Pharyngula

So the Republicans find themselves confused about science (especially evolution), and are arguing among themselves about how to cope with reality. Perhaps you think this is a promising development—they’re at least considering the issues, and their hidebound attachment to fantasy is weakening. Can we someday hope that the Republican Party will once again be the home of pragmatists? Will the political props supporting creationism disappear? Does the fact that only 3 of the Republican candidates raised their hands to deny evolution promise that reason may yet reign?

No. There is another tactic growing stronger in the ranks of the creationists, one that is stealthy and devious, and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the majority of Republicans (and Democrats!) adhere to this peculiar view of evolution.

For a perfect example of the new creationist strategy, look to Dinesh D’Souza. Not only is he a good example, but he’s also stupid enough to let all the flaws and inconsistencies in this new view hang out, exposed for all to see.

The new strategy is to embrace the word “evolution”. Ask them if they believe in evolution, and they will happily declare that “Yes, I believe in ‘evolution’!” Unfortunately, what they call “evolution” is not evolution as evolutionary biologists understand it. If they’re willing to redefine science, what’s to stop them from redefining mere evolution to suit them?

D’Souza’s latest eructation is an attempt to rally conservatives to support “evolution” — he wants them to know that they shouldn’t be afraid of it, and that opposing it makes them look like yahoos. He’s even writing a book about it.

In my forthcoming book “What’s So Great About Christianity” I will show why, contrary to the claims of Dawkins and company, Darwinian evolution does not undermine the design argument for God. On the contrary, the latest findings of modern science have greatly strengthened that argument. Paley was right and Dawkins is wrong.

Note the sleight of hand: he’s babbling about “design”, Paley, the common creationist lie that modern science supports belief in God, his book is about Christianity, and he’s calling that “Darwinian evolution”. If you’ve been wondering what the new name for repackaged Intelligent Design was going to be after the drubbing it took in Dover, look no further: it’s going to be called “evolution”. The new textbook from the gang at the DI, intended to replace Of Pandas and People is going to be titled “Explore Evolution”.

It’s a cunning plan to sow confusion, which is ultimately all the Intelligent Design creationists are good at. If state education standards mandate instruction in evolution and if the laws of the land make teaching Intelligent Design creationism illegal, well, they’ll adapt and teach “evolution” … it’s just that this version of “evolution” flouts the ideas of experts, ignores the evidence, misrepresents the theory, and promotes a role for design in “evolutionary” history.

It’s an interesting tactic. Simply write a very bad book about evolution, market it appropriately, and find enough ideologically motivated science teachers to use it, and they will have effectively continued their efforts to subvert science education in this country. After all, the successful court challenges to block creationism in the classroom have done so on the basis of their violation of the separation of church and state, not so much on their quality and competence; propagating awful science is probably constitutional.

Comments

  1. #1 Sastra
    May 5, 2007

    There is another tactic growing stronger in the ranks of the creationists, one that is stealthy and devious, and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the majority of Republicans (and Democrats!) adhere to this peculiar view of evolution.

    I wouldn’t be surprised either, because the misunderstanding is already there among even liberal secularists of a “spiritual” bent. They tend to equate “evolution” with “progressive change for the better.” From what I’ve seen and read, teleological notions consistent with the vitalistic approach of Teillard de Chardin is very, very popular among the Spiritual Left.

    “Evolution is how God creates” obscures and obfuscates the mindless mechanism of evolution with the loving desires of God. Among a lot of self-identified liberals, it will get the same knee-jerk approval as “teach both sides of the controversy.” As you say, it’s clever strategy, because it reaches out to popular prejudice.

    I think this is yet another reason to be leery of promoting “theistic evolution” as the best antidote to Creationism.

  2. #2 tinisoli
    May 5, 2007

    There are some humans who will reject evolution simply because it is incompatible with their faith. And there are others who really don’t understand it at all, and they still envision species just appearing out of nowhere and/or by “accident,” and in their ignorance they think they have discovered a “hole” in the theory. Education and argument probably won’t work on those people, especially when doing so would deprive them of the illusion of immortality.

    But there are others who find evolution inadequate because they cannot view the universe and their reality as just one of many possible outcomes. They look around and they think “What are the odds of all of this evolving or coming into existence without there being a higher power or purpose?” And then they make some basic calculations (as Behe does with the evolution of flagella) and they determine that the odds are so slim that the idea of things evolving without purpose or reason is insanely slim. But this is only because they regard their reality as the only possible outcome. In his brief interview of Dawkins, Bill O’Reilly revealed that it is precisely this puzzling problem of probability that makes him “throw in with Jesus.” If he simply recognized that he, his wife, his job, his species, this Earth, and everything else in his reality exist only because they can and not because they had to, maybe he’d be a little less skeptical of a godless universe. If there’s one central truth that humans need to accept before they even get into arguing about the specifics of evolution, it is that nothing we know of had to exist. Things do exist–and in many ways we can determine why, when, where, and how–but if you assume that it had to be, or that reality had to be exactly as it is, then you are likely to make Pascal’s wager.

  3. #3 David Marjanovi?
    May 5, 2007

    Calling Distort D’newsa ‘stupid’ is grossly insulting to stupid people like myself.

    LOL! We have a Molly winner!!! :-D

    I’m still laughing at the Pain comic, too…

  4. #4 David Marjanovi?
    May 5, 2007

    Calling Distort D’newsa ‘stupid’ is grossly insulting to stupid people like myself.

    LOL! We have a Molly winner!!! :-D

    I’m still laughing at the Pain comic, too…

  5. #5 Simon Packer
    May 6, 2007

    Sorry guys, but there is no monolith of creationist objectors to evolution/conditional support for it. There are almost as many views on the subject as there are scientifically trained Christians. They are just the product of thought without dogma.
    For many of us Christians, the abiogenesis problem and the comical nature of most proposed macroevolution pathways are enough to rule out ‘life as found today by complex accident’. (I would suggest anyone, regardless of philosophy, who really stops and thinks outside of the oppresive box of evolutionary orthodoxy and it’s misleading propagandists would have serious concerns here).
    Within the camp of scientifically qualified Christians who do not take evolutionary orthodoxy seriously, there are old earthers and young earthers. There are a variety of takes on Genesis from culture-specific parable to hard literal truth according to a modern timeline history.
    Evolution clearly means very different things to different secular and atheistic scientists also. We are not dealing with two opposing monoliths here, one creationist and one evolutionist. For most Christians, it is clear that evolution by natural selection is a potentially viable mechanism. Most take the view that a) the variation is within certain limits b) increase in phenotype complexity is most unlikely c) the whole process of diversification and its outcomes is subject to the foreknowledge of the creator.
    I really, honestly, find the tenacity to evolution as commonly justified by the likes of Dawkins strangely comical. Surely you have your doubts?

  6. #6 Simon Packer
    May 6, 2007

    Sorry guys, but there is no monolith of creationist objectors to evolution/conditional support for it. There are almost as many views on the subject as there are scientifically trained Christians. They are just the product of thought without dogma.
    For many of us Christians, the abiogenesis problem and the comical nature of most proposed macroevolution pathways are enough to rule out ‘life as found today by complex accident’. (I would suggest anyone, regardless of philosophy, who really stops and thinks outside of the oppresive box of evolutionary orthodoxy and it’s misleading propagandists would have serious concerns here).
    Within the camp of scientifically qualified Christians who do not take evolutionary orthodoxy seriously, there are old earthers and young earthers. There are a variety of takes on Genesis from culture-specific parable to hard literal truth according to a modern timeline history.
    Evolution clearly means very different things to different secular and atheistic scientists also. We are not dealing with two opposing monoliths here, one creationist and one evolutionist. For most Christians, it is clear that evolution by natural selection is a potentially viable mechanism. Most take the view that a) the variation is within certain limits b) increase in phenotype complexity is most unlikely c) the whole process of diversification and its outcomes is subject to the foreknowledge of the creator.
    I really, honestly, find the tenacity to evolution as commonly justified by the likes of Dawkins strangely comical. Surely you have your doubts?

  7. #7 Blake Stacey
    May 6, 2007

    I guess Behe decided to call his new book The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism before he got the message about what “evolution” is now defined to be.

  8. #8 Keith Douglas
    May 7, 2007

    So, the plan is to deliberately flout the use-mention distinction?

    Sastra: Various forms of “theistic evolution”, like the catholic one, merely are closer to being correct than the views normally called creationist. Life is easier to handle with the notion of partial truth …

    dorid: I have no problem with people doing the speculation; I just reserve the right to criticize their answers. In the specific case, there might be no “why?” at all.

    Chris Ho-Stuart: People like Adolf Grünbaum, Mario Bunge, Quentin Smith (and myself) have said for ages that the idea that the universe itself is created is incoherent on many grounds so, yes, there is a problem. Miller and the others have more specific problems, since they also believe in traditional gods.

    Colugo: Some of us (well, at least me, amongst the participants here) have written about how science itself presupposes certain metaphysical principles. Now, we could be wrong about that, but merely asserting it doesn’t make it so.

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