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December 05, 2007

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Jaquandor

As I've stated before: If the natural process evolutionary scenario is so obviously correct, then why must they continue to attack the creationists? Why not simply let their model, through reason alone, win?

A simple look at history will show that the truth, having won through reason, can always be nevertheless supplanted by future generations of wrong-ness. Reason's victory is never permanent. That's why.

NegaScout

Because if Reason alone were enough, there would be no one who supported Intelligent Design?

Ben H

What is the appropriate arena for a debate determined by "reason alone"?

The scientific literature (which has overwhelmingly rejected creationism)?

Or a museum dedicated to proselytizing the creationist view?

The creationists haven't been content to let their model win through "reason alone", since they have tried to impose their point of view through school boards and specialist museums.

So why shouldn't Scalzi criticise the museum online?

If you regard YEC "with disdain" yourself, then presumably you agree that reason alone does not compel us to believe it. And yet it persists. That shows that reason alone isn't always enough.

Julia

Because he isn't attacking anything. He's merely giggling at what's perfectly mockable in front of him. If you weren't so busy nurturing that persecution complex of yours, you'd realize that.

Regardless of what you believe, Rusty, you have to admit some of those displays are unintentionally *hilarious* due to either the way they're worded or the way they're set up.

CosmicDog

Scalzi was mostly being funny. That being said, the phrase you used "devoted to being sacrilegious" highlights the very reason why the Creationist model needs to be critized. Unlike the more widely accepted Evolutionary model, the Creationist model attaches religious, Biblical authority to it. Evolution and Creationism cannot stand together and be evaluated, because, for many people, you cannot argue with the Word of God. Myself, I would rather say that the Bible doesn't really say what the Creationist think it says or rather say that it's a mystery that we have yet to untangle, than to try to hold it up to scientific accountability. There is no point, it just will not stand. For people, like Scalzi, such a thing must be mocked and torn down, lest the ignorant be convinced of the truth of the 'science' behind it. Faith and Reason should be able to go hand in hand, in this case, the Reason is faulty and makes a mockery of the Faith.

mazianni

"If the natural process evolutionary scenario is so obviously correct, then why must they continue to attack the creationists? Why not simply let their model, through reason alone, win?"

I think you can swap evolution and creation in the question. If creationism (or intelligent design) is so obviously correct, then why must they continue to attack those who believe in evolution? Why not simply let their model, through reason alone, win?

Sam

Brother Rusty, thanks for the inspired commentary about that faux science writer Scalzi. Yet, if you look at his site, you will see that he has been totally refuted by a few astute commentators, he really got his comeuppance:

http://whateveresque.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=495

vian

The search for fact is not a competition. Evolution *has* been proven, through reason, by thousands of scientists of many faiths all over the world. They didn't start with a set of beliefs and set out to prove them, they looked at the evidence, used the brains they were given and worked out something about the universe.

But the unreasonable insist on building theme-park monuments to muddle-headed lack of reason, sticking their fingers in their ears and going la-la-la-can't-hear-you and generally not letting the facts get in the way of a good (well, pretty good) story. They need a good mocking. They are trying to put a 2000 year old metaphor up against 2000 years of experimentation and progress.

Also, did you *read* what was on some of those placards? It's risible - you can't ask people to keep a straight face. Nor can you expect them to let such nonsense go unchallenged, let alone be taught alongside science. people can learn whatever Creation myth they like in Bible Studies, but let's keep science scientific, shall we?

Rusty

Wow! I didn't realize John's site was so widely read. Here I post a little ditty to fill some space and I get Scalzi-lanche (for my meager blog, anyway).

Thanks for the comments, although no one has been able to adequately explain why natural-process evolutionists can't simply ignore creationists (of any sort). I mean, do any of you guys get all bent out of shape with the "threat" of the flat earth society? Why not go about your business and simply let the creationists fizzle away to the same threat level as the flat earth people?

Jaquandor: Yes, wrongness can infiltrate... and reason can prevail.

NegaScout: You beg the question.

Ben H: If your scientific literature has overwhelmingly rejected creationism, then there is no need to attack it (kind of like beating a dead horse, isn't it?). Speaking of school boards, exactly how many of them have ID officially in their curriculum? At last count, I think it was zero. Yet you bring up a good point - if, as you admit, reason alone isn't enough, then what is? (non-reason?)

Julia: Yes, you're correct, I do find some of the displays funny. Persecution complex? The guy laces a deprecating blog post with profanity while posting a plethora of photos taken on a trip to a museum dedicated to something he's diametrically opposed to. Nah. I'm not sensing any persecution here.

CosmicDog: Actually, I picked up the "sacrilegious" comment from his Flickr page. I certainly realize he was trying to be funny. My point is, why does he think he needs to go to all the trouble to do that?

mazianni: Good question. I certainly can't speak for the ID movement. As for myself, though, I argue for old earth creationism because that's how I believe God created the cosmos. I believe that there is scientific and philosophical evidence for design and that the Bible does not contradict that evidence. I also believe that the question of God and how one ultimately stands before Him is of paramount importance. My approach falls very much in line with those expressed at Reasons to Believe.

vian: Yes, and if what you state is true, then why all the fuss? Just let the creationists implode.

PerpetualBeginner

Rusty, if the Flat-Earthers were trying to take over my school board and teach Flat-Earthism to my children, I would be doing my damndest to shout them down. They're not, so I ignore them.

Creationists, on the other hand, are trying to do exactly that. If they wish to teach their own children to ignore reality, they are free to do that, however much I might find them laughable. But when they try to teach my children crap and call it science, I'm not going to stay quiet.

Public mockery serves the perfectly reasonable purpose of challenging YECs without doing them the favor of taking their weird world-view as serious science.

wolfwalker

It's very simple, Rusty. Reason alone can't win the day, on this or any other topic, because the average human is an inherently irrational entity. We don't respond well to reasoned arguments. We respond well to emotional arguments. To make things worse, our brains are wired in such a way that the ultimate form of demonstrating that we've accepted an argument is to try to get others to accept it too. Thus, allies of reason can't simply allow creationism to die the death it deserves because creationists are always working to convert others to their way of thinking, and the creationists' emotion-based arguments are more effective at making converts than the rationalists' reason-based arguments.

Which is also one big reason why so many proponents of reason resort to emotion-based arguments such as ridicule in their counter-campaign against creationism. (The other, of course, being that anybody who claims to believe in and follow the Commandments and then casually lies to his trusting followers deserves to be mocked and maligned most mercilessly until Judgement Day.)

vian

Rusty, wise was the man who said the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for a good person to do nothing. Calling Creationism science instead of religion, demanding that it be treated as credibly as, say, physics, is a Very Bad Thing. I will not sit quietly in a corner and see precious reason undermined. I will actively oppose these noisy simpletons, and further, I will mock their silliness, and point it out to others.

Creationists aren't going to implode by themselves. And they aren't going to accept that their faith is not science. And that makes them say funny, mockworthy things, which need to be ridiculed, lest anyone take them seriously.

Darren

If Creationist were content to leave their belief system in the realm of religious dogma, where it belongs, there would be no attacks (well, there'd be a lot fewer, at least). Creationism is attacked because many (not all, I admit) of its proponents are undertaking a campaign to have it taught as a legitimate scientific theory alongside evolution - a ridiculous state of affairs, which should be obvious from the fact that you use the term "sacriligious" to describe John Scalzi's Flickr file. A scientific theory cannot be sacriligious, if judged on purely factual criteria.

QED.

Rens

If the Creationists didn't want a war of words on their hands, they shouldn't have started it by trying to claim their Ignorant Design "theory" has scientific merit equal to evolution.

If all they really want is to be left alone and thump their bibles in peace then we'd be happy to let them; we only bring out the public mockeries when they start insisting we take them seriously.

And no, I'm not even going to bother trying to be polite. Anyone who thinks "I don't understand how this could happen, so it MUST have been God's Work" is somehow sound science and expects not to be laughed at has it coming.

Ray

Scalzi didn't want to go to the museum, he went because his commenters nagged and bribed him into it
http://www.scalzi.com/whatever/005203.html
once there, what could he do but laugh?

Rusty

PerpetualBeginner: Okay, I understand your concern but, again, how does that drive you away from using the reason of your position as your main advantage? Consider that the number of school boards attempting to introduce ID are a mere handful and the number that actually have ID in their curriculum is zero (as far as I know). So while there is a potential threat, the real threat is nonexistent. Yet you argue that public mockery is preferrable to an academic face-off. Throwing darts outside the classroom is better than a triple-smackdown inside?

wolfwalker: Excellent observation. Humans are more than mere rational creatures. We not only experience emotion but we also believe in the existence of the abstract, as we ponder the meaning of our existence, understand the difference between morality and immorality, or even by loving our children. The Christian explanation for such qualities is that we've been endowed with the image of God. If the reality of our existence includes both the empirical and the abstract, then what worldview(s) best explain such a reality? Any worldview which limits itself only to the empirical (i.e., naturalism) will always be handicapped in providing a thorough explanation.

vian: Whoa, nellie! Now creationism is evil? I'm not advocating that natural-process evolutionists should do nothing - I'm asking why don't they, if their model is so strong, use that strength to squish creationism? BTW, I agree that creationism is not science, should not be taught in public schools, and that it will not implode upon itself (although I think we differ on the various reasons why).

Darren: In my first comment, I stated that I used the word "sacrilegious" because it was used on John's Flickr page (FYI, I don't subscribe to the definition of ID a la the Discovery Institute. I'm an old earth creationist and believe that the designer is the God of the Bible). I also believe that various disciplines of thought cannot be compartmentalized to necessarily exlcude one another. Religious thought has scientific implications, and scientific thought has religious implications. There's no way to get around it.

Rens: I'm not complaining that there is a war of words or advocating that creationists should be left alone. I'm simply wondering why natural-process evolutionists resort to public mockery when they have the wonders of their model at their disposal. BTW, the "I don't understand how this could happen, so it MUST have been God's Work" definition is a classic example of how to incorrectly identify ID.

Ray: Sorry, that's my bad, then. (on a related note - then who bribed the ScienceBlogs group that visited it a while back?)

An Eric

I couldn't tell you who, if anyone, bribed ScienceBlogs, but Scalzi only agreed to go to the Creation Museum if readers chipped in a minimal charitable donation to Americans United For The Separation Of Church And State; the threshold was more than topped and he was very much obligated to go.

As to the question, "Why resort to mockery?" Why did Swift resort to mockery? Or Franklin? Because mockery and satire are effective weapons against the foolish--and one only needs to look at the "Thorns" plaque in the Creation Museum to see that the people who built, designed and maintained the Museum are extremely foolish even if they happened to be right despite the vast array of evidence from biology, astronomy, physics, and geology that's against them.

As far as science leaving the IDers alone to wither on the vine: we tried that for about fifty years in this country, until certain religious fundamentalists decided sometime around the 1970s to declare a broad cultural war that included efforts to get creationism into public schools. By the 1980s, even school boards that weren't mandating the teaching of evolution in public schools were declining to buy textbooks in which evolution was prominently featured--Texas, in particular, had a disproportionate amount of buying power that effectively dictated the content of biology books around the entire country.

We didn't ask for this, and quite frankly, we'd be happy not to be fighting it. It's thankless and wearying and repetitive. And it's irritating when the side that struck first gets petulant and acts wounded when we strike back. So sorry, didn't mean to defend ourselves when we started pointing out how awful and silly the creationist argument was--we'll go back to our quiet intellectual discussions and let you get back to burning down the walls between church and state, confusing children and the scientifically illiterate, and trying to divide and conquer a religiously diverse populace that's managed to form a nearly two-century truce for the sake of the American Experiment. We should be small, and quiet, like bumps; you won't even notice much when you roll over us.

Joe Mullins

Rusty,

Your question "If the natural process evolutionary scenario is so obviously correct, then why must they continue to attack the creationists? Why not simply let their model, through reason alone, win?" is probably not the right question to be asking, and shows some hostility toward people who believe in evolution. Perhaps a better question would simply have been "If evolution is so firmly supported by evidence, why do those who believe in it feel like they have to resort to personal attacks on those who don't?"

The "natural process evolutionary scenario" as you call it, is actually not "obviously correct", The whole process of evolution is in some ways very difficult to get your head around. There's nothing obvious about how a sea creature could turn into us over the course of millions of years. People who believe in evolution know it's not obvious, which is why there's a process of education around it that takes place in school science and biology courses. While we know it's not obvious, we also know that it's supported by a mountain of evidence. Obviousness is not necessarily a good test for what is happening in reality.

As other commenters have pointed out, reason is not the chief faculty for decision making in humans, as much as some of us would like it to be. Plenty of people make bad decisions all the time based on a variety of factors, which include ironically, brain structures put in place by evolution which actively run counter to reason. The modern intellect, along with consciousness is still a fairly new trait for us, and there are lots of competing imperatives in our brains.

Science long ago realized how poorly our brains function as objective observers of our world. We are far too influenced and bias by too many things to ever gain an accurate picture of our world and environment without the help of processes that take into account our failings. Scientific method is one of these processes.

When evolutionists attack creationists, the attacks are generally not aimed at confronting the bad ideas (which are often so laughably poor as to not merit serious consideration), they are aimed at confronting poor thinking and poor decision making processes. This is not to say that creationists specifically are stupid. We're all pretty stupid when it comes right down to it. That's why science and scientific method depends so heavily on peer review, repeatability, consensus and evidence. We're not defending the model, the model defends itself. We're defending a way of thinking and interacting with the world that demands more than personal feelings and superstition.

It's easy to say, "well if we have this belief and it's not hurting anyone, who cares?" We care not because we feel you (not you personally as you've stated) have a wacky belief, but because we feel that belief issues forth from a poor thinking process. When asked to defend that process (i.e. the attacks you see), there simply isn't any, other than to resort to common logical fallacies or by claiming that evolution is a belief comparable to ID, which it simply isn't.

In response to a comment you made:
Your arguments about empirical and abstract seem a little muddled, and I'd like to dig a little deeper into what your thinking is here. It seems like you're trying to talk about object and subjective understanding. One of the hard brutal realities of being locked into a physical form with only 5 senses, existing in 3 dimensions, possessing only so much brain power, is that we will always have a limited understanding of the universe around us. Even if we reached a point where we had completely documented and understood all observable and theoretical phenomena within the universe, there would only ever be so much that individual humans as we current exist would be able to internalize and drawn meaningful conclusions from.

The worlds inside our heads, that include our feelings of love, meaningfulness, morality and immorality are inextricably tied into the chemical processes within our brains. While this kind of research is still relatively young, it's pretty convincing if you look into it, or know anyone with mental illness stemming from chemical imbalance. If you're suggesting that these kind of things are in fact perceptions of things that exist outside and independently of us, then at some point there will be a way to observe or measure them outside and independently of us, i.e. they are objective.

If you're suggesting that there are phenomena that human beings are the only instrument through which we can observe them but can be experienced equally by all humans, I would probably start to get a little skeptical, and start asking for evidence.

If you're suggesting that there are phenomena that human beings are the only instrument for perception, and can't be equally experienced by all humans, then I would question how that phenomena could be meaningful for anyone but you.

Eric

If your creationism is so correct, why do you feel the need to attack evolutionists?

Sara Genge

We aren't exactly attacking creationists, you know, we're laughing at them. Big difference.

Rusty

An Eric:
For about the first 150 years of this country's existence, the First Amendment was about freedom of religion. Only in the last 50 years, or so, has it been twisted to mean freedom from religion. The phrase "separation of church and state" is not found in the constitution, nor is the 20th/21st century concept of what that phrase means. But, my question really has nothing to do with the separation of church and state and everything to do with the methods chosen, by natural-process evolutionists, to argue their case.

I certainly understand the reasons you, and the others, give for why mockery is the method chosen. I simply find it hilariously amusing that, "despite the vast array of evidence from biology, astronomy, physics, and geology", at your disposal, you (the general "you") resort to the use of mockery. The way I see it, either the "vast array of evidence" isn't quite so vast or, as some have noted, conviction of belief is not based solely on empirical data, or a combination of both. Either way, it doesn't bode well for a scientific paradigm that's had nearly 150 years to establish itself.

Are we to believe that fundamentalists have had enough power to effectively negate the "vast array of evidence"? Were the biology books Texas bought completely devoid of evolutionary content? What of the content from the 1990s until present? What does it say about a school of thought that is so terrified of the opposition, that it bans a textbook which vaguely posits a designer?

I'm not being petulant, I don't feel wounded, and I fully expect the creationist movement to be struck back.

And if the natural-process evolutionary movement truly believed in their version of separation of church and state, then they'd silence TE's from mentioning anything spiritual, they'd remove all mention of religion from sites such as NCSE, they'd pull all endorsements from liberal religious denominations, there would be no genuflecting to Darwin from church pulpits on Darwin Day, in short - they'd only speak science.


Eric:
The answer I gave to mazianni explains my desire to criticize natural-process evolution.


Sara Genge:
Laughing at, in mockery, is a harsh method of criticizing, and can certainly be considered a form of attacking (albeit a substandard form). Not that it matters either way.

Sara Genge

Mockery is a well proven Human method of forcing others to hone their minds. If those being mocked prefer to resort to tautological reasoning to support their beliefs, then mock them we shall.

Ideally, mockery forces stupidity out of the meme pool. A little like natural selection forcing bad genes out of the gene pool.

The most useful and transforming kind of mockery, of course, is the one that is directed to oneself. Sadly, ID supporters take themselves too seriously. I guess you have to, when you're supporting such a stupid idea. The only way not to notice it's stupid is to stick your fingers in your ears and shout, loudly and repeatedly.
(btw: that "you", was a generic you. I didn't mean you personally)

LotharBot

"Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him.
Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own estimation."

- Proverbs 26:4-5

Some people need mocked when they continue to put forth crazy theories. But be wise in your use of mockery. When used sparingly and incisively, mixed in with solid reason and evidence, it's an effective method for forcing others to hone their minds. When used excessively like a bludgeon, it triggers defense mechanisms (persecution complex, etc.) that render it ineffective, and makes the mocker look like a fool.

Rusty

LotharBot,

Yes, mockery is very difficult, if not impossible, to render properly (i.e., to force others to hone their minds).

Sara Genge,

I like the "mockery forces stupidity out of the meme pool" idea. Any examples of it happening?

Raka

I don't know that mockery can change the minds of the mocked. And it is a form of attack, to be sure. But that doesn't mean that it's always inappropriate or without beneficial use. It serves two valuable functions in society: discouraging undesired behavior and strengthening social bonds among the mockers.

I'm working through this idea as I write, so I don't claim it's complete or irrefutable. It seems like there are two attributes that make something mockable: deviancy and failure. Both are subjective, of course. Example: a businessman can mock a hippy's failure to succeed financially and the ways the hippy differs from "normal" people. This may not affect the target, assuming he or she does not want to succeed financially or fit in with the culture of the businessman. But it does allow the businesspeople an opportunity to remind each other of the aspects of their group identity, and tacitly reassure one another of their membership in the group. It sounds hokey, but mockery is an undeniably social activity that does clarify the lines between what is acceptable and what is not, and it universally feels good. As far as methods of enforcing cultural orthodoxy go, it's one of the mildest-- it beats the heck out of stoning, or even shunning.

A bit of pointed wit can entice uncommitted people to side with the mockers, which helps to marginalize whatever trait is being mocked, thus strengthening the mockers' group. Still, it can be indulged in to excess. Malicious persecution can drive neutral onlookers to defend the victims. All of these adjectives are also subjective. Point is, mockery in and of itself is neither a pointless nor a shameful behavior.

From our (rationalist / humanist) perspective, the Creation Museum is a legitimate target on several levels. It tries to assume the trappings and cachet of science, but fails. The effort is like putting a silk gown and lipstick on a pig-- it falls so far short of what it attempts to be that it makes a grotesquerie out of what it actually is. We have an instinctive urge to attack what we see as such aggressive, obstinate, and duplicitous stupidity. Anyone who shares those values (in a way reasonably close to the way we do) will be made aware (in an entertaining way) of the Museum's failings. If they laugh with us, they will feel closer to us and further from people with traits we dislike and want to discourage in our shared society. If they already agree, they can join in the camaraderie of reminding each other that we share superior traits.

None of this is a conscious process any more than the desire to buy food when hungry. But I think it's not too far off the mark from what's going on behind the scenes.

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