The scientist in the white coat

I am genuinely amused at this caricature of scientists from a creationist site. How many of you believed these things?

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  • Everyone is biased. Scientists just happen to be biased in favor of reality, and have a set of tools that help them overcome predispositions that might lead them into error (Non-scientists have the same tools. Creationists just prefer not to use them.)

  • Again, they try to be objective.

  • Hah! Anyone who has done any science at all knows that a good part of the process is spent winnowing out sources of error.

  • He wears a…wait, what? In a list containing such grand and unattainable virtues as lack of bias, objectivity, and infallibility, this joker throws in choice of attire? Something doesn't fit here.

    Need I add that the title is about "the scientist in the white coat," so by definition he or she would be wearing a white coat?

Now watch as our creationist tries to correct these myths:

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  • "Biased" means he has books titled "Chemistry", "Anthropology", and "Evolution" on his shelf? And look at those awards! I've never heard of the Uniformitarian Geological Society, and look! He has a Masters degree…in Science!

  • I don't quite see how the cartoon illustrates that he lacks objectivity. Is it the glasses?

  • He is…HU-MAN? What is this? Was there some suspicion that candidates completing their Ph.D. (or, in this case, their Master's) were inoculated with super-scientific viruses that transgenically mutated them into an alien life form? If so, I want to know who leaked the secret.

  • Well, actually, about the white lab coats…it depends. In some disciplines, they are a very good idea. If you're doing chemistry where nasty stuff might spill, it's a good idea to protect your wardrobe by wearing a lab coat. If you're doing the kind of biology where you work with messy squirty beasties that might get blood or ichor on you, ditto. If you're concerned about sterile technique or don't want to risk bringing home something you're working on that could be toxic, you protect yourself with a lab coat. So, yes, many real scientists do routinely use lab coats. On the other hand, if you're like me and work with inocuous tiny embryos with no risk of infection or contamination, nah, no lab coat.

One other very important omission: the cartoonist keeps using "he". A lot of scientists are women, too, you know.

The hilarity isn't over yet. There is precisely one comment on this particular blog post, and here it is.

I've always asked, why is it that scientists get away with such blatent eliteism. Read any scientific paper and you will find it written in such obscure and baffling language as to be purest nonsense.

Evolutionary biology is just such a nonsense-science: It's intended to befuddle rather than to inform. How much better to believe planly-spoken biblical facts that are easily understood by all men regardless of their level of education.

Lets end this eliteism now!

The imaginary scientist in the cartoon has one book labeled "Gould" on his shelf. Read any of Stephen Jay Gould's books (except the last one, unfortunately), and you'll find them to be lucid and enthusiastic and eager to explain. Even more so, crack open one of Richard Dawkins' books — they are exceptionally clear. Heck, just walk into your bookstore, find the tiny, narrow little shelf where the science books are hidden, and you'll find lots of plain-spoken exposition.

Science papers tend to be heavy on the jargon because they are tightly condensed. It's a highly refined format designed to facilitate communication between knowledgable people in the field. It's not that hard, though: we teach undergraduates how to read and write science papers, and although admittedly they find them difficult at first, it only takes a little knowledge to be able to work through them. A little knowledge that this poor fellow plainly lacks.

But hey, let's end elitism by demanding that everything be written for the lowest common denominator: creationist men, apparently.

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Soooo...if a scientist *isn't* wearing a white coat, then we should pay attention to what he says? And to the lone commenter...um, so when you go to the auto mechanic, and she tells you that you have a problem with the intake valves on your engine, do you blame her for being "eliteist"? Or when the doctor explains to you what an arterial blockage is, is he "eliteist"?

Galactic morons who are the very picture of fractal wrongness, the lot of them.

The usual "I'm to stoopid to understand, therefore god did it" crap.

So - why the hell can't we put up nearly the very same picture, nearly the very same words (the test tube becomes a cross, the lab coat becomes black flowing robes) and "correct" it with - nearly exactly the very same words - for the Religious Clergy?

Oh yeah - that would be silly. I forget sometimes.

JC

"Origin of THE Species"..... Try again wingbats!

By PharmDude (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

If you want elitism go no further than the churches, synagouges and mosques and watch a ceremony of 'Holy Men' parading in special attire and muttering words from obscure books which they claim to have special knowledge privilaged them by an unseen father who favours them.
If you can't understand the books that's your problem. I'm just a lowly Tech Support Agent in a call centre and I understand them just find. Sure the likes of Pinker and Brian Greene can be tricky but, a few reads (and a couple of reads of books with the same topic) and you'll be fine.

Poe!? Oh god please let it be.

By Hauntedchippy (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

The folks who promulgate this crapulence are always the least in the know of what real science is and how it functions. They get their information about scientists from fiction (books and movies), or even worse, real creationist mouthpieces spewing fiction.

In the second cartoon, is one of the books titled "Gould" (from Stargate fame) ?

Seems our sinister scientist in the second frame is left-handed. This has long been considered by the superstitious as a sign of one who consorts with the Devil.

Just sayin'.

By JohnnieCanuck (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

Hmm...my girlfriend's science papers are pretty easy to understand, even though I'm a non-scientist. In fact, as part of a community outreach program she presented some of her research to a group of high school and junior high school students, and they seemed to understand quite well.

I guess the level of education that creationist men have is quite low indeed.

By Sengkelat (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

Lets see this working scientist:
Unbiased. Try to be, after all, the evidence speaks for itself.
Objective. After 30 years in the field, I hope so.
Human. Of course. Already goofed up a spreadsheet this week. But fixed it (see objective).
White lab coat. Happens to be the color my company uses, but only when working in the lab. Otherwise, this time of year, mock turtle/sweater.
Elitist? Only when discussing my field.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

Of course, handing down rules of conduct, using vague notions of an invisible Sky Tyrant to back up your authority, and meting punishments to those who don't adhere to your decrees is not elitist.

By Longtime Lurker (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

Well, at least it's made clear that real scientists wear spectacles.

Caricatures is right :)

By John Morales (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

"It's intended to befuddle rather than to inform."

I love the word "befuddle", I don't know why. It's right up there with curmudgeon and hullabaloo. And goober... goober is my favorite word.

Well of course the bookshelf is irrefutable proof of bias. Not a single bible on it. Damned scientist!

By Spero Melior (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

The cartoons were scanned out of a book, since you can see the text on the back. Anyone know which book it was?

I am sure the commentator must find physics more "elitist" than biology. After all, it is based on math, and it does take quite a few years of work to build that kind of background.
Funny, if science is so evil, why are the using the internet (an invention of scientists)? Don't they fear it may be a monster getting ready to swallow them up?

By Insightful Ape (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

The thing that short circuits my brain is when an anti-science type wants to complain about bias they often say something like "Scientists all used to think X and now they think Y", without a hint of understanding that the change came about because of, well, other scientists.

"Thank you!

I've always asked, why is it that scientists get away with such blatent eliteism. Read any scientific paper and you will find it written in such obscure and baffling language as to be purest nonsense.

Evolutionary biology is just such a nonsense-science: It's intended to befuddle rather than to inform. How much better to believe planly-spoken biblical facts that are easily understood by all men regardless of their level of education.

Lets end this eliteism now!"

Oh my Chemical Chance! What have you gotten us into PZ? The stupidity there seems completely endless!

1) There's a reason academics use 'obscure' language. It's not meant to befuddle the reader, it is meant to be precise and to leave as few things as possible open to interpretation. I'm a almost a lawyer, trust me choosing your words meticulously is neither easy nor is it a luxury. Let's be honest maybe the Bible doesn't use a lot of big words (That still doesn't make it an easy or fun read) but that's gotten us into a lot of trouble over, let's say, the last 2000 years.

2) Evolutionary biology is intended to befuddle and is a nonsense science. I'm not even getting into this one, some of my fellow readers here are much more informed on the subject. I'll just call:"Ignorance!"

3) Sure, let's use the plain-spoken 'facts'of the bible and start another crusade or two. Maybe stone a few homosexuals on the way to pass the time.

It's not elitism, it's a search for answers and we prefer it supported by actual proof and not a quaint little superstition.

Regards,
Rhysz

lol...

"It's time for another episode of Ask Dr. Science! Remember, he's not a real doctor; he has a master's degree... in SCIENCE!"

I love doctor science.

This is cornswalled writing about vaccines in yahoo answers:

Notice that the lowest rates of diseases with vaccinations are in CHRISTIAN nations. God alone can protect us from the ravages of disease and the nations that rely upon lies and the works of man are the ones suffering. God alone will save and protect us. Vaccines and antibiotics are a lie and a fraud. They are arrogance and presumption. God is striking down the children of fools who have turned their backs upon God and vaccinated their children. Autism is judgment from God for denying him.

Just in case anyone is under the illusion that creationism is harmless nonsense.

Roger @ 2
That commenter would never trust his car to an icky girl mechanic. First, she might get feminist cooties all over it. Second, she's clearly a satanist, abortion enthusiast, vegetarian of loose morals hell bent on undermining God's plainly stated plan a manly automotive industry.

The "planly-spoken bible", easily understood by all, no doubt accounts for the fact that everyone who reads it understands it the same way. That's why there's only one denomination of christianity, right?

Of course scientists are human and subject to all the weaknesses of the rest. They will exhibit bias, jealousy and all that. The advantage is in the process and methods of science which tend to eventually get passed all that emotion and deliver viable fact and theory to help run our lives.

By rickflick (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

Are they insinuating that being human is a bad thing? What are they, Klingons?

"Lets end this eliteism now!"

Something tells me they are jonesing to be the new elite.

Well, Dr Myers, do YOU wear a white coat?!

By helvetica (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

He has a Masters degree...in Science!

Nice!

(and jamie d @ #23 -- thank you for making me not the first to get the reference! That would have been sad.)

They forgot:

5. He is male.

From what I understand, publishers charge by the word for the academic science publications; ergo, the papers tend to be overly concise and dense.

Scientists are objective in that anyone can potentially perform the experiments--the scientific method is as objective a process as possible by demanding for falsifiability, replication (whenever possible), repetition (whenever possible), etc.

Scientists are elitists and everyone should want that!!! To be elitist means to be the best. If you go in for surgery you want the elite--the best--surgeon. When you take your car to a mechanic you want an elite mechanic--the best mechanic (at the price you can afford). We demand the elite for space travel. We all want our children to attend the elite--the best--schools.

So let the evangelic theist disparage the elite. They will only keep themselves ignorant and impoverished.

I'm guessing that the scientist's supposed lack of objectivity is represented by the framed certificate (perhaps an award of some kind) from the Uniformitarian Geological Society. That indicates he's on board with mainstream geological dogma and is not open to catastrophism on a creationist and biblical scale. Tsk tsk!

About that whole "human" thing: apparently a lot of religious people think that anything humans do is by definition imperfect/wrong and only their revealed wisdom (holy books) can be perfectly true.

How they reconcile this with the hundreds of commandments they don't follow and rules and inconsistencies that they constantly ignore I don't know, but apparently since Science doesn't claim to be the revealed wisdom of a deity it's human=imperfect=wrong.

By Antimatter Spork (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

I don't get it. Is it a joke?

For all of Dobson's fans (he's the commentater quoted), here's his blog (with a grand total of one post). He's totally not a Poe because THE WORD "POE" IS MEANINGLESS! He is, however, a devotee of Shelly the Republican, so you know you can trust him.

So if those that don't wear lab coats are real scientists and those who do aren't, then we should actually believe the palaeontologist when they say that dinosaurs and humans never lived in the same time period.

As for that remark about the Bible being a plainly-spoken text easily understood by all people, then I need only point out the vastly different understanding of the Bible stories and what they mean, which includes regarding Genesis as pure allegory, by people that generally have a higher education. I'm actually inclined to believe that the more highly one is educated, the greater the tendency there is to interpret the Bible in less literal and more allegorical or metaphorical ways.

Tip of my hat to JohnnieCanuck (#10), in noting that this was a caricature of a sinistral scientist.

Nice job, eh.

By senecasam (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

And that scientist is a lefty!

EVILLL11111 EVILLL11L1L1!!!

By Porky Pine (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

Use a labcoat and it ceases to be white.

For this reason I have two lab coats. One of them is for labs, and the other is for fancy "professional" wear, for clinical or pretend-clinical use. Also, the fancy one was free. College students will take just about anything if it's free.

Surely among the Pharyngula multitudes there exists an artist capable of rendering a caricature of a creationist.

By senecasam (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

They should have added that he is also arrogant. Who can be humble who claims to know anything?

I recall Ted haggard getting really pissed with Dawkins when he was told that he obviously isn't familiar with evolutionary theory. His response was that this arrogance of scientists is a problem, thereby implying that that's why evolution is wrong, I suppose.

How much better to believe planly-spoken biblical facts that are easily understood by all men regardless of their level of education.

Ah, but the writer is right: biblical facts - no need for any further research, no need to comprehend ANYTHING (you just learn it by heart), no real discussion or heated arguments, no insight, no understanding, no pesky doubts. It is so much easier, and any cretin can get it!

Sure, I'll admit that every once in a while when the topic on this site becomes something about genome sequencing or something, my eyes glaze over, but not because the language is too obscure - the fault is my ignorance and/or interest in the matter. Rather than feel confused by all the "eliteists" on this site and begin "teh h8," I either move on or educate myself. This is what separates the reasonable from the unreasonable.

Case in point: I'm an aircraft mechanic by vocation (though it is far from my interest), so when I picked up a copy of Dawkins' The Blind Watchmaker I was worried I would be in over my head. However, the exact opposite happened: His explanations were very clear and easy to understand for the most part, and those areas I had trouble with I did further research on until such point I understood what he was saying. This isn't a difficult thing to do, but it does take effort and an open mind - something most creationists seem to lack.

By Sir Craig (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

Read any scientific paper and you will find it written in such obscure and baffling language as to be purest nonsense.

The complaint is that the commentator isn't a scientist and doesn't understand the jargon in scientific papers. What's worse is since the jargon changes for different sciences, the guy is really out of luck. The word "nucleus" means different things to a biologist, a physicist or an astronomer.

By 'Tis Himself (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

Hm, article also helps confirm my view:
You don't have to be a fuckwit to be religious, but it most certainly helps.

"How much better to believe planly-spoken biblical facts that are easily understood by all men regardless of their level of education."

The trees are really sneezing today.

"They [the scientists] seldom wears a WHITE COAT"
WHAT?! How dare they use normal clothes when not fiddling with hazardous stuff?! If they did, it would sure as hell lend them a lot more credibility. I want my scientists to look like they do in the cartoons for kids that I usually to watch!
Scientists! Gah!

By Oskar Holmström (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

Roger (#2):

Or when the doctor explains to you what an arterial blockage is, is he "eliteist"?

Actually, even that is a bit of an incorrect analogy. It would be as if you accuse them of being 'eliteist' because you overheard them use the correct medical terminology to other doctors and medical personnel.

Wow, what an inaccurate comment. It's not the scientist who is objective, it's the process of the scientific method. Appealing to a single scientist is appealing to authority.

This is frightening.

If the creationists ever get around to printing these up as good-quality posters, suitable for framing -- or, worse, turning them into t-shirts -- the sudden surge of demand from scienceblogs readers alone could keep them in funds for years.

" Surely among the Pharyngula multitudes there exists an artist capable of rendering a caricature of a creationist."

Do you really think it is possible to caricature a creationist?

By howard hershey (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

I know this is going to make me come off as a blatant elitist, but "blatent eliteism" should be "blatant elitism". But that's just me and my objective orthographical standards.

By Levi in NY (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

i am STUNNED that dr. myers is in SECOND PLACE!

And worse, Watt's Up With That, a global-warming-denialist blog, is somehow leading in the "best science blog" category. Which I would have thought would be, you know, restricted to science blogs.

How much better to believe plainly-spoken biblical facts that are easily understood by all men regardless of their level of education.

If there are 'plain-spoken biblical facts', why are there 38,000 (plus) sects of Christianity?

Why are there thousands upon thousands of pages of apologists' texts required for a 'full understanding of the intricacies and subtleties of God's inerrant word? Why are atheists are always directed towards such by the Courtier's Reply, and not the 'plainly-spoken' bible?

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

Yet what's the first thing creationists do to try and give their figureheads credibility in their videos? Put them in a white lab coat and say they're unbiased, objective scientists, and they're preaching God's infallible word. See:

John Pendleton's Age of the Earth - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bf2B4AideIU
The intro to Kent Hovind's Truth in Arguments - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFm8uCZ6Uoc
That orange Muslim lady - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TU-7d06HJSs

(All those YouTube links are to debunking videos, by the way).

I'm sorry. I realize this cartoon is ripe with possibilities for mockery. But I really can't get past the "white coat" business. Why is the cartoonist so fixated on it? What does it have to do with anything?

I mean, if I were doing a cartoon meant to defame explode the myths about investment bankers -- and I had the extremely limited space alloted by a cartoon -- I don't think I'd devote a quarter of my space to, "Contrary to popular myth, investment bankers do not always wear suits." Who cares?

Or is the "white coat" thing perhaps a heavy-handed attempt at creationist humor? If so -- fail.

Damn. Now I'm going to be up all night thinking about this.

I'm reminded of how my ethics prof in journalism school kept touting "objectivity" and never really acknowledged that objectivity is a myth. Of, if not a full-blown myth, only something for which one should strive.

@32

I think this is a good point and it doesn't just apply to science. Since when did being elite become a pejorative in this country. We just went through this in the election with mudslingers branding Obama as "elitist"and preferring to vote for someone more like themselves. Take your cousin Larry bowling for Pete's sake but don't put our future in his hands. If someones going to be in charge of the free world they'd better be elite. When did we submit ourselves to following the cult of stupid?

By sparkomatic (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

Now, why do the French speak in a language that non-French speaking persons can't understand? It's just an elitist babble intended to keep us commoners from understanding what's going on!

And the Chinese, they speak some gobbledy-gook where I can't understand a single word. Can't they speak plain English like the rest of us??? What a bunch of elitists, all 1.3 billion of 'em!

And those damn computer programs -- why do the programmers write them in such an elitists way, so that I can't understand a bit of them without some kind of special training? They're just trying to keep us out, confusing our minds and fluoridating our children.

POE ... POE ... POE ...
We must preserve our vital bodily fluids.

They get away with blatent eliteism ... er ... blatant elitism because they learned to spell as children.

And by the way, my lab coat is blue. So there.

By sparkomatic (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

So let me get this straight. If you use jargon you're an elitist? I work in the electrical/electronic engineering field and we use jargon all the time. Most people wouldn't have a clue what we talk about if they heard us speak. Our technical specifications would leave most people crossed eyed. I've worn a lab coat and safety glasses. So does this make me some sort of elitist scum? I'm not even an engineer, yet.

These people obviously have a very short sighted idea of reality. People from all different fields use jargon and wear lab coats who are not scientist.

So irritating. Sigh.

By SmilingAtheist (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

How to spot a scientist: write the word "UNIONIZED" on a piece of paper, show it to your victim and ask them to pronounce it.

(In the UK write "UNIONISED" instead.)

A non-scientist will see - and say "UNION - ized".
A scientist will immediately see the word "Un - ION - ized"
And of course a smart-alec wordsmith like me would say both!

ProfMTH: From what I understand, publishers charge by the word for the academic science publications; ergo, the papers tend to be overly concise and dense.

That is not the driving force toward conciseness. The driving force is exactness and avoiding mistakes -- the more words you use, the more likely you will say something inaccurate, embarrassing or stupid.

The perfect scientific paper is one with a table of data and a set of equations, with no words whatsoever -- except for citations. In physics, that can be reduced to one data point and a single equation, a goal approached only by a few masters.

Forgive me if I already posted this on another thread:

Isaac Asimov once took his car to a local garage for diagnosis and/or service. The mechanic asked "You're a Doctor, aren't you?" Asimov puffed up and answered in the affirmative. Mechanic: "I thought so. Anyone who needed that much education couldn't be very smart."

I have a friend in my coffee group who is into several forms of woo, and bemused by my status as Official Skeptic. She once asked me why I thought I should "trust scientists." To her surprise, I told her that I don't "trust scientists." They're just as biased, sloppy, and open to error and mistakes as anyone else -- sometimes more so, because they can get cocky, and think their observation skills and intuitions are particularly reliable.

That's why I trust science -- meaning, the methods of science. They have systematically evolved over time to help check and correct subjective bias. This way, you don't have to "trust scientists" as individuals. If someone cheats, or gets careless, then sooner or later someone else will find it. You have to show all your work, and it has to be replicable. The system rewards its participants if they can catch someone prominent and reliable, making a mistake.

I told her that spirituality, mysticism, and the soft, warm criteria of pseudoscience are made for people who want to listen to stories and "trust" other people. Not science.

The word "elitist" has been used a lot in politics to disparage the left half of the spectrum(just as the word 'liberal" has been dragged through the mud). It was used particularly harshly against Obama-who, after all, was backed mostly by the people with college education, and even the Noble prize winners.
To me these people are just sore losers who are unhappy about their own under-accomplishments. As the last election showed, there is no guarantee that this tactic works.

By Insightful Ape (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

Isaac Asimov once took his car to a local garage for diagnosis and/or service. The mechanic asked "You're a Doctor, aren't you?" Asimov puffed up and answered in the affirmative. Mechanic: "I thought so. Anyone who needed that much education couldn't be very smart."

You're missing half the anecdote!

Apparently, REAL scientists have both eyes on one side of their nose.

Just because you don't understand a word doesn't mean it is vague. Has this person even heard of a higher education? They teach you big words like that in college, you know. Thats where smart people go to study big words. But I will leave you to your "non-elitist" religious texts.

By Timebender13 (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

Well, until this blog post I was blissfully unaware of Alexander ... er, Cornswalled. Thanks for nothing. That's the last time I'm reading Pharyngula.

Fine. I lied.

My take on the white-coat obsession: Although they broke from the Catholic Church and also claim to worship Jesus for his humility, these people are still impressed by the trappings of authority. The image of scientists they fear people hold - and many uneducated people probably still do - is like those in the 1950s B-movies parodied by MST3K. Scientists and doctors were portrayed as special and almost godlike in popular culture, and the white coat was among the symbols of this superiority. They want to destroy that image, "revealing" the scientist as just another deluded shlub with no special gifts. It appears to be inconceivable to them that scientists can be fallible humans who employ a special method and try to uphold rigorous standards, working within a special institutional context in which this is supported, and that no one has to lionize them or see them as a priestly caste in order to recognize the specialness of the scientific approach in advancing human knowledge.

If the "real scientist" is an evolutionary biologist, why does he have that silly bubbling experiment on his desk? And shouldn't he be wearing a white coat if he's doing that sort of thing?

Oh, one more thing. Re the whole "obscure and baffling language" thing: I have never read anything more obscure and baffling than advanced theology and religious apologetics.

And unlike science, the explanations that are supposed to make them clear to the layperson only make them more bewildering.

BTW: thanks, SC, OM (#80). That's a pretty good explanation. Maybe I'll sleep tonight after all.

SC,

It appears to be inconceivable to them that scientists can be fallible humans who employ a special method and try to uphold rigorous standards, working within a special institutional context in which this is supported [...]

And that's understating the difference in mindset.

Scientists know that their peers (other scientists) are expected to (and will) scrutinise any claims with a view to exposing any (methodological, evidentiary or inferential) flaws, and that's a Good Thing.

By John Morales (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

i love the flag that states "experiment"!

Kel,

What did I miss?

@ spinetingler #12

I make that 100% :). Read the entry on their blog, and look at the link it provides...

@ Sastra #72

Awesome response; I might print that one out and keep it. When do next month's Molly nominations open?

By Brain Hertz (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

Emily, there is so much wrong with the picture. I haven't run an apparatus like that since my undergraduate (pre OSHA) days. Experiments in an office, a real no-no. No safety glasses. Not in fume hood. Using bunsen burner for distillation. Collecting distillate in open flask. Connections not solid between distillation flask, condenser and collection flask. And no lab coat.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

Kel,

What did I miss?

The bit where the mechanic asks Asimov a riddle about a deaf man in a hardware store.

Scientific papers seem simple and lucid, even to a semi-educated dolt like me, compared to the book of Revelation. Ever try to fight your way through that steaming pile of gibberish?

By littlejohn (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

Leave it to a creationist to think a violent incest filled soap opera filled with incoherent ramblings by cultists who spent too much time under the hot desert sun as easy to read and understand.

By mayhempix (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

In the second cartoon, is one of the books titled "Gould" (from Stargate fame)?

It's Stephen Jay Gould being referred to here. He wrote what can only be adequately described as a tome on evolution among his many works (The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, a copy of which is sitting next to me as I write this).

The fact that his book was depicted as tiny as it is in the second panel indicates that the illustrator could not have seen it, let alone read it. They know the author by name alone, apparently.

If a scientist had drawn the panel, the size of Gould's book would have been exaggerated so as to take up half of the shelf on its own. That would have been funny.

It's odd that he's portrayed as if he were a chemist (one type of scientist that's quite likely to actually wear a lab coat). The books on his shelf would probably be a stretch for a biochemist, but it is a cartoon depiction so it's probably best to let that slide.

Assuming that they intend to portray him as a biologist, it should not be a surprise that his shelf is loaded with books on the subject. Would they be equally offended if a physicist has a copy of Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (as much a stretch as having a copy of On the Origin of Species on the shelf), works by Einstein, and Hawking on the shelf? Does this show systemic bias they're trying to illustrate? Scientists actually read each other's works, you say? They have the gall to rely on what has come before to formulate new hypotheses and theories in their own work? Oh, the humanity!

The guy in the first image looks like Ben Stein giving the Invisible Man a handjob.

PZ sez. . ."Read any of Stephen Jay Gould's books (except the last one, unfortunately), and you'll find them to be lucid and enthusiastic and eager to explain"

To be honest, I find much of Gould's writing to be pretty thick. . .as was said in a recent review in Nature (I think I'm attributing it correctly), his writing sometimes turned into a caricature of himself - how many untranslated French phrases could he quote? How many baseball references could he make? I was fortunate to see him lecture once, but I spent the entire time thinking, "Why am I falling asleep? I'm supposed to *like* this stuff!"

Uniformitarian Geological Society? is there a "People Breathe Oxygen" society too?

By helvetica (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

Some science papers are easy and accessible to undergraduates (especially in biology, which is a relatively easy subject as compared with for example physics). But let's not overstate the case, as many scientific papers are very difficult indeed, sometimes decipherable only by experts.

Given the presence of scientifically-motivated technology, and success of science in making predictions, we shouldn't be afraid to claim some authority.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

In 1936, Morgan Hebard published 'The Orthoptera of North Dakota, North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station Technical Bulletin 284.

It was critically reviewed by locals in the news paper of record, The Fargo Forum, where they complained that the research, and hence tax dollars to the college (in those far off pre-university days) was a waste because ordinary folks could not understand it and they wanted to know about grasshoppers dang it!

One must know something about something to understand anything written about anything.
:P

@SC,OM

Damn! You made me laugh.

By mayhempix (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

But why are the coats white? Why not some other color? Blue? Orange? Fuschia? Hot pink?

Is it tradition? They've always been white and what's good enough for Louis Pasteur is good enough for everyone else?

Is it economics? White fabric happens to be cheaper (no dyes) and grant money is ever so scarce?

Is it practicality? Potentially dangerous stains show up best on a white background and so won't be missed?

Or is it cliche? Actually there are plenty of non-white lab-coats out there if you just look hard enough?

@nuclear.kelly's correction

Damn. I'm now sad that Berkeleyans haven't discovered the evolutino, which surely must be the fundamental particle of evolution...

I know full well that scientists are fallible, that some of them are biased, and that they can be wrong.

If you want to grab my attention, show me one creationist who isn't biased, or one instance where they contradicted mainstream science and turned out to be right.

I wonder how long this anti-scientist nonsense would last if a team of experts found and proved something that supported a religious claim, e.g. something belonging to Jesus* that contained DNA evidence of his having been born via parthenongenesis.

Somehow I suspect scientists would become 'the good guys' in record time.

*Note: Do not for a second think that I consider this anything short of astonishingly unlikely.

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

Reading this I have discovered that Yahoo Answers is 99% useless and this guy seems to be for real.

Here's an answer:
Very few man like women who look intelligent and educated. This is far form being a cultural bias, as women's minds aren't as logical or ordered as a man's. A woman wearing glasses is, by implication, trying to take on aspects of a man's role, and most men dislike this at a very base, visceral level.

Only emasculated, weak men like women wearing glasses.

By jahigginbotham (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

@105: Dorothy Parker that man is not.

By helvetica (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

I was hoping that evolutino was the Italian theory of espresso evolution.
@amphiox: I have a light blue labcoat that I have to throw away after use, thanks to radiation!

So if science allows slanting from bias, and bias leads scientists to prove evolution, then creationalists should be able to prove creationalism. And the cartoon therefore proves that all creationalists must be atheists, since they don't believe in creationalism, since they can't prove it.

By HidariMak (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

The mark of a REAL scientist is the ability to assemble an Interferrometer. If you can, you and a companion get a free spaceship ride to Metaluna.

Of course he is biased, but he'd still be biased if he had a Bible on the shelf. Also, people often read stuff that they don't believe. Like the atheists who read and know the bible better than the "believers." Except for the brain dead, I'd say every human has a bias of some sort.

Also, the premise of the cartoon shows the bias of its author and publisher. Science=bad, Darwin=evil, Evolution=dogma! And Bible=good!

Hey, Nerd of Redhead, great post, but did you expect a cartoon by someone who probably isn't a scientist to get it right?

Amphiox, lab coats can come in many colors and fabric. The originals were made of cotton, and white cotton is cheaper than dyed. That started the tradition. I've had the traditional white cotton, navy blue cotton, navy blue polyester, white polyester with elastic wrist cuffs, and for special uses, disposable Tyvek with elastic wrist cuffs. It all depends upon need and corporate policy.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

Posted by: amphiox | January 6, 2009 8:27 PM
"But why are the coats white? Why not some other color? Blue? Orange? Fuschia? Hot pink?"

Bleach.

Scientists always gravtitate towards the simplest solution and laundry is no exception.

By mayhempix (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

There are actually five facts about scientists.

They brought about a 21st century that looks a lot different from the 11th century. That Hi Tech modern medicine stuff.

If you want to live a Dark Ages lifestyle, half your kids die before 5 of diseases you don't even know the names of, and die yourself at 40, go with the fundies. As an added advantage you get to fight endless wars with other sects and religions.

The white lab coat can also designate a Ph.D. in horribleness, although once you make the Evil League of Evil you get to wear a red one.

Qwerty, if Emily hadn't asked a question no post. I used to teach. Once I get started...

No, I'm not surprised by the cartoon. They're supposed to be funny, not accurate.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

Scientists are so biased, and I can prove it!

Every time they get a pitcher back from one of them-there satulites, do they ask themselves what light this throws on the flat-earth vs. round-earth controversy? They do not!

So there!

And here I was thinking the evolutino was a fundamental particle produced by high energy eukaryotic nuclear reactions.

@115: Isn't it kinda missing the "funny" part too?

By helvetica (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

MY Lab Coat has handsome narrow black stripes at 0.5cm spacing, both horizontal and vertical, on a white background. 'Looks like my quadrille notebook. (ESD proof, you know.)( Add in the corporate swag patch, and it's a babe-magnet! I just wish it were longer, so I didn't have to wear pants!

By OrchidGrowinMan (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

I love when they quit claiming not to be anti-science, and just embrace their hatred for science and scientists. Nasty as creationism fundamentally is, it's somewhat less noxious when it's at least honest in its hatreds.

Which brings up a good question: How can any of these anti-science cretins be a scientist? Several claim to be, though clearly they're nothing but religious apologists within whichever scientific subject they're opposing. Is Behe "NOT OBJECTIVE"? He's just bullshitting?

And is this why they never manage to do any real science (maybe a tad around the fringes of their claims, never at the core)? Sadly for these stupid anti-scientists, real scientists (not Behe (at least with respect to evolution), not any creationist (again, with respect to evolution)) accomplish a great deal that parasitical creationists like to either steal or to simply smear. Indeed, haven't IDiots frequently said that they don't need to do science, because others are doing it?

So they all rely on the science they hate. Still, I prefer the ones who are honest about their hatred of science and truth, rather than the DI's transparent lies about same.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

I just lost my composure at that first comment.

"Read any scientific paper and you will find it written in such obscure and baffling language as to be purest nonsense."

Because expertise is 'eliteism'.

I just hope this guy puts his money where his mouth is - performs his own surgery, prescribes his own medicines, represents himself in court, grows his own food... built his own computer...

Hmm, bias. Such a loaded word. Of course there is always "bias," but the word has come to have connotations of "unfair" and "unsupported," which can cloud the issue and make people defensive about obvious points. The uniformitarian award raises an interesting point - the very questions we ask demonstrate bias, and for a long time in geology the power of Lyell's ideas made it difficult for actual catastrophes to be addressed. This is not to say the scientific method is a contingent artifact of history no better that any other system of gathering knowledge. Its practical successes make its value clear. It's just that the scientific method does not exist in a vacuum, but is carried out by humans. It would be nice if the creationists and anti-vaxxer types would go away so we could stop being defensive about this point.

Christie:

The reason they took the coat off is because labcoats give you superpowers.

And, they're dead sexy.

Sexy? I wish.

The only time I've worn my lab coat was to a Halloween party at least fifteen years ago. I covered it with tiny arrows, randomly pointing up and down, and went as the Ising model above the Curie temperature. My chemist wife had a few descriptive terms for it; "sexy" was not one of them.

@117 When confronted with the term 'adaptive radiation' a student once asked if it was some special type of sun light-- you guessed it, the guy was a fundie.

@#126--odd.... at a Halloween party of ours a few years ago, one person--an actual lab assistant*, whose job is to kill rats, remove their brains, and prepare thin slices of said brains for histology slides--wore a white lab coat, and was very sexy indeed.

.

.

.

*and part-time nude model.

Lets end this eliteism now!

Lrnz 2 spel 1st n00b!

By Twin-Skies (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

Anyone who has adverse comment on their religiobabble is said to be arrogant if the opinion is dismissive of their evidence-free dogma, or elitist if the commentor speaks from a legitimate position of expertise.
I wonder what sort of criticism they would consider acceptable?

I've actually always thought that men in white coats want to kill me. Maybe it's like a fear of clowns or something. Or too many Michael Crichton books.

Kel,
You don't have to go to all that trouble of going back to uni, you can get a lab coat here.

I don't think they require a diploma for orders.

Kel,
You don't have to go to all that trouble of going back to uni

I've been thinking about doing it away.

Addendum to my last comment:

The beard and glasses are your own responsibility. Blue or white, tie not included. Should you be female, they might have something to help you with the beard. Fisher has everything.

Hm. I wore a pale blue lab coat once.
for some work involving chemicals I wore gloves and a rubber apron.
But that's another story.
Someone once said "ignorance is bliss."
He must have been a religious leader.

The beard and glasses are your own responsibility. Blue or white, tie not included. Should you be female, they might have something to help you with the beard. Fisher has everything.

I don't wear glasses and I can't grow a beard (yet), so maybe it's best I put off getting a 2nd degree until my eyesight starts to fade and my beard starts to grow.

You mean we're supposed to wear lab coats? I'm in my junior year working on a bachelors and have yet to wear a coat in the lab (I'm a biochemistry major for those wondering). Just what is their obsession with them anyways, it's just a fucking coat. It's as moronic as stating that a chef seldom wears the stereotypical hat.

And if a college student can understand the journals it's nowhere near "obscure and baffling." It just requires a bit of knowledge beforehand to know what's going on. But that's too much to ask from these simpletons.

This may be off topic, but I had a look at the xkcd comics mentioned in an earlier post and thought they were worth getting so I could peruse them as a slide show locally, not doing 547 clicks in a browser window, followed by much dragging of images, etc.

So with a bit of sleuthing and a bit of scripting I managed to snag the lot in about 10 minutes (more fun to write code than to do it manually, even if the time saved was not more than an hour or so).

If you run a Mac and want to get the whole library of xkcd comics, then do this. Make a folder on your desktop called "xkcd_comics" and then copy the script below into a Script Editor window. Put your user name in the path to the desktop, as indicated in the script comment, and then run it. If you're on broadband it will take about 3 or 4 minutes to give you the entire comic library. Then you can use Graphic Converter, or some similar application to run a slide show for you.

Here's the script. Don't forget to make the one change after you copy it into the Script Editor window. If you don't know AppleScript, or don't have a Mac, sorry.

----------------------- start of script -------------------------------

set comicList to {"1000_miles_north.png", "11th_grade.png", "1337_part_1.png", "1337_part_2.png", "1337_part_3.png", "1337_part_4.png", "1337_part_5.png", "2008_christmas_special.png", "28_hour_day.png", "50_ways.png", "90s_flowchart.png", "a-minus-minus.png", "a_better_idea.png", "a_bunch_of_rocks.png", "a_new_captcha_approach.png", "a_simple_plan.jpg", "a_softer_robot.jpg", "a_way_so_familiar.png", "abusive_astronomy.jpg", "accident.png", "achewood.png", "action_movies.png", "actuarial.png", "advanced_technology.png", "aeris_dies.png", "alice_and_bob.png", "all_your_base.png", "alone.png", "alternate_currency.png", "america.png", "angular_momentum.jpg", "anti_mind_virus.png", "apple_jacks.jpg", "appropriate_term.png", "attention_shopper.jpg", "automatic_doors.png", "aversion_fads.png", "babies.png", "back_to_the_future.jpg", "bad_timing.png", "ballmer_peak.png", "balloon.png", "banter.740.jpg", "banter.jpg", "baring_my_heart.png", "barrel_cropped_(1).jpg", "barrel_mommies.jpg", 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set pathRoot to "http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/"

-- in the next line, change "yourUserName" to the name of your home directory
set targetPath to "/Users/yourUserName/Desktop/xkcd_comics/"

repeat with aComic in comicList
set fullSource to pathRoot & aComic
set fullTarget to targetPath & aComic
set curlSlug to "curl \"" & fullSource & "\" -o \"" & fullTarget & "\""
do shell script curlSlug
end repeat

----------------------- end of script -------------------------

Reading this I have discovered that Yahoo Answers is 99% useless and this guy seems to be for real.

Yahoo Answers is for people too dumb to operate a search engine. Here is a dramatic reading of a typical session.

By Feynmaniac (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

Feynmaniac @142, that reading made me giggle uncontrollably.

By John Morales (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

JackC @53:

Look at the cartoon. The title on the spine is "Origin of the Species". PharmDude was pointing out that THEY got it wrong.

So question;

If the proof that scientists are not infallible is that they are human, does that mean that Jesus was also fallible, or does it mean he was not human?

Just did the same thing with the Jesus and Mo comics. Scripting can be fun. I'd post it if anyone wanted it.

Um... I'm not a scientist, but I can usually get through journals like Nature or Science fairly well (my old job gave me periodic exposure to them for free). I might have to look up the more technical terms, but, once I have a grasp on that, I muddle through okay. I don't have delusions of being Einstein or PZ or Dawkins, or even my college Anatomy professor, but I can pick up the stuff, if I try.

The possibilities for why the creotards refuse to learn it are pretty simple:

1) Not smart enough to figure out the basics.

2) A mind firmly shut against anything that contradicts even one smidgeon of their guy in the sky fantasy (except the contradictions within their holy book, of course!).

or 3) They're too stupid and deluded to learn science.

That should have been "Four coomonly believed myths about the guy in the pulpit". Or the Pope, or the people who wrote the Bible... The only people who really belileve that anyone is "infallible" are fundies and Catholics.

"I've always asked, why is it that scientists get away with such blatent eliteism."
Why, the answer is easy. It is because they ARE elite. "Elite" means a particular group of people who have some knowledge that most do not. This kind of exclusion is sometimes a result of willful ignorance.

"Read any scientific paper and you will find it written in such obscure and baffling language as to be purest nonsense."
That's more of an indicator of one's own ignorance.

#140 I seem to recall using a lab coat for many biology and biochem classes (or rather labs). Using nasty reagents that unzip DNA, caustics, and dyes/stains/taggers tend to make you want to keep your clothing clean and free of contamination.

By JoeCanadian (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

Plain spoken biblical facts??? This guy hasn't read his own material. There's a passage in the New Testament (Mathew 13:10-15) where Jesus explains the use of parables. Reportedly, the use of parables keeps hidden from those of us who were condemned since before the beginning of time, from discovering the "truth" and being "healed". If we were told the truth in plain language, we might change our minds and be saved; and we can't have that now can we? Talk about elitism!

@Cheezits #148

On the contrary, I personally know several Catholics who agree that Pope Benedict is seriously out of touch with reality, and hence doesn't need to be taken seriously.

By Twin-Skies (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

what a fuckwit

here's a quote from another of his blogposts: "Most of these myths are centuries old. The myth of the female orgasm for example was created by Renaissance Era Libertines seeking to encourage promiscuity in women."

I recall hearing: "We do not partake in any part of society which does not include The Lord."

Willful ignorance. The moral equivalent of a 5 year old sticking his fingers in his ears and yelling.
I wonder sometimes, if only they'd pull their fingers out for a moment and see that the world is quite marvelous and fascinating even if there is no deity to thank for it.

Hell, I'm rabidly pro-science, and *I* don't put scientists on a pedestal like that. People are people. I work with scientists. They can be just as silly as anyone else. :-) Especially with politics. Oy vey...

Engineers like me wear lab coats, too. They are special anti-static material. Some chips these days can be damage by a shock of 50 volts. You can't even *feel* a static shock until it's 3500V. That's right, kids. When that doorknob zaps you hard? That probably somewhere between 5000 to 10,000 volts.

By Quiet_Desperation (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

"Read any scientific paper and you will find it written in such obscure and baffling language as to be purest nonsense Evolutionary biology is just such a nonsense-science: It's intended to befuddle rather than to inform. How much better to believe planly-spoken biblical facts that are easily understood by all men regardless of their level of education."

i confess i found his admission touching, actually, because it leaves the hope that if he understood more, he would be less hostile. i don't know any christian fundamentalists, but i know plenty of "new age" types, and they say similar things: that new age mysticism is more accessible and so easier to believe.

you can respond to this by calling people stupid, but it makes me wonder, what *are* the materials that are written for the lowest common denominator? i.e. the science "jack chick"?

i do think there is elitism, not in writing scientific papers obviously, but in thinkng that something accessible to a pre-selected group of students or the readers of the nyrb (where gould's essays were published) counts as generally accessible. perhaps the answer is well-dressed polite young people knocking on doors and offering friendly personal assistance with understanding evolution :-) :-)

m,

i do think there is elitism, not in writing scientific papers obviously, but in thinkng that something accessible to a pre-selected group of students or the readers of the nyrb (where gould's essays were published) counts as generally accessible.

Who made that claim?

Clearly, to use other than jargon for scientific matters would require a lot of excess verbiage and circumlocution, and that would hardly clarify matters for the undeducated, and would impede the dissemination of scientific ideas.
Its use is necessary.

Elitism would be to consider that other methods of explaining science (science journalism, popular science books, web sites, blog posts (some on this very blog!)) would be beyond the abilities most people to follow (assuming they actually try).

By John Morales (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

Why can't we all be happy with the lowest common denominator? Yeah, why don't we choose a biblical theologian when we go in for brain surgery or a heart transplant?

By Jeanette Garcia (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

Sigh. It's precise and specialised language, which may be obscure if you haven't studied the specialty, but doesn't render it to be nonsense.

Surely this person has talked to somebody who doesn't work in his profession before, and had the reaction of a blink and a "huh, I guess I'll take your word for it." I mean, I spout graphic design jargon all day long to my programming coworker. He doesn't understand anti-aliasing and matte and colour profiles and bezier curves and he can talk about object-oriented programming and model-oriented and if-else thingummies and it means, oh, zilch to me. To each other, our jargon sounds like nonsense, but it means very specific and precise things. Our tools, while inexplicable to somebody not in our career path, are very useful indeed to us.

I can understand not getting the jargon. What I find inexcusable is their deep and abiding lack of intellectual curiosity. Surely, if you don't understand something and you WANT to understand it, you research it. And researching it, you begin to understand the building blocks, even if you don't fully comprehend the architecture or the scope of the idea.

Could someone explain to me what this science agenda is that scientists ignore facts to push their lies? I've never been able to figure it out. I once heard that it was the work of Satan. I found that pretty funny, till I realized the dude wasn't joking. I mean, if creationism was real scientists could study the world from that point of view. It wouldn't make their work irrelevant. Well, except that if there is a creator god any work not worshiping him or her would be irrelevant.

"Lets end this eliteism now!"

Mechanic: Mr. Smith, you are having troubles with your carburetor.

Creationist: Elitist! Trying to confuse me with your befuddling jargon!

Mechanic: Um, you are having problems with you air-gas doohickey thingamabob?

Creationist: Now that's better! God be praised!!

Commonly believed facts? Really?

If they're facts, doesn't that mean their known?

Shouldn't it be:

Commonly held beliefs

or

Commonly believed theories.

Gotta love the language skills of creationist webcomic authors.

I've always asked, why is it that scientists get away with such blatent eliteism [sic]. Read any scientific paper and you will find it written in such obscure and baffling language as to be purest nonsense.

And THAT was the precise moment when my brain broke from shear nested stupidity. I actually felt it. I need an aspirin now.

How much better to believe planly-spoken biblical facts that are easily understood by all men regardless of their level of education.

Hence the one, no, thirty-thousand Christian sects, all differentiated by interpretations of dogma.

Fuck you, creationists. Seriously, fuck you.

By Brownian, OM (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

I rather think the sad thing is that some folk see the nonsense and nod their head in sage agreement...

Fuckwits and creotards will always sniff around the edges of society looking for the odd target to pollute with palpable nonsense...but the targets are there that is the problem!

No audience = no idiot getting all sexually aroused in the rapture of self induced hysteria.

It is about generating fear and hostility really...
Fear is that science will finally close the last remaining gaps and society becomes invisible friend free...it will leave the deluded with no place to hide...their ignorance will be exposed to all and the hatred and bigotry will have nothing to disguise itself with !
The hostility is the point that science has taken their toys away no more crosses and dresses and no place for literal 'praisin de lawd'... loss of what status they think they had with their cronies circle of dingbats and no appeal to supreme court!

These fools that peddle this bollocks are the direct descendants of the pompous pillars of the community that watched old women burn for being wise in the ways of the world and young women scream for being a temptation!

Only they now sense that science has relieved them of their matches...and they are sore peed off!

By strangest brew (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

I just spent some time kicking around Cornswalled site. Let's just say that the cartoon is one of the less insane things posted there. He is anti-vaccination. Calls Obama the Kenyan President and is convinced that he is a white hating muslim that will not be able to legally hold the title. He is convinced that cosmetics is filled with the remains of aborted fetuses. He thinks that the uses of stem cell is merely for smoothing the wrinkles of wealthy women. As you can guess, the highest number of his posts are about homosexuality. He admire the homophobic crowd that threw shit at a gay pride parade in Latvia in 2006.

I will end with his insightful review of The Skeptic's Guide To The Universe podcast. I am sure that many of you have listened to it. See if it bare any similarity to the show you know. It will show why this person thinks that the cartoon is insightful.

Podcast Reviews: The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe

As part of my ongoing work with our Church, I've been tasked with reviewing the media being consumed by the youth in our congregation. Today I'm reviewing a Podcast entitled "The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe" or the SGU to its fans. As in my past reviews, I listened to three episodes in their entirety.

The SGU bills itself as an analytical podcast. They claim to be skeptical of any and all claims made by just about anyone. There are of course exceptions. The hosts pretty much accept global warming as gospel truth and they're all unapologetic atheists. They go so far as to routinely ridicule Christians for having religious beliefs.

The podcast is as anti-Christian as they come. Even if you set aside the wholesale endorsement of vaccination, their wholesale rejection of homeopathy, their complete lack of regard for anything supernatural and their unthinking acceptance of all things humanist there's still their constant ridicule of Christ and his followers.

There is nothing redeemable in this podcast. It's a propaganda mouthpiece for Satan and his followers. The content is a lock step repetition of the same humanist lies that have plagued the United States since the invention of the "separation of Church and State" fiction.

Despite their lock step service to Satan and the intellectual dishonesty of claiming to be skeptical while accepting the same beliefs as the rest of their peer group, I can't help but feel sorry for these people. This is because of one episode where they interviewed an atheist musician who had written a song about his dog's death. This song was an attempt by someone with no belief in an afterlife to deal with the death of his pet. The shoddy, hopeless, empty shell of "consolation" he came up with was so "moving" to other atheists that one of them had this song, about the death of a DOG, played at his mother's funeral.

What was the best the atheists could come up with to console them on the death of a loved one?

"The deceased won't have to miss me."

Despite everything these people are doing to drag souls to Hell, I can't help but pity such lost, hopeless, pathetic creatures.

By Janine, Bitter… (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

I am glad that PZ made the point about the two reasons for wearing a white coat: to protect yourself from nasties/yuckies or to prevent spreading said nasties/yuckies around outside the lab. Here in the UK flunkies, often with much lower qualifications than you, insist that a white coat, and often gloves be worn at ALL times. They don't seem to realise that I have a brain and have been trained to use it, including assessing whether the above scenarios apply. Sucking spent Tris buffer out of a tube with a fixed embryo in it and putting more buffer in does not come under either scenario, which is why I did not don said garment and/or put on gloves (at that stage I WANT rnase to drip from my fingers) as I stepped the 3metres from the office to the bench (I am not allowed to wear a lab coat in the office).
/rant

By Peter Ashby (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

@Janine, Bitter Friend #168

"Condescending, wilfully ignorant, hate-mongering twat" comes to mind as I read that blog post.

By Twin-Skies (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

I thought the misspelling of 'blatant elitism' was a nice touch. Thanks, Poe.

By Ashley Moore (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

Poe...

Damn - fooled again

By Twin-Skies (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

'I've been tasked with reviewing the media being consumed by the youth in our congregation. Today I'm reviewing a Podcast entitled "The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe" or the SGU to its fans.'

So the youth in the congregation are questioning the premise...GOOD!

'they're all unapologetic atheists.'

So now we must be apologetic...cripes!

'They go so far as to routinely ridicule Christians for having religious beliefs.'

What that far?...begads!...what is the world coming to?

'The podcast is as anti-Christian as they come. Even if you set aside the wholesale endorsement of vaccination,'

So vaccination is now anti-christian...hmmm!

How about then that Christian communities are 'allowed' to skip vaccinations for everything?
No diphtheria...no whooping cough..no tetanus no nothing...when the kids start dying I wonder what the attitude to vaccination will be then...okay if still the same let them have it their way...(tis a way to ethnically clean society and it is their choice)...or am I being a typical blood thirsty atheist for suggesting that Christians must live their life without those nasty satanic vaccinations...?
One condition... they do not come into contact at all with the rest of civilised society!

'their wholesale rejection of homeopathy,

That is very evil of them!

'their complete lack of regard for anything supernatural'

That is called rationalism...they should try it sometime!

'The content is a lock step repetition of the same humanist lies that have plagued the United States since the invention of the "separation of Church and State" fiction.'

Is that not sedition..or at least treason if not outright terrorism to suggest that this constitutional point is fiction?

'Despite their lock step service to Satan and the intellectual dishonesty of claiming to be skeptical while accepting the same beliefs as the rest of their peer group'

Irony meter twitching like a good 'un!...he likes the term 'lock step'!

'There is nothing redeemable in this podcast. It's a propaganda mouthpiece for Satan and his followers.'

Yet bozo 'listened to three episodes in their entirety.'

What has he got against dogs anyway?

'Despite everything these people are doing to drag souls to Hell'

Ahh! more of that supernatural stuff!

Don't like... don't listen!

'I can't help but pity such lost, hopeless, pathetic creatures.'

Save your pity for your kids you condemn to death for being an intellectual ignoramus...and a complete dipstick!

By strangest brew (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

How much better to believe planly-spoken biblical facts that are easily understood by all men regardless of their level of education.

Ha! In other words, scientific terminology is hard to understand for creationists because they hate the concept, so let's all just dumb-down and be religious morons!

By SourBlaze (not verified) on 06 Jan 2009 #permalink

"Science papers tend to be heavy on the jargon because they are tightly condensed. It's a highly refined format designed to facilitate communication between knowledgable people in the field."

Actually, much as I agree with your comments in general, I strongly disagree with this one. I spent over 7 years in academia, between a PhD in physics and a Postdoc investigating evolutionary algorithms in CompSci. Never once did I ever read a single research paper that facilitated communication. IMHO they pretty much all obscured the point of the paper beneath a smokescreen of complex terminology, unnecessary maths and obfuscating grammar. I once tried to write a paper in plain English (without loss of content) and it was rejected due to language style. *sigh*

In fact, this one situation was one of the strongest incentives for me to quit academia and move to the private sector.

Interestingly, in most cases, if you actually speak to the scientist(s) concerned, then they can usually explain what their research was about lucidly and engagingly in just a few minutes, generating a far greater level of comprehension than I would get after hours fighting through their own paper on the subject.

I know lots of other people working in academia, and many who have left, who feel exactly the same way.

It's not about religion (hooray) but there is an event at Tate Modern in London on January 24th discussing the relationship of science and art, featuring Gillian Beer, Marcus du Sautoy, Ben Goldacre, Anthony Grayling, Jonathan Miller and Alan Sokal.
Details and booking at http://www.tate.org.uk/modern/eventseducation/symposia/16580.htm.

There are other (more academic) events at The Science Museum and Birkbeck

I am puzzled beyond belief. What is supposed to be the second scientist's subject?

I would assume it has something to do with Anthropology or Paleontology or plain Evolution, given the books in his shelf (as opposed to having any other books), but why then is he awarded by a non-existant Geological society, and what on EARTH is a bunsen-burner experiment doing on his office desk? And much more important: Where is his computer and the piles of peer-reviewed research prints to be read?! Also, which scientist puts his or her master's degree up on the wall?

In other words - whatever this person is, he's not much more of a scientist than the guy in the first picture is. :P

Wowbagger @ 104

Actually it would be interesting to see what they would think if we could prove some of their fantastical claims. Would they then finally admit that it was proven through science and therefore likely to hold some truth, or would they just say that even biased socialist atheistic scientists get things right now and then? Would they have to admit that we understand the cosmos through science best?

By Liberal Atheist (not verified) on 07 Jan 2009 #permalink

@Colin Frayne
I once tried to write a paper in plain English (without loss of content) and it was rejected due to language style. *sigh*

English is a terrible language for technical writing for the same reason that it was no accident that Shakespeare wrote in it. Because it is such a mongrel language it is full of nuance and the different ways you can write something all carry slightly different baggage. This makes writing science in it difficult because in science you have to avoid ambiguity and nuance. It is also why much science was still written in German for so long. Which is why we have legalese as well as scientific English, they are necessary evils.

Just pity those who have to write papers in English as a second language. Good English speakers are valued in Japanese labs for eg. and journal editors spend a lot of time helping foreign authors wrangle their English into a meaningful and accurate form. It seems to me slightly precious for you to give up when English is your native language when they continue to struggle with it so they can publish. Get over yourself.

By Peter Ashby (not verified) on 07 Jan 2009 #permalink

Bother, wrong HTML (why does it vary so much between sites?). The first paragraph above is Colin Frayne's, the others are mine.

By Peter Ashby (not verified) on 07 Jan 2009 #permalink

PZ wrote:

He is...HU-MAN? What is this? Was there some suspicion that candidates completing their Ph.D. (or, in this case, their Master's) were inoculated with super-scientific viruses that transgenically mutated them into an alien life form? If so, I want to know who leaked the secret.

It was Bruce Sterling, in a book called "Schismatrix." They were called "Brights." It didn't work.

Peter Ashby,

I'd be interested to know if you can suggest a language better than English for technical writing, since you think English is terrible, or if perhaps you think the whole issue is inherently problematic.

All languages are essentially "Earthian" or "Humanian" in some sense, so they're all going to suffer from at least a baseline of awkwardness when attempting to discuss technical matters, since the way human beings acquire language is essentialliy the same, regardless of the specific language.

For technical writing, the proper "language" is figures and equations. Materials and methods or captions will be stilted and awkward in any language.

Yes! Let's Do Science!

Also, the cake is a lie.

It's finally confirmed, then, that I am one of the super-elite; since I have no less than THREE labcoats of different colours, to be worn in different laboratory areas.

I am fondest of the Lincoln Green coat I must wear in the gel electrophoresis area - very cool colour

Colin@144 - Thanks for that. Slightly later on, I mentioned a nice Crusted Port. I think it had taken effect early. I re-read PharmDude's post and see where I was lead astray, and in a partial defense, though I do not normally wear a labcoat, I DO wear glasses - and they aren't very good.

My bad. Thanks for that.

JC

I always find it humorous when religious types try to ascribe to scientists a belief in their own infalibility. A recognition of human falibility is at the HEART of scientific inquiry. Why do scientists document their methods? So that others can figure out their mistakes. Claims to ultimate truth and infalibility are rather the province of religions.

Mike G> You'd think fisher might be more sympathetic to the larger members of society... As a former rugby player who managed NOT to addle my brains, I wear a size 48 coat, and their available sizes stop at 42... glad I don't need one.

I find Christian apologists tend to be elitist. They use lots of big words like "presuppositional" to explain things that should be simple for anyone to understand.

:-)

In reference the scond cartoon:
What's the footnote to go with the asterisk by the arrow pointing to the books?
And why does the first point have a full stop, whilst the rest have exclamation marks?

By Colonel Molerat (not verified) on 07 Jan 2009 #permalink

Hey, it's the same argument as Denise O'Leary: "I can't understand it, therefore it's crap". Is that another proof tht IDists and old-style creationists are really one and the same?

By Christophe Thill (not verified) on 07 Jan 2009 #permalink

I nominate that the word "elitist" be drummed out of the English language and marched off a cliff. It could possibly have been a harmless word if used correctly, but the last election cycle has left it tainted beyond rehabilitation.

The Real Scientist is biased, I suppose, because his bookshelf doesn't hold anything with Jebus in the title.

In fact, while we're at it, I also nominate that the word "biased" be locked up in a gulag and only allowed outside under strict supervision.

Dammit,

The only reason I want to become a scientist was for the white lab coat...

The real scientist has hair. Isn't that comforting?

By Christophe Thill (not verified) on 07 Jan 2009 #permalink

And you might have noticed that The Scientist in the toon is left handed. Sinister. The devil's grip.

Damnit PZ!!!

"Was there some suspicion that candidates completing their Ph.D. (or, in this case, their Master's) were inoculated with super-scientific viruses that transgenically mutated them into an alien life form?"

Now I'm gonna drop out. :(
I thought... I heard... just leave me alone! :(

I'll have to be a mathematician now.

@109

I thought it was Interocitor. "Use only genuine Interocitor parts!"

A recognition of human falibility is at the HEART of scientific inquiry.

Or as Richard Feynman put it, "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself -- and you are the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful about that. After you've not fooled yourself, it's easy not to fool other scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after that."
"CargoCult Science", by Richard Feynman

"I've always asked, why is it that scientists get away with such blatent eliteism. Read any scientific paper and you will find it written in such obscure and baffling language as to be purest nonsense.

Evolutionary biology is just such a nonsense-science: It's intended to befuddle rather than to inform. How much better to believe planly-spoken biblical facts that are easily understood by all men regardless of their level of education.

Lets end this eliteism now!"

So, I teach Freshman-level academic writing. The very first thing we talk about is audience - the people who are going to be reading what you write. Papers published in professional journals aren't for the layman, they're for *gasp* professionals. I don't expect to be able to understand a plumbing technical manual. Why? Because it wasn't written for me; it was written for professional plumbers. This isn't elitist, it's considering one's audience when writing. *sigh* Let's end the underestimation of stupid people, particularly in large groups.

How much better to believe planly-spoken biblical facts that are easily understood by all men regardless of their level of education.

HAAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

heh... heh... *wipes tear*

Hahahahahaha!

Oh god, that set me up all day. The bible is easily understood by all men regardless of their level of education? We must be reading different bibles. Large tracts of the bible appear to have been deliberately written in obscure language that defy understanding. Take the prophets, for example, or revelations. And lets not forget that many "biblical truths" are - both now and historically - wide open to interpretation depending on what exactly you want to show. As an example, how many people depend on commentary - either by preachers or study guides - to explain to them what is meant by different parts of the bible? If it's so obvious, surely reading it will be enough?

Heh... easily understood by all men... that's a good one.

How can he be a member of any uniformitarian society when he's not wearing his white coat?

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 07 Jan 2009 #permalink

I envy scientists and their snazzy lab coats. Me, I'm a lowly accountant and I'm getting tired of this damn green eyeshade.

By Cliff Hendroval (not verified) on 07 Jan 2009 #permalink

It's interesting that the artist chose to represent the unbiased, objective, infallible scientist as a giant on a pedestal, while showing the fallible, unobjective, biased scientist as a normal guy sitting in an office writing down observations from an experiment.

I think he's trying to tell us that scientists are just totally awesome.

Recently, on "The Big Bang Theory":
Wolowitz (reacting to condescention from the Dean): "I have a *Masters* degree!"
The Dean: "Phhht, who doesn't?"

"Fuckwits and creotards will always sniff around the edges of society looking for the odd target to pollute with palpable nonsense...but the targets are there that is the problem!"

But they are not the "edges of society". There are MILLIONS of these people. They might even be the majority. Rush Lardball could quote this on his radio show and an avalanch of calls would come in praising him for his insight. This is a big problem, not a small one.

By And-U-say (not verified) on 07 Jan 2009 #permalink

I don't understand why dobson & cornswalled are being so anti-elitist!

Nuclear Kelly @84:

"Did you notice his post about how pi can be derived from Genesis 1:1?"

I thought that'd be from Genesis 22:7.

No, it's to do with Abraham being ordered by God to scare the shit out of his son Isaac by threatening to exsanguinsate him and burn his remains. He might have made a pie with some offcuts. What a loving God.

This may have been mentioned already...

But unless I am mistaken these look like drawings I have seen in Ken Ham's book "Evolution: The Lie."

My aunt gave that book to my parents trying to persuade them to her crazy way of thinking (my aunt has some strange ideas), and I flipped through it one day. Very entertaining actually (but for reasons other than what the author intended I'm sure.)

Wow, I am truly amazed at how often anti-science types will use the fact they simply can't understand science as evidence that science is simply wrong. Scientific papers are written for the science community, and precision in wording is important. This guy would really benefit from actually understanding the scientific method and study design. Scientists are no more biased than religious fundies or any other group of people. Scientists tend to be less biased because they are (in theory) willing to actually change their minds if the evidence points in a different direction.

BTW-I wear a white lab coat daily, not that it says anything about my credibility.

Peter Ashby,

I'd be interested to know if you can suggest a language better than English for technical writing, since you think English is terrible, or if perhaps you think the whole issue is inherently problematic.

All languages are essentially "Earthian" or "Humanian" in some sense, so they're all going to suffer from at least a baseline of awkwardness when attempting to discuss technical matters, since the way human beings acquire language is essentialliy the same, regardless of the specific language.

For technical writing, the proper "language" is figures and equations. Materials and methods or captions will be stilted and awkward in any language.

while i agree that math is the best way of presenting a paper, since math is the only non-vague language, I have to say that some languages are more precise than others. German for example is a very precise language, if only because you can stick words together like legos to get a new concept across. (I once had to read Kant in English. A silly exercise since half of it was still in German, because no accurate English words existed to replace them)

Unfortunately it (like most European languages) suffers from Anglicisation, making it far less precise, especially since the adopted English words are usually mis-applied (see "public viewing" and "body bags")

that, plus no one wants to learn German :-p

"How much better to believe planly-spoken biblical facts that are easily understood by all men regardless of their level of education."

Because everyone, regardless of their level of education speak fluent Classical Hebrew and Koine Greek..

I'm pretty confident the white coat bit's meant as humor. Else they'd have gone with just "commonly believed facts about the scientist;" "with the white coat" is plainly setup. And that it then comes last on the list further suggests it's intended as gentle comedic let-down: "so many of our beliefs about scientists in white coats are unjustified. Why, even the belief that he ... wears a white coat! ... is unjustified."

I've heard one or two funnier jokes in my time, but I think we should give credit at least that the white coat bit wasn't itself a sign of derangement. --Humbly, your joke analyst

By seasofbrightjuice (not verified) on 07 Jan 2009 #permalink

Sigh...

Is it just me, or fundamentalism totally wrecks any sense of humor or sarcasm ?

Because, this isn't even funny, and it's a piss-poor attempt at sarcasm/parody. And not because I'm a scientist, either, since I can't even feel mocked (or in any way concerned), for dog's sake.

Reading that makes me ashamed for them like when you look at some poor schlob make an idiot of himself on youtube. Or when, as a teenager, your mom tries to use words like "cool" and "groovy" with your friends.

Sure my banker think I'm some infallible white-coated god when I tell them I'm a chemist. Not. (He'd rather I was an engineer, lawyer or doctor. Or better yet, a televangelist.)

And I never go out without my lab coat (whatever that may elicit in their warped brains. Are there porn movies where lab coats are worn ?).

"How much better to believe planly-spoken biblical facts that are easily understood by all men regardless of their level of education."

This person does not understand that "plainly-spoken" does not always mean "correct." You need science behind what you say before it can actually be considered science.

Just pity those who have to write papers in English as a second language. Good English speakers are valued in Japanese labs for eg. and journal editors spend a lot of time helping foreign authors wrangle their English into a meaningful and accurate form. It seems to me slightly precious for you to give up when English is your native language when they continue to struggle with it so they can publish. Get over yourself.

Actually, as someone for whom English is a second language, I'm pretty thankful I don't have to write papers in my own infinitely finicky mother tongue (French) whose rules now seem to vary each month to try and make sure today's kids can write it properly (last rule change I'm aware of : plural of al-ending words (ex.:animal) is now -als (ex.:animals) instead of animaux). Bleeargh.

I recognize those illustrations. They came from a book titled The Lie: Evolution, written by Ken Ham back in the 1980s, long before he founded Answers in Genesis. The book is as rediculous a collection of fallacies as can be imagined.

I'm with Kemist - and I an actually German -: I'm very thankful the language is English, and not my native language!

German is a terrible language to write papers in. The German spelling and grammar are by far more complicated (unnecessarily so!) than in English, and I'd not want to cast this curse onto anyone. English is also the language in which politics and economy work, so it's usually included in school education. It would be beyond me why science should not be cimmunicated in the most universal language we have - some people are glad they mastered ONE foreign language and would certainly be handicapped if they had to learn yet another one to be good scientists.

Of course any non-native language can be a pain for any author of any field and native speakers have a natural advantage (someone necessarily has to be native to it, though). I recently got to correct my coworker's paper because his English is only so-and-so (but not on the lowest scale) and his previous lab's papers got some comments on their "obviously not native" English skills before (apparently nobody there speaks really good English). However, there must be a universal language in science, or it won't work, so he had to deal with it.

((Sometimes I WISHED some German authors had published their findings in German, because it pains me trying to understand their English, and I knew we'd be able to communicate much better in German. I also wished some native authors would do us the favor of not trying to sound overly-sophisticated... it's tedious to read.))

Say, Aren't those attributes supposed to be god's? WOW, god is a scientist, WooHoo

I find this hilarious because I'm scientist and I'm wearing a white lab coat as I read it.

By the looks of the experiment that guy should be wearing a lab coat! Otherwise he's just going to get his clothes splashed with something.

Canuck's method (#141) may be easy, but is not complete: you won't get the punchlines hidden in the "title" attributes of each xkcd strip's "img" tag. They become visible when you hover the mouse cursor over the image for a second.

(Firefox 2 had the annoying habit of showing only the first line of multi-line titles. For Forefox 2 users I recommend the "LongTitles" addon or better, an update to Firefox 3 or SeaMonkey 1.1.13.)

A woman wearing glasses is, by implication, trying to take on aspects of a man's role, and most men dislike this at a very base, visceral level.
Only emasculated, weak men like women wearing glasses.

Whew. You have no idea how relieved I am that this guy will never be attracted to me.

By Julie Stahlhut (not verified) on 13 Jan 2009 #permalink

Julie, you are reading and writing. That is enough of a turn off.

By Janine, Bitter… (not verified) on 13 Jan 2009 #permalink

"A woman wearing glasses is, by implication, trying to take on aspects of a man's role"

Or, maybe she is just trying to see. No wait, her brain just isn't logical enough to come up with that idea. Nevermind.