Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Olasky's Dishonest Dialogue on Darwin

We are going to be hearing a lot of ignorant claptrap this year about Charles Darwin, and Marvin Olasky was kind enough to collect a steaming pile of it in one place for examination. It is a sign of crankery to never express the other side's views accurately, and Olasky doesn't disappoint. Right out of the gate, the misrepresentations begin:

"Darwinists are celebrating this month the 150th anniversary of the publication of their hero's breakthrough book, On the Origin of Species. Christians who respond with ridicule of Darwin get nowhere—but understanding a few terms of the debate can help to start a dialogue."

This is a standard attempt to poison the well by labelling scientists and people who accept their findings as "Darwinists" worshipping their hero, as if it were just another religion with a holy prophet given unquestioned authority. This is complete fiction of course, as it is common knowledge that Darwin made many understandable mistakes for a man of his time, as any great scientist of antiquity does. We've learned a lot over 150 years, not the least being the existence of DNA, so while Darwin deserves respect for his accomplishments, his role in modern science is minimal, and most of us spend far more time talking about him to creationists than we do to each other.

This is, of course, the primary reason why those who attack evolution with ridicule of Darwin get nowhere: it simply is not relevant. Back to Olasky:

(1) Let's start with the distinction between types of evolution. Back in 1859 everyone knew that changes could occur within a species; that's how we breed dogs. Darwin's theory was that a process analogous to artificial breeding also occurs in nature; he called that process natural selection, and he postulated that one species could change into another species. (To put it biblically, since God talks about "kinds" of creatures, one kind could become another kind.)

No, that isn't what Darwin said at all. The process of evolution will change a species, or subset of the species, into something else that hadn't existed before. This is not a trivial distinction, for it is what leads people who take Olasky's dissembling seriously to ask why, if evolution is true, don't dogs occasionally give birth to kittens. Dogs may one day give rise to something that we wouldn't exactly call a dog, and which cannot interbreed with whatever dogs still exist, but that something won't be an existing species (or kind, whatever that means).

It's important to know the difference between change within kinds (microevolution) and change from one kind to another (macroevolution). Darwinists who argue for macroevolution often give microevolution examples to "prove" changes. The famous "proof" of moths changing colors as pollution darkened trees was actually a fake, but it could have happened—and that would prove nothing about Darwinism. Bottom line: Critics of Darwin should not be anti-evolution. Microevolution clearly happens; we should always specify macroevolution.

Bottom line, Olasky is talking out of his hat. The moth experiments weren't fake, and this canard has been debunked numerous times. Pasting moths on a tree for purposes of illustration does not a fake make. You can see that and more examples of macroevolution here. But then, you know a conservative is lying when he starts flinging scare quotes around at random. More to the point, there is no difference between macro and micro evolution except degree. For Olasky to support one and not the other is like accepting I can walk across the street but not across town. Note that no one who plays this micro/macro canard ever describes the barrier that limits change to micro levels. There's a good reason for that: none exists.

The rest of Olasky's article continues in a similar vein with discredited arguments from nonexperts (you know you're desperate when you're quoting crank Michael Behe and nonscience entrepreneur Bill Gates in a biology discussion) finishing off with the "gee, it must be designed because I can't imagine how else it came to be" argument. It's the same old tired arguments that an honest person would have already realized were bogus.

No comments: