[Via Pharyngula] I just finished listening to the radio debate between PZ Myers and Geoffrey Simmons (Discovery Institute fellow). Years ago, I saw the Discovery Institute as a collection of people put together specifically to put a respectable face on creationism. They wouldn’t repeat the simplistic creationist arguments, but would bring a higher standard to their (still flawed) creationist ideas. (I’ve seen this with other creationist groups – for example, the even the low-brow AnswersInGenesis complains about some of Hovind’s arguments.)
Despite the fact that Simmons had written books on evolution (Billions of Missing Links: A Rational Look at the Mysteries Evolution Can’t Explain, What Darwin Didn’t Know), and says he’s “studied evolution for 40 years“, he came off as clueless as a novice young earth creationist. Unfortunately, most of the listeners simply wouldn’t recognize when he made completely false statements.
He says that the fossil record has lots of holes. He says that there are no transitionals between deer-like land animals and modern whales. He says there are no transitionals showing the movement of the nostrils from the front of the face to the top of the head. Myers cites several intermediates (Pakicetus, Ambulocetus, Rhodcetus), but Simmons doesn’t even recognize the names. Instead, he goes on the attack – and revealing his uncompromising ignorance – saying that “[Myers] is very wrong about whale fossils”. Simmons complains that Darwin thought whales evolved from bear-like mammals (roll eyes) – as if Darwin was either 100% right on everything or 100% wrong on everything. Will creationists ever understand that Darwin is not a prophet?
(Basilosaurus, 34-39 million years ago, with well developed hind limbs, though reduced in size.)
I can only guess that Simmons never reads much outside of creationist literature, and doesn’t have much interest in it. That’s the only explanation I can possibly muster for explaining his ignorance on the subject.
Simmons complains that evolution is only a theory. Myers says that calling evolution “a theory” doesn’t mean it’s a flimsy idea (as the common usage of the word would imply). Simmons backs off of that, but later says that “if [evolution] were a fact, they’d call it the fact of evolution”. As if theories somehow graduate and become a fact. (Duh. We still call them the theory of gravity, atomic theory, the theory of relativity.)
Simmons also argues that students should be exposed to other theories and problems of evolution in school. But, Simmons is so clueless about the problems of evolution – citing non-existent problems in whale evolution, and complaining about the word “theory”, you have to wonder what exactly would be taught in schools. Further, evolution is a deep subject. I have very little faith that students are going to come up with the correct ideas when people like Simmons (who have written books) are so clueless about the facts. Would we teach both sides of the theory of relativity? Both sides of atomic theory? No, we would try to figure out the best knowledge in the field and present that to students. Simmons wants to do an end run around scientists and present his “intelligent design” ideas directly to kids without going through the channels that all the other sciences go through.
Simmons even ridiculously claims that there is a kind of reverse inquisition going on against IDists. (Here’s a hint: the real Inquisition tortured and killed people.)
He says that evolution has been disproven by science, but fails to provide anything to back that up, and says Darwin would never get published today (apparently because his ideas were transparently wrong). Yet, Simmons can’t seem to muster a cogent argument against evolution.
Even after all Simmons’ ridiculousness, I still thought Myers should’ve avoided using words like “infantile”. I thought that came off as too harsh, and would turn listeners against him. It also gave Simmons a chance to express indignation (see what those nasty evolutionists are doing to him?)
I think it will be interesting to hear the ID blogs response to the debate. (I already found one that posted about it before the debate happened.)
Update: The Panda’s Thumb says UncommonDescent put up a post about the debate, but then removed it. Fortunately, someone saved the comments before the post disappeared.