Saturday, May 19, 2007

Respect Darwin's authoritay

The arguments for evolution ultimately succeed. The arguments for creationism ultimately fail.

I'm using this word 'ultimately' because it takes a rather thorough grasp of biology and geology (and I think maybe also the nature of scientific argument in general) before one can really see precisely why the evolutionary arguments (as a whole) end up defeating the creationist arguments (as a whole). Because there are creationist arguments that are powerful enough and sophisticated enough to completely overwhelm the ability of the average pro-evolution layperson to respond to them.

And when the pro-evolution layperson encounters such a creationist argument, and has no idea how to respond, and yet continues to believe the evolutionary thesis -- on what is that continued belief based? In general, it is based on the assumption that, somewhere, there is some scientist who has the knowledge necessary to validate the evolutionary thesis against the problematic creationist argument -- or, if not that, then there is some scientist somewhere who could do some further research and then come up with the knowledge necessary to validate the evolutionary thesis. Now, even if this complicated evolutionist response were provided to the layperson, it probably wouldn't be really understood -- high school biology was a long time ago, and wasn't all that informative in the first place. But that doesn't matter: someone is doing the relevant scientific research, and this other person understands what that research means, and how evolution works, and why exactly this creationist argument is wrong. And the justification of the layperson's belief in evolution is happily deferred to this expert authority.

So, in general, the layperson's belief in the evolutionary thesis is based on trust in an authority, trust which cannot be fully justified by the layperson.

Now notice that you can replace 'evolutionary' in that sentence with 'creationist', without making the sentence any less true.

This is because, with respect to the believer's ability to give articulate empirical arguments, the average pro-evolution layperson's belief in the evolutionary thesis is in the same 300-cubit-long boat as the average anti-evolution layperson's belief in the creationist thesis.

And this is true, notwithstanding the fact that the creationist thesis (when properly understood) is ultimately unjustified, based on dogma, and dependent upon authority, in ways that the evolutionary thesis (when properly understood) is not.

1 comment:

Micah Gelatt said...

This is, with perhaps few exceptions, one of the dumbest diatribes ever recorded in modern history. I do appreciate that you recognize that accepting the theory of evolution is a belief, in a similar way to accepting creationism. Yet, you also seem to realize that both cannot co-exist and be true, at the same time and in the same way.
Where you go far off the deep end, is in assuming that evolution ultimately trumps creationism. I find it laughable, at best, yet tragically sad, at worst. Good luck stepping before King Jesus at the end of your lifetime, with that argument. Remind me to leave the room when you do though. I truly don't want to be there to see His reaction.