Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Intellectual Dishonesty of Creationists

I saw an interesting article in Atheism Analyzed, called Evolutionary Theories, Macroevolution, Quality of Evolutionary Science, where the creationist author, Stan, uses deceptive trickery to make the case that evolution science is not well founded.  His general approach is to quote selected passages from various people regarded as authorities in the field, to show that there is serious disagreement among them.  The trouble is that some of these "authorities" are actually creationists whose goal is to de-legitimize genuine science and promote their own pseudo-science, and others are actual evolutionists taken out of context and their meaning is distorted.

This is rather in the tradition of Stephen Meyer, who wrote the creationist book Darwin's Doubt, which is little more than a collection of lies and distortions pretending to be science, seeking to cast aside evolution science in favor of religious claptrap.  That was the conclusion of blogger Smilodon's Retreat, who reviewed the book extensively, systematically uncovering Meyer's dishonesty, and made a series of postings on it, outlined here.  Meyer's book is hailed by religious believers everywhere as a masterpiece that puts mainstream evolution science in its place.  And true to form, Stan's latest hit piece follows in Meyer's footprints, as he attempts to make his own dishonest exposition of evolution science.

The article consists mainly of a long series of quotes that Stan claims are statements "made by actual Evolution researchers and mathematicians".  These quotes supposedly tell a story of dissension and disagreement within the ranks of evolution scientists.  They point to a cult of scientists who religiously adhere to a dogmatic view of evolution, and suppress any opposing views.  Please read the quotations from Stan's article as I discuss them one by one. 

The first quote is from Adam Sedgwick, a mentor of Darwin, who claimed that Darwin's theory was based on assumptions, not acknowledged facts.  Sedgwick was a dedicated religious believer and his field of study was geology, not evolution.  He recoiled at the idea of evolution as being a denial of religious truth.  He said of Darwin's natural selection that it was
but a secondary consequence of supposed, or known, primary facts. Development is a better word because more close to the cause of the fact. For you do not deny causation. I call (in the abstract) causation the will of God: & I can prove that He acts for the good of His creatures. He also acts by laws which we can study & comprehend—Acting by law, & under what is called final cause, comprehends, I think, your whole principle.
Is this the opinion of an "actual Evolution researcher", Stan?  Was his belief in God's final cause based on observed facts or religious supposition?  No, this is just another religious opponent of evolution theory.

Next is a quote from James Shapiro, who actually does evolutionary research, but unfortunately rejects the notion of natural selection in favor of his own teleological theory called "natural genetic engineering".  His book Evolution: A View From the 21st Century has been widely criticized for lacking any viable alternative to natural selection as a means of developing new adaptive forms or transmitting genetic changes.  See a review of his book here.  The key point about Shapiro's theory isn't that it is rejected by the broader scientific community for dogmatic reasons, but that it fails to provide the explanatory power needed to replace the mainstream theory.  Yet Stan wants to paint this as proof of the cult of evolution refusing to consider alternative views.

Then we have a quote from philosopher of science Karl Popper, who was not an evolution researcher.  Popper complained that Darwinists apparently use teleological explanations because they have never provided a causal explanation of adaptive evolution.  This statement requires a little unpacking because it is taken out of context, and doesn't convey any real sense of what Popper is saying.  Here, Popper's problem with the evolution wasn't the lack of a causal principle, but that it isn't deterministic in the manner of Newtonian mechanics, for example.  Scientists can't trace a specific set of events that caused a specific adaptive change to occur.  And so Popper feared that the indeterminate nature of evolution as a scientific theory opens the door for theistic teleology in "scientific theories".  But after initially stating his opinion that evolution wasn't falsifiable (much to the delight of creationists like Stan), Popper was actually a supporter of evolution theory.  See more of Popper's comments on evolution here.

The following quotation from Christian apologist and physicist Ian Hutchinson confirms Popper's concern about the non-deterministic nature of evolution as an opening for teleology.  Hutchinson thinks that evolution doesn't rule out theistic theories like intelligent design.  His religious views on evolution are made more clear in this diatribe against atheists.  Needless to say, he is not an evolution scientist.

Next up is Stephen J. Gould, who actually is an evolution scientist.  Stan takes Gould out of context to make it seem as if he disputes the idea of macro-evolution.  He doesn't.  Gould actually holds a minority view on the specific mechanisms of evolution, but he is still in general agreement with the fact of evolution, including macro-evolution, and he has a low regard for creationists like Stan, as he explains here.

Stan then changes his tactic for a moment and quotes E. O. Wilson speaking in support of evolution theory as a scientific "fact", supported by almost all of the scientific community.  To Stan, this is seen as evidence of the dogmatic and cultish nature of evolutionists.  But Stan refuses to recognize just how widely supported evolution theory is, preferring instead to paint a picture of divided opinions, and suppression of minority views.  Imagine a similar statement in support of the theory of gravity, which is similarly accepted my most scientists.  Would Stan call that a religious cult?  What if some theist proposed a theory of gravity being caused by God squeezing matter together in his hands?  Would people like Stan blame the scientific community if they disregard such a theory for its lack of explanatory power, or its lack of cohesion with the greater body of scientific knowledge?  No, as long as Stan can fit the scientific theory of gravity into his theistic worldview, he won't call its adherents in the scientific community a bunch of cultists.  But evolution - that's a different story.

On to Richard Dawkins, and his words taken from The Blind Watchmaker.  This is an interesting case of cherry-picked elision to make it seem as if Dawkins is saying the opposite of what he is actually saying.  The elided section of text says:
Some people see this as a fundamental flaw in the theory of the blind watchmaker.  They see it as ultimate proof that there must originally have been a designer, not a blind watchmaker but a far-sighted supernatural watchmaker.  Maybe, it is argued, the Creator does not control the day-to-day succession of evolutionary events; maybe he did not frame the tiger and the lamb, maybe he did not make a tree, but he did set up the original machinery of DNA and protein that made cumulative selection, and hence all of evolution possible.
Stan conveniently leaves out this creationist view of biological replicators (DNA) as being designed by God and essentially fully evolved in the earliest forms of life.  The "transparently feeble argument" that Dawkins refers to is this theistic argument, but you would never get that idea by reading the quotation as provided by Stan in this article.  This is not a case of simply misunderstanding what Dawkins has said.  It is blatantly dishonest.

I'll leave it with that, for now.  Stan's article is much longer, and contains many more quotations.  But by looking at the first seven of them, it is possible to get a picture of how Stan distorts the truth to downplay the legitimacy of real science, amplify disagreements within the scientific community and make it sound as if there is widespread dissent, and prop up his own theistic beliefs.  Stan must have gone to considerable effort to put this article together.  It's not easy to find a quote of Dawkins speaking against evolution.  One has to wonder:  if Stan has the truth on his side, why does he feel the need to lie to his readers to make his points?


  1. OK. Here we go. Stan has replied, but only to his own audience. He apparently lacks the courage to reply here. It's a lengthy response, but I hope to address key points.

    IMS takes to refuting, not the statements which are made, but the characters of the persons making the statements.
    - You don't get it, Stan. I'm not refuting what they said. I'm refuting what YOU said. You claim these are quotes from people in the field, and clearly not all of them are. I only point out the religious bent of a couple of them because that's the extent of their qualification for discussing the faults of evolution theory.

    He even attributes quotes not presented by me as if those were the quotation he is attacking.
    - Take a pill. There was no implication that MY quotes were presented by you. They're there to help me make my points.

    He presents no “intellectual dishonesty”, only the hideous specter of a proposed evil character flaw in the subjects.
    - I showed that you are not honest, just as Smilodon's Retreat showed that Meyer is not honest.

    Why? Because: evolution does not have any empirical data. IMS cannot present data that does not exist. So he must attack the people, not the non-existant data.
    - Your denial of the facts is astounding. I showed you a wealth of factual information, and you brushed it off.

    How many scientists have lost their jobs for claiming that the source of gravity is unknown, but that the effect of gravity is at least measurable? None. Category Error ... bla bla bla ... Thus the IMS analogy fails, pitifully, painfully. Fallacy: False Analogy.
    - The point I made was completely lost on you. If any science professor was stupid enough to deny gravity, he should lose his job. But nobody has a religious motivation to deny gravity. They DO have a religious motivation to deny evolution. And so do you.

    So IMS is merely doing what the entire industry does: he attempts to destroy the character of anyone who presents the actual, valid, logical and demonstratively true case against Evolution
    - You lie ... I point out your lies. I didn't destroy your character - you did.

    So all that is needed, within the cult anyway, is the Ad Hominem, whether it applies or not.
    - Gee, Stan. Do I need to point out YOUR ad hominem attacks again?

    The cult’s passion, from the gate-keepers to the least of minions such as IMS, demonstrates the lack of objectivity inherent in the tribe. If objectivity is part of science, and it was at one time, then evolution is definitely not science.
    - Ya right. I guess you think your religious blindfold makes you more objective than all those scientists, right? And by the way, I'm so glad to see that you are above all those accusations you hurl at me about ad hominem attacks.

    1. Stan responds:
      Arguing points of fact is one thing. The actual facts can be examined and people of integrity will come to rational consensus.

      Arguing points of ideology is totally fruitless, because Truth is declared for non-factual points of fuzz, which are actually doctrinal dogma.

      Arguing with a liar is irrational.

      I couldn't have said it better. But obviously, we disagree about who has the facts on his side, who is driven by ideology, and who is a liar.