This post about the latest arguments in the as Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case prompted this entry. The fact that the case was settled almost three years ago seems to be lost on one of the lawyers. In response to this lawyers claims, Ken Miller, one of the Biologists who testified in court, gives an excellent explanation of why the ideas of ID don’t move more scientists to give up evolution. But rather than take on the science (or lack thereof) of ID, I’m going to talk about the psychology of believing in something being more important than really caring if it’s true or not.
My ex-wife is an unusually reasonable person. But you could tell when she was doing something that wasn’t reasonable because when she did she suddenly would lose all connection to reason at once. When it was brought up to her, immediately every random event she thought might possibly justify her error would become germane to the discussion with no thought as to actual relevance. The other day I mentioned that she consistently breaks appointments and when she does keep them she’s hours (frequently several hours) late. Her response was to bring up some woman she suspected me of having an affair with 10 years ago in spite of the fact that she knows I was faithful to a fault. Not only is every imagining and dream she ever had fair game, she will say things that are so directly contradictory to reality that they derail the conversation completely. There is simply no way to reply to them other than to stare in disbelief that you actually heard those words come out of her mouth. An example? When she finally left me (by emptying the house while I was at work one day and letting me know she was leaving via a message on my voice mail) she later tried to justify such a way of ending a 16 year marriage by saying she had talked to me before doing it. When I mentioned that if that were true I wouldn’t have found out when I opened the door and Styrofoam packing peanuts blew out past my legs, she had to fall back on the random imaginary accusation ploy.
It’s like the bungee cord connecting her to reality breaks and suddenly she’s in free fall clutching for any handhold that might present itself, no matter how desperate or unlikely.
I’ve noticed that this behavior isn’t unique to her. It usually seems to surface when someone finds himself or herself in an indefensible position. Unable to admit that they may not be right, they suddenly resort to the time honored tradition held dear by students taking essay tests the world over- if you don’t know the answer, just say anything and hope it sounds good. Colloquially this is referred to either as “if you can’t blind them with brilliance then baffle them with bullshit” or “the more shit you throw against the wall the more chance there is some will stick”. There also seems that the more important the impossible thing someone is defending is to them, the more likely they will go “full retard” and abandon reality to keep it.
"Touch a solemn truth in collision with a dogma of a sect, though capable of the clearest proof, and you will soon find you have disturbed a nest, and the hornets will swarm about your legs and hands, and fly into your face and eyes." - John Adams, 1814
Which brings us to the ID movement. Anyone with an understanding of science sees Intelligent Design for what it is, an attempt for fundamentalist Christians to extend the God of the Gaps idea into the 21st century with it’s genome sequencing and gene manipulation. Faced with a God whose existence fits a gap that is rapidly closing, ID has launched an attack not only on evolution but on the scientific theory itself. Faced with no evidence, questionable rhetorical arguments, and a dearth of the kind of research and theory that would allow them to make a scientific case, proponents of ID are forced to make assertions which may not have any relation to reality. They declare that certain systems are “irreducibly complex” thus God is the only possible explanation (a new spin on the transitional forms argument- if you can’t show every step in your work any other answer might be equally right). They posit the existence of a vast left-wing scientific conspiracy that pursues a pogrom on evolution heretics (shame on you Ben Stein, you simply have to know better). They say that science is a religion like any other, based on faith rather than reason (one of those things that you just can’t believe really came out of somebody’s mouth). It’s easy to see the common denominator in these claims. It’s basically the same as the “secular humanism is a religion” meme. They suppose that there is no way to arrive at conclusions differently than they do. The think that if someone believes something there must be a building and a guy asking everybody for money every Sunday connected with it. And they think that anything they don’t believe must be just as impossible to prove as what they do believe.
What they are doing is simply trying to discredit science. They want to redefine science to mean anything that you can imagine without using logic, reason, or having to go through the steps of the scientific method. Start with a conclusion, gather evidence being sure to ignore anything that doesn’t fit your conclusion, Perform no experiments and gather no new data. Make completely unsupported claims and pretend they are unassailable. Oh, and be sure to misrepresent the opposition and outright lie about your own position when cornered.
If this is science, what I can’t figure out is why my ex-wife doesn’t get credit for inventing it.