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Chris Matthews 'Destroys' GOP Rep. Mike Pence On Evolution/Science Question




 

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Something that bothers me continuously is when those who support evolutionary theory and the scientific method pose the question in terms of belief: "do you believe in evolution?" To get people to understand the nature of science itself, how we come to know what we do about the natural world, you cannot equate that understanding to belief. It is not an issue of belief. I for one do not 'believe' in evolution, I fundamentally agree with its precepts. I know this is just a semantics argument here, but if we scientists/reasonable thinkers/etc want to promote objective scientific knowledge above religious belief, we shouldn't ask people if they 'believe' in science. Rather, do they agree or disagree with evolution, global warming, etc. Then it becomes an issue of the intellect - which science IS - rather than an issue of personal inclination. Now they have to actually defend their position on the subject, or dare I say it, 'think' about the subject, not just passively sum it up to personal belief.

This is really well said, Mer. I've never quite thought of it that way.

Something that bothers me continuously is when those who support evolutionary theory and the scientific method pose the question in terms of belief: "do you believe in evolution?" To get people to understand the nature of science itself, how we come to know what we do about the natural world, you cannot equate that understanding to belief.

The word belief is used in different ways, and context matters. Here the implied meaning is do you believe the facts support the theory of evolution. Are you justified by the facts in believing it to be true, or do you believe sans any evidence. A good argument could be made that the word belief is not useful.

Norm - that is a good point, that 'belief' can be used for various context and hold meanings that are not entirely religious. But that distinction isn't going to be made in common conversation, particularly by someone of extreme religious beliefs. To them, calling evolution a matter of 'belief' puts it on par with religious 'belief' in terms of validity, and in terms of how it is accepted into a person's worldview. An opposite yet equal problem is the use of the word 'theory': in common conversation, people use 'theory' to describe an idea someone has about something, could be a whim or a personal conjecture. In scientific conversation, 'theory' means something entirely different. Because it is used differently in common conversation, people can and do easily dismiss scientific theories because their common definition of a theory holds very little ground. The same goes for 'belief': it conjures up a non-objective approach to something, rather than a scientific one. I think it should be as simple as asking 'do you agree with evolution' rather than 'do you believe in evolution'.

There is no question that using words that can have different meanings to different people is a problem. You're certainly correct in suggesting that Matthews would have been better served by not using the term, or explaining what he meant by it. The same goes for theory.

I agree, religious and pseudoscience types are experts at projection.

I was going to post a comment complaining about the "do you believe in" phrasing, but you beat me to it, Mer.

Even though the word "believe" is not necessarily incorrect when used in a scientific context, it is most certainly to be avoided when talking to those afflicted by "faith". Science isn't about picking whatever idea feels right and "believing" in it, but that will be the impression an unscientific mind will get when that word is used.

On the flip side, it would be hard to avoid making things uncomfortably long-winded with something like "do you think evolution is the best explanation for the origin of species..."

I have been having many of these same thoughts lately. The first time it occurred to me was hearing what I thought was a fumbling of the question: "do you believe in evolution" asked to Massimo Pigliucci and some creationist dude during a debate. That may have been a vid posted here at 1GM, I don't remember.

Norm: I think the point is that, despite the subtleties that you raise, when the question is framed in terms of belief, then it equates creationism and evolution, both being a matter of belief.

I have been planning on emailing Pigliucci to suggest that the next time he hears the question phrased that way that he object to the question itself, exactly as Mer suggests.

Mike Pence: Chris, is this the caricature of how Republicans are anti-science...?

It is isn't a caricature if you talk and behave the way you are in this interview, congressman. This is the reality of how Republicans are anti-science. If you want to knock the straw man down, all you have to do is clearly answer the question: Do you believe in the seven days of creation? Either you do and you're a moron, or you are a gutless jackass who is so cowed by your moronic constituents that you won't say?

"Do you believe in the seven days of creation? Either you do and you're a moron, or you are a gutless jackass who is so cowed by your moronic constituents that you won't say?"

I would love to have this question asked of President Obama. How do you think he would answer Tim?

"I'm a Christian, and I believe in parents being able to provide children with religious instruction without interference from the state. But I also believe our schools are there to teach worldly knowledge and science. I believe in evolution, and I believe there's a difference between science and faith. That doesn't make faith any less important than science. It just means they're two different things. And I think it's a mistake to try to cloud the teaching of science with theories that frankly don't hold up to scientific inquiry." - Obama

Italics mine.

In short, the question as posed to Pence wouldn't even have come up, because Obama would have answered his "Do you believe in evolution?" thusly. It's basically Gould's "separate magisteria" that you will get from almost every public figure who is not a fundy. I think it is bullshit, but then I could never be elected dogcatcher.

Very good Tim! I'm impressed!

After reading that, do you think Obama is being honest when he says he's a Christian?

...do you think Obama is being honest when he says he's a Christian?

Who knows? "Christians" seem to me to be amazingly pliable about what it means to be a "Christian" - and yet many are all too willing to tell you why someone else isn't a "true" Christian.

You mean Obama didn't speak in Italics?

I'd definitely vote for you for dog catcher.

BTW,

If you follow the links, you'll get what I consider to be an outstanding answer regarding the evil reefer: "I inhaled – that was the point."

I’m thoroughly sick of the Jesus freaks and conservatives (mostly one in the same) defining the arguments in America. For too long they have been able to frame every discussion and direct public thinking in the directions that shed way too much light on subjects not worth a second of our time. One trick they use is to vilify aspects of our culture or malign people who really don’t warrant a moment of scrutiny.

It’s frightful that we are still debating whether or not we should teach science in our schools. However, even though I understand what Matthews is doing in this clip I find him to be at least as big of a moron as the greasy politician who seems scared shitless about offending his religious fanatic constituency. Matthews hardly “destroyed” Pence with his asinine litmus test of “Do you believe in evolution?”

Instead of the evolution question Matthews should have challenged Pence on his assertion that there is “a growing skepticism in the scientific community about global warming.” Someone please educate me on this and point me to this rift among top climatologists—and corporate-sponsored propaganda mills don’t count. They aren’t think tanks; these institutions begin with a conclusion and work backwards to support them using the faintest evidence and the most dubious science imaginable.

Instead of the evolution question Matthews should have challenged Pence on his assertion that there is “a growing skepticism in the scientific community about global warming.” Someone please educate me on this...

If you're a conservative and/or religious fanatic - or just shilling for them - black is white. The consensus among climatologists described here, as you indicate, is moving in the opposite direction to that stated by Pence. If Matthews were a real reporter, instead of just a talking head working in Bizarro world, he'd have challenged him with what is really happening in the scientific community.

I find the parallels between the so-called controversies of evolutionary theory and climate change fascinating.

For years, creationists have been subtly shifting the goal-posts on what they define as the problem with evolutionary theory. First, there was young earth literalists, then when that became totally impossible to argue, you had old earth creationists who denied any kind of change, then change is allowed but only within species, then change between species is allowed, but certainly not in the hominoids!

The same goes for climate change. Have you noticed that the "global warming deniers" are really no longer denying the warming? They're only denying the cause, and often tepidly at that. First it was sun spots, but now that the sun spot hypothesis has been pretty much eviscerated, the goalposts have shifted once again.

Another parallel is that the "skeptics" on both sides produce lists of "scientists" who are skeptical of evolution/warming. But when you look at these lists, you're as hard-pressed to find an bona fide biologist among the evolution "skeptics" as you are to find a bona fide climatologist/oceanographer among the warming "skeptics."

In the end, it's far easier to argue against something than it is to propose a testable alternative, and that distinction probably goes far over the head of most casual observers.

Another parallel is that the "skeptics" on both sides produce lists of "scientists" who are skeptical of evolution/warming. But when you look at these lists, you're as hard-pressed to find an bona fide biologist among the evolution "skeptics" as you are to find a bona fide climatologist/oceanographer among the warming "skeptics."

Have you seen this one? It's hilarious.

Great thread. I too was thinking how 'belief' is such a loaded word that there must be a better one that doesn't rely on such subjectivity. If Matthews started to quote studies, do you not think Pence would have done the same? Surely, Pence's would have been ready with Heritage Foundation talking points, miring the debate in study-contest. His dishonesty shone brilliantly.

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