Distinguishing rationalization from logic
By Flint C.
discussing creationist argument (see for example Dawkins's recent essay
"God's Gift to Kansas" and its discussion at www.pandasthumb.org/pt-archives/001070.html) emphasize the logical problems
with an eliminative argument, that creation need not be demostrated directly,
but can instead be deduced from the fact that all other possible explanations
have been eliminated. In practice, evolution is the only alternative
considered, so the implication is that if evolution can be discredited,
creationism wins by default.
strikes me as not quite right here. I have never yet seen what I consider a
conclusion of Divine creation based on an eliminative argument. But to support
this claim, I need to distinguish between what I consider a logical
progression, and what I consider a rationalization.
question, the presentations from (especially) Dembski, but most of the ID
school generally, take the form of an eliminative approach. They say, life is
too complicated to have evolved blindly. And this being creationism's
only real competitor, once we eliminate it creationism remains. Many have
pointed out the logical error here: Not A does not imply B.The problem is, they
are pointing out a logical error in what was not a logical process.
think it would be pretty obvious that creation is not deduced in any way, as
a proposed answer to "What's going on here, anyway?" The
creationist answer is hardly a logical conclusion, but is rather already known,
it is axiomatic, a priori, not subject to doubt or question. All of these
superficially eliminative arguments are attempts to rationalize a foregone
conclusion. It's apparently not considered persuasive to say "I
believe this because its true" except to someone who already shares the
same belief. Others are too likely to accept different truths.
nobody thinks that Dembski, initially objective and agnostic, sat down with his
mathematical training (and no biological knowledge) and by a sequence of
symbolic manipulations within the rules of his discipline derived the
conclusion that life could not have evolved -- at which time he experienced a
blinding flash of insight and leapt up shouting "I must henceforth worship
Jesus Christ, whom I have found in my equations!"
on this topic (I forget who) had a more useful proposal: That humans are
born able to accept what they are told implicitly and unthinkingly, because
being able to follow directions without question or analysis was for a few
hundred thousand years (or more) an essential survival trait, without which
children could not have reached the age where they could reproduce. And
cognitive development being what it is, especially with constant reinforcement,
by the time the child reaches the age where certain notions can be usefully
questioned, they can no longer be neurologically displaced.
(I saw a
study where a roomful of people underwent some sort of brain scan while
watching a video of someone lighting up a cigarette. Half the people watching
had never smoked, the other half were ex-smokers who had quit for at least ten
years. The smokers' brains lit up like Las Vegas as they watched, while
those who had never smoked showed nothing. There are in this sense no
ex-smokers in the same way there are no ex-alcoholics. There are only smokers
and alcoholics currently not smoking or drinking. There is what I consider
intriguing evidence that religious belief also becomes neurologically
hardwired. Perhaps there is some physical age before which this wiring becomes
indelible? Also, recent studies suggest that religious indoctrination is
perhaps considerably more likely to "take" in some brains than in
back, as evidence in favor of design, Michael Behe wrote [Behe 1994]:
"(if) random evolution is true, there must have been a large number of
transitional forms between the Mesonychid and the ancient whale. Where
are they? It seems like quite a coincidence that of all the intermediate
species that must have existed between the Mesonychidand whale, only species
that are very similar to the end species have been found." The implicit
logic is that the default is design.
that Behe used the whale fossil claim to buttress his Belief, but that when his
whale claim became obsolete in light of clear contrary evidence, Behe's Belief
didn't budge an iota. And this, ultimately, is why we are not really seeing
eliminative logic. Eliminative logic says Because no A, therefore B. Produce
lots of A, and B doesn't move! While I can't say what life experiences lead to
religious faith, I've seen no indication that it is achieved through incorrect
critics imply that creationists hijack the language, but this may also be
misleading, because it implies that they know better but are doing so as a
tactic in part of a larger battle. I submit that this isn't so. They are
describing the world according to their own model. What Dawkins and others
don't seem (at least to me) to quite realize is that believers Believe. Their
minds are stuffed with crystalline certainties based on no evidence or
experience they can share effectively with nonbelievers, and which do not seem
capable of being altered through evidence or experience. The creationist
strives to find some way, ANY way, to make external reality fit and support
those certainties. Reality can be interpreted across a broad range.
Trained-in Truths cannot.
evolution (assuming it were possible) by finding genuinely fatal faults with
the theory doesn't have the benefit of somehow making creationism correct, but
it does have the benefit of eliminating the most immediately threatening
challenger. This doesn't leave creationism as the default, but rather as
the winner and still champion (at least in the minds of the creationists).
M. J. Behe.
1994. Experimental support for regarding functional classes of proteins to be
highly isolated from each other. pp. 60-71 in Buell and Hearn 1994.