Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Creationist makes nearly ALL the common mistakes

If you would like to practise spotting almost all the common mistakes that creationists make when the are speaking about evolution, I recommend you to listen skeptically to an episode of the Discovery Institute's podcast, ID The Future.  On 11th June 2012** there was an interview interview with Dr Ben Carson who kindly provided a lesson in the recitation of persistently regurgitated and easily answered bunkum.

The show notes give some background:

On this episode of ID the Future, host David Boze speaks with Dr. Ben Carson, renowned paediatric neurosurgeon and Darwin doubter. Dr. Carson was recently invited to deliver the commencement speech at Emory University. Unfortunately, upon uncovering his non-allegiance to Darwinian ideology, 500 faculty members and students alike signed a letter in protest of his welcome. Listen in to hear Dr. Carson discuss this ill treatment and why his acute knowledge of the brain has led him to reject Darwinism. Dr. Ben Carson is the Director of the Division of Paediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins. An internationally renowned physician, Dr. Carson has authored over 100 neurosurgical publications, along with three best-selling books, and has been awarded 38 honorary doctorate degrees and dozens of national merit citations. 

Dr Carson might indeed be a renowned neurosurgeon and in that capacity he has my admiration.  However, I think he should also now become renowned for his misunderstanding of the Theory of Evolution, which he pejoratively refers to as 'Darwinism'.

To take a few of them with my comments in small text:
  • Darwinians are so closed minded.  Yes that's always an argument that convinces people.
  • In the history of science, people have come up with some 'pretty outlandish things' that have turned out to be wrong.  True but only the evidence will tell us whether evolution is one of them.  I wouldn't put money on it myself.
  • Evolution does not explain the origin of life.  That's true, and well spotted!  his is classic error number one.  It is just as relevant to say that the Theory of Gravitation does not explain the origin of life either.  Evolution doesn't claim to be able to do that.
  • How does anything come out of nothing and how does life evolve from non-life.  Just saying that we don't yet know makes the existence of a designer no more likely.  For example - we do know about self-replicating proteins, called prions, that are not alive themselves but they do replicate.
  • Although 'fully accepting the concept of natural selection' he thinks that it is taking it a little bit too far to claim that it is the foundational pillar of proof that evolution occurs.  Yes - and what does that mean?  This is not an unusual claim.  I think it means that they don't think natural selection goes as far as speciation, so one wonders what use it is after all..
  • Evolutionists [not Darwinists in this case] look at similarities between life forms and infer that they are related, but wouldn't a designer use the same designs if they were successful?  He then uses an analogy - and all analogies are wrong - different models of cars from the same manufacturer share common components.  He says that they have not evolved from each other - which is clearly not true anyway.
  • The human genome is a complex sophisticated coding mechanism.   He then makes an analogy to computer programming with 4 digits instead of 2, which he claims is twice as complex.  In fact it is 4!/2! = 12 times more complex - but hey!  What is a factor of six between friends?  It still explains nothing about the need for a designer - this is the argument from personal incredulity.  [The 4! symbology indicates a factorial = 4x3x2x1]
  • Complexity of the brain is amazing.  To say that it came about randomly doesn't make sense.  Shades of Michael Behe's 747 from a junkyard here - often rebutted.  Randomness is involved, but it is absolutely not the key to natural selection.  Survival is the key.
  • Apparently there are no intermediate species.  No-one has ever found them.  Actually ALL species are intermediate, including our own.  See this Dawkins video for a lovely explanation.
  • A single neuron in the human brain can process 50K interactions per second.  If true, that's a very impressive thing that evolution has developed isn't it.
  • His message to the young scientists in his field is to 'be wise'.  [i.e. don't tell them until you get tenure?]  Is this just 'lying for Jesus'? He was rather careful not to go as far as actually recommending this though.

All in all this interview is remarkable, even compared with the Discovery Institute's usual fair.  The God of the Gaps argument/fallacy is thinly disguised, but visible to anyone who looks at it.

** Beware that the Discovery Institute tends to recycle its podcasts, so you might have heard this a few times before if you enjoy the masochistic experience of listening to ID The future.  It is good practise!


Plasma Engineer said...

Thanks to @kaimatai, who tweeted to me "I'm surprised he didn't throw in 2nd Law of Thermodynamics for good measure. Wow."

I added 'nearly' to the title as a result.

Anonymous said...

That this doctor makes such a mistake as calling a four digit computer program 'twice as complex' as a 2 digit one tells me two things...
1) I would never let him compute the dosage of any medication that he prescribes to my child.
2) If the math skills of this 'renowned surgeon' are NOT really that horrific, then he is a LIAR.