Class Warfare Blog

May 8, 2018

Thinking About a Flat Earth

Filed under: Reason,Science — Steve Ruis @ 12:18 pm
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Look at all of that water! I wonder where the flat-earthers are going to put it?

The recent resurrection of the idea that the Earth is a flat disk (a zombie idea in that it will not die and stay dead) I believe is fueled by a certain iconoclastic feeling  amongst the “believers” to state something outrageous to get attention. This leads me to believe that the vast majority of “flat earthers” are male as female attention seekers tend to seek positive attention while male attention seekers seem to favor attention of any flavor.

I have come up with simple facts that prove this idea is wrong (for example, why do some of us experience night while others experience day at the same time; this you can test with a phone call; also why is it winter in Australia when it is summer in the U.S., etc.) but I decided to give it another try at some semblance of a “proof.”

The “standard narrative” is the Earth is roughly spherical, not perfectly so but it appears spherical to the naked eye. The diameter of the Earth has been measured to be 12,756.2 km and if it is spherical, that means it surface area is 510 million square kilometers, calculated using simple geometrical formulas. The continents have all had their areas measured and if you sum up those areas you get 148 million square kilometers. This shows the common knowledge that the oceans cover about three quarters of the surface of the planet while land covers about one quarter [(148/510) x 100 = 29%].

But if the earth were flat, a disk 12,756.2 km in diameter would have an area of only 127.8 million square kilometers. And that is not enough area to hold all of the continents, let alone oceans having almost three times the area of the continents.

If the flat-earthers decide that both sides of the disk are populated, they open up a whole other can of worms. People near the axis of the rotation (the earth would still have to rotate on its axis once a day to explain the light-dark cycle) would experience a very different feeling toward the ground than those living on the edge. I also wonder why people haven’t reported looking over the edge of the disk, now that there are no longer dragons to keep them from looking.

I do not expect this argument to convince any flat-earthers because, like committed Christians, they are committed to their belief and no amount of arguments or evidence will convince them otherwise.

The round Earth conclusion fits in well with all of the other bits and pieces of our knowledge, such as the earth was formed of rock and iron and nickel in a molten state and in the absence of outside forces such a body automatically forms a spherical shape. To make a disk it would have to have been spun like a pizza and what would have done that task? Apparently the flat-earthers either are ignorant of the evidence or, more likely don’t care. I encourage them to bask in their limelight as they get only 15 minutes of fame. After which time they go back to being just ordinary fucking idiots.

 

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February 21, 2018

Follow-up on the 99.9999+%

Filed under: Science — Steve Ruis @ 11:41 am
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I have commented recently (and before) that 99.9999+% of the universe is outside of our reach. A consequence of that is a question for creationists: why all of all that when it has no effect on what is happening here?

An enterprising scientist has determined how far radio waves have traveled away from Earth since the invention of the radio (1895, actually radio waves were created before the invention of the device). Remember that these waves travel at the speed of light and it would take us or aliens much longer to physically achieve that same range.

The illustration (see below) is only shown against our own galaxy, which is just one of several hundred billion such galaxies.

Enjoy!

I don’t need a god to make me feel small … it comes naturally.

Addendum Actually that is not our galaxy as I could get far enough back to snap the photo. It is of another galaxy that has a similar size and structure to our own.

February 17, 2018

Misuses of Science?

Filed under: Economics,Science — Steve Ruis @ 9:37 am
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There is a term being bandied about, scientism, to describe the intrusion of science into fields where it is felt to be inappropriate (ethics, for example). I think this “defense” is unnecessary as science is experimental, it either proves useful or it does not. The real problem, I believe, lies in a misunderstanding of what science does and is useful for.

Obviously, science applies well in “scientific” fields: physics, chemistry, biology, etc. So well, in fact, that these areas of study are called “sciences.” The application of scientific methods to other areas is more “iffy” for a good reason. Take the analysis of financial markets, for example. In recent years, college graduates who used to go into scientific fields have been attracted into the financial world. They even have a nickname, “quants,” because of their application of quantitative tools previously only applied in scientific pursuits. The inherent problem here is, even though markets watchers refer to “the market” in phrases like “the market was calm today” or “the market was perturbed today” as if it were some sort of exotic animal, unlike the sciences, there may be no controlling behaviors built into the system. A physicist doing a scientific investigation believes there may well be a fundamental behavior of matter underlying the patterns he/she is studying. That belief is well-founded as such have been found so often in the past. In finance or economics, the belief there is some underlying structure or principles is an open question as such have not been established as fact.

It is a little like Disney’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice; the apprentice waves a tool around and mutters incantations hoping to invoke powers he clearly doesn’t understand. He is not even aware what those powers are, except he has seen his master do similar things and get some results. So, in finance, people who mutter incantations and get results are the new masters (by seeming to understand things at a fundamental level others do not) and because it is assumed they have found the underlying structures that create success. Clearly they have not and their results are not attachable to any underlying truths, but they look good to those hoping to find success. (People are still talking nonsense about financial markets as if they were truths.)

Economics is another “science” (it is not) that has adopted the trappings of science without there being much, if any evidence, there are fundamental structures underlying economies. But, by making economics “scientifical,” it has the appearance of being more founded in reality, even though there is no evidence of that.

If the people applying scientific methods to their fields are serious, they need to establish whether there are, indeed, any underlying structures that can be discovered, that help us to understand their fields. Just waving scientific tools around in the air may make one’s studies look more prestigious, but in the end they will just look foolish.

The sad thing is the general populous can’t tell the difference between science rooted in reality and speculative science being employed in the hopes it will work. This, using science speculatively, seems to be a handle that the science deniers are using to discredit solid science. And that will not help us make progress.

January 26, 2018

Right … Are You Sure It Wasn’t Aliens?

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 10:25 am
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The Conversation (U.K.) website ran a piece yesterday with the interesting title “Religion isn’t the enemy of science: it’s been inspiring scientists for centuries” by Tom McLeish. (What has happened to the capitalization of titles?) Mr. McLeish is writing a book on the same topic. Many other British outlets including mainstream media organs produce puff pieces supporting religion and this is no different.

The author, of course, cherry picks the Jewish and Christian Bibles to make connections of those documents with the scientific method, and then, also of course, ignores all of the opposition to scientists and to scientific findings over the course of Church history.

Unsupported claims like “The content of this timeless text has clearly steered the story of science for centuries” are made. Steered the story of science … it sounds as if the Bible has been humanity’s research director all along and we just didn’t notice.

In reality, the Church has insisted that if one wanted to know anything, the answer was to be found in scripture. If it could not be found, then the question was too trivial for scripture to have addressed it, so the question was too trivial to pursue. If one insisted on pursuing answers to such questions, the scientist was being prideful and sinful and was subject to repercussions such as excommunication, house arrest, inability to publish, imprisonment, torture and death.

In the history of science there have been occasions in which scientists, being very sure that their thinking was right, bent their evidence to align it with their foregone conclusion. It happened then and it happens today, it is normal. It is also normal in science today that when a deception is discovered the scientist responsible is excoriated, typically loses his job, and is drummed out of the field. In the history of religion, theists who fabricate documents and religious relics are almost never chastised because having an excess of zeal is “erring on the high side” and is excused.

Many religious miracles have been investigated scientifically and none have been shown to have supernatural sources. More than a few have been shown to be the result of chicanery. Mechanisms to cause inanimate objects to more, statues to ooze “tears” or “blood,” etc. have been created to attract religious pilgrims, willing to pay a small fee to observe proof of their faith.

Proving faith is what this all comes down to. This is why apologists appeal to reason all of the time instead of faith. Faith is a dead end philosophically as there is no way to create more of it through faith, only through reason. (Ask C.S. Lewis.) Since the supernatural seemingly cannot be depended upon to provide what is needed, theists feel no compunction against, apparently, providing the proof that faith is reasonable by carefully fabricating “evidence” to support their positions. This “evidence” is designed to appeal to a certain audience of certain capabilities. What works for simple people does not necessarily work for intellectuals and vice-versa.

There are more than a few books telling us that science and religion are not only compatible but handmaidens in human progress. Since only a small fraction of our culture actually reads books, the messages in these books are directed at that audience. This one, I am sure, will be no different. The text will sound literate, offer citations (mostly scripture) and connections they see which in reality aren’t significant or, in many cases, appropriate. And, they will leave out the Church’s repression of scientific ideas that lasted for centuries.

If the Bible steered the story of science it is only because people were finally allowed to study its contents and then asked “How could that be?” (Remember the Church did not want people to be able to read the Bible, so it forbade its translation into vernacular languages. They wanted the Bible to be doled out by “experts” who knew what conclusions to draw. This cherry picking of scripture continues on today’s churches. When was the last time a minister preached on the meaning of the many massacres in the OT?) Those “How could that be?” thoughts led to investigations that almost always contradicted what scripture claimed. The list of bad science in scripture is very, very long and I will not bore you expounding it, but as just one example, if you get sick would you go to a doctor or to an exorcist? The Bible would have you go to the exorcist as demons create human maladies. And it isn’t that Church leaders have not known that what they are teaching in these areas is false, Renaissance Popes had Jewish doctors on retainer to treat their illness, even after Jewish doctors were banned from treating Christians. No exorcists for them, they wanted only the best medicine available, even if it came from detested Jews. (Much like Republicans claiming our health care system is the best in the world because their platinum health care plans are so much better than our tin ones.)

 

January 8, 2018

Just Plain, Or Not So Plain, Ignorant

I was reading Yuval Harari’s “Sapiens” last night and came upon this. (Despite my occasional cavils, this is a brilliant book, highly recommended.)

The Scientific Revolution has not been a revolution of knowledge. It has been above all a revolution of ignorance.

Shortly after came this:

Premodern traditions of knowledge such as Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and Confucianism asserted that everything that is important to know about the world was already known. The great gods, or the one almighty God, or the wise people of the past possessed all-encompassing wisdom, which they revealed to us in scriptures and oral traditions. Ordinary mortals gained knowledge by delving into ancient texts and traditions  and understanding them properly. It was inconceivable that the Bible, the Qur’an or the Vedas were missing out on a crucial secret of the universe – a secret that might yet be discovered by flesh-and-blood creatures.

If something couldn’t be found in scriptures then it was, by definition, trivial.

So, I have to ask: has anything changed? The power of religions is based upon their traditions and scriptures, so they reinforce that power every chance they get. They weave that power into our cultures and politics to sustain it.

And, it is clear that very, very, very important things were left out of scriptures as they were unknown at the time of their writing.

So, has anything changed?

 

 

December 30, 2017

Are UFOs Real?

Filed under: Science — Steve Ruis @ 11:27 am
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This is a quite stupid question that keeps getting muddled. Of course UFOs are real, but that is not the problem. The real problem is with the “U,” that is they are unidentified.

Many people, apparently, want these UFOs to be evidence of visitations from extraterrestrials, i.e. real aliens. That interpretation is still open.

So, UFOs are real. They are real mistaken identities, real secret weapons systems, and real we don’t know what the heck they are. But what about the aliens? Most people are ignorant of basic science, so allow me to establish some parameters based upon known scientific limits. One of those limits is that as a physical object, such as a spacecraft approaches the speed of light, really any sizable fraction of it, the amount of energy needed to increase the object’s speed goes up, well astronomically. This makes moving a space craft along at the speed of light essentially impossible, but let’s assume, for the sake of this discussion, that such a feat, travel at the speed of light, were possible.

If any neighbor of ours wanted to come our way, what do you think would be a reasonable travel distance? I suggest a reasonable limit to that distance is 100 light years. If a planet is 100 light years away (the distance light were to travel in 100 years) and it had a spacecraft capable of doing what we think impossible, traveling at the speed of light, they would be undertaking a trip that would take 100 years to get here and 100 years to get back. Even if these space faring aliens lived incredibly long lives, that is a very long time to be cooped up in a spacecraft, exposed to the hazards of space travel (nasty radiation that cannot be blocked out, the vacuum of space, tiny meteoroids that can and do punch holes through spacecraft, no refueling/reprovisioning stations along the way so you have to bring everything with you, etc.). The boredom alone would make the trip daunting.

So, there is a region in space surrounding our planet, that is 100 light years in radius from which we could reasonably expect a possible visit. How does this compare with the size of the rest of the universe? The universe is 14 billion or so years old, so its radius is about 14 billion light years. To compare the volumes, we need to cube the radii of both “spheres” and we end up with a ratio of 1003 to 14,000,000,0003. That means our little neighborhood constitutes roughly 3.6 x 10–23 of one percent of the entire universe (just add a decimal point and 22 zeros in front of the 3 and you can drop the rest).

We could conclude, therefore, that our little bubble in space also contains that fraction of the space faring intelligent alien species in the universe, too. Oh.

If you have ever wondered why we don’t see “them,” this is why.

Oh, I didn’t mention the time problem. The universe is 14 billion years old and we have been looking for aliens for maybe 100 years … to make a long story short, we have a similar fraction of time in which such encounters could occur. Space faring aliens may have come and gone, too far away to make contact, millions of times and we couldn’t possibly have noticed them as we were not looking.

There is a reason why science fiction authors are constantly inventing methods of travel (wormholes, warp drives (whatever that is), etc.). The inventor of the warp drive was cagey enough to not define what a warp number meant. Most people think it is like the Mach system with the speed of light replacing the speed of sound, so Warp 5 is five times the speed of light. The Star Trek shows seem to indicate that a limit to their technology was travel at about Warp 10. If this actually represents ten times the speed of light, then that expands our bubble 1000 fold! Hooray! Which brings our percent of the universe within reasonable travel times to 3.6 x 10–20 of one percent. Oh.

If you happen to be a theist and are wondering why a creator god would have created so much of the universe inaccessible to us, you may want to consider that he wanted to keep all of his created creatures separated for a reason (maybe until we learn that Kill, kill, kill! is not a good first response to anything strange), or maybe he enjoys a good joke, or maybe he is just perverse, or….

September 26, 2017

You Can’t Create Something from Nothing?

Filed under: Religion,Science — Steve Ruis @ 11:27 am
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It is a common trope of Christian apologists to bring up the Big Bang cosmological theory and either endorse it as the act of God’s creation of the universe or condemn it because “you cannot create something from nothing.” The fact that these two approaches are completely contradictory doesn’t cost these apologists even one minute of sleep, of course; they are not looking for consistency or correctness, they are looking for a “killer argument.”

Setting aside everything but the claim that “you cannot get something from nothing” point, let’s look at this. Apologists often make this claim, which is not only unsupported but possibly unsupportable, and then claim that the only alternative to this merely physical description of the beginning of our universe is that their god created the universe … from nothing … by magic. Honestly, they say this with a straight face. At its heart, they are claiming you cannot make something from nothing … except by magic. And, of course, “magic” is not defined or demonstrated or … anything.

So, what about this premise: you can’t create something from nothing. When they do argue this, they say that everything that “begins to exist” (also not defined) has a cause and a cause must be pre-existing which contradicts the “nothing” aspect. So, they claim, their god is the First Cause (concept and name borrowed from the Greeks), the Prime Mover (concept and name borrowed from Aristotle, a Greek), the Totally Awesome: Yahweh.

Okay, theists, take a deep breath. Consider what “nothing” represents. Presumably, applied to this discussion nothing means no time, no space, no laws of physics, no things. Of course “things” are material objects, but it appears that in this case there would also be no energy or other non-material manifestations of our current universe.

“I wonder, have the apologists ever won an argument? Ever?
Apparently they can’t create something from nothing.”

If this was the case just before the Big Bang, what could prevent anything from happening? What, no cause? Hello? There is no relationship between cause and effect. There are no physical laws, no chemistry, no physics, no thing. Under these circumstances, there are no limitations at all on what could happen.

For example, allow me a flight of imagination. In a state of “no thing” an immense explosion occurs, creating two universes: one created from matter and energy and the other of anti-matter and anti-energy. (Imagine two balloons connected at their mouths, suddenly inflating. Each is ignorant of the existence of the other. Each seems to have been inflated from nothing.) Initially there is some mixing between the two, but since the two forms of matter and the two forms of energy annihilate each other, soon, the two universes are both quite “pure” and  stable. (This solves the mystery, by the way, of why there is so little anti-matter in our universe, when the physical laws now operating say that equal amounts should have been created “in the beginning.”) The net mass of the two universes: zero. The net energy of the two universes: zero. The laws covering whether this could occur “from nothing”: zero.

A state of nothingness is completely unlimited as to what could happen, so something could come from nothing, easy peasey.

I wonder, have the apologists ever won an argument? Ever? Apparently they can’t create something from nothing. I wonder what that says about their message.

August 25, 2017

Aliens … and Dinosaurs!

Having covered all of the ground possible … and a lot more, the Ancient Aliens TV show has hit a new high, or low, depending on your point of view. They kept many of the same people on staff, introduced some new folks, and they kept their normal whirlwind pace, one that doesn’t allow much time for consideration of the fabulous things they propose, such as aliens being the cause of the demise of the dinosaurs.

The main thrust of this episode is indeed that it might just be possible, maybe coulda been, that aliens eliminated the dinosaurs so we could thrive. I won’t comment on the “evidence” they present but there was one point at which the idiocy achieved new heights. They were developing a line of argument challenging the facts that humans are 2-3 million years old at best but “all” of the dinosaurs perished 65 million years ago, in what was considered an extinction level even involving a rather large meteor, landing in Mexico, but clearly dinosaurs and humans lived alongside one another … well, and aliens, too, of course.

They trotted out the éminence grise of this generation of unbridled thinkers, Erich von Daniken, to ask the question: If this was an event large enough to kill “all” of the dinosaurs, why did it kill off just the dinosaurs? (Apparently enquiring minds want to know.) Well, the event in question is called the Cretaceous-Paleocene mass extinction event and it resulted in about 75% of all species on the planet being wiped out, not “just” the dinos. And, it didn’t even kill off all of the dinosaurs! Many of the smaller theropods (what most of us think of when we think of dinosaurs), that is those under 25 kg/55 lb in mass, survived. Of course, the big beasties died.

The show then went on it’s merry way establishing that dinosaurs and human beings could possibly have lived together (mighta coulda). They didn’t mention Alley Oop in their arguments but they did throw in the Loch Ness monster and coelacanths. Right in the middle of this a talking head I didn’t bother to identify started bad mouthing radiocarbon dating, saying things like it was based on the production of carbon-14 in the atmosphere by cosmic rays (true) and that the rate of production may have been different millions of years ago (also true) and that these things could affect the dates on early human and dinosaurs remains (uh, not so much). If you want to know why I was puzzled, Dear Reader, read on.

Carbon-14 Dating: A Primer
All radioactivity-based dating methods are based upon a factoid of radioactive isotopes (kinds of elements): they all decay in a pattern involving a half-life. A half-life is an amount of time in which a radioactive sample loses half of its radioactivity. Interestingly, the next halving of that sample’s radioactivity takes the same amount of time, as does the next even though there is less and less to lose. This creates a situation that is summarized in a rule of thumb: a radioactive isotope can be used to date object as much as 10 half-lives back in time. The amount of radioactivity in a living animal cannot be very high in the first place. Comic books aside, radioactivity in high doses is typically lethal. So, all living plants and animals start out with only tiny amounts of radioactive elements in their bodies. Then after one half life, half of it is gone (unless it is replaced which in the case of carbon-14 happens because we eat carbon atoms in all of our food and plants absorb carbon dioxide—this, of course, stops when the plant or animal dies). After two half lives, only a quarter remains because half is lost in the first period and half of what is left was gone after the second. After the third half-life one eighth is left, after the fourth, one sixteenth is left, etc. After ten half-lives 1/210 is left. As a percent that is a little less than 0.1%. Since very little was started with, at this point close to zero is left, so there is basically nothing to measure.

So, what is the half-life of carbon-14 you ask? (You’d better!) It is 5730 years. Ten times this number is 57,300 years. This is the time span that radiocarbon dating can be used. That won’t get you back before Homo sapiens begins (200,000-300,000 years) let alone back to the large theropods getting killed off 66 million years ago. This is a classic smokescreen tactic, used often in this show. Throw anything you got against the wall and see if it sticks.

The Problem With All of This
As you are probably aware, Americans are not the most scientifically-literate people on the planet. As more and more of this bushwah is passed off as some sort of legitimate argumentation (It is not!), people are going to more easily believe the bullshit our governments peddle us. Global warming? That’s a hoax perpetrated by greedy scientists looking for grants. Dumping mine wastes laced with toxic heavy metals, not a problem. The Earth cleans itself. Lead in drinking water? A little bit is okay; go ahead and drink it.

The Exxon Corporation has released documents showing that 80% of the studies they undertook or analyzed showed that global warming/climate change was real and had real negative consequences. At the same time, 80% of its marketing budgets on the topic went to casting shade on the topic (for decades). Their problem is that one of the greatest sources of the climate change problem is the burning of petroleum products, which is what Exxon is in business for.

 

August 9, 2017

A Modern Quandary

I have been reading “Sociology is a Martial Art: Political Writings by Pierre Bourdieu.” This is puzzling to me because I haven’t been having any trouble sleeping, so why would I want to read a sociology text? (Sorry, old joke.)

In a context different from the one I will address in this post ( his was the impact of television), Professor Bourdieu wrote “How can I reconcile the exigency of ‘purity’ inherent in scientific and intellectual work, which necessarily leads to esotericism, with the democratic interest in making these achievements available to the greatest number?” His concern was that the primary function of television seemingly was to dumb down even simple discussions. Here I want to address the topic of the anti-evolution crowd and the anti-climate change crowd.

Without specialized training, it is hard to follow the science in these fields. I have a graduate degree in chemistry and I am not versed in the nuances of either subject (although I guess I could create a small summary of each). So, without esoteric training, how are the citizens in a democracy supposed to assess the validity of such concepts.

We could start with having better basic education, explaining that a scientific theory is a mechanism that explains a great many facts as well as makes predictions available to expand out knowledge. Currently people use the word theory as a synonym for “wild ass guess.” “I have a theory about that …” they will say. No, they don’t. At best they have an hypothesis and more likely they have a guess that is poorly substantiated at best. To say one has a “theory” makes one sound better than to say “I have a guess as to….”

It also does not help that each topic has a cadre of sociopolitical opponents. If the Theory of Evolution is correct, all of fundamentalist Christianity and most of doctrinaire Christianity is off to a rubbish heap somewhere. Basically, if God didn’t created humanity magically, we couldn’t have “rebelled” against his authority, so there was no original sin, and hence nothing for the human sacrifice that was Jesus to absolve. (Bye, bye!)

Climate change has political opponents who have economic stakes at risk. The Koch brothers fund anti-climate change efforts to protect their oil refining, oil pipeline, and other industries, while David Koch supports NOVA science education programs on PBS, including programs on climate change (possibly as a suppressing maneuver?).

So, ordinary citizens are left to evaluate what appears to them to be a propaganda war. “Scientists” have lied to them before as have businessmen, so it is hard to decide which side of either of these debates is trustworthy.

I find the argument that climate change was invented for scientists to be able to secure grants for their work (It is a hoax!). Whoever invented this red herring obviously has never interacted with scientists, each of which has a big ego, and the first of them to discover such a plot would gleefully expose his colleagues to shame and humiliation for participating in it. Most scientists minored in gloating in college.

So, what’s a citizen to do?

I think part of the problem has to do with the evidence not being on display. I hear Christian apologists often ask the question: Where are the transitional fossils? This questions goes back to the time of Charles Darwin when there was a very sparse fossil record. The key facts that the public needs to know is that fossils do not form all that often, so are passably rare and that with regard to transitional fossils, fossils that show one species transitioning to another, there are large numbers of them available. Maybe a video (to reach the masses) needs to me made of the amount of evidence underlying the Theory of Evolution. The amount of evidence, from many, many different and unrelated fields of science is incredibly vast. Just a list of peer-reviewed articles supporting the theory scrolling on like the credits of a Hollywood movie (like they do on TV, at super high speeds) would take hours. Flashing photos of all of the fossils that apply to animals no longer in existence but which fit into the evolutionary family tree of Earth, would also take quite a long time (blink, blink, blink, maybe a running counter would help: 1, 2, 3, …, 3008, 3009, …).

The same could be true for Climate Change. We could run publicity shots of the smiling faces of the scientists in the field who support the tentative conclusion that humanity is contributing to the current round of climate change (blink, blink, blink, maybe a running counter would help: 1, 2, 3, …, 178, 179, …). Then the photos of those reputable scientists who oppose the current consensus on climate change could have their photos flashed (blink, blink, blink).

There is no way ordinary citizens could be brought up to speed on these topics through educating them, because even with the head start in such training I have, I do not want to put in the effort. Instead, I trust the scientists in their field to represent their findings correctly (to the best of their ability) and I trust the egos of their colleagues to prick any intellectual bubbles that are flimsy or unfounded.

Another route might be to create an independent evaluation board to provide basic explanations of science topics to legislators and citizens. The Town of Brisbane, Australia did this a while back (don’t know whether they still do) when they created the office of Town Scientist whose job it was to explain scientific topics to the town governing board and citizens of the Town of Brisbane. For the longest time the State of California had an independent political official whose job was to explain issues voters needed to address and that office was never politicized or demeaned, and it worked really well for quite some time (don’t know whether it still does).

This is a modern problem, because back when “governance” was by autocrats/monarchs, they didn’t give a fig about whether the people understood or not. Ironically, it was the advent of merchants (aka business people) who accumulated wealth (aka power) enough to make it important that a wider swath of a country’s population be made to understand governmental decisions. With the advent of modern democracy, issues are now submitted to the ballot and candidates for office are voted upon, too. We need to figure out how to “reconcile the exigency of ‘purity’ inherent in scientific and intellectual work, which necessarily leads to esotericism, with the democratic interest in making these achievements available to the greatest number” and we need to do it fast. Life ain’t gonna get simpler.

July 16, 2017

It Is Put Up or Shut Up Time for the Intelligent Design Movement

Filed under: Religion,Science — Steve Ruis @ 8:52 am
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As you may know the “Intelligent Design Theory” is just a second (third, fourth, … ?) generation form of Creationism. The people who created “ID” (it is not a theory by the way, at best it is an hypothesis) are folks who believe that God created the entire universe in only six days, about 6000 years ago or so and the science that says otherwise, aka “God’s Creation,” just has to be wrong.

The ID people spend most of their time criticizing the science of evolution (which claims we evolved and were not created magically), paleontology (which claims there is fossil and other evidence dating animals and humans back millions of years), geology (which claims that the Earth is over four billion years old), cosmology (which claims the universe is much older than our solar system), etc. but they do not seem to be motivated to answer questions on their own. These people are like colleagues who criticize your work but don’t do any work themselves.

So, it is put up or shut up time. Here are a few questions I would like to see the ID people answer. All are based upon their beliefs, primarily that God created everything about 6000 years ago. Also, since they argue that we cannot know the mind of God, I choose not to ask “why” so much as “how.”

  1. When God created all of the stars, how did he create the starlight so that it looks like it had been en route for billions of years? (Humans can start light beams and stop light beams, but not create a beam millions of light years long instantly.)
  2. When God created the Earth, He included the fossilized remains of animals that were not described in the Bible or any other historical source. How was this done, also why? (The answer “it was a test of faith” is specious because that would imply a knowledge of the mind of God.)
  3. There are animals on Earth that cannot be domesticated, nor are they good tasting or nutritious. How is it that they serve man’s dominion?
  4. When the Earth was created, radioactive elements were created alongside large quantities of their daughter products, thus creating the illusion that those minerals had been buried for millions if not billions of years. How was this done?
  5. Since all of the Earth’s creatures were created just 6000 years ago, why does all of the evidence in God’s creation point to them having evolved over a very much longer time period (3 billion years).
  6. Why does mitochondrial DNA point to a common modern human ancestor of all current humans (Mitochondrial Eve) who lived somewhere between 100,000 and 300,000 years ago?
  7. If the Earth was created 6000 years ago, why does the Earth exhibit geological layers of sediment that can only have taken place over a very long time. Many of these layers show extreme tilting and folding and contain the remains of plants and animals of bizarre domains (e.g. ferns near mountain tops)?
  8. If all of the Earth’s animals are descendant’s of the animals on Noah’s Ark, why does their DNA point back to common ancestors far farther in the past?
  9. In the Garden of Eden, what did the carnivores eat? If they ate the meat of other animals, then the GOE was a charnel house as all of the lions, tigers, and wolves mowed down all of sheep, cattle, and the rest of their kind. (Death was common in the GOE then.) If they ate grass, how were they converted into carnivores from herbivores in such a short time?

How about we collect a long list of such questions for the ID movement? Help the IDers by asking questions like the above. It seems that they are struggling to come up with a research agenda, let’s create on for them! Now, that’s creationism!

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