Grey Thoughts
Evolution - Highpriest of Atheism gets it wrong
Times online has a contibution by Richard Dawkins Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University where he whines about Intelligent Design and Creationists oppressing scientists. This is going to be long sorry, as most of the article is irrational rubbish.

Creationism: God's gift to the ignorant
As the Religious Right tries to ban the teaching of evolution in Kansas, Richard Dawkins speaks up for scientific logic
Wow. In an article attempting to show that creationists are ignorant, the first sentence displays a keen lack on knowledge on what is happening in Kansas, where whether or not to teach evolution is not up for debate. Evolution is going to be taught no matter what. The debate in Kansas is over whether the numerous scientific criticisms of evolution should be taught as well.
Science feeds on mystery. As my colleague Matt Ridley has put it: “Most scientists are bored by what they have already discovered. It is ignorance that drives them on.” Science mines ignorance. Mystery — that which we don’t yet know; that which we don’t yet understand — is the mother lode that scientists seek out. Mystics exult in mystery and want it to stay mysterious. Scientists exult in mystery for a very different reason: it gives them something to do.

Science attempts to find explanations for natural phenomena. Obviously, if you are militant atheist high-priest such as Dawkins, the only explanations you find acceptable are completely naturalistic ones. Essentially Dawkins begs the question and rules out possible explanations without even considering the evidence. Also, it doesn’t take long for Dawkins to try and cast scientists in some noble light in order to be able to contrast them to those ‘ignorant’ creationists.
Admissions of ignorance and mystification are vital to good science. It is therefore galling, to say the least, when enemies of science turn those constructive admissions around and abuse them for political advantage. Worse, it threatens the enterprise of science itself. This is exactly the effect that creationism or “intelligent design theory” (ID) is having, especially because its propagandists are slick, superficially plausible and, above all, well financed. ID, by the way, is not a new form of creationism. It simply is creationism disguised, for political reasons, under a new name.

If admissions of ignorance are good for science, then why does Dawkins oppose teaching some of the things that the Theory of Evolution does not explain in a science class? It seems clear that Dawkins is emotionally tied to the Theory of Evolution as it allows him to be an ‘intellectually fulfilled atheist’. He ‘knows’ it is true. I guess he doesn’t really believe his own rhetoric.
Let me make one thing clear. Intelligent Design is not creationism. Anyone aware of the various groups should know this. But Dawkins here is trying to use guilt by association. He further tries to use fear-mongering saying that ID ‘threatens the enterprise of science itself’. Please Richard, show me one iota of evidence that this is the case. It doesn’t sound like you are being very ‘progressive’.
Intelligent Design merely seeks to find a scientific way to determine whether something was designed by intelligence. It is asking questions and making inquiry. Of course to the faithful such as Dawkins who, because of their faith, have already decided that it must of happened a certain way, it seems that they are the one who are avoiding being ‘mystified’ based on their own ‘religious’ assumption of atheism.
It isn’t even safe for a scientist to express temporary doubt as a rhetorical device before going on to dispel it.
“To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.” You will find this sentence of Charles Darwin quoted again and again by creationists. They never quote what follows. Darwin immediately went on to confound his initial incredulity. Others have built on his foundation, and the eye is today a showpiece of the gradual, cumulative evolution of an almost perfect illusion of design. The relevant chapter of my Climbing Mount Improbable is called “The fortyfold Path to Enlightenment” in honour of the fact that, far from being difficult to evolve, the eye has evolved at least 40 times independently around the animal kingdom.

Actually, Darwin immediately went on with a Just-So type story to try and explain how something as incredibly complex as an eye could have possibly evolved. He had no evidence it did so, he just gave a ‘slick’ and ‘superficially plausible’ possibility with no evidence. This story-telling seems to appeal to Dawkins faith, as he concludes that the eye must of evolved at least 40 times independently. This is a direct reference to ‘convergent evolution’, an Ad Hoc explanation that evolutionists use when observed features do not fit their nice little phylogenic tree. So once again, Richard is not ‘mystified’ by it, but merely assumes that evolution did it. An ‘evolution of the gaps’ argument if you may.
The distinguished Harvard geneticist Richard Lewontin is widely quoted as saying that organisms “appear to have been carefully and artfully designed”. Again, this was a rhetorical preliminary to explaining how the powerful illusion of design actually comes about by natural selection. The isolated quotation strips out the implied emphasis on “appear to”, leaving exactly what a simple-mindedly pious audience — in Kansas, for instance — wants to hear.

Note that even Dawkins argues that organisms appear to be designed. He says so himself in the previous paragraph. Yet somehow it is unconscionable for someone who thinks evolution is lacking to point out that evolutionists agree that things looked designed. Clearly he is just saying what the simple-minded faithful atheist audience wants to hear.
The deceitful misquoting of scientists to suit an anti-scientific agenda ranks among the many unchristian habits of fundamentalist authors. But such Telling Lies for God (the book title of the splendidly pugnacious Australian geologist Ian Plimer) is not the most serious problem. There is a more important point to be made, and it goes right to the philosophical heart of creationism.

I find it amazing that Dawkins would quote the ironically titled ‘Telling lies for God’ when his current article contains many falsehoods and ad hominem attacks. To join yourself to Ian plimer, a purveyor of falsehoods is not the wisest move. Dawkins also seems to want the reader to believe that every quote given by a creationist is out of context. I could simply argue that Dawkins is merely taking creationist quoting of scientists out of context in order to claim the creationist is saying the quote means more than the creationist actually claiming.
The standard methodology of creationists is to find some phenomenon in nature which Darwinism cannot readily explain. Darwin said: “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.” Creationists mine ignorance and uncertainty in order to abuse his challenge. “Bet you can’t tell me how the elbow joint of the lesser spotted weasel frog evolved by slow gradual degrees?” If the scientist fails to give an immediate and comprehensive answer, a default conclusion is drawn: “Right, then, the alternative theory; ‘intelligent design’ wins by default.”

I’m not sure that Dawkins understand what he is saying. He essentially quotes Darwin who says that showing that Darwinian evolution was inadequate to explain any biological feature would invalidate Darwinian evolution and then complains that creationists try to do just that. He further complains that Intelligent Design try to claim that it wins by default if evolution can’t explain it, and yet this is exactly what he is trying to claim for evolution; that Evolution wins by default unless you can categorically prove Intelligent Design. Such blatant hypocrisy.
Notice the biased logic: if theory A fails in some particular, theory B must be right! Notice, too, how the creationist ploy undermines the scientist’s rejoicing in uncertainty. Today’s scientist in America dare not say: “Hm, interesting point. I wonder how the weasel frog’s ancestors did evolve their elbow joint. I’ll have to go to the university library and take a look.” No, the moment a scientist said something like that the default conclusion would become a headline in a creationist pamphlet: “Weasel frog could only have been designed by God.”

Dawkins is blinded by his own fervent faith. Anyone who reads a lot of science literature is constantly bombarded by statements of uncertainty over how something could of evolved. It is a constant stream, and yet creationists don’t seem to jump on all of these cases. Perhaps Dawkins should stop whining like a baby whilst creating straw men in pitiful attempts to pretend that zealous atheististic scientists like him are the victims.
I once introduced a chapter on the so-called Cambrian Explosion with the words: “It is as though the fossils were planted there without any evolutionary history.” Again, this was a rhetorical overture, intended to whet the reader’s appetite for the explanation. Inevitably, my remark was gleefully quoted out of context. Creationists adore “gaps” in the fossil record.

The gaps in the fossil record are plentiful and well documented by many people. That’s why we have the absurd and ad hoc punctuated equilibrium modification to neo-darwinian theory. It's no use complaining when what you are quoted as saying is in fact a valid observation
Many evolutionary transitions are elegantly documented by more or less continuous series of changing intermediate fossils. Some are not, and these are the famous “gaps”. Michael Shermer has wittily pointed out that if a new fossil discovery neatly bisects a “gap”, the creationist will declare that there are now two gaps! Note yet again the use of a default. If there are no fossils to document a postulated evolutionary transition, the assumption is that there was no evolutionary transition: God must have intervened.

‘Many’ transitions amount to a handful amongst a huge range of necessary transitions. As Darwin said “But, as by this theory innumerable transitional forms must have existed, why do we not find them embedded in countless numbers in the crust of the earth?... I believe the answer mainly lies in the record being incomparably less perfect than is generally supposed”. Note that Darwin ‘Believed’ that geological record was imperfect and more investigation would remove the problem. The problem is that if (Neo) Darwinian evolution was true, then small changes showing transitions of one species to another should be the rule, not the exception in the fossil record. Complaining that the record is imperfect is an ad hoc explanation. Deal with the evidence, not the excuses Richard.
The creationists’ fondness for “gaps” in the fossil record is a metaphor for their love of gaps in knowledge generally. Gaps, by default, are filled by God. You don’t know how the nerve impulse works? Good! You don’t understand how memories are laid down in the brain? Excellent! Is photosynthesis a bafflingly complex process? Wonderful! Please don’t go to work on the problem, just give up, and appeal to God. Dear scientist, don’t work on your mysteries. Bring us your mysteries for we can use them. Don’t squander precious ignorance by researching it away. Ignorance is God’s gift to Kansas.

It is a gross misrepresentation of the ID position to claim that it is relying on gaps in knowledge. This is materialist bigotry at its most blatant. ID at the moment has 2 suggested methods of detecting design, Specified Complexity and Irreducible Complexity. To claim that these are gaps merely use gaps in knowledge is to beg the question. If some structure of a living organism was designed, how would we tell? Well, by looking at how we recognize other non-living items as designed, we would essentially informally use something akin to the two aforementioned concepts. Richard has assumed that those features were not designed and so any suggestion that they are designed HAS to be an appeal to ignorance.
It’s a pity Richard either doesn’t understand basic logic or he is so blinded by his atheistic faith that he cannot see that his own assumptions are causing him to be irrational.

Update: Links to Ian Plimer items fixed
Well said. I've often wonder why lovers of the Enlightenment are so tolerant of Dawkin's silly illogical and blatant bias.

By the way, your links about Ian Pliner are dead. Any chance you can fix them or list them?
Links about Plimer are fixed
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