Wednesday, January 25, 2017

So Who Has their Head in the Sand?

Interesting article, but one that seems to be nothing more than a wonderful example of quote-mining. By now, you are probably more than familiar with the concept of quote-mining, that is taking a quote out-of-context in such a way to change its meaning.  There have been many instances of quote-mining, one of my personal favorites is here with Ben Stein quote-mining Charles Darwin, and doing a pretty poor job.  In any event, my opinion of quote-mining is that it is a reprehensible tactic and one usually used by the loosing side of an argument when they seem to feel they have nothing left to loose.

Here in the new post 'Irony Alert: Michael Shermer on "When Facts Fail" ' from the Discovery Institute's blog, Evolution 'news' and Views.  I had to read through it twice to get the point the author, Cornelius Hunter, was trying to make.  What it looks like to me is he is insinuating that folks like Michael Shermer are engaging in the exact behavior that he [Shermer] was writing about, that is the refusal to change ones mind when confronted with facts that contradict 'beliefs'.

So, instead of listing all the 'facts' about Intelligent Design that Michael Shermer might be refusing to consider . . . oh wait, there are no facts about ID.  So I guess Hunter had to take a different path, in fact [pun intended], the only path open to him.  So what he does is list a whole bunch of stuff, claiming these were all examples of facts failing evolution.  But are they?

One example Hunter uses is, the emphasis is Hunter's:

"Early trilobites show all the features of the trilobite group as a whole; transitional or ancestral forms showing or combining the features of trilobites with other groups (e.g. early arthropods) do not seem to exist."
Since this is from Wikipedia, let's look at it a bit more in context:
"Evidence suggests that significant diversification had already occurred before trilobites were preserved in the fossil record, easily allowing for the "sudden" appearance of diverse trilobite groups with complex derived characteristics (e.g. eyes)." (Wikipedia: Trilobite)
To get the entire explanation, you really should click on the link and read it all for yourself.  Hunter took only one line to try and make his case.  Of course it doesn't present the complete picture -- after all the more complete context doesn't support his contention -- hence quote-mining.

The bottom line, which Hunter failed to mention, is really two-fold.  The first is that the evidence supports that the majority of the evolution of trilobites precedes the time periods when bony structures formed and started leaving detailed fossils.  So, on the one hand Creationists like to claim there are no transitional fossils and on the other when there are not clear transitional forms, they claim that disproves evolution.  Really?  How . . . two-faced.

The other thing you get when you read it is that science is honest about the things we do not know.  Instead of making definitive statements you see terms like 'do not seem' and 'evidence suggests'.  That's how science works.  The things we don't know or aren't sure about are openly identified.  It identifies areas where we need more work.  Look at what we know today compared to what we knew 10, 20, 50, or 100 years ago.  Can Hunter really claim this is some sort of fact failure?  The only failure is in his imagination.

A quick Google of some of his other 'failed facts' show similar issues, Hunter simply is representing them as fact failures, however they really aren't at all.  Some of them are reasonably understood, from an evolutionary standpoint, others less so.  But at no time can you call these failures.  Only a Creationists would call something we don't understand to the nth degree a failure.  I guess having a deity you can rely on to give you all the answers means you have no failures . . . also you have no successes.  After all, how many scientific advances can identify the point where Creationism/Intelligent Design entered and added something to the whole?  Yea, I get the same answer.  There aren't any!  Planes fly not because a deity wills it, but because of our understanding of many scientific theories. 

All Hunter has proven is science doesn't know everything.  Of course the scientific community has never said that it knows all.  That's a lie put forth by anti-science organizations, like the DI.  One of the common anti-science tactics is to build a strawman argument, demolish it and claim a victory.  In this case, the strawman is that science knows all, and then you point out a few things where the science isn't complete and claim science is all screwed up.  So which side is actually being honest in this discussion?

Actually this is a common tactic.  Remember the Dover Trial and Michael Behe?  Unlike Hunter here, who is only a Fellow at the DI, Behe is a 'Senior' Fellow, I'm not sure if that means smarter or simply older. Here's a quote from the decision:
"In fact, on cross-examination, Professor Behe was questioned concerning his 1996 claim that science would never find an evolutionary explanation for the immune system. He was presented with fifty-eight peer-reviewed publications, nine books, and several immunology textbook chapters about the evolution of the immune system; however, he simply insisted that this was still not sufficient evidence of evolution, and that it was not "good enough." (Wikipedia: Dover Decision)
So, I would also like to address this idea of Hunter's from a different angle.  Take any scientific theory, say Light, Gravity, Germs, or even Evolution.  Look back on a timeline and look at the changes to the theory as you go further and further back.  You will see an almost constant evolution [used in the context of 'change over time'] of the theories.  Does this sound like a community of people who reject new ideas and cling to their belief set?  Scientific advances are not made by re-hashing the old!  It would be hard to call them advances if all we are doing is running in place.  Picture the medical community of Darwin's day.  How would you like to be treated by those medical techniques?

So, Hunter . . . who has their head stuck in the sand when faced with fact that refute their belief system?  It sure doesn't sound like the scientific community is guilty here, but can you say the same? 


  1. Nice. I hope you get some following. If not, it still looks like you're having fun.

  2. Thanks Photosynthesis. If I wasn't enjoying this, I wouldn't do it :-) Some of my posts have made it to the Google News Feed, and one day one of them might annoy the DI enough to get a direct response. Guess a bucket list item :-)