Saturday, 21 March 2009

The News

Hello and welcome to the News section. In this particular bit of the blog, I discuss the weekly news in relation to its value on science and the pseudo-sciences as well as discussing briefly the satire I’ve wrote for the week.

As this is the first week, I have included the two original pieces which prompted me to start this blog. The first piece is the Endothermic Candle, which was based upon an experiment I did on my Chemistry Enhancement Course. It illustrates how experiments can be manipulated by pseudo-scientists to create their own results, whilst the Petition delves into the money making aspects of pseudo-science and plagiarises a comment Bill Hicks once made on the Republicans, noting that as they were voted out of office in America, “along died half my fucking act”. I sincerely believe that the only use for pseudo science in this world is simply to keep the exceptional comedians such as Bill Hicks, in business. The fact that the pseudo-sciences make so much money due to the gullibility of people (another topic which will be highlighted next week), is something that truly sickens me as Creation Scientists, astrologers and homeopaths (to name but a few) play upon our fears and hopes for their own monetary gains.

Moving onto the news, I watched Andrew Marr’s second episode of “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea” and the more light-hearted, “Jimmy Doherty in Darwin’s Garden” this week. Andrew Marr was indeed intelligent and articulate, highlighting the abuses of Darwin’s theory as well as the modern political ramifications for it, however, I felt uneasy at the lack of distance between the theory proposed by Darwin and the sinister proposals made by the Social Darwinists. A quick perusal of literature on the internet about Hitler reveals an entry on the “Hitler was a Creationist” note by SkepticWiki. We can see clearly from this that the Nazis, whilst following a corrupted version of Herbert Spencer’s famous meme, were not following what Darwin had stated. Marr’s commentary hardly dwelled upon this and I feel that Creationists and Intelligent Design followers may take aspects of this programme to form strawmen attacks on Evolution. However, this could be myself worrying over a point which was not on the agenda of the programme makers, who seemed to be more concerned highlighting the political ramifications than evaluating the flaws within the political thinking. However, when it came to the modern political discussions, Marr did an excellent job of relating Evolution to pressing issues such as Dr Lan’s proposal concerning intelligence (which was dismissed by the scientist present in the programme). However, the whole programme still leaves me uneasy, wondering whether Andrew Marr is supporting the scientific theory or against it or simply trying to give a “balanced viewpoint”.

When it comes to Jimmy Doherty’s programme, I was eagerly awaiting his recreations of Darwin’s experiments. Doherty, whilst presenting as intellectual a figure as Marr, certainly provided a great simple programme on the experiments of Darwin. Last week I truly enjoyed the programme, wishing I had some way to record it onto DVD in order to save the programme for teaching science as the experiments would have been great to carry out with kids in a science club. I particularly enjoyed the emphasis on scientific method, often an overlooked part in science education and one I hope becomes more dominant as science teaching progresses. I particularly agree with James Trefil (Trefil, J. 1996) that scientific literacy is needed more than the minutiae. Ordinary people won’t remember the minutiae and it does not assist them particularly in their lives. However, learning how scientists do things in the way they do is a vital part of understanding science and may help dismiss the pseudo-sciences.

After watching Doherty in the second programme I was not disappointed. The programme sticks to science and provides a ground level which is perfect for teachers when teaching Evolution in schools. The experiments are possible to achieve in Science clubs and there is even one that fails to work, which is great considering it shows that sometimes, scientists get things wrong and that science is about reducing these errors to get closer to the truth. The only qualm I have about the programme is the structure, some things that Jimmy Doherty discusses don’t actually appear on the programme which seems slightly sloppy. Despite this, I truly enjoyed this programme and can’t wait for next week.

Links and References
Please also note that whilst Hitler may have believed in God, it is a false argument using "Godwin's Law" to try and attribute this to other Christians.

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