Saturday, February 18, 2012

Bonus Points for Nobody Knows

I clicked a link the other day to what looked like an article on a newspaper web site (but I'm pretty sure I've never actually heard of The Washington Times) I skimmed it and realized it was just another delusional rant by a creationist. Basically the premise was that flagella couldn't have evolved because there are separate parts to make it work and by some irrational argument this couldn't happen simultaneously, therefore, God. I dismissed it as a hopeless case but something about it has been bothering me all week.

It's the idea that the author doesn't buy Darwin's explanation but readily substitutes something entirely implausible and unprovable. That's not how it works. It's like the creationists don't understand that it's ok to just not know. Speaking in broad terms and not about this particular flagella nonsense, if you have some information that invalidates a paradigm then you may be in the middle of a paradigm shift. Now I can't remember if Kuhn said this -- his book is in my mini warehouse and I can't look it up -- but I think there must be a tri-state period in the middle of a paradigm shift where the scientific community just admits they don't know anymore. (I can't avoid this digital electronics metaphor. If you don't understand the origin, there are two states of a transistor, let's call it a 1 or a 0. If it's not either one, that's tri-state. It's a real actual thing, floating between ground and a discrete voltage.) And I actually think of this dilemma this way. Believe Darwin = 1, Believe God = 0 but there has to be another option where you don't believe either one. You believe nothing. You just don't know. Maybe nobody knows. Your mind isn't made up.  I just don't think you can even talk to somebody about how things work or how they came to be if they aren't comfortable with complexity that nobody understands. I think the misunderstanding is they think scientists are claiming to explain everything. No, that's not what scientists do. Scientists are fully aware that don't know shit, just ask one. Listen for "but only if" and "as long as."

People that think God knows everything? Controls everything? Designed everything? They just don't have a good handle on what "everything" means. Discussing tiny details about flagella is idiotic. They're never going to get it.

So how do we get the culture more comfortable with the idea of not knowing stuff? More Stephen Fry!


  1. "this couldn't happen simultaneously, therefore, God."

    I grew up with that song playing in the background. And the foreground. And all the ground in between.

    I never 'rebelled', though. I just grew up and rejected the crap. How many points is that worth?