Dawkins: Why Intelligent Design proponents are so fond of gaps

| 39 Comments
Richard Dawkins gave an excellent lecture at the Kansas University's Hall Center for the Humanities on October 1 2006, discussing "The God Delusion". The full video can be watched at this link/ Since Dawkins is such an excellent communicator, I intend to provide some highlights of his talk on PandasThumb. Dawkins explains how creationists seem to be fond on gaps and take any opportunity to point to scientists admitting to such gaps. However, as Dawkins explained elsewhere as well, creationists seem to be fond of quote mining as well, even if it requires removing much of the argument.
I once introduced a chapter on the so-called Cambrian Explosion with the words: "It is as though the fossils were planted there without any evolutionary history." Again, this was a rhetorical overture, intended to whet the reader's appetite for the explanation. Inevitably, my remark was gleefully quoted out of context. Creationists adore "gaps" in the fossil record.
So who are some of these creationists? Casey Luskin and Nathan Gapper
Even Richard Dawkins admits, "It is as though they [Cambrian explosion fossils] were just planted there, without any evolutionary history." (Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker).
Stephen E. Jones
"Eldredge and Gould certainly would agree that some very important gaps really are due to imperfections in the fossil record. Very big gaps, too. For example the Cambrian strata of rocks, vintage about 600 million years, are the oldest ones in which we find most of the major invertebrate groups. And we find many of them already in an advanced state of evolution, the very first time they appear. It is as though they were just planted there, without any evolutionary history. Needless to say, this appearance of sudden planting has delighted creationists." (Dawkins, Richard [zoologist and Professor for the Public Understanding of Science, Oxford University], "The Blind Watchmaker," [1986], Penguin: London, 1991, reprint, p.229). [top]
Jesus Created Ministries
Dr. Richard Dawkins regarding the "Cambrian Explosion": "It is as though they were just planted there, without any evolutionary history. Needless to say this appearance of sudden planting has delighted creationists." The Blind Watchmaker, 1987, p. 229.
PvM: Updated to change the venue to KU PvM: Moved to Youtube to relieve Server Bandwith

39 Comments

I loved the presentation that Dawkins gave there–the question-and-answer session was like watching the creationists jump in front of an on-coming train. Schadenfreude would inevitably lead to pity, though…I can only find so much inanity funny.

It is no surprise that creationists would quote-mine Dawkins in this manner: when your audience is simple enough even the most ridiculous of arguments will do. Creationism preys on ignorance and the simple-minded.

“Click here to download plugin” - what format is it? Has it been YouTubed?

QuickTime, apparently.

The full video is in “rv” format, which is a “RealPlayer” format.

The full video is in “rv” format, which is a “RealPlayer”

If you don’t have or want RealPlayer (and very sensible you are too) or Quicktime on your system then you can grab the codecs over at FreeCodecs.com. They’re called Real Alternative and Quicktime Alternative, all the watchable fun without the system kludging extras.

I wrote this song with a sense of hope an optimism in the future:

A Future 2B Hold Dr. BLT words and music by Dr. BLT (c) 2006 http://www.drblt.net/music/future3.mp3

Though I have the utmost respect for the sciences, they can only go so far in explaining the spiritual hunger or “God-shaped” vacuum that exists in every human being intellectually courageous enough to acknowledge it.

It is no surprise that creationists would quote-mine Dawkins in this manner: when your audience is simple enough even the most ridiculous of arguments will do. Creationism preys on ignorance and the simple-minded.

Which must be extremely satisfying and uplifting for those unburdened by a contrary state of mind.

It’s a pity the stuff can’t be refined and sold as a replacement for the various narcotics which plague society, substituting one dangerous addiction with another. Ironically that may be the only decent use for Bibliolatory, where one has every choice decided by malevolent dictator. The fact that it leads to the worst excesses that humans are capable of however in my mind make it more dangerous than anything created by humans, ever.

Their ideal world would reduce human creativity and reason to an atheist ghetto so they can enjoy life on a slack jawed funny farm where life is wonderful all the time, war is peace, honesty has no objective test and where science is relegated to a postmodernist nonsense of ‘any argument is valid as long as it is made politely’

Dr BLT Wrote:

…sciences… explaining… the spiritual hunger or “God-shaped” vacuum that exists in every human being intellectually courageous enough to acknowledge it.

Uh…

OK, I’ll ‘fess up to not being intellectually courageous enough.

In my case, that apparently means that science[s] is/are off the hook, there being nothing to explain.

The recurrent phrase “I don’t know” in the linked musical work is indicative of its overall relevance to this discourse.

A “God-shaped” vacuum, eh? What shape is God, anyway? Human? Animal? Square? Dodecahedron?

Dr. BLT wrote a song. Big deal. That’s nothing compared to the favorable review given to Emma Darwin (Charles great great granddaughter) on her !st novel in this weeks American Journal of Significant Cultural Events (can be purchased in your local supermarket under the more familiar name “People”) or of course you can just peruse it while standing in the check out line like most normal adults too embarrassed to be seen reading the “Enquirer”.

I think this is the first time I heard Dawkins admit that his opinions/books/expositions are not politically “expedient”, but that he’s compelled to hold/write/make them anyway out of intellectual honesty. Also, that were he to have been a witness in Dover he would’ve ended up helping the defense, having to admit that a proper knowledge of evolution contributes to his atheism.

(Me hearing about it for the first time is no indication that he hasn’t talked about this publicly before. Links?)

Though I have the utmost respect for the sciences, they can only go so far in explaining the spiritual hunger or “God-shaped” vacuum that exists in every human being intellectually courageous enough to acknowledge it.

Given the notion that the great strength of human intellect is pattern-recognition, I submit that the “spiritual hunger or ‘God-shaped’ vacuum” might be interpreted as the natural human tendencies to see patterns where none exist and to seek simple, anthropomorphic explanations for these non-existent patterns. I see these as limitations to overcome, not gifts to cultivate.

The simple answer for why they love gaps is that they think that “God” is the default explanation for any category of phenomena lacking a complete explanation (actually, there are differences in the mysteries, with life being among the prime default categories).

Ok, that’s obvious, but I’d point out that it is the traditional role of religion, to provide “explanations” for what are sensible mysteries, so in a sense they’re fighting to maintain the “Goddidit” as a “meaningful” answer to hard questions. For if “Goddidit” is true for life’s instantiation, it might be true for their own egos, and for living once more. They know that life after death is a gap, after all, and God filling that gap is their hope for the future (with the smell of roasting “Darwinists” as a bonus). If God knows and controls the gaps, they have hope without knowledge, certainty without learning. Hence, ID.

The great thing for those with certainty sans learning (true, many of them are not so certain, yet certainty is what they strive to have) is that filling a gap is impossible to their poorly-prepared minds. Great hominin transitional fossils, DNA evidence, archaeopteryx, these just don’t add up to anything in their denial, nor in their fragmented and uncomprehending view of what the world is. They actually need their God to fill in for their lack of comprehension of this world, meaning that psychologically they are IDists, not through any comprehensible cognitive process (not even a bogus cognitive process—ID simply rationalizes their psychological state). With God controlling the phenomena involved with the gaps in their knowledge, they had best get in good with God, in the hope that God will provide for that greatest gap of all, death.

Is it surprising that arguing evidence with them doesn’t turn their minds?

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

I just have to put this in somewhere:

“We write to applaud the Truth in Science initiative,” the letter said. Empirical science has “severe limitations concerning origins” and Darwinism is not necessarily “the best scientific model to fit the data that we observe”.

http://www.truthinscience.org.uk/si[…]view/217/63/

These are the UK academics backing the yahoo contingent in their own country. For academics they’re apparently quite obtuse, blatantly denouncing “empirical science” with regard to origins, rather than trying to insinuate theology into science as our IDists (the DI bunch, anyhow) using a thousand tricks and attempted illusions. Hey, at least we seem to have smarter leading IDists than the Brits do, though I’d trade our pro-creationist public for theirs any day.

continuing from above:

These buffoons don’t even know enough to realize that science is “empirical science”, and if “Darwinism” isn’t an adequate scientific model, they’d better come up with a good empirical model or be laughed out of court eventually, much as Behe was.

At least they seem to see through ID much better than the usual flotsam and jetsam that drift into here, or who drone on with their platitudes at UD. ID is against empirical science, so they bite the bullet and denounce empirical science, if with no justification for the regionalism of their attack on science. Why is empirical science inadequate in “origins” and not in medicine (which depends somewhat upon evolutionary theory) or physics? Well, they’re not that stupid, they’re going to use modern medicine and fly in airplanes, but they don’t know or care about the empirical successes of more basic biology, such as evolution.

So sure, they’re incoherent in their minds and their words, but at least they’re sufficiently unprepped by the PR scientists in our country to characterize ID as what it is, a simple assault on the empirical sciences that have served us so well, if an assault uncomprehendingly reserved for evolution and cosmological issues (they’re apparently too stupid to realize that geology is “origins”, as are the data supporting the mere fact of common descent that Behe inconsistently accepts due to “empirical science”. They’re not Britain’s best and brightest, IOW). Demski has opposed ancient metaphysics to science for a long time, all the while denying that he was anti-science. At least these yokels are intelligent (and unpropagandized) enough to depict his assault on empiricism as being what it is. I don’t wait for any glimmers more intelligent that that one, however.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

These are the UK academics backing the yahoo contingent in their own country.

I’m afraid you’re rather flattering them by calling them ‘academics’. Possibly a little more ‘academic’ than Dr Dino - but otherwise they are your usual bunch of religious schoolteachers and the odd engineer.

Actually one of the engineers was very odd indeed, and tried to use the old ‘second law of thermodynamics’ thing on Dawkins. Since he’s actually supposed to teach thermodynamics Dawkins was astonished at the degree to which this twit was prepared to undermine his own subject. Anyway Dawkins felt moved to write to the ‘Guardian’ about it - which brought another couple of IDiots out of the woodwork.

I suppose we have so many crusty profs in this country then statistically at least some of them have to be barking mad creationists - though gratifyingly none are biologists.

Richard Dawkins writes himself on the episode here

I think this is the first time I heard Dawkins admit that his opinions/books/expositions are not politically “expedient”, but that he’s compelled to hold/write/make them anyway out of intellectual honesty.

That’s an admission? “I admit that I’m not an intellectually corrupt whore”. Hmmm.

Also, that were he to have been a witness in Dover he would’ve ended up helping the defense, having to admit that a proper knowledge of evolution contributes to his atheism.

The latter is very well known and Dawkins has stated it many times. As for the former, I’m not clear on how it would follow. Perhaps you could offer the exact quote (I don’t have the time just now to listen to a 1 1/2 hour lecture).

I am so glad that he did this where he did this. I love “the forces of darkness bit.” That reminds me of Isaac Asimov’s editorial in Playboy in the early 80s about the “Armies of the Night.” Good stuff. On a sidenote, Penn State held a really good symposium on the “Intersection of Science and Religion” in courses. The panel featured a geologist, an astronomer, a pastor, an anthropologist and a religious studies professor. It’s pretty neat to hear a debate not unlike what goes on here pretty often. Link at: https://www.schreyerinstitute.psu.e[…]eligion1.mp3

I think this is the first time I heard Dawkins admit that his opinions/books/expositions are not politically “expedient”, but that he’s compelled to hold/write/make them anyway out of intellectual honesty.

Yeah, right, his “intellectual honesty” compels him to make uninformed over-generalizations about religions of which he’s done no serious research, sign petitions he hasn’t read, and try to cover his ass by blaming others for not being “charitable” enough when they call him on it.

This is the same excuse used by mindless Biblical literalists: their stupidity comes from the Bible itself, therefore the “honest” thing to do is shout it out everywhere without question; holding back any of it is “dishonest.”

My best friend got one of those God-shaped vacuums for Christmas. It’s sort of round. Plus, there’s no cord and you don’t have to push it, it just runs around on its own power. It is the cutest thing! I do hunger for it. I’m hinting for one for Valentine’s Day. So I’m totally with Dr. BLT (and that’s my FAVORITE sandwich, too!)

Glen, the reason the “Truthiness in Science” folk denounce empirical science is that they are actually Creationists. THey are merely trying to use ID as a Trojan horse, in the most blatant fashion possible. If you look on their website, you will find a page about evolution. It has an essay on it about the evolution of the horse. Said essay is essentially identical in content to a creationist essay available on the internet. ALl they have done is remove references to the Flood and God. (And shortened it a little for public consumption)

It would be funny if they werent so deadly serious.

The latter [i.e. he would make a poor Dover witness] is very well known and Dawkins has stated it many times.

Links?

As for the former [i.e. his atheism is evolution’s fault], I’m not clear on how it would follow. Perhaps you could offer the exact quote (I don’t have the time just now to listen to a 1 1/2 hour lecture).

Can’t (or rather won’t) offer an exact quote (it’s at the end of said 1 1/2 hour lecture), so I’ll paraphrase. Something like, “if asked on the stand at Dover, I would have to admit that evolution contributed greatly to my atheism. This would help the defense to establish that evolution is at odds with faith.”

That’s an admission? “I admit that I’m not an intellectually corrupt whore”. Hmmm.

He was asked whether his negative statements about faith being anti-science (in particular, his derision of non-overlapping magisteria) scared people away from science, and was therefore counterproductive. He basically said yes, it’s not politically expedient to say what he said, and to me at least sounded slightly apologetic about it. But of course, he said that his primary business is consciousness raising, which will necessarily come like a kick in the balls (he showed a picture of a guy being punched in the balls when he talked about the effect of feminism on his consciousness).

Glen. re the “Truthiness in Science” crowd. I’ve just been to their website at:

http://www.truthinscience.org.uk/si[…]t/view/48/5/

And what do you know? They give the very same out-of-context quote that Dawkins is complaining about in his speech!

You couldn’t make this up.

But of course, he said that his primary business is consciousness raising, which will necessarily come like a kick in the balls…

Extremists of all persuasions (including obnoxious Christian evangelists) say the same thing to justify the inflamatory, attention-hogging rubbish they spew. “Consciousness raising” to such people generally means grabbing attention at all costs and dumbing down the debate to a level where the extremists can pretend they’re relevant. Such extremists measure the quality of their rhetoric, not by how true or useful it is, but by how many people they can offend; then they interpret the offense they’ve caused as a fear-reaction by people who “can’t handle the truth.”

For an atheist, Dawkins is acting – and justifying himself – an awful lot like a reason-proof nutjob evangelist.

Raging Bee, you are embarrasing yourself. Stop. You are completely out of touch with reality re Dawkins, as your every utterance here confirms. You have no idea what you are talking about. But do keep comparing Dawkins to Coulter, lest anyone get fooled into thinking your opinions are worthy of attenion.

Extremists of all persuasions (including obnoxious Christian evangelists) say the same thing to justify the inflam[m]atory, attention-hogging rubbish they spew. “Consciousness raising” to such people generally means grabbing attention at all costs and dumbing down the debate to a level where the extremists can pretend they’re relevant.

And since the term has been abused by extremists such as the people Dawkins criticizes, there can no longer be any such thing as “Consciousness raising,” and it is extra special double secret impossible for Dawkins himself to perform any such function no matter how soft-spoken and well-reasoned is any argument he might put forth.

(Einstein/Columbus/Bozo-the-Clown in reverse, so to speak.)

Seriously, Bee, have you seen the video?

Can’t (or rather won’t) offer an exact quote (it’s at the end of said 1 1/2 hour lecture), so I’ll paraphrase. Something like, “if asked on the stand at Dover, I would have to admit that evolution contributed greatly to my atheism. This would help the defense to establish that evolution is at odds with faith.”

considering the case was about the teaching of ID and not the ToE, and that the teaching of ID was shown to have religious roots, while atheism, by definition is NOT a religion, it wouldn’t have helped the defense much, if at all.

I really can’t figure why you think it important in the slightest.

other than as troll bait for RB.

I really can’t figure why you think it important in the slightest.

It’s not important, other than confirming my suspicions that Dawkins is a) intellectually honest and that b) he’s not a fundamentalist in all important senses of the word.

other than as troll bait for RB.

I fear I provided more bait. I’ll desist.

Desistance is futile!

Wait, what am I saying?

Never mind.

Henry

The latter [i.e. he would make a poor Dover witness] is very well known and Dawkins has stated it many times.

Links?

Uh, the billions of times that it has been mentioned here that Dawkins has stated that one couldn’t be an intellectually fulfilled atheist before Darwin.

Can’t (or rather won’t) offer an exact quote

Then you’re just making things up.

I’ll paraphrase.

Like your original statement, your paraphrase is inaccurate and omits important context.

He basically said yes, it’s not politically expedient to say what he said

Again, that’s inaccurate.

The latter [i.e. he would make a poor Dover witness] is very well known and Dawkins has stated it many times.

Links?

Oops, I went back to read my original statement and neglected to read Guyefaux’s material in brackets – having already established that he is incapable of accurate paraphrase. I hadn’t realized that he is also incapable of comprehending the word “latter” – which referred to “a proper knowledge of evolution contributes to his atheism”.

having already established that he is incapable of accurate paraphrase.

To do that, you’d need to provide an exact quote (and apparently neither of us will sit through it again). Otherwise, it’s mere assertion.

…incapable of comprehending the word “latter”

My mistake. I thought your “former” was referring to the first block you quoted, not the consequent in the second block.

Desistance is futile!

LOL

yes, yes it is.

I am deeply humbled, and honored that so many would be inspired by my comments on my comments regarding the “God-shaped vacuum.” There is a verse in the Bible that says, “Professing to be wise, they became fools.”

Those who claim that science is the exclusive container for all definitive truth, and those who claim, with the utmost religious zeal, that there is no truth to be found in religion, have forcefully closed their minds, and have lost the intellectually adventurous spirit that was such a part of the pioneers of scientific inquiry. Most of those pioneers, by the way, believed in God.

The so-called scientific leaders and so called intelligentia of today, mock those who believe in God, while praising those very scientific pioneers who worshipped God. Those so-called leaders are too absorbed in an elitist, narcissistic claim to wisdom to be honest, and warn the rest of us with a warning like this:

Don’t Follow Me Dr BLT words and music by Dr BLT (c) 2007 http://www.drblt.net/music/dont.mp3

Humbly Yours,

Dr BLT

Ah, so those who disagree with you lack intellectual courage and an intellectually adventurous spirit, and are elitist, narcissistic, dishonest fools. Even when they’re “so-called scientists” who’ve spent a lifetime learning about this field, and you’re not.

Why do fundamentalists claim “humility” so frequently, but demonstrate it so infrequently?

Funny how that sign off (“Humbly Yours”) directly contradicts the rest of the post to which it’s attached, huh?

Henry

If I was less than humble in my previous comment, I humbly apologize. Since some of you did not understand the content of my comments, here’s a little clarification:

What Part of Right Wing (Don’t you Understand)? Dr BLT words and music by Dr BLT (c)2007 http://www.drblt.net/music/whatrightwing.mp3

Intelligent Design rocks!

Blog and roll!

Herr Doktor Blot:

I can’t get the major labels to listen to my music either, dude, but I don’t shamelessly self-promote it here in the guise of a sensible argument.

The naturalistic explanations of how things are, are just more useful than, as I’ve said before, Aristotlean mind-wanking.

Why it’s all here is a question you can have to your philosophical/religious self; it’s not the purview of science.

Have a nice day.

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on January 1, 2007 6:48 PM.

Science and the National Park Service: a festering problem was the previous entry in this blog.

Sternberg and DI Misrepresenting His Position? is the next entry in this blog.

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