Sunday, 14 February 2010

Bearing False Witness

There's been an annoying creationists infesting the comments of pharyngula in recent weeks. Well his inanity finally got him plonked, and his response? This. His argument that "Atheist's can't handle the truth"? Darwin make a comment that shows that the eye evolving is absurd. What he quoted was this following passage from The Origin Of Species:
To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of Spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.
Game over for atheists right? If only we had read Darwin's Origin past the bit where he pronounced the death of God[1] and failed to see the point where he showed that he was having us on. There must be some explanation for this... it's missing half the quote
To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of Spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree. When it was first said that the sun stood still and the world turned round, the common sense of mankind declared the doctrine false; but the old saying of Vox populi, vox Dei ["the voice of the people = the voice of God "], as every philosopher knows, cannot be trusted in science. Reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a simple and imperfect eye to one complex and perfect can be shown to exist, each grade being useful to its possessor, as is certain the case; if further, the eye ever varies and the variations be inherited, as is likewise certainly the case; and if such variations should be useful to any animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, should not be considered as subversive of the theory.
So it seems Darwin was using a rhetorical device to make a prediction, that his theory does have an explanation for the eye. Two things come to mind.
  • First: If you're going to make a post saying "atheists can't handle the truth, it's important to make sure that your post doesn't actually lie. By omitting the lines after what was quoted, it's completely changed what Darwin was stating - creating a false impression and lying by omission.
  • Second: The truth of evolution or atheism do not rest on what Mr Darwin said. So even if it were in context, even if it was Mr Darwin's view, it wouldn't make one bit of difference to how modern evolutionary theory stands today - nor would it say anything of the question of whether there are such things as interventionist deities. Quoting Darwin on hereditary for example wouldn't disprove modern evolutionary theory. And again, evolution != atheism. Atheism is a philosophical position on the existence of interventionist deities and doesn't rest on the words of Mr Darwin or the truth of evolution. It's a massive category error.


Sadly this is typical creationist dishonesty, and these are usually the same people who claim that you need God for morality. Wasn't there something in the bible about bearing false witness[2]? Surely if one had intellectual honesty, they would strive for accuracy, to make sure they aren't misrepresenting what they are quoting and try to argue the points on their own merits. It would be dishonest to do otherwise.

As for how the eye did evolve, much work has been done on this. I'll let Richard Dawkins explain just how the evolutionary process could build an eye.



[1] - Well maybe that was Nietzsche, but both lead humanity to nihilism, right?
[2] - It's only a commandment, it's not like it's as important as those passages that condemns homosexuality as an abomination.

1 comment:

EastwoodDC said...

>"There's been an annoying creationists ..."

Is there another kind of creationist?

I've gotten to where I pretty much ignore the creationists and deny them the attention they seek, but sometime they say things too stupid to be ignored. Thank for setting things straight.