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I sniped at Jim Drummond for his odd demotion of evolutionary biology the other day — his colleague at the University of Toronto,
Larry Moran, tried to get to the bottom of it.

I contacted Drummond by email to see if he really was an IDiot. Prof. Drummond claims he can’t remember exactly what he said because the interview was a long time ago. He says that what he meant was that global warming was just as certain as evolution. When asked if he was a Creationist or a fan of intelligent design, he avoided the question and emphasized the problem of global warming.

The impression I get is that he has some personal doubts about the validity of evolution and that may explain the quoted remark.

That’s not exactly reassuring. If I were accused of making an easily misinterpreted comment, I’d try much harder than that to be unambiguous.

Comments

  1. Alexander Vargas says

    Told you so. He meant what he said. He believes in global warming, but is not sure about evolution. Won’t even talk about “theistic” evolution! He must be a barbarian of specialism….not much knowledge about natural history I’m afraid.

  2. A Teapot says

    By saying “global warming’s a whole lot more certain at the moment” he actually meant “global warming [is] just as certain as evolution”? Sounds like something I read recently that tried to say Nostradamus’ real meaning in saying “7 months” in a quatrain was “7 years” :)

  3. Lago says

    I e-mailed him when I first saw PZ’s post to ask if he really said what he was said to have, and if there was a context I was missing. He never wrote back. It is very rare for me to e-mail someone like that, but wanted to hear his side of the issue before people posted 8000 comments that might have been off base…

    Seems he might be what he appears to be…

  4. jpf says

    I’m not comfortable with the “are you now or have you ever been a Creationist” tone of this post, but it did remind me of this news report I saw earlier (my apologies if this was already brought up in the other post on this topic, I only scanned the comments):

    Evangelicals, Scientists: “Saving Environment a Must”

    Surely these pro-environment Evangelicals are still prone to anti-evolutionism. Maybe Prof. Drummond is playing a bit of realpolitik to win over a powerful ally?

  5. jpf says

    Forgot to include the money quote:

    Of the coalition, Cizik acknowledged he has brought together individuals with a wide range of views on the origin of life. But that should not be an obstacle to the coalition’s objectives, he says.

    “We desire to imagine a world in which science and religion and cooperate together, minimizing our differences about how Creation came to be — [and] to work together to reverse its degradation,” he said at the press conference. And speaking for the evangelical Christians and scientists making up the coalition, he stated clearly: “We will not allow … the Creation to be degraded, destroyed by human folly.”

    Drummond has ties to this coalition (he’s listed among the Chairmen and Key Speakers with Rev. Cizik). Drilling him on his stance on evolution would seen to be counter to the goals of coalition cohesion.

  6. jpf says

    Ok, now I’m on a tangent…

    Here’s a couple fun quotes from Rev. Rich Cizik:

    In one case [of interfaith services], the Rev. David Oberdieck filed charges with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod over a fellow pastor who joined non-Christian clergy in the Sept. 23 Yankee Stadium service, “A Prayer for America.”

    “I wouldn’t have brought charges if Jesus Christ was confessed in such a way that he stood out from the smorgasbord of gods,” said Oberdieck, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Lebanon, Mo.

    The National Association of Evangelicals organized its own memorial service in October after concluding the stadium event was not religious enough. Conservative Christian clergy – exclusively – led that gathering.

    “We embrace tolerance in the right sense, which is religious freedom for all, without bigotry, while rejecting a misguided, misunderstood tolerance which sees all religious beliefs as equally valid,” said the Rev. Richard Cizik, of the evangelical group, which represents 50 denominations. [source]

    ….

    Richard Cizik, vice president for government affairs for [The National Association of Evangelicals], expressed shock. “Is this something I can imagine of Ted Haggard? No,” he told the AP. [source]

  7. Bailey says

    Good job PZ! Smole em out!

    No deviation from the mainstream line can be permitted!

    “Thought crime is the only crime!” {Big Brother}

  8. jpf says

    Bailey: Sarcasm noted, but also note that Drummond seems to be having to deal with Evangelicals who hold exactly that sort of attitude to a much larger degree (basically they decided to pick up their ball and go home instead of having to sit next to a Hindu for a few hours). That might explain his evasiveness.

    Imagine if Drummond showed up at an interfaith (that is to say both Evangelicals and Fundamentalists) meeting on the environment with the hopes of winning the faithful over to accepting the dangers of Global Warming, and someone stood up in the Q&A and said “You told that Atheistic Darwinist PZ Myers that you believe in Evolutionism. Why should we believe anything you have to say?” Kind of throws a monkey wrench in the watchworks, doesn’t it?

  9. says

    The planet is not the only thing worth saving. There is also the lesser matter of our souls, or if you prefer a more prosaic term, our integrity. Wouldn’t it be better to stand up at an ecumenical gathering and say, “I will state what I believe, clearly, simply and honestly, along with all the reasons I have for having my beliefs. I trust you will do the same. I also trust that although our beliefs will certainly differ, we all agree that our planet is precious. We face grave problems which impact our entire globe. While we do not know how to solve them today, we do know that we will never solve them without considering all possibilities and telling the truth at every opportunity.”

    This is why I’m not going into politics.

  10. Greco says

    “We embrace tolerance in the right sense, which is religious freedom for all, without bigotry, while rejecting a misguided, misunderstood tolerance which sees all religious beliefs as equally valid,” said the Rev. Richard Cizik, of the evangelical group, which represents 50 denominations.

    He’s right, you know. How can people think mighty Thor is on the same level as the boring YHWH/Jesus?

  11. says

    “We embrace tolerance in the right sense, which is religious freedom for all, without bigotry, while rejecting a misguided, misunderstood tolerance which sees all religious beliefs as equally valid,” said the Rev. Richard Cizik, of the evangelical group, which represents 50 denominations.

    Translation: You’re free to hold any religion you like, so long as you accept that ours is the only one that’s actually true…

  12. Caledonian says

    In fairness, very few religious believers actually think that other people’s religions are correct, or even approaching correctness.

    And that’s how it ought to be.

  13. jpf says

    The planet is not the only thing worth saving. There is also the lesser matter of our souls, or if you prefer a more prosaic term, our integrity.

    When you make a deal with the Devil (such as creating a coalition with people antagonistic toward science when it says things they don’t like in order to promote a viewpoint built on science), it often costs you your soul. Given that the potential for the future habitability of the planet may be at stake, perhaps Drummond feels that’s a price worth paying.

    To clarify, I’m only offering a third hypothesis to the two that PZ is presenting (Drummond is an evolution denier or Drummond poorly expressed himself). I have no idea what the case may be, but if this hypothesis is correct I imagine it would hard to get him to be unambiguous since that ambiguity would be intentional.

  14. says

    JPF: Just wanted to mention that the coalition of evangelicals and scientists has tried this before and it failed because the evangelicals could not abide the science. This time the various parties have agreed to ignore certain differences. But this is a little like Middle East peace talks. … I wouldn’t put too much money on it.

    Even the way the press has developed is a little strange, with carefully timed releases and virtual embargos, etc. I imagine people are walking on eggs. Which, I suppose, supports your point.

  15. says

    That sets back the fight to stem global warming. Nothing like some bozo claiming that global warming is “more certain than evolution” to make one doubt his competence on climate change.

    Can’t they find anyone with a higher regard for science than Drummond appears to have, to point out the dangers this planet is facing?

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

  16. Graculus says

    Just wondering, has anyone considered remedial training?

    Posted by: Rocky

    Hit him on the nose with rolled up talkorigins faqs?

  17. Jeff Chamberlain says

    Looking just at Drummond’s words, he says that one piece of science (global warming)is a “whole lot more certain” than another piece of science (evolution). Is it?

    There seems (on Drummond’s formulation) to be 5 options: Compared to evolution, global warming is (1) a whole lot more certain, (2) more certain, (3) equally certain, (4) less certain, or (5) a whole lot less certain.

    This seems (on the face of it, to me, an amateur) like a legitimate question, but if it’s not, why not?

  18. JD Malmquist says

    It’s not a legitimate question in the format provided. If the interviewer really wants a sensible answer, details need to be provided. What particular well-informed “controversy” has been recently disproven within the global warming community to make it “more certain”? Or, phrase the opposite of that question for evolution? What particular challenge to the theory of evolution has gained actual, legitimate, scientific ground? Of course, there is no overarching challenge to either field of science. If there were such a challenge, I would expect to hear the scientific details, as opposed to someone pontificating about their pet theories in such a condescending manner.

    So I find problems with both the questioner and the answerer. The person asking the question did not want a detailed and convincing response, and the professor in question played his part perfectly. He gave the impression that there was a controversy within the theory of evolution without detailing the argument against it.

    All that said, I would actually think that what he meant to say was that there was a public perception that global climate change was seen as undeniable – again, by carefully not saying man-made global climate change – and that again the public perception of evolution was sketchy. And if that was what he intended to say, he’d be completely correct even as he glossed over the real problem. The science is rarely presented in these types of articles.

    Instead, what is presented is how you should FEEL about the science. “You should feel good about what we think about the way the world is changing, and I’m going to step all over another field that I care less about in order to gain emotional leverage with you.”

    But he knew he couldn’t make his points about climate change if he got all caught up in trying to define “theory”.

  19. Alexander Vargas says

    Not all religions are equally valid. Creationism provides an example. Creationist religions that deny evolution are having problems with their understanding of science.