Wednesday, September 14, 2011

David Klinghoffer, Evolution and Conspiracy Theories

Give David Klinghoffer credit for tenacity, or what Linus van Pelt called “mule-headedness.”  Not content to link Hitler and the Discovery Channel gunman to “Darwinism,” he now does so with the 9-11 conspirators in a new post for Evolution News and Views called “Darwinism and 9/11 Conspiracy Theories.”  He starts out innocently enough, describing the 9/11 conspiracy theories and how they were debunked by Popular Science.  He even has a serviceable definition of conspiracy theorism:
The tendency, hardly limited to the faculty fringe, is to want to repudiate the intuitions of common sense in favor of recondite alternative understandings. These purportedly expose the true, secret inner workings behind the façade of society and nature and, in the process, cast the very sources of our intuition in the most sinister light. This is the essence of conspiracy-thinking.
He comments at length about a story in Slate by Jeremy Stahl, in which Stahl argues that it is very hard to dispel a conspiracy theory because those accepting it simply think you are part of the conspiracy. Then he drops the hammer:
What I found striking about the first installment in the Slate series, by Jeremy Stahl, is the parallels with what we know about the thought and writings of Evolution Truth activists: our ever-loving friends in the Darwin Lobby. You may recall the news of a few months back that Glenn Branch, deputy director of the Darwin-lobbying National Center for Science Education, had collaborated with 9/11 Truth conspiracist James H. Fetzer in editing a special number of the journal Synthese on "Evolution and Its Rivals. That issue of the journal became so notorious for the incivility of its contributions that a whole fracas broke out and made the pages of the New York Times."
Interestingly, in typical DI fashion, the supplied link doesn't go to the New York Times.  It goes to an article by Casey Luskin, who then supplies the link in paragraph five of his article.  In that article, Mr. Luskin also notes that James Fetzer is a 9/11 conspiracy theorist.  That charge sticks like glue: James Fetzer's ideas are whackadoodle with regard to this issue and his ideas have been rebutted very soundly. But then Klinghoffer writes this:
When he burst on the scene a century and a half ago, in the Eric Hufschmid role, Darwin offered precisely a conspiracy theory: a radical overturning of common sense, in this case the understanding that nature reflects design. That was replaced now with an unseen and unseeable material mechanism that simply and comprehensively explained how everything we thought we knew about life's development was totally wrong.
This is nonsense. It would only be true if Darwin was the first one to come up with an evolutionary scenario for the diversity of life. He wasn't. Evolutionary scenarios exist as far back as John Ray and Darwin's contemporary, Jean Baptiste Lamarck and his grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, had their own.  Darwin didn't introduce a conspiracy theory, he illuminated one of the growing questions of biology: how did populations change over time.  He simply provided a mechanism.  The only reason Klinghoffer thinks that it is a conspiracy theory is that he has bought into one of his own: that evolutionists are covering up the fact that evolution has no empirical support.  As long as he continues to believe that evolution has no empirical support, then anything they write is part and parcel of this conspiracy theory.  It doesn't matter how much evidence there is.  It is like trying to explain something to someone while they are  holding their hands over their ears and saying “La la la, I can't hear you.”

He writes:
Once posited, it tells a story that accommodates any observation. This is the brilliance of paranoia. Though Meigs cites Marxism and fundamentalist creationism as parallels, Darwinism offers one just as apt. Whatever nature brings forth can be squeezed to fit the effectively unfalsifiable Darwinian mold, which always turns out to predict, in retrospect, whatever is found.
Interesting. Why does he not include intelligent design in this list? All he has to say is “God did it that way.” It does not matter what the observation is, that is just the way He did it. It is foolproof. This has been the constant roadblock for supporters of ID since its inception.  It is completely unfalsifiable.  There are no hypothesis tests you can run.

It is amazing that Klinghoffer, who plainly does not understand basic predictive historical science, would state that evolution is unfalsifiable when it clearly is (If we found a human skull in mesozoic strata or dinosaurs in the Cambrian, the party would be over for evolution), and miss the fact that ID is not.There is a conspiracy theory all right.  It is just not the one that Klinghoffer envisions. 

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