Scientific inquiry is separated from ideological rigidity by a willingness to entertain questions and admit doubt. The giveaway of ideology is emotional hostility to skeptics. Evolutionists today have it in spades. Just as the church once reacted punitively to Galileo for abandoning the party line, so do ideological evolutionists to those who do not accept the dogma of evolutionary political correctness.
An example: In a column I once wrote regarding the alleged accidental formation of life, asked: “(1) Do we actually know, as distinct from hope, suspect, speculate, or pray, of what the primeval seas consisted? (2) Do we actually know what sort of sea or seas would be necessary to engender life in the time believed available? (3) Has the accidental creation of life been repeated in the laboratory? (4) Can it mathematically be shown possible without making highly questionable assumptions? And (5) If the answers to the foregoing are “no,” would it not be reasonable to regard the idea of chance abiogenesis as pure speculation?”
The response was violent. I found myself accused of “trying to tear down science,” of wanting “to undo the work of tens of thousands of scientists.” I wouldn’t have thought the tearing down of science within the destructive powers of this column, but perhaps I am playing with a loaded gun. I pictured smoking shards of laser physics, embryology, and organic chemistry lying in dismal mounds on a darkling plain.
The evolutionarily correct take apostasy seriously. Razib Khan, who largely runs the website Gene Expression (gnxp.com) flew into a rage and deleted all mention of me from his web site (to which I had never posted anything). I was, he said, arrogant and ignorant and just no damn good. What he actually said was, “Anyone engaging in a Fred Reed impersonation, that is, talking about shit they know nothing about shamelessly and without any humility in light of their ignorance, will now be deleted at my discretion.”
I pondered this flood of unleashed humility, typical of its kind, and thought, “Huh? I asked questions. A question is an admission of ignorance. How is that arrogant?” And if my questions were stupid, why were so many of his readers, who are not at all stupid, impersonating me?
His reaction was less that of a scientist to questions than of an archbishop to heresy. Why the savagery? He or any other of my circling assailants could simply have answered my questions. For example, “Actually, Fred, residual pools of the ancient seas have been discovered, and you can find a quantitative analysis at the following link.” Or “Craig Venter has in fact replicated the chance formation of life, but it didn’t make the papers. Here’s the link.” (I made those up.)
I would have responded civilly, “Holy Catfish, Batman! I didn’t know. Thanks.” And that would have been that. But no one, not one soul, actually answered them. Why, I wonder?
If the answers to all four questions were “no,” it wouldn’t establish that the asserted abiogenesis didn’t happen, but only that we didn’t know whether it had happened. So why the blisterish sensitivity?
Because (or so I suspect) “no” answers would be conceding that the middle link of the Big Bang-abiogenesis-natural selection chain was pure speculation. It would be like asking a Christian to say, “Well, we don’t really know that Jesus was the son of God, but he could have been.”
Richard Feynman said that "science is the culture of doubt," Never happen.
Sunday, June 20, 2010