Intelligent Design isn’t intelligent, but YEC is scary

| 7 Comments

Most of the entries, and comments here at Panda’s Thumb are about the Intelligent Design strain of creationism. I actually spend more time trying to respond to creationists of the young Earther sort on different websites scattered in the cyberaether. Just as the Discovery Institute is the principle abscess of IDC, the Answers in Genesis Ministries, along with the Institute for Creation Research, and Dr.Dino are the main vectors of YECism.

I recently took a fresh look at four articles I have written about various falsehoods originating, or promoted by AiG personnel.

Ancient Molecules and Modern Myths Dino-Blood and the Young Earth Boiled Creationist with a Side of Hexaglycine: Sarfati on Imai et al. (1999) A Response to a Dubious Diluvium: A Tas Walker Creationist Fantasy

I found things that I would have written differently in each. Rereading Ancient Molecules and Modern Myths was frankly rather boring. John Baumgardner has promoted the idea mainly through ICR that geological/radiometric data should be ignored and as a supporting argument he claims that “fresh” bone protein has been recovered from unfossilized dinosaur bone. This is not true as a matter of fact or interpretation. I agree with Richard Dawkins that to profess YECism indicates you are either ignorant, stupid, insane or a liar. Baumgardner has a PhD from UCLA and is probably neither stupid nor ignorant. Because Baumgardner works at the center of US nuclear weapons research, I don’t know which of the remaining alternatives is more frightening. (I may retract that when he retracts the lies about osteocalcin he has spread since 1995). AiG is guilty of mindless repetition of Baumgardner’s lies which can be exposed merely by competently reading the relevant scientific literature. But, there is no getting around the fact that this is at times a rather technical paper, and rather boring. I much prefer Dino-Blood and the Young Earth which exposed Carl Wieland’s long term and willful lies about research by Mary Schweitzer on the organic residues she found in a bone of a Tyrannosaurus rex. I had stalled on finishing this paper until I was challenged by AiG’s Jon Sarfati (posting under the pseudonym “Socrates”) to support my position that Wieland had lied about this research in spite of having the true facts repeatedly pointed out to him. But on rereading the paper, I should have explored more deeply how these lies echo throughout creationist writing.

I am actually thinking of adding a note to Boiled Creationist with a Side of Hexaglycine: Sarfati on Imai et al. (1999) to correct my initial impression that Sarfati was not only incompetent but was also making a veiled racist attack when he repeatedly emphasized the nationality of the researchers as Japanese. Ironically, they were not all Japanese. I now view Sarfati as merely incompetent.

The problem I now see in A Response to a Dubious Diluvium: A Tas Walker Creationist Fantasy is one of tone: I was too angry. That was how I felt at the time (and I am still angered by this sort of blatant distortion of science), but I now have better understanding of just how dark YEC reality filters are.

It is that denial of reality that makes YECs generally dangerous, because they insist that their mythos is God given and to contradict them is to be a dangerous “tool of Satan.” The YEC lives in a 16th century science mindset and I truly believe that only a shred of law prevents them from 16th century methods of enforcing their orthodoxy.

And, I am pessimistic that this bizarre belief can be easily exposed. Each of the little articles I wrote took significant effort, and required reading hundreds of pages of not only scientific literature but hundreds of pages of creationist screeds. Now that last bit was painful.

7 Comments

DR GH Wrote:

I agree with Richard Dawkins that to profess YECism indicates you are either ignorant, stupid, insane or a liar. Baumgardner has a PhD from UCLA and is probably neither stupid nor ignorant. Because Baumgardner works at the center of US nuclear weapons research, I don’t know which of the remaining alternatives is more frightening.

Almost laughed soda out of my nose on that one. That was pretty damn cold!

ID, as outlined by its chief promoters at least (Dembski, Johnson etc.) is intelligent in that every word is chosen very carefully to mislead the audience so that the latter infers any of several mutually contradictory creationist positions, while the promoter steers clear of any testable position.

I have heard IDers admit that their “theory” needs work, that it (in Dembski’s words) can accommodate all the results of “Darwinism,” that it doesn’t have any evidence but just reinterprets the evidence at hand. Given all those admissions, conveniently never in the same place, ID has all but admitted that it isn’t science. Even without a significant publication record, ID could gain at least some respectability by backing up its “ID is not creationism” line with equal time devoted to criticizing YEC. That it doesn’t for the sake of the big tent makes ID scarier than YEC.

Dr. GH Wrote:

I agree with Richard Dawkins that to profess YECism indicates you are either ignorant, stupid, insane or a liar.

Don’t forget one more possibility, dogmatic. Some of the YECs are up front in that they would be YECs no matter what the evidence said since they know what the Bible says must be true.

I would say that a YEC must by ignorant, stupid, insane, a liar, or dogmatic. (Or, obviously, some combination.)

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Mike Hopkins Wrote:

Don’t forget one more possibility, dogmatic. Some of the YECs are up front in that they would be YECs no matter what the evidence said since they know what the Bible says must be true.

AIUI, these are what would be more properly called “Omphalos” creationists. Most, like my co-worker, start with the YEC position, but when pressed, admit that the evidence doesn’t support YEC and that YEC must be taken on faith. It’s the ones who deliberately take evidence out of context to support their conclusions that I would call the “official” YECs. There are many “Omphalos” creationists “on the street,” but few if any among professional anti-evolutionists. Most of the latter have been adopting some or all of the ID strategy lately.

One of the basic problems with the battle against creationism is the assumption that they can be completely eradicated. Is that a realistic assumption to make? There are geocentrists and flat earth proponents still in existence so shouldn’t YECs still be around? A much more realistic goal, which was largely accomplished in Washington State, is the marginalization of young-earth creationists. If you can cast them as kooks on a par with white supremacists and UFO fanatics, you’ve essentially won the war.

A basic error in battling creationists is the assumption that YECs, their fans, and normal Americans, view this as a scientific debate. Ask yourself, who seriously sits down and reads a technical article on a Sunday afternoon? Nobody does. Professional scientists may do so, but the average American or high school student, who are YEC’s primary victims, couldn’t be bothered with such trifle.

Know your audience, sit in a YEC lecture, and watch the crowd as much as you watch the lecturer. Find out what made them gasp. In my two cases, I discovered that creationist audiences love so called “facts” that take up no more than two or three sentences to recount to others. Those are the arguments you need to target. In my case, I picked two devastating arguments promoted by ICR lectures - Lucy’s Knee Joint, and the Coso Artifact. Both times they were easily refuted. And both times, I made sure to spread the word, leverage the Internet, and encourage others to “spot the goof”. When you can point out that a creationist lecturer makes a mistake, realize he’s made that mistake, and continue to promulgate it repetitively over a period of years, you have no idea how devastating that is to damage the credibility of young-earth creationism. Creationists still come to Washington State, but the local lecturers who promote them here are considered poison to any public school administrator who lets them through the door. I encourage others to do the same.

P

Mike Hopkins Wrote:

I would say that a YEC must by ignorant, stupid, insane, a liar, or dogmatic. (Or, obviously, some combination.)

Interesting, but I tend to think that dogmatism at that extreme is equivalent to delusional. Clincally a delusion is a false or imaginary belief that is acted toward as if it were real.

Alternately, it could be viewed as a special case of “willful ignorance.” We are all born totally ignorant. Most people are introduced to the very simple religious stories many years before any science instruction. Many refuse to attend to information that challenges this early indoctrination. This could be for many reasons, including lazyness.

Frank J. makes a good point regarding Mike’s dogmatism observation. The “Omphalos” position will be adequate for many. However, I question the sanity of anyone worshiping an insane diety which seems to me to be the logical conclusion of the “Omphalos” argument.

Also, Dawkins has added that some people are simply oppressed ideologically which I am certain is true.

So let’s see. Now we have “A YEC must be ignorant, stupid, insane, a liar, dogmatic, lazy or oppressed.”

As I see this, one of our goals is to clearly establish that ID creationists are not distinguished from the garden-variaty in their religious motivation. This is readily demonstrated by their own statments. When the inevitable court test of IDC in schools is heard, its manifestly religious nature will trigger the First Amendment. Case closed. Then we are right back with the YECs that didn’t go away when they lost in court back in the 1980s.

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This page contains a single entry by Gary Hurd published on August 29, 2004 3:07 PM.

Meyer: Cambrian Explosion and CSI? was the previous entry in this blog.

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