Anti-Darwin

I have an extensive science background. New Mexico Tech’s psychology department has several requirements for a degree that ground students int he hard sciences. We had to take several biology courses (general, cell bio, zoology, physiology) some killer chemistry and physics. The math nearly killed me. Calculus and statistics killed my brain. Years back students had to take REAL stats, instead of just using formulas they had to derive the formulas, then use them. Stats humble you, when you realize what goes into saying “a 20% chance of this” or “30% likelihood of that”.

The physiology course was set up as pre-med. The instructor was the department head of the school’s pre-med program. Sympathy? Us non-med wannabe’s got none. The labs had us doing dissections on live rats, turtles and frogs, Rat surgery and chemically testing our own urine. Yes we analyzed our own urine after drinking 5, 10, 15 and 20 percent salt solutions. I got the 15. It was no fun, but I learning how good the human kidneys are at filtering the blood. 🙂 We had many dropouts due to objections over dissection or GPA.

The point was not to drive students crazy, but to make sure that future doctors, psychologists and medical professionals would be held to the highest standards. My ad visor did pioneering work on vision during the 1950’s. His labs did not use high tech equipment, but the optical illusion lab was so cool that people would come in from other classes to see the illusions.

I have noticed an anti-science trend in the media and public discourse. Given my background that is heartbreaking. Evolution is attacked over and over again. As if teaching Central Dogma of Biology
would cause world decay. In the New York Times, Olivia Judson writes:

To return to my argument: I’d like to abolish the insidious terms Darwinism, Darwinist and Darwinian. They suggest a false narrowness to the field of modern evolutionary biology, as though it was the brainchild of a single person 150 years ago, rather than a vast, complex and evolving subject to which many other great figures have contributed. (The science would be in a sorry state if one man 150 years ago had, in fact, discovered everything there was to say.) Obsessively focusing on Darwin, perpetually asking whether he was right about this or that, implies that the discovery of something he didn’t think of or know about somehow undermines or threatens the whole enterprise of evolutionary biology today.

It does not. In the years ahead, I predict we will continue to refine our understanding of natural selection, and continue to discover new ways in which it can shape genes and genomes. Indeed, as genetic data continues to flood into the databanks, we will be able to ask questions about the detailed workings of evolution that it has not been possible to ask before.

Yet all too often, evolution — insofar as it is taught in biology classes at all — is taught as the story of Charles Darwin. Then the pages are turned, and everyone settles down to learn how the heart works, or how plants make energy from sunshine, or some other detail. The evolutionary concepts that unify biology, that allow us to frame questions and investigate the glorious diversity of life — these are ignored.

Instead of rigorous debate, we get a punch line. Evolution is at the core of biology. It puts much information into perspective, but Darwin is not the whole of biology. When attacking science, its critics resort to such idiocy tragedy become farce:

Which brings us to Dover, Pa., Pat Robertson, the Kansas State Board of Education, and a fight over evolution that is so anachronistic and retrograde as to be a national embarrassment.

Dover distinguished itself this Election Day by throwing out all eight members of its school board who tried to impose “intelligent design” — today’s tarted-up version of creationism — on the biology curriculum. Pat Robertson then called the wrath of God down upon the good people of Dover for voting “God out of your city.”
….
In order to justify the farce that intelligent design is science, Kansas had to corrupt the very definition of science, dropping the phrase ” natural explanations for what we observe in the world around us,” thus unmistakably implying — by fiat of definition, no less — that the supernatural is an integral part of science. This is an insult both to religion and science.

Source: Charles Krauthammer.

So reason, skeptical inquiry and rigor are thrown out the window when science is the enemy. Superstition and fear are the tools. We see this with the X-files (where the evil aliens/governments/corporations hid the truth and enslaved the people), the modern theories about chemicals dumped from aircraft
and quack “alternative medicine”:
Why does the malarkey win?

In the paranormal conspiracy theory, the underdog tries to reveal the truth about scientifically unexplainable phenomena and undermine, and ultimately defeat, the dominant, establishment view, thereby empowering the public. The underdog is opposed to a “rigid scientific view of the world.” In place of this rigid view, the anti-conspiracy theory favors intuition, what feels right, what seems right, experience, memory-in short, what contradicts or can’t be explained by science.

source: Why Was The X-Files So Appealing?

and with quack new age therapeutic touch:

The TT therapist has powers physicians don’t have: secret, mystical powers which only the practitioner can measure. You get a lot of positive feedback. You can’t hurt anyone because you’re not even touching them, much less invading their body with drugs or surgical instruments. You network and those in your network feed off of each other’s enthusiasm.

Order to the universe. Making a chaotic world make sense. My ad visor said that the Malleus Maleficarum(witches hammer) was used like a medical textbook during the witch trials. It made sense, provided positive explanations about the natural world. And it was completely wrong, sending hundreds of innocents to their deaths. But it felt right.

Free your mind. Read a book. Unless you belive I’m part of the conspiracy. 🙂

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