I was reading John’s free book today(PDF) (Thanks John!) and came across this quote, which so well refutes one of the big claims of creationists.
You cannot respond to your problem by saying, “yeah, well you have one too,” and I cannot respond to my problem by saying, “yeah, well you have one too.”
Invariably, when a creationist (including ID proponent) is faced with a question that they cannot answer, they will, instead, attack evolution. I’ve seen this occasionally in AGW circles and more often in GM food arguments. But, by far, this is the most common tactic of the creationist.
Very simply, it’s because they can’t answer a question. They know it (even if only subconsciously) and we all know it. For the most part, the kinds of questions that stump them have been asked for decades.
One of my frequent opponents in the past would always respond to the question “Where’s your evidence for x?” with the phrase “You don’t have evidence that evolution can do x.”
So what? Even if it’s true that there isn’t evidence that evolution can do x, it doesn’t mean that the default position is intelligent design (or creationism).
This is called a ‘false dichotomy’. A dichotomy is when there are only two choices (di- means two). A statement can be a lie or it can be true. If even part of a statement is a lie, then the whole thing is wrong. It can’t be partially true any more than a woman can be kind of pregnant.
A false dichotomy is when there are other choices, but on party tries to convince others that there is only two choices. “If evolution can’t do x, then god” is the basic format of these types of claims. You can see this language in bills that state legislators are attempting to pass all over the country.
But John’s comment here is very, very important to science. It’s all about burden of proof.
There’s a discussion at After the Bar Closes right now with a guy who doesn’t understand this concept (or much of anything honestly). He seems to think that it is our job (science) to find the support for his claims if we want support for his claims. He doesn’t feel that he has to.
In fact, he has specifically stated that he finds it unreasonable to have to find support for his claims. He also doesn’t understand what a theory is or how science works or what evidence is or how to program using modern styles or that programming a feature doesn’t mean it can only be intelligently designed or that cells don’t choose to mutate… but I digress.
If someone makes a claim, any claim, it is up to that person to support that claim with evidence. It’s not anyone’s job to find that evidence.
Those mean ole scientists. They won’t rewrite my paper for me and they won’t do my research for me. It’s a conspiracy I tell you. The man is trying to suppress my theory.
The above is how this person actually thinks.
This is especially true when trying to find support for a claim that is wildly different from what is currently accepted (by having tons of evidence, confirmed predictions, etc). If you were to claim that ants evolved from flightless wasps, I wouldn’t find that hard to believe at all. In fact, if you were someone whom I knew had more than a passing interest in biology, then I would likely not question it.
If you were to claim that ants are actually aliens, hell bent on controlling the Earth and enslaving the human race…. that I would question. Likely, I would ask for more evidence while calling for the police. If you then claimed that evolution doesn’t explain where ants come from, therefore you are correct in your claim, then I would call you an idiot to your face and walk away.
A prosecutor can’t tell a jury that the defendant can’t account for his whereabouts at the time of the murder, therefore he’s guilty. (Well, he could try I guess.) It’s not up to the defendant to refute the prosecution’s claim.
It’s the same in science. You make a claim, you back it up or prepare to have it ignored… or soundly ridiculed.