I chose to read, or start reading, The Greatest Show on Earth, the Evidence for Evolution, by Richard Dawkins on Audible because 1, of the recommendation to read people you don’t agree with, 2, because Goodreads said it was one of the best books on evolution, and 3, because I don’t have to pay extra for it as we have a subscription to Audible. Hopefully Dawkins gets a flat fee from Audible and does not receive royalties for downloads.
So here goes. Chapter 1. In my experience vilifying people who disagree with you is not persuasive among logical types who tend to vilify guilt trippers and shamers. I regret that peer pressure of this sort is effective all too often. Thus Richard Dawkins begins Chapter 1 of his self proclaimed airtight proof-book that evolution is a fact. In this chapter he unsubstantially says that people who do not ascribe to evolution are comparable to holocaust deniers, and by implication are anti Semite, and so he’s already pretty much played the Hitler card. He asserts there is more proof for evolution than for the holocaust, without laying any qualifying proofs out yet. This is a rabbit trail because to compare these fairly you would have to go into statistics about the reliability of memory, and then relevant archeology, which is a different science than biology because it involves human-directed activity rather than purely physical processes, especially if undirected by a supernatural creator.
In an effort to sound slightly less insulting he decides to call Creationists “History Deniers” and the “40 Percenters”.
He then laboriously explains the two definitions of Theory where one is a system holding other known systems together, and the other is an educated guess (hypothesis, speculation, conjecture). He again insults Creationists by saying they perhaps unknowingly or mischievously take refuge in the second definition.
I agree with this statement on evolution: “by generally informed consent it is a statement of what are held to be the general laws, principles or causes of something known or observed.” This is the only statement he’s made so far that is obviously true as I have heard elsewhere that “90% of scientists agree” (many of the more specific statements about how evolution works are controversial among believing scientists). But consent does not make something true, as today’s politically polarized climate makes clear. Additionally, universally held beliefs get disproven or disbelieved all the time, like the one-galaxy theory until Hubble disproved it, and polytheism. Furthermore, there is consensus that Dawkins is way too insulting to deists in general (The God Delusion), though he seems in this book to relish that many deluded Christians are evolutionists.
He also says that evolution is closer to a theorem than a theory, such as reliable mathematical theorems, rather than conjecture. He admits that scientific theorems cannot be proven in the same way that mathematical ones are in that they cannot be directly observed to be consistently true in the same (I’ll say controlled) way. “But common sense” – ah there you go. Common sense isn’t always so common. However, most scientific theorems can be “proved” based on experimentation, such as verifiable rocket trajectories accounting for multiple gravitation from different directions, etc. So far I haven’t heard of any such verifiable experiments proving evolution, but so far I’m willing to give him a chance. His insults indicate an emotional problem, but that doesn’t necessarily mean his science is bad. I think it will make him have to work harder though, as Trump’s poorly worded statements are so off putting that they make him have to work harder to prove his competence. I’m capable of separating the two.
I agree with Dawkins however that Young Earth Creationism requires a massive “confidence trick” on the behalf of a creator. Conversely, since he says that the earth being round and photosynthesis are also theorems, he is also implying that Creationists are on par with flat earthers, with which I do not agree. Intelligent Designers and Old Earth Creationists do not deny, nor are ignorant of physical science, as it seems many young earthers do/are. I was a young earther before the Great Courses Geology class taught by the agreeable and non-alienating Mr. Michael Wysession. The White Cliffs of Dover episode was my turning point. They are made of tiny little creatures whose fossils were deposited in a shallow sea over obvious millennia. They are too small to create such high cliffs in a few thousand years. I was ignorant of how stratifications were made and how they aged before then. Having God use natural processes in setting the stage for life-bearing is more impressive to me now than simply wand waving. Old Earth Christian evolutionists project this admiration of process onto life and speciation too, but I very strongly differentiate between the chemical processes, however God directed them, that support life, and the introduction of the first organisms and later species. 1, I’m not impressed with the speciation or origination explanations I’ve heard so far, and 2, I think they are degrading to both “lower” and “higher” life forms. Each species is very complicated and built to thrive until it can’t anymore for either predetermined or resurrectional reasons. Probably both reasons. They are not stepping stones in the same way. Saying something is less evolved is different than saying something is not as complex. “For the benefit of humans” is a difficult statement for evolutionary and determinist Christians to defend without devaluing the ones who came before or worked for your benefit. Compatibilism sounds nicer, but that’s another rabbit trail.
I’m about halfway through the chapter, and this post is long, so I’ll divide it up. He’s about to explain what a fact is, and I agree with his earlier statement that some philosophers go too far in their relativism in saying there aren’t any reliable facts, and that you can’t prove any memories or thoughts weren’t implanted there 2 seconds ago.