Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Skeptics vs Deniers, is there a difference?

One of the usual Discovery Institute (DI) shills posted this little missive: "Seeking to Vilify Doubters, New York Times Now Opts for "Denier" Over "Skeptic", it's by davey klinghoffer and mainly it's a whine against something that hasn't even happened.  I guess it's a slow news day when you have to make up criticisms of your position in order rant against them.  I mean klingy stated:

" I don't have any doubt that the Times would regard it as appropriate to call us "evolution deniers."
Let's be clear the NY Times did not call them 'evolution deniers', but klingy acts as if they did and built a rather whiny post, I had a laugh quite a bit about it.

About the only thing he said that I agree with is "Language matters", but past that not much.  But before we dive into klingy's whine, let's look at the idea of a skeptic vs a denier.  To do that I want to go a bit further back in the past and think about a couple of concepts that once confused me a bit.  'Prejudice' and 'Discrimination' -- trust me it ties in.

A Prejudice is usually defined as "preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience".  People have prejudices, many prejudices.  The origin of the term is to pre-judge something.  When you pre-judge something you are doing so without any actual experience, or having given it any real consideration.  When a child refused to try a food they have never had before, they are in fact demonstrating a prejudice.  Once they try a food and like or dislike it, they are no longer demonstrating a prejudice because their opinion is based on actual experience with it.

Discrimination is more of an action than is Prejudice.  When you discriminate, you make a decision and take action according to your decision.  Regardless if you are acting on a prejudice or experience, it's a decision/action that differentiates between the two.  Going back to the child, once the child decides if they like or dislike something based on actually trying it, then the decision to continue to eat it or not is a form of discrimination.  Simple example, but to me it makes the point between a Skeptic and a Denier.

It might not sound like it to you, but in many cases I see skepticism as a form of prejudice. People are skeptical about things they tend to not have any experience about or really haven't given it much thought.  Prior to Secretariat winning the Triple Crown, people were very skeptical that it would be ever won again.  But the difference comes when faced with the evidence, people have to make a decision.  Was anyone skeptical after the 1973 Belmont Stakes?  Did anyone deny it?  I'm sure there were people who didn't like it, but active denial?

Now on to davey's whine.  Why would a publication like the NY Times change from using the term 'skeptic' to using the term 'denier' much more often than they used to?   Over time, as the evidence for something mounts and mounts, it gets harder and harder to be skeptical.  You have to make a decision.  Like the child, once faced with the evidence, you can no longer consider yourself a skeptic.  Denying the evidence, like discrimination, requires a decision.  When faced with the evidence, you deny it, you try and 'rationalize' it, or you completely redefine it claiming it means something else entirely.  Sound familiar?

According to kilingy, the NY Times now uses the term 'Climate Change Denier' more than 'Climate Change Skeptic'.  I think this is perfectly understandable given the weight of evidence supporting both Climate Change and Mankind's impact on Climate.  Most of the vocal people against Climate Change are denying it.  This isn't evidence buried in scientific reports.  There are regular media information pieces about it.  You are no longer a skeptic when faced with such evidence.

Now to klingy's last little thing, are he and his friends at the Discovery Institute 'Evolution Deniers'?  In my opinion, yes they are.  Just look at the many posts doing exactly what 'deniers' do.  How many times has some scientific evidence been 'rationalized' by the DI?  How often do they 're-interpret' scientific evidence to change the results of the researchers and claim some level of support for their pet philosophy Intelligent Design (ID)?  How about in Ohio a few years back when they presented a list of over 40 scientific publications, claiming they were in some way supporting ID?  Remember our surprise when the majority of the authors of the papers were contacted and they said not only was their paper not in support of ID in any way, but if it mentioned it at all, it was in the negative.

Yes, klingy and his friends are Evolution Deniers because they want there to be a more Theistic-Friendly explanation for life on this planet.  And denying the mountain of evidence is one of the many tactics they will use to try and make us all believe in their version of a deity. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Wherever it leads . . . Really?

I've been following the 'Controversy', but haven't been doing much posting . . . going to try and get back into it, usually with something I find more humorous than exasperating.  Here is something I did find hilarious . . . it's from little casey luskin, one of those DI'ers.  I've mentioned his name a few times over the years.  Well the latest blog post over on at "Evolution News" goes into one of the little guy's audio rants really cracked me up.  In it he claims that he and his fellow DI'ers are following the evidence wherever it leads.  I have to ask the question . . . "Really?"

Simply put, how can you be following anything wherever it leads if you already have the destination all picked out?  Think about it. casey and friends KNOW what the final answer is to any question in biology, the Christian God . . . oh yea they like to try and confuse people and call it an 'intelligent designer', but that is nothing but word-smithing.  They already have, what they consider, all the answers.  So how can they claim to be following the evidence wherever it might lead?  The reality is they cannot.  But of course when does reality bother casey and his buds.

I do like the little bait and switch the text lead-in on the webpage says:

" Unlike materialism, which MUST find a naturalistic explanation for everything in nature, ID is without bias, making no prior to commitment as to whether any given phenomenon should be explicable in natural or design terms."
Aside from their erroneous labeling of 'science' as 'materialism', look at the attempt to offer you a binary set.  From his words you seem to have two choices, a naturalistic explanation OR design.  I think he is seriously overstating the issue, or maybe seriously understating it.  The opposite of  natural is not design, the opposite of natural is supernatural

Why can't casey and his buds state it that way?  For the same reason the Wedge Strategy Document decided to remove all references to a deity in their marketing plans.  They do not want you to remember that their explanation is all about the supernatural.  When people realize that, they tend to get off the Intelligent Design wagon.  Only serious adherents, who realize that they are one in the same, tend to stay past such a realization.

If you disagree, you might remember that the Dover Trial Defendants were pushing for Creationism long before they tried the tactic of ID.  How about the 'cdesign proponentists' from the cut & replace editing of the 'Of Panda's and People' textbook.  Even here in Ohio back in 2002 the members of the school board pushing ID earlier pushed creationism (Deborah Owens Fink was the ringleader of that particular embarrassment).

Science, by its very nature, will continue to look for answers that exist in the real world.  The reason is surprisingly simple, those are the only answers that work, that make any sense, that are repeatable and usable.  Supernatural answers mean little.  While you might pray that your car starts in the morning, the reality is that the natural processes that went into the design and maintenance of your vehicle is why it starts.  Tell you what, let's take two cars that refuse to start.  Take one to a mechanic and the other to the religious figure of your choice.  Guess which one end up being repaired and starting well before the other?