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Friday, October 02, 2009

The Trustworthy McCarthyism!*

Just when you thought I was done talking about Andrew Schlafly and his traveling freakshow Conservapedia, I run across something that bears mentioning. Well, specifically, two somethings. Please make yourself comfortable, this will take a few moments.

The first thing to keep in mind is that Conservapedia has a high opinion of itself. Specifically, it labels itself the "trustworthy encyclopedia." Seriously, it says so right there in the logo:

The next thing you need to know is that recently a young woman in the UK died shortly after receiving a vaccine against cervical cancer:

A British schoolgirl died yesterday, a few hours after getting a shot of a vaccine designed to prevent cervical cancer. It’s still unclear whether the vaccine, GlaxoSmithKline’s Cervarix, contributed to the girl’s death.

More than 1.4 million people have been given the vaccine in the U.K. since an immunization program launched last year, and there have been no reports of deaths linked to the vaccine, the Times of London reports.

Now, given that Conservapedia hates modern medicine and, particularly, hates the idea of vaccinating against an STD since, really, nobody should have sex before marriage and, once married, should not have sex outside of their marriage.** Likewise, given their previously-observed statistical jackassery, they seem to think that correlation equals causation. So, they leapt upon this story like a starving lion on a senior citizen:

Or, in plain human speech:

"A British schoolgirl died yesterday, a few hours after getting a shot of a vaccine designed to prevent cervical cancer."

And this is despite the fact that, generally speaking, in the rare instances when a vaccine has caused a death this sudden, the mechanism is clear. In this case, there appeared to be no reason to think the vaccine caused the fatality. And indeed, it has now been determined with certainty that the two were unrelated:

A 14-year-old U.K. girl who died after receiving GlaxoSmithKline Plc’s Cervarix vaccine had a malignant tumor of the chest that led to her death, local health authorities in Coventry, England, said today.

“The pathologist has confirmed today at the opening of the inquest into the death of Natalie Morton that she died from a large malignant tumor of unknown origin in the heart and lungs,” Caron Grainger, a doctor and joint director of public health for NHS Coventry and Coventry City Council, said in a statement on the organization’s Web site.

Thus, either the vaccine is so dangerous it can actually go back in time to start a cancer BEFORE it's given, or it's unrelated to the girl's death. Most of us, being at least vaguely in touch with reality, will probably favor the latter option. So how long until Conservapedia amends its headline to avoid giving the wrong impression? Yeah, I'm going with "never." And, raising the amusement level of this situation, Schlafly basically agrees. When someone helpfully pointed out this new information Schlafly's response was to chalk it all up to a conspiracy. Seriously:

Or, again, in human speech:

I think your critical thinking is what needs "updating", if you've really fallen for the cover up. Notice how the comments on the cover-up story are not so gullible.

Ah, yes, a conspiracy to sell vaccines that kill children because, you know, one vaccine is so much more profitable than treating a lingering illness like cancer. I'm sure that's exactly it.

Let's move on...

The second odd thing on Conservapedia recently took place in the largely depopulated mainpage talk section. This is a place where people can discuss the headlines or, more accurately, was such a place until the latest and still ongoing round of purges. Of late it's been a smidge dead. In any case, on this page is a simply amazing example of why arguing with Schlafly is effectively pointless. It's pretty long, too:

It all started when a user by the name of BMcP took issue with a news headline about evolution. Specifically, the headline asked how long it would take for "evolutionists to admit that Darwin was wrong". His response was quite reasonable:

Wrong about what? The Appendix itself? Well of course he may have been wrong, but Darwin wasn't the first or final authority on the appendix and we are still not entirely sure that has a purpose. Some researchers propose it does a couple years back based on some of their findings which looks promising, however the jury may still be out on this. If the appendix does serve the purpose proposed, great, that is what makes science wonderful, discovering new things in light of new evidence, which allows the updates or new theories. Fortunately the appendix isn't essential in anyway since we all can live perfectly good lives after having it removed, which is just as well since the appendix is of such poor design.

Not one to stand for a decent question, Schlafly replied:

Thanks, BMcP, for demonstrating how evolutionists never admit being wrong. This is why the Piltdown Man fraud was taught to two generations of students and it took about 40 years for that fraud to eradicated. It took 100 years for the Haeckel drawings fraud to be taken out of textbooks.

How long before the false claim about the appendix being a vestigial organ is taken out of textbooks promoting evolution???

Ahoy there, non sequitur! Perhaps being fond of lost causes (like myself) BMcP attempted to defend himself:

Hmm, I already said he may have been wrong about the appendix. The article sited, correctly, that researchers ''may'' have discovered that the appendix has a purpose. I agree with the word "may", because further research is needed and other scientists need to be able to duplicate the findings before such can be accepted as "fact". It ''may'' be fact the appendix serves a purpose. What is fact is that we can live without it, we do know that, otherwise those of us who have Appendicitis and had it removed would not be able to go on living, but we do. It is also of poor design because it is so prone to infection and rupture.

Of course wither the Appendix has a purpose or not has little to do with evolution itself. Finding the Appendix indeed has a purpose would no more shake the theory then definitely discovering it had no purpose would somehow "prove" evolution. All that confirming through science the Appendix having a purpose would mean is that previous conclusions were in error, and that thanks to new efforts and new evidence by scientists, we know have more information on the organ and we can update our theories accordingly. This only shows me that the scientific method works.

At which point Schlafly got personal:

BMcP, you're now illustrating two characteristics of evolutionists: last wordism and refusal to admit errors. You avoid the undeniable fact about how long evolutionists taught the Piltdown Man and Haeckel drawings frauds, long '''after''' any open-minded review of them would have revealed their falsehoods. Now you persist in saying only that Darwin merely "may" have been wrong about the appendix. He was wrong, but evolutionists won't admit it.

Think it'll take another 150 years before diehard evolutionists admit Darwin '''was''' wrong??? Evolutionists have free will to cling to falsehoods, and it would not be surprising to see them do so.

BMcP at that point defended himself some more but, sensing the insanity, also said that he would stop arguing since he didn't want to be accused of the dreaded "last wordism":

The issue I have is over how the post was worded in regards to the Appendix and evolution. I don't elect to talk about Piltdown Man and Haeckel drawings here because they not the subject at hand, and have their own talk pages. I already stated, twice, that indeed the century or so old conclusion the Appendix is a vestigial organ may indeed be in error. I use the word '''may''', because the article cited in the original posting stated researchers ''may'' have discovered the Appendix serves a purpose. This view is collaborated by those at Duke University Medical School would conducted the research.[1][2] Their research shows promise, may very well be true, but further research is needed for a more definite conclusion. If they are correct, then scientific journals and textbooks will need to be updated. It is also in all probability, these same researchers fully accept evolutionary theory.

I have stated my objection and will say no more here as endless debate should be avoided. Please, feel free to have the last word in response.

And, after a brief side discussion between BMcP and another poster, oh boy does Schlafly have the last word:

BMcP, you're not fooling anyone here. Evolutionists ''always'' refuse to discuss and defend their beliefs when they might be outnumbered, as you now are on this page. Another example is how evolutionists never agree to robust public debates.

You've posted several times here but still won't admit that (1) Darwin was wrong about the appendix, (2) the Piltdown Man fraud was taught for 40 years, and the (3) Haeckel drawing fraud was taught for 100 years. Do yourself a big favor and revisit evolution with an open mind. Evolution was force-fed to all of us as teenagers, but those of us who reconsidered with an open mind are then able to move beyond it. You can too.--

And the argument goes on just a little more, but I won't point to it directly because I'm lazy. So, let's recap, what happened here? Well, it goes like this: (1) Person makes logical argument for why news headline is misleading, (2) Andy responds with non sequitur, (3) person clarifies self, adds to argument to make point more compelling, (4) Andy insults person and claims that person will always try to have the last word, (5) trying to avoid confirming Andy's claim, person defends himself one last time and then withdraws, (5) Andy insults him for running away.

Yes, indeed, the "trustworthy encyclopedia." How could we ever doubt it?

*Fun Fact: Conservapedia actually thinks very favorably of McCarthyism.

** As a side note, I agree with them on the latter point and disagree on the former. Sex before marriage is fine, sex outside of marriage is another story. Unless, you know, you and your spouse talk and decide you're into that, in which case I could care less.

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Blogger LemmusLemmus said...

Boy, if Darwin was wrong about the appendix, this whole evolution building will come tumbling to the ground! Or make that "science building".

Seriously, though, I think people who base their beliefs on scripture don't get is this may have a hard time getting this idea of "updating theories when new evidence arrives". My guess is that they tend to think Darwin is "evolutionists" equivalent of god and The Origin of Species is their equivalent of the bible. Or something.

If I remember correctly, you said in an earlier post something along the lines of "science isn't a body of beliefs, it's a method". That's not an easy idea to understand.

Friday, October 02, 2009 11:03:00 AM  
Blogger scripto said...

Isn't this the same guy that demanded that Lenski send him some bacteria? Like he was going to smear it on an orange or something. What's his point? Sex with the Piltdown Man causes Haeckelization of an embryo's appendix? I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that Andy's not really that deep a thinker.

Friday, October 02, 2009 12:49:00 PM  
Blogger JLT said...

A vestigial organ can have a function and still be vestigial. "Vestigial" means that an organ or structure lost some/most of its original/main function, not that it is completely useless.
If for example the rudimentary hip bone in whales still served as an anchor point for some muscles it'd be still vestigial because it doesn't serve as a connection between legs and spine any more and is greatly reduced in (relative) size compared to other mammals.
So, if they showed conclusively that the appendix retained some functionality it'd be still a rudimentary organ because compared with other non-human primates our appendix is much smaller and isn't important for digestion any more.

The argument that the appendix is not rudimentary because it has some function is not new and already covered in the TOA's List of Creationist Claims here.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009 7:14:00 AM  

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