New CSICOP Column

My new essay for CSICOP’s Creation and Intelligent Design Watch site is now available. This time: My take on the old tautology argument, inspired by Ann Coulter and Tom Bethell. I argue – surprise! – that natural selection is not a meaningless tautology. Enjoy!

Comments

  1. #1 Jason
    June 28, 2006

    The tautology argument was well featured in Darwin on Trial by Phillip Johnson too.

  2. #2 Joe
    June 28, 2006

    Jason, good article. Here is a resource that came to my attention yesterday:
    Arguments we think creationists should NOT use
    http://www.answersingenesis.org/Home/Area/faq/dont_use.asp

    The tautology argument is way down the page.

  3. #3 Brent Nichols
    June 28, 2006

    Wonderfual article as always, Jason. I was happy to read this as I was recently looking for the best way to refute the tautology argument, and I wasn’t able to find anything in the “Index to Creationist Claims” (http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/). Your article was perfect, however. Thanks!

    What do you think of the argument that tautologies aren’t necessarily a bad thing since by definition they are true. For instance a(b+c) = a*b + a*c is a tautology, but that doesn’t mean it’s meaningless or useless. Or is it better to just point out that natural selection doesn’t involve a tautology in the first place?

  4. #4 Jason Rosenhouse
    June 28, 2006

    Jason -

    In addition to Johnson, David Berlinski used it in his article “The Deniable Darwin&rdquo.

    Joe-

    I’m aware that AiG includes the tautology argument among their arguments that creationists shouldn’t use. But their explanation of why it shouldn’t be used is rather mealy-mouthd and misses all the important points. I might do a separate blog entry about their brief discussion of the issue.

    Brent Nichols-

    The point about tautologies being useful is another line of attack against the creationist argument. As I recall, Elliot Sober discusses this point in one of his books. As you note, all mathematical theorems are tautologies, but that does not render them useless. I don’t see this as the main difficulty with the creationist argument, however, which is why I didn’t mention it in my essay. The main problem with the creationist argument is simply that the definitin of fitness has nothing to do with those that survive to the next generation.

  5. #5 Paul Epps
    July 1, 2006

    Hi Jason –

    Good article, but your gratuitous conclusion is as illogical as anything you’re attempting to refute:

    “That Coulter would raise the issue so snidely, and have her book sell very well as a result, proves that knowing what you are talking about has no value for many on the political right.”

    What evidence do you have that

    a) Coulter’s book sales are the result of her views on evolution?

    b) People buying the book necessarily agree with her arguments on evolution?

    I suspect that many people who buy the book *do* agree with her on evolution, but just because they’ve come to believe something illogical on one particular topic doesn’t imply that they place no value on knowledge,