May 31 2013

Final Response from Don McLeroy

Here is it.

Steven,

We agree that historical sciences like evolution are “tested” by the evidence. My key insight from our discussion is we disagree about the amount of evidence needed to demonstrate evolution. I want to see significantly greater evidence than you do.

I admit that I do not have the time to read all the technical articles and read all the links you have referred to, but I do not admit that I am unable to judge the adequacy of the evidence evolutionists have presented for evolution. I have read the popular literature of highly acclaimed evolutionists; I have thought about how much evidence is required to demonstrate evolution. And, I have found it unconvincing.

Of course our major disagreement is that I am a theist and you are an atheist. I wonder how much that “colors” our view of the sufficiency of the evidence for evolution.

Thank you again for the opportunity to be interviewed on your podcast and to have this this continued dialog. I have truly enjoyed our discussion; you are the proverbial “scholar and a gentleman.” 

Don

I had hoped that Don would engage more directly with the evidence that I provided him. I’m disappointed that we could not continue to do a deep dive on the core question here – the amount of evidence for evolution. I am actually surprised he was willing to engage in this forum to this extent, and I’m glad we were able to keep our exchange civil, but in the end he just dodged the key issue.

Don’s primary point is that there is insufficient evidence to support evolutionary theory. Related to this is his contention that reading the popular literature is a sufficient guide to the extent and quality of that evidence. I believe I have demolished both of those points in my prior posts.

It’s difficult to make too many sweeping statements about the popular literature. It all depends on who is writing in the field. Also, there is a great deal of popular writing on any scientific topic, including evolution, and this varies greatly in terms of the amount of detail and evidence presented, vs a more broad-brushstroke conceptual approach.

I have read a great deal of popular works, articles and books, on evolution and feel that the evidence presented for evolution is extremely robust. But I have read some semi-technical books, like Taking Wing, the Neanderthals, The Sixth Extinction, and others, that get fairly specific on the evidence. I have also consumed many National Geographic articles, that delve into great detail about specific fossil specimens and what they tell us.

Frankly, Don simply has not read enough. Also, it’s one thing to use the popular literature to get an idea about the current findings of science and opinions of scientists. It is quite another thing to use the popular literature in order to disagree with the very scientists you are reading, and the consensus of scientific opinion.

Also I don’t think it’s appropriate for Don to say that the evidence is weak, but I don’t have time to look at the actual evidence – this evidence right here that you put in front of me to convince me the evidence is not weak.

Don’s position also is that my threshold for “sufficient evidence” is different than his. This is something on which we can agree. This is the true believer-skeptic-denier continuum. A true believer is anyone less skeptical than you, while a denier is anyone more skeptical than you. Anyone more toward the true believer end of the spectrum is naive and gullible, while anyone more toward the skeptical end is cynical. This is not actually true, but that is the default perspective most people have. Everyone uses themselves as the calibration standard for appropriately skeptical.

Here again we have a continuum with a “demarcation problem” – no clear dividing lines. There is also no easy answer to what is “appropriately skeptical.” This is a judgement that takes a great deal of thought, understanding of the methods of science, a fairly high degree of critical thinking, and the ability to transcend any major biases.

All I can say on this score is that I think I have made my case in the prior posts. Readers, of course, are invited to judge for themselves.

Don writes: “Of course our major disagreement is that I am a theist and you are an atheist. I wonder how much that “colors” our view of the sufficiency of the evidence for evolution.”

This is now a major strategy of creationists – the false equivalency. I think it is a marker of the tremendous success of evolution and science over the last century, and the dismal failure of creationism, that they have had to retreat all the way to their current position.

Creationists began their crusade against evolution by banning the teaching of evolution, saying it was not science, and that science supports creation. Of course, they still say this among themselves, but in the public sphere, especially in the context of public school education, they have retreated all the way to Don’s coy position – I am not defending creationism, I am just saying that there are some weaknesses to the theory of evolution.

Further, the failure to elevate creationism to the status of a science (or anything with any intellectual respectability) has forced them to retreat to the position that – well, OK, we can’t prove creation, but neither can you prove evolution. It’s all just different world views and biases.

Evolution is not an atheistic belief – it’s a scientific belief. In this way it is just like gravity, nuclear physics, and geology. Science follows methodological naturalism, and does not allow for supernaturalism because by necessity such notions are not falsifiable. But plenty of people of faith accept the science of evolution (and other sciences).

You can also look at is this way – within the realm of science (which is all that matters when you are talking about what gets taught in the science classroom) evolution is the answer to the origin of species. It is the unifying concept underlying all of biology, it is the consensus of scientific opinion, and it is as rock solid as any idea in science.

Conclusion

Don McLeroy, who led the move to introduce science textbook standards in Texas that would have the effect of opening the door to creationist arguments about alleged weaknesses of evolutionary theory, claims that the evidence for evolution is weak. He then challenged me to prove him wrong, to show him compelling evidence.

I did that. Honestly, it took me all told about an hour on Google to compile an impressive list of evidence for common descent and evolution (given that I was already familiar with most of it).

I now challenge Don to take the time to actually look at the evidence I provided. If he still thinks that is not enough, I can provide more. Or – he can talk to working scientists and ask to be shown some of the evidence, to be given a taste of how deep it actually is. Get a tour of a natural history museum – and I mean a tour of the back of the museum, with cabinets and draws filled with thousands of fossils (not just the few replicas they have on display).

If you are going to disagree with the scientific consensus, and sit on a school board making decisions about science education, that is minimal due diligence.

I don’t expect any further response from Don, but I do hope he continues to explore this issue, even if just to prove me wrong. Do it – prove me wrong. Look a the evidence and tell me what you find. I don’t expect people to change their world view over the course of one conversation. But just maybe, we started a process that will ultimately change his opinion.

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50 responses so far

50 Responses to “Final Response from Don McLeroy”

  1. Ori Vandewalleon 31 May 2013 at 9:56 am

    Yeah. For me the key part of this conversation is:

    Don: The evidence I’ve seen for evolution is weak. Show me the evidence.
    Steven: Here is a tremendous amount of evidence, which is only the tip of the iceberg.
    Don: I don’t have time to read all that.

  2. ivoryboneson 31 May 2013 at 10:05 am

    With science you must first start with the humble premise, “I don’t know.”. Don is good for doing this. I think if we could start from the basics of science getting Don to agree along the way either his head would explode or he may realize the people who wrote the bible didn’t know either; they couldn’t face the abyss, so here we are. lol.

  3. bsooon 31 May 2013 at 10:16 am

    When I run into this issue with people who deny man-made global warming, my response is always: what evidence would you require to change your mind? No one ever has a good answer. If you can’t even make a statement about what would be sufficient evidence then you are not a skeptic, you are a denier.

  4. The Other John Mcon 31 May 2013 at 10:38 am

    Don says “I do not admit that I am unable to judge the adequacy of the evidence evolutionists have presented for evolution.” But then says ‘Oh dear, look at all this, I just don’t actually have time to look at it all’. If you are on a school board making decisions for science education, then you make time, or you get out of the way for someone who will. This is not acceptable for someone in his position.

    Bravo Dr. N, really fascinating exchange. Unfortunatley I’m disturbed by the outcome, though.

  5. CWon 31 May 2013 at 10:38 am

    This series has been fantastic, thanks to both Steven and Don for taking the time to write these exchanges and let us read them.

    Steve, I think an important point that you brought up a few times but maybe didn’t have the right emphasis was that evolution is an explanation for the diversity of nature. There are no other explanations that have as much quality observational and testable/experimental support than evolution. You challenged Don on providing a better explanation, of which he did not provide. And so Don doesn’t understand that science is about taking the best explanations for something (anything) in our reality. A competing hypothesis could be that we are one big simulation in a higher form of life’s computer. But there are no observation or testable support for this, so therefore it is not science. If he wants to have a class called “What if?” or “Non-Scientific Ideas About Our World” and teach Creationism, ID, or The Matrix-ism, then do that. But don’t call these things Science because they are not.

    And maybe another approach to handling climate change denialists is to say, there is an observation that the average temperature of our planet is trending upward. From what we can tell, it’s happening at a pretty quick pace. So what are possible explanations? Which explanation has the most quality observational and testable/experimental support? This is science. If it turns out that there is a better explanation that has more observational/testable/experimental support down the road, than it will replace the existing explanation.

    Maybe we need to focus on telling people that science is just as much about where the explanation comes from (the process, as Steve says) than it is about the explanation itself.

  6. Halfdeadon 31 May 2013 at 10:41 am

    I think you are being far too nice, the guy was dishonest from the start. He gave you a couple of token points to pretend he was being reasonable, which is a common tactic, but that’s all he did. He also seems to be under some kind of delusion that he can read a couple of short popular non-fiction but not science books, and therefore knows enough to dismiss what amounts to millions of published papers on a subject.

  7. RickKon 31 May 2013 at 10:56 am

    Kudos on your patience, Steve, because I’m completely convinced that Don’s opinion of evolution is not remotely based on evidence and is entirely based on his ideology and his commitment to his prior position.

    It takes a firm ideology to look at patterns of morphology, co-evolved relationships, convergent evolution, observed speciation, Lenski experiments, shared DNA, inherited ERV markers, molecular biology, vestigial traits, atavisms, genetic mutation, embryology, the fossil record, paleontology, archaeology, transitional species predictions, radiometric dating, dendrochronology, ice core dating, biostratiography, archaeogenetics, biogeography, plate tectonics, geology, chemistry, and physics and say “That’s not enough evidence”. That’s a mind that will never change.

  8. edamameon 31 May 2013 at 11:04 am

    Is his claim that evolution did not happen, period, or simply that naturalistic evolutionary processes cannot explain the emergence of *every* species? These are very different ideas, one stupid, the other unfalsifiable but at least not against the evidence.

  9. Steven Novellaon 31 May 2013 at 11:55 am

    The point of this exchange was to have the exchange. I exposed Don’s errors without pulling any punches. Being nice and civil allowed the exchange to progress to the point it did, which I think creates a valuable document. Readers can see for themselves the outcome of the exchange, they don’t need me to hit them over the head with it.

  10. Amy(T)on 31 May 2013 at 12:02 pm

    Good for you, Dr. Novella. I won’t hold my breath waiting for Dr. McLeroy’s conversion, but also won’t dismiss the possibility. I wish the people who claim to “look at the evidence and reject it” would just take a course in evolution. If you really want to review the evidence and actually learn evolution, the least you could do is take a college course. After I took it, I understood it so much better, and, yes it’s implications to my world view. I spent time after not thinking about it because I knew where that was leading, then finally allowed myself to think and fully accept it. My guess is Dr. McLeroy doesn’t think about it too hard, he reads popular literature, denying as he goes along, instead of trying to comprehend it. And I wonder, if he, like me, tries not to think about it because he knows the conclusion he’ll come to if he accepts it? I have to say, I’m much happier (and feel more free) after taking, and accepting evolution.

  11. AndrewTysonon 31 May 2013 at 12:04 pm

    # Ori Vandewalleon 31 May 2013 at 9:56 am
    “Yeah. For me the key part of this conversation is:

    Don: The evidence I’ve seen for evolution is weak. Show me the evidence.
    Steven: Here is a tremendous amount of evidence, which is only the tip of the iceberg.
    Don: I don’t have time to read all that.”

    And yet its not enough. He dismisses the evidence provided him, goes back to pointing the finger at “popular literature” saying there is not enough there. It is as if he hasn’t been involved in the discussion the past two weeks.

  12. sowellfanon 31 May 2013 at 12:08 pm

    This reminds me a lot of Neil Adams. He’s got all these huge comprehensive ideas about the expanding earth, redefining physics as we know it, etc. – but then it’s, “Well – why on earth would you expect *me* to do the math? That’s for other people to do, I’ve done the heavy lifting by coming up with this idea…”

  13. atombon 31 May 2013 at 12:51 pm

    Well that seems about as close to “I give up” and “you win” as you can get in a debate. He pretty much said “la la la la I don’t have time but i’m not wrong” Nice job on a sound defeat.

  14. pdeboeron 31 May 2013 at 1:05 pm

    “If you can’t even make a statement about what would be sufficient evidence then you are not a skeptic, you are a denier.”

    Well said bsoo.

    If you don’t specify what you would like to see as evidence, then you your position is non-falsifiable.

    Leave the back door open for when the villagers come to burn down your house.

  15. donmcleroyon 31 May 2013 at 1:06 pm

    Steve: Two observations.

    First, my primary point is not that there is insufficient evidence for evolution; it is exactly as I stated “My key insight from our discussion is we disagree about the amount of evidence needed to demonstrate evolution. The key word is not amount but the word “needed.” Only given the complexity that needs to be explained is the evidence weak.

    Second, you did not demolish my point on “popular” science writing. If you did, you also demolished Stephen J, Gould. In the earlier post, I defended my position as a layman criticizing evolution by quoting Stephen J. Gould in Wonderful Life .Here is the quote in context:

    “I have fiercely maintained one personal rule in all my so-called “popular” writing (The word is admirable in its literal sense, but has been debased to mean simplified or adulterated for easy listening without effort in return.) I believe—as Galileo did when he wrote his two greatest works as dialogues in Italian rather than didactic treatises in Latin, as Thomas Henry Huxley did when he composed his masterful prose free from jargon, as Darwin did when he published all of his books for general audiences—that we can still have a genre of scientific books suitable and accessible alike to professionals and interested laypeople. The concepts of science, in all their richness and ambiguity can be presented without any compromise, without any simplification counting as distortion, in language accessible to all intelligent people. Words, of course, must be varied, if only to eliminate a jargon and phraseology that would mystify anyone outside the priesthood, but conceptual depth should not vary at all between professional publications and general exposition….”

    I will join Gould in fiercely defending my approach.

    Thanks,

    Don McLeroy

  16. Sancluson 31 May 2013 at 1:52 pm

    I wish I could see something positive about this exchange, but it sounds like the same sad story and unhappy ending that I have experienced for myself during these types of exchanges.

    There appear to be two types of people in the world; those who, despite their own beliefs or the lack thereof, can accept new data and gain new understanding and those who will stick to their beliefs and understanding beyond any measurable level of reason in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Unfortunately, the latter group, which Don is apparently in, seems to be the more numerous group.

    The most ironic thing about this particular exchange is that evolutionary theory has more supporting evidence than just about anything we discuss in the scientific spectrum. if I were more cynical, I might think that evolution deniers know this and their attack on evolution is a focused attack on the scientific method and on naturalism itself.

    Daniel

  17. etatroon 31 May 2013 at 4:49 pm

    This is so hard for me to understand because I never didn’t accept evolution. Does anyone have any stories themselves or know of any in which a person goes from creationist/evolution-denier to accepting evolution conversions? How does that process work? I can’t imagine that a protracted debate like this would change someone’s mind. Though, the cynic in me thinks that McLeroy doesn’t believe what he says he believes, and he’s only pandering or would be shamed/shunned by his community if he did change his beliefs. Maybe that’s a big motivator for motivated reasoning. Now I feel sorry for him.

  18. ccbowerson 31 May 2013 at 5:52 pm

    It appears that no amount of evidence is convincing to someone not open to the inevitable conclusion of that evidence.

    I doubt that even a video documenting the history of the earth in which you could fast forward and rewind would be dismissed as insufficient evidence, even if this video was entirely consistent with evolutionary theory. A shrug of the shoulders and ‘where is the molecular evidence?’ is all it would take for a denier to dismiss it. Its a moving goalpost, and there is never enough evidence for a denier

  19. ccbowerson 31 May 2013 at 5:56 pm

    “Anyone more toward the true believer end of the spectrum is naive and gullible, while anyone more toward the skeptical end is cynical. This is not actually true, but that is the default perspective most people have.”

    This is related to the cognitive bias: Illusory superiority.

    Another good example is that the average driver rates him/herself as an above average driver. Its more obvious to see contradiction in that perspective. Only some of us are really superior ;o)

  20. locutusbrgon 31 May 2013 at 7:31 pm

    He was remarkably even tempered, political polish in my opinion. His arguments are like saying, “gravity doesn’t exist because science (better known as atheists) has no quantum theory of gravity”.
    Unlike gravity you can’t just pick up a apple drop it and prove him wrong. I suspect even if it did evolve in front of him it would be a “miracle”.
    It is not a pointless discussion without his interest there is no discussion.without the discussion some other creationists would only hear the ideology not the facts.
    Don I implore you, you can have it all. God and Science. plenty of religions do it. Its not about God it’s about striving for knowledge not wallowing in superstition and ignorance.

  21. thequiet1on 31 May 2013 at 7:50 pm

    It seems as though the anxiety associated with the oncoming cognitive dissonance of actually examining evidence finally became too much for Don. You can see Steve deftly manoeuvre him into having to look at real evidence throughout the exchange, and when he couldn’t continue the exchange without doing so, he bailed.

    Much has been said of Don’s congeniality throughout the dialogue, correctly no doubt, but my patience and goodwill runs out with him when he is willing to sit on a school board and influence what reality students are taught, but says he simply doesn’t have the time to look at the evidence on the matter, after it is presented to him on a platter no less.

    Don, you either need to be willing to take the time to educate yourself on the matter, or you need to excuse yourself from expressing an opinion on it, not to mention controlling what students are taught about it. To do otherwise is morally and intellectually reprehensible, no matter how congenial you are in the process.

  22. tmac57on 31 May 2013 at 8:12 pm

    I think this represents Don’s current position in the debate:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAp9sFVdERQ

  23. Steven Novellaon 31 May 2013 at 8:34 pm

    Don,

    Thanks for commenting. You are not addressing my criticisms of your position, however.

    Gould is referring to scientific concepts, not the technical details. You are denying the technical details. What I clearly established is that your reading of popular works had not left you with an accurate assessment of the evidence.

    To expand a point I made above – the internet now contains a full range of writing – accessible to the educated layperson but with lots of details – more than in a popular book. You should avail yourself of this. You can start by following the links I provided.

    Finally – you have not in any way established what is sufficient evidence. If you are grossly underestimating the amount of evidence, then you are not in a position to say if it is sufficient.

    Also, you are looking at it wrong. You should be asking – how well does evolutionary theory make predictions about future evidence. The answer is – remarkably, stunningly, well. That is the true test of a scientific theory.

  24. Ori Vandewalleon 31 May 2013 at 8:52 pm

    Don: Your appeal to Gould here is in fact an appeal to authority. Gould is stating a belief about popular writing, but we have no particular reason to think that his belief is correct. Yes, he wrote popular accounts of science, but that does not give him special knowledge about the ability of said popular accounts to fully convey science.

    Beyond that, however, there is a great deal of evidence to indicate that popular science writing simply cannot give as accurate a picture as the technical literature can. Compromise is inevitable because language is simply not as precise as mathematics, and there are many concepts in science that can only be fully expressed through math.

    If you need evidence of this, just look at polls assessing lay people’s scientific literacy. It’s abysmal, even for relatively educated people that could be expected to have read popular accounts of science. Scientific literacy isn’t about being able to plug in equations; it’s about knowing the concepts. Yet most people aren’t at all clear on the concepts, despite the great proliferation of popular science writing.

    And again, Don, how can you presume to decide what children should be taught about a particular subject when you readily admit that you just don’t have the time to fully research the topic? If the vast majority of scientists who have read the technical literature accept evolution and believe the evidence for it is strong, don’t you think the least you could do is also read the literature before deciding what every child in the state of Texas should be taught about the subject?

  25. rezistnzisfutlon 31 May 2013 at 8:59 pm

    Dr. McLeroy is a fundamentalist christian. This means he takes the entire bible as literally true and infallible, including there being a young earth that was created by the christian god of the bible and humans were created in their current form in the image of his deity.

    A person who is a fundamentalist christian must prop up their religious faith by any and all means necessary, because not doing so would invalidate their position of faith, that being that it was original sin by Adam and Eve that damned all humans for eternity and only through accepting Jesus and asking forgiveness will one be saved. So, like all christian fundamentalist, he MUST reject anything that contradicts his bible or else doubt is introduced about original sin, and the house of cards comes tumbling down.

    So, no amount or quality of evidence, reasoned argument, scientific discourse, corrections of factual errors, or rational discussion is going to convince him of anything that contradicts the writings in the bible. To him, that is tantamount to an attack on his faith and the truth of his mindset. I defer to the Kurt Wise quote I posted in a previous thread about how all the evidence in the universe could run contrary to creationism, but he’d still remain a creationist.

    In essence, like with Cannotsay in another thread, the conversation is ultimately fruitless, unless one is arguing for their own edification – as long as he so tenaciously clings to his beliefs, he will not change his mind.

    The problem is, he is, or was, on the Texas State Board of Education, which is a travesty on multiple levels. Why ordinary joes, politicians, and non-educators are the ones in charge of school curricula is beyond me. It seems to me that educators and subject matter experts should be the primary ones determining what gets taught, with parents and politicians only a contingency within the larger group. Why would anyone who has no clue what is being taught or how to teach it have so much influence on what gets taught and how? Thank goodness that there’s a Department of Education and a Constitution that can be deferred to.

  26. benjiminon 31 May 2013 at 9:08 pm

    +1 to The Other John Mc.

    Steven, regards your demarcation problem (“no easy answer to what is appropriately sceptical”), isn’t the “provably correct way to change your mind” by putting numbers into Bayes’ theorem?

    Maybe Don would be swayed by reading more sympathetic books, like Asher’s “Evolution and Belief: Confessions of a Religious Paleontologist” (which contains detailed evidence). If Don’s (political) decisions are built on dumbed-down accounts of science, do we know which books exactly he’s been reading so far?

  27. Hosson 31 May 2013 at 10:23 pm

    Don, right or wrong, your logic has been horrible this entire “debate”. I think you’re being extremely intellectually dishonest.

    Ideology is a prevelent pattern in your illogical thinking. I believe there may be many reasons why you hold the positions you do, but there appears to be a single driver you’ve based your beliefs on about the origin of species. The belief that god let you know creationism with absolute metaphysical certitude.

    I do not want to live in a society where laws are not derived from men claiming divinity in some form or another instead of reason and logic, but Texas is my home. I may be mistaken, but in society, if reason and logic are secondary to god, belief in god must be attacked otherwise you’re just attacking the Kranken’s appendages and not the Kranken itself.

    Luckily there appears to be a self correcting mechanism for metaphysical beliefs in American society, but I can’t help but wonder – how fast skepticism, reasoning, logic, critical thinking, ect… would spread through society, if society stopped believing in god.

  28. Hosson 31 May 2013 at 10:29 pm

    Whoops small correction(besides the numerous grammar error I’m sure are present).

    I do not want to live in a society where laws are * derived from men claiming divinity in some form or another instead of reason and logic, but Texas is my home.

  29. autumnmonkeyon 01 Jun 2013 at 2:32 am

    Don is a presuppositionalist Christian. If you present 100 pieces of evidence and say (being intellectually honest) you could be unsure about one of them, his mind immediately coalesces around the idea that you’ve admitted you’re likely wrong about ALL evidence. His presuppositionalism already frames his position that he’s right by default and doesn’t need evidence for his creationism. The burden is 100% on you. You must have 100% certainty on 100% of all evidence and a 100% explanation for everything. When you say, “I can’t fully explain or prove minor point XYZ”, it’s absolute proof you’re wrong about everything.

  30. BillyJoe7on 01 Jun 2013 at 3:39 am

    SN: “Evolution is not an atheistic belief – it’s a scientific belief”

    True. But that is not to say that some inferences can’t be made. For example, that evolution is incompatible with nearly all the concepts religious people have about their gods. And this is particularly true of Don’s particular god. The literal truth of the bible is clearly incompatible with evolution. That’s why Don has to deny it by insisting that, no matter how much evidence there is, no matter how much evidence you can show him, it will never be enough.

  31. Thadiuson 01 Jun 2013 at 4:56 am

    Well, I said don only had three choices, accept the evidence, invoke a mystical god or run from the argument. Unfortunately Don tucked tail and ran, he could not bring himself to engage with the evidence, perhaps because he already knows why it would show him. He has to protect his faith and protect his cause, this left him with no way out but the cowards way out.

  32. Alex Simmonson 01 Jun 2013 at 8:15 am

    I am unable to judge the adequacy of the evidence creationists have presented for creation. I have read the popular literature of highly acclaimed creationists; I have thought about how much evidence is required to demonstrate creation. And, I have found it unconvincing.

  33. John Piereton 01 Jun 2013 at 8:50 am

    “I want to see significantly greater evidence than you do.”

    Well, it’s been said before but it bears repeating. Evolution has been proven beyond all reasonable doubt. It just has not been proven beyond unreasonable doubt.

  34. ccbowerson 01 Jun 2013 at 10:25 am

    “For example, that evolution is incompatible with nearly all the concepts religious people have about their gods. And this is particularly true of Don’s particular god. The literal truth of the bible is clearly incompatible with evolution.”

    Yes, but very few people fit into that fundamentalist category, because people believe all sorts of things that are (in theory) incompatible with their own religion, and they don’t seem all that motivated to change many of those beliefs. Premarital sex, adultery, theft, etc occur just as frequently, and sometimes moreso, in religious communities as it does in less religious communitites. Also, for example, very few people are advocating for the stoning of children who disobey their parents, or work on the Sabbath, etc.

    In other words, although the motivation to deny evolution is driven by religious beliefs, the particular religious beliefs are emphasized by the religious community and utlimately are chosen by the individual. At least with evolution, the facts clearly lead to the correct conclusion if one is open to those facts… Catholics no longer have difficulty with heliocentrism, right?

  35. ccbowerson 01 Jun 2013 at 10:32 am

    @ Hoss

    Ironically, Don argues that his relgious beliefs actually make him less biased, since he is open to both supernatural and natural explanations. Of course that isn’t true because he is only open to explanations compatible with his religion, and the concept of a supernatural explanation is incoherent.

    “I do not want to live in a society where laws are not derived from men claiming divinity in some form or another instead of reason and logic, but Texas is my home.”

    You choose your home, you know. I know, there are many reasons to choose a home, and there are many factors, such as friends and relatives.

    “I can’t help but wonder – how fast skepticism, reasoning, logic, critical thinking, ect… would spread through society, if society stopped believing in god.”

    It cuts both ways, right? Teaching logic, reason, critical thinking, etc may result in people questioning their beliefs. I think this is a fear that many religious people have, but they frame it completely differently

  36. BillyJoe7on 01 Jun 2013 at 5:35 pm

    Hoss,

    ““I do not want to live in a society where laws are not derived from men claiming divinity in some form or another instead of reason and logic”

    I usually express it thusly…
    I do not want to live in a society where my freedom is curtailed by someone else’s religious beliefs.

    ——————–

    ccbowers,

    You must be in a funny mood because seem to be simultaneously supporting and criticising our points of view. (:

  37. Skeptical Steelon 01 Jun 2013 at 6:16 pm

    Don says:

    “Skeptical Steel states there is a “preponderance of evidence” but no evidence is offered.”

    I tip my cap to you, Don! I am no expert in matters biological. Evidence offered from me personally is not worth the electrons by which they are conveyed. I rely on the expertise of others. As we must in most things, if you think about it.

    But I don’t know where you might track down expert advice on evolution for yourself. It is one of life’s enduring mysteries, I guess.

  38. ccbowerson 01 Jun 2013 at 10:30 pm

    “You must be in a funny mood because seem to be simultaneously supporting and criticising our points of view. (: ”

    I thought I do that all the time. =o)

  39. ghulseon 03 Jun 2013 at 10:38 am

    There’s no convincing a Creationist of the evidence for evolution. Creationists start with the belief of the Bible as inerrant truth. Anything that contradicts the Bible is false. Evolution conflicts with a literal interpretation of the Bible, and so evolution loses. No amount of evidence for evolution will ever be enough.

    I have come to believe that people are oriented either towards an evidence-based or “metaphysical-based” outlook (for lack of a better description). People are one way or another (and all shades in between), probably much the same as sexual orientation. I don’t think it’s possible to “convert” someone who is oriented so dramatically to one end of the spectrum.

  40. gr8googlymooglyon 03 Jun 2013 at 12:40 pm

    I’m amazed at the lengths to which a person will go to avoid questioning their deeply held ideologies.

    Mr. McLeroy spends so much time and effort crafting his straw men. Someone needs to remind him that straw men are only good if you want to win arguments against yourself.

    I have to believe that at least some of his attempts at diversion and confusion are intentional. As if lying about something is OK as long as no one can prove you are lying.

    Don – I wonder how your God would feel about this.

  41. Bronze Dogon 03 Jun 2013 at 3:46 pm

    Ironically, Don argues that his relgious beliefs actually make him less biased, since he is open to both supernatural and natural explanations. Of course that isn’t true because he is only open to explanations compatible with his religion, and the concept of a supernatural explanation is incoherent.

    My emphasis. To me, “supernatural” is a nonsense word. If something has observable effects, we use science to study it. I simply see no reason to divide observable phenomena into “natural” and “supernatural.” I think by humoring the label and the alleged boundaries it creates, we’re arguably encouraging woos to use it as a “get out of inquiry free” card instead of dealing with the issues of unfalsifiability, incoherence, and such.

  42. ghulseon 03 Jun 2013 at 7:42 pm

    I agree with the last two posts. Some true believers, including Deepak Chopra, accuse scientists of a materialist bias for failing to look into possible supernatural explanations. This is inherently preposterous and shows a profound misunderstanding of the workings of science. Of course scientists must assume materialist explanations for the world. In our entire history, has any scientific discovery ever been attributed to supernatural explanations? The answer is no.

  43. Nitpickingon 03 Jun 2013 at 10:07 pm

    Dr. McLeroy:

    I think you have been sincere in this discussion, as well as both cogent and coherent. That said, I do have three points that I think Steve didn’t make, perhaps due to time/space constraints.

    1)Do you have any evidence, any at all, that militates against evolution? I haven’t seen any, and I did my graduate work in zoology.

    2)The human genome contains genes to manufacture the enzymes that create ascorbate (vitamin C). One of them is broken in humans (and our relatives among the primates). See http://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/the-mystery-of-vitamin-c-14167861

    How can this be explained, except by evolution? The generally-accepted consensus is that our ancestors lived on fruit and ate enough ascorbate that they didn’t need to manufacture any, so when this gene mutated to uselessness it had no effect on survival. In particular, why is this pattern found in the apes (including us) but not, say, squirrels, if not because of common descent?

    Why would a creator build the entire enzyme system used to make ascorbate into our genome BUT BREAK IT?

    3)You are, by every account, a highly-skilled dentist. How would you react if Mike Adams, a self-trained “health expert” with no dental training, declared that fluoride is a “scam” and that seaweed can prevent tooth decay? Because he is (http://www.naturalnews.com/dental.html). After all, Mr. Adams has read popular works on dentistry. Why is it OK for you to judge science based on some popularizations, but not Mike Adams to judge dentistry the same way?

    Thank you.

  44. Bill Openthalton 04 Jun 2013 at 8:08 am

    @ gr8googlymoogly
    I think the root of the problem is this: during childhood, humans acquire core beliefs that determine how they perceive the world. For most, letting go of these core beliefs removes the sense from their lives, makes them feel like they have lived the proverbial lie. An example would be christians who had only stayed with their spouses because of their religious conviction; if that conviction denounces evolution, the collateral damage of accepting evolution would be the destruction of the marriage, and with it their standing in their community, the loss of connection with their children, etc.

    If the price one has to pay for changing a core belief is too high, humans will find all and any reasons not to change. The subconsious modules make the calculations and appraisals, and this results in the gut feel about wrongness of the opposing view. The only thing that’s left for the conscious part is to find acceptably sounding rationalisations for the gut feel.

  45. The Other John Mcon 05 Jun 2013 at 9:35 am

    Bill O, I think what you are describing is accurate. In psychology, such “confabulation” can be so fantastic and clearly and obviously inconsistent with reality, and yet people will still do it. Confabulation is especially apparent in split-brain patients (e.g., http://forums.penny-arcade.com/discussion/152218/split-brain-patients-confabulation-and-the-nature-of-consciousness), but the point is that people without split brains are apparently doing this all the time, every day, in an attempt to maintain mental order and reduce cognitive dissonance. Any reason will do, even poor ones.

    Humans aren’t truth-machines, they are good-enough-to-get-by machines, which is why systematic attempts at discovering truth (i.e., science) is so important, to remove such biases.

  46. tmac57on 05 Jun 2013 at 12:04 pm

    The documentary ‘The Revisionaries’ is available for instant watch on Netflix. I watched it last night,and it is well worth viewing. The various parties involved were each given fair treatment as far as I am concerned,but I felt like,after watching it,that Don is more disingenuous than I originally believed.I now think that he has never intended to get to the truth of evolution,but has merely been anomaly hunting for plausible “weaknesses” in order to argue for the erosion of the science, so that it can make a space for creationism,despite his endless claims that that is not what he is about.
    Judge for yourselves,I suspect that everyone will see the film in light of their own perspective,since the events are presented without comment by the filmmakers.

  47. rrclark123on 06 Jun 2013 at 11:56 am

    Interesting article written by Stuart Kauffman et al. published on the Cornell University Library:

    “No entailing laws, but enablement in the evolution of the biosphere”

    http://arxiv.org/abs/1201.2069v1

  48. NNMon 10 Jun 2013 at 1:09 pm

    CW:
    ” A competing hypothesis could be that we are one big simulation in a higher form of life’s computer. But there are no observation or testable support for this, so therefore it is not science.”

    Don’t be too quick to close that door!
    Quantum uncertainty is the result of rounded decimals! *proof*!
    And if I ask:
    Looking at our current technological advances, is it (just) imaginable, that we would one day create actual artificial intelligence? In the end, what is intelligence, but electrical signals wizzing around along nerves? If I decide to move my fingers and type these words, it’s only due to these electrons being sent down from my brain to my muscles. With that line of thought, I can imagine we would one day create a “real” artificial intelligence. It does not seem so outlandish. (At least, not comparable to some supernatural being making light on the first day, the source a few days later)
    So, assuming we CAN create real AI… Then there’s not much reason to think we’re any different, and are simply repeating the cycle of creation… The sims in sim city 9000 may actually think they’re real; and learn programming; and create tools to make their life easier; eventually making new “real” AI; or trying to figure out where they came from; but their view would be limited by a big flash of energy (initial surge / big bang), and if lucky enough detect it as background radiation…

    (Nah, I still believe in evolution; but it’s funny to think about)

  49. NNMon 10 Jun 2013 at 1:31 pm

    Went off topic because of a comment, but originally, I wanted to comment:

    Quoting the blogger. Strike that. Quoting the Scientist/Doctor:
    (From “Science journalism”)
    “As soon as you put a pseudoscientist up against a genuine and respected scientist, you have elevated the pseudoscientist to a stature they likely do not deserve. You have framed the story in a very deceptive way that does not reflect the reality.”

    Dr Novella, how do you plead? Guilty?
    (You’re the elevator!)

  50. ascotton 08 Sep 2013 at 4:29 am

    The entire debate revolves around preaching to the converted; I’m quite sure I could never convince a creationist of the errors in their way of thinking, any more than they could convince me of the literal interpretation of Genesis. Why argue proof, when ultimately faith negates all the proof that could ever possibly be offered? Creationists have a smug trump card.

    Incidentally, and forgive me for being new to this forum and having to read a ton to catch up, but why is it that evolution is the only science that is singled out, either for attack or held up as a champion? There are other, totally unrelated, scientific disciplines that can pour scorn upon Genesis. Geology has ample proof of the age of the Earth. Astronomy has ample proof of the age of the universe.

    Just try a simple experiment: go out and look at the night sky. With a bit of guidance you can see the Andromeda Galaxy at (I believe) around 2 million light years away, with your own naked eyes. That light shouldn’t be reaching your eyes if the universe is only a few thousand years old. Creationists need to disprove so much, much more than evolution. A little thing like the speed of light for example.

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