On the origin of specious arguments

Tonight’s Shields Gazette Wraithscape column about cryptids (anomalous or mythical animals) was an interesting overview of the various mythical humanoid cryptids like the Yeti or Bigfoot.  I’m sceptical of the existence of such creatures given the lack of real evidence, but I’m open to the possibility they may exist, especially as new species are discovered regularly, particularly in some of the more remote parts of our planet; the ancient rainforests, the deep ocean floors and the fringes of frozen wastes.  Such is the extraordinary diversity of life that evolution has bestowed upon our little blue and green spaceship.

However, Wraithscape author Mike Hallowell speculates that a supernatural force had a hand in it all.  He guesses that:

“despite their more human-like appearance, they’re probably apes of some kind and, yes, I tend to agree with the creationists that, rather support the theory of Darwinian evolution, their existence would tend to mitigate against it.”

That’s quite a proposition, especially without any explanation of why he thinks the (possible) existence of legendary cryptids is evidence against evolution, instead of say intervention by planet seeding extra-terrestrials in the manner of Mission to Mars.  I know the limitations of a newspaper column doesn’t allow much space for the development of a detailed argument, but as it stands, it seems like little more than the ill-informed idle speculation of someone who takes iron age religious texts over cold hard science.

In the face of the mountains of scientific evidence supporting the evolutionary model, a claim that a deity created creatures that haven’t even been proven to exist is preposterous.

If such mythical cryptids are found to exist, or have existed, science will tell us more about them and how they fit into our evolutionary development than a meandering religious fanstasy story.

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11 responses to “On the origin of specious arguments”

  1. Tom Ruffles says :

    I think he meant to say militate, not mitigate. ‘Argue’ would be a better word. Don’t they have sub editors on that paper?

  2. Mike Hallowell says :

    Tom; you’re right. The text I submitted said “mitigate” and I think its a better choice than “argue”, personally, but that’s just me. The paper does have sub-editors of course. I think the presence of sub-editors who occasionally make mistakes is a far more likely proposition than the absence of any sub-editors at all at a busy provincial paper, obviously. I know a few bloggers who could do with the aid of a good sub-editor (with the exception of Mr. Paget, who is pretty spot on in this regard) actually 🙂

    Brian: You’re right too; a budget of just over 600 words makes it really difficult to explain and/or justify what I say in any depth. I have gone into these matters in depth in other places; features in magazines, books, etc.

    Let me put aside the planet-seeding idea, as although I’m aware of it I’m not sure how it works either for or against my position or why you introduced it.

    The mistake you made was in assuming that I was poking a stick at the the theory of evolution in general, when, in fact, a closer look at my article will demonstrate that it was Darwinian evolution I was referring to, not the theory of evolution in general. It is Darwin’s model I have real problems with. Do I believe that there is a Deity/Creator/God out there who brought the universe into existence? Yes. Do I believe that a form of “evolution” is at work that is compatible with creationism? Yes. The problem is that the discovery of new species (particularly radically new ones) and the fossilised remains of extinct ones often involves the tweaking (at least) of evolutionary theory to accommodate the find. How many times has the supposed evolutionary arrival of the human race and its alleged predecessors been pushed back along the time line due to new fossil finds? I find it hard to have a complete or blind faith in a model which continually needs re-evaluating and shoring up with sticking-plaster concepts like “punctuated equilibrium” to explain away the lack of transitional species in the fossil record. The potential existence of intelligent hominids like Bigfoot simply complicates matters further. Should Bigfoot (or the Yeti, or the Yowie, or the Yeren) ever enter the realm of taxonomically-accepted creatures, then yet more tweaking and twisting of Darwin’s model will be required.

    “I know the limitations of a newspaper column doesn’t allow much space for the development of a detailed argument, but as it stands, it seems like little more than the ill-informed idle speculation of someone who takes iron age religious texts over cold hard science”
    .
    I think you’re trying to have your cake and eat it here. You accept that “the limitations of a newspaper column” prevent me from explaining myself properly, but then describe my thoughts as “ill-informed idle speculation”. How, admittedly not being aware of my reasons, can you then judge them as ill-informed, idle or speculative when you haven’t a clue what they actually are?

    “In the face of the mountains of scientific evidence supporting the evolutionary model, a claim that a deity created creatures that haven’t even been proven to exist is preposterous”.

    First of all, the “mountains of scientific evidence” are only such in the minds of those who accept the evolutionary theory as valid. I know that it staggers evolutionists when people disagree with them and espouse creationism, but, hard though it must be for them to accept, the fact is that many intelligent, thinking people simply don’t accept evolution. They see the “mountains of evidence” just as you do, but they simply interpret it differently. This might baffle evolutionists, but, like it or not, its just the way it is.

    “If such mythical cryptids are found to exist, or have existed, science will tell us more about them and how they fit into our evolutionary development than a meandering religious fanstasy story”.

    I’m not sure where the “meandering” bit comes in, but one doesn’t have to belong to a religion – or even be religiously inclined – to believe in creationism. Henry Ford invented the motor car, but I feel no inclinations whatsoever to prostrate myself at his tomb. One can believe that a superior being created the universe without feeling religious about it. The fact that most (not all) religions believe in creationism is simply because they have chosen to worship the creator of the universe they inhabit. Not worshipping that Creator does not mean that he doesn’t exist. As for it being a fantasy, its purely a matter of opinion. One man’s fantasy is another man’s fact. It isn’t “preposterous” to suggest something without evidence. Most good ideas have graced us in this way initially.

    • brianpaget says :

      “How, admittedly not being aware of my reasons, can you then judge them as ill-informed, idle or speculative when you haven’t a clue what they actually are?”

      I point to my ‘but as it stands’ preamble disclaimer, even though it seems you’ve pretty much confirmed my suspicions. However, I think I would adjust my comment to remove the iron age text bit. You seem to be making up your own creation story.

      “The problem is that the discovery of new species (particularly radically new ones) and the fossilised remains of extinct ones often involves the tweaking (at least) of evolutionary theory to accommodate the find.”

      That doesn’t occur very often but when it does isn’t that what’s supposed to happen? New evidence is found, and models change. The same happens with all of our knowledge about the universe. Besides, of any new species found, DNA has helped unlock their secrets.

      I do however find it odd that you use punctuated equilibrium as an attack on Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection, particularly as Darwin himself acknowledged that there were species that had exhibited periods of rapid evolution.

      “First of all, the ‘mountains of scientific evidence’ are only such in the minds of those who accept the evolutionary theory as valid.”

      ‘Only on the minds’ is somewhat disingenuous, and seems to imply that the evidence is a figment of the imaginations of the thousands of biologists around the world, many who have witnessed evolution in action in repeated experiments.

      “One man’s fantasy is another man’s fact.”

      That’s self-serving nonsense; in no way should fairy-tales compete with evidence backed science as equally valid just because you think it’s so.

      “It isn’t “preposterous” to suggest something without evidence. Most good ideas have graced us in this way initially.”

      Well, that’s not exactly what I said. My point was that using a belief in something that isn’t proven to exist to support a belief in creationism is ridiculous.

  3. Mike Hallowell says :

    “Only on the minds’ is somewhat disingenuous, and seems to imply that the evidence is a figment of the imaginations of the thousands of biologists around the world, many who have witnessed evolution in action in repeated experiments”.

    Which pretty much proves my point, I reckon. Evolutionists always do this when challenged; they simply chant the mantra, “But its been proved!” even louder to drown out the opposition. Repeating the belief that something has been proven doesn’t make it true, just as your, “point… that using a belief in something that isn’t proven to exist to support a belief in creationism is ridiculous”.

    Which I never did, of course. Anyone reading my words should have understood that I was arguing from the presumption, purely for the sake of argument, that these cryptids did exist.

    Those who believe in the theory of evolution argue to the point of monotony that they are right because what they believe has been proved to be right, and that creationists are wrong because what they believe is both unproven and unprovable. This is simply the recital of a belief which is promoted every bit as zealously and evangelically as creationism is. If evolutionists want to convert creationists to “the truth” about how life originated, then they need to do a number of things:

    1: Engage creationists in civilised dialogue in a mutual atmosphere of respect.

    2: Accept that no matter how staggering it may seem, sometimes intelligent, thinking people will interpret evidence differently to the norm.

    3: Refrain from implying (or in many cases stating directly) that anyone who believes in creationism is just plain stupid, which doesn’t help.

    • brianpaget says :

      “Evolutionists always do this when challenged; they simply chant the mantra, ‘But its been proved!’ even louder to drown out the opposition.”

      ‘To drown out the opposition’? That sounds a little shrill. There’s no shortage of literature describing evolution and the evidence, so it’s no surprise that any rational person would point that out. I suspect your ‘mantra’ and ‘drown out’ claims are little more than a defence tactic. If that’s the best you’ve got to discredit your ‘evolutionists’, then you’re on pretty shaky ground.

      “Anyone reading my words should have understood that I was arguing from the presumption, purely for the sake of argument, that these cryptids did exist.”

      That’s a bit of a dishonest tactic. You’re simply trying to shift the onus onto the reader that if they misunderstand your position, it’s their fault. You made a statement saying that you agreed with creationists that cryptids were antithesis to evolution, not some fuzzy ‘putting it out there’ argument construct.

      “…creationists are wrong because what they believe is both unproven and unprovable”

      Unproven definitely, but unprovable? Why?

      “This is simply the recital of a belief which is promoted every bit as zealously and evangelically as creationism is.”

      Again you try to discredit a proven scientific model as if it was a religion or other faith-based belief system. Is that intentional? Anyway, what’s wrong with the enthusiastic promotion of fact-based reality?

      “If evolutionists want to convert creationists to “the truth” about how life originated…”

      ‘The truth’? You mean ‘fact’ surely. However, I’d like to point out that evolution describes the development of life, and how it originated is up for grabs, although I’m confident that as a species we’re clever enough to work it out sooner or later. With science.

  4. Random Ntrygg says :

    while we do discover new species of plants and animals

    it’s not likely we will ever find something like Big Foot because that is just too large an animal to have gone entirely undocumented and discovered if it were real

    we find new species in areas where there’s not a lot of humans

    and “big foot” and humans are in the same regions

  5. the skeptic says :

    Mike says, “I find it hard to have a complete or blind faith in a model which continually needs re-evaluating and shoring up with sticking-plaster concepts like “punctuated equilibrium” to explain away the lack of transitional species in the fossil record.”

    One of the greatest strengths of science is that it is not static, and can therefore increase knowledge and achieve greater and greater precision by modifying its theories (or sometimes even discarding them altogether) as new information comes to light. No faith required. Example: the practice of bloodletting as a universal cure-all in the middle ages has now been abandoned – a scenario where a real sticking plaster would be just as useless, but not as useless as modern evidence and science-based medicine.

    Isaac Newton formulated his theory of gravity by observing the paths of comets through the skies (the “apple falling on his head story” is a bit of a romantic myth, rather like the old chestnut that people “laughed at Columbus for saying the Earth was round”, even though educated people knew that already).

    Newton was able to work out the formulae that NASA use to this day when they put a payload into orbit, or even work out how to use planetary gravity to impart a slingshot effect to spacecraft, enabling them to achieve speeds that can shoot them right out of our solar system.

    But guess what? He was wrong when he described gravity as an attractive “force.” Albert Einstein came along and showed that gravity is not an attractive “force” – it is a distortion in space-time caused by the mass of a body.

    So was Newton really wrong? No, of course he wasn’t. He had developed a theory that was merely incomplete – something that is not uncommon in science. Einstein expanded that theory, but probably could not have done that if Newton had not done the groundwork.

    It was Newton himself who said that if he could see further than others, it was because he had “stood on the shoulders of giants.” In other words, he built upon what other scientists (or in those days, “natural philosophers”) had already discovered. But in his turn, I would suggest that Einstein stood on the shoulders of another giant – Newton himself. Who will now stand on Einstein’s shoulders and take us even further? There are many potential nominees (paranormalists are not on that list, however, notwithstanding Mike Hallowell’s claim on his website to be “…one of The World’s Finest Paranormal Researchers”).

    Then again, according to Mike Hallowell’s idea of scientific progress, Albert Einstein didn’t do much, he just put a sticking plaster on Newton’s work. Right. Anyone could have done it. GPS – navigation system that works only because of the consequences of relativity, time dilation and the continuous correction of super-accurate clocks on board satellites? Sticking plaster.

    As for punctuated equilibrium, Mike drops the same clanger that creationists come out with over and over again (a “mantra,” if you will, as in the quote above): “I find it hard to have a complete or blind faith in a model which continually needs re-evaluating and shoring up with sticking-plaster concepts like “punctuated equilibrium” to explain away the lack of transitional species in the fossil record.”

    The concept of punctuated equilibrium was proposed by Niles Eldrege and Stephen Jay Gould in their influential paper, “Punctuated equilibria: an alternative to phyletic gradualism” (1972) pp 82-115 in “Models in paleobiology”, edited by Schopf, TJM Freeman, Cooper & Co, San Francisco. That paper had absolutely nothing to do with any suggestion that there is a “lack of transitional species.” Why is Mike Hallowell making statements that are simply untrue? I feel sure he is just ignorant rather than dishonest, but whichever way you look at it, his claim is wrong – demonstrably so. Here is what Stephen Jay Gould himself had to say about the way his paper was “interpreted” by creationists:

    “Since we proposed punctuated equilibria to explain trends, it is infuriating to be quoted again and again by creationists—whether through design or stupidity, I do not know—as admitting that the fossil record includes no transitional forms. Transitional forms are generally lacking at the species level, but they are abundant between larger groups.”

    As a thought experiment, replace “creationists” with “Mike Hallowell.”

    If Mike Hallowell wants to stand by his claim that punctuated equilibrium equals a claim by Eldrege and Gould that there are no transitional forms/fossils, then I challenge him to provide the relevant references from any of the writings of the scientists themselves who proposed that theory. And then explain why Stephen Jay Gould felt the need to write the above refutation of a nonsense that Mike himself is still putting forward.

    One more thing: it is more than just tedious to see another “mantra” that people like Mike Hallowell trot out endlessly (and wrongly), namely that evolutionary theory is a theory of how life began. The theory of evolution has absolutely nothing to do with the origin of life. That life evolved once it got going is not in dispute (even if there are scientific differences about precise mechanisms), but for Mike to make claims for evolutionary science that evolutionary science does not, in fact make, shows him to be someone who doesn’t understand what he is talking about. He really should leave science to those who know something about it. (Or can Mike produce a reference from any branch of mainstream evolutionary science that claims it has a theory (in the scientific sense) of how life began? Now that would get my interest)

    But – in the true spirit of science, perhaps Mike Hallowell will acknowledge the fact that he is wrong in his claim about punctuated equilibrium and change his opinion accordingly?

    And also acknowledge that he was wrong about his claim that evolution is a theory about the origin of life and change that opinion too?

  6. Mike Hallowell says :

    “To drown out the opposition’? That sounds a little shrill”.

    Shrill but true, unfortunately. Check out some of your past pontifications to see what shrill really sounds like!

    “There’s no shortage of literature describing evolution and the evidence, so it’s no surprise that any rational person would point that out”.

    This hints at another evolutionist mantra: “Evidence is evidence because a) I believe it and b) I say it is”.

    “I suspect your ‘mantra’ and ‘drown out’ claims are little more than a defence tactic”.

    Why? They’re just responses, the way I see things. In any event, when someone attacks your stance isn’t it acceptable to defend yourself?

    “If that’s the best you’ve got to discredit your ‘evolutionists’, then you’re on pretty shaky ground”.

    Except that it isn’t of course; it was simply one narrow response to a very specific point, so its disingenuous to make it sound as if I’m arguing from the general when I’m actually arguing to the specific.

    “That’s a bit of a dishonest tactic. You’re simply trying to shift the onus onto the reader that if they misunderstand your position, it’s their fault”.

    So, what does one do if one’s position is misunderstood? Remain silent? What’s dishonest about stating what you really mean as opposed to what other mistakenly think you mean? I’m not blaming readers – perhaps I didn’t make my point clearly enough. I think you’re being a tad dishonest when you suggest that I’m shifting the blame onto readers.

    “You made a statement saying that you agreed with creationists that cryptids were antithesis to evolution, not some fuzzy ‘putting it out there’ argument construct”.

    You’ve lost me there, Brian; I know what I said, but I’m not sure what you’re getting at…

    “…creationists are wrong because what they believe is both unproven and unprovable”.

    Unproven definitely, but unprovable? Why?

    Well it isn’t rocket science; if you are so convinced that something is wrong then it simply can’t be provable, can it? At least in your way of thinking. Or are you admitting that creationism may at some future time be proven correct after all, at least theoretically?

    “Again you try to discredit a proven scientific model as if it was a religion or other faith-based belief system”.

    Why do you have to keep slipping in the word “proven”? I know you think that the theory of evolution is proven. You keep telling us. And all I can do is keep repeating the same response: Proven to you, perhaps, but not to everyone.

    “Is that intentional?”

    I’m not trying to discredit the whole model simply by introducing one observation into the pot. All I’m pointing out is that evolutionists can be every bit as evangelical and passionate about their own beliefs as the creationists can. What is intentional is my desire to point out the hypocrisy of some evolutionists who equate an increase in zeal with a decrease in rational thinking. They’re every bit guilty themselves on that score. If the zeal of some evolutionists is religious-like in its intensity – which it is – that’s not my fault.

    “Anyway, what’s wrong with the enthusiastic promotion of fact-based reality?”

    Nothing – as long as you allow other people to enthusiastically promote alternative models of “fact-based
    reality” whilst disagreeing with them in a civilised and respectful manner.

    “If evolutionists want to convert creationists to “the truth” about how life originated…”

    ‘The truth’? You mean ‘fact’ surely”.

    No, I mean the truth, which is a little more than a collection of facts. “Truth” carries with it the sense of a cohesive system of belief, which is exactly what evolution is. Its a religion without a deity; although that’s not strictly true as the theory itself has taken on an almost divine status in the minds of some.

    “However, I’d like to point out that evolution describes the development of life, and how it originated is up for grabs, although I’m confident that as a species we’re clever enough to work it out sooner or later. With science”.

    “How it [life] originated is up for grabs”.

    Of course it is, as long as one doesn’t bring a creationist model to the table, eh?

    SKEPTIC:

    “One of the greatest strengths of science is that it is not static, and can therefore increase knowledge and achieve greater and greater precision by modifying its theories (or sometimes even discarding them altogether) as new information comes to light. No faith required”.

    But you know what gets me? You try to portray a laid-back position and admit that “science isn’t static”, which implies that it is continually subject to change. Working on the presumption that you accept science will change in the future, why do evolutionists get upset, then, when people disagree with their currently accepted theories? If you’re right, and science isn’t static, then you should be extremely cautious about pointing the fool’s finger at creationists as, in the future, they may become the orthodoxy of their day. Remember, it isn’t that long ago that religious zealots held the reins of orthodox thinking and did to evolutionists what evolutionist zealots do today; attack and belittle their opponents instead of engaging them in civilised dialogue.

    “Example: the practice of bloodletting as a universal cure-all in the middle ages has now been abandoned – a scenario where a real sticking plaster would be just as useless, but not as useless as modern evidence and science-based medicine”.

    I don’t think you really meant to say that “modern evidence” and “science-based medicine” were of less value than a sticking plaster, but for the record, bloodletting is making something of a comeback: http://www.redorbit.com/news/science/85263/study_suggests_bloodletting_may_actually_work

    Whatever will modern science think of next, eh?

    “…people “laughed at Columbus for saying the Earth was round”, even though educated people knew that already).

    They did, and it was even mentioned in the Bible.

    “It was Newton himself who said that if he could see further than others, it was because he had “stood on the shoulders of giants.” In other words, he built upon what other scientists (or in those days, “natural philosophers”) had already discovered. But in his turn, I would suggest that Einstein stood on the shoulders of another giant – Newton himself. Who will now stand on Einstein’s shoulders and take us even further?”

    An intellectual genius with an off-the-scale IQ. That would have to be you, then, obviously.

    “There are many potential nominees (paranormalists are not on that list, however, notwithstanding Mike Hallowell’s claim on his website to be “…one of The World’s Finest Paranormal Researchers”).

    I wondered how long you’d last before resorting to your old ad hominem tactics. Actually, its not my claim – someone else said it. I’ve also been called “one of the world’s finest Fortean researchers of the last fifty years” by – and this’ll shock you – a published zoologist who is also an ardent evolutionist. He just happens to be broad-minded enough to realise that not everyone who disagrees with the theory of evolution is an idiot.

    “Then again, according to Mike Hallowell’s idea of scientific progress, Albert Einstein didn’t do much, he just put a sticking plaster on Newton’s work”.

    At the risk of causing offence, and I really don’t wish to, this is complete and utter tripe. I think no such thing, but you’d do well to publish it as a work of fiction, as its even better than your last short story, The Hairdresser, the Agitator and the Paranormal Investigator.

    “Right. Anyone could have done it. GPS – navigation system that works only because of the consequences of relativity, time dilation and the continuous correction of super-accurate clocks on board satellites? Sticking plaster”.

    I think you need to lie down for a while – this in no way represents my views.

    “As for punctuated equilibrium, Mike drops the same clanger that creationists come out with over and over again (a “mantra,” if you will, as in the quote above): “I find it hard to have a complete or blind faith in a model which continually needs re-evaluating and shoring up with sticking-plaster concepts like “punctuated equilibrium” to explain away the lack of transitional species in the fossil record.”
    The concept of punctuated equilibrium was proposed by Niles Eldrege and Stephen Jay Gould in their influential paper, “Punctuated equilibria: an alternative to phyletic gradualism” (1972) pp 82-115 in “Models in paleobiology”, edited by Schopf, TJM Freeman, Cooper & Co, San Francisco. That paper had absolutely nothing to do with any suggestion that there is a “lack of transitional species.” Why is Mike Hallowell making statements that are simply untrue? I feel sure he is just ignorant rather than dishonest, but whichever way you look at it, his claim is wrong – demonstrably so. Here is what Stephen Jay Gould himself had to say about the way his paper was “interpreted” by creationists:
    “Since we proposed punctuated equilibria to explain trends, it is infuriating to be quoted again and again by creationists—whether through design or stupidity, I do not know—as admitting that the fossil record includes no transitional forms. Transitional forms are generally lacking at the species level, but they are abundant between larger groups.”

    I think you should invest in a good dictionary. Let me preface why with an example. I happen to think that you lack a great deal of intelligence, integrity and maturity, but I wouldn’t say you’re completely devoid of them. In the same way, although I believe there is a lack of transitional species in some parts of the fossil record – which Gould seems to candidly admit – I have never said that the fossil record is completely devoid of them. Mind you, just what these “transitional species” actually represent is another issue to be debated on another day.

    “If Mike Hallowell wants to stand by his claim that punctuated equilibrium equals a claim by Eldrege and Gould that there are no transitional forms/fossils…”

    Which I’ve never said…

    “…then I challenge him to provide the relevant references from any of the writings of the scientists themselves who proposed that theory”.

    Well, I would if I’d ever made the argument in the first place, but as I didn’t I can’t. Intriguingly, I recall not so long ago challenging someone to the point of monotony to produce references to claims that I’d supposedly made over the period of a decade repeatedly, but he never did, because there were simply no references to be had. In fact, I’m still waiting.

    “And then explain why Stephen Jay Gould felt the need to write the above refutation of a nonsense that Mike himself is still putting forward”.

    Except that I’m not “putting forward” such nonsense. I’d appreciate it if you could restrict yourself to criticising things I have actually said, as opposed to your own skewed interpretations, although I don’t hold out much hope given your dismal track record.

    “One more thing: it is more than just tedious to see another “mantra” that people like Mike Hallowell trot out endlessly (and wrongly), namely that evolutionary theory is a theory of how life began. The theory of evolution has absolutely nothing to do with the origin of life. That life evolved once it got going is not in dispute (even if there are scientific differences about precise mechanisms), but for Mike to make claims for evolutionary science that evolutionary science does not, in fact make, shows him to be someone who
    doesn’t understand what he is talking about”.

    Really. Well, lets just take a look at that. The only way that life could have begun, at least in tandem with the evolutionary model, is for a change to have taken place. Elements that were devoid of life at some point became imbued with it. This could only have come about by change, and change is intrinsically tied up with the evolution from one state to another. So, if you think you can avoid linking the origins of life to its later development then you’re fooling yourself. The origin of life must have been an evolutionary step in itself. Of course, its easy to say, “That’s not the sort of evolution I’m talking about”, but then you’re just reduced to literary cherry-picking. The very second that life in its most primitive form appeared – accepting for the sake of argument that that’s what happened of course – then evolution must have been at work, transforming elements from a non-living to a living form.

    “He really should leave science to those who know something about it”.

    Coming from someone who pontificates about all manner of paranormal phenomena and yet who’s knowledge of it is so minimal to be almost non-existent, that’s rich.

    “But – in the true spirit of science, perhaps Mike Hallowell will acknowledge the fact that he is wrong in his claim about punctuated equilibrium and change his opinion accordingly?”

    Well, as I never put forward the argument you’re on about in the first place that’s going to be pretty difficult, and in any event I won’t apologise to a pseudo-intellectual teaser who who has made umpteen false accusations about me, refused to back them up with evidence and also steadfastly refused to apologise for them.

    “And also acknowledge that he was wrong about his claim that evolution is a theory about the origin of life and change that opinion too?”

    Well, I’ve never heard anyone say that evolution is a theory ABOUT the origin of life – can you give me a reference for this? And while you’re on, can you show me where, as you state, that I argued “evolution is a theory about the origin of life”? No, I bet you can’t, because I never said it. Just another one of your wild fantasies, I’m afraid.

    All that being said, the truth is that you’re still attempting to hide behind your cloak of anonymity. Why? Are you too scared to come out and admit to others who you really are? Don’t you have the courage of your convictions? Are you still too nervous to take me on in a public debate? I reckon so, because then people would really get a bit of a surprise, wouldn’t they? In fact, your timidity is so execrable that you won’t even acknowledge my challenges in this regard, let alone take them up. You’ve never changed at all.

    The truth is that you’re only confident when you’re cowering behind your keyboard, and the little confidence you do have is simply not enough to enable you to go public and/or engage in a public debate where, if you’re as clever as you seem to think you are, you’d have no problem at all demolishing me in front of the audience with your great knowledge of “science”. Well, how about it then? No, I didn’t think so.

    I could be wrong, but my guess is that you’ll continue to hide behind your keyboard where you feel insulated from public scrutiny. See, that’s the difference between you and me; I’ll stand up to be counted, you won’t. I’m prepared to be identified, you aren’t. I’m confident enough in my position to allow people to know my identity. You aren’t. To be brutally honest, I think you’re nothing but a coward who is more to be pitied than anything else. Why not take a leaf out of your heroes’ books – I’m talking about Einstein and Newton – and let the world know who you really are? The difference between those two intellectual icons and you is that they possessed the courage of their convictions. If mistakes were made, then people knew who had made them and they could be held to account. You’re quick to associate yourself with Einstein, Gould, Newton…but you’re nothing like them. As long as you run and hide, you’ll always be the also-ran in any debate, the shadow and not the substance. Pick away all you want, but you’ll never change that.

    • brianpaget says :

      Mike, we seem to be going round in circles now. We’re still left with an assertion you’ve made without any evidence.

      I asked you why you think creationism is unprovable. Instead of answering, you unfairly ascribe a thought process to me. Surely such a proposition should at least in concept be provable, or a method can be devised that can describe how it could be proven? Physicist Victor Stenger has published some interesting work on how such a problem could be approached. Can you answer why you think it’s unprovable?

      I will agree with you that some people believe that evolution is not proven, but that has no objective relevance to the fact that evolution is proven. There are perhaps several other debatable points here though: that education has failed them, or some people are wilfully ignorant and choose an un-evidenced faith position over proven fact, or that supernatural belief has such a grip on some that they are blinded to reality. However, these are sociological/psychological issues and I’m not sure if this is what you’re driving at.

      You’ve used the old ‘evolution is a religion’ argument, a common and flawed debating technique employed by creation apologists. Perhaps some people do treat evolution like that, but I’ve not met any. Again, that has no relevance to the fact that evolution is a reliable model that is proven and observable.

      And I’ll keep coming back to that until proven otherwise – the theory works.

  7. Mike Hallowell says :

    “I asked you why you think creationism is unprovable”.

    Brian- I never said Creationism was unprovable: you did! Read: “…creationists are wrong because what they believe is both unproven and unprovable”.

    “Instead of answering, you unfairly ascribe a thought process to me”.

    No I didn’t. You said it – see above. Unless you’re referring to something else entirely, if so, apologies in advance.

    “Surely such a proposition should at least in concept be provable, or a method can be devised that can describe how it could be proven?”

    This is a difficult concept, for our ability to prove things or even come up with an idea as to how things can be proved depends on two things; a)our scientific ability at any given point on the historical timeline, and b) our understanding of both the sciences and how the universe functions. Because our ability and understanding are – and probably always will be – fallible and imperfect there will always be times when our ability to prove ideas will always fall short of the ideas themselves. Take nuclear fission as an example. Two hundred years ago it would have been impossible to construct a sound scientific concept that involved nuclear fission for although the idea had been faintly hinted at it was, to all intents and purposes, unknown. It would have been impossible to come up with “a method that could be devised to prove something” that necessarily involved nuclear fission for no one really understood at that time what nuclear fission was. Therefore, just because we can’t prove an idea, or come up with an idea as to how something can be proved, that doesn’t mean that it is false.

    “Can you answer why you think it’s unprovable?”

    I don’t.

    “I will agree with you that some people believe that evolution is not proven, but that has no objective relevance to the fact that evolution is proven”.

    This doesn’t really make much sense. What you’re really arguing here is that, “although some people believe that evolution is not proven, its irrelevant because, erm…its been proven”. To which I can only repeat, “Yes; proven to you – but not to everyone!” This is just another way of saying that something must be true because you believe it is, which is no proof at all.

    “There are perhaps several other debatable points here though…”

    Very true.

    “…that education has failed them…”

    Quite possibly.
    “…or some people are wilfully ignorant and choose an un-evidenced faith position over proven fact…”

    This may also be true.

    “…or that supernatural belief has such a grip on some that they are blinded to reality…”

    Again, very likely true.

    “However, these are sociological/psychological issues and I’m not sure if this is what you’re driving at”.

    I wasn’t actually driving at anything, but although your above scenarios are all true in some instances, I’m sure, you don’t seem to give much weight to the fact that some people may refuse to accept evolutionary theory simply because they’ve studied the scientific evidence and don’t believe that evolution fits the facts. You also don’t seem to grasp the point that those who accept evolution and deny creation may also fall into the very same traps.
    Last year I was lecturing at Newcastle University with a colleague and, during the plenary session, an ardent evolutionist said that she hadn’t actually seen anything that had convinced her evolution was true, but would refuse to even read any pro-creationist material “because the idea is just ridiculous”. If you think about it, she was doing exactly what you accuse some creationists of doing; being wilfully ignorant [refusing to read anything which didn’t fit her preconceived ideas] and choosing an un-evidenced faith position [accepting evolution on the basis of faith, as she admitted that to her it had little or no proof to back it up].

    “You’ve used the old ‘evolution is a religion’ argument, a common and flawed debating technique employed by creation apologists”.

    It would only be flawed if it wasn’t true, but you admit yourself that, “Perhaps some people do treat evolution like that…” indicating that it may well true be on some occasions. So where’s the flaw?

    “…but I’ve not met any”.

    Then I think you need to get out more. I’ve met a good few. One chap told Darren and I that the reason he wouldn’t accept creationism was because it made him feel “extremely uncomfortable”. When I asked him why, he said that he didn’t want to think about the possibility of God’s existence because then humans wouldn’t be “top dog” and might have to obey the edicts of a “higher power”. His reasons for not believing are as religious as any I’ve heard for doing just the opposite.

    “Again, that has no relevance to the fact that evolution is a reliable model that is proven and observable. And I’ll keep coming back to that until proven otherwise – the theory works”.

    And I’ll be forced to repeat the same old reply; that no matter how much you think its proven there are others who disagree, and the theory only “works” for you because you want it to.
    I think we’ll probably have to draw a line under this one….

    • brianpaget says :

      Brian- I never said Creationism was unprovable: you did! Read: “…creationists are wrong because what they believe is both unproven and unprovable”.

      Actually, you introduced the concept of it being unprovable; I refer to your comment on August 22. But at least you agree with me that at least in concept such a claim should be provable.

      This doesn’t really make much sense. What you’re really arguing here is that, “although some people believe that evolution is not proven, its irrelevant because, erm…its been proven”. To which I can only repeat, “Yes; proven to you – but not to everyone!” This is just another way of saying that something must be true because you believe it is, which is no proof at all.

      It makes perfect sense. For example, jump off a tall building and you will end up as pavement pizza, even if you don’t believe in gravity. Your belief has no relevance on objective reality. I can’t understand why you’re having difficulty with this. I’m not sure if you’re dancing around relativism on purpose.

      It would only be flawed if it wasn’t true, but you admit yourself that, “Perhaps some people do treat evolution like that…” indicating that it may well true be on some occasions. So where’s the flaw?

      That’s just silly, you’re confusing two separate concepts. Just because some people may treat evolution as a religion doesn’t mean it is a religion. Saying evolution is a religion is also like saying gravity is a religion or relativity is a religion. Neither does accepting science without knowing the detail constitute religious faith in the terms you’re implying. Should people pray to their microwave to heat up their pot noodle, or do they accept that science and technology have provided them with a tool? Besides, ‘evolution is a religion’ is a self-defeating debating tactic: does saying evolution is a religion make it less, more or as equally credible as creationism? If you’re going to take that position you immediately erode all propositions to the same level including your own, and we’re back to the intellectual cowardice of relativism, no more than a philosophical parlour game. A dead end.

      However, I do agree that we’re not going to get any further on this one.

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