24 Nov 2012

Thoughts on Marco Rubio and the Age of the Earth

Krugman, Religious 128 Comments

Hold on to your hats, kids, I think I will alienate 95% of the blogosphere with this one (and without even cursing)…

Marco Rubio has been getting hammered in the blogosphere from both right and left for his coy answer when a GQ interviewer asked him about the age of the Earth. The irony is, the people I’ve seen complaining the loudest, don’t realize that they themselves don’t adhere to their commentary on the Rubio affair.

First, let’s set the context for those who didn’t see the exchange. Here’s the relevant excerpt from the December 2012 GQ:

GQ: How old do you think the Earth is?
Marco Rubio: I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I’m not a scientist. I don’t think I’m qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.

Now clearly, Rubio is giving a non-answer here: He’s skillfully acknowledging the controversy without trying to appear like a Bible-thumping hick, but also without offending fundamentalist Christians. After reading Rubio’s response, I know very little about his actual views except, “I would like to continue winning elections.”

Even so, I think much of the hysteria following the interview is misguided. For example, let’s look at Paul Krugman’s reaction. It should not surprise anyone to learn that he quickly pounced:

As I like to say, the GOP doesn’t just want to roll back the New Deal; it wants to roll back the Enlightenment.

But here’s what you should realize: when Rubio says that the question of the Earth’s age “has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow”, he’s dead wrong. For one thing, science and technology education has a lot to do with our future productivity — and how are you going to have effective science education if schools have to give equal time to the views of fundamentalist Christians?

More broadly, the attitude that discounts any amount of evidence — and boy, do we have lots of evidence on the age of the planet! — if it conflicts with prejudices is not an attitude consistent with effective policy. If you’re going to ignore what geologists say if you don’t like its implications, what are the chances that you’ll take sensible advice on monetary and fiscal policy? After all, we’ve just seen how Republicans deal with research reports that undermine their faith in the magic of tax cuts: they try to suppress the reports.

Beyond Krugman’s annoying haughtiness, is the more serious problem that this is what we do in economics education all the time, including Paul Krugman. When I was a professor at Hillsdale College, I spent an inordinate amount of time lecturing on the virtues of free trade. Now I could’ve just said, “This is a topic where economists from across the political spectrum agree. Lowering trade barriers raises just about everybody’s standard of living, in all countries.”

But I didn’t merely do that. Instead, I gave several different arguments to demonstrate how unfettered trade raises all boats, and I walked through several different critiques of standard “protectionist” arguments. I had the class read Bastiat’s famous “Petition of the Candlemakers,” I walked through a simple numerical example of trade flows and wages in the U.S. and Mexico, and I relayed Henry George’s famous quip that in wartime we blockade our enemies and do to them what we do to ourselves with tariffs in peacetime. I pointed out that as an employee of Hillsdale College, I had a massive trade surplus with the state of Michigan, but a massive trade deficit with Florida whenever I went on vacation. So did this mean my money was eventually going to all end up in the hands of Floridians? And so forth.

Now why did I spend so much time on this topic? Because I knew it was the single hardest thing for the layperson to grasp. Indeed, even after all of my efforts, I would still have students writing on tests that a trade deficit with Japan “sucked!” Even though the vast majority of economists for more than a century has thought it silly for governments to institute tariffs in order to “save domestic jobs,” nonetheless the general public endorses the idea. So it’s important for economists to try to educate their students on what is wrong with this notion, if that’s what the economists believe.

By the same token then, if a large segment of the U.S. population—so large that major politicians are afraid to cross them—doesn’t believe the standard neo-Darwinian synthesis on the origin of species, then it’s important for teachers to teach about these issues. Hardly anybody is suggesting that if someone wants to get a Ph.D. in microbiology from Harvard, that he should use Genesis as a text. Rather, what many parents are saying is that if their kids are going to be taught the general principles of biology, chemistry, and so forth, because these are supposedly important subjects for a well-rounded citizen, then teachers should at least acknowledge the fact that many of these kids grow up in households where they have strongly held views against some of the conclusions of these disciplines.

If Krugman wants to say this is a waste of scarce classroom time, on a topic on which the experts have little disagreement, then by the same token he should recommend that intro college courses on economics drop all mention of protectionism. Furthermore, I have to wonder why he spends so much time on his own blog, in his popular books, and on the Sunday talk shows, knocking down “zombie ideas” and other views advanced by his opponents. One almost gets the sense that Krugman feels it’s important for even a Nobel laureate to disabuse the general public of widely held economics fallacies.

Yet turning back to Rubio, there was another strand of criticism I saw, this time coming from atheist libertarians and Austrian economists. The complaint here was that if the Republican Party keeps catering to these nutjob Christians, then their message of smaller government and economic freedoms will get drowned out by the crazy social and religious dogmas.

These complaints were particularly amusing, because Austrian economists are the analog of the “Intelligent Design” scholars. Contrary to the aspersions of Krugman and others, there really are PhDs in various, relevant fields who challenge the “consensus” views on speciation, the origin of life, and the age of the earth. The fundamentalist Christians who believe in a Young Earth don’t merely say, “Well sure, all them pointy heads with their fancy equipment and big brains say one thing, but I’ve got my Bible so they must be wrong.” No, the fundamentalist Christian thinks the secular scientists have overrated the powers of their reason and are misapplying their scientific tools. The works of the academics in the Intelligent Design and Creationist fields (those are distinct concepts, by the way) are full of secular arguments. They give logical objections to carbon dating and geological evidence of an Old Earth. It’s not simply quoting Scripture.

In conclusion, it is entirely understandable that Paul Krugman and other icons in the economics establishment can laugh at the outcasts in both economics and other disciplines. But it is ironic indeed when Austrian economists—who think that the New Keynesian orthodoxy is rubbish—join suit.

Of course the two disciplines are different; it’s possible that the Austrians are right in their criticism of the mainstream “consensus,” while the Intelligent Design and/or Young Earth scientists are wrong in their criticism of their mainstream peers. But from a cultural or sociological perspective, the two situations are quite similar. Unless a particular Austrian economist also has an advanced degree in biology or geology, I don’t think he or she should be complaining too loudly about conservatives paying attention to “crank” scientists in other disciplines. If the conservatives heeded such advice, then they’d tune out the Austrian economists too.

128 Responses to “Thoughts on Marco Rubio and the Age of the Earth”

  1. Z says:

    Bob, should animals get the full protection of rights? Should we allow them to have property rights? What is your opinion?

  2. Ken B says:

    I think your analogy is off. PK should want refutations of protectionism taught, and mercantilism taught as a historical theory (refuted). Likewise I should want ID refuted and creationism taught like a historical theory. And I do! More or less; ID is a bit tough to refute or discuss in high school. Just Darwinism is hard enough. genesis absolutely should be part of a history or comparative religion course, or both.

    • Matt Tanous says:

      ” Likewise I should want ID refuted”

      This would require bringing up their criticisms of the theory and teaching them without overt bias. That is not done – in high school or university.

    • Bharat says:

      This is what I was thinking when I first read Murphy’s post, but I don’t think it’s the case. I agree, people in general who disagree with protectionism should want ID refuted and creationism taught as a historical theory, but I think the majority just wants it ignored altogether.

  3. Enopoletus Harding says:

    What does C-14 dating have to do with anything? Besides, there has not been a single case of a non-theist scientist first becoming a young earther and then becoming religious.

    • Matt Tanous says:

      “What does C-14 dating have to do with anything?”

      The argument is that C-14 dating is based on a flawed assumption of how much C-14 there actually was to start with. So you end up setting a “baseline” of how old you think one thing is, and there is an aspect of circular reasoning to the whole thing – X is so old because it has the same amount of C-14 as Y, and Y is that old because it has the same amount of C-14 as X.

      This is vital question for not just geology, but dating of artifacts for archaeology, and many other things. IF the criticism has merit, then this could mean a lot of things we think we know are actually false.

      “Besides, there has not been a single case of a non-theist scientist first becoming a young earther and then becoming religious.”

      I don’t see how this has bearing on anything else. Besides, not all theories claim the earth is “young” (in the “7000 years” sense) that are being thrown out here.

      • Enopoletus Harding says:

        I understand C-14 dating is important for archaeology. My qualm was that it has no bearing on the age of the Earth-other radiometric methods are used to determine that. Also, there’s no circular reasoning involved in C-14 dating-the basis for the calibration curve is a large number of tree rings. http://c14.arch.ox.ac.uk/embed.php?File=calibration.html C-14 just isn’t all that vital for geology.

        My second sentence was in response to “The works of the academics in the Intelligent Design and Creationist fields (those are distinct concepts, by the way) are full of secular arguments. They give logical objections to carbon dating and geological evidence of an Old Earth. It’s not simply quoting Scripture.”

    • konst says:

      Part of the cabon in biological matter is an isotope of carbon called carbon-14. Radiocarbon dating is used to determine the age of that biological matter (wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiocarbon_dating)

  4. Ken B says:

    One of the few things I remember from Econ 110 is Ricardo’s Theorem. I’ll take a creationist who knows that theorem over a Darwinist who doesn’t. Of whom there are many.

  5. Garrett Watson says:

    I too think your analogy is off – most advocates of eliminating Creationism/Intelligent Design (they’re not distinct concepts – just look into the textbook controversy in which the word ‘creationism’ was literally supplanted by ‘intelligent design’ in every instance) from the classroom would be fine with bringing it up in order to show its flaws. The analogy would be more along the lines of teaching Protectionist doctrines as if it is correct in order to “Teach the Controversy”.

    I’m weary about argument from consensus – evolutionary theory is superior due to the overwhelming evidence in its favor, not the scientific consensus; It goes beyond the “mainsteam v. heterodox” dichotomy. Austrian economics may be heterodox, but (as you know) there’s a tricky methodological problem in comparing consensus or “evidence” in the social sciences versus the “hard” sciences of biology or chemistry. Figuring out whether fiscal stimulus prevented a deeper depression (a counterfactual at best) is much different than figuring out the approximate age of the Earth.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Creationism/Intelligent Design (they’re not distinct concepts – just look into the textbook controversy in which the word ‘creationism’ was literally supplanted by ‘intelligent design’ in every instance)

      They are distinct. But, I made a mistake in my post, what I meant to stress was that one could believe in Intelligent Design without believing in a Young Earth. In fact, one of the leaders in the ID movement (Michael Behe) I think has no problem with the idea that all species derived from a single cell.

      • Ken B says:

        In one god left a book, in the other god left a book and fingerprints.

        I think one of these is more compatible with science than the other. So I bet does Bob. We differ on which it is.
        Myself I think more of William Jennings Bryan than the ID types; he had the courage to say “if this is right my faith is wrong.”

        • Dan says:

          How old do you think Dr. Murphy thinks Earth is?

          • Ken B says:

            How long did Bryan say a day was?

          • Bob Murphy says:

            The real question is, how old do we think Ken B. is? If he’s 15, he’s the coolest guy ever. If he’s 75, he’s a funny old man. If he’s 40, he needs to do something with his life.

            • Ken B says:

              Funny, cool, lazy. Yep, that’s about right.

              • Dan says:

                Ahh, he’s in his 40′s.

      • Tel says:

        When Darwin’s theory is expressed in it’s normal format (i.e. “survival of the fittest” together with “the fittest are defined as those who survive”) then this is a tautology. You can forget about trying to argue against it because you cannot argue against something that is defined to always be true, other than pointing out that it is a tautology. Mind you, people say that “Social Darwinism” is thoroughly discredited but of course you can’t discredit that tautology either. The people who survive to go on and make the next generation of society are necessarily the fittest as defined by basic Darwin theory.

        If you look at God as a basic explanation for the universe, then God is defined as the creator of everything, and when you need an explanation of what created XYZ then it must be God. Very similar circularity as Darwinian theory.

        Let’s suppose I have a great idea tomorrow and make a lot of money. So did I think up that idea myself? Was it purely that spark of random chance? Or did God deliberately put the idea into my head? I would argue that none of those explanations have any practical difference on the outcome, nor do any of them offer an avenue to improve my likelihood of genius, so from a pragmatic point of view (and based on efficiency) they should all be ignored.

        Similarly, if you look at a tree and say, “Ahhh, natural selection,” or if you look at a tree and say, “Ahhh, God wanted it that way,” you are no better off so far as understanding how trees work. If you want to know how trees work you actually have to study the tree itself.

        I will say that for modelling purposes, it has proven rather difficult to accurately model God, but modelling a Darwinian process is easier. Plus one for Darwin on the modelling side.

        • Z says:

          What do you mean when you say that Social Darwinism has been totally discredited?

          • Tel says:

            Well that’s what a lot of people say. I recognize that exactly what “Social Darwinism” means can be difficult to pin down because it means different things to different people.

            Let me look at a more specific example, such as the Eugenics Movement. Their theory was (and still is, because the movement continues) that they would select the best people to improve the breed. Since this led to atrocities, we now have most everyone claiming that they will have nothing whatsoever to do with eugenics.

            My point is that suppose you decide to kill off all the poor people — that would be eugenics right? It would be a deliberate policy that alters the genetic future of the human race.

            OK, so with that in mind, suppose you decide to feed and house all the poor people — that’s also eugenics just like the other policy is, because it is a deliberate policy that alters the genetic future of the human race.

            Suppose you don’t like rapists and you want to punish them, lock them away, etc — that’s also eugenics. Same for thieves, same for liars, etc.

            The fact that society itself influences human breeding means that society is part and parcel of our genetic heritage (including religion, law, technology, the whole box and dice), but if you were to attempt to abolish society (or change it, for this way or for that way) it is also eugenics.

            See what a tautology does? Because the theory is defined in terms of the outcome, you cannot possibly create an outcome that does not fit the theory.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Figuring out whether fiscal stimulus prevented a deeper depression (a counterfactual at best) is much different than figuring out the approximate age of the Earth.

      So it’s scientific for you to endorse guys who can’t get into economics departments at Harvard or Yale, but it’s only Bible thumpers who would endorse biologists and chemists who can’t get into Harvard or Yale. That’s convenient.

      • Garrett Watson says:

        Intelligent Design and Creationism are virtually identical. While they have nuances and various branches (Old Earth Creationism, Progressive Creationism, even Theistic Evolution), the differences are minimal at best.

        There’s nothing scientific about endorsing specific personalities – my point is more about how one estimates the validity of any scientific claim, and that there exist inherent differences in the methodological approach to justification in the hard and soft sciences. We can set up experimental conditions and make inferences on historical data in biology and chemistry in ways that we cannot in economics.

        • Ken B says:

          Haldane was asked what would refute evolution. “A precambrian rabbit.”

          • Matt Tanous says:

            Post hoc ergo propter hoc.

          • Tel says:

            A precambrian rabbit would not refute evolution in general, but it would be a surprise based on our current knowledge of how evolution progressed on this planet.

            Point is that evolutionary dead-ends are all over the place, and for that matter reinvention of the same design is also common. Thus if precambrian rabbits had been a typical feature of the fossil record then biologists would have come up with an explanation of that (presumably some mass extinction event).

            If just one single precambrian rabbit was discovered and there was no record of any ancestors nor descendants, nor anything connected with that then biologists would simply write it off as a measurement error.

            If the fossil record was literally all over the place, with no continuity at all, then I think that would make any study of biological evolution kind of pointless, but still would not refute the basic “survival of the fittest” because well something must have survived to even discuss the matter. That comes down to a belief that the universe is at least sane and governed by discoverable rules… which I think that theists tend to agree with.

          • Ken B says:

            Tel and Matt, that you don’t see why that would refute the modern synthesis is telling.

            • Tel says:

              What exactly is “the modern synthesis”?

              More than just a statement of survival of the fittest, obviously.

            • Matt Tanous says:

              I see why that would refute the modern belief in evolution. It is not, however, evidence of the contrary. The statement would be similar to saying that the evidence that would refute Einstein’s theory of gravity would be stuff suddenly falling up. I mean, yeah, it would, but only because it would refute the entire understanding of the world – not just your theory specifically.

              The fact that there are no Precambrian rabbits doesn’t prove evolution – it is a fact that is to be explained by any such theory of historical biology.

      • Ken B says:

        I think you are underestimating the importance of the grounds for the dissent. Most scientists believe in the big bang but Prigogine did not. Nor did he cite thinly disguised Norse mythology in doing so. Science has plenty of room for founded dissent. Can you name many scientists of higher repute than Roger Penrose?

    • Matt Tanous says:

      “just look into the textbook controversy in which the word ‘creationism’ was literally supplanted by ‘intelligent design’ in every instance”

      Textbooks are full of vacuous nonsense, and equivocation of distinct ideas.

      “I’m weary about argument from consensus – evolutionary theory is superior due to the overwhelming evidence in its favor, not the scientific consensus”

      I agree and disagree. Consensus is never the way to do science, but I don’t agree with the evidence for evolution. For instance, nearly all the evidence presented in textbooks for evolution are either known frauds or long-revealed errors.

      • Ken B says:

        You are right about textbooks but thats not his point. His claim is that ID is just a label change to skirt court rulings. He cites evidence in the form of simple name substitutions in texts.

        Bob could concede this but insist there are still other IDers who are not like that. Still, it is suggestive that IDers have prior commitments.

        • Matt Tanous says:

          It is suggestive that politicians who determine textbook content have prior commitments, and saw in ID a more legitimate way to advance their position. The ID scientists – and others that merely criticize evolution generally, without necessarily supporting ID – have nothing to do with textbooks, or the use of “their” terms. The whole textbook thing is a non sequitur.

      • Garrett Watson says:

        Do you have any specific examples? Evolutionary theory is not hinged (and really never was) on Piltdown Man or Haeckel’s Embryos.

        • Ken B says:

          I find it easy to believe he was taught old stuff. I was taught warmed over Wynne-Edwards good for the species crap. Teachhers don’t take Bob’s approach of concentrating on a few key ideas, like natural selection.

        • Matt Tanous says:

          “Evolutionary theory is not hinged (and really never was) on Piltdown Man or Haeckel’s Embryos.”

          In general, no – there is a lot of other evidence presented in advanced classes directed solely at those studying to be evolutionary biologists. As taught generally in schools, it certainly does. When you make claims about the evidence and then refer solely to Piltdown Man, Haeckel’s Embryos, and other known errors and frauds, there is a lack of rigor that certainly leads to questioning of the evidence and the consensus in general.

  6. Yosef says:

    Bob, in economics class you teach that free trade is right and protectionism is wrong. If you are suggesting that biology classes should teach that evolution is right and creationism is wrong, then let me be part of the 5% that agree with you.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Yosef I would be thrilled if biology teachers were as fair with ID arguments as I was i class with protectionist arguments. Instead they say patently absurd things like, “The case for evolution is as well-founded as the theory of gravity.” Riiiight.

      • Matt Tanous says:

        Having just graduated through our “illustrious” school system through the last decade, I can affirm they are still using outdated and disproven “evidence” for those claims, as well. Such as Haeckel’s drawings of various fetal stages (totally faked), and the Miller-Urey experiment (shown to be based on old, erroneous information about the atmosphere).

        • Ken B says:

          Matt is right about this. But textbooks are a political issue anyway, never just the science.
          I do though wish more critics of modern darwinism knew what the theory actually entails. Many here obviously do not.

          • Bob Murphy says:

            Ken B. wrote:

            I do though wish more critics of modern darwinism knew what the theory actually entails. Many here obviously do not.

            Ken, I’m pretty sure that’s a falsifiable statement. As best I can tell, there are only two of us here arguing against evolutionary theory, maybe three (Tel’s comments were too long for me to read carefully). You’re agreeing with Matt’s statements, I haven’t said anything specific, so… Who are the “many here” saying things that you know are wrong about evolutionary theory?

            • Ken B says:

              Matt, konst, you, and maybe Tel . I mean read the rabbit thing.

              I am agreeingg with Matt that many teachers and textbooks suck.

          • Tel says:

            You are implying that modern Darwinism is a new and different theory. Maybe point out where the basic principles were rewritten.

            Let me ask a question, suppose another Earth turned up very similar to our existing Earth, and evolution of course still applies. Would the chain of development lead to a plausibly similar outcome in about the same length of time? Would we notice familiar and recognizable features on that Earth?

            How do you use the theory of evolution (modern version or otherwise) to answer such a question?

      • Yosef says:

        Bob, from my understanding ID is trickier than creationism because it is from the most part evolution + “But something directed it”. But scientifically, how could you prove or disprove that it was directed? I would be fine with biology teachers saying “Evolution is right. Some people say that maybe there was something behind it all, but science is silent on that. Most scientists work on the assumption that it was not directed, since it is simpler not to invent an intervening agent. But again, that is not part of science.”

        • Bob Murphy says:

          Yosef recommended biology teachers deal with ID by saying:

          “Most scientists work on the assumption that it was not directed, since it is simpler not to invent an intervening agent. But again, that is not part of science.”

          This is exactly the kind of a priori conclusion insertion that makes me skeptical of the “consensus” view and its impregnability, Yosef. Suppose for the sake of argument that aliens seeded Earth 3 bilion years ago with a single cell containing the blueprints for all of today’s various species. According to you (and you’re just following the rules as set up by agnostic/atheist scientists in response to the ID challenge), science itself can never discover this. No matter how devastating the evidence that might be against the theory that life arose on Earth from non-intelligent causes, by definition only philosophers and theologians could speculate about other origins. Scientists would be forbidden from even thinking about the possibility that our DNA could have been deliberately designed by an intelligence. If they ever tried to do that, the free thinkers would run them out of the schools and journals.

          • Ken B says:

            DNAis not a blueprint. Do you mean all the dna sequences.later seen on earth were in the one cell, or a preset mechanism of variation of dna was programmed in?

        • Tel says:

          But scientifically, how could you prove or disprove that it was directed?

          You can’t, which is exactly why it isn’t worth struggling with.

          Most scientists work on the assumption that it was not directed, since it is simpler not to invent an intervening agent.

          Occam’s Razor says you should remove all unnecessary components of a theory, but then again Occam’s Razor is a statement of efficiency, not ultimate truth. Also, atheism is a statement of efficiency, not ultimate truth.

  7. no name says:

    “If the conservatives heeded such advice, then they’d tune out the Austrian economists too.”

    As they should. Your metaphor is quite apt–Austrian ‘economics’ is of the same ilk as creationism and ID, and should be afforded no more attention than them.

    • Dan says:

      So you frequent creationist blogs and make ironic comments?

    • Major_Freedom says:

      Austrian ‘economics’ is of the same ilk as creationism and ID

      Non-Austrian ‘economics’ is of the same ilk as creationism and ID.

      Or, care to explain?

      • Ken B says:

        Let’s split the difference: mercantilism is of that ilk. Something MF and I can agree on!

        • Major_Freedom says:

          Non-Austrian economics is (universally, I believe) pro-central bank and/or apologetic towards the central bank.

          Central banks are mercantalist institutions (they protect domestic the money supply, domestic spending, and domestic interest rates, as well as protecting domestic government from bond vigilantes).

          You argue (I agree with this) that mercantilism is of the same ilk as creationism and ID.

          Thus, you implicitly agree with my initial argument that non-Austrian economics is of the same ilk as creationism and ID.

          Ergo, you did not actually split the difference. You sided with me.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      no name, that’s fine, I was hoping someone would say that. It’s precisely because I am giving guys like you ammunition, that I think the “respectable” Austrians will flip out if/when they read my post.

  8. Tel says:

    But here’s what you should realize: when Rubio says that the question of the Earth’s age “has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow”, he’s dead wrong. For one thing, science and technology education has a lot to do with our future productivity — and how are you going to have effective science education if schools have to give equal time to the views of fundamentalist Christians?

    Well… you could explain to them why the concept of religion exists in the first place, which can very easily be done within a Darwinian framework. If the group that you are part of dies, then you die too, simple as that, easy to explain. So if you want to stay alive then you need to find a group of people who can work together to achieve things, and that requires some rules. The Jews of course took the trouble to note down a few likely looking rules (and you can go back to Egypt, Babylon, Mesopotamia, Code of Humbarubi, etc, etc) and then Christ came along and pointed out the advantages of forgiveness and the dangers of being too judgemental. This could lead to a study of the Enlightenment and concepts of modern secular ethics which don’t seem to be taught in schools at all, and someone with a bit of grounding in this particular background might indeed be a bit more productive. Especially when working with other people.

    • Ken B says:

      No Tel, your ‘simple’ theory is group selection straight up. What you need, and can have, is an increased ability in the indivual (actually phenotype) to form and work in groups. Group selection is wildly implausible and completely unnecessary.

      • Tel says:

        You are saying that if a group dies, then the members of that group are still OK?

        • Ken B says:

          I am reading you as saying the group lives or dies as a whole and that is how the capacity for religion evolved. If that is not what you mean, ignore my note. If it is then its wrong.

          • Tel says:

            Systematic massacres (often for religious or political reasons) are pretty common throughout history. If you were an Canaanite then I would guess that trying to say, “Oh no, I’m really Jewish, just like you guys.” probably didn’t work too well. Similarly, in Nazi Germany being Jewish and trying to say, “Oh I’m really German, just like you guys” also wasn’t a winner.

            After the war, when Stalin took out revenge on the Ukrainians, he wasn’t terribly interested in anyone pretending to really be Russian.

            So I think you will find a lot of situations where destruction of a group results in death of the individuals within that group (at least enough to give a strong statistical correlation if nothing else). There are plenty of other examples of course, and it doesn’t actually require a massacre. The modern Islamic uprising in Syria hasn’t overtly massacred any Christians, but they clearly have shown that they are not about to allow Christians equal rights either.

            So without going into too many more examples, do you want to go back and explain how the individuals within a vanquished group are not at a very significant disadvantage in the survival stakes?

            • Ken B says:

              Genes. We’re discussing evolution remember.

              • Tel says:

                Dead people typically don’t pass on their genes.

                Anyhow, if you believe that evolution only happens at the genetic level then by implication you would be saying that individual people are irrelevant, since a human is actually a group of cells, and you have already stated that evolution does not apply to groups.

  9. Transformer says:

    “Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.”

    I find it equally concerning that a political might actually believe this as I do that he would feel the need to say it for political reasons.

    • Dan says:

      See, it’s comments like these that bother me. If the Christian God exists then it is completely plausible that He created Earth in seven days. If anything, this should be a comment that should concern Christians. The way he expressed his doubts is in a way that could be interpreted as a guy not knowing whether God existed or not.

      I would think an atheist would read that quote and would like it coming from a Christian.

    • Matt Tanous says:

      Let’s say he does believe it. He has no idea how long the period was when the Earth was created. So bloody what? What bearing does that have on your life?

      • Transformer says:

        I find it concerning that he would not dismiss out of hand the possibility that the earth was created in 7 days as described in the bible.

        To believe that you have to ignore all the evidence that it is not true – and that is not a trait I would want in a politician who may be involved in making important decisions.

        • Z says:

          True. But I would rather have someone who knows nothing of science but wants to leave me alone rather than someone who knows all the science and mathematics and sociology and uses it to have the government control everyone with their ‘important decisions’.

        • Matt Tanous says:

          “I find it concerning that he would not dismiss out of hand the possibility that the earth was created in 7 days as described in the bible.”

          I don’t see why, though. Alright, so you have to ignore evidence presented by most scientists to the contrary (or explain it away somehow). Even so, this does not have any bearing on the decisions that need to be made, so who cares?

  10. konst says:

    PRM “Yet turning back to Rubio, there was another strand of criticism I saw, this time coming from atheist libertarians and Austrian economists. The complaint here was that if the Republican Party keeps catering to these nutjob Christians, then their message of smaller government and economic freedoms will get drowned out by the crazy social and religious dogmas.”

    Why should Austrian economists care what the Republican Party says? Though I’m not an expert in Austrian economics, isn’t Austrian economics, or rather praxeology value-free?

  11. konst says:

    A counter example to evolution:

    The following is just an example not stated as an actual theory. Suppose at various times in the earths history, aliens came to earth and introduced various mutations is species. After a series of these changes were introduced, the end result was modern man. I don’t think the theory of evolutionary biologists can discover the difference between this and the natural evolution and if that’s then the theory of evolution is not on such solid ground as many believe.

    • Carrie says:

      Disproving evolution, one arbitrary assertion at a time! I like your epistemological method.

      Konst, if we follow your “example,” then in addition to teaching creationism, intelligent design, and evolution as competing theories that are equally plausible for explaining man’s existence, we’d also have to include the creation myths from all the other 100+ world religions—as well as the imaginative fancies from each student. Maybe one student says he read a blog claiming that humans are actually extraterrestrial reptilians. You’d say evolutionary biologists can’t disprove this; these reptilians are so advanced that they look exactly like us and even have the same DNA! A psychic told another student that she was watched over by invisible fairies. Another student saw a TV show that says we don’t exist at all—life is but a dream.

      Do you see a problem with making up far-fetched scenarios and presenting them as plausible facts?

    • Carrie says:

      Also, Konst, as far as I know, evolutionary biologists do not as yet have a formal explanation for why “random” mutations occur. Evolution explains what happens after the mutation: individuals with an adaptive mutation will tend to survive and proliferate more than individuals without that mutation, leading to an extension of that lineage. Thus, your alien mutation proclamation does not alter the fact of natural selection. No matter the cause of the mutation, the selective process will occur. (This phenomenon can in fact be observed when researchers intentionally irradiate cells, inducing DNA damage, leading to altered phenotype.)

      • konst says:

        My example wasn’t meant as support to teach creationism or intelligent design but to show that evolutionary biology is not on such solid ground as is generally thought. I’m aware that gene mutations different phenotypes to have advantageous adaptations but there are still questions as to how long it would take to go from unintelligent beings to modern man (in terms of generations).

        Carrie: “Maybe one student says he read a blog claiming that humans are actually extraterrestrial reptilians. You’d say evolutionary biologists can’t disprove this; these reptilians are so advanced that they look exactly like us and even have the same DNA! A psychic told another student that she was watched over by invisible fairies. Another student saw a TV show that says we don’t exist at all—life is but a dream.
        Do you see a problem with making up far-fetched scenarios and presenting them as plausible facts?”

        There’s no need to give absurd examples. My point is that there’s no way to currently tell the difference.
        P.S. Occam’s razor is not a good reason.

        • Carrie says:

          No–

          My example wasn’t meant as support to teach creationism or intelligent design but to show that evolutionary biology is not on such solid ground as is generally thought.

          And my point was that your example did not shake the ground on which evolutionary biology rests.

          There’s no need to give absurd examples.

          Your mutating aliens example was absurd and baseless. There is no evidence for—and no way to test—and no reason to believe in—the alien claim (or fairies or reptilians). My response had nothing to do with Occam’s Razor, it has to do with your method of thinking and evaluating.

          • konst says:

            Carrie: “And my point was that your example did not shake the ground on which evolutionary biology rests.”

            It wasn’t meant to disprove it just to show that it has limitations at least in it’s current formulation and that’s it’s not an iron clad theory.

            Occam’s razor is what some give as an excuse for ignoring those limitations

            • Chris H says:

              There’s very little in science that’s an ironclad theory by this measure. Indeed we could go further and say no knowledge has been able to survive the level of questioning of radical skepticism (or better stated we don’t know whether we know that ad infinitum). If you want to go a radical skepticism route then it is impossible (maybe we don’t really know that we know that we know etc…) to prove any point right and any argument between people is pointless. But few people actually live like they believe in radical skepticism and the fact you are arguing demonstrates you don’t either so let’s go ahead and discard that.

              Here’s the key as I see it, Occam’s Razor is simply a way for saying that the only parts of a theory that matter are the falsifiable parts. With your example of aliens, how would we falsify that? What tests could we undertake that would definitively state that this is not true? Any test we design that might falsify the aliens hypothesis could simply be responded to by saying “oh well clearly the aliens are just more advanced than us and hiding the evidence.” Could that be true? Yes, but it could also be true that there’s a tiny teapot orbiting Jupiter that no current instruments can detect.

              Non-falsifiable hypotheses may be correct, but there is no reason whatsoever to favor one non-falsifiable hypothesis over another. Aliens are as likely as a god are as likely as time travelers creating temporal loops are as likely as invisible pink unicorns. Any of them can fit the facts and none of them can be disproven. On the other hand, it’s also kind of stupid to have an argument where no side can be proven more or less likely than any other. When scientists limit theories to only the parts that are falsifiable, they are actually opening up room for debate and learning.

              A falsified hypothesis gives humanity knowledge about the world we live in, essentially an example of how the world definitely does not work. An unfalsified but falsifiable hypothesis offers the potential for more such knowledge while giving us tools to interact with the world that work for our purposes in the meantime. An unfalsifiable hypothesis does not give potential for more knowledge, and we cannot say that it really gives us knowledge even if it turns out to be correct. If I am correct in asserting there is a teapot orbiting Jupiter that we can’t see right now, but I have no reason to think that, then I don’t really have knowledge of that teapot. Knowledge implies having a strong basis for certainty that is impossible in the above scenario. So no unfalsifiable hypothesis provides knowledge and thus no unfalsifiable hypothesis should really be considered science.

              • konst says:

                Whether a “tea cup” is orbiting Jupiter has no bearing on the theory of evolution.
                My example was meant to demonstrate that the theory has certain limitations that people ignore and instead they think of the theory as dogma.

                How would you falsify the theory of evolution in regards to human beings having evolved intelligent and conscious brains from previous species? You can’t really.

                There might be some discoveries in the future that fill in the details but as of now it has it’s limits and those limits are not as trivial as many people think.
                Of course it might also be shown in the future that aliens had tinkered with primate DNA also.

              • Chris H says:

                This is directed at Konst (I can’t seem to get a reply directly to his comment).

                With the tea cup analogy my point was the problem of unfalsifiable theories. My point with that was that even if science teaching is not ideal (something I have no argument with) , simply adding in theories that are impossible to falsify makes the situation worse not better. Kids should be taught that scientific theories often have unexplained holes in them and that what they are learning should be considered “the best falsifiable theory thus far come up with.”

                The holes in evolutionary theory are fascinating and create great areas for research, but none of them are sufficient for falsifiability (at least yet). That doesn’t mean evolution is unfalsifiable. There have been many tests. If natural selection is correct we should expect germs to evolve immunities to anti-biotics. If that didn’t happen then potentially that could have undermined natural selection (assuming there weren’t good reasons to believe that there was an anti-biotic for which that was impossible). If humans had turned out to not be closely genetically related to any species that would have cast major doubt on humans having evolved from other Earth animals. Scientists are likely coming up with other ideas and tests right now that might invalidate the theory of evolution. The more tests evolution passes however, the more likely it will pass future tests and thus the evidence must be more convincing. If you conducted a hundred tests corroborating the idea that fire burns and on test one hundred and one a fire didn’t burn you, the rational first response would be to find a special explanation for that exception than discard the “fire burns” theory.

                And even if evolution turns out to be completely false, that does not imply ID is a scientific alternative. There is no test for a deity or more advanced aliens. Even if ID is true, because we can’t test it, it is not scientific.

    • Tel says:

      I don’t accept that alien involvement would actually disprove evolution. It might well lead to inexplicable gaps in the fossil record, but then again, the fossil record is not perfect, and gaps can happen for all sorts of other reasons.

      Mind you, aliens would not disprove God either, if you want to say that God sent them *shrug*.

      The only useful theory is a theory that can deliver accurate predictions. The theory of evolution for example, does predict that when a new antibiotic is discovered, then bacteria will gradually build up defenses and the antibiotic will no longer be effective. Similarly, when a new insecticide is used, over time it is no longer effective against insects any more.

      The problem with those predictions is they don’t give any quantitative data. How long does it take? Will we get better value out of the antibiotics is we give bigger doses or smaller doses? Should we spray insecticide a little bit or should we give it a big hard spray? How many effective treatments can we expect to get? Can a rotation system improve this and how should we structure such a rotation system?

      Evolutionary theory as such does not answer ANY of these practical and quantitative questions. That doesn’t prove it wrong by any means, but it does mean you will get a lot more useful results by just spending a few days getting to grips with the principle of evolution and then moving on to spend a lot more time studying the process details of how those biological mechanisms work.

  12. joeftansey says:

    “If Krugman wants to say this is a waste of scarce classroom time, on a topic on which the experts have little disagreement, then by the same token he should recommend that intro college courses on economics drop all mention of protectionism.”

    He thinks it’s a waste of scarce classroom time because he thinks young-earth creationism is wrong. It doesn’t have anything to do with how controversial it is. Krugman is just making an appeal to authority so he doesn’t have to personally account for the science.

    “there really are PhDs in various, relevant fields who challenge the “consensus” views on speciation, the origin of life, and the age of the earth.”

    Please… no… We’ve both been to graduate school, and we both probably noticed that most of our colleagues were completely incompetent. Fringe ideologues obtaining PhDs is very plausible.

    “But it is ironic indeed when Austrian economists—who think that the New Keynesian orthodoxy is rubbish—join suit.”

    It’s because they think Keynesianism doesn’t have testable hypothesis, while science orthodoxy does. If Keynesianism had a bunch of controlled experiments and rigorous laws, I probably wouldn’t have ever questioned it (assuming it had passed).

    “Unless a particular Austrian economist also has an advanced degree in biology or geology”

    Do you need an advanced degree in biology or geology? What is it you think people learn in school that is impenetrable to laymen? Why can’t I just pick up their textbooks? I’d probably wind up *more* educated because professors seldom teach cover to cover.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      joeftansey wrote:

      Do you need an advanced degree in biology or geology? What is it you think people learn in school that is impenetrable to laymen? Why can’t I just pick up their textbooks?

      OK Joe, if you think you get all you need to know, to determine whether the PhD-holding (but not teaching in a good school) critics of the neo-Darwinian synthesis are right or wrong, is to read a biology textbook, then by the same token you should be able to determine whether the Austrians are right about the housing bubble by reading Mankiw’s principles.

      • Ken B says:

        Critic of mainstream theory != IDer

      • joeftansey says:

        If it were a good textbook with citations, I’d feel confident using it to inform myself against fringe ideologues.

        But let’s say there really were a thorny and controversial issue. I could just read the published literature. I might not come to the *correct* conclusion, but my chances would not be much worse than the average degree holder.

        • Bob Murphy says:

          If it were a good textbook with citations, I’d feel confident using it to inform myself against fringe ideologues.

          OK Joe, I don’t remember if you like the Austrian School or not. But for sure, the Austrian people (and I’m not citing them by name because this was on Facebook so maybe they were just venting) who motivated this post, would not be happy if someone used Greg Mankiw’s textbook and didn’t mention Mises or Hayek in an intro econ class. (BTW I haven’t looked at Mankiw’s textbook in a while. If he mentions Hayek, great. I could switch the example to Paul Samuelson’s textbook from 1960-1990 to make the same point.)

          • joeftansey says:

            “the Austrian people (and I’m not citing them by name because this was on Facebook so maybe they were just venting) who motivated this post, would not be happy if someone used Greg Mankiw’s textbook and didn’t mention Mises or Hayek in an intro econ class”

            They’re probably unhappy because they think naive undergrads are going to get indoctrinated. If a serious eye were put to a “mainstream” propaganda textbook, I don’t think they’d have anything to worry about. The one-line description of historical events shouldn’t pass the sneeze test.

      • Ken B says:

        I think Bob has a valid point here. Who gets jobs at prestigious schools is as much about sociology and networking as it is about ideas. So his jab, “oh sure Austrians you dismiss ID ’cause no-one from a prestige school advocates it but you accept Rothbardians” has both merit and force. Joe is a bit naive to think he can judge the literature himself as an outsider; we must to some extent rely on the profession to self-police.

        I think biology IS self policing and pressing Behe et al hard *when behe writes on ID rather than other matters*. Bob disagrees. He’s wrong but he’s not crazy to think s that way.

        • joeftansey says:

          “So his jab, “oh sure Austrians you dismiss ID ’cause no-one from a prestige school advocates it”

          It’s because they’re using the appeal to authority as shorthand. If pressed, I’m sure they believe they could go and construct the necessary arguments themselves (the same way they try to with Rothbardianism).

          “Joe is a bit naive to think he can judge the literature himself as an outsider;”

          Why? Academia is a circus. Not only does it suffer from the sociology/networking problem, it suffers from a transparency problem. No one knows your research as well as you do. If the world is lucky, people will spend an hour or two scrutinizing your years worth of efforts. The asymmetry is impenetrable. Researchers can easily hide relevant “mistakes”.

          “I think biology IS self policing”

          If so, it is because its hypotheses are testable, not because the review board is piercingly honest and thorough.

          I’m in engineering and I think 90% of the work is utter unusable crap. The work that *is* good is done so out of pure charity to the human race.

    • Matt Tanous says:

      “It’s because they think Keynesianism doesn’t have testable hypothesis, while science orthodoxy does.”

      Evolutionary theory doesn’t have fully testable hypotheses, in the way that would refute the theory. It occurs over far too long a time, in far too random a manner, to allow for any of this. And its smaller hypotheses are not unique claims that do not fit into contrary theories, for the most part.

      • joeftansey says:

        “Evolutionary theory doesn’t have fully testable hypotheses, in the way that would refute the theory”

        Right so if they observed archaeological evidence that mankind kept dinosaurs as pets, or that dogs used to be super intelligent and rule the world, evolutionary theory would still be in tact.

      • Ken B says:

        “Evolutionary theory doesn’t have fully testable hypotheses, in the way that would refute the theory.”
        See? I knew you didn’t understand the pre-cambrian rabbit.

  13. Grant says:

    Inadvertently (or perhaps not), you have touched on a major reason for my own skepticism of the (US) libertarian movement. I’ve simply seen key figures endorse too many heterodox positions across too wide a range of fields to engender much confidence.

    Suspect numero uno: Lew Rockwell. Take a look through his archives and you’ll find numerous posts questioning (and sometimes even deriding) the scientific consensus on evolution, climate change, HIV/AIDS, etc. How this can inspire confidence among any scientifically-minded person is beyond me.

    Guilt-by-association thinking certainly has it’s limits, but there comes a point when it is an invaluable heuristic.

    • konst says:

      “scientific consensus” Is that a joke?

      At one time the “scientific consensus”, or rather more accurately the groupthink of the time, was that the earth and all of matter moved through an invisible ether… (the rest is too technical). Then Einstein explained the results of experiments in terms of his theory of relativity causing a scientific revolution.

      Why do you care who posts on Lew Rockwell’s blog? The viewpoints in each post are each individual blogger’s own and there are many posters in his blog. I don’t agree with all of them and weigh each post with my experience and knowledge. Just because someone doesn’t hold the same view as me doesn’t mean I discount everything associated with libertarianism or anarch-capitalism.

      • Grant says:

        No, konst. I’m afraid that “scientific consensus” was not a joke. Your suggestion that it should be makes me doubtful that replying here will be much use, but…

        I am saddened to discover that our understanding of evolution and the AIDS pandemic is a simple result of “group think”. Certainly, I’d have thought that there was some pretty reasonable evidence presented along the way that could be subjected to scientific testing. (Out of interest, are you familiar with the Galileo gambit?)

        I actually spent a few sentences above explaining why it might be relevant to consider what content LR endorses on his site. FWIW, I certainly don’t discount everything that libertarians say either. You and I might agree on more than both of us realise, but that has little to do with a heuristic that suggests we should be suspicious of people who openly endorse contrarian viewpoints across multiple fields… especially where established scientific opinion in those fields is supported by compelling evidence.

        • konst says:

          “You and I might agree on more than both of us realise, but that has little to do with a heuristic that suggests we should be suspicious of people who openly endorse contrarian viewpoints across multiple fields… especially where established scientific opinion in those fields is supported by compelling evidence.”

          Regarding “climate-change/global-warming” alleged “compelling evidence” is not really compelling. What I’ve noticed is that the data is of poor quality and the models have serious flaws.
          Regarding the theory of evolution, do you find it outrageous that someone would question it? Scientific theories are not dogmas. They are supposed to stand up to scrutiny. What I noticed is that there are questions that aren’t explained by current knowledge. Doesn’t mean I discount everything but I choose not to ignore the shortcomings of scientific theories.

          It’s each persons choice to be suspicious of whatever they want but I choose not to ignore the value of people’s opinions on other subjects that they have experience with just because I don’t agree with other subjects I have knowledge of.

        • konst says:

          As an example, many commenters here don’t agree with my view of space and time though my view is supported by current physics. That doesn’t mean I discount their views on economics or other matters.

    • Chris H says:

      There are a couple of problems with this thinking. First is that it’s effectively a form of ad hominem, attacking the mindset/character of libertarians rather than their ideas. Consider an example of this kind of thinking: Scientists tend to be disproportionately socially awkward so perhaps I should avoid supporting scientific conclusions because they might kill my social life. Even if that first part is true, it would be absurd to reject the advances of science on that basis. The real answer would be just don’t copy a scientist’s mannerisms when trying to hit on somebody at the bar. Similarly, acceptance of libertarian moral or political philosophy in no way implies rejection of the conclusions of the physical sciences. If libertarians are disproportionately anti-science then the proper response is not to reject libertarianism, but to reject the anti-science ideas and then evaluate libertarian moral/political philosophy on it’s own merits.

      The second problem I have however is that I think you are overestimating libertarianism’s illogical elements relative to other political philosophies. If you think libertarians are disproportionately illogical I invite you to a quick trip over to http://www.politifact.com/. Leading individuals from all sides CONSTANTLY make wrong, illogical, and even anti-science assertions. Sorting out which side is more egregious in this regard almost certainly has more to do with pre-existing personal leanings than objective analysis.

      If you dislike libertarianism and think it’s wrong that’s fine, but I don’t think this qualifies as a major legitimate complaint of that philosophy.

    • Ken B says:

      @Grant: Me too. I think you’re seeing examples of rampant selection and confirmation bias amongst the Libertarians, many of whom are a bit conspiracy minded. Bryan Caplan, a very smart guy indeed, praised the cartoon history of the world as ‘magisterial’.

      I think you might like this, which Bob linked to a while ago. http://www.imaginativeconservative.org/2012/10/at-libertarian-clinic.html

  14. Tel says:

    It occurs to me that a true believer in evolution would be perfectly happy with the idea that religious people send their kids to school where they learn about the Bible or creationism or whatever they want, while at the same time more secular communities send their kids to a different school where they learn about evolution or what have you.

    Someone who genuinely believes in evolution and also believes that a secular education confers a strong advantage in life, would logically expect that over time this clear advantage would become apparent and gradually the religious people would adopt secular ideas in order to catch up.

    However, the actual behaviour of Krugman and his ilk is to attempt to prevent religious people at all costs from being able to teach their beliefs to their children. This is not the behaviour of someone who is confident about his position… this is the behaviour of deep and massive insecurity.

    • Z says:

      I think most people who don’t want to send their children to a school that teaches evolution or secularism have many more problems with the schools than just that it teaches evolution. I believe in evolution myself but I would rather homeschool because I don’t find the environment in school to be very moral or healthy.

      But those who oppose homeschooling and similar forms of education usually ignore those other reasons and just point to them as ‘crazies’ who don’t want to teach evolution. In reality there are many reasons why someone who is religious would want to keep their children away from school.

      You mention Krugman. I don’t know his views on parents educating children, but as Ron Paul mentioned in his farewell address, our country is filled with psychopathic authoritarians, many of whom would even ban or regulate homeschooling out of existence. As authoritarian as the Republicans are, without them, you could kiss whatever educational freedom we have goodbye.

      • Ken B says:

        Yeah. It’s not insecurity, it’s “we know better we’re entitled.”

  15. Dan says:

    I find it entertaining that the left forgets that Obama gave a very similar answer in 2008: http://www.salon.com/2012/11/21/obama_once_gave_rubio_like_answer_on_earths_age/

  16. Cody says:

    “The complaint here was that if the Republican Party keeps catering to these nutjob Christians, then their message of smaller government and economic freedoms will get drowned out by the crazy social and religious dogmas.”

    A criticism coming from Libertarian Atheists? That is a bunch of Bolshevik; and coming from such a diverse third party collection of intellectuals who claim to have the ability to cater to everyone’s desires, needs, and beliefs through freedom. BIG DEAL.

    Of course he gave a non-answer. The question deserved a non-answer. It is unnecessary and insignificant. The left wants to tag him as being a Bible slinging hick and SO WHAT if his policies were actually efficient. Furthermore, there ARE popular belief systems that exist about creationism v. evolution and everything in between. Both are perfectly VALID to instruct upon. The question IMO was just another divisive lifestyle question that certainly isn’t very pressing. Just another drawback of a democratic republic.

    As a libertarian and general non-supporter of Rubio, I would like to pose an incredibly divisive question about sock choice. I’m sure that will draw much attention from the blogosphere because of its boundless insignificance. That way I can direct aimless, insignificant criticism toward Rubio in a way that will guarantee that nothing important actually happens on the grounds of policy.

    If you alienate 95%, I’m in the 5%.

  17. Z says:

    Many people don’t want to believe in evolution because of the implications for morality. With religions, especially the monotheistic ones, we have a morality that has shaped much of the world, and influences even non religious people. Dawkins et al assure us that morality without the admittedly violent nature of religion would be just wonderful and perfect, but I along with many just don’t see it. Morality itself doesn’t really seem intellectually defensible from the assumptions in secularism and evolution. Read ‘The Myth of Morality’ by Richard Joyce, who is a moral nihilist as one source. Perhaps we should all be moral nihilists?

    • Ken B says:

      Morality is a biological phenomenon is the basic answer. But there’s no guarantee it’s all consistent. Near and far morality is hard to reconcile.

  18. Kay says:

    i once worked in a small research boutique of physicists in santa barbara who were, to a man,  born again christians.  it was financed by star wars sugar daddy government spending with a certain MCC chair as a rotating guest manager/investor.  nevertheless, real science was in use and sophisticated software models based on the laws of physics were the product.  but mostly, there were buyouts under way, to acquire this talent that worked so well together.  after two rounds of buyouts, and landing in la jolla, the contracting spigots went dry.  

    this consulting was a fascinating situation, and not a tense pc-fraught environment.  the irony was self-evident and often remarked on in a good-natured way.  (of course, at that time, the term “pc” (TM) was just being coined by one of the big think tanks, with its meaning defined a bit differenly from the one in current use.)

    appreciation of irony is one of those indicators of society’s social resilience and a good reason for continuing to expose children to literature, no matter the religion or schooling environment.  irony today is not well appreciated in our Era of Touchinous, and is probably no longer recognized as a literary construct by the department of education.

    so, a joke in the office went like this, “what do you ‘believe’ the speed of light must be if it weren’t for {n}?”  n was some module or program where the the speed of light was referenced.

    as for rubio, it matters not a whit the mental and verbal gymnastics he juggles in order to create an exothermically stable position.  this election has proved one thing:  the republican establishment (both wings) must adopt an amnesty position in order to ever win in the NEAR future.  and they will.  or, they will let the democrats handle that thorny situation while they “regroup” in the corner. 

    both parties competed for “those” same large interest groups in this election.  but only one party will reliably deliver the “goods” once the latest amnesty is completed.  the republicans no longer have anything to offer the growing ‘identity politics’ driven voting base.  because we are no longer a united citizenry of the past,  this is libertarianism’s historical time to move the country forward, as Ron Paul’s successes (and also the amount of establishment obstruction at every step) indicated.  libertarianism is the closest thing we have to what could be a coherent philosophy for the country consistent with past values and able to absorb current problems because of its rich economic basis.

  19. AdrianC92 says:

    Why did Adam and Eve have belly buttons? How do Adam and Eve have black, asian, hispanic,etc. offspring? Are you saying that the fossils of our African ancestors are fake?

    • Matt Tanous says:

      “Why did Adam and Eve have belly buttons?”

      Did they? Can you prove it?

      “How do Adam and Eve have black, asian, hispanic,etc. offspring?”

      This sort of straw man attack on the “evolution deniers” leads me to give merit in my mind to the critique of evolution. It’s rule #1 for me: if someone is obviously misrepresenting the views of their criticizers, they likely have something to hide about their own position – perhaps it is not as strong as they claim.

      • Z says:

        ” “Why did Adam and Eve have belly buttons?”

        Did they? Can you prove it? ”

        LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

        I believe in evolution, but that had me cracking up like crazy.

      • Ken B says:

        Except the race question is a good one. Either evolution after Genesis or multiple undocumented creations. It’s a good question for bible believers.

        • Matt Tanous says:

          The standard response – and the correct one, in my opinion – is that microevolution is not macroevolution. The fact that men – or moths, as in the classic “proof” – can change color over time in some area through natural selection does not demonstrate that a primitive monkey can evolve into a man, or so on down the evolutionary tree. It doesn’t demonstrate that can’t happen, and does lend some credence to the hypothesis, but it does not prove the overall case either way.

          In short, the “evolution deniers” are not saying, and never have claimed, that the general makeup of a species within an area cannot change within some already set genetic range over time, due to natural factors. They are charging that mutation does not lead to survival benefits, and therefore, species cannot – no matter how much time passes – change into completely different species.

          • Major_Freedom says:

            Define “completely different.”

  20. Chris says:

    Does anyone think Daniel K or Gene Callahan are reptilians? It would explain a lot. :)

  21. Futurity says:

    From my experience 99% percent of time YEC is misrepresented.

    Even Bob misrepresented YEC:
    ” there really are PhDs in various, relevant fields who challenge the “consensus” views on speciation”
    speciation is critical to YEC models as YEC believes that all animals come from the initial kinds. Researchers have found that Kind is mostly on Family level in taxonomy, Thus by definition in YEC models speciation happens and is critical to the model.
    In the Bible it is written that animals bring forth after their kind.
    As an example, dogs can easily breed with one another, whether wolves, dingoes, coyotes, or domestic dogs(they all different species). When dogs breed together, you get dogs; so there is a dog kind.
    YEC believes that initial kinds were created with vaaast amount of genetic variability.
    More about kinds [1]

    While it is true that YEC do not believe in validity in C14 dating. YEC uses it to point contradictory nature of radiometric dating in general as C14 is found in diamonds and coal that supposedly is millions of years old. The reality is that C14 should already decay by then and there should be no C14 in the samples.

    The epistemological argument.
    The YEC distinguishes between Operational science(observable, repeatable experimentation) and historical science(speculation about the unobservable past with facts obtained today through operational science).
    For an evolutionist the age of the earth falls under historical science.
    For YEC it is a matter of history(eye witness accounts written in the Bible) and historical science.
    From my experience evolutionists will deny that and claim that evolution is a fact proven by science that we get our tvs etc(operational science).
    Few implication comes with treating age of the earth as historical science which evolutionists will deny:
    - age of the earth is determined by world view(assertions about the world) rather than scientific method
    - belief in evolution which by definition makes earth billions of years old
    - the conclusion are based on hypothesis or plain assertion, that the earth is old
    YEC understands this difference and uses operational science to strengthen its world view.
    I think that Austrians should easily understand this argument as they also claim that scientific method is not able to explain economics, only understanding of human actions is( assertions about human actions).
    I think they can also learn a great deal from YEC of how to handle this issue.

    Why YEC?
    The reason why YEC believes in a young earth is because he reads Bible texts according to their literary genre. Genesis was written as historical narrative and is interpreted as such.
    If we interpret Genesis as historical narrative and count the genealogies than we get the age of the earth of about 6000 years.
    In short: YEC’s world view is shaped by God’s word.

    [1] http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/aid/v3/n1/zonkeys-ligers-wholphins
    [2] http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2011/02/22/interpret-the-bible-1-principles
    http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2011/03/01/interpret-the-bible-2-genesis
    http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/aid/v2/n1/framework-interpretation-critique-part-one

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Futurity writes:

      Even Bob misrepresented YEC:
      ” there really are PhDs in various, relevant fields who challenge the “consensus” views on speciation”
      speciation is critical to YEC models as YEC believes that all animals come from the initial kinds. Researchers have found that Kind is mostly on Family level in taxonomy, Thus by definition in YEC models speciation happens and is critical to the model.

      Hey Futurity, look again at what I wrote. I said they challenge the consensus views on speciation. The consensus view holds that all species came from a single ancestor. That’s certainly not what YEC say.

      • Futurity says:

        I misunderstood you then, sorry for that.

  22. Blackadder says:

    This is a good post, but the first two comments make it truly awesome.

  23. RPLong says:

    Interesting that no one seems to be impugning the journalist who asked the question. This is a classic case of heads I win, tails you lose. Rubio could say something off-putting to one of his primary constituencies, or he could say something that puts his name in the “haw haw haw these rednecks is crazy haw haw” echo chamber.

    For the life of me, I can’t figure out why more politicians don’t simply answer these questions by saying, “Where are you going with this? Are we segueing to my position on religious freedom or government investments in scientific research?”

  24. Andrew Keen says:

    Bob,

    I realize I’m way late to the party here, but I’d just like to thank you for this post. I loved it.

  25. Todd Lewis says:

    Bob,

    Great post. You really went out on a limb here. Given flak you could have been expected to get this must rank as one of the most courageous posts on the internet.

    Why do you think it is so easy for establishment outsiders on one area (economics) to so easily resort to insider tactics and appeal to insiders as ‘valid evidence’ on something else?

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