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Questions for Richard Dawkins 
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Post Questions for Richard Dawkins
Mr. Dawkins, could you explain why your books spend so much time disparaging creationism if their arguments are as irrelevant as you say they are?




Mon Jun 16, 2003 1:16 am
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Post Re: Questions for Richard Dawkins
Sqwark

How could you possibly have the audacity to refer us to a creationist web site and then assert you aren't a creationist? I believe you're using deception and I don't appreciate it at all. The site you sent us to is evolution-facts.org/default.htm and it simply isn't a legit science source.

Quote:
A WORD OF CLARIFICATION:

In regard to origins, there are only two possibilities. Either someone made everything or everything made itself. There are no alternatives.

In our world today, evolutionary theory (of which there are three commonly accepted varieties: Darwinian, neo-Darwinian, and saltation) stands as the chief representative of one position. Creationism is the other position.

Someone may ask, "What about pantheism and Gaea?" Pantheism declares that everything is god, and the Gaea theory fancifully says that our world is a god. Since both teach that matter made itself, they are just forms of evolution.

So there are two possible ways that matter, stellar objects, plants and animals came into existence. Only two.

How can we know which is correct? One way is by observing the things of nature. We call that science. That is what researchers do.


Only partly true. Researchers don't simply observe the things in nature. I'm not going to waste time explaining the scientific method to you, but observation isn't the extent of what they do. Maybe it is at the Institute for Creationist Research, but not in the real world of science.

Quote:
The Cruncher provides you with thousands of items of data from scientific research and observation. It clearly establishes that evolution cannot possibly be the causal agent of matter, objects, or life.


Clearly? Thousands? Sqwark..you haven't made even a single clear point yet. Please show us how evolutionary theory has been proven false, and try not to commit the confirmation bias in the process.

Quote:
That leaves us with Creationism as the only means by which everything came into existence.


Damn, we rapped that up quickly. I'm convinced. ;)

Quote:
Someone will ask, "But what are the evidences that Creationism is true?" There are two.

First, the only alternative is clearly disproved by a massive amount of findings.

Second,



Mon Jun 16, 2003 2:41 am
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Post Re: Questions for Richard Dawkins
After further consideration I have decided to ban Sqwark from BookTalk. I don't believe she has been honestwith us, and I don't believe Professor Dawkins deserves to have his time wasted on this nonsense.

Chris

"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward,for there you have been, and there you will always want to be."  -- Leonardo da Vinci




Mon Jun 16, 2003 4:03 am
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Post Re: Questions for Richard Dawkins
On second thought I need to relax and allow this exchange. Sqwark is not banned and is fully welcome to continue posting here on BookTalk.

Chris

"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward,for there you have been, and there you will always want to be."  -- Leonardo da Vinci

Edited by: Chris OConnor  at: 6/16/03 3:40 pm



Mon Jun 16, 2003 2:29 pm
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Post Re: Questions for Richard Dawkins
Here is my logic. The only people I have banned from this community so far have specifically been here to spam us or cause problems. It is abundantly clear that is not Sqwarks intention. I am hoping that further comments about Professor Dawkins motives and character can be eliminated.

Chris

"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward,for there you have been, and there you will always want to be."  -- Leonardo da Vinci




Mon Jun 16, 2003 3:37 pm
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Post Re: Questions for Richard Dawkins
I am glad to hear that Sqwark will remain a member of our community. I feel partly to blame for this fallout in that my dialogue has been unnecessarily terse and has in a way facilitated a growing gap between each of our respective beliefs. I sincerely hope that Sqwark will continue to participate in this community and that she will be able to overlook the misunderstanding that threatens to terminate her valuable and intelligent contribution. I hope that all of us are able to engage each other in respecful and civilized discourse, even in the heat of debate, and humbly apologize for those times when my language has been particularly caustic.




Mon Jun 16, 2003 4:15 pm


Post Creationism
Chris, I find it puzzling that you send me emails hailing my contributions but don't bother to actually read them. If you had read the first instance of this link, you would have seen me clearly say "overlook the creationism" and attend to the science.

I didn't need a creationist link to supply the scientific critique, but it was the first one to hand when I went looking for something accessible enough for the average lay person to get an overview on the extant holes in Darwinist theory.

Nevertheless it was appropriate - as it is Dawkins himself who is constantly raises the creationists, and devotes a good deal of time to discrediting them. Why? If they are so irrelevant, wouldn't they simply be ignored?

Understand this: Darwinism has serious credibility and evidentiary gaps in its current formulation. Gaps which have not been explicated at all with the passing of time, as Darwin expected.

And it is creationism which has been investigating these problems. They actually hold the stronger scientific position, but only because Darwinism is so weak in crucial areas - such as gradualism, species and the supremacy of natural selection as the sole explanation of evolution.

But the real action here is in molecular genetics, not creationism, which clearly has no scientific basis in its conclusions - but neither does Darwinism. The idea that the universe and life on earth is fundamentally random makes no sense at all given the extraordinary amount or complex order we see all around us. Darwin himself thought that this was to stretch credulity, and that selection from a strictly random menu was not a good enough explanation.

A very good, balanced introduction to current thought is Lifelines by Steven Rose. He puts the contemporary situation in its proper perspective and I highly recommend this book.







Mon Jun 16, 2003 10:40 pm


Post Re: Creationism
In response to the original question:

Although I don't speak for Dawkins, it seems to me that the scourge of creationism is a fairly rampant ideology among the common population. There are many individuals that do in fact believe that Genesis holds all the essential answers to any question we might have about origins, and speaking from experience, their beliefs are quite trenchant. Evidently, Dawkins believes, as I do, that this 'theory' ought to be combated with the utmost zeal. Institutionalized religious creationism, I'm sure you will agree, is particularly resistent to the encroaches of science and reason and remains a serious impediment to both the advance of neoDarwinism as well as Larmarkism or any other theory which divests the 'Creator' of the causal and sustaining act of creation.

It also seems to me that, at least in Unweaving Dawkins is addressing his writing more to the public than the scientific community, and as such, I consider his emphasis on superstition to be appropriate. This of course does not invalidate your argument that he is projecting a bible-toting boogeyman of sorts in order to divert attention from his allegedly flawed theories. Again, I unfortunately am not qualified to speak to that. Whatever the case may be, I do not find his overtly anti-creationist stance to be unexplainable. If Lamarkism occupied the position of acceptance that Darwinism evidently does, I expect that they, likewise, would be thrashing the hell out of the same creationists.

I really am sorry we got off to such a bad start. Please believe me when I say I am trying to be open-minded (that is equally sceptical) about these issues.

Tim




Mon Jun 16, 2003 11:35 pm


Post Re: Questions for Richard Dawkins
quote
"Understand this: Darwinism has serious credibility and evidentiary gaps in its current formulation. Gaps which have not been explicated at all with the passing of time, as Darwin expected."


Understand this: These "gaps,"particularly in the fossil record are typically picked out by creationists in areas where things don't fossilize particularly well in the first place, such as aviary specimens. Creationists tend to dwell on the fact that EVERYTHING isnt simply layed out in perfect order for all to see. Our Hominidic morphology specimens from the Australopithecines up alone are enough to refute Genesis.

quote
"And it is creationism which has been investigating these problems. They actually hold the stronger scientific position, but only because Darwinism is so weak in crucial areas - such as gradualism, species and the supremacy of natural selection as the sole explanation of evolution. "


There is a big difference between investigating problems and grasping for every gap you can find to bring it to the forefront while ignoring all other evidence. Creationism has no scientific position other than to try to refute as many aspects of the evolutionary based sciences as it can. There is a level of cleverness and cunning inherent in creationism, particularly the young earth variety, but there is also an incredible level of ignorance and delusion.


quote
"Whatever the case may be, I do not find his overtly anti-creationist stance to be unexplainable."

I personally tend to carry such a stance because fundamentalist Christians on the local level use is as a political tool to validate bigotry towards homosexuals and atheists. On a global level they use it to justify ethnic cleansing in Palestine/Israel, and seeing how the ultimate conclusion is armageddon, it sort of makes any efforts to take care of our environment seem redundant. Religious fundamentalism is a social problem on all levels and the better the public is educated to quell it the less likely we are to have wars, pollution, and "9-11s."





Tue Jun 17, 2003 11:22 am


Post Re: Questions for Richard Dawkins
quote
"[...] Darwinism is so weak in crucial areas - such as gradualism, species and the supremacy of natural selection as the sole explanation of evolution."

To the best of my knowledge, not a single evolutionary biologist today believes that natural selection is the sole force acting to shape the long-term patterns and trends of evolution. No one denies the significant roles played by exaptation, evolutionary constraints, pure luck, and genetic drift in the life history of any organism, species, or what-have-you. However, not a single force other than natural selection (whether it acts on genetic or epigenetic phenomena within a population) has ever been proposed (and sustained the test of evidence and time) which could serve to explain adaptive complexity on a smaller scale, that is to say on the level of variations within a single generation. Without selection, evolution could not proceed towards adaptedness. The fact that the way in which any given lineage will acheive an evolutionary equilibrium of adaptedness is largely dependent on stochastic factors is wholly irrelevant to the fact that the only driving force towards that equilibrium is selection.

With regards to criticisms levelled against the concept of species, it is evident to anyone who accepts evolution as a fact that this concept must inevitably be somewhat blurred, since all extant and fossil forms were at some point in the past related, and capable of interbreeding in a continuous chain leading down to the common ancestor. However, the reliance on the concept of species is almost entirely absent from neo-Darwinist views such as that held by Dawkins. Rather, this emphasis is found mainly in Gould's punctuated equilibrium, which credits "species-level selection" with a major role in the patterns of macro-evolution. Robert Caroll's Patterns and Processes of Vertebrate Evolution is a text which covers most issues pertaining to macro-evolutionary trends in significant detail, with ample arguments from the fossil record and extant species.

As to your last point, that of gradualism, there are two ways of interpreting it (as Dawkins and Dennett have repeatedly pointed out.) One is gradualism as it is opposed to saltationism. In this form, every evolutionary biologist today is a gradualist. All of them. This is because saltationism (through macromutation) is a completely untenable theory of evolution, which cannot account for adaptive complexity. The second form of gradualism can be called "constant speedism", the term coined by Dawkins in The Blind Watchmaker, and states that evolution proceeds at a constant slow and steady rate. In this form, there are no gradualists. None. Not even Darwin. Take my second to favourite passage from The Origin of Species as proof to this effect:

"[...]the period during which each species underwent modification, though long as measured by years, was probably short in comparison with that during which it remained without undergoing any change."

So I hope I've managed to resume 20 years of debate on the topic into three neat little responses to three common accusations, ones which I would have hoped would no longer arise so often after the publication of at least four books and a number of papers carefully refuting them (The Blind Watchmaker, Darwin's dangerous idea, Natural language and natural selection, and The extended phenotype, to name just those that come to mind.)

It would be a lot easier if people actually read the works they critiqued, but I certainly realize it's impossible to read everything, and that sometimes you just have to take someone else's word for it. This only becomes a problem when that someone else misrepresents their opponents ideas, as Gould and others have so often done in dealing with the modern Darwinian synthesis.




Tue Jun 17, 2003 8:13 pm
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Post Re: Creationism
Sqwark,
Have you read Origin of Species? Your comment, "Understand this: Darwinism has serious credibility and evidentiary gaps in its current formulation. Gaps which have not been explicated at all with the passing of time, as Darwin expected." is not an accurate understanding of what Darwin has said. Please see p.340 for a summary and then the preceeding chapter for an elaboration of why there are gaps. He does explain(contrary to your statement) the gaps:
1. only a small portion of the geological record has been explored
2. that only certain classes of organisms have been preserved as fossils
3. that the number of specimens in our possession is nothing compared to the actual number
4. that the conditions necessary for a fossil to be made are far from common
He goes on. These are just the first 4 points. Please see p. 341 where he explains how, "He who rejects these views on the nature of the geological record, will rightly reject my whole theory. For he may ask in vain where are the numberless transitional links which..." He says, " in vain" because he anticipates the ways in which people will misinterpret and/or fully choose to ignore the facts. Here are some of the ways:
1. disbelief in the enormous time intervals between formations
2. overlooking the importance of migration
3. urging the false idea of sudden groups of species
Darwin's theory is credible and he not only anticipates the questions you now bring up, but patiently explains things until, "the main objections to the theory of natural selection are greatly diminished or disappear".




Mon Jun 23, 2003 5:53 pm
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