Tag Archive: science


One common fallacious apologist argument is the appeal to authority. In this fallacy, one brings up experts in particular fields or people of otherwise high repute, pointing to them and saying in essence, “Well they say this is true and they know more than us, so it must be true!”

One of the most common apologist uses of the appeal to authority is to point to scientists who believe in God. Sometimes, as with Isaac Newton, they are correct about a scientist’s beliefs, although this doesn’t remedy the fallacy. (Newton believed in all kinds of crazy crap, and what, in the first place, qualifies a scientist – or anyone for that matter – as an “expert” on whether gods exist?). Unfortunately, however, the deliberately dishonest misrepresentation of clearly atheist/agnostic scientists as believers happens all too often, as apologists engage in out-of-context quote mining to distort the original words for their own agenda, Albert Einstein being victim number one.

In his story reblogged above, Jerry Coyne breaks down a recent Huffington Post slideshow which features some classis examples of such quote mining.

Why Evolution Is True

The HuffPo Science section can’t seem to keep its mitts off religion. Why on earth do they keep dragging God into that section?

The latest theistic incursion is a “slide show” called “Science and religion quotes: what the world’s greatest scientists say about God.”  There are 21 quotes, each accompanied by a photo of the scientist, and, to be fair, there’s a mixture of atheist and pro-religion statements.  A few of them, however, seem unfair to me, since the scientists at issue were clearly atheistic or agnostic in other, unquoted statements.

Carl Sagan:

“Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light-years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual…The notion…

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When it comes to comparing atheists to the likes of Pol Pot, Mao Tse-Tung and Joseph Stalin, Bill O’Reilly  just can’t help himself, even in an interview about a children’s science book.

And when it comes to science, he apparently just can’t learn a damn thing at all:

Now the last time you were here you were honest enough to admit that you don’t know the origin, whether it was a meteor, or something like that. And you said to me, “We’re working on it”, and I said to you, “Let me know.”

Richard Dawkins responded much too politely by saying, “That was only about two years ago”, cutting himself off there instead of continuing on to the natural conclusion of that sentence. What I wish he had said:

“That was only two years ago, you imbecilic fucking creatard who can’t grasp even the simplest scientific concepts such as how the gravitational pull of the moon causes the tides. A meteor? Really? Two years? Really?!? “

Anyhow, here’s the video:

Breaking down some of O’Reilly’s utterances:

“…atheist Richard Dawkins”

How about showing the basic journalistic integrity of calling him biologist Richard Dawkins? Oh, that’s right. Because you don’t have a sliver of integrity in your tiny, angry little mind.

“He’s on a crusade to convince believers they’re idiots.”

No, idiot, he’s appealing to people’s reason based on science and rationality, in order to get them to see that some of their beliefs are unfounded, not that they as individuals are idiots.

“…you were honest enough to admit”

As if it should be assumed automatically that atheists are usually dishonest.

“A-HA!!!”

Colbert would be proud.

“The Judeo-Christian philosophy isn’t a myth, it’s reality.”

Even a solid majority of biblical scholars and theologians wouldn’t agree with this statement. So thank you for demonstrating that you know as little about your own religion as you do about science.

I highly recommend following the youtube channels of both AronRa, speaking in this video, and The Thinking Atheist, who produced it. Their shows The Magic Sandwich Show and The Thinking Atheist Podcast, respectively, both explore a wide range of issues, provoke and promote critical thinking, and are just a lot of fun to listen to.

 

For one thing, an immune system commonality which arose hundreds of millions of years ago.

From Science Daily:

Humans and Sharks Share Immune System Feature

ScienceDaily (Sep. 29, 2011) — A central element of the immune system has remained constant through more than 400 million years of evolution, according to new research at National Jewish Health. In the September 29, 2011, online version of the journal Immunity, the researchers report that T-cell receptors from mice continue to function even when pieces of shark, frog and trout receptors are substituted in. The function of the chimeric receptors depends on a few crucial amino acids, found also in humans, that help the T-cell receptor bind to MHC molecules presenting antigens.

“These findings prove a hypothesis first proposed 40 years ago,” said senior author Laurent Gapin, PhD, associate professor of immunology in the Integrated Deparemtn of Immunology at National Jewish Health and the University of Colorado Denver. “Even though mammals, amphibians and cartilaginous fish last shared a common ancestor more than 400 million years ago, they continue to share an element of their T-cell receptors, indicating that the T cell-MHC interaction arose early in the evolution of the immune system, and is central to its function.”

Read the whole article here.

I won’t ask apologists to explain how Noah transported these folks over to Mexico. I’ll just let the story speak for itself:

Ancient human footprints found in Mexico

Footprints from early humans that are between 4500 and 25,000 years-old have been discovered in a remote area of northern Mexico, researchers say.

The five footprints set in stone “are among the few impressions of the first inhabitants in the American continent found in Mexico”, the Institute of Anthropology and History said in a statement. […]

While no other footprints were found, experts found nearby the remains of primitive camps dating from the Pleistocene Era (1.8 million to 10,000 years ago), the statement read.

The  entire article at Science Daily is well worth a read, so I encourage you to click this link and give it a go before proceeding. What follows is a short blurb, and the video they linked to.

The first video of tool use by a fish has been published in the journal Coral Reefs by Giacomo Bernardi, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

In the video, an orange-dotted tuskfish digs a clam out of the sand, carries it over to a rock, and repeatedly throws the clam against the rock to crush it. Bernardi shot the video in Palau in 2009.

“What the movie shows is very interesting. The animal excavates sand to get the shell out, then swims for a long time to find an appropriate area where it can crack the shell,” Bernardi said. “It requires a lot of forward thinking, because there are a number of steps involved. For a fish, it’s a pretty big deal.”

Watch:

Here’s Rick Perry describing his interpretation of a sudden rainstorm after a long drought in Texas (video follows below):

I took that as God’s real clear message to me, ‘This is where I want you, son. This is where I want you to be. That’s not where I want you.’ And you go through my life, and there have been so many of those events that occurred, and I don’t get confused. It wasn’t coincidence. It was god’s hand on my life guiding me in the ways he wanted me to be. And I truly believe that he has me here at a time such as this.

The arrogance of this perspective is just mind boggling. Let’s just say for a moment, for hypothetical purposes, that Perry is correct. The personal god he believes in dries up a massive swath of farmland for an extended period of time, no doubt causing all kinds of emotional and economic distress for the local farmers and towns who so heavily rely on agricultural production for their well being. For months and months that petty nepotist sits (presumably) up in the sky tormenting thousands of innocent people, depriving them of livelihoods and security. But he has a plan, you see. This is all for the divine purpose of changing Rick Perry’s tiny little mind and convincing him to stay in Texas.

If such a god did exist, I think all rational people could agree that the appropriate reaction to this story is: What a dick!

But of course, in spite of claiming otherwise, Perry actually is confused. He doesn’t exhibit even the most basic, childlike understanding of meteorology or climatology. But even worse, he not only thinks the entirely insufficient explanation of “god did it” is adequate, he goes much further and locates himself at the center of the story, claiming that god singled him out for preferential treatment at great expense to thousands of other people, and to what end?

Just to give him a message? Really? Either god really sucks at communicating his will, or Rick Perry is a conceited, self-righteous delusional with a laughably primitive (I won’t insult children by calling it childlike) view of the universe.

I’m leaning towards the latter.

Here’s the video:

The University of California Museum of Paleontology‘s DinoBuzz site presents the question: Are Birds Really Dinosaurs? I encourage you to read the entire piece, which goes into much more depth, but here I have excerpted some key points from the answer:

Ask your average paleontologist who is familiar with the phylogeny of vertebrates and they will probably tell you that yes, birds (avians) are dinosaurs. Using proper terminology, birds are avian dinosaurs; other dinosaurs are non-avian dinosaurs, and (strange as it may sound) birds are technically considered reptiles. Overly technical? Just semantics? Perhaps, but still good science. In fact, the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of birds being the descendants of a maniraptoran dinosaur, probably something similar (but not identical) to a small dromaeosaur.

[…]

Today the important issue seems to be specifically which dinosaurs are the closest relatives of birds. The controversy over the dinosaurian status of birds had its heyday in the 1970’s, but the coverage of the issue today by the press might make you think it was still a problematic matter. For those that have actually seen the relevant specimens and considered all of the relevant data (which is a basic procedure for any scientist), it is becoming increasingly difficult to draw the line between “bird” and “non-avian dinosaur”.

[…]

The opponents of the theropod hypothesis refuse to propose an alternative hypothesis that is falsifiable. This is probably because there are no other suitable candidates for avian ancestors. “Thecodonts” are often promoted as such, but this is an obfuscatory, antiquated term for a hodgepodge of poorly understood and paraphyletic, undiagnosible reptiles. The problems cited by such opponents for theropods are often more serious for the “thecodont” pseudo-hypothesis. Finally, such opponents also refuse to use the methods and evidence normally accepted by comparative evolutionary biologists, such as phylogenetic systematics and parsimony. They rely more on an “intuitive approach,” which is not a method at all but just an untestable gestalt impression laden with assumptions about how evolution must work.

[…]

The facts are resoundingly in support of a maniraptoran origin for birds; certainly a theropodan origin at the very least. So when you see a hawk diving to snatch a dove, or an egret darting for fish, or an ostrich dashing across the African savanna, know that you are gaining some insight into what the extinct dinosaurs were like.

The F***ing Moon

My wife is a moon lover. This is for her, as part of kicking off this blog thing. (NSFW)

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Edit: Being a new blogger, I hadn’t thought the language thing all the way through. From now on I’ll apply some self-censorship for post titles, and advise when links or media contain NSFW content.

Hello everyone, denbutsu here wishing you a warm welcome to my new blog.

Why am I doing this? Truthfully, the main reason is that until now I’ve mostly been using twitter for my atheist musings, but I’ve come to find the format constraining. I’m tired of making long chains of tweets (1/7, 2/7, 3/7, etc.) to write about my generally verbose views. I figured a blog would just allow for a more comfortable space to do that, as well as provide a bit more flexibility in terms of sharing video, pictures, and quotes from other articles and blogs.

It’s also my hope that raising my “officially atheist” profile a little will allow me to make some inroads in the international atheist community, and I have some vague ambitions of getting something off the ground here in Japan if there are numbers.

So here we go. Hate to get so incredibly geeky on my first post, but this quote from J.R.R. Tolkein does come to mind:

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,” he used to say.  “You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

Here’s to the great unknown, and keeping our feet as we venture into it. Cheers!

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