Steve Reuland posted Entry 1291 on August 4, 2005 02:10 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/1289

Over at Sciencegate, Chris Mooney catches Rick Santorum flip-flopping on whether or not to teach ID. Though he’s said before, in no uncertain terms, that he thinks ID should be taught in schools, now he just wants to teach “the problems and holes in the theory of evolution”.

Of course what this really means is teaching ID–which consists almost entirely of arguments against evolution–more or less as it stands now. The problem, as always, is that these arguments, when they aren’t outright false or misleading, consist of exaggerating unknowns and focusing on areas where our knowledge is currently thin, all while ignoring the larger body of evidence. It is basically an exercise in trying to convince students that evolution is far more deserving of doubt than biologists would think legitimate. How this differs from simply “teaching ID” isn’t at all clear.

As an astute commenter points out, this isn’t really Santorum’s flip-flop, it’s the ID movement’s flip-flop, and Santorum is just parroting their latest talking point.

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Comment #41264

Posted by Tom Gillespie on August 4, 2005 2:51 PM (e)

As a Pennsylvanian I am taking heart in the consistent results of the polls which show Santorum lagging behind his likely Democratic challenger - maybe there’s hope for this state after all.

Comment #41265

Posted by frank schmidt on August 4, 2005 2:52 PM (e)

This is a classic strategy: First make sure that your base is on board, and then sidle over to the middle so you can appear to be “not that bad.” Rick’s up for re-election next year against a strong candidate, and he’s likely to do more of this.

Comment #41267

Posted by Joseph O'Donnell on August 4, 2005 3:17 PM (e)

It seems to me that politicians go either to moderate positions or out to extreme positions when they get desperate. Our government here in New Zealand has made an outlandish promise to remove the interest from student loans, which is unfortunately ‘buying’ many votes from people silly enough to believe they will do it.

Comment #41268

Posted by Z.W. Dickason on August 4, 2005 3:33 PM (e)

We had the same thing in the states with Bush giving everyone 300 dollars in promise for a vote.

-Zach

Comment #41269

Posted by Air Bear on August 4, 2005 3:34 PM (e)

We may be seeing the evolution of the anti-evolution movement into its next form. First came Creationism which fizzled in the public arean, then came Intelligent Design which is fizzling in the public arena. Now the movement is morhping into hiding ID and advocating “teach the controversy”. This may well be the new form of the movement as ID loses out in the courts.

This would be an interesting progression to less and less content for the alternatives to evolution. Good old Creationism has plenty of specific content. AiG is loaded with specific speculations, like a post-Flood Ice Age. ID has much less content – a few impressions and intuitions about complexity, and some hand-waving towards a mathematical theory that has never been fleshed out. Now comes “teach the controversy” which has no content of its own at all. Its proponents claim to have no alternative to evolution at all, but merely want its supposed flaws to be pointed out.

Of course, the old creationist foundations are still there, even in “teach the controversy”. But its proponents are driving it farther and farther underground.

Comment #41272

Posted by Jon A. Pastor on August 4, 2005 4:03 PM (e)

As one of Sen. Santorum’s constituents (very much under protest, but we’ll get him out of office in November…), I decided to ask him to clarify:

“Dear Senator Santorum-

I’m delighted to see that you’ve backed off your support for the teaching of so-called ‘intelligent design’ in science classes. I am very familiar with both the arguments pro and con and the science underlying both, and I am glad that you’ve stopped advocating the teaching of a ‘theory’ that explains nothing, predicts nothing, is immune to disproof, and is founded on some fairly obvious misrepresentations of the underlying science (to anyone who knows enough to see through the window-dressing of theorems and mathematical formulae).

However, I noted that in your comments you said ‘What we should be teaching are the problems and holes, and I think there are legitimate problems and holes, in the theory of evolution.’

I would be very interested in hearing (1) what those ‘problems and holes’ are, and (2) whether you think that the ‘problems and holes’ in every other generally accepted scientific theory (they all have them) should receive similar emphasis.

I’m familiar with the ‘problems’ posed by Michael Behe – the flagellum, the blood clotting mechanism, etc. – and from what I can tell he’s a bit behind on his reading: my correspondents in the fields of molecular biology and biochemistry tell me that these ‘problems’ were resoved some time ago. If you’re aware of others, I’d like to know about them, so that I can pass them along to my colleagues in the biological, chemical, and information sciences communities.

Please don’t respond with a form letter: I don’t need to know that you value comments from your constituents – I assume that as responsible legislator, this goes without saying. But if you or one of your staffers could answer the two questions I asked in the preceding paragraph, I would be very grateful.

Thanks.

Jon A. Pastor”

I won’t get an answer, of course, but I’ve decided that if I don’t ask the questions, I can’t complain about not getting the answers – and who knows? maybe I’ll find out what those problems and holes are.

Comment #41273

Posted by geogeek on August 4, 2005 4:06 PM (e)

I heard Santorum interviewed on NPR this morning, including mention of this topic. Rapid waffling ensued.

A note for fellow radio addicts: Christopher Lydon’s new daily radio and internet show is Open Source, and today will be about ID vs. evolution (live, 4 p.m. Pacific/7 p.m. Eastern). I suggest we get all over this one, both calling in and posting.

http://www.radioopensource.org/

“More than 20 states are thinking about challenging Darwin’s theory of evolution in biology classes with theories like “intelligent design” — the idea that organisms are too complicated to be accounted for by natural selection, that our evolution must have been guided by some superior intelligence.

Proponents of I.D. aren’t always explicit about the identity of the intelligent designer, but the subtext is clear: it’s God. And virtually any biologist you ask questions the scientific basis of the I.D. debate. So here’s the question: what’s the political and cultural movement here? And if you believe in God but also in Darwin, is there another way you can imagine mixing religion with biology?”

Comment #41274

Posted by Jon A. Pastor on August 4, 2005 4:07 PM (e)

P.S. There was a wonderful cartoon by Tony Auth in today’s (August 4) Philadelphia Inquirer: http://www.ucomics.com/tonyauth/

Comment #41275

Posted by Steven Thomas Smith on August 4, 2005 4:20 PM (e)

The first aspect of this interview that stood out for me was the senator’s empty hubris when he called scientists wrong for disputing his assertion that there are “problems and holes in the theory of evolution.” What problems? What holes?

Everlasting scientific fame awaits the Senator, or anyone else, who alerts us to actual problems and holes with a scientific fact like evolution. I’d like to hear exactly what he believes these problems are.

The second aspect was that the Senator believes that society’s moral fabric depends upon the truth or falsity of abstract scientific facts, rather than on people themselves—that’s why he believes this issue is so important. Talk about a relativist! Does he really believe that human morality depends upon wherever our DNA came from?

Comment #41276

Posted by geogeek on August 4, 2005 4:29 PM (e)

BTW, the image on the Radio Open Source page links to the perfect stickers for turning the U. of Ediacara frat vehicle into an art car:

http://www.swarthmore.edu/NatSci/cpurrin1/evolk12/posse/chazhasaposse.htm

I may have to get several dozen of these…

Comment #41278

Posted by Flint on August 4, 2005 4:58 PM (e)

Everlasting scientific fame awaits the Senator, or anyone else, who alerts us to actual problems and holes with a scientific fact like evolution. I’d like to hear exactly what he believes these problems are.

But we’ve already been told, over and over. The problem is that evidence must be considered in the light of scripture. Scientists are not doing this correctly. If it’s done correctly, evidence can be made to fit scripture because it HAS to, God said so. The failure of science to fit evidence to scripture is a moral failure which must be corrected before any technical failure can be addressed.

Comment #41280

Posted by SEF on August 4, 2005 5:10 PM (e)

Santorum wrote:

I think there are legitimate problems and holes, in the theory of evolution.

I don’t believe him. I don’t believe he is in any position to think that. It’s that stupidity / ignorance / dishonesty thing again. I think that at best he merely believes it because it’s what he’s been told to believe (and to say that he thinks) by other people who are stupid, ignorant and/or dishonest (but whom he nonetheless chooses to believe or pretend to believe).

Comment #41282

Posted by George on August 4, 2005 5:29 PM (e)

It is not at all different than teaching ID as all ID is, is a challenge to evolution.

ID offers no evidence showing an alternative mechanism. Interesting to me, while evolution relies on well understood, elegant processes working over vast time. ID has nothing to show how a designer implemented the designs. But more interesting they not only must show how designs were put in place, they also must show eveidence of the process of design - the blueprints, the plans, some old drawings that pre-date the biologic. Something?

Unless, of course, the designer is god acting supernaturally - then ID is just religion.

George

Comment #41283

Posted by george on August 4, 2005 5:34 PM (e)

Oh, I forgot to add. I think there is actually some evidence that the spaghetti monster is the creator. While the evidence is thin (pun intended), something must account or the spaghetti stuck to kitchen ceilings…

Comment #41284

Posted by snaxalotl on August 4, 2005 5:43 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'quote'

Comment #41285

Posted by snaxalotl on August 4, 2005 5:47 PM (e)

Actually, I favor “teach the controversy”. Like any science subject, the only people qualified to decide the basic facts of the curriculum are mainstream scientists. Clearly, “teach the controversy” would consist of careful explanations of how bad ID is.

Comment #41286

Posted by ts on August 4, 2005 5:48 PM (e)

We had the same thing in the states with Bush giving everyone 300 dollars in promise for a vote.

Er, um, Bush loaned us that money (and it was the Democrats’ idea which Bush resisted and then took credit for); it came right back out of our pockets on our tax returns. And while you saw the $300 loan, the already very wealthy saw tens of thousands of dollars of real tax reduction (which came out of your pocket in terms of reduction of services and increases in other sorts of taxes).

Comment #41289

Posted by Martin Wagner on August 4, 2005 5:51 PM (e)

Take the American Family Association ID survey. Pass the link around.

(Of course, such surveys are stupid, and only serve to help the AFA feel empowered. But it’s fun to invade these things all the same.)

http://www.afa.net/petitions/intelligentdesign/TakeSurvey.asp

Comment #41290

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on August 4, 2005 5:51 PM (e)

Now the movement is morhping into hiding ID and advocating “teach the controversy”. This may well be the new form of the movement as ID loses out in the courts.

Alas, “teach the controversy” has already lost out in court. It didn’t survive Cobb County.

Comment #41291

Posted by ts on August 4, 2005 5:52 PM (e)

“More than 20 states are thinking about challenging Darwin’s theory of evolution in biology classes with theories like “intelligent design” �#8221; the idea that organisms are too complicated to be accounted for by natural selection, that our evolution must have been guided by some superior intelligence.

We need to get across to these journalists that an “idea” is not a “theory”.

Comment #41294

Posted by ts on August 4, 2005 6:01 PM (e)

What problems? What holes?

There are problems and holes in every scientific theory. What we need to get across is that addressing the problems and holes in the theory of evolution is the province of evolutionary biologists, and that they’re hard at work at it. The IDists are like someone lobbing rocks at workers building a house, chanting “You house isn’t finished! Your house isn’t finished!” Or like saying that the police should be replaced by an alternative – say, patrols of grandmothers with milk and cookies – because not all the criminals have been caught.

Comment #41302

Posted by Ralph Westfall on August 4, 2005 7:03 PM (e)

Regardless of their motivations, the ID people have some ideas that can not be summarily dismissed. This is because one key aspect of the puzzle has not been solved by explanations that are based on the assumption that everything happens as a result of natural causes.

On its 125th anniversary, Science magazine identified 125 of the “most compelling puzzles and questions facing scientists today.” How and Where Did Life on Earth Arise? was in the top 25. I saw a UC Berkeley web site (developed with external funding) that reflected a similar perspective. At the bottom of one page (http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/evo101/IIE2aOriginoflife.shtml) it says, “Scientists have encountered no evidence that the origin of life could not have taken place through natural processes” (in logic, that is called an “argument from ignorance.”)

Especially in terms of the quantity of evidence, the concept of evolution has a much solider basis than hypotheses about the origin of life. Proponents of evolution are now quietly dissociating themselves from the crucial antecedent question of how life started. Possibly in response to this, the Catholic Church now accepts evolution as the explanation of the diversity of organisms, while retaining the teaching of a divine origin of life.

Some of the loudest young-earth-creationist have offered money to any scientist who can “prove” or generate a preponderance of evidence supporting the concept of evolution. These offers are structured in such a way that they can not considered as being in good faith. (One said that to win the money, a scientist would need to demonstrate the “big bang” [talk about a WMD!])

I’d like to see funding from interested parties (the administrators of the Templeton Prize?) for research in relation to the “missing links” issue that the ID people like to talk about. From the ID side, the challenge would be to identify the strongest examples of features of organisms that would be very difficult to achieve in terms of survivability, even in the context of very rapid transitions. From the traditional biological side, the challenge would be to develop hypotheses–with a specified level of empirical support–as to how the specific transitions could have occurred.

Comment #41303

Posted by Colin Purrington on August 4, 2005 7:03 PM (e)

Open Source just concluded a 60-min session on “intelligent design”. Ken Miller was his usual eloquent self, and was joined for a bit by Wes McCoy of Cobb County’s science department. The interview was conducted by Christopher Lydon, and you can download the mp3 at:

http://www.radioopensource.org/intelligent-design/

Comment #41310

Posted by Z.W. Dickason on August 4, 2005 7:55 PM (e)

Er, um, Bush loaned us that money (and it was the Democrats’ idea which Bush resisted and then took credit for); it came right back out of our pockets on our tax returns. And while you saw the $300 loan, the already very wealthy saw tens of thousands of dollars of real tax reduction (which came out of your pocket in terms of reduction of services and increases in other sorts of taxes).

Yes, you are correct, but wouldn’t you agree that in the minds of the ordinary person that voted republican, this 300 dollars was merely seen as “a wonderful gift from a guy who knows economics”.

What I meant in my original post was that this “tax break” was always presented dishonestly, the obvious benefit being raised approval ratings.

-Zach

Comment #41311

Posted by Air Bear on August 4, 2005 7:59 PM (e)

Ralph Westfall wrote:

From the ID side, the challenge would be to identify the strongest examples of features of organisms that would be very difficult to achieve in terms of survivability, even in the context of very rapid transitions. From the traditional biological side, the challenge would be to develop hypotheses—with a specified level of empirical support—as to how the specific transitions could have occurred.

This has already been done with the bacterial flagellum and blood-clotting cascade. How many more of these contests do the ID proponents need to lose before you’re convinced? There are potentially an infinite number of such contests.

I suggest that you contact prominent ID scientists - Behe, Dembski, and whoever else you can find (maybe from DI’s list) - and try to get them interested in your program. The DI itself could set up a think tank to “identify the the strongest examples of features of organisms that would be very difficult to achieve in terms of survivability”. Surely if ID is a legitimate scientific movement, they would be happy to cooperate.

Comment #41319

Posted by SEF on August 4, 2005 8:27 PM (e)

identify the the strongest examples

Isn’t that effectively what the irreducible complexity design filter thingumybob is supposed to be able to do? They should have been able to name the best (most complex and unevolvable) example straight away if it were working. So why would they instead name things that turned out to be shown as quite easily evolvable - thus making themselves both look foolish and have to move the goalposts for another try? ;-)

Comment #41322

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on August 4, 2005 8:47 PM (e)

Regardless of their motivations, the ID people have some ideas that can not be summarily dismissed. This is because one key aspect of the puzzle has not been solved by explanations that are based on the assumption that everything happens as a result of natural causes.

Um, what NON natural causes do you propose. And how do you propose we look for them.

Comment #41324

Posted by Steve Reuland on August 4, 2005 9:00 PM (e)

Ralph Westfall wrote:

Regardless of their motivations, the ID people have some ideas that can not be summarily dismissed.

I would say they have pointed out some issues that cannot be summarily dismissed. It would be fruitless to pretend as if evolutionary biology has answered all the important questions, or does not contain problems that require further research. But the ID people did not come up with these problems, nor have they highlighted any new ones. As best as I’ve been able to tell, nearly everything in their rather small arsenal of “ideas” was either taken from the creationists, in which case they’re usually wrong, or was borrowed from evolutionists who are always talking about the need to research this problem or that.

Comment #41328

Posted by snaxalotl on August 4, 2005 9:23 PM (e)

Take the American Family Association ID survey. Pass the link around.

oh my god. is that the worst survey ever? it’s even biased by having the correct answer already selected for you.

Comment #41333

Posted by natural cynic on August 4, 2005 11:25 PM (e)

Oh, I forgot to add. I think there is actually some evidence that the spaghetti monster is the creator. While the evidence is thin (pun intended), something must account or the spaghetti stuck to kitchen ceilings

Either the spaghetti monster or one of the minions - like angel hair

Comment #41334

Posted by natural cynic on August 4, 2005 11:27 PM (e)

alas, the evidence for the angel hair is even thinner

Comment #41339

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

Looking up “Santorum” in a dictionary proved fruitless, but a picture of an unnamed Penn. congressman DOES accompany the definitions of “idiot,” “vicious,” and the slang expression “asshole.” Is “Rick” the “Santorum” disgust here?

Comment #41340

Posted by Steven Laskoske on August 5, 2005 12:44 AM (e)

Enough with the spaghetti monster! I think it is time we get pasta all this.

(Sorry. Could resist.)

Comment #41341

Posted by Steven Laskoske on August 5, 2005 12:46 AM (e)

darwinfinch wrote:

Looking up “Santorum” in a dictionary proved fruitless, but a picture of an unnamed Penn. congressman DOES accompany the definitions of “idiot,” “vicious,” and the slang expression “asshole.” Is “Rick” the “Santorum” disgust here?

Yes, Rick Santorum is the person “disgust” (in more ways than one) here.

Comment #41345

Posted by natural cynic on August 5, 2005 1:48 AM (e)

Looking up “Santorum” in a dictionary proved fruitless, but a picture of an unnamed Penn. congressman DOES accompany the definitions of “idiot,” “vicious,” and the slang expression “asshole.” Is “Rick” the “Santorum” disgust here?

Close. After a speech by Santorum that included the comparisons of homosexuality to bestiality and other nasty things, the sex advice columnist Dan Savage (can be read at Savage Love at www.thestranger.com and other alt weeklies) asked readers for suggestions of an appropriate bodily function that could be renamed “Santorum”. It was agreed that “Santorum” should be the name of the mixture that comes out after anal intercourse.

Comment #41346

Posted by ts on August 5, 2005 1:56 AM (e)

the ID people have some ideas that can not be summarily dismissed

Like what?

Science magazine

Notably, Science Magazine (for which my brother is a correspondent, as it happens) is not run or contributed to by “ID people”.

“Scientists have encountered no evidence that the origin of life could not have taken place through natural processes” (in logic, that is called an “argument from ignorance.”)

No, it isn’t; an argument from ignorance would be of the form “… therefore it must have”. But that isn’t a conclusion of science, it’s a basic element of its methodology – methodological naturalism.

Proponents of evolution are now quietly dissociating themselves from the crucial antecedent question of how life started.

It’s not crucial to the theory of evolution – in fact, it’s orthogonal to it. And this dissociation is nothing new.

Possibly in response to this, the Catholic Church now accepts evolution as the explanation of the diversity of organisms, while retaining the teaching of a divine origin of life.

The Catholic Church accepted evolution because a) the evidence for it is overwhelming and b) they reconceived God as something too abstract to disappear into the ever shrinking gaps. Recent events suggest that the new Pope may want to reverse that. On the origin of life, I doubt that we will ever have enough evidence to reach anything close to conclusory, unless we visit other planets where life is forming. In which case the Church could teach that God was wondering around on the ancient Earth waving a magic wand and bringing self-replicators and cells and even larger organisms into existence, merging organelles, etc. without science having much to say about it, other than that it’s a rather arbitrary and unreliable sort of epistemology.

research in relation to the “missing links” issue that the ID people like to talk about

“missing links” is an old bogus creationist concept; it doesn’t have anything to do with ID.

From the ID side, the challenge would be to identify the strongest examples of features of organisms that would be very difficult to achieve in terms of survivability, even in the context of very rapid transitions.

ID is a political movement; it’s not science, and doesn’t meet challenges.

From the traditional biological side, the challenge would be to develop hypotheses—with a specified level of empirical support—as to how the specific transitions could have occurred.

It’s being done all the time, and doesn’t need IDists to propose examples. Especially since failure to meet such a challenge does nothing to support ID – that would be an argument from ignorance.

Comment #41373

Posted by Frank J on August 5, 2005 5:22 AM (e)

Jon A. Pastor wrote:

I won’t get an answer, of course, but I’ve decided that if I don’t ask the questions, I can’t complain about not getting the answers — and who knows? maybe I’ll find out what those problems and holes are.

I should have posted Comment # 41313 (scroll down) on this thread. In my last of 4 emails (~1 per year) to Santorum I asked him to clarify what he meant by the “full range of scientific views,” and whether they all at least agree with evolution on matters such as the age of the earth and common descent — as some ID advocates have admitted. That email didn’t even get a form letter.

Comment #41457

Posted by Morris Hattrick on August 5, 2005 2:48 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'i'

Comment #41542

Posted by swbarnes2 on August 5, 2005 6:41 PM (e)

This is because one key aspect of the puzzle has not been solved by explanations that are based on the assumption that everything happens as a result of natural causes.

But as far as natural phenomena, we have the gigantic piles of all the natural phenomena which have been shown by science to be totally explicable interms of natural causes. How the planets move, how electricity works, how food is turned into biological energy, why earthquakes happen, etc.

On the other hand, we have the pile of all the natural phenomena which have been shown to be explicable only by showing supernatural causes…oh yeah, that’s pile’s totally empty. In all the history and prehistory of humanity, there isn’t a single example of a natural phenomenon with a supernatural cause. In fact there are a slew of natural phenomena who used to be believed to have supernatural causes, but now virtually all of them are firmly demonstrated to be in the first pile, the one explicable by natural causes.

So, if you want to claim that science’s extraordinary sucessful strategy of searching for natural causes for natural phenomena is flawed, by all means, show us a single case where the search for supernatural causes has been sucessful. Better yet, can you show any evidence that Creationists or ID advocates are actually diverting money from their PR budgets to study these causes and the natural phenomena they influence?

Comment #41596

Posted by ts on August 5, 2005 10:06 PM (e)

In fact there are a slew of natural phenomena who used to be believed to have supernatural causes, but now virtually all of them are firmly demonstrated to be in the first pile, the one explicable by natural causes.

Which illustrates that supernatural causes aren’t even properly conceivable, because once we have developed a causal framework for some phenomenon, we declare it natural. We’re now being told that the universe is probably made out of 10- or 11- dimensional “strings”. What are those, exactly? Or what about the notion that there are an infinity of universes, with new ones containing versions of each of us splitting off all the time. The alternative is no less spooky; according the Copenhagen Interpretation, the moon doesn’t exist when no one is looking at it. Einstein found this so unnatural as to be unacceptable, and wrongly insisted that God doesn’t play dice. God’s will is found in the elaboration of a statistical equation that spins out the natural world.

Comment #41651

Posted by Frank J on August 6, 2005 8:44 AM (e)

ts wrote:

There are problems and holes in every scientific theory. What we need to get across is that addressing the problems and holes in the theory of evolution is the province of evolutionary biologists, and that they’re hard at work at it.

That, plus the fact that the “holes in evolution” is one of the most misleading half-truths ever stated. Santorum should know that by now, and has an obligation to be clear about it. Specifically that “holes in evolution” do not constitute either evidence of design (which evolution never ruled out in the first place) or evidence for any other popular origins myth.

Comment #41653

Posted by Ron Okimoto on August 6, 2005 9:11 AM (e)

I’ve always wondered just what the Discovery Institute scam artists told Santorum and his cronies in their dog and pony show back in 1999, that probably had something to do with the bullpucky that they keep claiming got into the education amendment. If anyone remembers back in 1999 the Discovery Institute made a big deal that they were consulting with Santorum and his cronies on capitol hill. It sounds like the Discovery Institute Wedgies hadn’t, yet decided to drop the ID scam for the “teach the controversy” replacement scam, even though Meyers must have been working on the “teach the controversy” scam by then because he has that junk up on the Web dated to 1999. It sounds like Santorum was fed a bill of goods and believed the ID scam. At sometime someone must have set him straight about what a scam ID was, but like other rubes he just accepted the replacement scam from the same guys that he knows fed him the worthless ID scam.

Can any competent person flip flop like this and not know that he was scammed? Why would a competent honest person take the next scam from the same people that he knows that he couldn’t trust with the first scam?

Comment #41702

Posted by swbarnes2 on August 6, 2005 7:36 PM (e)

Which illustrates that supernatural causes aren’t even properly conceivable, because once we have developed a causal framework for some phenomenon, we declare it natural.

No, that’s not how it works. Thousands of years ago, you have all kinds of phenomena, like “things that go off cliffs fall down”. These are totally understood in terms of natural causes. No one feels the need to posit that a god is necessary to pull down every object that has ever been dropped. But the planets moving through the sky, those are seen to be different, and supernatural. Well, now we know that the planets move through the sky due to the same force that makes things drop to earth, and that both phenomena can be modeled using the same equations. So when we say that the motions of the planets have natural causes, it’s not because we are labeling every single causal model “natural”, it’s because we know it is the same phenomenon as dropping apples, and we’ve long ago decided that apples drop naturally.

It’s the same with all phenomenon that we have to date studied. All their causes have turned out to be no different in kind from other causes that we have no problem labeling “natural”.

If you really wanted to argue about labeling, you could argue that all phenomena are supernaturally caused. That stance just makes studying anything pretty pointless.

We’re now being told that the universe is probably made out of 10- or 11- dimensional “strings”. What are those, exactly? Or what about the notion that there are an infinity of universes, with new ones containing versions of each of us splitting off all the time.

What about them? They are theories, supported by some kinds of evidence, mostly in the form of math whose logic is reasonably sound, and whose applicability to reality has been in some sense validated. I’m no expert either, but I do understand the difference between an idea with no evidence, and an idea with evidence whose quality I am not knowledgeable enough to judge.

Are you really arguing that because you don’t understand the evidence underlying these ideas, that they are no more substantial than any other idea you can come up with, but can’t support with evidence?

God’s will is found in the elaboration of a statistical equation that spins out the natural world.

That’s your opinion. As long as you understand that it is not adequately supported by the evidence.

Comment #41705

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on August 6, 2005 7:44 PM (e)

Um, what NON natural causes do you propose. And how do you propose we look for them.

Well? I’m still waiting ….

Comment #41713

Posted by ts on August 6, 2005 8:40 PM (e)

No, that’s not how it works. Thousands of years ago, you have all kinds of phenomena, like “things that go off cliffs fall down”. These are totally understood in terms of natural causes. No one feels the need to posit that a god is necessary to pull down every object that has ever been dropped.

This doesn’t in any way contradict my statement.

So when we say that the motions of the planets have natural causes, it’s not because we are labeling every single causal model “natural”, it’s because we know it is the same phenomenon as dropping apples, and we’ve long ago decided that apples drop naturally.

That’s a very bizarre way of looking at things, and almost certainly wrong. People think the motions of the planets have natural causes because they accept that there’s a scientific explanation for it, which most people don’t understand and many people have only vaguest notion has anything to do with apples. And planetary motion and falling apples most certainly are not “the same phenomenon”; they are different phenomena with a common causal explanation.

It’s the same with all phenomenon that we have to date studied. All their causes have turned out to be no different in kind from other causes that we have no problem labeling “natural”.

This is completely contrary to the understanding of modern physics, in which it is recognized that intuitions developed from our everyday experience don’t apply to the very large, very small, very hot, and very cold.

Are you really arguing that because you don’t understand the evidence underlying these ideas, that they are no more substantial than any other idea you can come up with, but can’t support with evidence?

Uh, no.

God’s will is found in the elaboration of a statistical equation that spins out the natural world.

That’s your opinion. As long as you understand that it is not adequately supported by the evidence.

I was using “God” in the same metaphorical sense as Steven Hawking uses it. I wasn’t asserting that there’s a God or that it has a will – I’m an atheist.

Comment #42992

Posted by Ralph Westfall on August 15, 2005 12:46 AM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'i'

Comment #42995

Posted by Ralph Westfall on August 15, 2005 1:01 AM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'i'

Comment #43004

Posted by Ralph Westfall on August 15, 2005 1:37 AM (e)

*I should have done this in an HTML editor. The script behind this blog is not at all forgiving. Fortunately I was able to get the content back using the Back button.

Posted by ‘Rev Dr’ Lenny Flank on August 6, 2005 07:44 PM (e) (s)

Um, what NON natural causes do you propose. And how do you propose we look for them.

Well? I’m still waiting … .

*Hi Rev. Dr. Lenny:

*I apologize for keeping you waiting. I haven’t looked at this list for a while.

*In science, pointing out that evidence is insufficient to prove a point does not require that another alternative be proposed. Exposure of unproven hypotheses is one of the drivers of the progress of science, because it often leads to more vigorous attempts to solve the problem by a broader spectrum of the community rather than just the person who identifies a flaw. If you still feel that there is an obligation here, you probably should direct your question to the author of the article in Science magazine.

Comment #41346
Posted by ts on August 5, 2005 01:56 AM (e) (s)

Like what?

Science magazine

Notably, Science Magazine (for which my brother is a correspondent, as it happens) is not run or contributed to by “ID people”.

*My point exactly.

“Scientists have encountered no evidence that the origin of life could not have taken place through natural processes� (in logic, that is called an “argument from ignorance.�)

No, it isn’t; an argument from ignorance would be of the form “… therefore it must have”. But that isn’t a conclusion of science, it’s a basic element of its methodology — methodological naturalism.

*Actually it is an argument from ignorance, but it’s couched in a way that preserves a vestige of deniability. The entry page (http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/evohome.html) for the Berkeley web site says it is designed for educators (apparently below the college level) and it is clearly oriented toward the general public rather than scientists. It would be very natural for some people in those contexts to read the statement as scientific support for the idea that natural causes are sufficient to explain the origin of life.

Comment #41542
Posted by swbarnes2 on August 5, 2005 06:41 PM (e) (s)

But as far as natural phenomena, we have the gigantic piles of all the natural phenomena which have been shown by science to be totally explicable interms of natural causes. How the planets move, how electricity works, how food is turned into biological energy, why earthquakes happen, etc.

On the other hand, we have the pile of all the natural phenomena which have been shown to be explicable only by showing supernatural causes…oh yeah, that’s pile’s totally empty. In all the history and prehistory of humanity, there isn’t a single example of a natural phenomenon with a supernatural cause. In fact there are a slew of natural phenomena who used to be believed to have supernatural causes, but now virtually all of them are firmly demonstrated to be in the first pile, the one explicable by natural causes.

*All of the above supports your belief that science will eventually find a natural-causes explanation for the origin of life. However it does not prove that this will happen. Biological scientists have developed an extremely large body of knowledge. Up to this point, they have not succeeded in creating life using the incredibly sophisticated tools that are now available. And note that even if someday scientists do succeed in creating life under the very under very unnatural conditions of a laboratory, the findings would not necessarily be relevant to the conditions that obtained in the natural environment billions of years ago. You have your beliefs and I have mine.

So, if you want to claim that science’s extraordinary sucessful strategy of searching for natural causes for natural phenomena is flawed,

*I make no such claim. History demonstrates that the scientific method is a very effective strategy. I am very much in favor of continuing this strategy in all areas (of course excluding “research” such as that done by the Nazis on concentration camp inmates), including research on the origins of life.

by all means, show us a single case where the search for supernatural causes has been sucessful.

*That one is very easy: the literal, physical resurrection of Jesus Christ 20 centuries ago. That is the only one that really counts.

*My concern here is that scientists are not adequately communicating to the general public that the scientific community sees the origin of life and evolution as separate and distinct issues. It may work for some people to feel that we can explain the diversity of life without addressing its origins, but many others have difficulties with that. (I suspect that the general public doesn’t have similar concerns regarding the big-bang origin of the universe, because not that many people are aware of the law of conservation of matter and energy and its implications.)

Better yet, can you show any evidence that Creationists or ID advocates are actually diverting money from their PR budgets to study these causes and the natural phenomena they influence?

*As indicated previously, I would like to see the ID people get more involved in biological research. However I doubt that they are going to get far with the very limited amounts of money that diversions from their PR budgets would represent. This kind of science is very expensive.

*My wife is going to (figuratively) shoot me if don’t get off this $#%^ing computer. There are some other comments I want to respond to, but that’s going to have to be later. Bye for now.

Comment #43005

Posted by ts (not Tim Sandefur) on August 15, 2005 1:52 AM (e)

Fortunately I was able to get the content back using the Back button.

You shouldn’t have bothered. This thread is over a week old, no one else is going to pay any attention to it, and they’re the better off for not wasting time on such confusion.

Like what?

Science magazine

Notably, Science Magazine (for which my brother is a correspondent, as it happens) is not run or contributed to by “ID people”.

*My point exactly.

No your point was that “the ID people have some ideas that can not be summarily dismissed”. Pointing to ideas from a magazine that has nothing to do with ID can’t be “exactly” your point.