Monday, August 01, 2011

Vox Day continues to expose his own scientific illiteracy

| »
Artistic reconstruction of Xiaotingia zhengi (by Xing Lida & Liu Yi)
Xiaotingia zhengi (by Xing Lida & Liu Yi)
[full size (550×289)]

As the more scientifically inclined of you may have heard, the paleontological and biological communities have been in a fuss over the recent discovery of Xiaotingia zhengi, a dinosaur-era fossil that has forced evolutionists to reconsider the early phylogenetic roots of birds. You can read PZ Myers’s take for an expert analysis of the new-found specimen and its impact on modern science.

Predictably, anti-evolutionist cranks immediately took to the finding to declare that newly discovered evidence leading to a reevaluation of modern scientific conclusions somehow indicated that science was wrong and that evolution is false, despite the fact that studying new data and drawing revised conclusions from it is exactly what science is all about in the first place.

Cue our favorite ankle-biter, Vox Day:

That's an interesting claim. Precisely when has any evolutionist reconsidered either a) the basic hypothesis that species evolve into different species through natural selection or b) the corollary and requisite hypothesis that life evolved from non-life, as a result of the falsity of one, ten, or even a hundred predictions that relied upon one or both of them? If it weren't for DNA, which was not discovered or developed with any assistance from evolutionary theory, evolutionary biology would already be openly recognized by every intelligent, rational, science-literate individual as being about as useful as phrenology and astrology.

Vox does love demonstrating over and over again why no-one of any reputation takes him at all seriously when it comes to matters of science. Despite his claims of possessing some academic degree or other (I keep forgetting which it is), no-one could make it clearer just how ignorant he is of the very basics of the discipline he so loves to criticize than he does through his own writings. Nonetheless, I’ll still bother to point out that anyone who claims to know anything about science at all will be aware that its most fundamental principle – and it’s greatest strength, setting it apart from other practices of faith – is its self-correcting mechanism. Scientists’ ability to discover new evidence, glean new data that complements or contradicts previously existing findings, and consequently drawing new and revised conclusions from continually improved streams of information is precisely what makes it the incalculably valuable tool in the arsenal of human reason. (Along with making it dogma’s single greatest foe, obviously. Something that continually corrects and improves itself? Oh, my!)

And yet, Vox calls this self-correcting mechanism, the utmost fundamental of the discipline, an “interesting claim”. And he then charges that if it were true, then the recent reevaluation of Archaeopteryx in light of the discovery of Xiaotingia should somehow lead scientists, not to question their previous conclusions about the evolution of birds and to correct this relatively tiny (but nonetheless important) detail in modern Evolutionary Theory, but to … question the very existence of evolution at all. Which is in no small way similar to finding that your old Volkswagen had a different engine assembly than you had assumed, so therefore, the very idea of powered vehicular travel must be put in doubt.

In case it isn’t clear yet: Scientists made a new discovery that showed them to have made a mistake (a microscopic one compared to the rest of the body of evidence for evolution) and consequently amended their ideas about the earliest evolution of birds. And now, Vox is declaring that, no, the entire theory “should be called into question”!

What a lame farce.