Monday, February 21, 2011

Sid Galloway doesn’t get evolution (or biology, or science)

| »
Sid Galloway
Sid Galloway

One of the more amusing constants about evolution denialists is how incredibly simple and stupid their arguments are, to the point where any averagely educated Joe (pun unintended) can point out just how full of crap they are with a minimum of effort.

The latest example comes courtesy of Sid Galloway, an evangelical zookeeper who apparently thinks that his stint as a high school biology teacher makes him qualified to make all sorts of crazy pronouncements about all of science that even the thickest high school students would find risible. For example, it probably tells you all you need to know when you hear that one of his central arguments is that faith is “rational” and that Biblical Creationism is more “logical” than the Theory of Evolution. Yep, he’s definitely one of ’em “expert” thingies.

To wit, lecturing at Baton Rouge, Louisiana’s Chapel on the Campus:

"The Bible doesn't teach that faith is a feeling — it is to be rational," he said. "Don't believe anything I say today unless you can find evidence for it."

Not a problem, I assure you. Also, aren’t feelings and emotions, practically by very definition, irrational?

Galloway argued scientists who challenge evolution in favor of creationism are often ignored.

"There is a very active persecution of those who stand for a biblical worldview, especially in the worlds of science and academia," he said.

Ignored, yes, and deservedly so. Persecuted? No. Keeping charlatans and ignorami out of positions of educative authority over malleable minds is not “persecution”, no matter how much these “Teach the Controversy” types try to claim it is. Just as one wouldn’t want a kook in charge of their surgery or their home electrical repairs, one also shouldn’t accept to have a deluded Bible-thumper filling their kids’ heads with unscientific and endlessly debunked fibs and fables.

However, evolution wasn’t Galloway’s only target, as he also took on other fundamental foundations of modern science as well:

First, he argued against the Big Bang theory.

"The theory is that nothing somehow became something, and that something suddenly exploded," he said.

Galloway argued the theory doesn't make sense.

"Zero plus zero equals zero," he said. "Nobody plus nothing equals zero."

I always picture this xkcd strip whenever I hear someone preaching against a field about which they obviously know very little. I don’t know much about astrophysics, myself, but I think it’s safe to say that the Big Bang Theory is a little more detailed than “nothing created everything”, as Galloway’s intellectual equal Ray Comfort likes to quixotically put it.

He then goes on to make that true classic of fallacious logic, the ol’ argument from incredulity:

Second, Galloway said DNA couldn't have evolved spontaneously because it's too complex.

"[DNA] is the best scientific evidence for God," he claimed. "This is why so many people who were atheists are coming to say ‘there might be an intelligent designer.'"

In other words, “It’s too complex (or big, or pretty, or …) for me to wrap my mind around it, ergo, it must have been magicked into existence by an invisible deity!” Why, ain’t that just the pinnacle of rational thought? I’m sure all those biologists who’ve been studying DNA over the decades since its discovery are only ignoring the “goddidit” answer out of spite or something. Yeah. That’s it.

And then, proving irrevocably that Galloway really doesn’t know the first thing about evolution (as if his credentials as a high school biology teacher couldn’t be any more of a farce):

Finally, Galloway said mutations — the mechanism he argues "drives" the theory of evolution — don't lead to evolution, but to devolution.

"Mutations don't add," he argued. "Mutations take away."

Galloway said mutations are slowly eroding humanity's gene pool, which accounts for the lengthy life-spans of people in the Old Testament.

Because arguing about science from the perspective of the Bible is such a good way to get a reliable idea of how the world works.

Look, as I’ve mentioned (and is otherwise made clear from my writings on the matter), I’m no expert. In fact, I’m not even relatively educated about the mechanisms of evolution and biology in general. (Or any field of science, even.) I slept through my high school biology class (I can’t even remember if I passed), and all I really know are the bits and pieces I’ve learned, and the fewer that I’ve actually memorized, during my last few years of blogging. But even I, in my profoundly and self-admittedly ignorant state, can identify the sort of idiocy that is Galloway’s statement.

For one thing, he even gets his basic definition wrong. Contrary to what he might have learned from comics and B-grade horror and sci-fi flicks, a mutation is not a subtraction in complexity. It is a change – nothing more, nothing less. Any and all changes at a genetic level are called ‘mutations’, regardless of what they are or what physiological alterations they incur in any given organism. Growing extra fingers, being born blind and albinism are all mutations – but so are, say, great physical strength, or genius-level intelligence, or plain ol’ red hair and freckles. The argument that mutations “[erode] humanity’s gene pool” and lead to “devolution” is transparently ignorant and the only possible conclusion to be made about anyone making such a claim is that they have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about, whether honestly (such as with anyone who’s genuinely uneducated) or not (such as with the majority of Creationist preachers).

After arguing a biblical worldview was more logical, Galloway said an atheistic worldview is potentially dangerous.

"It undercuts everything about morality," he said.

Galloway argued that evolution is often used to fuel racism.

"If you read [Charles Darwin's] ‘Descent of Man,' it's obscenely racist," he said. "At the core of Hitler's belief was evolution."

Once more, nothing but the tired old bogeys of the supposed literal evils of atheism and how Charles Darwin was oh so racist! and all that. Of course, what they never admit afterwards is that A) if atheists actually were immoral, they’d actually be doing immoral stuff (which, again, they aren’t any more than their theistic counterparts, if not even less so) and B) Darwin was no more racist than anyone else in his day and age. Racism was the societal default at the time, where Blacks, the Aborigines and others were regarded as inferior. But even then, though, Darwin was also a great promoter of social justice and empathy, even towards those oppressed groups, strongly arguing that human compassion is one of our strongest assets. If anything, Darwin was probably less racist than most of his countrypeople in that respect.

Also, no, Hitler didn’t use evolution (or atheism, or anything else of the sort) as a foundation for his racialist ideology, which is another beloved Creationist smear.

Galloway, who believes the universe is thousands of years old, not billions, said evolution directly contradicts Christianity, because suffering would have existed in the world long before Adam and Eve bit into forbidden fruit.

It did. (Not the case with Adam and Eve, though.)

The best part in the article comes in the last few paragraphs, where it’s noted that students didn’t exactly appreciate listening to a scientifically illiterate fraud spread bullshit for two hours and even called him out on it. That’s it, kids, make me proud.

(via @ebertchicago)