Friday, October 24, 2014

Science publicists attacking religion

Wikipedia has voted not to cite Neil deGrasse Tyson's misquotes. Apparently a majority feels as tho mentioning it would be caving into a right-wing plot to discredit a prominent atheist, evolutionist, and global warming promoter.

Here is another Tyson appearance from July:
Later, when the topic of randomness came up again, Tyson reminded us of the importance of random events like how the impact that produced the moon shaped our planetary history, or how the impact that wiped out the dinosaurs made it possible for mammals (and humans) to dominate the earth. Maher reminded us of how religious folks hate the idea that random natural events get in the way of their carefully controlled world run by a God who looks over them. To which Tyson replied, “Get over it”.
First, "random events" is a rather unscientific term. There is no way to say that an event is or is not random. Scott Aaronson has foolishly claimed that it is possible in some cases to certify randomness, but even if he were right, the idea does not apply to cosmological impacts.

Second, I have never heard of religious folks who hate the idea of random natural events. On the contrary, they frequently cite such events as evidence for their beliefs in God's plan or supernatural intervention. A big calamity is often called an "act of God".

Bill Maher says stupid stuff all the time. He is hardly worth criticizing, as few people take him seriously. But Tyson is a scientist, and we expect better.

George Johnson writes a NY Times science essay, starting:
Galileo knew he would have the Church to contend with after he aimed his telescope at the skies over Padua and found mountains on the moon and more moons orbiting Jupiter — and saw that the Milky Way was made from “congeries of innumerable stars.” The old order was overturned, and dogma began to give way to science.
No, I doubt it. The Church never contested his telescopic observations, or had problem with mountains on the Moon or anything like that. The Church did doubt that he had proof of the Earth's motion, because that would require re-interpretation of a couple of Bible passages. And the Church was right about that.
“It’s bad for science, but good (I suppose) for the Native American groups involved,” he wrote in an email. “Given that the U.S.A. was founded on two great sins — genocide of Native Americans and slavery of Africans — I think science can afford this act of contrition and reparation.”

But how is letting Indian creationism interfere with scientific research any different from Christian creationism interfering with public education — something that he would surely resist?

Logically they are the same, Dr. Lekson agreed. But we owed the Indians. “I’m given to understand that the double standard rankles,” he said.
Logically the same? I do not see the similarity. Christian creationists do not interfere with scientific research. They only dispute some scientific wisdom about the age of the Earth and some related matters. The Indians are not disputing scientific wisdom. They just want to preserve some land and bones.

I do not mind when scientists say that certain religious views are wrong, but I wish that would demonstrate their scientific outlook, and make sure that their attacks are accurate and grounded in evidence.

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