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Monday, May 15, 2006

Go away, now, and let the BIG PEOPLE do your thinking for you!

This is from a comment to me:

"When people who actually know something about genetics, or histtory, or paleontology see someone like you leaping to ignorant conclusions and dismissing what those scholars know to be true you do nothing but discredit faith.

Something to think about."
(Spelling not mine)

Ah, yes, we really must let the experts do our thinking for us! Especially people of faith, for if we speak out on any subject other than our faith it makes our faith look bad. Whereas, if we speak out about our faith we are told to please, keep that to yourself, it is personal! Really, the world would be a better place if Christians would just shut up!

I have always made it clear that I do not have a degree in a field involving genetics, or history, or paleontology. In fact, my credentials in those fields are just as impressive as those of Charles Lyell's in the field of geology when he began postulating on Uniformitarianism....*wink*

But I am not trying for a career in any of these fields. I am speaking out as an observer. But whereas I may not have a degree in genetics or history or paleontology, I know fact from fiction. If anyone tells you that macroevolution has been proven to be true, they are a liar! If they say that it has been proven that life evolved from non-life, they are lying. Much of what this commenter proclaims as "truth" are nothing more than hypotheses that are accepted by the majority of scientists in a particular field. Common descent is not proven, but is believed by most, for instance. It is important to make the distinction here. Most scientists believe in common descent, not one of them can prove it.

To go yet again down an oft-traveled road, most thought the earth was flat and we have proof that it is basically, although not perfectly, round. Most thought the sun and planets revolved around the earth whereas we have proof that the planets and the earth revolve around the sun. Early scientists believed that all things were composed of three basic elements. We have since learned that there are far more elements than that, and that elements are composed of atoms and that atoms are composed of multiple smaller particles. Lately the once-thought to be constant speed of light has been shown to not be constant after all.

Scientists must be willing to be wrong. They must be willing to test things, think about things, consider ideas, have open minds in order to advance in knowledge. When I find that people want to simply stifle ideas and silence those who advance them, I don't see them as being on the side of science.

As a thinking individual, I owe it to myself to look for truth as best I may. I don't intend to drift through life, never questioning and never thinking for myself. I suggest many things I cannot prove, but simply present evidence for my position and invite comments on those issues. But when a commenter says something like this, he is really telling me to shut up.

What do you have to fear from the evidence I present and the ideas I offer, the possibilities I suggest? Is your belief in your positions so tenuous as to cause you to fear questioning? The commenter above has presented no credentials that would cause us to believe he knows anything about anything. But evidence speaks for itself. If what I have to say does not ring true to the reader, he has no obligation to believe it or even give it a second thought. If it does cause him to think and investigate for himself then I have done something worthwhile. If anyone out there thinks for one second that I can be shamed into avoiding a subject, they are dead wrong.

I did not start this blog to write about creation and evolution. It is just one of many subjects that fascinate me. But it has become the primary topic on this blog for now and so while it is a hot button topic it will be something I continue to write about.

One more thing - "...what those scholars know to be true..." was referring to scholars with whom I disagree. Since I post the conclusions of scholars with whom I do agree, then the commenter is really saying that I shouldn't post things that are not in accordance with the scholars that agree with him!

Yeah, right!

Now let me get back to the subject of faith...

10 comments:

creeper said...

"If anyone tells you that macroevolution has been proven to be true, they are a liar! If they say that it has been proven that life evolved from non-life, they are lying."

As we never tire of pointing out to you, these things are not proven, but merely confirmed. And I'm not aware of anyone during these debates on your blogs making either claim, most certainly not the latter. It appears you're indulging in some strawmen here.

"Much of what this commenter proclaims as "truth" are nothing more than hypotheses that are accepted by the majority of scientists in a particular field."

Hermit did not specify what he meant by "what whose scholars know to be true".

"What do you have to fear from the evidence I present and the ideas I offer, the possibilities I suggest?"

Zip. What about you?

Hawkeye® said...

Good post Radar...

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths. --2Timothy 4:3-4

creeper,
Macroevolution has neither been proven nor "confirmed".

Anonymous said...

Dan S. said:

radar: "Go away, now, and let the BIG PEOPLE do your thinking for you!"

Well, no, nobody wants that! Nor does anyone insist that people of faith speak only on faith. And

"As a thinking individual, I owe it to myself to look for truth as best I may. I don't intend to drift through life, never questioning and never thinking for myself. "

is certainly an admirable position.

Rather, Hermit's point is more like a general principle. Let's say you heard someone pontificating on the Bible, saying that the camel/eye of a needle bit really refers to a literal, very narrow gate into Jerusalem that at camel could barely pass through, and therefore rich men can get to heaven, as long as they, like the camel, walk a very straight and narrow path. I suspect you'll walk away, and not bother to listen to much more of their analysis (as, er, creative as it might be).

Or let's say I started talking about Iraq, insisting that there weren't any religious or ethnic divisions in the country. To anyone with a sort of baseline level of current events knowledge, I not only just discredited myself on this point, but pretty much cast doubt on anything I say not already known (or supported by things already known, or easily verifiable) to the listener - rightly or wrongly, even. I mean, obviously I'm a gormless wonder, why should anyone bother? That's how it goes.

But in these cases, as described, the buck stops with me; it's just my credibility on the line. In the case of, say, someone who argues that a true understanding of Christianity involves the sun orbiting around the earth, they discredit or cast doubt not only themselves (with most of the American public, anyway), but any religious interpretation they claim to speak for. If such an idea is loud, visible, and pervasive enough within Christianity, committed Christians might simply reject it (although it would probably help push a few out, last-straws-style) - but those still walking along the Buffet Table of Faith that is much of 21stC. America might well glance down, see it, squinch up their nose and keep moving, on to maybe the Asian dish, or the low-fat selection, etc. (fill in religions, if you want).

For people familiar with modern science, it just all seems pretty silly, rather like the geocentrist Christianity above. And the more you know about one the fields involved, the worse it gets. For example, to someone with a good general knowledge of this stuff, creationist commentary on human evolution is pretty bad. For me - with just a teeny bit more reading, certainly no actual expertise - it's excruciatingly bad.

Can science be wrong? Sure! But you're talking about things that are pretty well supported, an overall body of knowledge and explanations that is intricately woven together. If you guys had results, well, that might be another thing, but so far . .

Of course, you think that this is the case, so what you do is certainly sensible by those lights. So, *shrug*. It's frustrating, but what canya do?

"Scientists must be willing to be wrong. They must be willing to test things, think about things, consider ideas, have open minds in order to advance in knowledge"

Exactly - and the results, both in science per se and in other academic fields, often results in claims, as in your next post above, that these fields are trying to make the Bible less than it is, etc. Open minds are good, but as they say, not so open that your brain falls out! *Plop.* Continents zipping around the globe, ripping apart and reforming? Sounds ridiculous! - but if it's backed up with strong enough evidence, eventually you end up utterly revolutionizing geology (simplification, but hey...).

You saw a dragon? Well, given enough verifiable evidence, this could theoretically become a very interesting matter (especially if it was relatively small, easy to miss, and in a region little-explored by science). If all you have are legends, some easily-faked footprint casts, and some burnt sticks, well, why don't you keep your eyes open, and give us a call later, if anything else comes up?*

I wish they had a scientific (or plain ol' critical) thinking reality show. It's sorta similar, at least in terms of the occupational ones. Like, some of the folks on American Idol, Top Chef or Top Model might be decent singers/ good cooks/ pretty, but not at the level of expertise (or whatever - drama-creation, half the time) required. Except with science there's nothing to stop them from going back and trying again.

"Much of what this commenter proclaims as "truth" are nothing more than hypotheses that are accepted by the majority of scientists in a particular field."

Well, the overwhelming majority - really, for practical purposes, everybody - and not simply because they sound nice, but because they managed to win out - and continue to do so - against any other competing ideas, in terms of being able to explain one or another piece of reality. It's sort of being like world champ in something or other - you have to first win, and then constantly defend, your title. And in this case, we're talking about more like a whole bunch of champs, in a range of sports.

And that's all that science can give us. Ask for more, you'll just be disappointed.

Some things, or bits of things, that have come up, don't get up to this level, but the overall picture, yep.

"Common descent is not proven, but is believed by most, for instance. It is important to make the distinction here. Most scientists believe in common descent, not one of them can prove it. "

How exactly would they prove it? (Seriously - what sort of evidence would you accept?) On the other hand, there is a quite an abundant and ever-growing body of evidence that seems to support it, and nothing that seems to contradict it, which is why it's one of the very basic ideas within the life sciences. See for example, here or here. (And anybody just joining us, TalkOrigins has a humongous essay on that topic here).

" But when a commenter says something like this, he is really telling me to shut up."
Oh, I wouldn't go that far! Think how you would respond to the geocentrist Christian. (Although I have to admit, I couldn't at this point independently defend heliocentrism . . . ). Certainly I don't think anybody wants to shame you into keeping silent - more like an attempt to shake you into reconsideration, maybe?

It's not even 'these people know better than you, so stop talking (which can be dangerous, and something I heard a lot in the runup to war, re: WMDs all over, flowers being thrown, cakewalks, will pay for itself, etc - although it's been argued that many of the best and brightest were saying, hey, I don't think this is right, and being essentially ignored by both the administration and the media. And see, for example, this claim).

It's that people who are knowledgeable in these fields are going to think this is very, very silly. And one of the possible consequences is that it might incline some folks away from ~Christianity, since, if this is a lot of what they hear, it will sound pretty silly too. That's just how it is. It's not so much that it's reavealed as wrong by scientific Truth - although some folks might see it that way - but that it's just anti-so much of modern science, but can't deliver the goods itself.

Of course, since many people aren't all that knowledgeable about such things, either as a general state or because their prior views act as a mental filter (not even getting into folks who are, but are so committed to a certain view that they compartmentalize or deny), you don't really have to worry. Indeed, regardless of actual motives, people trying to undermine good science education certainly act as if they were trying to maintain and expand this state of affairs.

* And science would predict that any winged, fire-spitting reptile (or warm-blooded scaly thing) discovered native to Earth would probably only have four limbs. Granted, vetebrate hexapods aren't impossible, but we may have evolved ourselves into a corner that's very tough to get out of . . .

-Dan S.

Anonymous said...

Hawkeye: "Macroevolution has neither been proven nor "confirmed".

1) What are some pieces of evidence held by by mainstream biology to suggest that a) macroevolution is a pretty darn good bet, or b), to reframe it a bit, going from process and mechanism to observed patterns, what are some pieces of evidence held by by mainstream biology to suggest that common descent (all current life on earth can be traced back to one or several ancestors) is a pretty darn good bet.

After all, you're not saying 'this disproves macroev,' rather that science hasn't been able to make a convincing case, and in order to say that, it helps to know what case it is making and how!

2) What would you accept as showing modern science's (hazy, but improving) ideas of evolution to be at least fairly plausible?

___________

Just noticed this:

Common Ancestor of Fish and Land Animals Found.

-Dan S.

xiangtao said...

You keep saying that common descent has never been proven, it is only accepted by the majority of scientists. But it isn't like they just like the sound of it and therefore say "Hey, this evo stuff is just too cool! I think I'll hitch my wagon to that train and to hell with the evidence!" They accept it because it is supported by a vast and ever increasing body of evidence. I know that this has been pointed out to you before and I am just repeating what others have already said but we will continue to repeat it until you stop ignoring it.

The evidence overwhelmingly supports it, and because of this, scientists overwhelmingly accept it.

A Hermit said...

"Ah, yes, we really must let the experts do our thinking for us!"

Not at all; but let's face it radar, all you're doing here is letting some creationist "expert" do your thinking for you. All I've seen on your site when it comes to the subject of evolution are the same tired old discredited creationist lies, distortions and misunderstandings that I've been seeing for a decade or more.

You remind me of a bumper sticker I saw the other day; it said "Question Authority. Don't Ask Me Why; Just Do It!"

I'm all for questioning authority; I do it all the time. But as I tell my children, if you're question something you need to have legitimate reasons for doing so, and that means you need to understand it as well as you can. If you don't have a clear understanding of the thing you are questioning then you are just going to look foolish, and that, I'm afraid, is what you are doing here Radar. You cannot simply challenge the specifics of evolutionary theory without addressing the work of the experts you disparage. To excuse your ignorance with protestations of "I'm no expert" while simultaneously dismissing the opinions of actual experts who have dedicated their careers and years of time to studying the issue is just dishonest, in my opinion.

One should never accept authority blindly, but one should never dismiss it blindly either.


"To go yet again down an oft-traveled road, most thought the earth was flat and we have proof that it is basically, although not perfectly, round. Most thought the sun and planets revolved around the earth whereas we have proof that the planets and the earth revolve around the sun."

And today we have vast bodies of evidence that prove the Earth is 4.5 billion years old and that life has been evolving into its myriad forms on this planet for 3 billion or more. Science progresses.

"Scientists must be willing to be wrong. They must be willing to test things, think about things, consider ideas, have open minds in order to advance in knowledge. When I find that people want to simply stifle ideas and silence those who advance them, I don't see them as being on the side of science."

I agree with this 100%. AND it's a big part of the reason I reject the creationist camp's arguments, and Biblical literalism. They demand that science must conform to their a priori beliefs; if the facts disagree with the faith then the facts must be wrong. This is not the way to advance human knowledge.
Take the example of Plate Tectonic theory; it started as a hypothesis which was rejected by mainstream geologists for decades; there wasn't enough evidence to suport it, they said. But over the years the proponents of the theory gathered that evidence, they published their observations, replicated one another's work and the hypothesis of "Continental drift" was refined, reinforced and plate tectonics is now accepted as mainstream science. When creationists or IDers are willing to make the same effort and if they can produce similar bodies of evidence I will be happy to revise my opinion on the subject.

But I ain't holding my breath on that one...

"As a thinking individual, I owe it to myself to look for truth as best I may. I don't intend to drift through life, never questioning and never thinking for myself. I suggest many things I cannot prove, but simply present evidence for my position and invite comments on those issues. But when a commenter says something like this, he is really telling me to shut up."

I'm not telling you to shut up, Radar (though I get the feeling that's what you're telling me...). Like you said, you invited comments and I've given you mine. If all you're looking for is comments that reinforce your preconceptions then you are't really interested in questioning anything, are you?

What I am telling you is that if you're going to criticize someone's work (which is what you are doing) you need to have a better of understanding of the subject. It's fine to ask questions, but you have to be willing to consider the answers you get to those questions, and not reject them just because they don't fit your own preconceptions, especially when those answers come from people who clearly know a lot more about the subject than you do (and I'm not refering to myself here, but to the scholars at talkorigins and others whose work so dismiss so cavalierly. You can't just call them liars without showing us, in detail with evidence to back it up, what the lie is. Just quoting your own dubious creationist "experts" doesn't cut it.)

"What do you have to fear from the evidence I present and the ideas I offer, the possibilities I suggest? Is your belief in your positions so tenuous as to cause you to fear questioning?"

On the contrary; I started out with much the same opinions you are expressing here. Over the years I've learned a lot more about the subject, and it is precisely because I have been willing to objectively examine as much of the evidence as I can, to question my own preconceptions, to challenge what I have been taught in the past that I have come to change my mind.

Sincerely

An Open Minded Hermit

cranky old fart said...

Radar,

"For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths. --2Timothy 4:3-4"

Are you referring here to AIG or Fox News?

A Hermit said...

One more thought; who is more guilty of "letting the BIG PEOPLE" do their talking; scientists who regularly submit their work for rigourous peer review and constantly revise their conclusions as new evidence improves their understanding of a phenomenon, or Biblical literalists who insist that their opinions "are infallible and completely authoritative on all matters with which they deal, free from error of any sort, scientific and historical as well as moral and theological."

Which approach do you think allows for a more honest examination of the evidence?

Sincerely

A Constantly Questioning Hermit

xiangtao said...

"For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths. --2Timothy 4:3-4"

This sounds like a good description of the ID movement if you ask me.

Mark K. Sprengel said...

ID is more falsifiable then naturalism only will ever be.