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?
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?
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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