Monthly Archives: July 2009

“It’s Only a Theory” – Creationist Garbling Part 2

In the first post in this series on intellectual dishonesty by creationists, I explained why it is a complete waste of time, energy and breath arguing with their kind.

I therefore recommend that you don’t argue with creationists.

With that recommendation in mind, let’s look at some points raised in a debate I had with a creationist that left me astonished at the depth of his ignorance and arrogance. When one disconnects from the natural desire to confirm one’s a priori beliefs, then one can be open to discovering what is actually true. Notice how my adversary in this particular debate cannot remove himself from his prior beliefs and fights tooth and nail to assert the preposterous.

Background: The main thrust of my adversaries assertions were (predictably) two fold – (a) the empirical facts can be explained by more than one explanation and therefore his God explanation is just as valid if not more so than the the evolutionary account; and (b) “show me evidence of the evolution. Show me the evolution of a limb in the laboratory”.

Le’s look at the second point now as I will destroy the first point later. Let’s call my opponents name Mr Brown (actual name).  What he was doing is a common tactic among creationists. In demanding evidence he is asking me to dance to his tune. I pointed to some evidence that he could go and explore himself, but this was just walking into mortar fire.

The game is this: I show evidence of evolution from one of the many strands, say, the fossil record. All I have done is set up the next step in his dishonest little game which is to then discredit the evidence and show how his God explanation explains the same observations. The other ploy is to move the goalposts, where any evidence one points to is somehow inadequate and the standard of evidence required to validate my argument is therefore expected to be much greater (such as the impossible evolution of a limb in a laboratory).

The underlying fallacy: His argument is essentially that because most of evolution is pieced together after the fact, all of evolution is just a fancy story. Of course, as humans we are limited to stories or narratives in thinking and communicating so in one sense evolution is a story. However, it is a story that has been developed as result of known facts and has withstood every falsification attempt thus far. This is the power of science in elevating ideas beyond mere thought experiments and fantasy.

My rebuttal: “The assertion that we should be able to observe evolution of body parts in a lab is a moving goalpost fallacy. It also negates astronomy as a science too, because we can only observe most astronomical phenomenon after the fact (the cosmic microwave background is evidence for the big bang for instance). This does not mean we can’t establish strong theories in astronomy and cosmology (both far advanced sciences). Observation is science as much as experimentation in a laboratory because both represent naturalistic inquiry. 

Take it away Mr Brown:

Creationists have no problem with astronomy: Observation “after the fact” is still observation. Of course, due to its nature, astronomy is perhaps the most difficult and disputed area of scientific inquiry – both among evolutionists and among creationists. But regardless of which camp we belong to, we must be intellectually honest enough to recognize which ideas are supportable by the evidence, and which ideas are speculation based on assumptions which can’t (at this time) be proved. Your example of cosmic radiation falls into this category: There is no doubt that it exists, but this only means that SOMETHING happened. It does not PROVE that there was a “big bang”, and a biblical creationist may just as legitimately interpret this radiation as evidence of God’s creative act.

And there it is folks. The admission outright that he is talking about his beliefs and NOT reality. You see, “God did it” as an explanation for anything fails miserably for several reasons:

  • It explains nothing. All “God did it” does is satisfy the person who makes the claim. The problem of what’s actually going – causes and mechanisms still remains.
  • It is not favoured by Occam’s razor because the introduction of a supernatural force is creates more questions than it answers. 
  • “God did it” can be used for anything. We no longer need to agonise over the reason God would kill untold numbers in natural disasters because we know how turbulent systems within the Earth and it’s atmosphere work. Again, “God did it because…” is pure speculation that teaches us nothing.
  • Because “God did it” can be used for anything we can observe, people use it selectively which reveals their bias and that they are talking about beliefs not reality.
  • It is therefore equally valid to say “Zeus did it” or “Horus did it” as it is to say “God did it” because they are all unfalsifiable claims and there is no way to determine whether one is better than the other deities (of which there is an infinite supply).
  • Different people will interpret reality through the “Go did it” lense subjectively. It therefore bares no resemblance to objective truth. Scientific theories are strong because every person who does an experiment, no matter where or when, can observe the same results as someone else.
  • “God did it” cannot be an explanation because no predictions can be made from it. Evolution and the big bang are explanations because those theories fit all the known evidence (from separate fields and observations) and solid falsifiable predictions can be made from them.

Let us not forget the value of science here. There once was a faith-based approach to medicine and healing that was ignorant of the germ theory of disease and the natural causes of ailments, disease and death. Only by asking, “what is really going on here?” and testing hypotheses did we actually end up making medical progress that has extended life expectancy beyond a few decades (if one survived childbirth) to 80 and beyond (in industrial nations). Where would we be if “God did it” was sufficient enough in diagnosing patients?

I haven’t gone into the entire debate because frankly, it went nowhere and was never going to go anywhere. Don’t be sucked into games of “show me the evidence” style challenges, which is just a way to get you jumping through hoops so you can look like a fool when they discredit your evidence with their impossible standards. When you make assertions, back them up with evidence, make sure your premises are sound and remember that none of these rules I just mentioned mean anything to a creationist. Because of this fact, simply don’t argue with them. All that matters to them is that they are right and that you be made to look a fool. I wonder what their God thinks of such arrogant, self-righteous and prideful behaviour?

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“It’s Only a Theory” – Creationist Garbling Part 1

What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence”

-Christopher Hitchens

Could there be a more oft quoted saying among creationists than “evolution is just a theory”. Is there anything else that a person could say that would reveal such profound ignorance and simple-mindedness?

Creationists are the embodiment of belligerence and willfull ignorance. Their minds firmly closed to the alternative, far more satisfying and superior ideas that we know as evolution and cosmology. This is hardly surprising given they submit their minds to non-thinking faith, thereby unhinging their beliefs from reality.

So how do you argue with this? What’s the point of arguing with a creationist? Here are my thoughts on why there is no point and why you should avoid arguing with a creationist:

  • Creationists don’t engage in argument to discover the truth. To them the truth is a major inconvenience.
  • Arguing with a creationist lends them and their ideas undeserved credibility.
  • Creationists won’t argue within the bounds of reason and logic (their position necessitates that they can’t) and they will happily change the rules as they please.
  • They accept their claims without the need for any evidence at all while demanding an impossibly high standard for evidence of the opposing view (evolution, cosmology).
  • Creationists will unload on you in the form of logical fallacies and set impossible rules for what they consider evidence for evolution (all the while happily accepting something for which there is no evidence and that is flatly contradicted by ALL the evidence).
  • Because creationists are using faith as “a way of knowing” they will come from a place of ignorance and argue on that basis.
  • Their views are primitive and not contingent to evidence (they will do their level best to skew, pervert and denounce real evidence).
  • Creationists cannot see the flaws and weaknesses in the human reasoning faculties they are exploiting in defending a demonstrably false claim. This includes confirmation bias; distorting and filtering out contrary data; cognitive dissonance; and confusing value-based arguments (emotion) with rational argument.

A debate with a creationist is not an equal exchange of ideas. While you argue from scientific observation and logic, your adversary sees both as “hindrance” to their prior beliefs so is quite happy to invent whatever they like (after all their views are not based in reality). You don’t have that luxury and therefore you argue in vain.