Saturday, 27 March 2010

Gary Ablett Sr. on things he doesn't understand

Gary Ablett is a well known former AFL player, as is his eldest son, Gary Ablett. However the young Gary Ablett seems to have the intelligence not to "write" an article on the Herald Sun website.

His father clearly doesn't. "What kind of world do we want to live in?" he asks, and proceeds to use 2,777 words to argue that it's essentially "one with God in it".

This is an article already embroiled in scandal, he plagiarised a few sections from American evangelical websites and then some.

But I'm getting ahead of myself here.

Misquotes and morality

The article opens with two quotes:

THERE is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all argument and which cannot fail to keep man in everlasting ignorance - that principle is contempt prior to investigation." (Herbert Spencer)

The famous King Solomon, considered the wisest man of his day, also said, "He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him". (Proverbs 18:13)

Only one of these quotes is actually correctly attributed. Herbert Spencer never said that quote. According to Wikiquote it's misattributed to him. It is, in fact, a quote by William Paley. Yep, that's right, the watch guy.

I think that says a lot for this article, or at least whoever fact checks for the Herald.

However don't think this article is just about misquoting, it's also about morality, and looking back to another unspecified time in the past (probably somewhere from 1973 to 2009). He says things like:

...[T]hat we should each begin to grow and learn; aspiring to live better, more meaningful, more productive and more effective lives. Surely we should each be focused on discovering how we as individuals and communities can learn to live and work together in order to produce a far more peaceful, stable, secure and loving environment?

Sadly, in this once great nation of Australia, this does not seem to be the case, which is why I feel burdened and compelled to speak out.


Today, our newspapers, televisions and computer screens are full of shocking and horrible crimes, detailing a very serious decline in morals and values in our community. We read stories that describe a rapid deterioration in standards of behaviour wherever we look. Our culture struggles under the massive weight of increasing problems associated with hatred, anger, violence, alcohol and drug abuse, depression and suicide, family breakdown, the devaluing of human life and dignity, and a growing disrespect for law and order, to name just a few - all of which work together to create and subsequently feed an enormous and expanding hole in the moral fabric that once upon a time held our society firmly together.

And also,

However, over recent years we have shifted further and further away from the inclusion of anything godly in our planning, decision-making and policy-setting; so while we watch our standards crumble and our moral foundations erode away, we somehow simultaneously manage to sit back and wonder why society has no sure and stable footing left on which to build a strong and solid culture?

All of which suggest a desire to go back to earlier times, since we know that looking nostalgically back at the past is the best way to determine if our society is crumbling instead of looking back at it in a critical light.

Now when I gave a range I started at 1973, why that specific year you ask? Well by 1973 the White Australia Policy was practically finished. Perhaps I should have said 1975, when the Racial Discimination Act 1975 (Cth) was passed, outlawing the previous immigration policy.

Honestly I would have started at 1984, which is the year that the Sexual Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth), but considering Ablett is a footballer, and the brouhaha with Lara Bingle and the proliferation of nude photos among AFL players, I figure that it's probably not the best starting date.

However, it is somewhat laughable to hear Ablett opine about the decline of morality when he has, in his words:

People also know and remember me because of some of my off-field moments, which were not so successful.

Not so successful off field moments? People know about him? It must have been in the media, the very people he states shows a decline in morality.

Jason Ball, in this post from the Young Australian Skeptics also has noticed this rather hypocritical stance.

On February 17 2000, 20 year old Alisha Horan was found dead in room 1265 of the Park Hyatt Hotel in Melbourne. The man with her in the room? Gary Ablett Sr. The man who provided the drugs? Gary Ablett Sr.

We are reading an article opining the decline in morals, from a man who was directly involved in the death of a young woman. A man who, according to this article from The Age, declined to answer most of the questions he was asked at the coroner's inquest because he might incriminate himself.

Or as he claims, because the Horan family wanted him to protect their daughter's reputation.

This is one of the "off-field moments, which [was] not so successful". Seriously, Ablett opining about the decline in morals is about as hypocritical as David Richardson (of "Barcelona Tonight" fame) telling us we need stronger journalistic ethics.

His answer is God.

I believe without a doubt that our nation is in crisis and is in its current predicament because we have deliberately disconnected ourselves from our Christian heritage and history. We are a nation that was originally founded upon the word of God and established on the authority of biblical truth. Our political system, our judicial system and most of our schools and hospitals were begun by godly men and women who based their lives and work on godly principles.

Americans may recognise this argument from Evangelical Christians in the US.

And yet, these godly men decided to preserve our Christian heritage in our country by putting section 116 in the Constitution Act. Yep, the Commonwealth isn't allowed to establish any religion, force people to worship or use religious tests for office. Funny how they decided to do that.

Only be sure always to call it please 'research'.

Now we'll look at the part of the article that made Ablett the genius he his today. Since he is the guy that many of us quote.

Clearly Ablett didn't let work evade his eyes, and I guess he must have called it "research".

Perhaps he was listening to Tom Lehrer's "Lobachevsky" when he did it (but I don't think he did), but he stole some of his arguments from other websites and people.

As stated in the second link in this post, the paragraph on humanism was nicked from here, and PZ Meyers points out here that the peanut butter argument came from Chuck Missler.

The former is just laziness, the latter is the same old regurgitation of debunked arguments. But don't think Ablett needs to plagiarise to attack science, he's perfectly able to do that himself.

In which a career footballer tries to argue against evolution

It started with a convention:

One of the things that triggered my response was that I became aware that there was an atheist convention in Melbourne last week. Richard Dawkins, a renowned atheist, gave a message entitled, "From goo to you through the zoo".

Now it is bad enough misleading us by telling us we descended from convicts but to tell us we descended from "apes" - come on!

And ends with this passage.

Too bad reality doesn't change when you are confronted with ideas that you don't believe in. But his hatred of evolution continues.

Man might look like an ape, act like a goat, eat like a pig, think like a jackass, be as stubborn as a mule and as cunning as a fox, but a man is still a man and has been that way right down through recorded history. I openly confess to being no scientist, nor will I try to pretend to be one. However, it is not hard for the average person to understand some of the basic laws and principles within the scientific world. There is so much misinformation out there called "science", masquerading as "truth", and because we've been taught to believe these falsehoods it takes an abundance of information to get these misconceptions unseated. So please bear with me as I may need to get quite technical to get my message across.

I've bolded the most important sentence in this passage. Remember folks, get your science from actual scientists, not former-AFL players who think they actually understand what it is they are arguing against. However he has decided to pretend to be someone who actually understands what it is he is arguing against.

For example, molecular biologist Michael Dentin pointed out in his book, Evolution, A Theory in Crisis, that even Charles Darwin had to admit he had absolutely no hardcore empirical date, no concrete evidence, no substantial scientific facts, nothing to prove any of the major evolutionary transformation he asserted. The fact is that fossil records do not support Darwin's theory. Experts have come to realise that the gaps in the fossil records and the absence of precursor and intermediate forms are such that they can no longer be ignored or his theory be taken seriously. It was Darwin, the author of the theory of evolution himself, that confessed in a letter to Ossy Gray on September 5, 1857 that "one's imagination must fill up the very blanks".
I don't really know whether Ablett is quoting from Denton, or writing his own drivel here, and as far as I'm aware the quoted bit doesn't appear anywhere except in this article. Hell I can't even find the existence of an Ossy Gray. I think I've found the letter in question here (and also here, select page 120) to an Asa Gray, and it appears that Ablett is not beyond using a quote mine. Well I guess it's not lying when you're lying for Jesus.

The part of the letter that includes this bit is actually as follows:
VI. One other principle, which may be called the principle of divergence plays, I believe, an important part in the origin of species. The same spot will support more life if occupied by very diverse forms: we see this in the many generic forms in a square yard of turf (I have counted 20 species belonging to 18 genera),—or in the plants and insects, on any little uniform islet, belonging almost to as many genera and families as species.— We can understand this with the higher, animals whose habits we understand. We know that it has been experimentally shown that a plot of land will yield a greater weight, if cropped with several species of grasses than with 2 or 3 species. Now every single organic being, by propagating so rapidly, may be said to be striving its utmost to increase in numbers. So it will be with the offspring of any species after it has broken into varieties, or sub-species or true species. And it follows, I think, from the foregoing facts, that the varying offspring of each species will try (only few will succeed) to seize on as many and as diverse places in the economy of nature, as possible. Each new variety or species, when formed will generally take the place of and so exterminate its less well-fitted parent. This, I believe, to be the origin of the classification or arrangement of all organic beings at all times. These always seem to branch and sub-branch like a tree from a common trunk; the flourishing twigs destroying the less vigorous,—the dead and lost branches rudely representing extinct genera and families.

This sketch is most imperfect; but in so short a space I cannot make it better. Your imagination must fill up many wide blanks.— Without some reflexion it will appear all rubbish; perhaps it will appear so after reflexion.— | C. D.
I added the previous paragraph for context, but it's rather clear that the quote in question is about Darwin's crappy diagram rather then him stating that evolution doesn't have enough evidence and that you need to use your imagination.

I'm wondering if the Herald Sun actually employ spell and fact checkers, since this article seems to require both.

Beyond that, this paragraph is just wrong, and the article is just getting wronger as you continue through it.
With testimonies like this from the author of evolution himself, I submit to you that the theory of evolution is not only lacking in facts, but has absolutely no foundation whatsoever. If it was only ever a theory, how did it find its way into our classrooms and society as fact?
So we have a "testimony" from Darwin that is a quote mine the misuse of the word "theory".

The next three paragraphs are the peanut butter jar argument. I'm not really going to discuss this, but I would like to say that he has mistaken abiogenesis for spontaneous generation. He also uses the creationist definition of "information" which is I believe "whatever the hell you want it to mean".

To inform us about information
This begs the question that since information is not inherent within matter itself, nor can it be derived from natural law, "where did it come from?"

Take today's newspaper, for example, with the codes and printing on it. To try and derive the information in the newspaper from the natural laws that govern the paper alone is impossible because the information needs to be printed on to the laws that govern the paper.

To attempt to derive the morning's news from the chemistry of the paper alone without the input of information is absurd. Even in a simple newspaper we can appreciate "Intelligent Design". It is the same as a genetic code imprinted according to the laws of information and language on to matter.

Hey look, it's another standard creationist argument. Well, I guess the Herald Sun has newspapers that reproduce, so clearly that proves evolution wrong.

Let's just ignore the fact that we write newspapers to be different every day and that there is massive change between editions.

And we see that pesky "information". I wonder what it could mean? He still hasn't made that clear to us. At least we know it's about genetics. If DNA is like a newspaper then I'd say that Gary Ablett Sr.'s would read something like this:

5' Gary Ablett Sr. Born again Christian, therefore no understanding of science, AFL player, intelligence limitations to be implemented, prone to using drugs and making stupid arguments. 3'

If he hadn't already mentioned that we need God, we would be wondering how long until we get to "needs designer" (next paragraph in his article) and then "who is the designer (hint: G-d)".

Never play probability games with Ablett

More standard creationist canards are presented, this time the old "DNA is too improbable to form" coupled with the "hurricane through a junkyard" and that biological evolution is used to make aeroplanes.

Some of the renowned and respected scientists and mathematicians through the world have concluded that something as complex as the "DNA" molecule of every living thing occurring by chance is 10 to the power 130. In other words, one chance in 10 with a hundred and thirty zeros after it ... that is a huge number.

So remember folks, don't play a game of cards with him for money. He'll try and use crappy statistics to get out of paying you.

Too bad things like non-random selection and the simple fact that the probability of an even occurring that has already occurred is 1, does not factor into this man's head. Perhaps he'd forget his 6 times tables or something.

Where the Bible is quoted to attack science

It's the classic Romans quote. You know, Romans 1:23-25 where Paul says that everyone knows that God exists and you're an idiot for not accepting it?

Well it's in there, and he's calling everyone who doesn't believe what he does and idiot. It's a great way to convert people, until you get to the person who would rather be an idiot then blindly believe the things you do.

He concludes with this:

Advances in microbiology, DNA et al have dealt the final death blow to Darwinism.

DNA is a digital code.

Darwinism cannot explain the origin of life because it cannot explain the origin of information.

I think these three sentences summarise how ignorant he is of the actual science.

I guess he's been reading Ken Ham or something, because someone who has actually looked at what science actually says would not draw such stupid conclusions.

Ending the article with a poem

I'm not going to bother with the last couple of paragraphs. It's just more of the same. Evolution is a lie, no God leads to the self destruction of our way of life. And this:

God's word tells us we are a very special and unique and precious creation, made in God's image for an eternal relationship with God and a purpose and a destiny that is mind-blowing. And God loves and values us so much that He was willing to leave His glory, take on human nature and enter into His own creation to undo the damage done by a dark intruder, and provide a mechanism by which you and I can qualify and be eligible for that relationship, purpose and destiny which is there for the asking. But that is all I will say, as I am aware this is a sensitive area for some. I do not wish to come across as a Bible basher or a religious fanatic, for this is not a church.

A remarkable piece of dissonance here. The thing is Mr. Ablett, you do come across as a Bible basher and/or a religious fanatic. It's that simple. All the stuff above the bold? Bible bashing and religious fanaticism.

It closes with a poem that basically blames godlessness for Colombine. It's as if he wants people who think for themselves to not be swayed by his argument.

Much of his article was a rant against evolution. Since he opened his article with a fake quote from Herbert Spencer, I think I'll let him have the last word.

The quote comes from The Development Hypothesis:
Those who cavalierly reject the Theory of Evolution as not being adequately supported by facts, seem to forget that their own theory is supported by no facts at all. Like the majority of men who are born to a given belief, they demand the most rigorous proof of any adverse belief, but assume that their own needs none.


Tallulah said...

I agree with everything you said. On Monday I'm going to change my newspaper subscription to the Australian or the Age.

Pretty much the only reactions though have been how unfounded everything he says is concerning putting down Evolution (a very legitimate point) or how ignorant he is (an even more legitimate point)...but I'd like to put forward two more observations, which I'm surprised no one else I've seen has picked up...

First: The fact that he actually doesn't address the supposed point of his article. Apparently he's commenting on the degration of our society (which I do actually agree with), but instead of explaining how Christianity can address these issues, he sets out to prove God exists by explaining how Evolution doesn't. What the hell?

Second: I know what he means. Initially, he's just referring to the lack of values in our society, which I agree with. Values that Christianity teaches. But any good, solid human being would have those values, it's nothing to do with God. Also every religion teaches has these values in some from in their foundation - respect for others etc. It's how he thinks that a country can be ruled with the basis of one religion - how many bloody religions do we have in this country?! The naivety of it all annoys me the most.

Andy said...

His maths is lacking too (big surprise):

10^130 is a ONE (1) with 130 zeroes after it - or a 10 with 29 zeroes after it.

He botched the probability by a factor of 10 so things weren't as improbable as he thought.

Andy said...

Oops! A ten with 129 zeroes after it. I had making errors when I'm correcting someone :(

At least mine was just bad typing, not bad maths.

Andy said...

I give up. That should be "hate" not "had". Sorry.