Woo Lies

Debate with woos for any length of time and there are some debating points you can guarantee will crop up.

“Scientists used to say that the world was flat”

The scientific method and thus scientists have only been around since the seventeenth century, by which time Earth was known to be a sphere. In fact educated people since the time of the Ancient Greeks had known this. Only misbegotten mystics of various types thought it was flat.

“Science says the bumble-bee cannot fly”

This canard dates from the early days of powered flight when the science of aerodynamics was in its infancy. At that time it only covered fixed-wing aircraft and thus could not explain bumble-bee flight but this is not the same as saying it is impossible. Since then aerodynamics has been extended to cover the properties of vortices and can explain bumble-bee flight.

“Evolution is just a theory”

When Creationists come out with this one, I’m tempted to point out that gravity is “just a theory” but they would not dispute that they would be splatted if they leapt off a skyscraper.

To be serious, anybody who makes this statement is demonstrating that they do not know what a theory is and do not understand the scientific method. It is this:-

1. Observe things

2. Devise an explanation for these observed facts. This is known as a hypothesis.

3. Use your hypothesis to make predictions.

4. Test the predictions by experiment or observation. If the predictions prove to be correct, congratulations, you have just given birth to a new theory.

Darwin proposed evolution by natural selection to explain the different form finches and tortoises took on each of the Galapagos Islands. By extension, it seemed logical that all life had evolved. If this were true then there should be intermediate forms linking the known species together. Later in the nineteenth century some of these were discovered. More were discovered in the twentieth century.

This leads to:-

“There are no intermediate forms that would be expected if evolution were true.”

Put bluntly, this is plain wrong if not a deliberate lie.

1. Acorn worms, tunicates, lancelets and soft bodied jawless fish show the link between echinoderms and fish.

 2. Eusthenopteron, panderichthys, elginerpeton, ventastega, metaxygnathus, tiktaalik, acanthostega. ichthyostega and hynerpeton show the transition from fish to amphibians.

3. Synapsids, formerly known as “mammal-like reptiles” provide the link between reptiles and true mammals.

“Darwin renounced evolution on his death bed”

This is found on creationist websites and nowhere else. The fact that creationists use it demonstrates that they have no understanding of the scientific method. Evolution rests not on Darwin’s (or anyone else’s) authority but on the evidence. Whatever Darwin did or did not say on his death-bed is irrelevent to the evidence supporting evolution.

There is the very similar “Pasteur renounced germ theory…” found on some pro-homeopathy websites. Again Pasteur’s authority is not the issue but the fact that the transmission of disease is explained by germ theory and that Pasteur used the theory to develop a vaccine against rabies.

“Conventional medicine just masks symptoms”

Antibiotics don’t mask the symptoms of an infection, they kill the bacteria causing the infection that causes the symptoms. If a patient presents severe head pains, conventional medics will test for infection or a tumour rather than prescribe ever more powerful pain-killers.

Ironically, this lie is uttered frequently by homeopaths, who do link their sugar-pill prescription to symptoms. In fact their founder, Samuel Hahnemann, stated that when the symptoms have gone so has the disease.

“Science doesn’t know everything”

This is true and no scientist would claim otherwise. Science is a mental tool – a way of thinking – not a body of knowledge. As a tool it is extremely useful for examining the nature of the Universe in which we find ourselves. And no scientist believes we have found out everything there is to know. That is the beauty of science, it is a way of acquiring new knowledge. No body of sacred writing, be it the Bible or the Organon, can do that.

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6 Responses to “Woo Lies”

  1. Dr* T Says:

    Excellent JQH.

    A very useful reference to direct people to.

    Cheers

  2. Mojo Says:

    Regarding intermediate forms, one of the ones that creationists used to demand was “a whale with legs”.

    Sure enough:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambulocetus

    But remember, whenever you find an intermediate form, it means that there are now two gaps in the fossil record where there used to be only one. ;)

  3. dvnutrix Says:

    Re: the flight gambit. I intend to load this NYT article, plus video on a pda. The next time that someone says “Science – pah, it can’t even explain how bumble-bee flight is possible”, I shall pull this out. Although it is about flight in bats, the answer is so beautiful and interesting that it is a shame that, in general, the sort of people who make such statements have no interest in the answer.

    Sometimes, it’s not even about the science, it’s about intellectual curiosity and wonder.

    *shall also add in your other ripostes to pda*

  4. mugsandmoney Says:

    Evolution’s a great theory. I love it. Honest.
    - BobP

  5. nash Says:

    Great stuff.

    I’ve sent the link to some people I know.

  6. bill Says:

    Great article on bat flight, dvnutrix.

    It answered a question many people have wondered about.

    “Why do animals beat their wings?” Dr. Spedding said. “One reason is, they don’t have wheels. ”

    Because they don’t have wheels. Of course. Why didn’t I think of that?

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