Science, Just Science

24 March 2007

Faith vs Science

Filed under: Creationism & Intelligent Design,SJS Comment — Kyuuketsuki @ 10:07 am

Originally submitted by “The Pixie” to SJS.

Gil Dodgen at Uncommon Descent recently posted about Ken Miller, concluding:

Personally, I don’t think that Ken is insincere. I think that his entire professional life, and sense of purpose in life, is so invested in Darwinism that he can’t imagine that this philosophy might be wrong. If it turns out that it is wrong, Ken’s life will have been a wasted effort, and no one wants that engraved on his tombstone.

What I find so interesting about this is that it can so easily be twisted the other way around:

Personally, I don’t think that Dembski is insincere. I think that his entire professional life, and sense of purpose in life, is so invested in creationism that he can’t imagine that this philosophy might be wrong. If it turns out that it is wrong, Dembski’s life will have been a wasted effort, and no one wants that engraved on his tombstone.

I am just picking on Dembski because it is his blog site, and I use the term “creationism” rather than “intelligent design” to reflect GilDodgen’s choice of the word “Darwinism”.

I suggest that it is the Intelligent Design proponents that have the most invested in their position. If evolution is refuted tomorrow, it will not actually change my life that much. I am a chemist; I never use evolution at work. It has no impact on my home life; it is not like I use the implications of Darwinism to make decision about how I raise my children for example. I will continue to believe that schools should teach mainstream science only; science as it is accepted by 95% of scientists. Sure, what that is willl have changed, but that is the nature of science, and I would expect school eduction to adapt to that.

Although I am an atheist, I am a tentative atheist (some say that makes me an agnostics, but that is a semantic quibble). It is not something I have dedicated by life to, and if we find proof of, say, the Hindu gods, I could accept that. Sure, I would need some impressive proof, but it would not destroy my metaphysics, because my personal metaphysics is not commited to the non-existence of God.

But creationism is a part of religious Faith. If creationism is refuted (that is, refuted so even the creationists accept it is wrong), it means their Faith is wrong. And Faith is an intrinsic part of the life of any theist’s life. They live their lives according to their Faith, they raise their children to do likewise. If they realise creationism is wrong, all that was wasted. The basis for their system of ethics disappears.

No wonder then that creationists and IDists are unable to join in scientific debates (and I am thing here of the recent thread on this site as an excellent example). They must be living in constant (but perhaps unconscious) fear that they might actually be wrong. Instead, they use any number of tricks and evasions to maintain the delusion that they are right, that their Faith is built on solid foundations.

22 March 2007

The Depths To Which ID’ists Stoop

Filed under: Creationism & Intelligent Design,SJS Comment — Kyuuketsuki @ 9:28 am

Originally submitted by “The Pixie” to SJS.

A couple of days ago, William Dembski put the following up on his Uncommon Descent site, the basic gist being that the British should refuse to accept 10 pound notes because they feature Darwin’s portrait, whom Dembski claims was a racist and “is the chief prophet of the materialist religion”.

A worthy replacement on the 10-pound note would be William Wilberforce, the anti-slavery crusader, particularly in light of the new movie. As it happens the Fabian Society is also in favor of dumping Darwin, and offers Wilberforce as a possible new famous person — at least, that is what one website says. Thus, this effort would also kick-off a comparison of what good has been brought to the world by these two people — Darwin vs. Wilberforce. Nazi Eugenics vs. the abolition of slavery. Is there really any contest?

Which brings up the reason I keep posting juicy bigoted and racist quotes by Darwin and his disciples here at UD. While the intellectual community may know them, the general public does not. Suppose the public decided that every time it accepted a “Darwin” (a 10-pound note) in payment or in change for a purchase, it was implicitly endorsing those terrible quotes? People would likely say, “No thanks, I’d rather have two fivers. I don’t take money that praises racists and bigots – and neither should you.”

As is usual with kind of things creationists say, this bears further consideration.

Nazi Eugenics

It is an old and tired claim that Darwin was in some way responsible for what the Nazi’s did. I suggest the IDists look a little closer to home; specifically one of the founders of Protestantism, Martin Luther.

In Mein Kampf, Hitler listed Martin Luther as one of the greatest reformers. And similar to Luther in the 1500s, Hitler spoke against the Jews. The Nazi plan to create a German Reich Church laid its bases on the “Spirit of Dr. Martin Luther.” The first physical violence against the Jews came on November 9-10 on Kristallnacht (Crystal Night) where the Nazis killed Jews, shattered glass windows, and destroyed hundreds of synagogues, just as Luther had proposed.

Martin Luther wrote “The Jews and Their Lies” (much of it can be read here and here):

He did not call them Abraham’s children, but a “brood of vipers” Matt. 3:7. Oh, that was too insulting for the noble blood and race of Israel, and they declared, “He has a demon’ Matt 11:18. Our Lord also calls them a “brood of vipers”; furthermore in John 8 :39,44 he states: “If you were Abraham’s children ye would do what Abraham did…. You are of your father the devil. It was intolerable to them to hear that they were not Abraham’s but the devil’s children, nor can they bear to hear this today.

  • Therefore be on your guard against the Jews, knowing that wherever they have their synagogues, nothing is found but a den of devils in which sheer self-glory, conceit, lies, blasphemy, and defaming of God and men are practiced most maliciously and veheming his eyes on them.

  • Moreover, they are nothing but thieves and robbers who daily eat no morsel and wear no thread of clothing which they have not stolen and pilfered from us by means of their accursed usury. Thus they live from day to day, together with wife and child, by theft and robbery, as arch-thieves and robbers, in the most impenitent security.

  • Accordingly, it must and dare not be considered a trifling matter but a most serious one to seek counsel against this and to save our souls from the Jews, that is, from the devil and from eternal death. My advice, as I said earlier, is:

    •  First, that their synagogues be burned down, and that all who are able toss sulphur and pitch; it would be good if someone could also throw in some hellfire…
    • Second, that all their books– their prayer books, their Talmudic writings, also the entire Bible– be taken from them, not leaving them one leaf, and that these be preserved for those who may be converted…
    • Third, that they be forbidden on pain of death to praise God, to give thanks, to pray, and to teach publicly among us and in our country…
    • Fourth, that they be forbidden to utter the name of God within our hearing. For we cannot with a good conscience listen to this or tolerate it…
  • If we wish to wash our hands of the Jews’ blasphemy and not share in their guilt, we have to part company with them. They must be driven from our country.

  • …they remain our daily murderers and bloodthirsty foes in their hearts. Their prayers and curses furnish evidence of that, as do the many stories which relate their torturing of children and all sorts of crimes for which they have often been burned at the stake or banished.

Anti-Semitism was around long before Luther, but he raised it to a new level and ultimately THAT was what led to the holocaust, not anything Darwin said.

Here is a translation of a document the Nazis used to convince Jewish sympathisers to be anti-Semitic, “Ten Responses to Jewish Lackeys by Kurt Hilmar Eitzen”. Martin Luther gets mentioned twice. Darwin, evolution and natural selection get no mention at all.

 

Slavery

Darwin was certainly not the anti-slavery crusader that Wilberforce was, but he was a staunch supporter of the abolishment of slavery and, along with family & friends, was greatly in favour of the Great Reform Act of 1832, which extended voting rights to millions of formally disenfranchised citizens. 

Here are a few excerpts from letters Darwin wrote home while on the Beagle Voyage (from here):

The Captain does every thing in his power to assist me, & we get on very well – but I thank my better fortune he has not made me a renegade to Whig principles: I would not be a Tory, if it was merely on account of their cold hearts about that scandal to Christian Nations, Slavery.”

— To Revd. John Henslow 18 May 1832 from Rio de Janeiro.

“What a proud thing for England, if she is the first European nation which utterly abolishes it. I was told before leaving England, that after in Slave countries: all my opinions would be altered; the only alteration I am aware of is forming a much higher estimate of the Negro character.”

— To his sister, Catherine, on 22 May 1833 from Maldonado, Rio Plata.

“It does one’s heart good to hear how things are going on in England. Hurrah for the honest Whigs. I trust they will soon attack that monstrous stain on our boasted liberty, Colonial Slavery. I have seen enough of Slavery & the disposition of the negros, to be thoroughly disgusted with the lies & nonsense one hears on the subject in England.”

— To John Herbert on 2 June, 1833 from Maldonado, Rio Plata.

Although Dembski describes Darwin as “the chief prophet of the materialist religion”, the reality is that Darwinism is not a religion (and I suspect Dembski is well aware of that as “The Origin of Species” is, at heart, simply a statement of how Darwin believed nature worked), there is no moral code in there, no value judgements, any more than you might find in a book on bridge engineering or gas phase kinetics. Origin of Species is not about how we should behave.

In contrast, Christians believe that the Bible does tell us how to live out lives, and a sad omission from the Bible is a clear statement that slavery is wrong. There were plenty of Christians in Darwin’s time who wanted to keep slavery, and, of course, one of the strongest hold-outs was the “Bible Belt” of America.

 

Dembski’s Argument

As far as I can make out, what Dembski is saying is that we should reject modern evolutionary theory not because there is anything wrong with it, but because the guy who came up with the original idea was a racist. I find that logic dubious, but perhaps it is the best Dembski has.

Of course, creationism has a long tradition of attacking Darwin, so why should we expect anything else from ID?

By the same logic, should we all reject Protestantism? It was founded by someone who was very clearly racist. According to Dembski, that is grounds enough for rejecting a thesis. Hmm, perhaps Dembski thinks we should just reject scientific claims from racists. Maybe he feels that for claims on spiritual matters, it does not matter.

 

British Money

As an aside, I imagine Darwin will indeed disappear from 10 pound notes when the new ones appear; this is standard practice (and, yes, William Wilberforce would be a great choice; I would imagine Darwin would applaud it too). I would not be at all surprised to find Dembski claiming this as a victory for Intelligent Design. I guess they need to claim what petty victories they can.

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