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...a blog by Richard Flowers

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Day 2773: Darwin was a Genius… but these guys are plain NUTS!

Monday:


I hope you all watched my good chum Mr Professor Richard Dawkins on the tellybox, telling us about Mr Charles Darwin who started out wanting to become a quiet Anglican pastor before a sea voyage changed his mind and he set out to have the most HERETICAL idea in the history of human beings instead: EVOLUTION by NATURAL SELECTION.

Mr Professor Richard is awfully good at explaining evolution, and showing that it is FACT not THEORY. Though perhaps Channel Furore tempted him a little too much to put in the "this is why we don't need Mr God" stuff.

I read another review of the programme which says that the lady sex-worker in Nairobi has "evolved" an immunity to HIV. Salome, the lady sex-worker in question says that she thinks Mr God has blessed her. Nancy Banks-Smith, the reviewer in question, says she thinks that must have got up Mr Professor Richard's nose.

Personally, I think what would get MORE up his nose is the supposedly educated reviewer saying that Ms Salome has "evolved" an immunity. She most certainly hasn't.

In any population, some will be MORE resistant to a new virus – like AIDS – and some will be LESS resistant. That is just the chance factor of having different genes. EVOLUTION is what happens when those random differences give Salome a better chance of surviving to have descendents. If, in the future, MOST people were DESCENDED from Salome and her relatives, THEN the new humans with AIDS-resistant genes could be said to have "evolved".

Mr Darwin was not INSENSITIVE to the fact that his idea was going to kick over the apple cart. (And to be fair to the churches, they caught on almost at once to the implication that they were suddenly irrelevant. They weren't stupid. Just 100% totally wrong.) He sat on his findings for twenty years before being spurred into publishing when another scientist almost got the same idea. And apparently he lived in fear that SOMEONE would find a species that didn't fit into the pattern that he had seen, that just one would exist that required a separate creation.

And yet, ironically, that is the MOST brilliant thing about Mr Charles' idea. It only takes ONE counter-example to disprove it. Only ONE. And they still can't do it.


Later we caught a repeat of Room 101 with Mr Stephen Fry as the guest. One of his requests for casting into the room of worst nightmares was "New Age Guff", in part for its casual pillaging of random bits of ethnic cultures and adding them higgledy-piggledy to a melange of other ideas without a care for the ACTUAL culture, but also in part for using the word "energy" to mean something meaningless.

His best remark was his critique of "holistic techniques" that do NOT treat the WHOLE because they leave out the RATIONAL INTELLECT. Not that he wanted to REJECT the "spiritual" dimension of life – almost everything we do, love, hate, fear, desire, they are all "spiritual" in a sense. But for goodness' sake USE YOUR BRAINS! said Mr Stephen.

So with these two towering appeals for some proper THINKING, what do we find on the BBC's website a hundred and fifty years after Mr Darwin showed us that we don't NEED a superstitious story to explain our lives and origins?

An interview with the Flat Earth Society. No, really.

Never mind that we've known it was a sphere for two-and-a-half THOUSAND years. Aristotle knew it. Plato knew it. Pythagoras probably knew it. A bloke called Eratosthenes even worked out the Earth's circumference in 240 B.Mr.C. And he was nearly right – certainly near enough to have got a grade C GCSE out of it.

Apparently, they say that the Earth is a big flat disc (turtle optional) with the North Pole in the Middle. The reason that no one has fallen off the edge is because it's frozen and we call it "Antarctica".

Now just excuse me while I bash my fluffy head against a wall for a moment.

THIS is Antarctica.

Perhaps they can convince you that every single space mission ever has been faked. Because like Mr Darwin, it would only take ONE photo of a flat Earth to disprove the round Earth theory.

Perhaps they can explain how the magnetic South Pole works so that you can approach it from any Antarctic shore and still find the flag (because if you think about it, that flag is going to be literally on the other side of the world if you pick the "wrong" place to start).

Perhaps they can come up with a way to make GEOMETRY work differently so that the circumference of Antarctica is smaller that the circumference of the equator.

And perhaps they can come up with a way to explain how in AUGUST you can have a longer day in the MIDDLE of a circle than you have at the OUTSIDES? And how in JANUARY you can have a longer day at the OUTSIDES than you do in the MIDDLE?

Perhaps they can even explain how it can be day and night SIMULTANEOUSLY in different parts of a flat disc. (And nowadays you can phone someone in New Zealand to FIND OUT… if you don't mind being bawled out for waking them in the middle of the night!)

But REALLY, TRULY ships sailing out to sea do NOT disappear over the horizon because the sea is HILLY!

1 comment:

anonymous said...

It is funny how people tend to watch the same sequence of programmes of an evening.

I think that one of the most important things that science needs to get across in the needless evolution/creationism debate is the fact that evolution is fact - species evolve, fact - so there's no use trying to falsify facts. But evolution is also a theory (not a contradiction in terms there, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution_as_theory_and_fact). The theory is there to explain the fact and use it to make predictions. This as you say can be easily falsified.

The amazing beauty of the theory of evolution is that it is quite possibly the best possible example of a theory fulfilling Occam's Razor (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occam%27s_razor) - you make one 'assumption' that can be observed and hence substantiated (copied genes have mistakes, and beneficial mistakes are more likely to survive in the descendents than bad ones), and you explain one of the most complicated phenomenons in the universe - the origin of species. It is scientific poetry.

Then to top off an evening to exercise the mind, one comes across the indescribably fabulous Stephen Fry exuding verbosity at Paul Merton. The blessed man then expresses the sentiments of those of us who just cannot stand all that is pseudo-scientific claptrap. Intellectual hedonism.