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
HAH! I got the BEST Prime on this thread!
I don't think so. Suppression breeds revolution and is as such a temporary state of affairs. Dead is dead.
'Marx was an atheist; Dawkins is an atheist; therefore Dawkins is a Marxist' is idiotic. And being a leftist does not make one a Marxist. Words have meanings; their purpose is not simply so you can fling ill-directed insults.
I have no further reason to assume anything you write bears more than accidental relationship with the truth. Shame.
I think one day we should hold a crevo filk and poetry contest. Everyone could trot out his or her best efforts. It might go some way to breaking the tensions that arise on these threads.
By killing God, evolutionists kill that which gave rise to our Western Culture, namely Christianity. By killing Western Culture...
To control the present is to control the past and, hence, the future of mankind.
I find it interesting that you would say that.
Its not my opinion...marxists can't stand the guy.
As for "shame" I can only laugh. Your response was pathetic.
Dawkins views on religion are marxist. There is no reason to argue that point, it is a fact.
or throw gas on the fire...
filk? what is filk?
Because when people post nonsense, such as you've posted in your characterization of Galileo, then others are compelled to correct the nonsense. When the nonsense gets corrected, the poster of the nonsense generally refuses to step down and instead becomes defensive and combative. It's all downhill from there..
Galileo was never at odds with either Christianity or with the Catholic Church. It was certain influential officials of the Church who were at odds with Galileo. When Galileo was ordered to halt teaching the Copernican heliocentric model in 1616 he did so until 1623. He did not resume his endeavors in that regard until 1623 when his friend Pope Urban VIII succeeded to the Holy See, and lifted the prohibition. His pivotal exposition of Copernican theory was published in 1632 with the imprimatur of the Catholic censors. It was only thereafter that Church opponents of science brought him before the Inquisition on the basis of the 1616 prohibition. As we all know, Galileo duly recanted before the Inquisition; he was always profoundly religious and never sought to undermine the Church. It is absolutely ridiculous to suggest that Galileo 'misbehaved' with regard to the Catholic Church.
PS. As an idle aside, it's worth noting that Sir Francis Bacon, despite his admirable formulation of the scientific method, nonetheless firmly rejected the Copernican model on religious grounds.
PPS. It's also noteworthy that Nicholas Copernicus drew his inspiration from the heliocentric theory of the ancient Greek astronomer Aristarchus formulated 17 centuries before Copernicus. It was Copernicus however that worked out the basic physics and transformed Aristarchus' model into a science.
I thought those with faith do not believe dead is dead.
I personally would rather be dead with my ideas preserved than alive without the ability to express my thoughts. Death is going to happen anyway. It's how we live while we are alive that matters.
booze and war are under no threat from evolutionary theory.
Second, while some of Western Culture can be attributed to Christianity, pre-Christian cultures have also informed what is now Western Culture: there is, of course, the influence of the Jews (who are not Christian); but you cannot discount the Romans (constitutional government, the rule of law), or the Greeks (mathematics, engineering, the concept of research, the roots of modern medicine [think Galen], military organization and drill). Indeed, one can accurately claim that Christianity actually stifled Western Civilization for centuries until the re-emergence of classical thought in the Rennaissance.
The Lib. Dems are not Marxists. They are part of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (formerly European Liberal Democrat and Reform) group in the European Parliament, which includes the German FDP. They're considered to be old-fashioned free-market liberals (not liberals in the American sense). The British LibDems are probably towards the left of the ALDE, but calling them Marxists is just asinine.
On a superficial level I suppose. Marx thought religion was a tool of the ruling classes to keep the workers pacified. Do you think Dawkins subscribes to this conspiracy?
It is irrelevant anyway...just because someone is anti-religion doesn't at all suggest he is a marxist. Several on this forum have strong views against religion, does that make them marxists? Your argument is silly. The philosophy of Marx entails a lot more than atheism.
Yeah, I know. A shame you have so little understanding of people of faith.
We, us luddite creationists, believe that when our bodies die we can no longer pick up arms against the "suppressors". We also believe that our souls are eternal. And so it goes.
Whats assinine is you resorting to calling me a liar when the fact of the matter is that Dawkins' views on religion are marxist. His economic views are leftist. His views on the jihadists are a freaking disgrace.
OH, a snappy way of indicating "funny parody of extant popular song"
Check out my post #412.
Marxism is not a religion. It's a political/economic philosophy. This is like saying I'm an evangelical Christian because I probably agree broadly with Jerry Falwell on economic matters.
Dishonesty compelled you to bring up the word atheist.
Really? Marx was and Dawkins is an atheist. And in saying 'his views are remarkably similar to Marx vis a vis religion', you weren't alluding to the fact they're both atheists?
Give me a break.
don't you mean Stalinist?
The Torah is a bit different from the later books in that they WERE all written after the fact. This is of course undisputed. Not so for others, for example the major prophets such as Ezekiel, Daniel and Isaiah.
I thought it was Hitler. Who said, "You can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs?"
To a greater or lesser extent...
perhaps... none of which indicates that the article from which this thread derives is in any significant way inaccurate in its description of "ID". Argumentum ad Hominem never goes out of style, but it never becomes less of a fallacy.
Stalin, IIRC... concerning his deliberate ravaging of the Ukraine (again: IIRC).
ah. sehr gut.
I think you're wrong. As I understand it, Marx considered religion to be the "opium of the people," a kind of self-medication to deal with the world's indifference toward us. Dawkins thinks that it is pre-scientific thinking that persists largely because children are naturally gullible which he perceives as an evolved behavior.
Of all the foreign corespondents who betrayed their craft with blatant distortions and fabrications, none is more loathsome than the opium-indulging Walter Duranty, The New York Times foreign correspondent in Moscow during Stalin's genocidal destruction of Ukraine's peasantry in 1932-1933. Duranty is the father of the "give them a break" journalistic approach to communism.
It was Duranty who knowingly denied the famine in dispatches to The New York Times with descriptive euphemisms such as "serious food shortage," "mismanagement of collective farming," a conspiracy of "wreckers" and "spoilers" who had "made a mass of Soviet food production" (i.e. poor Ukrainian peasants who resisted collectivization) and the like. "There is no actual starvation or deaths from starvation," he wrote, "but there is widespread mortality from diseases due to malnutrition." There was suffering, Duranty admitted but "to put it brutally - you can't make an omelet without breaking eggs..."
My dictionary of quotations says that it was used by Robespierre, but that it may already have been a proverb at that time.
Richard Dawkins, an Oxford science don, suggested Mr Bush was just as much of a danger to world peace as Saddam Hussein, adding: "It would be a tragedy if Tony Blair were to be brought down through playing poodle to this unelected and deeply stupid little oil-spiv."
perhaps the phrase is an old and common one in middle europe?
I lean towards the duranty/stalin cite, but that might just be my Uke blood talking.
thanks. see 439. I begin to suspect it is of long-standing use
What legal agreement? Here's an excellent account I just tracked down of the persecution of Galileo by the enemies of science in the Catholic Church. Perhaps you should read that before answering.
Note, btw, the shady methods of Galileo's enemies and how remarkably similar they are to modern creationist tactics....
That'd be Dembski's "explanatory filter".
johnnyb and I argued and talked right past each other in this thread.
I am learning lots about people of faith. I was raised to think that one fought oppression best by being a good example to your children and to others.
I didn't know that Frodo was supposed to use the ring to overthrow his opprseeors.
sounds awfully familiar...
Might I point out a fact that should be obvious, that Galileo has done more to defeat his oppressors while dead than he could have by taking up arms while alive. If he had been a good boy and suppressed his publications, his ideas would have died with him, or at least been delayed.
BTW, one more little historical footnote. Aristotle had also envisioned the heliocentric model but came to reject it for what were actually valid scientific objections: that if the earth moved then the stars should evidence a parallax. This was the same basis upon which Ptolemy and others would then resist the ideas of Aristarchus. What the ancient Greeks didn't comprehend was how far away the stars were, and therefore how miniscule their parallax.
There are probably a number of reasons, one is the possibility that what appears to be random might be law governed (cf. Wolfram's work on cellular automata), another is an observation made by a pro-Darwinian-mechanism-evolution FReeper in response to a query of mine ages ago: selection works at a cellular level, too. (Which opens the possibility that filtering cellularly lethal variation out of changes at the level of precursors to germ cells might produce some slight bias toward globally beneficial variation at the level of heritable changes.)
There is also the fact that the 'randomness' for all Dawkins confidence that it is randomness on the ontological level like Brownian motion or the collapse of the wave-function, was really always just epistemological randomness--we don't know a law governing pre-selection variation, and it's unpredictable to us.
It might also be a political move: admitting that it's epistemological randomness rather than "chance" takes a bit of the heat out of the debate.
Poor chose of words? Did I write that?
My goodness. I just came home and see all these posts because of my lousy "chose" of words this morning.
I'd blame it on not having my morning coffee, but I did.
Thanks for your understanding. Memo to self...
"Post in haste, repent at leisure.
There was another very powerful reason for the ancients to believe that the earth didn't move. It's so ridiculous sounding now that it's virtually never mentioned, but before Isaac Newton (a generation after Galileo's trial) it was regarded as a great problem. The argument was that if the earth moves, then why doesn't it leave the moon behind?
Think about it. If no one knew (before Newton) that gravity was the same on earth and in the heavens, then the problem was a very real concern. Galileo's telescope, which showed that Jupiter (which everyone agreed was moving) had moons, yet the moons somehow stayed with it, was the killer observation. But it wasn't until Newton that any real understanding of this was possible.