January 10, 2006

Mad Max takes on evolution

Over at Pharygula, biologist P. Z. Myers comments on a Playboy interview with Mel Gibson where he is asked:

PLAYBOY: So you can't accept that we descended from monkeys and apes?

GIBSON: No, I think it's b***s***. If it isn't, why are they still around? How come apes aren't people yet?

Myers comments:

Someday, I really want to sit down and have a conversation with one of these many people who use the "If we descended from monkeys, how come there are still monkeys?" argument. It's so stupid, so easily rebutted, and so indicative of a complete lack of thought about this argument they have jumped into, that I'd honestly like to find out what they are thinking. There is some fundamental misconception floating about in the creationist universe that underlies their objections, and you know, it seems to me that it is so basic and so simple that it ought to be addressed in elementary school.

I don't think that this misconception arises out of a benign ignorance, except maybe for very young children or those who haven't thought about it much. Rather I think that it is a willful decision not to seek the answer. After all, do people like Mel Gibson really think that the hundreds of thousands of biologists around the world have never thought of this argument? Does he expect that when they read his interview, evolutionary biologists are going to slap their foreheads and say "My God, he's right! Monkeys and apes are still around! How could we have been so stupid and overlooked the significance of this fact all these years? Evolution is obviously wrong!"

It always amazes me when people trot out these "obvious" arguments against evolution (the second law of thermodynamics is another example) and think that they have demolished it. Can't they at least give a little credit to the intelligence of the scientific community that maybe, just maybe, this argument had occurred to them too and that they were not convinced? What would have prevented Gibson from going to any biologist and asked her or him how the biological community felt about that argument against evolution. What he would have learned is that evolution does not say that humans are descended from monkeys and apes. What we share are common ancestors. Monkeys and apes are our cousins, evolutionarily speaking, not our great-great-…-grandparents.

Gibson does not have to accept the biologist's answer. But then at least he could say something sensible like "I asked biologists about this and they replied X but I disagree for reasons Y and Z."

But instead Gibson comes across as an idiot, the kind of person who went to school at the Unlearning Annex. I think that such people do not really want to know the answer. They have built a fortress around their minds and will keep trotting out these arguments, along with Mount Rushmore and the bacterial flagellum, as a kind of mantra, a charm to ward off dangerous ideas and to reassure themselves that what they already believe is correct.

As the old saying goes, there are none so blind as those who will not see.

Documentary: Persons of Interest

The synopsis of the documentary Persons of Interest says:

After the Sept.11 terrorist attacks, more than 5,000 people, mainly non-U.S. nationals of South Asian or Middle Eastern origin, were taken into custody by the U.S. Justice Department and held indefinitely on grounds of national security. Muslim immigrants were subject to arbitrary arrest, secret detention, solitary confinement, and deportation. Many were denied access to legal representation and communication with their families. 
During a period when the U.S. government has made every effort to depersonalize these detentions, refusing to reveal the names or even the number of immigrants detained, the voices of those affected - their testimonials and experiences -become our only window into the human costs of post September 11th immigration policies. 
Following an unconventional format, Persons of Interest presents a series of encounters between former detainees and directors Alison Maclean (Jesus’ Son) and Tobias Perse in an empty room which serves both visually and symbolically as an interrogation room, home, and prison cell. Through interviews, family photographs, and letters from prison, the directors have fashioned a compelling and poignant film, allowing those affected a chance to tell their own stories.

You can see a photo of the people and their families here and read their individual stories here.

By allowing this kind of thing to happen to non-US nationals during the post-9/11 xenophobic hysteria, it made it easier later to commit similar violations of US citizens' rights, and we see that creeping encroachment on civil liberties happening right now.


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The above comment by Mel Gibson is not suprising. He based portions of the plot of "Passion of the Christ" on the visions of a nun who supposedly exhibited stigmata. He obviously does not possess the most dicerning intelligence.

Posted by Joe on January 10, 2006 10:10 AM

If Psych 101 taught me nothing else, it's that belief perseverance is an amaing thing.

I have friends who have the same rationale toward evolution and even pray for my soul as I am obviously headed to hell. I used to try and debate with them, but I quickly learned that beliefs so deep are not easily altered.

As an athiest, I went and saw "Passion" because it's a true story, stigmata nuns' visions aside. Whether or not God exists and sent his one son to Earth is beside the point, there was a guy named Jesus who was beaten into oblivion and nailed to a cross. I grew up quasi-religious and never did that fact sink in more than sitting in that theatre watching it happen, years after I had forsaken my upbringing. If nothing else, it served as an insight to the mentality of the deeply religious.

Posted by Barry on January 10, 2006 01:45 PM

Everyone is entitled to their own opinions on creation and so far no one can be sure taht ne theory 100% true. it is daft to think that you are wiser than the other just because a majority of the world's scientists believe in the same thing you do.
it is not a case of being blind to all other explanations, its a case of not believing something without a 100% certification.
if you are comfortable with the thought that you are related to apes then there is no need to argue that you are more correct than another who believes that we have a creator and that ou existence actually means something.
in any case even if everyone in the world followed one school of thought it wouldn't make that theory any more correct than one that is followed by one.
as far as human's are concerned we will probably never know the origins of life so there is no way to prove that one theory is more plausible than another. certainly not by what we think is our superior understanding.
as one said "for the ant in the anthill, the savannah is his universe"
the true idiocy of humans is thinking that they actually know something significant about something so vast a subject as the origins of life.

Posted by malik on August 12, 2006 05:58 AM