Saturday, February 05, 2011

Celebrating anti-intellectualism and ignorance with Javed Chaudhry

Last Sunday I had posted about the astonishing display of intellectual ignorance by Georgia Congressman Jack Kingston. For a change of language, below is a clip of a popular Pakistani TV anchor, Javed Choudhry, displaying an equal level of ignorance about evolution, and about the pursuit of knowledge, in general. Even if you don't speak Urdu, just play the clip for a few minutes, and you will detect a deep level of condescension in his tone and in his voice.

His main point here is that you don't have to read Aristotle, Socrates, Plato et al. for thinking about life (the topic of his talk this discussion is "Relationships"). After all, they have been dead for a long time (I don't think he knows exactly how long, since at one point he says 5000 years ago and at another he says 3000 - and both are wrong). So he urges us to use our own brains - since we know a lot more today than they ever did, and that we should be able to challenge any authority with own ideas. Now on the surface this sounds great - since this what we say about science also. However, he does not mention that your views have to shaped and informed by learning from the past. A key omission. 

And then just on cue, he demonstrates his own ignorance by arguing against evolution by bringing up the same old and stupid misconception: "if humans came from monkeys, how come monkeys are still around?". But just to demonstrate his level of thinking, he goes on to say that monkeys have been around in zoos for a while. How come not even one has started wearing pants or smoking cigarettes (I guess, he missed a whole slew of Hollywood films). Sigh! I mean how much effort does it take to at least look at what are some of the basic principles of evolutionary biology. But he does deserve credit for taking the level of discourse to even a stupider level.  I mean sure. You can criticize it. But at least know a tiny bit about what you are criticizing. Oh wait. But that would mean actually reading something. And I guess reading can be hard. But if you graduate from the Javed Choudhry university - you only need to think - and not read. I guess he is a born genius. First it was Einstein - and now we have Javed Choudhry.

Read about common misconceptions about evolution here and here.

Sorry to inflict this on you (blame Shahid Saeed for the tip :)). The fun about evolution begins around the 5-minute mark, but his anti-Aristotle/Socrates/Plato rant is before that:

16 comments:

Shahid Saeed said...

Thanks for posting this. I look forward to [any] comment[s].

Atif Khan said...

So called self proclaimed intellect of Pakistan discussing evolution without ever knowing what exactly it is about. This is the reflection of whole religious world.

Dr. M. Akbar Hussain said...

Who needs knowledge to speak about a topic here? An astronomer can become a commentator on religion by hosting a certain blog or a physicist can become a political (pseudo-)analyst! ;-)
I think Javed Ch. is doing a light conversation in a chatty mood. Otherwise he is known to me as someone with a similar point of view as yours or mine. As an example, here is a link reflecting his views in a recent article in Urdu.

http://www.express.com.pk/epaper/PoPupwindow.aspx?newsID=1101162910&Issue=NP_KHI&Date=20110206&sms_ss=facebook&at_xt=4d4e7250e7b48e8f%2C0

Ali said...

"Who needs knowledge to speak about a topic here? An astronomer can become a commentator on religion by hosting a certain blog or a physicist can become a political (pseudo-)analyst!"

Ha-ha.
Good one.
To in ka, matlab Javed Chaudry ka, kya kasur hain?

Salman Hameed said...

Atif,

We should be careful in generalizing claims of individuals to the the "whole religious world". There are varied views on this and we should be aware of that.

Akbar:
Actually, if you notice, I focused on the specific claims of Javed Choudhry. I did not criticize him because he is a TV anchor - rather, that his claims betrayed both ignorance and anti-intellectualism. The same is true for my comments on Congressman Jack Kingston, or for that matter, those who are claiming that Betelguese is going to explode in 2012. For example, I did not say that Betelguese argument is wrong because the person making the claim might not be an astronomer. Rather, one has to focus on the arguments. I invite you to do the same. :)

Similarly, just because we may agree with some aspects of Jeved Chaudhry's writings, should not immune us from criticizing him when he is making bad claims. He is being "chatty" in the video - sure - but he is very clear about how he views evolution (and he displays the same old misconceptions) and not once did he say that we should actually learn from earlier philosophers - or that we should actually read more. Hence - the post.

Dr. M. Akbar Hussain said...

Salman"
Anyways, this post is hilarious. I keep on watching this funny video and never get bored. What a waste!... ;-)

Dr. M. Akbar Hussain said...

Salman:
Now here a some new developments of your interest.
High Court in Mumbai, India, has ruled Astrology as a trusted science. Now astrologers are officially our colleagues...what a shame! Do we need to dig a trench deeper than Challenger Deep to dump all over telescopes, projects, books and knowledge, and finally ourselves? I think we do :-(

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/india/8303462/Astrology-is-a-science-court-rules.html

Dr. M. Akbar Hussain said...

Salman:
Now here are some new developments of your interest.
High Court in Mumbai, India, has ruled Astrology as a trusted science. Now astrologers are officially our colleagues...what a shame! Do we need to dig a trench deeper than Challenger Deep to dump all over telescopes, projects, books and knowledge, and finally ourselves? I think we do :-(

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/india/8303462/Astrology-is-a-science-court-rules.html

Imran Mehmood Choudhry said...

I respected this man too much to watch him rambling for 14 minutes. that I just couldn't hear him talking so foolishly after 6 minutes of the video (start of his views on evolution)

I fail to understand why so many brilliant minds like him who themselves advocate logic, argumentation and free though display a TOTAL intolerance and ignorance in understanding the process that is so evident.

I mean I have been seeing and reading this guy for years and absolutely salute his knowledge but yet intellects like him are somehow not able to separate what human wants to believe from what is more logically compelling.

Is there any way to make people (specially intellects) see how self evident or are we missing out on something?

Salman Hameed said...

Re: Indian astrology court-ruling:

Yup - the only thing worse than idiocy - legal idiocy. But actually, it is not clear from the story if the court said that astrology is a science, or that astrology is not covered in the litigation. In any case, need a little candle here...

Salman Hameed said...

"Is there any way to make people (specially intellects) see how self evident or are we missing out on something?"

Imran,

That is a good question and a difficult one to answer. It is sometimes even more difficult to convince somebody like Javed Chaudhry - since they think already know everything. In this case, his general attitude towards learning is not an encouraging sign.

But there are people who have changed their views regarding this. There are two big examples: Michael Shermer - the person who runs Skeptic Magazine - used to be, I think, an Evangelical Christian. And one of the leading historian of science, Ronald Numbers, used to be a Young Earth Creationist. His work now focuses on the history of creationism. Similarly, Mustafa Akyol used to be a follower of Harun Yahya, then he followed Intelligent Design for a while, and then he gave up that also (see here for my post on it). The common theme amongst all three is that they were genuinely curious. I'm not sure if Javed Chaudhry is intellectually curious. Hope I'm wrong.

Dr. M. Akbar Hussain said...

Ok try these links:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Astrology-is-a-science-Bombay-HC/articleshow/7418795.cms

and

http://www.aaadelhi.org/

Dr. M. Akbar Hussain said...

Javed Choudhury's level of knowledge on evolution and his confidence to comment on it reminds me of Richard Dawkins knowledge about religion and his confidence to comment on it.

emre said...

Salman, Mustafa Akyol has not rejected creationism/IDb. In a recent interview with Deutsche Welle, he said:


“There are some scientific facts in nature that point to a design by some intelligent being which is not a part of nature. This being might be God,” Akyol told Deutsche Welle, adding that a fair and objective scientific education should allow evolution and its critics equal classroom time.

Bial K said...

First of all I am quite surprised that their aren't any comments that blatantly disagree with what you (Salman Hameed)wrote.

Secondly, you accuse J.C of having "a deep level of condescension". From a view point of an impartial observer, your column is no different. Instead of refuting claims made by J.C using solid facts and logical arguments, you have resorted to the old fashion way of using specious arguments tied in with emotion. (just take your abundant use of the word "stupid")

Finally, I want to leave with a question. How many of the readers have read the arguments of anti-evolutionist from their own sites?

Take this for example:

http://www.harunyahya.com/20questions02.php

Their are many others as well. The question is are we willing to do the required reading???

emre said...

Bial, I took a quick look at your link. It was riddled with errors so I stopped reading after a few seconds. People with a scientific education read a lot (it's part of the job description), so they quickly learn to separate the wheat from the chaff. Anything labeled Harun Yahya now goes straight into my dumpster. There is so much good material to read; why waste precious time on drivel?