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Friday, August 21, 2009

MIKE HALLOWELL: Creationism Vs Darwinism

Okay, I know this blog is going to be pretty controversial, but – never having been one to shy away from controversy – I'm going to write and be damned. Then the CFZ can publish and be damned, and I'll take all the flak, I promise.

Recently, in one of my local newspapers, as on the CFZ site, there has been a furious debate over Creationism. A close perusal of the correspondence led me to some interesting conclusions. Those who believe Creationism do not believe in Evolution. And - get ready for this – those who believe in Evolutionism do not believe in Creationism. Once the full magnitude of this revelation embraced me, everything became clear and I could see what all the fighting is about.

The platform that underpins this debate has nothing to do with what is true, and everything to do with a) what people believe, and b) how far they'd be prepared to go to deny others the right to teach anything different.

Many people have attempted to draw a neat line between the two parties: happy-clappy Fundamentalist tub-thumpers on one side; arrogant, toffee-nosed intellectuals on the other. Oh, that it was that easy. The truth is that there are myriad shades of grey in between both extremist positions and it's not nearly so easy to determine where Evolution ends and Creationism begins.

In strict terms, neither Evolutionism or Creationism can be called an absolute fact, as we weren't around to see what really went on back then. I know, I know; scientists say that we can still see "evolution in action", but this is a red herring, really. Finding a hair on the floor does not prove that you're standing in a barber shop. You can't simply take a small chemical process that takes place in an incredibly short space of time and say that because you've seen it happen it must prove the veracity of the entire context you decided to put it in. Even ardent Creationists accept that there is change within species over time. The point the Creationists argue – rightly or wrongly – is not that change doesn't happen, but the extent to which it does happen. Evolutionists are comfortable with the notion that, given enough time, an ape can evolve into a man. Creationists accept that the ape may change, but say it will never be anything other than an ape. To the Evolutionist, change has no boundaries or limits other than those set by Grandfather Time. To the Creationist, one species cannot change into another and therefore the change is limited.

The first question should be, "Which theory is true?" We're never going to agree on that, of course, so let's pass that one by.

The next question, then, should perhaps be, "Who has the right to believe and promote whichever of the two theories they cleave to?" The simple answer to that is, everybody. We live in a country where free speech is still available, although it is being diluted at an alarming rate. The Evolutionist can still say he believes in Evolution, and the Creationist can still say he believes in Creation. Neither is a hanging offence, despite the fact that a disturbing number of zealots out there think that teaching Evolution/Creation should be.

Having established that both sides have a legal and/or moral right to put forward their own viewpoint – no matter how daft the other side thinks it is – we now have to dip our toe into the murky waters of human nature and ask just why it is that Creationists get so hot under the collar with Evolutionists, and vice versa.
Whether or not one agrees with Creationism, it's easy to see why Creationists don't like the theory of evolution or, indeed, those who promote it. Rightly or wrongly, they are convinced that life on earth was brought about by an omnipotent Creator. Therefore, any other explanation for the origin of life must be wrong, and detracts human beings from paying due homage to God for his handiwork.

Evolutionists are also convinced that they are right, of course; not because of Biblical proof-texts, but because they sincerely believe that science overwhelmingly proves their case. Creationism is dangerous, they say, not just because it is wrong but because it coerces people into denying the plain facts of the matter.

Whatever stance we may take personally, the plain fact is that there are always going to be both Evolutionists and Creationists around to fight about the issue. Intriguingly, both camps take an astonishingly high-handed view of the matter and can be downright arrogant when it comes to debating with "the enemy".
Creationists are so convinced they have God on their side that they argue with an almost papal-like conviction. If many of them had their way, the teaching of Evolution would be banned because its proponents are arguing against God himself. If God is the Supreme Being, all-knowing, all-seeing, then who the hell are Evolutionists to front Him up?

To Evolutionists, Creationists are incredibly conceited to think that they can call God in as the captain of their team. Who the hell do they think they are? The problem is that many ardent Evolutionists are just as arrogant themselves. I have heard it argued by academics – seriously - that anyone who possesses anything less than a degree in one or other of the sciences should not be allowed to publish anything opinionated on the argument and – further – that it should be a criminal offence to do so. Bloody amazing. So, what happened to freedom of speech? The truth is that the heads of some academics are stuck so far up their own bloody arses that they are blinded to anything resembling fair play or democracy. How dare those religious nutters disagree with the theory of Evolution! I'm a scientist!

The bottom line is that both sides have a right to express their opinion, and the other side has the right to disagree, even robustly. Bible-believing Christians are going to have to accept that they can bleat as much as they want about having God on their side, but no one has to believe them. Scientists and academics are also going to have to climb down from their ivory tower and grasp one salient fact; their academic brilliance and lofty sense of conviction may impress those within their own community, but we lesser mortals still have a right to say that they're talking complete and utter bollocks.

Back in the 60s, Erich von Daniken wrote his best-selling Chariots of the Gods? in which he essentially argued that, many millennia ago, the earth was visited by beings from a far-distant planet in our galaxy. We now know that von Daniken got some things wrong, and he has candidly admitted that not everything he said in Chariots of the Gods? and subsequent books was perfect. However, von Daniken's greatest achievement was not that he successfully marketed a radically new idea to explain how we got here, oh no. Von Daniken proved for the first time that the general public could, en masse, stick their fingers up at the scientific community and get away with it. Chariots of the Gods? marked a change; people were no longer scared to question the status quo.

The knotty problem comes when we ask ourselves whether both camps have a right to promote their theory as factual. The answer is yes, they do. Every human being has the right to believe – and say – that he or she is right. Others may not like it, but that's just tough. Ah, but does either side have the right to a monopoly on which theory is taught in our schools, colleges and universities? Personally I don't think they should have. Scientific evolutionists pretty much argue, "Look – you can't have this bloody Creationist rubbish taught in our classrooms. It's not scientific, and I know it's not scientific because I'm a scientist. It's also wrong, because it's stupid. I also know it's stupid, because being a scientist, I'm clever and know better than that lot what stupid is".

And the Creationists? "Ban evolution! It's wrong because God says it is, and I know because he told me in the Bible!" But couldn't the Bible be wrong? "Of course it isn't wrong. You heathen! The Bible is true because the Bible says it is!"

Neither side deserves any Brownie points, I'm afraid. Personally I have no problem with Creationism being taught in academic establishments. The academics might think we are putting our students in peril of being deluded by religious clap-trap, but I value freedom of speech more than orthodox scientific dogma. The history of the world is made up of people being taught things that were coloured by the social, spiritual, scientific and political environment in which they found themselves. Did the sky fall in? No. Let the Creationists put their view forward as a scientifically legitimate one if they wish. Just because others disagree, does that give them the right to stop them? Imagine if only one line of thought was ever put forward in any scientific or academic discipline – we wouldn't get very far.

Do I believe in Creationism? Well, I'm not a Christian or Bible believer, but my North American spiritual heritage teaches me that there is a Creator, and I do believe that he initiated life in some way. However, I also believe that the theory of evolution is essentially true in terms of how life developed – just not in terms of how it got started.

If we're to get anywhere in this debate, Bible-believing Christians are going to have to stop being so po-faced and sanctimonious; just because someone doesn't believe in Biblical creationism it doesn't mean that they're the Devil incarnate. As for Evolutionists, they need to chill out and stop talking to Creationists as if they're idiots. They're not – they just see things differently. Whatever stance we take, we can be civil in our approach, recognise the right of the other bunch to enjoy free speech and refrain from insulting them. We may think they're crazy, but that isn't a criminal offence either.

Of course, I'm not tarring all scientists and creationists with the same brush; I've been speaking in generalities here. The CFZ is scientific in its approach, bit one would hardly call them anally-retentive or orthodox in their approach! Likewise, Creationists aren't all religious loonies, either. So, if the cap doesn't fit, please don't wear it.

Well, I'm off to create myself a glass of beer, for this I do know; it certainly won't bloody well evolve.

Erm…and that's about it, really.

20 comments:

Dr Dan Holdsworth said...

Basically, this whole debate comes down to whether or not you reckon a God created the entire universe to look extremely old, or whether a bunch of blokes in a desert simply got the timing in their creation mythos a bit wrong with regards timing. You can argue the toss on evidence until the cows come home (or the bar closes, if your debaters are of a more congenial sort), but that's essentially what it comes down to.

As for the existence of a God, think about this. Imagine that you've been knocking about for an extremely long time, with nobody much to talk to. After a while you have this cunning plan: why not create shedloads of universes with the physical rules changed ever such a bit in each of 'em, so you can keep an eye on these and see what happens in each of 'em.

Something is guaranteed to happen in at least some universes. Of the zillions you make, life is sure to arise in a few and life is *interesting*, it does interesting things a lot of the time. Sometimes it even evolves intelligence.

Sometimes, very occasionally, God even might find something that can hold up its end of a conversation with the supreme being. Odds are, we're not that thing, but maybe, just maybe we might be sometime in the future. Just a thought, anyway.

dinosaurman said...

Hi Mike.

While I absolutely agree with you in principle, and that freedom of speech should be protected at all costs--on the subject of creationism being taught in schools; well does this mean that it's ok to teach impressionable children that the earth is only six thousand years old, and that we shared our world with dinosaurs who, incidentally, managed to find safe passage on Noah's ark?

Cheers,
Alan

Bisto said...

"Scientific evolutionists pretty much argue, "Look – you can't have this bloody Creationist rubbish taught in our classrooms. It's not scientific, and I know it's not scientific because I'm a scientist. It's also wrong, because It's stupid. I also know it's stupid, because being a scientist, I'm clever and know better than that lot what stupid is"."

I'm sorry dude - that's complete rubbish and I know certainly not a view shared by the CFZ. I'm sure there are many scientists who are very arrogant however the above argument is not one I have ever heard.
The argument I hear from scientists, including the likes of Dawkins who is often wrongly criticized for expressing the views you suggest above, is that all the evidence we have been able to amass in our brief time on this planet suggests life evolved incredibly slowly over millions of years. It is the THEORY of evolution, open to criticism and there to be challenged and tested as all scientific theories are. And that is the key point. The theory of evolution is trialed and tested by scientist’s everyday. Everyday we learn more about the world, the life it supports and its history. The Creationist theory (and I presume you mean in the Christian tradition? What if the Scientologists were right all along?) has as much validity as any other historical fairy tale and for that reason should not be taught as fact in schools.
What is better – to teach children based on the facts as we know them and equip them with the tools to test these things for themselves? Or to tell them it was God what done it, end of discussion, which is essentially Creationism. I wouldn’t buy something as simple as a kettle without looking to the evidence that proves it does a good job - i.e the manufacturers spec and possibly the reviews of others who have used the product. To base a world view on no provable evidence at all is one thing but to infect our children with this thinking is criminal.
Yes – no one has the answer for the singularity that started life but to dress it up as the doing of what is essentially a magical white middle class man and bestow upon him a idiosyncratic personality and unhealthy interest in sex, is a leap of faith I am not prepared to make.
Cheerio

Retrieverman said...

I have very real issues with this, because I happen to live in a country where the creationists are a major force in politics.

My real problem with creationism is that it denies actual scientific inquiry, and once that is achieved, you wind up with a sub-population of people who doubts scientific findings in other areas.

Those developments aren't very good for the long term advancement of a country or the development of its technology. That said, the country I live in is very much at the forefront of science and innovation, despite the creationists.

But I don't know what the long term effects will be. Free speech is a constitutional right in my country, as is freedom of religion. However, just because we have free speech doesn't mean that we don't call people out on their BS.

Because sometimes, people need it.

I am particularly irked when people use cryptozoology to defend creationism (Go to youtube and type in "Dinosaurs and the Bible, Kent Hovind," if you want to see an example of this).

Darren Naish said...

Arguing that creationists should be allowed to have their say in the interests of free speech and so on might sound reasonable, but it's naive and damaging. Why? The primary concern about creationism (including its re-branded 'intelligent design' synonym) is that it's all about the erosion of scientific literacy: creationism is not simply an attack on the existence of dinosaurs and so on, but an active promotion of the idea that science and scientists are wrong about everything. Nuclear physics, evolutionary psychology, virtually everything in the field of biology and medicine, etc etc. You want to live in a medieval theocracy? Fine, let creationists teach their idiot views to our children.

One final point: cryptozoology needs to expunge its creationist component if the researchers involved want to be taken seriously.

Geordie Mike said...

First of my three-part response, due to size restrictions:

Well, I knew I'd get some stick - I'm merely just surprised how long it took to get here.

Rather than answer each commentator individually, I'll simply wade my way through the comments collectively and deal with each point as I come to it. With Dan's comments I'll make an exception, however, as they are reasonable, thought-provoking, well constructed and there's really nothing amongst them that I can take issue with. Retrieverman makes some good points too, and I will be commenting on them latterly.
dinosaurman said...
"...well does this mean that it's ok to teach impressionable children that the earth is only six thousand years old, and that we shared our world with dinosaurs who, incidentally, managed to find safe passage on Noah's ark?"

All children are impressionable, and the best we can do is teach them what we genuinely and sincerely believe to be right. What we have no right to do is dictate to other people what they teach their kids. What seems crazy to you may seem perfectly sensible to someone else. The choice is stark; we either allow different religions, cultures and families to instruct their children as they see fit, whether or not we agree with them, or we engage in a theological war in which the fittest wins and makes every other line of thought illegal. I know what I'd choose. Creationism and Evolutionism are both simply theories. Why should one be protected and officially sanctioned whilst the other gets demonised?

My comment: "Scientific evolutionists pretty much argue, "Look – you can't have this bloody Creationist rubbish taught in our classrooms. It's not scientific, and I know it's not scientific because I'm a scientist. It's also wrong, because It's stupid. I also know it's stupid, because being a scientist, I'm clever and know better than that lot what stupid is"."

Regarding this Bisto said...


"I'm sorry dude - that's complete rubbish".

Glad to see you've adopted the sober, restrained dialogue of the seasoned academic, then.

"...and I know certainly not a view shared by the CFZ."

I know its not, and I never said it was.

"I'm sure there are many scientists who are very arrogant however the above argument is not one I have ever heard."

I don't recall saying that you had heard it, but I have - and I've heard worse.

"The argument I hear from scientists, including the likes of Dawkins who is often wrongly criticized for expressing the views you suggest above, is that all the evidence we have been able to amass in our brief time on this planet suggests life evolved incredibly slowly over millions of years."

I know. Of course evolutionists believe that "all the evidence" points that way - just as creationists believe it points in a radically different direction.

"It is the THEORY of evolution, open to criticism and there to be challenged and tested as all scientific theories are".

Hmmm...that sounds wonderful - if it wasn't for the fact that, when all the testing is over, you really only have one set of conclusions to evince if you value your professional hide. If we are to allow people the right to test a theory, then we must surely also allow them the right to say, in the final analysis, "You know what? The theory I've been testing failed". It seems to me that many scientists don't mind the theory of evolution being tested at all, provided the results say that its valid.

Geordie Mike said...

Part two:

"And that is the key point. The theory of evolution is trialed and tested by scientist’s everyday.
Everyday we learn more about the world, the life it supports and its history. The Creationist theory (and I presume you mean in the Christian tradition? What if the Scientologists were right all along?) has as much validity as any other historical fairy tale and for that reason should not be taught as fact in schools."

You really don't get it, do you? Your last comment illustrates perfectly the point I made earlier, and which you derided as "rubbish". You accept evolution as a theory, but relegate creationism to the level of "fairy tale". Why? Because you obviously find one more credible than the other, but at the end of the day its STILL nothing more than your opinion, which you're perfectly entitled to. All I'm arguing is that creationists see YOUR stance as a fairy tale - so maybe we should ban the teaching of what YOU believe simply because THEY don't like it.

"What is better – to teach children based on the facts as we know them and equip them with the tools to test these things for themselves? Or to tell them it was God what done it, end of discussion, which is essentially Creationism."

There is no "better" to be had here. We simply have two different opinions. What we teach our kids comes down to how our conscience and intellect directs us. That's what all responsible parents and most academics do.

"I wouldn’t buy something as simple as a kettle without looking to the evidence that proves it does a good job - i.e the manufacturers spec and possibly the reviews of others who have used the product."

Well, I'm pretty outrageous because I tend to buy a kettle without conducting such a study and then take it back if it doesn't work. In the same way, I'll consider any theory that comes my way if it interests me, and if I don't like it I'll send it back from whence it came. What I won't do is castigate my neighbours friends and family for having the temerity to buy a kettle that I don't happen to like. Its called freedom of choice.

"To base a world view on no provable evidence at all is one thing but to infect our children with this thinking is criminal."
And that's "provable evidence" according to whom? To you, of course. What you're suggesting is EXACTLY the sort of persecution that proponents of the evolutionary theory went through before it became generally accepted. If you believe that supporters of one theory should have the right to air their views and teach them, then you should also present that right to those who see things differently. It might seem "criminal" to you, but that's probably because you're extremely narrow-minded and seem to struggle with the democratic principle of allowing those who differ with you the same rights that you enjoy.

"Yes – no one has the answer for the singularity that started life but to dress it up as the doing of what is essentially a magical white middle class man and bestow upon him a idiosyncratic personality and unhealthy interest in sex, is a leap of faith I am not prepared to make."

I must have missed that bit. Creationism in its multitude of different forms is not merely the province of "white, middle-class man". "Idiosyncratic" is a purely subjective term in this context and merely reflects your own view.

Geordie Mike said...

Retrieverman said...
"I have very real issues with this, because I happen to live in a country where the creationists are a major force in politics...".

And before we go any further, let me say that I fully understand the problem. Evolutionists have a lot of clout in some places, too, and neither circumstance makes me happy.

"My real problem with creationism is that it denies actual scientific inquiry, and once that is achieved, you wind up with a sub-population of people who doubts scientific findings in other areas".

Actually, I think I agree with you here, too. Creationists who want people to believe their theory without examining and testing it are just plain wrong. If Creationism is true, then it will match up to scientific fact and creationists should be quite happy to have their beliefs put under the microscope. If they don't want their theory scrutinised, I'd be wondering whether they're really as sure of themselves as they like others to think.
On the other hand, its fair to say that many creationists are happy to have their beliefs examined in the scientific crucible - they just interpret the facts differently.

"Those developments aren't very good for the long term advancement of a country or the development of its technology. That said, the country I live in is very much at the forefront of science and innovation, despite the creationists."

Very true - and that's why I don't worry too much about those pesky creationists bringing the roof down and precipitating the end of civilisation as we know it. Whether they're right or wrong, it hasn't stopped your compatriots being pioneers in too many fields to mention.

"But I don't know what the long term effects will be. Free speech is a constitutional right in my country, as is freedom of religion. However, just because we have free speech doesn't mean that we don't call people out on their BS".

I agree wholeheartedly, and spelled this very point out in my blog. Everyone has the right to believe what they want and speak openly about it without fear of retribution - as long as they understand that, as you correctly point out, they may well be called out on it and told they're speaking nonsense.

"I am particularly irked when people use cryptozoology to defend creationism (Go to youtube and type in "Dinosaurs and the Bible, Kent Hovind," if you want to see an example of this)."

I will, thanks for the tip.

The bottom line is that I'm NOT defending either evolutionism OR creationism here; all I'm saying is that both sides should have the right to air their views and, if the other side wishes to engage them in robust debate, lets do so in a civilised manner and not engage in vitriol, ad hominem attacks and the use of inflammatory dialogue. It will also help if we don't try to have the other side restricted or banned in the finest tradition of despotic dictators.

Retrieverman said...

I don't wish to engage in inflammatory dialogue, but cryptozoology is meant to be a science.

Creationism doesn't even raise itself to the level of a science. It has many a priori assumptions that are simply not empirically valid or worth exploring using empirical means.

I hope that crytpozoology can finally come in from the cold and at least be respected as a mainstream scientific discipline.

It will never be able to approach that so long as people claiming to be cryptozoologists talk about the 6,000 year-old world.

Granted, I should say that in the strictest Sir Karl Popper definition of science that cryptozoology is certainly wanting, but I can think of lots of sciences that have this problem, like virtually every social science.

We have to stick with what we can prove and what fits with other things we already know. That sounds awfully conservative, I know, but it keeps us from making logic leaps and errors.

Geordie Mike said...

First of two parts to my response to Darren:

Darren Naish said:
"Arguing that creationists should be allowed to have their say in the interests of free speech and so on might sound reasonable, but it's naive and damaging."

Darren, I honestly don't think that the right to exercise free speech is ever a naive or damaging idea. What is naive and damaging is the belief that by restricting the free speech of those who in some way don't "deserve" it serves the advancement of science. In fact, it does just the opposite. This is the point I was trying to make earlier. Many scientists say, "All we ask for is the evidence!" or, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence". One commentator earlier pleaded that, "The theory of evolution is trialed and tested by scientist’s [sic] everyday". Don't you see how hollow this sounds when academics then try to shut creationists up? Creationism IS one of those very tests that evolutionists supposedly welcome - a challenge to be confronted, and successfully argued against - but what happens? They plead for those who support creationism to be silenced so they can't "infect" people with their supposedly crazy ideas! No one ever wins an argument by simply shutting your opponent up so he or she can't put their opinions forward. That isn't science, Darren, its dictatorial politics.

"The primary concern about creationism (including its re-branded 'intelligent design' synonym) is that it's all about the erosion of scientific literacy: creationism is not simply an attack on the existence of dinosaurs and so on..."

I've never once heard a creationist attack the existence of dinosaurs - only debate the length of time they've been there. I know that there is a line of thought within some strands of Judaism that suggests Satan placed dinosaur fossils in the ground to confuse mankind and lead them away from their Creator, but even they don't deny the existence of them - simply their origin.

"...but an active promotion of the idea that science and scientists are wrong about everything."

I've never met a creationist who thinks scientists are wrong about everything. All the creationists I've met specifically disagree with conventional science on how life originated and how it subsequently developed. As you're a scientist and I'm not, I'm afraid you'll have to enlighten me as to how creationism has a knock-on effect with our understanding of, "nuclear physics, evolutionary psychology, virtually everything in the field of biology and medicine, etc etc." I suspect this is slightly over the top - but you could prove me wrong and if you do I'll stand corrected.

Geordie Mike said...

"You want to live in a medieval theocracy? Fine, let creationists teach their idiot views to our children".

If you believe in evolution then you'll believe in survival of the fittest. If creationists are all idiots then their theories are all idiotic, and they'll soon go the way of everything else in nature that simply couldn't hack it. As for your use of the word "idiot", I hardly think its fitting. Are you so conceited that you simply can't accept that some creationists may be intelligent, and sincerely hold different opinions to you, just because they don't share your more orthodox ideas? Remember, Darwinists were decried as "idiots" by the Bishops and rightly complained about it. Its funny how evolutionists were quick to complain about their own persecution at the hands of religious zealots who wanted their right to free speech curtailed, but who, now the boot is on the other foot, are happy to employ the same bully-boy tactics against creationists!

"One final point: cryptozoology needs to expunge its creationist component if the researchers involved want to be taken seriously".

That's right; just kick the awkward kids out of the house and everything will be fine and dandy. "Expunging" those who don't agree with our own particular theories just so we can "be taken more seriously" is a flawed idea (as well as being completely undemocratic and Stalinist). The only people who will take cryptozoology "more seriously" if you expunge creationists from the ranks will be those who don't like creationism. You know what? There's an awful lot of people out there who believe in God and creationism; maybe they would take cryptozoology more seriously if we simply "expunged" evolutionists from the ranks! You'd probably see that as an outrageous concept, of course, because you don't seem to be able to take creationists seriously in the first place.

So, what's next? If cryptozoology is to "expunge" its creationist element, how do we go about it? Nail your colours to the mast, please Darren, and tell us exactly how this would work in practice. Would you like to see organisations like the CFZ restrict membership only to those who renounce creationism? Where would I stand? I believe in an intelligent creator and also that life didn't happen by chance. I also happen to believe that the later development of life in all its various forms was due to the process of evolution, so I'm both a creationist and an evolutionist. Does this make me worthy of being "expunged"? Would you like to see journals and even other, less academic cryptozoological publications refuse to publish creationist material? Would you like to see the teaching of creationism banned? Should it be made illegal for parents to teach creationism to their children even in the privacy of their own home? Just how far would you go?

Oh, and those idiots? Maybe the words of Elbert Green Hubbard are appropriate: "In these days, a man who says a thing cannot be done is quite apt to be interrupted by some idiot doing it".

With a little tweaking I'm sure those words contain a message for us somewhere, although I'd suspect you'd prefer Huxley's, "Science is simply common sense at its best; that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic".

Well, he got the "merciless" bit right. It seems to me that there are some evolutionists out there who'd be happy to see creationists put up against a wall (metaphorically and not literally, one hopes)and shot for their alleged "fallacies in logic". Or crucified. Funny how history has a habit of turning things on its head, isn't it? After all, isn't it supposed to be the religious nut-jobs who engage in that sort of behaviour?

Geordie Mike said...

In my original blog I accused some scientists of taking a high-handed approach to their seemingly intellectually inferior opponents: "Scientific evolutionists pretty much argue, "Look – you can't have this bloody Creationist rubbish taught in our classrooms. It's not scientific, and I know it's not scientific because I'm a scientist. It's also wrong, because it's stupid. I also know it's stupid, because being a scientist, I'm clever and know better than that lot what stupid is"."

Regarding this Bisto said...

"I'm sorry dude - that's complete rubbish".

Immediately after which Darren Naish commented, "You want to live in a medieval theocracy? Fine, let creationists teach their idiot views to our children".

Touche, Bisto. I couldn't have dreamed of a better endorsement to my original proposition.

I have a great respect for Darren Naish and have enjoyed his company at numerous Weird Weekends. He is intelligent, articulate and genial. On this point however, he's wrong. Silencing those who disagree with you has no place in a democratic society; now I'm beginning to see why the Americans are so protective towards their Constitution and the right to free speech it incorporates. I don't agree with much of Creationist dogma, but I'll defend to the last their right to shout it from the rooftops.

And I'd do exactly the same for you, Darren, and others who espouse evolutionism.

Geordie Mike said...

"I don't wish to engage in inflammatory dialogue, but cryptozoology is meant to be a science".

I know what you're saying, but being a libertarian (you'd probably guessed!) I prefer to think that cryptozoology is whatever you want it to be. To my knowledge, no one in any position of governmental or legal authority has ever laid down in statute what cryptozoology is "supposed" to be, so I think we can currently exercise the liberty to see it whichever way we see fit. Personally, I see cryptozoology as an interesting (and admittedly somewhat awkward) melding of science and folklore. Each to his own, I suppose, as long as no one tries to dictate to me how I should interpret or use the word. I used to get hung up over stuff like this years ago, but I gave up on it. What someone else might think cryptozoology is doesn't really impact upon me - or shouldn't - and so I just try to "live and let live".

"Creationism doesn't even raise itself to the level of a science. It has many a priori assumptions that are simply not empirically valid or worth exploring using empirical means".

Articulately put, but I think your statement is very subjective. Its your opinion - and you're entitled to it, my friend - that, "Creationism doesn't even raise itself to the level of a science", but others would disagree. One man's meat is another man's poison, as they say, and "beauty is in the eye of the beholder".

"I hope that crytpozoology can finally come in from the cold and at least be respected as a mainstream scientific discipline".

I'd like to think so too.

"It will never be able to approach that so long as people claiming to be cryptozoologists talk about the 6,000 year-old world".

Well, then we'd have a choice. Do I believe the world is merely 6,000 years old? No, but many people sincerely do. One commentator has already talked about "the creationist component" being "expunged" from cryptozoology if it's researchers are to be taken seriously. God forbid, but if that
sort of notion was ever accomplished it would be a sad day indeed. Can you imagine being faced with a choice like that; cryptozoology which allows Creationists to fraternise but never to be accepted by mainstream academia, or an academically acceptable cryptozoology which dictates to its members that they must never voice Creationist ideas? I'd rather be an academic outcast and retain freedom of speech than become academically acceptable but told to keep my trap shut just because someone else didn't like what I had to say.

"Granted, I should say that in the strictest Sir Karl Popper definition of science that cryptozoology is certainly wanting, but I can think of lots of sciences that have this problem, like virtually every social science".

True.

"We have to stick with what we can prove and what fits with other things we already know. That sounds awfully conservative, I know, but it keeps us from making logic leaps and errors".

I'm sympathetic to this, honestly - and I'm probably repeating myself here - but I'd still want to reserve the right to decide what is proven or unproven.

Bisto said...

@Geordie Mike -

I used the term dude to show I was being playful, that I was not going to sink to the level of a slagging match as so many of these internet debates do. This obviously wasn’t clear; I do not comment on these debates often due to their circular nature - that’s my mistake and I apologise for not being clear. I was trying to be informal and friendly whilst completely disagreeing with you, in the same way I would disagreeing with a friend over a pint.

However I find it frustrating that you chose to criticise me by saying: “Glad to see you've adopted the sober, restrained dialogue of the seasoned academic”, when your argument as far from academia as you could get.

You say: "I know. Of course evolutionists believe that "all the evidence" points that way - just as creationists believe it points in a radically different direction."

As you raised the concerns about me not being academic enough, could you please point me in the direction of the peer reviewed, academic literature that provides the evidence for the Creationist argument?

“You accept evolution as a theory, but relegate creationism to the level of "fairy tale". Why? Because you obviously find one more credible than the other, but at the end of the day its2 STILL nothing more than your opinion, which you're perfectly entitled to.”

Evolution is a theory that is backed up by continual research, experiments, testing, retesting and spans across the whole scientific spectrum. Creationism does none of this. None. Do you honestly not see why these two ‘theories’ are not comparable? This is not just opinion - it is opinion that happens to be supported by science, the result of hundreds of years of collective knowledge, experiments, tests etc etc. That is not the same thing as a simple opinion, it is an opinion based on the best facts that we have available at the time. This is not the same thing in any way, shape or form as the Creationist argument. They cannot be compared like for like in the way you are doing.

“All I'm arguing is that creationists see YOUR stance as a fairy tale - so maybe we should ban the teaching of what YOU believe simply because THEY don't like it.”

As above – I can point to scientific literature, they can point to scripture which we know to have be written by a whole myriad of historical people all of whom have added their own agendas and bias’ not to mention prevailing historical attitudes. Good science welcomes new ideas; this is not true of Creationist thought.

“"To base a world view on no provable evidence at all is one thing but to infect our children with this thinking is criminal."
And that's "provable evidence" according to whom? To you, of course.”

There is a wealth of academic/scientific literature that contains the studies, the experiments, the theories that provide evidence which supports the theory of evolution. Again I ask you as you brought academia into this – point me to the comparable Creationist literature, proper academic literature please, that we can use to compare, contrast and argue the pros and cons of each.

“I must have missed that bit. Creationism in its multitude of different forms is not merely the province of "white, middle-class man".”

A crap analogy I grant you. But I think I do have a valid point – your post sounded like you have largely been talking about the Christian idea of creation and obviously the people who posted before me assumed this too from their comments. The idea of God as I have experienced it largely reflects the ideals of the white middle class. I expect you will find this is different for every individual and in every country – but again, you have no problems using your own life experiences when it suits your arguments so it is only fair that you allow those of us replying to you to do the same.

I have tried to answer most of your criticisms of my post, but cut some out as only wanted to limit it to one further posting. Again I have tried to affable and friendly – I hope it is clearer this time.

Retrieverman said...

Here's the Council of Europe's analysis on the issue of creationism:

http://assembly.coe.int/Main.asp?link=/Documents/WorkingDocs/Doc07/EDOC11297.htm

Geordie Mike said...

First of 3 due to space restrictions:

"I used the term dude to show I was being playful, that I was not going to sink to the level of a slagging match as so many of these internet debates do".

Actually, it wasn't the "dude" bit which got my attention - I didn't take offence at that at all - but rather the "load of rubbish" bit. Call me old-fashioned, but when someone tells me I'm talking a load of rubbish I have a habit of assuming they're being more than playful.

"This obviously wasn’t clear; I do not comment on these debates often due to their circular nature - that’s my mistake and I apologise for not being clear. I was trying to be informal and friendly whilst completely disagreeing with you, in the same way I would disagreeing with a friend over a pint."

If that's the way you intended to come across, then I'm sorry if I misunderstood you - I don't know where you live, but I'd be happy to share a pint with you any time.

"However I find it frustrating that you chose to criticise me by saying: “Glad to see you've adopted the sober, restrained dialogue of the seasoned academic”, when your argument as far from academia as you could get".

Firstly, an apology. There was a degree of sarcasm in my retort and there shouldn't have been. It was tongue-in- cheek, but not necessary. I was simply responding to what I thought was a heavy-handed opening line from your good self. If I didn't make that clear, then I'm sorry too.

You say my argument is "as far from academia as you could get". Well, that's okay, because a) I don't think of myself as an academic, and b) I wasn't attempting to put forward an academic argument. I was arguing from the viewpoint of natural justice.

"As you raised the concerns about me not being academic enough..."

I didn't. I don't know how academic you are - or aren't - because I don't know who you are. You certainly seem intelligent, which is all that's important to me when I'm debating with someone. I judge people by what they say, and don't give two hoots whether they have letters after their name.

"...could you please point me in the direction of the peer reviewed, academic literature that provides the evidence for the Creationist argument?"

No, because I don't know whether there is any. I suppose I might find some if I looked hard enough, but in the final analysis it doesn't really matter because I have consistently pointed out that I am NOT trying to defend Creationism. It doesn't matter whether they can prove their point or not. What matters is that they should have the freedom to put it forward no matter how stupid some people think it is.

"Evolution is a theory that is backed up by continual research, experiments, testing, retesting and spans across the whole scientific spectrum".

Okay, that's your opinion, which I understand.

"Creationism does none of this".

That's also your opinion.

"Do you honestly not see why these two ‘theories’ are not comparable?"

Of course I do - that's why the proponents of each get so heated up about the whole issue.

"This is not just opinion..."

Erm...I'm afraid it is.

"...it is opinion that happens to be supported by science, the result of hundreds of years of collective knowledge, experiments, tests etc etc".

I think you're now using a somewhat circular argument, as its only your opinion that the theory of evolution is supported by knowledge, experiments, etc. The Creationists wouldn't argue with the data - just your opinion of what it means.

Geordie Mike said...

"That is not the same thing as a simple opinion, it is an opinion based on the best facts that we have available at the time. This is not the same thing in any way, shape or form as the Creationist argument. They cannot be compared like for like in the way you are doing".

I'm not trying to compare them like for like. You say, "...it is an opinion based on the best facts that we have available". I'm sorry, but that just isn't the case. It is an opinion based on YOUR INTERPRETATION of WHAT YOU CONSIDER to be the best facts that we have available (excuse my capitalisation. I'm not shouting, but this comment facility won't let me italicise).

"As above – I can point to scientific literature, they can point to scripture which we know to have be written by a whole myriad of historical people all of whom have added their own agendas and bias’ not to mention prevailing historical attitudes. Good science welcomes new ideas; this is not true of Creationist thought".

Good science welcomes new ideas, that's true. Unfortunately, bad science tries to stifle new ideas and smother them at birth. History is replete with good ideas - later proven - that were attacked by bad science at the outset. For some reason, the good scientists didn't seem able to stop that happening, which makes one wonder whether there were a lot more bad scientists out there than we'd like to think.

You say, "I can point to scientific literature, they can point to scripture..."

And that's fine. In a democracy everyone has the right to appeal to a "higher authority". You choose "scientific literature", they choose "scripture". You may not agree with their stance, but they have a perfect right to make it.

"...which we know to have be written by a whole myriad of historical people all of whom have added their own agendas and bias’ not to mention prevailing historical attitudes".

Just as many academics have done and still do now. Are you aware that "bad scientists" have sometimes fraudulently altered data to make it fit their theories? Are you aware what happened to the first guy who suggested that the earth revolved around the sun? If you think that science is free from bias and deceit, you need to think again.

Geordie Mike said...

"There is a wealth of academic/scientific literature that contains the studies, the experiments, the theories that provide evidence which supports the theory of evolution."

Which is only your opinion, but you're entitled to it.

"Again I ask you as you brought academia into this – point me to the comparable Creationist literature, proper academic literature please, that we can use to compare, contrast and argue the pros and cons of each"

If you read my blog, you'll see that it was never about who was right or wrong, who had the strongest case, or whatever. I made that absolutely clear from the outset. My argument was about the rights of Creationists (and Evolutionists) to espouse their beliefs and opinions without being persecuted for doing so. If you want a list of books written by Creationist scientists there's a load on the Internet. I don't bother with them as I'm not a Creationist other than in the way I've already pointed out. I have no interest in debating the rights or wrongs of Creationism or Evolutionism - just an interest in each side listening to the other without trying to gag them and take away their right to free speech.

"...your post sounded like you have largely been talking about the Christian idea of creation and obviously the people who posted before me assumed this too from their comments. The idea of God as I have experienced it largely reflects the ideals of the white middle class. I expect you will find this is different for every individual and in every country – but again, you have no problems using your own life experiences when it suits your arguments so it is only fair that you allow those of us replying to you to do the same".

I'm really not sure what you're getting at here. Yes, I was predominantly referring to Biblical Creationism as that's what started the whole thing off. As for me having, "no problems using [my] own life experiences when it suits [my] arguments", you're right. The problem is that my life experiences are the only ones I possess. Not having access to other people,s, my own are the only ones I can use!

"I have tried to answer most of your criticisms of my post, but cut some out as only wanted to limit it to one further posting. Again I have tried to affable and friendly – I hope it is clearer this time".

Appreciated - and if I was a bit too rough in my first response I apologise too. Affable and friendly sounds great to me - and I'd love to see that attitude displayed in debates between Evolutionists and Creationists.

Bisto said...

Mike – thanks for the reply. Only just realised my nick name is showing – my name is Chris.

I am aware scientists are guilty of outrageous and false claims (look at the MMR fiasco) but there are many who aren’t. I still think there is a big difference between opinions based on scientific (or indeed any kind of research that can be analysed, taken back to its roots, its workings understood) testing and scripture. I have reread your post after taking a step back and see you essentially agree with evolution, where we essentially differ is over the singularity that started everything.

My concern about teaching Creationism in school is where do you stop? You said you don’t have a problem with it being taught in schools but in order to do so in anyway that is fair, you would have to teach the Creation stories of all the worlds religions otherwise it is a meaningless endeavour (the alternative is to give one religion a monopoly – the feeling I get from your posts is that you wouldn’t want this either).

I find commenting in this way so frustrating as a lot of meaning and intent is lost when posting online. If I ever make it to a Weird Weekend I will take you up on that pint – I am sure we will be able to understand each other a lot easier!

Geordie Mike said...

Hi Chris - you make some valid points, particularly about what form of Creationism would be taught as there are so many. Maybe lessons would have to be tailored to each individual area. The other option would be for an extremely general syllabus which covered points that most or all faiths hold in common.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to make it to the Weird Weekend this year due to business commitments, but I hope to be there next year - and I'll stand you that pint at the bar!

All the best,

Mike