Thursday, June 27, 2013

Intellectuall Impoverishment

The above trailer advertises an anti-evolution video produced by North American fundamentalists. According the trailer top evolutionists were interviewed “Until” as it says, “it is clear there is no evidence for Darwinian evolution”. The trailer shows various tongue tied establishment academics trying to think of evidential one liners in favour of evolution; they have apparently been stumped by the request for "one" piece of evidence!

Stupidity, crass stupidity. So called “evidence” can only ever be a limited set of data samples strung together with what is often a huge theoretical background narrative. This embedding of data into a theoretical structure is achieved with greater or lesser degrees of success. Except in the most elementary ontologies, (in fact, if any at all) the scientific epistemic actually works from theory to the evidence:  That is,“evidence” only becomes evidence for a theory if  the theoretical structure of that theory can be shown to successfully embed the “evidence”.  Therefore a theory has to be understood before it is possible to assess just how good it is as a sense making structure for the consensus data samples.

The trailer betrays the scientific naivety of its fundamentalist producers: What do they expect in answer to their questions? “Oh yes, I did an experiment only the other day and a fish evolved into an amphibian”. The huge theoretical narrative of evolution, like any other grand theoretical structure, can only ever be evidentially illuminated at a relatively small set of points. The case for evolution, or even anti-evolutionism for that matter, is likely going to be by and large cumulative, something that is justified by weight of evidence and not just a few compelling samples. There is an epistemic naivety in the very request for just one item of evidence; the case for evolution, if it has a case, is not going to be found in single pieces of evidence, but a suite of evidence.If the producers of this video understood this they wouldn't be asking such boorish questions.

In some ways atheist evolutionists have set themselves up for this embarrassment. They have made too strong claims about the compelling nature of the evidences explained by evolution - as if the meaning of evidence is obvious or easily interpreted.  Evidence is seldom (if ever) direct “proof” of the object it purports to be a manifestation of, or seldom has a very close relation to the object-in-itself. However, as I'm sure these scientists are aware, their conviction of evolution’s truth comes from an acquaintance with a large field of data (plus the accompanying theoretical narrative for that data) and not just one or two killer evidences.

I certainly couldn't give an evidential one liner for the existence of God, or even, for that matter, the existence of some simple ontology taken from test tube precipitating and spring extending science such as Hooke’s law. It is certainly untrue that there is no evidence for evolution just as it is untrue to say there is no evidence for God; the believers in both objects will endeavour to assimilate at least some data points into their respective supporting narratives, thus being able to claim those data points to be evidence. But, of course, evaluating whether or not these data points constitute very compelling evidence will be moot.

The title of the trailer, “Evolution vs. God", tells me immediately that its producers hold another boorish opinion. That is, they think of God as an ancillary explanatory agent to be set against law and disorder explanations. Here we have another manifestation of the North American God-of-the-Gaps paradigm.

On the whole I would say that this video is a sign of the intellectual bankruptcy of fundamentalism and the polarization encouraged by God-of-the-Gaps thinking.

Addendum 3/7/13
The beginning of the video below advertising the "Evolution vs. God" film tells us something about Richard Dawkins' theology. He may be an atheist but that doesn't stop him having a theological template with which to compare reality. The irony is that his theological categories look to be similar to that of the film's major sponsor, Ray Comfort; namely "God of the Gaps" thinking. Dawkins, of course, thinks that evolutionary theory fills a gap, and therefore "God didn't do it". Comfort, on the other hand, thinks that evolution can't fill the gap because it's false and therefore "God did it". In short both agree on the theology of God as an ancillary gap filler. Presumably, if it could be shown that evolution is false, Dawkins would no longer be an "intellectually satisfied atheist" and God would be back on the agenda. Conversely, if evolution was shown to be true Comfort would have to review his theism. It is ironic that on one level Dawkins and Comfort have a lot in common.

Ok PZ you may be a cousin of bananas but how would you have replied if he asked you, "Are you a close cousin of Ray Comfort"?

Addendum 05/7/13

The following quote taken from a Christian Fundamentalist is classic false dichotomy zone:

For Christians who believe in evolution (“theistic evolutionists”), the film should be challenging. They will  be forced to choose one or the other: God or evolution. 

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