Monday, January 28, 2013

Evolution is False - Summary


Jesus laughing
I just spent ten long posts detailing why each and every single one of the "my top ten reasons why evolution was false" is... false. First, let's tally the results into a handy dandy table:


Summary Table


Argument
Relevancy to Falsifying Evolution * Relevancy to Demonstrating God
Core logical fallacy, if any
Success?
10. Pagan Origins of Evolution
X

Red Herring
X
9. Planetary Habitability of Earth
X
Red Herring, Begging the Question
X
8. Hoaxes
~
Red Herring
X
7. Irreducible Order of Life
X
~
Argument from Ignorance
X
6. DNA
~
~
Argument from Analogy, Unverified Inference
X
5. C-14 Dating in Fossil Fuels
X
Red Herring
X
4. The Law of Cause and Effect
X
Red Herring, Begging the Question, Black Swan fallacy, Unverified Inference
X
3. Law of Biogenesis
X
Red Herring, Begging the Question, Black Swan fallacy, Unverified Inference
X
2. Existence of Constant Virtues
X
Red Herring, Begging the Question
X
1. The Verification of Jesus as the Christ
X
Red Herring, Catastrophic Epistemological Collapse
X

X - No    ✔ - Yes    ~ - Kind of
* To the exclusion of arguing against evolution

Final Grade: F------

Analysis

It's sad to say, but this isn't unusual. It's standard operating procedure for creationists to have such a staggering ineptitude for epistemological reasoning, and stammering ignorance for the topics they're trying to discuss. I'm not top-notch when it comes to discussing Christian doctrine, and I'll happily make that clear.

God versus Evolution and Abiogenesis

Did you notice in the above table how many of the arguments were trying to demonstrate that a God exists? Note - not just demonstrate that God exists, but to the exclusion of making an argument against evolution.

The author continuously makes an assumption that abiogenesis/evolution (termed "A/E" below) is mutually exclusive with the existence of a God. It's gotta be one, or the other, but not both - all the while bashing on scientists about supposedly making assumptions even when they weren't.

Diagram showing relationship between scenarios where god and abiogenesis/evolution are true.
Three different possible scenarios for reality.
In my earth-shattering diagram above, I show three basic scenarios that could exist (although possibilities are arguable infinite):
  1. God is true. Abiogenesis/Evolution are not true.
  2. God is true. Abiogenesis/Evolution are true.
  3. God is not true. Abiogenesis/Evolution are not true.
Technically, there's a fourth - where neither are true, but it's not terribly relevant to the point.

I get that the author probably doesn't agree that God could have created abiogenesis and evolution the way science is learning about them, but it's still a possibility. After all, we're talking about a universe that's been created, along with the laws of physics, logical absolutes, and apparently moral absolutes. Why not evolution and abiogenesis? 

I know many Christians who have resolved their cognitive dissonance between their belief in God, and the apparent fact that evolution is true, by merely declaring that God made evolution the way we see it. For many believers that's fine.

Here's where the problem lies for the author - let's say we successfully demonstrate that God exists. According to the chart/reason, we've narrowed down the possibilities to two scenarios - one where evolution/abiogenesis are true, and one where it's not.

By proving God, we've made unambiguously zero progress towards proving or disproving evolution. 

Despite this, literally half of the "top ten reasons why evolution is false" have absolutely zero relevance to the article's topic. To put this in perspective of just how incompetent this article is, it'd be like if he was tasked with creating a list of "my top ten list of awesome animals", and half the list were items like "paperclips" and "I found this chunk of asphalt once that looked like a potato". 

Right off the bat, we can strike off half the list. It's even more embarrassing to realize that those arguments failed miserably, were riddled with logical fallacies, and fall under the "previously refuted a thousand times" (PRATT) category.

Inability to address evolutionary theory

When I started burrowing into this list, I thought I'd get arguments against evolution (strange, I know). I expected to find declarations of what evolutionary theory predicted, and refutations of those predictions. I expected to find the multiple independent lines of evidence that support evolutionary theory to be systematically debunked.

What did I get? "Evolution has it's origins in Pagan mythology."

... and? Not that he was correct. It sounded more like a description of abiogenesis/biogenesis. It was arguments like this that indicated that he didn't have the faintest clue what the theory of evolution is about, otherwise he would have been embarrassed to make the point.

For the sake of argument, let's say that Pagan mythology described evolutionary theory in stunning accuracy and detail. What would that mean? That evolution is false? 

No.

If anything, it'd mean that the ancient Pagans managed to get something right. Modern science has unequivocally demonstrated that evolutionary theory is true.

Is the author really saying that anything that's associated with mythology is automatically wrong? Did he think about the implications about what that means for the Bible, Koran, etc? Alas, I forgot, Christianity isn't mythology!

Of the remaining five arguments, the closest he got to making some kind of relevant argument against evolution was an attack of radiocarbon dating... kind of. If we give him the benefit of the doubt and extend it to radiometric dating in general, he could have made a case as to why one subset of one line of evidence supporting the theory is debatable.

Irreducible complexity, as a concept, at least tries to point out that there's something wrong within evolutionary theory, even as feebly and ignorantly as it did. But no, he decided to attack a particular dating method had little to nothing to do with the broader fossil record.

The remaining arguments were non-sequiturs, arguments from ignorance, arguments from analogy, unverified inferences and red herrings.

Maybe he named the article wrong

The article is named "My top ten reasons why evolution is false", which seemed odd, for the above reasons. Snarkily, I figured a more accurate name:

"My top ten derpiest reasons why evolution is false"

... and that's barely a joke. Typically, when one is ascending through "top ten" lists, #1 is supposed to be the best example. If this were the "top ten Nintendo Entertainment System games", #1 would be the best NES game ever. What I found was a list where the Derp was increasing as I was progressing. The arguments against evolution were getting dumber and dumber, until we hit #1, which is arguably the dumbest argument in the list. It's certainly the furthest off the deep end.

I think if we dig a little deeper, and be a little more introspective, we can come up with an honestly accurate title for the article:

"My top ten reasons, that I found convincing, that evolution is false"

It wasn't that these were good arguments. These were arguments he personally felt were compelling. If I asked why the sky was blue, and the answer I got back was "because that's Zeus' favorite color", I might find that compelling - enough to put it on a top-ten list for why Zeus is real.

I'm opposed to religion, but I see it mostly as a symptom. Even those people who say they aren't religious, they're spiritual, and believe stupid things - that's a symptom.

The core of the problem I'm addressing is the lack of education, critical thinking, rational thinking, evidence based investigation, standards of epistemology and evidence. I'm frequently trying to educate people on how to be rational. All other problems are addressed from that core, I firmly believe. When I argue with theists, outside of finding new, unique ways of calling them names, I'm typically spending a lot of effort trying to educate them on the basics of epistemology and evidence. That's where it all starts.

Otherwise, we get people like this author, who write articles like... this.

Here, I found a person who is foundationally inept at the basics of forming rational thought - someone who hasn't the faintest clue how to address a concept, form arguments against it - someone who has employed exactly zero critical thinking, doesn't understand what qualifies as evidence, or has any level of cognition that such a thing exists as "logical fallacies".

What we got is a person who writes "I like going to the ocean!" on his "My top ten favorite animals" list.

Faith cripples a mind's capacity for coherent cogent rational thought. For a large chunk of America, this is what's taught to children from day 1. 

We really don't need more articles like this.

He's probably not stupid

I've tried to be careful with my word choice here. Believe it or not, I'm not insulting his intelligence. It's not a question of intelligence. It's a question of habit, skill and knowledge - something I think the author can improve upon, if he so desires.

Take critical thinking as an example. It's "thinking about thinking", in short. It never occurred to the author to question the structure or setup of his arguments. Critical thinking is a skill that one has to remember to do, or be in the habit of doing. It's something one exercises and improves. It's not a question of raw intelligence. It's a question of procedure.

Likewise, he needs to learn about the basics of epistemology, the standards of evidence, and a healthy familiarity with the common logical fallacies wouldn't hurt either. These are merely a question of popping open a book (or webpage) and reading.

Your brain is a tool, and you have to know how to use it right. It'd be like standing on a pile of laid-down ladders trying to see over a fence, instead of taking one of them and standing it up-right. You have to know how to effectively use the tool. (I saw a cartoon for this recently, and I can't seem to find it. Would have been apt right here.)

There's a reason why there's a frightening trend (to the theists) of religious students going to college and then losing their faith. Their religious beliefs simply do not survive the light of day, and they're more likely to equip with these cognitive tools in college, than if they were to mire themselves into their small protected worlds where only Jesus/God exist.

Faith is to actively oppose rationality, setting aside logic and knowledge. That's not permanent, however, and not even a slight against the person's intelligence. The person simply may not know any better, because that's how the person was raised.

That's why religion is so obsessed with controlling childrens' upbringing. It's the only way to continue the cycle of religion. It's the only way religion can survive.




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