Discovery Institute v. Stephen Hawking

WE will get around to discussing the Discoveroids and Hawking, but first we need to set the stage. In the theatre of ancient Greece, a stage-play was classified as tragedy if the central character endures suffering and defeat, or comedy if it has a happy ending. But it occurs to us that the same play can be seen as either tragedy or comedy — depending on the attitude of the audience. We’re calling this the Curmudgeon’s Principle of Theatrical Relativity.

For example: a Western movie ends with Clint Eastwood riding off into the distance, after having single-handedly blown away all the cattle-rustling dirtbags, and the grateful town-folk gaze in wonder at Eastwood’s receding figure. For most of us that’s an upbeat ending; but that same movie doesn’t end happily if those watching it are themselves a bunch of cattle-rustling dirtbags. So you see, tragedy and comedy are relative terms — it all depends on one’s frame of reference.

To fully appreciate the Principle of Theatrical Relativity, we must take a god’s eye view of the theater. From our Olympian vantage point, we see things differently than if we were mere mortals sitting in the audience and watching the play. Our theater is grander than theirs. We watch the watchers.

We can especially appreciate theatrical relativity by observing the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute‘s creationist public relations and lobbying operation, the Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids, a/k/a the cdesign proponentsists).

For the Discoveroids, each episode in the great drama of Western Civilization is another opportunity for them to crush the Enlightenment spirit and restore their preferred rat-infested, witch-burning hell of ignorance and theocracy. If a scientist is successful in learning something new about reality — and explaining it rationally — his work is seen as a glorious accomplishment for most of us; but it’s a bitter defeat for the Discoveroids.

A good example is the latest book by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow. Here’s the book’s listing at Amazon: The Grand Design. Our last post about creationist reaction to that book was Institute for Creation Research v. Stephen Hawking.

Okay, dear reader, let’s put on our togas, take our seats, and look down on earth to observe the latest Discoveroid reaction to Hawking’s book. We wrote about their first reaction here: Hawking Inspires Discovery Institute Humor! Today at the Discoveroids’ creationist blog we find: Where are the US critics of Stephen Hawking? Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

At Discovery News (here and here), Bruce Chapman notes that Stephen Hawking’s dismissal of design in the universe has gone largely uncriticized in the US. Not so in his homeland.

We’ll let you click over to the article we’re discussing for its links to the personal blog of Bruce Chapman (“Chappy” to us), founder and president of the Discovery Institute. His position makes him Lord High Keeper of the Discoveroids’ Wedge strategy, and of course he has his own blog at the Discoveroids’ website. We looked at Chappy’s articles and didn’t see much to bother with, but the article we’re discussing doesn’t say anything except to quote a couple of Chappy’s paragraphs. They must think Chappy’s reaction is important.

Chappy complains that the American media is filled with praise for Hawking’s new book (except for one clergyman named Robert Spitzer). On the other hand, some English critics (of whom Chappy approves) are less enthusiastic. This is Chappy’s key statement:

It is interesting that many media outlets and scientists that claim to have understood intelligent design and support it in cosmology, but not in biology, have not bothered to take Hawking on or to notice Spitzer’s work. How serious, therefore, are their professions of support for ID even in cosmology?

That’s it. Chappy is mumbling and grumbling that all of his work to promote the “science” of intelligent design seems to have had no effect, because no one in the US, except one churchman, is criticizing Hawking’s book. (There are also a few negative reactions from some creationist websites, but Chappy doesn’t mention them.)

Thus we see the Principle of Theatrical Relativity at work. Hawking’s success delights most mortals; but to Chappy and the Discoveroids it’s a tragedy.

To us, watching it all from high Olympus, it’s business as usual among the squabbling mortals.

Update: See Discovery Institute v. Stephen Hawking, Part 2.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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6 responses to “Discovery Institute v. Stephen Hawking

  1. A typo: “… and of couse he has his own blog… ”

    Or maybe your are saving up your R‘s for International Talk Like a Pirate Day? 8-D

  2. Unlike “intelligent design creationism ™ ” modern cosmology, as is physics, in general, is supported by sets of equations and both experimental and observational data.

    If you want to understand modern cosmology, and I mean really understand it, here’s what you have to do. First, get a bachelor’s of science in physics with a minor in math. You’ll need a mastery of differential equations at the very least. Then pursue your PhD in physics, another 5-6 years followed by 2-4 years of post-doc employment at some place cool like CERN. Now, you’re in a position to understand, and I mean really understand, modern cosmology.

    For the rest of us, the more mathematically literate can wade in to the math until it’s so deep we drown, and, unfortunately, those of us who can only walk along the shore of mathematics have to be satisfied with superficial descriptions.

    Hawking and Mlodinow to a great job as tour guides on the beachfront. They explain the historical and experimental importance of the discovery of the cosmic background radiation and how recent discoveries in mapping the background have supported the modern cosmology theory.

    Hawking and Mlodinow don’t just make stuff up like theologians. Their conclusions are based on known physics, math and experimental and observational data. You don’t have to “believe” Hawking just because he writes stuff in a book. You can do the work, ride the math, gather data from the cosmos and propose an alternative theory.

    Or you can sit back and enjoy the efforts of Hawking, in the immortal words of Mr. Spock, “Fascinating!”

  3. Doc, there went my dreams of going back to school and getting a degree in astronomy, now that I’ve retired from my first career. Thanks… 🙂

    Seriously, I agree completely, and it’s extremely irritating to read statements by the fake scientists at the DI and other places who are arrogant enough to believe they have the knowledge to critique the work of folks like Hawking and Mlodinow. (by the way, “The Drunkard’s Walk” is a fine book, and I give Mlodinow most of the credit for the brevity and clarity of Hawking’s current book).

  4. Not to brag but I got through psi * psi, group theory, statistical mechanics and enough of Maxwell’s equations to understand why a quarter-inch of water is transparent and a quarter-inch of aluminum not. But I really have to plow through something as straightforward as Hawking radiation and I’d have a lot of trouble deriving those equations. Makes general relativity look simple! Blackbody radiation, a piece of cake!

    It’s not surprising that creationists have no freaking clue about any of this, much less population dynamics or biodiversity because they’re simply undereducated, and I’d go so far to say uneducable.

    I laugh my ass off at creationists (Deepak Chopra, anyone? Woo! Woo!) who wax moronically about String Theory being this or that when, in fact, no creationist has even the foggiest comprehension of the simplest concepts of String Theory. Nor do I for that matter; I have neither the mathematical training nor insight. However, I’m willing to accept the conclusions of those who do.

  5. Doc Bill: “Deepak Chopra, anyone?”

    I can’t think of him without thinking of his “happy thoughts make happy molecules.” If he hasn’t already, he should team up with the DI and resurrect Behe’s “designed ancestral cell” hypothesis (it’s in “Darwin’s Black Box”). Then the DI can get back to the “science” and test the only potential alternate “origins” hypotheses that any Disoveroid dared to propose to date. With Chopra’s “help” they can determine that the unnamed, unembodied, possibly deceased (as Behe admitted at Dover) designer thought “happy thoughts” ~4 billion years ago, and the molecules happily assembled into a cell that’s ancestral to us all.

    Unfortunately the Biblical literalist fans of the DI won’t like that alternate “theory,” so I guess we can only expect more “don’t ask, don’t tell.”