October 10, 2005
"Help! I'm a refugee from a climate of gay pig dog terrorism!"
It's Columbus Day, and so I feel it's my duty to be insensitive. . .
(Plus, I'm worried that God sent a quake to bin Laden's home turf.)
Anyway, as the struggle against the Darwinian theory of evolution continues to occupy the front page of the Philadelphia Inquirer (today it's preempted Columbus), I'm constantly fascinated by the fact that the people on each side of the debate do not seem to be speaking the same language.
According to the Inquirer, even the people supporting "intelligent design" aren't speaking the same language:
The advocates of "intelligent design," spotlighted in the current courtroom battle over the teaching of evolution in Dover, Pa., have much larger goals than biology textbooks.Overthrow of an "ism"? As someone who doesn't like "isms," overthrowing one would seem to be the sort of thing I'd be inclined to support.
But cultural legacies?
What might that mean? While I don't know how much stock to put in the Inquirer's assertions, I certainly hope these people aren't pushing for more of the damned "Culture War." I started this blog because I hate the Culture War, and many times I've been told the Culture War was over and I assumed I could stop blogging, but each time the rumors of peace turned out to be false, and the damned Culture War would flare up again. I feel like Al Pacino, yelling in vain that "Every time I try to get out, they drag me back in!"
Seriously (if I must get serious), there are holes in the fossil record, and I don't think all evolution proceeds according to any Darwinian "plan." But that does not in any way prove that a thing called "intelligence" is involved. While it's one thing to question the gaps in the record, it's rank anthropomorphism to insist on such a thing as "intelligence" without solid evidence, and I do believe it's more of a religious than a scientific assertion. I have no problem with the religious view that there is a god or gods with human style intelligence, but I don't believe in insinuating them where they just don't belong. I mean, something like gravity is fine, but I don't see the value of "scientific" arguments about why God would allow or dictate it -- at least, not in science classes.
Might as well interpret the weather that way. (I know that people do that, but I don't think it should be required in Meteorology 101.)
But what irritates me is that according to the Inquirer, the "intelligent design" theory is not intended so much as a scientific debate, but as a "wedge" issue intended to -- get this -- change the "social consequences" of Darwinian theory. Again, the Inquirer:
Intelligent-design advocates have focused publicly on "teaching the controversy," urging that students be taught about weaknesses in evolutionary theory. The 1999 strategy document, though, goes well beyond that.I have no idea how accurate these assertions are, but they seem to find confirmation in the Discovery Institute's denial of any "secret plan":
And they say the wedge document was written as a fund-raising tool, articulating a plan for reasoned persuasion, not political control. Critics, they say, have an agenda of their own - to promote a worldview in which God is nonexistent or irrelevant.Whether there's a secret plan or not isn't the issue. I see a serious problem in attacking any scientific theory because of "destructive cultural legacies." That strikes me as similar to the medieval thinking which maintained that it would be bad for people to learn that the earth revolves around the sun, and if science can be revised for being allegedly "destructive," where does it end? Einsteinian Relativity, it could just as well be asserted, has caused untold cultural damage, because when people think everything is relative, they'll be less likely to listen to people who want to tell them what to do, how to live, how and what to worship. etc.
Notice the underlying assumption being made that Darwinian theory has in fact caused people to "misbehave." How can that be proved? It's like saying that the Beatles caused a "decline" in "culture," or that mother's milk led to cigarettes, which led to marijuana, which led to heroin, which led to murder.
During the recent debate over the divine intent behind Hurricane Katrina, once I accepted for the sake of argument the premise that "God did it," I was struck by the difficulty in determining his precise motivations, to say nothing of which targets he might have had in mind. There's just no way to know -- other than allowing a designated caste of priests to have final say-so in these matters. (And I see no way to do that in a free society.)
Conventional science teaches that natural events like weather, asteroids, and earthquakes are forms of random chaos (i.e. stuff just moves around), but it's certainly reasonable to suppose that people who desire order might find the idea of scientific chaos to be infinitely threatening. They might call it unscientific, and they are free to offer another theory, which I suppose scientists could test out.
Intelligent catastrophe design?
(No, I do not mean the theory that Bush and Rove blew up the levees in New Orleans. Rather, some form of divine intelligence did so.)
I am sure that there are various alternative spiritual explanations could be offered -- including but not limited to the angry bearded Old Testament God, or the Bigot God of 9/11, which sent "Private Katrina" on an errand. For the Global Warming crowd, the idea that "Mother Nature" (Gaia will do, if, like me, you have pagan sympathies) was extremely pissed off at man for whatever reason will also do. I suppose all these groups could form political lobbies and demand that their weather theories be taught as scientific alternatives.
But my bottom line is that I find the "social and cultural consequences" meme a bit annoying, because whether something is true does not depend on whether people don't like it.
Sometimes the truth hurts as much as nature. One could argue that children shouldn't see dogs screwing in the streets, or animals screwing on a farm or in the zoo, because there might be "consequences." Yes, there might be. But why drag science into it?
I don't mean anything I've said as an argument against religion generally, or against any particular religion.
But speaking of particular religions, there is something that's been bothering me, and at the excuse of ranting a little, I'd like to address it.
I'll start with a fundamental premise said to flow directly as a cultural consequence of Darwinian theory: the Peter Singer-based premise that "A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy."
OK, just for the record, let me say that I don't think this flows from Darwin at all, and I think using it against "Darwinists" reveals a shocking lack of scientific integrity. (If anything, declaring that all species are equal is profoundly anti-Darwinian, and I believe Darwin himself would be shocked by the idea.)
But in the interest of science, I'll select (by hands-on application of random chaos theory) one of our equals, the domestic pig, Sus scrofus. Why would God create the pig? Why would the pig evolve? Why would man genetically coax the pig into its current status of evolutionary development?
In the interest of full scientific accuracy, I thought I should supply a picture of typical domestic pigs, doing typical pig things:
The problem is, I might have just offended the religious sensibilities. Why? Because, apparently, God hates pigs.
How do we know this? Because, the argument goes, it is asserted in certain religious books that God asserted that pigs are unclean and that man should not eat them. From there, it gets more complicated -- to the point where not only have pictures of dirty pigs like the one above been banned, but so have cutesy pig pictures -- like Piglet:
NOVELTY pig calendars and toys have been banned from a council office -- in case they offend Muslim staff.Mark Steyn has an excellent analysis of this idiocy, and wonders aloud whether uncovered women (and by implication open homosexuals) aren't far more offensive than pig images. (I think they are, but it's politically more feasible -- for now -- to go after cutesy pig calendars and the like, which are, after all, mostly displayed by older female office workers.
Looking into why a cutesy pig calendar would offend Muslim sensibilities, I learned that there is no religious reason why they should, because the Koran only forbids eating them, not making likenesses of them. (At least, no more than it would forbid likenesses of any other creature.)
But the point, as Steyn notes, isn't really whether cutesy pigs offend "Muslim sensibilities"; it's done in order to advance an activist agenda:
Likewise, Piglet is deeply offensive and so's your chocolate ice-cream, but if a West End play opens with a gay Jesus, Christians just need to stop being so doctrinaire and uptight. The Church of England bishops would probably agree with that if, in their own misguided attempt at Islamic outreach, they weren't so busy apologising for toppling Saddam.Perhaps such small acts of cultural vandalism invite more by way of retribution. Even the celebration of Western Civilization might be seen as a form of retribution. If Muslim pig sensibilities, why not Christian snake sensibilities, and Muslim and Christian homo sensibilities?
In a strange way, I'm beginning to see a common thread between cultural vandalism, religious sensibilities, and the advancing of activists' agendas in disguised form. Seen this way, a monkey is a snake is a pig is a dog is a homo is a refugee is a terrorist.
You think I'm kidding?
Check the facts:
Well, why doesn't this blatantly pagan symbol (combining attributes of Aesculapius and Hermes) offend Christian sensibilities?
In short, everything has become offensive (or declared offensive).
That means that everything can be an offensive (or a declared offensive).
That's all for Columbus Day.
Well, um, ub, ub, doh, er, forgive for for s-s-st-stuttering, but almost all. Right now I'm also worried that the president might have deliberately nominated Harriet Miers in order to offend Republican sensibilities and foment cultural offensives.
Is that all?
If you don't like it, don't trust me, folks!
While I'm sure it's just a coincidence that "pork" rhymes with "bork," I'm getting a little sensitive about people who want to lord pork over me. (And naturally, sensitivity begets insensitivity.)
Under classical physics, predicting the interval between drips was seen as straightforward and determinate -- know the velocity of water, its surface tension, and so on, and you can always predict when each drop will fall. In the real world, the result is strikingly different. As scientist Robert Shaw has discovered, the complexity of the system confounds efforts at prediction. [FN7] Yet, although the dripping seems random, it follows certain patterns such that -- although each drop is unpredictable --*112 the overall pattern of dripping turns out to be structured and coherent. That is, though no one can predict when the next drop will fall, a phase-space graph showing the distribution of drops over time will reveal the sort of intricate, yet predictable structure we see in multidimensional fractal graphics generated by chaos researchers. And though no one can predict where on the graph the next data point will fall, it is possible to predict what the graph will look like when many such points have been plotted. The structure of the graph is predictable, even though no single drip is. [FN8]Well! (Better not let the intelligent designists hear about this....)
Anyway, I'm not fooled by the above, and I'm beginning to suspect that Glenn is a scientist posing as a law professor. (That's OK, as long as he doesn't crack my chaotic code....)
(I keep my chaos intentionally sloppy, as if by design.)
UPDATE: Is there something about Columbus Day that invites this sort of thing?
posted by Eric on 10.10.05 at 11:13 AM
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