Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Attack of the Non-Scientists!

I am writing this with a temperature of 101, so if it seems a tad incoherent, that is why. The National Post has a book review of David Berlinski's new book The Devil's Delusion: Atheism And Its Scientific Pretensions by Wayne Eyre in which he says some unfortunate things that are becoming more true what comes out of the Discovery Institute every day. In it, he says:

For example, Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, says that anyone who doesn't believe in evolution "is ignorant, stupid or insane." Oxford professor Peter Atkins, another ardent atheist, recently denounced theology, poetry and philosophy and concluded that "scientists are at the summit of knowledge, beacons of rationality and intellectually honest." Geneticist Emile Zuckerkandl -- writing on whether biological facts suggest an intelligent designer -- terms the notion of intelligent design an "intellectual virus" and its advocates "an offensive little swarm of insects ... [who] feed like leeches on irrational beliefs."

That these gentlemen go on like this in the wake of, for example, biochemist Michael Behe's masterful Darwin's Black Box, in which he sets out a devastating case for the "irreducible complexity" of human systems, truly makes one wonder about the confidence they have in their own convictions.

As A.J. Hakari noted in his review of Expelled:

...using figures like Richard Dawkins to represent the entire scientific community is like saying Charles Manson is indicative of all Californians.

Quite true. Wayne Eyre also hasn't done his homework on Behe. As far as confidence in the theory is concerned, Kenneth Miller notes something that is lacking from this review:

Perhaps the single most stunning thing about Darwin's Black Box, Michael Behe's "Biochemical Challenge to Evolution," is the amount of territory that its author concedes to Darwinism. As tempted as they might be to pick up this book in their own defense, "scientific creationists" should think twice about enlisting an ally who has concluded that the Earth is several billion years old, that evolutionary biology has had "much success in accounting for the patterns of life we see around us," that evolution accounts for the appearance of new organisms including antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and who is convinced that all organisms share a "common ancestor." In plain language, this means that Michael Behe and I share an evolutionary view of the natural history of the Earth and the meaning of the fossil record; namely, that present-day organisms have been produced by a process of descent with modification from their ancient ancestors. Behe is clear, firm, and consistent on this point. For example, when Michael and I engaged in debate at the 1995 meeting of the American Scientific Affiliation, I argued that the 100% match of DNA sequences in the pseudogene region of beta-globin was proof that humans and gorillas shared a recent common ancestor. To my surprise, Behe said that he shared that view, and had no problem with the notion of common ancestry. Creationists who believe that Behe is on their side should proceed with caution - he states very clearly that evolution can produce new species, and that human beings are one of those species.

Moving back to Berlinski's book, the author of the review states:

It's Berlinski's commentary on the paucity of "argument or evidence" in support of classic Darwinism that constitutes the biggest atom bomb of the book. "Suspicions about Darwin's theory arise for two reasons," he writes. "The first: The theory makes little sense. The second: It is supported by little evidence ... The theories that we do have do what they can do, and then they stop. They do not stop because a detail is missing; they stop because we cannot go on. Difficulties are accommodated by the magician's age-old tactic of misdirection."

Well, its a bomb all right. It is just one that doesn't go off. This fabrication is so old it has whiskers. It is also so intellectually dishonest, it warrants condemnation. There is so much evidence for evolution that, at this point, only one who chooses to remain ignorant refuses to see it. There is evidence for microevolution, macroevolution and everything in between. We have transitional fossils from every major class and thousands upon thousands of genus and species transitions, including ones in the human fossil record. I probably should read the entire book before forming an opinion, but I have read Berlinski's work and don't have high hopes. At one point, I had respect for the research that was going on at The Discovery Institute but that was long ago. As John Derbeyshire said:

George’s [Gilder] own Discovery Institute was established in 1990; the offshoot Center for Science and Culture (at first called the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture) in 1992. That is an aggregate 30 years. Where is the science? In all those years, not a single paper of scientific standing has come out of (nor even, to the best of my knowledge, been submitted by) the DI or the CSC. I am certainly willing to be corrected here. If the DI or CSC have any papers of scientific standing — published or not — I shall post links to them to NRO for qualified readers to scrutinize.

Nope, still hasn't happened. The DI seems to become more insular as time goes on, resembling the ICR more and more. David Berlinski is a classic example of this. What a shame.


  1. I regularly check your blog, and I am very grateful for the information that you bring to light. But I have a question... you write: "We have transitional fossils from every major class and thousands upon thousands of genus and species transitions, including ones in the human fossil record." Now, I believe you, but often I talk with people do that do not believe this. So I want to show people that we do have many transitional forms in the fossil record (and I would like to take a look myself). So where would be a good place to go find good documentation of transitional forms?

  2. I am wading through a book by Donald Prothero called Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters which is a literal treasure trove of evidence for evolution based on molecular biology and the fossil record. Another place to go is Kathleen Hunt's Transitional Vertebrate Fossils FAQ and then go through the bibliographies. It is ten years out of date but good, nonetheless. Other places to go are the pbs page on evolution and the evolution page at Berserkeley here. All of these sites have long sections on the fossil record that folks like the ICR pretend don't exist, as well as jumping off points for more information. You should be well stocked, but go pick up a copy of Prothero's book. It is devastating. He is a tad harsh on the creationist but only when he has good points to make. I also just finished reading Kenneth Miller's Only a Theory, which has sections on how evolution works as well as why ID doesn't work. It is also excellent.

  3. Sorry, one more. I forgot about the Archaeopteryx page, which shows exactly why it is an incredible intermediate.

  4. Anonymous3:24 PM

    "Donald Prothero called Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters"

    I second this. Indeed, he has so many examples it begins to get tedious to read through them all.

  5. Yes it does but it is nice to know the evidence is there and has been cataloged so well.