Monday, January 23, 2012

How America's Hatred of Intelligence is KILLING It, Explained in Under 4 Minutes

Hat-tip io9

I often strain for sober-sounding methods to explain my disgust with the villifying of "intellectuals" or "elites" in American culture; or why I get as furious as I do with Climate Change deniers, Creationists, Intelligent Design proponents and all other manner of superstitious wastes of skin (see, there I go again...) rather than just ignoring them.

Fortunately, Neil deGrasse Tyson (who's supposedly going to step into Carl Sagan's shoes for Seth McFarlane's "Cosmos" revival - yes, really) helpfully explains it by means of a simple infographic that shows the United State's standing as a scientific-innovator dwindle to near-nothingness within a mere decade:

This is why I DON'T get mad when people in Asia, Europe, Japan etc. gloat about how stupid my country is now percieved to be, because it's increasingly TRUE and it has very simple, tangible sources: America, as a whole, does far too much "believing" (religiously and otherwise) and not nearly enough THINKING. We prize moral-righteousness over intellectual prowess, we hold "common sense" superior to educated analysis, we slash funding for research to meet short-term budgetary goals and expect "the market" to pick up the slack (it won't, "the market" LIKES a stupid population) and we treat people walking around in the 21st century denying cold hard proven facts like evolution, climate-change etc as having "beliefs" or "a different opinion" instead of obvious mental failings not worthy of ether discussion OR respect in a modern world.

We're having an election soon. Not ONE Republican can hope to be nominated if he doesn't swear to his constituents that he believes the proven fact of evolution to be false, and no one of EITHER party can hope to win period without reassuring a significant number of people that they believe - sincerely and without a hint of doubt or questioning - that there is an invisible man living in the sky calling the shots via a ten-item "don't" list. These are the signs of a society that is not only failing, but that deserves to be failing.

So while the fundamentalists, hardcore believers, absolutist pro-lifers, "traditionalists," creationists, homophobes, climate-deniers and all the rest MAY in fact include some otherwise perfectly nice individuals among their ranks, collectively the ignorance they espouse and the anti-progress, anti-reason political leaders, candidates and movements they support are murdering my future; and I feel wholly disinclined to continue being "tolerant" of them. Differences should be tolerated, but ignorance should be corrected - and if it cannot/will-not BE corrected it deserves only to be shunned.


James said...

For the record, libertarian candidate Gary Johnson acknowledges that global warming is real, supports stem cell research, is pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, and supports separation of church and state. So I'd say he's on the pro-science side.

Achilleas said...

I don't think it's as bad as this picture paints it. In Europe, as far as I know, private sector research is practically non-existent. If you have a PhD, you're staying in academia. There's no research going on anywhere else, and only in academia is there pressure to publish.

In the US, there's a lot of in-house research going on all over the place. Companies like Google, Microsoft, Intel et al pump out technologies like a mofo and there's no need for them to publish (not peer-review publications anyway, which this graph relies on).

I'm not saying that research in the US isn't in decline; from everything I hear, it probably is. It's also true that the EU has been putting a lot of effort into increasing funded research all over the place (Germany is kicking ass, at least in my fields).

What I'm getting at here is that, although what Tyson is saying is true, I wouldn't use it as an argument for the state of the US in terms of scientific advancement in general and certainly not for the state of the "average intelligence" of the country, so to speak. I think Tyson is mostly arguing towards public spending in science in the US, which of course relates to your point regarding the upcoming elections, but not so much in the "Americans are stupid" matter.

As a disclaimer however, all my evidence is anecdotal in everything I've posted here. I could look into it further, the data is there, but I'm sort of in between things and taking a break now.

Would be nice to look into it though.

Wendy said...

Bob, its exactly that kind of "FUCK YOU, YOU'RE NOT AS SMART AS ME!" attitude that keeps the better parts of your argument from being adopted by the rest of us.

The message of what you're saying isn't wrong, but when you deliver it with the SAME kind of forced attitude as the very evangelicals deliver THEIR message of their faith, you aren't winning hearts and minds with intelligence.

David (The Pants) said...

Yeah, the map change there made me shudder a little.

As a religious person, it's annoying to see ignorant and/or hateful people identifying with religion as an excuse/reason for their behavior. I agree with science since science is fact based. People who cannot accept facts are not innovating their thinking to the point where they see a way for science to be good. But science doesn't "go against God", I think that there are thousands of ways for the two to coexist; religion and science. These extremists should think of how science explains how God does things.

Shark said...

Republicans aren't the xenophobic, homophobic, religious fundamentalists that you make them out to be. How a Republican acts varies from region to region.

TheAlmightyNarf said...

"peer reviewed science research"


Not, that that's not true, I'm sure it is. But, the idea that somehow that's in any way who's doing to most "science" is bullshit. You're quite literally talking about just government funded academia. Commercial research, which I imagine would make up the majority of technology and environmental research, is ignored entirely. And is military research being counted to this? Or theoretical science?

And, even if I were to take that map at face value, per capita the US seems to be doing better than most everyone except Japan and Germany.

Either way... bullshit.

jojjo said...

Apart from Paul and Romny all republican candidates sadly fit that description. Of course it varies, that's a given, that does not mean there's no problem.

And Wendy: just... sigh.

antecedentless said...

Without trust (aka faith) in something/someone trustworthy, everything would need to be held in doubt without direct observation; and even that can only be trusted part.

I do not need to personally see a cocker spaniel decend from a wild wolf to know the two are related.

As for education, well that is all your guy's fault. Radical Religious homeschoolers (like myself) do much better in science, math, college entrance exams, than their union teacher educated public schooled peers.

Muodnecay said...

Most scientific research in this country (and the world for that matter) comes from public spending (i.e your taxes). As a scientist in this country, talking to my colleagues from overseas, the biggest tell about our priorities is this: We spend 2 cents of every tax dollar on R&D in this country, compared to 5-15% for those other countries beating us.

The real kicker is we could blow the rest of the world out of the water (in terms of overall spending on research) by simply increasing that to 3 cents.

Ralphael said...

Even though Bob's elitist posts make me laugh every time they are posted, this one was especially funny because of the "murdering my future" bit.

Bob, you have no future. You're a pretentious fat fuck who pretends to be humble in order to get donations.

Your biggest contribution to this world is a couple of internet videos that make people think about movies and video games for a couple of minutes.

Silens said...

'Bob, you have no future. You're a pretentious fat fuck who pretends to be humble in order to get donations.' --> and from the looks of things, you're an individual who tolerates the lowest common denominator rather than asking - nay, demanding - that people rise above it. And you've also apparently got enough time to act disparagingly against him, so I don't see how you're much better.

But setting aside the petty insults, I'm downright sick and tired of the word 'pretentious' being considered an insult. Yes, the arrogance often associated with those with pretentious can be irritating, and yes, they may find deeper meaning/significance in things that others do not, or observe things that others don't want to admit, but that is not an insult. The fact that my favourite movie is 'Thank You For Smoking', an arthouse legal drama with a peculiar directing style and little mainstream appeal, may make seem pretentious, but if I'm going to be labelled for liking it and disparaging shit like 'The Expendables', 'Bio-Dome', 'How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days', or 'Transformers' - yeah, I'm going to shout to the heights that I'm pretentious. Having standards of quality is not a bad thing, and being willing and able to analyze or critique material only improves the creative process.

For example, you strike me as the sort who would actually get incensed if I pointed out the fact that despite being Islamophobic fascist drivel, 300 remains one of the most homoerotic metaphors for constipation that I've seen produced in both comics and film. Now, you might disagree with my interpretation - that's completely fine, it's incendiary, I expect disagreement - but the type of people who support the anti-intellectual bullshit that Bob rails against wouldn't admit to disagreement - they'd try to shut down the discourse entirely, or attack me for delivering the argument instead of the argument itself. They don't want to debate, they want to stone the debater.

And basically, while I have had issues with some of Bob's remarks in the past, I'm standing with him on this. There's a difference between the debating of facts and the challenging of facts by nebulous beliefs without a shred of proof to their name. The fact that the discourse in the US has devolved to that is both saddening and enraging, and I'm not even a US citizen.

But then again, people (particularly those without the confidence or knowledge otherwise) will always seek the beautiful lies than the ugly truths.

antecedentless said...

Let me clarify what it means to be an elite:
He is more than someone who is more knowlegebable than others, and seeks to educate

He is more than someone who looks down upon those less knowlegebable than him

What an elitist truely is is a deluded utopian who demands power to impose his ideal vision of what the world should be like. Such a person has an insatiable lust for power.

Zambia has a much lower AIDs rate now thanks to humble religious servants teaching truth and self discipline, but they continue to have a high rate of Malaria thanks to deluded luddite utopians who fell head over heals for the myths and exagerations in "silent spring."

Bob is many things, and we are blessed to have him use his gift of teaching, but he is not an elitist.

Dave from canada said...

I think the replies in this case are a wonderful cross section of the exact attitudes responsible for this phenomenon.

We have the person saying "you're mean! that invalidated your opinion"

You have the person pulling no true scotsman.

And the guy claiming that his personal experience trumps mountains of data that points to the opposite conclusion


I really wish people would stop acting like paul was somehow exempt. He's not. He's openly racist and mysogynistic, a creationist and most of his popularity stems from his wish to kill taxes and legalize all drugs in a platform guaranteed to unite liberal and conservative hipsters under one cripplingly naive banner.

If it makes anyone feel better there's nothing you can really do. There's no way for the us to come out of its massive debt, the US empire is slowly suffocating like a beached whale.

Hopefully europe will be able to sort its shit out before that happens so China has some political opposition.

Jared said...

good post. I can't say I agree with it because I'm not American, and can't comment on the situation accurately. Interesting how some of the intellectual commenter seem more interested in cutting MovieBob down rather than his arguments

cass said...

Huh. As an atheist i have always felt that as a predomintly religious country, america is setting its self up for failer. But the weird thing is i find my self remarkably uncaring. maybe its because i have relatives living in Canada, itily, and china. or maybe its the bomb shelter. All i know is i dont care if america fucks itself over. I mean i guess i dont want it to happen, but i am not going to bother trying to fix it either. Im to lazy.

and when can we expect to see this new cosmos show?

TheAlmightyNarf said...

Ok, I'd like to step back from my earlier outburst to perhaps offer a broader thesis...

Bob, for all your talk about how awesome intellectualism is and how stupid people are for being against it, you yourself are not an intellectual. Given your history, I would be surprised if you've had any higher education at all. For all your talk about how amazing science is and how we should put any funding toward it we can, you yourself are not a scientist. You are simply a fan of science.

There's nothing wrong with being a fan of science. I was too when I was younger. But, a few years ago I saw academic science for what it is... frivolous, esoteric trivia (as are all things by academia, really, but that's not the point). Is my life effected one way or another if some species evolved from another a billion or so years ago? No. Will I be effected in any way at all by knowing the composition of a galaxy several light years at all? Not at all. Useful things for scientists in those fields to know, sure. But, I am not a scientist, so there's really no legitimate reason for me to know or care about it.

You can complain about creationists and intelligent design proponents all you want but the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of people simply do not give a fuck. Where the world came from is little more than trivia that matters to most people about as much as Star Wars trivia or sports trivia.

Now, that's not to say I don't have my own field off study. I am a culinary school grad and now a chef. The difference is that I realize that knowledge of food preparation is largely... esoteric. I don't go around demanding government funding going to culinary study or call anyone ignorant of any sort of cooking techniques more advance than using a home stove top... what was the term again? Ah, yes... "superstitious wastes of skin", and that someone who has some misconceptions of food must have "obvious mental failings not worthy of ether discussion OR respect in a modern world" (like, for instance, someone who actually believes you could leave a McDonald's meal out for months without it going bad). No, I realize that despite the fact that everyone is a benefactor of professional food preparation, few people know or care much about it.

There is, of course, useful science going on... it's just not the "peer reviewed paper" kind. It's the "tech company making awesome new stuff" kind, and the "energy company experimenting with cheaper green power" kind, and the "pharmaceutical company finding cures" kind. Ya know... the sort of science that'll happen without any government funding and despite what academia may think about it.

As for the useless kind... well I'm not against it being done, obviously. I would even go as far to say that I think someone should be doing to. I just don't particularly care about it any more. I don't see why it deserves getting any government funding. It doesn't really do anything other than give Discovery channel more material.

I mean, if it really matters that much to you, Bob, why aren't you the one out there doing the research?

biomechanical923 said...

No comment on Bob's ever-growing sense of Liberal Guilt.

I'd just like to say that Neil Tyson-Degrasse is the fuckin' man.

He beat the crap out of Michio Kaku and soared up into the pantheon of geek culture idols alongside Carl Sagan and Bill Nye

biomechanical923 said...

One of my favorites. You gotta love that reaction face at around 1:32

Jake said...

Obligatory meme reference in ...3 ...2 ...1
Watch out we've got a badass over here!

Jake said...

While I agree with your overall argument, the problem with your "elitism" is that while trying to be smart is one thing, being a dick about it is another. I know the circumstances seem to justify acting that way, ridicule doesn't help anyone, only compassion and understanding.

Fault-Finder said...

Moviebob, I'm actually really grateful to you for publishing this video- that does in fact illustrate an important and frankly terrifying issue with our country. Why then do you have to taint that credibility with how much believing you're getting up to? We're not going to solve this scientific starvation by pointing fingers and choosing sides.
All those believers you hate so much? They're not mustache-twirling villains out to destroy science and every other agenda you support- they're just different people with different priorities. Should any or all of them be elected to public office? Depends on who we're talking about, but the fact that someone places a high value on, well, values, as opposed to just cold hard facts does not make that person inferior, even if they do need to learn how to keep their beliefs and the like to themselves when it's for the good of the country.
I'm not saying that you're not ultimately right, and I'm certainly not saying that about Mr. Tyson; what I'm saying is that if you refuse to work with the people on the other side, much less acknowledge that they can have things of value to add to the discourse, then none of the things you're right about are ever going to be fixed. And while I freely admit the "believers," as you call them (as if most of our problems don't already stem from assuming the whole damn world's a big game of reds vs. blues) do have way too much power and influence, maybe you should take a moment to realize that the world would be just as fucked in a totally different way if someone who thought exactly as you did was in complete control.
Also, just to clarify, not trying to hurt your feelings or anything- I just think your comments were going a bit too far here.

Daniel R said...

Agree with most of you're sentiments.

Hi, I'm a Pro- Choice, Pro- Gay Rights, Pro- Science Catholic who also fully believes in the theory of Evolution.

A bit contradictory? Maybe.
But I'd just like to point out that we do indeed exist. ;)

Also; As tragic as the USA's shrinkage is in the info graphic I can't help but be distracted in excitement to see my country of Mexico steadily growing in scientific innovation. Yeah, we still can't compare to Europe or Japan and God knows we have some big issues right now but hey I'll take what I can get.

MovieBob said...

@Almighty Narf,

I understand your position. It's one that comes up frequently in discussions of science, and one that seems to make a great deal of immediate sense. The problem, in my view, is that it ONLY makes immediate sense - that, from my perspective, it simply does not stand up to a broad view of, well... history, civilizatiion, society, take your pick.

The inherent problem with the position that the only science and/or research that matters is that which is of immediate, tangible value while "esoteric" scientific inquiry is sidelined in it's favor is that the first does not exist without the second.

Contrary to certain fashionable economic philosophies, "the market" tends to be either slow or stagnant to innovate on it's own - because "the market," by nature, must serve "the majority;" and "the majority" will generally follow the path of least resistance. Problematically, almost NO scientific or technological innovation can reach the point where it can be conceptualized as a product for "the majority" to desire - which is the ONLY point at which market-driven corporate research is going to be interested in picking up the ball - until a MEGATON of pure 'research for the sake of research' science, what you call "esoteric" research, has already been done.

For example: When the earliest research was being done on computers... the world didn't NEED computers. It was getting along just fine without them, at least in the sense that no one had yet CONCIEVED that they could get along better. It was only after a LONG period of "esoteric" research in mathematics and automated-calculation that The Computer became something solid enough that governments would want, and then companies would want, and then consumers would want, and then Jobs/Gates/etc could build-upon and sell to them.

You yourself use the examples of pharmacueticals and green energy... but where do you think those entities get the foundational knowledge/theories/etc that their "useful" work is based on? Every single "useful" application of science since man mastered FIRE has been built on one or more forms of science thought "useless" at the time that came before. I may be one ARROGANT dude, friend... but even I'm not arrogant enough to feel certain that this or that "useless" research of today won't end up being the first vital step to something of incredible magnitude down the line - especially not when the entire history of science shows that that's how it frequently works.

Finally, frankly - I can't even begin to fathom how definitively answering the fundamental questions of how life came into being and how life systems work could be seen as "unimportant." What could BE more important than that? The singular discovery that life EVOLVES instead of being wished into being by a benevolent space-king has led to the understanding of genetics, which in turn has cured more diseases and improved more lives than can be measured by you or I. How can we choose not to discover - and thus BECOME - even more?

And no, I do not think that "the vast majority of people" matters one bit - because "the vast majority of people" have NEVER been the driving force of humanity's improvement - in fact, they've been quite the opposite. It has always been, and will always likely be, a small (and yes ELITE) minority of scientists, artists, philosophers, visionaries and thinkers who have dragged the rest of the species across the goal-lines of cultural evolution. If it were up to "the majority," we'd have never left the cave.

biomechanical923 said...

Bob, where exactly in Massachusetts do you live where you encounter "anti-elitist" conservatives that make you so angry at a country of over 300 million people?

Isn't Mass. one of the most Liberal states in the country?

I think what Narf is trying to say here, is that every couple of weeks you make a post ranting about all the shit you think is "holding us back" but maybe you should stop to consider what's holding YOU back.

Sofie Liv Pedersen said...

"we hold "common sense" superior to educated analysis,"

Urh Bob.. isn't that sentence kind of contradictory? I mean.. isn't it just common sense to use educated analysis in a sophisticated problem?
Isn't.. common sense what is entirely lacking here? Isn't common sense the very meaning of "Think for yourself in the moment." and well.. have some sense!

And that being said.. well.. its really sad how big a sport all Americans I know is about this.. granted they are all nerds, but each time I make loud fun of Americans, all my American buddies, each and every time, merely goes. "Meh, that is true, it's oki."
... so there's a good chunk of good intelligent people who does indeed know this.. And they think they deserve to be grinned into the ground..
I feel sad for you guys, I really do.

Popcorn Dave said...

Sofie, he put it in quotation marks so you interpret it as being ironic. He's referring to the way many often use "common sense" to justify their prejudices even when the evidence says something completely different. For instance "promoting abstinence is the best way to avoid teenage pregnancy.. I don't care what the liberal commie eggheads say, less sex means less babies, it's just common sense".

Obviously common sense is perfectly valid and a useful tool, it's just when it's used as a crutch for a lazy argument that it's a problem.

a.k.a.A.M.V.P said...

So the data that the video is working with is derived exclusively from the past ten years, 2000 vs. 2010? Because to be fair, that span of time saw a lot of B.S. (wars, terrorism, one of the worst presidential administrations in the nation's history, economic collapse, etc.) working against our particular situation. Whose to say that eight years from now, said statistics won't have drastically improved in our favor?

Achilleas said...

"As for the useless kind... well I'm not against it being done, obviously. I would even go as far to say that I think someone should be doing to. I just don't particularly care about it any more. I don't see why it deserves getting any government funding. It doesn't really do anything other than give Discovery channel more material."

I wrote a big reply to why basic research deserves government funding and it got eaten by the comment form :(

The basic idea I was that there are a lot of examples of basic research benefiting society years down the line and no commercial privately owned institution would fund research with no clear goals. It's just not smart in a business sense. Governments however are (theoretically) not out to make money.

So the basic message here is that basic academic research deserves government funding because we need it (as you said, you'd go as far as to say that someone should be doing it) and because no one else is willing or able to fund it.

Thorbs said...

Wow, the tone police are out in force.

Firstly I'd say that Bob has a right to get angry about this stuff. If it doesn't make you angry too, I'd suggest you need to process it some more.

Secondly, change does not come about from asking for things nicely. Civil Rights, The Suffragette movement etc, these things happened because they got in your face and SHOUTED about how wrong things were. If the message is less important to you than the tone in which it is delivered, then I would politely request that you get over yourself.

Finally, @TheAlmightyNarf. Undirected research has time and again been shown to have more benefits to innovation than the directed research companies fund. Computers, Mobile Phones, the Internet... none of these things would be here today without acedemic research. So in all liklihood, the next big thing will have it's roots in academic research too.

Wendy said...

Bob, you want to REALLY change the future? Have kids. Teach THEM what you believe. I play games with my son and know well that I had him playing Mario and Sonic before I let him even think about something more advanced. Gaming is a part of our home, for better or worse, but its brought us all together in ways so-called "Traditional" families might not.

So yeah. You can rant and rave about intelligence dying, but you're not really doing anything to solve the issue aside from bitch.

Dave from canada said...


That's by a wide margin the single stupidest thing I've read in the comment here. And I'm pretty sure I've seen at least 2 creationists.

It doesn't matter if he isn't a scientist. It matters that science is important. I don't need to know how a nuclear reactor works to know it would be bad if noone could work them.

Regarding creationism, saying people do not give a fuck (which I see no evidence for anyway) would be part of the problem. It matter if the laws of the united states are being violated to indoctrinate children into religion. It matters if people are biblical literalists. It matters if the words of a multi thousand year old document cobbled together by a succession of cattle sacrificing primitives is given more weight than pesky things like facts. It matters is said document’s words regarding the treatment of women, gays, children, people of other religions and races are given any kind of influence.

You want to know what happens when we stop caring about what is true? Look at the muslim world. A scant few hundred years ago, it was the center for learning in the world. Math, science, all those useless academic subjects of yours. Look at it now. No learning, and so superhumanly repressive that the places still mulling over whether women and jews can vote are the GOOD ones.

It matters that a considerable portion of America society thinks that a Christian version of that is a good idea, It matters that entire towns can be so ignorant of their own nations laws that they’ll openly violate the constitution in order to force their religious viewpoints on others.

This shit is important. And it is precisely this "I don't know anything about science, but I feel confident saying large portions of it are worthless" arrogance (yes, YOU are the arrogant one here) that leads to these problems. Knowing what is true should be an end unto itself. But failing that it has the nice byproduct of making every other decision anyone will ever make that much easier.

@ Wendy How convenient, a way to change the world so far removed in time from you that it might as well do nothing. Oh you earth shaker, you!

Sam Robards, Occasional Gamer said...

We get it, Bob. You hate religious folks. It's nothing we haven't seen you post about a hundred times before.

People, don't get pissed off here. Yeah, Bob's clearly angry and bigoted towards people of faith, but it's not like he can do anything other than complain.

Seriously, he's an internet movie critic. In the pantheon of worthwhile human endeavors, film criticism isn't one of them. I work at a book publisher, and I know my profession isn't that important, either. But I'm not proclaiming myself to be some almighty intellectual who's better than everyone else.

To use Bob's words (paraphrased), he's not storming the gates of Mordor on some ideological crusade: he's just spitting off the overpass in blog form.

Don't get me wrong: this is his personal blog. He can say whatever he wants: I just wouldn't take it seriously ... at all.

It's also funny that Bob makes it seem that all religious people are rabid psychopaths, ready to destroy science in its entirety, which is completely idiotic.

For one, I'm a Christian, and I love science.

Also, the Christian Science Monitor, a newspaper owned by The First Church of Christ in Boston, is a highly renowned and well-respected scientific news outlet.

Here's a link to their Science page. Go to their About page if you want to see their overall philosophy: you may be surprised.

As I said previously, I like science, but should science be taken as an inherent good? No. Eugenics was once believed to be high-science, and we all saw how that worked out.

I think it's funny that people say they either "believe" or "don't believe" in science. To me, science either is or is not. There's no belief involved. No one "believes" in gravity: it's just there.

Now religion is entirely based on faith: mine is, anyway. As it's described in Hebrews 11:1, (New International Version), "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see."

That's not to say faith should be blind: facing periods of doubt is natural and helps me renew my faith.

Extrapolated from that statement in Hebrews, one could say that you won't find definitive proof of God through science because (and this is my personal take) once you have definitive proof something exists, you don't have faith in it. At that point, it's simply there: like with the gravity example I gave earlier.

If you just sneer and think that's terribly "convenient" or something similar, then you're clearly not meant to be a religious person, and that's your prerogative.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not trying to convert anyone here. I'm just stating my views on some of the issues presented here.

Peace out!

Ironhammerstew said...

Dear Moviebob,

I do no disagree with what you are saying about how dangerous is the strange hostility towards education in general and evolution specifically. However, I feel that there should be important distinctions made....

For one, I am a religious Catholic who completely accepts the notion that evolution has effectively been proven. And there are lots and I mean lots of people like me, whether Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, etc. Legions of books have been written about how people have learned to accept scientific facts like evolution and yet still believe in our faiths. And many, many many people accept that one cannot interpret the bible as being completely, utterly, 100% scientifically and historically literal, but must be interpreted for the meaning behind the words.

The point is I would love for you to do a blog where you talk more about your issues with the word "belief" while pointing out some of those who believe who are also "thinkers" . People can believe in God, Heaven, Hell, etc and yet still accept that this is a world of scientific laws. Many of us do.

Jeffrey Sung said...


As an member of academia that studies this allegedly "esoteric" subjects, I'd like to point out that the point out that there is a fundamental and significant difference between technological research and academic research. Yes, academic research is "esoteric" in the sense that there may not lead to an immediate short-term useful result, but the scientific research in academia is what allows us to reach new tiers of technology.

For instance, after the invention of the steam engine in the 18th century, its use and subsequent refinements on it led to the industrial revolution. Truly an impressive and important occurrence through technological innovation. But I ask you: if no one did the 'esoteric' research that would lead to it, and merely continued improving the technology of steam engines, would we have electricity and everything that has come from that today? The point of scientific research is not necessarily to yield immediate return, but to study and understand new phenomena, so that one day we may create new technologies that are significantly better than those that exist now.

Ironhammerstew said...

not* Doh.

TheAlmightyNarf said...

@ Bob

You are absolutely correct, but that's not really the point I was getting at.

For any sort of science to happen, there ultimately needs to be money to pay for it and academic science for the most part relies government grant money. For that grant money to be available there needs to be politicians proposing and approving it. And, as with anything involving politicians, they need to be getting votes either directly or indirectly from that for it to be worth their time. The problem is that funding scientific research is hardly a reliable way to drum up support anymore, even for left leaning politicians.

I mean, Obama basically killed the shuttle missions, yet you are mostly likely going to vote for him anyway. What message does that send? I mean, if Obama cut funding to scientific research entirely, how many votes would he really lose? I imagine not nearly as many as he could gain by putting that same money to some more politically beneficial social program.

Even if the conservative right were to go through a massive intellectual revolution, they still won't vote government funding to research... they tend not to vote government funding to anything. The problem is that you can't even get the left on board with this. The very people who do see a need to put money to the public good just don't think scientific research being important enough for that compared to other issues.

And I would (and I guess have) make the argument that there are very good reasons for that... academic science just isn't immediately important. "Something awesome might happen someday" is no solace to someone who's been unemployed for years , or can't afford a higher education, or is a government employee who's job is no longer in the budget.

@ Jeffrey Sung

"But I ask you: if no one did the 'esoteric' research that would lead to it, and merely continued improving the technology of steam engines, would we have electricity and everything that has come from that today?"

Thanks to Thomas Edison, we probably would, yea.

Shit, if we had a true successor to Edison alive today, we wouldn't even be having this discussion.

Dave from canada said...

@ Narf

Thanks to Tesla. Edison stole or swindles every idea he could out of tesla and slandered the ones he couldn't.

He was one of those esoteric researchers you seem to have such contempt for.

TheAlmightyNarf said...

@ Dave

If I recall correctly, Edison and Tesla only worked together for about a year. After that they were businessmen in competition with each other.

And I certainly don't have contempt toward academic research... at worst I'm just apathetic to it.

biomechanical923 said...


I think that's one of the good things about reducing government funding for research.

Less money to throw around will pressure the NIH and NSF to only fund research that's really important, and stop studies on fruit fly mating habits and other such worthless shit.

Anonymous said...

"Is my life effected one way or another if some species evolved from another a billion or so years ago? No."

Actually yes. The theory of Evolution predicted DNA. And funny someone should mention fruit flies. Evolutionary research into fruit flies eggs created one of the greatest leaps forward in knowledge in the understanding of colon cancer. So yes it does impact you directly. Research into host selection in Striga hermonthica saved literally millions of lives and BILLIONS of dollars. Research into the lifecycle and evolutionary adaptation of the cassava mealy bug saved over 300 million lives. The theory of evolution has saved BILLIONS of lives. We're talking about any kind of antibiotic rotation, any kind of gene therapy, any kind of genetically engineered crops, pre-birth screening for various genetic disorders, any medical treatment related to DNA or genetics you can name. What you call 'esoteric' Academia allows scientists around the world to fill in the gaps in each field's knowledge, eliminating scientific "blind spots" and creating a network of intelligence that benefits everyone. Do you think all this information is just dumped into a vacuum? It's inter-connected across the globe and because of the depth of that knowledge and the ease of its current availability, thousands of discoveries are being made faster and faster and with more innovation than ever before. And we've only scratched the surface. All of the 20th to 21st Century's greatest innovations either came from or were greatly advantaged by Academia. Corporate science is compartmentalized, crippled and one-dimensional. It moves at a glacial pace towards per-determined conclusions with little outside research. Without what Narf calls esoteric Academia, corporate science would be blind, deaf and dumb. I know it's all in fashion to bash Academia and the government because Ron Paul/Ayn Rand and the Cato Institute. But yeah, in the REAL WORLD of science? The Cato Institute and Ron Paul have never done jack shit. Meanwhile? We're saving your ass nightly. Like Spider-Man. Only more awesome and making less money. So with all due respect? Go smoke your pot in the privacy of your own home. And by all means enjoy your temporary bouts of schizophrenia where you imagine that all the world's problems are so simple and Mises and the Austrians were right about everything. Imagine a fantasy Unicorn land where this baloney Centrist "offend nobody" spineless, gutless "The government ate my homework" "corporations do it better" ideology has the answers to all the Universes' greatest secrets. But in the real world leave the heavy work for the adults. Okay?

Darren said...

The video really says nothing on religion so your sort of going off on a rant. IMO, for what its worth, I just think we need to rethink our education system and give it more support overall. Not condemn people as retards please they like the idea of believing in something bigger than themselves.

The only question I have for you BOB, and its an honest one, when you make comments like you did and get these half to full page replies how many of them do you read and think about. I'm really curious. Thanks :D

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

>The theory of [speciation] predicted DNA
>The singular discovery that life EVOLVES instead of being wished into being by a benevolent space-king has led to the understanding of genetics

Double Nope

The understading of heredity and how it applies to change in a population predates Darwin, and would continue to be studied with or without him. What darwin did can be described in two words: Over Extrapolation.

Consensus is not science. Neither is "a latin translation of a greek translation of..." "cobbled together [text] by a succession of cattle sacrificing primitives." But it is, of all religious text, the most widely copied, the most widely translated, the most consistent between copies and translations (even the rare indirect translation; say from the Septuagint or the Vulgate), the most consistent throughout history and the most consistent with history and archaeology.

biomechanical923 said...

@ Anonymous

You start making valid points on the first part of your post, then you throw a temper tantrum in the second part.
You only need an email address to log in here, so the fact that you're hiding your identity is pretty evident that you're a sock puppet or a troll.
GG troll, please go rage somewhere else now.

Sylocat said...


You are absolutely correct, but that's not really the point I was getting at.

Uh, yes, actually, it was EXACTLY the "point" you were getting at, and when people explained why you were incorrect, you just moved the goal posts and made excuses.

This seems to be a pattern with you.

@biomechanical923: What a surprise, a creationist who thinks that Darwin was the first scientist to ever come up with the theory of evolution...

biomechanical923 said...

@ Sylocat

"What a surprise, a creationist who thinks that Darwin was the first scientist to ever come up with the theory of evolution..."

Sir I think you have me confused with somebody else. I'm not a creationist, and I never once mentioned Darwin.

Sylocat said...

Sorry, I got you confused with antecedentless.

TheAlmightyNarf said...

@ Sylocat

Only one small paragraph of the entire post had any mention at all of directed science specifically being more important being more important then academic science. The point was that academic science isn't important in comparison to much of anything. A point that I think I better clarified in my second post.

Jeffrey Sung said...


I'm really not sure you can say that Edison would've been able to discover the generation of electric current from magnetism. The science that went into that was all "esoteric" work. Work such as studying the effect of two parallel wires with currents that run in the opposite direction. What possible practical, patentable use does something like that have? Like other forms of non-academic research, Edison was constrained in that the research he did had to lead to patentable work.

That is actually the same issue that exists today. Academia studies these "esoteric" things precisely because the point of academia is to invent new knowledge to solve problems. Businesses and technical companies conduct research, but seek to use existing knowledge to solve problems. We need them both. Without academia, knowledge would advance, but far slower. Without technical/corporate/non-academic research, all academia would produce is ideas, which, by themselves, are not necessarily useful.

Jake said...

At least when it came to MLK, his goal wasn't to "defeat those evil stupid bastards", it was to change their hearts and minds, to draw them back into the "community of love" so to speak. He saw the capacity for good in all people, even those who wronged him and his people.

As much as I don't want to play amateur psychologist, I think it's becoming increasingly clear that you have some deep psychological issues you need to deal with. I've had my share of misanthropy, and I still do sometimes, but when I snap out of it, I realize it for what it is: Corrosive. There's righteous indignation, and then there's hate, don't let hate destroy you.

So whenever someone says they don't think the government should do X, you automatically assume they are some laizze-faire Austrian? I'm pretty free market myself, but think the government should fund at least basic research. I also believe in climate change and evolution, by the way.

Anonymous said...

Uhm, Bob, do you have any proof that it is the presence of climate-change deniers, creationism believers etc. that has caused the number of produced peer-reviewed scientific reports to dwindle? Otherwise you're just using your gut feeling and predetermined bias to let you draw unscientific conclusions. Or, using your own terminology:

You're a Believer. You believe it is the wide acceptance of disregarding scientific arguments as "opinions" that causes the downturn in scientific output. While I agree that it is awful that science gets neglected as opinion, that doesn't prove that it has caused the downturn.

I believe (but I admit I haven't done enough research to know) that it is the economic situation that has cut the spending in areas of science, due to costly wars, the health care reform and the economic collapses. Not the existence of Believers.

antecedentless said...

How can anyone read what I read and conclude that I said Darwin first came up with evolution. I said the exact opposite.
"The understading of heredity and how it applies to change in a population predates Darwin"

HolyJunkie said...

I like how Canada is completely gone except for a few spots that more than likely represent the U of A and Toronto.

I'm just kidding. This isn't funny at all.

Anonymous said...

These are NOT the kind of people you can "win over" matter how "nice" your delivery. His whole POINT here is that these sort of people DO NOT DESERVE respect or tolerance. Enough of this "my ignorance is as good as your knowledge" bs from these knownothings. All we can do is try to keep them from continuing to successfully use media and public education to spread their idiocy. Polite objection HAS NEVER worked so far against people so strongly COMMITTED both to WILLFUL ignorance and to ENFORCING said ignorance due to seeing it as divine mandate. Make no mistake. This is a WAR of religion or reason, of searching for knowledge versus a deliberate and forceful campaign to stop knowledge and DESTROY current knowledge. These people WANT you and your children to be prejudiced ignorant and actively hateful of independent thought, as it contradicts the fictional reality that represents the only meaning in their empty thoughtless bovine existence. Obviously our current make-nice strategy is failing because it is plain to see that in America ignorance is winning while the most atheist nations have by far the best standard of living, education, and mental health. What would YOU do to stop the fundies from winning? Because tolerancebof the intolerant has been tried and is NOT the answer.

Anonymous said...

This guybis a perfect example of one kind of wllful ignorance. Evolutionary biology has helped medicine. Astronomy Ill concede as less practical, but so what? You have NO human curiosity except if it makes you a buck? How sad. Pursuit of knowledge, apart from any fiscal ends, elevates manking intellectually and (dare I say it) spiritually. (No..not religious here btw.)
Also without government GPS... no cleaner energy (no incentive in private enterprise for it) "pharma companies finding cures" on MOST diseases because there arent enough victims of a lotbof diseases to make drug sales for them profitable...
Also..nice straw army you defeated there. He is calling WILLFULLY ignorantnpeople who want OTHERS to suffer ENFORCED ignorance "wastes of skin"...
Ooohh.forgot one..particle colliders are villified as totally without practical use..except for thousands of technologies developed off knowledge gained from them. NO private company would have made that kind of speculative investment.
Lasers as well. Were an academic curiousity in college labs until someone realized their applications.

The most laughable logical fallacy is at the end."if it matters so much why arent you out doing it?"
Is that REALLY the best "argument" you could find to close with.
Apparently you think medicine and pharmaceuticals and computers are useful. But since you arent out programming computers to make better chemicals to treat diseases, apparently you are not allowed to have any opinion about thosebthings at all, at least if you wish to be logically consistent.

Anonymous said...

You seem to be arguing that political expediency is the determining factor of everythin that should or shouldnt be done. If you are NOT trying to say this then I have NO idea what your pointnis here. Also, if we had edison everything would have been invented due only to business reasons. You ARE NOT really that stupid as to believe ALL the things mentioned would somehow have magically sprung fromnothing. I say that because anyone that stupid probably couldnt turn on a computer. So this is laziness, TOTAL intellectual dishonesty, or you are just a massive troll. Probably a little of each.

Anonymous said...

This doesn't come as all that intelligent, either - more hateful really. It's not all about intellectualism. And believing in "God" doesn't mean an invisible man in the sky to everyone. What you've done in your article is essentially demonstrate first-handedly the true problem with a lack of intelligence - it's closed-mindedness - thinking you have all the answers. You're just as "dumb" as the "creationists" you mention - you're just sitting on a different side of the religious spectrum. Oh, if one day there could just be intelligent discourse in this country - but no one wants to talk, they just want to push their own beliefs on everyone else, or condemn those that don't believe the same. That's my biggest problem with the so-called "intellectual" movement in this country - it's no better than the rantings of any other dumbass. Until people learn how to talk and think, together, this country is going NOWHERE. There's too much EGO in this country... THAT'S the problem!