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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: AntiGuv; donh
Because when people post nonsense, such as you've posted in your characterization of Galileo, then others are compelled to correct the nonsense.

I only read this sentence. Since it is incorrect, I'd rather focus on this and see about the rest later.

You believe what I posted as nonsense, but that doesn't make it so. The fact that you call any opinion that doesn't match your own "nonsense" is part of the problem at FR. It is possible I am talking about something you don't know.

I didn't bring the book in, but I reviewed my copy of "The Soul of Science" by Nancy Pearcy last night. She has a few pages on the issues between Galileo and the Catholic Church. I was recalling them correctly, the battle between Galileo and the Church was not a battle about scientific truth. In fact, many scholars in the Church already supported the heliocentric theory.

However, I had oversimplified. It was actually a battle about the philosophical underpinings of science. The Church based their scientific approach on Aristotle and believe this was a requirement to the notion of moral authority. Galileo had to challenge Aristotle (sorry, I don't remember the detail) and the Church took this as a challenge to its own ability to maintain a moral code. The Pope and Galileo had been friends. The Pope had even been a "follower" of Galileo in the science realm. But the Church's desire to hold on to this power put them at odds. The battle got ugly and it became a political mess.

In the same way as Luther could have avoided the Reformation if he hadn't called the Pope the Anti-Christ, Galileo might have avoided the false split between Church and Science if he hadn't turned it into a personal crusade. But that's not to blame either radical. The Church should be big enough to handle a challenge without getting nasty itself and, IMO, enjoys the lion's share of the blame.

I meant to bring the book in and provide a couple of quotes and some footnotes, but I left it at home. You can read the book yourself. But to say the battle was about faith vs. science is as gross an oversimplification as to say that the US Civil War was about slavery.

Shalom.

701 posted on 05/26/2005 6:11:51 AM PDT by ArGee (Why do we let the abnormal tell us what's normal?)
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To: ArGee

You forgot to mention the part where Galileo "misbehaved"; that was the point of disagreement.


702 posted on 05/26/2005 6:15:49 AM PDT by AntiGuv ()
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To: donh
Ahhgh! More of this balony. The heliocentric theory of the universe was in direct conflict with central teachings of the catholic church, whether many in the church believed it or not was irrelevant.

So, another in the fine FR school who calls anything you don't know "baloney" (although the previous post was "nonsense"). See Post 701.

What you show here is a phenominal lack of understanding of how the Church changes. It does change and it might have changed. Just as the Church would have changed to accomodate Luther on the issue of indulgences, and was about to do so, but they had a sticky problem of the fact that Luther had been calling the Pope "Anti-Christ."

The church has changed its stance in relation to scientific discovery many times and will continue to do so. It will not accept a challenge to its spiritual authority.

BTW: I believe the Church's stance on evolution is one you would agree with, which makes most of this focus on Galileo moot. And nobody has ever discussed Bacon, Linnaeus, or Newton. Neither science and faith, nor science and Church, are in opposition except in the minds of a few. That was the central point that we seem to have strayed from.

Shalom.

703 posted on 05/26/2005 6:19:15 AM PDT by ArGee (Why do we let the abnormal tell us what's normal?)
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To: Ichneumon
Again, your constant ability to grossly misunderstand what I've actually written is quite simply amazing.

Arguing from amazement, for evolutionists, is supposed to be a logically and scientifically bankrupt practice. But just as you use the tools of intelligence the Creator gave you while denying His creation, you are free to use arguments which, for the other side of the debate, are unacceptable. To be a reliable source of bad information, to be consistently inconsistent, is at least consistent. Way to go.

704 posted on 05/26/2005 6:19:36 AM PDT by Fester Chugabrew
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To: edsheppa
There are politicians in Kansas redefining the meaning of science . . .

No, they are rescuing the meaning of science from those who would introduce unjustifiable bias to the pursuit of knowledge.

705 posted on 05/26/2005 6:21:46 AM PDT by Fester Chugabrew
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To: Ichneumon
It's also interesting to note that all the "old world" (OW) and "new world" (NW) army ants are separate branches of the oldest split of the army ant family tree.

This is also an indication of continental drift (or less likely, ant drift.) Tree trees show the same split. It's possible that a group of proto-ants were carried (perhaps by an African proto-sparrow) from one contenent to another and their descendents drifted genetically from the mother nest, but not so likely with both ants and trees.

706 posted on 05/26/2005 6:21:48 AM PDT by Doctor Stochastic (Vegetabilisch = chaotisch is der Charakter der Modernen. - Friedrich Schlegel)
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To: jwalsh07
Yes, you are, you post using an pseudonym.

Once again you bludgeon with your own stupidity. Pure Creation Science. In fact, you get the gore3000 memorial you-can't-make-me-see award. I don't have to volunteer my first name to complete the picture. Anyone who wants to click on my profile can see I'm Doug Kalbaugh from Keyser, WV. That's more information than you have the nerve to provide, little man.

Looking over your whole dance of ignorance last night, I'd leave plausible deniability too if I posted like that. Now I'm going to follow Patrick's advice, however, and put you on virtual ignore for at least the rest of this thread.

707 posted on 05/26/2005 6:24:50 AM PDT by VadeRetro ( Liberalism is a cancer on society. Creationism is a cancer on conservatism.)
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To: Fester Chugabrew
Exactly how is the teaching of whether the earth revolves around the sun or vise versa a means of holding power over the affairs of men?

I just finished going thru this with the last bizarre historical revisionist on this thread--the church was treatened because of a very ornate cosmology it had tied to the bible, and really staked quite a lot of stock in, in their presentation of theology to the largely illiterate masses of Europe, which you can sort of get a picture of if you pick up Dante's Inferno and check out the illustration either at the back or the front--when most of your flock is illiterate, you put a lot of emphasis on illustrations--and that is exactly what the church did. This picture puts the earth at the center focus of the universe, and, therefore, of special concern to God. If the earth isn't the center of the universe, than possibly humans aren't the center of God's concerns, and possibly God's spokesmen here on earth aren't actually all the important in the overall working of human affairs.

It was not only the church that held Ptolemy's view in Galileo's day, but science in general. Galileo was scorned by both sacred and secular parties. He didn't help his cause in presenting himself as an acerbic know-it-all.

Good grief, another one.

What is this, abysmal historical ignorance week?

Galileo was not "scorned by both sacred and secular parties", he was very highly regarded in his day, not least by the Pope himself. Where do you get this stuff? He was brought to trial by the inquisition precisely because he wasn't as you've characterized him, and because his book on the subject was selling like hotcakes on a greased griddle in a Europe thick with reformation sentiment and newly awakening scientific interest that made people like Newton and Galileo celebrities.

For two people to come up with this loopy take on history in the same thread suggests to me that there is a creationist ammo site somewhere that's got a recent bee in it's bonnet about Galileo--c'mon, fess up.

708 posted on 05/26/2005 6:25:14 AM PDT by donh
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To: dread78645
Paul (Saul of Tarsus) never saw Jesus in the flesh or resurrected or in any tangible form.

First, we do not know whether Saul saw Jesus before He died. Since Saul was politically active in Jerusalem it is likely that he was present for much of what happened to Jesus. Our first reference to Saul is that he was present at the stoning of Stephen, but that is only the first reference.

He also did not spend 3 days in a coma, but blind. He was alert for those three days.

You can ignore the claims in Galatians 1 if you wish, but they are entirely consistent with other claims of the apperance of the Resurrected Christ made at the time.

Shalom.

709 posted on 05/26/2005 6:28:48 AM PDT by ArGee (Why do we let the abnormal tell us what's normal?)
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To: Right Wing Professor

dexter
dextral
recto
starboard


As opposed to

sinister
port
larboard


710 posted on 05/26/2005 6:29:10 AM PDT by Doctor Stochastic (Vegetabilisch = chaotisch is der Charakter der Modernen. - Friedrich Schlegel)
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To: Doctor Stochastic

"dextralate"


711 posted on 05/26/2005 6:29:39 AM PDT by Doctor Stochastic (Vegetabilisch = chaotisch is der Charakter der Modernen. - Friedrich Schlegel)
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To: Tantumergo
phenomena which are observable, repeatable and verifiable

You mean phenomena such as the development of resistance to antibiotics seen in bacterial colonies that are exposed to antibiotics? You mean phenomena such as all new fossil finds lining up correctly with the phylogentic tree derived from microbiological studies. You mean the phenomenon of DNA sequences observably, repeatably and verifiably lining up with what is predicted by evolution? You mean the observable, verifiable and repeatable pheomenon of speciation which has in fact been observed by multiple observers and has been verified? Just some of the observable, repeatable and verifiable observations that are evidence in favor of evolution.

Is there interpretation leading from these observations to the theory of evolution? Of course there is. However, there's nothing in science that forbids making interpretations. Just as I showed with my example, there are plenty of interpretations leading from the direct observations to the laws of thermodynamics. There are plenty of interpretations leading from observation even to something as well accepted as the law of gravity. For example, the law of gravity says more than just "things fall down." It says that ANY two bodies in the universe will attract each other, and it gives a formula for calculating this attractive force. Surely there must be some interpretation here. Otherwise please point me to the study in which a direct measurement of the attractive force between the star Sirius and the planet Uranus has been made. Surely its unscientific to just assume that the attraction would be given by Newton's law of gravity.

712 posted on 05/26/2005 6:30:43 AM PDT by stremba
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To: Ichneumon
You are correct. It was #91. Forgive me.

I do still interpret it as a broad brush statement that is bigoted and unworthy. Science and technology do mix well with faith. There are a few instances of problems between faith and science. These usually turn out to be more political in nature than faith-oriented. But a great number of very faith-full scientists and technologists.

Shalom.

713 posted on 05/26/2005 6:32:14 AM PDT by ArGee (Why do we let the abnormal tell us what's normal?)
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To: AntiGuv
You forgot to mention the part where Galileo "misbehaved"; that was the point of disagreement.

When the disagreement became "ugly" it became so on both sides.

Again, I am not claiming moral equivalence between the two. I put a far greater responsibility for good behavior on the Church than on any individual.

Shalom.

714 posted on 05/26/2005 6:33:32 AM PDT by ArGee (Why do we let the abnormal tell us what's normal?)
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To: cyborg; narby

Looks like they're starting to quote mine evo FR posts, and not just published literature.


715 posted on 05/26/2005 6:34:25 AM PDT by stremba
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To: ArGee
I meant to bring the book in and provide a couple of quotes and some footnotes, but I left it at home. You can read the book yourself. But to say the battle was about faith vs. science is as gross an oversimplification as to say that the US Civil War was about slavery.

The Civil war was about slavery--there would not have been a civil war over any other conflict of interest without the fulcrum of slavery, and Galileo's Trial was, above all else, about the church suppressing science it found disagreeable.

One can always point to subsidiary issues revolving about an historical event, and try to wrap one's vision about one's own peculiar notions of what's essential to history, but I don't recommend it as a general practice, and I'd appreciate it if you'd keep your cotton-pickin' hands off the history department, as well as the biology department, at the next schoolboard meeting.

716 posted on 05/26/2005 6:36:01 AM PDT by donh
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To: TomB; Tantumergo

Correct. Behe is not a creationist. His idea is intelligent design, which everyone is so careful to point out is not the same as creationism (nudge, nudge, wink, wink)


717 posted on 05/26/2005 6:38:08 AM PDT by stremba
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To: Right Wing Professor
A)His views on religion are Marxist". B)"I never claimed Marxism was a religion

Professor, take a vacation. If you think A) proves your assertion disavowed by me in B) you've been working too much.

Alternatively I could take a page out of the "lists" book and call you a liar if it is required by the rules as I asked EdSheppa. But he never answered, he just called me a liar again.

So, do the rules require me to call you a liar when we disagree?

718 posted on 05/26/2005 6:39:00 AM PDT by jwalsh07
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To: ArGee
When the disagreement became "ugly" it became so on both sides.

Interesting. You forgot to describe any 'ugliness' on Galileo's side.

719 posted on 05/26/2005 6:40:41 AM PDT by AntiGuv ()
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To: VadeRetro
Why would anybody click on your profile?

I live in Danielson, Ct Doug. Drop by any time.

720 posted on 05/26/2005 6:41:14 AM PDT by jwalsh07
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