Saturday, February 25, 2006

A (limited) retraction

In a comment before, I said that people were bullied into accepting evolution. I then wrote a post effectively to back up what I had said. However, on consideration, there are various aspects of this that I'm not happy with.

Firstly, I gave the example of a current email discussion between Ruse and Dennett as evidence in support of this position. I'm not happy with that; it does underline an interesting attitude from two different camps within darwinism, but without knowing much about things like motives and status, it isn't evidence of bullying. It just happened to be around at the time, and I was interested in linking to it. I should have left it at that.

Secondly, I think it is inappropriate to go back over my life and read "bullying" into my experiences, for the sake of fitting it into a comment I made. I would not say that I was bullied. I would say, however:
a) there was an assumption - both spoken and unspoken - that dissent from darwinism was intellectually untenable, and the email I recently received shows that this attitude is still present.
b) this assumption wasn't based on the presentation of evidence, either in school or university. In fact, it is only in the last couple of years that I have come across convincing evidence for common descent at any level (yes, Tim, that includes the non-functional Vitamin C gene in humans). Insofar as evidence was presented in support of evolution at earlier stages, it generally consisted of examples of very limited relevance to the concept of macroevolution - I knew a bit about industrial melanism, Darwin's finches, the Miller/Urey experiment and Haeckel's embryos before I read Denton's "Evolution: A Theory in Crisis". And the evidence in support of common descent is met by a lot of evidence that to me is fairly convincingly against it - lack of transitional fossils coupled with geologically sudden transitions; stick and leaf insects appearing before sticks and leaves; required changes in organisms being fundamentally "steppy" rather than gradual (eg. changes in numbers of chromosomes) as well as irreducible complexity and the amount of information contained in organisms.

So people aren't necessarily "bullied" into believing in evolution, as I said before - that is something else that I am retracting. Though there is a teacher in the school to which some of the teenagers I know go to who tells children that "God doesn't exist in this classroom". It is just that evolution is assumed with no reference to any supporting evidence. A suggestion, then. If people want to make a case for evolution, then they should be presenting the best evidence that they have, not evidence that has already been shown to be less than credible.

Remind me to talk about "Galileo was wrong" sometime.