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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

 
Creationism: The Very Bad Idea That Just Won't Die

by tristero

There isn't enough time left in the history of the universe to untangle this truly awful post by "Jeffrey Dach MD" in support of creationism. I'll pick just two examples. Here's the first sentence:
If you asked me if I believe in evolution, I would say yes, of course.
Sigh. Right off the bat, Dr. Dach (our time seems to be blessed with wonderfully funny Dickensian names - Madoff, Drudge, Haggard) irresponsibly mixes the colloquial with the technical, the personal with the objective. Sure, I've said, "I believe in evolution" when speaking informally; I'm sure even evolutionary biologists have. But when I'm trying to persuade, or explain to someone what evolution is, I know that my belief in a theory is completely irrelevant. What matters in a substantive conversation is the efficacy of the theory, not whether I have faith in it so I never bring that up. But for Dr. Dach (I'll never tire of that name!), faith trumps reason. Later he will preface several assertions with "in my opinion," "as for myself" and so on without, in any way establishing his credentials for holding an opinion (his medical degree does not qualify him to opine on things evolutionary any more than my degree in music does).

The second one truly makes me wonder whether Dr. Dach skipped every class that required reason and logic in order to pass:
In my opinion, "Intelligent Design" is not a scientific theory and does not compete with other scientific theories about the universe and life in it. Rather, "Intelligent Design" is a way of thinking about the questions which Science leaves unanswered. As stated above, Intelligent Design can be regarded as a presupposition to the activity of Scientific Investigation. The subject of scientific discovery and investigation is the order or "design" of the universe. The subject of scientific discovery and investigation is the order or "design" of the universe.
Gaaaaaaah! First of all, if "Intelligent Design" is not a scientific theory, how can it compete - or not - with "other scientific theories?"

Secondly, if, as Dr. Dach writes, "Intelligent Design" addresses questions science leaves unanswered, then Dr. Dach is saying that "Intelligent Design" suffers from a classic case of God of the Gaps. As science provides explanations for those unanswered questions, "Intelligent Design's" discursive space shrinks. In other words, "Intelligent Design" is simply a misnamed garbage pail. It should be labelled "We don't know. YET."

Finally, notice the sleight of hand in the last two sentences where the undisputed existence of design in the universe - say, the shape of a galaxy - is conflated with Dr. Dach's unsupported belief in the existence of an intelligence that created that design. A universe with a design does not necessarily have to be an "intelligently designed" universe, but Dr. Dach's thinking is so muddled that he fails to discern this elementary logical distinction.

There is much, much more wrong with this unbelievably bad post, not the least of which is his shameful invocation of Sean Carroll's brilliant book, Endless Forms Most Beautiful as some kind of "alternative" to Darwinian evolution. If he had taken the trouble actually to read "Endless Forms," Dr. Dach would have learned that evo-devo confirms and refines Darwin's basic theory of evolution by natural selection in the most extraordinary ways. In no way does anything in "Endless Forms" serve as an alternative theory to Darwin - Carroll simply said that the astounding discoveries of evo-devo might make a better pedagogic tool than an approach that emphasizes abstractions.. Furthermore, nothing in Carroll's book - which is a wonderful read, btw - provides a scintilla of positive evidence for "intelligent design" creationism. PZ Myers addresses some other whoppers, but by no means all. There's plenty more.

It is a genuine mystery to me how creationists like Dr. Dach manage to get so much so utterly wrong in so little space.


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