Sunday, August 28, 2005

Gross Error at the NY Times

There have been many misrepresentations of intelligent design in the media and much knocking down of straw men, but the Op-Ed piece by Verlyn Klinkenborg in the August 23, 2005 New York Times is perhaps the most egregious example, and I find it simply comical. He shows amazing ignorance of the intelligent design movement by stating that its proponents question the common scientific understanding of the age of the earth and the length of time life has appeared on it:
Nearly every attack on evolution - whether it is called intelligent design or plain creationism, synonyms for the same faith-based rejection of evolution - ultimately requires a foreshortening of cosmological, geological and biological time.

In fact, none of the leading proponents of intelligent design question the age of the earth or the length of time life has been on it- Not Dembski, not Meyer, not Behe, not Johnson. (Young earth creationists do, and this is one of the many differences between them and the ID folks.) But that is not what makes his error so remarkable. His gross misrepresentation of intelligent design was explicitly contradicted by a New York Times news article the day before, and he spends no less than eight paragraphs of his patronizing essay focusing on this issue.

But here is the greatest irony: the force of one of the leading arguments for intelligent design depends on a very old earth. One of the arguments that flows from the Cambrian Explosion in the fossil record is that life has been on earth for 3.5 billion years, yet nearly all the animal phyla and complex animal body plans "exploded" onto the scene in a relative geological moment of 5-10 million years (sometimes called "Biology's Big Bang"). That is .2% of the history of life on earth. This, of course, is not what Darwinian theory would predict. Shorten the 3.5 billion year part and the argument gets weaker, not stronger.

As noted, the critique based on the Cambrian Explosion appeared in a sidebar in the Times the day before. It was also the subject of the Meyer's article that lead to the Sternberg witch hunt at the Smithsonian.

It is becoming clearer and clearer that many of the people at the Times have not done any reading of the primary literature of the ID movement, and have no intention of doing so, or even informing themselves of the basics by taking a few minutes of web research, or even reading their own news articles. The former "paper of record" is fast becoming an excellent record of the way the Darwinian fundamentalists use ignorance, misrepresentation and obscurantism, either intentionally or through gross negligence, to further their cause.

* * * *

For a short summary of the peer-reviewed scientific literature on the Cambrian Explosion, go here.

For a less scholarly post on the Sternberg witch hunt and Monty Python, go here.

Post Note: The Klinkenborg article is, as of writing, the number five most emailed article at the Times over the last 7 days. Lots of people are being very misled, and, apparently, loving it.

Post Note 2: I did not even bother to refute his ridiculous statement that "intelligent design" and "creationism" are "synonyms." Many evolution advocates acknowledge very important differences. But this kind of misinformation is a very important tactic for the Darwinian fundamentalists, because they know they have a much easier time attacking traditional creationists. Why fight the real thing when your blissfully gullible readers are more than happy to let you fight a straw man?


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At August 29, 2005 8:32 PM, Blogger FzxGkJssFrk said...

Lawrence, this comment is for real... I see you've implemented a word verification comment filter on your blog; I had to do so recently due to the same "comment spam" that you are getting. I like your blog, and I hope that you have this many REAL comments in the future. You can also just delete comment spam, I think.

Also, am I wrong in thinking that Johnson does believe in a younger Earth?

At August 30, 2005 6:37 AM, Anonymous Lawrence Selden said...

Matthew, I don't think he has taken a strong position, to make him better able to unite people on the points of common agreement. In Darwin on Trial he does not dispute mainstream earth dating, and none of his arguments are based on a young earth. He makes the same arguments about the Cambrian Explosion that Meyer makes.

At August 31, 2005 9:41 PM, Blogger anonymous said...

Hi Lawrence, this is my first stop here, from a link at Telic Thoughts. Looks like a great blog.

Matthew, I had a bit of a tussle several months ago at the National Geographic 'Was Darwin Wrong' forum about Johnson. As I am too lazy to look for the reference, I will give you his stand from memory.
He was asked if he believed in an earth of several thousand years of age or of one closer to 4.5 billion.
He said he favoured the 4.5 billion year version. He also said that Darwinists could have 45 billion years for evolution, and it still wouldn't be enough time.
He did hedge a bit, and state that he'd be more comfortable with the 4.5 BY if he had more confidence in the dating procedures.
The search might be tough, but I found this stuff in an email exchange in which he was a involved when I Googled Johnson and Wedge.

At May 27, 2007 10:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Intelligent Design need not be hostile to evolutionary therory at all. Pandeism is a religious perspective that holds all scientific revelation as a revelation of the design of creation itself -- the intelligent designer described by pandeism used the mechanism of evolution to bring about the design itself, and reveals itself to us through discovery of this ingenious mechanism!


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