A “remarkable fact”
|September 29, 2012||Posted by David Anderson under Darwinism|
Let’s take again that quotation out of Richard Dawkins’ “The Greatest Show on Earth (pp. 332-333)”, published as many ages ago as the year 2009, quoted at http://www.evolutionnews.org/2012/09/in_debate_brita_1064521.html
Leaving pseudogenes aside, it is a remarkable fact that the greater part (95 percent in the case of humans) of the genome might as well not be there, for all the difference it makes.
Now, what here Dawkins calls a “remarkable fact”, turns out only three years later to be known (such that even he agrees, as the above link shows) to be totally false. It’s not even close; it’s as large an error as one could make in a propositional statement.
Not only that, but, this totally false statement is in an area of Dawkins’ speciality. Dawkins’ area of specialist study is evolutionary biology; and one of his specialist areas within that general area is in gene theory. Judging through qualifications and positions, Dawkins is as close as you could get to an expert. He was employed in a position with Oxford University to promote good science to the public. And yet here, in one of his “home” areas, he was, just three years ago, talking complete twaddle.
Regardless of whether you think Dawkins is brilliant or a fool, this ought to give some pause for thought about wider questions, ought it not? The link above shows that Dawkins himself is apparently remarkably unphased by it. But he surely ought to be.
Perhaps we could invite UD’s resident Darwinists and/or Dawkins-fans and general atheists to consider a few questions.
What other areas of his specialist subject, which he pronounces dogmatically upon, are you prepared to accept that Dawkins might be totally wrong about? Does that concern you? Are his other interpretations about the gene (e.g. that there is evidence of common descent) also possibly totally wrong? What else in evolutionary biology in general might be simply mistaken? What level of tentativeness, for example, should we attach to Dawkins’ assertions that the development of the eye could take place naturally, or that common descent in general is a fact that the fossil record bears out?
If Dawkins can be so drastically wrong about his specialist subject, then what of his forays into questions about the philosophy of science, the basis of knowledge, reasons for believing in a divine being, etc.?
We’re used on such occasions to the trotting out of sermons-to-the-choir about details about Darwinism being potentially wrong, but the scheme in general being as proved-true-as-gravity. But how do you actually distinguish that pronouncement from Dawkins’ one above? I don’t see any self doubt or wiggle room in it, or in various other of Dawkins’ pronouncements – or those of the “Darwinism is like gravity” crowd in general. I’m not thinking here of the “village atheists” but of credentialled academics.
If Dawkins, a gene specialist, can be wrong about the rather important question of the function of 95% of the gene, then shouldn’t that nudge you to employ a bit more critical thinking and not just trot out party slogans? If “remarkable fact” is really a synonym for “actually, we don’t know this, and perhaps next year we’ll know it’s nonsense”, then just why should teachers and educators pay so much attention to the Darwin lobby’s confident statements? Why should students, for example, only be taught the explanatory strengths of Darwinism and not its weaknesses? “There are none” is a “la-la-la-la-I-can’t-hear-you” response which new discoveries keep belying, and does not belong in the world of responsible study.
These are questions to do with critical thinking. Do you think Dawkins is a critical thinker? Have you seen him addressing any of them in a serious way? Or is it just party propaganda?