Darwin Was Wrong, Part 6: Driving Miss Ideologue

Rehashed Ken Ham

(Image by Crocoduck-Rex)

[This is the latest installment of my experience at the Darwin Was Wrong lie-fest put on by Logos Research Associates. You can start from the beginning of this story in Part 1, or you can jump to the first speaker in Part 4. You can watch the videos of this conference at the Logos website (not recommended for the sane).]

E. Thomas McMullen: Darwin Was Wrong about Science

Here’s how Logos describes this talk:

Darwin used creative speculation and unbounded extrapolation in place of scientific method. Darwin’s approach was the antithesis of good science.

This statement brought to you by the young-Earth creationists. The experts on good science!

Thomas McMullen

Who is this McMullen guy? It’s hard to say, really. He’s so inconsequential that he doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry. He doesn’t even have a Conservapedia entry.

We do find something about him at ChristianAnswers.net. It tells us he has legitimate degrees from Washington State University, United States Air Force Air War College, Southern Methodist University, and Indiana University.

I couldn’t find much else. His name appears on a few creationist websites, but I didn’t see anything noteworthy one way or another. Let’s take a look at what he said that night at the conference.

McMullen started by telling us that there were four problems with Darwin’s science:

  1. He was ideologically driven
  2. He used heroic extrapolation
  3. He used unbridled speculation
  4. Science is limited in explaining past events

This guy was a dull and incompetent public speaker. He read from his pre-written script throughout his presentation. He hadn’t even practiced it much, because he frequently stumbled over common words. I’m guessing he hacked out his entire talk in one evening a couple of months ago and hadn’t looked at it since. If his talk managed to convert anybody, it wasn’t through his eloquence.

Skipping his lack of dynamism, let’s turn our attention just to what he had to say.

Darwin was Ideologically Driven

There are two sides to doing science, he told us: Theoretical (formulating testable ideas) and Descriptive (observing and studying nature).

McMullen made very sure to tell us that Darwin was not a scientist. He had a university degree, but not in any of the sciences. He was lucky to get the gig on the Beagle, since he was only an amateur naturalist. McMullen seemed to want us to really understand this point. Not a scientist. Just an amateur.

While on the Beagle, Darwin made tons of observations. This is that Descriptive science McMullen was telling us about. McMullen didn’t seem to have much of a problem with this part of Darwin’s work (except him being an “amateur”, of course).

McMullen made a big deal of Darwin believing in Charles Lyell’s Uniformitarianism.

Geology is outside my area of expertise. The last time I came near it was a geology class I took in high school. We took a great field trip along the Hayward Fault, looking at the damage that the constant slippage was doing to buildings and overpasses and other stuff. It was cool. I also got to watch one of my classmates eat raw meat! That was very cool.

So if you ask me today what I know of geology, I’ll tell you these things:

  • There are three types of rock: Igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary.
  • You can hide earthquake damage long enough to sell your house, if you let ivy grow over the cracks.
  • Watching a kid eat a raw hamburger is really cool!

I’ll have to let you read the Wikipedia article on Uniformitarianism and figure it out on your own. This seems to be the take-home message:

Thus the current scientific consensus is that Earth’s history is a slow, gradual process punctuated by occasional natural catastrophic events that have affected Earth and its inhabitants.

I get the impression that in Darwin and Lyell’s day, Uniformitarianism didn’t include the occasional catastrophic events; it was all about the slowness. You can see how this would be a problem for McMullen. Slow doesn’t work if you’re a young-Earth creationist. YECs require catastrophism, specifically one catastrophe 4000 years ago: Noah’s flood.

Therefore, the sub-topic we’re discussing here, “ideologically driven”, is indeed an accurate description of this talk, just not in the way that McMullen intended.

BTW, folks… I really shouldn’t say this next thing, because it will look like an ad hominem argument. I’m not using it that way. It has nothing to do with the validity of what McMullen is saying. My notes are incomplete in a couple of places, so I just watched the video to refresh my memory. Anyway, here it is: Remember when you were learning how to read in grade school and there was that slow kid in the class? You remember him.

He…

read…

out…

loud…

like…

this.

Listening to McMullen read his presentation is like listening to the slow kid in second grade read Mr. Bunnsy Has an Adventure. Go watch the video and tell me I’m wrong. The slow kid had an excuse. McMullen doesn’t. He’s smart and has several advanced degrees. He just needs to work on his presentation a bit, so people can focus on his message and not his delivery.

Getting back to McMullen’s message, which is what we’re interested in, one of the things that he said during this part of the talk was that Darwin had a hidden agenda. The Origin of Species “is a slow and materialistic side-attack on Christianity and the Bible”.

McMullen reminded us of the two sides of science: Theoretical and Descriptive. He told us that the theory you come up with has to be tested, and…

…that is where Darwinism falls short.… The best test of a theory is a test capable of proving it wrong.… A good theory is one capable of being falsified.

Christian bobblehead

Throughout his talk, I had noticed that the woman sitting directly in front of me had been nodding her head after each of McMullen’s points. As he was saying this latest bit, I saw her head bouncing so much I thought she was a Christian bobble-head doll.

Anyway, McMullen seems to think that the theory of evolution is not falsifiable. That is simply not true. Evolution makes many predictions. Every time we sequence another species’ DNA or discover a new fossil or classify a new species, evolution is tested. The new data always fits (with minor adjustments, but that’s what science is all about). Evolution is tested every day in science, and it always passes.

Anyway, the guy droned on a bit longer about Darwin being ideologically driven. Throughout his talk, he frequently quote-mined Darwin. That’s how you know you’re dealing with a genuine creationist. Look for the quote-mining seal of approval! Accept no substitutes!

Darwin Used Heroic Extrapolation

McMullen finally came to his second point. By “heroic extrapolation”, he means that Darwin extrapolated into the past, beyond where he had data. McMullen used “living fossils” to “prove” this. His argument went like this:

  • Some species didn’t change much over long periods of time (e.g., the horseshoe crab).
  • Therefore, large change does not happen over long periods of time.
  • Ipso facto, Darwin sucks, evolution is disproven, Christianity forever! WOOHOO!

Except, of course, McMullen is incapable of that much excitement.

There is more quote mining, though! Bobble-head lady is bouncing some more.

Darwin Used Unbridled Speculation (i.e., “story-telling”)

McMullen now told us that descent from a common ancestor is one example of this story telling. He claimed there was no proof. At this point, he quote mined Stephen Jay Gould. Britton’s Law! WOOT!! I called it! Eat my shorts, creationist! You’re so freakin’ predictable!

When he finished quote mining Gould, he went back to quote mining Darwin about the eye! Yes, the eye! That one has been debunked a million times before. That doesn’t matter, though. Mrs. Bobble-Head in front of me was bouncing so hard by this point her spring was about to snap.

Science is Limited in Explaining Past Events

McMullen told us that science can’t do history well. He then completely made up a straw man about how scientists would study a Civl War battlefield. He tried telling us that because scientists are unable to tell us the narrative of a battle (i.e., the exact sequence of events), that somehow proves that scientists can’t prove the theory of evolution.

He kept telling us that “scientists don’t do history well” and “They would need a time machine”, which “they don’t have”.

Ahh, but “WE” (meaning him and his YEC cronies) “have the history documented in the Bible.… This is our time machine.”

Well, thank dog for that. I was afraid you’d actually have to do some research and collect data and formulate a hypothesis and test it and collect more data and refine your hypothesis or falsify it and develop and test a new hypothesis.

Instead, you can just sit on your thumbs and sanctimoniously act like you know everything.

[Next: Six Million Dollar Lies]

18 Responses to “Darwin Was Wrong, Part 6: Driving Miss Ideologue”

  1. RBH Says:

    I get the impression that in Darwin and Lyell’s day, Uniformitarianism didn’t include the occasional catastrophic events; it was all about the slowness.

    Actually, while ashore on the west coast of South America Darwin went through an earthquake, and not long after surveyed its effects both on a human city and on the local geology. He was quite comfortable with local ‘catastrophic’ changes. The story is in his Voyage of the Beagle.

  2. ethin Says:

    McMullen finally came to his second point. By “heroic extrapolation”, he means that Darwin extrapolated into the past, beyond where he had data.

    That’s what extrapolation means… making a prediction beyond available data by using available data. We use it in all the sciences and it’s quite valid.

  3. Jeff Eyges Says:

    He’s smart…

    The only thing you’ve said throughout this series to which I take exception. Just because he’s learned a few big words… . As far as his degrees are concerned – we’re seeing how standards are degrading. Even Jethro Bodine had a sixth-grade edgy-cayshin.

  4. Ron Britton Says:

    RBH:

    while ashore on the west coast of South America Darwin went through an earthquake, and not long after surveyed its effects both on a human city and on the local geology.

    Yes. To be fair to McMullen, he did mention the earthquake.

    A recurring theme in creationist apologetics is how both “creation scientists” and “secular scientists” see the same data but come to different conclusions, because the secular scientists have a “preconceived starting point”. (“The Bible is 100% literally true!” is somehow not viewed as a preconceived starting point.)

    Anyway, he said something about how Darwin misinterpreted what he saw from the earthquake. It was really telling him that Noah’s flood was true or something.

  5. Ron Britton Says:

    Ethin:

    That’s what extrapolation means… making a prediction beyond available data by using available data. We use it in all the sciences and it’s quite valid.

    Yes, but only when you have evidence that it’s valid. The example McMullen gave is if you have a tree that grows one foot in its first year. You can’t assume that it will grow a million feet in a million years.

    I agree in principle with what he is saying (although there are better examples). Where creationists go wrong is they make the assumption that you can’t extrapolate.

    Creationists have this bizarre idea that evolution is possible, but only up to a point. It was either McMullen or one of the other speakers who talked about how Darwin’s finches “evolved” different beak shapes, but “they were still finches!”

    The creationists seem to think that as a species evolves, there is some magical mechanism (which they never explain) that stops the evolution if it goes too far, and it pushes it back so the species never evolves out of that “kind”.

  6. Ron Britton Says:

    Jeff:

    He’s smart…

    The only thing you’ve said throughout this series to which I take exception.

    I was giving him the benefit of the doubt.

    Also, there are different types of intelligence. Ability to comprehend logic is just one type.

    Furthermore, a lot of smart people have blind spots around religion. All of us hold mutually-contradictory beliefs.

    I’ve known a number of religious scientists. None of them have been young-Earth creationists, though. The God-of-the-gaps is 100% compatible with a scientific belief set.

    Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any smart YECs, so you may have me there.

  7. Jeff Eyges Says:

    I’ve known a number of religious scientists. None of them have been young-Earth creationists, though. The God-of-the-gaps is 100% compatible with a scientific belief set.

    Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any smart YECs, so you may have me there.

    Yeah, I think we agree that there is a world of difference between a guy like this, and someone like Ken Miller.

    And WTF is the “Air War College”? Wasn’t that the room in Toys in which Michael Gambon had kids playing video games to prepare them for cybernetic warfare?

  8. Ron Britton Says:

    Jeff:

    And WTF is the “Air War College”?

    That struck me as odd, too, but it has a Wikipedia entry.

  9. Parrotlover77 Says:

    …there is some magical mechanism (which they never explain) that stops the evolution…

    I’ve heard an explanation for this. It hinges on the “information cannot be added to the genome” fallacy.

    Every “kind” has this complete set of a perfect genome created by god. Over time, mutations occur. Mutations may be advantagous or not. (Side note: the net result is not advantagous due to degrading of the genome, related from the fall, blah blah.) Remember, mutations happen, but information cannot be added (I guess gene duplication doesn’t exist). So, you can change the beak’s shape, but it’s still a beak and still a finch.

    It makes sorta sense if one accepts that information cannot be added to the genome. However, that’s not true (scientifically proven, bitches!) so the whole argument is silly.

    But anyway, they don’t see it as “magic” holding the kind together. They see it as basically a fundamental aspect of chemistry that gene mutation physically can never result in new information. Insert inappropriate use of the Second Law of Thermodynamics here.

  10. Ron Britton Says:

    Parrotlover:

    I’ve heard an explanation for this. It hinges on the “information cannot be added to the genome” fallacy.

    One of the later speakers (I think it was Sanford, but I’d have to check my notes) went into genetics in much more depth, and he brought this up.

    I don’t remember if McMullen used this excuse. It’s not in my notes for him. He was such an uninspiring speaker that he failed to get that point across to me. It just seemed like he was promoting magic (which, of course, he is).

  11. Jeff Eyges Says:

    Okay, this is from the Wikipedia entry:

    The United States Air Force Air War College is a part of the Air University, and is a component of the United States Air Force’s Air Education and Training Command, headquartered at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, Alabama.

    Air University Seriously? Is that where the kids from Sky High go on to after they graduate? I mean, I’m laughing as I’m typing this!

  12. Jeff Eyges Says:

    I’ve heard an explanation for this. It hinges on the “information cannot be added to the genome” fallacy.

    See, here’s how it works – God, being a Republican and a capitalist, holds the patents on all of these various “kinds”, and Nature isn’t allowed to make any serious changes to them.

  13. Parrotlover77 Says:

    Air University Seriously? Is that where the kids from Sky High go on to after they graduate? I mean, I’m laughing as I’m typing this!

    The Air Force is a strange beast. No offense to any potential members of the force reading this, but they really do make up a heck of a lot of excuses to justify their existence.

    99% of what they do could easily be rolled into any number of existing infrastructures at a highly reduced rate: strategic air support and bombing in the Army (old skool USAAF) and/or Navy, top secret technology research in the CIA, satellite/space missions (including the stargate) in NASA, and air shows could be auctioned off to the circus.

    See? I’m fiscally responsible and stuff.

    See, here’s how it works – God, being a Republican and a capitalist, holds the patents on all of these various “kinds”, and Nature isn’t allowed to make any serious changes to them.

    Whoa! That makes a hell of a lot more sense!

  14. Jeff Eyges Says:

    99% of what they do could easily be rolled into any number of existing infrastructures at a highly reduced rate

    Oh, I’m sure. The amount of waste in the government is staggering, but in the military, it’s beyond belief. 60 Minutes did a segment, probably about ten years ago, in which they revealed that the military (it might even have been just the Army) had warehouses of equipment in various locales around the world that just sit there, the value of which at the time was around $50 billion. A general told the interviewer that it was necessary in case they had to mobilize for war, but it was revealed that in the previous war, Bush Sr.’s invasion of Iraq, they hadn’t touched the stuff; they went out and bought everything new. And, of course, we’ve all heard the stories of how much the Pentagon overpays for everything – $200 for a hammer, etc. The head of the General Accounting Office was on as well, and he said he’d been complaining to Congress about it for years, but, naturally, nothing was ever done.

    This country has a compulsive spending habit. That isn’t going to change. I like Obama, but as hard as he’s trying, in the end, he isn’t really going to be able to do anything. It’s all far too complex and deeply entrenched. We’re completely screwed.

    In the meantime,

    Whoa! That makes a hell of a lot more sense!

    Anything you wanna know, you just ask!

  15. Jeff Eyges Says:

    air shows could be auctioned off to the circus.

    I’m thinking Nascar could just take them over. Seems to be pretty much the same crowds.

  16. Parrotlover77 Says:

    I think Obama could be the ‘first step’ so-to-speak in a long line of reforms of the Pentagon, but I agree long term it looks bleak. The problem is that we really need about 20 years of actual reform candidates with no military contractor buddies (of either party) to get the Pentagon completely under control. I hope I’m wrong. Either way, I don’t think we’re screwed. I just think we’re wasting a hell of a lot of money.

    The Pentagon doesn’t like Obama, though. Obama announces in a speech that we are the fuck out of Afghanistan in 2011. For the next week every Pentagon official and General says nahhhh he was just kidding! We will war forevah!

  17. Jeff Eyges Says:

    I may be mistaken, but doesn’t General McChrystal get along with Obama OK, and agree with his plans?

  18. Parrotlover77 Says:

    That’s how it appears outwardly. Who knows what’s happening behind the scenes.