Field of Science

Happy Birthday Dr. Franklin

Google celebrates Rosalind Franklin's 93rd birthday! Hurray for Science and Hurray for Google's celebration of Scientists!

In Defense of Ignorance: Heffernan Edition

An article making the rounds on Yahoo does a great job of reinforcing societal loathing of science. You know that stupid activity being done everyday by jerk wads and has given us things like clean water, antibiotics, the ability to feed 7+ billion people, wifi, etc.

Heffernan is not a scientist nor someone in a technology field and that's ok. Most people aren't.  But like most people, Heffernan likes the benefits provided by science and technology. For instance you might note she is publishing an article at Yahoo that was certainly written on a computer. She also admits to owning a smartphone. Clearly this is someone who embraces technology, even if she doesn't understand how it works.

She gives up the game in the first paragraph.
As a child I fell in love with technology, but I have to admit I never fell in love with science. I kept hoping that messing around with Macs and Atari and eventually the Internet would nudge me closer to caring about the periodic table, Louis Pasteur and the double-blind studies that now seem to stand for science. As it was, I only cared about the double-blind studies that told me what I wanted to hear—that potatoes are good for you or that people of my height are generally happy—and I liked the phrase “double-blind” when it was on my side because it meant “true” and “take that.” (emphasis mine)
See, she admits to not falling in love with science and what science gave us. She only cared about science when it told her what she wanted to hear. Someone should probably inform her that that is not how science works. That is actually more like how religion works. Interestingly, throughout the early parts of the essay, Heffernan establishes religion as being oppressed by science and those evil practitioners of science. And as you might expect, Heffernan ultimately admits to being a fundamentalist Christian. Of course she is not direct about and does an end around to try to hide her intentions from her 'dear readers.' (As a person who admits to only caring about information that reinforces what she already believes, she likely assumes most people are like her and will not think too deeply about what she is doing.)

Upon admitting that she is a creationist, she tells us that the last person she actually said that to stormed off in a huff. I suspect that is bullshit, a lie, a fabrication. I could be wrong, but I am sure there is more to the story than being said. As a rational skeptic and scientist, I think it is more likely she is lying or leaving out important information than a person up and left a restaurant simply because she said she was a creationist. Based on my reading of Heffernan, I do not think I would like hanging out with her, but if we were at a restaurant having an appetizer and a cocktail, I would still not up and leave simply because she admitted to being a moron.

Upon telling us she read many books, which she seems to read for pleasure and style focusing on the prose not the content, she then states 
I still read and read and listen and listen.
Remember this is the person who tells us she only cares about things that agree with what she wants to hear.
And I have never found a more compelling story of our origins than the ones that involve God.
Ok, for a humanities Ph.D. trained person complaining about scientific prose that is one god-awful sentence. 'than the ones' suggests she is lumping all magical creation stories into this sentiment. Basically suggesting that any mythology is better than reality. But no. Heffernan is clearly only talking about Genesis as interpreted the way she interprets it. We don't need to consider all those silly New England theologians who believe Genesis is metaphor. We can discount all those Catholics and other Christian denominations that believe Genesis is not true, because she has it all figured out.

Heffernan then tries to bring up the fact that science is always changing (it's not, at least not how she believes it does). As we get more information we understand the universe in which we live better, thus we revise our conclusions. Because of this cars get 40+ mpg instead of 2 mpg. Because of this we get more food per acre than we used to. Because of this we have the internet. I don't see Heffernan lamenting the fact she has to upload a crap pile of an article to Yahoo instead of using a good old fashioned telegraph to transmit her thoughts across the country. Stupid science.

See the bible never changes. The book of Genesis is still around in its original form, unlike that pesky science. Genesis has never been translated from the original texts, which we definitely have. And the ideas supported by the bible like slavery and murder of adulteresses have not changed. Ideas that women, even those named Virginia, being responsible for all sin and subject to men haven't changed. Or maybe they have and Heffernan only cares about things that affirm what she wants to hear. But why should I think that.

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It's time to read The Origin of Species....again

I kind of lost the energy to keep up with my Origin of Species (OoS) book club, but I'm restarting it. In part this is to renew my writing here at AbC, but mostly it is to finish reading the OoS. So I have skimmed over chapters 1 through 3 and gone over my notes.

Thoughts on the Prologue.
Thoughts on Chapter 1.
Thoughts on Chapter 2.
Thoughts on Chapter 3.

Now I am rereading Chapter 4 and getting ready to teach incoming College of Biological Sciences undergraduates for 2.5 weeks. Now's you chance to catch up and start. Because I am getting a manuscript to colleagues and teaching a shit ton (by number not weight) next week, the next OoS post will not occur before next weekend. You have time to catch up.

This is the OoS I am reading (it's the 6th edition and it does matter, at least somewhat)

Happy 130th Mr. Kafka

Google celebrates Franz Kafka's birthday. The Trial is one of my favorite literary novels and although I like The Metamorphosis, I don't think it's as good as The Trial.