Pharyngula

Another day, another ignorant pundit

Today, it’s Peter Hitchens’ turn to make a mealy-mouthed appeal for an unearned respect for Intelligent Design creationism. This one is another generic whine, begging that people be fair and give some version of equal time to an underdog heterodoxy…creationism. After all, the only possible reason scientists could accept the idea of evolution is because they’ve mysteriously and unfairly acquired a dominant position, and this brand of pundit doesn’t stop to consider why it’s so popular. I think it’s a kind of projection: they’ve acquired this unearned position of authority, so they can’t imagine that any other idea could have gotten to where it is on merit.

My first complaint: an argument that is sprinkled with “Darwinism” and “Darwinist” used so generically is clearly derived from the creationist literature — it is an amazingly useful clue, a kind of written tic that tips us off every time, rather as if someone used the term “Newtonists” in a discussion of modern physics. Hitchens flings the term about ten times in his short essay.

The proper terms to use are “biology” and “evolutionary biologists”.

Since Darwinism is orthodoxy, on which many careers have been built and continue to prosper, is it likely that an attack which threatens that orthodoxy is going to be sympathetically treated by other scientists?

Oh, where to begin—again, Hitchens is using an inappropriate term to bias the argument. “Darwinism” (that stupid term again) is not an orthodoxy. It’s a well-supported theory that is constantly being tested and revised. Scientists do no build prosperous careers on reinforcing the status quo—they do so on challenging ideas and coming up with new explanations and evidence. If you want an outline for a generic introduction to a science paper, here it is: “Dr X says this process happens in such-and-such a way; here is my unique twist on this phenomenon, that explains it in a superior way.” Papers that don’t offer anything at all new tend to get published in lower tier journals, if at all.

Now, why should we expect attacks on ideas to be treated sympathetically? There’s this kind of pre-school plaint to the creationists: that science is just so darned mean, and why don’t they treat my proposal gently? That’s simply not the way it works. Good science involves a lot of vociferous argument and academic in-fighting, and no new idea should expect to enter the field without question and without some fierce assaults…the weak ideas will wither and die, the good ones will survive. Asking for special, gentle treatment is an invitation for a particularly brutal savaging.

But Darwinism is all about events that happened when there was nobody there to witness them. And it is also about events which – if happening now – are happening too slowly for anyone to live long enough to see them. It is amazing how many supporters of this theory cannot see the difference between the micro-evolution of adaptation or alteration within species, and the far more ambitious developments of macro-evolution, in my view qualitatively different, which Darwinists believe in.

Oh, bleh…the usual “historical science” canard. That something happens slowly (or too quickly) or distantly (or on too small or too large a scale) so that one person can’t sit there and watch it happen directly before his favorite program comes up on the TV is one of the dumbest arguments in the creationist arsenal. It rules out all of astronomy and astrophysics and geology and cosmology and chemistry and anything that involves something more than a naive sense of naked eye measurement. How can you say glaciers covered much of the northern hemisphere? Were you there? No, but I can see the effects of their movement on the modern landscape. How can you say a star is carrying out nuclear reactions and producing new elements? Have you visited one? No, but an astronomer can interpret the spectra he measures. How can you claim that a reaction occurred in that tiny volume? All you see is one drop of clear fluid, and later it’s still a drop of clear fluid. Hey, chemists have sensitive devices like chromatographs and NMR gadgets that let them see what your eyes can’t.

We can see the effects of history on modern individuals. We can sequence genes, measure protein polymorphisms, follow patterns in morphology and see the record of macroevolutionary changes as clearly in life on earth as an astronomer can track stellar history in a Hertzsprung-Russell diagram. That the ignorant are unwilling to read the data is not an argument, but it’s one they drag out with annoying frequency.

The fossil record is full of gaps and highly ambiguous. Species appear and disappear suddenly, which I should have thought would upset the Darwinist position quite badly, but somehow doesn’t.

The fossil record is not at all ambiguous: it reveals a history of radical turnover and change, exactly what evolutionary biology expects, and the body of evidence on which evolution was based. The appearance and disappearance of species is something that ought to perturb creationists far more—the fixity of species is historically part of creationist religious dogma, an absolute that has only recently begun to be loosened as they grasp incomprehendingly at the micro-/macro-evolutionary distinction in the forlorn hope that recognizing a small part of the evidence for change will spare them from complete irrelevance.

It’s a rule that creationists have to indulge us with hysterically ironic remarks. Hitchens does not disappoint.

All I ask is that people keep thinking about this, don’t get frightened of doing so, and don’t try to frighten others into orthodoxy, or to misrepresent opponents’ positions.

The only orthodoxy here is Christian and Islamic fundamentalism, which demands obedience to a religious interpretation of the evidence, and which tries to frighten people into accepting it with threats of hell and various punishments for even considering competing scientific interpretations. The biggest irony, though, is that this clueless dingleberry has babbled his ignorance of science aloud, and ends by piously begging others not to misrepresent the creationists.

OK, I won’t misrepresent Peter Hitchens. I’ll just point out that he’s a dishonest, sanctimonious fraud.

Comments

  1. #1 MissPrism
    December 6, 2006

    Argh! The Mail! The Mail!
    They had a lovely evo-psych piece up on Monday too.

  2. #2 Ray
    December 6, 2006

    I note, though, that the majority of responders (who appear to be British) identify his article for the hogwash it is. The only one who agrees with him is from the US. Still, it’s very unsettling to me to think that the land where I was born could be headed down this wretched path.

  3. #3 quork
    December 6, 2006

    This can be summarised in the words ‘I have no idea who is right… and nor have they’.

    “I am too undeducated to have any idea what I’m talking about, yet somehow I possess the expertise to criticise my opponents.” What a rube.

  4. #4 Alex
    December 6, 2006

    PZ,

    I like your projection idea. Good stuff.
    It also occured to me that they reagrd just about everything that science has to offer without merit. The exceptions, of course, are those things which they think give empirical credibility to their myth-fantasy. They just love rigorous skeptical inquiry as long as it doesn’t challenge their world-view.

  5. #5 Stanton
    December 6, 2006

    OK, I won’t misrepresent Peter Hitchens. I’ll just point out that he’s a dishonest, sanctimonious fraud.

    You also forgot that he wouldn’t understand science if he was given a play-by-play of how a chigoe flea leads to the amputation of a toe.

  6. #6 E-gal
    December 6, 2006

    He says:
    “Since Darwinism is orthodoxy, on which many careers have been built and continue to prosper, is it likely that an attack which threatens that orthodoxy is going to be sympathetically treated by other scientists?”

    I think becoming a member of the Priestcraft is a much less demanding career path and probably more lucrative.
    And they are far more sympathetic to one another than are scientists or even engineers.
    Many of the evangelical priests start a church and name their wife and kids as their board of directors who also take a salary. The the church is passed down like a dynasty to the children.
    I feel that there are probaly many priestly agnostics, but wait, what an easy way to make a living….shhhhhhh.

  7. #7 commissarjs
    December 6, 2006

    In a nutshell, “Your preoccupation with evidence and repeatability makes it really hard to validate my set of unsupported beliefs. You are all a bunch of meanies and need to stop your fancy “Science” because the results you are coming up with contradict what I want to be true. Why can’t you be like those nice boys over at the discovery institute? I don’t understand what they are sayin either but it sure sounds comfortable and close to what I want to be true.”

  8. #8 E-gal
    December 6, 2006

    Comm,
    Perfect persective on that.
    That reminds me of Pastor Mummert after the verdict in the Doverv Kitzmiller trial who said “We’ve been attacked by the intelligent, educated segment of the culture.” — Pastor Ray Mummert, Dover, PA
    Damn, don’t you just hate those intelligent educated people always piping up with some articulate thoughtful comment just when you think you’ve created a perfect storm of dust and bogus propoganda?

  9. #9 Great White Wonder
    December 6, 2006

    The fossil record is full of gaps and highly ambiguous. Species appear and disappear suddenly, which I should have thought would upset the Darwinist position quite badly, but somehow doesn’t. All I ask is that people keep thinking about this

    Geebus, Hitchens, how about YOU think about it before writing your miserable ignorant dreck. You really think the world’s scientists are such stupid sheep that for the last century they’ve allowed themselves to be completely deluded?

    Then **prove it**, asshole. Good luck.

  10. #10 clare
    December 6, 2006

    I note, though, that the majority of responders (who appear to be British) identify his article for the hogwash it is.

    I wish I could say the same thing for the comments that followed the execrable evo-psych article, also at Daily Mail, that the first commenter noted. If the comments give us a snapshot of anything, I sincerely hope that British support for creationism never reaches the levels of its support for brain-dead evo-psych sexism.

    Back to Hitchens though, did you read his biography (helpful hyperlink to the right of the article)? He’s clearly an absolute nutter …

  11. #11 mark
    December 6, 2006

    Does this twit expect to be taken any more seriously than the numerous other, retired dish washers and used-car salesmen that made the exact same arguments in dover, Pennsylvania? Does he want us to believe he is any more credible than those many uneducated rubes across the country who say the same things, because they read them somewhere in a Chick tract?

  12. #12 Richard
    December 6, 2006

    Wow. He makes his brother Christopher actually look good.

  13. #13 Ginger Yellow
    December 6, 2006

    My first complaint: an argument that is sprinkled with “Darwinism” and “Darwinist” used so generically is clearly derived from the creationist literature — it is an amazingly useful clue, a kind of written tic that tips us off every time, rather as if someone used the term “Newtonists” in a discussion of modern physics

    I’ll give you an even more useful clue: it’s an opinion piece on science in the Mail.

    He makes his brother Christopher actually look good.

    You’ll probably enjoy this. They deserve each other.

  14. #14 Glen Davidson
    December 6, 2006

    As I tried to say, ‘ID’ is unlike Darwinism in that is specifically doesn’t seek to offer a general theory of the origin of species. It is a sceptical current. It says ‘there is something in the Darwinist argument which requires re-examination in the light of knowledge we didn’t have until recently’.

    Aside from the dishonesty of the statement (sure, I don’t doubt that he’s a pig-ignorant fool who doesn’t know any better, but then he has no business commenting), he’s trying to turn the vacuity of “ID science” into a virtue. If they had reasonable complaints about “Darwinism” (well, they do, but nothing new or that doesn’t show up in the journals) they’d just voice them, maybe even try to fund some legitimate science to look into them, rather than trying to force their views into the schools.

    Even now there’s a discussion on UD of whether or not the Templeton Foundation ended up sponsoring “ID research” (as a matter of principle, no, since ID as configured by its present-day proponents makes no entailed predictions) with some grants they made relatively recently (it seems that at least one ID “researcher” did snag a grant). Of course ID claims to do research, and not to merely criticize the most important working theory in biology.

    But as far as I can tell, the original article, in which he was supposedly “very cautious”, hasn’t shown up on this site. Here is a portion of it, plus a link (I didn’t want to reproduce the entirety because of copyright issues, so followed Jason Spaceman’s lead):

    The left-wing Guardian newspaper is in a state about what it
    calls “creationist teaching materials” being used in British schools. What
    is this row really about? What does “creationism” mean? Why does hardly
    anyone discuss it honestly?

    The cause of the controversy is a concept called ‘Intelligent design’ (ID).
    Unlike most British journalists, I have spent some time in the parts of the
    USA where this idea is popular, and have talked to its supporters as well
    as to its opponents. I touched on this a few months ago when Archbishop
    Rowan Williams came out against ID, and I’d like to go into a bit more
    deeply now.

    For what I noticed (as I have also observed over the global warming
    controversy) is that the people on one side of this dispute tend to
    misrepresent the other side. Rational scientists who are doubtful about
    Darwinism are abused. And expressions such as ‘Creationism’ are used to
    suggest that a complex, nuanced position is in fact a crude Hillbilly
    superstition.

    I think this form of intolerance is always a bad sign. For instance, it is
    the fury of the pro-MMR people against the MMR sceptics, and the way they
    try to stoke up unjustified panics about measles, that has always made me
    suspect that there might be a problem with this injection.

    If you cannot give an honest account of your opponent’s position, then you
    cannot argue properly against him. If you lose your temper with him, and
    seek to shut him up, then you are revealing your weakness, not his.

    Now, there is no doubt that some of the people behind the campaign
    for ‘Intelligent Design’ are passionately religious. Well, so what?
    Religious belief is a legitimate position of choice, held to by many of the
    greatest minds who have ever lived (including many scientists) and in my
    view religion is the foundation of all morality, art, literature and
    culture. The Darwinist theory of evolution seems to me to knock religion on
    the head. If Darwin is right, the realm of nature was produced out of
    random, undirected chaos, in which case we have invented God, and there is
    no reason why any idea, action or work of art should be considered superior
    to any other.
    —————————————————————————­———-

    Read it at
    http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2006/11/fanatics_in_the.html

    http://groups.google.com/group/talk.origins/browse_thread/thread/697d958965705ac9/dd0c60b286293282?lnk=gst&q=%22peter+hitchens%22&rnum=1#dd0c60b286293282

    (scroll up to the first post to get to the post I am referencing)

    Right! “Some” of the promoters of ID are “passionately religious”. As if that isn’t lying via modifiers (as in, there may be some who aren’t “passionately religious”, depending on definition, but that was never the point). Does anyone know of any genuinely non-religious supporter of ID? Note that I’m not saying that none do exist, but you can be damned certain that if there are any they’re even less informed than the CDC “fellows”.

    And what does being religious being a matter of legitimate choice even mean? Sure people can legally be religious, and they can be religious scientists. It doesn’t mean that it is legitimately scientific, or even legitimately beyond the reach of science. And no, I don’t want to get into all that now, I want to point out what a dumbass “argument” the dolt is making.

    Furthermore, he’s using the canard that “Darwinism” makes everything equal, apparently to lend legitimacy to anti-science. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way, except to the idiots who always thought that some God conferred legitimacy to one idea over another one, rather than the hard work of science and other evidence-based endeavors.

    It’s obvious that he’s spoken to IDists, which is why he repeats their tired rhetoric without any sort of creativity whatsoever. He claims to have spoken to ID’s opponents, though if he did it was far too intellectual for him to comprehend it, since neither article is at all informed by legitimate counter-arguments. He’s entirely incautious in his repetition of ancient and false claims.

    On another subject, I should note that it isn’t so strange or prejudicial for a Brit to speak of “Darwinism” as Hitchens does. They speak of evolutionary theory in that way more so over there, probably because they’ve been less afflicted by creationists, and because Darwin is a favorite son. I’d fault Hitchens less over that than over most of the rest of his articles.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

  15. #15 Steven Sullivan
    December 6, 2006

    re: Peter’s brother —

    *Christopher* Hitchens is a stone atheist, and IIRC he’s now working on a book on god-belief and its discontents. I highly doubt he has significant doubts about the scientifica validity of evolution.

  16. #16 Ichthyic
    December 6, 2006

    And expressions such as ‘Creationism’ are used to
    suggest that a complex, nuanced position is in fact a crude Hillbilly
    superstition.

    complex, nuanced position?

    what has this guy been smoking?

  17. #17 Glen Davidson
    December 6, 2006

    Let me deal with one aspect of their attack on Professor Michael Behe and others. There’s a great deal talked about how ‘ID’ is ‘pseudoscience’ and that there are no articles in support of ‘ID’ published in peer-reviewed journals. There’s also a lot about how the ‘overwhelming majority’ of scientists accept the Darwinist position.

    Much of this is not, as it appears to be, objective argument. It is just subjective use of important-sounding phrases to discredit an unfashionable idea. First, this technique greatly exaggerates the claims made by ‘ID’. These are basically arguments about probability, which can’t be resolved, and mainly act by widening the area of doubt.

    Could anything be more obvious than that this buffoon hasn’t paid attention to any real expert on ID, the Dover transcripts, or even any of the many blogs which constantly critique ID on exactly the objective bases claimed by the IDists?

    Of course we often resort to subjective criticisms for the scientific dullards like Hitchens who know absolutely nothing about the evidence in favor of evolution as science. Since he doesn’t know anything about it, and lacks the curiosity to inform himself for free by reading Pharyngula, PT, or any of the other blogs out there, we point out what even he ought to be able to understand, that honest scientists don’t believe ID nonsense. Then we tell him to actually inform himself, but he doesn’t, he simply whines with the canned material that IDists fed to him.

    And no, it doesn’t look like objective argumentation. Hitchens indicates how stupid he is even to suggest that arguments about peer review and the “majority of scientists” are objective arguments. They’re meant to point IDiots like him toward objective science by stooping to levels that even he should be able to understand (but doesn’t, since he’s merely biased). These are legitimate arguments in court cases, however, since scientific opinion is what provides the real (if subjective) demarcation criterion for science vs. non-science, even though it would be pathetic if one couldn’t argue more objectively about these matters (Rothschild did argue more objectively, of course, at Dover).

    So Hitchens totally bypassed all of the objective arguments, focused on the subjective ones, and indicted extremely well-supported science based upon his vast amount of ignorance.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

  18. #18 Mena
    December 6, 2006

    Why can’t you be like those nice boys over at the discovery institute? I don’t understand what they are sayin either but it sure sounds comfortable and close to what I want to be true.”
    Posted by: commissarjs

    There is a segment of the population that needs that sort of thing isn’t there? IMO that’s the appeal behind what Fox, Coulter, and Rush are selling but with the “I’m miserable too so I can relate” twist.
    Isn’t if funny though that the IDers want to have their stuff treated as science but then get so offended when it is put through the same paces as any other theory? They seem to think that creation/evolution happened as an outside event so their “science” can be treated as being special too.

  19. #19 Glen Davidson
    December 6, 2006

    The fossil record is full of gaps and highly ambiguous. Species appear and disappear suddenly, which I should have thought would upset the Darwinist position quite badly, but somehow doesn’t.

    Doesn’t he even wonder how the fossil record can be “full of gaps”? Aside from the questionable use of English (full of gaps. Huh?), how could there even be gaps except for the fact that what is there points to continuity, and against de novo creation? The various lines of evidence, from genetics (which points only to continuities among life-forms), to fossils (including the so-called transitionals–aren’t all fossils really transitional, when we’re talking most objectively as Hitchens tells us to do?), to the hierarchical patterns found via cladistics, all point directly to continuous change, and only because of this is there any reason to speak of “gaps”.

    Did Hitchens discuss taphonomy in order to render the “gaps” problematic in any sense? No. Does he even realize that IDists supposedly accept speciation, hence would have the same “problem with gaps” as evolutionists who actually believe in causation? Apparently not. Perhaps the ID “experts” he talked to were Wells and Nelson, YECS and not actually IDists in the supposedly more sophisticated sense at all. Does he understand that we have superb transitions in the “macroevolutionary” region (I use scare quotes since this moron seems to be using “macroevolution” as IDists/creationists do) among vertebrates, which do leave behind the hard parts which can document evolution without leaving really huge gaps? No, it’s all just canned nonsense coming from IDiots.

    And actually, we are concerned about “species gaps”, despite the fact that where the fossil record is truly available with fine gradations we have found speciation to be in evidence. He’s lying again when he suggests that we don’t care. That we don’t throw up our hands and resort to magic where a problem exists is due to the fact that we are able to see that the evidence points only to continuity, not to unrelated special creations.

    It is amazing how many supporters of this theory cannot see the difference between the micro-evolution of adaptation or alteration within species, and the far more ambitious developments of macro-evolution, in my view qualitatively different, which Darwinists believe in.

    Gee, can’t he even point to any “objective evidence” that his “micro-evolution” and “macro-evolution” are qualitatively different? Nah, what does he care, “in his view” they are qualitatively different, and he doesn’t care (or know) in the least that essentially the same patterns of inheritance, divergence, mutation, and selection, show up in “both types of evolution”.

    It’s like we’re supposed to believe that “micro-sedimentation” in geology is qualitatively different from “macro-sedimentation”, because, by god, much greater sedimentary changes have occurred during millions of years than they have over decades. Can’t you see that, Peter (btw, the YECs do, and the IDists simply narrow their prejudices to fit their biases in the biological realm)? It is illegitimate to extrapolate from known mechanisms and occurrences to much greater changes involving what appears to be essentially the same patterns and mechanisms–or anyway that’s what this dolt is telling us.

    Learn some objective science for once, Hitchens, then get back to us. You’re even more pathetic in discussing these matters than Jonathan Wells is.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

  20. #20 Ichthyic
    December 6, 2006

    There is a segment of the population that needs that sort of thing isn’t there?

    change needs to desires, and I’d agree with that.

    a heroin addict desires their next fix, but they’d be far better off breaking the cycle, even if it causes discomfort.

  21. #21 Ichthyic
    December 6, 2006

    You’re even more pathetic in discussing these matters than Jonathan Wells is.

    far more, in fact, considering that Wells definetly knows better, but willfully continues misrepresenting science in his diatribes (for fun and profit).

    Hitchens is just another ignorant rube, like many media pundits.

  22. #22 Ichthyic
    December 6, 2006

    I took a look at some of the other articles written by Hitchens. What’s really funny, is that Hitchens, here arguing for “the center”, regails the exact same philosophical position in his earlier article:

    A strong argument against the centre ground

    Yikes, this guy’s thinking is messed up.

  23. #23 Caledonian
    December 6, 2006

    It’s not that they think they’ve gotten to where they are without merit, so everyone else must have, too. It’s worse than that: they don’t believe that merit exists. The very concept has no meaning to them. There’s the ability to get people to say the things you want them to say and think the things you want them to think… and that’s all they can perceive.

  24. #24 MartinC
    December 6, 2006

    Its the Daily Mail for goodness sake! The whole paper is aimed at a lowest common denominator target audience worried about nasty immigrants coming over here to take their jobs, move in next door and cause the house price values to drop.
    Its also symptomatic of the general (terrible) level of science education in the UK. There really isnt a christian movement in England to compare to that in the US but there is a very small proportion of the population who will understand anything of the theory of evolution since they probably havent taken any proper science classes since they were 13 or 14.

  25. #25 Mena
    December 6, 2006

    Good point Ichthyic, plus it would be good for society as a whole in both cases wouldn’t it?

  26. #26 Azkyroth
    December 6, 2006

    In between completely link-free comments being held up for “spam” followed by my browser not finding the nospam.cgi file, I glanced at the evo-psych piece, and I couldn’t bear myself to sift through that tripe. Does the author ever present any actual *evidence* or is it more of a thought experiment, without the thought, bolstered by a lot of “everyone knows”es?

  27. #27 poke
    December 6, 2006

    Christopher Hitchens, Peter Hitchens drunkard brother, describes himself as an “anti-theist”:

    There may be many things to be said against atheism – I’m not an atheist anyway, I’m an anti-theist. It would be horrible if it were true that we were designed and then created and then continuously supervised throughout all our lives waking and sleeping and then continue to be supervised after our deaths – if that were true, it would be horrible. I’m very glad there’s absolutely no evidence for it at all. It would be like living in a celestial North Korea. You can’t defect from North Korea but at least you can die. With monotheism they won’t let you die and get away from them. It’s the wish to be a slave. Who wants that to be true? It’s demanding the servile condition.

    In the same interview he responds to his brother’s views on evolution:

    Peter said one prefers to think Darwin is right. No, one takes the facts and examines them. The fact that one’s appearance on earth is a random process conditioned by evolution and will end in extinction isn’t a welcome conclusion. It’s just an inescapable one, and to be in denial about it is odd. And Darwinism is not the theory of evolution. It is a theory of evolution. The quarrel between say Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould, two of the greatest of biologists and palaeontologists, about punctuated evolution shows there is a great deal to argue about and no one disputes that we have evolved. It’s in the fossil record.

    Religion and evolution are about the only things he’s ever gotten right though.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,,1496347,00.html

  28. #28 Maronan
    December 6, 2006

    Oh, where to begin–again, Hitchens is using an inappropriate term to bias the argument. “Darwinism” (that stupid term again) is not an orthodoxy. It’s a well-supported theory that is constantly being tested and revised. Scientists do no build prosperous careers on reinforcing the status quo–they do so on challenging ideas and coming up with new explanations and evidence.

    If I may put forth an untested and unsubstantiated theory (actually hypothesis; just poking fun at you):

    Many creationists believe that truth is dictated by authority. They have an authority (the Bible) and believe that truth is what the authority says and anything that goes against the authority’s word is a lie. Similarly, they presume that the “Truth of Evolution” must be handed down by an authority. Perplexed, they may label Charles Darwin as the “authority” who hands down the “Holy Truth of Evolution.” Since they believe that truth comes from authority, they presume that they can refute evolution by diminishing Darwin’s status as an Acme Truth Giving Authority, hence the very many attacks against Darwin, even if they don’t actually pertain to Darwin’s idea of evolution, let alone the modern theory of evolution accepted by the scientific community today.

    Another aspect of this belief or presumption is that they assume scientists must rally around the status quo. Since they believe that truth is dictated by an authority, whose word then sets the status quo, they presume that no one would contradict the status quo with new ideas because that would contradict the Truth-Giving Authority and be (by definition) false.

    I’ve speculated that (to some extent) creationists presume evolution is a religion because they can’t understand how it could be anything else. Their own beliefs are all-encompassing (God made the universe in its entirety and controls geologic events as well as life), it includes a code of behavior, and it’s a Truth (capital T) handed down by an authority. They presume that evolution must also be an all-encompassing principle or idea with a code of behavior, which is a Truth handed down by an authority. Thus, they try to attatch geology, astronomy, and cosmology into evolution (just look at Mr. Hovind’s challenge), they assume evolution leads to lack of morality and “everything goes” (because it includes no rules on behavior; they assume it must dictate behavior, so its lack of rules implies “everything goes” to them), and they believe (to some extent) that it’s handed down by an authority (usually Darwin.)

    I wonder how I would test this hypothesis….

  29. #29 ichthyic
    December 6, 2006

    Good point Ichthyic, plus it would be good for society as a whole in both cases wouldn’t it?

    indeed it would.

  30. #30 llewelly
    December 6, 2006

    I wonder how I would test this hypothesis….

    Ask creationists if they think evolution has ‘prophets’. Ask them if they think evolution has ‘sacred texts’. Ask them if they think evolution has ‘rituals’.
    But those are loaded terms, and thus a weak test at best …

  31. #31 Ed Darrell
    December 6, 2006

    I love the man’s bio. Marxist back then, radical mau-mauing Labor Party goon, then hitched up with the radical right Tories until he decided they were not brown-shirt enough!

    Wrong then, wrong now, shallow always. Is that really what passes for comment in the Daily Mail? Is journalism really so dead?

  32. #32 Clare
    December 6, 2006

    Does the author ever present any actual *evidence* or is it more of a thought experiment, without the thought, bolstered by a lot of “everyone knows”es?

    No. In fact, it’s so awful that I’m wondering if it’s actually a social psychology experiment dressed up as an editorial to evaluate the kinds of responses he gets. As bad as that would be, it couldn’t be worse than the article itself.

    Is that really what passes for comment in the Daily Mail? Is journalism really so dead?

    And to think that the Daily Mail was once a serious paper. But that’s why idiocy needs to be countered wherever it rears its ugly head; the Daily mail today, the BBC tomorrow?

  33. #33 MTran
    December 6, 2006

    Off Topic, but related, and I need help!

    On another site, someone has linked to the notorious list of scientists who supposedly reject evolution based on some DI “survey.”

    Now, I can post reasonable criticisms to the content and interpretation of the survey and I can send people to the Project Steve page. But I can’t find any links to the angry reactions of at least some scientists who believe they were misused and misrepresented by the survey publishers. I know I read a number of such responses some time back, but, alas, failed to keep copies or make bookmarks to those (for want of a better word) “retractions”.

    Can anyone point me to any links that include the scientists’ follow-up responses? I’d like to be able to direct people to those pages. Assuming I haven’t already been banned from posting God-hostile materials!

  34. #34 Ichthyic
    December 6, 2006

    hmm, IIRC, there was some coverage of that both here and on Panda’s Thumb some time ago; do a search in the PT archives on the exact name of the survey referenced by the DI. (it used to be linked right on the front page of the DI site, BTW).

  35. #35 MTran
    December 6, 2006

    Thanks, Ichthyic, I’ll wander over to PT right now. I haven’t been there in a while.

  36. #37 MTran
    December 7, 2006

    Thank you once more, Ichthyic. I am in your debt!

  37. #38 Alan Mackenzie
    December 7, 2006

    I am going to post a link to this forum discussion on Peter Hitchen’s own discussion pages, so that they may ‘know us’.

    I have just finished reading all the comments, and I am blown away by the sheer prevalence of what I call “The Myth of Moral Symmetry” – that is, if ‘both sides’ appear to conjure seemingly convincing arguments to a lay person, then of course ‘both sides’ must have a point. Thus, an ignorant fool [and there are many] would conclude that there is a 50/50 chance that one theory might succeed over another. It goes without saying that this is simply not true of evolution vs ‘Creationism Lite’.

    It might seem like an obvious thing to say, but, apart from religious conviction, I think the myth of moral symmetry is the second most likely cause of why people fall prey to ID.

  38. #39 MarkW
    December 7, 2006

    The large response to the item about ‘Phlogiston Theory’ only underlines the need for a proper debate about this interesting intellectual development, here in Britain. This might start with a bit more fairness and open-mindedness. I was, because I am not a scientist, very cautious about what I wrote here. I still am. I also didn’t give my own view on the controversy. This can be summarised in the words ‘I have no idea who is right… and nor have they’. Yet many of the responses from Oxygenists were still actively hostile and angry, as if I had said a good deal more than I actually did.

  39. #40 cleek
    December 7, 2006

    i love the idea that this great Designer created man out of whole cloth a few thousand years ago and put him in a universe that’s been arranged to look exactly like it’s been around for billions of years, one that shows clear evidence across all disciplines of man’s science, that man, and all the creatures man sees today, all evolved from earlier species – but we’re not supposed to believe any of that evidence. we’re supposed to believe it’s all trickery ?

    this wondrous god that would spend time and energy arranging layer after layer of fossils and the molecules in the DNA in our cells (which he also designed) to trick us into believing something that isn’t true, couldn’t bother to design a creature that didn’t kill itself with cancers or auto-immune diseases, or suicidal depression. i’m supposed to believe an all-powerful Designer couldn’t design something that wasn’t prone to life-destroying addictions and fatal allergies to common foods ?

    choice a: lazy, capricious and cruel designer who saddled us with an endless array of potentially horrible internally-caused diseases.

    choice b: natural selection produced something that works well enough to reproduce, most of the time.

    easy choice

  40. #41 Glen Davidson
    December 7, 2006

    Just a minor correction of what I wrote here:

    Does anyone know of any genuinely non-religious supporter of ID? Note that I’m not saying that none do exist, but you can be damned certain that if there are any they’re even less informed than the CDC “fellows”.

    The “CDC”, Centers for Disease Control, does admirable work, while what I meant to write, the “CSC”, Center for Science and Culture sucks and its “fellows” are hardly worthy of the title (it’s one of those things that comes to you in the middle of the night).

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

  41. #42 Steven Sullivan
    December 8, 2006

    Religion and evolution are about the only things he’s ever gotten right though.

    Oh, nonsense. Other than his post-9/11 siding with the neocons on Iraq — itself primarily an expression of his hatred of totalitarianism and religious quasi-fascism — Christopher Hitchens was/is almost ALWAYS on the side of the secular progressives*, which I’m going to guess is what you’d call more right than not.

    (*this includes his loathing of Bill Clinton, btw)

  42. #43 Pull Up A Chair
    January 5, 2007

    I enjoyed your extraordinary arguments that dismantle the moronic non-thought process of those who wallow in the belief that ID is (a) Intelligent and (b) Designed by a free-wheeling, self involved, ego-maniac with a crack-pot sense of right and wrong, AKA God.

    For those who dismiss science, only to accept a naive mythology… well, fuck you. I mean it… I’ve got about that much time in my life to deal with anyone who is that damned stupid… The same amount of time it takes for me to say… “FUCK YOU.”

    As for those who have a sense of rationality and who have grasped a simple scientific premiss… i.e. the ability for an organism to adapt to fit its environment, TA-DA! You have now left the temple grasshopper.

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