D. Herbert

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Some thoughts on Discussing Evolution

  1. Don't. It's just not worth it.

  2. A person's beliefs in a particular subject, whether they are anti-evolution, pro-racism, pro-homosexual, anti-communist, Catholic, atheist, etc. don't have any bearing on whether or not that person is educated or intelligent. There are brilliant racists and stupid anti-Communists and everything in between. Someone's religious beliefs don't make them any smarter or dumber.

    And intelligence has nothing to do with whether someone is a decent person.

  3. "Ignorance" is a more complicated subject, and one I'm not so quick to concede. I don't think that everyone who believes in ID or creationism is "ignorant." But I do believe people who post thoughtlessly against evolution without even having read the rebuttals at TalkDesign.org are candidates for being considered "ignorant." If you want to discuss challenges to evolution online, you should at the very least read the main rebuttal to your claims. At the same time, anyone who wants to attack ID should understand it (so a pro-evolution person could be "ignorant" if he attacked ID based on a strawman misrepresentation of what ID theorists are saying--this is the reason I took the time to actually understand Behe's "Irreducible Complexity" argument, by reading the critiques and his writing).

  4. I do believe that trying to teach ID instead of or alongside evolution is to be pushing ignorance, because ID is wrong. Teaching something that is wrong, for bad reasons, is to spread ignorance.
There are a few problems with trying to have a discussion about this controversial subject online, with strangers:
  1. The most obvious is that this is a touchy subject and some people will be more easily offended. This includes people who really were offended, and people who use "offended" a a PC club to beat you with. (I think there's a lot more of the former than the latter.)

  2. Others will deliberately offend. I don't just mean being rough-edged or less than polite, I mean being offensive for the sole point of trolling.

  3. And then there are the hit-and-run posters: they show up, make one opening argument, and then run away. They're not interested in hearing answers, because they can't stand and fight. This by no means includes all persons skeptical of evolution. It doesn't even include all people who show up and then leave. Only the ones who make arrogant assertions before running off.

  4. None of them think, "Gee, I don't know much about this. Maybe I should just ask my question politely instead of asserting that it proves that evolution is a lie."

  5. The "points" they make generally look like "Evolution can't be true because it can't explain X!!!" Aside from the fact that they obviously aren't creative enough to come up with their own explanation (or just don't want to), when you reply with a simple explanation of how X might in fact be possible and fit into the grand scheme of things, they've already moved on. What the Hell do they care? They're not interested in an answer. They just like asking the question.

  6. The other "point" they make is to cite an expert like Behe or Dembski. Then they run away. Again, they're not interested in the answer. Fact is, Behe/Dembski/etc. have been discussed and rebutted over at TalkDesign.org. They won't follow the links back to that page to read about our side of the argument, because they aren't interested in understanding anything.

  7. I'd bet that few people who cite Dembski's "Complex Specified Information" (CSI) theory have any idea whatsoever what it is. Or are there just thousands of math majors floating around the interweb dropping in on random sites to voice their support for CSI anonymously?

    Just challenge these people to explain CSI in their own words and watch their heads explode.

    I'm taking the time to learn it now, and it's not very impressive. TalkOrigins points out some serious flaws, and I'm reading his paper now.

  8. They like the theory so much because it is backed by A Scientist--they are the ones blindly following authority and waving credentials around. The pro-evolution side of the debate doesn't want to wow people with the weight of their credentials (which is indeed massive), it just wants people to understand evolution as part of a balanced liberal arts education.

    Of course, that alone doesn't prove it's wrong. Just because most people don't understand quantum physics (I sure don't!) doesn't make it false. No. To see why it's wrong, you'd have to go to TalkDesign.org. They lay it all out for anyone interested in reading it themselves.

    Why would anyone try to understand the evolution vs. ID debate in a chat room, forum, or comment thread, when there are such powerful resources available? People wrote them just for you.

1 Comments:

  • This is the post with the most common sense that I've seen yet. Lotsa people talking out of their posteriors on this one, to be sure--which I would be doing as well if I tried to argue the technical points of either side. I hate to say it, but I just don't care enough about the issue to get fully educated on it either way; I have my opinion, and I'm sticking with it, as simple as it is.

    And you're right; trying to debate in blogs/forums/whatever is kind of silly. It's a rare occasion where someone's strong opinion is changed (on ANYTHING) based on a blog comment!

    Anyway, I'm dropping the subject. I just had to vent about the pissing match everywhere. ;-)

    By Blogger Beth, at August 08, 2005 2:35 PM  

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