Disclaimer stickers for science textbooks:

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29 Responses:

  1. susano_otter says:

    Which seems like pretty good advice in each case represented in your fancy image-matrix of word-symbols.

    See also: "Root causes of global warming."

  2. abiku says:

    I particularly like the note "especially other people's myths" in the gods disclaimer. Lovely!

  3. ghewgill says:

    "The wearer of this T-shirt contains genetic material developed through evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered."

  4. polyparadigm says:

    Hrm...The premise is funny, and the execution is hilarious, but I have one minor beef. The acceptance of natural explanations is not necessarily a rejection of supernatural understanding.

    When people ask, "Why did life begin," they are asking one of two questions, because "why" has two meanings. Religious sources will yield complete nonsense when asked about cause and effect, but, on the other hand, scientific sources should stand mute on matters of purpose and fulfillment.

    The major advance of the enlightenment was to explain a stone's fall without saying that it "seeks to," and explaining adaptation without speculating that generations of giraffes "wanted" longer necks. The creationists I've talked to have all been weak in either their education, their faith, or both, but they have been right to point out the ironic inconsistency of teleological (that is, purpose-based) evolutionary arguments (which are all too common, especially in pop culture), and understandable in their fear when a part of their religion is regarded (I think, mistakenly) in opposition to a successful system of thought whose central axiom is "life has no purpose."

    But yeah, funny stuff!

    • The point of said teleogical arguments is that they're just analogies, relating something people are familiar with (intent) to something they may not be (statistical outcomes of physical processes). Focusing on the flaws in the analogy is idiotic, if you don't refer to the source material as well.

      However, the scientific viewpoint is fundamentally different to the creationist one. They're completely incompatible. They can't both be consistently held true in the same mind. They're each other's alleles. In that respect, creationists are right. There's no point in being conciliatory as there can only be one winner, with the other possibly kept around as a harmless hobby (which is the state of religion in most of the civilised world).

      And another thing. I'm sick of Americans apologising for the election. Look at the bloody Ukraine. If you were really sorry, you'd have marched on your capital and demonstrated until the election was unfixed, or your new masters showed their true colours and massacred you in the streets.

      Also airline food, what's the deal with that?

      • wfaulk says:

        I think you're wrong. Science has absolutely no theory (someone correct me here if I'm wrong) as to what happened "before" the Universe came into being while it also theorizes that there was an origin.

        Again, science has no theory for that. Religion does. It is easy to reconcile God as a computer programmer who created the rules for our universe and then set it in motion. Personally, I'm not inclined to believe that. But, unlike many religious theories that promote the concept of a supreme being that affects the world every day, there is no scientific evidence to disprove that notion.

        The point is that once you cross that line that divides extant universe and no universe, there are no theories -- only faith, even if it's a faith based in science.

        • vordark says:

          Actually, string theory has something to say on the "before" part. Or at least, gives us some fairly startling and interesting ways to look at the problem. I think what you're speaking of is the general breakdown of relativity as you approach the moment of the "big bang" or "creation".

          This month's (or perhaps, last month's) issue of "Discover" magazine has an interesting article on "How To Survive The End of the Universe" which gives you in a very layman-y way a quick overview of how string theory applies to the beginning and end of universes. Also how one might go about creating a new universe when this one starts to fizzle.

          On the whole Religion versus Science argument, there cannot be a resolution so long as the people in each camp continue to apply these tools to areas where they are simply inapplicable.

          Religion excels at answering the question of "Why?"

          Science excels at answering the question of "How?"

          Neither is an adequate tool for answering the other's question.

          The question of "How did the universe/multiverse begin?" will eventually be answered by science, but religion (or some wonderous, hitherto unformulated theory merging these two) is the only tool we have to answer "Why are we here?"


        • What's the difference between filling the infinitesimal length of time just at the Big Bang that's still unexplained by modern comology with Gods, and writing "Here Be Monsters" on the areas of a map that are unexplored? The fact that the possibility of monsters has been squeezed down to that fraction of a fraction of a second should tell you something about their potential existence.

          The idea of God as a computer programmer, or a Supreme Watchmaker, or whatever the technological role de jour might be, is compelling to us, because we ourselves are amazed at our use of technology to construct our own world. But all our machines break down; the gears of our watches wear away, our bridges crumble, and our code is buggy. So, a lot of the time, we posit an opposing force aligned with chaos, that seeks to destroy order. We create the concepts of good and evil and set them at each other's throats, and add to our own misery by doing so.

          The world, meanwhile, spins on. The universe doesn't express any dualistic philosophies. Things just happen. stars are born in clouds of gas. They die, and shockwaves propagate that help speed the creation of new stars. Galaxies swirl together, collide, rip each other apart, and new galaxies are created. Planets accrete and cool, chemical processes take place on their surfaces, life as we know it sometimes emerges. Science is about constructing models that explain these things and give us a hint as to where to look to see things we haven't seen before. An everything we discover says that the forces that destroy and the forces that create are one and the same. Gravity gives birth to the star, and ultimately, gravity kills it. The urge to procreate and build is the same urge to murder and conquer. There is no duality, there are no simple rules. Ultimately, this is the best evidence against a One-Time God and a Clockwork Universe.

          This terrifies a lot of people, because they want to believe that their place in the world is special, and that their morality and relationships to other people are derived from something absolute. (Though also, for a lot of people religion is just another expression of the urge to conquer and to have power over other people.) But it isn't absolute. It's strong, because it's made out of a web of culture and relationships extending back throug history and prehistory. But every person has to make their own choice to adhere to it. Humanity and civilisation depend on the reality of that individual choice. the God concept is useful, as a shorthand for that web. But it, like the web, is a solely human construct, and it simply cannot be used to explain the external universe. It has nothing to say about it that can be proved or disproved. It is not a theory, it is a story, it is a shared fiction that provides a point of reference for talking about our relationships with each other. And that's all.

          • wfaulk says:

            I'm not sure if you're claiming that I'm claiming that that tiny piece of time at the beginning of the big bang contains gods, or if you're just expositing on your own. To clarify, I'm not saying that. That part of universal prehistory I firmly believe can be explained by science. What I was positing is that gods may exist outside the universe. At one point there was nothing and then at another point there was something. I don't think science has the ability to explain that, but I could be wrong. I'll admit to not being familiar with string theory. And, again, to be clear, I don't personally believe that Gods did it, but, on the other hand, I have no science that says that they didn't. Of course, that is because science tries to explain our universe, and the things I'm speaking of happened outside our universe. But again, I could be wrong, most prominently in the area of "at one point there was nothing".

            Gravity gives birth to the star, and ultimately, gravity kills it. ... There is no duality, there are no simple rules. Ultimately, this is the best evidence against a One-Time God and a Clockwork Universe.

            I disagree. I think that gravity, to use your example, is a very simple rule, only with astoundingly complex results. Conway's Life has very simple rules, and it can build great complexes and then destroy them with the same rules, just as gravity builds and destroys a star. But there has to be someone to start it up in the first place. Again, I'm coming off as a theist, and I don't mean to. A little Devil's (or God's?) Advocacy, I guess.

            • The point I was trying to make is that as the human understanding of the universe improves, (crudely representing this by how far back physics allows us to see) the need and the opportunity for an intelligent designer diminishes.

              And furthermore, we need to recognise this because our power over nature has advanced to the point where we can blow most of the ecosystem up at the touch of a button. We have to reconcile ourselves with the fact that our moralities are human constructs, because if we don't think long and deep about our place in the world, we will break the world. We can't afford to make faith-based decisions. We can't afford to believe that the world was made for us. We can't afford to ignore evidence about where life came from or how it works. At this stage of technological development, we need to use all the knowledge at our disposal just to keep from irredeemably fucking things up.

              If you want to argue from a devil's-advocate point of view about what came before a singularity beyond which science says the question was meaningless, go for it. But in terms of the world we live in and the problems that we face, those arguments should be labelled as fiction, and ignored.

      • There's no point in being conciliatory as there can only be one winner, with the other possibly kept around as a harmless hobby (which is the state of religion in most of the civilised world).

        The problem with this assumption is that it reduces the discussion to each size trying to prove the other wrong, in the attempt to make themselves seem automatically correct.

        There is clearly room for more than one option here. Which someone trashing good old bipartisan American politics should note.

    • jonabbey says:

      Ah, but see, religious sources can also yield complete nonsense on matters of purpose and fulfillment. Ask a Scientologist about his progress towards Clear, say, or a Branch Davidian about the fulfillment that came from having your child molested by David "Messiah" Koresh.

      And the thesis that the alternative to religion is a system of thought whose central axim is "life has no purpose" is a straw-man. Life has a purpose, which is to live. Each individual's purpose and fulfillment differs slightly, or more than slightly, but that can come quite well from emotional resonances with the world (and society) around the individual, in sympathy with their inner construction. A secularist may speak to those things in just the same way that a religion can, even if the threshold of certainty and objectivity required for scientific codification makes 'scientific sources' a poor fit.

      Secularists (and scientists) are people too, and many of us know something about what it is to be human as well.

  5. nothings says:

    Awesome editing job. That condensensed version is way better than the complete one.

  6. nsfinch says:

    I graduated from high school in Cobb County, GA, having managed to receive a decent education despite the odds. My biology teacher actually showed us a "documentary" in class about how evolution is wrong because there's no fossil record of a feathered serpent or some such. Jesus H., I'm so glad I left there and never looked back. Believe it or not, they were allowed to teach us math and literature at the time (and history only really gets distorted when dealing with the American Civil War), although there is a law on the books that the head of every household has to own a gun.

    • jesus_x says:

      Oddly enough, my Honors Bio teacher (who was (well, I'm sure she still is) a brilliant woman) brought in some douchebag to give us a presentation over two days (an hour a day) about Creationism, to be fair to the intellectually crippled -- er, theologically inclined. She did this saying she didn't buy it, the scientific proof was overwhelming, but any good scientist should at least be _aware_ or other points of view. The next year, some kid told his folks, who ran to a lawyer, and they filed suit because she DID present this Creationism crap. This is in PA, mind you, so yes, we're east-coast blue-staters. It was settled out of court, and the teacher was formally reprimanded as part of the settlement (the rest being a fat check to the kid's folks and to no longer give this presentation). Stickers or not, you'll never make everyone happy. There'll always be a whiner, so we need to stop placating to these wrong-wing Republican bastards.

      • nsfinch says:

        I should add that it was clear that my biology teacher did believe in creationism. He was also faculty advisor for FCA - Fellowship of Christian Athletes - which, by that time, had nothing to do with athletics. And he was a good biology teacher, so I remember being surprised that he could actually reconcile biology with creationism.

      • jonabbey says:

        Was she sued for presenting the creationist crap sympathetically or for presenting it antithetically?

        I've always imagined that a lot of folks would get really pissed off if ID were taught in a school by a skeptical teacher who then walked the class through a representative sampling of the fallacies and falsehoods in Michael Behe's thesis, say.

        • jesus_x says:

          That's the thing, she didn't do the actual presentation. She brought in one of those Intelligent Design goofuses who does this professionally, in a relatively agnostic manner. It wasn't overtly Christian, nor representative of any specific religion, and as far as this type of silliness goes, it was more respectable than most. It didn't focus on various voodoo, but it was still bunk. She refrained form commenting on it in any specific manner other than to present an alternative, but scientifically implausible, viewpoint. She and the school were sued for having the presentation, period. Although, we later found out who was responsible, and the entire family are weasels, so I wouldn't bet against them suing had the school ignored Creationism. It was an extortion by lawsuit, essentially.

    • Isn't Cobb County a relatively well-off suburban area near Atlanta? I tend to give ignorant people a break if they are poor and have less access to education and information but these upper middle class folks have access to all of the best resources available.

      • nsfinch says:

        It is indeed a relatively well-off suburban area near Atlanta - we had a good school and plenty of equipment and extra-curricular activities and such. While I lived there, Newt Gingrich was our Congressman. I remember in our civics class, the teacher polled us and found out that we were significantly left-leaning politically. He said that it was unusual, because most kids our age in the US were right-wing, rebelling against our former hippie parents. But in Cobb County, we were left-wing, rebelling against our Newt-loving parents. (I would like to state for the record that my parents had nothing to do with Newt, and that none of us is actually from Cobb County.)

  7. acroyear70 says:

    saw that at http://www.pandasthumb.org/ -- thought it was hilarious...

  8. schnee says:

    Cool things. Although it's kinda sad that stickers like that actually make sense in a so-called civilized, modern country. I mean... everything they say should go without saying, anyway.

  9. The computer you are using operates partially on the basis of quantum physics, a theoretical framework which we do not fully understand. The question of whether your computer is displaying this content to you right now should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.