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
It was science that was being used as the excuse for the action on both sides. The scientific argument was the public face of the political battle. As so often happens in history, it was the official reason as opposed to the real one.
If Galileo had merely presented his theory, instead of trying to club the Church with it, the results would have been very different. Many in the Church had already accepted the heliocentric (sp?) theory.
How many Christians have atheists and non-Christians killed throughout the ages? Your question is no more germaine to our discussion than mine.
It most certainly is germane. Galileo did not "attack the church" with threats of condemnation, excommunication, jail, or burning at the stake. Such restraint was not observed by the other side of this argument.
They didn't react to his science. They reacted to his politics.
Good grief. Galileo was a personal friend of the Pope, and hardly one for stirring a political pot. It is one of the best known facts of history that they reacted to his science, massively. The publication of his book created such a stir that they had no choice but to crack down on him. No matter how "political" or intemperate Galileo might have been, it is a totally miniscule issue beside the publication of his book. Everybody, but I mean everybody, should know this. It is fact of history that manifests down through the subsequent centuries in so many ways that it hard to believe there is anyone in the western world who could really believe what you are putting forth.
only the churches--rather as is now the case with creationists and biologists.
Broad brush bigotry again.
I don't understand how this response even makes sense in the context we were discussing. But at this point, I don't care. Please concentrate on one thing at a time until you can produce a cogent argument with some legs regarding facts you didn't make up in a daydream.
Arguments over the correct interpretation of an oracle were common, but the oracle was always happy to give another prophecy if more gold was provided. A good example is the famous incident before the Battle of Salamis when the Pythia first predicted doom and later predicted that a 'wooden wall' (interpreted by the Athenians to mean their ships) would save them.
That kills her success rate right there.
You mentioned "writers" with regard to the oracle. The Bible is a compilation of 66 books written by over 40 different authors, some of them prophets, some of them not, but all commonly linked by their belief in YHWH, God of Israel, and their remarkably consistent message.
What is the Greek counterpart to that which lends support to the existence of the Greek gods, preserves their message and details the prophecies of those such as the oracle?
It's a matter of interpretation. It amounts to a hatred of being challenged by any means. What you would have to do to prove hatred of science is demonstrate that every scientific discovery of the time was condemned by the Church, or even that the Church forced laws to make scientific pursuits illegal. I don't know of any assertion. Instead, this one event, anecdotal evidence as it were, is used to prove a trend.
Good grief--are you still at this? Maybe you should be talking to the guy who thinks that 500 people observed christ's resurrection, and were tortured to death by a mysterious cabal of conspirators for it.
I think it was, but that's beside the point.
I'm wondering what the moral equivalence is between someone publishing a theory, and a church imprisoning a person for disagreeing with them.
If I gave that impression, I'm sorry. What I was trying to say was that if Galileo had REALLY wanted to further the cause of science, he would not have used his discovery as a club to try to attack the Church.
I am not an apologist for the Church as a political power. People's politics can be motivated by their beliefs, but the Church, as an institution, should not be governing nor directing governments.
How is this behaviour of the church different from the behavior of the Taliban?
Conceptually, it is not.
This is not my understanding. I will go back to my sources and produce them for you. But it will not be this evening as I am about to leave and won't have any time to post any more on this topic tonight.
As for the bigotry accusation, it stands no matter what the rest of the conversation. To suggest that all creationists are bad and all biologists are good does not represent an open mind.
In either case, each left pretty extensive records, especially of his military adventures. Remember also, the Egyptians recorded literally everything, including the sales of slaves. Hundreds of such sales records exist from this period, but none mention anything to do with Hebrew slaves. Indeed, the entire historic record is mute on this point.
That's the account of Paul.
1 Corinthians 15: 1-8 (RSV) Now I would remind you, brethren, in what terms I preached to you the gospel, which you received, in which you stand, by which you are saved, if you hold it fast--unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
You don't have to believe Paul's testimony if you don't want to. He was writing this letter to people who could have checked his story out. You and I can't do that, so we ahve to turn to other tests.
As for the gruesome deaths of the Apostles, those are a part of Church History. They are not well documented but have been handed down for nearly 2000 years.
Ahhgh! More of this balony. The heliocentric theory of the universe was in direct conflict with central teachings of the catholic church, whether many in the church believed it or not was irrelevant. What was relevant, for the church, was that the heliocentric picture of the universe undermined the notion, amongst the illiterate, that the church spoke with the voice of God regarding the disposition of the earth, because it undermined the notion that the earth was the center of the universe, and therefore, God's special concern.
If Galileo had sung sweetly as an angel, or smelled like fresh cat dung, it would have made precisely 0 difference--the idea, not the man, was what was dangerous and offensive to the church.
This is so unbelievably out to lunch.
"Are you asking if there's any reason, beyond accidental, for the association of specific codes with particular amino acids? There are some speculative ideas floating around about this, but little experimental evidence."
Yes, that is precisely what I'm asking - do you happen to know what any of these speculations involve?
Post-event editing cannot be ruled out in any prophetic situation. You accept that did not happen in the Bible's case, though much of it predates its actually being written down (sometime during the Babylonian exile), giving the authors plenty of leeway at creative editing. Yet you do not accept it in similar situations with other religions.
This is part of what drives me mad about 'the debate'. Both sides consistenly obscure the distinction between the three meanings of 'evolution' I mentioned in my semi-defense of Behe. The first (allele and phenotype dynamics) is simply an observable fact; the second (common descent) is plainly a solid falsifiable (a single organism with a different system of codons would suffice) scientific theory and every observation to date supports it; the last (neo-Darwinism) is the one I'm not even sure manages to be a theory (though once one vacates 'random variation' the way the definition at http://evonet.sdsc.edu/evoscisociety/what_is_evolution.htm does) and leaves natural selection as a tautology (rather than 'so formulat[ing it] as to be far from tautological') which seems to be the tendancy, lest a falsification of a particular such formulation give aid and comfort to religious obscurantists, it's a 'fact' too (but not a very interesting one), provided one drops the insistence on its completeness and sufficiency as an explanation.
I see you have a grasp of this argument that nearly equals your grasp of Galileo's political acumen. The proponent I spoke of argued, as I said, that the 500, not the Apostles, were mysteriously put to death by a conspiracy of some sort.
So what about the previous claim that many of them were secretly tracked down and tortured then murdered by some mysterious cabal?
Common descent is not what it used to be. It is no longer thought by the mainstream of biological science that a single organism gave rise to all life. Which, by the way, if so, casts a serious measure of doubt on the single-system-of-codon falsification notion.
I thought you were Marilyn Monroe?
Ultimately, one would like to see a path from organism A to organism B by mutation and natural selection, with every step in between a viable organism. I'm confident eventually we will be able to reconstruct such a pathway, though we simply don't have the experimental capability of doing it yet.
I always thought Pharaoh's dream falls into this category. The Egyptians never recorded seven years of feast followed by seven years of famine. Of course, if the whole thing were written down many centuries after the fact, no one would have to bother with such piddly little details.
"Freepers don't fear the Crevos... You know that trolling is a creationist game..."
"Don't be like they are... (don't fear the crevos...)"
(Help me out here Junior.)
ah, no. Too much Discovery Channel, not enough Cell and Molecular Biology.
Remember though, Dawkins isn't someone to take seriously on evolution.
Oh dear. You think Leviticus and the Gospel of St. Matthew are consistent?
(with apologies to Blue Oyster Cult)
Darwin's time has come
Evolution now is gone
Creos don't like the theory
We're certain it's just plain wrong.
They can be like we are
Come on creos ... It's just a theory
No need to listen ... It's just a theory
Darwin's on the outs ... It's just a theory
All his links are missin'...
S. J. Gould is done
P.E. now is gone
Behe, Miller, Hovind
Will now tell us how it's done
Behe, Miller, Hovind...
Americans believe the creos ... Behe, Miller, Hovind
Americans believe the creos ... Tell us how it's done
And more are joining us everyday ... You can be like we are
Come on creos ... It's just a theory
No need to listen ... It's just a theory
Darwin's on the outs ... It's just a theory
All his links are missin'...
Was here but now it's gone
We'll replace it with ID
Regardless if it's really wrong
We regard it as a kind of tool
It's just a wedge to get God in school
To see how many we can fool
Saying, "join the creos..."
Come on creos ... And then they came
Flocked in droves ... We ain't no slime
Turned the clock backward in time
You'll become like we are
No need for research
You'll become like we are
Come on creos ... It's just a theory
...and so a tradition was born....
I am at a loss as to why we are "abandoning" random variation, and I don't believe I can cut through this thicket of verbiage to get at it. But I am not quite ready to toss it in the trash bin, and I don't believe most biologists are, either.
We obviously have random variation to provide a base population upon which selection operates. We are recently noticing that our centuries-old assumption that the randomizer had a uniform initial distribution before selection started whittling on it, might have been off the mark.
I appreciate any gifts God gives me, because compared to Him I am certainly and unfailingly ignorant.
Okay, carry on.
As I stated, pegleg and all.
He was writing to the people of Corinth, which was quite some distance from the Holy Land. Hell, people back then believed stories of dog-faced men in Africa and that one-eyed giants inhabited some of the islands of the Mediterranean.
The manticore was first described by the ancient Greek traveller Ctesias. He tells us that the manticore had a lion's body, human face and ears, three rows of sharp teeth in each jaw and poisoned spines in its tail, which it could shoot like a porcupine.
Oddly, I believe I've seen the same description used in these posts, but about each other, not manticores.
His disagreement was with most of the scientific world of his day, which was, and is today, welcomed by the church insofar as science aims for the truth. Galileo was defending the views of a Catholic priest who also happened to be a scientist.
"Religion is the opiate of the masses." Karl Marx
Dawkins is not a Marxist.
Your opinion, I don't share it. His views are remarkably similar to Marx vis a vis religion and he is an economic lefty to boot.
Not in this or any other lifetime.
Richard Dawkins is a Eurotrash leftist who happens to hate religion and love the TOE. Deal with it....
And for a bonus:
"Dear Mr Bush (I'd say President Bush if you had actually been elected),
I've been asked to give advice to you on touching down in Britain. It is this. Go home. You aren't wanted here. You aren't wanted anywhere else either, but you may have been misunderinformed that Britain was the one place where you would be welcomified. Wrong. Well, presumably your best pal Tony welcomes you. But that's about it. Your motorcades, your helicopters, your triggerhappy guards will try to protect you from the people of Britain, who would otherwise spoil the photo-ops for the folks back home. But be in no doubt. We despise you here too. After you and Jeb stole the election (by a margin smaller than the number of folks you executed in Texas) you were rightly written off as a one-term president: a fair advertisement for Drunks For Jesus but otherwise an idle nonentity; inarticulate, unintelligent, an ignorant hick. September 11 changed all that. Not that you covered yourself with glory that day. You are said to admire Churchill. Can you imagine Churchill, at such a moment, panicking all around the country from airbase to airbase? Even nasty old Rummy bunkered down where he belonged.
Never mind, your puppeteers from the Project for the New American Century recognised the opportunity they had been waiting for. September 11 was your golden Pearl Harbor. This was how you'd get elected in 2004 (not re-elected, elected). You would announce a War on Terror. American troops would win. And you would be the victorious warlord, swaggering in a flight suit before a Mission Accomplished banner.
It worked in Afghanistan. But then those puppeteers moved on to their long-term project: Iraq. Never mind that you had to lie about weapons of mass destruction. Never mind that Iraq had not the smallest connection with 9/11. The good folks back home would never know the difference between Saddam and Osama. You would ride the paranoid patriotism aroused by 9/11 all the way into Iraq, and hand out oil and reconstruction contracts to Dick Cheney's boys. That escapade is now backfiring horribly, as many of us said it would. No wonder young American travellers are sewing Canadian flags to their rucksacks. What we in Britain won't forgive is that you have dragged us down too. Go home."
This leftist puke is all yours. Congrats.
Written by the future Veteran of a Thousand Bites, no doubt.
His ankles can take it.
I must confess, I wrote these and several others some time ago (I keep them on my website). Occasionally I get the opportunity to trot them out again.
Now thats funny!
Why should it matter what Galileo's motives were, or why should it matter whether he was right?
The supression of ideas by authority is the greatest single crime that can be committed. Worse than rape or murder, because crimes against the body affect a limited number of people. Crimes agains free speech are crimes against the mind, the greatest gift we have.
ah. cheater. I approve.