Posts Tagged ‘Piltdown Man’

I am going to steal this scenario from Penn & Teller. I would embed the video, but I can’t find it.

Let’s say that two people come across a domestic rabbit.

Both people have had experience with rabbits, so they do know how to determine the correct sex.

The two people decide to make a guess about the sex of the rabbit before checking. They come up with opposite guesses.

One person’s opinion will be absolutely wrong. The other will be entirely correct.

It does not matter if every other person in the world agrees with the person who is wrong. The opinion is still wrong.

Take this scenario and extrapolate it out to other discussions we have.

Not all situations have the nice easily falsifiable characteristics of the above scenario. Political views are good example of a more complex situation. One’s political views are based upon a system of thought, a system of thought that tends to weed out any facts that contradict the system or to rationalize them as deviations from the ideal. Political views are terrible scientific hypotheses and even worse theories. Humans are very hard to study in a truly scientific sense.

But there are situations in which evidence clearly contradicts a widely held view.

Take young earth creationism.

Young earth creationist worldviews are held by 40 percent of Americans.

But there isn’t a single piece of evidence that suggests that creationism, as a scientific theory, explains anything.

In fact, it has many large holes in it, not the least of which is the tons of evidence from a variety of scientific disciplines that clearly show the earth is not 6,000 years old.

Many creationist “scholars” come up with rather interesting information to defend their views, which includes making up facts, misrepresenting science, and misunderstanding what scientific studies actually say.

These distortions are rarely, if ever, corrected, but they are often repeated by different creationists, even if it has been shown that these views are based upon these errors and frauds.

The science that has found evidence for the theory of evolution is quite different. Errors and frauds may have existed, like “Piltdown Man” and “Nebraska Man.” But these frauds and errors have been corrected. I don’t know of a single scientist who uses Piltdown Man as a legitimate scientific finding that can further contribute to the literature.

However, creationists use the global flood for just about everything. Never mind that it such a deluge would rupture the crust of the earth, and never mind that the wide genetic diversity of different species living today is too great for these animals to have descended from just a pair of animals– representing “kind,” not a species– that Noah rescued on the Ark. And then there is the question of why there are no marsupials in Mesopotamia. Why isn’t Turkey– the place where the Ark landed– the main hot spot of biodiversity on the planet?

We are back to the sex of the rabbit situation. Evolution has been backed up a lot of evidence that has been rigorously tested. Young earth creationism holds onto falsified pieces of evidence, even when it is easily demonstrated that this evidence is faulty.

One side explains reality. The other does not.

It does not matter what 40 percent of the US population thinks. They are in error.

They are as much in error as the person who guessed the wrong sex of the rabbit.

That’s why we can’t have equal time or equal consideration for every opinion.

Now, evolution is a little different in that it cannot fully be falsified in the same way the rabbit’s sex was. But it has overwhelming evidence on its side, and more and more of evidence is being revealed every day. The theory of evolution explains facts. Young earth creationism does not.

The unfortunate reality is that it is possible to be wrong in many situtations.

In our postmodernist world, objective reality has been reduced to subjective experience, and whole generations of people have grown up with the false view that all opinions are equal. We don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. In some cases, such as political beliefs, this is acceptable.

But when we’re dealing with situations in which objective facts can be found and analyzed, it is possible to be wrong.

The unfortunate aspect is we accept this subjective framework for situations in which objective reality can be ascertained, and large sectors of society accept ideas that are simply in error.

With subjectivity, the power is not given to the scientist or the journalist or the investigator. Power is given to the spin doctor who can make things look a certain way.

This is very dangerous for a free society, for those with vested interests will always have the upper hand at shaping perception, even to the point of making perception the official reality.

That puts us far away from the informed populace that could govern ourselves that Jefferson believed we could be.

We have become a society that widely accepts error, simply because we have accepted the falsehood that everyone is equally correct in every situation.

It just isn’t so.

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