Intelligent design/creationism Politics Pseudoscience

Most idiotic analogy about evolution ever?

Not surprisingly, it comes from Ann Coulter:

Throw in enough words like imagine, perhaps, and might have — and you’ve got yourself a scientific theory! How about this: Imagine a giant raccoon passed gas and perhaps the resulting gas might have created the vast variety of life we see on Earth. And if you don’t accept the giant raccoon flatulence theory for the origin of life, you must be a fundamentalist Christian nut who believes the Earth is flat. That’s basically how the argument for evolution goes [emphasis in original].

Fortunately, Robert Savillo over at Media Matters has provided an excellent debunking of the creationist idiocy in Coulter’s book, beginning:

Coulter uses this “theory” that she has concocted throughout the book to suggest that Darwinian evolution is similarly questionable once one has all the facts. Coulter appears to be trying to develop a parody of evolution analogous to Bobby Henderson’s parody religion, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster — created in response to the Kansas School Board’s decision to require the teaching of “intelligent design” as an “alternative” to the theory of evolution. Henderson’s Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster serves as an alternate version of “intelligent design” because of the obvious parallels. But while the satirists who created the Flying Spaghetti Monster use its similarities with intelligent design to comic effect, Coulter identified no comparable parallels between “flatulent raccoon theory” and the theory of evolution. Furthermore, Coulter’s analogy makes a mistake common to many creationists who confuse Darwinian evolution, the explanation of how different species develop, with theories about the origin of life.

(Read the whole thing.)

It’s the difference between light-hearted satire with a bite (the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (which started as a quick parody of “intelligent design” creationism and seemed to take on a life of its own) and the most obvious and uncreative (not to mention tendentious) sarcasm, which is what passes for “humor” in Coulter’s writings. It’s like a six-year-old saying,”You say my story is like a Flying Spaghetti Monster? Well your story is like a farting raccoon! So there!”

That’s about the level of Ann’s analogy.

And what does William Dembski, that leading light among intelligent design creationism proponents who bragged about helping Ann Coulter with her book have to say about this analogy? This:

The problem with Ann’s “Flatulent Raccoon Theory” is, of course, Where did the raccoon come from? To be an adequate theory of life, we need to couple the “Flatulent Raccoon Theory” with a “Spontaneous Large-Cute-Furry Mammal Theory,” which explains how primordial matter spontaneously generates humungous raccoons whose gas attacks ultimately generate us. Provided the “Flatulent Raccoon Theory” is coupled with this more basic theory, we have an adequate comparison with conventional evolutionary theory. If I were to advise Ann again, I would have stressed the inclusion of such a complementary theory. We can thank Robert Savillo for highlighting this difficulty.

You know, I’m not sure that Dembski realizes it, but he really is parodying his own pseudoscientific hypothesis, intelligent design. (Who created the creator, namely the flatulent raccoon?) All he can come up with is a lame strawman about abiogenesis to support Coulter’s idiocy. Never mind that evolutionary theory doesn’t even really address abiogenesis. How life arose from nonlife is a separate scientific issue. Creationists like Dembski love to conflate the two (evolution and abiogenesis) all the time because the science supporting evolution is very strong, in contrast to the the science of abiogenesis, which is much less advanced and therefore more speculative–and therefore more easily attacked than evolution.

How can anyone take Dembski seriously anymore?

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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