Jason Rosenhouse posted Entry 65 on March 28, 2004 06:10 PM.
Trackback URL: http://degas.fdisk.net/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.cgi/64

If there is one thing that bugs me more than creationist folderol, it's wimpy and inept defenses of evolution from scholars who really ought to know better.


I am currently wading through the book Darwinism, Design, and Public Education edited by John Angus Campbell and Stephen C. Meyer, published by Michigan State University Press. Meyer and Campbell are defenders of ID, but the book contains a selection of essays ostensibly defending evolution.


Alas, it quickly becomes clear that evolution's defenders were carefully chosen. Consider the following statement from William Provine's contirbution. It is actually a self-quote from an earlier essay of his:


The Kansas decision is a gift to the teaching of evolutionary biology. At last we have begun to talk about including all students in high school biology classes, instead of limiting the discussion only to naturalistic evolution.

Of the USA population, nearly 50 percent are YE creationists. Of those who do profess belief in evolution by descent, the vast majority believe that God guided the process and that some version of "design theory" is true. Can it really be our aim to prevent students with such views from particiapting honestly in the discussion of evolution in high school biology classes? Do we really believe that students can be convinced of evolution while prevented from speaking their concerns about it?

We already have complete control of the evolution content of mainstream biology textbooks. Teachers bar most students from honest discussion of evolution in class, with the encouragement of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Center for Science Education (our watchdog), and the American Civil Liberties Union. (P. 509)

William Provine has written two of the most important books on the history of evolutionary biology, but I fear that here he has gone completely insane. First, no one, not the NAS, not the NCSE, not the ACLU, believes that students should be barred from honest discussion of evolution. The only thing that is being objected to is having teachers present creationism to students as a scientific theory of equal merit with evolution. If a student raises an objection born of creationism, the proper response is to explain, firmly but politely, why the student is wrong.


Then there is the bit about the 1999 Kansas decision being a blow for fairness and openmindedness. But the Kansas decision had nothing to do with allowing students to engage in open debate. It simply removed certain prominent scientific theories, like evolution and the Big Bang, from the curriculum. That's hardly the way to promote scientific discussion.


Later, in commenting on an earlier (and much better) essay, by Eugene Garver, Provine writes:


In this volume, Eugene Garver gives a cogent argument for not introducing ID or creationism in the evolution class. Perhaps he has taught an evolution class and finds that suppressing most of the students from participating is a good approach.(P. 510)

Actually, Garver's argument had nothing to do with suppressing student participation. Rather, it had to do with whether students will learn evolutionary theory better by considering it alongside of creationism or ID. Garver points out, for example, that no one argues that students will understand heliocentrism better for having seen a debate between it and the geocentric view. The closest Garver comes to the view Provine attributes to him is this statement:


There is a difference between teaching a subject on which students have no prior opinions and a subject on which they have been forcefully told something contrary to what the teacher is trying to get across. But taking those initial beliefs into account is not a reason to defer to them or even respect them. It is probably, although not necessarily, a bad idea to be dismissive or even confrontational about such beliefs. (P. 493)

Quite right. When a student says something that is demonstrably false, the correct response is to demonstrate that what he said was false.


I also can't resist the following quote, again from Provine:


I am very sympathetic to those who believe in ID. The sense of loss experienced by friends and students, after concluding that ID of biological organisms is nonexistent, is deep and sometimes very difficult. When belief in ID dies away, the other associated beliefs become tenuous: life after death, and so forth. I always recommend to students taking an evolution course to guard carefully their views of ID in bioligical organisms. Give it up, and the slide to naturalism flows quickly. (P. 502)

Since Provine makes it perfectly clear, both in this essay and elsewhere, that he believes ID is wrong, why on Earth is he encouraging students to guard their views on this subject? The arrogance and condescension here is remarkable. Apparently Provine does not trust his students to have the intestinal fortitude he himself possesses. Sure, he can handle brutal reality, but better for his dimwitted students to keep the fantasy.


Provine is not the only offender. Here's one example from David Depew's essay:


I could not agree more with the claim that contemporary Darwinism lacks models that can explain the evolution of cellular pathways and the problem of the origin of life. Meyer is correct to point out, for example, as my coauthor Bruce Weber and I have also done, that natural selection cannot in principle be the cause of life's origin. Natural selection is a phenomenon that depends for its operation on the very sort of variation and heredity that exists only in organsims and so can hardly be used to explain how organisms came into existence in the first place.

Nor does Meyer miss the mark whe he derides writers such as Francis Crick, Jacques Monod, and Dawkins, who appeal to sheer acident (including, in Crick's case, extraterrestrial intrusion) to explain the origin of life. That is no explanation at all. It is a confession of failure. In the face of the growing urgency of these problems, the inclinations of some Darwinian apologists to retreat to the high ground of metaphysical materialism can readily, and perhaps justly, be understood by hostile critics as an attempt, in the face of such inadequacies, to issue a philosophical guarantee that, in the absence of empirical proof, life will eventually shown to be consistent with received Darwinian thought. But this is not science. It is scientistic ideology. (P. 447-448).

This from an essay titled: Intellgient Design and Irreducible Complexity: A Rejoinder.


I fear Depew has been drinking the same Kool-Aid as Provine. First, who is it, exactly that has tried to use natural selection as an explanation for the origin of life? Natural selection requires imperfect replicators, so obviously it can't be used as an explanation when no such replicators exist. Origin of life researchers do occasionally speak of chemical selection, but that is something entirely different. Depew is knocking down a strawman here. Actually, strike that. He is knocking down the particular strawman the ID's have handed to him.

Moving on, let's ignore the for the moment the fact that the origin of life is a question of no relevance whatever to Darwinian evolution. Has anyone ever offered pure chance as an explanation for life's origin? Certainly not Dawkins. It has been suggested that certain chance events might have been relevant, but they are not the explanaiton. Dawkins, in The Blind Watchmaker, offers Cairns-Smith's theory about self-replicating clay templates as an interesting speculation. That is not a theory of chance.

And who are these foul Darwinists who are retreating to the metaphysical high ground? Some examples in defense of such a blanket charge would be nice.

Darwinism lacks models for explaining cellular pathways? Hardly. As even William Dembski points out, there are models aplenty. The question of whether these models are correct is a different matter. Depew believes that self-organization is more important to evolution than natural selection in explaining the origins of complex structures. That is an interesting view, and one he is welcome to defend. But the fact remains that there is certainly no theoretical reason why natural selection could not explain the origins of irreducible complexity, and ample reason to believe that it does so in fact.

There are more examples I could cite. Essays like this do far more to aid ID proponents, than they do to defend evolution.

Comment #362

Posted by RBH on March 28, 2004 06:19 PM (e) (s)

Two questions:

(1) Who’s the author?
and
(2) could it be edited to use the “entry” and “extended entry” facility?

RBH

Comment #363

Posted by RBH on March 28, 2004 06:24 PM (e) (s)

Oops. Delete question 2! :)

Comment #364

Posted by Ralph Jones on March 28, 2004 07:00 PM (e) (s)

Jason,

You wrote “tell the student they are wrong.” My approach would be to tell the student, “You have a right to believe anything you want, but a near consensus of professional biologists have concluded you are wrong for the following reasons…”

Comment #365

Posted by Shaggy Maniac on March 28, 2004 07:10 PM (e) (s)

I’m not sure what to make of Provine’s comments. From other things he has written, it would seem he has no time for non-material explanations so it is tempting to imagine that he is being (not-so) cryptically cynical. If for the moment I give him the benefit of the doubt, I might say that there is a kernal of value in what he is saying. While I would never suggest that science teachers should teach creationist ideas or ID “theory”, I think it is a mistake to dismiss the the beliefs of students out of hand, even if one feels confident that science is on one’s side of the argument.

Regardless of what one might think about the belief system of creationism/ID proponents, it is naive not to be aware of the significant spiritual and philosophical blow one can strike by revealing the truth as understood by science. If one chooses to dismiss the spiritual/philosophical impact that comes with territory of teaching evolution, then one might as well just talk to the walls and hope to convince them. At least the walls don’t have spriritual/philosophical blinders that would, if ignored, continue to prevent real communication, even if they don’t have ears.

Comment #372

Posted by Nick on March 28, 2004 09:31 PM (e) (s)

Did anyone else notice how this book is being promoted as peer-reviewed, despite being in Michigan State’s Rhetoric and Public Affairs Series? In his review at Amazon.com, Rob Crowther of the Discovery Institute mentions “peer-review” in the title of his review and several times in the text. But when he gets into details, he reveals that there was but one scientific reviewer, a “professor of biochemistry at an Ivy-league school.” It’s fine that the reviewer is anonymous, but does he know anything about evolution? A lot of biochemists do not. Furthermore, was he peer-reviewing the scientific claims, which is what the Discovery Institute clearly wants everyone to believe, or was he peer-reviewing on whatever nebulous criteria (good rhetoric?) rhetoric and public affairs publications use? Your average scientific journal article would have something like three reviewers who are experts in the subfield in question, who go over the cited facts, methods, and logic with a fine-toothed comb. Reviewers will often approve articles that reach conclusions they disagree with, but they will never approve articles that, say, ignore entire fields of relevant empirical research. For example, the ubiquitous ID claim that evolution “can’t produce new genetic information” is often asserted, but the extensive literature on how new genes evolve is consistently ignored, as if IDists hope that their audience will stay ignorant forever. This kind of shenanigan is the kind of thing that distinguishes ID from serious science.

I will give the Intelligent Design movement one thing: their rhetoric is first rate. Too bad their science sucks.

Comment #378

Posted by Sage Ross on March 28, 2004 10:03 PM (e) (s)

2 cents:

“no one argues that students will understand heliocentrism better for having seen a debate it and the geocentric view”?

I feel like my understanding heliocentrism is MUCH better for having seen the evidence for geocentrism alongside the evidence that prompted the shift to geocentrism and gotten a flavor for what the debates were like. The same goes for Aristotelian, classical, and quantum physics. And my understanding of the kinetic theory of gases is much stronger for having heard the old positivist arguments against it.

But of course, those all deal with comparing the accepted theories to the older things they replaced. The situation is not quite the same with ID.

Comment #382

Posted by Matt on March 28, 2004 10:39 PM (e) (s)

Sage wrote:

But of course, those all deal with comparing the accepted theories to the older things they replaced. The situation is not quite the same with ID.

Isn’t the modern ID argument identical to the Paleyan argument (”if it looks designed, it is”)? And hasn’t the evolutionary model replaced this (where it counts, anyway)?

Comment #383

Posted by Juman on March 28, 2004 11:05 PM (e) (s)

A few things to say. I have heard a lot on this page about the fact that creationism is wrong (or more to the point, creationists are morons), but not a lot explaining why evolution is right. Can anyone recommed a book or a website (a link on this one even) that could help me understand evolution more.
“the origin of the species” doesn’t shed much light (it feels like more of a fairy tale than the genesis story), or maybe I’m just blind. To me the fact that 50% of the population thinks it is right and 50% think it is crap, makes me think that both are wrong… or both sides are too busy getting angry about the otherside, that they don’t give a valid explanation. At least creationists attempt to describe why their process is correct (right or wrong). To me anyone who gets angry about the topic, only does so out of weakness, because if it could be proven in a manner that was paletable to the masses, maybe you wouldn’t have this problem.
Sure things can addapt, but how is this proof of anything other than our ability to extrapolate.

Comment #385

Posted by Sandals on March 28, 2004 11:20 PM (e) (s)

Juman, there’s several resources listed on the website. They probably should be more prominently displayed, tho.

Comment #386

Posted by Wesley R. Elsberry on March 28, 2004 11:43 PM (e) (s)

I have a page of books concerning evolution and the evolution/creation controversy. While it’s pretty short now, I intend to fill it out over the coming weeks. But Futuyma’s textbook, linked pretty high on the page, would be the one book to grab for rigorously laying out what evolutionary biology is. There are several of the popular books on evolution that do a good job as well, including the companion volume to the PBS Evolution series authored by science writer Carl Zimmer.

For getting acquainted with the concepts of evolution online, the new Understanding Evolution web site gets the job done. The TalkOrigins Archive features a large number of articles on topics from evolutionary biology; many of these materials appear as supplements to college course syllabi. Of course, the TO Archive also hosts a large number of articles debunking antievolution claims, so be prepared for cognitive dissonance.

Let me also point out my site on critical analysis of antievolution. See my essay on Viewpoints on Evolution, Creation, and Origins. Juman may find my site perhaps somewhat less confrontational in tone.

I tend to think of most antievolutionists as being sincere, but sincerely wrong. And please believe me, as someone who has appeared in public venues with high-profile ID advocates, “moron” is definitely not an apt description of their mental capacities. Paul Nelson and Bill Dembski are very bright indeed. But this isn’t about whose cognitive skills have the very finest edge; it’s about whose ideas have evidential support and comport to the practice of science.

Comment #388

Posted by Daverz on March 29, 2004 12:13 AM (e) (s)

Well, this is a blog, so you’ll have to look elsewhere for background info on evolution, such as

http://www.talkorigins.org/origins/faqs-evolutio…

Could you give an example of a creationist attempting to describe why their process is correct? Most seen to attack evolution instead of providing evidence for their own views.

Comment #390

Posted by Loren Petrich on March 29, 2004 01:23 AM (e) (s)

I’m also baffled by William Provine’s comments. Is he implicitly endorsing the Royal Lie theory of religion?

That’s from Plato’s Republic, which presents his idea of an ideal community. In it, Plato’s society’s religion would be banned, because its sacred literature contains such unedifying things as heroes lamenting and gods laughing. And in its place would be a Royal Lie that is designed to demonstrate the legitimacy of that Republic’s philosopher-rulers.

The Royal-Lie theory of religion was common in Greco-Roman antiquity, and was also advocated by such later notables as Niccolo Machiavelli. However, at the present day, it seems to me that it is not usually stated very honestly.

Comment #401

Posted by Paul A. Nelson on March 29, 2004 07:55 AM (e) (s)

We invited Paul Gross, Elliott Sober, and several others of equal standing to contribute to the volume, but they turned us down.

Comment #402

Posted by Wesley R. Elsberry on March 29, 2004 08:13 AM (e) (s)

I’ve wondered for some time why there were no print proceedings from various ID and critics conferences (NTSE, DAIC, “Nature of Nature”).

Of course, the forthcoming book from Rutgers University Press, Why Intelligent Design Fails, can be considered an anthology picking up the missing voices of the ID critics whose messages didn’t make it into printed proceedings from those conferences.

Comment #409

Posted by Shaun Johnston on March 29, 2004 10:55 AM (e) (s)

Evolutionists have accepted eviction from a very valuable territory. Once Creationists claimed Intelligent Design as their stronghold, evolutionists declared it off limits. It’s like Cuba—if you’re seen there, you’re clearly a communist sympathiser and may have your passport revoked.

Outside the HQ of either side, however, the notion of intelligent design is appealing. I am an ardent evolution supporter, but I refuse to yield intelligent design to Creationists. If there’s one key attribute to evolution, it’s the capability to design intelligently. By making it a shiboleth by which to recognize the enemy, evolutionism has made itself appear stupid, at least shoots itself in the foot.

Evolution has no problem greater than having let itself appear not to stand for intelligent design.

Comment #410

Posted by Andrew Ti on March 29, 2004 11:29 AM (e) (s)

“If there’s one key attribute to evolution, it’s the capability to design intelligently.”

What could you possibly mean by this? In what way is the capability to design intelligently an attribute to evolution?

Comment #412

Posted by Ed Darrell on March 29, 2004 12:26 PM (e) (s)

As a former graduate student in rhetoric, a former researcher in biology, and a lawyer and teacher who deals with what is acceptable in science and academics and what is not, I am appalled at the Discovery Institute’s discarding of academic standards, in the claim that the Campbell/Meyer book is “peer reviewed.”

It is not peer reviewed as honest scientists understand the term, and claims that it is are false. Even for a rhetoric book, which it is, it is not peer reviewed suitably for the better journals. Claims that are only colorably true are best left unmade, my professors insisted. There are many such claims in the Campbell/Meyer book, and they do not rise to the standards of being called “peer reviewed.”

I note that Michigan State University Press will not endorse that claim — when the publisher passes off such questions without vouching for them, there is something rotten in Seattle — and that is exactly what they did when I put the question to them. (You may check with the press if you wish; I spent more than three weeks trying to get an answer. They finally referred me to the rhetoric series editor, Martin Medhurst, now at Baylor University. Medhurst wrote that he stands behind the Discovery Institute claims. Why he would do that, I cannot fathom.)

First, damn few books are peer-reviewed. To have a peer reviewed book would be quite an event. That it is a book automatically raises questions about whether it could qualify as peer review, while the Discovery Institute suggests that its being a book should answer the question.

Second, the process Medhurst claims as peer review is not adequate to rhetorical peer review, and is wholly irresponsible for science peer review. Medhurst convened a panel of three people — two rhetoricians and a biochemist whom Medhurst claims is tenured at an Ivy League school. They commented on the book. There is no evidence that any science peer review was done, even on any issue that might have gotten into biochemistry, the one science area covered. Typically in rhetoric, a peer review panel could include a cheerleader for the author, but there should have been an offsetting brickbat thrower. There is no evidence that any serious critic of intelligent design got a look at the book at all.

Science peer review rarely uses such a small panel, especially in a multi-disciplinary collection of essays. Science peer review generally demands the panel be populated with experts in the field. The panel is too small, and scientifically unqualified to do peer review of any science claim.

That brings us to a third criticism: There is no original science research in the book that would be suitable for peer review.

One wonders what was reviewed by the reviewers, and how two rhetoricians and a biochemist ever achieved consensus on the botany and zoology issues.

Finally, one wonders about the academic standards departments of Michigan State University (the publisher), Baylor University (where the editor resides as distinguished professor of rhetoric), and Memphis University (where Campbell now teaches). Were any of these men to ask for a federal grant and list this book as “peer reviewed” literature they would most likely be liable for criminal prosecution under federal laws which define what is fair to call “peer review.” I suspect these men are already tenured, and will not have to answer to a tenure committee for such an infraction. Stephen Meyer’s institution has no academic standards enforcement mechanism, and so cannot be called to task, except in public, by others. But shouldn’t the other institutions at least take a look when claims are made against the scientists at each university?

Of course, no one in the “intelligent design” movement is likely to ask for federal funding any time soon, especially from the National Science Foundation or the National Institutes of Health.

There is no criminal violation if there is no science. Intelligent design can stay out of jail simply by failing to do the science it falsely claims to have done already.

Ed Darrell

Comment #414

Posted by Steve Reuland on March 29, 2004 12:53 PM (e) (s)

Claims that are only colorably true are best left unmade, my professors insisted.

There goes pretty much everything published by the Discovery Institute…

Comment #418

Posted by Shaun Johnston on March 29, 2004 01:44 PM (e) (s)

“If there’s one key attribute to evolution, it’s the capability to design intelligently.”

I’m a graphic designer. I’m used to assessing design. Designers notebooks show a process very similar to evolution—variation, selection, new set of variations, selection again, and so on. The product of this, though driven by human intelligence, is similar to what I see going on in a garden, in the variations of a daisy, say, or thyme. It’s what I call intelligent design. Not “Intelligent Design,” but intelligent design, in lower case. That’s how the phrase would be used among creatives or even the public. To say evolution is not responsible for the design I see in a garden is just bewildering. Fortunately I know Creationists have been shrewd enough to force evolutionists to deny that evolution designs intelligently, so I understand why the phrase has picked up negative associations. But to me as Joe Publik, saying evolution does not design intelligently means I don’t have to pay any attention to it, because what needs answering is, where does the intelligent design I see in a garden come from, and if it doesn’t come from evolution than it must come from wherever the Creationists say.

If I am making an error, I do genuinely want to have it pointed out.

Comment #419

Posted by Jeebus on March 29, 2004 02:05 PM (e) (s)

I, too, had a mental hiccough when the claim “peer reviewed” hoved into view. In 15 years of being a reference librarian at an academic institution (state supported) I can truthfully say that I have never encountered a peer reviewed book. That claim alone should be a red flag to anyone considering purchasing this work. At first appalled that my library has purchased this work, I now look forward to giving it a go myself. It’s “In Process” right now. However, I’m concerned that it was purchased based on a cursory glance (reputable university press, innocuous sounding work about an issue before the public) rather than any analysis. Those seven 5 star reviews at Amazon.com, similar rhetoric used in all seven, are yet another red flag. Consider that Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time averages “only” 4.5 stars on Amazon, and Darwin’s Origin of Species rates “only” 4 stars. I look forward to contributing a review to the Amazon database.

Comment #420

Posted by Paul King on March 29, 2004 02:47 PM (e) (s)

So far as I can tell from a Google search Lehigh is considered to be in the Ivy League, and given that biochemistry is an odd area of expertise to review a book on this subject I think it is highly likely that the biochemist is Michael Behe. Which makes me wonder if the other reviewers were also chosen from the ranks of the ID movement.

Comment #422

Posted by Andrew Ti on March 29, 2004 03:00 PM (e) (s)

not to be an elitest snob, but Lehigh is most definitely not in the ivy league.

Comment #423

Posted by Andrew Ti on March 29, 2004 03:11 PM (e) (s)

Shaun,

This is explained much more eloquently elsewhere on this site and many many other places on the internet and in your library, but evolution does not “design” anything. While it might seem intuitive that biological function is created to serve a purpose, that is far from the case, an example of which is the name of this site. Your observation that evolution is responsible for the incredible variation and utility of biological mechanisms, as well as the clear organizing of information might seem to indicate that evolution does creates these things “intelligently,” but if you consider the mechanisms of evolution, selection, drift, chance, you may come to appreciate how life could arise without the input of “intelligence.”

Comment #427

Posted by Sebastian on March 29, 2004 03:23 PM (e) (s)

Shaun: The loaded term “Intelligent Design”, in these circumstances, could be less ambiguously rendered as “Design by an Intelligence”. This isn’t what you mean.

If I read you correctly, you’re interpreting “intelligent” as a characteristic of the design - which is fair, but not what they (IDers) mean.

There’s the distinction…

Comment #448

Posted by paula on March 29, 2004 07:34 PM (e) (s)

Shaun — I used to be a graphic designer too (now studying journalism) and I think I understand what you’re saying. Allow me to take a stab at clarifying your point by way of an example.

When raindrops trickle down a window, they form a pattern, i.e., a design. The design makes perfect sense, i.e., is intelligent, given the chemistry of water and the physical properties of glass. The raindrops do indeed produce an “intelligent design.” That concept uses the same language but is entirely different from the notion that the raindrops got together and consciously, proactively planned to produce some specific pattern on some specific window prior to falling out of the sky.

The distinction to me is very clear, although I’m not certain I can communicate it effectively. I can’t help but wonder if ID theorists chose the name “Intelligent Design” to be confusing on purpose, when “Intentional Design” is a much more accurate reflection of their hypothesis.

And while I am on the subject of semantic confusion, I think one of the keys to the whole evolution debate is to press the media to accurately define “scientific theory” when covering this story. The man-on-the-street probably does not know that in science, a “theory” is an entirely different beast than it is in the vernacular. A scientific theory isn’t anything like a “hunch.” I personally would like to see the difference between the ID hypothesis and evolutionary theory explicitly outlined in the media, but that’s a whole ‘nother subject.

Comment #459

Posted by RBH on March 29, 2004 09:48 PM (e) (s)

Paula suggested “I personally would like to see the difference between the ID hypothesis and evolutionary theory explicitly outlined in the media, but that’s a whole ‘nother subject.”

I think even “hypothesis” is too strong a word for something that has generated no testable predictions, has no research program, and depends on manipulations of demonstrably false math models of biological phenomena to detect its subject matter. I like “conjecture” at the strongest term possible, with WAG used in normal conversation. :)

RBH

Comment #461

Posted by paula on March 29, 2004 10:33 PM (e) (s)

RBH wrote: “… has no research program …”

You mean researching public opinion doesn’t count? ;)

Comment #463

Posted by Paul King on March 29, 2004 11:43 PM (e) (s)

Well that’ll teach me to rely too much on a quick google search.

But it still raises the question of why a biochemist should be chosen as the only scientific reviewer. It’s definitely an odd choice.

Comment #469

Posted by Shaun Johnston on March 30, 2004 06:51 AM (e) (s)

“you’re interpreting “intelligent” as a characteristic of the design - which is fair, but not what they (IDers) mean”
————————————-
Thank you for the responses. I think they bear me out, that evolutionists have allowed Creationists to force them into the unfortunate position of denying intelligence in evolution.

I see myself as intelligent.
I see myself as created by evolution.
Therefore evolution can design intelligence.
And therefore again, by creating my intelligence, it in efect is responsible for my intelligent designing—through me it can design intelligently.

Now, ignoring reference to Creationism having usurped the word “intelligent,” tell me the flaw in that chain of assertions.

Evolution performs the invaluable role of embedding me in the world. When you say, evolution cannot design intelligently, you rip me out of the world again, and I am at a lost how to account for my intelligence.

This to me is not semantics but a very serious error in position-taking by evolutionists. If, because of taking that position, you allocate to evolution only “unintelligent” processes, such as “selection” etc, then you insult such creatures as the peahen which show evidence of a powerful esthetic sense, as Darwin insisted, using their intelligence to design the peacock’s tail as I might design a poster (intelligently, I hope you will allow).

This is so important that I feel a rewrite of “evolution” is in order. Evolutionists need to define the intelligence acting through evolution, or while executing a skirmish they lose the battle.

Comment #482

Posted by Andrew Ti on March 30, 2004 03:03 PM (e) (s)

“I see myself as intelligent.
I see myself as created by evolution.
Therefore evolution can design intelligence.
And therefore again, by creating my intelligence, it in efect is responsible for my intelligent designing—through me it can design intelligently.”

ok, I think I’m seeing the problem here. When ID talks about design, it’s talking about the method by which life emerges, not an aesthetic quality or order. The definition of design that you use, of creating aesthetic things isn’t really part of this scientific discussion and while you might object to the loss of that definition of “design” from this discussion, surely you must see that losing this term of non-scientific art is hardly a loss for science. Indeed, this objection, while it may have some policy or public relations merit, stands with the classic ID objection that evolution is merely a theory and alternate theories must be explored in the classroom. The words mean different things in a scientific setting as opposed to a non-scientific setting, which is no great loss.

Comment #484

Posted by Andrew Ti on March 30, 2004 03:05 PM (e) (s)

and that’ll teach me to post without reading the whole thread. Hat tip to paula.

Comment #497

Posted by Shaun Johnston on March 30, 2004 10:11 PM (e) (s)

“The definition of design that you use, of creating aesthetic things, isn’t really part of this scientific discussion … surely you must see that losing this term of non-scientific art is hardly a loss for science.”

Got it. I define evolutionary processes by what they must be like for me to have evolved. But by the criteria of this site that carries evolution beyond the current state of the art, and so is illegitimate. I accept that I am out of order.

Comment #1898

Posted by Martin J. Medhurst on May 6, 2004 07:13 PM (e) (s)

Ed Darrell’s rendition of what I supposedly told him and his “understanding” of peer review are laughable. To set the record straight: 1) Darwin, Design and Public Education was peer reviewed in exactly the same manner as the other 16 books in the Rhetoric and Public Affairs Series at Michigan State. The process followed at MSU is, in fact, more rigorous than that followed by most university presses virtually all of which require peer review followed by approval of a faculty committee; 2) the reviewers were a biochemist, a philosopher of science, and a scholar who studies the rhetoric of human inquiry. All were highly published scholars and at least one (I don’t know about the other two) was clearly anti-ID in orientation. 3) This is a work about public argument in the realm of science. Believe it or not, science is not immune from public criticism nor can it hide from the public forum. I suggest that people read John Campbell’s introductoiry essay to see what the book is really about. Mr. Darrell may know his science, but he could use a refresher course in ethics!

Comment #1906

Posted by Ed Darrell on May 7, 2004 02:53 AM (e) (s)

Martin J. Medhurst, the editor of the book series in question and a professor now at Baylor University, said:

Ed Darrell’s rendition of what I supposedly told him and his “understanding” of peer review are laughable. To set the record straight: 1) Darwin, Design and Public Education was peer reviewed in exactly the same manner as the other 16 books in the Rhetoric and Public Affairs Series at Michigan State. The process followed at MSU is, in fact, more rigorous than that followed by most university presses virtually all of which require peer review followed by approval of a faculty committee; 2) the reviewers were a biochemist, a philosopher of science, and a scholar who studies the rhetoric of human inquiry. All were highly published scholars and at least one (I don’t know about the other two) was clearly anti-ID in orientation. 3) This is a work about public argument in the realm of science. Believe it or not, science is not immune from public criticism nor can it hide from the public forum. I suggest that people read John Campbell’s introductoiry essay to see what the book is really about. Mr. Darrell may know his science, but he could use a refresher course in ethics!

I regret that Dr. Medhurst’s words didn’t get to the Discovery Institute press office. While he tells us this is a book about public argument in the realm of science, the press release says it is a book about the science of biology. It may be a subtle difference, but sometimes ethics is subtle. I regard the claims of the Discovery Institute as dishonest. When I queried Dr. Medhurst about it directly, he said he stands behind the press release. If Dr. Medhurst’s position has changed, I invite him to publicly urge the Discovery Institute to make that correction in their public relations materials. I would be satisfied.

It has been some years since I studied ethics in rhetoric. I have taught ethics in technology and business recently, however, and I still find the claim that the book is “peer review science” to be specious.

I regret that Dr. Medhurst finds my description as “laughable.” I repeated the description he gave me, and frankly what I said does not differ from what he describes in his most recent post. It’s not science peer review. There was one scientist representing biochemistry, no one with solid credentials in evolution so far as I have been able to determine. (I only have the details Medhurst gives.) There was only one view from science possible, by Medhurst’s account. My experience in biology peer review is that publications recruit different views in the field of science at issue for each individual paper. That was not done.

Dr. Medhurst notes that the process used for the Campbell and Meyer book is the same as that used for the others in the “Rhetoric and Public Affairs” series from Michigan State University Press. That is exactly the problem for claims against biology. The process is not a science process. Any claims made against biology in any of the other books in that series would be equally suspect — though frankly, I doubt there is much biology to worry about from Gregory Lampe’s Frederick Douglass: Freedom’s Voice, 1818-1845, or from Kirt H. Wilson’s The Reconstruction Desegregation Debate: The Politics of Equality and the Rhetoric of Place, 1870-1875.

My complaint is this: The book is not a book of science such that any of its authors could be used as an expert witness in any case involving science; but the book is portrayed to school boards as a book of science by people who are qualified to have testified as experts at the Arkansas trial had they been asked.

I have not challenged any of the rhetoric opinions expressed in the book. I challenge instead their portrayal as well-qualified science opinions. Many of the science claims made in the book have never been tested in peer review. They are not science as science would define it. Consequently, the claims that the untested science are valid as science are invalid. Unfortunately, those claims must be assumed in order to set up the premise of the book, that there is a contest in science over evolution. There is no such contest.

The lack of rhetorical care that I complain of is evident from the start. Dr. Campbell makes this claim in the second paragraph of the introduction: “The advent of a modern scientific theory of intelligent design (ID) and a scholarly research community advancing the theory (the ID movement) have reenergized and are now redefining the character of this once-stalled controversy.” That claim is false. There is no one who has expressed a theory of intelligent design in science — there is none to be found in any peer-review science publication. There is no research community on intelligent design — there is no laboratory on Earth working on such research, at least one that is tied to any reputable science organization or even tangentially tied to any prospect of science research. The sentence is footnoted in the introduction — but the footnotes point only to other rhetorical and theological publications, not to science.

These are not issues of opinion, but rather they are issues of fact. The book states a position contrary to the facts.

I don’t quibble with Dr. Medhurst’s description of his process for peer review. But I do note that the process used by Michigan State University Press for their series in rhetoric is, first, inadequate for science (and, it becomes clear, proabably not wholly adequate for rhetoric, considering the erroneous claims of science that sneaked through the process); second, the panel was inadequate for science review of the science claims made; third, the book is presented, contrary to Dr. Medhurst’s description as a book about arguments, as a book about biology, in the press releases of the Discovery Institute.

If the book is presented as a book about arguments, I have less complaint. The headline of the Discovery Institute press release of January 8, 2004, is “New Book Examines the Scientific Evidence for Intelligent Design and Darwinism and Advocates Teaching Both to Improve Science Education.” (http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.ph…)

I urge Dr. Medhurst to get that headline corrected at once. He has told me that he stands behind it — I find that position to be ethically unsound. It is simply not a book of science.

Does it matter? Here in Texas, friends and associates of the Discovery Institute claim that there is peer-reviewed science to support their positions. When pressed for documentation, they point to the Campbell/Meyer book. I find the claim unsupported by the facts, and consequently of questionable use in making public policy. Rhetoric is nothing if not about public policy. I may be old fashioned, but I agree with Aristotle that honesty counts in such forums, whether such honesty is “laughable” or not.

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