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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: Doctor Stochastic
So do you support Lysenko's suppression of Darwin's supporters or not?

I do not. Do you support public school suppression of ID'ers or not?

621 posted on 05/25/2005 9:55:52 PM PDT by Fester Chugabrew
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To: Fester Chugabrew

ID isn't being suppressed in school. No IDer has been murdered nor even threatened. ID should not be taught in science classes because it isn't science; nor is astrology nor alchemy nor tarot reading. ID is a legitimate discussion in history or philosophy of science classes.


622 posted on 05/25/2005 10:01:30 PM PDT by Doctor Stochastic (Vegetabilisch = chaotisch is der Charakter der Modernen. - Friedrich Schlegel)
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To: Torie
Hmm.. I use "function" with two different meanings in my previous post, so lemme clarify!

Where I say:

"the overall function of religion is uniform."

I mean its general function of social regulation, social pacification, and social organization.

Where I say:

"[Christianity's] respective functions [in the respective eras] bear little resemblance to one another"

I'm referring to the specific pattern by which it achieves the general function and the dimensions within which it's called upon to do so.

623 posted on 05/25/2005 10:06:10 PM PDT by AntiGuv ()
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To: AntiGuv
Economics is obviously of critical importance. And you are right that in the wealthier precincts of the planet, religion is a waning force. But it has a certain stubborn persistence in the US, which is what gives the US a certain strength and resilience, and moral animation in foreign matters, in stark contrast to the drab cynical self interested men of affairs elsewhere in the habitat of the denizens of plenty. The charts showing the correlation between advanced economies and secularism have a nice little regresion analysis trend line, with the US way out there out of orbit beyond Pluto. The planet would not be as well off without that stubborn clinging to faith by so many Americans, against all the paradigms militating against it.

And that is how I see it.

624 posted on 05/25/2005 10:06:55 PM PDT by Torie (Constrain rogue state courts; repeal your state constitution)
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To: Doctor Stochastic
ID isn't being suppressed in school. No IDer has been murdered nor even threatened. ID should not be taught in science classes because it isn't science;

Are you so ignorant of current events that you fail to note the oppostion to the notion that ID should be a part of public education. Cut the charade, pal. Like I said, you and Lysenko make good company.

625 posted on 05/25/2005 10:07:17 PM PDT by Fester Chugabrew
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To: jwalsh07; AntiGuv
[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]

The Euro left and their allies in America. Simple, Dawkins deserves scorn.

On those political views, sure. And I have scorned him for such.

However, if you're going to try to assert that because of his political shortsightedness, he should be scorned in his entirety as a human being, and that therefore his scientific views should be scorned and/or ignored and/or have been discredited as a result, then, well, congratulations, you've commited the age-old fallacy (and cheap and sleazy debate tactic) of the ad hominem argument, and I laugh at your pathetic attempt and at your intellectual dishonesty.

And if you're *not* doing that (and it certainly *looks* as if you are), then what in the hell *is* your reason for repeatedly dragging such irrelevant side issues into a science discussion? What exactly are you trying to accomplish, and what do you expect the result to be? Yeah, Dawkins is a knee-jerk British leftist, but he's hardly alone, there are millions like him. So bloody what?

You won't find Dawkins being scorned on an evo/crevo thread, except by me of course, because science trumps ideology and politics here.

Whereas to you, apparently (and a lot of other folks unhappy with evolution), ideology and politics trump science/truth/evidence. And we all know where *that* leads...

Here's what you're obviously missing: The science *does* trump ideology and politics -- or more accurately, it's separable from them. If Dawkins is right on the science, he's right. Period. No matter *what* other things he may say, believe, or do on other subjects. And if he's wrong on the science, he's wrong. His personal politics is completely irrelevant -- except to people unclear on the concept of arguing the science on its merits, and who therefore have to spew bile about the man's views on *other* subjects in a cheap attempt to sidetrack the actual discussion of the science.

Now do you want to discuss the science -- or what Dawkins may have written about it -- or do you want to keep waving the ad hominem brush around despite the fact that no one's falling for it? And no, your being aghast over us not falling for it doesn't carry any water either.

626 posted on 05/25/2005 10:10:00 PM PDT by Ichneumon
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To: AntiGuv

Religion changes its hymns to suit the tastes of time. It's mission is to reach souls in the state it finds them in. I generally think it healthy for religion and secularism to be in a state of creative tension, in a civil society. The relatively absolute trimuph of one or the other, leads to subpar outcomes.


627 posted on 05/25/2005 10:12:04 PM PDT by Torie (Constrain rogue state courts; repeal your state constitution)
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To: Ichneumon
If Dawkins is right on the science, he's right. Period. No matter *what* other things he may say, believe, or do on other subjects.

Yours is one example of clear logic among few, and I agree. Objective truth exists. But Dawkins himself states his convictions about evolution as a BELIEF, not an absolute truth:

"'I believe, but I cannot prove, that all life, all intelligence, all creativity and all 'design' anywhere in the universe is the direct or indirect product of Darwinian natural selection,' said Prof Dawkins."

His disciples think they can slam themselves into the front seat of education in the name of objective truth, when in fact their belief is just as much subject to scientific prodding and questions as that of ID'ers.

628 posted on 05/25/2005 10:19:29 PM PDT by Fester Chugabrew
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To: Torie

I tend to agree with you, but what I am saying is that the ostensibly subpar outcome of prevailing secularism would seem inexorable. The problem is that the universe obstinately refuses to provide any evidence to substantiate religious exegesis.


629 posted on 05/25/2005 10:21:14 PM PDT by AntiGuv ()
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To: Torie

PS. I should say, the triumph of secularism would seem inexorable under the current trajectory of civilization.


630 posted on 05/25/2005 10:23:41 PM PDT by AntiGuv ()
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To: A Balrog of Morgoth

There has never been a "Transitional" Species discovered.
(Reptile to Bird etc.)...archiopterix was a fully developed Bird.

If Evolution is True the Fossil record should have Millions of "Transitional Fossils"

as there are many Fossils of Fully separate Species.

Yet there are No "Transitional" ones....NONE.

Evolution is a False "God".


631 posted on 05/25/2005 10:24:31 PM PDT by LtKerst (Lt Kerst)
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To: Fester Chugabrew; Doctor Stochastic; PatrickHenry
Are you so ignorant of current events that you fail to note the oppostion to the notion that ID should be a part of public education.

Actually, what's being opposed are the attempts to *force* science teachers to teach it against their better judgment.

Any teacher who *chooses* to teach it is hardly being hunted down and thrown in the stockade. What ticks you folks off, however, is that a vanishingly small number of science teachers actually *do* choose to do so -- so you're trying to ramrod the issue through by getting school boards to make such teaching *mandatory* in their school districts. Nice try, and you look lovely in jackboots.

But just for fun, *do* please lay out for us a sample curriculum -- what, *exactly* would actually be *taught* in a science classroom in the "ID segment" of the school year? If you can actually describe some of the classroom topics, you'll be miles ahead of the big-name "ID-in-the-schools" activists, who to date have *refused* to actually provide any such materials even on a sample basis.

For all their fervor about getting ID into the classrooms, it appears they don't actually have anything to *teach*.

Here's a great recent post from the talk.origins newsgroup making the same point:

Anyone that wants to teach ID has to do one thing. Present a lesson plan for evaluation. No lesson plan, no evidence that they want anything of educational value to be taught to students. It is just that simple. The ID scam artists used to advocate teaching ID, but they gave up on the idea. There was a simple reason for this, they found out that they didn't have anything worth teaching. You never saw a lesson plan from Meyers or Dembski when they advocated teaching ID. All you ever saw were vague promises that there was something that could be taught to students.

Teachers should not be placed in a position where they are forced to bash anyones religious beliefs. An honest evaluation of ID would do just that. There is nothing but bashing that can be done. If you don't believe that put up a lesson plan and try and defend it. The guys at the Discovery Institute have given up on that idea. If the scam artists have backed off, why would anyone believe that they really had anything to teach?

This guys idea of interjecting some confrontational junk into the science class would only have merit if he had some idea of how to do it without putting some students off or placing the teachers into positions that they do not want to be in. There is enough real scientific controversy that bashing someones religious beliefs doesn't have to be part of science. The fact is the only thing to teach about ID is why real science doesn't consider it to be viable any longer. We do use negative teaching tools and humor, but religion has been out of bounds for that category.

Put up the lesson plan and see how it fairs. If you support teaching ID why do you think that the scam artists at the Discovery Institute never put forward a lesson plan with ID in it? They claimed that they could teach it for years, but Ohio and more recently in Dover it was made very clear (by the scam artists themselves) that they do not support teaching ID at this time.

These guys are supposed to have PhDs and at least some of them teach classes, so what is their excuse for the lack of a lesson plan? Dembski and Meyers never put one forward, as far as I know. A lesson plan is very simple. You just outline what you want to teach, how you plan to teach it, and how you will evalutate the students on the material that you want them to learn. The scam artists have never put an ID lesson plan forward.

Just think what this guys lesson plan would be? The goals of the lesson would be to teach students the difference between bogus science and real science. ID would be used as the bogus science. No testable hypotheses, no coherent theory, no positive examples known in nature (This includes the fact that there has been a 100% failure of all ID assertions that science has been able to test. Just pick your favorite ID assertion. If it hasn't failed testing that is only because science can't test it at this time. Things like the young age of the earth and Noah's flood have already be tossed out of reasoned consideration.), and that would just be the beginning. He would probably also run down the list of deceptive tactics used by the ID contingent. It isn't hard to find examples. Deception is an integral part of modern ID for the simple reason that the science is so weak that most scientists don't even consider it to be science.

Just think about what this guy wants to teach. If you are a YEC you don't want your kids hearing about common descent being a fact of nature and part of the design, or that the designer might have diddled with life forms over 500 million years ago in the Cambrian explosion, or that the designer might have had something to do with making the flagellum billions of years ago. You definitely do not want them to find out that the most scientific explanation is that space aliens did the diddling. Wouldn't you want to see the lesson plan before you agreed to teach this? This is only part of the dishonesty of the ID contingent. They haven't told their major support base that the most supportable form of ID makes YEC look just as stupid as real science. Why would they teach the fourth or fifth best ID explanation? If you were going to teach it, you would put the best ID explanation forward, Right?

YEC creationists don't have much to worry about because the ID scam artists don't really want to teach the best ID explanation, they want to teach their favorite. That is how low the quality of science is among them. If they put forward their lesson plans this would become very apparent. Look at Ohio they found out that there wasn't a scientific theory of ID to teach so they went with the replacement "teach the controversy" scam. They still tried to teach the creationist nonsense via suggested web resources, so they showed their true colors. If ID or creationism wasn't part of the written lesson plan, why try and bring it in with web links? It just shows that "teach the controversy" is just a creationist obfuscation scam.

This kind of thing has to be very carefully thought out and implemented with care. It could easily go either to religion bashing or to teaching pseudo science as legitimate. Either option doesn't do much for science education.

So, put up your lesson plan and see if anyone wants to teach it.

Ron Okimoto

Cut the charade, pal. Like I said, you and Lysenko make good company.

Do you ever have *anything* to add to these discussions besides bitterness and bile?

I have a challenge for you -- try to actually respond to the points raised in this post, without resorting to spewing paragraphs of empty invective. Just prove to us that you can actually discuss something like a normal person for once.

632 posted on 05/25/2005 10:24:39 PM PDT by Ichneumon
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To: AntiGuv

Ya, but religion is about a leap of faith. It doesn't need manifested miracles or radio astronomy to detect God on Alpha Centura. It is a state of mind; a mindset, about the otherwise unknowable. Educated folks understand that, and a substantial majority of Americans are relatively educated, and an amazing percentage (something like 75%) believe in a God that knows and cares about their daily lives. Another maybe 10% are deists.


633 posted on 05/25/2005 10:29:01 PM PDT by Torie (Constrain rogue state courts; repeal your state constitution)
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To: Ichneumon

Actually, what's being opposed are the attempts to *force* science teachers to teach it against their better judgment

Since when does a Science teacher pass Judgement on a "Theory"?

Science is only as good as It's consideration of all Possabilities.

No teacher has the right to Omit a Theory just because they dont believe it. thats Bias with a Preconcieved conclusion.

Thats Poor Science.

You are an Idiot.


634 posted on 05/25/2005 10:29:27 PM PDT by LtKerst (Lt Kerst)
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To: Baraonda; PatrickHenry
["And it has apparently escaped your notice that the *majority* of Americans who are "evolutionists" are *Christians*. I'm sorry if that punctures your cherished preconceptions, or makes your head explode." ]

You mean they were converted into evolutionists by the anti-Christians.

No, that's not what I mean. But thanks for sharing your fantasies with us, as well as your delusion that you can read my mind.

Notice that I did not pose that statement in an interrogative form.

Yes, I noticed that. You really, really need to do reality-checks more often. The voices in your head aren't nearly as reliable as you think they are.

It's a declarative statement of fact.

I'm sure you believe that, but that hardly makes it actually a fact.

In the end, I believe this issue will be resolved in the streets,

Do I even *want* to know what you're trying to say here?

not through words or persuation or hiding behind a monitor.

Uh huh... You don't need to hide, they really aren't out to get you.

635 posted on 05/25/2005 10:31:18 PM PDT by Ichneumon
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To: AntiGuv

Except that America does not follow the trend line, as I said. It stands alone against the tide. Maybe it's because the place is in and of itself, as much about a state of mind about possibilities as anything else.


636 posted on 05/25/2005 10:31:44 PM PDT by Torie (Constrain rogue state courts; repeal your state constitution)
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To: Ichneumon
. . . you're trying to ramrod the issue through by getting school boards to make such teaching *mandatory* in their school districts.

Hehe. I think it was you, who moments ago, posted a canard whereby the school board deck should be stacked in favor of evolutionist disciples:

"My guess is that ID advocates will be outnumbered by at least 30 to 1 and they will probably have a hard time even finding anyone willing to claim that what they consider to be ID is even science."

Like Lysenko and your cheerleaders, the interest is not in ascertaining objective truths about the universe. It is, much like science in Galileo's day, rooted in ego, pride, politics, and a faith of your own. It's time for you and your adherents to divest yourself of the name "scientist" and take up the mantle of philosopher. (There's no shame in that. Many good philosophers have come and gone.) If not, common sense will do it for you. In most cases it already has.

Meanwhile, you better go tell Dawkins that what he has is not a belief, but the objective truth. I'm sure he'll listen. He needs some encouragement anyway.

637 posted on 05/25/2005 10:37:55 PM PDT by Fester Chugabrew
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To: Torie
Except that America does not follow the trend line, as I said. It stands alone against the tide. Maybe it's because the place is in and of itself, as much about a state of mind about possibilities as anything else.

I would say it is because of America's adversarial political relationship with opposing creeds: first atheist Communism and now Islam. The latter in particular, and the reaction to it (around the entire periphery), are the primary bulwarks of religious precept that endure. In those societies, religion still provides the necessary utilitarian function of harnessing collective action.

638 posted on 05/25/2005 10:38:03 PM PDT by AntiGuv ()
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To: Ichneumon
Just prove to us that you can actually discuss something like a normal person for once.

I regret to inform you that I tend to shun advice from personal agents who consistently provide evidence that the speed of dumb in a vaccuum is faster than the speed of light in the same environment.

639 posted on 05/25/2005 10:43:33 PM PDT by Fester Chugabrew
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To: LtKerst
[Actually, what's being opposed are the attempts to *force* science teachers to teach it against their better judgment]

Since when does a Science teacher pass Judgement on a "Theory"?

Since always. Not too clear on that "academic freedom" concept, are you?

Science is only as good as It's consideration of all Possabilities.

And it does consider all possibilities. It then rules out many of them because they are incompatible with the evidence, and/or make predictions which are subsequently falsified by testing.

No teacher has the right to Omit a Theory just because they dont believe it. thats Bias with a Preconcieved conclusion.

Try to remain coherent -- you keep flip-flopping between what science does, and what teachers do. You *are* aware that science is generally done by researchers, and not by high school science teachers, aren't you?

And no, science teachers are not Omitting a Theory (you Really Like Capital leTTerS, DoN'T YOu?) "just because they don't believe it". They are omitting it (I presume you mean "ID") because a) it's not actually a scientific theory, and b) its (few and paltry) predictions have been falsified. In short, this has nothing to do with science teachers leaving out ID "just because" they don't believe it, they're leaving it out because it's not valid science.

If you disagree, do feel free to be the very first person to actually state the "theory of ID" in a manner which actually meets the minimum requirements of a scientific theory. We'll wait.

So try to get a clue, please.

Thats Poor Science.

No, actually, it's good science. (Or should that be "Good Science" with the CaPiTALs OvErDoNE?) Too bad you really don't know what science is or is not.

You are an Idiot.

Strange, that's not what all my IQ test results indicate. Perhaps you're mistaken. Or perhaps you're just unable to make a better argument and are thus reduced to just spewing a grade-school level insult, no matter how trite and ridiculous.

640 posted on 05/25/2005 10:44:23 PM PDT by Ichneumon
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