Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Kent Hovind and how I lost my 250,000$

I recently once again watched the creationist seminars by Kent Hovind. First of all, I love the creationists for their ignorance, belief and all that crap. The favorite creationist has to be the one belonging to young earth category.

I simply love the idea that my grandpa was a monkey/dragonfly/reptile/fish at the same time, I don't think there exists many grandpas who can do that kind of magic, thankfully at present moment he's just an old human being. The other awesome thing is the age of the earth, and various insightful details about curing cancer in the Bible.

Anyways, I truly believe that masochistic entertainment (not the s&m kind) can be really fun. I like watching really bad movies, documentaries about god and religion, conspiracy theories etc etc... you get the picture. I was watching this kent hovind seminar series on youtube where he declared a prize of 250, 000$ for anyone who has a scientific and laboratory testable proof for evolution. Easy money!

While there are people out there who believe that evolution is just a theory (well, it is just a theory, that's why it's called the theory of evolution!) and there also exist people who believe that it's a wrong/bad/propagandist one, I know a graduate/undergraduate level course taught by Marc Ostermier in Johns Hopkins university which deals with laboratory techniques (there goes the scientific tests) regarding directed evolution (so it does exist!) To add to that story, the whole Ostermier lab works in synthesizing new proteins using techniques of directed evolution. Cool stuff ain't it? I am sure that the lab won't need the 250, 000$ they probably have infinite funding :-) But I can make use of it. So I thought....

To find out more about this curious guy, I wikied (is that a verb yet?) him to find out that the poor soul is in jail for a number of frauds. Apparently he told the police that the property wasn't his (it was god's own :D ) Damn! There goes the easy money. I hope there are more of such monkeys around so that I don't have to find a job when I graduate, I'll just direct them to the course and get rich :-)

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On a different note, I had a long debate about some random topic with a dear friend. She was disturbed in the end, though we didn't reach an agreement neither did we agree on our disagreements, she made a remarkable point that the topic of discussion wasn't merely an intellectual debate for her, it was her profession/work/area of study. Maybe not directly but... you get the point. She also said that most of the people who'd talk to her about things will have formed their opinions from the so called main stream. And she was getting tired of repeating the same arguments over and over again.

People who say ayurveda/qoran/astrology and similar rubbish is scientific really really need to understand what is meant by scientific theory. There are descriptions available which are fairly agreed upon by scientist and philosophers which are reasonably non-technical and yet sufficiently deterministic. This is our territory, if you want to pee here, please use our language :-)

20 comments:

Sudeep said...

I liked the intro paras best! :P

Everytime I think that I am now rational, I reach back to the conclusion that I was hardly ever rational in the past.

Also, I have stopped discussing about religion/rationality because I see seeds of fundamentalism in myself. I don't want to lose myself for the sake of winning an argument. Yes, it seems to be only winning an argument for me, because I am hardly so passionate that they must see the truth etc.

Pritam said...

so scientists and philosophers decide what is scientific and philosophical or is it the people that are scientific and philosophical who are called scientists and philosophers?

Roger Waters said...

It's a circular thing and that is part of the game. Once you have decided what is scientific and sc. and ph. people agree with it (and the rest of them don't care) you can move forward :-)

Pritam said...

so if christians decide for themselves that evolution is wrong, why are scientists criticizing them?

Roger Waters said...

Christians don't just think for themselves. They plan to teach it in schools as an alternative _scientific_ theory. That's kind of unacceptable. They also plan to ban use of certain drugs in islamic countries because they are technically narcotic etc etc...

Anonymous said...

I took a look at his wiki page and my god, it's as long or even longer than Einstein's. Why do people take such bozos seriously?

On second thoughts, Hovinda Hare Hovinda! :P

Pritam said...

by the same circular definition that you gave for scientists, can't they call themselves scientists or anything for that matter, give themselves phds, call God scientific and narcotic drugs unscientific, say rationality is irrational and teach stuff?

Anonymous said...

a very common argument which effectively poses the question "Whose authority should we accept at the end of the day? And why should we choose the scientific over the religious since both behave as factions anyway".

But there is an essential difference in the manner in which the scientific and the religious schools seek to educate their subjects and that is the following:

The scientific school tells its student, "Look here buddy, here are a set of self-evident truths and certain postulates we will regard as axiomatic and then using these rules we shall go on to prove a lot of wonderful things about this world. Although it is an endless game, we shall build our confidence on those axioms when they lead to truths about our world which we can see and perceive. They are not final and you can contest the first principles if you want. If you can find a better way around them, then you're more than welcome. All we ask for is consistency (as Godel says, in this regard, we have to compromise for completeness :) ).

On the other hand, the religious school tells its students, "Look buddy, here is a divine book that you need to follow implicitly. It is known from our forefathers' time that this is the only way to salvation and eternal happiness. Do not question the veracity of anything contained in this book because that will violate clause no. XYZ directly and you shall go to hell. Moreover, we demand full conformity from you. You are free to go worship the god on the opposite street but then no point crying when you feel like a nitwit on the gates of hell"

If someone chooses B over A, that's his/her choice. But then there is a difference :)

-ks

Roger Waters said...

I don't see a point in your argument Pritam. Once the notion of a scientific method has been established (which is surely open to changes) we know that certain things are unscientific and irrational and they shouldn't be taught as scientific theories. You can surely teach children intelligent design, but surely not as a scientific theory.

If you disagree with that, I don't see a point in replying to you :-)

Roger Waters said...

As usual, ks is much more effective than me :-)

Pritam said...

ks, i don't really agree with you about religion, since the religious school i come from teaches nothing of the sort. but i'm not talking about that at all. i think that you see as well as anyone, that with a change of bias, the same "facts" that you state can have exactly the opposite effect on the reader.

pursha, you say "once the notion of a scientific method has been established..." and that's the part i'm confused about. if the notion of a scientific method is established, i completely agree with you. what i'm asking is how you establish a scientific method.

Pritam said...

Come to think of it, Godel's theorem in itself is the point I'm trying to make, i think. You can't come up with a definition for what is scientific without stepping outside the realm of what is scientific.

Anonymous said...

@pritam1 - well it's true that your school doesn't tell you all this and perhaps that's why it has produced a pritam and not a Narendra Modi or an Ayatollah Khomeini. What I was referring to was not "personal religion" or "theology" but "institutionalized religion".

There can be some overtones of fundamentalism in the scientific school, if that's what you mean but I don't think it will ever tell its subject to submit to a literalist viewpoint of things. So in that regard there is a difference between the two schools and I don't see how they can every be viewed in the same light. Purshya's never gonna say something like "Statistical mechanics is cool. Period. You'll enjoy it if you pursue it, else you can fuck off!" :).

@pritam2 - I don't know what point you're trying to make out of Godel's theorem but it simply says, "In a consistent system of logic, truth transcends theoremhood". But the point is that Godel's theorem, while elucidating the limitation of science, is a triumph of science and not religion. No religion will have an equivalent of Godel's principle for it cannot afford to talk of its own limitations. The missionaries are constantly listening!

Anonymous said...

To reinforce or elucidate purshya's point a bit let me pose a simple question - not more than a hundred years ago, the religion that you and I are a part of, pritam, said things like "Rahu eats up the moon during eclipse" and "untouchability is important". Infact some Christian schools still teach that the earth is 9000 years old, as said in the bible.

Now people who say, that well this is the part of religion that I don't believe, I ask on what basis do you choose whether to believe something or not from a text. And does that basis ever come from the religion itself? One point that is cared for while establishing a "scientific method" is consistency (consistency with it's own system of logic and consistency with phenomena through experiments. There is a protocol of logic agreed upon and followed [And we know that that protocol is not in a 'fundamentalist' sense as i said earlier]). And "consistency" is something I found absent in the religion I was taught at home.

P.S: No more comments :). Sorry for the length

Pritam said...

that makes perfect sense, though i don't know who Khomeini is :) but all i actually set out to say was the defining scientific method requires unscientific stuff...while science has already taken that into consideration, i was just wondering whether pursha had :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you. and Khomeini was the Iranian cleric who issued a fatwa on Rushdie for The Satanic Verses :). Danger fellow he was!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruhollah_Khomeini

Roger Waters said...

I don't understand Pritam's last comment. If you are implying that in establishing scientific method we need things like _your own experience_, _trust in the faculties of observation_ which are pretty vague in themselves, then it does require un-scientific things.

Do let know of what you mean by unscientific stuff required for scientific method.

Pritam said...

well, was scientific method defined through a scientific method?

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