Another creationist gomer in a local paper

Even here in Minnesota, we get creationists ranting in the newspapers. This one is in the Brainerd Dispatch.

In response to a previous writer’s statement ” … modern neo-Darwinian synthesis of organic evolution is supported by more compelling and intellectually satisfying empirical evidence that any other idea ever advanced by the world’s scientific community … “

The retort to this statement is simple: hogwash! Remember, the neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory is not “change over time” or “modifications through natural selection within an existing species”, nor dynamics of cellular metamorphosis. These kinds of actions are simply workings of the natural order and have been observed and recorded for centuries.

I could tell exactly what the writer is about to do at this point. Note that he is responding to a statement of fact, that there is a great deal of empirical evidence in support of evolution. He has announced that that is “hogwash”, but is he going to rebut any of the evidence? No, he’s going to do a little dance over the word “evolution” and tell us what it isn’t. And he’s going to get it wrong. Neo-Darwinian theory includes all of the things he just listed (well, except for “dynamics of cellular metamorphosis” — I don’t even know what that means, and the writer certainly doesn’t, either).

It’s nice of him to coopt elements of the theory and claim that we’ve known it all along, though. It’s one small step forward.

So, science is not synonymous with neo-Darwinism. Neo-Darwinism is in reality a very recent construct. In fact, it was and is being continually cobbled together long after Darwin himself died. Neo-Darwinism in effect says – since there is no pre-planned design behind it – every thing is random and undirected-nothing is planned. There is no purposeful form of life. So human beings, like everything else, is in effect just one of the many possible resulting accidents of an unconscious blind cosmic dice shake. Everything that is came into being as an accident and will disappear someday the same way. Consequently, there is no reason for being, nor any purpose for the natural world, or behavioral norms, and surely there is no rational for a future hope in anything.

No one claims that science is synonymous with neo-Darwinian theory — the physicists and chemists and geologists would be very surprised to learn that they needed to be biologists to be called scientists.

The neo-Darwinian synthesis is less than a hundred years old. No one has been arguing otherwise about that, either. It’s also an active theory which is being continually tested, revised, and re-assessed. This is a good thing: we like to modify our ideas to fit the facts, not vice versa.

So far, nothing he’s said contradicts the claim that evolution is a well-supported theory.

But now we get to the nub of his objections: evolution is unplanned and lacks a long-term purpose. This is both a premise and an inference from the science. We always assume chance is behind variation; that is the null hypothesis. One could charge in, I suppose, and hypothesize that a particular pattern of change is the result of directed meddling, but the best way to test that would be to directly address the mechanism of the intervention. It’s not a very productive approach, we’ve found. We’d have to deduce some of the properties of the agent behind the change, you see, and if we try that, advocates of teleology always back away quickly from any testable proposals. It’s been a much more promising approach to postulate an absence of design, make predictions from that, and test them.

And voila, it almost always seems to work out well. Predictions that leave out angels, demigods, demons, and magic spells seem to work out quite nicely, so we are left with a powerful theory sans deities, which implies that deities are at least superfluous. That’s all the ateleology of biology means.

Ah, but notice again: none of his railings have any relevance to the claim of empirical evidence for evolution, that which he calls “hogwash”. This isn’t an argument, it’s an emotional appeal. Many people are uncomfortable with the idea of an absence of guidance, so he’s announcing that evolution doesn’t include a god, and gee everyone, shouldn’t that make you dislike it? But whether we dislike an idea or not has no bearing on its truth.

Especially not when our Minnesotan critic then goes on to demonstrate his ignorance.

Neo-Darwinism’s top proponents-Dawkins, Huxley, Weiner, Gould and Dobzhansky are all convinced atheists. For the person who is interested in the subject, but does not want to wade through pages of polemic, or get into deep esoteric scientific reading, might simply go to the video store and ask for Ben Stein’s “Expelled” or get a hold of the book “Icons of Evolution” by molecular biologist Jonathan Wells. It might stun you on just how neo-Darwinism is pure fraud.

Ron Lindner

East Gull Lake

OK, let’s see. The top proponents are:

  • Dawkins: Definitely a top proponent, definitely an atheist. Good start!
  • Huxley: Well, he was a top proponent, but he’s dead now. Long dead. He also wasn’t an atheist. He was the fellow who coined the word “agnostic”!
  • Weiner: Who? It took me a moment to figure out who he’s talking about, but it must be Jonathan Weiner, the excellent writer behind Beak of the Finch and other science books. He’s more of a science journalist though, a good one. If he’s an atheist, he doesn’t write about it, and it doesn’t come through at all in his books.
  • Gould: Another top proponent, also an atheist, but also dead.
  • Dobzhansky: Dobzhansky? One of the most important architects of the neo-Darwinian synthesis, sure, but an atheist? He was Russian Orthodox, and by all accounts, rather devout! He was author of the essay, “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution”, which phrase irks many creationists, but if you actually read the essay, one of its central assertions is that science is not in conflict with his own sincerely held Christianity! This is the guy our writer wants to argue was a nefarious atheist?

I do have to give Mr Lindner points for unintentional irony. If you don’t like polemics, go watch Expelled? Right. Don’t want to read that science stuff? Then go read Wells. At least I can agree with that last point, since there isn’t so much as a scrap of science in that book.

I’m feeling dissatisfied, though. His starting premise was that the body of empirical evidence for evolution was “hogwash”, and he seems to have forgotten to actually address the point. Typical.