Tuesday, April 29, 2008

And One More

Nota Bene: What the youtuber suspects is quote mining is in fact quote mining. Dawkins was asked what he thought the most plausible version of ID would be... he was asked to use his imagination, and he did, positing that aliens designed us. Stein then misrepresents the quote to fit his own purpose. Intellectual honesty, anyone? Oh wait, the makers of Expelled aren't the least bit concerned with that.


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A Few Youtubers React to Expelled

Below the fold are a few youtube videos that I've come across that address the movie Expelled. I haven't yet seen the film, although there is a plan to see it later in the week. I'll be sure to write my own review after I've seen it. At any rate, though, the videos below argue (and, in my opinion, argue well, given the available evidence) that Stein and his movie demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of evolutionary theory, and are more than willing to lie in order to advance their agenda. Of special note is the last video in the series which details what actually happened to those who claim to have been "expelled" for their views on ID. Happy Watching!


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Anti-Choice Logic 101 – Margaret Sanger believed in Eugenics

You hear this from anti-choicers all the time. Margaret Sanger, one of the founders of Planned Parenthood, was a bigot who believed in eugenics. She thought that birth control should be used to wipe out “lesser” populations.

Well, it’s true that Margaret Sanger held these terrible beliefs. But it’s important to think about what the anti-choicers are trying to prove when they point this out. While many don’t state them outright (it’s easier to hide the flaws in your logic when you leave your conclusion unstated), there are 2 conclusions that they are usually trying to get people to draw. The first is that Planned Parenthood is an inherently racist organization that is trying to wipe out the African American population. The second is that the pro-choice ideals that Sanger held – the belief in the right of women to access contraception and abortion – must be wrong.

Let’s take the second of these conclusions first. According to this anti-choice argument, because Sanger was wrong about eugenics (and I mean really wrong), the rest of her beliefs must be wrong as well. Particularly her beliefs about birth control and abortion. Once the argument is clearly laid out, it should be immediately apparent how fallacious it is. Buddha was a sexist, therefore everything Buddha says must be wrong. But that’s just silly. People have both good and bad beliefs, but the presence of bad beliefs does not somehow magically poison all the other beliefs. Ghandi was a racist. Does that mean that everything he had to say about peace and harmony and passive resistance was wrong? Of course not. Buddha was a sexist. Does that mean that everything he had to say about spirituality was wrong? No. The founding fathers were slaveholders who thought they slavery was the way things were supposed to be. Does that mean that their beliefs in the democratic process and the value of liberty were wrong? Not at all. Their beliefs about slavery may have impacted the way they viewed democracy and liberty, just as Sanger’s belief in eugenics may have impacted the way she thought birth control should be used. But that doesn’t make the belief in the rights of women to have access to contraceptives and abortions wrong any more than the founding fathers’ misguided sense of how to dole out liberty makes their belief in the principles of liberty and democracy wrong. This argument is just a blatant non-sequitur.

Now, the first conclusion. The argument here is as follows: Margaret Sanger believed in eugenics and she was a founder of PP. Therefore, PP is a racist organization that is trying to wipe out the African American population. Now, as should be clear, this is the same sort of non-sequitur in the argument above. Just because the founder of an organization had a certain belief does not mean that the organization itself subscribes to it. The fact that the founder of PP believed in eugenics does not mean that PP believes in eugenics. To show that you will have to provide independent evidence.

And the anti-choice movement has attempted to do this. They point, for example, to statistics that show that African Americans have higher abortion rates. What they fail to mention, however, is that African Americans also have higher poverty rates, meaning that it is less likely that an African American woman who finds herself with an unwanted pregnancy will have the resources to raise that child. They also fail to note that higher poverty rates usually means less access to contraception, making it more likely that a woman will find herself with an unwanted pregnancy.
So the fact that African American women have higher abortion rates doesn’t mean that this is the result of some evil eugenics plan of PP. Just another example of the “logic” of the anti-choice movement.


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Friday, April 18, 2008

Expelled and Right-Wing Tactics

I just finished reading David Brock's The Republican Noise Machine and it got me thinking. In the book, Brock makes the claim, also put forward in the documentary Outfoxed, that the notion of "liberal bias" in the media is something that has in large part been put into the American consciousness by the right wing, and something that has been continually pushed even as the radical right has taken over the media in a number of ways. I'll refer to this political tactic - that of labeling something as biased when it's not - as the "bias tactic".

One of the immediate consequences of the populace's acceptance of the notion of "liberal bias" in the media - that is, of the success of the bias tactic with respect to media - is that it gives those with radical right wing beliefs an automatic trump card in debate. After all, any facts that you try to bring to light in debate that rely on the reports of the media are automatically under suspicion, since the media supposedly has a liberal bias. And any right wing debater can play this card whenever such reported facts threaten his position - "Well, sure the news supports what you're claiming" he can say, "the media is biased. We're not hearing both sides of the story". This, of course, can be an immediate debate stopper. If one has been sucked in by the idea that the media has a liberal bias, then, if one did not collect the facts oneself, it is impossible to properly justify the facts that you've presented on the basis of media reports. Not only that, but the success of the bias tactic also makes it possible for the right wing media sources like Fox to use anti-bias sounding slogans like "fair and balanced" to draw viewers to news that actually is biased.

It seems to me that Ben Stein's new bit of propaganda - Expelled - is a broadening of the application of the bias tactic. Charges of bias used to be thrown just at the people who report the facts. But now it's the people who collect the facts. This time they're after science.

Think about it for a moment. The whole premise of Expelled is that the scientific establishment is biased, that it kicks out people who do not agree with the established consensus. Now this is patently false, just as it was in the case of the media. There are many scientists who question the current paradigm and don't get kicked out. After all, if you have the evidence to back up your claim that the current paradigm is wrong, you're instantly famous! Here comes the Nobel Prize! But that won't stop the people behind Expelled any more than it stopped those who propagated the "liberal media" myth.

If application of bias tactic to science were to be successful the rewards for the right would be overwhelming - much better than the rewards reaped from duping viewers of Fox news. Just as Fox news managed to situate itself as an actual news organization rather than the propaganda machine that it is due to the success of the bias tactic with respect to the media, organizations doing pseudo-science that supported conservative ideas, even when they contradicted real science, would gain a much greater status. Global warming denialism, young earth creationism, and spurious claims about the ills of vaccines or the effects of abortion like the lie that abortion causes breast cancer would all instantly gain credit. After all, if the scientific establishment is biased, then we can't trust what they say, so we have to listen to both sides. "Fair and balanced" and "teach the controversy" are products of the same idea - the idea that the best way to get around facts that you don't like is to create your own "facts".

Now, I may be being a bit of a conspiracy theorist here. And either way it doesn't look like they're going to get away with it this time. But just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you, and just because they fail once doesn't mean they won't try it again.


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The Movie Ben Stein Should Have Made

It's not just science that won't let this sort of talk in. I know from experience that it's completely unacceptable in philosophical circles as well. This is a serious infringement on the free speech of scientists and philosophers who see the evidence for this alternative theory!


via Pharyngula via Dawkins


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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Meet the Missing Links

Creationists often complain about the lack of transitional fossils. They claim that evolution has been disproven because we haven't found the fossils that would verify the theory. Blah, blah, blah. Well, since I'm so sick of hearing it... and since Ben Stein's IDiotic movie will be coming out soon, I thought I would compile some of my favorite youtube videos laying out the fossil record. Some are more science intensive than others, and there is some overlap between them. And, of course, there is no way the whole fossil record could be documented by a couple of youtube videos (as a matter of fact, I'm missing early mammal to our primate ancestors in this video compilation). But have fun... you're guaranteed to learn something watching these!

We have the fossils. We win!


In the beginning....

(The link to this video)

And then the earth was peopled with fish and reptiles and mammals and the great whale...


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But where did we come from? Glad you asked....


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Many thanks to somecomputergeek, KennyTew2 and DonExodus2 for these awesome videos!


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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Thank You Keith Olbermann!

I should have known that good ol' Keith would call it like it is:


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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Maybe Not All of Us Have Evolved


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Monique Davis and Bush Sr agree!

The recent controvery with Rep. Monique Davis made me think of comments once made by George Bush Sr.: " I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God."

How much different does she sound from him? Ms. Davis! You're talking like a Republican!


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Apparently, Atheists Don't Have Rights

Apparently, atheists don't have the right to try and protect the 1st Amendment of the Constitution. And people wonder why we're becoming so vocal? Because even Democrats are unwilling to stand up for us. The man you hear in the video is activist Rob Sherman, an atheist who was testifying about what looks to me to be a violation of the Establishment Clause. The woman you hear is Rep. Monique Davis (D-Chicago). PZ has more on the details of the situation over at Pharyngula. I have to say, I find it laughable that Rep. Davis insists that Sherman is trying to destroy the principles that this country is based on. I wonder, does she think free thought, free speech, separation of church and state, and public involvement in government (you know, self-rule - of the people, by the people and for the people) aren't among the principles this nation was founded on? The representative needs to take a high school government class. She also needs to learn the definition of atheism before she opens her mouth about how much she hates it. How many misconceptions about atheism (and reality) can you hear in what she says?


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Thursday, April 3, 2008

IDiots can be funny! No, really!

So, this is definitely a bit of ID/Creationist material, and if you listen closely you can hear the bad arguments of the creationists and theists slipped coyly in. But it's still absolutely hilarious. Anything that has Dennett in a big pimp hat with a cane can't help but be funny.




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Update 4/8/08: After significant discussion with other atheists who have seen the video, I have come to the conclusion that this is in fact not creationist propaganda, but rather satire. (Would a real creationist put a squid on PZ's hat? Highly improbable.)This is just an instantiation of Poe's Law - creationist beliefs are indistinguishable from parody of those beliefs.


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