« Theory and EvidenceLaw of Equivalent Toddler Badness »

Christopher Booker - Welcome to Twit Club

02/09/09

Permalink 01:07:26 am, by Ritchie Annand Email , 590 words   English (CA)
Categories: Common Sense, Science

Christopher Booker - Welcome to Twit Club

In this, the 200th anniversary year of the birth of Charles Darwin, some people feel obliged to weigh in on the subjects of Darwin, or evolution, or what have you, and show themselves to be right twits in the process.

Take a look at Christopher Booker's article for the Spectator (or even his more recent article for the Telegraph).

I don't know what the phenomenon is... people who are not creationists on the face of it but who seem enthralled by thoughts of conspiracy; enjoy feelings of superiority as they imagine scientists bumbling around like Clouseau?

Let's see what Mr. Booker has in store for us:

...

Having decoded the genome which we imagined might help to explain, inter alia, why we are different from monkeys, mice and sea urchins, we make the startling discovery that genetically we are all but identical. So what is it that determines that much the same genetic coding can produce such an infinite variety of life forms? Clearly there is some other hugely important factor at work here, some ‘formative impulse’ which science has not yet begun to comprehend.

Whatever "all but identical" means to him seems to merely be inverted to "there isn't enough difference for science to explain". Science clearly can't figure it out, as far as he can tell, so what should we do? Insert the supernatural! Sure, it may not be God of the Gaps, but as Woo of the Gaps, it will have to do.

He also appears to be a dualist like James Le Fanu, whose book he reviews. Dualism, in short, is the belief that there has to be something else on top of, or helping, or interacting with the material brain; that the brain itself is insufficient. Dualism has not had much success in modern science, but it's the perfect spot for Woo of the Gaps to be inserted into every partial or missing answer in neurology.

The greatest stumbling block to this argument was that evolution has repeatedly taken place in leaps forward so sudden and so complex that they could not possibly have been accounted for by the gradual process he suggested — the ‘Cambrian explosion’ of new life forms, the complexities of the eye, the post-Cretaceous explosion of mammals.

Whether he knows it or not, these are right out of the Creationist playbook. The Cambrian Explosion, the complexity of the eye, and the 'explosion' of mammals took its sweet time. The same arguments that creationists use to say "oh, that was really fast - there wasn't enough time for evolution, was there?" (whilst being blind to the mutation rates housecat to jaguar in 6,000 years would entail) play right into the Woo Forces of Nature "something had to help it along" fan club.

So what gives Mr. Booker that extra boost to Full Member in Good Standing of the Twit Club? Combining all of the above with seething arrogance... and projecting it on the scientific establishment:

Blinkered in their vision, armoured in the certainty that they have all the answers when they so obviously don’t, neo-Darwinians such as Richard Dawkins rest their beliefs just as much on an unscientific leap of faith as the ‘Creationists’ they so fanatically affect to despise.

As for Le Fanu, whose book he is reviewing, I cannot say - he sounds, from quotes and subject material, not to mention being taken in by Wakefield and his MMR/autism hoax only to issue a notpology in 2007, like a somewhat muddled thinker. In the words of Connery as Quatermain, "I'm waiting to be impressed"

3 comments

Comment from: Richard [Visitor]
RichardBooker does seem to have a bit of a problem with the word "identical" - Sunday's article was a corker, but I'm not sure he's ever equalled his claim that white asbestos is "chemically identical to talcum powder" (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1381270/Christopher-Bookers-Notebook.html). Personally I wonder if Booker may be suffering from what's sometimes euphemistically described as the "Dunning-Kruger effect": http://www.apa.org/journals/features/psp7761121.pdf
02/09/09 @ 18:17
Comment from: Ritchie Annand [Member] Email
Ritchie AnnandWell, it's an oversimplistic point for him to make. Talc and white asbestos are similar - magnesium and silicate bound with water or hydroxyls. That said, if I recall my mineralogy correctly, there are whole families of rocks and minerals that behave that way. It's not the chemical composition of asbestos that is at issue, anyhow.

There has been some controversy over chrysotile asbestos, though. The amphibole form of asbestos is nasty stuff indeed. Chrysotile has some of those effects, but not nearly to the same degree. As with many other materials, it's the people who end up working with the materials in construction that get it the worst. Heavy exposure can cause mesotheliomas, as in this study, but contamination by another form of asbestos, tremolite, seemed a significant factor in the toxicity in that tremolite fibers remained in tissue, while the chrysotile fibers were cleared.

So it's possible, say, that the effects of chrysotile itself might be well within human tolerances, there could be issues with the inability to remove contaminants.

The Canadian Government has a decent page addressing asbestos issues in general here: http://www.ec.gc.ca/nopp/docs/consult/rotterdam/ca/en/chrysotileHealth-BG.cfm
02/18/09 @ 02:01
Comment from: Ritchie Annand [Member] Email
Ritchie AnnandP.S. My sincere apologies for not passing your comment through immediately; I thought I had set things to auto-publish. I have now, and it should remain so, at least until the spammers return. (B2Evolution's addition of "nofollow" to embedded links eventually helped stem the tide :)
02/18/09 @ 02:06