Sunday, December 19, 2004

Evolution on Scarborough Country

As I mentioned in Thursday's post, the MSNBC show Scarborough Country (guest host Pat Buchanan) recently did a segment on the issue of teaching intelligent design alongside evolution in public schools. The transcript is available here (scroll down). Every time I think cable news has reached a new low they go and do something even lower.

Here's Buchanan's teaser for the segment:


It's a debate that's brewing in schools all across the nation. Should we teach only evolution in public schools or should we let kids know there are other theories about the origin of life on Earth? We'll tell you about the latest uproar. And guess who is behind it?


Since evolution has nothing to do with the origin of life on Earth, this should have been my first clue that the segment would not, to put it mildly, be worth watching.

As for who's behind it, why, that would be the ACLU and American United for Separation of Church and State. Certainly the Dover, PA school board had nothing to do with it, right?

Anyway, the second clue that nothing of value would be said during this segment came when Buchanan announced the panel:


Joining me now, Dr. Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, David Silverman, a spokesman for American Atheist, Christian music artist Natalie Grant. And Republican strategist Jack Burkman is still with us.


If you thought that maybe a scientist should be asked his opinion about what ought to get taught in high school science classes, then you must be some sort of idiot. Clearly the appropriate panelists are an ultra-conservative religious rightist, a Republican hack, a Christian singer, and a token atheist (you know, for balance).

Normally, at this point, I would go line by line through the transcript and explain why various things the panelists said are wrong or misleading. But in this case I am simply struck dumb by the enormity of the task. Virtually everything that anyone said during the segment was ignorant and mindless. There was no discussion of evolution as that term is understood by scientists, and there wasn't even any discussion of the ACLU lawsuit. Instead the entire segment came down to the four braying, right-wing know-nothings blustering about how the complexity of nature can only be explained by invoking God, with the atheist left to wonder about who designed God.

There was the usual silliness about how ID is not creationism and that it's a valid scientific theory. There were the pleas for fairness and open mindedness. There was the casual likening of evolution with atheism. There was the implication that evolution seeks to explain the origin of the universe (!!) and not just the development of life on Earth.

And reading the transcript doesn't even do justice to what really happened that night. Everything may seem sedate when printed on the page, but when you actually watch you realize how viciousm rude and nasty Mohler and Burkman in particular were. These are people who love complaining about what a cesspool television has become. Meanwhile the lies and distortions they spew on national television do far more harm than some bit of a sexual humor on a sitcom.

There were two exchanges worth commenting on, however. Here's the first:


BUCHANAN: Look, and, you know, look—you can say—we didn‘t even discover the laws of mathematics that govern how the Earth goes around the sun and the moon goes around the Earth and the other planets go around the sun and what‘s going on in these other universes. We only recently in terms of human history discovered the secrets of—there.

SILVERMAN: That‘s right.

BUCHANAN: And we can fit them out mathematically perfectly. And you‘re telling me this all happened because of some big bang way back when?

SILVERMAN: I‘m telling you because of...

BUCHANAN: It‘s not an intelligent answer. And if I can‘t ask you, you either have to say, I don‘t know how this came about. It does seem to indicate intelligent design, just as the molecular structure does. And I don‘t know how it came about, but it must have been some outside force.

SILVERMAN: Pat, I‘m going to go right back at you at that, OK?

If you‘re going to tell me that something very, very powerful and invisible and magical invented the universe, you must then tell me where this magical invisible person came from. If you‘re going to say the universe is too complex to be...

(CROSSTALK)

SILVERMAN: ... always existed.

BUCHANAN: All right.

SILVERMAN: Now, wait a second.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: All right, hold it, Jack.

SILVERMAN: You‘ve got to say, OK, well, then, let‘s look at the creation of the creator. Where did he come from?

BUCHANAN: OK, that‘s exactly—a good point.

Let me bring in Natalie Grant.

Natalie Grant, look, I think Dave‘s got a good point, then. I think we can say, look, we have an effect here, this incredible universe which works in perfect mathematical synchronization, and that is the effect. There has got to be a cause that is greater than the effect. We may not know what it is, but there has got to be a cause out there. And that is what the whole idea of intelligent design teaches, does it not?


Silverman has it exactly right here. If you are going to argue that great complexity requires a designing intelligence, or as Pat Buchanan put it “a cause that is greater than the effect”, then that designing intelligence will require an explanation for exactly the same reason. Then you are stuck with an infinite regress of designers, each one needing to be explained in terms of something even more complex. And if at any point you stop and say that God is eternal, then you are simply refuting your initial assumption that great complexity requires a desgining intelligence.

It really is that simple. Notice that Buchanan had no answer to this. That is because there is no answer to it (well, no convincing answer anyway).

Here is the other exchange:


BURKMAN: What this is, Pat, look, under the guise of defending the separation of church and state, this is nonsense. What they want to do is attack Christianity. This is a not-so-thinly-veiled attack on Christianity. All of these...

(CROSSTALK)

SILVERMAN: How is it an attack on Christianity, when you guys are attacking science?

BURKMAN: They want to make sure that there‘s no spirituality in the schools. They want a decentralized, they want a despiritualized, they want a...

(CROSSTALK)

SILVERMAN: Secular, neutral, free school system.

BURKMAN: It is a Stalinist version. They want to do what Joseph Stalin did.


To understand the significance of this, you need to keep in mind who Jack Burkman is. The tagline under his name when he appears on these shows is usually “Republican Strategist”. In practice this means that his job is to defend whatever it is the Republican party has been doing lately. More precisely, his job is to attack whoever it is that is criticizing the administration. He is one of these people with a nice loud voice who has mastered the art of cutting people off for the purpose of spouting canned talking points.

When he speaks, it is the voice of the Republican establishment that you hear. And here he is offering a vigorous defense of creationism. I take that to mean that the Republican party is now the party of creationism.

Of course, the other reason this exchange is significant is that Burkman pretty much just told the world that this has nothing to do with science education. It has to do with getting Christianity back in the schools. Usually the ID folks are more careful about saying such things in public.

6 Comments:

At 3:36 AM, Blogger Neurode said...

It's even worse than I expected. Jason writes:

"Silverman has it exactly right here. If you are going to argue that great complexity requires a designing intelligence, or as Pat Buchanan put it 'a cause that is greater than the effect', then that designing intelligence will require an explanation for exactly the same reason. Then you are stuck with an infinite regress of designers, each one needing to be explained in terms of something even more complex. And if at any point you stop and say that God is eternal, then you are simply refuting your initial assumption that great complexity requires a desgining intelligence."

First, at least one ID theorist has described a way to avoid the explanatory regress that Jason deplores. Given the nasty and dismissive way that Jason handles ID theorists in this blog, I won't bother to elaborate. But I know, and many others probably know, that Jason is either ignorant of certain variants of ID theory, or is attempting to pull his usual fast one.

Next, even if the "infinite (causal) regress" card could be cogently played against ID, imagine how much stronger would be the case against Darwinism, which has never even managed to negotiate the *first step* of a causal (read "explanatory") regress. For a Darwinist, causal regression is simply forbidden; nature and its laws are to be taken for granted, and no causal structure is ever to be considered which exceeds the most superficial observations of Darwinists. (Perhaps this is why Darwinism has had such a hard time explaining so many of the things at which its fans have enthusiastically thrown it over the years.)

This general attitude, reflecting a philosophical bias which has gone under a variety of names including materialism, physicalism, and naturalism, has left an explanatory vacuum in science. But although the suck of this vacuum is feared and avoided by run-of-the-mill evolutionary biologists, theoretical cosmologists have grabbed the Darwinian hypothesis and boldly taken the leap! Or at least this is what one is forced to assume, given that Scientific American and other "serious" general science publications have now latched onto the notion of an unlimited metaphysical regress in which universes reproduce, mutate, and are selected for death or survival in the course of evolution. (Sound like random mutation and natural selection? It's a trans-disciplinary clone.) That's right, folks - Darwinism has come to the physical sciences in a very, very, very big way, and as a result, once-respectable scientific publications are sporadically morphing into smelly crocks of pseudoscientific bilge.

So much for Jason's disapproval of the allegedly false implication "that evolution seeks to explain the origin of the universe (!!) and not just the development of life on Earth." It seems that Jason is merely unaware of what the megalomaniacal Darwinian hypothesis has been up to lately. On the other hand, if Darwinism is not really running amok, but is merely being misconstrued in other fields of science, then why aren't Darwinian biologists repudiating this trend in the general science periodicals where it appears? Why are they letting their brother and sister scientists bray with asinine confidence about an infinite metaphysical regress in which bubble universes fizz uncontrollably out of hyperspace in obedience to, what else, the central principle of Darwinism?

I need hardly point out that the proponents of an idea which has jumped the fence of biology and crashed through the gates of cosmology have no call to fret over accusations that they've attempted to explain the origin of life. Things are already so far out of their control that protestations of theoretical modesty no longer matter. The Darwinian hog is out of its pen, rooting and grubbing for metaphysical turf, and the vast majority of sensible people no longer care about anything but getting it back under control and putting it back where it belongs.

Hopefully, they'll succeed in doing so before the word "science" comes to be regarded as a bad and expensive joke.

 
At 5:12 AM, Blogger itisnt said...

oh its you again.

Remember the theory of evolution is about how life changes over time. It doesn't matter where it came from, its a fact that it has evolved.

Look I explained your 3 paragraph error in just two sentences!

 
At 11:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Neurode obviously was NOT a science major

 
At 2:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To paraphrase Neurode, "All your theories on evolution were disproved... I won't bother to tell you how or by whom or give you any hint of what the proof was, though, because you wouldn't listen, anyway." Pure playground-quality bluster.

The creationists find some difficulties in the idea of evolution, so they insist that an idea with NO explanation must be true. But how did the intelligent designer create anything? What forces did it use? Genesis implies that the act of Yahweh speaking formed the world. The "man in god's image" in the Bible is not just imagery (sorry), the authors in various places describe Yahweh as having hands, a face, eyes, a mouth, nostrils, and a backside. It follows that they believed Yahweh's words were vibrations of the air just like ours. And that's how this big blue marble and all life on it was created!?

 
At 1:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your prior point about Jack Burkman being a repulican spokesperson is exactly right. Just heard him on Black Forum defending Armstrong Williams for taking an undisclosed $240,000.00 fee (bribe) from the Republican National Committee for defending Republican school policy. It's an obviously huge conflict of interest and one would have to be an incredible zealot or an idiot to defend such a practice. Jack Burkam has to be a political hack our he's an idiot.

 
At 12:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bible and creation story...written by men inspired by God.

Evolution story with not even a one in infinity chance of ever happening written by some very ignorant persons and not one shred of authentication by science.


What youre still confused?

Bible... Written literally thousands of years ago.

Theory of Evolution infantile in comparison written less than 200 years ago... Huge inconsistencies. If the theory of evolution were a bucket you could sift mountains through it...

Still confused?

 

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