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reader comments: creationism
20 June 2009
Dear Dr. Carroll,
Your employment of creation-bashing masquerading behind the muse of “critical thinking” seems to me an obvious misuse and a gross injustice done towards your distinguished scholastic resume. I would hope that a man so well educated as yourself in the value of the objective interpretation of empirical observations, would utilize his own strongly proposed method when integrating science with the world around us.
reply: Well, you got my attention. I suppose that was the point of your bombast. Based on dozens of letters I've received that start as yours does, I predict that you will not provide a single example or piece of evidence to support your accusations.
I agree with you that Creation [sic] is, by its definition, infallible but, although evolution is, in theory, fallible, it is seldom, if ever, critically evaluated. In my experience I have seen both evolutionists and creationists equally employ the methods you described to reconcile new evidence that was seemingly contradictory to their respective ideas.
reply: Nice shift from my "masquerading" as a critical thinker to the claim that evolution is rarely critically evaluated. I'll let what I've already written and published stand as my defense to the charge of masquerading. To the charge that evolution is rarely critically evaluated I can only reply by noting that you don't know what you're talking about. To make such a claim reveals the paucity and poverty of your experience.
By the way, I never claim that creationism is infallible. I might claim that some believers in creationism think that the Bible is infallible and that stories of talking snakes and creation of humans out of clay or ribs are infallibly true stories. But I would never claim that creationism is infallible, since I believe the evidence is overwhelming that the idea of some powerful being creating the universe is both false and absurd.
For you to propose that it is only, or even predominantly creationists that are dogmatic and uncritical in their engagement of observation is either naïve, willfully ignorant, or both. I would expect a well-respected doctor such as yourself to, at the very least, practice what he preaches. Unfortunately, a hypocritical and pridefully dogmatic tone permeates all of your writings that I have read in a seemingly obvious self-contradiction.
reply: As noted above, I predict you will not provide a single example or piece of evidence to support your accusations.
Simply put, sir, you have ironically become what you so obviously and brazenly hate: a pseudoscientific dogmatist in support of the religion of Evolution [sic].
reply: Your evidence?
I sincerely hope that you will read and, at least consider what I have written and that you will truly arrive at your goal of unbiased critical evaluation, wherever that leads your conclusions.
Thank you for your time.
reply: Yes, folks, that's the end of the unsigned complainer's complaint.
Occasionally, I will get a rant from a creationist who provides evidence for his claims regarding creationism and evolution, but the usual letter is like this one: accusatory and empty of cognitive content.
For those creationists who actually want to find out what kind of debate and thinking has gone on in the history of science regarding the topic of evolution, I recommend you read the following to get you started:
Darwin, Charles. From So Simple a Beginning: Darwin's Four Great Books (Voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle, The Origin of Species, The Descent of Man, The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals). ed. E. O. Wilson.
For those who are not familiar with the kinds of claims made by creationists who actually produce arguments, however lame and feeble, for their positions, see An Index to Creationist Claims edited by Mark Isaak at Talk Origins.
p.s. I'll reject evolution when a fossil of a jackass is found in a pre-Cambrian layer of sediment. (Or wasn't there a jackass on Noah's boat?)
The unsigned complainer returns and signs himself "Mr. H."
21 June 2009
Dr. Carroll, I apologize for the accusatory tone of my comments. My intent was not to prove creation or disprove evolution. That goal could not possibly be accomplished through one single comment.
reply: Apology noted. I realize your intent was not to prove creation, but to insult me. That goal is easily accomplished in a single comment.
I was simply saying that, if your intent is to insult the validity of creation or to strengthen the case for evolution, then say that. Don't pretend to take such a neutral stance as "critical thinker".
reply: My intent in the creationism article is to define and expose it for what it is: a pseudoscience that is promoted by certain Christians to infuse their particular brand of religion into our public schools.
It is inarguably true that there is a mountain of evidence out there that pertains directly to the origins debate. The evidence is the same for a creationist as it is for an evolutionist.
reply: You might as well claim that the amount of money is the same for a poor person as it is for a rich person. Sure, the available evidence is the same, but once that evidence is evaluated the two sides have very different data in their corners. The creationist accepts stories of talking snakes and people turned to salt or brought back from the dead. The evolutionist can't accept the story of creation in the Bible as a literal description of origins. Furthermore, the creationist rejects mountains of data because they don't fit the fairy tale version of origins.
The discrepancies arise within the interpretation of the evidence. As you have said repeatedly in your writings, interpretations are rarely, if ever, completely unbiased. I would never argue that creationism is a pure, uniformitarian (if your will) science. By definition, creation requires a supernatural act or event. I would however argue that evolution is heavily reliant on the interpretation of empirical observations that is alternative to the interpretation of those same observations by creationists. It is my contention that the discrepancies lie more in the interpretations than in the evidences themselves.
reply: Really? Then your contention is wrong. Their methods are opposed to one another. The creationist considers it his duty to defend his interpretation of the Bible (not his interpretation of the scientific evidence) and to twist and distort the scientific evidence and the methods of science (such as dating techniques) to fit his preconceived notion of what is true. The evolutionist lets the chips fall where they may and does not presuppose the truth must fit some dogma.
According to your definition of pseudoscience, one could also classify evolution as a pseudoscience.
reply: Naturally, you are not going to produce any evidence to support your claim. I like a man who keeps it simple. Accuse and run.
I don't pretend to think that creation is without its holes (speaking purely scientifically) and biases, but do not think that evolution is immune to them either. I am also a little surprised at the end of your reply to my comment. In it, you accuse me of being experientially impoverished and lacking in knowledge, and respond by suggesting that I inform myself on the debate by reading a large list of books presenting ONE SIDE of it. I am not quite sure how that would would help.
reply: You claim evolution is "seldom, if ever, critically evaluated." Only a person ignorant of what actually goes on in the evolution literature could make such a claim. The list of books is intended to help you remove your ignorance.
On a side note, let me be informal and to the point for one second. You are very smart. I know that you are smart. You know that you are smart. There is no need for intellectual bullying or patronizing those with opposing views. Your point would be better received if you simply let it speak for itself without the insulting tone. Thank your for you time and reply.
reply: I don't know how smart you are, but I know you are pig-ignorant regarding the kind of debate and thinking that has occurred regarding evolution in the scientific community over the past one hundred and fifty years. You seem to think that you can make unsubstantiated claims and not be held accountable for them. You are trying to intimidate critics by describing them as bullies, patronizing, pseudoscientists, lacking in critical thinking, etc.
I reserve my insulting tone for those who use the same with me.
Last updated 12/09/10