Monday, July 02, 2007

Consensus and Credibility

In the Creation/Evolution Debate, evolutionists and their sympathizers (like the liberal, secular media) will often point to "scientific consensus" or "what most scientists believe" about the Theory of Evolution as supposed "proof" for its veracity. Three of the most common high-school biology textbooks state that “Evolution is believed by most scientists and is the unifying theory of biology.” (Evolution Exposed, Pg. 53) You may read about creationists that “they believe in a relatively young earth of 6,000-8,000 years, despite scientific consensus to the contrary.” The National Science Teachers Association has stated, "There is no longer a debate among scientists over whether evolution has taken place." ("A Tale of Two Journalists," Answers Magazine, Volume 2, Number 3, July-September 2007, Pg. 32) The implications are clear, but one textbook is unmistakable when it says that “Biblical creation is religion, and evolution is science.” (Evolution Exposed, Pg. 21)
Now, I’m not going to deny that most scientists believe in Evolution. But that concession is no more than what I stated: they believe in Evolution. Although scientific consensus and fact are closely related and interconnected, that does not make Evolution true. That does not make Evolution irrefutable. Creationists should not be intimidated by this ploy. It is an argument littered with logical fallacies, general illogic, and half-truths. The fact is, it's a bad argument.

It’s amazing to hear the liberal media consistently point to “experts” when covering the Creation/Evolution controversy. Rather than cold, hard evidence, we get a 15-second clip of some either painfully dull or hatefully militant "expert" saying, essentially, “We all know that the earth is such-and-such years old and all life originated from a single ancestor. There is indisputable evidence of this and almost all reputable scientists agree.” What evidence? Oh, I guess you don’t have time to go into that one, eh?

It's really a waste of time, and it's a harsh testimony of the short attention-span, "highlight reel" society we live in. These sonic soundbites prove nothing (as I will demonstrate). In their stead, I would like to see an honest argument from the evolutionists, not a propaganda machine piggybacking on the willing participant of the liberal media (and school system, for that matter).

When one points to a consensus or a majority to prove a point or argument, two logical fallacies are committed. First of all, there is the fallacious “bandwagon” argument. The belief that “if everybody is doing it (or everybody believes/says it), it must be right,” is not a case proof. First, we must note that a 100% consensus is almost impossible to achieve. Secondly, the haunting words of my mother inevitably pop into my mind: “If everybody jumped off a cliff, would you, too?” The thinking here is that the masses can err. Let me state, for the record, that I will not jump off the evolutionary cliff.

The other logical fallacy is the “appeal to authority.” Laymen may not know what they are talking about, and experts may not know what they’re talking about (or they may intentionally deceive). Pointing to their opinions en masse, without exterior (other) evidence, does not prove anything, other than, of course, that scientists' opinions line up with evolutionary theory.

Allow me to demonstrate these fallacies further:

In America, we have a governmental system known as a democratic republic. (I know, I speak profound and unknown things, but hang with me.) To simplify a description, one can say that, in such a system, the majority of common people (citizens) elect representatives and leaders—the majority of which legislate the nation’s laws and make other important decisions. In combination with our Constitution and the separation and decentralization of powers, it composes one of—if not—the best system of government that can be attained and maintained on this fallen earth. While protecting core principles and avoiding anarchist chaos, it successfully transmits the will of the people.

But we should not make the mistake of thinking that the “will of the people” is indisputably “right.” We accept the consensus of the people and the politicians because they (usually) do reflect the “will of the people,” but it does not mean they are good decisions. It does not mean they are "correct" or "moral" decisions. In a righteous society, the view of the majority will likely be cohesive with what’s moral and just. However, even in such a case, one must not concede that at face value.

It is easy to visualize the fact that the majority consensus is not universally veracious. For one thing, public opinion can change. Abortion can be looked down upon, then accepted, then (hopefully) condemned. The same sort of thing can happen in the scientific community. The majority can’t always be right if it changes so dramatically, unless one accepts the premise of moral relativism, believing that the majority can be “right” all the time, no matter what it determines, since there can be no real right anyway.
In addition, a consensus can be formed on any level of emotion, misinformation, or presupposition, again compromising its trustworthiness.

Some might claim that these basic truths don’t apply to the elites of society—the politicians and “experts.” But all human beings are fallible (Romans 3:23), and the elites in society may be driven by corruption and agendas, as well as the influences on the common man. For instance, the educational establishment is firmly in the evolutionary camp. So what kind of scientists do we expect to be churned out but that of evolutionists?

This is not to mention that when someone references a majority, they imply the existence of a minority of a varying size from forty-nine to less-than-one percentile. Suffice it to say, the existence of a minority does not automatically eliminate a majority view’s trueness. But considering the minority may consist of a substantial amount of minds, it must be taken seriously, harkening back to the fact that majority opinions are fluid.

It is disingenuous for evolutionists to make it appear that all (or "virtually all reputable/qualified/real/educated") scientists accept the Theory of Evolution. There are many who, in the least, are skeptical of Evolution (See List of Intellectual Doubters of Darwinism. According to the site, "The purpose of this document is to list individuals of high academic training who have publicly expressed serious doubts about Darwinism, other naturalistic theories of life's origin, or have expressed support for intelligent design theory, either in scientific journals, books, web-documents, letters, or other public statements. Our criteria for this page is that each individual must either 1) have a PhD, 2) be a professor at a university or 3) be moderately published in scientific journals, or 4) is a member of a mainstream scientific society.) The organization Answers in Genesis has publicly educated scientists who espouse creationism. In fact, they just gained another one in the form of Dr. Andrew Snelling, who received a Ph.D. in applied geology from the University of Sydney. Others include Dr. David Menton, who holds a Ph.D. in cell biology from Brown University and is Professor Emeritus at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis; and Dr. Georgia Purdom, with a doctorate in molecular genetics from Ohio State University. You can click here to read a list compiled by AiG of well over one hundred "modern scientists who have accepted the biblical account of creation" as well as scientists in the past who believed in a Creator God. This is not to mention proponents of Intelligent Design. For instance, there is astrophysicist/-biologist(?) Guillermo Gonzalez, co-author of the book-turned-DVD The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos is Designed for Discovery, who, as Assistant Professor of Astronomy, was recently denied tenure at Iowa State University, potentially—or should I say probably—because of his strong arguments for I.D. According to the Discovery Institute, he is "a world-class expert on the astrophysical requirements for habitability and on habitable zones and a co-founder of the 'Galactic Habitable Zone' concept, which captured the October 2001 cover story of 'Scientific American.' Astronomers and astrobiologists around the world are pursuing research based on his work on exoplanet host stars, the Galactic Habitable Zone and red giants." Another prominent pioneer of Intelligent Design is biochemist Michael Behe, a professor at Lehigh University, who advanced the idea of "irreducible complexity," and authored Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution. A third example is William Dembski. "A mathematician and philosopher, [he] is Research Professor in Philosophy at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth." He has written The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance Through Small Probabilities. In all probability, there are many others, not listed in the anti-Darwin ranks, who doubt Evolution, but do not possess the fortitude to place their scientific reputations on the line.
(Note: There is some amount of overlap between the List of Intellectual Doubters of Darwinism, AiG's list of creationists, and proponents of Intelligent Design.)

Another problem for the “consensus" argument is the possibility for a “bait-and-switch” technique. A person can honestly say that “most scientists believe in Evolution” (though this proves nothing), and then genuinely follow that up with supposed “evidence” for Evolution. But here’s the potential underlying problem with that: just because most scientists believe in Evolution does not necessarily mean that they accept all of the proposed (and frequently debunked after-the-fact) “evidences” for Evolution. A truly objective scientist never would. Yet, when “most scientists believe in Evolution” is paired with “here’s the evidence for Evolution,” a natural connection of the human mind is that “most scientists believe…in this evidence.” That may be true in some or even most cases, but certainly there are more scientists who are skeptical of some proofs of Evolution than people who reject Evolution as a whole. This is point which should not be underestimated.
It’s kind of like this: if someone said “Kingdom Advancer believes the Bible is God’s inerrant, inspired Word,” and then stated, “One proof some use for the Bible being God’s Word is that it consists of black ink printed on white paper,” someone may make the reasonable inference that “Kingdom Advancer believes the Bible is God’s Word because it consists of black ink printed on white paper.” Now, don’t get too deep philosophically on me, but that "evidence" probably wouldn’t be one of my first couple hundred proofs, if it ever were a proof at all.

What is the end result of this “bait-and-switch?” Well, in the case of Evolution, people may believe in it, because they believe the “evidences” for it are preponderance, because they think most scientists believe in all or most of the “evidences.”
Worse yet, some of the "evidences" most or perhaps even all scientists may reject--believing they don't even need them to prove Evolution--might still linger in the minds of laymen and women. Consider Lamarckism, Darwin's finches, and discredited "missing link" hoaxes--two of which were actually mentioned by my barber one day as "proofs" of Evolution.

In spite of the utter inadequacy, already demonstrated, of these arguments, we can dig still deeper. We must look at underlying biases of the scientific community. And they do exist. For instance, look at Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion. Am I going to leave my eternal destiny in the hands of someone who expresses such vitriol for an entity he claims he believes does not exist? I don’t think so. But the scientific community as a whole--not as vehement as Dawkins--also has underlying convictions. Naturalism is one. It is “a belief denying that an event or object has a supernatural significance; specifically, the doctrine that scientific laws are adequate to account for all phenomena.” (Evolution Exposed, Pg. 22) Materialism is another, a “belief claiming that physical matter is the only or fundamental reality and that all organisms, processes, and phenomena can be explained as manifestations or interactions of matter.” (Evolution Exposed, Pg. 22) It's great when a scientist honestly confesses, "Even if all the data point to an intelligent designer, such an hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic." (Dr. Scott Todd, quoted in Evolution Exposed, Pg. 19)

Of course, I'm not going to attack the Theory of Evolution on the basis of scientists' preconceived notions, because that itself would be a logical fallacy: I would be "attacking the person." An idea cannot rightly be discredited just because the person espousing said idea is not credible, just as an idea cannot be verified just because persons endorsing it are credible. However, this fallacious technique is useful in proving the unreliability of the "consensus" argument. In addition, similar to how scientific consensus is closely interrelated to scientific fact (but not interchangeable inandof themselves), an individual's personal bias can be a key to unlocking the truth behind an ideology, though not sufficient standing alone.

Often, the "attacking the person" cannon is aimed at creationists. Obviously, we're told, since Christians like Ken Ham live by faith, independent of scientific permission (if you will), he cannot be trusted to carry out an intelligent scientific discourse. This is absolutely preposterous. First of all, everyone has preconceived notions, if, in the least, the notion of relativity or inability to decipher absolute truth at all. I already mentioned the secular strongholds and foundations of naturalism and materialism.
Secondly, as I said, "attacking the person" is a logical fallacy. Address the issues, not the person.
Furthermore, this accusation is at odds with Christian theology. Jesus said, "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:32) People don't know the truth and remain in chains. We cannot expect an outsider to vouch for the truthfulness of a six-day creation six thousand years ago. That's why Christians are told to be ready to make an argument for their faith (1 Peter 3:15). No one else will. No one comes to a true knowledge of the Truth (John 14:6) without being set free. The Bible tells us that “a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” (1 Corinthians 2:14) Paul calls Christians to be "transformed by the renewing of your minds." (Romans 12:2) We cannot expect someone "conformed to this world" (Romans 12:2) to validate the Genesis account of creation.

However, this does not mean that evidences for creation cannot be confirmed by non-creationists. Indeed, the Bible makes it clear that a Creator's existence--or necessity--is self-evident (Job 12:7-9; Psalm 19:1; Romans 1:20). That explains why I.D. can be supported by non-creationists, and why there can be so many doubters of Darwin, in general.

I hope this article explains well why the "consensus" argument falls so short on so many levels.

~ Kingdom Advancer


Keith M. said...

Sweet post, KA. I agree with you. The most popular vote/thought/belief isn't always the right one. Going back to the cliff saying, Jesus calls us sheep, and sheep do whatever the sheep in front of them do. I heard that over in Europe several thousand sheep went of the side of a cliff because they each followed the one in front of them.
Think of Christopher Colombus, if the people could work their way America wouldn't be discovered. The Wright brothers. Didn't everyone doubt them too? It was their father that said in the 1800's, "all that can be invented has been invented". Well enough said. Good Post, Keep it up.

Austin said...

Good points. You're right that these kinds of arguments for evolution are very common. One that I see a lot is the "bait-and-switch" tactic you mentioned. For example, evolutionists often give evidences for natural selection, and then switch concepts on you and say that they just proved evolution.

Anonymous said...

That was great. Now, how do we get credit for taking this course, and when will we get our certificate.

I'm going to go back now and sign up for the newsletter


Kingdom Advancer said...

Well, this doesn't officially get you college credit, but if you want credit for taking it, you got it.
Certificate? I was thinking more along the lines of diamond-studded gold class rings. ;) Okay, maybe not.

Anonymous said...

I love reading these posts. I was hooked about 20 years ago when I went to a seminar at Northwestern Bible College in MN. The guest speaker was Dr. Walter Brown, a former evolutionist, who got hooked while researching the Biblical account of Noah's arc. He became a creationist and moved on. If you've never seen his site it's:

Keep 'em coming


Anonymous said...

Or, if you prefer--Noah's ark.

It's bad when you should start proofreading comments.


Kingdom Advancer said...

Thanks for the link. I'll check it out. My link section doesn't do creationists justice. But what can I do? The Internet is huge.

p.s. I always proofread my comments! And sometimes errors still slip through. :)

Austin said...

Aye pruphreed mi cahmintz tu.

Kingdom Advancer said...

You do?

Anonymous said...

What a load of rubish this is, religion is out dated. you should think about backing your own ideas and views before knocking others. religion causes wars and kills more people than any other plague in the history of this earth (over 8000 years)

Hail Satan said...

As a pious Satanist, I totally agree with creationism. Let's hold hands together as we smash the capitalistic darwinist system YAY-O! HAIL SATAN! DOWN WITH DARWIN!