Smart does not equate to being right


images-2Dr Jim Pearl is a resident of Hayden Lake who happens to have a PhD. Strangely enough he also holds some truly bizarre beliefs and so he writes an article that outlines his reasons for these bizarre beliefs that starts off with a pro-science stance, then rapidly retreats into an anti-science religious stance. Read and you will discover the deployment of some rather bizarre claims to verify his thinking. For example …

Claim: Censorship

For the interested nonscientist, a good summary of the censorship of many university scientists who speak out against the failed philosophy of evolution is Ben Stein’s Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (DVD, 2008). Dr. J Harlen Bretz was censored for about 50 years (1923 to 1970s) for his catastrophic flood geology of the channeled scablands of eastern Washington. Bretz’s overwhelming geologic field evidence finally won.

Ben Stein’s Expelled is nothing but dishonest religious propaganda that is simply a conspiracy-theory rant, and that is not my option, that is the conclusion of Scientific American and also the New York Times. The film is indeed clear decisive evidence, but not for an anti-science conspiracy, but rather that people are willing to happily lie and deceive in order to promote their beliefs.

As for the reference to Harlen Bretz, that does not in any way support his censorship assertion, he was not in fact censored. He presented a controversial hypothesis and eventually when sufficient evidence was available, it was verified. Additionally, his “catastrophic flood geology” has nothing to do with Noah, and rather a lot to do with the melting of Ice after the last ice age – you can read all about it here.

Claim: Young Dinosaurs

For over 20 years now, dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus rex, Edmontosaurus (duck-bill dinosaur), and Triceratops (3-horn dinosaur) have been found with soft tissues, blood vessels, bone cells, and blood cells intact-there are over 40 cases of “meat” found in dinosaur fossils. Biochemical decay rates show that these creatures died only several thousand years ago.

Now here is a classical misrepresentation of what was actually discovered. You can read about Mary Schweitzer’s actual discovery here. What she did was to identify proteins, she did not extract “blood vessels, bone cells, and blood cells intact” or “meat”, that is a fraudulent claim, because nobody has ever done that.

Claim: Humans Lived with Dinosaurs

Worldwide, hundreds of cultures have said that they lived with dragons (dinosaurs)

“hundreds” … er no, but there are myths of course, lots of myths about lots of different things that range from bigfoot to unicorns, and none of that verifies that any of it is true. The ever so subtle hint resides within the word “myth”. No matter how hard he might indeed wish it to be so, the Flintstones is not a documentary.

Claim: Solar system is only 10,000 years old

At talks on planetary science that I give, I have a short list of 22 reasons for the Solar System to be under 10,000 years old.

All he needs to do is to write it all up, cite independently verifiable evidence and publish, but creationists never actually do that because the claims they make simply do not withstand any critical analysis.

Claim: Einstein was religious

Albert Einstein, when reflecting on the Universe said, “I’m not an atheist, and I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written.”

The quote above is not what Einstein actually wrote, it has been altered. If you are curious about what his actual views of religion were, then there is a Wikipedia article covers it quite well. If he is going to quote Einstein and lean upon him as an authority, then perhaps we should remind him of the following well-known Einstein quote …”It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously”.

Claim: Further Appeals to Authority

Physicist Paul A.M. Dirac observed that “God is a mathematician of a very high order and He used advanced mathematics in constructing the universe.” Antony Flew, former philosophy professor at Oxford, gave up on 50 years of atheism with his book, “There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind” (2007). Famous author C.S. Lewis was a former atheist.

If he considers Dirac to be an authority that supports his views then he might like to consider this quote from Dirac … “If we are honest—and scientists have to be—we must admit that religion is a jumble of false assertions, with no basis in reality. The very idea of God is a product of the human imagination. It is quite understandable why primitive people, who were so much more exposed to the overpowering forces of nature than we are today, should have personified these forces in fear and trembling. But nowadays, when we understand so many natural processes, we have no need for such solutions.

As for Flew, the best you can muster there is that he expressed some deist views at the end of his life, and yet the claim that he truly changed his mind is highly dubious, you can read all about that here. So once again his quoted authority does not support his position.

Finally C.S Lewis, the well-known christian apologist might be his best bet as an authority, and yet he also is not, because C.S. Lewis was not a creationist, and robustly rejected such claims … “If by saying that man rose from brutality you mean simply that man is physically descended from animals, I have no objection.” … “For long centuries God perfected the animal form which was to become the vehicle of humanity and the image of Himself”.

Further Bizarre claims …

atheistic Darwinian evolution

Er no, these words do not belong together. Atheism is simply the rejection of god claims due to the complete lack of any evidence. Evolution is a hypothesis that has been verified with mountains of evidence and is accepted by 99.97% of the life-science scientists on the planet today, many of whom are religious.

Summary

So my point is this, smart people can also embrace bizarre ideas, and Mr Pearl is a classic example of that. As humans we can become emotionally invested in specific ideas and beliefs, so much so that it can completely blind us to reality.

I also suspect if you sat down with Mr Pearl, went through it all, and explained with evidence why we know what we know about the age of the earth, what all the evidence for evolution is, and also debunked each and every one of the reasons he presents for a young-earth belief, he would still not change his mind, because none of that is the real root cause here.

As is always the case with creationists, he has a deeply emotional religious belief and many decades of investment in it. He also has around him a community for whom he plays this role and if he is to retain the perceived respect and dependancy that has been nurtured, a stance that gives his life meaning, then he will cling to the belief by continuing to assert it even in the face of no evidence at all. It is essentially a psychological trap that no amount of factual information will modify.

… and yet people can and do break free, so there is always hope.

This is also a trap that all humans can potentially ensnare themselves within, and is perhaps part of the human experience that we all partake in.

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