Shoehorning Evidence

BPSDBDenyse O’Leary still doesn’t get it. Although if she is correct in claiming that Charles Walcott willfully ignored the implications of the Burgess Shale, which he discovered, then there might be an appropriate criticism to be made. But given that he gathered tens of thousands of specimens and returned to the site repeatedly, he was hardly interested in covering up his discoveries. Rather, he may perhaps (if Stephen Jay Gould is correct) have imposed the categories of known phyla on the fossils, rather than proposing that they were new ones. But this, if anything, shows the power of prevailing paradigms, and the dangers of compartmentalization in the sciences and the academy more generally (perhaps a biologist would have more quickly realized these were new phyla than this paleontologist did).

But the utter irony is that O’Leary is criticizing an individual scientist for doing what young-earth creationists and proponents of intelligent design do as a rule, consistently, all the time, namely refusing to take seriously the evidence against their views, and allowing their views to be shaped by older paradigms that have been replaced in mainstream science by ones that better fit the evidence.

If only O’Leary had learned the basics of Christian humility, perhaps she would have recalled when writing this the old childhood lesson that whenever you point the finger at someone else, you have three fingers pointing back at you. Instead she directs criticism at others that applies as well if not better to the movement for which she is a spokesperson.

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  • PTET

    Nice piece. There’s more from Mrs O’Leary here.

  • James F. McGrath

    Thanks. One of the hyperlinks in the post actually links to that page already!

  • PTET

    Do’h. :_)

  • steve

    Nice summations from James and ptet. Rather than post on DOL’s restricted blog, I’d also add that Charles Walcott wrote the material up in what was considered the appropriate venues of his day (nowadays, he’d go for better international journals). He he did not hide stuff away in a file drawer as DOL suggests (and it is not a true “file drawer” problem because that actually refers to a type II statistical error or bias). He was a cataloguer.The specimens he collected were all properly catalogued (which is why people could look at them later) and he basically collected right until he died in 1927. So was he hiding stuff away for 80 years as DOL seems to claim? – um, no, he collected, catalogued and never went back to material in part because he did not see the real findings (as James correctly suggests) and ultimately because once you’re dead, it is hard to do more research…

  • James F. McGrath

    Thanks for the comment, Steve! One day soon I may make part of your comment my ‘Quote of the Day’: “once you’re dead, it is hard to do more research”… :-)