Tuesday, May 07, 2013

An Example of Scientific Illiteracy

But what do you expect from someone who sanctions this? I only have to look at this picture to know that there is something seriously wrong with the fundamentalist's world view! It's like a jig-saw where the wrong pieces have been pushed together with a blend of brute force and ignorance.

In a post entitled The World – out to get your kids*1 and dated May 1st Ken Ham quotes from an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and then goes on to demonstrate his poor grasp of the logic of science:

“Science is firm on its truth. The National Academy of Sciences puts evolution in the category of such scientific facts as the Earth orbiting the sun, living things being made of cells and matter being composed of atoms.”
This is the typical false teaching that is confusing historical science and observational (operational) science. It’s an attempt to intimidate people so that they will believe evolution and millions of years as fact. We can look up into space and observe the earth—and the sun. We can look down microscopes and see cells and study them.  But, we can’t observe molecules turning into life, reptiles evolving into birds, etc.

There is no sign here that Ham understands that cells, the Earth’s orbit, and the Sun are complex logical constructions that we can only sample with data points; we do not directly observe them:
1.      The modern Solar System is a model which successfully embeds observational samples of the heavens made over large of tracts of time.
2.    Colloquially one might say that one can “see cells” when one looks down a microscope but the intricate cell mechanisms are not “seen” as such but are abductive conclusions based on observational samples drawn from many clever experiments.
3.   Our modern “star” concept of the Sun as a gravitationally contained nuclear furnace is certainly not “observable”. In fact some fundamentalists are now challenging this “unobserved” concept just as they are challenging the heliocentric solar system (See footnote *2).

Now, one may or may not accept evolution as a valid theoretical construction but the epistemic method of juxtaposing observational protocols (e.g. fossils, taxa etc.) with a theoretical model is qualitatively the same  here as that used in the study of the cell’s intricate workings. There is no fundamental epistemic demarcation here as Ham falsely teaches.

Many stars are, of course, effectively distant history - unless one uses Jason Lisle’s Anisotropic Synchrony Convention (which has been published on AiG’s web site) which projects  “now” (or t = 0) along the entire trajectory of a signal from space once it has alighted on the Earth’s surface. The conventional nature of this manoeuvre introduces an ambiguity into what can be claimed as the observable “present” and the “unobservable” past!

For the main posts so far on this topic see:

*1 Given this title I can't help but think of conspiracy theory. See:
*2 For fundamentalist challenges on the nature of the Sun and the Solar System see the following links:
This is where serious fundamentalism is leading!


The educational outcome of Ken Ham's concept of science is evidenced in the worksheet below. This worksheet is used in a fundamentalist school to test its pupils:

When this first surfaced on the web recently there were doubts as to whether or not it was a hoax. (Another vindication of "Poe's law" I suppose).  What made it look fake, perhaps, was that it was difficult to believe that all the simplistic stock responses which so epitomise the fundamentalist take on creation could appear in such a conveniently concentrated form complete with the "right" responses from some hoop jumping pupil. However, proof that it was genuine came in a blog post from Ken Ham full of serious faced righteous indication and accompanied by an AiG lead article. Ham and his staff writer vigorously defended the worksheet and slammed into the atheist community, who, it seems were seized by fits of uncontrollable laughter (although tempered by the fact that a child's education was at stake). Admittedly it is difficult to keep a straight face because these Young Earther's have so successfully sent themselves up.  But, needless to say, they're not going to see the joke: One must remember that the fundamentalist mind has so closely identified his or her opinions with the Divine mind that criticism of those opinions becomes criticism of God, which, of course then equates to an evil blaspheming attack. Therefore, in their view strong criticism automatically registers as a product of a deeply depraved mind suffused with malign ulterior motives. In the fundamentalist's black and white world they see you as either for them or against them; either they trust your motives or they don't. As a firm critic of fundamentalism, this is one reason why I try to keep personal contact with fundamentalists down to a minimum consistent with the tasks I need to undertake. In my case the polarisation is too far gone to even attempt to reverse it.

But there is pathos in seeing a child's hand innocently and eagerly following the ludicrous lead (to the letter!) of his/her teacher, in part motived by a strong desire to please, to be right with God and above all to have the approval of his/her religious community. It's intellectual burlesque without, of course, the fundamentalists being able to see the (black) humour in what they are doing. This pathos reminds me of the Egyptiana I mention here: http://noumenacognitaanddreams.blogspot.co.uk/2009/04/last-enemy.html

For the record some links relevant to the above story are: 


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