left biblioblography: How The Echo Chamber Impacts How Stuff Works

Saturday, February 23, 2008

How The Echo Chamber Impacts How Stuff Works


Cross posted at God's For Suckers!

"If a million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing" - Anatole France

Normally, one of my favorite websites is 'How Stuff Works' - chock full of all sorts of neat little ditties and factoids.

So I was reading up on evolution there, and I gotta say...how on earth does this invidious crap seem to seep into it?

Everything's fine up to about this article - the example's pretty bad, as Chihuahuas and St. Bernard's are the same species. Then, the next article starts the rapid deterioration of the author's 'objectivity'.

It defines the word 'theory' pretty well:

A set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena, especially one that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena.

It says this:

Many theories are works in progress, and evolution is one of them.

Ahem. All theories are works in progress. I'm going to skip to the more egregious errors in this. Onwards to the evolution of the human brain:

Modern human brain size averages about 1,500 CCs or so. In other words, in about 2 million years, evolution roughly doubled the size of the Homo erectus brain to create the human brain that we have today. Our brains contain approximately 100 billion neurons today, so in 2 million years, evolution added 50 billion neurons to the Homo erectus brain (while at the same time redesigning the skull to accommodate all of those neurons and redesigning the female pelvis to let the larger skull through during birth, etc.).

50 billion neurons sounds like a great deal, doesn't it? Actually, no it isn't.

None of these scenarios is particularly comfortable. We see no evidence that evolution is randomly adding 250,000 neurons to each child born today, so that explanation is hard to swallow. The thought of adding a large package of something like 2.5 billion neurons in one step is difficult to imagine, because there is no way to explain how the neurons would wire themselves in. What sort of point mutation would occur in a DNA molecule that would suddenly create billions of new neurons and wire them correctly?* The current theory of evolution does not predict how this could happen.

Randomly? Is this cat for real? 'Wire them correctly'? And yes, evolution does predict how this could happen - punctuated equilibrium.

Get ready - here come some of the eye-crossers.

Question 3: Where Did the First Living Cell Come From?

Oh, you've gotta be kidding me. Evolution doesn't concern itself with the origins of the living cell - it deals with the process of how diverse life came to where it is today.

This is where I get a little heated:

These examples do simplify the requirements for the "original cell," but it is still a long way to spontaneous generation of life. Perhaps the first living cells were completely different from what we see today, and no one has yet imagined what they might have been like. Speaking in general terms, life can only have come from one of two possible places:

  • Spontaneous creation - Random chemical processes created the first living cell.
  • Supernatural creation - God or some other supernatural power created the first living cell.

The spontaneous 'creation' scenario is the only possible explanation. Where the fuck do these dimbulbs come up with this 'supernatural' nonsense? Is there some secret lab somewhere that specializes in 'supernatural' experiments? Has there ever been just one time in the history of science where it can be proved that the supernatural played a pivotal role in any experiment whatsoever? The answer to this, is of course, a big fat zero, zilch, nada, nil, or any other placeholder word for nothing.

The following section tends to skin my lip back on my teeth:

  • Scientists will develop a new theory that answers the questions posed above to almost everyone's satisfaction, and it will replace the theory of evolution that we have today.

First off, it's highly unlikely that some 'new theory' will come along and 'replace' the 'theory' of evolution that is in place today: what we have now spans multiple scientific disciplines. That there will be modifications and changes in paradigms is a strong likelihood: but it's highly improbable that the whole shebang will be chucked overnight.

  • Scientists will observe a completely new phenomenon that accounts for the diversity of life that we see today. For example, many people believe in creationism. In this theory, God or some other supernatural power intervenes to create all of the life that we see around us. The fossil record indicates that hundreds of millions of new species have been created over hundreds of millions of years -- Species creation is an intense and constant process with an extremely long history. If scientists were to observe the creation process occurring the next time a major new species comes into existence, they could document it and understand how it works.

Who cares what 'many people' believe in, anyways? Are any of these folks scientists? We both know the answer to that one - NO.

For the most part, this group of articles sacrifices objectivity with this 'fair-mindedness' garbage. It echoes a number of creationist talking points (the media echo chamber metaphor is particularly cogent here), it drags in a discussion of the supernatural where it doesn't belong, and while the articles admit that evolution is a working mechanism, it plays the old 'macroevolution vs. microevolution' sleight-of-hand nonsense.

I for one, get more than a little tired of this political correctness garbage - the 'everyone's got an equal opinion' horse manure. No, not all opinions are equal. Or, as Harlan Ellison put it so eloquently: "Nobody's entitled to an opinion. Everybody's entitled to an informed opinion."

And science isn't a democracy, either. Sorry, anyone who thinks that is SOL.

Till the next post, then.

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1 comment:

Tor Hershman said...

I read you 'Ben Stein' blog post.

Well, well, well, (Now that’s a “Deep” subject) it appears that Ben Stein has a lill’ movie.

I have a wee film/research too but unlike Mr. Stein mine illuminates AND entertains in about five minutes and, A-N-D, it’s FREE!

Mr. Stein (BTW: moi’s film/research tells how the Jewish people REALLY came about) charges you for propaganda and I give the human race knowledge for free, ain’t I a moron? Perhaps.


And here is moi’s, officially ignored, film/research
into the origin of Christendom.

Since the film is
the awful facts it must be disregarded by those that tout
the beautiful untruths.

The Religious Authorities, and those that GAIN from there being religions [e.g., People in the “Business” of Atheism], always say NOT to view that which they DO want you to see and avert their eyes, and remain quite silent, about that which they hope you will not chance upon.

Part I


Part II


If there were a place, and there is, where intelligence that rises little higher than our human brain stems’ capacity WERE allowed Mr. Stein WOULD be found there, hence. . .check your local theater listings for Mr. Stein and murmuring mermaids and yammering yaks - talkin’ terrorists - pontificating puppies - babbling babes – enunciating elephants – answering ants – zinging zombies - replying Rambos a al lambos – and many more such “Levels,” though a basically base intellectual strata they t’were, ‘tis and t’will be.

However, Ben Stein is only doing exactly what moi tells people TO DO and that is,
suck-up to the prevailing mythology in the CULTure you happen to be surrounded by.
Hence, Ben Stein is flying first class and considering buying a private plane and moi ‘tis takin’ the bus and considering purchasing some meat, for WifeyWu, if’in moi can budget it in.

Stay on groovin’
(Ain’t ya glad moi didn’t alliterate from A to Z?)