Sunday, 22 February 2009

Hypocritical Oath

On Friday night, Channel 7 broadcast a film called Inherit the Wind. Not the 1960 version with Spencer Tracy, but rather the 1999 TV version with Jack Lemmon. Regardless of the version, the film is about the prosecution that took place in 1925 USA against a teacher that dared to teach evolution in his classroom. As a result of this trial evolution was removed from the curriculum for many decades, and as we all know evolution is still very much under prosecution from various guises of creationists.
I have recorded the Channel 7 broadcast but found that I have to seek the film through some other venue because, Channel 7 being Channel 7, the film started more than half an hour past its due time so our recording did not have an ending. Regardless of that intriguing development, what captured my attention the most with regards to Inherent the Wind was its film review, published on Thursday The Age's Green [TV] Guide.
I will quote the exact words of reviewer Scott Murray: "The [Darwinists] believe with absolute certainty in the veracity of the Big Bang Theory and the evolution of of species, even though history has shown scientific theories to have the permanence of sand on a stormy beach."
Rarely am I to encounter such a hypocritical representation of science. The ignorance on display here is so bad it is as if Murray is doing his best to proclaim his idiocy to the wide world; I mean, it's one thing to be ignorant, but it's a completely different thing to boast one's ignorance.
So yes, I do want to say a few things to Murray.

First, it is obvious that Murray does not really know what Darwinism is. Darwinism, or in other words evolution through natural selection, says that if you have yourself a replicator and a mechanism to insert copying errors to the replication process, you will have yourself an evolutionary process. Give that replicator a few billion years and wonderful things could happen, things like you and I.
Nothing, however, directly links evolution through natural selection with the Big Bang Theory. Evolution could have happened whether the world had always been there, whether the world was created some 14 billion years ago through some Big Bang, whether some combination of the two took place (the world had been there for a while, but some 14 billion years ago it went through a massive expansion process), or whether you're conducting an experiment in a Petri dish.
What I'm trying to say is that both Darwinism and the Big Bang Theory are interesting theories, but to link the two up in the context Murray was linking them is completely irrelevant.

Second, as evidence goes, Darwinism has so much evidence in its favor its coming out of its ass. Fossil records, DNA, the convoluted design features we all carry which no intelligent designer would have dared use, and much much more - as scientific theories go, Darwinism is one of the more solid theories. It's actually the Big Bang that stands on much lesser grounds, but it doesn't really matter: both are the best theories at our disposal at the moment if we want to answer some very basic questions about this world of ours, and thus both deserve to be taught.
The minute better theories are found then by all means, teach the new theories; but what would you have till then? Would you prefer raising your hands and giving up, letting ignorance prevail, just because you can never be 100% sure your current theory is 100% correct? The scientific method has self correcting mechanisms to deal with exactly that; but we won't get anywhere with the Murray approach.

Third, regarding the specific claim that all scientific theories have an inherently short lifespan:
Is Murray really suggesting that the Germ Theory has the potential to be incorrect? Is there any chance we will wake up tomorrow to find that it's not bacteria and viruses that render us sick so frequently?
Or is Murray suggesting that the world may not be round and that the earth doesn't orbit the sun? After all, a bare few of us have seen the earth from space with their own eyes to make sure that theory is correct. Therefore, according to Murray, we may find earth being round et all is just a short living theory that will be dispelled in a week or two.
In general, Murray seems to be completely ignorant of what the term "scientific theory" represents. A scientific theory is not something that someone thought of while having a bath and told a friend at the office while having a laugh; it is line of arguments supported by many experimental results and a thick body of peer reviewed papers published in notable publications so that other can counter them, yet no one did so successfully thus far.
The question to be asked is why do people pick on Darwinism in particular and not on other theories, such as Einstein's Theory of Relativity. Relativity actually did prove Newton's theory wrong, but only in the sense that it made Newton a private case for slow speeds compared to light speed. Yet while Relativity explains unimaginable phenomena such as gravity waves, it is widely acknowledged that Relativity is wrong: it is unable to explain what takes place at the quantum level. No one in his right mind, Murray included, would suggest we dump relativity out the window because of that; it still provides the best explanation we can muster for lots of things.
Darwinism is still being fine tuned with arguments as to whether it takes place at the gene level, the individual level, or the species level; yet unlike Relativity, Darwinism is not a theory that is in any doubt. The only reason people attack Darwinism is that some people find its explanation to be unflattering to their sense of self, that's all. The Marray falling for that is just an ignorant Murray.

There is more to Murray's words than pure ignorance. There is a lot of hypocracy there, too.
I would love to see Murray repeat his words against science while he's flying. At flight, some 10 kilometers above the earth in a flimsy metalic shell, the only thing that keeps Murray alive is science and its incredible discoveries.
For Murray's sake, I hope he doesn't discover the theories that keep him alive and drive him safely to his destination to have the permanence of sand on a stormy beach. I am not worried that is the case, though; clearly, Murray is completely ignorant in the ways of science.
The question of why a major newspaper allows itself to display such ignorance on its behalf is a rather worrying one, though.

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