Review of Prometheus on “Why Evolution is True”

From Guest post: Sigmund pans the movie “Prometheus” (spoiler alert) « Why Evolution Is True.

I rarely do this (well, never), but here is another scientific review of Prometheus from “Why Evolution is True” blog. The comments are especially fun to read, because clearly some individuals don’t take kindly to critiques of this rather average movie.

 

Guest post: Sigmund pans the movie “Prometheus” (spoiler alert)

Sigmund is becoming a regular around here, and has contributed a review of the new SF (or is it “SciFi”?)  film Prometheus, which has generated a lot of buzz. He didn’t like it, largely because it’s scientifically inaccurate. As always, readers who have seen the flick should weigh in with their own opinions.

Film Review – Prometheus  (spoiler warning!)

by Sigmund

The film ’Prometheus’, the first return to science fiction for director Ridley Scott since Blade Runner, is supposedly a prequel to his famous 1979 movie ‘Alien’ and is therefore a major event for sci-fi geeks. As it opened a week earlier in Europe owing to the start of the European football championship, I’ve had a chance to see it (twice!) and can offer a personal opinion of the movie without, I hope, giving away too much of the plot. But if you intend to see the movie soon and don’t want to read any spoilers, I’d advise avoiding reading any further. Continue reading “Review of Prometheus on “Why Evolution is True””

Prometheus and bad science-Neil deGrasse Tyson

I guess others, more notable than me obviously, observed some other science issues with the Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, a movie I just tore apart a few hours ago. Neil deGrasse Tyson, this generation’s Carl Sagan, send out that tweet just a few hours after it opened.

Charlize Theron (academy award winning and totally beautiful actress) plays the somewhat villainous Meredith Vickers, the Weyland Corporation employee who monitors the expedition. As Tyson states, a half billion miles gets you to about Jupiter. In fact, 35 light years would be around 210 trillion miles. Yes, trillion. So, the lame writers of the movie are off by 5 orders of magnitude. They should have randomly chosen a number, because it would have been better.

I guess we should ignore it because it’s A) Charlize Theron, and B) Charlize Theron.

Once again, either the writers failed basic science, or they’re ignorant, or they just don’t care. Either way, it’s bad science.

Ridley Scott’s Prometheus and anti-science

I am a big fan of science fiction with a few caveats. Make it fun or horrifying, preferably both, and scientifically plausible. Science fiction by its very nature is fiction and should stretch the bounds of human imagination, but it should, at least, follow the basic principles of physics. For example, many science fiction movies require faster than light (FTL) travel, which is right at the edge of impossibility unless we are able to harness massive amounts of energy, suspend some of our current laws and understandings of physics, and adjustments for substantial time-effect conundrums, where someone traveling faster than light will be much younger than those who do not. But at least the writers of those shows make up terminology and gadgets that deal with it. Warp drives. Subspace communications. They try. Continue reading “Ridley Scott’s Prometheus and anti-science”

Creationism legislation–Tennessee Monkey Bill (update 6)

According to the Nashville News, Governor Bill Haslam told reporters that he will probably sign antievolution bill, which allows teachers to discuss the scientific “controversies” regarding the fact of evolution and the fact of climate change.  Not to be overly pedantic, there is no scientific controversy over either theory; however, there is a political one.  Another problem with the bill is how will a teacher discuss everything there is to know about evolution in a few hours.  How can you critically analyze evolution or global warming denialism in just a few minutes?  That would be like teaching someone to be a surgeon in a couple of days.  It’s almost impossible.

Stay tuned.  We’ll see if Governor Haslam actually signs the bill.  Republicans rarely keep their word, so who knows what will actually happen.

Objective rating calculator for pseudoscientific works

I saved this list from something I read a few years ago, when I first became interested in pseudoscience (not from a pure profit standpoint, just to be a cantankerous debater).  It’s quite useful.

How to rate a work of pseudoscience:

A thirty-one-point checklist for rating contributions to the field of archaeology that claim to be revolutionary or to overturn long-accepted ideas. The higher the score, the more ‘controversial’ the book and the more money its author can hope to make from sales, lecture tours, television spin-offs and so on.

  • 5 points starting credit.
  • 1 point for every statement that is in conflict with generally accepted theories.
  • 2 points for every statement that is clearly vacuous.
  • 3 points for each internal inconsistency.
  • 5 points for every supposition that is maintained despite prodigious archaeological evidence to the contrary.
  • 5 points for each instance of spurious data expressed as fact.
  • 5 points for each dark hint that a piece of otherwise widely-accepted evidence is faked.
  • 5 points for each authoritative reference to Richard Hoagland, Edgar Cayce, Immanuel Velikovsky, Erich von Däniken, Jacques Bergier, Thor Heyerdahl, Zecharia Sitchin, Charles Berlitz, Andrew Tomas, John Anthony West, Michael Dames, Graham Hancock or Robert Bauval.
  • 5 points for reference to sites of dubious authority, especially Glozel, the ‘Hall of Records’, the Paluxy River human footprints
  • 7 points for each disparaging reference to Erich von Däniken.
  • 7 points for each authoritative reference to Martin Bernal, Cheikh Anta Diop, David Rohl, Peter James, Barry Fell…
  • 7 points for each reference to an exotic location of dubious relevance, including Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Macchu Picchu, Great Zimbabwe, the ‘Candelabra of the Andes’, Nan Matol, Bimini and Glastonbury.
  • 7 points for each reference to an ‘out of place artefact’, including batteries from Babylon, the Antikythera computer, Ancient Egyptian or South American model aeroplanes, the ‘Coso Artifact’, technical drawings at Dendera, the Ica stones, the Acambaro figurines, the ‘Dropa stones’ and crystal skulls.
  • 10 points for each authoritative reference to R A Schwaller de Lubicz, Michael Cremo, Richard Thompson or T C Lethbridge.
  • 10 points for each baseless claim that widely accepted theories are fundamentally erroneous.
  • 10 points for discovering ‘links’ between languages widely separated in time and space (such as Etruscan and Quechua).
  • 10 points for boasting of academic degrees unrelated to the topic at hand, especially proclaiming a PhD on the cover of a book.
  • 10 points for spelling archaeology as archeology in the mistaken belief that it is the correct American spelling.
  • 15 points for boasting of a lack of academic degrees, insisting that formal education is not only unnecessary but also an impediment to creative thought.
  • 15 points for each photograph of the author standing by a ‘mysterious’ structure (preferably, mostly out of shot) in an exotic location.
  • 20 points for lamentations of being misunderstood.
  • 20 points for not including a bibliography.
  • 20 points for every use of a myth or legend as a record of fact.
  • 20 points for defensive citations of real or imagined ridicule inflicted by the academia.
  • 25 points for each evidential mention of Atlantis, Mu, Lemuria, Cydonia, the ‘Face on Mars’, the continental shelf, the Bermuda Triangle or Antarctica.
  • 30 points for insisting that if critics cannot disprove a theory, then it must necessarily be true.
  • 30 points for claiming to be the victim of a conspiracy by the scientific establishment.
  • 30 points for extensive footnotes or endnotes.
  • 40 points for professing to be privy to information that is secret or to which no one else has access.
  • 40 points for claiming to have deciphered a previously unintelligible script.
  • 50 points for claims of psychic revelation or firsthand past-life experience.

I think I might use this for the next History Channel series on ghosts, Nostradamus, aliens, sasquatch, or whatever else they push these days.  If they don’t score around 400, I’d be shocked.

“Intelligent design” bill in Missouri | NCSE

“Intelligent design” bill in Missouri | NCSE.

Not that anyone needs reminding, but just in case, Intelligent design is not scientific, it is not a scientific theory, and it is religion.  In Kitzmiller v Dover Area School District, the US District Court held that:

Teaching intelligent design in public school biology classes violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States (and Article I, Section 3 of the Pennsylvania State Constitution) because intelligent design is not science and “cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.

It cost the Dover Area School District over $1 million to defend this lawsuit, money that probably could have been spent on textbooks, teachers, and new computers.  I believe in the aftermath, all school board members who supported the teaching of Intelligent design were ousted by voters.  That’s how democracy I suppose.

The bill states:

If scientific theory concerning biological origin is taught in a course of study, biological evolution and biological intelligent design shall be taught. Other scientific theory or theories of origin may be taught.

Just a tiny point, and I can’t expect much out of Missouri’s legislators, but the theory of evolution does not discuss the origin of life.  The theory of abiogenesis does, and that’s more chemistry and physics than biologists.  Biological evolution, or modern evolutionary synthesis, is based on a mountain of evidence.  The theory isn’t used in the sense of a random guess, but a scientific one with a foundation in scientific method and piles of evidence.  It is falsifiable (but has not been falsified) and has itself evolved into a power predictor of how populations of organisms change over time.

Intelligent design is not falsifiable (in that it requires an all powerful creator) and is not scientific.  It is based on no evidence, just ideology and rhetoric.  It fails as science once the bright light of criticism is shone on it.

Well, I don’t know how Missouri’s legislature is organized, but I hope they’re intelligent enough not to do this.  But if they do, expect several lawsuits.  And they’ll lose them all.