Sunday, November 18, 2007

Can we get some intelligence in the design of the News-Gazette?

I rarely poke my head in at the News Gazette blogs, because they're usually fairly inane. About a week ago Rhonda Robinson blogged "Expelled: No intelligence Allowed - new movie, old debate", which is more disappointing than her usual conservative, self-pitying blather. What's unusual about this column is that the density of logical fallacies is so high is threatens to distort the flow of cars on I-74 due to its graviational pull.

Intelligent design creationists spout the same claims over and over. They used the same tired old arguments so often, that you can actually refer to them by number. The Index to Creationist Claims categorizes and indexes the standard creationist claims, distortions, and half-truths in a nice, tidy list for reference. Here I'll point out Robinson's fallacious arguments:

  1. CA202: Evolution has not been proven. Robinson writes, "Why is a 150 year old unproven theory accepted as fact..", when in fact, evolution *has* been proven, in so far as science "proves" things. This leads us directly to the next one:
  2. CA201. Evolution is only a theory. This can only be attributable to Robinson's ignorance of what constitutes a theory. Perhaps it's unfair to expect her to be familiar with such things, but it's she that has chosen to pontificate on science and it is she that is talking out of her ass.
  3. CA002.1. Evolution leads to social Darwinism. Robinson quotes Ben Stein's blog about his upcoming creationist movie, "Darwinism, perhaps mixed with Imperialism, gave us Social Darwinism..." As the ICC points out, this is just the "is vs. ought" logical fallacy. Even if evolution leads inexorably to Social Darwinism (which it doesn't), that wouldn't mean evolution was false. Science tells us the way the world is, not the way the world ought to be.
  4. CA005. Evolution is racist. Robinson/Stein continue: "[Social Darwinism is] a form of racism so vicious..." Ironically, Social Darwinism started in 1944, over 50 years after Darwin died and 85 years after the publication of The Origin of Species. So, was evolution valid for the period in between?
  5. CA006.1. Hitler based his views on Darwinism. Robinson/Stein write, "[Social Darwinism] countenanced the Holocaust against the Jews and mass murder of many other groups..." Again, no. The evil of the Holocaust requires no more scientific theory than the selective breeding of livestock practiced by farmers for centuries. Hitler also referred to the Jews as bacteria that needed to be eradicated and cancer that needed to be excised. Shall we next accuse modern medicine of being racist and anti-Semitic?
  6. CB910. No new species have been observed. Robinson/Stein continue, "Despite the fact that no one has ever been able to prove the creation of a single distinct species by Darwinist means..." Except for the fact that multiple new speciation events have been observed in insects, birds, fish, and mammals.
  7. CB090. Evolution is baseless without a theory of abiogenesis. Still quoting Stein, Robinson writes, "Darwinism also has not one meaningful word to say on the origins of organic life..." Evolution isn't about the origin of life on this planet. It's about the change in the characteristics of the individual species. Abiogenesis, or the origin of life, is more speculative than evolution, but that doesn't mean it's impervious to science, either. I'm not sure why Stein feels necessary to wonder about the origins of "organic" life. Does he know about silicon-based lifeforms that I'm unaware of?

That's one creationist claim every 70 words or so in this blog post. That's pretty impressive for 500 words.

What I find the most irritating is the continual put-upon tone she takes in the posting. She asks "Are we still free to disagree about the meaning of life?" and why creationism is "not allowed to be heard." She even goes so far as to ask "Are we still free to disagree about the meaning of life without fear of persecution?"

Seriously, persecution? Rhonda, get down off the cross, we could use the wood. You can complain about persecution when creationists stop making a mint peddling books to the ignorant.

Robinson whines, "This is about science, and the freedom of ideas." Science isn't really about ideas. That's philosophy. Science is about evidence, and creationsists have none.

Hopefully, creationists will someday come up with some arguments that they haven't been parroting for decades, ignoring the evidence mounting against them. Until then, I'm just bored.

(Oh, and The Squire is still around. He stops by the comments and pretty much gives Robinson a good blog-lashing. Get back to blogging, you slacker.)


Jonathan said...

Hopefully, creationists will someday come up with some arguments that they haven't been parroting for decades, ignoring the evidence mounting against them. Until then, I'm just bored.

agreed. I can't begin to explain the level of frustration that I have when confronted with people THAT ignorant. And then on top of that, you have a political party pandering to that ignorance.

Anonymous said...

Question: Where did the stuff that made the big bang come from? Or was it always there?

Narc said...

Anon: I'm not sure if that's a genuine question or if you're being snide. If the latter, I'll point you to Creationist claim CE440. Where did space, time, energy, and laws of physics come from?

First of all, the Big Bang has nothing to do with evolution. See "abiogenesis" in my blog post.

Secondly, matter as we understand it couldn't even exist after the BB until the hadron epoch, so saying that the BB consisted of "stuff" doesn't really make sense. I'm not even sure it's possible to describe the early state of the universe in terms we can easily understand, before gravity and the other fundamental physical forces were separate.

Thirdly, it's possible that all the stuff of the universe didn't come from anywhere. The universe might just be one big vacuum fluctuation. The sum total of all the energies in the universe might be zero. When is a truly Zen-like idea, if you think about it.

Again, really, this has nothing to do with evolution. If you want a more thorough explanation, you'll have to talk to Stephen Hawking.

Anonymous said...

You really need to calm the kneejerk reaction thing. I can be just as sarcastic or snide if you want - you decide.

The 'stuff' I was referring was simply a reduced version of the various forms of gases, and particulate matter that allegedly form the foundations upon which evolution is basesd as it is taught. While you claim one has nothing to do with the other I will refer you to the Wright Center at Tufts University rather impressive presentation that ties in all disciplines of evolution into one relatively condensed version from the Big Bang beginning to today. After reading your response I highly recommend you check this out.

Again, where did all that 'stuff' come from and how did they exist in order to become the big fireball that was the Big Bang?

Ryan said...

I agree with your post, Narc, but Social Darwinism started far earlier than you describe, as it was in use as part of the second-wave imperialism that justified white dominance of Africa and Asia, as well as the continued subservience of Latin America. Now, of course, Social Darwinism is a racist corruption of evolution theory, suggesting that the technological advances of the West showed how they were superior to those of the rest of the world, and thus, had a right to rule. Latin American elites and scholars were confronting Social Darwinism in the late 19th century and early 20th century, long before 1944.

David said...

I've commented this before, and I'll continue to reiterate it: I can't take anyone seriously who won't put their name — at least a screen name, for crying out loud — behind their words. Anyone who hides behind "anonymous" lacks the courage of their supposed convictions.

Narc said...

Ryan: Good point. I guess it was the term Social Darwinism that really gained use that late.

Mystery Anon: It looks like the Wright Center is using "evolution" in the sense of "change over time" not so much in the biological sense of how so many different species arose on this planet.

Nevertheless, whether the universe began from a Big Bang, was born out of a silver egg, or in a way consistent with the teachings of some more upstart religion, the ultimate origin of the universe really has nothing to do with fact of the development and change of species on this planet.

I assume you keep asking about where the Big Bang came from to discredit evolution. Your argument just boils down to "Well, we don't know everything, so we know nothing." If it discredits evolution, then it discredits all of chemistry and physics as well.

moon_grrl said...

ITA with david. If you don't have the gonads to use a screen name, then you should be ignored. Period.

I love this post, narc. It's funny how fast the anon Godbags come out of the woodwork to ask questions that don't have any bearing on evolution the moment you mention the very word.

You're the reason I started reading Pharyngula, BTW. For that, I thank you.

Narc said...

moon_grrl: You are welcome. And I thank you, as well. If I lead one more unsuspecting soul into darkness, I win an iPod!