Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Appearances Can Be Deceiving

Former Los Angeles Times science writer, K.C. Cole, writing in The Columbia Journalism Review about the difficulty science writers have explaining science to their readers -- and their editors, for that matter -- says there is one place in which the intelligent-design people have a point.
It is unfathomable, Cole writes, that complex life forms evolved in tiny increments over time through random mutation and natural selection — that our ancestors are bacteria and our siblings are fish.

We know it happened nonetheless," Cole continues, "because we have multiple lines of evidence: the fossil record, DNA, morphology, embryology and so on. (We even see evolution in action right in front of our noses. If we couldn’t, we wouldn’t be worrying about bird flu.) But to pretend evolution “makes sense” in some ordinary way does our readers a disservice (and too often leads journalists to neglect to mention the evidence at all).

Cole raises an interesting point. Science often challenges our assumptions -- sometimes our most cherished assumptions. Science discoveries sometimes make us very uncomfortable, especially when they demonstrate that our senses have deceived us. When they show that what seems so utterly obvious is also quite certainly wrong.

The planet we live on isn't flat. It's a globe whirling through the darkness of space. It's not the center of the universe, either, just a small planet in a nondescript solar system at the edge of an unremarkable galaxy.

Why do most people accept the findings of science even though it contradicts what our senses tell us must be true? Because it comes with evidence. With proof.

To deny evolution, to cling to a comforting myth of origins, is to ignore or deny the evidence. That is why the writings of intelligent design "theorists" such as Michael Behe are full of things like this: "life overwhelms us with the appearance of design." (Emphasis added here and in the following citations)

And this...
... it's important to keep in mind that it is the profound appearance of design in life that everyone is laboring to explain, not the appearance of natural selection or the appearance of self-organization.

"Design should not be overlooked simply because it's so obvious."

Most people have no trouble reconciling religious beliefs with science. They can believe -- like Ken Miller -- that god may have chosen to work through the natural process of evolution. For biblical literalists -- and the crypto literalists who call themselves intelligent designers -- that is not good enough.

The science of evolution is too much of a challenge for their puny belief system. It makes them uneasy. The thought that there no one -- no sky daddy -- watching over them. That their eyes and ears may deceiving them. It's just too hard. Too crushing. They don't want to, they can't accept it.

And, that's why they've launched a furious, if ultimately futile, assault the evidence


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