Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Pretty Good Forum Post

From one of the Access Research Network discussion forums, posted by someone named 'Joy':

Re: An open letter to ARN evolutionists

[QUOTE] Mesk: I have been saddened, during my years in these fora, to see how low some people can stoop in defence of an idea. But the most disconcerting moments I have experienced have not been due to the behaviour of anti-evolutionists, but rather the behaviour of people “on my side.” I am no longer surprised that people like Stuart Harris believe that MET is an empty shell, given the irrationality and hostility of so many of the self-proclaimed defenders of evolution. [/QUOTE]Thank you for this 'open letter' Mesk. I came to this forum a few years ago following a link from another forum, where the most ridiculous (and patently false) argument I'd ever encountered concerning evolution was cited, and I wanted to see what the heck was going on. That was a science forum, not a Creationism vs. Darwinism slug-fest.

Having no particular problem with evolution, and having no inclinations toward Creationism/literal Genesis, the debate had never interested me. My background is physics, and my interest since the early 1990s has been consciousness studies. But when I got here and browsed the threads for a little while, I too was shocked to see how low some people can stoop in defense of an idea - particularly an idea so (to me) uncontroversial as evolution. I was even more shocked to see that most of the ridiculous assertions were metaphysically based defenses of RM-NS pablum, which hasn't accurately described the actual state of evolutionary biology since before I was born!

There is no reason (and there has never been defensible reason) to cling desperately to the 'R' qualifier in the evolutionary equation. Variation never needed to be "random" in order to account for the biodiversity of life, the direction of evolution, or the adaptability of life forms. And in my educational experiences through a lifetime - quite a bit of it biologically oriented - the "random" assumption has never been emphasized or insisted upon to cover over holes in specific knowledge by any of my teachers. Had it been emphasized, I would certainly have recognized the metaphysical corruption much sooner, and probably would have taken to arguing against it long ago.

The sociological dimensions of this controversy are too often ignored or ridiculed by the DarwinDefenders [TM], who are generally every bit as emotionally and metaphysically invested as the YECs here. I've said innumerable times that I expect science to follow the evidence wherever it leads, and there is ample evidence that this is precisely what's happening in the biological sciences. Where incoming research findings daily appear in the science press containing the usual "challenge to darwinism/orthodoxy" phrase - meaning that at the benches, scientists are not wasting time or talent trying desperately to prop up the RM-NS pablum that is being sociologically forced upon the public.

I'd never read Dawkins or any of the more strident science writers who claim that darwinism validates their materialist and/or strong atheistic beliefs. What people choose to believe in metaphysically has never been a big concern of mine. But after encountering the sociological dimensions of the debates on this forum, it wasn't difficult to see that what is not a big concern to me is obviously an overwhelming obsession to others.

There are the usual religious fundamentalists who have been trying for hundreds of years to force "every knee to bend" in their direction, but who have never succeeded in turning this 'free' nation into their own version of the Kingdom for all their whining and preaching and threats. To my mind, in a 'free' nation, fringe zealotry is to be expected and tolerated so long as it doesn't violate any laws - in the public marketplace of ideas, bad ideas generally don't get too far. But in the modern world science wields far more than its by-god share of authority, so the pompous pronouncements of folks like Dawkins and many DD posters on fora like this are a more serious form of zealotry. The attacks on religion/spirituality are completely out of line, and every day it seems to me that the rust gets thicker on the hull of science. This is both dangerous and totally unnecessary.

What the public chooses to believe about origins is their absolute right, and science has no business even attempting to "eradicate" the traditional faiths of humanity. Science can certainly issue challenges to certain interpretations just through its findings, but the theoretical and/or operational dross of ongoing scientific investigation of the world is not really very important to ~95% of human beings. Neither are the metaphysical beliefs of the 3% of humanity who are avowed atheists of great import to the rest of us. People's faith, traditions and families [children] are a whole lot important. For such things people have always been known to fight, to the death. THAT is the 'nature' of the beast we call human, and science has no reason or right to ignore 'nature' so arrogantly just to defend individual scientist's empty, nihilistic metaphysical beliefs and impose them on the whole rest of society by force of law.

So I am one of the small handful of individuals on this forum who has actually changed my mind since coming here. Perhaps I was always an "IDer," but I'd just never encountered a formalization of the idea. There are of course fringe elements among the hard-core Creationists here, but I am not concerned that they can 'win' something through ID that they could never legally 'win' in the USSC. At the same time, I see no excuse at all to authoritatively assert in public education that biological evolution is non-teleological, random, purposeless, unguided, or any other adjective that directly insults cherished beliefs that are in fact quite important to our society and our civilization. The qualifiers are themselves faith-based, no different from any Creationist's beliefs.

Attack people where it matters, and you'll get a reaction. Even scientists can understand this simple fact. It looks to me like the evangelical atheists and juvenile delinquents around here pretending to speak for 'science' do way more harm than good to your 'side' - they help to empower the reaction against escalating attacks on faith and tradition. And at this point, I cheer the reactionaries on - I'd like to see them 'win' the right to speak in science and education, and force science to scrape the rust off its hull. Wouldn't hurt science a bit. As a collective human enterprise funded almost entirely from our pocketbooks, it should be humbled occasionally. Reminded who it works for, and what its purpose is.

ID may end up saving science from its own arrogant excesses. That would be a good thing. The rabid evangelical atheists who are so seldom brought to heel by 'real' scientists may destroy science for a generation or two. That would be a great shame.

Humanity can survive just fine without atom-smashers and ape-tenders and gene-splicers. Science cannot survive without public support. I like science, but it's way past time for it to grow up and stop biting the hand that feeds it.

A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it. Max Planck

1 comment:

Michael Poole said...

The scientific argument, such as it is, seems to summed up in the claim that random mutation "directly insults cherished beliefs" (along with the absolutely unsupported, and wrong, claim that random mutation was discredited long ago). I am not sure what is so offensive about randomness -- it is an observation that from a statistical point of view, subject to the limits of your model, the exact mutation(s) to occur are unpredictable and unbiased.

The post's larger structure boils down to an ad hominem attack, and as such is not really worthy of serious consideration. Would it be productive to note that ID proponents are increasingly shrill of late, and that yesterday's court defeat in Pennsylvania caught the defendants flat-footed and with no comment, and argue on that basis that ID is taking us backwards? Would it be polite to criticize that poster for spending a decade on "consciousness research," which itself tends to be a domain of bad science? (The court ruling contains better and clearer arguments against ID than either of those approaches.)

Finally, the assertion that "[h]umanity can survive just fine without atom-smashers and ape-tenders and gene-splicers" makes it all the clearer that ID proponents are not just anti-evolution but anti-science. If IDers want to live in thatch huts, more power to them, but I would rather live a long, healthy and comfortable life with the benefits of science.