Indy Star on Evolution, Pt. II

Posted by : Rev. Ouabache | Monday, October 26, 2009 | Published in

Arguing with a creationist is like playing Russian Roulette without bullets. It's pointless, & you eventually WANT to blow your brains out. - George Hrab

Ok, I really really didn't want to do this but it has been eating away at my brain since Friday so I guess I have no choice. Some of you may recall my post from almost exactly a month ago about Russ Pulliam's opinion column in the Indianapolis Star about evolution. I got some link love from both Exploring Our Matrix and Clever Badger over it. (Greetings if you are one of the people from there.)

On Friday Russ posted a follow-up piece in the Indy Star and I really want to do a rebuttal... but there is nothing to rebut. Now, I'm not saying that everything Russ wrote is correct, I'm saying that there is no substance to his column. But I guess I could point out a few of his mistakes because I've got time to kill and the scratching in my brain won't stop until I get it out of my system. For instance, he gets things very wrong in the first sentence:
I recently wrote an objection to the belief that Darwin's theory can be used an explanation for the origins of the universe.
I'm glad you object to that Russ, because Darwin wasn't trying to explain the origins of the universe. If you had read even the title of his book you would notice that it was about the Origin of the Species. The theory of evolution explains the diversity of life on earth. Nothing more, nothing less. The origin of the universe would be in the astrophysics classroom down the hall to the left. Ask them to introduce you to Georges Lemaître and Edwin Hubble.

Furthermore, Mr. Pulliam writes:
Many of Darwin's followers have taken his theory as the ultimate road map for where humans came from millions of years ago. They occasionally wander out of the science building and over to the philosophy and theology departments. They suggest, for example, that romantic bonding comes from natural selection. It's an interesting theory, and natural selection may have a part in romantic attractions, but it's also speculative.
First, saying Darwin's followers is just ridiculous. No one follows Darwin like a saint. Well, almost no one. He was a fallible man who had some very insightful ideas on biology. However, he knew absolutely nothing about DNA due to the time he lived in and couldn't have possibly known about such important concepts as genetic drift and horizontal gene transfer. No one takes his word as scripture. To imply so is just creationist dog-whistle language meant to make science look as dogmatic as religion.

Secondly, it appears that Russ wants us to limit scientific research to topics that make him feel comfortable. Why shouldn't science be able to research into topics like human sexuality and monogamy specifically? Why wouldn't natural selection (and sexual selection, obviously) play a huge part in the development of human bonding? If natural selection has nothing to do with it then why do we see similar sexual habits in our close biological relatives? And finally, does he have any other suggestions for how human sexuality came to be other than "God created them, male and female"?

He then goes onto mumble something about Dawkins. Yawn... I'll pick it back up just after he quotes another blogger:
Butler University religion professor James McGrath wants me to bone up on modern science. "Perhaps Pulliam's own ill-reasoned article is itself evidence that reason cannot be trusted, that we are too prone to self-deception. Yet even so, it can be argued that scientific methods do a better job of helping us avoid such self-deception and poor reasoning than anything else."
McGrath is the man behind Exploring Our Matrix, btw. Smart fellow who, unlike Pulliam, understands that science isn't a thing or a person or an organization. Science is a verb. It is a process. Or more accurately, it is a toolbox of processes. Pure reason can be very helpful but it can also be very deceiving. That's why you test, re-test, and then re-test some more to be sure. Then you send your work out to someone else to test it again. Get rid of as much bias and unnecessary variables as possible along the way. Yes, this process isn't always perfect but it's the best toolbox we have at this time.

Pulliam's response to McGrath's letter:
Perhaps, but scientific methods don't help when it comes to questions about purpose in life and ethics.
Well, duh! Science isn't about purpose or ethics. That would be the philosophy department, down the hall and to the right. Ask them to introduce you to Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. (Check out Søren Kierkegaard while you are at it. He's my personal favorite.) Anyways, Science isn't about explaining the why. Science is about explaining the how. Science is an attempt to map the natural world and the forces within it. Occasionally it will rear its head into the ethics classroom and yell "Hang on a minute" but only when the ethicists start straying away from reality too much.

I don't really have much to say about the rest of his column after that other than to say that I'm jealous that Clever Badger got a mention but that I didn't. I mean, c'mon! I made the exact same point that he grossly oversimplified evolution as amoebas changing into men. Would it have hurt you to slip my name in there? It would help your word count and my hit counter.

Also, it is good to admit that he isn't a Young Earth Creationist so at least he has half a brain. It would be nice in the future if he would just come out and say what his position on all of this is rather than just saying that science can't answer everything. Debating someone who refuses to state their position is like trying to eat jello with a fork. How can I hit you if you won't stand still, Russ???

Hopefully this will be my last post about Russ Pulliam. I don't want to turn this into a series.

(6) Comments

  1. Jay said...

    Actually, Pulliam didn't explicitly deny that he is a Young Earth Creationist. He may well not be, but you wouldn't know it from what he has written. As the saying goes - "if you can't blind them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit."

    Jay/Clever Badger

    October 26, 2009 at 6:52 AM
  2. Rev. Ouabache said...

    I just assumed that since was so incensed about being lumped in with other YECs that he isn't a YEC. But that is one of the main things about this whole incident that bothers me, he never puts out exactly what he believes. He actively goes out of his way to not state his beliefs. I'm guessing some form of Intelligent Design proponent but there is no way of telling until he gives it away.

    October 26, 2009 at 2:59 PM
  3. Anonymous

    The Pulliams homeschool their children. Mistrust of the public schools is often a sign of a certain type of narrow-minded Christian view.

    When you consider this with past columns and his recent comments on evolution it's obvious he has an agenda. I guess that's OK since he is in the OP ED section. However, it'd be nice if that fishwrap of a paper would include a counter point column on the topic.

    I shook my head when Pulliam said "followers of Darwin". It really illustrates how much he does not understand about science, scientists, or evolution.

    According to Pulliam (il)logic if I believe that the theory of gravitation is sound then I must also be a "follower of Newton".


    October 27, 2009 at 6:31 AM
  4. Jay said...

    I based my assumption on the homeschooling, his use of the "science requires faith" and other typical canards, and his clear lack of understanding about evolution (i.e. humans from amoebas).


    October 27, 2009 at 10:48 AM
  5. Rev. Ouabache said...

    It's also possible that he's a good old-fashioned Old Earth Creationist. There are still some of those kicking around. So far his only stated position is that "science can't explain everything".

    October 27, 2009 at 12:28 PM
  6. Jay said...

    True. I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for him to elaborate his position, though.

    October 28, 2009 at 8:47 AM

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