Archive for August, 2013

Creationism – Cargo Cult Science

Thu Aug 22, 2013 4:23 pm by Inferno

In a Caltech-address given in 1974, Richard Feynman coined the term “Cargo Cult Science” to describe any group of scientists who follow the external traits of being a scientist (like wearing lab coats and saying “Deoxyribonucleic acid”) but who don’t follow the rigorous scientific method (like trying not to fool yourself and publishing in the peer-reviewed literature).

There are quite a few stories about how creationism is cargo cult science. For example, the story about the Discovery Institute using a stock photo of a lab to gain scientific credibility. Or take the Creation Science Museum. Those are all good examples of cargo cult science. They follow some external traits (having a laboratory, having a museum) but none of the rigorous scientific method.

I’ll introduce you to another aspect: Peer review. A few of you will be familiar with the Discovery Institute’s list of ID peer reviewed articles. They count 50 articles in seven years (2004-2011) a lot, a “boom” even. Wow, impressive.

Some of you will know the Answers in Genesis research journal. I wrote about an article of theirs a while back, calling their article one of the “most dishonest creationist “research paper”“. They’ve got another article up, one I’ll look at in due time.

A third attempt by creationists to get peer reviewed is CreationWiki’s attempt at peer review. “No articles submitted” should tell you something. Why hilarious? Because of this quote by Chris Ashcraft: “That is the goal of peer reviews in general – to uphold the consensus position. Peer reviews are just what the phrase describes – reviews by peers. Atheists and creationists are not peers regarding theories formed from these worldviews. Only creationists can provide peer reviews of creationist views.”

There are also several others out there attempting to do the same, but we shan’t worry about them for the time being. (Nor ever, as far as I’m concerned.)

Why is peer review so important for creationists? Well, proponents of evolution (hereafter called “scientists”) have often told creationists to “put up or shut up“: Either produce peer-reviewed evidence positively indicative of magical creation or get out of our schools.

Creationists now had two options: To either try and get their articles passed through proper channels or create their own journals. The first option failed horribly so they went for number two.

In very clear terms: If creationists are unable to produce peer-reviewed articles, they will not be regarded as science. Or so they think. The problem, of course, lies not with the publications, that is to say whether there are any published or not. Nor, as Casey Luskin claims, with the quantity of the research. It lies solely with the truth and evidence of the publications. Creationists could have published only a single article and, if it were correct, that would sufficiently throw any theory into doubt. Yet creationists don’t have that silver bullet, nor do they have anything else of value. They could have millions of articles out there and still not convince anyone, simply because their articles (as I showed) are full of crap.

Creationists don’t agree, of course, and rectified their problem (not getting published enough) by simply making up their own journals. Pretty awesome logic, right? Read the link, it’s rife with hilarity. First the author suggests that peer review is ineffective anyway, then he goes on to casually mention “therefore we’ve got our own journals”. Yeah, good on ya.

Anyway, back on topic. What makes this “cargo cult science”? Well, look again at the AiG journal. Doesn’t it remind you of some other journal? I think it looks a lot like a mix between the design from Nature and Science. (I seem to remember there’s another journal that looks even more like AiG’s but I can neither find it nor claim with certainty that I’m correct on that one.) That could be a coincidence, right?

Well, consider the fact that trueorigins looks identical to talkorigins and you might not feel like it’s that much of a coincidence any more.

In conclusion:
Creationists and ID-folk alike use fancy look-alike pages to make their audience think they’re real scientists. They use “big words” (Beta-Globin Pseudogene yadda yadda) and write articles hat look like real scientific articles, so much even that one of their articles slipped into a journal some years ago. They have editors, rules for submission, peer reviewers… everything a real journal has. Except for one thing: Evidence-based articles.


Clash of the Titans

Mon Aug 12, 2013 2:25 pm by he_who_is_nobody

One of my favorite displays at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science is found in the hall Age of the Super Giants. This hall covers the Jurassic period found in New Mexico. There are several displays found in this hall, but the crowning jewel is the two titans in the middle.


The photo above is the first thing one sees when walking into this Hall. The Stegosaur (right) looks on as Saurophaganax (left) is rushing in to attack the Seismosaurus (center).


Seismosaurus is one of the largest sauropods/land animals to ever live. Scientist believe that it reach a length of 33 meters, making this tied for the longest dinosaur ever discovered. It is believed to have weighed 27 metric tons. It was found in New Mexico and is the only one known from the fossil record.


There is some debate over whether Seismosaurus is actually a new genus or if it is just the largest specimen of Diplodocus ever discovered. The consensus at this point is that Seismosaurus is just the largest Diplodocus to have ever been discovered. The only way to settle this debate is if some lucky paleontologist finds another specimen that includes the anatomy that we are lacking.


The erect skeleton is a fabrication of the fossils found. Above are the actual fossils from Seismosaurus. They include most of the pelvis, part of the tail, the lower back section, and a few ribs. The rest of the anatomy on the erect skeleton was created by scaling up the bones from Diplodocus.


Seismosaurus would have had two lines of defense against predators, such as Saurophaganax. The first would have been it size. When it reached, adulthood a predator would have to be very desperate to attack one of them. The second would be the tail you see above. Sauropods, such as Seismosaurus were able to whip their tails at supersonic speeds, just like a bullwhip. It could have been used for defense, but it also could have been used for communicating with other sauropods with sound.


Saurophaganax would have been the apex predator of the late Jurassic. Saurophaganax was closely related to Allosaurus, however, Saurophaganax was ~ 12 meters long (just shy of the length of a T. rex). Saurophaganax shared many of the same attributes that made Allosaurus such a fearsome predator. Some of those include strong legs for running and a large head with teeth like steak knives.


However, the feature that I feel made Saurophaganax a terrifying predator was its clawed hands. Saurophaganax would have been able to run up to an animal and slash at its belly with one hand, while holding it with the other. The largest claw was over 15 cm long.


Again, the erect skeleton is a fabrication, but above is a photo of the actual fossils of Saurophaganax that were found in New Mexico. Some specimens of Saurophaganax have been found in other states, but none were complete. Much like with Seismosaurus, Saurophaganax was reconstructed by scaling up bones from Allosaurus.

This display is a jaw dropping experience. The size of these two animals is astonishing. The WOW! one hears from children and adults walking through this hall never ends. It is quite amazing just to sit in this hall and imagine the world that held these beasts in it. This display is just one of the extraordinary exhibits one can find at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.

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