Reading comprehension.  Work on it.

Every time I touch on this topic of evolution versus creation, I get an avalanche of lurkers deciding they’re going to jump in and try to prove how dumb Uncle Rizzn is.

Let me first start out by saying that my initial post yesterday wasn’t about starting a debate on the topic. I was simply commenting on the fact that angry evolution proponents, like Mr. Angry, love to use science as a kludge to beat theists over the head. To them, anyone who believes in something bigger than themselves for any purpose whatsoever is an idiot, and in the process of putting their passion on display, they tend to engage in activities (like failure to check the definitions of the words they use, or parse their own logic) that make them look stupid.

Take this comment, for instance:

Angry, I’ve told you before (on Youtube) and I still have an optimistic mind when it comes to the end of religion. I think that religion will be largely nothing more than a memory by the end of this century. I think the rise of the internet and the access to free information and ideas that it contains will greatly assist the world in realising the truth about religions.

I hope so anyway. I hope that future generations can look back and realise how idiotic religion really is.

Perfect.  Sounds like an open mind to me.

To the point of reading comprehension:

At this present time, no-one knows how life began. Not any scientist, and certainly not any religious person. This does not change the fact that evolution is accepted as a FACT by everyone other than religious people who believe that God created us as we are today. That, by the way, is not backed up by a single piece of evidence; and if you think it is, please share the evidence with us.

Here’s the translation: “I don’t really support my own position with any facts or research, I think you’re an idiot because I suspect you’re religious, and I’m not willing to research what I think your position might be, but I’ll let you spill it here in a small comment window and then try to berate you over the inevitable holes you’ll leave trying to describe difficult concepts in concise sentences.”

Mr. Angry has a problem with it as well, in his response to my blog post:

Rizzn: Case in point. That is mindless fucking drivel. All you’re saying is you’re fucking clueless about science.

You can re-read my original post, but my response to a reader on Facebook best summarizes my thoughts. From an old friend, Carissa Winland:

The logic in this seems odd. Radioactive decay can accurately place the age of organic material, and genetics and molecular biology is irrefutable concrete evidence, outside of observations. Furthermore, it’s like saying, just because we don’t SEE a plant grow, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t grow. We also don’t see physics, or gravity, but yet these are concrete laws by which all lives are built. Science uses evidence to infer, not simply observations.

Keep in mind, not a single one of these people responding are in fact scientists. Most of them aren’t even college graduates. My response to Carissa addresses some of her points:

Irrefutable? Radioactive decay is only accurate to +/- ~10k years (if you’re talking about carbon dating). How do you prove something as irrefutable if
you aren’t around to observe the margin of error? As a basis for comparison – I’m able to guess your weight within 100% accuracy, with a margin of error being +/- ~1 Ton just by simply touching you.

Sorta hard to refute that, too, eh?

I did a bit of quick research. According to scientists at the University of Florida, the margin of error generally ranges between 400 and 10,000 years, so my initial point stands, but it misses the larger point that Carissa either casually dismissed or overlooked completely.

In general, and certainly in my original comments, I’m not speaking of scientists per se (nor am I talking about theologians or apologists). I’m talking about the rank and file that tend to debate these topics (typically on the Internet) as if they were experts.  Watching the science channel doesn’t make you a scientist. Reading Origin of the Species doesn’t make you an expert. Watching Trinity Broadcasting Network doesn’t make you a theologian. Because you call Christians idiots on the Internet certainly doesn’t make you an authority on evolutionary theory.

See my original money quote: “Simply put, no one observed creation (or evolution), therefore one’s conjecture and evidence interpretation is as good as another for justifying a worldview.”

I’ll re-write that again so some of you who are intentionally misinterpreting me will have a more difficult time doing so: most people interested in this topic are only looking to justify a worldview, and when that’s your goal, any old set of cherry-picked facts will do.

Since most people are simply justifying a worldview when it comes to this debate, any old set of facts they come across are as good as any others (see: climate change). They don’t bother looking for the best of the opposing view – they simply look for the weakest argument they disagree with, and then knock it down. It’s great for a debate tactic, but for a set of people looking for absolute truth, it makes them look like the type of moron you’d find on YouTube or Digg’s comments section by comparison.

Simply put, you can’t have it both ways.  As someone who has read both sides of the debate (and sits somewhere squarely between the two), you can’t say you’re in search of the truth and never look at smart people who disagree with you.

How do you think I got this smart, people? Was it by spending my life calling everyone who disagreed with me an idiot?

No. I read. I read the sources of research, not just the worldview-espousing books you find at Barnes and Noble. I dig past the wire report and what I saw on that science blog last week. I stay away from the faux-documentaries you find on cable TV. And when I’ve delved down to the source of the research, I look and see who they’re funded by to determine whether they’re constructing studies to prove a point or disclosing legitimate findings.

This isn’t rocket science, this are research techniques I learned in high school while most of my school mates were busy perfecting their keg stands and bong hits.

I like to call it voracious reading comprehension.