Re: An Alternative to Dishonesty as the Cause of Persistent Misrepresentation of Ideas and Arguments

From: Chris Cogan (
Date: Thu Jan 13 2000 - 17:07:24 EST

  • Next message: Stephen E. Jones: "Re: Why Phillip Johnson is a Dangerous Man 1/2"

    > On Mon, 10 Jan 2000 20:45:43 -0600, Chris Cogan wrote:
    > [...]
    > CC>Because of Stephen Jones and many other people like him, I've come to
    > >new "conclusions" concerning what I have referred to as his dishonesty.
    > [...]
    > As I have said before, it is simply *irrelevant* what Chris thinks of my
    > moral or mental state.

    Because this is not a philosophy or logic or mathematics list, where people
    can (commonly) fully evaluate arguments on their own, without reference to
    special facts, it becomes important whether people are accurately reporting
    such facts to us or not. If someone claims that scientists have discovered
    some fact that *proves* that purely naturalistic macroevolution occurs
    routinely in Nature, we may not have at hand or even ready access to the
    relevant original documents. Thus, if we think the person reporting this
    claim to us is honest and reliable, we may tend to believe it largely on his
    say-so, and to use it as a basis for further thought. But, although there is
    always the chance that people are somehow misrepresenting what they report
    to us, we should not have to *radically* question every such fact reported
    to us. Thus, if Mike says that he has read somewhere that such and such has
    been empirically observed, the rest of us want to be able to assume, at
    least tentatively, that this is true.

     However, if someone who reports information to us is not merely filtering
    so that he only reports information that supports his views, but also
    *modifies* information in such a way as to make it seem that a falsehood is
    actually true, then we have a problem. If that person does it consistently,
    over a period of about eight months or so, and it is pointed out to him by
    several people, and yet he continues to do it, those who observe this
    behavior have an obligation to point it out to others on the list who may
    not have the information required to recognize this pattern of distortion.

    The person involved may provide a useful service in providing links to many
    articles of interest, and this is a good thing. But, if the person
    misrepresents opposing views and arguments, this is *not* a good thing. The
    person who is doing the misrepresentation may not care that he is doing so,
    or what others think of his character (or, more narrowly, lack of it), but
    *we* need to care so that we do not put undeserved reliance on his claims
    about things we have not personally checked out *carefully* ourselves.

    Stephen Jones
    > If Chris has any *arguments* let him make them. And if I reply, let Chris
    > address my *replies* (if he can).

    I've presented on this list many arguments, nearly *all* of which Stephen
    has misrepresented in essential ways (which is, of course, *one* of my
    reasons for making such a fuss over this issue of misrepresentation and
    honesty). Perhaps he'd like to reply to what I actually have said in my
    arguments rather than picking at nits while misrepresenting my essential
    points (or, often, picking at nits while *ignoring* my essential points
    presumably because he does not have a reply to them but only to nits).
    Further, I *have* replied to many of his replies, often at fair length, and
    often mainly to *correct* his persistent misrepresentations of my views and
    the views of other evolutionists. This is where much of the waste on this
    list comes from: Dealing with Stephen's easily-avoidable errors. It would be
    much more productive to deal with real issues, such as whether ID theorists
    have any good arguments showing why macroevolution should not be considered
    to be cumulative *microevolution*. Occam's Razor requires that there be a
    *reason* for not presuming, at least tentatively, that macroevolution is
    just longer stretches of microevolution. What is (or are) that (those)
    reason(s)? Why aren't these arguments (other than the usual arguments from
    ignorance) being presented to us? Why is Stephen's approach almost *nothing*
    more than argument from ignorance or mere criticism of opposing arguments?
    Why are there so few (if any) arguments for design that rest on *evidence*
    rather than ignorance, misrepresentation, and shallow criticism of opposing

    Since the evidence for macroevolution is genetics, the empirical observation
    of microevolution, fossils, and the diversity of life [1], we need something
    stronger than merely the *theoretically possible* (if that) alternatives to
    macroevolution to justify bothering with them. We need *evidence*, facts
    that are genuinely incompatible with evolutionary theory. For example, if it
    turned out that man appeared on Earth *before* any other primates that might
    be man's ancestors, or before any other mammals, or before any other land
    animals (i.e., before lungfish, for example), and with no possible genetic
    ancestors, we'd have strong evidence that something was fundamentally wrong
    with the naturalistic evolutionary theory of the history of Earth's life.
    But, aside from such hoaxes as alleged ancient human footprints among
    dinosaur tracks, no such *real* evidence against
    macroevolution-as-sustained-microevolution seems to be forthcoming.
    Certainly not from Stephen, Johnson, and the rest. (Another possibility
    would be for Behe to find some biochemical structure that could not evolve
    by *any* of the means available to evolution, something *truly* irreducible
    (even by indirect routes through other biological functions, etc.).)

    These are the kinds of questions that are the real issues. Whether Stephen
    wastes our time with misrepresentations and general illogic deliberately or
    not, we should all *resist* such manipulations and such diversionary

    [Footnote 1: The diversity of life, in principle, *might* be explained by
    something other than macroevolution, but, without significant
    counter-evidence/argument, it is evidence *first* for macroevolution and
    evidence for design only if macroevolution is positively refuted. Why?
    Because the design hypothesis is a *vastly* more drastic hypothesis,
    especially in the non-naturalist versions, which require a whole non-natural
    *metaphysical* realm. Occam's Razor limits us to naturalistic explanations
    unless it becomes essentially logically *impossible* to provide such an
    explanation. And the Principle of Naturalistic Sufficiency means that, *if*
    such facts can be explained at all, they can be explained naturalistically
    (if they *can't* be explained at all, the attempt at a non-naturalistic
    explanation is a wild goose chase in which there is no goose.)

    Thus, in answer to the question, What is one piece of evidence for
    naturalistic macroevolution? one answer is: The diversity and richness of

    Clearly, no such question would arise if there was and always had been only
    one species, such as ourselves. The diversity of life is both the fact to be
    explained and the evidence for the explanation. By Occam's Razor, it is
    first evidence for the most straightforward explanation that is logically
    sufficient (other things being equal among competing explanations). It
    becomes evidence for more demanding explanations only when the less
    demanding explanations fail in a crucial way.]

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