by Matthew Cobb
Creationists have a very fixed view of the world – literally and figuratively. They have The Truth – it’s written in a series of manuscripts that were produced by various tiny Middle Eastern sects 2-3 millennia ago, which were eventually sifted and sorted and mistranslated into a set of what were deemed to be acceptable views to a group of Church leaders around 1500 years ago. All they have to do is to read it, and The Truth is obvious – God created all species, so there can be no evolution.
Science, however, doesn’t claim to have The Truth. We simply have the best approach to reality that we can have, based on the available evidence. If we were to find fossil rabbits in the pre-Cambrian, then we would all have to backtrack on the phrase that forms the title of this blog. However, there comes a point at which the absence of contradictory evidence, and the overwhelming weight of supporting evidence, leads us to stop pussy-footing around. We abandon all that philosophical bet-hedging and simply state “evolution is true”. If the fossil rabbits ever turn up (don’t hold your breath), we’ll revisit the statement – as the French say, only imbeciles don’t change their minds.
In the process of getting to such clarity, scientists spend a lot of time arguing, doing experiments that occasionally have contradictory results, and trying to figure out who in the resulting intellectual battle is actually right. It’s part of what makes science fun. Whenever these kind of debates arise – be they in evolutionary biology or climate science, to take two targets of certain sections of the blogosphere and of conservatives – they are immediately taken to be proof that there is “a crisis”. This is particularly irritating when the views that are supposed to be evidence of “the jury being out” in fact represent a tiny minority. Sometimes this can have dreadful consequences. There are some fools and charlatans who claim that AIDS is not caused by HIV. Tragically, they have had a great impact on the policy of the South African government. That does not mean that there is any kind of “debate” or “crisis” over the issue.
The latest example of this kind of claim has come, unsurprisingly, in the wake of the article by Donald Williamson on the evolution of caterpillars, and its recent utter and total debunking by Hart & Grosberg, which has been dealt with extensively by Jerry on this blog.
One Brian Thomas, “a Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research” has posted an article which claims that the Williamson study and its trashing “discloses deep evolutionary disagreement”. He concludes:
Beneath the veneer of a controversial peer-review process is a substantial debate over the very basics of evolution. Some scientists have pointed out that neo-Darwinism is inadequate to explain why life forms appear fully-equipped, unique, and discrete. One of these bravely offered hybridogenesis as an alternative evolutionary mechanism. Others cogently demonstrated some scientific deal-breakers for hybridogenesis. Perhaps both sides are correct in their assessments of the opposing evolutionary ideas—neither explanation is sufficient. And if life could not have evolved, it must have been created.
Thomas may be a “science writer”, but he’s surely no scientist! No one with a scrap of scientific insight could read the article by Hart and Grosberg and not be totally and utterly convinced that they are right and Williamson was completely wrong. That’s the power of science – we determine our views on the basis of the evidence. Thomas, along with all other creationists, can’t allow himself to do that, or he’d come round to reality – life was not created, it evolved.
h/t: Rick Grosberg