Monday, April 15, 2013

Pseudointellectual posturing

97% of scientists accept some form of evolution (there must be something wrong with them)

A few days ago I posted the main bullet points for the lecture I gave at the Evangelical Theological Society on April 6. Some of the responses perpetuate common yet unconvincing lines of defense.

For example, I began my talk by saying that I accept the scientific consensus as a staring point when discussing the question of human origins.

A response I have heard–more times than I care to recall, and that I knew would likely come again even though I think I was super clear in my lecture–is, “Aha. See! If you start with science, of course you’re going to end up with evolution. And that’s your problem. You put too much faith in science instead of in the Bible.”

“Faith in science” suggests that one’s view of scientific matters is on the same sort of playing field as “faith in the Bible,” which then gives a sort of rhetorical oomph to the posed choice. But I don’t have ”faith in science.” I have made a conscious, intellectual decision to accept the overwhelming consensus of demonstrably knowledgable and trained scientists across the world and for several generations.

For now I’ll just make one elementary observation: the fact that you’re a “scientist” doesn’t mean you are qualified to assess the scientific merits of a theory that falls outside your field of expertise. To take a trivial example, if my car is malfunctioning, I take it to an automechanic, not a phlebotomist. So the 97% figure is bogus. 

This illustrates the pseudointellectualism of Enns.


  1. I'd add "some form of evolution" is rather vague. For instance, take evolution within a single population (microevolution). That's a "form of evolution."

    Also, molecular and cellular biologist James Shapiro accepts a "form of evolution." But Shapiro's "form of evolution" happens to arouse the ire (to say the least) of his colleague and fellow evolutionist Jerry Coyne.

  2. It is important to know the limits of evolution. Scientists who are evolutionists can comment on how we see changes within species. Some might even want to speculate on how one species has evolved into another. But by their own criteria, scientists have never explained the beginning of life from inanimate material. It is something that has never been observed so scientists cannot, as they can sometimes do with evolution, explain the beginning of life.

    And I agree that evolution is rather a vague term

  3. It is always good to accept truth claims on the basis of consensus. For example World magazine recently reported that 70% of Millennials show support for gay marriage. No doubt that reflects the intellectual elite's consensus on the matter. We just need to allow the Bible to be a sort of living document that bows to the unbelieving consensus on critical worldview issues and we will all be much better for it (TIC).

  4. Could someone please give Enns a class on basic logic? There are so many presumptions, ambiguities, and distractions in this that it's hard to know where to begin:

    -ambiguity: "some form of evolution"--so, macro-, micro-, what? (As you point out, Curt)
    -distraction: ad populum fallacy. It doesn't matter if 97% accept it if it is in fact wrong (geocentrism as a case in point).
    -ambiguity: "scientist"--what does that term even mean?
    -presumption: um, where is he getting this 97%? How do we know it is accurate? This is the fallacy of pretended precision.
    -ambiguity: "the question of human origins"--which question? Where? When? How? I don't think there is consensus on any of these.
    -presumption: what consensus? There isn't one, unless one ignores dissenting voices (like the 700+ scientist who have signed the "Dissenting from Darwin" document), or ignores the peer-review process (e.g., the original-humans-arising-from-a-population-of-10,000 thesis has scientific critics).
    -presumption: "faith" in the phrase "faith in the Bible" is not "a conscious, intellectual decision to accept" the relevant emphasis.

    And so on...