Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Don't Buy "The Science Guy"

I have nothing personal against Bill Nye, "The Science Guy". I remember watching parts of his program when our kids were younger and I found them enjoyable and informative. However, if you have any interest whatsoever in knowing the truth about the world and/or speaking coherently, consistently, and intelligently about seeking the truth about that world, please watch this 2:32 minute video and think about what he is saying. It really is beyond me how someone who is sold as such a scientific sage and articulator of the the truth could deliver such a bumbling, nonsensical connection of incoherent platitudes ... and then finish them off by admonishing the morons (defined as a parent who does not agree with Bill Nye, "The Science Guy") to shut up and leave the education of their children to the real scientists -- like him.

There are a few facts about Mr. Nye that I find directly applicable to the list of assertions (definitely not an argument) he brings us. For starters, one would think that someone who is touted in the media as a "science guy" -- especially a guy who would challenge your parenting skills if you don't buy into the widely accepted "fact" of evolution -- would, at a minimum be -- Oh, I don't know -- an actual scientist. Given the topic of this video in fact, we might assume that our "science guy" would have some kind of background or advanced degree in the life/biological sciences.

Well, Bill Nye, "the science guy," actually has nothing of the kind. Mr. Nye's education consists of a Bachelor of Science ... in Mechanical Engineering. His expertise consists of: developing a hydraulic pressure resonance suppressor for Boeing; being a student of Carl Sagan (a shocking revelation in light of the content of this video); receiving two Honorary Doctorate Degrees because he gave a couple of commencement addresses (long after his popularity on being "the science guy" had been established); and (probably the most relevant fact in relation to this discussion) a career that began as a stand-up comedian in Seattle.

I couldn't make this up.

With this as his background, "the science guy" wants to lecture the rest of us about how ridiculous we are to not believe in evolution but he makes absolutely no distinction about what he means by "evolution." Does he mean that we ridiculous people deny that species change and adapt to the environment? If so, he is just plain wrong. However, since it is the case that most who defend "evolution" are referring to a specific theory that all life is the result of a purposeless, materialistic process that began by a random accident and can account for all variations of life from that first self-replicating, single-celled organism (I refer to this as Big 'E' Evolution), I will assume that is what he means.

As we examine his case, it is important to recognize a couple of things. First, just because Mr. Nye's credentials as a "science guy" are lacking, that doesn't mean we should dismiss him out of hand. We should give him the benefit of the doubt until he gives us reason not to. Second, we need to recognize the difference between an assertion and an argument. Anyone can make assertions but no one should be compelled to accept them unless they are supported by evidence, logic and good reasoning. Mr. Nye gives none of these. He simply offers a rambling set of assertions that completely collapse when you take the time to think about what they are. So, in the interest of deciding who is actually being ridiculous, let me break down the case Mr. Nye makes.

"Denial of evolution is unique to the United States ... we are the world's most advanced technological society ... people move to the United States because of our general understanding of science."

Beside the fact that this a baseless and demonstrably false assertion (I know of plenty of folks who live all over the world who do not accept Evolution because they have not seen any credible evidence to support it), let's just say Mr. Nye is correct; the only people who don't believe in Evolution are Americans. What does this prove? Does the geographical location of those persons who believe in an idea determine the truth content of the idea itself? To ask the question is to answer it. As a side note, does Mr. Nye really believe that the reason people immigrate to the United States is because of our general understanding of science? The utter inanity of these assertions defies all logic.

"When you have a portion of the population that doesn't believe in Evolution it holds everybody back."

How, exactly, did Mr. Nye come to this conclusion? My undergraduate education is in aerospace engineering. I learned how to design airplanes and then how to fly them. I don't accept Evolution. So I would like Mr. Nye to explain to me exactly how I am "holding everybody back." I don't think he can. And let's turn this one around. Suppose I claimed that those who do accept Evolution are holding everybody back. Would Mr. Nye accept this as a valid argument against Evolution? It would be ridiculous if he did.

"Evolution is the fundamental idea in all of life science ... [Not believing in it] is analogous to doing geology and not believing in tectonic plates ... you're just not gonna get the right answer. Your whole world is just gonna be a mystery instead of an exciting place."

Before he said this, Mr. Nye had only demonstrated a lack of logic and reasoning. But here he completely invalidates his claim to be a "science guy." Whatever one thinks of the concept of Evolution, it can only be understood as a process that explains the emergence and diversity of life on the Earth. It is a noble attempt to explain the nuts and bolts of just how chemical elements that existed on the early Earth combined and interacted with one another to produce complex biological systems that live and grow and reproduce. It is the process that is at the heart of Evolution, not the parts that are used by the process. Yet Mr. Nye believes that tectonic plates -- which are nothing but giant hunks of rock that get pushed around by geological processes -- are analogous to the process of Evolution. He fails to understand the very basic concept that he is comparing completely non-analogous categories of things. If he can't distinguish such a fundamental concept as this I'm not sure why anyone thinks we should take him seriously as a "science guy."

"Once in a while I get people who don't really -- who claim -- they don't believe in evolution. My response is, 'Why not?' Your world just becomes fantastically complicated when you don't believe in evolution."

Notice that Mr. Nye believes that no one could really disbelieve in Evolution; they only "claim" to do so. He also fails to offer the responses he receives to his "Why not?" question. Who is he asking? Why does he dismiss them? We can't really know how to evaluate their answers unless we know what evidence they are citing and the actual reasons they are giving. The fact that Mr. Nye doesn't accept their responses is hardly a reason for us to reject them, especially having established that his reasoning is demonstrably lacking in support of Evolution. I also fail to see any connection between my denial of Evolution and the complicatedness of the world I am living in as a result. This assertion comes completely out of left field as an irrelevant non sequitur.

"Here are these ancient dinosaur bones ... radioactivity ... distant stars ... the idea of deep time ... billions of years ... if you try to ignore that your worldview just becomes crazy"

Just like most "young earth creationists," Mr. Nye is equating non-acceptance of Evolution with belief in a young universe (or, conversely, acceptance of an old universe as an equivalent acceptance of Evolution). Once again he is confusing categories. How in the world does Mr. Nye equate non-acceptance of Evolution with a belief in a young universe? These two topics are completely separate. One is about biology and the other is about cosmology. All one would have to do to show that this assertion by Mr. Nye is false is declare themselves to be an "old universe, non-Evolutionist." How would he respond to that? By failing to recognize this difference, he not only demonstrates his lack of a basic understanding of science, but also shows the failure of the argument most young Earth creationists use against those of us who believe the universe is old. I wonder how Mr. Nye would react when someone pointed out to him that his thinking is exactly equivalent to the young Earth creationists he so abhors.

"I say to the grownups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world that is completely inconsistent with the universe, that's fine ... but don't make your kids do it ... because we need them ... we need engineers who can build things and solve problems ..."

Now Mr. Nye has stepped out of a scientific critique (if you could consider to him to have ever been inside one) and into the arrogance of supposing he has the right to tell anyone what they should be allowed to teach their children. This is the impulse of a statist mindset that thinks it can determine what people should be allowed to think. Those of us who honor scientific objectivity, free thought, and academic tolerance need to recognize this kind of talk when we hear it. People who think like this are the most intolerant kinds of people and they are destroying the concept of free thought in the academy. It is intellectually dishonest and it can become dangerous for those who don't think the "right way."

I would also like to point out that Mr. Nye (once again) demonstrates his failure to understand basic logic when he ties belief in Evolution to our ability to produce "engineers who can build things and solve problems." It seems fairly obvious that one can be a perfectly competent airplane or bridge designer/builder not only without holding an opinion about Evolution, but with being completely ignorant about the very concept of Evolution. Mr. Nye proved that himself when he designed a hydraulic pressure resonance suppressor for Boeing.

Finally, Mr, Nye insists that we must overcome those who disbelieve in Evolution because "... we need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers." By examining the case he makes in this video, I think it should be fairly obvious that, if scientific literacy became a prerequisite for voting and paying taxes, "the science guy" would have to stay home on election day.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Chiffon Delusion

If you're as old as me, you may remember the annoyingly catchy commercials for Chiffon Margarine that assured us that "If you think it's butter, but it's not ... it's Chiffon!" The gist of the ad was that the synthetic Chiffon margarine was even better than nature's butter. In fact, Chiffon was so good that the commercials also carried a tongue-in-cheek warning: "It's not nice to fool mother nature!" Cute. Catchy. Comical.

Well, if fooling with "mother nature" isn't "nice" when you're talking about margarine, what kind of adjective should we use to describe our growing propensity to fool with human nature?

A friend of mine pointed out that she recently set up a new Gmail account. In doing so she was surprised to find that one of the inputs that is required (and that comes with the warning that you "may not leave this blank") is Gender. The input field comes with the following choices: "Male," "Female," and "Other."


Though this is trumpeted as a way to show respect and tolerance to our "transgendered community," the truth is that this is really one of the most disrespectful and potentially harmful things that any of us could do to anyone. It is not loving to deny the reality of human nature. It is not loving to enable destructive behavior. It is hateful. It invites further destruction. It is no different than building a city below sea level, or excavating a basement under your beach house, or moving your family onto the rim of an active volcano, or building your house on a geological fault line.

Speaking of fault lines, our culture is teetering on one right now, and the way we respond may have ramifications far beyond anything we can imagine. We, as a culture, are not just fooling with Mother Nature, we are fooling with the most basic of foundations of our existence. We are fooling with what it means to be human.
Tommy Lobel

Since Google brought up transgendered-ness here, consider the case of a pre-teen guinea pig who is being abused in the most fundamental way by the "tolerance" and "respect" of a warped and deluded view of human nature. Eleven year-old Thomas Lobel is undergoing hormone therapy to block the release of testosterone in his pre-pubescent body so as to "allow him more time to consider living life as a female." Tommy, they say, seems confused about his gender identity and needs time to work it out. But, considering that Tommy -- whose parents say he wants to be Tammy -- was born with male reproductive organs, it seems difficult to understand why that might be.
Tammy Lobel

Unless one considers that Tommy's parents, Moreno and Lobel are, in a completely unrelated coincidence, two lesbian women who support the wishes they claim Tommy has been exhibiting since age 3.

If there is a more dastardly form of child abuse than this, I certainly cannot think of what it might be.

Those with Christian convictions are quick to recognize the problem here: Human beings are made in the image of God; male and female He created them. And He did so for a reason. Human beings are the pinnacle of God's creative work because it was through a divinely conceived plan that free will human beings would bring forth His goal to conquer evil once and for all. That's the way I see it -- but you don't need to share my Christian convictions to recognize the design and value that is intrinsic to being human.

We are each issued a set of parts that are designed to be used for a certain purpose. We are also endowed with moral intuitions that, even if confused by our environment or upbringing, can be verified by a quick inspection of said parts. Denying these simple facts is simply a delusion -- a delusion that is based in the wrongheaded notion that our humanity is the flexible and subjective result of decisions we are free to make for ourselves. Our culture abuses this idea all the time. It is the same denial of reality we see:
  • In the defense of all methods of abortion that, by their very nature, can only be found acceptable through denying the objective humanity of the unborn
  • In the "personhood" defense of abortion choice that claims that we are not fully human until we achieve some status, level of development, location, or other extrinsic feature that they feel free to define for ourselves
  • In the support for embryonic stem cell research that uses "therapeutic" cloning techniques to create embryos and then destroy them for research
  • In various end-of-life scenarios that justify euthanasia for an assortment of reasons that rely on some subjective standard to deny the continued humanness of the sick or dying
  • In the "transgendered" movement (of which Thomas Lobel is a victim) which insists that gender is a social construction that we are free to change for ourselves
  • In the gay agenda -- most notably the same-sex marriage movement -- which tries to redefine "marriage" in a corrupted image of homosexuality
Each of these aberrations denies the most basic and important thing about us all -- the uniqueness and foundational reality of our humanness. Our human nature is not up for redefinition. It is the reason for our existence and what sets us apart from the rest of nature. It is what gives us purpose and it is what allows us to recognize that we have a purpose. It is the most basic truth about us and, for that reason, any attempt to alter or redirect it is not only an exercise in futility, it is an invitation to catastrophe. The repercussions of that ongoing catastrophe can be seen everywhere we look.

We need to think of human nature in the same way we understand any other law of nature. Those who think they are "fooling" mother nature in these various ways need to imagine the ludicrousness of treating gravity in the same way. Would they take a stroll off the railing of the Empire State Building's observation deck by claiming they hadn't yet decided if they accepted the mandates of gravity? Good luck with that.

Denying the reality of our humanity is just as ridiculous. To believe otherwise is to be deluded. We are not "fooling" mother nature. We are only fooling ourselves.