Category Archives: Science

Discoveroids: Scientists, Cast Off Your Chains!

We are accustomed to the creationists’ claim that they and the “evolutionists” work with the same evidence, but we start with different presuppositions. Creationists begin all their thinking by presupposing the existence of God and The Truth of the bible.

The creation scientists at Answers in Genesis (AIG) write about this often. They call it presuppositional apologetics. AIG says:

If we start off believing the Bible is the Word of God [scripture omitted], then we use it as our axiom. An axiom (often used in logic) is a proposition that is not susceptible to proof or disproof; its truth is assumed. … The battle is not over evidence but over philosophical starting points: presuppositions.

It’s true, of course, that science uses axioms. They’re imbedded in the scientific method. One is logic. We must accept the validity of Aristotelian logic as an axiom, because logic underlies all our intellectual efforts. Without it, for example, contradictions would be acceptable and experiments would be pointless. If logic is out … then it’s in! Life without logic is great. Well, illogically speaking, it is and it isn’t.

Axioms can’t be proved, but something that is truly axiomatic must be accepted. Without logic we’d be unable to recognize false conclusions, and without free will (another axiom), we couldn’t reject false conclusions. Anther fundamental axiom of science is the validity of sensory evidence (augmented by the evidence of our instruments), without which we have no verifiable information. There’s also the existence of objective reality, which is the source of the information we obtain from our senses.

The so-called axioms of religion, on the other hand, are different. They’re essential for a specific religion, of course, but they’re totally arbitrary. The Greeks, for example, accepted the existence of the Olympian gods as being axiomatic. But other religions have their own beliefs, and each of them functions independently of the others. People can and do switch from one religion to another. Atheists manage to function with no religious axioms. Therefore, no religion’s dogma is truly axiomatic, in the way that scientific axioms are.

AIG isn’t the only creationist outfit to claim that science is just an arbitrary presupposition. The Discovery Institute does it too. A good example is the latest post at their creationist blog: National Academy of Sciences: Dobzhansky’s “In the Light of Evolution” Mantra Is Not a Deduction, but a Premise. We’ll give you some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis.

They begin by mentioning Theodosius Dobzhansky’s 1973 statement, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” We all know that’s true, but watch how the Discoveroids misuse words and concepts as they attempt to create doubts. They tell us that:

[T]he National Academy of Sciences has presented an ongoing series of colloquia, “In the Light of Evolution.” … In the introduction to the series in PNAS [the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences], Francisco Ayala, Brian Skyrms and John Avise make it clear that evolution is to be viewed as a paradigm, not a conclusion from evidence.

[*Sigh*] That’s not what they say, because it’s totally wrong. A scientific theory doesn’t begin as an arbitrary paradigm, the way religions do, but as a conclusion from verifiable evidence. Once it’s well-established, a theory can be used a framework for understanding additional evidence. That’s the function of a theory. But a theory’s ability to function that way is not based on a presupposition of the theory’s truth. It’s the hard-earned — and always tentative — result of a great deal of evidence and tests that have established the usefulness of the theory — and the absence of evidence that casts doubt on the theory.

If there were evidence that contradicted the theory of evolution — the classic example is the ever-elusive Precambrian rabbit — the theory would be in doubt. But if a theory continues to predict verifiable results (as in The Lessons of Tiktaalik), its acceptance grows — as does its usefulness as a paradigm.

Then the Discoveroids quote from In the light of evolution VIII: Darwinian thinking in the social sciences. A portion of their quote is as follows:

Most scientists agree that evolution provides the unifying framework for interpreting biological phenomena that otherwise can often seem unrelated and perhaps unintelligible. Given the central position of evolutionary thought in biology, it is sadly ironic that evolutionary perspectives outside the sciences have often been neglected, misunderstood, or purposefully misrepresented. … The central goal of the “In the Light of Evolution” (ILE) series is to promote the evolutionary sciences through state-of-the-art colloquia and their published proceedings.

Note that the series, “In the Light of Evolution,” is referred to as ILE. The Discoveroids, being oh-so-clever, twist that around and say this:

For short, let’s refer to Dobzhansky’s remark as the “Light in Evolution” principle, or LIE.

Isn’t that precious? That’s why we love the Discoveroids. They go on:

Is the LIE a flashlight or a filter? Does it objectively illuminate facts to a candid observer, or does it determine what the observer is permitted to see? In other words, does the LIE shed light, or process it? The passage cited above makes it clear how the NAS views it: it’s a filter. It’s a framework, or paradigm, for interpreting all observations. Nothing makes sense except within the LIE.

Yes, yes! We see it now. We must cast off the straitjacket of evolution and free our minds to accept the wonders of Oogity Boogity! The Discoveroids continue:

Since the LIE is an axiom — a given, a premise — several conclusions deductively follow: [Brace yourself, dear reader, you're about to see an ark-load of Discoveroid conclusions.]

• All objections to the LIE are nonsense by definition.
• Outside the LIE framework, biological phenomena “can often seem unrelated and perhaps unintelligible” because the LIE stipulates what relatedness and intelligibility are.
• Of course “Most scientists agree that evolution provides the unifying framework for interpreting biological phenomena” because the LIE determines who is a true scientist.
• Since the LIE is assumed prior to religion and philosophy, those realms will also only make sense in the LIE framework.
• Any research that doesn’t explain things with the LIE is unscientific.
• Any activity that fails to promote the LIE is evil.
• Any interpretation that fails to pass the LIE detector will be impermissible in science.

Isn’t that great? But they’ve only begun. Here’s more:

It’s like Stalinism: anything that failed to advance the regime was a crime against the state. Researchers in the Soviet system became very adept, therefore, at interpreting every observation in light of Marxism-Leninism, economic determinism, and dialectical materialism. It made perfect sense (if you wanted to stay alive). So too, the editors at the NAS see to it that every paper published submits to the LIE and has the Darwinian imprimatur.

The Darwinian system seeks not just to control the message, but the very thought processes of the people. This has given rise to an Orwellian language called “Darwinian thinking.”

The Discoveroid essay is a long one. We have to skip most of it. Oh, we can’t omit this. It’ll be our last excerpt:

Advocates of intelligent design have an ace card, however. Since we do not believe that the human mind is an epiphenomenon of matter, but has an intelligent cause, we view our Darwinian thinkers as rational agents, too — but captives to self-deception. Deep down, they share our common rationality. This gives cause for hope that their minds can be awakened from dogmatic slumber.

There is hope for you, dear reader. But first you must become aware of the chains that bind you and cast them off. Only then you can you emerge from the Darwinian darkness into the bright sunlight to become an enlightened thinker — like the Discoveroids.

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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A Tale of Moose Drool and Fungus

The Drool-o-tron™ seems to be developing a personality. It signaled us with its blaring sirens and flashing lights. The blinking letters of the wall display said York University .

What? York University in Toronto, Canada’s third-largest university? So it seems. Our computer was locked onto this news release at the university’s website: Moose drool inhibits growth of toxic fungus: York U research. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

Some sticky research out of York University shows a surprisingly effective way to fight against a certain species of toxic grass fungus: moose saliva (yes… moose saliva).

People have been battling toxic fungus for millennia, but until now, no one ever thought of using moose drool. Those Canadians are smart! We’re told:

Published in this month’s Biology Letters, “Ungulate saliva inhibits a grass–endophyte mutualism” shows that moose and reindeer saliva, when applied to red fescue grass (which hosts a fungus called epichloë festucae that produces the toxin ergovaline) results in slower fungus growth and less toxicity.

Here’s a link to the published paper: Ungulate saliva inhibits a grass–endophyte mutualism. You can read it online without a subscription. Let’s stay with the news release:

Inspired by an earlier study that showed that moose grazing and saliva distribution can have a positive effect on plant growth, the research team set out to test an interesting hypothesis – whether moose saliva may, in fact, “detoxify” the grass before it is eaten.

This ranks with the apple that fell on Isaac Newton’s head and inspired his theory of gravity. Get ready now, because here comes a description of scientists at work:

Working in partnership with the Toronto Zoo, the team collected saliva samples from moose and reindeer, which they then smeared onto clipped samples of red fescue grass carrying the toxic fungus, simulating the effect of grazing. They found that the application of saliva produced rapid results, inhibiting fungus growth within 12-36 hours.

We can see it now — a Canadian biologist comes home from a hard day’s work and his wife asks: “What did you do today, dear?”

Okay, that’s enough excerpts, and it’s also enough Curmudgeonly remarks. You’ve got some reading to do if you want to be up-to-date on this topic. But we can’t leave it there. This has inspired us to challenge you, dear reader.

Our challenge is this: What might be a beneficial use of creationists’ drool? There’s so much of the stuff, there must be a purpose for it. Surely you can think of something.

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Klinghoffer: All Scientists Are Scoundrels

Although creationists have absolutely nothing to show for their endless prattling about the evils and uselessness of science compared to the imaginary value of creationist (and intelligent design) mythology, they persist in promoting their nonsense. One of their techniques is to seize upon any errors in scientific work, proclaiming such to be typical of all science, and rock-solid evidence that science is worthless.

They never mention that: (1) it’s always scientists, not creationists, who discover and correct such errors; (2) actual instances of scientific fraud are career-killers; (3) creationists never correct each other or retract anything, no matter how crazy their claims may be; and (4) regardless of their idiocy, there are no creationist career-stoppers — their careers continue forever.

A good example of this creationist anti-science tactic is the latest post at the Discovery Institute’s blog by David Klinghoffer, their journalistic slasher and poo flinger. It’s titled People Are Starting to See Scientists the Way They Really Are. Oooooooh! He says, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

The public used to see politicians in far more exalted terms than they do now. The same fate befell the clergy. Now it’s scientists.

Oh dear. The public is waking up to the scam of science. We’re told that:

Dr. Ivan Oransky, MD, of Retraction Watch gets a delicious write-up from Forbes:

Here’s the Forbes article he’s talking about: Bad Science Muckrakers Question the Big Science Status Quo. We’ll overlook the way Klinghoffer precedes Oransky’s name with “Dr.” and follows it with “MD.” The About Ivan Oransky page at his website is impressive, and he doesn’t appear to be a flake at all. So why is Klinghoffer quoting him? According to the poo-flinger, Forbes says:

Oransky is raising awareness of the impact that competition for grants and career advancement is having on the quality of the science being produced. Far from being above the fray and immune to corrupting influences, “Scientists are just as human as anyone else,” says Oransky. And increasingly, “People are starting to see scientists the way they really are.”

Okay. No one doubts that scrambling for government handouts is a demeaning activity. What does Klinghoffer make of it? Let’s read on:

When we say things like that, they say we’re “anti-science.” No, just pro-realism about scientists.

[*Sigh*] Actually, Klinghoffer, you and your comrades are anti-science. Yes, it’s true, some science papers need to be retracted, and some scientists (but not very many) do misbehave. How does that compare to the creationist track record of having no creationist articles published — except in your own captive journals? Creationists’ papers are such obvious junk that they rarely get to the point where they need to be retracted — but it sometimes happens, e.g., the paper by the Discoveroids’ own Stephen C. Meyer, resulting in the Sternberg peer review controversy.

Klinghoffer continues:

Also quoted [by Forbes], Dr. Thomas Stossel of Harvard Medical School:

[Klinghoffer's mined quote:] “I realized how fundamentally honest business people are compared to my academic colleagues, who’d run their grandmothers over for recognition.”

When you read the article Klinghoffer’s quoting, you’ll see that Stossel isn’t saying that scientists are fundamentally dishonest — ambitious, yes, but not dishonest. What he’s really saying is that his eyes were opened to how basically honest business people are, compared to what he had believed in his isolated academic life when he was a “typical academic socialist.” How does that help to make Klinghoffer’s case? It doesn’t.

So what’s the conclusion of Klinghoffer’s post? Here it comes:

As for non-scientists who have not yet been disabused of their childlike faith, one can only say: Growing up is hard to do.

We see it differently. First of all, very few science papers need to be retracted. Some of those are due to error, and yes, some small percentage is due to fraud. However, the fraudsters aren’t typical scientists. Rather, such people behave like creationists, and it’s entirely proper that their once-promising careers end in infamy.

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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ICR: There Ain’t No Alien Life!

Flat-Earth-2

That splendid illustration of the creationists’ universe is the work of the elves in our art department, shown here in its entirety for the first time.

Besides seeing man on the immovable flat earth (supported by pillars) around which the sun travels, you can now see everything else. The first time we used that pic we showed you only the middle portion, and there was a complaint that it omitted the Lake of Fire. No one remarked that it also omitted the glory of heaven above. Now all of creation is revealed. The full canvas is ten feet high, and it hangs on the wall behind your Curmudgeon’s throne-like chair.

Why have we included that illustration here? We used it before when we wrote Ken Ham: Aliens Are Going to Hell!, which presented the official opinion of Answers in Genesis on the existence of intelligent aliens. It was relevant then and it’s relevant now.

Something’s going on. The creationists are becoming increasingly agitated about aliens. First it was AIG, now it’s the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) — the granddaddy of all creationist outfits, the fountainhead of young-earth creationist wisdom — which is giving us their bible-based opinion on the existence of life on other worlds. The last time we wrote about their view was ICR’s New Position on Alien Life.

ICR’s new article is NASA’s Far Out Search for Life . It’s written by Brian Thomas. This is ICR’s biographical information about him. Here are some excerpts from what he says, with bold font added by us:

Despite billions of dollars spent on the decades-long search and the fact that not one shred of distant life evidence has been found, NASA continues to suggest that life might really be out there and that its discovery is within reach. Does scientific evidence really justify this expensive search for distant life? If not, what’s the driving force behind this program?

And what is the driving force behind the latest creationist frenzy over the issue? The explanation is coming:

The hope of discovering life in outer space dangles at the end of the long and costly stick, and its elusive carrot takes the form of life-friendly planets in distant star systems. The Kepler space telescope has helped astronomers verify over 1,700 “exoplanets” out of an ever-growing pool of more than 5,000 candidates. These findings almost certainly help fuel NASA’s plans to launch the Transiting Exoplanet Surveying Satellite in 2017, the James Webb Space Telescope in 2018, and others later on — all looking for distant signs of life.

That’s what has the creationists so worried. A few short years ago, there was no evidence of extra-solar planets. Their number was an unknown variable in the Drake equation. Now we have evidence of thousands of extra-solar planets, and that’s after surveying only a small region of our galaxy, with methods that are rapidly improving. As a result, it seems likely that there are billions of planets out there. The creationists are greatly concerned, but they refuse to give up believing in our unique status as the only life-bearing planet in the universe. Let’s read on:

NASA News wrote, “Future missions will extend the search for oceans in the form of atmospheric water vapor and for life as in carbon dioxide and other atmospheric chemicals, on nearby planets that are similar to Earth in size and mass, a key step in the search for life.”

Aha! Here’s NASA’s article: Finding Life Beyond Earth is Within Reach. It’s the specific cause of the recent creationist agitation. The first paragraph explains their panic:

Many scientists believe we are not alone in the universe. It’s probable, they say, that life could have arisen on at least some of the billions of planets thought to exist in our galaxy alone — just as it did here on planet Earth. This basic question about our place in the Universe is one that may be answered by scientific investigations.

Back to ICR:

Those who hope for life in outer space seem to assume that they need merely to discover the conditions that sustain life, when ironically those very conditions destroy the chemicals of life. Even here on Earth where oceans of water, appropriate atmospheric chemicals, and an Earth size and mass collaborate to permit life, a century of experiments invoking a countless array of factors have [sic] not generated anything close to life.

That’s creationist proof! If we haven’t done it yet, then it’s impossible. Life can’t begin to exist without the miraculous intervention of Oogity Boogity! ICR refers to the NASA article and says:

This exposes the real foundation for belief in exoplanetary life — the assumption that life somehow arose by natural processes here on Earth. By definition, secularists make this assumption into a fact, but science clearly refutes it.

Science refutes it? That wild creationist claim has a footnote. Let’s see … ah, it refers to an ICR article. We’ll ignore it; surely you understand why. Here’s more:

If belief in evolution underpins the search for life in outer space, then does NASA’s search stem more from faith in evolution than from solid science?

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! But ICR’s belief that there’s no life out there isn’t based on faith. It’s solid creation science! Moving along:

At first blush, the chances that certain conditions spawned life from non-life might appear somewhat favorable given billions of years on trillions of planets, but those chances actually approach zero if there are no such conditions.

If there are no such conditions? What are they talking about? Ah, here’s their reasoning:

For example, origin research has so far revealed that the odds of the spontaneous generation of life lie far beneath the odds of the spontaneous generation of aircraft carriers.

Lordy, lordy. That’s a fine example of the research done by ICR. Now we’ve arrived at their final paragraph. We’ll break it into two parts:

Exploring the universe clearly has its benefits, and satisfying our God-given curiosity about this amazing cosmos in which He placed us surely counts as one of them. But as we explore, let us not pretend that the conditions that permit life equal some imaginary conditions that produce life.

Why shouldn’t we proceed on that assumption? ICR’s final sentence explains it for us:

Science and scripture together confirm that life comes not from the laws of physics and chemistry, but from the life-Giver.

Oh. Okay then. NASA should give up. There’s no need to search for knowledge when the creationists already know everything there is to know.

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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