Pseudoscience and the stifling of debate
Published: 5 September 2013 (GMT+10)
Much effort is currently being expended to persuade the general public that lavish investment in ‘green energy’ (such as wind farms) is vital for our planet’s future and is also scientifically justified. My purpose here is not to argue for or against the claims of pro-climate-change scientists and politicians, but to look at how prominent spokespersons are going about their task.1 Promoters of the idea that people, penguins and pomegranates share a common ancestor are fond of claiming that contrary voices are ‘anti-science’—a charge that is also being levelled at those who disagree with the party line on ‘climate change’.2 It is instructive for us to examine the rhetoric and tactics used by the critics of the climate change sceptics because they are identical to those employed against critics of evolution.
Pseudoscience and politics
Beliefs and claims are sometimes put forward as science, in spite of a lack of supporting evidence, and sometimes in the face of uncomfortable facts. Ideas being advanced may be too vague to be reliably tested using the scientific method. We call such things pseudoscience. Ironically, while it is true that evolution believers sometimes charge biblical creationists with pseudoscience, molecules-to-man evolution is far more worthy of this epithet.3 Here are a few hallmarks of pseudoscience practitioners:
- Withholding data from the public;
- Telling non-scientists we must trust and believe the scientists who are making a particular set of claims;
- Silencing dissenting voices;
- Claiming that the ‘deniers’ are seizing on scientific uncertainty as proof the idea is wrong;
- Saying people are wrong to question the orthodox, majority position;
- Denouncing critics and calling them names—e.g. ‘flat-earthers’, ‘Holocaust-deniers’
When pseudoscience is promoted dogmatically as indisputable truth, a form of scientism4 may be the result. Earlier this year, Leon Wieseltier (a self-described humanist) publically stated: “Science is a blessing, but scientism is a curse. … scientism is dogmatic, and peddles certainties. It is always at the ready with the solution to every problem … so it gives scientific answers to non-scientific questions. Owing to its preference for totalistic explanation, scientism transforms science into an ideology …”5 While Wieseltier wasn’t talking about evolution, this description certainly fits it well!
‘Anthropogenic Global Warming’ (AGW) tactics
In looking at the manner in which AGW-supporters are promoting their agenda, we call to the witness stand several journalists—their testimony combines to underline points that I’ve bulleted above (bold emphases are mine):
UK, Open Government Licence v1.0
Ed Davey—since February 2012, the UK’s Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.
In June, the UK Government’s Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Ed Davey, severely criticised certain British newspapers “for giving sanctuary to deniers of climate change.”6 The Telegraph went on to say: “If Mr Davey is so confident in his facts, he should surely be confident of their triumphing in a free and open debate. … Mr Davey claims sceptics ‘seize upon the normal expression of scientific uncertainty… as proof that all climate change policy is all hopelessly misguided’.” If evolutionists are so confident in their facts, they should surely be confident of their triumphing in a free and open debate with biblical creationists and Intelligent Design advocates. Yes, biblical creationists do highlight scientific uncertainty regarding evolutionary theories. But, that is surely a valid point to make, when people are given a false impression that there is no such uncertainty. Furthermore, we also marshal a formidable array of hard scientific facts that are more than sufficient to blow evolution sky high.
The Daily Mail also took exception to this attempt to stifle the expression of contrary views: “…politicians increasingly think they have the right to tell the Press what it can print. … Yesterday it was the turn of … Ed Davey, who said it was wrong for the Press to give a ‘platform’ to anybody daring to question the political orthodoxy on climate change.”7 Pseudoscience in its worst incarnation can become full-on scientism which, assuming an air of orthodoxy, readily becomes a politicised imposition of dogma upon society. This can certainly be said of evolution, where anything perceived to weaken the secular stranglehold on public thinking on origins is quickly jumped on.8 Name-calling is also frequently part of the mix when the argument is weak, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that sceptics of AGW have also been described by Ed Davey as “crackpots and conspiracy theorists”.9
Journalists in Germany have also reacted quickly to attempted censorship of AGW’s critics. Referring to the ‘naming-and-shaming’ tactics of the German Environment Agency, Germany’s Science Press Association stated: “It is not the task of a government agency to determine which opinions may be expressed and which are not. … Journalists may and must voice different positions, and they may and must question well-established scientists again and again. Moreover it cannot be the task of a public institution to quasi officially declare certain scientific positions as true.”10 Would that they were just as keen to question evolutionary scientists and to give voice to those who disagree with evolution!
As recently as July, a respected senior economist wrote in The Spectator magazine: “‘We should listen to the scientists—and we should believe them,’ said Ed Davey, the Climate Secretary, earlier this year. Yet his department has officially sanctioned the anti-scientific practice of withholding data. The climate secretary has denounced sceptics and other non-believers as ‘crackpots’—an attack conforming to a key feature of what the philosopher Karl Popper defined as pseudoscience. Genuine science invites refutation; pseudoscience tries to silence dissent.”11 Substitute climate science with evolution and these words are uncannily relevant to the creation versus evolution debate.
Antidotes to evolutionary pseudoscience
Why not read the bullet points earlier in this article and consider how you, personally, could combat some of those things. Good information is vital, as well as getting the facts out there, however unpopular that may be—whether in the debate over climate change or evolution. Those who love truth have nothing to fear from an honest appraisal of scientific data.
Regarding origins, Creation magazine furnishes its readers with all the latest facts unmasking the pseudoscience of evolution. CMI also strongly recommends that people read and inwardly digest The Creation Answers Book, which provides responses to the most commonly asked questions about science and the Bible. If you don’t already subscribe to INFObytes, our free e-mail newsletter, we encourage you to do so today—you can do this on this page, or the creation.com homepage. Spread the word by raising awareness of CMI in your church, with relatives and friends, and with colleagues at work or at school. And please do consider supporting CMI on a regular basis to keep on with its vital mission.
Finally, always be praying for God’s wisdom when considering the best ways of influencing others and for His boldness in standing firm if your efforts are unappreciated or strongly resisted. And remember that “the battle is the Lord’s” (1 Sam. 17:47).
- A shorter version of this article first appeared in the September 2013 issue of CMIEXTRA, a newsletter of Creation Ministries International (UK/Europe). Return to text.
- Interestingly, vocal anti-creationist and Australian geology professor Ian Plimer (see CMI’s DVD Facing the Fire), is also a staunch sceptic of the idea that reducing carbon emissions will substantially affect global climate. Once a media darling for his fanatical pursuit of creationists, he is now experiencing similar shunning and silencing to that which he welcomed for his foes. Return to text.
- Is evolution pseudoscience? Creation, 29(4):25–27, 2007. Also at creation.com/pseudoscience. Return to text.
- Used here in the sense of an improper use of the perceived authority of science. Return to text.
- From a talk he gave on 19 May 2013, Brandeist University, Massachusetts, USA; www.newrepublic.com/article/113299/leon-wieseltier-commencement-speech-brandeis-university-2013, accessed 1 August 2013. Return to text.
- Remove the blinkers, 3 June 2013, www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/telegraph-view/10096133/Remove-the-blinkders.html, accessed 1 August 2013. Return to text.
- Gay marriage, peers and a vote of principle, 3 June 2013, www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2335434/Gay-marriage-peers-vote-principle.html, accessed 1 August 2013. Return to text.
- See the book Slaughter of the Dissidents and the DVD Expelled: No intelligence allowed, available from creation.com/store. Return to text.
- Ed Davey: Climate change deniers are ‘crackpots’, 19 June 2013, www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/energy/10129372/Ed-Davey-Climate-change-deniers-are-crackpots.html, accessed 1 August 2013. Return to text.
- Martin Schneider, CEO of Informationsdienst Wissenschaft, 3 June 2013, http://idw-online.de/pages/de/news536360 (in German). Return to text.
- Rupert Darwall, Forecast failure: how the Met Office lost touch with reality: Ideology has corrupted a valuable British institution, 13 July 2013, www.spectator.co.uk/features/8959941/whats-wrong-with-the-met-office/, accessed 1 August 2013. Return to text.
A Big thank you for this article and the important reminder that the battle is the Lord's. We can't save the world - since God has cursed it and said He will burn it - but we can stand for the truth and leave the results in His hands. May His richest blessing be yours.
Great article, like many others that you produce, keep up the good work. God bless.
I have always greatly appreciated CMI (and other creationist organizations) for providing footnote documentation, empowering readers/viewers to check out the evidence for ourselves. This is of the highest ethical and academic standards.
And all this is in accord with the discipleship dual commands in 1 Thessalonians 5:21, "Test all things, hold fast what is good." Your openess, through high-class academic documentation, allows us this testing.
And your confidence--as exemplified through your thorough referencing--is consistent with the high confidence shown in this verse. God is not afraid of what might turn up if we investigate doubts caused by truth claims (by authority figures) from outside of the written Biblical text. God actually commands us to investigate--and you do. Our Biblical faith is not fragile! I love this verse!
The Telegraph and the Daily Mail, in their coverage, have been obedient to this verse with respect to AGW truth claims. Oh that they (and other news media) would do likewise with regard to origin issues!
A great article and very timely. Something truth-lovers all know, but don't necessarily know how to articulate. Thank you so much for equipping us!
Praise the Lord Jesus,
while these tactics are often used by the sorts, for many like myself, the reason we believe is because of the facts. As a young Christian, and one with an unbelieving wife, I have had many opportunities to question God on a variety of issues. I remember asking the LORD to grant me the evidence for the faith that I had in Him that he miraculously gave me. He provided me with your site so to speak!
This site and some of the books that you have referred me too have given the evidence instead of hiding it. The Lord really is in your work and is reaching and strengthening people every day.
Thank you once again.
Back in the 1800's Mr J. N. Darby, when commenting on the Essays and Reviews, said that people such as evolutionists were inclined to make statements such as: "It is settled", "Universally recognised" and "An admitted truth". Today evolutionists such as Richard Dawkins say such things as: "It is fact" and keep repeating it, presumably hoping that by constant repetition people will come to accept that evolution is indeed fact!
In today's climate, critical thinking is not met with intellectual acknowledgement, but with abuse. Intelligence and common sense are mocked while lack of thought leading to questionable behaviour is championed. Instead of searching for truth, people are encouraged to follow a party-line. People are trained to accept things at face value; intellectual reason is being replaced by rhetoric that proves nothing.
Ultimately, it all links back to the origins issue. An accidental universe of just matter, physics and energy has no inherent value/purpose. Human thought is the product of reactions governed by physics; you cannot be held responsible for your actions. Nothing awaits at death. And everything, including science, will amount to nothing, come universal heat death. If true, why not lie, use pseudoscience, seize power, cheat and have fun?
As demonstrated many times, it is a psychological issue. The alternative is creation; everything has inherent meaning and value, especially humans. However, because of our actions we have separated ourselves from God and are destroying ourselves; the ultimate consequence of our actions being eternal separation (hell - a Godless existence) unless we are saved from ourselves through Jesus. Most don't like the idea of this being true, despite evidence or sound intellectual reasoning; it requires that they lose their justification for doing what they please, despite the negative consequences of those actions. As Huxley once said, "For myself, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political."
With so much on the line, we, as Christians, must maintain intellectual integrity, be honest, invite debate, spread truth, and not stoop to the level of pseudoscience.
A well articulated article. For some time I've been aware of the striking parallel in tactics between those promoting the evolutionary agenda and leading AGV promoters. An excellent insight into the facts behind the latter is the book Energy and Climate Wars (2011) by biblical Christian journalist Peter C Glover and Professor Michael Economides.
And as the famous scfi author, Michael Crichton pointed out, when people appeal to scientific consensus, then it is not science: http://creation.com/crichton-on-scientific-consensus
Another great article espousing the truth.
When you get down to it, what we have here are people who, at one point, were presented with a version of reality. They have accepted this take on what's real and it influences everything they hold in their lives to be be true. Unfortunately for them, the truth is not there and the road they've taken is leading them further and further away from reality.
Brilliant article. Every blessing to you and your ministry
I suspect that people, in general, have been more amenable to believing in AGW because they have been spoon-fed evolution, swallowed it, and lost the ability to distinguish between truth and humbug. Goodness knows critical thinking is anathema in the public education system! But truth will out, in the end. Pray that it does so in the case of evolution, which, compared to AGW, has been more deeply embedded for much longer.