Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Mocking Don McLeroy: an examination of ignorance


The whole episode was amazing, as usual. But I particularly enjoyed Colbert interviewing of Don McLeroy. He's the former head of the Texas State Board of Education which was responsible for using the government to teach children all sorts of inaccuracies and misrepresentation. It's not particularly surprising that he shows unforgivable ignorance and stupidity. It's kind of scary. A few take aways:

1) Scientific truths aren't unearthed by the hunches of poorly educated dentists. Believe it or not, some people actually make their living by what the layman might refer to as "doing science". It consists of a lot more than getting a puzzled look and concluding magic is a better explanation.

2) Scientific truths aren't voted on. We're free people who are free to believe anything we like. Perhaps someone thinks that flipping a light switch is casting a magical spell which happens to turn lights on. That's fine, but don't teach children that. You're intellectually crippling them when you act as if truth is dependent on a vote.

3) Evolution is not "random". The barest and most simple Internet search dispels this myth. If someone claims the right to teach children that evolution (AKA "So enormous, ramifying, and consistent has the evidence for evolution become that if anyone could now disprove it, I should have my conception of the orderliness of the universe so shaken as to lead me to doubt even my own existence. If you like, then, I will grant you that in an absolute sense evolution is not a fact, or rather, that it is no more a fact than that you are hearing or reading these words") is false... It's extremely disappointing to see them so completely and unforgivably ignorant.

4) A university is not a left-wing seminary. I suppose if one considered reality to be left-wing then it might be, but I doubt if Dr. McLeroy would accept that definition. It's entirely disingenuous, misleading, and false to claim that because educated people largely hold different opinions than uneducated people that both beliefs require an equivalency and both were brought about by indoctrination. Learning how the world works isn't something that should be feared.

5) The so-called experts are so called because they are experts. I'm not sure how pointing out how widespread acceptance evolution is - how all real scientists accept it as fact - is evidence that it's untrue. But I suppose I'm using so-called reasoning to reach that conclusion.

6) "Somebodies got to stand up to experts". Well, yeah. Like other scientists. That's how a self-correcting processing works. We don't gain better understandings of the world by asking the uninformed and purposely dense for their input under the guise that's "standing up to experts". And we certainly don't then claim "well, some people say this, some people say that, who can know?"

There's a reason I don't march into the astronomy lab of my university and announce that I'm standing up to them by teaching their children that the theory of heliocentrism is false. There's nothing particularly admirable about being ignorant and attempting to ensure the schools keep children ignorant.

7) "Evolutionists". Again, he's trying to create a false equivalence of evolution and creationism. Hey, both are called theories and grammar allows us to identify those who advocate them by adding "ists", so who can know which is more likely to be real? Evolution is a fact and a theory (there's literally an entire Wikipedia article on it). Calling someone an evolutionist is akin to calling someone a gravityist or a bacteriaist or a germist. It's misleading and dishonest.

8) Homo sapiens didn't walk with dinosaurs. One doesn't get to call it a "personal scientific view", any more than I have a "personal scientific view" that France is fictional place or a "personal scientific view" that instead of the Sun it's actually an illusion brought about by vampires on the Andromeda Galaxy. We don't get respect for "personal scientific views" that are incorrect by placing the word person (i.e., a preface announcing that courtesy demands respect of whatever idea follows) at the beginning of the sentence.

9) "Jonathan Edwards said that nothing is what a sleeping rock dreams of". The quote is originally attributed to Aristotle, and the quote is "nothing is what rocks dream about". It muddles the metaphor to refer to the rock as sleeping, since that's the entire point: rocks don't sleep neither do they dream.

Of course, I'm trusting the so-called experts to have translated that correctly, so Aristotle may have really said "about rocks? Nothing dreams of that!". The point is, we can't trust the experts except when we can. What can we trust? That ignorant hunches are a better source of scientific truth than so-called science conducted over hundreds of years by so-called scientists who have made so-called paradigm theories for their so-called scientific fields, like the so-called biology.

That's all I am: just a fellow traveler looking to reconfirm what I was taught as a child. Reality sometimes gets in the way - :( - that's why I'm a skeptic!

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