Discovery Institute: Micro Macro, Tutti Frutti

THERE’S ANOTHER babbling post up at the blog of the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids). It’s by Casey Luskin, everyone’s favorite creationist, and it has one of his trademark titles — long, inelegant, and rambling: Loss of Function in Stickleback Fish = Loss of Another Argument for “Macroevolution” for Francis Collins.

There’s not much to say about Casey’s article, except that he presumes to critique the work of Francis Collins as a part of the Discoveroids’ larger goal of claiming, once again, that there’s some kind of magic barrier between “macro-evolution” and “micro-evolution.” Those terms, and the magic barrier between them, are all creationist inventions. The magic barrier, of course, is the reason they need the magic Designer, who is able to overcome the barrier to provide the evidence we see that life evolved naturally over eons.

If there were such a barrier (for which there is no evidence), then there could be no long sequence of evolutionary changes, no Tree of Life, and we’d be left with magically created “kinds,” as in the tale of Noah’s Ark. So it’s very much in the interest of creationists to keep alive the myth of a distinction between what they term micro-evolution, which they can’t avoid accepting, and macro-evolution, which — despite the abundant evidence of the fossil record — they dogmatically reject.

The creationists’ magic barrier claim has two prongs. The first is that understandable, testable, natural processes that are verifiably seen to occur somehow don’t continue to occur when no one is looking. The second prong is that such processes certainly didn’t happen before anyone was looking. The core of this denial is that if they don’t see something happen, or if no one saw it happen, then it didn’t happen — notwithstanding the fossil record, which is evidence that it did happen. (This imaginary problem is resolved, however, by the mysterious activities of their imaginary Designer.)

When one thinks about it — and it doesn’t require all that much thought — the creationists’ claim that “micro can never become macro” is nothing more than rejecting the entire theory of evolution by arbitrarily asserting: “It ain’t so!” Actually, it’s worse than that, because first it involves accepting, at the scale of a few visible generations, both the fact of and the mechanism for evolution (variation and natural selection), and then rejecting the inevitable consequences of what has been accepted.

That denial is a an extreme form of Subjectivism. Or maybe it’s just an example of pre-scientific thinking — the kind that led our ancestors to conjecture that the visible sun was hauled across the sky by Apollo’s chariot, and then — when no one was looking — it was taken back to the barn or somewhere, from which the next day’s journey’s would commence.

Your Curmudgeon has previously written about the fictitious micro-macro distinction, most recently here: Ben Franklin, Compound Interest, and Evolution. We thought that an analogy between simple interest and compound interest would illustrate the imaginary micro-macro problem. And it works for some people.

But there are others for whom that isn’t adequate. So (this being a slow day for news) we herewith offer you some additional analogies to help illustrate the foolishness of the micro-macro issue: In each example, imagine a creationist uttering the statement:

I believe in individual steps, but not a whole flight of stairs.

I believe in paving stones, but not milestones; and certainly not entire roads.

I believe in points, but not lines; and certainly not long lines.

I believe in minutes, but not hours. Or hours, but not days. Or days, but not years.

I believe in twigs, but not branches. Most definitely, twigs are not connected to trees.

We could go on, dear reader, but it becomes tedious. Micro-macro, Noah’s Ark, Apollo’s sun-chariot — they’re all related.

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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8 responses to “Discovery Institute: Micro Macro, Tutti Frutti

  1. Casey Luskin is trying to critique Francis Collins?

    *snkx* *pfft*




    Thanks, I needed a laugh!

  2. Casey Luskin is trying to critique Francis Collins?

    Yep, it’s hard to dream up a less likely conjunction of minds. Maybe the Curmudgeon could run a competition on this?

    I’ll open with: Soupy Sales critiques Ludwig Wittgenstein…

  3. Be patient, gentlemen. I fully expect the Discoveroids to take on Einstein one of these days. All we need to do is to figure out an unambiguous way that relativity contradicts Genesis.

  4. retiredsciguy

    Curmy, you do an excellent job of writing! You illustrate the fallacy of the micro-macro myth so clearly.
    I’m surprised that the creationist “researchers” aren’t busily trying to determine exactly where the dividing line is that separates “micro” from “macro”.
    As for Einstein, I’ll be thinking of how his theories might contradict Genesis, and write back later.

  5. Thanks, retiredsciguy. This stuff ain’t rocket science. All that’s needed is the willingness to focus on what they’re really saying. After that it all falls into place.

  6. retiredsciguy, it’s probably these verses from Genesis:

    1:16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.
    1:17 And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,

    Instant starlight. On the fourth day.

  7. retiredsciguy

    “Instant starlight. On the fourth day.”

    The creationists would argue that the stars were once much closer (and much dimmer); or that the starlight itself was created well along on its path to Earth.

    Also, since it takes at least a little bit of intelligence to figure out that if we are seeing a galaxy that’s 2 million light-years distant the galaxy had to be there 2 million years ago, you might have a tough time getting creationists to grasp your argument. And even if they did, they’d probably say that all the astronomers, physicists, etc. are wrong, and that we don’t really know the speed of light, or the galaxies are not really that far away, etc.

    I dunno. I’m not sure logical arguments work in this situation. Religious belief, at its core, is not based on logic. If a person is convinced that the fires of Hell await nonbelievers, no amount of evidence or logical reasoning will persuade him that the Bible is, at least in part, allegorical.

    Besides, I don’t think that’s our mission. Let the creationists believe whatever they want. Just don’t let them be in a position to dilute the science curricula of our schools.

  8. retiredsciguy says: “Besides, I don’t think that’s our mission. Let the creationists believe whatever they want. Just don’t let them be in a position to dilute the science curricula of our schools.”

    That’s how I’ve played it from the beginning. It’s also how I handle the “social” issues:

    Do as you like, privately, at your own expense, with consenting adults — even injuring yourselves if that’s what you like; but don’t bother anyone who doesn’t want to be bothered.

    I’m not looking to debate Genesis with anyone. Why bother?