Archives for May 2016

Bill Nye, the sciency guy

wIGnl73lBefore I get started with this post, let me first say that I was a big fan of “Bill Nye, the Science Guy” when my kids were young — anything remotely educational was better than “Pokemon” or “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” — cartoons that weren’t mercifully killing brain cells, they were torturing them to death.

It’s virtually impossible to dislike the public persona. As an added benefit was the catchy jingle for the show intro: “Bill Nye the science guy — Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill!” turned out to be infinitely more pleasant to have permanently etched into your brain than “…heroes on a half shell – Turtle power!”

However, even back then I realized that Bill Nye was not actually a science guy, but a television personality playing the role of a science educator of young children. Bill Nye had been an engineer before he entered the world of entertainment as a stand-up comic.

“Bill Nye the Science Guy” was literally born on a comedy ensemble show — it was a character he created that turned out to be a long running joke that people now take very seriously. At a website called Big Think where Nye answers questions from viewers, he is listed in their roster of “experts” as Television Host and Science Educator — and that catchy, rhyming title of “Bill Nye the Science Guy” appears to give him instant credibility.

Basically, Bill Nye merely regurgitates what he’s learned from reading popular science books and tries to sound really smart while occasionally reminding his followers that he once was a student of Carl Sagan, presumably to borrow from Sagan’s credibility as an expert.

People tend to forget that Nye is just an entertainer, not a trained, professional scientist. His pale blue lab coat and trademark bow tie might create the illusion of credibility for Bill Nye, but the answers he gives to questions from his viewers makes one wonder about the legitimacy of his claim to be a big thinker — and certainly not an original thinker.

For example, in this video titled Creationism is not appropriate for children, Nye doesn’t say anything you wouldn’t normally expect to hear from Jerry Coyne or Richard Dawkins. He contradicts himself immediately by first correctly acknowledging the fact that the United States has been and remains the most technologically advanced nation in the world, but then with his very next breath, bizarrely claiming that because some percentage of our nation’s population believes in supernatural creation, the progress of future generations in America will be “held back.”

Nye presumably says this because he thinks people who don’t believe in the theory of evolution as a satisfactory explanation for the origin of new species are extremely stupid. The man claims to be literally in love with Darwin’s theory of natural selection.

Mr. Nye claims that “evolution is the fundamental idea in all of life science, all of biology” and says “you’re just not going to get the right answer” about topics ranging from geology to chemistry and physics if you don’t believe in evolution, without question.

Throughout this particular video it becomes painfully clear that Mr. Nye mistakenly believes the theory of evolution somehow competes with the idea of supernatural creation to explain our existence, when in reality, that’s sort of like comparing a four-course meal to a ham sandwich. Evolution is a theory about the change of existing things. Creation is a theory concerned with the origin, or the beginnings of existence of everything.

Creation begins with the Big Bang and ends with life. Though it may seem counterintuitive, it is possible to believe in creation and evolution. Personally I do not, but Conor Cunningham, Ken Miller, and Francis Collins are scientists and and academics who advocate theistic evolution, apparently believing that “monkeys make men,” as Darwin himself famously quipped in his notes. It’s difficult to ascertain the correct solution to a problem when the problem hasn’t been properly identified.

Life cannot evolve until it exists. The creation of something from nothing, either by the deliberate act of a supernatural creator, or some unbelievably good luck must have occurred before evolution ever became possible. The problem of supernatural creation is far more complicated than descent with modifications, even if it leads to the origin of a species.

Clearly, Nye is looking to solve for “X”, without asking himself “Y.”

Bill Nye the sciency guy also said this about evolution, in a video critical of creationism:

Once in a while I get people who say, or that claim they don’t believe in the theory of evolution. And my response is generally, “Why not? Really, why not?”

Now if Mr. Nye was sincere about wanting to understand my Big Picture worldview and why I have my doubts about the theory of evolution as a sufficient explanation for the origin of new species,  I’d be happy to give him an electronic copy of my book Counterargument for God gratis, my usual offer to the atheists whom I encounter.southernprose_cover_CAFG

In return I only ask that he answers my existential questions, if he can, without invoking supernatural creation.  Nye seems to believe that I cannot reconcile dinosaur bones, radioactivity, or deep time into my creationist worldview because it “denies” evolution. Furthermore, he seems to believe that I’ve never spent any time thinking about these things prior to watching his video.

Apparently to ask questions about the validity of conclusions about a scientific theory  is tantamount to an irrational rejection of it, in the mind of our favorite “science” guy.

When another young viewer asked Bill how to “reeducate” himself after being indoctrinated into religious beliefs as a child, Nye launches into a rambling, incoherent reply that eventually throws out an attempt at an answer that caught my attention — when it comes to claims about religion, Nye wants his followers to learn how to apply critical thinking to a plethora of topics ranging from crop circles to astrology…in other words, we should be skeptical of everything except claims made about religion by some odd but interesting guy wearing a bow tie and a lab coat.

Here’s the message of Bill Nye, the sciency guy, in a nutshell: don’t question evolution. Don’t question climate change. Question everything else.

I have a much better idea — question everything. Period.

Critical thinking versus indoctrination

My_Headshot

NOT Richard F. Miniature

I feel compelled to say something about an article published by American Thinker yesterday — an article strangely critical of critical thinking, titled “The Great Critical Thinking Dodge.

The article describes critical thinking as the means by which liberals “shut out and shout down” the scientific method but in my opinion, nothing could be further from the truth.

Liberal academics absolutely love the scientific method, and actually use it as a weapon to discourage critical thinking skills.  Liberal teachers don’t want to teach their students to think for themselves — they want students to simply believe what they have been taught.

In July of 1925 the Scopes Monkey Trial was held because critical thinking in schools was literally illegal — students could only be taught creationism in science class, not Darwin’s theory of evolution via natural selection.

From September to November of 2005, the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial was held because critical thinking is still illegal — students can only be taught the theory of evolution in science (not philosophy) class, and teaching intelligent design is illegal.

Apparently the goal of education isn’t really to teach young people how to think, but what to believe. Indoctrination is not optional.

Most people believe that Darwin’s theory of evolution is true, well supported by copious amounts of scientific evidence. Biologist Jerry Coyne even wrote a book titled Why Evolution is True. An overwhelming consensus of biologists agree that the evidence is overwhelming.

“Critical thinking” about the theory of evolution isn’t really allowed anymore — we must accept total indoctrination into that system of beliefs, or face severe scorn and ridicule. We aren’t supposed to question the conclusions of the intelligentsia, if we know what’s good for us.

Unfortunately, apparently I don’t know what’s good for me.southernprose_cover_CAFG

When Dr. Ken Miller described human chromosome #2 as a “fusion” of two primate chromosomes and smoking-gun evidence for ape-to-human evolution, I wrote an open letter to the well known and respected biologist specifically to question his use of that particular word, which typically describes a process that happens instantaneously — was he suggesting that the first humans were born of apes? Dr. Miller specifically told his audience that if this evidence of fusion did not exist, then the theory of evolution would be in serious trouble.

Dr. Miller was kind enough to reply to my question, but his answer still left me confused — if the fusion of two ancient primate chromosomes was not a driving force in the development of our species, homo sapiens, how can it be called evidence of ape-to-human evolution?

Perhaps some day in the future I’ll summon the courage to bother him a second time with another query, but if I do I’ll be sure to be very specific with my questions. Dr. Miller certainly knows more about biology than I do, to be sure.

But I was hoping to inspire him to think critically about what he’s saying, and to ponder the process of evolving into a new species.

What are the driving forces of natural selection that led to the origin of a species? According to Jerry Coyne they are sexual reproduction, isolation of a small breeding population, and time.

However, that seems lacking. Something besides sex, isolation, and time must be missing from our list of driving forces that explain what caused the differences between a chimpanzee and a human being, because the differences are significant.

According to the American Thinker article, critical thinking today means that when a pot of water is placed over a flame, the critical thinker can then think about whether or not we want the temperature of the water to increase, which is completely absurd.

So I Googled “critical thinking” found this rather useful definition:

Critical thinking is the process of analyzing and evaluating information, applying logic and reason to the information we currently have at our disposal, in order to reach a conclusion.

And just about everybody has a worldview they believe is correct — otherwise, it wouldn’t be much of a worldview, would it?

If one comes to believe his or her worldview is incorrect, they should change it, shouldn’t they?

More importantly, critical thinking is how we learn to best interpret evidence obtained via the scientific method.

To illustrate how critical thinking has a detrimental effect on society, the American Thinker article referred to Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty and claimed that critical thinking was the reason those failed policies remain in effect.

However, in my opinion, it has been the absence of critical thinking that allows liberals to continue the War on Poverty. As a general rule, society cannot afford to pay able-bodied men and women not to work, which is what entitlement programs do. Yet we continue to waste money on programs that prolong misery rather than actually helping people.

Too many modern liberals are not only incapable of critical thinking, they are violently opposed to the idea, and viciously attack those who do apply logic and reason to their personal worldview.

Take, for example, the climate change/global warming debate. The typical liberal position is this: the subject is closed, no longer open to debate. An overwhelming consensus of climate scientists (97 percent is the most popular number cited) have agreed that something must be done to stop anthropogenic (man-made) global warming.

What exactly must be done? Raise taxes, of course. How does that solve the problem of climate change, if we assume it exists? Taxes don’t. Raising the price of coal and petroleum won’t reduce need, it will only affect the affordability of energy.

Question: from where does this 97 percent of climate scientists figure come, exactly? Is this number an actual statistical value, or a SWAG? (acronym for Sweeping Wild-Assed Guess) As far as I know, Jon Oliver or Bill Nye could have made it up. Or it could just be the product of a silly television stunt.

Second question: what has consensus got to do with the scientific method? If consensus is so great and wonderful, then why do liberals tend to get upset when I bring up Galileo and Boris Belousov after they start throwing around buzz words and phrases like “consensus” and “peer review?”

If liberals actually wanted more people to learn how to think for themselves, they would not be advocating that people should be fired from their jobs or even imprisoned for daring to question their “consensus” opinions — the most insidious form of censorship there is.

Here’s another example to illustrate why consensus is useless when it comes to science: of every 100 people, 97 of them or more would agree that injecting a form of HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) into a girl dying from leukemia would be a terrible idea.

And they would be wrong. Terribly wrong, in fact.

Consensus is nothing more than an agreement of opinion, not the establishment of some scientific truth. Critical thinkers do not put a pot of water on the stove and then decide whether or not they want hot water. Even consensus seekers would agree that the only reasonable and logical reason to put a pot of water on a stove would be that you wanted hot water.

But the critical thinker asks questions and observes results. If the water doesn’t get hot in a sufficient amount of time, the critical thinker uses logic and reason and asks why is the water still coldperhaps then discovering that the burner was turned back off or the flame blew out.

We should encourage,and never discourage critical thinking.

Advancements in science will never be made and new knowledge will never be gained if we’re afraid to challenge conventional wisdom, which we should never blindly trust.

 

When Game of Thrones jumped the shark

HODORSPOILER ALERT: if you haven’t yet watched Game of Thrones Season 6, Episode 5, titled “The Door,” and you don’t want to know any plot spoilers (yet), don’t read any further.

In the opinion of a majority of the show’s audience, Happy Days became unwatchable when Fonzie jumped over a shark on water skis, taking the tough-guy persona from being somewhat difficult-to-believe well into the theater of the absurd. The idiom “jumping the shark” became famous soon thereafter, and was used to describe the point in any television series when far-fetched plot twists began being included merely for the sake of novelty, which tended to mark the beginning of a sharp decline in the show’s quality of writing.

To be brutally honest, I’m afraid that Game of Thrones jumped the shark in last night’s episode.

For whatever reason, I was reminded of that approximate point when Twin Peaks stopped being interesting, and started getting stupid.

Now I suppose I’ll eventually watch “Blood of my Blood” (the next installment in Game of Thrones) out of morbid curiosity, and the hope Ramsey Bolton might be killed off, but the plot twists in last night’s episode pretty much ruined the plot line for the entire series, in my opinion. I don’t know how the writers can fix it.

In essence, Bran Stark learned that the Children had created the either the first White Walker or the Night’s King by shoving what looked like a wooden blade deep into a captive human’s chest. But then asked to explain why they had created the first White Walker, the spokesperson for the Children claimed that their reason was to stop human beings from destroying the environment, or some such nonsense. For the sake of argument, for the moment let’s say that’s a plausible plot development.

So why then were the Children helping Bran Stark, and protecting the three-eyed Raven? Is it because the Night’s King had turned on the Children? Are the Children really the bad guys?

Last night we learned that the Children created the White Walkers to fight humans, but now they’re helping humans fight the White Walkers. Why?

It just doesn’t make any sense.Summer2

Then there was the absolutely ridiculous and wasteful death of Summer the direwolf, possibly to save the CGI budget for dragons, which really ticks me off.

Summer basically committed wolf-suicide by charging a horde of zombies for no apparent reason, when he should have remained at Bran’s side to protect him. His death made no sense as far as the plot was concerned, and must have been for budgetary reasons.

It seems like they always pick on the dog, or wolf as the case may be. This was the second direwolf killed this season. At least Shaggy Dog was killed off to illustrate the depths of the Umber betrayal. Summer died for no good reason at all.

The scriptwriters also killed off Willas (a.k.a. Hodor.) At least the mystery of his name was finally resolved, revealed to be a mangled abbreviation of “hold the door”, his heroic final act of self-sacrifice.

Here’s the biggest problem with last night’s turn of events — Hodor was in the process of being killed by the army of the dead as Meera and Bran were escaping. Bran is a paraplegic, and can’t walk or run. So how far do you think Meera will get dragging Bran behind her without any help, with about a gazillion zombies hot on their trail?

Especially if the amazingly strong Hodor is now one of the zombies trying to kill them? Or even worse than that, a zombie Summer?

So in the next episode of Game of Thrones, we can probably look forward to be another unbelievable plot twist (a “good guy” White Walker helps Bran and Meera, like Cold Hands from the books), or one of the primary characters of interest will be killed off without ever really having a point to his entire storyline.And if Bran Stark gets killed off next week, several year’s worth of storylines would all have served no purpose, except for misdirection.

That would be most annoying. Maybe even as bad as killing a direwolf.

Speciesism and Animal Liberation

Ingrid Newark of PETA

Ingrid Newark of PETA

Speciesism is a term used by so-called animal rights activists to belittle the belief a hierarchy exists within the animal kingdom, and that human beings are a superior form of life lording over the food chain.

The extremists have decreed speciesism to be just as bad as racism or sexism. By their definition, I am a speciesist.

To the average animal rights activist, a human being is just another animal — nothing special.

As People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) founder Ingrid Newkirk famously said, “When it comes to having a central nervous system and the ability to feel pain, hunger and thirst, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.”

Therein lies my problem with PETA — members of that organization obviously fail to recognize that the lives of some creatures are clearly more valuable than others.

And on that critical point, I strongly beg to differ. Of course, Newkirk is right about one thing — animals can feel pain. So what?

Animals can get hungry, and thirsty, just like a human being. Yet when a human suffers a mortal or life-threatening wound, they often go into shock, which ultimately causes them to experience less pain. By the same token, why can’t we assume the same thing happens with other animals, that they might also go into shock when death becomes imminent?

The animal liberation movement began with noble intentions — opposing the barbaric practice of using of kittens and puppies for laboratory testing or medical experiments.

But a rat is vermin. A pig might be served for dinner. And a dog is man’s best friend, as this story suggests: a heroic German Shepherd dog was bitten three times while saving the life of a seven-year-old little girl from a rattlesnake, instinctively jumping between the snake and the child to protect his human companion from harm.

A “pet” snake would surely not do likewise. Reptiles are not known for displays of altruistic behavior. Yet applying the rationale of PETA’s Newkirk to this story, the life of the rattlesnake is no less valuable than the life of the dog, or even the life of the little girl.

According to Newkirk (and PETA) the snake has an equal “right” to life. Here’s my take on the situation– the snake has every right to live until it poses a direct threat either to me or my family.

Human lives matter more.

A copperhead or rattlesnake deep in the woods won’t bother me, so I won’t bother it. But a dangerous snake slithering around in my own backyard is a completely different story, and it will soon be a dead snake. Should the snake bite my German Shepherd, I would even take great satisfaction from killing it, and I would surely use excessive force to be certain the snake was dead.

This is just common sense.

The word ethics simply means defining, and then defending a concept of right versus wrong behavior. In philosophy, the study of ethics leads to a determination of morality, of right versus wrong and good versus evil. ethics

According to these animal rights extremists, people should not kill and eat other animals, or see them as any less important than a human being. It is even considered immoral to eat steak, or a chicken leg.

The term speciesism was coined by British psychologist Richard Ryder in 1970. To explain the application of the word he wrote,

“Since Darwin, scientists have agreed that there is no ‘magical’ essential difference between humans and other animals, biologically-speaking. Why then do we make an almost total distinction morally? If all organisms are on one physical continuum, then we should also be on the same moral continuum.”

In essence, Darwinism takes the Creator away from His creation. Naturally, the fatal flaw in the logic of this line of reasoning is that life cannot evolve until it exists. Before evolution could ever become possible, creation has already occurred.

Peter Singer

Peter Singer

Philosopher and Ethics Professor Peter Singer wrote the seminal book for the “animal rights” movement published in 1975, titled Animal Liberation. In his book, Singer popularized the term “speciesism” as a subtle form of criticism of the traditional Judeo-Christian worldview that granted human beings dominion over the animal kingdom.

The term implies a prejudice against animals exists within humans that’s not really any different from prejudices such as racism or sexism — essentially, it is an atheistic argument that challenges and even directly contradicts the theology of the Bible and traditional Christianity, which asserts that God created both animals and man.

Singer argues that human beings have no business raising animals for food or using them to otherwise improve the human condition, under the pretext that animals should have rights equal to a human.

It is perfectly okay with me, if some activist nutcase wants to label me a speciesist. Guilty as charged.

I even have a confession to make: animal flesh is delicious. Human beings were designed to be omnivores. We need meat in our diets as a primary source of protein. Contrary to popular belief, vegetarians are not necessarily healthier than meat eaters.  There’s nothing wrong with eating a (cooked) dead animal.

Humans are supposed to be good stewards of the earth and to manage our natural resources. We’ve also come to realize that carnivores are actually very good for the environment because they control the population of grazing animals, learned from observations of the reintroduced wolves in Yellowstone National Park.

southernprose_cover_AANOAnyone who questions my credentials as an animal lover should read the book shown on the right, because I wrote it.

Always a Next One is a collection of short stories about animal rescue, and probably the best evidence that I could offer as proof of my love and devotion to our four-legged companions.

If you haven’t read  my book, please buy a copy from Amazon. You can find it online either by clicking here, or on the book cover itself.

Then after you’ve had a chance to read it, please consider leaving a short review online, that might help other readers discover a new book they might like. Your opinion matters more than mine, when judging the quality of my work. Okay, that’s more than enough shameless self-promotion. Let’s get back on point, shall we?

Under no circumstances should one of these ridiculous animal liberation activists attempt a stunt like this with me, to antagonize or berate me because I like to eat both eggs and chickens. Such a confrontation definitely would not end well for the drama queen…

I would begin by politely noting that in Genesis 1:28, it says that the Creator of all living things gave Adam and Eve authority over every other creature:

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.

Furthermore, it’s rather clear that if we believe that God exists, we should consider human life as special, and that it’s perfectly okay to be a speciesist. And if there’s any doubt about whether or not we should use animals for food, the answer can be found in the book of Acts, Chapter 10:

He (Peter) saw heaven open and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12It contained all kinds of four-footed animals and reptiles of the earth, as well as birds of the air. Then a voice spoke to him: “Get up, Peter. Kill, and eat!”

Naturally my atheist friends (many of whom are animal liberation advocates) would have a conniption fit and say something like, “But that’s in the Bible, which is a work of fiction” or something similar, because atheists often mistakenly believe that science has somehow proved that the Bible is a myth.

Clearly, the alternative to being a speciesist is lunacy, if the criteria of PETA is applied to every living organism. The “animal rights” people aren’t going nearly far enough, if that’s the path they choose. If this nonsense were true, humans ought to be reduced to trying to survive only on dirt and sunlight, like any other plant would.

What about plant liberation? Why should we discriminate against plants, showing favoritism to animals?

Plants are living organisms, too. And if atheism is true and Darwinism is true, then abiogenesis must have occurred without divine intervention. That would mean life was created from inanimate matter by chemical reactions.

According to the calculations of Nobel Prize-winning chemists, at the most abiogenesis could have only happened once without some sort of divine intervention, due of the sheer improbability of such a remarkable phenomenon.

Every living organism on earth would be here only as a result of and related according to sexual reproduction, given sufficient isolation of a small breeding population for an organism, as well as copious amounts of time. If abiogenesis occurred without creation, it would mean that even by eating a vegetarian or vegan diet, we would allegedly be consuming our distant cousins. How can eating a green and leafy cousin be that any more moral than eating a furry or feathered cousin instead?

Don’t be ridiculous, the animal liberation advocate will instinctively say…plants don’t feel pain. Plants don’t have a central nervous system.

Okay, fair enough — but how can we be sure? How do we know this?

It’s important to note that scientists have known for a while and it has been proved that plants have learned how to produce extra tannins as a defense mechanism against overgrazing by animals that could potentially kill the plant. As a result, we can believe that at least some plants have a natural instinct for self-preservation and their own survival.

In other words, plants exist in this world which are smarter than some people I know.