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
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.