Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Barash on ID Dogmatism

David Barash, a psychology professor at the University of Washington, has this interesting op-ed in today's Los Angeles Times. The article is about “Brahean Blunders,” the reference being to 16th century Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe. Though undoubtedly a major figure in the history of astronomy (for the then unprecednted accuracy of his star charts), Brahe is also remembered for his stubborn refusal to accept the heliocentric model of the universe.

Part of Barash's article deals with evolution and ID:


I suspect that a Brahean Blunder lies at the core of the widespread refusal (at least in the United States) to accept an evolutionary origin for the human species, even among people who acknowledge the reality of natural selection.

Thus, current promoters of “intelligent design” generally accept the power and primacy of natural selection to generate small-scale evolutionary change. (The evolution of antibiotic resistance among bacteria, for example, is beyond dispute.) Ditto for the biochemical and genetic similarity of closely related species. But when it comes to their fundamental belief system, advocates of intelligent design aren't really very intelligent at all. Or rather, like Brahe, they have checked their intellects at the door, clinging desperately to the illusion that human beings are so special that only a benevolent god could have produced them and, therefore, the material world — like Brahe's sun and its five planets — must revolve around them.


Well said.

7 Comments:

At 3:55 PM, Anonymous MK said...

Reminds me of Michael Shermer's book called "Why People Believe Weird Things". A chapter at the end addresses why SMART people believe weird things. They come to these beliefs early in life and are unwilling or unable to give them up and, being smart, educated people they are able to concoct relatively intelligent reasons for these beliefs. Example: "I believe in God because of the beautiful design of the world and the universe." Yet, they are unwilling to allow for the same kind of reasoning from others: "Others believe in God because they are weak minded and afraid of the world."

Not too insecure, eh?

 
At 7:33 PM, Blogger M.C. said...

People believe "weird things" for many reasons, one of which is that they have personal experience with them. Another is that the data demands it. And what could be weirder than this, anyway?

A similar question is why "skeptics" don't believe their own data. The answer is pretty simple: dogmatism.

 
At 10:46 AM, Blogger David Wilson said...

"David Barash, a psychology professor at the University of Washington, has this interesting op-ed in today's Los Angeles Times. The article is about “Brahean Blunders,” the reference being to 16th century Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe. Though undoubtedly a major figure in the history of astronomy (for the then unprecednted accuracy of his star charts), Brahe is also remembered for his stubborn refusal to accept the heliocentric model of the universe."


This is rather unfair to Brahe. He died in 1601, well before any real evidence in favour of heliocentrism had come to light. Brahe's model shared with Copernicus's effectively all of the few advantages it could offer over the Ptolemaic one at that time.

Brahe's model also had the extra advantage that it did not predict stellar parallax as Copernicus's did. Since parallax was not detected until 1837, supporters of Copernicanism had to explain away this failure by speculating that the stars were too far away for their parallax to be observable.

Kepler and Galileo's reasons for preferring Copernicus's model at that time were essentially aesthetic. Their rather vague and as yet ill-formed intuitions about dynamics told them that it was ridiculous to expect the whole universe to spin at enormous speed around a piddling little earth at its centre. Although their intuitions ultimately turned out to be correct, the expression of them at that time seems to me to be uncomfortably close to an argument from personal incredulity.

 
At 4:01 PM, Anonymous MK said...

m.c.,

Weird indeed. Now, you be sure to hang on to those beliefs.

 
At 9:58 PM, Blogger M.C. said...

mk,

The beginning of science is to respect reality. Respecting what is is not "belief", it is the core of science.

Telling the 25% of people who have experienced telepathy or the like that they are mistaken or misremembered or lying or crazy because a dominant reductionist dogma insists these things don't happen isn't science. It is belief, it is faith, it is dogma. And it is a close cousin to the dogmas of creationists. Because neither fundamentalist Christians nor fundamentalist reductionists respect the data.

 
At 6:37 PM, Anonymous MK said...

"Telling the 25% of people who have experienced telepathy or the like that they are mistaken or misremembered or lying or crazy because a dominant reductionist dogma insists these things don't happen isn't science. It is belief, it is faith, it is dogma."

Wrong. It is based on much evidence showing how the brain functions under severe strain and stress. It is observable. People having hallucinations, schizophrenic fits, and yes, "telepathy", can be monitored while this is happening to them. Of course, they are being monitored by scientsts...so I suppose you could say they really stand no chance. Right? So maybe it is better they be watched by people just like them; people under the sad and mistaken notion that things like telepathy actually exists. People who've "experienced" it before. Yeah, that's a much better way to arrive at the truth.

Simply put, there is no telepathy. (And there are no ghosts either, by the way.)

 
At 11:33 PM, Blogger M.C. said...


There is no telepathy


That's what Richard Wiseman believes too, despite the fact that he demonstrated it with his own test data.

 

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