Thursday, January 22, 2009

For ID proponents (creationists)

It has been my consistent experience that anti-evolution people (as well as anti-Big Bang, anti-abiogenesis, etc.)---such as ID creationists---are atrociously ignorant of the scientific facts, and are inexcusably intellectually dishonest in their behavior toward such topics. They behave as if they are experts in the area when they are not (which is easily discoverable, even by very superficial questioning). It is one thing to disagree with the conclusions of experimental data and observations, after having carefully examined them, and for specific and solid reasons; but, it is quite another to claim such things are clearly wrong without ever even taking the time to actually look at them (and behaving as if you have)!** This is especially egregious when 99.9% of all relevant (i.e. "within their area of expertise") scientists agree that evolution is a fact---so overwhelmingly well-supported by the evidence that it is about as certainly true as anything CAN be (like, "the Earth is a spheroid").

And, I'm not the only one who has noted this simple fact of "self-assured ignorance". I've heard it stated by many people I personally know, as well as some whom I do not know (e.g. watch this short clip). I am not trying to be offensive here, but seriously: how on Earth can a person even dream of claiming to know what they're talking about when it comes to understanding evolution and its supporting evidence when they have read literally ZERO publications by the likes of such scientists as Ernst Mayr, or R. A. Fisher, or Richard Dawkins, or John Maynard-Smith, or E. O. Wilson, or W. D. Hamilton, or Sean B. Carroll, or even Charles Darwin?! (Or even completed a General Biology course in college, for that matter!) These manifestly grossly uninformed people (would you deem this acceptable in any other field of expertise?) behave with such arrogant certitude in their ideological stance that they uncompromisingly insist that the experts (who devote their entire lives to studying and understanding these things) are engaged in nothing more than vacuous folly. And, all without ever taking a serious, open-minded look at the topic (a topic from which they benefit daily, by the way---through medicine, agriculture, and more).

So, here are a couple of quotes for you to consider---carefully and soberly, hopefully.

The first is from St. Augustine [De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim (The Literal Meaning of Genesis) translated by J. H. Taylor, Ancient Christian Writers, Newman Press, 1982, volume 41; Book 1 Chapter 19 Paragraph 39]:

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although "they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion." [1 Timothy 1.7]

The second is from Moral Minds, pp. 59-60, by Marc D. Hauser:

...the great 1860 Oxford debate between Bishop Wilberforce and Thomas Henry Huxley. Having read Darwin's Origin of Species and seen its potential for undermining religious stricture and its moral regulations, Wilberforce launched an attack, armed with sarcasm and rhetorical flourishes. As the the story goes, he concluded his diatribe, then turned to Huxley and asked whether it was through his grandmother or grandfather that he should claim descent from an ape? Huxley responded: "[A] man has no reason to be ashamed of having an ape for his grandfather. If there were an ancestor whom I should feel shame in recalling it would rather be a man---a man of restless and versatile intellect---who, not content with an equivocal success in his own sphere of activity, plunges into scientific questions with which he has no real acquaintance, only to obscure them by an aimless rhetoric, and distract the attention of his hearers from the real point at issue by eloquent digressions and skilled appeals to religious prejudice."

So, what you are doing is completely unfair and ridiculous. Immoral. Deceitful. And damagingly counter-productive, by hiding the known (and useful) truth with ignorant lies. But, it is clearly nothing new.

I just think that the least you could do---if you're going to disagree at all---is to do so honestly! (Exodus 20:16)

** I am speaking of "typical" ID creationists---which is fair to do, since it seems the number of "biology experts" in their group can almost be counted on a single hand.