Friday, November 11, 2005

Deranged old man hears 'voice of God'

The Realist beat me to this story already, but it’s the sort of thing that I’m compelled to comment on, whether I like it or not. Like The Blues Brothers, I’m on a mission. But not from God.

The whole “intelligent design” argument irritates me enormously. It isn’t intelligent, it’s just a lazy way of making creationism more credible (or should I say less incredible) by tacking on many years of empirically observed evolutionary theory, then passing it off as the work of a supernatural entity. This is vital for creationists because, now that the official line of even the Catholic Church holds that the Bible should not be taken literally, anyone still arguing that the earth was actually made on a Tuesday afternoon about 6,000 years ago would be pointed at and deafened by hoots of derision from anyone with an IQ above, say, 37. (Although, depressingly and predictably, such people do exist: check out Answers In Genesis: “Upholding the Authority of the Bible from the Very First Verse”. They’ve even got their own little creationist museum, depicting images of humans co-existing with dinosaurs. Yes, really. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry *.)

So advocates of “intelligent design” (from now on I’ll just refer to it as “design theory”, the “intelligent” prefix really sticks in my throat), feeling smug with their shiny new idea now that it’s been legitimised by a veneer of scientific theory, want it taught in schools. Which would be fair enough, I suppose, if we were talking about religious education – after all, science has no concrete answers about the origin of existence, so if you want a metaphysical argument, by all means talk about it in your RE classes. Even your philosophy classes if you must. But no, they want it taught on the science syllabus, as if the Enlightenment never happened. Meanwhile, George Bush endorses the teaching of design theory because “part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought”. Great. In that case, perhaps we should teach our kids that 7+7=139, in order to expose them to “different theories” of mathematics? Physics is presumably a point of conjecture now too, so I’d like to see more people making the case for the lesser known theory E=mc3. Why should we only learn about Einstein’s “opinion”?

The assault on reason gathers pace.

So well done to the residents of Dover, Pennsylvania, for ousting the local school board trying to stick design theory into their curriculum. In these depressing times, it’s encouraging to see supporters of rational thought stake a hard won victory against the forces of sheer ignorance and cretinism.

But watch out, Dover, because deranged Christian fantasist Pat Robertson has a dire warning for you all: “If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city”. Yikes! But wait, it gets worse. “God is tolerant and loving, but we can't keep sticking our finger in His eye forever. . . . If they have future problems in Dover, I recommend they call on Charles Darwin. Maybe he can help them.” Sorry, you lost me there. God is tolerant and loving. . . but?? I thought God’s love was unconditional? Where has this “but” come from all of a sudden? So you’re telling us that if, say, Dover was devastated by an earthquake (a God-created earthquake, of course: presumably tectonic plate movement is just a “theory”?), God would look the other way?

Actually, I’ve got to confess: I don’t rate God’s skills of disaster relief very highly. Not much evidence of them being deployed in New Orleans was there? Nor Pakistan. Nowhere to be seen after the tsunami either. So if we're grading God in this area, He gets a D-.

Although how Pat knows any of this is something of a mystery, too. Presumably God is "speaking" to him directly. Shouldn't Pat be put in a home for the ‘emotionally interesting’? This is what we usually do with people who claim to hear the voice of God in their head isn't it?

Scary fact of the day: Karl Rove consulted this doddering fuckwit about Supreme Court nominations.

Anyway, I’m going to go and have a lie down. Maybe read a good book. Not the Bible though.

* Decision made. I’ll cry.


Laura said...

Perhaps you SHOULD read the Bible, Sane. After all, they say that reading something from the fantasy genre is a great way to unwind and get away from the harsh reality of life. Isn't that why Lord of the Rings was so successful? And Terry Pratchett?

Good work!

sparx said...

I'm puzzled. Life on earth is soooo complex that it could not have happened naturally therefore an intelligence of some description must be behind it all.

Who created this intelligence then?

I mean, something THAT clever and with that sort of power could never have come into existence by chance. Therefore there must have been an intelligence of some description behind it all. But of course, something that clever etc. etc.

Citizen Sane said...

Exactly. This is a conversation for the philosophy classes. Not science.

dw said...

To my thinking it boils down to simply believing or disbelieveing. The issue should be defined as a question of what makes one believe and the other not believe. Then we can clear the field and get down to a good old fashioned mudbrawl.

Einstein was a true believer, Darwin was a troubled agnostic, Jefferson was a diest and materialist and hated organized religeon, Madonna is one super cool nihilist fuck machine. Choose you idols, there are many and then have that open and honest dialog about which came first, the chicken or the egg. Not even caring about the issue holds some insight.

Science wants to be value free and not subjected ethics and morality that hinders it's endeavors and denounces it's theories.

Politics is the art of concssion and must be very careful of any position adopted.

Everyone wants to better their own lives for themselves and their children. Who wants certain ethics and morality depriving them of opportunity or profit in a world naturally driven by greed and gain.

Young people just wants to have fun?

Entertainment and advertisement is saturated with gratitous sexuality and some times I just want to think and decide without the input of my little head.

Gee I can understand the motivation behind great offence against Western religeon, especially as their power has contiually grown and now holds tyrannical power over us. I would have been a good person even without their defining my values as their contribution. No voo doo whammy hex curse beleifs can touch me. No Buddah, Allah, Yaweh, Jesus can touch me. I am not subject to bullshit so don't come to me for any deep phychological disturbences or heartbreak that seemingly pierces the very life within. Go to a value free therapist and you be fine in the Matrix. Just don't go poking around waking people up, they might end up in the sewer.

Citizen Sane said...

Believe or disbelieve, that's fine. Just keep creationism (or whatever other label they want to tag it with) out of the science class. Ditto astrology, palm reading, crystal balls, Tarot cards, ouija boards and flat earth theory. There are many who believe in these things also. That is their right. I seek not to take that away from them (but I will laugh at them - which is my right). None of them hold up to scientific scrutiny and none of them should be taught as science nor anything even approaching it.

Anonymous said...

CS would you support a couple of pages in the science book that simply famaliarize students with the theory of intellegent design?

dw said...

I'll add that the theory has credibality among some scientists of caliber and as the stigma wanes so grows the support. The beleif in intelleget design deos not hinder the sciences outside of areas of genetic engeneering and many fear that science regardles of beleifs.

If your sick of this topic ignore this CS

ph said...

Natural selection is accepted as the driver of evolution and unfortunately the scientific community has got itself a little hung up on this theory. We seem to have reached a state where to question the omnipotence of natrural selection is to declare oneself as a 7 day creationist. I think some evolutionists should drop the dogma, take their fingers out of their ears, and be prepared to discuss natural selection with an open and enquiring mind.
Personally I would have been happy to have intelligent design presented as an alternative to natural selection. It may not have been right but if is such a bad idea then surely enquiring students could see its weaknesses. We want students to think, not be spoon fed accepted dogmas.

Citizen Sane said...

Anon - would you support a couple of pages in the science book that simply famaliarize students with the theory of intelligent design?

No. But I wouldn't oppose it either. With the caveat that it be in a special chapter at the end called "Honestly! The Things Some People Believe In". Then some narrative explaining why it cannot be considered scientific (see below).

dw - the theory has credibility among some scientists of calibre and as the stigma wanes so grows the support

On your first point: name one! On your second point: only in the Bible Belt states and parts of Africa. Oh, and Middlesbrough, depressingly.

ph - Hung up on the theory? Well, yes and no. Yes, in that there is no realistic alternative in the material world. No, in that there are numerous disagreements and knowledge gaps within the discipline itself. No one holds claim to the definitive answers. For now, anyway.

"Intelligent design" simply plugs the gaps with theological supposition rendering the theory unfalsifiable. How can an unfalsifiable theory possibly be considered scientific? Whenever there is a point of contention the ID advocate can simply say "Oh, that was just the wish of the intelligent designer". It's just filling the holes with God, which is a little bit backward isn't it? A bit medieval. Do you really think something so arbitrary, so impossible to prove or disprove, should be taught in the science classroom?

Whereas the adherent of natural selection can say: "Well, we don't know the answer to that. Yet".

The burden of proof is on the advocates of intelligent design: SHOW ME the evidence of a designer at work. What, you can't? Oh. Well, come back when you can then.

Natural selection advocates have no reason or responsibility to do this, they are just demonstrating evidence (yes, evidence) of evolution at work. This is a crucial difference. Natural selection theory demonstrates what we do and can know. Intelligent design supposes that what we don't know can be explained away by God. Where would the human race be if we'd slumped for this kind of lazy answer for all methods of enquiry? Well, we've already been there: it was called the Dark Ages.

The Realist said...

CS, that is quite, quite brilliant.

ph said...

CS. What you say should be true, but I have a strong feeling that many populist advocates of natural selection (and of course natural selection does occur) have moved the theory into the world of dogma. They have tried to shut down the debate, fearing the re-appearance God. In doing this they are stifling free thought about evolution irrespective of whether that free thought involves God or not. Any one who does that is not the scientist they claim to be.