the Universe to do it.

    Contrast that to creationism/ID, where an omnipotent creator/designer is posited as an explanation. Yup, it explains everything (except who created the creator), but it can predict nothing–not even in principle. THAT is why it is not science.

  174. #174 Stogoe
    January 28, 2010

    84:

    Remember: alignment is a tool, not a straitjacket.

    No, people who still use alignment are tools.

  175. #175 mothra
    January 28, 2010

    I should not have used the ID comparison- it was a cheap snipe. ‘Conjecture’ was used in perhaps its proper mathematical usage. If the various string ‘theories’ can now be tested, we are back in the realm of science and can discuss them as theories. Because string ‘theories’ had previously only been mathematical constructs, I hoped that conjecture was the proper descriptive term.

    I would never have said the ‘ID conjecture’ no matter what Demmski might write.

  176. #176 frog, Inc.
    January 28, 2010

    a_ray_in_dilbert_space: In some ways, I think Karl Popper may have created more problems than he solved with his doctrine of falsifiability …. The thing is, though, that to be falsifiable, a theory has to be fairly simple. A theory that has been built over a period of decades and which has amassed a long list of accomplishments and evidence is very unlikely to be “falsified”. It may break, but the theory that replaces it will likely look very much like its predecessor with a few key modifications in the portion of the theory that broke.

    I agree. Science is a process, and a community. It isn’t A math, but a process for the production of maths linked to observations. Science, itself, isn’t a logical system — it produces rationality. Science is a squishy human thing — you can’t reduce it.

    In that science — all of science — is constantly being “falsified”. It’s just that as science ages, the falsifications lead to smaller changes usually.

    For example, a few years ago the dogma of DNA -> RNA irreversibility was shot down (not including older findings of viral work and such). A plant was found that you could knock out a gene and four generations down the road, the gene came back, apparently via back transcription.

    That “falsifies” a key element of evolution — except it doesn’t. In 1908 it would have been a huge issue. It’s not a big deal today to find cases of “acquired characteristics” — it’s just a more sophisticated system than previously thought but still primarily driven by “non-acquired characteristics”. There are just a few extra terms. The term “falsifying” connotes way too much — leading people not to consider those cases, to even use poetic terms such as “dogma”.

  177. #177 https://me.yahoo.com/a/pXpPHUQaxcq9_X2w.46bqL2KgjMi#67c49
    January 28, 2010

    RE: #24 Now, I’m not aware of any broad theories of history

    In my opinion, Marx has a rather compelling broad theory of history: Historical Materialism.

    Ever increasing division of labor leads to developments in social and economic forms. The transitions from one major socio-economic system to another can be likened to Stephen Jay Gould’s punctuated equilibrium, wherein for Marx social revolution is the ‘punctuated’ part.

  178. #178 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 28, 2010

    Yah. (I linked to the full poem.) I really think PZ should try using that one to explain evolution to the English majors’ fuzzy-headed faction.

    Oh I missed the [...] link.

    My grandfather was a big Robert Frost fan. I hadn’t read / heard that in a long time.

  179. #179 a_ray_in_dilbert_space
    January 28, 2010

    frog, Inc.
    Just curious–what do you think of some of the Bayesian approaches to philosophy of science. It seems like a richer paradigm. It also raises the very important point–if you start with 0 probability for any event in your prior probability, you will always assign zero probability to that event–even if it happens!

    Explains a lot about the anti-science types.

  180. #180 Kel, OM
    January 28, 2010

    Even String Theory (some versions anyway) is falsifiable in principle, even if you would have to accelerate particles up to energies commensurate with the mass of the Universe to do it.

    The claim that the world will end in 2012 is falsifiable, it’s just that we have to wait until 2013 to call it nonsense.

    I’ve got to say, the best way I’ve heard to explain explanation is from David Deutsch.

  181. #181 truth machine, OM
    January 28, 2010

    What if it turns out that one, small, scrubby, little plant found in Lapland has Inherent Value — and if you have valued anything else (human love, learning, compassion, art, happiness) you’re just plain wrong, because all the Objective Inherent Value is in that plant, and you foolishly care about meaningless things that only you (and other human beings) value.

    Hi Sastra. Does the fact that you can imagine and even describe that make it logically possible — coherent? Or could it be that the notion of “inherent value” is nonsensical, a category mistake, because “value” is a relationship — an attitude of one entity toward another?

  182. #182 truth machine, OM
    January 28, 2010

    I don’t understand why you folks even waste your time commenting.

    Inability to understand an observation is not a virtue.

    Your randomly selected, gigantic brains

    Naturally selected, not randomly selected. That you don’t understand one of the most fundamental points about evolution, how it operates, and why it makes sense, implies that your comments about it are pretty much worthless.

    have already figured out that The High And Glorious Theory Of Evolution (may it be praised and protected!) is a simple fact that any retard should acknowledge

    It’s not a simple fact; that’s why it needs to be taught.

    and idiots who do not show it proper obeisance should be banished to Retard Land.

    People who write such foolish snark already live there.

    May you all live long and prosper as you shower each other with intelligent points that arose from your mind and consciousness which in turn arose from primordial muck oh these many bajillion years ago.

    No, human consciousness arose much more recently than that. And the word is “billion”, not “bajillion” — your contempt for straightforward numerical concepts is another indicator that you lack the basic knowledge needed to speak sensibly on these matters.

    From what I glean, there is no evidence from any sphere of science which cannot be 1. incorporated into the Theory of Evolution by its advocates

    Quite so, which is all the more reason to accept the theory. If there were evidence that cannot be incorporated, that would pose a problem for the theory.

    2. explained away by same

    Your two points are contradictory; if the evidence can be incorporated into the the theory, there would be no need to explain it away.

    Many of you read that and say “Exactly!”, not morosely but excitedly. Which is why the conversation kind of ends before it begins.

    The conversation ends before it begins because you have a fixed set of beliefs and are not interested in learning anything about a subject of which you are obviously quite ignorant.

  183. #183 truth machine, OM
    January 28, 2010

    Oops, I elided PBC’s “or”. His two points aren’t contradictory, they are allegedly two possible responses to evidence. But it’s a false charge — evidence is explained, it is not “explained away”. And the implication that there is some other alternative rests on the assumption that the ToE isn’t valid, but the evidence simply doesn’t support that view.

  184. #184 frog, Inc.
    January 28, 2010

    a_ray_in_dilbert_space: Just curious–what do you think of some of the Bayesian approaches to philosophy of science. It seems like a richer paradigm. It also raises the very important point–if you start with 0 probability for any event in your prior probability, you will always assign zero probability to that event–even if it happens! Explains a lot about the anti-science types.

    Hadn’t known about it. Looks like a reasonable tool to formalize some scientific reasoning.

    But I wouldn’t want to formalize too much — at some point you have to bail out of formal systems. Human activities aren’t produced by automata — or if they are, they are inaccessible to us, since the automata can’t fully include itself. There’s always the rabbit hole — and a biological brain has huge rabbit holes in it.

    But it does show why you shouldn’t ever be absolutely sure of anything — as soon as you are, you may as well be brain dead!

  185. #185 The Tim Channel
    January 29, 2010

    The diminishing educational standards ACROSS America are killing the country. It’s exactly what the Creationist/Republicans want. Kids too dumb to think for themselves so people like Ken Hamm can ‘fill in the gaps’.

    It’s gotten so bad that even folks like Steve Jobs thinks he can fool the public with a ‘groundbreaking’ device that’s nothing more than an inflated Itouch.

    Obligatory blogwhoring to give a few dedicated diehards something to bitch about (as if there’s not enough real stuff to complain about). BTW, if you think what I do is blogwhoring please don’t follow my links. It’s not mandatory. Don’t worry, the web isn’t running out of space and if you do visit you’ll notice I’m NOT trying to sell you anything. FWIW, I do see connections between the lowering of educational standards and America’s seeming inability to climb out of the funk that the Republicans left us.

    http://timtalk.blogspot.com/2010/01/i-could-live-with-lack-of-ports-on-this.html

    Enjoy.

  186. #186 truth machine, OM
    January 29, 2010

    if you think what I do is blogwhoring please don’t follow my links.

    That’s like “If you think 1+1 =2 please don’t follow my links”.

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