This has been a fun week for me watching people who don’t understand science. First Stephen Hawking came out and said that there was no Heaven…not, you know, a scientific assessment that he cannot find evidence of such or that he does not see a scientific necessity for it (although his argument that there is no necessity for God was a little flimsy as arguments against God go)…no he made a statement of fact. A blanket statement that there is no heaven or afterlife. To state that the lack of evidence proves something doesn’t exist is bad science. To say you can prove any negative is logically impossible. Now it may be good science to say that you shouldn’t believe in something if you have no proof for it (even though there is proof of an afterlife and God, just not irrefutable proof), but to make an assertion that there is nothing is just below Hawking’s intellect, but clearly he is forgetting the rules of science and logic. (Of course asking an astrophysicist for metaphysical truths is like asking an architect for an opinion on quantum physics or a linguist for their opinion on politics—they may be right, and they may have evidence, but their credentials make them a layman in the field and they need to prove they know something about the field before you should listen to them. In this case, Hawking is coming up as lacking in a Metaphysics credential). And I would have looked forward to see him take a few philosophical hits…but what came was so much funnier what I expected.
Enter psycho Christian Kirk Cameron, who knows even less about science and logic than Hawking knows about metaphysics. Now, is a man who denies the basics of evolution the best person to criticize anyone on anything? Probably not. But it’s amusing to watch. Two people who either don’t know about the rule of reason (or at least have forgotten for one of them), yelling meaningless statements of illogic at each other. I kind of hope this begins a back and forth shouting match because, like the battle of Stalingrad, it doesn’t matter if anyone wins, just so long as both sides take massive hits it warms my heart.
But this got me to thinking, nobody seems to understand science. Both the wacky conservative fringe and most of the left seems to be utterly clueless as to what science says and what it can say.
Let me start with the idiots in my own party (because maybe if I’m lucky I will offend them and they’ll leave). The wacky Christian Right does not seem to have a very good grasp on biology. Let’s start with homosexuality. It’s a biological trait. The structure of the brain determines whether you like a different gender or your own. What a shock! A biological trait affects how you engage in a biological function. Mindboggling to say the least. Now there may be some gray area over whether this is caused directly by genes or by hormone level while in utero, but any way you look at it, by the time you’re born your brain is set a certain way and you will either like men, women, or both. You don’t get to choose. (This also suggests that the Christian Right does not understand psychology, after all who the hell says to themselves, “Let me pick a lifestyle that will get me ostracized from society because I think it will be fun,” but I would like to stick primarily here to the hard sciences.) Thus it becomes the height of insanity to blame, criticize or ostracize someone for a biological trait they have no control over (would you yell at people for natural hair color? Height? Being born blind? No.) Now if you want to critique some in the homosexual community for rejecting monogamy, that’s fine so long as you critique straight people with the same moral failing and understand that ethical choice is not related to the biological condition. And if you want to scream about how gay pride parades are obscene and simply not doing the gay community any help, please join me in that one.
And while we’re on the subject of the Christian right not getting the basics of biology, let’s talk evolution. Similarities in DNA between species, undeniable evolution of single celled organisms and virus, fossil records and a million other little things point to the undeniable fact that life on this planet is A.) Billions of years old (I love the Christians who try to deny carbon dating, thus showing they have little understanding of chemistry) and B.) that life evolved over time from very simple cells to very complex creatures. That’s a scientific fact. Science and facts come first and faith and belief can justifiably fill in what science and fact do not; it doesn’t get to work the other way around. Now if you want to discuss how science does not explain how lifeless chemicals suddenly became self-replicating DNA cells or how an evolved primate suddenly becomes self-aware, and use Intelligent Design to explain those infinite jumps from one thing to another, fine. Science as yet has no explanation for those things, so the idea of a creator is justifiable. It is not however justifiable to use an Intelligent Designer to explain the shape of a banana…evolution works fine on that one on its own. The jury is out on whether or not evolution completely explains the platypus or, as we all know, it is proof of God’s sense of humor.
Facts first, then belief. If facts contradict you belief…too bad your belief is wrong. You’re more than free to try and prove the facts wrong, but once you’ve failed, be mature enough to admit it.
And liberals I know you’ve been enjoying that flogging of your opponents…but now it’s your turn. Liberals don’t seem to understand the basics of physics and the scientific method. After all, you couldn’t believe in global warming if you had any concept of either. Let’s look at some facts, (and I know to some liberals all facts are created equally, but in my world facts that are true are better than the facts you like to make up to fit your argument). The world got colder around 800 AD, the world got warmer around 1400, it got colder again around 1600, and warmer again soon after that. All without the help of burning fossil fuels. How warm was it before 800? Well there are records of wineries as far north as Lincolnshire. It’s too cold in Lincolnshire right now to grow grapes…so it was warmer than we are now. And remember how water levels used to be higher and thus Iraq was a fertile crescent and not a barren desert…or how Homer describes Troy as a port city (and archeology backs that up) yet when they dug it up it was miles and miles from the shoreline…I guess the water levels have lowered in the last few thousand years…and clearly before the heavy use of fossil fuels. (So really if it’s getting warmer and the water levels are rising we’re just getting back to what the human race was once used to). Oh and then there is the fact that Mars seems to be going through its own warming and cooling cycle at the exact same time as our thus suggesting that warmth on the planets might have some relationship to how much energy the sun is releasing. (And I seriously doubt the fumes from my car are affecting the nuclear reactions of the sun). Global warming is a myth. There is not actual proof of a causation between man and the global climate (however, I will admit building Phoenix in a valley, and covering it all with heat conducting concrete and asphalt was probably not the best idea if you wanted to avoid creating a permanent heat bubble in the summer…but that still isn’t affecting the global climate). But ignoring the fact that causation has never been proved, it’s also the illogical reaction to this. Oh my God it’s getting warmer (or cooler depending on decade)! Well if it got warmer then that would mean you would have more land in Russia and Canada that would be fit for growing crops and human habitation (actually far more land than would be made uninhabitable around the equator). So warming would actually be a net gain. But the other problem is that there has been a 1 degree change over the last century. That medieval warming cooling I mentioned was a variation of 3 possibly as much as 5 degrees. Oh, one degree I’m scared. Global warming is hype designed to sell industries based on green technology. It’s a magnificent con job without any scientific backing. Now if you want to talk about legitimate environmental issues like the low levels of ground water that we have left or the level of pollution caused by dumping chemical in certain areas, that’s fine, that fact based concern about the environment…but give up the man made global warming myth.
And while conservatives think that science explains nothing, liberals make the equally stupid idea that science somehow explains everything. Liberals, like Hawking, like to use science to disprove the idea of God. Hate to tell them this, but science can’t do that. And to try and use it to do that is bad science. On a personal level you can say, I see no proof and thus choose not to believe, but don’t mistake your belief for scientific fact. Just because you’ve found the Higgs—Boson particle or some quasar out in space doesn’t disprove God, no amount of science can (bonus points if you caught the pun in this sentence)…conversely it’d be damn hard for science to prove God, but that’s why it’s called faith and not science. Faith is a legitimate source of knowledge where reason and science offer no clear answer…but it doesn’t trump reason and science.
Oh, and a note on quoting sources. Recently I got into a debate with someone on global warming and he quoted as his proof (I kid you not) Carl Sagan and Jane Goodall (among a few other people who did not have backgrounds or credentials in earth sciences) as scientists who have proved global warming. (In case you’re wondering I quoted as my sources Bjorn Lomberg, David Evens and Michael Crichton (who while not an environmentalist per se, did extensive research on the subject)). And then he yelled at me for questioning what a guy who looks at stars and a woman who lives with gorillas would know about global climate systems. I mean neither of them has a degree in meteorology let alone earth sciences or any background in the field that I’m aware of. He just screamed and went away as if questioning the credentials of his sources was heresy. Clearly this person was a moron…But no more than someone who quotes a book written fourteen hundred, two-thousand, or twenty-five hundred years ago (Koran, New Testament, Hebrew Bible if you’re having trouble matching those years up) as proof for why I should listen to valid scientific sources. In a battle between scientists who are discussing their actual field and people who are not scientists the experts should win unless you have a damn good reason to ignore them (like the claims of bias and greed made by climate scientists who point out that you will go broke trying to disprove man made global warming, but will be very well funded if you say the myth is truth).
I think everyone needs to go back, take a few hard science courses and learn what science does and does not say. (And this coming from an English Major).