“Whether we call the early replicators living or not, they were the ancestors of life; they were our Founding Fathers. … The original replicators may have been a related kind of molecule to DNA, or they may have been totally different. In the latter case we may say that their survival machines must have been seized at a later date by DNA. If so, the original replicators were utterly destroyed, for no trace remains of them in modern survival machines.”
– Richard Dawkins, “The Selfish Gene”
The one thing that must be confessed about Richard Dawkins is that he certainly knows how to make science entertaining. Only Wodehouse, Adams and Bethke can be guaranteed to be more amusing, although they can’t top the heights of irony that Dawkins effortlessly leaps in a single, highly evolved bound with his straight-faced discussion of the magic replicators which created all life on Earth before disappearing without a trace.
Evolutionary biology is one of the softest of sciences. It is largely dependent upon other sciences, as it cannot even date its own supposed processes without leaning on geology and cosmology. I find it fascinating how anyone asking an honest question about evolution can count on being immediately asked about a geological matter instead of receiving a direct answer. (Note: I have no opinion on the age of the Earth; I am an evolutionary skeptic, not a six-Earth-rotations Creationist or a geologist.)
What is interesting is observable evidence shows that even professional evolutionary biologists are increasingly frightened to expose themselves to the ridicule that the softness of their science renders them liable. Consider this recent post at the science blog Pharyngula by Dr. P.Z. Myers, a biologist and associate professor at the University of Minnesota, Morris, entitled Don’t Debate Creationists. The good doctor approvingly quotes professor Charles Rulon’s five points on why it is best for these academic champions of knowledge to refrain from sharing it in an environment wherein it will be questioned.
- 1. It pits oratory against science in a venue where you’ll be judged on your rhetoric.
2. It gives publicity to creationists.
3. Creationists can generate more lies more quickly than you can refute.
4. Debates artificially give equal time to two sides, falsely elevating creationist trivia to equality with scientific substance.
5. The debates are often used to recruit members to fundamentalist Christian organizations.
Dr. Myers adds a few points of his own, most significantly, the importance of a lecture format and refusing to share a stage with the opposition. He is amenable to allowing the speaker representing the other side to attend the lecture but only as a member of the audience. This is very important, of course, because without control of the microphone, it might be difficult to cut off questions to which you cannot provide convincing answers.
But no one who is confident that they possess a strong case, which can be articulated in a manner capable of being understood by the average human being, has any fear of presenting it in public. I would not hesitate to debate a socialist economist in a room full of card-carrying Communists because I know that there is nothing that they can say, no matter how rhetorically well-honed, that will stand up effectively before the laws of supply and demand or the impossibility of socialist calculation. I am always delighted to debate the existence of God or to discuss the idiosyncrasies of religion with an atheist, even in a room where I am the only believer. It never bothers me to allow my opponent equal time; the more he talks, the more rope he hands me to hang him with.
New Atheist Daniel Dennett has some harsh words for the likes of Myers and Rulon in his book “Breaking the Spell.” He writes:
“We wouldn’t for one moment pay respectful attention to any scientist who retreated to ‘If you don’t understand my theory, it’s because you don’t have faith in it!’ or ‘Only official members of my lab have the ability to detect these effects,’ or ‘The contradiction you think you see in my arguments is simply a sign of the limitations of human comprehension…’ Any such declaration would be an intolerable abdication as a scientific investigator; a confession of intellectual bankruptcy.”
And that is precisely how this fear of debate should be regarded, a confession of intellectual bankruptcy on the part of evolution and its faithful adherents.
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