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Thursday, January 20, 2011

How science sense becomes popular nonsense, later fishwrap

Here biophysicist George Hunter offers some helpful explanations of how honest research findings become nonsense in the pop science press:
Is it conceivable that so many scientific papers and reports, with their conclusions about evolution, are making the same mistake? Before answering this we first must understand the hierarchy of the evolution apologetics literature.

At the base of the pyramid are the scientific papers documenting new research findings.

Next up are the review papers that organize and summarize the state of the research.

And finally there is the popular literature, such as newspaper and magazine articles, and books.

Across this hierarchy evolutionists make different types of claims that should not be blindly lumped together. Yes, there are problems across the spectrum, but they tend to be different kinds of problems.
So, for example (this is my simplified example, his is more complex),

- The honest scientist spends a third of his career with his face jammed down a mole hole. He discovers that those moles who did not eat their granddams outnumber those who do, over time. He cobbles together some “I can PROVE Darwin!” explanation, publishes, and moves on.

- A review paper, glowingly prepared by a professional Darwin enthusiast (an evolutionary biologist), lumps his finding in with other “evidence for a selfish gene.” In fact, that there is no evidence for a selfish gene. There is a group of papers with some relevance to the concept he espouses, which he cobbled together for a review, producing a citation for each happy author.

(It turns out years later that, down the mole tunnel, the moles that did not munch their granddams are stronger and quicker than the others, and do just fine on bugs. The others also stay alive, using granddam as a diet supplement. So the “selfish gene” is of no explanatory value. But anyone who introduces such a bone-headed fact is denounced as a “creationist” - meaning someone who introduces legitimate doubt about how much of the real world Darwinism explains.)

- The Lifestyle & Relationships editor of the Sunday rag sees an opportunity to quote the Hundert Fundert Professor of Bioethics who reassures us that these moles’ “undisputed facts about evolution” do not mean that we shouldn’t throw granny under the bus.

After all, we must learn to understand and respect our place in the cosmos as just another animal ...

Thus science observations go in one end and nonsense or scandal comes out of the other.

In these times, if you want to know what really happened, stay as close as possible to the facts and avoid the explanations.


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