Rebecca Bynum recently wrote an article in NER which serves as a typically hilarious example of the anti-science attack line favored nowadays by the religious right: the threat of so-called “materialism.” This attack line, now universally promoted among anti-science right wingers, creationists, Intelligent Design proponents and mystics, claims there is a religion of “materialism” adhered to by all scientists who believe in evolution (which is to say, 99.99% of scientists).
All the anti-science right wingers who attack “materialism” do so by issuing coffee-spittingly ridiculous falsehoods about the most basic scientific facts, as we’ll see in a moment.
What is this “materialism” anyway? If you ask them, right wing authoritarians usually say it is atheism, or the belief that matter is all that exists. But that is not what they’re really opposing. After all, the people doing the attacking–right wing authoritarians and fundamentalists– are using it in a campaign to promote their own materialist political agenda: expanding their religious leaders’ “infallible” authority, and enlarging the rights of the rich and powerful to acquire material wealth and never be held accountable for the damage caused when they suck that wealth from the poor and middle class.
It takes guts for fundamentalist leaders, like Pat ‘blood diamond miner‘ Robertson, to accuse pro-science people of “materialism”, when their own defense of plutocracy and lack of accountability for rich corporations is itself a political, a material–indeed, a materialist–act.
We’ll see in more detail in my next blog post, the terminology used by right wing authoritarians is not honest; this is not about atheism or anti-atheism, nor does it have anything to do with “matter is all that exists.” Their terminology is dishonest.
And their “science” is hilarious. To this campaign they have attached a grab bag of howlingly funny falsehoods about the simplest, most basic scientific facts…as we’ll see in a moment.
All fundamentalist campaigns need something to scare you with–it used to be abolitionists; or free blacks; or Catholics; or Freemasons; or Jews; or communists; or Jewish communists.
Sigh… OK, who’s the scapegoat this time?
The latest materialist campaign by right wing fundamentalists uses science as its scapegoat. Well, fundamentalists used to be against blacks marrying whites. That’s progress I guess.
Most scientists think scientific problems can be solved. (If they didn’t, they would get jobs that pay actual money.) But this worries fundamentalist leaders like Pat Robertson and Ken Ham, because they know that the solvability of real problems, by the use of reason, and by demanding evidence for statements, undermines fundamentalist leaders’ divinely infallible authority, and their demand to never be held accountable for their misdeeds.
Thus, logically, you might think that by attacking “materialism”, right wing authoritarians are only attacking the belief that science could solve some unsolved problems in the future.
Wrong. That would be minimalist, but these people want the whole enchilada. When they really want to inflame your hatred, right wing authoritarians tell you that science has never solved any problems in the past.
If you say that scientists have ever solved a problem–found the causes behind any effect, cured any diseases, invented any technologies–solved any problem, even a simple problem from a hundred years ago–then you are the Darwinian thought police, a mad scientist out to enslave mankind. “Moo hoo hoo ha ha ha ha!!”
Of course there really are mysteries that science has not yet solved or just partially solved (dark energy, dark matter, abiogenesis, reconciliation of gravity and quantum mechanics, etc.)
But weirdly, fundamentalists have almost no interest in real scientific problems that really are unsolved. Instead, the “anti-materialist” campaign, for some weird reason I don’t understand, is fixated on coffee-spittingly ridiculous, false claims–saying that very basic scientific problems that were solved many decades or centuries ago, are still unsolved; and scientists today don’t know a damn thing about anything anywhere.
No let’s see some examples of Bynum’s ridiculous science errors. First Bynum says that scientists “…cannot tell us what electricity is…”
ARRGH! Scientists don’t even know what electricity is now? It’s electrons moving through matter in response to an electrostatic field, bitches!!
The year is 2010 fer crissakes! The electron was identified by J.J. Thomson in 1897!
When I was a physics TA there was one class called “Physics for Blondes” that was intended for cheerleaders and humanities majors–but even in that class, even the very stupidest students knew what electricity is!
Bynum: “Scientists observe the elliptical movements of the planets and the mathematical precision of the orbits of electrons around the atomic proton, and postulate the existence of forces to explain these motions, but they cannot tell us what these forces actually are.”
ARRGH! They’re momentum transfers mediated by the exchange of virtual particles of integral spin as described by quantum field theory, bitches!!
Bynum also says science “can no more predict that one hydrogen and two oxygen atoms combined would create water…”
Quantum electrodynamical simulations reproduce the formation of oxygen-hydrogen molecular bonds, bitches!!
And now, Bill O’Reilly. In this video, Bellow Reilly tells Richard Dawkins that scientists cannot explain why “the tides come in, the tides go out, the sun goes up, the sun goes down.”
Oh it’s the tides now!? The tides are due to the gravitational attraction of the moon, bitches!!
I could understand if they said things like “Scientists don’t know what dark energy is,” which at least would be true.
But for some weird reason I don’t understand, right wing authoritarians have a bizarre compulsion to lie about problems solved many decades or centuries ago! I mean, scientists don’t know what electricity is? Scientists don’t know how oxygen and hydrogen combine? Scientists don’t know why tides follow the moon? WTF is this, is this some kind of weird OCD compulsion to lie about science that you can’t control, like when OCD people wash their hands over and over and over? WTF is wrong with you people!?
I understand you’re terrified about teen sex and gay sex. But why are you saying scientists don’t know why the sun rises!? Angular momentum conservation of a spinning planet, bitches!!
Now more coffee-spittingly ridiculous science from anti-evolutionists: Phillip Johnson, the founder of the pro-Intelligent Design faith tank the Discovery Institute, made the accusation that scientists believe in a “materialist” religion central to his anti-evolution campaign. This ad hominem attack is basically his whole argument, and he tries to avoid talking about scientific evidence– which is convenient because lawyer Johnson has shown himself ignorant about science and not even curious about it.
Johnson and his anti-evolution acolyte, Jonathan Wells, insisted in 1991 that AIDS is not caused by HIV.
Say it with me now: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome is caused by HIV… bitches.
In 1999, Johnson gave a talk at D. James Kennedy’s convention, “Reclaiming America for Christ” (like it ever belonged to him in the first place), where Johnson gave a talk to help make Kennedy’s super-chauvinist Dominionist audience dumber and more obedient:
In every textbook for the past several decades the prime illustration of the power of natural selection has been the Peppered Moth population in central England… It doesn’t show the creation of anything. Nothing new enters. There’s light and dark moths at the beginning and at the end. And that’s it. That’s the most powerful demonstration of what natural selection has actually been seen to do.
Why, then, is this taken as evidence of natural selection’s vast creative power? The experiment is so trivial that it’s almost an anticlimax. It’s also not honest; it’s actually a scam. It’s now well known in the scientific world, and has been in the major journals, that the moths don’t even sit on tree trunks. Yet there are pictures in all the textbooks of these moths on tree trunks. In order to make the pictures, the scientists actually glued the moths to the tree trunks. I am not kidding. [Source. Emphasis mine.]
Johnson is not kidding; he’s lying. Johnson and his acolyte, Jonathan Wells, have a weird OCD compulsion to lie about the damn moths not sitting on the damn tree trunks. Majerus’ book Melanism even came out in 1998 with photos showing moths in the wild, not glued sitting on the damn tree trunks. Can Johnson and Wells not understand simple pie charts showing that moths are sitting on the damn tree trunks?
Why, why do they have to lie about this minor point? Do moths really scare right-wingers so goddamn much?
Symptoms of Fear Of Moths: Test & Diagnosis
If this fear is having a significant negative impact on your life, it’s time to do something about it.
Does the thought of moths make you nauseous? Does it trigger a dry mouth and clammy hands? Does your heart feel like it’s going to pound right out of your chest? Do your legs turn to rubber bands?
They’re frigging moths fer crissakes! My two-year-old isn’t even afraid of moths, you mottephobic bitches!!
And now… Enter the Mr. Blackwell of anti-evolutionists, philosopher David Berlinski (also a fellow at Johnson’s Discovery Institute), who in 1996 disproved evolution with a series of “Why is the sky blue Daddy?” type questions.
Says Berlinski, scientists have absolutely no idea “Why [is there] echolocation in the bats but not the buzzards?”
Furthermore, Berlinski tells us, those dumb scientists can never solve the profound mystery of “[Why are there] Pouches among the possums but not the penguins?”
Uh…maybe because penguins do have a pocket to keep their chicks warm, bitches!!
And the philosopher continues: scientists will never, never be able to figure out “Why is the Pitcher plant carnivorous, but not the thorn bush?”
Even the guy who sells me tomato seeds knows the answer to that one…
Because carnivorous plants grow in poor soil and can only get nutrients from eating insects, bitches!!
[Source: David Berlinski, The Deniable Darwin. Commentary, June 1996.]
And when you think it can’t get worse…
Some influential creationists say that the Earth does not even spin…no, Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton et al. were in the materialist conspiracy. The Bible is clear: Earth can’t move. So they conclude that the Sun and all planets, stars and galaxies spin around the Earth every 24 hours.
The State of Kansas’ School Board in 1999 wanted to rewrite their state’s science education standards to make them anti-evolution. When you wanna fight evolutionists, who you gonna call? Creationist Nazis! Yes, the State of Kansas called in Tom Willis to write their state’s science standards. [Source: Washington Post, 8/12/1999.]
The Creation Society of Mid-America, led by Tom ‘death camp for scientists‘ Willis, teaches that evolution is a hoax, and the Sun goes around the Earth, and if you think otherwise, it’s the death camp for you.
The Bible strongly states that the earth can be shaken, but does not move at all (Ps 93:1). But the sun does move (e.g., Joshua 10:12-14) and does so in a circuit (Psalm 19:1-6). Some will argue “that is only your interpretation.” My response is simply, “It is not an interpretation at all, it is what the words say…”
…Now, what does the evidence say? In the last segment, we suggested that all experiments to demonstrate that the earth moves at all have failed. All seem to indicate the earth does not move at all. There is much evidence that the earth is young and cannot possibly be millions, much less billions of years old… While it is much more difficult to prove how quickly the earth was formed, there is, in fact hard evidence that it must have formed quickly because it could not have formed slowly…
[Source: CSAMA Newsletter, Vol. 17(2), Mar/Apr 2000]
How influential are geocentric anti-evolutionists? Two Georgia State Representative sent out a letter to fellow lawmakers revealing the “indisputable” scientific evidence that proves the evolution “hoax” and Copernican astronomy are both part of an ancient Jewish Kabbalist conspiracy; of course Isaac Newton and his theory were part of the conspiracy. The lawmakers’ letter read:
Indisputable evidence — long hidden but now available to everyone — demonstrates conclusively that so-called ‘secular evolution science’ is the Big-Bang 15-billion-year alternate ‘creation scenario’ of the Pharisee Religion. This scenario is derived concept-for-concept from Rabbinic writings in the mystic ‘holy book’ Kabbala dating back at least two millennia.
The Texas lawmakers apologized for offending Jews, but not for offending reason. One of them, Ben Bridges, when asked if he really believed that evolution is a Jewish conspiracy and that the Earth doesn’t really move, replied, “I agree with it more than I would the Big Bang Theory or the Darwin Theory. I am convinced that rather than risk teaching a lie why teach anything?”
Ridiculous anti-science is a very old tradition. Here’s Martin Luther, Protestant theologian, who, like Willis above, points out accurately that the Bible says the Earth can’t move (it does say that) so the Sun must go around the Earth:
People gave ear to an upstart astrologer [Copernicus] who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon… This fool wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but sacred Scripture tells us that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth.
[Martin Luther, Table Talk]
Luther made many statements of this sort, for example, that Christians must believe that there are oceans below the Earth and above the sky, because the Bible says so (Genesis Chapter 1 does say that.)
Here’s Luther intertwining his anti-science and his psychotic anti-Semitic hatred:
No person has yet been born, or will ever be born, who can grasp or comprehend how foliage can sprout from wood or a tree, or how grass can grow forth from stone or earth, or how any creature can be begotten. Yet these filthy, blind, hardened liars [Jews] presume to fathom and to know what is happening outside and beyond the creature in God’s hidden, incomprehensible, inscrutable, and eternal essence… [The Jews] call our faith idolatrous, which is to reproach and defame God himself as an idol.
[Source: Martin Luther, On the Jews and Their Lies, Part XII]
Oh, Marty McHitler thinks no one can ever explain how any creature is begotten eh?
Well…uh…the sperm cell attaches to the egg and their membranes fuse in a CD9-mediated interaction causing insertion of sperm nucleus followed by increasing calcium ion concentration and intracellular pH which triggers an increase in oocyte protein synthesis producing fusion of egg and sperm pronuclei thus forming the diploid zygote nucleus and initiating embryogenesis consisting of gastrulation, neurulation, and body plan partitioning controlled by homeobox gene kits…
The right wing anti-“materialist” campaign is inspired by them asking themselves one question:
“What science would Jesus lie about?”
Let’s be clear: right wing authoritarians do not really mean what they say when they oppose “materialism.”
This is not about atheism. Right wing authoritarians use science as a scapegoat in a political campaign centered on a lack of accountability of their leaders, and the materialist enrichment of their corporate overlords.
A point we will demonstrate more forcefully in my next blog post.