Monday, March 2, 2009

Tips for Spotting the Religion in Science's Clothing

It is not new using the science to justify their dogmatic ideas by creationists, intelligent designers and followers of pseudo-scientific phenomena etc. This NewScientist article opens a volley of fire against these postulates.

"(...) Misguided interpretations of quantum physics are a classic hallmark of pseudoscience, usually of the New Age variety, but some religious groups are now appealing to aspects of quantum weirdness to account for free will. Beware: this is nonsense.

When you come across the terms "Darwinism" or "Darwinists", take heed. True scientists rarely use these terms, and instead opt for "evolution" and "biologists", respectively. When evolution is described as a "blind, random, undirected process", be warned. While genetic mutations may be random, natural selection is not. (...)" [Read more...]

3 comments:

Gun said...

A belated thanks for sharing. :)

I really wish I could "Read More" but look where exposing pseudoscience lands you:

"This article was temporarily taken down on legal advice after New Scientist's editor, Roger Highfield, received a letter from a law firm on behalf of James Le Fanu, the GP and author of the book Why Us? Following discussions, New Scientist has now reinstated the article accompanied by a comment from Dr Le Fanu."

In any case, I wouldn't have been able to read past the preview of the article, lacking a paid New Scientist membership.

We cannot figure out without speculation what the big picture behind NS's legalese above may be, but involving lawyers in matters of scientific rebuttal must be another strong tip in spotting a religious agenda, albeit no longer hidden in this case. Just smells bad (and tastes like chicken). Hello? Scientists don't settle their issues in court; they rattle their sabers in the lab, my friend.

And, of course, Le Fanu may find a lawyer to protect his house of cards against taunts and jibes, but he will never find an insurance broker to reimburse him against implosion. Why? Because lawyers may operate on practical reality but insurers always operate on factual reality.

While you are at it, you may want to read another NS article about a book by Le Fanu called "Why Us? How Science Rediscovered the Mystery of Ourselves" that seems to have escaped his wrath, here (tinyurl.com/ltr3bw).

Here is a short bio from amazon:

"For the past twenty years James Le Fanu has combined working as a doctor in general practice with contributing a weekly column to The Sunday Telegraph and The Daily Telegraph. His articles and reviews have appeared in the New Statesman, The Spectator, GQ, the British Medical Journal, and the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. He has made original contributions to current controversies over the value of experiments on human embryos, environmentalism, dietary causes of diseases, and the misdiagnosis of non-accidental injury in children. His previous book, The Rise and Fall of Modern Medicine, won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in 2001."

Impressive, actually. New Statesman? What gives? Look at those heavyweight journals. And GQ, to boot. Who would think? Has this man had an epiphany in his later years or what?

Sans reading any of his books, which includes this (tinyurl.com/lehuva), I did some some googling (here: tinyurl.com/bcsk65 or here: tinyurl.com/lkjklm or here: tinyurl.com/nefhmx) about him. Please do your own, as well. He has to be a very engaging writer and good doctor, but his outlook on life seemed to me to be feeding from the premises of Thomas Nagel: the shortcomings of science as far as subjective experiences are concerned and stuff like that.

A cardiologist may replace a valve, but can he mend a broken heart. Ah, tell me, can he? Huh?

How far do you think science, even when the branch of science in question is cognitive neurology, can get at quantifying the subjective experience? Is there not a limit there before we find a device that link people's brains to each other?

Le Fanu, quoted in a review of his book (tinyurl.com/dkv8lo) says more about himself than about Darwin:

"The great drawback of Darwin's simple, all-encompassing evolutionary theory has always been that it robs the living world of its unknowable profundity."

Does he like to have sex with his clothes on, you think?

He regards scientific inquiry as a promisory note; a penny insufficient bounces your check. Miss the mark once and the totality of your endavor is junked. Get real, baby. You sound like the Lake Poets.

And isn't this another tip to spot religion creeping in? Isn't it also indicative of a hidden agenda of a mind (unconsciously, I wish to say but I don't know if it's worse) following the instructions of a dogma?

/cont'd.

Gun said...

2/ Continuing with Dr. Le Fanu, another excerpt I lifted from the amazon's page of the same book (tinyurl.com/dkv8lo):

"When cosmologists can reliably infer what happened in the first few minutes of the birth of the universe and geologists can measure the movements of vast continents to the nearest centimeter, then the inscrutability of those genetic instructions that should distinguish a human from a fly, or the failure to account for something as elementary as how we recall a telephone number, throws into sharp relief the unfathomability of ourselves. It is as if we, and, indeed, all living things, are in some way different, profounder, and more complex than the physical world to which we belong ... This is not just a matter of science not yet knowing all the facts; rather, there is the sense that something of immense importance is “missing” that might transform the bare bones of genes into the wondrous diversity of the living world and the monotonous electrical firing of the neurons of the brain into the vast spectrum of sensations and ideas of the human mind."

Very romantic! And I know what's "missing." It's reasonable amount of adjectives when science is your subject matter. If this is not a shining example of the insidiousness that I assume (because I could not access it) the NS article is talking about, I don't know what is. Much like luring unsuspecting schoolkids with candy. This is actually the effusive language used by copywriters for the brands of their corporate clients.

Here and there, I ran into his complaints about the inability of the genome project to solve problems about this or that aspect of human health. Don't be a cow, just wait it out, will you? Who knows what tomorrow will bring! We're working on it, man.

At this moment, I don't have sufficient input to talk specifically about Dr. Le Fanu. Instead, using his example, I can only make generalizations with a broad brush and vent my spleen a little about a certain phenotype.

I suspect these folks are all in the same basket. When you tell them that what they just did is selfish or foolish or whatever, their only recourse is to understand our particular reaction to mean that we consider them as a selfish person or a fool or someone with a personality deficiency. It's not a remark at its face value about an act but an insult against their whole character. An example of the hurt-feelings card brilliantly exposed often by Dan Dennett.

It's not ill-intent we're talking about. However vicious their motive may appear to us, I believe they walk in their shoes sincerely with a conscience. Maybe it's the wiring, as they say. There is something inherent in dogmatic way of thinking that prevents a person from reaching healthy conclusions. Their manual provides them with a faulty procedure to follow. The voice of authority is so assuring. Oh, the built-in procedure works fine within the confines of the dogmasphere. The challenges surface when they follow the instructions in open air. I mean, when you see the world in terms of a dogma-type rigidity, your main worry becomes a chip to any single pillar lest it brings about the collapse of the entire structure, because deep down you know your structure stays erect only by means of rhetoric and not by the strength of empirical evidence (to be subsequently reported to form the basis of your hypothesis).

Hey, just forget about the cost of the building. Let it collapse if it's shoddily constructed. You'll build another one, a better one next time. Could it be that it crumbled because you had avoided peer review? And if you happen to be the peer assessing someone else's house, you are not concerned with improving it with your commentary. You can't help but blowing it up with dynamite. That's your modus operandi because the zoning manual says there can only be one house in your neighborhood. And it better be your home. The fabled piggybacking scorpion that stings the turtle midstream while crossing the river comes to mind. It's in your nature to sting.

/cont’d.

Gun said...

3//Cont’d…

So, with your ilk, there is a reversal of process. You get down to work from the roof down: first formulate your conlusions to the best of your ability, and then later look around not to nature but to others' observations to collate evidence conforming to your mind's constructs, i.e. your manual. The beautiful thing on your part is that you need not find exhaustive, damning, replicable evidence to validate your case. The manual also tells you when to stop searching; suffice it to silence opponents and satisfy proponents. Or you so believe. Why? Simply because requisite sequence of events of the scientific method is not your priority, at all. And also because that path has less resistance. It's the trodden highway. No sweat. But I can't blame you. It's been mouth-fed to you all along.

The scientific issue of the unfathomable nature of subjectivity in philosophy has come to contaminate your expected objectivity while doing science, as well. And that's not dishonesty because a] someone else (the higher he sits, the better) relieves you from deciding what's honest and what's not, and b] the opportunity cost is immense. You have so much invested in that house. Can't just lose the property. In a sense, you're comfortably shackled there. If the house gets set on fire, you are willing to burn in it. You are not after the facts. Who could mind facts when there is so much at stake? You argue to refuse, to reject and to win a debate contest because you are after the reward.

You don't start out anything on your own volition. You don't do any independent science to reach a conclusion. You just react - hence the apt term: reactionary. You don't care about what goes on in the natural world and less about whether the resources are finite or not. You're on a mission; not out there to prove anything; just dispatched to disprove. Sort of like the devotee of pure art in the art for art's sake and art for man's utility distinction, aren't you? A critic and not a stage performer; and looking at you it becomes easier to see why actors loathe critics: don't just sit there and flaunt it, come up here and do it if you've got it. Don't go to the game just for the hotdog and warm beer.

I'm sure you have been advised at some point in your education why you should build your house from the foundations upward: by diligently observing phenomena first, and only thereafter articulating your thoughts upon the observations by testing and testing and yet more testing, with full acceptance that there is never solid footing under you. Get used to standing on the shifty plate tectonics of scientific work, without an upset stomach.

I wonder if the GPs among you treat patients first as they are rushed into the emergency, and diagnose them later in compliance with your treatment. Where is the horse and where is the cart? No wonder some of your colleagues like Dr. Le Fanu are frustrated about and dismayed at where today's medical science has come. (again here: tinyurl.com/lehuva)

On another note, did you hear that ice cream producers have developed an antifreeze protein that resembles that of a polar fish to prevent ice cream from melting and dripping? How cool is that!

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