Darwin Was Wrong, Part 6: Driving Miss Ideologue
[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!
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:
- He was ideologically driven
- He used heroic extrapolation
- He used unbridled speculation
- 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).
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.
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.
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]