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The Descent of Intelligent Design:

Yesterday's New York Times had an interesting article on the failure of intelligent design to gain adherents. Even those initially open to ID theory are luke warm to it, as are science professors at religiously oriented universities.

The Templeton Foundation, a major supporter of projects seeking to reconcile science and religion, says that after providing a few grants for conferences and courses to debate intelligent design, they asked proponents to submit proposals for actual research.

"They never came in," said Charles L. Harper Jr., senior vice president at the Templeton Foundation, who said that while he was skeptical from the beginning, other foundation officials were initially intrigued and later grew disillusioned.

"From the point of view of rigor and intellectual seriousness, the intelligent design people don't come out very well in our world of scientific review," he said.

While intelligent design has hit obstacles among scientists, it has also failed to find a warm embrace at many evangelical Christian colleges. Even at conservative schools, scholars and theologians who were initially excited about intelligent design say they have come to find its arguments unconvincing. They, too, have been greatly swayed by the scientists at their own institutions and elsewhere who have examined intelligent design and found it insufficiently substantiated in comparison to evolution.

"It can function as one of those ambiguous signs in the world that point to an intelligent creator and help support the faith of the faithful, but it just doesn't have the compelling or explanatory power to have much of an impact on the academy," said Frank D. Macchia, a professor of Christian theology at Vanguard University, in Costa Mesa, Calif., which is affiliated with the Assemblies of God, the nation's largest Pentecostal denomination.

Medis:
Variations on this same basic theme have cropped up throughout the history of science, so I doubt this is really the end of theories like ID completely. And, of course, it is hardly surprising that neither theologians nor scientists are particularly happy with theology masquerading as science.
12.5.2005 1:27pm
JB:
"The Templeton Foundation, a major supporter of projects seeking to reconcile science and religion, says that after providing a few grants for conferences and courses to debate intelligent design, they asked proponents to submit proposals for actual research.

"They never came in," said Charles L. Harper Jr., senior vice president at the Templeton Foundation."

Rhetorically: Why am I not surprised?

Honestly, and slightly disturbingly: Why are some people surprised?
12.5.2005 1:36pm
Cornellian (mail):
Have no fear. Having repackaged creationism as "intelligent design", they'll just have to do a further makeover, come up with a new term "spontaneous human eruption?" and they'll all be back for more grants and more arm twisting of school board members in obscure corners of the country.
12.5.2005 1:48pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Wonder how you would "research" it?

I suppose one could look for physical features that are consistent with intelligent design and inconsistent with evolution. But I have trouble figuring out what such would be.
12.5.2005 1:54pm
Ofc. Krupke (mail) (www):
more arm twisting of school board members in obscure corners of the country.

They weren't the ones who filed the lawsuit, were they?
12.5.2005 2:09pm
Ken Alfano (mail):
As both a university Research Engineer and an Evangelical Christian, I agree that both "camps" appear to have reservations about the way this debate has been carried out thus far, but for very different reasons. My secular scientist friends adopt the modernist view that seeks to selectively privilege that subset of information which is acquired via the modern scientific method (which itself circularly rests on certain subjective stipulations) over any other alleged source of knowledge. (Naturalism is equally subjective and necessarily as faith-based as any other worldview. No one single philosophy can hold a monopoly on whose normative presuppositions constitute "good science.")

On the other hand, some theists are reluctant to concede that divine revelation should ever be subject to scrutiny by man's own observation (i.e. empirical data) -- much less historical deduction/induction -- as opposed to vice versa. I do favor such critical analysis, however, as long as we're honest about the premises underlying each view, rather than presenting the secular as somehow more "objective" than any given religious view. (For example, the view that Christ did not resurrect is every bit as subjective as the view that he did.) I would like to see ID and all other theories presented in schools, but only if each is properly and honestly identified according to the particular philosophical worldview that gives rise to it.

http://volokh.com/posts/1133465049.shtml#41800
12.5.2005 2:48pm
taalinukko:
Ken Alfano makes an interesting point in that scientists do privilege scientific knowledge over that derived from other "ways of knowing." There is a very good reason for this and it is not because of some subjective stipulations has he suggests but rather because all scientific knowledge must be made to conform to physical reality.

Now this type of postmodern comparison may have its place in discussions about the nature of knowledge about the universe that some intelligent being might posses. We can argue about the mental state and moral obligations of a hypothetical christian scientist with appendicitis in that way. But back in the physical universe we know scientifically that the fate of that poor sole is already set.

Or are you honestly suggesting that we cannot distinguish these two types of knowledge?
12.5.2005 3:12pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Dave Hardy asks how one would research intelligent design. That's not the right question. What one might do is to try to produce the conditions most favorable to the type of evolutionary change that ID advocates say is too complex to be produced in nature. Then see if you can get the evolutionary change to happen in the laboratory.

Another thing one might do is to search the fossil record for the types of transitional organisms that would establish that, for instance, the bacterial flagellum (the favorite example of ID proponents) could have evolved, and use genetic testing to establish whether they carried the genes that eventually produced the flagellum.

In point of fact, science has already done this with respect to the eye-- which was the favorite example of argument-from-design folks of the 19th Century. Light-sensitive spots evolved into simple systems that detected what was going on around the organism, which in turn evolved into a simple eye that could see in black and white, which in turn evolved into the human eye with its rod and cone cells. The positioning of the optic nerve in the human eye is powerful evidence that it wasn't designed.

One could imagine similar hypothesizing and research regarding the bacterial flagellum. The fact that ID proponents aren't keen on doing it is quite telling.
12.5.2005 3:20pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Ken Alfano:

I'm puzzled as to why a science class should reject the scientific method. But let's assume arguendo that you're right and that we should discount or reject "the modernist view that seeks to selectively privilege that subset of information which is acquired via the modern scientific method." If so, what's the limiting principle on what can be taught in science classes? Some folks believe in witches, astrology, phrenology, hand-writing analysis as a judge of character, etc., etc. The scientific method is a handy way to keep that stuff out of science classes -- except as examples of stuff that is wrong/silly, which I take it is not how you would want "intelligent design" or other creationist theories presented. But if we don't privilege the scientific method in science classes, how do we say no to questions on a high school science exam along the lines of "people who have an ascendent sign in Aries are generally ...."?

To bring up another legal area which privileges the scientific method, how should courts do the Daubert test to determine which scientific theories can be presented as valid to juries in courts, if we don't privilege the scientific method?
12.5.2005 3:22pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Dilan Esper

But that is just it - ID cannot really be disproven that way because if you should be able to prove that organizm X1 made jump Y1 requiring Z1 independent mutations, there is still organizism X2 making jump Y2 requiring Z2 independent mutations.

The other thing is that it is going to be nearly impossible to prove the opposite also. You aren't going to find fossils of an intermediate flagellum for a couple of reasons. First, the organisms were soft, and secondly, quite small.

On the other hand, you also aren't going to be able to duplicate this jump because it took tens, if not hundreds, of millions of years to do it last time. Even if we could significantly increase the mutation rate, it probably wouldn't be enough, and even if it were, you still have to face that you really need a lot of generations to show that this theory works. And, again, time is not on your side.

That to me is the problem - ID can't be proven, and it can't be disproven, given today's technology (or, indeed, the technology we can expect to see in our life times).
12.5.2005 3:34pm
Ken Alfano (mail):
taalinukko,

As I had noted in a different thread (linked below), the pursuit of knowledge has only relatively recently been so starkly dichotomized (I believe arbitrarily) between the "natural" and the "supernatural." Physicalism, Naturalism, and Empiricism seem to draw the line at saying that our physical senses and cognitive reasoning abilities are indeed reliable, but that's it. (Having framed the debate with this premise, they then declare that the only proof they will accept is that which conforms to this preconceived model.) But as Descartes observed, anything can be doubted (except perhaps one's own isolated existence in the present, hence the infamous "cogito"), because all else, including one's own past, could conceivably be an illusion/deception.

From a premodernist/theistic perspective, divine revelation is actually a higher level of truth to which mere fallible human senses and reasoning must be subject, rather than the other way around. Now, I also believe that they need not conflict (i.e. Thomas Acquinas), but if they ever did, it is man's intellect that should yield. This is an opposite worldview to agnosticism, and thus neither could be deemed "neutral."

Secular science seems to principally accept two sources of information about metaphysical reality, empirical data and historical extrapolation/induction (the latter is typically less preferably because falsifiability is more challenging). Your analogy to disease illustrates that people can indeed be "proven wrong," but only when they become internally inconsistent -- failing on their own grounds -- because otherwise it simply remains a clash of worldviews.

http://volokh.com/posts/1133465049.shtml#41800
12.5.2005 3:48pm
David Berke:
Ken Alfano,

I disagree. Metaphysical or Divine Knowledge may well be Truth (the capital "T" is intentional), but there is no way for any other person to verify such. Without such verification, this cannot be given a superior position except by those who already believe it. However, as any person who truly is divinely inspired would believe such over logic or perception, understanding the relative greatness of God and/or Truth as compared to their limited selves. Accordingly, you must be asking that others place YOUR Divine Truth, Metaphysical Knowledge or what-have-you over their own beliefs, even though they cannot verify yours. Why should yours be taken over any others?

This is why, recognizing the futility of attempting to teach Truth, the modern educational system chooses to teach theories which are empirically or logically verifiable. Because this is not the case for Divine Inspiration or Metaphysical Truth, any reasonable scientist or educator would admit that their knowledge does not speak to such.
12.5.2005 4:35pm
Tim Bosson (mail):
To second Mr. Alfano. It seems ID speaks more strongly to the areas where science can't be tested with the scientific method. The alternatives in these areas are to apply a naturalistic theory (that nothing supernatural can be used to explain the gaps), or an intelligent agent theory (these gaps can only be explained by a supernatural force). Both propositions are non-falsifiable (untestable) to some extent. Why, then, should a "materialist" philosophy be taught in schools and not an intelligent design philosophy?

If the answer is there is no distinction, and I believe there is not, because both are hypothetical, then both or neither should be taught. It seems now, however, that only the naturalistic philosphy (under the guise of "natural selection"--the "all-powerful" gap-filler, which is the Evolutionists version of the supernatural) is taught in schools to explain the force behind the evolution. This is a naturalistic philosophical assumption that is non-falsifiable, but noone seems to care since it precludes the possiblity of the supernatural.
12.5.2005 4:36pm
Medis:
Ken,

I don't think it is true that most scientists rule out the possibility of other sources or kinds of knowledge. Rather, I think the need to prioritize arises only when some other possible source of knowledge motivates propositions that are in conflict with propositions that science motivates.
12.5.2005 4:41pm
Medis:
Tim,

I think it is a mistake to confuse "natural selection" as a theoretical model with "naturalism" as a philosophy. It is true that theoretical models might make predictions that go beyond what has already been confirmed, but that is just the essence of a good scientific model (that it makes novel predictions). It is also true that insofar as such a model only includes natural elements, it will only produce naturalistic predictions.

But such models do not assume naturalism as a first principle. Moreover, they do not predict naturalism as a general proposition, because they do not claim to be about everything that might exist.
12.5.2005 4:51pm
PersonFromPorlock:
Let me suggest the whole argument is backwards: given our experience of our own wills as an efficient cause of process (the Brooklyn Bridge didn't just happen), what evidence do materialists adduce in favor of the existence of chance?
12.5.2005 5:14pm
rbj:
Interestingly, scientists are starting to back away from string theory partly on the grounds that, like Intelligent Design, it cannot be tested and falsifiable.
12.5.2005 5:15pm
JW (mail):
This sentence is a gem: "It seems ID speaks more strongly to the areas where science can't be tested with the scientific method."

I'll let you in on a little secret, Mr. Bosson. There are no areas of science that "can't be tested with the scientific method." Look at Webster's. Science is "knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through scientific method." So if it ain't subject to testing by the scientific method, it ain't science.
12.5.2005 5:23pm
Medis:
PfP,

As an aside, a process like natural selection does not necessarily depend on "chance". Rather, lots of different kinds of variation might do, including non-random variation. Generally, we model DNA variation as the result of random mutation (which makes sense insofar as it is driven by something like cosmic radiation), but it doesn't have to be that way for natural selection to drive biological evolution.

Anyway, we have seen "natural selection" produce adaptation in both biological and non-biological contexts. So, we know both processes (design and natural selection) "work" in that sense.
12.5.2005 5:28pm
Colin:
Following Medis' post, I'd add that orthodox evolutionary theory is not only not necessarily random, but is necessarily non-random. Natural selection is a selective process, as the name implies.

As for what evidence science has for the "existence of chance" (which I read as "the viability of the orthodox theory"), what standard would you impose? The evidence in favor of the orthodox theory is well-represented in the scientific literature, which describes, among other things, the novel and testable predictions that the theory has made. Those predictions have practical implications in, for example, the development and planning of new flu vaccines. The competing theories, such as creationism, are laboring through a vast desert of their own results; Intelligent Design has yet to make a testable (and tested) prediction.

A bar for 'proof' (and recall that no scientific theory is ever proven) that would exclude evolutionary theory necessarily exclude its competitors, as no other theory has come close to the empirical support that evolution enjoys. What would be the result of that bar? Would we strike the sciences altogether, or open the class up to the parent or advocacy group that screams the loudest?
12.5.2005 5:39pm
PersonFromPorlock:
Medis,

The question I'm asking is a little more basic that that. Given that we know will is efficient through direct experience, what justification is there for assuming that there are processes in which will plays no role? From the outside, our brains are as observably mechanistic as any other physical process, so why do we assume in the case of other processes that there's no will involved? It is an assumption and it violates parsimony to make it.
12.5.2005 5:44pm
Colin:
PfP,

Parsimony is tricky that way. One answer would be that the only will (as in, 'intelligent action,' I assume) we can all agree that we have observed in action is human will (and some would say not even that). I believe that it would be a much greater violation of parsimony to extrapolate a supernatural will that motivates biochemical reactions.

More to the point, in every instance when we observe a human will effect an external object or process, there is an observable mechanism for that effect. The same is not true of physical processes; we cannot see an entity intending to push peptides around, nor can we discern any mechanism for doing so other than natural laws that behave without any discernable personality.

I do not understand or agree with your take on parsimony; it seems that your assumptions are an order of magnitude beyond those of objective scientists, who neither confirm nor deny what the evidence does not support.
12.5.2005 5:54pm
Ken Alfano (mail):
JosephSlater, David Berke, and Medis:

I most certainly do not ask that my view of absolute truth be substituted for the naturalist's -- but only that both be properly labeled as subjective, rather than selectively favoring (if only subtly by implicit default) the equally faith-based notion that human senses and cognition are somehow intrinsically more trustworthy than someone's alleged divine revelation (for example, biblical theology posits that indeed some relevation occurs through nature, but by no means all). (I will grant some circularity in this, as theologians going back to Martin Luther have struggled with the paradox that man must employ his fallible mind in discerning purportedly infallible truth from scripture, but there are answers to this that get perhaps a little too tangential.)

Hence, the notion of "verifiability" is more elusive than many naturalists suggest. It begs the question to say that we will elevate that which can be "verified," but then judge this by a conspicuously naturalistic standard.

As for how this affects teaching science in school with some practical and workable criteria, I admit that it gets complicated and problematic. But it is an illusory solution to offer to simplify this confusion by fallaciously adopting a particular worldview (e.g. naturalism) as the default and then call it "neutrality." I do indeed respect (though profoundly disagree with) agnostics who acknowledge that they normatively prioritize information derived from observation and logic alone -- to the deliberate exclusion of anything sourced outside of those confines.

Here is an interesting piece on supernatural agency and the modern scientific method:

http://www.leaderu.com/aip/docs/corey.html

Ken
12.5.2005 5:59pm
JW (mail):
Parsimony is an interesting concept to invoke on your behalf, PFP. Biologist H. Allen Orr demolished a similar argument thusly:

"I hate to be a party-pooper, but it seems to me there's a pretty good reason why the design hypothesis is a bit more 'natural and obvious' when considering a mousetrap than a cell: We know that there are people who make things like mousetraps. (I'm not being facetious here--I'm utterly serious.) When choosing between the design and Darwinian hypotheses, we find design plausible for mousetraps only because we have independent knowledge that there are creatures called humans who construct all variety of mechanical contraptions; if we didn't, the existence of mousetraps would pose a legitimate scientific problem. Needless to say, we have considerably less independent evidence for a Tinkerer who spends His days soldering cells. As it stands, then, mousetraps and cells are far from analogous and the hypothesis of intelligent design of cells remains distinctly supernatural and unobvious."
12.5.2005 6:01pm
Michael B (mail):
Or: Descent of Informed Dialog and Debate

John West, responding to Laurie Goodstein's article, better informs this discussion, Intelligent Design Might Be Meeting Its Maker? Ignorance on Display in the New York Times. Not that a better informed article is what Goodstein was interested in writing or conveying.

Facts, so problematic that it's easier to ignore them altogether.
12.5.2005 6:15pm
Colin:
West's rebuttal is ridiculous. He challenges the article's statement that ID is only taught at a seminary by holding out BIOLA as an example, without bothering to inform the reader that BIOLA is the Bible Institute of Los Angeles. He also cites a course being taught at a liberal arts college in Illinois that, according to his linked article, has enrolled seven students. I think the NYT's facts are fairly well in order.
12.5.2005 6:26pm
Michael B (mail):
No, Colin, that doesn't make West's rebuttal "ridiculous," a silly assertion. He makes several points, all specific and all transparently rendered, some refute Goodstein's corresponding point in toto, others partially. Yours is an attempt which addresses a single issue within the rebuttal and which attempts to dismiss West's rebuttal in toto on the basis of that single issue.

Not very scientific. Not rigorous. Not even very sensible.
12.5.2005 6:40pm
David Berke:
Ken,

I must again disagree. A subjective answer (I will avoid the loaded term truth here) entirely depends upon the perspective of the determining agency. An objective answer is one which can be reached by anyone applying the same principles. Religion or divinity is inherently subjective; your divine truth cannot be ascertained by anyone else. Science is largely objective; anyone applying the same rules to the same data should reach the same empirical result. (Yes, there are exceptions.)

I also disagree that it is somehow misleading to label the position therefore taken as neutral. The position does not deny that there may be some greater Truths, some nonempirical divinity or metaphysical manifestation of reality which cannot be externally verified. Instead, it recognizes its limitations; it has no basis for choosing between them, and therefore chooses none. In the sense of not discriminating between non-scientific beliefs, it is therefore perfectly neutral.
12.5.2005 6:41pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
Ken A—the "privilege" given to knowledge obtained by scientific method is fairly recent relative to recorded history, but still dates back to, say, Francis Bacon. And it's generally thought to be a good thing by people who recognize that armchair-based speculative science brought us the divine-retribution theory of disease, the heavier-falls-faster theory of mechanics, and of course the geocentric universe. The empirical assertions of old-fashioned creationism are twaddle (as I think you know), and the attempt to fashion a (pseudo-)scientific epistemology, namely, ID, in which they are not immediately rejected is an intellectual embarrassment.
12.5.2005 7:00pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
Michael B—I'm rather mystified by how the NY Times is refuted by finding a second seminary where ID is taught. Could you explain that more slowly? And the Knox College course is an intersession philosophy class, which is a long way from any sort of science class.
12.5.2005 7:04pm
Colin:
MB,

Yes, I cited a single misleading statement from West's rebuttal. I chose it because he singles it out as an example of how the NYT's article "is riddled with factual errors and misleading interpretations." I am often stupefied by the hypocricy of ID's leading lights.

West's article is mostly a complaint about how the NYT author doesn't agree with him - she hasn't spoken to the same evangelicals, she doesn't agree with him that Baylor University was hostile to ID from the start (and simultaenously doesn't list, to his satisfaction, the faculty at Baylor who are sympathetic to creationism), etc.

In the few instances where he claims the author misrepresented facts, West's rebuttal is misleading or flatly dishonest. I noted how he treats BIOLA above, but far more telling is how he treats the article's presentation of the DI's take on the Dover case:

"Goodstein claims that Discovery opposed the Dover policy because it feared that a negative court decision would be used to disuade other school boards from incorporating intelligent design into their curricula. This would be an odd fear for Discovery to have given that the Institute doesn't even favor having school districts incorporate ID into their curricula!"

This is atrociously misleading. The DI has, in fact, advocated inserting ID into public school curricula--it's part of the wedge strategy. And despite his claims that the DI was always opposed to the Dover policy, the evidence seems to show that they were only opposed to the Dover school board's mismanagement of the case - the DI submitted amicus briefs in an attempt to get Dembski's testimony under consideration, if I recall correctly.
12.5.2005 7:04pm
plunge (mail):
I agree with David. The fact is, contrary to what you claim, Ken, almots every scientist I've ever met is scrupulous in laying out exactly what the basic assumptions and unprovable axioms of science are and hence it's limitations. Luckily, those limitations and axioms just happen to be exactly the same as the ones the predicate ANY sensible discussion about us all sharing a common external reality. No, I can't prove we aren't all brains in the Matrix, but you and I can agree to forgo such possibilities and figure out what is and is not the case of this common thing we both experience as physical reality. Is there more to it? That's a question for a different time and venue, and I've not seen scientists trying to argue that science is what answers those questions.

It's theologians and mystics that are the ones that claim that they possess access to methods of discerning ultimate truth without any limitations on their self-declared powers.

The reason I personally favor the empirical method over others is simply because it's about a zillion times more humble. It starts with something we can all agree upon as common between us (whether "ultimately" real or not) and tries to build upwards from there on that pre-agreed foundation. Nothing else, no other system of figuring out the truth offers that sort of solid and fair basis for truths we can all agree upon, nor employs methods that are so fundamentally extensions of common sense (i.e. to figure out the truth of some question, step 1 is: go out and LOOK AT IT and try to figure it out!)
12.5.2005 7:07pm
Defending the Indefensible:
Of course, some kind of fused concept (intelligent evolution) is reasonable to assert, and is testable. To wit: Does reproduction proceed by intelligent choice of mate?

This has important implications for a monopanentheist perspective.
12.5.2005 7:09pm
Ken Alfano (mail):
David,

I believe your analysis plays right into my central argument. You keep presuppositionally invoking "external" verification (and semantically classifying anything falling outside of this as "non-science"), however I suggest that we ALL interpret everything and anything that we experience or observe through the lens of a particular, subjective philosophical worldview (e.g. premodern monotheism, agnostic naturalism, postmodern nihilism). Some may be more simple than others, and thus be generally regarded as more "intuitively rational" and a "smaller leap of faith," but nothing is wholly external. (If nothing else, you choose to believe and trust your senses and reasoning abilities, in marked contrast to the theist who contends that those are what should most sensibly be doubted first and foremost!)

For example, the assertion that what I may observe in my lab on a given workday is more reliable (supposedly because others can see it too) than what I may learn in church on a given Sunday (supposedly because a smaller subset of my fellow humans share the perception that this is "true") ironically imposes the faith-premise that physical perceptibility and/or collective human agreement are the "worthiest" sources of knowledge.
12.5.2005 7:12pm
Michael B (mail):
"Yes, I cited a single misleading statement from West's rebuttal." Colin

No, you cited it in a misleading way in an attempt to dismiss the rebuttal whole cloth.

For example, can you cite anything specific (empirically) to support your claim that DI has attempted to insert or mandate ID into curricula?
12.5.2005 7:22pm
Ken Alfano (mail):
Andrew and plunge,

I think my last post responds to some of your points.

By the way, I do think that Darwinian evolution actually falls short in some ways even if I were to hypothetically concede the intrinsic superiority of "science" over "theology." I also think that some of the attempts to defend biblically-literal creationsim on "scientific" grounds have a bit more merit than some predisposed to be hostile towards religion might be willing to admit. Having said this, I do not generally associate myself with such arguments, both because the science is sometimes unsound (yes, I do believe science has tremendous value, albeit secondary), and because I tend to view this as a clash of philosophical worldviews rather than of scientific interpretations.

The matrix comment makes my point -- at some level we make unprovable assumptions (and of course we define "proof" somewhat circularly), so the worst you can arguably say about any given "religious" viewpoint is that it's a "larger leap" of faith than naturalism -- but even this is at odds with those religions which view atheism and agnosticism as foolish.

Ken
12.5.2005 7:25pm
plunge (mail):
Ken, I'm sorry, but no one can function like that. If your suggestion is that we should all deny our common reality first and foremost, then at that point, frankly, we are all at an impasse and that's the end of any sensible discussion (perhaps I'm not even having this discussion with you, so it's moot anyway). All is equally valid, leaving nothing on which to build any sort of agreement, making any discernment of any sort of truth impossible: it's all mere postmodern subjectivity.

Our common reality is whatever it is in some possibly nonsensical metaphysical sense that no one can ever figure out. In the meantime, all that matters to most people is that it IS reliably common and allows us to gain further and ever more certian knowledge about it, whatever it might be.

Regardless, to the vast majority of people, this sort of discussion is mere philosophical wankering that has no produced one iota of demonstrable result or demonstrable truth in thousands of years of mental effort. In all the time that has been spent debating what the heck the doctrine of the Trinity even means, we've learned that the universe is orders of magnitude vaster and more wonderous than we'd ever imagined. We've learned how flowers bloom and the history of puppies. You're free to ask that we all regard all of that as a usless illusion, but I doubt even you actually live your life like that when you aren't out sermonizing. Without science and the knowledge its allowed us to gain about the world, you wouldn't even be able to communicate with me on this blog. That I _personally_ find that to be more valuable than a bunch of doctrines that I can't pretend to even understand isn't faith, it's a value judgement.
12.5.2005 7:38pm
David Berke:
Ken,

I must wonder if you deliberately miss the point. I specifically deny the notion that one must favor the scientific or rational over the divine. Indeed, I will say the opposite right now. The Divine takes precedence over our limited human beliefs and logic. Unfortunately, it is essentially impossible to prove the divine to another, and as human beings, we must communicate to eachother in a meaningful manner.

Accordingly, I merely state that nobody else can share one's personal experience of the divine, but most people can largely agree as to the empirical or scientific. Yes, there are exceptions. Yes, people are influenced by their others beliefs and upbringin. I never claimed that perfect external verification was found. However, the reasons for disagreements and determinations can be communicated to others. This provides a foundation for further discussion and belief. "God told me so" does not. Hence, the universities and schools choose to focus on the material, empirical, and scientific, rather than the divine. Not because the divine is less, but because there is no way to choose among the infinite divine answers.
12.5.2005 7:49pm
Ken Alfano (mail):
plunge,

Please don't mistake a philosophical analysis -- repleat with hypothetical "extremes" for the specific purpose of making an isolated particular abstract point -- for what I am ultimately advocating in other contexts. And incidentally, honest critical analysis where we simply evaluate the logical merit of each other's worldviews is hardly "sermonizing."

I have said (above) that I believe science has tremendous value! (I make my living as an Engineer.) But I believe we ultimately make philosophical decisions -- many of which we will readily agree on (like the general reliability of our senses), but are nevertheless subjective -- as to how to reagrd what we observe. For me personally (in my faith), I believe that all of what God has revealed through nature is a highly valuable gift from Him that we should use productively, so please don't think I am dismissive of it just because I view it as secondary to matters of faith (which is an opposite view to that which accepts human observation and deduction without any caveats whatsoever, hence neither can be neutral).

Answer me this: Should a school be allowed to teach that "no one could ever rise from the dead" and not have to admit that it rests upon the eminently subjective belief that Christianity is false?
12.5.2005 7:51pm
plunge (mail):
"By the way, I do think that Darwinian evolution actually falls short in some ways even if I were to hypothetically concede the intrinsic superiority of "science" over "theology.""

i.e. concede that reality is something we can all explore together? I don't get it. I don't think that science is intrinsically "superior" to theology. For me, subjectively, it's definately proven superior in my experience, but that's not the point. The point is that science can answer questions posed within the context of the real world, if that happens to be the context we're interested in. If you _aren't_ interested in it, then no harm, no foul. If you deny the existence of what we both experience as physical reality, or don't think it's important, hey I don't have any problems with that. There's nothing wrong or inferior even about a monk that decides that all reality is illusion and he is the only one that exists. But don't expect me to call that science.

"I also think that some of the attempts to defend biblically-literal creationsim on "scientific" grounds have a bit more merit than some predisposed to be hostile towards religion might be willing to admit."

You're welcome to question the motives and biases of others, but perhaps you should make those arguments instead of just insinuating them.

"The matrix comment makes my point -- at some level we make unprovable assumptions (and of course we define "proof" somewhat circularly), so the worst you can arguably say about any given "religious" viewpoint is that it's a "larger leap" of faith than naturalism -- but even this is at odds with those religions which view atheism and agnosticism as foolish."

Sorry, but again, it's not a "leap of faith" if it's outright acknowledged as a conditional assumption. It helps, of course that that assumption happens to be the same one that, for instance, allows me to act as if my mother exists, that I have teeth to brush, and that computers function to post comments on a blog. Most people, including, apparently, yourself, seem perfectly comfortable of acknowledging that context and treating it as real. We could always deny it, always assert the matrix, but this gets us nowhere, and precludes all knowledge.

The problem with religious viewpoints is that their leap is not connected to anything. You can leap anywhere. There are no limits other than those you choose to impose or believe in. At least this external reality is something: a) we can all of us agree on whether we like the things we find in it or not, and b) functions in a reliable way that allows us to discern truth from falisity. I don't know if anything fits the definition of objective, but if anything does, I would expect it to do those things. I've not seen that theology trifles itself with any such humility.
12.5.2005 7:54pm
Steph (mail):
Ken Writes
"But as Descartes observed, anything can be doubted (except perhaps one's own isolated existence in the present, hence the infamous "cogito"), because all else, including one's own past, could conceivably be an illusion/deception."

But the problem with Descartes and your position is that those things can't be doubted without running into massive conradiction. Consiousness presupposes something to be consious of. It can't be consiousness itself, because how could conciousness come into existance without things to be consious of, therefor existance MUST logicaly be pior to conciousness.

As for science being based on faith, faith is belef in the absence of evidence. It seems to me that there is evidence that science works since it alows for the making of predictions that actual predict the results of actions. Since there is evidence that science works, it is not based on faith.

IF what you are trying to say is that our senses are not reliable, then of course you are arguing that you aren't consious. If your sences don't allow you to be concious of the world around you how are you concious?

That you are using one of the greatist proofs of the working of science to argue against its reliability is pathetic.

As for the question of the principal that one should not multiply entities beyond necessity, this principal works against your position.

Suppose arguendo, "the universe came into existance in six days and on the seventh day it stopped comming into existance." Does that explination have more of fewer entities than the following. "God created the world in six days and on the seventh day he rested."

The fundimental fact is that this is a philosophical question. Either, the universe exists, or god exists and he created the universe.

You want to put consiousness, in the form of god, into an unteneable privileged position over and prior to existance. But for the reason, I have already outlined that is imposible.
12.5.2005 7:59pm
Ken Alfano (mail):
David,

Please don't think I'm "deliberately" missing any point. I take your point that the divine can be stipulated as superior while still agreeing to limit (for practicality's sake) what we can share to strictly the "lower-order" knowledge that we can personally observe.

However, I still think there is a worldview premise implicit to all of our knowledge, and that nothing is totally logically exempt from this. So we can all agree that the ideal gas law is true, for example, because we can all observe (and de-falsify) it by our intuitively rational criteria of repeatability -- but we also stipulate to certain premises in order to get to that point, and a science class should admit that it rests upon naturalistic premises with which some may sometimes selectively choose to disagree (i.e. the resurrection, creationism, etc.) and that this too is equally valid. I maintain that agnosticism has an element of faith.
12.5.2005 8:00pm
Michael B (mail):
"... almots every scientist I've ever met is scrupulous in laying out exactly what the basic assumptions and unprovable axioms of science are and hence it's limitations."

"Is there more to it? That's a question for a different time and venue, and I've not seen scientists trying to argue that science is what answers those questions." plunge

Would be nice if it were so, it would certainly help forward the debate along more rational/empirical grounds. Adumbrating forms of scientism (e.g., philosophical materialism) onto a more valid and pure science is one of the problems which continues to be ignored by those who profess an interest in science for its own sake, but in fact are tying non-scientific, ideological interests onto the more restricted scientific claims.

Additionally, West extending his rebuttal of Goodstein's article:

Did New York Times report the whole story? You decide, excerpt:

Here is the e-mail I sent to New York Times reporter Laurie Goodstein after she interviewed me last Thursday for her predictable hatchet-job on intelligent design in Sunday's Times. Decide for yourself whether her story accurately reflected all of the information she was given:
Laurie,

It was good to talk with you. In follow-up to our conversation, here is a link providing a list of the peer-reviewed and peer-edited scientific publications favoring intelligent design and/or fundamental critiques of the claims of neo-Darwinism: [link to peer reviewed articles].

To reiterate: We think that the debate over intelligent design will eventually be decided among scientists and scholars, and that's why we put most of our resources into supporting the work of scholars on intelligent design and challenges to neo-Darwinism. That's why we oppose efforts by school districts to mandate ID; we think such efforts politicize what should be a scientific controversy.

Also here: New York Times Reporter Misrepresents Kansas Even After Being Given the Correct Info, excerpt:

Actually, the Board did no such thing. The Kansas science standards encourage students to learn about scientific criticisms of Darwin's theory. They do not ask for the teaching of alternatives to Darwin's theory such as intelligent design. Indeed, the Board included the following explicit statement in the standards:

"We also emphasize that the Science Curriculum Standards do not include Intelligent Design...." [emphasis added]

Oops, more of those facts getting in the way of Goodstein, the NYT, et al. along with their dogmas and certitudes cum misrepresentations. Apparently, when facts are misrepresented it's O.K., as long as its in the service of The Greater Truth du jour.
12.5.2005 8:04pm
plunge (mail):
"But I believe we ultimately make philosophical decisions -- many of which we will readily agree on (like the general reliability of our senses), but are nevertheless subjective -- as to how to reagrd what we observe."

"For me personally (in my faith), I believe that all of what God has revealed through nature is a highly valuable gift from Him that we should use productively, so please don't think I am dismissive of it just because I view it as secondary to matters of faith (which is an opposite view to that which accepts human observation and deduction without any caveats whatsoever, hence neither can be neutral)."

Okay, it's secondary to matters of faith, to you. So, I don't see the problem. You can, at least, agree, that dogs can't survive in space unprotected, right? That's science. If the dog and space is illusion, or if there are no rules and anything can happen, then so be it, but then we're back to square one where we might as well not know anything.

"Answer me this: Should a school be allowed to teach that "no one could ever rise from the dead" and not have to admit that it rests upon the eminently subjective belief that Christianity is false?"

This is a pretty difficult question. I would say that it depends on what subject they were learning: science, history, or social studies/philosophy.

But surely as a Christian you'd like it that someone rising from the dead be a miracle (i.e. outside the confines of the world) rather than science, no?
12.5.2005 8:05pm
Ken Alfano (mail):
Steph,

I'm familiar with the criticisms of Descartes, and they are fair (though responded to, as I'm sure you've seen), as is a critique of my application of it to worldviews generally, but I think "pathetic" is a bit harsh.

I don't know how to emphasis any more strongly that I do not dispute the tremendous value of science, but I think there is a certain subjectivity is placing it above theology -- at least in terms of reliability (though not necessarily importance, as some of my fellow commenters have shown me), because many theistic perspectives feel just as strongly that it's "irrational" to view alleged divine revelation as extraneuous (almost by default).

Ken
12.5.2005 8:10pm
plunge (mail):
"but we also stipulate to certain premises in order to get to that point, and a science class should admit that it rests upon naturalistic premises with which some may sometimes selectively choose to disagree (i.e. the resurrection, creationism, etc.) and that this too is equally valid. I maintain that agnosticism has an element of faith."

I guess my problem is that I don't see you asking that any other statements about the world be premised with such digressions. You don't tell your kids "don't you dare smoke pot... unless it allows you to achieve a higher consciousness and see through time, as some believe it does. Really, the whole idea that pot smoking is bad for you is just an assumption, no better or worse than any other."

"I maintain that agnosticism has an element of faith."

Now THAT is out there. How could claiming not to know something require an element of faith?
12.5.2005 8:13pm
Tim Bosson (mail):
Medis and JW,

Please explain for me the distinction between the claims of biochemist Michael Behe that some organisms are irreducibly complex and therefore could not be brought about by slow mutation and the claims that organisms evolve by natural selection, keeping the good and getting rid of the bad? It seems both are making "novel predictions" "beyond what has already been confirmed." But one is acceptable and the other is not, maybe its because as you say, Medis, the latter theory "will only produce naturalistic predictions." A premise that conveniently excludes any contending philosophy that points to a non-naturalistic source regardless of its merit. (As a side note, its debatable whether the first principle is not naturalism, as Richard Lewontin has said: "We take the side of science …because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism….")

That leads into JW's point. Science a priori excludes the supernatural because "if it ain't subject to testing by the scientific method, it ain't science." But, I don't disagree with his proposition, my problem is with the assumption that something "subject to testing by the scientific method" automatically becomes more valid. Science makes all kinds of ridiculous claims that have not been substantiated (ie- the actual origin of life, the ever adjusting/moving date of the "big-bang" (that's if science still believes in a big-bang), the gaps between species that supposedly evolved that are not present in the fossil record), and yet these claims are characterized as "Science". Why? Just because they are the newest and most logical naturalistic explanations and are subject to, though can't be proven by (ie-the fossils are missing or the procedure of natural selection is unknown, etc...), testing.

Just read a science textbook taught in public schools. The book shows pictures of fossils of different animals, shows how their similar, then wha-law, sua sponte, species are claimed to evolve from one to another. And that is Science, because its "testable," and I'm suppose to bow to this? No thanks.
12.5.2005 8:16pm
Ken Alfano (mail):
plunge,

"But surely as a Christian you'd like it that someone rising from the dead be a miracle (i.e. outside the confines of the world) rather than science, no?"

This is fair, but I would add the caveat that "miracles" (things outside what we tend to think of as "naturalistic" based on what we commonly observe) such as Messiah-resurrections and universe-creations should not be "officially" presumed by an agent of the state (i.e. public school) to be impossible, and thus neither example should be presumptivly placed on the defensive by the state (or have contrary views privileged).
12.5.2005 8:20pm
plunge (mail):
"Actually, the Board did no such thing. The Kansas science standards encourage students to learn about scientific criticisms of Darwin's theory. They do not ask for the teaching of alternatives to Darwin's theory such as intelligent design. Indeed, the Board included the following explicit statement in the standards:"

And so ID now no longer a critique of evolution? huzzah! So exactly now what sorts of "critiques" of evolution do you think Kansas has in mind now that irreducible complexity, specified complexity, and so forth have all been ruled out?
12.5.2005 8:20pm
Ken Alfano (mail):
plunge,

I believe the subtle element of faith implicit in agnosticism comes in the allocation of burden. The presumption that "natural" truth is automatically reliable (subject to the conditions we were discussing), but that the existence of God is not self-evident is an opposite contention to that of many premodern monotheists. (For example, an adherent to scripture would suggest that God reveals himself directly to every human heart with even more clarity than human eyes reveal physical objects.)
12.5.2005 8:25pm
PersonFromPorlock:
JW,

When choosing between the design and Darwinian hypotheses, we find design plausible for mousetraps only because we have independent knowledge that there are creatures called humans who construct all variety of mechanical contraptions...

In fact, no. If I design a mousetrap I have direct knowledge that I did so, but your mousetrap comes about through physical processes which, to me, are indistinguishable in kind from any others. But since I'm a courteous fellow, I assume you exist.

...if we didn't, the existence of mousetraps would pose a legitimate scientific problem. Needless to say, we have considerably less independent evidence for a Tinkerer who spends His days soldering cells.

To the contrary, my evidence for you and my evidence for God are exactly the same: nil. But if I assume you exist and control the behavior of your body, how can I avoid assuming the existence of a sort of super-you to control the bits of the universe that aren't you but appear to work the same way?
12.5.2005 8:31pm
plunge (mail):
"This is fair, but I would add the caveat that "miracles" (things outside what we tend to think of as "naturalistic" based on what we commonly observe) such as Messiah-resurrections and universe-creations should not be "officially" presumed by an agent of the state (i.e. public school) to be impossible, and thus neither example should be presumptivly placed on the defensive by the state (or have contrary views privileged)."

In that case, I just don't know what to do. I'm not the sort of person who wants to make things hard on religious parents. But neither is it an easy issue. I'm not sure kids are really going to take in obscure digressions into metaphysics any time they state what most people commonly understand as everyday facts. I don't think a good science teacher SHOULD be teaching that science declares that anything is per se impossible (since that sort of declarative universal is really not in the realm of science).

Why not just declare them scientifically inexplicable and unproven and be done with it (which is the scientific view on things like universe creation: i.e. hey, we dunno about that one, no comment), leaving religious explanations to parents.

But it's still not an easy one. I mean, how are we to make these sorts of generalizations that make sense in everyday life, without trampling on the extrodinary claims of religions, let alone all possible belief systems? Do only certain metaphysics apply for special treatment?
12.5.2005 8:34pm
Colin:
MB:

You asked if I could demonstrate the DI's intent to insert ID into public school curricula. Purely off the top of my head (having just returned home and eager to go to dinner) here is a link to the Wedge Document, produced by the Discovery Institute. (To its credit, the DI hosts a PDF of this document on its own site, although I don't have the URL handy.)

I call your attention to Phase III:

"Once our research and writing have had time to mature, and the public prepared for the reception of design theory, we will move toward direct confrontation with the advocates of materialist science through challenge conferences in significant academic settings. We will also pursue possible legal assistance in response to resistance to the integration of design theory into public school science curricula."

The entire document is worth reading. I note particularly its emphasis on media and legal outreach over actual research, and its total lack of any recognition of the possibility that IDC won't be proved out by whatever research they eventually get around to doing.

As an aside, I find West's response that the Kansas standards don't include IDC to be specious, at best. The incredible paucity of ID research is in stark contrast to the strength of its political and media acumen, and what the standards say and what they are intended to do are entirely different things. That's a matter of opinion, I suppose, and you and I probably have vastly different opinions as to the DI's honestly and forthrightness.
12.5.2005 8:36pm
plunge (mail):
"I believe the subtle element of faith implicit in agnosticism comes in the allocation of burden."

But agnostics, at least the more conventional kind around today (as opposed to the Huxley kind who hold a belief, that God is inherently unknowable in every respect, I don't even think is self-consistent), are making statements about their own knowledge, not knowledge or the truth of the matter itself. If God isn't self-evident to them, then God just isn't self-evident to them and there's really not much else that can be said: I don't see where reality necessarily comes into it. They are, at most, describing their own mental states.

After all, agnostics can also be mystics who deny the external reality as being true. They can even believe in God.
12.5.2005 8:38pm
Ken Alfano (mail):
plunge,

We may not be all that far apart. Even I concede that it is difficult (the state should seek to promote neither religion nor nonreligion), I just question whether the solution is to present material in a way that subtly undermines religious perspectives by marginalizing them without explanation (that's hardly the kind of humility that theists are so often chided for lacking). You do not appear in any sense hostile to religion, so you understandably struggle with how to fairly present the material. I don't have the answer either.

Ken
12.5.2005 8:40pm
plunge (mail):
"The incredible paucity of ID research is in stark contrast to the strength of its political and media acumen, and what the standards say and what they are intended to do are entirely different things."

If you actually look at the published "research" you'll find a lot of restatements of ID's basic claims and literature reviews (most of which spend their time doing pure quote mining). There's no lab work, no serious proposals for lab work tha timpact ID, no predictions that impact ID, and so on. I didn't check all the journals cited, but from past experience of looking over such lists, I would bet that most are either DI-created journals or things like Meyer's article: which the journal it was snuck into has since repudiated as not being sound, let alone not even being the sort of article the journal publishes in the first place, is not exactly a winning proposition. It's not hard to see why the reporter might not take it seriously.
12.5.2005 8:44pm
Colin:
Plunge,

I agree. Here is an interesting post discussing the ID version of "peer review." (NB: Blog post, grain of salt, etc.)

I also recall that the editor who sheparded Meyers' controversial article through the review process was a self-described "baraminologist." I wonder where one gets a degree for that?

Perhaps BIOLA.
12.5.2005 8:53pm
plunge (mail):
I think any good science class should present science as a method, and one that produces knowledge about our common physical reality. It should explain that scientific fact and truth are definitions very particular to science: they are the results we get when we apply the method, and they are never anything other than conditional based on constant re-examination of evidence new and old. It should leave it at that and NEVER try to say that science reveals anything more than what it begins with: the physical world. I think one major problem is that it takes a good teacher to distinguish between this and "scientific fact is invioble" and not all kids have good teachers.
12.5.2005 9:02pm
Michael B (mail):
Firstly, there's plenty of political and media acumen when it comes to adumbrating philosophical materialism onto science within the sphere of evolution's concerns.

Also: Once our research and writing have had time to mature ... may be key to your excerpt. But far more importantly this, referring to an aspect of the Dover trial, excerpt, my emphasis:

"Throughout her nearly fifty-page Report, Professor Barbara Forrest attempts to document the religious beliefs and putative motives of some of the scientists and scholars who support the theory of intelligent design. To do so she analyzes with a seemingly obsessive zeal a single fundraising document authored in 1998 by a then-junior staff member of the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture. Yet, as the director of the Center for Science and Culture, the organization about which Dr. Forrest purports expertise, I can verify that she has never communicated with me in any way about the wedge document or any other matter. Her expertise about the putative plans, purposes and strategies of the organization that I direct should be regarded with skepticism."

Too, I asked for a specific example/empirical evidence, not a general paper.

Still further, I've long indicated I'm only interested in science qua science. Just as there have been both major hoaxes (e.g., Piltdown man) and minor hoaxes (Ernst Haeckel's comparative embryo drawings) in the history of evolution, similarly I don't expect a purity from each and every aspect of those professing an interest in ID, so a single document is not going to be conclusive in and of itself.

Or this: "I find West's response that the Kansas standards don't include IDC to be specious, at best." Good lord, that topic was simply presented as one of the refutations vis-a-vis Goodstein's article. Once the refutation is presented (and the Kansas aspect is really just a minor refutation in and of itself) you turn it around to something else entirely.

More devolution of the debate, as previously noted.
12.5.2005 9:20pm
Medis:
Ken,

I'm not sure why you think there is some sort of official policy in natural science education of teaching that miracles are impossible. I would say, rather, that miracles simply are not discussed, positively or negatively, by natural science educators, and with good reason: the natural sciences, by definition, can have nothing informative to say about miracles.

Tim,

There are at least two problems with describing Behe's claim as a "novel prediction".

The first is the problem of defining what it means for something to be "irreducibly complex" such that an irreducibly complex thing could not possibly be brought about by some sort of natural evolution. If Behe cannot give us a demonstrably reliable test for "irreducible complexity", then he hasn't given us an actual prediction, meaning something we could actually observe as true or false.

Contrast this with something like the basic evolutionary prediction that we will see certain patterns of DNA commonality among related species (patterns consistent with the theory that the species diverged from certain common ancestors at fixed times in the past). That is something that we can define and observe, and we can know whether or not those patterns do or do not occur (incidentally, so far, they always do occur).

But let us suppose we can address this first problem and we come up with a reliable test for "irreducible complexity". The second problem is that as you described it, Behe is not predicting exactly WHICH thing is "irreducibly complex". Rather, he is just predicting that there exists SOME such thing. So, to test this "prediction", it would seem we would have to test everything in the history of life in the universe before we could test this "prediction", because otherwise, no matter how many things we test and find nothing with is irreducibly complex, it is always possible that one of the things we have not yet tested is the "some thing" we are looking for.

Again, contrast this with the DNA pattern prediction of evolutionary theory, which is not just that SOME living things will show these patterns, but rather that ANY related species will show such patterns. So, we don't have to look at everything in the history of life in the universe to test this prediction ... we can look at any group of related species we choose. And again, so far each time we have done so the predicted patterns have been there.

So, that is the basic problem with Behe's "predictions": he can't give us a concrete idea of what to look for, and he can't give us a concrete idea of where to look for it. So, that isn't really much of a "prediction".
12.5.2005 9:21pm
Colin:
MB,

Why would Forrest be required to talk to a DI flack before discussing the Wedge document? Not only is it self-explanatory to a remarkable extent, the DI hosts a copy itself, with attached disclaimers, explanations, and excuses. If their documented explanation is insufficient, they should remove it and post the unadulterated document with a simple footnote saying, "We no longer believe this. Please contact us for the most recent explanation why."

As for a specific example of the DI's intent to put ID in public schools, I don’t know what I can offer that would persuade you; you have much more faith than I do in the honesty of the Discovery Institute and its members. I think the DI is probably honestly opposed to mandating teaching a particular theory, because they know that they've decisively lost in terms of persuading the professional scientific community of the validity of their claims. But mandating a particular theory isn't the point - it's enough for the DI to open the door, knowing that Kansas and Dover and other places where true believers sit on the school board will take the initiative.

I can’t see what else their tactics are designed to do; they don’t spend significant money on research or engage in the debate at the professional level. It’s all media advocacy aimed at John Q. Public. There’s no research/scientific agenda, which leads me to wonder, what is the policy agenda? I see nothing other than putting intelligent design in front of kids who don't have the tools to distinguish science from pseudoscience.

In the end, this is largely a matter of opinion and interpretation. I’ve read Dembski’s work, and Behe’s, and I’m a regular follower of the DI’s press releases and Dembski’s blog. I find them all to be intensely (and self-consciously) manipulative of the public debate and largely dishonest--see my earlier post about the quality of the "peer review" that the DI loves to trumpet. If you disagree, and take the DI at its word, then I'm not put out—I’m not trying to persuade you, although I would be delighted if I could. I certainly don’t have the energy or the interest necessary to break down each one of West’s points, one by one, through a strict empirical refutation. I find his article to be misleading, and I believe that it is intentionally so. I am surprised that you don’t.
12.5.2005 10:23pm
NickM (mail) (www):
BIOLA is not a seminary. It is a university. It offers degrees in fields widely removed from theology and divinity. It offers an explicitly Christian education, but any place where you can get a M.B.A. (as a friend of mine did a couple years ago) is not a seminary.

Nick
12.5.2005 10:28pm
JosephSlater (mail):
I agree with Plunge and would only add that neither Ken nor any of the ID/creationist defenders has tried to answer the question: if the scientific method isn't the limiting principle to what's in a science class, then how can we avoid teaching witchcraft, astrology, etc. as sympathetically as ID/creationist types want ID/creationism taught?

Ken's answer was, "well, that's complicated." That's not good enough, and more specifically it shows that there is a special pleading for a certain type of non-scientific knowledge that some Christians believe in that wouldn't apply to other forms of non-scientific knowledge other groups of folks believe in.
12.6.2005 10:17am
Neal Lang (mail):
if the scientific method isn't the limiting principle to what's in a science class

Would only proponents of "evolution based on chaos" adhere to this limitation, to wit:
What is the ``scientific method''?
The scientific method is the best way yet discovered for winnowing the truth from lies and delusion. The simple version looks something like this:

1. Observe some aspect of the universe.
2. Invent a tentative description, called a hypothesis, that is consistent with what you have observed.
3. Use the hypothesis to make predictions.
4. Test those predictions by experiments or further observations and modify the hypothesis in the light of your results.
5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until there are no discrepancies between theory and experiment and/or observation.

When consistency is obtained the hypothesis becomes a theory and provides a coherent set of propositions which explain a class of phenomena. A theory is then a framework within which observations are explained and predictions are made.
From: What is the "scientific method"?
Much of the debate regarding the validity of evolution revolves around the elementary notion that science explains things on the basis of cause and effect. Simply stated, given certain conditions, certain results can be expected. This feature gives science its predictive qualities. For instance the statement "a magnet attracts iron" can be tested and used to predict what will happen when the two are near each other.
Hans Reichenbach in The Rise of Scientific Philosophy (1951, p. 89) emphasizes the necessity of a predictive quality for science:

A mere report of relations observed in the past cannot be called knowledge; if knowledge is to reveal objective relations of physical objects, it must include reliable predictions. A radical empiricism, therefore, denies the possibility of knowledge.

The concept of predictability and subsequent testability has prompted the noted scientific philosopher Karl Popper to further emphasize that if an explanation cannot be adequately tested, it is not scientific. The concept must be testable (i.e., falsifiable) to qualify. Any kind of explanation will not do; it must be amenable to a testing process. If it survives testing, it can qualify. In our magnet example, we might propose that objects of only a certain color (and not a magnet) attract iron. If a red magnet were found to work, we could further test the notion by using a wooden block of the same color as the magnet and thus disprove the color theory. Popper in his book The Logic of Scientific Discovery (1968, p. 40) is emphatic on the matter of falsification. He states:

But I shall certainly admit a system as empirical or scientific only if it is capable of being tested by experience. These considerations suggest that not the verifiability but the falsifiability of a system to be taken as a criterion of demarcation.

The idea that a genuine scientific idea must have the consistency that gives it predictive value, and the potential for falsification, has received a great deal of attention during the past few years among scientific philosophers and evolutionists. There is very little disagreement with this aspect of science as enunciated by Popper, and there is genuine concern as to how to apply this principle to the theory of evolution. The unrepeatable or untestable events postulated for evolution are not amenable to evaluation on the basis of consistency and prediction. Thus the concept of evolution as a principle of science is being questioned at a most fundamental level. Does it really qualify as a scientific principle?
From: DOES EVOLUTION QUALIFY AS A SCIENTIFIC PRINCIPLE?

"Chaos based evolution" cannot be reliably "consistently" nor "predictably" demonstrated as the causality of changes in complex organisms. As such it cannot be considered a "scientific theory" by the definition of "proof" via "scientific method". "Chaos based evolution" is, in fact, merely one of several "hypothesis", similar to "intelliggent design", as to how life evolved in the universe.
12.6.2005 2:05pm
Colin:
Lang, wouldn't that standard of proof also strike the theories that describe plate tectonics and supernovae as "scientific principles"? They are phenomena that we "experience" even more indirectly than evolutionary biology. In practice, we base an enormous amount of contemporary science on observed phenomena.

I also don't see how biology fails the quoted Reichenbach test. Here is a short list of predictions that evolution has made that have been confirmed by observation and experimental results (with citations to the research).

Finally, I don't understand your terminology. What is "chaos based evolution," and why exactly can it not meet your definition of "proof"? Please recall that scientific theories are never, by definition, proven; 'theory' != 'hypothesis'.
12.6.2005 2:15pm
JosephSlater (mail):
I echo Colin's points/questions, and add that I'm still waiting for ID/creationists to tell me how ID/creationism gets into science classes in a way that allows science teachers, on a principled basis, to exclude astrology, palmistry, etc. as serious ways of understanding the universe. Why not "teach the controversy" about those too? I note that my high school science teacher did discuss astrology, but not in terms that ID/creationists would like used about ID/creationism.
12.6.2005 2:32pm
Michael B (mail):
"... I'm still waiting for ID/creationists to tell me how ID/creationism gets into science classes in a way that allows science teachers, on a principled basis, to exclude astrology, palmistry, etc. as serious ways of understanding the universe. Why not "teach the controversy" about those too?" JosephSlater

Well, I don't consider myself a "believer in" ID so much as I consider myself a skeptic of Darwinian evolution (i.e., reliant entirely upon philosophical materialism and subject to pure chance and randomness) along with being a proponent of rational debate based upon the empirical evidence, regardless as to where that might lead. Hence, at least from my pov, the answer to your question is simple.

ID, in its current nascent, developing state, does not yet belong in a science curriculum, certainly not so in toto. (Specific, tangential aspects related to what appears to be "irreducible complexity" and similar themes such as pertain to mathematical and probability theory do belong in science curricula and, at least tangentially, in philosophical curricula.) Additionally (and I fear I may be giving you too much credit since you may be doing nothing more than sneering at ID as a scientific enterprise, even in potential terms) astrology doesn't purport to be scientific (though there may be a sense in which one can quibble about this, I'm speaking in general terms) while ID is manifestly interested in proceeding along scientific grounds. That they also bring up valid philosophical and philosophy of science issues at times does not at all detract from this primary interest.

Also, back at ya JosephSlater: I'm still waiting for evolutionist/materialists to tell me how philosophical materialism gets into science classes without proper explication, for example explication of perfectly viable philosophical alternatives.
12.6.2005 3:46pm
Neal Lang (mail):
Lang, wouldn't that standard of proof also strike the theories that describe plate tectonics and supernovae as "scientific principles"? They are phenomena that we "experience" even more indirectly than evolutionary biology. In practice, we base an enormous amount of contemporary science on observed phenomena.


I didn't set the parameters as "to what's in a science class", you did. Of course, in this case "one size fits all", unless you have different criteria depending on your "Worldview" versus someone else's.

I also don't see how biology fails the quoted Reichenbach test. Here is a short list of predictions that evolution has made that have been confirmed by observation and experimental results (with citations to the research).


Really? The fossil record indeed? Perhaps you be kind enough to point me to the definitive "missing link"? Or possibly the "inter-species" fossil? Or at least the fossil record that demonstrates the "evolution" of complex organic systems such as vision. "Survival of the fittest" is fine in predicting prey animals with stronger leg muscels, but how does it account for complex systems, such as vision, which unless they are fully formed add nothing to the survivability of an organism.

Finally, I don't understand your terminology. What is "chaos based evolution," and why exactly can it not meet your definition of "proof"? Please recall that scientific theories are never, by definition, proven; 'theory' != 'hypothesis'.


If evolution is not "ordered", in other words, based on "intelligent design" it follows that it must be therefore based on "chaotic" or "unordered" design. "Chaos" is the "blind watchmatcher"! "Proof", i.e. "scientific method" was your criteria as "to what's in a science class". Therefore, you shouldn't be upset when "proof" is requested. Of course the "fossil record" does not predict "chaotic evolution", unless you are willing to accept that it takes place so rapidly that "suitable" fossil don't or so slow the "fossil record" can't demonstrate it. Talk about having both ways!

Actually, a "hypothesis" is a "theory" that has yet to be "proven" by "scientific method" - like "chaotic evolution" or "intelligent design".
12.6.2005 3:52pm
Neal Lang (mail):
I echo Colin's points/questions, and add that I'm still waiting for ID/creationists to tell me how ID/creationism gets into science classes in a way that allows science teachers, on a principled basis, to exclude astrology, palmistry, etc. as serious ways of understanding the universe. Why not "teach the controversy" about those too? I note that my high school science teacher did discuss astrology, but not in terms that ID/creationists would like used about ID/creationism.


It would appear that "intelligent design", as well as "astrology, palmistry, etc.", have as much right to the forum of "science classes", as does "chaotic evolution", if "proof" by "scientific method " is to be your "limiting principle" as "to what's in a science class" .
12.6.2005 4:01pm
Michael B (mail):
Hmmmm, six hours later and - still waiting. And previously there was so much impatience.

Additionally, much of this thread is conspicuous in another vein. Apparently Darwinian evolution is not only inerrant and infallible and needs defending as such, but the NYT vis-a-vis Laurie Goodstein's article is likewise, at least for all practical intents and purposes, inerrant and infallible and inviolable as well. Even when items like the following were presented in refutation of Goodstein's piece, here, here and here - no, it simply cannot be, Laurie Goodstein's writ will be defended by the defenders of the faith! All detractors and purveyors of the anti-Truth will be dismissed tout court or with very little ado indeed.

Conspicuous? Indeed. Especially so as these wouldbe defenders are purportedly defenders of the scientific method, of science qua science, of a rigorously careful analysis. An example:

"If you disagree, and take the DI at its word, then I'm not put out—I'm not trying to persuade you, although I would be delighted if I could." Colin, describing a peer-review finding, against Behe

But no Colin, you presume much indeed, yet again. If Behe lied or misled as regards the peer review quality of that particular book, I have no problem rejecting it. I never indicated, either implicitly or explicitly that I did. However, and by contrast, that's one reason I had previously noted, vis-a-vis evolution:

"... there have been both major hoaxes (e.g., Piltdown man) and minor hoaxes (Ernst Haeckel's comparative embryo drawings) in the history of evolution, similarly I don't expect a purity from each and every aspect of those professing an interest in ID."

So I'm not primarily interested in defending the peer review quality of a single book; I'm interested in forwarding scientific analysis, your presumptions not withstanding. For example I'm also aware of the ad hominem quality of too many of the attacks against anyone associated with ID, indeed as regards the subject of peer review specifically. For example, this situation where a tout court dismissiveness was manifested in lieu of sound scientific analysis and discretion.

Or this, by Dembski, concerning his "The Design Inference":

"... Eugenie Scott at the National Center for Science Education claims that my book The Design Inference is not peer-reviewed. Nevertheless, that book appeared as part of a Cambridge University Press monograph series: Cambridge Studies in Probability, Induction, and Decision Theory. That series has an academic editorial board (which includes members of the National Academy of Sciences as well as one Nobel laureate), and my manuscript had to be passed on by three anonymous referees before Cambridge University Press could agree to publish the book in that monograph series. In a similar vein, Scott has disparaged my work by claiming that it is not favorably cited in the peer-reviewed literature. But mainstream mathematics and biology journals have cited my work favorably."

Or the well known Richard Sternberg case pertaining to the "Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington" in publishing this paper.

So, the concern with peer review, which you dismiss whole cloth on the basis of the single instance related to Behe's cited volume, is far more involved than your arrogation and condescension would allow.

And I'm not surprised. But let me guess, more tout court dismissiveness.
12.6.2005 9:34pm
Colin:
“Hmmmm, six hours later and - still waiting. And previously there was so much impatience.”

I can’t speak for anyone else, MB, but I didn’t respond because I found your question---why philosophical materialism gets into science classes---inapposite. I’m not aware of philosophically materialistic teaching materials or curricula. I’m only aware of methodological naturalism in public school curricula. The distinction is important; I think your question is a strawman, and only the first in your post:

“Apparently Darwinian evolution is not only inerrant and infallible and needs defending as such…”

That claim is unsupported by either anything on this thread or in the wider world of anti-creationist advocacy. “Darwinian evolution” has been surpassed by more than a century of research that noted and corrected Charles Darwin’s errors. The modern synthesis of evolutionary theory is constantly challenged and supplemented by actual research. What I, and those who agree with me, want to defend biology against is not criticism per se, because criticism is a part of objective science, but empty, deceptive rhetorical criticism that proceeds from a personal dissatisfaction with what the evidence shows. No one—no one at all---is claiming, or has claimed, that “Darwinian evolution” is “inerrant and infallible.” That is such a ludicrous straw-man argument that I can’t help but take the rest of your claims less seriously. If that’s really how you see science in this debate, then you simply aren’t paying attention.

As for defending Goodstein’s article, I still haven’t seen a decent criticism of it. West pointed out minor errors, but nothing substantial. Is Goodstein technically correct that ID is only accepted by one seminary? No, it’s accepted by at least one seminary, several bible colleges, and is taught in a non-science seminar (philosophy, I believe) at at least one liberal arts college. I don’t see how that detracts from the implied criticism that objective science departments universally pass over Intelligent Design as an unproductive area of research. Nor have I seen anything that detracts from the overall article in any substantial way.

As for your putative concern over “science qua science,” why do you not demand that intelligent design theorists actually produce novel and productive research, or testable predictions, or maybe even tested predictions? If you are so concerned about the methodological soundness of science, why are you so willing to see theologians replace research with political advocacy? Why are you not put out that the Discovery Institute’s entire pro-ID effort is in the media, legal, and layman’s advocacy field, with virtually no attempt to seriously engage the scientific community? I think your extraordinary credulousness undermines your asserted dedication to scientific soundness.

You note that you are willing to forgive dishonesty and deception on the part of ID advocates, and equate that with the Piltdown Man and Haeckel’s embryonic sketches. But there is a crucial qualitative difference that you are skipping past: those deceptions were uncovered by methodologically rigorous science. Intelligent Design, on the other hand, gives its advocates a pass on all deceptions because the method doesn’t matter, only the results. As long as the preconceptions are confirmed, it doesn’t matter if Behe deceives people about the peer review he put his book through, or if Dembski makes false claims about the acceptance of his theories by archaeologists and SETI analysts. Science---sound science---proceeds by exposing errors and making successive discoveries. Intelligent Design proceeds by burying its errors and making successive deceptions. There is no valid comparison between two old instances of scientific fraud, discovered and exposed by scientists, and Intelligent Design, which has nothing but fraud to offer. (See, i.e., Sternberg's cosseting of Meyer's article, infra.)

As for your defense of Dembski, I submit that his defense of his “The Design Inference” is a wonderful example of the deceptive nature of ID advocates' claims. I do not know what Scott’s actual claim regarding the peer review status of the book is; I will not take Dembski’s word for it, given his egregious misuse of other’s statements. But my understanding is that “The Design Inference” was peer-reviewed, but not by scientists. Rather, this volume of statistics and math (which doesn't actually posit any theory of ID) was apparently reviewed by philosophers. This may have something to do with Dembski’s belief that philosophers have more valid input into his theories, which in turn may have something to do with the claims of actual, productive mathematicians that his work does not prove what he claims it does. (See also the faq.)

As for the Bio. Soc. Washington article, are you serious? That was a debacle for creationists everywhere, and is a perfect example of the deception so common (and necessary) to Intelligent Design. The journal retracted that article, and admitted that Sternberg, an editor with creationist leanings, improperly exempted the paper from the normal review process. I won’t even bother to link to the commentary on the paper, which showed that it was largely recycled and devoid of serious scientific support for ID. You are absolutely correct that I am dismissive of Sternberg’s academic fraud. I will, however, retract my characterization of Sternberg as a baraminologist (or Young Earth creationist, as opposed to Intelligent Design creationist); he apparently refutes that claim.

You seem to think that every time I criticize ID, or an ID advocate, that I expect the entire fraudulent edifice to collapse on the strength of that one argument. Does the fact that Sternberg hustled a crappy paper through an illegitimate review process, or the fact that Behe’s work is panned by productive biologists, or that Dembski’s work is scorned by active mathematicians, or any one of a hundred other signs of a Potemkin theory blow the entire façade down? No. It takes more than pointing out one or five or fifteen frauds to convince many people that ID is illegitimate, because it is designed from the bottom up to deceive. Eventually, however, it becomes clear that ID had produced nothing but sophisticated political advocacy, baroque Christian apologetics, and lots of vitriol on blogs.

I'll take ID seriously when it proves---or even seriously attempts to prove---its underlying claims. In the meantime, I cannot fathom your credulity.
12.7.2005 1:10am
Michael B (mail):
Yes, Colin, and I can't fathom your misrepresentations, facile reassurances, condescension and even hypocrisy, such as that expressed in your concern with deceptive rhetoric - all the while posing as serious inquiry. (Btw, the "six hours" was addressed to another poster, previously impatient for a response to his own question. But since you take up the issue - and he demures - I'll respond to your blanket dismissiveness.)

"... why philosophical materialism gets into science classes---inapposite." Colin, dismissing tout court any concerns with philosophical materialism being adumbrated onto science in the classroom or otherwise inexplicitly taught.

In this post I'll only take up this single issue, beginning with a summary of a debate between Eugenie Scott and Will Provine. Philosophical materialism vs methodological materialism, as debated by Scott and Provine. First, a rhetorical question only: if this is not an issue whatsoever, to be dismissed, why are they debating it in the first place? Provine, as summarized from the referenced account of debate: "... there is nothing out there, we die in the most definitive sense of the word, and there is no point in even asking the question of the ultimate meaning of life. Where does he get this conclusion? From the Darwinian theory of evolution by descent with modification."

Additionally, Daniel Dennett's Dangerous Idea, by P. Johnson, wherein Dennett's and Searle's initiatives and interests are examined. Excerpts:

"Daniel Dennett's fertile imagination is captivated by the very dangerous idea that the neo-Darwinian theory of biological evolution should become the basis for what amounts to an established state religion of scientific materialism."

Quoting Dennett: "Darwin's idea had been born as an answer to questions in biology, but it threatened to leak out, offering answers-- welcome or not--to questions in cosmology (going in one direction) and psychology (going in the other direction). If [the cause of design in biology] could be a mindless, algorithmic process of evolution, why couldn't that whole process itself be the product of evolution, and so forth all the way down? And if mindless evolution could account for the breathtakingly clever artifacts of the biosphere, how could the products of our own "real" minds be exempt from an evolutionary explanation? Darwin's idea thus also threatened to spread all the way up, dissolving the illusion of our own authorship, our own divine spark of creativity and understanding."

And back to P. Johnson:

"Although many aspects of evolutionary theory remain controversial, Dennett asserts confidently that the overall success of Darwinism-in-principle has been so smashing that the basic program -- all the way up and all the way down -- is established beyond question. Any yet the resistance continues. Some of it comes from religious people, who want to preserve some role for a creator. Dennett just brushes aside the outright creationists, but takes more pains to refute those who would say that God is the author of the laws of nature, including that marvelous evolutionary process that does all the designing. The Darwinian alternative to a Lawgiver at the beginning of the universe is to postpone the beginning indefinitely by hypothesizing something like an eternal system of evolution at the level of universes."

And later, still from P. Johnson:

"Granted that Darwinism is the reigning paradigm in biology, is there some rule in the academic world which requires non-scientists to accept Darwinian principles when they write about, say, philosophy or ethics? My Berkeley colleague John Searle thinks so. In the first chapter of his recent book on The Construction of Social Reality, Searle states that it is necessary "to make some substantive presuppositions about how the world is in fact in order that we can even pose the questions we are trying to answer (about how other aspects of reality are socially constructed)." According to Searle, "two features of our conception of reality are not up for grabs. They are not, so to speak, optional for us as citizens of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century." The two compulsory theories are that the world consists entirely of the entities that physicists call particles, and that living systems (including humans and their minds) evolved by natural selection.

"I think that Searle undermines his whole project by virtually ordering his readers not to notice that scientific materialism and Darwinism are themselves socially constructed doctrines rather than objective facts. Scientists assume materialism because they define their enterprise as a search for the best materialist theories, and this culturally-driven methodological choice is not even evidence, let alone proof, that the world really does consist only of particles. As an explanation for design in biology, Darwinism is perfectly secure when it is regarded as a deduction from materialism, but remarkably insecure when it is subjected to empirical testing. Given that what we most respect about science is its fidelity to the principle that empirical testing is what really matters, why should philosophers allow scientists to tell them that they must accept assumptions that don't pass the empirical test?"

Yet for you Colin it's merely sniffed at, all dismissed tout court, indicating "[you're] not aware of philosophically materialistic teaching materials or curricula." And with that you wash your hands of it and sniff and dismiss it whole cloth.
12.7.2005 9:09am
Michael B (mail):
"As for defending Goodstein’s article, I still haven’t seen a decent criticism of it. West pointed out minor errors, but nothing substantial." Colin

Well, this is the first time you've admitted he pointed out any errors at all, at first summarily referring to West's rebuttal as "ridiculous". Again, Goodstein's article - and the related criticisms are here, here and here. At this time I'll be content to let any reader who cares to compare and judge for him/herself as to whether your sniffs and summary dismissiveness is warranted or not. We've traded enough tit-for-tat on this article and West's relevant corrections in prior posts. (You've setup your own strawmen as regards to how I've represented West's rebuttals, for example I never indicated all his rebuttals were of equal importance - they range from minor to far more substantial; I never indicated otherwise. So again, your blanket dismissiveness as regards these rebuttals is odd, at the very best. Regardless, if any care to, they can examine the article and corresponding rebuttals for themselves and form their own opinion.)
12.7.2005 9:20am
Michael B (mail):
"You note that you are willing to forgive dishonesty and deception on the part of ID advocates, and equate that with the Piltdown Man and Haeckel's embryonic sketches. But there is a crucial qualitative difference that you are skipping past: those deceptions were uncovered by methodologically rigorous science." Colin, with yet more summary dismissiveness

Firstly, I didn’t say a thing about "forgiveness," I more simply placed Behe's apparent deception within an extensive, relevant context, while also acknowledging it as such, not dismissing it.

Secondly, good grief, talk about credulity. I hardly think it should have taken decades to discover Haeckel's embryonic sketches were forgeries. A whole lot of rather convenient, decades-long naivete, eh? His drawings of comparative embryos were accepted without critique for such an extended period (roughly 1870s to 1990s - 120 years, I'm not certain?), and almost certainly because they complied with the expectations of Darwinists. (Rhetorical question: is there anything like these decades-long types of artifice and hoaxes in other scientific disciplines in order to forward the ideological schema they're attempting to forward in the case of evolution/materialism, in the harder sciences such as physics or chemistry? There may well be in the softer sciences and there have been hoaxes such those related to cold fusion, but the cold fusion example wasn't used to help forward an ideological template or schema?)

So to proffer this putative "qualitative difference" is amusing. Haeckel was thoroughly dishonest, yet his drawings were accepted as authoritative and placed in text books for over a century - without scientific analysis or peer review of any kind because they fit an ideological schemata, not because they passed any review.

Good grief, I'm not even attempting to make a particularly huge deal out of Haeckel or Piltdown man, I was more simply using them as comparative references. Yet you can't accept the simple, unadorned history for what it is. Instead, for you, it all comes down to this idealized and virtually salvific notion of "methodologically rigorous science" swooping down to redeem Haeckel's original deceit. Credulity my rosy arse. You're so thoroughly into self-deception you can't follow a simple historical timeline without idealizing it and redeeming it, ex post facto. What's next, Cinderella? Snow White?

It's precisely this use of summary dismissiveness on the one hand and idealization on the other that I used terms like "infallibility" and "inerrancy" and "defenders of the faith" when describing your rhetorically laden mode of attack together with your sniffs and generalized dismissiveness. Same thing when defending the errors in Goodstein's NYT article. Rhetorically, you come off as a disciple of P.Z. Myers or V.I. Lenin - a whole lota' brow beating, rhetorical deception, empty reassurances, proclamations of superiority and tout court dismissiveness - leaving others to sift through all this detritus for the substance. Not that there isn't some substance there as well, am not denying that. I just can't imagine some interested in physics or chemistry or other hard sciences, outside of how they might touch on Darwinist/materialist philosophical interests.
12.7.2005 9:56am
Colin:
“Yet for you Colin it's merely sniffed at, all dismissed tout court, indicating "[you're] not aware of philosophically materialistic teaching materials or curricula." And with that you wash your hands of it and sniff and dismiss it whole cloth.”

My dismissal is not tout court; I explained that you asked “how philosophical materialism gets into science classes without proper explication,” and that the answer is, it’s not in science classes. Science classes deal with methodological materialism. I see nothing in your extensive quotations to indicate that high-school biology classes rely on philosophical, rather than methodological, materialism. Why is it debated elsewhere? For the same reason any other philosophical premise is debated - people are interested. It’s a separate question from pedagogy, and you are unnecessarily conflating the two. You raised straw man; please don’t take offense if I dismiss it as such.

As to your next post, West’s rebuttal is ridiculous. His criticisms—large and small—are disingenuous. For instance, he is upset that the NYT reported that "in Kansas last month, the board of education voted that students should be exposed to critiques of evolution like intelligent design." He says that’s not true, because the standards the board adopted claim to not include ID. But students in Kansas will clearly be exposed to ID materials; see, for instance, the roster of “experts” trotted out for the show trials. Are you actually accepting his claim that Kansas students won't be "exposed to . . . intelligent design"? The NYT reporting was overwhelmingly and substantively accurate; the grousing of the Discovery Institute has not exposed any significant flaw in the article.

I’m glad that you encourage people to read the article and the criticisms for themselves; I’ll add that they should look for commentary further afield than Discovery Institute press releases, which seem to be the source of all your criticisms.

As for your claims about Haeckel’s embryonic, I can only reiterate that you are remarkably credulous; you seem to take all of your information from the Discovery Institute and other ID frauds. Haeckel’s theory was emphatically not "accepted without critique" from “roughly 1870s to 1990s.” That is an egregious misreprentation of easily verifable facts. You may be reading Well’s “Icons of Evolution,” which misrepresents criticism of Haeckel as acceptance. Biologists started criticizing recapitulation theory as far back as 1828, and Haeckel's Lamarckian ideas, like Lamarckianism itself, were discredited long ago. I can’t stress this enough: you cannot take intelligent design advocates’ information at face value. It is designed to deceive.

Given your misrepresentation of the facts, your statement, "You're so thoroughly into self-deception you can't follow a simple historical timeline without idealizing it and redeeming it, ex post facto. What's next, Cinderella? Snow White?" is highly insulting and utterly inappropriate. Please check your facts before making accusations.

So to answer your question, “is there anything like these decades-long types of artifice and hoaxes in other scientific disciplines in order to forward the ideological schema they're attempting to forward in the case of evolution/materialism, in the harder sciences such as physics or chemistry?” I don’t know. There’s certainly nothing like it in biology.

You said, “It's precisely this use of summary dismissiveness on the one hand and idealization on the other that I used terms like "infallibility" and "inerrancy" and "defenders of the faith<" when describing your rhetorically laden mode of attack together with your sniffs and generalized dismissiveness.

I’ve been careful to provide what documentation and outside support is available (and, admittedly, convenient) in a blog comment. You refer to that, inaccurately and without justification, as making claims of “infallibility” and “inerrancy,” which none of us have ever claimed. Are you sure it’s not a little bit hypocritical to declare that I’ve adopted a “rhetorically laden mode of attack”? Come on now - you called me a Leninist.

You have uncritically accepted factually inaccurate and misleading ID material as gospel truth, while applying a wholly different standard to objective scientists and defenders of methodological materialism. Your extraordinary credulity does you no credit.
12.7.2005 11:49am
Michael B (mail):
Yes, more sniffs, harrumphs and contemptuous displays for my putative credulity. (Do you actually read and reply to what I say vs. what you like to believe I'm saying? Do you ever examine your own motives and agendas more conscientiously? Or is it always and forever a j'accuse in perpetuity, with you in the role of the virtuous and unapproachable white knight?)

For now though posting will be sporadic at best and there's other aspects of your response which I will eventually address, but for a more substantial reference which pertains to my (9:09 am) post immediately above, concerning philosophical issues, I'd like to reference a paper by Selmer Bringsjord entitled Searle on the Brink. This is simply a reference, no more/no less, which serves to underscore an aspect of the Daniel Dennett quote pulled from the referenced P. Johnson article. The pertinent quote, from Dennett:

"Darwin's idea had been born as an answer to questions in biology, but it threatened to leak out, offering answers-- welcome or not--to questions in cosmology (going in one direction) and psychology (going in the other direction). If [the cause of design in biology] could be a mindless, algorithmic process of evolution, why couldn't that whole process itself be the product of evolution, and so forth all the way down? And if mindless evolution could account for the breathtakingly clever artifacts of the biosphere, how could the products of our own "real" minds be exempt from an evolutionary explanation? Darwin's idea thus also threatened to spread all the way up, dissolving the illusion of our own authorship, our own divine spark of creativity and understanding."

The referenced paper, by Selmer Bringsjord, concerns the mind/body or dualism/monism debate and pointedly highlights the scientifically/philosophically problematic, vexing and indeterminate quality of that debate. It also serves to highlight the seeming misleading assurances Searle resorts to in order to forward his materialist agenda. By contrast, evolutionist/materialists too often formulate this debate (as one example only, if a particularly prominent one) in reductionist and even insinuating terms (e.g., Searle and Provine), and this in turn is far too often conveyed, implicitly and informally (perhaps even unconsciously) rather than formally in any curricula, as an adumbration onto the science which serves to support aspects of evolution.

Again, this is strictly a reference for the few (if any) interested in delving deeper into one aspect of the relevant scientific/philosophical issues. And it is merely one aspect which is significant for several reasons, a few of those being 1) the ultimately indeterminate quality of this aspect of the debate, 2) the need to acknowledge this indeterminate state explicitly in science and philosophically oriented classrooms, 3) how this is directly related to evolutionist/materialist discussions as well as social policy initiatives which pertain to classrooms and other areas and 4) how this is rarely acknowledged explicitly or is simply dismissed, as your own example demonstrates. (Or for that matter as Juan Non-Volokh and Laurie Goodstein of the NYT demonstrates as well. What people don't say, what they elide and evade, is often as interesting or more so as what they do say.)

PS, I didn't say you always dismiss tout court. As I have time I'll address that as well as other points.
12.7.2005 12:46pm
Michael B (mail):
Another, far more general reference, but a highly intriguing and highly profitable one nonetheless and for several reasons. Have been listening to Dennis Prager's show intermitently while working today and by coincidence he interviewed Gerald Schroeder, an MIT-trained scientist who has worked in both physics and biology. Schroeder articulates his own approach to the subject of ID in much the same way I view my approach (in a non-positivist manner and with tentative, yet decided, interest). Too, Schroeder is one of two authors who influenced Anthony Flew, the lifelong, renown and erstwhile philosophical atheist who recently changed his mind in favor of a philosophical theism. (The link provided vis-a-vis Andrew Flew is simply a link to a brief book review he wrote for the other author - Roy Varghese - who helped influence his recent decision.) Again, simply a couple of references for the occasional reader who may be interested. One thing these philosophically and scientifically educated and astute professionals help to demonstrate is the qualitative refutation against the types of ad hominem smears Eugenie Scott, P.Z. Myers, Dawkins, Goodstein and the NYT, Juan Non-Volokh here at the VC, yourself and many, many others perpetrate, either naively or more consciously, against ID proponents as an entire class.

Intellectually (not merely morally) it's a shameful ad hominem means of undermining more substantive, more qualitative and more transparently honest inquiries into the sundry aspects of the general debate.
12.7.2005 2:17pm
Colin:
I question the seriousness of your putative and hypocritical concern over ad hominem attacks. Have you forgotten that you just finished calling me a Leninist?

If you are truly concerned about keeping rhetoric from overtaking substantial debate, I have these suggestions:

A. Don't make empty and grandiose accusations, such as calling someone who disagrees with you a "disciple of . . .Lenin."
B. Don't misrepresent the facts in order to support your own rhetoric, such as claiming that Haeckel's theories were accepted without dissent for ideological reasons into the late 20th century.
C. Above all, don't take ID boosters' information at face value. Assuming that their claims are true has already stung you, as in the Haeckel misrepresentation.

The very best way to keep empty rhetoric out of science is to demand that ID advocates produce something other than rhetoric to support their extraordinary claims.

Finally, as I imagine is abundantly clear, I take great offense at being called a "disciple of Lenin." I have gone to some trouble to provide documentation for my arguments, and deeply resent the insult. Your accusation is unreasonable, irrational, and venomous. I think this thread has gone beyond the civil tone the VC asks its commentors to keep, and I will take my leave of it for now.
12.7.2005 2:56pm
Michael B (mail):
"disciple of . . .Lenin." Colin

No, your well crafted ellipsis not withstanding, I didn't call you a "Leninist", it was an explicit comparsion where I indicated how you came off rhetorically, a comparison together with P.Z. Myers's ad hominem style, in the quote reproduced below:

"Rhetorically, you come off as a disciple of P.Z. Myers or V.I. Lenin - a whole lota' brow beating, rhetorical deception, empty reassurances, proclamations of superiority and tout court dismissiveness - leaving others to sift through all this detritus for the substance."

Readers can judge for themselves, though imo another failed ad hominem attack and deception. Will have to get back to additional substance later today or tomorrow.
12.7.2005 4:41pm
Neal Lang (mail):
B. Don't misrepresent the facts in order to support your own rhetoric, such as claiming that Haeckel's theories were accepted without dissent for ideological reasons into the late 20th century.

How then do explain that these falsified drawings appeared in texts book on biology long after Haeckel admitted his deceit and the scientific community discovered his fraud? There is obviously some sort bias at play here. If not ideological, than what other bias can account for this counter-scientific situation.
C. Above all, don't take ID boosters' information at face value. Assuming that their claims are true has already stung you, as in the Haeckel misrepresentation.

Of course, unlike Haeckel century long fraud, proponents of the science of Intelligent Design aren't even allowed a "seat at the table" in the unsettled debate about the true catalyst for evolution.

Interestingly, Charles Darwin, himself, probably makes the best case for "Intelligent Design" in "Chapter XV - Recapitulation and Conclution" of his semminal work: The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection:
Variability is not actually caused by man; he only unintentionally exposes organic beings to new conditions of life, and then nature acts on the organisation and causes it to vary. But man can and does select the variations given to him by nature, and thus accumulates them in any desired manner. He thus adapts animals and plants adapts animals and plants for his own benefit or pleasure. He may do this methodically, or he may do it unconsciously by preserving the individuals most useful or pleasing to him without any intention of altering the breed. It is certain that he can largely influence the character of a breed by selecting he can largely influence the character of a breed by selecting, in each successive generation, individual differences so slight as to be inappreciable except by an educated eye.

There is no reason why the principles which have acted so efficiently under domestication should not have acted under nature. In the survival of favoured individuals and races, during the constantly-recurrent Struggle for Existence, we see a powerful and ever-acting form of Selection.

If man can by patience select variations useful to him, why, under changing and complex conditions of life, should not variations useful to nature's living products often arise, and be preserved or selected? What limit can be put to this power, acting during long ages and rigidly scrutinising the whole constitution, structure, and habits of each creature,- favouring the good and rejecting the bad?

Nature may be said to have taken pains to reveal her scheme of modification, by means of rudimentary organs, of embryological and homologous structures, but we are too blind to understand her meaning.

I see no good reason why the views given in this volume should shock the religious feelings of any one. It is satisfactory, as showing how transient such impressions are, to remember that the greatest discovery ever made by man, namely, the law of the attraction of gravity, was also attacked by Leibnitz, "as subversive of natural, and inferentially of revealed, religion." A celebrated author and divine has written to me that "he has gradually learnt to see that it is just as noble a conception of the Deity to believe that He created a few original forms capable of self-development into other and needful forms, as to believe that He required a fresh act of creation to supply the voids caused by the action of His laws."

Authors of the highest eminence seem to be fully satisfied with the view that each species has been independently created. To my mind it accords better with what we know of the laws impressed on matter by the Creator, that the production and extinction of the past and present inhabitants of the world should have been due to secondary causes, like those determining the birth and death of the individual. When I view all beings not as special creations, but as the lineal descendants of some few beings which lived long before the first bed of the Cambrian system was deposited, they seem to me to become ennobled. Judging from the past, we may safely infer that not one living species will transmit its unaltered likeness to a distant futurity. And of the species now living very few will transmit progeny of any kind to a far distant futurity; for the manner in which all organic beings are grouped, shows that the greater number of species in each genus, and all the species in many genera, have left no descendants, but have become utterly extinct. We can so far take a prophetic glance into futurity as to foretell that it will be the common and widely-spread species, belonging to the larger and dominant groups within each class, which will ultimately prevail and procreate new and dominant species. As all the living forms of life are the lineal descendants of those which lived long before the Cambrian epoch, we may feel certain that the ordinary succession by generation has never once been broken, and that no cataclysm has desolated the whole world. Hence we may look with some confidence to secure future of great length. And as natural selection works solely by and for the good of each being, all corporeal and mental endowments will tend to progress towards perfection.

It is interesting to contemplate a tangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with Reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the conditions of life and from use and disuse: a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.


How would you best define "Intelligent Design? Perhaps: "nature acts on the organisation and causes it to vary"; "the principles which have acted so efficiently under domestication should not have acted under nature"; "useful to nature's living products often arise, and be preserved or selected"; "this power, acting during long ages and rigidly scrutinising the whole constitution, structure, and habits of each creature,- favouring the good and rejecting the bad"; "created a few original forms capable of self-development into other and needful forms"; "her scheme of modification, by means of rudimentary organs, of embryological and homologous structures"; "laws impressed on matter by the Creator"; "natural selection works solely by and for the good of each being"; "have all been produced by laws"; or "having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one".

Personally, I believe Charles Darwin does a great job pointing out both the "design" and "designer".
12.7.2005 8:05pm
Michael B (mail):
Colin, it's both an interesting and convenient time for you to be claiming to take the "high road". Apparently you were thinking I'd simply take all the condescension, dismissiveness, presumption, contempt and other ad hominem sleights passively, sitting down?

Regardless of your contemptuous displays, it's time to get back to at least one more substantive refutation, concerning Richard Sternberg. His case reflects the degree to which ideological Darwinian dogmatists and venomists are willing to attempt to destroy someone's professional life using lies, deceit, malicious rumors and other tactics, all despite Sternberg's bona fides. First your own contemptuous characterizations, my emphasis:

"Sternberg's cosseting of Meyer's article, infra." Colin

"The journal retracted that article, and admitted that Sternberg, an editor with creationist leanings, improperly exempted the paper from the normal review process. I won’t even bother to link to the commentary on the paper, which showed that it was largely recycled and devoid of serious scientific support for ID." Colin, also citing this link.

Now for the refutation.

Firstly, Sternberg has two relevant PhDs, one in Molecular (DNA) Evolution and the other in Theoretical Biology, his Curriculum Vitae, which link, in paging down, also contains his awards, 30+ peer reviewed publications and other relevant citations.

Secondly, the charge that Sternberg cossetted Myers's article. The link you provided reflects more of a political statement and press release which stretches the truth for ex post facto PR purposes than anything more substantial. A detail review of Sternberg's role, both in general, as Managing Editor of the "Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington" ("Proceedings") for the Council of the Biological Society of Washington (C/BSW), as well as specifically as it pertained to the Myers article. Some excerpts, Sternberg's account:

"The process for publication of papers in the Proceedings has been straightforward. The practice was for the managing editor to receive and initially pass on all submitted papers. Then, depending on the subject matter, the managing editor would pass the paper to an associate editor with expertise in the appropriate field for soliciting peer reviews and then editing the paper as needed to prepare it for publication. The managing editor could also select an ad hoc associate editor for a particular paper if no member of the board of associate editors was suitable. Finally, the managing editor could take direct charge of a paper if that was appropriate."

[...]

"During my tenure as managing editor some problems arose in the process. In one case I strongly disagreed with an associate editor in his handling of a paper. To deal with the problem, I took control of the paper again, had it reviewed and edited, and published it. For various reasons the associated editor was upset, and denied that I had the authority to do this.

"In the aftermath of this controversy I met with the Council of the BSW and asked them to clarify and make explicit the rights and responsibility of the managing editor vis à vis the associate editors. At a meeting in November 2002, a near-unanimous Council backed me up completely (only the associate editor in question and one of his cronies voted against me) and formally decided that the managing editor has control over every aspect of the Proceedings and can choose and supervise the associate editors at his or her discretion.

"At no time during my nearly three years as managing editor did I ever ask the Council as a body for its input on any editorial decision regarding any particular paper. Nor did the Council itself or anyone on the Council intimate to me that the Council ought to be in any way involved in editorial decision-making with regard to particular papers."

[...]

"The Meyer paper was submitted to the Proceedings in early 2004. Since systematics and evolutionary theory are among my primary areas of interest and expertise (as mentioned above, I hold two PhDs in different aspects of evolutionary biology), and there was no associate editor with equivalent qualifications, I took direct editorial responsibility for the paper. As discussed above, the Council of the BSW had given me, the managing editor, the discretion to decide how a paper was to be reviewed and edited as well as the final decision on whether it would be published. I had previously chosen on several occasions to handle certain papers directly and that was accepted as a normal practice by everyone involved with the Proceedings. (This was confirmed even after the controversy over the Meyer paper arose. In a description of a Council meeting called to discuss the controversy, President Dr. McDiarmid told me by email, 'The question came up as to why you didn't pass the ms [manuscript] on to an associate editor and several examples were mentioned of past editorial activities where a manuscript was dealt with directly by the editor and did not go to an associate editor and no one seemed to be bothered...')

"Nevertheless, recognizing the potentially controversial nature of the paper, I consulted with a colleague about whether it should be published. This person is a scientist at the National Museum of Natural History, a member of the Council, and someone whose judgment I respected. I thought it was important to double-check my view as to the wisdom of publishing the Meyer paper. We discussed the Meyer paper during at least three meetings, including one soon after the receipt of the paper, before it was sent out for review.

"After the initial positive conversation with my Council member colleague, I sent the paper out for review to four experts. Three reviewers responded and were willing to review the paper; all are experts in relevant aspects of evolutionary and molecular biology and hold full-time faculty positions in major research institutions, one at an Ivy League university, another at a major North American public university, a third on a well-known overseas research faculty. There was substantial feedback from reviewers to the author, resulting in significant changes to the paper. The reviewers did not necessarily agree with Dr. Meyer's arguments or his conclusion but all found the paper meritorious and concluded that it warranted publication. The reviewers felt that the issues raised by Meyer were worthy of scientific debate. I too disagreed with many aspects of the Meyer paper but I agreed with their overall assessment and accepted the paper for publication. Thus, four well-qualified biologists with five PhDs in relevant disciplines were of the professional opinion that the paper was worthy of publication."

Finally, and in a sense just as critically, there's the extensive investigative findings of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel which details the machinations of those who conspired to destroy Sternberg without cause, both at the Smithsonian and from within Eugenie Scott's National Center for Science Education (NCSE).

So much for the veracity of that press release you linked to; so much for your contemptuous dismissiveness. As previously noted, it's both an interesting and convenient time for you to be claiming to take the "high road".
12.9.2005 3:32am
Michael B (mail):
"Myers" in the above should read "Meyer".
12.9.2005 3:39am
Michael B (mail):
On second thought Colin, another aspect of the Richard Sternberg case is worth some pointed emphasis. You indicated, after you had dismissively sneered at Sternberg for being a baraminologist: "I will, however, retract my characterization of Sternberg as a baraminologist (or Young Earth creationist, as opposed to Intelligent Design creationist); he apparently refutes that claim." But it isn't merely Sternberg who refutes the claim, a letter from a member of the Baraminology Study Group acknowledges as much as well.

This is significant for a few reasons, beyond the obvious significance of the refutation per se. This letter was necessary in the first place due to the acrimonious campaign of slander and general contempt Richard Sternberg was put through, part of which, as the above document from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel details, entailed being labeled a (young earth) "creationist". It's precisely that acrimonious campaign of vilification, additionally, which so many in both the professional community and the broader public have mindlessly repeated, whether pertaining to the "creationist" deceit itself, the lengthier refutation in the above post, or some other aspect of the slanderous campaign against Sternberg.

In other words, simply because Sternberg had been willing to communicate with some creationists in a civil manner instead of with contempt, this fact was leveraged, by those who sought to slander him, into maliciously labeling Sternberg as a creationist.

Then again, what's a little slander, vituperation and conspiring to destroy someone when it's all in the service of "science" and "truth". Nice alliance of venomists you have on your team.
12.9.2005 4:58am
Neal Lang (mail):
The journal retracted that article, and admitted that Sternberg, an editor with creationist leanings, improperly exempted the paper from the normal review process.

Based on his revelation of his correspondence with emminent orthodox naturalists of his day "Recapitulation and Conclusion" of The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection - one can imagine that Charles Darwin today might also unfairly branded a "creationist", as well.

Personally, I find it shameful that today, those in the scientific community with a vasted interest in their "god of Chaos" insist on stuffling all debate into any alternative hypothesis. It reminds me of how the orthodox natural scientists of his day treated Darwin, causing him to appeal in a The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection for a "fair hearing" of his hypothesis - "for only thus can the load of prejudice by which this subject is overwhelmed be removed"!
12.9.2005 10:45am
Michael B (mail):
Perhaps a final note Colin, re, the Haeckel drawings, since you virtually accused by of lieing about this. Not only did I indicate it was a "minor" affair to begin with, though one reasonably used for comparative purposes vis-a-vis the peer review situation we were discussing, but Haeckel's drawings of comparative embryonic development originated as early as the 1870s and were in fact in at least some text books as late as the 1990s. I simply don't know when they first began appearing in educational text books per se, however, via this link, a link which is generally favorable to "your side" in the debate, the following, my emphasis:

"British embryologist Michael Richardson and his colleages published an important paper in the August 1997 issue of Anatomy &Embryology showing that Haeckel had fudged [i.e., deceived] his drawings to make the early stages of embryos appear more alike than they actually are! As it turns out, Haeckel's contemporaries had spotted the fraud during his lifetime, and got him to admit it. However, his drawings nonetheless became the source material for diagrams of comparative embryology in nearly every biology textbook, including ours!"

Additionally, another final issue, further reflecting the ad hominem slanders and more subtle ad hominem inferences forwarded by Eugenie Scott's National Center for Science Education (NCSE, a decided political organization). In some of the NCSE's promotional material they imply that some of the "creationists" are additionally (literally) flat-earth creationists. They don't overly emphasize this, but they do note it, as a kind of 'starting point' in some of their discussions when talking about their real and perceived opposition. With that in mind, the following as regards the notional myth of the putative historical belief in a flat earth, it's one of those ideologically engendered deceits believed by people who desperately - not logically or historically or scientifically - need to demonize any and all enemies, real or perceived.

But as already noted, slander and vilification are deemed to be, in both de facto and de jure scenarios, perfectly ok when promoting the latest truth du jour or when demonizing any and all perceived political enemies.
12.10.2005 4:31pm