Thursday, July 24, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Lies, Laundered Lies, Errors and Untruths

Sometimes lies can be laundered just like money.

Lies, Laundered Lies, Errors and Untruths

I noticed in watching the documentary “A Flock of Dodos” for a second time last week that many of the intelligent design supporters were telling untruths and passing off the blame.  When filmmaker Randy Olson suggests to one confident IDer that there are, in fact, some transitional fossils she replies with something like, “not according to the information I received.” Another is flummoxed that inaccurate embryology from the 1800s isn’t used in most modern biology textbooks. That’s what he was told.

It’s as if these lies get laundered the more they’re repeated, so those who parrot them can dodge responsibility.

Here are some other interesting bits of "science" you probably won’t learn about in school. A reader sent this as part of a longer email last week:   

So what’s the harm in learning or reading about testable results revealing radioactive decay is not  constant, but has accelerated over time (bad for an old earth); or finding 80 million year old rotting dinosaurs with DNA:, observing mature stars farther out in the universe (bad for big bang), birds always being birds in geologic ‘times’, etc….

All these efforts to exclude scientific discussions in classrooms from people of another persuasion (who are not teaching their faith) are another form of discrimination. It is in the same tired exclusionary canard in the vein such as woman can’t learn or teach math, or men can’t walk or chew gum at the same time, or white man can’t jump (ok, maybe this one is true).

I’m taking on just one of these but please feel free to go for one of the others. I once covered cosmology for the journal Science and I remember when there was a controversy because the age of the universe was estimated to be between 8 billion and 16 billion years, and at the same time some of the oldest stars appeared to have been burning for more than 8 billion years.

So what should scientists do? A) Throw up their hands and add supernatural entities to make everything work? Or B) Keep up the observations?

The scientists decided to keep working. They’ve subsequently arrived at an estimated 13.75 billion years for the age of the universe. That’s old enough to account for the oldest stars.

Here’s an error/distortion I pulled out of my comments section:

“It took me another three seconds to find that Faye has not looked like that picture above for about ten years.”

I thought I should address the ugly insinuation that I’m dishonest because I’ve failed to disclose that I’ve somehow morphed into a hideous monster since my headshot was taken.

The picture was taken between four and five years ago. I don’t see how I could have “not looked like that for 10 years” unless some superluminal neutrinos are involved. Google Images does bring up some pictures of people who are not me, including Rush Limbaugh, Jack Szostak, Higgs (the cat) and some weird-looking bald dude.   

Just to prove I have not morphed into any of those people or cats, I’ve included a picture of me that was taken last Thursday. I’m performing on the aerial silks with the Give-and-Take-Jugglers in front of 30th street station around 5 pm.

About this blog
Faye Flam - writer
In pursuit of her stories, writer Faye Flam has weathered storms in Greenland, gotten frost nip at the South Pole, and floated weightless aboard NASA’s zero-g plane. She has a degree in geophysics from the California Institute of Technology and started her writing career with the Economist. She later took on the particle physics and cosmology beat at Science Magazine before coming to the Inquirer in 1995. Her previous science column, “Carnal Knowledge,” ran from 2005 to 2008. Her new column and blog, Planet of the Apes, explores the topic of evolution and runs here and in the Inquirer’s health section each Monday. Email Faye at fflam@phillynews.com. Reach Planet of the at fflam@phillynews.com.

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