Yet another weird SF fan

I'm a mathematician, a libertarian, and a science-fiction fan. Common sense? What's that?

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Yet another weird SF fan

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

A Failed Experiment

Paul Waldman (seen via Amor Mundi (seen via Accelerating Future)) once proposed the following experiment:

I propose that every Republican politician be asked this simple question: Do you believe that the earth was created less than 10,000 years ago? In other words, is everything we have learned about the age of the universe, our planet, and the life thereon nothing but an elaborate hoax?

They'll have two choices. First, they can acknowledge the truth, and offend their most rabid supporters. Or they can say they do in fact believe the earth is less than 10,000 years old, in which case they will have proclaimed for all to see their antipathy toward the very notions of science and rationality.

Or they might take a third path – trying not to answer the question. They shouldn't be allowed to get away with that. Here's a sample question journalists can use as a follow-up: "Did you take biology in high school? Are you familiar at all with the mountain of evidence in support of evolution? Do you know about these things called "fossils," that, for instance, show earlier stages of human evolution? OK – so if you know about all that, are you saying it's all a hoax?"

This is a fundamental divide in our society. Yes, according to some recent polling, as many as 45% of the American people actually believe that the earth is less than 10,000 years old. Before I go on, we should understand that there are lots and lots of religious people who disagree, so what I'm about to say isn't directed at religious people as a whole.

So here goes. If you think the earth was created less than 10,000 years ago, you're either spectacularly ill-informed (probably not your fault) or willfully ignorant. If you had the benefit of an education at, say, Andover, Yale and Harvard and you think this, you've simply rejected rational thought. Schizophrenics can at least say they did not choose their delusions.

We absolutely need to get politicians on the record on this. The view that God exists and has guided the process of creation and evolution – or even set it in motion and stood back – is not incompatible with an understanding of the world. The view that the entire accumulated knowledge of physics and biology is some kind of sinister scam, on the other hand, is not.

My suspicion is that if you looked into their heart of hearts, even most of the Republican caucus of both houses would admit that of course the earth is not 10,000 years old. But they don't have the guts to say so and alienate their fundamentalist supporters. They shouldn't be allowed to weasel out of it.

The experiment has been performed (earlier discussed here):

The 10 rivals showed their conservative credentials across 90 minutes of debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, each claiming to be a worthy heir to the political legacy of the late 40th president.


The field split on another issue, with Brownback, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo raising their hands when moderator Chris Matthews asked who did not believe in evolution.

In other words, 70% of the top Republicans believe in the fact of evolution, including the presumed candidate.

Meanwhile, I'd like to know which Democrats are willing to believe scientific evidence regarding nuclear waste?


Blogger Francis W. Porretto said...

Oh, how I love that phrase "fact of evolution." The evolution community still can't explain how the paramecium's flagellum emerged by random processes, much less the development of the human eye. They still haven't offered a satisfactory explanation for the Cambrian explosion, or why fossil evidence for natural-selection-driven differentiation is copious within species, but absent between them. But of course the evolutionists are touting "fact," whereas we who remain open to the possibility that the emergence of Earth's incredibly differentiated life was guided by a Master Hand are the religious bigots and ignoramuses.

A fact is something that's independently verifiable by anyone who cares to make the required observations. "Pure" evolution, intelligent design, and creationism are conjectures based on assorted collections of evidence: theses, not facts. For any of them to arrogate the title of "fact" is, well, arrogant.

7:03 AM  
Blogger Joseph said...

There is a difference between an explanation of a fact and the fact itself. Evolution is a fact and Master Hand, Random Chance, or both are explanations. (It's possible the Master hand used a randomized algorithm.)

9:16 PM  

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