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'All Worldview, No Evidence":

Ron Bailey flunks Ben Stein. He find's Stein's movie Expelled "free of scientific content: It gives no scientific evidence against biological evolution and none for "intelligent design." Instead, host Ben Stein spends most of the movie asking various proponents of evolutionary theory for their religious views." But it gets even worse:

The most egregious part of the movie is the attempt to link evolution with Communism and Nazism. The claim that Communism was motivated by Darwin is just silly. Official Soviet biological doctrine was Lysenkoism, and Russian Darwinists were denounced as "Trotskyite agents of international fascism" and thrown into the Gulag for their scientific sins.

And Nazism? In the film, the mathematician David Berlinski says, "Darwinism is not a sufficient condition for a phenomenon like Nazism, but I think it was a necessary one." Berlinski is suggesting that scientific materialism undermines the notion that human beings occupy a special place in the universe. If humans aren't special, goes this line of thinking, then morals don't apply.

But people through the millennia have found all sorts of justifications for murdering each other, including plunder, nationalism, and, yes, religion. Meanwhile, insights from evolutionary psychology are helping us understand how our in-group/out-group dynamics contribute to our disturbing capacity for racism, xenophobia, genocide, and warfare. The field also offers new ideas about how human morality developed, including our capacities for cooperation, love, and tolerance.

At one point in the film, the science studies gadfly Steve Fuller archly poses the question: Which comes first, worldview or evidence? Fuller aims his question at the proponents of evolutionary biology. As this dreary film itself makes it painfully clear, the question is far more relevant to the supporters of intelligent design.

I'm glad Ron sat through the movie so we don't have to.

PatHMV (mail) (www):
When you really start looking into the philosophy and motives of the I.D. crowd, of which Stein has sadly become a member, you find that they are concerned over what they see as something of an unholy trinity of Marx, Darwin, and Freud. They believe that all 3 contributed substantially to the modern materialistic, self-centered world view that so many people today, they say, have.

If they would stick to fighting materialism and ego-centrism themselves, that would be fine and probably beneficial. Unfortunately, they've decided that the philosophies of these 3 individuals are such core components of this supposed modern philosophy of materialism that it cannot be reversed without the complete destruction of everything based on any work done by any of the three. Personally, I consider it a very weak and arrogant faith to insist that God can NOT have possibly operated through the mechanism of evolution.
6.10.2008 9:58am
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
I have yet to come upon a response to Alan Sokal's single-sentence evisceration of the position that worldview comes first: he invited anyone who thinks that the law of gravity is a social construct to step out the window of his 26th floor apartment. He has had no takers.
6.10.2008 9:59am
Thales (mail) (www):
What a shameful promotion of scientific ignorance and misunderstanding of the relationship of Darwinian theory to politics. Stein actually writes pretty thoughtful columns on business and finance for the New York Times on Sundays. And he's a tenacious investor advocate. He should stick to those things, and maybe get back to displaying his vast knowledge of trivia on a game show hosted by a lowbrow comic sidekick. At least the latter was intentionally funny.
6.10.2008 10:09am
Elliot Reed (mail):
Bill Poser—that, if true, just goes to show that Sokal has no idea what the phrase "social construct" means. It is not a synonym for "imaginary".
6.10.2008 10:16am
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
[The movie] gives no scientific evidence against biological evolution and none for "intelligent design."
Intelligent Design has never even tried to produce such evidence, as it is more of a default philosophical position than a serious science.

Of course, that doesn't prevent the Design people from pretending to be a serious science and testifying to that fact on the stand.

I like to shoot that argument down by pointing out that the main Intelligent Design think-tank was founded in 1996. They have a budget of over $1,000,000 a year. Despite these two things, they have yet to conduct a single experiment of their own. All they do is criticize the work of others. It's solely negative, with no positive content.
6.10.2008 10:17am
Brian Mac:
Bill Poser:

The law of gravity seems an odd thing to hold up to be a universal truth (which is the only meaningful interpretation of his offer).
6.10.2008 10:21am
Layedback (mail):
Have you guys actually seen the movie? The purpose behind the movie was not to "prove" intelligent design, (that, by the way, men more academic than Stein happen to find compelling), but rather to shed light on the single-minded and thus closed-minded academic community when their intellectual and often times political stances are questioned. As a challenger to many of my professor's more statist assertions in class, I cannot help but see Stein's movie as quite germane to the discourse on education in America. Darwinism, no matter what some feel, does have political implications, and to scoff at the fact that Darwinism had a profound influence on totalitarian regimes, i.e Nazis etc. is just intentionally ignorant. Admitting that that I.D. may have some merit for further research and that Darwinism is not infallible, doesn't make you a "Bible-thumper" it makes you open-minded in the truest sense of the word, and actually open to your own "evolution" as an academic and a human. Why all the vitriol? Speech like that only lends credence to assertions that humanist Darwinistic atheism is a religion unto itself.
6.10.2008 10:28am
Grobstein (mail) (www):
The law of gravity seems an odd thing to hold up to be a universal truth

It's universal across people and philosophies.
6.10.2008 10:29am
Hoosier:
I'm with Thales. What a disappointment form a man I considered both erudite and entertaining.

Marx, Darwin, and Freud certainly HAVE contributed to contemporary materialist ideas. Add Einstein, and you have a group of thinkers who told us that the World is not the way we perceive it, and have circumscribed the realm of individual choice. It would be hard to be a Victorian Romantic an yet accept these Victorian and post-Victorian insights.

The natural world was once quite different than it is now, and will be so again, due to a process we cannot see (Darwin). Ideas and institutions reflect social causes--economic realtionships--which they arose to support (Marx). Not only don't you understand the natural and social world. You don't understand YOU (Freud). There is no such thing as an absolute time, motion, or location. And you aren't smart enough to understand why. (Einstein, though I added that last part).

Add in paleontology's mass extintions: The seemingly orderly biological world can be rent by cataclysms worse than the Mosaic Flood; and geology's plate tectonics: Even the most obvious observable "fact"--that the Earh abides forever-- is wrong, since the continets, mountains, oceans, and canyons are always in motion and are not permanent. The Himalayas weren't always there? And they will eventually disappear!

Wow.

Pretty confusing stuff. I understand why people would resist these new ideas . . . in the late 1800s. And, as it turns out, Marx vastly overstated what was a legitimate insight. And Freud was not much of a scientist.

But Darwin was HUGELY impressive. Many of the "obejections to Darwin" that one reads these days were, in fact, raised by Darwin himself. Yet he found the mechanism by which life came to be the way it is--natural selection. How anyone who has studied some basic science--and I must assume Stein has done so--can doubnt this is beyond me.

Perhaps Marx or Darwin might have a guess. I don't.
6.10.2008 10:31am
Brian Mac:

It's universal across people and philosophies.

Not since Einstein.
6.10.2008 10:34am
Duncan Frissell (mail):
But people through the millennia have found all sorts of justifications for murdering each other, including plunder, nationalism, and, yes, religion.

So we have to figure out why (some) humans have cut back recently.

Why did slavery disappear first in Europe -- gone by 1000 -- while Africa, Asia, and the Americas didn't drop it (to the extent it's been dropped) until they were conquered by Europeans.

I know that Europeans practiced slavery on non-whites outside of Europe for longer but it was gone domestically within 700 years after Christianization. Saudi Arabia abolished slavery in 1962 by contrast and others continue the practice.

Evolutionary psychology or religion?

Note, BTW, that one is not required to make a film the critic wants. One is allowed to make the film that the filmmaker wants. Expelled was not meant as a scientific defense of creationism or ID. It was meant as an attack on godless atheistic secular humanists. Perhaps it failed in that attack but that is what it should be judged on.

I note that Ron didn't say that there is no evidence that Nazis liked Darwinism, since there plenty of connections.
6.10.2008 10:36am
Hoosier:
Elliot Reed: Well, maybe. But not if one assumes that science is "progressive." I've just picked up Sokal's book from the new book shelves at the U. library, and began it last night. So I'm not far in. But I have a sense that he thinks this is the case.

Gravity is a social contruct in that prior to Newton, there were other explanationsfor why things fell. And Newton himself thought that the theory of universal gravitation was insane, since it seemed to function without a mechanism: There were no invisible bands or wires holding planets in orbit around stars. No "gravity rays" that shot out from massive bodies to pull smaller things in.

Yet the math worked. Every time. (Darwin likewise say natural selection at work, even though he had never heard of DNA.)

So, a "social construct" has to allow for other possible contructs in other societies. Would Sokal be wrong in saying that there are, currently, no other possible constructs that are scientifically valid? I suspect the Bushmen have some explanation for why things fall. And they would thus not jump out of his window. But he argues as a scientist, and from that perspective he seems to be correct. No other constructs of gravity are valid.
6.10.2008 10:41am
Hoosier:
"Darwin saw"
6.10.2008 10:42am
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Statement #1:
The purpose behind the movie was not to "prove" intelligent design . . . but rather to shed light on the single-minded and thus closed-minded academic community when their intellectual and often times political stances are questioned.

Statement #2:
Expelled was . . . meant as an attack on godless atheistic secular humanists. [Redundancy left in]
Perhaps that was the problem; the movie tried to be both. The movie tried to say "you're rejecting our ideas!" while not explaining those ideas. (And without noting that some ideas are bad and should be rejected.) Then, after pleading for academic tolerance, the movie charges that its opponents caused the Holocaust - with plenty of Nazi footage to drive home the point.

You can always draw connections between the past and the things that followed it, but Hitler never mentions Darwin in Mein Kampf. On the other hand, what other belief systems most definitely did contribute to the Holocaust....?
6.10.2008 10:47am
Q the Enchanter (mail) (www):
"David Berlinski says, "Darwinism is not a sufficient condition for a phenomenon like Nazism, but I think it was a necessary one."

But then since most Christians and apologists for Christianity contend that Christianity is a necessary condition for science...

Transitivity is a bitch.
6.10.2008 10:50am
Guest101:
"Evolutionary psychology or religion?"
Economics.
6.10.2008 10:50am
Cold Warrior:

Marx, Darwin, and Freud certainly HAVE contributed to contemporary materialist ideas.


As did Copernicus and Galileo before them.
6.10.2008 10:50am
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
Elliot Reed,

Both Sokal and I know precisely what the term "social construct" means. The key is of course that postmodernists claim that scientific theories are merely social constructs and as such have no greater claim to truth than theories that do not pass scientific muster. His invitation to investigate the truth of the law of gravity by stepping out his apartment window is entirely appropriate.

His invitation is of course in reference to the conditions prevailing in Manhattan, where we are dealing with earth gravity and bodies fall at velocities at which relativistic effects are negligible. If you wish to include a wider range of conditions, we can of course move to relativistic generalizations.
6.10.2008 10:52am
JosephSlater (mail):
Nice post, Hoosier.
6.10.2008 10:53am
Hoosier:
Chris Bell--Well, your link raises a fine point. While in grad school, we Catholics liked to point out to our Lutheran roommate, Mike, that our Church was founded by Christ, while his was founded by a virulent anti-semite. Mike would then tell us to shut up. And then we'd drink until we had to leave because our cute girlfriend had come over, and Mike didn't want to double date with us, since he was gay.

Speaking generically, of course.
6.10.2008 10:56am
Brian Mac:
Hoosier:

Newton's law of gravitation doesn't offer an explanation for why things fall, it just approximates the attraction between bodies in mathematical form. Now this approximation described very accurately all of our observations, until Einstein came along. And that, for me, seems to offer more support to the soft constructionists' position than it does to Sokal's. Who, as I understand it, argue that scientific laws don't express any transcendental truths; they are merely aggregates of our own experiences and observations.

But I have no expertise in, and very little knowledge of, these issues...
6.10.2008 10:56am
Alex R:
Stein actually writes pretty thoughtful columns on business and finance for the New York Times on Sundays.

Anyone with this opinion might want to check out what finance and economics bloggers like Felix Salmon, Yves Smith, Brad Delong, etc. have to say on the subject. Let's just say that there are some dissenters from this view...
6.10.2008 11:01am
DangerMouse:
Has there been any analysis of how many practicing religious people have been shut out of academic workplaces because they are religious and their peers are not? I haven't seen the movie but it seems as if it's a response to discrimination that is occuring in academic workplaces against religious people, whether or not their religious views conflict with any science.
6.10.2008 11:02am
Observer:
And how exactly is this worst than Fahrenheit 9-11?
6.10.2008 11:02am
Brian Mac:

His invitation to investigate the truth of the law of gravity by stepping out his apartment window is entirely appropriate.

Pre-Newton, if I'd formulated a law (correct or incorrect) of gravity, and invited you to jump out of a window to disprove it, I doubt you'd take me up on that offer. Explain why that doesn't prove the supreme truth of my law.
6.10.2008 11:05am
Tyrant King Porn Dragon (mail):

Have you guys actually seen the movie? The purpose behind the movie was not to "prove" intelligent design, (that, by the way, men more academic than Stein happen to find compelling), but rather to shed light on the single-minded and thus closed-minded academic community when their intellectual and often times political stances are questioned.

Er, with all due respect(*), 'intelligent design' is a thoroughly mendacious tissue of lies; the few 'scientific' claims it makes (X cannot have evolved via natural selection) are already being taken into account in evolutionary biology (and systematically disproved as our understanding improves), and what remains is a dishonest propaganda campaign that deserves every ounce of scientific ridicule it receives.

Why did slavery disappear first in Europe -- gone by 1000 -- while Africa, Asia, and the Americas didn't drop it (to the extent it's been dropped) until they were conquered by Europeans.

Short answer: it didn't. Admittedly, Rome was a slave state (relying on latifundia - huge slave-worked plantations - for agriculture) and post-Roman Western Europe generally wasn't. But you can't credit Christianity for that change except so far as Christianity contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire. Slavery became less important and less economically feasible with the rise of serfdom (really just a different form of slavery) and the feudal system, but slavery as an institution survived into the Renaissance (see the Wikipedia article on medieval slavery).

I know that Europeans practiced slavery on non-whites outside of Europe for longer but it was gone domestically within 700 years after Christianization.

Bull. Not only is your '700 years' factually wrong, but the fact that Christians used slave labor in British/French/etc colonies demonstrates that any lack of slavery in Europe was a result of economic conditions (for example, lack of access to slaves, no enormous plantations requiring mass human labor to work, etc) rather than any supposed Christian distaste for the peculiar institution. And wasn't it Paul who said 'Slaves, obey your masters'?

Expelled was not meant as a scientific defense of creationism or ID. It was meant as an attack on godless atheistic secular humanists. Perhaps it failed in that attack but that is what it should be judged on.

"Perhaps", he says. Hah! But it's nice to see you admit that the scientific merits of intelligent design are irrelevant, and that the people pushing it are using it as a stalking horse to attack atheism. Not that this was a mystery to anyone (see: Tammy Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al.).

(*) by which I mean: no respect at all.
6.10.2008 11:13am
Joe Bingham (mail):
And Nazism? In the film, the mathematician David Berlinski says, "Darwinism is not a sufficient condition for a phenomenon like Nazism, but I think it was a necessary one." Berlinski is suggesting that scientific materialism undermines the notion that human beings occupy a special place in the universe. If humans aren't special, goes this line of thinking, then morals don't apply.

But people through the millennia have found all sorts of justifications for murdering each other, including plunder, nationalism, and, yes, religion. Meanwhile, insights from evolutionary psychology are helping us understand how our in-group/out-group dynamics contribute to our disturbing capacity for racism, xenophobia, genocide, and warfare. The field also offers new ideas about how human morality developed, including our capacities for cooperation, love, and tolerance.


I'm not a Stein fan, but this passage seems a bit illogical to me. The if-then statement the author present is that if [people believe that] humans aren't special, then [those people, if logical, will conclude that] morals don't apply. His answer to this statment, though, is that people have concluded that morals don't apply for lots of other reasons. In other words, he argues against "if X, then Y," by saying, "but if Z, then Y!"

Am I misreading him here? The fact that people murder in the name of the reason may be a legitimate point, but it's not a response to the argument that human morality only has real meaning if humans are special.
6.10.2008 11:15am
Joe Bingham (mail):
He also seems to be missing the point. The question that's really being asked is "why, if humans aren't special, does morality matter?" It's not "how, if humans aren't special, did we come to have a sense of morality?" although that may be a good question, too. In the second part of the author's response, about evolutionary psychology, he answers the first question with "well, evolutionary psychology has some possible explanations for that." His response, though, is an answer to the second question, not the first.
6.10.2008 11:19am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
I know that Europeans practiced slavery on non-whites outside of Europe for longer but it was gone domestically within 700 years after Christianization.

Excuse me, but the serfs (which as it was practiced was equivalent to slavery) were not freed in Russia until after slavery was abolished in the U.S. And debt slavery continued well into the nineteenth century throughout Europe.

And anyway, why does slavery not count just because it was practiced outside Europe on non-whites. Not to mention that Europeans carried out genocide against the populations of three continents (Australia and North and South America, where up to 95% of the native population was wiped out between 1500 and 1900) and didn't treat the natives of the rest of the lands they colonized too well either.
6.10.2008 11:21am
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Joe, you're right to say that another response is needed to your point. (And I certainly think such a response is easily available.) But I think the quote was responding to a different point. Stein's argument is "Y happened, and X must have caused it" or perhaps "Y would not have happened without X." (Isn't that a direct translation of Berlinkski's statement?) Showing that other things cause Y is a legitimate response to that.
6.10.2008 11:21am
Elliot Reed (mail):
Brian Mac: exactly. Aristotle actually had a theory of gravity, which held that lighter objects fell slower than heavier objects and that a falling object would fall n units of distance during the nth unit of time. Someone's unwillingness to fall out of a window to disprove it would, of course, be utterly without merit as a proof of Aristotle's theory.
Both Sokal and I know precisely what the term "social construct" means. The key is of course that postmodernists claim that scientific theories are merely social constructs and as such have no greater claim to truth than theories that do not pass scientific muster.
As I understand then, the constructionists say scientific theories are social constructs (which you seem to acknowledge) but not that they're merely social constructs, or that they have no more validity than nonscientific theories. I think they do generally claim that scientific theories (as opposed to individual hypotheses) are not true in the sense of absolute truth: they are valuable ways of making sense of our observations. And this latter proposition is obviously correct in general: nobody thinks our current best version of the theory of evolution is 100% correct, or that quantum mechanics will survive the next 500 years without requiring any exceptions or modifications whatsoever.
6.10.2008 11:26am
Tyrant King Porn Dragon (mail):

Newton's law of gravitation doesn't offer an explanation for why things fall, it just approximates the attraction between bodies in mathematical form. Now this approximation described very accurately all of our observations, until Einstein came along.

Er, no. The orbit of Mercury, for example, was known to be other than Newtonian physics would predict long before Einstein; one of the pieces of evidence, in fact, that led to acceptance of relativity was that it accounted for the observed orbit of Mercury, whereas Newtonian physics didn't. Einstein didn't alter our observed reality, he explained it.

And that, for me, seems to offer more support to the soft constructionists' position than it does to Sokal's. Who, as I understand it, argue that scientific laws don't express any transcendental truths; they are merely aggregates of our own experiences and observations.

Well, the above is true; scientific theories are based on human experience and observations - what else could they possibly be based on? - but (and here's Sokal's point) they're based on an external and objective reality, albeit one seen dimly, as shadows on a cave wall. The closer a theory comes to predicting actual outcomes, the better it is, and that too is an objective and measurable criterion; the fact that a theory was constructed by racist, sexist white males somewhere is completely irrelevant. (Unless the theory manipulates observational evidence to better support racism/sexism: see The Bell Curve).
6.10.2008 11:27am
Ex parte McCardle:
"[T]he serfs (which as it was practiced was equivalent to slavery) were not freed in Russia until after slavery was abolished in the U.S."

Really, J.F.? The 13th Amendment was passed before 1861? Wow, you learn something every day. But your basic point is spot-on.

Ken Miller gave Expelled an eviscerating review in the Boston Globe. He called it "a shoddy piece of propaganda," which is about as fair as you can say.
6.10.2008 11:30am
alkali (mail):
The key is of course that postmodernists claim that scientific theories are merely social constructs and as such have no greater claim to truth than theories that do not pass scientific muster. [Sokal's] invitation to investigate the truth of the law of gravity by stepping out his apartment window is entirely appropriate.

Postmodernists don't claim any such thing. The postmodern study of science is based on the idea that the practice of science is a social practice: scientists come into the laboratory with preconceptions, they devise new experiments influenced by their preconceptions, and develop new theories based not only experimental data and also those preconceptions. Put another way, the idea that the scientist goes into the laboratory where nature is revealed unto him in all its Platonic perfection is a myth. One could reasonably criticize this viewpoint as banal, but it's certainly not so silly as to ignore the fact that things fall down.
6.10.2008 11:31am
Blue (mail):
In general, post-modernists believe that all knowledge is a social construct and that no specific set of knowledged is privledged (e.g., more "true" than other social constructs). Scientific theories may change over time but, if science is working properly, they become more promixmate to absolute Truth. Thus some scientific theories are better than others because they are closer to Truth.

A post-modern approach can never admit this to be the case.
6.10.2008 11:34am
Elliot Reed (mail):

Er, with all due respect(*), 'intelligent design' is a thoroughly mendacious tissue of lies; the few 'scientific' claims it makes (X cannot have evolved via natural selection) are already being taken into account in evolutionary biology (and systematically disproved as our understanding improves), and what remains is a dishonest propaganda campaign that deserves every ounce of scientific ridicule it receives.

[snip]

"Perhaps", he says. Hah! But it's nice to see you admit that the scientific merits of intelligent design are irrelevant, and that the people pushing it are using it as a stalking horse to attack atheism. Not that this was a mystery to anyone (see: Tammy Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al.).
Agreed about the mendacious tissue of lies. But they aren't using it as a stalking horse to attack atheism: they are using it as a stalking horse to attack science and promite their religious views. Because science is inconsistent with their religion (based on a particular reading of Genesis) they need to delegitimize it. That's why their first line of attack has been getting their views into public school classrooms under the guise of "presenting all points of view." Or, recently, "academic freedom," notwithstanding the fact that high school teachers don't have academic freedom.
6.10.2008 11:37am
Ex parte McCardle:
With apologies to all for simply name-checking, by way of recommendation, a serious work of philosophy by a distinguished philosopher, Ian Hacking's 1999 monograph The Social Construction of What? is a thoughtful and persuasive weighing of the arguments related to claims about the "social construction" of knowledge, including scientific knowledge, which moves beyond the "PoMos say this [ridiculous thing]" "No, they don't" tit-for-tat which threatens to take over here.
6.10.2008 11:44am
Hoosier:
What do post-modernists say about the social construction of science?

OK, let's ask WHICH post-modernists. alkali describes one model, which deson't sound particularly pomo as described. I mean, I would call myself an epistemological skeptic. So I have been frustrated when Creationists bait scientists into proclaiming that evolution, as currently understood, is The Truth.

But there certainly are pomo's who make ridiculous claims based upon a radical epistemological skepticism. Not that they'd jump out of a window. But they would probably seek to finesse not jumping as somehow a "subversive act."

When their lives are not a stake? There is a school of thought that the current science of the cell is phalogocentric. You see, male scientists look for heirarchy, dominance of the subaltern, and potentialities for rape. They thus have "constructed" a "narrative" of the cell in which the "nucleus" [read: phallus] dominates the rest of the entities within the cell wall. All very heirarchical and masculist. Very reflective of European attitudes toward Africa at the time the cell was being studied, don't you know . . .

This is a form of obscurantism, and is the sort of thing that Sokal finds to be silly. And dangerous.
6.10.2008 11:48am
Brian Mac:
Tyrant:

Fair enough, I was a bit sloppy with my physics history.


Well, the above is true; scientific theories are based on human experience and observations - what else could they possibly be based on? - but (and here's Sokal's point) they're based on an external and objective reality, albeit one seen dimly, as shadows on a cave wall.

But the core issue is that Sokal views the role of the human , and all his biases, assumptions and preconceived ideas, in observing and experiencing reality as peripheral or even irrelevant to how knowledge is attained. Also...his window challenge is lame.
6.10.2008 11:49am
Cornellian (mail):
Admitting that that I.D. may have some merit for further research and that Darwinism is not infallible, doesn't make you a "Bible-thumper" it makes you open-minded in the truest sense of the word.

What do you mean, "further" research? Have I.D. proponents ever done any research?
6.10.2008 11:53am
donaldk:
I am surprised at the number of posters who take this nonsense seriously enough to write about it. Ever since Copernicus it should have been impossible to consider the earth and its inhabitants special enough to require a designer.

In fact if there were an intelligent designer, he would have designed something better than mankind. The qualities of this last are a very convincing argument against it.
6.10.2008 11:54am
Tyrant King Porn Dragon (mail):

Really, J.F.? The 13th Amendment was passed before 1861? Wow, you learn something every day. But your basic point is spot-on.

From the Wiki: "Serfdom was abolished in 1861, but its abolition was achieved on terms unfavorable to the peasants and served to increase revolutionary pressures. In 1864-1871 the serfdom was abolished in Georgia. In Kalmykia serfdom was only abolished in 1892.[8]" Maybe J. F. is a Georgian? But his point is, indeed, spot-on :)

But they aren't using it as a stalking horse to attack atheism: they are using it as a stalking horse to attack science and promite their religious views.

You're quite right, but it's really a distinction without a difference; the only reason the fundamentalists attack science is because they consider it inherently atheistic and, therefore, dangerous to the Christian worldview.
6.10.2008 11:54am
Hoosier:
Cornellian: No ID-research paper has ever been published in a peer-reviewed journal. Not one. From the perspective of the science communtiy, I think that's your answer.
6.10.2008 11:56am
Tyrant King Porn Dragon (mail):

Also...his window challenge is lame.

Fair enough :)
6.10.2008 11:56am
Roger Schlafly (www):
The movie review concedes that an Iowa State astronomer may have been denied tenure because of his views. He wrote a book on Earth having a privileged place in the universe. A major point of the movie is that academia is very hostile to certain views. Most of the comments here appear to be from people who have not seen the movie, and don't know anything about it.
6.10.2008 12:26pm
Bob Goodman (mail) (www):
the main Intelligent Design think-tank was founded in 1996. They have a budget of over $1,000,000 a year. Despite these two things, they have yet to conduct a single experiment of their own

But the problem with that is that evolution is not an experimental science. The big questions to be addressed by evolutionary theory are not amenable to experiment. Evolution and intelligent design are retrospective.

And if you're wondering, I teach an undergrad course in evolution.
6.10.2008 12:29pm
Pon Raul (mail):
ID is as much a scientific theory as is Global Warming. Neither can be proven false.
6.10.2008 12:32pm
Pon Raul (mail):
I should clarify, neither can be proven false within the relevant time period.
6.10.2008 12:32pm
Oren:

A major point of the movie is that academia is very hostile to certain views.
Seems entirely proper to me.
6.10.2008 12:34pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
The movie review concedes that an Iowa State astronomer may have been denied tenure because of his views.

Well, be careful with what you mean. The movie review says:
Did Gonzalez fail to get tenure because of his views? The university denies it, but my guess is he did. On the evidence of The Privileged Planet, Guillermo's colleagues could reasonably worry that his views weren't likely to lead to fruitful research results.
The professor had stopped doing research that produced results and was spending his time on Intelligent Design. As noted above, Intelligent Design advocates conduct no experiments and produce no original research - they just take results and claim that a designer must be responsible.

So, yes, he was denied tenure "because of" his intelligent design work. But he was denied tenure because intelligent design is not science, not because of a political vendetta or anything. (In other words, the professor was researching in theology while trying to get tenure in astronomy.) If the professor had been studying astrology he would have been denied tenure, once again because astrology is not fruitful science.

There's a big difference between that and "firing someone for being Christian" or whatever you think is going on.
6.10.2008 12:38pm
Tyrant King Porn Dragon (mail):

But the problem with that is that evolution is not an experimental science.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Experimental_evolution

The big questions to be addressed by evolutionary theory are not amenable to experiment.

Ah, I see, you're a fan of the fake ID "macroevolution vs microevolution" dictonomy. See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speciation

Evolution and intelligent design are retrospective.

In the sense that they look at present evidence for past events, yes. So is geology.
6.10.2008 12:45pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
But the problem with that is that evolution is not an experimental science. The big questions to be addressed by evolutionary theory are not amenable to experiment. Evolution and intelligent design are retrospective.
Notice the slippery phrase "the big questions".

This comment is ridiculous. Let me mimic it with this claim. "The theory of continental drift is not science. Sure we can watch the continents move bit by bit, but we can never test the "big" question - whether the continents ever moved from pangea to their current location. - because we can't time travel.

The fact that a past event can never be directly observed does NOT mean that we can never create scientific theories about what happened. For example, take this actual experiment that was done with evolution.

Theory: Fish evolved into amphibians around 375 million years ago.
Hypothesis: If we can find a fossil bed that was shoreline 375 mya, then that fossil bed may contain half fish - half amphibian creatures.
Experiment: The correct type of rock is located in Northern Canada. Let's go to Northern Canada, dig for fossils, and see if we can find such a fossil.
Result: Tiktaalik, a half-fish half-amphibian fossil was discovered.

Using evolution, scientists correctly predicted what they would find in rocks in Northern Canada. Explain how Intelligent Design has ever done anything remotely like that.

Wait, Intelligent Design has never done anything remotely like that. Please stop pretending they are both science.
And if you're wondering, I teach an undergrad course in evolution.
That makes me sad.
6.10.2008 12:49pm
Curt Fischer:

But the problem with that is that evolution is not an experimental science. The big questions to be addressed by evolutionary theory are not amenable to experiment. Evolution and intelligent design are retrospective.



As is my standard wont in these types of discussions, I will urge readers who doubt that macroevolution is an experimental science to examine this link. There you can see an account of 29 falsifiable predictions, many quantitative in nature, which stem from the theory of macroevolution.

None has yet been falsified.
6.10.2008 1:03pm
The Oracle of Syracuse:
The film was not a defense of intelligent design. It was a catalogue of examples of individuals who have been discriminated against solely because of their belief in intelligent design, where that belief did not affect the quality of their work.
6.10.2008 1:06pm
L.A. Brave:
Bob Goodman:
1) As others have pointed out, evolution is testable. It makes testable predictions that have always born out. We can do it in the lab with fruit flies and bacteria or out in the field with making fossil predictions, as Chris Bell explained.

2) More importantly, evolution is falsifiable and ID is not. We can imagine evidence that would falsify evolution if we found it. Problem is, we haven't found it yet, after exhaustive search. But any legitimate scientist will explain that they would chuck evolution out there door if the evidence were there to falsify it.

ID, on the other hand, can never be falsified. No matter what evidence you present, it can always be explained by saying "God did it that way." That answers nothing, and that is why ID is not science.
6.10.2008 1:07pm
Roger Schlafly (www):
So, yes, he was denied tenure "because of" his intelligent design work. But he was denied tenure because intelligent design is not science, ...
Then I guess that you will also want to deny tenure to all those writing on the subject of Does Time Run Backward in Other Universes?, an article in the current Scientific American.
6.10.2008 1:09pm
AnneS:
Roger - Gonzalez was denied tenure because of his ID work only in the sense that his ID work distracted him and detracted from the time he could devote to the work tenure is judged on, namely original research at his then-current place of employment that generated grant revenue for the University and produced results that could be published as scientific studies in peer review journals. Oh, and attract and shepherd grad students through their dissertations. He did very little of that - most of his published peer review research was from his previous place of employment.

Then, of course, there's the poor fired Smithsonian employee who was neither fired nor an employee of the Smithsonian.

Let's just say ID wasn't the only mendacious thing about this propoganda piece.
6.10.2008 1:24pm
PC:
A major point of the movie is that academia is very hostile to certain views.


I would have to agree with this. I remember arguing against the theory of heliocentrism in an astrophysics course and the professor refused to hear me out. It was obvious he hated me because I'm a Christian.
6.10.2008 1:31pm
Terence50 (mail):
What does "intelligent design" have to say about evolutionary change in current species? Mutations, extinctions, etc?

Do intelligent design people say that creatures aren't changing? Or do they say a designer set the evolutionary process in motion and that is the only difference?

Otherwise, I can't see how their movement is even taken remotely seriously, but maybe I'm just naive LOL.
6.10.2008 1:35pm
Joe Bingham (mail):
I think the quote was responding to a different point. Stein's argument is "Y happened, and X must have caused it" or perhaps "Y would not have happened without X." (Isn't that a direct translation of Berlinkski's statement?) Showing that other things cause Y is a legitimate response to that.

Chris, thanks for the response. If the entire text of the third paragraph is responding simply to the quote in the second graph, and not to the argument as Bailey lays it out in through the rest of the second graph, I think you're correct (although it's a somewhat unsatisfactory response--the claim that darwinism is a necessary condition for Nazism is not disproven by the fact that murder has at times been justified by religion--it's at least a legitimate response). If that's the case, Bailey makes it unclear by laying out the argument he says the context in the movie suggests, and then appearing to respond to that argument as he lays it out, instead of simply responding to the quote.
6.10.2008 1:43pm
rbj:
donaldk:

In fact if there were an intelligent designer, he would have designed something better than mankind. The qualities of this last are a very convincing argument against it.


Perhaps they should use "designed by committee" instead.

I saw the film, very disappointing. The closest thing to science in it was about a minute long segment that was basically "gee, there are too many random things that had to go right for evolution to be right, ergo there was an intelligent designer."

As for European slavery, via Wikipedia (usual caveats apply)
"In 1772, the Somersett Case (R. v. Knowles, ex parte Somersett)[292] of the English Court of King's Bench ruled that slavery was unlawful in England (although not elsewhere in the British Empire). A similar case, that of Joseph Knight, took place in Scotland five years later and ruled slavery to be contrary to the law of Scotland.

Following the work of campaigners in the United Kingdom, the Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade was passed by Parliament on March 25, 1807, coming into effect the following year. . . .

The Slavery Abolition Act, passed on August 23, 1833, outlawed slavery itself in the British colonies. On August 1, 1834 all slaves in the British West Indies, were emancipated, but still indentured to their former owners in an apprenticeship system which was finally abolished in 1838.
6.10.2008 1:43pm
Kevin Lynch (mail):

Then I guess that you will also want to deny tenure to all those writing on the subject of Does Time Run Backward in Other Universes?, an article in the current Scientific American.


Why? The particular work you cite IS science: It attempts to rectify a hole in our understanding of physics, and does so by synthesizing a model of the early universe that makes a falsifiable set of predictions. That's the textbook definition of science.
6.10.2008 1:48pm
Joe Bingham (mail):
Do intelligent design people say that creatures aren't changing? Or do they say a designer set the evolutionary process in motion and that is the only difference?

I haven't read it straight from the horses' mouths, but as I understand it most IDers think at least some forms of life were designed, and that evolution explains most variations between life forms. So, say, humans and apes might well share an ancestor, but apes and eels might not share an ancestor. I think their claims are mostly based on life at the microcellular level, saying it's too complex to have happened by chance.

Someone should feel free to correct me on this characterization; I imagine there's quite a bit of variance between IDers... they certainly don't deny that darwinian evolution takes place, though, they just deny that it can sufficiently explain the existence of all life.
6.10.2008 1:49pm
Hoosier:
Sorry to sound like I'm picking nits. But any loose use of terminology, and IDers will drive the Jesus Truck right through the hole that opens up. (I've seen this at the Field Museum in Chicago.)

Creatures ARE NOT evolving. I'm not evolving, and in fact I cannot evolve. Once my DNA is set, that's it.

But *species* are evolving. IDers will actually pose the question: "So, are you evolving right now?" And people take the bait. Which is great for IDers.

As for predictive abilities--This was settled years and years ago. When Murchison discovered what he called the Silurian geological layer, and found exactly what evolutionists would expect him to find. No one had ever seen this system before. Yet it corresponded to the 'reverse-evolution' that you would expect to get as you dig farther and farther down in sedimentary rock. Pretty good prediction, id'nit?

Until anti-Evolutionists have explained this one, what more is there to say?
6.10.2008 2:13pm
William Oliver (mail) (www):
Actually, I think this ties in rather nicely with the recurring theme in Volokh Conspiracy about the lack of "science" in "forensic science." The repeated criticisms here boil down to the fact that many forensic scientists don't do "science" when making their inferences, in the sense that often they do not have controlled double-blinded studies to base their work on.

In fact, most *applications* of "science" to the real world do not, and the application of well-known statistics to a given case is always problematical (the closer you get to the specific class a single case belongs to, the less large aggregate statistics apply).

The actual work that many forensic scientists do is very similar to medical diagnosis, and uses abductive inference, or the fitting of the best hypothesis to the available evidence. People who point this out also point out that most "big" science concepts -- evolution, big bang, etc. -- are in the same boat. Their acceptance is based on abduction, not induction. Thus, as one writer noted,


On the other hand, scientists (sometimes to their great embarrassment)have no other recourse than to accept theories solely on the basis of overwhelming abductive evidence. Consider modern evolutionary theory and
the objections to it that some raise on behalf of creationism. Duane Gish points out that the origin of life and its evolution are not repeatable, controllable,
or predictable. Moreover, Gish claims (on the authority of Karl Popper) that Darwinian evolution is not a testable scientific theory but simply 'a metaphysical research program.' And finally, although the theory
of evolution has enormous explanatory power, no direct evidence 'confirms' the theory of evolution; rather, its truth rests solely on a series of inferences.
Thus, since no deductive or inductive reason exists for accepting Darwinian evolution and since creationism has the same explanatory power - if not more - Gish can apparently advance creationism as a legitimate scientific rival to evolution.
Under the view of scientific argumentation I am urging, however, the phenomena that Darwinian evolution upposedly 'explains' become insteada huge number of comparative conditions in an abductive argument, all of which together 'confirm' or 'verify' modern evolutionary theory beyond any reasonable doubt, scientific or therwise. Similarly, creationism becomes an especially weak version of the long-discredited 'argument from
design.' Some have attempted to explain this (Gould, Dawkins), but the received wisdom concerning science and its epistemology, stemming from Peirce, Hanson, and Popper, prevents them from making their case as lucidly as they might otherwise.


(MD Bybee, Abductive Inferences and the Structure of Scientific Knowledge, Argumentation, 10(1):25-46,1996)

Stein's critique of evolution is not particularly different than the critique of forensic science seen in this forum. Thus, in a rather stunning hypocrisy, the same people who pooh pooh forensic science as being "nonscientific" in this forum also pooh pooh those who point out that under the same criteria, these "big" concepts are *also* "nonscientific." Goose and gander. In fact, both are "scientific;" you just need to apply the same rules.
6.10.2008 2:16pm
Hoosier:
"Their acceptance is based on abduction, not induction."

So those of us who believe in natural selection have been kidnapped? By whom?
6.10.2008 2:19pm
William Oliver (mail) (www):
Obviously not by logicians.
6.10.2008 2:20pm
one of many:
But wait a second, Evolution is falsifiable right? But Pangenes were shown wrong by Gregor Mendel a long time ago, so evolution was falsified soon after Darwin, why is it still being taught?

Evolution isn't falsifiable, certain theories created under the assumption of the validity of Evolution are subject to falsification and some produce testable hypothesis, but Evolution itself is unfalsifiable. If Evolution were falsifiable, then the first time someone came up with a hypothesis which was wrong (Darwin's pangenes?) then Evolution was shown to be wrong.
6.10.2008 2:51pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
William Oliver:

I, for one, would generally agree with you. I think evolution is very similar to forensic science. In both cases, you are trying to reconstruct past events based on observed facts. The best explanation of the past event is the one that fits the observed facts, and explanations that contradict observed facts should be disregarded.

(I wouldn't refer to this as abduction, however. I still classify it as induction. A good scientist should sit down and figure out what evolution requires and then test that theory. Working backwards through abduction is wrong, although it's hard not to do so when the data is pouring in faster than the theories can be refined. It reaches the point where certain theories are never developed because their disproofs are already available.)

I also don't think double-blind experiments are required to conduct science, so I'm not sure who on the VC has these problems with forensic science, but they aren't me.
6.10.2008 2:57pm
Curt Fischer:

William Oliver quoted Bybee:Thus, since no deductive or inductive reason exists for accepting Darwinian evolution and since creationism has the same explanatory power - if not more - Gish can apparently advance creationism as a legitimate scientific rival to evolution.
Under the view of scientific argumentation I am urging, however, the phenomena that Darwinian evolution upposedly 'explains' become insteada huge number of comparative conditions in an abductive argument, all of which together 'confirm' or 'verify' modern evolutionary theory beyond any reasonable doubt, scientific or therwise.



Since I am not a philosopher of science, I am not quite sure what meaning the words "deductive", "inductive" and "abductive" have in that field. In fact I'm not even sure what the final sentence of your quotation means at all.

William Oliver, could you take a look at the 29 predictions which directly follow from the evolutionary theory of common descent and say whether you think it is consistent with Bybee's quotation? Also, would you say that there are valid inductive or deductive arguments for the validity of e.g. the Schrodinger equation in quantum mechanics?

Although I'm interested in the topic, I don't understand the quotation or why you think it is important. If you could elaborate I would be appreciative.
6.10.2008 3:08pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
one of many says:
certain theories created under the assumption of the validity of Evolution are subject to falsification and some produce testable hypothesis, but Evolution itself is unfalsifiable.
I don't think that's quite right.

I would agree that the theory of evolution is quite general. Even after Darwin proposed evolution, no one knew how fast things could evolve or how genetic information was transmitted. To test evolution, people tried to derive specific consequences of evolution, and then tested those specifics. When they were wrong, they went back to the drawing board on the specifics, not on the general. Your example of pangenes fits that mold.

That doesn't mean that evolution could never be falsified. Imagine that we had unlocked the cell and discovered that sperm and egg contain no hereditary information, no DNA. That would have killed evolution. The fact that such a result was highly unlikely does not mean that evolution can't be falsified, just that it is an extremely simple theory.

If I can use a metaphor, picture an ever growing tree. The trunk is the theory of evolution, each branch is a supposed consequence of evolution, and each twig is a supposed consequence of each branch. When a scientist falsifies a twig at the end of a branch, she does not cut down the whole tree. She just snaps off the twig at the end. Then everyone moves back to the branch level and look for a newer, better twig. Similarly, we could snap off a whole branch without getting back to the trunk. That doesn't mean we can never get back to the trunk, it just means that we would have to work through a lot of confirmed theory to do it.

The trunk of evolution is non-controversial. The branches are where all the (professional) fighting occurs. How fast does evolution occur? What is the mutation rate? Can evolution regress backwards under the right condition? Etc.
6.10.2008 3:09pm
libarbarian (mail):

Gravity is a social contruct in that prior to Newton, there were other explanationsfor why things fell.



Newtons theory of gravity says a hell of a lot more than "things fall".

It says that objects with mass attract each other with a force proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. That is a hell of a lot more specific and more testable than random theories for why "things fall".

You're right about Sokal being wrong about what a social construct is, but characterizing Newtons theory of gravity as just "things fall" and therefore no better or worse than why some Aboriginal thought that "things fall" is way off base.
6.10.2008 3:16pm
John Herbison (mail):
It appears that a proponent of teaching creationism in public schools is receiving serious consideration for the second spot on the Republican ticket. See, New York Times, June 2, 2008.

That raises an interesting question. If Louisiana Governor Piyush (Bobby) Jindal is nominated for vice-president, will the nutjobs who howled about Brack Obama's membership in Trinity United Church of Christ demand that Jindal renounce his church that failed to keep its priests from molesting its children?
6.10.2008 3:17pm
Anderson (mail):
Boy, I would sure hate to support a political party that embraces nonsense like Stein's movie. I'd feel like an idiot.
6.10.2008 3:41pm
Joe Bingham (mail):
That raises an interesting question. If Louisiana Governor Piyush (Bobby) Jindal is nominated for vice-president, will the nutjobs who howled about Brack Obama's membership in Trinity United Church of Christ demand that Jindal renounce his church that failed to keep its priests from molesting its children?
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

That's not a very interesting question. What's the moral analogy you're trying to draw here? Make it clearer.
6.10.2008 3:43pm
Randy R. (mail):
"Unfortunately, they've decided that the philosophies of these 3 individuals are such core components of this supposed modern philosophy of materialism that it cannot be reversed without the complete destruction of everything based on any work done by any of the three."

They also have to denigrate Kinsey and his research on the sexual behavior of humans. Supposedly, because he was a 'bad' person in real life, that means that all his research is without value.

WRT slavery: The church itself had no problems with slavery in the middle ages, and in fact encouraged it during the Crusades. The whole purpose of the Crusades was to drive out the infidels by force, slaughtering them if needed. In the Children's Crusade, most of them never made it to the holy land as they were sold off to slavery -- by good Christian men.

And let's not forget the Pope who made a gift of several slaves to his supporters, although I don't have the cite right here.

But to the bigger point -- even if Darwin's theories were used for nefarious means, that doesn't discredit Darwinisn. Darwin never applied his theories to society, and never even raised the issue of 'social darwinism.' So why should or his theory be castigated for something some misguided follows did?

Christianity has often been used to kill people, enslave them, torture them (the Inquisition, the Aztecs). But does that mean the Christ should be held accountable for those actions, and that the entire religion should be discarded? No, no and the same for Darwinism.
6.10.2008 3:46pm
Bad (mail) (www):
I'm endlessly baffled by the idea some people have that evolutionary biologists don't do lab work, don't run experiments, don't use math, and so on. Why is it that when you hear a creationist explain what evolution and evolutionary science is, it rarely bears even a passing resemblance to the real thing?

Evolution is not just falsifiable, but intricately so. There are so many different ways in which a tremendous wrench could be thrown into the whole thing... it's just that none of them have turned out to be the case. Not falsified is a very different thing from not falsifiable.

It's too bad that Bailey's review had to come out so late in the print edition, given that the film petered down to a handful of theaters more than a week ago. :)

Here's my own, slightly more timely review of Expelled from way back when.
6.10.2008 4:00pm
Joe Bingham (mail):
Supposedly, because he was a 'bad' person in real life, that means that all his research is without value.

Seriously? People really make that argument? Color me skeptical.
6.10.2008 4:09pm
Bad (mail) (www):
If Evolution were falsifiable, then the first time someone came up with a hypothesis which was wrong (Darwin's pangenes?) then Evolution was shown to be wrong.


That doesn't make any sense. The point you seem to be trying to make is that because various hypotheses about the specifics of how evolution works or how these or that lineages relate can stand or fall without harming evolution as a whole, evolution cannot be falsified. But that's nonsense. The general, overall concepts of common descent and evolution via differential selection based on the environment can be falsified very easily. Just produce evidence that rabbits lived in the Cambrian era, or show even one conclusively IC structure, and it's all over.

What the example of pangenes shows is that scientists DO discard concepts pretty quickly when the evidence goes against them. Heck, Darwin himself was pretty sure, towards the end of his life, that he had the mechanism for heredity wrong. And he did.
6.10.2008 4:09pm
William Oliver (mail) (www):
"William Oliver, could you take a look at the 29 predictions which directly follow from the evolutionary theory of common descent and say whether you think it is consistent with Bybee's quotation? "

Well, yes. A quick look describes those as the 29 "evidences," not "predictions." The fact that you can build (and debate and modify and discard) phylogenetic trees, for instance is good evidence for abductive inference, but does not meet the demands of Popperian falsifiability. And, in fact, most of the "falsifiable" claims of evolutionists are primarily explanatory observations.

Note that I am not taking an intelligent design view, and decline to act as advocate for it, or against evolution. I'm merely saying that the evidence for evolution rests *almost* exclusively in its explanatory power -- as the site you mention demonstrates.
6.10.2008 4:14pm
William Oliver (mail) (www):
"I'm endlessly baffled by the idea some people have that evolutionary biologists don't do lab work, don't run experiments, don't use math, and so on."

In fact, I'd love for you to provide an example of a prospective study that resulted in macroevolutionary change. Most criticism of evolutionary theory does not rest against the idea that one can breed for traits. Do all the Drosophila experiments you want, and you will still end up with a fruit fly. Do all the bacterial experiments you want, and you will have only selected for specific traits.

The claims of falsifiability all rest, essentially, outside of the realm of macroevolution -- in which the evidence that is argued is overwhelmingly abductive.
6.10.2008 4:20pm
Elliot Reed (mail):
Just produce evidence that rabbits lived in the Cambrian era, or show even one conclusively IC structure, and it's all over.
Suppose we find your Cambrian rabbit fossils. What happens? Do biology departments immediately scrap their entire curriculum and start teaching freshmen about intelligent design? Do they go to the public schools and tell them not to teach kids about evolution any more, that was all b.s.? Do journals start refusing to publish evolution pieces because they no longer have any scientific merit?

Of course not. Here's what would actually happen: biologists would start searching for some explanation, even a facially implausible one, that didn't blast the entire theory of evolution into tiny pieces. Is it a very well-disguised hoax? Are our techniques for dating rocks completely off in some way? Is something badly off with our theory of the evolutionary timeline? If none of those panned out quickly, the fossils would be labeled an "unexplained puzzle" and biology would proceed as normal.

That's not just what would actually happen, it's what ought to happen. You don't throw out a powerful, well-confirmed theory based on a single piece of evidence.
6.10.2008 4:23pm
William Oliver (mail) (www):
"I wouldn't refer to this as abduction, however. I still classify it as induction. A good scientist should sit down and figure out what evolution requires and then test that theory..."

And no such macroevolutionary prospective study has been performed. Instead, evolutionary theory is a little better than Freudian psychoanalytical theory -- you can make some predictions, and many will come true. But if they don't, you simply use another explanation within the theory. As Popper noted, if you are early to an appointment, you are aggressive, if you are on time you are obsessive-compulsive, if you are late you are passive-aggressive. I can certainly make a prediction about when you will show up for your appointment, and if I know you well, I will likely be right -- but if I'm wrong, it doesn't disprove my theory, it means that I simply have to tweak my diagnosis. As far as I have been able to find, that's how macroevolutionary theory has been working.

However, from the standpoint of abduction, the explanatory power still makes it the most likely correct hypothesis.
6.10.2008 4:24pm
Randy R. (mail):
Joe: "Seriously? People really make that argument? Color me skeptical."

Dr. Ruth Reisman wrote an entire book on that basis, which was favorably reviewed by conservative groups, like the Catholic Review. Here is a quote from her book: "The sexual revolution faced a potentially serious setback were it widely known that the theoretical father of the movement had died from an advanced stage of sadosexual autoerotic (masturbatory) activity."

You see, if people knew that he jerked off a lot, then no one would take any of studies seriously, and so they shouldn't. At least that what we are told to believe.
6.10.2008 4:26pm
Elliot Reed (mail):
I also don't think double-blind experiments are required to conduct science, so I'm not sure who on the VC has these problems with forensic science, but they aren't me.
I sure hope they're not. Otherwise we'll have to throw out every experiment ever conducted in physics, chemistry, or biology.
6.10.2008 4:29pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
The problem, of course, is that "macroevolution" is nothing but microevolution added up. People are currently breeding new cats in the same way we once bred dogs. One day you will be able to buy yourself a pet cat twice the size of any current cat. (A Doberman cat, anyone?) Still, it will be done just by microchanges over long periods of time. It's hard to conduct multi-generational experiments. (Although it can be done.) Over time, as we decode more and more genetic information, we will become extremely good at macro changes. We will be able to make "jumps" that far out-pace current evolution.

Still, here's a "macro" prediction of evolution - one that was made long before the evidence was in. If evolution is correct, then we should find a large number of transitional fossils located throughout the geological strata. The fossils will slowly change from older organisms to present-day creatures. The record will not be perfect, as fossils are relatively rare, but it will be consistent with evolution and geology. Result? The hypothesis passes the test.

The fossil record (which was largely undiscovered when Darwin was alive, although it was being uncovered) could have been very, very different. It wasn't. The fossil record could have conformed with the theory of Noah's flood! (Slow moving fossils at low ground, fast moving creatures at high ground to escape the water.) It didn't.
6.10.2008 4:30pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
I should add that the edges of these predictions are unclear. Darwin thought evolution needed at least 100 million years at a minimum, and I don't know if he ever put a maximum number to it. It's true that predictions can be fuzzy; the fossil record we uncovered could have been different in several ways without disproving evolution. Still, that doesn't mean that evolution can't be falsified or is not inductive. As long as there are some outcomes that would disprove the theory, it still stands as science. It's just difficult science.
6.10.2008 4:35pm
Bad (mail) (www):
"William Oliver: In fact, I'd love for you to provide an example of a prospective study that resulted in macroevolutionary change.

Hmmm.. would you also love it if I had already linked to a discussion of one such study in my original post?

Would you like another link?

"Most criticism of evolutionary theory does not rest against the idea that one can breed for traits. Do all the Drosophila experiments you want, and you will still end up with a fruit fly. Do all the bacterial experiments you want, and you will have only selected for specific traits."

And here's where you're showing your ignorance of evolution (though it's not entirely your fault, because the Linnean taxonomy everyone is familiar with does make it very confusing). It is evolution, in fact, that predicts that all descendants of fruit flies will be fruit flies: exactly like all descendants of mammals will be mammals, and all descendants of eukaryotes will be... you get it.

All new species ARE is different traits (the most common definition of "species" would specify that the traits that matter are those which happen to reduce genetic or physical or even behavioral possibilities of interbreeding with other populations). But all of these new traits are cladistically conservative: that is, no matter how much something changes, it will remain properly grouped beneath its ancestor group, because everything that distinguished its ancestor from all other life will distinguish it going forward. Even totally random walks in a nearly infinite trait space are always distinct.

So, yes, dogs will only ever give birth to dogs... just as therians only ever gave birth to therians, for millions of years all the way up until the present.
6.10.2008 4:52pm
Curt Fischer:

The fact that you can build (and debate and modify and discard) phylogenetic trees, for instance is good evidence for abductive inference, but does not meet the demands of Popperian falsifiability. And, in fact, most of the "falsifiable" claims of evolutionists are primarily explanatory observations.


I agree with you that the mere existence of phylogenetic trees does not constitute a falsifiable prediction. But evolutionary biology, as the site I linked to discussed, has gone far beyond the mere construction of phylogenetic trees. Evolutionary theory predicted -- a priori -- that phylogenetic trees constructed by biologists over the last two centuries on the basis of morphology (body shape, bone structure, etc.) would be nearly identical to phylogenetic trees that would later come to be constructed by DNA sequence analysis, which only became available in the 1960s and 1970s.

This prediction, as discussed on the site, was validated spectacularly and in every family, class, and phylum of organisms examined by DNA sequence analysis.

I don't know what "Popperian" falsifiability entails, but before the DNA was sequenced no one knew if the prediction would be right. Ergo, I am comfortable saying that the experiment represented an attempted falsification of evolutionary theory. Of course, it failed to falsify evolutionary theory.

This is one example; the site discusses 28 others. I agree that some of the evidences discussed by the site are mere observations, but many of the evidences are in fact the results of experiments designed to potentially falsify the evolutionary theory.

This is related to my point about the Schodinger equation. Can you explain why the "falsifiable" claims of quantum mechanicists are not primarily explanatory observations?

For example, take the statement "all matter is made of atoms". Do you regard it as falsifiable or as just an explanatory observation?
6.10.2008 5:00pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
And no such macroevolutionary prospective study has been performed.

And of course this is complete and utter nonsense. We have 5000 yrs plus of creating entirely new species of plants and animals that prove evolution. With genetic modification, what used to take hundreds of generations is now achieved in the lab in just a few in many plants.

Corn, which of course is completely different than what the Europeans found when they arrived five hundred years ago, is a completely different species than its wild ancestor, so much so that it is unrecognizable. We still don't know how the ancient Americans managed to create this new species. Compared to the crops domesticated in the Old World, corn was a masterpiece of genetic engineering.
6.10.2008 5:13pm
William Oliver (mail) (www):
Well, no, it's not "utter nonsense." Depending on the very malleable and political concept of "species," in fact you cannot point to a good example prospective macroevolution without simple handwaving. Of course, some species have "emerged" and then went away and "emerged" again. The taxonomy of the Baltimore Oriole comes to mind, but that had more to do with the completion of Camden Yards than evolution.
6.10.2008 5:51pm
William Oliver (mail) (www):
"Evolutionary theory predicted -- a priori -- that phylogenetic trees constructed by biologists over the last two centuries on the basis of morphology (body shape, bone structure, etc.) would be nearly identical to phylogenetic trees that would later come to be constructed by DNA sequence analysis, which only became available in the 1960s and 1970s. "

Er, well, no. There were multiple competing phylogenetic trees and different taxonomies. The ones that tended to match were accepted and the ones that did not were discarded. That's not an example of prediction and falsifiability, that's an example of selection.
6.10.2008 5:53pm
Bad (mail) (www):
Species is not "malleable" and "political" for any reason suspect of evolution: in fact, it's hard to define BECAUSE of evolutionary change and the way in which makes discrete singular distinctions very hard to come by that actually work for all forms of life.

There's no "handwaving" here other than you changing what you mean by macroevolution wily-nilly.
6.10.2008 5:57pm
William Oliver (mail) (www):
"So, yes, dogs will only ever give birth to dogs... just as therians only ever gave birth to therians, for millions of years all the way up until the present"

Er, well, no again. I am quite familiar with evolution, and I am quite familiar with taxonomy. You can't define away the problem.

If evolution is to work the way you claim it does, *eventually* if there is evolutionary pressure, you will get to something else. If dogs only breed other dogs, then you will *never* get something other than a dog — even if you change traits. You will get bigger dogs, smarter dogs, furrier dogs, but you will only get dogs.

Unless you get better than that, you can't get to whatever it would be that dogs should evolve into. Unless, of course, you are claiming immaculate conception.
6.10.2008 5:58pm
William Oliver (mail) (www):
"Species is not "malleable" and "political" for any reason suspect of evolution: in fact, it's hard to define BECAUSE of evolutionary change and the way in which makes discrete singular distinctions very hard to come by that actually work for all forms of life. "

I didn't say it was that way because of "reason suspect of evolution." I wrote it because you can't use taxonomic sleight of hand as examples of evolution.

And, no, I don't change the definition of macroevolution willy-nilly. It's just that breeding big horses from small horses and big corn from small corn isn't it.
6.10.2008 6:03pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Taxonomy is so useless now that we understand genetics. (Well, it's much less useless.)

Primates only had sex with primates, and they only gave birth to primates, but still we got us. Categorically, we are still primates ourselves.

Chickens are also dinosaurs, technically.

Blech. It's useless to try to describe this stuff as if species are really separate in some deeper, more meaningful way.

I'm going to go have a dinosaur egg omelet. With peppers and ham, if I'm lucky.
6.10.2008 6:03pm
Cruising Troll:
- J F Thomas -
Not to mention that Europeans carried out genocide against the populations of three continents (Australia and North and South America, where up to 95% of the native population was wiped out between 1500 and 1900)

What, nobody else is willing to take up this blood libel? Pay no never mind to the evolutionary (insert heavy ironic eyebrow lifting) inadequacy of the New World native populations when exposed to Old World diseases. It must be noted, introduced accidentally, the diseases did the overwhelmingly vast majority of the "killing." You want to ding the Brits/Aussie for their deliberate treatment of the Aborigines, go for it. You want to identify the isolated instances of deliberate European attempts to "wipe out" native populations in the New World, have at it. But to make a generalization as broad and sweeping as you've made is pure and simple blood libel.

- J F Thomas -
And of course this is complete and utter nonsense. We have 5000 yrs plus of creating entirely new species of plants and animals that prove evolution. With genetic modification, what used to take hundreds of generations is now achieved in the lab in just a few in many plants.

That's your defense of evolution? C'mon, you've just presented bona fide intelligently executed bio-engineering in its crudest sense as a defense of macro-evolution! Nothing quite like tossing random natural selection, the cornerstone of evolution, out the window. You're gonna give the ID folks hernias from laughing so hard at that defense!

Moving on:

Perhaps somebody can explain to me why, as a cultural artifact, "Evolution" matters? Why do the ID folks get in a bother over it, and why should anybody else care? Why should folks at this site, which has a decidely legal slant to it, get so worked up over Stein's movie? What is the value of teaching gradeschoolers Evolution? How does the Theory of Evolution enrich anybody's lives, aside from those conducting research into it?
6.10.2008 6:23pm
Curt Fischer:

Er, well, no. There were multiple competing phylogenetic trees and different taxonomies. The ones that tended to match were accepted and the ones that did not were discarded. That's not an example of prediction and falsifiability, that's an example of selection.


You are wrong to suggest that well-studied phylogenetic trees were "discarded" as a result of molecular studies. Certainly some phylogenies were discarded, but this is no more an example of "selection" than when physicists add more decimal places to their best estimate of physical constants. One possible reason for your failure to recognize this may be that you ascribe to the common misconception that any error in or discrepancy in a phylogenetic tree is indicative of a failure of the entire tree, not just an indication of uncertainty in one or more of its parts.

The relevant section of the "29+ evidences" site says it best:


There are over 10^38 different possible ways to arrange the 30 major taxa represented in [a figure showing a phylogenetic tree for all life] into a phylogenetic tree (see Table 1.3.1; Felsenstein 1982; Li 1997, p. 102). In spite of these odds, the relationships given in Figure 1, as determined from morphological characters, are completely congruent with the relationships determined independently from cytochrome c molecular studies (for consensus phylogenies from pre-molecular studies see Carter 1954, Figure 1, p. 13; Dodson 1960, Figures 43, p. 125, and Figure 50, p. 150; Osborn 1918, Figure 42, p. 161; Haeckel 1898, p. 55; Gregory 1951, Fig. opposite title page; for phylogenies from the early cytochrome c studies see McLaughlin and Dayhoff 1973; Dickerson and Timkovich 1975, pp. 438-439). Speaking quantitatively, independent morphological and molecular measurements such as these have determined the standard phylogenetic tree, as shown in Figure 1, to better than 38 decimal places.
6.10.2008 6:35pm
Kazinski:
The most egregious part of the movie is the attempt to link evolution with Communism and Nazism.

Why is that egregious? Is the reviewer trying to say Communists and Nazis weren't products of evolution?
6.10.2008 6:45pm
Bad (mail) (www):
Er, well, no again. I am quite familiar with evolution, and I am quite familiar with taxonomy. You can't define away the problem.


I'm not defining away the problem. The problem exists because you either don't know what you are talking about.

When you say "fruit fly" this means something: a particular sort of animal that has a very particular sort of biology that was informed by a particular evolutionary history: one that is unique to fruit flies. That history never goes away: evolution is cladistically conservative..

You're the one trying to exploit taxonomic ambiguity here. There are very specific creatures we know as fruit flies, but then there a group of creatures known as fruit flies. The problem with "species" as a term is that it means both. So given that fruit flies will always be grouped as fruit flies, you can claim that they haven't changed into anything but a fruit fly, even despite the fact that they've speciated, developed new traits that make them quite different from their ancestors, and so forth.

If you claim to understand evolutionary taxonomy, then let's start by having you tell me what the name of the distinctive taxonomical pattern of ancestry is: the one indicative of common descent.

If evolution is to work the way you claim it does, *eventually* if there is evolutionary pressure, you will get to something else.


No, you won't, not if by "something else" you mean something lateral to dogs that is no longer a type of dog. You may well get all sorts of sub groups which are radically different creatures from dogs today, just as dogs are radically different from the earliest mammals. But they will still all rightly be grouped with their ancestors as types of dog, just as they are rightly grouped as mammals.

If dogs only breed other dogs, then you will *never* get something other than a dog — even if you change traits. You will get bigger dogs, smarter dogs, furrier dogs, but you will only get dogs.


Right... and that's exactly how common descent works with taxonomic system. Just like after millions of years since the first primate, we've only gotten more primates as descendants... including us.

I wrote it because you can't use taxonomic sleight of hand as examples of evolution.


None of these things are "taxonomic sleight of hand." They involve the emergence and later wider distribution of distinctly new traits and functions, in many cases which we can trace back specifically to the genes.

And, no, I don't change the definition of macroevolution willy-nilly. It's just that breeding big horses from small horses and big corn from small corn isn't it.


Macroevolution isn't even the right term in the first place: we talk about macroevolution in biology when we want to talk about forces that operate outside of breeding populations, to larger groups of organisms over time. And big horses from small horses most certainly is real change: the precise sort that is at issue, if it requires changes in the genome.

If, by chance, the particular traits that change are those which happen to influence genetic compatibility, then we have speciation. But there's nothing inherently special about those genetic changes vs. some other genetic changes which don't cause speciation. There isn't even any single magical step that causes speciation, because the compatibility issues can be for very very different reasons in different lineages.
6.10.2008 6:45pm
Bad (mail) (www):
Cruising Troll: C'mon, you've just presented bona fide intelligently executed bio-engineering in its crudest sense as a defense of macro-evolution! Nothing quite like tossing random natural selection, the cornerstone of evolution, out the window.


You'd have to tell that to Darwin, who cited artificial selection rather extensively in his work.

The means of selection is actually fairly irrelevant to the point: you're still talking about selection for particular traits either way, not anyone directly engineering anything. That's why artificial selection is a perfectly good demonstration of the power of selection in evolution generally.
6.10.2008 6:49pm
Bad (mail) (www):
Oh, and William Oliver, whatever happened to the bravado about no prospective studies tracking the evolution of new traits over time, resulting in a directly observed change that takes the organism out of it species definition?

I linked to just such a one. Twice.
6.10.2008 6:51pm
Randy R. (mail):
Troll: "How does the Theory of Evolution enrich anybody's lives, aside from those conducting research into it?"

Clearly, it didn't enrich yours.

However, school kids are taught evolution all over the world. Not all kids are going to become scientists or doctors or biologists. However, evolution is so central to the understanding of so many disciplines that it must be taught to any student who hopes to go on to any science or medical field. Mathematics, for instance, has been a wonderful contributor to the understanding of evolution, so even when there is no direct correlation, it's important. And if we don't make those connections, someone else will, and that someone else will likely be Chinese or Indian, and they will benefit in the long run.

But basically, your question is why teach anything at all? At least beyond the three Rs. But that's what an education is all about -- learning about the world and ourselves. Otherwise, if we don't teach that, then the ones who will fill the gaps later in life will be the religious nut cases. Hence the reason we have this stupid debate of ID vs. evolution. If we spent a fraction of the energy on this debate on something of actual importance, like figuring out better ways to actually educate our kids, we would be much further ahead in may ways.
6.10.2008 7:01pm
one of many:
M. Bell
Imagine that we had unlocked the cell and discovered that sperm and egg contain no hereditary information, no DNA.
We did, it was when we discovered that pangenes didn't exist. If DNA did not exist, it would only mean that evolution used a different means of intergenerational information transfer. While the existence of DNA is supporting proof for evolution due to it being a mechanism which is compatible with evolution, the existence of DNA is neither proof of evolution or non-evolution. (This merely says that the fact of DNA's existence is not in itself proof of evolution, so don't even start on comparative DNA studies.)

The problem with Evolution as a falsifiable concept is the observer phenomena. Whatever test one devises to test evolution is invalidated by the fact that one has set up a test. The closest one can get to proving or disproving evolution is to find information which is either consistent or inconsistent with evolution, neither of which proves or falsifies the concept (too much data which is inconsistent will not falsify evolution but will relegate it to dustbin of scientific theories while continuing data consistent with evolution will eventually reach the point where it will be universally accept as true even if not proven.)



Bad,
Just produce evidence that rabbits lived in the Cambrian era ... and it's all over.
Well not rabbits but sharks, partiularily the horn shark. Not quite Cambrian but certainly if a rabbit being present in the Cambrian would falsify evolution than a shark which has managed not to change for 150 million years while all the flora and fauna in its enviroment changed would likewise falsify evolution. This of course is absurd, instead of falsifying evolution it merely requires a better understanding of evolutionary principals to be consistent with evolution. A rabbit in the Cambrian would not falsify evolution, it would merely show that our current understanding of the rise of mammals was incorrect. In a similar vein, the supposedly IC structures when first brought to the attention of evolutionists were conclusively IC, but evolution did not fade away like ice in a smelter, instead they sought a better understanding of organ-gene interactions to deal with problems which were not at the time adressed in evolutionary theory.
6.10.2008 7:30pm
Ex parte McCardle:
Oh, come on, bad, Chris Bell, Curt Fischer, etc.: there's no such thing as speciation. The 150 years of research on speciation are nonsense. And how do we know? Well, because William Oliver says so.
6.10.2008 7:37pm
Frater Plotter:
"Intelligent design" is merely contempt of court dressed up in a stolen lab coat. The term was specifically coined as a replacement for "creationism" and "creation science" after the Supreme Court found that it was an unconstitutional promotion of religion to teach those in public school classrooms. The creationists literally did a search-and-replace over their textbook drafts and went right on pushing their anti-Christian heresies as science.
6.10.2008 7:43pm
Tyrant King Porn Dragon (mail):

Why should folks at this site, which has a decidely legal slant to it, get so worked up over Stein's movie? What is the value of teaching gradeschoolers Evolution? How does the Theory of Evolution enrich anybody's lives, aside from those conducting research into it?

Because we have a certain amount of concern for the truth; because the Theory of Evolution explains how things work in the real world; and because Stein's movie is so full of bullsh*t that smaller chunks of bullsh*t orbit it in a 3:2 rotation:orbit resonance.
6.10.2008 8:37pm
Ex parte McCardle:
Frater Plotter, the preferred term is now "cdesign proponentsist"
6.10.2008 9:02pm
Bad (mail) (www):
"Not quite Cambrian but certainly if a rabbit being present in the Cambrian would falsify evolution than a shark which has managed not to change for 150 million years while all the flora and fauna in its environment changed would likewise falsify evolution."

It did not remain "unchanged for 150 million years" in the first place, and even if had, evolution does not require morphology to change at a constant pace everywhere and always. If a creature is well suited to its niche, it's not going to face much pressure to change in any dramatic fashion.

"A rabbit in the Cambrian would not falsify evolution, it would merely show that our current understanding of the rise of mammals was incorrect."

I don't agree: rabbits have all sorts of features and bodyplans which are distinctive of later post-Cambrian vertebrates. You can't completely screw up the order in which these trait clusters appear and still make sense of traditional common descent.

"In a similar vein, the supposedly IC structures when first brought to the attention of evolutionists were conclusively IC"

No they weren't: it was an allegation, and one very quickly rebutted. And I'm not aware of any new research that came about because of these allegations. The idea of IC was not actually a new one in the first place.

"The problem with Evolution as a falsifiable concept is the observer phenomena. Whatever test one devises to test evolution is invalidated by the fact that one has set up a test."

How does that "invalidate" the test anymore more less than any test of a given phenomena?
6.10.2008 9:13pm
Michael Edward McNeil (mail) (www):
It’s incorrect as asserted above to believe that Intelligent Design, along with its progenitor Creationism, make no predictions. It’s true that they’re both quite poverty stricken in the scientific-theory “predictions” department, their general explanation for most everything being “God did it!” — but they do make at least one quite specific, implicit prediction: that transitional fossils linking disparate living groups (those that are supposedly independently designed or created according to ID and its ilk) do not exist — yet exist they indubitably do.

In a particularly telling irony, occurring about a decade and a half ago, no sooner had Intelligent Design guru Michael Behe published a supposedly penetrating inquiry, as to how the lack of known fossils of the precursors to whales (legless sea mammals) was powerful indication of “Intelligent Design” being afoot, so to speak — when mere months later, the first of what are now several known fossils of early whales (whales with legs!) turned up in the fossil record. *

Similar fossil remains have been discovered in recent years almost exactly transitioning between lobe-finned lungfish and tetrapods (four-legged land animals: e.g., amphibians and us).

Thus, specific predictions of ID (and Creationism, for that matter) are not satisfied, and they thereby fail as scientific theories.


*Almost as dazzling a philosophic comeuppance as a historical episode occurring around the turn of the 19th century, when philosopher G.W.F. Hegel pompously “proved” philosophically (or so he thought) that the number of planets (regardless of how the concept of planet had changed over the years) can never be different than seven — arriving in print with this philosophic wonderpiece nearly simultaneous with the discovery, by Giuseppe Piazzi in 1801, of the eighth planet Ceres. Ceres is today regarded technically as a “dwarf planet,” in a bout of latter-day definitional handwaving — in actuality, it is a world, forged out of the original solar nebula, orbiting the Sun. Since Hegel’s chagrin, of course, other much more sizable undoubted planets (e.g., Uranus and Neptune) have also been discovered.

Shakespeare had it far wiser than Hegel:

Fool: The reason why the seven stars are no more than seven is a pretty reason.
Lear: Because they are not eight?
Fool: Yes, indeed. Thou wouldst make a good fool.

William Shakespeare, King Lear, Act I, Scene 5
6.10.2008 10:10pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
one of many:

You seem to have missed my point. I said, "Imagine that we had unlocked the cell and discovered that sperm and egg contain no hereditary information, no DNA." You responded, "If DNA did not exist, it would only mean that evolution used a different means of intergenerational information transfer." That contradicts my point.

My point was that evolution could be falsified. Imagine that we had found NO mechanism of intergenerational information transfer. The sperm and egg have been exhaustively studied, and no such properties were found.

That would disprove evolution.

Of course, the very idea is so ridiculous that even you have trouble just considering it as a thought experiment. That doesn't mean it couldn't have happened, or that it wouldn't have disproved evolution if it had.
6.10.2008 10:19pm
Randy R. (mail):
Fellas, the thing we have to remember is that all this baloney about ID and creationism isn't really about science or evolution or Darwin. We must remember that.

What it REALLY is about is this: There are people in the US who read the Bible literally. Everything in it is literally true, and that is the basis of their belief system.

Here you have other people, scientists, who have come up with something that proves that the bible is not literally true. This, they cannot allow, for if they did, their entire religious belief system would collapse. Moreover, the bible is the basis for their entire *moral* system. If the bible isn't literally true in every respect, their thinking goes, then nothing in it is true. And if nothing is true, then the entire idea of morality is not true, and that opens the door to atheism, homosexuality, communism, abortion, suicide, unthunasia, pedophilia, and all that.

So: They MUST prove that evolution is false, or else you accept all that bad stuff. It's either or for them, black and white. If the bible said that there were seven planets, you can be sure they would be arguing that the other new planets simply don't exist. If the Bible said that 2 plus 2 equals 5, you can be sure they would oppose the teaching of basic math.

The fact that the debate is about evolution is beside the point, and arguing about it accomplishes nothing. The real argument we should be having is that the Bible is not infallible, and that you can find it incorrect about somethings, yet still have your morality. It doesn't inexorably lead to the Holocaust. Their fears are unfounded.

But they won't listen. They would rather be bound by their fears than liberated by the greater possibilities.
6.10.2008 10:40pm
Hoosier:
Chris Bell: "Chickens are also dinosaurs, technically."

Paleontologists have recovered DNA from a T. Rex. And guess what it's closest living relative turns out to be?

This is what we mean by macro-evolution, ladies and gents.

William Oliver: "If evolution is to work the way you claim it does, *eventually* if there is evolutionary pressure, you will get to something else. If dogs only breed other dogs, then you will *never* get something other than a dog — even if you change traits. You will get bigger dogs, smarter dogs, furrier dogs, but you will only get dogs.

Unless you get better than that, you can't get to whatever it would be that dogs should evolve into. Unless, of course, you are claiming immaculate conception."

OK. I've got better for you: Punctuated equilibrium.
6.10.2008 10:46pm
CK:
"In fact, I'd love for you to provide an example of a prospective study that resulted in macroevolutionary change. Most criticism of evolutionary theory does not rest against the idea that one can breed for traits. Do all the Drosophila experiments you want, and you will still end up with a fruit fly. Do all the bacterial experiments you want, and you will have only selected for specific traits. "

Somehow, completely new traits DO appear out of the aether of the messy process of reproduction. This article talks about how E. Coli bacteria grown in a lab over thousands of generations were able to evolve a mechanism to metabolize citric acid, a trait that no other E. Coli have. Only one lineage did this, totally by random, and through the cumulative effect of many mutations. Roll the dice enough times and you will get some special pattern, maybe just not one you expected.
6.10.2008 10:55pm
Ricardo (mail):
Even if it is the case that Darwinism was a "necessary condition" for Nazism to exist, there were lots of other necessary conditions. Industrialization along with the consequent railroad network and capacity to mass-produce weapons of modern warfare is a clear candidate. Without the industrial revolution, the position of Germany with respect to the rest of the world in 1939 would have been very different from what it was on many different levels. It hardly denigrates modern technology or industry to point out this simple fact.

An even better candidate for a necessary condition for Nazism would, of course, be the fertile ground of anti-Semitism created by centuries of blood libel, claims of usury and exploitation against Jews, and passion plays (enthusiastically embraced by the Nazi regime) emphasizing the collective guilt of the Jews for the murder of Jesus.

Naturally, none of these are ideologically convenient for Ben Stein to mention in his movie.
6.10.2008 11:03pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"Admitting that that I.D. may have some merit for further research and that Darwinism is not infallible, doesn't make you a "Bible-thumper" it makes you open-minded in the truest sense of the word, and actually open to your own "evolution" as an academic and a human."

What might be the first step in that further research? I am not aware of any ID research. Has there been some? If so, what?
6.10.2008 11:17pm
Michael B (mail):
"All Worldview, No Evidence"

In fact, conceived within a (purely and genuinely) scientific sense, this is true.

It's also true that Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion" (available at places like google video), to cite one example, is likewise in that mold - even while Dawkins uses a certain vernacular and style, a certain "knowing" and avuncular style that purports to guide us through it all and be more strictly in-line with "rational" and "scientific" categories. Dawkins imagines himself to be a new-styled Grand Inquisitor, but it's all rhetoric - it's "All Worldview, No Evidence," at least no more than Ben Stein presents in Expelled.

"My point was that evolution could be falsified. Imagine that we had found NO mechanism of intergenerational information transfer. The sperm and egg have been exhaustively studied, and no such properties were found." Chris Bell

Well, "no such properties were found," says who? Ever hear of epigenetic discoveries, ever hear of cellular and molecular biology in contrast to genetic biology? And what do you mean to suggest more entirely by words such as "evolution," "genetic," etc.? E.g., are you suggesting some type of determinism conceived within a materialist framework? If so, be out with it in a forthright and transparent manner. Or if not, be out with the alternative. Science and rational forms of inquiry positively require such transparency.

(A prominent case study in this vein is the notion that science has positively shown homosexuality (in males only) to be "genetically" based. But that's merely one particularly prominent example.)
6.10.2008 11:21pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Well, "no such properties were found," says who? Ever hear of epigenetic discoveries, ever hear of cellular and molecular biology in contrast to genetic biology?
It's a thought experiment. My statement is obviously untrue, which is why it was a thought experiment.

I thought this would be obvious when I used phrases like "imagine" and "thought experiment".
6.10.2008 11:24pm
Joe Bingham (mail):
The creationists literally did a search-and-replace over their textbook drafts and went right on pushing their anti-Christian heresies as science.

Literally? Color me skeptical here, too.

Dr. Ruth Reisman wrote an entire book on that basis, which was favorably reviewed by conservative groups, like the Catholic Review. Here is a quote from her book: "The sexual revolution faced a potentially serious setback were it widely known that the theoretical father of the movement had died from an advanced stage of sadosexual autoerotic (masturbatory) activity."

You see, if people knew that he jerked off a lot, then no one would take any of studies seriously, and so they shouldn't. At least that what we are told to believe.


The book doesn't try to cast doubt on his research methods? Some serious doubt has been cast on it, so I'm surprised she doesn't make that effort.

I can't judge your quote, since it's presented out of context, but she could be talking about a public relations setback, in which case people's perception that he was (according to their perspective) a "pervert" might well lead to the perception that he was conducting research in the service of a social agenda. That wouldn't be the argument you attribute to her.
6.10.2008 11:35pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Joe Bingham:

The creationists literally did a search-and-replace over their textbook drafts and went right on pushing their anti-Christian heresies as science.
Literally? Color me skeptical here, too.
Oh man, you haven't heard this one?

Creationists were writing a "creation science" textbook. When the Supreme Court ruled creation science unconstitutional, the thing was nearly finished. The authors went through the book and replaced "creator" with "designer" and "creationists" with "design proponents".

The textbook was later adopted in Dover, Pennsylvania. All this evidence came out during the resultant Kitzmiller trial.

The authors were sloppy with some of their replacements. At one point, "creationists" was changed to "cdesign proponentsists".

This stuff is so crazy that I couldn't make it up if I tried. But don't believe me. Google Kitzmiller and read it from a Republican federal judge.
6.10.2008 11:43pm
Michael B (mail):
"Even if it is the case that Darwinism was a "necessary condition" for Nazism to exist, there were lots of other necessary conditions. Industrialization along with the consequent railroad network and capacity to mass-produce weapons of modern warfare is a clear candidate. Without the industrial revolution, the position of Germany with respect to the rest of the world in 1939 would have been very different from what it was on many different levels. It hardly denigrates modern technology or industry to point out this simple fact." Ricardo, emphasis added

Addressing the point emphasized, it reflects a poor form of reasoning. The material facts of the industrial revolution are themselves not value-laden in the sense a (social-)Darwinism is (inextricably and primarily) value-laden. This reflects a confusion of categories, in this case, material categories vs. ideological and cultural and value-laden categories.

If a mother and father provide food and sustenance for their children, much of it provided via modern mechanisms and appliances, and they also provide a set of values that includes a virulent hatred directed at some group or class of people - the hatred that is (likely to be) manifested in the child in later years is not the result of the fact that food and sustenance was provided by the mother and father. Might also be a certain kind of genetic fallacy.
6.10.2008 11:50pm
Hoosier:
I'm a paleontology nut. And what I find interesting is that British and Australian paleontologists and evolutionary biologists use this sort of language all the time. They clearly haven't had the debates that we have had in the US, and so terms are not as loaded.

But you very frequently read references to, say, the teeth of megalosaurus being "designed " to tear flesh. Or you encounter a debate about whether the feathers of an archaeopterix were "intended to" keep the dinosaur warm, or "meant to" help it fly.

I can just imagine the "AHA!" from Creationists when they read such things.
6.10.2008 11:58pm
Michael B (mail):
"Well, "no such properties were found," says who? Ever hear of epigenetic discoveries, ever hear of cellular and molecular biology in contrast to genetic biology?"
"It's a thought experiment. My statement is obviously untrue, which is why it was a thought experiment.

"I thought this would be obvious when I used phrases like "imagine" and "thought experiment"." Chris Bell
You utterly miss the point. No one seriously questions that genes are one of the inter-generational mechanisms used to transfer "building block" material from one generation to the next, what is thrown into question, by virtue of molecular, cellular and epigenetic mechanisms broadly understood, is your notion that there are "no such properties." It is a notion, one that is wrong.

Via a rough-hewn analogy only, it's a bit like thinking of a mechanistic physiscs and perhaps even a deterministic physics after Newton (or certainly after the positivists) and prior to Mach (or certainly prior to Einstein) vs. physics after Einstein, Planck, et al.

Things are not so simple.
6.11.2008 12:16am
one of many:
M. Bell,
Absurd. I have no problem imagining as a thought experiment ways in which information can be transfered inter-generationaly in a manner which is compatible with evolution other than DNA. Off the top of my head, there may be a soul created by the vital forces of both parents which shares characteristics of the parents in a way similar to DNA, the information is part of the spin of the electrons (sure there's not a lot of information which can be encoded in electron spin but how much information can you encode in 3 pairs of chemicals?) the atoms which make up a person, the father starts a person with semen which as a small distinct entity in the process of absorbing atoms from the mother for early growth acquires some of the information from her electron spin orientation until such time as it is large enough to have a distinct electron based information system of it's own to absorb more atoms for further growth without changing the information contained in it's electrons, and so on. If DNA were not the means of inter-generational information transfer used by evolution it would only mean that DNA was not the means of intergenerational-information transfer used for evolution, evolution instead would use some other mechanism of inter-generational information transfer, maybe something based on the flavors of quarks. Merely excluding one possible mechanism by which something can happen does not make it impossible for it to happen.

To pre-empt a possible counter-argument, technically while finding out that there is no such thing as inter-generational information transfer would dis-prove evolution it would not falsify evolution, evolution requires inter-generational information transfer (IGIT from now on) but goes well beyond saying that there is such a thing as IGIT (while playing footall requires a ball and not having a ball means you cannot play foorball, if you do have a ball you may be playing tennis instead of football). Well before Darwin people found a human woman giving birth to a litter of puppies most remarkable and if there was a bumper crop of infant red-heads the strapping young lad with red hair was wise to leave town post-haste. Falsification is fairly simple, is there a prediction made by the theory which can be tested in a reasonable manner which a failure of will demonstrate that the theory was false. Is there? Take the citric escheria CK talks about, if this is a falsifiable test of evolution than if we take a few thousand generations of aurelius and expose them to similar conditions and they do not develop citric metabolism does it disprove evolution?


Bad, the horn shark is the same as it was all those years ago, and there are a few other species which are likewise really old, but I'm fairly certain the horn shark holds the animal record for genetic purity. You don't address Kimura evolution, pretty much essential to modern evolutionary theory. Personally, I favor the catastrophe/isolation theory to explain the horn shark but that's just a subset of evolutionary theory not universally accepted as part of the theory of evolution and not essential to the validity of evolution, although it goes a long way towards explaining the horn shark.

If a Cambrian rabbit would falsify evolution than the horn shark also would. A Cambrian rabbit wouldn't however falsify evolution, all it would do is show that our understanding of the rise of mammals was incorrect not that evolution did not occur. The fact that rabbits have "features and bodyplans" which we believe to have evolved post-Cambrian would make me skeptical of accepting a Cambrian rabbit fossil as genuine - however if we do unearth a horde of indisputably Cambrian rabbit fossils the proper reaction is not to reject evolution as having taken place but instead to scrap our current theories of how evolution took place. It wouldn't be the first time evolutionary theory has had to make major changes in when changes took place. I'm not saying that the horn shark disproves evolution, but that if a Cambrian rabbit would suffice then the horn shark should also suffice for the same purpose.

With regards to IC, you have a strange awareness. For just one exmample, in 1994 when the bacteria flagellum was presented as an IC structure there was no knowledge in man's hands to refute the claim. In 1997-8 the system by which bacteria inject (eject?) toxins was unraveled, a nasty little system which has remarkable similarities to the bacteria flagellum, so much so that within three years when gene sequencing confirmed significant similarities between the genes for flagella and the type III secreatory structure it became pretty universally accepted that it was the precursor structure to the bacteria flagellum. The structure was IC, based on the knowledge available at the time but evolution didn't collapse, instead (as all the evolutionist critics from 1994-1998 predicted) a precursor structure was found. When a conclusively IC structure is come across, the answer is not scrap evolution but instead to figure out how it could have evolved, for unlike evolution, IC structures are falsifiable.
6.11.2008 1:24am
Bad (mail) (www):
"Bad, the horn shark is the same as it was all those years ago,"

No, it's not. It's described as a "primitive" species because it appears fairly basal to sharks, but ancient ancestors are not identical to modern specimens. The same confusion is often found in coelacanths when people somehow convince themselves that a "coelacanth" is a species rather than an entire order, with both ancient and modern representatives.

" and there are a few other species which are likewise really old, but I'm fairly certain the horn shark holds the animal record for genetic purity."

Genetic purity? You have a sample from a 150 year old animal just sitting around, do you?

"You don't address Kimura evolution, pretty much essential to modern evolutionary theory."

??? When did this topic up. We don't call it "Kimura" evolution though, we talk about his neutral theory. And yes, it is very important to modern evolutionary theory. But what of it, exactly?

Are you trying to say that the neutral theory would explain your claim that the horn shark hasn't changed in any way? If so, then you may not understand what neutral theory is actually all about.

"It wouldn't be the first time evolutionary theory has had to make major changes in when changes took place. I'm not saying that the horn shark disproves evolution, but that if a Cambrian rabbit would suffice then the horn shark should also suffice for the same purpose."

Not in the least. Nothing about the horn shark challenges the timeline evolutionary taxonomy at all. Rabbits appearing prior to their own morphological ancestors, however, would do a lot more than merely call into question the presumed history of mammals.

"With regards to IC, you have a strange awareness. For just one exmample, in 1994 when the bacteria flagellum was presented as an IC structure there was no knowledge in man's hands to refute the claim."

You have this entirely backwards. IC is an allegation: the burden is on the accuser in this case, to demonstrate that no evolutionary process could have reached the endpoint in a stepwise fashion. No IC structure suggested by Behe or others was actually obviously impossible to evolve stepwise, conceptually. Since the challenge of IC was one of implausibility, answering it with possibility was sufficient. While it's true that we didn't (and still don't) have specific evidence of how the structure evolved step by step, that's NOT the same thing as being able to say that there aren't any possibilities, and, in fact, there were, long before the specific secretion system you're referencing was discovered.

It makes little sense to declare that something was conclusively IC, and now isn't. Either it is or it isn't, period. It wasn't.
6.11.2008 2:10am
Bad (mail) (www):
"Paleontologists have recovered DNA from a T. Rex. And guess what it's closest living relative turns out to be? "

This is actually not true. I don't believe that the scientists in question did not claim to have found DNA proper in any case, but rather distinctive proteins. But even this finding has been cast into doubt because of some flaws in the tests that were run.

There are, however, countless other reasons why we consider T-rexes and birds to be fairly close cousins with or without this sort of confirmation being possible.
6.11.2008 2:18am
Michael Edward McNeil (mail) (www):
William Oliver wrote:
If evolution is to work the way you claim it does, eventually if there is evolutionary pressure, you will get to something else. If dogs only breed other dogs, then you will never get something other than a dog — even if you change traits. You will get bigger dogs, smarter dogs, furrier dogs, but you will only get dogs.

For a person claiming to be “quite familiar with evolution,” William appears quite ignorant of the basics, and his attempt to make a big mysterious occult thing about speciation — how different subgroups within individual species grow unable to reproduce together — is pure obfuscation. The reason why few or no obvious new species have arisen since the domestication of animals and the agricultural revolution is really quite simple: nobody has seriously tried doing so. Animals as different in size and appearance as Chichuahuas and St. Bernards remain one species and still able to reproduce (theoretically, if you can get them physically coupled) because embryologically, biochemically, and genetically the two breeds remain quite closely attuned (plus, there’s a spectrum of intermediate-sized dogs they can breed with and thence the extremes).

It’s the slow buildup of incompatible internal differences between isolated groups of a species (as a result of the steady drumbeat of mutation and selection on the separated groups) that ultimately results in infertility between them (aka “speciation”); and those kind of changes have not hitherto been selected for by humans in their domesticated animals and plants — why would they? After such differences build up past a certain point in naturally evolving species, however, trying to reproduce between the disparate groups (now separate species) is rather like trying to repair Chevy cars using Ford parts: the “breeds” of the willing participants in the attempted act of reproduction might look extremely similar or even exactly alike, the pair might go at the act very willingly, but it just ain’t a gonna work. Either the embryo dies prior to birth, due to incompatibilities analogous to Rh factor; or if it does survive much postpartum, ends up sterile (a la mules). Changes that simply result in the two groups becoming sexually unattractive to each other, or receptive at different nonoverlapping times, or even one awake while the other sleeps, can also be effective in producing the effective reproductive isolation that signals the onset of separate species.

However such incompatibilities arise, once separate species have come into existence and their ranges happen to once again begin to overlap, strong selection pressures thereupon typically vault into being, evolutionally propelling the erection of such “attractiveness” incompatibility barriers between groups — because forming a reproductive bond between individuals of separate and therefore noninterfertile species is evolutionarily a waste of time — potentially of those individuals’ entire reproductive lives.
6.11.2008 2:23am
Fub:
Frater Plotter wrote at 6.10.2008 6:43pm:
"Intelligent design" is merely contempt of court dressed up in a stolen lab coat.
We have a clear winner for best comment.
6.11.2008 2:46am
Ricardo (mail):
Addressing the point emphasized, it reflects a poor form of reasoning. The material facts of the industrial revolution are themselves not value-laden in the sense a (social-)Darwinism is (inextricably and primarily) value-laden. This reflects a confusion of categories, in this case, material categories vs. ideological and cultural and value-laden categories.

Michael B,

Darwinism is not "value-laden" -- it is a descriptive account for how the natural world came to be. Social-Darwinism is "value-laden." I was addressing the claim that Darwinism (evolution, really, since Darwin got some things wrong) was a "necessary condition" for Nazism. You cannot substitute "Social-Darwinism" and expect no one to notice.

In any case my point was simple. "Evolutionary theory was a necessary condition for Nazism" is a historical claim. There are other social, economic, technological and political developments one can also cite as necessary conditions for Nazism. Some of them are a lot easier to defend than evolutionary theory and, even if they are defensible, it's not an argument that that development was undesirable.
6.11.2008 3:36am
Michael Edward McNeil (mail) (www):
Hoosier writes:
Sorry to sound like I'm picking nits. But any loose use of terminology, and IDers will drive the Jesus Truck right through the hole that opens up. (I've seen this at the Field Museum in Chicago.)

Creatures ARE NOT evolving. I'm not evolving, and in fact I cannot evolve. Once my DNA is set, that's it.

But species are evolving. IDers will actually pose the question: "So, are you evolving right now?" And people take the bait. Which is great for IDers.


Now it’s my turn to nitpick. Actually, you are evolving. All the (normally reproducing) cells in your, my, and everybody else’s bodies are evolving right now. Each cell’s individual copies of your own personal genome are mutating and the cells themselves evolving under selection pressure in the environment of one’s own body — in the direction of escaping the body’s regulatory controls.

Scattered cell lineages manage to defeat and disable various cellular regulatory mechanisms one by one via this means, then begin working on the other controls. After one such lineage succeeds in escaping all constraints, cancer then emerges in the body.
6.11.2008 3:43am
one of many:
take2 (power outage, so I'll go from back to front)

Bad,


It makes little sense to declare that something was conclusively IC, and now isn't. Either it is or it isn't, period. It wasn't.


If you wish to use conclusive to mean something which is never going to be shown to be incorrect than that is fine, but that would kinda make your original claim meaningless. I use conclusive in the sense that no available knowledge exists to refute it, but we'll use your definition of conclusive since you brought the term up: something which can never be shown to be false even if new information comes into existence, or something which cannot exist is conclusive. So evolution is falsifiable because something which cannot exist could exist to prove it wrong. Somehow this seems off, but it seems to be your argument in favor of evolution being falsifiable. Perhaps you would prefer to use some other definition for conclusive, but most of us are willing to use one which doesn't require us to base it upon speculative potential conflicting evidence coming into existence.

You have this entirely backwards. IC is an allegation: the burden is on the accuser in this case, to demonstrate that no evolutionary process could have reached the endpoint in a stepwise fashion. No IC structure suggested by Behe or others was actually obviously impossible to evolve stepwise, conceptually. Since the challenge of IC was one of implausibility, answering it with possibility was sufficient. While it's true that we didn't (and still don't) have specific evidence of how the structure evolved step by step, that's NOT the same thing as being able to say that there aren't any possibilities, and, in fact, there were, long before the specific secretion system you're referencing was discovered.
What burden do you place upon the accuser, the burden to prove a negative? To prove that no currently unknown steps will ever be discovered which could have been used as part of an evolutionary process to produce the IC structure? I'm not certain how one could go about meeting that burden, but that's OK because evolution never met that burden and at one time it was the "accuser" so we have to reject evolution. You mention conceptuality of an alternative mechanism as invalidating IC, but this conceptuality posits the existence of unknown items, I'm not certain how you can justify this - if a person can conceive of an alternative which requires unknown items then the proposal should be rejected / hot damn, evolution was rejected by scientists because some wack-job conceived of a divine clockmaker who created the earth and all the creatures upon it using a fairy toothbrush of creation. Certainly a reasonable argument based upon probability is appropriate as a refutation of IC, however it must be a reasonable argument, unfortunetly for those refuting the flagellum as IC initially they used an unreasonable argument (question begging) - by positing the existence of unknown precursor steps to the flagellum and filling in with known possible precursor step to confuse the issue they managed to reduce the magnitude of random chance creating the flagellum from 10x27th to about 10x4th , nice math but not a valid argument since it assumes the conclusion.

Not in the least. Nothing about the horn shark challenges the timeline evolutionary taxonomy at all. Rabbits appearing prior to their own morphological ancestors, however, would do a lot more than merely call into question the presumed history of mammals.
But would discovering the rabbit falsify evolution, or would it instead modify the "timeline evolutionary taxonomy"? The point is not that the horn shark disproves evolution, but that the discovery of a Cambrian rabbit wouldn't either. Since I've already brought the horn shark into this, you should look at how the discovery of the fact that the horn shark has a 14 gene Hox cluster caused revisions in the "timeline evolutionary taxonomy", they happen all the time (although a Cambrian rabbit would be a major one, more significant than the discovery of dinosaur feathers) without causing evolution to no longer be believed.

?? When did this topic up. We don't call it "Kimura" evolution though, we talk about his neutral theory. And yes, it is very important to modern evolutionary theory. But what of it, exactly?

Are you trying to say that the neutral theory would explain your claim that the horn shark hasn't changed in any way? If so, then you may not understand what neutral theory is actually all about.
It was confused, I went off on a tangent and deleted it when I realized how far off base I'd gotten while leaving part in. thanks for 'neutral theory' I forgot the term but could remember Kimura's name for some reason ( I wish I could remember the name of that other Rising Sun son who had that catastrophe theory of evolution in the 1970s(?)). It was part of a whole spew about the horn shark's unchanging morphology and niche suitability, in 150 million years even if there was no Darwinian pressure to evolve there would be a significant amount of genetic drift and so on. far afield, although the horn shark is a truely weird creature from an evolutionary theory point of view, a beastie which preys on creations so much more "evolved" than it and has a defense mechanism which still works on predators likewise "evolved", it really makes a good case for isolation, did it spend 60-80 million years locked away somewhere while it's prey and preadtors evolved away from needing to deal with it? Digressing again, but this time I won't try to edit it and leave incomphrensible fragments.
6.11.2008 4:30am
Michael B (mail):
Ricardo, I specifically stated "social-Darwinism," I even placed it in parentheses, so why would you imagine I'm considering the notion that no one would notice?

The point is a responsible one, the scoffs notwithstanding. I pretend no particular authority and I tend to agree with the commentary concerning the Soviet system's propaganda but I have personally viewed old Nazi propaganda footage that explicitly uses "survival of the fittest" and social-Darwinist themes, for example to suggest various unfit and undesirable persons somehow need to be "marginalized."

As far as "simple" is concerned. One aspect of what I forwarded was simple - hence the analogy to the mother and father and child - the remainder is not so simple and I'm not pretending it is. Further, it's not so simple to think of Darwinism and social-Darwinism in discrete, unambiguous terms, certainly not so during that era, when social-Darwinism gained some popularity. I suspect googling in google-scholar and google in general would help reveal that.
6.11.2008 9:20am
Bad (mail) (www):
one of many: I don't think you understand what IC is. It is a structure that could not have evolved gradually. But you can't just conclude that something is IC because you can't presently think of an evolutionary pathway, or because you don't have solid historical evidence. You have to demonstrate that it couldn't evolve naturally. There are many conceptual examples in which this task would be quite easy. But ID'ists can't seem to find any in reality. The best they have done is point to some feature for which we have a very scanty fossil or genetic record for (and thus few ways to learn about their evolutionary history) and allege that they are IC. But this is not sufficient to take their claims seriously.

Again, the failure of people to falsify evolution in practice is not the same thing as it being unfalsifiable.

"But would discovering the rabbit falsify evolution, or would it instead modify the "timeline evolutionary taxonomy"?"

You can't merely modify it in this case. If it were shown that rabbits appeared without any sensible precursors, and indeed long before creatures that were morphological precursors, there wouldn't be any way to fix that except for a rabbit time machine.

"Since I've already brought the horn shark into this, you should look at how the discovery of the fact that the horn shark has a 14 gene Hox cluster caused revisions in the "timeline evolutionary taxonomy", they happen all the time (although a Cambrian rabbit would be a major one, more significant than the discovery of dinosaur feathers) without causing evolution to no longer be believed."

None of these revisions are actually core elements of common descent: they are simply reordering some nodes based on new and better information. The fidelity of exact relationships in the tree is always dependent on evidence, and no one has claimed that we have all relevant evidence and every node is currently correct. However, just because we lack some of the details doesn't mean we don't have lots of evidence for the overall pattern (which our pal Oliver still hasn't named, despite being an big expert in this subject). Rabbits in the Cambrian break that overall pattern. Reshuffling the nodes regarding shark lineages do not.
6.11.2008 10:30am
Randy R. (mail):
Michael B: "Further, it's not so simple to think of Darwinism and social-Darwinism in discrete, unambiguous terms, certainly not so during that era, when social-Darwinism gained some popularity."

Yes, of course. But this is no reason to discredit Darwin or his theories, which is what the anti-evolution crowd is attempting to do. His theories stand on their own, and if *other* people misconstrue them or twist them for their own agenda, it is immaterial to whether evolution is a valid scientific theory.

What people like Ben Stein have argued is that Darwin directly led to social Darwinism, which directly led to the Holocaust, and so we should throw out all of that because it's just all 'bad'. Not only is it faulty logic, but it's bad science as well.
6.11.2008 12:39pm
Michael B (mail):
I disagree Randy and decidedly so. Ben Stein's Expelled, as I previously noted in this thread, is much more in-line with Dawkins' video titled "The God Delusion" than what the original post in this thread is attempting to suggest. Again imo, it is intended in a broad, popular and questioning/rhetorical sense.

It's not absolutely necessary (inherently) to believe that Darwin inescapably led to social-Darwinism, but it's very much worth considering that the general manner in which Darwin and evolutionary theory was popularized and forwarded helped to also popularize social Darwinism.

Minimally it can be noted that no one has taken it upon themselves to suggest, pro or contra, why social Darwinism did gain some notable popularity. Not yourself, not anyone else.
6.11.2008 1:30pm
one of many:
I don't think you understand what IC is. It is a structure that could not have evolved gradually.

Hmm, I have a fair knowledge of what IC is, both in pre-Behe and Beheian(?) and most of the non_Behe contemporaneous terms and am fairly aware of the arguments for and against it. We could just confine ourselves Beheian IC (in which case your current argument is right) but then we have the problem that Behe doesn't believe that IC disproves evolution. Behe does argue that the existence of IC structures require IC evolutionary pathways, but all that the existence of IC evolutionary pathways requires is a modification of evolutionary theory, perhaps to include the idea that a pore evolved for administering toxins can be modified by evolution to become a flagellum for locomotion. But the original argument is that discovery of a conclusively IC structure would falsify evolution, so you must be using a non-Beheian definition of IC, I just cannot think of which one you are using which fits the argument. Perhaps you can explain which variation of IC you are using, it's been a while since I've come across one other than Behe (perhaps Behe as someone else states as his usage?).

Again, the failure of people to falsify evolution in practice is not the same thing as it being unfalsifiable.
Ugh. Falsifiability and Disprovability are not the same thing. It is occasionally possible to prove a negative (despite conventional wisdom otherwise), however making disproval of a negative as a requirement for the acceptance of falsification is an unreasonable burden in terms of falsification. When the standard to disprove a theory requires one to assume an unreasonable burden, the theory is unfalsifiable - it doesn't mean it is non-disprovable, only that it doesn't meet the standard of falsifiability.
6.11.2008 1:56pm
one of many:
(cont.)
You can't merely modify it in this case. If it were shown that rabbits appeared without any sensible precursors, and indeed long before creatures that were morphological precursors, there wouldn't be any way to fix that except for a rabbit time machine.

I was trying so hard to keep away from time machines (nice image though, I hadn't pictured a time machine created by rabbits and just assumed a human or alien one. rabbits romping through time, nifty).

Nonsense. We'll keep this in terms of disproving a negative, since you like that. In order for a Cambrian rabbit to disprove evolution you must prove that no precursors ever existed instead of no precursors which we currently know of. Pretty tough without a time machine, but if we had time machines then evolution would be falsifiable. Certainly it would require rewrites of large chunks of evolutionary theory, oh my, but it wouldn't disprove evolution only demonstrate that our current understanding of evolution is incorrect. Larger chunks of evolutionary theory would be thrown into disarray, sure, but it is only a matter of scale in difference from the disarray caused by the 14 gene Hox cluster of horn sharks, not a difference of nature.
6.11.2008 2:23pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Layedback sez: 'it (entertaining ID) makes you open-minded in the truest sense of the word, and actually open to your own "evolution" as an academic and a human.'

One problem (of many) with the ID crowd is that many of them also question (or misrepresent, it's hard to tell which) the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

Nobody really thinks that questioning the Second Law makes someone more intellectually curious.
6.11.2008 2:40pm
Hoosier:
Randy R.--I have to agree with you on this. Darwin cannot be blamed for an interpretation of his insights that he could not have foreseen. Keep in mind that what is called "Social Darwinism" was not a product of Darwin's writings. It couldn't be, since Herbert Spencer wrote his two most significant books several years *before* "On the Origin of Species . . . " appeared.

Only later was natural selection--Darwin's major contribution--adopted by the "Social Darwinists," so-called. Darwin would not have considered his ideas aqs connected with those of Spencer. Nor did he become an advocate of the eugenics movement, though he had opportunity to do so.

Randy--FYI, my anti-Catholic friend (And I am *not* using "friend" ironically: I enjoy many of your contributions.) The position of Rome on evolution and natural selection went from 'no comment' in the early days; to qualified endorsement in the early 20th Century; to a statement by John Paul the Great that Catholics should find no theological obstacles to accepting the current science on evolution.
6.11.2008 3:38pm
Bad (mail) (www):
Are you kidding? The whole point of IC for Behe is that it suggests design, not evolution. End of story.

I have no idea what you are talking about with "proving a negative." First of all, negative claims are not inherently different from positive ones: in fact, all negative claims have positive equivalents and vice-versa. And no one is asking anything at all unreasonable of ID'sts. The problem is not that falsifying evolution is conceptually difficult, because it's not. The problem is that they never seem to be able to do it in practice.

"In order for a Cambrian rabbit to disprove evolution you must prove that no precursors ever existed instead of no precursors which we currently know of."

Not at all. You don't seem to be getting why rabbits in the Cambrian would be a tremendous problem. It's not because of lack of prior history for those rabbits, but rather because their morphology contradicts just about everything we know about how morphologies develop and relate to each other over time.

I don't know why you keep bringing up horn sharks. None of your claims about them have been accurate or even relevant to this debate.
6.11.2008 3:40pm
Hoosier:
"The problem is not that falsifying evolution is conceptually difficult, because it's not. The problem is that they never seem to be able to do it in practice."

Um . . . Bingo.


"Why is it that when you hear a creationist explain what evolution and evolutionary science is, it rarely bears even a passing resemblance to the real thing?"

A) They don't understand;

AND

B)They don't want to understand.

It's difficult to speak to the relevant issues under those conditions.
6.11.2008 4:03pm
Hoosier:
Yeah, what is it with the horn shark?

Stethacanthus is WAY cooler.
6.11.2008 4:07pm
Michael B (mail):
To be clear, I agree with what Hoosier forwards (2:38 pm) in its entirety and absolutely, at least as it's expressed. Hence the earlier emphasis upon "the general manner in which Darwin and evolutionary theory was popularized" (and advanced in general), together with social Darwinism reaching a degree of popularity among the intelligentsia. Which latter are not historically discrete and separable phenonmena, which in turn, again, is one reason why that subject matter has been avoided in this thread.

There is also the general social and philosophical milieu within which social Darwinism, or various sympathies with the idea, gained traction, which reflects wider issues still.

But yes, this is not about impugning Darwin per se or understood in a more genuinely scientific vein.
6.11.2008 4:36pm
Bob Goodman (mail) (www):
This comment is ridiculous. Let me mimic it with this claim. "The theory of continental drift is not science. Sure we can watch the continents move bit by bit, but we can never test the "big" question - whether the continents ever moved from pangea to their current location.

You and other commenters have done a great job on this straw man. My comment was in response to the observation that some institution did no experiments in support of intelligent design theory. I wrote that that was irrelevant because neither evolution nor intelligent design were experimental sciences. Neither is continental drift, nor much of astronomy.

Don't blame me, man -- I didn't make science this way. It's just that some big questions we can't experiment on, so don't blame people for not experimenting on them.
6.11.2008 5:50pm
one of many:
The whole point of IC for Behe is that it suggests design, not evolution. End of story. If you are going to use Behe's definition of IC as justification for proving that evolution is falsifiable, then you have to agree that his standards for using IC therefor falsify evolution. In this then case no IC structure has to disprove evolution, it only has to "suggest design" to falsify evolution. Certainly that is far lower a standard than your requirement to show no possibility of evolution. Personally I wouldn't argue that implying an intelligent designer is enough to falsify evolution, but this is what you are arguing. Let me summarize your argument so far, an IC structure will disprove evolution (we have to ignore 'conclusively' as your defintion of the term places an unreasonable burden (proving a negative) and falsifiability requires reasonableness), an IC structure is one defined by Behe with the attendant associations, Behe uses IC to suggest design but does not rule out an incomplete understanding of evolution... . Looks like this is heading into a corner I'm sure you don't want to go into, care to try a different tack? I'd recommend not using Behe, he is careful only to use IC to suggest a designer not as a proof of one while some of the people who use him are much less careful.

I have no idea what you are talking about with "proving a negative."Long time since I've had to deal with this one. Proving a negative is the process of proving that something is impossible. In criminal court (this is The VC after all), if there were a requirement for the prosecutor prove that no person other than the accused could have committed the crime it would be a requirement to prove a negative, or if there were a requirement for the defendant to prove that there were no possible way for them to have committed the crime they are accused of it would likewise be a requirement to prove a negative. While either the defense or the prosecution could chose to prove a negative as part of their case, requiring them to do so would be most unreasonable as not all crimes lend themselves to this sort of proof. There is a whole logical fallacy associated with it, the fallacy of negation if you want a better explanation, but "drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring" for most logic texts brush over "proving a negative" and mention it as only being associated with the fallacy of negation.
As for this being a "reasonable" requirement of IDers, you are very slippery ground here. If it is reasonable to require IDers to prove that an IC structure could not have possibly come about through an evolutionary method using unknown steps, then it is certainly "reasonable" to require it of all claims. Remember when Darwin proved that there was no way in which a divine being could have designed... . Disproval of all alternatives is a viable way of proving something however, it is not the only way and it is unreasonable to require it as the only acceptable proof, it is exponentially less reasonable when you require as part of that proof that unknowns also be eliminated.

Not at all. You don't seem to be getting why rabbits in the Cambrian would be a tremendous problem. It's not because of lack of prior history for those rabbits, but rather because their morphology contradicts just about everything we know about how morphologies develop and relate to each other over time. But wait, isn't it reasonable by you own previous argument to require that all alternatives, even those requiring current unknowns to excluded as possible alternatives? No one has suggested anything other than that a Cambrian rabbit would cause all kinds of problems with current theories about how evolution took place. However the point is that while many current theories which are part of evolutionary theory would be in trouble it would not invalidate evolution. Why would a Cambrian rabbit be different in nature than true flying (not soaring) dinosaur? It is not that it wouldn't be "a tremendous problem" but that it would not be new type of problem. If it were a matter of nature, than any discovery which causes a revision of our understanding of morphological development would disprove evolution, something manifestly untrue. Indeed, even were the Cambrian rabbit a significant enough a blow to evolution to cause biology teachers to universally begin each semester by reading Genesis, what you propose is not a valid test. You need to quantify the amount of disruption to current evolutionary thinking which will prove evolution false, you need to present and justify an objective measurement of disruption so that there is a standard for your proposed test of evolution so one can know when one has reached that point and falsified evolution. Would a Cambrian turiasaur suffice? How about a Cambrian iguana? A Proterozoic trilobite? A Silurian rabbit? How about an mesozoic archaeopteryx? Each would disrupt our current understanding of how morphologies evolove, but which are enough to falsify evolution.


Horn sharks, I like horn sharks, they're unusual and I like the odd. I keep bringing them up because they are as relevant to falsifying evolution as a Cambrian rabbit is. It is not a reasonable test which requires as proof that evolution is wrong, one which requires the complete destruction of the earth, to find a Cambrian rabbit (what, you left that little bit off the coast of South American untouched? Quick the rabbit might be there, time to go fossiling.)
6.11.2008 6:45pm
one of many:
"The problem is not that falsifying evolution is conceptually difficult, because it's not. The problem is that they never seem to be able to do it in practice."

No, it's because people use falsify to mean disprove. If you use the general meaning, then they guy who made Piltdown man falsified evolution. Conceptually falsifying evolution is very difficult but you go ahead and provide a valid test for falsifiability. Evolution must make a prediction which may be tested in a reasonable manner(no requiring the destruction of the earth or time machines), the failure of which show evolution to be incorrect. While the oft mentioned "pre-Cambrian rabbits" would indeed tend to show evolution as false (it would falsify evolution under various broad definitions of falsification, but under those definitions evolution has been falsified by finding things in the wrong place temporally, which is unacceptable to the original premise) there is no reasonable test there - your assignment is to find fossil evidence of rabbits in the pre-Cambrian, wait that wouldn't work because there is no reason to believe that even if there were pre-Cambrian rabbits they would be fossilized and you'd have to destroy the earth to be sure you found all the places where a fossil might be if one were made.
6.11.2008 7:17pm
Michael B (mail):
Wow, just read a majority of the comments here and the group-think is positively and literally mind numbing. That, from a group that very likely has not seen the movie - I'd guess somewhere close to 0.00% fall in that category - additionally from a group who doesn't understand the premise of the movie in the first place, which premise is in fact more inline with something like Richard Dawkins' "Delusion," than what is being (conveniently and tendentiously) imagined here. (Dawkins's "Delusion is not a precise parallel to Expelled, but via analogy it's certainly closer than what is only being imagined herein.)

Then there's Ron Bailey's equally uncomprehending and superficial review. Truly pathetic, yet rife with self-regard. If anyone - anyone on the planet - doubts the pathetic quality of Bailey's review I challenge them to excerpt one, lone, single paragraph, sentence or phrase out of the entire review, one that can withstand well reasoned scrutiny. One.
6.12.2008 10:16am
Michael B (mail):
No brave, independent thinkers willing to put it on the line? A single paragraph, sentence or phrase from Ronald (Mr. Reason) Bailey's piece, no one?
6.12.2008 5:36pm
Michael B (mail):
Ok, the carrot approach, for Rondal Bailey.

If Ronald Bailey himself shows up, assumming he stays the course, I'll pay two C-notes to his favorite charity, absolute and dispositive proof will be furnished. Lay that big, bad, reasoning mind of yours on the line, put it out there, for the world to see. On a purely personal level, I'll be nice and polite. In haiku format:

Two C-notes,
polite and nice,
Ronald Bailey.

Meanwhile, while we wait ....., an extended debate featuring Dawkins and Lennox.
6.13.2008 1:33am
Bad (mail) (www):
As I noted, I saw the movie. I linked to my own review, and I'm going to bet that I've followed the film, it's producers, and the issues far more closely than you have.

Bailey's take is perfectly legitimate. His discussion of worldviews is dead on. It's no mistake that there is far more "worldview" diversity on the side of evolution and against ID than there is for ID. We have conservatives, liberals, Christians, believers, atheists, agnostics, virtually every part of the spectrum all of whom can have a sensible conversation about the science. How is this possible given that evolution is supposedly a creature of a singular "worldview" dictating what metaphysically must be? On the Expelled side, on the other hand, we have a very narrow set of convictions and ideas about the universe.

But anyway, please, don't let me bother you: continue bravely shouting challenges in a 3-day thread almost no one is checking anymore and Ron Bailey is rather unlikely to see at this point.
6.13.2008 12:07pm
Bad (mail) (www):
one of many: "The whole point of IC for Behe is that it suggests design, not evolution. End of story. If you are going to use Behe's definition of IC as justification for proving that evolution is falsifiable, then you have to agree that his standards for using IC therefor falsify evolution."

This is just so incoherent, I don't know where to start. IC could falsify evolution. In practice, it has failed to. I don't know how much more clearly I can put it than that. The issue is that there are lots of ways in which an IC structure could appear in nature and be directly identifiable. For instance, we could see entire trait groupings leap geography and lineages in a way that would be incompatible with ancestry. We could find a designer's signature, in plain English, appearing written on the side of a fish, and so on. But none of these things ever occur in nature. Instead, Behe and others can only find examples wherein they suggest that something is IC, but indirectly: simply by asserting that they personally cannot imagine how it could have evolved.

We didn't create the issue of them having to prove a negative. Them trying to get to IC by making an argument from incredulity: and transparently weak ones at that, is what put them in that position. If they had clear and obvious examples of IC, it would be a different story. But coincidentally, they don't seem to have any such direct examples.

"Long time since I've had to deal with this one."

Good thing I saved you the trouble by already explaining it, then. Again, it's not OUR fault that the proponents of Id have shied away from trying to make any positive case for design, and instead have taken the negative track of merely trying to exclude evolution. We didn't pick their strategy for them. Your complaints about the burden THEY chose deserves very little sympathy.

"Horn sharks, I like horn sharks, they're unusual and I like the odd. I keep bringing them up because they are as relevant to falsifying evolution as a Cambrian rabbit is."

I've already explained several times why they are not: not even close. Horn sharks do not violate any core conventions at all about common descent.

"However the point is that while many current theories which are part of evolutionary theory would be in trouble it would not invalidate evolution."

I'm sorry, but by anyones lights, completely overturning both the picture of common descent, how we measure time in geology, or how we even create or derive lineages in the first place would be more than enough to kick "evolution" quite hard in the ass. Perhaps it could survive in some other form, but it would be a radically different beast that just happens to fit under the same moniker. No different than saying that astronomy survives, even though the Conpernican system is kaput.
6.13.2008 12:21pm
Michael B (mail):
I previously, directly upthread, answered the "worldview" question. It's a non-starter given the premise of the film, which in fact is not as is (tendentiously) represented herein. So no, Ronald Bailey's "take" is not perfectly legitimate, it's not legitimate in the least.

Beyond that, you don't evidence the ability to distinguish between a serious, cogent argument and a mere assertion. The former can be found, for example, in the Dawkins / Lennox debate previously cited.
6.13.2008 12:33pm
Bad (mail) (www):
"I previously, directly upthread, answered the "worldview" question."

Maybe you linked to the wrong post, but I don't see any coherent answer at all in that one. You sort of ramble off into the distance about what you imagine Richard Dawkins thinks of himself. Which, I hope you'll understand, I don't see any reason to take seriously (hostile psychoanalysis is rarely worth reading).

The fact remains that the ideological diversity of people that criticize ID is far more vast than those that promote it. Francis Collins and Dawkins are at each others throats when it comes to ultimate "worldviews." But they both agree on the fatuousness of ID as purported science. Along with people from nearly every end of the political spectrum.

What does Expelled offer? Pretty much a parade of people with nearly identical conspiracy theories, political allegiances, and theistic theologies. Oh, and Stein taking time off from weeping about the Holocaust to blithely rub shoulders and nod along with a Holocaust denier who happens to think evolution is sillypants.

There's a bit of a problem emerging with your little challenge though. It seems that whether or not Bailey's writing can "withstand well reasoned scrutiny" is to be judged exclusively by yourself, and "withstand well reasoned scrutiny" seems to actually mean something more along the lines of "if I, Michael B, am capable of subsequently filling another comment box with words and sneering attitude, then I win, regardless of the merits of anything I've said."
6.13.2008 2:20pm
Michael B (mail):
The irony, when it comes to you talking about sneers and facile arrogations and an equally facile triumphalism, also "a bit of a problem," etc. is about as rich as it gets. Remove the sneers and snark and facile arrogations from your comment and nothing remains. Essentially, you know how to say you're the big, bad wolf and you're going to huff and puff and blow, and then blow some more still. That you impress yourself with that style cannot be denied, but it genuinely is vapid, utterly vapid.

But no, there's no problem in the least emerging. I note Expelled, in terms of its premise, is more in line with something like Dawkins' "Delusion" video, albeit coming from the opposite side of the theist vs. anti-theist spectrum, obviously enough, than it is with forwarding specific, positive scientific theses. That's the gist of what was said. Expelled is essentially a rhetorical/popular documentary and movie about freedom of expression within empirical and rational bounds, without being bounded by a materialist metaphysic.

And didn't you once comment here, perhaps as a "plunge"? Your m.o. - those facile, triumphalist arrogations, likewise the intonations absent much content, also the snide, snark, sneers, etc. - it all has a very familiar ring to it.
6.13.2008 7:33pm