Archive for August, 2006
Another open thread for you to roam around in. Some stray thoughts:
A while ago, it was announced that the Flores people, also known as hobbits, discovered in 2004, "do not represent a new species as then claimed, but some of the ancestors of modern human pygmies who live on the island today", and that their exceptional small brain size was due to birth defects in one of the individuals. The paper arguing this is freely available, and anthropologist John Hawks has a good summary of the research.
The New York Review of Books reviews three new books about the "discoveries [that] have radically altered our views of evolution and of the relation of human beings to all other animals." One of the books is Sean Carroll's Endless Forms Most Beautiful, which I've written about here, while another is Kirschner's and Gerhart's The Plausibility of Life, which I've quoted from here and here.
Intelligent design is often described as an insidious creationist plot. In what can only be a perplexing paradox, some creationists actually criticize intelligent design, like Carl Wieland from Answers in Genesis. Over at WithAllYourMind.net, Barry is planning a series of post responding to those criticisms. The first installment can be read here.
In his recent book review in Nature (reg. req.), evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne starts off with some good old-fashioned stereotyping:
After lecturing this spring to the Alaska Bar Association on the debate over intelligent design and evolution, I was approached at the podium by a young lawyer. The tight-lipped smile, close-cropped hair and maniacal gleam in his eyes told me that he was probably a creationist out for blood.
Coyne later laments that "in a country where Martin Luther King dreamed that people should be judged by the content of their character, they are still judged by the cost of their car", but has apparently forgot that a few sentences ago, he was himself judging someone else on how they cut their hair.
They really should pass a law against those parody news sites. Not so long ago it was a pro-life blogger who fell for an Onion story about a girl who was looking forward to have "the best non-anesthetized invasive uterine surgery ever". And now it seems "God is for Suckers!" fell for a story about "Aleta Smith", who donated a kidney and now want it back because the recipient is no longer a Christian. The story is from LarkNews.com, which, in a disclaimer at the bottom of the page, writes: "LarkNewsÂ® is a satirical newspaper published by Joel Kilpatrick."
From the fake news article:
"I feel helpless," [Aletha Smith] says. "Part of my body, my DNA, is stuck inside a person who's going to hell."
Smith suffers nightmares of her former organ filtering "strange Asian teas, pig blood and witch doctor brews in Africa," she says. She wonders if the Lord really wanted her to donate the kidney, or if she acted on a "triple-espresso high" she had that morning. She is also concerned that when her body is resurrected, it might be incomplete.
One might think that a statement about someone deciding to donate organs on a "triple-espresso high" would have aroused the blogger's suspicion, but alas, that opportunity was wasted.
The Guardian yesterday published another opinion piece by religious writer Karen Armstrong, Our Truth is Just a Bit-Player in the Tragic, Conflicted Whole. She establishes the premise in paragraph 1, offering Sophocles' two versions of Oedipus Rex to demonstrate how narratives change according to circumstance and the lesson the author wishes to teach:
At the start of the disastrous Peloponnesian war, Sophocles was trying to make Athens aware that humans can never hope to understand the full significance of their actions; there is usually an aspect of the situation that – sometimes fatally – escapes our grasp.
Armstrong is still rooting for rejection of Judeo-Christian religious narratives so that the west will come to "understand" terrorists and why they feel a need to murder innocents in the name of their Islamic religious narrative. She reminds us that our failure to understand the essential equality of Islamic beliefs arises from our desire to believe that our "scriptural mythology" represents a singular truth which makes all contradicting scriptural mythologies false. In her conclusion she urges once again to consider the counter-narratives:
We must, therefore, make a concerted attempt to listen critically to all the stories out there in order to gain a more panoptic vision. This includes our own cultural narrative. Our modernity has liberated many of us, but it has disenfranchised others. Counter-narratives that question the myth of western freedom must also be heard, because they represent a crucial element in the conflicted, tragic whole.
Because of many other obligations and priorities, I will have to cut back significantly on my contribution to this blog for the next few months. For now, I'll be mostly linking to interesting articles and, of course, playing with the bunny (usually on the weekends). To kick off, some articles of interest are below the fold.
Read the rest of this entry »
Biologist PZ Myers raised a big stink over Francis Collins' participation in a program describing the Holocaust as "Darwin's Deadly Legacy". In addition to being the director of the Human Genome Project Collins has also written The Language of God, showing how his faith in God can co-exist with science. Myers, a self-described "godless liberal", didn't like it one bit and accused Collins of providing "a smiling mask of benign ineffectuality to insanity".
When Myers heard that Francis Collins was going to be interviewed in the film "Darwin's Deadly Legacy" he once again blew a gasket: "I have no idea what role Collins is going to play in this dishonest piece of trash, but I hope he is properly ashamed of being associated with it." It later turned out that Collins was just interviewed about his book, and that he had in fact criticized the thesis of the film.
But Myers has now had a chance to watch the film, and he has decided to put Collins back on his "shit list":
Francis Collins is still in the program, in the second half. His contribution was to help Kennedy argue that evolution is inadequate, that "man is a special creature," and go on and on about how complex the genome is. Collins is back on my shit list. He may not have supported the Hitler connection, but he is a creationist dupe arguing against scientific theories.
My fellow Telician Mike Gene recently reposted his answers to some questions from The Panda's Thumb, and "keiths" suggested that all of the Telicians posted their answers to the questions. I agree with Mike's answers, so instead of just writing a bunch of me-too's, I thought I'd do something slightly different. So in this post, I'll be answering some questions I've made up myself, inspired by many discussions with critics. You'll also be able to find a link to this post from my profile.
Poor Adolf; nobody wants to be his friend. An organization called Coral Ridge Ministries is pushing a "documentary" pinning the Holocaust as "Darwin's Deadly Legacy". I haven't seen the movie, but if it tries to blame the all-too-human tendency to kill people who are different than yourself on a book written in the middle of the nineteenth century, I can think of better things to spend an afternoon on. From the other side of the isle is self-proclaimed "godless liberal" PZ Myers, claiming that Hitler "was quite the vocal Catholic". To support this, he provides a long list of quotes of the kind that you find on atheist websites peddling the "Hitler was a Catholic" meme: Without any context, and with no attempt to take a critical look at the sincerity of the speaker. I find it funny that even though PZ is always raving about how "Republican scum" are lying to the public, he thinks that Hitler is on the level. "Sure, politicians often say things just to satisfy their voters, but if Hitler said that God made him do it, who am I to doubt it?"
In fact, as the Office of Strategic Services established during the NÃ¼remberg trials, Christian churches were persecuted by the Nazis:
Throughout the period of National Socialist rule, religious liberties in Germany were seriously impaired. The various Christian Churches were systematically cut off from effective communication with the people. They were confined as far as possible to the performance of narrowly religous funcitions, and even within this narrow sphere were subjected to as many hinderances as the Nazis dared to impose. These results were accomplished partly by legal and partly by illegal and terroristic means.
Of course, PZ puts a statement at the very bottom of his post, indicating that he thinks that Hitler was just a cynical manipulator. But then what's the point of all those quotes? And then where is the justification for the claim that Hitler was a Catholic?
This claim, as we've just seen, is a chestnut. Here is another one: The many blogs describing themselves as "pro-science" are run by objective defenders of the truth, ready to criticize misleading statements, no matter who makes them. We've seen many "pro-science" blogs ripping into Coral Ridge Ministries for blaming the Holocaust on Darwin. Are we also going to see them criticizing this sloppy chestnut of Hitler being a Catholic? Don't hold your breath.
Update: Since I've placed this under "Humor", some readers thought that there was going to be some sort of punchline at the end, like Liza Minnelli or a zombie screaming at them (don't ask). Well, there isn't. It's the kind of "amusing little waste of time" humor, not the "OMG, I'm laughing so hard that my stomach hurts and blood is coming out of my nose" humor. Incidentally, I also placed it under "Science", but if some of you are expecting that there'll be a list of peer-reviewed articles at the end, prepare to be disappointed.
It has been noted here at TT Francis Collins was wrongly condemned by PZ Myers over on his popular blog the other day for granting an interview that is being used in Coral Ridge's Darwin's Deadly Legacy television show to be aired this weekend, linking Darwinism and the eugenics movement it spawned to Hitler's atrocities.
First, my disclaimer [because I think I'm gonna need one]: 1. I do not have television, but if I did I wouldn't watch televangelists unless for pure entertainment (Pat Robertson can be a hoot if I catch him while staying at a motel on occasion). I've never seen Kennedy. 2. Linking Darwinism to Eugenics to Hitler is such a simple walk-back that I don't know why anyone complains about it. History is history even if you don't like it. 3. The following is just a rehash of the simple walk-back. I do not plan to watch this TV show, and don't care much for the howling about it on either side. It's just noise.
Okay. Now that's done, there's a short, rather funny thread over on Pharyngula about PZ being mentioned in a WND Article about the upcoming Coral Ridge program, and PZ's thread critical of Collins (and for which PZ since apologized). The comments from PZ's fan club are priceless. If you can stand some liberal uses of profanity, check 'em out.