One thing I noticed during the years I spent attending YEC conferences was the extent to which pseudointellectualism was an integral part of their culture. The leaders of the movement frequently behaved in ways reminiscent of how non-scientists imagine that scientists behave.
This is definitely a point of commonality between YEC and ID. A recent case in point is this post from Cornelius Hunter, a frequent contributor to Uncommon Descent. If you are unfamiliar with Hunter’s writing, his big theme, repeated in almost every one of his posts, is that evolution is purely a religious belief, not at all justified by the available scientific evidence.
The post is titled, “If You Understand Nothing Else About Evolution, Understand IFF.” The conceit that Hunter is the clear-thinking sage with a deep understanding of evolution, graciously coming down from on high to explain things to the rabble, is rather pompous, to put it kindly.
By “IFF” Hunter is referring to the logical connective “if and only if.” To make a statement of the form “P if and only if Q” is to say that the two statements are logically equivalent. That is, if one of them is known to be true then the other must be true as well, and if one of them is known to be false then the other must be false.
Hunter explains the significance of this for evolution:
Evolution does not necessarily exclude Adam and Eve and the Fall, and evolution is not a scientific conclusion, obvious or otherwise. For Christians to reckon with evolution they must understand evolution. And to understand evolution, they must understand IFF. Understanding IFF does not force one’s position on evolution, but it does force one’s understanding of evolution…
And while this is a perfectly good use of IFF, IFF has no place in scientific hypotheses. A scientist would never say “if and only if my hypothesis is true, then we will observe a certain observation.”
Scientists use hypotheses to make predictions, but they cannot know that a particular hypothesis is the only explanation for a observation. So scientists say “If hypothesis H, then observation O,” but they never say “if and only if H, then O.”
IFF is a religious truth claim, and not scientific statement, because it entails knowledge of all possible explanations. And science affords no such knowledge.
But while IFF is not scientific, it lies at the very heart of evolutionary thought. For example, the practically official motto of evolution is that “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” This phrase shows up repeatedly in evolutionary papers and every evolutionist believes it. Yet it is an IFF statement (you can see why here).
The link is to another of Hunter’s posts. Follow it at your peril.
Now, the expression that nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution comes from Theodosius Dobzhansky. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that Dobzhansky did not need to be schooled in elementary logic.
Dobzhansky’s statement is obviously not an iff statement. If he had meant, “As a matter of logic, evolution and only evolution can explain the data biologists have collected,” then he would have said that. Instead he referred to what makes sense, which is far different from discussing what is logically necessary. It is trivial to come up with logically possible scenarios that would account for the biological data without reference to evolution. It is far more difficult to come up with something plausible that does so, and that is plainly what Dobzhansky had in mind.
But Hunter has a second example:
Here is a typical example, from this week, of how evolutionary thinking entails IFF and how, for evolutionists, it proves evolution to be true. See if you can find the IFF statement in this quote (hint: I’m giving you some help):
Why am I as sure as I could be of any thing in science that humans and other primates have common ancestors? There are millions of complex mutations (transposable element insertions and other insertions or deletions as well as multiple point mutations in proximity) that are exactly reproduced at the corresponding (orthologous) locations in the human genome and in chimp and in many cases gorilla, orangutan and even gibbon and other monkey genomes. In the case of individual transposon insertions, the peculiarities of the particular event, e.g. the degree of truncation or the specific rearrangement of the element, the exact length of the short direct repeats that flank the insertion, are reproduced in the genomes of different species. The age of the insertion, as estimated by the sequence divergence of the transposable element sequence, matches the age determined by which species contain the insertion (the phylogenetic age) of the insertion. The same kind of observations on the inactivating mutations in unitary pseudogenes that are shared by multiple species confirm that these are records in multiple species of the same mutation events occurring millions of years ago during the branching descent of these species. If you look at really ancient transposon insertions, they tell the same story about mammals in general. There is no way to account for these millions of genomic observations in multiple species except common descent. That is what biologists are talking about when they say evolution is a fact. It is possible to argue from now on about mechanisms of evolution, but the starting point is common descent. These observations about genomes don’t depend at all on any theory of the mechanism of evolution, whether all the mutations are really “random,” or whether the elements involved have since acquired some function. The process of insertion of these elements has been very thoroughly studied for several decades and the results are clear.
There you have it. This is the essence of evolutionary thought, and it is not scientific. Here the evolutionist explains that there is “no way” to account for observations O, except for on his hypothesis, H. This is equivalent to claiming that if and only if H, then O.
Science simply cannot provide this sort of knowledge. And likewise, science cannot be used to refute such a claim. Evolutionary truth claims are not vulnerable to science, for they are not scientific to begin with.
The inner quotation comes from a comment left at a blog post at BioLogos. The commenter makes a strong argument, don’t you think? Notice that Hunter makes no attempt to provide an explanation other than common descent for the facts the commenter points to. I’d say the commenter is behaving very scientifically indeed.
But he is not talking about logical certainties. Hunter has to twist what the commenter said to make it appear that he was doing so. But when you consider that the commenter started by saying merely that he was as certain as he could be of anything in science, and did not say he was logically certain of evolution, it seems clear that Hunter is being silly.
In his essay collection Ever Since Darwin, Stephen Jay Gould, replying to the old creationist chestnut that natural selection is just a meaningless tautology, wrote, “We are always ready to watch a theory fall under the impact of new data, but we do not expect a great and influential theory to collapse from a logical error in its formulation.” Indeed. Creationists love the idea that several generations of scientists have simply overlooked elementary logical fallacies in their arguments, but to everyone else it says more about the person making the argument.