Punching bags

I really don’t read Neil’s blog very often. I usually scoot over there for a peak when I’m writing a post for FTSOS and I need to reference an old post. Those old posts often have links back to Neil’s and so I take a glance. And what do I see every time? Something wildly wrong:

The explicit reason for both the junk DNA error and the vestigial organs error was the need to find evidence for Darwinism in the form of stuff in life forms that doesn’t work. Without that need, these errors would not have been made. For many kids, mid-twentieth century, it was an error that resulted in needless, risky surgeries, removing supposedly vestigial tonsils and adenoids.

Neil is quoting from Uncommon Descent, a creationist blog that demonstrates the same understanding of biology as Neil has – none. That’s why this is such an easy one.

First, most DNA still is junk, i.e., non-coding and without use. It’s largely unneeded and has no developmental use or phenotypic effect. What was once labeled “junk” may have regulatory business to go about, but that is not the majority of DNA. Deal with it, creationists.

Second, I can’t believe creationists are still confused about vestigial structures. It was never the argument that these structures used to have a function and now they don’t. The argument was – and is – that they evolved to have a particular function, but they have since lost that function. They may well have been co-opted into having other uses, but that is not important to whether or not they are vestigial. Uncommon Descent and Neil ought to be hugely embarrassed.

Third and finally, tonsils were historically taken out for a number of reasons. One reason has to do with the availability of medicine to treat inflammation. It wasn’t until the middle of the previous century that penicillin and erythromycin were put into wide-spread use. Without that treatment option, surgery was a very viable solution. Second, improvements in surgical techniques plus the 19th century discovery of anesthesia made surgery that much easier. Third, long-term statistics were not particularly available concerning the effectiveness of the surgery. It was clear that it improved a person’s well being in the short-term as far as inflammation and soar throats were concerned, but beyond that it was a bit of a mystery. What was clear was that it did not pose significant long-term risks. Finally, the practice of removing one’s tonsils dates back approximately 2800 years prior to Darwin. The procedure is not based upon evolutionary thinking, nor was it ever utilized in an attempt to justify any claims about the vestigial nature of tonsils.

This is getting to be too easy.

Apparently I’m a conservative

I know, I know. I had no idea either, but as it turns out I’m apparently a conservative. I discovered this fact about myself when I did one of my periodic checks of Without Apology. As many of you will know, it is the online version of a publication I produced primarily from the fall of ’09 to the spring of ’10. I also created a version earlier this year in which I featured an article by Michael Hartwell titled “Why Buying Local Doesn’t Work”. As the title indicates, it is an economics piece about the “buy local” movement. I had in the past called the movement reasonable, but Michael’s piece actually convinced me otherwise. That doesn’t mean I would refuse to buy locally produced items – I’m going to buy what appeals to me – but I certainly will not buy any local items for the sake of helping the local economy. (Furthermore, in the piece where I called the movement reasonable, the author to whom I was referring indicated that local farmers especially use antibiotics responsibly. That isn’t particularly true. Perhaps they are responsible, but so are millions of other farmers around the nation.)

But back to my personal discovery. When doing my check on the FTSOS sister site, I noticed a pingback from a Marc Levy concerning Michael’s article:

There’s an essay making the rounds about “Why buying local doesn’t work” that might give the buy-local fans in Cambridge and Somerville pause — right up until they finish reading the essay and think, as I did, “That’s it?”

Because it was posted on a sober-looking site and written in a sprightly but informed manner by someone obviously conversant with current and historical economics, I read the piece expecting to come out of it with my beliefs shaken, looking for reassurance. But my dread was unfulfilled. There’s something a little off about the piece, and it only seemed a little more off when I followed the author’s name from the essay, which was reposted on a blog curiously named “Without Apology,” to his own site, the even more eyebrow-raisingly named “Young, Hip and Conservative: A Skeptical Blog.” Both do that thing where conservatives boldly assert their bold conservativeness, which is actually a form of assuming the role of victim before anyone has attacked. Who is asking Michael Hawkins for an apology? Who said Michael Hartwell was gullible? It also seems a bit gauche to declare yourself hip.

Emphasis mine.

It’s one thing for me to discover at this age that I’m actually a conservative, but it’s a real mind-blower to find out that I’m a bold conservative. I don’t know what to do with myself.

Oh wait. That’s right. This is just a case of someone not doing his homework. But that isn’t the worst of Levy. In response to an analogy Michael made between creationists and localists, Levy tosses out this assemblage of words:

The problem with Hartwell’s comparison of economics to biology by way of rejecting creationism is that creationist theory relies on a supreme being, and there is no god in even moderately serious economics — unless you include the god conservatives themselves seem to keep praying will make supply-side economics work the next time around, even though it never has before. If that doesn’t take faith, I don’t know what does, although applying it that way also comes parlously (sic) close to the definition of insanity being “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” But that’s economics for you.

If there’s one thing anyone should know about the Internet it’s that nobody is willing to accept anyone else’s analogies. The most common tactic of rejection is to draw distinctions within the actual subject to show that the analogy is invalid – and that is correct and proper. But another tactic is to take the analogy beyond its intentions and show where it fails. And of course it will eventually fail. Analogies are only designed to go so far. In this case, Michael’s analogy was to compare the ignorance of creationists to the ignorance of localists. But then Levy dons either his dunce hat or troll mask – I really can’t tell – and mangles the whole thing, bumbling his way into a failed stock retort involving deities and faith.

I’ll let Michael respond to the rest. (He could really just copy and paste much of what he has already written since Levy doesn’t seem to take much of it into account in his reply.) I just wanted to make sure that everyone knew – most of all myself – that I’m apparently a conservative. May the Lord bless Reagan’s dear soul, may FDR continue to burn in hell, and let it be known that FOX News is totally fair and balanced.