Skip to comments.Creationism: God's gift to the ignorant (Religion bashing alert)
Posted on 05/25/2005 3:41:22 AM PDT by billorites
Science feeds on mystery. As my colleague Matt Ridley has put it: Most scientists are bored by what they have already discovered. It is ignorance that drives them on. Science mines ignorance. Mystery that which we dont yet know; that which we dont yet understand is the mother lode that scientists seek out. Mystics exult in mystery and want it to stay mysterious. Scientists exult in mystery for a very different reason: it gives them something to do.
Admissions of ignorance and mystification are vital to good science. It is therefore galling, to say the least, when enemies of science turn those constructive admissions around and abuse them for political advantage. Worse, it threatens the enterprise of science itself. This is exactly the effect that creationism or intelligent design theory (ID) is having, especially because its propagandists are slick, superficially plausible and, above all, well financed. ID, by the way, is not a new form of creationism. It simply is creationism disguised, for political reasons, under a new name.
It isnt even safe for a scientist to express temporary doubt as a rhetorical device before going on to dispel it.
To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree. You will find this sentence of Charles Darwin quoted again and again by creationists. They never quote what follows. Darwin immediately went on to confound his initial incredulity. Others have built on his foundation, and the eye is today a showpiece of the gradual, cumulative evolution of an almost perfect illusion of design. The relevant chapter of my Climbing Mount Improbable is called The fortyfold Path to Enlightenment in honour of the fact that, far from being difficult to evolve, the eye has evolved at least 40 times independently around the animal kingdom.
The distinguished Harvard geneticist Richard Lewontin is widely quoted as saying that organisms appear to have been carefully and artfully designed. Again, this was a rhetorical preliminary to explaining how the powerful illusion of design actually comes about by natural selection. The isolated quotation strips out the implied emphasis on appear to, leaving exactly what a simple-mindedly pious audience in Kansas, for instance wants to hear.
The deceitful misquoting of scientists to suit an anti-scientific agenda ranks among the many unchristian habits of fundamentalist authors. But such Telling Lies for God (the book title of the splendidly pugnacious Australian geologist Ian Plimer) is not the most serious problem. There is a more important point to be made, and it goes right to the philosophical heart of creationism.
The standard methodology of creationists is to find some phenomenon in nature which Darwinism cannot readily explain. Darwin said: If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. Creationists mine ignorance and uncertainty in order to abuse his challenge. Bet you cant tell me how the elbow joint of the lesser spotted weasel frog evolved by slow gradual degrees? If the scientist fails to give an immediate and comprehensive answer, a default conclusion is drawn: Right, then, the alternative theory; intelligent design wins by default.
Notice the biased logic: if theory A fails in some particular, theory B must be right! Notice, too, how the creationist ploy undermines the scientists rejoicing in uncertainty. Todays scientist in America dare not say: Hm, interesting point. I wonder how the weasel frogs ancestors did evolve their elbow joint. Ill have to go to the university library and take a look. No, the moment a scientist said something like that the default conclusion would become a headline in a creationist pamphlet: Weasel frog could only have been designed by God.
I once introduced a chapter on the so-called Cambrian Explosion with the words: It is as though the fossils were planted there without any evolutionary history. Again, this was a rhetorical overture, intended to whet the readers appetite for the explanation. Inevitably, my remark was gleefully quoted out of context. Creationists adore gaps in the fossil record.
Many evolutionary transitions are elegantly documented by more or less continuous series of changing intermediate fossils. Some are not, and these are the famous gaps. Michael Shermer has wittily pointed out that if a new fossil discovery neatly bisects a gap, the creationist will declare that there are now two gaps! Note yet again the use of a default. If there are no fossils to document a postulated evolutionary transition, the assumption is that there was no evolutionary transition: God must have intervened.
The creationists fondness for gaps in the fossil record is a metaphor for their love of gaps in knowledge generally. Gaps, by default, are filled by God. You dont know how the nerve impulse works? Good! You dont understand how memories are laid down in the brain? Excellent! Is photosynthesis a bafflingly complex process? Wonderful! Please dont go to work on the problem, just give up, and appeal to God. Dear scientist, dont work on your mysteries. Bring us your mysteries for we can use them. Dont squander precious ignorance by researching it away. Ignorance is Gods gift to Kansas.
Richard Dawkins, FRS, is the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science, at Oxford University. His latest book is The Ancestors Tale
Actually, I tend to believe in evolution, and that it is all part of God's plan.
Funny how so many who take evolution as an article of faith constantly try to alter our behavior to prevent global warming or whatever the useful environemtal meme of the day is. If evolution works as advertised, will a 2 degree change in the earth's temperature really cause mass extinctions? Wouldn't the most adaptable species prosper, while those that are less adaptable will either migrate, die out, or evolve? If evolution is such a basic scientific principle, who are we to attempt to halt it?
They constantly preach the awesome power of nature, all the while trying to convince us to freeze nature in stasis like a fly in amber.
One of the most fascinating bits of science lately is that Palies now believe that all modern men (and women) are descended from one woman who came out of Africa-imagine that. It reinforces the biblical version of creation. I have never believed evolution contradicted the biblical version-things evolve...so?
What a pomous English a$$. This bloke has as much of an idea of what people in Kansas think as the U.S. Senate.
Science deals with the physical world and the 5 senses. Anything past that world (creationism, Intelligent Design, Global warming, etc.) are not science, but metaphysics.
Science depends on an objective study of verifiable phenomena. Any speculation as to the cause or the moral correctness of said phenomena are beliefs and belong only to philosophical discussions of a metaphysical nature.Religion begins where science ends.
(1)Do you believe in a creator God and the words & teachings He's given us in His book?
(2)Or do you choose not to believe.
You're side may be correct. Our side my be right. BUT If our side is correct, I sure wouldn't want to be in your place at the last roundup!
Dawkins isn't religion bashing. He's creationist bashing. There is a big difference.
I'm afraid I don't see any 'religion bashing' here; Dawkins is simply criticizing creationist canards.
Dawkins is an atheist who despises all religion.
He particularly hates creationists and reserves most of his venom for them, but it's not just creationists he hates.
the bible was written by man and while god is perfect man is not...
Well said and another reason for non-believers to reconsider - what will they really lose if they live as if God does exist? On the other hand . . .
Any other Eurotrash writer who showed such overweening, obnoxious contempt for Middle Americans would be derided - Robert Fisk wouldn't get a pass.
But Dawkins will get one from many FReepers.
Herein you are making an assumption that the Bible is God's Word. You assume that because the Book claims to be the Word of God, and people you respect claim it is the Word of God. You have no empirical evidence that this is actually the case.
So? His supposed hatred for religion does not come across in this article. So claiming this is "religion bashing" is a bald-faced lie -- of the kind that Dawkins decries in the article.
Preposterous analogy. Surnames are not a proxy for genetics and Pitcairn is hardly a proxy for general population.
A person receives only his father's surname, while he receives both his mother and father's heritage.
And Pitcairn's population and genetic diversity is dwindling because the more resourceful young Islanders leave the Island never to return.
They most certainly are, as they are inherited too. Whole lines die out, leaving only a few to continue on.
Dawkins is entirely correct when he complains about the practice of creationists when they pounce on out-of-context quotes and trumpet them as if it somehow proving their (otherwise vacuous) case. I posted this elsewhere, but it's worth repeating this one extra time:
Henry M. Morris, president of the Institute for Creation Research, recently made this candid admission [bracketed comments are mine]:
A great need -- but very expensive -- is that of more high-quality scientific research. We have been able to accomplish much significant research with our limited staff and our graduate students, but much more is needed, especially in the various problem areas [hee hee] of geology, archaeology, anthropology, and astronomy. In the secular world, this type of research is very largely funded by government grants. We, of course, do not have access to government funding [I wonder why], and would not accept it if we did [yeah, right], so this is a serious inhibiting factor. In the meantime, even though we do not yet have answers to all the problems in scientific creationism, the answers we do have are better than those the evolutionists and "progressive creationists" have. We can at least do literature research, using the experimental data acquired by evolutionary scientists and reinterpreting such data in terms of Creation and the Flood. The modern creation revival has, in fact, largely been developed by this process.
Source: ICR AND THE FUTURE.
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