What Fresh Hell Is This?

May 31, 2007

Senator Brownback on Evolution

You remember this, right?

Well, the good Senator from Kansas has written a NYTimes Op-Ed column to explain himself. And like many other defenses of faith-based science, it starts out muddy and then quickly descends into a circular self-affirming argument.

Brownback describes the question at the debate, "Does anyone on the stage not believe in evolution?":
The premise behind the question seems to be that if one does not unhesitatingly assert belief in evolution, then one must necessarily believe that God created the world and everything in it in six 24-hour days. But limiting this question to a stark choice between evolution and creationism does a disservice to the complexity of the interaction between science, faith and reason.
If you look carefully, you'll see that the Senator starts with a false premise. No where (except for his imagination, I guess) is there the implication that the only two possibilities are evolution or young-Earth creationism. He's projected that onto the question. Indeed, one of the supposed strengths of Intelligent Design is that it's neither young-Earth creationism - nor evolution. It's another possibility.

But then he gets to his main point when he says, "We must not drive a wedge between faith and reason." The point of contention seems to be "man's" place in the Cosmos. Brownback asserts that evolution's adherents (or at least their most "passionate advocates") offer "a vision of man as a kind of historical accident" and that's what conflicts with the cosmology of "divine causality."

By the end of the piece, however, it's obvious that when Senator Brownback believes that when the two are in conflict, faith must win.

The unique and special place of each and every person in creation is a fundamental truth that must be safeguarded. I am wary of any theory that seeks to undermine man’s essential dignity and unique and intended place in the cosmos. I firmly believe that each human person, regardless of circumstance, was willed into being and made for a purpose.

While no stone should be left unturned in seeking to discover the nature of man’s origins, we can say with conviction that we know with certainty at least part of the outcome. Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order. Those aspects of evolutionary theory compatible with this truth are a welcome addition to human knowledge. Aspects of these theories that undermine this truth, however, should be firmly rejected as an atheistic theology posing as science.

What the good Senator doesn't realize is that, if my reading of Quine is correct, every statement of fact is a belief. And every belief - from "God willed Man into being" to "John Lennon died in December of 1980" is or is not based on evidence. The true statements are the ones more closely tied to their underlying evidence. And if there's no underlying evidence? One may believe whatever one wishes, but just don't call it a fact.

And the danger in the Senator's assertions can be found in this sentence:
I am wary of any theory that seeks to undermine man’s essential dignity and unique and intended place in the cosmos.
That some how the effect of a hypothesis has something to do with whether it's true.

Once that's established, all science is under threat.


Patrick said...

Intelligent Design IS a theory of evolution, whether Brownback is willing to admit it or not.

ID differs from natural selection, which is the theory of evolution that has gained the most accepance. ID also differs from theories of evolution that theorizes that a species' environment causes mutations or changes (as opposed to simlpy being a factor in determining which new species survive or become extinct). What they all have in common is that they recognize that the species that inhabit the earth now are decendants of what came before, and that changes have occurred somehow.

For Darwin, the mutations that change species were not necessarily inspired by a higher power, but occur at random. Since ID relies on assumptions that cannot be proven or tested (God, or some higher form of intelligence), ID has not received the support of scientists.

Of course, Darwin's theory doesn't proclude the possiblity of an intelligent design, but it is a scientific theory so it doesn't speculate.

Schmuck Shitrock said...

However, Darwin's theory, the scientific method, and sanity all preclude such Wingnuttian assertions as:
-- The universe is < 10,000 years old;
-- Dinosaurs and humans existed simultaneously;
-- The sun occasionally stands still in the sky to help Jews win military victories...

...and many other absurdities.

Anonymous said...

This guy is more insane then you know.

Read this.


Jonathan Potts said...

When you are too conservative for the National Review, you've got problems:


Maria said...


I see from you link that a 'Blogger for Brownback' believes in the Fixed Earth theory, but is there evidence that Brownback himself believes this?

And can we get him saying that on the record (please, please, please).