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A Creationist Credential:

The Dallas-based Institute for Creation Research is seeking state approval to train science teachers. This is one of those ideas that should be left on the shelf, right next to Lynne Spears' book on parenting.

c.j. ammenheuser:
One would assume they will teach Newtonian physics
12.26.2007 4:47pm
Anonym (mail):
Should move heardquarters to Poland, where:
1. Catholic religion is indoctrinated in kindergartens and elementary schools at taxpayers' expense,
2. Army has on payroll priests in ranks of Generals,
http://www.ordynariat.wp.mil.pl
3. Calling pope an old man gets you 2 years in jail (suspended, if you are famous overseas),
4. Police conducts "Save Vacations" program sniffing vegetarians at camp sites (which are known to be suspected memebers of any non-Catholic sect = criminals),
5. Police use Catholic priests during traffic stops to lecture citizens!

All in the middle of European Union.

I guess, it does not fit to print in certain New York newspaper.
12.26.2007 4:49pm
Thinker:
Funny - the older I get - the scarier I find fringe social conservatism. I've always believed that social conservatism isn't really one of the "legs" of the conservative "stool" - it was just an overestimated fringe group. Now - when you see the "structure" and long term planning they surround themselves with - it begins to unsettle me. Stories like this leave me wide awake at midnight, looking out the window.
12.26.2007 5:19pm
Michael B (mail):
I'll believe people are concerned with science qua science - i.e. largely with empiricism and rationality - when I also see evidence they are concerned with, for example, materialist philosophical agendas that variously attach themselves to purportedly purely scientific projects and agendas. Taking easy and cheap shots at young earth creationists is to be expected and is fine in this type of arena if one is likewise ready to take shots that are not so cheap - i.e. at other philosophical, ideological and social/political influences that erode better conceptions of science.

But that equally balanced willingness is not typically on evidence, even to the contrary, and that fact belies the notion that truth qua truth is the most basic issue at hand. People tend to count costs, as well they should, before they take their shots and place their bets. But the costs to the person vs. the costs to science qua science and truth for its own sake are not often, fully and justly, weighed in the balance.

(Global warming brow-beatings, or debates, or whatever they're more properly conceived as, are but the most obvious arena where that lack of balanced willingness has evidenced itself. Though in this arena the pressure is beginning to alleviate due to the increasing numbers of "skeptics," i.e. the other consensus.)
12.26.2007 5:22pm
Mike99 (mail):
Oh dear. In making a decision regarding accreditation, only one question need be asked and honestly answered: Is "Creation Science" (or scientific creationism, etc;) falsifiable? Evolution, and any other scientific pursuit relies on theories (theory does not have the same meaning in scientific use and as used by the general populace) that are always and at any time, in part or in whole, falsifiable. Indeed, that is the hallmark of science. If a theory cannot be falsified, it cannot claim to be science.

The problem is, of course, that the ultimate, final underpinning of "Scientific Creationism" or whatever it's being called this week, may be summed up in this simple sentence: God did it. And for those who "believe" in "Creation Science," that simple assertion absolutely may not be falsified, for it is a statement of belief, of faith, and faith, by definition, requires no objective proof. One believes or one does not, and no amount of evidence has the slightest influence on that belief or lack thereof. The degree and fervor of one's faith in God is a measurement of one's committment to God. Christian theology teaches quite clearly that those who have great faith shall be thereby rewarded.

There is, of course, nothing whatever wrong with faith. But we must always be honest about the clear difference between faith and science. A scientist does not abandon science if, having no evidence to explain a phenomena, he believes God as good a cause as any. However, if a cause other than God is discovered to explain that phenomena, any scientist who does not embrace that legitimate, falsifiable explanation is abandoning science and entering quite another realm.

"Scientific Creationism" is not science, and can never be science. As such, even if the First Amendment did not prohibit it, rational people should be able to agree that it, and anything that does not represent the best current information in any discipline, must not take precious minutes in any classroom. After all, are those who wish to study creationism in any form in any way hindered in that pursuit?
12.26.2007 5:22pm
Anonym (mail):
Did I mention that in Poland you can also have the government build for you an entire school, provided you are willing to indoctrinate Catholic faith in it:
fancy school link

Or, at worst, you can have the government take on public payroll an entire staff:
http://kul.edu.pl/art_138.html


All with European Union money.
I guess, this too did not fit to print in certain paper.
12.26.2007 5:29pm
Roger Schlafly (www):
If colleges lost their credentials for teaching wacky things, then we'd have a lot fewer credentialed colleges.
12.26.2007 5:33pm
Thinker:
Roger - And we would have been saved the Critical Legal Studies movement....
12.26.2007 5:44pm
c.j. ammenheuser:
We are not in Poland; Newton was British but his apples continue to fall due to gravitational pull, a theory upon which relativity, the string theory and quantum is linked- If you flunked science: gravity and electromagnetism, along with a weak and a strong energy are the start of creation. (also known as the big bang) I, along with Newton, believe there is no other explanation of the universe than to believe that energy had intelligence. To believe evolution according to Darwin precludes too many answers, which is unaceptable in scientific research.
12.26.2007 5:46pm
c.j. ammenheuser:
...and the earth would still be the center of the universe
12.26.2007 5:52pm
Seamus (mail):

2. Army has on payroll priests in ranks of Generals,
http://www.ordynariat.wp.mil.pl



I hate to break the news to you, but the United States Army also has generals who are clergymen.
12.26.2007 6:00pm
Dan S:
Can we decredit all the universities that are still pushing the falsified socialist program? How many times must an experiment fail before the theory is deemed unworkable?
12.26.2007 6:10pm
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
c.j. ammenheuser wrote:
To believe evolution according to Darwin precludes too many answers, which is unaceptable in scientific research.
Believing Darwin was right is no different from believing any other scientist was right and does not preclude *any* other belief. Treating Darwin as infallible would have that effect, but no scientist would take that position. The fact that the evidence all supports evolution proves only that he was right, not that he was infallible.

Creationists, of course, do believe that their worldview is infallible. It is thus they and not Darwin whose tachings "preclude too many answers".
12.26.2007 6:13pm
Anon Y. Mous:

Mike99:
Oh dear. In making a decision regarding accreditation, only one question need be asked and honestly answered: Is "Creation Science" (or scientific creationism, etc;) falsifiable? Evolution, and any other scientific pursuit relies on theories (theory does not have the same meaning in scientific use and as used by the general populace) that are always and at any time, in part or in whole, falsifiable. Indeed, that is the hallmark of science. If a theory cannot be falsified, it cannot claim to be science.

Is evolution falsifiable?
12.26.2007 6:20pm
c.j. ammenheuser:
Edward Hoffman wrote: the fact that all evidence supports evolution

1. All evidence does not support evolution
2. I stated that schools teaching spoon-fed Darwin education 'precludes TOO MANY answers'- I did not say all answers,
3.Isaac Newton, if alive, would be considered a creationist: perhaps he is infallible, since his theory is still the foundation of physics
4.Scientists should be free to learn and research without the limits of a state imposed education directed to the 'left brain mentality of memorizing' such as Darwinian evolution,
5.a scientist should not be fired for exploring theory beyond Darwin
6. Sir Newton wrote more about God than he did gravity, and did so without persecution: would he be able to do this now? Evidently not
12.26.2007 6:36pm
Guest101:

Is evolution falsifiable?

Yes. See, e.g., fossil rabbits in the Pre-Cambrian. Facile God-of-the-gaps arguments miss the point entirely. In fact, your link misses several points, not least being: 1) biological evolution and origin-of-life theories address completely separate questions; and 2) adaptability in the face of new evidence is a strength, not a weakness, of a scientific approach.
12.26.2007 6:36pm
Waldensian (mail):

Is evolution falsifiable?

Of course. Show me the famed Precambrian bunny.
12.26.2007 6:39pm
Waldensian (mail):
Darn, Guest 101 beat me to the Haldane quote.

Okay, here's a more nuanced description.
12.26.2007 6:41pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"6. Sir Newton wrote more about God than he did gravity, and did so without persecution: would he be able to do this now? Evidently not"

Sure he could. Scientists can write whatever they choose. However, science is the product of the scientific method. Scientists can write about science, and they can write about other subjects that are not science. All writing by scientists is no more science than all writing by lawyers is legal opinion.

For example, thousands of scientists believe in god and various religious teachings that are not the product of the scientific method.
12.26.2007 6:51pm
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
In response to c.j. ammenheuser:
1. All evidence does not support evolution
You're right. Only all evidence relevant to the truth or falsity of evolution supports it.
2. I stated that schools teaching spoon-fed Darwin education 'precludes TOO MANY answers'- I did not say all answers,
I did not say you said "all answers". What I said was that accepting a scientific theory does not preclude *any* answers.
3.Isaac Newton, if alive, would be considered a creationist: perhaps he is infallible, since his theory is still the foundation of physics
Newton was eminently fallible and no scientist would claim otherwise. The fact that he was right about many things does not mean he was right about everything.
4.Scientists should be free to learn and research without the limits of a state imposed education directed to the 'left brain mentality of memorizing' such as Darwinian evolution,
They are. A scientist who can disprove evolution -- or even come up with a credible alternative theory that is consistent with the evidence and scientifically sount -- would earn a place in the scientific pantheon. The reason it hasn't happened is not that scientists are closed-minded; it's that no such theory has ever been proposed.
5.a scientist should not be fired for exploring theory beyond Darwin
I agree. I have never heard of one who was, though I have heard of some being (rightly) fired for refusing to explore theories consistent with Darwin. I have also heard of scientists being fired for basing work upon theories that were not scientifically sound; that is also proper regardless of whether the theory has anything to do with evolution.
6. Sir Newton wrote more about God than he did gravity, and did so without persecution: would he be able to do this now? Evidently not
Sure he would. Of course, Newton was not a biologist. What he wrote at the time was consistent with the then-current understanding of biology. Were he alive today and writing about God based upon a current understanding of biology he would likely have very interesting things to say. They would be theology rather than science, but he would understand that distinction. Would you?
12.26.2007 6:52pm
CrazyTrain (mail):
Speaking of Creationism, this has to be one of the funniest comments I have ever seen on it. It is short but really gets down to how loony and out-of-it creationists are:


I was going to leave well enough alone for the next few days. But my old friend Ed Brayton drags me back into the breach with this amusing anti-evolutionary screed from "Joseph Grant Swank, who would need at least one promotion to get to be an idiot."

Rev. Swank -- "It's a crazy world we live in. Crazier every day. But one of the craziest notions that ever came down the pike is evolution. Who in his right mind would ever believe that the complicated homo sapien derived from a speck? That's getting the larger from the smaller."

So, believing we came from a microscopic speck over the course of four billion years is off the chain crazy, accepting it can happen in nine months flat on the other hand ...

12.26.2007 7:07pm
Anderson (mail):
Sir Newton wrote more about God than he did gravity, and did so without persecution

Because he kept those writings *secret*. Doh!
12.26.2007 7:08pm
Gary Anderson (mail):
For the record, Catholics understand and have no problem with the theory of evolution. Further, Poland has given the world some quite competent scientists.

It's the evangelical Christians who believe every word of the book. Including the fact that Israel is to be supported because she is fated for destruction, to fulfill the prophecies.

"Know your enemy" is a practical adage. Just because the evangelicals seem to be supportive, and it's easy to Catholic bash, doesn't mean you shouldn't look ahead to distinguish the true black hats from the whites.
12.26.2007 7:10pm
pgepps (www):
Well, this is tedious rehearsing of the well-worn, the cheap, and the irrelevant.

Hey, look what I found in the footnotes of a book published in 2027:

(293) The famed "Pre-Cambrian Bunny" story took an ironic turn when the fossilized remains of a rabbit were, in fact, discovered in an otherwise consistently Pre-Cambrian rock formation. Researchers have puzzled over how to explain the inclusion, suggesting several mechanisms by which the very improbable may have happened. "At any rate," says Dr. W. N. B. Haldane, "from now on we shall perhaps have to speak of a 'Pre-Cambrian Reindeer' to be on the safe side."

------------------

Falsifiability is a canard. If an explanation is found interesting and satisfying to a sufficiently influential group, they will exclude contrary explanations and explain away inconsistencies. This tendency is certainly present in scientific communities, whether the view excluded is one new in the past two centuries, or one common to the preceding millennia.
12.26.2007 7:12pm
Gary Anderson (mail):
And finally, were it not for the Catholic Church and the inspiration of Pope John Paul in the Solidarity movement, some believe it would have taken much longer for the Iron Curtain to fall. Not Ronald Reagan, the damn Pope!


Take care in criticizing the Catholics. If you understand their teaching, you may just find one day they truly could be your best friend, even risk their lives to save yours.
12.26.2007 7:13pm
c.j. ammenheuser:
Using any evolutionary theory, including Macroevolution or micro evolution, how does one explain the intelligence of the human species and its ability to think and solve problems, other than to say, we do NOT know all the answers, but perhaps we should consider the possibility that life was created by an energy that carried the Trait of Intelligence; and call the energy Intelligence, or call it god, or call it rocktreefish-
12.26.2007 7:14pm
c.j. ammenheuser:

Anderson- Isaac Newton's religious writings were not secret. Doh?
"Gravity controls the planets but who put the planets in motion?" Newton could not give it an answer other than to say God put the planets in motion; which is 'intelligent design'

In response to Edward Hoffman:
I completely disagree that a scientist should be fired for believing the possibility of intelligent design if the word RESEARCH is part of the job description
12.26.2007 7:30pm
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
c.j. ammenheuser:

Scientists who disbelieve a theory for reasons outside of science should not take jobs which their beliefs prevent them from doing properly. I'm sure you would agree that a civil engineer who rejects the theory of gravity should not design bridges. The same concept applies here.
12.26.2007 7:40pm
Baseballhead (mail):
...perhaps we should consider the possibility that life was created by an energy that carried the Trait of Intelligence; and call the energy Intelligence, or call it god, or call it rocktreefish-
I prefer the Flying Spaghetti Monster, myself, but I'm told that makes a heretic. Creation scientists are a tough crowd.
12.26.2007 7:46pm
Mike99 (mail):
Falsifiability is the underpinning of science. Faith is the underpinning of religion. Evolution, in part or in whole, may certainly be falsified. That it has not as yet been falsified speaks not to some anti-God conspiracy, but to the fact that no theory that sufficiently explains observed and tested phenomena as well as evolution has been, to date, proposed. In all of the history of science since the Enlightenment, it has not always been easy to overturn, to falsify what was accepted, but in every case, the truth has won, the better, more provable and more replicable observations have ultimately been accepted and we are immeasurably the better for it. But the ultimate truth is that it is certainly possible that a hypothesis that better explains the facts that embody evolutionary theory may come to be regarded as the valid theory, and may be tested and accepted at any time in the future, just as evolutionary theory has been tested and come to be accepted.

None of this can be said about "Scientific Creationism." Why not? Because its ultimate, final, immutable explanation is always and forever that God did it. That cannot be falsified, indeed, no "creation scientist would ever entertain such a notion, and that is just fine, as far as it goes. The problem arises when those who feel that way proclaim their way as the one, true, scientific way, a way that deserves equal time with real science in the nation's classrooms. But this is ultimately deceptive, for the true believers in creationism would, if they could, wipe away evolution in the nation's texts and in the practice of science, and would brook no attempt to falsify it.

Again, all of this is unnecessary as those who wish to believe in creationism need not call it science. They are absolutely free to publish, to read those publications, to stand on a soapbox in the public square, and to persuade any who would believe them. What they cannot do, what they can never be allowed to do, is to seize time in the public schools for this. Should they suceed in that endeavor, what honestly, strongly held belief could legitimately be kept out of our textbooks?
12.26.2007 7:46pm
c.j. ammenheuser:
Hoffman:
An engineer is not hired to think outside the box, whereas a scientist is given the impossible task to think outside the box and then prove the impossible is possible. This kind of expansive thinking is how many cures for diseases will be found

The Flying Spaghetti monster. Space.com?
12.26.2007 7:58pm
Byron00:

With the creationists and ID folks out there doing their goofy thing, religion needs no enemies. On the other side, we have Hitchens, Dennett, Dawkins, Harris, et al., doing their village atheist thing, so science needs no enemies, either. But both these groups badly need each other to sell their books, do the lucrative lecture circuit, etc.

The whole lamentable, unnecessary, bogus charade should be sanctioned by Vince McMahon and the WWE.
12.26.2007 8:33pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"but perhaps we should consider the possibility that life was created by an energy that carried the Trait of Intelligence; and call the energy Intelligence, or call it god, or call it rocktreefish-"

Sure. But just don't call is science unless it's the product of the scientific method. At most it's observation and hypothesis. All it needs now is experimental demonstation. Go for it.

I'm not aware of any science that tells us how life originated. Does anyone know of any hypothesis on the origin of life that has been verified by experiment?
12.26.2007 8:38pm
Pixy Misa (mail) (www):
Falsifiability is a canard. If an explanation is found interesting and satisfying to a sufficiently influential group, they will exclude contrary explanations and explain away inconsistencies. This tendency is certainly present in scientific communities, whether the view excluded is one new in the past two centuries, or one common to the preceding millennia.
This is an interesting defense of something that is scientifically indefensible: Simply claim that all your opponents are liars.

I have to ask, though... If falsifiability is a canard, and scientists routinely exclude contrary explanations, whence came the Theory of Evolution in the first place? Relativity? Quantum mechanics? All science, ever?
12.26.2007 8:40pm
PersonFromPorlock:
Mike99:

...only one question need be asked and honestly answered: Is "Creation Science" (or scientific creationism, etc;) falsifiable?

I haven't got a dog in this fight, but is 'natural selection' falsifiable? Survival of the fitted (which is a better expression of the concept) certainly seems to happen; but then, the 'fit' of the organism to its environment is shown by its surviving. Tautologies are notoriously hard to falsify.
12.26.2007 8:40pm
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
c.j. ammenheuser:

Scientists are not supposed to "prove the impossible is possible". That is a description of magic, not science. Until you understand what science is and is not, there is little point trying to discuss scientific questions with you.

That scientists accept evolution is not because they fail to think "outside the box". It's because no other theory adequately explains the available evidence. Scientists are *supposed* to believe theories under these circumstances. They are also supposed to reject those theories when better ones come along, but no better explanation has yet been found and it is very unlikely that any ever will.
12.26.2007 8:44pm
Michael B (mail):
"Oh dear. In making a decision regarding accreditation, only one question need be asked and honestly answered: Is "Creation Science" (or scientific creationism, etc;) falsifiable? Evolution, and any other scientific pursuit relies on theories (theory does not have the same meaning in scientific use and as used by the general populace) that are always and at any time, in part or in whole, falsifiable." Mike99, emphasis added

"... what [theories absent falsifiable hypotheses] can never be allowed to do, is to seize time in the public schools for this." Mike99, parenthetical edit

Well, I think you're in this hugely over your head, but let's go with that and find out how sincerely vested - and how thoughtfully vested - this concern is. AGW - together with its theorized egregious effects - are variously taught in public schools (e.g., uses made of Gore's absurdly alarmist film in public school and science curricula).

Please inform the thread how GW - together with its variously theorized effects - are falsifiable, given the hallmark quality accorded falsifiability as an epistemic anchor point. Or is falsifiability a selective concern? Is it deemed important in one scientific setting, but not another? And why?

(To be clear, Gore's film can responsibly be described as "absurdly alarmist" vis-a-vis science and scientific claims - no matter the political, ideological, etc. justifications one might leverage in support of his film on extra-scientific and theoretical grounds. Yet there is no ground-swell movement running contrary to the uses made of Gore's film in public school science classes and curricula. Even to the contrary, and that despite the fact of the increasing size of the "other consensus.")

"theory does not have the same meaning in scientific use and as used by the general populace" Mike99

Perhaps, but this statement needs support, it needs some weight associated with it. Within scientific literature the term carries, depending upon context, a variety of connotations; it does not carry a single and discrete meaning within the literature. Even as conceived in more common associations such as "string theory" and "evolutionary theory" there are subtle but also prominent and pivotally different connotations at play. Similarly, the fact that the general public uses some terms in a different and less precise sense at times, than the technician, is a non-controversial statement.
12.26.2007 8:47pm
no dog:
CJ,

Most scientists don't think outside the box. In industry, they are hired to make their company's detergent 5% more effective annually. At universities, they apply a scientific theory to solve a problem that is only slightly different from the problem that was recently solved. This safe approach is understandable given the pressure to make money or publish lots of papers. It's incremental but it's not bad. A relatively few scientists think outside the box but it's not the norm.

I'm not familiar with evolutional biology but I don't understand how the results of any study could support creationism (excluding a choir of angels singing around the scientist). Results might not support theories A through Y, but that does not mean that that they have to support theory Z. A scientific theory needs evidence to support it in its own right.
12.26.2007 8:53pm
DeezRightWingNutz:
Public school supporters, take heed. This is the reason you shouldn't support public schools. Gun control advocates, this is also the reason you should support gun rights. Idiots like me elected a man like George Bush, and may do it again. You can't let education fall into the hands of evil/stupid/corrupt men, which is bound to happen from time to time if the government runs it.

If you were like Brain (from Pinkey and the Brain) and wanted to take over the world, what would you want to control? I'd say, schools, the media, and weapons, wouldn't you? So why just give control of (most) schools to the government? If you fear these conservative nogoodniks, at least support a second-best solution of vouchers. That way, even the poor can afford to send their kids to a school that doesn't teach creation "science."
12.26.2007 8:58pm
c.j. ammenheuser:
Elliot123:
The science that explains creation is physics: the Theory of Relativity and Quantum String Theory. Even the Catholic Church believes the big bang theory.
Edward Hoffman:
Darwin's Theory of Evolution is a paradigm, and at some point that junk science will be replaced with better science
12.26.2007 9:34pm
Qwinn:
Okay, to start off, I'm an agnostic that was raised Catholic. Neither one requires me to be biased toward or against evolution.

But here's the thing: I view "intelligent design" not as an argument that there's a God, but as a refutation of the theory of evolution. It's not a "theory" in and of itself, and it is mostly those who oppose it that try to label it as such. When people say they want intelligent design to be taught in schools, what they're really saying is that they want the holes in evolutionary theory to be taught as well, not exclusively the evidence that supports Darwin.

I personally find many of the arguments against evolution to be compelling, such as the irreducible complexity of the eye, just for one. There's quite a few others, and the number of hoaxes that have been perpetrated in the name of proving evolution (Piltdown man, etc.) are so numerous as to beg suspicion. Admitting that evolution has no answer for the irreducible complexity argument (and pointing out that Dawkins tried to rebut it with a blatant lie) doesn't require one to believe in God.

This is where the pro-evolution types do their case no favors - they attack the arguments of the ID crowd as if a belief in God was the beginning, not the end of their argument. But it isn't. ID's arguments -begin- with disproving evolution, and only the very last step (which not all ID'ers consider necessary) is: "Since we have proved that evolution can't be true, it must be intelligent design because nothing else can achieve the observed phenomena". The pro-evo types start by attacking the conclusion without acknowledging the arguments that led up to it, the ones that seek to undermine evolutionary theory. That itself doesn't seem like a very scientific approach to me. If anything, it sounds like what a proponent of a faith based system would do.

Qwinn
12.26.2007 9:36pm
Mark Buehner (mail):
It would be a collosal waste of space to list the enormous amount of scientific breakthroughs in technology and medicine directly developed via modern biology, which rests firmly on evolutionary principles.

On the other hand- would someone care to list the discoveries Creation Science has provided the world? When creationists manage to develop a new antibiotic or explain the the mechanisms of virus propogation, i'll take notice. To date all theyve apparently produced is a lot of hot air.
12.26.2007 9:52pm
c.j. ammenheuser:
Nodog:
I agree with the 'detergent' argument, the precluded paradigm, their jobs and the grants are obtained by advancing theories on already proven theories, therein lies the problem. Evolution is used as the buzz word to get grant money. A biologist scientist here was canned for stating he believed in creation. The Huntsman does very similar research, without the evolution, and has made great advances in curing people.
Intelligent Design is a physics based science and has nothing to do with religion; religion is a private matter, science is a math equation. For me, that unknown energy of creation is intelligence; some name it God, I call it rocktreefish.
12.26.2007 10:04pm
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
c.j. ammenheuser:

The definition of junk science is not "science that fails to support my position".


Qwinn:

The "irreducible complexity of the eye" is a false premise. Here is a brief explanation of why from a New York Times article by Daniel C. Dennett, a professor of philosophy at Tufts University:
But as we learn more and more about the history of the genes involved, and how they work - all the way back to their predecessor genes in the sightless bacteria from which multicelled animals evolved more than a half-billion years ago - we can begin to tell the story of how photosensitive spots gradually turned into light-sensitive craters that could detect the rough direction from which light came, and then gradually acquired their lenses, improving their information-gathering capacities all the while.

We can't yet say what all the details of this process were, but real eyes representative of all the intermediate stages can be found, dotted around the animal kingdom, and we have detailed computer models to demonstrate that the creative process works just as the theory says.

All it takes is a rare accident that gives one lucky animal a mutation that improves its vision over that of its siblings; if this helps it have more offspring than its rivals, this gives evolution an opportunity to raise the bar and ratchet up the design of the eye by one mindless step. And since these lucky improvements accumulate - this was Darwin's insight - eyes can automatically get better and better and better, without any intelligent designer.

Brilliant as the design of the eye is, it betrays its origin with a tell-tale flaw: the retina is inside out. The nerve fibers that carry the signals from the eye's rods and cones (which sense light and color) lie on top of them, and have to plunge through a large hole in the retina to get to the brain, creating the blind spot. No intelligent designer would put such a clumsy arrangement in a camcorder, and this is just one of hundreds of accidents frozen in evolutionary history that confirm the mindlessness of the historical process.
12.26.2007 10:06pm
oledrunk (mail):
For those fundamentalists who dispute Darwinian Evolution, I propose a challenge. Sine a pledge before God and for the sake of your immortal soul that you will accept no medical procedure, treatment or therapy devised or administered by a scientist or physician who believes in evolution.
12.26.2007 10:14pm
oledrunk (mail):
Should read sign a pledge
12.26.2007 10:14pm
wolfwalker (mail):
Qwinn wrote:

"I personally find many of the arguments against evolution to be compelling, such as the irreducible complexity of the eye, just for one."

Many people do ... until they study the subject in more detail, and discover it's entirely possible for an "irreducibly complex" system to evolve by Darwin's process of variation and selection. I've been there and done exactly that. So can you.

Pro-evolution types frequently dismiss creationists' anti-evolution arguments without comment because they've seen and disproved those same arguments with comments -- often extensive comments -- in the past, and it never makes any difference at all. I've read creationist books, articles, pamphlets, and other publications going back almost a hundred years, and the arguments never change. Behe's "irreducible complexity of the cell" claim is nothing more than a rewrite of William Paley's "Watchmaker Argument."

As for the question of whether evolution can be falsified, consider this:

* If the fossil record was not sequential, evolution would be falsified. In well over two hundred years of geology as an organized science, covering millions of man-hours spent surveying and excavating rock formations all over the world, no one has ever found even one case of such an out-of-sequence fossil.

* If we could look around and find animals, living or extinct, that didn't fit the great Tree of Life, evolution would be falsified. Note that when I say "don't fit," I mean really don't fit. For example, a centaur would be a fusion of two widely separate mammalian lines of descent, not to mention a vertebrate with three pairs of limbs. Crossbreeding between two such widely separate organisms is impossible, while no land vertebrate, living or extinct, has ever had more than two pairs of limbs.

* If we examined organisms at the biochemical level and found they were fundamentally different, evolution would be falsified. For example, if a dog used a completely different genetic code from a cat, or a fish's biochemical processes looked nothing like a whale's. That hasn't happened. From fish to fowl to flower to fungus, all known Earth organisms use the same genetic code and basically similar biochemical processes.

In short, there are a lot of ways evolution could be falsified. A lot of potential counterexamples. But no one has ever produced even one of them. Instead, anti-evolutionists resort to complex theoretical arguments such as "intelligent design" -- arguments that they can't even defend in the scientific literature. Why? Because every single piece of real evidence ever produced by any experiment or found in any field expedition supports evolutionary theory.
12.26.2007 10:17pm
wolfwalker (mail):
Qwinn wrote:

"I personally find many of the arguments against evolution to be compelling, such as the irreducible complexity of the eye, just for one."

Many people do ... until they study the subject in more detail, and discover it's entirely possible for an "irreducibly complex" system to evolve by Darwin's process of variation and selection. I've been there and done exactly that. So can you.

Pro-evolution types frequently dismiss creationists' anti-evolution arguments without comment because they've seen and disproved those same arguments with comments -- often extensive comments -- in the past, and it never makes any difference at all. I've read creationist books, articles, pamphlets, and other publications going back almost a hundred years, and the arguments never change. Behe's "irreducible complexity of the cell" claim is nothing more than a rewrite of William Paley's "Watchmaker Argument."

As for the question of whether evolution can be falsified, consider this:

* If the fossil record was not sequential, evolution would be falsified. In well over two hundred years of geology as an organized science, covering millions of man-hours spent surveying and excavating rock formations all over the world, no one has ever found even one case of such an out-of-sequence fossil.

* If we could look around and find animals, living or extinct, that didn't fit the great Tree of Life, evolution would be falsified. Note that when I say "don't fit," I mean really don't fit. For example, a centaur would be a fusion of two widely separate mammalian lines of descent, not to mention a vertebrate with three pairs of limbs. Crossbreeding between two such widely separate organisms is impossible, while no land vertebrate, living or extinct, has ever had more than two pairs of limbs.

* If we examined organisms at the biochemical level and found they were fundamentally different, evolution would be falsified. For example, if a dog used a completely different genetic code from a cat, or a fish's biochemical processes looked nothing like a whale's. That hasn't happened. From fish to fowl to flower to fungus, all known Earth organisms use the same genetic code and basically similar biochemical processes.

In short, there are a lot of ways evolution could be falsified. A lot of potential counterexamples. But no one has ever produced even one of them. Instead, anti-evolutionists resort to complex theoretical arguments such as "intelligent design" -- arguments that they can't even defend in the scientific literature. Why? Because every single piece of real evidence ever produced by any experiment or found in any field expedition supports evolutionary theory.
12.26.2007 10:17pm
c.j. ammenheuser:
Qwinn is right. The simplest way I can explain the difference is - biological research is based on evolution concepts of mutations, instinct, slowly evolving; Intelligent design is based on human existence that could not have evolved in such a manner. For example, humans have intelligence and the ability to reason and think. From what species did those traits evolve? If humans did not evolve from lower life forms, much of the current research is on the wrong track. This explains why we have not cured cancer, or the common cold, or why we are not able to heal our own heart when the fact is a fish can heal its own heart
12.26.2007 10:20pm
wolfwalker (mail):
Oops, sorry for the double post. My browser flaked and I accidentally hit 'post' twice.
12.26.2007 10:20pm
Michael B (mail):
"The Flying Speghetti Monster" and similar non-arguments, given the fact they're oft-repeated as substitutes the actual thought, serve as yet another witness to not merely the absence of any more serious thought and engagement, but worse still they reflect substitutions of brain-dead vacuities for thought when it comes to too many of these and related discussions. (Yes, a P.Z. Mathers will wink and nod at speghetti monsters, will bless you for repeating this and other patent nullities, but P.Z.'s priestly blessing does not bestow epistemic authority, despite his and others' suggestions to the contrary.)

For example, there is a vast breadth and depth of rational, philosophical arguments in support of natural theology, ranging from uses of Platonic themes to Pascal's aphoristic depth and sundry and varied places in between - and covering a vast historical range as well. By contrast, the flying speghetti monster receives epistemic support perhaps from two-year olds and P.Z. Mathers and his sock-puppets, but no one in any very serious vein. (And please do not misunderstand, neither natural nor any other theological argument positively proves the existence of a deity, they more simply serve as contrast with the utter thoughtlessness, the vacuity, reflected in the speghetti monster theory and similar forms of, essentially, ad hominem based smarm and snark.)

Too, if this snarky, grade-school level speghetti monster "argument" has so much cache among those who (so they say) appreciate the life of the mind and more serious intellectual engagement, why is it not also forwarded against PC affirming forms of "science" or scientism? Why don't we hear - and in an oft-repeated manner - of the analogy of a speghetti monster who is on the verge of wreaking global environmental disasters? The answer is obvious: conformity, thoughtlessness and join-the-club blessings bestowed by P.Z. and his votaries are deemed more valuable than any real and more substantial thought.

Aka: fear and a blissfully naive and willingly cultivated ignorance. There are different types and kinds of ignorance, from neutral and benign to far less benign forms, but a willingly cultivated ignorance is not typically esteemed. So when someone like a Gore, or a P.Z. Mathers or a Dawkins comes along and positively approves of and affirms such willingly cultivated and blissfully naive forms of ignorance, why aren't people sarcastically and otherwise arguing against these would-be priests and epistemic gatekeepers? Yet again - the answer is patently obvious: Fear and anything but a concern for science, rationality or the life of the mind in general.

The use the Flying Speghetti Monster and similar vapidries are put to - repeatedly and additionally blessed by the P.Z. Mothers of the world - serves as a witness to something and that something is not a high regard for the life of the mind. To the contrary and decidedly to the contrary. Late modern pieties and myths are precisely and only that; P.Z.'s blessing doesn't magically change it into something more substantial. He's suggested otherwise, but it ain't so.
12.26.2007 10:27pm
wm13:
oledrunk, my understanding is that one of the developers of MRI doesn't believe in evolution. Sign a pledge that you will never have a MRI scan, will you?
12.26.2007 10:28pm
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
Micahel B.:

If the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM) were a challenge to pseudo-theology you would have a point. Since it is really a challenge to pseudo-science, you don't.

The point of the FSM is not that anyone believes it is real, but rather that the idea it created the world is just as scientifically valid as creation science or intelligent design. The fact that you scoff at it doesn't change this fact.

Before you scoff at this argument, too, can you point out any scientific evidence of a designer other than the Flying Spaghetti Monster? I didn't think so.
12.26.2007 10:39pm
Elliot Reed (mail):
Grr, the idea that falsifiability is necessary for scientificness is indeed a canard. Were we to discover rabbit fossils in pre-Cambrian rock, biologists would not say, "Oops! That evolution stuff was a huge mistake! Throw out all the old textbooks and start teaching creationism to the undergrads!" That would be crazy. Instead, they'd ask how on Earth the fossils could have gotten there, and come up with a bunch of possible explanations (the fossils are fake, the fossils were moved around in an unusual way over the course of geologic time, our rock dating techniques are wrong, our evolutionary timeline is screwed up and there were actually rabbits in the pre-Cambrian, etc.) and try to figure out which of them made the most sense.

The idea that science could or should proceed by throwing out a well-tested theory wholesale on the basis of a single compelling data point is indeed a canard. A case for throwing out a theory requires a much more complicated weighing of evidence than is provided by the simplistic falsificationist model.

Or, alternatively: if aliens showed up, and explained in great detail why and how they had gone about designing and creating all life on Earth with their superior technology, should scientists really refuse to listen to them because intelligent design isn't "falsifiable"? And even this wouldn't falsify evolution, since one would have to go about evaluating whether the aliens were telling the truth, which gets us back into the complex weighing of evidence. (Back in the real world, though, "intelligent design" is still a fraud.)
12.26.2007 11:04pm
Michael B (mail):
Mr. Hoffman,

You are conveniently naive and have bitten off more than you seem to realize. The FSM was in fact first and foremost aimed at pseudo-science. Still, it is, and I dare say rather obviously, of a piece with celestial teapots and unicorns on the far side of the moon. Do you disagree?
12.26.2007 11:09pm
c.j. ammenheuser:
Wolfwalker: As for the fish,fowl fungus all having the same genetic code: considering that everything came from the big bang it is impossible for everything to not share at least some commonality of genetic code. It's the theory of rocktreefish. Humans have commonalities with each- the rock, the tree, the fish. Where evolution does not provide answers is when you consider traits, personality, free will, uniqueness. For example why is a rock stationery and a tree supple and a fish swims- because these are inherent traits, and which to some degree humans also have; but the difference is free will and intelligence to alter the traits and define our own uniqueness. Evolution does not, and can not explain free will.
12.26.2007 11:10pm
wm13:
What Elliot Reed said. More generally, scientific theories are discarded not because some irrefutable piece of evidence shows up to falsify them, but only when they are replaced by a superior theory. A single piece of evidence will normally be dealt with by some ad hoc explanation. I can certainly imagine some superior understanding of genetics leading scientists to accept that natural selection is not the primary mechanism of speciation (which is the fundamental claim of Darwinian evolutionary theory), but the discovery of a single fossil would never have that effect.
12.26.2007 11:19pm
Wondering Willy:
This is a very offensive post. I'm frankly surprised at Mr. Adler.
12.26.2007 11:22pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Mr. Buehner mentions an unanswerable argument. Name ONE thing that was developed using intelligent design theory. ONE.

Anyone? Bueller?

(Note - don't give me some idea that just came from a creationist. Give me something that was developed using intelligent design.)
12.26.2007 11:59pm
koblog (mail):
Wow. So evolution is true and creationism is false because Lynne Spears has two wayward girls?

Evolutionarily speaking, what has Lynne Spears done wrong? How can you pass judgment upon her? If nothing else, her parenting advise might be useful if only as what not to do.

But since you somehow equate creationism and bad parenting and draw moral conclusions, there are other questions to ask:

What is your scientific basis to determine right and wrong when raising children? Do your evolutionary scientific child-rearing methods provide answers as satisfying as your answers concerning how matter arose from non-matter, how life arose from non-life, how the randomness of the big bang's mother-of-all-explosions became ever-increasing order in violation of science's own law of thermodynamics, how non-quantifiable, non-falsifiable qualities like love, ethics arose from non-love?

Left to evolutionary theory as practiced in a truly atheistic environment, would you not agree that all children are best and most efficiently raised by the state? We have already decided that their minds, education and wealth production belong to the state. That same state has scientifically replaced fathers in many parts of our inner-city society--with obvious great success.

Surely it is but a small matter to remove something as important as child rearing from such incompetents as mere biological incubators called mothers.
12.27.2007 12:01am
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Wondering Willy: Isn't it more offensive to think that Texas is going to license an organization based on pseudo-science to teach children?
12.27.2007 12:05am
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
Michael B. wrote:
Mr. Hoffman,

You are conveniently naive and have bitten off more than you seem to realize. The FSM was in fact first and foremost aimed at pseudo-science. Still, it is, and I dare say rather obviously, of a piece with celestial teapots and unicorns on the far side of the moon. Do you disagree?
My statement that the FSM is "really a challenge to pseudo-science" suggests that we agree, so I don't understand why you call me such unkind names.

I also don't understand why you fail to address my argument. What evidence is there that supports "creation science" and/or "intelligent design" that is not equally consistent with the view that the universe was created by the Flying Spaghetti Monster?
12.27.2007 12:06am
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
c.j. ammenheuser wrote:
As for the fish,fowl fungus all having the same genetic code: considering that everything came from the big bang it is impossible for everything to not share at least some commonality of genetic code.
Your conclusion does not follow from your premise. The only commonality the Big Bang implies is that everything must be made of matter or energy, which is true as far as we know.

Of course, your willingness to accept the Big Bang as fact distinguishes you from many other detractors of evolution.
12.27.2007 12:13am
Javert:
Anderson wrote:

"For the record, Catholics understand and have no problem with the theory of evolution."

Or with Galileo -- centuries too late.
12.27.2007 12:18am
Michael B (mail):
Mr. Hoffman,

What "unkind names" are you alleging?

And I'm ready to address all relevant questions, but you failed to respond to my own query. Despite your evasion, the question was asked because it's relevant to how I'll respond more fully. Do you agree or disagree with the idea that FSM, lunar unicorns and celestial teapots are, largely (not the particulars of their history), all of a piece? It's a simple question, why be evasive when it comes to even the simplest of questions? Quite obviously the subject, at large, touches upon both scientific and larger issues related to truth, epistemic valuations or weightings, the philosophy of science, a wider breadth still of philosophical issues, etc.

Again, a very simple question, so why evade it? Discussions proceed apace when transparency and give-and-take occurs.

(And I'm a 14 billion year age of the universe guy, also an evolutionist, but I do have a skeptical view of much that purports to pass for science presently, as I've noted herein vis-a-vis AGW specifically and as pertains to wider truth claims as well.)

Javert,

What do you know of Galileo, of Copernicus, of Feyerabend's account and analysis c. 1980 for example, or, another example, of Pierre Duhem's account and historical analysis?
12.27.2007 12:46am
Anon Y. Mous:

Guest101:

Is evolution falsifiable?


Yes. See, e.g., fossil rabbits in the Pre-Cambrian. Facile God-of-the-gaps arguments miss the point entirely. In fact, your link misses several points, not least being: 1) biological evolution and origin-of-life theories address completely separate questions; and 2) adaptability in the face of new evidence is a strength, not a weakness, of a scientific approach.


That's your idea of falsifiable? Pre-Cambrian rabbits? Ok, here's a creationist theory that has the same standard of falsifiability: the creator created all life in the universe and located it exclusively on Earth. To prove the theory false, all you have to do is demonstrate that life exists in any other place in the whole wide universe, and you will have demonstrated the theory false.

Is that the kind of scientific falsifiability you had in mind?

As to "completely separate questions", well that's the dispute, isn't it? Creationist theory holds they are one and the same. Merely asserting they're not is a pretty weak argument.
12.27.2007 1:18am
exfizz:
Mark Buehner: "would someone care to list the discoveries Creation Science has provided the world?"

They've discovered many things:

- How to lobotomize the most dynamic nation on Earth, just as the competition is really heating up.
- How to bilk and co-opt otherwise intelligent people.
- How to learn just enough of their opponents' language to twist it to their own use.
- How to make a tiny fringe look large and mainstream.
- How to squander a 400-year legacy at its moment of triumph.
- How to masquerade in full public view.
- How to neutralize far smarter opponents by misdirection and sleight-of-hand.
- How to hand the 21st century to China and India without a fight, while still appearing to be patriotic.
- How to fight something with nothing.

Creation Science folks may be dumb, but they're energetic and persistent and crafty and utterly focused, and honestly they have managed to discover some remarkable things. Just not in science.
12.27.2007 2:51am
W. R. Graves (mail):
Chemistry began life as a set of theses based upon such abstractions as Dalton's Law and the Law of Multiple Proportions. Mendeleev derived the Periodic Table synthetically. The atomic theory explained why these laws existed and extended them.

Similarly, Darwin's theses were based upon observation. It was not until Crick and Watson discovered DNA that a similar explanation was found for why Darwin's theory worked.

The synthesis of classical genetics with DNA-based biochemistry incontrovertibly establishes Darwin as correct.

There are very few fully accepted scientific theories, and they are all correct experimentally. This is a very powerful concept. It only takes one verifiable counterexample to invalidate a major theory. Unfortunately for Creationists, there are no demonstrable experimental counterexamples to Darwin. The scientific community is still awaiting even one single contradictory experiment. Well, we're still waiting.
12.27.2007 3:32am
Baseballhead (mail):
Ok, here's a creationist theory that has the same standard of falsifiability: the creator created all life in the universe and located it exclusively on Earth. To prove the theory false, all you have to do is demonstrate that life exists in any other place in the whole wide universe, and you will have demonstrated the theory false.
Maybe the Flying Spaghetti Monster just liked Earth the best, or maybe He killed all life elsewhere in the universe. Who knows the workings of the FSM?
Evolution does not, and can not explain free will.
Anyone who thinks only humans have free will should own a cat.

It's ridiculous that we're still having this creationist "debate" in the 21st century.
12.27.2007 3:36am
Baseballhead (mail):
Ok, here's a creationist theory that has the same standard of falsifiability: the creator created all life in the universe and located it exclusively on Earth. To prove the theory false, all you have to do is demonstrate that life exists in any other place in the whole wide universe, and you will have demonstrated the theory false.
Maybe the Flying Spaghetti Monster just liked Earth the best, or maybe He killed all life elsewhere in the universe. Who knows the workings of the FSM?
Evolution does not, and can not explain free will.
Anyone who thinks only humans have free will should own a cat.

It's ridiculous that we're still having this creationist "debate" in the 21st century.
12.27.2007 3:37am
gawaine (mail):
We're talking about public school level teachers, right? Isn't this an issue of forced speech - where right now, to be a teacher at all, you need to say that you unequivocally believe that evolution as taught is correct, even if you'll never teach a word about evolution in your school? Or even if, when the topic does come up, you'll end up teaching from the curriculum approved by the school?

I feel about this the same way I feel about medical schools forcing all doctors to perform abortions in order to get a degree - it's an unnecessary filter that pulls people of specific beliefs out of a pool of workers, which may be totally irrelevant to the job that they perform. The clear distinction is that in this case, it's "only" speech - while a medical student may not be willing to perform what they consider murder in order to get a degree, an education student may well be willing to tow the line in classes that support evolution in order to get theirs. In that case, the school board has no ability to make a determination about what a person does or does not believe.

I'd prefer that education students be allowed to be credentialed, but with the credentialing agency clearly identified, as it appears to be in this case. A school board can determine whether or not they care for this credential, and parents can determine how they need to supplement the education of their students.
12.27.2007 9:13am
wolfwalker (mail):
koblog asked: "Left to evolutionary theory as practiced in a truly atheistic environment, would you not agree that all children are best and most efficiently raised by the state?"

No. In fact, as far as its social and cultural ramifications go, evolutionary theory is a theory that political conservatives ought to embrace and liberals ought to despise, because one of the fundamental conclusions to be drawn from it is "don't screw with success." A trait that survives thousands of generations is probably a successful one. Theism has survived at least six thousand years and perhaps more than ten thousand. The nuclear family of "husband, wife, kids" goes back a lot further. It might even go back as far as four or five million years. That's a fairly successful trait, at least over the short term. The liberal's wild plunge into new ideas for ideological or emotional reasons, without regard to the facts or the lessons of history, is not an evolutionarily smart thing to do. (By the same token, the reactionary's desire to return to old ideas that were demonstrable failures, such as a state-sanctioned religion and a theocratic government, is also not an evolutionarily smart thing to do.)

As for the free-will issue, evolutionary theory is irrelevant to the question of whether it exists or how it originated. Darwin's attitude toward physical variation was "I don't know where it comes from or why it appears, but I can't deny that it does, so I will accept it and use it in my theory." We can't explain where free will comes from or why, at least not yet, but it's pretty hard to deny that it does.
12.27.2007 9:15am
gawaine (mail):
@gary:

For the record, Catholics understand and have no problem with the theory of evolution. Further, Poland has given the world some quite competent scientists.

It's the evangelical Christians who believe every word of the book. Including the fact that Israel is to be supported because she is fated for destruction, to fulfill the prophecies.


Just like all Catholics, including John Kerry, are anti-abortion? Not so. I know of many Catholics who are vehemently Creationist.

For the record, I consider myself an evangelical Christian. I believe that every word in the bible is true, although I'm fine with considering some of it, including the Creation account, to be oversimplified and misunderstood. Isaac Asimov had a great story about this in his anthology, "The Beginning and the End," which humorously describes Moses trying to dictate 4 billion years of history, and giving up by describing it in terms of a week.

I don't believe the dispensationalist doctrine that you're mangling here, although I know many that do.

I'm pretty disgusted with the trivialization and insults of religious people here. There's enough scientific arguments that can be had over pieces of evolutionary theory - do we need the ad hominem attacks?
12.27.2007 9:24am
gawaine (mail):
There probably aren't that many scientific arguments that can be had over old-earth Intelligent Design, especially because one tack on it is that it's Evolution but with a purpose. In other words, rather than random mutations, something guided changes that happened. So what? The fact that mutations or changes were random isn't falsifiable, any more than the fact that they weren't random.

In other words, if you look at the theory of secular Evolution as a set of logical statements E, with one of those statements C1 being "For every mutation/alteration, there was no guiding force", you could look at ID as E - C1 + !C1. The only difference in how falsifiable one is vs. the other is whether or not C1 and C2 is true. If E-C1 is falsifiable, then so is ID.

All of the arguments regarding irreducible complexity or how silly it would be for God to design a platypus are just emotional appeals to one side or the other - they don't falsify either theory. They just explain why someone would rather believe C1 or C2.
12.27.2007 9:30am
Gary Anderson (mail):

I'm pretty disgusted with the trivialization and insults of religious people here. There's enough scientific arguments that can be had over pieces of evolutionary theory - do we need the ad hominem attacks?


As a whole, Catholics do not push Intelligent Design, nor do their schools avoid teaching the theory of evolution.

As a whole, evangelical Christians reject the theory of evolution and it is this group pushing to include Creationism or Intelligent Design in the public school curricula.

I'm sorry if that hurts your feelings. But if people are going to voice objections to "religious" people pushing their ideas in the public schools, they need to identify which sects are behind it. And if you are part of a religion and reject their teachings, you like John Kerry are free to distinguish yourself from what your religion teaches.
12.27.2007 9:35am
c.j. ammenheuser:
Koblog: Brilliant!
Exfizz: Brilliant!
Baseballhead: That's because cats and dogs are superior beings to humans. Maybe they're from another galaxy? We are naive and egocentric to think we humans are the only intelligent life form. Kidding aside, how does evolution explain animal's communication? We rescued a fragile newborn kitten, took it to the vet, and took great care of it; a few days later the dog started barking to wake me up, I realized the kitten had died and the dog was trying to wake me. Darwinian evolution can not explain the 'advanced' trait of telepathy, and it cannot explain intelligence or free will. The answer lies in the many unknown qualities of electromagnetic energy, which some people label Intelligent Design and others label God.
The various theories, on any subject, should be taught at schools at advancing levels, and taught as theory as this will lead to a critical thinking mind capable of problem solving.
12.27.2007 9:37am
gawaine (mail):
@Gary Anderson
Evangelical Christianity is not a religion (unless you mean the Evangelical Missionary or Evangelical Baptist denominations, but they're pretty tiny). It is a label. You've apparently decided what that label means and what those people believe, but I don't see any actual backing for the way you're applying that label.

I'm not offended if you want to slime individuals for their statements - I am amused if you want to generalize from those individuals, apply a label to a broad spectrum of Americans, and slime them because of that. It's amusing because, if you're falsely generalizing to a class from individuals and then complaining about their logic skills, you need to hone up on them yourself.
12.27.2007 9:56am
Mark Buehner (mail):
Its true- individual Catholics may believe whatever they wish (god knows), but Catholic dogma has no issue with evolution.


"Today, more than a half-century after the appearance of that encyclical, some new findings lead us toward the recognition of evolution as more than an hypothesis. In fact it is remarkable that this theory has had progressively greater influence on the spirit of researchers, following a series of discoveries in different scholarly disciplines. The convergence in the results of these independent studies -- which was neither planned nor sought -- constitutes in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory."


Pope John Paul II, 1996

I've got some serious issues with the Church, but this isnt one of them. If anything, the Vatican has walked a smart line with evolution in the last fifty years. They aren't going to stake their faith on something science is pretty overwhelmingly disproving.

This: "Ok, here's a creationist theory that has the same standard of falsifiability: the creator created all life in the universe and located it exclusively on Earth." is not a scientific theory. It has an unproveable clause in it, "the creator created all life". You could prove that there is no other life in the universe and it wouldnt prove this, or you could discover life is abundant in the universe and it wouldnt disprove it. That particular statement is a philosophical argument- ie, that IF there is no other life in the universe, its evidence that our life is special, and hence endowed specifically by a creator. Science has nothing to say on that matter, other than to establish whether or not the life part is true or false.

The reason Creationism can never be compared to evolution is for one singular reason- it assumes its conclusion (the cardinal sin of science). It starts out with the answer and then goes back to answer the question, discarding anything contrary along the way as irrelevant or unsubstantiated. And like most SOCIAL movements, Creationism projects its own failings onto its target- by claiming Evolution is somehow fait acompli to scientists, instead of the logical (and unplanned) conclusion the facts have led us to. Darwin never woke up one day and decided the world needed Evolution and he was going to give it to them. Creationists essentially did.
12.27.2007 9:57am
Waldensian (mail):

If an explanation is found interesting and satisfying to a sufficiently influential group, they will exclude contrary explanations and explain away inconsistencies.

You have that backwards. That's not what scientists do, it's what churches do. In just one or two little-known instances, like this one.
12.27.2007 10:34am
Bible-believing and evolution-believing Christian (mail):
I am a Bible-believing Christian, and can probably be called "evangelical" if not "fundamentalist." I don't consider myself a literalist, but I do take the Bible seriously and consider it God's word to man.

I used to be a creationist, and rejected evolution as a secular alternative that was a contradiction to the Bible's account of God's creation of man. I was never a "six day" creationist, and did not take the six days of creation literally. I believed (and still do) that a day can stand for an indefinite amount of time, even millions or billions of years. I also took seriously the "gap theory," which claims that there is a gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 that accounts for geologic time and astronomical time. That is, God created the heavens and the earth in Genesis 1:1, and then "the earth became formless and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep" in Genesis 1:2. In this theory God's original creation was perfect, and then the creation became ruined billions of years later. This was usually seen as a reference to the fall of Lucifer and the rebellion of his angels, which damaged God's original creation from Gen. 1:1. (Many evangelicals still use this theory as an explanation for the age of the universe and the age of the earth as proven by science.)

I eventually came to the conclusion, through research, conversations with scientists (including many Christians), and my own considerations, that evolution is true. I simply can't refute the evidence for evolution, which is overwhelming. Although I once was part of and respected both creationism and the Intelligent Design movement (and I still understand where they are coming from), the fact is that from a scientific perspective such beliefs are laughable in the modern world.

There are many Christians like myself who term themselves "theistic evolutionists." That is, evolution is clearly true, despite the fact that it contradicts the Biblical account. Genesis is to be read not literally but metaphorically, as stating the truth that God created man in His image. Evolution was the vehicle, the process, through which God created man. What science terms as "random mutations," a Christian will view as God's guidance of the process to consummate in mankind.
(Francis Collins, in his book the Language of God, gives a good rendering of this synthesis of Christian belief and scientific fact.)

But there remains a dilemma for someone like myself, and I've been struggling with this for some time. The story of Adam and Eve in many ways reads like a myth. Once you believe that evolution is true, it no longer makes much sense that these two people were literal, and that the fall of Adam equals the fall of all mankind who were his descendants. If eventually mankind came out of the process of evolution, it seems peculiar that two people would become out of the newly created human race the focus of God's interaction, representing all of mankind.
Yet in the New Testament, with the geneaology of Christ in Luke, and in the writings of the apostle Paul, Adam and Eve are referred to as real people. This aspect of the Genesis account is treated as true.

For example, Paul refers to mankind as being either "in Adam" or "in Christ." Adam was the beginning of the "old creation," and Christ is the beginning of the "new creation." Paul also refers to the serpent deceiving Eve with his craftiness.

To me, this is very difficult to reconcile with evolution. As someone who believes that God created man in His image, that mankind rebelled against God and became fallen, and that Christ came to reconcile God and man through His incarnation and then His death on the cross, the evolutionary view just doesn't fit.

I think this is why, despite the seeming ridiculousness of creationism, many Christians simply can't accept evolution regardless of the scientific evidence. We are not just talking about Genesis, we're talking about the whole Christian view of mankind, and the whole purpose behind the life and death of Christ. If Adam was not a real man, then the fall of man is hard to pinpoint. But if man did not fall, then the death of Christ no longer becomes necessary.

As I said, I believe in evolution, and no longer consider it incompatible with my Christian faith. But I do not have an answer for how evolution and the creation/fall of man, or the view of the New Testament which treats Adam and Eve as real people, can be fully reconciled.

I'm curious what other people here believe. Are there other Christians out there who are struggling with this? My assumption is that any Christian who studies the evidence for evolution with an open mind will become convinced of its factual basis. But I don't believe that requires a rejection of the faith. How, then, is evolution really compatible with not only Genesis, but the Christian perspective on the significance of Christ's death and resurrection (to pay the price for sin, to reconcile man back to God, and to release the divine life so that man may be regenerated, i.e. "born again")?
I don't mean to write such a long comment or to send this comment thread in only one direction. But I'd like to hear from others (whether Christian or non) who have explored these aspects of evolution and the Christian faith.
12.27.2007 10:58am
Elliot123 (mail):
"The science that explains creation is physics: the Theory of Relativity and Quantum String Theory. Even the Catholic Church believes the big bang theory."

So, how did everything come to be? Has that been experimantally verified? Is there one universe, or a multiverse? Bubble universes? Did just our universe come from the big bang, or did all come from the same bang? Did universes stagger into being? Are they still being created? How? Physics has the potential to answer these questions, but has not yet done so.

A very serious criticism of string theory is that it is not natural science since it cannot be experimentally demonstrated. This would move it into the realm of philosophy.

And the big one: what does physics tell us about the origin of life? What experimental demonstartions of the origins of life does physics offer? What experimental demonstrations of the origins of life does any natural science offer? Any one at all?

The beliefs of the Catholic Church have no bearing on either natural science or what has been experimentally demonstrated. What does the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster think?. How about the Wiccans, Hindus, or Muslims?
12.27.2007 11:01am
Elliot Reed (mail):
Waldensinian—Galileo et al were exactly in the business of explaining away contrary data. At the time, the failure to observe stellar parallax from Earth was a major problem for heliocentric theories. The explanation proferred (the stars are very, very, very far away) turned out to be correct but at the time it was completely ad hoc. Heliocentricity eventually won out not because "the earth revolves around the sun" is observationally superior to "the sun revolves around the sun and the other planets revolve around the sun in ellipses" (the two are indistinguishable except for the stellar parallax issue) but because it's much easier to do astronomical calculations in the heliocentric reference frame than in the geocentric one.

And of course contemporary physics rejects the whole dispute. There is no such thing as absolute space, so whether the earth revolves around the sun or the sun revolves around the earth is a question without an answer.
12.27.2007 11:08am
SteveG:
A number of posters seem to have an odd and exaggerated idea of what "falsifiable" means in science. It does not mean that there is evidence to show that something is false. It means that within a given theory, if a given hypothesis were false, it would be possible to find evidence to the contrary. Thus the hypothesis "all animals within the class mammalia exchange oxygen by means of blood corpuscles" is falsifiable, because all you have to do is find any animal within the class that doesn't do that.

Thus in order to say whether the theory of evolution is "falsifiable" you have to first state the part of the theory you have in mind. The only way to falsify as general a statement as "organisms evolve through the mechanism of random modifications plus natural selection of the fittest" is to show, on the basis of sound evidence, that as a general rule they don't. If you show that a single organism evolved by a single large leap, this does not disprove the general theory - it allows for the possibility of individual large mutations, some of which may be successful, although that would be very unusual. If you could show that this happens all the time, you would be increasing the probability that there is something seriously amiss with the general theory of evolution.

Take instead the narrower statement:
The mechanism of random modifications plus natural selection of the fittest, taking into account environmental conditions, is sufficient to explain every incident of species formation, after the initial creation of life.

In order to falsify this, all you have to do is find one demonstrable example of an organism that could not have developed in this way. The so-called "creation scientists" keep claiming to have done so, but in every case I know of, it's been by ignoring the actual evidence and claiming "impossible!" when they really mean "I don't see it!"

By the same token, so-called "creation science" is obviously not falsifiable because there is no fact that you can demonstrate to be inconsistent with any hypothesis, if an acceptable answer is "God must have done it," without first providing any direct evidence that God exists, and intervenes in nature, and, more specifically, in fact did it. Of course the fact that it is not falsifiable doesn't imply that it is either true or false, but only that it is useless as science.
But here's the crucial point at which you can see that one is science and the other isn't. If someone ever comes up with a real example of an organism that could not have developed by the means included in evolutionary theory, then scientists will be obliged to look for a reasonable explanation of what actually happened, and then test to see whether the rest of evolutionary theory is compatible with it, and go on from there. They would not be justified in ignoring it. But neither would they be justified in saying, "oh, well, if we can't explain it, the answer must be beyond nature, i.e. supernatural." In order to make that leap they would have to first have evidence of the supernatural force and how it acts on nature.

The reason for this is not that it's an artificial "rule" of science, but simple reason. Rational thinking does not tell you to scrap reason when you can't explain something - it tells you to keep looking for the explanation. It does not tell you to skip all the possible explanations and go right to the one you hope is true, without supporting evidence. "Creation science" is not science because it is not based on reason.
12.27.2007 11:19am
Mikey:
C. J. Ammenheuser,

If you want to make a valid point concerning evolutionary theory, you should move beyond arguing from ignorance or incredulity. There have been many, many times someone has said "X cannot explain..." only to have X subsequently provide an explanation.

Or, perhaps evolutionary theory has provided an explanation, and you have not been able to find it. I suggest www.talkorigins.org is a good place to start.

In any case, you are opening yourself up to embarrassment when you rely entirely on an argument from ignorance or incredulity. You may never accept evolution as a valid explanation for the diversity of life, but you will be much better served in your arguments against it if you study it.
12.27.2007 11:22am
Javert:
Michael B. wrote:

"Javert,

What do you know of Galileo, of Copernicus, of Feyerabend's account and analysis c. 1980 for example, or, another example, of Pierre Duhem's account and historical analysis?"

Quite a bit, since I've lectured on Feyerabend's disgusting endorsement of Cardinal Bellarmino's condemnations of Galileo. But what's the point -- just to compare scholarly credentials?
12.27.2007 11:23am
DeezRightWingNutz:

It would be a collosal waste of space to list the enormous amount of scientific breakthroughs in technology and medicine directly developed via modern biology, which rests firmly on evolutionary principles.



A lot of discoveries were made based on Newtonian physics, but that doesn't mean that relativity isn't true. It is possible to have a useful model that isn't true. I'd bet that there are better examples of incorrect scientific theories that nonetheless led to useful applications consistent with the incorrect model, but I don't know much about the history of science.

I have no reason to doubt that evolution is indeed the best explanation out there. That doesn't mean it's true. But it seems prudent to me to keep doing biomedical research as if it were true if it's proving fuitful.

My best theory about what happened to my missing cell phone is that I dropped it somewhere. But it may have been stolen, eaten by animals, or miracled out of my pocket by Jeebus.

Could someone(s) knowledgable create a list of common scientific theories in a continuum of most likely to be true to least likely to be true? Obviously it's not exact, but is the theory of evolution closer to the second law of thermodynamics or DRWN's theory of cellphone disapperance?
12.27.2007 11:30am
fishbane (mail):
As to "completely separate questions", well that's the dispute, isn't it? Creationist theory holds they are one and the same. Merely asserting they're not is a pretty weak argument.

No. That's a category error creationists use in order to confuse people. Biologists, and anyone who has educated themselves on the topic, know that origin of life questions are not addressed by natural selection theory, micro- or macro-evolutionary theory, or related area.

You might as well talk about the 'gaps' in general relativity for not asking why clouds form, or fault a baseball player for not doing interpretive dance on the field.

If you're not simply pushing an agenda, and are genuinely interested in becoming knowledgeable on the topic, I highly recommend these two sites. They offer a wealth of answers.

Also (not addressed to the same person): his name is P.Z. Myers, not "Mathers" or "Mothers". Attacking someone works a little better if you spell their name correctly.
12.27.2007 11:33am
Mark Buehner (mail):
How, then, is evolution really compatible with not only Genesis, but the Christian perspective on the significance of Christ's death and resurrection


It doesnt bother me at all, and this is why: I take Job 38 very seriously indeed ("Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?"). In other words- it is not important that I understand the mechanism the Lord used to create the universe, and in fact it is a fools errand to try in that context. Essentially, God has already told us we have no hope of understanding his mysteries, so why are we trying? For our own edification, our own pride, and to butress our faith, I suspect. Those are not good reasons in my opinion, and I think ultimately they are destructive to faith and the faithful.

Science fascinates me because it reveals the wonder of creation, not because it has the capacity to reveal the mind and works of the Lord to me. I could spin a fantastic scenario using god's omnipotence to postulate how the universe was created as per Genesis and yet agrees with modern science- but why bother? Its a pointless task. Its our good fortune that someone infinitely wiser has already taken care of that, and I suspect he is little pleased that we waste so much time and effort trying to do it for him.
12.27.2007 11:38am
Elliot Reed (mail):
SteveG—generally, I see the term "falsifiable" used to mean something like "you could prove X false based on a single piece of observational/experimental data," not "it would be possible to find evidence that mitigates against the truth of X." While a sufficiently narrowly defined hypothesis is usually falsifiable (in the former sense), a general theoretical framework like evolution or relativity isn't, because theories have too many moving parts. Contrary evidence is not taken to prove the theory false, but is taken as an unexplained puzzle and/or given a particularized explanation.

Today, a story is told about how the perturbation of Mercury's orbit falsified Newton's theory of gravity, but this is not what actually happened. The perturbation of Mercury had been well-known for a long time, but because Newton's theory of gravity was so good, Mercury's orbit was taken as an unexplained phenomenon that merited further investigation, not a reason to throw out Newton's theory of gravity. Only after Einstein's theory explained Mercury's orbit, and generated some other successful predictions, was it accepted that Newtonian gravity was wrong.
In order to falsify this, all you have to do is find one demonstrable example of an organism that could not have developed in this way.
And how does one go about showing that something like that couldn't have happened? You can show that we don't know how it happened, but short of showing that it would violate the laws of physics I don't see how you could prove that something couldn't have evolved.
12.27.2007 11:39am
PLR:
Bible-believing and evolution-believing Christian:

Beliefs in Adam, Eve, the fall of mankind, its redemption by a messiah and an eternal reward/damnation are not left brain activities. Don't worry about it so much.

Had you been born in another time or another place, you may never have picked up that King James version.
12.27.2007 11:40am
fishbane (mail):
Could someone(s) knowledgable create a list of common scientific theories in a continuum of most likely to be true to least likely to be true? Obviously it's not exact, but is the theory of evolution closer to the second law of thermodynamics or DRWN's theory of cellphone disapperance?

Interesting idea. I can't imagine any way to quantify the ranking, though, other than survival over time. And even that is imperfect, for several reasons - science moves much, much faster today than in the past, and some theories have taken a very long time to be falsified.

My hunch, though, is that the cluster of related work that people clump together and call 'the theory of evolution' is much closed the the 2nd law than Jeebus ate your cell phone, simply because a lot of resources are thrown at attempting to disprove it, and the best that's been done is to create deceptive, provably false arguments while failing to advance a counter theory.

(And really, it is amazing how silly people get about evolution. It is as if, to use the above comparison, we had millions of dollars flowing to make arguments to convince people that Maxwell's Demon is real.)
12.27.2007 11:45am
Bible-believing and evolution-believing Christian (mail):
Mark Buehner says: "Its a pointless task. Its our good fortune that someone infinitely wiser has already taken care of that, and I suspect he is little pleased that we waste so much time and effort trying to do it for him."

But Mark, if you believe that God created us in His image, what is wrong with using our God-given mentality to search for and discover the truth? I suspect that He is little pleased with your narrow and anti-intellectual perspective. He gave us minds for a reason.

PLR, thanks for the laugh! I am left handed, though I'm not sure that fits your point. My perspective, however, is as someone who already believes the Bible to be true. I suspect that if I lived in another time or place, I would have still run into the equivalent of a Gideon Bible somewhere.
12.27.2007 11:47am
c.j. ammenheuser:
Physicists and astronomers agree there is more than one galaxy,and the universe is growing, and agree that the math does not yet exist to prove the merging of Relativity and Quantum and the Theory of Everything. Philosophically: Everything is perhaps an element of time moving elliptically: the ripple of time changes electricity into electromagnetism, electromagnetism combines with gravity also created by the movement of time; All the energies are merging since energy attracts energy thus causing the big bang. The Big Bang is an explosion of energy, but no matter. Time, snaps at the ellipse, and at that point creates time, as we know it and a new trait called matter. A second big bang occurs of expanding exploding matter. The (mysterious) matter that exploded to become the universe is the Everything, and is an element. 'Everything' therefore must be a chemical compound and time must be more than pure energy; the question is how did the chemical element come into existence ?
12.27.2007 11:53am
fishbane (mail):
While a sufficiently narrowly defined hypothesis is usually falsifiable (in the former sense), a general theoretical framework like evolution or relativity isn't, because theories have too many moving parts.

This isn't true. Of course you can falsify general relativity: demonstrate that e!=mc^2. Demonstrate that the Equivalence Principle is incorrect. Demonstrate that Newton's first law of motion is actually correct. Heck, attack the underlying assumptions: prove that the principle of general covariance is somehow wrong, or find a problem in the math describing Lorentzian manifolds.

Simple. Your name in lights, baby.
12.27.2007 11:55am
fishbane (mail):
'Everything' therefore must be a chemical compound and time must be more than pure energy; the question is how did the chemical element come into existence ?

I think you might have a very fruitful and enlightening conversation with this thoughtful individual.
12.27.2007 11:58am
SteveG:
Elliot Reed:
"you could prove X false based on a single piece of observational/experimental data," not "it would be possible to find evidence that mitigates against the truth of X."
Agreed, up to a point. My phrase "find evidence to the contrary" can be read as too weak, but see the rest of my post for clarification.

My quibble is with the phrase "prove X false." In science, unlike mathematics, you can rarely honestly say anything is "proven true" or "proven false." Most scientific theories are simply the best, i.e. most probable, explanations of observed facts. You can say with a very high degree of confidence "this happened in my laboratory experiment," but with reduced degrees of confidence "this must have happened 50,000,000 years ago." At the same time, with adequate evidence and logical analysis you can say with great confidence "it is far more likely that this happened 50,000,000 years ago than any of the other things that people have suggested." Thus "falsifying" any particular statement in evolutionary biology is likely to be a relative thing: you're more likely to demonstrate that a proposition previously accepted as essentially "true" (i.e., very likely the one best explanation of known evidence) is actually a poor explanation and unlikely to be true.
And how does one go about showing that something like that couldn't have happened?
Conceptually it's simple, which is what I was referring to: if you do find such an example, you have in fact shown the hypothesis to be false.

Realistically? I'd suggest that if you find a present-day animal structured like a dolphin, with lungs and no gills and horizontal tail flukes, and a skeletal structure like the rest of the cetaceans, but with lizard-like scales and with its DNA overall resembling that of lizards much more closely than that of mammals, you've found something that could not have evolved from any other known species. How (or even why) God might have created such a thing is no problem; how it fits into the logic of known patterns of evolution would be a big one. It would not "prove" evolutionary theory to be false, but it would present it a huge challenge.

That's an extreme example. In general, if you find an organism that breaks fundamental patterns of development, that makes no rational sense in terms of why such a thing would ever come to exist in its historical and local ecological matrix, you are tending to contradict evolutionary theory. Again, as far as I'm aware it's never happened, but if it does, science will have to admit that the evidence exists and see how to make sense of it.
12.27.2007 12:09pm
Mark Buehner (mail):
But Mark, if you believe that God created us in His image, what is wrong with using our God-given mentality to search for and discover the truth? I suspect that He is little pleased with your narrow and anti-intellectual perspective. He gave us minds for a reason.


I think you misunderstand me. I'm all for science, all for research, 100%! I'm all for personal search for understanding. What i question is those who have invested their faith in such a way that the tail starts to wag the dog. If evolution cannot be true lest Genesis not be true- what happens if evolution is proven to be true beyond a doubt? This is a particularly dangerous way to teach young people, at least if you hope for them to have an enduring faith.

What I am saying is that I think it is a mistake to go looking for The Garden of Eden, or researching growing a woman from a rib bone. Whether you think you find it or not will prove nothing. In my opinion, God has already given us his answer (to Job, and quite resoundingly). Its one thing to search for the mysteries of the universe to better understand and appreciate the world we live in, quite another to search for the Lords fingerprints that he demonstrably has worked hard not to leave. In other words, had he wanted to provide solid evidence of his work, he would have done so. The Quixotic search for such evidence has led us already to a place where real science is questioned (when not scorned or dismissed).
12.27.2007 12:10pm
fishbane (mail):
What I am saying is that I think it is a mistake to go looking for The Garden of Eden, or researching growing a woman from a rib bone.

Would you mind listing scientific disciplines that people should not pursue?

And is this list applicable only to Christians, or can, say, Hindus still research them, subject to their own list?

If that Hindu research, for instance, found a cure for AIDS, would Christians be permitted to take the cure?
12.27.2007 12:15pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
exfizz, hilarious. Not a real answer, but I guess I shouldn't expect one :-)
12.27.2007 12:36pm
Elliot Reed (mail):
SteveG: would the discovery of such an animal actually be taken as falsifying evolution? Would biologists really just throw out all the textbooks and start teaching creationism in freshman bio, merely because of one species? It seems much more probable that it would get an explanation like "those types of life must be a lot more related than we thought" or "those particular animals were created by humans through genetic engineering." And indeed that would be the sensible course: you don't throw out a well-tested, well-verified theory on the basis of a single bizarre data point.

On the other hand, if we found enough weird species that we just couldn't fit them all together into any sort of Tree of Life after trying very very hard, evolution would indeed become difficult to sustain, and might reasonably be thrown out. Theory rejectability is really more of a practice than a property of theories as such: you can make any general theory consistent with the evidence if you're willing to tack on enough ad hoc hypotheses to deal with the contrary evidence. I think that's one of the major differences between sciences like biology and pseudosciences like creationism or classical "scientific Marxism": creationists and "scientific Marxists" are/were explaning away the data, not explaning it.
12.27.2007 12:38pm
c.j. ammenheuser:
fishbane:
substitute frightening for thoughtful:
squares are straight edge sharp corner chaos

Everything Is The Trait of Intelligence
12.27.2007 12:38pm
Mark Buehner (mail):
Would you mind listing scientific disciplines that people should not pursue?


I have no idea what you are talking about. People from all religious backgrounds should pursue all SCIENTIFIC discplines that strike their fancy.

All i am warning about is allegedly using science to prove a religious conviction. Its a dry hole.
12.27.2007 12:41pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"I have no reason to doubt that evolution is indeed the best explanation out there. That doesn't mean it's true. But it seems prudent to me to keep doing biomedical research as if it were true if it's proving fuitful."

Science doesn't tell us a scientific theory is the truth; it tells us the predictions of the hypotheses involved have been rigorously verified by experiment, and such experiments have been repeatedly replicated. It cannot guarantee the next experiment will do the same.
12.27.2007 12:50pm
fishbane (mail):
All i am warning about is allegedly using science to prove a religious conviction.

I'm unclear on what that 'allegedly' is doing in there, so I'll assume it is an excess of caution.

I know of no practicing scientist who is trying to prove a religious conviction. (Dawkins is being a bit of a jerk of late, but he isn't doing any science these days. I think this sometimes happens to folks who come late to celebrity.)

Now, it could be that discoveries make some religious people uncomfortable. Science takes you where it does; it is about investigating fact. Facts frequently make people uncomfortable (this is still a law blog, right?). That shouldn't mean that we stop looking for them.

On the other hand, I can name many, many religious people who are trying to undermine science and use the state to teach those religious beliefs as if they were equivalent to science.

I've no problem with religion; believe what one likes. Just don't pretend that it is science.
12.27.2007 12:59pm
fishbane (mail):
c.j. ammenheuser:

Your enthusiasm is heartening, but I think you need to work on your Senryu form.
12.27.2007 1:02pm
c.j. ammenheuser:
For fishbane:
creation is a miracle
unexplainable but oracle
12.27.2007 1:17pm
c.j. ammenheuser:
Dawkins media-darlingship, along with Hitchins, is slipping quickly- if not already passe; unlike Homerisms, which are usually more true and amusing, duh?
12.27.2007 1:22pm
Bible-believing and evolution-believing Christian (mail):
Mark, I understand what you're saying now. But you proposed the following as a danger for believing Christians: "If evolution cannot be true lest Genesis not be true- what happens if evolution is proven to be true beyond a doubt? This is a particularly dangerous way to teach young people, at least if you hope for them to have an enduring faith."

This works on a broader scale as well, which is why I take issue with you. If the Bible cannot be true unless Genesis is true, then young people who are raised as Christians but eventually accept evolution will have to throw out the Bible in its entirety. Indeed, that has happened with many.

I know a pastor who is evangelical (and charismatic) who also believes evolution. He does his best to help young people in his congregation know about evolution so that their faith isn't rattled when they go to college. His view is that we want Christian young people to go into the sciences (or wherever their talents take them), and to teach them something false (i.e. strict creationism) will damage their faith in the long run.
12.27.2007 1:29pm
Mark Buehner (mail):
Fishbane- i think we are compeletely in agreement.

Bible-believing- I think we also agree. I am absolutely not arguing against going into science for anyone, religious or not. I encourage it completely. BUT- it is important to be able to operate on both those levels with an open mind. You simply wont get far in science without an open mind. I suppose what i'm suggesting is that the intent behind going into the sciences is important. If you are going to search for truth no matter where it leads you, excellent. However if you are going in an attempt to reinforce your faith (or the faiths of others), beware. And for those trying to blur the distinction (as per the story in question), I greatly oppose it.
12.27.2007 2:53pm
SteveG:
Elliot Reed: <blockquote>would the discovery of such an animal actually be taken as falsifying evolution?
</blockquote>What I actually said was:<blockquote>how it fits into the logic of known patterns of evolution would be a big one. It would not "prove" evolutionary theory to be false, but it would present it a huge challenge.</blockquote>And: <blockquote>Would biologists really just throw out all the textbooks and start teaching creationism in freshman bio, merely because of one species?</blockquote>Not reasonably competent ones. As I tried hard to make clear, even if it cannot reasonably be accommodated into evolutionary theory, that by no means suggests that creationism is the next logical alternative. That was my whole point. <blockquote>It seems much more probable that it would get an explanation like "those types of life must be a lot more related than we thought" or "those particular animals were created by humans through genetic engineering." And indeed that would be the sensible course: you don't throw out a well-tested, well-verified theory on the basis of a single bizarre data point.</blockquote>Well, at least the first does <i>not</i> seem like a reasonable hypothesis at all, just intellectual blinders; the second, as bizarre as it seems, might be the first thing to test for. (And yes, it probably could be verified or refuted.)

But let's assume you can't come up with a rational explanation; assume the DNA just makes no sense and you can't come up with any decent evidence for natural evolution from known species, nor for the notion that it was genetically engineered. Where does that leave you?

It leaves you with a major scientific challenge to work on, <i>not</i> with creationism. The inexplicable animal is evidence for the existence of an inexplicable animal – that's all. There is no basis for saying "well, then the cause must be X" just because you can't think of anything else yet. In order to get from the inexplicable animal to supernatural creation, you need a reason to get there, in the form of evidence. If you want to get there on the basis of faith, go ahead – just don't call it science.
12.27.2007 2:53pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"If evolution cannot be true lest Genesis not be true- what happens if evolution is proven to be true beyond a doubt?"

Then a literal reading of Genesis is incorrect, and those who insist on it lose credibility.
12.27.2007 2:54pm
drt456 (mail):
SteveG, please learn to use HTML.
12.27.2007 3:50pm
Michael B (mail):
What do you know of Galileo, of Copernicus, of Feyerabend's account and analysis c. 1980 for example, or, another example, of Pierre Duhem's account and historical analysis?"
Quite a bit, since I've lectured on Feyerabend's disgusting endorsement of Cardinal Bellarmino's condemnations of Galileo. But what's the point -- just to compare scholarly credentials?
Of course not. And that you've lectured says exceedingly little, says literally nothing at all. Mussolini and other intellectuals have lectured entire nations - and the likes of David Duke and Norm Finkelstein have lectured aplenty. Lecturing per se hardly constitutes a bona fide of note.

As to the point? The point would be to forward something in a cogent manner such that engagement might occur along rational lines. Is that an unfamiliar concept? It does seem to be something you, as with others, are wont to avoid. E.g., your characterization of Feyerabend as simply endorsing Bellarmino doesn't even rise to the level of tendentiousness; rather, it trades on ignorance, an ad hominem inference and unexamined received opinion, perhaps in the hope no one chooses to look beyond those superficial conceptions.

Not that such a hope would be unfounded.
12.27.2007 4:08pm
oledrunk (mail):
To wm13: You see, I do not hold that my soul be endangered by the products of science, whatever the faith of the inventor.
12.27.2007 8:56pm
W. R. Graves (mail):
What would disprove evolution? An experiment. We take a toad. We say a prayer. Suddenly, it turns into an acacia. We check the DNA, it's an acacia's DNA. We say another prayer, it's back to a toad. We check the DNA, it is indeed a toad.

Or from the 'Taming of the Shrew.' It's the blessed sun. Now it's the blessed moon. We check the color temperature, the spectral content, the position. The changes are real.

Or we say a prayer, and the planets now trace out square orbits. Sorry Galileo.

So far it hasn't happened. Call me when it does. You get a Nobel Prize.
12.27.2007 9:16pm
fishbane (mail):
Fishbane- i think we are compeletely in agreement.

I'm very glad that we agree that no practicing scientists (at least that we're aware of) are attempting to investigate religion through the scientific method, and that many theological professionals are attempting to subvert the teaching of science on the government's dime.

This has to be the most interesting exchange I've had on the topic with someone who seemed to disagree with me.

I mean this in all sincerity - that I don't have a faith doesn't at all inform how I consider those who do. I sometimes wonder if life would be easier if I did, but it is a moot point. I respect faith, in whatever form. I may bait people talking about it at times, because I don't consider it beyond critique - nothing is, in my view, and much more so when policy is supposed to flow from it. Thank you for acknowledging the point.
12.27.2007 9:56pm
Michael B (mail):
Here's a substantial and particularly revealing interview with Behe (mp3, 13m). It's revealing, that is, given the demonizations, browbeatings, ad hominem attacks in general that are typically administered against him. For example and despite those ad hominem attacks, Behe is in fact an IDer and specifically not a creationist (fideist as applied to young earth conceptions), in fact he takes a stand against young-earth creationists; he supports evolution in curricula; he's in line with a 13 or 14 billion year age of the universe, in turn in line with standard astrophysicist theory; he's positively adamant when it comes to the tenets of science; etc.

And yet, purported rationalists/empiricists - informed academics and scientists - continue to demonize him and leverage ad hominem attacks against him rather than argue on the basis of transparent rational inquiry - and that includes fellow academics/scientists who positively misrepresent Behe's positions, such as Ken Miller has in his lectures.

If science relies upon such demonizations and misrepresentations, to what extent is that "science" being faithful to its own most basic underlying tenets?
12.28.2007 1:07am
Colin (mail):
For example and despite those ad hominem attacks, Behe is in fact an IDer and specifically not a creationist

Only for a very constrained definition of "creationist." Behe clearly believes in miraculous intervention carving out black boxes where reason and science should be excluded; you have to limit "creationist" to the Hovinds and Hams of the world to exclude the Behes. Fortunately, few serious critics of his professional ignorance share your curious hostility towards science.

If science relies upon such demonizations and misrepresentations, to what extent is that "science" being faithful to its own most basic underlying tenets?

It doesn't rely on demonization or misrepresentations. You, however, have misrepresented Behe rather severely. Saying that he supports "evolution in curricula" is an empty platitude; he supports teaching evolution subject to the dictation of zones of exclusion, which are dictated by faith and unaffected by evidence or science. See, i.e., the disproof of Behe's blood-clotting example of IC, and his refusal to modify his theory in light of contrary evidence.

Saying that Behe accepts the evidence of an old earth doesn't make him not a creationist; "creationism" is a more plastic term than that. There are old-earth creationists, and creationists who believe in what they call "micro evolution." Behe goes further than most, but he still carves out a zone of empirical exclusion where only his faith will explain biology to his satisfaction.

What is your beef with empiricism?
12.28.2007 2:27am
Michael B (mail):
Wrong, Colin, I have no beef with empiricism and I haven't misrepresented Behe in the least, certainly not as he represents his views in the linked mp3 interview. Provide excerpts and quotes if you believe otherwise. Otherwise, your sneers and snide, your facile contempt, your unexplicated statements and assumptions and platitudes are all precisely, and only, that.

What is your beef with rational and responsible discourse, absent misrepresentations, unsupported allegations and ad hominem inferences?
12.28.2007 3:04am
oledrunk (mail):
To wm13. I trust the inventor of the MRI to which you refer did not use the biblical value of pi (3) in the calculations.
12.28.2007 9:22am
Qwinn:
wolfwalker:

Sorry for not coming back to this for a couple of days.

You assume that I haven't looked into the evidence for and against the irreducible complexity argument. Actually, I have. Among other things, I pursued the "computer model" that Dawkins claimed existed for the evolution of the eye, and found that it was a complete joke. A total hoax. It did no such thing. All it was was a calculation of how many successive mutations would have to occur to create the retina - a single part of the eye. And even then, it was millions of mutations, all pointed in the same direction, all without creating a single benefit for the creation or making it "fittest" but still somehow surviving and propagating. It was absurd, and when I saw it presented as some sort of Absolute Answer to Behe's argument, I became infinitely more skeptical.

I've also looked at the claims that the intermediate stages all exist in nature, and to that, I say "bunk". There's a million "intermediate stages" that aren't represented at all. The human eye is an -incredibly- fine tuned piece of machinery, with dozens of parts that do absolutely nothing unless they're all working in conjunction - but it's not just that. Certain aspects don't just have to be present, they have to be almost perfectly shaped, and I recall seeing a convincing examination of the fact that one part of the eye - I -think- it was the retina - undergoing the mutations it would have -had- to go through to develop would've meant that the rudimentary initial eyesight the creature had would've gotten -worse and worse- as the mutations gradually brought the shape of it into the optimal position. If each bending of the retina into it's current shape would've made it better and more focused until it achieved maximum efficiency, then I could buy it, but it wouldn't. Only at the very last step, the last mutation, would the vision suddenly spring into sharp focus.

There's dozens of other irreducibly complex structures out there. The flagellum of bacteria, requiring upward of 20 moving parts none of which do a damn thing without the others. The cell. Many others. Evos like to claim that it could -too- have happened, and, well, sure, but the odds of what you're proposing are so completely insanely unrealistic that I frankly do consider the odds of the world being created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster to be quite a bit more plausible.

Qwinn
12.28.2007 10:15am
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Any attack on evolution has to confront the fact that thousands and thousands of practicing scientists strongly disagree. The people who do this work on a daily basis think you're nuts. This inevitably leads to conspiracy theories, where scientists get together in large atheist meetings and plot to foist their unverified science on the world....
12.28.2007 12:02pm
Qwinn:
Chris Bell,

People who "work on a daily basis" with evolutionary theory are dealing with microevolution, which no one disputes. No one I have heard of is "working on a daily basis" on macroevolution. And if someone is, and actually has managed to create a new species through random mutations or even deliberate breeding, I think the world would be very interested in hearing about it.

Qwinn
12.28.2007 12:26pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Qwinn, the point remains that the scientists who are experts in the field are overwhelming convinced. Thousands of them would just roll their eyes at your claims - which they have heard (and dismissed) again and again and again.
12.28.2007 12:35pm
Qwinn:
Chris Bell,

I see. So I take it that "There's a scientific consensus that human-caused anthropogenic warming" is a convincing argument for you as well?

Sorry, but I don't find argumentation by authority to be very convincing. Especially when you bring up specific questions to these scientists, like asking them to explain how the number of pairs of chromosomes a human being could have could ever change on a large scale when a change in this number = Down's Syndrome (a condition not exactly known for fertility, "fittedness" or dating prospects) and then explain how this happened so often throughout history that pretty much every species on Earth has a distinct number of chromosome pairs... and the answer you get is "Well, that's a good question, and we're not really sure how it all works..."

No scientist will, in fact, tell you that he understands how it works. And when you point out that evolutionary theory would -require- that there be -millions- of transitional forms on Earth -right now-, and there's in fact virtually none, they'll say that's a pretty good mystery too. And eventually, all the mysteries and unexplained aspects and highly unlikely guesswork explanations add up so much that you realize that you're just viewing another secular religion that is adhered to as a matter of faith simply because the other possibilities are less appetizing - i.e., if it's not evolution, and you are hellbent on believing there's no God, then you don't have a lot of other options, so you'll stick with evolution till you die.

There are indeed plenty of scientists who doubt evolution, but the "consensus" political orthodoxy treats them the same way "global warming deniers" are treated. They're shunned. I've studied enough history to know how often scientists have shunned their colleagues that turned out to be 100% correct.

Qwinn
12.28.2007 12:44pm
Colin (mail):
Qwinn, it looks like you're reading creationist sources instead of actual biology texts. Eyes have not only evolved, they have evolved independently in multiple lines. Nor is Behe on any better footing with cilia - his typical problem is that he writes from his ideological biases, rather than from a familiarity with the literature or evidence. See, i.e., his enormously amusing admissions on the stand in Dover. With specific Beheian arguments like the cilia, you can easily find many examples of his ignorance of (or his hope that his audience will be ignorant of) counterexamples that disprove his point.

Being an ideologue, however, I don't think he's ever modified his theory to account for this data - he just carves out special exceptions, because he prioritizes the ideology over the evidence. This is one reason why Michael B's vitriolic defense of the creationist is so silly; Behe stopped doing empirical science a long time ago.

Michael B., Behe argues that natural processes are incapable of producing life as we know it. He appeals to a boundary event (in other words, an unknown miracle) to explain what scientists explain with empirical examinations. Read, for instance, Ruse's account in his book of Behe telling him that in his opinion, the designer suspends the laws of physics through miracles. How is he not a creationist? You have to use an artificially constrained definition of "creationist" to call him anything else.

For someone who claims to not have any problem with empiricism, you seem to always wind up struggling against it on the side of magical thinkers. If you want to do Behe a favor, leave off championing him against the criticism of empiricists on blogs and write him a letter. Tell him to get back in the lab, do some actual science, and resuscitate his career.

Incidentally, it's "spaghetti," not "speghetti," and PZ Myers, not Mathers or Mothers.
12.28.2007 12:45pm
Colin (mail):
Qwinn, your personal incredulity is not an argument against science. It's only a measure of your own personal incredulity. If you studied more, you might remedy it.

Speaking of which, there are millions of transitional forms on earth right now. There are more than that - every organism on Earth is a "transitional form," transitioning from its immediate prior ancestor to its immediate descendant. Over time, as speciation occurs, every organism that ever lived was a "transitional form." You badly misunderstand the concept of transitional organisms.

Please, don't trust creationist literature. It's an obscenely dishonest and ignorant ideology. Read a science text, or a book like Ernst Mayer's "What Evolution Is."
12.28.2007 12:49pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):

evolutionary theory would -require- that there be -millions- of transitional forms on Earth -right now-, and there's in fact virtually none

Hmmm. What a gaping hole in evolution! You've done it! Either that, or you've grossly misjudged what evolution requires. Which could it be? No explanation of evolution that I've ever heard requires this....

if it's not evolution, and you are hellbent on believing there's no God, then you don't have a lot of other options, so you'll stick with evolution till you die.

And there is the aforementioned conspiracy theory....

There are indeed plenty of scientists who doubt evolution

And the number is "growing every day", right? I won't say that you can't find a few cranks in a profession made up of thousands of people - but the idea of repressed scientists keeping silent because of a cabal of angry leaders is simply ludicrous.

Go away and try to convince someone that Bush planned 9/11
12.28.2007 12:55pm
Qwinn:
Colin:

1) Riiight... Behe is just an ideologue who lets his views color his judgment. Unlike Dawkins, who has compared Moses to Hitler, describes religion as child abuse, and calls the New Testament a "sadomasochistic doctrine", not to mention repeatedly warning his British audiences of "Christian Fascism" and a growing "American Taliban". No ideologue there!

2) An explanation that begins with: "Assume a primitive eye (aka "light sensitive patch" apparently complete with optic nerve and a brain capable of processing the electrical signals). Then it evolves into a complex eye." is pretty much the same as starting with "Assume a miracle.". You don't get to start your explanation halfway toward the finish line.

3) I see that the first link you provided appears to be quoting Dawkins. This is the guy I mentioned who claimed there was a computer model detailing the evolution of the eye, and thus was the case closed and all evolution deniers obvious morons. Yes, he was that snide about it in his book River Out of Eden. He goes on and on about his "computer models of evolving eyes." Well, it turns out that the guy credited with creating this famed computer simulation is a guy named Dan E. Nilsson, who explicitly rejects the idea that his lab has ever produced such a model. I went so far as to look up what Dawkins might've been talking about, and discovered that no such computer model existed. What I did find was a work by that individual titled "A Pessimistic Estimate of the Time Required For An Eye to Develop", except it wasn't even about a whole eye, it was about one piece of an eye (the retina, I think, it was a while back). I even found a "computer model" which calculated the number of mutations that would've been required and came up with a pretty absurd number. To attempt to pawn that off as a "computer model of the evolution of the eye" was such an absurd fraud that frankly I consider Dawkins to be utterly untrustworthy and as much an "ideologue" bent on justifying a predetermined conclusion as anything you just said about Behe.

Must run, back later.

Qwinn
12.28.2007 1:25pm
Qwinn:

"if it's not evolution, and you are hellbent on believing there's no God, then you don't have a lot of other options, so you'll stick with evolution till you die."

And there is the aforementioned conspiracy theory....
\

Are you f'ing kidding me? So it's perfectly okay for you to dismiss all theists as irrational grunts who will twist data to serve their purposes, but if atheists are considered in the same light, well, that's a whackjob conspiracy theory?

Remember, I'm not a theist. I'm an agnostic. I have no dog, or God, or need to disbelieve in a God in this fight. But what I -do- see is that militant atheists behave -exactly- the way they accuse theists of behaving, and in fact often more so.

Qwinn
12.28.2007 1:27pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
And if someone is, and actually has managed to create a new species through random mutations or even deliberate breeding, I think the world would be very interested in hearing about it.

Umm, just about everything we eat--except for wild caught fish--but most especially corn. Scientists still don't know how how pre-Columbian Native Americans managed to pull that one off.
12.28.2007 1:39pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
And our pets--domestic dogs, cats.
12.28.2007 1:41pm
Qwinn:
J. F. Thomas -

Um, sounds to me like you're talking about microevolution there. Yes, dogs can be bred, and cats, and corn. But in the end, the doberman and the chihuahua are still the same species, and they can breed. That's the definition of a species.

What I'm asking for is a case where someone created a -new species-, a species defined as a contained biological grouping that can genetically reproduce viable offspring with each other but cannot do so with the stock they were originally bred from. To my knowledge, that has yet to happen in all the thousands of years of, for example, dog breeding.

Qwinn
12.28.2007 1:45pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Great Danes and Chihuahuas can interbreed with human help. Some have argued that members of the same "species" should be able to interbreed in the wild - and that dogs should therefore be considered speciated.

In either event, being unable to repeat a process doesn't make it unscientific, especially when science says that the process will take thousands and thousands of years.

I don't believe the continents ever formed Pangaea. Science has never replicated the movement of continents over large distances. Sure there are micro-movements and earthquakes, but I don't believe in macro-movements. The idea that lots of small changes can add up to big changes over long periods of time is silly.... /parody

PS. J.F. Thomas is right, the evolution of corn is fascinating. It was basically a big weed when it began.
12.28.2007 1:55pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Um, sounds to me like you're talking about microevolution there. Yes, dogs can be bred, and cats, and corn.

No I am talking about domestic plants and animals that have evolved from their wild, and quite distinct (sometimes incapable of interbreeding completely or producing fertile offspring), ancestors.

So you are saying that domestic dogs and cats did not evolve from wild ancestors (wolves and a small middle eastern wild cat that still exists)?

The precursors of domestic cattle are now extinct. We know where and when the ancient sources of domestic sheep, goats, pigs and all our other domestic animals came from. They are quite distinct species from the wild root. Domestic horses can generally not produce fertile offspring with any of their close relatives (even their domestic relatives), although cattle can.

With domestic plants, where the genetic manipulation is even easier and has been more organized for a much longer time (and a generation is a single growing season), the differences between the domestic plant and the original wild species is even greater. The domestic corn varieties we grow today are not only vastly different from what the Indians grew 500 years ago but is a completely different species and is not even comparable to its wild source (which looks something like that minature asian corn and grows in bunches)
12.28.2007 2:02pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Yes, dogs can be bred, and cats, and corn.

I would really like to see one of these dog/cat/corn hybrids.
12.28.2007 2:05pm
Qwinn:

I would really like to see one of these dog/cat/corn hybrids.


If this was meant as a joke, that's fine. If you were attempting to depict your rephrasing as actually meaning what you're implying there, there's no point in speaking to you, and you're simply an ass who's deliberately distorting the meaning of what your opponent is saying in order to ridicule. I've got better uses for my time.

Qwinn
12.28.2007 2:11pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
It was meant as a joke. Lighten up.
12.28.2007 2:12pm
Qwinn:
Alright then. But you shouldn't be so quick to insist on people "lightening up" when the entire general thesis exclaimed by most of the folks on your side drips from beginning to end with the implication that anyone who doesn't buy every bit of the entire evolution spiel as a knuckle-dragging moron. Expect nerves to fray.


In either event, being unable to repeat a process doesn't make it unscientific


Um, that's interesting, since I was taught that being able to reproduce predictable results is the very -basis- of the scientific method. Looking up the definition reinforces this point. Not saying that one can't determine accurate results via other methods, but it isn't the scientific method.


The domestic corn varieties we grow today are not only vastly different from what the Indians grew 500 years ago but is a completely different species and is not even comparable to its wild source (which looks something like that minature asian corn and grows in bunches)


Does that variety of corn from which modern corn comes 500 years ago still exist? If not, then you can't know that it's a different species (i.e. couldn't be bred with it). Just because it looks very different today doesn't eliminate the possibility of breeding, as dobermans and chihuaguas show. You've not convincingly demonstrated to me a case of macroevolution as opposed to microevolution.

Let me add here that another aspect of diverging speciation that I find improbable is the fact that all species on the planet have wildly differing number of chromosome pairs. This isn't the same as the silly analogy of adding up small numbers = okay and adding up large numbers doesn't work, or your Pangaea analogy. A parrot's beak growing bigger over time isn't remotely the same as the basic nature of the DNA blueprint being changed - changing chromosome pairs. That's not just a differing quantitative change, that's a change of an entirely different nature.

Tell me, can you envision how the human genome could change, en masse, across even an isolated human stock, to 24 base chromosome pairs? An extra chromosome is called Down's Syndrome. Most don't survive. Many that do are sterile. Those that remain aren't generally considered optimal mating prospects. And it's hard to imagine someone whose Down's Syndrome would give them an evolutionary advantage -and- be able to crossbreed with a 23-pair chromosome human and keep the advantages and the 24th chromosome in the offspring - well, unless you're expecting that two Down's Syndrome humans who both enjoy genetic advantages rather than disadvatnages as a result of their condition happen to find each other and mate and whose children wind up cross-breeding with regular humanity until the entire race now has 24 chromosome pairs, in which case you're just getting ridiculous, I don't care how many millions of years you give it.

And if you can't envision that, how can you explain that so many species have such wildly different DNA blueprints?

As for why we shouldn't see transitional forms because it takes "millions of years", that doesn't work because we've got many many more millions of species, every one of them evolving. SOME of them should be in such a transitional state.

And if you're wanting to know what I'd accept as such, how about this: An example where Species A can breed with Species B, and Species B can breed with Species C, but Species A cannot breed with Species C. Shouldn't there be a great many of these situations at any given time? Think about it. You have a base population living in a temperate zone. Two groups are separated from it, one goes to tropical clime and the other to an arctic clime, and thus go on evolving on diverging paths. One would think that the two subgroups would speciate away from each other well before speciating away from the temperate variety. I would think there should be -countless- examples of this in nature, and yet, there isn't. Why not?

Qwinn
12.28.2007 2:36pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
::sigh:: Qwinn, you're presenting a caricature of evolution and then demanding that it be refuted. Scientists have worked out many methods that add/subtract chromosomes, but because you don't know about them you think they don't exist. Please spend some time in the Talk Origins archive.

Again, my point is a point about expertise. You wave your counterarguments around as if they are new ideas that smash gaping holes in a 150 year-old theory. You think that scientists have either been too stupid to think of your ideas or have all agreed to continue to ignore them.

Can this really be what you think? Do you really think that if you took your ideas down to a university and challenged the professors that they wouldn't have answers? (Many of which are available at Talk Origins.) They would roll their eyes and you know it.

This is why I said that all evolution opponents must eventually turn towards a conspiracy theory. They recognize that evolution is overwhelmingly supported by the experts that know it best. This is where you come in, with your claim that "There are indeed plenty of scientists who doubt evolution, but the "consensus" political orthodoxy treats them the same way "global warming deniers" are treated. They're shunned."

Ahhhh. You - with your grade school understanding of the subject - can't be wrong. The establishment must be covering up the truth. It's the only explanation.
12.28.2007 2:55pm
c.j. ammenheuser:
The question, and the debate, is not so much about creation whether it was intelligent or evolutionary, both are the same and impossible any other way; The question is why there are those who cannot accept the idea that we are created by an intelligent entity, and that we as humans are gifted with reasoning, free will and a soul. Since Darwin and Dawkins have no explanation for the soul, their science demands that we exist without a soul, free will or reasoning.
12.28.2007 3:08pm
Qwinn:
No, Chris. I -have- studied the subject, and you simply make the assumption that because I don't agree with you, I musn't have. I've read the explanations on the chromosome splitting, and I find it unconvincing. Primarily because the answers I'm often given when I ask these questions or when I look them up is "The mechanism for how this works isn't well understood". You'll see that -constantly- when looking up these matters, but that doesn't bother you. Why? Because you have -faith- in the theory, and you are confident that eventually the holes and gaps will be filled in and the answers will be found, or the specific transitional form between these two species will be found in the fossil record, or whatever. Yes, I read those sites, and I read the arguments, and the amount of times that a difficult question is raised is answered by "Scientists believe that it may have occurred like this" happens so often that eventually you realize they're working on at least 60% faith. You share the faith, so the umpteen thousand times they'll say "We're not sure" don't bother you, cause eventually we'll have all the answers!

Qwinn
12.28.2007 3:09pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
An example where Species A can breed with Species B, and Species B can breed with Species C, but Species A cannot breed with Species C.

Well now you're just not paying attention. I already gave you the example of horses (which generally can't produce fertile offspring with wild or even domestic relatives) and cattle which produce fertile offspring with quite a few wild cousins, even new world species (e.g. the American Bison), even though they originate in Africa. And of course dogs are still crossed with wolves.

We do have the historic varieties of corn (it is much like the decorative Indian Corn you see around Halloween), as well as the wild plant from which it is derived. Modern hybrid varieties have a hard time even reproducing with themselves. They are completely incapable of crossing with traditional varieties. As for the wild plant from which corn is derived. It looks nothing like the modern corn plant we are used to. It grows in clumps (kind of like sea grasses) and the ears are like the minature corn you get on a salad bar. Like I said, scientists are baffled how the Indians managed to turn that plant into the corn that was growing, and had been for a couple thousand years, when Columbus arrived (and we would immediately recognize as corn).

Big cats have also been subject to experiments in cross-breeding. And surprise of surprises, you can cross-breed Asian and African lions and get fertile offspring, but if you try and cross-breed a lion and a tiger you get sterile offspring. Same with great apes. Bonobos and Chimps can cross breed but you can't get a Chimp/gorilla hybrid. I don't know if anyone has ever tried to cross breed other closely related but widely geographically separated animals (American and European Bison, Asian and American Tapirs), but I imagine it would be possible.

There are countless examples in nature, I don't know why you say there aren't. Closely related species cross breed all the time. Species that have been separated by geography often meet up and merge or form new species. This happens especially in areas that have been modified by man. The pure red wolf gene stock is probably lost forever because it has been contaminated by coyote genes. The larger grey wolf probably never mates with coyotes (coyotes are considered food). Just recently Polar Bear/Brown Bear hybrids have been identified in Canada.
12.28.2007 3:21pm
Qwinn:

And surprise of surprises, you can cross-breed Asian and African lions and get fertile offspring, but if you try and cross-breed a lion and a tiger you get sterile offspring. Same with great apes. Bonobos and Chimps can cross breed but you can't get a Chimp/gorilla hybrid.


Perhaps you're identifying something I was unaware of here, but I'm not sure I'm understanding you properly. This doesn't seem to me to fit what I was asking.

I asked where A and B can breed together, and B and C can breed, but A and C can't. Saying "Bonobos and Chimps can cross breed but you can't get a chimp/gorilla hybrid" isn't an example of that, unless bonobos and gorillas can breed. Are you saying they can? The same question applies to almost all the other examples you gave.

Qwinn
12.28.2007 3:35pm
Qwinn:
Oh, and please let me add a stipulation here. I don't consider difficulties in cross breeding due to size or other macro-physical consideration, such as chihuahua and doberman, to be relevant. I'm talking about viability of genetic makeup. If artificial insemination would work, then they're the same species as far as my question goes.

Qwinn
12.28.2007 3:38pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
You're right. When scientists say things like "Nothing in biology makes sense except in light of evolution" or "evolution is the foundation of modern biology" they are lying. In fact, evolution theory is a bunch of I-dont-knows dressed up as certainty.

Those silly lying scientists. Thanks for exposing them.

I wonder why they did that? Why did an overwhelming number of biologists for almost a century engage in a vast conspiracy to hide the complete lack of support for evolution and pretend that it existed?

Now I'm afraid. I hope other things don't turn out like this. I was always proud of humans for walking on the moon....
12.28.2007 3:52pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"The flagellum of bacteria, requiring upward of 20 moving parts none of which do a damn thing without the others."

I think that famous flagella has indeed been shown to have a use with less than 20 parts. When it arrived at 20 parts it was capable of providing locomotion. However, with a smaller subset of the 20 parts it was a "stinger" that was used in feeding. The flagella argument demands that the member be used for locomotion at all stages in its evolution, and ignores the idea that the evolving set of parts could have different uses at different stages of evolution.
12.28.2007 3:57pm
Michael B (mail):
Colin,

No. Yet again you're allowing your presumption, leveraged with yet additional snide and contempt, to get in the way of any clarity and rational discourse. Most critically - or rather most fundamentally in terms of your presumption - you're misrepresenting my own position. It's as if you've added one plus one and have, with great confidence, arrived at three.

My position is not that of an ID proponent, rather my position is that free and open scientific inquiry should be allowed to proceed and to be supported. In point of fact, I'm skeptical concerning ID's general thesis when it comes to IC, though my skepticism is founded on an intuitive basis and not on empirical/rational proofs - hence I openly acknowledge the qualitative basis of that skepticism. As such, I allow for other, contrary hypotheses.

Differently, you are misrepresenting Behe's outlook.
12.28.2007 4:58pm
Qwinn:

Those silly lying scientists. Thanks for exposing them.


Nice strawman. Who ever even implied they were intentionally "lying"? I simply believe they're allowing their prejudices to affect their judgment. You know - what you accuse everyone who -doesn't- agree with evolution of doing. But I gotta give you credit - a complete strawman -and- an insufferably hypocritical double standard in one package, nice going.

Elliot:

I don't think the argument depends on any such thing. If they could show something like that - that it had an alternate use - in a convincing way I'd accept it. But can I ask a few questions?

1) How many parts working together did the "stingers" require? Maybe... ten? How then did those ten parts all evolve independently and click in just the right way in order to finally produce a functional stinger? If the argument was that it took -two- parts to evolve before something useful resulted, that argument might work. But coming up with -one- alternate use to explain 20 distinct evolutionary parts only reduces the necessary improbability of all those parts evolving to, at best, 10. And then from that adding another 10 individually evolving parts to get it to the 20.

2) Did the people who came up with that theory also explain how the damn things moved when all they had was stingers?

Qwinn
12.28.2007 5:00pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
It's not a strawman. I think that the, what, 95% of scientists that support evolution are right, and the 5% who disagree are wrong. If these numbers were reversed, I would reverse. You, on the other hand, believe that the 5% are right and just can't seem to convince the other 95% no matter how many years they try.

5% seems to be about the standard crazy level in any profession.

To use your words, you think 95% of scientists are letting "their prejudices affect their judgment" while I think it is the other way around. If you're right and I'm wrong, I would expect these numbers to slowly reverse themselves. Scientists respect truth, especially when the 5% begin to make discoveries the 95% can't explain. Instead, the 5% spend their time lobbying school boards and producing absolutely nothing of value.

But give it time. I'm sure they'll get there someday. Until then, your equivalence of mainstream science with fringe scientists is the straw man.
12.28.2007 5:20pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Elliot123, save your breath. Don't you know the old story?

SCIENTIST: I think Animal-10 evolved from primitive Animal-1.

CREATIONIST: That's ridiculous. There's a huge gap between 1 and 10!

SCIENTIST: Well, it is a big leap. I'll do more research. Look! I found fossil #5, that is halfway between Animal-1 and Animal-10! That supports my theory!

CREATIONIST: Don't be silly. Now you have TWO gaps! How did 1 become 5 and 5 become 10? You know even less than you did at the beginning.
12.28.2007 5:23pm
wolfwalker (mail):
Qwinn,

Regarding Dawkins: it may surprise you to find that I hold a similar opinion about Dawkins's political views. Politically he's a loudmouthed jerk with very little to say that's worth listening to. However, if you dismiss evolution because one of its most vocal proponents is a jerk whose politics are nonsensical, you commit a logical fallacy: guilt by association.

You asked: "An example where Species A can breed with Species B, and Species B can breed with Species C, but Species A cannot breed with Species C. Shouldn't there be a great many of these situations at any given time?"

Yes, there should. And in fact there are. I recommend some research into the phenomenon that biologists call a ring species. Several populations -- let's call them A, B, and C -- form a ring species when A can interbreed with B, and B can interbreed with C, but A cannot interbreed with C. Wikipedia describes one well-known example of a ring species; a page at PBS's website includes another. Also, judging by your level of knowledge, you shouldn't have any trouble understanding A. J. McCain's classic book Animal Species And Their Evolution, which goes into great detail on ring species.
12.28.2007 5:25pm
fishbane (mail):
Wolfwaker:

Re: the Wikipedia article, that's a bad cite for a clear example of a ring species: the facts on the gulls are considerably more complicated than what is presented there.

This, of course, isn't a disproof of speciation; in fact, a lot of the relatively new findings support the notion. But it isn't simple and clear cut. A good intro to the details is here.
12.28.2007 6:39pm
Colin (mail):
Qwinn,

Responding to your numbered points,

1. Identifying a person's eccentricities or crank characteristics is irrelevant. The question is whether that person is led by their ideologies. Dawkins' ideas are put to the scientific community and rigorously tested; Behe hides from his peers and publishes to a fawning audience of the under-educated and under-curious. I judge both their theories of biology by the fruits of that labor; the theories of empiricist scientists produce practical, testable, and proven results. The theories of creationists produce pamphlets snapped up by the faithful, and churn in that puddle of ignorance without ever producing actual, tangible results.

2. You betray your ignorance of biology. Your portrayal of the evolution of the eye is consistent with creationist caricatures of biology, but not real science. We have examples of light-sensitive cells forming primitive eyes, as well as extant eyes analogous to the intermediate steps. You won't get that from reading Answers in Genesis; again, please read a science textbook to see how science works. When you parrot the nonsense you read online, you sound as if you don't have the first idea what scientists actually understand about the natural world.

3. Congratulations on finding a computer model online! Are you qualified to interpret its output? Do you know how many mutations are plausible in a given timeline, or when that timeline would have begun with regard to homo sapiens? Is this the same model Dawkins used, or one that you found by Googling and produces convenient results? Is the model more persuasive to you than the living examples of "intermediate" eyes biologists are familiar with? These are not rhetorical questions. In the meanwhile, congratulations again on being more insightful, better educated, and much smarter than thousands of professional biologists worldwide! Quite an achievement. I'm sure your careful and methodical examinations of the evidence will be trumpeted worldwide forthwith. When do you anticipate publishing the results of your groundbreaking research?

Um, sounds to me like you're talking about microevolution there. Yes, dogs can be bred, and cats, and corn. But in the end, the doberman and the chihuahua are still the same species, and they can breed. That's the definition of a species.

While you're counting your Nobel prizes, please identify for us the process or natural feature that stops "microevolution" from producing gross morphological changes. Once again, this is not a rhetorical question . . . just one that's difficult for armchair creationists to answer.

Tell me, can you envision how the human genome could change, en masse, across even an isolated human stock, to 24 base chromosome pairs?

"Can you envision" is not how science is done. Evidence is how science is done, which is why your poorly-informed complaining is not science. Evidence such as, for instance, evolutionary biologists' prediction of chromosome fusion in human DNA. How did that prediction work out, by the way? Once again, not a rhetorical question.

And if you're wanting to know what I'd accept as such, how about this: An example where Species A can breed with Species B, and Species B can breed with Species C, but Species A cannot breed with Species C. Shouldn't there be a great many of these situations at any given time?

It's called a ring species. The best cure for your confusion is to read a book. Failing that, try Wikipedia. I don't for a single moment believe that data will remedy your ideological pretensions, but it might convince you that your poorly considered complaints have been raised, and dealt with, long before you started bravely crusading against wicked science.

Oh, and please let me add a stipulation here. I don't consider difficulties in cross breeding due to size or other macro-physical consideration, such as chihuahua and doberman, to be relevant. I'm talking about viability of genetic makeup.

This is an example of allowing your ideology to lead you by the nose. Physical barriers to reproduction, from an organism's size to geographical isolation, are one significant source of differeing "chromosomal makeup." There is no serious logical reason for excluding these engines of speciation, other than to engineer the result you desire. Honestly, we've all seen creationists wriggling through hoops before; your pretensions to genius are nothing new and not difficult to see through.
12.28.2007 7:47pm
Colin (mail):
Michael B., you write so much but say so little. If you would only say what you mean from the beginning, our conversations would be much faster. Or, at least, your equivocations would be simpler.

No. Yet again you're allowing your presumption, leveraged with yet additional snide and contempt, to get in the way of any clarity and rational discourse. Most critically - or rather most fundamentally in terms of your presumption - you're misrepresenting my own position. It's as if you've added one plus one and have, with great confidence, arrived at three.

This paragraph doesn't say anything at all. There is no content here other than your claim that I've misrepresented you. A lot of verbiage to say that! Let's examine the claim.

My position is not that of an ID proponent, rather my position is that free and open scientific inquiry should be allowed to proceed and to be supported.

The objection of the scientific community to creationism is that it is not scientific inquiry, but rather a religious and political effort to direct science along ideologically acceptable lines. We can see some evidence for this accusation in creationists' refusal to submit their theories to the examinations of actual scientists, and their focus in the alternative on forcing their ideology into universities and lower schools without first generating any evidence for their hypotheses. Behe, for example, has published virtually nothing in support of his ideas, and what he has published evaded professional peer review. His output is also grossly inadequate; see, i.e., the brutal reviews of his latest screed, The Edge of Evolution. Behe made some serious, egregious, basic errors in that book. Will they be corrected in an errata, as would be the case with " free and open scientific inquiry," or will they be buried and ignored, as is the case with ideological issue advocacy?

In point of fact, I'm skeptical concerning ID's general thesis when it comes to IC, though my skepticism is founded on an intuitive basis and not on empirical/rational proofs - hence I openly acknowledge the qualitative basis of that skepticism. As such, I allow for other, contrary hypotheses.

I'm pleased that you acknowledge the uselessness of your own guesswork. Why not let scientists dispose of Behe's ideological sermons with "empirical/rational" arguments, then? What is the source of your hostility to scientists? You keep complaining that they aren't "humble" enough. Is it ideas like Behe's they should bow before, despite Behe's failure to generate any "empirical/rational" support for those ideas? Please explain yourself -- despite my teasing, your ideas really and truly aren't clear to me. You spend too much time complaining about how people don't understand you, and not enough time explaining yourself.

Differently, you are misrepresenting Behe's outlook.

How? Please be explicit.
12.28.2007 7:57pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Colin:

In the meanwhile, congratulations again on being more insightful, better educated, and much smarter than thousands of professional biologists worldwide! Quite an achievement. I'm sure your careful and methodical examinations of the evidence will be trumpeted worldwide forthwith. When do you anticipate publishing the results of your groundbreaking research? . . . While you're counting your Nobel prizes, please identify for us the process or natural feature that stops "microevolution" from producing gross morphological changes. . . . your poorly considered complaints have been raised, and dealt with, long before you started bravely crusading against wicked science.

EXACTLY.

I forgot that there is another possibility besides believing that science is a conspiracy theory. Sheer, unadulterated, overwhelming arrogance. "Sitting at home hunched over my computer, I managed to poke holes in a scientific theory that has been accepted by nearly every significant biologist for almost two hundred years." Sure buddy, sure.
12.28.2007 8:11pm
Qwinn:
wolfwalker,

I appreciate your ability to discuss the subject in a civil manner, something that is apparently completely beyond asshats like Dawkins, Colin and Chris Bell here. Do you notice how they can't get out three consecutive sentences without insulting the intelligence of anyone who doesn't agree with them? This isn't the reaction of scientists, this is the reacion of a cult to the speaking of heresy.

When you charge me with "guilt by association", the thing is, I'm not the one who is most often doing the associating. I certainly won't extend his frauds to you, but the *cough* Scientists here are invoking His Holiness every other sentence as if it were the writ of Holy Moses, it's not me creating the association. Does that invalidate the theory? No. But it does invalidate the "Consensus" argument (weak as it is to begin with) when so many of those adding their voices to the "Consensus" are themselves beguiled and gladly deceived by such an asshat charlatan.

That said, I'll gladly look into the source you suggest for reading on ring species (and that suggested by fishbane as well), and consider the results.

Colin and Chris Bell:

You two are exactly what I was talking about. You throw out your links to Dawkins with every bit the theological zeal of a Baptist minister citing Paul to the Corinthians. It doesn't matter to you that any of your cites are disputed, that's simply heresy, and any disputations of the claims are heretical simply for the sake of existing.

You claim -I'm- arrogant? Are you kidding? Chris Bell, your 95/5% thesis is ridiculous. By that metric, guess what - counting the sheer percentage of professors in universities around the world who vote in it's favor, Marxism is by far the most promising economic theory of our times, right? And global warming is -absolutely- caused by humans, hell, every word of An Inconvenient Truth is like unto the Sermon on the Mount.


Sitting at home hunched over my computer, I managed to poke holes in a scientific theory that has been accepted by nearly every significant biologist for almost two hundred years.


Stupid Galileo, he thinks he managed to poke holes in a scientific theory that had been accepted by nearly every significant scientist for almost two thousand years. The moron.

And that analogy doesn't mean I think I'm Galileo, btw, moron, though I'm sure you'll try to interpret it that way. The point is that, long before the Church brought up any issues with what Galileo was saying, the most strident mockery of his theories came as a result of his noting that objects fall at the same rate, and it was at the hands of the most noted scientists of the time who considered Aristotlean physics which had survived for two thousand years as a Done Deal. You'd think anyone could've easily climbed the tower and repeated the experiment, but they DIDN'T EVEN TRY, because 95% of scientists agreed and who is this stupid shmuck Galileo? And the attitude you folks bring into this debate, with your continuous insults and namecalling and simple insults to any questions or doubt, is -exactly- what I would have expected from those Aristotleans. Listening to you guys is like being berated by a Calvinist telling me I'll certainly go to Hell for my heresy, and you wonder why the hell no one is inclined to listen or trust a word you say or a single link you site, which we can be assured is -always- every bit as sneering and insulting to anyone who questions Orthooxy as their own sophomoric rants. Enough, I'll take wolf's cites away from this conversation but the noise to signal ratio here, as it is in EVERY debate where militant atheists show up, is intolerable.

Qwinn
12.28.2007 9:07pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
But who did Galileo convince? Fellow scientists who could verify his results with their own telescopes.

I guarantee you that if intelligent design proponents produce results then scientists will listen to them. Until that time, the 5% have been harping for 150 years without producing a damn thing. You would be upset too.

Sorry if I was rude, but I was trying to shake you into thinking about some of these things. The comment section of a blog is not the place to get into detailed explanations of evolutionary theory (and I would ask a professor to do that, not me) but do you really think those explanations aren't there? That thousands and thousands of professional biologists have been blinded by prejudice / conspiring / wrong for years and years and years?

You MUST answer this question "yes" to maintain your position (as you in fact did) and I think people should recognize that.
12.28.2007 9:24pm
Qwinn:

I guarantee you that if intelligent design proponents produce results then scientists will listen to them. Until that time, the 5% have been harping for 150 years without producing a damn thing. You would be upset too.


I don't expect them to "produce results" in the way you're demanding. I thought I mentioned this in my first post, but that may have been on some other site discussing this subject: I don't consider ID to be a stand-alone "theory", and in my experience it's mostly those who oppose it who insist on treating it as such. It is a -critique- of evolutionary theory, not a theory in and of itself, any more than a critique of global warming theory should "produce results". Pointing out that the historical record shows that carbon dioxide levels follow, not precede warming isn't "producing a result", but it sure blows a hole in AGW, doesn't it? Same as many of the ID's points blow holes in Macroevolution. Evolutionists made predictions all the time that didn't pan out (predictions about the pre-Cambrian record is a huge example), and when that happens, they tweak and shove the theory into a new shape, never admitting that the predictive failure means anything to the original soundness of the theory. When you see this enough times, you start to realize that no matter -how- it failed to live up to it's predictions, you'd just get more excuses made that sound more and more often like "Assume a miracle. Then, after years of successive and slow changes, you arrive at something that doesn't require a miracle."

What I expect of a critique is to blow holes in the existing theory, not necessarily to replace it with something else. Yes, some ID'ers tag "...and since it's not evolution, it must be God" to the end, but I consider that final part to be superfluous and easily ignored, as it is the -end- of the argument based on speculation, not the beginning of the argument which lies in the critique. As far as I'm concerned, it could be little green aliens from Alpha Centauri who came down just before the Cambrian explosion and did some tinkering. ID to me isn't telling me how it happened, it's attempting to show how it -didn't- happen, and how many predictions made -haven't- panned out (with creative excuses made each time, but with never-flagging Faith that Proof Will Eventually Be Found). See the difference?

BTW, another example of "scientific consensus" being proven horribly wrong. Remember Paul Erlich's "The Population Bomb"? Man, -everyone- bought into that crock of shit. 70% of the human population was going to be in famine by the year 2000, remember? Oops, looks like the UN has recently revised -worldwide- birthrate from 2.1 to 1.8. By the year 2050, the population of the planet will start to actually drop, slowly at first, then precipitously at current rates. But the insults to those who said Erlich was full of shit flew high and heavy and they were mocked mercilessly for years. Was there ever an apology? No, it just happens again on another front.

Tell me, Chris, do you belong to the Church of Gaia? Is global warming certified human-caused in your worldview? We keep being told the Science Is Settled on that one, so no more questions need be asked, anyone who questions it is a moron, and it's the exact same argument you're making here. Do you buy into every prediction made by the AGW crowd? If yes, I consider that sad. If no, then why does "consensus" as a justification for a theory apply for evolution but not in AGW?

Qwinn
12.28.2007 10:13pm
fishbane (mail):
Qwinn -

Before you formulate any notions about the gulls, be sure to look in to other examples of ring species. To the best of our knowledge, the various flavors of the phenomena are real. And not that the gulls might be in the process of forming a new ring.

I have no idea why citing Erlich in a long thread about the validity of common descent would be worthwhile. If someone misinterprets economics to make a Malthusian argument that some people embraced almost 40 years ago, does that mean that creationists have to answer for for the Time Cube guy? I'd argue no - they have to answer independently for their weird claims.

Tell me, Chris, do you belong to the Church of Gaia? Is global warming certified human-caused in your worldview?

Trying to change the subject, much?

That there are fads in science is obvious. Just like in religion. Ahem. And sports, and popular music. I'd find it far more interesting if you attacked the fad of general relativity, which, after all, hasn't been around as long as the one you choose to attack.
12.28.2007 11:33pm
fishbane (mail):
Sorry,

And not that the gulls [...]

That should be note that the gulls...
12.28.2007 11:34pm
Qwinn:
fishbane,

Chris Bell's arguments for at least half a dozen posts on this thread have relied exclusively on "consensus" - that since 95% of scientists (his number) claim something, it absolutely positively has to be true. Don't take my word for it, scroll up. He didn't just bring it up once or twice and drop it, it's been the vast majority of his arguments. Pointing out repeated examples where the consensus was wrong is hardly off topic. If you don't consider "consensus" a valid argument, then great, feel free to agree with me and point out his argument is flawed, but don't jump on me for responding to it.

Qwinn
12.29.2007 12:13am
Michael B (mail):
Colin,

There may be an exception, but I suspect I haven't initiated an exchange with you in a year or two or more; you initiate the exchanges (most recently here) and virtually without fail it's on the basis of some leveraged presumption together with ad hominem inferences and snide and similar forms of over-eager contempt. When I reply, it's to defend myself or clarify my position, precisely due to the ad hominem inferences, the presumption that discolors or more egregiously distorts my positions, etc.

So no, we don't have "conversations," you initiate presumptive harangues and similar presumptive forms.

As to what I've stated in this thread - such as here, here and here - I'm more than happy to let it stand - and allow those who care judge for themselves. Those three comments alone take note of, 1) philosophical materialism, 2) other philosophical, ideological and social/political influences that can erode better conceptions of science and its underlying tenets, 3) the purported "consensus" that surrounds the High and Holy Church of Global Warming, 4) the concept of and applications of Popper's falsifiability, 5) meanings associated with the term "theory" in scientific literature and more widely, 6) the absurdly tendentious and grade-school level reasoning that underlies Russell's Celestial Teapot, the FSM, etc., 7) the priesthoods of P.Z. Mockers, Dawkins, et al. along with their votaries and sock-puppets, and 8) the breadth and depth and storied history of philosophical discussions associated with natural theology, alluding (and only alluding), to Aristotle, Plato, Pascal, Liebniz, et al. in that tradition.

Again, I'm more than happy to let those who care to, read, and judge for themselves. I can't help it if you misrepresent my positions on the basis of your standard m.o.: presumption, snide, a facile and eager contempt and the arrogations that accompany it all.

Finally, I could readily respond to the questions buried in your rhetorical sewer, but I'm hardly obligated. When I respond, as in the past, it will be at my choosing.
12.29.2007 12:36am
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
When dealing with a field that requires expertise (like biology) the consensus argument does have force. A layman is unlikely to make new discoveries in fields like this.

Given that, consensus should be more convincing (1) the more widespread it is, (2) the longer it stays around, and (3) the more it survives challenge.

So it has less force with global warming, which is fairly well accepted and seriously challenged, but not that old. Evolution has been overwhelmingly accepted for years and years and years despite continued assault from all corners.

My entire point is that it's very arrogant of you (a non-scientist) to think you've discovered holes in a theory that scientists haven't discovered in a century and a half of searching. If, on the other hand, you think scientists have heard these complaints before, then you need to explain why they found them unconvincing. This is where your arguments about "prejudice" come in to play.

Every serious science organization in the country (and, to my knowledge, the world) supports evolution. Doesn't that give you any pause?

PS. Despite your personal opinion, Intelligent Design proponents certainly consider their theory to be a positive theory and not just a critique on evolution. See Behe's Kitzmiller testimony (available online)

PPS. Slightly off-topic, but have a read of this list of 10 common anti-global warming claims along with answers. You'll find your latest claim on the list. Again, I'm not here to talk about global warming, but it illustrates what I'm talking about. You have these claims that you think are unanswerable, but the experts who do this for a living disagree. Your only response is to claim that they are "prejudiced".
12.29.2007 1:18am
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
When you want to build a bridge, you ask a bridge builder.
When you want to build a house, you ask an architect
When you want to know where the grand canyon came from, you ask a geologist
When you want to know how life has changed over time, you ask a biologist

But you can reject the answer the biologist gives you, because you know best.
12.29.2007 1:36am
Elliot123 (mail):
Qwinn,

I can't answer your questions about the flagella because I have extended myself to the limit of my competence with one celled critters. But, nevertheless, I do like to read about such things. I read the bit I related in the WSJ about three years ago, and found it again during the coverege of the Pennsylvania ID trial when Behe testified that astrology would qualify as natural science under his notion of natual science.
12.29.2007 1:54am
fishbane (mail):
Qwinn,

I'm not "jumping on" you. In fact, if you count coup this way, I actually complicated the argument that I support.

I don't count coup, at all, so I consider more information as a better way to understand our world. That's why I posted a correction to someone who agreed with me.

I welcome any factual evidence you may have that might better align the general thrust of speciation, common descent, or evolution. Thus far, you have failed to do so, but that's OK. All you have to do is offer a fact that hasn't been refuted before (be sure to check talk.origins - you wouldn't want to be a crank, would you?), and you're good.

I promise you, I will rethink my view on the related set of theories called 'evolution', should you produce a single reason to do so, within the framework of what you're attempting to refute.
12.29.2007 3:58am
JosephSlater (mail):
Just want to post my personal gratitude to Colin and Chris B. for making convincing and informative arguments, and doing so with more patience and grace then their interlocutors have noticed or acknowledged.
12.29.2007 11:40am
SenatorX (mail):
Dimitri: If Atlas holds up the world, what holds up Atlas?

Tasso : Atlas stands on the back of a turtle.

Dimitri : But what does the turtle stand on?

Tasso : Another turtle.

Dimitri : And what does that turtle stand on?

Tasso : My dear Dimitri, it's turtles all the way down!
12.29.2007 11:52am
Elliot123 (mail):
Can someone tell us how natural science has demonstrated the existence of an intelligence capable of taking the role assigned by ID? If not, what research is ongoing to deminstrate it? Who is doing it? Where? What progress has been made?
12.29.2007 12:46pm
Michael B (mail):
"... and found it again during the coverege of the Pennsylvania ID trial when Behe testified that astrology would qualify as natural science under his notion of natual science." Elliot123

The astrology charge against Behe is a commonly repeated deceit, a lie.

Behe said no such thing, though it is something the plaintiff's attorney attempted to suggest via some courtroom sophistry. The relevant trial transcript is here. Firstly, the term you're looking for is not "natural science," it's "theory," that's the term that was being discussed in its historical setting. Relevant excerpt:

Behe, emphases added: "Under my definition, a scientific theory is a proposed explanation which focuses or points to physical, observable data and logical inferences. There are many things throughout the history of science which we now think to be incorrect which nonetheless would fit that -- which would fit that definition. Yes, astrology is in fact one, and so is the ether theory of the propagation of light, and many other -- many other theories as well."

He could have added the Ptolemaic theory of the solar system, or Tyco Brahe's, or even Copernicus's retained circular orbits of the planets, along with many, many other, now discarded but formerly and variously accepted, theories. But the plaintiff's attorney leveraged more than a little smarm and disingenuousness into the mix and the MSM, with careful edits, leveraged it further still.

(Btw, an historical note only, of the four or five theories alluded to above only one was forwarded not as a theory/hypothesis but as a positivist statement of the material facts: Copernicus's circular orbits.)
12.29.2007 1:39pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Too bad for Behe. That definition of a scientific theory is what most scientists call a scientific hypothesis, developed after observation. It's a proposed explanation. However, most consider a scientific theory to be an explanation confirmed by experiment and repeated successful replication of the experiment.

Behe is using the word theory in its popular usage. That is very different from a scientific theory. I would agree that astrology is a theory under popular usage, but it has never been verified by experiment. So is ID. But then it fails for lack of experiment.

I'm not sure why a smart guy like Behe chooses to define a scientific theory very differently from the way the rest of the scientific community does.
12.29.2007 2:26pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Michael B is right, to a point. The trial transcript is not nearly as clear as it is often portrayed. (And I think my pro-evolution stance is very clear in this thread.)

Behe said that astrology, as first postulated, is a scientific theory. Here it is: "The movement of the planets and stars affects human behavior." This certainly could have been true.

This formulation is correct if we are using the word theory to mean "Any proposed explanation of natural phenomenon." In other words, an untested hypothesis. The problem is that scientists (when they are being precise) prefer to use the word hypothesis to describe what Behe is talking about, but theory normally means a hypothesis that has survived testing.

Under Behe's definition, anything could be a "scientific theory" if phrased correctly. The following is a scientific theory: "Our world is linked to a foreign alien world, and our moods are determined by their moods, much like in the movie E.T." This is manifestly not what scientists mean when they refer to the "Theory of Evolution".

But Michael B is right, Behe did not take the stand and say that "astrology is science" - as his testimony is often portrayed. Behe only said that intelligent design is a scientific theory, just like astrology. (Not that this is much better for his side....)
12.29.2007 2:37pm
Michael B (mail):
The trial transcript speaks for itself. Behe's own working definition of theory, as used during the trial, was explicit, not at all ambiguous. Again, Behe speaking: "Under my definition, a scientific theory is a proposed explanation which focuses or points to physical, observable data and logical inferences." As such it constitutes an explicit and transparent working definition during the course of the trial and a perfectly reasonable and responsible definition at that.

Chris Bell,

I do appreciate your more respectful tone, but as the trial transcript indicates, Behe formulated his working definition of the term ("theory") and it was the plaintiff's attorney who introduced astrology into the discussion, not Behe. It was only after the plaintiff's attorney introduced the term that Behe was forced to qualify the admission. I.e. courtroom sophistry which was subsequently further leveraged by the MSM and others, and then oft-repeated in standard agitprop and propaganda and demonizing mode.

Elliot123,

I would firstly point you to previous discussions of the term "theory" within this very thread before you further pronounce upon what theory is and what it is not. More importantly and by example, I would point you to Einstein's annus mirabilis, the year 1905, wherein the papers Einstein forwarded were not undergirded with any empirical findings whatsoever but rather were supported, essentially, with pure rational thought. So, by your definition, we're not to accept Einstein's 1905 papers as worthy of being thought of as proper theories?

Thirdly, you are conflating present tense with past tense conceptions and thus are corrupting the unambiguously historical references Behe alluded to.

In general, all this serves to strongly indicated how obfuscation, demonizations, etc. play such a prominent role in even the simplest aspects of these discussions. It can't even be allowed that Behe was setting the plaintiff's attorney's introduction of astrology into a purely historical context without snickering and obscuring the matter.
12.29.2007 3:53pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Behe formulated his working definition of the term ("theory") and it was the plaintiff's attorney who introduced astrology into the discussion, not Behe. . . . I.e. courtroom sophistry which was subsequently further leveraged by the MSM and others, and then oft-repeated in standard agitprop and propaganda and demonizing mode.
I don't think this was sophistry in any sense. The atty was simply pointing out that under Behe's definition (what you call a "working definition") astrology is a scientific theory. The plaintiffs had a different definition of the word theory that was more consistent with actual scientific usage, and under the plaintiff's definition neither astrology nor intelligent design were scientific theories. I think that is an extremely relevant point.

The atty also made Behe look like a weasel when Behe danced around the question. The atty then pointed out that in his deposition Behe gave a simple "yes" answer, but now that he's on the stand he has some long explanation.
More importantly and by example, I would point you to Einstein's annus mirabilis, the year 1905, wherein the papers Einstein forwarded were not undergirded with any empirical findings whatsoever but rather were supported, essentially, with pure rational thought. So, by your definition, we're not to accept Einstein's 1905 papers as worthy of being thought of as proper theories?

To defend Elliot, Einstein's papers produced an extremely provocative hypothesis. Under the definition I'm following (which is the standard one) Einstein's hypothesis didn't become a theory until its predictions were tested.

So Einstein's papers were quickly recognized as deeply insightful, but they had to make predictions. The movement of stars during a solar eclipse tested and confirmed Einstein's ideas. If Einstein's predictions were wrong, his papers would have been discarded as interesting attempts.

Now, can you name a single prediction of Intelligent Design that has been tested and confirmed? Until that time, Intelligent Design remains an untested hypothesis that should not be taught in grade schools.
12.29.2007 4:30pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Oh, and Einstein's new ideas correctly predicted the perihelion shift of Mercury, so they had something going for them right off the bat.
12.29.2007 4:34pm
JosephSlater (mail):
The astrology comparison is useful in one regard. Imagine if some group were trying to maintain that astrology should be taught in a science classroom, as a serious or plausible explanation of events/personalities. Do you think we would be hearing all these arguments about the history and philosphy of science that defenders of ID and creationism trot out when evolution is the subject? I'm guessing not, at least not from the same people.
12.29.2007 4:35pm
fishbane (mail):
Now, can you name a single prediction of Intelligent Design that has been tested and confirmed? Until that time, Intelligent Design remains an untested hypothesis that should not be taught in grade schools.

Bingo.

Or at least, ID supporters should be honest, and also support teaching grade schoolers about the FSM. They are the same, and if one is OK in science class, so is the other. (Before anyone attacks from the historical understanding of their invisible sky god, let me just ask what you think of Mitt's religion.)
12.29.2007 4:53pm
Michael B (mail):
"I don't think this was sophistry in any sense. The atty was simply pointing out that under Behe's definition (what you call a "working definition") astrology is a scientific theory. The plaintiffs had a different definition of the word theory that was more consistent with actual scientific usage, and under the plaintiff's definition neither astrology nor intelligent design were scientific theories. I think that is an extremely relevant point." Chris Bell

So you say, but that's all circular reasoning. You'd need, in a positive and unambiguous sense, to formulate your own working definition, one which would likewise allow itself to be subjected to critique. That too is something the plaintiffs never did. Convenient, that.

So again, Behe's offered definition is: "a scientific theory is a proposed explanation which focuses or points to physical, observable data and logical inferences."

1) What do you not like about that conception?

2) And what is your own proposed definition, in positive terms?

Set it out, clearly and unambiguously, so it can be subjected to criticism. You can't sit on the sidelines and offer criticisms without offering your own positive definition. Such a tactic formed an aspect of the plaintiff's tactics but what may work in a court of law doesn't necessarily work before the tribunal of rational inquiry.

(And again, I am not an ID proponent, I am a skeptic and decidedly so. But I am not a mere cynic and am not going to forfeit my mind when it comes to the facile and circular forms of reasoning, much less the ad hominem attacks and demonizations, that characterize these discussions.)

As to Einstein and his annus mirabilis, that subject was forwarded to contrast with the notion or definition of "theory" Elliot had proposed, which you did not refute with a single example (Einstein forwarded a total of five papers in 1905 and Max Planck, no less, took exception to substantial aspects of what was proposed in some of those papers). The fact remains, there was no, or virtually no, empirical findings Einstein forwarded with those papers. Even the empirical evidence as reflected in Michelson-Morley was not something Einstein credited with helping to forward his own thinking and theories as set out in those papers.

And obviously Einstein's theories have served predictive value, but that was after the fact. Again, 1905 was brought up to refute the definition Elliot had forwarded, which is not at all correct if it's being forwarded with the idea that it's the only "correct" definition used within the scientific community. That is simply not the case.
12.29.2007 6:22pm
SenatorX (mail):
"Take a square to represent the class of all statments of a language in which we intend to formulate a science; draw a broad horizontal line, dividing it into an upper and lower half; write 'science' and 'testable' into the upper half, and 'metaphysics' and 'non-testable' into the lower: then, I hope, you will realize that I do not propose to draw the line of demarcation in such a way that it coincides with the limits of language, leaving science inside, and banning metaphysics by excluding it from the class of meaningful statements. I stressed the fact that it would be inadequate to draw the line of demarcation between science and metaphysics so as to exclude metaphysics as nonsensical from a meaningful language.

I have indicated one of the reasons for this by saying that we not try to draw the line to sharply. This becomes clear if we rememer that most of our scientific theories originate in myths. The Copernican system, for example, was inspired by a Neo-Platonic worship of the light of the Sun who had to occupy the 'centre' because of his nobility. This indicates how myths may develop testable components. They may in the course of discussion, become fruitful and important for science..." Karl Popper - Conjectures and Refutations
12.29.2007 7:40pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Michael B, I'm afraid you're just wrong.
You'd need, in a positive and unambiguous sense, to formulate your own working definition, one which would likewise allow itself to be subjected to critique. That too is something the plaintiffs never did. Convenient, that.

Here is a direct quote from Dr. Miller's testimony.
Theories are broad, useful, powerful generalizations that explain and unite a broad range of facts. Theories have to make testable predictions, because otherwise they're not useful as theories. If a theory is enunciated to explain a natural process, it has to make predictions that lead to testable hypotheses so that people can go into the laboratory, can make those tests, and can tend to confirm or refute the theory.

Q. But if a theory does not meet these ground rules of science, testability, observability, they are not considered scientific?

A. It's just not a scientific theory, that's correct.
So the plaintiffs clearly did spell out what a "theory" is.

Then you said "And obviously Einstein's theories have served predictive value, but that was after the fact." Again, Einstein's ideas were great, but they were not confirmed as established theories until they were tested. Let me quote Dr. Miller again:
I have never done any research so grand that I would have described in any of those papers a new theory that I have. Hypotheses, yes, but theories are a whole other level of understanding.

I am perfectly willing to consider ID a theory worth learning and teaching to children as soon as it does something.

Right now it is just a speculative hypothesis that has been considered laughable by thousands of scientists for several generations. ID should put up or shut up. Instead, after failing to convince any significant number of scientists, ID proponents have turned to school boards and played on religious sentiment.
12.29.2007 7:54pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"So you say, but that's all circular reasoning. You'd need, in a positive and unambiguous sense, to formulate your own working definition, one which would likewise allow itself to be subjected to critique."

Natural scientists have done just that. They have a common definition for a scientific theory. Behe uses the term "scientific theory" to identify a different concept.

One of the tactics used to get ID into the natural science curriculum is to change the definition of science. This is what Behe does. He changes a definition of "scientific theory" so ID qualifies under the label. Unfortunately, so does astrology, numerology, the Norse Gods, and reading tea leaves.

The definition change can get quite serious. The Kansas Board of Education changed the definition of natural science when it was controlled by ID supporters. That way the shortcomings of ID did not prevent including it as natural science. When the ID folks lost the next election, the board returned to the commonly accepted definition of a "scientific theory."
12.29.2007 10:42pm
Michael B (mail):
Chris Bell,

Firstly, I stand corrected in terms of what the plaintiffs offered; as pertains to that specific and material fact I was wrong. Secondly, I broadly agree with SenatorX's excerpt from K. Popper.

So, the plaintiffs did spell out their own opinion of what a theory is, well and good. But you are confusing a considered opinion, one still subject to review, with a definitive and exhaustive right vs. wrong demarcation. Likewise, this: "Einstein's theories were great, but they were not confirmed as established theories ..." begins to run off the rails into some highly obscure and presumptive conceptions.

You are now 1) reasoning backward from Ken Miller's definition (which you accord as being definitive, exhaustive and exclusionary) and further 2) are somehow distinguishing between "established" theories and theories that are not established - apparently with the additional assumption that those latter theories are not real or true or actual theories, 3) which further leads to excluding Einstein's annus mirabilis papers, as of 1905, from the accepted definition!?! and 4) which presumably also excludes such things as string theory due to its continued lack of empirical standing?

Wow. I'm not sure you appreciate the subtlety and the ramifications stemming from what you're suggesting. Many, many other questions come to mind but I'll summarily reduce it to the following set:

5) At what point did Ptolemy's theory of the solar system become a theory? or established theory? same with Tycho Brahe's and same with Copernicus's
6) at what point did (5) cease to be theories, or "established" theories?
7) or is it still viable to think of them (5) as theories, historically, if now as discarded theories?

Those are not idle questions, they are pregnant with meaning.

Because it's important to note some of what is occurring here, I'll reemphasize that when I previously stated Behe's definition was a viable "working definition" I meant precisely that. I put it in those terms, in part, because doing so allows others to critique/review and it avoids a type of usurping or presumptively definitive and exhaustive claim. By contrast, in bringing up Ken Miller's definition, you don't hesitate in the least to claim absolute, definitive and exhaustive truth, like some type of territorial land-grab. Even if Einstein, c. 1905, needs to be excluded, well, it's all breezily done, no problem.

Elliot123,

This has nothing to do with "Norse Gods," "tea leaves," "numerology," etc. which facile rhetoric equates to circular reasoning, a sneer and little or nothing more than that. We're talking about viable definitions of a seminal and pivotal concept and you couldn't even admit you had the term wrong ("natural science" vs. "theory") before launching into yet another attack based upon still further presumption and circular reasoning. Again, all the questions vis-a-vis theory, above, are germane and they have implications, in some cases subtle but certainly meaningful implications, and to that extent we do agree.

One (and only one) place to start is with an etymology dictionary. As Rorty and others might have said, this stuff "goes all the way down." Or perhaps you can tell me, as pertains to one concrete example only, how string theory fits within Miller's definition?
12.30.2007 2:23am
exfizz:
Chris Bell: "Now, can you name a single prediction of Intelligent Design that has been tested and confirmed?"

Absolutely. "We can take Kansas."

...

Look, I'm a nice guy, and obviously I'm rooting for the Know-Somethings, but I am frustrated with my own side. We're playing brilliant chess. Problem is, this is a p0ker tournament.

I complained earlier about how Creationists "neutralize far smarter opponents by misdirection and sleight-of-hand." They're doing it now.

Every time we allow ourselves to discuss, oh, flagella or Popper or chromosomes, the Know-Nothings win. It's not because they're right about flagella, or anything else in biology, it's because they've got us playing brilliant chess while they're playing (and winning) a pretty average game of p0ker.

This is not a debate about flagella. This is not about where species came from. This is not about the past at all. This is about the future, and about a fringe imposing their constricted views on the future of a dynamic nation.

This is not a battle being fought in academia. That battle ended two centuries ago. Darwin won. In a rout. Now, that battle was fought with the weapons of academia: flagella & Popper & chromosomes.

The present battle is being fought in places like the TX school board. Does the TX school board care about flagella? Or do they care about things like how many activists show up on their doorstep, how much money is on the table, what Texas' economy looks like, where Huckabee's campaign is headed, and how long until their pensions vest?

We shouldn't be arguing points like "flagella evolved from stingers." We should be arguing points like "25% of TX's highest paying new jobs will be created in life sciences industries." And "If Texas wants Texans to get those jobs it has to educate them with best-of-breed curricula." And "Creationism is a device that low-income dopes use to produce more low-income dopes." Maybe even "I won't hire Texas grads -- they're crap." Or "I question their patriotism."

Here's my prediction: we're gonna lose these battles unless/until we wise up. Pop that in yer Popper. ;)
12.30.2007 4:32am
Elliot Reed (mail):
Can someone tell us how natural science has demonstrated the existence of an intelligence capable of taking the role assigned by ID? If not, what research is ongoing to demonstrate it? Who is doing it? Where? What progress has been made?
This is one of those questions the ID people just have no answer for. Who were the designers and where did they come from? Why did they spend millions of years crafting new lifeforms, and how did they survive that long? What happened to them that would cause such an advanced civilization to disappear, and why did it leave no traces? Of course, everyone knows that they think their very convenient answer is that there were exactly three Designers—F, S, and HG—and they did all that stuff for, um, their own mysterious purposes.
12.30.2007 10:45am
Elliot123 (mail):
"This has nothing to do with "Norse Gods," "tea leaves," "numerology," etc. which facile rhetoric equates to circular reasoning, a sneer and little or nothing more than that."

Sure it does. Don't short change the Norse gods. Behe says, "a scientific theory is a proposed explanation which focuses or points to physical, observable data and logical inferences."

People propose some unknown intelligence that designed everything. Some propose the Norse gods did it. Others propose our lives are effected by the positions of the planets and stars. Others propose numerology can be used to understand our condition. All these are perfectly reasonable proposals to which look at physical and observable data and make logical inferences. What's the problem.

And this is what Behe calls a scientific theory. The rest of the scientific world reserves the term for those proposals which have been demonstrated by experiment.

"We're talking about viable definitions of a seminal and pivotal concept and you couldn't even admit you had the term wrong ("natural science" vs. "theory") before launching into yet another attack based upon still further presumption and circular reasoning."

Actually, you and Behe are the only ones concerned with changing seminal definitions. The rest of the folks engaged in natural science have definitions for a natrual science hypothesis and a natural science theory.

The closest the Norse gods and ID get to natural science is the hypothesis stage. Both stumble badly when faced with the experimental hurdle necessary to join the world of natural science theories. But, on second thought, if I can't comprehend anything other than the Norse gods as an explanation, does that mean I can teach kids the Norse gods make thunder?
12.30.2007 1:14pm
Elliot123 (mail):
exfizz,

Good point about chess and p0ker. However, in the battle that has been going on in Kansas for the past eight years, marginal voters have been persuaded by explanations of flagella and the basics of the scientific method. It just has to be presented with a p0ker face.

Probably the most effective weapon against the Kansas ID forces has been ridicule. When the ridicule is laced with real facts about the scientific method and those pesky flagella, it is very effective.

Look at the great work the Flying Spaghetti Monster has done. When the chief ID supporter on the Kansas Board Of Education visited a central Kansas school in what was thought to be safe ID territory, she found it plastered with stickers for the FSM. She sputtered and threatened, but nobody could stop laughing. Then she lost her seat in the next election.

And the almighty FSM fits Behe's definition of a scientific theory like a glove. But anyone who really understands anything knows the FSM is just a fiction. It's obviously the Norse gods.
12.30.2007 1:33pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Michael, I'm not sure why you think your Einstein point is so incredible. I'm sure that if Einstein himself was here, he would agree that the most brilliant hypothesis still need to be confirmed by testing - as his were. (And Einstein refused to publish his papers until he could deduce the perhilion shift of Mercury, so his ideas were tested right at the beginning.)

I don't think what I'm saying is that difficult. Scientific ideas are heirarchical. Those ideas that have survived rigorous testing for years and years are at the top. Unverified hypothesis are at the bottom. A large part of doing science is choosing the unverified hypothesis that "smell right" (like Einstein's) and then testing them.

Despite what you say, I haven't claimed at all that Miller's definition is "absolutely" right, but it is what scientists mean when they carefully talk about theories. In other words, it is the standard definition. Sure Behe can define his own terms, but it is certainly suspicious that he feels the need to do so when previously defined terms are available. Why do you think he did that?

I don't want you to think I'm avoiding your questions, so:

5) When they made a prediction that was verified by experiment (something that didn't really happen until the birth of modern science with Gallileo)
6) When repeated experiment showed the theories were wrong
7) You can still speak of them in a historical sense, but it would be correct to qualify it. I.e. "The discarded theory of vitalism"

Now of course there are no absolute definitions, but this definition has a pragmatic element. Scientific ideas which have not been tested are hypothesis, those which have survived testing are theories. This puts the emphasis on testing, which is a key value of science. Behe explicitly said that under his definition untested and tested hypothesis should both be considered "theories". Why did he choose a 'working definition' that minimized the distinction between tested and untested ideas? Hmmmm...I wonder

Now please answer my question, which I have asked several times. WHY should we teach high school children unverified hypothesis instead of theories? We don't teach string theory in ninth grade, why should we teach ID? Ninth graders don't need to know the hottest hypothesis, they need to know what is tried and tested. You learn about new hypothesis in graduate school, and you can try to get your PhD by testing them. Add to this the fact that scientists have overwhelmingly rejected ID as pseudoscience, and you've really got some 'splainin to do.

exfizz: Exactly. We need more colleges to threaten not to accept students from schools that teach pseudoscience. The University of Kansas caused a stir when they said that teaching ID would severely hurt admissions, and the Florida school board recently turned around when UCF threatened to move elsewhere.
12.30.2007 1:49pm
c.j. ammenheuser:
In answer as to why teach Intelligent Design as a theory of intelligent creation (not a religious based theory): the reason is to urge kids to think beyond the obvious. MENSA games or the logics games in the LSAT is an excellent example of being required to think. ID encourages right-brain problem solving. Darwin is left brain acceptance.
12.30.2007 6:37pm
SenatorX (mail):
Yes, I'm sure thats the reason c.j...
12.30.2007 8:06pm
exfizz:
c.j. ammenheuser: "teach Intelligent Design ... to urge kids to think beyond the obvious."

Great. "Here, starving kid from Darfur, now taste the subtle difference between the Osetra caviar and the Beluga!"

Look, if American schools & students were doing a great job of mastering the basics, I might agree with you about the benefit of tossing in a few brain teasers. But they're not. American students suck at science compared to other nations' students; science is critical to the modern economy; and for the first time in history, we fat lazy Americans are about to experience some real competition from overseas.

Bread first, caviar later.

China & India outnumber us 8 to 1. They are not dummies; they are smart and they are aggressively developing their technical & scientific capabilities. Do you think they want to spend the 21st century the way they spent the 20th, sewing shirts and painting plastic toys? They want to own the next Genentech, Microsoft, Google, you name it.

(Personally, I'd welcome a world in which China & India mature into a Japan or EU-like role, peacefully competing and trading vigorously with us. I'd love to see them to get a couple Genentechs under their belts. What I don't want is to see them siphon off the whole industry because Americans can no longer produce and attract top talent. And until China mellows out, I don't want them to get any Genentechs. Too dangerous.)

America will slip in the world if we don't keep aggressively pursuing high-value industries. That means aggressively creating high-value human minds. Why willingly lobotomize a great nation? Why?
12.30.2007 8:36pm
Michael B (mail):
Chris Bell,

While avoiding mere smarm and snark (which serves as contrast with many herein), you're nonetheless taking a breezy attitude, are indulging in circular reasoning of the most fatuous kind and are most certainly and most critically continuing to elide the difficulties in coming to terms with a viable, positive definition of the term. Again, though this reflects one example only, where does that leave string theory vis-a-vis the problem of a viable definition? Other problems come to mind as well.

And no, essentially saying "I'm sure Einstein would agree with me" is not an argument; it's difficult to imagine anything more fatuous. Or how about this for a counter-argument: "No, he'd agree with me." Convincing? Persuasive? (Btw, I do think Einstein would agree with me, but I wouldn't presume to forward that as some type of argument or breezy comment in support of my view, barring a relevant and direct quote from Einstein himself. I do believe despite the scant empirical support and correspondingly the fact his papers were based upon almost pure rational thought - he even stated Michelson-Morley was "negligible" in his thinking - that he'd accord his papers the status of viable theories and hypotheses both, c. 1905. His theory of gravity specifically was considered extremely strange or exotic. And what of his gravitational theory that reaches even greater proportions of strangeness or exoticness even presently, absent empirical support, vis-a-vis black holes? That is not accorded the status of "theory"?)

You are, and imo clearly, reasoning backwards, and are then breezily dismissing and/or rationalizing away anything that doesn't accord with that backwards reasoning. And why? Seemingly because your anti-Behe agenda vis-a-vis the definition he gave is primary. It's a perfectly viable definition - regardless though, that's why a positive definition, one that can withstand scrutiny, is absolutely pivotal here. You're continuing to elide and finesse that central point.

As to the perihelion of Mercury note vis-a-vis Einstein, that reflected a single aspect of Einstein's five papers that year only; in very large part they were supported with his rigorous reasoning, but the empirical underpinnings were scant. Biographies often make a point of precisely that fact.

As to answering your question, I've never argued that point to begin with, so why would I argue a point I never did forward in the first place? Given the quality of exchanges in this and other forums, however, for other reasons as well, I have purchased my first ID book. The thought-to-smarm ratio in this and similar threads is not convincing.
12.30.2007 8:57pm
Colin (mail):
Michael B., you give Behe the same deference you habitually extend to creationists. It seems you'll put any preacher or shaman on a pedestal and call him a scientist, it appears, as long as they bring the "humility" to those hoity-toity scientists who vex you so. (Why, exactly, are you so upset with science? All you ever do is stomp your feet and insist that you've explained yourself in the past, so you needn't do it again. But over and over again, you babble into the wind and then complain that no one is listening. If you want people to understand your points, then make them. Don't just gabble on about how no one is reading your mind.)

Let's read Behe's statement with a more critical, analytical eye than you're willing to muster:

Under my definition, a scientific theory is a proposed explanation which focuses or points to physical, observable data and logical inferences. There are many things throughout the history of science which we now think to be incorrect which nonetheless would fit that -- which would fit that definition. Yes, astrology is in fact one, and so is the ether theory of the propagation of light, and many other -- many other theories as well.

You insist, with your customary contemptuous gloss over the substance of the question at hand, that this is a purely historical model. But is it? Behe has redefined "scientific theory" to mean "a proposed explanation which focuses or points to physical, observable data and logical inferences." Astrology doesn't meet this definition as a historical matter. Astrology today meets this definition. Astrologers point to "physical, observable data" in the form of heavenly movements, and logically infer that these movements (which affect tides and the movement of the earth) also affect our destinies. Empirically, we know this is garbage. Scientists, like biologists, point to empirical data that proves that the inferences of astrologers are nonsense. But astrologers, like Behe himself, discard empirical data that challenge their ideological preconceptions. Just as people like Qwinn insist that the data must conform to their ideological biases and so their inferences are unchallengable, Behe doesn't accept contrary data that challenges his theories. While empiricism deals creationism the same death blow it deals astrology, Behe can't acknowledge any serious flaw in the "logic" of his inferences. When he self-determines the validity of that logic, any nonsense he invents is a "scientific theory." That is why he must stretch the definition of "scientific theory" to include magic (as long as the magician insists that his own inferences are logical). Creationism doesn't fit, otherwise.

When people criticize Behe for redefining "science" to include magic, it's not because they haven't read the transcript. It's because they aren't bending over backwards to apologize for creationists.

And again, I am not an ID proponent, I am a skeptic and decidedly so. But I am not a mere cynic and am not going to forfeit my mind when it comes to the facile and circular forms of reasoning, much less the ad hominem attacks and demonizations, that characterize these discussions.

Nonsense. The rigorous, scientific beating ID takes from professional biologists happens in the professional literature, not comment threads. Is creationism refuted by "ad hominem attacks and demonizations?" No, it's defeated by empirical evidence and scientific labor that does not take place on comment threads. The discussion here, to return to first purposes, is about the policy implications of creationists' political and legal attempts to secure preferential treatment despite their abject failure in the realm of empirical scientific achievement. As soon as a creationism thread appears, you jump in gabbling about how scientists are big jerks, and should go easy on the poor, put-upon creationists, despite the creationists' failure to demonstrate any validity to their wild claims. Your "skepticism" is the barest rhetorical cover for your baseless polemicism. If you want creationists to succeed, then donate $10 to AiG or the Discover Institute and ask them to please put it towards research instead of political, legal, or media advocacy. Good luck.
12.30.2007 10:13pm
Michael B (mail):
No, I give Behe no "deference". I'm asking and have been asking for a positive definition of theory. In the remainder, yet again, you're presuming to know what I'm thinking and once again you're relying upon ad hominem inferences, innuendo, snark, snide, sneering contempt, etc.

But you do provide cover for both yourself and others to continue to avoid supplying a positive definition of the term; in that vein, not a bad strategem. Your "reasoning" is the barest rhetorical cover for precisely that, and more. As to the "baselessness" of anything, that's a particularly rich snort coming from yourself.
12.30.2007 10:52pm
Elliot123 (mail):
I would welcome ID as the focus of scientific educaton as soon as it demonstrates through experiment that the intelligent designer exists. Has that been done? Where is it documented? Peer reviewed journals? Science? Nature? National Enquirer?
12.30.2007 11:41pm
Michael B (mail):
I've had two objectives in mind since the subject of Behe's testimony arose, 1) to gauge others' sincerity, intellectual integrity and depth of comprehensions as related to both that testimony and the concept of "theory" more pointedly, 2) absent a positive definition that can withstand scrutiny, to reconstitute that aspect of Behe's testimony. (The level of reasoning as reflected in this thread, by too many, is execrable, from the most banal and fatuous forms of circular reasoning to pure ad hominem drivel and other vacuities as well. All this, by those who are putatively concerned with science and its most fundamental tenets.)

Again, a positive definition that can withstand well reasoned scrutiny.

Various people took the time to make a huge point concerning Behe's definition of the term, essentially using it to dismiss Behe and his testimony in toto, certainly so as applied to the definition in question. Yet time and time again, after repeated requests, no one has forwarded a sound, contrasting and positive definition that can withstand well-rounded and substantial critique.

And Elliot, you do not evidence the ability, at least in this thread, to reason sufficiently concerning the concept of theory, yet we're suppose to believe you understand the problems, for example, of the bacterial flagellum and what it poses to a neo-Darwinist, as conceived in random and purely materialist terms.

Don't get me wrong, I'm only now beginning to delve into the specifics of the science and am proceeding slowly and cautiously, but if you cannot honestly and sincerely come to terms with a single, critical definition, then I've learned enough to know that just-so stories and facile reasoning, as evidenced herein, is not going to cut it, nor is an unscrutinized reliance upon "experts" who evidence prominent extra-scientific agendas.
12.31.2007 1:42am
c.j. ammenheuser:
Exfizz:
Students suck at learning because they are bored and unchallenged. Schools are set up to educate the masses, not the individual mind. My daughter's math score tested higher then the school could record but she flunked high school for failure to turn in homework. The school placed higher value on following orders than intelligence. We are dummying up the masses; the question is why?
To challenge the mind it is as important to teach scientific theory, including ID, (but not religious based ID) as it is to teach philosophy, for example.
12.31.2007 10:15am
Colin (mail):
I'm asking and have been asking for a positive definition of theory.

Given how often I tease you for not explaining yourself, you're perfectly right to chide me. But is this really the question you mean to ask? Behe specifically offered a definition of "scientific theory." I don't know whether you see any particular difference between the two in this context -- I'm not sure whether I do -- but it's worth pointing out.

I think Behe's definition is useful in a casual conversation about epistemology or science, but not in the context of a discussion with actual, practical consequences. It opens the definition of "science" to any systematic explanation of anything, because every advocate of a "theory" will point to some physical evidence and make what they describe as a logical inference based on that evidence. Kent Hovind loves to describe his religion as "science," and under Behe's definition, it is a "scientific theory."

I much prefer Dr. Miller's definition, because it adds objective criteria. Again, there's no problem with Behe calling his ideology a "scientific theory" in casual conversation - although I think it's a farce, obviously, he's entitled to his own religion. But in a courtroom or policy-setting context, where the conversation implicitly involves the entire community, objective criteria such as testable predictions are an essential part of defining what is and isn't "science."

Like yourself, I'm not a scientist, and my opinion here is provisional. While I think Behe's definition is impractical and specifically designed to advance his personal ideology, I can't produce a perfect definition insulated from my own policy preferences. That's another reason to prefer objective criteria - it allows a wedge to be placed in between such a definition and its proponents if they fail to satisfy it.

I apologize for not answering your question earlier.

we're suppose to believe you understand the problems, for example, of the bacterial flagellum and what it poses to a neo-Darwinist, as conceived in random and purely materialist terms . . . I've learned enough to know that just-so stories and facile reasoning, as evidenced herein, is not going to cut it, nor is an unscrutinized reliance upon "experts" who evidence prominent extra-scientific agendas.

If you haven't read the technical literature, in which science is actually done, then what basis do you have for presupposing that scientists disregard creationism on the basis of "just-so stories and facile reasoning"? Once again, this thread is not the scientific process that has discarded creationism. We are analyzing the proper policy response to a theory that has already been dismissed as unscientific and empirically unsupported, but that uses political and legal maneuvering to achieve preferential treatment out of proportion to its factual validity. You're attacking the scientific process as if it's here before you, on display, but it's not. This is the legal and political analysis of the consequences of that process.
12.31.2007 11:01am
Colin (mail):
To challenge the mind it is as important to teach scientific theory, including ID, (but not religious based ID) as it is to teach philosophy, for example.

We'd better throw in UFOology, astrology, crystal healing, reincarnation and homeopathy, too. There's no objective basis for excluding them, once we've opened the door to cdesign proponentistism.

Meanwhile, IDists wouldn't flunk out of tenure tracks and university positions so often if they turned their "homework," peer-reviewed professional publications. Is that ironic, or just sad? Sometimes I can't tell the difference.
12.31.2007 11:06am
Michael B (mail):
Colin,

Yea, it's the question I've meant to ask all along - and the result? Nada, nil, zil, nihil. Nothing that has been able to standup to scrutiny. As to Ken Miller's definition, I like aspects of it fine as well, but objections have already been noted in this thread and they have not successfully been addressed.

As to what IDers are or are not, I've decided to look into that myself. I've decided to do that for the following reasons:

1) I'm an evolutionist and decidedly so and believe the empirical evidence points to that process as an absolutely prime biological factor, but am a theist as well and for that reason and other reasons still remain inquisitive in terms of man's overall development and his genesis as man.

2) Imo clearly (e.g., the global warming "consensus" and in general the ideological supplanting of science with various forms of scientism) there is in fact an emerging and not so latent authoritarian and ideological set of trends that have impacted both science itself (administratively and via funding mechanisms, directly impacting lab and experimental work) as well as popular views of science and scientific developments, variously communicated to the culture at large.

3) The increasing tendency to purposefully confuse scientific interests with other, non-scientific interests, perhaps most obviously as evidenced by the absurdly self-confident forays of Harris, Dennett, Dawkins, et al. but also, again, as evidenced by the global warming debates, though those are only the two most obvious and well publicized examples.

4) The fact that so many of the "debates" and "discussions," right from the start, are heavily weighted with ad hominem inferences and attacks suggests that not only ideological and political interests are at play, but various psychologies are at play as well - all of which sums up to a veritable mountain of subjective, not "objective" or purely scientific motivating factors.

For those reasons, perhaps some others as well, I've decided to look into this myself. I'm no more impressed with your and others' intellectual bearing and integrity than I am with that rhetorical mephitic of yours.
12.31.2007 1:04pm
Colin (mail):
For those reasons, perhaps some others as well, I've decided to look into this myself. I'm no more impressed with your and others' intellectual bearing and integrity than I am with that rhetorical mephitic of yours.

Then we're back where we started - you've done lots of angry complaining, and now that you've vented, you're going to start "looking into" whether your complaints have any factual merit. Is that the sort of intellectual bearing and integrity you were hoping to find in others? I'm sorry to disappoint you; I investigated the merits of creationism to the best of my ability before I started voicing a public opinion on the matter. Your opinions might be more persuasive if you tried my method.
12.31.2007 2:56pm
Michael B (mail):
Pathetic and genuinely, substantively and thoroughly so.
12.31.2007 3:59pm