The Real Ghostbusters
Once my friend Amy tired of my skepticism about some paranormal flim-flam artist to whom she imputed genuine pyschic ability. "You just can't accept things that you can't understand," Amy said.
No, I told her, SHE just can't accept things that she can't understand--that's why she has to see the mysterious as mystical. Nothing satisfies like a good debunking, and these guys are good. The Times reports that the World Skeptics Congress convenes tomorrow in Burbank.
The Moth and the Mapmaker
Another article reports that a popular illustration of evolution at work is in fact a phony. The changing hues of the peppered moth are not being caused by the convenient natural selection scenario published in textbooks. The news is said by the Times to be evoking "jubilation in the camp of creationists." Really, though, the news points to the strength of science--that it is willing to debunk itself. That's the scientific method at work.
The truly phony argument is that overturning a single putative example of evolution pushes us all straight back toward creationism--as if that sad pseudoscience was open to serious review and capable of withstanding even cursory scrutiny. The big lie is that if we could just somehow undo Darwin, we'd be back to Genesis.
A book I'm reading underscores that fact. The Map That Changed the World tells how William Smith created the first geological map of England (and the first such map in the world) in the early 19th century. His detailed picture of rock strata-- the layering of marl and chalk and oolite and other mineral matter underfoot--had huge practical applications for mining and industry, but it was also a profound challenge to the orthodoxy of Biblical creation.
Evolutionary theory is a lot bigger than a single overrated moth, or even Charles Darwin. It's as solid as the rocks beneath us and as clear as one of Smith's maps.