Kansas’ Creationist Claptrap
I think the “Scopes Monkey Trial” James noted below is going to be a loss for evolutionary theory. I think this not because I think the evidence for evolution is weak, on the contrary I think the evidence is overwhelming. The problem is that the evidence is going to be highly technical (i.e. how many people know the difference between sympatric speciation and allopatric speciation?). On the other hand many of the Creationist and neo-Creationist arguments are easy to understand and often times sound intuitive to the uninformed (about the intricacies of evolutionary theory). For example, Michael Behe’s notion of irreducible complexity sounds quite appealing (airing my dirty laundry: I found the argument quite persuasive when I first encountered it). He holds up a mouse trap, tells the audience that if a single part is removed the mouse trap no longer functions at all. Sounds good. Then Behe says that things like the blood clotting cascade is similar. Remove a single part and the blood clotting cascade doesn’t work and thus, the system cannot have evolved gradually, but had to been designed. Now, there is evidence of blood clotting cascades without all the “necessary component parts”, the blood clotting cascade of dolphins lacks one component: the Hagemann factor. But how many people generally have the patience to sit and listen to a discussion of hte Hagemann factor? Behe’s argument is so much more simple and believable.
Another example is Dembski’s use fo the Cambrian explosion.
The challenge that here confronts evolution is not isolated but pervasive, and comes up most flagrantly in whatÃ¢€™s called the Cambrian Explosion. In a very brief window of time during the geological period known as the Cambrian, virtually all the basic animal types appeared suddenly in the fossil record with no trace of evolutionary ancestors. The Cambrian Explosion so flies in the face of evolution that paleontologist Peter Ward wrote, Ã¢€œIf ever there was evidence suggesting Divine Creation, surely the Precambrian and Cambrian transition, known from numerous localities across the face of the earth, is it.Ã¢€ Note that Ward is not a creationist.
Of course, this claim not only relies on the Creationist trick of quote mining (I strongly urge readers to read that Panda’s Thumb post as it shows how dishonest Dembski is in terms of misrepresenting Ward’s views), but it also is a questionable assertion in that there is evidence supporting the evolutionary view (I don’t want to make this post horrendously long by copying and pasting the information from Panda’s Thumb, so click over and read it if you are interested). Who wants to sit around and listen to an academic drone on about Ediacarian, and Cambrian fauna?
The problem is that understanding evolution even at a basic level requires a rather substantial investment of time. I first read about Behe’s irreducible complexity almost 10 years ago which got me to look more and more into evolution and I still think of myself as having a rudimentary understanding of the topic. Then there are ideas such as Dembski’s explanatory filter (seriously flawed) which requires a pretty decent grasp of statistics and probability theory. So what is going to be the result of this “show trial”? A loss for evolution. Intelligent Design and Creationism will come out looking more persuasive and it will ultimately be a loss for our children if educational policies are changed to incorporate the Intelligent Design pseudo-science .