Thursday, July 10, 2008

Some people are dedicated to making Ray look stupid

     I am talking about Ray Comfort. His blog is here. I don't spend a lot of effort trying to make him look stupid for a rather simple reason. He doesn't seem to need any help. I mean: just look at the nonsense he spouts on his blog. It's not uncommon for people to go around with "blind spots" in their worldviews. Whole societies have done this. They indoctrinate their children with their "sacred beliefs" and essentially teach them not to question those beliefs. This is the danger that people like Ray present.
     A lot of people state that the early church held back scientific advances for the purpose of maintaining its power. That might have played a part. But even revolutions in power structure continued such suppression. The church leaders seem to have been afraid for their own "sacred beliefs." Nothing could be allowed to challenge them. It took great courage on the part of free thinkers to challenge those beliefs. I am sure there were many people silenced before the ones of whom we have heard became known.
     So, sacred beliefs are problematic. And it doesn't really matter whether they are true or false. Oh, they will act so cute. They will tell you that you don't hold them as sacred beliefs. No, you came to them rationally. The belief that the original belief is rational then becomes another sacred belief. *They're breeding.* A guideline that I consider useful is to consider the implications of the belief being false. If a belief is sacred then you will be able to begin constructing scenarios, but will conjure excuses for why the belief is still true. There are also core perceptual beliefs for which you will not be able to picture contrary scenarios.
     I try to keep my beliefs from being sacred. To this end, I try to consider the implications of their falsity. This is why you see posts on my blog talking about what it would mean for the biblical god to be real. I think he's fictional. But, if I insist that disagreeing with me implies that you are stupid or that you must think me stupid because I disagree, I make my belief sacred and am shielding it from critical thought. It isn't that Ray postulates a god that makes him look stupid. It's that he insists on misrepresenting the views and twisting the words of those who disagree.

9 comments:

Lance Christian Johnson said...

Hey there,

Sure, you can be a Raytractor. I read your post a while ago, and forgive me if I'm not addressing your point correctly, but you mentioned something about evolution making predictions?

Okay, realize that I'm an English teacher, so I'm probably not going to get as technical as I'd like. Have you checked out the videos with Ken Miller on YouTube? He talks a lot about the predictions that evolution made regarding our DNA, and how if the predictions didn't come out right, then evolution would have to go the way of alchemy (my words, not his). Turns out, things turned out exactly the way they should.

There's a fella on YouTube who goes by the handle DonExodus2. He works in the biological sciences, and he makes a lot of videos on evolutions. One of the things he goes over quite a bit is the predictions that evolution makes and how the predictions pan out.

For instance, did you know that birds have the genes (maybe not the right word - something in their DNA) for teeth? Evolution would predict that. It would also predict that reptiles wouldn't have the genes for nipples - and what do you know - they don't!

Basically, there's a lot going on in genealogy where if things turned out differently, then evolution would be tossed out. Sorry if this sounds like a "do your research" sort of an answer, but other people explain it a lot better than I do. Hopefully I at least steered you in the right direction.

Pvblivs said...

Lance Christian Johnson:

     "[B]ut you mentioned something about evolution making predictions?"
     Well, not in the comment on your blog. (I checked. I don't always remember exactly what I said.) My own thoughts are that the "predictions" of evolution tend to be vague or of the sort that could be predicted on the existing data without evolution.
     "For instance, did you know that birds have the genes (maybe not the right word - something in their DNA) for teeth?"
     I still don't know it. Have they activated the gene(s) and produced a modern bird with teeth? (Something like would be impressive anyway.) Genes can come in variants; and, under the circumstances, it would be hard to show that they weren't just "seeing what they wanted to see." It would also be hard to show if they were. Practitioners of pseudo-science are convinced that what they are doing is scientific. It is only because someone (respected) disagrees and actively challenges them that it is shown that they are not. But in the scientific community, in the peer-reviewed literature, there is no one to make the challenge. That doesn't mean it's wrong. It only means that the claims of tests are suspect.
     I saw one YouTube video about religious "bubbles of delusion" and how those within cannot see the bubble. Inside their bubble, what they say makes sense. Somewhere along the line, I asked myself what it would look like if the scientific community held a belief religiously but convinced itself it was scientific. Ironicly, if I remember correctly, this was to strengthen my confidence in science. I didn't expect to find anything that matched the imagined defenses.

Lance Christian Johnson said...

I think that I know what you're saying. You do have a point - everything should be open to criticism. From what I can tell, evolution is the best answer to how we got here as a species. I wouldn't be crushed if evidence came along for another idea.

Clostridiophile said...

" I still don't know it. Have they activated the gene(s) and produced a modern bird with teeth? (Something like would be impressive anyway.) Genes can come in variants; and, under the circumstances, it would be hard to show that they weren't just "seeing what they wanted to see." It would also be hard to show if they were. Practitioners of pseudo-science are convinced that what they are doing is scientific. It is only because someone (respected) disagrees and actively challenges them that it is shown that they are not. But in the scientific community, in the peer-reviewed literature, there is no one to make the challenge. That doesn't mean it's wrong. It only means that the claims of tests are suspect."

pvblivs,

Birds actually do form teeth during embryonic development, but they are then lost.

http://edition.cnn.com/2003/TECH/science/06/04/teeth.birds/

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2006-02/cp-btm021506.php

The question is why such genes would be present, but inactive, unless, birds were descended from dinosaurs? Obviously, we know that dinosaurs had teeth, so we would expect a loss-of-function, but now we have genomic data showing that the genes are still present. This isn't "seeing what we want to see", this is seeing what is there. To answer your other question, yes, they did form teeth in chicks:

"In the new work, the researchers show that the talpid2 strain of chicken harbors a genetic change that permits tooth formation in both the upper and lower jaw of embryonic birds. These teeth show similar developmental position as mammalian teeth and are associated with similar molecular instructions. Furthermore, when comparing the initial development of the structures, the researchers realized that the teeth forming in the chicken did not look like mammalian teeth, but resembled those of the alligator, the closest living relative of modern birds."

See, we don't need a time machine to see into the past, as you claimed previously.

Pvblivs said...

     Interesting. Of course, the cases of the mammilian style teeth should be regarded as misses. They are, after all contrary to what evolution should be predicting; aren't they? Yes, they did ultimately get a hit with reptilian style teeth. Are we counting the hits and ignoring the misses?
     And it isn't a window into the past (suggestive though it is.) I did a google search. The trait is fatal.

get_education said...

pvblivs,

Well, though the peer review process is being abused as of late, most scientists, especially those in evolutionary biology, are very very particular about evidences. They give you a very hard time. I know from experience, wow. So, for these teeth genes, the do not just look like the proper genes, but they also have comparison statistics associated, not just to the similarity of their sequences when compared to teeth genes in other species, but also in their relative positions in chromosomes and other lines of evidence. The issue is, it is not possible to see what you want to see in this case. Also, the stats are way better than the "0.01 significance" stuff most commonly found in social sciences. These are things that comply with probabilities that cannot leave you with any doubt about it.

G.E.

get_education said...

pvblivs,

I have to agree with you that even if we came to some conclusion by reason, it does not mean that such knowledge or conclusion should be sacred. It should not, and I do work hard not to have any of my knowledge as sacred. Yet, it is also true that scientists get to consider knowledge sacred. I know this also from experience. It is also very hard to show them how they are failing in this regard. Unfortunately, this seems to be a human tendency. It seems like, if your results are challenging "years of experiments and demonstrations," you will have a hard time publishing them. You have to wait until the original proposers die to publish your work and new conclusions.

That still does not mean that all of us are like that. Now, I know I should not just talk about myself. But please read about Kepler, he held a hypothesis all of his life, ALL of his life! that the orbits of the planets were related to the pitagorean solids. So he tried to accomodate them using such things, and it would not work. He worked very hard, moved from one city to another to collect more data, lots of work you see? All inspired by this idea that was fixed in his mind. Well, in the end, he found that such thing was not true, that his beautiful hypothesis was wrong. What did he do? He reported his true findings. Even though he had already proposed the pitagorean thing, even though he invested his whole life in the pitagorean thing, he reported his true conclusions. I always use Kepler as an example when I talk about scientific integrity and about the non-sanctity of our knowledge to my students.

So, true, it can happen, but people like me, who came into science because we want to KNOW, we hold no knowledge sacred. I truly do not care if I am proven wrong. Actually, I want to be the first to know and be the first to acknowledge it. Maybe that would teach the "wrong kind of scientist" what science is really about: finding answers, even if these answers are not those we proposed.

I do talk in absolutes, sure, but that does not mean I cannot be convinced. I have a good history proving that.

G.E.

Pvblivs said...

Get_education:

     It appears our views are not that different (perhaps just a diiference in belief about how susceptible the scientific community is to human nature.) Even according to my view, any sacred ideas are self-shielding. If challenging a sacred belief causes something not to be published, the people making the decisions will still give a reason (and believe it, no less) that sounds better.
     That is what is so insidious about a sacred idea. Unless you examine it with the possibility of sacredness in mind, you will never see it.
     I had a major perspective shift when I asked myself what it would mean if I held sacred ideas. I found there was no shortage. I'm sure I still have some sacred ideas; but I try to conduct a "sweep" every so often.
     And it's not even the speaking in absolutes. The possibility of error is recognized as such an inherent part of thinking that it is normally considered implied in any "absolute statement. Speech has to become more complicated to convey the impression that you don't see a way something can be wrong.
     I think the best way to explain it is the closed mind that doesn't realize it's closed. And I think (although you may disagree) that the scientific community can itself be thought of as a mind separate from the minds of the individual scientists. I am really at a loss to explain what I have in mind. But it is a sort of "the whole is more than the sum of the parts" idea.

get_education said...

Yes pvblivs, I think we share some of the ideas. Nope, those rejections are very visceral, do not sound anything like rational.

Sociologists seem to have this figured out. It seems like we humans can start things very well, establish some nice and good ideas, but eventually it will degenerate no matter what, no matter what the original intentions. This is a rather sad thought, and I am glad I am not a sociologist.

Anyway, I try and do my part, but I have been warned that it might be pretty much like trying to stop the tides with a spoon.

But let us be happy, we have only this one life.

G.E.