December 20, 2009

Religious belief inspires impudent hubris based on ignorant certainty

Jon Skillman, a deacon at Grace Baptist Church in Oroville, California, decides to spout off in the media venue of the local paper about his creationist beliefs ("The evolution of evolution", Oroville Mercury-Register, 12/19/2009). As is so typical of these "Joe Blow" creationists in various communities around the country, they love to make bold proclamations about science, and it is their remarks by which they show everyone the dismal ignorance about science that seems to run rampant in our society. Of course, it's not merely the poor science education that's the problem, but the antagonistic attitude toward learning that a lot of churches directly promote in what they teach and preach to their congregations.

You always have to laugh when religious believers challenge aspects of science they despise because those particular areas of science happen to contradict some religious beliefs they cherish and in doing so demonstrate not only their lack of comprehension of the areas of science they attack, but also demonstrate a lack of comprehension of the meaning of words in the English language.

Skillman refers to the theory of evolution like this,

Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution... you know, theory, as in unproven. Intellects like to drop that pesky "theory" word from the conversation because it could, you know, cause doubt or even questioning. They prefer to accept evolution on faith.

Oh, geeze. Nothing like a creationist following the time-honored creationist tradition of repeating statements that have been refuted for decades. "Theory." Look it up in the dictionary. The colloquial meaning of "theory" is a guess or speculation ("an assumption based on limited information or knowledge; a conjecture") The scientific meaning of "theory", as in "scientific theory of evolution" or "scientific theory of gravity" is quite the opposite ("a set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena, especially one that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena."). But creationists can't even get the meaning of the word right, because they don't know how it's used in science (as they demonstrate), and don't want to know, and inspired by their devotion to empirically false religious dogma and the attitude of glorifying ignorance that it induces are just having too much fun using the wrong meaning of the word for the purpose of misrepresenting evolution to actually pause for one moment and bother to correct themselves about so little an error as getting the contextual meaning of a word wrong.

Skillman again,

Science has found no evidence to support evolution as the origin of any species.

The Baptist deacon obviously doesn't have a clue that there are all sorts of scientific research papers published in the professional science literature that present the data and discuss the evidence. Just for example, there are many studies of the evolution of the numerous species of stickleback fish. (An awful lot of creationists also seem to be oblivious to the fact that you can find such articles almost literally at the click of a button by using the "Google Scholar" search, which is what the previous link is, by the way.) How is it that a Baptist deacon who apparently doesn't even know that these research articles exist thinks that he is so much more knowledgeable about the subject than the professional scientists who actually do the scientific work? What is it about belief in religious dogma that inspires such impudent hubris based on ignorant certainty?

Skillman again,

Not one transitional fossil has ever been found. But hey, let's not bother intellectuals with the facts... they innately know better.

This statement is a mantra of falsehood that creationists love to repeat over and over and over again. Of course, there are literally thousands of examples, large and small, of transitional fossils. Here I'll just mention a few: Acanthostega gunnari. Tiktaalik roseae. Thrinaxodon liorhinus. Trirachodon. Liaoceratops yanzigouensis. Velociraptor mongoliensis. Microraptor gui. Ambulocetus. Rodhocetus. Gomphotherium. Orohippus. Duchesnehippus intermedius. Not only is the statement "Not one transitional fossil has ever been found" an unadulterated falsehood, it demonstrates a horrible ignorance of paleontology.

Of course, creationists cannot be bothered to actually learn about the scientific facts (which the Baptist deacon unwittingly admits with his offhand remark that he refuses to be "dragged off to academia") and tell the truth about them. They have their belief in their religious dogma, and to them that's all that matters.

April 30, 2009

The dishonesty of creationists' arguments

The dishonesty of creationists' arguments
Below is a response I wrote on April 28, 2009 to a reply made by young earth creationist Arv Edgeworth to an article here:

Creationists' arguments against evolution, for intelligent design show dishonesty
by Jason Hoskin
(The Daily Toreador, 4/27/2009)

Bear in mind that young earth creationists fill their rhetoric with all kinds of pretensions regarding truth and honesty, promoting the idea that professional scientists and pro-science critics of creationist propaganda are the ones engaging in a dishonest conspiracy to put one over on people about evolution. Of course, it is exactly the rhetoric that creationists themselves use that demonstrates that it is they themselves who show (much) less than zero interest in truth and honesty, because they are the ones pushing their particular religious agenda on the basis of their particular religious concerns, based on which they generate all sorts of anti-science and pseudoscience propaganda. It is their own pervasive and flagrant use of deceitful rhetorical trickery that shows the sheer hypocrisy that is an integral aspect of the creationist attitude today. Whenever creationists proclaim or insinuate that scientists and pro-science critics of creationism pseudoscience and rhetoric are the ones being dishonest, one should always immediately point out the facts, delineate exactly how creationists are misrepresenting matters, and set the record straight - and then throw their claims of dishonesty right back in their faces. There certainly are ethical standards of truth-seeking and honesty, and creationists are so far below the bar they're not even in competition. These days creationists - but especially young earth creationists - have earned themselves a strong reputation for dishonesty.

By the way, I didn't mention this in my response to the Edgeworth's reply because it wasn't relevant to me dealing with his nonsense rhetoric, but the man parades himself as "Dr." Arv Edgeworth. After writing my response I learned that he uses the "Dr." title purely for bogus credibility (isn't it bizarre how these guys pretend to be so concerned about truth and honesty, yet we see them engaging in all sorts of these little deceptive tricks like this?) - it's nothing more than an honorary degree in Divinity (and it's hard to tell what organization even gave him the honorary degree, because he keeps that under wraps), and so not only has absolutely nothing to do with science but also does not even signify any kind of record of accredited academic achievement. These are the slimy ways of the young earth creationists.

Arv Edgeworth wrote (April 27, 2009):
Mr. Hoskin is not being honest in his attempt at showing that creationists are being dishonest. First, he says: "Fortunately, the pro-science advocates were successful in preventing the adoption of the "strengths and weaknesses" clause with respect to the theory of evolution." The "strengths and weaknesses" clause had already been in there for twenty years. They did not prevent anything from being added, they actually removed wording which could do great harm to scientific inquiry.

Well, actually, it has been widely reported in the media - incorrectly, as Arv Edgeworth points out - that creationists were trying to add the phraseology. So it's true that Jason Hoskin screwed up in not getting the details right, but hardly dishonest.

Discussing strengths and weaknesses is at the heart of the scientific method.

Discussing genuinely scientific strengths and weaknesses is at the heart of the scientific method. Using rhetorical trickery to throw in unscientific anti-evolution arguments based on religious motivations and pseudoscientific canards creationists have used for decades that have been refuted a hundred times over is not at the heart of the scientific method, and indeed has nothing to do with science. And it's dishonest to pretend that it is.

These are not "pro-science" advocates, they are "pro-evolution" advocates that may bring great harm to real science.

Evolution is part of modern science, just like meteorology, or chemistry, or astronomy, or other fields of science. Those who respect science are focusing on issues regarding evolution, precisely because that is the field of science being attacked by creationists.


You also have to laugh at the irony of a creationist mouthing concern about bringing harm to real science, since that is exactly what creationists deliberately try to do.

Secondly, Mr. Hoskin says: "This clause falsely implies there is scientific evidence in favor of intelligent design creationism or against evolution." How does examining the strengths or weaknesses of a theory, which has been a part of science from the very beginning, imply there is evidence for or against anything? Mr. Hoskin is blowing smoke and not being honest about the issues.

In fact, it is Edgeworth and other creationists who are blowing smoke with their "strengths and weaknesses" rhetoric. This is because the "strengths and weaknesses" phrase is used by creationists to refer to their long-refuted pseudoscientific anti-evolution arguments, and not to genuinely scientific controversies that are being dealt with in the professional science literature. So we know who it really is who is not being honest about the issues, which is why they're using rhetorical trickery.

Mr. Hoskin is also not being honest by saying if you "teach the controversy" you would have to allow for all the minor myths about creation to be taught. The fact they are called "minor myths" should settle that issue. When over 50% of the population in America believes man was created and did not evolve, I would say that is a controversy.

Of course, that doesn't mean it's a scientific controversy, which is, after all, the whole point. And it's not being honest to pretend otherwise. Scientific exploration, experimentation, analysis, and discovery is not a matter of public opinion. The determination of scientific facts is not a matter of popular opinion. It's dishonest, and scientifically illiterate, to pretend otherwise.

Mr. Hoskin, and others like him, do not want students to know a controversy exists, and that is being dishonest.

What is dishonest is engaging in false pretensions to try to fool children in public school science classes that something is a scientific controversy when not only is it based on religious motivations but is also based on pseudoscience arguments creationists have used for decades which have been refuted at least a hundred times over. Indeed, as we saw most recently in the Tammy Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District in Pennsylvania in 2005, it is well known that creationists use this specific strategy of trying to pretend that their religious concerns are "science" for the specific purpose of trying to get around the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment so that they can do this. The depths of the dishonesty that creationists engage in to do this is quite audacious.

He also clearly has a pre-conceived bias in this issue by declaring creation to be a myth.

Oh, well gee, we're talking about people whose ideas are based on a story in the book of Genesis in the Bible, which is a religious myth. It's a religious story told in mythological language related in a religious book. For example, it tells about God creating a firmament in the sky, separating the water on the planet by putting some of the water above the firmament, and placing the sun, moon, and stars in the firmament. There's a supernaturally created Adam and Eve formed out of the dirt, a talking serpent, miracle fruit from a Tree of Life (like the Fountain of Youth), and an Angel with a Flaming Sword keeping people out of the Garden of Eden.

I don't know about you, but I haven't heard about any scientific discovery of an angel with a flaming sword keeping people away from a garden lately. In fact, I've never heard of any such discovery at all. I'll bet you haven't either. So, yep, that's religious mythology all right.


I also laugh at the irony when creationists start making complaints about other people having a "preconceived bias", when in fact we all know that it is creationists themselves who possess the preconceived bias of their particular religious beliefs which lead them to attack scientific results they don't like to try to prop up their religious beliefs. The young earth creationists in particular are most notorious for this, denying not just evolutionary science, but also denying geological science and astronomical science, as well as denying related areas of chemical science and physics. (And note that the Discovery Institute works hand in glove with young earth creationists - indeed, many of the Fellows of the Discovery Institute are explicitly young earth creationists.) So it's pretty dishonest for creationists to pretend that it is anyone other than they themselves who possess the problem of preconceived bias.

The common claim by evolutionists is: "There is no scientific evidence for intelligent design." When the smallest cell is more complex than a space shuttle, the most complex machine ever designed by man, I would challenge Mr. Hoskin to point to "anything" in the world around us that is not evidence of intelligent design.

Complexity doesn't imply design. We know that Edgeworth, a creationist, can repeat all sorts of creationist canards, but the fact of the matter is that none of these creationist arguments are found in the professional science literature. This is because bad arguments and bad data tend to die out rather quickly under the withering scrutiny of detailed logical and scientific analysis.

Besides, I never have yet seen a space shuttle get pregnant and lay eggs or give birth to baby space shuttles. (The point being that Edgeworth is, with this argument, precisely ignoring evolution - ignoring natural selection - and it certainly isn't scientific to deliberately ignore the scientific facts that contradict your argument. No, in science you take the scientific facts into account, and if your idea has been falsified, then - if you're concerns are genuinely scientific rather than religious - you'll move on from your bad data and bad arguments and modify your ideas accordingly. Something creationists don't do, which is why they're still throwing out these old anti-evolution arguments that have been refuted over a hundred times.)

Some humans at times may not use a lot of intelligence in the conclusions they arrive at, but that does not mean they were not intelligently designed.

This is an argument?

Some humans at times may not use a lot of intelligence in the conclusions they arrive at, and that means their conclusions are unjustified, which Edgeworth is good at demonstrating for us, as so many creationists are.

Thirdly, Mr. Hoskin says: "Clearly, the "teach the controversy" refrain takes as its premise that all ideas and belief systems are equally valid in a sense, so long as there are people endorse them." The whole basis for his support of evolution is because the majority of scientists endorses it.

Nope. The whole basis for his support of evolution is because the scientific discoveries and results support it. The fact that the (vast) majority of the scientists who work in the relevant fields of science that due to their very professional they would be most knowledgeable about the relevant details, and they accept that evolution is correct because of this, is just a secondary indicator.

By the way, it's dishonest to pretend that the scientific research and results don't exist and that scientists merely took a vote.

But the fact is, not all scientists do endorse it. Thousands of scientists from reputable universities with advanced degrees in science believe that Darwinian evolution is so flawed it cannot be repaired. But if someone doubts evolution, the evolutionists try to claim they are not really scientists. That is being dishonest.

Actually, what is being dishonest is to first argue that it's wrong to think that things are based on a vote, and then to turn right around and make an argument based on a vote - and a vote by creationists who have never published any scientific research on the subject no less!

It's also dishonest to pretend that the personal opinion of some guy who is a hydraulic engineer and who has never in his life conducted or published a single piece of scientific research in the professional science literature relevant to the subject in the first place, and whose opinion is based on the preconceived bias of his religious beliefs, and not on scientific research, is relevant to science.

Evolutionists - i.e., everyone who is not a creationist and who respects genuine science - do not claim they are not really scientists. They simply point out the fact that the personal opinions that scientists have, that are not based on the results from the kinds of scientific research that they themselves actually conduct and thus work with on a genuinely scientific basis, are not science.

And "thousands", huh? Well, first of all, young earth creationists simply don't count. Any scientist, even a scientist who is a psychologist, or food biology researcher, or cancer researcher, or perfume chemist, who believes that the universe and the earth did not exist more than about 6,000 years ago, by that very act proves that the preconceived biases of his religious beliefs have made his personal opinions incompetently irrational when it comes to dealing with scientific subjects that contradict his religious beliefs. So when it comes to their anti-evolution, their opinions are utterly irrelevant, precisely because they are not over genuinely scientific about evolution (their concerns derive from their religious beliefs and are thus scientifically irrelevant).

Creationists such as Edgeworth can play rhetorical games all day long, every day for the next hundred years, just like they've done for the last hundred years, pretending that "evolution is so flawed it cannot be repaired", but the fact of the matter is that they cannot produce the scientific research in the professional science literature that backs up their assertion. (And, yes, creationists really have been proclaiming the imminent scientific demise of evolution for over a hundred years, which is another example of the lack of credibility of the rhetoric they like to use.)

So all this nonsense about "thousands of scientists" is, again, just another example of the kind of dishonest rhetorical trickery that creationists love to use, just another smokescreen.

The most dishonest thing about this whole issue is evolutionists stating that evolution is science, and creation is just a belief system. They claim they have the scientific evidence, and creationists just have faith. That is not only dishonest, it is an absolute lie.


The fact of the matter is that in the professional science literature there are literally hundreds of research articles about all kinds of different aspects of evolution published each and every year. Therefore, one of the most dishonest "arguments" creationists love to make is falsely pretending that this scientific research doesn't exist and thus absolutely lying that evolution is not science.

Both groups are looking at the exact same evidence. Both creation and evolution are an interpretation of evidence, not the evidence itself.

And thus does Edgeworth give us yet another example of the dishonesty of creationist rhetoric. Just as one example, we have hundreds of examples of transitional fossils in the fossil record showing the evolution of organisms over time, yet in their rhetoric creationists are frequently found to be making the false claim that "there are no transitional fossils". There is also the simple fact that when we're talking about science, then we're talking about scientific interpretations of the evidence based on rational, scientific analysis, not unscientific mythological elements dreamed up in the religious imagination. But obviously Edgeworth wants us to ignore the distinction.

When a creationist starts talking about the dishonesty of his pro-science critics, you know the irony has only just begun.