Skip to comments.Pseudoscience
Posted on 10/22/2002 2:49:25 PM PDT by Junior
According to Paramount's official Star Trek web site, surveys show that the average child learns more science from Star Trek than from any other source. This is a source of considerable pride to Star Trek's fans and creators. However, if it is true, it should be a source of considerable consternation to actual scientists and engineers everywhere, as well as any rational person.
Star Trek doesn't teach science; it teaches pseudoscience. Star Trek doesn't even promote science fiction; it only promotes Star Trek. Hardcore Star Trek fans tend to be distinguished not by a fascination with science fiction in general, but Star Trek alone. They even have the nasty habit of imposing the paradigms of Star Trek upon other sci-fi series (for example, wondering aloud why the Colonial Marines in Aliens use pulse rifles instead of rayguns, because rayguns are more "realistic", or assuming that the starships of all sci-fi series must carry many years' fuel supply because Star Trek ships do), or claiming that Star Trek was a pioneer in its genre (despite the existence of sci-fi serials in the 1930's and the sci-fi classic "Forbidden Planet" from which Gene Roddenberry appropriated most of Star Trek's style and format).
Science should be taught in schools, by real professors using real textbooks and real scientific principles, not by television writers using fictional technologies and pathological regurgitation of trendy scientific catch phrases from news stand magazines like New Scientist.
Most sci-fi plays fast and loose with scientific realism, and Star Trek is no exception. That in itself is no indictment of the franchise, but somewhere between the risk-taking space opera of the original series and the sterile self-importance of its spin-offs, Star Trek adopted the insufferable deceit of pseudoscience. Somewhere between the 1960's and the 1990's, the series went from "the engines canna take the strain, Captain!" to "We will need to modify the alignment parameters of the warp coils in order to extend the forward subspace field lobes so that we can reduce the nominally effective mass of the <blah blah blah>". Rick Berman seems to think that's an improvement. Do you?
Star Trek's high-profile promotion of pseudoscience is not just a matter of bad taste; it's a very disturbing form of conditioning for the youth of the country, who seem to be losing the ability to distinguish between pseudoscience and the real thing.
Pseudoscience is use of scientific language to describe blatantly unscientific ideas. The film "Ghostbusters" is an amusing parody of pseudoscience; its characters describe their goofy "ghost science" with all the jargon and clinical detachment of a real science. But while "Ghostbusters" is smart enough to know it's a comedy, other forms of pseudoscience such as Creationism aren't. They take themselves very seriously, and they hope you will too.
The trick is to draw you so deeply into the minutae of their deception that you forget to step back and look at what they're selling. In the case of biblical Creationism, they try to sell the idea that the theory of evolution is somehow less scientific than an ancient tribal mythology about the Earth appearing out of nothing in six days (the numerous impossibilities are dismissed because "God doesn't have to obey the laws of physics"), the universe being only 6000 years old despite observations of galaxies millions of light years away, a pile of dust turning into Adam, a rib turning into Eve, the entire concept of childbirth (and by extension, sexual reproduction) being invented afterwards as punishment for disobedience (what was Eve's womb for before that?), the beautifully intricate, interwoven pattern of species geo-location and homology being a pure coincidence, two of all the Earth's species being crammed into a 1500 foot long wooden boat (even though wooden shipbuilding techniques can't scale that high, and it still wouldn't have enough room) and then migrating to all their specialized local ecosystems around the world without leaving a trace of their travels or being killed by the intervening inhospitable climates, etc. It boggles the mind; I knew it was just an allegorical fable even when I was a child, yet there are adults walking around spouting this stuff!
People buy it not because it makes any sense, but because the snake-oil salesmen are preaching to the choir. The choir accepts it because they fervently want to accept it. Creationists want to believe that science somehow validates their religion, transcendental meditation quacks want to believe that quantum mechanics somehow validates their unsupportable claims of telekinesis, and Star Trek fans want to believe that the nonsensical magic-tech of their favourite sci-fi series is actually feasible.
The easiest way to spot pseudoscience is to track the authors' methods to see if they follow the scientific method, because they usually don't. I also have a "lucky 13" list:
Recurring pseudoscientist claims about mainstream science "cover-ups" bear further examination. Picture this: you're digging and you find what appears to be a fragment of an australopithicene skeleton. After more detailed investigation, you discover that you were mistaken. As an honest scientist, you naturally make the facts public, shrug your shoulders and think "oh well, better luck next time". Months later, you see a creationist website on the internet which has twisted those facts into the following: "a researcher dug up bones which he claimed to belong to the missing link, but it was exposed as a hoax. Even the original researcher was eventually forced to admit that it was a fraud!"
What happened here? Pseudoscience spin-doctoring, of course. They're hoping that the reader will interpret any perceived weakness in mainstream science as conclusive proof of their alternative explanation. This is a false dilemma fallacy, in which the pseudoscientist assumes that you will then have no choice but to leap all the way to their preposterous alternative theory (it's a bit like saying you have doubts about the accuracy of a thermometer that reads 25°C, so the temperature must be -80°C). Since scientists always conscientiously document their own mistakes, they provide plenty of material for pseudoscientists who aren't nearly so ethical, and who are trying to prove, ironically enough, that these very same scientists are engaged in a cover-up!
You've probably noticed that I've reserved most of my ire for creationists. That's not an accident; creationists are by far the most prolific abusers of pseudoscience in the world. Click here to see more examples of Creationist pseudoscience.
Yes, I know what you mean, another subtle insult by he who posts nothing but insults.
Progressionism: Everywhere in the world, if you dig for fossils, you will find that as you get deeper, the fossils become simpler. This trend is known as progressionism and it indicates that highly evolved animals occupy only a small, recent portion of the fossil record,
This is not as clear cut as one might think. Problem is that we cannot tell from fossils just how complex an organism is. We do not get DNA from fossils, we do not know how they lived, we do not know in many cases how they reproduced, and we do not know of the unique features of these organisms from fossils either. So we cannot verify in any way the 'evolutionary tree' which evolutionists keep claiming to be true. In fact we keep finding problems with it such as the Cambrian explosion and just this week (see Evolution Upset: Oxygen Making Microbes Came Last, Not First ) we find that a bacteria assumed by evolutionists to be 3.5 billion years old is over a billion years more recent than that. Sort of puts into question evolutionists claims of the accuracy of their dating methods which of course are totally essential for this claim being true.
Herein you make several unsupported assumptions. First off, one can get an idea of how complex an organism is by its fossil remains. Trilobites resemble horseshoe crabs, having similar body segments, numbers of legs and eyes. Obviously, trilobites are at least as complex as horseshoe crabs. Fossilized bacteria will be as complex as modern bacteria and so on. As for how they reproduced, we have fossils of eggs, fossils of larva, fossils of critters still in their mothers' wombs, fossils of critters in the act of budding or giving birth and so on. Numerous extinct species are very similar to extant species, so odds are they reproduced in a similar manner (if all birds today lay eggs, why wouldn't extinct birds lay eggs?). Secondly, there is no problem with the Cambrian explosion. As has been pointed out to you several times before on these threads Cambrian life can be traced back to the Vendian period at least. And as for your last contention that somehow the confusion over when oxygen-making bacteria came into being throws the whole of evolution out the window, you didn't pay much attention to the article. The researcher used techniques based upon the theory of evolution to correct difficulties he saw in the original hypothesis. This is science. At no point was the theory of evolution called into question.
Homology: Profound similarities between different species (in conjunction with their geographical placement) were the original motivation for Darwin's theory of evolution. To put it simply, when two species are so similar that they seem as if they're related, then perhaps they are related.
There are a few problems with the above as proof of evolution. First 'similar' is not a scientific term. It means whatever a person wants it to be. Are twins similar - certainly. Are two Caucasians similar - depends on what you are comparing. Are blacks and whites similar - depends again on what you are looking at. Are men and monkeys similar - again depends. So homology is essentially a whatever you want it to be term, it is not science.
The second problem with homology is that there are numerous examples of homologous features which in no way are due to descent. Evolution claims that complex features can arise gradually through descent and that each feature builds upon what came before. However, if the same features can arise in totally diverse species who did not descend from each other then this proposition is totally false. Homology does not prove descent. Since paleontology is almost solely based on homology, then the findings of paleontology cannot prove descent and cannot prove evolution, in fact they disprove it since homologous features are indeed found in totally unrelated species.
Lastly, the argument of homology being proof of evolution is false. An intelligent designer would not keep reinventing the wheel, so it is not an argument against an intelligent designer that features found in one species are similar to the features in another. Because of the problem with similar features being found in totally unrelated species, these similarities favor intelligent design more than they favor evolution.
"Similar" is not as subjective as you claim. Twins and Caucasians are both members of the same species and they share identical physical traits such that one can easily identify a human skeleton. Monkeys and humans are very similar; they are obviously of different species, but they share the common traits of all mammals (differentiated dentiture, the numbers of holes in the head, etc.). Additionally, they share traits common to primates (forward-facing eyes, brachiating limbs). An anatomist studying the two skeletons would say they are fairly closely related, and modern genetics would back up this contention.
As for your second contention, similar structures do have common lineage. For example, the tetrapod forelimb has specific features (single-boned upper limb and two bones in the lower limb) that can be seen in everything from frog legs to bird wings to human arms. You may be getting confused by something known as "convergent evolution" which basically says that critters in similar environments will most likely develop similar traits. The best example of this is the wing, which has developed independently numerous times (insects, pterosaurs, birds, bats). It can also be seen in the body plans of dolphins and ichthyosaurs.
Lastly, if there is an Intelligent Designer he did keep reinventing the wheel (see the wings example, above). Additionally several of his designs have some definite flaws (the human backbone, for instance) that any competent engineer would have corrected. It is also funny that the more closely-related critters are according to zoologists and geneticists, the more their structures resemble one another -- exactly as if they were related and had descended from a common ancestor.
Transformed organs: Some related species have similar organs in similar places, with subtly altered functions. For example, flies differ from most flying insects by having one pair of wings rather than two, but the rear pair of wings is not gone- it has been transformed into a pair of gyroscopic organs (halteres) which aid in directional control.
Again, this argument favors intelligent design more than evolution. Why would the flies have developed stabilizers instead of wings if it was working fine in other similar species? Evolutionists have no response for this. One must note that such a transformation would require more than one change in the organism and that therefore the species would be less fit during the time it would take all the changes to occur than before such a change had taken place. Evolution has no answer to this problem which occurs in all transformations.
Why would it require the species to be less fit? How do we know the halteres won't become something else, or disappear entirely in the distant future? As the rear wings shrank they still worked; smaller rear wings evidently gave the fly an advantage at some point. The same can be said for the arm/wing transition in birds. As recent research points out, even a primitive non-flying wing gives birds an advantage in rapidly climbing trees.
Poor design: Many biological structures are obviously "jury-rigged", ie- they are trial and error modifications upon pre-existing structures which don't work very well in their current application.
This is a theological argument and not science, so there is no need to address it.
There most certainly is a need to address it. You claim that an intelligent designer created all that we see around us in situ and that organisms show signs of that intelligent design. It has been pointed out, correctly, that a first-year engineering student could come up with better solutions to certain problems than the intelligent designer did. Interestingly, such structures do not look "designed" but rather appear to be an ad hoc solution to a problem -- much as one would expect if natural processes were at work.
Vestigial features: The human appendix serves no useful function but it corresponds to the cecum of the alimentary canal of many other mammals. It can be removed without detriment, and it creates a serious infection hazard that can lead to death; hardly a good idea!
The appendix has been found to have an important role in early life. The above is one of many evolutionist assumptions which have been totally disproven. The tonsils also have a role to play against infection. Evolutionists seem to think that everything that cannot be ascertained is fodder for their story telling. When it was found that 95% of DNA did not code for proteins, they immediately made the claim that this was 'junk DNA' and was the remnants of genes from ancestor organisms. This moronic and totally baseless assumption has been totally disproven. Scientists call such DNA 'non-coding' and it is the source of the complexity of organisms and what really makes them tick. In fact it is the non-coding DNA that makes organisms work, the genes just do what the non-coding DNA tells them to do.
If the role of the tonsils or appendix were so important, removing them would be fatal, would it not? Both probably played a bigger role in the past, but both appear to be fading from the scene (similar structures in other species are much larger). One could also claim the wings of the ostrich are vestigial as they no longer help the animal fly and pretty much just remain plastered to its side throughout its life. One could also make this claim about the two of the horse's toes. And, nothing in science is "disproven." One cannot, for the hundredth time, prove a negative. One can simple rule that something is unlikely or improbable, but never "disproven." You have a very childish grasp of what science truly is.
Parasites and diseases: Most parasites have evolved to specialize so that they require another life form, sometimes retaining structural evidence of a previous, free-living evolutionary ancestor.
The above is a totally unsubstantiated assumption by evolutionists. Viri, bacteria and other parasites have been and are continuously examined in laboratories. Research goes on everyday trying to find out how they work. They are constantly attacked with everything imaginable from chemicals to radiation. Not a single one of these organisms has ever been seen to have transformed itself into another organism which is more complex or different from the original.
They are obviously different in that these survived the onslaught while the rest did not. However, parasites also include insects, worms, and all sorts of other critters. Human beings have their own particular species of lice and fleas that will not live on other critters. Dog fleas and cat fleas are two different species specifically evolved to live on those animals and no others. They might drop in for a bite on a person in a pinch, but they won't hang around for any length of time. Let's not even tackle tapeworms or the bacteria that specifically live in the human gut and nowhere else (they break down cellulose for us, but the side effect is gas). The latter cannot live in any environment other than the human gut. HIV won't live any place but the human body. Adam and Eve, if they carried only a tenth of the human-specific parasites (leading to the question, where did the rest come from?) they would have been extremely nasty from a modern point of view.
Geographical distribution: If God made thousands of...
Another theological argument. It is very doubtful that atheists know God's will. Further there is no reason why a Creator should create the same species over and over again in different places.
Ah, but you didn't follow the argument closely. All the animals had to come from the Ark and travel to their current locations if creationism is correct. Creationism, regardless of what it is dressed, is first and foremost a Biblical doctrine; if the Bible didn't claim otherwise there would be no dissent against science in general and evolution in particular. If Noah's Ark is an allegory, why couldn't Genesis 1 and 2 also be allegories?
Paleontology: The fossil record demonstrates that the structure of animals has historically been consistent with their environmental conditions.
Oh please! We do not know how species lived and behaved from bones, let alone what the environmental conditions were of their existence. In fact, we use evidence of what species lived in an area to tell whether that area was a sea hundreds of millions of years ago or land. This argument is totally bogus.
Sure we do. We know from dentiture and copralites what the organisms ate. We know from the structure of the females' pelvises if they layed eggs or gave live birth. From fossil nests containing remains of critters twice as big as newborns we know that some babies received some parental care. From the huge number of nests found at some sites we know some critters lived in large groups. From the remains of predators and their prey killed in the act we know whether or not a critter was a pack or lone hunter. We also can deduce behavior from broken and healed bones (mating habits, for instance) and footprints (whether a critter traveled in a group or alone). The clues are there; fossil critters weren't interred in little pine boxes, they died in situ and much can be inferred from the disposition of the bodies.
As for environmental conditions, geologists will tell you that certain types of stone are laid down only under certain types of conditions. The annual layers in fresh-water lakes are an example. Additionally, plant fossils are found all the time which give an indication of the type of plant life, and hence the general climate of the region at the time. Finally, environmental conditions leave their traces on the bones themselves. The best example of this is the isotope balance that differs in the bones of fresh water and salt water critters.
Observed adaptation: It is hopefully common knowledge that bacteria have been constantly adapting to survive the antibiotic assaults of mankind.
The organisms that mutate to resist antibiotics are less viable under normal circumstances than those who have not mutated. This is not a change which creates greater complexity either as evolution requires. As to the moths, both spotted and white moths existed before the industrial revolution, they both exist now that the skies have been cleaned up. In addition, the 'scientist' who did the study has been proven to have falsified his data. This does not bother evolutionists of course but it should bother those who believe that science must be truthful.
Your initial contention about mutating bacteria being less viable will come as a shock to the medical community. Since the bacteria's natural environment is another living organism and since they are now less viable in these circumstances doctors should no longer worry about infections as the body will simply destroy these less viable mutant bacteria. As for the moths, the genes for light-colored moths never left the pool. When the trees lightened again they became dominant. Does this obviate the theory of evolution? No. The organism changed to adapt to its environment -- the definition of evolution. Speciation didn't occur because the environmental change was temporary and shortlived.
I predict no response. A fine job.
Ah, but there will be a response ... of sorts. There will be the usual boasts that he has never been refuted.
No, you cannot, size does not mean anything and the outside does not tell you what is inside. It's what's inside. It's what's in the head of humans that makes us more complex than monkeys, not our bones. You cannot tell from bones which is more complex therefore this proof of evolution is false.
"Similar" is not as subjective as you claim.
Of course it is, it is totally dependent on context. There is no objective definition of the word or any scientific definition of it. Therefore it is a subjective term which allows evolutionists to use whatever they like as 'proof'. And "As for your second contention, similar structures do have common lineage. " That's garbage too. The fins of whales did not descend from fish. The wings of bats did not arise from birds and the wings of birds did not arise from butterflies. Enough said.
Why would it require the species to be less fit?
Because it has been experimentally proven, that's why - unlike the made up stories you tell. A mutation was created which grew wings in the place of the fly's halteres. The fly could not use those wings. Why? Because the organism was set up to use the halteres, not two sets of wings. It takes more than one change to make any significant new function workable and while all the other function would arise (if evolution were true) the fly would be less fit. This is the case with almost any significant functional change and there is no way around it, that is why evolution is false.
If the role of the tonsils or appendix were so important, removing them would be fatal,
Talking garbage again. If you cut someone's arm they will not die, but they certainly will be less fit. They have a purpose, unlike what the morons of evolution said. The junk DNA is the main part of what makes an organism, not the genes and the moronic evolutionists called it nonsense. Evolution is nonsense, not science and these ideological pronouncements totally absent of evidence show that it is pseudoscience indeed.
They are obviously different in that these survived the onslaught while the rest did not.
Wrong again. Two thirds of Europeans survived the black plaugue, they were no different than the ones who died, they were humans just the same. Species adapt, we adapt. We have many systems that allow us to adapt. In fact, that is the reason for vaccines - to teach us to fight diseases so that when the real thing comes around we will be ready and able to destroy them. So, no these experiments do not show evolution.
we use evidence of what species lived in an area to tell whether that area was a sea hundreds of millions of years ago or land. This argument is totally bogus. -me-
Sure we do.
You can tell a few small things - if you are lucky - you cannot tell the whole environment in which they lived. As I said, we use fossils to tell us if land was under water or not, not the other way around. The argument is bogus.
Your initial contention about mutating bacteria being less viable will come as a shock to the medical community.
No it will not. They know it already. They know quite well that any wild species is much more viable than any specialized species and that is what happens with these mutations, they become less viable in some function.
Ready2go, if you believe that anecdotes from a book about a near death experience-where the brain is deprived of oxygen constitute "evidence" for the existence of hell than YOU my friend, are a believer in PSEUDOSCIENCE. All you have here is quotes from a book[called The Bible] but really, someone could write a book that the earth is flat and the moon is made of green cheese and proclaim it as the word of God!
Would that make it true?Honestly, I dont think so. When it comes to things like the existence of hell, let us not forget: EXTRAORDINARY CLAIMS REQUIRE EXTRAORDINARY EVIDENCE!!!!
Quotes from a book are just not enough;PERIOD.
You are free to believe whatever you darn well please but I wont accept anything less than physical evidence obtained using the scientific method to even Consider the existence of Hell.
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