Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one.

-C.S. Lewis

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Evolution and Name Calling

Michael Shermer has a very perceptive article in the Huffington Post about the bid to ban the teaching of science in Kansas. Money quote:

By contrast, a scientist would want to know how ID [Intelligent Design] did it. Did ID use known principles of chemical bonding and self-organization to create the first DNA molecule? If so, then ID appears indistinguishable from nature. Is this the God IDers worship? No. IDers want a supernatural God who uses unknown forces to create life. But what will IDers do when science discovers those forces? If they join in the research on them then they will be doing science. If they continue to eschew all attempts to provide a naturalistic explanation for the natural phenomena under question, IDers will have abandoned science altogether. This is, in fact, what they have done.

This is an excellent point, and something which has been largely overlooked. This is not just about evolution vs. creation. This isn’t even a debate over which is “correct,” religion or science. (In fact, the previous question is impossible to answer, since the goals of science and religion have so little in common. A somewhat similar divide-by-zero type of question would be to weigh the “correctness” of politics and mathematics.) This is about the desire to affect a willful ignorance and ascribe the workings of otherwise knowable processes to “magic.” This is about the active resistance of the dispassionate inquiry that is the scientific process. It’s as if nothing that God does can possibly take place within the confines of the physical and mathematical rules that He made in the first place. It strikes me as very odd that these defenders of God seem to have so little faith that any explanation of natural happenings that does not involve a poof of white smoke and a temporary suspension of the laws of physics threatens their belief system.

I hear so often from Democratic insiders and strategists that “we can’t dismiss the cultural conservatives as stupid. We’re the ones who are stupid.” I certainly wouldn’t dispute that the modern Democratic party has rightly earned that label. But in the face of a story like this, it really is a Herculean challenge not to dismiss the almost monolithically Republican proponents of ID as stupid, because, well, they are stupid. It debases one’s own intellegence as well as the collective insight of centuries of scientific tradition to engage in a “debate” with these people over the veracity of the theory of evolution. Even if scientists condescended so low as to address the issue of non-scientists claiming decades of evidence to be “inconclusive,” the natural give and take of any real debate would be impossible since the creationists have completely disavowed the scientific methods of disinterested observation, hypothetical inquiry, and careful experimentation. They always already know that they’re right regardless of the evidence. If these people were a fringe group, they'd be ignored. But they're not. They actually get to decide what our children learn. What’s left for one to do but call names?

P.S. Volokh has a pretty good take on this (via Instapundit).

Jas said...

The Case for Creation is an intersting book i read. Some evolutionists have taken the teachings of evolution on faith. It's good to hear arguments that go beyond "but the Bible says" vs "but my teacher says". Kinda of fun like watching a boxing match.

Horatio said...

Good point, Jas. It is indeed interesting to watch a debate on evolution vs. creation between two guys, neither of which has a clue about the actual science involved. Not that this diminishes in the slightest the fact that evolution occurred, period.

hello said...

if dem stratgists found out you could win an incremental amount of southern votes by declaring the earth was flat...they would schedule to run ads declaring that very thing the very next day.

Horatio said...

Good point, hello. Although if gaining the flat-earth society cost them the votes of some other larger group they probably wouldn't. I guess what's remarkable here is the fact that the "flat earth society" in this case is so unbelievably large, the GOP can afford to court them directly.

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