Thursday, May 08, 2014

Neil deGrasse Tyson Promotes Anti-intellectualism: Don't Study Philosophy and Don't Ask Too Many Questions

Damon Linker at
Neil deGrasse Tyson may be a gifted popularizer of science, but when it comes to humanistic learning more generally, he is a philistine. Some of us suspected this on the basis of the historically and theologically inept portrayal of Giordano Bruno in the opening episode of Tyson's reboot of Carl Sagan's Cosmos.

But now it's been definitively demonstrated by a recent interview in which Tyson sweepingly dismisses the entire history of philosophy. Actually, he doesn't just dismiss it. He goes much further — to argue that undergraduates should actively avoid studying philosophy at all. Because, apparently, asking too many questions "can really mess you up.

Yes, he really did say that. Go ahead, listen for yourself, beginning at 20:19 — and behold the spectacle of an otherwise intelligent man and gifted teacher sounding every bit as anti-intellectual as a corporate middle manager or used-car salesman. He proudly proclaims his irritation with "asking deep questions" that lead to a "pointless delay in your progress" in tackling "this whole big world of unknowns out there." When a scientist encounters someone inclined to think philosophically, his response should be to say, "I'm moving on, I'm leaving you behind, and you can't even cross the street because you're distracted by deep questions you've asked of yourself. I don't have time for that.

"I don't have time for that."

Daniel Dennett knows how foolish this is:

But there is no such thing as philosophy-free science, there is only science whose philosophical baggage is taken on board without examination.

Everyone can see Tyson's philosophical baggage except him.

Labels: ,

Thursday, April 03, 2014

"The Word 'Design' Almost Unavoidably Comes to Mind"

Christian de Duve is one of the many voices who acknowledge the evidence of design in nature.  Vital Dust: Life as a Cosmic Imperative, pp 9-10:

Cells are so obviously programmed to develop according to certain lines, organs adapted to perform certain functions, organisms suited to certain environments, that the word design almost unavoidably comes to mind. 

But then he joins the many who say that, despite this evidence, other explanations "must" be found:
Life is increasingly explained strictly in terms of the laws of physics and chemistry. Its origin must be accounted for in similar terms. 

So past explanation "trends" have to limit future explanations?  This is absurd.  It looks like his worldview is driving this, not the evidence.

Similar comments on the evidence for design are here.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Where I Went to College . . .

Where I went to college, you could discuss any topic in any class. Not so at Ball State University. I can only imagine that the President of Ball State University thinks her students are too immature to handle certain interesting ideas in a science class-- even if the subject of the science class is the "Boundaries of Science."

President Gora has firmly established Ball State as a second rate university.  No-- third-rate.

Will Ball State also get a reputation as a leader in censorship?

Labels: , ,

Plausibility Survey: Please comment

I am reposting this, and will update the results when a few people have given their answers in the comments section.  Please comment and ask others to comment.  Thanks!


How plausible is the following statement with respect to various events in the history of life on earth?
Random mutation and natural selection, together with other known natural mechanisms and environmental events adequately explain "X".

For X, fill in the following, and then state the plausibility of each (10 = highly plausible; 0 = highly implausible):

1. microevolutionary changes, such as bacterial resistance

2. minor macroevolutionary events such as the appearance of varieties of beetle species with no significant morphological changes.

3. minor macroevolutionary events such as the appearance of horses and zebras from a common ancestor.

4. moderate macroevolutionary events such as the appearance of horses, cows and sheep from a common ancestor.

5. macroevolutioary events such as the emergence of whales and bats from a common mammal ancestor.

6. the Cambrian Explosion (the apparently sudden appearance in the fossil record of many complex, multicellular animals, dated at about 540 million years ago).

7. the origin of life itself- the first appearance of life on earth.

Please comment! I will wait for some comments before giving you my answers. Feel free to describe yourself when you give your answers in whatever way may be of interest to readers.

I encourage links to this survey, as I am genuinely curious to see how others evaluate the evidence.

Labels: , , , ,

My Favorite Posts, Vol. 2

Here is Volume 2 of My Favorite Posts. Volume 1 can be found here.

Science? Religion? Philosophy?
Explores the question whether intelligent design and macroevolutionary theory are science, religion or philosophy, and examines the relationship to each field of inquiry.

Polls on Evolution and Education
Links to several public opinion polls regarding attitudes towards the issues, including showing overwhelming public support for teaching the scientific evidence for and against Darwinian theory.

ACLU, Kitzmiller and Banned Books Week
I explore the irony of the ACLU filing a lawsuit during Banned Books Week that seeks in part to ban a book from science classrooms.

I will be adding to this post over time.

Links to Background Posts

If you would like to read more, but don't feel like randomly clicking through archives, you can find a summary of some of my favorite previous posts, with links, here. These posts also give you a good idea of what this blog is all about.

For a discussion of what Darwinian Fundamentalism is, go here.

For a post with links regarding Challenges to Macroevolutionary Theory, go here.

Labels: ,