Wednesday, June 15, 2011

You Can't Criticize Something You Don't Understand

La Sierra College, a Seventh Day Adventist college, just fired a number of faculty, including someone characterized as an "adjunct biology professor" (but actually, according to the comments on the article, someone who had retired from a tenured position and was still part-time there) for a number of offenses against Seventh Day Adventist doctrine:

In recent years, La Sierra has been at the center of an imbroglio over the teaching of human origins that was sparked when a website published e-mails between a biology student and Bradley, the adjunct caught up in the current debacle.

Bradley had rejected a student paper for failing to demonstrate an adequate understanding of mainstream evolutionary theory before advocating for a creationist alternative.
To be blunt, if you are going to criticize a viewpoint that is considered mainstream, you darn well better know it as well as its advocates, or you are just going to make yourself look stupid.  There are some serious flaws with the way evolution is currently thought, and the Intelligent Design crowd have some interesting and even compelling criticisms of evolutionary theory.   Unlike the Creationists, however, the ID crowd, biochemists such as Michael Behe and microbiologists such as Scott Minnich, actually understand evolutionary theory extremely well.  It makes their criticisms vastly more effective than (to use an especially horrifying example) Ken Hamm.

Many years ago, my wife was teaching at a Christian junior high in California.  The biology science textbook was actually pretty good when it came to the descriptive aspects.  The sections on evolution engaged in petty junior high insults, and in many respects, showed a lack of understanding of evolutionary theory.  I helped my wife prepare and present the material so that the students would:

1. Understand what evolutionary theory claims and what it is able to predict.  (In some areas, this is nothing to sneeze at.)

2. Understand what the criticisms of the theory are, and the problems of proof, especially at the macroevolutionary level.

3. Be able to see where the problems of epistemology limit the power of science.

Anyone that wants to argue against evolution better darn well understand it.


  1. Intelligent Design claims aside (I haven't looked at the claims closely), I have come to accept evolution as the way God created the universe, and the account in Genesis a nifty summary of the whole process. (Do you really expect to say anything in reasonable detail about something as complex as the Creation in only a few pages?)

    Even so, it irks me that so many biologists are convinced t, because we have this nifty thing called "evolution" it perfectly explains how life is, and so we need not worry our pretty heads about God. It's an attitude that forces those who believe in God to choose between God and Science--a dilemma that doesn't need to exist--and it's going to push at least a few people into the "Young Creationist" camp.

    And then they have the gall to say how religion corrupts people to reject science!

  2. "God made man, but he used a Monkey to do it." -- Devo.

  3. Clayton, do you have a source you can recommend that covers the three points you enumerated?

    Jim Long

  4. I would have to do some digging to find my notes, but will take you to the first of many postings from my old blog on the subject.