Archive - Oct 2005

October 24th

Throw Another Coelacanth On The Barbie

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Memo to the United States: WE ARE NOT ALONE.

In these dark days of unilateralism, it's comforting, really. I mean, I had thought we were the only country actually having the ridiculous "Intelligent Design Vs. Evolution" debate. Where else are you going to find a vast wasteland, full of pockets of rednecks, emboldened by a right-wing government, and with only the occasional animal-fucking controversy to distract them from destroying science?

But I forgot about the land down under! Where Jesus grows, and science is sundered! Yes, the Australians are having their very own ID debate right now. Their national education minister, Brendan Nelson, wants to leave it up to parents whether ID is taught in Australian schools, and apparently the Catholic Church there has been making a bit of noise in that regard as well. This led to seventy thousand Australian scientists forming a coalition and denouncing intelligent design. Which led to people saying stupid shit.

Which means it's time for a very special, all-Aussie, all-creationist, all-Aussie-creationist edition of IDIOTS SAY THE DAMNDEST THINGS!

"We don't want a simple dogmatic teaching of evolution, we would want (teachers) to talk about the enormous, significant problems in the evolutionary history and these are freely admitted by people who study these things and they say they don't have an answer." - Cardinal George Pell, speaking in Canberra.

It's so adorable! It's like a little baby religious right they've got over there. It's the Catholics leading the charge, for fuck's sake. Not some self-appointed, born-again, coiffed TV personalities who call themselves "Reverend", but an actual, appointed, Catholic cardinal. And you can tell he hasn't been at this too long - he's still spouting the opening gambit of creationists.

The problem with people who are so hung up on Absolute Truth is that they see being wrong as something fundamentally... well, wrong. It doesn't surprise me that a Catholic cardinal can't comprehend how important being wrong is to the scientific process. Scientists learn from their mistakes. Catholics ship them to another diocese and hope nobody notices. All of Pell's drastically overstated "flaws" in evolutionary theory are opportunities for further study, not an invitation to join the 700 Club.

"Evolution by natural selection (trial and error) is claimed to be the process by which life as we know it came into existence. However, this claim is not testable against observation nor is it supported by the facts since no-one can test against observation how life actually came into existence. Based on what can be observed, scientists interpret the evidence by assuming what they think is the case and testing it. Thus their conclusions are interpretations as to what they think may be the how and what concerning the origins of life and the universe. Hence any viewpoint about the origins of life and the universe can only be, at best, a theory. To assert a theory to be fact is not science - it is a matter of faith. - Mike Geeves, in a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald.

OK, now, Mike is an idiot, but he's a well-spoken one, so I am going to make an attempt to reach out to him via his cultural heritage, and speak to him in a way that maybe he can understand.

Now, Mike. Remember how, in that Australian documentary "Crocodile Dundee", the Mr. Dundee in question discussed cutlery by saying "That's not a knife, THIS is a knife."? Both things were technically knives, and could be described by the word "knife", yet clearly, they were very different things. Dundee made an important philosophical point there you need to understand. Just because two things are given the same name doesn't make them equivalent.

It's the same way with words like "theory" and "observation". To you, sitting in your little home in Mount Riverview, Australia, "observation" is what you can see. But to a scientists, "observation" means the whole process of measuring and detecting not just things happening, but the evidence left behind of things that happened. When you say "observe", it's a tiny little butter knife that could barely hurt a fly. When scientists say "observe", it's a big, mean, pointy thing that could carve your brain into tiny nuggets of cholestorol-laden meat quicker than you could belt out the first verse of "Waltzing Matilda".

So before you go around calling scientists a bunch of faith-based zealots, remember the words of your nation's founder, Mick Dundee, and take heed.

"To preclude the teaching of intelligent design theory because it is deemed to be unscientific (which it may well be) is to suggest that science exhausts the boundaries of human knowledge, a proposition that is manifestly absurd." - Richard Shankland of Pymble, proving that Australian letters to the editor are a lot like ours, only with goofier-sounding names.

Now, Australia's school system might be considerably better than ours (despite the growing ranks of stupid Australians in this space), but I'm guessing even their schools aren't trying to encompass the sum total of human knowledge during one segment of their biology classes. They're not covering opera, they're not covering European history, and they're not covering the secret recipe for the Bloomin' Onion. There's all kinds of shit not being taught in Australian science classes, and I think intelligent design can safely be counted among them.

"Evolutionists first believe in evolution, then seek supporting evidence to fill in the gaps. - Nathan Miller of Kambah (ACT), whatever the hell that means.

I hate to rain on your parade, Nathan, but no, they don't, you koala-humping moron. That's not how it works at all, and would that it were in my power, I would send a dingo back in time to eat you as a baby, thereby changing history so that I would never get to read such a stupid assertion again.

"If we are to ban intelligent design from science classes then to be consistent we will have to ban evolution, too. They claim that evolution can be tested and repeated, but this is mere bluster. The central tenet of evolution, that life arose from non-life sometime in the unimaginable past, can neither be tested nor repeated, but it can be questioned..." - Ewan Macdonald, of Timmering.

Will someone explain to me why people believe that if they can't do something, sitting on their asses, timmering the day away writing letters to the Sydney Morning Herald, that nobody else can? That scientists didn't actually spent decades of their life studying biology and genetics, examining fossils and evidence, and drawing conclusions? Where do the Ewan Macdonalds of the world get off, thinking they even have the RIGHT to suggest that all that work and effort isn't valid because they don't understand it, and think they've come up with some clever little rhetorical twist?

If it were up to me, I'd love to take the lot of you, put you on a boat with your Norhern Hemiphere dipshit brethren, and ship you all off somewhere. Maybe some large island or something.