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November 21, 2005

Intelligent Design in Dover and Kansas

Intelligent Design in Dover and Kansas

Click to Listen to the Show (24 MB MP3)

Darwin’s beer [flickrwegian / Flickr]

Back in August, we did a show on intelligent design with Ken Miller. The idea was to try to understand the very slippery meaning of the term — to figure out just what it is and what it isn’t — and at the same time to make it clear that you can believe fervently in evolution and God at the same time. Since that show, several interesting things have happened on the roiling political front of I.D., and it seems like a good time to check in on what’s going on.

Dover, PA, is in the middle of a trial over whether I.D. should be discussed in ninth-grade biology. And to complicate matters, earlier this month, only days after closing testimony in the trial, Dover residents voted out the eight school board members up for re-election in favor of candidates who ran against mentioning I.D. in science classrooms.

Funnily enough, on the very same day that Dover residents ousted their pro-I.D. school board, the Kansas Board of Education voted 6-4 in favor of new k-12 science standards that the New York Times calls “the most far-reaching in the nation in challenging Darwin’s theory of evolution in the classroom.”

To make matters more interesting, columnist George Will — referring specifically to the Dover school board election — wrote:

The conservative coalition, which is coming unglued for many reasons, will rapidly disintegrate if limited-government conservatives become convinced that social conservatives are unwilling to concentrate their character-building and soul-saving energies on the private institutions that mediate between individuals and government, and instead try to conscript government into sectarian crusades.

George Will, Washington Post columnist

So: among others, we’re inviting Ken Miller — freshly back from testifying in the Dover trial — to walk us through the Dover case and its effect on the community. The idea is to look closely at Dover and Kansas and then try to understand the bigger political story. What would you like to ask?

Kenneth Miller

Professor of Biology at Brown University.

Author of Finding Darwin’s God: A Scientist’s Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution and a biology textbook called Biology.

David Napierskie

Outgoing member of the Dover school board.

Steve Abrams

Member of the Kansas State Board of Education. Veterinarian.

Dorothy Rabinowitz

Author, Dorothy Rabinowitz’s Media Log

Editorial Board Member, The Wall Street Journal

Extra-Credit Reading

The Dover statement that is read out in 9th grade biology classes.

The new k-12 Kansas standards that, according to the New York Times, redefine science so that it’s not “explicitly limited to natural explanations.”

John Cole, Balloon Juice Attention Kansas High School Students

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  • Nikos

    What exactly does ‘intelligent design’ predict? How do its proponents intend to test its viability? And why (in the country that last century led the explosive growth of science!) must we pretend that this new attempt to explain exisitence via only the supernatural is in any way credible?

  • http://home.comcast.net/~john.lee.in.slc/index.html john in salt lake

    One of our Salt Lake City brewers has it’s own evolution ale.

  • http://home.comcast.net/~john.lee.in.slc/index.html john in salt lake
  • jpellino

    The usual science cycle of “observe – measure – predict” (shorthanded of course) certainly doesn’t apply to these folks. They seem to defy the role of evolution in the history of life on earth. It didn’t work then, but they have to concede that all the components are in place now. If they have some refutation of spontaneous mutation and refutation of survival of the fittest, it’ll be a new universe. As a paleontologist once related to me, “We all know how we got our own particular fafvorite breed of dog. We start with some dog, and isolate them as they breed, so we can get the smaller one, or the fuzzier one, or the faster one, or the blacker one by these unnatural selections. All Darwin said was they the world does this through natural means, too.”

    Wonder how they’ll explain the advantageous (to the virus anyway) mutation of Avian Flu and it’s natural selection as a human pathogen.

    And don’t forget, Pat Robertson told the prople of Dover that they shouldn’t complain about the next natural disaster – because of what they did he expects God will likely turn his back on them and let them all perish. Hmmmm… would bird flu qualify? I wish no one, certainly not the people of Dover any harm, but how ironic if Robertson’s prediction comes true at the hands of an advantageous (for the virus) genetic variation and biologically successful (again for the virus) natural selection.

  • arobustus

    Maybe the science education community is missing a teachable moment here. If “Intelligent Design” is to be presented as an alternative to the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection, then it must itself be a theory, namely, the Theory of Intelligent Design. So here is the assignment:

    “Compare and contrast the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection and the Theory of Intelligent Design. What predictions does each theory make? Which predictions have been born out by observations in the natural world?”

    If Intelligent Design is not a theory, then what is it, and why should it be included in the scientific curriculum?

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  • Grumpy

    Science is not only about predictions. Nostradamus made some amazing predictions too…

    Theory of evolution is in fact pretty bad wrt predictions, other then in controlled experiments with fruit flies, etc. There are too many variables in real world.

    And if we are so “scientific” and “evolution-aware”, why don’t we do something about MDR (multiple drug resistent) bacteria?

  • cheesechowmain

    Is there a flexible, negotiable definition of Life that has some modicum of consensus? Adding, I view consensus not as agreement, but instead as the absence of rancor, sabatoge, and hyperbolic rhetoric intended to create a wedge issues.

  • cheesechowmain

    What is the general opinion of ID proponents of Karl Popper’s principle of falsifiability; i.e. the notion that a proposition or theory cannot be scientific rigorous if it does not admit the possibility of being shown false.

  • http://mazar.ca Rochelle

    Wow, defining “Life” (capital L) moves us from just intelligent design into the pro-life arena, so I’m not sure you’re going to find any lack of rancor there.

  • mandragola

    The fundamental flaw of Intelligent Design is not that it relies on God to explain the origins of life, but rather that it draws a positive conclusion based on a negative premise. To sum up Intelligent Design, there are some things that evolution cannot explain, therefore they must have been created by a higher power. That’s not a logically denfensible position. All that proves is that there are holes in evolutionary theory. Assuming the existence of God based on this premise is a logical “leap of faith” – no pun intended.

    Moreover, I don’t see what is the big deal. While no amount of science can prove the existence of a higher creator (as IDers suggest), no amount of science can disprove the existence of one either. That’s the essence of faith and belief.

  • http://mazar.ca Rochelle

    Why is intelligent design becoming a big deal NOW? That’s what I want to know. It’s a huge deal now, but only in the US. What else is behind this movement? It’s clearly about more than what’s going on in classrooms. Is this about politics and money as well?

  • cheesechowmain

    Would a proponent of ID go to a doctor who had diplomas on their wall from ID-centric institutions? Would faith healing be an acceptable medical practice under ID theory?

  • http://mazar.ca Rochelle

    I never blog. Other people blog for me. it’s all about who owns the means of production, I guess…

    I just wanted to say, man, that was a weird, awkward moment. O_o

  • brosenmass

    ID will live on in ALL schools as a very interesting debate because of Kansas and Dover! It just won’t be in science classrooms, but in philosophy, civics, etc. This is not science – they keep saying that it is based on hypotheses, but I hear no hypothesis from any supporter! Science will always question itself, and if ID had a good, testable hypothesis, science curriculum would welcome it! But the key words are “testable hypotheses, ” and I’m still waiting to hear one.

  • A little yellow bird

    Kansas–leading the descent down the ladder that sentience hath wrought. It’s just another example of human fear manifesting itself in a futile attempt to secure the flux of reality and making safe what Vonnegut called, “A universe composed of one trillionth part matter to one decillion parts black velvet futility.” Of course, absolute rigid “belief” in Darwin’s speculations is just as foolish: a true scientific outlook humbly says “I don’t know!” as often as it has to, while ceaselessly looking for answers. The flying spaghetti monster’s posse may well kick your posse’s tush: better be on the side that’s winning, just in case. Now where did I leave that goat I was gonna burn… Hmmm…

  • mulp

    On the PBS NOW! forum over the past few weeks I have been debating two issues in particular that I see as relevant, ID as in the Dover/KS case, and the BYU Jones argument that the WTC were destroyed by a explosives as in a controlled demolition.

    In the BYU Jones case, the debate wasn’t muddied with known or unknown information as much as it was based on the credentials of Prof Jones. Prof Jones is a physic professor at BYU so when he finds something hard to believe, that means the physics are impossible. Yet, his arguments are blatently flawed in their application of physics. I was unable to read any paragraph without finding his statements unproven or completely false.

    However, my point is that there are so many people who just can’t see the flaws in Jones’s arguments and, without reading the official report, use his “report” as “proof” of a grand conspiracy. Prof Jones writing shows no scientific discipline at all.

    So when it comes to something like evolution and the origins of the universe, where the ideas are much more abstract then the cause of the WTC collaps, a failure to understand the fundamentals of scientific inquiry just dooms any ability to make an argument.

    To be clear, people seem not to understand science well enough to understand that the very reproducible and rather well understood nature of steel and concrete being weakened by fire and heat, thinking that the only possible way they can fail is by explosives. Yet anyone with a fireplace or woodstove needs to be extremely aware of the damage heat can do to steel, concrete, and brick. The failure to connect the failure of a building in a fire and the failure of a wood stove and chiminey says something discouraging about their science education.

    We are constantly reminded that the flu evolves by the need for a shot every year and the new colds and flus we get each year, yet without the ability to connect that process to the whole of nature and the span of billions of years, the whole of evolution can’t be fathomed, any more than fire causing the destruction of the WTC.

  • mandragola

    Clear observation by Rabinowitz. Name three proponents of ID who are not an devout Christian. Ok, name one.

  • bloggeddown

    The reason for ID / Creationism is political.

    It has little to do with religion.

    It is a reflection that the right has co-opted religious fundamentialsm for political purposes.

    Science gets in the way of profit.

    And that is all it about. Nothing more, nothing less.

  • bloggeddown

    Chris .. its the mythology that Corporatism is not in control of everything, including religion today.

  • bloggeddown

    there is not two sides to science.

    That is the honest truth.

    You need another hour in this issue.

  • http://mazar.ca Rochelle

    Yeah, it felt like they barely scratched the surface, doesn’t it. Fun just the same, though.

  • cheesechowmain

    Perhaps, ID could fit into the curriculum for a Department of Metaphysics.

  • Potter

    People who hold on to fundamentalist beliefs or literal interpretations of religion (for understandable reasons) apparently feel threatened (and understandably) by the march of science. Evolution hit a deep nerve. But many of us know that scientific explanations of natural phenomena do not have to be rejected as taking away from the mystery. Au contraire.

    Scientists should not shy away from the moment because they do not want to dignify ID. For one, that so many question evolution points to a deficit in science education. Someone above said that his is a teaching moment. I agree. We should keep at this conversation.

  • Potter

    Did Dorothy Rabinowitz write about this? Could we have a link?

  • A little yellow bird

    What if science eventually finds a way to calibrate a device and/or method that proves that genuine unbending focussed faith, being an exertion of energy upon an entropic system, actually effects change on that system, as with Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle? I think Julian May has sort of discussed this in her Galactic Milieu series. What if there isn’t a true dichotomy: what if scientific observation and mystical speculation are part of a whole? What if a god or a covey of brilliantly advanced Others really are sitting around viewing our adorable miniscule ponderings and doing shots of ichor, betting on fledgling races to cross a finish line first? Hey, this feels good–so sue me.

  • nealatlex@nii.net

    Please forgive my sounding confrontational but I want to keep it simple.

    If people want to contest or criticise a scientific theory, such as Darwinian Evolution let it be done the way all science argument is done: in the scientific journals by scientists using the methods of science. We would never allow the mathematics of number theory to be challenged by students of the Caballa in any other place than the journals of mathematics, certainly not in public high schools. The separation of church and state is a principle of the highest form of civilization. Those governments which do not keep religion out of their functioning are backwards and don’t deserve to be called democracies. No religion which believes in a god or gods and the notion that the cosmos was created by a god would allow a non-believer to stand up in one of their churces or schools and challenge their ideas.

  • Gizmo Logix

    1) Nikos said it best when he said….”What exactly does ‘intelligent design’ predict? How do its proponents intend to test its viability?”

    In the end, theories of ID have to be observed and proven. If not. If all this ID talk is just a covert agenda to subvert Darwinism and the definition of of science, well, then it’s just pure deception and politics. Sooner or later we’ll have to get back to work; original purpose of science which is to study the observable mechanisms of nature.

    I found it humors how Steve Abrams kept repeating over and over the word, “empirical.” Similar to how the Bush administration used to repeat WMD over and over. Just because you repeat it and proclaim that you represent “empirical processes and evidence” doesn’t make it true. Why doesn’t Dr. Abrams just click his heals together? Maybe he can just wish science away. And maybe he thinks that if he repeats his wishful thinking over and over that he can some how pull the wool over our eyes (this is not Fox News).

    I also agree with boggledown. ID/creationism is about politics. But it’s also deeper than that. It’s a push to keep people in the dark. If people are ignorant and afraid of “monsters” (superstitions and supernatural). Then it’s much easier for those in power to manipulate. Just the way it’s always been done throughout history.

    How do you sum up ID? A political trojan horse.

    Machiavelli and Goebbels would be proud.

    Note to ID proponents: Darwinism is not meant to explain everything. It’s not meant to explain meaning of life. It’s never complete and may never be complete. But so what? It’s a scientific processes of the observable within nature. If you want some type of academic class that explains meaning and abstractions that’s what religion, poetry and philosophy is for.

    Example. If I’m studying a brick. Don’t tell me that the brick *could be alive.* Instead of me just taking your word for it let me use scientific method to find out. That’s what the process of science is about. Not wishful thinking.

    [Gizmo checks his calendar just to make sure that it's not 1925. Whew! Thank God! :)]

  • sharktacos

    I don’t really get why it would be so terrible to include God into science. For instance when religious values were incorporated into the practice of medicine it means that patients are treated as human beings instead of as “diseases”. It has to do (in that example) with seeing people not merely as biological mechanisms but as humans with dignity and this has a very positive effect on medicine and indeed on their physical heath because when people are treated with dignity they recover better.

    So including ideas into science like mystery, worth, beauty, dignity, meaning, and yes design, could likewise lead to some deepening of how we understand our world. It seems that people are setting up this paranoid straw-man where religious belief is this superstitious thing divorced from reality. This is unfortunate because it sets up a dichotomy where one has to choose to either be a right-wing fundie or a modernist atheist. I think both extremes sound pretty unappealing.

    It was asked over and over “What would be an example of a non-natural explanation?” One obvious example would be the placebo effect. A person is sick and through a placebo suddenly they are not. So we have basically mind effecting biology. That is part of our reality, and deserves to be studied.

    Yes this is a religious question. And there is paranoia on both sides. But I really don’t see why it would be so hard to incorporate religious concepts into the natural sciences in the same way as they have been incorporated into the social sciences and the practice of medicine and so on, or how they are being incorported into physics. Seems to me that it has made them all richer.

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  • Gizmo Logix

    >>>So including ideas into science like mystery, worth, beauty, dignity, meaning, and yes design, could likewise lead to some deepening of how we understand our world.>>>

    Mystery, worth, beauty, meaning and wonder of design is not exclusive to religious types. You CAN be a scientist and CHOOSE to view the items of individuals you are studying. But that’s YOUR CHOICE. Look in the Bible and see what it says about CHOICE and FREEWILL! So those decisions are not stripped from YOU.

    Just like a photographer that goes to the Grand Canyon and takes a picture of a rock formation it’s his CHOICE to view the rock as a beautiful, mysterious, artistic image at the same time NOT mentioning chemical bonds, or chemistry or physics.

    >>>This is unfortunate because it sets up a dichotomy where one has to choose to either be a right-wing fundie or a modernist atheist. I think both extremes sound pretty unappealing.>>>

    The dichotomy is in your head. It’s still YOUR CHOICE. Just because someone says that ID is real doesn’t mean you should take their word for it. Do you own research.

    >>placebo effect

    The placebo is NOT non-natural. It IS natural. Kenneth Miller’s was talking about SUPERNATURAL. Now, you’re not going to tell me that placebo effect is SUPERNATURAL are you? What will you call it when there are biological, chemical and psychological evidence on why the placebo works. Once the mystery is understood. There’s nothing SUPER about it.

    I mean, are these ID folks saying, “If you can’t explain it, just call it ID.” Then, when one IS able to understand and explain it, what then? Stop calling it ID? How convenient.

    Hmmmm, interesting. So, when the nomads thought the Sun was a god. They called it God. But once we figured out that it’s just a ball of fire, hydrogen, sulfer, etc….it turned out to be just that a ball of fire. What happen to that ID theory it was a god?

    Understanding does wonders. Not the other way around.

  • Gizmo Logix

    >>> items of individuals you are studying

    Just to clarify…

    EDIT: Should read, “items AND individuals you are studying.” Also add “environment and universe.”

  • benchcoat

    I just listened to the show on the podcast–2nd best show on the topic that I’ve heard! (the first being the previous show)

    while listening to Steven Abrams, did anyone else start wondering if we will see a “scientific” journal down the road that paid for and staffed by ID-folk, just to publish ID papers–as an end run around the peer review system?

  • Potter

    sharktacos: When we talk about the placebo effect or the mind body connection, it is a scientific concept. Practically, placebos are an important part of scientific testing of drugs for instance.

    In the example of a doctor as scientist, he is free to incorporate religious values into his practice however as a scientist- clinician, treating a patient, when there is a conflict between the two, the science must prevail or he may lose his patient.

    Is it possible that many have come through their school years not knowing what science is and how we depend on and consequently should respect science in it’s quest for truth about the natural world?

  • garym

    ID doubters:

    “A man a plan a canal, Panama”

    Do you really think something that freakily coincidental can exist without His intervention?

    ;-)

  • manning120

    The key underlying assumption of intelligent design is suggested by the doctrine of divine intervention, as expressed by the philosopher Baruch Spinosa. This doctrine holds that God most clearly displays His power by extraordinary events. While God is inactive, nature “works in her accustomed order� (by necessity), but God can act to bring about extraordinary events by suspending natural causes: rain falls that otherwise wouldn’t have fallen, fatal disease is cured, etc. That is, divine intervention, not chance, breaks the strict necessity of natural law. This view of things underlies belief in the efficacy of prayer and the reality of miracles.

    Many have recognized that intelligent design seeks to masquerade as science by dropping traditional religious terminology. Instead of God, we have a designer. But the underlying concept of intervention clearly remains.

    The best answer to such intervention was indicated by another philosopher, David Hume. It’s more likely that we’re deceived, or suffer a failure of understanding, than that the laws of nature are temporarily suspended. This isn’t hard to understand at a magic show. In the context of the present discussion, it’s more likely that science has failed to adequately explain to us, or that we have failed to understand its explanation of, certain facts of nature, than that preternatural intervention occurred. But the fact that at some point we have to rely upon a belief that one thing is “more likely� than another shows the difficulty of the matter.

  • sharktacos

    Gizmo,

    Your knee jerk response demonstrates my point of how people place the other side into these extreme strawmen characterizations instead of actually having an intelligent discussion. Sad. When you see everyone who is not like you a foe to be feared and ridiculed you become just like the fundamentalists – and thus become what you hate.

  • sharktacos

    Potter,

    “sharktacos: When we talk about the placebo effect or the mind body connection, it is a scientific concept. Practically, placebos are an important part of scientific testing of drugs for instance.”

    Exactly. And the placebo effect, together with advances in the understanding of the immune system, and a shift from Newtonian lawfulness to Heisenberg’s uncertainly principle have changed the way that people look at the possibility of healing. Consequently some scientists are beginning – through science – to jettison the materialistic world view as reductionist.

    “In the example of a doctor as scientist, he is free to incorporate religious values into his practice however as a scientist- clinician, treating a patient, when there is a conflict between the two, the science must prevail or he may lose his patient”

    What I am referring to is a lot more than merely “bringing your values into the work place” For example in treating premature infants it has been found that they do not only need to have their vitals monitored (which they certainly do or else thy may have an apneac episode and die) but also they need to be held and stroked and talked to…in a word… loved. And that this has a direct impact on their chances of survival and even increases their physical development. So we have here an example of how incorporating the insights of one discipline (religious values and a concept of human dignity) have a direct impact on the health of patients and thus enrich our practice of medicine.

  • Gizmo Logix

    Come on Shark Taco, you can’t believe that Steve Abrams was being honest. He was side-stepping the questions and kept repeating the same rhetoric over and over…

    He’s a veterinarian playing the role of the politician. It was clear that he was trying NOT to mention religion when it is clear that his true intentions. But of course he can’t say that. And I doubt it he trying to push Buddhism or Islam.

    Let me ask you a question about “jettison the materialistic world” and “possibility of healing” through other means. Can it be examined and understood? Yes, no maybe? Is the immune system responsible? Is it “God.” Is it chemical reactions released in the brain? Is it “magic.” What?

    Or should we not study it and just let it be?

  • sharktacos

    Gizmo,

    “you can’t believe that Steve Abrams was being honest.”

    I agree that he seemed to be holding back and not putting all his cards on the table.

    “Let me ask you a question about “jettison the materialistic worldâ€? and “possibility of healingâ€? through other means. Can it be examined and understood?”

    Yes it can. Otherwise there is not much point.

  • sharktacos

    Manning,

    “The key underlying assumption of intelligent design is suggested by the doctrine of divine intervention”

    I think this is a pretty huge mischaracterization of ID. ID is not about “god did it” deus ex machina explanations. Quite the opposite, it is about incorporating a way of exploring our world that allows us to discover things beyond the material.

  • Gizmo Logix

    If you are able to understand *it* by scientific means, doesn’t that lose a bit of that “wonder?”

  • Gizmo Logix

    Lets be clear. ID is term that is being used by the political religious right. All fundamentalist Christians may NOT believe in the ID concept, per se. But it’s clear the politicians are trying to appease their base as well as the scientific community.

    ID is not about a practice of mysticism or homeopathic, acupuncture or other alternative methods in science. If that was the case it would have come from a yogi, mystic or chinese acupuncturists. It’s clear it’s coming from the Christian base. Not Buddhism or Islam or Hinduism.

    ID is about trying to infer “god did it” because it’s being USED as a political tool for that exact purpose. That’s why most scientist are balking at it. It’s political.

  • sharktacos

    Gizmo,

    “If you are able to understand *it* by scientific means, doesn’t that lose a bit of that ‘wonder?’”

    I think quantum physics and chaos theory actually enhance a sense of wonder. So no, not necessarily. Only when science is reductionistic does it decrease wonder.

    “ID is term that is being used by the political religious right”

    So how about the religious left joins in and brings some intelligence and sophistication to the table? Right now it is the Religious Right vs. atheistic scientists. You know who will lose that one.

    “It’s clear it’s coming from the Christian base. Not Buddhism or Islam or Hinduism.”

    Actually from a report I heard on NPR, Muslims are also embracing ID, as do I as a liberal Christian.

  • Gizmo Logix

    >>>Religious Right vs. atheistic scientists. You know who will lose that one.

    I’ll tell you. The extreme religious right will continue to pray and stay in the church — unchanging and narrowminded. And the atheistic scientists will get back to work and actually contribute to the scientific community, medicine, commerce and technology. That’s called progress.

    That’s why I was pointing out that it doesn’t matter if you evoke the term “ID” or “god did it.” it doesn’t matter. One can still get back to work and actually discover new things within the realm of the observable. That’s science.

    If you think that ID is the study of the unseen. Then that’s not science. Is theology or mysticism. Because sooner or latter you’ll have to PROVE IT, not just saying ID over and over again and claiming that “science” journals support it.

    If you are suggesting that the atheistic right are missing out on that “unseen” force. Were plastics, polymers and biological discoveries achieved by “praying” or by saying, “god did it?” No, they found the answer by diligent study and research. In fact, it was most likely a rejection of the status quo during the middle ages wherein the Church was overbearing.

    If you think that ID exist. Ok, fine. Prove it. I’m open to new ideas. But don’t just say it without proof and then say it CAN be explained by scientic study. That proves nothing about the existence of ID. We may never *know* that.

    >>>Actually from a report I heard on NPR, Muslims are also embracing ID, as do I as a liberal Christian.

    I can understand that. Because it’s about a monotheistic God — centralized. But my statement was about where the POLITICAL term came from; agenda.

  • Gizmo Logix

    >>>I think quantum physics and chaos theory actually enhance a sense of wonder. So no, not necessarily. Only when science is reductionistic does it decrease wonder.

    I think the reductionistic aspect is where a scientist becomes like the diligent accountant or typist or some other monotony task master. Boring! Sure, they help finding info about statistics and routine discoveries. Heck, historians can become like that too. Any field, really. But not everyone is like that. You’ll find that in religious zealotry too.

    The “wonder” part is the drive for knowledge. But this says nothing about an intelligent designer. That’s the catch. The ID keeps coming up trying to to seem like it’s talking about a designer, but uses “unknown” or “unseen” as it’s precursor for its inclusion. But once this wonderous “unknown” is found out it ceases to be that mysterious “god did it” we keep hearing about.

    Science is not meant to answer these questions. It will never answer the questions of *why.* That’s why they call it science and not religion.

  • sharktacos

    “It will never answer the questions of *why.*”

    I agree. But it can answer the questions of how. If there are spiritual aspects of reality then exploring them can only enrich how we understand our world.

    “my statement was about where the POLITICAL term came from; agenda.”

    I can see that this may be right. And while I am sympathetic to the idea of ID I am not sympathetic to the methods of political manipulation. Also in my memory High School was the most boneheaded version of science I have ever heard, so I’m not so interested in what happens in the public school system here, but much more what actual scientists can discover.

    As I said, there has been a lot of incorporation of the spiritual and of values and meaning into medical and mental health fields and it has greatly improved patient health. For example with the preemie example again: It may be true that anyone could hold the preemie and it would have a beneficial effect on their health. Interesting is that when they are held in a “loving way” that this is what does the most good (as opposed to mere handling to do tasks like taking temperature etc) and that you could not replicate this healing touch with a “warm robot arm”.

    Even more revealing is that no one, even it is “just your job” is able to hold a preemie and not feel empathy and love for that little cute helpless baby in your arms. It is simply how we are made. That is how we as humans are hardwired to respond. Did this get drilled into us through years of evolution? Sure why not. But the clear fact remains that this physical need a baby has for love and our almost instinctual response of feeling love is a very core part of who we are. I would also propose that a baby (as any child can) picks up on not just your touch but on your mood or emotional state. They feel the love you feel for them and it effects them.

    If that is an example of how concepts of “meaning” and “love” and the like can impact and improve medicine, I would be very interested as to how it could enrich our understanding of the universe as well.

  • Gizmo Logix

    >>>I agree. But it (science) can answer the questions of how.

    Yep.

    >>>Did this get drilled into us through years of evolution? Sure why not. But the clear fact remains that this physical need a baby has for love and our almost instinctual response of feeling love is a very core part of who we are. I would also propose that a baby (as any child can) picks up on not just your touch but on your mood or emotional state. They feel the love you feel for them and it effects them.

    If that is an example of how concepts of “meaning� and “love� and the like can impact and improve medicine, I would be very interested as to how it could enrich our understanding of the universe as well. >>>

    Be careful. You might just find out *how* “love” works in our psyche. Congratulations. You just reduced *it* to a series of chemical reactions and processes. Scary isn’t it? ;)

  • Sean

    Just listened to the show.

    Did we get anywhere?

    Abrams just didn’t make a compelling or even comprehensible case.

    Rabinowitz almost got somewhere with the withering of religious values.

    Is this the big news?

    The educational system isn’t the keeper of religious beliefs?

    So far the only glimmer of hope is that some judge has the patience to sit through all the rhetoric.

    But no good deed goes unpunished.

    Thus spake Pathos.

  • sharktacos

    “Be careful. You might just find out *how* “loveâ€? works in our psyche. Congratulations. You just reduced *it* to a series of chemical reactions and processes. Scary isn’t it? ;)”

    I see the smiley face. But this is really a big part of my point – explaining love by reducing it to mere chemical reactions is an extremely lame explanation that is reductionist. It explains only one rather trivial part of picture and declares that this is the whole picture. This reveals a huge lack in the vocabulary of science to adequately explain our world. So I say we need to enlarge our vocabulary.

  • Gizmo Logix

    >>>I see the smiley face. But this is really a big part of my point – explaining love by reducing it to mere chemical reactions is an extremely lame explanation that is reductionist. It explains only one rather trivial part of picture and declares that this is the whole picture. This reveals a huge lack in the vocabulary of science to adequately explain our world. So I say we need to enlarge our vocabulary.>>>

    Yes, I’m aware of the importance of human interactions, body language, memories, experiences, smells, touch, and all the biochemistry and psychology of language too. But I just wanted to make sure you were aware that you were reducing seemingly “wondrous” experiences down to simple processes too (individuals, processes that is). I didn’t mean to discard that there are other pieces to the picture. Those are not discounted. I just didn’t mention them because I was trying to make a point.

    If you want to we could go into other areas. But I didn’t want to write a book here? :)

    >>> lame

    By the way, the lameness scientific processes when reduced will always be kind of “lame.” It pin points specific methods and processes of the bigger picture. But that’s the way it will always be. But it’s also true that we could at anytime step back and admire the “wonders” big picture. But that’s where it ends. You’ll still have to get back to work sooner or later.

    A person could enjoy ridding roller coasters. And a scientistic could study the reasons that person enjoys ridding roller coasters by pulling out his slide rule (joke) and observing chemical and physiological changes in the person. Kinda lame, isn’t it? Sure, but that’s just the way science it. One could put the slide-rule down and get on the roller coster and just “enjoy the ride” as well (the bigger picture — the wondrous part).

    There’s a time to study the processes of life. And there’s also a time to experience life. Neither negates the existence of the other — individual processes vs the whole experience). It’s just when someone evokes ID like it’s supposed to just explain it all is when I have a problem; especially when used for political reasons.

    There will always be people that choose to live in the world of scientific reductionism (laboratory). Just like there will always be people that choose to be religious fundamentalist (church). That shouldn’t limit you own choices.

  • sharktacos

    “It’s just when someone evokes ID like it’s supposed to just explain it all is when I have a problem; especially when used for political reasons.”

    Nice post. What do you think about the idea that there is some sort of opperative organizing life principle in nature in addition to the evolutionary process?

  • Potter

    Shark Taco: “For example in treating premature infants it has been found that they do not only need to have their vitals monitored (which they certainly do or else thy may have an apneac episode and die) but also they need to be held and stroked and talked to…in a word… loved. And that this has a direct impact on their chances of survival and even increases their physical development. So we have here an example of how incorporating the insights of one discipline (religious values and a concept of human dignity) have a direct impact on the health of patients and thus enrich our practice of medicine.”

    Sharktaco:”I would also propose that a baby (as any child can) picks up on not just your touch but on your mood or emotional state. They feel the love you feel for them and it effects them.

    If that is an example of how concepts of “meaningâ€? and “loveâ€? and the like can impact and improve medicine, I would be very interested as to how it could enrich our understanding of the universe as well. ”

    Gizmo: “Be careful. You might just find out *how* “loveâ€? works in our psyche. Congratulations. You just reduced *it* to a series of chemical reactions and processes. Scary isn’t it? ”

    Precisely Gizmo. Sharktaco is not taking the step from love as a mystical force to understanding what love is on a biological level, Aska scientist why we are wired to love and respond to it and you might get an answer from like “for survival”. A scientist will ask what are love’s demonstrable physiological effects in the loved one? One answer might be stress reduction. Ask how does stress reduction improve our chances of survivial? And you get all sorts of answers on many levels, including a stronger immune system.

    If we are hard wired to love our children then is this a value introduced by religion? Or is it more likely that this became a religious value because we are hard-wired that way and some wise, more evolved, more aware elders became conscious of this by observation and embraced and promoted it?

  • sharktacos

    “If we are hard wired to love our children then is this a value introduced by religion? Or is it more likely that this became a religious value because we are hard-wired that way and some wise, more evolved, more aware elders became conscious of this by observation and embraced and promoted it?”

    There is no argument that it would be this one because regardless of how one thinks got that way (whether through evolution or Godly design) religion is not about saying that some higher being has imposed rules on to us, but that these rules (like how we need God) are an integral part of who we are as humans.

    So as you said, it is not a value introduced by religion, it is a value discovered by religion (ie sages and elders who observed the human condition in their pursuit of who we are and meaning and morals which is what religion is the pursuit of.

  • sharktacos

    intersting typo:

    when I said “(like how we need God)” I meant to say “(like how we need love)”

    Does that qualify as a Freudian slip? :)

  • Gizmo Logix

    Here’s another Freudian slip of yours… :)

    “operative organizing life principle”

  • manning120

    Sharktacos, your 2:46 a.m. 11/24/05 post takes issue with my claim on 11/23 that ID presupposes the possibility of preternatural intervention. I think garym expressed it pretty well in the post just before mine. Your assertion that my claim is “a pretty huge mischaracterization of ID� would seem to indict garym as well.

    Your follow-up comment that ID “is about incorporating a way of exploring our world that allows us to discover things beyond the material� doesn’t explain anything. The only sense I can make of it is that somehow understanding that certain intricacies of the world couldn’t have come about through chance and the operation of natural law allows us to discover things (like God? Love?) that aren’t matter, or are more than matter. Nothing about ID seems to support that view. I think even ID supporters don’t like to claim ID proves the existence of God. ID actually dampens the awe one feels upon contemplating the universe by telling us, “never mind, you can’t figure it out because a designer you can’t understand created it.�

    I’ll grant you this. Proponents of ID point out the “designs� they think could only have come about through a designer. Those of us who haven’t heard about these “designs,� or thought about them recently, can gain a new appreciation of the universe by considering them.

    At any rate, if you’re so sure preternatural intervention isn’t presupposed, or even overtly invoked, by ID, can you cite something authoritative written or spoken by ID proponents to support your view?

  • Gizmo Logix

    >>>Nice post. What do you think about the idea that there is some sort of opperative organizing life principle in nature in addition to the evolutionary process?>>>

    Not sure. But sometimes I think that maybe the universe is sort of a organized chaos. Or a chaotic order. How do you like that one? :D

    Maybe the operative part is that there really isn’t any control, but rather it was set in motion and that’s just the way it will be; a randomness — which is a sort of order. Or like I said before, a “chaotic order/organized chaos.”

    There’s still a set of laws of matter that we still have to follow. I see it as set in motion; freely, not controlled. It will even fit into the freewill concept. I just don’t buy the puppet master idea.

    I mean, if you want to call an atom a god. By all means. You could say the same thing about the universe. It’s still made up of stars, planets and matter. I don’t think you will ever find a controlling god out in the universe. Especially not by science.

  • sharktacos

    “I think that maybe the universe is sort of a organized chaos. Or a chaotic order. How do you like that one?”

    I do like that actually

    “I don’t think you will ever find a controlling god out in the universe.”

    In my experience God is not controlling. Maybe if I were to have made up a concept of what I think God should have been like, I would have postulated a controlling God, because it would be nice if our world was not such a dangerous place. But that’s not our world. Our would is broken and dangerous. And at the same time filled with beauty and love. How do you like that one?

  • Potter

    The notion of “what God should have been like” speaks to a human need ( protection, safety) in a seemingly chaotic world, not understood, “broken and dangerous” containing “beauty and love”( all non-neutral terms). Religion can calm such fears.

    Science is a dicipline. It strives to be neutral, or as near neutral as we can get, with regard to values. Science works to explain, to unravel and understand the universe bit by bit. It cannot be subject to ratification by religious views. That would kill science. (Science can for some, calm fears so as to be able to see beauty, evoke feelings of love and wonder as well.)

    But we cannot mix science and religion without losing both in the battle and dividing ourselves further.

    So this is about tolerance, as some say, politics. I can understand that some feel their beliefs threatened by science and so are attacking it.

    Aren’t we arguing also about what is truth and how we arrive at it?

  • Gizmo Logix

    >“I don’t think you will ever find a controlling god out in the universe.�>

    My original quote above…

    >>>In my experience God is not controlling. Maybe if I were to have made up a concept of what I think God should have been like, I would have postulated a controlling God, because it would be nice if our world was not such a dangerous place. But that’s not our world. Our would is broken and dangerous. And at the same time filled with beauty and love. How do you like that one?>>>

    Actually, my quote two paragraphs above was a two-parter. Let me explain. When I was talking about a “controlling god” it was in reference to the conceopt of an “unseen hand that makes things happen — a cosmic puppet master, per se.” I did not mean to emphasis the word controlling, but rather refute the idea that it’s managed; rather a set of rules (of matter and space) that are set in motion — freely.

    The second part, in reference to “controlling god” was meant to suggest that you will never find “god” by using science. For example, by studying atoms or chemistry or physiology or cosmology you will never “find god” by scientific means; i.e. finding meaning or a “little white-haired old man with a wooden cane” under a electron microscope. So I mean this literally, “finding.”

    This doesn’t mean that you can’t step back and be amazed by the complexity of it all — or read about religion or mysticim or poetry and “find” god that way. But that’s not science. That’s our own depiction of beatuty and poetry or religion. Which in itself could be broken down scientifically as well.

    By the way, I agree with Potter’s post above. Especiall when he said, “Science is a dicipline. It strives to be neutral…”

    This is why I have a problem with ID. I strives to undermine the discipline of science by mixing it with obscurity. In the end, this type of political gamesmanship will fail because we’ll just find ourselfs back where we started — having to find answers to the material word we live in.

    If you plan to find an “unseen” force by using science. By all means, have at it. You’ll still have to prove it if it’s to be called science. If not, then it’s just religion/mysticism.

  • timkar

    Being from Kansas and not truly a conservative, I may regret this but, here it goes. As far as Kansas is concerned, 5his push for ID did not start in the halls of politics but in the small towns in Kansas. The most accurate assessment of the issue on the show I thought came from Rabinowitz in saying that social conservatives are railing back against a culture that is increasingly calling them “narrowminded” “fundies” as several people who posted here did.

    There are incidents in Kansas, verified and documented, of high school science teachers aggressively demeaning their Christian students who refusive to give up their “crap” notions of the origin of the universe.

    Christian conservatives in this state have decided that they want to option at the local level to determine what their students are taught. Notice that the board did not mandate that any specific religious view be taught or that evolution not be taught. Some communities will change what’s taught in their classrooms but, if truth be known, the vast bulk of districts would not change the way they teach science, at all.

    What the parents in, say, Clay Center or Newton want is to be able to have their students instructed in manner in keeping with their beliefs and not, in a manner that someone Chicago, Washington DC or even Topeka Kansas dictates. And why should a single parent in Ulysses expect her taxes to support a science curriculum, not that teaches a healthy skepticism of the world around her children but that is openly hostile to her beliefs?

    BTW, please do me the favor of sparing me the ID is not science argument. I don’t disagree with you and more importantly, I don’t care. I care what is taught to my children but you don’t live in Kansas and if you do, in fact, live in Kansas, you don’t live in my community and if you do, you mostly likely don’t live in my child’s school district. In which case, let’s talk. Otherwise, please don’t try to sell me on the validity or fallacy of ID.

    This is exactly what the issue is about. It’s about small communities raising their children as they see fit even if Dr. Behe, Christopher Lydon, Pat Robertson, Prof. Miller, or Dorothy Rabinowitz don’t agree. My gosh, when California shot itself in the foot by adopting a whole-word only reading curriculum, where were Kansans? Minding their own business.

    You know, the Teamsters recently left the AFL/CIO, in part, because of union resources(read workers’ money) going towards philosophies (in this case political) that don’t reflect the beliefs of it’s members(read, the DNC). Why should tax payers not have it any better?

  • Potter

    Timkar:

    Any science teacher that is belittling a student for his/her religion should be reprimanded or suspended. In fact science teachers should be trained how to deal with religious issues that pop up in a respectful manner and swiftly (not dwell on it or judge). Science teachers should teach science and not have their hands tied either.

    Many believers have managed to adjust their beliefs to accommodate science but biblical literalists (“narrowminded fundies”) feel deeply threatened by some science, ie evolution, geology, archeological findings etc.. It rocks their foundations.Their foundations need rocking in my opinion if they want to be part of the march of humanity. If not they can isolate themselves in closed communities.

    I don’t know how you resolve this since science is required in our educational system and ultimately in our society as a whole for survival. Scientific knowledge is essential; the basics need to be understood by every student. And our survival may depend on understanding, for instance, evolution.

    Evolution is a settled issue amongst the overwhelming majority of scientists. It’s as settled as two and two are four. But if I am taught otherwise in my community schools or persuaded to believe or question that it is not four, that the sum is five for instance, and you, who live in another community, insist no, it’s it’s nine, where does that leave us?

    Should I tell you to mind your own business? Or do we want to know what the sum of two and two is? How do we meet? Where is the authority? What is the truth? What do we base it on if we have no rules?

    Do I want to go to your doctors? No! Do I want to buy your products? No!

    Should a community decide by majority what it’s children will learn and not learn and tell everyone else to butt out? Isn’t this the opposite of the movement to have national standards that will keep us competitive in the world?

    Also if your community decided by majority no science, or no evolution, those in the minority would have to put up with it or move. This is what I mean by dividing us.

  • Potter

    Timkar: We are also talking about the Constitution and specifically about separation of church and state.

    A community, like LA can decide it wants to teach a “whole word only” curriculum as an experiment. That has nothing to do with religious views. Christian conservatives on the other hand do not have a right to determine what is taught or not taught in the public schools even on a local level. Nor can they or should they open the door to the possibility of religious views being taught, especially not in science class.

    Christian conservatives can send their children to private schools.

  • timkar

    So Potter, by your analysis, a parent does not, in fact, have the right to teach his or her child what they wish them to know but that, truly, the state will decide what they believe. So, in those cases where the views of the parent differ from the state, perhaps it would be best to remove the child and send the parent in for re-education? Perhaps we could establish camps for recovering fundies, who, apparently, should be brought to understand their backwards thinking will no longer be tolerated in the modern and “enlightened” society.

    Again, keep in mind that the vast majority of science classes would not change one bit in Kansas and that, most likely, we would continue to rank higher in science scores then 66%-75% of the rest of the nation, including those states of those who seem to think that we need to be ‘rocked.’

    Of course all of this is absurd. But it sure seeems as if you’re saying that a group of 100-200 families(frenquently the size of a community in Kansas) cannot in fact choose what to teach their kids and must contribute money to a system that in increasingly hostile towards them. There just seems somoething fundamentally wrong with that. Apparently, in our modern society, if you don’t like the game you’re not even allowed to take your ball and go home. You WILL stay and you WILL play and you WILL like it.

    Keep in mind, that no ones changing national standards or the university curriculums or the various entrance exams. Kansans who adopt, “wrong-headed” ways of thinking wouldn’t be selling you high tech products or staffing your hospitials because they wouldn’t graduate.

    What I have found ironic about this discussion is that, in part, what Kansas is trying to do is to widen the umbrella to allow multitude of views to be explorered and debunked where necessary; to allow a wider diversity of views, something the secular left is constantly screaming for on every other issue. Apparently, widening the umbrella to include the views of Christians in the discussion is just too much, thank you.

  • timkar

    BTW, Christian Conservatives can, in fact, send their kids to private schools if they are willing to pay for two ediuctions at the same time. Something that single mom in Ulysses couldn’t do, despite Kansas’s higher standard of living.

  • manning120

    I agree with timkar (11/25/05) concerning the comment of Dorothy Rabinowitz, who said on the program that religious conservatives are reacting to “efforts to drive all forms of religious public observation out of American life.� But I don’t agree that all supporters of ID have a fundamentalist perspective. ID doesn’t come right out of the Bible or any other scripture.

    Many supporters of the theory of evolution, including Potter, have overreacted to attempts to expose students to ID. I think a more moderate approach is called for.

    Consider Kansas. The state school board previously defined science (I’m not sure why they felt it necessary to define science) as “the human activity of seeking natural explanations for what we observe in the world around us.� The revised definition: “Science is a systematic method of continuing investigation, that uses observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building, to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena.� If the theory of intelligent design hadn’t been invented, the revised definition probably wouldn’t have aroused much interest. Ken Miller says the removal of “natural explanations� shows the intention to teach students that supernatural explanations are a legitimate part of science. However, the quoted definition doesn’t say that. Also, the assertion in the original definition that science is limited to natural explanations is too narrow. Mathematics is a science. It seems inappropriate to say that natural explanations lead us to such results as the proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem or Godel’s Proof. Political science and the science of jurisprudence involve non-natural explanations.

    (I do object to two things in the Kansas revised definition, but my objections don’t directly relate to the present controversy. First, science isn’t limited to explanations of “natural phenomena.� “What we observe in the world around us� is better. Second, the words “more adequate� are superfluous. More adequate than what?)

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m for eliminating or keeping out “In God We Trust,� “under God,� prayer in public schools, religious displays on public property, etc. We have millions of churches that supply all the religion Americans need. Official religion not only isn’t needed; it infringes on the religious liberty of believers who don’t accept the official religion. But I say let the children in on the discussion about ID, which they’re bound to hear about outside of school. There should be carefully crafted guidelines against instructing that ID successfully refutes the theory of evolution, or is an alternative to the theory of evolution accepted by scientists. Students should be taught why the vast majority of scientists think ID theory isn’t scientific. Students will benefit from learning about ID under the guidance of trained professionals. They may actually gain more appreciation for the theory of evolution after having thought about the ID challenge. I have no problem with a small percentage of time in science classes being devoted to this. If some of the children go to homes or churches where ID is advocated and have a better understanding of the issues, what’s wrong with that?

  • Gizmo Logix

    >>>Apparently, widening the umbrella to include the views of Christians in the discussion is just too much, thank you.>>>

    Timkar, what about Buddhism and Islam? Confucianism?

  • Gizmo Logix

    I was thinking about putting one of these in our public schools…

    http://china.tourism-asia.net/gifs/religion-budhism.jpg

  • timkar

    >Timkar, what about Buddhism and Islam? Confucianism?

    Sure, no problem.

  • Gizmo Logix

    >>> Sure, no problem.

    Satanic Statues? That’s a religon too! What about Wiccan?

  • Gizmo Logix

    Here’s some more for our STATE SPONSORED religions for our PUBLIC SCHOOLS to establish…

    Hinduism – Sikhism – Jainism – Taoism – Shintoism – Divination – Astrology – Freemasonry – Scientology – Animism – Voodoo – Santeria – Totemism – Shinto – Zoroastrianism

    Thomas Jefferson is rolling in his grave…

  • Potter

    Timkar says: ” So Potter, by your analysis, a parent does not, in fact, have the right to teach his or her child what they wish them to know but that, truly, the state will decide what they believe. So, in those cases where the views of the parent differ from the state, perhaps it would be best to remove the child and send the parent in for re-education? Perhaps we could establish camps for recovering fundies, who, apparently, should be brought to understand their backwards thinking will no longer be tolerated in the modern and “enlightenedâ€? society.”

    Timkar, you mischaracterized what I wrote. Parents have the right to teach their children whatever they want, What they cannot do is dictate what everybody else will learn or not learn in the schools. What they cannot do is demand that religious concepts are taught or even discussed in science class. ID can be a part of a comparative religion curriculum or discussed in a philosophy course, but not in science class on an equal footing or opposed to evolution. That is what this discussion is about.

    The schools, don’t forget are paid for by everybody’s taxes. In cases where the parents do not want their children to learn what is in the schools they can send their children to private schools or home school them. Nor did I say that the parent should be re-educated and all the rest. People are free to reject whatever they do not wish to know and experience the consequences but they cannot hijack science because they feel so threatened.

  • Potter

    Manning 120- Yes, I am alarmed that ID would be part of a science curriculum and to boot presented as an alternative view to evolution. If students would benefit from the discussion that you describe let it be AFTER they understand what science is. Then ID should be dismissed as not science. I suspect that ID proponents would not stand for that presentation of it. What they seem to want is ID presented as an alternative view to evolution to be injected into the curriculum at the appropriate point in a science course. Then Gizmo’s suggestion comes in about Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Tao, Animism etc… You no longer have science! Yes I am alarmed about that! You do have comparative religion though.

    There is no question that students would gain from these discussions, yes let’s discuss this,

    but not in science class. And while we are at it let’s discuss the Constitution and Supreme Court rulings.

    Here is an article by Daniel L.Hartl (evolutionary biologist at Harvard)

    quoted from the article:

    “The molecular evidence shows incontrovertibly that species have come into being gradually throughout the history of life on Earth. Darwin could not have dreamed of such a spectacular confirmation of his theory of descent with modification. For creationists, this must be a nightmare, for any sensible model of creationism would predict cows to have cow molecules, goats to have goat molecules, and snakes to have snake molecules.

    So creationists have shifted ground to promote a theory called “intelligent design,â€? which asserts that the complexity of features such as the vertebrate eye or the molecular motor that drives the flagellum in bacteria must have arisen instantaneously as a result of purposeful and intelligent design. Although the designer is not specified, this sly dissimulation is a transparent attempt to dodge the Supreme Court rulings in Epperson v. Arkansas (1968) and Edwards v. Aguillard (1987) holding that the First Amendment prohibits any state from requiring teachers to promulgate “the principles or prohibitions of any religious sect or dogmaâ€? (Epperson v. Arkansas 393 U.S. 97).”

    Better Living Through Evolution

  • manning120

    Potter, there’s a serious question about whether ID is creationism in disguise. Sure, people like Pat Robertson see ID as a sort of ersatz creationism that belies the theory of evolution. That doesn’t prove ID has no arguable secular merit; nor would ID’s claims, if true, invalidate the entire theory of evolution. For example, asserting that the eyes of vertebrates are too complicated to have evolved doesn’t entail rejecting that vertebrates have evolved.

    http://capmag.com/article.asp?ID=4216 references claims by Michael Behe and William Dembski on the secular nature of their theory. They say the theory of ID “flows naturally from the data itself – not from sacred books or sectarian beliefs,� and that ID doesn’t require that the designer be God. ID proponents are upset that the University of Kansas planning to offer a religion course based on the thesis that ID is “mythology� like creationism. http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/news/13237625.htm By the way, students not well versed in the theory of evolution, such as religion, sociology, or philosophy students, aren’t as well equipped to consider ID’s merits as students of evolution.

    The New York Times printed a lengthy article by Daniel C. Dennett on August 28, 2005 in which Dennett, a professor of philosophy at Tufts University, claimed that ID is “one of the most ingenious hoaxes in the history of science,� and that its advocates have misused or misdescribed the work of scientists. After studying the article, it became apparent to me that Professor Dennett had presented almost no evidence to back up these claims.

    Similarly, Daniel L.Hartl may have evidence for his claims that ID is a “sly dissimulation� and “transparent attempt to dodge the Supreme Court rulings.� But Hartl’s article doesn’t provide that evidence. Until you or Hartl remedy that, I’m inclined to take Behe and Dembski at their word. Accusing them of being in league with Pat Robertson is akin to McCarthyism unless you have solid evidence that they really don’t believe their public pronouncements.

    Even proponents of ID agree that it’s been rejected by the vast majority of scientists, largely because they believe it isn’t scientific. Since there’s a raging controversy about it, and it does concern science, I think science courses, as well as other types of courses, can and should include discussion of ID. Professor Hartl’s article would be well suited for that, except for its unsupported claims about the intentions and motivations of ID proponents. If ID becomes more widely accepted by scientists (which seems most unlikely), then the way in which it’s covered will change. For now, students need to know why only a few scientists accept ID’s challenge to some aspects of the theory of evolution.

  • Gizmo Logix

    >>>Similarly, Daniel L.Hartl may have evidence for his claims that ID is a “sly dissimulation� and “transparent attempt to dodge the Supreme Court rulings.� But Hartl’s article doesn’t provide that evidence. Until you or Hartl remedy that, I’m inclined to take Behe and Dembski at their word. Accusing them of being in league with Pat Robertson is akin to McCarthyism unless you have solid evidence that they really don’t believe their public pronouncements.>>>

    The evidence for me is how they use the language. It’s deceptive. Merely saying, “empirical evidence” proves nothing. The evocation of those words doesn’t make it true. And even if someone used the “eye of the beholder” argument — it still wouldn’t address that ever so important thing called SCIENTIFIC PROOF! Heck, I could say I see pink bunny rabbits in space. Does it make it true — scientifically? If you allow this to happen to science is thwarts it’s true purpose. This is dangerous dogma!

    The point is that ID is not meant to prove SOILD EVIDENCE. It’s meant to be OBSCURE! On purpose! I mean come on. This is why politicians are involved!

    >>>I think science courses, as well as other types of courses, can and should include discussion of ID.>>>

    There’s no difference between the language of creationism and ID. Both claim either a central figure of creation (creator) or an intelligent aspect (the intelligent part) that isn’t necessarily a “god” per se, but is supposed to paint a picture of an “intelligent force” that “designed.” Even I was to humor you and say it was true. It’s still not science. It’s more of a mysticism theory. End the end, to be science, you still have to prove it. Not just keep evoking “empirical evidence” over over…

    It sounds more like a wishful thinking slogan to me — meant to sound authoritative for the media/lawyers.

  • Gizmo Logix

    >>>For example, asserting that the eyes of vertebrates are too complicated to have evolved doesn’t entail rejecting that vertebrates have evolved.>>>

    Define, “too complicated.”

    Too complicated for whom? Those that don’t understand it? Or the mechanism of biology and physics?

    Why is it that every time something is “too complicated” the C/ID folk use it to say, “You see! There’s more out there! We don’t know it all! Evolution is flawed!” Blah, blah, blah…

    Here’s a hint. What is “too complicated” today will be better understood tomorrow. Kinda refutes that “too” part, doesn’t it?

  • Potter

    Manning120: The violation upon evolutionary theory and therefore upon science by ID proponents is that they are saying that Evolution/ science is allowed to explain only so much and no more. And this is because, there needs to be room for a certain concept of God to fill the gap.

    I quote Manning 120:”By the way, students not well versed in the theory of evolution, such as religion, sociology, or philosophy students, aren’t as well equipped to consider ID’s merits as students of evolution.”

    The uproar is not about teaching ID to students well versed in evolution, but teaching ID alongside of evolution. We are not talking about college level courses either. At least I am not under the impression that we are.

    What would be wrong with discussing this issue in a class about Ameriocan history or government (the Constitution vis a vis issuing regarding separation of church and state)

    Also I have no problem with Intelligent Design being discussed as an example given briefly in the context of an introductory series of lectures about what science is.

    Also it would be instructive to have a course, probably college level, on religion and science through the centuries.

    All this is not my impression of what ID proponents have in mind.

    I think what Daniel C. Dennet meant in his NYTimes article was that ID is deceptive. It tales advantage of people’s ignorance or lack of expertise. That accepted, children, students, who are impressionable should be well armed before they are exposed so they can do the critical thinking necessary.

    Finally, what would be wrong with inviting some science teachers who can explain evolution into Sunday school classes? I mean just to give another view……….

  • Potter

    I apologize for the uncorrected typos in the above post.

    Manning120, I quote you from above:

    “The New York Times printed a lengthy article by Daniel C. Dennett on August 28, 2005 in which Dennett, a professor of philosophy at Tufts University, claimed that ID is “one of the most ingenious hoaxes in the history of science,â€? and that its advocates have misused or misdescribed the work of scientists. After studying the article, it became apparent to me that Professor Dennett had presented almost no evidence to back up these claims.”

    I link the article in question below. Since this article is for a general audience I don’t think you can expect the detail that you get in the Hartl piece however Dennett does spend the whole article in fact trying to clear the fog created by ID proponents given that there is by admission no content in ID. Since ID has “no content” ( but not no implications) how do you argue against it? So the hoax is that ID proponents have managed to cause a “contoversy” without putting forth anything substantive that can be argued or tested by scientific method.

    I quote Dennett explaining the hoax:

    “To date, the proponents of intelligent design have not produced anything like that. No experiments with results that challenge any mainstream biological understanding. No observations from the fossil record or genomics or biogeography or comparative anatomy that undermine standard evolutionary thinking.

    Instead, the proponents of intelligent design use a ploy that works something like this. First you misuse or misdescribe some scientist’s work. Then you get an angry rebuttal. Then, instead of dealing forthrightly with the charges leveled, you cite the rebuttal as evidence that there is a “controversy” to teach.

    Note that the trick is content-free. You can use it on any topic. “Smith’s work in geology supports my argument that the earth is flat,” you say, misrepresenting Smith’s work. When Smith responds with a denunciation of your misuse of her work, you respond, saying something like: “See what a controversy we have here? Professor Smith and I are locked in a titanic scientific debate. We should teach the controversy in the classrooms.” And here is the delicious part: you can often exploit the very technicality of the issues to your own advantage, counting on most of us to miss the point in all the difficult details.

    William Dembski, one of the most vocal supporters of intelligent design, notes that he provoked Thomas Schneider, a biologist, into a response that Dr. Dembski characterizes as “some hair-splitting that could only look ridiculous to outsider observers.” What looks to scientists — and is — a knockout objection by Dr. Schneider is portrayed to most everyone else as ridiculous hair-splitting.

    In short, no science. Indeed, no intelligent design hypothesis has even been ventured as a rival explanation of any biological phenomenon. This might seem surprising to people who think that intelligent design competes directly with the hypothesis of non-intelligent design by natural selection. But saying, as intelligent design proponents do, “You haven’t explained everything yet,” is not a competing hypothesis. Evolutionary biology certainly hasn’t explained everything that perplexes biologists. But intelligent design hasn’t yet tried to explain anything.

    To formulate a competing hypothesis, you have to get down in the trenches and offer details that have testable implications. So far, intelligent design proponents have conveniently sidestepped that requirement, claiming that they have no specifics in mind about who or what the intelligent designer might be.

    Show Me The Science by Daniel C. Dennett

    Dennett in this article points out, better than I can, why presenting ID in science class opens a big can of worms, presenting very difficult problems for science teachers, thus undermining the teaching of science and in the process giving legitimacy, selectively at that, to something that is not even within the realm of science except for the fact that it crudely assaults.

  • Katherine

    To all of you: we’d love your feedback about this great comment thread here.

  • Nikos

    Katherine asks why this thread is so active. Here’s my 20 minutes (of writing, not reading-time!) worth:

    Perhaps what makes the topic so volatile is this: science measures the universe, but doesn’t (yet?) have any theory to the perennial question ‘why?’

    Sadly, I suspect this is an apples and oranges problem, because our language – the tool of our cognition – favors metaphors of construction over those of growth. So, those of us thinking back toward the ‘creation’ believe they’re looking for an event, and a deliberate one at that, and our language/cognition habits automatically place this event in the past. Yet what science is likely measuring isn’t a past event – ‘the big bang’ and its ‘residue’– but an ONGOING creation. Meanwhile our language-molded minds don’t want to shake off the harness of our cultural biases to see this.

    Well, I can tell you that it’s hard, but not impossible. And of course it’s much easier to latch onto religious explanations hatched centuries ago when the universe couldn’t be so accurately measured. These religious explanations were forged by the same language patterns we use today, and therefore make internal sense even when all the measurable evidence provided by science shows these explanations to be fatuous.

    So, we debate between fatuous explanations bolstered by centuries of official sanction, and new explanations that require at least some scientific thinking to comprehend. This is because our common thought processes are slanted toward ‘constructionist’ metaphors (to coin a notion) instead of ‘self-generationist’ metaphors (to coin another – and see how inelegant and unnatural that sounds in our language!) to explain the universe.

    Finally, because we’re BORN into being, and because we instinctively comprehend things based on our own life’s lessons, we assume the universe must have a parent – it makes no common sense that it’s SELF-generating. Nor do we feel comfortable with the notion that it’s alive.

    But these aren’t failures of science to explain so much as they are products of our conceptual shortcomings.

  • Potter

    I find you can’t tell anybody anything that they don’t in some way already know or want to know. So the struggle to get points across. After that I have to say that I feel strongly that there is a right and a wrong here based on how we have agreed ( implicitly by coming or remaining) to live as a society here. This also is a traditional view in a sense, albeit relatively newer tradition ( separation of religion and science, church from state). We used to call this a great experiment.

    So it’s not only language, but your point is a good one Nikos. When you say “parent” some think “meaning, purpose, protection,etc.” When you say “self-generating” all that reassurance goes away and people feel threatened and insecure and fight for dear life to protect what they believe in.

    All this is coming to a head now. Whereas in the past we could reside within our neat little boundaries with like-minded people, we cannot now. We cannot afford the apples and oranges problem; our problems are too great and we have the means to be more in touch with each other or we are butting up against each other into our designated spaces in various ways. It’s going to take a lot of opening up and letting go to save this experiment tough.

  • manning120

    Potter, it was good of you to display Professor Dennett’s article. My original response to it used to be on the New York Times “Human Origins� thread, but has recently been removed. I saved it on my computer.

    Contrary to the tenor of your comments, my criticism of Dennett isn’t about his critique of ID. Rather, I question the evident lack of support in the article for his characterization of named proponents of ID as disingenuous, if not blatantly dishonest. Dennett said that Dembski “notes� that he “provoked� Thomas Schneider, a biologist, into a response “that could only look ridiculous to outside observers.� Dennett concludes that Dembski thereby “portrayed� Schneider’s scientifically appropriate objection as “ridiculous hair-splitting.� Does Dennett mean that Dembski tricked Schneider into embarrassing himself in the eyes “outside observers�? That seems very unlikely. What “outside observers� found Schneider’s response ridiculous? You just can’t tell from the limited information Dennett provides. Dennett also says that George Gilder, a long-time affiliate of the Discovery Institute, has said ID “itself does not have any content.� Obviously ID doesn’t assert the same type of content as the theory of evolution; it attempts to discredit at least some of latter’s content. Does that mean ID has no merit? Did Gilder admit that? Again, Dennett doesn’t provide enough information to answer the question.

    Another important deficiency in Dennett’s piece is his charge, which seems often repeated, that ID proponents are manufacturing a controversy. This is used by ID opponents as a ground for not exposing young students to ID in the classroom. But as anyone can tell by the number of rather passionate posts in this thread, as well as all over the Internet and in the rest of the media, there’s a controversy. Dennett makes the logical error of concluding that because there shouldn’t be a controversy, there isn’t one.

    It’s important to know whether the leaders in ID theory lack personal integrity. I hope someone can either provide needed proof for Dennett’s claims or lay them to rest (which would say something about Dennett’s personal integrity; but of course he’s not alone).

  • Gizmo Logix

    >>>>But as anyone can tell by the number of rather passionate posts in this thread, as well as all over the Internet and in the rest of the media, there’s a controversy. Dennett makes the logical error of concluding that because there shouldn’t be a controversy, there isn’t one.>>>

    There SHOULD NOT be controversy in terms of the nature of science and the methods used to validate it.

    There SHOULD be a controversy in terms of teaching ID in public schools.

    >>>Again, Dennett doesn’t provide enough information to answer the question.

    The evidence should be provided by ID proponents. That’s what is at issue here. Lets stay on topic.

  • Gizmo Logix

    >>> Dennett also says that George Gilder, a long-time affiliate of the Discovery Institute, has said ID “itself does not have any content.�

    Potter said, “Since ID has “no contentâ€? ( but NOT NO implications).”

    >>>It’s important to know whether the leaders in ID theory lack personal integrity. I hope someone can either provide needed proof for Dennett’s claims or lay them to rest (which would say something about Dennett’s personal integrity; but of course he’s not alone).>>>

    The evidence of the dishonesty is when you make a claim that a scienstis work is not vaild. Then, when the scientist rebuts with VALID counter points. The original ID propoent doesn’t disavow the validity of the counter points, but rather just says, “See, there’s a controvery.”

    That’s dishonest. Because in the end…we’ll still need this:

    Show experiments with results that challenge any mainstream biological understanding. Show observations from the fossil record or genomics or biogeography or comparative anatomy that undermine standard evolutionary thinking.

    And as Potter wrote above…”you have to formulate a competing hypothesis, you have to get down in the trenches and offer details that have testable implications. So far, intelligent design proponents have conveniently sidestepped that requirement, claiming that they have no specifics in mind about who or what the intelligent designer might be.”

    So, far. All we get is sidestepping from ID proponents.

  • Potter

    Hello Manning120: I see we are still at it:-)

    You say: “Obviously ID doesn’t assert the same type of content as the theory of evolution; it attempts to discredit at least some of latter’s content. Does that mean ID has no merit? Did Gilder admit that? Again, Dennett doesn’t provide enough information to answer the question.”

    It means that ID has no merit as science, not no merit. Dennett provided all the information necessary, in my opinion, to make that point which is all that is important here.

    You also say: “Another important deficiency in Dennett’s piece is his charge, which seems often repeated, that ID proponents are manufacturing a controversy. This is used by ID opponents as a ground for not exposing young students to ID in the classroom.”

    What classroom? Science class? We have already discussed shy this should not be in science class: it’s not science. Does this mean that anyone can come up with something to challenge science and get time in science class on the grounds that young students should be exposed to all challenges to science, including the scientifically settled and proven, and at that regardless of the substance?

    Also regarding “But as anyone can tell by the number of rather passionate posts in this thread, as well as all over the Internet and in the rest of the media, there’s a controversy. Dennett makes the logical error of concluding that because there shouldn’t be a controversy, there isn’t one.”

    Gizmo Logix hits the nail on the head.

  • Nikos

    Manning120 wrote: “I don’t agree that all supporters of ID have a fundamentalist perspective. ID doesn’t come right out of the Bible or any other scripture. Many supporters of the theory of evolution, including Potter, have overreacted to attempts to expose students to ID. I think a more moderate approach is called for.�

    Several things roil through me when I read this. First, despite all these posts and counter-posts (will we reach 100?!) I’ve yet to read an ID response to the first questions posed: What does ID predict, and how do its proponents intend to test it?

    Puh-leeze! How can IDer’s claim they’ve a legitimate challenge to evolutionary science without any honest effort to test it?

    We’re back to Galileo and the pope.

    Secondly, claiming that ID isn’t a product of religion is either dishonest or ignorant.

    Finally, this debate strikes me as a fight over apples and oranges: people talking past one another because folks like Potter and Gizmo Logix (and me) can’t accept the groundless premise of ID – groundless because its proponents can’t prove it any better than Tolkien could prove the existence of hobbits and elves. You can write about it beautifully and movingly, but that doesn’t make it real.

    Manning120, you are obviously intelligent. So please understand that at least one of us reading your posts is beginning to suspect that instead of honestly addressing the question of premise, you’re sidestepping. And perhaps moving toward the common rightwing tactic of ‘redefinition’ (i.e., if the facts deny the validity of your premise, then just redefine your premise away from the inconvenient facts! Then you can sustain the argument long enough for your flawed premise to seem rational!). In this case it seems to be the assertion that just because a few questionable ‘scientists’ say that the universe can’t be explained by evolutionary theory, their assertion is equal in weight to a theory that’s been so repeatedly successful in prediction that virtually every scientist without religious convictions consider it proven.

    Look, if you want to make a real impression on your readers, do it properly, with integrity instead of sidesteps. IDer’s need to address the core questions, and not repetitiously trot out the words of fringe scientists who do the modern equivalent of believing the sun revolves around the earth, or that the world is flat.

    I’d like to point everyone still reading this thread to the book “Metaphors We Live By�, by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson (1980; University of Chicago). They (two cognitive scientists) show how our language, even the supposedly dry lingo of science, is founded on metaphor. Most relevant to our blog thread is the authors’ exposure of our language concerning theories. They demonstrate that we describe theories as buildings: theories are founded, are shaky or sound, are buttressed by facts or have holes, can fall apart or collapse under the weight of contrary findings, etc. This sort of metaphoric underpinning permeates our language in millions of ways beyond this one paltry example. Our language gives us our concepts, and our concepts are founded on ancient metaphors. It’s these metaphors, in my humble opinion, that are the real problem in the debate between ancient faiths and the world of facts.

    At least there’s room for hope: language, like the ongoing creation of the universe, evolves.

  • Nikos

    After a time to dwell a bit further on the massive debate in this thread, I had a revelation.

    Let’s say I’m a biologist studying forest ecology. The deeper I delve into the strata of forest life the more astounded I am at what I find. But the life forms I study aren’t the usual suspects like owls and wolves and fishers and lynx or even the trees themselves, but all the smaller ones that REALLY make the forest live: the microbes and nematodes and slugs and mosses. And yet what really wows me is my revelatory moment when I comprehend that without the fungi, the forest would never, ever rot. No, it would BURN. It would burn the entire earthly biomass into ash, and the smoke would cloud the skies so thickly that the oceans would chill, altering, perhaps irreparably, the planet’s capacity for life.

    Fungi, I realize, are the most astounding evolution in the biomass. Neither flora nor fauna, fungi are as unique as they are indispensable.

    Where, I wonder, did such an unusual kind of life come from?

    Eureka! Fungi, I decide, are too improbable for science to explain, so, I divine, they must have come from the forest’s protective spirits!

    Now, of course I can’t call these spirits ‘elves’ because all my colleagues will laugh at me. So, I simply assert that fungi must be the progeny of an ‘operative organizing life principle’. In discussions with my impressionable students, I slyly use metaphoric comparisons to Tolkien’s elves when discussing my ‘hypothesis.’ I point out that fungi are totems of elves in myth. The most malleable of my students approach me later for private discussions, and I learn how enraptured they were as children by the Lord of the Rings. They naturally become my disciples. And because I am a scientist, I have the credibility to play (for a time) a duplicitous game in the media and with political movements (like the environmentalists). The environmentalists in particular find my completely specious ‘hypothesis’ amenable to their own goals, which they of course deem moral (the preservation, by any legal means, of the last shreds of our once clean and wild earth).

    Now, if you substitute the fairy story character called ‘God’ and ‘his angels’ for the elves, and if you substitute the moral outrage of puritans for that of the environmentalists, you get ‘Intelligent Design.’

    I realize this parody is harsh, but I don’t think it unjust. Because frankly I’m sick of religionists holding hostage the progress of our knowledge and of our very humanity. In the name of their gods they hold us all hostage to THEIR morals, to THEIR religions. I’m not just sick of it, but increasingly furious. GRRRR!

  • manning120

    I feel outnumbered here, but a bit consoled by the fact that most Americans seem to support exposing school children to ID in science classes.

    I again remind everyone that I don’t accept the theory of intelligent design. I reject creationism, as well as state-sponsored religious displays, as well as laws that merely enact religious dogma or that exist for the primary purpose of furthering religious beliefs.

    Also again, I contend that the instruction about ID must emphasize that it’s rejected by the vast majority of scientists, and that said scientists think it’s unscientific. ID shouldn’t be presented as an alternative for the theory of evolution, but as a challenge to some of that theory; a challenged mounted by ID advocates, who have persuaded, to varying degrees, certain leaders in our nation that the theory of evolution cannot explain all natural phenomena. I also don’t think the theory of evolution is any less valid or important than the theory of relativity or any other “theories� that scientists use to explain phenomena. I believe that all scientific theories are subject to constant examination through experiment and conceptual honing, and may be completely overhauled (e.g. Newtonian mechanics). School children should learn that.

    Although I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the subject lately (thanks, guys), I don’t claim to be an expert on the theory/practice of ID. I believe essentially the theory claims it can be demonstrated mathematically that the probability of some observed structures resulting from the operation of natural laws and chance is so small that it isn’t rational to believe such evolution occurred. Is that not it? If that’s the essence of the theory, it would extremely difficult for anyone without mathematical training, and without having thought at some length about the mathematics, to comfortably accept or reject ID. This leaves me with the tendency to look at the claims, but doesn’t shift the burden of proof from the advocates of ID. There also seems to be no reason to fault ID for not predicting phenomena if its essence lies in negating other supposed scientific predictions and/or explanations of phenomena. And, Nikos, I certainly see no reason for even ID proponents to claim their theory is equal in weight to the theory of evolution. They seem to affirm the major premises of evolutionary theory.

    I don’t think the references to one or more “designers� is essential to the theory. The importance of ID, in the eyes of its opponents and its inventors, lies not in the vague or simplistic idea that designers have to be conjured up to account for some natural phenomena, but in the assertion that the theory of evolution cannot, in principle, account for the phenomena.

    Now, all that is somewhat distinct from the two issues raised in the last few days: 1) Is ID fundamentally a hoax, or a dishonest device for sneaking religious doctrine into science teaching, as Daniel Dennett and Daniel Hartl (and most of you reading this) claim, or is it an interesting idea, put forward in good faith, that has managed to attract a following among important leaders in this country? 2) Does ID raise questions about the theory of evolution that deserve the attention of school children?

    As to 1), I still maintain that the overheated rhetoric of ID opponents fails to convincingly show that the people who created the theory of ID, such as George Gilder and William Dembski, some of whom have credentials as scientists that would never be challenged except for their advocacy of ID, know that their theory has no scientific merit and that they’re just fronting for the likes of Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, or George Bush.

    Re 2), the combination of at least five circumstances tips the balance in favor of exposing students to ID (which ipso facto is exposing them to the controversy, since ID is explicitly a challenge to at least some of the theory of evolution). First, its proponents claim ID is scientific. I don’t see this as a claim that ID explains phenomena scientifically, but that it uses mathematics – the science of mathematics – to question evolutionary claims based on admittedly scientific observation and reasoning. Second, it hasn’t been established yet that ID is “really� just disguised religion (as explained above). Third, important people in our country have been persuaded that ID should be discussed in science classes. Fourth, ID has clearly qualified as meriting the attention of adults such as contributors to this forum, and young people should learn what adults are thinking about. Fifth, young people won’t be able to understand ID the way I do if they don’t get careful assistance from qualified teachers in courses structured to keep religion out and put proper emphasis on theory of evolution and the scientific method.

    So maybe it all comes down to whether I understand ID correctly?

  • Gizmo Logix

    >>>So maybe it all comes down to whether I understand ID correctly?

    Then Explain ID. Scientifically.

    If not, then explain it religiously. There you have it.

    >>>I don’t see this as a claim that ID explains phenomena scientifically, but that it uses mathematics – the science of mathematics – to question evolutionary claims based on admittedly scientific observation and reasoning.>>>

    Merely using math to show the flaws in evolution doesn’t validate ID in any way. All that does is take a scientific work in progress and then claims a straw-man argument for ID.

    At the same time you have a “ID’ slogan. It’s used to seem scientific yet in reality it promotes religion, i.e. what one can’t understand…it must be a god.”

    How lazy.

    >>>evolution cannot, in principle, account for the phenomena.

    What phenomena? Has ID proven any phenomena? If not, it’s not science. Just a tool used to make science progress. Thanks!

    >>>As to 1), I still maintain that the overheated rhetoric of ID opponents fails to convincingly show that the people who created the theory of ID, such as George Gilder and William Dembski, some of whom have credentials as scientists that would never be challenged except for their advocacy of ID, know that their theory has no scientific merit and that they’re just fronting for the likes of Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, or George Bush.>>>

    Regarding your failer to see the politics in all this…well, all I can say is…I can’t help you there. You see what you want to see.

    Just because people want something to be true doesn’t mean that it is. Think. If you can’t see the deception. Maybe it it you that is fooled.

    >>>Does ID raise questions about the theory of evolution that deserve the attention of school children?>>>

    All it does it make people want to improve science. We’ll still have to get back to work sooner or later. Pointing out flaws in science doesn’t make people stop progressing and finding answers.

    >>>ID shouldn’t be presented as an alternative for the theory of evolution, but as a challenge to some of that theory; a challenged mounted by ID advocates, who have persuaded, to varying degrees, certain leaders in our nation that the theory of evolution cannot explain all natural phenomena. >>>

    Science is work in progress. It changes and evolves. Relgion has to be forced to change; unwillingly I might add.

  • Nikos

    Manning, just to be clear: my personal motives include no glee at what might seem like some of us ganging up on you. However, because I can only agree with Gizmo (and Potter and the others) about this ‘mathematical challenge’ canard, then I have to say this:

    I object to people supporting ID in schools just as I would to giving equal time to other purveyors of misinformation, ESPECIALLY to students!

    More importantly, I’m beginning to actively hate the success that the fundamentalists have gained in their campaign to discredit evolution. I’ve spent far too much time in my life marveling in the fundamental similarities of the vertebrates to ever begin to consider that evolution is a faulty theory. Its mechanisms include natural selection, but aren’t limited to it. (Sexual selection, to name another mechanism, is at least as important. Sometimes I think that the sexual selection facet is the one that the fundamentalists REALLY hate, because it implies that women might actually have healthy and natural reasons to select their partners without constraints, and to take as many as they’d like.) The basic similarities—especially in DNA (which, if memory serves, has hardly been mentioned in this blog thread)—of closely related species utterly defeat the ID premise that we couldn’t have evolved from simpler organisms. Indeed, the evidence for evolution is as obvious as that for daylight coming from the sun (even if you live in the cloudy Northwest like me!). So, my ire isn’t personal, but it sure is real, and it’s pointed at those in positions of supposed authority who use oft-repeated lies to discredit the truth. (Kinda like the neo-cons!) So I flinch, and then moan, and then scream when I read the sincere words of smart folks like you who’ve been at least partially deluded by the ID cabal. I fear Gizmo is dead right: they’re organized, and they’re strongly motivated to turn back the clock. People with unrealistic beliefs need others to buy into their faith mostly to validate it for them. That, I think, is the real motivation of evangelists: they want you to ‘save your soul’ because if you do it’s one more sliver of ‘evidence’ that their beliefs might not be crazy after all. Whether or not it’s obvious to you, these are the folks behind ID.

    Now, despite all my confidence in evolution, I’m not one of those dour types who sees life as little more than a randomly generated mob of selfish entities. We, and by we I mean all of the life of the planet, are a much greater collectivity than that gloomy stereotype. (This is something that science doesn’t care to examine – but only because our scientific paradigms are limited by our conceptual shortcomings). Anyway, even to an awe-struck nature-worshipper like me, ID is as silly a notion as the Man In The Moon (which it’s actually closely related to, I might add). Look, there’s simply no need to inject fairy tale characters like gods and angels to explain our origins. Why? Well, because nothing preceded the Big Bang, because time hadn’t started yet. I know it’s counter-intuitive, but our failure to easily comprehend it doesn’t make it false. Time and space are two sides of the same phenomenon, and it all started at once. And since nothing could have preceded the origins of the universe, there’s simply no place, no venue, and/or no moment in time for a designer, neither intelligent nor non. Think about it.

  • Potter

    Nikos you say:

    “Look, there’s simply no need to inject fairy tale characters like gods and angels to explain our origins. Why? Well, because nothing preceded the Big Bang, because time hadn’t started yet. I know it’s counter-intuitive, but our failure to easily comprehend it doesn’t make it false. Time and space are two sides of the same phenomenon, and it all started at once. And since nothing could have preceded the origins of the universe, there’s simply no place, no venue, and/or no moment in time for a designer, neither intelligent nor non. Think about it.”

    How do you know nothing preceded the Big Bang ” because time hadn’t started yet”? Since we are stuck in our conception, our conception of time and space, we cannot conceive of what might have preceded the Big Bang. It’s unfathomable. One is free to imagine however useless or comforting the exercise. Or one is free to believe that nothing preceded the Big Bang. But that is a belief or speculation. So I am surprised you say nothing could have preceded the Big Bang with such certainty and say that when there is no certainty puts it in the same category as “intelligent design”.

    Gizmo, Nikos, Manning120: your posts are all thoughtful and in places inspiring and I thank you as well for this discussion.

  • Potter

    That sentence should have read

    So I am surprised you say nothing could have preceded the Big Bang with such certainty and to say THAT when there is no certainty, puts it in the same category as “intelligent design�.

  • Nikos

    Potter, first, thanks for your thanks – and the same to you and to each of the others.

    Now, as far as the Big Bang goes, I essentially stand by my statement, but I’ll elucidate a bit. We tend to think that time is a steady progression, a steady beat of hours and seconds: ‘one-vanilla, two-vanilla, three-vanilla’, etc. Thus we have inherent difficulty with the notion of relativity: how time differs between far-flung circumstances in the cosmos. Perhaps you’re familiar with the suppositional quandary of astronauts returning to Earth after a foray to Alpha Centauri, only to find their children in old age or already deceased. This same space-time relativity theoretically becomes incomprehensibly extreme in a couple of cosmic places: the edge of black holes; and their flip side, the Big Bang. In both places time slows to the cosmic equivalent of plate tectonics—well, without the earthquakes anyway. Luckily, we can instinctively understand black holes because we have some small concept of annihilation. But don’t I think we have an instinctive concept of its opposite: the unexplainable advent of space-time.

    I wish I could back my points with the appropriate physics, but I’m only an untutored writer. Even so, I do understand—albeit with difficulty—that the universe in the moment of the Big Bang had no other place to be relative to. There was NO other place where ‘one-vanilla, two-vanilla, three-vanilla’ was the norm. Indeed, there was no PLACE. There was no TIME. Questions about what preceded this event are as meaningless as “What is nothing?� (Is it the absence of something? Then what’s ‘something’?) It’s an endless, meaningless loop. Science will likely never explain the ‘why’ of existence, but it doesn’t have to because it isn’t a valid question. It’s no more valid than: ‘Why is a fish?’ Or: ‘How is a star?’

    The core of the conundrum is this: we’re the universe aware of itself. The universe can’t explain itself any more than you can touch the tip of your right index finger with the tip of your right index finger, or smell your own nose, or taste your own tongue. Which makes the ‘why are we here?’ question essentially gibberish. (Sorry, religionists!)

    So, to reply at last to your point, I have to turn it around: I see more of an unconscious underpinning of religion within this quote from YOU, my friend: “Or one is free to believe that nothing preceded the Big Bang. But that is a belief or speculation. So I am surprised you say nothing could have preceded the Big Bang with such certainty and say that when there is no certainty puts it in the same category as “intelligent design�.�

    I don’t believe my original point had much of any religion in it – but this, methinks, is another strange fringe of those annoying “Why is a fish?� sorts of questions! At some point in our ponderings over our incomprehensible origins, we inevitably brush up against topics more common to religion. The trick is to understand where we touch it and then refine our discourse to talk around it. Or our conversation is no longer one of science but of faith.

    I’d love to hear anyone’s thoughts on this (although it might be diverging at last from the blog thread).

  • Nikos

    Quick addendum: perhaps the most relevant ‘nonsense question’ would be this one – “Where is the universe?” It’s just as nonsensical as the others while weirdly being more germane to the topic.

  • Nikos

    One more quick addendum: because there was no TIME at the Big Bang (time only FOLLOWED the event, expanding along with the fabric of space), there can be no ‘before’ the Big Bang. Therefore, to speculate on what preceded the Big Bang is nonsensical.

  • Nikos

    Happily, I’ve thought of a way to demonstrate the spatial half of the issue. If you’re like me, you probably imagine the Big Bang cinema-graphically: viewing it from outside, perhaps even rushing toward you to envelope and engulf you. This is normal, and perhaps even beautiful if you’ve a vivid imagination, but it’s also entirely nonsensical. Because the only place you could have been to witness the Big Bang was WITHIN it. Everything now populating the universe began within. That’s why there was no PLACE at the Big Bang, along with no time. Just as weirdly, there was no space, because space must have energy scattered within it to BE space. Even I have trouble with this concept, but if I dwell on it, I understand.

  • Potter

    Pretty mind blowing Nikos…. Chris should devote a whole show to you……I’ll be back after I read you over again (methinks). I had an answer to Manning 120 but I have a headache at the moment..

    Will we hit 100? Go for it!

  • benchcoat

    manning120 said: “First, its proponents claim ID is scientific. I don’t see this as a claim that ID explains phenomena scientifically, but that it uses mathematics – the science of mathematics – to question evolutionary claims based on admittedly scientific observation and reasoning.”

    actually–I don’t think it’s accepted that mathematics is a science. doesn’t much of pure mathematics have nothing to do with the physical world? Mathematics doesn’t rely upon reproducible experiments to test hypotheses. mathematics may be applied to the physical world, but, unlike science, pure mathematics does not need to be limited to the physical world. or am I mistaken?–I freely admit that my knowledge of mathematics is limited.

    regarding ID and mathematics–while I can’t say that I am all that familiar with the arguments, it appears that you’re referring to the work of Dembski. one aspect of his argument that I don’t really get is the apparent “500 bit” cut-off he establishes for the “amount of complexity” that makes it no longer explainable for something to have arisen without a designer intervening. as this fellow asks here (http://home.planet.nl/~gkorthof/kortho44.htm), does this mean that a gene of under 500 bp could arise with no designer? if this is the case, how does he explain the many genes less than 500bp that are known to be rapidly evolving? or, even though a base pair can clearly code for information, does it not count as a “bit”? it seems to me that Dembski’s mathematical proof of ID relies on some arbitrary arguments. admittedly, I’m not a mathematician–I could be wrong.

    another paper looking at and disputing his mathematical reasoning can be found here:

    http://www.antievolution.org/people/wre/papers/eandsdembski.pdf

    an aside: one of the people above taking on Dembski did manage to tick me off by bringing up “junk DNA”. I really hate how this idea got stuck in the heads of so many people. that DNA is non-coding does not mean that it is “junk” with no function. it is possible that there is “junk” DNA, but there are huge amounts of non-coding DNA with specific identified functions (as well as huge amounts for which we have not identified a function) Using evolutionary theory (in the very broad sense) we can predict that DNA with an advantageous function will be preserved in the genome and non-advantageous and actively detrimental DNA will be removed from the genome (the non-advantageous but not actively detrimental DNA may linger a bit longer). those interested in the active research regarding what is popularly called “junk DNA” might find some interesting Google hits with the terms heterchromatin, telomeres, regulatory DNA, and alternative splicing or splice donors and acceptors.

    on a different note–I still haven’t seen any testable hypotheses and predictions produced by ID theory and its proponents. if it does not produce testable hypotheses, it is not science and should not be discussed in science class.

    on yet another note–a broader note not addressed to manning120 or anyone in particular–why do so many ID promoters and anti-evolutionists argue that evolutionary theory is anti-designer or anti-God? If the ID advocates are truly arguing that they have no preconceived notions about what that designer is or how it acts, why can’t it act through evolution? We see this in the Catholic church’s ‘God is the cause of causes’ approach to the subject.

    I really only see a religion vs. evolution conflict for someone who takes a literal approach to religious texts. Am I missing something?

  • Potter

    When people talk about BEFORE the Big Bang as I do, I think they mean something beyond time space place concepts, beyond the dimensions we know here. Nikos I think you are playing with the meaning of words such as “BEFORE”. Your set of logical rules do not necessarily map to REALITY. We understand so little that we are beyond science, way beyond science now. There is a lot of speculation in physics about multiple universes, for instance. Is this universe that we live in all there is or is there something bigger than what we know as “creation”?

    So what can the puny mind of man know for sure? Trapped inside this universe, what do we know and what can we even imagine?

    But not this is not science …….. nor is ID.

  • manning120

    Thanks to all who’ve responded to my prior posts. It’s been both educational and motivational. Thanks also to Benchcoat, who just put up a nice post that deserves more attention than I can give it at this hour.

    The Discovery Institute published on their web site an article dated December 1, 2005 by Stephen C. Meyer that addresses many of the issues we’ve discussed in this thread. Here’s the cite (sorry I don’t know how to give you a plain language citation):

    http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?command=view&id=11&isFellow=true

    I’ll quote a few sentences that seem to support my understanding, previously stated, that the inventors of ID didn’t conceive of it as a religious Trojan horse (paragraphs have been combined to simplify the quotation process):

    “As the story goes, intelligent design is just creationism repackaged by religious fundamentalists in order to circumvent a 1987 Supreme Court prohibition against teaching creationism in the public schools. . . . But is it accurate? As one of the architects of the theory of intelligent design, and the director a research center that supports the work of scientists developing the theory, I know that it isn’t. . . . [I]ntelligent design is not a religious-based idea, but instead an evidence-based scientific theory about life’s origins-one that challenges strictly materialistic views of evolution. . . . ”

    The following seems consistent with my position, stated here previously, that ID deals in mathematical probability and doesn’t impugn all of evolution theory:

    “[T]he theory of intelligent design holds that there are tell-tale features of living systems and the universe that are best explained by an intelligent cause. The theory does not challenge the idea of evolution defined as change over time, or even common ancestry, but it does dispute Darwin’s idea that the cause of biological change is wholly blind and undirected. . . . Biochemist Michael Behe . . . points out that the flagellar motor [in a bacterial cell] depends upon the coordinated function of 30 protein parts. Yet the absence of any one of these parts results in the complete loss of motor function. Remove one of the necessary proteins (as scientists can do experimentally) and the rotary motor simply doesn’t work. The motor is, in Behe’s terminology, ‘irreducibly complex.’ . . .[N]atural selection can ‘select’ or preserve the motor once it has arisen as a functioning whole, but it can do nothing to help build the motor in the first place.�

    Now, here are some quotations that don’t support my view, recently proposed here, that the “designer� part of the theory is relatively unimportant:

    “In December 2004 . . . a renowned British philosopher, Antony Flew, made worldwide news when he repudiated a lifelong commitment to atheism, citing among other factors, evidence of intelligent design in the DNA molecule. . . . Even as early the 1960s and 70s, physicists had begun to reconsider the design hypothesis. . . . As British astrophysicist Fred Hoyle put it, the fine-tuning of numerous physical parameters in the universe suggested that ‘a superintellect had monkeyed with physics’ for our benefit. . . . Either life arose as the result of purely undirected material processes or a guiding intelligence played a role. Design theorists favor the latter option and argue that living organisms look designed because they really were designed. . . . Thus, Behe concludes – based on our knowledge of what it takes to build functionally-integrated complex systems – that intelligent design best explains the origin of molecular machines within cells. Molecular machines appear designed because they were designed.�

    Such assertions don’t help those of us who think public school students should be exposed to the mathematical (or secular) side of ID. Nonetheless, I think the importance of the secular aspect justifies a program to inform students while avoiding state advocacy of religious belief. Students should be told that if they want to consider what might be meant by the implied designer, they may do so by further study outside of the classroom. To me, other things now going on in the schools, such as the compulsory recitation of the declaration that the United States is “under God,� do far more harm than would a structured discussion of ID.

    Incidentally, I share Nikos’s anguish about “religionists holding hostage the progress of our knowledge and of our very humanity� and trying to “hold us all hostage to THEIR morals, to THEIR religions.� We owe religion(s) a degree of tolerance: the degree required by separation of church and state. But as has also been noted in this thread, there’s a backlash against those of us who still believe in separation of church and state. It’s counterproductive to hand the religionists ammunition by making hasty assumptions concerning the ulterior motives of ID theorists and by banning instruction about ID in public schools because religionists think ID furthers their agenda.

  • Gizmo Logix

    >>>manning120 posted this quote: “[T]he theory of intelligent design holds that there are tell-tale features of living systems and the universe that are best explained by an intelligent cause. The theory does not challenge the idea of evolution defined as change over time, or even common ancestry, but it does dispute Darwin’s idea that the cause of biological change is wholly blind and undirected. . . . Biochemist Michael Behe . . . points out that the flagellar motor [in a bacterial cell] depends upon the coordinated function of 30 protein parts. Yet the absence of any one of these parts results in the complete loss of motor function. Remove one of the necessary proteins (as scientists can do experimentally) and the rotary motor simply doesn’t work. The motor is, in Behe’s terminology, ‘irreducibly complex.’ . . .[N]atural selection can ‘select’ or preserve the motor once it has arisen as a functioning whole, but it can do nothing to help build the motor in the first place.�>>>

    “Irreducible complexity is the idea that you need all those parts for the thing to work. …Evolution, we are told, could never have produced those multipart machines because the parts have no function until they are fully assembled. Therefore, they must have been designed. Therefore, god must have done it. It turns out that every single biological system that has been presented by the Intelligent Design folks as examples of irreducible complexity, when you actually look at them, you discover bits and pieces of those machines have other functions in the cell. They can do other things.”

    http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/ros/open_source_050804.mp3 (August 4th, 2005)

    -by Kenneth Miller

    Why post Behe’s point on “irreducible complexity” when it was debunked by Miller?

    My point? The burden of proof is on you. As ID proponents keep bringing up, “See, it’s too complex. There’s something magical about it all that we can’t explain.” Evolutionist and scientist will continue to work and provide the evidence.

    Then, ID proponents can move on to the next thing we don’t know yet. It’s always the same story. If we can’t explain it, just say it’s “ID.” Sigh…

    I wonder how many Creationists/religious types criticized the Wright Brothers that man was not meant to fly; blasphemy, heresy, etc, etc…

    Galileo had it a lot worse. If it was the 16th centruty. Even manning120 would be put in jail.

    See here:

    http://www.billybear4kids.com/animal/squirrel/no-cage.jpg

    By the way, I propose that we allow mysticism to be a part of pubic schools too. At least we should mention it, right? (Sarcasm).

  • Gizmo Logix

    By the way, this part that I posted above was from an excerpt from a previous Open Source podcast broadcasted on August 4th, 2005.

    I forgot to introduce the quote as Kenneth Miller’s.

    “Irreducible complexity is the idea that you need all those parts for the thing to work. …Evolution, we are told, could never have produced those multipart machines because the parts have no function until they are fully assembled. Therefore, they must have been designed. Therefore, god must have done it. It turns out that every single biological system that has been presented by the Intelligent Design folks as examples of irreducible complexity, when you actually look at them, you discover bits and pieces of those machines have other functions in the cell. They can do other things.�

    http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/ros/open_source_050804.mp3 (August 4th, 2005)

    -by Kenneth Miller

  • Nikos

    Thank you Manning for your well-reasoned reply. Although I’m still not biting on the Designer part of the issue, I’ve a quasi-sympathetic thought to share.

    On another Open Source blog thread (Morality: God-Given or Evolved?) I offer the late Alan Watts’ point that just as marvels like apples can’t occur without an apple tree, marvels like life can’t occur without an environment conducive to life. The Big Bang unleashed the expansion of space-time and the energy that we not only view through telescopes, but that gives us our planet, its waters and air, and the starlight (the Sun) that powers plant life via photosynthesis. The Big Bang, in short, has evolved into…me and you. It’s a marvel, and not, I think, a wholly random accident. The very self-awareness that we so smugly think unique to us is probably instead inherent in the universe itself. You don’t, after all, get fish without water.

    Now, this doesn’t mean rock knows what it is—no, WE regard rock and give it a name, study its density, etc. Nevertheless, we’re the same basic stuff as the rock. We, like the rock, are a lattice of energy and space. We’re cosmic energy aware of itself. Cosmic energy that, through the interaction of starlight and water, aggregated, diversified, multiplied, and, all the while, got busy getting downright complicated. Complicated enough to marvel at itself.

    Now, did all that aggregation, diversification, multiplication, and maddening complication come from design or from accident?

    I say neither.

    I say it came NATURALLY, because ‘peopling’ (and ‘dolphining’, and ‘treeing’, etc.) is something that this rock orbiting this star in this nook of this galaxy simply DOES. This life on this rock is inherent to the rock. Not an accident. And not an artifact of some spurious supernatural ‘designer’.

    I know that I’m somewhat isolated in this peculiar view (which might seem like middle ground but is more like the third point of an equilateral triangle), because the debate has for decades been controlled by those who think life is a ‘dumb accident’ and those who think it’s a ‘god’s design’. But the same metaphoric/linguistic underpinnings that gave the ‘god’s design’ folks their dogma conceptually cripples the ‘dumb accident’ folks.

    But I’m an optimist. Eventually, I reckon, scientists will notice not signs of ‘design’ in life but evidence of this inherent-potentiality that I understand but haven’t the language to decently explain. And the scientists who do this, I suspect, might well come from a non-western cultural background. Because plenty of aboriginal cultures understood, in a metaphoric way at least, that life is neither accidental nor the artifact of a white man’s god, and that environment isn’t an enemy to conquered, measured, and controlled, but a progenitor.

    So maybe what the ID folks are ‘seeing’ (I’m still skeptical) are signs of this inherency—signs that might suggest that somehow the universe itself carries ‘cosmic DNA’. I know, I know, I can practically see all of you rolling your eyes, but wait a second. I’m not talking voodoo but instead about a kind of inherent environmental pattern-making that, for example, allowed the New World stork family to evolve a branch of itself in the Americas that biologists originally dubbed ‘vultures’. How did the biologists get it wrong? They got it wrong because New World vultures look pretty much like Old World vultures—but their DNA is that of the storks. Why? Because the niche was there, and the Old World vultures couldn’t cross the Atlantic to fill the niche. So some of the storks evolved features of vultures. No one knew this until recently. Similarly, Australia evolved marsupial ‘hunting-cats’ (their species-name eludes me at the moment) analogous to lions, tigers, pumas, etc. The niches were there, so Nature filled them. I don’t think it accident—but I damn sure don’t think it the work of Jehovah or Allah either.

    Something less specious than ‘god’ and yet greater than ‘accident’ is at work in this world and in the universe, and science, I’m certain, will eventually identify, name, and measure it.

    But somebody smarter than me is gonna have to take on the work.

  • Nikos

    Just saw Gizmo’s after posting my latest — thanks Gizmo! I’d forgotten the Kenneth Miller stuff. Well done!

  • Potter

    Nikos: “But somebody smarter than me is gonna have to take on the work.”

    Okay. Relax.

    Nikos: “I know that I’m somewhat isolated in this peculiar view (which might seem like middle ground but is more like the third point of an equilateral triangle), because the debate has for decades been controlled by those who think life is a ‘dumb accident’ and those who think it’s a ‘god’s design’. But the same metaphoric/linguistic underpinnings that gave the ‘god’s design’ folks their dogma conceptually cripples the ‘dumb accident’ folks.”

    Nikos, aren’t you playing with linguistics as well? ou are strying to talk about that which cannot be articulated: what we do not know. So A third way would be to simply stop and say ” we do not know”.

    I don’t think that E.O Wilson would say we are a “dumb accident” at all. The “dumb accident” talk comes from the religious folks who feel threatened and so they characterize evolution in this way.

    When you look at science from the mind blowing angle of metaphysical speculation you can see how humble science is.

    This is a good exercise.

  • manning120

    Nikos, I like your comments from 2:28 a.m. today (when do you sleep?). You say, “scientists will notice not signs of ‘design’ in life but evidence of this inherent-potentiality that I understand but haven’t the language to decently explain.� I suspect it’s already been noticed. If you accept the presuppositions of the theory of evolution (and I suppose every other major theory concerning natural phenomena), you must believe that when the seed of the universe burst into being, everything needed to evolve into what we now observe was there; it was potentiality, not yet actuality. Designers use constituents of the designed object that don’t already have the potentiality of evolving into the designed object. So if everything was potential in the nascent universe, why posit a designer? At least, why posit one acting after the Big Bang?

    Gizmo Logix, another late-nighter, asks why I post Behe’s “irreducible complexityâ€? claim after it was debunked by Kenneth Miller. I’m well aware of Miller’s response, but wanted to show that even today, ID proponents haven’t accepted Miller’s position. I wanted the reader to consider whether “irreducible complexityâ€? is something school children shouldn’t even hear about. I think they should, for the reasons I stated previously. Even though personally I go with Miller, and feel that Behe has a heavy burden of proof that he hasn’t satisfied, I’m unsure enough that I want to hear more. And I think it’s perhaps a little presumptuous to think that children can’t, or won’t when they’re older, identify the fallacies that Potter, Nikos, Gizmo Logix, et al. recognized immediately after they were exposed to ID theory.

    What really bothers me about ID is the alacrity with which it invokes preternatural intervention by the designer(s), thus inhibiting further scientific work. Anyone who believes in the power of prayer and in miracles (that includes millions of school children) accepts the possibility of such intervention. I don’t. Einstein used to talk about thinking like God. I don’t think Einstein believed for a moment in preternatural intervention. If he had believed in it, I doubt he would have tackled the problems as he did.

  • benchcoat

    Nikos–there’s a bit that Ken Miller brings up in the previous Opens Source show on ID that you might like that seems along the lines of your thinking–it comes at 46:18–sorry for no transcript.

    http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/ros/open_source_050804.mp3

    I think Potter nails the “dumb accident” bit just about right. I don’t personally know any scientists who would ascribe to the “dumb accident” approach–although I can think of a number who would either go with “we don’t know” or “there’s no way we can currently address that question”.

  • benchcoat

    manning120–why introduce a theory that you know to be pinned on fallacies into the classroom–particulary the science classroom? if we do that, should we also introduce Lysenkoism? or perhaps Eugenics?

    I’m especially concerned about the notion that it’s okay to introduce fallacious topics into science class because the students will be able to identify the fallacies when they get older.

    regarding irreducible complexity–Miller is hardly the only one to have shown this to be a fallacy. here’s another one:

    http://www.talkdesign.org/faqs/icdmyst/ICDmyst.html

    there are likely many more links on the topic that can be found at the same site.

  • manning120

    Benchcoat, I enjoyed scanning the Pete Dunkelberg article you cited. I plan to give it closer scrutiny, but my position pretty much accords with the following at the end of the article:

    “If it becomes politically necessary to teach something about the subject, the present essay contains material for several lessons. And if the plan is to teach ‘the controversy,’ it would be proper to tell the students that there is no scientific controversy, although there is a public one. Books like Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution are surely part of the reason. Yet the widespread public acceptance of Behe’s thesis is stark evidence that we need stronger science education, especially about evolution.â€?

    I would add that if those who don’t wish ID mentioned in science classes have their way, students won’t be referred to articles like Dunkelberg’s. They’ll have to find them on their own, after listening to their political and spiritual leaders, parents, etc., extol ID as an antidote to materialism and atheism. Few children would ever perform such research on their own.

    Also, I wouldn’t teach the kids ID as an alternative to evolution theory and hope they later figure out that ID is a fraud. I would teach ID for what it is: a theory that is rejected by the overwhelming majority of scientists but that claims to be scientific and is widely believed by non-scientists. In other words, teach the kids why ID is rejected by scientists and most definitely is not viewed by them as an alternative to evolution theory.

    Also, I think other theories, such as Lysencoism and eugenics, may be mentioned as part of the learning experience. Sometimes negative examples and failures are instructive. Of course, the two just mentioned don’t have religious backers and aren’t currently in vogue among political and other leaders, but that I find irrelevant.

  • Nikos

    Potter, I don’t see myself playing with words any more deceitfully than any other writer trying to make abstract concepts comprehensible in plain language. What’s more, I feel overly constrained by the metaphoric limits underpinning our language (re: Lakoff & Johnson in METAPHORS WE LIVE BY; 1980, University of Chicago). So if the charge is chicanery, I plead innocent!

    Moreover, the only real means we have to expand our toolbox of concepts IS our language. And I don’t think that all expansions of our conceptual horizons have come from science. Positing new ideas, even weird ones, will often spark scientific investigation—even when the ideas come from unscientific sources like fiction, science fiction, poetry, and even fantasy.

    Next: time was we didn’t know the following: the earth isn’t flat, has an atmosphere, rotates on an axis, revolves around the sun, is part of a galaxy, was aggregated from the dust of dead stars, etc, etc, etc. My point is that it isn’t good enough to say ‘we don’t know’ when the simple introduction of a new paradigm (or two) can expand not only human knowledge, but more fundamentally open our minds to the concepts necessary to expand said knowledge. Now, as I’m sure it’s abundantly clear to those who are, I’m no scientist. I’m just an oddball writer hoping to poke a hole or two in the prison-walls of our conventional wisdom. Because it’s always been dissenters like Galileo (but hey, I’m no Galileo!) who’ve moved the minds of the masses toward the paradigm shifts that allowed science to explode our medieval world-views. Again, I’m no Galileo, not even a Robert Graves, but I admire their efforts and strive to make my own puny contribution to the growth of our conceptual pool. So there!
    ;-) (

  • Nikos

    For some reason half my reply ddidn’t get it. Here’s the rest:

    the ;-) was supposed to be a winking smiley-face. How do you guys insert those?

    Now, as to the ‘dumb accident’ thing: maybe I’m just older than you. The clear implication in my 1960’s and 70’s schooling was that life happened in the primordial oceans by accident. I still half believe this; but I comprehend intuitively the ‘inherency’ notion I offered in one of last night’s posts.

    As for metaphysical speculation, hell, you got nothin’ on me. I dabbled in it for years (you should see my bookshelves!) before realizing that the simpler the explanation, the better. So, despite my affection for metaphysics, I tend toward the opposite view: when (not if!) you can understand the abstract findings of physics in a mundane way, using instead an easily comprehensible pool of concepts, metaphysics stands humbled by what physics shows.

    Now I gotta work on my reply to Manning. Sheesh! You guys sure know how to keep a guy distracted from his novel!

  • Nikos

    Now I’m really confused: the ;-) became a winky/smiley by itself!

  • Nikos

    Potter, just to be clear, my ‘So there!’ was supposed to be followed by a winky/smiley, not a semicolon, dash, and left parenthesis followed by a right parenthesis that made the design look like a maniacal frown! The second parenthesis was supposed to house my query about smileys! Sorry!

  • Gizmo Logix

    >>>>benchcoat Says: manning120–why introduce a theory that you know to be pinned on fallacies into the classroom–particulary the science classroom? if we do that, should we also introduce Lysenkoism? or perhaps Eugenics?>>>>

    Thanks Benchcoat. You beat me to it. This was going to me by question.

    >>>Few children would ever perform such research on their own.

    Most will not find out on their own. That’s called brainwashing at an early age. Or rather, “Get’em while they are impressionable.”

    >>>manning120 Says: teach the kids why ID is rejected by scientists and most definitely is not viewed by them as an alternative to evolution theory.>>>

    I’m glad that you changed you posted this. Because in a previous post you stated that we should purposely teach fallacies to kids in a hope that they would later figure out that they had been taught fallacies. I’m a strident opponent of disinformation. That disinformation seems to be an Orwellain brainwashing method that I grew up in. I mean, back when I was a child of 4-5, I was taught that Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy were REAL. And I believed it until I was told the truth. Today, I question everything.

    If we are to examine our public schools teaching of American History to kids you’ll find that it’s really just a self-reverent, pompous, gloss-over. It’s lacking true depth — and missing a lot of information. Yes, those that win the wars are those that write the history. Of course it will be self-serving. But it’s also dangerous.

    If disinformation is something that you would support for reasons of nationalism and unity (sounds like 1933 Nazi Germany). I’d say that’s a good way to create a lot of automatons. I would prefer to send my kids to a school knowing that the were getting the fullest scope of history and science. And not brainwashed to see the world in dogmatic/ideological sense — ID is one of them. This is not meant to imply that I wouldn’t send them to religious studies or comparative religions. But at least you would know where they were coming from and what you were getting.

  • Gizmo Logix

    Note: the “>>>Few children would ever perform such research on their own” was a quote from manning120.

    I forgot to put that.

  • manning120

    Gizmo Logix, you say in a previous post I stated that “we should purposely teach fallacies to kids in a hope that they would later figure out that they had been taught fallacies.� I’ve never advocated teaching children, or anyone, that ID has merit as an alternative to the theory of evolution. I don’t believe it does.

    Earlier today I said, “And I think it’s perhaps a little presumptuous to think that children can’t, or won’t when they’re older, identify the fallacies that Potter, Nikos, Gizmo Logix, et al. recognized immediately after they were exposed to ID theory.� My thought was that you’re underestimating children if you think they won’t be able to understand the fallacies of ID when they’re explained in class, or that they’ll become forever hooked on ID just from having it explained in class. Maybe the word “understand� would have worked better than “identify.�

    It seems strange to me that people are trying to protect our children from the evil influences of ID by banning it from science classes, where it could be discussed objectively. If we do that, children will receive far less objective information from politicians, preachers, radio talk show hosts, and others who have little regard for real science, in churches, homes, probably the Boy Scouts, 700 Club, etc.

  • Potter

    Gizmo:

    >>>>Most will not find out on their own. That’s called brainwashing at an early age. Or rather, “Get’em while they are impressionable.�>>>>

    So true, so true. I said this above and you said it again before I got to it. This point needs to be driven home. This is well known within religious communities, You have to get these ideas into the kids before they can think critically. Then you have them for life. This does not always work, because kids question and rebel, but it happens enough. For you Gizmo (me and many others) this attempt at indoctrination works in reverse- we become seekers and questioners.

    That’s why I suggest, as a counter-offensive to the ID assault ( an assault -not a controversy) that scientists make visits to Sunday school classes to explain evolution; some equal time please.

    Parents may be teaching one thing at home, but when their kids get to school they learn things that are contradictory to or inconsistent with that. You can see the impetus for teaching creationism/ID in the schools. The indoctrination is broken otherwise. That’s why many are home schooling or sending their kids to parochial and pushing for vouchers.

    Tell it like it is.

  • Gizmo Logix

    >>>It seems strange to me that people are trying to protect our children from the evil influences of ID by banning it from science classes, where it could be discussed objectively. If we do that, children will receive far less objective information from politicians, preachers, radio talk show hosts, and others who have little regard for real science, in churches, homes, probably the Boy Scouts, 700 Club, etc.>>>

    I would say the “evil” part is the disinformation proponents. So, I’m all for exposing the fallacies of ID by vetting it scientifically. And yes, it’s true that politicians, preachers, radio talk show hosts and VETERINARIANS are those that should be exposed for their disingenuousness.

    I think Ken Miller’s views on discussing ID as a freedom is fine — if students bring it up, he answers their questions the best he can.

    I just have a problem when ID used as tool to misinform or try to discredit evolution; i.e. the “irreducibly complex” spin.

  • Gizmo Logix

    >>>Potter wrote: That’s why I suggest, as a counter-offensive to the ID assault ( an assault -not a controversy) that scientists make visits to Sunday school classes to explain evolution; some equal time please.>>>

    Blasphemy! ;)

  • Potter

    Nikos, I do not mean to suggest that you are being deceitful. I think you are exploring. But it seems to me we are stripping things down to the meaning of words, the conceptions floating around them, as we inevitably have to. Your meaning has to get to my understanding.

    You seem to speak with a certainty that is reminiscent of religious doctrine, even ID, when you say:

    >>>>And since nothing could have preceded the origins of the universe, there’s simply no place, no venue, and/or no moment in time for a designer, neither intelligent nor non. Think about it.�>>>>>

    It’s the first part of that sentence that catches me. If you say with certainty that nothing could have preceded the origins of the universe, that is a belief, a speculation, not a certainty, not science. I know you build your case for that conclusion. But still it is not scientific. This is beyond science. it cannot be proved by reason or thought experiments.

    You could have just as easily said: “And since something MUST HAVE preceded the origins of the universe, there’s simply no place, no venue, and/or no moment in time for a designer, neither intelligent nor non in THIS universe. Think about it.” That leaves open room for metaphysical speculation including yours which is that nothing preceded the Big Bang.

    I was pointing out that we left science. Metaphysical speculation and ID are connected and it seems to me closer to each other than either is to science in that sense. And science is the most humble and honest in all of this. We should keep it pure. None of this belongs in science class. Science teachers, as we are learning, have their hands full already, getting knowledge of science across to students in spite of their parent’s ignorance or resistance.

    As I said above I view this whole “ controversyâ€? as an assault. Manning120 seems to be saying that we will all be the better for it by engaging our kids in the battle. This horrifies me and it’s naive.

    The argument should take place, yes, but outside of the schools, as it is.

  • Nikos

    Potter, thanks for the chance to elucidate, and maybe I’ll get it right for a change this time. If my meaning isn’t garnering your comprehension, then I’m failing. So…

    Here’s the first of three questions:

    “Where was the sword before it was forged?�

    Well, one answer is nowhere, of course, since it wasn’t a sword before it was forged. It was raw iron, not a sword. An alternative answer is that it existed in the mind of the swordsmith—but that answer is metaphysical, I think.

    Next, you’re looking at the sky:

    “Where was the cloud before it condensed?�

    Same problem as the previous, but here the issue is even less murky (forgive the implicit pun) because the cloud wasn’t created by an agent who imagined it beforehand. You can say it was in the atmosphere or in the ground before it evaporated, rose, and condensed, but that vapor wasn’t the cloud. It eventually partook in the condensation event, but only when all the conditions aligned for that event to happen.

    It wasn’t preordained like the sword was in the mind of the smith. The vapor didn’t HAVE to become the cloud. Indeed, the cloud isn’t only the vapor: it’s all the environmental conditions too. More importantly, it’s a concept we assign to a partial phenomenon—partial because so many variables have to coincide perfectly for the phenomenon to occur.

    So, we’ve just asked two questions that seem to make perfectly good sense in our language, using common concepts and logic. Yet both queries are ‘Why is a fish?’ sorts of questions.

    Finally, “Where was the boy before he was conceived?�

    Now we’re getting interesting!

    Religions have immediate and certain answers to this question.

    But it’s no more a valid question than ‘why is a fish?’, ‘how is a star?’, or ‘where is the universe?’.

    The boy is an event like the cloud—emerging when conditions coincided (in the womb, then birth, etc). Yet our language implies that he’s more like the sword: ‘a twinkle in his father’s eye’ (before his conception). A creation, an artifact. We don’t ‘see’ that the boy is never the same from one hour to the next: every change in his personal environment causes changes in his brain that we call life’s lessons—and of course his body evolves all the while too.

    So, our language erroneously describes EVENTS as THINGS. THIS IS THE FUNDAMENTAL FLAW IN OUR LOGIC. This is why physicists, when you ask them to explain the universe in plain language, always fail, resorting instead to incomprehensible streams of physics. (I knew a physicist at the University of Michigan. Great guy, brilliant and all that. He studied the residual evidence of the Big Bang, but he and his colleagues couldn’t decipher the conditions following the event any further back than a few milliseconds after the explosion because the heat had fried everything. Anyway, he thought I had a decent layman’s understanding but would always correct my plain-language translations of my ‘understanding’ with physics, which I didn’t understand and which he couldn’t explain in our inadequate language.) This same language error is at work in your wonderings about the time before the Big Bang. “What was the universe before the Big Bang?� is pretty much equivalent to “Where was the boy before he was conceived?�—but with one massive difference: there weren’t any parents birthing the Big Bang.

    And again: time, which is part of the fabric of space, only began WITH the expansion. It didn’t exist beforehand, just like the cloud didn’t because it couldn’t because the CONDITIONS for it didn’t exist.

    So, again: there was no ‘before’, just like there was no boy.

    I’m not playing with words. Honest. I’m trying to use our flawed language to explain phenomena (which in truth I can only claim to understand vaguely) that not even physicists can comprehend without the abstractions of their colloquial mathematical lingo.

    But yes, I can say with certainty that nothing existed before the Big Bang because no conditions existed to support anything, especially space-time, which is as necessary to the universe as evaporation and condensation are to clouds.

    Whew!

    Now I have to ask the dreadful question:

    How’d I do THIS time?

  • Nikos

    After an afternoon to reflect, I’ve got an answer to the question that ended my last post: ‘D+’. I need to do better and here’s how I’ll try.

    First, the ‘three questions’ that I used ought to have dubbed by their proper name of ‘riddles’, which are a more legitimate form of question than the grammatical nonsense of ‘how is a star?’ Sorry, one and all, for that. :-(

    Much more importantly, I ought to have more clearly distinguished the ‘event vs. thing’ problem. To wit:

    ‘Thing’ is a sloppy conceptual trough. ‘Thing’ is what we call those entities and events we’re too lazy to name properly. But ‘thing’ is tightly related to our concept of ‘matter’, which is more complex version of the sloppy-trough, because matter isn’t solid but actually energy (subatomic particle-waves) in tight, relatively stable patterns. More on this in a moment.

    Next, we can surely all agree that the Big Bang was an event. It was an explosion of energy, and we are its legacy. It was the primordial event, in two senses: it was original, and it was unprecedented. But our language deceives us in at least two ways when we ponder it. First, it wasn’t an event like our mundane events that have preconditions, ends, and consequences. Oh, sure, astrophysicists study the event in sensible stages (nebular formation, star and galaxy formation, planetary formation, the inception and evolution of life on said planets, and the aggregation of ‘dead matter’ into black holes to name but a few), but I think it’s fair to say that these, as often as not, are arbitrary distinctions. Because the evolution of the universe has occurred as a CONTINUUM rather than in discrete ‘acts’ like a stage play. In other words, this planet and its life aren’t the ‘consequences’ of the Big Bang so much as we are its latest local community of evolutions—and only one community of such evolutions in an infinite continuum. Moreover, we’re not really ‘matter’ (which is a false ‘thing’ that we unconsciously think inert) but highly specialized patterns of energy (subatomic particles) that have only taken our recognizable forms in the most recent blink of a galaxy’s eye. We are, in short, the Big Bang itself, and able to regard itself in a way we uniquely describe as ‘human’. (Although the notion that we’re distinct is just another illusion, really.)

    The more important conceptual illusion is this: we cognitively place events ‘in time’. (‘In time’, with varied shades of meaning, is one of our most commonly used phrases.) We envisage events occurring along a line—along, or within, a continuum of time. So when we think of the Big Bang, we place it at or near the beginning of the time continuum, right?

    Ah, but here’s the deception: the Big Bang didn’t occur in a continuum of time—time occurs WITHIN the ongoing expansion of the Big Bang! Time, like the cloud of my earlier failed essay, requires the environment of the Big-Bang-expansion to exist at all. It’s INSIDE the energy pattern, not the temporal vessel ‘containing’ the universe. Space-time exists WITHIN the expansion.

    Lastly, the reason we can’t easily conceive this has a lot to do with that ‘nose smelling itself’ conundrum: we can’t fundamentally analyze the universe because we’re the nose trying to smell itself, or the tongue trying to taste itself. Just can’t be done!

    This is why I repeat (so boringly) that real problem is the limitations of our conceptual toolbox. Sorry. I’ll shut up now… :-)

  • Potter

    Nikos—I did post something earlier here but it seems to have disappeared. Perhaps we have interference from an outside universe.

    I said I was going to call you on the “thing-event� division in your previous post, but you caught it yourself.

    Though the BB was primordial for us, it may not have been or be, unprecedented. That would refer to a possible dimension outside of our universe of which this universe is perhaps a part. The BB may be part of another continuum itself. This possibility you do not allow.

    We basically agree up to a point and except when you state a certainty where there is none. Potential/possibilities are as endless as we will allow.

    Certainty is what religion gives. Science needs open possibilities. For some the open-ended nature of science is too excruciating. If one needs certainty in what is an uncertain world, one wants to close down science at the point that it gets uncomfortable. This is what ID and Creationist proponents are doing with regard to evolution. ID allows for more science than Creationism.

    Religion has to either include science or retreat from it. If religion does neither but contradicts then there is a battle and science must win as I see it. Eventually science wins and religion retreats.

  • Nikos

    Potter, all your points are well reasoned, and (surprise!) I agree with them…mostly. But since we can’t examine alternative dimensions (yet?!), all we can study is this universe in its extant dimensional environment. And in that environment, I stand by my assertions (although I’d sure love it if a real physicist would weigh in! I’d rather be properly informed if my understanding is flawed).

    And yes, I agree that the world’s most ardent religionists emotionally require an earthquake-proof foundation of belief, and since science shows these beliefs to be shams, science becomes an enemy. This is why we should do all we can to explain the universe, as shown by science, in the most accessible language and concepts possible. Hence my tedious soliloquies, and hence my thanks that you bothered to read them.

    :-)

  • Potter

    And thank you Nikos, you are a gem!

  • nother

    E.O. Wilson said that I.D. is a default argument.

  • Potter

    Nicolas Kristof in his column today in the NYTimes, Hubris of the Humanities:

    “The best argument against “intelligent design” has always been humanity itself. At a time when only 40 percent of Americans believe in evolution, and only 13 percent know what a molecule is, we’re an argument at best for “mediocre design.”

    But put aside the evolution debate for a moment. It’s only a symptom of something much deeper and more serious: a profound illiteracy about science and math as a whole.

    One-fifth of Americans still believe that the Sun goes around the Earth, instead of the other way around. And only about half know that humans did not live at the same time as dinosaurs.”

    Kristof goes on about how we place the humanities above science and math in education. Einstein’s relativity has yet to penetrate our consciousness.

    Kristof says our ignorance of science is a societal disregard here in the US and this is already hurting us in public policy issues where our leaders do not have the necessary foundations in science to make decisions areas like stem cell research, avian flu. He asks if they or we even know what DNA is.

  • Nikos

    Manning, to your post of 4:19 PM on 12/2:

    My 1960’s & 70’s education included several myths. ‘Piltdown Man’ was taught in class as an example of scientific hoax. Another controversy that was discussed, although without any certain conclusion, was the notion that pre-Columbian Vikings had penetrated North America all the way to Minnesota. This notion (which was probably a creature of local/ethnic ‘wishful-thinking’) no longer has much (if any) credence, but I’m quite certain many of my classmates might think differently: they might actively BELIEVE the notion because although the controversy hadn’t yet been settled, they ‘learned it in school’, which, like it or not, confers legitimacy. (Especially in those days, what with our memories so frequently compromised by Colombian herbal smoke and other hallucinogens).

    Our schooling included other, more sinister deceptions too. Only a couple of decades after WWII and the Red Scare, we learned all about the ruthless viciousness of Nazis and especially of Communists. Yet we learned NOTHING of the syphilis experiments done to black soldiers by the ‘virtuous American Army’, nor anything of the extermination campaigns then ongoing in Viet Nam. And, as for the extermination of the Native Americans, well, our teachers glossed that over as best they could.

    The point is that deception isn’t as simple and obvious as ‘Piltdown Man’ kinds of hoaxes. Falsehoods can live long in societal memories when respected ‘authorities’ give even passing credence to a controversial assertion or conspiracy theory. Or when, to make a political point, they give only a fraction of the pertinent facts. Just yesterday I stumbled across a radio station as one man said to another: “Evolution is a dangerous lie. A lie whose only beneficiary is Satan.� The second man sagely agreed, bringing into the mix the wearisome ‘missing link’ argument…but I, unable to bear any more of this willful ignorance, continued my search for the Air-America station nearby on the dial. (Neither of these men spoke in southern accents, by the way, and both sounded not only grave but ‘educated’.)

    Of course what I heard isn’t surprising: we all know that christian fundamentalists are actively working against science. Despite this jaded awareness, I was stunned (once again! –when will I ever learn?!) that in this country, with its rich educational resources, with its giant contributions to human knowledge, two grown men were discrediting settled science by attributing its fact-gathering processes to the christian Boogie-Man.

    Satan?! Come on, people, GROW UP!

    No, we don’t ID taught in schools UNLESS it is taught specifically as a hoax. Not as an unsettled controversy, but as the religionist hoax that it is.

    A well-organized fifth column of fundamentalists wants to take humanity back to the Sixteenth Century. They are politically allied with moneyed interests who would prefer an easily manipulated and essentially ignorant polity of consumers to a polity of astute voters comfortable with rational thought. Giving any credence to ID only helps this movement. (Movement? Sorry, I unjustly dignify it. It’s more of a backwards crawl.)

    (I’d love to end this post with a resounding ‘God Help Us!’ but if Satan is the christian Boogie-Man, Yahweh is their Santa Claus. And no adult, in this century, should any longer believe in either.)

  • Nikos

    oops:

    No, we don’t ‘NEED’ ID taught in schools UNLESS it is taught specifically as a hoax. Not as an unsettled controversy, but as the religionist hoax that it is.

    Silly me…

  • manning120

    The exchange between Nikos and Potter around December 3, 2005 was interesting. I side with Nikos. It may help to recognize that time is a measurable characteristic of objects, like size, weight, color, temperature, etc. The essential structure of time is the interval, which has two boundaries or endpoints, analogous to those of length, characterized as earlier and later. When the later boundary is changing, we call it “the present.� One way or another, time statements amount to stating the age of an object.

    Now, the universe, being an object, can be described as having an age. But according to the scientific theory of the Big Bang, nothing existed before the Big Bang. Therefore, there was no object to be described temporally before the Big Bang. It’s nonsensical to say time “existed� or “passed� before there were any objects.

    Potter’s and Nikos’s statements about certainty are confusing. Rather than discuss them, allow me to state my own view and ask that they comment. What we call scientific knowledge necessarily admits of uncertainty; religious belief doesn’t. We know scientific truth, just as we know things by common sense, through a process of determining conclusions from evidence and logic. But because we’re fallible, we can never be absolutely certain of what we’re entitled to say we know. Absolute certainty is possible, but it belongs to the realms of religion, emergency judgments, immaturity, mental illness, etc. (the simplest mathematical and logical truths give us a lasting feeling that approaches absolute certainty).

    To be scientific, an assertion has to be falsifiable (there’s more to it than that, of course). Isaac Newton was entitled to say he knew facts about the universe encompassed by his theory, but now, we’re entitled to say, we know his theory was only approximately right in some circumstances. Newton’s conclusions were falsifiable; Einstein proved at least some of them were indeed false. Similarly, although we’re entitled to say we know the theory of evolution is correct, it’s falsifiable.

    So, what do you think? Do the architects of ID claim the designer inference isn’t falsifiable? If so, that suffices, in my mind, to remove it from any possibility of being scientific, although I don’t think it necessarily belies the claim of Behe and others that ID isn’t religious.

  • Nikos

    Manning, sorry for the delay in replying to your request.

    First, your explanation of time is right on, especially in that it pretty much nails relativity in simple language.

    I get a bit unsettled is in your next section, however, although my distress is more one of allusion than one of concept. ‘Fallible’ gives me the willies. Not because it’s ‘wrong’, but because it reminds me of my college philosophy courses and that discipline’s close tie to Western theology, in which the ‘Fallibility of Man (kind)’ is a fundamental tenet in what might well be the world’s biggest philosophical hoax (i.e., the study of God and godliness, etc.).

    So allow me, with apologies beforehand, to coin a real clunker: “the ‘non-omniscience’ of humankind�. I know, I know, it’s awful; but at least I can now go on…

    If I substitute ‘not omniscient’ or ‘non-omniscient’ for ‘fallible’, I agree with the rest of your post…well, with one caveat.

    I just don’t think we can chuck evolution into the falsifiable category any more than we can the heliocentric solar system. EVERYTHING evolves. It’s the condition of cosmic energy, whether at the simple molecular level or at the human. I suppose what’s in question is the evolutionary ‘trigger’, specifically for life-forms. And, in that case: the simpler the explanation the better. Now, what’s more complex: the organic self-generating universe we see through the lens of science, or a universe with an outside ‘designer’ descended in concept from a patriarchal Sumerian clay-potter? (To stand that latter notion up, we need all the wasted pages of all those theology books.)

    Obviously I stand, with all my non-omniscient certainty, firmly beside the theory of evolution—which isn’t controversial to anyone without an improbable ancient god to prop up.

    But to your closing query—whether the proponents of ID allow for a falsifiable designer, well, I find I can only approach it from another angle, which I offered in a half-assed way earlier in this thread. Our language, founded on reassuring metaphors of construction and design instead of on those of growth and its attendant possibility of accidental evolution, is, is suspect, the unconscious underpinnings for ID. We ‘found’ theories like buildings while at the same time we fear nature, seek to tame it, to reduce it to property, to, in short, rearrange the seeming chaos of the world to meet our deepest emotional needs. Whether the IDer’s are honest scientists or in cahoots with the fundamentalists I can’t say with any certainty (non-omniscience again). But I sure can see a ‘designer’ making internal sense to any of us because of our metaphoric-concept system.

    So, Manning, I’m afraid I’m not saying anything much different from before. This reply, shoddy though it may be, is the best I can offer. Forgive me, please.

  • Nikos

    Oops! It should have read:

    Our language, founded on reassuring metaphors of construction and design instead of on those of growth and its attendant possibility of accidental evolution, is, I suspect, the unconscious underpinnings for ID.

  • jazzman

    3 Opinions:

    1.) Creationism is not scientific

    2.) ID is not scientific.

    3.) Darwinism is not scientific.

    Each of the above systems which attempt to explain the origins of life is tautological.

    Creationism: A creator created

    ID: An intelligent designer designed. (No different from Creationism)

    Darwinism: (Survival of the fittest) Survivors survived.

    IMO the reason that there is a controversy with the origins of “Life� theories (and by extension the origins of everything, as life is just a “special case�) is that in the case of the origin of “Life� one is presented with essentially 2 options: Creationism/ID or Darwinism/Evolution. If you want an all encompassing unexamined explanation,

    Creationism explains all things. If this doesn’t satisfy you, what is left? ID? That just shifts the onus from the Creator to the Designer. That leaves Darwinism/Evolution a story which in essence states that simple forms evolve into complex forms due to the mechanism of natural selection (survivors survived by exploiting niches.) It may seem more palatable than C/ID because it purports to employ temporal cause/effect relationships that are in line with Western thought. If you can’t buy into C/ID then you either have to embrace D/E or be agnostic or wait for a better seeming explanation to be presented. As I am not able to solve the question personally, I’m required to be agnostic but hope that a more informed explanation arrives in my lifetime. My concern is that even challenging the orthodoxy of D/E is tantamount to heresy in academia (or anywhere generally except fundamentalist religious circles) and anyone who questions the validity of the dogma is heaped with scorn. I agree with most of the posts that C/ID is a non-scientific system of belief and should be examined as a primarily as a belief system tenet (religion) but I believe D/E is hardly better in that regard. If science courses are focusing on the “origin of life� it should be presented that these are competing theories and while a large majority believe that D/E is in fact the mechanism that explains the observations – it’s still a theory and there are other theories that claim to provide an alternative explanation. How can children develop critical thinking without forensic debate and being exposed all aspects of a question? Perhaps science class isn’t the best place to learn critical thinking but as it usually is a required subject, it’s a place to start exposing impressionable minds to the perils of fallacious reasoning.

    As to the origins of everything – the Big Bang is still a theory, possibly not as entrenched as Darwinism but it is heretical to challenge it as well. Here are some links.

    http://www.bigbangneverhappened.org/

    http://home.wxs.nl/~gkorthof/

  • Potter

    Did an intelligent designer design a tree that gives limes the size of melons weighing 3.3 pounds each? That’s enough for several Key Lime Pies, a heavenly dessert if there every was one.

  • manning120

    This thread seems to have been fallow for some time. I, for one, was busy writing a major essay on ID that hopefully will be run in Synapse, the philosophy journal of American Mensa. If anyone’s interested, I can provide more information.

    The other ID thread was also dormant for a good while, but Josh Bryan and I recently added a couple of comments. In any event, I’m placing the following in both places in the hope that someone will offer some help.

    ID claims that IC must have been designed, after the Big Bang, by a highly intelligent being (often described as God) because the universe hasn’t existed long enough for natural laws and chance occurrences to produce IC. I believe this argument is seriously flawed. Consider the following:

    1. If a wrapper for, say, M&M’s were discovered on a planet in a distant galaxy, we would immediately know that it was designed by an intelligent being, as opposed to coming into existence by the same “mindless� processes that produced non-living structures like stars, planets, oceans, etc. The probability that those processes could have produced the candy wrapper is so small as to rule out anything but intelligent design.

    2. The simplest life is far more complicated than a candy wrapper, and hence far less likely to have occurred through the aforesaid “mindless� processes. Can we then conclude that even the simplest life could never have arisen without intelligent design?

    3. Doesn’t the argument that IC is too complex to have arisen by “mindless� evolution therefore suffer from the defect of proving that all life, not just IC, could never have evolved?

    I would appreciate comments or citations to comments that address this matter.