Creationist Wisdom — Example 33

TODAY’S EXAMPLE is a letter to the editor appearing in the Advocate from Baton Rouge. From the title — Darwin letter shows arrogance — we can see that today’s letter-writer is complaining about a letter that had previously appeared in that paper.

It is especially our delight to bring you letters from Louisiana because (you can skip these indented background paragraphs):

In 2008, state senator Ben Nevers, with the encouragement of creationist Rev. Gene Mills, executive director of the Louisiana Family Forum, led the Louisiana legislature to enact an anti-science, anti-evolution, pro-creationism “Academic Freedom” bill modeled after the Academic Freedom Act promoted by the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids).

The bill was then signed by governor Bobby Jindal, also known as the Exorcist, who is perhaps the world’s only creationist who was a biology major at Brown University. The Louisiana statute permits unspecified “supplemental materials” — wink, wink — to be used in science classes.

It was left to the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) to draft regulations regarding what those “supplemental materials” might be. Their staff prepared sensible guidelines with a specific ban on materials that promote creationism or intelligent design. But BESE sided with the creationist and refused to specifically ban creationism and ID.

As is our custom, your Curmudgeon will politely insert this subtle signal [Aaaargh!!] after each howler so that we don’t interrupt the letter-writer’s learned discourse. We may apply some bold font for emphasis, and we’ll also be adding Curmudgeonly commentary in between the letter-writer’s paragraphs. Otherwise, we’ll copy the letter in its entirety, omitting only the name and city of its author. Here we go:

You recently published a letter from a biologist in which he categorically preaches [Aaaargh!!] the doctrine of Darwinism, claiming that Darwin “didn’t start with an idea or philosophy.” The letter flatly states that a philosophy is not required to interpret facts.

That letter exemplifies the intellectual arrogance [Aaaargh!!] of so many who loftily hold themselves out as completely objective, rational, dispassionate etc. and therefore reliable discoverers of “truth.” My opinion of that opinion: balderdash.

We don’t have a link to the earlier letter, but Darwin certainly didn’t start his scientific investigations with the theory of evolution — that was a conclusion he developed over many years. If anything, Darwin started closer to creationism than anything else, as he had studied theology prior to his voyage on the Beagle.

Well, let’s read on to see where this is going:

The scientific method was invented by devout Christians [Aaaargh!!]; the founders of science were all Christians [Aaaargh!!], many of whom wrote more about theology than science. But science and the scientific method have been wrested away from that philosophy to a philosophy of total materialism. [Aaaargh!!]

We’ve seen this claim before, and it’s not all that difficult to demolish. First, science and the scientific method obviously aren’t found in scripture. We’re clear on that, right? Second, every nation in history has had a dominant religious tradition, but that doesn’t mean that a nation’s religion gets credit for all of the nation’s activities. Those who claim otherwise need to be careful, because if they usurp all the good that’s done, they’re also stuck with the bad — and that’s a ghastly burden. Thirdly, are those who make this claim prepared to give Zeus and the Olympian gods credit for Euclidean geometry and Aristotelian logic? Fourthly, do they really think religion gets credit for Galileo’s solar system? Finally, if science has always been a religious enterprise, why don’t they get on with it and show us some progress?

We continue:

Science today purposefully and adamantly refuses to look at anything except the material. I have no problem with that if it is done honestly, and with the full understanding of all. [Aaaargh!!]

It’s clear that the letter-writer is an advocate of spiritualism in science. Of course, he generously says he doesn’t really have a problem if scientists stick with the material world — but he wants this to be done “honestly, and with the full understanding of all.” Does anyone out there know what he’s saying?

Here’s more:

To refuse to examine anything except the “material” is a philosophical assumption at the get-go. [Aaaargh!!] Therefore, if something develops (e.g., the amply demonstrated statistical improbability of the truth of Darwinian evolution) [Aaaargh!!], today’s scientists refuse to examine that hypothesis because it is not “matter.” Such is their philosophical bent. To say no philosophy is involved in science is, at best, silly. [Aaaargh!!]

The letter-writer seems to be claiming that the “odds” are against evolution, something we’ve dealt with elsewhere, and therefore it’s obvious to the letter-writer that the spirit world is fixing the game, but scientists are stubbornly (and “philosophically”) refusing to “examine that hypothesis” — presumably that there’s an angelic thumb on the scale.

We’re going to skip a reference to Max Plank, whom the letter-writer purports to quote in support of his position. It’s too much bother to run down the original quote — if it exists — to put it in context. If anyone out there can confirm that Max Plank supports spiritualism and creationism, your Curmudgeon will gracefully acknowledge our error. Until then, we’ll just move along:

I am currently rereading my favorite fairy tale [Aaaargh!!], “The Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection, The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.”

I began to try to count the number of qualifying words [Aaaargh!!], e.g., “I believe,” “we may infer,” “assumed,” “belief,” “if we suppose,” “may,” “impression” etc., but the number is so overwhelming as to be impossible.

Brilliant analysis! Why didn’t we think of that? Another excerpt:

In my view those who refer to this book as a scientific treatise are being disingenuous. [Aaaargh!!]

The letter ends with what appears to be another mined quote. Read it if you like. The letter-writer’s name and city can be seen in the original.

In Louisiana this letter is probably the majority opinion. But then, what can we expect from people who eat okra?

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12 responses to “Creationist Wisdom — Example 33

  1. He’s a lawyer.

    Casey Luskin and Phillip Johnson are lawyers.

    Therefore all lawyers are idiots.

    Wait, there is something wrong with that. I guess I will have to ask Bert Robinson what is wrong with it.

  2. Tundra Boy says: “Therefore all lawyers are idiots.”

    They’re not required to take science classes before law school, so most don’t. Well, maybe patent lawyers, but otherwise they’re usually science-free.

  3. If anything, Darwin started closer to creationism than anything else, as he had studied theology prior to his voyage on the Beagle.

    Indeed. Darwin was a de facto creationist when he started the voyage. As you can imagine, years later Captain FitzRoy, an ardent creationist, regretted taking him on as his companion.

    In more pleasant news, the New Mexico antievolution bill died today.

  4. retiredsciguy

    Curmy says,
    “But then, what can we expect from people who eat okra?”
    Hey! I LIKE okra!! Cross-sectionally sliced, pan-fried, breaded in cornmeal — yum!

    I have to agree with everything else you said about the letter & the letter writer, though.

  5. retiredsciguy says: “Hey! I LIKE okra!!”

    It’s not too late to change your ways.

  6. Okra; Isn’t that the lady with the talk show?

  7. Not bad, Tundra Boy.

  8. “The scientific method was invented by devout Christians…”
    Sort of. Most of them were heretics (and, if Cathoics are Protestant heretics and vice versa, all of them were someone’s heretic).

    “…the founders of science were all Christians…”
    Again, sort of. In an era where there were basically two paths to education (be a royal or be a cleric) those that weren’t royals had only one choice.

    “…many of whom wrote more about theology than science.”
    Newton, I assume. I’m guessing that the writer probably wouldn’t consider him a True Christian™ if he knew about Newton’s nuttier beliefs.

    “But science and the scientific method have been wrested away from that philosophy to a philosophy of total materialism.”
    Science has always used methodological naturalism. Before it used that it wasn’t science. It was magic.

    “(e.g., the amply demonstrated statistical improbability of the truth of Darwinian evolution)”
    Again, sort of. Statistically, everything is improbably. The chance of you is one over the number of sperm that were racing to the egg, divided by the probability of it being that egg which got dropped that month. In short, highly improbable. Evolution, unlike that example, works in parallel. It’s not one sperm and one egg, it’s all sperm and all eggs, to torture an analogy.

    “I am currently rereading my favorite fairy tale, ‘The Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection, The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life'”
    Why’s he reading it (much less rereading it)? It’s more a historical note at this point. Biology has moved on (Darwin, for one thing, didn’t have genetics).

    As for the Plank quotes, googling fails, but…
    “Plank said: ‘ … every science contains an element of caprice and hence of transitoriness in its very structure.'” isn’t saying what the letter writer thinks it saying. Science does contain caprice. Scientists mostly are remembered for overturning theories, not finding facts that support them (“I proved that was wrong” is ego in action). Theologist do the same thing, but with theology the old beliefs don’t go away.

    “Referring to the procedure of scientific proof of causality in nature, he said: ‘Clearly such a procedure implies arbitrariness and obscurity.'”
    Without more context, my analysis of this quote is only guesswork, but it looks like it supports my earlier point. Interestingly, the letter writer is using a quantum physicist. They don’t do causality. Luckily, the non-causal world of the sub-atomic averages out above the atomic scale to what we would characterize as “normal”.

  9. Wups. I misread “caprice”. While my paragraph was right, I was actually arguing against a different letter. You wouldn’t know it. It’s from Canada.

  10. Modusoperandi, am I correct in assuming that the letter-writer didn’t impress you?

  11. Oh, I was impressed. Wildly so. Did my comment not come off as reverent? ‘Cause I was totally being reverent. It’s what I do.

  12. All founders of science where Christian? Aristotle? Euclid? the Arab guy who came up with Algebra? Pythagoras? How about all the repressed scientists in medieval China? Remember the Chinese came up with gunpowder, the printing press (maybe that was Koreans), water clocks, compass, many many other things. The Chinese destroyed all their knowledge because it threatened the emperor. Sound familiar?