Bill O’Reilly explains science

| 35 Comments

Here's something to give you all the heebie-jeebies: Jason Rosenhouse watches Bill O'Reilly expounding on Intelligent Design creationism. This is quite possibly the most ridiculous, extravagantly bogus mangling of basic scientific concepts I have seen in my entire career, but Jason manages to discuss it far more dispassionately than I ever could. There is also a transcript available online.

Check it out only if you've got your blood pressure under control. Mild sedatives recommended before reading.

35 Comments

Required reading.

I read that transcript - my head asplode.

Bill O’Reilly is the funniest man I know - if only there weren’t millions of people who actually take him seriously. He is the only man I know who (besides maybe Kent Hovind) who can write such brilliant satire without even trying.

My head asploded too.

I do know one thing. O’Reilly would have gotten away with interrupting me just once before I would have told him where to shove his asinine lies. And if he came at me he’d find himself talking to the pepper spray. Now THAT would be some rich TV comedy.

O'Reilly Wrote:

I’ll give you the last word.

And then he doesn’t.

If’un you think BO’s inept deity theory class is a hoot, y’all should check out his potboiler, Those Who Trespass. It’s piss your pants funny. I can almost predict BO’s next novel will be a hack intelligent re-design of Bear’s Darwin’s Radio / Children.

I happened to catch the tail end of this while channel changing. A reasoned review does not give you the full flavor of this. Dr. Grant was shown in a just a head shot staring at the camera like a deer in the headlights. O’Reilly on the other hand is shown in his studio and is quite animated. If you watched this with your brain disengaged (my usual state in front of the TV), you would have come away convinced O’Reilly won the argument.

Bill O'Reilly Wrote:

…Science is not always incomplete and I’ll give you an example. There are twenty-four hours in a day. Alright. That’s science. And there are four seasons. That’s science. So you can state things with certainty in biology or any other science you want.…

This is really horridly mushy thinking here. Mr. O’Reilly has confused concept that is pushing equivocation. When we say that science is incomplete we mean that we don’t know everything about it and its theories have not yet explained everything. Then O’Reilly tries to say some science is not incomplete by citing various facts one might find in a science book (but not the fact of evolution…). Yo Bill, please don’t confuse individual facts with a field of study. Biology is incomplete. Chemistry is incomplete. Physics is incomplete. Astronomy is incomplete. So on and so forth. That does not mean that biology, chemistry, physics, and astronomy have not found lots of important facts.

And what is really silly is Mr. O’Reilly’s examples of things which are “complete”: 24 hours in a day and 4 seasons in a year. Does O’Reilly think that either of these things is a discovery man has made about the real world? Actually both of them are completely human inventions. There are 24 hours in a day since people decided, not discovered, that the day would have 24 hours. The four seasons are a human invention as well.

– Anti-spam: Replace “user” with “harlequin2”

Science is not always incomplete and I’ll give you an example. There are twenty-four hours in a day. Alright.

I just did some research and it turns out that in the United States a couple days have 23 hours and some days have 25 hours!!!!

The Calendarists are obviously trying to suppress this flaw in the 24 hour day theory because they are afraid of all that egg on their faces. They should be ashamed.

there are four seasons

Wait. Salt, pepper, sugar, oregano, fenugreek, saffron … Great Ploink Ploink! It’s another conspiracy.

As for the four seasons argument, anyone who has even a remedial understanding of meteorology or climatology (e.g., myself) would know that there are not always four seasons. Depending on where in the world one lives, there can be fewer than four seasons. For instance, the equatorial tropics can have one season (always wet) or 2 seasons (wet and dry). There is no winter/spring/summer/fall around the equator.

RPM Wrote:

As for the four seasons argument, anyone who has even a remedial understanding of meteorology or climatology (e.g., myself) would know that there are not always four seasons. Depending on where in the world one lives, there can be fewer than four seasons.

Where I live, four seasons describes a fairly typical morning.

Even in temperate zones, the number of seasons is entirely arbitrary, as meaningless a number as the number of days in a month. In my world, there are only two seasons: Those days when it’s too cold to ride a motorcycle very far, and those days that aren’t. My categories are as good as any.

Where O’Reilly is, it’s always the season of the Bitch.

(Apologies to Donovan, or whoever it was wrote and/or sang that old tune.)

Ed, it was Donovan but if you want to hear a killer cover version pick up the fantastic Motherfxckers Live CD by Xhol Caravan (one of the greatest rock bands of all time).

http://www.forcedexposure.com/artis[…]caravan.html

It was Donovan.

Also, as far as the length of a day is concerned, a day can be defined in at least three different ways (solar, sidereal, lunar) Each has a different length.

There are four seasons. They are marked by solar equinoxes and solstices. The date and time of these do not vary depending where on the earth you happen to be. O’Reilly was right.

This is taught in sixth grade science class.

No wonder I’m having a hard time getting through to you boys.

And once again DaveScot show his intelligence.

The fact is the “4 seasons” is completely arbitrary. We could have classed them as 2 or 3 or 5 or 6 or 12.….

The lenght of the day is also arbitrary. 24 hours.…thats 1440 minutes or 86400 seconds. But today didn’t have 86400 seconds did it! No it had a bit over 86415 seconds. The fact that there is 60 seconds to a min 60 minutes to an hour is all based on a measurement we devised not one nature provides.

Oh and DaveScott, not everyone in the world marks the start of the seasons the same. In the US they use the equinoxes and solstices but there is more to the world then just the US. But then you probably didn’t learn about the rest of the world did you.

Wayne

Equinoxes and solstices are very old discoveries in the science of astronomy predating the United States by thousands of years. They are not cultural, they are not regional, they are astronomical facts. A season is the period of time between these. There are four of them and as long as the earth revolves about the sun and its axis is tilted there will remain 2 equinoxes, 2 solstices, and four periods of time between them which we call seasons in the english language.

We could not have chosen them to be different anymore than we can choose the geometry of the solar system. Seasons are not arbitrary.

I didn’t defend O’Reilly’s contention that 24 hours in a day is science so I fail to see why you mentioned it in your response to me.

Dave Scott

What you described is an arbitrary definition of a season. There is no scientific necessity to say that summer for example begins at the summer solstice, as the solstice has little to do directly with climate, which is the primary distinguishing feature of seasons.

Meteologically, summer (in the nothern hemisphere) is June, July and August. In Ireland, summer starts on May 1 and ends July 31. September is considered mid-autumn, and the Irish word for September (Meán Fómhair) literally means ‘middle of autumn’.

Why wouldn’t a Believer believe that seasons (or anything else) are somehow rigid and absolute? It’s the filter through which their world must pass to reach their minds. Once the cultural convention has been adopted to use solstices and equinoxes to mark seasons, The Believer associates the convention (arbitrary) with these occasions (astronomical) it becomes unalterable Received Wisdom. And so, no surprise, we see the Believer insisting that the solstices and equinoxes are real (which they are), and therefore our decision to adopt them to mark “seasons” must be “real” in the same sense.

Of course, the same argument could be made for the length of the month, which is roughly based on the phases of the moon. Except equally arbitrarily, we conventionally decided to make months variable, and somewhat longer than moon phases. Why not? By convention, we can define whatever we like. The difference between a month and a “moonth” ought to illustrate this principle quite vividly. I wonder if this illustration can even register on a Believer?

Do you guys carry around signs that say “Will Argue for Food?”

Jeebus! I can’t believe you’re arguing that solstices and equinoxes are arbitrary.

O’Reilly said there are four seasons and they’re scientific facts. He’s exactly right. The four seasons are delimited by astronomical certainties not by variable weather patterns. That’s sixth grade science. Get over it. Or go back to the sixth grade and learn it over again.

No, he said, “That’s science.” It is not. Science is not a list of facts you can memorize.

I’m amused. We teach a freshman introduction to the scientific method at my university, and that’s the very first thing we hammer on: that science is a process, not a laundry list.

Flint wrote

Why wouldn’t a Believer believe that seasons (or anything else) are somehow rigid and absolute? It’s the filter through which their world must pass to reach their minds. Once the cultural convention has been adopted to use solstices and equinoxes to mark seasons, The Believer associates the convention (arbitrary) with these occasions (astronomical) it becomes unalterable Received Wisdom. And so, no surprise, we see the Believer insisting that the solstices and equinoxes are real (which they are), and therefore our decision to adopt them to mark “seasons” must be “real” in the same sense.

I’m reminded of the resistance to Daylight Saving Time back in the dark ages of the mid-20th century when some farmers in Minnesota (and elsewhere, but I lived in Minnesota at the time) resisted DST on the ground that it wasn’t “God’s time” and cows give milk on God’s time, not man’s time, and the extra hour of daylight burned crops. Seriously.

RBH

DaveScot Wrote:

Jeebus! I can’t believe you’re arguing that solstices and equinoxes are arbitrary.

I can’t believe it either, since no-one is arguing that.

We’re arguing that basing the seasons on these paticular astronomical events is an arbitrary convention. That they could also be based on 3-month calendrical increments as in the meteorologically system or on the Irish system, both also arbitrary conventions.

For that matter, there’s no need to have 4 seasons. We could have easily have just 2, one from the vernal to the autumnal equinox, and the other fom the autumnal to the vernal. Or from solstice to solstice. Why not? Or maybe 8 seasons by dividing the ones we have now in half. Or 12, with Early, Middle and Late of each of our current seasons.

Divying up the seasons is not what science is about. Science is about explaining why we have this cyclical annual climate in the first place.

Of course, the same argument could be made for the length of the month, which is roughly based on the phases of the moon. Except equally arbitrarily, we conventionally decided to make months variable, and somewhat longer than moon phases. Why not? By convention, we can define whatever we like. The difference between a month and a “moonth” ought to illustrate this principle quite vividly. I wonder if this illustration can even register on a Believer?

Reminds me of an argument I had with my dad over daylight savings. He thought it actually changed the amount of sunlight in a day as opposed to merely shifting sunrise/sunset by one hour in the same direction. He was no dummy and once-upon-a-time would not have made such an obvious error. But, years of being a fundamentalist caused his reasoning abilities to atrophy.

davescot said:

O’Reilly said there are four seasons and they’re scientific facts. He’s exactly right.

You guys need any more proof that this guy’s a troll who knows better, and is just wasting your time? It’s pretty obvious by now.

I recall reading somewhere that the Florida legislature (or somewhere) voted for daylight savings year-round, so the there would be more hours of sunlight in a day during the winter. After a few schoolchildren were killed waiting for school buses in the dark, they rescinded this law.

Flint: The Believer associates the convention (arbitrary) with these occasions (astronomical) it becomes unalterable Received Wisdom. And so, no surprise, we see the Believer insisting that the solstices and equinoxes are real (which they are), and therefore our decision to adopt them to mark “seasons” must be “real” in the same sense…I wonder if this illustration can even register on a Believer?

DaveScot: Jeebus! I can’t believe you’re arguing that solstices and equinoxes are arbitrary.

I hadn’t expected such a clear and unequivocal answer. We can say over and over that the solstices and equinoxes are real, but that our cultural decision to attach arbitrary seasons to them is a convention, and it CAN NOT register on a believer. He simply can’t grasp what we are saying, no matter how clearly or repeatedly we say it. I haven’t yet dediced DaveScot is either abysmally stupid or just trolling. I continue to think he’s sincere, but involuntarily blinded.

DaveScot said (I hope Dave Barry is keeping notes):

The four seasons are delimited by astronomical certainties not by variable weather patterns. That’s sixth grade science. Get over it. Or go back to the sixth grade and learn it over again.

By that standard, Easter is a scientific fact – a movable feast, still, but a scientific fact.

So is “a blue moon.” So is April Fool’s Day. So is Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. So is “Talk Like a Pirate Day.”

That’s one of the key problems with creationism’s standards – they are so fuzzy and so low that they are useless in any serious pursuit, the moral equivalent of lascivious promiscuity.

I’m putting O’Reilly’s comments in my “Must Be Read To Be Believed” file. I’m almost afraid to ask, but what did O’Reilly teach in high school?

Do you guys carry around signs that say “Will Argue for Food?”

Jeebus! I can’t believe you’re arguing that solstices and equinoxes are arbitrary.

O’Reilly said there are four seasons and they’re scientific facts. He’s exactly right. The four seasons are delimited by astronomical certainties not by variable weather patterns. That’s sixth grade science. Get over it. Or go back to the sixth grade and learn it over again.

By that reasoning, I could say, “I’m wearing a green shirt. That’s a scientific fact.” I mean, clearly one can observe that I am, indeed, wearing a green shirt. I don’t think it’s really debatable at all.

You be the judge: Science or no?

Ruthless, you’re butt-naked right now and you know it. Stop teasing us.

Ruthless, you’re butt-naked right now and you know it. Stop teasing us.

Shhhh…they don’t know that…

Hmmm. Would it still be science if I had only my socks on, but still claimed I was naked? Perhaps a new chapter for the physics books…

Doesn’t everyone read PT in the buff?

Doesn’t everyone read PT in the buff?

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This page contains a single entry by PZ Myers published on January 19, 2005 10:54 PM.

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