Rumsfeld’s heuristic in the evolution debate

Michael Shermer, describes the World Summit on Evolution held in June, hosted by San Francisco University of Quito, on the Galápagos island of San Cristóbal, where Charles Darwin began his explorations. Rumsfeld’s Wisdom: Where the known meets the unknown is where science begins

The heuristic is:

There are known knowns. There are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns. That is to say, we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don’t know we don’t know.

The conference illustrated how this applies in sience in a way that seems to be misunderestimated or misunderstood by Darwin critics.

Creationists and outsiders often mistake the last two categories for signs that evolution is in trouble or that contentious debate between what we know and do not know means that the theory is false. Wrong. The summit revealed a scientific discipline rich in data and theory as well as controversy and disputation over the known and unknown.

and, it seems, Shermer was plagued by the kinds of argument so often espoused by the hate-Darwin crowd.

I had a nightmarish thought: creationists could have a field day yanking quotes out of context while listening to a room full of evolutionary biologists arguing over specific issues. In point of fact, such debates are all within evolutionary theory, not between evolutionary theory and something else. And this boundary between the known and the unknown is where science flourishes.

Related to this was a commentary about the new Kansas science guidelines. In order to squeeze ID (aka creationism) into a science class, the guidelines had to poke and prod around bleeding edge evolutionary stuff that usually isn’t a part of biology education until you get into the later college years. In other words, picking flaws in evolution has to get into esoterica – but don’t tell them that as they will flat out deny it or maybe make some claim about you.

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