Monday, February 19, 2007

Since when were neo-Creationists "evolutionists"?

Douglas Wellman has a commentary in The News-Sentinel, which is supposed to be a rebuttal to an earlier comment.

Let's do a little frisking, shall we?

Al Kuelling’s Feb. 8 guest column was deficient in several areas.

His criticism of Intelligent Design as merely “repackaged creationism” is false. Even evolutionists are beginning to concede this. In a column in the Jan. 9 Guardian, evolutionist Richard Buggs contends that ID is a scientifically valid theory. Further, atheists and agnostics, such as Michael Denton, are among ID’s proponents.

My first thought was to heed PZ Myer's excellent advice, and never trust a neo-Creationist when he quotes someone. I looked up that Guardian column, and found, much to my suprise that Wellman was pretty correct in his description of the Buggs' statement. Of course, he still misrepresented Buggs by claiming him to be an 'evolutionist'. The column clearly stakes that Buggs sits on the scientific panel of Truth in Science - so a member of a ID panel supports ID? That's hardly a great surprise.

Michael Denton is the author of Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, Answers in Genesis describes him thus:
Dr Michael Denton is a former agnostic anti-evolutionist (with respect to biological transformism), who now professes a vague form of theism. However, he now seems to have embraced evolutionary (though somehow ‘guided’) transformism.

In other words, while he might once have been an agnostic, he doesn't appear to be one any more.
And can Wellman cite any other examples of agnostic or atheist scientists that supports ID?
Kuelling’s unsubstantiated charge that ID proponents mislead the courts is also false. He also doesn’t mention that the judge in the Dover, PA case lifted his evaluation of ID’s scientific merit nearly word for word, including misrepresentations, from the ACLU’s proposed “Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law.” The Discovery Institute reports:

“For example, Jones claimed that biochemist Michael Behe, when asked about articles purporting to explain the evolution of the immune system, responded that the articles were ‘not good enough.’ Behe actually said the exact opposite: “It’s not that they aren’t good enough. It’s simply that they are addressed to a different subject.” Jones’ misrepresentation of Behe came directly from the ACLU’s proposed findings.

I think the quote "not good enough", doesn't refer to what Behe said, but what he was asked (and which he answered in the negative) - you know, like in this exchange:

Q. We’ll get back to that. Now, these articles rebut your assertion that scientific literature has no answers on the origin of the vertebrate immune system?

A. No, they certainly do not. My answer, or my argument is that the literature has no detailed rigorous explanations for how complex biochemical systems could arise by a random mutation and natural selection and these articles do not address that.

Q. So these are not good enough?

A. They’re wonderful articles. They’re very interesting. They simply just don’t address the question that I pose.

And for the whole "copied the ACLU" thing - see here and here at The Panda's Thumb
In any case, Keulling’s reliance on the courts is dubious. Courts are no more authorities on what constitutes science than on who qualifies as human (see the Dred Scott decision).

Actually, here is something I agree with. Scientists are the authorities on what constitutes science - among other things, this happens through the peer-reviewing process.
Today, we are told that science must be limited to materialistic explanations. This is a problematic approach in that an a priori decision to exclude a particular class of explanation is dogmatism, not science. Imagine if archaeology were subject to the same restrictions.

I think most archaeologists would be rather suprised to hear that there is anything non-materialistic to their field. And yes, science excludes non-naturalistic explanation - that's what science is all about.
In contrast, most branches of modern science were pioneered by creationists. For instance, Newton, recently voted the greatest scientist who ever lived, was a creationist. Today, many scientists follow their lead. John Baumgartner and Emil Silvestru are both leading authorities in their fields – plate tectonics and cave geology, respectively.

Isn't that nice. Newton also believed in alchemy, yet I don't see people call for teaching alchemy in schools.
Kuelling needs to ask himself: If science is so threatened by the consideration of nonmaterialistic explanations, how is it that the founders of modern science laid so solid a foundation based upon those very premises? And why shouldn’t modern scientists follow their example?

The founders of science can be considered the ancient Greeks, so by Wellman's line of argumentation, we should all worship the Geek Pantheon, and base our science on that.
What Wellman doesn't seem to grasp is that science is conducted in spite of what religious beliefs the scientist holds, and goes where the evidence leads. What kind of evidence does neo-creationists provide for their ideas, nonmaterialistic or otherwise? None. This is why it should be rejected as science.
To understand what prompted this profound redefinition of science, consider the comment by British zoologist and anatomist D.M.S. Watson: “Evolution is a theory universally accepted, not because it has been observed to occur or…can be proved by logically coherent evidence to be true, but because the only alternative, special creation, is clearly incredible.”
Note that his acceptance of evolution is not based upon science, but upon his desire to write God out of the equation.

That certainly sounds damning doesn't it? I mean, even if we ignore the fact that he made that statement back in 1929! Of course, it's typical ID quotemining - in essence Watson is saying that evolution was accepted because of "the collapse of alternative explanations".
One might wonder why ID and creationism pose such threats to evolutionists (witness all the fretting over Answers in Genesis’ soon-to-open world-class Creation Museum). After all, if the evidence for evolution is so compelling, why are evolutionists working so hard to suppress contrary views? Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, has said, “In my opinion, using creation and evolution as topics for critical-thinking exercises in primary and secondary schools is virtually guaranteed to confuse students about evolution and may lead them to reject one of the major themes in science.”

Maybe is an issue for us, because we are against bad science? We don't think it's a good idea to fill childrens' heads with nonsense.
Simply put, evolutionists are not confident in their own theory. Why else would Scott urge evolutionists to “avoid debates. If your local campus Christian fellowship asks you to defend evolution, please decline. … you probably will get beaten”?

Note the elipses? Let's take the quote in full:
Avoid Debates. If your local campus Christian fellowship asks you to “defend evolution,” please decline. Public debates rarely change many minds; creationists stage them mainly in the hope of drawing large sympathetic audiences.
Have you ever watched the Harlem Globetrotters play the Washington Federals? The Federals get off some good shots, but who remembers them? The purpose of the game is to see the Globetrotters beat the other team.
And you probably will get beaten. In such a forum, scientific experts often try to pack a semester-long course into an hour, hoping to convey the huge sweep of evolution, the towering importance of its ideas, the masses of evidence in its favor. Creationist debaters know better. They come well prepared with an arsenal of crisp, clear, superficially attractive antievolutionary arguments — fallacious ones, yes,
but far too many for you to answer in the time provided.
Even if you win the debate in some technical sense, most of the audience will still walk away from it convinced that your opponent has a great new science that the schools should hear about. Teachers have enough problems. Above all else, do no harm.

source (pdf).

Somehow it seems that Scott's message wasn't quite the same as Wellman's understanding of it. Incidentially, this might be a good one to add to the TalkOrigins quotemine file - I came across a few references to the statement by the neo-Creationism crowd when finding the source.
Finally, Kuelling voices concern that creationists are chasing Christians out of the church. On the contrary. Evolutionists such as biologist E.O. Wilson and Michael Shermer, founding publisher of Skeptic magazine, have related that their exposure to evolutionary theory was the death knell of their once-fervent faith.
There is no reason, scientific or otherwise, for Christians to adulterate their faith with that of unbelievers.

Well, can't really say anything to that, can I?

Does this kind of "rebuttals" actually convince anyone? I guess it might work, if you don't know how to actually research their claims.


Anonymous Ritchie Annand said...

Thanks for a nice bit of insight. I was tracking down some of the quotes used in the presentation that the recently-fired sub in Oregon was using in class to deny evolution and to make links between Nazis and Planned Parenthood and evolution.

I saw the Watson quote, and knew that 9/10 unseen spirits agree that if a creationist quotes a scientist, they are lying by omission. Thanks for setting the context, and nice analysis :)

It's amazing how much they can snip out and turn into an ellipsis on those "unfortunate" occasions when the pieces they wish to skip are in the middle, instead of before or after when they get to skip the ellipsis altogether and claim accurate quotation.

Damn straight you don't take on a slick creationist with their well-oiled lies and half-truths in a public forum. Precious few people can do that, and it's nothing to do with smarts or truthfulness.


April 02, 2007 10:50 AM  

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