The Second Version

18/05/08

No Valid Argument

LabRat says better than I can generally do what's wrong with much of the Intelligent Design debate these days:
[...]science does not offer a coherent story that explains the origin of Life, Earth, and Everything that fits neatly on a cocktail napkin. (Or, with more detail, the two pages that both accounts of the creation fit on in our household Bible.) That’s not the way it works. “Origins” aren’t covered together as a philosophical or narrative concept, they’re split among various scientific disciplines- biology, chemistry, geology, astrophysics, and other - specific - areas of research. They’re not tied together because they neither need to be or should be, to serve the purposes of science. The strength of the various theories and hypothesis regarding the origin of (X) range all over the board from "placeholder speculation until we understand more” to “bedrock of science”.

For this reason, when you attack “evolution”, or worse, “Darwinism”- Darwin having been merely the responsible party for describing the major mechanism of evolution, attacking Darwin to discredit evolution is a bit like trying to take down all of physics by attacking Isaac Newton - and then immediately bring up your problems with the Big Bang, abiogenesis theory, and geological gradualism, the person you are arguing with will instantly conclude that you have no idea what you’re talking about, and worse, that you have not got the slightest idea that you don’t. You know how some atheists seem to think that you can prove Christianity is a hollow sham by pointing out that some people use it to justify self-serving and sometimes evil ends? You know how they’ve missed not only the point, but the entire paradigm? Same deal.
And in the subsequent post:
As with any entangled issue, familiarity with the subject matter makes all the difference. Stein did not miss his own point: the movie was as clearly a slick vehicle for creationism in respectable clothes as Bowling For Columbine was an anti-gun polemic. The point Morrisey has in mind is the one he (and many others) wished he had made instead: the very real hostility to any religious understanding in the academic realm that intelligent design ACTUALLY belongs in - philosophy.
Read the whole two pieces; for what I'm concerned they are pretty much the final word.

However, there is a list of anti-evolution arguments that deeply irritate me for being absolutely asinine. They may be excusable when uttered the very first time by some uncultured dimbulb, but there is no salvation for purportedly bright and cultured chaps using them. The partial list, in approximative order of decreasing annoyance, is:

Evolution is just a theory.
Yeah, a theory it is. The same way that, for example, kinectic theory of gases and molecular orbital theory are. Clinging to this old talking point means that the debater is either unable or unwilling to understand the meaning of theory in the scientific realm. And thus not worth engaging - mocking, rather.

To justify evolution, you have to explain how the universe originated.
No way. Evolution deals with a very specific and local subset of phenomena - how the lifeforms inhabiting our planet reached their present state. How, or why, the whole universe came to be is immaterial. Neither this one is worth engaging.

Darwin himself admitted that the fossil record is insufficient.
That was maybe true in Darwin's time, but since then we have unearthed a bloody mountain of fossils, enough to fill most of the gaps. This argument tells more abouth the ignorance or bad faith of the debater than any shortcoming of evolution. No need to engage.

Evolution does not explain the origin of life.
This is one of the few arguments with some value. Strictly, evolution does not need to clarify how the first known common ancestor came to be, but only what happened from that point onwards. However, it is true that when thinking about evolution is hard no to ponder the origin of life as well. So far, there is no satisfying explanation for the origin of life on Earth; it may be indigenous or come from some other place. What we know is that aminoacids and other biological building blocks can be produced in abiotic conditions. It is even possible - though it strains credulity - that techonlogically advanced aliens planted seeds of life on our planet (thus making the origin of life a true act of intelligent design...).
This argument is worth engaging if its author appears to be intellectually honest or genuinely curious.

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