söndag 1 september 2013

One Strike and You're Out?

One of the most blatant dishonest tactics frequently employed by young-earth creationist apologists is the ad hominem attack, where various suspicious motives and moral faults are ascribed to prominent scientists in an attempt to dismiss them instead of confronting their evidence or arguments.

It is worth noting that insulting someone in general does not an ad hominem fallacy make, which is one of the most common forms of misuse of the term. Rudeness (whether called for or not) is not the same as an informal fallacy in an argument.

However: Sometimes it is truly called for to dismiss someone as either a know-nothing, a dishonest propagandist, or simply a charlatan, based on arguments or tactics that they themselves have chosen to put forward as legitimate. They have basically condemned themselves to eternal dismissal and ridicule - at least until they would publicly recant and admit the errors of their ways. Here I hope to present some examples for your eternal judgement and hilarity:

Ray Comfort's Canine Shenanigans
First in line is professional apologist and evolution denier Ray Comfort, who in a conversation with Pat Robertson puts forward an already classical fallacious "common-sensical" argument about evolution of species - a hypothetical dog, in this case (at approximately 2:50). Listen to this argument (don't forget to keep your vomit bag within easy reach), and then ask yourself:
Ray comfort has been championing anti-evolution propaganda for decades; yet he puts forward such a blatantly fallacious mis-representation of how evolution is expected to occur. Now: I am not generally a friend of forced dichotomies (another common creationist rhetoric), but here we are left with a choice between only two options. Is Ray Comfort either a:
A) Willfully ignorant moron? or B) Wilfully dishonest charlatan pandering to an uninformed audience?

Jonathan Sarfati - "Rain Man" Superhuman Grand Master Chess Player
This one by itself is not quite enough to dismiss Jonathan Sarfati and the guys at CMI in a single strike - but you have to admit that it's an excellent display of empty creationist propaganda. The blatant attempt at creating an argument from authority by spending more than one third of this clip boosting Sarfati's credentials by emphasizing his amazing prowess at - what...? ...chess..? rather than his scientific merits is just so hilariously funny. It really gets you in the mood to fully appreciate the subsequent hollow, pompous pontification about evolution that follows - Enjoy!

Same, same - but different
(Somewhat long-winded and drawing below is in Swedish, but you'll get the point)
Here is a really hilarious creationist representation of Darwinian expectations (förväntan) regarding developmental patterns of fossils in the sediments (Left), contrasted with the supposed "actual, observable" appearance of fossils (Right). Note that Tid=Time, Idag=Now, Today, Likhet=Similarity.
Now, I don't know the nameless creationist who produced this pedagogical masterpiece, but it is obvious that this person must be either a moron, or has a very superficial understanding of biology and paleontology, or is a completely dishonest charlatan (or perhaps a touch of all three alternatives).
The drawing is probably intended to make us overlook the true observed pattern of fossil distribution in sedimentary layers, where organisms are neatly sorted according to geological period, which annihilates a young-earth creationist description of reality (e.g. here in English and here and here in Swedish). The creationist wants to give the impression that groups of organisms first appear at the beginning of the Cambrian period (educated guess: the supposed first sediment layers laid down by the Noachian Flood in the creationist world view), and continue unchanged in the fossil-bearing sediments until today or until they die out. This would indeed go drastically against evolutionary expectations if it were true. Alas, for the creationists, this is only a blatantly dishonest misrepresentation of reality. The lines in the drawing to the right represent phyla or basal stem groups of animals, which are about as diverse a classification you can get. Phyla constitute a much broader classification than the made-up creationist pseudotaxonomical "baramin" or "created kind", which would have been the natural level of representation. Phyla typically contain orders of magnitude more variation than would ever be permitted as "microevolutionary" change over time in the creationist world view, and it is truly amazingly dishonest to represent them as straight lines indicating no variation within the group. I doubt that creationists would accept the following representatives of the phylum Chordata (our own phylum) as "the same kind": Sea squirt, lamprey, shark, guppy, frog, snake, Tyrannosaurus, turtle, ostrich, duck, eagle, shrew, horse, elephant, wolf, bat...oh, and chimpanzee and human. In reality, groups classified within phyla appear and disappear frequently in the sedimentary column, indeed demonstrating a great degree of change in taxonomical composition over long periods of time.
While at present I don't know who made this dishonest drawing, it was presented to me as an argument in a debate by the creationist activist Erik Scherman, who blogs for the Swedish creationist organization Genesis and on his own blog. On his own blog, Erik frequently unleashes his maniacal pareidolia, screening geological maps and Google map images for lines and patterns that he thinks demonstrate the reality of the Noachian Flood. When presenting the drawing below as an argument in a debate, Erik definitely tarnishes himself with the same brush as the original artist, and therefore deserves a mention in this little hall of shame and ridicule.

UPDATE: Here is an English original with slightly different basic claims. "Similarity" is here specified to "Phyla"

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