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.


Keruso said...

Great post, thanks a lot. I agree and share your observation on the proponents of ID. Why I believe ID is dubious, unfounded and therefore to be ignored is as follows.
1. ID does not use the scientific method. An objective unbiased method of inquiry must be based on gathering observable, empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning.
2. Whilst proponents of ID will not openly state their belief that a supernatural deity is culpable, we know this presupposed conclusion exists. They will apply false logic by subsequently looking for evidence to support this assertion. They work “right to left” in effect “the answer is known now let’s build a case that justifies the answer”. They draw a conclusion or judgment on the basis of circumstantial evidence and dubious prior conclusions rather than on the basis of direct observation.
They massage and squeeze what they perceive as evidence into their dogmatic view of reality. They hijack and try to subvert real science to bolster their position which is all too often biased and subjective. They fail to understand that the standard way of acquiring knowledge is by assembling independently verifiable evidence and to use the scientific method. A method that progressively moves forward inch by inch, “left to right”, only arriving at an answer once consideration of evidence justifies a conclusion. Never has this journey arrived at the door of a supernatural entity.

Reverted said...

LOL! Nice "avatar" image. ;)

I don't necessarily have a problem with ID, in and of itself (other than the fact that, even philosophically, it solves absolutely nothing and really has no more basis than do vampires). But, I do have a major problem with the ways in which it is represented and promoted.

First: the entire movement seems positively saturated by fraud and deceit. It is one thing to adhere to the ideas; it is quite another to lie about why.

Second: ID is a philosophical position, not a scientific one. It is not, and never will be, science. It is one thing to subscribe to the concept; it is quite another to lie about what it is.

Finally: these lies are not merely passive and inconsequential. They cause genuine public harm by muddying known waters. Evolution is not just true; it is useful. And, to dishonestly disparage it so unscrupulously and arrogantly is indefensible. It is one thing to disagree with something---even to do so on ideological grounds; but, it is quite another to lie that you have impartially and thoroughly studied it with the goal of really understanding it.

I don't care if ID is taught in school as part of a philosophy or comparative/world religions course, or whatever. But, it must be taught as only a subsection, rather than an entire course. Anything else would be a violation of the separation of church and state, by favoring one "faith-based belief" over another.

And, since it is not science, it cannot be taught in science class! Nor can it be allowed to masquerade as science---pretending to compete head-to-head with evolution on level ground, by the same set of rules. The allowance of such an egregious act not only corrupts scientific knowledge, but also the scientific method itself. As Ken Miller puts it, what is at stake in this battle is no less than "America's scientific soul"... into which Michael Behe wishes to stuff astrology.

Keruso said...

My avatar amuses me too!! if not a little childish. One day I stumbled across claims that biblical references to "tanniyn", "behemoth" and "leviathan" are proof of dinosaur’s co-existence with man. Googling unearthed some amusing pictures of Jesus riding dinosaurs!

It’s a subconscious weakness in our discourse where often we use the word “designed” when describing perhaps aspects of the human anatomy, our hands are “designed” with an opposable or prehensile thumb capable of grasping objects.
However when we study the apparent design of our anatomy we can state clearly that, by our standards, those of mere mortals, no sensible designer would have left the human anatomy as it is. There are numerous examples of poor design in the human anatomy alone and countless when considering the natural world as a whole.
A simple and obvious explanation is provided by evolution by natural selection. Invoking external supernatural forces into an explanation generates more questions than it answers and I would say violates occams razor.

I completely agree with your points on how ID is represented and promoted. Being British I am observing with interest from the sideline because I’m not aware of any attempts in the UK to alter or disrupt the teaching of a balanced curriculum in state funded schools. However we do certainly have private fee-paying schools that deploy a “faith based” curriculum. Contrary to my secular humanist principles.

I think if I were American I would be against ID being allowed into the classroom simply because as you say it crosses the constitutional line.
Furthermore ID is controversial, unfounded, dubious and is just pseudo-science. If we measure ID against the criteria used to judge the veracity of any subject matter prior to acceptance into the national curriculum, ID will fail. Period.
We must guard against the precedence that could be set if ID were allowed into the classroom even philosophically. It could be used as a legislative lever by other undesirable pseudo’s to claim entry into the classroom.

Iron Soul said...

My thought is that the Dunning-Kruger effect is very much in play for the average lay Cdesign proponentist, while the fraud and deceit is present in the better informed members of the group.