Home » Intelligent Design » The man who knows everything: My MercatorNet column

The man who knows everything: My MercatorNet column

At the Canadian Science Writers’ Association convention in Sudbury, Ontario, our Sunday dinner speaker was American theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss of Arizona State University, who presented sample clips from famous sci-fi films. And a whole lot more.

Would you be astonished to learn that the films portray implausible or impossible physics? No? Filmmakers value audience numbers more than atomic numbers. His clips entertained, but did not surprise:

However, his talk frequently targeted religion and politics: although he professed to respect theists, he offered snarky asides suggesting that fear of science is growing in Canada (because it might damage religion), adding, “In many ways I hope it does, but it wasn’t designed to do that.”

Dr. Krauss also told the assembled science communicators that in many key science controversies, there is only one side and journalists confuse matters by seeking out both sides.

Not so. New discoveries in science often result from minor, not major, deviations from an expected result.

Read more here.

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33 Responses to The man who knows everything: My MercatorNet column

  1. Is there a transcript of Dr. Krauss’s speech available online? It would be helpful to read so we can see both sides in this argument – so far we just have Ms O’Leary’s interpretation of the event.

  2. I think the next minor deviation in science is the double slit experiment, or teleportation. I go to the youtube video and see naturalists posting about how double slit doesn’t matter because scientists must have not accounted for enough variables, that’s desperate.

  3. Re transcript: I would type it myself, if I got the file. I think Dr. Krauss was video-cammed, so there must be a file of some kind, but do not know to whom it belongs.

    For the record: What Dr. Krauss said that night in no way contradicts his other statements elsewhere. I do not know of a reason to doubt that those are really his views.

  4. Dr. Krauss also told the assembled science communicators that in many key science controversies, there is only one side…

    Toward the end of the 19th century many scientists thought that no new advances in physics remained to be made. Yet within three years Rutherford succeeded in marking out an entirely new branch of physics called radioactivity. He soon discovered that thorium or its compounds disintegrated into a gas that in turn disintegrated into an unknown “active deposit,” likewise radioactive. Rutherford and a young chemist, Frederick Soddy, then investigated three groups of radioactive elements–radium, thorium, and actinium. They concluded in 1902 that radioactivity was a process in which atoms of one element spontaneously disintegrated into atoms of an entirely different element, which also remained radioactive. This interpretation was opposed by many chemists who held firmly to the concept of the indestructibility of matter; the suggestion that some atoms could tear themselves apart to form entirely different kinds of matter was to them a remnant of medieval alchemy.

    So much for “scientific consensus.”

    The notion that life might exhibit evidence of design is obviously a remnant of medieval alchemy and religious superstition.

    There is only one side to the controversy, and journalists should not confuse people by suggesting otherwise.

  5. “For the record: What Dr. Krauss said that night in no way contradicts his other statements elsewhere. I do not know of a reason to doubt that those are really his views.”

    The problem is though that I don’t know what Dr. Krauss said – although I can see from the comment he made on Mercator.net that he thinks Ms O’Leary mis-understood him. So obviously there is some disagreement; but I am not able to assess one way or another and must rely on O’Leary’s account (which Dr. Krauss apparently disputes).

    Yes, I suppose I could scour the Internet and find out in general Dr. Krauss’s views on the subject, and determine if Ms O’Leary’s assertion is correct, but really it would be better (and standard) if she could actually cite what he says. If she is unable to do that (and it appears not to be possible), then perhaps this piece should not have been written in the first place. At the very least she should quote other writings/speeches from Dr. Krauss that back-up her argument.

    I know this is a blog, but since this particular article is being written by a professional journalist, I expect a higher journalistic standard; I think it fails to make any reliable or useful argument, and is little more than a polemic.

  6. “he offered snarky asides suggesting that fear of science is growing in Canada (because it might damage religion), adding, “In many ways I hope it does, but it wasn’t designed to do that.”
    On the contrary. There is no scientific evidence for atheism.

  7. JTaylor 5, here is what puzzles me:

    What I reported Dr. Krauss as saying conforms closely to Internet available sources of his views, as you will know if you choose to check the links at MercatorNet.

    The stuff he said was conventional American atheist after-dinner speaker boilerplate.

    It’s not like I had reported that he got saved by Sudbury Miners for Jesus and is now a born again Christian handing out tracts somewhere. In that case, I’d expect to provide a lot of evidence, including an interview.

    I mainly took exception to his claim that Canadians experience a growing fear of science. That is certainly not true in my experience.

    Like everyone in recessionary times, we must ask, what is the payload? How many people will get a job out of this? But that doesn’t mean we don’t care.

  8. O’Leary @7

    Yes, I noticed that there are links to some of Krauss’s writings, although I have not yet found anything that specifically backs up your assertion about there being only one side to science etc. But perhaps I haven’t looked hard enough. I expect it may be there, but your articles are so bristling with so many links (many to your own blogs), it’s hard (and time-consuming) to decipher it all. Perhaps you are hoping your readers won’t bother to follow the links to the sources, and just take your word for it. Again, you are basing your article on something specific Krauss said at this conference but you do not offer a reliable source, or provide us with a quote from something he has said earlier to back it up. I find this sloppy journalism at best.

  9. Well, as I have said, if I could get an audio file I would gladly transcribe it.

    Dr. Krauss may have been trying out a new schtick on us Canuck rubes.

    Like, we’re supposedly pretty stupid, and I guess he didn’t imagine there would be anyone there who would really report on his schtick.

    He definitely said that there is only one side to many science stories and that Canadians deal with a growing fear of science.

    Neither of which is true in my view – and I get especial emotion with respect to the latter.

    Fear of science? That’s when I woke up, okay? With most after-dinner boilerplate, you don’t really care, unless you hear something you must, in decency, contest.

    Especially if you are at Science North and just spent the day at Dynamic Earth!

    Look, why can’t you just accept that he laid an egg? People do now and then.

    He should have known that not everyone in the northlands is a rube.

  10. “Look, why can’t you just accept that he laid an egg? People do now and then.”

    Sure, if you show the clear evidence for it, I’ll happily accept it. Sorry, but hearsay is not a substitute for good investigative reporting.

  11. 11

    O’Leary

    He definitely said that there is only one side to many science stories and that Canadians deal with a growing fear of science.

    We’re all familar with your refusal to condem creationism. The “big tent” and all that.

    But he’s quite right. Creationism is “not even wrong”. There is only one side to many scientific issues, the age of the earth, common descent etc.

    Or were you thinking more of the great debates going on at the moment in more mainstrean science? You know, where people go to conferences, write peer reviewed papers arguing their case etc etc?

    Perhaps you could claify by giving a list of the issues in science where you believe there are two sides but where only one is being heard currently?

    He is quite right to point out that the normal jourlanistic impulse to seek out both sides of the story can go badly awry in science reporting. Often there is only one side worth considering, the other simply does not have any scientific evidence worth mentioning. To give them equal weight is to do science a disservice.

    I hope you would agree – for example, would you give racists a platform just so they can balance the non-racist viewpoint? Or give the flat earthers equal column inches when you talk about global warming?

    When creationists are asked for their opinion on scientific matters to do with the origin of the earth etc you have to realise you are giving them a free pass. They have not spent years studying, performing lab work, building on other work through the ages. They simply twist and distort others work. What little actual work they do is based on a known result and twisting the facts to force that result.

    Why give such peoples opinions equal weighting? Would you has a hobo for financial advice? Why not?

    Again, perhaps you could claify your position by giving a list of the issues in science where you believe there are two sides but where only one is being heard currently?

  12. 12

    Sorry to btreak in here, but is there a reason why comments cannot be added to the “Dll Hell” thread? Paul Giem and I were in the middlke of a discussion, and now I can no longer add a comment.

  13. 13
    Granville Sewell

    Echidna-Levy:

    “Would you…give the flat-earthers equal column inches when you talk about global warming?”

    Apparently the American Physical Society hasn’t heard that only one side to the global warming debate should be reported see editorial here .

  14. 14

    O’Leary,

    I’m also curious to know, like Echidna, “Would you has a hobo for financial advice?” Would you has?

  15. Too many Lolcats.

  16. O’Leary wrote: “(Krauss) offered snarky asides suggesting that fear of science is growing in Canada (because it might damage religion)…

    This is another American import from Texas and other parts of the American heartland – such as Texan Don McLeroy who famously stated “Someone has to stand up to these experts!”

  17. 17

    Clive

    I’m also curious to know, like Echidna, “Would you has a hobo for financial advice?” Would you has?

    Very droll! However my point remains, and what’s more it remains unaddressed.

  18. 18

    Echidna,

    I think the point remains unanswered because no one understands the question.

  19. Clive Hayden: “I think the point remains unanswered because no one understands the question.”

    On the contrary, I think it’s a very clearly stated question. I could try and paraphrase, but I think it’s quite clear as it stands. And I agree with him/her – creationism should not be considered as a “side”. Do people here agree or disagree?

  20. Not sure Echidna’s question is going to get answered.

    Here is the question again, but this time more narrowly focused – are evolution and creationism equally matched arguments? If so, why?

    I do find it strange that on the one hand ID proponents go to great lengths to carefully distinguish ID from creationism, yet seem very reluctant to unequivocally call out that creationism is not real science.

  21. “I do find it strange that on the one hand ID proponents go to great lengths to carefully distinguish ID from creationism, yet seem very reluctant to unequivocally call out that creationism is not real science.”

    Again this suffers from what is meant by creationism. By some definitions of creationism, nearly everyone in the world would qualify as a creationist. I was told that I might be a creationist because I believe in God or that I thought God created the universe. If you are referring to some specific groups such as YEC than you should use the term young earth creationism and not the term creationism.

    There has been plenty of times in the past where people here have questioned young earth creation science. But you phrase it in an absolute so it is not quite clear what you mean. But even with the young earth creationist, some of the things that they have done is valid and much of it is not. So are people to throw out was is valid just because the person is a young earth creationist or should we evaluate the argument and science.

    One of the ways that young earth creationism gets fought here is to object when ever it is brought up and that is done frequently. How often do you hear young earth ideas expressed and debated here. So we do not see much young earth ideas here though they pop up occasionally. But not as frequently as Darwinian ideas do which in some areas is also suspect as bad science.

  22. 22

    I was told that I might be a creationist because I believe in God or that I thought God created the universe.

    Not by me. Who told you that?

  23. Jerry – thanks for the clarification. OK then, let me try again:

    I do find it strange that on the one hand ID proponents go to great lengths to carefully distinguish ID from young-earth creationism, yet seem very reluctant to unequivocally call out that young-earth creationism is not real science.

    And what are those “valid” things that YEC creationism has done? Saddles on dinosaurs?

  24. “And what are those “valid” things that YEC creationism has done”

    A lot of their critiques of Darwinian processes. Other than that I do not know of any.

  25. “Creationism is ‘not even wrong’.”

    Now hold on a minute!!

    If you mean YEC then it can be very wrong indeed—which I suspect it is—for YEC makes some very strong claims regarding the age of the things. Darwinism, on the other hand, approaches the “not even wrong” position … at least as lipsynched by its loyal adherents. Mike Behe suggests some means of refutation in his Edge of Evolution, but what I hear from the Darwinists is that there just couldn’t be any such. The only way to refute Darwin, we’re told, would be to find something like, say, human bones in the pre-Cambrian, or perhaps “Hashem created me” coded in Hebrew in every strand of DNA. Barring something like that Darwin just has to be true—and thus not even wrong.

  26. “And what are those “valid” things that YEC creationism has done”

    You did and some others at times on this site who equated belief in God as being a creationist. Here is what I said the other day.

    “Am I a creationists? I believe that some intelligence outside our universe created the universe. I believe there is no evidence from science that this is the Judeo Christian God but that science and logic indicate a God like intelligence exists and does not contradict the Judeo Christian God.

    I believe that an intelligence created life and probably guided the evolution of it in some places. This intelligence could be outside our universe or in it and if outside it could be the Judeo Christian God but there is no proof of this.

    Am I a creationist? And if so of what use is the term other than to pigeon hole people and their beliefs and create an a priori discrimination against them.”

    To which you said

    “jerry, I would probably say you are a creationist (as would Stephen Meyer). What distinguishes a creationist is not his/her views on God but his/her views on science.”

    Now you should know what my views are on science and you identified me as a creationist. You did have a WEASEL word “probably” in that sentence. But my views on life are not much different than Sir Richard’s on the creation of life who said he thought an outside intelligence was an intriguing possibility. But I bet if you pressed Sir Richard, he would have said if the outside intelligence was responsible for life then there was a possibility that they had an input for later transitions too. The conversation never got that far.

    So yes “J’accuse” that David Kellogg said I was a creationist.

  27. On my previous post, the quote should be

    “Not by me. Who told you that?”

    by David Kellogg

  28. 28

    Jerry,

    I said I’d probably call you a creationist, but not “because [you] believe in God or that [you] thought God created the universe.” I explicitly said my criteria were about your view of science, not your view of God. Why twist my words?

    DK

  29. 29

    This is what makes me think you’re a creationist:

    science and logic indicate a God like intelligence exists

    Nothing to do with your belief in God. Has to do with your belief in what science can do.

    I’m sorry you took “probably” as a weasel word. In all honesty, I meant it as a gesture of respect. I don’t know you personally and I have no interest in calling you or not calling you anything.

  30. 30

    Finally, let me point out that the only reason I said jerry was probably a creationist was because jerry asked me if I would call him one. I didn’t call him one before that.

    Silly me, I took the bait. Now he can say I called him a name because he asked me to.

  31. It is interesting watching David Kellogg WEASEL out of something.

    So someone who thinks that science and logic leads to the conclusion that an immense intelligence created the world is a creationist but someone who believed that God created the universe is not a creationist.

    Interesting distinction.

    Why don’t you admit you blew it and that the definition of a creationist is fuzzy at best and probably one should not use it except in specific circumstances.

    I have no problem with you using the term to refer to young earth creationists and there may be other groups that may also qualify. I recently got Numbers book on the history of modern creationism in order to understand just what it is since I know so little about them. Maybe some others besides YEC’s could be legitimately called creationists but I don’t think believing in God or that God created the universe and life or even guided evolution qualifies.

    Do you know what Thaxton and Kenyon actually believe? I don’t and if they believe the Judeo Christian God created the universe and life, that does not make them creationists as far as I am concerned. In fact it makes them in sync with a lot of the current world and a large percentage of the people in history.

    But as someone said on another thread, what has that got to do with their science and those who use the term creationist with them are just showing that they fear their science on these issues. So referring to people such as Thaxton, Kenyon, Behe, Myers and Dembski as creationists is just a sign of insecurity. Deal with their ideas. It may get one points over on Panda’s Thumb but not here.

  32. Jerry: “But as someone said on another thread, what has that got to do with their science and those who use the term creationist with them are just showing that they fear their science on these issues. So referring to people such as Thaxton, Kenyon, Behe, Myers and Dembski as creationists is just a sign of insecurity. Deal with their ideas. It may get one points over on Panda’s Thumb but not here.”

    Its called poisoning the well and is a form of ad hominem. Its Davids favorite fallacious and I might add invalid argument. I dont think a day goes by without him employing this fallacy across all threads.

    Vivid

  33. This from the EPA thread.

    David Kellog:”CEI receives a lot of funding from Exxon to spread anti-global warming stuff, but they won’t reveal much about their funding — their commitment to transparency is a bit suspect.”

    Jehu: “That is the kind of “poison the well” argument that only appeals to people who are either too stupid or too lazy to examine the evidence and hear the arguments presented.”

    Doesn’t matter what the topic Davids first line of defense is to poison the well rather than dealing with the arguments presented.

    Vivid

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