Last week, the Star Tribune published an article on global warming that included this foolish statement:
“If we compare the debate over the theory of evolution with the debate over the theory of global warming — global warming’s a whole lot more certain at the moment,” said Jim Drummond, a University of Toronto physics professor and chief investigator for the Canadian Network for the Detection of Atmospheric Change.
I’m sure Dr Drummond is a credible authority on climate, but reading that reminded me that even senior scientists can be pompous asses when speaking well outside their expertise. He’s completely wrong: there is no credible debate over the theory of evolution, and it’s as well-established if not more so than global warming. It’s simply absurd to argue otherwise.
When I saw that, I sort of groaned inwardly and predicted to myself that there’s a quote we’ll see repeated over and over again in the creationist literature. I didn’t realize it would take a mere five days.
That’s how long it took Doug Tice, former editorial writer at the Pioneer Press, current political editor at the Star Tribune, and religious apologist, to turn it into part of an anti-evolution screed. You can tell he’s rather giddy with delight, overjoyed to have a scientist casually belittling evolution.
What’s most intriguing here is not what Drummond says about global warming. It’s what he says about evolution.
The theory of global warming is “a whole lot more certain” than the theory of evolution? Is the theory of evolution not certain?
Are there doubts about evolution among scientists like Drummond? Haven’t courts ruled, for practical purposes, that’s it’s unconstitutional for American science teachers to suggest to students that there are scientifically credible doubts or alternatives where biological history is concerned? Don’t those making sport of evolution’s critics routinely liken the status of the theory of evolution to the status of the theory of gravity?
Scientifically credible arguments are good things that should be presented in science classes, where they fit into the curriculum and don’t distract from the important business of learning the basics. The objection to Intelligent Design or “Scientific” creationism isn’t that they’re alternative theories—it’s that they aren’t theories at all, they are unsupported unscientifically, and what they are actually rooted in is good ol’ old-time religion.
I should also point out that while Drummond actually is a scientist, he has very little authority and at this point zero credibility in the discipline of biology. He’s a physicist. This is an extremely difficult point to get across to creationists, but physicists usually take no biology classes at all in their academic career, and may not even have any interest in biology (hard to believe, but it’s true). Similarly, biologists typically take very little physics, and I wouldn’t understand nine tenths (speaking generously) of what Drummond does for a living. His word on evolution has about as much authority as my word on string theory.
I was going to say I know a guy at U Toronto who could take Drummond over his knee, but he already has his comeuppance. Doug Tice didn’t stop with crowing over the expression of doubt about evolution…he goes on to say that if evolution is dubious, then maybe this global warming stuff is all a crock, too. In fact, Tice sneers quite a bit at Drummond, and lumps him with former University of Minnesota president Ken Keller, who had argued that it was foolish to argue against a solid scientific theory like evolution.
But there is an unbecoming sloppiness, almost a bullying quality, about polemical flourishes like Drummond’s and Keller’s. They seem a little like warnings that anyone who questions anything about othodoxies like global warming theory or evolutionary theory runs the risk of being labeled a kook. They seem, in a word, dogmatic.
It’s not dogmatic to point out that an ignorant person quarreling with a scientific theory on the basis of his religious beliefs is a kook, pretty much by definition. You can question scientific ideas all you want — that’s pretty much an operational definition of doing science, actually — but unless you’re doing it on a foundation of knowledge, if you’re just denying a scientific idea because it makes you uncomfortable, or clashes with the words of some long dead patriarch from your holy book, then sure, you’re a kook. A kook like Doug Tice.