Category Archives: Critics

The natural-unnatural fallacy: let’s stop with this bullshit

by Piter Kehoma Boll

This post may upset some people, perhaps people from very different backgrounds and very different points of view regarding society or human practices, but I feel that I have to discuss this subject that has been used as a way to justify or condemn some behaviors.

Everybody has already heard, and perhaps even uses, the argument of “this is not natural” as a justification to oppose something. You can hear homophobes use it to condemn homosexuality, vegans to condemn the ingestion of meat, or even old people to lament the death of a child. It is sometimes called “argumentum ad naturam” or “appeal to nature”, a fallacy that considers that something natural is always better than something unnatural.

When a homophobe says that he or she is against homosexuality because it is not natural, their oppositors, people who defend the freedom of sexuality, quickly present them with evidences of homosexuality in other species. I myself, being a gay man, used, in the past, examples of other gay animals to explain that homosexuality is indeed natural.

455px-zwei_junge_maennliche_loewen_panthera_leo_tierpark_hellabrunn-4

Oh, yeah, babe. Two male lions having sex. Photo by Wikimedia user Rufus46.*

Regarding human diet, we can find the same thing, including two opposite groups using this very same argument. You can see vegetarians advocating against the consumption of meat because of our dentition or intestine, which are not typical of a carnivorous species. On the other hand, people who defend the so-called “paleo” diet try to reconstruct a diet that was common to our pre-historical ancestors, which would be our “natural” diet, and thus they consume large amounts of meat and fruits and avoid consuming grains, large amounts of sugar or other food that need to be domesticated. In the same way, other people, such as vegans (and even paleo lovers) are against consuming milk because this is a baby food and should not be ingested by adult mammals, afterall “it is not natural” to take the milk of a female of another species and drink it.

600px-melkende_ameisen_honigtau3

Several ant species “milk” aphids to drink the sweet secretions (honeydew) that they release. Photo by Friedrich Böhringer.**

Now let me tell you something: this all means shit. This is not how things work in the real world, which by the way is the same as nature. When we use the argument of something being natural or unnatural, we are implying that there is a pre-established way for things to work, that there is a purpose in life. Well, there is not! Do you know natural selection, right? Well, it basically states that the most successful variations of something are the ones that will survive, regardless of what they are or how they are used. The mouth evolved primarily as an opening through which animals ingest food, but we use our mouths to many different things, such as to speak, breathe, kiss, hold things, or give blowjobs. Are those things unnatural? Who cares? As long as the mouth is good at doing it, it will continue to be used to do it.

And more than that, using other species as a comparison to things that are natural or not for humans is ridiculous. Just because we are the only species that write, is writing unnatural? If we consider that to be true, then we can apply it to find unnatural behaviors in any other species. As long as a behavior is only found in a single species, it would be unnatural.

800px-satin_bowerbird_at_his_bower_jcb

The satin bowerbird is the only species that uses blue objects to decorate its bower in order to attract a female. Is its behavior unnatural because of that? Photo by Joseph C Boone.***

As a social and (supposedly) scientific species, we should consider a behavior as good or bad based on its consequences to society or to individuals, as well as to the world as a whole. Murdering is bad not because it is unnatural, but because it kills people! Pollution is not bad because it is unnatural, it is bad because it pollutes! So more than only being stupid because of its assumption that natural things are good and unnatural things are not, the appeal to nature is also stupid because there is no way to separate things in natural and unnatural. Let’s grow up intellectually and stop using this bullshit of an argument at all.

– – –

*Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

**Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic License.

***Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Behavior, Critics

One more delusional williamsonist: Peter Duesberg and his theory of AIDS conspiracy

by Piter Kehoma Boll

ResearchBlogging.orgAs already alerted by Ted Goertzel (2010): “Conspiracy theories that target specific research can have serious consequences for public health and environmental policies”.

The above quote is in the article from 2010 published in EMBO reports by Ted Goertzel, “Conspiracy theories in science”, where he talks about the consequences of such ideas in the population.

Currently, several conspiracy theories have been appearing in natural sciences, including the ideas that global warming is a fraud or that vaccines and transgenic food are harmful. But here I am going to talk more specifically about other conspiracy theory that is as much or more dangerous that the ones cited above: the idea that AIDS is not caused by HIV.

The main defender of this irrational theory is Peter Duesberg, a professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology in the University of California, Berkeley. Since 1987 (i.e., almost 27 years ago!) he defends such and absurd idea that is rejected by the main research groups working on AIDS worldwide.

This is the guy. Stay alert!

This is the guy. Stay alert!

Duesberg acts mainly demanding answers from researchers, but without really showing any evidence that supports his idea. In my opinion, he could be classified as one more sufferer from Williamon’s Syndrome, just like Williamson himself and Retallack.

In 1995, Duesberg entered in a quarrel with Nature’s editor John Maddox concering this subject. Duesberg’s behavior, however, was so stupid that Maddox got tired of going on accepting to listen to him. In case of a question by Duesberg was left without answer, he immediately considered it a prove that the HIV virus is not the cause of AIDS. On the other hand, any evidence that refuted his devious view was completely ignored.

Anyway, Duesberg and his followers’ ideas are so absurdly ridiculous that the scientific community in general tends to simply ignore him; The problem happens when someone with such a view decides to express it in media for the non-scientific community.

Some time ago (in 2000, more precisely), a Brazilian magazine for “science communication”, Superinteressante, decided to make an interview with Duesberg. On that time, such interview was pratically ignored, but some weeks ago a Brazilian news website (or whatever it is), called “Vale Agora Web” (completly unknown to everybody) reposted that interview.

In an irresponsible way, the website published the interview with flashy and illusory titles, including even lies, such as the statement that Duesberg holds a Nobel prize, which a quick research reveals to be false.

Quickly the new started to get shared in social networks by several young people surprised by the “revelation”, apparently believing that what was written there was a “bombastic” revelation. It is sad to see how easily people are convinced by what the unskilled media communicates. The lack of knowledge in this field makes people to accept ideas without trying to analyze the sources and how reliable they are.

More than only lame, such a situation may become alarming, as it can lead to unwise behaviors and decrease the range of prevention campaigns, such as those which incentivate the use of condoms and clean needles.

AIDS researchers claim that Duesberg relies on selective reading of publications, ignoring those which may refute his idea and demanding impossible evidences from the research groups.

Publication policies nowadays alert that scientists with controversial findings need to take care in the communication of their ideas. It is necessary, in such situations, to communicate data which allow other groups to replicate the experiments and try to get to the same conclusions.

Current scientific publications are almost always submitted to a process of peer-reviewing by other researchers, in an anonymous way, as a guarantee that there will be no personal or professional influences while evaluating the work. Conspirationist, however, tend to attack such process with the idea that anonymity means that the reviewers “have something to hide”.

And that’s the way pseudoscientists are able to publish: by cheating the peer-reviewing process. In 1989, Duesberg published a paper in the journal PNAS without peer-review, something that seems to be possible for member of the National Academy of Sciences. A previous version of the paper had been submitted to three reviewers, all of which found a series of problems in the statement and discussion of facts, including a reviewer suggested by Duesberg himself! Anyway, helped by PNAS’s editor, the paper was published.

Now if we remember the case of Donald Willaimson, a similar situation happened. With a little help of Lynn Margulis, he was able to publish his paper about hybridogenesis, even though all scientific community finds the idea ridiculous.

In my article about Williamson’s dellusions, I also mentioned superficially that Lynn Margulis in her last years was defending the idea that HIV is not the cause of AIDS. Look at that!

I wrote this article very quickly and not aiming to go deep inside the subject or to present evidences that HIV really caused AIDS. There are thousands of available scientific papers about it. My intention was simply to present this situation and alert about the dangers of believing in any statement published by media. We need to be careful and reasonable. The scientific community as a whole still considers, with enough evidence, that HIV his indeed responsible for causing AIDS. Duesberg and his friends are only pseudoscientific rioters trying to spread conspiratory ideas.

Be smart and don’t get trapped in this pseudoscientific bullshit.

– – –

References:

Booth, W. 1989. AIDS Paper Raises Red Flag at PNAS. Science, 243 DOI: 10.1126/science.2916121

Cohen, J. 1994. The Duesberg Phenomenon Science, 266, 1642-1644 DOI: 10.1126/science.7992043

Dieguez, F. 2000. Peter Duesberg. Superinteressante, outubro de 2000. Available at: <http://super.abril.com.br/ciencia/peter-duesberg-441685.shtml>. Access on December 9, 2013.

Goertzel, T. 2010. Conspiracy Theorys in Sciences EMBO reports, 11, 493-4999 DOI: 10.1038/embor.2010.84

“Redação”. 2013. Bomba! “O HIV é um vírus inofensivo e não transmite a AIDS”, afirma ganhador do Nobel. Vale Agora Web. Available at: <http://valeagoraweb.com.br/mundo/bomba-o-hiv-e-um-virus-inofensivo-e-nao-transmite-a-aids-afirma-ganhador-do-nobel/>. Access on December 9, 2013.

7 Comments

Filed under Critics

In response to JP4’s “no feathers” statement

by Carlos Augusto Chamarelli

Hi everyone, it’s me yet again after a long break, which isn’t over, actually. This isn’t a real article as I still need to write one properly, this is merely me passing by to drop my thoughts on the latest controversy of the dinoverse, that is, the revelation that Jurassic Park 4 would not feature feathered dinosaurs.

This sole comment sparked the rage of dino-fans everywhere and incited then to rant and slit their wrists over it. And I’m here today, as a good dino-fan, to post my opinion too, which is as follow: So what?

First of all, it’s not like Jurassic Park was accurate to begin with: the T.rex had the wrong skull shape and was basically blind, the Velociraptors are super intelligent and really meant to be Deinonychus, there’s the rearing Brachiosaurus that produced one of the most magical moments in movie history and there was the complete twisting of what a Dilophosaurus looks like.

You know who you are. Extracted from jptoys.com

You know who you are. Extracted from jptoys.com

But as I stated in previous articles, what made Jurassic Park so special is that, despite their glaring inaccuracies, the way they meld to the scenery and the details in their models, real or CGI, made them incredibly realistic and life-like. Everybody loved it no matter what, even without this “fair for its time” crap because even then we knew the dinosaurs there were off.

Not to mention that if they did decided to put feathered dinosaurs in the new sequel, they would have a hell of a hard time explaining just why.

“Oh, but see, they evolved between movies!”

How is that even remotely explanatory? If that’s how it went then they are Pokémons, not dinosaurs!

“So how do you explain the different dinosaur colors in The Lost World”

Have you been NOT paying attention in the first movie? The dinosaurs were able to change genders thanks to the idiot-ball move of messing the dino-DNA with amphibian DNA, because they are obviously fish. The supposedly “new” colors we saw in the sequels are the male individuals making an appearance, not replacements of the older looks. This is supported by the fact that we do see some of the females again, such as the T.rex and Raptor both sporting their drab, brown-colored skin as they appeared in the first movie.

And I shall use Comic Sans to taunt those who whine about Comic Sans.

And I shall use Comic Sans to taunt those who whine about Comic Sans.

Also, why does everybody hate this movie? Is it because of Kelly? It’s because of Kelly, isn’t it?

“What about JP3?”

Screw JP3, it’s a fanfiction in movie format. The male Brachiosaurus looks like it’s covered in mucus. (But I liked the Corythosaurus and Ankylosaurus)

Seriously, I can’t stand you in Operation Genesis without mods. Extracted from jurassicparkwikia.com

Seriously, I can’t stand you in Operation Genesis without mods, and even then nothing fixes your darn neck. Extracted from jurassicparkwikia.com

Anyway, in JP3 we are presented some contradictions from previous movies; for instance we have toothed Pteranodons in a giant cage as opposed to the free flyers that appear for a few seconds at the ending of The Lost World. And then there’s the Raptors. What we see in JP3 Raptor’s is in fact a poor previous attempt to please the paleo-nazis (read: the “not accurate, thereof it sucks” variety of dino-fans, which I admit are the main reason I stay away from forums and such) by putting feathers on dinosaurs.

As far as their definition of “feathers” goes… Extracted from liveauctioneers.com

As far as their definition of “feathers” goes… Extracted from liveauctioneers.com

On top of that their colors were revamped, with the males being blue with a white streak and the female is yellowish white with dark brown spots. That was bad for continuity. Unless this was meant to be a new species or some BS of that caliber, there was absolutely no good reason to put them there other than make the movie grow even more apart from the franchise that it already did in its own. And that’s exactly would happen if they appeared fully feathered in the new sequel. It goes something like “they changed it, now it sucks/they didn’t changed it, now it sucks” situation, so they might as well be true to the original.

Actually, that’s an interesting point. People always complain about the discrepancies between the novels and the movies, and wished the movies were like the novesl. That too would imply making unfeathered dinosaurs. Or worse, making Tyrannosaurus have to stay in the shadows during the day because of the sensitive skin. That was honestly the worst thing I’ve ever read.

So my point is: complaining about JP4 dinosaurs being unfeathered is just as silly as complaining that the new Star Wars movies will sound effects in space battles like its predecessors. Just imagine how fun-packed that would that be the other way around.

What’s the fun in doing fiction if you can’t go wild with it? It’s called science FICTION, people, PLEASE. The very definition of fiction says it’s “an imaginative creation or a pretense that does not represent actuality but has been invented.” I.e.NOT NECESSARILY REAL. If you can’t understand what this means then perhaps you should too abstain from watching other sci-fi movies? Then it’s no Star Wars, no Back to the Future, no Star Trek, no Alien, no Predator, no Alien vs. Predator, no The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, no Spider-Man, no nothing for you. All you have are boring romance movies that are just as fictious and other films that offer no escape from reality whatsoever.

If you complain about the dinosaurs being unfeathered are unrealistic, what about the whole concept of Jurassic Park itself? After all there’s the terrible, terrible news that ancient DNA doesn’t survive that long.

And I know it’s kind of ironic to dismiss the “they evolved in the meantime” BS and then defend the “fiction” in “science fiction”, but remember, you’re the one complaining about realism in the first place.

“Oh, you’re just saying that because you’re old-fashioned as heck and like scaly dinosaurs.”

Yes, I do like scaly dinosaurs. That doesn’t mean I’ll show a JP Raptor if someone asks me what a Velociraptor really looked like, just as I won’t refer to Megapnosaurus as Syntarsus, despite the latter name being much better.

The thing doesn't even have a decent picture on the internet, so here's a picture of Megapnosaurus when it was still Syntarsus instead. Extracted from dinossaurosecia.blogspot.com

The beetle Syntarsus thing doesn’t even have a decent picture on the internet, so here’s a picture of Megapnosaurus when it was still Syntarsus instead. Extracted from dinossaurosecia.blogspot.com

So you know what I will do when Jurassic Park 4 hit the screens? I will WATCH it. I’ll watch it with an open mind, disregarding other’s generic contempt and the movie that came before it. And who knows, maybe even if it ends up being as retarded as some expect I’ll enjoy it, just like I enjoyed other movies that everyone labels as horrible.

Deal with it. Extracted from imdb.com

Deal with it. Extracted from imdb.com

So these are my opnions regarding the future installment of the Jurassic Park franchise. As usual, questions, compliment, critics or whining goes into the comments, and I’ll do my best to answer. And don’t worry; a decent article will be posted. Eventually.

See ya!

3 Comments

Filed under Critics