Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Shouldn't a Critique Actually Critique?

Here we see one of the usual tactics by those less-than-stalwart fellows at the Discovery Institute (DI).  Simply put they take the work by other people and rather than doing any actual research, they simply editorialize it to spin it in either an anti-evolution or a pro-intelligent Design way -- or both when they think they can get away with it.  This is one of the anti-evolution ones: "“Shared Error” Argument: Olfactory Receptor Genes Prove Common Descent?"

Professors' Dennis Venema and Scot McKnight co-wrote a book, Adam and the Genome, which has apparently annoyed the DI. One interesting note that instead of referring to the authors as 'professors', Cornelius Hunter (DI talking head, although not a very prolific one), says this:

"co-authored by theistic evolutionists Dennis Venema and Scot McKnight"
Venema has a PhD is Biology and is a professor of biology at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia. McKnight has a PhD from the University of Nottingham and is a professor at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, IL.  Obviously anti-evolutionist Hunter has little regard for them and immediately labels them as an enemy of the ID crowd.  I figure I can call Hunter that in the same way he referred to the two professors as theistic evolutionists.

You see the DI doesn't like Theistic Evolution for a few reasons:
  • Theistic Evolution more wraps a theistic explanation around evolution, where the DI wants to throw evolution out completely so they can slide in their own theistic explanation.  
  • The DI likes to disavow themselves of their theistic underpinnings and hide their religion.  Anything that smacks of religion is something they run away from as quickly as their little legs can carry them.  
  • Theistic Evolutionists tend to be quite critical of the DI and its quaint little notion of Intelligent Design.  As we know anyone critical of the DI and ID is the treated with disdain by the DI.
I believe they would prefer all theistic evolution proponents would drop their religious concepts and get under the big-tent of anti-evolutionism until such time as evolution is abolished and then they can fight out all the details with all the other various theistic groups.

Yes, I am writing about two theists who wrote a book, but I am not critiquing the book, I am critiquing how anti-evolutionist Hunter critiqued the book.  Did he offer any support for the various things he said?  No.  His main argument is a common one at the DI.  Basically, he says biology is complicated, thereby it cannot have happened through a natural process, like evolution.

There, you can read his much longer diatribe, but when you boil it down, that's what you get.  If you really want to dig deeper, look at his basic issues with the book:
  • Issue 1: "First, the olfactory system is profoundly complex." See, complex and we know how the DI deals with complexity
  • Issue 2: "The olfactory system is no exception. Its several fundamental components, if evolution is true, must have evolved several times independently." A re-statement of being complex.
  • Issue 3: " . . . the strength of this evolution argument is lack of function, but that renders it fallacious."  This is not an argument as much as an unsupported statement -- another favorite tactic.  Where is his support for this statement?  Nowhere to be found.
That's pretty much it.  His functionality whine completely ignores the genetic evidence for common descent.  But that's how the DI works, builds up an argument on one facet and completely ignore other facets.  Then they go on as if their argument is gospel without a single supporting fact -- just more opinion and wishful thinking.

Anti-evolutionist Hunter sort of quotes Elliot Sober, which makes me think this is a quote mine:
"Evolution fails to explain how even a single gene could evolve, let alone the entire olfactory system. In fact the presence of supposedly useless structures, such as pseudogenes, is hardly a plus for evolution. As Elliott Sober has pointed out, there is nothing about this story that provides a positivistic argument for evolution."
I believe Sober's quote concerned the discussion whether the gene or the genome is the evolutionary 'target'.  Sober is a noted critic of the 'gene-centered view of Evolution', so the evolution process for a single gene wouldn't be overly important to Sober.  It is funny that Hunter would quote Sober, who is a noted critic of Intelligent Design:
"This article reviews two standard criticisms of creationism/intelligent design (ID)): it is unfalsifiable, and it is refuted by the many imperfect adaptations found in nature. Problems with both criticisms are discussed. A conception of testability is described that avoids the defects in Karl Popper's falsifiability criterion. Although ID comes in multiple forms, which call for different criticisms, it emerges that ID fails to constitute a serious alternative to evolutionary theory."
(Elliot Sober, 2007, What is wrong with intelligent design?, Abstract) 
Gotta love that last piece: 'it emerges that ID fails to constitute a serious alternative to evolutionary theory'.  I bet that's one reason Hunter tries to work in a quote-mine from pro-evolution Sober, I mean if you can use some of your critic's words, you can make it sound as if he isn't really a critic.

I have to wonder how he and Behe, who agrees with common descent, get along?

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