Thursday, August 12, 2010

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Conservative psychologist Robin of Berkeley wonders whether her relationship of thirty years with her progressive partner Jon can survive the Obama presidency:

Sometimes I feel really sorry for my mate, Jon. Thirty years ago he hooked up with a Buddhist, pacifist, Leftist vegetarian. Fast forward a few decades, and he now lives with his worst nightmare: a patriotic conservative who attends church and eats burgers with gusto.

So sometimes I feel bad for him. And other times I want to smack him upside the head.

Take, for instance, the time Jon saw me reading Sarah Palin's autobiography, Going Rogue. After he gasped in genuine shock, he said, snidely, "I'm surprised that she could write a book more than a few pages long."

To which I barked back, "At least she didn't have a terrorist like Bill Ayers write her book for her."

Welcome to my world. I hope it's not your world. Because living together as a progressive and a conservative in the leftest of all places is not for the faint of heart.

Robin has more to say about her "odd couple" relationship at the link, but there's a lesson in this for young people. It really is not a good idea to get serious about someone with whose beliefs about important matters, particularly religion and politics, are both strong and diametrically opposite of your own. Couples who think that their love can surmount such difficulties often find that their relationship is much rockier than they would like it to be.

Robin and Jon have reached an accommodation which she summarizes as "Don't ask, don't tell" whereby certain topics important to one or both parties are just not broached. This keeps the peace, but not being able to discuss matters of real significance hollows out a relationship, putting off-limits much that's of greatest importance to one or both persons.

This makes the relationship shallow and causes conversation between the two to trend toward the superficial and frivolous. Charles Dickens addresses this very problem in David Copperfield when he has Annie Strong reflect on David's misbegotten marriage to the simple, child-like Dora by observing that there's no disparity in marriage like unsuitability in intellect and purpose. Unless the two are united in their most serious purposes and interests and are roughly equal in intellect, their union is going to experience a lot of stress, and they will often find themselves, like David and Dora, growing increasingly distant and isolated from each other.

Robin's is a cautionary tale to any young person contemplating a relationship with someone with whom they share little in common. She's evidently making it work, but many people in such circumstances find their relationship becoming more of a business partnership than a friendship.


No Doubt About it

Suppose you lived in the early 16th century and someone were to tell you that a static earth and a geocentric universe were indisputable facts. The evidence, after all, is overwhelming: A simple observation of the sky shows the heavenly bodies moving across it; the fact that were the earth moving we should feel a strong wind like we do when we're in a convertible automobile; the fact that when you drop an object it hits the ground directly under the point from which it was released and not ahead or behind you as would be expected if the earth moved while the object was falling.

All this was powerful evidence for pre-enlightenment people that the earth was stationary. It seemed undeniable. The idea that the earth stood still seemed as well-established as any fact about nature could be. And yet it was wrong.

Today, we're often told that Darwinian evolution is as well-established as any fact of science could be. Some writers have even gone so far as to claim that it's as certain as gravity. The evidence for it, we're told by Richard Dawkins, for example, is just so plain and overwhelming that "You cannot be both sane and well educated and disbelieve in evolution. The evidence is so strong that any sane, educated person has got to believe in evolution."

More famously (or infamously) Dawkins also declared that "It is absolutely safe to say that, if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I'd rather not consider that)."

But is that true? Is the evidence for evolution, much less naturalistic evolution, that compelling? At his blog, Darwin's God, Cornelius Hunter argues that the evolutionists' claims to certitude are either misleading, silly, or false. When a scientist or philosopher declaims that evolution is the best-attested fact of science, Hunter observes, they're saying something that is more a statement of faith than of fact:

The claim that evolution is a scientific fact simply is not true. Evolution itself may well be true, but we do not know it to be true with the kind of confidence and certainty evolutionists insist on. I do not know what the truth about evolution is, but I do know what our knowledge about evolution is.

When informed skeptics probe evolutionists about this false claim, it is typical for evolutionists to equivocate on evolution. They will say, for instance, that we observe viruses or bacteria adapting, so therefore evolution is a fact. But all the while, when evolutionists claim their idea is a fact, they have been referring to the origin of all the species. That is a very different claim than the mere adaptation of viruses or bacteria.

In other words, the Darwinian wants us to believe that the evidence is overwhelming that all living things have arisen from non-living chemicals and undergone a long process of transformation culminating in the forms of life we see in our world today. When, however, the Darwinian is asked to present the evidence that such a grand process has occurred, when he's asked to justify the statement that there's no doubt that it has occurred, he adduces such things as the variations in the sizes of finch beaks or the multitude of different types of dogs. These are certainly examples of change, but all they prove is that it's possible to have variability around a phenotypic mean. It's evidence of evolution, to be sure, but it's hardly proof of the assertion that finches and dogs themselves evolved from single-celled organisms, just as the stars moving across the sky is evidence, but not proof, that the earth is at the center of the universe.

The Darwinian sites examples of what's called microevolution, i.e. small variations and changes, as proof that macroevolution, i.e. molecules to man evolution, has occurred. This, though, is like arguing that because a child grows two inches a year that when he's sixty he'll be ten feet taller than he is today.

Anyway, read Hunter's entire post at Darwin's God to get a sense of the bait and switch that's often played by the Darwinians who wish to convince the public that macroevolution is an indubitable fact.