Here are a couple of snippets from a recent essay at Fred on Everything. He is a curmudgeon, sure, but not just a curmudgeon: both his wide and varied experiences and his general knowledge gained through reading make him the kind of curmudgeon we all should aspire to be. Something like that.
As readers here know, I, like Fred, am big on ‘we don’t know’ as, in general, the correct scientific answer to most scientific questions. The truth is that reality only rarely allows us to frame up problems in such a way that we, with our gadgets, methods and math, can tease a useful answer out of them. Not knocking science at all here – the stuff that *does* admit of scientific understanding – the melting point of iron, biochemicals, nuclear fission, and so on – has proven quite good and useful, at least in the hands of men who have good and useful answers to the sorts of non-scientific questions that guide us away from tanks, poisons and atomic bombs toward rebar, penicillin and nuclear power plants.
No, the issue is not whether to trust science (whatever that means) or not, but rather, as always, just how far science can take us. Not as far as the more enthusiastic fanboys and fangirls imagine. The Greeks were on to something when they imagined the gods saving their most god-like smack-downs for cases of human overreach.
Here, Fred takes on evolution. He is an atheist or perhaps agnostic, so he’s not coming at this from some sort of fundamentalist believer’s angle. Rather, he, like me, can’t help but notice all the black boxes, all the ‘then, magic happens!’ moments that are seemingly inevitable once evolution comes to be ‘believed’ in, as a religion. Natural Selection as a theory to explain the origin of species is a fine thing, not without its problems but something one can (at least, I can) assent to with the usual scientific caveats: it’s the best we’ve got, pending further evidence or arguments. As an all-encompassing belief system that does, at least potentially, explain *everything* – not so much. Anyway, read the whole thing.
Early on, I noticed three things about evolution that differentiated it from other sciences (or, I could almost say, from science). First, plausibility was accepted as being equivalent to evidence. And of course the less you know, the greater the number of things that are plausible, because there are fewer facts to get in the way. Again and again evolutionists assumed that suggesting how something might have happened was equivalent to establishing how it had happened. Asking them for evidence usually aroused annoyance and sometimes, if persisted in, hostility.
Second, evolution seemed more a metaphysics or ideology than a science. The sciences, as I knew them, gave clear answers. Evolution involved intense faith in fuzzy principles. You demonstrated chemistry, but believed evolution. If you have ever debated a Marxist, or a serious liberal or conservative, or a feminist or Christian, you will have noticed that, although they can be exceedingly bright and well informed, they display a maddening evasiveness. You never get a straight answer if it is one they do not want to give. Crucial premises are not firmly established. Fundamental assertions do not tie to observable reality. Invariably the Marxist (or evolutionist) assumes that a detailed knowledge of economic conditions in the reign of Nicholas II substitutes for being able to answer simple questions, such as why Marxism has never worked. This is the Fallacy of Irrelevant Knowledge. And of course almost anything can be made believable by considering only favorable evidence and interpreting hard.
Third, evolutionists are obsessed by Christianity and Creationism, with which they imagine themselves to be in mortal combat. This is peculiar to them. Note that other sciences, such as astronomy and geology, even archaeology, are equally threatened by the notion that the world was created in 4004 BC. Astronomers pay not the slightest attention to Creationist ideas. Nobody does—except evolutionists. We are dealing with competing religions—overarching explanations of origin and destiny. Thus the fury of their response to skepticism.
I found it pointless to tell them that I wasn’t a Creationist. They refused to believe it. If they had, they would have had to answer questions that they would rather avoid. Like any zealots, they cannot recognize their own zealotry. Thus their constant classification of skeptics as enemies (a word they often use)—of truth, of science, of Darwin, of progress.
This tactical demonization is not unique to evolution. “Creationist” is to evolution what “racist” is to politics: A way of preventing discussion of what you do not want to discuss. Evolution is the political correctness of science…
I reiterate Fred’s Principle: The smartest of a large number of hamsters is still a hamster.
Fred on Everything, The Bugs in Evolution