July 3, 2011

When Atheists Attack — Part LVXVII


Not only does PZ's incivility discourage members of his own tribe from thinking about switching sides, but his harsh style also effectively intimidates many who are already skeptical of Darwinian evolution from speaking out, lest they become targets of that mockery. PZ's harsh rhetorical style is, in effect, a deliberate method of silencing opposition.

Read the article about PZ Myers, intimidation, evolution and "new" atheism here.

8 comments:

howgoodisthat said...

There's a commonly held notion, that simply because someone is an atheist, they are by default lock-step in agreement with everything prominent atheist publicly say.

For example, when evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins points out that the Discovery Institute has offered for peer review not one single paper which attempts to falsify natural selection, anyone who echoes this is immediately accused of adopting his trademark tactic of belittling religion—as if statements of fact are merely another form of attack.

PZ Myers goes out of his way to draw creationist's ire, because it's his chosen method of putting the spotlight on some extremely bad ideas. If he only made his feelings known behind closed doors, he'd be accused of hiding behind those who are already on his side. But when he publicly states his position, he is accused of intolerance. He's damned if he does, and damned if he doesn't.

Perhaps this is indicative of his polar opposites on the creation side, that they would simply prefer him to to say nothing at all. Put up or shut up. But what gets forgotten, is his invitation to publish the evidence, that there is a problem with any one of the myriad data sets which comprise evolution by natural selection, is a challenge open to anyone and everyone. There is no clause which says only creationists hold this responsibility.

If a scientist who happens to be an evolutionary biologist, suddenly discovered a problem of the magnitude which creationists insist exists, with the theory, he would establish this by showing in repeated experiments and by gathering new, compelling evidence that there was something for the rest of the scientific community to look at. Not a biologist in the world would reject his findings, if they were presented in a format which was open to scrutiny and peer review, if the correct procedures were met.

howgoodisthat said...

And yet, when presented with the opportunity to do exactly this, for the last 20 years and with the vast weight of the tax-free evangelical movement behind them, not a single work has been offered up for serious consideration which can't be either proven false, or demonstrated to be a mere reworking of previously debunked thinking.

And so the cry goes out, that it is the process itself which precludes new evidence. That there is a culture of silence among legitimate scientists, for fear of being branded foolish; to suppress the evidence so as not to jeopardise funding and tenure. While I am aware that some on the creationist side genuinely try to avoid this kind of conspiracy theory dead end, what I have yet to see, in all my time looking into this, is anyone from the pro-Intelligent Design lobby, explain to me what they understand the scientific method to be, and how they feel in this particular case it has been usurped by an atheistic agenda or, indeed, any kind of malpractice.

Meanwhile, they pay no heed to the fact that thousands of scientists around the world, who have studied biology all of their professional life, still believe in God. This includes many high ranking members of the Catholic church—who for all their sins in covering up child rape and money laundering, never stoop so low as to suggest that nature, in all it's incredible complexity, is beyond our understanding; that in order to be a good person, one must believe in things that are not true.

Nor do creationists seem even remotely embarrassed by the ever increasing list of discoveries that independently confirm that natural selection is the method by which a whole raft of biological processes function. They almost seem to believe that if they pretend they haven't read anything which refutes their claims, it'll eventually go away and stop being true, simply because they don't accept the facts.

Many creationists insist that, prime among their supposedly surprised evidence, is that not a single organism has ever been observed evolving; that evolution is not an empirical science, because it assumes that evolution can only occur over long time scales.

howgoodisthat said...

In June of 2008, Richard Lenski published the findings of a 12 year study into e.coli bacteria. He observed 44,000 generations of bacteria gradually gaining the ability to metabolise citrates, a nutrient e.coli can't normally use. His paper was immediately panned by the popular rightwing wiki conservapedia. When Lenski replied to the article, presenting exactly the evidence the article requested he present, it was removed from the website while editors changed the wording of the original article, to make it seem as if Lenski had avoided the question in his reply.

rationalwiki.org/wiki/Lenski_affair

newscientist.com/article/dn14094-bacteria-make-major-evolutionary-shift-in-the-lab.html

There are many other such examples of creationists crying foul, of being silenced from the debate, only to reveal, in their determination to find a controversy where none exists, that it is they who close down comment threads, post-edit articles, block email addresses and generally acting exactly as they accuse others of behaving.

Each time that this has gone as far as a court room, creationism has been shown to be as fundamentally flawed as it ever was. Each new reiteration of the same creationist ideas have been repeatedly shown to have no basis in fact. Or to quote the Bush appointed Judge John Jones, recommended to the bar by Rick Santorum, who presided over the Kitzmiller v. Dover case, "The overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID is a religious view, a mere relabelling of creationism, and not a scientific theory", who also noted that pro-ID witnesses at the trial were "marked by selective memories and outright lies under oath".

pamd.uscourts.gov/kitzmiller/kitzmiller_342.pdf

So if PZ Myers occasionally loses his temper with people who believe that this kind of behaviour is how you win a scientific argument, while I can't condone anyone resorting to personal attacks on someone's religious beliefs, it might be worth remembering that believing something and proving something are two very different things. Anyone who insists to the contrary has all of their work ahead of them in convincing me to think as they do, no matter how much of a valid point they might have about the modus operandi of individuals, such as PZ, who occasionally lose their cool with people who don't want to listen.

Stormbringer said...

I really hate to tell you this, but your well-presented comments are wasted on my site, and would do better on the site where the article originated. Unfortunately, I cannot find a link for comments there! Perhaps if you wrote to cluskin@discovery.org, you could get a more accurate response than I can give you.

There are a couple of things that I want to say, however. First, the "peer review" business. Creationists have been blackballed from peer review for a very long time, and yet, Creationist scientists are able to be published, so it is not like they have nothing to offer, or do not have valid scientific credentials. Also, I want to say that there is abundant scientific evidence against evolution available. I link to several of them in my apologetics links on this site, and have articles on my other site at www.piltdownsuperman.com.

I hope my response is not a complete disappointment.

The Gent said...

Please post ONE link to the "abundant scientific evidence against evolution" you mention above. ONE link. Please.

stormbringer005 said...

Not much of a gent if you want others to do all your work for you.

I'll give you a starting point. IF you really want to consider the evidence in the first place, begin with the articles at my site, www.piltdownsuperman.com.

But since you're concerned with activist atheism and that sort of thing, I have serious doubts that you actually want such evidence.

The Gent said...

No, no not at all an "activist atheist". It's just that I presumed that since you mention "the abundant evidence against evolution" you might have a few starting points for me.

stormbringer005 said...

Silly of me. I thought that since you have "YouTube Atheist Activism" near the top of your page, you were into that sort of thing.

Still, you can check some articles at www.piltdownsuperman.com, as well as following many of the links to their sources for further information.

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