Thursday, March 31, 2011

Creationism Notes Refuted, Part 4

Last time I covered arguments favoring YEC and intelligent design. In this final installment I'll deal with alleged scientific persecution and the "evils" of evolution—much of which comes from the anti-evolution, pro-ID propaganda film Expelled.

Scientific "Persecution"

I first want to stress that if IDists could provide solid evidence for their views, they would be accepted by the scientific community. But when scientists do bad science, they have to deal with the consequences. I doubt that even IDists would object to such punishment for promoting geocentrism or perpetual motion devices based on faulty evidence, and the same principle applies here.

Notes: Richard Sternberg was fired for publishing an ID article.
Answer: No he wasn't. He had turned in a letter of resignation 6 months beforehand, and even then he still remained on at both of his jobs.

N: Caroline Crocker was fired just for mentioning ID in the classroom.
A: Doubly wrong. She taught several completely discredited creationist claims as fact, and she wasn't fired despite having misrepresented evolution.

N: Baylor shut down Robert Marks' research site due to his link to ID.
A: A blatant distortion of the truth. The site itself had ID material that Baylor didn't want to associate itself with. They even tried to negotiate with Marks, but things didn't work out, so he simply moved his site to another server.

N: Guillermo Gonzalez was denied tenure due to his work in ID.
A: There's no clear evidence that this is the case—lack of scientific publication is a more likely explanation—and even if ID was the reason, that's perfectly appropriate if his work on that topic was flawed.

N: Pamela Winnick was fired by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette just for covering ID.
A: Once again, doubly wrong. She didn't just cover ID, she uncritically portrayed it as a credible, scientific movement. And not only is there no evidence she was fired for that reason, but she continues to occasionally write for the paper.

N: The Discovery Institute only wants to fairly discuss the issues.
A: As the wedge document showed, their agenda is to promote Christianity by teaching creationism under a different name.

Random Evolution Criticism

N: According to Dr. Egnor, evolution is irrelevant in the field of medicine.
A: As some winners of the essay contest Egnor was responding to pointed out, evolution is important in medicine for understanding phenomena such as antibiotic resistance, genetic disorders and vestigial features, and supports the use of animal testing and epidemiological techniques.

N: The Miller–Urey experiment didn't create life.
A: That was never their intention. What the experiment actually did was create many of the amino acids essential for life. And one paper concluded that the amino acids created in this and similar experiments appeared more often in the oldest parts of the genome.

N: Natural selection can only reduce information, not add it.
A: A truly baffling claim that ignores the very mutations that natural selection acts upon. For example, one major source of added information is the accidental duplication of genes.

Evolution as "Evil"

This entire section is a giant pile of association fallacies. Allegations that evolution is associated with bad things have no bearing on whether or not it's true. And many of the allegations are false anyway.

N: Evolution is bad because it promotes eugenics.
A: Anyone trying to use evolution to support eugenics commits the fallacious appeal to nature. Evolution describes the way the world is, not the way it ought to be. Darwin himself condemned eugenics as resulting in "overwhelming evil." On top of that, much of eugenics is based on bad biology, and the concept is quite compatible with creationism.

N: Evolution removes all basis for morality.
A: This is completely nonsensical. Evolution says absolutely nothing about morality one way or another. This objection even seems to ignore the existence of theistic evolutionists—do creationists think they have no basis for morality either?

N: Evolution is the basis of humanism, racism and communism.
A: So much BS condensed into so little space. Racism predates evolution by millennia, and if anything, evolution is an argument against racism since humans are so genetically similar. Marx did compare the struggle between classes to the struggles in nature, but that was about it. The Communist Manifesto made no mention of evolution and was published 11 years before The Origin of Species. And it has absolutely nothing to do with humanism—I'm not even sure what the argument could be made here.

N: Humanists teach that humans are supreme beings.
A: Ohhh... okay then. I see. One teensy problem, though: neither humanism nor evolution teaches that humans are "supreme." If anything, evolution is against this view: humans don't represent a pinnacle, but are simply one out of millions of species that have existed in the past, exist currently, and will exist in the future. Humanists value human characteristics such as reason and focus on human problems, but generally don't say humans are inherently superior. It's worth noting that humanism isn't necessarily secular—for example, Christian humanism exists as well.

N: Columbine shooter Eric Harris wore a shirt that said "natural selection."
A: One tragically misguided student says precisely nothing about the validity of evolution. If anything, this is an argument for teaching more carefully in schools that natural selection describes what is, not what should be.

N: A biology textbook says that humans are animals and are related to earthworms.
A: Both of those statements are true, but they hold no more negative implications than the Bible's teaching that we were made from dust.

N: Roe v. Wade ruled that the unborn aren't people, resulting in 45 million abortions.
A: First of all, this has nothing to do with evolution. Second, it only ruled that abortion is legal until the fetus is viable (at 6–7 months). And third, the body miscarries naturally extremely often—perhaps God doesn't care so much about the unborn after all.

N: Darwin thought inbreeding would result in better genes.
A: Just the opposite: because he married his cousin, he often worried about the negative effects of inbreeding on his children.

N: Darwin said that more civilized races would exterminate less civilized ones.
A: He also explicitly condemned such extermination. True, Darwin held some racist views, but so did nearly everyone in the mid-1800s—even Lincoln, the Great Emancipator himself, said that he wasn't in favor of racial equality and believed that whites were superior to blacks. Darwin was in fact far less racist than most, arguing that human races were all one species and strongly opposing slavery.

Evolution and Hitler Were Bestest Pals!

This fallacy is so common that it has its own nickname: reductio ad Hitlerum. The bottom line is that all of this is irrelevant to the truth of evolution, but even so, such statements are often highly misleading and deserve to be cleared up.

N: Hitler and the Nazis used evolution to further their views.
A: Not nearly as much as creationists would have us believe. Sure, they abused a few concepts here and there, but they did the same thing with other scientific fields. They also banned writings about "the false scientific enlightenment of Darwinism," and much of their motivation was religious.

N: Hitler's Mein Kampf promoted evolution.
A: The text is freely available for scrutiny here. It mentions biological evolution only rarely, and in fact promotes God and Christianity to a far greater extent.

N: Hitler hated Christianity and called it a "fatal, seductive lie."
A: This is totally irrelevant to evolution. And to take this quote on its own ignores Hitler's complex and seemingly contradictory views towards religion. For example, he also privately said that "I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so."

N: Hitler said, "Let me control the textbooks and I will control the state."
A: Obviously textbooks will tend to influence people, but this is a good thing if they reflect reality—and the teaching of evolution is based upon mountains of verifiable evidence. In contrast, creationists have repeatedly tried to pollute the textbooks with ridiculous falsehoods, including many of the lies I have debunked throughout this series.


That's it for these notes. I must say that I learned a lot while researching these claims—especially about the extent to which creationists are willing to distort the truth in order to peddle their madness. I'm sure that most of the people who teach this stuff are true believers who aren't even aware of their massive biases, but there are almost certainly some creationists who willingly tell lies, believing it a small price to pay to advance their agenda.

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