Creationist Wisdom #833: Evolution Is Irrational

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in the Illawarra Mercury of Illawarra, a region in the Australian state of New South Wales. It’s titled Unbeliever wants to be rational, and it’s the second letter at that link. The newspaper has a comments feature.

Because the writer isn’t a politician, preacher, or other public figure, we won’t embarrass or promote him by using his full name. His first name is Adrian — we assume it’s a man’s name. Excerpts from his letter will be enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Here we go!

Response to the letter by Barry Swan, “A CLEAR INSIGHT INTO A HIGHER BEING” Mercury, Saturday December 30, 2017.

We can’t locate that letter. It doesn’t matter. Adrian says:

Mr Swan claims I am a self-styled expert in creationism, while I would suggest Mr Swan is a self-styled expert in delusion and denial. My medical knowledge of the human eye came from Dr. Joseph L. Calkins, M.D. who is Assistant Professor of Opthalmology [sic] at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. So, I did my research.

We assume Adrian’s “research” consisted of reading an article by that guy, so we Googled for him. He lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and he wrote this article at a creationist website, which is presumably Adrian’s source of “medical knowledge”: Design in the Human Eye. Adrian’s expert appears to be a creationist Ophthalmologist. After that, he tells us:

British philosopher, Dr Antony Flew was a leading spokesman for atheism. However, scientific discoveries within the past 30 years brought him to a conclusion he could not avoid. In a December 2004 interview he stated, “It is legitimate to ask oneself regarding the three billion letter code instructing each DNA cell, who wrote this script? Who placed this working code inside the cell? Super-intelligence is the only good explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature.[“]

Antony Flew was an atheist who, in his old age, became an advocate of intelligent design. Adrian then quotes another creationist, after which he says:

The unbeliever wants to be rational, yet he hold [sic] an irrational view of the universe. He denies the possibility of true knowledge even while he pursues knowledge, and he tells us (believers) we do not know what we are talking about.

Strong criticism indeed. His letter ends with this:

In essence, the evolutionist says “nobody knows for sure, but I am sure your [sic] wrong.”

And Adrian knows the evolutionist is wrong. Great letter!

Copyright © 2018. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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12 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #833: Evolution Is Irrational

  1. If super intelligence is the only explanation, what is that explanation

  2. Adrian: “The unbeliever wants to be rational, yet he hold an irrational view of the universe.”

    Where’s that Curmudgeonly “[sic]” following “hold”?

  3. Dave Luckett

    Since this appeared in an Australian newspaper, I was willing to write in to refute some of Adrian’s claims, but I could not fathom the newspaper’s “Comment” feature.

    SC has already pointed out some of Adrian’s errors of attribution. His “research” consists of some specimens of the creationist noise machine. Dr Calkins? Creationist surgeons, opthalmic, neurological, orthopedic, etc, are rare, but certainly not unknown. A thorough understanding of evolutionary biology is not required for a surgical career, and there is a tendency to be overwhelmed with the huge complexity of the human body.

    The first and most glaring of Adrian’s errors of logic is contained in his sentence, quoted, he says, from Anthony Flew. (Caveat: If Dr Flew ever said these words, I cannot find a direct quote. I only find creationists repeating them each other, usually with a “that” at the beginning. Knowing the fraudulent nature of creationist claims generally, I doubt that the words are accurately rendered.) But we have:

    “It is legitimate to ask oneself regarding the three billion letter code instructing each DNA cell, who wrote this script?”

    Such a question is of course NOT legitimate, unless and until it has been established that some person was needed to write it. That has not been established. In fact there is no reason to suppose that any person was needed, ab initio. To suppose so much is a logical error called “begging the question”, that is, assuming what is to be demonstrated.

    Another interesting fallacy from Adrian is his misconstruction of the concept of knowledge. In his peculiar epistemology, Adrian equates “knowledge” with absolute truth. He writes: “He (the unbeliever) denies the possibility of true knowledge even while he pursues knowledge”.

    The unbeliever certainly does deny the possibility of true knowledge in the absolute unlimited sense that Adrian is using the term. So did Paul of Tarsus, who wrote that now we see as in a mirror, darkly, only in part – and so we do, and always will. Perhaps Adrian disagrees with St Paul on this, and thinks that we on Earth can have perfect, what Adrian calls “true”, knowledge. But even so, does Paul imply that we should not pursue knowledge, imperfect as it will always be? Of course not. Adrian’s thinking is merely muddled – indeed, it is the council of despair.

    For here is the true crux of the matter: if Adrian were to have his way, the effect would be to shut down scientific enquiry altogether. Of course Adrian would hotly deny that. In another display of muddled thinking, he would doubtless proclaim that he just loves science – only he wants it not to pursue rigorous and relentless criticism of the evidence by empirical means, while strictly applying Occam’s razor. Rather, it should accept what he wants it to accept on faith. Only what he wants, mind. And if others’ conclusions differ, on faith? What then?

    Why, such differences can always be settled by the means by which religious differences in an age of faith were settled. Bury your silver the day that starts.

    That’s the death of science. Adrian doesn’t know it, and would never acknowledge it, but what he actually wants is the repeal of the Enlightenment and the return of the medieval, or even dark ages. It’s not going to happen, but Adrian will never change his mind, for he is most likely incapable of actual rational thought on the matter. Still, that’s what his attitudes actually imply. He won’t get his way, and will continue his embittered carping, a relic of a world that is gone forever. And he and those of like mind will keep getting letters published in regional newspapers, for a curiosity is always worth displaying. But that is all he will achieve, unless the West loses its collective mind.

  4. Dan Rahm asks:

    Where’s that Curmudgeonly “[sic]” following “hold”?

    It’s there now. Thanks.

  5. Hats off to SC for a great find. What a pity that you missed his letter of Dec 22when he advocated the “design” of the human eye.

    Adrian also favours the “I found a scientist who disagrees with the rest of the scientists, so I MUST be right” point-of-view.

    Anyway, I don’t think we ought to waste too much time deconstructing and debunking Adrian’s claims. It’s a pointless exercise. I think we have in Adrian, a person for whom writing letters to the Editor of the Illawarra Mercury is one of their favourite (perhaps only) pastimes. Hardly a week goes by without his managing to offend at least some part of the community. In a region that Americans might equate to “blue” states, Adrian’s politics stand out in the crowd: resting somewhere to the right of Genghis Khan. That said, the community seems quite capable of taking the fight up to Adrian. In fact, one might even suggest that this might create a purpose (by design, of course) to Adrian’s life.

    Given his proximity to me (in Sydney), and the broad canvas of ideas that he covers, I thought you might enjoy a snapshot of Adrian’s letters over the last 12 months or so. It’s interesting reading.

    Dec 2017: real and political cost of health care, response to a letter (LGBTIQ), intelligent design of the human eye
    Nov 2017: local issue affecting state politics (critical of all), critical of result in national survey on same-sex marriage (which resulted in Australian Parliament passing an historic law to legalise same-sex marriage).
    Oct 2017: a (not) sensitive comparison of the Las Vagas shootings vs gun deaths in Chicago, two letters on climate change denial, observations on Hugh Hefner’s death (actually pretty fair and reasonable)
    Aug 2017: state politics
    Jul 2017: national politics.
    Jun 2017: LGBT goes against “natural law”
    May 2017: a one letter trifecta: support for coal mining, climate denial, criticism of the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse (refer below).
    Apr 2017: national politics
    Mar 2017: border control (not a wall, but via ships and boats), national politics
    Feb 2017: critizes Obama, “manners, respect and dignity were just a natural part of everyday life in the fifties. We have lost what we had [] thanks to atheism, social engineering of parents and children, lack of respect for those in authority, political correctness while limiting thought and free speech.”
    Jan 2017: claims Trump did not make fun of a reporter with a disability, national politics, defence of another letter writer
    Jun 2013: an early, pro-Church, attack on the “Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse”. FWIW, <a href="https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/final-report&quot😉 the final report (released in Dec 2017) is shameful to all Australians but is a stinging, fact-based, rebuke of the failure of Church and institutional hierarchies to provide true pastoral care for those under their case.

  6. Michael Fugate

    If Adrian believes the Bible is true knowledge in terms of history, then there’s the problem.

  7. If someone believes that the Bible provides the superior, ultimate knowledge of the natural world, then
    1) they have no opinion about evolution – or, they accept that the Bible is silent about evolution, and therefore feel free to accept the obvious about natural evolution.
    2) they accept the Biblical testimony for the fixity of the Earth.

  8. Michael Fugate

    “The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it.”

    Except the Bible doesn’t say much of what people say it does, and even what it does they likely get wrong.

  9. “It is legitimate to ask oneself regarding the three billion letter code instructing each DNA cell, who wrote this script?”

    Not sure what “each DNA cell” refers to unless its a typo. But assuming what Adrian likely meant, it does indeed beg the question. Moreover, as pointed out on many occasions, the human genome (and those of most eukaryotes) is filled with junk DNA derived from transposable elements. Genomes of prokaryotes are much more streamlined, largely devoid of junk. Genomes of most viruses are even more streamlined, some so compact that they have overlapping genes on opposite strands of the double helix. No evidence of design (script writing), just natural processes.

  10. Even if one were to accept that the natural world came to be because of some design involved in its creation.
    “It’s designed” does not tell us what happened in its creation so that things turn out as they are.
    One may stand in awe of the complexity of the human eye. But “it’s designed” does not answer any question of why eyes are so complicated. One can wonder, for example, why an omnipotent creator would bother with designing things which obey the laws of optics when the creator could implant knowledge of the material world in the human soul. And then we would be really in awe about the power of the creator.
    And then, for all the complexity of the human eye, think of the complexity of the various eyes throughout the animal kingdom. How human eyes are so similar to the eyes throughout the vertebrate clade, and so different from those among the insects. Animals which have bones have similar eyes, different from animals which have exoskeletons!

  11. ?British philosopher, Dr Antony Flew was a leading spokesman for atheism. However, scientific discoveries within the past 30 years brought him to a conclusion he could not avoid. In a December 2004 interview he stated, “It is legitimate to ask oneself regarding the three billion letter code instructing each DNA cell, who wrote this script? Who placed this working code inside the cell? Super-intelligence is the only good explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature.[“]

    Unfortunately, there are prior examples of prominent philosophers and scientists who in their dotage embraced wacky ideas. The ideas nonetheless remained wacky.