Meanwhile, just in case you were looking for something truly stupid, go gawk in amazement at this column by David Warren of The Ottawa Citizen. Here’s the opening:
I get such apoplectic letters, whenever I write about “evolutionism,” that I really can’t resist writing about it again. This is not, of course, because I have any desire to tease such correspondents. Perish the thought. Rather, when a writer finds he has hit such a nerve, he can also know that he is approaching a great truth.
Wow! That’s total amatuer hour.
Anytime you’re reading a columnist who boasts that the negative correspondence he recieves is evidence of his penetrating insight, you’re dealing with an amateur. Anytime you’re reading a columnist who uses the cliche, “Perish the thought” as a way of suggesting sardonically that what he just denied is actually true, you’re dealing with an amateur.
And of course, any time you’re reading a columnist who uses the expression “evolutionism,” you’re dealing with an amateur, at best.
Here’s Warren analyzing the motives of his correspondents:
In this case, we must ask ourselves why so many people get so excited about an area of science that should not concern them. For most of these correspondents know precious little science, and haven’t the stamina to engage in detailed argument. They are simply shocked and appalled that anyone would dream of challenging what they believe to be the consensus of “qualified experts,” whom they assume are a closed camp of hard-bitten materialists, with no time for religious or poetical flights.
Oh, yes, we really must ask ourselves that. I mean, obviously there is something wrong with you if you care about gross distortions in areas of science that do not have a direct impact on your life. Surely his correspondent’s couldn’t think that the promotion of gross scientific ignorance might have an effect on them that goes beyond the specifics of the part of science being grossly distorted. What could the answer possibly be?
The answer to this question is clear enough. People without a stake in a controversy pay little or no attention to it. They will hardly be vexed by assertions of one party or another, when the result of the controversy cannot touch their lives. It is rather when a person does have a stake, that he begins to care.
It follows that my most apoplectic correspondents have a stake in evolutionary controversies. They imagine themselves to have an impersonal interest in defending science against “religious superstition,” and the dangers to society that the latter might present. They in fact have strong and uncompromising religious beliefs of their own, which they are loath to have questioned.
Follow the logic? When letter writers respond to Warren’s ignorance by writing angry letters, this is evidence of brain damage and an irrational desire to prop up atheism. But when he, who likewise has no personal stake in the evolution controversies, writes multiple columns about evolution specifically to oppose atheism (as he makes explicit later in the column) that’s evidence of his own perspicacity and good humor. Makes perfect sense.
So does Warren actually know anything about science? You would think that anyone audacious enough to diagnose that condition in others would be careful to at least get a few facts right. Let’s see how Warren did:
Much of the “star chamber” atmosphere, that has accompanied the public invigilation of microbiologists such as Michael J. Behe, and other very qualified scientists working on questions of design in natural systems, can only be explained in this way. The establishment wants such research to be stopped, because it challenges the received religious order, of atheist materialism. Any attempt, or suspected attempt, to acknowledge God in scientific proceedings, must be exposed and punished to the limit of the law; or by other ruthless means where the law does not suffice.
Wants such research stopped? Is he kidding? The “establishment” has spent the last decade telling ID folks to start doing some research. What we want stopped is the relentless propagandizing about their claimed success in overturning a century and a half of research in biology and paleontology, the outright lying to the public about the state of modern science, the ceaseless lobbying of school boards to include ID as a legitimate scientific theory despite its complete inability to produce a single useful result for scientists, and their relentless demonization of scientists. If the ID folks actually did some research and produced actual results, they would be taken a lot more seriously.
My friends, with that we leave behind the relatively sensible part of Warren’s column.
This last week we learned of the collapse of one of the latest props of “deep evolutionism,” which was also one of the earliest (the ancient Greeks first thought of it): The very popular “panspermian” hypothesis that life was first seeded on the earth by materials arriving in comets. It has been kicked away by Paul Falkowski, and other biologists and oceanographers from Rutgers and Boston universities, studying DNA samples frozen in the Antarctic ice. (See, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.) They showed nothing of any earthly genetic use could have survived.
Like every other modern essay in “evolutionism” (i.e. evolution as a religious cosmology), the idea behind panspermianism is to transfer the problem of life’s origin on earth, out of the finite space and time of the earth’s own geological history, and into some abstract place where the laws of chance have an infinite amount of time to do whatever is necessary. But the game is almost up. We can now roughly date the origin of our universe, and 15 billion years more-or-less is proving much too short a time for random processes to produce a non-random result. Fifteen billion times 15 billion years is still not nearly enough time.
Oh. My. God. What in the world is this guy talking about? Panspermia is a prop of “deep evolutionism,” (whatever that is)? Panspermia has nothing to do with evolution. It’s not even a theory about the origin of life. It is merely a suggestion about how important components of life first appeared on Earth, and one that has never been especially popular among scientists at that.
And whatever else panspermia is, it is not an “essay.” Maybe he meant “assay,” which would at least make sense, though it would still be a strange way of putting it. As for “random processes producing a non-random result,” that is just the standard brain-dead argle-bargle of the religiously motivated scientific ignoramus. It is pure gibberish. Needless to say, Warren has precisely zero basis for asserting what is and is not possible in fifteen billion years.
We may as well ponder Warren’s closing:
Those who refuse to acknowledge God, will not give up. Most have by now moved on to hypotheses about “multiple universes,” in the hope that by allowing an infinite number of other universes in which random processes produced random results, we can excuse this one for being so exceptionally non-random.
Oh for heaven’s sake. Multiple universes also have nothing to do evolution, and they have nothing to do with panspermia either. You do not “move on” from panspermia to multiple universes.
Basically, what we have here is a standard example of what happens when right-wingers try to defend their religious views by appealing to science. They gather together a few talking points culled from their fellow fanatics, mangle them, present them in an utterly incoherent form, and then smile knowingly, certain they have landed a death blow against those on the other side. It never even crosses their mind that they don’t have the faintest idea what they are talking about, or that seriously understanding any branch of modern science requires something more than reading a few newspaper articles or popularizations.
The Discovery Institute blog, by the way, linked favorably to Warren’s essay. Enough said.