Posts Tagged ‘truth’
Posted by mattusmaximus on May 29, 2013
Often I get asked what I think is so special about science. Many times people criticize my science-oriented worldview by saying that “science is just one view” or that “science is only ‘one way’ of knowing” and so on; it goes without saying that most often I hear this criticism of science and its methodology from those who are running counter to that methodology, usually in an effort to promote some brand of pseudoscience or similar nonsense.
Well, the purpose of this post is to point out one of the most valuable aspects of science: that particular aspect of its methodology which displays the self-correcting nature of science.
First, allow me to admit, right up front, that science isn’t necessarily about finding “Truth” with a capital “T”; as much as I and my fellow scientists support science, we must acknowledge that it, at best, offers us a kind of provisional truth. That is, the “truth” (note the lower-case “t”) that science offers us is always open to revision based upon new information, and this is – contrary to what some might think – one of its greatest strengths. And, as such, what science can do is approach, however slowly and asymptotically, a more and more accurate view of the world around us as a result.
This ability of science to be open to new information, to be capable of being revised, to be self-correcting, is precisely in opposition to the kind of dogmatism which is offered by so many other modes of thought. Too often, other modes of thought, whether they be grounded in religion or some kind of rigid ideology, start with the “Truth” (capital “T”) and work from there; I like to reference the following cartoon in order to illustrate the difference…
Of course, the example of creationist pseudoscience is but one example, but I think my point is made.
Something which should be added to this discussion is the fact that, just as in any human endeavor, science is prone to making mistakes. In fact, the history of science is full of errors, failed experiments, and even outright fraud; but the self-correcting nature of modern science once again comes to bear as a great strength in these cases.
For example, it was scientists who discovered the fraud behind the cold fusion fiasco in the late 1980s, wherein a pair of researchers publicly claimed (fraudulently) that they had produced fusion in a chemical reaction on a lab bench; it was careful and persistent application of scientific methodology which pointed out the errors in the claims that “faster-than-light” neutrinos had indeed gone superluminal (it ended up, at least in part, being a mistake in the experimental design); and this process continues to this day with doubts raised (yes, by scientists) about recent claims of stem-cell cloning.
This self-correcting, self-policing nature of science to peer into its own processes, methodology, and motivation is more than admirable, in my opinion; it is vitally necessary to have a mode of thought that incorporates this kind of inquiry in our world. That is because all too often when we convince ourselves of some kind of “Truth” (note that capital “T” again), it leads to the shutting down of inquiry, doubt, and analysis so necessary to see whether or not the “Truth” is just a lie.
Give me that kind of humility over the smug, self-assuring claim to “Truth” any day.
Posted in scientific method | Tagged: cloning, cold fusion, creationism, dogma, dogmatism, faster than light, FTL, ideology, Knowing, knowledge, method, methodology, nature, neutrino, provisional, pseudoscience, religion, science, stem cell, superluminal, truth | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on March 15, 2013
Tonight I stumbled across an excellent blog post from the Skeptical Raptor on the most recent spate of anti-science bills (i.e., anti-evolution, anti-climate science, etc) that have cropped up all over state legislatures in the United States so far in 2013. Rather than rehash what is an already well-researched and written post, I shall simply reblog it below:
It’s a new year for the individual US state legislatures, and after a relatively unsuccessful 2012 in passing anti-science laws (with the notable exception of Tennessee’s Monkey Bill), the conservative Republicans are back trying to remove real science teaching from our kids. The anti-science legislation comes in the form of either teaching creationism (or more subtle forms, like intelligent design), usually combined with climate change denialism, and, strangely, anti-human cloning (which is not exactly a serious line of research today). But the goal is, and will probably always be, to teach creationism.
Creationism refers to the belief that the universe and everything in it were specially created by a god through magic, rather than natural, scientifically explained, means. Creationism implicitly relies on the claim that there is a “purpose” to all creation known only to the creator. In other words, creationism is a religious belief, and no matter what argument is made (and I could write 50,000 words on the topic), creationism is not science because it relies upon a supernatural being, which means it can never be falsified, one of the basic principles of the scientific method. The supporters of creationism attempt to claim that creationism is a scientific theory on the level of evolution, ignoring the fact that a scientific theory is ”a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment.” Creationism is generally based on a fictional book.
The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, specifically prohibits any government entity from establishing a religion (which courts have ruled to include teaching religion in schools). Decades worth of Supreme Court rulings have found that teaching creationism in schools is equivalent to teaching religion. As recently as 2005, in Kitzmiller v Dover Area School District, a Federal Court continued the tradition of considering creationism as religion, and ruled against a school district, costing the Dover Area School District nearly $1 million in legal fees. That money probably could have been used to teach their students better science.
Despite these legal rulings, eight states have introduced antievolution or anti-science bills since the beginning of the year…
Click here to read the rest of Skeptical Raptor’s post
Posted in creationism, education, politics | Tagged: academic freedom, anti science, anti-evolution, Bible, Christ, Christianity, creationism, creationist, denial, denialism, Discovery Institute, evolution, fundamentalism, fundamentalist, God, ID, intelligent design, Jesus, legislation, politics, pseudoscience, science, Skeptical Raptor, states, teach all views, teach the controversy, truth, truth in education, YEC, Young Earth Creationism | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on March 14, 2013
In a bit of unexpected good news, I ran across this recent article from The Atlantic magazine which outlines a new trend within the circles of evangelical Christian homeschooling. If you know anything about the United States homeschooling movement, you know that it tends to be dominated by evangelical or fundamentalist Christians who eschew evolutionary science in favor of teaching some varient of psuedoscientific creationism. However, it seems that this unfortunate trend could be under challenge from a new generation of evangelical homeschoolers who are, quite frankly, tired of all the science-bashing from their fundamentalist brethren. Read on
For homeschooling parents who want to teach their children that the earth is only a few thousand years old, the theory of evolution is a lie, and dinosaurs coexisted with humans, there is no shortage of materials. Kids can start with the Answers in Genesis curriculum, which features books such as Dinosaurs of Eden, written by Creation Museum founder Ken Ham. As the publisher’s description states, “This exciting book for the entire family uses the Bible as a ‘time machine’ to journey through the events of the past and future.”
It’s no secret that the majority of homeschooled children in America belong to evangelical Christian families. What’s less known is that a growing number of their parents are dismayed by these textbooks.
Take Erinn Cameron Warton, an evangelical Christian who homeschools her children. Warton, a scientist, says she was horrified when she opened a homeschool science textbook and found a picture of Adam and Eve putting a saddle on a dinosaur. “I nearly choked,” says the mother of three. “When researching homeschooling curricula, I found that the majority of Christian homeschool textbooks are written from this ridiculous perspective. Once I saw this, I vowed never to use them.” Instead, Warton has pulled together a curriculum inspired partly by homeschool pioneer Susan Wise Bauer and partly by the Waldorf holistic educational movement. … [emphasis added]
Further on the article goes on to outline the interesting history of the anti-evolution movement…
… Theologically conservative Christians were not always so polarized. “By the late 19th century,” says David R. Montgomery author of The Rocks Don’t Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah’s Flood, “evangelical theologians generally accepted the compelling geological evidence for the reality of an old earth.” However, Darwin’s idea of natural selection scared away many fundamentalists, who saw “survival of the fittest” as an atheistic concept. Over time, those who insisted on a literal interpretation of the Bible’s account of creation came to reject both geology and evolutionary biology. …
Which was, to say the least, an unfortunate development that has led to a multi-generational effort to dumb down the teaching of evolutionary theory in particular and the teaching of science in general in the United States. But perhaps these new evangelicals can change the movement from within. I think they can have some success, but only with some help from those of us who are the traditional champions of evolution.
Despite my atheism, I think those of us within the skeptical/atheist community should embrace these “evolutionary evangelicals” and consider them allies. Rather than focus on what divides us (i.e. differences on belief or non-belief in God, etc), I think our efforts can be better served by allowing our common desire to see evolutionary science taught properly to unite us.
Now I know there are some “purists” within the skeptical/atheist community who would likely shudder to see me suggest allying ourselves with evangelical Christians, at least in part because our theological/philosophical differences are so vast. But I take the attitude that, even within the skeptical/atheist community there are deep divisions on a variety of topics, but I don’t find myself turning my back upon it; so if I can find some common ground with an evangelical Christian on a pro-science issue, why not pursue some bridge-building?
Posted in creationism, education, religion, skeptical community | Tagged: academic freedom, atheism, atheist, Bible, Christ, Christianity, creationism, creationist, education, evangelical, evolution, fundamentalism, fundamentalist, God, homeschoolers, homeschooling, intelligent design, Jesus, pseudoscience, religion, science, teach all views, teach the controversy, The Atlantic, truth, YEC, Young Earth Creationism | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on December 24, 2012
As I’ve blogged before, creationists are quite adept at evolving their strategies for attempting to replace the science of evolution in public school science classes with their religious beliefs. One of the latest mutations are so-called “academic freedom” bills, but now there seems to be a new phrase and strategy emerging – “truth in education” – which we all need to be on the lookout for in our local legislatures and school boards. My skeptical colleague Steven Novella has an excellent takedown here…
by Steven Novella, Dec 10 2012
We have yet another propaganda slogan and strategy by creationists to sneak their religious beliefs into public science classrooms – “truth in education.” This one comes from state senator Dennis Kruse from Indiana. He had previously introduced a bill (in 2011) that would have required the teaching of “creation science” alongside evolution. The bill died a quick death, largely because the Supreme Court has already declared such laws unconstitutional (in the 1987 Edwards vs Aguillard case).
Kruse’s approach has since “evolved.” It seems that after his failed and naive attempt to introduce a creation science bill, he has been connected with the Discovery Institute and is now up to speed on the latest approach to anti-evolution strategies.
Creationist attempts to hamper science education when it comes to evolution go back to the beginning of evolutionary theory itself. By the turn of the 19th century evolution was an accepted scientific fact, and opposition to its teaching was forming among certain fundamentalist sects. The first big confrontation between the teaching of evolution and creationist ideology came in the form of the The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes, or the Scopes Monkey Trial. This resulted from the first creationist strategy to limit the teaching of evolution in public schools – they simply banned it. This strategy was killed when such laws were found unconstitutional in 1968 (Epperson v. Arkansas).
The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) has a nice list of the ten major legal precedents that have smacked down creationist attempts to limit the teaching of evolution. Each time the creationists simply have morphed their strategy, but the intent has never wavered. …
Read the rest of Steve’s Skeptiblog post here
Posted in creationism, education, politics | Tagged: academic freedom, Bible, Christ, Christianity, creationism, creationist, Dennis Kruse, Discovery Institute, evolution, fundamentalism, fundamentalist, God, ID, Indiana, intelligent design, Jesus, pseudoscience, science, teach all views, teach the controversy, truth, truth in education, YEC, Young Earth Creationism | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on June 19, 2012
In some of my recent blog posts, I wondered about the utility of calling the bluff of creationists and going with their argument of “teaching all views” regarding evolution, creationism, etc. If a picture is worth a thousand words, this June 18th cartoon from Non Sequitur just nails it
Posted in creationism, education, humor | Tagged: alien, biology, cartoon, Christianity, comedy, creationism, education, evolution, fundamentalist, funny, government, humor, ID, intelligent design, Non Sequitur, origin of life, public, Raelians, religion, satire, schools, science, teach all views, teach the controversy, theory, truth | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on April 22, 2012
As most skeptics and atheists (as well as a number of well-educated religious believers) know, the Bible is a work of humans. As such, just as any other book, it has been edited and revised quite a lot over the last couple of thousand years. It’s not the purpose of this blog post to go into the details of who wrote what parts of the Bible when, nor will I get into the question of the numerous inconsistencies and contradictions contained within this supposedly “divinely inspired” book. (Though if you’re interested in those topics, I suggest starting with a basic primer on textual criticism of the Bible.)
Rather, I would like to address something which is easily verified by anyone: the fact that the Bible, contrary to the claims of many fundamentalists, is actually STILL being edited. And sometimes these edits have made quite significant deviations from the “original” text. Further, some of these edits have been made for what appear to be contemporary political purposes.
“You mean… it’s NOT the same as it was only 45 years ago?!!” — Image source
In order to prove my point, I would like to reference an excellent article on this topic from the Slacktivist blog over at Patheos.com titled “Mischief follows in partisan Bible translations”. The basic point behind this article is that contrary to the claims of various fundamentalist factions that the Bible is unchanging and inerrant, it has in fact been edited quite recently. Specifically, the evidence proves that the Bible has been edited for partisan political purposes on the issue of abortion as recently as the late 1970s (which is within the lifetime of many readers here!) Read this excerpt from the Slacktivist article for more on this:
… As I noted earlier, this change in the words and meaning of the Bible is more recent than the introduction of the Happy Meal.
The New American Standard Bible is a popular English translation, a revision of the American Standard Version of 1901. It was completed in 1971 and then revised and updated in 1995. I want to highlight one major change in one passage of the NASB — a case in which the 1995 update alters — and is intended to reverse – the text of the 1971 NASB.
Those dates are important in understanding the reason for this change. …
Now, let us look at the analysis of come critical Bible verses which have been edited in the context of contemporary views on abortion:
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in politics, religion | Tagged: abortion, atheism, atheist, belief, Bible, book, Christian, Christians, criticism, edit, editing, Exodus 21:21-22, fundamentalist, God, Holy Bible, inerrancy, inerrant, Jesus, Jewish, Jews, literal, literalist, NASB, New American Standard Bible, New Testament, Old Testament, politics, religion, textual criticism, truth, validity, version, women | 24 Comments »