Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Ten More Opinions, Likely To Be Unpopular

Anyone looking to avoid politics and/or general bitterness should stop reading at this point.

Sarah Palin is RIGHT about "Crony Capitalism." Well... okay, that might be going a little too far. EDIT: Whoever on Sarah Palin's not-a-campaign staff got the memo requesting something that could be seen as a swipe at both Obama and the current GOP frontrunners, came up with "Crony Capitalism" and taught her to sound it out phonetically is RIGHT about "Crony Capitalism."

If a given industry is directly contributing to making my water less-drinkable and my air less-breathable, it is difficult for me to care how many people it employs. I'm as sensitive to the plight of the jobless and potentially-jobless as I can be, but the fact is that, however burdensome it may be for the  good men and women of the Sludge Dumpers Local 140 to retrain in some other field, said retraining is at least largely possible. Me "retraining" my lungs to breath soot and smog? Significanly LESS than possible.

The reason so-called "conservatives" consistently have a fighting-edge over so-called "liberals" in American politics is that the emotional "default mode" of modern conservatives is HATE, while the default mode for modern liberals is FEAR. And while these are both negative emotions, hate is at least an emboldening emotion, while fear tends to produce cowardice. (This particular nugget courtesy John Lukacs)

President Obama's fatal flaw is NOT that he is willing to compromise, but that he views "compromise" or "the middle" as GOALS in and of themselves as opposed to something you temporarily settle for on the road to wearing your enemy down.

I do not object to people and things that stand in the way of social/intellectual progress - they are, after all, only adhering to their basic nature. My objection is to the all-too-frequent unwillingness of social/intellectual progress to simply shove past them.

It is perfectly reasonable for anti-abortion crusaders to promote their agenda via the calculus that a given fetus has the potential to become the next Einstein, Ghandi or Mother Theresa... providing, of course, that they allow for the equally-valid calculus that it could just as easily be the next Hitler, Stalin or Osama bin Laden. Likewise, laws requiring women seeking abortions to view an ultrasound first should ONLY per permissable if said viewing is followed by forced-listening to an audio track of a roomful of screaming brats - you know, "both sides" and all that...

Suggesting that the world would be much better off with a significantly smaller human population and significantly-reduced human population-growth is NOT some horrible statement in support of "population control" or "Eugenics." It doesn't become that UNTIL you start talking about how to accomplish it by sinister and/or unethical force - prior to that, it is merely a statement of fact obvious to anyone who has to commute to work.

Given that, in retrospect, he was amenable to enivormental and social-justice causes, a supporter of a social safety-net, globally-minded and a domestic-policy pragmatist in addition to being a ruthless political street-fighter willing to grind his opponents' bones into powder to accomplish his ends... I would gladly vote for Richard Nixon's cyborg-retrofitted head a'la Futurama were he/it running today.

The notion that both political "sides" in America are equally "bad" is a fallacy that does nothing to help anyone. The problem with Democrats is that they spend too much money and lack mangerial fortitude. The problem with Republicans is that they want to burn down the planet to make their Invisible Friend happy - these are NOT comparable flaws.

"Evolution" versus "Intelligent Design/Creationism" is not a "difference of opinion" - it is an argument between a proven-fact and a debunked-myth.


Rkiver said...

Nope, read all of these comments, and I agree with all of them.

Especially the last one.

Varya said...

Number nine puts the finger on a point my mind has been trying to make for ages, thank you for clarifying it for myself.
As far as my limited insight in US politics can take me, I agree with you on all of your points, and whomever it makes you unpopular with is worth being unpopular with

TheAlmightyNarf said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TheAlmightyNarf said...

I'm disappointed... none of those seemed especially controversial to me.

I'm just going to hit 9 and 10 here... Well, actually, I'm hitting 9 here, so I won't repeat here.

The last point, however, I pretty soundly dismantled in the last few comments of your last unpopular opinions article and would love to see some more of that debate.

Adam said...

In regards to reduced or even negative population growth: while the choicers vs. the lifers continues to rage I find it interesting that society as a whole seems to be moving toward a new dynamic on its own anyways. Having children just doesn't mean today what it did decades ago. Way back when we had kids because they were built in laborers. Now we have kids and...they're just sort of there for 18+ years (just ask my step-mom who has two older than 18 kids living with her). We've all heard the statistics that people, typically ones with more education and/or more money are tending to wait longer to have kids, having fewer of them, or opting out of having children altogether.

We were so child-centric in this nation for so long and now the pendulum seems to be swinging the other way as more people realize that having kids is not all its cracked up to be or (hopefully) that not everyone is cut out to be a parent to begin with, particularly with all the time and resource commitments it entails. So the fringes continue to argue but society usually sorts itself out in one way or another.

...Sorry. That seems kind off topic but Bob's statement got my mind wandering.

Dave from canada said...

"Suggesting that the world would be much better off with a significantly smaller human population and significantly-reduced human population-growth is NOT some horrible statement in support of "population control" or "Eugenics." It doesn't become that UNTIL you start talking about how to accomplish it by sinister and/or unethical force - prior to that, it is merely a statement of fact obvious to anyone who has to commute to work."

This so hard. EVERY day outside my university there were crackpots waving around flyers about how obama was going to cause a depopulation holocaust....whatever that means.

Until we reach singularity, we should be TRYING to reduce population. China's one child policy is a fairly decent idea in the grand scheme. Such a policy will of course fail...there will still be population growth. But it will be slow.

Sadly nutjobs like the duggars will get in the way with claims that it violates their religion.

Also props for nixon. he may have been an asshole, but the man knew his shit....i did not intend that as a pun.

john said...

An opinion, likely to be unpopular: people who write posts entitled "x Opinions, Likely to be Unpopular" are wannabe iconoclasts clamoring for attention.

motyr said...

I agree with all of these points.

Bob, can I ask you a favour? Can you write a comment and/or post defining exactly what you mean when you use the term "Creationism?" I would never call myself a Creationist but I completely respect the opinion that a God may have acted as a "first cause" in setting natural phenomena such as The Big Bang and the process of evolution in motion. I have a strong feeling that you're referring to people that believe the world was created in six days, as an example (those tend to be the people who label themselves "creationists" and use the term "intelligent design" to sound "smarter,") but I think you'll get a lot of unnecessary hate from people with more agnostic views by not clarifying.

John Berry said...

I agree for the most part. A lot of these are just facts that people are uncomfortable thinking about because it grains against emotion. That being said, you've sure been a fan of unnecessary hyphens as of late.

Ben Brobak said...

For the last one, I'm going to say that Evolution and Creationism are not even on the same level. As Creationists would state that evolution is a mechanism that was created. Really, Big Bang vs Creationism is more aligned.

For the record, Agnostic and a fan of the Law of Parsimony.

TheAlmightyNarf said...

@ Ben Borbak

The reason no one wants to have that argument though is that the Big Bang is an incredibly broken theory that exists pretty much as just a place holder until we come up with something better.

To put it briefly, the "Big Bang model" of the universe suggests that the expansion of the universe should be decreasing or that the universe should be collapsing do to gravity... except that the expansion is actually accelerating. Since the expansion of the universe was the only real evidence for the Big Bang but doesn't actually corroborate that model of the universe, it doesn't really fulfill the criteria of a scientific theory.

Aaron said...

Stick to movies and comic books.

Aaron said...

The Aaron above me is not me. I say, keep doing what you're doing.

malnin said...

I have one

Atheists or people who are just not religious are not an oppressed minority no matter how much they want to believe it.

Cado said...

Actually, both parties do share a very significant flaw which negates nearly every legitimate difference they have: they're both run according to corporate interests. As long as that's the case neither of them will fight for us and that's the important part.

lemonvampire said...

Bob, I absolutely love it when you post political rants, and I totally miss the "American Bob" videos. But you do know that your readers/viewers are almost entirely like-minded individuals who are likely to agree with you politically, right? So when you say, "Opinions likely to be unpopular" it's a little frustrating because your views are, to the majority of your readers, very popular.

Matt said...

I can't say I disagree with most of your points bob, ive never been as hard line about conservitive views that you hear these days as others. I'm conservitive in certain things and moderate in others. What I dont like is you, again labeling large groups of people under a blanket banner. Not all conserveitives are religious fanatics, nor do we all share the same views about enviromental issues and the like. I think you need to remember that

Ryan said...

Bob, this is just so much more fun than doing my actual job...


1. Dunno what that means, neither does she so it's ok.

2. I guess so.

3. Not me, man, the Conservatives have won. I hate 'em like you wouldn't believe. Democrats are scared, but mostly I think they're just saddened by conflict. Liberals need to get over it. The Conservative Movement will never compromise, has no basic decency, and needs to be destroyed utterly (not the people, the movement).

4. Obama's flaw is that he states his actual goal as his first bargaining posture, and that he's a moderate rather than a liberal. A liberal, oddly enough, could actually achieve moderation.

5. Heh.

6. Can we just make pro-lifers listen to screaming bats all the time? What am I saying, that's what it's like to be in their heads, anyway.(kidding...sorry...)

7. Heh.

8. Don't forget "willing to kill millions for dubious political gain,thwart basic democratic principles, and responsible for the Khmer Rouge", Bob. I can live without him.

9. That's not fair, Bob. Only some Republicans want to burn down the planet to please an invisible man in the sky. Most of them want to burn down the planet so that the government can't take their money.

10. Intelligent Design is exactly as valuable to society as Ex-Gay Reversion Therapy, Abstinence Education, and Hostess Twinkies. That is to say, they're objectively terrible, they're full of unnatural garbage, and I can't see why anyone wants them.


While I generally agree that the types of atheist who try to sue people to take down references to the Bible on money, in courthouses, at baseball games, etc. need to find a better use for their time, a much more serious issue is that it's difficult to run for elective office as an atheist, which is a shame, because it gets at the main reason atheists feel like oppressed minorities even though we're not, really, which is that most people are somewhat religious and they all seem deluded to us.

DarkKnight86 said...

So bob about this depopulation thing, are you willing to kill yourself to help make the world a better place, or is just everybody else who has to die, so miserable leftist like yourself can live in a supposedly better world?

Ralphael said...


Hammbone said...

@darkknight86 about you comment. are you a moron who cant read or just a troll?

yes overpopulation is a problem. no argueing that. and please show me where bob said that we should start murdering people? he said jumping to arguements about topics not raised is stupid. and all you did was prove him right. good job, and if you keep prctising you might actually be a decent troll someday.

DarkKnight86 said...


I'm not trolling, I truely believe that people who want to control the population, would love nothing more than to wake up tommrow turn on the news and find out that while they were sleeping billions had died. Since to these people human life is nothing but a inconvience to them.

JeffBergeron said...



Atheists might not be oppressed politically (as in, no laws forbidding atheism) but as far as prejudices go, we are factually the most hated and feared minority in the United States.

Matt said...

Bob, this one was kind of boring. Sorry.

The Big Bang Theory hasn't stated that gravity should collapse the universe since, ohh, around the time Edwin Hubble discovered the Hubble Constant. Sure, at that point, the parameters of the theory have changed, but that's scientific progress. The "holes" in TBBT are equivalent to the "holes" in The Standard Model -- sure there are things we don't know and are always changing (Eg what happened before the cosmic dark ages, and where the heck that Higgs Boson is, respectively), but fundamental structure of the models are concise and has yet to be disproven experimentally or observationally.

tldr; the accelerated expansion of the universe has not caused us to throw out TBBT, but rather it has amended the parameters

As an aside, I have heard from some physicists that The Cyclic Model is making a come back. Apparently they've worked out some of the kinks that made them discard it (for like a third time) back in the 80s. If some of it's predictions pan out, it should be making waves (heh) in a decade or so.

ssmit said...

And yet another series of opinions that are not so unpopular as merely so frequently uttered that they are irritating; especially as the ones doing the uttering are never aware of how unremarkable and un-defendable their opinions are.

1. A knock at Sarah Palin... really is that all you have, that is so 2008.

2. As someone who works in the field of environmental protection and management I will just say that we reached the point of diminishing returns with regard to most environmental controls two or three decades ago. Just about everything since has cost billions without much appreciable gain in environmental quality.

3. Funny, you decry the other side as being motivated by HATE but in the same post you insult those who don't agree with you at the individual level imply using force to make them do so; one could almost see an inconsistency there.

4/5. Eye roll.

6. It is also funny how so many of those who are pro choice are only really for the choice that they agree with.

7. But how will you support your wonderful safety net without a base of young, working people to pay for all those old, nonworking people. There is more than one reason so many European countries are going bankrupt. Just something to think about.

8. I'll give you this one; Nixon was a liberal and evil SOB.

9. Exaggerate much? I did a Google search for Republican proposals that would burn down the world in the name of God and I could not seem to find any. Evidently you are the type who sees a theocrat behind every bush.

10. I actually agree with you here but you are not being merely as radical as you think you are.

Matt said...

I'm Canadian so I'm not entirely sure about this, but I thought that some States actually had constitutional clauses saying that only people that believe in a deity can be elected to public office. I think Texas was one of them.

Ryan said...


What are you talking about? I'm pro-choice, meaning I'm for the choice the woman makes rather than the choice Pro Life people want her to make. I'm not obligated to see it both ways, and that doesn't make me a hypocrite, it makes me consistent. Also, on a side note, not a judgmental, misogynist bully.

And there's no inconsistency in hating the Conservative movement. I'm not knocking hate, I just think it's important to hate the right ideas. And boy, do I.


You know, the reality is, the world WOULD be a more convenient place for me if all the people who irritated me/got in my way/supported Justin Bieber vanished tomorrow morning. But I can know that's true and not wish for their deaths.

Dave from canada said...

@ Darkknight

Then you're a fucking retard.

People who advocate population control are trying to PRESERVE quality of life. The more people there are, the fewer resources there are to go around, and do you see the first world sharing?

No, the people who lose out form overpopulation are the poor and powerless. A lower overall population (best achieved by a regulated birthrate) would mean MORE resources to go around, especially in areas which are choked to the brim with people and still increasing in population exponentially.

@ Jeff

Not entirely true. There are laws prohobiting atheists holding office in some states, they are just unenforceable. But NOONE has been willing to take them OFF the books.

Atheists are also barred from entering the scouts, and also face open discrimination in many areas, especially in the southern US.

Darren said...

If you keep writing these why not just do American Bob? Or are you doing American Bob on some other site?

Capt. Phileas J. Werewolf said...

"Suggesting that the world would be much better off with a significantly smaller human population and significantly-reduced human population-growth is NOT some horrible statement in support of "population control" or "Eugenics." It doesn't become that UNTIL you start talking about how to accomplish it by sinister and/or unethical force - prior to that, it is merely a statement of fact obvious to anyone who has to commute to work."

I agree, obviously, that just because you believe that the world would be "better off" with fewer people does not mean that you also believe we should use coercion to achieve that end (of course, I'll leave defining the limits of "coercion" as an exercise for the reader).

BUT I don't know if I agree that over-population is the problem people have made it out to be. Most first world countries are more densely populated than their third world counterparts. I think prosperity is tied more directly to technology, education, political participation, and travel--all things that require infrastructure. And infrastructure requires people (lots of 'em). Yes, it sucks to get stuck in traffic (every day!), but the reason you're in traffic is because most of those other people are on their way to work to create the products and services necessary for the "good life."

Capt. Phileas J. Werewolf said...

I think you're a little quick in claiming victory on the evolution/ID "debate" from the last political post.

You made a number of claims that are worth unpacking (and, I think, refuting), but in the interest of brevity I'll make one major point:
the theory of evolution has very little to say concerning how life arose (or the The Big Bang Theory, for that matter). Even if we could prove abiogenesis was caused by an "intelligent designer" (let's say some aliens came down and showed us a home video they made of themselves plopping some replicating proteins into the ocean millions of years ago), evolutionary theory would still be the most effective way of explaining how those proteins replicated and adapted over the eons to give rise to the life forms that exist now. That's what evolution explains--not where the universe came from, where "life" came from, why ice is less dense than water, or how magnets work. Whether or not some "intelligent designer" was or is involved with those other physical phenomena is completely unrelated.

I think the IDers (or soft Creationists, or whatever they should be called) that are being referenced in the post are those who claim that evolution is wrong, filled with fatal "gaps" (esp. ones they think are "filled" by a designer), that evo-biologists are lying, etc. Do you fall into this category? Or, if we assume that aliens "seeded" the most basic form of life and then flew back to Alpha Centauri or whatever, do you think that evolution is an adequate explanation of how we (and all other living things) got here?

biomechanical923 said...

@Capt. Phineas J. Werewolf
I really don't think that's what Narf was getting at.
The general tone of Bob's comments on "Creationism" really smacks of smug, self-assured condescension. My concern is that Bob is using "Creationism" or the Catholicism of his upbringing as a convenient excuse to tear down ALL religion, and possible the consideration of ANY supernatural elements.
As motyr said earlier, Bob could help his case if he would clarify whether his hatred is directed at Conservative Christianity, or toward anybody with an agnostic attitude toward supernatural phenomena.

john said...

@Hammbone: You're absolutely right in that saying "I'm for population control" does not automatically mean you believe that the Earth should be wiped clean of undesirables. However, it does raise the question, "okay, which people do you think there should be fewer of?"

And really, I don't think there's any good answer to that one. Whether you think there's specific groups that need to be reigned in (which is going to be pretty unpopular for obvious historical-context reasons) or simply think people in general ought to have fewer children, the fact remains that you're putting yourself in the position of telling people how they ought to reproduce, and who isn't going to take offense at some random would-be pundit on the Internet telling them how to build their family?

Joe said...

Re: "Creationism"

Young-Earth Creationism (YEC), which basically encompasses all beliefs that the Earth is less than 12,000 years old and that human beings have always existed in their current form without having evolved from other species, is wrong. It has no evidence backing it whatsoever, and its proponents work from non-falsifiable premises. It has no scientific validity at all. If evolution were somehow shown to be a faulty theory tomorrow, YEC would not be an acceptable alternative because it is completely wrong, and not remotely scientific. I'm a firm believer in liberty and fundamental freedoms, so I think YECists are free to believe whatever the hell they like, but YEC doesn't deserve any more respect from government or the public education system than astrology, alchemy or Lysenkoism.

Other forms of "creationism" that are basically "we accept the current scientific consensus but put God in the gaps that currently exist in that paradigm" are not scientific theories. Rather, they appropriate accepted scientific theories and just say "but ultimately, God started the whole thing". Since it's not a scientific theory, it is not in opposition to evolution. (But science tends to eliminate those gaps over time, so we'll see...)

Intelligent design? I frankly don't see what's so intelligently designed about us or the rest of nature, and neither does Neil deGrasse Tyson. But you can read this Christian geologist's review of Michael Behe's Darwin's Black Box if you need someone with more expertise to tear it down for you.

Joe said...

Re: Population control

The best form of population control is to increase prosperity and sexual equality in the society. Industrialized societies where women have education and career options open to them by and large have lower rates of childbirth than those in developing societies. Because large families make sense in developing societies where you want as many extra hands on the farm or the factory floor as possible, but in developed societies where kids stay at home on their parents' largess for 18+ years only to not find any jobs, large families make less economic sense.

Interestingly, the scheme allegedly implemented by Iran between 1989 - 2006 seems to be (on paper) one of the most ethical and progressive methods of population control I've ever heard about. I have no idea how much of its success is authentic and how much is Iranian propaganda (and that moron Ahmadinejad seems to have dispensed with it), but the basic concept seems worthy of discussion.

Matt said...

I always found it interesting that Creationists jump all over books like Darwin's Black Box and other creationist tripe like that. There are far more legitimate criticisms of evolution out there. Jerry Fodor's book _What Darwin Got Wrong_ is a far more intellectual argument against Evolution's status as a scientific theory. I mean... it's wrong so far as I'm concerned (in my opinion it uses a too strict notion of the word "theory" which would eliminate almost any explanation on the origin of species as a scientific theory), but at the very least it actually take on evolution and makes you think... maybe that's why the creationists don't use it more for their case... I'll point out that it's not a religious book at all. Fodor is most definitely an atheist. He just doesn't think evolution explains what people say evolution explains.

Nixou said...

About Sarah Palin:
You're making the usual mistake of thinking that Palin is really an intellectually limited individual: Palin is quite obviously a very intelligent and very lazy woman who found a way to earn a lot of money without actually working.
And why does she remain a darling of the most hardcore part of the Republican base? It's not because they are stupid, or misinformed: it's because she pulled the trick that they all dream to pull: that's what most people on the left (of Dick Cheney) fail to see: her fans admire her because she's a succesful con artist, not despite it.

About abortion:
It would even be claimed, if one wants to be really cynical, that being an unwanted child increases the likelyhood of being the next Stalin, Bin Laden, etc... Parents of unwanted children are likely to do less efforts and make less sacrifice to raise their kids right.

About Nixon:
Chances are, benig also a guy willing to rig elections to stay in office while ordering the slaughter of civilians by hundreds of thousands to win an unwinnable war, Nixon would today cynicaly join the climate deniers bandwagon while trying to convince the Pentagon to start a "Let's Genocide the Third World so that Climate Refugees never become a Problem" program.

About creationists:
The creationists are akin to the Holocaust deniers: the Holocaust deniers are well aware that their denial is a nothing BS, but they defend it nonetheless because they'd rather be seen as conspiracy nuts rather than as people who gets turned on by the idea of killing millions of Jews. The creationists also know that their denial of natural selection is also BS, but they defend it nonetheless because they'd rather be seen as religious nuts rather than as people who get turned on by the idea of giving the education of kids to serial rapists instead of actual teachers. It's not a matter of opinion, or even debunked myth: it's a matter of hidding your vice behind faked insanity.



Bob is not hateful toward those who do not agree with him: he is contemptuous.

MaxTeel said...

Hello Bob. I didn't know how to reach you in other way (didn't find an email on the website) and since this is a political post, I'll share this here:


I'm not an american, and I don't follow a lot of american politics, but I find this funny for comparing pop culture stuff with the state of american politics.

Anonymous said...

>>Suggesting that the world would be much better off with a significantly smaller human population and significantly-reduced human population-growth is NOT some horrible statement in support of "population control" or "Eugenics." . . . it is merely a statement of fact obvious to anyone who has to commute to work.

That statement is actually either a misrepresentation or naivete on the speaker's part. If it's the latter, the speaker is making an assumption that the results of Eugenics can be controlled or otherwise ends in his favor. In the former case, the speaker doesn't want everyone to go away, just the idiots.

David (The Pants) said...

I agree with Cado

JDude said...

All fine by me.

As an additional support to the abortion deal, let me parrot Richard Dawkins' sentiment, in my own words.

So, we don't want to abort anyone because they might be the next Beethoven, do we?

Okay then; by that logic, then we should be actively trying to impregnate and become impregnated all the time, and send all the seed from our jack-off sessions to sperm donors.

What? Every sperm and egg is a potential human being, after all!

Seriously though, abortion does nothing more or less to our odds of curing cancer than whether or not our daily ejaculate finds itself in a toilet bowl or a newlywed's happy place...

Capt. Phileas J. Werewolf said...

But if we limit our discussion to Bob's tenth opinion ("Evolution" versus "Intelligent Design/Creationism" is not a "difference of opinion" - it is an argument between a proven-fact and a debunked-myth), then it's clear that he's referring to a system of beliefs that rejects evolution. Regardless of Bob's or anyone else's views on religion as a whole, evolution is a scientific fact. I would say that someone who misrepresents it as an "opinion" out of religious, political, or philosophical considerations deserves condescension.

DarkKnight86 said...

To the pro-choice people, do you favor late term abortion?

Darren said...

I found this on your blog bob and thought this picture was pretty funny considering you hatred for it


How Tall Is Conan said...

Even though I probably stand on the opposite end of the political spectrum as you Bob, I agree with several of your points this time around.

The whole abortion argument has been reduced to a black and white argument, when in reality there is a considerable amount of gray area. Ironically more often than not, any argument for abortion can be reversed and vice versa.

I totally agree about your Nixon idea, he got shit done, yeah watergate happened, but in the grand scheme of American politics 90% of the shit that goes down in congress now a-days is far worse.


Nixon didn't rig any elections, and as far as genocide goes, he kind of ended the Vietnam war, a war started by LBJ *cough cough*



""Evolution" versus "Intelligent Design/Creationism" is not a "difference of opinion" - it is an argument between a proven-fact and a debunked-myth."

While I certainly do not deny that evolution real, it is still a theory, which in essence, means that it is not "proven." Watch your semantics.

JDude said...


Speaking only for myself (redundancy ftw) the late-term post-embryonic stuff DOES leave a bad taste in my mouth, but in the case of unsustainable deformity, health complications and endangering the safety of the mother, I'd still support it.

I don't believe in abortion being taken lightly, but I can't imagine anyone failing to take it seriously in the first place. It is, and should remain, a matter of choice.

Matt said...

@How Tall is Conan
That's not at all, in essence, what "theory" means in a scientific context.

A scientific theory is a collection of data, evidence, hypotheses, and propositions (when these come in the form of mathematical relationships between quantities we call them laws) which together form a predictive explanation of physical phenomenon. Scientific theories do not get "proven", mainly because any good theory will always breed new hypotheses given additional evidence and data. Theories are, however, falsifiable. That is, when new data or evidence is acquired which is contrary to the predictions, we discard that theory and build a new one. More often than not, however, we build a new theory out of most of the data, evidence, hypotheses, and predictions. In these cases, where a failed prediction does not cause us to discard the majority of our explanations, we merely amend the existing theory to not produce these predictions.

Evolution by Natural Selection has not been "proven", correct. But that's not what makes it a theory. It is a theory because it fits the above description. Just like Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, Quantum Electrodymanic Theory, etc...

Nixou said...

"Nixon didn't rig any elections"
Stuffing a ballot-box is not the only way to cheat: trying to sabotage your political opponents' organization IS rigging an election. The fact that the Watergate break-in backfired does not change anything: a failed attempt at rigging is rigging nonetheless.

"as far as genocide goes"
As for Nixon's taste for slaughter as viable military strategy, google "Operation Menu"

"he kind of ended the Vietnam war, a war started by LBJ *cough cough*"
As for the Vietnam war, it started under Eisenhower (when Nixon was, Vice-president, by the way), when the american political class in a "brilliant" display of bipartisan unanimity decided that subsidizing a crooked self-proclaimed president with blood on his hands was necessary to contain communism. Of course, in a typical display of insuarity, almost no one in the US realized that a war was going on until american citizens started to get drafted.


"While I certainly do not deny that evolution real, it is still a theory, which in essence, means that it is not "proven." Watch your semantics"

In scientific jargon, a "theory" means "a certain fact, as far as the current (and massive) scientific knowledge allows us certainty". When a scientist talks about what scientifically illiterate rubes call "theory", s/he uses the word "hypothesis".

Matt said...


Theory does not mean "a certain fact as far as certainty is allowed". Facts are individual propositions, theories are explanations involving many many propositions.

Nixou said...

And those explanations are as certain as the scientific method allows it: people do not use the term "fact" to say "one clearly defined individual proposition": they use it ti say "something I am certain is true". Everyone is certain that evolution is true, including the creationists, which is why they spend most of their efforts and ressources to bully society into ordering teachers to lie to kids.

Matt said...

But that "something" whose truth is certain is a clearly defined individual proposition. For example, in the theory of evolution, "genes are passed down from parent(s) to children" is a fact, "when genetic material gets copied, mutations occur approximately 1% of the time" is a fact, "genetic mutations which hinder reproduction in an environment which an individual finds themself will result in that genetic material eventually dying out" is a fact. But something like "in an arsenic rich environment, a specific species of bacteria can substitute phosphorous with arsenic in its physiology" is a hypothesis, and not a fact. Nevertheless, all of these propositions, among many others, together, form the theory of evolution. If you are "certain [the theory of evolution] is true", then you are certain it's predictions are true, and it ceases to be scientific because you don't test certainties, you test uncertainties, and when there are no tests to be done, there's no science to be done.

I'd go so far as to say calling evolution a "fact" is at least as erroneous, if not more so, than calling it "just a theory (a guess)". Both demonstrate extreme ignorance on how science is done, and both prevent you from actually doing any science on the theory of evolution.

TheAlmightyNarf said...
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TheAlmightyNarf said...

Alright. Didn't mean to disappear, just had to work a lot the last few days.

@ Matt

Ok, my train of thought is basically that if the current expansion of the universe isn't actually explained by the Big Bang... why bother with it? I mean, given the possibility that the Big Bang started the expansion but something else is causing it to accelerate, or that there was no Big Bang and that something else caused the expansion in the first place... which one does Occam's Razor support?

@ Capt. Phileas J. Werewolf

The problem is that when most people talk about "evolution", they're not talking a theory... they're talking about a thousand or so loosely connected theories (more commonly known in the scientific field as the "evolution model"). The idea that genes change over time and the more beneficial ones are more likely to survive? Yea, I don't have much issue with that. But, using that theory to explain how all life on Earth got here I think is a bit more problematic than most proponents say it is.

The thing is that evolution isn't the best way of explaining how self replicating proteins evolved into living organisms. Firstly because proteins can't self replicate on their own. And secondly because proteins don't "evolve". They're too stable to change like that (which is a good thing considering it's what we're made). It's the instability of DNA that allows for evolution. But, I realize that probably wasn't your point.

Still "no", though, as there just isn't any evidence that shows that's possible. It seems about as likely to me that self replicating molecules could evolve into cells as it is that self replicating molecules could evolve into cars.

I would put myself into the category of "we really don't have enough information right now and scientists are wasting to much time just trying to confirm their previous assumptions". I mean, if Earth were seeded with something as complex as, say, bacteria, than yea sure... we may have evolved from that. Anything before the Cambrian explosion I'm going to see as some what problematic, though (yes, I know that scientists are fairly certain there was some of life around before that, but the direct evidence showing exactly what was around is lacking to say the least).

@ the last several posts

I tend to think of a "theory" as our best guess with the information currently available. It's hardly "just a guess", but it's hardly certain either.

InnerPartisan said...

This article, once again, reminds me why I love you, Bob. Yeah, I might disagree with some of you movie critiques or your general misanthropy... But damn, when you're right, you're fucking right.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...


"But how will you support your wonderful safety net without a base of young, working people to pay for all those old, nonworking people. There is more than one reason so many European countries are going bankrupt. Just something to think about."

If automation keeps progressing the production capacity will far exceed the number of people needed to maintain the machines. And no matter what anyone tells you the IT and engineering jobs needed to maintain and design the machines will not replace the manual labor jobs that have been eliminated.

Computers are even partly designing new computers these days. The job of optimizing and layout (where they turn the unoptimized design into an actual physically optimized chip layout and from that make a mask used to burn the actual chips) used to be done by a team of engineers, now they just feed it into a computer program and it spits out the mask used to burn the chips an hour later. And it's much, much better at it than the people it replaced.

So yeah, there's a Skynet future coming where computers design newer faster computers. About the best outcome we can hope for is that humanity merges with their technology rather than being simply replaced by it.

Nixou said...

"If you are "certain [the theory of evolution] is true", then you are certain it's predictions are true, and it ceases to be scientific because you don't test certainties, you test uncertainties"

Hence my "As far as the current knowledge allows us": one of the most frequently used creationists' lies is to pretend that a few uncertainties about evolutions = still uncertainties while the huge holes in the "God micromanaged everything related to life" = mer incertainties, therefore evolution is not more valid than creationist fiction: this is this unacceptable fallacy that is at the core of the "Evolution is just a theory" schtick.

The fact (heh) remains that on a scale between "Truth without error" and "Unbelievable fable", evolution is much closer to the former while creatonism is entirely the later

TheAlmightyNarf said...

@ Nixou

"The fact (heh) remains that on a scale between "Truth without error" and "Unbelievable fable", evolution is much closer to the former while creatonism is entirely the later"

The problem is that there is no such scale. "Truth without error" and "unbelievable fable" are not only not opposites, they can actually over-lap quite often. Just look into quantum entanglement some time. The real difference between "scientific" and "unscientific" is how you treat it. If you treat something like it's an absolute truth, beyond debate and new discovery, it ceases to be scientific. That's the biggest reason I've become so cynical of the scientific community and "followers of science" in general over the last few years.

There is no level of certainty behind the evolution model, nor can there ever be for it to be scientific. In nearly every field, scientists realize that a discovery could be made tomorrow that throws out the last few decades of theories. Evolution is no different.

Creationism generally isn't scientific because most of it's proponents treat it like absolute truth. Evolution can't fall into that same trap.

Matt said...


You are factually incorrect about a number of things, including what you think words mean in the scientific community. Let's start at the beginning.

The Big Bang Theory is a retro-predictive theory regarding initial states and the origins. It explains more or less the state of the universe up until the recent acceleration (which began maybe a billion years ago so far as current evidence tells us). The addition of the dark energy hypothesis doesn't contradict the Big Bang Theory, and is added to the theory to explain the current expansion. Currently, there are many questions left unanswered (Eg what causes dark energy), but nothing about it contradicts the theory, and unless we find the cause contradicts the theory, it is still more or less conceptually and empirically valid and sound, respectively.

Now regarding evolution, you're using words, and attributing them to "the scientific community", but the way you're using them does not cohere with how the actual scientific community. For example, your treatment of "The Theory of Evolution" and "The Evolution Model". A model and a theory are certainly related, but not in the way you claim it is. Theories are descriptive and explanatory. Models are just descriptive. Therefore, models are (or can be) a subset of theories, but theories are not subsets of models. For example, The Standard Model is an integral part in any theory explaining Quantum Electrodynamics. Your error was claiming that "the evolutionary model" is "[made up of] about a thousand loosely connected theories". This is factually incorrect, and conceptually contradictory.

You go on to describe The Theory of Evolution pitfall of failing to describe the evolution of proteins. The theory of evolution doesn't talk about this at all. The theory of evolution describes and explains how species (read: life) changes over time. It doesn't describe or explain how proteins (read: non-life) cause life to emerge. This is a relevant topic in biology, and people working in abiogenesis are working on developing a theory to describe and explain these processes, but it is not a part of the theory of evolution. Evolution deals with what happens after the first organisms came to be, not how the first organisms came to be.

Finally, you're still wrong in saying a theory is a "guess". It's not only not "just a guess", it's not a "guess" at all. It's an collection of explanations and descriptions. Some rooted in observable fact, some rooted in assumptions. The Theory of Evolution, for example, assumes that at one point there wasn't life, and at some future point there was. Complaining that evolution doesn't explain that is akin to complaining that The Theory of Special Relativity doesn't explain why the speed of light is constant in all inertial reference frames. Special Relativity describes the consequences of that assumption, and it's confirmed predictions give weight to the truth of that assumption. It's important to note that the assumptions themselves do not constitute "guesses" either. There are not only observable reasons to assume that the speed of light is constant and independent of inertial reference frames (or that at one point there was no life, and at another point in the future there was), but they also cohere with the outcomes of several other theories (results in Electromagnetism tell us that c is constant and independent of inertial reference frames, and geology tells us that there was a time when there was no life on earth, while cosmology tells us there was a time when it was impossible for molecules to form).

Matt said...


This may seem like a semantic argument regarding definitions, but in truth it is not, as you go on to use these false equivocations to describe and critique the attitude of the scientific community. Just like the scientists (and everyone doing anything), you are using assumptions to build your argument, but your assumptions are factually incorrect, so it doesn't matter that your cynical attitude may be a valid consequent of these assumptions, as they are false.

You seem to think "certainty" and "uncertainty" are binary relationships. This, again, is simply not true. You can be more certain about a series of propositions then you can another. This is why we use statistics in scientific investigation. If an experiment shows a 95% success rate of some hypothesis, and a 25% success rate for a competing hypothesis, we go with the 95% hypothesis. If it turns out that we later find out that we erred 95% of the time, and that 75% failure rate can be also accounted for, we revise our hypothesis. Evolution will do this. When we find a golden retriever fossil from the Cambrian explosion, we will revise out theories. Shit we've done it very recently (on a timescale of months) regarding the history of human evolution (see: http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/211641/20110910/fossils-evolution-human-ancestry-missing-link-south-africa-gamechanger.htm). Now, due to this discovery, we're working on a way to revise the theory to understand it. If it turns out that a key element of evolutionary theory contradicts what we've found, it will be revised. This is the STRENGTH of science, that uncertainty breeds the ability to rethink our theories, their assumptions, etc... when we have reason to do so.

I think we're more or less on the same page. I would just be more careful in the future when describing terms like "theories" lest they be taken advantage of by the likes of anti-scientific scum.

TheAlmightyNarf said...

@ Matt

A lot of stuff there. I'll try to respond to most of it.

I guess my question would have to be then: Why is the Big Bang a theory worth revising? What observable/testable evidence exists today that the Big Bang is the most reasonable explanation for? Something that isn't just as easily explained away as probably having been caused by dark energy or some other naturally occurring phenomena, or any theory that would give the universe a set beginning.

I may have used the wrong terms, but I don't think we necessarily disagree here so perhaps you can clear me up. The idea that I was trying to get across was that there is a distinct difference between the theory that life evolves over time, and the thousands of theories trying to explain how life on Earth evolved to what it is today. And that, unfortunately, most people see the 2 as interchangeable when they really aren't.

"You go on to describe The Theory of Evolution pitfall of failing to describe the evolution of proteins."

Actually I didn't. You should read the post I was replying to. Werewolf suggested that evolution would be the best explanation for how proto-life became life, and that was the claim I was refuting. My initial arguments over abiogenesis were less against evolution as they were to show how the ideas behind intelligent design could be applied in a scientific way.

I think our problem is that "guess" simply isn't a well defined scientific term. According to Dictionary.com a "guess" is: "to arrive at or commit oneself to an opinion about (something) without having sufficient evidence to support the opinion fully", and that's the understanding of the term I have. Merriam Webster says "to form an opinion of from little or no evidence", so I suppose it's an issue of what definition of you're using. But, when I posted it I was using the former.

"Certain" is the same sort of issue. I was using the common definition (Dictionary.com: "known or proved to be true, incapable of failing"), not the scientific definition.

Matt said...


Almost everything about Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation points to TBBT being the best explanation at the moment. No other theory of cosmological origins explains CMBR as well as TBBT does (except perhaps, in time, the revised cyclic theory). Everything from the fact that it exists, to the heat and matter distribution is explained with TBBT. It is, perhaps, the most overwhelmingly successful prediction made by modern physics. But more than that, it's worth revising because up until a few nanoseconds after the initial conditions, everything coheres with our other physical science theories (Quantum Electrodynamics, Thermodynamics, etc...). Coherence is HUGE in science, especially physics (mainly because we are so damned good at physics).

As for evolution, my point is that the theory that explains that life evolves also explains how it evolves. That's what the Theory of Evolution is. If it just explained that life evolved, then it wouldn't be a scientific theory (as it would offer no explanation, and integral part of all scientific theories). The issue here, I think, may be the application of the ToE to species, and how to interpret the facts and observations we have about species now and in the past within the evolutionary framework (I think this is what you mean by the thousand or so other theories of evolution). If you oppose this kind of interpretation (using theories to interpret facts), then you have an issue with all of science. But that's what theories are for. Without theories to interpret facts, we're left with absolutely nothing but useless information. Try it in another field. Explain the fact that a candle burns without referencing atomic theory or thermodynamics. You can't do it. That's precisely how the "live evolves" theory of evolution and "how specific species evolves" thousands of theories of evolution are intrinsically linked. They, put simply, are the same thing. One's results are interpreted within the framework of the others.

As for your next bit, yeah you're probably right, the ToE doesn't explain proteins evolving. Sorry for the confusion. My fault. It would seem that werewolf made the error I was accusing you of making.

As for guess... the issue with dictionary definitions is they often omit connotation. The word "guess", when referenced to the word "theory", has an extreme negative connotation. Precisely because "sufficient evidence" is relative. This is especially true in the Evolution/ID "debate". IDers will refuse to admit that the ToE meets a sufficient evidence criterion that ID does not even come close to meeting. Ie they are implicitly falsely equivocating. This is such a common occurrence that the connotation of the word "guess" has become negative. Moreover, you seem to also be of the opinion that the ToE does not meet a sufficient evidence criteria. But this is a result of your concern about applying the "thousand or so theories" to the one ToE, I think. To which I refer you to my previous argument, and add that the "thousand or so theories" aren't merely guesses, but interpretations of the results in the ToE. So, saying any theory is a "guess" is a at best a misunderstanding of the word theory, or at worst a huge category error.

As for certainty, any scientist would be a fool to use the word "certain" in the context that you described, and when they do I would gather they are using it merely for pragmatic purposes. Repeated 95% success rates account for their use of "certainty", if they were to ever use such a term. Quite honestly though, this is more an issue of rhetoric when debating anti-scientific scum. And in my humble opinion, it is playing right into their hand, despite the fact that lawyers and what passes for modern-day theologians should not be the ones setting the terms of debate, that's for the scientists and philosophers to do.

TheAlmightyNarf said...

@ Matt

Researching CMBR results in far to many websites that just quote Wikipedia word for word. Anyway...

CMBR wasn't exactly a "overwhelmingly successful prediction". The original prediction estimated a temperature of 50° K. Later predictions put it between 5° and 45°. It's observed at 2.7° K, a not insubstantial difference.

Even taking the modern interpretation of CMBR at it's word, it doesn't actually point to a Big Bang like singularity event, but to a point when the universe was substantially smaller and more dense than it is today about 400k years after the Big Bang supposedly happened.

There's also some interesting evidence that CMBR really doesn't fit the models all that well at all. Up to and including the possibility that it may in fact be a localized phenomena.

The one thing I did constantly find in my research, though, was that there are in fact an ever growing amount of scientists who are just as skeptical as I am. So, I guess I'm happy about that.

Ok, I don't oppose the idea of using theories to interpret facts... I oppose the idea that the theory and the interpretation are synonymous. That if I accept the theory I must therefor accept the interpretations, or that if I disagree with an interpretation I must be rejecting the theory. For instance, if I were to say that, oh... I don't believe that modern organisms evolved from prokaryotes, I'm not rejecting ToE as a whole. Just that one interpretation.

This is the problem I, and other proponents of Intelligent Design, have when we poke holes in "evolution". I'm not repudiating Evolution as a whole, just certain interpretations made with it. One would assume this would be a pretty obvious idea with-in the scientific community... that one could be skeptical of a specific interpretation without rejecting the whole theory. Yet it always seem to be them who keep pushing Evolution and Intelligent Design as an "either/or" choice. They're not, and I've never said they were.

I've debated a many of people who've used "certainty" in just that context. There are a shockingly large amount of people out there who see things like the Big Bang or abiogenesis as absolute certainties beyond question. Now, you could say these people simply don't understand how science actually works.. and you'd be right. But, they easily out number the proponents of the same ideas who do. Shit, just look at the comments for any random YouTube video about creationism or ID.

Matt said...



But you see, the fact that CMBR exists at all is the astronomical support of TBBT. And notice how things like the incorrect temperature did not contradict the theory at all, but rather once they found the results and studied them, were able to be interpreted within the framework of TBBT. CMBR is exactly what one would expect to find as a result of a rapid inflationary period following a period of extreme density.

I've never heard of the lack of gravitational lensing phenomenon before. I'll have to look into that and see what's happened since then.

But, as I think I said in my first comment for this post (if I'm wrong it doesn't matter, because I'm saying it now), this problem (and others mentioned in your link to the open letter to new scientist) are all good for TBBT. The fact that there are problems means that there's more science to be done! If it turns out that TBBT is falsified as a result of investigations into these problems, that's GOOD! That means that scientists are going to have to continue doing science instead of retiring. As it stands now, however, TBBT is still the best explanation we have. It's not perfect, but (and I'm sure we'll both agree on this) neither is any scientific theory at all! It's like what Stephen Hawking said about the Higgs Boson, and forgive my paraphrasing I couldn't be bothered to look up the exact quote, if the LHC finds it great, that means we're on the right track... but if we don't find it, that'll be far more interesting because we'll have to find out why the track we're on works so well in some cases and fails so miserably in others. As I mentioned earlier, the cyclic model seems to be coming back (slowly), and if it pans out, if it can explain what TBBT hasn't been able to (Eg the new cyclic model explains the recent acceleration of the growth of the universe in a more rigorous way than dark energy seems to in TBBT), that's great! I still wouldn't regard TBBT as a placeholder though, because, so far as any other previous theory is concerned, it is still the best explanation we've got. If we find a better one, that's all the more reason to celebrate. But we really don't have a whole lot of contradictory observations to reject TBBT, as there are potential discoveries that will support it [what dark matter is (they're working on it and they've got a few leads, moreover there are non-BBT related observations that suggest it's out there), what dark energy is (yeah we really don't know shit about it right now but some more very theoretical stuff may account for it)].

As for your first point about evolution, I agree. And, you know what, so do the people doing the science. Those that don't, if I may be so bold, are bad scientists. A theory is bad if it only admits one interpretation of facts, as it is far too rigid and the purpose of a theory is to be general. But the relevant issue is why you reject these interpretations. Quite frankly, the why that most IDers offer is not scientific.

Matt said...


Now onto the greater issue... the holes in evolution. The problem is that the IDers don't actually poke holes in evolution. They bring up things like the eye, and even quote mine Darwin himself regarding this one, and say it cannot be interpreted in an evolutionary context. It can be, and has been, and we've even found plenty of evidence to suggest that the evolutionary interpretation is correct. This is what the IDers do, and it shows they don't do their research and don't actually know what they are talking about. Moreover, this tactic is what gives rise to the "either/or" choice. The design proponents think that the holes in the ToE point to design. Read guys like Behe and they say things like "Bacteria Flagellum demonstrate an irreducibly complex system that can't have evolved and can only have been designed" (not an actual quote... although it very well could be). This is the sort of thing I was alluding to before about the pro-evolution crowd fighting on their opponent's terms. Which brings me too...

You being absolutely right, people on "my side" do use certainty in that context. And they are wrong. But these aren't scientists, and when they are they are likely motivated by the pettiness of their ego. You'll far more often see in the proper scientific community (not undergraduate scientific enthusiasts who have never devised an experiment without their professor's guidance) doing things like making bets about whose theory will pan out, and living up to those bets when they turn out to be wrong. There are lots of stories like this in the physics community (Hawking betting Leonard Susskind a playboy subscription that information is destroyed in black holes, for example).

The fact that you bring up the number of people that use these terms unscientifically really just tells me why you assumed I thought that way as well, and I think you know it doesn't actually hold any weight with me that other people are idiots when talking about science (afterall, I pretty well repeated the same point in three different comments to three different people in this very thread). Likewise, I made assumptions about what you meant while I now know them to be an error (what you were referring to when you were talking about ID... c'mon just like the evolution proponents who are "certain" of abiogenesis, "Intelligent Design" is a pretty weighted term that most people claiming it to be scientific have absolutely no idea what science even is).

Anyways I've enjoyed this exchange and I think we've more or less reached a point where we have a pretty good understanding of the other's point of view, and it seems like if it continues we'll just be talking about how other people are bad at understanding the best rhetorical methods to employ in a scientific discussion. The only real things I disagree with you about is why we should continue with The Big Bang and whether or not your use of ID is a relevant scientific concept (the former which we've probably reached a philosophical impasse, and the latter of which hasn't really been at all the subject of our discussion). So... good show sir! I look forward to arguing with you next time Bob posts his opinions in a three line paragraph that deserve a lifetime of books and research to properly defend.

For everyone else: this is how you have a fuckin' discussion on the internet!