Pondering the South African Memesphere – Looking for the Good in Everything header image 2

Is CMI Scientifically Illiterate? (3 of 12)

October 2nd, 2007 · Posted by Who Knows? · 10 Comments

Gary Bates spent three hours talking about “science”, using “science” to pull the wool over his sheep’s eyes. When I asked him “what is science?”, the best he could come up with, was “nobody really knows”. Yes, nobody knows, that’s what he said. I asked the whole “panel” at the seminar, “please tell me what your understanding of science is”. Not the ultimate definition, not highly philosophic discussions, just their understanding. There were no takers. None. Zip. I know philosophers have speculated about what is and what is not science, but that is not the point. The scientific method is quite clear. (Go read about Karl Popper, if you can’t wait until my next post.)

Gary Bates quote mines Carl Sagan (and many other people, of course). I wonder if he has read any of Carl Sagan’s books? It didn’t sound like it. I practically begged him to read just the first two chapters of Carl Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World (Amazon, Kalahari). He explains science beautifully. Of course, I wish he would also read the next seven or eight chapters, as it deals with the exact same subject matter as Bates’ own Alien Intrusion (Amazon, Kalahari), except, from a scientific perspective (and without the altar call at the end, of course). I find it shocking and unforgivable that someone could write a book on that subject matter without having read The Demon-Haunted World, but maybe that’s just me.

With no tertiary education (and secondary education generally not being what it should ideally be), it unfortunately comes as no surprise that Bates does not know what science is. I would not be surprised if 99% of humanity does not know. School mostly teaches things that science has discovered. This is useful and important, but it is so much more important to explain science itself, the scientific method, the role of falsifiability, the ability to think critically, the answer to the very difficult question, “how can we know stuff?”

A friend pointed out that the majority of Bates’ audience probably knows more about science than Bates does, and yet, they listen uncritically to Bates and accepts everything he has to say, no questions asked.

With contemporary media what it is, the marketing departments are running our lives for us. “The Secret” currently tops’s best-sellers list. Our lives are increasingly dependent upon science and advanced technology. There is no going back. Scientific literacy is becoming one of the most, most important things every human should have.

Please, please read this Slate article on “The Secret”. It is humorous, a fun read, and something all of us should be able to agree on. Except Oprah worshippers, maybe. Discuss, understand and laugh at the quote-mining in “The Secret” and the silliness of its assertions. Done that? Great. Now, stop looking at the splinters in your neighbours’ eyes.

In this series: previous post | first post

Categories: Religion and Science
Tags: · ·

10 responses so far ↓

  • 1 gloep // Oct 2, 2007 at 3:12 pm

    But she did get a nice-looking kitchen floor in the end…

  • 2 Zach // Oct 2, 2007 at 3:50 pm

    Don’t even get me started on ‘The Secret’. I already tried to use that article on someone near and dear to me. To no avail.
    People will believe what they want to believe, and sod the science. These memes are air-tight. But I admire your dedication.

  • 3 Dirk // Oct 3, 2007 at 2:38 pm

    Quite obviously this guy is a moneymaker. Even without any of you mentioning it anywhere, I knew he comes from the USA.

    Not all charismatics are fruitcakes….

  • 4 Hugo // Oct 3, 2007 at 3:38 pm

    Sorry, no. He’s from Australia, but nice try. 😉

    And yes, of course not all charismatics are fruitcakes. (What do you define as a charismatic?)

  • 5 Kevin // Oct 5, 2007 at 9:32 am

    For a list of slightly more credible creationists, see the list here:

    Atleast 2 of them have Stellenbosch degrees:
    Dr. James S. Allen (Genetics)
    Dr. Walter J. Veith (Zoology)

    Both have authored books on creationism as a science.

    As for The Secret, I’ve respectably declined every offer or opportunity I’ve had to see it… So I don’t really know what it’s all about except for getting a lot of things for free (the stupidity! the stupidity!).

  • 6 Johan Kruger // Oct 12, 2007 at 10:54 am

    Hugo, a few one-time remarks re. the CMI creation seminar in Stellenbosch.

    We all know humility goes a long way, so a memory refresher might help.

    ‘No surprise that Bates does not know what science is’

    Experimental science or evolutionary ‘science’? CMI staff quite familiar with both, understands the difference, etc. (see ‘Who’s really pushing ‘bad science?’

    ‘I would not be surprised if 99% of humanity does not know.’

    Implying that you are one of the one per cent fortunate enough to know, Hugo?

    ‘A friend pointed out that the majority of Bates’ audience probably knows more about science than Bates does, and yet, they listen uncritically to Bates and accepts everything he has to say, no questions asked.’ ‘Fear to think for themselves: this is so rampant, it’s scary’. ‘The recordings I have of the seminar, makes me cry.’

    Fear to think for themselves? That a fact? You should try humility, Hugo. It really does go a long way. Anyway, the majority of thinking students as well as members of the public who BY THEIR OWN FREE CHOICE came that morning, were very excited (‘the knowledge of the truth really sets one free’—John 8:32). Most of them visited the book tables WILLINGLY during the breaks, OF THEIR OWN ACCORD exchange money to purchase CMI resources, spoke to us WITHOUT FEAR and READILY asked questions, and VOLUNTARILY stayed right up to the end.

    ‘You can keep an eye on my blog, I hope to cover a bunch of stuff, [Its going to take a long time to transcribe] and I hope my memory doesn’t fail me. My time is unfortunately a little lacking at the moment.’

    We trust that (unlike Johan Swarts’ botched up recollection) your memory will not fail you, and with great anticipation (and video footage of the seminar in hand) we’ll be watching and waiting to critically review the comments on your blog! By the way, time waits for no man so FWIW, an encouragement re. your thesis; to be diligent, to give yourself wholly to it, so that your progress may be revealed to all (1 Timothy 4:15).

    ‘The seminar is not at ALL convincing, in ANY way.’

    Hugo’s solitary opinion—just one of many? Toss a stone among a pack of wolves and the one making the biggest racket usually the one who was hit!

    ‘What it is, though, is easy answers, from a supposed “authority figure”, who seems to believe what they are trying to, and blabbers on about science, so he makes it sound like everything fits together, and the answers are easy and straightforward.’

    Not by a long shot, but we have more answers available now than then and (since ‘nothing … make sense … in the light of evolution’), the big picture in God’s Word does make perfect sense. In fact, it connects to the real world (also) of history, biology, geology, astronomy, etc. and in spite of all the jabber going on, the Bible is trustworthy and one can stake ones life and eternal future on it. In fact, if you (or anyone else) are willing to do God’s will, you will know whether Jesus’ teaching is from God or whether He spoke on His own authority (John 7:17).

    Finally, to your credit, on more than one occasion, you apologised that morning to Gary and others for being disrespectful. You’ll recall that afterwards you even asked some of the CMI guys in the cafeteria if they thought you were rude. However, from several less than honest subsequent statements on your blog, one wonders if you really meant it. So, can folk really trust ANYTHING you say on your blog?

    Btw, we’re still waiting for you guys to give us that ‘knock-out’ evidence which convinced you to abandon your God-given common sense for the just-so-stories of evolutionary ‘science’.

  • 7 Hugo // Oct 12, 2007 at 12:02 pm

    Welcome, Johan Kruger.

    Yes, I apologised for one of my comments. It was a snide remark, it was delivered in a disrespectful way. (My comment was in response to a mention of one of the scientists in the organisation being a “Botanist, specialising in exotic fruit”. My comment was highly sarcastic: “So he’d know a lot about the age of the earth.” That was indeed not the best way to go about it, but my frustration just got the better of me. The point being: it’s not about having “scientist” in your title. That appeal to authority does not mean much. I still apologise about that comment.)

    “Implying that you are one of the one per cent fortunate enough to know, Hugo?”

    Indeed. I am very fortunate and very blessed to have been able to have a good tertiary education, a post-graduate education in fact. Not many people are so fortunate. Less than 1%… I also am fortunate to have the opportunity to read books such as Carl Sagan’s “The Demon-Haunted World”, which explains science very well. I really do not blame Bates for “not knowing what science is”, there is indeed rampant scientific illiteracy in the world, unfortunately. This is not a matter of pride or lack of humility: I am saddened by this fact. This sadness moves me. I am trying to figure out how we can promote scientific literacy.

    My question with regards to CMI’s scientific literacy is based on the fact that no one at the seminar, given to a group of university students, could even tell me their understanding of science. Not *the one and only definition* of science, purely and honestly trying to find out what your understanding of “science” is. I was saddened by not one single attempt even, at answering my question.

    I am glad to see you seem to follow e.g. Prometheus Unbound, from where you quote some of my comments. Those comments are stated rather more strongly. My opinions do shift with time. Listening to the recordings I have, had the effect of making me more upset, less calm. (I’m allowed to make recordings, that’s fair-use, right? But I’m not allowed to put them on the ‘net, that would be copyright violation, right?)

    Yes, I am giving my opinion in many places. I hope that can go without saying, though I guess I should probably add “I think” and “it is my opinion that” more often?

    With regards to “knock-out evidence”, I will try to get to that when I have the chance to do so thoroughly (meaning I first need to do more research and make the knowledge “my own”). What I have explained in my “What is Science” post though, is that science can never *prove* theories, it can only *disprove* theories.

    At the moment, “evolutionary science” is the only scientific theory that is still standing, that I know of. I think Bates admitted that Creationism is religion, not science? Young Earth Creationism can not be considered scientific until there is some way of “falsifying” it, sincere but failed attempts to prove it wrong. (As far as I know, I believe young earth creationism to already have been proved wrong? Dunno…)

    I do hope you will follow and critically review my posts, when I get around to them. There are a number of things I would like to discuss, some significant concerns I have about the approach to the subject matter. Hopefully we can solve some of the issues together.

    If the invitation is still standing, I will still come visit your organisation in Durbanville, probably some time next year.

    Thanks for the feedback!

  • 8 Johan Kruger // Oct 12, 2007 at 12:21 pm

    The invitation still stands, Hugo. And you have the map on the back of my ministry card.

  • 9 gerhard // Nov 21, 2007 at 12:49 pm

    johan kruger:

    Experimental science or evolutionary ‘science’? CMI staff quite familiar with both, understands the difference, etc. (see ‘Who’s really pushing ‘bad science?’

    oh come on.
    the main argument against evolution is that new added information hasnt been observed ? come now, this isnt even true. look for beneficial mutation , a specific example of information addition would be when bacteria becomes penicillin-resistant. you can actually compare genetic code before and after on this one 🙂

  • 10 Ad Hominem: Playing the Player // Dec 19, 2007 at 9:45 am

    […] was by Johan Kruger. He is a member of Creation Ministries International. He wrote the following in his first comment on my blog: However, from several less than honest subsequent statements on your blog, one wonders if you […]

Leave a Comment

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>