Exposing PseudoAstronomy

August 11, 2011

Propagating Science Versus Propagating Anti-Science


This post is more of a conversation with my reader(s), you. I was listening to an episode of the ID: The Future podcast (a pro-“Intelligent” Design production) today. The episode that was put out today is entitled, “Birds of a Feather: Darwinian Evolution Stumped by Novel Features.” While listening to the podcast, it was the standard: Casey Luskin (one of their lawyers and the most common host of the ‘cast) was complaining that, yet again, evolution somehow couldn’t answer a question he had; in this case, it was with bird feathers.

While listening to the ‘cast while drawing squiggly lines around craters in what qualifies as “work” for me these days, I found myself thinking, “Sigh, another episode bashing evolution.” (For those of you wondering, yes, I really do speak the word “sigh” to myself sometimes.)

And that got me thinking – and became the subject of this post: Many of the Cristian-style arguments I dissect on this blog (ID or YEC — that’s Intelligent Design or young-Earth creationism for those of you just joining) are simply arguments against science, and usually aimed at being against evolution even though they rarely have anything to do with evolution.

For example, here are the ten most recent original episodes from the ID: The Future podcast (least recent to most recent):

  • Discussing the New Exoplanet With Astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez
  • ID Scientist Douglas Axe Responds to His Critics
  • Evolutionary Biologist Richard Sternberg discusses modern genomics and junk DNA
  • Scientific Reasons to Reject an Atheistic Worldview
  • Discussion and commentary on publisher Failing to comply with Texas science standards
  • Recent articles confirm the thesis of Jonathan Wells’ The Myth of Junk DNA
  • Anders Behring Breivik Shows That Ideas Really Do Have Consequences
  • Threatening the Pharyngula–The Debate With PZ Myers on Evidence from Embryology
  • Pseudogenes Shrink Gaps for Theistic Darwinian Evolutionists Collins & Giberson
  • Birds of a Feather: Darwinian Evolution Stumped by Novel Features

First, I must say that if you look at the ‘cast episode list in iTunes or wherever, you will see other episodes. But, they are ALL repeats of earlier episodes from 1-4 years ago that I have weeded out of the list. I mean, come on, are they that lazy? They’ve had 10 original episodes since May and yet they post 3 episodes a week? But I digress …

Looking at the titles for these episodes, I see one episode that is pro-ID, one that is pseudo-legal, and eight that are anti-evolution (where “evolution” here is defined as they do, so I’m counting the astronomy episode because in it they argue Earth and the solar system and universe are ID’ed). In other words, the preponderance of the episodes are not advancing their cause, they are arguing against someone else’s. In this case, that “someone” else is the vast majority of the world’s scientists.

Let’s take a look at the Institute for Creation Research (ICR)’s last 10 news articles:

  • Evolutionary Paradox: Embryos Resist Tinkering
  • Laetoli Footprints Out of Step with Evolution
  • Evolution Delays Discovery of Dolphin Sensory Ability
  • More Evidence Neandertals Were Human
  • Did Natural Gas Take Millions of Years to Form?
  • Early Bird Gets the Boot: Researchers Reclassify Archaeopteryx
  • Origin of Cells Study Uses Bad Science
  • Water Near Edge of Universe Bolsters Creation Cosmology
  • Fluctuations Show Radioisotope Decay Is Unreliable
  • Messenger Spacecraft Confirms: Mercury Is Unique

By my count, we have only one post that promotes Christianity or creationism directly (and I talked about that one here in my post on “A Creationist Ramble About Water in Space”). All of them are anti-science.

Now, to be fair, some sources do have a slightly more “pro”-creationism bent than these two. Answers in Genesis is one of them (guess where they look for their answers to questions) where the last 10 articles are about half promoting their worldview, the other half arguing against the secular one. And, when I listen to the paranormal radio show Coast to Coast AM, it is almost all promoting of their view rather than anti-promoting science, though the guests will often spend maybe 5-10% of their time taking digs at the establishment (especially “Big Pharma,” scientists in their “Ivory Towers,” peer review, and those pesky things called “logic” and “evidence”).

But this got me to thinking that these other groups — the two I pointed out being the Discovery Institute and ICR — really don’t actually promote their worldview. They just try to dismantle science. In doing so, they seem to be hoping that you, the reader/listener, will accept their false dichotomy, accept their premise that science is wrong, and therefore embrace a god of the gaps and think that their view that they haven’t actually promoted in that article/’cast is true.

Now, before you go thinking that I’m a hypocrite, I don’t actually think I’m doing the same thing, even though the majority of my posts on this blog are anti-their anti-arguments. In my posts, I try to explain what the relevant science is, provide you with logic and evidence, and while I usually do tell you what you “should” take as the “truth” (even though science is never after and cannot give you Truth with a capital “T”), I will often tell you not to take my word for it but to do your own investigation by using independent evidence and logic. ♩Take a look, ♬it’s in a book, a ♪ … but I digress again.

Then again, one reason I started this blog is because I do like to spread edjumication around, and I think that one of the best ways to actually learn and remember something is by seeing where others get it wrong in an odd way. So for example, in my last post, I talked at length about Earth’s presently decaying magnetic field and how YECs use that to argue for a recently created world. I could have just written a short blog post about geomagnetic reversals, flux, and excursions, but Wikipedia has kinda already done that for me. Or, I could do what I did, which is present the basics of the science, show how people have used it incorrectly, and then you may find it a more interesting way of learning the information and remembering it a bit longer.

And thus, this is a conversation with you: What do you think? Do you think that this kind of writing that I do is the same as the anti-propaganda that the IDers and YECs use? Or is it different? Is either a valid argument? Let me know what you think in the Comments section!

4 Comments »

  1. That is an interesting question. I would argue ‘no,’ for the most part.
    For starters, you would be much closer to their style of “anti-propaganda” if your blog consisted almost entirely of posts that described astronomical things that creationism cannot explain, but I gather that that is not quite what you are getting at.
    I would say that by providing “logic and evidence” and “tell[ing] you not to take my word for it but to do your own investigation” you do promote your worldview, even if at the same time you “dismantle” that of the creationists.
    And even if the answer was ‘yes’ there still wouldn’t be a problem. For the most part science marches on completely ignoring creationism. There are enough people who are prepared to admit evolution – and the vaguely related sciences that creationists don’t like – is correct that science does not have the same persecution complex that seems largely responsible for the phenomenon you mentioned. Consequentially, it is not necessary for all scientists to teach science, do science and counter creationists and other nuts. Nevertheless all must still be done.
    PS: Strange things happen when you hover your mouse over the “Now, to be fair” paragraph, and the one below. Just thought you should know…

    Comment by eyeonicr — August 12, 2011 @ 1:01 am | Reply

  2. The simple fact that you are able to ask such a question is a very good sign. Every true skeptic must eventually face that moment where they question their own integrity, even if only briefly, based on what they know and observe of others. At some point it hits you: that person really truly believes what they say, and is able to continue believing it by refusing to re-examine that belief in light of new evidence. Have I done the same thing? Do I actually believe what I do in spite of the evidence? I know what convinced me in the first place, but have I ignored new evidence that could have changed my mind since then? I can almost guarantee that those are questions that never even occur to science deniers. This post represents a similar type of question, and it shows a self-awareness and a willingness to accept new evidence that you never see coming from the anti-science folks. As far as I’m concerned, the simple fact that you are willing to ask this question proves that you needn’t worry about it.

    RE: “Now, to be fair” paragraph, it’s a result of unnecessary <a></a> tags around the whole paragraph. This WP theme puts borders around links when you hover over them, which means it’s putting a border around the entire paragraph, making it act weird. If you edit the raw post and get rid of all <a> tags that have no “href=” in them (there is more than one in this post), along with their closing </a> tags, it should stop acting weird.

    Comment by Venture Free — August 12, 2011 @ 4:21 am | Reply

  3. Link fixed in the previous paragraph – not sure why it didn’t work right the first time, it actually was good when I previewed.

    Comment by Stuart Robbins — August 12, 2011 @ 7:43 am | Reply

  4. ah yes I love philosophy . if you feel you need to do something that is legal and an accepted practice in society (i.e. writing this stuff) most people would say yeh do it . to look inward and always strive to better yourself is admirable and really the only way to get better at some things . i think the scientific community in the past looked down upon scientists that wrote for the non-scientific community but that old way is fading thankfully . we in the general public need to understand science more than ever these days . i think what you are doing here is awesome! keep on going^^

    Comment by Walter Walkie — August 23, 2011 @ 6:21 pm | Reply


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