Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Breathtaking Inanity of Joe Loconte

Whenever NPR needs a reliably ignorant voice from the Religious Right, they turn to their man at the Heritage Foundation, Joe Loconte. His most recent contribution, Intelligent Design Has a Place in the Classroom, is typical.

Contains No Original Ideas: Loconte's main argument just echoes the testimony of Michael Behe at Dover, saying that intelligent design today is just like the Big Bang 70 years ago: originally resisted by scientists because of its religious implications, then ultimately accepted because of the evidence.

Repeats Platitudes Uncritically: In echoing Behe, Loconte didn't bother to investigate whether Behe's claims were true. Is the Big Bang really like intelligent design?

Not really. The Big Bang theory is supported by multiple, independent lines of evidence: the cosmic background radiation, Olbers' paradox, Hubble's law, isotropy, deuterium and lithium isotope abundance, etc. In turn, these lines of evidence are supported by dozens of scientific papers published in the peer-reviewed literature. Intelligent design, on the other hand, is not supported by any papers in the peer-reviewed literature.

Furthermore, many of the arguments against the claims of intelligent design are scientific. In my own contribution to Why Intelligent Design Fails, for example, I focus on the mathematical mistakes of William Dembski. There's nothing in my contribution about the "religious implications".

Another way the Big Bang history differs from intelligent design is the hype behind the latter. Those advocating the Big Bang didn't hire public relations firms, or demand to get their theory included in high school physics textbooks. Instead, they concentrated on finding evidence to support their hypothesis.

Makes False Statements: Loconte says "the court ruling in the Dover case claims that the question of intelligent design is settled". Only someone who didn't read the ruling carefully could make that claim. The judge did not say the question was settled. On page 137, Judge Jones says "Nor do we controvert that ID should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed." On page 64, Jones admits that "ID arguments may be true". What the judge did find was that intelligent design was not science, a conclusion he supported with abundant evidence presented at the trial. How can Loconte miss such an obvious point? Is it stupidity, or willful blindness?

Doesn't Understand the Issues: Loconte says he's not a physicist. Well, that's a relief. It explains why Loconte doesn't seem to understand that the existence of a cosmological constant could still allow an expanding universe; the crucial thing is the magnitude of the constant. He derides the cosmological constant as Einstein's mistake, but doesn't seem to understand that its existence is still an active subject of study and debate. Loconte laughs at the description of intelligent design as "the progeny of creationism", without noticing the pages and pages of trial transcript that established exactly that.

All in all, it's more breathtaking inanity from Loconte. Why does NPR continue to give him air time?


Theophylact said...

Yeah, I thought I'd burst a blood vessel when I heard this idiot present the "other side" on NPR last night...

Anonymous said...

Speaking of right-wingers who haven't read the decision, I love how judge Jones preempted the "activist judge" claim. Apparently John West didn't read the decision before spouting off, because those were nearly the first words out of his mouth.

Unknown said...

All in all, it's more breathtaking inanity from Loconte. Why does NPR continue to give him air time?

Because it's an example of the bogus meme of "balanced media" that has infiltrated journalism at all levels.

Like scientific research, having a genuinely balanced story would mean that you study the facts, eliminate the falsehoods, and present papers full of those parts of your findings which are actually true.

But in the era of Fox News, "balance" means that you must present "both sides" of every story without making a value judgement. Even if the people representing the other side of an issue are clueless yahoos who don't read, they get their day in the sun, and they are placed on equal footing with the people who know what they are talking about.

This, of course, is the same meme that lets the ID advocates get away with pretending that they're just trying to "teach the strengths and weaknesses of evolution."

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Laconte's biggest untruth on his NPR commentary was his claim that he is "not a fundamentalist".

Anonymous said...

I think it also needs to be noted that guys like Gamow, Alpher, etc. didn't go around petitioning local school boards to adopt the "Big-Bang" model and that the "Big-Bang" model's first major scientific publication wasn't a Grade 9 textbook.

Anonymous said...

What bothers me about Loconte is NPR. They should know better. I need to check my history but I thought Einstein made use of the cosmological constant before the Big Bang. Mr. Loconte, at least upon my hearing, seemed to join the two. What a horrible mish-mash and all in the name, I assume of balance or perhaps of NPR being "out there" when we don't want or need balance but merely the facts. Thanks for your blog. I've enjoyed your work on TPT immensely and look forward to more of it here. I was touched by the Chinese candidate's personal statement and am glad you posted it.

Best wishes.

Tice with a J said...

I couldn't agree more. I commend NPR's dedication to showing all sides of the issue, but Mr. Loconte was a waste of airtime. His comparison was simply invalid. One thing he forgot to mention is that the Big Bang doesn't really have religious implications anymore. In fact, studies of the Big Bang have lead the eminent Stephen Hawking to wonder if the universe is actually a self-creating entity, with no need for an outside persona to get things rolling.

I'm a Christian, but I don't look for God in scientific theories, and I wish Joe Loconte wouldn't either.

Anonymous said...

I heard the broadcast too and was really puzzled at his stupidity.

The funny thing is that the Big Bang has much more in common with evolution than ID. Both were derided for years by scientists until so much evidence was compiled it swayed the community. Both make verifiable claims and testable hypotheses. Niether were foisted upon children before they passed the scientific smell test as well.

If ID is correct, the ID apologists are going to have to display quite a bit more ....intelligence.... to bring it to scientific status.

Anonymous said...

I think he gets airtime because NPR along with other public media is under pressure to be 'balanced'.

Anonymous said...

I haven't heard the piece, but perhaps NPR is responding to complaints that they 'only represent left-wing views' by giving airtime to the most cretinous self-parody of a wingnut they could find.
And/or they figured their core audience would love to hate him.

Anonymous said...

I was looking for a way to fire off a letter to Joe Loconte this evening based on another poorly reasoned argument he presented this evening and I stumbled here.

Glad to know I'm not the only one that has been left dismayed and frustrated by this guy.

Anonymous said...

Wow, you people are really out on a limb. How in the world can you begin to separate God from the earth? Those of you who claim to be Christians and then shut God out of the creation process puzzle me. If you are a Christian, then I assume you read the bible. If you read and believe the bible, then you must know of how many references to God forming not only the universe, but also humans and all life forms. Joe Loconte is spot on. The Big Bang cannot be proven. Was anyone there when "it" happened? If random particles smashed together and created all that we see, who made those particles? They had to have come from somewhere. But you left-wingers refuse to consider you might be wrong, so I don't even know why I bother with you.

Jeffrey Shallit said...

Congratulations, Anonymous, you manage to display igorance in a variety of ways.

1. Not everyone is a Christian.

2. Not every Christian believes the Bible literally.

3. Being "left wing" has nothing to do with accepting the overwhelming scientific evidence for the Big Bang.

4. Ascribing the Big Bang to "God" explains nothing, since you haven't accounted for where your "God" comes from.