Friday, March 30, 2012

... and yet it moves

"Eppur Si Muove" -- "And yet it moves" -- words often attributed to Galileo when he was forced to recant prior to the Inquisition. He may or may not have actually said them, but the point is salient regardless. He was describing the movement of the Earth around the Sun, a configuration that the Church did not want to concede as it would shatter their world view. Whether the Church wanted the Earth to be the center of the universe or not, it doesn't really change the facts. Maybe Galileo wouldn't have been so quick with a comeback if he had been given the "comfy chair" torture:

As is often the case, history repeats itself, and we have reached a point (at least in America) where a segment of the country feels their belief system crumbling and lashes out at those things that call it into question. Whether it is fighting the teaching of evolution in our classrooms(by putting creationism on equal footing, like in Tennessee) or the denial of climate change, some (and you know who you are) are exerting an all-out assault on science and reason.

Evolution and climate change may not be convenient to your idealogy, but it doesn't lessen their validity. As Neil DeGrasse Tyson once said,

"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."

It's not a fair fight. Scientific progress, by its very nature, works on the assumption that all involved parties that are in disagreement are still respectful and are desirous of using reason to resolve that disagreement. Deniers, however, do not. Innuendo, out of context cherry picking of data and ad hominem attacks are all tools that they will use. Scientists will not and cannot use these same tools. It's like carrying a knife to a gun fight, as it were. Climatologist Michael Mann, on a recent NPR Science Friday broadcast (March 2, 2012) explores this issue.

Wunelle shared a great video from this last weekend's Reason Rally. In the video Adam Savage (of MythBusters) gives a short, straightforward account of what reason means in our daily lives. To simply drive a car, fly on a plane, use a computer ... you are relying on hundreds of years of theory, research and experimentation by scientists, mathematicians and engineers. It's not magic. The very people that rail against scientists, that stunt our children by fighting against real science and promoting religion and pseudo-science -- these people have no problem taking advantage of those technologies that are utterly dependent on science.

I propose that all that have a problem with the teaching of science and with the use of reason stop using the fruits of those things. The way I see it, unless you are living in some Quaker or Amana colony driving around in a horse-drawn carriage and spurning the use of technology, you are a fucking hypocrite.

Earlier I said that "some" were against science. That "some" is obviously largely conservatives and most notably the the religious among them. Why this group, that I believe is more vocal than actually large, gets such a prominent place in public discourse - I will never know. But, it is our responsibility as thinking beings to challenge the superstitious and ignorant. As Lawrence Krauss recently said,

" ... Choosing to censor or distort knowledge rather than risk the possibility that such knowledge, or the technologies that result from it, might challenge faith or confront preexisting ideological biases is a something that should better characterize the Taliban or al Qaeda rather than the Republican Party.

As we head into the home stretch of a too-long presidential primary season, it is not too late for the public to turn their back on candidates that turn their back on empirical reality and scientific progress."

When seeing a speech by Rick Santorum, one feels that some elaborate joke is being played on us. This is all just a modern day Monty Python sketch. But it's not and the gravity of the situation takes some of the fun out of it. If we don't fight against this revisited Inquisition, then we will have no one to blame but ourselves for what will become of our society.


CyberKitten said...

Most excellent post!

wunelle said...

Amen, brother! Love the Lawrence Krauss bit, and (through your advocacy) I've come to love Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

This business of folks badmouthing--and intentionally misunderstanding--science while, say, talking on their cell phone, or up until they need to go to the doctor has always rankled the shit out of me. I agree that nothing would bring a little clarity like them denying the fruits of what they're happy to dismiss for political reasons.

dbackdad said...

CK -- Thanks to both of you. I just wish I made the time to blog more often. You are a lot more prolific than me.

Wunelle -- There is an amazing disconnect between their supposed idealogy and their actions. The fact that they are religious is not a coincidence.

wunelle said...

I can't get my teeth out of this idea of people being manipulated for the ends of others. I think this is so much of human, collective behavior, maybe throughout history but certainly in our own time. The global warming denihilists, the anti-evolution crowd, the birthers, the Tea-Baggers; these very often seem to be provincial, uneducated people doing the bidding of larger, shadowy entities--entities who know better than the dreck they foment.

In a strange twist, the manufactured storyline bolsters its arguments by anticipating and accusing the opposition of the sins THEY THEMSELVES are committing: those who oppose us are biased, dishonest, disingenuous, ill-intended. Ergo, the whole circus begins to resemble Joseph Goebbels' output, minus the iron-fisted enforcement (and don't think they don't want that too).

And the effectiveness of this campaign comes back to me again and again when I work around otherwise smart, accomplished people--people living on top of the world's food chain, as I often point out--and hear of their extreme unhappiness and anger, and hear their rationale to be exactly these manufactured talking points. THEY are the beleaguered ones; THEY are the suffering ones. Sure it's absurd, but apparently the tactic works.

CyberKitten said...

dbackdad said: I just wish I made the time to blog more often. You are a lot more prolific than me.

Well, I only post *original* content twice a week - and one of them is a book review... so I don't really post all that often. Most of the stuff on my Blog is things I find during my trawling of the Internet that I think other people might like.

dbackdad said...

The book reviews are not easy and are time consuming. I think I have notes on about 20 recently read books that I want to write a review on. Procrastination ... thy name is dbackdad.

CyberKitten said...

..and I look forward to reading them when you get around to it... [grin] I'm always looking out for yet more books to add to the piles of books cluttering up my house!