Sunday, 12 February 2012

Darwin's Heretic - an exercise in logical fallacy

The Intelligent Design (ID) community has pushed the boat out and made an entertaining little movie which they think will help to promote their cause.  In actual fact it simply demonstrates rather well why their claims have been largely ignored by the real scientific community.  Some of the descriptions of evolution are presented by Michael Flannery, who might be a professor of something from the University of Alabama, Birmingham, but not the sort of professor who understands the very basics of evolution. (see below)**  He says (at 07:50):

" . . . and quite frankly the origin of life isn't explained by it . . ."

This is true. But as Luciferadi so nicely put it in the comments on one of my posts a few days ago:

"I put some water in the freezer and it turned into ice. Can evolution explain that? I threw my copy of Existentialism For Dummies into the air and it fell back to earth. Can evolution explain that?"

Darwin's Heretic can be seen below or via Youtube.  It is a strange little tale about Alfred Russel Wallace, the co-founder of the Theory of Evolution.  Their claim that he was a 'Victorian Indiana Jones' seems to be intended to support their assertion that it matters that he didn't believe that evolution applied to humans.

Alfred Russel Wallace - 'Darwin's Heretic?'

Without acknowledging that the term 'Intelligent Design' has only been in common use for less than two decades, they claim that Wallace 'believed in Intelligent Design'.  Apparently he claimed that the origin of conscious life could never be explained by natural selection.  The fact that even he believed this is supposed to prove something. 

Have a look at their efforts and spot any logical fallacies.  It should be child's play.  Proof by analogy is one of them!

There you are.  We draw an analogy to something. prove something about the analogous situation, and then assert that this proves something

Darwin was apparently aghast. An emphatic 'NO' was written in the margin of his copy of Wallace's paper.  I'm fairly aghast that the Discovery Institute puts out a video like this one.

Of course, Darwin was quite right to react like that, and Darwin Day is as good a day as any other to ridicule pseudo-scientific stuff about ID.

Small note:  Even the argument from authority that they use to justify the conclusions of the movie cannot be applied to Michael Flannery! 
** A little research suggests that Flannery's specialist area is/was pharmacy, that he is now director of a library, and that his three most recent publications as first author were not exactly in relevant topics for him to be considered an expert in evolution:
'That Which is Above is Like That Which is Below': the Persistence of the Hermetic Tradition in Science and the Case of Alfred Russel Wallace
The English Physician 
Well Satisfied With My Position: The Civil War Journal of Spencer Bonsall  


Rob Crompton said...

Well if Wallace believed...
The only trouble with giants is too many people want to worship at their feet instead of asking for a leg-up onto their shoulders.

RosaRubicondior said...

No doubt that if the Bible had said there never was a Roman Empire, American Bible-thumpers with a political agenda they needed to disguise would be putting up anyone but historians to 'prove' there were never any Romans and how all the evidence is either fake, misleading, or both.

Ed said...

I enjoy watching their gods of diminishing powers continue to lose their domain. Gods used to explain the sun, moon, seasons, lightning, thunder, crops, fertility, stars, planets, etc. About the only things left are what happened before the big bang and how life arose from primordial soup. ID has been around (in various names) for as long as humans couldn't explain something. I hope to live to see the day both of those things come to an end. Thanks for taking the time to point out their flaws!

Plasma Engineer said...

Nice comments from all of you. Thanks.

Luciferadi said...

Thanks for the quote! :)
I think practicing critical thinking, especially learning to recognize logical fallacies and propaganda and evaluate sources of information, is just about the most important thing kids can do in school. It helps them become prepared for the barrage of pseudoscience and misinformation that awaits them online and in their communities, regardless of whether a specific topic was part of their curriculum. In theory. Sigh.