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Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The 'Monkey See, Monkey Do' Approach to Science

I've heard some crazy arguments by creationists against evolution, but this one takes the cake:

"Methodological Naturalism [MN] holds that when scientists investigate and seek to explain the natural world they must irrefutably assume that Naturalism is true. We must assume that only natural causes have operated throughout the relevant history of life without the aid of any intelligent cause. Those who break this rule are not scientists and therefore are not qualified to speak or be heard. MN is sort of a rule that would require arson investigators to provide only natural explanations for all fires. If an investigator disagrees with the rule, he is not deemed a qualified investigator, so his reports cannot be considered. The result would be massive increases in insurance premiums and profound misunderstanding about the true causes of fire."

Until the time comes when an "intelligent cause" can be verified, tested, and/or objectively observed, those who "break the rule" and factor a god into their research are not engaged in science. Arson investigators do not need to base their work on "Methodological Naturalism" (whatever that is) because they have objective knowledge that human beings set fires. It has been observed. It is a fact. It is completely logical to assume that if a fire did not result from natural causes that a human being was the cause. Such an assumption requires no faith.

Of course, the "Naturalism" referred to here is a concept created by the Intelligent Design crowd; it's a definition specifically designed to knock down their own carefully tailored pro-evolution straw men. In the real world, it's absolutely meaningless.

The creationists' obsession with the idea that they are being locked out of the debate, that they "are not qualified to speak or be heard," simply because they believe in a god borders on the absurd. The author of the quoted segment above "has a degree in geology and currently focuses on constitutional issues relating to the teaching of origins in public schools". Such are the "qualifications" of many of the opponents to biological evolution.

Although what Calvert describes is essentially what science has become, it should be noted that modern science could never have arisen in our modern culture on such a premise. In other words, today's science essentially claims all of life is random, irrational and illogical. To borrow from Calvert, the core claim of evolution is that "apparent design is just an illusion." Such rejects the notion of absolutes, therefore, rejecting the very foundation of science. Consider carefully: if everything is irrational and illogical, if there are no absolutes, if there is no design, then results in experimentation are relative. Scientific claims cannot possibly be subject to refutation or falsification. A foundation of that order for science destroys its credibility.

Intellectual dishonesty at its finest. Creationists control every aspect of the "debate" by simply redefining--or outright creating--the positions of their opponents to fit their own attacks. More often than not, most of the "premises" and "claims" of science creationists like rail against are really projections of their own personal feelings and fears of a concept they don't fully understand, which are then attributed to those against whom they are fighting. How else could they come up with ideas like "the core claim of evolution is that 'apparent design is just an illusion'," and that science claims life is "irrational and illogical" (randomness is claimed, but what is wrong with being random?). The only reason creationism is seen as so persuasive an argument by many is because what they are arguing against is of their own creation. They may score some points in philosophical debates, but only because their arguments are carefully crafted to take down "opposing ideas" that are manufactured to be taken down. It's easy to win a debate when you're debating yourself. On an equal playing field, they would be crushed.

At any rate, dismissal of "apparent design" in no way suggests the rejection of absolutes. If valid and carried out properly, identical experiments carried out by an atheist scientist and a Bible-believing scientist will end up with the same results. The believer will be no more accurate for their belief in a supernatural designer. Science examines the physical universe, and as such has no need of a godlike designer. There might actually be such an entity, but it's irrelevant.

It is an absolute waste of time to engage creationists in point-by-point refutations of their bogus "scientific" arguments against evolution; not only does such "debate" lend creation science an air of legitimacy, it also distracts the experts from the misinformation campaign that is the true essence of creationism. They know all too well that no respectable scientist is going to pass on an opportunity to tear pseudo-scientific ideas to shreds, and while the experts are involved in pointless arguments about vestigal limbs and transitional forms, creationists are busy quietly redefining entire philosophies of science to suit their own needs. Know this, the "debate" is not an attempt to change the minds of scientists, since the creationists couldn't care less about science; it is about playing upon the fears of the unwashed masses who, unfortunately, are intimidated by science. Just tell them that mainstream science says their very existence is irrational, illogical, and ultimately pointless, throw in a few barbs about a chimpanzee in their family tree, and who's side will they take? They aren't going to question anything, because deep down science scares them. Creationists offer them easy, emotionally-appealing answers.

For proof that, for the creationists, the issue isn't about science, the remainder of article wades deeply into that infamous last refuge and plays the "founding fathers" card. The founding fathers, who were mostly eighteenth-century agrarians and lawyers, believed in a creator! Even the founding documents of this great nation come out against the idea of evolution. Never mind that what the founding fathers thought of evolution has any more impact on whether it is a fact of nature than does the creationists' fantasy tale of Darwin's deathbed recantation of his findings. What if all of them rejected the ideas of gravity or a round earth? That doesn't make either concepts false. But, it doesn't matter. Now, to accept evolution as the fact that it is not only makes one "go against" God, but it also makes one un-American.

My advice to those in the fight against creationism: Forget about arguing over details of science. Don't acknowledge any "evidence" for creation. It only gives them credibility in the eyes who don't know any better, and many of those who don't know any better are responsible for making laws and policy regarding science education. Leave the real scientific debates regarding the mechanics of evolution to the scientists to figure out for themselves. Instead, attack the malicious motives, philosophy, and tactics of the creationists to expose their agenda for what it really is--one that doesn't care at all about science, but instead seeks to scare the nation into installing one more rung on the ladder to theocracy.


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