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The Universe, Religion, and Radio Signals

If you haven’t heard Paul Harvey or Paul Harvey Jr. on the radio, then I envy you your ignorant bliss, for they both sound like a drunken Jimmy Stewart from the movie Harvey. The father and son “newsmen” do a short, cornball show covering the gamut, from world politics to folksy stories of small town America. The Harvey’s “reporting” style is reminiscent of old-time radio; imagine a man wearing a fedora, with one hand clasped over an ear, speaking into a enormous, chrome plated microphone. During their syndicated broadcast they shift seamlessly from important news stories to sales pitches for delicious buttery spreads to tales of conservative family values. I think Dude Lebowski might say the Harvey’s are out of their element, by about five decades.

Well, Thursday morning I woke up to Paul Harvey Jr. talking complete gobbledygook about the latest astrophysics and why it reestablishes the earth as unique in the universe. Have a listen, at least to the first 3 minutes.

Science texts for four centuries have insisted that the earth is nothing special in the universe“. No. Copernicus’ heliocentric model was just a technical detail about earth’s position in the solar system. It didn’t say anything about its status or importance in the universe. Although, based on a lack of distinguishing features, it’s not unreasonable to conclude that our solar system isn’t particularly special. After all, there are billions of galaxies each with billions of stars, as Carl Sagan might point out. But that’s not going to stop a theist from grasping at straws.

Inexplicable phenomenon“, “Dark energy“, “Dark matter“, “Dark flow“, and “Confounded. Leave it to a gullible fool like Harvey Jr. to invoke the god-of-the- gaps argument; if scientists don’t understand something then it must be supernatural. i.e. I don’t know how David Copperfield did an illusion, therefore it’s must be real magic.

Those dark forces… the infinitely vast reality that exists beyond it [the universe]“. Harvey Jr. thinks dark energy and dark matter exist beyond the universe. I didn’t know science could see that far.

Accepted without question“. Scientists interrogate each other into submission because science is a method of investigation, which cannot be done without asking questions. Religious faith is loyalty to an idea regardless of the evidence. Don’t theists typically balk at Q&A sessions?

The earth alone exists in a cosmic bubble“. Give a layman a little physics and he’ll twist and turn it into an Easter pretzel. It’s Harvey Jr. who exists in a intellectual bubble.

My advice is not to get your science news from giant invisible white rabbits named Harvey or credulous radio personalities.

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The Montauk Monster Eats Human Brains For Lunch

It looks like the mystery of the Montauk Monster is solved. It’s a decomposing raccoon with missing teeth and missing fur. But what’s fascinating about the story of the monster is that it inspired such imaginative stories and outrageous speculation.

What is it in our human minds that makes us choose the unknown over the known. Why do some of us reject reasonable explanations for fantastical ones? For example, the media and the public automatically assumed the creature washed up on the beach, that it had an aquatic origin, not a terrestrial one. Which one is more reasonable? It’s clearly a mammal. And raccoons do love the seashore and seafood.

And minds leaped to the conclusion that the Montauk Monster was a creature completely unknown to science. Why didn’t the same minds consider the possibility that the “creature” was just unknown to them, and not to science. Not all of us are experts on anatomy and the decay of animal remains. Why can’t we just admit ignorance, instead of grasping at straws?

When a reasonable explanation isn’t immediately available our minds seem to reach for the stars.

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The Discovery Institute’s Hoopla Machine

Casey Luskin insists the Discovery Institute is a secular think tank. And he says it with a straight face.

What is it about the spreading of pseudo-science that makes reasonable people cringe and gag? One characteristic is surely the introduction of religious / political thinking into discussions of fact. The natural world simply is. If it upsets our human sensibilities, too freaking bad for us. When a bull shark bites a potential food item (a human leg, perhaps), it is being neither good nor evil; it’s simply hungry and inquisitive. It’s nothing personal. Thus, describing the natural world is best accomplished through observations of what is, not through contemplation of how things should be. Blaming Darwinism for the Holocaust, communism, capitalism, rock ‘n roll music, abortion, racism, moral relativism, and the general decay of Western society is irrelevant to the scientific question of whether or not evolution by natural selection is a valid explanation for observed evolutionary change on planet Earth. What is and what ought to be are two distinct questions.

But throw a rock at the Discovery Institute and you’re more likely to hit a lobbyist or a lawyer than an actual scientist. For example, Casey Luskin, an attorney with the DI, blogs to his fellow intelligent designers about the “it’s just a theory” argument.

Darwinists love to bash Darwin-skeptics who call evolution “just a theory, not a fact.” The truth is that I rarely, if ever, hear people who are closely involved with the ID movement using this line to oppose evolution. The “evolution is just a theory, not a fact” phrase tends to come from the vox populi—intelligent people who studied this issue in their biology class or perhaps have read books like Darwin’s Black Box, Icons of Evolution, or Darwin on Trial, but otherwise don’t follow the issue very closely.

But most creationists do use the argument, endlessly. They also use the “intelligent designer” and “irreducible complexity” arguments. The fact is that intelligent design creationists are a small minority. Polls indicate that most American creationists are of the Old Earth variety. And I think the Discovery Institute knows this full well. Isn’t it really all about talking points, ones the DI can easily disseminate, and ones the general public can easily digest and regurgitate, regardless of the scientific facts?

Casey Luskins also lists his scientific qualifications:

Having taken over a dozen courses covering evolutionary biology at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, I’m a scientific skeptic of neo-Darwinism.

Fine, be a skeptic, Luskin. But are you as skeptical about intelligent design? Have you taken a dozen courses covering intelligent design at the undergraduate and graduate level? No, because intelligent design isn’t a science, and it can be pretty well summed up in a single 15 minute lecture. ID is a vague conclusion, not an explanation. The only thing propping it up is a propaganda machine. And all the whining in the world about “morals”, “culture”, and “academic freedom” isn’t going to polish the ID turd. The Discovery Institute calls itself the “Center for Science and Culture”. But it really should choose one or the other, “science” or “culture”, not both. Let “ought” and “is” be distinct; life works so much better when our desires don’t cloud our judgment of reality.

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Filed under Culture Warfare, Intelligent Design, Politics

Ben Stein – Creationist Of The Month

Ben Stein

I offically declare Ben Stein as May’s creationist of the month. He earns his position for his ignorance and sleazy behavior.

In Expelled: The Movie, Ben Stein attempts to draw a link between Charles Darwin and the Holocaust by misreading a quote from Darwin’s famous book The Descent Of Man. Scientific America Magazine explains with an article:

One of the many egregious moments in the new Ben Stein anti-evolution film “Expelled” is the truncation of a quote from Charles Darwin so that it makes him appear to give philosophical ammunition to the Nazis.

Here is Ben Stein quote-mining Darwin in the movie Expelled:

“With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination. We build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed and the sick. Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. Hardly anyone is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.”

Now here’s is the rest of Charles Darwin’s words, the part Stein conveniently left out:

“The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered, in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more widely diffused. Nor could we check our sympathy, even at the urging of hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with an overwhelming present evil.

The Descent Of Man is a thick book, perhaps too thick for Ben Stein’s thick head. He might not have had the discipline to read it in full. Or maybe he didn’t edit the quote himself, he could have just read it that way from a script. Either way it looks bad, really bad. Ben Stein is either too lazy to pick up a book, or he’s a prositute-puppet, who says anything for money. Congratulations to Ben Stein for being creationist of the month, he’s earned it.

P.S. I recommend The Descent Of Man to anyone interested in evolution or the history of science. I read it last summer. It’s truly fascinating. The Penguin Classics Edition has a great introduction. Also, check out the complete works of Charles Darwin online.    

www.TheDarwinReport.com 

 

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