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Tim Blair – pointy-headed liberal ?

June 15th, 2005

Tim Blair takes umbrage at a claim by Michael Gawenda that most Americans are creationists and also at my suggestion (put forward as a “fun factoid”), that “The great majority of climate change sceptics, globally speaking, are also creationistsâ€?.

I’ll leave it to Tim Lambert to deal with Blair’s numbers. Meanwhile, what interests me is why Blair apparently regards “creationist” as an insult, a point raised rather plaintively by one of his commenters. As this Gallup poll report shows, the only groups in the US to show majority agreement with the proposition “Darwin’s Theory of Evolution Is a Scientific Theory Well Supported by the Evidence” are
* Those with postgraduate education (65 per cent)
* Liberals (56 per cent)
* College Graduates (52 per cent)

By contrast, only 29 per cent of Republicans and 26 per cent of conservatives believe evolution is well supported by the evidence. Surely Blair is not suggesting that there is an important issue on which pointy-headed academic types, and, worse still, liberals are correct, while right-thinking conservative Americans are wrong.

Of course, the liberals are right about evolution. But they’re also right about global warming. The evidence for and against the global warming hypothesis is much the same as the evidence for and against evolution (not quite as overwhelming, but more than enough for anyone who takes scientific evidence seriously). In favour of both hypotheses are the conclusions of the vast majority of scientific studies of the subject and the professional opinion of virtually all independent experts; against are the claims of a handful of qualified scientists (mostly with an obvious conflict of interest), and the fervent wish of large numbers of people to believe the opposite of what science says on the topic.

And far more damage is being done by interest groups denying the reality of climate change than by religious groups denying evolution. It’s the creationists and not the global warming contrarians who ought to be worried here.

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  1. June 17th, 2005 at 09:55 | #1

    PM Lawrence

    “The Jehovah’s Witnesses were onto something; they were up against a similar faith based certainty of what was or was not good medical treatment”

    Science can (and did) tell us that those experts were wrong, Christian Science can’t – they’re not so much right as “not even wrong”.

  2. Hal9000
    June 17th, 2005 at 10:50 | #2

    Doesn’t the non-theistic intelligent design thesis go along the lines that our universe is geared towards the emergence of intelligent life, coz if it weren’t so, there wouldn’t ever be anyone to observe and theorise about it, and there is, so it must be so? I heard Davies in conversation with Phillip Adams saying something of the sort. I note in passing that the basis for this view appears to be a logical tautology, and it bears some familial similarity to the old phenomenological conundrum about leaves falling in the forest. Nonetheless, give me a tautology any day rather than the hocus pocus of holy writ.

  3. observa
    June 17th, 2005 at 11:17 | #3

    So John Quiggin, you haven’t told us if you see the Dreamtime, Islam, New Age pecadillos, etc alongside Creationism as a load of unscientific hogwash and baloney, with no place in a rational education policy for our schools. The total secularist approach, or is some baloney more equal than others for you?. This seems to me to be a much larger problem for those who have a preference for large monolithic state education systems. My own view is we need to allow parents a diversity of choice as to their faith or secular based educational preferences for their children. Competitive choice and let the devil take the hindmost.

    Having said that, it doesn’t let me off the hook entirely, because at some stage I’m going to have to make an absolute judgement about some of the nuttier and socially unacceptable indoctrination of minors.(Wahhabist Madrassas and Hitler Youth programs spring readily to mind here)

  4. June 17th, 2005 at 11:20 | #4

    “Doesn’t the non-theistic intelligent design thesis go along the lines that our universe is geared towards the emergence of intelligent life, coz if it weren’t so, there wouldn’t ever be anyone to observe and theorise about it, and there is, so it must be so? ”
    hal9000
    i’m not sure whether there is any ‘intelligent design’ involved in this theory. The theory as I recall is that to ask the question of how we came to be around to ask such questions as how we came to be is fallacious, extrapolating from a sample of one, because if we hadn’t been produced then of course no such questions would be asked. You’re right, it is tautological but whether it is testable or not is an open question. I have come across theories of ‘evolutionary cosmoology’ to wit that perhaps there were other millions of universes in the past created before ours – however statistically unlikely our emergence is, given enough of a sample space to play around for millenia then the fact that we finally emerge wouldn’t be that surprising just as if you toss a coin enough times it might eventually land on its edge. I’m not sure how this theory might be testable but I’m not ruling the possibility out that it might be.

  5. Homer Paxton
    June 17th, 2005 at 12:39 | #5

    I have news for you atheists.
    You can believe in evolution and ID!

    JQ you are taking on Andrea Harris tendencies.
    I will say that this is a result of people having a go at S Brid which I find unimpressive.
    The best thing of this blog was that even though you disagree with a person the personal pejoratives were left elsewhere.
    I would hope that re-appears

  6. June 17th, 2005 at 12:48 | #6

    “I have news for you atheists.
    You can believe in evolution and ID!”

    Homer, you seem to be the only one on earth who believes this.

  7. June 17th, 2005 at 13:28 | #7

    My apolgies. When I wrote “Christian Science” I meant the Jehova Witnesses, not to say that the Christian Science church is particularly either.

  8. Nabakov
    June 17th, 2005 at 13:30 | #8

    I wouldn’t mock ID. Here’s a compelling new argument why you shouldn’t.

    http://www.venganza.org/

  9. Homer Paxton
    June 17th, 2005 at 14:34 | #9

    Jason, they address different questions.

    ID does not really address the mechanics of how the Earth started and continued.

  10. observa
    June 17th, 2005 at 14:35 | #10

    Well, I’ve gotta say Nabakov, that theory and drawing you linked to looked a whole lot more convincing than the Barry Jones spaghetti and meatballs theory of education that was trotted out by the secularists a while back.

  11. craigm
    June 17th, 2005 at 14:38 | #11

    Yeah Jason the shit happens theory makes much more sense doesn’t it.

  12. Katz
    June 17th, 2005 at 15:35 | #12

    Observa, the Jones diagrams were an organisational chart. They weren’t a theory.

    Whether or not they were proof of Intelligent Design is a matter of faith … and that’s a fact.

  13. John Quiggin
    June 17th, 2005 at 15:45 | #13

    “So John Quiggin, you haven’t told us if you see the Dreamtime, Islam, New Age pecadillos (sic), etc alongside Creationism as a load of unscientific hogwash and baloney, with no place in a rational education policy for our schools”

    As others have said, these things have a place in schools. It’s just that science classes are not that place. I’m entirely happy for my children to be presented with a selection of creation stories: the more the merrier, as long as they are not presented as science.

  14. jquiggin
    June 17th, 2005 at 16:41 | #14

    Jason, I don’t think your argument works if you accept ID at face value. ID advocates claim to show, on the basis of evidence from the geological record etc, that life on earth must have been designed, at least in part.

    That’s perfectly consistent, in logical terms, with the hypothesis that the designers were aliens who arose from an undesigned process of evolution. Of course, no actual IDer would accept this, because the whole thing is a stalking horse for traditional creationism, but that’s by the bye.

  15. SimonjM
    June 18th, 2005 at 10:45 | #15

    With JQ on this one let them learn about Creation Science and ID in religious studies and keep the science class for science.

    Better still throw in some critical thinking and philosophy class time for children so they can ask their own questions and discuss these issues.
    I do think it is time though to actually teach some philosophy and history of science, especially the scientific method and Ockham’s razor so they can see how dishonest the Creation science really are.

    Ditto, on ID and the assumption that it is the Christian God is doing the designing.

    I know that Paul Davies’s ‘God’ isn’t the Christian God but I always wanted to ask those scientists who think their god of the Gaps is the Christian God why he is the default creator?

  16. calmo
    June 18th, 2005 at 13:06 | #16

    I don’t know Simon –learning ID and Darwin might be OK if a guy could keep them separate and distinct,
    but that critical thinking stuff that goes by the name of philosphy is a real danger.
    We have enough negativity on this planet without any of that crap.
    We need more constructive thought.
    More positive people saying and doing, rather than asking and complaining.
    Creativity is what we need.
    Like this:
    “I always wanted to ask those scientists who think their god of the Gaps is the Christian God why he is the default creator?”

  17. SimonJM
    June 18th, 2005 at 14:53 | #17

    Calmo you’ve lost me critical thinking and using philosophy to think and reason for ones-self is ‘negative’ or complaining????

    “I always wanted to ask those scientists who think their god of the Gaps is the Christian God why he is the default creator?�

    Questioning assupmtions, looking out for bias -your own and others- is part of critical thinking, and philosophy also encourages, this especially trying to understand things from different perspectives.

    There is enough room for creativity and philosophy as long as you can make the distinction.

  18. Simonjm
    June 19th, 2005 at 22:43 | #18

    BTW the fundie creationist is not only live an well over in the States we have our home grown variety as well.

    Have a look at Margo K’s Origin of the Species debate and wonder at the heights of CS sophistry.

    http://webdiary.smh.com.au/index.html

  19. Paul Norton
    June 20th, 2005 at 12:48 | #19

    This is probably the thread in which to report that yesterday I measured my height, the height of my navel above the floor when standing erect, and calculated the ratio of the two. It was *not* the Divine Proportion (1.618 to 1), being approximately 1.743 to 1.

  20. August 11th, 2005 at 16:48 | #20

    What do you know, prominent global warming skeptic Roy Spencer is a creationist.

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