Sometimes I get requests for assistance with creationists. Usually, it's because some unwarrantedly confident ignoramus has been lying his butt off. Here's a perfect example:
I have a quick question concerning an encounter I had with a man last night who claimed he was a scientist (although, foolishly, I didn't ask him what field).
He made the claim that the majority of biologist do not "believe" in evolution. (He also pulled out the standard canards of "no macro biology" and "evolution requires faith"; I'm not wasting my time or your with this.) He claimed he has a "list" of all the biologist who "disbelieve" in evolution. and the many books he has read show this to be true.
I know this false. I told him so, but really didn't want to get into this. He claimed the media made it seem as if biologists accepted evolution.
I cannot for the life me understand exactly where he is coming from. Do you know anything about some "list" circulating apologists of biologist who supposedly don't accept the theory of evolution. I know a few do, but isn't the scientific consensus something on the lines of 95%?
I'm curious if you've heard similar claims before and what you make of them. Next time I see this made I would like to be able to simply, flatly explain to him that he is wrong. (When a "scientist" tells me that evolution is random chance, my BS meter goes off like you wouldn't believe. But since I'm not a scientist, he can try to claim some sort of argument from authority over me, and I don't want to be hypocrite and claim my own argument from authority.)
Of course I've heard of this list: it's the infamous Discovery Institute list of "scientists who dissent from Darwinism", parodied by the Project Steve list, and which contains a few hundred names, many of whom are not scientists the list leans towards dentists and engineers and such. It is a tiny number of people if the majority of scientists rejected evolution, it would be rather easy to get tremendous numbers of names signed on, don't you think?
Even easier, though, pick a biology department, any department anywhere. Go in and ask the faculty what they think of evolution. You'll discover impressive unanimity virtually 100% of every department will tell you that evolution is true and useful. You will find an occasional exception, though: the Lehigh University biology department comes to mind, and even there, they post a disclaimer stating that Michael Behe is the sole dissenter who rejects their unequivocal support of evolutionary theory.
My correspondent's mysterious "scientist" was that extremely common phenomenon among creationists, the guy who has no evidence and relies on blustering falsehoods, a complete fraud.
Speaking of creationist liars how about Casey Luskin? The primary reason so many biologists accept evolution is that it simply works: it's a useful theoretical tool that guides research successfully, and helps scientists get work done and published. If the ID crowd actually had a model that helped us understand the world better, we'd be flocking to it. In an email debate, a fellow named Rhiggs engaged Luskin on just this topic, asking for sources to positive evidence and experiments backing design. Luskin tosses out the usual creationist handwaving, and attempts to hijack the work of legitimate, non-creationist scientists as supporting ID but completely fails to produce any of that primary research literature that Rhiggs is asking for.
There are quite lengthy exchanges going on there, with Luskin always evading the main point (I could have said this was a futile effort: Luskin is no scientist, and his ignorance is legendary). Finally, though, he gives an excuse:
I assure you that I don't ignore arguments. You don't know me and I am not that kind of person. In fact, I've been traveling a lot for work lately, but in the last week over the course of 2 long plane flights I've managed to find time to work on replying to you. I'm nearly done with the reply and I hope to finish it on another flight I have later this week. FYI, my reply is already over 5000 words, and it begins by saying, "Greetings after an undesired delay on my part. I appreciate the time you took in your extensive reply. Because you put in so much time, you deserve a reply. I apologize that it took a while to reply--I've been busy a lot over the past couple weeks, including much traveling, and in fact I'm finally getting some free time now that I'm on a flight." Thanks again--I hope you will hear from me soon.
"Soon" is 13 months ago. Maybe I'll have to post reminders to him on Paul Nelson Day this is becoming expected behavior from that gang of propagandists.
Posted by PZ Myers at 3:49 PM