Friday, September 26, 2014

Thoughts On Jared Diamond, Creationism and Lies

Jared Diamond, professor of geography at UCLA, was interviewed for TES Magazine.  Adi Bloom writes:
Jared Diamond , author of The Third Chimpanzee, which discusses evolution and human development, said people often assumed that advocates of creationism were ignorant. “One might be tempted to think that creationism is based on lack of exposure to science,” he told TES, during an interview to mark a new edition of the book for school-age children.

“It’s not that the creationists are ignorant of the arguments of evolution,” he said. “They’re aware of the evidence. They simply don’t believe it.”

For science teachers, therefore, it is not enough to counter the arguments of creationists – whether students or fellow teachers – with scientific fact. “Creationists have very slick one-liners, and you need to know the answers to these,” Professor Diamond said. “You have to know not only the science, but also the errors and the cheap one-liners of creationists.”
I am not sure that I agree with this section. Having read (and commented on) David Menton's diatribe against human evolution it was pretty clear that he thought he knew the evidence but really did not. His mistakes are elementary, both in examining the fossil record and in describing hominin anatomy.  In some instances, particularly in describing the fossil record, it was hard to tell if he was being ignorant or dishonest.

Duane Gish's book Evolution: The Fossils Still Say No! is rife with paragraphs in which he mis-characterizes the evidence for evolution particularly because he didn't know it as well as he thought he did (Gish passed away in March of last year).

In fact, it is usually not hard to blow these articles and books out of the water simply because the authors get basic facts wrong time after time.

What I find more of a problem rather than the slick one-liners is the persistent use of the "repeat a lie often enough and people will start to believe it" tactic.  One example of this is when ID supporters characterize the fossil record when they argue that lineages appear fully formed, when in fact, they do not.  Witness Stephen Meyer's recent book on the Cambrian explosion, in which he claims that this period is too short for evolution to have occurred and that the biotic proliferation is best explained by intelligent design processes.  As Don Prothero notes, the only reason Meyer comes to this conclusion is that he completely mischaracterizes the fossil record of the Cambrian.  Prothero writes:
Even more damning, Meyer completely ignores the existence of the first two stages of the Cambrian (nowhere are they even mentioned in the book, or the index) and talks about the Atdabanian stage as if it were the entire Cambrian all by itself. His misleading figures (e.g., Fig. 2.5, 2.6, 3.8) imply that there were no modern phyla in existence until the trilobites diversified in the Atdabanian. Sorry, but that's a flat out lie.
This notion that lineages appear fully formed can be found in any home school science book and hundreds of ID books as well. It is difficult to have any respect for people that repeat this falsehood when they ought to know better. Furthermore, in Meyer's case, he had every opportunity to avail himself of the evidence of the Cambrian expansion and chose to mischaracterize it, anyway.

Other examples of this meme are "evolution is untestable" and "there are no transitional fossils in the geological record,"  both are which are demonstrable falsehoods and yet are pervasive in the creationist and ID literature.  Even if you repeat a lie time and time again, it is still a lie, and it is not unChristian to point it out as such.

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