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
"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.
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.
Thanks, that's interesting.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You think some of these people care what Dawkins says about President Bush? It doesn't even make a dent.
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.
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.
I doubt his economic views approach anything close to marxism.
Why should it? He's not a brilliant scientist because of his political views.
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.
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.
Thank you. Now it is up to people if they want to gamble that these scriptures are lies, or if they are the truth.
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".
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.
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.
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?
Marx was never involved in any government.
LOL. Do you know anything about Marx?
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"?
Thats your opinion. Marx was the king of Russia. You and your evo pals love the guy.
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.
Zeppo...he played guitar and sang that "Yellow Snow" song, right?
Enough. You think a poorly worded statement exonerates Dawkins from being a leftist, a marxist and Eurogarbage?
Not that I know of Mr. STFU.
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'?
What guys? What nail?
That's very interesting. I wasn't aware of that! I can see why that would've presented quite a dilemma.
Where am I? Is Toto OK?
The lead article of this thread.
I thought Marx was Prussian. Doesn't that make him the king of beer?
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.
First try learning something about Marx's philosophy if you are going to accuse anyone of adhering to it.
Ayn Rand was an atheist. She was a Marxist!
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?
Why don't you teach me genius?
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.
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.
LOL! OK then. Patience is definitely not my virtue. I'll check back in later.
Yes Junior, I'm well aware of that. I misspoke. God I'm sure wii forgive me for misspeaking.