So the other day my free copy of Creation or Evolution, Does It Really Matter What You Believe? arrived on my doormat. As those of you who read the Pharyngula blog (and if you don’t you really should) will no doubt remember PZ was recently complaining about some awful creationist ads that keep appearing along side his posts over at ScienceBlogs. Unable to do anything to get them removed the betenticalled one came up with a cunning plan. He asked that his readers simply take them up on their offer of a completely free 60 page glossy booklet on creation vs evolution, read it and then “all join in a gleeful public evisceration of their crappy little booklet.” If he is going to be forced to give them publicity then “it will be the harshest, nastiest, meanest publicity possible, we will do everything we can to make sure that when someone googles their organization or their booklet, all that comes back is a mountain of snarling contempt.” Well, I thought, sign me up for a bit of that. My copy has now arrived and seeing that there is a PDF version available online you can all read along at home. Let the gleeful public evisceration begin.
Firstly I have to say that this booklet really is as bad as you would imagine, in fact it is actually worse. I originally intended to go through each of the booklets six chapters in detail, dedicating a post to each one in which I would highlight the various errors they made. But in reality that simply isn’t going to be possible because there is just so much wrongness to deal with. It would probably take a year and a 600 page book to cover all of the errors, quote-mines, logical fallacies and outright lies found in this little booklet. I neither have the will, the stamina or the inclination to do that. Instead I will just highlight some of the worst offences in each chapter and leave it to the seething mass of pharyngulites over on PZ’s site to render the rest down to their base parts. I also have no doubt that your guys will do your due diligence and join the feeding frenzy in the comments.
Before I start with the butchery I really should take a moment to highlight the booklets good points, because it does actually have a few. This is a beautifully, professionally put together little thing. It is glossy, very visually appealing and choc full of great pictures of fossils, animals and planets; yup these guys include planets in their discussion of evolution. In short if it wasn’t for the anti-science nature of the words this would be just the sort of thing I would like to see those on our side of the fence putting out, you know the side that likes to use things like evidence, logic and reason to back up their claims. Unfortunately our side also has to do research before making our claims and that costs money, money that could be spent on glossy high production value booklets if only we would get over our hang up with “reality” and the “truth” and just use the creationist approach of “making shit up.”
Ok so that’s the good stuff out of the way. If you will now open your PDFs and scroll down to page 4 then we shall begin. I’m completely going to ignore the cutesy picture of the baby and the mind achingly incorrect comment beneath it for the moment. I’ll also skip the first first section and its disingenuous questions and distorted commentary on the teaching of evolution in America, and go straight to the part marked Creation without a Creator?
Certainly, as the current intelligent design debate reveals, not all scientists agree that a Creator doesn’t exist and that we as human beings are the product of random chance.
Ok I’m going to have to stop you right there. Evolution has nothing to do with random chance. In fact natural selection is the very antithesis of random chance. Creationists really don’t understand this point do they.
In 1972 the California State Board of Education asked NASA director Wernher von Braun, who has been called the father of the American space program, for his thoughts on the origin of the universe, life and the human race. Here’s how he responded:
Before we look at what he said I am sure I don’t need to point out to any of you that this is an Argument from Authority. Now Wernher von Braun may well be qualified to talk about the origin of the universe but unless he is also an expert on chemistry and biology then his “thoughts” on the origin of life and the human race really don’t carry any more weight than those of any other reasonably educated person. By proclaiming him as a NASA director and “the father of the American space program” they are basically saying “Hey this guy is smart, you should just take his word for it when he tells you God did it.” Actually I’ve just had an idea. To liven this up a bit we could play the logical fallacy drinking game. Every time we come across a logical fallacy you have to take a drink. Should make this a bit more entertaining.
(WARNING: Neither I nor the League of Reason accept any responsibility should you suffer from alcohol poisoning and die whilst playing a game that requires you to drink every time a creationist says something illogical. You play at your own risk.)
“For me, the idea of a creation is not conceivable without invoking the necessity of design. One cannot be exposed to the law and order of the universe without concluding that there must be design and purpose behind it all. In the world around us, we can behold the obvious manifestations of an ordered, structured plan or design . . .
And that would be the Argument from Personal Incredulity. Wernher von Braun can’t think of a way the universe could have formed without invoking design, so of course that means that it is impossible for the universe to have formed without a designer. If von Braun can’t think of it then it can’t happen. Take a drink.
“And we are humbled by the powerful forces at work on a galactic scale, and the purposeful orderliness of nature that endows a tiny and ungainly seed with the ability to develop into a beautiful flower. The better we understand the intricacies of the universe and all it harbors,
the more reason we have found to marvel at the inherent design upon which it is based . . .
“To be forced to believe only one conclusionÃ¢â‚¬â€that everything in the universe happened by chanceÃ¢â‚¬â€would violate the very objectivity of science itself. Certainly there are those who argue that the universe evolved out of a random process, but what random process could produce the brain of a man or the system of the human eye?
Ok so who exactly is forcing people to believe that the universe happened by chance? You can believe anything you want as far as I care. As long as your beliefs don’t hurt anyone else it really doesn’t matter. However if you care about what’s true then science can help provide an answer and it does so by following the evidence. It doesn’t start with a conclusion and scramble around to find evidence to fit with that conclusion. If the evidence goes off in a weird and unexpected direction then that’s the way science will follow, even if the path it was on looked so nice and sunny and fulfilling. Oh yeah and the rest of that was another argument from personal incredulity. Take a drink.
“Some people say that science has been unable to prove the existence of a Designer. They admit that many of the miracles in the world around us are hard to understand, and they do not deny that the universe, as modern science sees it, is indeed a far more wondrous thing than the creation medieval man could perceive. But they still maintain that since science has provided us with so many answers the day will soon arrive when we will be able to understand even the fundamental laws of nature without a Divine intent. They challenge science to prove the existence
of God. But must we really light a candle to see the sun? . . .
“What strange rationale makes some physicists accept the inconceivable electron as real while refusing to accept the reality of a Designer on the ground that they cannot conceive of Him?’
We have a slight variation on a theme here. All of that pretty much adds up to an Argument from Ignorance. Science can’t prove that God didn’t create the universe and so that means that he did. Yeah ok, but you know what this means. Take another drink.
Right, well we seem to be done with Wernher von Braun for the moment so let’s see what words of wisdom the writers of this thing have to add in the next section entitled Human reproduction argues against evolution. With a title like that this should be fun…and intoxicating.
Many educated people accept the theory of evolution. But is it true? Curiously enough, our existence as human beings is one of the best arguments against it. According to evolutionary theory, the traits that offer the greatest advantage for survival are passed from generation to generation. Yet human reproduction itself argues powerfully against this fundamental premise of evolution.
If human beings are the pinnacle of the evolutionary process, how is it that we have the disadvantage of requiring a member of the opposite sex to reproduce, when lower forms of lifeÃ¢â‚¬â€such as bacteria, viruses and protozoaÃ¢â‚¬â€are sexless and far more prolific? If they
can reproduce by far simpler methods, why can’t we? If evolution is true, what went wrong?
What went wrong is that you have no idea what you are talking about. Evolution is not a ladder with humans sitting at the top. We are not the “pinnacle of the evolutionary process“, what ever the hell that means. In fact those sexless protozoa you mentioned are just as evolved as we are, maybe even more so. They seem to be projecting here as it’s the creationists who think that man is the high point of creation. Evolution tells us that we are all animals, we just happen to be animals that developed superior intelligences as a survival technique…well at least some of us did anyway. Oh and in case you didn’t notice through your increasingly drunken haze, this would be an example of the Straw Man Fallacy. Apparently unable to argue against the points evolution theory actually makes these guys just thought they would make up a few of their own and knock them down instead. Take a drink people.
Let’s take it a step further. If human beings are the result of evolution continually reinforcing characteristics that offer a survival advantage while eliminating those that hinder perpetuation, how can we explain a human infant?
Among thousands of species the newly born (or newly hatched) are capable of survival within a matter of days or, in some cases, only minutes. Many never even see their parents. Yet a human infant is utterly helplessÃ¢â‚¬â€not for days but for up to several years after birth.
A human baby is reliant on adults for the nourishment, shelter and care he or she needs to survive. Meanwhile, caring for that helpless infant is a distinct survival disadvantage for adults, since giving of their time and energy lessens their own prospects for survival.
If evolution is true and humanity is the pinnacle of the evolutionary process, why does a process as basic as human reproduction fly in the face of everything that evolution holds true?
Regrettably, such obvious flaws in the theory are too often overlooked.
I thought I would let that run for a bit as it is so amusing, I just love that last line. I also love how they answer part of the question themselves. The reason some animals are able to survive for themselves within minutes of birth is because “Many never even see their parents.” If you can’t survive without your parents then you die. If you die you can’t pass on your genes to the next generation. As such of those creatures who never see their parents the ones that are able to survive are the ones that pass on that ability to survive to their own young. That makes so much sense to me I really can’t understand how they don’t get it.
On the other hand a human child does not need to survive on its own as the parents do stay around to look after it. As such it can spend more time developing that big old brain of ours which gives it a survival benefit. Not everything produced by evolution is perfect, nor are all thing necessarily possible for evolution to produce. It has to work with the tools it has. Would it be better if humans were fully self-sufficient within minutes of birth? Yeah of course it would, however because of the additional development time needed by our brains it appears that option isn’t really available to us. Evolution is all about trade offs. If larger brains are more of a benefit than long childhoods are a negative then that is all evolution needs to pass that trait on. You should take a good long drink on that one as I’m pretty sure we have both an argument from personal incredulity and a straw man in there somewhere. Is anyone else starting to feel a bit dizzy? Don’t worry, we’re almost done.
Ok I just read through the next section and I’m not going to bother going into much detail on it. Basically the whole thing is just one big Argument from consequence so you might as well take that drink now. In fact there are a number of other fallacies in there so you might as well finish the bottle. They basically say that because evolution can lead people to reject God then it is evil and must be wrong. They also bring up the ever entertaining argument that without God there are no morals. Here are a few snippets and then I will finish up. I need to go lay down.
In Europe in particular, belief in a personal God has plummeted. In the United States, court decisions have interpreted constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion as freedom from religionÃ¢â‚¬â€effectively banning public expression of religious beliefs and denying the country’s rich religious heritage.
Now I don’t live in the United States but I am pretty sure that’s just not true.
Meanwhile, the world languishes in the sorrow and suffering that results from rejecting absolute moral standards. With no absolute standards, we have no reason to care about what happens to
our fellow man. We might as well seek only our personal gain regardless of the cost to othersÃ¢â‚¬â€acting exactly as evolutionary theory expects.
Evolutionary theory is, like the rest of science, descriptive not prescriptive. It describes how things are not how they should be and as such it says nothing at all about how we should live our lives.
If God created man, we have no right to ignore Him. If man created God, we can easily ignore Him. What man has made he can do away with. In that case we are free to act as though God doesn’t
exist, free to dismiss the Bible, free to determine for ourselves what is right and wrong and how we will choose to live.
Evolution teaches that we are animals so we should just act like them blab blab blab. That really is the best that have to offer. I’ll be honest, having flicked through the rest of the book I’m not sure I want to write any more about it. The first chapter is by far the shortest one and yet it took all of this to address, and it just gets worse from here on. If you really want to read through the rest of it, and are sober enough to do so, let me know if there are any points that you think I really should address. Otherwise I’m going to go sleep this post off and I’ll see how I feel about tackling the rest of the booklet at a later date.
Does anyone have any aspirin?