Wannabe Scottish holy warrior Stewart Cowan has started what may be an ongoing series on “The Myths and Hoaxes of the 20th Century”. That he’s started with a weak swing at evolution should come as no surprise, neither should the fact that he fails to put forward a coherent argument.
Cowan bases his argument on a wilfull or genuine failure to understand an 18th century theory called uniformitarianism. (It’s doubly amusing that he links to the wikipedia page about it because whenever he or his cronies are presented with a wikipedia page which proves them wrong or shows up a weakness in their arguments they fall over themselves to claim the site is a liberal conspiracy.) He then ignores centuries of research, discoveries and advances and implies that this one theory is the only thing scientists have ever used to figure anything out. From this nonsensical conceit he wanders off into a bunch of Creationist talking points and fails to prove anything. He cites research with blind cavefish which he thinks proves his point, completely failing to see that it does the opposite.
Stewart Cowan’s never presented a coherent or convincing argument against evolution, but this one’s even weaker than normal. As the only people who can be bothered to continually comment on his blog are equally uninformed and blinkered he has no need to improve his arguments, so they seem to be devolving.
I did promise the author of this blog post, which claims that conspiracy theories are suddenly more true than reality, that I would provide a detailed response. But it’s going to be too long to waste on someone else’s comment section, so I’m publishing it here.
Conspiracy theories tend to say more about the theorists than the alleged conspirators. I’m going to approach the examples cited by asking two questions- If the theorists are correct, what do the conspiracists get out of it? and Why might the theorists want to believe in this particular conspiracy? So-
“1) The theory: mass immigration is being used to re-engineer society.”
What do the conspiracists get? Errrrm. What do they get? According to the theory the mostly white, mostly christian engineers of this massed social change get a country where they lose a lot of their privileges because their constituents are less like, and less likely to vote for, them. And we know how willing MPs are to give up their privileges.
Why might the theorists believe in this conspiracy? Because they’re racists? Because they don’t like immigration? Possibly, as a great many of them claim to be christians, they’re scared by falling church attendance and don’t want to have to fight for believers with a younger, louder religion.
“2) The theory: climate change is not primarily manmade, but is a ruse to impose a world government which will tax and control us.”
What might the conspiracists get? They’d get to pay more tax. Which I’m sure they really want to do. The scientists will get to keep the funding which pays for their research. Even though they could be better off working in the private sector. I have a problem with the repeated line about paying more tax. The people who’ll pay more tax are the ones who are too dumb to find ways to make their lives more efficient. Those who cut their carbon emmissions will find they’re paying less money to corporations, and the government, so they will have more money for themselves and be financially more secure.
Why might the theorists believe in this conspiracy? See the last bit above about people too dumb to make their lives better.
“3) The theory: the BBC is a propaganda machine for liberals and socialists.”
What might the conspiracists get? The licence fee cut by the next Conservative government. Though that will probably happen anyway.
Why might the theorists believe in this conspiracy? Because Fox News is Fair and Balanced.
“4) The theory: the 9/11 attacks were an inside job.”
What might the conspiracists get? The satisfaction of having turned real life into the opening sequence of the first X Files Movie.
Why might the theorists believe in this conspiracy? Racism? Brown people couldn’t possibly have organised something this big, it has to be the work of the Illuminati and/or the Jews. (An early 9/11 conspiracy theory had all Jewish workers in the World Trade Centre being called up and told not to go in to work that day.) An inability to grasp reality. Given all the genuinely horrible, stupid, illegal and dangerous stuff the Bush regime did, why on Earth do some people need to make stuff like this up?
“5) The theory: the Theory of Evolution is a 19th Century misunderstanding, which is now clear from modern scientific discoveries.”
What might the conspiracists get? Confused, given that modern discoveries strengthen and refine the Theory of Evolution.
Why might the theorists believe in this conspiracy? Fear that science, and increased understanding of it, will undermine their religion. Inability to visualise a simple and elegant theory. The writer of the post is a Creationist, so this is a favourite subject of his. He claims masses of evidence for his belief, but can never present any that stands up to scrutiny.
This is a bit of a rambling post, because I started it as a comment then brought it over here. Feel free to add your own comments and help me refine and better explain my reasoning that way.
But only if you live in a select number of locations. The 100 page cartoon biography is being given away free-
It has been published as part of the Lost World Read 2009 mass-participation reading project, which is happening in the following locations:
* Bristol and the South West
* Portsmouth and Hampshire
If you live in one of these locations have a look here for details of which shop, library, or museum near you is giving the book away. For example, here in Bristol the book can be found at all branches of Bristol Libraries; Blackwell, Park Street; St George’s, Brandon Hill; Tobacco Factory, Raleigh Road; Waterstones, Bristol Galleries; Bristol Zoo Gardens; Blaise Castle; City Museum and Art Gallery; ss Great Britain.
Darwin: A Graphic Biography should be available at the end of the month. I’ll keep an eye on the artist’s blog and post details of where you can get a copy.
The Guardian is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the theory of natural selection with the definitive guide to Darwin’s work and related articles.