Category Archives: Science

The Discovery Institute and ʻOumuamua

You’ve probably seen tabloid headlines about ʻOumuamua — yes that’s, the name. Wikipedia says:

[It is] the first known interstellar object to pass through the Solar System. Formally designated 1I/2017 U1, it was discovered by Robert Weryk using the Pan-STARRS telescope on 19 October 2017, 40 days after it passed its closest point to the Sun. … Initially assumed to be a comet, it was reclassified as an asteroid a week later, then the first of a new class of interstellar objects.

[…]

ʻOumuamua is tumbling rather than smoothly rotating, and it is moving so fast through space relative to the Sun that there is no chance it originated in the Solar System. It also means that ʻOumuamua can not be captured into a solar orbit, so it will eventually leave the Solar System and resume traveling in interstellar space. ʻOumuamua’s system of origin and the amount of time it has been traveling among the stars are unknown.

[…]

The name comes from Hawaiian ʻoumuamua, meaning “scout”, (from ʻou, meaning “reach out for”, and mua, reduplicated for emphasis​, meaning “first, in advance of”) and reflects the way this object is like a scout or messenger sent from the distant past to reach out to us. The first character is a Hawaiian ʻokina, not an apostrophe, and is represented by a single quotation mark and pronounced as a glottal stop … .

A typical tabloid reaction when the thing was first sighted is in the UK’s Daily Express: REVEALED: Truth about ‘alien mothership’ filmed ‘tracking’ International Space Station.

All (or mostly all) concerns about aliens were put to rest by some actual research, as reported yesterday by PhysOrg in No alien ‘signals’ from cigar-shaped asteroid: researchers. They said:

No alien signals have been detected from an interstellar, cigar-shaped space rock discovered travelling through our Solar System in October, researchers listening for evidence of extraterrestrial technology said Thursday.

Creationists always try to take advantage of opportunities to promote their bizarre view of things, so it’s not surprising to find this from the Discovery Institute: ‘Oumuamua, Space Visitor, Shows Intelligent Design at Work. It was written by Klinghoffer. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

The oblong space object ‘Oumuamua, currently whistling through our Solar System at 196,000 mph, shows intelligent design in action.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! What a great first sentence! Then he explains:

How so? Well, what is ID, after all, but a scientific project focused on examining objects and phenomena in nature for evidence reflecting purpose and design by an intelligent agent. The researchers listening to the 800-feet-long space visitor for radio signals — they’ve detected none so far — are simply practicing the science of ID.

Isn’t this great? After that, Klinghoffer tells us:

‘Oumuamua means “messenger” in Hawaiian. What’s the “message”? Maybe one is that ID is a term for something scientists do all the time. Applied to a probable asteroid, ID is uncontroversial. Applied to much more awesome objects – the human brain, for example — it suddenly becomes controversial, “pseudoscience”? Quick, would someone please explain away the obvious contradiction there?

Someone? Anyone? While you’re pondering that profound question, Klinghoffer continues:

I don’t have a problem with its being alien technology. Obviously that would be the most exciting news of our lifetimes if it were true. Yet for proponents of ID, it would change nothing. The discovery of ETs would not undermine the case for the design of terrestrial life one bit.

That’s a total contradiction of what the Discoveroids have been saying for years. See, e.g.: Intelligent Aliens Terrify the Discovery Institute, and before that: Klinghoffer’s Latest Thoughts on Aliens.

Klinghoffer ends his post with this:

The situation for Darwinists is very different. They must have aliens. For them, human life cannot be unique, cannot be special. If an unguided process like evolution, fueled by randomness, produced life on Earth, it must have done so elsewhere, countless times over. So it makes sense that folks with a materialist perspective watch ‘Oumuamua not only with curiosity, as we do, but with a touch of anxiety as well. For them, the silence of the stars is a profound and ongoing problem.

So there you are. Aliens or no aliens, it doesn’t matter. The Discoveroids’ “theory” triumphantly predicts whatever we find. That’s great science!

Copyright © 2017. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Donald Trump Says: We’ll Go to Mars, and Beyond

We know that Donald Trump is rarely praised in science-oriented blogs, but — at the risk of offending our readers — we want to give credit when it’s due. We just saw this at PhysOrg: Trump tells NASA to send Americans to Moon. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

US President Donald Trump directed NASA on Monday to send Americans to the Moon for the first time in decades, a move he said would help prepare for a future Mars trip.

You’re shocked, aren’t you, dear reader? That’s not what one would expect from a science-denier, is it? Then PhysOrg quotes him:

“This time we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprint,” Trump said at the White House as he signed the new space policy directive. “We will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars and perhaps someday to many worlds beyond.”

[*Gasp!*] What would ol’ Hambo think? Obviously, Trump doesn’t care. PhysOrg continues:

Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, who heads the newly revitalized National Space Council, have previously vowed to explore the Moon again, but offered few details.

Flanked by Pence and two female astronauts, Trump said the directive “will refocus the space program on human exploration and discovery,” and “marks an important step in returning American astronauts to the Moon for the first time since 1972.” The goal of the new Moon missions would include “long-term exploration and use” of its surface.

Egad — Pence too! And they were flanked by two female astronauts! Surprised, dear reader? Here’s one last excerpt:

A White House statement said the US “will work with other nations and private industry to return astronauts to the Moon, developing the technology and means for manned exploration of Mars and other destinations in our solar system.”

So there you are. Trump may not be everything you’d want, especially in the area of climate change, but he’s definitely not the creationist ignoramus you thought he was. We anticipate some disagreement. That’s okay, we’re used to it.

Copyright © 2017. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Discoveroids Explain Why Scientists Are Fools

The title of this new post at the Discovery Institute’s creationist blog is quite revealing: The Materialist Narrative and the Power of Bias. It suggests that there are two “narratives” for describing the universe: (1) materialism, a somewhat fuzzy term; and (2) supernaturalism.

It was written by Brian Miller — and this is the first time we’ve discussed an article by him. The Discoveroids’ bio page for him says:

Dr. Brian Miller is Research Coordinator for the Center for Science and Culture at Discovery Institute. He holds a B.S. in physics with a minor in engineering from MIT and a Ph.D. in physics from Duke University. He speaks internationally on the topics of intelligent design and the impact of worldviews on society.

Here are some excerpts from his post, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

Scientists in Western cultures have been trained to see the world through a materialist metanarrative where the only acting players are matter and energy. In other words, the universe is a closed system where no higher power or non-material forces are believed to interact.

Fair enough. The scientific view of things excludes any influence by a “higher power” — i.e., a deity. But this isn’t an arbitrary preference. Rather, it’s because of the absence of any method for verifiably observing or testing supernatural influences — see Bring Me An Angel Detector!, where we discuss this at length. We also quoted the Discoveroids’ wedge document, which says:

[T]he Discovery Institute’s Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture seeks nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies. … [T]he Center explores how new developments in biology, physics and cognitive science raise serious doubts about scientific materialism and have re-opened the case for a broadly theistic understanding of nature.

Okay, now that we know what Brian is talking about, let’s read on. He says:

Those inculcated with this way of thinking see nature through a lens where all evidence for design is assumed to be an illusion, so all arguments for design are treated a priori as false. In contrast, those operating from a non-materialist viewpoint typically see the world though a design-tolerant lens. From this perspective, the materialists appear to demonstrate as much bias and disregard for empirical evidence as they accuse design proponents of exhibiting.

As an example, the evidence for design is found ubiquitously throughout life, and an extremely strong case is made that it can be objectively detected through the same methods used in such disciplines as archaeology, cryptography, SETI, and forensics. This point should be obvious considering that even Richard Dawkins acknowledges that life looks designed.

[*Groan*] We want evidence, and all the Discoveroids have is endless invocations of the Watchmaker analogy. After that, Brian tells us:

Materialists dismiss all of this evidence [Hee hee!] by simply appealing to the perceived unlimited power of natural selection, which even leading evolutionary theorists increasingly question. A primary reason for such doubts is that the genetic variation in every species is only sufficient to allow for changes in superficial features, and observed mutations which could potentially expand the range require altering an organism’s basic architecture during development. But such mutations are always harmful.

No need to comment. He continues:

Materialists also ignore that a general feature of life found at every organizational level is irreducible complexity [blah, blah, blah].

That’s not worth rebutting again. See Rev. David Rives Explains Irreducible Complexity, and also The Ultimate Discovery Institute Post. Skipping a few equally brilliant paragraphs, we’re told:

Unfortunately, for many the materialist narrative has so suffused their thinking that evolutionary theory has become hopelessly intertwined with anti-religious sentiment. We would do well, then, to encourage materialists to look past their assumptions, to objectively examine the evidence for design. They might then discern the reality of intelligent involvement in nature, resulting in a collapse of the materialist philosophical framework. They would then have the freedom to consider the reality beyond the material world.

As soon as the Discoveroids present us with evidence, we’ll be happy to examine it.

Brian ends his post with a paragraph devoted to Günter Bechly, about whom we’ve already written too much. See, e.g., Discoveroid Günter Bechly Has Been ‘Erased’.

So there you are, dear reader. Brian has exposed your foolish bias. Why — oh why? — won’t you open your mind to the endless possibilities of Oogity Boogity?

Copyright © 2017. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Ken Ham Says Science Can’t Know the Past

You’re about to learn something important from Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo), the ayatollah of Appalachia, the world’s holiest man who knows more about religion and science than everyone else. The title of his post is Did Hominids or Crocodiles Make Marks on Old Bones? Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

I saw a story in the news recently [he links to this in Newsweek: Ancient Bones ‘Butchered’ By Our Ancestors 2.5 Million Years Ago May Just Have Been Gnawed By Crocodiles] that reminded me of the tentative nature of historical science (the kind of science that is not directly testable, observable, and repeatable because it deals with the past and how frequently the evolutionary story changes. Many fossil bones have been discovered covered in cuts and scrapes. Researchers thought this demonstrated that our supposed human ancestors (really just ape species) used tools to get the meat off. But a new study says the marks on the bones may have been made by crocodiles instead!

[*Groan*] He’s talking again about his bizarre distinction between “Operational” (or “Observational”) science and “Historical” science. We’ve written about it several times, originally in Creationism and Science. Hambo always claims that the past is unknowable — but see The Lessons of Tiktaalik. Anyway, he says:

In their study, the authors argue that just because a bone has scrapes and cuts on it doesn’t mean they were made by tools in the hands of ape-like creatures on the path to humanness. After analyzing present bones that have been trampled on or fed to crocodiles, they found that the marks on these bones are similar to the marks on the supposedly millions-of-years-old bones. The article concludes by saying,

[Hambo quotes the Newsweek article, and adds some bold font of his own:] Bones can be damaged from erosion, the sun, plant activity, scavenging, gnawing by predators, chewing by rodents, animals stepping on them, and tool use. Without having been there, it can be difficult to unravel the mystery of what actually happened to them.

[*Begin Drool Mode*] Ooooooooooooh! [*End Drool Mode*] The Newsweek writer is supporting Hambo’s constant criticism of history older than the creation story in Genesis. He always asks: Were you there? The actual scientific paper appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Hominid butchers and biting crocodiles in the African Plio–Pleistocene. You can’t read it without a subscription, but we suspect it doesn’t say what that Newsweek writer said.

Nevertheless Hambo leaps upon the journalist’s words, because they validate one of his constant criticisms of science:

Therein lies the problem with historical science — we weren’t there!

[*Gasp!*] Then how can we ever know anything about the past? Hambo tells us:

Historical science isn’t directly testable, observable, or repeatable because it deals with the past (history) and we weren’t there to observe what happened. But there was someone who was there, our Creator God, and in his Word, he revealed to us what happened in the past.

[*Begin Drool Mode*] Ooooooooooooh! [*End Drool Mode*] We have a reliable source of information! He continues:

We can use the history in God’s Word — in particular a 6,000-year-old universe, a global Flood, and the events at the Tower of Babel — as a framework for understanding the world around us.

Yes, yes! It’s all true! And now we come to the thrilling end:

Using God’s Word as the starting point, we know we aren’t descended from some kind of ape-like creature. We were created in the very image of God (Genesis 1:27), Adam from the dust, Eve from his side. Whatever made the marks on those old (post-Flood) bones, we know it wasn’t some creature on its way to becoming human.

Your Curmudgeon is overwhelmed! No more of that old-Earth nonsense for us! How about you, dear reader?

Copyright © 2017. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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