Dinosaurs without Darwin

May 01, 2004

Via the New York Times, I see an article on Dinosaurs without Darwin, discussing Creationist theme parks created to sell religion and creationism without any of that pesky business about millions of years or evolution. Nope, Dinosaurs were made at creation, some 6,000 years ago. The Colorado River could not have cut the Grand Canyon because the head of the river is 4,000 feet below the top of the canyon walls and "water does not flow uphill."

I find it striking on two levels. The first is that there exist a large group of people who embrace scientific nonsense and yet participate in a modern technical society, although I suppose that outside of health and science fields most folks don't use evolutionary logic all that often.

The second is to once again boggle at the folks who got caught in the 18th century trap of responding to enlightenment critiques of Scripture on evidentiary grounds. Once one argues that the only possible justification for religious belief is the accounts of miracles in the Scriptures, then one has to argue either that the entire Bible is literally true or that one's chosen miracles are so clearly unlike the narratives in Genesis that they qualify as completely different stories. Religious conservatives, especially Americans, backed into a literalist textual position as part of the late 18th and early 19th century discussion about reason and revelation, and then when scientific knowledge contradicted Biblical narrative in the late 19th and early 20th century, they dug in and held on where they were.

Posted by Red Ted at May 1, 2004 07:17 AM | TrackBack
Comments

You might wish to check out this article:

http://www.pandasthumb.org/pt-archives/000156.html

Posted by: Lynnie at May 2, 2004 04:52 AM

Thanks for the link.

That does give some nice background on this guy.

Posted by: Red Ted at May 2, 2004 08:26 AM

For an intelligent skeptic's assessment of creationism, try http://www.webleyweb.com/tle/libe136-20010827-03.html. Sample: "Evolution is not a fraud being perpetrated upon the public, but it is a theory that has far too many problems to be treated as something that everyone is obliged to believe in on pain of being classified as a fool, as if it were the claim that the earth goes around the sun. Its credibility will continue to wane (or wax) with additional developments in biology over the coming years, but the absolute prerequisite for solving this intellectual puzzle is for free debate on the issue to be permitted again. I am quite happy to change my position if new facts come out, and I urge my readers that this is the only rational view."

Posted by: Michael at May 2, 2004 10:21 AM

FTR, in my previous comment I meant that the author, Robert Locke, is an intelligent skeptic, not that his review was intelligent.

Re Karl Popper, this page cites several quotes from Popper that argue against the scientific nature of evolution, e.g., "At first sight, natural selection appears to explain the evolution of variety - and in a way it does; but hardly in a scientific way."

But on this page, there are later and contrary quotes from Popper, e.g., "It does appear that some people think that I denied scientific character to the historical sciences, such as paleontology, or the history of the evolution of life on Earth. This is a mistake, and I here wish to affirm that these and other historical sciences have in my opinion scientific character; their hypotheses can in many cases be tested."

So DFH is right: Locke had at best an incomplete understanding of Popper's views on evolution.

Posted by: Michael at May 3, 2004 01:05 AM

Wow, that Robert Locke article is horrible for lots of reasons, not just the distortion of Popper's views. This notion that evolution is in trouble is simply false, and citing Denton's book (especially the old one) and Behe's certainly does nothing to establish this as true. Denton's book is now nearly 20 years old, and he has largely repudiated it. His new book, Nature's Destiny, goes in quite a different direction. Denton is an evolutionist, but rejects what he calls "Darwinism", by which he means something quite unrecognizable to modern biologists. It's not even a reasonable reading of Darwin's views from the mid-1800s, much less a reasonable reading of modern evolutionary theory.

Behe's book, on the other hand, has been soundly refuted by his fellow molecular biologists. Ken Miller, Allen Orr, Jerry Coyne and many others have shown that Behe's claims are wildly off the mark. His notion of "irreducible complexity" has been found, in each of the examples he cites, to be quite reducible. Subsets of the bacterial flagellum and the blood clotting cascade, for example, do exist in nature and are perfectly functional. Dolphins, for example, lack one of the major factors that Behe cites as part of the irreducibly complex blood clotting system, yet their blod clots just fine. Apparently, it's not so irreducible after all.

Locke is utterly clueless about what Punctuated Equilibrium actually says. His claims about computers building phylogenetic trees that contradict evolution isn't even coherent, much less credible. His claim that speciation has never been observed is flat out false. And his rejection of protein sequence homologies is nothing short of ridiculous. If this is what an "intelligent" skeptic comes up with, I shudder to think what an unintelligent one would do.

Posted by: Ed Brayton at May 3, 2004 11:19 AM

The linked article isn't all that intelligent. It repeats a lot of standard (and false) creationist claims, albeit wearing funny hats: there are no transitional forms, argument from complexity (appeal to design), conflating abiogenesis with evolution, no examples of speciation (which is so false it's on the Answers in Genesis' List of Arguments Creationists Should Not Use, although they advocate a more qualified form), and probably a few others I'm overlooking because I'm playing backgammon while writing this. :-)

I particularly liked the invocation of Popper. AFAIK, Popper never pointedly said evolutionary biology is not a science. That is an extrapolation of his position on the philosophy of science. It is an arguably defensible one, but that page presents it as a direct condemnation of the field. I think if Popper had actually made such, the cite would have been provided.

Posted by: DFH at May 3, 2004 12:30 PM
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