Thursday, March 19, 2009


Singing From the Same Song Hymn Book

You've probably heard about Canadian Science minister Gary Goodyear's original refusal to respond to a question about whether he "believes" in evolution, saying:

I'm not going to answer that question. I am a Christian, and I don't think anybody asking a question about my religion is appropriate.

The obvious first follow-up question should have been "Why is a question about your understanding of science a question about your religion, unless your religion is against science?"

Be that as it may, Goodyear has now "clarified" his position by saying that he does believe in evolution:

Of course I do. ...

We are evolving every year, every decade. That's a fact, whether it is to the intensity of the sun, whether it is to, as a chiropractor, walking on cement versus anything else, whether it is running shoes or high heels, of course we are evolving to our environment. But that's not relevant and that is why I refused to answer the question. The interview was about our science and tech strategy, which is strong.

Larry Moran correctly points out that these are weasel words of a type well known to those of us who have been fighting the creationism wars for so long. Goodyear was describing exactly the same sort of "evolution" that Ken Mercer, one of the creationist members of the Texas State Board of Education, was referring to when he said:

Most people of faith agree with what is commonly referred to as "micro" evolution, small changes that are clearly visible.

... right before he said:

The controversial "macro" evolution was commonly understood as those major changes that could occur if one species jumped to another.

In other words, it is "evolution" as it is understood by the scientific community that they deny; namely, common descent.

As if to specifically point out Goodyear's evasion, Ken Ham's Creation "Museum" has announced that it is opening an exhibit that affirms the correctness of Darwin's theory of natural selection:

The exhibit, entitled "Natural Selection is Not Evolution" features a cave aquarium with blind cavefish to show how organisms possess traits specific to their environment. It also features a "Creation Orchard" that shows the family tree of each original kind of created plant or animal as described in Genesis.

Ham believes creatures can gain new traits to fit their surroundings within their own families. He asserts, however, that changing from one organism to another, such as an ape evolving into a human, does not occur.

"Darwin was right about natural selection, right about different species forming and species changing, but wrong that such changes are a mechanism to change one kind of animal into a totally different kind," Ham said.

The only question here is whether Goodyear was reading over Ham's shoulder or was Ham reading over Goodyear's.

My impression of what Goodyear was calling "evolution" - the sort that he believes in - is that it isn't even micro-evolution, but just ordinary changes in an individual in response to the environment. Not genetic change (unless he believes in inheritance of acquired characteristics), and not changes in populations.

Which, if true, only makes the situation worse.

Not that it's worth the exegetical effort.

Tom S.
I am sure that Ham is not building this new exhibit willingly. There comes a time in a creationist life where they have to concede to scientific facts that are so obvious they can no longer poo poo them away. The church took 400 years to finally accept Galileo’s discovery that the earth is not, in fact, the center of the universe.

When confronted with the question of why we do not take penicillin anymore, the creationist finally concedes that there is little teeny tiny evolution (but not great big evolution). There came a time when they had to concede that lightning was not the finger of God striking down the unrighteous, but simple static electric discharge.

This is followed by a period of time then, where they have to deny they every had the previous belief. Ask a creationist if the church ever believed the earth was flat, or that the earth was the center of the universe or that disease was caused by someone who wasn’t right with God. Do they still believe that leprosy is caused by demonic possession, or do they finally have to concede to science?
This Goodyear thing is so embarrassing.
Welcome to the club!

But you have to go a long way to catch up to our level of embarrassment.
The church took 400 years to finally accept Galileo’s discovery that the earth is not, in fact, the center of the universe.

I see this from time to time, and I'm pretty sure it's wrong (read: massive distortion). The Vatican, after all, has had an official Observatory for a long time, which does legitimate astronomy.

My recollection of the "apology" issued a few years ago was more along the lines of admitting they were wrong to have prosecuted Galileo -- a matter of Church law, somewhat separate from the question of whether his scientific claims were right or wrong.
Ok, 1610 A.D. to 1835 A.D., is two hundred years, not 400 years, but it still makes my point

Plagiarizing from Wikipedia,

n 1610 Galileo published an account of his telescopic observations of the moons of Jupiter, using this observation to argue in favor of the sun-centered, Copernican theory of the universe against the dominant earth-centered Ptolemaic and Aristotelian theories. The next year Galileo visited Rome in order to demonstrate his telescope to the influential philosophers and mathematicians of the Jesuit Collegio Romano, and to let them see with their own eyes the reality of the four moons of Jupiter.[14]

The Inquisition's ban on reprinting Galileo's works was lifted in 1718 when permission was granted to publish an edition of his works (excluding the condemned Dialogue) in Florence.[95] In 1741 Pope Benedict XIV authorized the publication of an edition of Galileo's complete scientific works[96] which included a mildly censored version of the Dialogue.[97] In 1758 the general prohibition against works advocating heliocentrism was removed from the Index of prohibited books, although the specific ban on uncensored versions of the Dialogue and Copernicus's De Revolutionibus remained.[98] All traces of official opposition to heliocentrism by the Church disappeared in 1835 when these works were finally dropped from the Index.[99]

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