Monday, November 26


PAUL Davies, in a Times Op-Ed Saturday (via PZ):
All science proceeds on the assumption that nature is ordered in a rational and intelligible way. You couldn’t be a scientist if you thought the universe was a meaningless jumble of odds and ends haphazardly juxtaposed.

Sure you could. Science doesn't "proceed" from any "assumption" about order. Order is a by-product of the assumption that if anything can be thought of as knowable it has to be demonstrated and duplicable. So far as I know, Science does not impugn other forms of knowledge, it simply classifies them as non-scientific. The discoveries of Thelonious Monk or Marcel Duchamp are no less valid for not being science (or, to put it in terms most math majors could accept, M. C. Escher).

We might excuse Davies on grounds of being a physicist, and thus (however inexcusably) lacking in insight into the less orderly sciences, but even if he weren't being given space in the Times to pull the old "Science is Faith, too" gag there's that troubling "meaningless" to deal with. How does "meaning" follow from Order and Rationality? Hasn't this been the fundamentalist argument since they woke up and realized 19th century science (and theology) had obliterated the inerrant Bible nonsense once and for all--that scientific materialism reduced life to meaningless random motion? And now it's on trial for the assumption of meaning? Kindly pick a side.

And speaking of meaningless jumbles, this proceeded by one day Hanna Rosin's Times Magazine tree-killer on how some Christian colleges have had to hire actual geologists an' stuff, and how this marks a sea-change in what used to be called, three or four euphemisms ago, Creation Science, which has now decided to add actual science to its belief system provided it agrees to stay out in the yard. Now if only they could get those pesky Young Earthers to shut up and hand over all that Discovery Institute money. (No, really; these poor souls now find themselves facing lecture halls full of kids who believe Adam and Eve rode dinosaurs, instead of eager young learners aware of the reality of the vast geological scale God created so smart-assed atheists would burn for all Eternity. And the even bigger nutcases get all the book deals.)

Really, the piece is not worth the time it took you to read that description, let alone me to write it, and if you're at all curious I recommend finding the print version, since the redolence of post-'04 advice to Democrats to begin kowtowing to "Values" voters is highly evocative of that bygone era.

The amazing coincidence of the two pieces being published on the same weekend may suggest to the more skeptical among the scientific-minded that some of that right-wing publishing money is finding its way outside the inner circle, which reminds me of the two-week Osmond assault on local "entertainment" news and its curiously robust supply of ammunition.

I am, in fact, a veteran of the entire national campaign of the Osmond sect, as my father was an Andy Williams fan and his low-key-to-the-point-of-coma "variety" program was regular viewing in our corner of early-60s suburbia, when that bucktoothed gaggle of talentless religious flakes was presented as a sort of barbershop version of the Andrews Sisters, minus both the Rum and the Coca-Cola™, and probably the Mafia boyfriends. Then my sister was just young and musically retarded enough to buy, and listen to--just the other side of my bedroom wall--stereophonic Osmond cult discs. This was in the day when Donny was programmed as Michael Jackson without the talent and Marie an ingenue "country" "singer". (Sis didn't listen to the excrescence that was "Little" Jimmy Osmond--in reality a dwarfish Catskills veteran hired and fitted with a dental prosthesis--or I'd still be in Cell Block D.)

And, okay, so they never really went all the way away in the interim, for some reason (Bobby Sherman must be pissed), but they were barely an undeserved bubble breaking the surface of the celebrity Olympic-sized pool of cess when suddenly, starting a couple weeks ago, the hopeless passenger of my Poor Wife's evening local news rides is bombarded with every mathematical permutation of rodent dentition in the state of Utah. Marie faints dead away from the exertion of haphazardly executing some two-minute dance routine, resulting in a five-day wall-to-wall. Then her father--whose name, visage, personality, show-biz function, or alternate claim to fame I don't ever recall ever having seen or heard before--died, and there was three days of funeral coverage (JFK must be pissed), and just when that had blessedly begun to subside somebody ran a feature on one of the original Osmond brothers who has overcome MS or shingles or something inspiring. And then--I may have the chronology inside out, as if that would matter--there was something about one or two or five of Marie's brood being sentenced to rehab. (This was reiterated to me at the dinner table celebration of my sister's eldest's fifteenth birthday yesterday, to which I replied that when the sample size was thirty-six the odds of at least two being in rehab on any given day were at most even money, and I'd be surprised if there wasn't at least one set of conjoined twins, a biological female being raised as a male, and two instances of Tay-Sachs disease into the bargain.) And, on the nights when local Directors of News felt this Western dessert dinner theatre version of the Icelandic Sagas was beginning to flag, middle-aged Donny would magically appear exhaling his wintergreen breath-saver and unscented Ban roll-on personality. Assuming, that is, that Mormons are permitted wintergreen.

Frankly, it seems like the minimum required for good democracy that such patent absurdities as the public fluffing of the Umpteenth Reincarnation of Creationism be accompanied by some boilerplate explaining just how much money had changed hands. And, in the case of the Osmonds, the exhumation of Howard Hughes in light of modern advancements in DNA testing. Because their revival has got to be costing somebody billions.


Fluffybunnyfeet said...

I. Don't. Think. You've. Suffered. Enough. Yet.


Julia said...

snort, I snort.


yellojkt said...

The Donny and Marie show was required family viewing in my house and I still throw up in my mouth a little whenever I am forced to recall the low budget ice skating Busby Berkley numbers.

And the anthropic principle has been blowing the minds of college freshmen for decades. These ersatz Creationists need to lay off the bong hits.

Harry Cheddar said...

" (A) sort of barbershop version of the Andrews Sisters, minus . . . the Mafia boyfriends."

Uh, do you mean the McGuire sisters? The boogie woogie bugle boy may have been packin' heat, but I'm pretty sure he wasn't mobbed up.

D. Sidhe said...

My sister got Donny and Marie Barbies for Christmas one year. Or maybe it was me and I've just got a mental block on it. Either way, I distinctly recall decapitating Donny out of boredom.

Also, you missed that he's in some stupid commercial where he appears to be doing his laundry in an elevator. Frankly, even without the mental blocks I've always been fuzzy on details.