Jason Rosenhouse posted Entry 1333 on August 11, 2005 04:12 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/1331

Jacob Weisberg, editor of the online magazine Slate, has posted this piece on the subject of evolution and religion. In it he argues that evolution and religion are fundamentally incompatible. He gets off to quite a good start:

The president seems to view the conflict between evolutionary theory and intelligent design as something like the debate over Social Security reform. But this is not a disagreement with two reasonable points of view, let alone two equally valid ones. Intelligent design, which asserts that gaps in evolutionary science prove God must have had a role in creation, may be—as Bob Wright argues—creationism in camouflage. Or it may be—as William Saletan argues—a step in the creationist cave-in to evolution. But whatever it represents, intelligent design is a faith-based theory with no scientific validity or credibility.

See the original for links.

Well said! But rather than simply write an article elaborating on this point, Weisberg feels the need to find some angle to this that makes evolutionists look bad. It's a failing typical of many otherwise sensible pundits. You don't get to look insightful by bashing creationists. No. If you want people to think you're a keen observer who sees past the superficial banalities of an issue, you have to bash scientists.

So from this eminently sensible beginning, Weisberg goes off on a poorly argued rant about the incompatibility of evolution and religion. His article concludes as follows:

One possible avenue is to focus more strongly on the practical consequences of resisting scientific reality. In a world where Koreans are cloning dogs, can the U.S. afford—ethically or economically—to raise our children on fraudulent biology? But whatever tack they take, evolutionists should quit pretending their views are no threat to believers. This insults our intelligence, and the president is doing that already.

The reference in the final line is to President Bush's recent endorsement of teaching ID in science classes.

While Weisberg is criticizing scientists for suggesting that evolution and religion are compatible, Florida State University philosophy professor Michael Ruse is taking them to task for endorsing atheism. He lays out his views in this interview for the online magazine Salon.

You raise this argument that creationism and evolutionism are essentially two competing religions. That's exactly what creationists say, or at least the sharper ones: “We have two competing belief systems. All we ask is to have our case considered.” One could look at this and say, “Wow, Ruse is saying the creationists are right.”

I am saying that. I think they are right. I want to qualify that immediately by saying that the creationists play fast and loose. Like a lot of us, creationists slide from one position to another according to the kind of argument they want to make. A major theme of the intelligent design people is that theirs is in fact a scientific position, and I think that's a double whammy.

Inasmuch as the creationists want to say openly that both sides are making religious commitments, I have to agree with them on that. I don't think that modern evolutionary theory is necessarily religious. Evolutionary theory was religious, and there's still a large odor of that over and above the professional science. The quasi-religious stuff is still what gets out into the public domain, whether it's Richard Dawkins or Edward O. Wilson or popularizers like Robert Wright. Certainly Stephen Jay Gould. Whether you call it religious or philosophical, I would say these people are presenting a weltanschauung. (Emphasis in original)

So the situation is this: The political Right in this country is pulling out all the stops to introduce a load of religiously motivated nonsense into science classes. They launch elaborate public relations campaigns designed to distort modern science, mislead people about the evidence for evolution, and challenge the integrity of scientists. Their attack is continuous, relentless, and never once interrupted by a moment of self-reflection.

When faced with this assault on science education, Jacob Weisberg believes that the really important issue is that some scientists are arguing that evolution and religion are compatible. Michael Ruse believes that the problem is exactly the opposite, and spends his time dwelling on a handful of popularizers who have dared to discuss theological issues.

Why are evolutionists losing the PR battle? One reason is that some of our best pundits seem more interested in calling attention to themselves than in making a good argument.

I have provided further commentary on the Weisberg and Ruse articles over at EvolutionBlog; Weisberg here, Ruse here.

Commenters are responsible for the content of comments. The opinions expressed in articles, linked materials, and comments are not necessarily those of PandasThumb.org. See our full disclaimer.

Comment #42248

Posted by kay on August 11, 2005 4:46 PM (e)

“ But whatever tack they take, evolutionists should quit pretending their views are no threat to believers. This insults our intelligence, and the president is doing that already.”

Yeah, Bush is definitely an insult to intelligence.

Comment #42253

Posted by Russell on August 11, 2005 5:08 PM (e)

Jacob Weisberg believes that the really important issue is that some scientists are arguing that evolution and religion are incompatible. Michael Ruse believes that the problem is exactly the opposite

Shouldn’t this be vice versa? Or am I confused?

Comment #42256

Posted by Ed Darrell on August 11, 2005 5:17 PM (e)

First, who says evolution IS losing the PR battle? Show me. The figures creep up slowly, but there are more people who understand smidgen about evolution at every contretemps. Yes, it would be good if the consciousness rose faster. But that’s not losing.

But second, to the extent that we could do it better, we need to have a few consistent messages and stick to them. That’s difficult to do. Even among textbooks, most of them don’t bother to list the five evolution facts (as Mayr tallies them) that make the foundation of Darwin’s insights plausible and nearly irrefutable. Evolution theory is left to the individual scientist to explain, and to the individual reader/citizen to figure out. Contrast this with Newton’s “Laws of Motion,” or the “Laws of Thermodynamics.”

I recommend we pass out talking points with the five facts of evolution.

Then we need to concentrate on a few easily understood ideas. For example, to rebut “teach the controversy,” we should say “teach the facts first.” Who can argue with the need to have the facts first? Of course, we’ll need to specify what those facts are that need to be taught, but we can do it.

We also need to bring the issue home to people so they understand it. What do I mean?

In Texas, our economy depends on evolution, and intelligent design offers only ways to muck up the economy. What do I mean? One, I mean that the eradication of the cotton boll weevil is essential to our dwindling, but still significant, cotton industry. That eradication process, led the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is based on poisoning boll weevils to eradicate them from specific regions, in doses and ways carefully calculated to avoid forcing the bugs to mutate resistance – it takes a solid understanding of evolution to make the program work.

For a second example, Texas now loses $1.5 billion a year in crop and livestock destruction from the introduced pest, the Argentine fire ant. This pest has evolved several new defenses due to ill-thought-out eradication attempts. Now our only hope of recouping that significant loss is to understand the evolution of the beast, to delay evolved resistance to new eradication attempts. This pest now affects California, Arizona, New Mexico, and much of the southeast. National losses are probably in the $10 billion range. It would be not just folly, but sheer stupidity to abandon our efforts to control this insect – and ALL of those efforts depend on a thorough understanding of evolution theory. Is it wrong? Let ID find a better way to fight this beast that kills farm animals, we’ll let ID have a spot in the high school textbooks. But unless it can do that, quickly, ID just gets in the way and continues the losses.

Third, the Rio Grande Valley’s economy depends a lot on the success of grapefruit as a crop. Need I remind you that grapefruit is a news species that didn’t exist 125 years ago? But for evolution, this crop would not exist at all. Moreover, the current favorite is a variant of red grapefruit. Red grapefruit are the result of sport mutation in the late 1940s – exactly the sort of mutation that intelligent design advocates claim is impossible. In short, the existence of the crop at all is a refutation of intelligent design. According to ID, all Texans are crazy, especially Texas farmers. But the current most popular variety, Rio Reds, were bred by scientists at Texas A&M, using evolution theory, to be resistant to the occasional hard freezes that strike the Rio Grande Valley. So, every aspect of grapefruit agriculture denies the claims of intelligent design, and is dependent on application of the evolution theory intelligent design advocates (and the Dover school board) claim are “just theory.”

Fourth, Texas has a very active medical research community. The disease researchers and healers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas who work on heart disease, diabetes and other diseases, and the researchers and healers at Houston’s M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, among others, all use evolution theory to fight disease.

We’re talking billions of dollars at stake. These economic arguments need to be made more forcefully, more often, more clearly, and more locally. Kansas is dependent on wheat, for example – I have a list of publications on how modern wheat farming is dependent on evolution, too. Minnesota has its own crops. California has grapes, artichokes and dairy. Every state has an agricultural, livestock and medical stake in evolution. Every state is, therefore, threatened by intelligent design.

When was the last time you saw someone argue that?

Comment #42257

Posted by Glen Davidson on August 11, 2005 5:22 PM (e)

This is going to be effectively lost on Slate soon, so I think I’ll re-post it here as well:

Chemistry hit divine origins concepts hard when it found that life has no vitalist spark to it. Life is physics, and more exactly, mostly chemistry, and it can easily be the result of self-ordering processes such as evolution and pre-biotic chemistry (the former is well attested, however, while the latter is not).

Indeed, this is why ID is so very lame, since instead of being able to show (or even to pretend to show) that life must have been inspirited by god, they resort presently to making god out to be a glorified engineer–and they don’t even care how badly done it was, or how well “designed” human parasites are (not officially anyhow). Paley notwithstanding, the watchmaker analogy was certainly not the religious explanation for life before Newton or thereabouts. Indeed, making god out to be an engineer would have been an affront to religion prior to the triumph of mechanism.

This is why evolution isn’t really the culprit in the decline of religion in people’s lives and in society’s operation, since ID is a very degraded religious notion. I believe this is one reason why many religions have sought compatibility (however well they succeeded) with science, and especially evolution, for they didn’t wish to cast God into a very human mold, that of designer or engineer, rather they have held to the universe as being ultimately a miracle of god, and some will claim this the “soul” is as well (though the latter, too, conflicts with scientific theory and practice).

IDists will often not claim the “designer” to be god, partly in order to obscure their true motives, and partly because on some level they realize that if it’s all just “design”, an alien could very well be the “designer” rather than god. ID is sort of a synthesis of religion and science fiction, with gods and aliens being interchangeable “superior beings” in this pathetic attempt to make religion comport with the Newtonian conceptions of science found in the majority of IDists/creationists, notably Behe and Dembski.

It’s religion without anything really special about god. No longer do we have “he spake and it was done”, rather it’s god the supreme biomolecular engineer. Indeed, we might someday become such gods, though I’m hardly striving for something so mundane (evolution is more interesting and serendipitous in its “inventions”).

William Saletan is thus incorrect in thinking that ID is on the way to actual science, for the IDists have a secular religion which is stuck in pre-20th century physics and the command and control structures of the industrial age. While some who have accepted ID may indeed learn beyond this scientific throwback, most are there now because they have not come to terms with dynamic processes and the abundant evidences left behind by such evolutionary processes. If they don’t believe in the god who spoke, they still adhere to the god who calculated and invented, something that fits with Behe’s conceptions of organic chemistry, and with Dembski’s conceptions of languages (note that the buffoon thinks alien signals would be the result of “intelligent design” and not of the evolution of language and of conceptions–though there are alien designs that could be identified rather directly. The point being that it really doesn’t matter if the complex meanings are evolved or designed just because they are complex and meaningful) and of organisms.

Oh, god is dead in their “religion”, they just don’t know the difference between a living god and their dead one. The ancient religions with their spirituality are hardly likely to trouble science, rather it is the mechanistic evolutions out of once-spiritual religions that menace science. After all, only something as materialistic as “Intelligent Design” could actually threaten something rather less materialistic, the modern conception of evolution as being dynamic, relational, and “idiosyncratic” in its effects. It’s the old physics against the new, while the ancient notions of inspirited life play no part in the “controversy”.

Comment #42258

Posted by Bayesian Bouffant, FCD on August 11, 2005 5:24 PM (e)

Evolution is indeed incompatible with certain types of religion; those that make specific incorrect claims about the natural world. This does not mean that evolution is incompatible with religion in general.

Any religion that requires adherents to deny reality is not worth believing in.

But then, since I’m an atheist I consider all religions to be not worth believing in.

Comment #42259

Posted by darwinfinch on August 11, 2005 5:27 PM (e)

Anyone who allows themselves to be described as a “pundit” without immediately trying to change their name should be shot out of mercy. As if being described as an “expert” in the popular press hadn’t taught anyone anything.

Comment #42261

Posted by Chris Hallquist on August 11, 2005 5:48 PM (e)

That evolution and religion are compatible can be confirmed with a glance at one of several books by no less a Christian than C.S. Lewis. The Problem of Pain, for example, has a lengthy explaination of the Fall story in light of evolution. In short, Lewis believed that biological humans emerged through gradual change, and were then given souls. And he’s probably the most respected theologian of the last century, often cited favorably by fundamentalists.

Comment #42265

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on August 11, 2005 6:15 PM (e)

But then, since I’m an atheist I consider all religions to be not worth believing in.

And as a Taoist I agree with you.

“Above the heavens and below the heavens, I alone am the Honored One.”

Comment #42274

Posted by Mithrandir on August 11, 2005 6:46 PM (e)

If science is a variety of religion, then the Model T was a breed of horse.

Comment #42276

Posted by Hyperion on August 11, 2005 6:59 PM (e)

[quote]The ancient religions with their spirituality are hardly likely to trouble science, rather it is the mechanistic evolutions out of once-spiritual religions that menace science.[/quote]

Well said. It is important to remember that there are religious people out there who have no problem with evolution or science in general. These people, and I count myself among them, view religion and science as quests for two separate answers. Religion is a search for answers on how to live one’s life, self conduct, moral imperatives, etc. Science is a search to answers of how things work and what is out there.

Or more to the point, if you need help with a difficult personal/moral dilemma, you speak with your Rabbi/Priest/Minister/Imam. If you have a systemic staph infection, you speak to an infectious disease (maybe that’s what ID stands for) specialist.

Comment #42281

Posted by Chris Hallquist on August 11, 2005 7:45 PM (e)

Unless said Rabbi/Priest/Minister believes God declared the 1/3 of the Earth’s population descended from Ham deserves to be slaves of the descendents of Shem (see Genisis).

Anyone convinced of the infallibility of any human doccument is a bad source of advice on any topic.

Comment #42282

Posted by Chris Hallquist on August 11, 2005 7:45 PM (e)

Unless said Rabbi/Priest/Minister believes God declared the 1/3 of the Earth’s population descended from Ham deserves to be slaves of the descendents of Shem (see Genisis).

Anyone convinced of the infallibility of any human doccument is a bad source of advice on any topic.

Comment #42283

Posted by Chip Poirot on August 11, 2005 8:01 PM (e)

As some may know, Ruse had a bit of a dustup years ago with Laudan on more or the less the same point. Laudan’s argument was the creation science actually did engage in testing hypotheses. The real problem, in Laudan’s view was that creation science had effectively been falsified-at least as much as anything can be falsified.

Ruse objected to this. He argued that evolution was science since it engaged in falsifiable hypothesis formation and revised its theories accordingly. He argued that creation science did not. Hence Ruse, following Popper, drew the bright line of demarcation.

Ruse, writing on 19th century evolutionists views them as a group of metaphysical philosophers who got rescued by the synthesis. In Ruse’s view, it’s not until the synthesis that you get real science.

Enter Dawkins, et. al. who have become prominent spokespeople for “Darwinism” and Ruse sees a group of people confusing metaphysics with the actual science. Thus to Ruse’s point of view, metaphysics and science are logically separable entities. Now Ruse is not denying that scientists have a priori committments or work in paradigms, he’s just saying that scientists should try to distinguish between their testable hypotheses and their metaphysical committments. He thinks that Dennett,Dawkins and Wilson are not doing so, to the detriment of science.

I think Ruse has a point. To the extent that Dennett, Dawkins, Wilson propose Darwinism as an all encompassing ontology, they are promoting Darwinism as a comprehensive world view that is on a collision course with other comprehensive world views.

I think Ruse should now recognize that Laudan actually was on the right track. It makes a lot more sense to see science as a problem solving enterprise, albeit one guided by general ontologies. But trying to draw a hard and fast line of demarcation doesn’t work.

That makes the case against ID and Creation Science more direct. They are just failed research traditions.

Comment #42284

Posted by steve on August 11, 2005 8:04 PM (e)

Thinking about Ed’s post. It would be pretty spiffy if a Texas proevolution group could put together tv commercials mentioning this to the layman.

“We are in the cotton industry, fighting the Boll Weevil.
We are fighting the Argentine Fire Ant.
We are Rio Grande Valley’s grapefruit farmers.
We are disease researchers at the Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas who work on heart disease, diabetes and other diseases.
What do we have in common? Our success depends on understanding evolution. Evolution is a tool for understanding these problems, and solving them.
Support farmers, ranchers, and doctors. Support evolution.”

The creationists run million-dollar PR campaigns. We should too.

Comment #42286

Posted by Jason Rosenhouse on August 11, 2005 8:13 PM (e)

Russell-

Thank you for pointing out my careless phrasing. The error has been corrected.

Comment #42288

Posted by Pierce R. Butler on August 11, 2005 8:25 PM (e)

Ed: Texas owes a lot more of its economy to oil & gas than to cotton & grapefruit, and Texans know it.

Remind ‘em that geologists use the same science for fossil fuels that paleontologists use for fossils. Oil drillers don’t look for places where dinosaurs’ bodies were deposited and covered by a flood 4,000 years ago.

Comment #42293

Posted by Pierce R. Butler on August 11, 2005 9:01 PM (e)

Chip:

>>
To the extent that Dennett, Dawkins, Wilson propose Darwinism as an all encompassing ontology, they are promoting Darwinism as a comprehensive world view that is on a collision course with other comprehensive world views.

(Pls pardon the amateur “quotes” - I’m not fluent in xml.)

DD&W et al propose science as an all-encompassing ontology, not whatever is meant by “Darwinism”. The scientific method and the mental habits that come with it are, apparently, unique, and are bound to conflict with the methods & mentalities of Authority, Tradition, Popular Opinion, etc. This conflict need not be to-the-death, but friction is inevitable, at least until a generation after full science education takes effect.

Comment #42294

Posted by kay on August 11, 2005 9:02 PM (e)

Actually a surprising number of creationist advocates are/were drillers… maybe they changed careers because they weren’t hitting much? :)

Comment #42299

Posted by Chip Poirot on August 11, 2005 9:18 PM (e)

Pierce,

I think they are missing the point and confusing issues.

Darwinism(or really more appropriately Neo-Darwinism) has a very specific and precise meaning. Why do people waste time denying its power and importance as a research tradition (or if you prefer, paradigm)?

My problem with Dennett, Dawkins and wilson is that they confuse the general ontology of Neo-Darwinism with the testable postulates of Darwinism. Dawkins and Wilson both do good science, but in their popular writings they present the philosophical positions of Darwinism as unifying principles for all knowledge. They also confuse reductionism with scientific method, though Wilson does admit that emergence is a possibility.

Materialism is a method that I accept because it works out and the alternative, that evil demons are deceiving me, seems untenable.

At an ontological level, both generic creationism and materialism can coexist. See Dobzhansky’s famous 1973 article “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in Light of Evolution” or his “Biology of Ultimate Concern” for a defense of this position. IT is only when creationism leads you into making specific statements that are easily discredited through valid means of generating warranted claims to knowledge, that materialism has any claim over other world views.

Comment #42303

Posted by harold on August 11, 2005 9:31 PM (e)

Well, in my opinion, the article is a pack of lies.

As far as I’m concerned, there’s no conflict at all between science and my religion.

Some people agree with me.

http://www.mindandlife.org/hhdl.science_section.html

http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/articles/5025_statements_from_religious_orga_12_19_2002.asp

As far as I’m concerned, conceding this point to the creationists (as the Slate author of this trash does, whatever “side” he supposedly “supports”) is not just illogical. It also demonstrates, without meaning to be insulting, a rather narrow, unsophisticated, and poorly informed view of human history, psychology, and indeed, human evolution, for that matter.

And it’s the dumbest strategic position anyone could take. Essentially, insisting that the public make a painful choice that they don’t really have to make. No wonder creationists and their supporters keep pushing this crap.

I swear, if you went to whatever you consider the most “rational” country on earth, Netherlands or whatever, and set the issue in these terms, science would lose. And it’s just a cheap phoney trap that the creationist branch of the right wing political movement in the US has set for scientists.

I’ll finish this post with one request - and no expectations of having it granted - if you agree with the creationists that this should be a battle between “atheism and religion”, and that the theory of evolution “disproves religon”…

Please define “religion”. And then discuss the experimental approach you plan to take to “disprove all religion”. Let me repeat that for emphasis. If you claim that creationists are right, and we must have a battle between science education and “any or all religion”, DEFINE “RELIGION”. And show a planned experimental approach to “disprove all religion”. Like Lenny Flank, I won’t hold my breath.

No doubt I’ll be heavily criticized, eggregiously insulted, and possibly banned for this post. The creationists (most of whom don’t even believe in their own crap, but merely wish to claim that the Christian God supports policies that violate the teachings of Jesus and the Ten Commandments, in order to jam those policies down the throats of the public) have set a trap. And some people seem to wish, not merely to step in the trap, but to dive into it like a base runner sliding into home plate. So be it. Slide away.

Comment #42306

Posted by Andrea Bottaro on August 11, 2005 9:55 PM (e)

I have to go with Ed here. I don’t think evolution is losing the PR battle. Look at it this way:
- the overall number of people who reject the scientific evidence for evolution not any higher than in the past, in fact it’s slightly lower;
- among the people with a reasonable level of education, who were exposed to decent biology teaching, acceptance of evolution is at an all-time high;
- Creationism has to purposefully disguise itself in order to make itself presentable (some movement flankers have sued the NCSE for having associated them with Creationist material (!));
- with the advent of genomics, evolutionary biology is becoming increasingly economically important, and comparative genomics is one of the fastest-growing biotech fields, from huge companies like Celera, to smaller ones like this one. Also check out the program of the 12th European Biotech meeting). Graduates with good grounding in evolutionary biology and bioinformatics are going to be increasingly sought after in the private sector.

The current uproar about ID creationism is just due to the periodic regurgitations from the fundamentalist movement and a favorable political climate. But political climates change every decade or so, and there is no way ID is going to ride the religious right-wing wave long enough to actually force itself into academia, especially since they are not actually accomplishing anything of substance, and in fact keep embarassing themselves trying to do actual science.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t resist the attempts to introduce religiously motivated anti-evolution and anti-science strategies and notions in schools - we should care about our kids’ education. But panic is really unwarranted.

Comment #42308

Posted by Ed Darrell on August 11, 2005 9:57 PM (e)

Steve, you’re right – heckuvan ad.

Pierce, you’re right, too – and ironically, the anti-science side is financed on the results of oil money, a lot. Ide Trotter, Jr., uses his money to fund a pro-ID, anti-evolution bunch (he was the force that got Dembski named to give half the Ide Trotter Lecture at Texas A&M a while back – named after his Exxon-employee father). Geology is one step removed from actual practical evolution application, too. For those two reasons, I left it out.

Comment #42314

Posted by Jim Lippard on August 11, 2005 10:10 PM (e)

“Please define “religion”. And then discuss the experimental approach you plan to take to “disprove all religion”. Let me repeat that for emphasis. If you claim that creationists are right, and we must have a battle between science education and “any or all religion”, DEFINE “RELIGION”. And show a planned experimental approach to “disprove all religion”. Like Lenny Flank, I won’t hold my breath.”

See Pascal Boyer, _Religion Explained_. But “disproving all religion” doesn’t make sense given his answer… the central basis of religion is not a set of propositions, it’s a set of practices (inferential and behavioral). Doctrine and dogma develop to explain the inferences and behaviors.

Comment #42328

Posted by Les Lane on August 11, 2005 10:58 PM (e)

Precedent is what’s frightening. Determining science by politics is a recipe for third world status.

Comment #42329

Posted by kay on August 11, 2005 11:04 PM (e)

Ask Trofim Lysenko…. *facefaults*

Comment #42330

Posted by ts on August 11, 2005 11:09 PM (e)

Harold wrote:

No doubt I’ll be heavily criticized, eggregiously insulted, and possibly banned for this post.

With this whine you’re starting to sound like Jeff Z.

It’s interesting that the usually calm and rational Harold goes ballistic whenever the validity of his religious views is questioned.

Comment #42333

Posted by Rob Knop on August 11, 2005 11:36 PM (e)

Honestly, what does it get our side to claim that evolution is inconsistent with religion?

If you’re an athiest, that’s fine. But don’t insist that you must be an athiest to be rational, or to understand the value and power of science.

You don’t have to say that all religion is wrong in order to argue the position that religions that deny evolution are wrong. The latter is the point we need to make.

Once upon a time, one of the purposes of religion was as a poor excuse for science. Don’t know why the Sun rises and sets? It’s Apollo’s chariot, carrying it across the sky. Well, naturalism has done a remarkable job of explaining how the world works. No, it doesn’t understand everything, but it’s understanding more all the time. Trying to pin your religion on what we don’t currently understand is setting your religion up for future irrelevance (and insane conflicts like Galileo faced, or that evolution is facing today). This is the old “God of the gaps” kind of religion– and it’s clear to anybody who knows what science has done in the last few centuries that this kind of religion is no good.

But that’s not all there is to religion. Not at all. Please, people, try not to drive away the open-minded religious types who are able and indeed eager to understand and accept science. By insisting that all of religion is of the poor substitute of science variety, you’re playing right into the hands of the creationists– who want to substitute their religion for science, and who want to harness the legions of the religious as allies in their cultural war against science. Don’t ceed the point to them.

Religion which does not try to substitute for science– science says nothing about. You don’t have to believe it, but please don’t insist that evolution is inconsistent with it, ‘cause that’s not only false, it’s not going to do anybody any good.

-Rob

Comment #42335

Posted by Jim Lippard on August 11, 2005 11:45 PM (e)

“Religion which does not try to substitute for science— science says nothing about. You don’t have to believe it, but please don’t insist that evolution is inconsistent with it, ‘cause that’s not only false, it’s not going to do anybody any good.”

I disagree with your first sentence–religion as it exists is certainly a subject that science can study. I agree with your second sentence–not only is religion not inconsistent with evolution, religion itself evolves, as demonstrated by the ever-changing diversity and distribution of religious beliefs and practices. Even the firmest advocate of any particular religion must admit that the evidence shows this of everybody else’s religion…

Comment #42336

Posted by Bruce Thompson GQ on August 12, 2005 12:02 AM (e)

I agree with Ed, my approach has been to keep it simple, keep it personal, keep it direct.

Ed has now been immortalized at Uncommon Descent

Comment #42338

Posted by Joseph O'Donnell on August 12, 2005 12:44 AM (e)

They are such cowards, they can’t be bothered addressing Ed Darrel over here and instead have to do it over at Dembskis blog, where any counter arguments can be silenced by him so they look good for having no ‘opposition’ to anyone who stumbles along.

Tsk tsk.

Comment #42339

Posted by Hyperion on August 12, 2005 1:01 AM (e)

The current uproar about ID creationism is just due to the periodic regurgitations from the fundamentalist movement and a favorable political climate. But political climates change every decade or so, and there is no way ID is going to ride the religious right-wing wave long enough to actually force itself into academia, especially since they are not actually accomplishing anything of substance, and in fact keep embarassing themselves trying to do actual science.>

I agree that both ID and fundamentalism in general are part of a larger short-lived political climate that will eventually change, and probably won’t last more than a decade or two at most. However, what concerns me is that history has recorded many short-lived political movements, now widely discredited, which managed to do much damage before they burned out. My hope is that unlike, say, Communism, this political climate won’t require a disaster on the scale of the failed “Great Leap Forward” to show it to be untenable.

On the other hand, it bears an uncanny resemblance to the Nationalism of the first half of the last century, which was responsible for two world wars before people recognized that national pride doesn’t bring dead soldiers back to life.

The bigger danger with ID is that it is a symptom of a larger trend of societal apathy and willful ignorance. The world is changing rapidly, and this engenders fear in many people. For these people, their natural response is to place their trust in their leaders through blind faith and simplistic thinking. Even incompetent leadership can survive in such a climate - in fact it is often better in such a climate - because the populace is more willing to believe what their leaders tell them than face uncomfortable truths.

It’s the same instinct that causes certain animals to stick with the herd when threatened, regardless of where the herd itself is heading. Defeating ID won’t just require education and facts, the most important job is defusing the herd mentality itself and assuaging the fear that drives it.

Comment #42345

Posted by TIm on August 12, 2005 4:38 AM (e)

Off topic, and for that I apologize, but I am rather peeved after reading an editorial in the New York Times this morning (free registration required).

John Horgan wrote:

As a result [of relativity and quantum mechanics], many scientists came to see common sense as an impediment to progress not only in physics but also in other fields. “What, after all, have we to show for … common sense,” the behaviorist B. F. Skinner asked, “or the insights gained through personal experience?” Elevating this outlook to the status of dogma, the British biologist Lewis Wolpert declared in his influential 1992 book “The Unnatural Nature of Science,” “I would almost contend that if something fits in with common sense it almost certainly isn’t science.” Dr. Wolpert’s view is widely shared. When I invoke common sense to defend or - more often - criticize a theory, scientists invariably roll their eyes.

This guy sounds an awful lot like the creationists in his contempt for modern science. Scientists often reject common sense because it does not always correspond to reality. Common sense is what we have to guide us through a terrestrial world on the scale of rocks and trees. Oh, and I have a funny feeling why the scientists roll their eyes. Maybe it’s because they don’t want to hear a non-scientist preach to them about common sense. Maybe they want some predictions and results if statements are to be made about theories. And then Horgan continues:

Scientists’ contempt for common sense has two unfortunate implications. One is that preposterousness, far from being a problem for a theory, is a measure of its profundity; hence the appeal, perhaps, of dubious propositions like multiple-personality disorders and multiple-universe theories. The other, even more insidious implication is that only scientists are really qualified to judge the work of other scientists. Needless to say, I reject that position, and not only because I’m a science journalist (who majored in English). I have also found common sense - ordinary, nonspecialized knowledge and judgment - to be indispensable for judging scientists’ pronouncements, even, or especially, in the most esoteric fields.

Sounds like a regular crank to me. Oh, and common sense tells him that since it is currently impossible to test things like multiple universes and string theory, it will never be possible. I am reminded of something I think I read over at Carl Zimmer’s site about how scientists had predicted in the nineteenth century that we would never know the chemical makeup of distant stars. Horgan also thinks the mind is too complicated to understand in a systematic manner (sound familiar? Common sense). Does anyone know about this guy, or why on earth his nutty rant is on the New York Times editorial page?

Comment #42346

Posted by SEF on August 12, 2005 4:44 AM (e)

why on earth his nutty rant is on the New York Times editorial page?

Because they have predictably low standards, being journalistic rather than scientific.

Comment #42347

Posted by Andrew Rowell on August 12, 2005 4:48 AM (e)

I have read Bill Dempski’s comments on Ed Darrell’s piece above.

I am interested in the five key facts which biologists need to teach which will clarify the issue.

Can someone point me in the right direction to find them?

In this debate definitions of key terms are crucial. Even most intelligent YEC’s do not deny the reality and usefulness of micro-evolution. Even they would agree that there are real facts here. YEC’s, Long earth creationists and ID peeps argue that it is in the area of macro-evolution that we are struggling with materialistic explanations. Are evolutionists happy with the distinction between macro- and micro- evolution? Is it a helpful distinction? My understanding is that micro-evolution will cover things like bug antibiotic resistance, sickle cell anaemia and Ed Darrell’s examples. Macro- evolution covers issues like the origin of the first membrane bound living organism, the generation of morphological novelty, the generation of radically new devolopemental structures and body plans and the development of human consciousness.

The bacterial flagellum would then be somewhere at the edge of macro-evolution and Behe’s irreducibly complex structures would be right on the edge of the macro-evolution border.

I am interested in this business of Ruse vs Dawkin’s, Dennet & Wilson and their views of whether evolution results in atheism.

I am interested in whether a scientist must be a materialist and exclude totally the possibility of all higher causation.

1. Does the belief in the possibility of unusual miracles disqualify a person from being a scientist? Is this official?
2. To do science or think in a scientific way must a scientist exclude completely the possibility of the reality of any higher personal beings (whether they be God, gods, angels, demons, ghosts, or superintelligent extraterrestrial influences)for example is SETI scientific?

Comment #42348

Posted by Ed Darrell on August 12, 2005 5:04 AM (e)

About enshrinement at Dembski’s blog

Ironic. Dembski won’t accept my comments there. I don’t think he can stand the discussion on a practical level (among other things, he’s never been able to explain why he picked the electronic model of communication, since life is something quite different from a signal in a wire; he really hates that question).

It’s also interesting to see Dembksi’s attempt at ridicule and the comments. Apparenly no one over on the ID side knows the explanation of evolution that lays it out as five facts. They can’t quibble with them if they don’t know them. That’s a key reason that I think we need to drill ‘em on those points.

(Another reason is that the facts of evolution appeal to hunters, who want to make sure the white tail and mule deer population is healthy enough to hunt – not to mention ducks. Intelligent design can find no solace with Ducks Unlimited; regardless your view on duck hunting, DU members have a vested interest in making sure wildlife managers know about evolution, and they’re willing to put out money for it).

Rob Knop makes some good points. However, from a perspective of trying to win friends and influence people Norman Vincent Peale would be comfortable with, I think we do a lot better to deny that we have it in for anyone of faith. The reality is that creationism is anathema to more Christians than evolution is (creationism ultimately implies a great deal of deceit on the part of the creator, which is an intractable theological problem for creationism). Darwin was Christian (his entire life, I argue, but let’s leave that argument; there is no contest that he was a fundamentalist, 6-day-creation Christian when he set out around the world with the assigned task of proving, scientifically, Genesis 1). It’s just that when Darwin assembled all the evidence God’s creation presented, his pre-ordained conclusion was not warranted. Rather than be dishonest, Darwin helped invent modern science and admitted that he’d found evolution. Wallace was Christian. Asa Gray was Christian. Even the dinosaur-finding critics of evolution were Christian. Most of the great evolution theorists of the early 20th century were Christian. Many evolution students are people of faith today. With very, very few exceptions, evolution students tend to be people of outstanding moral strength and uprightness. We should never concede that fact to any contrary claim.

It’s not about a fight between science and faith. It’s a question of ethics: Will we be honest about telling the lay public what scientists find, or will we fib to enhance the broadcasts of D. James Kennedy?

I was raised a Boy Scout (before the current flaps, but real values endure momentary fits of insanity at the top): Be honest first. As Twain noted, that requires less memory; you don’t have to remember the lies to keep them straight.

Evolution is a natural extension of Christian curiosity about the world. Creationism is an invented contretemps designed to market a different theology.

We win nothing by conceding the churches to those who fib, especially those who fib and don’t admit it, or worse, don’t know it.

Comment #42349

Posted by Frank J on August 12, 2005 5:16 AM (e)

Ed Darrell wrote: “First, who says evolution IS losing the PR battle? Show me.”

In a recent report I have seen poll numbers virtually unchanged over 23 years. If we had the luxury of conducting 2 control experiments, in which “evolutionists” and anti-evolutionists were silenced, respectively, over the years, we’d know for sure which side is better at PR. But then I hear people who can’t even spell “abiogenesis” let alone tell it apart from evolution, mindlessly parroting the standard anti-evolution sound bites, and I can’t help thinking that we’re losing.

Comment #42350

Posted by Ed Darrell on August 12, 2005 5:26 AM (e)

For Mr. Rowell:

5 Facts of Evolution

Evolution theory is five observations, or facts, and three reasonable inferences drawn from them.

These are the facts of evolution which creationists must deny to falsify evolution.

Observation 1: Species have great fertility. They make more offspring than can grow to adulthood.

Observation 2: Populations remain roughly the same size, with modest fluctuations.

Observation 3. Food resources are limited, and are constant most of the time.

Inference A: In such an environment there will be a struggle for survival among individuals.

Observation 4: No two individuals are identical. Variation is rampant.

Observation 5: Much of this variation is heritable.

Inference B: In a world of stable populations where each individual must struggle to survive, those with the “best” characteristics will be more likely to survive, and those desirable traits will be passed to their offspring. This is natural selection.

Inference C: Natural selection, if carried far enough, makes changes in a population, eventually leading to new species.

I cribbed these from Ernst Mayr’s 1982 book, The Growth of Biological Thought, and from Donald Johanson and Maitland A. Edey in Blueprints. I like the formulation because it tends to make a lot of sense to hunters, conservationists, and anyone who really pays attention to environmental issues. Carrying capacity is something that intelligent design formulators rarely want to discuss – I don’t think they can explain it.

Many of us don’t like distinctions betwee “micro” and “macro” evolution, because the mechanisms are exactly the same, and the line between the two is almost completely arbitrary. Generally we say “macro” is speciation – but speciation is apparent, usually, only in hindsight (the spectacular rise of Spartina townsendii is an exception, and there are others). Some of us suspect that speciation events occur with some regularity, but are apparent only after one of the populations gets another set of mutations that makes the differences apparent, the second set of mutations having little or nothing to do with speciation (but see the article on butterfly wing markings by Lukhtanov, et al., in the July 21 Nature).

Simply put, there is no mechanism that stops “micro” from becoming “macro,” and if those two are to be distinguished, somebody’s got to propose just exactly such a barrier mechanism. Since creationists of all stripes are allergic to lab and field work, it is unlikely that any creationist could ever propose how to distinguish between micro- and macro-evolution. It’s the same stuff.

Cell “membranes” are easily formed chemically – see Sidney Fox’s work, and that of others in the astrobiology field. It’s not a serious problem in the end, and it’s no problem at all for Darwinian theory, which starts with the first replicating cell (membrane already included). But “micro” evolution can’t cover observed cases of speciation, broccoli, radishes, modern bovines, modern porcines, maize, wheat, ring species, American apple maggots, and dozens of other examples.

Others can deal with these issues, and your other issues, better than I.

No, scientists don’t have to disbelieve in miracles, or their possibility. But scientists must stop claiming miracles when a perfectly workable and replicable explanation covers the event instead. That’s the real distinction between scientists and anti-scientists. Modern air travel would have had all the appearances of a miracle, prior to about 125 years ago. But don’t tell the nun in the seat ahead of you to stop praying to hold the airplane up. It won’t make her or you any happier.

Comment #42351

Posted by Frank J on August 12, 2005 5:28 AM (e)

Tim wrote: “This guy sounds an awful lot like the creationists in his contempt for modern science.”

IIRC, Horgan is the author of “The End of Science.” If so, I read that his problem with evolution was not that there was anything wrong with it, but that it is so successful that there’s nothing left to discover about it.

Comment #42352

Posted by Andrew Rowell on August 12, 2005 6:05 AM (e)

Thank you Ed!

Do you distinguish between more and less complex biological entities? These (as selectable traits) require several independent proteins for minimal function.

Is the following question a legitimate one for biologists?

“Do improvements (ie some of the adaptations we observe) in some cases require concerted/coordinated change rather than entirely independent random events?”

My point about the cell membrane is not that the membrane is difficult to make but that it is difficult to see how all the right bits got inside all together at the same time to make the first membrane bound living unit. That event is surely of a different order of magnitude than the ones that you list…. and it does not help to pretend otherwise.

Comment #42353

Posted by SEF on August 12, 2005 6:23 AM (e)

to make the first membrane bound living unit

You would seem to be talking about abiogenesis there, not evolution. Are you sure you know the difference (or care about it)?

Comment #42355

Posted by Andrew Rowell on August 12, 2005 6:40 AM (e)

SEF
I am sure that I care about the difference. Apologies for my ignorance I make no claims to being an expert on this….Is abiogenesis totally distinguished from evolution or is it part of it…

This was really my point that confusion results from the elasticity of the word evolution which seems to mean different things to different people at different times.

So… does evolution include all the changes in all the different life forms on the planet but excludes abiogenesis? In the popular mind I would think that abiogenesis would be part of the “evolution explanation” of life.

The UK A-level text that I used to use includes abiogenesis as a “major step in evolution” so it is not just me who is confused. Is it wrong to talk about “major steps” in evolution…?

Comment #42356

Posted by SEF on August 12, 2005 6:51 AM (e)

It would only really be correct to include abiogenesis as a major step in evolution if the big bang, element formation, star formation, compound formation and planet formation were also included as major steps! IE you have to be talking about the wider concept rather than the narrower one intended by most biologists and outlined in Origin of Species.

It will certainly be a major step in (bio)chemistry though if it is ever possible to narrow down with evidence the particular path of abiogenesis which happened to be taken on Earth from all the available paths. Best betting is currently on RNA being more important than DNA. Also that the catalytic activity of even single amino acids as well as small peptides was significant rather than just the much larger proteins.

Comment #42359

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on August 12, 2005 7:05 AM (e)

Honestly, what does it get our side to claim that evolution is inconsistent with religion?

Nothing. Which is why it is, uh, really stupid.

But then, most ideological atheists are no different from the fundies — they have their religious opinions which they want to shove onto everyone else.

They are brothers under the skin.

Comment #42361

Posted by harold on August 12, 2005 7:14 AM (e)

Andrew Rowell -

“1. Does the belief in the possibility of unusual miracles disqualify a person from being a scientist? Is this official?
2. To do science or think in a scientific way must a scientist exclude completely the possibility of the reality of any higher personal beings (whether they be God, gods, angels, demons, ghosts, or superintelligent extraterrestrial influences)for example is SETI scientific?”

Anyone knows that there is no “official” position on whether or not someone is a “scientist”, and that some prominent scientists are and have been religious (on a spectrum, ranging from orthodox positions like Catholicism to the less orthodox, like Einstein’s spirtuality). There are plenty of scientists who conjecture the existence of extraterrestrial life, some religious, some not.

But you already knew that. Your implication is that anyone who rejects Dembski’s ID “must” also reject these other, unrelated ideas. Or conversely, that anyone who is religious or believes in the possibility of extraterrestrial life is obliged to accept ID. I profoundly disagree.

“In this debate definitions of key terms are crucial. Even most intelligent YEC’s do not deny the reality and usefulness of micro-evolution. Even they would agree that there are real facts here. YEC’s, Long earth creationists and ID peeps argue that it is in the area of macro-evolution that we are struggling with materialistic explanations. Are evolutionists happy with the distinction between macro- and micro- evolution? Is it a helpful distinction? My understanding is that micro-evolution will cover things like bug antibiotic resistance, sickle cell anaemia and Ed Darrell’s examples. Macro- evolution covers issues like the origin of the first membrane bound living organism, the generation of morphological novelty, the generation of radically new devolopemental structures and body plans and the development of human consciousness. The bacterial flagellum would then be somewhere at the edge of macro-evolution and Behe’s irreducibly complex structures would be right on the edge of the macro-evolution border.”

You say you want to define terms, but you offer no way of differentiating between “macroevolution” and “microevolution”; rather, you declare some arbitrary examples. One of them (origin of membrane bound cells) is not even an example of evolution. A theory of abiogenesis would be nice, and would complement and extend the theory of evolution, but properly speaking, the theory of evolution applies to cellular life and post-cellular life (such as viruses).

When scientists rarely use the terms “micro-“ and “macro-“ evolution, as a few British biologists do, or have in the past, they refer to a difference in degree of evolution from a common ancestor, not a difference in mechanism. Most scientists don’t like the terms.

I’ll close with a few questions -

1. Can you explain the theory of evolution fairly? I know someone has already offered a pretty good explanation, but even so, can you?
2. Can YOU define “microevolution” and “macroevolution” in a way that allows ME to differentiate one from the other consistently? Is the long ear of rabbits and hares an example of “microevolution” or “macroevolution”, for example? Don’t just give the answer, explain how you got the answer.
3. You say that some people are “struggling with materialistic explanations”. Should scientists look for “non-materialistic explanations”, and if so, HOW? Would that merely mean that scientists should give up on problems and declare that there is “no material explanation”? If not, how can “non-materialistic explanations” be scientifically tested and reproduced?
4. Lastly, can you explain ID? I’m confused by it. I need more details. WHAT IS THE ID EXPLANATION OF THE BACTERIAL FLAGELLUM, for example? In as much detail as possible, how was it “designed”, who designed it, when, and why? Please explain how we can test your explanations. The experiments need not be practical, they need only be hypothetically possible.

Comment #42362

Posted by Rob Knop on August 12, 2005 7:17 AM (e)

On “common sense” and science:

I think that the best description of the scientific method is “applied common sense.”

Maybe it’s from years of training as a scientist. However, for me, it’s common sense to do things like make sure you have multiple supporting data sets, to look for sources of systematic error, etc. etc. etc.

Things like quantum mechanics and relativity show us that on the most fundamental level, the world doesn’t work the way that we might intuitively expect it to. That’s because our intuition evolved to serve us on time scales of seconds to years, on length scales of centimeters to hundreds of meters, and on mass scales of kilograms to hundreds of kilograms. Even there, our intuition doesn’t always serve us; the full implications of intertia aren’t fully intuitive, because our brains evolved to deal with a situation where there’s always air resistance, and where there is usually friction. But they do serve us pretty well. There was no need for us to have a natural intuition for things moving near the speed of light or operating on spatial scales of 10^-10 m.

But common sense– common sense and what we have a natural intuition for are two different things. The scientific method just is applied common sense. Look back at the whole “n-rays” affair; the common sense involved in realizing that you needed some kind of double-blind experiment is what was needed to get rid of that.

-Rob

Comment #42364

Posted by Louis on August 12, 2005 7:52 AM (e)

Hi Lenny,

Could you clarify what you mean by “ideological atheists” for me please.

I don’t see how an atheist is in anyway similar to a fundamentalist theist, unless you are referring to an equally fundamentalist strong atheist of course, in which case I understand completely. If this is the case, could you please amend your comment in future to note the difference. Ta!

For lurker benefit:

I seem to see this sort of thing a great deal at the moment. Atheism is (for want of a better term) a broad church (oh the trouble I’ll get in for THAT little joke!). Atheism is expressedly not only the “strong atheist” belief that god or gods do not exist. There are other forms of atheism, most importantly “weak atheism” which makes no such claim. Furthermore weak atheism is not a religious opinion but an opinion about certain religious claims, the difference is key and relatively subtle. Simply put, strong atheism is a belief of lack, whilst weak atheism is a lack of belief. Not to be confused of course with agnosticism which is a belief that the existence/lack of existence of god/s is unknowable.

As for evolution and religion, evolutionary biology absolutely IS inconsistent with SOME religious claims. It really depends on the details of the religious claim. The claim that all organisms poofed into existence in their modern forms (which SOME assert on the basis of religion) is in direct conflict with evolutionary biology. As I have said before, the conflict isn’t one between evolution and christinanity (spelling mistake deliberate), it’s between faith and reason as mechanisms of acquiring knowledge. Reason won a long time ago. That of course says nothing about faith in the realm of the mind. Deists and their fine furry ilk are perfectly in tune with all manner of reasoned thought. As indeed are various denominations of buddhists and taoists etc. There is no NECESSARY conflict between science and religion, between reason and faith, as long as one appreciates that evidence trumps fancy. It’s ain’t complicated!

Comment #42366

Posted by Rich on August 12, 2005 8:21 AM (e)

SEF - “It would only really be correct to include abiogenesis as a major step in evolution if the big bang, element formation, star formation, compound formation and planet formation were also included as major steps!”

You stick it to them! Also, evolution can’t explain art or ghosts or people speaking tongues in church.

*rolls eyes*

Comment #42367

Posted by Flint on August 12, 2005 8:25 AM (e)

Ed:

Many of us don’t like distinctions between “micro” and “macro” evolution, because the mechanisms are exactly the same, and the line between the two is almost completely arbitrary.

You are looking at this as a scientist, not surprisingly. I don’t mean to be too facetious here, but in the Creationist world, “macro” simply means “more divergence than has been demonstrated yet.” This is a nicely flexible definition, since it covers any conceivable degree of demonstrated divergence.

Underlying this definition, as ever, is an INflexible policy position: Evolution does not happen. Such policy positions serve psychological needs that evidence cannot address. The only truly effective battle against Creationism takes place in the crib, not the biology classroom.

Comment #42378

Posted by Zen Faulkes on August 12, 2005 10:00 AM (e)

Ed Darrell wrote:

Need I remind you that grapefruit is a news species that didn’t exist 125 years ago?

125 years ago would be 1880. This link indicates grapefruit was named in 1837, and descriptions date back to 1750. This link also indicates grapefruit is substantially older than 1880.

Comment #42380

Posted by Katarina on August 12, 2005 10:02 AM (e)

The fact that ID’s terms are too broad and ambiguous should be one of our main talking points, in the simple sense that Ed Darrell outlined.

BTW, Ed’s comments make more sense than anything I’ve seen for a while on PT. I have been looking to PT to come up with just such a structure to help us students and laypeople deal with all the nonsense. Not that I don’t understand the discussions here, but it helps to have them boiled down, and for everyone to come to a consensus that is simply put and widely usable. And if PT wants to hire a PR firm to help out, I would be more than happy to make a small donation to that end, and if others would too, it would make a neat pile.

The most important PR issue we need to address is NOT a scientific one! We all need to be united in saying that evolution is not incompatible with most religious beliefs.

The science already supports evolution, but people don’t really seem to care, amazingly. I don’t understand why that is, but it’s true, they just won’t take the time to think it through. But for these lazy-minded people, Ed’s proposal is the answer.

One PR weakness for ID folk is that they are not united. We can be united and stop quibbling over the small stuff.

Comment #42381

Posted by Salvador T. Cordova on August 12, 2005 10:04 AM (e)

I think Jason Rosenhouse is right on the mark in saying the evolutionists (I like to say Darwinists) are losing the PR battle.

I think Jason is making a brilliant obvservation, and I’ll go further is saying that the evolutionists will continue to lose the PR battle.

I think, given these facts, PZ Myers has offered a new strategy, rather than simple talk and Public Relations, PZ Myers gives his recommendations.

I say, screw the polite words and careful rhetoric. It’s time for scientists to break out the steel-toed boots and brass knuckles, and get out there and hammer on the lunatics and idiots.

PZ Myers

Actually that’s horrid advice. If PZ cares for his comrade’s welfare he’ll retract his call to arms. Doesn’t PZ know that scientists trying to use steel-toed boots and brass knuckles against IDists might enrage the good ole boys at the NRA?

I think PZ should rather take Mike Gene’s advice regarding Metaphors of Violence. In an effort to help turn around the losing PR battle, PZ should rephrase his words as Mike Gene suggests:

I say, their pastries have a bad taste. It’s time for scientists to break out the aprons and mixing bowels, and get out there with a better cake.

Comment #42383

Posted by Greg Peterson on August 12, 2005 10:14 AM (e)

There is not nor cannot be the conflict between ANYTHING and belief in a god. But if one wishes to believe in the gods of revealed religion, evolution is indeed utterly toxic to that belief. The only way to harmonize science and the Bible, for example, is to water both down in a way that makes the Genesis flood look like a Mr. Turtle Pool.

Comment #42386

Posted by Katarina on August 12, 2005 10:22 AM (e)

“The only way to harmonize science and the Bible, for example, is to water both down in a way that makes the Genesis flood look like a Mr. Turtle Pool.”

Greg, it is comments like these that can indeed lose the PR battle. What do you think it gains to make such a claim? It’s not even true.

Comment #42387

Posted by Ed Darrell on August 12, 2005 10:22 AM (e)

Flint,

I see your point. My point is that there are common examples of evolution that most people encounter every day, and we need to make people aware of them. One cannot stroll through the produce section of a supermarket without encountering more examples of “macro” evolution than creationists think necessary to get from “dead chemicals” to “Grateful Dead.”

You’re right: Creationists, especially the ID variety, are deucedly difficult to pin down on definitions. Sometimes when I meet with creationists – I have a fun, on-again/off-again conversation with a local minister who writes a weekly column for our paper – sometimes I order a salad, and I try to manipulate it around to get a radish, a chunk of broccoli, and honey-mustard dressing. It’s easy enough to do at a salad bar in Texas.

At some point I ask them to take a stand on whether the broccoli is the same species as the radish. They always answer that they are different species. Then I point out that we know the origins of both “species” and their many varieties, and that both are descended (with great modifications, of course) from the an ancestor of the mustard from which the dressing is made. Sometimes they argue that the species will “revert” from the variations I mention. I ask them to plant some in their garden and see if they can get them to revert as a demonstration, to put their garden-variety science research where their claim is (and my mouth literally is). I point out that reversion only makes the point about variation – it doesn’t happen in one generation, and often it can’t happen at all.

I suspect one could get some cross pollination; but the point is made (I’ve never had anyone bother to plant the stuff). The seed I really want to plant is planted: Every time they get these vegetables, they’re going to think about variation and mutations and just how much we really do know about evolution, and how it really affects us every day.

It is a good aphorism to recall that we cannot reason a man out of a position he didn’t get to by reason – but the reality is that we can change minds. There are no creationists in the infectious disease or cancer wards, when it comes time to refuse the treatments created by evolution. I hope to make earlier conversions, and there are small successes to demonstrate it can be done.

Comment #42389

Posted by Katarina on August 12, 2005 10:26 AM (e)

Ed Darrell, I love your comments on this thread. You rock.

Comment #42390

Posted by Ed Darrell on August 12, 2005 10:30 AM (e)

Thanks for the correction, Zen Faulkes. Your source also says the sport mutation that turned them red occurred in 1906, not the 1940s.

We are all ignorant of some things, and in my case my ignorance is vast. I wish I could have found that site you got in my earliest searches. It’s got some good stuff.

Among other things, note that we can trace the origins of some of the varieties of the fruit very carefully. Notice that botanists and agriculurists kept very good records hundreds of years ago. There are ample examples of evolution for anyone interested to find. Some of them are older than we thought.

Unlike creationists, I will now correct my future statements to reflect new knowledge. I am hopeful that models will affect them even when they resist.

Comment #42392

Posted by Tracy P. Hamilton on August 12, 2005 10:40 AM (e)

Kevin Rowell -

“I am sure that I care about the difference. Apologies for my ignorance
I make no claims to being an expert on this….Is abiogenesis totally
distinguished from evolution or is it part of it…”

It is in a different category, not really a theory. What mechanisms are known about
abiogenesis vs. evolution? In abiogenesis, we have some general ideas of required
chemical properties, and chemical structures that lead to them, but no
comprehensive detailed picture. Evolution, on the other hand, is for organisms
that use DNA replication and transcription, etc. Also, it is based on what we
observe in extant, organisms about development, structure, ecology, etc.
And matches the fossil record to boot. And the DNA of today over all organisms
preserves historical information. For example, your DNA came from
your mother and father (hopefully, instead of from the mailman), and we can
tell that you came from them without having seen the particular act).
Abiogenesis, the early evidence is really obscured.

“This was really my point that confusion results from the elasticity of the word
evolution which seems to mean different things to different people at different times.”

True enough. But if you can’t tell which meaning a person is using, ask.
If they can’t make it clear, they are not worth corresponding with.

“So… does evolution include all the changes in all the different life forms
on the planet but excludes abiogenesis? In the popular mind I would think that
abiogenesis would be part of the “evolution explanation” of life.”

It is, because you can’t have evolution without replicating organisms,
and they had to come from somewhere, wouldn’t you agree?
However, abiogensis is certainly acknowledged to be much less certain.
It is not even certain that abiogenesis took place on earth, even!

“The UK A-level text that I used to use includes abiogenesis as
a “major step in evolution” so it is not just me who is confused.
Is it wrong to talk about “major steps” in evolution…?”

Do you think you could provide an answer consistent with what I
posted above, based on what I posted and what you know?

Comment #42393

Posted by Ed Darrell on August 12, 2005 10:41 AM (e)

Salvador, PZ’s brass knuckles are metaphorical. Trust a Bible literalist to be unable to tell the difference.

And for what it’s worth, I agree with him. I think we should hold you to your contempt for evolution – no beef, pork, broccoli, seedless oranges, grapefruit, mustard, tomato ketchup, peaches, apples, or russet Burbank potatoes for you!

I dare you to try to live without evolution fruits, Salvador. You can’t do it. You won’t go without flu shots. You won’t let your kids go without their DPTs, or whatever the modern equivalent is. You won’t refuse antibiotics if your physician prescribes them. You won’t modify your diet to elminate results of evolution.

You won’t go to the lab to verify your bizarre claims. And we’re going to mention that in every forum we can find.

Galileo, backing out of the court’s presence and muttering “Still, it moves,” was only doing what every living thing “says” to creationists. You can bellyache, you can get a state legislature or a school board to go along with you (“Ain’t we got every fool in town on our side, and ain’t that a big enough majority in any town,” Mark Twain wrote), but the mosquitoes still evolve creating new organs to digest pesticides, the moths evolve to invent new ways to keep poisons from getting under the cuticle (what’s a one-leg amputation if you have six to start with, plus wings?), and the Centers for Disease Control will keep tracking flu. Evolution falls on the high and the low, on the mighty and the weak, on the creationist and the Christian equally. You can deny it all you want, but still it evolves.

Comment #42394

Posted by Greg Peterson on August 12, 2005 10:42 AM (e)

Katerina, with due respect, as important as PR for evolution might be, I think the truth is even more important. And the truth is that evolution as an unguided, contingent, materialistic process–as it must be for science even to study it–is acid to any religious belief that insists on a god who actively created and now sustains life, and has a teleological endpoint for his creation. And any belief system that allows for spontaneous interventions into the material world–bringing rain to end a drought because of peoples’ prayers, for example, or pinning a flagellum onto a bacteria’s butt–is antithetical to science. If one were to believe such things, how would one know that each time water froze at zero degrees Celsius it was not just a “miracle” of God’s doing rather than an innate physical property? I apologize to those who find deep meaning and comfort and satisfaction in their religion and want to hold a scientific worldview as well. I understand that impulse. But PR or no PR, it is simply not possible to reconcile the findings of science with the revealed religions we have. Again I will say that no matter what we discover in reality, it will always be possible to posit a theistic explanation for it. But if one is stuck with sacred narratives of the various extent religious traditions, one must say that those gods simply cannot exist.

Comment #42400

Posted by Greg Peterson on August 12, 2005 11:17 AM (e)

Quick note that I don’t know where else to post–NPR’s “Science Friday” today deals with the following topic:

August 12, 2005: Hour One: The Pope and Evolution–Host Ira Flatow talks with physicist Dr. Lawrence Krauss about a letter he sent to the Pope asking for a clarification of the church’s stand on evolution.

This show is broadcast at 1 p.m. central time, but you’re probably going to want to go online and look up specifics for your area.

Comment #42401

Posted by Katarina on August 12, 2005 11:18 AM (e)

Greg,

No religious text says God pinned a flagellum onto a bacteria’s butt.

Why should creationism be a dirty word? Theistic evolutionists can fully accept science, but they also accept the limits of scientific tools. Chance events do not necessarily exclude God. I am a creationist in that I accept the message of Genesis that God created. I am not saying anything you haven’t heard before, am I? I tire of arguing this point, but here I go again..

There is a limit to what is observable and therefore, provable. It follows that no person, and no group of people, and not even humanity as a whole, can claim that everything is knowable. Sure, we should try to discover as much as possible, without restrictions or limits. Knowledge is awesome, and exciting, and useful. But we CAN’T know everything.

The next question is, what lies in the realm of the unknowable? We can’t tell when a chance mutation will stirke. There are predictions we will never be able to make, gaps we will never be able to fill. The biblical text gives us a wonderful creation story, which reminds me of Jesus’s parables. I believe it is meant to be symbolic, not literal, but I believe its main message. God created.

It is not at all difficult for me to accept science as a way of studying the world, and religion as a way of studying what is beyond science. The difficulty arises when people seek to justify their own personal convictions using a philosophy that is widely respected and accepted in our society, the philosophy of science. That philosophy can only lead us to a limited knowledge, knowledge of the observable. For those who believe there is nothing beyond the observable, fine. I, like many others, do not. I try to extend my senses and communicate with something greater than myself, greater than science, greater than the world. I seek spiritual fulfillment. That is wholly personal, and I don’t see what science has to say about it.

Comment #42402

Posted by Katarina on August 12, 2005 11:22 AM (e)

Greg,

Thanks for the NPR Science Friday tip. My favorite show, and I almost forgot to listen to it.

Comment #42403

Posted by Bruce Thompson GQ on August 12, 2005 11:22 AM (e)

Have the ID theorists considered one possible outcome of having ID introduced into the Biology curriculum; now Biologist get to fairly ask the question “WHY”. No longer tied to what and how, the designer becomes fair game. If ID is not based in religion this should not be a problem, but there is evidence to the contrary.

Does the ID community really want the scientific community nosing around the designer. All sorts of uncomfortable questions will be asked. With our current level of understanding of the natural world it will be easy to fill volumes with questions for the designer. Any structure or biochemical pathway Behe has declared irreducibly complex is now be open to question. It’s not a matter of pointing out what appears to be bad design it goes far beyond that.

Personally, I’m tired of answering questions from ID proponents, I’d much rather get back to asking questions. If a whole new area of research has opened up then I’m ready to jump in.

Unfortunately none of these questions are testable, none can be falsified. We’ve not seen any application of the explanatory filter in an attempt to identify any designed structures, all we have heard/seen are hand waving arguments.

I would suggest an appropriate structure to begin questioning is the eye, an Icon of Design™. A new journal is also required with an appropriate title.

Comment #42404

Posted by harold on August 12, 2005 11:27 AM (e)

Greg Peterson -

http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0504505.htm

http://www.mindandlife.org/hhdl.science_section.html

http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/articles/5025_statements_from_religious_orga_12_19_2002.asp

Way up at the top of the page, I made a simple request.

“Please define “religion”. And then discuss the experimental approach you plan to take to “disprove all religion”. Let me repeat that for emphasis. If you claim that creationists are right, and we must have a battle between science education and “any or all religion”, DEFINE “RELIGION”. And show a planned experimental approach to “disprove all religion”. Like Lenny Flank, I won’t hold my breath.”

I think that in general, when other people aren’t harming you, it’s rather obnoxious to express bigoted disdain for their cultural traits, whether it be the way they dress, the food they eat, or their religious practices. Now, if you have SCIENTIFIC evidence to refute the religious stances of the people I linked to above, please lay it out.

Comment #42406

Posted by shenda on August 12, 2005 11:30 AM (e)

Andrew Rowell wrote,

“Is abiogenesis totally distinguished from evolution or is it part of it…”

Without abiogenesis, there would be no evolution. However, evolution begins immediately after abiogenesis, therefore while evolution depends upon abiogenesis occurring, abiogenesis in not a part of evolutionary theory.

Many people have difficulty making this distinction, which is subtle but very profound.

Shenda

Comment #42407

Posted by Greg Peterson on August 12, 2005 11:53 AM (e)

Harold:

I believe I was very clear in saying “no matter what we discover in reality, it will always be possible to posit a theistic explanation for it.” So your challenge to “disprove religion” or whatever is entirely phony and more than a little disingenuous.

But Harold, I have a much bigger ax to grind. Obnoxious or not, I do express disdain for people’s “cultural traits.” Hell, I seldom stop at disdain, moving quickly to scorn, revulsion, ridicule, and condemnation. And if you don’t feel that way about the Taliban and its treatment of women, for example, then I question your morals. As far as people’s cultural traits not hurting me, what an absurd thing to say after 9/11. Ah, you say, but I meant it was obnoxious to attack CHRISTIAN beliefs, which do not hurt you…I wasn’t referring to radical Islam. But Christian beliefs do hurt me, Harold, and my society, all the time. From stem cell research bans to end-of-life issues to sex education to environmental protection to not being able to buy a bottle whiskey on a Sunday in my state, the frankly lidicrous beliefs of Christians do negatively affect my life, the safety of my children, and my future. I find it all but insane to suggest that beliefs should make no difference; if they didn’t, why bother making such a fuss over them? It’s because they do make such a difference that it is important that we foster beliefs that comform most plausibly with reality. On that level, the revealed religions are gigantic failures, and thus, dangerous. You think I’m obnoxious and Katrina thinks I harshed her ghostly mellow, but I’m afraid I don’t care. There is a great deal at stake, and humanity can no longer afford the high cost of delusions, fantasies, and dorky Precious Moments figurines.

Comment #42408

Posted by harold on August 12, 2005 11:55 AM (e)

Andrew Rowell -

I’m repeating myself, because you seem to have evaded my questions.

“1. Does the belief in the possibility of unusual miracles disqualify a person from being a scientist? Is this official?
2. To do science or think in a scientific way must a scientist exclude completely the possibility of the reality of any higher personal beings (whether they be God, gods, angels, demons, ghosts, or superintelligent extraterrestrial influences)for example is SETI scientific?”

Anyone knows that there is no “official” position on whether or not someone is a “scientist”, and that some prominent scientists are and have been religious (on a spectrum, ranging from orthodox positions like Catholicism to the less orthodox, like Einstein’s spirtuality). There are plenty of scientists who conjecture the existence of extraterrestrial life, some religious, some not.

But you already knew that. Your implication is that anyone who rejects Dembski’s ID “must” also reject these other, unrelated ideas. Or conversely, that anyone who is religious or believes in the possibility of extraterrestrial life is obliged to accept ID. I profoundly disagree.

“In this debate definitions of key terms are crucial. Even most intelligent YEC’s do not deny the reality and usefulness of micro-evolution. Even they would agree that there are real facts here. YEC’s, Long earth creationists and ID peeps argue that it is in the area of macro-evolution that we are struggling with materialistic explanations. Are evolutionists happy with the distinction between macro- and micro- evolution? Is it a helpful distinction? My understanding is that micro-evolution will cover things like bug antibiotic resistance, sickle cell anaemia and Ed Darrell’s examples. Macro- evolution covers issues like the origin of the first membrane bound living organism, the generation of morphological novelty, the generation of radically new devolopemental structures and body plans and the development of human consciousness. The bacterial flagellum would then be somewhere at the edge of macro-evolution and Behe’s irreducibly complex structures would be right on the edge of the macro-evolution border.”

You say you want to define terms, but you offer no way of differentiating between “macroevolution” and “microevolution”; rather, you declare some arbitrary examples. One of them (origin of membrane bound cells) is not even an example of evolution. A theory of abiogenesis would be nice, and would complement and extend the theory of evolution, but properly speaking, the theory of evolution applies to cellular life and post-cellular life (such as viruses).

When scientists rarely use the terms “micro-” and “macro-” evolution, as a few British biologists do, or have in the past, they refer to a difference in degree of evolution from a common ancestor, not a difference in mechanism. Most scientists don’t like the terms.

I’ll close with a few questions -

1. Can you explain the theory of evolution fairly? I know someone has already offered a pretty good explanation, but even so, can you?
2. Can YOU define “microevolution” and “macroevolution” in a way that allows ME to differentiate one from the other consistently? Is the long ear of rabbits and hares an example of “microevolution” or “macroevolution”, for example? Don’t just give the answer, explain how you got the answer.
3. You say that some people are “struggling with materialistic explanations”. Should scientists look for “non-materialistic explanations”, and if so, HOW? Would that merely mean that scientists should give up on problems and declare that there is “no material explanation”? If not, how can “non-materialistic explanations” be scientifically tested and reproduced?
4. Lastly, can you explain ID? I’m confused by it. I need more details. WHAT IS THE ID EXPLANATION OF THE BACTERIAL FLAGELLUM, for example? In as much detail as possible, how was it “designed”, who designed it, when, and why? Please explain how we can test your explanations. The experiments need not be practical, they need only be hypothetically possible.

Comment #42412

Posted by Dan S. on August 12, 2005 12:18 PM (e)

On “teach the facts first,” steve’s proposed ad campaign, and Ed’s brassica salad - marvelous!

This is something I’ve been dwelling on recently - if we don’t offer decent catchphrases and practical, everyday-world examples, it won’t matter that we’re right. Evolution will keep hanging on - perhaps slowly gaining - in the noisy and confusing public square,* but depending on judicial appointments, science education might end up in a bad way.

Weisberg’s argument is distinctly unimpressive, and shows little understanding of either science or religion. I’ve commented on this at greater length here.

The folks commenting on Ed over at Dembski’s pad immediately apply their micro/macro distinction**, as well as the “you-used-a-human-directed-example-see-you-admit-design!” argument; more interestingly, the phrasing in some posts suggests they don’t understand evolution as a population-level process, but something that happens to an individual.

“know what, i have a couple pimples of my face - so what ?
maybe the pimples know that i clean my face and take a bath so the have become
resistant ?. so what ? - where is the evo - in the evolution ?”

There’s little understanding of the role or source of variation and selection, and an apparent case of mistaken identity - we’re not Lamarckians . .

“ If “mutation” is part of a bug’s defense mechanism, then why would you call that “evolution”? It seems the bug is trying to continue his life as a bug—-and is not trying to become a singing butterfly!”

I was just reading Pennock’s description of Behe’s groundhog analogy, which has a similar feature - the groundhog is trying to cross a 1000 lane highway, with predictable results. Pennock points out that a more accurate analogy would be a groundhog population crossing, generation by generation, lane after lane, with only the quickest/smartest/etc. contributing to the next generation of lane-crossers …

* I’m speaking here of how evolution does in the realm of public understanding and awareness. Various poll results suggest a relatively low level of scientific literacy in general, but they’re not always well constructed …

** I don’t think the micro/macro wall they put forth is relevent to most people beside commited IDers - and those are the one’s we’re trying to reach. But I’m often wrong.

Comment #42415

Posted by harold on August 12, 2005 12:44 PM (e)

Greg Peterson -

Thank you for expressing your views.

“From stem cell research bans to end-of-life issues to sex education to environmental protection to not being able to buy a bottle whiskey on a Sunday in my state”

It seems likely that I agree with you on these issues. It is silly to refer to the other position as the “Christian” position, since many or most Christians support stem cell research, dignified end of life choices, protecting the environment, etc. And many non-Christians oppose these things. Stalin was an atheist, after all, but that doesn’t mean that it’s fair to refer to his views on issues as “the” atheist position.

But this is a SCIENCE site. Your original point was not that the values of some people who call themselves Christians are bad values. There are lots of sites for religious dispute on the internet, but this one is a science site.

There is a difference between “I don’t like your religion”, or “I don’t agree with your religion”, and “Science disproves your religion”.

So I repeat.

Now, if you have SCIENTIFIC evidence to refute the religious stances of the people I linked to above (now below), please lay it out.

http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0504505.htm

http://www.mindandlife.org/hhdl.science_section.html

http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/articles/5025_statements_from_religious_orga_12_19_2002.asp

If you’re real point is that you don’t like some other peoples’ religious practices - possibly with good reason - why don’t you just admit that?

But that isn’t what this site is about, and the claim that the theory of evolution somehow disproves all relgion is an incorrect one. This is a science site.

Comment #42417

Posted by Arden Chatfield on August 12, 2005 12:51 PM (e)

Lenny wrote:

And as a Taoist I agree with you.

“Above the heavens and below the heavens, I alone am the Honored One.”

Didn’t you recently say you were Tibetan/Tantric Buddhist? Or, uh, are you both?

Comment #42419

Posted by Dan S. on August 12, 2005 12:53 PM (e)

Greg - you’re lumping. The Unitarian down the street and Fred Phelps are, I would say, slightly different. The struggle against Dominionism (religioustolerance.org link and wikipedia link) is one thing, going after Precious Moments figures with an rhetorical ax is something else altogether.

In terms of the science-ed issue, any religious belief/organization/person that doesn’t try to abolish or pervert science education is an ally.

“No religious text says God pinned a flagellum onto a bacteria’s butt.”
Hey, I spat my ice tea all over the laptop! You guys are gonna owe me a new computer!!

rain and rain dances, etc - here’s Wittgenstein on this, writing in reaction to Frazer (literally, as in scribbling marginal notes in his copy of the Golden Bough):

“I read in many similar examples, of a rain-king in Africa to whom people beg for rain when the rainy season comes. But that surely means that they don’t really think that he could make rain, otherwise they would do this in the dry periods of the year when the country is “a parched and arid desert.””

This is from Tambiah’s book Magic, science, religion, and the scope of rationality. Very, very cool - read it quick some years ago, rereading now … well, I would be if I wasn’t wasting time reading criticisms of evolution that rank up there with “The Yankees are such a bad hockey team!”

You can play with all sorts of distinctions between causual and performative/participatory acts and explanations …

Comment #42420

Posted by Greg Peterson on August 12, 2005 1:05 PM (e)

Ah, Harold. Why is it you don’t think I like some people’s religious practices? It’s because they are based on things that are factually wrong, that’s why. It’s hard to get ahead in this cosmos without some basic effort to conform to reality.

I read all the articles you linked to. And they go considerable distance toward proving my earliest point: there is a great dilution here between religion and science, in which science spreads its shuddering knees to let religion in, just the tip, and religion pretends that, hey, whatever you white labcoat folks are saying now, that’s all we really meant all along. But this is nonsense. I have agreed that science can never disprove the existence of some sort of deity. A malicious deity, an incompetent deity, perhaps a part-time deity with a more exciting project the next universe over to worry about. It’s all possible. But on rational, probabilistic grounds (which I admit are partly metaphysical, but INFORMED by science), there simply is no room for the gods of the revealed religions. The only way you can MAKE room for these gods is by shoving much of the contents of the revelations out of the room first. Science reveals a contingent universe that looks nothing like the design and plan outlined in, for example, the Bible. As I initially noted, the God of the Bible might be rescued from this obvious conflict with observed reality by turning key passages in, for example, Genesis into mere parables and metaphors. So if one is going to apply reason anyway, and use reason as the measuring stick by which to judge revelation, why not just do away with revelation completely? That way you can construct a very reasonable divinity in perfect alignment with whatever you observe and you won’t have to worry as much about making up excuses for how revelation says something quite different than what reason and science demonstrate.

Comment #42424

Posted by Katarina on August 12, 2005 1:35 PM (e)

Greg,

Your point is a simple one, but it has the weight of opinion, and no more. Opinions are cool, as long as they admit to being just that. Right now people who share your opinion are mixing up the issues when it comes to a proper scientific education, vs. quack science education. It is not helpful. If you have something against Christianity in general, this really isn’t the place.

Comment #42431

Posted by C.J.O'Brien on August 12, 2005 2:04 PM (e)

I think this macro- micro- thing is ridiculous. Always have.
1+1=2, but 1+1+1+1+1=/5?

I think the burden needs to rest squarely on the creationists when they claim that some mechanism preserves Yaweh’s beloved “kinds.”

And the “speciation happened in a human-directed situation, that proves design” is just feeble too. It’s self-contradictory:
IDer: “evolution is not an experimental science; you can’t observe it.”
Biologist: “well, I did this experiment, and–“
IDer: “you just proved my point. life must have had a designer/experimenter!”

If people persist in aping this utter bilge, I don’t think a PR campaign with Elvis and Jesus doing a “Who’s on first?” routine at the halftime of the Superbowl is going to make a bit of difference.

People want to believe, and that’s not going to change substantially, in our lifetimes anyway.

Comment #42434

Posted by harold on August 12, 2005 2:20 PM (e)

Greg -

“Ah, Harold. Why is it you don’t think I like some people’s religious practices? It’s because they are based on things that are factually wrong, that’s why. It’s hard to get ahead in this cosmos without some basic effort to conform to reality.”

It is, of course, none of your damn business whether other peoples’ religious practices are factually wrong or not. Nor have you presented a shred of evidence to defend this point.

That opinion is not relevant to the topic of this site, and repeating it serves no purpose. Everybody gets the point. According to you, atheism is the superior philosophy, and its practioners are better than people who adhere to a different philosophy. Oddly enough, this is exactly what the Taliban thought about their brand of Islam, but I’m sure that’s just a coincidence. This isn’t the type of thing that science can be applied to, is it?

You see, that’s what I like about science. It isn’t about a bunch of dueling philosophies, with a bunch of angry big-egoed guys contradicting each other ad infinitum. Oh, sure, there are plenty of angry big-egoed guys in science, but they have to do science. They have to produce SCIENTIFIC ideas. Ideas that can be tested.

Comment #42441

Posted by Salvador T. Cordova on August 12, 2005 2:53 PM (e)

I dare you to try to live without evolution fruits, Salvador. You can’t do it. You won’t go without flu shots. You won’t let your kids go without their DPTs, or whatever the modern equivalent is. You won’t refuse antibiotics if your physician prescribes them. You won’t modify your diet to elminate results of evolution.

You won’t go to the lab to verify your bizarre claims. And we’re going to mention that in every forum we can find.

You can’t seem to run away from the need to equivocate the word “evolution” to save Darwin’s grand and unsupported claims. You seem to equivocate the proven fact that populations of ants change with pesticide as sufficient proof that a wormy creature can evolve into humans.

But is such a deductive leap justified? I say no. One can build a hut out of grass, that is true, but does that mean the same approach of building huts with grass is sufficient to build a skyskraper? Even in physics, one can take Newtonian mechanics and apply it quite successfully at non-relativistic speeds, but it is invalid at relativistic speeds.

As much as you boast about changes being demonstrated with evolution, one thing that is even more apparent are limits to change and speed limits to change. And limits to change can be deduced theoretically as well as demonstrated in the lab, thank you.

All your “theory” demonstrates is things can change, it hardly addresses the limits of change, but rather whimsically presume observed limits are easily surmountable. That’s not science, that speculation being paraded as science.

As far as Mayr’s 5 points, it’s starting to become apparent, thanks to the Neutralists like Kimura, that natural selection probably does not have the role Darwin envisioned. Non-Darwinian evolution has it’s proponents (the neutralists) as well. Ironically both proponents of Darwinian evolution and Non-Darwinian evolution (the neutralists) find fatal flaws in each others claims. So appeals to Kimura won’t salvage the belief in the sufficiency of undirected processes. Unguided, un-intelligently directed evolution is stuck in the mud, and there is no theoretical reason we should assume it can be rescued.

Frankly, part of the reason I think IDists are winning the PR battle is the Darwinists show themselves incapable of defending the theory they claim is so central to science. They lack convicing evidence for their most important claims. The Darwinists are (figuratively speaking) arguing that skysrapers can be built with grass since grass huts can be built with grasss. All they offer are examples of the building of grass huts. The public wants proof they can build skyscrapers….

Students in biology classes are seeing their professors unable to defend the grand claims of unguided evolution, and they’re seeing ID sympathetic professors being persecuted by the Darwinian thought police.

Darwinists losing of the PR campaign is the result of the fact Darwinists can’t persuade the public that their theory has sufficient merit, and that’s because it doesn’t have sufficient merit.

I predict the Darwinists will not win the PR battle because the facts are not on their side. We will see. But I think Jason is right, the Darwinists are losing the PR battle right now, and I will go one step further and say we can expect more of the same in the near future.

Comment #42443

Posted by Greg Peterson on August 12, 2005 3:09 PM (e)

OK, last volley from me, because two points are important to me:

First, far from having something against Christianity, many of my loved ones are Christians, I have a degree in Bible earned while studying to be a Baptist pastor (I was never ordained, though, and went into communications instead) and worked for Billy Graham for years. I had a great experience as a Christian and loved the church, which felt like home and family. I still miss it sometimes. The only thing I “have against” Christianity is that it’s mistaken, and I’m nearly always willing to overlook that because I believe that while, as you say, opinions are merely “cool,” being reasonable and compassionate and friendly are always in season.

HOWEVER…and this goes to Harold’s repeated point that this is a science blog. Indeed it is. But look at the title and subject of this posting, and its implications. I feel as if I am being asked, essentially, to hush up about the atheistic implications for evolution because it’s bad press. But the fact remains that while a god MAY work through, or initiate, evolutionary processes, no god is required for them. As Laplace said, “I have no need of [a god] hypothesis.” (That was him, right?)

So what do you and other people of faith who wisely accept the fact of evolution wish for me to do? Keep to myself, sacrifice integrity on the altar of expedience? To me the atheistic implications of evolution are obvious and they are substantial, impinging on most key doctrines in the Bible, notably humanity’s fall, God’s sovereignty, and an eternal afterlife. Biology and physics argue strongly against such things. It’s not merely a matter of opinion, manufactured out of air or selected at random. I am an atheist by dint of facts and reason…I didn’t assume atheism from the start. If I were going to have an opinion based solely on what it felt good to believe, I would probably be a contented liberal Christian right now. Some of Harold’s phrasing makes it sound as if atheism is for me some sort of presupposition; on the contrary, arriving at atheism entailed an agonizing and lengthy process of reason, exploration, and thought–including in very large measure SCIENTIFIC thought.

I might be guilty of some brash rhetoric on occasion, and for that I do apologize, but my ego is not so outsized as you imply. I find science an excellent method of learning such things as are likely to be factual, and often what I learn cannot be easily harmonized with any interpretation of the Bible that still recognizes the Bible as meaningful.

I feel obligated, too, to admit that on one level I admire the demented, pathological ravings of “Rev.” Phelps more than I would the meretricious pandering of some Unitarian pastors I’ve heard. At least Phelps is telling the truth about what the Bible says. I realize there are ways to read scripture that don’t come off quite as harsh as the “God hates” garbage, but the Levitical command to stone homosexuals is hardly the open-armed love-fest that liberal Christians are now pretending to find in scripture.

As long as revelation can be twisted to say absolutely anything you’d like it to say, then of course nothing, ever, can contradict your faith. Good for you for being Teflon-coated and bullet-proof in your opinions. But if you’re going to adopt some of the trappings of science and reason, at least be honest about the need for heavy qualification, and don’t act as if someone like me, with no stomach for pretending the issues don’t exist, is somehow the bad guy.

Comment #42448

Posted by C.J.O'Brien on August 12, 2005 3:23 PM (e)

Sal, your toy example, as usual, is feeble.
What, in principle prevents building a skyscraper out of grass?

The burden is on you, in the real world problem of evolution-denial, to show that a well-understood, logically inevitable mechanism, in principle cannot produce changes in populations that would represent the evolution of novel “kinds”?

Not only is it true that “macro”evolution occurs, I defy you to tell me how you can stop it occuring.

Comment #42453

Posted by Steviepinhead on August 12, 2005 3:39 PM (e)

Since he seems to reside in the intellectual equivalent of a very small acquarium, Sal probably doesn’t remember that some grasses have evaded those speed limits on change and, um, evolved considerable structural strength.

In fact, in the construction of Asian skyscrapers, these stalks of grass serve as the multi-story scaffolding on which the construction work depends.

Varieties of these same super-stalks are now sawn and planed and laid down instead of oak for use as hardwood floors.

Sal, go google “bamboo.”

Then either answer Lenny’s questions–no, we haven’t forgetten that you have never done so–or just go away again…

Comment #42456

Posted by natural cynic on August 12, 2005 4:31 PM (e)

CJO’Brien:
“People want to believe, and that’s not going to change substantially, in our lifetimes anyway.”

Rich:
“You stick it to them! Also, evolution can’t explain art or ghosts or people speaking tongues in church.”

IMHO, evolution of a certain heritable characteristic that could begin to ‘explain the inexplicable’ - something beyond the meme level - might be advantageous. Would it not be more comfortable for members of a less-complex, low technological society to develop a feeling for supernatural explanations? With increasing levels of technology and the ability to find naturalistic explanations this (now disadvantageous) characteristic
might be able to explain some deliberate ignorance. (Simplified model: Me=rational homozygous; Dembski=heterozygous; most fundies=irrational homozygous) ;-)

Comment #42457

Posted by ts on August 12, 2005 4:43 PM (e)

Harold wrote:

There are lots of sites for religious dispute on the internet, but this one is a science site.

Then why do you insist on defending religion here, and challenging people to disprove it (people who, as Greg notes, and I have noted before him, have already stated that it can’t be disproven)?

You write “Well, in my opinion, the article is a pack of lies”, but your religion-driven rage seems to have blinded you to the fact that there are three articles here. One, by Jacob Weisberg, argues that “evolutionists should quit pretending their views are no threat to believers. This insults our intelligence” – I for one believe this is true, and that it’s important to understand why so many people feel threatened by evolution, and why the numbers of believers declines with exposure to the facts of biology and physics, and why the churches of Europe are being converted to hospitals and dance halls. Another article is about and contains an interview with Michael Ruse. Ruse wrote a book addressing a strawman: “Can a Darwinian Be a Christian?” Since there clearly are Christian Darwinians, this can hardly be what people like Weisberg and Dennett mean when they talk about evolution being a threat to religious belief. And finally there’s an article by Jason Rosenhouse, who argues that both of these gentlemen are following a bad PR strategy. I think this is a rather blindered view as to how public discussion occurs. With article after article addressing ID and Bush’s comments head on, there are bound to be some intellectuals who don’t stick to the political straitjacket and address issues that they think are worth addressing. I find the charge particularly silly when addressed to Ruse, who isn’t a “pundit”, but rather a philosopher who was the subject of an interview. The interview of course dealt with the books that Ruse has written and the philosophical points he has made.

I agree wholeheartedly with what Greg Peterson has written, particularly about Harold’s hypocritical insistence that he hush up (not to mention Harold’s extremely offensive comparison to the Taliban – but <snark>hey, that’s where the irrational mode of religious thinking can take one</snark>), and Greg’s point that “the truth is even more important” than weighing everything we say or write for its PR value. I for one don’t think that the truth about evolution and ID is so fragile that the articles by Weisberg and Ruse, or a few comments at PT expressing a critical view of religion, will determine the outcome of the “PR battle”.

Comment #42460

Posted by Katarina on August 12, 2005 4:50 PM (e)

But the fact remains that while a god MAY work through, or initiate, evolutionary processes, no god is required for them.

Excellent point, and I agree. It is a matter of faith, not necessity, that leads me to the belief that god uses natural processes as tools for creation.

So what do you and other people of faith who wisely accept the fact of evolution wish for me to do? Keep to myself, sacrifice integrity on the altar of expedience?

Come on, don’t be a drama queen. I admire honesty greatly. It is one of the highest principles. And your conclusions are shared by many, many others. I can appreciate their logic, but let’s think for a moment how to apply them to this debate. As a biology teacher, should I represent evolution as evidence against religion? Wouldn’t that be compatible with your view? It is not a small issue, you know. Most people will stop before opening the door of the debate and ask, “Do I have to give up god?” If the answer is no, they won’t even enter.

This is in fact a very important topic of discussion, and I am picking on you because you represent many, many others. I think the point sorely needs addressing, and for people to agree on it. Of course that is not up to me, it is up to everybody who cares about science education.

often what I learn cannot be easily harmonized with any interpretation of the Bible that still recognizes the Bible as meaningful.

No, it is not always easy. But when it is done, the Bible makes even more sense to me than before. And at other points, especially in the Old Testament, when it is very clear that the meaning is what it is, and it is harsh and incompatible with modern Christianity, I simply let it be. The Old Testament was written at a certain time in our history when social norms and practices were different then they are today. I can live with that. But my flexibility does not flex to the point of draining the text of its meaning. That is still a matter of your opinion vs. mine.

As long as revelation can be twisted to say absolutely anything you’d like it to say, then of course nothing, ever, can contradict your faith.

You know, I am not easily offended, but this is starting to get to me. I am under no obligation to justify my beliefs to you in this thread, but I don’t consider myself to be twisting revelation in order to make it fit what can be real. I started out as an atheist, stemming from a family tradition of atheism going back to my grandfather, and came to Christianity through feelings and reasoning. I started out knowing there was something greater out there than myself, and found the Bible to be the best guide. I found Jesus’s teachings compatible with the Marxist philosophy I was raised on, only more meaningful. Having a degree in “Bible,” as you put it, and choosing to turn away from it nevertheless, is not enough to demonstrate that everyone else should do the same.

Comment #42462

Posted by Rob on August 12, 2005 4:53 PM (e)

C.J.O'Brien wrote:

If people persist in aping this utter bilge, I don’t think a PR campaign with Elvis and Jesus doing a “Who’s on first?” routine at the halftime of the Superbowl is going to make a bit of difference.

I believe it’s Eugenie Scott of the NCSE who steadfastly maintains that we shouldn’t debate creationists; I wholeheartedly agree. You can’t win a logical debate with someone who’s thrown logic out the window before the debate even begins. Most online debates on the subject I’ve seen go something like this:

Creationist says something false.
Evolutionist does several hours of fact-checking & research to rebut the creationist’s point.
Creationist ignores the previous point; creationist spends about five seconds to come up with a new, equally incorrect point.
Evolutionist does several more hours of research to rebut the new point.
Repeat ad nauseum until more important things in life necessitate the evolutionist leaving the argument.
Creationist declares self winner and thanks God for helping him/her stand against the adverse forces of Darwinism.

It generally takes more work to defend truths than falsehoods, because truths require facts; arguing with these people about science only gives them unwarranted credibility and immediately puts the burden on the side of the scientist. When approached by the subject, I think it is great to dispense scientific knowledge when the person is willing to listen, but if the said person begins argue from a sectarian standpoint, we should refuse to argue and point to importance of the peer review process in determing what is called good science, and instead put the burden on them to explain what blanket method would work better in determining what is good science and what is not.

Just one man’s opinion; it’s what I plan on doing from now on.

Comment #42463

Posted by ts on August 12, 2005 4:59 PM (e)

But is such a deductive leap justified? I say no.

Sal, are you really so stupid and ignorant as to think there is such a “deductive leap”, that the theory of evolution is constructed along the lines of “pesticides change ants, therefore humans must have evolved from some wormlike protochordate”?

Comment #42464

Posted by Katarina on August 12, 2005 5:01 PM (e)

ts,

I agree that we should ask why so many people feel threatened by evolution, and that it is vitally important to the issue at hand. I think they feel threatened because some of the popularizers of science like Dawkins have mixed in their own “metaphysical” views, using science to justify them. This is unfortunate, and should be conceded.

Comment #42467

Posted by ts on August 12, 2005 5:27 PM (e)

Come on, don’t be a drama queen.

The top article by Jason urges people to shut up. Harold has told people to shut up. Greg is hardly being a “drama queen” by noting that and resisting it.

came to Christianity through feelings and reasoning

Funny, you just said it was faith.

I started out knowing there was something greater out there than myself

So it that faith, feelings, or reasoning? The primary way that science undermines religion is by undermining it as an epistemic source. Science repeatedly makes claims as to what we can expect to observe – predictions – that match what we do observe – i.e., turn out to be true. Religion, faith, or any other alleged source of epistemology cannot match science in that regard. And science demands that we think and speak precisely. Yes, there is something “out there” greater than ourselves – the sun, for instance, is considerably larger and more massive than I am. Humanity is numerous, and for every possible positive trait I can imagine, someone somewhere excels over me. But in what other sense can we know that there is something “greater than” us? Science rejects such proclamations of personal knowledge, it is incompatible with them. As soon as you start making claims about knowledge and reason, you are entering the area where science reigns. And even if one restricts all one’s religious claims to ethical claims, per Gould’s magisteria, that enters the public realm of coercion of behavior. Of course people can choose to gather in whatever building they want to be preached to by whatever demagogue they want, but that’s inconsistent with the autonomy of thought that marks good science, and it inevitably spills over into public policy that curtails non-believers, whether it’s children reciting “under God” every day in public schools or the fact that no atheist can openly run for public office (which facts are connected, as Michael Newdow pointed out to the Supreme Court during his oral arguments). And it’s far from being a “drama queen” to point to those realities.

Comment #42469

Posted by ts on August 12, 2005 5:31 PM (e)

I agree that we should ask why so many people feel threatened by evolution, and that it is vitally important to the issue at hand. I think they feel threatened because some of the popularizers of science like Dawkins have mixed in their own “metaphysical” views, using science to justify them. This is unfortunate, and should be conceded.

Most people who feel threatened by evolution have never heard of Dawkins. We most certainly should not concede such self-serving dishonest garbage.

Comment #42471

Posted by Ed Darrell on August 12, 2005 5:44 PM (e)

Katarina,

The fear among creationists was driven by creationist gurus claiming that evolutionists were coming to take away their Bibles and children before Richard Dawkins was born.

Dawkins occasionally falls into a mold similar to the bete noire painted by charlatan preachers and other fear mongers among creationists, but that’s hardly reason to concede something that is just wrong.

Evolution doesn’t deny God in any fashion – at least, not to a Christian who starts with the faith statement that God is the prime mover in the universe. Evolution is only threatening to those who claim to know, better than God, how God should have created things, and who refuse to let God have a voice in the matter.

Darwin’s evidence was what God presented. The evidence for evolution still is. It’s not evolution that denies God’s role.

Comment #42476

Posted by Flint on August 12, 2005 5:58 PM (e)

Gould speculated that evolution was the most difficult pedestal for people to climb off of. We had to admit we weren’t at the center of the universe, and we did that only grudgingly. Now we are supposed to admit that we aren’t special in any way, just an accident of a contingent process, chunks of ambulatory meat no different in principle from any other animal and closely related to truly unsightly caricatures of our exalted selves.

Evolution, by implication, says to the True Believer: If you accept me, you will have to find the meaning of your life all on your own. You must LEARN it, rather than simply memorize it. And you will have to come to grips with your own mortality. And the self-righteous superiority you assign yourself over all others can no longer be justified on any but the most narrowly selfish grounds. And finally, to know anything you must exert lifelong effort; just making up what you want isn’t good enough anymore.

Comment #42477

Posted by Katarina on August 12, 2005 5:59 PM (e)

But in what other sense can we know that there is something “greater than” us? Science rejects such proclamations of personal knowledge, it is incompatible with them. As soon as you start making claims about knowledge and reason, you are entering the area where science reigns.

I disagree. Science is methods oriented, and seeks tools to answer questions, then asks more questions. It doesn’t claim absolute knowledge, even on a single subject. There is always a level of uncertainty. Science does not reject my knowledge that there is something greater than myself, that knowledge is personal and cannot be rejected by anyone. Philosophy is also a form of reason, and science does not “reign” in that area, though science itself relies on reason and a certain philosophy.

I have had my own personal revelations and experiences that I believe to be a communication between God and myself. You can call me crazy, but you have no grounds to reject me, since I am not trying to impose anything on you or anyone else. The source of my belief is unjustifiable, therefore I do not seek to justify it. My faith comes from feelings, reasoning, and personal revelation. All three. Why should I be asked to justify them?

Comment #42484

Posted by Katarina on August 12, 2005 6:07 PM (e)

Evolution, by implication, says to the True Believer: If you accept me, you will have to find the meaning of your life all on your own. You must LEARN it, rather than simply memorize it. And you will have to come to grips with your own mortality. And the self-righteous superiority you assign yourself over all others can no longer be justified on any but the most narrowly selfish grounds. And finally, to know anything you must exert lifelong effort; just making up what you want isn’t good enough anymore.

Flint, I am really surprised by your comment. Are you serious? This is the kind of thing that closes the door on Christians or other believers, who come to this website to browse, who may have otherwise been our allies but now dismiss us as a bunch of hot-headed atheists. Really, really, what makes you such an expert on this subject? Or me, for that matter? I am simply trying to find common ground, while you are slamming the door. The only reason I stick around here is that I already have so many atheists in my family and in my life, that nothing you can say will offend me, and little you say is new to me.

What I want to know is, what is the point of such arguing? What is the positive outcome you hope for?

Comment #42485

Posted by H. Humbert on August 12, 2005 6:10 PM (e)

It is time to decide your fate. I will flip a coin–heads you live, tails you die. I flip the coin. It has come up heads, and you are spared.

Now, what spared you? Was it fate? Did some cosmic force intercede to save you? Or are you alive today because of chance, because of a random event?

Either view is consistent with the facts, although the first requires the addition of faith.

This is evolution. It appears mechanically to be a random coin flip, however you may ascribe whatever meaning to the results you wish.

Comment #42492

Posted by shiva on August 12, 2005 6:18 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'quote'

Comment #42493

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on August 12, 2005 6:21 PM (e)

You can’t seem to run away

But Sal, YOU certainly seem to run away, every time I ask you four simple questions. Here, I’ll show everyone again:

*ahem*

1. What is the scientific theory of intelligent design, and how do we test it using the scientific method? And please don’t give me more of your “the scientific theory of ID is that evolution is wrong” BS. I want to know what your designer does, specifically. I want to know what mechanism it uses to do whatever the heck you think it does. I want to know where we can see these mechanisms in action.

2. According to this scientific theory of intelligent design, how old is the earth, and did humans descend from apelike primates or did they not?

3. what, precisely, about “evolution” is any more “materialistic” than weather forecasting, accident investigation, or medicine?

4. do you repudiate the extremist views of the primary funder of the Center for (the Renewal of) Science and Culture, Howard Ahmanson, and if so, why do you keep taking his money anyway? And if, unlike most other IDers, you are not sucking at Ahmanson’s teats, I’d still like to know if you repudiate his extremist views.

Time to run away again, Sal.

Bye.

Comment #42495

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on August 12, 2005 6:23 PM (e)

I don’t see how an atheist is in anyway similar to a fundamentalist theist, unless you are referring to an equally fundamentalist strong atheist of course, in which case I understand completely. If this is the case, could you please amend your comment in future to note the difference. Ta!

Happy to.

In exchange, would the “fundamentalist strong atheists” please amend THEIR statements to differentiate ebtween fundamentalist religion and ALL religion?

Comment #42497

Posted by C.J.O'Brien on August 12, 2005 6:25 PM (e)

Chased him off for ya Lenny.

You forgot to trademark Sal-Be-Gone, so I put out an inferior, generic label product.

Still seems to do the trick.

Comment #42498

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on August 12, 2005 6:26 PM (e)

But if one wishes to believe in the gods of revealed religion, evolution is indeed utterly toxic to that belief.

And yet most religious denominations have ino problem at all with evolution. Indeed, in case you didn’t know, several of the plaintiffs in the Dover case are Christians, and the founder of People for the American Way, one of the largest church/state-separation groups in the US, is an ordained minister.

Some friendly advice for you — when you mean “fundamentalist religion”, SAY “fundamentalist religion”. “Fundamentalist” does not equal “religion”. Most “religion” thinks the fundies are just as nutty as you do.

Comment #42502

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on August 12, 2005 6:36 PM (e)

Lenny Wrote:

And as a Taoist I agree with you.

“Above the heavens and below the heavens, I alone am the Honored One.”

Didn’t you recently say you were Tibetan/Tantric Buddhist? Or, uh, are you both?

I’ve studied both. More specifically, I studied shugenja mikkyo, which is a blend of Tantra, Taoism and Buddhism that appeared in Japan in the 6th century. (I have also studied a fair bit of Lakota shamanism.)

You’d have an awfully hard time finding any practitioner of any Asian tradition who would reject any of the others. Just as Hinduism accepts Buddha as simply another manifestation of Brahma, most Asian traditions accept each other as different branches of the same thing. At core, they are all the same. They use different symbolism to communicate, but at core, they are all the same.

I’m comfortable with the symbolism of any one of them.

Comment #42505

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on August 12, 2005 6:39 PM (e)

What I want to know is, what is the point of such arguing? What is the positive outcome you hope for?

I’d like to know that, too. What do we gain by attempting to drive religious people like the Dover plaintiffs from the fight? What do we gain by attempting to drive religious people like Rev Barry Lynn, founder of People for the American Way, from the fight?

Or, perhaps you are not fighting the same fight as I am …. .

Comment #42506

Posted by Russell on August 12, 2005 6:43 PM (e)

…some of the popularizers of science like Dawkins have mixed in their own “metaphysical” views, using science to justify them. This is unfortunate, and should be conceded.

Can I see an actual quote before I consider conceding anything of the sort?

Comment #42507

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on August 12, 2005 6:47 PM (e)

The recent influx of ideological atheists here makes me think that some mailing list or website or something has decided to homestead here. (sigh)

Back in my grassrooots organizing days, as a union organizer, environmental organizer, Wobbly, and political campaign organizer, I would often find our meetings invaded by the Revolutionary Communist Parrots (any grassroots activist will know who I am referring to) or the Mao Mao Maoist PLP, or some other such group. No matter what the focus of the group was, no matter what our aims, no matter who our allies or enemies were, the leninist loonies would always show up and begin their metaphorical chant of “smash the fascist state!!!”.

The ideological atheists here remind me of them. A lot.

Back then, my solution was simple — I kicked their asses out. Our group had an agenda and a strategy for winning that agenda. If the loonies found themselves unable to follow our agenda and strategy, and insisted instead on imposing their own (unrelated) agenda, then they were no longer welcome. They did absolutely nothing to help us, and they did LOTS to hurt us.

I submit that we here are in a similar situation ….

Comment #42509

Posted by Ed Darrell on August 12, 2005 6:51 PM (e)

[quote]I feel as if I am being asked, essentially, to hush up about the atheistic implications for evolution because it’s bad press. But the fact remains that while a god MAY work through, or initiate, evolutionary processes, no god is required for them. As Laplace said, “I have no need of [a god] hypothesis.” (That was him, right?)[/quote]

Yes, that was Laplace – to Napoleon, as I recall. And it wasn’t that Laplace was denying God on that occasion – it was that he had found a proximate cause that did not require the use of a skyhook.

Of course, in conversations with a few of the almost-better read creationists and ID advocates over the years, I’ve had that line thown back at me dozens of times, as if Laplace had been denying God.

So far as we know, evolutionary processes work without immediate and direct intervention by a deity, yes. But anyone of any faith understands that: Were God required, there would be no such thing as an unwanted, out-of-wedlock pregnancy.

Out-of-wedlock pregnancies, wanted or unwanted, do not deny God. I fail to understand how any other fact of evolutionary operation denies God, and I am angered that people (not like your old boss Billy Graham, at least not lately) keep saying that evolution is somehow atheist. Evolution is natural. According to scripture, natural is “from God.”

What’s the problem?

In Christian understanding of reproduction, where is God required for day-to-day operation? It’s no different for any other natural operation which figures into evolution.

It’s always good to remind opponents of evolution just what Darwin was up to. He was out to find the evidence for Genesis 1, the natural, scientific evidence that would verify the scriptural account. Darwin’s family went along with the idea because studying nature was one of those things clergymen did best – and Darwin was aiming for a career in the church. Studying nature was a high, Christian calling.

The problem is not that evolution is atheistic. The problem is that opponents of evolution are working hard to pry the faith away from nature, to pose nature as “not from God,” to suggest natural processes are out of God’s realm, contrary to what scripture says.

They do that by several tactics, one of the most common of which is to accuse evolution of being atheistic. If one listens to D. James Kennedy, one gets the impression (because he says so) that evolution is evil itself, and mere study of the topic will corrupt the morals of the student and everyone within several miles of the material being studied.

That’s wrong. That many people of faith are convinced of its truth is not a reason to “admit” it, however. It is simply one more thing around which we must work to make the case.

Treating diabetes is not evil, but according to D. James Kennedy every step leading to the treatment is evil. There is a dissonance there between what the anti-evolution religionists say, and reality. I think average Christians can see that dissonance, and when it is pointed out to them, they back away from the crazier pronouncements against science, against evolution, against Darwin, and against people who work to understand the world.

What do I want you to do? I want you to speak truth, constantly, everywhere. Studing nature is not evil; evolution theory is the source of much good. If we follow Jesus’ suggestion that we can tell the worth and nobility of actions by their fruit, evolution comes off as Godly.

Tell that message to Christians. They need to hear it, understand it, and assent to it.

Comment #42510

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on August 12, 2005 6:52 PM (e)

The only way to harmonize science and the Bible, for example, is to water both down in a way that makes the Genesis flood look like a Mr. Turtle Pool.

OK. (shrug) What’s the problem with that? After all, giving up a global flood that destroyed all life is only a problem for the Biblical literalists, and most Christians already think the Biblical literalists are idiots.

Or are you under the mistaken impression that “Christian” and “fundamentalist” are the same thing…. . ?

Comment #42513

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on August 12, 2005 7:05 PM (e)

I feel as if I am being asked, essentially, to hush up about the atheistic implications for evolution because it’s bad press.

Nonsense.

There simply ARE no “atheistic implications for evolution”, any more than there are “atheistic implications for weather forecasting” or “atheistic implications for accident investigation” or “atheistic implications for the rules of baseball”. It is, afetr all, pretty stupid to argue that religion and science are incompatible when a ten minute look around you will show that (1) many scientists accept relgiious beleifs, and (2) many religious denominations accept all of science. (You could, of course, argue - just like the IDers do - that everyone else but you is simply “confused” …. )

You are of course entirely free, just like the IDers are, to draw whatever religious opinions you like from science. What you (just like the IDers) are NOT entitled to do, though, is declare that your religious opinions ARE science. They are not. Science has diddley doo to say about gods or goddesses.

As I noted, you are no different than the IDers. You have your religious opinions; they have theirs. Both of you declare that your religious opinions must be right because they are supported by science, and those who reject your opinions must simply be either stupid or dishonest or confused or actively in denial.

Like I said, brothers under the skin.

Both you and the IDers are mis-using science, to an equal extent, solely to support your religious opinions – and attempting to push those religious opinions onto others. And I will fight both you and the IDers, equally, to protect the integrity of science. Against ALL abusers.

In the meantime, would y’all mind please moving your holy war somewhere else? It’s getting in the way of my anti-ID fight. And if you get in my way, I will, of necessity, do what I need to do to get you OUT of my way.

And BTW, before you start going off your nut about my “theistic biases” and “religious brainwashing” and blah blah blah yadda yadda yadda, let me inform you that I do not propose, and I do not accept, the existence of any god, goddess or any supernatural entity of any sort. Whatsoever.

Comment #42514

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on August 12, 2005 7:10 PM (e)

As a biology teacher, should I represent evolution as evidence against religion? Wouldn’t that be compatible with your view? It is not a small issue, you know. Most people will stop before opening the door of the debate and ask, “Do I have to give up god?” If the answer is no, they won’t even enter.

This is in fact a very important topic of discussion, and I am picking on you because you represent many, many others. I think the point sorely needs addressing, and for people to agree on it. Of course that is not up to me, it is up to everybody who cares about science education.

As a simple matter of practical tactics, it is incredibly stupid to piss off potential allies.

Unelss, of course, the ideological atheists here are fighting a different fight than we are.

In which case they should move along (or BE moved along) and carry on their Jihad somewhere else. It’s getting in the way of our anti-ID fight. They don’t help us. They DO hurt us.

This is the “we don’t like ID in our classrooms” movement. It’s not the “we don’t like religion” movement.

Comment #42522

Posted by Arden Chatfield on August 12, 2005 7:38 PM (e)

You’d have an awfully hard time finding any practitioner of any Asian tradition who would reject any of the others. Just as Hinduism accepts Buddha as simply another manifestation of Brahma, most Asian traditions accept each other as different branches of the same thing. At core, they are all the same. They use different symbolism to communicate, but at core, they are all the same.

I’m comfortable with the symbolism of any one of them.

That’s cool, but I don’t agree with the statement “You’d have an awfully hard time finding any practitioner of any Asian tradition who would reject any of the others.” I’ve been a Theravada Buddhist for about 8 years and I can attest, and they don’t overlap with the Hinduism or Tantra crowds much at all. Not that they go around badmouthing what Hindus, Taoists or Tibetans (or Lakhotas) do, just that the different branches of Buddhism are really different, and some of these belief systems really do contradict each other.

Anyway, back to our regularly scheduled programming…

Comment #42523

Posted by Hyperion on August 12, 2005 7:40 PM (e)

people like Rev Barry Lynn, founder of People for the American Way

Pardon me for being nitpicky, but I believe that Lynn is the founder of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, although I submit that it is certainly possible that I am mistaken, or that he is involved with both groups. However, I think that his work with Americans United is probably even more germaine to the topic.

And just to stay on topic: It is a very bad idea to equate “religion” with “religious fundamentalism.” It is even worse to equate “religion” with “a particular branch of Christian Evangelical fundamentalism.” When was the last time you heard a Rabbi, or the minister of a moderate, mainline Protestant faith, or a Unitarian minister, or a Buddhist monk urging their followers to reject “evilutionism?”

oh, and one particular thing that I think sums up the whole issue:

Students in biology classes are seeing their professors unable to defend the grand claims of unguided evolution

Yes, and this explains quite well why South Korea is now the world leader in biotechnology. Their students actually pay attention in class and then proceed to apply their lessons towards research, rather than complaining because they have personal problems with particular scientific observations.

Comment #42524

Posted by ts on August 12, 2005 7:42 PM (e)

Katarina wrote:

It doesn’t claim absolute knowledge, even on a single subject.

It doesn’t, but you do.

There is always a level of uncertainty. Science does not reject my knowledge that there is something greater than myself, that knowledge is personal and cannot be rejected by anyone.

Science rejects the notion that such claims count as knowledge, that there is such a thing as “personal knowledge”, beyond knowledge that is about a person. Most scientists, even the theistic ones, consider such claims to be New Age postmodernist jibber-jabber.

You can call me crazy, but you have no grounds to reject me

I don’t reject you, I reject your claim. Or rather, I would argue that there are more plausible explanations, grounded in human psychology, for your experiences. That’s an area of science, and your claims are subject to scientific scrutiny.

since I am not trying to impose anything on you or anyone else.

That’s irrelevant. Science addresses human beings, their utterances, and their beliefs, as subjects of inquiry.

The source of my belief is unjustifiable, therefore I do not seek to justify it.

But you are trying, very hard, to justify it and shield it from challenge.

This is the kind of thing that closes the door on Christians or other believers, who come to this website to browse, who may have otherwise been our allies but now dismiss us as a bunch of hot-headed atheists.

There’s a steady stream of them; losing one or two is no problem. And this is just the sort of thing that Greg was complaining about, and just as invalid as your trash about Richard Dawkins. If you want to talk about your conversations with God, then we ought to be able to talk about our views. Just think about how many atheists might come here and get scared away by all the Christians proclaiming their beliefs.

Comment #42526

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on August 12, 2005 7:49 PM (e)

I’ve been a Theravada Buddhist for about 8 years and I can attest, and they don’t overlap with the Hinduism or Tantra crowds much at all. Not that they go around badmouthing what Hindus, Taoists or Tibetans (or Lakhotas) do, just that the different branches of Buddhism are really different, and some of these belief systems really do contradict each other.

Ah well, like I said before, “Above the heavens and below the heavens, I alone am the Honored One”. (shrug)

Comment #42527

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on August 12, 2005 7:55 PM (e)

If you want to talk about your conversations with God, then we ought to be able to talk about our views.

Which is precisely why I think ALL religious discussions, pro or con, should be banned here. They are utterly irrelevant to the issues at hand. All they do is divide us and alienate potential allies. I see no point to it, no use for it, and no good coming of it.

Comment #42528

Posted by ts on August 12, 2005 8:01 PM (e)

Yes, that was Laplace — to Napoleon, as I recall. And it wasn’t that Laplace was denying God on that occasion — it was that he had found a proximate cause that did not require the use of a skyhook.

Of course, in conversations with a few of the almost-better read creationists and ID advocates over the years, I’ve had that line thown back at me dozens of times, as if Laplace had been denying God.

What basis do you have for saying that Laplace wasn’t denying God? The question wasn’t just about “a proximate cause”, it was about his book on astronomy. Unlike contemporaries such as Newton, Laplace not only didn’t talk repeatedly about God and invoke him as a prime mover, but in fact explicitly denied him as such. He and Laviousier showed that respiration is a form of combustion, a step along the way to the refutation of vitalism. A review of Laplace’s Essai philosophique sur les probabilités stated “after a general introduction concerning the principles of probability theory, one finds a discussion of a host of applications, including those to games of chance, natural philosophy, the moral sciences, testimony, judicial decisions and mortality”. Certainly an uncommon approach for a theist. Some other quotes from Laplace:

If man were restricted to collecting facts the sciences were only a sterile nomenclature and he would never have known the great laws of nature. It is in comparing the phenomena with each other, in seeking to grasp their relationships, that he is led to discover these laws…


… I have sought to establish that the phenomena of nature can be reduced in the last analysis to actions at a distance between molecule and molecule, and that the consideration of these actions must serve as the basis of the mathematical theory of these phenomena.

No mention of God in that last analysis of the phenomena of nature. I can’t prove that, despite all this, Laplace believed in God, but I have yet to see any evidence that he did.

Comment #42531

Posted by ts on August 12, 2005 8:07 PM (e)

Unlike contemporaries such as Newton, Laplace

Before someone else dings me for this … Newton died 22 years before Laplace was born.

Comment #42533

Posted by Kevin Dowd on August 12, 2005 8:08 PM (e)

jason jason !!!

Comment #42534

Posted by Kevin Dowd on August 12, 2005 8:08 PM (e)

jason jason !!!

Comment #42536

Posted by Kevin Dowd on August 12, 2005 8:14 PM (e)

all true believers should vist

http://www.churchofreality.org/wisdom/

instead of http://www.landoverbaptist.org/

kd

Comment #42538

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on August 12, 2005 8:38 PM (e)

I can’t prove that, despite all this, Laplace believed in God, but I have yet to see any evidence that he did.

Would it make some sort of difference if he did? Or didn’t?

Would it make some sort of difference if Darwin did? Or didn’t?

How about Newton? Einstein? Faraday? Lavoisier? Hawking? Bohr? Ayala?

What difference would it make to science if any of these people did, or didn’t, believe in a god or gods?

Comment #42540

Posted by ts on August 12, 2005 8:47 PM (e)

Would it make some sort of difference if he did? Or didn’t?

Ask Ed Durrell, since he made a point of it, and apparently argues with IDists about it.

Comment #42541

Posted by ts on August 12, 2005 8:56 PM (e)

Back then, my solution was simple —- I kicked their asses out. Our group had an agenda and a strategy for winning that agenda.

Apparently your strategy is to ask any creationist who wanders in here to answer some questions, to note that Dover will smash ID, to complain about “ideological atheists”, and then to repeat, and repeat, and repeat … It’s rather limited, and not really effective outside of your fantasies. I certainly hope that teaching evolution fairs better than did the Wobblies and the labor movement. But I don’t delude myself into thinking that I will play any role, certainly not by posting to the comments section of a blog.

Comment #42543

Posted by steve on August 12, 2005 9:35 PM (e)

Lenny’s questions are good. his beef with atheists, I have no idea what that’s about because I don’t read his posts. I don’t read any long posts. Brevity is the soul of wit. But the repetitive simple questions which IDers can’t answer, are really good.

Comment #42546

Posted by Harq al-Ada on August 12, 2005 11:20 PM (e)

I don’t think Dr. Flank has anything against atheists. He said that he believes in no supernatural entity and I take his word for it. Not that a theist can’t also respect an atheist.

I think this nasty little fight that has been occurring on this thread is probably the result of misunderstanding and pride on both sides. Greg and TS are, I think, saying that certain religious assumptions about the way the world works conflict with science, and that science seems to show thusfar that a God isn’t mandatory, at least for our current understanding of science. This is a lot different than saying that his existence has been disproven: the theological implications of the huge host of scientific observations that is consistent with naturalism can be an annihilation of the certainty of God, but do not give certainty of his absence. I am sure Greg and TS agree with this. There could be a god, and there could not.

Lenny apparently read “theological implications” and was reminded of all the times that creationists have used those words to make it seem that science and religion are incompatible, when that may not have been what Greg or TS were trying to do. He responded harshly. Then TS resorted to an ad hominem. I’m guessing TS was defensive because atheists are marginalized so many parts of society and he felt that he should at least feel welcome in a pro-science site. And Lenny Flank was defensive because he sees that making evolution/creationism a war between religion and science is not only incorrect but a default victory for creationists.

But can’t we all just get along? The problem with internet forums is that people can’t shake hands and look another in the eye as they apologize for their incivility toward each other.

Comment #42548

Posted by Katarina on August 12, 2005 11:43 PM (e)

I would argue that there are more plausible explanations, grounded in human psychology, for your experiences.

ts, how can you argue that, when I haven’t even described my experiences? Psychology has nothing to do with most of them, but improbable events occuring just after I prayed for them to occur. Improbability of events does not in itself prove they must have been God-guided, as Intelligent Design proponents have driven home, but for me, who felt the presence of God at the time of the events, it is a personal revelation.

The reason I shared my views is in part to answer questions, and in part to show that not everything has to revolve around science. I did not mean to impose them on anyone, and I usually do not try to do so, unless someone asks me to and is receptive to what I have to say.

I certainly agree that religious discussions have no place being mixed with scientific discussions, but religion is at the center of this cultural controversy, and that is why the issue is relevant and important. I never said it had anything to do with science.

As for my claim about Richard Dawkins, there are so many things he has said that are leaps of logic about the nature of god, that I don’t know where to start. I could write a thesis about it, and at the moment I have no wish to boil it down for you, so you can knit-pick away at it. It is my bed-time, and I have a busy weekend planned, so I will leave that for another time. For the same reason, I am not going to go into all the ill-reasoned attacks on my statements, or things you made me state that I haven’t stated, for example, having absolute knowledge.

Just to add though, that I respect Richard Dawkins, and I acknowledge that he is one of the greatest intellectuals of our time. I just don’t agree with his conclusions about god, or lack thereof. It is pure arrogance to think otherwise.

With that, I say good night.

Comment #42555

Posted by Alan on August 13, 2005 2:47 AM (e)

But I don’t delude myself into thinking that I will play any role, certainly not by posting to the comments section of a blog.

Then why bother?

Comment #42562

Posted by ts on August 13, 2005 4:12 AM (e)

Harq al-Ada wrote:

the repetitive simple questions which IDers can’t answer, are really good.

Eh? Lenny suggested that my ass be kicked out of here – and it’s not the first time he’s done so – as part a winning agenda. I pointed out that Lenny’s idea of an agenda is a fairy tale, a delusion. It was quite relevant to Lenny’s argument.

Katarina wrote:

ts, how can you argue that, when I haven’t even described my experiences? Psychology has nothing to do with most of them, but improbable events occuring just after I prayed for them to occur.

This is a bit like an IDist asking how an evolutionist can argue that some new example of irreducible complexity doesn’t contradict the theory of evolution without even knowing what the example is. There are statistical studies of the efficacy of prayer, and there’s extensive literature on the psychology of such experiences, on selective perception that leads people to note confirming but not disconfirming instances, on people’s erroneous judgments of probability. I can argue it because it’s science and I’m familiar with it. And yet here you are, making empirical claims that contradict well established science, and justifying your belief based on observation, contrary to your claims.

As for my claim about Richard Dawkins, there are so many things he has said that are leaps of logic about the nature of god, that I don’t know where to start.

Aside from the fact that Richard Dawkins is far more expert at logic than you are, this has nothing to do with your claim, which was that Dawkins is the cause of people fearing evolution. That claim is false garbage.

Alan wrote:

Then why bother?

Why bother asking, Alan? Hint: there are numerous other reasons to post in the comments section here than a belief that one’s postings will stop ID in its tracks. I’m pretty sure even you can understand that.

Comment #42563

Posted by ts on August 13, 2005 4:16 AM (e)

Oops, I messed up that first quote.

Harq al-Ada wrote:

Then TS resorted to an ad hominem.

Eh? Lenny suggested that my ass be kicked out of here — and it’s not the first time he’s done so — as part a winning agenda. I pointed out that Lenny’s idea of an agenda is a fairy tale, a delusion. It was quite relevant to Lenny’s argument.

Comment #42564

Posted by Toby on August 13, 2005 4:20 AM (e)

ts, you first say:

ts wrote:

What basis do you have for saying that Laplace wasn’t denying God?

You then say:

ts wrote:

I can’t prove that, despite all this, Laplace believed in God, but I have yet to see any evidence that he did.

If, from his statements, there is no proof in either Laplace’s belief or lack of belief in God, you cannot say that Laplace “denied” God. You could well say he “ignored” God in this work, but “denial” requires Laplace to make an active effort and say he doesn’t believe in God - which, as you have already said, he didn’t.

Comment #42565

Posted by Andrew Rowell on August 13, 2005 4:24 AM (e)

How I was infected with ID.

It was a dreary winter morning in 1986 and a 9.00am lecture by Conrad Lichtenstein in the second year undergraduate “Molecular Biology” module. It was a little cluster of lectures on the bacterial virus called “Lambda” and what made up for the dreary winter morning was that Conrad Lichtenstein was the best lecturer in the undergraduate course… enthusiastic and full of energy, wit, excitement and enjoyment of science. The subject was how different genes can be switched on and off and how this is controlled. It turns out that the virus has two possible infection options 1. Infect and hide quietly as part of the bacterial DNA – it does this when life is good and all the economic indicators for growth are positive. 2. Infect and reproduce as fast as possible and burst the host cell- it does this when life is tough and economic indicators are down.

The focus of the lectures was that this is a model for the method that is used in biology for controlling two possible programs of gene expression. There are two possible programs and there is an environmentally sensitive switch between the two. The switch is useless to the virus without the two programs and one of the two programs is useless without the environmentally sensitive switch.

I found the unfolding of this whole story intensely exciting and thrilling… it is a marvellous piece of science! The thing however that made this experience memorable was that this little circuit with its elegant little switch thundered to me INTELLIGENCE, ELEGANCE, and DESIGN! It literally shouted at me that I was looking at someone else’s invention… and it was amazing! I wanted to jump on my seat, shout hurrah and dance down the aisles of the lecture room… (I refrained) It was the conjunction of the elegance of the scientific discovery and the elegance of what was sitting there in front of me that combined to result in my excitement. I will never forget it! Eureka!

I understand that there are those who believe that switches and circuits in biology can happen and put themselves together to do useful things…but they should at least accept that explaining how they do it is a good deal more difficult than providing a detailed molecular pathway for the evolution of antibiotic resistance etc.

Comment #42567

Posted by Andrew Rowell on August 13, 2005 5:06 AM (e)

Ed,

You said

Ed Darrell wrote:

But scientists must stop claiming miracles when a perfectly workable and replicable explanation covers the event instead.

Does this mean that it is perfectly scientific and legitimate to claim today that the origin of life is an example of a miracle? ie with our present knowledge of abiogenesis this is a reasonable scientific proposition.

How much of evolution do we have “perfectly workable and replicable explanations” for?

Comment #42568

Posted by ts on August 13, 2005 5:07 AM (e)

Ed, you wrote

I’ve had that line thown back at me dozens of times, as if Laplace had been denying God.

That’s quite different from “as if they could know or prove that Laplace had been denying God”. Your statement implies, or at least strongly suggests, that you think he hadn’t been. Also,

You could well say he “ignored” God in this work, but “denial” requires Laplace to make an active effort and say he doesn’t believe in God - which, as you have already said, he didn’t.

I would say that Laplace’s statement suggests weak atheism – the lack of an active belief in God. Of course it’s still possible that Laplace believed in God; it’s possible even if he had directly denied it (it happens often enough the other way around). It’s even possible that Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett believe in God. But possibility and proof are the wrong epistemological standard for empirical matters. The proper standard is inference to the best explanation, and contrary to your claim of requirement, the best explanation for Laplace’s utterances and writings appears to be a lack of belief in God, so I think it’s quite reasonable for IDists to state that – though I don’t think it’s reasonable for them to draw any inferences from that in favor of ID. Which goes back to Lenny’s question – why does that matter, and why are you having that debate with IDists?

Comment #42569

Posted by ts on August 13, 2005 5:17 AM (e)

Andrew Rowell wrote:

I understand that there are those who believe that switches and circuits in biology can happen and put themselves together to do useful things…but they should at least accept that explaining how they do it is a good deal more difficult than providing a detailed molecular pathway for the evolution of antibiotic resistance etc.

The way that explaining life is a good deal more difficult than providing the details of metabolism, locomotion, reproduction, etc., I suppose. Welcome to Vitalism 101.

Ed Darrell Wrote:

But scientists must stop claiming miracles when a perfectly workable and replicable explanation covers the event instead.

Does this mean that it is perfectly scientific and legitimate to claim today that the origin of life is an example of a miracle?

Scientists claiming miracles aren’t doing so qua scientists. Just because some scientists go to church on Sunday or prefer vanilla to chocolate, that doesn’t make those “perfectly scientific”.

Comment #42570

Posted by ts on August 13, 2005 5:19 AM (e)

I wrote:

Ed, you wrote … Also, …

Oops, I mistook Toby for Ed. My apologies to both.

Comment #42573

Posted by ts on August 13, 2005 5:48 AM (e)

Katarina wrote:

Just to add though, that I respect Richard Dawkins, and I acknowledge that he is one of the greatest intellectuals of our time. I just don’t agree with his conclusions about god, or lack thereof. It is pure arrogance to think otherwise.

Think otherwise about what? The existence of God? That you don’t agree with his conclusions? That you respect him? And arrogance on whose part? Dawkins’? Mine? The arrogance I see here is your berating Dawkins for “leaps of logic” and your justifying belief in God based upon your probability estimates of the correlation between your prayers and events that follow them, and telling me that I can’t argue with that because I don’t know the details of your experiences – as arrogant as people who claim that no one can argue with their UFO abduction experiences if they weren’t there.

On what Dawkins actually concludes about God, consider this:

A friend, an intelligent lapsed Jew who observes the Sabbath for reasons of cultural solidarity, describes himself as a Tooth Fairy Agnostic. He will not call himself an atheist because it is in principle impossible to prove a negative. But “agnostic” on its own might suggest that he though God’s existence or non-existence equally likely. In fact, though strictly agnostic about god, he considers God’s existence no more probable than the Tooth Fairy’s.
Bertrand Russell used a hypothetical teapot in orbit about Mars for the same didactic purpose. You have to be agnostic about the teapot, but that doesn’t mean you treat the likelihood of its existence as being on all fours with its non-existence.
The list of things about which we strictly have to be agnostic doesn’t stop at tooth fairies and celestial teapots. It is infinite. If you want to believe in a particular one of them – teapots, unicorns, or tooth fairies, Thor or Yahweh – the onus is on you to say why you believe in it. The onus is not on the rest of us to say why we do not. We who are atheists are also a-fairyists, a-teapotists, and a-unicornists, but we don’t’ have to bother saying so.

Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.

I don’t think God is an explanation at all. It’s simply redescribing the problem. We are trying to understand how we have got a complicated world, and we have an explanation in terms of a slightly simpler world, and we explain that in terms of a slightly simpler world and it all hangs together down to an ultimately simple world. Now, God is not an explanation of that kind. God himself cannot be simple if he has power to do all the things he is supposed to do.

The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.

Comment #42588

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on August 13, 2005 8:27 AM (e)

his beef with atheists

I don’t have any beef with atheists. As I noted, I myself do not propose, and do not accept, the existence of any god, goddess, or spernatural entity of any sort.

My objections to the latest string of ideological atheists here are tactical. Our agenda is to fight the IDers. THEIR agenda is to stamp out religion. I have no interest in such an agenda. Particularly when their (irrelevant) agenda gets in the way of OUR agenda, by pissing off potential allies, strengthening the ID arguments, and heloing the IDers win new recruits and converts.

TS, specifically, is here to (1) preach his religious opinions, and (2) pick fights. I see no use for either, and I have no interest in either.

Comment #42589

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on August 13, 2005 8:31 AM (e)

I would say that Laplace’s statement suggests weak atheism — the lack of an active belief in God.

So what.

What difference does any scientist’s belief or lack of belief in god or gods make? Why should anyone care in the slightest?

Comment #42591

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on August 13, 2005 8:45 AM (e)

making evolution/creationism a war between religion and science is not only incorrect but a default victory for creationists.

And this is indeed the *good* that comes from this “debate”. IDers and creationuts tell us constantly that science and religion are incompatible, and one simply cannot accept both.

Yet, every time TS or some other ideological atheist makes the very same argument (odd, isn’t it, that the only ones who agree with the fundies are the hardcore atheists), ALL of the people who argue against him are “evolutionists”. NONE of the people arguing against him are IDers or fundies.

It’s a good thing for all the lurkers to see that. It points out, clearly and cleanly, that the IDers are full of it when they claim that “evilution is atheism” or “science and religion are incompatible”. This claim is one of the IDers’ primary sources of support among the average Joe and Jane. And this discussion demonstrates conclusively that this claim is a crock of cow cakes. Most “evolutionists” have no gripe with religion, and most religions think creationist/IDers are just as nutty as everyone else does.

Despite the arm-waving of the IDers (and the hardcore atheists), this is NOT a fight between “science” and “religion”. It is a fight between a tiny lunatic fringe of ayatollah-wanna-be’s and … well … everyone else.

Comment #42592

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on August 13, 2005 8:47 AM (e)

Dawkins actually concludes about God

Why on earth should anyone care more about what Dawkins concludes about God than they should care what my next door neighbor or my car mechanic or my veterinarian or the kid who delivers my pizzas concludes about God?

Comment #42593

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on August 13, 2005 8:50 AM (e)

Does this mean that it is perfectly scientific and legitimate to claim today that the origin of life is an example of a miracle? ie with our present knowledge of abiogenesis this is a reasonable scientific proposition.

Yes, you are entirely welcome to cram God into that Gap.

Alas, though, as the gaps keep getting smaller, so does God.

Comment #42595

Posted by Katarina on August 13, 2005 9:02 AM (e)

It is pure arrogance to think otherwise.

Um, it was getting late, and after I wrote that I thought, what the heck? I spent all day yesterday on this thread and it was just getting late and the output from my brain was getting less clear. What I should have said is that it is arrogant for a person who does not believe in god to assume they know what the nature of god might be if he did exist, or what kind of a universe god would want to build. It came from the following things that Dawkins said:

Only God would essay the mad task of leaping up the precipice in a single bound. And if we postulate him as our cosmic designer we are left in exactly the same position as when we started. Any Designer capable of constructing the dazzling array of living things would have to be intelligent and complicated beyond all imagining. And complicated is just another word for improbable - and therefore demanding of explanation. A theologian who ripostes that his god is sublimely simple has (not very) neatly evaded the issue, for a sufficiently simple god, whatever other virtues he might have, would be too simple to be capable of designing a universe (to say nothing of forgiving sins, answering prayers, blessing unions, transubstantiating wine, and the many other achievements variously expected of him). You cannot have it both ways. Either your god is capable of designing worlds and doing all the other godlike things, in which case he needs an explanation in his own right. Or he is not, in which case he cannot provide an explanation.

(Climbing Mount Improbable, Chapter 3 - Message from the Mountain)

and this..

The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.

(River out of Eden)

Now, I do not claim to be better at logic than Dawkins, but I do have a choice of what to believe. I did not claim, either, that my experiences are irrefutable evidence of God, therefore I was not trying to justify my belief, merely to describe the reasons for it. The reasons don’t rest either on pure logic or on the impossibility of anything else, but on my choice. Those coincidences happened, and I may have chosen to ignore my feelings at the time, or to attribute them to psychologicy, and say that coincidences like that just happen. My father did so, and he is still an atheist. I chose not to do so, and I am not still an atheist.

That claim is very different than those of Intelligent Design, who believe a creator is the necessary logical conclusion from what we see of the world, or from Dawkins, who believes the lack of a creator is the necessary logical conclusion from what we see of the world.

I make this choice because I essentially believe there is more to the world than what we see.

Thank you for your time.

Comment #42597

Posted by ts on August 13, 2005 9:17 AM (e)

Lenny wrote:

Dawkins actually concludes about God

Why on earth should anyone care more about what Dawkins concludes about God than they should care what my next door neighbor or my car mechanic or my veterinarian or the kid who delivers my pizzas concludes about God?

Once again Lenny is having trouble following a conversation, a train of thought, or a logical sequence. Katarina made unsubstantiated claims about what Dawkins concludes; that’s why I provided quotes. Katarina stated why she cares – because she thinks that Dawkins’ views make people afraid of evolution. See, Lenny, it’s really quite simple, if you’re not too simple-minded about it.

Comment #42599

Posted by ts on August 13, 2005 9:30 AM (e)

Katarina wrote:

What I should have said is that it is arrogant for a person who does not believe in god to assume they know what the nature of god might be if he did exist, or what kind of a universe god would want to build.

You can’t get much more arrogant than that, Katarina, arrogating to believers the right to speak about the possible nature of god and denying it to non-believers.

I was not trying to justify my belief, merely to describe the reasons for it.

Providing reasons for a belief is providing justification for the belief. You’re equivocating here; the point was that you argued on an empirical basis – prayer was followed by what was prayed for improbably often, was the claim. Such claims are subject to scientific investigation.

Comment #42600

Posted by ts on August 13, 2005 9:33 AM (e)

Lenny wrote:

TS, specifically, is here to (1) preach his religious opinions, and (2) pick fights. I see no use for either, and I have no interest in either.

All these claims, most obviously the last one, are false.

Comment #42601

Posted by ts on August 13, 2005 9:39 AM (e)

Lenny wrote:

science and religion are incompatible, and one simply cannot accept both.

Yet, every time TS or some other ideological atheist makes the very same argument

Lenny is demonstrably not good at following arguments, so what he has to say about what arguments people have made doesn’t amount to much. I have never made an argument that one cannot accept both science and religion; I don’t argue for claims that are trivially false.

Comment #42609

Posted by Katarina on August 13, 2005 10:16 AM (e)

prayer was followed by what was prayed for improbably often, was the claim. Such claims are subject to scientific investigation.

True, but the inner knowledge I had of God’s presence at those moments is not subject to anyone else’s verification. That is why I claimed all along that the knowledge is personal. I know I cannot prove it to anyone, but it is proof enough for me, because I chose from that point to believe.

I don’t mind if atheists talk about god, but for a person who is an expert in evolution theory to say such things is damaging, and makes people fear evolution as the great materialistic philosophy. I am sure Dawkins inspired more than one person to turn to Intelligent Design.

Comment #42610

Posted by ts on August 13, 2005 10:37 AM (e)

True, but the inner knowledge I had of God’s presence at those moments is not subject to anyone else’s verification. That is why I claimed all along that the knowledge is personal. I know I cannot prove it to anyone, but it is proof enough for me, because I chose from that point to believe.

First, it’s tendentious to call it knowledge. Second, you switched midstream to an empirical claim. Third, your inner experiences are becoming less and less inaccessible as neuroscience marches on. And, as I noted, such things are also amenable to statistical and psychological analysis.

I don’t mind if atheists talk about god

But you just said it was arrogant to do so. Now you’re changing your tune – again.

but for a person who is an expert in evolution theory to say such things is damaging, and makes people fear evolution as the great materialistic philosophy. I am sure Dawkins inspired more than one person to turn to Intelligent Design.

I’m pretty sure that Dawkins is going to continue to speak the truth as he sees it, whether you think it’s damaging or not. Frankly, I think it’s damaging to the whole intellectual enterprise to do anything else. And if there are such people who have turned to ID because of Dawkins, they are exceedingly silly and probably beyond all hope. But I have my doubts that there is even one such person. Rather, creationists use Dawkins as a bogeyman to convince people who already don’t believe in evolution that their religious rights are endangered. If it weren’t Dawkins it would be some other atheist scientist. There are, after all, a lot of them.

Comment #42611

Posted by Louis on August 13, 2005 10:40 AM (e)

Hi Lenny,

Cheers for considering the amendment! ;-)

Although I personally am not a “fundamentalist strong atheist”, and thus I cannot speak for them, I will happily continue to mention, whenever I see it done, that tarring ALL religion/religious people/products of religion with the same extreme fundamentalist brush is utterly bloody daft. My point, as I am sure you are aware, is that the tarring ALL of any group of humans with the same brush is bloody daft. I’m not sure that “fighting fire with fire” is a good idea. Just because we have some atheists generalising that all religionists are identical to the extreme fundamentalist fringe, I doubt it is any more productive to generalise that all atheists are identical to the extreme fundamentalist fringe. Like I’ve said many times before, it isn’t religion, religious people or the positive products of religion I have a problem with, it’s the fundamentalists and those people who think their beliefs should be my laws. Theists aren’t the problem, atheists aren’t the problem, fundamentalists are the problem.

I happen to think we’re very much on the same page on this one. The evolution/IDcreatotastic “debate” is about as much about science as it is about Volvo flavoured ice cream in antique Victorian wardobes carved by Martians. It IS however ALL about politics and the inability of SOME people to accept reality on the basis of their rather unusual and narrow religious beliefs. The conflict for THEM is purely about the conflict of reason with faith. It’s an antique debate that we both agree will never be resolved, only because some people will ignore the fact that it was resolved ages ago.

Ah well.

Comment #42613

Posted by Pierce R. Butler on August 13, 2005 11:05 AM (e)

Chip: Darwinism(or really more appropriately Neo-Darwinism) has a very specific and precise meaning. Why do people waste time denying its power and importance as a research tradition (or if you prefer, paradigm)?

Neither “neo-Darwinism” nor “the modern synthesis” is a term that can persist too long in time (they’re both older than I am, & my beard is turning gray). They’re also vague enough that people can project any meaning onto them and still think they know what they’re talking about.

Chip: … in their popular writings they present the philosophical positions of Darwinism as unifying principles for all knowledge.

??? Pls show me where Dawkins or anyone else has averred that common descent with modification by natural selection applies to chemistry, astrophysics, epistomology, etc…

Chip: IT is only when creationism leads you into making specific statements that are easily discredited through valid means of generating warranted claims to knowledge, that materialism has any claim over other world views.

A logical inconsistency here - or do you mean that since creationism does make such claims, then materialism does have the edge?

Seems to me that any “specific statement” about the material world is subject to materialist inquiry. Some statements may go beyond that (e.g., “Dick is very sad about Sally leaving” - neuro-endocrinal measurements may support the first part, but the rest is harder to verify), yet I would distrust any statement asserting that material concerns are subject to immaterial influences.

Comment #42614

Posted by ts on August 13, 2005 11:06 AM (e)

Just because we have some atheists generalising that all religionists are identical to the extreme fundamentalist fringe

Do we? Who?

I doubt it is any more productive to generalise that all atheists are identical to the extreme fundamentalist fringe.

Well, Lenny hasn’t done that; in fact, he’s explicitly said that he isn’t referring to all atheists. He only says that some atheists – like me – are identical to the extreme fundamentalist fringe. Of course it’s absurd to say such a thing, but let’s at least be accurate about what ridiculous claim he makes.

Comment #42615

Posted by Pierce R. Butler on August 13, 2005 11:12 AM (e)

Kataina: I am sure Dawkins inspired more than one person to turn to Intelligent Design.

Have you met any such persons? (Has anyone here?)

There may well be such, but claiming to be “sure” about this, apparently just because Dawkins has offended your own preferences, seems to encapsulate the difference between science and “faith-based” approaches in multiple ways.

Comment #42618

Posted by Russell on August 13, 2005 11:27 AM (e)

Thank you, ts and Katarina, for providing some actual quotes from Dawkins so we can consider the man rather than the cartoon.

I continue to believe Dawkins is unfairly cast as the boogeyman in the whole Evo-Creo discussion. Look carefully at the quotes above. What does he say that is not either patently true, or does not represent a reasonable question for a non-believer to ask? Nowhere -IMO - is he telling you what to believe, or using his scientific credibility to back up otherwise unsupportable theological propositions.

What I read in these quotes is that the kind of god imagined by the IDers makes no sense and fails to answer any real questions. Hey, if your understanding of a god is different from that, that’s great.

What Dawkins writes may be in some ways impolitic, but it distresses me to see so much “pssst… Richard: ixnay on the onestyhay”

I guess if the primary goal is to appease the evophobes to the point that they will tolerate science (good luck with that!), someone should shut him up. But what if the motivation is to share honest questions raised by the work that one loves?

Comment #42619

Posted by Jim Harrison on August 13, 2005 11:33 AM (e)

Katarina writes “I am sure Dawkins inspired more than one person to turn to Intelligent Design.” I expect that Dawkins has led more folks to atheism than to ID, but what do I know about that? No more than Katrina, which is to say, nothing at all. Meanwhile everybody around here goes around blandly assuming that we should all write and speak strategically at all times even if we’re not politicians or officials. Surely Dawkins, who is a private person, has no such obligation. He is not an authority in the religious sense–knowing what you’re talking about is a different sort of qualification than being touched by the Holy Ghost. So why should Katarina get so upset because a guy speaks his mind? This era is turning everybody into PR hacks.

Comment #42620

Posted by Pierce R. Butler on August 13, 2005 11:43 AM (e)

Hyperion: …Lynn is the founder of Americans United for Separation of Church and State…

AUSC was founded, according to its own web site at www.au.org, in 1947, which from appearances is about when Barry Lynn was born, or earlier.

Lynn is the Executive Director of AU, and has been for many years, but I doubt his tenure goes back quite that far…

Comment #42622

Posted by ts on August 13, 2005 11:48 AM (e)

Pierce R. Butler wrote:

Chip: … in their popular writings they present the philosophical positions of Darwinism as unifying principles for all knowledge.

??? Pls show me where Dawkins or anyone else has averred that common descent with modification by natural selection applies to chemistry, astrophysics, epistomology, etc…

In Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, Dennett comes pretty darn close to Chip’s statement with something he calls Darwinism, but I can’t see where he “confuse[s] the general ontology of Neo-Darwinism with the testable postulates of Darwinism”, which was the “…” charge. And I don’t think that the charge that “they confuse reductionism with scientific method” is valid either (twice before in similar circumstances Chip has accused me of taking his quotes out of context and giving them interpretations that he didn’t intend – I hope he won’t take that ad hominem tack here). Dawkins has been very clear about distinguishing his form of sophisticated reductionism from naive “nothing but” reductionism, but in any case it seems to me a category mistake to talk about reductionism and the scientific method as the sorts of things that one might confuse. The scientific method is, well, a method, an algorithm, a process, etc., while reductionism is a stance or position on the scope of inquiry or effectiveness of the scientific method. Perhaps – I don’t know – Chip is saying that Dawkins et. al. are mistaken about the validity of reductionism.

“Dick is very sad about Sally leaving” - neuro-endocrinal measurements may support the first part, but the rest is harder to verify

This an intensional statement, whereas empirical science deals with extensional statements. No matter how detailed we make our scientific statements about Dick’s brain state, they will never entirely correspond to our intensional descriptions.

I would distrust any statement asserting that material concerns are subject to immaterial influences.

Descartes ran into trouble with that somewhere around the pineal gland. Philosophers of mind refer to it as the interaction problem, and it killed Carteian dualism as a viable position.

Comment #42628

Posted by Salvador T. Cordova on August 13, 2005 12:44 PM (e)

Steviepinhead wrote:

Since he seems to reside in the intellectual equivalent of a very small acquarium, Sal probably doesn’t remember that some grasses have evaded those speed limits on change and, um, evolved considerable structural strength.

Grass evolution, even that of bamboo, hardly serves as a counter example to violations speed limits of change. Speed limits of change are well observed in the lab and well supported by population genetics.

Steviepinhead wrote:

In fact, in the construction of Asian skyscrapers, these stalks of grass serve as the multi-story scaffolding on which the construction work depends.

Scaffolding is hardly the same as the skyscraper itself.

Varieties of these same super-stalks are now sawn and planed and laid down instead of oak for use as hardwood floors.

Sal, go google “bamboo.”

Hardly proves one can build skyscrapers with bamboo either. But if you insist that skyscrapers can be built wtih grass, fine. Darwinists can perhaps feel safe in such a flimsy structures, but not ID leaning engineeers. :-) About the same could be said of Darwin’s grand claims: they’re built with flimsy materials.

Steviepinhead wrote:

Then either answer Lenny’s questions—no, we haven’t forgetten that you have never done so—or just go away again…

Well, perhaps the Reverend flank can meet me over at the KCFS discussion board for a one-on-one debate. The threads here at PT are not amenable for such exchanges, but the KCFS discussion board has a nice interface, and it is a pro-Darwin place so Lenny should feel right at home with all those KCFS people. KCFS champions the concept men are descended from ape-like creatures and so Lenny should feel quite at home with people who swear on their life they’re decendents of apes.

I can respond to his 5 questions once and for all. I thought I responded to Flank before, he wasn’t satisfied with my answers.

He could however grant the courtesy of responding to 4 or 5 of my questions over there. I expect the exchange will yet again show why Darwinists are losing the PR battles.

Sorry Lenny, for me ignoring you, my doing so sure does make it seem I don’t take you very seriously. :-)

Comment #42632

Posted by shiva on August 13, 2005 1:15 PM (e)

Sal,

Welcome back! This thread was getting too serious! Some amusement at last! Looks like the leading stuntman filled you up with some courage to sally back here. If you can answer the questions the forum PT or KCFS shd not matter. As for the assorted claims you make about rates, labs and all that it is bunk - and you know that as well as I do. So quit the posturing.

Comment #42645

Posted by Andrew Rowell on August 13, 2005 2:25 PM (e)

I said

Does this mean that it is perfectly scientific and legitimate to claim today that the origin of life is an example of a miracle? ie with our present knowledge of abiogenesis this is a reasonable scientific proposition.

you (Rev Dr Lenny Frank) wrote:

Yes, you are entirely welcome to cram God into that Gap.

Alas, though, as the gaps keep getting smaller, so does God.

This is a gap that has widened considerably since Darwin cautiously peered over the edge. The more we discover about the minimal membrane bound cell …the wider the gap gets.

I don’t know if you have seen a little cartoon that made me chuckle… it pictured a scientist in his white coat holding up a test tube and saying …. “ Aha I have finally proved that you do not need intelligence to make life”

Do you believe in abiogenesis by chance without any brilliant and elegant nano-engineering?

When that gap has gone …so has my brain! What do you reckon in terms of time scale? Are you a betting man?

Comment #42672

Posted by Katarina on August 13, 2005 3:52 PM (e)

Yes, many of the people I know who find ID attractive got to that point partly because of Richard Dawkins, some mostly because of him. My mother in law is one example, but there are others, and I believe some of the main proponents of ID claim they were influenced by him as well. I think it was Mike Behe, but I have to double check on that and I don’t have time right now.

I have not been upset in this blog, but ts has repeatedly attacked my personal beliefs, which I think was unwarranted. Didn’t want to shut anybody up, only the way some atheists around here talk and attack, it is not a friendly climate for believers, methinks.

What do you want me to say ts, thanks for pointing out the logic to me, from now on I’ll be an atheist because you have made it so obvious that there is no other reasonable choice? And the way you have addressed me in this blog makes me think so well of atheists.

Comment #42705

Posted by Joseph O'Donnell on August 13, 2005 5:35 PM (e)

I must be one of the last theistic individuals who reads this blog nobody has offended yet! Then again, I have a very thick skin and quite frankly, I don’t care what people believe or think of my beliefs. Anyone can have fun shouting at someone else how irrational their beliefs are until the cows come home. All I care about is the particular science and until ID shows some science, which as ID proponents like Sal keep succinctly proving is nothing more than reanimated creationist arguments and strawmans (Making a skyscraper out of grass for example is a strawman). As there currently is no scientific theory of ID and nor does it bother producing any testable results/conclusions I could care less about the theology side of anything. The failures of creationism and ID to establish there is a God doesn’t make me think atheism is a better belief system, it just confirms that pseudoscientific nonsense is worthless scientifically: not that theistic beliefs are worthless.

In any event

[quote]Grass evolution, even that of bamboo, hardly serves as a counter example to violations speed limits of change. Speed limits of change are well observed in the lab and well supported by population genetics.[/quote]

Firstly, it establishes that you can get something extremely different morphologically and structurally from something ‘simpler’. Additionally, you second statement is rubbish, either you have no clue what you are talking about (likely) or you’re simply lying. No such ‘speed limit’ has ever been observed in a laboratory setting and been experimentally verified. Secondly, population genetics has been a very useful tool for determining why organisms evolve and why there sometimes doesn’t ‘appear’ to be any evolution. For one, you need to have open niches that are available for there to be selection pressures away from a stabilising mean. So huge beaks on finches for crushing very large seeds would not be an advantage if there was an organism already present that is well adapted for doing so. Therefore, there is a stabilising selection pressure on the finches that would ensure those birds with alleles for large beaks would be removed from the population. Given time however after a mass extinction event or perhaps a subpopulation being blown to a small island, this stabilising selection wouldn’t be present (assuming there are bushes with large hard nuts as well available) and we can see that over time, the variation among the birds beaks will start to change.

The point comes where you can prove, by posting the paper from the front of nature (because a paper proving there is an evolutionary roadblock as you describe would be exactly there) I seem to have missed that variation driven by selection pressures to take advantage of open niches is ‘limited’. Secondly, I fully expect you to strawman what population geneticists have found a second time and completely ignore the issue at hand as well. Please do actually describe what that barrier is.

[quote]Scaffolding is hardly the same as the skyscraper itself.[/quote]

The very fact it even can be used as scaffolding to provide initial support and structure to start making the skyscraper says something about it. None the less, you’ve missed a subtler point Sal (as to be expected from you however). You’ve missed the point in that you can make a small hut out of grass, but you could definitely make a house (a much bigger and complicated structure) out of bamboo.

[quote]Hardly proves one can build skyscrapers with bamboo either. But if you insist that skyscrapers can be built wtih grass, fine.[/quote]

But there you go again with another strawman sal. First of all, you’re now trying to save face by trying to drag bamboo (a very different structure) with that of grass (nowhere near as strong). You’re vain attempt to obsfuscate the point that bamboo is a variety of grass, but much stronger than the flimsy plant people associate with garden variety grass just demonstrates you’re not bothering to understand the example.

[quote]Darwinists can perhaps feel safe in such a flimsy structures,[/quote]

Bamboo is not flimsy, again, trying to equivocate two things that are utterly unalike in their strength.

[quote]but not ID leaning engineeers. :-) About the same could be said of Darwin’s grand claims: they’re built with flimsy materials.[/quote]

ID engineers would never have thought of using Bamboo (cheaper and in fact *stronger*) than oak in that case. ID engineers like you would have thought Bamboo is just grass, it’s flimsy and never tried using it for anything else.

I think the ID engineer in this case loses out pretty badly Sal :)

[quote]Well, perhaps the Reverend flank can meet me over at the KCFS discussion board for a one-on-one debate.[/quote]

Afraid to do so here are we Sal? You’ve only failed to answer him countless times or even bother to offer a ‘means’ by which you would do so. That does say a lot really.

[quote]I thought I responded to Flank before, he wasn’t satisfied with my answers.[/quote]

What you thought and what you did are two seperate issues. Very clearly, one doesn’t always follow the other.

Comment #42707

Posted by st on August 13, 2005 5:45 PM (e)

ts wrote:

your inner experiences are becoming less and less inaccessible as neuroscience marches on.

Will neuroscience also soon reveal to us what pattern of electrical activity in ts’s nervous system gives him the sensation of disbelieving in God?

Comment #42711

Posted by james leslie on August 13, 2005 6:19 PM (e)

I’m sure all of you have thoroughly examined every stich of evidence proclaiming the validity of intelligent design, and have gone over every single article or paper ever written on the subject as well. And you must have done the research to dissprove this theory.
The thing that bothers me about most evolutionists is the absolute refusal to at least examine the claims of creationists or even to accept that their could be an alternate explanation to the origin of life. Science, as we discover new evidence and facts about the universe, has had to rethink many things based on new discoveries.

I am no scientist, but I don’t need to be to see the lack of respect given to a theory that is considered by more and more scientists to have merit. All you Darwinists don’t be surprised when your theory is called pseudo-science by creationists. When you give the same respect maybe you will recieve some.

Comment #42712

Posted by james leslie on August 13, 2005 6:19 PM (e)

I’m sure all of you have thoroughly examined every stich of evidence proclaiming the validity of intelligent design, and have gone over every single article or paper ever written on the subject as well. And you must have done the research to dissprove this theory.
The thing that bothers me about most evolutionists is the absolute refusal to at least examine the claims of creationists or even to accept that their could be an alternate explanation to the origin of life. Science, as we discover new evidence and facts about the universe, has had to rethink many things based on new discoveries.

I am no scientist, but I don’t need to be to see the lack of respect given to a theory that is considered by more and more scientists to have merit. All you Darwinists don’t be surprised when your theory is called pseudo-science by creationists. When you give the same respect maybe you will recieve some.

Comment #42713

Posted by james leslie on August 13, 2005 6:20 PM (e)

I’m sure all of you have thoroughly examined every stich of evidence proclaiming the validity of intelligent design, and have gone over every single article or paper ever written on the subject as well. And you must have done the research to dissprove this theory.
The thing that bothers me about most evolutionists is the absolute refusal to at least examine the claims of creationists or even to accept that their could be an alternate explanation to the origin of life. Science, as we discover new evidence and facts about the universe, has had to rethink many things based on new discoveries.

I am no scientist, but I don’t need to be to see the lack of respect given to a theory that is considered by more and more scientists to have merit. All you Darwinists don’t be surprised when your theory is called pseudo-science by creationists. When you give the same respect maybe you will get some back.

Comment #42715

Posted by steve on August 13, 2005 6:25 PM (e)

Comment #42615

Posted by Pierce R. Butler on August 13, 2005 11:12 AM (e) (s)

Kataina: I am sure Dawkins inspired more than one person to turn to Intelligent Design.

Have you met any such persons? (Has anyone here?)

Can’t say that I have. I did personally know a guy who used an anti-religion comment of Dawkins’s in The Selfish Gene, to reject everything Dawkins said.

Comment #42717

Posted by SEF on August 13, 2005 6:30 PM (e)

Do you believe in abiogenesis by chance without any brilliant and elegant nano-engineering?

Do you believe that scientists make radioactive atoms decay by arranging to be in a position to observe them?

The abiogenesis experiments so far haven’t required nano-engineering and they’ve done quite well at narrowing the implausibility gap the creationists would like to believe protects their religion from reality. Then there’s the reconstruction of a fully functional polio virus from basics. That goes some way to destroying religious claims of a vital spark - except for that ever narrowing gap of refusing to allow that viruses are any sort of life-form.

Your god of the gaps may allegedly be very powerful but increasingly, like the genie version of the evil Jafar, he’s restricted to an itty bitty living space.

Comment #42719

Posted by steve on August 13, 2005 6:36 PM (e)

Yeah, James. You bet.

http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/list.html
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1591020840/ref=pd_bxgy_img_2/103-4247849-7498260?v=glance&s=books
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/081353433X/103-4247849-7498260?v=glance
http://www.talkreason.org/articles/eandsdembski.pdf

I generally oppose people being too rude on this board, but comments like yours make it hard.

Comment #42721

Posted by SEF on August 13, 2005 6:37 PM (e)

the absolute refusal to at least examine the claims of creationists

False. It’s been done. Over and over again. Many of those claims failed centuries ago. The creationists are just too stupid, wilfully ignorant and dishonest to acknowledge their version of a god died a long time ago.

I am no scientist, but I don’t need to be

Oh yes you do.

a theory that is considered by more and more scientists to have merit.

Oh no it isn’t. x2

All you Darwinists

Oh no we’re not.

don’t be surprised when your theory is called pseudo-science by creationists. When you give the same respect maybe you will recieve some.

It’s just a comedy of errors all the way with creationists. :-D

Comment #42723

Posted by Joseph O'Donnell on August 13, 2005 6:38 PM (e)

I am no scientist, but I don’t need to be to see the lack of respect given to a theory that is considered by more and more scientists to have merit.

This is an illusion as virtually nobody in the scientific community takes ID seriously. It’s only firm presence anywhere in the world is the US (similar to the creationists). A tiny minority of scientists actually think ID has merit and only a few of them again have a degree in a relevant field of biology.

All you Darwinists don’t be surprised when your theory is called pseudo-science by creationists. When you give the same respect maybe you will recieve some.

Creationism fails horrifically when it comes to science however as it is completely against all the available evidence. The second problem with creationists is that they directly lie and distort what the theory of evolution actually says to suit their agenda. They aren’t respected because they push their agenda by attempting to directly lie to the public.

When the IDists, creationists or any of the lot of pseudoscience hacks come out with proper scientific claims and predictions they might get some respect. Then again, those predictions will need to hold up to scrutiny in the peer review system, just like everyone else in science.

Comment #42724

Posted by Salvador T. Cordova on August 13, 2005 6:42 PM (e)

Sal,

Welcome back!

Awh shucks.

Looks like the leading stuntman filled you up with some courage to sally back here.

Courage? Nah, I just wanted to comment what a brilliant observation Jason made about us IDists winning the public relations battle. I mean, finally something we could all agree with. Golly, I couldn’t restrain myself wanting to express my praise for such a brilliant observation.

Look at these happy facts from The Huffigton Post:

More than 50 percent of Americans have a “negative” or “highly negative” view of people who do not believe in God; 70 percent think it important for presidential candidates to be “strongly religious.

I mean, one could not ask for a better scenario to discredit Darwinism than to have atheists trying to promote it in the USA. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing personal against atheists. I have several atheist friends, so no slight on them. Several of my atheists friends actually helped me promote ID and get into the journal Nature, so no slight on atheists in general from me personally. But the numbers do yield imporant demographic facts.

Dawkins and the advocates of eugenics (Watson) and the naturalness of rape (Thornhill and Palmer) and infanticide (Pinker) are exactly the worst kinds of spokespeople for a public relations campagin for Darwinism. You guys desperately need a Ken Miller or Keith Miller on your side. The other guys like Thornhill and Palmer are just bad press….

Huffington Post writes:

Only 28 percent of Americans believe in evolution;

28%!!! After all the government funded indoctrination in the public schools which the Darwinists have been dishing out, their brainwashing program can only get about 28% compliance? That’s pathetic. What kind of public relations machine is that?

In contrast, the heroes at the tiny little Discovery Institute are clearly winning the public relations campaign.

Comment #42729

Posted by Salvador T. Cordova on August 13, 2005 6:59 PM (e)

When the IDists, creationists or any of the lot of pseudoscience hacks come out with proper scientific claims and predictions they might get some respect. Then again, those predictions will need to hold up to scrutiny in the peer review system, just like everyone else in science.

The situation is creation science and ID are viewed as legitimate by the majority of Americans. It is the scientists who should be worried about re-gaining respect.

If the scientific community wants to continue to command the respect which they do indeed deserve, they should distance themselves from the pseudo-science of Darwinism.

Darwinism is a liablity to the scientific enterprise and it’s reputation. The furtherance of ID will help restore the public’s esteem for the scientific enterprise.

I mean the author of Origin of Species was really versant in genetics and population dynamics (NOT), and cellular biology (NOT), and DNA (NOT), and computation and information theory (NOT), and relevant mathematics (NOT), and bio-chemistry (NOT)….

Heck, the average YEC biology junior at a secular university today knows more about biology and relevant basic sciences than the author of Origin of Species. And that’s pretty pathetic, wouldn’t you agree?

Comment #42731

Posted by Salvador T. Cordova on August 13, 2005 7:05 PM (e)

SEF wrote:

The creationists are just too stupid, wilfully ignorant and dishonest to acknowledge their version of a god died a long time ago.

Considering possibly over half the USA are creationists, and 70% believe God had a hand in evolution, SEF’s provides an excellent example of why the IDists are winning the public relations campaign. He labels thems as:

1. stupid
2. willfully ignorant
3. dishonest

Well done SEF. Posts like that at PT go a long way to ensuring the IDists will continue to win the public relations battle.

Comment #42736

Posted by SEF on August 13, 2005 7:24 PM (e)

Naturally, STC, you and various other ID/creationists (and many other dishonest people) would much rather be able to lie without anyone calling you on it.

When you’re stupid you’re stupid, when you’re ignorant you’re ignorant, when you’re dishonest you’re dishonest and no amount of self-delusion, political correctness and attempts to silence those with decent standards is going to change the reality of that. You just want to feel artificially good about being bad because you don’t want to make the effort to actually become good instead. Those statistics don’t say what you pretend they do either. Reality contradicts you there as well. So are you too incompetent (stupid and/or ignorant) to understand these things or dishonest in misrepresenting them?

Nice of you to effectively admit it’s only a public relations battle for you though, since you don’t present (or even have) any evidence on your side.

Comment #42738

Posted by wad of id on August 13, 2005 7:31 PM (e)

28%!!! After all the government funded indoctrination in the public schools which the Darwinists have been dishing out, their brainwashing program can only get about 28% compliance? That’s pathetic. What kind of public relations machine is that?

And yet, at a pathetic 28% acceptance, people like Dembski and Meyer are displaying genuine fear that the Darwinist indoctrination program is succeeding. Really, STC, shouldn’t you spend more time reconciling the DI spins with your fellow IDiots more carefully?

Comment #42747

Posted by steve on August 13, 2005 8:02 PM (e)

Sancho P. Cordova said:

Comment #42729

I mean the author of Origin of Species was really versant in…information theory (NOT),

Well, speaking of that, can you direct me to papers in legitimate Information Theory journals which dispute evolution? Or perhaps an Information Theory conference Dembski was invited to present at?

Comment #42750

Posted by Russell on August 13, 2005 8:10 PM (e)

many of the people I know who find ID attractive got to that point partly because of Richard Dawkins, some mostly because of him.

Which makes me think that Dawkins is doing a good job at least getting people to ponder the questions. It’s too bad that a fraction of them fail to see the obvious failings of ID, but I don’t think you can blame Dawkins for that.

Comment #42761

Posted by jamey leslie on August 13, 2005 8:35 PM (e)

Hey Joseph, thank you for making my point. “Virtually nobody in the scientific community takes ID seriously.” First, that’s not correct, second how could you know the scientific community so well that you could speak for it? This arrogance is exactly what I was talking about on a previous post. Here are just a few quotes from scientists that are considering the merit of ID.

Paul Davies-British Astrophysicist “There is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all…It seems as though somebody has fine-tuned nature’s numbers to make the universe…The impression of design is overwhelming.”

John O’Keefe-NASA astronomer “If the Universe had not been made with the most exacting precision we could never had come into existence. It is my view that these circumstances indicate the universe was created for man to live in.”

Ed Harrison-cosmologist “Here is the cosmological proof of the existence of God- the design argument of Paley-updated and refurbished. The fine tuning of the universe provides prima facie evidence of deistic design. Take your choice: blind chance that requires multitudes of universes or design that requires only one…Many scientists, when they admit their views, incline toward the teleological or design argument.”

Antony Flew-Professor of Philosophy, former atheist “It now seems to me that the findings of more than fifty years of DNA research have provided materials for a new enormously powerful argument to design.”
I could list many more. Brace yourself my friend, there is a new era dawning like it or not. I will leave you with another quote from Albert freakin Einstein “I want to know how God created this world, I am not interested in this or that phenomenon in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts.”
peace

Comment #42764

Posted by SEF on August 13, 2005 8:46 PM (e)

Have you accounted for all the rest of the scientists, jamey? Or are you relying on someone else’s very selective list?

Hint 1: Philosophy is not science.
Hint 2: Flew retracted once he found out the ID/creationists had conned him (but he also had the lack of grace to blame scientist friends for not predicting and warning him in advance that he’d be so lazy and foolish as to fall for the con without checking properly).

I’m not familiar with your other 3 people. Perhaps someone else here already is and knows whether they’ve been misrepresented.

Comment #42767

Posted by jamey leslie on August 13, 2005 8:48 PM (e)

Hey Steve, you just don’t want to deal with truth in my comments. Be rude all you want, it would just solidify my point even more.

Comment #42771

Posted by jamey leslie on August 13, 2005 8:55 PM (e)

SEF, my point is that he nor you can speak for the scientific community. Period. I’m tired of the arrogance.

Comment #42775

Posted by jamey leslie on August 13, 2005 9:06 PM (e)

Maybe, this is why some say evolutionists are losing the PR battle.hmmmmmm

Comment #42779

Posted by SEF on August 13, 2005 9:13 PM (e)

Some will say it because they want to believe it and they want others to believe it even if it isn’t true. Rather like many other aspects of religious dogma. Organised religion has always been about PR (though the aim and strategy of that has changed somewhat since the bronze-age) rather than objective truth.

Comment #42784

Posted by jamey leslie on August 13, 2005 9:22 PM (e)

I agree with that theory SEF, but I would also say that it works both ways.

Comment #42854

Posted by Joseph O'Donnell on August 14, 2005 9:05 AM (e)

“First, that’s not correct, second how could you know the scientific community so well that you could speak for it? This arrogance is exactly what I was talking about on a previous post. Here are just a few quotes from scientists that are considering the merit of ID.”

I am a scientist and I’m even in a relevant field of science. My statement is perfectly correct, nobody in the scientific community except for a small minority take ID/creationism seriously. FACT. Outside of America, they are dead concepts and people have better things to do with their time such as actual experiments. Nobody in the departments of microbiology, biochemistry, zoology, statistics or any other science department knows, nor gives a damn, who the IDists and the like are. The simple reason of the matter is their boat was sunk early and their claims never stood up to scientific scruitiny in, guess what, the only place it counts: in journals.

Until those quotes are from relevant peer reviewed journals they mean absolutely nothing. :)

Comment #42860

Posted by shiva on August 14, 2005 9:43 AM (e)

http://www.centerforinquiry.net/events/csh-2005.html

Jamey,

Antony Flew will be at the 25th Anniversary Conference of the Council for Secular Humanism this year. As for the others you quote where are the publications to back their claims?

Sal,

Oh! The Huffington Post? Is that the latest scientific journal in biology, biochemistry, biophysics?

Comment #42871

Posted by steve on August 14, 2005 11:06 AM (e)

Comment #42712

Posted by james leslie on August 13, 2005 06:19 PM (e) (s)

The thing that bothers me about most evolutionists is the absolute refusal to at least examine the claims of creationists or even to accept that their could be an alternate explanation to the origin of life.

Comment #42719

Posted by steve on August 13, 2005 06:36 PM (e) (s)

http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/list.html
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1591020840/ref=pd…
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/081353433X/103-42…
http://www.talkreason.org/articles/eandsdembski.pdf

Comment #42767

Posted by jamey leslie on August 13, 2005 08:48 PM (e) (s)

Hey Steve, you just don’t want to deal with truth in my comments. Be rude all you want, it would just solidify my point even more.

Those links I provided are examples of scientists examining the claims of ID Creationists. They contradict your claim.

Comment #42875

Posted by steve on August 14, 2005 11:13 AM (e)

By the way, let’s look at this little juxtaposition

Comment #42712

Posted by james leslie on August 13, 2005 06:19 PM (e) (s)

The thing that bothers me about most evolutionists is the absolute refusal to at least examine the claims of creationists or even to accept that their could be an alternate explanation to the origin of life.

Comment #42761

Posted by jamey leslie on August 13, 2005 08:35 PM (e) (s)

…how could you know the scientific community so well that you could speak for it?

Comment #42894

Posted by Salvador T. Cordova on August 14, 2005 1:46 PM (e)

Oh! The Huffington Post? Is that the latest scientific journal in biology, biochemistry, biophysics?

No, that was courtesy Jason Rosenhouse from his blog, Harris Weighs In

Jason wrote:

with a round-up of some of the more insightful recent writing on this subject.

He thought the essay was insightful. Now, are you so sure you wanna be so dismissive of that essay now?

Comment #42895

Posted by Salvador T. Cordova on August 14, 2005 1:54 PM (e)

What happened to Reverend Flank???? :-)

It appears the good reverend had to say good bye:
Reverend Lenny’s farewell

Lenny says:

This is my goodbye, everyone. I am not even remotely interested in all the xxxx-xxxxxx [censored] here.

Gosh, I was waiting for his response about debating me one-on-one. Oh well, we’ll just have to carry on with Reverend Lenny. I do think however he needs to work on his phraseology. Such statements by Lenny are not good Public Relations, you know, especially coming from a man-of-the cloth like the Reverend.

Comment #42905

Posted by Bradley on August 14, 2005 2:39 PM (e)

I began examining the claims of creationists way back in college, (I still have a copy of Morris’ Scientific Creationism). After wading through various iterations of reading/debating, I found creationism increasingly untenable. The creationist habit of misquoting evolutionists was pretty strong evidence they didn’t have a leg to stand on. In addition, their arguments consisted almost entirely of attacks on evolution, as opposed to scientific evidence in favor of creationism.

The same thing is true with the “evolved” version of creationism, intelligent design. Even George Gilder had to admit that ID has no content, at least no content capable of being scientifically taught. So Gilder is willing to settle for teaching evidence that evolutionary theory has holes and is not complete – which those studying evolution have never denied.

What most impresses me about evolutionary theory is how hard the creationist/IDers have tried to falsify evolution, failing all the time. They keep trotting out the same old arguments, refitted with the scientific jargon de jour, and keep getting shot down. Meanwhile the science of evolution progresses, not only in theory, but in application as technology.

As a reporter who writes frequently about biotechnology, I’ve seen plenty of examples of evolutionary theory in practice, but I’ve yet to see a single biotechnology company that uses the supposed scientific principles of ID creationism.

It would be truly stunning if evolution were to proven wrong, yet so useful in the applied sciences. If the IDers were to turn their Dembski Filter (which supposedly tells us how to recognize the products of intelligent manufacture) and other related concepts into productive new technologies, then they would have entered the realm of science. But don’t hold your breath. The Dembski Filter will remain what it was invented to be – a debating tactic to give a gloss of science to a religious argument.

Comment #42908

Posted by Salvador T. Cordova on August 14, 2005 3:04 PM (e)

So are you too incompetent (stupid and/or ignorant) to understand these things or dishonest in misrepresenting them?

Well, I’m not dishonest, so the reason can’t be that I’m dishonest.

I mean, even arch Darwinist Jerry Coyne says us IDists are honest. Here is my honest quote mine of Jerry Coyne:

Jerry Coyne on Honest IDists

Do these people really believe in intelligent design? There is no reason to think otherwise. They [IDists and Wedgies] are not lying for their cause, but sincerely hold that life on earth reflects a succession of miracles worked by a supernatural agent.

See, us IDists are honest guys. Jerry says so.

Comment #42910

Posted by Alan on August 14, 2005 3:26 PM (e)

Dr. Cordova

Any chance of answering Lenny’s questions. In case you have forgotten what they are, let me remind you.

1. What is the scientific theory of intelligent design, and how do we test it using the scientific method? And please don’t give me more of your “the scientific theory of ID is that evolution is wrong” BS. I want to know what your designer does, specifically. I want to know what mechanism it uses to do whatever the heck you think it does. I want to know where we can see these mechanisms in action.

2. According to this scientific theory of intelligent design, how old is the earth, and did humans descend from apelike primates or did they not?

3. what, precisely, about “evolution” is any more “materialistic” than weather forecasting, accident investigation, or medicine?

4. do you repudiate the extremist views of the primary funder of the Center for (the Renewal of) Science and Culture, Howard Ahmanson, and if so, why do you keep taking his money anyway? And if you, unlike most other IDers, are not sucking at Ahmanson’s teats, I still want to know if you repudiate his extremist views.

Comment #42911

Posted by Alan on August 14, 2005 3:26 PM (e)

Dr. Cordova

Any chance of answering Lenny’s questions. In case you have forgotten what they are, let me remind you.

1. What is the scientific theory of intelligent design, and how do we test it using the scientific method? And please don’t give me more of your “the scientific theory of ID is that evolution is wrong” BS. I want to know what your designer does, specifically. I want to know what mechanism it uses to do whatever the heck you think it does. I want to know where we can see these mechanisms in action.

2. According to this scientific theory of intelligent design, how old is the earth, and did humans descend from apelike primates or did they not?

3. what, precisely, about “evolution” is any more “materialistic” than weather forecasting, accident investigation, or medicine?

4. do you repudiate the extremist views of the primary funder of the Center for (the Renewal of) Science and Culture, Howard Ahmanson, and if so, why do you keep taking his money anyway? And if you, unlike most other IDers, are not sucking at Ahmanson’s teats, I still want to know if you repudiate his extremist views.

Comment #42913

Posted by SEF on August 14, 2005 3:47 PM (e)

“us IDists”

So you are willing to be known indivisibly by the collective attributes of a diverse class? Or you are just hoping to adopt that one, which happens to be false anyway, and pretend it is true for you? Some IDists failing to be dishonest about one particular thing does not make all IDists honest about every thing. Is your grasp of logic really that bad? I suspect it’s more of your dishonesty instead.

Comment #42914

Posted by SEF on August 14, 2005 3:50 PM (e)

Any chance of answering Lenny’s questions.

It’s like the return of Zorro in apprentice form. :-D

Comment #42923

Posted by Lurker on August 14, 2005 4:19 PM (e)

What is Salvador T. Cordova a doctor in?

Comment #42931

Posted by wad of id on August 14, 2005 6:03 PM (e)

Losing the PR war? Then, explain this:

The initiative begins amid increasing controversy over the teaching of evolution, prompted by proponents of “intelligent design,” who argue that even the most modest cell is too complex, too finely tuned, to have come about without unseen intelligence.

President Bush recently said intelligent design should be discussed in schools, along with evolution. Like intelligent design, the Harvard project begins with awe at the nature of life, and with an admission that, almost 150 years after Charles Darwin outlined his theory of evolution in the Origin of Species, scientists cannot explain how the process began.

Now, encouraged by a confluence of scientific advances – such as the discovery of water on Mars and an increased understanding of the chemistry of early Earth – the Harvard scientists hope to help change that.

“We start with a mutual acknowledgment of the profound complexity of living systems,” said David R. Liu, a professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Harvard. But ”my expectation is that we will be able to reduce this to a very simple series of logical events that could have taken place with no divine intervention.”

Will you look at that… Scientists at leading universities, not phased at all by the ID movement, choose to explore a naturalistic scenario of OOL rather than give up and declare God-did-it. Meanwhile, IDists are still siting in their armchairs wallowing in pathetic paranoid fantasies of being persecuted, spending money on kangaroo courts, and spinning away their fruitless research program. The real PR that matters is clearly not lost: scientists are still doing science.

Comment #42949

Posted by Dan S. on August 14, 2005 8:10 PM (e)

Bradley - if you edited and shortened that a bit, I think it make a rather good letter to the editor thingy- esp. the last 3 paragraphs - but you’re a reporter, so you probably have a better feel for that than me. And can probably do a lot more than letters to the editors.

ts seems to behave very differently in different threads. Are there two of them?

We are so gonna lose.

Comment #42965

Posted by shiva on August 14, 2005 9:31 PM (e)

Sal,

It’s OK. We know you folks, neither you, nor your dear leaders have the slightest clue about science. So your failure to answer any of Lenny’s questions is not surprising. All that you guys can do is continue to hire new PR agencies and bleat out “conspiracy”, “academic xxxxism”, etc. Your own base will follow you as long as you pursue their cherished golas. Keep playing to the gallery or else you are going to lose out to the other game in town - good old creationism. Your attempts to sow dissension at PT would be laughable if they weren’t so pathetic. And this anyway being an open forum unlike authority bound forums (factotums only!) that your friends run, debate is the very essence. In case you didn’t know I will clar up confusion - The Huffington is not a scientific journal so please don’t quote out of it like you did with the Harvard Crimson a couple of years back! Do please give us something new to laugh at not the same old things.

Comment #42966

Posted by shiva on August 14, 2005 9:31 PM (e)

Sal,

It’s OK. We know you folks, neither you, nor your dear leaders have the slightest clue about science. So your failure to answer any of Lenny’s questions is not surprising. All that you guys can do is continue to hire new PR agencies and bleat out “conspiracy”, “academic xxxxism”, etc. Your own base will follow you as long as you pursue their cherished goals. Keep playing to the gallery or else you are going to lose out to the other game in town - good old creationism. Your attempts to sow dissension at PT would be laughable if they weren’t so pathetic. And this anyway being an open forum unlike authority bound forums (factotums only!) that your friends run, debate is the very essence. In case you didn’t know I will clar up confusion - The Huffington is not a scientific journal so please don’t quote out of it like you did with the Harvard Crimson a couple of years back! Do please give us something new to laugh at not the same old things.

Comment #42982

Posted by steve on August 14, 2005 11:14 PM (e)

I’ll ask this again, because he didn’t respond the first time:

Sancho P. Cordova said:

Comment #42729

I mean the author of Origin of Species was really versant in…information theory (NOT),

Well, speaking of that, can you direct me to papers in legitimate Information Theory journals which dispute evolution? Or perhaps an Information Theory conference Dembski was invited to present at?

As far as I know, the only recognized Information Theorist who has commented on Dembski’s claims is David Wolpert, who said Dembski’s stuff was junk. Any recognized IT scientists say otherwise, Sal?

Comment #42987

Posted by ts (not Tim Sandefur) on August 15, 2005 12:12 AM (e)

ts seems to behave very differently in different threads.

How so? Perhaps you’re imagining things, though I’d like to think that my behavior isn’t entirely predictable or categorizable.

Are there two of them?

I haven’t seen anything posted under my id that I didn’t post.

We are so gonna lose.

Define “lose”.

Comment #42988

Posted by ts (not Tim Sandefur) on August 15, 2005 12:22 AM (e)

SEF wrote:

“us IDists”

So you are willing to be known indivisibly by the collective attributes of a diverse class? Or you are just hoping to adopt that one, which happens to be false anyway, and pretend it is true for you? Some IDists failing to be dishonest about one particular thing does not make all IDists honest about every thing. Is your grasp of logic really that bad? I suspect it’s more of your dishonesty instead.

From Sal’s same link:

Coyne is setting an example of refraining from ad hominem attacks on IDists, and even presenting IDists as honest and intelligent. Though I obviously disagree with Jerry Coyne

I do too.

Comment #42993

Posted by ts (not Tim Sandefur) on August 15, 2005 12:53 AM (e)

Katarina wrote:

Yes, many of the people I know who find ID attractive got to that point partly because of Richard Dawkins, some mostly because of him. My mother in law is one example

As I said before, such people are particularly silly. I really don’t know what you think this amounts to, other than presenting your mother-in-law as a fool.

but there are others, and I believe some of the main proponents of ID claim they were influenced by him as well. I think it was Mike Behe, but I have to double check on that and I don²t have time right now.

Behe presents himself as a scientist following the evidence. If he had said this, it would reveal that he isn’t.

ts has repeatedly attacked my personal beliefs, which I think was unwarranted.

Let’s suppose that I announce that I believe that 1+1=3 or that George Bush knew of 9/11 ahead of time. How do claims become pretected from challenge (not your loaded “attack”) by being “personal beliefs”? You made a claim about prayers coming true being unlikely; that’s in the same category as a claim the George Bush had preknowledge of 9/11. Your telling me that I’m “unwarranted” in challenging any belief is deeply anti-intellectual.

Didn²t want to shut anybody up, only the way some atheists around here talk and attack, it is not a friendly climate for believers, methinks.

You have repeatedly gone out of your way to engage me, so this is disingenuous. And there’s no reason that there should be a “friendly” climate for false claims, like that prayers get answered.

What do you want me to say ts, thanks for pointing out the logic to me, from now on I²ll be an atheist because you have made it so obvious that there is no other reasonable choice?

If that’s the way it goes for you, then say so; if not, then don’t. You are free to say whatever you wish, as am I.

And the way you have addressed me in this blog makes me think so well of atheists.

Do you know what a hasty generalization is? Your actions don’t cause me think in any particular way about people named Katarina. But they do reflect rather badly on you.

Comment #43071

Posted by Pete Dunkelberg on August 15, 2005 11:21 AM (e)

ts, lay off the personal stuff. Whatever your excuse is, get over it.

Comment #43089

Posted by longtime lurker on August 15, 2005 12:18 PM (e)

Hello everyone. I’ve been lurking here for a long long time, and this is the first post I’ve made. I can remain silent no longer.

Regarding the late lamented Rev Lenny, I have been here long enough to remember this:

**begin quote**

Posted by Wesley R. Elsberry on March 20, 2005 10:24 AM

[Comments]

Lenny Flank is a long-time activist for science education. While Lenny has been a participant in many online fora and owns the Yahoo “DebunkCreation” group, Lenny is not “just talk”. His group’s most recent action was to send a box of books as a donation to the Dover, Pennsylvania High School Library. This has opened a new chapter in the ongoing struggle in Dover over the inclusion of “intelligent design” in the high school science curriculum.

The Dover Area School District is reviewing science books donated by an anti-creationism group to determine whether to add the books to its library.

A group called DebunkCreation in St. Petersburg, Fla., donated 23 books of various scientific interests to the high school’s library. Supt. Richard Nilsen said the books will have to be reviewed either by the board’s curriculum committee, the administration, library personnel or a combination of those groups to ensure the books are educationally appropriate.

Some of the books are written by noted scientists, including Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins. All support scientific methods and theories that include Darwin’s theories of evolution.

Lenny Flank, who founded DebunkCreation in 1989, said the donations were made in an effort to “increase knowledge and decrease ignorance.”

(York Daily Record, 2005/03/20, “Dover to review donated books”)

While Joseph Maldonado’s YDR article is informative, it doesn’t list the books, so I asked Lenny which books the “DebunkCreation” group had sent. He graciously sent me the list, his correspondence with Dover officials, and permission to post it all.

Here’s the list of donated books:

Universe in a Nutshell, by Stephen Hawking

The Demon-Haunted World, by Carl Sagan

Pale Blue Dot, by Carl Sagan

Flim-Flam!, by James Randi

The Selfish Gene, by Richard Dawkins

The Blind Watchmaker, by Richard Dawkins

Thread of Life; The Smithsonian Looks at Evolution, by Roger Lewin

What Evolution Is, by Ernst Mayr

This is Biology; The Science of the Living World, by Ernst Mayr

The Ancestor’s Tale, by Richard Dawkins

Climbing Mt Improbable, by Richard Dawkins

The Panda’s Thumb, by Stephen Jay Gould

The Pattern of Evolution, by Niles Eldredge

Black Holes and Time Warps; Einstein’s Outrageous Legacy, by Kip Thorne

Intelligent Design Creationism and its Critics, by Robert Pennock

Tower of Babel; The Evidence Against the New Creationism, by Robert Pennock

Evolution; The Triumph of an Idea, by Carl Zimmer

Finding Darwin’s God, by Kenneth R Miller

Galileo’s Finger, by Peter Atkins

Genome, by Matt Ridley

Evolution, by Mark Ridley

Wandering Lands and Animals; The Story of Continental Drift and Animal Populations, by Edwin H Colbert

The Antiquity of Man, by Michael Brass

That’s a tidy package of material, but I’d have added two other books to the collection: Why Intelligent Design Fails and Creationism’s Trojan Horse. The first details for the lay audience why the various claims of the “intelligent design” advocates don’t measure up to the standards of science, and the second documents the socio-political basis of the “intelligent design” movement. Pennock’s books in the above list are a start, but these two provide the finish.

Dear Mr Nilsen:

Our UPS records indicate that our recent donation of 23 science books for the High School Library was recieved and signed for by a member of the staff at 10:26 am on Monday, March 7. We are happy that our donation has arrived safe and sound.

Recent press information suggests that the decision as to accepting the donation will be made by either the School Board or by the School Superintendant. We would like to inquire as to the time frame within which we can expect this decision to be made, and also what opportunity will be presented for any public input from the community about this decision.

Since the school district has made clear that its sole interest is in teaching ALL sides of the controversy, and not in advancing or favoring any particular viewpoint, I am quite sure that you will agree with us that students should be given access to information on the ENTIRE controversy, including information conerning not only evolutionary biology and other areas of science, but information on the large number of scientific, legal, political, and other criticisms of intelligent design theory and its aims and motives. We are therefore very happy to have the opportunity to help you provide this sort of information to your students, and, in light of recent financial difficulties faced by the library, we are especially glad that we are able to do this without incurring any cost whatsoever to the district.

The books we have donated were written by some of the best scientists and science writers of modern times, and many of these books have spent time on the best-seller lists. All have been the subject of praise and recommendation from literary reviewers as well as scientists and educators.

We hope your students will find them useful and informative.

Lenny Flank, List Owner
DebunkCreation@yahoogroups.com…

Dear Ms Harkins:

Hello.

I am the founder of the DebunkCreation email list at yahoogroups which recently donated 23 science books to the Dover Senior High School Library.

In a recent York Dispatch article about the donation, I found this statement:

“Board president Sheila Harkins said the board’s curriculum committee will review this donation the same as it did the “Pandas” donation.”

This doesn’t sound quite right to me … . “Pandas” was donated specifically to be used as a “supplemental text” in the CLASSROOM, and they specifically did not WANT it to be in the library. Our books, by contrast, were donated to the LIBRARY, and are NOT intended for classroom use or as any sort of “supplemental text” for the curriculum. My understanding is that the school board does not have to approve materials donated to the LIBRARY, particularly if they do not involve any district funds, and former board members have confirmed to me that they cannot find any board policies or procedures that would require approval from the board or the curriculum committee for a donation made to the school library.

Can you please point out which specific board policy is being followed by the board, in referring our donation to the curriculum committee?

I am also a little bit mystified by a statement attributed to you in the Dispatch article, to the effect that the books we donated may be “too academically advanced” for students. I would like to point out that these are not textbooks; they are popular works written specifically for a general public audience of non-scientists, and most of these books spent several months on the NY Times best-seller list. I am of course quite sure that you are NOT suggesting that students at Dover Senior High School do not have the education level for reading skills necessary to read and understand some of the best-selling books written in the past ten years, by some of the best science writers in the world, including Carl Sagan and Stephen Jay Gould.

I look forward to clarification from you regarding these questions.

Thanks. :>

Lenny Flank, List Owner
DebunkCreation@yahoogroups.com…

And here is the letter I just sent today, in response to statements
in the latest news article:

—————————

Dear Ms Harkins:

I am the founder of the DebunkCreation email list which recently donated 23 science books to the Dover Senior High Library.

Statements attributed to you in a recent York Daily Record article have not answered any of the questions I have asked you previously regarding our donation, and have indeed raised some new questions I would like to ask.

In the Daily Record article, you are quoted as saying:

“But Harkins said Friday she would never challenge a donated book based on whether she thought it was too difficult for students. “What I said was that I want to ensure that the books are academically appropriate,” Harkins said.”

However, In an earlier York Dispatch article regarding the donation, you are quoted as saying, “She said the committee doesn’t have set criteria that it looks for acceptable books, but it will make sure they are not “advanced academically beyond anyone’s comprehension.”

It certainly sounds to ME as if “beyond anyone’s comprehension” refers directly to “too difficult for students”. The Daily Record article then goes on to quote Mr Nilsen as saying:

” Nilsen and Harkins said Dover students are among the smartest anywhere and that “educational appropriateness” has nothing to do with student comprehension.”

I am a little confused; first you say you want to review the books to make sure they are not “academically advanced beyond anyone’s comprehension”; NOW you are saying that your review “has nothing to do with student comprehension”… …

You would seem to be directly contradicting yourself. Would you mind clarifying this for me, please? What exactly ARE the criteria under which the books will be “reviewed”? They seem to be changing from week to week.

I also note with curiosity this statement:

“Nilsen said Friday that the books had to be reviewed to determine their “educational appropriateness” and to make sure they’re scientifically accurate.”

“Scientifically accurate”? These books were written by some of the best scientists in the world. Is the board seriously suggesting that science works by such people as Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan and Stephen Jay Gould are NOT “scientifically accurate? Who do you plan to ask to review the books for “scientific accuracy”? The Thomas More Law Center?

I am also concerned because I have STILL not received any explanation from you about who exactly will be “reviewing” the donation. Despite requests, I have STILL not received any explanation from you as to why the curriculum committee needs to be involved in a library donation, and I STILL have not received any reference to which board policies or procedures you are following regarding this donation.

Quite frankly, the impression I have gotten from you so far is that you simply don’t like the books we have donated because they directly challenge your pet ID “theory”, that you want your pet ID “theory” to be protected from criticism, that you are not at all interested in teaching ALL SIDES of the “controversy”, and that you are simply fishing around for a half-convincing reason to reject the donated books.

I hope that impression is wrong.

I am cc’ing this letter to the press, and give them full permission to quote any or all of it in any articles they do.

Lenny Flank, List Owner,
DebunkCreation@yahoogroups.com…

Lenny also provided information for people to contact the York papers for submitting letters to the editor. The York Daily Record has a form for this purpose, and the York Dispatch accepts submissions emailed to B. Parkinson.

Lenny made some excellent points in his letters. It will be interesting to see whether the school district goes for hypocrisy or admits Lenny’s donation.

*****end quote***

TS, what have _you_ done to help fight the IDiots, besides ruining this blog with your juvenile antics? It is people like you who make me ashamed to admit publicly that I am an atheist. You are an intolerant mouth-foamer, and you’re not fit to carry the good Rev’s shoes.

As for Sal;

It certainly is brave of you to talk trash now that the Rev isn’t here. I seem to remember, though, that when he _was_ here, you ran away like a little girl. You are a coward, Cordova. A gutless spineless little coward.

This is my first post. It is also my last. I come here for science information, information on fighting the IDiots, and “good conversation”. All of those are now absent. Instead, all I see is endless theological debates, fratricide, and juvenile name-calling. Science doesn’t give a damn about anyone’s religious views, or lack of them. Nor should it. Those here who are trying to change that are, in my humble opinion, no better than the IDiots.

Can anyone suggest another blog where I can go to continue to get good science information, information on how to fight the IDiots, and “good conversation”? This one isn’t worth my time any more.

Comment #43184

Posted by jamey leslie on August 15, 2005 6:23 PM (e)

Hey Joe O’donnel,I don’t care what kind of scientist you claim to be, you don’t speak for the entire scientific community. Brace yourself for the next “evolution” in thinking my friend because it’s coming!

Comment #43188

Posted by jamey leslie on August 15, 2005 6:43 PM (e)

Anyone check out the production “Creation” sponsored by Crystal Cathedral church in Florida? I hear it’s pretty good.

Comment #43195

Posted by ts (not Tim Sandefur) on August 15, 2005 7:39 PM (e)

ts, lay off the personal stuff. Whatever your excuse is, get over it.

I love it when people make hostile personal comments about not getting personal.

Comment #43196

Posted by ts (not Tim Sandefur) on August 15, 2005 7:43 PM (e)

TS, what have _you_ done to help fight the IDiots, besides ruining this blog with your juvenile antics? It is people like you who make me ashamed to admit publicly that I am an atheist. You are an intolerant mouth-foamer, and you’re not fit to carry the good Rev’s shoes.

Maybe that’s the sort of personal stuff Pete Dunkelberg meant, but he misattributed it.