Thursday, December 6, 2007

Adam Rutherford: Stazi Agent

Atheist Adam Rutherford writing in The Guardian comments on the denial of tenure to Guillermo Gonzalez by Iowa State University:

Saying, whether in 4004 BC or 13 billion years ago, that "God made it" is not falsifiable and therefore not science.

No, it's not a scientific belief, but what of it? Neither is the statement that the universe just popped into existence of its own accord a falsifiable assertion. It, too, is an affirmation of a particular metaphysical commitment. So why is one non-falsifiable assertion enough to get one exiled from the scientific community but the other is perfectly acceptable?

Rutherford's column gets worse:

I know that, were I in a position to offer Guillermo Gonzalez tenure, I would deny it for the precise reason that his, yes, religious views about purpose in the universe explicitly mean he is a crap scientist, regardless of his ability to generate valid data.

Rutherford is, astonishingly enough, claiming that whether or not someone is a good researcher, whether or not they are a good teacher, whether or not they can "generate data," they are a "crap scientist" and should be fired if they don't embrace the particular metaphysical view of the world that he favors. Since when must scientists be atheists and view the universe as a purposeless machine? Since when is there a philosophical litmus test for who can teach science?

Mr. Rutherford's take on the nature of science is breathtakingly narrow-minded. His bigotry would have led him to deny tenure to Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Michael Faraday, Robert Boyle and a host of other brilliant thinkers who saw the cosmos as the handiwork of a Creator.

Nor can Mr. Rutherford adduce any empirical evidence to show that the inference of intentionality drawn from the structure of the cosmos is mistaken. Nevertheless, even if it were mistaken, it'd be mistaken about a philosophical interpretation of the scientific data, not about the science itself.

Inquisitors like Rutherford, however, don't care about such distinctions. For them science is not just about producing data, it's about promoting with missionary zeal a metaphysical worldview that science itself can in no way justify or support. It's about evangelizing the masses on behalf of a materialistic atheism. The religion of materialism wraps itself in the garb of science hoping that no one will notice and pronounces all challenges to its hegemony to be illicit attacks on the sacred cow of science. Conflating metaphysics with empirical science the self-appointed preachers of materialistic orthodoxy set out like Torquemada to punish as heretics anyone who deviates from their doctrine by sending their careers up in flames.

There's a wonderful movie out titled The Lives of Others. It's about how the tyrannical East German secret police, the Stazi, punished citizens who flouted official communist doctrine or who were so indiscreet as to utter an irreverent word about the East German government. Watching the movie one is astounded at the pettiness and small-mindedness of the people who made up this oppressive apparatus. Sadly, they were people whose minds worked just like that of Adam Rutherford.

At the end of the movie the Berlin Wall has fallen and the communists are thrown out of power. A victim of the Stazi oppression encounters a former official, a vindictive man who was in charge of rooting out political heretics. The victim, with palpable and justifiable disgust, says to this odious and pathetic figure, "To think that people like you once actually ran a country." Reading Rutherford's column those words echoed in my mind - to think that people like this actually dictate what beliefs are philosophically acceptable among scientists.


Fat and Fit

Here's good news for all of us who find that our shoes seem to have receded progressively further from our hands, harder to see, and harder to tie as the years have passed:

Being fit helps you live longer - even when you're fat, an American study has found.

Striking findings show the fittest fat men and women aged 60 and over are more likely to live to a ripe old age than their averagely weighted or slim - and less fit - peers.

The message seems to contradict current anxieties about an obesity epidemic and constant messages to lose weight.

But U.S. researchers led by Dr Steven Blair claim all older people, including those who are obese, can benefit from increasing their activity levels.

I wonder if increasing one's visits to the refrigerator counts as increased activity.


Evil in Everyday People

Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters discusses a book by Barbara Oakley in which Oakley tells this story about her sister:

My sister stole my mother's boyfriend. It wasn't as if the boyfriend, Ted, was any great catch. At 85, he trundled about with a nose tube and oxygen tanks, hacking and snorting as he nursed his emphysema. Then there was the age gap - Ted was 40 years older than my sister. So what was the attraction? As it turned out, it was the gift Ted had planned for my mother - the Parisian vacation she had always dreamt of.

On hearing that my mother was planning a trip to Paris, my sister Carolyn suddenly realised that she, too, had always wanted to go to France. And what my sister wanted, she had a way of getting. When Carolyn clicked her spotlight on Mum's boyfriend, he was dazzled. Soon, my sister was tucked beside Ted and his breathing apparatus en route to Paris. Apr�s Paris, of course, Carolyn dropped Ted like a hot rock.

My mother withdrew, shamed and saddened by this ultimate humiliation. Not long after, she passed away.

I link to this because as I read it I was stunned that someone could do such a maliciously despicable thing to her 85 year old mother. It's truly astonishing how cruel and selfish people can be. I wonder if Oakley wrote the book at least in part in order to get some measure of retribution for her mother by exposing her sister's depravity. If so, I hope it works.