Science

Skepchick Quickies for 2.01

Happy Friday!

Amanda

Amanda is a science grad student in Boston whose favorite pastimes are having friendly debates and running amok.

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27 Comments

  1. Wow, the Internet is totally angrifying today. I've always maintained that MySpace sucks ass. Apparently it's insecure Christian ass.

    Why hasn't the District Court issued a temporary injunction to make the Enzyte folks stop selling the pill on their website? Does anyone need an herbal penis pump so badly that they can't wait until the verdict comes down?

  2. some people are just scared of evidence….because it may force change to the closed minded perception of what truth really is. it always amuses me how non scientist accuse "real" scientist of not being able to grasp thier own level of expertise?

  3. urblind, are you serious? You're serious. Wow.

    because it may force change to the closed minded perception of what truth really is.

    That is the most concise description of the fundamentalist creationist mindset that I've read in a long time. Creation "scientists" ignore the overwhelming abundance of evidence and grasp at the minuscule straws that seem to support a worldview laid out in a book whose conclusions haven't been revised in 1800 years. If that isn't a good definition of resisting change, then I'm going to stop speaking English entirely.

  4. Creation “scientists” ignore the overwhelming abundance of evidence

    you wouldnt know…since you have refused to look at the data, because in your mind you have already decided it is wrong….how many degrees do you hold in a scientific field?

    …thats what I thought…

  5. αρκετα για να διατηρησουν την αναζητηση σας στο Διαδικτυο προσπαθουμε να βρουμε τι λεει αυτη η μεταφραση! τι βλακας λιγο προσωπο σας!

  6. I'll be the first person to admit that I don't hold a scientific degree, but I take issue with your conclusion that this means I haven't researched the topic. I've read extensively about the arguments for scientific support of literal creationism, and they just don't hold water.

    Here's the thing. I DON'T have a degree in science, and yet the flaws in the arguments are obvious to me. The vast majority of scientists (and, incidentally, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania) agree with my conclusion that creationism isn't science.

    But all that aside, why are my science credentials relevant? What does that have to do with my contention that creationism is insular and resistant to change? I hope you'll address that instead of jumping to conclusions about my choice of reading material.

  7. I’ll be the first person to admit that I don’t hold a scientific degree, but I take issue with your conclusion that this means I haven’t researched the topic. I’ve read extensively about the arguments for scientific support of literal creationism, and they just don’t hold water.

    how so?

    Here’s the thing. I DON’T have a degree in science, and yet the flaws in the arguments are obvious to me

    flaws?? have you ever seen a fossil record? thats a flaw! ever studied the theory of abiogenesis? thats full of flaw! what about the phylogenetic tree?

    thats a flaw! so flawed in fact that science had to change the name to cladogram, because they could fill the major gaps. so dont tell me about flaws…

  8. וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוֹשֻׁעַ אֶל-הָעָם, לֹא תוּכְלוּ לַעֲבֹד אֶת-יְהוָה–×›Ö¼Ö´×™-אֱלֹהִים קְדֹשִׁים, הוּא: אֵל-קַנּוֹא הוּא, לֹא-יִשָּׂא לְפִשְׁעֲכֶם וּלְחַטֹּאותֵיכֶם.

  9. I've never claimed that the naturalist scientific view is ironclad. In fact, quite the opposite. It does have problems, and scientists are constantly working to refine the picture it paints. They gather evidence, they examine it, and they revise, or even rewrite, their conclusions, based on the evidence.

    I'll ask again. What does any of this have to do with my contention that creationism is an insular worldview that is resistant to change? I'm still waiting for you to address that point.

  10. because your beliefs stop you from accepting facts…enough so that you will accuse the proffesional of being ill-informed, when you yourself has not been educated in that particular field of study. how can you tell a biologist he doesnt know biology, when you yourself havnt studied biology since highschool?

  11. urblind said,

    "because your beliefs stop you from accepting facts…enough so that you will accuse the proffesional of being ill-informed, when you yourself has not been educated in that particular field of study. how can you tell a biologist he doesnt know biology, when you yourself havnt studied biology since highschool?"

    Urblind, does the irony of this statement escape you?

  12. Okay, let's put the question of my science credentials to bed.

    urblind, I'll concede that my original post was unnecessarily confrontational. I could have registered my disagreement without impugning the ability or credentials of the individuals involved. I never intended to suggest that I had more scientific training than they did. I hope that I didn't make them too sad.

    Now, let's start over. You said

    some people are just scared of evidence….because it may force change to the closed minded perception of what truth really is.

    However, I contend that creationism is far more insular and resistant to change or revision than empirical, naturalist science. I hope that you'll deign to respond to this contention.

  13. However, I contend that creationism is far more insular and resistant to change or revision than empirical, naturalist science. I hope that you’ll deign to respond to this contention.

    hmmm….perhaps your somewhat hazy to science and skepticism?

    read this:

    Skepticism is the Western philosophical tradition that maintains that human beings can never arrive at any kind of certain knowledge. Originating in Greece in the middle of the fourth century BC, skepticism and its derivatives are based on the following principles:

    There is no such thing as certainty in human knowledge.

    All human knowledge is only probably true, that is, true most of the time, or not true.

    Several non-Western cultures have skeptical traditions, particularly Buddhist philosophy, but properly speaking, skepticism refers only to a Greek philosophical tradition and its Greek, Roman, and European derivatives.

    The school of Skeptic philosophers were called the "Skeptikoi" in Greece. The word is derived from the Greek verb, "skeptomai," which means "to look carefully, to reflect." The hallmark of the skeptikoi was caution; they refused to be caught in assertions that could be proven false. In fact, the entire system of skeptic philosophy was to present all knowledge as opinion only, that is, to assert nothing as true.

    Ancient Greece

    ——————————————————————————–

    Socrates

    In this, they were firmly planted in a tradition started a century earlier by Socrates. Socrates claimed that he knew one and only one thing: that he knew nothing. So he would never go about making any assertions or opinions whatsoever. Instead, he set about questioning people who claimed to have knowledge, ostensibly for the purpose of learning from them, using a judicial cross-examination, called elenchus . If someone made an assertion, such as, "Virtue means acting in accordance with public morality, " he would keep questioning the speaker until he had forced him into a contradiction. As in a court of law, this contradiction proved that the speaker was lying in some way, in this case, that the speaker did not really know what they claimed to know. If an assertion can be worked into a contradiction, that means that the original assertion was wrong. While Socrates never claimed that knowledge is impossible, still, at his death, he never claimed to have discovered any piece of knowledge whatsoever.

    After its introduction into Greek culture at the end of the fourth century BC, skepticism influenced nearly all other Greek philosophies. Both Hellenistic and Roman philosophies took it as a given that certain knowledge was impossible; the focus of Greek and Roman philosophy, then, turned to probable knowledge, that is, knowledge that is true most of the time.

    Christianity, however, introduced a dilemma into Greek and Roman philosophies that were primarily based on skeptical principles. In many ways, the philosophy of Christianity, which insisted on an absolute knowledge of the divine and of ethics, did not fit the Greek and Roman skeptical emphasis on probable knowledge. Paul of Tarsus, one of the original founders of Christianity, answered this question simply: the knowledge of the Romans and Greeks, that is, human knowledge, is the knowledge of fools. Knowledge that rejects human reasoning, which, after all, leads to skepticism, is the knowledge of the wise. Christianity at its inception, then, had a strong anti-rational perspective. This did not, however, make the skeptical problem go away. Much of the history of early Christian philosophy is an attempt to paste Greek and Roman philosophical methods and questions onto the new religion; the first thing that had to go was the insistence on skepticism and probable knowledge. So early Christian thinkers such as Augustine and Boethius took on the epistemological traditions of Greece and Rome to demonstrate that one could arrive at certain knowledge in matters of Christian religion. Augustine devoted an entire book, "Against the Academics," to proving that human beings can indeed arrive at certain knowledge.

    Skepticism, however, was radically reintroduced into Western culture in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. . Thinkers such as Montaigne in France and Francis Bacon in England took as their starting point the idea that they knew nothing for certain. Montaigne would invent an entirely new literary format which he called the essai , or "attempt, trial"; this is the origin of the modern-day essay. The "essay" took as its starting point the idea that the writer doesn't really know what he's talking about. Montaigne would propose an issue, walk around the issue for awhile and consider various alternatives, and then end pretty much where he started: uncertain what conclusion to draw. This is why he called his writings, "attempts" (essais in French), for they were attempts at drawing conclusions rather than finished products.

    European Enlightenment

    ——————————————————————————–

    René Descartes

    Blaise Pascal

    The most radical introduction of Greek skeptical traditions back into the Western tradition occurred in the works of Blaise Pascal and René Descartes. Both thinkers refused to accept any piece of knowledge whatsoever as true, and both tried to rebuild a Christian faith based on this radical questioning of truth.

    Descartes set about reinventing Western epistemology with a radical perspective: what if nothing were true? How, if you doubted everything, could you find something—anything—that was true. His conclusion, of course, was the famous cogito : Cogito ergo sum , or, "I think, therefore I am." From this base he built up a series of other true propositions, including the existence of God. In many ways, Descartes was trying to accomplish the same thing that Augustine, Boethius, and other early Christian thinkers were attempting: how do you address the possibility, firmly entrenched in the Western tradition, that there may be no such thing as certain knowledge? How do you reconcile that with religious faith? For that was Descartes' ultimate goal: to prove the existence of God and the validity of the Christian religion.

    Although he saw himself as answering old and vexing questions in the Christian tradition, he actually created a radically new way of approaching the world: systematic doubt. The hallmark of Cartesianism is setting up a formal system of doubt, that is, of questioning all propositions and conclusions using a formal system. Once one has arrived at a certain piece of knowledge, that piece of knowledge then becomes the basis for clearing up other doubts. Descartes systematic doubt became the basis of the Enlightenment and modern scientific tradition. One begins with a proposition, or hypothesis, that is in doubt and then tests that proposition until one arrives, more or less, at a certain conclusion. That does not, however, end the story. When confronted by the conclusions of others, one's job is to doubt those conclusions and redo the tests. Once a hypothesis has been tested and retested, then one can conclude that one has arrived at a "scientific truth." That, of course, doesn't end it, for all scientific truths can be doubted sometime in the future. In other words, although scientists speak about certainty and truth all the time, the foundational epistemology is skeptical: doubt anything and everything.

    make sure you read that last paragraph again…

  14. You're continuing to evade my question. My understanding of skepticism isn't at issue. Your proficiency at cutting and pasting aside, this wall of text only supports my point.

    One of the functions of science is to doubt, and to test, and to re-test. When repeated experiments support a hypothesis, we begin to trust it, but that doesn't mean we stop examining it. As new evidence is uncovered, we revise our understanding.

    Creationism doesn't do that. It starts with the explanation that "god did it," and NEVER, EVER doubts that point. It simply gathers the evidence that seems to support that explanation, and ignores the rest.

    From its own website, the Answers journal is:

    peer-reviewed technical journal for the publication of interdisciplinary scientific and other relevant research from the perspective of the recent Creation and the global Flood within a biblical framework.

    I don't have an English degree either, but I don't see anything in that sentence to suggest that anyone is treating the divine origin as anything but unassailable truth.

    Meanwhile, empirical, naturalist science continues to examine, test and refine its assumptions. I still contend that creationism, not science, is the schema that is resistant to change. I hope you'll eventually bother to answer that contention.

  15. While wading into this debate is most assuredly an exercise in futility, may I propose the following brief point: stopping the discussion about science, philosophy and epistemology with Descartes' Discourse on Method is stopping the debate about a quarter century too early.

    I propose that doubt is not the central issue to scientific knowledge, but experiment. It seems to me that the question everyone (okay, maybe just three or four of you) is addressing is "how do we know what we know?" With Robert Boyle's airpump experiments in the later half of the seventeenth century, science and philosophy split on how to answer this question. Prior to Boyle (and Descartes is a perfect example of this) there was not really a distinction between science and philosophy. In fact, historians of science tend to call what Descartes was practicing Natural Philosophy.

    For those who might want to know a tad more about this fascinating transition from philosophy to science, I highly recommend Stephen Shapin and Simon Schaffer's excellent book Leviathan and the Air Pump.

  16. I don’t know if you guys remember/knew about this, but a while back the InfidelGuy had all kinds of problems getting onto myspce. His group kept getting deleted. They would put up a new group with the version number (InfidelGuy3.0) and then time how long it would take that one to get deleted. The record may have been 30 minutes. I believe 5.0 was the one that finally stuck around.

    And hey, is that not the most adorable group of addicts you’ve ever seen? I kind of want to take LSD mouse home.

  17. Also:

    “professional, peer-reviewed technical journal for the publication of interdisciplinary scientific and other relevant research from the perspective of the recent Creation and the global Flood within a biblical framework,”

    I submit that “peer” is code for “person without even the most basic grasp of biology or geology.”

  18. urblind wrote:

    because your beliefs stop you from accepting facts…enough so that you will accuse the proffesional of being ill-informed, when you yourself has not been educated in that particular field of study. how can you tell a biologist he doesnt know biology, when you yourself havnt studied biology since highschool?

    Hahahaha, it's funny 'cause he doesn't realize how this fits creationists so much better than it does REAL scientists.

    True, there are some biologists out there trying to scientifically disprove evolution with some cockamamie hypothesis of "irreducible complexity". But these biologists probably know all too well what they're forced to ignore in order to make claims of young earth creationism. For what it's worth, irreducible complexity is NOT young earth creationism.

    And on the other hand, anything Behe and the irreducible complexity-crowd come up with easily fits right into the evolutionary theory anyway, so it's not like they're making any progress on that front either.

    But you go on believing you've got us backed into a corner urblind. We're all shaking in our boots at the intellect of the creationists and their groundbreaking research into proving the bible. Yes we are …

    Hahahaha …

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