Will Scott Adams never learn?

We went round and round on this well over a year ago. Scott Adams, of Dilbert fame, wrote a shallow and ignorant argument that sort of shilly-shallied over a pro-creationist argument; I pointed out how stupid his reasoning was. The response was insane; criticize Adams, and his horde of Dilbert fans will descend on you like a cloud of pea-brained locusts. Adams took a stab at the subject again, proposing that at least we ought to teach it as an alternative to evolution, an old and tiresome argument that I thoroughly despise. Basically, Adams just outed himself as a feeble hack making tepid arguments that only a creationist could believe.

Oh, and the most common lame defense: Scott Adams shouldn't ever be taken seriously, because he's always just joking to get a rise out of people. That would be acceptable, if ever he'd said anything intelligent on the subject, if his whole argument wasn't based on common creationist canards, and if his fanbase weren't taking his every word so damned seriously, as if he'd given them some deep insight.

That's the history. I hadn't read the Dilbert blog in ages, so I don't know if Adams has since continued his wishy-washy creationism. Now I see on OmniBrain that yes, Scott Adams has written another post on intelligent design, and yes, if anything, Scott Adams has become even more stupid in the intervening months Here's his key argument for assigning intelligence to the universe.

I take the practical approach — that something is intelligent if it unambiguously performs tasks that require intelligence. Writing Moby Dick required intelligence. The Big Bang wrote Moby Dick. Therefore, the Big Bang is intelligent, and you and I are created by that same intelligence. Therefore, we are created by an intelligent entity.

It's a wee bit circular, don't you think? He's defining intelligence by assuming that the only process that can create intelligence is driven by intelligence; I'd simply rebut him by challenging his assumption, and say that the process that created the being who wrote Moby Dick did not require intelligent guidance (as we already know—the processes that drive evolution do not require active intervention by any intelligent agent), therefore there is no reason to call a prior process like the Big Bang "intelligent". He's also managed to put together an argument for an intelligent designer that requires us to conclude that everything in the universe is intelligent: phosphorylation is intelligent, sperm are intelligent, carrots are intelligent, bacteria are intelligent, interstellar dust is intelligent. I suspect that there's a self-serving motive involved—he had to really reach to come up with a definition that would allow him to claim that Scott Adams is intelligent.

It's nice to see that one constant on the internet is that Scott Adams is still a babbling idiot. If any of his defenders want to claim that "hey, he's just being funny!" that's fine, as long as you're willing to admit that his chosen style of humor is to pretend to be a colossal boob…and that he's suckered many of his readers into thinking that his intentionally absurd ideas are brilliant.


So predictable…

Here's a lesson for you: criticize Scott Adams, and you will receive a deluge of Dilbonian hate mail. Virtually all of it is saying exactly the same thing: "You failed the humor test"; "Adams was being ironic"; "Adams isn't a creationist, he's pulling your chain". Part of it is taking a different, overtly creationist tack: "The Big Bang didn't happen, so you ought to be able to tell it's a joke"; "You professors don't understand anything"; and then there are the long-winded discourses on why Adams is exactly right, and that he has seen the mind of God, and his argument is irrefutable.

Listen, Dilbonians: you can stop telling me I have no sense of humor. I know it already. I also know that Scott Adams has a piss-poor sense of humor, too. I'd be more inclined to believe that he was mocking creationist thinking if a) everything he has written on evolution, creation, and science hadn't had exactly the same tone and advanced the same point of view, which seems to be, basically, that Scott Adams knows better than every scientist on the planet, and b) his fans were a little less enthusiastic in supporting every turd of faux-wisdom that drips from his mouth. Read the comments; his readers aren't treating this as a hilarious send-up of religious thinking. Maybe Adams is a true cynic who has purposely cultivated a collection of acolytes who are stupid enough to believe the amazingly stupid things he writes, but I don't think that is an accomplishment that would insulate him from criticism.

Oh, and those of you complaining that Adams is not a creationist: look up David Berlinski. There is a lot in common there: the same supercilious and inflated sense of intellectual self-worth, the same mocking tone, the same knee-jerk rejection of anyone else's expertise, as if the fact that some people know much more in some discipline than he does is a personal insult. He's an anti-science hack who probably also rejects authorities on the creationist side because they do not defer to his superior intelligence, either.

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It's kind of sad, really. Scott Adams is a funny guy, but he's just so off anytime it comes to science. I read his laughable "philosophy" book a year or two ago, the one he put online for free. It was basically just stuff he made up, then presented it as if it was really insightful. The scary part is that he actually has legions of fans online crooning about how ingenious it is, how it's 'finally a vision of the universe that makes sense', etc.

I started reading The Dilbert Blog when he started doing it, but I stopped reading it when all of that nonsense about evolution was posted. Since then I've read Pharyngula in exclusion over The Dilbert Blog. You go PZ: maybe you're not as funny, but you're definitely more well qualified to talk on these kinds of subjects.

Dilbert is funny... its disappointing to realize that Scott Adams is dumb.

I mean there are plenty of parallels between the idiocy of corporate America, and the idiocy of any organized religion.

That's a little disheartening. From all the hilarious links to Dilbert Blog posted to Reddit, I figured Adams would be smarter than this. Guess not.

I read God's Debris, and my head exploded from the banality.

... pea-brained locusts ...

At least they qualify as smarter than the average locust.

as we already know--the processes that drive evolution do not require active intervention by any intelligent agent

I actually have nothing against the idea that the process behind evolution is intelligent because frankly there isn't any hard definition one way or the other of what constitutes intelligence. However what we know is that the process behind evolution does not engage in design nor it is self aware. This sounds like a rambling quibble but I have a point and not just on my head.

The point is that compared to humans limited abilities what nature has accomplished through evolution is kinda awe inspiring. So to say that intelligent algorithm's are behind evolution makes some sense. Certainly more sense than to say that they are 'random' or 'stupid'.

I think the reason Dilbert shows such insight into the stupidity of corporate culture is because the author is an expert exemplar of such stupidity.

At least they qualify as smarter than the average locust.

Perhaps I was referring not to the size of the pea, but its starchy vegetable nature.

The current state of the Internet requires that its creator was obsessed with porn. Big Bang created the Internet. Therefore, the Big Bang is obsessed with porn.

"If you reject the Big Bang as being intelligent - after acknowledging that it created so many books and other works of art, it leaves you with no test for intelligence."

Uhh ...the hell?

Someone is killed by a falling tree, which in turn was hit by lightning. Is the tree a murderer? Is the lightning?

Poor da Vinci. First they bastardize his name by associating it with a certain highly overpublicized movie, and now mindless explosions (incidentally, explosions tend not to have minds, while intelligent things usually do) are getting the credit for his masterpieces.

By Chinchillazilla (not verified) on 30 Jan 2007 #permalink

I am hopeful that Adams' insight into the stupidity of corporate culture means there is intelligence in Adams that may yet manifest itself in reason on evolution. God, but I am an optimist.

This is another case where one needs to understand what is good, and what is bad, and not claim that everything any human does is all one or the other. Most humans just are not built that way. Adams' work on corporate insanity and inanity is good; that in no way makes him an expert on evolution, or any part of science (though I think he may have been an engineer at one time . . . more anecdotal evidence for the attraction creationism has to engineers; when do the anecdotes become plentiful enough to count as statistically significant?)

Adams fight against spasmodic dysphonia is also inspiring. Diane Rehm's fight shows that one need not sacrifice one's reason or skepticism in the battle, though. Fighting a disease, even beating it, doesn't make one a prophet, nor even necessarily an expert.

And, isn't it funny that so many people adopt the view that the development of a zygote requires the intervention of a supernatural being, until someone's teenaged daughter gets pregnant without benefit of marriage? Then it's a moral failure. And then they claim they don't practice situational ethics.

I don't see anything even remotely creationist in Adams' post, but then again, I don't have a grudge against the guy like you seem to.

PZ, I generally agree with your posts, but you come off like such a fucking child sometimes.

Certainly more sense than to say that they are 'random' or 'stupid'.

And the only people who say that are... creationists.

Hmmm... does this drivel sound familiar?

Scott Adams is an extremely talented sifter of corporate excesses (he must get hundreds of contributions per day) and has a good sense of how best to portray them in the narrow confines of his comic strip. I usually enjoy reading Dilbert.

Unfortunately, Adams is also one of those people who thinks his skill in one area makes him an expert in other areas. (Someone should remind him how much he disdains experts.) It's a lot like those engineers who have "science envy" and end up prattling nonsense about evolution and intelligent design creationism. They should stick to their engineering and cartoonists should stick to their humor.

Unless, of course, as in today's B.C., your humor has abandoned all mass appeal and shrunk to a pinprick of inside humor.

"conclude that everything in the universe is intelligent: phosphorylation is intelligent, sperm are intelligent, carrots intelligent, bacteria are intelligent, interstellar dust is intelligent."

I've heard that proposed as a 'serious' theory, which, if I was a "good open-minded person" I would take seriously because the person who suggested it had "thought a lot about it, and meant really well". When I pointed out that rocks seemed pretty darn dumb [in both senses of the word], it was suggested that maybe we just weren't listening the right way and I 'should open my heart'.

(I was told that my science-based perspective was 'wrong' because it talked about 'right and wrong answers', that nothing that labeled a statement as 'wrong' could be a 'right' perspective. However this maxim did not apply to the speaker's judgement of my position...)

By Christopher Gwyn (not verified) on 30 Jan 2007 #permalink

See, something like this is funny. It's also curious that Adams declares himself to be a non-believer near the end. Why oh why then does he write gobbledygook on intelligence like this?

I remember a book of Cicero's called "The Nature of the God's" (really everyone should read him) where he's talking about gods and a stoic proposes that god is fortune and the universe. He has his spokesman reply that if the universe is better than man, and you being a lute player, the universe must play a mean lute. That is paraphrased of course, but the point is simple enough and the absurdity shines clear.

Actually when I first read the post I couldn't think of it as anything other than a joke. I mean really, the Big Bang wrote Moby Dick. That's actually funny. It seems just too good a set up and too good a punch line to be someones honestly held beliefs. I still can't wrap my brain around how anyone could honestly think that, and I've had tons of expereince with creationists. Maybe I'm just used to those particular nut ball claims.

But this? This just hurts.

I've been enjoying the Dilbert cartoons for many years. I did not realize their creator was a nutcase. After checking all the links, I'll be taking him off my "daily reading" list. Seriously, I don't want to support him by giving him the ad revenue.

How disappointing. Now I'll always be looking for other cases of sloppy thinking in the Dilberts, which I used to enjoy.

I would've thought the pointy haired boss would be the creationist, not the cartoonist.

Crazy. It's like I have to do a background check on everyone before you take what they say seriously. The amount of people out there that believe stupid shit astounds me more and more every day. Any new book I want to read I need to do a quick google and wiki search to check the author isn't a creationist evolution botherer.

It's true that creationism seems to have an odd attraction for engineers (this might be a variant of new-hammer syndrome- when you design things for a living, everything looks designed), but Adams isn't an engineer. He's an MBA.

At least creationist engineers know how to do somethinguseful.

By Ktesibios (not verified) on 30 Jan 2007 #permalink

As a minion in the corporate world (not quite the pointy haired boss, but getting there) who is actually a huge Dilbert fan, I must say I am disappointed. Dilbert is quite close to the normal corporate environment, so it is sad to see Adams loose the accuracy that the cartoon displays of the corporate world.

Oh well, Adams can be a moron when pontificating on biology, but at least Dilbert himself isn't suffering. Of course, as soon as the first ID Dilbert appears, that would be the first sign of the decline in quality. (Strangely enough, when people outside of my area refer to our department, they have a little bit of a Freudian slip, referring to the underwriting department as the undertaking department. Go figure.....)

By Christian (not verified) on 30 Jan 2007 #permalink

Seriously? Are you people really this dense? The article has NOTHING TO DO WITH CREATIONISM. PZ has a chip on his shoulder, and I can see he has no problem rallying the sheep. Ali and Hans up here are the most recent examples, but the rest of you need to learn how to read and think for yourselves. Otherwise you're no better than the young-earthers.

Adam's argument (that you must have quality A to create quality A) is the same one Augustine used in On the Trinity to justify the diety of Jesus. He's in good company that way I guess.

oh, and Augustine later recanted that argument. Maybe Adams will do the same?

What a lot of assholes above me. Worse than the pope looking through a telescope, for sure.

I guess, I guess...god is a possibility, no? Proof? None whatsoever, beyond aphorisms like, "A creation suggests a creator".

The fact that unlikely theories such as "The whole world is a big computer" doesn't seem to induce hornet-nest-asshole syndrome in scientific people suggests that what they are really concerned about is not matters of truth|falsehood but who|whom. Non-reproducing losers who own the Matrix on DVD don't seem to raise anybody's hackles the way bible-thumpers with progeny do.

The real concern, I think, is that an alternative worldview is competing with science which has, for its merits, a strong evolutionary advantage rather than internal consistency or even good sense.

By onetwothree (not verified) on 30 Jan 2007 #permalink

He's just being funny. I'm not sure that it's correct to say he's pretending to be a colossal boob - the nature of it is more subtle than that. But certainly anyone who wants to take his intentionally absurd ideas at face value and consider them brilliant is ... well ... looking pretty boobular, or boobacious, or boobalicious, or whatever the word is.

Of course, if he is by any chance being serious someone should point out that Descartes ran a similar argument (in his case arguing for the existence of God) way back in the 17th century and it's a very long time since anyone has taken it seriously. I hope he's not setting up shop as a philosopher.

I'd like to add something here, but PZ covered it pretty well in his original essay. The way Adams defines intelligence makes pretty much everything intelligent. There's no need to even get into the complex examples PZ gave. Every chemical reaction is intelligent by his definition. Also, with no way of knowing what exactly the future holds, everything around us is intelligent. Who knows, that dirt you're stepping on today could be an essential component of the evolution of a creature that manages to write a novel on another planet billions of years from now after the Sun's exploded. Must mean that dirt's intelligent. What a stupid concept.

I think he is attempting to claim Deism, and is not so much, anti-evolution, as he is pro prime mover...

The problem is, he is using an ID argument presented as evidence for his Deist conclusion, where Deism cannot be shown true or false by its very definition...

Finally, as PZ pointed out, you cannot have your cake and eat it as well, as you cannot claim Intelligence requires an intelligent source, and then avoid what this indicates about "God" as the Alpha and Omega...

By Lagomortis (not verified) on 30 Jan 2007 #permalink

I had a brief email dialog with Scott Adams way back in 1998 -- that was when I discovered that he was a New Age loon.

In fact, this is how I discovered Pharyngula! In July 2006 I got curious again if Mr. Adams had discovered the error of his thinking. I did some Googling and ran across PZ's fabulous reply. I was so proud to see it was written by someone that lived right here in my home state of Minnesota and I've been a loyal Pharyngula reader ever since.

I don't know if anyone remembers a rather odd series of Dilbert comics in about 1998 where Adams was making fun of the irrationality of skeptics. They were so odd that I got curious and took a look at his website. It was then that I learned he was really into some goofy New Age stuff.

I was most puzzled by this Adams letter replying to the Illinois Skeptics. Scott Adams says:

On the scale of one to ten, with ten being a complete skeptic, I'm a twelve. I'm skeptical about all the things that skeptics are skeptical about, plus I go farther. I'm also skeptical about the limits of the scientific method. While I believe the scientific method is a wonderfully useful tool, proven many times, it is not logically applicable to 100% of all questions about reality.

So what method does Scott Adams use to answer the questions about reality? Whatever is fun and makes him rich (I'm not kidding, read his stuff).

I have a hard time believing Adams is being serious here. I mean, he can't honestly believe that when he drops a pencil and picks it up, it makes sense to think that the Big Bang is also picking up the pencil.

This is just so obviously wrong that I refuse to believe anyone could be so dumb to propose it seriously. He has to be joking...right?

I mean, I could find where he lives and punch him in the face for writing this drivel, and I doubt he'd forgive me when I explained that he was actually punching himself in the face because it was his idiotic rant about intelligence that first caused me to punch him.

The problem is semantics.

Isn't language grand?

Stop hitting yourself, stop hitting yourself!

There's no such thing as bad publicity.

It's not literally true, or universally true, but generally so. And your collective responses do not constitute bad publicity as I understand the concept.

The ability to manipulate and anticipate the reactions of other people is a very useful skill, which although not part of traditional conceptions of intelligence, is highly associated with success. Adams may not be particularly bright in a general sense, but clearly he's bright enough - and brighter than you're being.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 30 Jan 2007 #permalink

Here's how it looks from this part of the UK.

1. Most people don't think much/at all about this sort of thing (life, the universe and everything) because they have more important things to do (earning a crust, raising their children, having fun).
2. Those of us who subscribe to Pharyngula; read Dawkins, Dennett and Harris; argue about this stuff are what we'd call 'anoraks' on this side of the pond. It means, 'nerds' but nerds of everything. My guess is that that most of the posters here are, like me, atheist anoraks. Hands up all those who listen to the Point of Inquiry podcast......there, see what I mean. How many posters here are women....that's right, virtually none: women, by definition, can't be nerds or anoraks.
3. Based on 1 and 2 we can see that Scott Adams is just a regular guy - hasn't thought about the god/no god thing much (certainly not as much as we have!) - and he's just doodling with the idea as many people would.

My father-in-law is the only person I know in the real world who actually gives a damn about all this stuff: most people have too much else going on in their lives to worry abuot the stuff we think is important. (He is, incidentally, a PAP agnostic in Dawkins' terms, but I won't bore you with that story now.)

The ability to manipulate and anticipate the reactions of other people is a very useful skill, which although not part of traditional conceptions of intelligence, is highly associated with success. Adams may not be particularly bright in a general sense, but clearly he's bright enough - and brighter than you're being.

HA! I knew you'd say something stupid like this way back when when I encouraged PZ to keep it up with these threads. Through PZ, I manipulated you, Calbaloneyium! MOO HOO HOO HAW HAW HAW!!!!

By Great White Wonder (not verified) on 30 Jan 2007 #permalink

PZ has a chip on his shoulder, and I can see he has no problem rallying the sheep.

Indeed! He can lead a horse to water but he can't make silk out of a pig's ear. Of course, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence but also it doesn't grow on a playground except between the cracks.

Baaa!!!!

By Great White Wonder (not verified) on 30 Jan 2007 #permalink

I can't wait to read Ed Brayton's analysis of this post.

By Great White Wonder (not verified) on 30 Jan 2007 #permalink

Scott Adams has a long track record on this sort of stuff. Chapter 14 of 'The Dilbert Future' is pretty cringe worthy, especially his musings on gravity.

By Knight of L-sama (not verified) on 30 Jan 2007 #permalink

GWW, you make me laugh on a regular basis. A stitch in time will save nine worms unless the bird is early to bed, early to rise. Or something like that.

By Scott Hatfield (not verified) on 30 Jan 2007 #permalink

PZ - For symmetry's sake, you should write a bad comic strip, in which everyone is cool and the boss is great and they do everything right. And maybe there is a really nice helpful squid named squid-ernie.

"How many posters here are women....that's right, virtually none: women, by definition, can't be nerds or anoraks."

Better duck, Andrew; there are a lot of razor-sharp female nerds who comment on this blog and there's a possibility they might object to this stereotype.

Signed,

STH, Card-Carrying Female Nerd

The fact that unlikely theories such as "The whole world is a big computer" doesn't seem to induce hornet-nest-asshole syndrome in scientific people suggests that what they are really concerned about is not matters of truth|falsehood but who|whom. Non-reproducing losers who own the Matrix on DVD don't seem to raise anybody's hackles the way bible-thumpers with progeny do.

1. "The whole world is a big computer" idea is something I personally have criticized rather often, probably in these very threads (can't remember every post and comment off the top of my head). But you see, to criticize such an idea you have to be familiar with it's details. Someone familiar with the mathematical formulations of theoretical comp sci knows that there are legitimate arguments around the implications of information theory formulations on our understanding of physics. I'm willing to bet that you wouldn't even be able to give the definition of a self-delimiting string, let alone be able to adequately evaluate the claims made by Chaitin, Deutsch and others.

2. Scientists criticize everything, it's their job. Creationism comes earns a disproportion ire from scientists because it abuses science for entirely political and religious purposes. That you would accuse us of being the ideological hacks is more than a bit ironic.

3. So we're somehow analogous to "non-reproducing losers who own The Matrix on DVD", huh? So tossing half-baked generalizations is an argument, in your mind? This is why not everyone is fit to be a scientist or a mathematician, and also a reason why I and others here get a wee bit pissed of by presumptuous dicks like yourself.

I just finished reading his book 'God's Debris', & for some reason, I keep thinking of Andy Kaufman's inter-gender wrestling schticks - he CAN'T be serious, & this is seriously unfunny.
& saying the cause is the same thing as the effect is...well, he's a wooster - god-a-doodle-woo!
He should stick to comic strips. This crap is funnier when encapsulated.

Adams doesn't even draw Dilbert anymore. (Anybody remember the change in drawing style and subject matter a couple years ago?) He's in the enviable position of not ever having to work and just shoot off whatever he wants about anything and have peole revere him for it. can I get a ticket on that train?

You are a fucking idiot. Scott Adams is an atheist, anti-religion, and a well-written proponent against the idea of free will. You are completely unable to understand irony and sarcasm.

"women, by definition, can't be nerds or anoraks."
Andrew, get ready for the attack of the Femi-nerdies.

PZ, I'm another of the avid lurkers here and big fan of the site. I've never been a fan of Dilbert, and don't think I've even read a strip of it in a few years.

The Scott Adams quote was so good I had to go to the links and read it myself, and sure enough it's not misquoted.

But if anyone here goes to the link to omnibrain and actually reads his reply, they'll quickly see that he wasn't being serious. It wasn't funny at all, I think, but it's along the same lines as what Colbert does every night. I'm honestly surprised no one seems to have actually read that.

I see people all the time, especially from other of us lefties, accusing right-wingers of not understanding sarcasm and humor even if it hits them in the face. We say things like "How can't they understand it was sarcasm? The guy advocated eating Irish babies!" but then some of us can't stop and apply the same to ourselves.

Guys, when someone makes a tautological definition of intelligence in one sentence, it's clearly an attempt at parody or sarcasm. He failed, and is just not funny, but don't accuse him of espousing these absolutely stupid beliefs just because it feels good to crucify a moron for holding ill-founded ideas in mind. He clearly doesn't.

Just because you don't agree with Adam's opinion, doesn't make him wrong and you right.

that's called arrogance my friend

Actually Scott makes fun of religious people too. He's not an creationist!?

And his post are mostly fun and interesting. But of course he's not 100% right on everything all the time ...

It would be silly to deny evolution though. But on the other hand evolution doesn't say anything about a possible creator, since it's not abiogenesis. There still could be a 'creator' who started evolution. Or did I miss the proof that such a 'creator' cannot exist?

Dr. Myers, I fear you may look too hard for creationist stupidity on the internet. Let's try to remember here that Scott Adams is not aiming for the same target audience that you are aiming for. His readers are not scientists. He himself is not a scientist. He is not trying to propose serious alternative scientific theories.

All he is doing in this post is pointing out an error in the way some (most) people might define intelligence. Sure, science may have a thousand better ways of defining it, but (a) most people don't know what they are, and (b) his point is not entirely serious, which you seem to be ignoring. Of course he doesn't think the Big Bang is intelligent. And I didn't think that was too hard to see, given the context of the post.

Perhaps you have spent too much time around right wing creationist nutjobs to be able to spot irony...

added: as for God's debris, he states in the introduction that its theory is flawed and the readers should try to identify the flaws!

I have to second (third?) the suggestion that everyone reads Scott's comment at:

http://scienceblogs.com/omnibrain/2007/01/the_dilbert_blog_weighs_in_on…

You might still think he's wrong, but you can't accuse him of being serious about the intelligence of the big bang. The context is important: Scott thinks the illusion of free will is, well, an illusion, and he's made several posts on that topic. This most recent is just another on that theme.

[PZ] We went round and round on this well over a year ago. Scott Adams, of Dilbert fame, wrote a shallow and ignorant argument that sort of shilly-shallied over a pro-creationist argument; I pointed out how stupid his reasoning was.

You did point out how stupid his reasoning was. And it was stupid. But oh, what a wasted opportunity! Adams is so not a stupid person -- he did fall for the standard ID line, so he's not infallible, but (I believe) he would have been receptive to a measured, reasoned explanation of his mistake.

But you didn't give him one. Despite the fact that everything you said was correct, your whole tone was so belittling and negative that you effectively guaranteed he wouldn't respond positively. Where there was the chance to convince a well-known and highly-regarded popular figure to change his mind on a contentious issue, you instead provided him with (as he would see it) more evidence of the narrow-mindedness of scientists!

Not everyone who expresses a superficially pro-ID argument necessarily deserves the same drubbing as the big players. Sometimes, just explaining where they are wrong will do.

"I take the practical approach - that something is fascist if it unambiguously performs tasks that require fascism. Writing Mein Kampf required fascism. The Big Bang wrote Mein Kampf. Therefore, the Big Bang is a Nazi, and you and I are created by that same Nazi. Therefore, we are created by an Nazi entity."

After having read a few of Adams' ramblings over at his blog, I find that while it is mildly amusing to skewer his disinformation and illogic, it is unlikely to have any salutary effect on him or his readers, because he is
a) obviously just trying to provoke "controversy" and/or be "funny", and
b) obviously not sure himself what he really "believes".

Actually, it struck me as funny when I first read Adams' blog, and it still does. It's a sendup of the creationist theories, if anything. In point of fact, far from being a lonesome crank, he's rather close to Taoist and Buddhist beliefs here.

Some days he's just funnier than others, but he rarely seems to take anything seriously. The irony is that so many readers here (and even the blogger) take Adams' statements seriously. I think Adams has accomplished something truly remarkable: He's pissed off both atheists and creationists with one blog entry.

I hate to intrude some Puckisms into a catfight, but this debate about religious belief isn't world-shaking. It's funny. The truth will never change, no matter what philosophical shades the combatants wear, and endless wrangling is merely a form of entertainment. Adams has shown himself to be an extremely talented court jester, messing with people on all sides of the issue and getting enormous notoriety and profit from it.

"Will Scott Adams never learn?" No, Scott Adams will never learn. This has been another edition of simple answers to simple questions.

By Steve LaBonne (not verified) on 31 Jan 2007 #permalink

"Better duck, Andrew; there are a lot of razor-sharp female nerds who comment on this blog"

"Andrew, get ready for the attack of the Femi-nerdies."

I've taken cover - reassured to hear that we're not all chaps!

On my original point, there are an awful lot of intelligent people out there who haven't thought much about IDism, evolution, life, the universe etc. I was talking to an Oxford educated lawyer recently who started on the 'evolution is just a theory' line: undoubtedly a clever man but he simply hadn't got his head around this stuff.

Look, we've been over this 'He's just being funny, naaargh!' bullshit already. Read the actual post, you retarded Dilbo-heads.

He was either saying dumb things because he honestly believed them, or because he wanted to provoke people. Turns out it's the latter. In neither case is what he wrote actually funny.

Right up top, PZ said the following:

Oh, and the most common lame defense: Scott Adams shouldn't ever be taken seriously, because he's always just joking to get a rise out of people. That would be acceptable, if ever he'd said anything intelligent on the subject, if his whole argument wasn't based on common creationist canards, and if his fanbase weren't taking his every word so damned seriously, as if he'd given them some deep insight.

Damn straight. Lesson to all you Colbert wanna-bes out there: more wit. Being stupid in a smart way is hard; that's why Voltaire's Pangloss is immortal and why everybody I know prefers Borat over Ali G.

In my personal judgment, which is obviously in accord with the fundamental aesthetic scale of the Cosmos, Dilbert hasn't been funny in six years, maybe seven. That's why God gave us Sinfest.

I used to be a big fan of Dilbert (It's been kind of coasting for a few years), so when I heard that he was starting a blog, I was interested to see it.

I think I read it for about a month before I decided that he was certifiably hatstand, and that every post made me dumber. And that went double for the various posts on ID, which as I recall, ended up with something like "Anyone who relies on the authority of scientists or creationists rather than doing the research themselves is a fool. But now a judge has listened to both sides, and come up with The Answer. So, by accepting the judge's second-hand decision, I am smarter than all of you."

But on the plus side, it got me reading Pharyngula. So, thank you Scott Adams for being such a certifiable moron.

Hrm, I wonder if he's related to that other cartoonist moron, Neal "I solved geology" Adams...

wow you really are an idiot! scott adams' blog is meant to be funny, and it generally is. that post which you quote out of context was completely tongue-in-cheek...only a reductionist maroon (apparently such as yourself) could take it literally. i can imagine how boring and intolerant you must be as a 'teacher' too...your students probably learn more by staring out the window or reading dilbert comics. in fact if the whole 'associate professor' thing doesn't pan out your lack of imagination and tolerance indicate that you'd make a great middle manager.

get a life. and don't ever watch colbert or the daily show because you'll no doubt take it literally and then i might have to accidentally read your idiotic misinterpretation and waste another 5 minutes of my life.

So, wait... I'm obviously missing something. I just took it for granted that Scott Adams was a master of irony, and left it at that. The postings you refer to - to me they read as ironic stabs against the "head up your own butt" logic that most creationists go in for.

So I have to wonder : do you know the meaning of irony?

(hint: it dosen't mean "sort of like iron")

I lost all respect for Adams many years ago, when I read "The Dilbert Principle" (I *think* that was the one). There's a chapter where he says, in essence, "Wishing makes it so." Seriously. It may not be that volume in particular, but he goes on about how he'd write his goal (wish) 10 times per day, and at the end of some unspecified amount of time, he'd reach his goal (get his wish). I was dumbfounded -- seriously, he thinks that the act of writing down his wish will make it come true?! -- but on re-reading, that was indeed what he was saying.

Unreal.

Oh, and I wanted to clarify -- this wasn't goal setting like "I will do 100 push-ups by the end of the week" -- this was wish-fulfillment like "10 more newspapers will buy my strip" or "I will have a cash windfall" -- things he has no direct control over, not things where a positive attitude will change his habits, etc.

And I love the term femi-nerd :lol:

scott adams' blog is meant to be funny, and it generally is.

The first part may be true; the second certainly is not.

and don't ever watch colbert or the daily show because you'll no doubt take it literally and then i might have to accidentally read your idiotic misinterpretation and waste another 5 minutes of my life.

The Daily Show? You mean John Stewart just pretends to be a liberal? Really? And Colbert, unlike Adams, actually manages to be entertaining, funny and clever.

And if PZ is so boring and stupid, why did you waste five minutes reading this? There are other websites out there, you know. Or maybe you can look into moving out of your mother's basement.

Wow, Adams could not have put together a worse, more illogical argument if he tried. The Big Bang actually picked up the pencil I just picked up? Whaaaa?

I've always assumed that at least half of what Scott writes on his blog is designed to provoke a reaction. I'm sure he's a lot smarter than he makes out to be and is just baiting the line to see what bites.

About 1/4 of the Dilbert blog is worth reading. Compared to about 2% of the BBC world news RSS feed, that's pretty good odds for me.

...Therefore, the Big Bang is a Nazi, and you and I are created by that same Nazi. Therefore, we are created by an Nazi entity."

Godwin-ing this thread won't work.

Hmmm, if Godwinning this thread won't bring it to a halt (and I don't think the original formulation of Godwin's Law said that the discussion would stop), then it's time to bring out some earthy, down-home country wisdom from America's Heartland.

Son, shit don't smell like roses. Unless you're wanting to give your best girl a bottle of cow pies next Valentine's Day, I'm suggesting you stop pretending it's so.

Simple enough?

Nobody has to pretend there's an ounce of intellect worth defending in Scott Adams's "argument". That's fine; he's clearly joking, so it doesn't mean he's stupid or anything. Sadly, the joke falls flat. There's good humor to be had in creationism (remember when the Flying Spaghetti Monster was new?) but he hasn't found it yet. Neither has South Park. So it goes.

I have made the argument (on my blog) that this is all a joke. One would not predict Scott Adams is an IDer. There seems to be a growing trend in leg pulling here and elsewhere (like the recent Chronicle article).

I don't really think it is a joke, but one can be hopefull....

While we're all here, I might as well ask if anyone remembers "Dogbert's New Ruling Class". I haven't paid any attention since the mid-1990s, but I recall that Adams ran an online fan club whose premise was that when Dogbert finally took over the world, the members of the DNRC would become the elite philosopher-kings lording it over the "Induhvidual" mob. You can either take that as a satiric send-up of elitism, or view it as a reflection, perhaps slightly exaggerated, of the world's true situation. Faux elitism, or the real thing?

(Now, there's nothing particularly wrong with elitism. I admit it: I'm an elitist. I love my elite so much I think everybody should belong to it.)

I didn't think much of it at the time, but looking back, I wouldn't be surprised if there were some cross-fertilization between DNRC types and the teenage Ayn Rand cult. Interesting possibility. . . .

Only in the sense that Adams hides behind his persona as a jokester. He's a man with an inflated sense of his intellectual abilities who resents anyone else's expression of superior knowledge -- evolutionary biology is an offense to him because he doesn't understand it, so he occasionally takes these ignorant potshots at it.

Yes, I have gone and read his post, and yes, as I suspected it is all a big joke. Sort of. Right?

That post at the Dilbert blog reminded me a lot of the kind of answers studests give on essay questions when they realizes they don't know anything about the topic and decide to be cute to see if they can get some partial credit.

Since no one seemed to follow the link:

Regarding Dembski's definition of intelligence, "choose" is a concept used by superstitious people who believe in free will.

Intelligence "chooses" exactly the same way a coin sorting machine "chooses" which tube the nickel goes in. It's just physics. Your brain is a more complicated coin sorter.

Yes, my definition of intelligence is circular nonsense. That's the point. Any definition of intelligence is nonsense. So it makes no sense to talk of an intelligent designer if no one knows what it means.

Too subtle?

By Dangling Participle (not verified) on 31 Jan 2007 #permalink

Andy Cunningham, your comment is SO unfair!!!

The amount of news on the BBC World News RSS feed that is worth reading is AT LEAST 7% on a good day!!!

Only in the sense that Adams hides behind his persona as a jokester. He's a man with an inflated sense of his intellectual abilities who resents anyone else's expression of superior knowledge -- evolutionary biology is an offense to him because he doesn't understand it, so he occasionally takes these ignorant potshots at it.

I for one would love to see you explain to him where he's wrong about evolutionary biology.

Not by being angry or sharp like you did last time, but by calmly explaining what he's got wrong. (And yes, I believe he's got most of it wrong.) I think there's a fighting chance he might engage, and could be persuaded of his mistakes (like ever having taken the arguments of the ID-crowd even remotely seriously).

You're a real scientist who knows his stuff. Please consider trying to convince Adams, rather than humiliate him.

Maybe Adams is a true cynic who has purposely cultivated a collection of acolytes who are stupid enough to believe the amazingly stupid things he writes, but I don't think that is an accomplishment that would insulate him from criticism.

You know, now that you mention it, there seems to be more than a passing resemblance between the non-Dilbert crap that Scott Adams posts and the recent "God hates fags" stunt by Donnie Davies (in reality, Joey Oglesby). The main difference is that Adams doesn't seem able to pull off the satire; indeed, he seems to take what he's writing rather too seriously for it to be successful satire.

But you didn't give him one. Despite the fact that everything you said was correct, your whole tone was so belittling and negative that you effectively guaranteed he wouldn't respond positively. Where there was the chance to convince a well-known and highly-regarded popular figure to change his mind on a contentious issue, you instead provided him with (as he would see it) more evidence of the narrow-mindedness of scientists!

Oh, please. Adams' mistakes have been explained to him via various blogs and correspondence time and time again; he keeps repeating them. Ridicule is entirely appropriate.

Scott Adams doesn't believe in god. He is playing with words and concepts. It's not his fault if some of his readers are too stupid to understand that.

I think you are taking him too seriously. His posts are fun to read.

M^2, atheist

After reading Adams' blog posts for a while, I came to these conclusions:

1) He's ignorant, and self-admittedly so
2) He's too lazy to actually educate himself on the topics about which he is ignorant
3) This will never stop him from getting up on the podium and expounding the products of his ignorance as if they were wisdom

I would be happy to carefully explain to Scott Adams what he has got wrong in evolutionary biology. However, to do that, we'd have to start from a premise that he offers sincerely and honestly, so that there would be something to discuss. Even his supporters admit in his defense that there's nothing sincere about what he's saying, so I think the most appropriate response is to dismiss him as rudely as possible.

Let me know if he ever writes a post where he plainly says what he thinks is going on in biology. Then I'll state plainly where his misconceptions lie, and if he's got something right, I'll admit that, too.

Oh, please. Adams' mistakes have been explained to him via various blogs and correspondence time and time again; he keeps repeating them. Ridicule is entirely appropriate.

But I contend it started with ridicule, and that was a mistake. As is the way of such discussions, there are now entrenched positions and reasonable discourse becomes hard to the point of being impossible.

I read his original ID-sympathetic post at the time and was appalled. But having fallen for some of the same ID-arguments once in the past (to my shame and regret), I could at least sympathise. He needed someone to explain where he had been misled, so he could learn. But what he got, was a kicking. And who responds well to a kicking?

I really think that Dilbert jumped the shark sometime around Jan. 2000, and it's just been downhill since then.

The most recent low point was when he wrote himself as the cartoonist into the strip for a few days.

He should do what the creator of Fox Trot did, and cut back so as to try something else. (Or do as the creator of Calvin and Hobbes, and simply declare his works finished) I miss daily Fox Trot comics, but I respect the artist's choice to stop them rather than plod along forever until you end up like Jonny Hart.

I don't get it. Why do you care so much? He's allowed to think things just as you think things and say things just as you say things. You sound just as absurd when you start kicking him around like you have.

People are having a hard time putting Mr. Adams into a category and argue with him the same way they would an IDist from Discovery Institute. However, he's approaching this stuff from a different, but equally stupid angle.

He lives in the west and has adopted a philosophy that is peculiar to his region and his generation. It's surprisingly similar to Oprah's "spirituality" -- a combination of New Age and libertarianism. It's a philosophy that says the universe has a purpose and that purpose is to make me rich.

PZ's tagline is: Evolution, development, and random biological ejaculations from a godless liberal.

Scott Adam's should be: The conscious universe, New Age physics, and purposeful cartoon ejaculations from a successful spiritual libertarian.

Andrew- I'm another female nerd (femi-nerd). Methinks you need a new definition of nerd.

But PZ, you didn't dismiss him (and I don't think rudeness is ever the most appropriate response, even to stupidity). You insulted and ridiculed him. At worst, all he did was tell an odd and un-funny joke, on his own blog, to his own readers. Hardly worth the vitriol you directed at him.

And yes, his style of humor is, at least on occasion, to pretend to be a colossal boob. And most of his readers who claim to admire his brilliance are also just playing along.

PZ, you have a great blog and I've been reading it for a long time (and will continue to do so), but this time you're the one who's coming across as silly.

If Scott Adams wrote the post on Omnibrain ( http://scienceblogs.com/omnibrain/2007/01/the_dilbert_blog_weighs_in_on… ), then he knows both that ID and free will are crocks. I don't know if it was he who wrote it, but at least the free will comments reflect what Adams has put into "Dilbert".

However, he did write the blog piece at least, and whether he intended it to be funny and ironic, it didn't come off that way very well, unless it does to the regular readers of his blog.

So I'll respond to what was written. The fact of the matter is that in some meaningful sense (but not in some other equally meaningful senses), the universe has simply been computing a course ever since the Big Bang. That is to say, information is processed, increased, and used to make planets, cause evolution, and to eventually incorporate animal intelligence into its computing. I like this picture particularly when we're looking at something as nebulous as "intelligence", as intelligence has absolutely no meaning except as another physics phenomenon processing information like everything else that exists does. There are peculiarities with respect to animal and human intelligence, recursivity and consciousness above especially, but there's nothing special about the information-processing in our brains, it simply fits a certain evolved animal's needs.

So the real point is that information interacts and produces the universe, including us, and it may be called "computation" if one wants to broaden the definition beyond the traditional meaning. As such, no, the universe isn't "intelligent", it is a computer, and we are more properly merely a part of said computer, doing nothing really extraordinary in the physics sense whatsoever.

The person at Omnibrain who claims to be Scott Adams is quite correct regarding both intelligence and free will. Neither has an independent meaning, which is one of the fundamental problems in ID (most, if not all, IDists assume that intelligence itself is magical, hence their magical view of life precedes their "conclusion" that its origin is magical). Our information processing is only a subset of the universe's ability to process information, and is completely dependent upon the latter ability. As such, only evolution explains "intelligence", and in fact we can only study "intelligence" according to the physical sciences, including evolution.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

This is the only story of mine whose moral I know. I don't think it's a marvellous moral, I simply happen to know what it is: We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.

--Kurt Vonnegut, Mother Night

But PZ, you didn't dismiss him (and I don't think rudeness is ever the most appropriate response, even to stupidity). You insulted and ridiculed him. At worst, all he did was tell an odd and un-funny joke, on his own blog, to his own readers. Hardly worth the vitriol you directed at him.

Who are his own readers? Last I looked, anybody can read that blog.

He is spreading stupidity and PZ was right to nail him for it.

And there's more today.

http://dilbertblog.typepad.com/the_dilbert_blog/2007/01/your_best_objec…

Your Best Objections
I got lots of thoughtful comments to yesterday's post on whether the Big Bang was intelligent by definition. I wasn't planning on following up on the topic, but I feel I owe it to you. Here are the top objections that people raised, along with my replies. If you didn't read yesterday's post, read it first.

Objection 1: The Big Bang is an event, not a thing.

I think most people realized I was referring to both the universe and what it did. People are the sum of their matter plus their actions. The universe is a sum of its matter plus its actions. To keep things simple and colorful, I'm going to call the universe and everything it does the Big Bang.

Objection 2: The Big Bang had no intentions. Intelligence requires intention.

You can't have intentions without free will. And free will is an illusion, according to plenty of prominent scientists and big thinkers. At best, free will has never been defined in any way that would not apply equally to a human or a coin sorting machine. The coin sorter "chooses" which tube to redirect the nickel to in a deterministic fashion. Your brain chooses what to have for lunch in the same way, just more complicated, and with the illusion of intention. The Big Bang (okay, the universe) has no intentions, but neither do you, because it's a nonsense superstition. You only have the illusion of intentions. So intentions must not be a necessary component of intelligence.

Objection 3: According to evolution, unintelligent processes can cause emergent phenomena, such as intelligence. The Big Bang was an unintelligent process, and the intelligence emerged later. (Implied: Duh!)

By this reasoning, people are not intelligent either. People are a collection of dumb molecules. The intelligence we exhibit is an emergent property of people, not a quality of the people themselves. No molecule in a human body is itself smart. Yet we still say the person as a whole is intelligent. And we generously include as "the person" all of his body parts that are not directly involved in producing intelligence. Your lungs, for example, are every bit as important as your brain in supporting the emergent intelligence you produce. They are both 100% necessary.

If I build a computer and the computer creates a spreadsheet, we don't credit the computer with the creation. We credit the one who created and programmed the computer. People are every bit the machines as computers, but more complicated and moist. The Big Bang created people, and is therefore the ultimate author of what we in turn create. (Remember, we have no free will. We're just like the computer in that way.)

Objection 4: But what created the Big Bang!

If there was a "before" to the Big Bang, I have no problem including it in the process and calling it intelligent. But there is no evidence to persuade me that time even existed before the Big Bang, so "before" might be a nonsense concept. And I certainly have no evidence for a sort of God with a personality and a to-do list.

Objection 5: It's just semantics. All you did was say that whatever produces intelligent results must be intelligent. It's a circular definition.

Of course it's semantics. That's the whole point. We're trying to figure out what the word "intelligent" means. If the best definition that anyone can offer is circular, then it's silly to say the universe does or does not have an intelligent designer. The phrase would have no meaning. But if we CAN define intelligence in some meaningful way, then we might be surprised to find that the definition applies equally to humans as to the Big Bang. (After you remove your superstition about intentions, and clear up your thinking about emergent properties.)

Objection 6: Dawkins said, "An intelligent life is intelligent enough to speculate on its own origins."

My cat has intelligence, but I doubt she's doing much speculating on her origins.

I think those were the best objections I got. Let me know if I missed any objections that are better than the ones I listed.

Forgive me, but I also have to address Andrews' side topic. I'm another female nerd, but I do understand Andrew's point.

I work in the technology field and am often the only woman on a staff. I work with guys that read huge manuals on Cisco router security -- for fun. I've always had an aptitude for science and technology, but I am much more balanced than the men I work with. Less depth, more breadth.

This blog is great because it also covers politics and philosophy. If PZ would occasionally throw in some classical music or architecture, it would be perfect.

This is a tautology:

"that something is intelligent if it unambiguously performs tasks that require intelligence."

It also begs the question of what "requires intelligence". The statement that creation requires intelligence is simply a presumption. Worse, it's usually a presumption that reveals the limited imagination of the person making it. Or rather, the lack of understanding of the universe.

"...supercilious and inflated sense of intellectual self-worth, the same mocking tone, the same knee-jerk rejection of anyone else's expertise..."

Wow, PZ, that's a pretty accurate description of you. Maybe that's why Adams seems to get under your skin so much. Someone needs to take you down a peg - humorless, self-important twits like you aren't exactly helping the godless movement.

"Hi my name is Jeffk"

(Hi, Jeff!)

"And I do content-free ad hominem arguments"

(Welcome to the club!)

Adams is clearly being satirical. I see it as an attack on Intelligent Design since the argument is that the only "design" is due to natural processes so IF their is any intelligence to it then you have to ascribe it to all of nature all the way back to the big bang. It is a satirical application of the "prime mover" argument to ID. It also seems extremely petty to go off like this attacking a satirist for presenting an extreme (and absurd) opinion. It is like attacking Colbert for being a right wing demagogue or Oscar Wilde for being a cannibal.

I don't see why "intelligence" must equal "intelligent enough to speculate about its own origins".

FWIW, I don't think there's any clear-cut definition of "intelligence". But, of course, it's not my job to have such a belief, since I'm not a proponent of the (what I think is an overly baroque) theory of "Intelligent design".

Cats are certainly intelligent enough to communicate, hunt, learn how to use litter boxes, groom themselves, etc.

So, the gist of what the Scott Adams supporters are saying is that Mr Adams is a troll, and he's their hero.

I think the locust analogy is far too kind.

Rick, I just think it's kind of sad that PZ feels the need to slam a cartoonist's blog posts. Do the Dilbert guy's quasi-intellectual noodlings really fucking matter? It seems to me that he's just playing with the definition and idea of intelligence, not trying to prove ID - in fact, that's the LAST thing he's trying to do.

I've been a subscriber here for a few months now, and I generally really enjoy the content, but this is just stupid. If PZ wants to go after the people who are teaching our children that people and dinosaurs coexisted, then fine. He should, in fact. But the talking-dog comic-strip guy? Really? That's kind of pathetic.

Oh, Christ, Adams is as stupid in his explanation as he was in his "irony". The genetic fallacy continues to be his mode of "reasoning", as if we can never get to something that may sensibly mean "intelligence" via emergentism.

Adams is right that there is no "intelligence" as the IDists mean it to be (metaphysical, magical), but he's an idiot if he thinks that Dawkins doesn't use the word properly. Intelligence is a recursive system of information processing found in biological entities--humans and animals--and it is thus able to be recognized and studied.

Actually, even "free will" can be, too, it just has to be understood as having no meaning in the IDist and religious senses. But the plainest sense of "free will" as the term covering the sense that people have of a certain self-acting and free entity does have meaning, even though the additional cultural artifact that claims that we "cause ourselves" cannot be true.

Above all, the whole point of using a different term for "human intelligence" than we use for cosmic expansion and planetary evolution is that it is in many ways different from the latter phenomena. This is mostly due to evolution and the way in which it causes and enhances recursive information-processing in animals, and like evolution, it is worthy of study. Adams' mindless belief that definitions must rest upon fundamentally different phenomena, rather than upon qualitatively and quantitatively differing causal cascades, would impede science as much as any IDist tries to impede it.

That is to say, he's about as metaphysically oriented as the IDists, one reason why he doesn't understand evolution and how it makes things which are substantially different from what "natural processes" (note the scare quotes) and "intelligence" (note the scare quotes again--I know that intelligence is a "natural process" in the scientific sense of the latter term) make. "Intelligence" will never describe the Big Bang, not unless computing and intelligence come to mean the same thing.

Adams has no idea of how words are defined in science, so he resorts to the same conflation of terms that IDists do, only here he denies that "intelligence" is even a meaningful term, instead of coming to a different conclusion than that of the other IDiots. It's a somewhat useful for Adams to show how the IDist "reasoning" can as readily lead to the notion that the Big Bang is intelligent, as that some other "intelligence" gave rise to life (many others have noted how Dembski's definition of "intelligence" makes natural selection, and probably every other process, "intelligent"), but his conclusion is every bit as stupid as the IDists' is.

And of course it's true that "intelligence" is not, nor can it be, clearly demarcated from other physical processes. So what? That's every bit as true of "life". I suppose the next thing Adams will do will be to expose the fact that nothing actually is "alive", attempting to bring even more nihilistic bullshit into the English language.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Rick, I just think it's kind of sad that PZ feels the need to slam a cartoonist's blog posts. Do the Dilbert guy's quasi-intellectual noodlings really fucking matter? It seems to me that he's just playing with the definition and idea of intelligence, not trying to prove ID - in fact, that's the LAST thing he's trying to do.

I think you've got a point there, all right. In fact I saw Adams' blog yesterday, toyed with bringing it up on some anti-ID forum, and thought "who the hell cares what he says?" Whether he's right or wrong, why must we concern ourselves with the prattlings of some relatively uneducated engineer?

If his comics were hot at the present time, maybe, just because people listen to anyone who's supposed to be "cool". But "Dilbert" hasn't been anything other than filler for the paper, like nearly all of the rest of the comics, for at least 10 years.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Sheesh. Adams is an idiot (on this subject), and I can't believe people are actually claiming, on his behalf, that the post was satirical. First, nothing in the post itself (other than its sheer stupidity) indicates that it is satire. Second, even if it was satire, it's still retarded.

I understand that Adams is a Mensa member. Recently, I've been thinking of taking the test, so I've been poking around for opinions of the group. For the most part, people seem to regard Mensans as Adams-style blowhards--inflated egos and intellectual dilettantes who assume their above-average tested IQ qualifies them as experts in any subject.

(I'll probably still take the test, but if I make it, I think I'll leave it off my résumé.)

By redstripe (not verified) on 31 Jan 2007 #permalink

People, people!
The point is if Melville doesn't get credit for Moby Dick, then Dilbert belongs to us all. And I want my cut of the proceeds to Microsoft and Einstein's royalties as well.
On the other hand, Mr. Adams does admit that Dilbert and feces share a creator so perhaps there's something to it after all...

As has been stated over and over and over ad nauseum, Adams' classic post-deflection 'But I was just pretending to be a colossal boob. Funny ha-ha. Get it? Naaaaaarggh!' is not useful. It's a pathetic backpedal, and it always wins back the dilbo-heads.

I understand that Adams is a Mensa member. Recently, I've been thinking of taking the test, so I've been poking around for opinions of the group. For the most part, people seem to regard Mensans as Adams-style blowhards--inflated egos and intellectual dilettantes who assume their above-average tested IQ qualifies them as experts in any subject.

What I've heard (I've never really thought about trying out for it) is that about half are blowhards, DaveScot-like idiots (though I have to suppose that DaveTard tried out and failed, or we'd hear about his Mensa triumph) who drivel (probably dribble, too) on about themselves, and try to make something of the fact that they really could do something smart even though they never have. The other half are relatively decent folk who just would like some challenges.

Like one of the ex-Mensa guys said, though, guess who shows up at, and dominates, the meetings?

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

So Adams is just a putz. He really doesn't care about anything other than getting attention.
If he's being satirical... he's doing a poor job. If he's being ironic then he's too obtuse.

For any of that to work you have to show some understanding of the topic... the wink wink nudge nudge aspect is necessary... you can't wink at both sides of the argument.

The Big Bang created people, and is therefore the ultimate author of what we in turn create.

An uninteresting, practically meaningless conclusion to a sloppy argument about intelligence and free will.

All I can say is: So... what!

His free will free brain has produced an unintelligent, content-free, massive generalization. Congratulations to it and to the Big Bang that brought his brand of stupidity into existence.

[Orac] Oh, please. Adams' mistakes have been explained to him via various blogs and correspondence time and time again; he keeps repeating them. Ridicule is entirely appropriate.

I wasn't talking about the ridicule this time, I was talking about the first time evolution came up. Before anyone had tried reason, we jumped straight to ridicule.

And his mistakes have been explained? Perhaps. But not by PZ. PZ gave Adams a kicking, and it doesn't matter that everything PZ said was true. Nobody (well, almost nobody) is going to change their mind after being savaged, even if there is nothing technically wrong with the savaging.

My take on Adams is that he's kind of a New Age guy who both buys into and spins his very own eclectic brand of woo. He's a great commentator on office politics, but not at all a competent commentator on science.

I've always enjoyed Adams' comic strip, and have learned to tune out his flakier pronouncements on spirituality. (Hey, I voted for Bill Clinton twice for President, and consider him to have a great command of politics, but I wouldn't trust his opinions on the subject of marriage counseling.)

Actually, Adams is a true cynic who has purposely cultivated a collection of acolytes who are stupid enough to believe the amazingly stupid things he writes. Look at his books: half the comics in them are recycled from other books, and are rarely ever true "collections". Given his obvious low esteem for human intellect, I hardly believe he is a person who could of himself have anything particularly interesting to say.

Thank you, George, for posting Scott Adams's reply, even though reading it hurt my brain. This reply indicates that however joking or satiric Adams attempted to be in his original missive, his real motives are inescapably flawed nonetheless. Adams falls for the old "natural law means determinism and no free will" canard, which means his thinking is going to be muddled, no matter what. I wrote lots about this here, so I won't repeat myself. He also appears to believe, all satire aside, that the following argument has logical validity:

1. We are intelligent.
2. We were caused by the Big Bang.
3. We must have inherited our characteristics from that which caused us.
4. Therefore, the Big Bang was intelligent.

But we've already seen that we can substitute anything for "intelligent": ten-fingered, blue-eyed, blond-haired, Nazi. The conclusion is absurd, so the premise and/or the chain of reasoning must be flawed. (Hint: look at step 3.) Adams says that he's trying to eliminate poor definitions of "intelligence" by this method, but he can't do that if his chain of reasoning is fundamentally broken.

According to evolution, unintelligent processes can cause emergent phenomena, such as intelligence. The Big Bang was an unintelligent process, and the intelligence emerged later. (Implied: Duh!)

By this reasoning, people are not intelligent either. People are a collection of dumb molecules. The intelligence we exhibit is an emergent property of people, not a quality of the people themselves. [?] No molecule in a human body is itself smart. Yet we still say the person as a whole is intelligent.

Adams is confusing emergence over time with emergence from a collection of simultaneous things. (He also munges a sentence; I suspect he was trying to say, "The intelligence we exhibit is an emergent property of molecules, not a quality of the molecules themselves.")

Glen Davidson wisely points out that the same argument can be applied to "life", not just "intelligence". I must be dead, right now, because I fed on a cow and since my corpse will feed worms anon.

Redstripe:

Do you know what the word "Mensa" means in Spanish? Check it out.

For me, that's enough of a reason not to bother to sign up. (I have other reasons, too.)

I haven't read all the comments above, so maybe I shouldn't say anything; but it seems to me this is a simple matter:

Doesn't Adams' argument amount to saying that the pointy-haired manager must be intelligent, if the creations of Dilbert and the other engineers show intelligence in their design?

I used to love Scott Adams' take on cubical life. For example, just as we were adopting the "Six Sigma" BS at GE, he had a cartoon in which Wally proposed that the new corporate quality initiative be called "qualicide". I gave up on him after reading "The Way of the Weasel".

The premise of "The Way of the Weasel" is that we are all weasels, where a weasel is defined (incorrectly by Scott Adams) as a rat-like rodent who tries to do as little work as possible for his or her pay, and tries to blame someone else whenever he or she makes a mistake. He describes how he himself was a weasel during the brief stint in which he worked for a telephone company.

I do not believe all professional workers are like that. My fellow engineers who retired recently after 30 or more years work at General Electric were not weasels. You would not have electricity right now if they were.

There are weasels out there, but only a true weasel would assume that everyone else was one also.

The more general point is that jokes based on shallow concepts of serious issues deserve to fall flat.

My take on Adams is that he's kind of a New Age guy who both buys into and spins his very own eclectic brand of woo. He's a great commentator on office politics, but not at all a competent commentator on science.

From my perspective, you are correct. In fact, Adams is starting to resemble Deepak Chopra a bit whenever he goes off on this stuff.

Dear PZ,

I believe that you and Mr. Adams are of the same basic belief set. It's just a simple, but unfortunate, case of Mr. Adams not flagging his comments as <Sarcasm & Irony On> blah blah blah </Sarcasm & Irony Off>.

Mr. Adams is almost certainly an atheist. I've read posts in which he was much more serious and seemed to enjoy skewering people closer to the Fundamentalist end of the Fundamentalist-to-Atheist scale of beliefs.

I think these postings you were so frustrated with were Mr. Adams attempting to be funny and to follow absurd concepts to their logical conclusion, but to highlight how ludicrous and silly those beliefs were by doing this.

But everyone who has sworn off "Dilbert" as a result of Mr. Adams' blog, I would encourage you to read the totality of what Mr. Adams has posted on his site. I don't think he's carrying water for Creationists or any other -ists. Rather, I think he's just having a fun time with words.

But I do think he's serious in his discussions of philosophy concerning free will and his statement that it is an illusion. And then again, I'm not even certain of that because he could be yanking my metaphorical chain.

So I say, "Please keep reading Pharnyngula, and also keep reading Dilbert, and everyone go read Jonathan Swift's 'Gulliver's Travels', so you can get a feel for irony and sarcasm."

Those who became filled with wrath over Mr. Adams' postings, please take a step back, take a deep breath, and repeat after me, "Mr. Adams is a cartoonist and humorist. Some of his jokes I will find funny, and others will arrive DOA with my humor detector, but that doesn't mean he's gone over to the Irrational, anti-Luddite, Ban-Evolution-Theory-from-Schools-side either."

By Ruminator (not verified) on 31 Jan 2007 #permalink

I get it now! Thanks, Blake.

1. Scott Adams is moist.
2. Scott Adams was caused by the Big Bang.
3. We must have inherited our characteristics from that which caused us.
4. Therefore, the Big Bang was moist.

Heehee.

RE: Mensa

Redstripe & Glen D., I share your opinions on Mensa. I came to similar conclusions when my college boyfriend took the test and passed it. He was smart, but certainly no genius. He was very proud of membership though, and while showing me the card he carried in his wallet, a mutual friend walked by, glanced at the card, and said, "Isn't that the group that likes to have sex with boys?" I never saw Dave with that card again.
--Daphne

Scott Adams isn't a satirist. He's a cynic. There's a huge difference. Contrast Dilbert with the _Office_Space_ movie. In Mike Judge's movie the protagonist (after some really funny mis-adventures) confronts the fact that yes, what he does for a living affects real people, and he can't just lie back supine and shift the responsibility onto others.

Satirists are basically moralists. They employ irony to highlight and explore moral questions. Cynics--in the modern sense--don't aim so high. They're simply trying to provoke an emotional reaction. Adams' brand of cynicism about the stupidity / banality / futility of work justifies inaction. "Why bother?", Adams invites us to ask, "All your efforts will be undermined by the incompetence of others."

Adams' is a really dark, nihilistic, dead end view of life. It's not without some truth, but it's utterly one dimensional.

When Adams writes about anything, keep this in mind. He doesn't give a flying about what happens in the minds of his readers, only to their adrenals. He's simply trying to 'entertain'. And when someone like PZ acts as a critic of that 'entertainment' .... well, you see the reaction upthread.

By PaulGBrown (not verified) on 31 Jan 2007 #permalink

while i agree with the basic principle that everything (or at least the universe and its contents) is connected, and must be evaluated holistically, it really comes down to a question of scale. It is important to consider that processes that operate at a given scale do not necessarily continue to operate (at all or in the same fashion) at different scales of organization. Therefore: yes, the universe as a whole contains intelligent (or at least self-aware) components, but this cannot be extrapolated across scales to say that everything in it is therefore selfaware. Intelligence is an emergent feature.

Oh, man, I forgot that other standard response of Dilbonians.

#1 is "He's just joking, he's playing with your head." It's an admission that he's trolling.

#2 is "He's just a cartoonist -- there's something wrong with you if you respond to him."

They don't seem to notice the irony of their desperate efforts to defend such a trivial joker.

Wow. I posted one of my responses from my blog in a livejournal community, and some of the people are coming back with the same arguments heard here, like "He's just joking, you're the foolish one for believing he was being serious."

My response?

"Actually, you are being the fool, because I was just playing a meta-joke on you. I actually knew that Adams was joking, and only pretended to critique his pretend argument to see if gullible idiots like you would believe me. So really, unless you were pretending too, the joke is on you!

Isn't that just so friggin' witty? It is like the pinnacle of wit to pretend to be serious while making a dumb argument, and then accuse someone of being stupid for making an intelligent critique of that argument. Because, you know, intelligence is like totally dumb."

Recently, I've been thinking of taking the test, so I've been poking around for opinions of the group.

i took the test, and passed, but i'll never join. i have no desire to hang out with a group of people selected simply because we're all good on multiple choice tests. i just took it because i wanted to see what the fuss was all about - are Mensans really so much smarter than everyone else? well, maybe, but they're no smarter than me - and that's all that matters.

I must ding you for an overly shrill response to Mr. Adams' folly. Yes, he's wrong on this point -- but that doesn't compromise his success as a cartoonist. When you denigrate his proven talent as a cartoonist, you only discredit yourself. And calling Mr. Adams an idiot because he makes incorrect arguments seems overwrought to me. Is EVERYBODY who makes an incorrect statement "shallow", "ignorant", "feeble hack", "babbling idiot", "colossal boob", "turd of faux-wisdom", "amazingly stupid", "supercilious and inflated sense of intellectual self-worth", "anti-science hack"?

You are right and he is wrong -- but when you indulge in gratuitous mud-slinging, you leave the impression that reason alone is not enough to rebut Mr. Adams. Why are you weakening your case by burdening it with loathsome invective?

By Chris Crawford (not verified) on 31 Jan 2007 #permalink

No, here's how to break it down: South Park's folks and Mr Adams have the same problem: they believe in the idea of doubting everything constantly, until they are alone with their thoughts, and then presenting that as reality. Sometimes, they might hit upon something clever or even insightful. The problem with this is that anyone who practices it for long eventually distrusts everything that a rational individual trusts (e.g., how phones work, basic gravity, internal combustion, etc). They become, in their minds, cynics or even skeptics, but in reality are terminal doubters. If they cannot imagine it, it must not be real. If they are uncomfortable with it, then it must be wrong. They distrust all expertise, all prior research and effort, because they essentially replace all of those authorities in their world with the one thing they ever trust anymore: themselves.

It's a kind of narcissism, actually. They are the ultimate authority on the subject... any subject. If they don't know much about the subject, it must not be important, or they just haven't formulated any ideas. Does this make them stupid? Far from it; Adams, Stone, and Parker (latter two being the creators of "South Park") are actually rather intelligent people. But they still fall into this syndrome of constant doubt of outside authority. Once in a while, they will say or do something that is reasonable or even insightful (the episode of SP where Randy Marsh was an alcoholic was pretty good), but that doesn't make up for the level of dumb they bring to the party.

They need to learn that skepticism and doubt are not the same thing. Skepticism is good; excessive doubt is destructive.

My two cents, anyway.

Adams' blog: funny blog or serious blog, I dunno, I haven't read it. But it does it say something about it, I think, that those who have come here from there to complain sound like foul-mouthed 12 year old brats.

#2 is "He's just a cartoonist -- there's something wrong with you if you respond to him."

Oh, so now you just "responded" to him. That's some nice wordplay - Tony Snow's got some competition!

You savaged the guy. For someone who's supposed to be an educator, you sure don't seem to have the temperament. You made a point of belittling him. I mean, you called him a babbling idiot. Why don't you try acting like a professor instead of a douchebag?

More troll apologetics from the Dilbonians. Boo hoo, his 'Funny ha-ha' steampile didn't smell too good.

Yes, I savaged him. I savaged him before, too. I will savage him in the future when he says incredibly stupid things that warrant savaging. So? Babbling idiots should be called babbling idiots.

I do not savage people for saying one stupid thing. Adams has a history, a long history, of saying stupid things, and then cowering behind that feeble "I'm just a cartoonist, I was joking" excuse.

And for the record, I did not criticize his role as a successful cartoonist -- he's definitely that. When I start scrawling poorly drawn doodles and cussing out the syndicates for failing to take me on, then Adams is welcome to savage me in his blog.

"Don't pick on Adams for "acting" like an idiot! he's not! you're mean."

Chris, I've never owned a Dilbert book, and I've read maybe a dozen or so Dilbert strips in my life. I've read his blog posts before - somebody forwarded me a link to his I-got-my-voice-back post - but I subscribe to Pharyngula and read it every day. That's why it's so disappointing to see PZ acting like such a child. Makes me wish I'd voted for Bad Astronomy.

Nice of you to assume, though.

Chris Gruber, I think you nailed it. The doubt and skepticism evinced by Adams & the South Park guys isn't borne of any in-depth research or personal familiarity with the subject; it's simply an adolescent, uninformed knee-jerk reaction to authority, any authority. Chris Mooney, in his book The Republican War on Science, used the term "contrarian" for these kinds of "thinkers."

Well-played, sir!

Jeff you're so very 'concerned'.

How is criticism behaving badly?

Quit behaving badly.

Now we've come to the out-and-out crying phase of the defense, I guess.

PZ, your not "mean" your fucking hilarious!! IMHO. Keep up the great work, I loved the post and laughed my butt off reading the comments. I hope Adams writes more on this subject soon!!

Steve, I'm just tired of all these "intellectuals" who are so far up their own rear ends that they lose sight of themselves and turn into self-aggrandizing, pompous tools. As much as I agree with PZ and the commenters here in general, the attitude gets old after a while. There's a profound difference between knowing it all and being a know-it-all. Some people here would do well to figure that out if they ever want their message to extend beyond the already-converted.

Will E: thank you, sir. But, like I said, they are perfectly capable of being intelligent people; they just took the idea of skepticism to bizarre lengths. ("Contrarian" is a better term than "terminal doubter.") I tend to lament the loss more than heap criticism on it.

Oh, who am I kidding? "South Park" has turned to shite. But, another post for another day...

it's simply an adolescent, uninformed knee-jerk reaction to authority, any authority.

It's the classic "Nuh-uh" defense. No matter what is asserted, proven, or presented well, they reply with a loud "nuh-uh" and often tend to take whatever the opposite position is just to spite whomever they're talking to.

Dilbert fans accusing other people of not having a sense of humor. The irony is rich.

By notthedroids (not verified) on 31 Jan 2007 #permalink

But I contend it started with ridicule, and that was a mistake. As is the way of such discussions, there are now entrenched positions and reasonable discourse becomes hard to the point of being impossible.

It would have been a good idea for scientists to set aside the fact that God's Debris was (among other things) ridicule of scientific thought, and inoffensively demonstrate how misinformed it was. It would still be a good idea. However we live in a culture where nearly every conceivable way of saying that someone is misinformed is usually interpreted as an insult. This makes inoffensive demonstrates that someone is misinformed quite difficult. Worse - most of Scott Adams' fan-base devoutly believes that Scott Adams genuinely has some deep insight into the nature of things - these people think Dilbert is more than just an collection of ironic bureaucratic disasters that ought be avoided, they think God's Debris is more than just ham-handed mockery (not just of scientific thought, but also of most religious and philosophical thought). Demonstrating that it is misinformed demonstrates that Scott Adams' fans are misinformed - which they are culturally pre-disposed to find offensive. I haven't seen any cogent explanation of how a scientific thinker might overcome this difficulty. (I apologize for only addressing half of the issue (that is, what scientific bloggers might do about the conflict, as compared to what Scott Adams and/or his fans might do about the conflict).)

This makes inoffensive demonstrates that someone is misinformed quite difficult.

I intended to say: This makes inoffensive demonstrations that someone is misinformed quite difficult.

Scott Adams isn't a satirist. He's a cynic. There's a huge difference.

Uh, whatever.

Contrast Dilbert with the _Office_Space_ movie.

No thanks.

Scott Adams is welcome to sniff my dog's butthole. His weird rantings about intelligent design are either unfunny or unintelligent. The only amusement which sprouts from his feeble essays are the appearance of his bizarre semi-retarded "defenders" and bleeding hearts like jeffk et al, who are fun to kick around like so many half-inflated footballs.

By Great White Wonder (not verified) on 31 Jan 2007 #permalink

Thank you, GWW, for illustrating my point. It doesn't sound like you even read Adams' post, hence the reference to ID that he never made, and never would make, as he is an atheist.

By the way, a half-inflated football isn't much fun to kick, and it won't travel nearly as far as a fully inflated one. I'm sure you really could kick me around intellectually, though. I'm also sure your writing is so stilted and faux-educated because you're playing possum, waiting to unleash your eloquence at the most advantageous instant.

jeffk is a concern troll. Note the classic "I read all the time but you guys are being so mean to so brup brup brup brup brup".

Well that post sucked. Retry:

jeffk is a concern troll. Note the classic "I read [insert blog] all the time but you guys are being so mean to [insert pet dumbfuck asshattery] so brup brup brup brup brup".

Preview is a friend.

There was a discussion of Mensa membership on t.o a few years back, in connection with some pseudo-scientific kook who had written a book. Unsurprisingly, a few of the t.o people turned out to be Mensa members -- they were just decent, intelligent, regular folks (OK, insofar as "regular folk" can be applied to t.o participants. But I digress.) The point was made that, anyone who makes a public point of their Mensa membership (like on book-jacket blurbs) is probably a fool and/or a jerk whose only talent is being good at logic puzzles.

By Steve Watson (not verified) on 31 Jan 2007 #permalink

I think Adams is just trying to challenge people's thinking about terms like "intelligent" and about why we get so excited about believing there is/isn't an intelligent designer in the first place. I read his blog a lot and if he's a creationist I certainly disagree strongly with him; but I think he's just poking fun at the entrenched assumptions on either side, not really trying to further a pro-ID movement.

Dilbert, er Scott Adams, argument is a textbook example of a syllogism, grade school logic that is simply wrong. It's specious thinking, usually fatal to someone who makes a living as a humorist. In contrast look at Garry Trudeau's work with Doonesbury. He skewers IDC once or twice a year, usually in a Sunday strip, and when he does he's always accurate and very, very funny although the DI might not think so.

I think he's just poking fun at the entrenched assumptions on either side, not really trying to further a pro-ID movement.

And I agree with you, pretty much. However, I don't think he's simply poking fun as much as equating logical assumptions of science (based on centuries of research) to illogical assumptions of creationism. They're not equal. At all. Ever.

Like I told someone earlier today, "Sure, there's two sides two every story. But one of them is wrong."

While I know Scott posts some silly stuff, I am quite sure he's not a creationist, not a theist, and quite definitely not serious about most of what he posts.

His latest post was pretty flimsy, and I think more than anything intended to get a rise out of his readership more than anything.

I could be completely mis-reading his entire history of blog posts (I went back and read them all back when I started reading) and also his book "god's debris".

Most of the time, I think he aims more to teach his readers a lesson than anything else- a lesson in how people can throw ideas at you, and if you can't see through them, recognize a logical fallacy or intentional slight of word, you're doomed.

He's trolling, for sure, with that intelligence post. He purposely writes from very techy-nerdy strict concept-focused perspective, taking him seriously is like trying to have a conversation with a slide rule. This time, though, he's being lazy, too, and written a pretty sloppy post.

By Will Von Wizzlepig (not verified) on 31 Jan 2007 #permalink

If all the Dilbonians can come up with to defend Adams is "Adams is a big pile of crap, don't listen to him," I'd say it's high time for him to shuffle his way off the stage.

His blog has some gems such as:

"To keep things simple and colorful, I'm going to call the universe and everything it does the Big Bang."

"If I build a computer and the computer creates a spreadsheet, we don't credit the computer with the creation. We credit the one who created and programmed the computer. People are every bit the machines as computers, but more complicated and moist. The Big Bang created people, and is therefore the ultimate author of what we in turn create."

But, there's also: "And I certainly have no evidence for a sort of God with a personality and a to-do list."

And then maybe some back-pedaling??: "We're trying to figure out what the word "intelligent" means. If the best definition that anyone can offer is circular, then it's silly to say the universe does or does not have an intelligent designer."

All this amounts to is: "Blah blah BLAH BLAH I am soooooo smart blah blah blah!!"

Hey Stogoe,

What exactly is a "concern troll" as opposed to a regular troll? Sorry, I'm behind on the lingo.

By ShovelDawg (not verified) on 31 Jan 2007 #permalink

Dawg, I prefaced my comment by saying that I'm actually a Pharyngula subscriber, trying to provide some context and point out that I'm not some kind of Dilbert cultist. Apparently, explaining that makes me a concern troll, or some kind of ideological turncoat.

Basically, it's what you call someone when your A-material consists of "pet dumbfuck asshattery" and "brup brup brup brup brup" and you can't tell the difference between the preview and post buttons. It's easier than actually, you know, thinking.

"What exactly is a "concern troll" as opposed to a regular troll? Sorry, I'm behind on the lingo."

A concern troll usually goes something like this:
"I'm a lifelong and loyal member of the Democrat party but lately they've gone too far in criticizing our Commander in Chief..." etc.

... taking him seriously is like trying to have a conversation with a slide rule.

Er, uh, did you intend to imply Scott Adams is a mindless tool?

Got it!

Wait, stogoe, are you actually trying to say that I'm a plant - a covert Scott Adams loyalist who is faking my anti-creationism? If you are, you're in worse shape than I thought. If you don't respond, I'll assume you suffocated yourself trying to secure your tin-foil hat.

Shorter jeffk: "I'm lonely."

By Great White Wonder (not verified) on 31 Jan 2007 #permalink

http://atrios.blogspot.com/2006_08_20_atrios_archive.html#1156168745254…

The Concern Troll

On the internet, and in real life, there is perhaps nothing more annoying than the concern troll, the person who claims to be on your team but is forever fretting about the tone or substance of a particular criticism of the other side. Lieberman has deservedly criticized for his stated anti-democratic belief that criticizing the president imperils the country, but what he was really doing was setting himself up to be the ultimate concern troll. You see, it is actually okay to critcize the administration, but only in the time and place and manner that Joe Lieberman says you can. When is it okay? When Joe says so! Otherwise, it imperils the nation!

Lieberman really revealed his concern troll colors with this comment about Vietnam, a war he has long proudly opposed:

"I was worried about a repeat of Vietnam," he said Friday during an interview aboard his campaign bus. "Public opinion was moving away from supporting the war for reasons that were understandable, but not complete."

Sure, the war was bad but what really concerns Joe is that some people who opposed it maybe opposed it too much! Or for the wrong reasons!

I hate concern trolls.

I remember reading several years ago a "review" of Adams' 1997 book on a site that lists crackpots (and I agree with many of his choices of crackpots). Adams appears to talk a lot about things he doesn't know much about, and even the author questions if some of it is a joke. It all sounds nutty to me. Dilbert isn't even funny anymore, it's not even amusing - it's just gotten stupid. (Get Fuzzy is more amusing.)

See here: http://www.insolitology.com/rloddities/dilbert.htm

What you probably don't know is that Dilbert creator Scott Adams, in addition to tightly controlling a media empire, has a view of the world that would make Uri Geller and Shirley MacLaine blush - complete with embarrassingly inaccurate readings of Quantum Mechanics and Chaos Theory, leading to a belief in the illusory nature of time, a disrespect for cause and effect, and a firm conviction that the world around us can be controlled through mental effort.

It's all sketched out in the remarkable 14th chapter of his 1997 book, 'The Dilbert Future,' which (for the first 13 chapters) is an entertaining look at where today's trends might be leading us, especially if we live in the somewhat twisted world of Dilbert, Dogbert, and the Pointy-Haired Boss. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it's the Dilbert we're used to, and we get a liberal sprinkling of classic Dilbert cartoons, and lots of Dilbert style humor.

It's when we turned to page 225, the beginning of chapter 14, that we get a shock so nasty that we might think it's just another joke (it took me a long time to convince myself) - there, in a black outlined box, is prediction 63: The Theory of Evolution will be scientifically debunked in your lifetime.

If Scott Adams is joking, he's doing an embarrassinly bad job of it.

translated GWW: "I'm useless."

Jeff... I'm concerned. Your tone is entirely inappropriate.

ShovelDawg, a concern troll sounds like this:

"Careful, jeffk, using phrases like 'secure your tin-foil hat' could make people think that you're really a wingnut in disguise. I mean, I'm a loyal supporter of wingnuts-in-disguise, I read them all the time, but in this one instance I think maybe you're going too far. Just a friendly word of advice from a supporter because I care."

Hope that helps!

By Jiggavegas (not verified) on 31 Jan 2007 #permalink

It gives me great hope for the Human society that the ancient practice of feces-flinging is still practiced in full force.
Wonderful thing, this "discussion".

I'll go hide in my cave now.

-Troglodyte

If Scott Adams is joking, he's doing an embarrassingly bad job of it.

Humor requires a shared understanding of what the joke is about. The reviewer's understanding is incompatible with Scott Adams' (mis)understanding; the reviewer's understanding will not allow him to accept Scott Adams' .
Scott Adams' humor is 'embarrassingly bad' only to people who understand how mistaken his ideas are. (One reason why so many grow tired of Dilbert as they grow older, is the Dilbert view of work culture seems less and less convincing as one develops a more sophisticated understanding of work culture.)

I do not savage people for saying one stupid thing. Adams has a history, a long history, of saying stupid things, and then cowering behind that feeble "I'm just a cartoonist, I was joking" excuse.

Wait a minute... when has he hidden behind the "I was joking" excuse? Seriously. Plenty of people have said things like "hey, he's a cartoonist/satirist/whatever, don't take him seriously" -- but has he?

I don't believe so. This latest post about intelligence is a follow up to his long-stated position on determinism and free will (or the lack of) and its implications. He's doing it in a roundabout way, and I'd argue he's been too roundabout, but it's still what he really thinks and he wouldn't deny that.

And about his "history of saying stupid things": you gave him his first savaging before there was a history, while there was still a chance for reasonable discourse. I repeat: he was wrong about evolution/ID, but could (IMHO) probably have been talked around.

But we'll never know now, because no-one really tried.

A concern troll usually goes something like this:
"I'm a lifelong and loyal member of the Democrat party but lately they've gone too far in criticizing our Commander in Chief..." etc.

A serious question here. How much am I allowed to disagree with PZ before I'm labelled a concern troll? Or is it a particular type of disagreement, rather than the absolute amount?

For the record, my only problem with PZ is a general one. Ridicule and savagings can be very entertaining, and when done by PZ are often informative. He certainly knows his stuff, and how to write well. And, this being his blog, he's certainly allowed to take whatever tone he likes. But at the same time, there are people who would benefit from education, not just ridicule. Perhaps not Adams, but there'll be plenty of lurkers coming here because of the link to him, and they could benefit. These people are likely to be put off by the savaging and not listen to the information that's also included.

So an opportunity to inform is lost, and opinions are further polarised.

Let's put it another way. What is gained by all this negativity? Sure, we who are already convinced of the vacuity of ID are entertained. But isn't one of our aims to persuade more people to see things our way? Okay, the Wells' and the Dembski's will never be persuaded, but Adams isn't one of them: at worst he's a misguided commentator. At least try to show him where he's wrong before writing him off as beyond help.

Adams doesn't care. He just needs to be ridiculed.

"But we'll never know now, because no-one really tried."
and
"At least try to show him where he's wrong before writing him off as beyond help."

Cue the tiny violins. So uncaring and unthoughtful this blog be. If only I had a hanky.

The concern troll can be a difficult breed to identify, partly because normal people can actually disagree. It can be spotted, though, by its hyperbolic claims of belonging used to deflect criticism of its attacks on the group it claims.

Step 1: Make bold, assertive claim of street cred within a certain group. e.g, 'I walked door-to-door for Clinton both campaigns', 'I post all the time on DailyKos', etc.

Step 2: State wacky ideas or contra-effective tactics. e.g, 'but Markos is a dirty liberal commie who should be hanged for treason', 'but Joe Biden is the only candidate who can win the African-American vote', etc.

Step 3: Shout that said Street Cred makes your views immune to criticism.

Examples:

shorter jeffk: "I read PZ all the time, but he's a stupid atheist pig-wanker liberal professor ivory tower ho, and Scott Adams doesn't eat his own shit. Shut up, I'm a regular here! You can't criticize my views! I'm a regular!"

Hell, Caledonian and Great White Wonder (among many others) are always posting here, and there are lots of times they're full of shit (in my opinion). They don't deflect criticism by claiming 'PZ Comment Street Cred', and thus, aren't concern trolls.

I have nothing to say about this. But what is "pharyngula"?

By Random guy (not verified) on 01 Feb 2007 #permalink

So when this "debate" appears in "Dilbert" -- do we each get a cut of the royalties?

There is a mechanism by which he takes submissions. I'm friends with the guy at JPL who, some years ago, initiated the "dead wood" elimination thread of Dilbert.

I would not go so far as to say you have no sense of humor, but that it appears to be clouded by bitterness that a mere humorist would have a greater readership than you. I assume that Scott felt sorry for you too considering he posted the link to this blog in his own. I hope it makes you feel better that at least for today, you will have the same readership that he does.

And have you considered that perhaps people just don't care about the fine details of science? Its really all conjecture anyway. Something is the absolute truth until someone else "proves" it isn't. I'm glad I changed my major from zoology to French. The liberal arts make more sense.

Jeez, what a bunch self centered, arrogant snobs you University types are. Get over yourselves, ideas and dialogue make you think, to come up with answers that are yours, they don't tell you how to think and you shouldn't tell others how to either.

By Bob Johnson (not verified) on 01 Feb 2007 #permalink

Are you really a professor? I wonder how you have the time. I am a graduate studen, and I see how hard my advisor works...there is no way he has the time to start a public feud with a cartoonist (besides, he is much smarter than that...not much to be gained out of it). perhaps you're tenured and bored of research, and therefore have nothing better to do ...

"And have you considered that perhaps people just don't care about the fine details of science?"

Yeah, until their power goes out, or they get rushed to the ER, or they need a round of antibiotics. Then they should be really glad that some people (hint: not French majors) bothered to learn the fine details.

By MJ Memphis (not verified) on 01 Feb 2007 #permalink

Add intemperate to your existing moniker of "humorless", Myers, and I think that might sum up all of your writings on this subject. Jeezy Chreezy, Adams never claims to be credible, or even extremely informed. What he does do is think about things from a fairly open starting point, and apply a very different perspective from your own. I disagree with his viewpoints very frequently, and often think the reasoning is flawed. It does, however, sometimes lead me to valuable thoughts of my own on a number of topics. It's also amusing much of the time. What kind of a sorry, unsatisfyfying life do you have to have to bother with this self-important vitriol (especially when you have to know how pointless it is to anyone other than narrow-minded jerks like you seem to be)? At any rate, I just felt the urge to wiegh in and tell you, Myers, what a biased, anal-retentive idiot you sound like.

It does, however, sometimes lead me to valuable thoughts of my own on a number of topics.

As valuable as fool's gold, no doubt.

By Steve LaBonne (not verified) on 01 Feb 2007 #permalink

Perhaps you are missing the point? The Dilbert Blog entry seemed to be about the difficulty of designing an adequate intelligence test. The Big Bang example demonstrated how tricky it is to choose conditions and parameters that actually define what you want.

Have you really been reading the Dilbert Blog. Scott has made it quite clear that he does not believe in God. It seems odd that you would accuse him of being a creationist if he doesn't believe in a creator. He also holds the opinion that free will is an illusion. Does this make him a nut case? No, that makes him a determinist. Determinism rejects the notion of free will because of the overwhelming causal evidence provided by science. You mention a lot about Scott's tone. The tone in your blog entry doesn't really seem all that scientific. It seems more like an emotional reaction. You should try to refute his arguments rather than trying discredit him as a person. Then more people will take you seriously.

SHAAH

By Dilbonian (not verified) on 01 Feb 2007 #permalink

Hello PZ,

So when are you going to graduate high school? I'm not going to defend Scott Adams, I'm going to defend all the other boobs on the internet, including myself. I enjoy reading Adams' blog not because his wild theories are scientifically correct, not because his views are profound, but because he thinks about things in a different way than most people. Ask ten people what they think Adams' post is about and they will mostly give you very different answers. My point is that an immature attack on a writer is no way to advance your own ideas. Beliefs are hard to change, but definitions are easy.

I use my blog as an outlet for creativity. It's definitely unscientific and I rarely bother to discover all if any of the facts before I write. Does that make me a bad person too?

Feel free to malign me for no good reason as well.

Wow, it's amazing how such an apparently inteligent man could rake up so much muck because somebody else states thoughts of his on a blog. And the more amazing thing is that he, and many of his readers can't accept somebody else's opinions or thoughts without insulting them and pulling the stereotypical scientist I'm smarter than you attitude.
It's a good thing most scientists aren't like you Mr. Myers, otherwise the idea that scientists are arrogant, close-minded, and demeaning might actually be true.
Also, science is a religion in and of itself - you just believe in a "factual (how humans interpret it)" answer while a religion looks for an unprovable answer (again, how humans see it.) There are certain tenants of each, science and religion, that are provable (ethics for religion - at least in general; gravity for science, on the quantum level) and unprovable (God's Creation for religion, Big Bang for science.) These are both ideas, but unfortunately neither are truly provable - just some really good theories (depending on how chose to percieve either one.)

By whitetigersx (not verified) on 01 Feb 2007 #permalink

given the number of comments on here already I doubt you will ever read this, but i must say when i read scott adam's latest blog about life the universe and everything, i didnt take it as pro-creationist at all. in fact i thought he avoided that arguement all together. scott seems to be more interested in discussing concepts like intelligence and free will, rather than the nature of how the universe formed. there are a few times when he has responded to people on either side of that arguement and in those times he does seem to go overboard in some sort of attempt to bash both sides, but he seems to prefer arguing down popularly held conceptions rather than converting people to creationism. i will accept though that he can do it in a very roundabout way. although i will admit this isn't my speciality subject so it is perfectly possible i have missed it all, given that my views would essentially agree with yours (creationism? not a science thank you).

Golly, what do you know, Adams attracts hordes of dittoheads who are as stupid and ignorant as he is. What a surprise.

Here's a free clue to some of you- it might even help you get out of your mothers' basements some day. "Arguing both sides" as between sense and nonsense constitutes abject cluelessness. When you figure that out, you might begin maturing beyond a mental age of 11.

By Steve LaBonne (not verified) on 01 Feb 2007 #permalink

What I tried to post at Adams' blog (it didn't show up when I looked):

Intelligence is difficult to define, but it would also be difficult (though not impossible) to do without the word to discuss human cognition.

Recognizable intelligence, such as alien intelligence, would necessarily include the ability to perform actions (including "design") rationally, i.e., according to mathematics, simple or complex geometry, and according to "leaps" in coming up with solutions which "fit". It would produce novelty and use "borrowed" solutions to solve problems.

Evolution and the Big Bang do not have these capacities (except by producing animals and their creations--such as computers). This is why we know that animals were not "intelligently designed" (no rational solutions, only derivative ones), while we'd likely know if alien machines were.

The fact that we might not recognize intelligence "in all situations" is Adams' red herring. Science moves from the known into the unknown, hence we can now only identify human-like and animal-like intelligence [with great confidence].

The important thing is that neither Behe nor Adams actually supposes that life, which is not intelligently designed, would be indistinguishable from machines which are intelligently designed (or perhaps designed by rational computers made, ultimately, by life). Evolution has its characteristics, known intelligence has its characteristics. There is overlap in the production of both processes, but it is almost always trivially simple to tell the results of both apart.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Wow talk about atheistic arrogance here? Last I check, evolution was and is still a theory so what makes your "theory" any superior to another man's? Life is continuous and random, so any given day, another species will make an evolution to come out of the water to live on land, new species joining man as upper intelligent species...yet, for over 3,000 years of recorded history, still no sightings.

Prove me this Mr.Scientist. Since creationist theory doesn't float with you, create the spark of life just by mixing raw materials just as you evolutionist theory dictates. A single cell living entity would be suffice. Oh wait, SCIENCE LAWS states that inorganic material can't be converted into organic material. What a shame hypocrite.

If he's so obviously wrong, why do you need to call him names?

Spoken like a true secular-progressive leftist.

You can't simply disagree with his view. You have to go after Adams on a personal level, using vitriolic slurs and attacks.

And you call yourself intelligent. It's people like you who scare me, not Adams.

Perhaps you are missing the point? The Dilbert Blog entry seemed to be about the difficulty of designing an adequate intelligence test. The Big Bang example demonstrated how tricky it is to choose conditions and parameters that actually define what you want.

No, it only shows that Adams is a man of (apparently) very little brain who commits the genetic fallacy and obscures the meaning of useful, if not perfectly defined, words.

Anyone who has had a class in philosophy, or even a higher level English class, knows the problem of defining words. Indeed, words appear to be as useful as they are because "common words" don't have immutable and set definitions. That doesn't mean that they don't have "meanings", while the ignorant claphead Adams keeps on showing his stupidity in demanding "definitions" (when closely considered, "definition" and "meaning" are not the same thing, although they can sometimes properly be used synonymously).

There is, in fact, nothing wrong in the broad sense with calling the Big Bang and subsequent events "calculation" or a type of "computer". It does much that the more narrowly defined "computer" does in its manipulation of information. But then, so does the brain. That's the real connection, for intelligence is part of the vast compuation of information in the universe, it is a "special version" of the computation in the cosmos, while the cosmos is not "intelligent" in almost all senses of "intelligence".

Adams can't even think that "intelligence" has meaning (and not a comprehensive "definition"--he's an intellectually dishonest fool to use that "standard") in the human which, so to speak, is the result of complex computations of the universe, without believing that the one must reduce to the other. He's the ultimate reductionist, a naive and uneducated person who turns his inability to recognize differences into the bleat that there are no differences.

To be fair, I think PZ would have done better to ignore this clown and his clowns in training, but that's his call. What matters now is that the fool Adams should shut up before he demonstrates to all those above moron level that he writes about things that he has no ability to discuss.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

SCIENCE LAWS is nearly as funny as that PYGMIES expression.

Look at the nice little mob that showed up.

Spoken like a true secular-progressive leftist.

Hilarious. I didn't know Adams was popular with the black helicopter crowd. Another feather in his cap.

By Steve LaBonne (not verified) on 01 Feb 2007 #permalink

Wow. Looks like a wave of Dilbonians made an appearance.

And surprise suprise not one of them had a good argument for Adams' goofy pondering/meta irony.

"Uou scientists think you're so smart" is such a great put down.

Listen. He has no great insight and it doesn't matter if he's an atheist, he's still babbling a load of nonsense whether it's to be funny or contrarian it doesn't matter it's still crap.

You think Scott Adams is a creationist? Wow! You really ARE going out of your way to criticize him!

By the way, isn't the description, "godless liberal" redundant, repetetive and redundant?

You all are such massive tool bags. Scott Adams in his recent argument about the universe being intelligent is simply arguing for the vagueness of the definition of "intelligence." Calling him degrading names simply shows you inability to comprehend the bigger picture of what he is saying, and is a great display of your own personal ignorance.

Dogbert,

No, "godless liberal" is not redundant. Plenty of religious people believe in a state welfare system, and some religious folk even support gay marriage. Likewise, godless people can get pretty uppity about being anything but liberal. Exhibit A: Ayn Rand.

Spoken like a true secular-progressive leftist.

Can I count this as a predictive hit? After all, I did say,

I didn't think much of it at the time, but looking back, I wouldn't be surprised if there were some cross-fertilization between DNRC types and the teenage Ayn Rand cult.

Neurofreak said,

You all are such massive tool bags. Scott Adams in his recent argument about the universe being intelligent is simply arguing for the vagueness of the definition of "intelligence." Calling him degrading names simply shows you inability to comprehend the bigger picture of what he is saying, and is a great display of your own personal ignorance.

Pot. . . Kettle. . . .

Besides which, we've already said how his method of reasoning is fundamentally flawed. Let me waste electrons and repeat.

He also appears to believe, all satire aside, that the following argument has logical validity:

1. We are intelligent.
2. We were caused by the Big Bang.
3. We must have inherited our characteristics from that which caused us.
4. Therefore, the Big Bang was intelligent.

But we've already seen that we can substitute anything for "intelligent": ten-fingered, blue-eyed, blond-haired, Nazi. The conclusion is absurd, so the premise and/or the chain of reasoning must be flawed. (Hint: look at step 3.) Adams says that he's trying to eliminate poor definitions of "intelligence" by this method, but he can't do that if his chain of reasoning is fundamentally broken.

But he's a satirical cartoonist. Why would who enjoys satire take anything he said seriously. Isn't the whole idea of satire not taking people seriously?

By Duncan Stibbar… (not verified) on 01 Feb 2007 #permalink

Thank you all for a good chuckle! Although that was an hour of my life I'll never get back, thank you. (Laughter is supposed to be good for the soul, right?)

S. Adams is a humorist. Perhaps his sense of humor doesn't meet "your" needs. Don't read it. I don't think I'll be visiting PZ again...unless I need a good laugh...I think I'll find something productive to do.

MSB

I am most amused by the SCIENCE LAWS comment. I guess at least the fanboys at Dilbertblog actually are capable of saying something funny.

Come on people, is it really that important ?

Wow. Didn't we predict this. He was being funny! Really? how?

Is absurdism funny? Sure... if Monty Python is doing it.

Adams, not so much.

Actually, Friedrich Wöhler synthesized urea (an organic material) from inorganic constituents in 1828.

Posted by: Blake Stacey | February 1, 2007 03:23 PM

---

Ooops my bad. Realized that used the wrong words. Better statement be still have yet to see science create living matter from non living matter, even if it's the simplest living life form. Spark of life still remains a theory to all...

It's obviously important enough for you to be here, Ray.

your a moron

I think that you are really upset that Scott Adams is something, whereas you are just a self-important arrogant asshole. Your whole text is filled with personal insults to Scott as if he really hit where it hurts. If all you can come up is insults, out of context misinterpretations, then its really pathetic.

He is interesting/funny to read because he has a refreshing and humorous line of thought. It is beyond me that apparently an educated person could take his writings seriously enough to get a personal beef and/or consider them scientific.

this just looks like 2 guys who happen to be having a s#it-fight... and i don't even think they're on opposite teams...

Adams takes the piss out of the religious and/or creationists all the time, PZ does too, Adams just does it to scientists as well...

Both Adams and PZ have their own little flocks of sycophants... I'm amazed this is worth getting so worked up about...

Go fly a kite, swim in a river, make love, drink wine...

I'll admit to over reacting if they admit the post wasn't funny.

Isn't it odd that a flux of Adams fans started pouring in around 1:14 PM? I wonder if this got Slashdotted, or Dugg, or something like that. Perhaps this post (first comment at 11:56 AM) sent them over. Warning: Low discourse level. Read at your own risk.

knobs, knobs, knobs, knobs. so far up your own asses you think the sky is brown.

I hope that someday I too can grow up to be like Scott Adams, with a legion of sycophants poised and ready to deliver insults so puerile they scarcely qualify as ad hominem attacks upon all who differ with me. What do I have to do to win that kind of fan support?

This blog completely misses the point. All Adams does is give his opinion, what he thinks is right. He doesn't say it's the end all and be all of evolution/creation. If you actually took the time to read his site, you would see that hundreds of readers took the time to comment AND disagree with Adams. It's called a conversation where you learn something new about a different opinion than yours. God forbid people have different opinions.

Wow. I can't believe you took Scott Adam's posts so seriously. Sometimes he says some things that are spot on. Sometimes he says stuff that's just crap. He doesn't care. He just writes about whatever he's thinking about. Or about an article that made him think. Or about whatever. He doesn't claim to have the market cornered on intelligence. This all just seems silly. Who gets their science information from a cartoonist?

Are we at a fan site for the backstreet boys?

The whiney little girls coming to complain that we don't like their most favorite bad, so we must be an idiot or have no taste.

We think Scott Adams says stupid shit. Get over it.

Funny how people can have such wide and varied reactions to a blog post. But then again that to me has always been the attraction to reading comments on Scott Adams blog. And maybe its just my own interpretation, but I always thought that was why he did it also.
Then again we are all guilty of it, just read the comments at both blogs and everyone has there own cart to push. The world is a wild and varied place and people have passion for some of the most bizarre things.

You guys are a bit sad. Ad hominem attacks do you no credit at all. It belittles your argument no end. It puts you in the same camp as the Creationists and IDers.

I am an atheist, and I think Scott is as well, but it does not matter. The thing is - and he even SAYS this - he tries to see how many people will misconstrue his posts. And I have to say it is one of the reasons I read his blog every day. It is quite enlightening to see how many people simply do not READ his posts. It seems that you are another one.

And you have to admit - he does pose some of the same old questions in entertaining ways.

By Kerry Neighbour (not verified) on 01 Feb 2007 #permalink

You're kidding, right?

You don't realize that you talk down to people by ASSuming that they take his blog seriously. You honestly believe that people are sheep who can't think for themselves?

It must be nice there in the confines of academia to sit and watch the world through your own crafted spectacles making assumptions that people who do not dedicate themselves to an institute of higher learning are mindless lemmings.

Furthermore, do you actually think that by labelling a person as "creationist" means that he embodies everything that should go with that label?

Let's try some labels on you and draw some conclusions as you have doneand let's see if you agree:

Depauw drop out - Hard worker, non-conformist, excellent taste in music, Hoosier, red neck

UW graduate (BS Zoology) - likes animals, humane, compassionate, introvert, can't speak to people in social situation

Published zebrafish author - Excellent writer, thorough, tenacious researcher, left-handed, poor eyesight, too stupid to realize his home phone and address are on the Internet

Professor (U Oregon PhD. in Biology) - Intelligent, knowlegeable in his field, disorganized, absent-minded, privileged individual, no rhythm, small penis

How did I do? If I approached it like you did, I would assume all of my assumptions were correct and I would do my best to find evidence to back it up. However, I know better. I'm not right about you - am I?

Get out of your self-induced cell and experience humanity. Experience those with street smarts as well as book smarts and you may discover that labelling someone does not mean you understand their motives or personal beliefs. Try choosing to look past those labels and really getting to know and appreciate the diversity.

You know...change a few words in your post, and in the resulting comments and this could be mistaken for a right-wing, evangelical, pro-creationist blog filled with whack jobs.

I am neither a pro-creationist, nor am I a pro-evolutionist. Why not? Cause I don't give shit. I'm here...period. Arguing about the technical and biological reasoning seems pointless to the extreme. Especially when blood pressure gets raised and people come to blows.

When some pro-evolutionist can explain the caterpillar to butterfly transition and how that came about through random evolution, without resorting to supposition that is merely faith-based postulation, then you might get me interested.

PZ--

Its amazing how badly you've misinterpreted Adam's blog writings. Hey, I'm a rabid, hard-core atheist and find his stuff funny.

Looking past the misunderstanding, larger point which you may have missed is Adams is a humorist. He writes funny words, which some people read and then laugh. Ha ha. You know, jokes, etc.

By Michael Czeiszperger (not verified) on 01 Feb 2007 #permalink

why is the need for insults? after all, dumb ideas die on their own, or not ?

thanks, ill try and keep up with your blog :P

By ruben llibre (not verified) on 01 Feb 2007 #permalink

Wow - I just think it's funny that so many people care so much about Scott Adam's opinion.

For perspective I'm a big Dilbert fan and read his blog daily. I don't, however, take everything he says literally and I'm capable of making my own mind up about the issues that he discusses.

As someone who knows nothing about these subjects other than what I hear from 3rd parties he gets me thinking about things I wouldn't ordinarily think about

Also it seems kinda odd to chastise the man for other people's reaction to his comments....

This post is the only post I've read from you and it really comes across and an angry and personal rant rather than an intelligent and rational assessment.

If I didn't know better I'd think you have a problem on a personal level with Scott Adams' work and eagerly await any possible opportunity to fire a shot off at him.

I wish you luck with that although I'm guessing every time you mention his name he gets another 100 subscribers to his blog and 50 to Dilbert from your readers.

Kerry Neighbour:

And you have to admit - he does pose some of the same old questions in entertaining ways.

With all due respect, no, we don't have to admit this. Entertainment value is of course a matter of taste, on which reasonable people can disagree, but PZ, I and plenty of others here have read what Scott Adams said and found it an uninspired re-hash of poor arguments we've all seen too many times before. People who haven't been following the creationism brouhaha for as long might not be aware of the long, long back story, but rest assured, if somebody has come up with names for a kind of bad thinking (genetic fallacy, for example) that kind of bad thinking has been around for a while.

Therefore, no, we don't see much entertainment value in it. The spectacle of the comments now flooding our part of the Intertubes, composed as they are of insults, claims that "he's just a satirist" and defenses of logically incoherent writing — tend to grate on our collective nerves.

When some pro-evolutionist can explain the caterpillar to butterfly transition and how that came about through random evolution, without resorting to supposition that is merely faith-based postulation, then you might get me interested.

here. Type "metamorphosis evolution" into the search box. Press return. You'll get about 1500 papers on various aspects of the phenomenon. Your personal ignorance is not an excuse.

I read Adams' post.

I didn't find it funny, insightful or thought provoking. It was even particularly original.

"If you reject the Big Bang as being intelligent - after acknowledging that it created so many books and other works of art, it leaves you with no test for intelligence.

I take the practical approach - that something is intelligent if it unambiguously performs tasks that require intelligence. Writing Moby Dick required intelligence. The Big Bang wrote Moby Dick. Therefore, the Big Bang is intelligent, and you and I are created by that same intelligence. Therefore, we are created by an intelligent entity.

I don't see how an atheist can think otherwise."

Is this a wink wink nudge nudge to atheists? or a challenge?

It's just too dopey for words.

You don't realize that you talk down to people by ASSuming that they take his blog seriously. You honestly believe that people are sheep who can't think for themselves?

A good many people are decent folk who stand up and think for themselves at every opportunity. Some of them hang out here. I like 'em.

The problem is that we keep receiving empirical evidence that people take Scott Adams and everything he says all too seriously. Every insult directed at PZ in this thread confirms this. It's not an assumption, but rather a fact we can verify.

Adams has himself written — what is it now, three? — yes, I think three blog posts about this. Looks like he cares. Why shouldn't we?

Interesting point of view. I enjoyed reading your insightful opinion on "The Dilbert Guy".

It seems he thinks little of you, but was good enough to link to your BLOG from his.

I must say the pair of your BLOG entries read as quite funny together. Keep the fued going. It's kinda like watching Oprah, only reading...

Wow. I mean that about nearly everything here. Wow.

Quoting from somewhere up there. . . .

I wish you luck with that although I'm guessing every time you mention his name he gets another 100 subscribers to his blog and 50 to Dilbert from your readers.

Hey, PZ, if you've got so much power, can you help out Jin Wicked and link to Crap I Drew on My Lunch Break a few times? Unshelved is also good, as is (of course) Tatsuya Ishida's Sinfest.

Put your king-making power to good use!

"supercilious and inflated sense of intellectual self-worth, the same mocking tone, the same knee-jerk rejection of anyone else's expertise, as if the fact that some people know much more in some discipline than he does is a personal insult."

Ha. Sounds like this blog.

PeeZee, I think that you and your self righteous indignation should get a room.

Zees fans have grown tiresome. Now is zee time on Shprockets ven vee dance.

Ahh, how I love people taking themselves and their theories so seriously...
Maybe if scientists (biologists in particular) could come up with something a little more interesting we wouldn't find Scott Adams absurd ideas so brilliant (and hilarious). Excuse me if I find a cartoonist a lot more interesting than a measly Associate Professor. I have worked with academics since I was 18 and a large number of them make the average person on the street look like Einstein. And I am of the opinion that people in general are highly stupid. The only thing people should be admitting is that we in fact hardly know anything of our universe etc.
Stop trying to sound so knowledgeable it's ridiculous.

Why are you so bitter? Don't you have better things to rant about than one guy's random, sometimes logic-less logic? Adams doesn't take himself seriously on a consistent basis, and he never tells you when he's serious or when he's not. Why not pick on someone who actually takes themselves seriously all the time? It'd be a lot easier, and it would make more sense.

Um dude,
You're less funny than Scott, and at least 5 times angrier.

You get minus 5 points for foaming at the mouth.
Minus 10 points for seeming obsessed with the musings of a cartoonist.

Get yourself a blowjob stat!

sincerely,
$8 (not a dilbonian)

where are these bright lights of insight coming from?

If being a cartoonist means whatever they say should be ignored... why are they here defending him?

I'm not sure that Scott is trying to claim this or that. I think he's merely pointing out an alternative way of thinking that may lead you in the right direction. I honestly don't believe that HE believes the theories presented in his blog, but merely throws them out there as a possibility. Anything is possible and I think Scott's just trying to get people to use their own brains in ways shy of modern culture.

I read your blog because I clicked here from the Dilbert site. With all your ranting, you're giving godless liberals a bad name. I truly thought you were a Rush Limbaugh wannabe based on the first paragraph. I enjoy Scott's blog most of the time, even when I don't agree with it. Your blog is mean-spirited and doesn't contain much in the way of facts. I didn't enjoy reading your post and won't be back.

By crunchy frog (not verified) on 01 Feb 2007 #permalink

You're right Blake, I'm sorry. I'm also a godless liberal and I should have disclosed that in my statement.

I guess you'll have to share that room with PeeZee.

Maybe if scientists (biologists in particular) could come up with something a little more interesting we wouldn't find Scott Adams absurd ideas so brilliant (and hilarious).

Moan.

The discoveries that all life shares a common ancestor, that we operate on tiny machines with a billion moving parts, that a thousand encyclopedias' worth of information flake off with every dead skin cell, that dreams are born of dancing atoms and that we are all made of starstuff. . . . Yes, it's hard to see how any of these compare with the antics of a luckless engineer and his pointy-haired boss.

The subtext I'm getting from this "discussion" is that it's okay to say whatever you want if you pretend to be a jokester, but being curt and abrasive disqualifies you from consideration. People, please!

Crunchy the Concern Frog. Tastes good fried.

Mr. Myers, regardless of the content of this debate and where you stand on it, it'd be nice if it could be carried out without resorting to name calling.

Being an ardent evolutionist, I happen to strongly disagree with Scott's position on this subject, but I find him far from being a "babbling idiot". I do think more often than not he is funny. In any case, he is a human being and thus deserved of a basic level of respect regardless of the perceived accuracy of his opinion(s).

Reducing an important debate like this to hurtful and personal attacks does absolutely no one any good, and actually takes away from your argument.

Cheers,
Ron

I doubt that PZ will get around to reading this, but just in case.

I am not a "Diblonian," nor a Scott Adams "fan."
However, after reading Adams' initial post, the excerpt on OmniBrain, and your swift reply, I question whether or not you actually had the courtesy to read Adams' original post before doing exactly what he predicted you would do and brutalize arguments that he did not make. I don't mean to offend anybody, so here's a politely innocuous example of something that you failed to notice, then you can kindly see the rest for yourself if you wish.

In response to what you called Scott Adams' "key argument for assigning intelligence to the universe" you responded with "It's a wee bit circular, don't you think?"
What you've failed to notice is that Adams' "argument" is actually taken slightly out of context and also that he very clearly states (in his post) that the argument is a circular one. I enjoy your writings PZ, but god damn. Read Adams' original posts (and read them in their entirety) before barrelling off on these useless tirades. What do you have to prove?

"The most entertaining self-important, humorless, autofellating, ass hat (SHAAH for short) is a biologist named PZ Myers."

Yep. Only PZ is guilty of name calling.

Listen Dibonians... they have a history going back a couple of years. PZ only calls him out when he says stupid shit about evolution or the big bang. It's tripe whether he believes it or not. He still finds pleasure in defending it and he doesn't seem to care one way or another. None of it matters to him, which is pretty obvious because he hasn't thought through much of it. And when he does he's quite happy that it goes nowhere.

It's like a C level philosphy student arguing with Stephen Hawking about what happens at the event horizon in a black hole. The student hasn't really bothered to read up on the topic but finds pleasure from the electronic voice explaining it too him even though he still doesn't get it.

Roger:

You're right Blake, I'm sorry. I'm also a godless liberal and I should have disclosed that in my statement.

I guess you'll have to share that room with PeeZee.

You make it sound like a bad thing. Why? It's not as if the response would be noticeably more favorable if P-Zed had pointed out the sheer illogic of Adams's ramble while decorating his blog post with gumdrops and Oompa Loompas. Personally, I don't like being unpleasant to people, though it happens enough anyway, no matter how I phrase what I say. Nevertheless, I can recognize intellectually that sometimes, forceful statements are required and nonsense deserves a strong rebuke.

Hey, people remember Lenny Bruce and Bill Hicks for a reason. Girls take off their clothes and decorate themselves like Spider Jerusalem for a reason.

I have read a lot here that they are not reading Adam again because they dislike what he thinks in ONE subject.

AHAHAHAH that pretty mucho defines you

Nicholas:

What you've failed to notice is that Adams' "argument" is actually taken slightly out of context and also that he very clearly states (in his post) that the argument is a circular one. I enjoy your writings PZ, but god damn. Read Adams' original posts (and read them in their entirety) before barrelling off on these useless tirades. What do you have to prove?

Several times in this discussion, we commenters have raised the point that Adams's "argument" is not just circular, but also completely broken. See here, for example. PZ also recognized that circularity is not the only problem, right at the top, when he wrote the following:

He's also managed to put together an argument for an intelligent designer that requires us to conclude that everything in the universe is intelligent: phosphorylation is intelligent, sperm are intelligent, carrots intelligent, bacteria are intelligent, interstellar dust is intelligent.

And a person going by the nickname "zilch" said this:

I take the practical approach — that something is fascist if it unambiguously performs tasks that require fascism. Writing Mein Kampf required fascism. The Big Bang wrote Mein Kampf. Therefore, the Big Bang is a Nazi, and you and I are created by that same Nazi. Therefore, we are created by an Nazi entity.

See? Circularity isn't the worst problem; this pseudo-logic is fundamentally incapable of testing a definition of any term, including "intelligence", because it hinges upon a logical fallacy.

Whether PZ was callous or not when he wrote about this topic does not change the essential conclusion.

"the same supercilious and inflated sense of intellectual self-worth, the same mocking tone..."

TOUCHE PZ!!!

"It's not as if the response would be noticeably more favorable if P-Zed had pointed out the sheer illogic of Adams's ramble while decorating his blog post with gumdrops and Oompa Loompas."

Blake,
When I read the first paragraph I see indignation and anger and I don't see anything else. In my opinion the Dilbertblog isn't a platform for serious discussion on any topic and I'm starting to think the same way about Pharyngula.
Einstein isn't remembered for saying that Newton was a tool.
Roger

I think any serious scientist who can get his feathers so badly ruffled by something a cartoonist says probably needs to get his head checked. I guess he really is an ass-hat.

By John Gehrken (not verified) on 01 Feb 2007 #permalink

Every now and then, do you stop and read what you've typed? Or do you just start typing and hope something comes out of a string of words? I didn't think it was possible to hate anyone more than I hate Adams... I was wrong.

By Joe Tepis (not verified) on 01 Feb 2007 #permalink

Scott Adams FTW! suckas!

By Steven Mclay (not verified) on 01 Feb 2007 #permalink

My dear man,

I will not bore you with saying you don't have a sense of humour as it is clear that you have already accepted that... It's the first step.

What I do want to ask is: Where are yor published books? Where is your money, and how many people have you made laugh? I personally think that any man that moves out of a day job in a cubicle, and becomes one of the world's most successful comic writers, can not be called stupid. I'm sure I'm not alone in this.

I have to say though, critizing Scott is a smart (yet sad) way of generating hits to this site. Especially now he's given you a helping hand...

Oh and you could take an example from him. As much as you critizise him, I have only seen one side of the story. At least Scott almost always provides an alternative view, and clearly states that his views are exacly what they are... HIS views. If you don't like it, don't read it.

Golly, what do you know, Adams attracts hordes of dittoheads who are as stupid and ignorant as he is. What a surprise.

Here's a free clue to some of you- it might even help you get out of your mothers' basements some day. "Arguing both sides" as between sense and nonsense constitutes abject cluelessness. When you figure that out, you might begin maturing beyond a mental age of 11.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne | February 1, 2007 02:16 PM

You just dittoheaded yourself and PZ into the same childish behavoir you were dispariging Steve.

By whitetigersx (not verified) on 01 Feb 2007 #permalink

I'd be more inclined to believe that he was mocking creationist thinking if a) everything he has written on evolution, creation, and science hadn't had exactly the same tone and advanced the same point of view, which seems to be, basically, that Scott Adams knows better than every scientist on the planet, and b) his fans were a little less enthusiastic in supporting every turd of faux-wisdom that drips from his mouth.

I think it's fairly obvious what he's doing; he's retreating. Adams started by arguing that ID and evolution were equally iffy, and he got ripped a new one. Then he backed off and said, well, sure, ID and creationism are unscientific, and that's exactly why we should teach them! For comparison! And he got ripped a new one, again.

Now he's taken another step back--"Well, when I talk about intelligent design, I really mean this idiosyncratic definition of "intelligence" which doesn't have anything to do with creationism or ID, so you can't complain about that, can you?"

He's realized that his former defense of ID looked ridiculous to anyone who's halfway informed on the subject, but he can't bring himself to actually say he was wrong. That's all.

By Anton Mates (not verified) on 01 Feb 2007 #permalink

Someone who comes to the scientist's blog to reidicule him for having an opinion on a cartoonist's post really is a dim bulb.

We get it. Adams is a harmless cartoonist who doesn't merit criticism. Then why bother defending him?

What I do want to ask is: Where are yor published books? Where is your money, and how many people have you made laugh? I personally think that any man that moves out of a day job in a cubicle, and becomes one of the world's most successful comic writers, can not be called stupid. I'm sure I'm not alone in this.

...and with that same logic you should be asking Ann Coulter to run for the presidency, right?

it doesn't take intelligence to be successful; in fact, in this country, deliberate anti-intelligent rantings can gain one significant wealth and notariety. Is anti-intelligencia for fun and profit intelligent? Not from a sane perspective.

hence the patron saint of stupidity, our own commander in chimpiness, who has been elected not once, but twice, should give you pause to reconsider your words.

Myers, seriously, stop self-fellating for just one minute. Adams is clearly not a creationist, and clearly doesn't claim to be an authority on any of these topics. He writes a blog full of personal musings, then people comment. Some people leave good comments, some dumb comments. Why do you feel so threatened by a cartoonist's lay discussions of philosophy? I don't agree with alot of what he says, but contrary to your accusations he's perfectly willing to listen to all sides of an argument and enjoys a good debate with his 'legions of fans'.

"We get it. Adams is a harmless cartoonist who doesn't merit criticism. Then why bother defending him?"

Because we like him and he's being attacked.

Scott Adams would like you to know that you are a "self-important, humorless, autofellating, ass hat." SHAAH for short. After reading this post, I'm inclined to agree.

Scott Adams would like you to know that you are a "self-important, humorless, autofellating, ass hat." SHAAH for short. After reading this post, I'm inclined to agree.

Scott Adams, MattM: "self-fellating"

Nathan: "autofellating"

Purely coincidental, I'm sure!

Because we like him and he's being attacked.

That's not a valid justification.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 01 Feb 2007 #permalink

"Because we like him and he's being attacked."

"That's not a valid justification."

So, what would be a valid justification?

One question: what makes your opinion more valuable than his?

seriously dude Scott Adams is a member of MENSA. Why are u calling him stupid when he is probably smarter than you. Also why are u so threatened by a minor celebrity cartoonist. Are you worried that people actually listen when he speaks but no-one gives a crap when u open your mouth so u gotta attack the guy just to get some sort of minor publicity. his blog is just petty musings on philosophical subjects why do u have to go all rabid on him. sheesh it's not like he's the pope, he's a cartoonist for god's sake and not a known expert on a given subject so why even bother commenting. It's bigoted ppl like you who brings your entire profession down. It's no small wonder then that Scott Adams' blog is popular whilst yours is just populated by like minded kkk clan members.

Aw, don't fight Scott & PZ! I love you both.

When I read the first paragraph I see indignation and anger and I don't see anything else. In my opinion the Dilbertblog isn't a platform for serious discussion on any topic and I'm starting to think the same way about Pharyngula.
Einstein isn't remembered for saying that Newton was a tool.

Indeed, Einstein is remembered for showing that (under certain circumstances) Newton's ideas are wrong.

PZ and a few of us Pharynguloid sycophants have shown, in what I think is a fairly lucid way, that Adams was wrong. Isn't that the point? Isn't the fact that in 286 comments, nobody has defended Adams with a rigorous argument more significant than PZ's curt manner?

Nobody here is obligated to argue in an asinine way. If any one of us agrees with PZ's content but dislikes his tone, we can say so, and our comments stand in the record (forever, for all practical Internet purposes). I've probably done so myself, in the several months I've hung out here, although I doubt I've done it often, since the inimitable Myers harshness doesn't really get under my skin. During these recent months, I've also had some fruitful and interesting intellectual exchanges with other visitors to Pharyngula territory. Many of the regulars here are well-read, articulate folks, and the cumulative store of knowledge is quite impressive.

Having had a moment to reflect, I find it pleasing that PZ was at least candid about his flamewar history. His tone is at least no worse than Adams's declaration,

The most entertaining self-important, humorless, autofellating, ass hat (SHAAH for short) is a biologist named PZ Myers.

This is not, in my judgment, a very inspiring acronym. If I had to choose, I'd go for David Brin's coinage, CITOKATE — Criticism Is The Only Known Antidote To Error.

Scott Adams' so-called philosophy book was not his view on the world or its creation. It was a thought experiment, as it clearly stated in the introduction. The point of the book was to figure out the one fatal flaw in the theory, which I doubt any of you were smart enough to do. Part of the time, Scott Adams is just pulling everyone's chain, but if you haven't figured it out by now, Scott Adams is an atheist with a sensible mind, just like any intelligent person in this world. "Atheist" normally implies that said person does not believe in creationism. So logically, he does not endorse creationism in any way, like the idiot who wrote this blog suggests. He just enjoys messing with your mind. And if I may say so, he's doing a very good job.

Scott Adams is a douchebag, but a douchebag that draws a funny comic.

PZ appears to be a douchebag, but one that does not do funny anything.

Therefore, Adams > PZ.

yes, we also notice in scott's response, that he nowhere actually tries to defend his ridiculous premise of human intelligence must equal big-band intelligence.

indeed, speaking of ad-hominem, absolutely nothing was actually answered in his entire post. instead, he chose to use it to spawn his self-flagellating little acronym.

deliberately, most likely.

PZ rightly recognizes the responsibility of any public figure: when you say shit, people listen. just like any other public figure, Adams must at some level realize this himself, so PZ (and anyone with half a brain) has every right to call him on such idiotic BS.

personally, I would have just gone to his blog and done it there, rather than start a thread about it here, but that's me.

any chance this idiocy can be put to bed now?

Well, I'd hate to come down partially on the side of some of the newcomers here, but having read Adams' latest post, I can see that he's a smug sophist ("Many people think I said This or That. But what did I really say? I'm not tellinnnng! (except to say that if you disagree with me, then you must be this colorful acronym I made up and my readers are all too happy to spread around as if it were clever)", and the less time spent on refuting his points, or paying attention to anything he has to say on anything outside the cubicle, the better.

Scott Adams is a douchebag, but a douchebag that draws a funny comic.

PZ appears to be a douchebag, but one that does not do funny anything.

Therefore, Adams > PZ

right... if you think that the whole world revolves around levels of humor only.

let's see adams teach a decent class in dev bio at the college level, or analyze a recent evo paper online.

of course, being a scientist, I'm far more biased towards science > humor

I can't understand how so many people can get so worked up about one man's purposely flawed (read - ironic) theory. Should'nt you nutters be attacking the real supporters of ID and personal Gods, rather than an atheist who has no belief in free will?

Adams is funny, IF you have a sense of humour. And more importantly, Adams is able to make the average Joe question some of his assumptions. Idiots, the lot of you. Granted, idiots with good grammaer, but like Adams said himself - self important, humourless... well, you know. If you read some of the previous posts, you will see that this is FACT, not opinion. Gah.

PZ:

Listen, Dilbonians: you can stop telling me I have no sense of humor. I know it already. I also know that Scott Adams has a piss-poor sense of humor, too.

Wombat:

Sure I can't actually dance en pointe myself but believe me - neither can that Nureyev dude!

George Bush Junior:

I am the Commander in Chief in a time of war, I tell you!

Religious fundamentalist:

Well maybe I know nothing about science, but that PZ Myers guy is way overrated himself! And he has no sense of humor whatsoever!

Me: nobody's impressed by people blathering on in all seriousness, and high dudgeon, about subjects they know nothing about. Well, nobody who knows.

"Isn't that the point? Isn't the fact that in 286 comments, nobody has defended Adams with a rigorous argument more significant than PZ's curt manner?"

Sure, or it could be that the Adams defenders aren't as articulate, educated or well informed as yourself. Or it could be that PeeZee's argument is neither rigorous nor significant making it difficult to respond in kind.

I don't think I'm smart enough to tell the difference.

yes, we also notice in scott's response, that he nowhere actually tries to defend his ridiculous premise of human intelligence must equal big-band intelligence.

Perhaps because that premise was taken completely out of context where it was being used as an example of a bad definition?

----

I also like this part of PZ's post.

Adams took a stab at at the subject again, proposing that at least we ought to teach it as an alternative to evolution, an old and tiresome argument that I thoroughly despise.

Wherein the provided link we find...

He suggests that we use Intelligent Design as a bad example--that we should "welcome such a clear model of something that is NOT science". That's fine; we do this all the time, and I have used creationism as an example of how not to do science. It's missing the argument, though. There has never been any restriction on using counterexamples, and no one objects. The issue, though, is that the creationists want to mandate the teaching of Intelligent Design as a legitimate alternative to evolution. This is unjustified, and his suggestion does not address the actual issue.

...that Scott didn't do anything of the sort, and it is unrelated third parties that are actually responsible. Hm.

---

In any case.

PZ and his cadre not finding Scott funny: Fine. Tastes in humour vary massively. Somewhat disappointing that they have a tendency to try to apply their definition of humour to everyone, but that is ultimately irrelevant.

PZ and his cadre enjoying taking Scott's comments out of context: Fine. It's a free-ish internet.

PZ and his cadre enjoying insulting Scott: Also fine.

PZ's cadre complaining about being insulted, especially with low-quality insults: Continuing to be fine...

PZ's cadre not liking people complaining about their insults: Damned hilarious. 'You're just making ad hominem attacks against us! Ignore that that's what we were doing to Scott originally!'

'You're just making ad hominem attacks against us! Ignore that that's what we were doing to Scott originally!'

both a strawman and wrong.

PZ addressed scott's argument directly. that is NOT an ad hominem.

Adams rebuttal did NOT address the criticisms of his argument, but instead created a 'funny' acronym to throw out.

that's ad hominem.

Perhaps because that premise was taken completely out of context where it was being used as an example of a bad definition?

oh? where? I read both the original post, the comments, and the rebuttal to PZ. nowhere did I see Scott claiming such for his posting.

in fact, he rather states it was merely 'intellectual' musings on his part.

I think you are making things up.

PZ addressed scott's argument directly. that is NOT an ad hominem.

I propose to the otherwise:

Adams just outed himself as a feeble hack
Scott Adams has become even more stupid in the intervening months
Scott Adams is still a babbling idiot.
I also know that Scott Adams has a piss-poor sense of humor

---

And as far as
both a strawman and wrong.
is concerned, for it to be a strawman implies that it is some sort of argument to begin with. The latter part of my comment was observation, nothing more, and highly unrelated to any way of continuing the discussion so I'm not sure how you could interpret it at such.

And as for this:
Adams rebuttal did NOT address the criticisms of his argument, but instead created a 'funny' acronym to throw out.

I have yet to see a rebuttal from Scott. The only post he's created any stupid acronyms recently is the one where was discussing his motives in writing his blog, and mentioned PZ in the opening to it. He also called PZ
highly entertaining, in an entirely accidental way
which is far more credit than PZ has ever given him.

that's ad hominem.
No-one denied that~

Perhaps because that premise was taken completely out of context where it was being used as an example of a bad definition?

oh? where? I read both the original post, the comments, and the rebuttal to PZ. nowhere did I see Scott claiming such for his posting.

http://scienceblogs.com/omnibrain/2007/01/the_dilbert_blog_weighs_in_on…

Yes, my definition of intelligence is circular nonsense. That's the point. Any definition of intelligence is nonsense.

Why does everybody interfere with this name calling contest by talking about ID?

so you found that in a totally unrelated blog?

why, that's just so totally useful.

*snark*

one does indeed wonder why he didn't start off his post by signifying such to begin with then?

nor even chose to clarify in any of the comment sections on his own site, or in the response to PZ.

of what value is it to find his concession in the comments section of an unrelated blog?

at least you proved you weren't making this up.

...but it still leaves totally unadressed the function of his initial post, given that he gave it no such context there or in rebuttal.

i could just as easily make the argument that the response you post is mere backpeddaling, once he realized that his initial post was doggerel.

which of course would support the pattern PZ notes in his post.

where can you gather evidence to make a reasonable assumption otherwise, based on his initial post?

Well you make an interesting point, it is really sad that a so called "intellegent" individual like yourself has nothing better to write about that the short comings of a "dimwit."

I also hate to break it to you, but your "fans" listen as religously to

your babble

as the "Dilbonians" do to Scott Adams

I should add that, after reading the post in question, Scott Adams is more sepeculating that arguing, unlike you.

Finally your tone is condesending and rather bombastic. You are also, I am afraid to inform you, extremly rude.

You sir are the dim wit, using facts to break apart a theory, and then proclaming what a dunce Mr. Adams was to come up with the said theoery.

Well I hate to break it to you, but Galileo's theories were thought to be proven wrong by fact at the time, and I doubt you would call him stupid.

To sum up, I was huggly dissapionted by your blog, and I think I would rather read Mr. Adams that waste my time with your trash again.

You are an idiot mascarading as a scientist and an intellect.

Thank you for wasting my time.

P.s. If you need a dictionary try www.dictionary.com

By THe Truth (not verified) on 01 Feb 2007 #permalink

Totally unrelated blog? But PZ linked to it in his third paragraph.

I'll try to go through what you've said, but you spoke somewhat disjointedly in that comment and it's a tad hard for me to follow.

one does indeed wonder why he didn't start off his post by signifying such to begin with then?

Mainly because, as far as I would know
A) it's obvious
B) that would defeat the purpose of attracting the thoughts of people who somehow miss the obviousness. As he said recently, he finds the different ways that different people think about what he's said to be interesting.

The only way I can think of, that someone would think that line of reasoning being obviously faulty because the writer was faulty as opposed to being on purpose, is if they have been exposed to a great deal of people who have highly faulty reasoning.

where can you gather evidence to make a reasonable assumption otherwise, based on his initial post?

Gather evidence to prove that he's not retconning the thoughts behind the post with that comment? Personally I would find that somewhat difficult. However, I don't see gathering evidence that he WAS to be any less so... and I don't recall anyone here having gathered any, just theorised.

PZ addressed the "argument" directly. That's what this part was about:

He's defining intelligence by assuming that the only process that can create intelligence is driven by intelligence; I'd simply rebut him by challenging his assumption, and say that the process that created the being who wrote Moby Dick did not require intelligent guidance (as we already know--the processes that drive evolution do not require active intervention by any intelligent agent), therefore there is no reason to call a prior process like the Big Bang "intelligent". He's also managed to put together an argument for an intelligent designer that requires us to conclude that everything in the universe is intelligent: phosphorylation is intelligent, sperm are intelligent, carrots are intelligent, bacteria are intelligent, interstellar dust is intelligent.

Whatever other gripes he vented, whatever attacks he made on anybody's character, PZ addressed the argument. And, even if he hadn't, we have a whole threadful of comments to read. See, for example, here. It's all been laid out already, by people who aren't necessarily any smarter than anybody else, but who just took the time to think clearly.

306 comments, and counting.

CITOKATE.

Dude. You're serial. You're super serial. I am going to save humanity from man-bear-pig^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^ Scott Adams.

He's really dangerous. He cracks jokes. He muses about things he doesn't understand in order to get a better grip on them. What a bastard!

You are so right! No more reading his comics either, because obviously if he holds views different from mine, that condemns everything he does. I call it the part-whole justification. I am glad you have taken this issue so serially.

Thank you Mr. Whoever you are.

By laughingAtYouN… (not verified) on 01 Feb 2007 #permalink

You know, I don't really think his arguments merit much worth on their own... I read his blog as more of a mental bubble gum for the day-- just something to think about for a while, maybe the implications or support for the idea. You on the other hand, well, I've only bothered to read this one post. I would however pay money to see a dialogue between you and Adams.

Gather evidence to prove that he's not retconning the thoughts behind the post with that comment? Personally I would find that somewhat difficult. However, I don't see gathering evidence that he WAS to be any less so... and I don't recall anyone here having gathered any, just theorised.

and yet that's exactly what PZ did; historical evidence of scott's post content supports exactly his contention, not yours.

so is it really that obvious?

I think not.

perhaps you are projecting?

I'm sorry, but this post is simply much more boring than Scott's. I'll go back to his now and leave you alone.

Do you realise that Scott Adams is a secular humanism manifesto bumping atheist?

so. if dilbert readers attack that's wrong.. But you can sit here and talk about how dumb he is. That's a tad hypocritical isn't it?

By dilbert reader (not verified) on 01 Feb 2007 #permalink

So, if I'm tracking what Adams and the Adaminions are saying, the guy deserves a little slack 'cause all he's doing most of the time is throwing crap up on the wall to see if it sticks.

Fair enough. But shouldn't such a one--and all his wittle ones--be just a tad more inured now when some of the crap turns out not to stick?

This one didn't. No biggie, admit it and move on. Isn't that supposed to be the whole "point"?

Y'all seem to be trying to have it both ways--he's entitled to the leeway to be wrong, but nobody can tell him when he is?

What's up with that?

By Steviepinhead (not verified) on 01 Feb 2007 #permalink

If Dilbert readers want people to stop making fun of Scott Adams for the stupid things he says, then Dilbert readers should ask Scott Adams to stop saying stupid things.

First, PZ you are funny! I read your criticism of Scott's treatise, and your sarcasm at us Dilbertians who can't figure out how to post. Honestly, I laughed at loud at our stupidity.

My retort got to long, so I am starting a thread on my limited knowledge and search for the divine at:
http://steakandwine.blogspot.com/

First, there is life outside the walls of academia. At one time, leading intellectuals taught about the flat earth and the medicinal power of leaches (though in fairness, leaches are still used with considerable success for their blood-thinning properties. But not so good at curing the "vapors") So what? It all is just theory, some better that will stand up to criticism, and other like the flat earthers who will continue to ignore fact.
Some of us "religious suckers" of all stripes wonder if God is a loving/vengeful Being poking His nose into every nook of our human existence, a crapshooter who created this universe-wide game and is sitting bemused watching us idiots trying to assign blame/credit to Him for every nuance of our existence, or merely a disembodied and unintelligent force setting other forces into action. We don't know any of it with absolute certainty. I observe "Life" spreading to places like volcanic ocean vents where a few decades ago, we all "knew" no life could exist. I watch the Mars & Europa probes and Hope for signs of life outside of Earth. But its all "hope" and "belief" and taking the facts that fit, and ignoring those that don't. Everyone does it, from you learne'd professors, sitting in self-affirming serious self-adulation of your superiority, and us, less edu-ma-cated folks wallowing in our own ignorance and stupidity. And the third group, saying all theories have equal merit, and in an infinite universe, everything is possible, unlimited realities, and can't we just get along in love and peace? Since no one stands a chance of convincing each other, please, keep the studious logical search for truth, let those of us keep the search for humor in our truth. Maybe you can teach us some of those annoying facts, and we can make you laugh.

If Dilbert readers want people to stop making fun of Scott Adams for the stupid things he says, then Dilbert readers should ask Scott Adams to stop saying stupid things.

bingo.

There are several comments defending Scott Adams by saying he's an atheist and he's not a creationist.

Sorry, but stupidity is not just the purview of religious fundamentalists. There are a lot of people out there who rejected their traditional religious upbringing only to replace it with equally stupid New Age nonsense. Scott Adams is one of them.

Trying to think of a way to explain to all you right brain addicts with your big words and latin what this is all about, but I think G did it best:

knobs, knobs, knobs, knobs. so far up your own asses you think the sky is brown.

If you don't get it then that says everything. You can't right brain allocate and define funny, it just happens and then improves with practise. I'll bet many of you run around with camera's trying to learn all the functions thinking it will help you take a better photo. I'm going to call what these posts against Scott are missing "organiscism" just to annoy people by making up a word that doesn't mean anything.

BTW - at the scale of the size of the universe there is no discernable difference between the size of a pea and the size of a human brain. Does this mean anything? I dunno and neither my friends do you.

By the way people, New Age with capitols refers to a reasonably well defined set of beliefs, not just to anything at all that wasn't talked about ten years ago. Scott Adams does not in any way espouse those beliefs, or even mention them. Perhaps you too should check your facts??

I think, with perhaps one exception, that yall are missing the point.

A blog like Phary attracts only those of us that are of like mind (outside of the occasionally flame war). Scott has the base to attact an enormous number of hits, based on the belief (or fact) that the corporate world is ludicrous. Does he abuse this "power" to pontificate on subjects that are better left to experts? or does he delude his "followers" or does he actually expouse a "better way"? or.... yada yada yada...

I enjoy his blog. I don't agree with him all (hell, maybe most) of the time on "serious" subjects. In fact, when I feel its time to sleep i can call up any of his posts on free will to hasten the process.

For what it's worth, though, I think he stimulates conversation. Encourages exploration. Whatever category you put him in, he gets at least 250 people per day to discuss his latest post. Negative, postive and somewhere in between. That is the number of posts, I have no idea how many hits but I'm sure its much, much larger.

With such a readership, is he now obliged to provide a role-model type relationship with his readers? Can he only say what is sanctioned and approved by some commitee? If you think that his followers are "sheep" that immediately believe every thing in his blog then you've never read the comments.

If you think about it, the average person that visits his blog is what? You can't find humor in Dilbert unless you've been in a cubicle. Most have an expensive education. I would guess that a majority of his readers are of reasonable intelligence.

When you have that kind of audience, why not stir the pot? You can't preach to a mob that has been pre-programmed against common sense. But if you have an audience that is welcome to debate, who sees the falicy in what most accept as reality, then lets do it! To me, this is the point of the Dilbert Blog, to get people thinking and discussing. That can never a bad thing.

As always I could be wrong.

By RandomURL (not verified) on 01 Feb 2007 #permalink

Because either no Pharyngies liked it or none of them got it the first time, I'm going to rudely repeat myself.

PZ says Adams' argument is circular and silly, and he may or may not have noticed that Adams says the same of it. Now, despite knowing that Adams makes his living as a humorist PZ believes he can get away with 1) claiming to have no sense of humor himself and then 2) telling us that Adams has none. Doodz this kind of argument fails I'm sorry - if you've no sense of humor yourself then your opinions of someone else's are not germane. Just like if an antiscientific creationist were to say something like "Sure I don't git this science stuff myself - but neither does that PZ fellow!" Do we care what the creationist opinion is of PZ's science?

Do we care what PZ's opinion of someone else's humor is if firstly he doesn't get that it is indeed humorous, and then generously admits that that would be because he is humor challenged himself?

It's a personal spat folks - there's no logic or sensible point being made here by PZ I'm sorry!

And if I have to explain this a third time to you knuckleheads ... it will have lost its funniness by then.

I have better things to do with my time than participate in Futile Internet Debate #4059010, you know? Especially since we're all well aware that no-one's opinions are going to be changed. Except for the people who take PZ's analysis of out-of-context text far too to heart a la

I've been enjoying the Dilbert cartoons for many years. I did not realize their creator was a nutcase. After checking all the links, I'll be taking him off my "daily reading" list.

from far, far earlier.

Blake. With regards to your text quoted from PZ's post.

PZ - He's defining intelligence by assuming that the only process that can create intelligence is driven by intelligence

No, he's defining intelligence so that the only thing that can create anything is driven by intelligence.

PZ - I'd simply rebut him by challenging his assumption, and say that the process that created the being who wrote Moby Dick did not require intelligent guidance (as we already know--the processes that drive evolution do not require active intervention by any intelligent agent)

Not intelligence in the sense he isn't using, sure. However, the intelligent ancestors of Melville or whoever it was that wrote Moby Dick did create intelligent Melville. And so forth back the line.

PZ - therefore there is no reason to call a prior process like the Big Bang "intelligent".

Ah, if only he HAD called a process like the Big Bang intelligent. RE: Things have intelligence, not processes/events... and

SAdams - Objection 1: The Big Bang is an event, not a thing.

I think most people realized I was referring to both the universe and what it did. People are the sum of their matter plus their actions. The universe is a sum of its matter plus its actions. To keep things simple and colorful, I'm going to call the universe and everything it does the Big Bang.

He does, however, refer to the big bang the process early in the post, but this is not the part of the post that people are complaining about.

PZ - He's also managed to put together an argument for an intelligent designer that requires us to conclude that everything in the universe is intelligent: phosphorylation [...] is intelligent.

The term 'intelligent designer' he's trying to sway people into thinking Scott is an ID fan with here is completely incorrect because the word intelligence isn't being used as it would normally be in 'intelligent designer'. This is propaganda, and nothing else.

---

Now to Ichtyosaur.

and yet that's exactly what PZ did; historical evidence of scott's post content supports exactly his contention, not yours.

So as far as I understand it, your claim is Scott's three linked posts from PZ's posts are all backpedalling from the former.

Please to be remembering that all we are doing here is looking at whether the posts are backpedalling or not, and not how true or not you believe the posts to be.

Post the first is summarised as follows:
Darwinists and Intelligent Designerers have a tendency to attack parts of the others' argument that are obviously wrong and say that invalidates the entire thing.

Post the second is in two parts. The first consists of:
Intelligent Design should be taught in schools as something that's not a good example of science, and I'm not sure why scientists are so intolerant to this idea.

Followed by a thought experiment wherein if a supreme being of some kind DID exist and started defacing various monuments, and science couldn't be used to discover how they occurred, should the messages be allowed to be brought up in schools since science can't prove how they came to happen.

And the third post which we should all know, summarises to:
If I define intelligence in a manner of my choosing, I can say that the entire universe is intelligent.

Forgive me if I don't see how these posts are stepping back from each other.

Since you haven't provided a connection and neither has PZ that I can see, we'll go with Anton from earlier who described how they were related. I am assuming that his thoughts match your own.

Anton - Adams started by arguing that ID and evolution were equally iffy, and he got ripped a new one. Then he backed off and said, well, sure, ID and creationism are unscientific, and that's exactly why we should teach them! For comparison! And he got ripped a new one, again.

How some people get that impression from Scott's first post is far and away beyond me. He's discussing how people from both sides tend to only attack the things which are easy to disprove. He's not discussing the sides themselves at all.

Then he backed off and said we should teach ID because it's unscientific? He until then hadn't said anything about teaching ID at all. You can't back off from a place you never were.
Furthermore he was proposing that ID be taught as an example of things which are unscientific, not as a comparison to evolution.

Furtherfurthermore, teaching ID in schools as an example of unscience is nothing at all to do with how people on both sides of the fence act, let alone a step back.

And then we come to the latest one.

Anton - Now he's taken another step back--"Well, when I talk about intelligent design, I really mean this idiosyncratic definition of "intelligence" which doesn't have anything to do with creationism or ID, so you can't complain about that, can you?"

How interesting that you equate a post about the definition of intelligence as somehow connected to the quite earlier posts on intelligent design. It's only connected at all because with the bizarre definition used in the end the Universe itself IS treated as an intelligent creator, and as I said earlier because the definition of intelligence being used is different this is a connection in words used only and not in meaning.

Furthermore he did not say anything about retconning this definition of intelligence back to his earlier posts, and furthermore if it WAS retconned back there it would break most of them.

Example:
SAdams - Intelligent Design accepts an old earth and even accepts the fact that species probably evolved. They only question the "how."

The definition of intelligence in the latest post, however, has nothing to do with the how.

The posts aren't connected, except for the first two using the same topic of Intelligent Design. And all of them have the word intelligence involved, even if it's under a different meaning in the last one. The content of each post is nowhere near stepping back from the previous ones.

So no. Historical evidence of Scott's posts exactly DON'T support PZ's contention.

keep the studious logical search for truth, let those of us keep the search for humor in our truth

Thinking that creative thinking and appreciation for beauty isn't major mechanisms behind scientific thought is as clueless as Adams is, or pretends to be, of science and political pseudoscience.

And that is why it isn't funny.

Adams was funny when he still was creative, within his area of expertise. (Cubicles.) Now, not so much. (This isn't relevant here, but finishing of the started critique; his style is old anyway, shows like "The Office" has surpassed him long since.)

That a humorist's admirers becomes agitated by critique - now, that is hilarious. :-)

By Torbjörn Larsson (not verified) on 01 Feb 2007 #permalink

PZ,
Do you play poker? I have to believe that if I had $100 and you had the rest of the money in the world, I could clean you out in 4 or 5 hours. You'd better sit down for this--but you see, some people in the world say and do things to cause other people to react in the way they want you to. You may very well be 100 times smarter than Scott, but he owns you like you were Pavlov's dog.
Sincerely,
Al the Clone

By Al the Clone (not verified) on 01 Feb 2007 #permalink

Oh my, you are just so full of yourself.

Everyone one of you, from the PZ-nauts to the Dilbonians are a bunch of frickin' coneheads.

And aside from that insult, I leave you with this bit of advice:

Never cough into a full ashtray.

Your retoric is very good and I find your text composition quite interestingly written, but I don't really find the content very persuasive.
Not that you need to go into long explainations of the science you are writting about, but putting a little more effort into the logic of your arguments would make your comment seem more like a valid argument than a personal vendetta against someone.

J

Good grief. Take a simple cartesian engineering class and you'll learn one simple thing: I am the center of the universe because I set the origin.

Scott Adams's posts are unrelated. It's like a string of thoughts tossed out there for his amusement.

The most recent version did apply the "I set the definition of my own world." and allowed him to apply the term "intelligent" to everything. According to his definition he is 100% correct. So basically, you must be wrong for operating outside the parameters set by the system (the system being whatever Scott Adam's says it is or implys it to be...because you are reading
his blog).

You are operating without functioning on the basic assumptions he set forth. So your system can't possibly work because you chose to not accept one of his assumptions. So long as the assumptions are stated they are valid...true/correct/particularly useful is of course up for debate, but the post itself stands as a contained system.

Everyone one of you, from the PZ-nauts to the Dilbonians

Nope, no dogma necessary. For example, I'm just an adilbonian.

By Torbjörn Larsson (not verified) on 01 Feb 2007 #permalink

PZ. You really seem to be caught up too much in this, perhaps the good old American people are paying you too much and you obviously have too much time on your hands to be writing all this crap. I'm not a Scott Adams fan, i do look in on his website on occasions but maybe you are lowering your (so called) intelligence a little by writing so much venom into your comments and making yourself look like a dim trailer trash 3rd grader. Thank God i'm English!

By ant savage (not verified) on 01 Feb 2007 #permalink

Do you really think he's a creationist or are you just joking to get a rise out of people?

You seem to be totally blinded by your hate twards 'inteligent design' bashing someone when he shows the slightest sign of consideration for it.
Personally I never considered it as a possibility and also think its bullcrap to allow it in the schools (FYI as a dilbertblog reader I can asure you he never in it nor in his book proposed having it in schools).

Neither do I think Scott Adams believes in the popular definition of Inteligent Design instead creating his own phylosophical definition for it - might be a sign of his superiority complex but given his position can he not feel 'special' like every person including you wants to feel.

Even if I was proven that he indeed is serious about the ID I still wouldnt discredit the rest of his writing which by the very least is good.

You show weakness by your angry approach at the subject. Presents your lack of experience in debating and as mentioned before shows you are blinded by one specific topic that clearly bothers you and makes it hard to sleep at night. I think an entry with less name calling and a more calm approach would get you taken more seriously - then again this is what got you mentioned in the blog, which got you 10 times as much traffic as you normally do, and got you feeling more special then you normally do
so enjoy it

There are two sides to a story, and even if he is a idiot as you claim, you show yourself to be just as much an idiot in that you claim to know so much about Scott Adams and then in the next sentence say you have never read his blog in years...

By Peter Vonheffen (not verified) on 01 Feb 2007 #permalink

Why should one take Adams so seriously? I like reading his blog, not that I am a "fan" I could never reach such levels of passion for anyone, however even if you are not gifted with sense of humour, you must be gifted with some intelligence since you are a scientist, and therefore you can distinguish between being didactic and being entertaining. If I want to investigate about science I will go to the library and find a good book. If I feel like reading some amusing stuff that helps me kill some time at the office I read Adams' blog. That's all. Let's not make such a big deal of it.

"There is a lot in common there: the same supercilious and inflated sense of intellectual self-worth, the same mocking tone, the same knee-jerk rejection of anyone else's expertise, as if the fact that some people know much more in some discipline than he does is a personal insult."

Hmm. Pot. Kettle. Black?

PZ, being as you're a scientist, how about sticking to the facts here and being a bit less angry? If you have a problem with Adams' ideas, whether you have missed the point or not, you have to accept:
- He is funny. His Dilbert cartoons are pasted on walls around the world because people laugh at them.
- He is intelligent. Being a member of Mensa may not require anything other than IQ, but the IQ has to be there. I don't think you could reasonably claim that he is stupid.

As for the post "agreeing" with what Adams has said, take a look at http://www.venganza.org/ and check out the postings. I really don't think anyone believes in the Flying Spaghetti Monster and yet, from the posts, you'd think there were thousands of devout followers. This is another example of a big, shared joke.

Have you never had a random but intelligent conversation? Have you never thrown ideas in the air - however daft - and seen what comes together? Some truly great ideas have arisen through this kind of discourse and other, more widely held existing ideas and theories have been better understood and reinforced. This isn't anti-science, as you seem to think it is, it's just ideas. It's not being presented as fact, it's not being preached, it's not being used to promote some political end, it's just ideas. A scientist should not be afraid of ideas. This is bar-room chat, idle conversation.

I think you may have mistaken Adams for a rogue scientist. He is not and he does not claim to be. You are making yourself look ridiculous and, in some small way, making science look ridiculous, too. He is a well-known humourist and you are a little-known scientist: if you both talk crap, he wins.

Please calm down. Whatever happened to the scientific ideals of emotional detachment? Can't you just counter his arguments as you see them rationally without getting so worked up?

Or just ignore them if you feel they are entirely without merit, whatever.

Note that I am not even saying you're wrong.

To reiterate: Chill.

Interesting quote:

"the same supercilious and inflated sense of intellectual self-worth"

I could apply the very same opinion to this article. Really it would me much better if the tone wasn't just "Scott is an idiot" and concentrated a little bit more on why! His comments about the Big Bang were an example of trying to apply the "Scientific method" to something that ultimately requires a leap of faith either way.

For what it's worth, I am an atheist and have to cope with the notion that either I accept that something came from nothing or the something it came from has always existed. Neither are particularly palatable but I embrace the almost-on-the-tip-of-my-tongue feeling of that without falling into the arms of a god. I heave a sigh every time Scott goes down these lines because he appears to have arrived at his definitions having dismissed any counter-argument you can come up with and then dismisses them when you argue them in a simple and calculated fashion. However, it is this logical and cool tone of his posts that I like, whether I agree with him or not.

And there in lies the difference between the two of you. His posts make me think, yours just makes me angry. Lighten up and perhaps you can come up with a counter gambit that has a little bit more class than: "You idiot".

Scott a Creationist? Yeah, that's a good one! He's the classic intellectual Agnostic!

Adams enjoys playing devil's advocate a lot, but I think his motives in stirring up the bubbling pot of crap that is the Internet go a little deeper than that. He likes to challenge people's assumptions and perceptions.

Of course, that doesn't stop him from adopting a superior tone every now and again, as if his admission that he doesn't know much gives him a Socratic right to lecture on anything.

I still like his blog posts: even if I don't look at the world differently after reading, I still question why I look at it the way I do.

Scott's isn't offering a world view or promoting an agenda. He simply challenges his readers to think, question and perceive the process by which we arrive at conclusions.

You, on the other hand, are a miserable little troll.

I love the way the Dildoids expend so much time and passionate energy- to argue that Adams should not be taken seriously! Irony is dead in Dibertland...

By Steve LaBonne (not verified) on 02 Feb 2007 #permalink

You know, PZ, you're getting worked up WAY more than you should be. If you're right, then in a hundred years, you'll be dust and won't know better. Stop getting annoyed at this, pull out whatever you have up your ass, and RELAX.

Secondly, it's fascinating that everything that supports what you say is "Science" while any scientists who would questin your belief in evolution is not a scientist at all. That means your theory is not falsifiable, failing any test of science. In other words, you are unscientific and fall into the same category of people you throw shit at.

Just my $0.02

Adam's is making a reductio ad absurdum argument against free will. He does not believe the universe is created or intelligent.

By Ray Farrell (not verified) on 02 Feb 2007 #permalink

1. As neither PZ or Scott Adams created this universe, neither should assume they are correct.

2. Scott Adams provokes thoughts so that YOU (the reader) may decide what is right for YOU, irrespective of whether he is correct or not. PZ seems to need validation from being correct, not whether he provokes YOU (the reader) to think for yourself.

3. Adams is definitely funnier & worth reading more than once (even if I think he's thinking is a bit screwy sometimes). Sorry, but I'm unlikely to read THIS blog again.

4. It would be great to watch a debate, purely to see the facial reactions of the participants. I would love to see who loses his temper first (my bet is on PZ).

5. Is this really a scientific debate at all? Come on, this is philosophy and let's be honest - both authors have good points & bad points, but to resort to name-calling and mud-slinging is shameful. Shame on you guys, shame! Then again, this isn't the first time Scott has used this tactic to get a laugh to to provoke a thought so I'm not exactly surprised (or disappointed).

Finally:
"What is faith? Is it to believe that which is evident? No. It is perfectly evident to my mind that there exists a necessary, eternal, supreme, and intelligent being. This is no matter of faith, but of reason." - Voltaire

So, this debate is not new at all ... just the medium is.

Scott Adams is addressing the biggest questions he can find. This is a luxury he can afford as a result of his popularity giving him a good income and extra attention to his blog.

If he is wrong in his results. Or rather, if you disagree, you are free to show where his thinking can be improved. You are not free to be rude or abusive. Calling someone "Stupid" is not an attempt to educate, it is an attempt to feel superior.

I gave up reading Scott Adams' blog shortly after it began when he first tackled Intelligent Design and came off looking like an ignorant tart (and a sore loser when his arguments were skillfully dissected).

He can make a funny comic (even if it gets awfully repetitive and most of the ideas come from others), but his attempt at intellectual humor outside of the Dilbert cartoons are rather pathetic.

It's amazing how long a discussion can be borne from a question that - at its heart - is truly in semantics. Admittedly it's a very complex question, but still...

Most people criticizing him say that calling the Big Bang intelligent is laughable. If you just think about it, this is certainly true. But I thought this was supposed to be SCIENCEblogs.com. This would mean people pick apart what he said and prove how he's wrong.

So essentially:
Big Bang = Intelligence is wrong because... ?
I mean obviously you need to define both the Big Bang and Intelligence. To me it seems he chose the Big Bang mainly because it is so different from what we'd consider intelligent. Yet defining intelligence is far from easy, and this is what I personally felt Adams was going at. Hell, the man has been saying there's no free will, which I'm pretty sure isn't exactly what the bible says (or the whole heaven/hell thing seems bit harsh if we have no true say in the matter anyway).

Or does someone here claim intelligence is clear cut and well defined? Because that would truly be a fantastic example of someone NOT having done their homework. If Adams is stupid and wrong for pointing out the several problems with the common definition of intelligence (which not all scientists share, but I bet practically all creationists do)... I dunno.

Anyway, I would have expected creationists to be more riled up about such stuff than scientists. I guess I could be considered a scientist (Master of Science, but I work in management these days), but I would have rather agreed with him that the term "intelligence" is highly suspect. I could have even pointed him to a couple of hundred books on the topic, that essentially say - with way more scientific fact than him - the same thing.

I guess the scientist running this blog has a different approach. Though of course, he has quite a few readers, which of course wouldn't have anything to do with making controversial and aggressive posts about famous people. I'm sure that's just me being overly cynical.

I love PHd's, so sure that their brand of science is the correct one. Said not as a Scott Adams fan, but one you consistantly works in the University System as a consultant.

I do not know you, nor do I agree or disagree weith your opnions of science. What I do say is there are just as many scientists with better degrees from better Universities that would disagree with you. Now with another PHd you make havbe a spirited discussion, but to look down upon on who does not suscribe to your version of science is just plain stupid.

I do not know how long you have been in your field, but as as Associate Professor it has not been very long. If you have been in the field longer than 7 years why are you not tenured? Is your researh that weak? Or perhaps you found that you would like to speak publicly and receive the stipends that come with talking about research ratrher than doing it. You sir are a Model American.

Hmmm... I see there seems to be a debate (euphemism for argument) going on between Scott and PZ.

I'm a "newbie" to these blogs (don't usually have time to spend on them except when I have a couple of days off work)...

One thing that has struck me about Evolutionists, they love to say such personal things about those who beleive in Creation. It is such a wonderful testimony to their characters... (tsk tsk tsk...)

I wonder if they realise that Evolutionism is really "a religion" - because of its "belief" statements. Further, have any of them studied the history of the chaps who proposed these "theories"; and their motives...
They were not pure science - unfortunately... :(

By DavidPetros (not verified) on 02 Feb 2007 #permalink

From the longest post on this thread: I have better things to do with my time than participate in Futile Internet Debate #4059010, you know?

Apparently not. And a couple of days later, PZ's poke at Scott Adams is still the hottest topic on Science Blogs.

Sheesh.

Said not as a Scott Adams fan, but one you consistantly works in the University System as a consultant.

Ah, an illiterate who despises knowledge. How very original. [yawn]

By Steve LaBonne (not verified) on 02 Feb 2007 #permalink

Hm... I see that lots of people got flamed around here. Biased reading usually has that effect. It's ok, it happens all the time. I actually read his post differently: first, I think he densely builds an alleged insightful creationist explanation for the Universe, and then, with that tiny little end phrase "I don't see how an atheist can think otherwise" (that most people here probably never bother to read because they were so flamed already) he simply tears the whole thing apart. Am I alone? (Check it out again: http://dilbertblog.typepad.com/the_dilbert_blog/2007/01/intelligence.ht….)

And a couple of days later, PZ's poke at Scott Adams is still the hottest topic on Science Blogs.

Yes, and I love how now they're getting all irate at how much time and effort I spend obsessing over their pal, Scott Adams. Never mind that I wrote one post on his inanity 3 days ago, and that the Dilbonians seem to be the ones obsessed with howling their disagreement here.I also like how many of his supporters are outraged that I would think Adams was advocating creationism, who at the same time dribble out anti-science and anti-evolution sentiments. Go ahead, shoot yourselves in the foot, people -- I find it so intimidating.Unfortunately, one dismaying thing is how illiterate many of the Dilbonians are. It's a little embarrassing. Even the creationists who comment here now and then tend to be more competent at the English language than some of this horde.

I go to Scott Adams for spiritual and scientific knowledge like I go to George Bush for advise on how to win a war. Lots of people are arguing and tossing out ideas on his blog (myself included) just for the sake of doing so (some would call it "having fun" and it sounds like you should try it sometime -- having fun, that is). We are not forming opinions based on on-line banter.

By Christine B. (not verified) on 02 Feb 2007 #permalink

Pharyngula - Evolution, development, and random biological ejaculations from a godless liberal

PZ - you seem to be calling yourself a wanker... ?

I find it amazing how those who are liberals don't have the liberty to allow others to have a difefering viewpoint :(

By DavidPetros (not verified) on 02 Feb 2007 #permalink

Well said Christine B - PZ should "get a life" !

By DavidPetros (not verified) on 02 Feb 2007 #permalink

And you DON'T have a horde of "pea-brained locusts" fans? Give me a break!

By Steve Miller (not verified) on 02 Feb 2007 #permalink

I can't decide which is more amusing - reading the flame wars that erupt between the reglious/athetist and free-will-loving/free-will-questioning sects on the Dilbert Blog, or reading the flame war erupting between Dilbert blog fans and PZ fans.

It is sort of interesting, though, to see groups of people previously at each other's throats suddenly uniting under their generals. It sort of feels like a microcosmic example of international politics?

How long will it take for Godwin's Law to take effect do you think? And have I broken Godwin's Law by bringing it up?

By Paranoid Individual (not verified) on 02 Feb 2007 #permalink

Different strokes for different folks. What is funny to me might not be funny to you. Does that make him dumb? Maybe...does that make you dumb? Maybe...

People who take his word literally are looking for something to believe in...maybe not. And they have the right to.

People who read it for pleasure and humour, identify with his and might not with yours, or your lack thereof. All you have proven (to me only, because I have consciously decided so) is that you (dis)like Scot Adams because he allows you to vent your frustration here and get your community to comment. And Scot's community for that matter. And get yours to comment on his blog. Which is awesome. And intelligent, or very stupid. And circular...Isn't that how it all started?

Scott Adams is brillant.
I will only use the word brillant for my argument.

Who's Godwin? Yes, I am in no professional capacity able to comment on any of this. But I find it amuzing, and it's Friday, and I can. Isn't that intelligence? Being able to recognize your lack of intelligence? In certain aspects of life, or in general? Isn't naivety intelligent? Or intelligence naive? It's circular nonetheless.

"Unfortunately, one dismaying thing is how illiterate many of the Dilbonians are."

Is that a split infinitive I spy?

You should pick on people's sentiment, not their literacy skills. There are any number of reasons why people's English may be less than perfect. Implying that these people are stupid is basically name calling, which is rather pathetic.

Show some class.

Without regard to any of your other opinions, I fail to see how a person who freely admits a lack of sense of humor thinks he can judge that of someone else. A sense of humor cannot be judged intellectually, it can only be experienced. That experience is greatly diminished without the ability to not only perceive but to understand and enjoy humor.

Did you even read anything that Scott wrote? If you had any sense to actually read something and take the point of view of the writer, you might comprehend a few of the things that he said. Instead, all I see is you taking excerpts from his posts and completely twisting his words around.

As far as I can tell, it seems that your entire agenda is to support evolution to the letter without trying to understand the idea itself. Your lack of tolerance to philosophies that are minutely different from your own only proves to display your ignorance on your own account.

I believe in evolution myself. But, that does not mean that I believe it to the letter or that I rule out completely the possibility of creationism and evolution existing within the same universe. Everything is made of energy and in that, it can be said that the universe shares a single "consciousness". Therefore, it is entirely
possible that the universe's "consciousness" is the reason we were able to evolve into intelligent life. However, from what I have read of your posts, it is difficult to tell whether you can be classified under that category.

Perhaps, you should develop some tolerance to other's ideas. Without the sharing of ideas like that, we would have been stuck in the dark ages for much longer than we were. I would hate to know that even though we have come this far, there are people like you swaying others to be as close minded as most "creationists". Or better yet, before you begin to criticize someone for their writings, perhaps you should take the time to do some REAL research and actually find out the intentions of the writer.

For the other readers, I emplore you to read some of Scott Adams' writings in full before casting your judgement upon them or the writer.

I read the Dilbert Blog on a daily basis. I don't agree with all of them but about 30-50% are amusing on some level and thats worth the price of admission.

This post seemed to fail in its logical conclusions so I didn't pay it much attention. I believe that anyone who posts detailed opinions on a daily basis will stumble/fail/incite occasionally and that is the nature of the beast when you put yourself out there without the controls of publishing and editing.

There seems to be a history between the two of you and your attack seems a little harsh. Don't you think you're taking the subject a little too seriously?

Ow. The stupid it burns.

This post seemed to fail in its logical conclusions so I didn't pay it much attention.

And that's why you're here bitching about it? Hilarious.

By Steve LaBonne (not verified) on 02 Feb 2007 #permalink

I love how this argument about Intelligent Design makes most of you guys predictable like a coin sorting machine. ;-)

Indeed- self-satisfied ignorance has a predictably irritating effect on well-informed people. What a surprise.

By Steve LaBonne (not verified) on 02 Feb 2007 #permalink

I was just wondering... Has any scientist ever seen a new species spring from an old species? That is the main aspect of evolution that creationists can't accept. All the parts about natural selection of traits within a species are accepted because they do not require species change. Please, someone, provide an example of a child who cannot mate with his co-speciesists, i.e., a species change. I'm sure it has happened, but no one has yet ever seen it happen. If I am wrong, point me to the book describing it.

By Carl Rabbin (not verified) on 02 Feb 2007 #permalink

Type "metamorphosis evolution" into the search box. Press return. You'll get about 1500 papers on various aspects of the phenomenon.

Your personal ignorance is not an excuse.

Big whoop. More theories, more typical, faith-based conjecture...you can't prove it because you can't reproduce it, and you can't watch it occur in nature. You, and those oh so glorious papers, have no proof. What you have is circumstantial "evidence" that may or may not point you in a certain direction.

Your personal "assholeness" is hardly an excuse. Your intransigence is no different than that of a bible-thumper. Two sides of the same coin... and may the coming revolution/plague/natural disaster claim you both.

So you've read those 1500 papers, asshole? I mean, you wouldn't shoot off your mouth without having any idea what you're talking about, would you?

By Steve LaBonne (not verified) on 02 Feb 2007 #permalink

The Dildoids and their idol are perfect examples of the disgusting intellectual laziness, smug ignorance, and contempt for knowledge that characterize a large majority of the American public today. Which is why this country is in the process of exemplifying the old adage, "shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generation", on a grand scale.

By Steve LaBonne (not verified) on 02 Feb 2007 #permalink

Wow. I am amazed at how you really don't understand not only the things you read, but write. I love how you can't wrap your head around what Scott says, become upset, and then rant about how upset you are at your own misunderstanding! Kudos SFB! Cracker Jack called and they want their degrees back.

I spent a while debating (in the loosest sense) on here the last time this came up. I see nothing much has changed - it's still basically a few people yelling about some misinterpretations and unwarranted assumptions. But of course they can't possibly have misinterpreted anything or made assumptions because, well, I guess they're just too smart to ever be wrong.

Well, I'm not even going to begin to start debating this after last time. Suffice to say, guys, you're not as smart as you think you are and you're doing a damn good job of illustrating that. My part of the scientific community over here thanks you for the laughs though.

here, Here, here. Or read Coyne and Orr's Speciation.

Creationists are so pathetically ignorant.

Please. Big deal. Show me a fish that becomes a mammal.

One quote from one of your links:

In several Canadian lakes, which originated in the last 10,000 years following the last ice age, stickleback fish have diversified into separate species for shallow and deep water (Schilthuizen 2001, 146-151).

Wow. Deep water and shallow water. Fascinating. Come talk to me when one "species" figures out that it would be better to have wings and fly.

Also in that paper...a mosquito in London's underground. Equally irrelevant. See...it's STILL A MOSQUITO. It didn't evolve into a "higher" life form.

I don't dispute the fact that a species can split into several variant types...but the fact is all the birds are still birds, all the fish are still fish, etc.

Species change all the time, in adaptation to their environment. Certainly nothing you or your type have ever said or written has convinced me that everything evolved from simple one-celled life forms.

By the way, in your classes, do you offer some sort of evolutionist-eucharist with that doctrine?

So you've read those 1500 papers, asshole? I mean, you wouldn't shoot off your mouth without having any idea what you're talking about, would you?

Nope. I haven't. You caught me. So, since you obviously have read all 1500 papers, perhaps you can come down from your own personal cloud and show me one of them that offers PROOF...not hypothesis. Just one. I mean, it must exist, or you wouldn't shoot off your mouth without having any idea what you're talking about, would you?

The slightly more rational faction among the Dildoids, who claim that Adams is jes' funnin' and one should take no nevermind, might want to take note of the typical-dimwit-creationist company they find themselves in. It reallt ought to worry them. But I'm sure it won't.

By Steve LaBonne (not verified) on 02 Feb 2007 #permalink

Please. Go play with your friends at Uncommon Descent.

the fact is all the birds are still birds, all the fish are still fish, etc

In much the same way as humans are still Eukaryotes.

Please. Go play with your friends at Uncommon Descent.

Snort. Typical. If I find your own personal belief system flawed, you immediately assume I believe in Intelligent Design. I don't. In fact, I would find myself in the atheist camp if it weren't populated with the same sort of mouth breathers you find in the hardcore religious one.

Like I said, both sides make me ill. But usually one finds that people like you are more mean spirited, condescending, and foolish.

If you actually look at those papers, most are primary sources: that means they describe observations and experiments done directly by the authors. About 200 are reviews, which summarize and integrate ideas from multiple sources.

The first jawed fish are from the Silurian, over 400 million years ago. The first mammal-like reptiles are from the Permian, about 300 million years ago (and the first mammals are from about 200 million years ago). You are asking for a contemporary recapitulation within a few observable generations of a process that required hundreds of millions of years. We can show you the transitional fossils, but your brain is so rigid and ignorant that you probably deny them, too.

I don't think he needs to go to the Uncommon Descent blog, Steve. He apparently fits right in at the Dilbert blog.

In much the same way as humans are still Eukaryotes

You must slay them in the lab, since I can only assume that this was some scientist's attempt at humour.

Otherwise, what is your point?

In fact, I would find myself in the atheist camp if it weren't populated with the same sort of mouth breathers you find in the hardcore religious one

One might think the truth of a position more important than those who share it.

No intelligent design either, huh? So, Steve, what's your working model for the diversity of life on Earth? Or do you just not have one and for some reason think that entitles you to feel smug and superior towards the people who do have one? No wonder you're such a fan of Scott Adams, he seems to exemplify that sort of thinking.

Otherwise, what is your point?

The point is that evolution does not predict that, say, 'birds' will give rise to anything other than 'birds.' The descendants of extant birds will be different types of bird, but they will remain birds, because that's how evolution works. It's a branching process, not a ladder.

You are asking for a contemporary recapitulation within a few observable generations of a process that required hundreds of millions of years. We can show you the transitional fossils, but your brain is so rigid and ignorant that you probably deny them, too.

No, I think I am rather open-minded. If you can show me some transitional fossils that show, without conjecture, that there was a particular species of fish that transformed into a mammal or bird, then do so. Would these transitional fossils offer that level of clarity, or would it more be in the lines of having to first believe in some sort of abstract hypothesis, and then fit the fossil into that belief?

No intelligent design either, huh? So, Steve, what's your working model for the diversity of life on Earth? Or do you just not have one and for some reason think that entitles you to feel smug and superior towards the people who do have one? No wonder you're such a fan of Scott Adams, he seems to exemplify that sort of thinking.

Smug and superior? I suppose I do feel that way. I guess, in that, we have something in common.

Do I have a theory? Nope. Are you saying I have to have an unfounded belief before I can find someone else's irrational or, in the case of evolutionary theory, woefully inadequate and incomplete?

The point is that evolution does not predict that, say, 'birds' will give rise to anything other than 'birds.' The descendants of extant birds will be different types of bird, but they will remain birds, because that's how evolution works. It's a branching process, not a ladder.

If that is the extent of evolutionary theory, then sign me up. But Prof. Myers mentioned 'transitional fossils' which, I can only assume, he was offering as proof of a transitional stage between species (fish to mammals, for instance). Have I misinterpreted his comments, yours, or both combined?

You still aren't getting it.

Hundreds of millions of years.

There isn't one species that you'd call a fish, and the next species that you'd call a mammal. There are species that are fishlike, and there are species that are fish-like with similarities to amphibians (like Tiktaalik, then amphibians with fishlike affinities, then amphibians looking rather reptilian, and reptiles that have mammal-like characters, then something that is clearly a very primitive mammal.

Read this. You are asking foolish questions about what is among the best documented transitions in the fossil record. You aren't looking open-minded at all -- you've made up your mind on the basis of truly abysmal ignorance.

"Smug and superior? I suppose I do feel that way. I guess, in that, we have something in common."

The crucial difference is that we have evidence to back it up.

"woefully inadequate and incomplete?"

You only say that because you're too lazy to read up on it. The fact that the "proof" of evolution that you need is a fish changing into a bird speaks volumes about not only how little you understand evolution, but how little mental effort you're willing to expend in order to understand it.

Thank you. Was that so hard? And you almost did it without being all insulting. Congratulations. You are evolving.

In that link, there is an interesting quote:

There's a third, unexpected reason that transitions seem so little known. It's that even when they are found, they're not popularized. The only times a transitional fossil is noticed much is if it connects two noticably different groups (such as the "walking whale" fossil reported in 1993), or if illustrates something about the tempo and mode of evolution (such as Gingerich's work). Most transitional fossils are only mentioned in the primary literature, often buried in incredibly dense and tedious "skull & bones" papers utterly inaccessible to the general public. Later references to those papers usually collapse the known species-to-species sequences to the genus or family level. The two major college-level textbooks of vertebrate paleontology (Carroll 1988, and Colbert & Morales 1991) often don't even describe anything below the family level! And finally, many of the species-to-species transitions were described too recently to have made it into the books yet.

So, is it any wonder that people like me, members of the general public, are unaware of these findings? Now, is my "ignorance" abysmal or simply a product of inaccessible information (inaccessible in the sense that it is dry and "...often buried in incredibly dense and tedious "skull & bones" papers utterly inaccessible to the general public."

If that is the extent of evolutionary theory, then sign me up. But Prof. Myers mentioned 'transitional fossils' which, I can only assume, he was offering as proof of a transitional stage between species (fish to mammals, for instance). Have I misinterpreted his comments, yours, or both combined?

Mine, I believe. Each species belongs to many different groups; for example, we are hominids, apes, mammals, animals, eukaryotes etc. etc.
And each of those groups contains multiple species. Each group lies completely within the higher groups; that is, there are no apes which are not also mammals, animals and eukaryotes. And when the first hominid species formed, it didn't cease being an ape. It retained its evolutionary heritage.

So, dinosaurs -> birds is OK, because birds are just a special kind of dinosaur. Birds -> not birds, on the other hand, doesn't happen.

Good grief. Most of us aren't even scientists and we understand how evolution works.
We haven't read papers either, but understanding evolution doesn't require that.

You were quite comfortable coming here where it is understood and important to the people here and act as if we're the jerks.

So, dinosaurs -> birds is OK, because birds are just a special kind of dinosaur. Birds -> not birds, on the other hand, doesn't happen.

But, again I might be misinterpreting something, but Prof Myers sent me a link to http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-transitional.html which discusses exactly that...fish to amphibians to reptiles to mammals.

Ignorance is often forgivable. What's bothersome to biologists is people challenging them from that ignorance. You wouldn't snipe at a particle physicist just because you've never actually seen a quark, would you?

Aaron Hawkins says:

For the other readers, I emplore you to read some of Scott Adams' writings in full before casting your judgement upon them or the writer.

There is some justice in this (and certainly, anyone advocating rational judgments gets a plus in my book). I don't think that a body of reasonable writing can magically make a bad essay good. Consider, for example, the case of Stephen J. Gould: a lucid writer who produced an astonishing quantity of prose, some of it truly inspirational. Nevertheless, this hefty corpus of quality work doesn't make him above criticism. I don't have any trouble when Russell Blackford says, "Gould remains incapable of writing a thoroughly bad book, but he's gone close to doing so with his 1999 effort, Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life."

The same goes for any other prominent figure. I don't think Carl Sagan handled the Velikovsky affair very well, and my admiration for Cosmos, Pale Blue Dot and The Demon-Haunted World doesn't change that. I find James Burke's Connections insightful and prescient, and I think Connections 2 is rollicking fun, but that doesn't mean I have to embrace the epistemological relativism of The Day the Universe Changed's final episode. And so on.

Back in the day, I read a lot of Scott Adams. In addition to following Dilbert in the daily paper, I read The Dilbert Principle, followed by The Dilbert Future, Dogbert's Management Handbook and The Joy of Work. So, I speak with some supporting data when I say that Adams has been a moderately incisive cynic about office politics and the technology industry, while his philosophy has always been juvenile and his speculations about science muddled.

I think this fracas raising a fascinating question:
When did ignorance become a sense of humor?

The point is that such large changes don't happen in one step. It takes millions of generations to get from one order of creature to another (in simple terms). And remember also that when we speak of "birds" and "fish", we're going off of human definitions and delineations that come mostly from observations of animal life in the present day. Life in evolutionary time is much more of a smooth continuum. Would you call Archaeopteryx a bird because it has feathers and proto-wings, or a dinosaur because it's mostly covered with scales and has a mouth with teeth? It's not as clear cut as "dinosaur to bird".

Christ in tights, Steve! PZ must spend several hours every day hauling this kind of information out of the technical literature and making it digestible and palatable for the layman. And now he's giving you your own personal spoon-feeding (big aah! here comes the aeroplane!), and you're still whining, "But I'm only ignorant because I don't know anything!".

I agree that the ha-ha-knowing-stuff-is-for-nerds culture that keeps this knowledge out of the public eye is a terrible thing. But if you want to complain to someone about it, might I suggest Scott Adams?

Good grief. Most of us aren't even scientists and we understand how evolution works.
We haven't read papers either, but understanding evolution doesn't require that.

You were quite comfortable coming here where it is understood and important to the people here and act as if we're the jerks.

But you are jerks. Re-read your own insulting and condescending posts before my initial one. I was only responding in like fashion. I assumed that this was how ideas were exchanged around here...especially given the tone of this blog.

Except for my initial dig on MartinM's post on eukaryotes, he and I have exchanged questions (on my part) and answers or rather clarification of answers (on his part) in a seemingly friendly fashion. That's how it should be done.

Regardless of what you think you know about evolution, I can easily guarantee it is incomplete and inaccurate. That is, after all, the very nature of this particular branch of scientific research.

In my attempts to research this in the past, I have met with exactly what most people will meet with...too many questions with either no answers, or answers so inaccessible that they just confuse the issue. Throw condescension and a holier-than-thou attitude into the mix by your kind, and perhaps you can see why some of us "ignorant" people would rather laugh in the faces of you "scientifiky-types" and steal your lunch money.

Way up there, Gavin wrote:

"Unfortunately, one dismaying thing is how illiterate many of the Dilbonians are." [quoting PZ]

Is that a split infinitive I spy?

Um, where? In PZ's sentence, dismaying is a participle used as an adjective, and are is the verb to be conjugated in the third-person plural. Besides, splitting an infinitive is not and never was a real grammar problem. English is not Latin.

Christ in tights, Steve! PZ must spend several hours every day hauling this kind of information out of the technical literature and making it digestible and palatable for the layman. And now he's giving you your own personal spoon-feeding (big aah! here comes the aeroplane!), and you're still whining, "But I'm only ignorant because I don't know anything!".

I agree that the ha-ha-knowing-stuff-is-for-nerds culture that keeps this knowledge out of the public eye is a terrible thing. But if you want to complain to someone about it, might I suggest Scott Adams?

Really. Is that what he was doing? I thought he was insulting someone whose opinions he disagreed with. Perhaps I misread his blog entry.

And if I complained to Scott Adams, what would that get me? He draws a comic strip. How does that translate into debating his opinion on anything?

I simply wasn't aware that there was finally some accessible literature, still woefully inadequate but it's a start.

And as for him spoon-feeding me? Please...of flinging slop into my face like I was some beggar on the streets who dared soiled his personal space is "spoon-feeding", I hope to hell you never have kids.

Wow. Just wow.

I'm sorry, but your ignorance was blaringly obvious and quite typical, we hear it from IDers and Creationists all the time. Why would we assume you were any different?

Adams fans were coming here to defend some stupid shit he said... by spouting more inane and irrelevant crap. Gee, wonder why we jumped all over them.

So, is it any wonder that people like me, members of the general public, are unaware of these findings? Now, is my "ignorance" abysmal or simply a product of inaccessible information (inaccessible in the sense that it is dry and "...often buried in incredibly dense and tedious "skull & bones" papers utterly inaccessible to the general public."

Your ignorance is abysmal. It's not because you don't know something; that's perfectly OK, and there are lots of things I don't know, too. Your foolishness resides in not knowing something and then declaring that you are informed enough to be able to weigh in against evolution. I don't know Chinese, and if someone waves a Chinese newspaper in my face, I'll simply say I don't read the language -- I won't start making stuff up about the content of the articles.Also, a lot of this information is in rather esoteric form in journal articles. However, much of it has also been translated into the popular press: National Geographic has had articles on fossil tetrapods, and I've already recommended Zimmer's excellent At the Water's Edge. It's not hard to find, if you look. And if you don't even look, you look like an idiot when you dismiss it.

I said:

I think this fracas raising a fascinating question:
When did ignorance become a sense of humor?

and ironically my own joke was destroyed by my own apparent grammatical ignorance. I intended:

I think this fracas raises a fascinating question:
When did ignorance become a sense of humor?

Sigh...I never said I knew anything. I did, however, make the obviously big mistake of questioning the validity of some of your own scientific beliefs...which in one sense could be construed as the same as claiming I know something. But if you re-read my posts, if you are so inclined, they were mostly about the tone of your initial blog entry, and the tone of the subsequent posts of your "believers".

I do have questions, way more than I have answers on any topic, however, and while those links and books you provide are some help, I still don't see how anyone can say that some of the literature is not still simple conjecture (educated conjecture, yes, but conjecture nonetheless).

Steve-

I'm late coming here and frankly the little I've read of you above is not impressive. Can you please list what you think is conjecture about a theory that has been used successfully for quite awhile now?

Please just 2-3 items. It seems to me your willfully ignoring huge swathes of information and focusing perhaps on a few areas that may be less flushed out. Even a casual reading of this website and some popular literature would inform you enough not to be making some of the statements you are producing here.

Adams started by arguing that ID and evolution were equally iffy, and he got ripped a new one. Then he backed off and said, well, sure, ID and creationism are unscientific, and that's exactly why we should teach them! For comparison! And he got ripped a new one, again.

How some people get that impression from Scott's first post is far and away beyond me. He's discussing how people from both sides tend to only attack the things which are easy to disprove. He's not discussing the sides themselves at all.

You don't think "For example, Darwinists often argue that Intelligent Design can't be true because we know the earth is over 10,000 years old. That would be a great argument, supported by every relevant branch of science, except that it has nothing to do with Intelligent Design."

or

"Intelligent Design accepts an old earth and even accepts the fact that species probably evolved. They only question the "how.""

or

"If you add to that the outright errors (acknowledged by both sides), the history of fossil frauds, the subjectivity of classifying fossils, and the fact that all of the human-like fossils ever found can fit inside a small box, you have lots of easy targets for the opponents."

have anything to do with the content of ID and evolutionary theory?

Then he backed off and said we should teach ID because it's unscientific? He until then hadn't said anything about teaching ID at all. You can't back off from a place you never were.

He backed off from his position on ID's scientific validity, then came back with a different argument on why ID should still be taught about and discussed (and why scientists were fighting this.)

Furthermore he was proposing that ID be taught as an example of things which are unscientific, not as a comparison to evolution.

"Kids, astronomy is science and astrology isn't. Here are some more examples of things that aren't science..."

That's comparison.

Furtherfurthermore, teaching ID in schools as an example of unscience is nothing at all to do with how people on both sides of the fence act, let alone a step back.

Each of his posts is more than one sentence long, and contains multiple ideas and arguments.

Now he's taken another step back--"Well, when I talk about intelligent design, I really mean this idiosyncratic definition of "intelligence" which doesn't have anything to do with creationism or ID, so you can't complain about that, can you?"

How interesting that you equate a post about the definition of intelligence as somehow connected to the quite earlier posts on intelligent design.

Yes, isn't it odd? Just because he winds up with "Therefore, we are created by an intelligent entity," I somehow connect that to intelligent design. Strange.

Furthermore he did not say anything about retconning this definition of intelligence back to his earlier posts, and furthermore if it WAS retconned back there it would break most of them.

Which rather amply explains why he didn't say anything about retconning it.

By Anton Mates (not verified) on 02 Feb 2007 #permalink

I don't take sides with Scott on every subject, but one thing I think we would agree on is this, you are a fucking idiot.

You're a tool. Wasn't that productive?

Hmmm..... devil's advocate is an unpopular position. Given that I will take it anyways.

I am seeing a crime on this as well the mentality taken by so many posters here including the original. Thought, even shallow thought, taken for its own ends in the exercise of looking at something from different angles is worthwhile. Myself I am a critical person, I am an agnostic/athiest depending on your idea of the definition, I like to research any claims made, and I love dynamic thought and comprehensive discussion.
Take a page from Penn and Teller with Bullshit,if you are being bias, admit it, enjoy it, don't be a dick about it, and have some sympathy not just arrogance.
Creationism is a weak argument but it is their side, defeat the claims don't dismiss the people who believe them.

People get taken in by attractive ideas because they don't think and they are easy. Reacting with spite, to people who get sucked into these ideas doesn't make you smarter than them it makes you an asshole. Enlighten and educate, don't just judge and sit feeling special because you didn't fall for a trick. Help others get them thinking.

As trivial as some of the nonsense Scott Adams brings up are, he trys to get people to think. That is more than this self important drudge accomplishes.

Take it easy, guys!

I enjoyed your blog up until this post. Stop being such a baby.

WOW!! PZ it seems that you and the people who read this blog take yourselves waaaaaay to seriously. Self-important, Humorless, Auto-fellating, Ass Hat. I had to read for myself. So far from what I have read it seems a good description.

I find it interesting the way we each choose to make sense out of life as we know it. The way our brains have to make sense and order what they see, feel, hear, smell, touch, or perceive to be real.

I'll have to follow your blog more to really decide what I think. But then, I really don't care and what you say or do really doesn't matter.

It continues to fascinate me that all these people who "don't care" still take the trouble to come here and comment. Really, you guys are as bad at lying as you are at thinking and writing.

By Steve LaBonne (not verified) on 02 Feb 2007 #permalink

Radek makes a valid point; we do need to take it easy, myself included. I'm a fairly regular reader of Scott's blog, and had to come take a look at the "opposition". The blog's interpretation of Scott's own musings seemed to me a bit off, to say the least. Still, I think we should focus on the goal that we all seem to share: the discussion of ideas, and stop making so many personal attacks. I'm willing to try it.

Steve LaBonne: Ah, an illiterate who despises knowledge. How very original. [yawn]

I see you are from this statement, what I said was there is much knowledge on both sides, what makes one better than another or to be more concise, what makes you better than me?

You obvious inferiorty complex shows rather well, study hard at another inferior college with a PHd you could not defend by yourself? I write doctorates for people like you all day long, and they are stupid enough to pay me for it. Someday I will take that money and hire a monkey to take dictation since my typing sucks so bad.

We can see that. But I don't think the problem is limtied to typing by any means...

By Steve LaBonne (not verified) on 02 Feb 2007 #permalink

Please just 2-3 items. It seems to me your willfully ignoring huge swathes of information and focusing perhaps on a few areas that may be less flushed out. Even a casual reading of this website and some popular literature would inform you enough not to be making some of the statements you are producing here.

Caterpillar to butterfly...evolutionary genesis?

To see where I started on this "idea" that evolution may NOT explain everything I would like to see explained, read:

http://www.fredoneverything.net/EvolutionMonster.shtml

Later on he wrote another article: http://www.fredoneverything.net/EvolutionPhiladelphia.shtml which basically discussed the comments to his original one.

What is funny is that the reactions he mentions he got from the evolutionists exactly describe the reactions here.

I especially like Fred's assertion that evolutionary theory often times relies on plausibility as opposed to evidence.

Frankly, I have some more reading to do, and I am sure more questions. Obviously, you all have the answers so I will acquiesce to you on the matter.

Scotts fans aren't here for a discussion. They were sicked here by Scott. Blah blah blah. And more often then not they sound like whiney little teenagers.

RJ: smug, aggressive, smartass displays of abysmal ignorance are a bad thing and an important symptom of what has gone so badly wrong in this country. The day I stop caring about that is the day I'm ready for the morgue.

By Steve LaBonne (not verified) on 02 Feb 2007 #permalink

And it's thought that butterflies evolved from moths.

Evloving from a caterpillar to a butterfly makes no sense.

Do tadpoles evolve from eggs?

A caterpillar is just a stage in the development of the butterfly.

Steve LaBonne,
I'm with you there. Many, if not most Americans (as well, i'm sure, people all over the world) have trouble restraining their "smug, aggressive, smartass displays of abysmal ignorance." Tolerance is an under-rated virtue. Something I think we can all work at. As for you Steve_C, I heartily take offense to your claim that "more often than not, [Scott fans] sound like whiney little teenagers." I'm eighteen.

So you are a teenager... perhaps not whiney.

If you read posts above such as Marina's you'll see what I mean.

Caterpillar to butterfly...evolutionary genesis

This is a rather silly query and frankly I can see why you are so confused. Caterpillars do not evolve from butterflys but rather grow from them. This is simple development question more analagous to how you grow from a fetus.

This was rather simply put on talkorigins:
'Butterflies don't evolve from caterpillars; butterflies develop from caterpillars. How it happens is a problem in developmental biology, not evolutionary biology. It is akin to the problem of how adult humans develop from embryos. It happens every day, so it obviously is not a theoretical difficulty.

Fruit flies go through the same developmental stages as caterpillars and butterflies, and the research on fruit fly genetics is very extensive. Anyone who is interested in how butterflies develop is advised to look in that research'

you can learn more here:

http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB311_1.html

Scott adams has only ever indulged his own curiosity - all of his questions and insights have an air of "spur of the moment" about them and should be taken as such. His motivations and our speculation about his intelligence aside, his blog should be read with only the idea that you are reading the musings of a person we can, at least in part, identify with. This is the internet, children - don't take it all so seriously. Complain all you like about how his theories are full of holes - so are mine and so are yours, and he, at least, claims no level of accuracy

A caterpillar is just a stage in the development of the butterfly.

According to what empirical evidence? You make that assertion as if you were basing it on...dare I say it...faith. Since there are no fossilized caterpillars that I am aware of, how do you know there weren't some sort of primitive caterpillars that lived their whole lives without becoming a butterfly?

Look, this argument is circular, and serves no function if one side is unwilling to admit that they might not have all the answers. Starting a theory or statement with "We think it is this way, based on models we have created. We can't be 100% sure, but it is certainly the most plausible explanation" is not such a bad thing.

DUDE! You can see a caterpillar transform into a pupa and then into a butterfly. It's a stage in the development.

This talkorigins site is interesting, but I find it funny that it resembles sites that "help" people answer tough questions about a religion.

What the "answer" doesn't, in fact, answer is: can you explain the evolutionary path (from caterpillar to butterfly, I mean)? The answer is usually, we don't need to because it's just like this or that thing and since this or that thing happens now, we don't need to prove the other. Sorry, but you need to. That is what makes science a science.

Let's consider that the caterpillar is some sort of larval stage of the butterfly. Why did it evolve that way? What were the factors that led a creature to evolve into something like that? Is your explanation a theory of plausibility or is it based on actual empirical evidence.

Part of the problem, obviously, is the time frames involved in this field of study. Perhaps that is why I have an issue with it. Too much must be taken on faith, and I certainly lack faith in most things.

"Complain all you like about how his theories are full of holes"

So, if we have permission to complain about his theories, then why do you have to come over here and shake your finger at us for doing just that? Sheesh, you guys are dense.

DUDE! You can see a caterpillar transform into a pupa and then into a butterfly. It's a stage in the development.

DUDE! Why is it a stage in it's development? Just 'cause? How did it develop? Since we have no empirical evidence showing how and why, I could easily say some alien's child developed it in a test tube chemistry set. Since you can't prove that I am wrong, then by your logic I must be right? This is exactly the same argument that pro-ID people spout.

Everything in evolution, by definition, had to have a causal effect. What cause and effect allowed something to develop into a species with such a bizarre life-cycle? Do you know, or are you guessing?

Since we have no empirical evidence showing how and why,

Beg pardon, doofus? I was trained as a molecular developmental biologist- in a holometabolous (look it up!) insect (Drosophila),at that. I can tell you firsthand that nowadys we know a HELL OF A LOT about how animal development works (stick around PZ's blog and he'll spoonfeed you lots of nice morsels on the subject). What on earth are you babbling about?
Are you still, perchance, confusing development of an individual organism with evolution?

By Steve LaBonne (not verified) on 02 Feb 2007 #permalink

Alright Steve I'm done. You conflate simple development with evolution. I really don't see what more can be said to someone who is lacking in education this badly. I try to be fair and noninsulting but this is just silly. :

According to what empirical evidence? You make that assertion as if you were basing it on...dare I say it...faith. Since there are no fossilized caterpillars that I am aware of, how do you know there weren't some sort of primitive caterpillars that lived their whole lives without becoming a butterfly?

You can observe a catepillar becoming a butterfly. What more do you need. What you are asking for is a form of neoteny.

then:

Why is it a stage in it's development?

because we see it change into an adult butterfly mate and start the process over again. Do you even realize how stupid what you just typed is?

Just 'cause? How did it develop? Since we have no empirical evidence showing how and why, I could easily say some alien's child developed it in a test tube chemistry set.

We have many insects studies, we have many insect ancestrys. We understand the process enough to see how it works. Your example is simply silly.

Since you can't prove that I am wrong, then by your logic I must be right? This is exactly the same argument that pro-ID people spout.

We can prove you wrong. We have proven you wrong. We show you insect studies, we show you why the catepillar is a stage of development and you stick your fingers in your ears.

Wow, purposely misunderstanding someone else's writing for some sort of creepy superior self satisfaction.

What did your parents do to make you that sort of person?

By Andrew Hunt (not verified) on 02 Feb 2007 #permalink

"Part of the problem...is the time frames"? WTF? Is the problem that you're unable to conceive of things occurring over long spans of time? I mean, it's not something to which our brains are ideally suited, but most people manage to work it out if they care to do so.

Also, I don't think you're having trouble taking things on faith, you're having trouble accepting things as possible. I suspect this is an important distinction.

Steve, you've misread every single thing anyone's tried to say to you here. Are you being purposefully disingenuous, or did you just never learn to read for comprehension?

This whole conversation is what is wrong with blogs in general.

By CrustyMac (not verified) on 02 Feb 2007 #permalink

Yeah, damn they should all get rid of comments.

Have you nothing better to do with your time than criticise the philosophical views of a cartoonist?

hehehe...

oh the irony.

This whole thing has gotten really silly.

Have you nothing better to do with your time than criticize the people who criticise the philosophical views of a cartoonist?

Sorry, couldn't resist, I'll try not to respond to any more obvious hit-and-run commenters.

Anton, you've now gone back to 2005 to quote from a different Scott Adams blog to the one that Myers has written this post about. It might help a few commenters here to be told that.

PZ (above):

I pointed out how stupid his reasoning was

Humor (Adams in 2005):

Note: I'm not a believer in Intelligent Design, Creationism, Darwinism, free will, non-monetary compensation, or anything else I can't eat if I try hard enough.)

.... What you have instead is each side misrepresenting the other's position and then making a good argument for why the misrepresentation is wrong. (If you don't believe me, just watch the comments I get to this post.)

... (Relax. I'm not saying Darwinism is wrong. I'm saying both sides have lots of easy targets.)

... My fallback position in situations like this has always been to trust the experts - the scientists - of which more than 90%+ are sure that Darwin got it right.

... I'd be surprised if 90%+ of scientists are wrong about the evidence for Darwinism. But if you think it's impossible, you've lived a sheltered life.

Conclusion: Adams is miles in front of the true believers on every side of the scientific question that has PZ, Richard Dawkins, the renowned Labonne and a lesser supporting cast of the touchingly faithful so riled up and so self-important about.

By anon again (not verified) on 02 Feb 2007 #permalink

Does anybody else remember what Scott's original post was about? It was about how to decide who was more credible based only on listening to both sides. No scientific testing just deciding who is more credible.

When you consider how many people do not use any kind of scientific method, and merely decide who they like based on who has the best hair, or who seems the most credible, it's kind of an important question.

I think the point is being missed that he also just likes to think as a hobby. He just thinks and writes it down without thinking much on whether it's wrong or right.

No scientific testing just deciding who is more credible.

And since he has no knowledge or understanding whatsoever of the science involved, he's in no position to "decide" anything in even a minimally intelligent way. (It's like George W. Bush's approach to foreign policy, and we've seen how well THAT works.) Which is what PZ was trying to explain to you in the first place.

By Steve LaBonne (not verified) on 02 Feb 2007 #permalink

Steve LaBonne,
As a reader of Scott's post, one of the things I admire about his writing is that he rarely, if ever, uses a personal attack to further his point (not that a personal attack ever does anyway). He may be critical, and even mocking of others for the purpose of humor, such as in the case of calling PZ Myers a "humorless asshat," but not for the purpose of argument.

Upon reading PZ's critique of Scott's recent post, my appreciation for Scott's own technique was only inflated. It wasn't so much the argument itself, but the tone of PZ's argument that I took issue with. PZ doesn't just attack Scott's argument, he attacks Scott as a means for undercutting Scott's argument, as well as strengthening his own. For example: "Basically, Adams just outed himself as a feeble hack making tepid arguments that only a creationist could believe." I could provide more examples, but honestly, I'm too lazy. Just read the post again to plenty more. The point is, not only is PZ's "reasoning" an ad hominem, but to anyone who doesn't already agree with him, he ends up looking like a dick. I could be wrong here, but I believe that many of us "Scott readers" reacted negatively to PZ blog post because the post itself felt very negative. Had he simply written a focused, neutral sounding rebuttle to the points in Scott's post that he disagreed with, I can't help but wonder that tone would have been reflected in the comments to the blog, both for and against. The reason I'm directing this at you is that you seem to both be a fan of PZ, as well as a relatively level-headed dude. I'm not trying to criticize your approval of PZ, I just wondered what your thoughts were on this matter.

I had never heard of you before Scott Adams mentioned you. Based on that, I reviewed a few of your other works. He is right, you are a pompus ass, and you really don't know shit. I would agree that Adams really doesn't know shit either, but he at least knows that he don't know shit. Nor do I, nor does any present or past human on this planet.

What you don't get is that Adams is pointing out before you decide to make a declaration of some steadfast theory of "everything", be it God based, Atheist based or a result of the musing of Mongo Pongo of the Congo, you need to have sufficient knowledge. On that basis we are barely starting on the road to "how" let alone any real guess at "why".

When we do, I am sure the answers will be far beyond the theories of any church or any arm chair philosopher with a jealousy problem.

You are guessing, at best, on way too few facts, and I have grave doubts what odds I would give you on your present guesses. You sound like one of those similiarly pompus guys writing in Scientific American 150 years ago when they were predicting we would know "everything" within 50 years.

By Frank W. Moore (not verified) on 02 Feb 2007 #permalink

What you don't get is that Adams is pointing out before you decide to make a declaration of some steadfast theory of "everything", be it God based, Atheist based or a result of the musing of Mongo Pongo of the Congo, you need to have sufficient knowledge. On that basis we are barely starting on the road to "how" let alone any real guess at "why".
When we do, I am sure the answers will be far beyond the theories of any church or any arm chair philosopher with a jealousy problem.

(Emphasis mine.)
Damn. Best irony meter just underwent spontaneous runaway fission.

Oh well. Back to terrible, sinuful, oh-so demeaning auto-fellatio.

llewelly,
Auto-fellatio? Teach me your ways.

llewelly,
Auto-fellatio? Teach me your ways.

No, no, no. Weren't you listening to Wise Scott Adams, Prophet, Seer, and Revelator? It's associated with humorlessness, with ass-hattedness, and with many other attributes deserving of Ridicule, particularly in the exquisite form of Special Purpose Acrohyms Just For You (SPAJFY).

I take the practical approach -- that something is intelligent if it unambiguously performs tasks that require intelligence. Writing Moby Dick required intelligence. The Big Bang wrote Moby Dick. Therefore, the Big Bang is intelligent, and you and I are created by that same intelligence. Therefore, we are created by an intelligent entity.

Jesus Christ, don't be a dumbass, PZ. Doesn't this strike you as just the same sort of "quirky" pseudo-"deep" kind of "humor" that Scott Adams has been doling out his entire career? Ever read anything by him? A lot of it is like this. Just trying to make little logic jokes like this about something metaphysical in a Douglas Adams sort of way. It's not nearly as humorous as Dilbert, but he tries. I remember once a LONG time ago in the beginnings of email, I emailed him to tell him that he had a pretty goofy understanding of gravity. His reply was veiled in sarcasm, but I could see through it. I was just tickled at the time that he actually replies and tried to fuck with my head. Right now, you PZ, are having your head seriously fucked with and you are taking it too seriously. Neither of you need the blog traffic, so I suppose this isn't one of those Bill O'Reilly/Keith Olbermann things. Just clue in and realize that some people have a bizarre sense of humor. Let it go.

"Unfortunately, one dismaying thing is how illiterate many of the Dilbonians are."
Is that a split infinitive I spy?

No, it isn't.

That's okay though, the fact that you don't know what an infinitive is makes your snark even funnier. Just not the way you meant.

By George Cauldron (not verified) on 02 Feb 2007 #permalink

Look, can we all just agree here: PZ is an idiot. Either that or he just wanted a shit-load of traffic on his blog. I'm sticking with the former. You know, while I'm at it, I might as well be honest. Everyone who agrees with PZ is an idiot too. There. It's settled.

By IT Intern (not verified) on 02 Feb 2007 #permalink

You know, Steve, you should really feel honored. I took the time to write a separate message just for you. You're an idiot.

Ahh, feels good to finally get that out there.

By IT Intern (not verified) on 02 Feb 2007 #permalink

Who knew that mediocre cartoonists engendered such doglike cultish loyalty?

By Arden Chatfield (not verified) on 02 Feb 2007 #permalink

Steve, PZ:

You have each been pronounced 'idiots' by someone who is apparently an 'IT intern'.

Cringe in abject shame. Your lives are over.

By George Cauldron (not verified) on 02 Feb 2007 #permalink

Has Scott Adams even read Moby Dick? Would he consider the author of that literary classic to also be the author of Vanna White's biography? And all those romance novels, too? Well, I guess even the Big Bang has to make a buck.

I sure wish the cosmos would hurry up and write my paper for class so that I can be lazy this weekend.

So, is it any wonder that people like me, members of the general public, are unaware of these findings? Now, is my "ignorance" abysmal or simply a product of inaccessible information (inaccessible in the sense that it is dry and "...often buried in incredibly dense and tedious "skull & bones" papers utterly inaccessible to the general public."

You don't subscribe to newspapers? You have no television? You don't even read the magazines in the physician's waiting room? Do you never get a haircut and at least pick up a copy of Field & Stream?

I agree with P.Z. -- your ignorance is abysmal. Not uncorrectable, but if you missed all the news over the past 50 years, it suggests there may be an organic reason for it other than failure by every publication on Earth.

When Donald Johanson and his team discovered the fossilized skeleton of Lucy in the far African wilderness, they had a phonograph that played the Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds." Where do you live that you don't even have that?

Dear Mr. Author,

As someone who is an evolutionist, I implore you to please stop being so blasted arrogant. Do you realize that the way you speak makes people automatically consider the merits of the opposing viewpoint? For a moment while reading this column, I actually found myself wishing I were a creationist so I wouldn't be on the side of such an insufferable elitist. Being right is not enough; if you are writing to an audience, you must show at least a bit of humility, and not pretend to be so high and mighty above those you deem to be wrong in their views and causes.

By Mikey Benny (not verified) on 02 Feb 2007 #permalink

Hello, PZ. You wrote:

If any of his defenders want to claim that "hey, he's just being funny!" that's fine, as long as you're willing to admit that his chosen style of humor is to pretend to be a colossal boob...and that he's suckered many of his readers into thinking that his intentionally absurd ideas are brilliant.

I'm not one of "his defenders", as I don't think he particularly needs any, but I do think that your comments merit a measured response. I hope you don't mind.
Yes, that does seem to be his chosen style of humour. Yes, I - and, it seems, many others - personally do find that funny. No, it seems, you don't. No, he hasn't suckered anyone into anything; he's simply thrown something into the pot, and his readers have interpreted it as they've seen fit.
I realise it's only my opinion, but it seems to me that people taking this

I take the practical approach - that something is intelligent if it unambiguously performs tasks that require intelligence. Writing Moby Dick required intelligence. The Big Bang wrote Moby Dick. Therefore, the Big Bang is intelligent, and you and I are created by that same intelligence. Therefore, we are created by an intelligent entity.
I don't see how an atheist can think otherwise.

seriously, and thus as worthy either of blind acceptance or rigorous dissection, rather than enjoying a quiet smile and moving lightly on, might want to have a bit of a think.
That aside, the fact that there certainly are people 'out there' who will misconstrue comments or statements does not mean that nothing should be said, and the fact that some people don't get a joke doesn't mean that those who do get it should be stopped from enjoying it.
Finally - and this is not really related to whether Dilbert's author chooses to have some fun with words and thoughts in a blog category entitled "General nonsense", but certainly seems related to the substance of your post - an important mark of a civilised and intelligent society is that it not only tolerates but in fact positively encourages and fosters open discussion and debate.
The mark of a genuinely rational intellect is that it responds calmly and logically to those arguments which are irrational. It doesn't simply assert that those things must never be said; even if the intelligentsia recognises that a view or argument is invalid, simply taking that as a justification for suppressing it is intellectual technocracy, and censorship or filtration of what the seething masses should or should not be exposed to on the basis of the opinion of a small group is an important step on the road to fascism.
It's not the job of scientists or intellectuals to dictate people's beliefs; it's rather to educate and inform society at large, and to contribute over time to the collective effort to bring the whole of society up to the level of our species' collective best guesses; not to suppress those who aren't there yet.
The democratic and human intellect doesn't just reject; it refutes, and continues, calmly and kindly, so to do.

The concern is overpowering.

Yes, I'm feeling terribly regretful that I spent all that money and time on a plane ticket and a shotgun so I could visit Scott Adams' house and shoot his dog, instead of just doing something like writing a blog post.

Wait. What? I didn't?

Damme. What are these kooks complaining about? That someone publicly and forcefully disagreed with their hero in words? I guess they feel a need to complain about that.

Gosh yes, PZ. All these people coming to your house and shooting your dog, it's... wait, what, they're not? They're just commenting on your blog and disagreeing you with words? Madness!

Cyde Weys: S. A. wrote a philosophy book?? Oy. I like Dilbert, but it is getting stale, so I don't know what to think about the book ...

Zeno: I knew I should have left well enough alone. Trying to view your link crashed Safari.

Blake Stacey: You're correct. Godwin's Law is normative, not descriptive.

Steve Sutton: It doesn't look like satire to me - what is it satirizing?

Chris Gruber: The philosopher Mario Bunge has written about that a while ago in a piece called "Absolute Skepticism Equals Dogmatism", though in his case it was in the context of pseudoscience specifically. A healthy mind is a critical mind - not one empty so that any crap can flow in, but one with structure.

[now at post 350] I notice that the dilbonians can't seem to agree on what Adams was doing. That's suggestive in itself.

Gosh, you guys sure are clever. I guess I'll know better than to presume to try to engage with people of your stature in future, eh.

So we need to engage the subject seriously even though you think it merits less than a moment of acknowledgment?

Steve_C said:

So we need to engage the subject seriously even though you think it merits less than a moment of acknowledgment?

Dearie me, no; I'm afraid you've misunderstood me. I didn't say that, and I didn't mean that. I meant simply that although I tried politely to engage with PZ on the issues brought to my mind by his post independent of the Dilbert business, namely issues of censorship and rationality, he apparently chose to sneer rather than to consider and respond, and you chose to dive in and have a good old sneer as well. Seems I was being rather naïve. Shame.
No doubt you'll also dismiss this response with your "concern" business - on reading some of your other comments, it seems that it's a favourite of yours - but hey, I'm sure you know best about my intentions. Whatever the case, "concern troll" is a new one on me, and you live and learn, so thanks for that!
Anyway, I don't think this is going to go anywhere very useful, do you?
I think I'll leave you to it. Wish you both well.

Holy cow, almost 500 comments??? I don't remember any other post that's gotten so much attention. I don't have a dog in this fight, except for this that I noticed whilst skimming amazedly through the lot:

PZ it seems that you and the people who read this blog take yourselves waaaaaay to seriously. [...]
I find it interesting the way we each choose to make sense out of life as we know it. The way our brains have to make sense and order what they see, feel, hear, smell, touch, or perceive to be real.

What you have to remember is that for many of us, this is our livelihood. It's our job, it's our passion, it's what we find to be one of the most intellectually exhilarating things on the planet. How should we feel when someone wanders up out of nowhere and spits on it all? I sometimes try to use the analogy "What if I came up to you at your job and declared that you don't have any idea what you're doing, I don't believe in anything you do, and I'm going to force you to do it my way, which is better, even though I have no training in it?" That doesn't always work, because it turns out that most people seem to hate their jobs. Pity for them. For the rest of us, it does get a bit annoying for someone to declare that despite my spending a couple of decades in training and research on the subject, their desire to feel something more fuzzy and snuggly that "makes sense" to them trumps that.

Carlie, I'd bet that the first volley of Ed Brayton's War On Positive Atheism got about this long. Of course, that was more interesting than this steampile.

Carlie you might care to ponder whether most of us aren't likely to be spending our whole lives doing things which will be viewed by more rational creatures in the future as having been more or less but at least partly deluded. Please don't kid yourself too much about the nobility of the way in which you spend your days, noting that even the lowliest of religious hucksters can take enormous pride in the importance, as they see it, of their calling.

Now this will sound a bit snarky but it's an honest gut response to your latest fusillade PZ ... erm "forceful" perhaps doesn't quite characterize the way in which many of us have been experiencing your efforts in this post. "Uncomprehending", "prissy", "humorless", "pretentious" would go closer and this although I've not even the slightest bit of interest in trying to offend you because I imagine you do mostly very good work here. For instance I'm backing your dog in the brawl with any proselytizing religious book thumpers. It seems to me though a kindness really that so many reasonable people have taken the time to point out to you that you've bitten off a little more than you've been able to chew in this particular posting. All the best!

By anon still (not verified) on 03 Feb 2007 #permalink

Please don't kid yourself too much about the nobility of the way in which you spend your days, noting that even the lowliest of religious hucksters can take enormous pride in the importance, as they see it, of their calling.

go figure, they do; or hadn't you been following the ridiculous reaction from the religiosos over Dawkins?

THE most common thing said by them (paraphrasing) is that Dawkins, being a biologist, doesn't have the background necessary to make grandiose criticisms of religion.

go figure.

now, if those making the criticisms of dawkins had as much education and background in their claimed subject as a typical PhD in biology did, then they might have a point.

they don't, and neither do you.

What Ichthyic said, and I never said my calling was noble or even important, just that I'm tired of people saying that I have no idea what I'm talking about when their most substantial exposure to the subject has been reading a Ken Ham pamphlet.

By the way people, New Age with capitols refers to a reasonably well defined set of beliefs, not just to anything at all that wasn't talked about ten years ago. Scott Adams does not in any way espouse those beliefs, or even mention them.

---------------

From Wikipedia:
New Age Beliefs
Those who categorize themselves as New Age followers have multifarious beliefs; nevertheless, certain themes emerge. An individual who identifies with the New Age may subscribe to some or all of these, depending on their own sense of what is right and wrong.

Science and spirituality are ultimately harmonious. New discoveries in science, e.g. evolution and quantum mechanics, when rightly understood, point to spiritual principles.

New Age Language
Many adherents of belief systems characterised as New Age rely heavily on the use of metaphors to describe experiences deemed to be beyond the empirical. ... In particular, the adoption of terms from the language of science such as "energy", "energy fields", and various terms borrowed from quantum physics and psychology but not then applied to any of their subject matter, have served to confuse the dialog between science and spirituality, leading to derisive labels such as pseudoscience and psychobabble.
---------------

I don't know what your (posting as Newton) definition of New Age is, but from what most people understand, Scott Adam's endorsement of The Conscious Universe and affirmations and folding quantum mechanics into his philosopy fits well into this definition.

Love of learning is a wondrous thing Carlie and Ichthyic, all the best to you too of course.

First, notice the word Comic Lover, not Scott Adam lover. Dilbert is great if you work in a corporate world, he understands it the way that only a warpped dogbert can. Some things he say makes strange sense. However, the truth is part of Dilbert's demographics are people who is often brilliant, smart and with strong wits, who are at the same time socially challenged (That is what Dilbert is casted, a good, bright, generally positive engineer in a machine called company). Sometimes these kind of intellegence carries a strange sense of view of the world as well, doesnt mean it's wrong (Being dodgy like Catbert/Boss doesnt help of course, Scott).

If you are interested to debate his points from the point of science and self-fashioned first knight of darwinian, keep at it. Scott likely going to have more of his thoughts of Scottian. He will never evolve out of that view. It's like politics.

To be honest? Truth evolves, at this stage as someone who has an average ability to understand the world, I believe in Darwinism and I dont speculate whether who created Big Bang since it is a theory that we are still trying to proof. What we do need to do however is to seperate ID from region. If Scott in something, it's better he said it straight like fire does burn and mike is your uncle.

You two are writing your own blogs, if it is of the oppositing view of the same topic, great. It sounds more like it's a spat between 2 highly intellgent man which if they met, I doubt they will fight, but instead will bore the other guy out with words and intellectual might.

Bottomline, either move on (1 of you) or keep at it, I will enjoy the debate.

Ta.

By Dilbert Comic Lover (not verified) on 03 Feb 2007 #permalink

Hello,

I have a fairly simple set of guidelines I Ginned up back in the day;

Given a dataset, reduce and graph it.
Given a dataset of spoken words, use the principles of discreet mathematics, graph theory, symbolic logic and construct a proof.
Present the proof for pier review.
Once pier review is complete, publish the result to the Community.
Give the Community time to digest the result.
Accept the result and move on.

If someone in a leadership position protests regardless of the proof, then it's time to question motives.

All that being said, relax, you'll live longer...

PS: Spelling doesn't count

good thing spelling doesn't count.

I was wondering if a pier review was when you get a dock inspected.

I don't agree 100% with Scott Adams theories, (I wouldn't say I agree with even 20% of them) but for damn sure I don't take things out of perspective like you. Get off your ivory tower and stop being so self righteous and smug. Creationism? Seriously, what relevance does it have to every day life? You're the kind of moron that gives nerds a bad name. But then again, with a heading like "random biological ejaculations from a godless liberal", you do make a point of telling everyone you are a complete wanker!

PZ, YOU are a babbling idiot. And arrogant to boot. After reading more of your comments, I cannot believe how smug and righteous you are... Never before has the word fuckwit been used with such relevance.

PZ, YOU are a babbling idiot. And arrogant to boot. After reading more of your comments, I cannot believe how smug and righteous you are... Never before has the word fuckwit been used with such relevance.

There, there. There, there. Just go away, settle down, and go back to reading your Dilbert cartoons, and the big bad mean professor won't bother you any more. The grownups are trying to have a conversation, now.

By George Cauldron (not verified) on 04 Feb 2007 #permalink

It's very amusing that people are coming from a cartoonist's blog to scream stupidity at a scientist.

Did you know biology has nothing to do with everyday life? Oh I mean creationism.

Another tool comes and goes.

"I take the practical approach -- that something is intelligent if it unambiguously performs tasks that require intelligence. Writing Moby Dick required intelligence. The Big Bang wrote Moby Dick. Therefore, the Big Bang is intelligent, and you and I are created by that same intelligence. Therefore, we are created by an intelligent entity."

PZ, I think you missed the point Scott was trying to make in his article. He's not actually saying that the Big Bang is some sort of intelligent being (in the sense of god), he's saying that if something produces intelligence (The Big Bang resulted in the creation of the universe, and therefore people and the world), then it should be defined as intelligent. His problem is that he is a poor explainer, convoluting his point by referring to the Big Bang as an "intelligent entity", without explaining what he thinks the term entails.

We get it.

But you can replace intelligent with almost any word you can apply to the human condition and apply it to the big bang too. It's stupid.

Is the big bang conscious? Evil? Altruistic? Warlike?

That someone publicly and forcefully disagreed with their hero in words?

You didn't really disagree with him. You misunderstood him, and that's what makes you kinda dumb. And just because people point it out to you doesn't make Scott Adams their hero.

Just give up. You can't win this one. It was over when you made this post.

What is so dumb about presenting theories? PZ, you seem to be a sad person who instead of presenting your own ideas, or trying to make people think, has to attack others. No matter how illogical and stupid you think his ideas are, nothing gives you the right to attack him in such a personal manner. He doesn't force you to read his ideas and he doesn't attack your ideas and fans.

You are one confused puupy.

One would have more faith in old Scott if he didn't censor replies to his blogs so heavily.

By Barry Ryder (not verified) on 05 Feb 2007 #permalink

PZ: I've been puzzled by something ever since I learned that Darwinian evolutionists think that Mind or intelligence is a by-product of evolution rather than the source of all life. Let me see if I can put this simply: According to Darwinists, the only forces active in the universe are chance and necessity, otherwise known as random mutation and natural selection. This applies to both biological and non-biological evolution. These forces are supposed to be blind and purposeless. If this is true, then intelligence itself--the very same intelligence used to create Darwinian theory (or recognize Darwinian law in action, however you want to put it) is also a product of chance and necessity. I would even go one step further to say that intelligence must function according to chance and necessity--biological determinism--because, according to Darwinists, there are no other forces at work in the universe. Would you agree with this assessment? And if so, how then can we trust any conclusions that we arrive at using our intelligence--including Darwinian theory? After all, intelligence itself must just be another example of the blind and purposeless forces of chance and necessity in action. Or do you think intelligence is something else? And if so, does that mean intelligence is "super-natural" in that it operates above and beyond chance and necessity? Just curious.

And if so, how then can we trust any conclusions that we arrive at using our intelligence--including Darwinian theory?

Think about it a little. Suppose the mental equipment of our ancestors, constructed by a long process of darwinian evolution, had been such as to fail to give them any reliable information from the physical world. In that case how do you suppose they could have found food, and avoided being food, successfully enough for us, their descendants, to exist?

This kind of argument is actually quite well known to philosophers- try Googling "Darwinian epistemology" (sometimes known as "evolutionary epistemology").

By Steve LaBonne (not verified) on 05 Feb 2007 #permalink

Thanks, I'll check out the link you mentioned. But in the meantime, you still haven't answered my question: According to Darwinian logic, is there any way to escape the fact that intelligence is nothing but a blind, purposeless process? And if it is not blind and purposeless, how do you explain it? If intelligence is able to rise above the forces of chance and necessity, doesn't that make it "super-natural," as in "above nature"? If so, that would make intelligence the sole (known) exception to Darwinian forces in the universe. (I'm not trying to invoke a deity here just trying to follow the logic.)

How can you say that necessity is purposeless? I would say that "don't be eaten or otherwise die before you can reproduce" is just about the opposite of purposelessness.

Scott Adams is an atheist. How can he also be a Creationist??