I hope you haven’t had your fill of outrage recently, because here’s some more.
Benson Bobrick is an author who has written an uncontroversial history of astrology, according to a review in today’s New York Times Book Review. However, the reviewer of this book is not content to remain uncontroversial.
Dick Teresi, perhaps best known to physicists for co-authoring The God Particle with the wonderful Physics Nobelist Leon Lederman, seems determined to get a reaction out of his readers, even if it comes at the expense of science and demands that he embarrass himself.
Get this for starters
In the early 20th century, experimenters demonstrated that randomness rules: physicists found that particles are unpredictable; geneticists discovered that evolution is fueled by squillions of chance mutations. Yet today superstring theorists insist they will reconcile the lumpy, acausal quantum world with the smooth determinism of relativity; and neo-Darwinists emphasize natural selection, a god-like mechanism that sorts through mutations and chooses only the optimal ones. To them, every feather, fetlock and pubic hair bristles with meaning.
Never mind that theories that seamlessly incorporate both quantum theory and special relativity – Quantum Field Theories – are the best tested theories in the history of science. And if I have to go over the mountain of evidence for evolution or the silliness of the phrase “neo-Darwinists” one more time, my head may just explode. Yes, incorporating gravity is a challenge, but Teresi’s statements of why he doesn’t like current attempts to do this just show his ignorance.
There is true irony here also
So when the playful and innovative historian Benson Bobrick writes in “The Fated Sky” that 30-40 percent of the American public believes in astrology, I am shocked. Why so few, given the raging apophenia among our scientific elite? Astrology, the belief that human lives are ruled by the stars and planets, is no nuttier than current cosmological models, which feature an “anthropic principle,” giving our puny, three-pound brains a central role in the universe.
No, Dick, the real problem is that the willful twisting of hard-won scientific progress by people like you leads to such raging rates of belief in pseudoscience and nonsense.
Yes, there are a few scientists talking about the anthropic principle in the context of some string theory ideas and cosmology. However, if you followed these issues at all, you’d know that the vast majority of cosmologists (your use of the phrase “scientific elite” is another gem that tags you as a crank in this area – and you’d know that as well if you kept up with what the vast majority of professional biologists and physicists are up to) do not find this a compelling idea and are working hard on the science that has brought us such remarkable success in recent decades.
Teresi’s anti-science comments continue all the way up to the end
Modern man can choose from a veritable smorgasbord of Type 1 errors: string theory, neo-Darwinism, cosmology, economics, God. Astrology is as good as any, and Bobrick demonstrates that it has a rich, colorful past to draw upon. As for me, I answer to a higher authority.
Cosmology includes our understanding of the expansion of the universe, of the origin of the cosmic microwave background radiation and its detailed structure, of the origins of the light elements, and of how large-scale structure formed in the universe. And these are just some major highlights. Teresi seriously seems to be comparing these accomplishments to astrology. I much preferred Michael Behe comparing Intelligent Design with Astrology.
And who is this higher power Dick. I guess it might be some kind of God, although given the incredible arrogance of your ill informed take on modern biology and cosmology, you might just be referring to yourself.
Needless to say, I am extremely disappointed with The New York Times for assigning someone like this to write a review, or at the least with the fact that no editors flagged the self-serving off-topic agenda of what was submitted. It is hard enough to keep up one’s energy for taking on the torrent of nonsense spoken about the rational world these days, without having to deal with generally respectable publications dropping the ball.