False Dichotomy Fallacy
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08-07-2013, 08:05 PM
False Dichotomy Fallacy
According to a 2010 publication by Michael Berkman and Eric Plutzer of Penn State, about 13 percent of biology teachers in the United States “explicitly advocate creationism or intelligent design by spending at least one hour of class time presenting it in a positive light.” According to Berkman and Plutzer, about 60 percent, “fail to explain the nature of scientific inquiry, undermine the authority of established experts, and legitimize creationist arguments.”
These statistics are appalling to anyone who actually understands science. Even more outrageous is the fact that presenting it in a classroom in terms of ‘Creationism vs. Evolution’ is a logical error, and anyone who explains it in such terms is scientifically illiterate. This is bad enough in the general public, but appalling for a teacher of any of the natural sciences. If a teacher presents it in such a manner, it means that teacher doesn’t even grasp the basic principles of scientific research.
The problem with the whole Creation vs. Evolution debate is that it’s a False Dichotomy Fallacy. Suppose I describe a four-legged animal to you. I then proceed to convince you that this four-legged animal is not a dog. Am I justified in therefore claiming, “There, I’ve just proven that this animal is a cat?”
Of course not...because there are hundreds of other four-legged animals it might be.
Theists like to try to argue in favor of creation by arguing against evolution. This doesn’t work, because there are other alternatives to evolution besides creationism (or if you prefer, ‘Intelligent Design’). Some of these alternatives include:
•Non-directed Panspermia
•Directed Panspermia
•Intelligent aliens
•Transdimensional hyperintelligent beings
•Polytheistic creation (‘many gods did it’ instead of ‘one god did it’)
•Lamarckian Evolution
•Deism (one god did it, then took an eternal vacation)
Yes, I’m aware that some, if not all of these theories have been at least partially discredited. But so has creationism. Yes, I’m aware that some of these alternatives to evolution are absurd. But so is Intelligent Design.
I would also point out that creationism is a theory on abiogenesis, which is how life came from lifelessness. Evolution makes no comment on abiogenesis. It is merely a theory about how life developed once it came to exist. So comparing evolution and creation in the first place is a categorical error.
I don’t debate the mechanics of evolution with creationists because doing so would lend legitimacy to a false premise: That disproving evolution would somehow ‘prove’ creationism to be true.
Disproving evolution does nothing to ‘prove’ creationism, just as proving that my four-legged animal is not a dog, does nothing to prove that it is a cat. In order to demonstrate a theory scientifically, you must gather evidence and observations in favor of your theory, and not merely deride and decry the other theories.
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08-07-2013, 08:21 PM
RE: False Dichotomy Fallacy
I like the way you explained that--easy to understand-- made sense to me.

But I have a question that I'm hoping you can explain further.


(08-07-2013 08:05 PM)sencha Wrote:  I would also point out that creationism is a theory on abiogenesis, which is how life came from lifelessness. Evolution makes no comment on abiogenesis. It is merely a theory about how life developed once it came to exist. So comparing evolution and creation in the first place is a categorical error.

could you explain more abiogenesis? I come across many people that try the comparison made above to promote creationism.

thanks.


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08-07-2013, 08:26 PM
RE: False Dichotomy Fallacy
(08-07-2013 08:05 PM)sencha Wrote:  According to a 2010 publication by Michael Berkman and Eric Plutzer of Penn State, about 13 percent of biology teachers in the United States “explicitly advocate creationism or intelligent design by spending at least one hour of class time presenting it in a positive light.” According to Berkman and Plutzer, about 60 percent, “fail to explain the nature of scientific inquiry, undermine the authority of established experts, and legitimize creationist arguments.”
These statistics are appalling to anyone who actually understands science. Even more outrageous is the fact that presenting it in a classroom in terms of ‘Creationism vs. Evolution’ is a logical error, and anyone who explains it in such terms is scientifically illiterate. This is bad enough in the general public, but appalling for a teacher of any of the natural sciences. If a teacher presents it in such a manner, it means that teacher doesn’t even grasp the basic principles of scientific research.
The problem with the whole Creation vs. Evolution debate is that it’s a False Dichotomy Fallacy. Suppose I describe a four-legged animal to you. I then proceed to convince you that this four-legged animal is not a dog. Am I justified in therefore claiming, “There, I’ve just proven that this animal is a cat?”
Of course not...because there are hundreds of other four-legged animals it might be.
Theists like to try to argue in favor of creation by arguing against evolution. This doesn’t work, because there are other alternatives to evolution besides creationism (or if you prefer, ‘Intelligent Design’). Some of these alternatives include:
•Non-directed Panspermia
•Directed Panspermia
•Intelligent aliens
•Transdimensional hyperintelligent beings
•Polytheistic creation (‘many gods did it’ instead of ‘one god did it’)
•Lamarckian Evolution
•Deism (one god did it, then took an eternal vacation)
Yes, I’m aware that some, if not all of these theories have been at least partially discredited. But so has creationism. Yes, I’m aware that some of these alternatives to evolution are absurd. But so is Intelligent Design.
I would also point out that creationism is a theory on abiogenesis, which is how life came from lifelessness. Evolution makes no comment on abiogenesis. It is merely a theory about how life developed once it came to exist. So comparing evolution and creation in the first place is a categorical error.
I don’t debate the mechanics of evolution with creationists because doing so would lend legitimacy to a false premise: That disproving evolution would somehow ‘prove’ creationism to be true.
Disproving evolution does nothing to ‘prove’ creationism, just as proving that my four-legged animal is not a dog, does nothing to prove that it is a cat. In order to demonstrate a theory scientifically, you must gather evidence and observations in favor of your theory, and not merely deride and decry the other theories.

Right but an important theory like Evolution has to defended no matter what the purpose of the attack is... These guys are literally at war with reason and ground zero is the Texas school board. I don't think we can just ignore them until they go away. Maybe it's just the natural tendency of the scientific community to defend themselves against any challenge no matter how absurd and that has given them a false sense of legitimacy?...but I think they Fundees have pushed really hard (museums to fallacy!) and left the voices of reason little choice.

Yeah, I wonder how many of those teachers really belong in the science classroom, I remember I had a great English teacher who they moved to religion(catholic school *shudder*) when she came back after being trampled by a horse, she was so wasted there....I'm sure that happens all the time.

They have been playing god of the gaps for so long and now they are running out of gaps to hide in and have turned to outright attacks and fallacy....I think we are witnessing the 'Picket's Charge' of religious fundamentalism...or at least so I hope.

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08-07-2013, 08:36 PM
RE: False Dichotomy Fallacy
(08-07-2013 08:21 PM)Bows and Arrows Wrote:  I like the way you explained that--easy to understand-- made sense to me.

But I have a question that I'm hoping you can explain further.


(08-07-2013 08:05 PM)sencha Wrote:  I would also point out that creationism is a theory on abiogenesis, which is how life came from lifelessness. Evolution makes no comment on abiogenesis. It is merely a theory about how life developed once it came to exist. So comparing evolution and creation in the first place is a categorical error.

could you explain more abiogenesis? I come across many people that try the comparison made above to promote creationism.

thanks.

Abiogenesis literally means 'life from lifelessness.' Evolution is a theory about how life changes over time. It is not a theory about where life came from in the first place. Creationism is a theory about where life came from in the first place. Therefore creationism and evolution have nothing to do with each other.
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08-07-2013, 08:38 PM
RE: False Dichotomy Fallacy
(08-07-2013 08:26 PM)ridethespiral Wrote:  
(08-07-2013 08:05 PM)sencha Wrote:  According to a 2010 publication by Michael Berkman and Eric Plutzer of Penn State, about 13 percent of biology teachers in the United States “explicitly advocate creationism or intelligent design by spending at least one hour of class time presenting it in a positive light.” According to Berkman and Plutzer, about 60 percent, “fail to explain the nature of scientific inquiry, undermine the authority of established experts, and legitimize creationist arguments.”
These statistics are appalling to anyone who actually understands science. Even more outrageous is the fact that presenting it in a classroom in terms of ‘Creationism vs. Evolution’ is a logical error, and anyone who explains it in such terms is scientifically illiterate. This is bad enough in the general public, but appalling for a teacher of any of the natural sciences. If a teacher presents it in such a manner, it means that teacher doesn’t even grasp the basic principles of scientific research.
The problem with the whole Creation vs. Evolution debate is that it’s a False Dichotomy Fallacy. Suppose I describe a four-legged animal to you. I then proceed to convince you that this four-legged animal is not a dog. Am I justified in therefore claiming, “There, I’ve just proven that this animal is a cat?”
Of course not...because there are hundreds of other four-legged animals it might be.
Theists like to try to argue in favor of creation by arguing against evolution. This doesn’t work, because there are other alternatives to evolution besides creationism (or if you prefer, ‘Intelligent Design’). Some of these alternatives include:
•Non-directed Panspermia
•Directed Panspermia
•Intelligent aliens
•Transdimensional hyperintelligent beings
•Polytheistic creation (‘many gods did it’ instead of ‘one god did it’)
•Lamarckian Evolution
•Deism (one god did it, then took an eternal vacation)
Yes, I’m aware that some, if not all of these theories have been at least partially discredited. But so has creationism. Yes, I’m aware that some of these alternatives to evolution are absurd. But so is Intelligent Design.
I would also point out that creationism is a theory on abiogenesis, which is how life came from lifelessness. Evolution makes no comment on abiogenesis. It is merely a theory about how life developed once it came to exist. So comparing evolution and creation in the first place is a categorical error.
I don’t debate the mechanics of evolution with creationists because doing so would lend legitimacy to a false premise: That disproving evolution would somehow ‘prove’ creationism to be true.
Disproving evolution does nothing to ‘prove’ creationism, just as proving that my four-legged animal is not a dog, does nothing to prove that it is a cat. In order to demonstrate a theory scientifically, you must gather evidence and observations in favor of your theory, and not merely deride and decry the other theories.

Right but an important theory like Evolution has to defended no matter what the purpose of the attack is... These guys are literally at war with reason and ground zero is the Texas school board. I don't think we can just ignore them until they go away. Maybe it's just the natural tendency of the scientific community to defend themselves against any challenge no matter how absurd and that has given them a false sense of legitimacy?...but I think they Fundees have pushed really hard (museums to fallacy!) and left the voices of reason little choice.

Yeah, I wonder how many of those teachers really belong in the science classroom, I remember I had a great English teacher who they moved to religion(catholic school *shudder*) when she came back after being trampled by a horse, she was so wasted there....I'm sure that happens all the time.

They have been playing god of the gaps for so long and now they are running out of gaps to hide in and have turned to outright attacks and fallacy....I think we are witnessing the 'Picket's Charge' of religious fundamentalism...or at least so I hope.

Yeah, I'm not saying they should be ignored. I'm saying that there's no point defending evolution as an alternative to creationism, since it isn't. When they challenge evolution, simply point out to them that they're operating under a false premise. More than one false premise, actually, since many mainstream religions also accept evolution.
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08-07-2013, 08:48 PM
RE: False Dichotomy Fallacy
Yeah we are on the same page, I'm just trying to develop the conversation this being preaching to the choir and whatnot.

Lots of evidence in support of abiogenesis btw. They have 'printed' living bacteria from their base compounds in the lab. The moon 3 billion years ago would have been so close that tidal swells would have have been over 300 feet tall and days would have been 6 hours long, turning the earth into a giant centrifuge and churning all sorts of minerals into the warm water. The creation of self replicating RNA/DNA is likely stepped and took place over varying conditions and over who knows how long.

The super simple rundown on some cool research:




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08-07-2013, 08:54 PM
RE: False Dichotomy Fallacy
(08-07-2013 08:48 PM)ridethespiral Wrote:  Lots of evidence in support of abiogenesis btw. The super simple rundown on some cool research:




Yeah, it also depends on where you consider 'life' to begin. Crystals grow. Are they alive? RNA can reproduce. Is it alive? So can prions. Are they alive? What about viruses? Bacteria? Prokaryotes? Eukaryotes? At what point do chemical reactions become what we call 'life'?

And of course, the crux of the problem with the God of the Gaps argument...if you need a Creator for life, is your Creator alive? Wink
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08-07-2013, 09:07 PM
RE: False Dichotomy Fallacy
(08-07-2013 08:54 PM)sencha Wrote:  
(08-07-2013 08:48 PM)ridethespiral Wrote:  Lots of evidence in support of abiogenesis btw. The super simple rundown on some cool research:




Yeah, it also depends on where you consider 'life' to begin. Crystals grow. Are they alive? RNA can reproduce. Is it alive? So can prions. Are they alive? What about viruses? Bacteria? Prokaryotes? Eukaryotes? At what point do chemical reactions become what we call 'life'?

And of course, the crux of the problem with the God of the Gaps argument...if you need a Creator for life, is your Creator alive? Wink

Yeah for that matter what constitutes as species? We humans like to draw a lot of arbitrary lines and put things into little boxes. Again I call gaps BS on the creationist it's pretty clear that anything dynamically self replicating given enough time is capable of a whole lot. Heck who knows how many different viruses and bacteria become permanent parts of us over time?

Right, both science and religion have that 'infinite reduction' issue. Who created god? God's god? What created the universe? An infinite multi-verse? What makes up the Boson? Another little tiny particle?

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16-07-2013, 06:32 AM (This post was last modified: 16-07-2013 07:18 AM by Skulb.)
RE: False Dichotomy Fallacy
(08-07-2013 08:05 PM)sencha Wrote:  According to a 2010 publication by Michael Berkman and Eric Plutzer of Penn State, about 13 percent of biology teachers in the United States “explicitly advocate creationism or intelligent design by spending at least one hour of class time presenting it in a positive light.” According to Berkman and Plutzer, about 60 percent, “fail to explain the nature of scientific inquiry, undermine the authority of established experts, and legitimize creationist arguments.”
These statistics are appalling to anyone who actually understands science. Even more outrageous is the fact that presenting it in a classroom in terms of ‘Creationism vs. Evolution’ is a logical error, and anyone who explains it in such terms is scientifically illiterate. This is bad enough in the general public, but appalling for a teacher of any of the natural sciences. If a teacher presents it in such a manner, it means that teacher doesn’t even grasp the basic principles of scientific research.
The problem with the whole Creation vs. Evolution debate is that it’s a False Dichotomy Fallacy. Suppose I describe a four-legged animal to you. I then proceed to convince you that this four-legged animal is not a dog. Am I justified in therefore claiming, “There, I’ve just proven that this animal is a cat?”
Of course not...because there are hundreds of other four-legged animals it might be.
Theists like to try to argue in favor of creation by arguing against evolution. This doesn’t work, because there are other alternatives to evolution besides creationism (or if you prefer, ‘Intelligent Design’). Some of these alternatives include:
•Non-directed Panspermia
•Directed Panspermia
•Intelligent aliens
•Transdimensional hyperintelligent beings
•Polytheistic creation (‘many gods did it’ instead of ‘one god did it’)
•Lamarckian Evolution
•Deism (one god did it, then took an eternal vacation)
Yes, I’m aware that some, if not all of these theories have been at least partially discredited. But so has creationism. Yes, I’m aware that some of these alternatives to evolution are absurd. But so is Intelligent Design.
I would also point out that creationism is a theory on abiogenesis, which is how life came from lifelessness. Evolution makes no comment on abiogenesis. It is merely a theory about how life developed once it came to exist. So comparing evolution and creation in the first place is a categorical error.
I don’t debate the mechanics of evolution with creationists because doing so would lend legitimacy to a false premise: That disproving evolution would somehow ‘prove’ creationism to be true.
Disproving evolution does nothing to ‘prove’ creationism, just as proving that my four-legged animal is not a dog, does nothing to prove that it is a cat. In order to demonstrate a theory scientifically, you must gather evidence and observations in favor of your theory, and not merely deride and decry the other theories.


I`m not sure I agree that the dichotomy is necessarily false. it`s just that it`s distorted into a religious issue when it should be a philosophical one. If you look at western traditions of thought, the conflict between what we might call idealism on one side and materialism on the other goes back at least as far as Parmenides and Heraklit. One argued that change is impossible and that things just appear to change because we don`t understand them, and the other that permanence was impossible and that nothing ever remains static.
Both Plato and Aristotle made their fame largely by settling this debate in two distinct ways. According to Plato ideas are permanent while physical reality changes and decays. When something, for example a horse, has decayed enough so that it can no longer do what a horse does it isn`t a horse anymore. The hierarchy of ideas, with goodness, virtue, justice, beauty and other general ideas at the top is what Plato meant by God, and truth is attainable through thought while observation of the inferior physical world can only confuse the philosopher. From this tradition of thought comes Christianity and therefore Islam. But the easily understandable principles of Plato are distorted by theology into dogmas and cheap moralism.

Aristotle said "all disorder is evidence of a higher order", meaning that conflicts occur as a result of lack of knowledge about the subject of the disagreement. Within lower orders of reality forms of matter express what is within their particular tropism, rather than some cosmic idea of what they are. This gave rise to the modern strain of materialism, or random chance based on previous history, by linking truth to observation instead of thought. The problem Aristotle had was that pure materialism is untenable because you`re always in a situation where you must rely on metaphysical categories to make sense of the world. Just the fact that we are bound by language, and therefore a metaphysical structure of cognitive organization, is of huge consequence philosophically, because unless we carefully define every word we are using we are not uncovering truth but linguistic categories and political preference. Even more disturbing is that tools of science: mathematics, logic and language are all metaphysical abstractions and therefore not real. How can a materialist rely on metaphysics to prove that everything is physical? "He can`t" is the short answer to that question. This is why Aristotle wrote a whole work called "Metaphysics" to address this obvious fallacy or conflict in the materialist position. This is the position most people who accept the case for the evolution theory have adopted, yet they are usually very unfamiliar with the particular philosophical problems their position leads to. Even Richard Dawkins seems to be totally clueless of them.

When it comes to the modern debate it is very easy to point out that even atheists vehemently believe in metaphysical principles. Depending on the individual they have no problem accepting concepts like justice, beauty, courage etc even though these are all metaphysical principles and do not, materialistically speaking, exist at all, but are subjectively perceived attributes of actions, things and events.
On the other hand by insisting that God is supernatural and relying on mystical revelation rather than reason, religious perspectives have hijacked idealism and made the debate even more toxic. The truth is in the synthesis of both views I`m sure, and I think both Plato and Aristotle agree with me on this. This means that while the theory of evolution seems to be sound from a materialistic perspective, the ideas/forms/concepts expressed by it may be inaccessible through materialistic approaches to science but not with rationalistic approaches. In other words, the idea of a whale may have pre existed matter, and matter have had the potential to express the idea of a whale forever, but only done so for the last 25 million years. The question is not as frivolous as it sounds, because there is a strong tendency for life to conform to distinct classes, rather than to wildly mix in a inter species free for all, which it could just as easily do. When answering why a whale stays a whale for millions of years rather than constantly change into new life forms, or mixing with seal, fish or seagulls the rationalist answer is a lot shorter and about as convincing than the materialist one. The problem for the rationalist is explaining change and for the materialist to explain constancy. The debate has never changed, only the participants.
Looking at it this way makes the religious/idealistic perspective less of a threat to atheists and agnostics, because the real disagreement then is what precisely do we mean by "God", rather than the more crude "does God exist". If all possible ideas and concepts were precreated there is no conflict between the idealistic/religious perspective and evolution at all, but a predictable process of materialistic expression of the metaphysical taking place within the physical dimensions of time and space.
If an idealist interprets god as meaning the structure of metaphysical principles expressing themselves through matter then this would hardly qualify as theism in today`s radicalized climate, but that is precisely what it is. But it is not a supernatural god, but a metaphysical one. Finally, one of the philosophical traditions more responsible than any other for developing modern science is rationalism, and it is an idealistic tradition, not a materialist one. In fact: for centuries positivists were scoffed at by scientists as naive because they even accepted and relied on what their own senses told them at all. So it`s not as cut and dried as we`re being told on BBC is my point, but an ancient debate that has been at the heart of European civilization since the beginning. And it has nothing to do with religion.
Instead of staying a rational debate the evolution/creation debate has both sides now declaring final victory in a 2000 year old conflict by making exactly the same kinds of mistakes Parmenides and Heraklit did. It is not either or but both and by forgetting this - again - we are regressing back into barbarism as far as I can tell.
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16-07-2013, 08:20 AM
RE: False Dichotomy Fallacy
(16-07-2013 06:32 AM)Skulb Wrote:  
(08-07-2013 08:05 PM)sencha Wrote:  According to a 2010 publication by Michael Berkman and Eric Plutzer of Penn State, about 13 percent of biology teachers in the United States “explicitly advocate creationism or intelligent design by spending at least one hour of class time presenting it in a positive light.” According to Berkman and Plutzer, about 60 percent, “fail to explain the nature of scientific inquiry, undermine the authority of established experts, and legitimize creationist arguments.”
These statistics are appalling to anyone who actually understands science. Even more outrageous is the fact that presenting it in a classroom in terms of ‘Creationism vs. Evolution’ is a logical error, and anyone who explains it in such terms is scientifically illiterate. This is bad enough in the general public, but appalling for a teacher of any of the natural sciences. If a teacher presents it in such a manner, it means that teacher doesn’t even grasp the basic principles of scientific research.
The problem with the whole Creation vs. Evolution debate is that it’s a False Dichotomy Fallacy. Suppose I describe a four-legged animal to you. I then proceed to convince you that this four-legged animal is not a dog. Am I justified in therefore claiming, “There, I’ve just proven that this animal is a cat?”
Of course not...because there are hundreds of other four-legged animals it might be.
Theists like to try to argue in favor of creation by arguing against evolution. This doesn’t work, because there are other alternatives to evolution besides creationism (or if you prefer, ‘Intelligent Design’). Some of these alternatives include:
•Non-directed Panspermia
•Directed Panspermia
•Intelligent aliens
•Transdimensional hyperintelligent beings
•Polytheistic creation (‘many gods did it’ instead of ‘one god did it’)
•Lamarckian Evolution
•Deism (one god did it, then took an eternal vacation)
Yes, I’m aware that some, if not all of these theories have been at least partially discredited. But so has creationism. Yes, I’m aware that some of these alternatives to evolution are absurd. But so is Intelligent Design.
I would also point out that creationism is a theory on abiogenesis, which is how life came from lifelessness. Evolution makes no comment on abiogenesis. It is merely a theory about how life developed once it came to exist. So comparing evolution and creation in the first place is a categorical error.
I don’t debate the mechanics of evolution with creationists because doing so would lend legitimacy to a false premise: That disproving evolution would somehow ‘prove’ creationism to be true.
Disproving evolution does nothing to ‘prove’ creationism, just as proving that my four-legged animal is not a dog, does nothing to prove that it is a cat. In order to demonstrate a theory scientifically, you must gather evidence and observations in favor of your theory, and not merely deride and decry the other theories.


I`m not sure I agree that the dichotomy is necessarily false. it`s just that it`s distorted into a religious issue when it should be a philosophical one. If you look at western traditions of thought, the conflict between what we might call idealism on one side and materialism on the other goes back at least as far as Parmenides and Heraklit. One argued that change is impossible and that things just appear to change because we don`t understand them, and the other that permanence was impossible and that nothing ever remains static.
Both Plato and Aristotle made their fame largely by settling this debate in two distinct ways. According to Plato ideas are permanent while physical reality changes and decays. When something, for example a horse, has decayed enough so that it can no longer do what a horse does it isn`t a horse anymore. The hierarchy of ideas, with goodness, virtue, justice, beauty and other general ideas at the top is what Plato meant by God, and truth is attainable through thought while observation of the inferior physical world can only confuse the philosopher. From this tradition of thought comes Christianity and therefore Islam. But the easily understandable principles of Plato are distorted by theology into dogmas and cheap moralism.

Aristotle said "all disorder is evidence of a higher order", meaning that conflicts occur as a result of lack of knowledge about the subject of the disagreement. Within lower orders of reality forms of matter express what is within their particular tropism, rather than some cosmic idea of what they are. This gave rise to the modern strain of materialism, or random chance based on previous history, by linking truth to observation instead of thought. The problem Aristotle had was that pure materialism is untenable because you`re always in a situation where you must rely on metaphysical categories to make sense of the world. Just the fact that we are bound by language, and therefore a metaphysical structure of cognitive organization, is of huge consequence philosophically, because unless we carefully define every word we are using we are not uncovering truth but linguistic categories and political preference. Even more disturbing is that tools of science: mathematics, logic and language are all metaphysical abstractions and therefore not real. How can a materialist rely on metaphysics to prove that everything is physical? "He can`t" is the short answer to that question. This is why Aristotle wrote a whole work called "Metaphysics" to address this obvious fallacy or conflict in the materialist position. This is the position most people who accept the case for the evolution theory have adopted, yet they are usually very unfamiliar with the particular philosophical problems their position leads to. Even Richard Dawkins seems to be totally clueless of them.

When it comes to the modern debate it is very easy to point out that even atheists vehemently believe in metaphysical principles. Depending on the individual they have no problem accepting concepts like justice, beauty, courage etc even though these are all metaphysical principles and do not, materialistically speaking, exist at all, but are subjectively perceived attributes of actions, things and events.
On the other hand by insisting that God is supernatural and relying on mystical revelation rather than reason, religious perspectives have hijacked idealism and made the debate even more toxic. The truth is in the synthesis of both views I`m sure, and I think both Plato and Aristotle agree with me on this. This means that while the theory of evolution seems to be sound from a materialistic perspective, the ideas/forms/concepts expressed by it may be inaccessible through materialistic approaches to science but not with rationalistic approaches. In other words, the idea of a whale may have pre existed matter, and matter have had the potential to express the idea of a whale forever, but only done so for the last 25 million years. The question is not as frivolous as it sounds, because there is a strong tendency for life to conform to distinct classes, rather than to wildly mix in a inter species free for all, which it could just as easily do. When answering why a whale stays a whale for millions of years rather than constantly change into new life forms, or mixing with seal, fish or seagulls the rationalist answer is a lot shorter and about as convincing than the materialist one. The problem for the rationalist is explaining change and for the materialist to explain constancy. The debate has never changed, only the participants.
Looking at it this way makes the religious/idealistic perspective less of a threat to atheists and agnostics, because the real disagreement then is what precisely do we mean by "God", rather than the more crude "does God exist". If all possible ideas and concepts were precreated there is no conflict between the idealistic/religious perspective and evolution at all, but a predictable process of materialistic expression of the metaphysical taking place within the physical dimensions of time and space.
If an idealist interprets god as meaning the structure of metaphysical principles expressing themselves through matter then this would hardly qualify as theism in today`s radicalized climate, but that is precisely what it is. But it is not a supernatural god, but a metaphysical one. Finally, one of the philosophical traditions more responsible than any other for developing modern science is rationalism, and it is an idealistic tradition, not a materialist one. In fact: for centuries positivists were scoffed at by scientists as naive because they even accepted and relied on what their own senses told them at all. So it`s not as cut and dried as we`re being told on BBC is my point, but an ancient debate that has been at the heart of European civilization since the beginning. And it has nothing to do with religion.
Instead of staying a rational debate the evolution/creation debate has both sides now declaring final victory in a 2000 year old conflict by making exactly the same kinds of mistakes Parmenides and Heraklit did. It is not either or but both and by forgetting this - again - we are regressing back into barbarism as far as I can tell.

That sounds like some refried neo-Platonism.

Where, exactly, do these 'metaphysical principles' reside? Where is the 'idea of a whale'?

But you miss the point. The false dichotomy is between the scientific theory and only one of the creation myths. What about all the others?

This is clearly a battle between science and religion.

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
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