Gravity: The Theory of Intelligent Falling

by Max Andrews

I’ve heard gravity used as an example as a means of mocking intelligent design by its equivocation to Darwinism.  I’ve dialogued with Darwinists and when I refer to their position on evolution as Darwinism some have retorted with, “I believe in gravity, does that make me a Newtonian?”  There are so many fallacious equivocations with comparing Darwinism to gravity that it’s a bit embarrassing for the mocker to make such a claim.  What spurned this post was question asked by a skeptic at the Glasgow Skeptics at the Pub talk with the University of Minnesota Biology Professor PZ Myers.  After a question by Jonathan McLatchie, an intelligent design proponent, Dr. Myers proceeded to ridicule McLatchie (I’ll comment on this in another post, you can read more on Dr. Myers’ reaction here).  The following question was asked by a skeptic right after McLatchie’s debacle with Dr. Myers.

Why do you think evolutionary biology is such a target for creationists? I mean, if you had been talking about general relativity you wouldn’t expect people to be here advocating intelligent falling [inaudible… “spaghetti monster”]. So why do you think it is that evolutionary biology is such a target?

Dr. Myers proceeded to answer the question by stating that physics and cosmology has been criticized by creationists.  This is true, many creationists (despite the categorical breadth of the term), do challenge the standard model of particle physics and big bang cosmology (among many other models).  Dr. Myers was correct in that but he failed to note the equivocation in the question and in his own response.  The equivocation is categorical, attempting to compare the strength of explanatory power and scope of Darwinism with gravity.  General relativity is, perhaps, the most well established scientific theory that sufficiently explains the relationship between two massive bodies.  Darwinism is the theory that all living things descended from an original common ancestor through natural selection and random variation, without the aid of intelligence or nonmaterial forces.  Here are my main contentions:

  1. Darwinism attempts to explain the origin of life in a prescriptive manner for the organization of information whereas gravity is a descriptive and is a means of transmitting information.
  2. Gravity could be an information component when aggregated with other constants and initial conditions to bring about a finely-tuned universe for the essential building blocks of life and environments required for life (at best to make Darwinism possible).  (See PCW Davies’ paper “How Bio-Friendly is the Universe?”).  When gravity is being used as an equivocation for being an information component the equivocation falls short because it is merely a part of a series of necessary components.  Again, Darwinism is a theory that takes information and organizes it to create life; gravity transmits information and has no ability to self-organize in a mechanistic manner to create information.
  3. There is information displacement in appealing to gravity as an equivocation.  Because of the descriptive and prescriptive differences between Darwinism and gravity the appeal to gravity does not sufficiently explain the aggregate information.  A sufficient equivocation would be the presence information fine-tuning of the universe’s initial conditions, laws, etc. with the information present in the Darwinian mechanism.  The only comparison that can be made is the presence of information (which is still debatable).  The origin and transmission of information cannot be appropriately equivocated.  Even so, if one wants to advocate a mere presence of information in the initial conditions then that information is, again, not self-producing and must have been caused by intelligence since no physical effect could self-produce information from the initial conditions. It creates a causal circularity.  (See Stephen Meyer on information in the physics and how this falls short in front-loading evolution from a theistic perspective).
In fairness, I suspect that the equivocation is supposed to correlate the sufficiency in explanatory power and scope of the data and how widely accepted or established the theories are.  Even so, one of two fallacies rest with this appeal (depending on intent).  Either’s it’s a slippery slope by suggesting that doubting Darwinism leads to doubting gravity or it’s an argumentum ad populum by appealing to its wide acceptance.  Either way, the attempt to intentionally correlate the two theories falls prey to fallacious reasoning.  All that one is left with at this point is fallacious mockery.  Dare I equivocate it to shooting oneself in the foot?
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4 Comments to “Gravity: The Theory of Intelligent Falling”

  1. I only relatively recently became aware of P. Z. Myers. Reading that guy is like eating haggis … anyway, excellent analysis, especially illustrating the prescriptive versus descriptive dichotomy between gravity and Darwinism. Never thought about it in quite this way.

  2. The difference between gravity and Darwinism that is most striking is the supporting evidence. After that, all other differences seem less important.

  3. creationists go after biology/evolution because they can trigger a disgust response – dirty stinking apes aren’t swinging from MY family tree – whereas to go after physics will leave most audiences snoozing with no emotional disgust to get a response. the average person does not misunderstand enough about phycics to emotionally engage as their misunderstanding of biology allows them to.

    same reason why the same creationists focus on anal sex and gay men, and totally ignore lesbians in the gay marriage discussion – there’s not a lot of ick factor for straight men when it comes to us lesbians.

    • I don’t think the “ick factor” is a very good argument either way for anyone to use. AIG uses pornography and marriage to argue against evolution but those are slippery slope arguments based on moral implications. Stick with the science when arguing theory applied to the data on both sides. Thanks for commenting.

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