Antiscience and the atheist

Orac reliably demonstrates a unique ability to wander through the trees, never realizing that he’s in a forest:

Yesterday, I discussed how pseudoscience–nay, antiscience–may well triumph over science in the Autism Omnibus trial presently going on.

What science? The medical-pharmaceutical complex doesn’t permit any proper double-blind scientific studies to be performed in order to determine the safety of shooting up children with 24 or more loads of chemicals before they turn two. Until they inject 1,000 kids with a heavy vaccine schedule and compare them to a group of 1,000 unvaccinated kids, I’m not going to be inclined to pay any attention to the metastudies of metastudies that are constantly cited. Especially since if vaccines were as harmless as it is claimed, there wouldn’t be any need for VAERS or special Federal laws protecting vaccine makers and shooters from lawsuits.

I’ve spoken to a few European pediatricians over the years. They’re all very pro-vaccine in general, but they also think the heavy US vaccine schedule is dangerous, bordering on insane, given that it requires between two and three times the number of shots required in any of their countries.

This time around, Vox seems to be providing what has to be the dumbest rationale for not liking evolution. Banish the thought of pesky evidence and science! Vox knows there must be something wrong with the theory of evolution because he doesn’t like the way that “adherents” of evolution behave when evolution is attacked.

Fine. Take two sunfish and evolve me a lizard in the lab and I’ll be convinced. Or a fish-squirrel, you know, whatever. I’ve read Dawkins, Gould and few lesser would-be evolutionary popularizers, they’ve all got massive gaping holes in their arguments. I particularly enjoyed Dawkins primordial replicators from “The Selfish Gene” for which he admits there is no evidence whatsoever, but logically MUST have existed. Because without them, you know, the whole thing falls apart. Therefore they must have existed, QED. Here’s a pair of questions which arose from my reading of Marc Hauser’s latest yesterday: just how do morals evolve if it’s genes, not species or individuals, that are the evolutionary component? And why has the speed of the evolutionary process apparently increased so greatly of late? Sounds to me like someone might be confusing the metaphor with the reality there.

Orac, as usual, is missing the point. When I ask for specific evolutionary evidence, I always receive evasions, epistemological explanations and attacks. Always. That is not behavior that lends itself to instilling confidence, especially when a lauded evolutionist like Dawkins steps foot into one of my areas of knowledge and reveals himself to be an utterly clueless ignoramus incapable of handling the most basic logic. Moreover, the psychological argument is not my only reason for being skeptical of evolution; while I understand others may have good reason to be dubious of it, it has proven to be a trustworthy guide for me. Physicists have very little evidence for string theory, other scientific fields have enough to satisfy nearly anyone, and yet no scientists in any field are as reliably frothing-at-the-mouth crazy when faced with skepticism than the evolutionary biologists.

More amusing still is Vox’s “nyah-nyah” attempt to “refute” the contention that the tendency of Republicans to reject evolution is not evidence of their ignorance and scientific illiteracy:

As those who visit here more often knew, I was making fun of Dawkins and Harris, but whatever.

Vox also claims that Duchesne wasn’t a scientist, but rather a military doctor. The problem is, you don’t have to be a formal “scientist” to do science. Science is a method, a way of knowing and discovering, a manner of thinking about the world. Formal training in science certainly helps one to do science, but it is not strictly necessary. If the methodology is sound and designed to test a hypothesis based on prior observations and if the observations were carefully made, that’s doing science.

Dance, little atheist, dance! It’s always amusing how the science-worshippers will claim the same thing is, or is not science, depending on which axe they’re grinding at the moment. For all my supposed dislike of science, I take a more scientific approach to nearly everything than individuals like Harris, Dawkins and Hitchens, who rely on purely epistemological and ontological arguments without ever bothering to cite any evidence of anything. (Except, occasionally, Harris, who shouldn’t bother because he can’t even do simple division without making a mistake.) I just finished writing the chapter on Dawkins and I was practically embarrassed for the man when I finished it. I mean, what sort of “scientist” hypothesizes that X is worse than Y, then attempts to prove it by relating a series of five anecdotes about X without ever providing evidence or even assigning any value whatsoever to Y?

So, how can I be said to dislike science when I am, by Orac’s own measure, doing it? The truth is that for people like Orac, if an activity produces a beneficial result, then it must be science. If it is harmful, then it must not be. Because science is good, or at least it means well, and therefore should never be questioned except by other scientists who have been published in the proper peer-reviewed publications. Do not question the Priesthood!

Ah, the old argument from consequences fallacy. First off, no one claims that science is universally good. It’s a tool, a way of thinking, and as such can be used for good or evil. To turn one of Vox’s arguments against him, religion can be used for evil too. Does Vox thus think that religion is harmful, as he seems to think that science is?

Yes, exactly, it’s just a tool, and one can therefore make the case that it is a tool that has outlived its usefulness to Mankind. I’m not actually making that case, though, just as I haven’t made any argument from consequences. Actually, I agree with Daniel Dennett, let’s put all the cards on the table and scientifically examine the benefits of religion versus the costs of religion as well as the benefits of science versus the costs of science. Is Orac up for that? Surely science has nothing to fear from such an inquiry. Although… it’s not religion that has created the imminent, humanity-imperiling threats of nuclear destruction, of genetic and chemical warfare, of pollution and global warming, of overpopulation and resource depletion.

In answer to the question, Vox thinks that both religion and science can be harmful and that both can also can be beneficial; I am not attacking either scientage or scientody, only scientistry, sciencistry and the common, unfounded atheist assumption that religion is net harmful and science is net beneficial.