Thoughts on Teaching Evolutionary Biology & Noticing the Homogeneity of Denialism

{I’ve been doing a lot of posting to various forums lately, especially under Amazon book reviews of Stephen Meyer’s DARWIN’S DOUBT as well as general The Theory of Evolution topics on that website. Seeing how the denialists are so reluctant to engage the evidence nor to answer my questions and challenges, I decided to use the “dead air” to post two impromptu “blog topics” in those forums–and I repeat them here. Keep in mind that on those Darwin’s Doubt comment threads we are blessed by a wonderful variety of scientists and non-scientists. Dr. Christine Janis is an accomplished paleontologist-professor and Dr. David Levin is a microbiology professor. You might wish to join us at http://www.amazon.com/review/R2SJ3UQQ1HD73G and click on the Latest link to jump to today’s discussions there.}

** Imagining a Diversely Collaborative Textbook on Understanding The Theory of Evolution. **

If I were to have the unlikely luxury of 10x more available hours in the day and years of scholarship still available to me, I would love to have the opportunity and privilege of publishing some sort of combined tome—aimed squarely at “creation science” and ID fans who deny The Theory of Evolution and any/all science they don’t like—as part of a team of authors, with Christine Janis, David Levin, Stickler, Puck, and perhaps other like-minded writers possessing such talents and desires to teach the general public why evolution makes good sense.

Yes, so much has been written on these topics by scientists but threads like this one are quite unusual in drawing together a lawyer, a paleontologist, a microbiologist, a chemist, and a linguist-theologian in saying the same things about science in different ways. I particularly enjoy watching Christine step up and say, “I know the author(s) of the publication you deceptively quote-mined and, in fact, know him/her quite well and……” She and David have often shared fascinating memories and insights which expose the ignorance and dishonesty of denialists so beautifully—and one wonders if fans of denialist leaders ever get frustrated that their “heroes” are always outsiders who long for the privilege of being part of the academy and “in the know” as real scientists are. And Puck brings us great analogies and ways of summarizing the facts of evolution in ways that illustrate how the non-scientist comes to an understanding of evolution with the benefit of a traditional series of science degrees. I come here for the insights of the non-scientists on these threads just as surely as the wisdom and knowledge of the scientists.

** DENIALISTS are Homogenous. Their Opponents are Heterogenous. **

Isn’t it interesting that denialists tend to be so HOMOGENOUS? In fact, most deniers of The Theory of Evolution share incredibly similar religious views from a particular set of very predictable histories and life experiences which tend to explain their denialism quite easily. Yet, their opponents on these threads and every other venue where they clash with “anti-denialists” are SO VERY DIVERSE. Think about that.

Think about it, indeed! While denialists are so very HOMOGENEOUS, their opponents who try to provide remedial tutoring in science, philosophy, and biblical studies are so very HETEROGENEOUS. They run the gamut from theist to non-theist to atheist to anti-theist, both scientist and non-scientist, and we see this heterogeneity wherever people who are curious about scientific topics meet on-line. (For example, a survey of the readers and commenters at the Sensuous Curmudgeon blog would no doubt fascinate us with its diversity.)

I challenge Les, Gervais, Andrew McDiarmid, and Stephen Meyer [Hello, Stephen!] to address and explain the narrow, predictable, and…..well…..in-bred nature of denialism which produces such obvious HOMOGENEITY among the ranks of YECs and IDers.** If your science is so outstanding, why do you utterly fail to attract a diverse following who are attracted by your compelling evidence and “logic”?

_____________________________
** No, Ray Comfort, you will find that “homogeneity” has nothing to do with gay marriage, just as you eventually learned that a “bibliophile” was not a “perverted person” who does kinky things with your favorite book.
[That really happened, folks! Ray knows as little about morphemes and English lexicography as he does about science. His Facebook exchange where he lashed out at a “proudly admitted bibliophile” remains a favorite comic excerpt. Of course, it is easy to understand why Ray Comfort and so many of his fans would be horrified at the very idea of people who actually love books and learning from them! Ray has been called many things over the years but one can confidently assume that “bibliophile” was not among them.]

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4 responses to “Thoughts on Teaching Evolutionary Biology & Noticing the Homogeneity of Denialism

  1. By the way, TomS will probably see this blog article so I will use this opportunity to commend him on his comment he posted under a recent SensuousCurmudgeon blog about the alleged conflict between religion and Science. (I had connectivity problems that day and didn’t read that blog until a few days later.) TomS wisely set them straight on their traditional confusions about the definitions of “Evangelicals” versus “Fundamentalists.” I don’t know if it had impact on many readers but these terms are so often confused and obfuscated.

    Indeed, the comments following the blog article reminded informed readers that “fundamentalist anti-theists” show many of the same ignorance and bigotry as that of “fundamentalist theists” (whether they be the typical “creation science” fan or a fundamentalist Moslem of various types.) Trying to provide remedial tutoring for those who wish to remain ignorant and ideologically-driven takes more than a few paragraphs–so I rarely poke the cranky beast of bigotry unless I have the time to stay around and deal with the collateral damage and disinformation.

    So with that sad, I just wanted to commend TomS on his typically well-considered comments there.

  2. TomS

    My question about the large number of talented people, those of whom we are told, who hold reservations about evolutionary biology is: what account of the world of life they propose. With so many years, and so many people, shouldn’t we be expecting some progress on seeing something about what happens and when so that life on Earth turns out as it is?
    In the Sensuous Curmudgeon’s blog there has been some discussion of Granville Sewell’s exposition of Intelligent Design which explicitly says that ID is best described by what it is not, not anything positive about the when and where, etc.
    What are all of those good scientists doing, if they haven’t been doing the work of science, describing and explaining the ways of the world?
    Even if they have discovered some fatal flaw in standard biology, how can we know whether ID is not afflicted with the same flaw?
    One of the standard definitions of ID goes something like, “ID says that some things are best explained by so-and-so, not by such-and-such.” Note that it does not actually do the explaining, it only says that such explaining would do a better job, if only some of those large numbers of talented people could be bothered with doing the work. Like I have this scheme for beating the stock market, but don’t ask me for the details, and don’t ask me why I’m not a millionaire.

  3. Yes. I suppose a lot of denialists would say, “I have a nose for sniffing it things which don’t really make sense. I’m not saying that I can come up with a better explanation. I just know that materialism-bound evolution doesn’t pass my smell test! After all, I’m a pretty good judge of such things.”

    Isn’t it interesting how many people will say, “I don’t have much book learnin’ but I’ve got the common sense that God gave me!”

    • TomS

      I suggest that a signature of the otherwise ill-defined reaction against evolution, including Young Earth Creationism and Intelligent Design, is the persistent lack of an alternative account for what may happen so that life turns out as it does.

      a) That is to say that if we find someone with no theory, we find a “creationist”. Typical “fringe theories” (not to mention well-establish theories), even outside the sciences, typically do have something to say. There are the anti-Stratfordians, those who deny that Shakespeare wrote Hamlet. They are not content to say that “that man from Stratford” didn’t write it, but will describe how Francis Bacon, or the Earl of Oxford, etc. could make a more likely author. The theorists about UFOs do not rest content with saying that they are mysterious. The geocentrists say more than that the Earth doesn’t move.
      b) And, on the other hand, we find that, universally, those who doubt evolution do not have an alternative. Sometimes proudly announcing their refusal to investigate “pathetic level of detail”. Observe the characterization of “Intelligent Design” as “there is a better explanation”, not “here is a better explanation”.

      Yes, this does not address your point about how they may justify their stance. This is just about about how the lack of substance is uniquely their signature.

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