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The Creationist Refusal to see Obvious Consequences of Self-evident Patterns Visible in Nature

Post of the Month: August 2011


Subject:    | See no pattern, hear no pattern, speak no pattern
Date:       | 25 Aug 2011
Message-ID: |

Robert L Camp introduces his POTM with quotes from another thread:

(The following is part of an exchange between John Harshman and Anthony022071, taken from the "Against the theory of evolution" thread.)

Anthony022071 states:
>>> Reproduction certainly causes DNA to be shared among offspring,but
>>> this does not mean that the DNA held in common between species is
>>> "shared" in the sense of have been inherited from the same ancestral
>>> species.

John Harshman asks:
>> Why not? What other explanation is possible?

Anthony022071 responds:
> Separate species which happen to have been created with various grades
> of genetic similarity and difference. What is with this need to tie
> all species together through supposed evolution from a hypothetical
> urtext-organism at the beginning?

"What is this need...," indeed. I think it's an interesting, and revealing question. What Anthony doesn't appear to have considered is that he might as well ask "What is this need to collate atmospheric and temperature observations into models through supposed meteorological assumptions about predicting the weather?" or, for that matter, "What is this need to collect clues about the possible location of something once you have lost it?" (Hint: it has something to do with wanting to retrieve the thing.)

This is an attitude creationists display with enough frequency that it seems to me it should have a name (maybe it already does), something along the lines of "Argument from the Three Monkeys." The approach, when it's not an outright denial that a pattern of observations prompting causal questions actually exists, seems to have a thrust akin to denying that such questions should concern us, or should even be considered.

One of the reasons I find this attitude so fascinating is that it strikes me as a direct repudiation of a singular, vital, and noble aspect of humanity - the ability, and desire, to aggregate multiple (sometimes apparently disparate) bits of information into connected events, which, when considered in the light of experience with cause and effect, can be crafted into hypotheses, and eventually knowledge. Humans tease patterns out of associated observations. Itís part of our cognitive structure to acknowledge and collate connections that go on to form the basis for understanding. We can no more ignore this part of ourselves than we can disavow the instinct to nurture our offspring.

Few creationists (I hope), would have considered it a reasonable question to ask of our ancestors "What is this need to gather details about the repeated behaviors of predators through supposed observation, hypothesis and testing?" (Were they able, I suspect those individuals suffering removal of their genetic material from the gene pool would happily attest to the value of tying together observations about the habits of tigers and lions.) Yet those same creationists remain singularly unimpressed upon marking the qualities shared by tigers and lions, and, say, a house cat. Let's be clear - this is a pattern of the most simple and conspicuous type. It requires no leap of imagination or scientific insight to perceive the similarities of movement and appearance (and, upon deeper observation, biology) of these organisms. "There must be a relationship," nearly all of us think. But for creationists (as exemplified by Anthony), the identification of this very obvious pattern is either rejected outright, chalked up to institutional convention, or dismissed as immaterial.

The perception of a relationship between a tiger and a house cat is no leap of inspiration, or prejudice, it's the barest extension of the obvious. It's one step beyond observing that two house cats belong in the same category. Noticing similarity, tumbling to an underlying order or structure in nature, then attempting to understand it, is a good, *fit*, thing. It's what we do, it's who we are.


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