A Conspiracy of Suppression.

One of my favorite books on science and skepticism is Carl Sagan’s A Demon-Haunted World. I know it is a favorite of others, as I’ve seen it quoted and admired extensively throughout the Atheosphere. I was reminded of it recently, in particular this passage:

Pseudoscience differs from erroneous science. Science thrives on errors, cutting them away one by one. False conclusions are drawn all the time, but they are drawn tentatively. Hypotheses are framed so that they are capable of being disproved. A succession of alternative hypotheses is confronted by experiment and observation. Science gropes and staggers toward improved understanding. Proprietary feelings are of course offended when a scientific hypothesis is disproved, but such disproofs are recognized as central to the scientific enterprise.

Pseudoscience is just the opposite. Hypotheses are often framed precisely so they are invulnerable to any experiment that offers a prospect of disproof, so even in principle they cannot be invalidated. Practitioners are defensive and wary. Skeptical scrutiny is opposed. When the pseudoscientific hypothesis fails to catch fire with scientists, conspiracies to suppress it are deduced. (p. 20-21)(emphasis added)

Does that last sentence seem to describe anything familiar?

Recently the movie Expelled (ironically subtitled: No Intelligence Allowed) has been screened at theaters around the country in anticipation of its release next month, in an attempt to create a “buzz” about it. The movie is billed as an exposé of the scientific community, which has allegedly conspired to suppress the teachings of Intelligent Design, so as to eliminate all scientists who appear to be proponents of this so called pseudoscientific theory that was last heard from in a little town in York County, Pennsylvania. You remember that? The theory was exposed for what it actually is (or more precisely, isn’t) in a Federal Courthouse a few miles away, and ended in the decisive opinion of Judge John E. Jones III in the Kitzmiller v. Dover decision.

The operative word here is “conspired’. According to the press kit for the movie

What Is Intelligent Design?

The theory of intelligent design is simply an effort to empirically detect whether the “apparent design” in nature acknowledged by virtually all biologists is genuine design (the product of an intelligent cause) or is simply the product of an undirected process such as natural selection acting on random variations.

“Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” rejects the notion that “the case is closed,” and exposes the widespread persecution of scientists and educators who are pursuing legitimate, opposing scientific views to the reigning orthodoxy

According to the trailer for the movie, everybody seems to be involved in this conspiracy. Not just all the nasty mainstream scientists picking on a few mavericks, but the media, the courts and the educational system are all “in on it”. The “system” is persecuting the few scientists who have the temerity to assert that there is evidence for intelligent design.

Can you spell paranoid? Here’s how.

PZ Myers was recently “expelled‘ from a screening at the Mall of America where he had legitimately reserved free tickets to view the movie with his family and some guests. In line to get his seats, security had him removed from the theater upon direct orders of the producer. He is actually in the movie, as an interviewee, and he was not allowed to see it. However his family and friends were allowed in, including Richard Dawkins, who apparently wasn’t recognized. No legitimate reason was given for excluding Myers from the theater, although with the beard and wire-rimmed glasses, he does appear somewhat anarchic.

Conspiracy theories are the step-child of failed science and pseudoscience. Intelligent Design is not science, and only scientists with axes to grind, or with non-evidentiary beliefs, such as those of a religion that they cling to like security blankets, actually find any science in the “theory”. The IDiots who believe in ID (yes, I know it’s a disparaging term, but if the shoe fits…) often will have no problem lying for their beliefs in some mad, cockamamie notion that doing so will somehow convince listeners to believe their nonsense also. They have fabricated a “controversy” that doesn’t exist in the scientific community, then when real scientists pooh-pooh their controversy, claim that they are part of the conspiracy to cover it up. Again, from the press kit for the movie:

The Controversy

The American public’s awareness and beliefs vis-à-vis our government’s expanding role in defining the curriculum in America’s schools, universities and institutions of science.
Neo-Darwinian theory contends that life is the result of a random, purposeless process.
Neo – Darwinian theory is taught in schools as if it is the only plausible scientific explanation of how life originated and developed. Yet Intelligent Design theory has recently emerged to challenge neo-Darwinian theory.
Both are scientific theories, and the debate is therefore legitimate. Why is the debate being suppressed?

See the lie? “Both are scientific theories”, thereby making the debate legitimate. And any attempt to suppress a legitimate debate must be bad, probably a result of some conspiracy. If you assume that, then there IS a controversy. But calling ID a scientific theory doesn’t make it one, any more than calling the stork theory a scientific theory about human reproduction makes it one that should be given equal time in sex-ed class. Someone has to present actual scientific evidence for it first, before they can claim the status of a scientific theory. Evolution has been doing it now for 150 years, or more. ID, on the other hand, assumes its conclusion, then calls itself a scientific theory. No wonder scientists don’t give it the time of day.

So ID is not a scientific theory, and its proponents have no right to be upset if it is not taken seriously. Conduct repeatable, falsifiable, consistent experiments, write the results up in a peer reviewed publication, then come back and demand equal time. Until then, stop crying about conspiracies of suppression, and making movies about them. It’s almost as if the producers of Expelled had read the Sagan quote, and attempted to make it a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I actually feel honored to be a full fledged member of the conspiracy.

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11 thoughts on “A Conspiracy of Suppression.

  1. The citizenry will love this movie. After all, they love the Ghost Hunter stuff on SciFi and the Scary Houses stuff and all the others of that bunch of pseudoscience on the TV. The public loves contrived reality shows that bear no resemblance to reality. They think it’s real. For chrissake, they think pro wrestling is real.

    Expelled sounds like good, solid propaganda and when you feed that to an ignorant, dumbed down citizenry, you get a whole new crop of IDiots. There won’t be one in fifty people at any screening of this film who can define the scientific method or who have the slightest clue about critical thinking.

    Is it any wonder people will elect John McCain in November, with the help of the Democratic Party, considering that they believe all the crap I mentioned here? Not to mention the damned Easter Bunny and the fat man in the red suit. Not to mention how many of them still tell their kids that stupid stork brings babies. And where’s the stork get the babies, Daddy? Ummm, at Walmarts kid, Walmarts. But Daddy I never seen any babies at Walmarts. Go away, kid, you bother me. But Daddy… Go ask your mother, kid. Kid grows up to be a serial killer.

  2. Since our faith in God validates all our beliefs, and since God is omnipotent, then any apparent lack of evidence supporting our beliefs must be caused by a conspiracy of
    Godless non-believers to supress the evidence that we can’t provide. Have I got this right?

    Sagan also said that Americans are the best entertained people in the world. The drama of being persecuted by, or battling against non-belief, can be very seductive.

    Drama is easy. Science is hard.

  3. One might point out that science is not decided by movie-makers.

    I liked this from Sagan:

    Science gropes and staggers toward improved understanding.

    “Improved understanding”… so much better than unchangeable myth.

  4. Wait a minute. What have you got against the stork theory? Are you saying that science takes precedence over hundreds of years of folklore and dozens of animated cartoons?

    By the way, according to a book called 100 Birds and How They Got Their Names, there’s not only an Old German dialect word “Storch,” which means “penis,” but also an Old Scottish word “storken” which means “to stiffen.” So, in a sense, storks do bring babies.

  5. In the interest of keeping an open mind, I actually read Darwin on Trial by Philip Johnson and Michael Behe’s latest book called The Edge of Evolution. All I can really say is that this stuff is clearly not science. Will you learn a little about science from reading it? Sure. Does it involve science? Absolutely. But they are not out to learn anything new about how the world works or do anything other than find facts that confirm their theory that the world must have been designed.

    It’s a christianized version fo Nazis science– an attempt to find “sciencey” evidence for an ideological version of how life came to be. It’s “science” in the same way that archaeology is a science. Archaeologists use science in their work, but that’s about it (they also use bull whips, revolvers, and wear fedora hats incidentally). I don’t even have a problem with it being taught in a religion or a philosophy class, but to call it science– the endeavor to determine the physical workings of the universe is another story entirely.

  6. I wasted a couple of hours total probably yesterday dealing with one of these fundie yahoos on a forum where they were discussing global warming. This woman had several posts in there and then all of a sudden she drops that creationism crap. One guy, VERY knowledgeable, probably had the best reply, which was “aaaaaand I’m out”. Of course I have to be Quixotic and ride in raging.

    It’s been said before, but damn, it’s hard being an atheist because you have to know A LOT of stuff. Just yesterday I have to pull out what a scientific theory is, exhibit a good understanding of evolution, radiometric dating, Big Bang, formation of stars and solar systems, explain “random” as it pertains to the development of the galaxy, and have ready killer links like Adams’ puddle analogy. It’s not fair, I tell you. All they have to do is believe some shit from one book which none of them have ever bothered to read.

    Expelled is shit. You know what they’re planning? They’re going to do this thing where if a school or church group goes and sends them their ticket stubs, they’ll be reimbursed. The point being to make the movie appear more successful than it will be (which I think will be a dud) so they can brag about that and push their agenda, saying something like, “see, America wants to hear the message those scientists want to keep quiet”.

  7. @ Lifey –

    Dude! I think you’ve been playing too much “Tomb Raider” on PS2. Equating archeology with ID… you might as well toss in paleontology there partner. They are similar fields. Archeologists deal with artifacts and Paleontologists deal in fossils – for much the same reason and utilizing many of the same scientific techniques for dating.

    To quote Wikipedia, “archeology is the science that studies human cultures through the recovery, documentation, analysis and interpretation of material remains and environmental data, including architecture, artifacts, features, biofacts, and landscapes.”

  8. I only equate them in the sense that science is something they both use in the service of learning (or in ID’s case purporting to learn) the truth about something else. For archeology, it’s history, while for ID it’s how god or aliens may have designed life. I wasn’t equating their relative merits as fields of inquiry. My point was you wouldn’t teach archeology in a science class– you’d do it in history. So you shouldn’t teach ID in a science class either, as it would belong someplace else.

    Bad analogy, but that was my point.

  9. It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again — people who don’t like it when their beliefs are laughed at shouldn’t have such funny beliefs.

  10. You know guys, if we tried to add up all the time we’ve collectively spent in pointless discussions with people, writing whole books in response to them, and then getting a Bible verse or just an insult back…

    well, add all that time up, and you’d probably get entire lifetimes worth of banging ones head against a brick wall.

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