August 11, 2022

Haeckeling creationists

One of the more irritating arguments in the ‘crevo’ controversy are the lies of equivocation.  The game is played by a creationist pretending to be objective -when he and we all know he is not- while projecting all of his own logical fallacies onto the science-minded, who of course do not share any of those flaws. Typically that game has the creationist telling some or all of the following lies:

*Evolution is a religion.

*Science relies on faith just like religion does.

*Science is biased just like religion is.

*There is no evidence for evolution/big bang/abiogenesis, etc.

*There is evidence for creation/the flood/god/etc.

*Religion is reasonable just like science is.

*Religion can be confirmed empiracly and experimentally just like science.

*Creationism is scientific.

…and other erroneous allegations to this effect.

Some anonymous internet noob posted vague insinuations to the effect that science is a conspiracy and evolution is a fraud, that sort of thing.  So I posted the following response:

Here’s a challenge for you -in two parts. (1) Name one evolutionary scientist who ever lied in the act of promoting evolution over creationism. (2) Name a professional creationist who did NOT lie when trying to defend creationism or condemn evolution.

I have asked this of a lot of people, but got no answers to either question yet.

I have posted this challenge on several discussion boards and the like over the last several years, and I know that every creationist will chant the name of Ernst Haeckel, because that’s all they’ve got, and they all think that counts.  I tried to pre-empt the invariable knee-jerk reply by explaining why Haeckel does not satisfy the requirements of that challenge.  So some YouTube creationist tried to make a big deal out it, calling me and Richard Dawkins both deluded liars, and imagining that he was the first person I had ever encountered who knew about Wikipedia.  So I posted a more detailed explanation in the comments section of his response response video.  But those comments will be buried and forgotten long before this issue is, so I thought it might be good to start that conversation here.

To clarify my position, here are my 500 character or less responses:

As I explained in the video, ‘Ida Done Better’, a lie is a false statement presented as true, or a truth misrepresented to appear false, with a deliberate attempt to deceive. The problem with Haeckel in this case is that he didn’t think he was deceiving anyone. He was showing something he thought to be true. He made assumptions without references, and his embellishments were intended to make what he saw more obvious to others. I can’t say that is honest, but neither can I call that a lie

Despite his education, Haeckel wasn’t so much a scientist as he was an artist, and his fraud was a typical advertising ploy. It is as if he didn’t know that the scientific community considered it dishonest to embellish drawings to enhance or exaggerate your point. Whether that is really what he thought or not, once he was called out on it, he admitted that is what he did. He could have lied about that, but he didn’t.

Finding a dishonest scientist in the 19th century isn’t difficult. There is an evolutionary scientist still around today whom I consider to be dishonest, and I’ve brought him up in at least one of my speeches for that reason. But that person isn’t trying to promote evolution over creationism. One of his co-conspirators is a creationist, but he’s not making that argument either. You have to understand the context and requirements of the question.

Even if Haeckel conceded and corrected his mistakes in subsequent editions, it is still true that a half dozen of his drawings were deceptive. However I asked for an evolutionary scientist who lied in the act of promoting evolution over creationism. That means whomever you cite has to compare those two options. Haeckel promoted his own brand of embryology over another evolutionary alternative. I don’t think he ever even mentioned creationism. That wasn’t even an option still on the table.

I like asking this question because Haeckel is always the only answer anyone could show to be both dishonest and relevant to the topic. To your allegations against both Dawkins and Haeckel here, there is a point where their comments overlap, and you accusation is on that point. For clarification of that, I suggest you watch the first couple minutes (1:58) of this video, and this one from 5:47 to 9:14.

The point of both of my questions is to show that science doesn’t need to lie and doesn’t want to. That’s because science is a search for truth. Creationism on the other hand is not a search; it is wholly dishonest. It requires lies because it is based on lies. That’s why I can show you actual factual truths about evolution, but you can’t show me anything you actually know to be true of creation instead.

Now since I told this person -in advance- that despite everything indicated above, Haeckel was still the only attempted answer creationists could come up with, he tried to throw some mud at Richard Dawkins too.  So all you brilliant people, does Haeckel satisfy this challenge?

Will anyone satisfy -either part- of this challenge? 

68 thoughts on “Haeckeling creationists

      1. As fascinating as your one-liners undoubtedly are to all of us, I don’t think un-evidenced assertions are what Aronra was looking for.

  1. I wonder if you could clarify your meaning of lying?

    Chris Hallquist just had an interesting discussion over what constituted dishonesty (knowingly uttering falsehoods or issuing misleading but not outright false statements) a few weeks ago. Link

    Could you explain what your minimum criterion would be for a “lie” to meet your challenge?

    1. I did already clarify what I mean by a lie. In the first of my 500 character or less responses, I said that a lie is a false statement presented as true, or a truth misrepresented to appear false, with a deliberate attempt to deceive.

      1. Aronra, you wrote that Haeckel “was showing something he thought to be true.” Can’t that be said of the second tier of evangelicals, the ones who haven’t really examined the philosophical foundations of their beliefs? (The top tier presumably know they’re lying.)

        Or is this akin to the idea that you’re not actually damned to hell until you have heard the Word of Jesus and have denied it? Once it has been explained to you how religion is a lie, if you go on believing it and teaching it, then you’re lying.

        You wrote that “Haeckel wasn’t so much a scientist as he was an artist.” Is that a No True Scotsman fallacy? I think it’s vastly more important to emphasize that “once he was called out on it, he admitted that is what he did.”

        1. This is only my opinion, my interpretation of the explanations I’ve read, but it seems that Haeckel’s philosophy was more in line with that of a politician, advertiser, or cartoonist than the objectivity we should expect of a scientist. It seems to me that he might have thought it perfectly acceptible to exaggurate features to make them move obvious. Of course actual scientist would consider that dishonest, and rightly so. Whether Haeckel understood that or not, it is still dishonest as far as I am concerned, because it involves falsification of data according to bias.

          While I am not convinced that this qualifies as a lie, I could be completely wrong about him. But it really wouldn’t matter if he meant to lie or not, because he still never lied in defense of evolution over creationism, nor to misrepresent creationism the way creationists do with evolution. Creationism simply wasn’t any part of his equation.

  2. I’m starting to lose track of you sometimes between here, LoR, and youtube who the culprit you’re referring to is.

    Also I don’t know if you keep up with Troy Britain’s blog but he also delved into this Haeckel stuff not too long ago.

    Why are long dead arguments like this not staying dead, I’ll never understand…

    1. Why are long dead arguments like this not staying dead, I’ll never understand…

      Because if you only have one source document to base your argument on, you have to recycle your material more often, or admit that you have lost the debate.

      One must remember that nature abhors a vacuum and if the education system fails to fill the need to learn stuff, then the church will have a space to move in and fill. Plus the churches message is easy on the mind and soul. It says that the church has the answer and there is no need to look anywhere else.

      So those who allow the education systems to be corrupted like should not be allowed to complain about people who think like this. If you are not working to fix the schooling system, then you are part of the problem.

  3. No, I don’t think Haeckel satisfies it. He wasn’t attempting to convince readers of something that isn’t true; he was less than honest in attempting to help readers understand something true. And, as you said, he admitted to it when he was called out on it.

    What Haeckel did doesn’t fit the definition of an outright lie, and even if someone were to successfully argue that it does, it doesn’t cast doubt on the truth of evolution.

    I’m surprised you don’t get more people throwing Piltdown Man at you as an example of an evolutionary conspirator. I’ve had that as well as Nebraska Man and the Miller-Urey experiment used in that way before.

      1. Miss the point entirely much? Or did you just not care to read my whole post?

        First, admitting to having been dishonest is more than one can say for any creationist ever. Second, even if you insist on calling what Haeckel did “lying”, what he did does not undermine the relevance of embryology to the study of evolution.

    1. Piltdown Man is a genuine lie. Someone, most likely Charles Dawson, combined a human skull, an orangutan’s lower jaw, and chimpanzee teeth to make a humanoid fossil. While certain paleontologists had their doubts about Piltdown Man quite early on, it wasn’t until 40 years later that it was proved to be a forgery. Of course this proof was done by paleontologists, not creationists.

      I’m surprised fewer creationists don’t bring up Piltdown Man as an evolutionary lie since it was one.

      1. Yep, that’s what I meant. Like you said, given that it was a deliberate attempt to deceive as opposed to a case of colossally poor judgement, I’m surprised more creationists don’t bring it up.

      2. Yes, Piltdown man was a genuine forgery (oxymoron?) but as I explained in the 13th Foundational Falsehood of Creationism, there are a few suspects, including Arthur Conan Doyle, who apparently wanted to humiliate the ‘materialists’ at the British museum. So it’s hard to name the culprit in that case.

      3. I think that current evidence points at a volunteer at the excavation, not any of the scientists. An old chest with what appear to be experimental samples for the forgery was found in 1996–plenty of time for the Creationists to read about it.

        The first solid evidence regarding the identity of the perpetrator emerged in 1996, two decades after a trunk marked with the initials M.A.C.H. had been discovered in storage at the British Museum. Upon analyzing bones found in the trunk, the British paleontologists Brian Gardiner and Andrew Currant found that they had been stained in the exact same way as the Piltdown fossils. The trunk apparently had belonged to Martin A.C. Hinton, who became keeper of zoology at the British Museum in 1936. Hinton, who in 1912 was working as a volunteer at the museum, may have treated and planted the Piltdown bones as a hoax in order to ensnare and embarrass Woodward, who had rebuffed Hinton’s request for a weekly wage. Hinton presumably used the bones in the steamer trunk for practice before treating the bones used in the actual hoax.

  4. 5000 whining atheists vs the Great Prophet

  5. As much as I know what Haeckel did and why it’s not actually a large deception or one of consequence, I think that if someone did something with a similar level of deception (exaggerating a pattern, expounding something that appears to be true without sound evidence) on the creationist side, I would call them a liar.

    I don’t think we need to be afraid of saying that sometimes people on the evo side can be bad scientists. Doesn’t make the science wrong – Haeckel’s examples may have been iffy, but comparative embryology is very good for evo theory – it just makes those people not good scientists.

    Maybe the more important question is “Are there lies central to the theory on either side?”

  6. Do the Chinese scientists who tried to pass off the forged Archaeoraptor fossil count? I’ve seen Creationists bring those up a couple of times.

    1. Are they passing them off to promote evolution over creationism? Though they may be doing it to promote their lovely feather paintings >.>

      1. Problem there is it wasn’t Chinese scientists… it is illegal to export fossils from china without the express permission by the Chinese authorities… these ‘scientists’ were nothing of the sort… they were in fact simply con men with no credentials in paleontology or evolutionary biology that seen a chance to make a quick buck and illegally exported Chinese property to the USA. AS soon as the package was opened by a bone-fide paleontologist the ruse was uncovered.

        This is another interesting ploy by creationists to deploy the idea that anyone at all who tries to con, chance their arm or deceive is a scientist.

        Charles Dawson himself as in the case of piltdown man also wasn’t a paleontologist… that bit is conveniently ignored. It has to be ignored because as soon as a real paleontologist got a look at the evidence he dismissed it out of hand. In fact it had been dismissed before anyone got to examine it in the early 1920’s.

        Again all of this ignored by creationists as they seem more likely to label Dawson an evolutionary biologist and someone that’s qualified who uncovers nonsense as a creationist!

    2. Archaeoraptor was apparently forged by farmers who sold their piece to a paleoartist, who then presented it to a popular magazine -against the advise of each of the half-dozen scientists who examined it.

      1. Agreed but of course aron anyone who carries out any for of deception regardless of their credentials (or in this case lack of them) will be a ‘scientist’ and an ‘evil scientist’ at that in the eyes of a creationist… but anyone that seemingly gives a creationist the ability to spout nonsense across the internet is a ‘wonderful creation scientist’ or some such crap.

        It’d be interesting to see what the average creationist view of Alan Turing is…after all they use his advent day in, day bloody out!

        Lets see creation science try to breed two sheep painted with stripes as explained in Genesis and see how their ‘science’ really pans out!

  7. I’m kind of unsure what to think about this one.

    On the one hand, it is a cool challenge.

    On the other hand… Just statistically speaking, I’d be surprised if no evolutionary scientist had ever lied in the act of promoting evolution over creationism. I mean, scientists are just people, and lying is what people do, even when they don’t need to and shouldn’t.

    And the challenge implies that it matters when it doesn’t. I’d not want to give a creationis the satisfaction of crowing about having found an evolutionary scientist who lied when it doesn’t change anything about the facts.

    At least the second part of the challenge is impossible, so no reason to fear there.

  8. I – “*Evolution is a religion.”

    Vague, but not strictly a lie. Evolution may very well be a religion of sorts. See: Michael Ruse, “Is evolution a secular religion?” Science, 7 march 2003, pp 1523-1524.

    II – “*Science relies on faith just like religion does.”

    Again, this is vague. I’d say even more than the previous proposition. Science does not rely on religious faith, but its paradigms do rely on unproveable assumptions.

    III – “*Science is biased just like religion is.”

    Vague and ambiguous. For all practical purposes, science is biased, but that does not justify “just like religion,” which suggests both biases function the same way. I say false, but I wouldn’t call it a lie.

    IIII – “*There is no evidence for evolution/big bang/abiogenesis, etc.”

    False and a lie. There is no way one can maintain that there’s no evidence for evolution, unless that person has been living under a rock. A rock without fossils, that is. First proposition that can reasonably be called a lie.

    V – “*There is evidence for creation/the flood/god/etc.”

    This is true. There is some evidence for it. The evidence doesn’t support creationism well enough, but because of the principle of underdetermination one can always logically maintain that there is some shred of evidence for any proposition. Aronra calling this a lie suggests that creationists, however, maintain the proposition in spite of reasonably being obliged to abandon it; the evidence is too fallible to support creationism. However, I would give most creationists the benefit of the doubt here and suppose that the ‘gestalt-like’ quality of their paradigm psychologically compels them to only see the evidence in favour of it and be blind for refuting evidence. So this could be a lie for some creationists, not so for others.

    VI – “*Religion is reasonable just like science is.”

    Religion and faith are reasonable, sure. I’ve no problem with that and I don’t see the big issue here. Throughout the history of religion one can repeatedly see rational problems coming up, with the solutions also being applied through rational means, especially since Aristotle was used to further a Christian agenda.

    I suspect you may be overestimating what reason is and what it can and cannot do (also on the basis of having noticed the designation ‘rationalist’ in the blog’s description box – I don’t think it means what you want it to mean).

    VII – “*Religion can be confirmed empiracly and experimentally just like science.”

    Haha! Nothing can be confirmed empirically. There’s always a swan that might not be white. If, however, we use an ampliative kind of logic, confirmation is possible, but it relies on certain premises. Now, religions have premises and it is therefore reasonable to allow it some empirical confirmation.

    One can also look at this in a different way. Paul Davies once said that only science can confirm the existence of God. I’ve remembered that quote for years, never being able to come to grips with it. One thing I do know, though: many, many claims of biblical literalists can be confirmed empirically.

    For example, the proposition that the earth and the heavens are 6.000 years old predicts that there is no rock older than 6.000 years present on earth. We can date rocks. It would be easy to ‘confirm’ the proposition. But wait – creationists don’t accept radiometric dating! That however does not reduce the principal possibility that the figure of 6.000 years is testable and can for practical purposes be confirmed, if all rocks gave that age max. They don’t, so the earth must be older.

    VIII – “*Creationism is scientific.”

    More vagueness. It’s possible to do research within a creationist paradigm. For example, Siegfried Scherer tried to define baramins of ducks. Such research shows that, working under creationist assumptions, it’s possible to phrase a question, a hypothesis, a method and interpret the results of the observation in order to reflect on the hypothesis. You can do the full research cycle within a creationist paradigm. Does that make it science?

    It could. Had scientists done that before Darwin, we’d have found the work interesting and perhaps groundbreaking for its time. Research of hybridization is interesting, no matter what the paradigm one is working under.

    Creationists typically claim that their beliefs are science because they can offer explanations for almost (ahem) everything. That doesn’t make it scientific, of course. However, the difficulty of debating this is that you immediately come to the point of what makes a theory scientific.

    Here I would call in the help of Todd Wood, a creationist himself. He roundly admits that, whatever its intrinsic scientific status, creationism has not been allowed into the body of professional science. This is undeniably true. His solution is that creationists should do so much research that their truth becomes a good alternative to evolution, rather than leeching on popular science, as is currently the case. This suggests that creationism, complex demarcation issues aside, is not science for practical purposes. It could be in the future.

    I agree. If creationists feel their work belongs in the halls of science, let them show it. Note that this sidesteps any issues regarding methodological naturalism (of which I am a proponent in the vein of Robert Pennock) and epistemological justification, which are fascinating issues that I am not addressing. I also acknowledge their importance in legal cases.

    Taking into account the vagueness, I’d say only proposition IIII is a lie, while II, III, IIII, and V are incorrect in a reasonable interpretation. I’d grant creationists proposition VII because of the word ‘can’.

    Sources used (or rather: kept in mind):

    – Thomas Kuhn: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

    – Larry Laudan: Science at the Bar; Science, Technology, & Human Values 7, no. 41 (1982), pp. 18-19.

    – Michael Ruse: Is Evolution a Secular Religion?; Science 299 no. 5612

    1. I – “*Evolution is a religion.”

      Every religion universally accepted as such promotes faith-based beliefs, which science does not. Formost among those faith-based beliefs is the notion that some form of ‘self’ somehow continues beyond the death of the physical body. Science doesn’t have anything like that either. I explain more about this in the 5th FFoC.

      II – “*Science relies on faith just like religion does.”

      Faith is an assumption of absolute conviction which is assumed without reason and defended against all reason. Science is a polar opposite to that. All its paragigms are testable and potentially falsifiable where no assertion can be made without citing evidentiary basis.

      III – “*Science is biased just like religion is.”

      Religion is a bias by definition, where the practice of science is designed to minimize or eliminate bias.

      IV – “*There is no evidence for evolution/big bang/abiogenesis, etc.”

      We agree at least that that IV is a lie.

      V – “*There is evidence for creation/the flood/god/etc.”

      This is not true. Evidence is a body of objectively-verifiable facts which are concordant with only one available option over any other. There are no facts that are supportive of creationism or discordant with evolution.

      VI – “*Religion is reasonable just like science is.”

      Religious faith is reasonable only to the degree that war is peaceful.

      VII – “*Religion can be confirmed empiracly and experimentally just like science.”

      I can demonstrate many things which can be confirmed empirically. I gave examples of these in my latest discussion with a presuppositionalist, who’s position depends on me not being able to know anything -just like he doesn’t. Knowledge differs from mere belief in that knowledge is testable with a measurable degree of accuracy. So I know quite a lot about my own position -where he can’t honestly claim to know anything at all about his.

      VIII – “*Creationism is scientific.”

      Creationism denies all of scientific methodology -especially methodological naturalism- and they want to replace it with faith in magic, adhering to a predetermined conclusion from which they swear they will not deviate regardless of any evidence to the contrary. You can’t get any less scientific than that.

      1. I – Does Ruse identify faith-based beliefs in evolution? That he does, you can find it in the article.

        It is not a notion of all religions that some form of ‘self’ continues after death. For example, ancient Judaism had no such notion.

        So I don’t think you’ve really effectively refuted my points there.

        II – Faith is not by any means an absolute conviction, it’s more complicated than that. Doubt can be an element of faith. Nor is faith by definition irrational. Most articles of faith have a string of rational arguments behind it. Again I suspect you want rationality to do something it is not quite capable of doing.

        III – Here I think the difference might be lost on many, especially since it is impossible to eliminate bias from science. Some bias is embraced; without some theory-laden observational bias, we would have no idea what is and what is not a good scientific observation. Karl Popper once asked a group of students to “observe”. Immediately they asked what they were supposed to observe. The moment you start answering that question, you introduce bias. So while science may strive to eliminate bias, it is biased in what it tries to eliminate.

        V – You say that evidence “is a body of objectively-verifiable facts which are concordant with only one available option over any other.”

        Logically, this definition makes it impossible for evidence to exist. I’ll illustrate with the theory of gravity. Suppose that this theory is universal; i.e. it applies to all bodies. If we give all bodies numbers, this would mean the law applies to 1,2,3,4…n. The number of bodies to which the law applies is also infinite.

        Now if you measure body 1 and it behave according to Newton’s law, what does that mean? It could entail the following theories:

        1 obeys Newton’s theory, but none of the others do.

        1 and 2 obey Newton’s theory, but none of the others do.

        1,2, and 3 obey Newton’s theory, but none of the others do.

        All bodies (1,2,3…n) obey Newton’s theory.

        Which of these is true? They all explain the same evidence; the evidence is a logical consequence of the theory. Which theory is the most probable? Since the chance that any theory is true is equal to 1, this probability is equal to 1 divided by the number of theories. The number of theories is infinite, making the logical (prior) probability that Newton’s theory was right exactly 0.

        Worse still, adding evidence cannot logically increase the probability. This is because if we put the probability conditional to the evidence in Bayes’ theorem, we have to multiply by the prior probability above the line. Since that number was zero (as per above) any probability given any amount of evidence that a theory is true will still be 0.

        So it is impossible for evidence to be concordant with only one theory, and objectively, the number of theories we can consider is infinite.

        Is there no way out of this? Sure there is. But you have to look at what scientists actually do, rather than make up silly armchair definitions about evidence being only concordant with one theory. Scientists do not objectively come up with theories. They don’t test them without assumptions or bias. They don’t make them up with bare empirical facts. Evidence is always related to a theory, it does not objectively prove anything.

        So is there evidence for a flood? Well, Steno thought so, and his ideas were a big step forward for stratigraphy. You can compare how creationists read and use evidence, and how scientists do. The difference is not that one group has evidence, while the other does not. The difference is that one group is able to research on the evidence, and the other still isn’t.

        VI – “Religious faith is reasonable only to the degree that war is peaceful.” Yes, I know that you think that, but I don’t see much of an argument in it. Any examination of religious thought will unearth an immense body of rational, not to mention rationalist, thought.

        Again, I don’t think rationality is quite able to do what you want it to do and rationalism is not what you want it to be.

        VII – “Knowledge differs from mere belief in that knowledge is testable with a measurable degree of accuracy.”

        I see two ways in which knowledge can be fallible: inaccuracy and underdetermination. Let’s say I have a table that I conclude is 1 meter wide. This can be due to two things:

        1 – I’ve eyebaled the table and estimated it’s 1 meter. This means it is inaccurately measured.

        2 – Someone gave me a stick exactly 1 meter long. I measured the table with it, and it fits.

        In the first case, accuracy is easy to define. The table probably is 1 meter. Is it 100 cm? surely not, but it could be between 90-110. That is a fair estimate of accuracy. But the second case begs the question: how do I know the stick is 1 meter? Well, I don’t. The person who gave it probably told me, but that doesn’t mean he was right. I could assume the table is 1 meter, and measure the stick, but that wouldn’t really confirm I was doing it right.

        Problem is, to do measurements, we don’t just need the accuracy, we also need to know a set of theories that help us do measurements. Theories about the apparatus, for example. otherwise we might conclude that we’re measuring particles going past the speed of light when actually we didn’t calibrate a clock quite right. When we’re figuring out all these theories, it is impossible to objectively say which are always true and which should be tested. This doesn’t mean research is impossible, but that out of any two ideas that are part of a test, we can never be sure which of the two is right. This makes the ‘testability’ of knowledge problematic.

        VIII – It is impossible for creationism to deny all scientific methodology, because a theory never logically implies a methodology. You can test any theory in different ways. Also, I wouldn’t conflate creationism with the behaviour of its adherents; no matter how many creationists act dishonest, it is fallacious to assume this is an inherent quality of creationism.

        I’m not a creationist, but I could do creationist research, like looking for flood strata, defining baramins, etc. The question remains at what point I would be doing science. If I’d be doing these things around the year 1600, the definition would probably be accurate, in spite of religious assumptions underpinning my work. In a modern setting? I don’t think so.

        Aronra, I would like to give you this. In a recent lecture, you stated you don’t care much for philosophy. Well, your definitions are pure philosophy of an identifiably incoherent kind. Also, they don’t conform to what scientists do. Finally, they are not necessary. You don’t need the silly idea that evidence proves theories to defend evolution. Nor do you need retorics to prove creationism is not science. If creationists can produce science, let them do so, and you can engage it without getting lured into the demarcation debate. As most scientists, you have an intuition for the science vs pseudoscience points which is much more accurate than your superficial writings about philosophy. When deciding what is science and what is not, I would trust your gut feeling, because it is probably right.

        And Haeckel? No he wasn’t lying, and certainly not against creationism (which did not exist yet). A non-lying creationist might be the mentioned Scherer in his papers on ducks. Workers in the theory of evolution didn’t have to lie to refute creationism, because their own paradigm offered enough new questions and answers to be exactly what it is: an example of good science.

        1. You’re wrong about Rouse. He does not claim that Evolution is a religion. He claims that the popularization of Evolution is filled with quasi-religious themes like progress being the way to improve human life. He draws a clear distinction between the actual theory, study, and practice of evolution, and the way in which, in his view, evolution is popularized.

          Quoting from the conclusion of the article you cite (emphasis mine):

          “First, if the claim is that all contemporary evolutionism is merely an excuse to promote moral and societal norms, this is simply false. Today’s professional evolutionism is no more a secular religion than is industrial chemistry. Second, there is indeed a thriving area of more popular evolutionism, where evolution is used to underpin claims about the nature of the universe, the meaning of it all for us humans, and the way we should behave.”

          And I should note, this is an opinion, his personal judgement, nothing more. And many would disagree. Many would argue, for example that evolution only tells us how things came to be as they are, not how they should be.

          1. ARGL! I thought logging on with Yahoo would display my Yahoo username, not this mess. Why won’t my registration with one FTB blog work on the rest? And why is there no FB login option here?

            For the record, this is Daniel Henschel, AKA leaford.

        2. Since the chance that any theory is true is equal to 1, this probability is equal to 1 divided by the number of theories. The number of theories is infinite, making the logical (prior) probability that Newton’s theory was right exactly 0.

          Mostly with you, but you definitely lost me right there. I saw Popper make this same argument, and never found it convincing.

          I don’t think that that’s the only, or even a very reasonable way to distribute priors (i.e. uniformly over all possible theories). If you have some reasonable measure of information (and I recognize that this, itself, can get thorny), then it makes more sense to assign a lower prior probability to theories that assert more information. There’s no reason that such a countably infinite sum of probabilities couldn’t sum to 1 without all of them being zero (and, in fact, such priors have been explicitly formulated for certain problems).

          Granted, this is not explicitly the way scientific thought tends to operate (some things are hard to rigorously quantify, after all), but I think it does show how there’s a meaningful sense in which evidence can confirm a theory probabilistically.

    2. But wait – creationists don’t accept radiometric dating!

      “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”

      ―Philip K. Dick

    3. “*There is evidence for creation/the flood/god/etc.”

      I accept evidence for many microfloods throughout Earth’s history, and even macrofloods such as the Mississippi almost ten years ago, but not a megaflood.

  9. I maintain that science neither requires nor desires faith, and does not include any faith-based beliefs, nor indeed any ‘required’ beliefs either. If you want to posit faith-based belief in evolution, show me one, and I’ll show you the evidence indicating that it is not a faith-based belief.

    Even before Judaism adopted the Zoroastrian concepts of Heaven and Hell, they still appear to believe in the earlier Semitic beliefs of Erishkegal ruling over the land of the dead. Early Judaism adapted quite a bit from neighboring religions, all of whom believed in some realm of the dead.

    At a Theravada temple, a Buddhist teacher assured me that Buddhism is not a religion -according to the same definition I gave you. He said they don’t believe in any concept of ‘self’. They don’t believe in reincarnation, because they say we were never born in the first place. He also said that Siddhartha Gautama was a great teacher but that he wasn’t any god. By that description, I was satisfied that Buddhism was atheist, and not religion. However minutes later, that same Buddhist teacher described the Buddha as an immortal being who answers prayers with miracles, meaning that it is a god by definition. He also said that “You may be a ghost for a while, before moving on to your next material body”, contradicting everything he had just said.

    His definitions are as malleable and unsupported as yours. In order to maintain your position, you have oppose the concensus definition available from the overwhelming majority of authorities, dictionaries, sermons, hymns, theologians past and present, and not only Western Abrahamic scriptures but Hindu and Sikh scriptures too. Declaring faith to be reasonable and rational definitely puts you in the minority position.

    III – While it may be impossible to eliminate bias completely, science implements practices like peer review to minimize it as much as possible. By contrast religion embraces bias whole-heartedly.

    V – You example of the different hypotheses within gravity theory is mis-stated. It should read, “They all explain the same FACTS’. Facts do not become evidence until they are indicative of or concordant with only one of the available options. So it is impossible for the same evidence to be concordant with more than one mutually-exclusive conclusion.

    These are not ‘armchair’ definitions, and they’re certainly not silly either. While some definitive sources may not be phrased with as much clarity as I use, those definitions are still verifiably correct, according to what scientists actually do.

    There is no evidence for the flood, regardless who used to think so once-upon-a-time. Now we know better. The difference really is that one group tries to form conclusions based on the indications implied by the evidence, and the other tries to arrange facts so that they seem concordant with the pre-determined conclusion. I have already shown that when they have the opportunity to test those conclusions, they refuse.

    VI – Extensive examination of religion shows that it is neither rational nor reasonable. To believe otherwise, you first have to assume that faith is not what it is.

    VII – “Knowledge differs from mere belief in that knowledge is testable with a measurable degree of accuracy.”

    A measurable degree of accuracy also means that what you thought you knew can be falsified, meaning you didn’t really know what you thought you did. That’s the difference between knowing something and merely believing it.

    VIII – It is impossible for creationism to deny all scientific methodology, because a theory never logically implies a methodology.

    With that statement, I can no longer assume that you know what you’re talking about. Creationism does deny ALL scientific methodology, from uniformitarianism to methodological naturalism, to assertions requiring evidentiary basis, to the process of critical analysis in peer review, creationism denies all of it. I know you said you’re not a creationist yourself, but I have to wonder if you’ve ever actually met one, or argued about their methods and motivations. One way in which they ALL deny the whole of scientific methodology is that all creationist organizations post a ‘statement of faith’ wherein they declare their a-priori predetermined conclusion, their confirmation bias, and their refusal to ever admit when they’re wrong. There is nothing scientific about any of that.

    Aronra, I would like to give you this. In a recent lecture, you stated you don’t care much for philosophy. Well, your definitions are pure philosophy of an identifiably incoherent kind. Also, they don’t conform to what scientists do. Finally, they are not necessary. You don’t need the silly idea that evidence proves theories to defend evolution. Nor do you need retorics to prove creationism is not science.

    As I have neither of those ‘silly ideas’, why did you bring them up?

    If creationists can produce science, let them do so, and you can engage it without getting lured into the demarcation debate.

    I never denied them that option; they did -for the reasons and by the means which I have already described.

  10. 5000 whining atheists vs the Great Prophet

    one applicant right here…

    get the POINT, Randi….

    1. Make Sense ‘thepoint’ !

      And maybe even be relevant to the post and site rather than spreading spam.

  11. aronra @10,

    I maintain that science neither requires nor desires faith, and does not include any faith-based beliefs, nor indeed any ‘required’ beliefs either. If you want to posit faith-based belief in evolution, show me one, and I’ll show you the evidence indicating that it is not a faith-based belief.

    I think it’s clear that Jonathan @9 is putting forward the usual wanker argument that science is an axiomatic belief system, and like any other, it requires “faith” in the axioms of the system – that is a belief without evidence nor reasoning of any kind.

    Science has the axiom(s) “we should base our beliefs on evidence” and “science works”. Whether these axioms are “true” is called the problem of induction.

    Jonathan’s argument is pedantically right, but as presented it’s a wanker argument. Without full qualification and explanation, it sounds like a post modernist claptrap about how any belief system is as good as any other.

    Even at its best, it’s philosophical masturbation. No one (except a few true wankers) is seriously going to discount induction, and anyone who does I will immediately discount as clinically insane.

    1. I.

      Faith is based on evidence. Without an imagined or real threat, people wouldn’t be able trip their survival routines to preserve their own ignorance. Yes it is possible to fabricate evidence.

      Any person can make a leap of faith. But that should not be confused with taking risks. Risks are necessary for life, and early lifeforms had no free will.


      Mathematics is founded on Logic and Logic depends on unprovable assumptions. As in axiomatic systems. As with how self-referencing turned out in Godel’s work. We won’t ever prove the validity of a system using itself. Note: How then are creationsts able to find God inside the universe?

      Science involves informing our views with evidence. Thus our logic can be bettered. What we think we are discussing can change. That is supreme! Some accuse us of being utilitarian, but what greater utility than serving truth!

      Science should have the mandate on the question like, IS THERE A GOD? ARE WE ALONE? WHAT IS MORAL? Religion is a lie organized around one’s faith and ignorance. Why else would they so greatly emphasize how you know no better than them!

      1. I’m not sure you’re rebutting anything I’ve said, or if you’re agreeing… I think I’m agreeing with you.

    2. Even at its best, it’s philosophical masturbation. No one (except a few true wankers) is seriously going to discount induction, and anyone who does I will immediately discount as clinically insane.

      Yeah, I’ll admit that while I enjoy philosophy and discussions of foundations of epistemology and the like, they’re more often used in discussions about religion or evolution vs. creation as a smokescreen to try to put wacky beliefs on the same level as science.

      Anyone who tried to actually discount induction in practice would probably not survive very long.

  12. I think with Haeckel and Piltdown man and other such lies, if we are to be so generous with the accusation, the difference is in the victim of the lie as well. These were lies told to other scientists, open to the free inquiry of actual experts. It’s not taking advantage of the undereducated.

    As for the creationist, I have heard of one that was rather bizarre in his refusal to lie. I remember seeing him try to defend himself, though I can’t remember his name. I just remember that he admits all the evidence points to a very old earth and evolution, but can’t figure out why the evidence is, in his opinion, pointing in the wrong way. I really felt bad for this guy and I wish I could remember where I found him so I could give him credit here.

  13. As far as I am aware, the only assumption in science that could be considered “faith-based” is derived from philosophy, the idea that the universe exists exactly as we perceive it; if we cannot perceive it (or build machines to perceive it for us) it does not exist. Naturally, this definition of “perceive” extends to fill every gap.

    Suppose there’s an as-yet unknown subatomic particle whizzing through space, and it just passed through your body, much like a neutrino. Most subatomic particles we can detect through various means, but let’s suppose this new particle cannot be detected; not directly or indirectly. It does not interact with our universe in any way whatsoever. Does it exist? Not as far as the universe is concerned; by the way the particle was defined, it is impossible to find any evidence for it. Science would define that particle to not exist, even if it might. That’s the only “faith-based” aspect of science.

    You could even make the weak argument that the foundation of science is circular logic: science only accepts that which exists, but that which exists is defined to be all that which science can find evidence for.

    It’s a lot like math. Math is a numbers game; numbers and methods of combining the numbers and the patterns within numbers. What if I wanted to: narwhal * (bacon + midnight)? It cannot be done, because the universe of mathematics is defined to be one in which narwhals, midnight, and bacon do not exist. One could therefore say that mathematics is excluding possibility. But, we all know what would happen if we tried to bacon + 1. It could work if we re-defined the universe of mathematics to include bacon, but why stop there when we’ve got this narwhal and midnight? And everything else?

    We’ve got two choices: define the universe to be everything whatsoever, every tiny sliver of human imagination and everything beyond that, a literal infinite of options, even if it produces a self-inconsistent and paradoxical universe in which case our hypothetical zippy particles or God could exist and there is absolutely no method whatsoever to determine the validity of any one of them (and especially not one over the other), or, we slice the universe into the most broad yet self-consistent and self-definable category our unified but limited intelligence can manage and go from there. As it happens, we’ve done that.

    We call it “science”.

    1. @Lorax

      If you are replying to me or Jonathan, then you are missing the point. It is not the question “do things exist which are not observable?”. It is the question “why does basing belief on evidence work?”. It’s a very silly question, but admittingly there is no answer. It’s the problem of induction, described in detail by Hume.

      Again, I agree it’s a highly dishonest equivocation to merely describe science as “faith based” because it’s axiomatic, but in the straightforward sense of “faith”, everyone with an axiomatic belief system has “faith” in the axioms. It’s just that some people are right (the scientists and rationalists), and some people are wrong (religious people). (Yes, that is a naked fiat assertion, and it deserves no further comment.)

      I like how Aronra understands this other detail though (judging from some of his youtube videos). It’s an unnecessary assumption in science to claim we’re not in The Matrix. Whether I am in The Matrix or not, the evidence indicates that I will be hungry tomorrow if I do not eat, and that I must get money to obtain food, and thus I must go to my job, and so on. Whether it’s in a virtual reality or a “real” reality, it does not matter – my observations and desires are independent of such philosophical claims.

  14. 5000 whining atheists vs the Great Prophet

    one applicant right here…

    get the POINT, Randi….

  15. Candidate for honest creationist: Todd Wood. Read his Understanding the Pattern of Life and you have to wonder why he does not believe evolution and is instead a YEC. Or you would wonder it if he did not say that he would go with the Bible no matter how much evidence there was for evolution.

    And obviously Dawkins on more than one occasion brought up Kurt Wise as an example.

  16. [Here’s a challenge for you -in two parts. (1) Name one evolutionary scientist who ever lied in the act of promoting evolution over creationism. (2) Name a professional creationist who did NOT lie when trying to defend creationism or condemn evolution….. (a lie is a false statement presented as true, or a truth misrepresented to appear false, with a deliberate attempt to deceive.)]

    I don’t think that Haeckel meets the criteria due to the “deliberate attempt to deceive” component.

    I also think that the “professional creationist” criteria would exclude most theists who have been deceived by the “professionals” into accepting creationism as true.

  17. I don’t think that Haeckel meets the criteria due to the “deliberate attempt to deceive” component.

    I expect that creationists will latch onto the idea that he intentionally altered several of the drawings as sufficient to meet “deliberate attempt to deceive.”

    It was clearly deliberate, and deceptiveness can rank along a scale from slight exaggeration to wholesale manufacture. Even though the similarities are there, It seems like you can still make a case for some element of deception, which will probably be enough to quell any cognitive dissonance. Any loophole will work, no matter how small.

    Aron’s observation that Haeckel was promoting his form of embryology over another form of embryology which both fit into the common descent paradigm strikes me as far more convincing, as he wasn’t manipulating his drawings specifically to make a case for common descent.

  18. 5000 whining atheists vs the Great Prophet

    how the divine pen of Michel N. crushed the international atheist movement

    one applicant right here…

    get the POINT, Randi….

    for lies on top of lies

    do you think you can threaten my right to FREE SPEECH?

    what if I told you that I am not who you think I am….

    Not Dennis Markuze – but a FAN!

    you’re not the center of the universe!

    a dishonest liar

  19. I’m afraid I don’t see the point of the question Aaron, it’s just other red herring. I so what if someone lied to promote evolution, or someone somehow managed to find an honest creationist. Neither have any bearing on the truth, and or reality.

  20. This is an easy one. I’ll answer the second question first. Although I can name many, just to keep it simple and to the point and by using Aronra’s own definition of a what a lie is, I will cite the late great A. E. Wilder Smith who was a man who was loved and respected even by many of his adversaries.

    As for naming “one evolutionary scientist who ever lied in the act of promoting evolution over creationism” I can also cite many but will cite just one and for the same reason already stated above, and this a person who claims to be a Catholic no less. His name is Kenneth Miller, and he said that Behe’s example of Irreducible complexity “hasn’t generated a single research publication that has even used the word irreducible complexity”

    Now keep in mind, he did not say it hasn’t generated a single research publication that has even used the word irreducible complexity (to my knowledge) or (that I know of). He said it as a matter of fact, and he has never retracted this statement. Now I will repeat the statement once more. When speaking of Behe’s argument of IC, he said….”It hasn’t generated a single research publication that has even used the word irreducible complexity” This is the issue and nothing else, and again this is a lie. Eg. below…..

    Lönnig, W.-E. 2004. Dynamic genomes, morphological stasis and the origin of irreducible complexity. In: V. Parisi, V. de Fonzo and F. Aluffi-Pentini, eds. Dynamical Genetics, 101-119. Research Signpost.

    Curr Opin Cell Biol. 2010 Feb;22(1):68-74. Epub 2009 Dec 16.

    Reducing irreducible complexity: divergence of quaternary structure and function in macromolecular assemblies.

    J Thromb Haemost. 2003 Feb;1(2):227-30.

    Hemostasis and irreducible complexity.

    Aird WC.


    Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

    1. Second paper was 4 years AFTER the point when Miller said this… and doesn’t count… and the first one is one document among literally millions… you think Miller read all research documents ever written? No you don’t, nor do I, nor does anyone else.

      So I think it goes without saying that its unlikely he scanned every document in existence for the phrase… and everyone including you knows that. So he doesn’t need to preface the argument with to my knowledge since nobody on earth could retain such knowledge anyway!

      Of course the same way you insist he must add ‘to my knowledge’ to such statements… I’ll be equally pedantic and point out that the 2004 paper is not a research paper!

      Even so…even if we allowed you to be pedantic and won’t allow me to point out the first research paper does no research… you managed to find one!

      Wow… that many…a whole one… like more than zero! They are literally falling freely from the trees aren’t they?


    2. In addition to mick’s assessment, the third paper actually discusses the very evolution of so-called “irreducibly complex” systems, which goes against Behe’s definition. Thus, if I’m allowed to be pedantic as well, none of those papers qualify.

      Try again with less stupid.

  21. The presentation I’m speaking of occurred after the Dover trial which happend in 2005. And at least two of the papers I cited were before that date. I should also remind you, the question was not whether all agreed with Behe’s work, (even though at least one paper does speak of ID in a positive light) but again the point is moot. The question was of whether a single research paper had been published and he lied. Again, he could have said….as far as I know of, not a single paper had been published, but he didn’t say that. He said it as a matter of fact.

    In addition, just a few short years ago he also used junk DNA as an example of bad design, i.e. that from a design perspective, junk DNA made no sense, and went on to say that from the perspective of evolutionary biology, junk DNA did make sense, i.e. junk DNA was predicted by the theory. Keep in mind, he said this when we already knew that much of this so called junk had important function, and we had already known of this fact many years before he made this statement. Ignorance is not an excuse.

    In fact just a week ago the ENCODE project finally issued public a eulogy for the “junk” DNA paradigme and published a finding based on the work of hundreds of scientist and thirty papers that up to 80% of the genome has bio chemical function. Needles to say, this has caused many who have for years preached this false information to go on a seek and destroy mission, even going so far as to ridicule the hard working scientist and analysts at ENCODE.

  22. Name one scientist who lied when promoting evolution? Let’s see: Marc Hauser, Reiner Rudolph Robert Protsch von Zieten, Charles Darwin, Charles Dawson. Need I go on?

    1. Before you list other people who don’t meet the criteria, let’s discuss your suggestions thus far. Dawson for example is one of three suspects in a fraud against the British Museum. If that is what you’re referring to, then you’ve missed your mark twice just with him, (1) because he’s only a suspect, and (2) because the scientific community was the victim of the fraud. Remember that the challenge was to find someone who lied in the promotion of evolution over creationism. So what you need to do in each case is first to show how the person lied -quoting verbatim. That means that whatever he said has to be wrong, and he has to have known it was wrong when he said it. You’ve got Darwin in your list too, and I’d bet that you’ve missed both criteria with him as well. Then once you’ve shown how and when that person lied, then you have to show that the lie was specifically in reference to evolution over that of magical creation. I don’t know most of the other characters in your list, but I would still bet that none of them meet the criteria.

      Remember that this is two part challenge wherein you should also name a professional creationist who did NOT lie in the promotion of creationism over actual science. That’s the aspect of this challenge that really shows how overwhelmingly one-sided it is.

      1. I think Dawson lied by refusing point blank to allow anyone to have a look at or inspect his findings… which is the very reason this was ignored by science and uncovered in the 1920’s as a fraud long before anyone got to look at Dawsons Piltdown man and based on the existing information of the day.

        Dawson was not a palaeontologist…or at least he was as qualified as a palaeontologist as Kent Hovind is qualified as a cosmologist… not at all in any form and stands no chance of passing even the most cursory inspection as one. But that doesn’t seem to stop Hovind and son from making lunacy statements, or others from nodding in agreement, all as uneducated as one another. Thankfully science only works by using its discoveries and applying them to the real world where they work in inventions and other advents.

        If you can’t apply a science its no good to anyone….

        Despite al this what the general idiot in the street ‘heard’ was the case with no information otherwise… and what you can find out in ten minutes online about his case are two different things altogether…so after reviewing the case make your point as opposed to pointing out nonsense passed down by others as uneducated about the case as you are.

        This is the very reason that Genetics from the bible by painting stripes on goats to make striped goats WILL NOT WORK when applied but using genetic modification as detailed by evolutionary biologists WILL WORK. Because science is only worth its application…. in value… Its not only discovery…its the search for knowledge that can be applied to problems.

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  24. Truly though, when have you observed intellect spring forth from non-intellect? Your test tubes are tied. You have never observed something from nothing. Abiogenesis is unscientific. Dawkins believes that there could be a more intelligent species in the universe, which evolved from forms strikingly similar to us, that seeded earth. Now we are back at Mormonism, essentially, where a man ascended to Godhood and seeded earth.

    Dawkins will crawl into a sort of pseudo mormonistic ideological womb but won’t confess that the universe was constructed by God and contaminated by sin. You suppress the truth in unrighteousness. You discovered the deceitful delights of sin and your wicked heart was ravished into Luciferic, intellectual aggrandizement. You won’t have a valid excuse at the judgment seat, be assured. All nature is ordered by laws, as is humankind. There are penalties for breaking those laws. Nature preaches death, burial, and resurrection.

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