Friday, April 18, 2008

The Level of Ignorance We Are Up Against

Lately I have enjoyed the occasional visit over to the townhall comments sections on posts there concerning the Expelled movie. I know, what was I thinking. But Sun Tzu said "know your enemy", so I see it as obligatory to occasionally wallow in the mud as it were. It gives me a chance to hand out some deserved derision on those intellectual charlatans that pimp ID. It also gives me a chance to expose readers there to arguments they may not see much in their self-made echo chambers. And of course, I hold out hope that some there will understand science a little better after I'm done. I really don't expect to learn much there, but you never know when a view can get changed.

I for instance, despite how my rhetoric might sound at times, *do not* think all creationists are dumb-as-rocks, or absolutely refuse to consider other points of view. In fact, as a naturally curious person, I find it almost impossible to believe that there are people out there so convinced of their position, or fearful of what they might find out, that they literally cannot be bothered to look at something which promises to overturn their misconceptions, even if you hand it to them. I can now.

The exchange occurred on the comments to the latest Brent Bozell column, this one on Expelled. It was the usual stuff from Bozell, who just cannot help but see anything that conflicts with his views as an attack of traditional, wonderful, conservative Christian America. He basically parroted the ID party line. So I'm bopping through the comments making some of my own and wondering if it be terminally boring to fisk all these standard arguments AGAIN, when I hit this question, from a gent named Birdman II:

"Supposedly, chimps and humans are the closest related of the primates. Yet all apes, including chimps, have 48 chromosomes. Does that mean that our common ancestor had 46, 47, or 48 chromosomes? Does that mean that chimps and humans evolved from a common ancestor after the other primates? And if the gorilla and the chimpanzee have 48 chromosomes could they cross-breed? What kind of mutation would it take add/subtract chromosomes? Wouldn't that mutation (I know they are rare) require that the exact mutation to occur in another individual of the opposite sex in the same generation in the same location? What are the odds of that happening by chance? I just have a hard time conceiving (pardon the pun) the logic of 'Humans and monkeys have a common ancestor.'"

Now sure, he's little biologically ignorant, but the questions are mostly good ones, and in that sea of ignorance, it stood out like a sore thumb. So I saw an opportunity to educate, and with one of my favorite clips no less, Ken Miller explaining the fused chromosomes. I was really curious to see what he'd say about it. Boy, was I slapped out of optimism:

"Oh, it's so simple...
Gene fusion, a hybrid; like crossing a horse and a donkey to get a mule. But which came first, the donkey, or the horse? OK, you evolutionists, we are going to need some voluteers to tests gene fusion, or hybridzation. Anyone want to mate with a chimp? (purely in the interests of science, mind you). Oh, wait, we would need to mate with that common ancestor to see if we can get a chimp (or would the chimp have to mate with the ancestor to create a human). Alas, no one has seen that common ancestsor lately. So, we have to take your word for it, Science Avenger? That still doesn't answer the question of the odds of two exact add/subtract chromosomal mutations to get a pure breeding stock happening in the same population in the same generation 1 male and 1 female.

Wow. Amazing, isn't it? I really had forgotten what it was like to converse with people that arrogant AND ignorant, who would refuse to look at the answer they demanded. And you know what else occurred to me? You can't persuade someone who won't even look at what you have no matter how you frame it. It has to be fixed early, which is why the issues of school science curriculums are so important.

Otherwise, science teachers discussing mitochondrial Eve might be faced with idiocy like this:

"Wait a minute. The female ancestor lived 140,000 years ago. And the male ancestor lived 90,000 years ago??

So our first ape/mother, by your calculations was ---- 50,000 years old?"

We have SO much work to do.


alex said...

"I for instance, despite how my rhetoric might sound at times, think all creationists are dumb-as-rocks, or absolutely refuse to consider other points of view."

Which one of those two choices fits the following person:

"In his autobiography written in 1876 he recalled that at the time of writing the ___ the conclusion was strong in his mind of the existence of God due to "the extreme difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his capacity of looking far backwards and far into futurity, as the result of blind chance or necessity. When thus reflecting I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man; and I deserve to be called a Theist."

ScienceAvenger said...

Doh! I've corrected that first comment, which was supposed to say that I do NOT "think all creationists..."

As for your question, the opinion of anyone who lived prior to 1859 has very little value on the subject of evolution. It would be like examining someone's opinion on flight prior to the Wright brothers. One didn't have to be closed-minded or stupid to have creationist views then.

Further, the argument is one from personal incredulity, which has very little scientific value.