Monday, May 26, 2008

Academic Freedom or Academic Freedumb?

In a recent discussion about the Florida Academic Freedom Act, destined to re-emerge in the state legislature later this year, I tried to rationally explain my discontent to an ardent supporter.

I started with logic. I explained the difference between science and pseudoscience, peer review of literature as a gold standard, and how legitimate science tends to expand and grow when pseudoscience stands still.

My points were met with the familiar cries of conspiracy; a vast network of evil scientists (me included) in perfect synchrony that squelch the clear evidence of an intelligent designer. Somehow the millions of scientists worldwide are all involved in crushing an idea that if real, would be a whole new place of inquiry.

After listening to the insane arguments that underlie the need to teach children scripture in a science class, I got a little angry. My next comeback was much more pointy, "Do you realize that they have fooled you?"

The bottom line is that the pilots of ID and other religiously-based pseudo-scientific concepts have fooled their followers. They have played perfectly the paranoia that science is out to prove that there are no gods, and that their beliefs are targeted next. I guess that concrete evidence that is inconsistent with scripture might cause some to question their beliefs, so it is important for those in charge to offer other explanations so that faith and beliefs can be maintained. They also must vilify scientists and science- discredit them and show their evil corruptitude.

The folks that argue for ID have been duped by their puppetmasters. They have been assigned their blinders and marching orders and are sent out to make sure that their agenda is satisfied. With this they have successfully reached politicians and other decision makers. Of course, they say the same about legitimate scientists. However, our data are consistent from lab to lab, our stories generally grow within the predictions and when we are lucky enough for something to grow outside of the box we can follow it to exciting new areas of research. No matter how hard we look, there is never any evidence that agrees with ID, or at least cannot be reconciled with a simpler explanation.

Just the name alone shows the dishonesty- Academic Freedom Act. This is not about academic freedom. Even they will tell you that it is the desire to challenge teaching of evolution with information based on ID, challenging science with pseudoscience. At least package it for what it is- the "Opposing Science that does not Fit Within Our Beliefs Act". At least it would be honest.


island said...

I might agree with you if your diatribe wasn't based on the false assumption that neodarwians are any less deceitful and dishonest than IDists are when it comes to interpretations of the mechanisms and features of the universe and/or biology that can indicate that we might not be here by accident. Contrary to your ideologically motivated left-winged belief-system, there most definitely is *known and recorded* scientific evidence that that at least, *most apparently* does indicate that we are not here by some freak accident of any naturally evolving universe that we have ever been able to model, which doesn't even come close to the direct observation BTW.

For this reason I have begun this list of valid scientific reasons why Charlie Crist should sign future academic freedom bills that cross his desk.

Not that it matters, since these votes are strictly divided along party lines, unless there is some exception to the rule at play. Everybody makes a lot of noise that accomplishes absolutely nothing.

Academic Freedom

Kevin M. Folta Ph.D. said...

Sorry to burst your bubble, but your argument is predicated on a conspiracy. See, science based on Darwin quickly grew beyond Darwin. It grew with genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry, morphology and physiology. The vast majority of the time the science agrees with an interpretation of biological change over time in predictable Darwinian modalities.

If it was not true, "deceitful and dishonest", it would change with new evidence. New evidence would challenge these ideas and they would expand or divert. So far no real evidence can turn contemporary thinking.

I have no ideological motivation. I follow the evidence. To conclude that I have a "left-wing-belief-system" is not accurate. If you mean that "left-wingyness" is based on evidence and facts over belief, then call me a lefty.

Glad that you made a list. I'll check it twice. Until it is a list of independently verifyable evidence tracks then there is no reason for anyone to take it seriously.

And I am working on my reps. I think that they will change the progress of this nonsense.

Kevin M. Folta Ph.D. said...

Okay, I read the stuff at the "Academic Freedom" link you provided. There are no citations to peer-reviewed articles, so these are simply opinions. Even if they do argue for some higher order in the cosmos that does not mean that it is due to an omnipotent creator. It simply means that there is unexpected order that can be studied using the tools of natural science.

There is no conspiracy. If something is published errantly these days it is quickly retracted or overrun with better studies with opposing views.

Believe it or not, it is scientist against scientist out here- climbing over each other for pubs and grants- Respectfully of course and with the idea of scholarship as job #1.

It is not a vast left-wing scientist conspiracy against religion or non-evidence-based guesses. It is science growing on a base of evidence.

So, if there is solid evidence for another line of thinking, BRING IT. I'd love to see how it fits with what I know about biology. If it is good then we'll explore new territory- I'm open to that! It would be wonderful! Low-hanging fruit and lots of pubs!

Unfortunately we just have evidence-based science, so our discoveries are bound by the physical nature of our universe. It is impossible to assert the supernatural into this. If the supernatural is real, it becomes the natural.

Thanks for your thoughts. Please don't think of scientists as deceitful and dishonest. That is such a poor representation and it means that we are consciously ignoring facts or omitting data. That is absolutely not the case, as the most interesting findings are those that don't make sense.

island said...

I try to keep my statements short, concise and to the scientific point, in order that the main point do not get lost and trampeld on by rhetoric, so I have trouble responding to every statement that gets make in long replies, but two things stood out, and I'll look for more after I post this:

1) "Opinions" are either educated, supportable scientific statements, or they are not, and I can assure you that mine are.

2) Even if they do argue for some higher order in the cosmos that does not mean that it is due to an omnipotent creator

I never claimed that they were, nor that I support ID, nor do I believe that ID can be science unless somebody finds a very old alien spaceship on Venus with the blueprints for humans hanging from their drawing board. And I would suggest that you are conditioned to find god or you wouldn't.

2) It is not a vast left-wing scientist conspiracy

You crack me up... like saying that the ideological "right" doesn't willfully ignore evidence for global warming just because there is no conspiricy.... WRONG!!!... lol... ;)

So, if there is solid evidence for another line of thinking, BRING ITj

Then what?... are we going to coauthor a paper?... yeah, right... I believe that I have good scientific reason to beleive that the universe is "Darwinian".

You want to talk about it?

If I've mislabled you, personally, then I'm sorry, but that definitely does make you the exception to the rule.

island said...

So maybe three things stood out but I can't count... ;)

Kevin M. Folta Ph.D. said...

Sorry, I just get verbose about this topic. A note on the conspiracy issue... IF someone is lucky enough to find any information that expands a model they run it up the scholarly flagpole.

After rigorous review it gets published somewhere if it is real.

THEN we debate it in the literature. New tests support or refute new positions. Good stuff!

The majority of Darwin's ideas fell into line with eventual studies in genetics, mol bio, etc, and they overlay well with geology. Any deviations are noted with gusto- they happen! It usually means the first tests were wrong or did not go far enough.

I think you mischaracterize scientists in general. We're pretty modest folk that just like to do our jobs and spread the influence of our discipline because it is a wonderful way of life. You won't find a more open minded group, yet a group that demands rigorous proof.

island said...

I used to think exactly the way, and why wouldn't we?... the arguments seem very Reasonable and Scientific assumptions about *possibile* natural solutions, Vs., Unreasonable and Unscientific assumptions about god. There is no obvious reason for you to think otherwise given what you are up against, and I can promise you that you can't undertand what I'm saying if you don't assume a positive approach to the evidence, rather than an "explain-it-away" approach. Once you assume my frame of reference, then you can begin to understand.

For just one example of many; Richard Dawkins appeals to the theoretically speculative multiverse of string theory in response to creationists who hold up the "fine-tuning problem" in physics, (the anthropic principle), as evidence for "Cosmological ID".

This is a perfectly reasonable argument against supernatural entities, and the apparent anthropic significance that appears in the physics observation that gets it its name, gets diluted in the mediocrity of an infinite amount of potential for occurrence, so there is nothing special about our biocentrically oriented universe.

Any plausible science is a good counter-argument against supernatural entities, and the automatic instinct is to rebut the validity of the creationists evidence, but what gets lost in this game is the real scientific plausibility for a biocentrically oriented cosmological structure principle, which makes for an infinitely stronger argument against supernatural entities, because it resolves the "fine-tuning-problem" from *causality-responsible* first physics principles, if you don't automatically deny the *apparent* relevance of the observation.

Why on Earth any scientist would leap to such a speculative solution as an unobservable and theoretically-unproven *plausibilty*, over the MOST APPARENT solution to the problem, is beyond me. Except that I know from experience that they do it because they see god in an admission that there is evidence that means that we might not be here by accident, so *autodenial* is the asuumed correct response.

So, that's my point, and to extend it beyond this point requires that I put forth some stuff that is going to be up to you to judge validity for yourself, but is not necessary to my argument. I have to say that because people jump on anything that you don't qualify as disproof of points that have already been established.

Okay, so it turns out that this "dynamical structure mechanism" is the most sought after solution to the multiverse problem, and is considered to be the "biggest failure of physics in the last twenty years", so I would submit to you at this time that the missing cosmological structure mechanism is the very exact same one that this biologist is trying to rationalize via the exact same kind of *plausible* rationale:

... and the reason that nobody can put 1 plus 1 together is because they are conditioned to deny the *most apparent* relevance of the evidence, and that is because creationists use it as evidence for god.

Evolution of life on earth was governed, primarily, by natural selection, with major contribution of other evolutionary processes, such as neutral variation, exaptation, and gene duplication. However, for biological evolution to take off, a certain minimal degree of complexity is required such that a replicating genome encodes means for its own replication with sufficient rate and fidelity. In all existing life forms, this is achieved by dedicated proteins, polymerases (replicases), that are produced by the elaborate translation system. However, evolution of the coupled system of replication and translation does not appear possible without pre-existing efficient replication; hence a chicken-egg type paradox. I argue that the many-worlds-in-one version of the cosmological model of eternal inflation implies that emergence of replication and translation, as well as the major protein folds, by chance alone, as opposed to biological evolution, is a realistic possibility...
- Eugene V. Koonin

The "dynamical structure mechanism" that Koonin is looking for, is the exact same one that physicists are looking for, and nobody will ever be able to see this as long as they refuse to accept the real apparent scientific plausibilty that carbon based life may be a *necessary* feature of the universe.

I've also got many excellent examples for how independently supportive information is automatically disassociated from this known anthropic precedent, rather than added to it as supportive evidence as it should be, like that little Lovelock-Margulis self-regulating homeostatic thing, for example... ;)

There are many examples of obviously neglected but easily associable evidence that should be recognized as compounding evidence, that is never taken as such.

Kevin M. Folta Ph.D. said...

Ok, I see where you are coming from and I think I can foster the understanding here. For solutions to scientific problems we require answers that are plausible and testable. Most times the simplest example makes the most sense.

If we think about the replication-translation 'chicken or egg' scenario you pose, it is truly a good question about how these systems could coordinate. It is most unplausible! But it happened.

There is no direct evidence of an alternative explanation. As always I remain open to all possibilities.

BUT until there is evidence one way or the other we cannot teach it in science class. The only way it may be presented is as speculation based on naturally observable phenomena.

island said...

BUT until there is evidence one way or the other we cannot teach it in science class.

I agree with this, "BUT" my point is that we'll never get scientists to look in the right area for the necessary evidence if we don't enable creationists to force them to get real by asking tough leading questions based on the kind of information that is on my very incomplete list.

Physicists are just as bad, but don't believe me... ask Paul Davies.

Did you know that there is direct observationaly evidence that most apparently does indicate that we truly are at the center of the universe?

Do you know why you've never heard about it?

It ain't pretty:

island said...
But when you look at CMB map, you also see that the structure that is observed, is in fact, in a weird way, correlated with the plane of the earth around the sun. Is this Copernicus coming back to haunt us? That's crazy. We're looking out at the whole universe. There's no way there should be a correlation of structure with our motion of the earth around the sun — the plane of the earth around the sun — the ecliptic. That would say we are truly the center of the universe.
-Lawrence Krauss

"That's Crazy"... "There's no way"... Really Larry?

Or isn't it actually compounding supportive evidence for the cosmologial principle that we already know about?

Now, the problem here isn't that we don't have evidence, (make that, compounded evidence, and/or independently supportive evidence), the problem is that nobody is looking into this from any perspective that isn't aimed at refuting the significance of the evidence.

They have had some success at this, too, because it has been discovered that the correlation applies to a specific region of galaxies like ours, but they act like they don't have a clue, (and I'm sure that they don't), that this is exactly what the goldilocks enigma predicts will be found:

It isn't a case of not having evidence, rather, it is a matter of unscientific interpretation and an unwillingness to look.

... ;)