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Creationism: God's gift to the ignorant (Religion bashing alert)
Times Online UK ^ | May 21, 2005 | Richard Dawkins

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 don’t yet know; that which we don’t 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 isn’t 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 can’t 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 scientist’s rejoicing in uncertainty. Today’s scientist in America dare not say: “Hm, interesting point. I wonder how the weasel frog’s ancestors did evolve their elbow joint. I’ll 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 reader’s 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 don’t know how the nerve impulse works? Good! You don’t understand how memories are laid down in the brain? Excellent! Is photosynthesis a bafflingly complex process? Wonderful! Please don’t go to work on the problem, just give up, and appeal to God. Dear scientist, don’t work on your mysteries. Bring us your mysteries for we can use them. Don’t squander precious ignorance by researching it away. Ignorance is God’s 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 Ancestor’s Tale


TOPICS: Culture/Society
KEYWORDS: biblethumpers; cary; creation; crevolist; dawkins; evolution; excellentessay; funnyresponses; hahahahahahaha; liberalgarbage; phenryjerkalert; smegheads
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To: patriot_wes

"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!"

I suspect God thinks religious people are silly and boring, but has a soft spot for scientists.


451 posted on 05/25/2005 5:01:55 PM PDT by Avenger
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To: The_Reader_David
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.

The important issue is not whether variation is random, but whether it correlates with reproductive advantage. It could be the result of a very simple program, but if it doesn't anticipate need, the selection sees it as stochastic.

452 posted on 05/25/2005 5:09:24 PM PDT by js1138 (e unum pluribus)
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To: Right Wing Professor

Thanks, that's interesting.


453 posted on 05/25/2005 5:11:34 PM PDT by Tantumergo
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To: ArGee
That's the account of Paul.

Paul (Saul of Tarsus) never saw Jesus in the flesh or resurrected or in any tangible form. His claim to fame is having a vision of a bright light and hearing a voice just before he went into a 3 day coma while heading to Damascus (Acts 9:3-7).

About AD36, Paul had visited Peter and James in Jerusalem and learned of the legend there. Although he denied it (Gal 1:11-12), his testimony is second hand stories of whatever he heard from them.

While he was a energetic evangelical, Paul is a poor witness for Christ.

454 posted on 05/25/2005 5:25:31 PM PDT by dread78645 (Sorry Mr. Franklin, We couldn't keep it.)
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To: Right Wing Professor
Marxism is not a religion. It's a political/economic philosophy.

You hitting the bottle or the pipe? Who claimed that Marxism was a religion? You line up a strawdog and shoot it from 10 meters Congrats, you're an expert marksman.

This is like saying I'm an evangelical Christian because I probably agree broadly with Jerry Falwell on economic matters.

Right. Very good. Academia has been good to you.

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?

No, but you're so consumed by whatever that you aren't able to recognize that. There are plenty of atheists who would not banish religion if they were King, the live and let live variety. Marx and Dawkins are two who would not. Understand the difference Professor?

Give me a break.

No more breaks for you Professor, you've crossed the rubicon and swallowed the kool aid. You're now a full fledged member of the "list". At one time you were an independent thinker on FR with conservatism on your agenda. It's been swept away by evolution.

Support Dawkins all you'd like, it's a free country.

455 posted on 05/25/2005 5:33:55 PM PDT by jwalsh07
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To: King Prout
Argumentum ad Hominem never goes out of style, but it never becomes less of a fallacy.

If you're gonna use big words Prout, perhaps it would behoove you to learn thewir meaning.

Your pal Dawkins is discussing religion in the article. I am attacking the mans views about religion, not the man. His views are relevant to the article and religion. His views on religion are marxist. Such is life.

456 posted on 05/25/2005 5:39:43 PM PDT by jwalsh07
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To: VadeRetro
Who said, "You can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs?"

Walter Duranty.

457 posted on 05/25/2005 5:42:24 PM PDT by dread78645 (Sorry Mr. Franklin, We couldn't keep it.)
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To: edsheppa
I think you're wrong.

Fair enough, thats your opinion.

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.

Marx and Dawkins are both from the same school of thought. Religion should have no place in a society. Dawkins and Marx agree on that, for slightly different reasons perhaps but their goal would be the same and in that way Dawkins is marxist.

458 posted on 05/25/2005 5:43:14 PM PDT by jwalsh07
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To: AndrewC

You think some of these people care what Dawkins says about President Bush? It doesn't even make a dent.


459 posted on 05/25/2005 5:44:25 PM PDT by jwalsh07
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To: js1138
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.

Right, marching onto the trains and into the ovens was a good example for the children.

I didn't know that Frodo was supposed to use the ring to overthrow his opprseeors.

Uh, you've slipped into fantasy land again js.

460 posted on 05/25/2005 5:46:22 PM PDT by jwalsh07
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To: VadeRetro
I am Italian. Mussolini was Italian. Mussolini was Fascist. I am a Fascist.

Who knew?

461 posted on 05/25/2005 5:47:29 PM PDT by RightWingNilla
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To: js1138
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.

It's the soldier who secures our freedoms js, not the world of academia where the rate of military service is somewhat less than the dreaded creationists to put it mildly.

462 posted on 05/25/2005 5:48:44 PM PDT by jwalsh07
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To: jwalsh07
His economic views are leftist.

I doubt his economic views approach anything close to marxism.

463 posted on 05/25/2005 5:49:43 PM PDT by RightWingNilla
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To: jwalsh07
You think some of these people care what Dawkins says about President Bush? It doesn't even make a dent.

Why should it? He's not a brilliant scientist because of his political views.

464 posted on 05/25/2005 5:52:52 PM PDT by balrog666 (A myth by any other name is still inane.)
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To: RightWingNilla
I doubt his economic views approach anything close to marxism.

Yeah, so what? He's an economic lefty. His world views are Euro garbage. He's a marxist where religion is concerned.

He's entitled to his views and so are you but FR is generally not too kind to lefties of Dawkins ilk. Evidently the evolution threads have evolved away from the stated goals of FR. Again, such is life.

465 posted on 05/25/2005 5:55:07 PM PDT by jwalsh07
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To: jwalsh07
You think some of these people care what Dawkins says about President Bush?

I certainly don't care in the slightest about Dawkins' political views. I do, however, note whomever thinks that scientific validity is in any way contingent on one's regard for Bush, so that I might adjust my regard for them accordingly.

466 posted on 05/25/2005 5:55:10 PM PDT by AntiGuv (™)
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To: Manic_Episode
2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

Thank you. Now it is up to people if they want to gamble that these scriptures are lies, or if they are the truth.

467 posted on 05/25/2005 5:55:42 PM PDT by Jorge
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To: jwalsh07

Dawkins might be the scum of the Earth for all I care, I am just pointing out that it is grossly inaccurate to label him a "Marxist".


468 posted on 05/25/2005 5:56:16 PM PDT by RightWingNilla
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To: balrog666
Why should it? He's not a brilliant scientist because of his political views.

Because he rouses the lefty rebels in Europe with his anti Bush articles in the local Brit rags resulting in less support from Europe and more young Americans in harms way. Not too freaking brilliant from my point of view.

469 posted on 05/25/2005 5:56:56 PM PDT by jwalsh07
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To: AntiGuv

Note this, I haven't mentioned science. My disdain for Dawkins and his fellow travelers has nothing to do with science. So note whatever you want.


470 posted on 05/25/2005 6:00:32 PM PDT by jwalsh07
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To: RightWingNilla
Dawkins might be the scum of the Earth for all I care, I am just pointing out that it is grossly inaccurate to label him a "Marxist".

That's your opinion. But lets explore it. Marx banned religion. Dawkins' writings on religion indicate that he would if he could. You agree so far?

471 posted on 05/25/2005 6:02:37 PM PDT by jwalsh07
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To: jwalsh07
Marx banned religion.

Marx was never involved in any government.

472 posted on 05/25/2005 6:07:40 PM PDT by VadeRetro ( Liberalism is a cancer on society. Creationism is a cancer on conservatism.)
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To: jwalsh07
Marx banned religion.

LOL. Do you know anything about Marx?

473 posted on 05/25/2005 6:09:24 PM PDT by RightWingNilla
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To: jwalsh07

Who do you consider "his fellow travellers" and more importantly what do you propose is the "dent" that should be made by "what Dawkins says about President Bush"?


474 posted on 05/25/2005 6:10:09 PM PDT by AntiGuv (™)
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To: VadeRetro
Marx was never involved in any government.

Thats your opinion. Marx was the king of Russia. You and your evo pals love the guy.

475 posted on 05/25/2005 6:12:57 PM PDT by RightWingNilla
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To: RightWingNilla
Hah! I know everything about Marx.

Marx was a keen student of Lenin. He taught Leninism to his brothers Chico, Zeppo, and Groucho. He pretended not to be able to talk.

476 posted on 05/25/2005 6:15:38 PM PDT by VadeRetro ( Liberalism is a cancer on society. Creationism is a cancer on conservatism.)
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To: VadeRetro
Marx was a keen student of Lenin. He taught Leninism to his brothers Chico, Zeppo, and Groucho. He pretended not to be able to talk.

LOL!

Zeppo...he played guitar and sang that "Yellow Snow" song, right?

477 posted on 05/25/2005 6:19:12 PM PDT by RightWingNilla
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To: RightWingNilla
I think he invented a lighter.
478 posted on 05/25/2005 6:22:00 PM PDT by VadeRetro ( Liberalism is a cancer on society. Creationism is a cancer on conservatism.)
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To: RightWingNilla
LOL. Do you know anything about Marx?

Enough. You think a poorly worded statement exonerates Dawkins from being a leftist, a marxist and Eurogarbage?

479 posted on 05/25/2005 6:29:51 PM PDT by jwalsh07
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To: jwalsh07
Even if he's a stopped clock, he nailed you guys with this article.
480 posted on 05/25/2005 6:32:55 PM PDT by VadeRetro ( Liberalism is a cancer on society. Creationism is a cancer on conservatism.)
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To: VadeRetro
Marx was never involved in any government.

Not that I know of Mr. STFU.

481 posted on 05/25/2005 6:32:59 PM PDT by jwalsh07
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To: jwalsh07
"Dawkins' views on religion are Marxist"

Dawkins is atheist. Atheists dislike religion. Anyone who dislikes religion is Marxist. Dawkins must be Marxist.

I am atheist. I dislike religion. I should be a Marxist. I am not Marxist.

All I can say is 'Huh'?

482 posted on 05/25/2005 6:33:09 PM PDT by b_sharp (Science adjusts theories to fit evidence, creationism distorts evidence to fit the Bible.)
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To: VadeRetro
Even if he's a stopped clock, he nailed you guys with this article.

What guys? What nail?

483 posted on 05/25/2005 6:34:08 PM PDT by jwalsh07
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To: PatrickHenry

That's very interesting. I wasn't aware of that! I can see why that would've presented quite a dilemma.


484 posted on 05/25/2005 6:34:50 PM PDT by AntiGuv (™)
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To: jwalsh07
What guys? What nail?

Where am I? Is Toto OK?

The lead article of this thread.

485 posted on 05/25/2005 6:35:32 PM PDT by VadeRetro ( Liberalism is a cancer on society. Creationism is a cancer on conservatism.)
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To: RightWingNilla
"Thats your opinion. Marx was the king of Russia. You and your evo pals love the guy."

I thought Marx was Prussian. Doesn't that make him the king of beer?

486 posted on 05/25/2005 6:36:46 PM PDT by b_sharp (Science adjusts theories to fit evidence, creationism distorts evidence to fit the Bible.)
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To: b_sharp
I am atheist. I dislike religion. I should be a Marxist. I am not Marxist.

Same logic as the professors, not my logic mine you, just you and the professor.

All I can say is 'Huh'?

That about sums up your contribution thus far.

487 posted on 05/25/2005 6:37:02 PM PDT by jwalsh07
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To: jwalsh07
Enough is right. This is getting ridiculous.

First try learning something about Marx's philosophy if you are going to accuse anyone of adhering to it.

488 posted on 05/25/2005 6:37:47 PM PDT by RightWingNilla
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To: jwalsh07
Just wanted to draw your attention to my question at post #474 in case you missed it.
489 posted on 05/25/2005 6:38:35 PM PDT by AntiGuv (™)
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To: b_sharp; VadeRetro

Ayn Rand was an atheist. She was a Marxist!


490 posted on 05/25/2005 6:38:37 PM PDT by RightWingNilla
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To: VadeRetro

LOL. What are my views that Dawkins nailed?


491 posted on 05/25/2005 6:38:44 PM PDT by jwalsh07
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To: jwalsh07
LOL. What are my views that Dawkins nailed?

You don't consider yourself a creationist? What is this, Lying A**hole Night? Or Stupid Night?

492 posted on 05/25/2005 6:40:19 PM PDT by VadeRetro ( Liberalism is a cancer on society. Creationism is a cancer on conservatism.)
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To: RightWingNilla
First try learning something about Marx's philosophy if you are going to accuse anyone of adhering to it.

Why don't you teach me genius?

493 posted on 05/25/2005 6:43:35 PM PDT by jwalsh07
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To: jwalsh07

Marx never banned religion. He had no power to. Marx considered religion a useful tool to control the ignorant masses. His claim that "religion is the opiate of the masses" does not mean he hated it. Only the grossly obtuse would read that into it.


494 posted on 05/25/2005 6:45:00 PM PDT by Junior (“Even if you are one-in-a-million, there are still 6,000 others just like you.”)
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To: AntiGuv
I'll get to it, at the moment I'm busy fending off the hyenas, the academic elite, the best America has to offer, the creme de la creme of the technocrats.
495 posted on 05/25/2005 6:46:44 PM PDT by jwalsh07
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To: AntiGuv; RadioAstronomer
I think (RA will correct me if I'm wrong) that the lack of any visible parallax shifts wasn't something that could be dealt with until the development of photography, which made possible very detailed records of star positions. The photos could be compared, when taken six months apart, to finally detect the minute apparent movement of the very few stars that are close enough to exhibit a parallax shift. Then, knowing the size of earth's orbit, and with a little high-school trig, their distances could finally be determined. I think that was one of mankind's greatest intellectual accomplishments. With better telescopes, I think there are now hundreds of such stars.
496 posted on 05/25/2005 6:46:47 PM PDT by PatrickHenry (Felix, qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas. The List-O-Links is at my homepage.)
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To: b_sharp
Doesn't that make him the king of beer?

Hold on I think youre on to something here.

Budweiser is the king of beer. Therefore the Anheuser-Busch co are a bunch of Marxist atheists.

The six degrees of jwalshian logic.

497 posted on 05/25/2005 6:47:30 PM PDT by RightWingNilla
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To: jwalsh07

LOL! OK then. Patience is definitely not my virtue. I'll check back in later.


498 posted on 05/25/2005 6:47:44 PM PDT by AntiGuv (™)
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To: Junior

Yes Junior, I'm well aware of that. I misspoke. God I'm sure wii forgive me for misspeaking.


499 posted on 05/25/2005 6:47:52 PM PDT by jwalsh07
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To: RightWingNilla
Marx lived in England for a time. I visited England for three days. (Hangs head.)
500 posted on 05/25/2005 6:49:33 PM PDT by VadeRetro ( Liberalism is a cancer on society. Creationism is a cancer on conservatism.)
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