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The Consequences of De-Evolution in Education:

Paul Hanle of the Biotechnology Institute argues that the push to marginalize evolution and teach "intelligent design" in the classroom is threatens real-world consequences, and not just in the classroom.

Proponents of "intelligent design" in the United States are waging a war against teaching science as scientists understand it. Over the past year alone, efforts to incorporate creationist language or undermine evolution in science classrooms at public schools have emerged in at least 15 states, according to the National Center for Science Education. And an independent education foundation has concluded that science-teaching standards in 10 states fail to address evolution in a scientifically sound way. Through changes in standards and curriculum, these efforts urge students to doubt evolution -- the cornerstone principle of biology, one on which there is no serious scientific debate.

Hanle makes the case that the attack on evolution has real consequences for student achievement in science.

Thirty-seven percent of the high school Advanced Placement biology examination tests knowledge of evolution, evolutionary biology and heredity, according to the College Board. Students who do not thoroughly understand evolution cannot hope to succeed on this exam; they will be handicapped in competitive science courses in college and the careers that may follow.

But, Hanle stresses, the issue is not one of "religion" versus "science" -- but ideologically motivated non-science versus science.

This is not a war of religion against science. The two have thrived together for centuries. Nor is it a struggle of believers against godless materialists; many believers practice science and find inspiration for it from their faith. It is a battle between religious dogma cloaked as science and open inquiry that leads to new knowledge and understanding of the natural world.

The notion of intelligent design is clever; it has a certain philosophical appeal. The evolution of a human eye from a series of random mutations, for example, is indeed difficult to understand; the notion of an intelligent creator solves such problems, and feeds our spiritual needs. But it distracts us from learning what is scientifically testable and reduces students' will to probe the natural world. . . .

Non-scientific viewpoints deserve respect. But to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS, bio-warfare and pandemic diseases, to discover lifesaving cures and life-improving breakthroughs, tomorrow's biologists must be equipped with scientifically based knowledge today.

Nations that value open inquiry and use scientific criteria in education, research and industry will outperform those that do not. If we are to continue to be leaders in the global economy, we must teach science, not religion, in the science classroom.

I would urge commenters to resist the urge to re-open the "is Intelligent Design science" debate, and instead focus on the question whether the teching of ID and/or exclusion of evolution has an negative impact on scientific literacy, student achievement in science, and (by extension) the scientific research and discovery in the nation as a whole.

Barry P. (mail):
I've always had the following thought whenever I read of another school board acceding to the wishes of the creationists/IDers: that they are willingly tying one hand behind the backs of their students as they enter the competitive adult job marketplace. Like rigid adherents of Islam, they are consigning their own lot to lives of lower earning potential.

Anything anybody else does to put themselves at a comparative disadvantage helps me, of course. And there are enough parts of the US (and enough private schools) that haven't adopted ID to ensure that the country at a whole is not (yet) at risk of religiously-induced mass ignorance.
10.1.2006 11:24am
Humble Law Student (mail):
Professor Adler, your stipulation removes the grounds for debate. If ID is science, then teaching it has a positive impact on scientific literacy. If it isn't, then by teaching it during science class, it automatically has a negative impact on scientific literacy.

There are nuanced points to be made that fall outside of your dichotomy, but broadly speaking, the framing of your question destroys any real discussion of your point.
10.1.2006 11:26am
Freddy Hill (mail):
A few years back, in his book "The Beak of the Finch", Jonathan Weiner described how the US cotton crop is being threatened by a moth that has evolved resistence to all known pesticides.

It was remarked at the time that, given the rough geopraphical coincidence of the "bible belt" with the "cotton belt," cotton farmers and agricultural agencies in affected states may be unable to recognize evolution happening under their very noses and may not respond to the threat efficiently.
10.1.2006 11:30am
Philo (mail):
I am not sure that teaching scientific models as ontological models, i.e. verdical accounts of the true nature of things, is essential to scientific progress. Scientific progress comes by pragmatically adjusting models to account for facts so that they can make predictions -- by establishing useful heuristic devices not by establishing a metaphysical truth.

I take it that Newton's theories were excellent heuristic models for making predictions -- but, with the perspective of quantum mechanics and relativity, we would now thinkg that the picture that they provided of the nature of matter was as seriously misleading as Aristotle's. The Newtonian worldview was in error, but the Newtonian theories taken as mere heuristic devices were pragmatically useful for making predictions at certain scales, but as

Religious folks object to evolution not as a model for making future predicitions but insofar as it is presented as a verdicial account of the past. It's unclear to me why evolutionary theory cannot maintain all of its scientific value -- that is, as a heuristic device -- and punt on the issues of what "really" happened in the formation of animal species.
10.1.2006 11:31am
Stephen F. (mail) (www):
Through changes in standards and curriculum, these efforts urge students to doubt evolution -- the cornerstone principle of biology, one on which there is no serious scientific debate.

Aren't we also assured that "there is no serious scientific debate" on global warming? I think that the evolutionary model or something close to it is scientifically accurate, but I can't for a second pretent to take "evolutionary biologists" seriously. Even serious scientific challenges to some component of evolutionary theory can get one branded as anti-science by some scientist as dogmatically rigid as he claims his opponents to be.

It is a battle between religious dogma cloaked as science and open inquiry that leads to new knowledge and understanding of the natural world.

That line could be transposed exactly into a pro-ID article blaming Darwinists for shutting down an "open inquiry" because it doesn't conform to their atheistic "dogma claked as science." But I'm sure that irony would be completely lost on Mr. Hanle.
10.1.2006 11:48am
Oren Elrad (mail):
Philo - IAAP and your characterizations of Newton's worldview as "as seriously misleading as Aristotle's" is seriously misleading.

Newton's worldview, like all scientific theories, was based on a set of assumptions disclosed at the begining of his Principia. These assumptions turned out to be false but the logic that got him from those assumptions to his conclusions is absoutely still valid today.

Of course, the reason Newton's theory worked at all as a scientific theory is that those assumptions were nearly true in the set of parameters accessible by experiments of his day.

From an ontological point of view, Newton had to be onto some fundamental truth because his theory was correctly predicting the results of experiments. Assailing Newton's assumptions, which were the right assumptions does a serious discredit to the way science works. He made a set of assumptions about the world and derived results that agreed with experiment. That's science. Had he made any other assumptions we would likely not understand the world as well as we do.

This is the conditional nature of scientific truth. Kind of sucks but it's the best we got.
10.1.2006 12:06pm
Oren Elrad (mail):
Stephen -

Open inquiry does not refer to the notion that all theories are equally correct and ought to be given equal air-time. Such a position is patently absurd and no ID proponent actually believes it. It's a rhetorical ruse and nothing more.
10.1.2006 12:08pm
Ken Arromdee:
Aren't we also assured that "there is no serious scientific debate" on global warming?

The Fallacy of Grammar: Arguing that because two positions are defended using sentences which are grammatically similar, the two positions must have similar truth values.
10.1.2006 12:17pm
Oren Elrad (mail):

This is not a war of religion against science. The two have thrived together for centuries. Nor is it a struggle of believers against godless materialists; many believers practice science and find inspiration for it from their faith. It is a battle between religious dogma cloaked as science and open inquiry that leads to new knowledge and understanding of the natural world.


This is disingenous at best. Science and religion have not 'thrived together' for centuries at all. Nor is the fact that some scientists have had deep spiritual lives (as opposed to religious ferver) meaningful in this context at all. The precepts of fundamentalist christianity are, and always will be, in basic conflict with the precepts of science. Whether we live by the principles of faith or the attitude of doubt has an enormous effect on the way we perceive the world.

The main problem is the scientists, like our author, are forced to pretend, for the sake of not upsetting the fundies, that there is no such conflict - a position the fundies don't buy at any rate. While they bash us in their churches we continue to preach reconcilliation.

The irony, I suppose, is the

This is not a war of religion against science. The two have thrived together for centuries. Nor is it a struggle of believers against godless materialists; many believers practice science and find inspiration for it from their faith. It is a battle between religious dogma cloaked as science and open inquiry that leads to new knowledge and understanding of the natural world.


This is disingenous at best. Science and religion have not 'thrived together' for centuries at all. Nor is the fact that some scientists have had deep spiritual lives (as opposed to religious ferver) meaningful in this context at all. The precepts of fundamentalist christianity are, and always will be, in basic conflict with the precepts of science. Whether we live by the principles of faith or the attitude of doubt has an enormous effect on the way we perceive the world.

The main problem is the scientists, like our author, are forced to pretend, for the sake of not upsetting the fundies, that there is no such conflict - a position the fundies don't buy at any rate. While they bash us in their churches we continue to preach reconcilliation.

Of course, the irony is that when one of these fundies get's in a car accident they demand that medical science put them back together. They want antibiotics while refusing to acknowledge that the whole premise of antibiotics is that some fungi evolved them to fight bacteria.

During his speech on why the US was spending $X billion on bird flu research, Scott Mclellan was very careful to note that while the bird flu hasn't jumped from person to person, we need to be prepared just in case it does. I think that suffices as proof that the administration really believes in evolution but won't admit it.

To connect this back to the actual prompt (I can stay on topic, I swear!), I think that the crux of the problem has been the ability of fundamentalists to preach against science while living in a state of technological luxury that is unparalleled in human history. They have been able to do so beause they perceived that there was nothing to be lost preaching against science since the scientists take it in stride and continue to do their thing anyway.

It's no wonder we've fallen behind in science - we've taught our children that god comes first but you can still enjoy the fruits of other people's labor. We aren't going to increase scientific literacy until we increase scientific currency and that involves a change in fundamental values that I can't see happening anytime soon.
10.1.2006 12:31pm
Ken Arromdee:
cotton farmers and agricultural agencies in affected states may be unable to recognize evolution happening under their very noses and may not respond to the threat efficiently.

I don't buy this. Human beings have a remarkable way of compartmentalizing irrational thoughts.

Creationists make a distinction between pests evolving pesticide resistance and apes evolving into humans. They recognize that pests evolve resistance, but claim that because the pests remain the same species, that either isn't evolution at all, or is only "microevolution" within the same "kind". In either case, they believe that such things happen without also believing that man evolved.

So it isn't true that creationists deny pesticide resistance, or antibiotic resistance, or moths evolving dark wings to hide on sooty bark, or any other practical application of evolution.
10.1.2006 12:32pm
Oren Elrad (mail):
Grrr, my post got garbled. . . .

try to put it back together!
10.1.2006 12:32pm
Sarah (mail) (www):
If nothing else, the uproar might encourage people to actually find out what evolutionary biology and intelligent design proponents are actually arguing, by, you know, reading the literature and forming their own conclusions. Which would improve scientific literacy compared to where it stands today (I mean, my stepmother subscribed to Science News, and my parents in general loved the Smithsonian and National Geographic magazines, but I'm pretty sure that's not typical across the population.) Science education is more in trouble due to the lack of actually doing and reading science than from whatever today's (or yesterday's) political fad happens to be.

And I think that at least some activists grasp this -- wasn't the Scopes trial a set up? I seem to remember reading that the whole thing was designed to create a court case, so the arguments in favor of evolution would get lots of publicity. Kind of like all kinds of other "let's get this little issue hardly anyone really wants to deal with into a forum where it'll have to be dealt with, preferably with lots of cameras and journalists present" tactics employed by, you know, the ACLU and NAACP and so forth.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Landmark_cases

I mean, if you did a survey today on the streets I doubt most American high school grads (maybe even most college grads) could actually tell you what evolutionary biology actually says today; most will, at least, probably remember something about the "did people descend from monkeys" rhetoric from the Scopes trial. The more complicated the public arguments, the better for literacy in general. As a result, I vote for a cancellation of the ID/evolution grudge match, in favor of a no-holds-barred fight between Stephen Hawking and Kip Thorne. I don't care what they argue about, it'll probably be illuminating -- even if I don't understand more than 5% of it.

(I don't have strong opinions about getting ID in or evolution out of public schools, due in large part to my strong opinions on getting the children themselves out of public schools. And whether some theory or another is taught has, I think, only limited impact on children's literacy. I'm more concerned with whether they're taught to actually understand the theory or issue, and whether they learn to make decent arguments for and against it. Parroting a canned summary written by a textbook company employee, who probably majored in literature or communications anyway, and incidentally got at least two or three things wrong while summarizing, is not the sort of learning that transforms much of anything -- except one's opinion of textbooks and the school system in general.)
10.1.2006 12:33pm
John Armstrong (mail):
Oren has it: science is about making observations, building explanatory models, and then using those models to make predictions.

Where ID fails as science is its complete non-predictiveness. It's worse than the astrologer who always has something like "oh, but you didn't tell me Jupiter was in the fourth house" to fall back on in explaning his incorrect predictions. ID doesn't predict anything.

But we're not talking about whether it's science or not. The problem at hand is whether it cripples our science students. This it does by telling them that science is about storytelling and not about making predictions that can be checked and either verified or disproven. Falling back on "The Designer wanted it that way" isn't a prediction, it's a cop-out, and anyone who takes that point of view as science will be laughed out of any reputable biology department, which rather puts a damper on being a graduate student in biology.
10.1.2006 12:34pm
Philo (mail):
Oren, it sounds like you are repeating my point -- Newton had a good pragmatic model but a weak ontological picture. Indeed, you point out that good scientists don't claim to do fundamental metaphysics, just to creat models that conform to the obsevations.

But the controversey over evolution is in part over some scientists' insistence that evolution be taught, not just as a model for future predictions, but as proven description of what "really happened" in the past.

ID is perhaps most charitably viewed as an argument about the limited metaphysical implication of evolutionary empirical science. I would agree that metaphysical models are outside the purview of modern science -- but so are the claims by evolutionists as to what "really happened" in the formation of the species. ID simply says that if you want to talk about metaphysical models that are supported by the empirical evidence -- here is another such model.

Evolutionary scientists might drop their insistence on possessing metaphysical truth and contend merely that they had a model that worked really well at making future predictions. Then I think it would be appropriate for the ID folks to move their claims to another field -- like philosophy. But as long as evolutionists want to talk metaphysics in the science lab, why shouldn't IDers?
10.1.2006 12:48pm
byomtov (mail):
question whether the teching of ID and/or exclusion of evolution has an negative impact on scientific literacy, student achievement in science, and (by extension) the scientific research and discovery in the nation as a whole.

Yes it does. And so does the promotion of ID by conservative political publications. Let me add to what John armstrong says. Not only does teaching ID harm students' understanding of biology, it gives them wrong-headed views which will affect their understanding of other sciences, and of social sciences as well.

Who needs testable hypotheses, empirical data, etc. when you have a nice-sounding explanation that appeals to your prejudgments?
10.1.2006 12:53pm
Tom952 (mail):
It is a battle between religious dogma cloaked as science and open inquiry that leads to new knowledge and understanding of the natural world.

Exactly. I saw Joe Gibbs speaking to a group. He displayed his watch and said it was a complicated and intricate mechanism and therefore it had to have been created by intelligence, that it couldn't just happen. The watch had "Made in Switzerland" written on it, so that settled the origin of the watch. He said that when we observe the wonders of the natural world, and they do not have "Made in Switzerland" written them, it is proper for us to assume that they were intentionally manufacturered by God for us.

The mental conditioning he advocated to the group is that it is proper to leap to conclusions to fill in gaps in our knowledge. While advocating ID, he used his celebrity status to teach people to be stupid.

People who leap to conclusions without gathering facts are frequently wrong. They cannot engage in successful creative activity, and they are prone to make false accusations against others.

We can thank Joe and others like him for giving their time to help fill the world with reactionary, ignorant people.
10.1.2006 1:05pm
JSinger (mail):

I don't buy this. Human beings have a remarkable way of compartmentalizing irrational thoughts.

Precisely, and ID is a particularly extreme case of that, where everything that has a firm scientific explanation is conceded, and everything in the ever-shrinking gray area is explained by miracle. (Which, of course, is why it's not science.)

Intellectual rigor might require creationists to ignore 37% of the AP curriculum, but in reality, no one outside of North Korea seriously proposes not teaching Mendelian genetics, for example.
10.1.2006 1:34pm
kdonovan:
I don't think the push to teach ID in classrooms is really driven by a dispute over evolution buyt rather a fight for political control over the indoctrination of the next generation. The groups that push ID have seen their opponents use courts, education schools, state education authorities, text book writing and school boards to determine how their children will be socialized in ways they do not approve of and are now just fighting back. Scientists who are now complaining about ID squandered their authority to speak for eduational excellence when they did nothing to oppose the debasement of education in favor of one political cuase after another over the last half century. Now they have reached the bottom of the slippery slope where disputes over cirriculum are settled by appeal ot political power rather than sound pedagogy.
10.1.2006 1:37pm
A Random Physics Guy:
Philo said:

The Newtonian worldview was in error,


This is wrong. Newtonian mechanics is 100% correct, and can be derived from Quantum Mechanics, in fact this is one of the reasons QM was accepted. The trick is that it is only correct at large scales of distance and mass. Newton still gets our space program into orbit, and makes the sun rise every day. In similar fashion, relativity becomes simply newtonian in the low and slow limit (which we live in).
10.1.2006 1:47pm
guest:
Philo said:

But as long as evolutionists want to talk metaphysics in the science lab, why shouldn't IDers?

Except that most "evolutionists" don't talk of evolution as metaphysics - that's only in the mind of IDers.
10.1.2006 1:49pm
Bottomfish (mail):
Some unknowable being devised a process by which random forces acting over billions of years created a watch and printed "Made in Switzerland" on it. It seems to me that that concept, which is both creationist and evolutionary, has tremendous educational value. If only there were philosophy courses in schools!
10.1.2006 1:49pm
Jay Myers:
Oren Elrad:

From an ontological point of view, Newton had to be onto some fundamental truth because his theory was correctly predicting the results of experiments.

That would be a scientific realist's position but scientific realism is in deep disrepute in these days of quantum mechanics and superposition, when science tells us that some things take all possible paths to reach their destinations and that the collapse of quantum waveforms are nonlocal (i.e. not bound by the speed of light).

I'm certainly no positivist but I hold that you can accept a theory as being empirically useful due to the predictions it makes without actually accepting it as being true. After all, we still use Newton's theories and formulae and even teach them in physics classes as the scientifically acceptable way to correctly calculate forces, but we don't claim that they are true. Newton's theories were disproven decades before they were superseded by Einstein's theory of general relativity.


Of course, the irony is that when one of these fundies get's in a car accident they demand that medical science put them back together. They want antibiotics while refusing to acknowledge that the whole premise of antibiotics is that some fungi evolved them to fight bacteria.

What you have just stated is Lamarckism. The belief that individuals develop characteristics that are useful and then pass the traits on to their descendants. That view is antithetical to modern evolutionary theory. Evolutionary theory would insist that fungi developed the ability to manufacture antibiotics as a result of a totally random mutation and that related fungi without that ability were outbred due to some competitive advantage possessed by the antibiotic-producing fungi.

The answer to Adler's question is that few even among scientists actually understand evolutionary theory and it is almost never well taught in schools (or colleges!) even without the interference of Intelligent Design. The reason for this is the elevation of science to the level of a secular religion and of scientists to the role of our white-coated priests. We accept what we are told as received wisdom because it is "scientists" who are bringing it down from Mount Sinai. People who wish to dispute these pronouncements are derided for being non-scientific neanderthals but in truth, the strength of science is that it can be challenged. Science is not a practice of consensus. Those who depend upon numbers of believers rather than experiment and verifiability are not practicing science.
10.1.2006 2:04pm
Randy R. (mail):
Back to the question of whether teaching ID hurts our students:

Of course it does! Any idiot could see that. ID (which is really just creationism with a fancy name) doesn't explain anything at all. All they conclude is that everything was created by God and that the Bible is the source of our knowledge. This is directly contradictory to all our views on science, as well as the scientific method itself.

Which, of course, is the whole point of creationists. They really don't like students to learn about science because they are afraid that students will 'lose their faith.' Once that happens, their eternal soul will burn in hell. So for them, it's more than just a matter of life and death -- it's a matter of eternal damnation.

Put in that framework, who cares if students don't get the best jobs in science? Who cares if you fail a national test on science? Creationists dont'. It's a small price to pay to avoid eternal damnation.
10.1.2006 2:05pm
Jay Myers:

Newtonian mechanics is 100% correct, and can be derived from Quantum Mechanics, in fact this is one of the reasons QM was accepted. The trick is that it is only correct at large scales of distance and mass. Newton still gets our space program into orbit, and makes the sun rise every day.

Newton doesn't calculate the proper orbit of Mercury around the Sun. So much for "100% correct".
10.1.2006 2:16pm
Andrew Hyman (mail) (www):
Anyone who has studied the most fundamental laws of physics should have sympathy with Einstein, who said, "I want to know God's thoughts, the rest are details." The idea of an intelligent designer is totally consistent with the laws of physics, and in fact the laws of physics strongly suggest an intelligent designer.

The only real question here is whether the laws of physics are enough to explain evolution, or whether additional intelligent design was needed. I don't see any reason to suppose that the laws of physics weren't enough, and --- until proponents of that view can offer compelling evidence --- they ought not to interfere with high school curricula.

That doesn't mean, however, that the laws of physics need to be presented to students as gospel truth. These laws have proven to be very reliable tools to predict physical phenomena, but like the tree that falls in the woods without anyone to hear it, the laws of physics are only suggestive of what happens outside direct human observation. That especially applies to what may or may not have happened before any life existed in the universe.

In any event, I agree with Paul Hanle that those who advocate "intelligent design" as an alternative to evolution have not earned a place in high school biology textbooks. Moreover, by labelling themselves as advocates of "intelligent design," and implicitly labelling everyone else as opponents of "intelligent design," they are unfortunately bringing into disrepute the extremely plausible notion that our fundamental laws of physics must have been written by an intelligent being.
10.1.2006 2:18pm
Oren Elrad (mail):
Philo - Newton's ontology was as correct as the experiment of his day would allow. A scientific theory that yields results that agree with experiment has to be, in some fundamental way, ontologically right.

In Newton's case, it happened to be that 'right' meant 'almost rights in your neighborhood' but that still meant he was right. Furthermore, as some other folks have pointed out, Newton's theory still survives as a limiting case of more modern theories.

Furthermore, I don't buy your argument that establishing evolution as 'what really happened' is metaphysics. Evolution did *really happen* - evolutionists aren't preaching metaphysical truth, they are teaching the truth, as best we know it.

Maybe we should teach the atomic theory the way you suggest.


Kids, the atomic theory is wonderfully powerful at predicting all matter of behavior from computer processors to lasers, jet feul, DNA, etc. We are teaching it to you because of its amazing predictive power.

But don't for a second believe that we are supporting the "metaphysical" argument that matter actually is atoms. Oh no! That would anger the philosophers!


That's absurd and its equally absurd to tell evolutionists not to argue that evolution really happened. The only difference is that there is a class of angry funadamentalists that have a competing theory whereas nobody feels all that strongly about the atomic theory of matter.
10.1.2006 2:19pm
AppSocRes (mail):
The idea that the mere presentation of an alternative (albeit non-scientific) explanation of biological diversity during the teaching of evolution will so pollute innocent young minds as to render them incapable of learning high school biology is absurd on the face of it. For those who would argue otherwise, I would point out that an exactly analogous argument would ban any discussion of communism in the nation's public schools.
10.1.2006 3:02pm
Oren Elrad (mail):
JM - When scientists say "Fungi developed antibiotics to mess with the bacteria" we mean, of course, what you said about random mutation and the subsequent selection. It's just shorthand - nobody ascribes agency to single cellular organisms but yet there is a distinct notion of environmental pressures and responses.

As far as scientific realism goes, I study quantum mechanics and, while some of the implications bother me in the sense of "how can the world be like that?" I have no doubt that the world actually is like that. The fact that QM is weird is merely a reflection of the fact that the universe is weird.

I much more troubled by this statement:


I'm certainly no positivist but I hold that you can accept a theory as being empirically useful due to the predictions it makes without actually accepting it as being true.


I don't know what that means. By definition, jif it is useful because it makes predictions that are in agreement with reality than it is true. That's what it means for something to be true - the statement is in correspondence with the reality.

You go on to bash Newton's theories some more but the point is that Newton's theories are a good approximation of the truth in the "low and slow" regime. They are in corrspondence with a certain subset of parameter-space and therefore are true with respect to that part of parametr-space.
10.1.2006 3:04pm
Oren Elrad (mail):
ASR - Science is not like political science. There is a right answer (although we might not know what it is).
10.1.2006 3:05pm
Haradda (mail):
To me this whole evolution vs creative design argument is rather silly. One of the many pieces of good advice my father gave me was that I only have to believe in things which are true and which can be proven to my satisfaction. Since I am a believer in God. I believe that he created the universe and that it exists. I am not one who hast to kick a stone in the road to prove it. But I have no idea how it was done only that it was.

Evolution is as good a theory or how it was done as creative design. I would not be afraid that people who are not taught evolution would be unable to pass the entrance exams or the college courses. You just give the answers to the questions asked. There never is the question asked if you believe them to be true or not. I did exactly the same thing in my non scientific courses where the teqcher was a Marxist. You give the answers required to the questions asked.

You guys make too big a deal about this. You presume that you have scientific fact rather than a scientific theory. You mistake enviromental adaptation for evolution.

There are many holes in current evolutionary theory. In the limited space here may I describe one. How on earth were animals larger than a T Rex able to walk in a 1G field? If an elephant is the largest land animal that can walk presently in a 1G field. It is right at the limit in size of a land animal. How was it done?
10.1.2006 3:07pm
Andrew Hyman (mail) (www):
AppSocRes, it might be worth mentioning in a social studies class, but not in a biology class. I think the farthest you could go in a biology class would be to mention that our best laws of physics are probablistic rather than deterministic, and therefore some of the mutations that are critical to evolution may have been the result of chance rather than inevitability.
10.1.2006 3:10pm
Oren Elrad (mail):

The answer to Adler's question is that few even among scientists actually understand evolutionary theory and it is almost never well taught in schools (or colleges!) even without the interference of Intelligent Design. The reason for this is the elevation of science to the level of a secular religion and of scientists to the role of our white-coated priests. We accept what we are told as received wisdom because it is "scientists" who are bringing it down from Mount Sinai. People who wish to dispute these pronouncements are derided for being non-scientific neanderthals but in truth, the strength of science is that it can be challenged. Science is not a practice of consensus. Those who depend upon numbers of believers rather than experiment and verifiability are not practicing science.


Maybe geologists should have talks with the flat-earth society. After all, aren't we bound to respect their disagreement with the consensus view that the earth is round?

You seem to have a seriously distorted view of how science works. Science is always a culture of doubt. Nobody believes anything until they are absolutely certain that there is no other feasible explanation.

The heart of this error is the conflation of two sorts of challenges. The first is a challenge to a scientific theory while the second is the broad challenge to the validity of the scientific method as a path to truth.

I have no problem if you wish to attack quantum mechanics or general relativity within the context of the scientific method - that is, if you want to present and alternative theory that you think has better correspondence with reality.

On the other hand, when you attack the entire scientific establishment as 'priestly', that is something entirely different. It is an insult to the whole process that is science despite all that it does for you . . .
10.1.2006 3:20pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
In general, what John Armstrong said.

In particular, there are many kinds of science, some of them pretty far removed from biology, so that being a raving ID ideologue does not, to my mind, mean a person could not also be a successful materials scientist.

On the other hand, areas that seem far apart can sometimes borrow concepts usefully. Programming has learned from biology.

But I think the damage of putting ID in schools is not to 'science education' or even to knowledge, but to morals. ID teaches the kiddies to cheat, because it cheats.
10.1.2006 3:32pm
Paddy O. (mail):
Part of the problem is that while Science is generally known, most folks have the barest possible understanding of Church history. Which leads to strawmen being made to argue against, suggesting Fundies will bring us back to the stone age.

The problem with this, of course, assumes that it wasn't until America threw off its religious shackles that it became scientifically advanced. The only problem is that for all of its history America has been both extremely religious and extremely industrious. The 1950s, for instance, was in many ways the heyday of religious cultural conservatives. Yet, I would dare say science and medicine carried along nicely.

Folks who dislike religion would much rather have the Inherit the Wind image of William Jennings Bryan rather than the much more realistic image of Jonathan Edwards.
10.1.2006 3:44pm
blspro:
Oren -

"We are teaching it to you because of its amazing predictive power.

But don't for a second believe that we are supporting the "metaphysical" argument that matter actually is atoms. Oh no! That would anger the philosophers!"

Unfortunately that is exactly the philosophic rot that has infected science and mathematics due to the influence on Kant and his philosophic offspring. You may laugh and call it absurd, but that is precisely their approach to reality (ex - matter is actually forces, not entities. There are actions, but not actors). It is the appeal to subjective 'appearances'. They claim one cannot know reality 'as it is'. In fact, many go further and claim there is no such thing as an external reality at all. There is just the product and effect of our consciousness.

Such is the foundational premise from which philo (and at least one other person here as far as I have seen) proceeds - which is why he refers to it as 'metaphysical' and thus outside the realm of science. For the followers of Kant, science studies the appearances in consciousness - not some unknown and unknowable 'reality' beyond perception (ie beyond the level of the perceptual and into the level of the conceptual). For them, anything beyond 'subjective experience' - beyond sensualism - is the realm of mysticism.

PS - you would be surprised how many scientists and, more importantly, philosophers of science, were (and in a sense, still are) actually vehemetly opposed to the atomic theory as a description of actual reality - as opposed to simply a 'model' which described the subjective 'appearances'. Of course, all these premises and conclusions rest upon the false epistemological argument that man does not perceive reality 'as it really is' but can only know distorted version thereof. That is why we end up with such blatantly bizarre and contradictory conclusions as we find in contemporary science.
10.1.2006 3:50pm
J. L.:

focus on the question whether the teching of ID and/or exclusion of evolution has an negative impact on scientific literacy


I am not aware that advocates of ID have ever asked that schools NOT teach evolution, just that the schools teach both sides of the debate. I don't understand why the evolutionists are so opposed to this. If evolution is as scientifically solid as they claim, do they really think students are so stupid they won't figure that out? Are they concerned there is enough truth to ID that students may delve more deeply into looking for answers? (same questions would apply in reverse to the pro-ID people)

Teaching less is never going to "positively impact" anything, including scientific literacy.
10.1.2006 4:16pm
John Doe (mail):
We live in a nation where 1 in 5 adults still thinks that the sun revolves around the earth, and only 1/3 of adults even know that DNA has something to do with heredity. If you're worried about scientific literacy, there are lots more important things to worry about than whether some hick town includes a disclaimer on the biology textbook. Conversely, whatever scientists that America *does* have somehow managed to escape from the American school system with more knowledge than the ignoramuses that surrounded them. I doubt that the debate over intelligent design is going to impede anyone who made it over all the other hurdles in American high school life.
10.1.2006 4:20pm
Oren Elrad (mail):
JL - The question is whether or not non-scientists should be able to dictate the science curiculum at all. Next we'll have to teach the both sides of the flat-earth round-earth debate. Or chemistry vs. alchemy.

There is no more scientific merit to ID than there is for flat-earth or alchemy. Just because some religious folks think so doesn't make it so.

Everyone is entitled to his own opinions. No one is entitled to his own facts.
10.1.2006 4:20pm
John Doe (mail):
Here's the link for American scientific illiteracy.
10.1.2006 4:22pm
Michael B (mail):
Captain Renault: "Major Strasser has been shot. Round up the usual suspects."

The basic issue is not to deny, marginalize or diminish science as such - i.e. science qua science - but rather to transparently explicate definitions of science in properly reasoned, in rational/philosophical terms. This would include distinguishing science from scientisms and other ideological interests which too often attach themselves to science in order to forward their own programs, their own social/political and other ideological interests.

Science's epistemic foundation is largely rational/empirical. The rational side of that equation needs to be emphasized far more than it is, in our school systems, when explicating the philosophical bases upon which various sciences are formed, from "pure sciences" such as physics and mathematics through to the various social sciences, none of which are formed upon purely empirical/rational foundations.
10.1.2006 4:23pm
SP:
Can anyone give any examples of how teaching ID would have such an impact? I've just seen a lot of supposition. For example, I don't recall a job interview where I was asked my opinion of evolution, or any job I've had that required me to apply evolutionary biology. (For all the sqawking above about crop resistance, etc, as pointed out, that's not technically "evolution," at least not in its "controversial" sense.)

If most people on this planet believed the moon was made of green cheese, I'm not sure how that would impact the sciences at large, especially in their most practical form. We still have plenty of people who pursue scientific careers. Despite the occasional random school district that teaches ID, we still spend billions in biological research. Somehow I think we'll manage, though it would be nice if there was more encouragement (e.g. scholarships) to promote scientific careers. That's a far great issue than this rather political debate.
10.1.2006 4:24pm
blspro:
Oren -

Here I would disagree with you:

"The question is whether or not non-scientists should be able to dictate the science curiculum at all."

The actual question is what business does the State have running schools in the first place - and thus placing itself in the position of having to dictate what will be taught in them. Arguments over who exactly gets to decide what will be taught to their children (and the children of others) is merely a necessary and unavoidable consequence of the more fundamental issue.
10.1.2006 4:34pm
David Maquera (mail) (www):
I agree with JL. I have not heard that ID proponents are trying to ban any discussion of evolution from science class. Instead, ID proponents want to add ID to science class discussions. (Merely adding a sticker to science books stating that evolution is a theory and not a fact does not ban evolution from science class.)

Personally, as a Seventh Day Adventist, I don't think ID is proper in public school science classes. However, I also don't see what is wrong with facilitating the discussion of ID in some yet to be determined class in public schools for the sole reason that any topic that stimulates debate and critical reasoning can only enhance education in general. Furthermore, my understanding of the "evolution theory" at the time of the Scopes Monkey Trial is that such theory was not all that much different from ID today.
10.1.2006 4:38pm
Matthew Gross (mail):
Well, everyone quickly devolved from the topic at hand...

I find Mr. Hanle's proposition that the mere mention of ID in schools hurts education as absurd. If anything, it helps the experience as a whole. Teaching evolutionary theory without mentioning the remaining flaws (Which are about all that "Irreducible Complexity" can be described as) is in direct opposition to scientific rigor.

It should be discussed why evolution is the only scientific theory, as well as how the limited information provided by the fossil record will prevent there from ever being a "sure" answer.

As for the lack of evolutionary biology hurting American students, the proposition is on its face absurd. Those dealing with their physics or math don't even venture into such a realm. Those more directly effected, such as geologists and medical researchers, will find countless evidence as they continue to learn reinforcing evolutionary theory.

If you don't believe in evolution, how are you to explain rock ordering and depositional surfaces? What about acquired immunity and genetic diseases? All those who work in such fields will make their peace with evolutionary biology one way or another, even if they don't admit their cognitive dissonance in the pews every Sunday.
10.1.2006 5:19pm
Andrew Hyman (mail) (www):
"John Doe" mentioned above that "1 in 5 adults still thinks that the sun revolves around the earth." Actually, if you believe the National Science Foundation, it's more like one in four adults. See here. Those who answered that the Earth revolves around the Sun totalled 75%, including 86% of men, as compared to 66% of women. That's quite a gender gap.

Of course, to be accurate, it's a loaded question, because the Theory of General Relativity instructs us that all coordinate systems are equally valid; i.e. we may choose a coordinate system with the Earth fixed at the origin. Moreover, even if we stick to Newtonian physics, the Sun is not stationary, but rather revolves around the center of gravity of the solar system, which is located “nearly a solar radius away from the center of the sun.”

Were many of the poll respondents thinking about those nuances? Probably not many of them were. Nevertheless, on would think that the NSF would phrase its questions a bit more correctly.
10.1.2006 5:48pm
Andrew Hyman (mail) (www):
10.1.2006 5:50pm
Colin (mail):
Teaching evolutionary theory without mentioning the remaining flaws (Which are about all that "Irreducible Complexity" can be described as) is in direct opposition to scientific rigor.

That would only be the case if creationists could point out flaws with any scientific merit. “Irreducible complexity” is not a flaw in evolutionary theory; it’s bunkum. It doesn’t belong in a science classroom any more than astrology does, as its chief proponent (Behe) has admitted. So why teach it? What value does it have to students? I can see teaching it as an example of pseudoscience, but recall that ID and its subordinate dogmas like IC were created to be more convincing than actual science to laypeople. They sound convincing if you don’t have and apply the intellectual tools to discriminate between rigorous science and gibberish, and students by and large are still acquiring those tools. ID and IC are explicitly designed to outcompete actual science among students and other laypeople who aren’t qualified to examine the empirical validity of the theories themselves.

If you don't believe in evolution, how are you to explain rock ordering and depositional surfaces? What about acquired immunity and genetic diseases?

That’s exactly the problem. The concern is that students will learn that science should bend to the preconceptions of whomever has the loudest supporters. Students who never learn that the scientific method is reliable, practical, and, most importantly, objective will have a poorer understanding of the field and less motivation to continue studying it. After all, for a creationist, studying science is a dead end - it’s much harder than simple rhetoric, and you’re never assured that it won’t lead you to some difficult questions. Because it discourages asking questions and insists that all answers be filtered through the ideology, it makes it less likely that students exposed to it will be interested in understanding the problems you mention above. It won’t prevent most students from understanding actual science, but it would be prejudicial to the education of at least some students without materially benefiting the rest..

It should be discussed why evolution is the only scientific theory, as well as how the limited information provided by the fossil record will prevent there from ever being a "sure" answer.

I think this is wrong, not just as a proposed lesson but also as an affirmative statement. The fossil record is only one tool we have for examining past biological events; we can also examine genetic information itself to understand the mechanisms of evolution. Our understanding of that information is increasing, as is our comprehension of the fossil record. And of course that record is also improving as me make new discoveries and re-analyze the specimens we already have. It’s only correct to say that we won’t ever have a “sure” answer if you believe that we can never have a “sure” answer about any past event. If you’re willing to accept a proof-beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard, however, we’re already “sure” about evolution.
10.1.2006 5:57pm
Rachel (mail):
Of course, virtually no high schools actually teach real evolutionary theory, and then apply it to humans. Real evolutionary theory suggests that every group makes different trade-offs in response to different environments. Differences between groups often arise in very short time period.

Instead, they teach "Left Creationism", where humans evolved from monkeys, and then stopped evolving about 50,000 years ago. Therefore, all races are exactly identical in every possible way. This is true despite very different environments (for example, it's warm in Africa and cold in Siberia).

Controversial as ID is, it makes no claims about the present state of the world - just past history. ID proponents have no real problem teaching about antibiotic resistance to bacteria, DDT resistance among mosquitos and other useful things. In contrast, "Left Creationism" requires an absurd belief that all races are exactly the same, and any differences are 100% caused by culture. This has huge implications for pretty important stuff. For example, there was a huge fuss over BiDil, a blood pressure drug that works better for blacks. I have no idea why it works better, but it really seemed to. I don't think it should be controversial to give each person the drug that is predicted to work best - but a lot of people think any kind of racial profiling is absolutely forbidden.
10.1.2006 6:13pm
Michael B (mail):
"... even if they don't admit their cognitive dissonance in the pews every Sunday." Matthew Gross

Excepting there is no cognitive dissonance. Such a bait and switch ploy, from science to a rather different, while equally defensible category, is but one aspect of what is referred to directly upthread.

Ironically, it's the integrity issue, the transparency issue, the issue of a more rigorous, not less rigorous rationalism.
10.1.2006 6:28pm
Colin (mail):
In contrast, "Left Creationism" requires an absurd belief that all races are exactly the same, and any differences are 100% caused by culture.

This isn't true for any high school textbook or curriculum that I've ever seen. Do you have examples?
10.1.2006 6:29pm
Ken Arromdee:
I am not aware that advocates of ID have ever asked that schools NOT teach evolution, just that the schools teach both sides of the debate.

The debate doesn't *have* two sides (unless you define a 'side' so loosely that there are also two sides to the flat earth debate). Teaching kids ID falsely implies that there are two sides to the debate.
10.1.2006 7:24pm
Michael B (mail):
"The debate doesn't *have* two sides ..." Ken Arromdee

Which debate are you addressing? The science debate? The philosophical debate? Or the philosophical debate which forwards itself under the guise of science, i.e. the debate over scientism?

Failing to teach kids to thoughtfully and rationally distinguish the difference falsely implies there is no difference.
10.1.2006 7:31pm
Seamus (mail):

Where ID fails as science is its complete non-predictiveness.



So what are the species whose emergence was predicted (not simply explained) by standard neo-Darwinianism?
10.1.2006 7:34pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
This is silly... The only conflict between "ID" and "science" is between people who believe "ID" disproves evolution and those who think evolution disproves god. They're both wrong, but why do we keep arguing over it? The problem would probably go away if all the "pro-science" people would just remind the "IDers" that evolution is no threat to religion, but the High Church of Secularism with all its "Darwin" Jesus fish will make it difficult to convince them.

Until then, fight on...
10.1.2006 7:40pm
Davis (mail) (www):

So what are the species whose emergence was predicted (not simply explained) by standard neo-Darwinianism?


Predicting the emergence of species is pretty much an impossible task (especially since "species" is not an especially well-defined concept).

However, evolutionary theory was crucial in a recent discovery in the genome, as described by Carl Zimmer here and here. Without evolution to guide them, the researchers on this paper would have been faced with a completely intractable search through the enormous human genome.
10.1.2006 8:19pm
Noam:
These comments illustrate the absurdity that less than 10% of Americans are atheists/areligious. This blog and its forums provide a valuable outlet for those in the "closet".
10.1.2006 8:21pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Matthew, I can think of at least one professional who was a creationist who never 'made his peace' with such concepts as 'rock-ordering' (I think I know what you are getting at there, but I've never seen that phrase): Henry Morris
10.1.2006 8:23pm
Elliot Reed:
This is silly... The only conflict between "ID" and "science" is between people who believe "ID" disproves evolution and those who think evolution disproves god. They're both wrong, but why do we keep arguing over it? The problem would probably go away if all the "pro-science" people would just remind the "IDers" that evolution is no threat to religion, but the High Church of Secularism with all its "Darwin" Jesus fish will make it difficult to convince them.
As an atheist, I find it hard to believe there are many people who think evolution disproves God. Certainly I've never met a fellow atheist who does. Evolution does undercut a popular argument in favor of the existence of God, but undercutting support for a proposition is hardly the same thing as disproving it, and nobody thinks it is. However, evolution is a threat to one particular religion's vision of God: conservative evangelical Protestantism's theory that there's a God who is the author of the infallible and literally true Bible.
10.1.2006 8:27pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Which popular argument does it undercut?
10.1.2006 8:30pm
Grover Gardner (mail):
Haradda--

"How on earth were animals larger than a T Rex able to walk in a 1G field?"

The so-called Holden Limit is discussed here:

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/sauropods.html
10.1.2006 8:31pm
Jiffy:
In addition to Davis's point, Seamus's question about "prediction" also misunderstands the nature of scientific prediction. The "predictive power" of a scientific theory means not only its ability to predict the future, such as the emergence of species, but also its ability to predict scientific discoveries that support the theory. An example of accurate prediction at the species level is the recent discovery of Tiktaalik roseae. How would ID have predicted the existence of such a species?
10.1.2006 8:38pm
erik (mail):
If people really cared about scientific literacy, they wouldn't waste ten minutes on ID pro or con. Poor training in math and grade inflation in the humanities does more to depress scientific literacy than teaching ID could ever do.

These are just templates for God vs Science debates.

Catholics seem to do a good job teaching kids physics while also arguing for the Immaculate Conception.
10.1.2006 8:39pm
Grover Gardner (mail):
I should add that the so-called "Holden Limit" does not represent a "hole" in evolutionary theory.
10.1.2006 8:41pm
Mark12345 (mail):
Teaching ID in science classes would have a devastating effect on science education. The scientific consensus - backed by overwhelming evidence - supports evolution by natural selection. There is no evidence whatsoever to support ID. Evolution is a full-fledged scientific pursuit, supported by peer-reviewed papers, hypotheses, experiments, and rigorous debate among those knowledgeable in the field. To suggest to students that every knowledgeable scientist accepts evolution, but a few outsiders have raised enough of a question to deserve treatment as an alternative explanation is to tell students that the scientific method leads to incorrect conclusions, and opens the door to question everything in science. Teaching ID tells students that the scientific method is wrong. Why would (or should) anyone believe in the periodic table, or the kinetic theory of gases, or gravity for that matter? Will we begin teaching astrology in our science classes since it fits Michael Behe's definition of science? Teaching ID would be hopelessly destructive, and would end once and for all our nations claim to technological and scientific excellence.
10.1.2006 8:42pm
John Walker (mail) (www):
Of course, to be accurate, it's a loaded question, because the Theory of General Relativity instructs us that all coordinate systems are equally valid; i.e. we may choose a coordinate system with the Earth fixed at the origin. Moreover, even if we stick to Newtonian physics, the Sun is not stationary, but rather revolves around the center of gravity of the solar system, which is located “nearly a solar radius away from the center of the sun.”


I disagree. General Relativity says no such thing. For starters, if the Earth were fixed in space, simple math shows that anything further than 3.8 light-hours away (27.6 astronomical units, less than the distance to Neptune) would have to be orbiting us at a velocity great than the speed of light, which of course relativity says is impossible.

Then you would have the physics nightmare of explaining why the motionless earth doesn't fall into the sun, etc.
10.1.2006 8:48pm
steve s (mail):
What's wrong with teaching fake science as real science? Do you really have to ask that question?

Even some ID supporters say it isn't science, and that the movement to pretend it is, is dishonest:

For instance, this guy.
10.1.2006 9:11pm
Grover Gardner (mail):
"Instead, they teach "Left Creationism", where humans evolved from monkeys, and then stopped evolving about 50,000 years ago."

I believe the "straight line" theory is an old model which has been replaced by the "branch" theory based on our current understanding of human genetic development. A biology text that didn't convey this would be outdated. When I was a kid, every science classroom had a model of an atom that looked like a miniature solar system. We now know that this doesn't really represent the nature of atoms, but like the little cartoon that shows man developing from chimps, it's a convenient way to visualize a basic concept.

The issue of genetic racial differences is very much debated. There has been a trend among evolutionary scientists to deny any genetic basis for race, but there is no "right" answer at this point, as far as I can tell. One thing is certain--it's a very complex topic and a shallow understanding of the science and controversies will lead to a lot of mosconceptions about what biologists "assert" or "don't assert" on this issue.
10.1.2006 9:14pm
bluecollarguy:
focus on the question whether the teching of ID and/or exclusion of evolution has an negative impact on scientific literacy, student achievement in science, and (by extension) the scientific research and discovery in the nation as a whole.




First of all there are no schools in America that I am aware of that want to exclude evolution.

Secondly the empirical evidence is in, a belief in creation, has zero deleterious effect on science. One need only look at men like Newton, Lemaitre and Mendel to understand that.

Science is a search for knowledge, setting limits on that search for knowledge necessarily means that some knowledge will lie outside those limits. Biological evolution is defined as "any change in the frequency of alleles within a gene pool from one generation to the next." The argument is all about the mechanisms since we know that evolution happens. We know that RM/NS is a mechanism for evolution. We also know that intelligent design is a mechanism for evolution. Ask Monsanto et al about that.

So that leads us to the scientific method and perhaps Karl Popper. Is Intelligent Design a falsifiable proposition and how do we detect design? I don't know the answer to those questions but I do know that the abiogenesis hypothesis also lies outside the realm of falsifiability and there seems to be no uprorar about discussing same in the academy. On the other hand biogenesis is the law of the land, life has never been observed to come from non life. It is also eminently falsifiable.

I happen to think that researching abiogenesis is science even though it is impossible to falsify the hypothesis that life came from non living matter. It's a big universe and 15 billion years or so is a long time, you'd have to have an awful lot of employees to obserrve every interaction of matter occurring in that time and space. Creating life in the lab from non living matter certainly doesn't falsify the claim. In fact it would simply tell us that given the laws of physics, some matter, a blender and a dash of intelligence life can be created.
10.1.2006 9:19pm
A Random Physics Guy:
Jay Myers,

Ok, 99.999999% correct. Nice how you ignore the sentence about relativity, then invoke a system that moves fast enough to be noticably perturbed by a relativistic effect.

Newton's version of mechanics has never been "disproven," rather it has been bounded, or given caveats. It still produces verifiable results in its realm. Oren Elrad already said this eloquently.
10.1.2006 9:33pm
Andrew Hyman (mail) (www):
John Walker, you're free to disagree with General Relativity if you like. However, one of its primary features is general covariance, which means that its fundamental equations remain the same in any coordinate system, including a coordinate system with the Earth fixed at the origin. I'm not going to debate this subject with you, but rather am just suggesting you do a google search for terms like "general covariance" and "generally covariant."
10.1.2006 9:49pm
Daryl Herbert (www):
The problem with teaching ID is that it teaches otherwise intelligent people to believe and say incredibly stupid, ignorant things.

For a perfect example, see: Harrada's post:

There are many holes in current evolutionary theory. In the limited space here may I describe one. How on earth were animals larger than a T Rex able to walk in a 1G field? If an elephant is the largest land animal that can walk presently in a 1G field. It is right at the limit in size of a land animal. How was it done?


I submit to you that this is a stupid thing to say.

Not only has it been debunked (see: Grover Gardner's post and the link he provides), but it's stupid to begin with. It's not based on any sort of scientific understanding of physics or big animals, it's just a bald assertion.

Some liar taught Haradda to say it, and now Haradda is repeating it, smug in the knowledge that he's so much more aware than all of the scientists who have actually studied these things, and actually modeled the problems big dinosaurs would have. All of those scientists, studying a problem, and this punk has the audacity to call them all stupid, blind liars? That's the implication of what Haradda posted.

Someone taught the boy to lie, and now he's lying to others. That's why ID is bad. It makes people say stupid, wrong things. Unlike ID, my theory (teaching someone ID makes them lie) is a testable hypothesis, and it's upheld every day on the Internet where the forces of IDiocy try to make their case.

I thought about how to say this more politely, but it's really a blunt point, and no amount of finesse can detract from its basic message.
10.1.2006 11:08pm
Daryl Herbert (www):
Also, I want to point out that my previous post is directly on point to what we are supposed to be discussing--whether ID is bad for scientific knowledge in general--and that it is not intended solely as an insult or an ad hominem:
I would urge commenters to resist the urge to re-open the "is Intelligent Design science" debate, and instead focus on the question whether the teching of ID and/or exclusion of evolution has an negative impact on scientific literacy, student achievement in science, and (by extension) the scientific research and discovery in the nation as a whole.
So pointing out that a proponent of ID has said something scientifically illiterate is actually a lot more on point than any of the polite posts so far (including the one debunking what Haradda wrote). We are not supposed to be discussing whether ID is science, or whether Newtonian mechanics is correct, we are supposed to be piling on (or defending) those who believe in and want to teach ID.
10.1.2006 11:15pm
TM Lutas (mail) (www):
I would suggest that ID, irrespective of its truth value, is useful to propose to teach because it is useful at uncovering programs that teach science and a cargo cult act alike many people call scientism.

Scientific response to ID is "that's certainly a different theory so why don't you tell me your experimental results that support it" at which point the lack of experimental results leads ID to be excluded from the curriculum until such experiments are conducted, pass a fair peer review, and get published. Scientism responds differently with political action, character assassination and bald faced assertions that ID simply cannot be tested without actually going to the trouble of proving such a difficult proposition.

I happen to think that ID is false for theological reasons. My view is that God is not so easily caught out. But I think that one can design experiments to test for irreducible complexity. All of the designs that I've come up with are horribly long and complicated but are generally judged possible when presented as a mental exercise on the subject.

The real problem is not in the high school classroom. The problem is whether ID researchers who go into the lab and start running actual experiments are going to face a political boycott that keeps their work from being published or are they going to get a fair shot at publication? It's only after there is a reasonable body of pro-ID experiments written up that pass peer review that ID can do more than serve as a litmus strip for detecting scientism and the intellectual rot that accompanies it.
10.1.2006 11:20pm
plunge (mail):
This question has an obvious answer: american citizens who have high school biology classes, which by and large do not cover evolution in any substantive way, unequivocally end up with people having absolutely ridiculous misunderstandings of basic biology.

There is simply no question that a much much smaller pool of informed people means a much smaller pool of excellent candidates going into research and other positions that demand a serious understanding of biology. While evolution is not directly relevant to, say, being a lab tech, if you are going to contribute something groundbreaking and interesting in biology, you NEED that basic base behind you to get anywhere.
10.1.2006 11:47pm
plunge (mail):
"I agree with JL. I have not heard that ID proponents are trying to ban any discussion of evolution from science class. Instead, ID proponents want to add ID to science class discussions. (Merely adding a sticker to science books stating that evolution is a theory and not a fact does not ban evolution from science class.)"

This is exactly the point. You claim that all ID wants is a fair debate, and then give as an example something that is itself unequivocally nonsense: in other words it involves flatly misinforming students about the actual meaning of terms used in science. Theory is not contrasted with fact in science. Indeed, science doesn't really speak of fact except coloquial sense, so it is pure nonsense to contrast theory with fact as if theory was somehow a weaker thing than a fact.

Evolution is barely covered in high school biology. You want to take that time: already too brief to give kids a serious understanding of what it is or says, to devote to what some crackpots have to say about it, including things that are demonstrably wrong or just plain misunderstandings of what evolution is or says.
10.2.2006 12:02am
Bruce Wilder (www):
I was raised in a Catholic tradition, which accepted Thomas Aquinas' solution to the problem of "revealed truth" vs. discovered truth. Aquinas was writing in the 13th century, and, for the most part, the only "science" he knew, was Aristotle. But, he recognized both the limits of human reason and the futility of opposing religious faith to reality.

I don't know what motivates advocates of ID to make their faith hostage to the verification of certain facts about the world. It is a foolish commitment, and I do not see any reason I should labor to disabuse them of the faith they are so determined to lose.

Darwin's theory of evolution is not a matter of religious faith, or should not be. It is not a substitute for religious faith or an analogue to it. Nor is religious faith an analogue or substitute for knowledge of how the world works.

Science is about carefully observing the world as it is, and drawing inferences about how the world works, from observation and reason. To the extent that students, in private schools or public, are taught doctrines by rote, we are doing them a great disservice. To the extent, that we teach from authority, we are doing students a disservice.

It has occurred to me that creationism or I.D. might be an effective foil, in a systematic challenge to students to examine with careful reason and observation just how evolution has worked, and both the contemporary and historical evidence it has left behind.

Laughing at the fools is always a popular pastime for students, and a frequently used pedagogical tool. In this case, though laughing at the fools, involves destroying the faith of the those who have so foolishly made it hostage to science. I am not so sure it is wise to cooperate with the ID'ers in the destruction of religious faith.
10.2.2006 12:07am
plunge (mail):
Rachel: 'Instead, they teach "Left Creationism", where humans evolved from monkeys, and then stopped evolving about 50,000 years ago. Therefore, all races are exactly identical in every possible way. This is true despite very different environments (for example, it's warm in Africa and cold in Siberia). "

Simply put, you're lying. No biologist claims that evolution stopped 50,000 years ago. Certainly no biologist claims that skin color is determined "culturally." That's ridiculous. What most biologists DO point out is that there has been so much interbreeding that racial differences are both relatively minor and unhelpful in drawing larger patterns of difference given the amount of gene flow going on behind the scenes.
10.2.2006 12:16am
plunge (mail):
"Laughing at the fools is always a popular pastime for students, and a frequently used pedagogical tool. In this case, though laughing at the fools, involves destroying the faith of the those who have so foolishly made it hostage to science. I am not so sure it is wise to cooperate with the ID'ers in the destruction of religious faith."

This is a really important argument.

The debate, in high schools, if conducted honestly, would basically spend time debunking peoples religious beliefs. I'm an atheist, and _I_ don't want to see that sort of controversy going on, especially not in a science class. Science isn't theology just like theology isn't science.
10.2.2006 12:19am
Colin (mail):
Scientific response to ID is "that's certainly a different theory so why don't you tell me your experimental results that support it" at which point the lack of experimental results leads ID to be excluded from the curriculum until such experiments are conducted, pass a fair peer review, and get published.

Baloney. ID has had decades in which to present supporting evidence, and has failed completely at every turn. How much bowing and scraping do scientists have to do to avoid being tarred as biased? What you propose as the scientific response is exactly what has happened, creationists' baseless claims of persecution aside.

Scientism responds differently with political action, character assassination and bald faced assertions that ID simply cannot be tested without actually going to the trouble of proving such a difficult proposition.

Which has happened where? As with the “Left Creationism” mumbo-jumbo above, I haven't seen it. I would love to see an example. Sternberg is the usual example, but I don't think that someone acquainted with the facts can claim that he faced “political action” or “character assassination.”

The problem is whether ID researchers who go into the lab and start running actual experiments are going to face a political boycott that keeps their work from being published or are they going to get a fair shot at publication? It's only after there is a reasonable body of pro-ID experiments written up that pass peer review that ID can do more than serve as a litmus strip for detecting scientism and the intellectual rot that accompanies it.

Baloney. ID researchers don't need to fear a boycott; there is ample private funding available. The Discovery Institute has deep Ahramson pockets; it's not the fault of real scientists if they prefer to spend that money on legal and political action rather than research. And when private grants were offered in the field of Intelligent Design, no one even bothered to ask for one. Bill Dembski told his crowd of sycophants that he couldn't get published in real journals for political reasons, but when challenged, couldn't show any articles or research that had been submitted and rejected. Intelligent Design gets to complain about its research being censored when it can show (A) research and (B) censorship. They're 0 for 2.
10.2.2006 12:29am
Josh Jasper:

I would urge commenters to resist the urge to re-open the "is Intelligent Design science" debate, and instead focus on the question whether the teching of ID and/or exclusion of evolution has an negative impact on scientific literacy,


That would require accepting ID as potentially valid science to begin with, because otherwise, it's back to the debate.
10.2.2006 12:47am
DCP:
This is all so silly. Talk about overreaction.

To the best of my memory, my high school biology and college biology classes spent one day apiece on the topic of evolution. And I didn't go to backwater Bible thumping schools; they were both consistently rated amongst the very best in the nation.

Has anybody here spent any time around a public school lately? It's utterly pathetic. I can't even begin to describe how far down the list of concerns "I.D." should be given the hopeless plight of many of these crapholes that for all intents and purposes are nothing more than baby sitting services and juvenile hall substitutes.
10.2.2006 1:27am
Randy R. (mail):
My public high school in the 1970s did a very good job of explaining evolution. At that time, there was no debate or cause for concern. Every one understood it, accepted it and passed the tests. I am very glad I had such a good education, because it fortified me against the baseless claims of the creationists, which is really what ID is all about. Many of my classmates went to good colleges and many became scientists, mathmeticians and so on, so we are very proud of our education.

Any school has a very limited time in which to teach the curriculum. Some here have complained that their schools spent too little time on evolution. So to answer the question, how the heck are students supposed to learn basic evolution AND also creationism and still cover the curriculum? Something has to suffer, and that something is going to be the real stuff, evolution and natural selection. That will leave students even less prepared for higher education.

But so what? Few students go into science as a degree. Here's the problem: the less time you spend actually teaching evolution, the less students know about it, and the more susceptible they are to these silly discussions of creationism.

I am a firm believe that education will set you free. How many people are now prisoners of their religion because they never understood what Darwin actually said? The fact that they lack the basic tools to identify chicanery and demogoggery? I'm not anti-religion -- heck, what ever floats your boat. But when an otherwise intelligent person can't distinguish the lies that the creationists have peddled -- and they are lies, and the advocates know it -- and basic science, then we really have a problem.

Now, I'm not saying that evolution is the absolute truth. But it is the truth to the best of our knowledge, and there is nothing on the horizon to prove it otherwise. But if you are going to argue with Darwinism and evolution, you at least have to know exactly what Darwinism and evolution actually teach. And on that point, the creationists are often sorely mislead.

I have a real problem with the creationists who lie about Darwin and his teachings, and then point to these lies and say, ''see, Darwin is all wrong." If, at a minimum, we could all agree on what evolution says and doesn't say, that would go a long way to clearing up the confusion.
10.2.2006 3:09am
Anteater:
Sternberg is the usual ID example. It would be wise to visit his site
10.2.2006 3:18am
ganymede (mail):

I am not sure that teaching scientific models as ontological models, i.e. verdical accounts of the true nature of things, is essential to scientific progress.


Biology, like geology, is a historical science ie its "models" (such as natural selection) are not simply "heuristics", but are linked to an account of how life "really" developed on Earth. In the same way, plate tectonics is not simply a model to explain current geological features (and predict for instance the presence of oil) but also involves empirical statements about the different positions of landmasses at different times in history. This implies that in these science at least "realism" is not simply a naive spontaneous ideology of practicing scientists but a property of the models themselves.

In fact, all sides of the debate know this (as they did in the debates over flood geology in the early 1800s), and for Philo to claim otherwise is simply disingenuous:


It's unclear to me why evolutionary theory cannot maintain all of its scientific value -- that is, as a heuristic device -- and punt on the issues of what "really" happened in the formation of animal species.


Surely the desire to know how we and the world we inhabit came about is the fundamental reason for doing science at all, and to pretend that science doesn't address such questions is to misrepresent all sides. People and chimpanzees really do have a common ancestor who lived sometime in the past 7 million years, irrespective of what Kant or Feyerabend or Aristotle or anyone else has to say on the matter.

The problem is that the religious right in the US doesn't like the answers science provides - which is why they are fundamentally anti-science, whatever lies the Discovery Institutes mouthpieces tell.

What is really at issue (and never hidden by the likes of Phillip Johnson) is a political campaign to discredit science and replace it with theology as the first step in a campaign to desecularise American civil and political society.

So, on the topic, ID should be discussed in schools - in current politics, history or philosophy classes. But it has as much place in science class as flood geology or astrology or alchemy - all of which have played central roles in human knowledge in the past and about which students should definitely be informed, if only to understand why rational people no longer believe such pre-scientific theories.
10.2.2006 3:25am
Anteater:
There is no generally accepted theory of abiogenesis. See the Trevors/Abel paper in Cell Biology. Students should know this. Darwinism cannot be true without abiogenesis (there is an immediate causal link). If evolutionists concede abiogenesis, then ID is true by default.

If you pick two students in the same major at the same university with the same GPAs, but one is an evolutionist while the other is an IDer, the IDer is more likely to be better educated on the issue of origins. This is because the IDer has an alternative viewpoint in his head each time evolution is mentioned in class; he is better able to scrutinize the issues rather than just parroting back what the textbook claims.

If I owned a biotech company, I would prefer to hire the ID student.
10.2.2006 3:37am
Davis (mail) (www):

Darwinism cannot be true without abiogenesis (there is an immediate causal link). If evolutionists concede abiogenesis, then ID is true by default.


This is absolutely, 100% false. Thought experiment: in an alternate universe, aliens seed the earth with rudimentary life. This life then evolves via random mutation, natural selection, and all the other evolutionary mechanisms. In this alternate earth, abiogenesis is false, ID is false, and evolution is true.

Moreover, you've created a false dichotomy. The falsity of evolution (or abiogenesis) does not imply the truth of ID. It would just mean something other than evolution is true.


If I owned a biotech company, I would prefer to hire the ID student.


And if you took this attitude toward hiring, you probably wouldn't own a biotech company for very long.
10.2.2006 4:30am
Kovarsky (mail):
dear class:

since it has been the case that subsequent scientific inquiry has disproven previous scientific inquiry, we should teach science as though all experimental outcomes are equally likely.

you see, because less likely outcomes have proven, when placed under greater scientific scrutiny, to be "true," we must necessarily accept the likelihood of less-probable explanations.

furthermore, because we cannot disprove the fundamental solipsistic insight that all external stimulai may be pure products of your singular conscience, we suggest that you go out into the world and behave as though nothing matters and that you are a brain in a vat.

thanks, this is exactly what i wanted when i use relgious metaphor. take it easy,

god
10.2.2006 4:50am
Daryl Herbert (www):
Darwinism cannot be true without abiogenesis (there is an immediate causal link). If evolutionists concede abiogenesis, then ID is true by default.

Another baseless, illogical, stupid argument against evolution.

This is what belief in ID does to people: it makes them stupid. (see: I'm sticking to the topic Adler asked us to post about.)

ID's proponents argue that evolution is impossible. Even if "Darwinists" were to concede abiogenesis, that still allows for evolution from that single cell to our current state. The same evolution that IDers say is impossible, because of Irreducible Complexity or whatnot.

And of course what he said relies on the fallacy that because we don't know how it could have happened, it could not have happened.
10.2.2006 5:16am
Fub:
Jonathan Adler wrote:
...focus on the question whether the te[a]ching of ID and/or exclusion of evolution has an negative impact on scientific literacy, student achievement in science, and (by extension) the scientific research and discovery in the nation as a whole.
I think the data available so far is too sparse to demonstrate an impact in any statistically meaningful sense. One can only speculate, but some speculations might be accurate to some degree.

Attempts to press public education into service of ID are by definition political since public education policy is politically determined. The trivial solution to remove those politics from ID, as advanced by libertarians, is to eliminate public funding of education. Since that's unlikely to happen, we're stuck with the political question of whether public education should include ID in science curricula.

To answer that question we could do worse than look to historical analogs. What effects have Lysenkoism, geocentricism and astrology had on scientific advancement and discovery in any nation?

These may seem quaint examples of pseudoscientific bunkum now, but each had, and its political proponents had, great effects in the lives of people, organizations and even nations.
10.2.2006 9:28am
Colin (mail):
Anteater,

Sternberg's own account of the affair is dishonest, according to Smithsonian personnel. He has no evidence to support his claims of harassment, and an investigation failed to uncover any sign of disparate treatment. He complains a lot about how other scientists don't respect him anymore, but then, he exempted a substandard and off-topic paper from the normal peer review of the journal he was editing. He's probably a fine baraminologist, but he only makes a good martyr if you don't look beyond his own self-serving statements.
10.2.2006 10:27am
Frank J. (mail) (www):
For all this blather, I see no evidence that any major science would be altered if people believed everything was magically created one thousand years ago by a flying spaghetti monster. All our sciences that produce results are based on concepts that can be observed now in the lab, not from inferences based on the fossil record.

So, evolution, while interesting, has little effect on science. At the same time, since Christ was not sent to us to convince us the world is 6,000 years old, I don't see why so many Christians waste time on a non-salvation issue that makes them look silly. Thus, on both sides, this seems like much ado about nothing.
10.2.2006 11:14am
Oren Elrad (mail):
Frank - the point is the if you believe in the FSM you are positively disclaiming virtually all the progress human beings have made since the Rennaissance.

ID is a sympton, not the disease. When the bible belt wants to join the 21st century (everywhere but their living room), we are perfectly willing to have them.
10.2.2006 11:22am
Richard Simons:
But what's to teach about "Intelligent Design"?

All I have ever seen is long-refuted criticisms of the theory of evolution, with absolutely no evidence in support of ID. I am puzzled as to why IDists would even want discussion of it in schools. 'Class, according to ID there are no intermediate fossils. In fact there are intermediates between fish and land vertebrates, between dinosaurs and birds, a nice series between reptiles and mammals and a particularly good one between apes and humans.' (As an aside, why are IDists so fixated on fossils, which are a relatively minor issue both for Darwin and modern biologists?)

So what are the species whose emergence was predicted (not simply explained) by standard neo-Darwinianism?

It is not possible to predict what species would develop. However, I will make a prediction base on evolutionary theory. Barbary apes will be found to have a defunct gene for making vitamin C. Now it's the IDists turn to make a prediction which, after all, is an essential ability of any theory.
10.2.2006 11:32am
Nathan Jones (mail):
focus on the question whether the teching of ID and/or exclusion of evolution has an negative impact on scientific literacy, student achievement in science

The problem is that any answer to this question is pure conjecture. ID is not taught in any public school, so who knows what its impact on kids is or science in the nation at large.

There are probably a few small (religious) private schools that teach ID, but it would be difficult to disentangle the effects of ID from the effects being a small private school with (I'm assuming) sub-par teaching and few resources.

My hunch is that the kids who buy into ID wholesale are not the kids who would be scientists anyway so nothing much will be lost if ID is "taught" in high school. My further hunch is that most people who teach science in high schools don't want to teach ID anyway so they will probably reveal the theory for what it is and, thus, even more kids would be spared the ill-effects of ID.

ID only makes the religious folks look bad. I'll be contrarian and suppose that teaching it in public schools wouldn't effect much.
10.2.2006 11:39am
Jimmy (mail):
Frank they waste time on the "non-salvation" issue because their influence over the past 100 years is diminishing due, in part, to the rise of secular humanism.

We are able to observe the laws of science, and it helps us understand the world in a physical manner. This removes some of the burden of religious belief - why is the sky blue? B/c God made it so.

And as we advance culturally (eventually) and learn how to treat our fellow humans and planet with respect and understanding, then the religious codices of behavior are also removed from us. We don't need Jesus or Mohammed to tell us how to treat our neighbor once our society and laws overlap the influence of religion.

See a trend here? Until science can completely overtake religion's explanation of the world that surrounds us, the fundamentalists need to fight the creeping secularism with these sorts of battles with school boards and textbooks. And of course their strength is that there are NO gray areas in religion to explain away. Where do unbaptized babies go when they die? They created purgatory to explain that one away.
10.2.2006 11:40am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Ref. The Beak of The Finch

The evolution of resistence to pesticides is selection for a characteristic already existing. To suggest the pesticides bring into being a previously non-existent characteristic (resistance) is close to Lamarckism. If the characteristic did not already exist in a few individuals, the entire population would be wiped out, presuming the entire population is exposed to the pesticide.
The same is true of any evolutionary change in response to environment. The favored characteristic must already exist, at least in some individuals. Possibly it exists in many, most, or even all individuals, but to a greater or lesser extent.

Prediction being held close to vest::::::

I don't see that teaching ID hinders the education in science, considering how miserable it is at this point, anyway. The first experiment I did in high school chemistry was to boil water, keeping careful records. The point was to learn to keep careful records and show them in graphic or tabular form. Teaching ID won't contradict that, presuming anybody's teaching careful recording these days.

ID is appeal to authority, not science, and most kids can tell the difference, eventually.
10.2.2006 11:49am
SamChevre:
Jonathan,

I'm going to try to answer your question carefully--what are the real-world consequences, and is Dr Hanle right.

Dr Hanle is wrong; he's engaging in a classic bait-and-switch. OK, 37% of a baseline level of high-school biology is "evolution, evolutionary biology, and heredity;" the problem is that IDers (and even young-earth creationists) agree 100% with the mainstream of biology on heredity and on inter-species evolution (adaptation to environment)--which is probably 95% of that 37%. The actual issues in dispute are a miniscule portion of that 37%.

It would be similar to stating, in an argument over whether states had the right to secede from the US before 1860, that "50% of civics is about the legal constraints on government, including the constitution, treaties, and the legal system, and thus it is very dangerous to the students' knowledge of civics to teach that secession was permissible, since the Constitution forbade it."
10.2.2006 11:54am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Except that most "evolutionists" don't talk of evolution as metaphysics - that's only in the mind of IDers.
No, it's in biology classrooms across America. There are a lot of science teachers in the lower grades who teach evolution as Truth with a capital T, and use it, sometimes not with any subtlety, to bash Christianity. My wife's high school biology teacher had planned to become a missionary, and had a crisis of faith. She ended up teaching biology, and used evolutionary theory in the classroom to attack Christianity. I attended the same high school, but my biology teacher emphasized evolutionary theory as a predictive model, not necessarily as an ultimate truth sort of issue.

The continual effort to group Intelligent Design and Creationism together is dishonest. ID, no question, is not a theory, because it lacks predictive power. (And that is the purpose of science--the ability to predict what will happen.) But it is a legitimate critique of evolutionary theory. It asks some difficult questions about how some elements could have come together--and the way in which those questions are asked are proper scientific questions.

That the high priests of the Cult of Evolution as Fact are making the utterly false claim that ID advocates are trying to get evolutionary theory removed from the classroom tells me that some of them are afraid of the questions that biology and biochemistry professors such as Minnich and Bene are asking.
10.2.2006 12:31pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
John Armstrong writes:


But we're not talking about whether it's science or not. The problem at hand is whether it cripples our science students. This it does by telling them that science is about storytelling and not about making predictions that can be checked and either verified or disproven.
The irony is just too much to be believed! What, exactly, is the version of evolution taught in the lower grades, but "storytelling" as opposed to prediction? Chemistry, physics, and most of biology is predictive in nature, and experimentally verifiable. Evolution--at least the level of class, order, family, and genus--can't be experimentally verified--there just isn't the time. (Even attempts to create speciation over several hundred thousand generations of bacteria have not been particularly successful.) So what is left? Storytelling based on a plausible reading of the fossil record.


Falling back on "The Designer wanted it that way" isn't a prediction, it's a cop-out, and anyone who takes that point of view as science will be laughed out of any reputable biology department, which rather puts a damper on being a graduate student in biology.
It's not a prediction, but there are some legitimate questions being raised by ID--and I'll tell you that I've never found any of the Creationist claims anything but laughable. Behe's arguments, while not absolutely solid, raise questions that evolutionary biologists--even if they are right--need to answer. Trying to suppress discussion of these questions is rather like the Renaissance Church and its fight with Galileo.
10.2.2006 12:40pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Randy R. exposes his ignorance of ID:

My public high school in the 1970s did a very good job of explaining evolution. At that time, there was no debate or cause for concern. Every one understood it, accepted it and passed the tests. I am very glad I had such a good education, because it fortified me against the baseless claims of the creationists, which is really what ID is all about.
No, it really isn't. You should actually read some of the ID critiques. These are not ignorant people who don't know anything about the subject. They include biology professors, biochemistry professors—even a few scientists like Henry Schaefer III, who used to be on the other side.


Any school has a very limited time in which to teach the curriculum. Some here have complained that their schools spent too little time on evolution. So to answer the question, how the heck are students supposed to learn basic evolution AND also creationism and still cover the curriculum? Something has to suffer, and that something is going to be the real stuff, evolution and natural selection. That will leave students even less prepared for higher education.
I certainly wouldn't waste any time on creationism. But it is both politic and good science to have students ask the question: "How do we know what we know? What is the purpose of science?" It isn't just Revealed Truth, no matter how many incompetent science teachers would prefer to teach science that way.

I am a firm believe that education will set you free. How many people are now prisoners of their religion because they never understood what Darwin actually said? The fact that they lack the basic tools to identify chicanery and demogoggery? I'm not anti-religion — heck, what ever floats your boat. But when an otherwise intelligent person can't distinguish the lies that the creationists have peddled — and they are lies, and the advocates know it — and basic science, then we really have a problem.
It doesn't even occur to you that a fair number of us studied evolution in school, largely accepted it as theory—but think that dogmatic teaching is bad science. There are legitimate questions, and attempting to suppress dissenting views is a sign that some of you don't really have much confidence in your ability to answer some of the questions.

Now, I'm not saying that evolution is the absolute truth. But it is the truth to the best of our knowledge, and there is nothing on the horizon to prove it otherwise. But if you are going to argue with Darwinism and evolution, you at least have to know exactly what Darwinism and evolution actually teach. And on that point, the creationists are often sorely mislead.
You are probably correct that a lot of creationists are not terribly knowledgeable about evolutionary theory. But Professor Minnich, who teaches microbiology at the University of Idaho, or Professor Behe, who teaches biochemistry at Lehigh University don't understand evolutionary theory? Sorry, but your ignorance is showing.
10.2.2006 12:55pm
Colin (mail):
No, it's in biology classrooms across America. There are a lot of science teachers in the lower grades who teach evolution as Truth with a capital T, and use it, sometimes not with any subtlety, to bash Christianity.

Frankly, I don’t believe this. Creationism is boiling over with a frenetic persecution complex, but it never seems to come with any evidence. Do you have any lesson plans? Textbooks? Syllabi? Handouts? Anything other than a subjective anecdote? I won’t hold my breath.

It asks some difficult questions about how some elements could have come together--and the way in which those questions are asked are proper scientific questions.

Not really. It asks questions that are intended to sound difficult to laypeople, but which biologists have never had any trouble answering. IDists like Behe (I presume that’s who you mean) are not marginalized because their questions are hard, but because their questions are vapid. Their work is useless, not threatening.

That the high priests of the Cult of Evolution as Fact. . .

And here I was, just thinking that creationism is built upon the back of fiery but empty rhetoric. Sorry to say, but the fact of evolution isn’t in doubt. It hasn’t been for a long time now - longer than any of us have been alive. The complaints of those with ulterior motives notwithstanding, it has the same well-verified and reliable standing as old-Earth geology. It might aggravate a few zealots, but it’s much too late to pretend there’s still a legitimate debate over the factual nature of biological evolution.

Evolution--at least the level of class, order, family, and genus--can't be experimentally verified--there just isn't the time. (Even attempts to create speciation over several hundred thousand generations of bacteria have not been particularly successful.) So what is left? Storytelling based on a plausible reading of the fossil record.

This (ludicrous) standard would make geology and astronomy “storytelling.” In fact, they’re both reliable sciences. We don’t need to see every step of a process with our own two eyes in order to have overwhelming evidence that it exists.

Trying to suppress discussion of these questions is rather like the Renaissance Church and its fight with Galileo.

Someone—I forget who—said that every crackpot wants to be Galileo. But to be Galileo, it’s not enough to be mocked. You also have to be right.
10.2.2006 1:05pm
Hans Gruber:
Understanding ID actually requires a higher understanding of evolution than most high schoolers possess. That's the simple truth of it. I guess it depends on how one defines "scientific literacy." I define it as properly understanding the theory of evolution (its strengths and its weaknesses)--NOT accepting it as true or as a fact. Defining "literacy" as "agrees with me" seems more like a religion than science.

People oppose the teaching of ID not because students won't understand evolution (the critiques actually help one understand the theory), but because fewer students would subscribe to the "evolution is a FACT" line of thought. For some reason that scares the shit out of people. As somebody who sides with evolution over ID (though I think ID has some very provocative points, specifically Behe), I really don't know why.
10.2.2006 1:20pm
Mike Keenan:
I don't think teaching this silliness in the biology classroom will have much effect on scientific literacy. I think most of the individuals driving technical development have very little biology literacy anyway. Most have no idea what evolution is. Most believe in the divine creator and it isn't hindering their development of tvs, cars, medical equipment, and drugs. Most have no more daily interaction with evolution than they do wioth cosmology.

That said, it doesn't belong in the science classroom. There shouldn't be a single paragragh or a single sentence about it. Keep it in the theology classroom and describe there why it isn't being discussed in biology.
10.2.2006 1:20pm
Randy R. (mail):
So what would creationists and IDers teach in schools? That God created everything? That the Bible is correct science? Just how would any person use this in the lab to help find a cure for AIDS or cancer, or explain the migration of races, or questions of anthropology? I have YET to see any supporter of creationism move beyond the high school level and apply it to a real science.

What someone said here is true: the religious don't like the answer that science gives. They have no problem with physics or chemistry or astronomy, but that's mainly because the Bible doesn't make any claims about that. But simply because the Bible purports to talk about the origins of the world and life, any scientific theory of that must be wrong, in their view.

And why is that so important? Because these people are exactly the same people who view the Bible as inerrant and take every word of it as true, literally true. To them, it is real history, and any history found elsewhere that contradicts it is false.

so their mindset is that if any part of the bible is not true, then all of it must be false, and they would 'lose their faith.' Or have a crisis of faith, as Mr. Cramers friend did. They cannot conceptualize that perhaps the Bible might be wrong in parts, correct in parts, and that in any case it's a religious and therefore spiritual document.

And they apply this to science. If any part of evolution is incorrect, then the whole thing must be incorrect. But scientists don't work this way, of course.

Question to all those who view ID as credible: Do you do so at least in part because you believe the Bible is all true? Is there any part of the Bible that you believe can be just rhetorical and not to be taken literally?
10.2.2006 1:22pm
Paddy O. (mail):
"Frank they waste time on the "non-salvation" issue because their influence over the past 100 years is diminishing due, in part, to the rise of secular humanism."

I love this. Diminishing influence which sparks massive blitz of reaction. It's that after a 100 years they are not diminishing at all that's the problem. Religion isn't going away, like secular humanism predicted.

As a Christian I think it is mostly a waste of time on a "non-salvation" issue. But, why they do it is the same why most folks argue about an issue that has little to no effect on anything we do in the practical world. We all like to be right. We think people who disagree with us are stupid and they offend us by suggesting we are wrong.

So, we argue over how to teach something that no one has an answer for. We don't really know how life actually started, even if we do know that life progressed in certain ways. Depending on our philosophy we'll come up with different ways of suggesting how life started whether spontaneously, divinely, or by alien seed planting.

I can't come close to figuring out how teaching, "we don't know" is going to hurt science education as long as what we do know about present adaptation, etc. is taught. We don't know what sparked that first living cell. We only can make assumptions based on what would make our present soul issues more palatable.

We don't know. We can assert our opinions til we're blue in in the face but we have no idea why life popped up on this planet. We only know that it did and once it did it took certain turns. I'd be happy having Science teachers saying this.
10.2.2006 1:22pm
Captain Holly (mail) (www):

If people really cared about scientific literacy, they wouldn't waste ten minutes on ID pro or con. Poor training in math and grade inflation in the humanities does more to depress scientific literacy than teaching ID could ever do.


and this comment


Has anybody here spent any time around a public school lately? It's utterly pathetic. I can't even begin to describe how far down the list of concerns "I.D." should be given the hopeless plight of many of these crapholes that for all intents and purposes are nothing more than baby sitting services and juvenile hall substitutes.


make excellent points. Our Esteemed Publik Skools routinely churn out kids who can barely read, write or do basic arithmetic, and yet the biggest threat to our children's education is some misguided fundamentalists trying to modify how the schools teach evolution? Please.

I got news for you: If a kid can't read his biology book, he's not going to be very hip with Darwin's Theory to begin with.

It kinda reminds me of recent studies showing boys falling farther and farther behind girls when it comes to scholastic achiement. The Publik Skools solution? More "girl-friendly" math and science classes.

ID in schools is a manufactured crisis that allows educators to simultaneously bash religious fundamentalists while diverting attention away from the real problems in the system.
10.2.2006 1:24pm
Hans Gruber:
"You are probably correct that a lot of creationists are not terribly knowledgeable about evolutionary theory."

True. However, it's also my experience that plenty of the "englightened" Darwin-pushers don't know jack about evolution. Oddly, the debate is often pushed by righteous know nothings on both sides of this issue.
10.2.2006 1:24pm
Hans Gruber:
"No, it's in biology classrooms across America. There are a lot of science teachers in the lower grades who teach evolution as Truth with a capital T, and use it, sometimes not with any subtlety, to bash Christianity."

There are probably some of these teachers, but I think most of them aren't in the sciences. Oddly, again, those with the least scientific knowledge (social science teachers, for example) seem to be the most opposed to ID being taught and the most likely to politicize these issues within the classroom. These are the sort of people whose scientific literacy consists of "evolution is a fact, moron."
10.2.2006 1:35pm
Davis (mail) (www):
Here's one reason we shouldn't teach ID: because in the science classroom, we do not teach ideas which are untested, and which currently have no evidential support. To do otherwise with ID would be to give it special treatment.

On the same token, I'd be pretty annoyed if students were taught about string theory in their physics class.
10.2.2006 2:36pm
Paddy O. (mail):
"we do not teach ideas which are untested"
And so you've tested the origins of life? We've tested the adaptation of life, but not what happened in the primordial ooze.
10.2.2006 2:48pm
james (mail):
Once social science got treated as a real science everything became fair game.
10.2.2006 2:51pm
plunge (mail):
Hans "Understanding ID actually requires a higher understanding of evolution than most high schoolers possess. That's the simple truth of it."

No, it's a falsehood. Many of the claims that lie at the core of ID involve misrepresenting both how science works and why, as well as what evolution actually says and predicts.

"People oppose the teaching of ID not because students won't understand evolution (the critiques actually help one understand the theory), but because fewer students would subscribe to the "evolution is a FACT" line of thought."

I don't think you can show me any evidence of any science biology textbook that fails to explain just in what sense science talks about facts, and why evolution is both theory and fact in that sense, and justifies it quite clearly (common descent, for instance, is a fact: natural selection is one part of a framework of theory that explains that fact better than anything else offered, which is the most anyone can ever say of any theory).

However, I can point to plenty of examples of high school teachers that outright just teach straight up creationism.

So, I'm calling BS on you.
10.2.2006 3:02pm
plunge (mail):
"The irony is just too much to be believed! What, exactly, is the version of evolution taught in the lower grades, but "storytelling" as opposed to prediction? Chemistry, physics, and most of biology is predictive in nature, and experimentally verifiable."

Boy are you confused, and hence demonstrating exactly the sort of confusion that ID likes to inject into science. It is simply not the case that evolution is not predictable.

While it cannot predict in practice exactly what will happen to a species in the future anymore than physics or chemistry can predict the exact outcome of a flip of a coin or the path of a molecule in a solution, it does make all sorts of predictions about what we will and won't see, what the restrictions on change will be, and so forth, and all of these hold up as we examine speciation and allele distribution in nature. Heck, population genetics is an entire field that couldn't exist if what you were saying were true. Furthermore, because most of what evolution deals with is past events, what it is predicting and experimenting on is evidence, both new and existing, and predicting that it must all conform to a very particular pattern. And it does: in a detail far greater than virtually anything else we know about the natural world.

"Evolution--at least the level of class, order, family, and genus--can't be experimentally verified--there just isn't the time."

Again, you are mightily confused here. There IS no level of evolution above speciation. Taxonomic classifications are just that: classifications imposed on clades, but the clades all develop via speciation.

"(Even attempts to create speciation over several hundred thousand generations of bacteria have not been particularly successful.)"

Nonsense. Bacteria have observably speciated (though the definition of speciation is hazy, since bacteria by and large reproduce asexually, so all we have to go on is simply degree of genetic difference from a mainline stock), have developed novel metabolic pathways, and so on. So has all manner of metazoan life. The problem probably lies with the fact that you don't really understand the nature and implication of the evidence.

"So what is left? Storytelling based on a plausible reading of the fossil record."

Again, only someone completely clueless could say this. While there remain many things about past ecologies and life that are still largely speculative, the basic pattern of common descent and cladism isn't one of them. It isn't simply the fossil record that we look at, but the genetic difference and similarities of existing life as well: in order for common descent to be valid, they much match up with the fossil record. They do: in stunning detail. But that's not even the start of it. This particular pattern of life must match up with every single physical fact about the world. Clades have to be compatible with the history of continental drift, for instance. They have to be compatible with each other. Every single ancient gene in every single lineage has to trace down the same pattern of branching ancestry. And again, that's only the start of it. Anyone that talks about speculating with scant fossils just has no idea what they are talking about.
10.2.2006 3:28pm
Daryl Herbert (www):
Clayton Cramer said:
That the high priests of the Cult of Evolution as Fact are making the utterly false claim that ID advocates are trying to get evolutionary theory removed from the classroom
Let me get this straight: the opponents of evolution say it is a caustic, faith-corroding secularist plot to undermine Christianity. They say it is unscientific and unsupported by evidence. But they don't want it removed from the classroom?
10.2.2006 3:36pm
David W Drake (mail):
Perhaps the problem is that evolution is being introduced too early in school, when ignorance of children concerning the elements of biology--the classification system, respiration and photosynthesis, etc. --their willingness to accept uncritically what they are being told by their teachers, and the relative scientific illiteracy of elementary (particularly) and even high school teachers all make the attempt to teach evolution, which is the "icing on the cake" of biology, indoctrination rather than education. And perhaps that is what the ID supporters are complaining about, however inarticulately and misguidedly.
10.2.2006 3:39pm
plunge (mail):
Perhaps just about every biology textbook I've ever read has a long section all about how to think critically, as well as lots of sub-sections about ongoing scientific controversies (REAL ONES) and uncertainties. Perhaps the claim about high priests and so on is just pure propaganda.
10.2.2006 4:02pm
spencere (mail):
My advice is that all schools that teach intelligent design better also teach their kids Chinese because such an education will make it all the more likely that the kids will end up working for a Chinese firm.
10.2.2006 4:23pm
Randy R. (mail):
It is a fallacy, common among IDer and creationists, that evolution talks about the origins of life. This simple statement shows their complete ignorance of evolution and natural selection, and specifically Darwinism, and shows why it's so important to teach the real stuff.

Darwin never posited HOW or WHY life originated. What he argued, and what evolutionary biologists argue, is how life evolved. There is a difference.

Now, of course, there are theories on how life began, but that's something very different from evolution. They are two separate theories (although the current theories do support each other), but nonetheless, when we talk about evolution, it is NOT about the beginnings of life, like how the first cell arose.
10.2.2006 4:44pm
Paddy O. (mail):
"It is a fallacy, common among IDer and creationists, that evolution talks about the origins of life. This simple statement shows their complete ignorance of evolution and natural selection, and specifically Darwinism, and shows why it's so important to teach the real stuff."

It's also a fallacy taught by many of those who teach evolution in schools. Or speak about it in the publich sphere. That's the core problem. Most IDers would not argue against natural selection, etc. It is important to teach the real stuff, but unfortunately in many settings this has expanded past its reach.

As a history guy myself I find it funny to be worried about what is taught in public schools. Bad history is the rule, something those who go onto college in the subject realize, and correct.
10.2.2006 5:03pm
Perseus (mail):
Here's one reason we shouldn't teach ID: because in the science classroom, we do not teach ideas which are untested, and which currently have no evidential support. To do otherwise with ID would be to give it special treatment.

On the same token, I'd be pretty annoyed if students were taught about string theory in their physics class.


I'm glad to see some consistency on this point. But that hasn't stopped the advocates of string theory (which, in the past 25 years, has made NO falsifiable predictions that have been tested) from trying to diffuse it among the populace. As Peter Woit ("Is String Theory Even Wrong?") points out:

"String theory has, however, been spectacularly successful on one front: public relations. For example, it's been the subject of the best-selling popular science book of the past couple years: The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene, one of my colleagues at Columbia. The National Science Foundation is funding a series of NOVA programs based on his accessible and inspiring book. What is more, the Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, organized last spring a conference to train high school teachers in string theory so that they can teach it to their students."

So where's the outrage about string theory corrupting "science"?
10.2.2006 5:05pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Perseus:

Ref your last sentence/question:

I believe the fuss over evolution/creation/ID is a proxy for the culture wars. If whatever string theory claims to explain were mentioned in the Bible, we'd no doubt be hammering creation/ID on odd days and the scriptural alternative to string theory on even days.
10.2.2006 5:10pm
Inkling (www):
As C. S. Lewis noted in a letter, the best arguments against evolution are the evolutionists themselves. And assuming he didn't just mean the ugliness of eugenics (privately supported by Darwin himself), it is a telling point that many of evolution's most vocal supporters claim to know what happened millions of years ago, but demonstrate time and again an inability to get straight facts about recent events that can be resolved beyond question.

1. Many of the arguments for evolution taught in classrooms are bogus and have been known to be bogus for years. Yet they continute to be taught. Why?

2. As Summer of the Gods demonstrated, the standard narrative of the Scopes Trial (and the movie "Inherit the Wind") is grossly inaccurate. Are evolutionists trying to correct the wrong (and libelous) impression they've given the public for so long? I think not.

3. And last but not least is the ID debate. Virtually all the claims being made by evolutionist against ID are wrong, and if you'd like to see them answered, go to Discovery.org and read for yourself. Again, if evolutionist can't get current events right, how can they get the events of a billion years ago correct?

And yes, I realize that some of these spokesmen are scientists with an agenda that destroys their objectivity. I also realize that others are less-than-bright high school teachers (and Slashdot nerds) who can't cope with complexity and need dogma of some sort to soothe their troubled souls. But it remains the responsibility of the broader scientific community to correct the missimpression these people are creating when they claim to speak in the name of science.

--Michael W. Perry, editor, Eugenics and Other Evils
10.2.2006 5:20pm
Mark Field (mail):

So where's the outrage about string theory corrupting "science"?


Uh, didn't you just quote some of it?

Lots of physicists have been critical of string theory. Lee Smolin also has a book out now with a similar theme. Others have weighed in on occasion. What's your point?
10.2.2006 5:22pm
KMAJ (mail):
There is one fallacious conflation in many arguments, while it can be held true that all creationists are IDers, the inverse is not true, not all IDers are creationists in the sense that the source of ID must be God. Why would the source of that intelligence have to be a God ? Why could it not be a fallible intelligence ? That would certainly explain all the flaws in the universe. If one accepts this deductive reasoning, you can start to evaluate the question Adler asks.

We seldom consider the full breadth of evolution, because the ONLY scientific laboratory experimentation that has solid factual evidence is the last of seven stages of evolution, micro-evolution. It is from this basis that the rest of evolution must be accepted on faith. No one disputes micro-evolution, it is the rest of the necessary evolutionary cycle that creates the argument. What are the seven stages ?

Cosmic Evolution. The development of space, time, matter and energy from nothing.

Stellar Evolution. The development of complex stars from the chaotic first elements.

Chemical Evolution. The development of all chemical elements from an original two, helium and hydrogen (possibly lithium is a third).

Planetary Evolution. The development of planetary systems from swirling elements.

Organic Evolution. The development of organic life from inorganic matter (a rock).

Macro-Evolution. The development of one kind of life from a totally different kind of life.

Micro-Evolution. The development of variations within the same kind of life.

The above said, I understand the argument about being able to falsify as a necessity for scientific experimentation. What I do have questions about is why evolution, while everyone admits it is a theory, is presented as a fact in many science classes. Isn't it necessary when teaching science to teach about the flaws or unanswered questions the theory presents to encourage critical thinking ? Wouldn't presenting the odds on events occurring be valid ?

The above said, I do not believe ID should be taught in science classes on equal footing, it should be relegated to being mentioned as a school of thought with emphasis on intelligence, and not God or religion. Whether one believes in the odds of all the correct factors and chemicals coming together at the exact point in time in the right combination with the right temperature to form that first life out of non-life is 1 in 1,000 or 1 in 10 to the 100th power, it still means that there could be other possible explanations that science may not have discovered. It is not the mentioning of ID that is a threat to science, but a rigid adherence to a theory that blocks out any other possibilities that creates a greater threat. The greatest discoveries in science came from those who thought outside the accepted scientific box. For some reason there appears to be a fear of Darwin being proven wrong on his large scale assumptions and theories. Until we can demonstrate and create life out of non-life in a laboratory, which has never been done, the Darwinists are as guilty of blind faith as the creationists, because their belief cannot be falsified.
10.2.2006 5:28pm
Perseus (mail):
My point is that many of the same people who are so eager to exclude ID because it would corrupt science are willing to give string theory a pass because the bulk of physicists support the idea. E.g., how is the Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara any different from the Discovery Institute?
10.2.2006 5:59pm
MartinM:
KMAG: your first five concepts have nothing to do with evolution. Unless you can come up with a meaningful definition of the term 'kind,' the distinction you draw in the last two is meaningless.
10.2.2006 6:05pm
MartinM:
My point is that many of the same people who are so eager to exclude ID because it would corrupt science are willing to give string theory a pass because the bulk of physicists support the idea. E.g., how is the Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara any different from the Discovery Institute?


That might have something to do with the fact that string theory has content
10.2.2006 6:08pm
Perseus (mail):
If the standard is falsifiable predictions that have been tested, string theory doesn't belong in any high school classroom even if it has "content."
10.2.2006 6:15pm
Daryl Herbert (www):
Part III in a Never-Ending Series:
"How Rejecting Evolution Makes People Say Stupid Things"

1. Many of the arguments for evolution taught in classrooms are bogus and have been known to be bogus for years. Yet they continute to be taught. Why?
Name 'em. I expect there to be "many," and I expect you can tell me which bio textbooks contain the fallacies.

2. As Summer of the Gods demonstrated, the standard narrative of the Scopes Trial (and the movie "Inherit the Wind") is grossly inaccurate. Are evolutionists trying to correct the wrong (and libelous) impression they've given the public for so long? I think not.
That's a matter of history, not science. It was written as a parable about McCarthyism; if some ignorant people accept it as a true history, that's too bad. And, pray tell, how is it "libelous"? Who has been "libel[ed]" and how?

3. And last but not least is the ID debate. Virtually all the claims being made by evolutionist against ID are wrong, and if you'd like to see them answered, go to Discovery.org and read for yourself. Again, if evolutionist can't get current events right, how can they get the events of a billion years ago correct?
Everything on that dumb web site has already been refuted at TalkOrigins. To say "virtually all the claims being made by evolutionist[s] against ID are wrong" is to demonstrate your ignorance, and is yet more evidence that ignorance flows from ID.

And yes, I realize that some of these spokesmen are scientists with an agenda that destroys their objectivity.
I didn't realize anyone asked. Of course you need to insult the scientists; otherwise you'd have to admit that they're honest, decent folk who actually know a thing or two where you are stupid and ignorant.

I also realize that others are less-than-bright high school teachers (and Slashdot nerds) who can't cope with complexity and need dogma of some sort to soothe their troubled souls.
More ad-homs, same nefarious "agenda." Methinks you are projecting. I took an honest look at the evidence; you are incapable of honesty.

But it remains the responsibility of the broader scientific community to correct the missimpression these people are creating when they claim to speak in the name of science.
And yet, the "broader scientific community" has not accepted this responsibility and risen up in tandem with the Discovery Institute. The "broader scientific community" has felt zero need to hook up with the Discovery Institute to start making discoveries. Let's just add "delusions about the 'broader scientific community'" to the list of stupid things creationism causes people to believe. In your dreams, they all agree with you. Ha ha ha.
10.2.2006 6:21pm
Daryl Herbert (www):
There is one fallacious conflation in many arguments,
Just one?
while it can be held true that all creationists are IDers, the inverse is not true, not all IDers are creationists in the sense that the source of ID must be God.
Wrong. This was conceded by IDers at the Kitzmiller trial.
Why would the source of that intelligence have to be a God ? Why could it not be a fallible intelligence ? That would certainly explain all the flaws in the universe.
Where did this "fallible intelligence" come from? I suppose it evolved from a self-replicating unicellular organism? ID necessarily entails some supernatural force. Calling it "fallible" doesn't make it any less of a "god," given that many cultures around the world believe gods to have been fallible.
If one accepts this deductive reasoning, you can start to evaluate the question Adler asks.
I guess no one who rejects your reasoning can respond to Adler's question. How convenient.
We seldom consider the full breadth of evolution, because the ONLY scientific laboratory experimentation that has solid factual evidence is the last of seven stages of evolution, micro-evolution. It is from this basis that the rest of evolution must be accepted on faith. No one disputes micro-evolution, it is the rest of the necessary evolutionary cycle that creates the argument.
What? No laboratory evidence for anything other than small changes within the same species?

That will be very surprising to the scientists who have painstakingly catalogued DNA and protein codes from many species, and shown how there are small but persistent changes between species though to have evolved from one another.

I guess the fossil record is right out, too.
What are the seven stages ?
Are you telling a bedtime story?
Cosmic Evolution. The development of space, time, matter and energy from nothing.
Darwinian evolution concerns unicellular organisms. It has no opinion on the origins of the universe. Being a supporter of ID/creationism has driven you to hold this stupid belief.
Stellar Evolution. The development of complex stars from the chaotic first elements.
See above.
Chemical Evolution. The development of all chemical elements from an original two, helium and hydrogen (possibly lithium is a third).
See above.
Planetary Evolution. The development of planetary systems from swirling elements.
See above.
Organic Evolution. The development of organic life from inorganic matter (a rock).
See above.
Macro-Evolution. The development of one kind of life from a totally different kind of life.
"totally different"? What a "totally" lame thing to say. Your ignorance flows directly from your belief in ID.
What I do have questions about is why evolution, while everyone admits it is a theory, is presented as a fact in many science classes.
The theory is, "hey, it could have happened this way." More complex things could have evolved from less complex things.

The facts about evolution are evidence like the fossile record, DNA, RNA, and protein codes between different species. Compare the codes between species and it sure looks like they evolved in some sort of tree-like fashion.

The Fact of evolution is that, given all that evidence, evolution is the only reasonable belief. It happened. That's the best explanation for life on our planet today.

There's the theory of plate techtonics "gee, I guess these continents might be on plates that move around and stuff"

The facts about plate techtonics (fossils? rock formations" earthquakes? volcanoes?)

The Fact of plate techtonics: that's the best explanation for why the continents are where they are. Sure, it's possible God shuffled them and put them where he wanted 'em, and we could never disprove that, but that theory doesn't tell us anything about the world or help us predict any future events.
Isn't it necessary when teaching science to teach about the flaws or unanswered questions the theory presents to encourage critical thinking ? Wouldn't presenting the odds on events occurring be valid ?
Sure. But your critiques of evolution so far have been pathetically stupid and lame, like all of the others on this thread. Show me a genuine problem with it, and then we can consider teaching that.
The greatest discoveries in science came from those who thought outside the accepted scientific box. For some reason there appears to be a fear of Darwin being proven wrong on his large scale assumptions and theories.
Cue the persecution complex. Scientists have often struggled against the orthodoxy... and then become the orthodoxy. ID has had many years and much in the way of resources to demonstrate... anything. And it has failed. Delusional belief in the quality of the arguments put forth by ID proponents is yet another negative result of belief in ID.
Until we can demonstrate and create life out of non-life in a laboratory, which has never been done, the Darwinists are as guilty of blind faith as the creationists, because their belief cannot be falsified.
How does this prove anything? Creationists will just say, "see, it took intelligent scientists to create life." It takes a lot of nerve (or ignorance) to claim that evolutionists are operating on blind faith, given the tremendous amount of evidence they've put forth to support their claims. What, you're ignorant of all their evidence? Willful blindness is yet another side effect of ID, and why it should not be taught.

So there you have it. Unlike everyone else on this thread, I've stayed true to Adler's original question: what's so terrible about belief in ID and what it does to its victims (who keep lining up to demonstrate to Adler just why he should be scared of ID)
10.2.2006 6:45pm
plunge (mail):
Good grief: string theory a) isn't taught in high school physics classes and b) isn't as untestable as it is made out to be. String theory at least posits a very specific scenario for how things are and why they work the way they do. This way happens to match up quite well with the math and other observations. None of that can be said for ID: there is nothing to match up to anything. Nevertheless, string theory IS looked at with skepticism and IS considered to be interesting but still largely speculative and hence not even approaching the certainty of evolution.

"KMAJ: There is one fallacious conflation in many arguments, while it can be held true that all creationists are IDers, the inverse is not true, not all IDers are creationists in the sense that the source of ID must be God."

This is the sort of niggling technicality that means almost nothing. Sure, it possible, but in practice, most of the people pushing ID are not only Christian's with agendas, but often they are outright creationists anyway. That was certainly the case in Dover.

And as Behe had to admit, the sort of designer you and they are talking about virtually NEEDS TO BE supernatural to actually do all the things being credited to it (and, not coincidentally, so that there can be no explanation for HOW it was done, despite this being the central question of science).

"We seldom consider the full breadth of evolution, because the ONLY scientific laboratory experimentation that has solid factual evidence is the last of seven stages of evolution, micro-evolution. It is from this basis that the rest of evolution must be accepted on faith. No one disputes micro-evolution, it is the rest of the necessary evolutionary cycle that creates the argument. What are the seven stages?"

Good grief. You just got through saying that ID isn't necessarily creationism, and then you start giving us an argument developed by KENT HOVIND, Dr. Dino, Young Earth Creationist extrodinaire?

No, "cosmic" evolution is not part of the theory of evolution. Sorry. But this not la-la land.

Macro-evolution is established by micro-evolution. Once you admit that allele frequencies change in non-random ways over time within a given population, you've already admitted all the basic mechanisms of speciation. Once two populations become reproductively isolated and come under different pressures, their allele frequencies diverge and eventually this process makes them genetically incompatible, at which point their development is no longer roped together and they can diverge in different directions. The end. There is nothing mysterious here, no missing piece of the puzzle. There are a heck of a lot of specifics, but this basic idea is not only sound mathematically and logically from everything we know of the things involved, but it's something we can observe happening and having had happened in real life.
10.2.2006 6:50pm
plunge (mail):
"Macro-Evolution. The development of one kind of life from a totally different kind of life."

I just thought I'd touch on this, because it's so amazingly exactly wrong that it's worth noting.

Macro-evolution isn't really what's meant here: it's common descent. And what is the lesson of common descent? It is that every descendant is in toto more like its ancestor than it is like anything else that has ever lived or is ever likely to live. In short, we see not totally different life developing from anything, but instead, always more variations on the original concept.

You will often hear creationists say "no matter how many generations of fruit flies you watch, and even if they speciate, they will still all be fruit flies." What is lost on these creationists is a great irony: they are 100% correct. What is wrong is that they think evolution suggests any different. Their statement is as silly as saying "no matter how many times we breed these mammals, all we get are other mammals!"

Look at a human being: our taxonomy. Our common ancestor was a sort of ape. What can we know given that, and given a basic knowledge of common descent? We can know, unequivocally that we are also apes: not new forms of life, but variations of ape. We can say the same about our ancestors that were amniotes, tetrapods, vertebrates, and so on. To a large extent, taxonomy is arbitrary and artificial. But this artificiality applies to dogs and fruit flies as well. And no matter how much the descedants of dogs and fruit flies change, they will ALWAYS be more like each other and their common ancestor than they are like any other species ever. In short, they will all still be rightly grouped under the category "dog" or "fruit fly." Those terms describe essential connections of history that will not go away. Even in the few cases were species have lost some of the major features of which their groups were defined by, their DNA and their morphology still betray them. Whales may not have four legs, and yet they are tetrapods all the same. Their skeletal structure is distinctively tetrapod: more a tetrapod than any other vertebrate. They retain the vesitiges of their distinct ancestry, both in vestiges like reduced hip bones and the leg buds that form and are reabsorbed in their embryos to atavisms like ACTUAL legs that occasionaly fail to be supressed (just as humans sometimes grow tails from a failure to fully supress or destroy THAT heritage) and, coincidentally, fit right into that tell-tale tetrapod hip.

THAT is how evolution works: groups nested within groups. In some ways, it is actually very very conservative.
10.2.2006 7:04pm
Hans Gruber:
"Good grief. You just got through saying that ID isn't necessarily creationism, and then you start giving us an argument developed by KENT HOVIND, Dr. Dino, Young Earth Creationist extrodinaire?"

That isn't an argument developed by Kent Hovind. Nice try at guilt by association. Nobody tries to disprove/question what is sometimes called "micro-evolution." Micro-evolution is driven by genes already in existence (the frequency/combination of those genes just changes). Macro evolution relies upon the creation of brand new genes created via random mutations. The crux of the ID critique is that random mutation cannot explain the creation of exceedingly complex and numerous biological processes.

Again, this basic reasoning has nothing to do with Hovind (maybe he has echoed some of these thoughts, but that's hardly relevant to the their legitimacy). Evolutionary theory hasn't done a very good job at proving the plausibility of the central tenet of macro evolution--that enough beneficial random mutations can occur to drive evolution. Evolution is the best explanation we have, but it leaves a lot to be desired. Why is that so scary to admit?
10.2.2006 7:26pm
Hans Gruber:
"Macro-evolution is established by micro-evolution."

Wrong.
10.2.2006 7:27pm
Hans Gruber:
"Macro-evolution is established by micro-evolution. Once you admit that allele frequencies change in non-random ways over time within a given population, you've already admitted all the basic mechanisms of speciation."

Macro-evolution is sometimes referred to as speciation. ID'ers do not doubt speciation, however. Speciations occurs all the time. Saying one species of fruit fly can become another species of fruit fly is different than saying all life has a common origin. It does not take many, if any, new genes to create a new species; it does, however, take many many many beneficial random mutations (which create new genes) to go from a single celled organims to a mammal. That's the beef here, Plunge. You know, it might help if you actually knew what ID was about.
10.2.2006 7:35pm
susanna in alabama (mail):
I am both what some would label a "fundamentalist" Christian and a social scientist, so I have some understanding of the debate. I wouldn't call myself an "IDer", but I do believe in God as Creator. I also believe that the Bible is 100% correct (and don't assume you know what I mean by that). To me, science isn't against God; science is learning more about God.

What I don't understand is why this has to put me in one camp or the other. As some others have noted, science is about prediction - about learning about how things work or what their properties are by discovering what is stable about their behavior/properties in relation to their environment or context. I can be trained how to apply that process, how to ask the right kinds of questions, how to be creative in my insights, without having to swear my allegiance to the canon of evolutionary metaphysics. It seems to me much of the difficulty is not that some people object to the canon, it's that some others insist on metaphysical compliance as well as practical scientific competence. Why is it so horrific to say "The majority of scientists today agree that the best interpretation of the evidence we have on human origin indicates that humans evolved from a non-human ancestor..." rather than "Humans evolved from a non-human ancestor..."? In a null hypothesis world, that's actually more scientifically defensible. And it would answer a lot of the concerns many religious people have with current science textbooks.

If the teaching of science has been undermined in our society, it's the fault of the scientists. The whole ID/evolution kerfuffle is a dodge. Yes, it's a serious and important debate. But good science and competent scientific skills can be taught in either context by competent science teachers. The problem with the low math and science scores in this country is the way math and science are taught. You pretty much have to be naturally good at it already for your interest to survive the school system. I nearly burned out on science when I made the many-thousandth dot in my stippled drawing of a mussel because my teacher said "there are no true solid lines in nature". And how much earlier would I have learned trigonometry (and physics for that matter) if my teacher had had us doing a car crash reconstruction instead of line drawings? There's your breakdown, boys and girls - unnecessary dogmatism, lack of creativity and failure to establish relevance of the material to the lives of the students. You don't become a good scientist by mastering stippling.

IMHO.
10.2.2006 7:42pm
Hans Gruber:
"Good grief: string theory a) isn't taught in high school physics classes and."

Really? Nobody mentions it? They never ever watch a science movie with Stephen Hawking? If a kid brings it up, asks what exactly it is, is the teacher supposed to say "that's not science and this is science class." Of course string theory isn't "taught" in high school as a subject like algebra or chemistry. But it is mentioned, explained to a limited extent, and even debated! Would it be terrible if the same was done for ID?
10.2.2006 7:44pm
Perseus (mail):
Good grief indeed. The Nova program on string theory was targeted at high school students, textbooks mention it, and gifted high school students are introduced to it by college professors.

And physicist Lawrence Krauss also argued in a Nature article that the scientific status afforded to string theory "opens us [scientists] up to otherwise avoidable attacks, particularly from those who would include religious ideas in high school science curricula."
10.2.2006 8:42pm
Mark Field (mail):

They never ever watch a science movie with Stephen Hawking?


Stephen Hawking is not a string theorist.


how is the Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara any different from the Discovery Institute?


They can do math?


My point is that many of the same people who are so eager to exclude ID because it would corrupt science are willing to give string theory a pass because the bulk of physicists support the idea.


The criticism of string theory within physics -- some of which you yourself quoted -- demonstrates that this is not true. More importantly, however, string theory is admitted by all concerned to be speculative at this point. It's more accurately a hypothesis, not a theory yet. Their goal is to develop testable predictions. That's not a goal of ID; at least, they make no effort to do so.

Some of the new accelerators in the next few years should be able to generate results which will test string theory.
10.2.2006 8:43pm
Perseus (mail):
The criticisms of string theory do not demonstrate that my claim is untrue since the critics remain a minority. And if "all concerned" admit that string theory is merely a hypothesis, then why are so many helping to introduce it to high school students via high school textbooks, teaching seminars for high school teachers, and lectures to high school students?
10.2.2006 9:03pm
gaussling (www):
In the end, we who teach want students to be able to use their brains. We want them to be able to construct or use a theory to make predictions about the observable universe and then devise experiments to test their hypotheses. We want them to design positive experiments rather than negative experiments. We want them to use language and math to express what they are thinking. We want students to be comfortable using a working hypothesis while they are working on a problem, just as long as they remember that it is just that- a working model.

We want students to learn to follow the evidence and draw a conclusion rather that start with a conclusion and cherry-pick the data to be consistent with preconceptions. The glory in science is to be able to tip over the established order in favor of new insights and understanding based on data. In the end, scientific methodology is about intellectual honesty and accountability.

All measurement involves error which causes a certain amount of uncertainty in a result. You don't have to invoke Heisenberg to consider uncertainty. A result is only as good as your worst data. This leads to my final point.

A sign of good training or instinct in science is the ability to be sceptical or at least a bit hesitant about your conclusions. Hesitant in the sense that your conclusion is to be considered within a set boundary conditions.

A scientific outlook has served me well in general. At least so far. The world would be much more complex if I had to invoke a miracle every time something odd happened. These are the words of an experimentalist.
10.2.2006 9:49pm
Oren (mail):
All the physics profs that have lectured on String Theory (or even the Higgs mechanism) have said forthright that there is no evidence yet to support this.

We continue to teach it because we are confident experiment will vindicate it. If it doesn't, we will scrap all our work and start again. We are willing to waste our time. Science is about being wrong. A lot. Over and and over and over.

The key difference is that if the facts come up against string theory, or anything else, "String theorists" will by and large move on. Religious folks, on the other hand, won't stop being religious.

Ask a string theorist what it would take for him to become a "supersymmetrist" and he will gladly explain it. Try asking a Christian under what conditions he will become a Hindu and you will either get a blank stare or an insulted christian.

"The essence of the Liberal outlook lies not in what opinions are held, but in how they are held: instead of being held dogmatically, they are held tentatively, and with a consciousness that new evidence may at any moment lead to their abandonment." -Bertrand Russell
10.2.2006 9:54pm
Mark Field (mail):

The criticisms of string theory do not demonstrate that my claim is untrue since the critics remain a minority.


Your claim is untrue, but it's even worse than that -- it's pointless. Assume that some people do hypocritically support string theory while not supporting ID. That proves exactly nothing whatsoever about ID. It just proves those people are hypocrites who shouldn't support string theory.

ID proponents can't seem to understand this simple point of logic: the fact that I am wrong about X does NOT make you right about Y.
10.2.2006 10:26pm
bluecollarguy:
All the physics profs that have lectured on String Theory (or even the Higgs mechanism) have said forthright that there is no evidence yet to support this.

String Theory seems by it's very nature not to be a falsifiable proposition. If a prediction is made and fails to accord with our physical reality then surely the prediction is true in somebody elses physical reality somewhere in the multiverse.

We continue to teach it because we are confident experiment will vindicate it. If it doesn't, we will scrap all our work and start again. We are willing to waste our time. Science is about being wrong. A lot. Over and and over and over.


Popperian relativism?

Newton spent an inordinate amount of time on alchemy and theology yet managed to do some pretty good science. Some even claim that his ventures into alchemy led him to some scientific insights. Perhaps there is a lesson in there somewhere.
10.2.2006 11:24pm
TLove (mail):
The "debate" in public schools is pushback by the traditional religious types in the country against 50 years of pushing by leftist "big government" religious types. We aren't just pushing science, we are telling you that traditional religous belief is inherently bigoted and stupid, and Gaia is god. All political, all religous, but the fight is pushed by inherently big government religious folks because their core religious belief is big government and conformity of thought across national boundaries. The tranditional evangelical religous folks are automatically less dangerous because once you stop requiring what is taught in a public school in Alabama be identical to what is taught in marblehad mass, the evangelicals go home. Don't provoke them and they stay there.

But of course, that contradicts the core religious beliefs of the leftists. We care far more about what is taught in Alabama than anyone in Alabama cares what is taught in New York. But sow the wind (you must think like me) reap the whirlwind (no, actually, you must think like me, and now I'm in charge coz you really pissed me off, and your weak kneed socialism isn't nearly as energizing as my religous belief). Just wait until CAIR starts getting their two cents in - after all, Genesis is in the Koran as well.

Maybe we ought to decentralize a bit (vouchers, anyone?), and then you can all move where you find your neighbors congenial. Good fences and all that. All the smarties can work for the big drug companies down I-95 in New Jersey evolving away, and laugh at the hayseeds safely tucked away in birmingham. Like they used to be. Until you provoked them.

All of which, admittedly, is completely off topic.
10.2.2006 11:30pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
TLove.

Not necessarily OT. As I said upthread, I see the evolution issue as a proxy for the culture wars.
It's why I, a confirmed evolutionist, am sympathetic to the creationists.

BTW, while it's true that evolutionary theory does not address the origin of life, the fact is that kids are taught it originated in the primordial soup.
In the fifties, somebody got a Nobel for generating some simple amino acids out of the presumed primordial soup, with a bit of electrical arcing thrown in. In a couple of years, kids in high school were getting some exotic glassware and replicating it. I recall a buddy of mine got the brown, nasty stuff condensing on the inside of the globe and then he and the chem teacher analyzed it, and, presto, amino acids.
And that, fans, is as far as we've gotten.
Except the new idea of the primordial soup is different from the old one. I don't see any kids winning science fairs creating the building blocks of life around. Do you?
Nevertheless, the evolutionist education states it as a matter of fact. You can't very well teach evolution without somebody asking how it started. Imagine a teacher saying, "We don't know." Among other things, that would provide a lacuna from which GOD could be watching. Can't have that.
10.2.2006 11:43pm
Randy R. (mail):
Some people argue that we need to teach ID in schools because that will help students become critical and won't accept scientific dogma.

That's a false choice. Our students are taught history, and there are many interpretations of history, of course, but there are basics that everyone agrees upon. Or most people. If you were to teach the Holocaust, for instance, you would teach that the Nazis killed millions of people, mostly Jews, in concentration camps.

But there are Holocaust deniers our there. So why shouldn't we teach their theories as well? After all, it's teaching the students to think for themselves, to do their own research, and then come to their own conclusion on what really happened, if anything at all.

Do you not see the danger in teaching this, 'just to be fair and balanced.'? First, to teach the deniers thoery is to give it credence, as though it were just another valid opinion. Second, some students might actually then believe in the deniers theory, which is plainly wrong. And to what end? It's a dead end.

If it's bad science, it shouldn't be taught. If it's good science, it should. Who decides? Simple -- if the broad consensus of biologists is that evolution is a fact, then that settles it.

Good grief as been used a lot here. I second the motion. Sometimes, you really do have to know that there are some people who know a lot more about something than you do, and it's not some satanic conspiracy.
10.2.2006 11:44pm
Richard Simons:
Two points:

To complain that evolution of different 'kinds' (whatever that means) has not been directly observed shows a serious misunderstanding of the time scale normally involved in evolution. However, if you genuinely want a case of one organism arising from another completely different one, check out Helacyton (you probably would not believe me if I just told you).

We keep hearing about 'the evidence in favor of ID'. Why was none of this brought forward at the Dover trial where ID was thoroughly trounced by a conservative judge and a leading ID advocate succeeded in making himself look a complete fool?
10.3.2006 12:06am
Randy R. (mail):
Okay, I give up. Science teaches us that you simply cannot turn water into wine. Bread does not fall from the sky. People cannot walk upon water.

But what do they know? Obviously, when scientist doubt the Bible, the ONLY possible reason is to laugh at chuckle at therubes who believe that water can be turned into wine. It's a satanic plot by chemists worldwide who try to get us to doubt the word of God. We know that the Bible in inerrent, and cannot and should not be questioned. If the Bible says that you can turn water into wine, then that settles it. You can show me all the so-called 'facts' about molecules and chemistry, but I will no longer believe it.

From now on, I am going to insist that chemistry classes be taught that water can be turned into wine. I'm going to insist that meteorology classes state that bread can indeed fall from the sky. It's for the good of the students. When they graduate, they can choose which to believe, the evil scientists, or the God-fearing ministers.
10.3.2006 1:01am
Daryl Herbert (www):
We keep hearing about 'the evidence in favor of ID'. Why was none of this brought forward at the Dover trial where ID was thoroughly trounced by a conservative judge and a leading ID advocate succeeded in making himself look a complete fool?

Because they can't play their normal games at trial. They actually had to take a stand and stick with it through expert reports, deposition testimony, and cross exam at trial. That's longer than 30 seconds, which is usually as long as an internet IDiot is willing to defend their genius theories (like "argument by elephant," something I've never seen before, but apparently TalkOrigins has seen the elephant)

Of course, plaintiffs were bound by the same exact rules. But did defendants challenge any of what Ken Miller said about the Type III Secretory System and flagella not being irreducibly complex? Nope. Didn't even try to challenge it. Didn't even try.

The Kitzmiller trial, alone, is the single most concentrated source of evidence that ID's top-level proponents are charlatans. They had their best lawyers (from Thomas More) and best experts (Michael Behe) and couldn't land a blow against the other side.

The single best recap of arguments against ID's relevance (rather than against its correctness) was written by John Derbyshire: George Gilder &Me.
10.3.2006 3:13am
KMAJ (mail):
It is so interesting to watch the discussion of science in evolution theory, from alleles to DNA and RNA, to the genome, and it all sounds reasonable and logical. But then you get into the complexities that go into being a living organism, and the logic falls short of explaining.

It was recently discovered that DNA has an inner mechanism to scan its inner and outer environments. That discovery was that DNA uses a scripted language to think about and respond to its environment. In other words, it senses its environment using a holographic matrix through which it can interpret its interior and exterior environments via electromagnetic resonance and acoustic signaling. DNA, thus, has the inherent structure to interpret its surroundings and has algorithmic action codes to select from to respond to the information it gathers. If we are to assume evolution is without flaws, then we must believe that such a complex system could happen by chance. Are we not thus engaging in a leap of faith that random events can lead to the design of a holographic quantum bio-wave computer complete with a computer program language and billions of lines of response codes?

I found the responses to my original post amusing, the need to demean instead of respond. And thus is the nature of discussion in today's world. Believe as I believe are you will be castigated in a pejorative manner. It is almost as if disagreeing is perceived as a personal attack. It is the same in many scientific debates, if you do not go along with the proclaimed 'consensus' and dare to question, you are automatically attacked.

I have always been a skeptic, and that includes religion and science. There are so many holes in the evolutionary theory, you could drive a truck trough them. The same can be said for creationists, blind faith is necessary for both. Evolutionists will put forth all the laboratory work and scientific advances, like the genome project, etc. Yet they still end up with the unexplained complex systems that would have to happen totally by chance at odds that exceed what is scientiifically recognized as impossible, 10 to the 50th power. Nothing in evolutionary theory comes close to explaining the complexities.

The other argument I have read is that Darwin and evolution are not talking about the beginning of life. You cannot advance evolution without addressing the beginning of life, at least if you are going to put forth the common ancestor theory. That means you must address the creation of life out of non-life. And if evolution theory, with out some form of intelligence, is to hold true and be credible, you have to believe it was merely chance and occurred against long odds that all the chemicals, 20 amino acids, the right temperature, all somehow merged at one specific point in one place and created the first simple one celled organism. You then have to believe that all the complex structures in all living things somehow miraculously were evolved out of this simple one celled structure, brains, eyes, ears, photosynthesis, plants needing carbon dioxide, mammals needing oxygen, all these thing were just a fluke of nature.

When you consider all of the things necessary for the origin of life, the only truly logical (not scientific, science is not always logical) explanation requires some form of intelligence.
10.3.2006 3:24am
Perseus (mail):
Assume that some people do hypocritically support string theory while not supporting ID. That proves exactly nothing whatsoever about ID. It just proves those people are hypocrites who shouldn't support string theory.

I wasn't trying to prove anything about ID. The inconsistency was my point. If we are going to set a standard (falsifiable predictions that have been tested) to determine what is included in the curriculum and scientists make an exception for one theory (string theory) that violates the standard, then it is legitimate to ask for another exception for a theory like ID. This is what troubles people like Lawrence Krauss. And what message does that inconsistency send to students about science?
10.3.2006 3:52am
Davis (mail) (www):

But then you get into the complexities that go into being a living organism, and the logic falls short of explaining.


This statement summarizes the entire depth of your argument: "science doesn't currently have a full explanation for everything, so it's more reasonable to assume God was behind it all." That's some sloppy thinking.
10.3.2006 4:05am
MartinM:
Yet they still end up with the unexplained complex systems that would have to happen totally by chance at odds that exceed what is scientiifically recognized as impossible, 10 to the 50th power


Two minor points.

1) You have no idea what the odds of any complex system being produced is.

2) 10^50 is not 'scientifically recognized as impossible.' If it were so, shuffling a deck of cards would be impossible.

You claim to be a sceptic, and yet not only do you swallow such nonsensical arguments whole, you parrot them uncritically without demonstrating any actual comprehension.
10.3.2006 7:30am
Michael B (mail):
"Newton spent an inordinate amount of time on alchemy and theology yet managed to do some pretty good science. Some even claim that his ventures into alchemy led him to some scientific insights. Perhaps there is a lesson in there somewhere." bluecollarguy

That's a good analogy. Much of this (e.g., the Richard Sternberg case) is very simply about the freedom to invoke questions, to entertain thoughts, to surmise, in an unorthodox manner. Another analogy is what led up to Einstein's theory of special relativity. Standard science history likes to invoke the Michelson-Morley experiment (speed of light, 1887) as being pivotal, because it all makes such seemingly logical/deductive sense, but Einstein himself indicated such was not the case, that he had instead been contemplating an (unorthodox) paradox and the Michelson-Morley was entirely negligible in leading up to his theory of special relativity.

I don't think ID presently belongs in a purely science classroom, though aspects of it do belong in philosophical classrooms, probably in philosophical preambles to some discussions which occur in science classrooms as well. Even that is not an orthodox view, and that's an indicator that something other than unadorned scientific truth, for its own sake, is being sought.

And Randy R.,

The holocaust, in no conceivable sense whatsoever, is a historical, or historicist, theory, it's an established historical fact. Historicisms of various kinds are theories, historical facts, as such, are simply that, facts.
10.3.2006 7:58am
plunge (mail):
"That isn't an argument developed by Kent Hovind."

Of course it is. It's the exact same utterly bizarre definition of evolution as including all sorts of other things that have nothing at all to do with evolution or even biology. From Hovind's famous challenge:

"* NOTE: When I use the word evolution, I am not referring to the minor variations found in all of the various life forms (microevolution). I am referring to the general theory of evolution which believes these five major events took place without God:
1. Time, space, and matter came into existence by themselves.
2. Planets and stars formed from space dust.
3. Matter created life by itself.
4. Early life-forms learned to reproduce themselves.
5. Major changes occurred between these diverse life forms (i.e., fish changed to amphibians, amphibians changed to reptiles, and reptiles changed to birds or mammals)."

Suffice to say, this formulation is bizarre enough that it is quite recognizable. No scientist actually talks like this. "Cosmic" evolution isn't part of the theory of evolution.

"Nobody tries to disprove/question what is sometimes called "micro-evolution.""

I have a feeling that, in fact, like most creationists, you are about to do EXACTLY that, based on your confusion as to what microevolution and macroevolution actually are.

"Micro-evolution is driven by genes already in existence (the frequency/combination of those genes just changes)."

Oh, BOOYA, I was right. No, microevolution DOES in fact include the emergence of new alleles in a population. How can it not? The way ACTUAL scientists define microevolution is simply that it is change below the species level. If we were to define things your way, then the single point mutation that emerged sometime in the 1800s in a certain man in Italy that confers immunity to the bad effects of bad LDH cholesterol would be "macroevolution." But it isn't. All italians are part of the same species: the human species.

You yourself likely contain anywhere from 1 to 6 distinctive mutations from your parents combined genetic code.

"Macro evolution relies upon the creation of brand new genes created via random mutations."

No, it doesn't. Macroevolution deals with the forces that shape life above the species level, which is to say, when there is no more gene flow between several given populations, them having already speciated. Creationists have long completely misused the distinction by trying to redefine the words to mean something they do not.

"The crux of the ID critique is that random mutation cannot explain the creation of exceedingly complex and numerous biological processes."

Well, if that's the crux, then there's nothing much to it. First of all, RM alone is of course not enough: things like natural selection are what's key in explaining how. Second of all, when exactly did anyone demonstrate that it cannot? If it cannot, then how can countless biologists be piecing together exactly that sort of developmental genetic history that you claim is impossible? How are they doing that when you claim that their entire field basically cannot exist?

"Again, this basic reasoning has nothing to do with Hovind (maybe he has echoed some of these thoughts, but that's hardly relevant to the their legitimacy)."

But the "basic reasoning" is flat out a laughable reproduction of a nonsensical formulation of what "evolution" is that bears no relation to what scientists actually think. It's not stupid just because it's from Hovind. It's stupid because it's wrong AND recycled straight out of Young Earth Creationism, all the while purporting to be something new and non-religious.

"Evolutionary theory hasn't done a very good job at proving the plausibility of the central tenet of macro evolution--that enough beneficial random mutations can occur to drive evolution."

Look, you have no idea what you are talking about. Do you know what a darwin is? Not the person, but the unit of measurement. Does it mean anything to you that the degree of darwins found in observed wild population are many times HIGHER than the most radical morphological changes we find in the taxonomic tree spread through time? Most evolutionary theorists think of natural selection as a _barrier_ AGAINST the sort of rapid changes we'd see if random mutation where all that was at work. So not only are you wrong, but you even have the emphasis backwards. The question facing most biologists is not "how can we explain these rapid changes" but rather "how can we explain why the rate of change is so slow compared to what random mutation alone would achieve."

"Evolution is the best explanation we have, but it leaves a lot to be desired. Why is that so scary to admit?"

Because the particular "lot to be desired" you talk about is simply not so. It's straight up the same creationist claims that have been made long before anyone developed the modern usage of the term ID. It belies the same ignorance of what the ACTUAL questions biologists grapple with. There are many outstanding controversies and unknowns in evolution. Like all science, there is a lot still uncertain and unknown. But the things you describe are not really among them. That's why ID is more of a misrepresentation of science than it is an honest debate or discussion over uncertain things.

"Macro-evolution is sometimes referred to as speciation. ID'ers do not doubt speciation, however."

Wrong again. ID has no consistent position on ANY of these issues because ID has no consistent coherent position on ANYTHING. Some doubt it, some say they don't. But many of those that say they don't nevertheless scream and carry on about evidence for speciations in a way that definately suggests that they do care.

"Speciations occurs all the time. Saying one species of fruit fly can become another species of fruit fly is different than saying all life has a common origin."

Actually, no, it's not that different at all, though of course there is more to understanding it than that. Common origins is the logical conclusion of the clade structure found in life. Without wikipeding, do you even know offhand what a clade is?

"It does not take many, if any, new genes to create a new species;"

What will actually cause genetic or physical incompatibilities varies wildly, case to case, given how different and intricate the process of embryonic development is. Your general statement is wrong.

"it does, however, take many many many beneficial random mutations (which create new genes) to go from a single celled organims to a mammal."

Sure, but mammals and non-prokaryotic metazoans in general are just subsets of eukaryotes. And of course, "beneficial" is not what you seem to think it is.

"That's the beef here, Plunge. You know, it might help if you actually knew what ID was about."

I would bet I know a heck of a lot more about the history, major figures and so on of ID and what they argue than you do. You are just repeating a bunch of creationist cliches you've heard without understanding either them, where they came from, or anything about actual biology.
10.3.2006 8:18am
plunge (mail):
"Much of this (e.g., the Richard Sternberg case) is very simply about the freedom to invoke questions, to entertain thoughts, to surmise, in an unorthodox manner."

Yes: publishing a 4 year old article on the Cambrian explosion in a journal whos normal subject matter is the biological equivalent of the telephone book certainly was... unorthodox.

The problem is that the questions in question have been asked and answered a million times. And, very often, they are just plain dumb questions, containing any number of misrepresentations or ignorances of biology. It isn't an honest debate, and treating it as if it was would be bizarre.

"The holocaust, in no conceivable sense whatsoever, is a historical, or historicist, theory, it's an established historical fact. Historicisms of various kinds are theories, historical facts, as such, are simply that, facts."

Just as, for instance, common descent is a fact?
10.3.2006 8:23am
plunge (mail):
KMAJ "It was recently discovered that DNA has an inner mechanism to scan its inner and outer environments. That discovery was that DNA uses a scripted language to think about and respond to its environment. In other words, it senses its environment using a holographic matrix through which it can interpret its interior and exterior environments via electromagnetic resonance and acoustic signaling. DNA, thus, has the inherent structure to interpret its surroundings and has algorithmic action codes to select from to respond to the information it gathers. If we are to assume evolution is without flaws,"

??? What does that even mean? Flaws in what?

"then we must believe that such a complex system could happen by chance."

No. Not by chance. Who says it's by chance? Why do creationists get something so basic to the idea of evolution so wrong, so repeatedly? Even abiogenesis doesn't really speak of things happening all purely by chance.

"Are we not thus engaging in a leap of faith that random events can lead to the design of a holographic quantum bio-wave computer complete with a computer program language and billions of lines of response codes?"

DNA isn't like code: it's a physical thing whose physical properties are very much key to its particular operation. Nor does it have a logical structure language in the way a computer language does (at least the way most people think of languages).

"I found the responses to my original post amusing, the need to demean instead of respond. And thus is the nature of discussion in today's world. Believe as I believe are you will be castigated in a pejorative manner. It is almost as if disagreeing is perceived as a personal attack. It is the same in many scientific debates, if you do not go along with the proclaimed 'consensus' and dare to question, you are automatically attacked."

The problem is when the questions are themselves insulting and misinformed. Most of the "questions" imply that the majority of biologists are involved in a vast coverup, or sometimes even that entire fields of biology simply cannot exist. They, as has been demonstrated by your own words, are often premised on false questions, begging the question, and downright just plain lack of any clue as to what they are talking about.

"I have always been a skeptic, and that includes religion and science. There are so many holes in the evolutionary theory, you could drive a truck trough them."

So say you. But then, so say holocaust deniers about the holocaust. Do their claims have merit just because they can allege this? Do yours? Name some of these problems.

"Yet they still end up with the unexplained complex systems that would have to happen totally by chance at odds that exceed what is scientiifically recognized as impossible, 10 to the 50th power."

As someone else already explained, you start out okay, and then you just say dumb things like "totally by chance" and do insane things like purport to calculate odds in situations where such calculations cannot be done and are inappropriate, compounded with claims about what is "scientifically recognized" that are just plain false. It's okay to be skeptical. But when your skepticism belies a radical ignorance of what you are talking about, THEN you are in trouble.

"The other argument I have read is that Darwin and evolution are not talking about the beginning of life."

Right you are.

"You cannot advance evolution without addressing the beginning of life, at least if you are going to put forth the common ancestor theory."

Look, this argument is simply wrong, and worse, it's already been addressed in this very thread. Common ancestry does not itself require any particular understanding of where the common ancestor came from. Not logically, not philosophically, and not scientifically.

"That means you must address the creation of life out of non-life."

It must be addressed as all interesting things must be addressed, but not by the theory of evolution. Evolution requires certain pre-existing things, one of which IS life in the first place.

Of course, the very question presumes that there is some clear distinction between life and non-life, but, of course, there is not.

"And if evolution theory, with out some form of intelligence, is to hold true and be credible, you have to believe it was merely chance and occurred against long odds that all the chemicals, 20 amino acids, the right temperature, all somehow merged at one specific point in one place and created the first simple one celled organism."

No, you don't. The validity of evolutionary theory is completely independent of how you think life began. You could believe that god created life and then left, and the theory of evolution wouldn't be any different in that case.

"You then have to believe that all the complex structures in all living things somehow miraculously were evolved out of this simple one celled structure, brains, eyes, ears, photosynthesis, plants needing carbon dioxide, mammals needing oxygen, all these thing were just a fluke of nature."

Nature, as it happens favors flukes. Flukes are one of the most successful species on the planet, actually. :)

"When you consider all of the things necessary for the origin of life, the only truly logical (not scientific, science is not always logical) explanation requires some form of intelligence."

No, not really. Not if "consider" means "think about the issue for more than a few minutes with more than a high-school level understanding of chemistry and all the other relevant disciplines."
10.3.2006 8:43am
Richard Simons:
What I find interesting is that the people who come here claiming the theory of evolution has flaws clearly have no conception of how much knowledge they need to attempt sensible criticisms. At a minimum you need the equivalent of a degree in biology, with more advanced courses in biochemistry, geology, statistics, microbiology, genetics, physics and other areas.

I have no problem with people saying 'This seems like a valid criticism of evolution. Is it correct?' What is difficult to take is the people who do not have a clue insisting that tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of biologists, who do have the required training, are all ignoramuses. This puts them in the situation of the man at the Paris Air Show who approached aircraft designers, plane builders and flight crew and said 'I topped the class in grade 8 math and I've got this mathematical proof that heavier-than-air flight is impossible. And all those things flying around are obviously hydrogen-filled balloons.'
10.3.2006 10:43am
Michael B (mail):
"Yes: publishing a 4 year old article on the Cambrian explosion in a journal whos normal subject matter is the biological equivalent of the telephone book certainly was... unorthodox." plunge

Whether it is such an equivalent or not is beside the point, and citing Sternberg's case was simply a prominent example, one which can, both pro and con, be readily researched.

"The holocaust, in no conceivable sense whatsoever, is a historical, or historicist, theory, it's an established historical fact. Historicisms of various kinds are theories, historical facts, as such, are simply that, facts."

"Just as, for instance, common descent is a fact?" plunge

No, not "just as," the holocaust is empirically based, common descent is empirically/rationally derived. The point being, again, to not be overly constrained, due to ideology or orthodoxy, from simply asking questions. We have strayed from the original question by now. And again, my note, the one you responded to, was to say that: "Much of this ... is very simply about the freedom to invoke questions, to entertain thoughts, to surmise, in an unorthodox manner."

That still holds true, you haven't refuted it in the least, and the Sternberg case does serve as one example.
10.3.2006 11:16am
MartinM:
Nonsense. Sternberg was and is free to invoke any questions, entertain any thoughts, in any unorthodox manner he chooses.
10.3.2006 11:40am
Colin (mail):
Much of this (e.g., the Richard Sternberg case) is very simply about the freedom to invoke questions, to entertain thoughts, to surmise, in an unorthodox manner.

That's a very inaccurate characterization of "the Richard Sternberg case." Plunge is exactly right. Sternberg wasn't invoking serious questions, and the "controversy" wasn't about any sort of freedom. He behaved unprofessionally by abusing his position as editor to publish an off-topic and extremely poor article that happened to tickle his creationist streak. He embarrassed his journal, which was forced to disclaim the article due to its lack of topicality and original research. He made baseless and apparently untrue accusations that he'd been punished by the Smithsonian, and tried to paint himself as a martyr (as you do). But his case isn't about "the freedom to invoke questions;" it's about unethical behavior and the loss of professional credibility that accompanies it.

Sternberg was, and is, free to ask questions, just as everyone else is. What you paint as constraint "due to ideology or orthodoxy" is much simpler than that - scientists who reject empiricism, don't do legitimate research, and can't separate science from ideology aren't taken very seriously by the academic community. That's not squelching dissent, it's merely filtering out the underperformers. It's no different than geologists laughing at flat-earthers.
10.3.2006 11:46am
Randy R. (mail):
Just as the Holocaust is a fact, so is evolution. I know that's a point that some people can't get their heads around, but it's simply true.
And the original question is what harm will come to students who study ID in school. The harm will come when you treat a scientific fact as something that can be disputed through religion or some other belief system.

The creationists here have made some argument about a backlash from scientists who have sneered at them for their beliefs in the past. Well, that might have been the case with people who had a beef with the religionists who claim to explain everything in life with the Bible. If they were disrespectful, that's not right.

Nonetheless, you do yourself no favor to make up arguments like creationism to somehow 'get back' at these scientists. In the long run, you do yourself a disfavor because the truth will win out.

Now, the fact is that for the vast majority of people, it really doesn't matter WHAT they believe. Most people are dentists, mechanics, clerks and so on, and so this tiny world has no effect upon them. What matters, however, is the future economy of our country, since biotechnology and the medical sciences are one of our crown jewels, and are one of the driving engines of our economy. And it's all based on the consistency of evolution. Perhaps you don't like that -- perhaps you would wish these companies away because their basic assumptions -- and end products -- are predicated upon natural selection. But to do so would forfeit our preeminence to other countries.
10.3.2006 11:47am
Alf (mail):
I have a graduate degree in organic chemistry and was, at one time, a research associate that worked on amino acid synthesis for pharmaceutical applications. For me, the largest problem with the Theory of Evolution is the formation of the very simplest and first form of life. (i.e. one that can replicate itself and provide its own energy).
I think some light can be shed on the discussion, by asking a simple question: what is the probability that life has spontaneously formed some where else in the entire universe? With a few observations and some conservative simplifying assumptions a upper bound on the probability could be established.
For the Theory of Evolution, one supposes that in some primordial soup, the DNA required to encode life spontaneously formed, started to function as life and then replicate itself. The DNA for the simplest bacteria require approximately 1,000,000 nucleotide pairs of at least four different types1. Secondly, the cell cycle takes at least 2 to 3 hours (2,000 x per year)2. If one assumes that thermodynamic property of entropy is neutral instead of being a strong counter force, and that say there are 1000 trillion (10^15) bacterial forms of life that would be viable and further that the entire known mass of the universe (10^72) were amino acids and capable reacting with each other, the upper bound of the probability of life spontaneously forming elsewhere can be calculated.
That is: for a 50% chance that a bacterial DNA could spontaneously form would take [~10^600,000 ÷ 10^15 ÷ 10^75 ÷ 10^4] years or ~ 10^599,006 years. The estimated age of the universe is ~10^13 years.
Could it have happened – I think that it takes a lot of faith to assume Evolution as strictly formulated is reasonable.
The second observation is that the whole thrust of the biotech industry is designing new biologically active molecules or new organisms (i.e. GM corn, etc.) through genetic engineering. I would be surprised if the biochemists that are creating these new wonders are less than intelligent.
10.3.2006 12:00pm
Michael B (mail):
"It's no different than geologists laughing at flat-earthers."

Yes, dismissively laughing. At flat earthers. That's a far more blatant ideologically founded trope.

And Sternberg was - again - invoked as an example. But ya'll are dismissing the point being made with generalizations which are far too sweeping in scope. I'll put the same thing in negative terms. Much of what is sought is the avoidance of a too positivistic, a too self-assurred science. It was apparently Comte, virtually a worshiper of (his conception of) science who suggested at one point that the earth's orbit be altered from one that is elliptical to a more circular orbit, to aid crop growth, or for some progressively imagined reason.

And Randy, I already indicated that "the holocaust is empirically based, common descent is empirically/rationally derived". Your analogy does not hold. Again, we've strayed from the original question, and I'm talking about something far more subtle, while you're merely dismissing it.
10.3.2006 12:12pm
MartinM:
For the Theory of Evolution, one supposes that in some primordial soup, the DNA required to encode life spontaneously formed, started to function as life and then replicate itself


No, one doesn't. Firstly because biogenesis is not evolution, and secondly because no model of abiogenesis involves a bacterium poofing into existence in a single step.
10.3.2006 12:12pm
MartinM:
And Sternberg was - again - invoked as an example


If you invoke Sternberg as an example involving "the freedom to invoke questions, to entertain thoughts, to surmise, in an unorthodox manner," then people will inevitably point out that his case involves no such thing. There is a difference between 'dismissing' and 'refuting.'

Much of what is sought is the avoidance of a too positivistic, a too self-assurred science


If that involves pretending that we don't know things we do know to make the ignorant feel better, then that would be tough luck.
10.3.2006 12:18pm
Colin (mail):
I have a graduate degree in organic chemistry and was, at one time, a research associate that worked on amino acid synthesis for pharmaceutical applications.

Then you must be aware that the theory of evolution, being the study of replication, makes no claim as to the initial origin of the replicators...

For me, the largest problem with the Theory of Evolution is the formation of the very simplest and first form of life. (i.e. one that can replicate itself and provide its own energy).

Oh. You aren't.

Much of what is sought is the avoidance of a too positivistic, a too self-assurred science. It was apparently Comte, virtually a worshiper of (his conception of) science who suggested at one point that the earth's orbit be altered from one that is elliptical to a more circular orbit, to aid crop growth, or for some progressively imagined reason.

Try that one again - I'm not clear on what you're trying to say. You want scientists to respect pseudoscience to keep themselves humble? As for Sternberg, ditto MartinM.
10.3.2006 12:27pm
Michael B (mail):
Martin, I'm in rapturous awe of your intelligence self-regard. Ditto Colin, I agree, you're not comprehending what I'm saying, which doesn't keep you from contemptuously commenting on it however.

I'll stick with what I've already indicated in four or five posts herein.
10.3.2006 12:33pm
Mark Field (mail):

The inconsistency was my point.


Obviously it was NOT your point, since you contradict that with your very next sentence, viz.


If we are going to set a standard (falsifiable predictions that have been tested) to determine what is included in the curriculum and scientists make an exception for one theory (string theory) that violates the standard, then it is legitimate to ask for another exception for a theory like ID.


No, it is not legitimate. Whether string theory is or is not science has nothing to do with whether ID is science. Let me put this in the simplest terms: two wrongs do not make a right. If string theory turns out not to produce testable predictions, scientists will drop it as a failed project. That's a hint for ID'ers.
10.3.2006 12:44pm
Mark Field (mail):

I'll stick with what I've already indicated in four or five posts herein.


Whereas, Colin and Martin are entitled to judgment as a matter of law,

IT IS ORDERED that judgment is granted against Michael and that Michael shall take nothing by his complaint. Colin and Martin to recover costs.
10.3.2006 12:49pm
Hans Gruber:
Plunge,

RE: Hovind: I didn't realize you were referring to her list of evolutions rather than her general point about macroevolution/microevolution.

Either you don't understand what's necessary to prove the claims of evolutionary theory or you're dodging. Micro-evolution DOES NOT PROVE macro-evolution. That's just a logical fallacy. Micro-evolution does not require the creation of ANY new genes. Macro-evolution (and I mean a lot more than a single speciation event) requires tons of NEW genes created by random mutation. Obviously eukaryotes have genes that prokaryotes do not have, mammals have genes that reptiles do not have, etc. What had to have happened over time to create a eukaryote from a prokaryotes is FUNDAMENTALLY different than, say, what happens when one species of feline evolves into another species. Saying that micro-evolution (small changes among a species) proves macro-evolution (mammals evolving from reptiles; eukaryotes evolving from prokaryotes) was OK for Darwin because he didn't know exactly how evolution worked. But now we do and "changing allele frequencies" among existing genes does not cut it. For a prokaryote to evolve into a a eukaryote LOTS of new genes, created from random mutations, must be created. For a reptile to evolve into a mammal lots of new genes, created from random mutations, must be created.

I am NOT a creationist/ID'er. For the life of me I don't know why so many are so threatened by this debate. If one thinks there are serious problems with the state of evolutionary theory, one is a ignorant creationist fundamentalist loon?
10.3.2006 1:12pm
MartinM:
Macro-evolution (and I mean a lot more than a single speciation event)


Well, there's your first problem. Since a single speciation event is macro-evolution, you're using your own made-up definition, which is hardly conducive to discussion.

What had to have happened over time to create a eukaryote from a prokaryotes is FUNDAMENTALLY different than, say, what happens when one species of feline evolves into another species


Kindly elaborate on the FUNDAMENTAL difference between a small genetic change over a short time, and a large genetic change over a long time.
10.3.2006 1:22pm
Hans Gruber:
"Oh, BOOYA, I was right. No, microevolution DOES in fact include the emergence of new alleles in a population. How can it not?"

Jesus. It does not REQUIRE the emergence of new alleles. Honestly, what's so hard to understand? Micro-evolution (even some macro-evolution) does not require the creation of ANY new genes. Going from a prokaryote to a eukaryote is a completely different story. Micro-evolution does not prove the theory of evolution. That's just a lie. Only so much change can occur from rearranging already existent genes. Saying that the evolution which creates different breeds of dogs is the same evolution which can create a eukaryote from a prokaryote is just a lie. One is almost entirely driven by "changing allele frequencies" while the other requires many, many beneficial random mutations. Evolutionary biologists have done very little to prove that the rate of beneficial random mutations is sufficient to explain their conception of how life evolved. That's just a fact.
10.3.2006 1:33pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Alf. Interesting math. I've heard statisticians say that any event which is less likely than 1x10 to the 300th is, effectively, impossible. Others may pick their own number, but the point being made is that just because it is "possible" doesn't mean it's going to happen any time soon, or again a week later. Or ever.

However, you make an error in presuming the desired combination can't occur until all the others have occurred. Simple example: The likelihood of throwing a six on a die is one in six. That doesn't mean you won't get it unless you throw six times, or that you will, if you do. You could get it the first time.

Possibly happened. Unfortunately, we have no almost-life short one molecule of being in some sense alive floating around that we have noticed. Likely life ate it. We have no certainty about the primordial, proto-life conditions. We have no clue.
Evolution, strictly speaking, doesn't address the origin of life, but as I've said before, the subject usually arises and few evolutionists are willing to say, I don't know and neither does anybody else. So, will they or nill they, they start discussing something nobody knows anything useful about. And so the origin of life gets into the evolution discussion.


We understand Darwinian gradualism--which Gould called "Darwinian fundamentalism"--in part because we have the Cliff's Notes version in stock breeding. Unfortunately, the fossil record doesn't support gradualism, but instead punctuated equilibrium. Which has not been satisfactorily explained. Why the punctuation and why the equilibrium?
But whatever we finally discover to be the mechanism, it almost certainly will include random accidents to genetic material. So, why not address random accidents to nearly-genetic material? The distinction between evolution of species and the origin of life is, IMO, clear. Two separate issues, one mechanism. So perhaps they ought to be discussed together.
10.3.2006 2:09pm
Davis (mail) (www):

Saying that the evolution which creates different breeds of dogs is the same evolution which can create a eukaryote from a prokaryote is just a lie.


Hyperbole *and* misunderstanding -- I'm not sure why I'm even taking this seriously, but I'll respond anyway.

Here's a simple analogy for you: if I went for a walk for a few hours, I wouldn't end up very far from my house. However, if I continued to walk for a few years, I'd end up quite far away. That's evolution -- mutations acted upon by natural selection are like taking a walk. On the short time scale, it's like my short walk. On the long timescale, it's like my long walk.

You're playing the standard canard that essentially says I can walk a few miles from my house, but not across the country, and that somehow these are two fundamentally different things to do.

I sense an underlying belief in essentialism.
10.3.2006 2:36pm
MartinM:
I've heard statisticians say that any event which is less likely than 1x10 to the 300th is, effectively, impossible


Ah, so shuffling together four decks of cards is impossible. I'll have to remember that.

Unfortunately, the fossil record doesn't support gradualism, but instead punctuated equilibrium.


It supports both, actually.

Which has not been satisfactorily explained. Why the punctuation and why the equilibrium?


Out of curiosity, have you actually studied population genetics at all?
10.3.2006 3:25pm
Hans Gruber:
Davis,

Um, but that's not what's happening. The "short walk" and the "long walk" are different. The short walk does not require ANY beneficial random mutations while the long requires many. The evolution of the "short walk" is almost entirely evolution brought about by EXISTING GENES. Accepting the validity of short walk evolution, then, does not prove the long walk evolution.
10.3.2006 3:25pm
plunge (mail):
MichaelB: "No, not "just as," the holocaust is empirically based, common descent is empirically/rationally derived."

What the heck are you talking about? Both things are events in the past for which evidence is evaluated to ascertain what factually happened. Both are empiricially based. The End. Where's your argument?

You can't just brush off the problems with Sternberg as "well, you can argue that." Duh. I AM arguing that. Sternberg used his position to hijack a journal with an article that was both very much offtopic for what the journal dealt with, and was in fact a glurge review written by a historian. His claims about there being real peer review has come under major fire (since it seems as if he simply picked solely ID proponents, though we may never know) especially given that the article in question contains countless basic mistakes (as one would expect from a historian not trained in the subject he's attacking). At the very least, any normal person would have realized that the article was a highly unorthodox one and that the rest of the journal people should have been brought in to discuss it. Instead, Sternberg snuck it in at the end of his term as editor.

Still, what happened? The journal was miffed to have been used, and disowned the article. People lost a lot of respect for Sternberg. Sternberg didn't lose anything more than that, and I don't see how any of that is really so untoward. Most people think he acted unprofessionally to push his agenda.
10.3.2006 3:30pm
MartinM:
The short walk does not require ANY beneficial random mutations while the long requires many


But short walks involving beneficial random mutations have been observed. So the analogy is quite apt.
10.3.2006 3:31pm
Hans Gruber:
"Kindly elaborate on the FUNDAMENTAL difference between a small genetic change over a short time, and a large genetic change over a long time."

Wow. I don't know how many times I have to type this out. Changes in allele frequency (even enough to create a new species) does not require the creation of a single new gene; this sort of evolution is driven primarily by the existing genes in a population. The large scale evolution described by evolutionary theory (from prokaryote to eukaryote, from single cell to multi-cell; etc) requires many, many beneficial random mutations. This is the fundamental difference.
10.3.2006 3:35pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Population genetics may, or may not, explain a sudden, major change in a species.
Punk eek is a sudden major change in a number of species--like some disappear altogether, others show up, at roughly the same time. In between, little happens. That's the "equilibrium".
10.3.2006 3:40pm
Hans Gruber:
"But short walks involving beneficial random mutations have been observed. So the analogy is quite apt."

I never said that random beneficial mutations never occurred or that they don't contribute marginally to small scale evolution. I said that the changes observed by "short walk" evolution is almost entirely brought about by changes in the frequency of existing genes. Whereas, large scale evolution requires many, many random mutations, often coming together in exceedingly complex ways. It's simply a lie to say it's all the same kind of evolution; and proving one proves the other.
10.3.2006 3:51pm
plunge (mail):
KMAJ "RE: Hovind: I didn't realize you were referring to her list of evolutions rather than her general point about macroevolution/microevolution."

Hovind is a man. What I was refferring to is a very particular, very bizarre way of framing the debate that is characteristic of Hovind. Let's be honest: you didn't develop that framing of the debate yourself. You are repeating it from somewhere. I'm telling you the ultimate source of that sort of thinking, and pointing out the irony of claiming not to be a creationism when, knowingly or not, you are mainly just repeating creationist arguments that have been debunked a million times.

"Micro-evolution DOES NOT PROVE macro-evolution."

First of all, you seem to persist in not knowing what these terms mean, and having your own special definitions for them. This won't do. Micro-evolution deals with things below the species level, and macro with things above. The end. What you probably mean to say is that micro-evolution alone doesn't demonstrate common descent, and it doesn't. Common descent is a fact, and micro-evolution is a big part of explaining that fact.

"That's just a logical fallacy. Micro-evolution does not require the creation of ANY new genes."

Microeconomics doesn't "require" the trade of any goods or services. Nevertheless, that's what it deals with on a regular basis. The fact is that gene pools are almost never stable in the first place: new alleles and genes are popping up all the time.

"Macro-evolution (and I mean a lot more than a single speciation event) requires tons of NEW genes created by random mutation."

Do you at least acknowledge that you've now switched defitions here?

Macro-evolution by and large doesn't deal directly with genetic mechanisms at all. It's about large scale patterns in ecologies of species or species in relation to each other. Again, chances are you are using the wrong term.

"Obviously eukaryotes have genes that prokaryotes do not have, mammals have genes that reptiles do not have, etc."

Indeed! And pit bulls have genes that wolves do not have. however, they are the same species.

The reason speciation is so important is that it stops the gene flow between two or more species. Once this happens, the development of different species no longer has any direct genetic link: they are free to drift in different directions.

"What had to have happened over time to create a eukaryote from a prokaryotes is FUNDAMENTALLY different than, say, what happens when one species of feline evolves into another species."

No, it's not. It's the same stuff, different days.

"But now we do and "changing allele frequencies" among existing genes does not cut it. For a prokaryote to evolve into a a eukaryote LOTS of new genes, created from random mutations, must be created. For a reptile to evolve into a mammal lots of new genes, created from random mutations, must be created."

Yes. Are you of the belief that the creation of new genes is too rare to explain the changes we've seen? As I've already explained, it's not too rare.

"I am NOT a creationist/ID'er. For the life of me I don't know why so many are so threatened by this debate. If one thinks there are serious problems with the state of evolutionary theory, one is a ignorant creationist fundamentalist loon?"

No. But if one raises the exact same silly arguments, full of misunderstandings and error, that are characteristic of creationists, then why should you get all huffy about being called a creationist? If I run into the upper east side of New York and start saying that there are serious problems with the idea that the holocaust even happened, and the problems I raised were basically the same lines always parroted by holocaust deniers, do you think that people would be crazy to call me a holocaust denier?

Look: you've tried to frame the debate in a way that only creationists would. The way you seem to define terms are the creationist definitions, not the the way science discusses them. And your arguments are creationism 101. That's not MY fault for pointing it out. If you don't recognize it, that's your problem.

"It does not REQUIRE the emergence of new alleles."

??? What does that have to do with anything? Yes, natural selection can select from an existing pool of variation alone. But microevolution deals with the whole picture: mutation constantly increasing variation, selection constantly winnowing it down. The process is not unlike two men building a "drip castle" on the beach: one constantly dribbling sand onto the structure, and the other carving away parts to shape it.

"Honestly, what's so hard to understand? Micro-evolution (even some macro-evolution) does not require the creation of ANY new genes."

It's true that it doesn't require it in all instances, but that's irrelevant: it does involve it as a matter of course in the real world, and that is what those disciplines deal with.

"Going from a prokaryote to a eukaryote is a completely different story."

Why? You still haven't explained why.

"Micro-evolution does not prove the theory of evolution."

No one said that micro-evolution alone proved the entire thing: what would be the need for the rest of it if that were true? However, micro-evolution IS the general case of how all development worked. There was no special miracle mechanism that took over in cases that YOU are particularly incredulous about.

"That's just a lie. Only so much change can occur from rearranging already existent genes."

Yes, but, luckily, as we've said, microevolution observably encompasses more than that.

"Saying that the evolution which creates different breeds of dogs is the same evolution which can create a eukaryote from a prokaryote is just a lie. One is almost entirely driven by "changing allele frequencies" while the other requires many, many beneficial random mutations."

Are you really claiming that domestic dog breeds are just rearrangements of pre-existent wolf DNA? If so, you are wrong: very much wrong. All the different features we find in dog breeds are the result of mutations, most of them things that got selected for by breeders (and hence, in terms of the dog genome, were beneficial). Humans in the case of dogs provided the selection gradients, but mutation provided the new variations to select FROM.

"Evolutionary biologists have done very little to prove that the rate of beneficial random mutations is sufficient to explain their conception of how life evolved. That's just a fact."

Again, you're just wrong. Again, your claim here basically accuses population geneticists and other related fields of being complete frauds, since this is exactly what they study. I asked you if you knew what a darwin was didn't I (I get confused: I posted it to one of you guys)?
10.3.2006 4:00pm
plunge (mail):
See, I got it wrong: it was Gruber, not KMAJ! Or are you the same person? Sorry for getting you confused: this comment section isn't very conducive to threaded replies and I have to scroll up and down a lot to figure out who I am talking to. :)
10.3.2006 4:04pm
plunge (mail):
Gruber: "I never said that random beneficial mutations never occurred or that they don't contribute marginally to small scale evolution."

In fact, speciation cannot occur without genetic mutation. So, it's basic to the whole process.

"I said that the changes observed by "short walk" evolution is almost entirely brought about by changes in the frequency of existing genes."

In your opinion. However, not in the opinion of biologists. New genetic mutations are cropping up _constantly_, in nearly every individual. Selection is what determines if they are beneficial or not.

"Whereas, large scale evolution requires many, many random mutations, often coming together in exceedingly complex ways."

They are only complex changes in hindsight: in each individual case we generally only have a slight change.

"It's simply a lie to say it's all the same kind of evolution; and proving one proves the other."

There is no evolutionary change above the level of small changes in the gene pools of populations, sorry. That's the process. That's what it's all about.
10.3.2006 4:09pm
Hans Gruber:
"Are you really claiming that domestic dog breeds are just rearrangements of pre-existent wolf DNA? If so, you are wrong: very much wrong. All the different features we find in dog breeds are the result of mutations, most of them things that got selected for by breeders (and hence, in terms of the dog genome, were beneficial)."

I'm calling you on this. Care to provide proof that "all the different features we find in dog breeds are the result of mutations." I'll be patiently waiting.
10.3.2006 4:23pm
Michael B (mail):
"What the heck are you talking about? Both things are events in the past for which evidence is evaluated to ascertain what factually happened." plunge

The Challenger tragedy is in the past. And evidence which would indict and convict Kofi Annan for negligence which resulted in genocide is in the past, as with evidence vis-a-vis the Oil-for-Bribes scandal. Ergo, they're co-equal? No, the Challenger tragedy, as with the holocaust, reflects such perforce insurmountable empirical evidence (fringe groups aside in both cases) that exceedingly little rationality needs to be applied. Not so with Annan's guilt and not so with aspects of evolution, which is not to be equivocal with those two phenomena either. That's why I indicated I'm suggesting something more subtle than what you're attempting to label it as. That's all that was being suggested, i.e. the relative degree of empirical vs. rational methodologies employed in each case is notably different, and there are ramifications which result from that difference.

As to Sternberg, that can become a literally endless tit-for-tat, that's why I only exampled his case. I don't even have a final or definitive view on the case, but I do know I can produce a lot of evidence which will counter the case against Sternberg. Coincidentally, yet again, it's the balance of empirical vs. rational qualities being employed which cause the major disagreements, and most of those disagreements pertain to the rational, not the empirical side of that balance. Or perhaps it isn't such a coincidence after all.
10.3.2006 4:33pm
plunge (mail):
"I'm calling you on this."

Great: does that mean that you agree with the rest of what I said! Awesome!

"Care to provide proof that "all the different features we find in dog breeds are the result of mutations." I'll be patiently waiting."

Excellent to have a patient audience!

First, read this article.
dog evolution
Now you'll note that while the article discusses as a matter of fact, taking for granted, exactly what I am talking about the headline of this article isn't "dogs are different than wolves because of mutation!" That's because for most biologists, that headline is conventional and uninteresting. Mutations appearing, rising, falling, going extinct, or becoming fixed in a population is, in fact, pretty much a day to day understanding of all genomes population.

Note that the article describes a lot of controversy amongst scientists: no sign of the "dogma" (heh), but that the controversies aren't over things like "are the traits of dogs caused by mutation" because you'd have to be totally clueless about how genetics influence morphology to think that. (Sorry to be insulting, but that's just the case)


Simply put, different steady morphologies are always underpinned by genetics. And varitions not present in wolves cannot have appeared and been bred for by any other means than mutation. Simply put, traits like "completely flat snout" that we find in pugs do not exist in ancestral wolves: there is no genetic evidence of it in their descendants, and there is certainly no morphological evidence for it. Nor do they float down out of the ether. Where did these things come from? They came from minor mutations. Not only is this the only alternative, but it's a BASIC principle without which whole fields of genetic sequencing, paternity testing and a host of other things simply would not work. Furthermore, it's something constantly confirmed when we look at the genetic history of the different breeds or study their embryonic development: different alleles not present in either other breeds nor their ancestors mediate different radical features. Not only can we identify them, but we can often even DATE approximately when they first appeared!

Read more: read more
Again, note the lack of blaring "apparently, the morphological diversity of domestic dogs compared to wolves has a genetic component behind it!" Again, note that this is because the idea that the morphological diversity of dogs being due to mutations increasing variation, and then human beings selecting from it, is so basic that none of these techniques could even work if it weren't so.

And to conclude, let me pose something to you. If what you imply is true: that by and large all that ever happens to gene pools is selection amongst traits... what would happen over time? That is, what is the logical outcome of your beliefs?

I put it to you that we'd see steadily decreasing genetic diversity and homogeniety, even in large populations. That is, if mostly the only things that can happen via selection are functional genes going extinct (since according to you new ones coming into being is very rare), then over time we'd steadily lose variation as entire lines died out.

We see exactly the opposite in nature. How do you account for that?
10.3.2006 5:06pm
Perseus (mail):
If a standard is not consistently applied by those setting it, it is also reasonable to doubt whether the standard is genuine and to suspect that it is merely cover. To use a legal example, Justice Scalia is sometimes accused of being an inconsistent textualist. Some would say that Scalia just needs to be more consistent while others would say that Scalia's inconsistency suggests that textualism might just be a bedazzling cover for Scalia to reach results that he happens to like. In other words, an inconsistently applied standard leads one to wonder whether scientists are just playing a power game.

To bring it back to the original post topic, it makes one skeptical of the claim that teaching a "non-scientific" theory like ID in high schools will have much of a harmful effect on scientific literacy and progress when scientists also promote teaching a "non-scientific" theory like string theory. (And btw, I'm a not a proponent of ID.)
10.3.2006 5:08pm
MartinM:
literally endless


Literally?
10.3.2006 5:10pm
plunge (mail):
Michael, you're simply all wet on this one:

"No, the Challenger tragedy, as with the holocaust, reflects such perforce insurmountable empirical evidence (fringe groups aside in both cases) that exceedingly little rationality needs to be applied. Not so with Annan's guilt and not so with aspects of evolution, which is not to be equivocal with those two phenomena either."

The basic facts of evolution are some of the best documented and empirically demonstrated physical phenomenon in all of human experience. There is, simply put, "such perforce insurmountable empirical evidence" that they are inescapable as conclusions when you look at the evidence to the same degree or better than the holocaust (which is not to say that the holocaust is uncertain, but rather that the evidence for it is sufficient to prove it, but not the uppoer bound on the degree of empirical evidence one can have for something, and evolution by far far exceeds what we have). In empiricism, the highest form of proof is convergence: multiple methods indepedently giving the same result in a high degree of detail, with COUNTLESS opportunities for disproof that never pan out INTO disproof. That's exactly what things like common descent have going for them: in some ways to a far better degree than virtually any historical event on a human scale. The evidence for the basic facts of evolution are not transitory and localized: they are global and span billions of years worth of physical evidence. Only by simply denying or ignoring all of this evidence can one posit that it's merely an uncertain speculation.

Again: things like the holocaust ultimately have only so many documents, memories, and claims to cover. In contrast, with evolution, virtually every single physical fact about the history of the planet available to us must match up in a very very particular pattern if things like common descent are true. And it does so: in amazingly fine detail that is repeated no matter which lens or method we apply to the question. The sheer number of ways in which we can cross confirm elements of evolutionary evidence dwarf those for historical events. If anything, empiricism is a greater friend to evolution than it is to most of recorded history.

"As to Sternberg, that can become a literally endless tit-for-tat, that's why I only exampled his case. I don't even have a final or definitive view on the case, but I do know I can produce a lot of evidence which will counter the case against Sternberg."

Anyone can present tons and tons of argument and claim that there is evidence for their view. The proof is in the pudding. Is it valid?
10.3.2006 5:17pm
Daryl Herbert (www):
Hans, what's your defintion of a "mutation," and what other types of changes are there?
10.3.2006 5:19pm
Colin (mail):
Perseus,


To bring it back to the original post topic, it makes one skeptical of the claim that teaching a "non-scientific" theory like ID in high schools will have much of a harmful effect on scientific literacy and progress when scientists also promote teaching a "non-scientific" theory like string theory. (And btw, I'm a not a proponent of ID.)


I think the simplist distinguishing factor is that ID encourages - even requires - an affirmative dismissal of either (A) the overwhelming scientific evidence or (B) an outright rejection of the empirical scientific method.

In other words, string theory might or might not be science, but it doesn't attack science to bolster its own political and cultural validity.
10.3.2006 5:54pm
Mark Field (mail):
Perseus is still ducking my earlier point: two wrongs don't make a right. If string theory is not science, the solution is to take it out of the curriculum, not to put ID in. The "hypocrisy" argument is pointless.

In addition, only individuals can be hypocritical. Groups can't, for the obvious reason that individual members of the group might have different positions (see Kenneth Arrow). You haven't identified any individual "hypocrites". Nor do biologists generally take a position on string theory; your attempt to broaden the "hypocritical" group to "scientists" is therefore disingenuous (and that's assuming you're right about string theory, which you aren't).

I also agree with Colin and would add that string theorists are not lobbying school boards across the nation to insert string theory into classrooms.
10.3.2006 6:24pm
Jay Myers:
Oren:

I don't know what that means. By definition, jif it is useful because it makes predictions that are in agreement with reality than it is true. That's what it means for something to be true - the statement is in correspondence with the reality.

You go on to bash Newton's theories some more but the point is that Newton's theories are a good approximation of the truth in the "low and slow" regime. They are in corrspondence with a certain subset of parameter-space and therefore are true with respect to that part of parametr-space.

Yes, scientific realism relies on a correspondence theory of truth. That means defining truth as the property of a judgment or belief that conforms to external reality. In other words, a theory is true if and only if it corresponds with some set of facts or state of affairs. Newton's theories may correspond to a subset of the facts but do not conform to the whole of the facts available to us. A positive truth value is like an AND operator in that all conditions must be true in order for the whole to be true. If even one tiny piece is false then the whole is false. If correctly noting the truth value of a theory is a bash and an attack, then I plead guilty.

Maybe geologists should have talks with the flat-earth society. After all, aren't we bound to respect their disagreement with the consensus view that the earth is round?

In context of flat-Earthers, my point would be that the reason it is true that the Earth is round isn't because more people or more scientists believe it to be so than any alternative. It is true regardless of who believes or disbelieves it. We know that it is true because it was proven 2500 years ago.

Then again, maybe you are the kind of person who attempts to refute flat-Earthers by citing how many more people and scientists are on your side.

You seem to have a seriously distorted view of how science works. Science is always a culture of doubt. Nobody believes anything until they are absolutely certain that there is no other feasible explanation.

You may believe in naive scientific realism if you think that:

1. Theories result in knowledge about phenomena that is at least approximately true

2. Theories should be accepted or rejected based on their relationship to truth.

3. The likelihood of theories being true increases as science "progresses".

If all three conditions apply, exercise caution when operating heavy machinery as circular reasoning may cause dizziness.

The heart of this error is the conflation of two sorts of challenges. The first is a challenge to a scientific theory while the second is the broad challenge to the validity of the scientific method as a path to truth.

The problem of induction is a bit of a downer, isn't it?

I have no problem if you wish to attack quantum mechanics or general relativity within the context of the scientific method - that is, if you want to present and alternative theory that you think has better correspondence with reality.

And what if I want to dispute the validity of using a correspondance theory of truth and of scientific realism in general?

Let's say I cite Bas van Fraassen who says that scientific realism has two components. The first is a semantic thesis that the language of science is to be taken literally. That means that theories have a truth value regardless of whether the prediction can be observed or not and that theories with identical observable predictions are not identical if they make differing unobservable predictions. The second component is am epistemological thesis that science’s statements about the world, when literally interpreted, are true including any theoretical entities that are postulated as existing.

van Fraassen claims that if there are a number of theories, each attempting to explain or predict the same thing, but all of the theories also go on to explain or predict something that cannot be observed, then it is acceptable to believe that all of those theories are false, even if you continue to accept that their identical predictions of the observable world are correct.

Since it is always possible to construct a rival theory that makes identical observable claims but distinct unobservable claims, it is van Fraassen’s position that there are always sufficient grounds for concluding that any theory is false while continuing to accept the empirical predictions of those theories. Buy the premise, buy the bit.

The point being that there an enormous number of anti-realist philosophies out there and most can dismantle scientific realism quite handily. Hey, didn't you say that you study QM? Where do you fall on the Copenhagen vs. EPR debate? The Copenhagen interpretation is a very classic Positivist position. Einstein was the one arguing that QM was incomplete because there wasn't a realist interpretation.

On the other hand, when you attack the entire scientific establishment as 'priestly', that is something entirely different. It is an insult to the whole process that is science despite all that it does for you . . .

No, it is an insult to many of the people who pretend to utilize that practice but in reality publish in the media, alter data to fit their theories, and try to drown out legitimate criticism essentially by repeatedly shouting the word "consensus". It is also a criticism of the sheep who blindly repeat some "finding" because it was announced by someone calling themself a scientist. I'd rather know how many times the results had been replicated and by whom.
10.3.2006 6:45pm
Michael B (mail):
plunge,

It's not even obvious that you're replying to my posts. Read and comprehend. Seemingly you've habituated yourself so much with a sense of superiority that these facile assessments you and others declaim with, these off-the-shelf, judge-and-jury put downs you put together with such facility, have become the most salient aspect of your posts. I said, in that prior post, nothing which would deny evolution, to the extent the fossil record and other evidence supports it.

Both ironically and tellingly, you and others have concerned yourselves with being the inquisitionist authorities to such a degree that you cannot countenance so much as the appearance of dissent. Too though, you're wrong, the empirical/rational balance is weighted more on the rational side for evolution than it is for the other events mentioned.

String theory presents another contrasting example still. It is a pure mathematical (pure rational) science and perfectly valid in that sense, if I understand it correctly in those general terms. Too, it serves some hypothesis value, some explanatory value. But there are no empirical observations of strings as such. So, and again if I understand the general factors as described correctly, it's similar to math in general, it is a purely rational science in the simple empirical/rational linear framework I've been using.
10.3.2006 6:52pm
KMAJ (mail):
The debate is interesting, for many reasons. What is truly science ? Is it some rigid defineable box that we must be able to fit things into ? What is the real defintion of Darwinism and especially evolution ? Is it the narrow box of genetic mutation ? Are evolution and Darwinism synonymous ? Only if one believes that evolution only applies narrowly to natural selection within a species. But that is not what science classes teach. Evolution is not so easily pinned down, and can be applied to the evolution of the universe, which would include all aspects within that universe, including the origin of life.

What you end up with is people talking past each other. For some reason, the argument relies on ID and evolution to be mutually exclusive, yet, depending on the premise put forth, they can work together in symmetry. Only if science is held to the narrow confines of the provable, and not the possible, is there conflict. if that is the case, then do hypothesis belong in the realm of science ? Deductive reasoning ?

It would seem that if we cannot prove a beginning of life or the universe, must we then accept that there was no beginning, and, thus there is no end ? That it is an unending string of cycles, ad infinitum ? When science cannot provide an answer, should possibilities be ignored because, while possible, they do not meet a subjective definition ? Science does not exist in a vacuum, precepts that end up being explored by science often evolve from other disciplines, including philosophy. Because science does not currently have the tools to explore certain ideas or hypothesis, does not preclude that those tools may eventually be developed.

As a skeptic, I say neither ID nor evolution, in its full scope, is a proven fact. I reject any creationist/religious conclusions that are asserted by some IDers, because while the argument that the complexities involved 'may' require intelligence of some form, it does not necessarily equate that form of intelligence is a 'God'. In fact, accepting that intelligence is required would put physical limitations upon that intelligence that would preclude such a Supreme Being, because there are certainly many flaws within the construct. ID does not require an active intelligence watching over us, though it may require the ability to think outside our dimensional spatial and time concepts. It is the dogmatic rejection of questioning firmly held beliefs on both sides that is the hindrance and creates the perceived threats they see.

To put it simply, there is so much about our world and our universe we do not understand, that we harm ourselves when we close off possibilities. Quantum physics, string or superstring theory open up new avenues of exploration, string theory, itself, opens up the possibility of other dimensions outside our cognitive senses. Where are the real boundaries of science to be drawn ? Should there be boundaries at all ? Is it necessary to shut off the possibility that science could develop a tool that might prove the existence an intelligence ? We should not reject summarily that which cannot be proven or falsified with current technology, but should seek to use those questions to develop the science and technology to answer the currently unanswerable. It is that foundational premise, the search for knowledge, that should be the driving force behind science.
10.3.2006 6:57pm
plunge (mail):
"It's not even obvious that you're replying to my posts. Read and comprehend."

You know, if you spent half as much time actually debating and responding to points as you do striking your own ego and sneering, this discussion might even get somewhere.

"I said, in that prior post, nothing which would deny evolution, to the extent the fossil record and other evidence supports it."

We were talking about empiricism. Did you forget that?
10.3.2006 7:33pm
plunge (mail):
KMAJ "What is the real defintion of Darwinism and especially evolution?"

First of all, there is no such thing as "Darwinism." This is, surprise surprise, a term creationists developed. Why are you using it when you are not a creationist?

As for the definition of evolution, well, I think that there are plenty great resources you can go to to learn what it is. Wikipedia does a good job of explaining things for instance. It really isn't something up for a musing debate though.

"Is it the narrow box of genetic mutation ? Are evolution and Darwinism synonymous ? Only if one believes that evolution only applies narrowly to natural selection within a species. But that is not what science classes teach. Evolution is not so easily pinned down, and can be applied to the evolution of the universe, which would include all aspects within that universe, including the origin of life."

No. This is nonsense. Evolution the word can mean "change over time" and in that sense you can talk about the evolution of just about anything. But things like cosmology have nothing to do with the theory of evolution. I think you are able to think this because you don't understand biological evolution well enough to see that it involves some very specific mechanisms and ideas that cannot simply be applied willy nilly to everything.

"What you end up with is people talking past each other. For some reason, the argument relies on ID and evolution to be mutually exclusive, yet, depending on the premise put forth, they can work together in symmetry. Only if science is held to the narrow confines of the provable, and not the possible, is there conflict."

Science cannot OPERATE when the "possible" is included as being the same thing as the concrete and testible. No one, not any ID proponent of creationist, has ever put forward any coherent way in which science could operate like that and still produce useful results.

"It would seem that if we cannot prove a beginning of life or the universe, must we then accept that there was no beginning, and, thus there is no end?"

Declaring that things are unprovable is silly, especially those things. There is no reason to think that we cannot learn how life began. It isn't an easy question, but it's not in any sense obviously outside the realm of understanding. The beginning of the universe is a different sort of question with it's own major obstacles, but again: simply declaring things to be too hard to figure out and then settling back into an armchair to pontificate is not how science works.

"When science cannot provide an answer, should possibilities be ignored because, while possible, they do not meet a subjective definition?"

No one is asking people to stop musing about possibilities or beliefs. What people are asking is for people to stop trying to call these things valid science when they do not play by the very rules that make science useful and reliable.

"To put it simply, there is so much about our world and our universe we do not understand, that we harm ourselves when we close off possibilities."

This is where you go quite wrong again. Science is about enshrining precisely this idea into a working framework of validation. All science is saying is "before you claim that you can prove it, show your work."
10.3.2006 7:48pm
Colin (mail):
Seemingly you've habituated yourself so much with a sense of superiority that these facile assessments you and others declaim with, these off-the-shelf, judge-and-jury put downs you put together with such facility, have become the most salient aspect of your posts.

I had a bet with myself that you wouldn't be able to resist insulting your critics and accusing them (us?) of arrogant dismissiveness. In retrospect, it was a sure thing - I've never seen you contribute to a thread without falling back on a complaint that your critics are dismissing you tout court. Poor, poor, put-upon Michael B. If you want to be part of the conversation, then be part of the conversation. You could start by explaining what you meant by your Comte reference earlier. That was unclear at best.

Plunge,

You know, if you spent half as much time actually debating and responding to points as you do striking your own ego and sneering, this discussion might even get somewhere.

I'm hopeful but dubious. And to give credit where little is due, he does sneer so polysyllabically. Isn't that a proper substitute for responsiveness? No? Oh.
10.3.2006 7:48pm
Hans Gruber:
Plunge,

You link an article that doesn't even begin to support your completely unfounded claim that "all the different features we find in dog breeds are the result of mutations." Then, to explain your lack of proof you assert that the mutations are simply assumed to take place, because, hey that's the way it must be. Hey, wolves don't have noses like pugs, so it must be true, right? Science at its best. I think you've got caught making assertions you can't possibly back up. You're afraid of saying "that's possible," or "I don't know."

ALL the article you linked is about is that dogs have more mutations on coding DNA than do wolves. Presumably this is because dogs have it easy in the care of humans, and are therefore able to surive with mutations that would be selected more strongly against in the wild. That doesn't support your claim at all. Another possibility is that some mutations may have been promoted by the breeders. Rather than taking for granted your unfounded assumption, the article actually points to the source of diversity as an ongoing puzzle: "Where does all this come from? The parent species, which is the wolf, doesn't show this diversity." Of course phenotypic diversity is different than genomic diversity; all of the genes for current breeds of dogs could have been contained in the original population. There is nothing in your last post or the article you linked which excludes that as a possibility. Try again.
10.3.2006 7:52pm
Michael B (mail):
plunge,

Take your own advice, especially so as regards the facile put downs. Of forgetting, we were discussing a few different disciplines, including evolution, as conceived within an empirical/rational linear framework. Did you forget that?

Seemingly you did. Here's your prior post if it'll help you remember - the first line you employ, after the personal put down, was, emphasis added: "The basic facts of evolution are ..."

And Colin, that note puts your own, yes, dismissiveness, in perspective as well. Power plays do not a conversation make. Reading, comprehending, and actually replying more thoughtfully to those comprehensions do. (The Comte reference exampled a too self-assurred, too positivistically conceived science.)
10.3.2006 8:05pm
Perseus (mail):
And Mark Field is ducking my point. If the standard really isn't a standard at all but rather a cover for a power game, then it's downright foolish to take it seriously.
10.3.2006 8:13pm
Colin (mail):
"The Comte reference exampled a too self-assurred, too positivistically conceived science."

And is the intended point, as I guessed above, that you want scientists to take ID more seriously in order to keep themselves humble? Or are you worried that biologists will try to round out the Earth's orbit? I don't think you've established (A) what you mean by "a too positivistically conceived science," (B) why you think biology falls within that pompously nebulous category, or (C) what relevant it has to teaching of pseudoscience in public schools' science classes. It's especially unclear since I think I recall that you oppose teaching ID in science classes. Is that right? Pose and sneer all you like, but please take the time to at least attempt to explain yourself.
10.3.2006 8:25pm
Colin (mail):
Perseus,

If the standard really isn't a standard at all but rather a cover for a power game, then it's downright foolish to take it seriously.

I've only been following your part of the discussion with half an eye, but my impression is that the standards are not "cover for a power game." I think the standards are genuine and well-intended. String theory tends to escape them because it is a de minimis violation at most. Teachers can mention it as a purely abstract theory and move on, without attracting all of the baggage of corrosive creationist rhetoric. It's the difference, if I can coin a term, between an ascientific theory and an antiscientific theory, even if both are technically pseudoscience. (I don't claim that string theory is; I'm unqualified to assess it. But I'll accept that it is for our purposes.)

There is also a practical difference between the two theories that resonates very clearly (in my opinion) with educators. String theory represents some of the highest heights of intellectual endeavor, and requires an impressive command of theoretical physics and mathematics to really grasp (even if it's grasped and rejected). Intelligent Design represents some of the highest heights of deceptive and manipulative rhetoric, and requires an impressive ignorance of biology to accept. See KMAJ &Gruber, above. Our recognition of the grossly manipulative and dishonest nature of ID advocacy may lead us to scrutinize its adherence to the standard more closely. Most people are likely to think that a casual introduction to string theory, on the other hand, is mostly harmless (especially as no high school student would be expected to spend any real time pursuing it). I argue strenuously in favor of standards in science classes, and I don't think that approach is dishonest or harmful.
10.3.2006 8:36pm
Michael B (mail):
Colin and plunge,

If you weren't so embued with your infallible sense of self you'd be able to see 1) I haven't even disagreed with you as regards evolution per se, at least to this point (I'm not a pure materialist so eventually there probably would be disagreements), 2) what has been presented is a view of science which prescribes a strong emphasis upon hypothesis rather than a positivistic emphasis and 3) what was additionally presented was a simple empirical/rational linear framework, in part, to help support aspects of such a hypothesis conception of science. The Comte caution can be viewed, for one, within that framework, it can also be viewed as an amusing, even hilarious, anecdote concerning Comte's worshipful stance toward his positivistic conception of science, or rather scientism, as his view reflected a strong ideological intent, which transcends science per se.

Finally, in noting your dismissiveness, it isn't merely a personal defect which is noted; if it were solely personal I'd forget about it and wouldn't respond. But it's become a crutch you rely upon in order to help keep any and all dissent, perceived or otherwise, in line. In that sense ya'll venture beyond merely personal put downs and employ it in a latent, or not so latent, authoritarian manner. It's become an aspect of your method, to keep other arguments in line. That's why it's worth taking note of.

All too often that very much reflects your own poses and posturings. You can't fool all the people all the time; your own pseudo-reasoning and quasi-reasoning in the form of poses and more raw forms still does not frighten. It's a language of a certain type and kind, but recognized for what it is, it ain't much.
10.3.2006 9:03pm
Mark Field (mail):

And Mark Field is ducking my point. If the standard really isn't a standard at all but rather a cover for a power game, then it's downright foolish to take it seriously.


No, if a standard is being misapplied in one case, the proper solution is to apply it correctly in that case. The proper solution is NOT to misapply it in another case.
10.3.2006 9:17pm
Colin (mail):
It's a language of a certain type and kind, but recognized for what it is, it ain't much.

How drolly self-referential! How can we be dismissive of your opinion on this issue if you won't articulate it?

You did squeeze this out: "Science's epistemic foundation is largely rational/empirical. The rational side of that equation needs to be emphasized far more than it is, in our school systems, when explicating the philosophical bases upon which various sciences are formed, from "pure sciences" such as physics and mathematics through to the various social sciences, none of which are formed upon purely empirical/rational foundations." And it makes sense, compared to your later posts. But you haven't addressed anything topical, or anyone's criticism of or questions about your comments. Is biology too reliant on "philosophical bases?" Is it a "pure science?" Should ID be taught in public schools? Should scientists take it seriously? Perhaps if I scrutinized the depths of every murky paragraph I'd find something I could construe as an answer, but I haven't so far and I'm not inclined to keep trying. Why not just say what you want to say?

As is so often the case, I find myself wondering, "What is Michael B. going on about?" We all love hearing you talk as much as you yourself do--really, I promise--but your dense paragraphs of non sequitor passive voice don't seem to contain a point, an argument, or a response to anyone else's argument.

Excuse me. I mean to say, "It has become apparent, following your discoursive explication of the notional issues presented above, that a cogent thesis is not constructed by the droning presentation of sequential segments of what is, in the strictly grammatical sense, passive voice, seeing as how the indignant objections are not, in any tonal sense, passive."
10.3.2006 9:49pm
Michael B (mail):
Colin,

Well yes, the intellections an (Ivy League?) education is wantonly capable of. Not a lot of comprehension, not a lot of perceptions or appercetions, but intellections and a credulous self-regard aplenty. Keep pounding that square peg into the round hole, and instead of switching to the square hole, damn the person for handing you the square peg in the first place. That's something one might learn to avoid as early as pre-school or kindergarten, but an Ivy League education finds ways around such trifles: circumlocutions, misapprehensions and studied avoidance in general - aplenty. There is no there there unless Colin says it's so. Bravo, just short of masterful.

And apparently all performed without a nanosecond of self-reflection or self-criticism. That too, seemingly, a mere trifle, one to be resolutely avoided at all costs.
10.3.2006 10:50pm
plunge (mail):
"You link an article that doesn't even begin to support your completely unfounded claim that "all the different features we find in dog breeds are the result of mutations.""

Hello? Did you READ the articles? None of the work being discussed could even happen if that wasn't the case. How do you think various gene clusters are being tracked in the first place?

"Then, to explain your lack of proof you assert that the mutations are simply assumed to take place, because, hey that's the way it must be."

No, I explained why your disbelief doesn't even have surface plausibility in addition to pointing you directly at some layperson resources. If you'd like to learn more, search pubmed for the subject. You'll find countless articles that couldn't even exist if what you said was true.

"Hey, wolves don't have noses like pugs, so it must be true, right?"

Do you really believe that morphological features have no genetic component? The nose of the pug is determined by a very specific set of alleles. Those alleles are not present in wolves, or in all breeds of dogs. They can even, using SNPs, be DATED for goodness sakes.

"Science at its best. I think you've got caught making assertions you can't possibly back up. You're afraid of saying "that's possible," or "I don't know.""

I'm happy to say I don't know something when I don't. But the idea that all the genes present in all breeds of dogs that determine their radically different morphology were all present in their ancestors (what, hidden away until they magically emerged) is so ridiculous ignorant of basic genetics that it's hard to even know what to say without being insulting.

"ALL the article you linked is about is that dogs have more mutations on coding DNA than do wolves."

First of all, I linked two articles. Second of all, that's NOT all it says. It explicitly discusses new mutations and their rates of fixity and diversity in dogs.

"Presumably this is because dogs have it easy in the care of humans, and are therefore able to surive with mutations that would be selected more strongly against in the wild."

What do you think humans were selecting for? They selected for the traits that popped up and ended up with different breeds. I've got some bad news for you: non-shedding short coats are caused by particular genes. Those genes are a recent developments in canines. Just one example.

"That doesn't support your claim at all. Another possibility is that some mutations may have been promoted by the breeders. Rather than taking for granted your unfounded assumption, the article actually points to the source of diversity as an ongoing puzzle: "Where does all this come from? The parent species, which is the wolf, doesn't show this diversity." Of course phenotypic diversity is different than genomic diversity; all of the genes for current breeds of dogs could have been contained in the original population."

Where? How? Are you saying that humans currently carry all sorts of radically different morphologies in their genes that mysteriously doesn't show up for thousands of years, and then, all of a sudden, will explode into expression all at once? Because that's what you are alleging, essentially, about dogs. The problem is, there is no evidence of any of this, and plenty of molecular evidence that all these traits ARE recent developments.

Did you even put two seconds of thought into the question I posed to you? If what you were saying were true, then we would see increasing functional genetic homogenity over time. We see, in fact, just the opposite. If what you are saying is true, then not only would wolves never develop into all the different breeds, but they would all be bottlenecked in the way that highly interbred species like cheeta are.
10.3.2006 11:19pm
Colin (mail):
Perhaps you didn't read my specific questions. At the risk of repeating myself, I'll repeat myself: "Is biology too reliant on 'philosophical bases?' Is it a 'pure science?' Should ID be taught in public schools? Should scientists take it seriously?"

I'm not just razzing you, although I do enjoy it. I'm extremely interested in the topic of pseudoscience, and curious as to what people think and believe about it. You seem to have something to say, and you seem to want people to understand it - I actually want to know what you think. But for some strange reason, you're incredibly reluctant to give us your opinion. You have lots of venom for those you think are dismissing your arguments. Please tell us what they are.
10.3.2006 11:23pm
Hans Gruber:
Plunge, it's pretty clear to me you're not interested in honestly debating/discussing this. The first article does not support your assertion. The article states that mutations in dogs on coding DNA is around two times that of wolves, and mentions a couple of possibilities for this difference. That does not support your assertion that "all the different features we find in dog breeds are the result of mutations." It does lend some support the position that SOME of the traits in breeds MAY be caused by mutations. Now, I'm not even doubting there are a few examples; and maybe as our knowledge of the animal and human genomes expands we will find many more; but there are very few examples of known beneficial mutations relative to the amount that have to occur to drive the amount of change posited by evolutionary theory. This is a problem with evolutionary theory, but it's one I expect to be remedied as we learn more.

Further, while an apparently new and distinct trait may suggest a mutation is the cause, it does not prove it. Genes are more complicated than that. I don't know if non-shedding coats were gradually developed through selecting less shedding coats, or if they suddenly appeared. Do you know? Do you even care? If it's the former, I don't see any reason to suspect a mutation as the cause, and if it's the latter it still doesn't prove it.

If anything is "pseudo-science," it's your apparent attitude that anything you believe is a "fact" or is naturally assumed. Take, for example, your statement that macro and micro evolution are always defined by the species concept among biologists. The two biology textbooks I have at my disposal (Campbell's Biology and Animal Diversity) do not define either in terms of the species concept, though I am familiar with that perspective, and accept it as one of the valid competing definitions. The same ambiguity can be seen in the species concept itself, some texts describe it as an interbreeding population, some describe it as all animals with the ability to procreate with one another, still others describe it as the ability to procreate and produce viable and fertile offspring. Now anybody should recognize each of these definitions as one used by biologists, even if one has a preference. The fact that you have ONLY seen macro and micro evolution described in those terms leads me to believe your exposure to biology is more limited than you would have us believe.
10.4.2006 1:01am
Michael B (mail):
Colin, borrowing from the language, the rhetoric I use is not terribly creative, nor is it accurate. So don't be so cocksure with your borrowings and labels. (Btw, I got the Ivy League orientation right, didn't I?)

Neither am I merely razzing you for the enjoyment I receive, much to the contrary. I did read your questions. But I already addressed what I wanted to address and I find your questions reflect a basic, almost a willful misapprehension. And good grief, I'm hardly reluctant to share my opinions, I've never been accused of that. Nonetheless, the following.

Example 1: I said literally nothing about "philosophical bases" in a negative sense, only that the philosophical basis for sciences should be outwardly acknowledged. (Hence biology cannot be "too reliant" upon any philosophical basis, it simply is and will be reliant upon a set of philosophical principles, and that basis should be acknowledged, should be explicated, as such.) E.g., a philosophical naturalism or materialism is not a positive fact, rather it's one philosophical view, one which generally undergirds our conceptions of science, thus serving as the basis for scientific fact and inquiry. But it remains one philosophical view, one among other viable philosophical views, one that we privilege for science, though one which requires it's underlying dogmas and creeds, it's foundations, to be acknowledged, to be clarified as such. Outwardly acknowledging that and teaching that, both as preambles to some science discussions and perhaps in a rudimentary fashion in and of itself (in high schools), is fully warranted.

Example 2: I would classify mathematics and perhaps physics as something which approaches a conception of a pure science. I qualify that, a bit, because, again, I'm not a positivist is any thoroughgoing sense. I would not classify biology as a whole as a pure science. Far less would I so classify social sciences, though I have respect for them, within their own contexts and purviews.

Example 3: Concerning ID being taught in schools. I've already covered that in this thread and elsewhere. In science classrooms, no, though I would also indicate that evolution should be more carefully taught as well, in order to ensure ideological and other agenda oriented topics are not, consciously or otherwise, adumbrated onto scientific subjects. On the other hand, ID, or rather other viable philosophical views, should be taught within rudimentary philosophical discussions and/or classrooms under the rubric of Socratic irony and paradox, epistemological tentativeness, or whatever label seems appropriate. In these discussions our tentative, incomplete, proximate, hypothetical, provisional, etc. relationship to truth should be outwardly acknowledged, emphasized. Scientific naturalism or materialism would be presented as one philosophical view among others, granted that it's privileged for various reasons, but also noting that in privileging it various prejudices result vis-a-vis non-materialist views, vis-a-vis reality in toto, vis-a-vis any thoroughgoing and closely reasoned pursuit of truth. Etc.

Example 4: Scientists (e.g., a Dawkins) should take a lot of things more seriously than they sometimes do. Occasionally this results in critical occlusions, elisions, etc. Institutionally, this is particularly important in our eductational system, but it's also important in other institutional areas, think tanks, research forums, etc., which serve the public interest, thus which help to set a certain societal tone or general ethos vis-a-vis truth, science, etc. Too, see example 3.

Btw, virtually everything I've said in this post could be derived or discerned from my earlier posts in this thread.
10.4.2006 1:45am
Davis (mail) (www):

I would classify mathematics and perhaps physics as something which approaches a conception of a pure science.


Hmm. I wouldn't call mathematics science at all, let alone "pure science," and I think most of my fellow mathematicians would agree with me on that. Usually I describe it to people as "the language of science."

Though to be honest, when you say biology (as a whole) is not a pure science, I really can't tell what you mean by the term.
10.4.2006 4:31am
Michael S. Kochin (mail) (www):
It is a shame that I need to remind the law and economics types who congregate here that we need also to consider the costs side of the ledger. The historical costs of public promulgation of Darwinism include smoothing public accpetanmce for negative eugenics and racial science.
10.4.2006 5:52am
KMAJ (mail):
Quite possibly, you are not keeping abreast of some of the latest advances DNA technology and the determination that DNA acts as a bio-computer. in order to act as a computer, it must have programming. Where does the programming come from if there is no programmer ?

The DNA-wave Biocomputer
Peter P. Gariaev*, Uwe Kaempf **, Peter J. Marcer***, Georg G. Tertishny*, Boris Birshtein*, Alexander Iarochenko*, Katherine A. Leonova*

*Institute of Control Sciences, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow. Email, gariaev@aha.ru, http://www.aha.ru/~gariaev, and Wave Genetics Inc., 87 Scollard Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, MR5 1GA, gariaev@wavegenetics.com

**Institut f. Klinische, Diagnostische und Differentielle Psychologie- Am Falkenbrunnen - D-01062 Dresden TU Dresden, Germany, Email, uwe@psy1.psych.tu-dresden.de

***53 Old Vicarage Green, Keynsham, Bristol, BS31 2DH, UK. Email, petermarcer@aikido.freeserve.co.uk, http://www.bcs.org.uk/cybergroup.htm

Link to article:
http://www.bcs.org.uk/siggroup/cyber/dna.htm


The DNA-wave biocomputer theory described:

is that of a "gene-sign" laser and its solitone electro-acoustic fields, such that the gene-biocomputer "reads and understands" these texts in a manner similar to human thinking, but at its own genomic level of "reasoning". Thus, it asserts that natural human texts (irrespectively of the language used), and genetic "texts" should have similar mathematical-linguistic and entropic-statistic characteristics, where these concern the fractality of the distribution of the character frequency density in the natural and genetic texts, and where in case of genetic texts, the "characters" are identified, as is the convention, with the nucleotides.

=========================================================

The scientific theory advanced describes 'chromosome quantum nonlocality as a phenomenon of the genetic information, is seen as particularly important in multicellular organisms and as applying on various (6) levels.' It is the fourth through sixth levels that presnt the argument for cognitive ability within the DNA structure:

The 4th level is the molecular level: here, the ribosome "would read" mRNA not only with respect to the separate codons, but also as a whole and in consideration of their context.

The 5th level is the chromosome-holographic: at this level, a gene has a holographic memory, which is typically distributed, associative, and nonlocal, where the holograms "are read" by electromagnetic and/or acoustic fields. These carry the gene-wave information out beyond the limits of the chromosome structure. Thus, at this and subsequent levels, the nonlocality takes on its dualistic material-wave role, as may also be true for the holographic memory of the cerebral cortex.

The 6th level concerns the genome's quantum nonlocality. Up to the 6th level, the nonlocality of bio-information is realized within the space of an organism. This 6th level has, however, a special nature; not only because it is realized at the quantum level, but also because it works both through the space of a biosystem and in a biosystem's own time frame. Billions of an organism's cells can therefore "know" about each other instantaneously, allowing such a cell set to regulate and coordinate its metabolism and its own functions.Thus, nonlocality can be postulated to be the key factor explaining the astonishing evolutionary achievement of multicellular biosystems. This factor says that bioinformatic events, can be instantaneously co-ordinated, taking place "here and there simultaneously", and that in such situations the concept of "cause and effect" loses any sense. This is of a great importance! Intercellular diffusion of signal substances and of the nervous processes are far too inertial for this purpose. Even if it is conceded that intercellular transmissions take place electro-magnetically at light speeds, this would still be insufficient to explain how highly evolved, highly complex biosystems work in real time. The apparatus of quantum nonlocality and holography, is in authors' view, indispensable to a proper explanation of such real time working. The 6th level therefore says, genes can act as true quantum objects, and that, it is the phenomemon of quantum non-locality, that ensures organism's supercoherency, information superredundancy, superknowledge, cohesion and, as a totality or whole, the organism's integrity (viability).


Would your counter argument be that the intelligence/programming necessary for DNA to be a bio-computer is random or naturally occurring ? Is it merely a chance happening that such a complex system would develop on its own ? That it would have no programmer ?

Of course, you will revert to dismissive pejorative vernacular claiming I am arguing creationism, when all I am arguing is intelligence, not something supernatural. What is intelligence ? In scientific terms, intelligence is complexly organized energy. Without complexly organized energy there is no intelligence, and similarly, there can be no cerebral or DNA based life. While organized energy exists in nonlife, it is what creates the different elements of the atomic chart, the interactions necessary for life and cognizant thought, on both the human and DNA levels, are, to put it mildly, extremely complex. With all the complexity involved, the mathematical odds of chance occurence requires a large leap of faith in existing science, which does not even remotely come close to presenting a viable scientific explanation, by the standards you adhere to. Sometimes when one gets entrenched in their beliefs, they lose the ability to think critically.
10.4.2006 6:10am
MartinM:
Quite possibly, you are not keeping abreast of some of the latest advances DNA technology and the determination that DNA acts as a bio-computer



Or alternatively, you're unable to distinguish between "science" and "things which use long, complicated words." What you've got hold of here is, in fact, gibberish.
10.4.2006 10:47am
MartinM:
The historical costs of public promulgation of Darwinism include smoothing public accpetanmce for negative eugenics and racial science.


'Darwinism' leads to neither.
10.4.2006 10:49am
Colin (mail):
there are very few examples of known beneficial mutations relative to the amount that have to occur to drive the amount of change posited by evolutionary theory. This is a problem with evolutionary theory, but it's one I expect to be remedied as we learn more.

Untrue, unscientific, and silly. A quick example of known beneficial mutations, gleaned from a quick Googling:

“Beneficial mutations are commonly observed. They are common enough to be problems in the cases of antibiotic resistance in disease-causing organisms and pesticide resistance in agricultural pests (e.g., Newcomb et al. 1997; these are not merely selection of pre-existing variation.) They can be repeatedly observed in laboratory populations (Wichman et al. 1999). Other examples include the following:

* Mutations have given bacteria the ability to degrade nylon (Prijambada et al. 1995).
* Plant breeders have used mutation breeding to induce mutations and select the beneficial ones (FAO/IAEA 1977).
* Certain mutations in humans confer resistance to AIDS (Dean et al. 1996; Sullivan et al. 2001) or to heart disease (Long 1994; Weisgraber et al. 1983).
* A mutation in humans makes bones strong (Boyden et al. 2002).
* Transposons are common, especially in plants, and help to provide beneficial diversity (Moffat 2000).
* In vitro mutation and selection can be used to evolve substantially improved function of RNA molecules, such as a ribozyme (Wright and Joyce 1997).”

You might think that’s not enough “relative to the amount that have to occur to drive the amount of change posited by evolutionary theory.” I’m going to go out on a limb and say that you don’t have any idea (A) what that rate is, or (B) what the actual rate of “observed beneficial mutations” is. This is more argument via incredulity. Surprisingly enough, that’s not sound science. It’s pandering to your preconceptions.

Similarly, we have KMAJ, who dumps a lot of cut-and-paste on us with the thrilling conclusion: “Would your counter argument be that the intelligence/programming necessary for DNA to be a bio-computer is random or naturally occurring ? Is it merely a chance happening that such a complex system would develop on its own ? That it would have no programmer ?”

There is no evidence for any “programmer” of DNA, even assuming your analogy is sound. All you’ve come up with is your instinct that there should be. Again, it’s merely pandering to your preconceptions - you have no evidence or scientific process telling you that “such a complex system” can’t develop on its own.

Then, of course, you claim again to not be a creationist because, after all, it could be aliens who created all life as we know it. But your theory seems to be, as most creationists believe, that life can’t evolve on its own. If that’s true, then it really can’t be aliens, can it?

With all the complexity involved, the mathematical odds of chance occurence requires a large leap of faith in existing science, which does not even remotely come close to presenting a viable scientific explanation, by the standards you adhere to.

Really? What research have you done into the existing science? What works have you read? What theories do you find unpersuasive? Give us specifics, please. Am I going out on a limb when I guess that your extensive reading happened on the AiG website?

Sometimes when one gets entrenched in their beliefs, they lose the ability to think critically.

How very true. You can, perhaps, avoid that trap by reading and studying actual science, rather than creationist rhetoric.
10.4.2006 11:07am
Randy R. (mail):
Darwin and the natural selection folks never had anything to say about eugenics. Instead, it was the IDEA of natural selection that was taken by social 'scientists' (I use that term loosely) to weed out the unfit and unworthy. They took the phrase 'survival of the fittest' and made it a rallying cry for fascism. So they decided that the feeble-minded, the handicapped, the old, the deformed -- basically, anyone they considered 'undesirable', would be 'culled' from the population, leaving the remaining peoples stronger and better able to succeed.

This is Nazism 101. And for that reason, many people, religious or not, rightly condemned their theories. However, since the Nazis and their ilk claimed to base their ideas upon science and Darwin, it has tainted science and Darwin ever since. To a certain degree, this is why even today many people are skeptical of natural selection, because they fear that it will lead to the same conclusions that the Nazis did.

This is all very unfortunate. The blame lies not with the real scientists nor with Darwin, because the real science talk only about how species evolve, die out, and come into existence. What the fascists did was horrible, but put the blame squarely where it belongs -- on them.

If people understood this, I think it would go a long way to accepting evolution.
10.4.2006 1:49pm
Colin (mail):
And, of course, "survival of the fittest" in the evolutionary sense has nothing to do with weeding out weak individuals. But the "Darwinism=Holocaust" argument has never been founded on a strong understanding of either biology or history.
10.4.2006 1:55pm
Randy R. (mail):
Another thing I hear is that when children are taught that they came from apes, they begin to act like apes. Then they cite stats which show that the more evolution is taught in schools from the 60s on, the more violence that young people have engaged in. They are literally saying that the teaching of evolution has lead to the increase of violence across the board in America.

If only education were that effective! But seriously, we need to address this issue, silly though it is. First, apes and animals do not engage in violence unless it is to eat or prevent getting eaten. Otherwise they are quite peaceable. They don't engage in wanton violence, and certainly not against members of their own species (except in certain limited circumstances during the mating ritual). So, if the teaching of evolution made kids actually act like animals, I think we would all be better off.

Second, though, there simply is no causal connection between the teaching of, well anything in school, and the rise of violence. I've never heard of any such study. It's absurd on its face. In fact, it's where we have the poorest schools that violence occurs the greatest, and I hardly think your average gang leader is well versed in natural selection, or even knows who Darwin is.

But the biggest problem is that religious people feel very threatened by evolution. They believe that if students actually believe in evolution, then that will destroy their faith and their religion. This will lead to their souls being damned in hell. For this, I blame the religious leaders who hold their religion as so inflexible that it cannot survive the facts of life. I blame them for teaching people that it's an all or nothing proposition: Either you believe everything that the religion tells you, or you have to reject everything.

And this is a key part of why creationists love to attack small aspects of evolution. They believe that evolution is just as much as religion among scientists as Christianity is to religious believers. So they think that evolution MUST, just like religion, explain everything, from A to Z, and that it must be explanable in ways even a neophyte can understand. If you can't, if there is one tiny flaw, or one aspect that remains a mystery, then they go 'gotcha!" See, it fails! And therefore, the entire theory fails! And the only reason scientists still believe in evolution is blind faith!

They cannot grasp the basic method of science, that scientists willingly accept a theory, even if there are some remaining unknowns, and even if it doesn't explain the origins of life, the movement of the cosmos -- absolultely everthing. In their minds, evolution is a religion, like Christianity, and evolutino is a false religion, unlike the 'true' one. So that's why they must both be taught, so that the true Christian can question the other, and then make up his mind as to which he believes.

Arguing the actual science, as we have seen from these postings, doesn't begin to address any of these issues.
10.4.2006 2:04pm
Perseus (mail):
I'm wondering whether the distinction between ascientific and antiscientifc doesn't get a little blurry when string theorists (like ID'ers) resort to the anthropic principle as evidence. And as a practical matter, if ID requires an impressive ignorance of biology to accept and teachers are doing their jobs right, then ID should likewise be a minor distraction. (And please don't assume I'm advocating that ID should be taught. My tentative view is that if ID is taught, it should be placed in a philosophy of science module within a science course.)
10.4.2006 4:46pm
plunge (mail):
Randy, just to illustrate your example:
If you don't matter to God, you don't matter to ANYONE

That's right: teach and evolution AND GET SHOT IN THE FACE. Some openmindedness, no?
10.4.2006 5:13pm
plunge (mail):
"Michael S. Kochin (mail) (www): "The historical costs of public promulgation of Darwinism include smoothing public accpetanmce for negative eugenics and racial science."

The historical costs of understanding how physics works was nuclear weapons. That doesn't mean that pretending physics doesn't exist is accurate, or even on balance a good idea.

However, I would say that in the case of evolution, the opposite is actually the case. It's not a coincidence that the discovery of evolution, and indeed the advent of modern rationalism and science happened right in the same era wherein for the first time in all human history the basic racialist assumptions that had held sway were finally debunked and rejected from polite society.

Before evolution, the alternatives were not some sort of racial harmony: the two competing theories were that God created blacks seperately, or that they were a degraded form of original "true" human stock. Heck, even most civil rights leaders believed this. The true history of human evolution and genetics tossed all of that right out the window and made it impossible to sustain.
10.4.2006 5:23pm
Colin (mail):
I'm wondering whether the distinction between ascientific and antiscientifc doesn't get a little blurry when string theorists (like ID'ers) resort to the anthropic principle as evidence.

That sounds right to me. Where does that happen? I don't mean to express doubt in your assertion, as I often intend when I ask for a citation; I'm actually curious. As I said, I don't know much about string theory, and would like to see more of the highs and lows of its advocacy.

I'd say the practical impacts are still too disparate for the comparison to be very useful. String theory advocates aren't pounding desks in school boards demanding that they be allowed to insert inaccurate textbooks into curricula. There's no uncommondescent.com for string theory (at least as far as I know) to disseminate politically and religiously motivated misinformation. And, of course, no one is equating the standard physics curriculum with genocide.

And as a practical matter, if ID requires an impressive ignorance of biology to accept and teachers are doing their jobs right, then ID should likewise be a minor distraction.

Again, I think that's correct on its face. But we should remember that teachers aren't doing a great job teaching biology. I have no idea if they're doing better with physics, but the problem with biology is at least partially the political activism that tars and feathers objective science. See, i.e., the NYT article surveying how many classes in America just don't cover evolutionary theory adequately out of fear of the political repercussions.

I think that's the key distinction in my mind - teaching ID isn't just teaching a unit in the classroom. It's capitulation to a very self-aware political doctrine that intends to corrode secular education. There are consequences to that agenda that go beyond merely wasting time in the classroom.

Having said that, I do think that a brave and talented teacher could teach ID in a bio classroom with no negative effects, precisely as you suggest - as an example of pseudoscience. But as a policy matter, we can't rely on most, or even a significant majority, of bio teachers being independent and good enough to make that fly.
10.4.2006 5:41pm
Perseus (mail):
Here's a wikipedia excerpt on the anthropic principle.

String theory predicts a large number of possible universes, called the backgrounds or vacua. The set of these universes or vacua is often called the "multiverse" or "anthropic landscape" or "string landscape". Leonard Susskind [string theorist bigwig] has argued that the existence of a large number of vacua puts the anthropic reasoning on firm ground; only universes with the remarkable properties sufficient to allow observers to exist are beheld while a possibly much larger set of universes without such properties go utterly unnoted. Others, most notably David Gross but also Lubos Motl, Peter Woit and Lee Smolin, argue that this is not predictive.
10.4.2006 5:58pm
plunge (mail):
Hans:
"The article states that mutations in dogs on coding DNA is around two times that of wolves, and mentions a couple of possibilities for this difference."

Right.... and that doesn't ring any bells for you?

"That does not support your assertion that "all the different features we find in dog breeds are the result of mutations. It does lend some support the position that SOME of the traits in breeds MAY be caused by mutations."

Even though you seem to be coyly conceeding the point, look, maybe I was overestimating you. You DO understand, correct, that morphological traits are genetically determined, correct? That is, you can't build a great dane's body type out of thin air. Nor can you build it simply by shuffling around wolf genomes. The traits aren't there. You can look for them, and they aren't. If you search pubmed, you can find countless articles discussing the very specific genetic mechanisms that regulate things like snout length, coat thickness and performance and so on. As I noted, all of these articles would be impossible if what you assert is true. There are people out there who aren't simply trying to track down rare mutations: they are tracing back the ways in which various morphological traits evolved in dogs: not only THAT they did, but WHEN. Again, this wouldn't even possible if what you suggest were true. But it is possible, and indeed is so commonplace and uncontroversial in genetics that you can't even get a paper about it published in a good journal because no one cares anymore: it's already too well established to be of interest.

I think what you really need to do is sit down and actually read a textbook on modern genetics.

"Now, I'm not even doubting there are a few examples; and maybe as our knowledge of the animal and human genomes expands we will find many more; but there are very few examples of known beneficial mutations relative to the amount that have to occur to drive the amount of change posited by evolutionary theory."

??? I still forget who it was that I discussed darwins with. We've measured the rates of change, both genetically and morphologically. They are higher than the fastest change we see in fossil records: in fact, they are many orders of magnitude higher.

You speak of beneficial mutations, but this is a tell tale sign that you do not understand what you are looking for and at. Whether a mutation is beneficial or detrimental is not an objective property. In Connecticut, there is a family that has a genetic mutation that causes uncommonly dense bones, conferring both an immunity to breakage and osteoperosis. Is this a beneficial mutation? It could be. But it also could not be. The answer depends entirely on what the environmental demands are. Are squishy faces and neoteny "beneficial mutations." In most situations, they would not be. However, domestic dogs weren't in just any old situation: they were appealing to human beings. Human beings liked those things, and hence they turned out, in practice, to be beneficial.

"Further, while an apparently new and distinct trait may suggest a mutation is the cause, it does not prove it."

While it's true that some traits can be due to developmental happenstance, and others can be highly recessive traits coming out in just the right way, we're way beyond that with genetics today. As I said, we have the means to date the actual emergence of specific mutations and guage how they impacted development. This is an incredibly hot field in biology right now because the tools for doing so have become cheap and the basic genetic maps we've developed of species like dogs allow us to pinpoint the differences that emerge in specific lineages. Of course, in your world, none of this work even exists because there is almost nothing to study.

"Genes are more complicated than that. I don't know if non-shedding coats were gradually developed through selecting less shedding coats, or if they suddenly appeared. Do you know? Do you even care? If it's the former, I don't see any reason to suspect a mutation as the cause, and if it's the latter it still doesn't prove it."

Um, both are examples of mutation. You can't get non-shedding coats without it. You can't even get less and less shedding without mutation because there is an pre-existing range of variation in a population, and any "more" in a particular direction has to come subsequent to it. But what this variation is isn't some vast mystery. You can MEASURE it. That's what geneticists DO and have done. You don't find short hair poodle genes hanging around in the wolves ancestral to all dogs. You don't even find any evidence of them ever being there. And in the actual lines of branching breed ancestry within domestic dogs, you find a pattern of genetic difference that is CLADISTIC. That is, sub-variations of sub-variations of the genes that you DO find in ancestral wolves: they are even recognizable to the point where you can have a pretty good idea not only what mutations happened over the course of time, but approximately when they happened (and in some cases in other such chains, we even know the EXACT individual which first had the mutation! (though this is a bit misleading since often new traits are a blend of many different minor mutational events that happen in different individuals)). How can we possibly be deriving a DATE for an event you deny we can even know ever happened because it supposedly doesn't?

And how come you repeatedly refuse to answer my point about diversity. If what you say is true, it should be measurable: measurable by a steady of loss of functional variation and increased homogeniety. Yet, somehow, genetic diversity manages to not only keep abrest of selection, but continually races to outpace it. How do you explain that? Where is all the replacement variation coming from?

"If anything is "pseudo-science," it's your apparent attitude that anything you believe is a "fact" or is naturally assumed. Take, for example, your statement that macro and micro evolution are always defined by the species concept among biologists. The two biology textbooks I have at my disposal (Campbell's Biology and Animal Diversity) do not define either in terms of the species concept, though I am familiar with that perspective, and accept it as one of the valid competing definitions."

Oh snore. Please: present these definitions instead of defining them negatively and we'll see. There has been pleny of historical debate over the use of those terms, but most of it has long settled into esoterica. The definition I've given isn't simply one valid one among many competiting: it's the general distinction common to the way biologists use the terms, even if there is still dispute over other elements.

"The same ambiguity can be seen in the species concept itself, some texts describe it as an interbreeding population, some describe it as all animals with the ability to procreate with one another, still others describe it as the ability to procreate and produce viable and fertile offspring. Now anybody should recognize each of these definitions as one used by biologists, even if one has a preference."

Anyone that knows anything about the species concept knows that it is inherently problematic for a whole host of reasons: most of them connected to the very things you seem to deny about genetics and evolutionary change. There can be no single bright line that works in all cases, even if we limit the discussion to only sexual species.

"The fact that you have ONLY seen macro and micro evolution described in those terms leads me to believe your exposure to biology is more limited than you would have us believe."

I've only defined those terms against the widely known creationist distortions of them.

Aren't you the one who claims that the emergence of new traits via mutation isn't part of the microevolutionary scope? Is that REALLY what Campbell's textbook has to say about the matter? All mutation is macroevolution? So when tetrachromatism first emerged in women around a thousand years ago, what was it? Macroevolutionary change? Speciation? What scope covers it?
10.4.2006 6:11pm
Perseus (mail):
And if you're interested in the criticisms of string theory, here are 2 books: The Trouble with Physics by Lee Smolin and Not Even Wrong by Peter Woit.
10.4.2006 6:15pm
blspro:
"in order to act as a computer, it must have programming. Where does the programming come from if there is no programmer ?"

LOL.

From watches to computers - the historic object of comparison changes with advances in technology, but the analogy remains as fallacious as ever. 'X is LIKE something man-made, so it MUST have a maker too.' This argument by analogy fallacy has been exploded so many times it is embarrasing to have to even read it again.
10.5.2006 4:11am
Michael B (mail):
"Hmm. I wouldn't call mathematics science at all, let alone "pure science," and I think most of my fellow mathematicians would agree with me on that. Usually I describe it to people as "the language of science."" Davis

This seems more like a quibble than anything very substantial. Firstly, mathematics possesses a "purity" in an abstract/conceptual sense, such that highly refined and exacting proofs can be deduced. Too, science, (for example using 19th century German definition) could easily be applied to mathematics. Apply whatever definition you like, however narrow you like, and I'm not interested in quibbling over that in the least.

Still, I was using a broad conception of the term, i.e. it can in fact be conceived as an abstract science or scientific discipline, one which can be used in and of itself, or one which can be used to undergird other scientific disciplines; but that is true for most, if not all scientific disciplines. Indeed, inter-disciplinary approaches to science are common.
10.5.2006 7:57pm
Michael B (mail):
One example only where a mathematician indicates mathematics is a science. Again, not in the least to quibble, only that it depends upon the definition used. And if math is not deemed a science or scientific discipline in and of itself, what specific definition of science is being used? When Husserl (originally a mathematician) wrote his "Crisis of the European Sciences" he was in some part attempting to broaden the definition vis-a-vis a set of social (human) sciences while still maintaining a sufficient internal discipline such that the term science could be seen as possessing relevance and authority.
10.5.2006 8:16pm
Michael B (mail):
Btw, there's something else going on here as well.

Offering, or at least attempting to offer, a positive definition of science is incumbent upon those who preach and profess a concern with distinguishing a true conception of science from a scientism, a quasi-science or a pseudo-science. Yet far more typically than not, those who preach and profess such a concern fail to tackle this task, indeed they often avoid doing so.

That elision, that omission or studied avoidance, is telling as it's revealing of a certain presumptive quality, one which attempts to insinuate itself as an authority without submitting itself to a positive standard. This is a tactic, a ploy, which authoritarians and presumptives have used for ages, long before Machiavelli. Is this vein it's one indication - among others still - that they're unwilling to set a definitive and closely reasoned standard against which their own interests and assertions can be measured. Thus they forward preachments and condemnations without offering a positive and sound philosophical basis for their own conceptions of science qua science, of science strictly understood.
10.5.2006 10:59pm
Colin (mail):
Yes, it's an insidiouus plot designed by creeping authoritarians to force others to submit to redefinition and aggressive italicization.

You know, there is such a field as philosophy of science. People study and write about these questions. There are a number of standards you could adopt.

Or you could make veiled accusations about eeeeeevil biologists. Or do you refer to them as scientismists? Scienticians? Perhaps they're just absolutist would-be monarchs in black robes white labcoats. Do you realize your standard rhetoric about judges tracks very closely with what I think is intended to be a complaint about scientists?

Let's try it this way: what is your positive definition of science? Does biology not meet it? I honestly can't tell. Your posts are becoming aggressively oblique again. Once more, I'm wondering: What is Michael B. going on about?
10.6.2006 2:06am
Michael B (mail):
Perhaps I missed it, where is it that you offer up your definitions? (Too, you still haven't indicated whether I'm right or not concerning your Ivy League antecedents.)

But oh dear, my humble offerings are subjected to more contempt, more mocking disdain, more sneering dismissiveness by the self-authorizing, grand inquisitor himself. However, unlike yourself Colin, I've already, at least in a suggestive sense, noted what my ideas concerning science are, if not a "pure science". I've noted for example a requisite emphasis upon a hypothetical conception, rather than a positivistic conception, of science.

And again, I notice you fail to offer your own definitions of either science or a pure science, once more exempting yourself from the requirement, from the standards you'd apply to others. Nonetheless, I'll presume to ask:

1) What definition of "science" do you offer, Colin?

2) And what definition of a "pure science" do you have to offer?

Still, I won't shirk the challenge, I'll tackle a definition, at least something in a suggestive sense, of what a pure science might be conceived as.

Firstly, back to a conception of science which emphasizes a hypothesis orientation, in contradistinction to a positivistic conception. This global warming analogy serves precisely such an emphasis, i.e. as previously noted our "tentative, incomplete, proximate, hypothetical, provisional, etc. relationship to truth" and thus to positive and absolute scientific claims concerning truth as well. Does this now suggest global warming has been disproven? No, it much more simply suggests that the hypothetical quality of knowledge, whether scientifically founded or otherwise, needs to be one of the disciplines applied to the scientific community, both internally and externally. This is especially so, one might suggest, when topics such as global warming in one vein, or evolution in different sense, lend themselves to other, extra-scientific agendas, whether they be ideological agendas, financial agendas (e.g., seeking grants, subsidies), or some other agenda still.

The scientist cum ideologue, much like the clerics of another era, like to forward themselves as authorities, as self-authorizing agents whose authority should be taken at face value or at least should not be submitted to the same level of scrutiny that others need to be subjected to (see the 10.5.2006, 9:59pm comment directly above).

Another question this analogy might invoke, a question which leads into a proximate definition of pure science: Is climatology a pure science? This of course echos the same question concerning biology, or any other scientific discipline. Let's say mathematics or physics is to be conceived as the purest of sciences (1 + 1 = 2 cannot be transmogrified into 1 + 1 = 3 without raising eyebrows and without suggesting other agendas, beyond science per se, are evidencing themselves). By contrast some of the social sciences might be conceived as among the "least pure," as they lend themselves to other, extra-scientific interests and agendas, also because they are far more speculative in their orientation than purely conceived along a rational/empirical orientation. By this standard we might award mathematics and physics a "10" on a scale of 1 to 10, while awarding some of the social sciences a "1" or a "2" or "3" on the same scale. On this simple scale perhaps chemistry would be awarded a "9.9" while biology, dependent upon chemistry, might be awarded a "9.8". So where does that put climatology, a "9.8" as well, or a bit less?

Well, who knows and what does it matter? The point being that while mathematics and physics do not lend themselves to ideological or other agendas very easily at all, other disciplines along the scale or continuum of less purity do lend themselves more easily (in relative terms) to extra-scientific influences, whether those influences be ideological in character or reflective of some other set of interests. Climatology, because of imprecise modeling and other factors, along with the social/political incentives to skew the data, or skew the interpretation of the data, cannot be thought of as a pure science to the same extent mathematics or physics can.

Likewise biology. In one sense climatology or biology could be considered pure sciences, as long as the definition of "pure science" is not too rigorous and not too mindful of the ideological and other interests which variously impinge upon those sciences, those who seek to use these sciences for purposes beyond the application of science per se (e.g., a Dawkins, or differently a Dennett). But that is very much the point. Mathematics and physics not only do not lend themselves very readily or very easily to ideological uses, they also are not disciplines in and of themselves which ideologues are directly interested in. Not so climatology and biology, both of which can, in theory, be used for purely scientific ends, but both of which lend themselves to ideological and other agendas more readily than mathematics or physics do.

In summary, one conception of a "pure science" might take into account the degree to which it's a purely rational or a purely rational/empirical science (e.g., mathematics, physics) vs. "softer" sciences which lend themselves or even necessitate more speculation and interpretation (e.g., psychology, anthropology, archeology). Those sciences necessitating more speculation surely would tend to lend themselves more readily to ideological agendas and prejudices. Another conception might take into account the degree to which the scientists and other interest groups, in addition to their scientific interest per se, have ideological or other agendas they are attempting to adumbrate onto their scientific interests. If a science is sufficiently speculative that it lends itself to extra-scientific agendas, yet there are no interest groups which have an ideological agenda they're attempting to subject the science in question to, then surely the purity of such a science would no so readily be called into question. Still other qualifications relevant to what a "pure science" is might be offered as well.

So again, what definitions do you have to offer Colin?
10.6.2006 4:22am