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
Ward Churchill used this term to denigrate the victims in the WTC towers.
Ward Churchill is a Marxist.
Therefore jwalsh is a Marxist.
I've been to England too, courtesy of the U.S. Navy. I'm beginning to see the elements of a conspiracy here...
The Euro left and their allies in America. Simple, Dawkins deserves scorn. You won't find Dawkins being scorned on an evo/crevo thread, except by me of course, because science trumps ideology and politics here.
Never been there. (Whew!)
"the man's general attitudes on a broad subject are hostile, therefore the points he raises in this narrow and specific case are invalid."
also argumentum ad hominem.
Perhaps also an example of the Genetic Fallacy: You assert that he is wrongheaded on religion in general, therefore he must be wrong in any point he raises on any topic involved with religion. I'm not certain this is quite within the bounds of Genetic Fallacy but, if it is not, it is closely related.
Address the points, not the man.
If you are going to bandy semantics with me, Walsh, it would behoove you think it through first.
Is 501 a prime?
PH isn't avid for Primes today?
Still the internet hero Mr STFU?
Hahahahaha! Hot damn, LOLOLOLOLOLOL. What a guy!
well, damn, I'll let you have the leftover of the one I bagged earlier. want me to nuke it, or is cold all right?
I've debated you before Prout, you ended up crawling off mumbling about Downs Syndrome not being a mutation. You're just a good ole southern blowhard.
I see we're all playing nicely tonight ;)
Glad you like it :)
Seriously, that was the first time I heard that word.
science trumps ideology and politics here
As well it should. Science is eternal. Ideology and politics are ephemera. You would do well to remember that. JMO.
Proud of being an internet hero who uses foul language and makes stupid assertions behind the anonymity of the keyboard?
So what aside from who wrote it do you understand about Dawkins's article?
I understand what I read Retro. I also understand that you're a punk.
And there you have it.
I don't give you advice. I don't need yours.
That's okay. They're all mine anyway.
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.I'll throw in my two cents. What he does not address is how creationists literally bludgeon with their own abismal ignorance (usually of science and/or logic but in some cases even history). Militant ignorance. The most relentlessly and militantly misinformed arguments around come from the creation/ID camp.
cute. factually erroneous, but from you that is no surprise.
Nor is the fact that you neglected either to refute the analysis to which you replied or show the grace to admit you just got #wn3d.
Instead, true to your long-established form, you oozed out from beneath the anvil with the following:
I've debated you before Prout, you ended up crawling off mumbling about Downs Syndrome not being a mutation.
I have forgotten the technical name for this form of argumentative deflection. PH, VR... what is the above dodge called?
and of seven.
BTW, you're projecting here. You're anonymous. I'm not. You're the coward.
and a gold mine they are, too.
I don't have a problem with evolution. I have a problem with guys like you who exhibit faux concern for conservatism on the evo threads and never show their face on the threads concerning conservatism having to do with conservtaism and the constitution.
501 / 3 = 167.
501 / 7 = 71.57142857.
That answers my question on what night it is.
I'm unsure exactly when and how stellar parallaxes were first observed, but my recollection is that it was not until the 19th century. That would've been very close to the invention of early photography so that may very well have been the prerequisite. Hmm..
I didn't give you advice. I made an observation.
The guy is projecting, and it ain't pretty.
If you want to see ad hominem, just look at Retros posts, he's an expert.
exactly! it's PRIME, baby!
You'd be surprised what threads we appear on. Do a search on Poster and plug in any of our names.
Right, in OZ.
No, I post under my real name. My first names John, presumably your's is Vade right?.
Yes, you are, you post using an pseudonym.
You're the coward.
"his views" do not equate to the points he raised in this article.
"criticism" requires address to the points raised in the subject matter at hand.
ad hominem dismissal does not equate to criticism.
headed that way myself.
No thanks. I know who participates in the important conservative threads and who doesn't. Antiguv and general_re are two who do.
And it's an observation I make frequently, by some form or another, in many different contexts. Don't take it personally! =)
Hey dingbat, read his "views" on Kansas at the end of the article. Cripes.
We sometimes agree, we sometimes disagree but you have no hypocritical bones in your body that I've seen.
And besides you're a good opponent in constitutional debates, you and the general. :-}
but, but.. If I stop responding I'll have to go do something productive.. =(
Oh, alright. Back to organizing my library!
I don't give a sh!t if he's a flamin' jihadist. I would pull him into a lifeboat over a troll like you.
LOL, you guys are too much.
But not for lying - unless She's a wimp too.