Intellectual dishonesty is a failure to apply standards of rational evaluation that one is aware of, usually in a self-serving fashion. If one judges others more critically than oneself, that is intellectually dishonest. If one deflects criticism of a friend or ally simply because they are a friend or ally, that is intellectually dishonest. etc. (link)
Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of main-stream Creationists who are just as Intellectually Dishonest. The difference is that main-stream Evolutionist act with an air of arrogance. Case in point, a recent article in Slate by Phil Plait, Creationists Once Again Threaten to Make a Mockery of Texas Science Education. The article is rife with philosophical fallacies, the comments are filled with vitriol against creationists. The article starts right off with these claims:
Let me get this out of the way immediately: The Earth is more than 4 billion years old. Evolution is real and is the basis for all modern understanding of biology. Climate change is happening, and humans are causing it.
First, “evolution is real”, yes, it is. Creationists will agree with you. Evolution is very real. We can observer it, we can test it, we can repeat it. However, creationists call this kind of evolution “micro-Evolution”. Creationists (generally) do not believe in Macro-Evolution. That is, the type of evolution that turns germs into men over billions of years. That kind of evolution is NOT observable, can NOT be tested, and can NOT be repeated. In other words, Macro-Evolution is not science as traditionally understood, it is “historical” science. Which is merely interpretation of evidence, and both Creationists and Evolutionists have access to the same evidence, it is their interpretation of that evidence that differs. With that said, Macro-Evolution is also NOT “the basis for all modern understanding of biology”. There are plenty of great biologists who are creationists. You do not, in any way, need to believe that lizards evolved into birds to understand the biology of modern birds.
Second, stating that “Climate change is happening, and humans are causing it” is amazingly short-sighted. It’s not like Climate Change is a 200 year old theory and it’s not like it isn’t hotly debated. It’s also not like there is new evidence that has caused major climate scientists to “admit there has been a pause global warming since 1997“. Such evidence can been seen by the fact of the Arctic ice cap growing by 60% this year. But go ahead, continue with your intellectual dishonesty. Whoever yells the loudest is correct, right?
Mr. Plait continues,
These fundamental scientific truths are agreed upon by the vast, overwhelming majority of scientists who study those particular fields, because of the vast, overwhelming evidence in those particular fields supporting them. It’s important that we teach this to young students, as well as how to understand what constitutes real evidence as opposed to ideological zealotry.
Ah yes, the old Appeal to Belief fallacy — most people believe that a claim, X, is true, therefore X is true. First off, to call these things “scientific truths” is again intellectually dishonest. Truth means something, it is something that cannot be contested, it cannot be changed. As a so-called skeptic, I would think Mr. Plait would be more careful about what he claims is “truth”.
Plait claims that he “is all for teaching alternative theories, as long as they are evidence-based and backed by solid observations and rigorous methodology.” But he fails to understand that Creationists use the same evidence that Evolutionists use. It is the interpretation that is different. Also, for some reason, he clearly does not believe that “solid observation” and “rigorous methodology” need apply to his beliefs concerning evolution. As I mentioned above, the “Macro-Evolution” that Creationists have a problem with cannot be observed, cannot be tested, cannot be repeated. Plait clearly wants to have his cake and eat it too.
Plait claims that “few of the reviewers who were critical of evolution and climate change had any scientific credentials.” — This is nothing more than, Circumstantial Ad Hominem. Further if “few” of the reviewers had scientific credentials, that means that “some” did have the scientific credentials. Making his point futile. In other words, he could have said that “some of the reviewers who were critical of evolution and climate change had the proper scientific credentials.” That sounds a lot different, doesn’t it?
He goes on to say, “If we don’t break this cycle of willful ignorance, it may never stop on its own.” Ah, yes, aSlippery slope indeed. But wait Plait! Is it willful ignorance to desire that two theories (yes they are both theories) be taught together and allow the hearer to judge for themselves? Or is it willful ignorance to only teach the popular theory and ostracize those who disagree with it? This reminds me. Whenever Creationists talk about how the popular scientists 300-500 years ago believed deeply in God, they are told something to the affect of, “Yeah, because if they didn’t believe in God, they’d be killed for heresy.” Isn’t the same true today? If a scientists comes out and claims they reject Evolution on a Macro scale aren’t they ostracized from the science community? Perhaps the reason why “the overwhelming majority of scientists” believe is out of fear of being killed by their religious leaders (read: ostracized from their community). Just some food for thought.
He ends his thoughts by claiming that “creationists will not rest in their fight to tear down science.” A beautiful Appeal to Fear, if I must say so myself. The truth is, Creationists are not Anti-Science. Creatoinists, like myself, do not in any way want to tear down science, but to build it up. One way we can build up science is by being intellectually honest. We need not remake science into a democracy, where the most-popular interpretation of things which cannot be tested or observed rules the day. We need to be honest about what we know and what we do not know. We need to be honest about what our opponents believe and what they do not believe. We must not resort to fear mongering, straw men, and mass-media hype.
Perhaps Plait should spend more of his time supporting logic, reason, and discernment being taught in our school system, and less time supporting intellectually dishonest arguments used to rile up the masses. Perhaps Plait needs to take some of his own advice.