Sunday, May 27, 2007

I Don't Think That Word Means What You Think It Means

Recently, the ABC news magazine, Nightline, aired a, well, let's call it a debate, between Kirk Cameron and his guru, Ray Comfort, and The Rational Response Squad. Prior to the show, Cameron claimed that it was actually pretty easy to prove, 100%, without calling on faith or the Bible, the existence of God. Their proof? The same, tired old argument from design. That argument has been refuted time and again, so maybe that's why the Nightline editors didn't bother to show the Rational Response Squad's response in full. Or maybe I should say, I hope they didn't show it in full, because what they did show was pretty weak. Not as weak as Comfort's argument mind you, but certainly lacking in the sort of scientific rigor one should expect from someone willing to debate a creationist on national television. If the 'Squad's web site is any indication, ABC's editing was heavily biased in favor of Cameron and Comfort. <Sigh>

What I had really hoped to see was a challenge to define God. After all, if you can't define a thing, how can you prove that the thing exists? It has long been my contention that those who argue that the existence of God is provable have failed simply because they can not, or will not, define what they mean by God. No such challenge was made, but then I really didn't expect it to happen. But it was my hope.

But that's not what's gotten me writing again after over 6 months of silence. During the so called debate, Cameron pulled out a picture, announcing "this is a picture of something that doesn't exist, something that evolutionists have been looking for, but will never find." The picture was a composite painting of a crocodile and a duck. "This is a crocaduck," Cameron claimed proudly, smug smile on his face, convinced that he'd sealed the argument. "... a transitional form. They don't exist, because evolution is a lie." Now, to be fair, the show was several weeks ago, and I haven't found a complete transcript of it, so I'm paraphrasing. The words are, if not precisely accurate, at least representative of the statements made by Cameron during the debate.

This one, brief statement of Cameron's is pretty much what has brought me out of semi-retirement (at least as far as this blog is concerned). First, his use of the term "evolutionist", which taken with other statements make it clear that he equates it with the word Atheist, as if the two were interchangeable. He even refers to himself as a former "Atheist, an evolutionist" early in the program. I'm sorry, but they're not the same. His treatment of them as if they are is cynical and unproductive; a sort of a pre-emptive ad-hominem on those who would support evolution, as Atheist has negative connotations to some, particularly those in the audience whom Cameron was pandering to. Face it, he wasn't going to convert anyone that evening, and he knew it, so what he was doing was pandering.

But even that subtle bit of manipulation isn't what drew my ire - it was his claim that such a thing as a "crocaduck" would be the target of a serious search by evolutionary biologists. Such an idea clearly labels Cameron either as ignorant of what evolution actually means (remember, he referred to himself as a former evolutionist), or as a blatant liar. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt and say he's just ignorant - trust me, in my book it's much worse to be called a liar. You can't help being ignorant, but lying is a willful act, unethical, immoral, and beneath someone who has, as he claims, been born again.

So allow me to educate you, Mr. Cameron. I'm not an evolutionary biologist. I'm not any kind of biologist. I'm a mathematician. My formal education in biology ended after my freshman year of high-school. What I know of evolution I learned despite an educational system that was discouraged from presenting unadulterated facts about evolution (my 7th grade life sciences teacher actually concluded a film about evolution by stating that God could, if He so chose, to create the universe in its current state, with all of the evidence for evolution existing as if the earth really were 4.5 billion years old, but that wouldn't make evolution real.) So what I'm about to say I want you to pay careful attention to. It's not a bunch of scientific mumbo jumbo, or jargon that you won't understand. It is but one piece of knowledge I have garnered from the minuscule fraction of evolution I have learned on my own.

Are you ready?

Hang on to your hat...

Every living thing, that is every plant, animal, bacterium, fungus, everything that is alive today, or ever was alive, is a transitional form.

No evolutionist is out there looking for the ever elusive transitional form. Transitional forms are all around us; there's no need to search for them. Everything, all living organisms, participate in the process of evolution. The Evolutionist himself is a transitional form. So wipe that smug smile off your face and try to understand this before you make another stupid comment like that again.