morgan_dhu: (Default)

A few days ago, I posted about the wonderful folks at the Institute for Creation Research and their decision to start up a peer-reviewed journal, the International Journal of Creation Research to publish papers all about "Creation Science."

Now for all of you who, like me, have some really strong opinions on the fundamentalist project to re-enshrine conformity to faith as the predominant principle of science, it should be pretty obvious what the creationists are trying to do here, because, as we all know, peer review is an important part of the dissemination of real science. As Wikipedia says (today, anyway), peer review: a process of subjecting an author's scholarly work or ideas to the scrutiny of others who are experts in the field. It is used primarily by editors to select and to screen submitted manuscripts, and by funding agencies, to decide the awarding of grants. The peer review process aims to make authors meet the standards of their discipline, and of science in general. Publications and awards that have not undergone peer review are likely to be regarded with suspicion by scholars and professionals in many fields.
It's that last sentence that tells you what's behind all this. No credible peer-reviewed scientific journal would ever print the kind of crap these folks write. But if they print their own "peer-reviewed" journal, then they can argue that their "research" has indeed passed the scrutiny of their peers in the sciences - the creation sciences, that is, but who's reading the fine print? And while anyone who knows anything about the scientific fields they are violating would still know it's not science, what about the person who doesn't know a lot about it?

More importantly, I suspect, what about government organisations (particularly in the US) that might have a requirement that the science they use in developing policy has passed a peer review - without any specification of how that peer review is conducted?

So this is a call to all those fannish satirists out there. Let's create our own organisation for fake science.

Because what we really have, with these creationists and their Institute for Creation Science and its proposed peer-reviewed journal, is a group of people saying that there is a book - a text, if you will - and everything in it is true, and happens exactly the way it says so in that book. So the job of science is not to uncover the mechanics of how the world really functions, but to explain how the functions specified in the book happened in a manner consistent with what is written in that book, and how they can be reconciled with any observable evidence to the contrary in the real world.

You don't have to take my word for that, by the way - they state clearly on their own website that they have, in their teaching and their research, "a firm commitment to creationism and to full Biblical inerrancy and authority." Here's some selections from the Institute for Creation Research's "research tenets" about what they think science is and how it is to be conducted (all emphases mine):
The Institute for Creation Research Graduate School has a unique statement of faith for its faculty and students, incorporating most of the basic Christian doctrines in a creationist framework, organized in terms of two parallel sets of tenets, related to God's created world and God's inspired Word, respectively.


The programs and curricula of the Graduate School, as well as the activities of other ICR divisions, while similar in factual content to those of other graduate colleges, are distinctive in one major respect. The Institute for Creation Research bases its educational philosophy on the foundational truth of a personal Creator-God and His authoritative and unique revelation of truth in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments.

More explicitly, the administration and faculty of ICR are committed to the tenets of both scientific creationism and Biblical creationism as formulated below. A clear distinction is drawn between scientific creationism and Biblical creationism but it is the position of the Institute that the two are compatible and that all genuine facts of science support the Bible.

So what can anyone do about this, which I suspect is an attempt to make it possible for religion all wrapped up in the Trojan Horse of peer review to invade American public policy even more fully than it has already done?

Well, I can sure as hell make savage fun of it.

After all, I could publish the same kind of science myself. Science that has a firm commitment to the inerrancy and authority of any fictional text (including visual texts such as graphic novels, film and television) one might choose to substitute for the one that they've singled out as the only definition of how things work.

For example, let's assume that J. K Rowling's works are inerrant and authoritative texts that define the way the world actually functions. What kind of science would one have to create in order to explain how any part of the system of magic in that text works, despite all indications from the observable world that it does not? Star Trek geeks will of course have a head start on this, as we've been thinking about how to explain warp drive, teleporters and at least a dozen different methods of time travel for decades now. ;-)

Just imagine - an International Institute of Created Science that would publish an online peer-reviewed journal - the International Journal of Created Science Research Studies.

Any fictional texts you like could be declared as inerrant and authoritative for the purposes of creating the science that can be used to prove that what the text says about the mechanics of existence is the truth, even if every observable bit of evidence and every known scientific fact says it's not. All papers demonstrating the truth of any chosen inerrant and authoritative text would be peer reviewed. That's how real science operates, right?

Arrrrggggghhhhh. The crazy, it burns.

morgan_dhu: (Default)

Well, it was an interesting night.

By the time the show started, I was more than a little amused at Heath Ledger's repeated panegyrics to his WIFE and their NEW BABY, just in case anyone thought that just because he played a GAY COWBOY in THAT MOVIE there might be something a little off about his MANLINESS. I mean, really, every time I saw an entertainment reporter ask him what he thought about his experiences doing the movie, he didn't seem to think of much to say about the acting process, just how wonderful it was that he has a WIFE and a NEW BABY. OK, Heath, I hear you, you're an actor, not a gay cowboy.

And then there was Reese. Lovely acceptance speech, Reese. Would you mind telling us what was on your mind when you kept repeating the words REAL WOMAN over and over again?

I want to say thank you to so many people who helped me create this role. Everyone at Fox, Cathy Konrad, James Keach, for producing the film. A very special thank you to Jim Mangold who directed the film and also wrote this character. Who is a real woman. Who has dignity and honor, and fear, and courage, and she's a real woman.

Right, Reese, your character was a real woman. That's not unusual in a biopic, Reese, you didn't have to shout it from the rooftops. Oh, what's that, it's not just your character that's a real woman, you are too?

And I want to say that my grandmother was one of the biggest inspirations in my life. She taught me how to be a real woman, to have strength and self respect, and to never give those things away. And those are a lot of qualities I saw in June Carter.

Reese, dear, if you keep on making a fuss about real women, someone might think that you're trying to make some kind of point. And we know you weren't trying to do that, now, were you?

Thanks for being so open about yourself, Reese. By the way, I'm really looking forward to seeing Transamerica.

morgan_dhu: (Default)

The Case of George Walker Bush

A cold wind bearing the faintest traces of the winds that sweep across the Wastes of Kadath, or the icy Plateau of Leng, whipped the city of Washington, as George W. Bush spoke the words that reverberated within my mind, and my soul. "We have a calling from beyond the stars," he said, "and America will always be faithful to that cause."

A calling from beyond the stars. The words chill the very essence of my being, even though I sit here in warmth and comfort in my study. My mind reels backwards in time. What is it that lies beyond the stars, what is it that calls to him?

Up from the depths of my memory creep some fragments of ancient knowledge, stumbled upon one summer in my careless youth. A curious – perhaps too curious - graduate student I was then, spending a semester prowling the stacks of the library at Miskatonic University in Arkham, Massachusetts. What a feast it was for one seeking for the deepest truths of our existence. For myriad are the ancient tomes stored there, weathered volumes which speak of things beyond the understanding of mortal man, rituals no longer spoken by the living, rites which promised to bring … something my mind could not comprehend. How well I remember the feelings that convulsed me as, for a time, days, I thought – or was it weeks - I hovered on the edge of some great secret, certain that if only I persevered, I would find the key that would answer all my wildest questionings. But no. At last, driven by some deep prompting, be it conscience, foreboding, or fear, I withdrew from that shadowed quest, I returned to my home and lived until this day, untouched – or so I believed - by the brush of those dark wings I heard at the very edge of my awareness.

Yet now to my mind come the words of another, who penetrated deeper beyond the veil of silence that turned my soul back: "Men with minds sensitive to hereditary impulse will always tremble at the thought of the hidden and fathomless worlds of strange life which may pulsate in the gulfs beyond the stars, or press hideously upon our own globe in unholy dimensions which only the dead and the moonstruck can glimpse."

And so it is. For now I remember the names of those who dwell beyond the stars, even that of the Unspeakable One. I know of those who, come among us from that place beyond time and space, slumber now in the earth or in the ocean depths. I know who it is that walked once in the unfathomable chaos that coils beyond the stars, and will do so again when the stars are right, who it is that calls from his deathless sleep in R’lyeh. And I shudder at the fate now come upon this planet, as one among the most powerful of men speaks openly and boldly of that which calls to him from that awful abyss.

morgan_dhu: (Default)

It’s all over LJ, so you probably know about [ profile] anniesj and her visit from the Secret Service over comments she had made in her LJ that she describes as “some rather inflammatory things about George W. Bush in a public post in my LJ, done in a satirical style.

She has written a new entry in which she responds to some of the discourse that has occurred in response to her experience. Now, [ profile] anniesj has every right to her own thoughts and responses to this experience, but I also have every right to say that I think she is very wrong in some respects.

In her follow-up, she says:

1. I made a very big mistake in posting what I originally posted. I did not intend to threaten anyone with what I originally said. I was pissed off by what President Bush said, and I ranted about it without thinking that what I said could be construed as a threat against the president's safety. Obviously, I was wrong and I admit responsibility for making an inflammatory post. I apologize to anyone it may have offended, and I will be much more careful in the future when expressing my political beliefs.

2. My political beliefs did not trigger this, and what happened to me was not political. The reason why I was reported to the FBI was because I made the mistake of posting something that could be misconstrued as being a threat to the president's safety. I understand this, I apologize for it, and I will not make the same mistake again. I repeat, I do not seriously wish to harm anyone else on this planet, and in the future, I will make certain that I never give that impression again, no matter how pissed off I get.

[ profile] sistermarysith has already written a wonderful response to this, but I need to put in my two cents’ worth as well.

Free speech is one of the most important rights that a citizen can have. Any attempt to suppress it is a political act. It’s true that most democratic nations have placed some prudent limitations on some forms of speech, such as inciting crimes, hate speech against minorities, slander and libel. But citizens must remain able to challenge any and all of the cultural and political assumptions, issues, policies, processes, parties, and powerful individuals in their society. And to ensure this, limitations should not be placed on speech because it is offensive, or satirical, or speculative, or obscene, or even violent.

Satire, in particular, has a long history of using violent images to make its points. And satire is a mode of speech that is open to anyone, not just professional comics and satirists. The use of violent imagery in satire does not mean that a real threat is being made. Emotional utterances are another area in which people use a lot of violent imagery that has no literal intent. Again, just saying something violent doesn’t mean you are going to do it, or even that you really want to do it.

For instance, I could make a satirical comment about George W. Bush being too arrogantly sure that he is doing God’s will and under God’s protection to bother getting out of the way of a deadly plague of locusts. Does this mean that I, personally, am planning on making this happen, or even that I want to see harm come to him?

I could write a play about George W. Bush waking up one day and finding himself transformed into a pregnant women, and cover in great detail the agonising process of trying to find an abortion and failing, only to end up bleeding to death on a back-street abortionist’s table. Does that mean I really want to see that happen?

Or I could create an animation in which George W. Bush can be made to walk into a toxic waste dump and die choking on the chemical fumes while all the birds and animals harmed by his environmental policies express their hopes that a new President will do something to let them live. Does that mean I want him to die a slow and painful death?

I might blurt out in the heat of anger or frustration that often surrounds intense political debate, that the world would be much better off if George W. Bush were dead, or even that he deserves to die because of all the Afghani and Iraqi civilians murdered in his wars. Does that mean that I want the man dead, much less that I plan to kill him myself?

I have the right to be offensive. I have the right to think about violent acts, and to speak about them. It may well be impolite and inconsiderate and even counter-productive to utter offensive and violent speech, but unless it’s coupled with immediate threat of bodily harm, it’s still just speech and it’s my right to utter it. And it’s a lot less offensive than sending armies to kill innocents, or wilfully turning a blind eye to policies that ravage the environment.

What I - or anyone - do not have is a right to commit violence, or incite someone else to. And if a government cannot understand the distinction between the act of speech and the act of violence, if it tries to limit speech about a public figure, no matter how offensive or violent that speech may be, that would be an act of political repression, no matter how nice and polite the brown-shirted thugs in their government-issue camouflage suits are when they arrive at the door.

And that is what bothers me, not just about what happened to [ profile] anniesj, but also about the tone of her response to it. [ profile] anniesj was silenced, and unless we fight that silencing, it could happen to anyone else. The lesson I take from what happened to her is not to be cautious about what I say, lest someone think it is offensive or threatening and call down the dogs of thoughtcrime upon me, but rather to struggle for the right of everyone to speak in freedom.

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
-Pastor Martin Niemöller

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