Dispatches from the Creation Wars

dlamming’s Continued Obtuseness

dlamming is back with yet another post where he waves his hands frantically to distract from his own distortions and misrepresentations. He begins:

Well, after a number of back-and-forth comments, Ed Brayton finally said “I don’t believe that educated people in general have a good idea what evolution is about.” If that’s not elitist, I don’t know what is, so I think I’ve proved my point.

Except that he hasn’t shown me to be wrong in my claim that most educated people don’t have a good idea what evolutionary theory is all about. How exactly is it “elitist” to point out that people who may be quite knowledgable in one field are ignorant in other fields? If someone said that most writers probably don’t understand the internal workings of an automobile engine, is this “elitist”? Or is it simply a matter of reality? I know virtually nothing about cars. I wouldn’t even know how to go about changing the oil in my car. Is it “elitist” for someone to point out that I am ignorant on the subject? Of course not. I am, in fact, ignorant on the subject. That doesn’t mean I’m not capable of understanding it. If I had the interest in learning, I’m sure I could become quite knowledgable about the mechanics of a car. But I don’t. dlamming continues to insist that I am talking about whether most educated people can understand evolution, when in fact I’m talking about whether they do understand it.

What this all boils down to is that Ed Brayton, as well as many commenters, think evolution is hard. It’s not particularly hard – and it’s certainly not so difficult that any doctors or chemists are going to have trouble with it. In many ways, it’s similar to talking about physics – very, very few biologists are going to be able to do any of the math associated with general relativity, but the concept can be explained even to members of the general public in a few chapters of A Brief History of Time. Few doctors and chemists are probably able to walk straight into a lab and do PCR, or head out to a dig and excavate a fossil, but they’re still capable of understanding evolution – and I think most do.

This cretin just continues to insist on distorting my position. I have never said nor implied that educated people would “have trouble with” understanding evolution. If they took the time to study it, as I have, there is no reason why they would find it difficult to understand. I’ve said this now about 5 times, so the fact that dlamming continues to repeat this means that we’re not talking about an honest misunderstanding here, we’re talking about him intentionally distorting my position to make it easier to attack. Whether most educated people can understand evolution and whether they do understand evolution are two entirely different subject.

On what do I base my argument that most educated people don’t understand evolution? On 20 years of experience working with educated people and talking to them about it. More than any other subject, evolution is a subject that a great many people think they understand when in fact they don’t. How many bright people have you run into who believe that evolution has something to do with the origin of the universe? That belief is incredibly common, and not just among the ignorant. It’s also completely, totally, 100% false.

I’ve had conversations with dozens of medical professionals, nurses and doctors, who think that evolution posits that humans evolved from modern apes or monkeys. I can’t tell you how many otherwise educated academics I’ve talked to who think that we have never observed a new species evolving from an old one. If you took a poll of educated people in non-biology fields, how many do you think could tell you what the major taxonomic categories are? Or what gene duplication is? How many do you think could identify a phylogenetic tree or even give you the very basic order in which the major animal groups evolved (marine invertebrates —> marine vertebrates —> fish —> amphibians —> reptiles —> mammals and birds)? How many could tell you the difference between allopatric and sympatric speciation?

These are all very, very basic elements of an understanding of evolutionary theory, and I could easily go on listing more. It’s not an insult to say that most people don’t understand this stuff, even those who are otherwise well educated. It doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of understanding it, it just means they haven’t done the study necessary to do so, just as I haven’t done the study necessary to understand hundreds of subjects.

He says that he is surprised by the hostility his view has generated. That’s another distortion. It’s not your opinion that most educated people understand evolution that has generated hostility, it’s your blatantly dishonest debate tactics that have generated hostility. You continue to distort what has been said over and over and over again even after having had it explained to you repeatedly that you are building a straw man. That’s just plain dishonest behavior and it’s making you look very bad.

Comments

  1. #1 Ocellated
    February 28, 2006

    we’re not talking about an honest misunderstanding here, we’re talking about him intentionally distorting my position to make it easier to attack

    In other words, you’re saying he has problems with evolutionary theory…

  2. #2 Ian Gibson
    February 28, 2006

    Right. I know many educated people, but I am confident that less that 1/10 of them could correctly answer the questions you suggest in your post. I couldn’t have done until a couple of years ago when I became really interested in biology.

    And as you say, many people think they know what evolution is all about, but lots of the central concepts are either unknown or misunderstood (the “why are there still monkeys..?” question is amazingly common, in my experience).

  3. #3 Roger Tang
    February 28, 2006

    Well, after a number of back-and-forth comments, Ed Brayton finally said “I don’t believe that educated people in general have a good idea what evolution is about.” If that’s not elitist, I don’t know what is, so I think I’ve proved my point.

    dlamming should have stopped before the last seven words.

    By the same reasoning, it’d be elitist to say that educated people in general don’t have a good grasp of how their computers work. Hm. A stint on the help desk would cure that naive notion REAL fast.

    Given that, it’s not much of a step to think that a lot of education people don’t know evolution works (even more so given the abysmal way it’s been taught over the last few decades). Only an idiot…or someone who couldn’t accept evolution even if God Himself approved of it….would deny it.

  4. #4 Raging Bee
    February 28, 2006

    And once again, the guy’s getting bitch-slapped in two places (not by me this itme), and all he can do is repeat the same “arguments” over and over. I think you’ve pretty well established that this guy has no interest in actual honest debate.

    The IDiots have run away, having been thoroughly discredited in a public courtroom with no excuse, and we’re left with the special-ed set who have only learned the simplest talking-points.

  5. #5 Roger Tang
    February 28, 2006

    The IDiots have run away, having been thoroughly discredited in a public courtroom with no excuse, and we’re left with the special-ed set who have only learned the simplest talking-points.

    Hm, yes….I notice on Red State Rabble a rather persistent troll on radiometric dating….

  6. #6 dlamming
    February 28, 2006

    Well Ed, if you prefer to use anecdotal evidence rather than conduct a true survey, bully for you. It’s no less than I should have expected from someone who still hasn’t explained why he thinks that 75 engineers is “a lot” but 128 is “a few”.

    And for that matter, I think your questions are pretty ridiculous. You can King-Phillip-Can-Order-Fresh-Green-Salad all you wish (and docs are GREAT at memorization), but that in no way relates to an understanding of evolution. A better question would be open-ended, something along the lines of “Are you familiar with the theory of evolution? Can you explain it to us?”, with perhaps more specialized follow-up questions.

  7. #7 Ed Brayton
    February 28, 2006

    dlemming…err, dlamming wrote:

    Well Ed, if you prefer to use anecdotal evidence rather than conduct a true survey, bully for you.

    LOL. It has nothing to do with what I prefer. It’s not as though I’m in a position to conduct a formal study on this issue, so I can only speak from my own experience having been involved with this issue and involved with academic organizations for 20 years. The amusing part is that you can’t even offer that much. You just keep repeating “I think they understand it” over and over again. And you have yet to respond to the compelling argument that even those who signed the DI’s statement, by the very act of signing it with the idea that it accurately represents the theory of evolution, have shown that they don’t understand it well themselves.

    It’s no less than I should have expected from someone who still hasn’t explained why he thinks that 75 engineers is “a lot” but 128 is “a few”.

    You’re nothing if not consistent. Yet another example of willful distortion of what I said. Everyone else seems to have understood that I was speaking in relative terms. Since only about 25% of the list are made up of biologists, that is “few” relative to the total number. Engineers and doctors were just representative of the range of non-biologists who signed the list. Having already explained this to you twice, this is more intentional distortion on your part. Not that anyone is going to be surprised by that.

    And for that matter, I think your questions are pretty ridiculous. You can King-Phillip-Can-Order-Fresh-Green-Salad all you wish (and docs are GREAT at memorization), but that in no way relates to an understanding of evolution.

    What the fuck are you babbling about? The questions that I asked are all directly related to an understanding of evolution. Do you really think that someone can reasonably evaluate the validity of evolution if they don’t understand the patterns of appearance in the fossil record? Or the nature of phylogenetic trees? Or the various mechanisms by which genetic variation is created or preserved? The things I listed were just the first few off the top of my head, there are many more things that someone needs to have at least a rudimentary understanding of before they are even minimally qualified to reach a conclusion on the subject or claim a basic understanding of it. This seems to be obvious to everyone but you, which probably ought to be a clue.

  8. #8 Roger Tang
    February 28, 2006

    Like I said, if God Himself came on down and said, “dlamming, you don’t have a clue,” he’d deny it.

    Far too full of himself, and absolutely convinced of his rightness, despite all the other folks who are pointing out the flaws.

  9. #9 Raging Bee
    February 28, 2006

    Ed: Did you ever think you’d find a creationist on this blog who made Gibbons look intelligent?

    dlamming: You still haven’t touched on the subject of the total lack of peer-reviewed papers, or any other real science, disproving evolution or describing any testable hypotheses that might validate ID. Without real science, ID just isn’t science. And facts and phenomena aren’t explained by petitions.

  10. #10 dlamming
    February 28, 2006

    Wow Ed, you really don’t take criticism well, do you? You and Roger are really quite the pair, with your profanity and your willingness to insult others. Do you get paid to curse, or does that come free with your snide attitude towards those who would dare discuss evolution without having a degree in evolutionary biology?

  11. #11 dlamming
    February 28, 2006

    Oh, and raging bee – I haven’t touched the creationism or ID with 10-foot pole here. You guys are the ones who insist on bringing it up – my first post on this clearly uses Brayton’s post only as one example of scientific elitism on a variety of topics- nothing to do with ID.

  12. #12 Raging Bee
    February 28, 2006

    Okay, dlamming, elevate the debate for us, eh?

    Oh, and: anyone who actually looks at your blog (by following the link Ed provided in the interest of fairness) can see that several reasonable statements were met with a single short name-calling post by you, which refused to address the substance of their actual arguments.

    And, just so you know, the anonymous post was me.

  13. #13 Raging Bee
    February 28, 2006

    So you take a position very much like that of a creationist, including name-calling and explicitly citing a dishonest statement by creationists, and now you’re running away from that position and denying you were ever there?

  14. #14 Ed Brayton
    February 28, 2006

    dlamming wrote:

    Wow Ed, you really don’t take criticism well, do you?

    I take criticism just fine. I don’t take intentional distortion of my position well, nor do I think anyone should. You’ve been caught doing that repeatedly in this exchange, even after being corrected multiple times. That makes you a liar in my book.

    You and Roger are really quite the pair, with your profanity and your willingness to insult others. Do you get paid to curse, or does that come free with your snide attitude towards those who would dare discuss evolution without having a degree in evolutionary biology?

    And here is yet another example of you intentionally lying about my position. I can’t possibly have a snide attitude toward those who “dare discussion evolution without having a degree in evolutionary biology” because I discuss evolution without having a degree in evolutionary biology. But you know that, and you know perfectly well – because it’s been explained to you about a dozen times now – that my objection is not to those who discuss evolution without a degree but to those who pass themselves off as authorities on the subject without having the training or experience to support such a claim of authority. But you know that, yet you continue to lie about it and distort my position. If you can’t answer my real position, an honest person would just admit that. A dishonest person attributes a different position, one that is easier to dispute, to their opponent. As you have proven over and over again, you are simply a liar who cannot hold an honest argument. Your pride just won’t let you back down, so all you can do is continue to dig the hole a little deeper every time you come back. Give up, man. You already look bad enough.

  15. #15 Ed Brayton
    February 28, 2006

    And I love the fact that you’re feigning such outrage at profanity. Oh my god, someone swore at you! Call your mommy, fast! Give me a break. If you insist on lying about what someone says long enough, you’re probably going to manage to piss them off. If you want to avoid being called a fucking asshole, my advice is to stop being a fucking asshole.

  16. #16 Raging Bee
    February 28, 2006

    I also notice that dlamming has deleted at least one response to his first post. Doppleganger must have said something really horrid, to be barred by the likes of dlamming! ;-)

  17. #17 Big C
    March 1, 2006

    Since I inadvertently initiated this whole exchange, I tried to sum up all the relevant points on my blog here. Maybe dlamming will find it convincing.

    By the way, Ed, actually dlamming didn’t delete Doppleganger’s post. Blogger allows commenters to delete their own comments on other blogs, and the message says, “This post has been removed by the author.” Which I take to mean the author of the comment. Blogger allows bloggers to purge comments from their own blogs completely with no visible trace. I’ve done it myself to remove spam comments on my own blog. Doppleganger must have deleted his comment for his own reasons.

  18. #18 Roger Tang
    March 1, 2006

    Wow Ed, you really don’t take criticism well, do you? You and Roger are really quite the pair, with your profanity and your willingness to insult others. Do you get paid to curse, or does that come free with your snide attitude towards those who would dare discuss evolution without having a degree in evolutionary biology?

    Sloppy argument. This is another distraction to avoid the criticism that you yourself do not take well. You accuse others of that you yourself are guilty of.

    Once again, you’re create straw men. You’re not dealing with the actual substance of the criticism that has been pointed at you. When called on it, you continue to distort and flat out lie.

    Nothing was said about degrees…just knowledge. It’s poor rhetoric to equate the two…and when it gets pointed out to you, it’s extremely poor form to keep saying those who would dare discuss evolution without having a degree in evolutionary biology?

    Can you deal with the actual points that people bring up? Or will you evade yet again by attacking your opponents and not their criiticism? Are you going to keep yammering about degrees when your critics are NOT talking about them?

  19. #19 slpage
    March 1, 2006

    As unsavory as it is, yes, Doppelganger deleted his own post. That is to say, I deleted that post (Doppelganger is my ‘blogger’ name), and i did so because I had made too many typos.

    But this whole exchange is quite interesting. It always interests me to see how people will simply refuse to admt error and move on. One of the problems of the Internet, in my view, is that it allows people to boost their ego by being idiots.

  20. #20 Dave S.
    March 1, 2006

    Ed writes:

    It’s not as though I’m in a position to conduct a formal study on this issue, so I can only speak from my own experience having been involved with this issue and involved with academic organizations for 20 years.

    I’m wondering how such a survey can even be conducted. For instance, if you ask a “highboy” if he understands evolution, undoubtably he will say ‘Yes, absolutely!’. And when you conduct the follow up questions, how do you determine whether he actually does or merely thinks he does, without using “elitism” of some kind? Who decides what the correct understanding is?

  21. #21 Ed Brayton
    March 1, 2006

    For the record, I was not the one speculating about whether doppleganger had deleted his own post. It’s really not relevant to this discussion.

  22. #22 Big C
    March 1, 2006

    Oops, sorry Ed. That was meant for Raging Bee. I misread who was the author of that particular post. And I agree it’s not relevant to the discussion.

  23. #23 Raging Bee
    March 1, 2006

    Sorry, I misread the message that signalled the deletion. I’ve seen my responses deleted from LaShawn Barber’s blog, and the deletions (hers, not mine) were signalled by a similar message. Thus I thought “author” meant “the author of the blog,” not the respondent. Never mind…

  24. #24 tsynnott
    March 1, 2006

    Who knew Science could be this much (close your eyes dlamming) fucking (ok, you can open them now) fun!