Darwin Still Doesnt Do Well in Polls
British Darwin defender Richard Dawkins is gnashing his teeth over the latest poll in Britain that shows “More than half of the public believe that the theory of evolution cannot explain the full complexity of life on Earth, and a ‘designer’ must have lent a hand,” according to the UK Guardian and UK Telegraph. Dawkins said the result indicates a worrying level of scientific ignorance among Britons. In his words, much of the population is “pig-ignorant” about science. But what does the poll mean?
In “The Problem with Evolution Surveys” on Live Science, Robert Roy Britt said the announcement should not worry “those who know evolution to be a solid scientific theory” so much. Only 10%, he pointed out, subscribe to Biblical creationism and a young earth. Another 12% subscribe to intelligent design, which Britt called “not a theory” (like evolution is, in his view). Britt says this means “only 22 percent reject evolution outright.” From there, Britt went on to discuss the way questions are framed in polls and the complex interplays between science and religion in public opinions. He also chalked up results to ignorance of what evolution is. He asserted that “the theory of evolution is one of the most well-supported theories of science, and scientists and most science teachers think it should be taught in science class without religious ideas such as creationism and intelligent design.”
A different interpretation was offered by Dr. Michael Egnor on Evolution News, an ID blog from the Discovery Institute. He noted that more people doubt Darwinism than go to church. The meaning, he said, is obvious: “support for intelligent design extends far beyond the segment of the population that is traditionally religious.” A similar proportion holds in America. In addition, he noted how surprising this poll was for the land in which Darwin lived and wrote – the country that honors him as one of their most famous offspring: “After generations of Darwinist indoctrination in public schools, more than half of the British public doubts Darwinism as an adequate explanation for life.”
Egnor took umbrage at the arrogance of Dawkins calling his fellow-citizens “pig-ignorant” of science. Dawkins had also tried to distance Darwin’s views from chance. The Telegraph quoted him as follows:
“Obviously life, which was Darwin’s own subject, is not the result of chance,” he said.
“Any fool can see that. Natural selection is the very antithesis of chance.
“The error is to think that God is the only alternative to chance, and Darwin surely didn’t think that because he himself discovered the most important non-theistic alternative to chance, namely natural selection.”
Egnor called this assertion disingenuous. “An outcome can be entirely determined by natural laws – which is what he means by evolution – and yet can be chance,” he explained. “….Chance in physical science refers specifically to events that lack intelligent design,” or teleology. Coming back to the poll, Egnor said most people perceive the design in nature and cannot attribute it to chance. He took pleasure in a comment by Lord Carey (a theistic evolutionist) who accused Dawkins of “evolving into a very simple kind of thinker.” Egnor said, “Finally, we have an example of evolution that is undeniably true.”
Polls are interesting but not definitive. Better to be right than follow a crowd. Nevertheless, it must remain utterly frustrating to the Darwinists that they cannot sell their ideas to the public after 150 years of nonstop indoctrination. Why don’t they just admit that doubting Darwinism produces higher fitness?
We need to understand some oft-used tactics of the Darwin defenders to avoid being deceived. First, consider the claim by Richard Dawkins that “natural selection is the very antithesis of chance.” Notice that Dawkins feels impelled to distance Darwin’s theory from chance, because otherwise it would degenerate into the “Stuff Happens” Law – an abandonment of any and all claim to scientific explanation (see 09/15/2008 commentary). He tries to portray natural selection as a law-like process that guarantees organisms will evolve toward increasing fitness. (He knows he can’t portray this as progress or he will incur the wrath of fellow Dar-wino Michael Ruse.) Is it really possible to spin evolution as un-chance?
Let’s imagine a generic law-governed situation, say a set of equally-spaced steel bars that punch downward like hammers from a ceiling onto a concrete floor. Each bar’s rate and interval can be measured and found to be predictably law-like. No intelligence seems to be guiding them; they just hammer away mindlessly but regularly. Now we see that beach balls are scattered around the floor. Many get popped by the bars, but some are blown this way or that by the wind from the hammering, or by glancing blows. In a sense, one could say that the beach balls that don’t go extinct are the fittest because they survive. They have been naturally selected. This is the only kind of law-like, non-chance behavior Dawkins can appeal to. If there is no intelligent guidance, nothing interesting is going to happen. A few balls will outlast the others, but that is it. Can Dawkins appeal to anything else? Let’s add the ability of balls to spontaneously vary in shape a little – another element of chance. Over a period of time, it is observed that there is a slight preponderance of oblong balls accumulating – “survival of the fittest.” Add another law-like element: a steady wind blows from one direction. Oblong balls accumulate at the far end of the field (the ones that didn’t get popped).
Is this evolution? This is no better than bubbles accumulating in an eddy along a stream. We don’t see any combination of laws of nature and chance producing engineered systems performing a function for a purpose. Natural selection, therefore, is indistinguishable from chance. The laws don’t care what the beach balls do, and the beach balls are at the whim of whatever pushes them around at the moment. The bars and the balls have no mind, no eyes, no care about what happens. Without a mind directing things toward an outcome, it really is all about chance; chance overrules the law-like elements. The flaw in evolutionary thinking is to postdict their own teleological minds onto a history of this planet and re-interpret the design they see as the outcome of chance. They are not being consistent. If it were really mindless, you would have rocks, but not corn (see next entry).
Other evolutionary propaganda tactics are evident in these articles, especially Robert Roy Britt’s screed. This was sad for a guy who used to try to make a pretence of objectivity but is evidently now a hardened Darwiniac. For one, he and the others associate Darwinism with science. Associating anything with the magic word “science” grants it an air of respectability, earned or not. For another, they use the bald assertions of dogmatism (BAD) strategy: “evolution is one of the most well-supported theories of science.” Why? “Because I said so!” Another is equivocation: what do they mean by evolution? Britt referred to antibiotic resistance as evidence for evolution, something no young-earth creationist would reject. To extrapolate that into the belief that philosophy came from bacteria is another thing entirely. Another trick is the either-or fallacy; you are either a Darwin worshiper or you are pig-ignorant of science. That’s also a case of ridicule. Dawkins is good at that. If he were a righteous man, he would be saying, “Come now, and let us reason together.” We would reply: “Reason, what a capital idea. Cheerio. Tell us, Dr. Dawkins, how did reason evolve? Some tea, perhaps, while you ponder that?”