Angry Astronomer on Stellar Formation, and arguing with a creationist.

Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy linked to this discussion on Angry Astronomer recently, and boy howdy, is it worth a read.  I haven’t even finished the thread, but I’m sure it’ll provide with much-needed distractions and chuckles throughout the day tomorrow.

And possibly into sometime next week.  What a wall of text!

The length and breadth of the discussion kind of reminds me of the discussions I have on occasion with “Bob”, only minus any sense of logic or rational thought.  If you can make it through the entirety of the thread and discussion on one sitting, and without caffeine or other recreational pharmaceuticals, you’re a better man than I.  Or woman.  Though it’s not hard to be a better woman than I, I just can’t fill out a negligee all that well with my manly physique.

Update: I made it through the entire thread and still don’t understand “Anonymous'” problem with science.  And, being prompted by Clifton throwing his two cents in, I broke down and posted, as well.  To wit:

I have a friend with whom I occasionally argue about evolution. Once in a while, the conversation devolves to the point where I’m accused of relying on faith in science. This is true to an extent. I am no polymath. I know a little bit about a lot of things, but I depend heavily upon others to have made discoveries that I cannot independently verify. I have faith that the scientists that have set down what they believe to be the rules by which the universe works, know their stuff, didn’t fudge the math, and are open to accept evidence against their own hypotheses, otherwise their theories and rules and laws would not have gained the publicity that they have — e.g., someone out there would have cried foul and presented evidence to the contrary, at some point or another.

As science is much like the open-source software model, wherein individual changes are contributed to the body of existing work and incremental improvements eventually lead to a larger oeuvre that can stand alone, I trust that science operates in a meritocratous fashion. Likewise, religion is akin to the closed-source software model, wherein one authority creates the entire body of work, and anything that falls outside the body of work is either heretical or evil. This monolithic authority system is likely what provides comfort to those that have faith in their religious dogma — it is comforting to know that even if you don’t know everything about the universe, you can simply say “God did it” and congratulate yourself for a job well done.

This implies that religious folks are incurious. This doesn’t seem to be the case in all cases, sadly, or we wouldn’t get trolls on science blogs of the ilk of our illustrious Anonymous poster in this thread. (Either they aren’t incurious, or they’re out amongst the heathen looking to convert. Not terribly palatable, and something like tilting at windmills around here, I’d wager.)

I just don’t understand what it is about the pursuit of science that raises the hackles of these types. Why is it that you cannot reconcile the idea that the universe works a certain way, with the idea that “God did it”? And has anyone ever suggested to you (as I saw in a Youtube video recently) that perhaps the Bible was actually created by God specifically to test humankind’s ability to believe in “his creation”, as opposed to creating the universe in an incredibly deceiving manner where 99% of it is a lie intended to fool you into believing the universe is a certain way, to test your faith in the book?

Bah. I don’t usually post my rants on other people’s blogs. I usually save them for my own. Apologies for my compatriot’s earlier cheap plug, by the way.

Dude.  I said “oeuvre”.  I guess I automatically fail.

Angry Astronomer on Stellar Formation, and arguing with a creationist.
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23 thoughts on “Angry Astronomer on Stellar Formation, and arguing with a creationist.

  1. 13

    Well, yeah.
    The funny part of all this is that a conversation about the origins of the universe he devolved, or perhaps evolved, into a conversation about the legitimacy of the origin of my offspring.

  2. 14

    I like to look at it as a testament to what I’m willing to believe, and what I’m not. It all boils down to evidence. I have pretty good evidence that gravity and thermodynamics and evolution are more than just theories, but your spawn has to be taken on faith.

  3. 15

    I’ve come a long way since high school, and most of university. It used to be that nobody would believe claims of fatherhood because nobody would believe I was having sex.

  4. 16

    You have indeed come a long way. I thoroughly believe that you’re having sex. (Maybe not right this instant, but if so, get off my goddamn blog and finish the job proper, ya insensitive bastard.)

    Now, though, I just believe you’re capable enough of a Long Con that I’m wary of believing anything you say. At all.

  5. 17

    Oh, there’s no doubt that I’m capable of a Long Con. I just won’t be able to cover up melissa’s baby belly at the wedding. The invites are almost done. You should be getting one soon.

  6. Me

    Seriously, you two need to get away from the computers more often.

    And Jason, I have never once accused you of relying on faith in science. My statement was and still is, that at the end of the day, no matter what you believe in, it all comes down to a leap of faith. I believe I have proven that statement but should I be required to, am willing to do so in the future. (Although the LHC might make that statement invalid in a few months, and I’m eagerly waiting to see that) I also believe in science as do you, however we seem to have a differing opinion of what is good science and what isn’t. I require my science to pass the test of falsifiability and you appear (although I could be wrong) to subscribe to the consensus view of science in regard to some things. I abhor anything that uses the word consensus to support it’s point of view. After all that is what was used in the middle ages by the church and we all know how well that turned out.

    I feel the world requires skeptics and indeed could not survive long without them. Someone has to be the one to stand up and ask: “How do you know?” or “But where is the proof?”. Over the last 40 years I have seen the scientific reports concerning the coming ice age, proof we descended from Neanderthals, and successful cold fusion. But I think everyone now knows none of these supposed events were based in fact.

  7. 23


    Sorry your posts get dumped in the spam bucket and need approval so often. I suspect it’s something to do with how you’re filling out the URL and/or e-mail address parts of the form. Leave them blank as a test next time you post to see if they show up instantly.

    The size of “leap of faith” is much, much smaller when you’re looking at incremental works from a large number of people whose “changelog” is very long and detailed (e.g. science, or open source software) as opposed to one monolithic work written by one, or a few, people (e.g. the Bible, or closed-source software). That’s what I was getting at. And honestly, there’s little difference between your statement that my beliefs require a leap of faith, and the way I phrased it, that they “rely on faith”.

    Like I said in the post, I can’t personally attempt to falsify every single experiment outcome that I choose to believe in, either because I have no scientific equipment or insufficient funds or money. So, I trust that other scientists have vetted those particular experiments before they are entered into the “body of knowledge” — again, much like how I don’t always personally look at the changes to the code when a patch to the Linux kernel or Firefox, for instance, are vetted by other programmers then accepted into the main body of code. Either way, it’s certainly a better model than relying on a body of work that hasn’t changed in several hundred years (e.g. since the last time someone translated it to suit their needs). And yes, I do believe that consensus works, insofar as I am trusting that the scientists, so long as there’s a sufficient number of them, who reach a consensus about a particular topic, have duplicated the experiments successfully a number of times (enough to reach the conclusion that the hypothesis, which by nature must be falsifiable otherwise it’s not a proper hypothesis, is correct).

    Skeptics are important, yes. They raise the bar on the burden of proof. There are some skeptics that are counterproductive, though, you’ll have to admit — e.g., how often do we have to prove the earth is round, not flat, to get flat-earthers to finally admit defeat? So, yes, skeptics are useful but only to a point. Being that your pet subject is climate change, and that you’re specifically a skeptic of its being caused by humans, I’m sure that’s what you really meant by “the world requires skeptics”. It certainly does, otherwise we’d all still believe the world was flat, the stars and sun revolve around it, and it was all put here by God. (Now there’s only some people who believe each of those. Maybe a large number, but that’s better than all.)

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