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05 November 2010

Opinions versus Facts

I'm sure you have all seen it.  Someone says something in a totally authoritative way, and you have to pick your jaw up from the floor because what they said was not only mind-numbingly stupid, but patently wrong.  I'm talking flat earth level of wrong.  Yet they carry on as if they made some sort of profound statement of truth, and the sad part is, they think they  have.

Sadly, as of late (and the media hasn't helped with all their fucking talking heads), people have totally lost the distinction as to what separates a fact from an opinion.  They think they are one in the same (as I mentioned in my lead in here).  Now, the world champions at this sort of dimwittery are the religious (a close second are politicians).  The funny thing is... the religions of the world have only themselves to blame for being in conflict with reality.  Let's start in with a Sagan quote:
How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, 'This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant?' Instead they say, 'No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.' A religion old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the universe as revealed by modern science, might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths.

Back when Galileo started  messing with the cosmology of perfect crystal spheres, and showing that the moons surface was jagged and imperfect, the church threw a hissy fit.  But you know who didn't really give a rat's ass?  The common people.  Same thing when Copernicus figured out that the opinion of the earth at the center of the universe may be somewhat wrong, despite the prevailing opinion of the day.  The church has fought and railed against every demotion of humanity from the pinnacle of creation, and has consistently lost.  It's a wonder anyone actually believes the bullshit that comes from the church.  It's like betting that the boxer with a 0-100 record will somehow win the championship fight.  Well, in that analogy, I suppose the incompetent looser could win, by cheating.  And that is the church's chief weapon I suppose.  They lie and distort to their hearts content (or bully, imprison, execute, etc.).  And people seem to let them get away with it...

Another Sagan quote:
In science it often happens that scientists say, "You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken," and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion.
So, this is supposedly some sort of weakness of facts. That actual data can force us to re-evaluate what we know to be true.  Sure, we all used to believe that the earth was the center of the universe.  That didn't stop the earth from orbiting the sun at any time, so the fact was true, despite no one knowing or believing it.  But the important lesson here is that we got better at observing the universe around us, and figured out that we had something wrong, and (with the exception of the church initially) accepted it.  It's the actual strength of science that it has this mechanism for self correction and discovery embedded in its basic process.

Eventually, the theitards will have to accept evolution like they accepted the fact that the earth isn't the center of all.  The evidence is too staggering for us to actually move forward as a society without this as a fundamental fact of existence.  As an aside, one must wonder, how is it that when the initial idea of descent from common ancestors (i.e. evolution) was proposed, and there were many fields that we had no idea about like genetics, cellular biology, microbiology, taxonomy, etc.  If a 19th century scientist was going to make up something, or try to intentionally deceive the scientific community, how could he possibly have pulled it off?  EVERY SINGLE DISCOVERY in biology and genetics supports evolution.  Read that again.  Every single one!  Even Newton's theory on gravity didn't stand up that well to time and subsequent discoveries.  Now, if you head over to another web page I maintain, you'll see that pretty much every argument theitards have made up has been addressed.  In the past 150 years, they haven't been able to come up with anything fundamentally new.

With that, I think I'll leave off with a few more Carl Sagan quotes, because he said things so well:

Who is more humble? The scientist who looks at the universe with an open mind and accepts whatever the universe has to teach us, or somebody who says everything in this book must be considered the literal truth and never mind the fallibility of all the human beings involved?

Think of how many religions attempt to validate themselves with prophecy. Think of how many people rely on these prophecies, however vague, however unfulfilled, to support or prop up their beliefs. Yet has there ever been a religion with the prophetic accuracy and reliability of science? ... No other human institution comes close.

We have designed our civilization based on science and technology and at the same time arranged things so that almost no one understands anything at all about science and technology. This is a clear prescription for disaster.

We've tended in our cosmologies to make things familiar. Despite all our best efforts, we've not been very inventive. In the West, Heaven is placid and fluffy, and Hell is like the inside of a volcano. In many stories, both realms are governed by dominance hierarchies headed by gods or devils. Monotheists talked about the king of kings. In every culture we imagined something like our own political system running the Universe. Few found the similarity suspicious.

And yes, I see the irony of this being an opinion piece!

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