Tag Archives: beliefs

Pathological Science and mtEve

While reading The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean, the author discussed the concept of ‘pathological science.’  ’Pathological science’ results from scientists who cling to their ideas even when there is plenty of evidence against them.  For instance, Kean discusses the idea that megalodon sharks might still be circling the deep oceans even though there is no evidence for this, while there is evidence that those sharks died out at least one million years ago.  Yet, some scientists are pathologically attached to the idea that the megalodon lives.

I realized that ‘pathological science’ was the perfect term to describe what happened over the past 25 years with the rise of mtEve and the demotion of Neanderthals to non-H. sapiens status.  There was/is little evidence to support mtEve as a concept, but it so excited many otherwise respectable scientists, not to mention the media and the general public, that mtEve swept away anyone who disagreed that she was the mother of all modern humans.  This was a pathological science creation event par excellence. If this non-existent entity had been named mtMable, the rush to embrace her probably would not have occurred.

The name ‘mtEve’ fed into the creation stories many scientists were raised with; even if they no longer believed the stories, the concepts still manifested at an unconscious level. For the media and the general public who did/do still believe these creation stories, mtEve provided immediate validation that humans were special.  Humans were not just another animal; not just another result of evolution.  Pathological scientists also want ‘modern’ humans to be viewed as special, distinct, better than any preceding humans who were ‘archaic’ and different, more like an animal, less intelligent.  Given the location of mtEve (Africa) and the poorly-derived date of mtEve (it varies a great deal, but many use 250,000 years ago), Neanderthals were relegated to the ‘archaic’ heap.

I have spent the past two-plus decades fighting against this pathological science, only to see it become accepted dogma even in textbooks. This is disturbing. If scientists can be so swept away by their emotions that they totally ignore evidence, is it any wonder that respect for science is softening?  Fortunately, science is eventually self-correcting. It’s taken too long, but it is finally becoming clear that Neanderthals were no less ‘modern’ than so-called ‘moderns.’  There was no creation event 250,000 years ago in which mtEve popped into being and begat the first modern human.  For 25 years, I asked for evidence of how speciation occurred between ‘archaics’ and ‘moderns’ and was shown no evidence.  I was not surprised since there was and is no such evidence: mtEve was a creation of pathological science.

Robert G. Bednarik’s chapter, “The Expulsion of Eve” in his book The Human Condition, is a precise and detailed refutation of mtEve and the concept of ‘modern’ and ‘archaic’ humans. He slices and dices the ‘evidence’ (morphological, genetic, lithic, and cultural) until there is nothing left but hot air.  While Bednarik does not use the term ‘pathological science’, it is clear from his analysis that mtEve proponents were and are acting pathologically.  ”…the Eve supporters have led the study of hominin origins on a monumental wild-goose chase.”


	

Facts and Evidence Don’t Matter

If you operate in an evidence-based world, the title of this post probably annoys/angers you.  As well it should.  Unfortunately, for increasing numbers of people, belief is more important than evidence.  In fact, evidence contrary to their beliefs may make them fight harder than ever to hold on to their beliefs.

Some news items from the believers point of view:

1] Jerry Sandusky [or fill in blank with whichever child predator is in the news] cannot possibly be a child predator because he loves children and created a charity for children.  Providing these believers with the facts and evidence of ‘grooming‘ just makes the believers angrier and more defensive of Sandusky [or whomever].  Vilification of the accusers occurs rather than analyzing the evidence.

2] How dare the state of Kentucky expect high school students to be taught and tested on evolution when it conflicts with the beliefs of Ricky Line, Superintendent of Hart County Board of Education!  (Education?)  “Stop requiring our teachers to teach, as fact, an evolution that would convince our children that they evolved from lower life forms and, therefore, have reason to discount the Bible and the faith beliefs that follow.  This is not an improvement in our public education system.” [Written to Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holiday on 11/21/2011.]  Commissioner Holiday replied with a very well-reasoned statement of facts and evidence.  I doubt it convinced Superintendent Line.  Line’s beliefs will always trump facts and evidence.

3]  The Florida Family Association, a Christian group, is crusading against TLC’s program All-American Muslim because ‘TLC’s “All-American Muslim” is propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda.’  They are haranguing the show’s advertisers in an attempt to have TLC drop the show because it does not sufficiently cover the jihadist point of view. “The show profiles only Muslims that appear to be ordinary folks while excluding many Islamic believers whose agenda poses a clear and present danger to liberties and traditional values that the majority of Americans cherish.”  How dare TLC show ordinary Muslims!

Clearly, the FFA crusade is ridiculous.  And yet, Lowe’s succumbed.  “Lowe’s has received a significant amount of communication on this program, from every perspective possible. Individuals and groups have strong political and societal views on this topic, and this program became a lighting rod for many of those views. As a result we did pull our advertising on this program. We believe it is best to respectfully defer to communities, individuals and groups to discuss and consider such issues of importance.”  So, Lowe’s, will you cease all advertising if enough people complain about the shows on which you advertise?  Or do you just pick and choose based on belief systems rather than evidence and facts?

4]  Only those who believe in God (or a god) are trustworthy.  Atheists are less trustworthy (more evil?) than rapists; and atheists are despised more than are gays.  This is according to recently-published research by Gervais et al. who conducted six different studies in order to clarify why those who are religious have problems with those who are atheists.  The researchers concluded it came down to trust.  Religious individuals simply cannot trust someone who doesn’t believe in a god because they hold the view that a belief in god provides the glue that holds society together.  However, Gervais et al. point out that “the least religious countries are actually among the most cooperative and peaceful on the planet.”   Belief that atheists are bad and untrustworthy trumps the facts and evidence that if we want a peaceful, cooperative society we would be better off with fewer individuals who are religious [See #3 above.] and more who are atheist.

One would hope that education would help eradicate erroneous beliefs.  But if facts and evidence just make believers fight harder, education probably will not work.  Then how can we solve this problem?  I’d like to read your ideas on this.

Meanwhile, have a great holiday season in which we work to increase cooperation and peace in our society.