Friday, March 05, 2010

Creationists are Dishonest

First allow me to define what I mean by a “Creationist.” By that term I mean someone that rejects the Theory of Evolution in favor of a literal interpretation of Genesis and a six day creation.

It does not include people that accept evolution but believe either that God directed the process or had to first create the universe and the first living cell before evolution, directed or undirected, could occur.

That I had to include the first two paragraphs is the first evidence of the dishonesty I claim. The dishonesty occurs when Creationists attempt to muddy the water as to the meaning of the term. I hope I have defined it crisply enough.

So why do I say they are dishonest? There are lots of reasons but I’d like to focus on two examples of just one of them. I’d like to discuss two examples of what is known as Quote Mining.

Quote Mining is the art of taking a quote out of context and then using it as “evidence” of something often totally different from what the quote actually meant.

Two of the most popular Creationist examples, which you can find plastered all over the internet as “proof” either that evolution is false, or that scientists are abandoning it, are quotes by Stephen J. Gould and Niles Eldredge.

The quote from Gould is a statement to the effect that he declared neo-Darwinism “effectively dead.” The quote from Eldredge is usually given more completely as "We paleontologists have said that the history of life supports [the story of gradual adaptive change], all the while knowing it does not."

Now, if you know who Stephen J. Gould and Niles Eldredge are, an immediate warning flag should go up. Eldredge is, and Gould was, an evolutionary biologist and paleontologist who rank among the MOST OUTSPOKEN PROPONENTS of evolution that ever existed.

So WHY would they be contradicting what they have so often, and so strongly, defended? Did they suddenly see the light? Could they no longer hold up the rotting façade of evolution and finally have to admit the truth?

NO and NO!

Concept, science abhors an unexplained observation. If one exists, scientists will attempt to explain it. This is called a Hypothesis. Fact, the fossil record is incomplete. It has holes. Sometimes, it has very big holes. This is a simple observation. The question is then why do these holes exist?

One would think if evolution is a gradual steady process then, even given the rarity of fossilization, some of these holes should have been filled in by now. The conventional wisdom was, and to a large extent still is, that the holes are simply the result of missing documentation. Either Evolution was occurring but not fossilization or the fossils simply haven't been located yet.

Gould and Eldredge raised the possibility that perhaps those holes existed because there wasn't anything to find. That evolution, rather than a slow steady process, actually occurred in short, relatively rapid bursts. Since the timeframes would be compressed, the probability of anything approaching a complete record would be about zero.

Of course “relatively rapid” is still over millions of years, just a lot less millions of years.

They called this hypothesis “Punctuated Equilibrium” and believed that it explained the fossil record better than “Phyletic Gradualism” which is the term used to describe the steady, gradual approach.

In other words it’s an argument about HOW and not an argument about IF.

As I’ve said before, there are lots of arguments concerning evolution about how, when, why and where but none about if.

I’m not the first one to explain this. It’s been explained probably thousands of times that the quotes don’t mean what Creationists imply they mean. Yet Creationists continue to quote Gould and Eldredge and claim they are admitting that evolution is false.

This is dishonest. It is dishonest either because the Creationist knows the quotes don’t mean what is being implied they mean or, at the very least, the Creationist implies that he knows what the quotes mean when in fact he doesn’t.

As I’ve said before, any philosophy that feels the needs to engage in misleading or dishonest conduct in order to promote itself or its beliefs is by definition a false philosophy unworthy of respect or adherence.

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