Monday, July 11, 2011

Talking ‘bout a revolution. Honesty in scientific reporting

CreationRevolution is actually quite hard to stay mad at.  I mean, it’s bugfuck crazy, no two ways about it, but it’s almost endearing in the way it desperately and almost amiably redefines the world so it can shoehorn bits of it at a time to fit its crazy preconceptions. It might be tremblingly insisting that rabbits don’t chew cud although they do although they don’t or warning us about false prophets such as Andrew Gonzales, who’s a professor of biology at McGill and wrote a paper in Science, which CreationRevolution does not link to, about yeast. There’s some stuff about it here. Gonzales is a false prophet because…..he uses the word ‘evolution’ to refer to…..evolution.  It’s all so clear now.

So you see how I tend to look upon this site as generally delightful.  Its contributors are only looking at the world in a way that isn’t focussed through the blinkers of evolution and of course their notion of truth is just as valid as the evolutionists’ version because it explains things just as well.

And isn’t at all completely wrong, batshit insane and not even internally consistent.

These lovely dears, in the form of R.L David Jolly, wrote an article about Honesty in Scientific Reporting.  Here it is. It’s the sort of thing we’re all worried about, isn’t it?  We sometimes accuse creationists of being a bit less than honest, so it’s nice that they’re making sure that the rest of us live up to the same standards.  Let’s take a look at those standards.

As I was reading this interesting article on another unique design feature in nature, I fully expected to read something explaining the photoreceptors in the sea urchins as being some type of primitive precursor to the evolution of eyes in higher animals.  To my surprise, the only statement made which referred to evolution was:

“Charles Darwin and other evolutionary biologists were bewildered by the eye’s complexity and wondered how this kind of structure could have evolved through natural selection.”

Needless to say, I was quite pleased to see such a statement from a source that regularly reports on nearly every claim made by the evolutionary community.  It’s refreshing to see some honesty in reporting, even if it is just this one time.

I had to wonder whether this was a wind-up.  The notion that Darwin – and later scientists – couldn’t explain eye evolution is probably the most common and most egregious creationist canard around today.  Here’s the relevant quote from On the Origin of Species:

To suppose that the eye [...] could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.

This sentence is trotted out ad nauseum by creationists. Even Darwin couldn’t explain how eyes evolved, the argument goes, so evolution cannot possibly be true. It’s a stupid argument on many levels. Darwin was wrong about many things, as you might expect.  He didn’t know about genetics and made some (in hindsight) slightly foolish hypotheses about how heredity might work.  None of that has the slightest bearing on whether evolution is true. That’s decided by the evidence we have now, not what one person wrote in 1859.

It’s a dishonest argument because it pretends Darwin’s ignorance is evidence that his theory is wrong.  But it’s also dishonest in a much more straightforward way because the quote is unashamedly cherry-picked.  The next two sentences in Origin read as follows:

When it was first said that the sun stood still and the world turned round, the common sense of mankind declared the doctrine false; but the old saying of Vox populi, vox Dei, as every philosopher knows, cannot be trusted in science. Reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a simple and imperfect eye to one complex and perfect can be shown to exist, each grade being useful to its possessor, as is certainly the case; if further, the eye ever varies and the variations be inherited, as is likewise certainly the case and if such variations should be useful to any animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, should not be considered as subversive of the theory.

He then goes on to explain in detail exactly how eyes might evolve.  It’s all here.  Look it up, if you don’t believe me. 

There’s really no reason for creationists to keep using this non-argument. They do it either because they haven’t bothered looking at the relevant chapter of Origin themselves or because they know that most of their readers won’t do so. 

Either way, it’s about the most dishonest type of reporting possible. It’s either deliberate, wilful ignorance – which is unforgivable in such a widely circulated book and especially when it is freely available on-line in a fully searchable form – or it’s an outright lie.

But we have some bonus dishonesty.  I posted a comment politely pointing out that the Darwin quote is an obvious rhetorical device.  He’s saying that it might seem crazy that eyes could evolve, but when you think about it in the right way, it isn’t.  And here’s how it might have happened…  I pointed out that the text is available online and anyone can easily look it up.  And I closed by saying that it was good to clear up this matter and now the myth would never have to be repeated again.

The comment has been languishing in moderation since 6th July. So have my follow-on comments explaining why it’s dishonest to ignore the full context of the Darwin quote.

I’m forced to conclude that the article’s author, R.L. David Jolly, is a dishonest reporter of the second kind: a liar. He knows where to find the relevant passage and it seems that he’s deliberately refusing to admit to his readers that he and his argument are wrong. 

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