Sirius Questions

(I apologize for the title of this post, but I couldn’t help myself. I’ll go and hand in my English license immediately…)

Yesterday I had a bit of a run-in with one Sirius Knotts, Creationist extraordinaire. Knotts is a classic example of a (presumably) intelligent person who’s become so addled by religion that he’s become a Creationist living inside a three-foot mental box. (This would exlain why linking to informative websites is taboo on his blog, whose comment section is a comedy goldmine.)

Knotts posed three questions to me, all of such magnitude and insight and that my worldview was shaken to its very core. Here they are, along with my modest replies:

 

 

1. darwinism is not science. It’s dogma. I certainly expect you to dogmatically defend it. Funny thing though, despite Dobzhansky’s “reluctant” equivocation of macro- and microevolution, the macro “molecules to man” sort of evo has never, ever been observed. It’s all been inferrred from micro-evo. Cuz ya gotta have faith, a-faith, a-faith!

 

Okay, so I was lying about the magnitude thing; this one sits pretty low on the Creationist Richter Scale. We’ve got the macroevolution fallacy, for a start. (Of course evolution has never been observed on the ‘molecules to man’ scale; I have to wonder why anybody would think this is a shocking revelation.)

Ah, our old friend the Quote Mine also shows up. A note to Creationists: don’t try to quote Dobzhansky. It always turns out badly for you, if only because he wrote a fairly famous essay entitled Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution. Dobzhansky described himself as ‘both a creationist and an evolutionist’ because, while he absolutely accepted that evolution occurred and that it occurred over the course of billions of years, he believed that God was ultimately the one who controlled it. He has also stated that Knott’s form of Creationism leads to blasphemy, because ‘the Creator is accused of systematic deceitfulness’. 

I’m not sure what ‘quote’ Knotts is working off here, but given that Dobzhansky more or less kick-started the modern synthesis, I doubt he had too much of a problem with the micro/macroevolution side of things. 

 

 

2. A lot of Darbot websites and textbooks contain misinformation. Eugenie Scott makes a career out of convincing folks through such misinformation! But no one’s bothering to correct it. Why?

 

Knotts’ deep hatred of links makes it a bit difficult to reply to this, since I have no idea what exactly he’s talking about. I’d never done much reading into Eugenie Scott before, but a quick Google search informed me that she once made false claims about a Creationist, only apologizing after she was called out on it. Shame on her, but that doesn’t really equate to a ‘career’ of convincing people through misinformation. Some more specifics on this one would be nice.

Of course, it is inevitable that some ‘Darbot’ (cute) websites and textbooks will contain misinformation, in some cases intentional. There are unscrupulous people on both sides of the fence. Given that Knotts frequently lists the peppered moth cliche as evidence of ‘evolutionist’ deceit, though, I’ll go out on a limb and say that this isn’t going to amount to much.

(The entire text of Dobzhansky’s excellent essay can be found here.)

 

3. Science is not determined by majority opinion, credentialism or court decisions. Saying that Creationism is in decline is wishful thinking OR YOU WOULDN’T HAVE TO BLOODY DEFEND IT ALL THE TIME.

 

Wow, fallacy central! And bad grammar, too.  

It is of course correct that science is not determined by opinion or court decision, but Creationists are the ones who act like it is, or else they wouldn’t be so eager to get their untested psuedo-hypothesis taught in science classrooms before convincing the scientific community of its veracity. Creationism in all its forms, and particularly the AiG-produced nonsense that people like Knotts live on, runs counter to the scientific process. Every time a Creationist tells you that the theory of evolution is dogma or religion, they are attempting to drag it down to the murky depths of their own ignorance. 

My point in this post was not that Creationism was in decline, but that it has already had a major ‘victory’ before receeding again, all without altering its status in the scientific community at large. Its success and failure is completely divorced from the world of science, and that tells you everything you need to know about it.

19 Responses to Sirius Questions

  1. M. Patterson says:

    Having read Sirius Knott’s post already, I thought this rebuttal might provide an interesting read. I’m sorry to say that it lacked the depth I thought it might provide. Speaking as a scientist, I take exception to your regard for the so-called “scientific community.” There is no such thing. Every scientist, like you, seems to think of this thing so often mentioned in the news as being a group of other people, somewhere, who seem to know more than we do. Even scientists are pulled around by the nose by this elusive “scientific community,” and I have yet to meet a person who considers himself a member of said community. It is a term that has taken almost god-like value, and refers to no one in particular. Everyone is a scientist in some respect. I am constantly amazed at how well the general public is informed on matters of science, and how clearly they can think for themselves. It is a shame, then, that they let themselves be trampled by the wisdom of a handful of (nonexistent?) fools. I mean this, too.

  2. forknowledge says:

    You’re a scientist! That’s great – I’ve often wondered what an actual scientist would think of this blog. Feel free to correct any mistakes I’ve inevitable made.

    I’m not entirely sure what you mean when you say that general public is well-informed on scientific matters. I would have thought that the recent doomsday stupidity over the LHC would be a pretty clear sign that the public is generally not well informed.

    When I talked about the scientific community, I meant the sum total of scientists actively doing research and publishing in scientific journals. Creationism never caught on with ‘real’ biologists, even when its proponents managed to get evolution thrown out of many classrooms.

    But, as a scientist, I’m sure you could provide a much better reply to Knotts’ post?

  3. Lottie says:

    Ah! You’ve had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Knotts! My husband has given him a few good spankings as well. ::snort::

    Good job!

    P.S. I’ll try to catch up here over the weekend. It’s been a very hectic week. ::sigh::

  4. forknowledge says:

    In that case our schedules should mesh well, since I’m in for a very hectic weekend! I like to post daily, if only to see if I can continuously come up with content that someone might find worth reading.

    Interestingly, my traffic has skyrocketed since I commented on Knotts’ blog. I guess that means a lot of people go there?

  5. Sirius says:

    forknowledge/Brian,

    A lot of folks do go to my site. Am I not, after all, a “Creationist extraordinaire?” [The remainder of your description of myself is rather argumentative and decidedly unqualified.] Or were you being quasi-facetious?

    Lottie,

    Your husband, the insufferable mockstar Mr. Oops! did in fact write a post called Spanking Sirius, but as I said before simply making off-topic insults and accusing me of ignorance without qualifying why you’ve made the allegation hardly constitutes deconstruction much less a “spanking.” To put it plainly, your husband is a hack.

    I digress.

    In regards to the Dobzhansky quote: “There is no way toward an understanding of the mechanisms of macroevolutionary changes, which require time on a geological sclae, other than through a full comprehension of the microevolutionary processes observable within the span of a human lifetime. For this reason we are compelled at the present level of knowledge reluctantly to put a sign of equality between the mechanisms of macro- and microevolution, and proceeding on this assumption, to push our investigations as far ahead as this working hypothesis will permit.” Theodosius Dobzhansky, Genetics and the Origin of Species, Reprinted 1982 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1937), page 12.

    As to the charge of quote mining, balderdash. This quote establishes that, despite Gary Hurd’s ignorant rants to the contrary, that the macro versus micro dichotomy is not a creationist fabrication.

    –Sirius Knott

  6. forknowledge says:

    Actually, it does not. Dobzhansky is pointing out that actually examining the mechanisms of macroevolution directly will forever be impossible, because it occurs on a timescale far larger than that of a human lifespan (or indeed, larger than the amount of time that human civilisation has existed). He says that we must have a full comprehension of microevolutionary processes in order to understand macroevolution – his ‘reluctance’ is in treating the mechanisms of both as the same, which is necessary but probably mistaken.

    Like your revelation that the geological column is incomplete, this is nothing new, nor does it in any way detract from evolutionary theory. The Creationist idea is that macroevolution is actually impossible, which is very obviously not what Dobzhansky is claiming, nor is it the dichotomy that biologists recognize.

  7. Mike says:

    making off-topic insults

    your husband is a hack.

    Ahem.

    I’m going to leave you to draw your own conclusion, FK, by giving you the link. I think you’ll find his hissy fit in comments quite amusing.

    Yes, I did insult and belittle him. He deserved it, because he’s an ignorant, smug, self-satisfied jerk who aspires to intellectual mediocrity while making no effort whatsoever to better his own knowledge. In short, he’s a one man Discovery Institute.

  8. forknowledge says:

    Welcome aboard, Mike! I read your post; it’s not what I would have written, but was thoroughly entertaining nonetheless. When Knotts stops insulting and gets to the actual meat of his arguments, they have a tendency to fall apart (this is similar to the situation with theists in general, although the majority of them at least have the decency to leave out the insults).

    I like the idea of a one-man Discovery Institute, although they at least had the sense to weaken their position when it became clear that ‘straight’ Creationism and ID were never going to fly in schools.

  9. Mike says:

    I probably don’t need to say this, but sense is not something Knotts has in any significant quantity.

    If I have but one talent, it’s for insulting those who so richly deserve it.😀

    Thanks for the welcome!

  10. Saber says:

    Sirius.

    If you were shown and animal that was covered in fur and was 1 foot tall and then were shown another animal that looked exactly like the first but now had no fur and was 3 feet tall. If we demonstrated that these two were related you would call that macro evolution.

    Now say we then told you that these two animals were separated by a very substantial number of generations and in every few generations they had gotten slightly less fur and grown taller till they got to the point of the second animal. What would be the difference? It still changed and developed into the second animal over a large period of time.

    The only difference between what you call Micro and macro evolution is time.

  11. Sirius says:

    Um, Saber,

    This isn’t my blog. If you have something to say to me in the future, kindly contact me at http://siriusknotts.wordpress.com.

    The true difference between micro- and macroevolution is three-fold:

    1. Microevolution is observable science. Macroevolution is inferred [read:speculated] from the evidence.
    2. Microevolution deals with a sorting and loss of genetic information. Macroevolution deals with a supposed increase in genetic information.
    3. Microevolution occurs in observable time. Macroevolution allegedly happens over geological timespans.

    Mike,

    You’re a no talent hack.

    Brian/forknowledge,

    Gary Hurd’s “macro vs. micro is a Creationist canard” is clearly refuted. Dobzhansky, though he clearly espouses Darwinism, makes a distinction between the two, but then states that we must equate the two [even though they describe completely different things!] since macroevolution is beyond observation. The point is, he DID acknowledge the macro/micro dichotomy.

    Oh and btw, Mike and Lottie’s crowd of knuckle-dragging antiCreationists isn’t really something you want to associate yourself with if you want to be taken seriously. They’re the reason we call these folks trolls.

    –Sirius Knott

  12. forknowledge says:

    (Before getting into the reply, I would like to reassure everyone reading that this is not an attempt at stalking. The forknowledge blog is a non-stalking organisation.)

    1. Microevolution is observable science. Macroevolution is inferred [read:speculated] from the evidence.

    Mostly correct, although throwing out a theory because it’s simply inferred would require throwing out much of modern science. Which you do anyway, so I guess that’s not a problem…

    2. Microevolution deals with a sorting and loss of genetic information. Macroevolution deals with a supposed increase in genetic information.

    Absolutely incorrect. ‘Increase in genetic information’ (by far the most nebulous term in the Creationist dictionary) has been observed many times, and there are several known processes that can do this. This is why I said that the dichotomy mentioned by Dobzhansky is not the same dichotomy that you’re talking about. Macroevolution is the compounded effects of microevolution over time – hence Dobzhansky’s assertion that we need a full knowledge of microevolutionary processes.

    3. Microevolution occurs in observable time. Macroevolution allegedly happens over geological timespans.

    Mostly correct – things like whole genome duplication could potentially lead to ‘macroevolutionary’ effects in the space of a single generation. Although it probably takes place over geological timespans, it doesn’t always have to.

  13. freidenker85 says:

    Well, as someone who’s been to an actual genetics class, I would Sirius to define “genetic information” for me. It seems that according to the kind of “information” I’ve learnt about – then genetic information is gained all the time. You don’t even have to “infer it”.

    Also – this whole “inferred read speculated” thing is utter bananas. Inference based on evidence is not speculation. Speculation is what you do BEFORE finding evidence. First some Darwin dude speculated the origin of species, and then some nerds went on and found evidence that supported it and no evidence to disprove it. I’ve read quite a lot of creationist arguments, and yet, even though there are 10,000 species of birds and 4,800 species of mammals – I have yet to hear of one creationist who cites a mammal with feathers or a bird with hair -both of which would be reason enough to disqualify evolutionary theory.. and badly.

    I’m all for science, and I have no qualms in “desecrating Darwin” if the next dude says something more supported (for example, Darwin was completely off the radar with the genetic mechanism he proposed. Today, I know it’s utter crap.) – But if anyone wants to show something’s wrong with ToE, he should present evidence that the ToE presents as disproof.

  14. saber156 says:

    Sirius.

    I’m not going to comment on your blog because you mess with the comments people leave.

    Have you any formal education in science ? Especially biology.

    Also, Why do you keep referring to forknowledge as Brian ?

  15. Sirius says:

    Saber,

    argumentum ad vercundium and good day to you.

    “Real science never has to resort to credentialism. If someone with no credentials raises a legitimate question, it is not an answer to point out how uneducated or unqualified the questioner is. In fact, it is pretty much an admission that you don’t have an answer, so you want the question to go away.” – Orson Scott Card

    And as I’ve stated before I am under obligation to publish your submissions in total or in part simply because you bothered to blather in my direction.

    –Sirius Knott

  16. freidenker85 says:

    I don’t see any argumentum ad vercundium (why not just say appeal to authority? not everyone needs to know Latin) by Saber here. He’s merely asked if you got some training or formal background in anything related to the topics you mention. I’m a biology undergrad and I use that to explain why my biology can be inaccurate. It’s also worth nothing that training in biology is usually correlated with substantiated claims (can’t say that with a whiff of sarcasm, this is a rather trivial fact) – so asking a guy if he’s got any training is not a direct method of trying to appeal to someone’s authority (or to someone’s lack of authority) – it’s merely asking a very relevant question. Even as a working scientist, any man who argues scientifically would do well to base his ideas on the hard work of other scienctists – it is for this reason why science is such a powerful instrument – it doesn’t use just any individual scientist, successful as he may be – it uses a huge and usually co-operative pool of knowledge.

  17. forknowledge says:

    freidekner85 is correct, of course. Note that Saber never asked you for any credentials, only whether you’ve had any formal education in biology. (Given your lack of understanding on every scientific matter you turn your hand to, as well as your refusal to answer the question, I’m going to hazard a wild guess and say that the answer is ‘no’.)

  18. Lottie says:

    Sirius knows the Latin terms for all of the logical fallacies. He also has each of them mastered.

    He just doesn’t know what any of them means. Ha!

    Weird. I read that as “Brain” when Sirius wrote it. I thought Sirius was finally giving someone the credit he deserved.😉

  19. freidenker85 says:

    “Given your lack of understanding on every scientific matter you turn your hand to, as well as your refusal to answer the question, I’m going to hazard a wild guess and say that the answer is ‘no’.)”

    I wouldn’t be so sure. At least in Biology, I don’t think you can go anywhere without a B.Sc without feeling like you know jack, it’s such a complicated field of science! (Physics envy, anyone?)

    In any case, Sirius could just as well have a degree in literature so long as he provides any evidence for what he says. It’s possible to get to this mark even with the ban on links it has in his blog. I don’t mind him mentioning something and me googling to it. I can promise not to link to what I find and merely quote from the source.

    The problem is that if Sirius says “No.” and the basis for anything he says about science IS, in fact, booksmart (like all of us here) knowledge about other scientists’ work/textbooks etc. he’s going to HAVE to support what he says on something. I think this whole “I won’t link to my sources because that’s hypocritical/means I don’t get it/etc.” is insane and also goes against Sirius’ own agenda: if you want to convince people of what you say – provide the evidence for it. Otherwise, you could, well, simply be lying!

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