Acute cartoon

By Phil Plait | May 12, 2010 2:30 pm

frazz_may112010Today’s Frazz comic is a good one. Of course, we all know that science isn’t faith-based, right? Right?

Also, the adult in the comic isn’t precisely right anyway. Sure, in flat Euclidean space geometry he has a point…

Tip o’ the frustum to Sara Davis.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Humor, Religion, Science, Skepticism

Comments (41)

  1. Matt T

    Technically, the link is to yesterday’s comic, but today’s follows the storyline and is just as good.

  2. Jon Hanford

    “Of course, we all know that science isn’t faith-based, right?”

    Maybe on this blog, but most of the comments below the comic do not share this view.

    “Christians have been given the dominion mandate which encourages science and exploration, not the straw man argument you propose that they put God in where no other answer fits. God is put in exactly where he belongs, as the start of it all, the necessary being, without which there could be no answers. For those like Imbaldeagle looking for answers, try websites like Answers in Genesis, Creation Ministries International, or the Institute for Creation Research.”

  3. Billy Bob

    Yeah, I like that.
    “Questioning authority isn’t as fun as shouting it down. “

  4. Yeah, but does it hold true in non-Euclidean geometry?

  5. Russell

    Yeah, but Omega_m + Omega_rad + Omega_vac = 1, right? So k = 0, so no big deal, right? So flat geometries are no problem… or do you need a 4-d brain to really know?

  6. @JerryCritter, yes, there are proofs of Pythagorean theorem which do not depend upon Euclid’s 4th postulate. The theorem which doesn’t hold true in the absence of Euclid’s 4th is that the sum of the angles of a triangle equal 180 degrees ….

  7. Someone needs to explain what they mean by it’s not true for Non-Euclidean Geometry. Because my whole world may be tilting off its axis if something so basic isn’t true. OK. Maybe not exactly tilting, more slightly skewed….
    Or maybe I’m just curious. I tried to look it up, but apparently I didn’t find a simple enough version because I still don’t get it.

  8. Quoting from the linked article http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2008/02/18/is-science-faith-based/

    “The scientific method makes one assumption, and one assumption only: the Universe obeys a set of rules. That’s it.”

    Feynman made a point about this somewhere (and I can’t put my hands on the source, maybe in the Lectures). We don’t assume that there is a set of rules. We conclude that there is, from what we actually observe. That the universe is regular is interesting, and it did not have to be so.

  9. Pffft! Shameless rip-off of Calvin & Hobbes.

    Spaceman Spiff rules!

  10. Mike

    I do think that science is based on faith, but that it isn’t a necessarily bad thing. I recently read Einstein’s “Religion and Science” editorial, where he eloquently states:

    [S]cience can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding. This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion. To this there also belongs the faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is, comprehensible to reason. I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith.

    Creationism? No.
    Faith in science, even in the slightest? I think there is a good argument for it.

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/aor/einstein/einsci.htm

  11. davery

    @non-believer:

    I’m gonna assume you are in earnest here and give the short (and admitedly non-scientific) explanation. The equation in the comic above is “true” as long as you’re dealing with 2 dimensional shapes (i.e., Euclidean geometry) – standard points, lines, triangles, circles that can be readily drawn on a piece of paper (2 dimensions). Basically your average high-school geometry class: a^2 + b^2 = C^2, sum of the angles = 180 degrees, etc.

    Once you venture into three dimensions and beyond (non-Euclidean geometry), some of the postulates and identities you learn in “basic” geometry are not necessarily true anymore. For example, you can propose a triangle shape in three dimensions where the “lines” connecting the points of the triangle all arc upward from the starting point downward to the ending point, warping the basic “tennants” of a triangle.

    At least that is my understanding of it.

  12. Steeev

    @non-believer:

    A nice simple example of non-Euclidean geometry is to picture a triangle drawn on a sphere. Let’s say you are drawing a picture on a globe of the Earth (no, don’t try it or you will get in big trouble). Draw a straight line from the equator up to the north pole. Make a 90 degree turn, and draw another line straight down to the equator. Now connect that point with the starting point.

    Tada! You have just made a (non-Euclidean) triangle with three right angles, and each side of equal length.

    At least I think that is how it works. It’s been a while.

  13. Daniel J. Andrews

    I’d say the artist has been inspired by, and is drawing (pun unintended) heavily upon, Calvin and Hobbes. In fact, I thought it was a Calvin and Hobbes comic at first.

    Just checked online…the scuttlebutt is that Mallett is Watterson although Mallett denies it. The artistic style is very very similar.

  14. Steve in Dublin

    davery, hi,

    That’ll do. Good explanation (though I think you meant ‘tenets’).

    From the cartoon:

    “If I don’t understand or agree with it, it’s an opinion.”

    This! Perfectly sums up the anti-science viewpoint.

  15. @davery_Says @ Non-Believer Noneuclidean has to do with whether parallel lines intersect and/or whether they exist at all. Spherical Geometry (SG) ascertains that parallel lines can and do intersect and Hyperbolic Geometry (HG) posits that parallel lines don’t exist at all. Hyperbolic Geometry was the basis for the mathematics of Einstein’s General theory of Relativity as well as playing an important role in several popular String Theories. Lines in SG are represented as “great circles” and as various hyperbolic curves in (HG) as the name implies. For the most part multidimensional topology is conducted in euclidean space denoted as E^n where n represents the number of dimensions. Here on good old Earth topology in E^3 works just fine it’s only at much larger distances that the curvature of space really comes into play.

  16. Steve in Dublin

    @Jon Hanford #2

    Maybe on this blog, but most of the comments below the comic do not share this view.

    Yes, disheartening, isn’t it. Most of the commenters are right in there with the religion bit, completely off topic. It gets progressively worse as the comments go on. It’s like they know they are wrong, but it’s: “I know that somehow this cartoon is dissing MY religion. But I’m not going to even think about what the author is trying to say. Rather, here’s the stock thing I always throw up when someone is questioning my blind belief in jebus.”

    Ugly. Just like every encounter with creationists is.

  17. Tim G

    I always wondered what became of Calvin.

    Anyway, the Pythagorean Theorem has been proven over three hundred ways, including one by President Garfield.

  18. Brian Too

    @7. kuhnigget,

    I miss Calvin and Hobbes so much, I’d even welcome a blatant rip-off…

    Of course it would have to meet certain standards.

  19. SleepNeed

    Is it wrong that my first thought when I saw the comic was the grown up version of Calvin talking to his son? Time for me to dig out my copy of The Complete Calvin and Hobbes to bring back good memories.

  20. Thank you to Davery and Steev. I was serious. I think I get it.

    I am going to have read Calvin and Hobbes. I never have except but I love Frazz, so if it “feels” similar, I may be a new fan. Typical of me that its no longer being created, but oh well.

  21. @Matt T,

    Actually, I think today’s (the continuation) is even better. The kid tells the teacher that the Pythagorean Theorem is “bunko.” The teacher asks “How so?” The kid says “It just is.” So the teacher says “Excellent! Let’s devote the rest of the hour to proving it is.”

    The real life lesson here is that if you want to make a claim, you’ve got to be willing to put in the time to prove your claim to be valid. It’s not just enough to say “It just is.” (This goes for skeptics as well as non-skeptics but skeptics are rarely guilty of saying “bunko” without some proof backing them up.)

  22. Kim

    I also thought it was rather similar to Calvin & Hobbes, of which I’m a huge fan.

    I was thinking it was skeptic’s day in the comics. check out on the comics dot com site Dilbert memory comment and Get Fuzzy’s hint of perpetual motion.
    Also Crankshaft:
    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/comics/crankshaft.html

  23. Timmy

    @kuhnigget I was thinking the same thing. It’s a shame Calvin has degenerated into pissing on Chevy bowties and this rip-off comic. At least Frazz is good. Don’t get me started on Get Fuzzy. I don’t want to raise my voice at work…

  24. Timmy

    @=^skeptic cat^= So does Hyperbolic Geometry say the universe curves around on itself and if you follow a straight line long enough you will eventually end up where you started? Or do I read to much Sci-fi?

    I should probably learn this stuff if I am ever going to get my time machine working…

  25. widdowquinn

    You may very well say that BA, but I think that the adult has even more of a point in negatively-curved non-Euclidean space.

    I’ll get my coat.

  26. DennyMo

    “If I don’t understand or agree with it, it’s an opinion.”

    Sounds like the position a lot of posters here take on religion. Many posters are basically ignorant of the Bible/Koran/etc., getting all their information about them from the mass media and the absurd extreme fringe, but that doesn’t stop folks from blathering on about how stupid anyone is who follows their teachings. It’s rather tiresome, really.

    April 30′s Frazz actually states it better than I can:
    http://comics.com/frazz/2010-04-30/

    “Is it wrong that my first thought when I saw the comic was the grown up version of Calvin talking to his son?” Ha! Sure looks like a grown-up Calvin. But somehow I think Calvin would have been something other than a school custodian.

  27. AGardner

    Not only does the artist superficially imitate Watterson in style (with way inferior skill), but Watterson made this joke decades ago:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/speakingoffaith/4119752098/

    Good joke, Watterson!

  28. D. Vader

    i find your lack of science disturbing.

  29. @ DennyMo:

    Sounds like the position a lot of posters here take on religion. Many posters are basically ignorant of the Bible/Koran/etc.,

    You obviously don’t hang around here very much.

    I find that, almost always, the most ignorance regarding the bible, the koran, etc, is expressed by those who claim to “understand” them.

  30. DennyMo

    Oh, “obviously”. Thanks for proving my point, while missing it at the same time… (Oh well, at least we agree on Spaceman Spiff!)

    FWIW, I’ve been a daily reader here for several years, engaged in a few decent debates with folks. But many posters here are so smug in their intellectual superiority it’s often difficult to tell where “skeptic” ends and “dogma” begins.

    I really love BA’s astronomy posts. But the paradox is fascinating. He can make statements like “This star was formed billions of years ago by process XYZ” that are impossible to prove because we don’t have the timescale of observation to actually *know* that it’s true. The theory is supported by available observation, and might someday be turned on its head, but for now it’s the best explanation we have for what we see.

    But that reasonable level of uncertainty doesn’t stop scientists from using unequivocal declarative phrases like “we know” and “this happened” in their write ups, and often times these write ups read like the most speculative fiction imaginable. To anyone who hasn’t spent a lot of time studying and observing the sciences, a lot of these conclusions appear to be fantastic and tenuous leaps of logic.

    It’s exactly the same thing with the religious experience. I have seen things happen in churches that science hasn’t explained yet. These observations fit within the framework of a theistic theory. To those who haven’t spent a lot of time studying the substance, or whose study has been superficial, it seems to be a fairy tale.

    I don’t know too many people who claim to fully understand the Bible/Koran/etc. Neither does BA claim to fully understand every facet of astronomy. I know several people of both camps who are seeking to better their respective understanding, and I know people of both camps whose sole interest is using their understanding as a weapon against “the other side”.

    But, to paraphrase Frazz, just because you don’t understand it, doesn’t mean it can’t be true.

  31. Okay. I’ll rise to the bait.

    I have seen things happen in churches that science hasn’t explained yet.

    What, exactly? Give me an example of something that happens in a church, which “science hasn’t explained yet”.

    As to being an “obvious” example of your statement, I’ll clarify. There are a lot of people who post on this site claiming some superior knowledge of their particular religion. When questioned by the regular posters, however, almost everyone to a person does not know squat about how their religion or religious documents came to be written. They utterly ignore the basic history of their particular creed, and instead claim to “understand” it’s meaning.

    That is the substance of my original claim, and I stand by it, unless you are going to be the exception that proves me wrong?

  32. Ema Nymton

    Wow.

    For someone who’s supposedly been reading this blog for awhile, DennyMo is really quite dense.

  33. Still waiting, DennyMo. For someone whose righteousness is so “obvious,” you don’t seem to be in a hurry to present the evidence that backs up your claim.

    Unless…

    //twiddling thumbs…waiting…patiently waiting…

  34. DennyMo

    kuhnigget, sorry to keep you waiting, busy weekend full of real life, barely had time to check email much less check out BA’s blog.

    My use of the word “obviously” was an intentional parrot of you. You drew an incorrect conclusion, based on very incomplete information, and that is how you demonstrated my point. Then Ema chimed in with further evidence supporting the claim…

    I’ll cite one example of a religious phenomenon for which I’ve never found a scientific explanation: speaking and praying in tongues with interpretation. It was a common occurence in churches I grew up in. Sometimes it sounded like gibberish to me, sometimes vaguely like Hebrew or some other east-Mediterranean language. I’d love to hear a philologist’s assessment of those speakers to find out if it was a real language or not.

    But on two occasions I heard people whom I had known for a long time speaking in a foreign language in which I knew they had no formal training. One instance it was in Italian, the other I recognized a southern German dialect. I used to be “conversationally fluent” in German, and the interpretation, (delivered by someone other than the original speaker who also was not a student of German) followed fairly closely with what I had heard.

    So what’s up with that? I’ve checked a few times, and haven’t found a scientific debunking of these events. How does someone gain short-term fluency in German? I know what the scriptural explanation is, and it does seem fantastic. But until science has a better explanation, I can’t in good conscience throw all religious experience under the bus.

  35. Gosh, DennyMo, this is like an old Monty Python routine: “Now, you’ve changed your claim, haven’t you?”

    Quote #1:

    I have seen things happen in churches that science hasn’t explained yet.

    Quote #2:

    I’ll cite one example of a religious phenomenon for which I’ve never found a scientific explanation

    Note the addition of “I’ve”. Just because you didn’t understand something, doesn’t mean it lies outside the boundaries of science.

    There have been several scientific studies of the “speaking in tongues” phenomenon. A quick google search will take you to accounts of several. It appears to be related to activity in the frontal lobes of the brain, which give the “speaker” the sensation someone is doing their talking for them.

    Sometimes it sounded like gibberish to me, sometimes vaguely like Hebrew or some other east-Mediterranean language. I’d love to hear a philologist’s assessment of those speakers to find out if it was a real language or not.
    But on two occasions I heard people whom I had known for a long time speaking in a foreign language in which I knew they had no formal training. One instance it was in Italian, the other I recognized a southern German dialect…

    DennyMo, someone who has been reading this blog “daily for several years” should know how we regulars feel about anecdotal evidence. It matters not one whit what someone’s gibberish sounded like to you, nor whether you thought it was Italian or German. The human mind is very adept at seeing and hearing things that are not there. Witness faces on Mars or screams on recordings of “Love Rollercoaster” – two of my favorite childhood examples.

    Now if someone had actually recorded a person fluently speaking a language they didn’t know (and have proof they didn’t know it) — and an impartial listener could in fact confirm it was a different language, your “evidence” would be powerful. But…that hasn’t happened, has it?

    Sorry, amigo (Oh my god! I’m speaking in tongues!) You’ve got to do a lot better than that.

    Obviously.

  36. DennyMo

    Ask for my anecdotal observations, then criticize me for offering them? Wow. To paraphrase BA: sometimes, good science happens when someone notices something in the data and says, “Hmm, that’s odd.” In this instance, my data set is my personal experience and I’ve identified the “odd data point” which I can’t explain.

    Changed my claim? No, not intentionally. After rereading the post, I see the subtle difference in phrasing, but you’re reading much more into it than is there. If objective science has addressed this phenomenon, I’d love to read it. So far my Googling has only found “tests” whose starting assumptions were so biased that the conclusions were essentially foregone. I’ll keep looking, but if you have any suggestions more specific than “Google it”, I’m all ears.

  37. So, now I’m supposed to do your research for you? You’re the one making an extraordinary claim. But here, for starters. This, after about 15 seconds of searching:

    www (dot) newswise (dot) com (slash) articles (slash)view (slash)524795 (slash)

    And there appear to be dozens more of similar valid scientific studies. Could you please give an example of one that is “so biased that the conclusions were essentially foregone”? Again, you are the one making these claims, so back them up with evidence.

    Ask for my anecdotal observations, then criticize me for offering them? Wow. To paraphrase BA: sometimes, good science happens when someone notices something in the data and says, “Hmm, that’s odd.”

    See the word, “data”, in there? You have none. Anecdotal “evidence” is not data. It cannot be tested, measured, retested, etc. Nothing wrong with it sparking further inquiry, but in and of itself, it’s not objective data.

    If there is one takeaway from the good doctor’s blog, let it be that.

  38. And of course, no contrary examples are forthcoming.

    To quote a poster above (nameless), “It’s rather tiresome, really.”

  39. Geack

    @27 – Dennymo,

    Coming in a year late here, but I’m compelled to respond. It is in no way necessary to be an expert in any religious text to make judgements about the validity and usefulness of religion. Imagine you had never heard of religion or the idea of God, and your understanding of the world was based only on what we humans have been able to learn by looking at it (science). Now imagine someone walked up to you and said “Check it out! I just found a two-thousand year old book about a middle-eastern desert tribe/Asian poet/Nordic warrior/whatever. It tells us everything we need to know about the world. We should change our laws to fit what it says!” Would you agree with me?
    The only difference between my hypothetical and actual history is how long ago we discovered the book.

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