How the Reporter Evolved Its Silliness
When it comes to evolutionary stories, reporters have a knack for propounding the silliest notions about human origins. This tendency is evident in several recent science news stories about early man propounding, with nary a blush, outlandish claims with little evidence – or no evidence whatsoever.
- Alien attack: Live Science entered the ruckus about aliens coming to punish us for global warming (see 08/18/2011) by headlining, “New Report: Aliens Will Fix Global Warming … Or Kill Us.” (This is in stark contrast to Michael Crichton’s satire, “Aliens Cause Global Warming” – see 12/27/2003.) Reporter Natalie Wolchover quoted astrobiologist Jacok Haqq-Misra (Penn State), a self-proclaimed expert in “alien sociology” [—Editor flash: no aliens have ever been detected—] saying, “The bottom line is, if there are intelligent civilizations out there, they pretty much have to have figured out how to grow in a sustainable way. We’re not doing that, and [other civilizations] might make some moral judgment on how we’re managing our resources.” But what if the aliens think it immoral to punish the poor by taking away their access to cheap energy? What if they make a moral judgment that people should employ more critical thinking about scientific claims? Misra assumes the aliens are politically leftist ideologues. How does he know they are not libertarians, who might come to punish the globalists for their elitism?
- Evolution of Julia Child: Sporting artwork of a black naked Homo erectus (appropriately shadowed), Jennifer Walsh told readers on Live Science about the evolution of cooking – based on what? a tooth. “Our ancient human ancestors may have put us on track toward meals a la Julia Child as long ago as 1.9 million years, according to new evidence that extinct hominids were cooking and processing their food,” she wrote, adding in jest, “The finding may also explain modern humans’ small teeth and guts (for some of us).” What evidence did she refer to? a claimed “dramatic shift in tooth size” in H. erectus, claimed by an anthropologist at Harvard, that must have meant our ancestors discovered the joys of barbecuing meat. But is this the whole truth about the tooth? Bless her heart, Walsh did include some contradictory opinions (by other evolutionists) wondering where the fossil kitchens are, but not whether the artwork might be considered racist and sexist.
- Exciting news: When the headline announces an “Exciting discovery about the origin of humans,” who rates the excitement level? PhysOrg reported on another phylogenetic study by researchers at the University of Uppsala that compared genetic regulatory elements between humans, mice, cows and fish. Based on a few genes, they made broad sweeping generalizations about three mythical periods of “innovation” that made us what we are today. So astonishing are their powers of genetic divination, the press release said, “these researchers were able to discern general patterns in what led to the emergence of new life forms in different time periods.” Not only that, “They have also found what lies behind the evolution of the complexity and diversity of mammals.” Trouble is, they did not explain how changes in the regulatory genes could produce an elephant trunk, a mouse tail, a whale’s sonar, or a rocket scientist’s brain. They merely read back into the data those traits that they assumed evolution somehow produced. This is known as circular reasoning.
Live Science tried some partial penance for winning Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week by re-posting its slide show, “Top 10 Things that Make Humans Special.” The Editor explained, “This is Part 2 in a 10-part LiveScience series on the origin, evolution and future of the human species and the mysteries that remain to be solved.” The brash assertions might tend to undo the penance, but he was right about the mysteries that remain; all ten are mysterious, with blanks in the evolutionary explanation filled in by just-so stories and unquestioned assertions that all ten unique traits evolved, somehow.
What foolish myths Charles Darwin launched when he let the storytellers into the science lab (12/22/2003 commentary). Do your duty; laugh harder. Number 8 in Live Science’s Top 10 list is blushing – something that would do a Darwinist good.