Sunday, May 17, 2009

Evolution's Reliance on Strawmen

A strawman argument is a sign of weakness. It means that one cannot withstand opposing arguments, so those arguments must be misrepresented. It is a common debate tactic. With an inferior position, one needs to weaken the opposing position. One way to do that is to misrepresent the opposing position. Attack the strawman to clear the way for the weak argument that otherwise could not survive on its own. Of course people do make occasional mistakes, but when misrepresentation is consistent--as it is with evolutionists--then it is a sign of weakness. Consider this latest example from evolutionist Barbara Forrest:

Intelligent design creationism (ID) is a religious belief requiring a supernatural creator’s interventions in the natural order. ... I examine the ID movement’s failure to provide either a methodology or a functional epistemology to support their supernaturalism, a deficiency that consequently leaves them without epistemic support for their creationist claims.

This quote comes from the abstract of a journal paper--not exactly a hasty thought. It is now a matter of record in the peer-reviewed literature: ID is a religious belief requiring a supernatural creator’s interventions. This of course is a strawman, and that is putting it lightly. But it is also quite typical in the evolution literature. From full length books, such as Why Intelligent Design Fails, to articles and papers such as Forrest's paper above, this misrepresentation of ID is rampant.

Evolutionists, as a rule, are busy attacking a strawman version of ID. To be sure, I can make arguments against ID, but they are based on the real thing. The evolutionist's version is a strawman because ID is not a religious belief and it does not require supernatural intervention. There are no religious premises in ID, no claims of faith or reliance on religion. Nor does ID require supernatural intervention in the natural order (ID merely requires that design is detectable).

Labeling ID as a religious belief is like labeling evolution as an atheistic belief. While ID has implications for religious belief, and evolution has implications for atheism, these are outputs of the theories, not inputs. Likewise, while there are theists who support ID, just as there are atheists who support evolution, these are people, not theories. There are no religious claims in ID, just as there are no atheist claims in evolution. It would be a fallacy to reject evolution because, for instance, the skeptic David Hume helped build its foundation.

So this is all cleared up, right? Of course not. Evolutionists have been using this strawman for years, in spite of a substantial body of ID literature that clearly describes the theory. One more blog will not make any difference. The strawman is inexcusable but understandable. Evolution is a weak position that needs strawmen to survive.