Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

It's like a field guide for recognizing insanity.

Some of you, who have memories stretching all the way back to yesterday, will recall that I mentioned a rather strange entry on Conservapedia. Specifically, it was a claim that god supernaturally shows birds and butterflies how to migrate and that a scientific explanation for this feat is impossible. In and of itself, this wouldn't be so weird, except that the article they linked to as "evidence" makes essentially the opposite point. Well, okay, that's not totally accurate: the article provides a lot of information on what scientists know about bird migration, but doesn't specifically observe that we don't need god to explain it.* Instead, it discusses research that has identified specific brain regions and neural connections that appear to allow birds to literally see the geomagnetic field. This is, if nothing else, a highly "material" explanation for bird migration that is backed up by data. It was this stark contrast between Conservapedia's claims and the article's report that left me rather baffled.

Well, folks, believe it or not, it appears that I wasn't the only one. By mining the Conservapedia discussion page it's possible to see that some others had similar concerns. What's more mind-bending interesting, however, is to watch a sort of "debate" unfold as to whether or not the article, in fact, fails to support Conservapedia's claims. How does this debate go down? Well, for your edification I've included it below in its entirety as of the moment I wrote this. To give you a hint, however, it includes an insinuation that all human invention is merely an attempt to prove that we're smarter than god.** All human invention since the wheel and fire, anyway, since the wheel and fire are, like, totally holy. Yeah. The debate gets that... interesting. Take a look and see what you think. If nothing else, it's the intellectual equivalent of a funhouse mirror: you see the same stuff as always, but reflected in a bizarrely distorted fashion that is both amusing and disturbing all at once.*** For those who are curious, by the by, the "Aschlafly" that participates in this "debate" is none other than Conservapedia czar Andrew Schlafly. Andrew is the son of Phyllis Schlafly, who played such a significant role in defeating the Equal Rights Amendment. I would add commentary to all this but, really, nothing I could say even begins to compare to the lunacy that's already present.


Nothing in that article mentioned that the scientists were atheists or materialists. Or is that just taken for granted here? Maestro 13:10, 2 October 2007 (EDT)

I won't touch Maestro's comment, but there's another issue here: the source doesn't seem to support the news claim. The headline states that scientists are trying in vain when no explanation exists, but the source clearly states at the end of the article that the given evidence strongly supports the hypothesis that birds detect the earth's magnetic field. I suggest a different source or a headline that aligns with its cited material. ENelson 13:59, 2 October 2007 (EDT)

Both of you seem to misunderstand a wiki. The headline links to several entries, not simply an external article that ENelson calls "the source." We are far more than a news referral service.

Also, note how liberals dispute something that is plainly true, like atheists and materialists searching for materialist explanations. No one seriously disputes that, but perhaps in doubting it one hopes to hide the fact. See liberal style.--Aschlafly 15:22, 2 October 2007 (EDT)

The fact that the headline links to several entries is not relevant to ENelson's point. Nobody is disputing that atheists and materialists are searching for materialist explanations. The only issue is that you are using as a reference an article that does not support your statement. Masterbratac 15:26, 2 October 2007 (EDT)

Masterbratac is right. I never disputed that atheists and materialists search for materialistic explanations. What I dispute is the news article saying no explanation exists. Compounding this is the fact that the citation is an article that DOES provide an explanation.
I still strongly suggest that either an appropriate citation be found and linked, or the heading modified to coincide more with its source. ENelson 15:36, 2 October 2007 (EDT)

Excellent point, Andy. One can only speculate why a source called ScienceDaily carried a news item recently entitled, Bush apologizes to Wiccan widow. Must be of interest to enlightened scientific researchers. Rob Smith 15:43, 2 October 2007 (EDT)

Rob, one could go as far to say that Conservapedia shouldn't make comments about any scientific topics, as (speculatively) very few people here have an education in the sciences. I agree with you that hypocrisy is wrong and people should stay in their fields, though. ENelson 15:47, 2 October 2007 (EDT)

By "education in the sciences," are you referring to Wicca and other occult subjects scientific advancement has replaced God with? Rob Smith 15:54, 2 October 2007 (EDT)

Science replaced God with Wicca? When did that happen? Maestro 16:17, 2 October 2007 (EDT)

To answer your question, no. I'm not even fully sure what Wicca is, so I will not comment on it. And why does science replace God, as you say? Why can it not expand on our understanding of the universe He set up?

Anyways, we're both way off topic. If you want to continue this, take it up in my talk page and I'll happily oblige. The issue here is that this news piece has a source that does not adequately reinforce its subject. Considering that at Conservapedia all things must be true and verifiable, I suggest that unless a proper source can be found, that news item either be removed or modified to coincide more with its source. ENelson 16:03, 2 October 2007 (EDT)

Ok, so I'm a bird brain (no pun intended). The source says, "Thus, the only two parts of the central nervous system shown to be highly active during magnetic compass orientation are linked to each other." To quote the immortal Rumsfeld, "There are things that we know, there are things that we don't know, and there are things that we don't know we don't know." The article continues, "These findings strongly support the hypothesis..."; what hypothesis? So this "strong support" for something that is below a theory (hypo = below), a theory by definition is not a fact, is based upon visual stimuli, i.e. what is "shown." Is there the remotest possibility that other, unknown, unseen, unanticipated factors may be at work, before we elevate this grandiose research to the premature conclusion that it lends "strong support" to what is not even formulated yet as a hypo-theory to either prove, or disprove, that human observation is the deciding factor to establish truth, at least momentarily until someone else observes some new phenomenon, which then disproves all our previous understanding? Rob Smith 16:30, 2 October 2007 (EDT)

I'm not entirely certain what that meant, but I think you mean that, because this is a "hypothesis," it should not be elevated to the level of a theory. This is true, but irrelevant. The fact is, the article states that there is strong support for this hypothesis. Whether it is a hypothesis or a theory, this contradicts what the main page here says - that atheists and materialists search for the answer in vain, because the answer does not exist. The article does not say anything about atheists and materialists - it's a reasonable assumption, but not something the article says. The article does not say that there is no answer to this. On the contrary, is states that there is strong support for a potential answer. Either the headline or the article needs to be changed. Please be aware that, if you change the reference to something that actually does support the headline, I will gladly drop this. Masterbratac 18:11, 2 October 2007 (EDT)

Right, Rob, the "Science" news article is a mixture of circular reasoning and unsupported conclusions, typical for that liberal rag. The "reasoning" in the article is, of course, good enough for atheists and materialists who assume that there must be a material explanation. For the rest of us who, like Isaac Newton, look beyond materialism, the Science article is referenced for only one purpose: to demonstrate that atheists and materialists are still searching in vain for their material explanation. Do tell us, please, if anyone really thinks magnetism guides butterfly migration also. Don't duck that one.--Aschlafly 18:16, 2 October 2007 (EDT)

If that's why this article is being used, the headline should really be reworded. As it stands, it appears that the article is being used to support the lack of an explanation for bird migration, not the fact that the search for an explanation has not revealed any definitive answers. Masterbratac 18:21, 2 October 2007 (EDT)

Masterbratac, your discomfort is with the lack of a material explanation for migration, not our headline. Note how you did duck the question of whether you really think that magnetism guides butterfly migration.

I can't resolve your discomfort with the failure of materialism to explain migration. I urge you to let go of your insistence on materialism. The headline is appropriate and the "Science" article, which has the title of a question ("Do Migratory Birds 'See' The Magnetic Field?"), is just one of several sources used to support our headline. I'll add this issue to our Essay:Quantifying Openmindedness, so our discussion has not been wasted.--Aschlafly 18:40, 2 October 2007 (EDT)

My discomfort is not with the lack of material explanation, nor is it with the headline itself. My discomfort is with the way the headline seems to read. As it stands, the headline appears to state that this article shows that there is no materialistic explanation for migration. Whether I have a problem with this concept is irrelevant. The article does not support the headline as it is written now. Personally, I think that it might work better if the link were on the word "search," but that's just my opinion. I freely admit that I am not an expert in journalism, nor in any other relevant field. Feel free to ignore this. I'll probably continue to object; from this point forward, however, I will object to this, at least, silently (Unless something really ridiculous happens).

As for the butterflies, I have not the slightest idea what guides their migration. I have no problem with believing that it is magnetism, nor with believing that it is based on the sun, the moon, God as presented in the Bible, Zeus, Thor, some all-powerful butterfly deity, or anything else - as long as there is some evidence for it. However, this is irrelevant; the article is not about butterflies. Masterbratac 19:05, 2 October 2007 (EDT)

Masterbratac, I obviously have not ignored your criticism, but I do urge you to accept the strong likelihood that there is no material explanation for homing and migration. I urge you to accept that not for my good, but for yours. Once you reject materialism, as Isaac Newton did with action-at-a-distance, as Adam Smith did with the invisible hand, as Louis Pasteur and Bernhard Riemann did for their inspiration, the truth shall set you free. In the past some people, including strangers, urged me to open my mind beyond what I learned in school and I'm glad I did. I hope you do too.--Aschlafly 19:53, 2 October 2007 (EDT)

strong support for a potential answer
It doesn't even say this. It says there is strong support (based upon human observation) for an unformulated sub-theory which cannot, by definition, be a fact (A theory, by definition, is not a fact; if it were a fact, it would not be a theory. And the reponse, "theories are unproven facts," is so ludicrous on its face, please consider it first before following this logical fallacy). Rob Smith 18:46, 2 October 2007 (EDT)

The Merriam-Webster definition of "theory" (at least, the one relevant here) is "a plausible or scientifically acceptable general principle or body of principles offered to explain phenomena."[2] There is no reason that a theory cannot be true. Also, if the statement that "theories are unproven facts" is a logical fallacy, which fallacy is it? Masterbratac 18:56, 2 October 2007 (EDT)

If scientists, or "atheists" and "materialists" as you call them, gave up searching for material explanations and chose to explain everything through religion we would never achieve another technological breakthrough. Image if they had given up, say, 70-80 years ago. We would not have computers. Without computers we surely would not have the Internet, and without the Internet we wouldn't have sites like Conservapedia. Are you sure you want them to give up? --BillOhannity 19:33, 2 October 2007 (EDT)

Mr. Schlafly, you find solace in religious enlightenment. That's perfectly fine. I enjoy investigating life. You have every right to think the way you do, and so do I. But this is not what's at stake here. Conservapedia entries must be "true and verifiable", and the news item is not. It says there is no material explanation, nor will there be one. The article that supposedly backs this up says that peope are in the process of formulating an explanation for said phenomenon. They just don't match up! ENelson 20:00, 2 October 2007 (EDT)

No, ENelson, you misstate my views and what's on the main page. Atheists waste my taxpayer money searching in vain for a material answer that they assume must exist due to their lack of faith. This isn't a matter of "solace"; this is factual.--Aschlafly 20:03, 2 October 2007 (EDT)

Mr. schlafly, (call me Mr. Nelson, or Ed if you like) are you suggesting that research into nuclear physics was a waste of taxpayer money? If you do, then you'd probably be a subject of either German or Russian dictatorship. What about research into thermodynamics? Or electromagnetism? Nobody had any idea what these things were until someone thought "why does this happen?" If you'd rather live purely on faith alone and reject all technology as arcane work of the faithless, then you best cancel your ISP account and go live like the Amish, because right now you're using the fruit of your opponents' labour. America is a world leader in scientific research, and try as some might, that isn't about to change. ENelson 20:09, 2 October 2007 (EDT)

Thanks for restating my point above Ed. As for the issue of wasting your tax dollars Mr. schlafly, the study discussed in this particular article is taking place in Oldenburg, Germany. On top of that, it makes no mention of any government funding, be it the German government or the American government. If your tax dollars are really the reason that this research upsets you so much then hopefully you can rest a little easier tonight. --BillOhannity 20:27, 2 October 2007 (EDT)

After this long diversion in to the politics of science, I still wonder where the quoted article states that the researchers search in vain? Can someone point to paragraph and line number? The front-page gives the impression that the editor who put it there either didn't read the quoted article, or didn't understand it. Order 21:29, 2 October 2007 (EDT)

Assuming the unproven suggestion that the homing capabilities cannot be explained by material science, how do non-materialist approaches explain the homing capabilities of birds? Order 21:25, 2 October 2007 (EDT)

There is no reason that a theory cannot be true.
Possibly; but this requires assumption.
research into nuclear physics was a waste of taxpayer money?
I would precisely say it was. And for all this glorious research, look at all the problems it brought. And more specifically, it was awfully cute the way the KGB got the U.S. taxpayer to pay for it, only to carry on an insane nuclear arms race at what cost for half a century. We don't have to worry about godless commies nuking us anymore, we progressed to non-state jihadists nobody can even locate to negotiate with, if it were possible.

Thank you very much, to both the rational scientists and the commie scum who made it all possible. (Oh, you don't believe the KGB did it? read J. Robert Oppenheimer's bio. Yes indeed the Rosenberg's were scapegoats--Oppenheimer's the guy who should've fried in the chair). Rob Smith 21:26, 2 October 2007 (EDT)

How about computer technology Rob? Or medical technology? Or any of the countless other technologies we all use everyday? --BillOhannity 21:31, 2 October 2007 (EDT)

How about the wheel? Or the discovery of fire? Where any of these invented or discovered by people whose primary aim was, not the betterment of the human condition, but to prove they were smarter than God? Rob Smith 12:56, 3 October 2007 (EDT)

Well I'm not sure that anyone can know their motives since the wheel and fire were both discovered/invented long before records were kept, and also before organized religion came about. I'm also not entirely sure what your point is. Are you saying that invention and ingenuity are only ok when someone is trying to prove that they are smarter than god? It does not really matter what the person's motive was, the point is that in order to actually come up with the discovery the person would have to conduct research. Also, you didn't answer my question. Your point seems to be that scientists and researchers shouldn't "waste their time" trying to come up with physical explanations for everything. If this is your opinion, would you have had the scientists and researchers of previous generations stop their research before the modern technologies used today were developed? I must say that I expect your answer will be no, considering that you are using a computer to express your opinion on the internet. If I have missed point or misunderstood your question please let me know.--BillOhannity 17:00, 3 October 2007 (EDT)

* Most likely the "god guides birds" hypothesis wasn't mentioned because it's both stupid and a trivialization of religion.

** This is a fairly stupid assertion, really, since if you accepted the existence of god as conservative christians define it, it would be obvious that one cannot be smarter. It's a little like saying that I'm trying to prove that I am smaller than an atom. If I believe in those I know such a thing to be impossible, so it's pretty much a dead issue.

*** A little like this blog, actually.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

These debates frighten me.

Yesterday, thanks to you (and Aetiology) I got to read comments from people (claiming to be scientists) that don't believe the germ theory of disease, or in the modern theory of gravity. The gravity doubters are the ones that really got me--how the fuck do you deny gravity!?

Can we just round these people up and take their internet connections away? If you don't buy into the scientific research that produces your electronics, then just stop using them. This way it's not censorship--they just don't believe in the internet anymore.

A bit off-topic: does anyone know if these debates occur in other countries? Or is this another Americanism?

Thursday, October 04, 2007 1:42:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I can't believe I just read all that drek. But then again, I read it, and I can't UNread it, otherwise I would. BAH!

*stabs brain through eye with pencil*

Friday, October 05, 2007 9:58:00 AM  

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