2 Jul 2006

Hicks & Colbert on Creationism's Nightmare: Dinosaurs

Rather appropriate video regarding religion and certain issues, especially now that the Singapore police have decided to subdue laughing at religion in Singapore.

Bill Hicks Proposes; But Stephen Colbert Disposes. The Solution to Creationism's Dinosaur Problem. For an in-depth look at Creationism


Anonymous said...

actually, you cannot "prove" dinosaurs existed as living animals, since all we can see are big bones that scientists think can be linked into complete skeletons (how do you know they linked the bones in the right way?)and they think the skeletons were covered by living flesh X millions years ago; people trained in science can see that these deductions are "most probably" correct; others can just dismiss it all by "God put all the evidence there to test our faith"

the two camps just dont share the same thinking methods and one can never persuade the other

soci said...

are you seriously trying to argue that creationism is just as valid an understanding as science?

One camp is evidence based and the other ignores the evidence. One camp is engaged in rational thought the other is 'faith' based.

If you feel ill would you want me to take you to a shamen - priest or a medically trained doctor?

Anonymous said...

i think the guy failed science.. these people can twist their words to create lies to justify their false beliefs. are they so insecure that nobody belives in their delusions?

soci said...

probably wasn't allowed to take science in the first place, maybe it countered his or her parents faith.

Anonymous said...

Dawkins and others wonder why incorrect ideas like creationism and intelligent design haven't simply died out, since they have been comprehensively disproved.

Unfortunately, it seems that, just like Parkinsons and other genetic disorders, their carriers live long enough to propagate their erroneous genes/ideas to the next generation. So the ideas/genes persist.


alex said...

Haha I found the first anonymous comment pretty funny.. obviously science and technology has escaped the poor commenter. It's like saying he couldn't have known for sure if his great-grand parents existed since all that probably remained of them are skeletons and no way is he able to tell if they were covered by flesh a few decades earlier since he's not trained in science!

'Simple' carbon dating would reveal the age of an organic bone. And well, bones just have to be covered by flesh, eh?

Anonymous said...

elementary; science starts with axioms and rules of deduction which are assumed to be true; if you dont accept these, you dont accept science; we believe science because it delivers the goods, but there are people who prefer a purely abstract way of looking at it

I happen to be an NUS professor in a technology dept; try to answer the point I made, instead of attacking me; you guys are as bad as the creationists

Anonymous said...

Science, Proof and Faith http://blog.360.yahoo.com/blog-XIIfDzQobqO5oCYM9UTvZzgKHH4Org--?cq=1&p=24

Capt_Canuck said...

If science is basically 'axioms and rules of deduction which are ASSUMED to be true' based on the readings from textbooks from the past (let's face it, who has actually sent a kite into the air to experiment with electricity? But we all believe that Ben Franklin did this and trust in his outcome of the experiment), then if these assumptions are made and we make deductions based on these assumptions then, it is possible that the assumptions we have made are false or erronous, thus making the 'assumptions' and conclusions false.

Sounds similiar to how the religious individuals have made 'rules of deduction which are assumed to be true' based on the readings of a book called the Bible (or any other religious writings that they believe in) and they have made assumptions that those are true (Like, who was around and actually drank the water that was turned to wine by Jesus in this day and age, but those religious people take it as fact).

So, in the end, you can say that science is easier to believe because it gives immediate results and short term answers, but religions could very well give answers to questions that are more long term that we are not going to see simply because we are so short lived in life.

One is an easy route, one is a harder route to follow and while religious people damn and have their little jokes on us science folks, isn't it permitted then for us science folks to have our fun and poke at the religious people? or, if the religious people let us science people live in complete ignorance to the real truth, then shouldn't us science folks give that common courtesy right back at the religious folks?

oh and yeah, loved the line in that clip when it said "doesn't it scare you that God is fucking with our heads????" *LOL* loved that line...

Anonymous said...

religion is culture dependent; science is universal; that's the real difference

for a person immersed in a particular faith based culture, it is certainly true that his/her religion is as "true" as science; people who believe in science should first understand this, in order to propagate science properly

clyde said...

Science is both a greatest strength and weakness. A great strength because it drives us to prove hypotheses and encourages a continual seeking of truth. We know historical experiments of electricity or gravity for instance are true because everything we know of modern science has been built on those fundamental theories derived from those observations. Science is like a stack of building blocks, and so much of modern technology would not exist if Coulomb's or Newton's Laws simply weren't true.

At the same time, it's important to remember that laws, especially when roaming into the realm of astro/quantum physics, are constantly being discarded or modified based on new observations. Because science precludes absolute certainty, it is also a weakness. When I first saw a particular sci-fi film in 1999 that involved dodging bullets, it got me thinking seriously about how I viewed reality. Not about dodging bullets, but that isn't it possible that everything we know of the world and even the universe fallible? Putting it in more scientifically relevant terms, if one day we were able to travel faster than the speed of light or travel through the dimensions of space and time simultaneously, would that be as rediculous as saying that there is a God?

I believe that scientists can be fundamentalists too. And that is the irony because science is not suppose to be entirely cynical, but also embrace possibilities and seek to prove them. I believe there is still intellectual capacity to believe in a higher being. Before we redicule religion altogether, let's also remember the iconic scientists who possessed a seemingly unusual dichotomy of faith and science, such as Galileo, Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle, Faraday, Planck and so on. Personally, I share my stand with one of my most respected scientist, Stephen Hawkings, an agnostic.

Nathan Chang said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nathan Chang said...

Hi professor. The blog article (yours, I presume) that you've linked to, makes for some interesting reading, but the challenges that are put up do very little to silence critics of creationism.

a) Reincarnation. True. Science can neither prove nor disprove that souls exist. "If you believe that dinosaurs once existed, and also believe in reincarnation, then logically you must believe that some of today's humans acceptable, but others might find it ridiculous."

What is being found ridiculous here? Reincarnation? Or that some humans are reincarnated from dinosaurs? If it is the former, then the topic has simply been restated, and no argument has been put forward. If it is the latter, it is very likely that such people are a minority. In fact, the idea that we are probably reincarnated from humans as well as non-humans is much more likely to be raised from people who believe in reincarnation, like Buddhists and Hindus, than by the eccentric professor that you've mentioned. Unless of course, you're talking about yourself.

Be careful when referring to "truths". Science's inability to prove or disprove something with absolute certainty stems out of intellectual rigour, and is thus its very strength. It is its methodological thoroughness that makes the discoveries that it produces as close to the truth as humanity can possibly get, without making gross overgeneralizations.

b) Conception. "Today we know that the fetus in fact derives half its genes from the egg contributed by the woman, and half from the man's sperm, so that the man does not provide the whole "seed" and the woman does not play a purely passive, soil like role. How has this affected our view of man-woman relations?"

The women's rights movement began many, many years before the discovery of human biological sex determination by DNA, in the 20th century. Even if you're settling for the lesser view that the discovery gave a shot in the arm to the movement, any causal link that might be formed between these two events, is very weak.

c) Plato's theory of forms has been dealt several blows. The most crippling one is that it implies a recursive nature of forms. I.e., if all things contain forms within them, and these forms are themselves things (e.g. the DNA within horses that you've mentioned), it implies that these forms contain forms within themselves, which will then contain forms within the forms of the original forms..and so on and so forth. Because of this recursiveness, the whole concept of forms is made redundant.

Then comes a trio of examples given by you. All three examples involve a type of logical fallacy known as "affirming the consequent". Even if your statement about most of us being unable to detect a logical incongruency in the above examples is entertained, you neglect to mention is that science is a global phenomenon, for which all proposed theories are put to gruelling peer review, using analysis, gathering of corroborative or contradictory evidence, etc. So even if we're all as stupid as bricks, we have many qualified professionals in the scientific community to separate the grain from the chaff.

The article then finishes with a point about how we are socialized to accept science, because of its ability to deliver. Granted. If religion and science are both faiths, then the faith in the latter is much more deserved than faith in the former, because it has demonstrated something to a much greater degree: reliability.

The question is: deliver what? Just because both science and religion are similar in the way they are digested and taken up by the public, it is no reason to think that religion has identical viability as an ALTERNATIVE SCIENCE in the lives of man, in its current incarnations. This choice between science and religion is simply a form of brand loyalty. I trust Sony earphones implictly. I don't have to know a single detail about how they're made, where they're made, or what they're made of, to trust them. My limited time on this earth using them has shown me that they work and sound much better, than, say, Huanjia earphones, an alternative from China.

It has to be said that my embrace of science (e.g. my preferring Sony earphones to others) is an excellent means to an end, but it does nothing to inform me about what my moral values are. For that, some serious reflection is required. And that's where religion and/or philosophy can come in, and fill a gap that science cannot. So religious scientists are no contradiction at all. It is a hallmark of religions to rest on one or more supernatural assumptions. That's fine. It's when religion crosses the line, and starts contradicting what our natural sciences have revealed so far, bypassing due process, because of its premature insistence that it speaks the absolute truth, that disagreements between creationists and non-creationists occur.

alex said...

elementary; science starts with axioms and rules of deduction which are assumed to be true; if you dont accept these, you dont accept science; we believe science because it delivers the goods, but there are people who prefer a purely abstract way of looking at it

You mean like, instead of gravity, how some people believe their God is pinning them to whatever they're on, thereby preventing them from floating away? How much more abstract can that get..

People who prefer a purely abstract way of looking at things belong in art, theology, or philosophy, not science. So there's really no argument. But remember..

There is no statement so absurd that no philosopher will make it -- Cicero

Anonymous said...

sure stick to science: how do you prove dinosaurs existed as living creatures?

all those Discovery movies are just movies; scientific truth is a complex issue; "dinosaurs prove fundamentalists wrong" does not work

Nathan Chang said...

“sure stick to science: how do you prove dinosaurs existed as living creatures?”

Let’s go over your comments.

“all those Discovery movies are just movies; scientific truth is a complex issue; "dinosaurs prove fundamentalists
wrong" does not work”

Do not paint science as a form of knowledge that is very inaccessible, and somehow out of reach to most people. It's very accessible, if one simply puts in the effort. This one-line accusation, without further elaboration, does nothing to buttress your position. I could easily hurl it back at you with the terms reversed, but I would achieve nothing.

“actually, you cannot "prove" dinosaurs existed as living animals..”

As far as the natural sciences are concerned, science has never claimed to have arrived at the truth, if what you mean is the final truth about the reality of our universe. What it can do is bring up corroborative evidence for or against any theory. Science often labels currently accepted theories as truths, but these truths are always open to refinement, correction, or rejection.

This does not mean that all hypotheses are equal. The most superior hypothesis from among a pool of competitors, will be the one that makes the most confirmed predictions, is able to withstand the most attempts at falsification, validated by many lines of evidence, while relying on as few assumptions as possible. So this hypothesis:

"God put all the evidence there to test our faith"

is not a scientific one, because it cannot be falsified or affirmed. It also begs the question of proving that God exists. Creationists often point to our surrounding flora and fauna, believing it self-evident of the existence of God. But such “evidence” does not point only to God, and God alone. It may point to any number of omnipotent or powerful beings, of varying natures and motives. Going down this path is futile, for the onus is now upon us to prove that other alien beings or gods do not exist. With no evidence for or against this, the original claim that God put dinosaur fossils on the earth to test us has no scientific substance. At least, not yet. Given what we have already, it's safe that that possibility is highly unlikely.

“since all we can see are big bones that scientists think can be linked into complete skeletons (how do you know they linked the bones in the right way?)and they think the skeletons were covered by living flesh X millions years ago;”

Again, you speak in absolutes, and fail to appreciate the many shades of dark gray that science has. The skeletons were put together in the most correct way scientists knew of, given their accumulated knowledge. Whether they will come up with another method in the future, is determined by what new evidence shows up that might suggest another way, vs what all current evidence currently points to.

You underestimate what fossils, combined with the totality of our accumulated scientific knowledge , can tell us. To indulge you a bit, in addition to fossils, impressions of dinosaurs, sometimes with traces of skin, have been found. I will not go into the paleontological specifics. Please do the required reading, professor. Especially since your library is minutes away.

You believe that we need direct observation for science to tell us something. Science does not need direct observation in order to tell us something. If we could see something directly, we would not need science at all. In fact, its primary function is to tell us about things that we cannot observe directly. Many of today's important scientific discoveries cannot be directly observed, e.g. It was not until 1961 that we were able to directly see the round Earth for ourselves, but this had already been taken as scientific fact for over two thousand years. The same can be said of electrons, viruses, and the revolution of the Earth.

“elementary; science starts with axioms and rules of deduction which are assumed to be true”

There is no assumption required. Deduction is a form of logic in which the substance of the conclusion is completely derived from the substance of the premises. If the premises are put together, the conclusion has to follow. There is no requirement nor room for presumption. E.g. If I put one apple on the table, and then I put another next to it, you can deduce that I have two apples. The logic has to follow, regardless of your religious leanings. Anyone who insists otherwise, is either incapable of adding, or unwilling to do it.

“people trained in science can see that these deductions are "most probably" correct”

You misunderstand what the word "deduction" means. Your statement that "deductions are "most probably" correct" is paradoxical, for a deductive statement is either absolutely correct, or not correct at all.

Because of deduction's self-enclosed nature, science cannot be based entirely on it, for no new knowledge would be added if it was. It gets around this by using induction, deductive logic's sibling. It is from induction that new knowledge is added by scientists by making predictions, or hypotheses, which are then tested for falsity. Induction works in probabilistic terms. This may be seen as a weakness by some, but it is because of this that science operates in a statistical framework that allows scientists to say exactly how confident they are that a given prediction is likely to be true, and what margin of error this prediction is operating with. The same cannot be said about claims of faith-testing evidence planted by God.

As enthusiastic about evolution as some may be, it is not critical for the viability of scientific enterprise, that the theory of evolution must survive as an absolute truth. It may be superseded, years from now, by any number of alternatives. Given the evidence that currently supports it, the probability of that happening is low, but it remains a possibility nonetheless. The bottom line is: it is not essential to accept evolution as an article of faith.

On the other hand, this cannot be said for adherents of creationism. Thus, an impetus is created in which all their efforts work towards proving a conclusion that they want, instead of being open to all possibilities. Thus, threading the spine of most, if not all creationist movements, is a monstrously huge logical fallacy involving affirmation of the consequent, that you gave examples of in your blog article. I rest my case.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

the simple fact is: most people believe dinosaurs existed because scientists say so (or because they watched Discovery), which is no different from believing in God because priests tell you so; they are not equipped to judge whether a scientific argument is valid or not; the long discussion above is just gibblish

BTW, I dont believe in any religion, but I also dont think it is so easy to "prove" any religion wrong

clyde said...

If you are indeed a professor of a scientific discipline, I am slightly perplexed by the implications of your statements. Firstly and most obviously, your cynicism over the scientific community in general betrays the knowledge and scientific understanding that surely associates itself with the title of 'professor'.

A simplistic approach to comparing faith in science with faith in religion provides little or none in an intellectual rebuttal of Nathan's points. I don't believe that one necessarily has to be a scientist in order to deduce an argument true or false, depending on its complexity. Logical thinking is the core of scientific theory and is a skill that most are able to develop even outside scientific profession. The difference between science and religion is that most individuals possess the potential to understand a scientific concept based on logic, for which the same cannot be applied to say, the existence of God. The accessibility of science means that anyone is able to learn and attain the knowledge to understand science. The fact that a majority of the human population have chosen a profession other than a scientific one does nothing to discredit scientific discovery. A more productive attempt to undermine the existence of dinosaurs for instance, would be to either attack current findings, or bring new evidence and observations to the table. Of which you have done neither. Obviously, a faith-based creationist approach would invalidate the former, but clearly this is not your stand.

By equalising the faith in a scientist to that of a priest, it excludes all scientific logic and credibility of their community and to that of a religious man, and excuses ignorance at the expense of scientific credibility.

Anonymous said...

as a person trained in scientific methods, I find the smug thinking that science can "prove" religion wrong very unscientific; I happen to believe in no religion because that is my faith; others have different faiths; that choice has no connection with scientific methodology at all; it is simply not a scientific issue to say one faith is better than others, or no faith is better than them all

further, for most people belief in science is not because they have been convinced of its correctness through proof; it is because those scientists seem to be very clever - they can make all those computers, aircons, medicines; in other words they take it on faith
because they are impressed by the people who tell them so; how is that different from obeying priests because of being impressed by their "godliness"?

soci said...

If the faith requires no 'evidence' to verify it, then surely it also requires no 'evidence' to prove it completely wrong.

Blind faith in anything is the story of 'disaster' and genocide. Discenting voices are essential and therefore so is the right to vilify any belief system based on 'faith and faith alone'.

Science is not a 'belief system' built on faith - religion is. To support a scientific claim the speaker refers to evidence they and others have verified, but for a speaker to support a religious belief they turn to faith and the belief in a 'religious text'.

Faith is the key. Faith in ideas that are abhorrant to many and laughable to some should be consigned to the dark ages. Faith has some people believing in incredible ideas.

One being that a man, who was sent here by god was killed, pronounced dead and then on the third day rose again, came back to life, defeated death and every Sunday they eat his body and drink his blood.

In contemporary urban myth such a man would have been labelled a zombie and had guest appearances on late night television.

Other faiths have convinced many that their life and the lives of others have no special meaning and that this 'life' is merely a waiting room for the 'real' world or heaven. Therefore justifiying illigitimate acts of attrocity.


Anonymous said...

you are moving too far from the original topic, whether dinasours disprove religion; I say people who say so dont really understand science

clyde said...

How, might I ask, are the scientists and engineers of technology comparable in any way to priests?? Yes, engineers bring us marvellous inventions that constantly improve our lifestyles. A priest on the other hand does not profess to perform miracles nor bring anything of physical form that we might appreciate. He/she is merely a servant of God to help spread His word. This then, is only but literature of which can be interpreted in many ways and is evident in the diverse number of Christian denominations for instance. And as far as Christianity is concerned, worshippers draw their beliefs from the scriptures and not from a man who was born the same as everyone else but chose to dedicate his life to his God. He is no more and no less capable of interpreting God's word as any other person. Serving God does not make one more knowledgeable about God. What we have is only but an ancient document of biblical events written but a handful of men.

To answer your question, dinosaurs do not disprove the existence of God, or any number of higher beings. But neither does it take one to be well versed in paleontology to believe that the existence of dinosaurs was very likely. If you insist that people inevitably require a faith-based approach to science, then I say that faith in science is much more well deserved than that of religion. 'Why should we disbelieve scientists' is far more difficult to objectively answer without providing strong critique of the actual scientific concepts compared to 'why should we disbelieve in religion'. Attempting to provide priests and holy scriptures the same credibility as scientists is a fallacy because they simply do not share the same historical and fundamental principles of providing evidence, making observations and deducing logical conclusions based on evidence alone, which is further corroborated by scientific communities elsewhere in the world.

It is important to realise that if you play by the rigorous rules of science, the bible is considered unsubstantial evidence. But if you play by the rules of faith alone, then it doesn't really matter what science tells you.

Seph said...

Sry for the digression but I simply must take part in the debate.

I see Nathan is a popperian.

Howver, Science is based on induction, and the problem of induction is we can never use the past to predict the future. We rely on habit. There is no rational for science as it is based on experiments that only tells us what has already occured and not what will occur. You can never verify a claim, that it would happen in the future.

"Truths" or "facts" are seen through science as truths but they are not constant and change over time. Take for example, newtonian physics. Einstein came up with relativity and changed the "truth". However, how would we know that Einstein did not make an error? Did he really disprove newtonian physics? The "truth" now is that he is rite. But we would never know if that would change.

Point to make, falsification does not really avoid the problem of induction. Given a certain phenomenon. There are many possible hypothesis that can be formed. Just as scientists selects what to observe there is a selection criteria of the choice of hypothesis. On selection you would be committing the problem of induction. Falsification do not avoid the problem of induction.

Science is made up of a culture of assumptions. It is not possible to verify or falsify a claim in isolation. Take for example, an apple is dropped. Naturally, we would think that it would hit the ground. But suppose we do the experiment, and now the apple floats. Do you immediately conclude that the hypothesis is false?

Religion cannot be falsified. But not all scientific principles falsifiable.
Example a Darwinian principle: the species that survive in the course of evolution are those that are best adapted to their environment. To falsify this principle, we need to search of a species that has survived inspite of the environment. But the very fact that the species has survived means that it has adapted to the environment.