Andrea Bottaro posted Entry 2089 on March 4, 2006 08:30 AM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/2084

It seems that Discovery Institute’s John West’s breeches got all tied up in a knot following last week’s New York Times article by Kenneth Chang exposing the signatories DI’s list of “scientists” harboring doubts about “Darwinism” as largely unqualified to express any well-grounded scientific judgment on evolutionary theory, and mostly religiously motivated. Alas, in his hatchet piece on Chang’s reporting, which stoops to insinuating journalistic malpractice before retreating into some mellifluous statement of appreciation of Chang’s openness, West ends up confirming the NYT’s piece key factual points.

What did Chang say in his piece? Quite simply, based on interviews with 20 of the signatories as well as some research on the others:
- that, based on his sample, the majority of the list signatories appeared to be evangelical Christians;
- that while a “few” are “nationally prominent scientists”, many have “more modest positions”;
- that the vast majority of signatories are non-biologists, and that of the biologists “few conduct research that would directly address the question of what shaped the history of life”;
- that of the signers “who are evangelical Christians, most defend their doubts on scientific grounds but also say that evolution runs against their religious beliefs” and that “several said that their doubts began when they increased their involvement with Christian churches.”

Chang also dutifully reported some DI spokesmen’s objections, for instance that religious beliefs of the signers should not be considered relevant, and specifically interviewed one of the 2 signatories who the DI itself identified as not holding “conservative religious beliefs”.

Based on his affiliate Rob Crowther’s interview with Chang, West claims that this is not an accurate summary of the actual data Chang uncovered, and asks us to be the judge of Chang’s reporting honesty. Well, let’s.

West primarily complains that Chang misrepresents the religious motivations of the signatories: “…by his [Chang’s] own admission, 75% or more of the scientists he interviewed did not say” that “their doubts [about Darwin] began when they increased their involvement with Christian churches”. But of course, Chang only stated that “several” of the signatories did so, a characterization that quite accurately reflects the remainder of the sample, a substantial fraction of 25% of respondents.

What is impressive here, of course, is that a whole 25% of purported “scientists” on the list actually openly admitted that their religious beliefs strongly influenced, in fact radically changed, their conclusions about scientific matters (to the point in some cases of rejecting not only evolution, but also modern geology and cosmology!). That’s simply stunning, and already suggests that the signatories are far from a representative sample of normal scientific attitudes and accepted practice.

Then West says that “when grilled” by Crowther, Chang

… also backpedaled on the article’s insinuations that scientists critical of Darwin should be dismissed because of their religious beliefs

but Chang never said that in his article either, not even implicitly. In fact, he quoted West’s own unequivocal statement opposing the relevance of religious belief in judging the signatories’ scientific opinions, especially when not doing the same for evolutionary biologists. Nowhere does Chang himself state, or quotes anyone stating, the contrary.

The issue of course is not that religious beliefs (or lack thereof) must be considered in themselves ground to dismiss anyone’s specific scientific opinions, the merit and content of which in any case are not even addressed in Chang’s piece. However, they certainly are a relevant sociological factor in discussing a political movement like the one opposing the teaching of mainstream evolutionary science in schools, of which the DI’s list is certainly a major P.R. tool. If the DI wants to continue advancing a political-social agenda using political-social tools, rather than focusing on science using the tools of scientific research and publication, they cannot then complain that their efforts are evaluated on a political-social level. There must be a reason why people, mostly with little or no training in evolutionary biology, feel compelled to affix their name to a public petition claiming the expertise to scientifically reject it.

West also claims that Chang “conceded to Crowther that “fundamentally their [the signatories’] doubts [about Darwinism] are scientifically based””. Leaving aside whether the vast majority of the signatories, who probably have never read through an advanced evolutionary biology textbook, let alone follow the professional literature on the topic, can be effectively trusted to self-assess their doubts about the theory as scientific in nature, this is also a plain misrepresentation: Chang could have hardly “conceded” this to Crowther, since he already says quite clearly in his original article that “of the signers who are evangelical Christians, most defend their doubts on scientific grounds”.

That’s it. West cannot and does not argue against Chang’s findings: that the overwhelming majority of the signatories - with the only known exceptions being 2 (two out of five hundred!) individuals – are evangelical and conservative Christians, that the vast majority are professionally unqualified to judge evolutionary biology on scientific merits, and that by their own admission, in a significant fractions of cases their objections followed directly and were influenced by their religious beliefs. All the factual conclusions of Chang’s piece are therefore correct and stand unchallenged.

Short on factual support for his claims, therefore, what West is left with is just a transparent, clumsy attempt at sniping at Chang’s credibility and honesty (no wonder: the DI has enlisted the services of the same PR firm who introduced swift-boating during the last presidential elections). He uses a lot of insinuations and posturing about Chang being “clearly uncomfortable”, evasive and defensive while being “pressed” and “grilled” by Crowther (how would West know this for a fact, unless he was present at the interview and could read Chang’s mind, I wouldn’t know), while it is clearly West himself here who is trying to evade the issues, and defend the DI against the exposure of one of its principal PR tools as a sham.

Ultimately, all West can muster is a vague complaint that the piece gives the impression that the list’s signatories are overwhelming closed-minded “Biblical literalists” (never mind that Chang explicitly writes that only “some say they read the Bible literally”). But even if this were true (and it certainly doesn’t seem to be the case to my reading of Chang’s piece), that would hardly be a more significant misrepresentation than the DI’s own propaganda about the list, which is publicized as representing the existing scientific opposition to evolutionary theory, when in fact it is overwhelmingly composed, as highlighted by Chang’s investigation, of people who either are not practicing scientists, or are not qualified to assess the theory scientifically (more than I am qualified to assess the merits of, say, quantum chemistry), and/or are clearly religiously biased against it.

However, the fundamental and much more dishonest misrepresentation, which unfortunately was not noticed in Chang’s piece, is inherent in the original statement on the DI’s petition. The petition tries to fool unaware readers into believing that skepticism about “claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life” amounts to a legitimate scientific objection to evolutionary theory. This is false: evolutionary theory makes no such claim for the sufficiency of “random mutation and natural selection”, and in fact incorporates and actively studies additional evolutionary mechanisms.

Truth is, if the “scientific dissent” statement were not just a crude propaganda tool for the crypto-Creationism promoted by the Discovery Institute and Intelligent Design advocates, I have no doubt that the vast majority of practicing biological scientists (tens of thousands, not just a handful) would have no qualms whatsoever adding their own name to it. But then again, I am quite sure that the overwhelming majority of the statement’s current signatories, ignorant as they seem to be of the claims of evolutionary biology, don’t even know that what they signed is a fair representation of modern evolutionary theory that could have been easily signed by Darwin himself.

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Comment #83658

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on March 4, 2006 9:19 AM (e)

Perhaps West would be so kind as to explain to us why none of these much-vaunted scientists of his have been able to come up with a scientific theory of ID that can be tested using the scientific method … ?

It wouldn’t have anything to do with the fact that ID is just religious apologetics, would it?

Comment #83660

Posted by Ron Okimoto on March 4, 2006 9:32 AM (e)

Not only that, but 500 ID supporting scientists (well some of them claim that they never bought into ID like Berlinski, but how is the Discovery Institute hawking the bogus list?) and according to the two Discovery Institute fellow’s testimony in Dover, there hasn’t been a single paper supporting ID published in the scientific literature. These guys are obviously top flight scientists really up to date on the topic. They must be up to date on the controversy, even if they don’t seem to know what it is, and aren’t interested enough to do anything about it, but sign a list.:-)

Comment #83661

Posted by KL on March 4, 2006 9:43 AM (e)

How does one see the full “membership” in the Discovery Institute? Also, are they required to make public their donor list? I have heard a rumor that one of the candidates for Presiding Bishop of TN is associated, and I am trying to check it out. The list of “fellows” doesn’t include this individual, and Google turns up very little.

Comment #83662

Posted by steve s on March 4, 2006 9:51 AM (e)

West’s complaints aside, don’t you imagine that around the offices of the Discovery Institute, there’s increasingly the feeling that the jig is up? I bet it’s a pretty grim workplace these days.

Comment #83664

Posted by dogscratcher on March 4, 2006 11:07 AM (e)

“West’s complaints aside, don’t you imagine that around the offices of the Discovery Institute, there’s increasingly the feeling that the jig is up? I bet it’s a pretty grim workplace these days.”

I hope you are right, that would be the attitude amongst a group of rational people, but I have the feeling you give them too much credit on the critical thinking score.

Comment #83665

Posted by steve s on March 4, 2006 11:16 AM (e)

Possibly. They’re 100 years behind on evolution, they might be a few years away from understanding how Dover treated them like Jean Claude van Damme treats the bad guy in the last 5 minutes of the movie.

Comment #83666

Posted by Can you stop this penis enlargement thing? on March 4, 2006 11:23 AM (e)

See, now this is the perfect place for a “Holy war”. I’ll start, OK? Supid Fu****g Christians.

Comment #83667

Posted by wamba on March 4, 2006 11:28 AM (e)

West’s complaints aside, don’t you imagine that around the offices of the Discovery Institute, there’s increasingly the feeling that the jig is up? I bet it’s a pretty grim workplace these days.

I can see no reason to believe that the folks who work for the DI have ability to accurately discern the status of their efforts. They don’t seem to have done well discerning the status of evolution within biology or the scientific legitimacy of IDC. It seems quite possible that they are generally clueless.

Comment #83671

Posted by Russell on March 4, 2006 11:56 AM (e)

… according to the two Discovery Institute fellow’s testimony in Dover, there hasn’t been a single paper supporting ID published in the scientific literature

If it’s in the official 139 page decision by Judge Jones, I guess it will be easy enough to find it. Otherwise, could we get the exact quotes on this?

Comment #83673

Posted by BWE on March 4, 2006 12:02 PM (e)

Oops, ha ha. That last name was about some weird spam the last time I signed on. Excuse me.

Comment #83675

Posted by k.e. on March 4, 2006 12:07 PM (e)

Steady BWE ,,, breath deeply and say OMMMMMMMMMMMMMM.

clueless they are oh wambawamba, not unwitting they are 2 hrmmmm.

I sense this is the weakest point of the evil empire,
One advantage a PR firm has over the hoi poloi… the great unwashed, is its free ride into the very nerve centers of the MATRIX.
Like a free riding virus with skeleton keys and a built in ability to walk right through the media owners political firewall untouched directly to the clones that inhabit the terminals connected to the (mind) presses.
er….you know email a press realize that can just be reprinted…saves work (remember Michael Balter ..twit)

A deeply penetrating search for the dirty truth behind these scamsters (“swift boating the swift boaters”) and a single well targeted thinking journalist into the core of their lies may well have an “explosive” force big enough to blow their butts off for the time being.

Comment #83676

Posted by steve s on March 4, 2006 12:09 PM (e)

Comment #83666

Posted by Can you stop this penis enlargement thing? on March 4, 2006 11:23 AM (e)

It should have an off switch somewhere.

Comment #83678

Posted by steve s on March 4, 2006 12:15 PM (e)

The evidence presented in this case demonstrates that ID is not supported by
any peer-reviewed research, data or publications. Both Drs. Padian and Forrest
testified that recent literature reviews of scientific and medical-electronic databases disclosed no studies supporting a biological concept of ID. (17:42-43 (Padian);
11:32-33 (Forrest)). On cross-examination, Professor Behe admitted that: “There
are no peer reviewed articles by anyone advocating for intelligent design supported
by pertinent experiments or calculations which provide detailed rigorous accounts
of how intelligent design of any biological system occurred.” (22:22-23 (Behe)).
Additionally, Professor Behe conceded that there are no peer-reviewed papers
supporting his claims that complex molecular systems, like the bacterial flagellum,
the blood-clotting cascade, and the immune system, were intelligently designed.
(21:61-62 (complex molecular systems), 23:4-5 (immune system), and 22:124-25
(blood-clotting cascade) (Behe)). In that regard, there are no peer-reviewed
articles supporting Professor Behe’s argument that certain complex molecular
structures are “irreducibly complex.”17 (21:62, 22:124-25 (Behe)). In addition to
failing to produce papers in peer-reviewed journals, ID also features no scientific
research or testing. (28:114-15 (Fuller); 18:22-23, 105-06 (Behe)).

_____________

17 The one article referenced by both Professors Behe and Minnich as supporting ID is an
article written by Behe and Snoke entitled “Simulating evolution by gene duplication of protein
features that require multiple amino acid residues.” (P-721). A review of the article indicates
that it does not mention either irreducible complexity or ID. In fact, Professor Behe admitted
that the study which forms the basis for the article did not rule out many known evolutionary
mechanisms and that the research actually might support evolutionary pathways if a biologically
realistic population size were used. (22:41-45 (Behe); P-756).

Comment #83681

Posted by BWE on March 4, 2006 12:41 PM (e)

Jesus, thanks steve s. Darn thing’s about 19 inches now. Hope it goes back to normal.

Comment #83702

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on March 4, 2006 2:32 PM (e)

Your wife hopes not.

Comment #83705

Posted by BWE on March 4, 2006 2:41 PM (e)

She’s only 5’2”. She’s scared.

Comment #83717

Posted by Andrea Bottaro on March 4, 2006 4:20 PM (e)

Back on track, folks, please.
Thanks

Comment #83719

Posted by KL on March 4, 2006 4:36 PM (e)

I am still hoping someone can answer my question (Comment 83661) Thanks!

Comment #83721

Posted by Andrea Bottaro on March 4, 2006 4:52 PM (e)

KL:
Discovery Institute staff and fellows are listed on their web site, but as you say, simple members are not. I am not sure whether the list is confidential or, since they are a non-profit, it is public. Why don’t you call them?

Comment #83724

Posted by limpidense on March 4, 2006 5:18 PM (e)

[yawn] The DI is composed fully 100% of people who knowingly and willingly lie to advance what they intellectually know is (currently, and one must think from their failure to pursue ANY real research, obviously) an entirely unscientific, religiously/politically motivated position.
The seek political power, and feed on ignorance, indifference and fear. They are bad people, and they have bad aims which they enjoy promoting with bad methods.

Comment #83729

Posted by Ron Okimoto on March 4, 2006 6:09 PM (e)

Steve S said:

West’s complaints aside, don’t you imagine that around the offices of the Discovery Institute, there’s increasingly the feeling that the jig is up? I bet it’s a pretty grim workplace these days.

According to West they knew the jig was up back in 1999. West made the claim in some newspaper article before the Dover court case started, where he claimed that the Discovery Institute had a “change of direction” back in 1999. This was only about a year after the Discovery Institute put out the Wedge Document as a “fund raising” document. It was also the Year that Meyer put out the first feelers about “teaching the controversy” that I’ve found on the Discovery Institute site. The Meyer article dated 1999 about the legality of teaching the controversy.

So the ID scam artists knew that ID was stillborn years before Ohio and Dover when they had to admit it to the rubes and had to try and feed them the replacement scam. Ohio slurped up the replacement scam from the same guys that had scammed them with ID, but Dover didn’t. The Dover rubes threw the replacement scam back in the Discovery Institute’s face and demanded to go with the original ID scam. They had to go it alone with the Dover court fiasco as a result. The Discovery Institute used to claim that ID was their business, but they dropped ID for a reason, they just forgot to tell their supporters that the scam was up in a way that their supporters could understand. Heck, they still haven’t done that. All they’ve done is obfuscate and try to make it look like someone elses fault.

Ron Okimoto

Comment #83732

Posted by KL on March 4, 2006 6:35 PM (e)

To Andrea: Thanks! I’ll give it a go.

Comment #83737

Posted by wad of id on March 4, 2006 7:34 PM (e)

John West doth protest too much. And there is probably a simple reason why. In his mind, he’s got to be thinking to himself: When was the last time a religiously motivated criticism of a scientific theory turn out to hold any water? Could John Q. Public even name one?

Good job, to Ken Chang for exposing DI’s list.

Comment #83738

Posted by Michael Hopkins on March 4, 2006 7:35 PM (e)

I am sure people might be interested in the following:

Anti-evolutionists point to the Discovery Institute, a leading think tank on debunking Darwin’s theory. The institute promotes a list of scientists across the country, including several from Oklahoma colleges and universities, who have signed a pledge skeptical of Darwin’s claims. When contacted by Oklahoma Gazette, many of the Oklahoma scientists said they do not necessarily disagree with the statement but don’t recall giving permission to have their name on a list.

This is from the March 1 issue of the Oklahoma Gazette in an article called “Holy War”. Unfortunately only part of the article is online.

Comment #83741

Posted by Andy H. on March 4, 2006 8:11 PM (e)

New York Times reporter Kenneth Chang made a big deal out of the fact that many signers of the DI letter are non-biologists and/or at least partly motivated by religion. Well, what about the motivations and scientific qualifications of the following groups that have signed pro-Darwinism letters –

(1) 10,000+ Christian clergy members

(2) Kansas State University faculty members
http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2006/03/kans…

(3) The “700 Club” and “Project Steve” of the National Center for Science Education

(4) Nobel laureates

In particular, the following excerpt from the letter signed by the Christian clergy members shows blatant religious motivation for urging that Darwinism not be challenged –

“We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as ‘one theory among others’ is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children. We believe that among God’s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator. To argue that God’s loving plan of salvation for humanity precludes the full employment of the God-given faculty of reason is to attempt to limit God, an act of hubris.” – from http://www.uwosh.edu/colleges/cols/religion_scie…

This is not merely a statement asserting that Darwinism is not incompatible with religion.

Comment #83744

Posted by steve s on March 4, 2006 8:50 PM (e)

How about your motivation? Why are you so motivated to suck?

Comment #83745

Posted by wad of id on March 4, 2006 8:51 PM (e)

Hmmm… andy h. would have a good point, except for that little detail that “pro-Darwinists” have never conditioned the validity of evolutionary science on the number of clergy or non-biologists who have signed some petition. Fortunately for us, the evidence itself speaks loudly enough for evolution.

On the other hand, the IDiots have done exactly the opposite. The very health of the ID movement hinges on rounding up those pseudo-scientific critics of evolution. That they can only get less than a thousand signatories to date is not very impressive. I believe at its zenith, Philip Johnson’s other brain-child – the HIV-denial movement – had comparable numbers in a similar petition.

Once again context matters. Petitions can only counter petitions. In this case, our petitions put a lie to the claim that there is some “growing” controversy to evolutionary science. All other benefits we may derive from our petitions are largely incidental.

Comment #83750

Posted by Flint on March 4, 2006 9:31 PM (e)

Chang does give the impression, at least to me, that the vast majority of these signers are evangelicals, the vast majority of whom don’t know what they’re talking about anyway. The fact that West was only able to come up with 2 (of 500) who were NOT obviously motivated by religious faith hits home pretty hard. And one of those two is an obvious crank.

Also pretty telling is that the DI can’t counter with any science at all. The best they can do is produce a meager list, itself misrepresented (as compared with the statement that was signed). I sincerely hope journalists will take note. How much better these articles will become once journalists learn to say “Don’t give me a list of evangelicals in unrelated fields. Give me a list of scientists publishing ID research in peer reviewed journals.” The responses to such a demand would be fascinating all by themselves.

Comment #83751

Posted by Sir_Toejam on March 4, 2006 9:38 PM (e)

The responses to such a demand would be fascinating all by themselves.

we’ve already seen the response:

“the liberal media”

“activist judges”

etc.

Comment #83757

Posted by orrg1 on March 4, 2006 10:30 PM (e)

The 10,000+ clergy aren’t saying that religion is the reason that the truth of evolution should accepted. They know full well why it is being rejected (by the usual suspects), and are just stating that the reasoning behind the denial is bad religion, as well as being bad science. Sorry that the distinction escapes you.

Comment #83764

Posted by normdoering on March 4, 2006 11:51 PM (e)

this is the perfect place for a “Holy war”. I’ll start, OK? Supid Fu****g Christians.

Careful you’re talking about the official state religion of Missouri:

http://www.kmov.com/topstories/stories/030206cck…

Comment #83774

Posted by EmmePeel on March 5, 2006 1:34 AM (e)

“We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.”

Eugenie Scott, Richard Dawkins, Andrea Bottaro, Robert Pennock, Barbara Forrest, Wes Elsberry, etc. etc. should publicly sign the DI’s “Dissent from Darwinism” statement above.

It’s such a vacuous & mealy-mouthed statement (much like ID theory itself), especially when compared to the forceful & straightforward text of the Project Steve statement, the leading evolution spokespeople should just show them up by publicly signing the stupid DI statement.

Comment #83788

Posted by t.f. on March 5, 2006 6:25 AM (e)

I second the motion that Jack Krebs, Eugenie, and all the swingers should sign it. I actually think that is an excellent idea.

Oh, how I love the way the Media Complaints Division is throwing “suppress” around like McCarthy is lurking around the corner. I think these are the desperate death throes of the DI. I’ll admit that ID will stick around in people’s hearts (and empty minds), but I really think that the Disco Institute will keep foaming at the mouth as its CNS deteriorates further and further.

You can only peddle blather and bluster as science for so long, irrespective of the stupidity of your base supporters.

Comment #83789

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 5, 2006 7:47 AM (e)

I second the motion that Jack Krebs, Eugenie, and all the swingers should sign it. I actually think that is an excellent idea.

Me too; I’m surprised no one has suggested it before. In fact, I think everyone on the Steve list should sign it. That would force the media to ask why they are on both lists, which would provide an opportunity to explain the difference between the definite Steve statement and the vague DI statement, the nature of scientific inquiry and debate, etc.

Comment #83791

Posted by Andy H. on March 5, 2006 8:56 AM (e)

Andrea Bottaro posted Entry 2089 on March 4, 2006 08:30 AM – opening comment in thread

What is impressive here, of course, is that a whole 25% of purported “scientists” on the list actually openly admitted that their religious beliefs strongly influenced, in fact radically changed, their conclusions about scientific matters (to the point in some cases of rejecting not only evolution, but also modern geology and cosmology!).

Chang said that he interviewed only 20 of the people on the list, and with such a small sample size, that 25% figure would have a large margin of error. Also, the NY Times article said, “of the signers who are evangelical Christians, most defend their doubts on scientific grounds,” suggesting that in most cases these signers’ doubts about Darwinism are not solely or even principally based on religious beliefs.

West cannot and does not argue against Chang’s findings: that the overwhelming majority of the signatories - with the only known exceptions being 2 (two out of five hundred!) individuals – are evangelical and conservative Christians, that the vast majority are professionally unqualified to judge evolutionary biology on scientific merits, and that by their own admission, in a significant fractions of cases their objections followed directly and were influenced by their religious beliefs

There is absolutely no basis for concluding that “the overwhelming majority of the signatories … are evangelical and conservative Christians.” As for not being professionally qualified, most or many of the KSU professors and Nobel laureates who signed pro-Darwinism statements were also not in evolution-related fields. And those 2 signatories who were not evangelical or conservative Christians were not necessarily the only ones who could readily be found.

The petition tries to fool unaware readers into believing that skepticism about “claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life” amounts to a legitimate scientific objection to evolutionary theory. This is false: evolutionary theory makes no such claim for the sufficiency of “random mutation and natural selection”, and in fact incorporates and actively studies additional evolutionary mechanisms.

But random mutation and natural selection are considered to be the most important factors that drive evolution. Some other kinds of genetic variation besides random mutation are sometimes added, e.g., genetic drift (really just a slow random mutation), gene flow, and polyploidy (multiple copies of chromosomes), but the most important kind of genetic variation in regard to Darwinism is random mutation. Also, for some unknown reason, Darwinists often mention only natural selection and leave out random mutation or genetic variation when discussing the forces that are supposed to drive evolution.

Considering the great importance that is attached to scientists’ – particularly biologists’ – opinions about evolution, it is astonishing that formal random polls of scientists’ opinions about evolution are not conducted more frequently. The most recent reliable such poll I could find on the Internet is a grossly outdated poll from 2002. In contrast, at least six formal random polls of the general public’s opinions about evolution were conducted in the period Nov. 2004 – Oct. 2005. See
http://www.willowwind.spacefree.de/cgi-bin/cgipr…

Comment #83801

Posted by Andrea Bottaro on March 5, 2006 10:24 AM (e)

Chang said that he interviewed only 20 of the people on the list, and with such a small sample size, that 25% figure would have a large margin of error. Also, the NY Times article said, “of the signers who are evangelical Christians, most defend their doubts on scientific grounds,” suggesting that in most cases these signers’ doubts about Darwinism are not solely or even principally based on religious beliefs.

And Chang dutifully reported that - what are you objecting to? Note that Chang interviewed 20 signatories, but he analyzed the published writings and pronouncements of many others. For instance, most of the “experts” that ID advocates presented at the Kansas kangaroo hearings are also signatories of the list, and the vast majority of them are on the record as at least considering, if not firmly believing, that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old, and that humans were specially created. Of course, these people would also probably say that they believe the Earth is less than 10,000 years old based purely on scientific grounds, but whether that is actually believable I’ll leave it to the readers.

There is absolutely no basis for concluding that “the overwhelming majority of the signatories … are evangelical and conservative Christians.” As for not being professionally qualified, most or many of the KSU professors and Nobel laureates who signed pro-Darwinism statements were also not in evolution-related fields. And those 2 signatories who were not evangelical or conservative Christians were not necessarily the only ones who could readily be found.

This is not true. Apart from the interviews and the analysis of people’s own statements performed by Chang, that all the DI can come up with as non-conservative Christian signatories are the usual 2, Berlinski and Salthe, given all the heat the DI has taken for being representative of only fringe religious beliefs, it’s pretty darned significant. You’d think they would know by now if there were more non-religious supporters than the same old two.
As for the Nobel Prize winners, once again the argument for evolution is not an argument from authority, so as far as I am concerned you can ignore their opinions. Remember, it is the creationists who started making lists of “scientists” to support their positions, as if that would be meaningful, not vice-versa. But just for fun, be my guest and dismiss all those who don’t have any expertise in biological fields, and then count how many Nobel Prize winners with biological expertise recognize that evolutionary theory is solidly supported by the available evidence, and how many don’t.

But random mutation and natural selection are considered to be the most important factors that drive evolution. Some other kinds of genetic variation besides random mutation are sometimes added, e.g., genetic drift (really just a slow random mutation), gene flow, and polyploidy (multiple copies of chromosomes), but the most important kind of genetic variation in regard to Darwinism is random mutation. Also, for some unknown reason, Darwinists often mention only natural selection and leave out random mutation or genetic variation when discussing the forces that are supposed to drive evolution.

Gene flow and genetic drift are not “some other kinds of genetic variation besides random mutation”, and neither is polyploidy, which is a form of random mutation like any other.

As for what “Darwinists” say, I suggest you read the relevant literature. While the selectionist paradigm has certainly been dominant in evolutionary theory in the 1950s-60s, that’s hardly been the case in the past 30+ years. Natural selection is certainly the best recognized and studied, and most likely the strongest force shaping evolutionary trajectories, but it is hardly the only one. Of course, if your sources on what modern evolutionary theory says are the same as the DI list’s signatories’, this may come to a surprise to you.

Considering the great importance that is attached to scientists’ — particularly biologists’ — opinions about evolution, it is astonishing that formal random polls of scientists’ opinions about evolution are not conducted more frequently.

This is not “astonishing” at all. Science does not work by polling - only political activists like ID advocates care about that.

Comment #83807

Posted by Frank J on March 5, 2006 11:10 AM (e)

EmmaPeel wrote:

Eugenie Scott, Richard Dawkins, Andrea Bottaro, Robert Pennock, Barbara Forrest, Wes Elsberry, etc. etc. should publicly sign the DI’s “Dissent from Darwinism” statement above.

It’s such a vacuous & mealy-mouthed statement (much like ID theory itself), especially when compared to the forceful & straightforward text of the Project Steve statement, the leading evolution spokespeople should just show them up by publicly signing the stupid DI statement.

How about a “Dissent from ‘Darwinism’” statement without the “vacuous & mealy-mouthed” wording. IOW a dissent from the “Darwinism” caricature promoted by pseudoscientific anti-evolutionists, with an honest statement of healthy disagreements on the mechanism, but with a clear admission that the theory is correct regarding common descent and the antiquity of life. I’d bet that would get more “Steves” alone than the DI’s total.

Furthermore, a few months ago, someone on this blog wrote about contacting 6 signers of the DI’s statement, and IIRC, 5 admitted that they were misled.

BTW, does anyone have a link to that?

That leads me to believe that if one were to contact all 500, and ask them if they would transfer their names to the more straightforward wording statement, most, and especially most of the ~150 biologists, would. A good bet is that most of the names remaining on the DI’s statement would be those associated with the DI.

Comment #83817

Posted by mr.ed on March 5, 2006 1:08 PM (e)

You/we’ll never convince my brother-in-law, whose big bang was Jesus, or convert any of the faithful. This is one field that has no fence sitters. Either you’re right(A) or right(B).

Comment #83824

Posted by Russell on March 5, 2006 2:47 PM (e)

I second the motion that Jack Krebs, Eugenie, and all the swingers should sign it. I actually think that is an excellent idea.

Me too; I’m surprised no one has suggested it before.

I have suggested it. I think I specifically recommended Genie Scott.

Only half-seriously, though, because the “dissenters” list is managed by the Disco Inst, and you know they’re not going to allow their PR project to be sabotaged; I doubt whether Genie would be allowed to sign it. (Not that that constitutes a reason not to try.)

But I’d be wary; just as I’m not optimistic about my chances in a bike race with Lance Armstrong, I’m not too eager to challenge the Disco Inst and its swift-boat PR firm to a test of propaganda skills.

Comment #83825

Posted by Frank J on March 5, 2006 2:57 PM (e)

mr.ed wrote:

You/we’ll never convince my brother-in-law, whose big bang was Jesus, or convert any of the faithful. This is one field that has no fence sitters. Either you’re right(A) or right(B).

Actually, there are many fence-sitters. I hear a lot of people saying such things as “it could be evolution, or maybe something else,” or the trusty old, but highly misleading, “the jury is still out.” That’s the audience that the DI is trying hardest to reach with it’s “postmodern” approach. People like your brother-in-law, who will not change his mind under any circumstances, are more likely to be catered to by classic creationists, i.e. YECs, or OECs if they know a little science.

Still, it’s amazing to hear committed YECs rave about “Darwin’s Black Box” even though author Michael Behe admits an old earth and common descent. I guess if they can tune out the facts, they can tune out anything. Behe throws out just enough feel-good sound bites against “Darwinism” to keep them happy.

Comment #83827

Posted by Frank J on March 5, 2006 3:12 PM (e)

Russell wrote:

Only half-seriously, though, because the “dissenters” list is managed by the Disco Inst, and you know they’re not going to allow their PR project to be sabotaged; I doubt whether Genie would be allowed to sign it.

The DI not allow a genuine “Darwinist” to sign it. Come on now. But the point is moot. See my comment #83807. I’m very serious that someone write an unambiguous statement, and offer the signers of the ambiguous one an opportunity to take their name off of that one and affix it to something more representative of their position.

At the very least, once a few dozen “jump ship” (IIRC, a few have already) the DI will be forced to start over with more creative (better designed?) language.

Comment #83829

Posted by Ed Darrell on March 5, 2006 3:18 PM (e)

To the claim that “the jury is still out,” I think a proper response would be: “But the parties have already settled. The judge has decided summary judgment was acceptable after all. The parties have gone home. Tell the jury to come in out of the cold and get with it.”

Comment #83845

Posted by Andy H. on March 5, 2006 4:31 PM (e)

Comment #83801
Posted by Andrea Bottaro on March 5, 2006 10:24 AM

Chang said that he interviewed only 20 of the people on the list, and with such a small sample size, that 25% figure would have a large margin of error. Also, the NY Times article said, “of the signers who are evangelical Christians, most defend their doubts on scientific grounds,” suggesting that in most cases these signers’ doubts about Darwinism are not solely or even principally based on religious beliefs.

And Chang dutifully reported that - what are you objecting to?

What I am mainly objecting to is your use of the results of interviews of only 20 signers to make broad conclusions about all 500+ signers.

For instance, most of the “experts” that ID advocates presented at the Kansas kangaroo hearings are also signatories of the list,

These “experts” were not mentioned by West or Chang, and so have no bearing on the question of whether West’s criticisms of Chang’s article are fair.

Apart from the interviews and the analysis of people’s own statements performed by Chang, that all the DI can come up with as non-conservative Christian signatories are the usual 2, Berlinski and Salthe,

These two were the only ones offered – that does not mean that they were all DI could come up with. I refuse to believe that with over 500 signers, there are not lots of other signers who are not evangelical or conservative Christians.

As for the Nobel Prize winners, once again the argument for evolution is not an argument from authority, so as far as I am concerned you can ignore their opinions. Remember, it is the creationists who started making lists of “scientists” to support their positions, as if that would be meaningful, not vice-versa.

Nobel laureates have more than once tried to use their prestige to influence decisions about teaching creationism or ID in the public schools. 38 Nobel laureates sent a letter to the Kansas board of education urging rejection of science standards that criticize evolution, and 72 Nobel laureates along with several scientific organizations submitted an amicus brief in Edwards v. Aguillard (1987) opposing the teaching of creationism or creation science in the public schools.

Gene flow and genetic drift are not “some other kinds of genetic variation besides random mutation”, and neither is polyploidy, which is a form of random mutation like any other.

What are these things if not genetic variation ? Also, polyploidy is different from other random mutations because it involves only a duplication of chromosomes and not a change in genetic material. Also, polyploidy is not necessarily random, because it can be reliably and predictably induced by chemical means.

Natural selection is certainly the best recognized and studied, and most likely the strongest force shaping evolutionary trajectories, but it is hardly the only one.

Darwinism is an “irreducibly complex” system that includes both genetic variation (mainly random mutation) and natural selection; without genetic variation, there would be nothing for natural selection to act upon. Yet Darwinists, when defining or discussing the mechanisms of evolution in general, often mention only natural selection and leave out genetic variation. And though you have charged that the DI letter does not contain a complete statement of all the mechanisms of evolution, you have not mentioned any additional ones.

Considering the great importance that is attached to scientists’ — particularly biologists’ — opinions about evolution, it is astonishing that formal random polls of scientists’ opinions about evolution are not conducted more frequently.

This is not “astonishing” at all. Science does not work by polling - only political activists like ID advocates care about that.

Teaching ID in public schools is not just a scientific issue, but is also a political and constitutional issue. Also, in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, 509 US 579 (1993), the US Supreme Court said that one of the factors that should be considered in determining the scientific merits of an idea is “whether it has attracted widespread acceptance within a relevant scientific community,” and the only objective way of measuring that acceptance is by a formal random opinion poll. Also, it is odd that you oppose these formal random opinion polls of scientists while you make your own subjective estimates of scientists’ opinions by using (1) subjective responses to non-standardized questions and (2) a polling sample that is too small – e.g., your estimate that the scientific views of 25% of the scientists on the DI list were “radically changed” by religious beliefs.

Comment #83848

Posted by Russell on March 5, 2006 4:38 PM (e)

the US Supreme Court said that one of the factors that should be considered in determining the scientific merits of an idea is “whether it has attracted widespread acceptance within a relevant scientific community,” and the only objective way of measuring that acceptance is by a formal random opinion poll.

What a remarkable assertion! What’s wrong with a survey of scientific literature?

Comment #83863

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 5, 2006 5:14 PM (e)

Larandy Harharman wrote:

I refuse to believe that with over 500 signers, there are not lots of other signers who are not evangelical or conservative Christians.

I think that pretty much sums it up: IDC is science because Larry refuses to believe otherwise.

Comment #83867

Posted by Arden Chatfield on March 5, 2006 5:26 PM (e)

the US Supreme Court said that one of the factors that should be considered in determining the scientific merits of an idea is “whether it has attracted widespread acceptance within a relevant scientific community,” and the only objective way of measuring that acceptance is by a formal random opinion poll.

Larry, I do believe this is the STUPIDEST thing you have ever said, and that’s saying something.

Comment #83885

Posted by W. Kevin Vicklund on March 5, 2006 6:06 PM (e)

Also, in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, 509 US 579 (1993), the US Supreme Court said that one of the factors that should be considered in determining the scientific merits of an idea is “whether it has attracted widespread acceptance within a relevant scientific community,” and the only objective way of measuring that acceptance is by a formal random opinion poll.

The Supreme Court in that decision did not provide any means as to how to determine “widespread acceptance” - they certainly didn’t imply that an opinion poll was the only acceptable method. There are several ways to measure acceptance. Besides, you are overlooking one major point. Who is going to pay for all these formal opinion polls? They aren’t done for free. What questions will be asked? How often will they be taken? What if a particular field of study hasn’t yet been subjected to a poll?

Comment #83889

Posted by KL on March 5, 2006 6:22 PM (e)

I thought one decided on the “widespread” acceptance of a scientific idea by reviewing the pertinent literature rather than polling a lot of scientists who haven’t. Silly me….

Comment #83890

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 5, 2006 6:25 PM (e)

When the SCOTUS refers to factors to consider in making determinations, it is talking about determinations by courts. Courts, of course, do not commission polls – they examine the evidence presented to them by the parties. So Larandyharharfarceman’s citation has no bearing on whether one should be surprised that there aren’t more random polls of scientists.

Comment #83893

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 5, 2006 6:44 PM (e)

I thought one decided on the “widespread” acceptance of a scientific idea by reviewing the pertinent literature rather than polling a lot of scientists who haven’t.

Presumably the scientists would be polled on whether they accept the idea, not on whether they believe that the idea is widely accepted. Such a poll would be a valid way to determine whether an idea has widespread acceptance if the sample were representative – of course that rules out the DI statement. But there’s no point in going to the trouble and expense of conducting such a poll when this is a question that rarely needs asking and, when it does, the answer is obvious from the literature. Unless, of course, you’ve donned a tin foil hat and are convinced that all the institutions are involved in a big conspiracy to keep a significant fraction of scientists with contrary views silent.

Comment #83894

Posted by Flint on March 5, 2006 6:45 PM (e)

Besides, you are overlooking one major point. Who is going to pay for all these formal opinion polls? They aren’t done for free. What questions will be asked?

I’ve constructed and performed such polls. If there’s any one statement that can be made about a public opinion poll, it is this: Tell me who funded it, and I can tell you what it “found.” Polls are expensive; polls are taken to produce “objective” support for one view or another. Polls that do not produce the purchased support are not published, and the polling organization is not rehired in the future.

But amazingly enough, judges are not stupid. They know this. Larry isn’t suggesting we evaluate “scientific acceptance” by taking a poll rather than surveying the literature because he doesn’t know any better.

PR is interesting stuff. When your position constitutes such a tiny minority, and does so because it lacks any merit, what else can you do? You produce a trick statement naive people might sign in all innocence. You misrepresent what their signature says. You carefully not mention that your list is overwhelmingly represented by people unqualified in the subject area. You deem the paltry few who sign it a “large number”. Because every now and then someone else signs it (and those who die are not removed), you can say your (current) position is supported by a “growing number”. You do not remove the names of those who repudiate their signature as having been obtained through false pretenses. When anyone asks for a signatory who is NOT an evangelical Christian, you always provide the same two names. Some apologist is sure to point out that nobody asked for MORE than two names.

And most important of all, you never mention that not one of these “scientists” has EVER done any peer-reviewed “ID science” - or that no such thing exists. And it works. It works because your target audience is those whose educations fit the model the ID is fighting to get adopted nationwide - and are (sadly) largely successful.

Comment #83906

Posted by Wesley R. Elsberry on March 5, 2006 7:36 PM (e)

Original DI part: “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.”

Addition: “In agreement with Charles Darwin, we feel that evolutionary biology is comprised of more than just natural selection. We believe that a proper understanding of the history and diversity of living things requires knowledge of other mechanisms of evolutionary change, as well as natural selection, including, but not restricted to, genetic drift, endosymbiosis, and evolutionary development. Careful examination of the evidence that documents the evolutionary history of life and the varied mechanisms by which that history unfolded should be encouraged, in the same way that such careful examination has been practiced over the past fourteen decades, resulting in a voluminous scientific literature documenting the patient and assiduous work of legions of biologists, zoologists, botanists, ethologists, physiologists, geneticists, paleontologists, biochemists, taphonomists, and others willing to test their ideas against the empirical evidence. We further assert our skepticism that the re-labeled antievolutionary arguments common to “scientific creationism”, “intelligent design”, “evidence against evolution”, and “teaching the controversy” have any greater validity now than when first careful examination of those claims showed them to be specious, misleading, or entirely uncheckable against empirical evidence. We agree that primary and secondary science education should teach the best scientific knowledge available, and should eschew arguments that are part of the long-established antievolutionary canon.”

Comment #83944

Posted by Andy H. on March 5, 2006 10:39 PM (e)

Comment #83885 posted by W. Kevin Vicklund on March 5, 2006 06:06 PM

Also, in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, 509 US 579 (1993), the US Supreme Court said that one of the factors that should be considered in determining the scientific merits of an idea is “whether it has attracted widespread acceptance within a relevant scientific community,” and the only objective way of measuring that acceptance is by a formal random opinion poll.

The Supreme Court in that decision did not provide any means as to how to determine “widespread acceptance” - they certainly didn’t imply that an opinion poll was the only acceptable method. There are several ways to measure acceptance.

I did not say that a formal random opinion poll is the only way – I only said that it is the only objective way. On something like ID, anonymous opinion polls are especially reliable because respondents do not feel under any pressure to conform.

Besides, you are overlooking one major point. Who is going to pay for all these formal opinion polls? They aren’t done for free.

Who commissioned the six (at least) general public opinion polls about evolution conducted in the period Nov. 2004 to Oct. 2005 ?

It is quite common for private organizations to commission opinion polls on controversial issues.

What questions will be asked ?

Choosing questions that are not ambiguous or misleading is a big problem. It often helps to break down a big, general question into smaller questions. But this is not a reason for not conducting opinion polls at all.

How often will they be taken?

Polls of scientists’ opinions on evolution should be taken much more often than they have been taken – it seems that the last reliable one was taken in 2002.

What if a particular field of study hasn’t yet been subjected to a poll?

??? I don’t see why this is a reason to not take a poll. Anyway, this does not apply to polls of scientists about ID, because such polls have been taken in the past.

Comment #83889 posted by KL on March 5, 2006 06:22 PM

I thought one decided on the “widespread” acceptance of a scientific idea by reviewing the pertinent literature rather than polling a lot of scientists who haven’t. Silly me….

Yes – silly you is right. Courts usually don’t have the time or the expertise to conduct a thorough review of the literature. Anyway, the Supreme Court never said that the literature could not be considered. Here is the complete statement from the syllabus of Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals –

“Many considerations will bear on the inquiry, including whether the theory or technique in question can be (and has been) tested, whether it has been subjected to peer review and publication , its known or potential error rate, and the existence and maintenance of standards controlling its operation, and whether it has attracted widespread acceptance within a relevant scientific community.” (emphasis added)

Comment #83890 posted by Popper’s Ghost on March 5, 2006 06:25 PM

When the SCOTUS refers to factors to consider in making determinations, it is talking about determinations by courts. Courts, of course, do not commission polls — they examine the evidence presented to them by the parties.

The courts do not commission these polls, but that does not mean that the courts will not consider poll results.

What was really crazy was Judge Jones’ pathetic attempt to determine public opinion about ID by counting newspapers’ letters to the editor and editorials in the Dover case. He compared the numbers of letters and editorials that mentioned religion against the numbers of those that did not mention religion. But under this counting scheme, a letter or editorial that asserted that ID is not religious counted exactly the same as one that asserted that ID is religious.

Anyway, I did not mean to imply that only the courts can make use of these poll results. Legislatures, school boards, the general public, etc. can also make use of these poll results.

Comment #83894 posted by Flint on March 5, 2006 06:45 PM

I’ve constructed and performed such polls. If there’s any one statement that can be made about a public opinion poll, it is this: Tell me who funded it, and I can tell you what it “found.” Polls are expensive; polls are taken to produce “objective” support for one view or another. Polls that do not produce the purchased support are not published, and the polling organization is not rehired in the future.

Major polling organizations – e.g., Gallup, Harris, and Ipsos – are very concerned about maintaining an image of objectivity. They would not knowingly ask a poll question that is ambiguous, misleading, or loaded. And if bias is a problem, balance could be provided by having polls commissioned by organizations on both sides of the issue.

Many Darwinists seem to have this big phobia about opinion polls of scientists.

Comment #83945

Posted by Henry J on March 5, 2006 10:45 PM (e)

Wesley,

Re “We further assert our skepticism that the re-labeled antievolutionary arguments common to “scientific creationism”, “intelligent design”, “evidence against evolution”, and “teaching the controversy” have any greater validity now than when […]”

Maybe the last part of that should read
“[…] have as great a validity now as when”
Or perhaps “[…] have greater validity now than when” ?

Henry

Comment #83947

Posted by PvM on March 5, 2006 10:48 PM (e)

Andy H wrote:

Many Darwinists seem to have this big phobia about opinion polls of scientists.

Not really, most polls not only show that scientists reject ID but also that evolutionary theory is well supported.
Of course science is not defined by polls. But given the importance anti-science groups have placed on such polls, it is helpful and hopeful that scientists solidly reject pseudoscience

Comment #83954

Posted by W. Kevin Vicklund on March 6, 2006 12:41 AM (e)

Opinion polls are not objective. Even my wife, who is an anthropologist and has to write the questions as part of her research, says this. By the way, she is using interviews with 20 people as a representative sample of a population of 4000 for her doctoral research. A 2.5% sample size is not very small when it comes to polls.

BTW, we’re not saying that polls are useless or that they shouldn’t be used for that determination, if available. But we find it ludicrous that an opinion poll would be considered the only objective way to determine if something is well accepted in the scientific community. There are plenty of objective ways to determine acceptance.

Comment #83955

Posted by Sir_Toejam on March 6, 2006 12:42 AM (e)

I’ve got a thought, larry…

go construct a poll and get some results (you must interview at least 100 random folks), and then post them back here.

in other words…

just do something useful rather than trolling about PT.

or do you prefer endlessly posting your mindless drivel instead?

Comment #83968

Posted by Omega Blue on March 6, 2006 4:26 AM (e)

Regarding poll sizes.

We have close to seven million (7,000,000) people in this city and political polls regularly interview 300 - 1000 people. By comparision, 20 out of 500 is a huge sample.

Comment #83972

Posted by Ed Darrell on March 6, 2006 5:30 AM (e)

Many Darwinists seem to have this big phobia about opinion polls of scientists.

All ID advocates (“IDists?” Is it appropriate to call this political movement “IDism?”) have an absolute phobia about conducting research and publishing results without spin. Scientists don’t like opinion polls about science because things like orbiting planets, stars, tides, erosion of mountains, drought, seed production of trees, gestation of rats, and genomes, never respond to the opinions of anyone, let alone scientists.

It doesn’t matter how many IDists are deluded into thinking ID is the way to go: There is no evidence to make a rational case for ID, and no rat on the planet is listening to anyone’s opinion, least of all an ID advocate.

Comment #83973

Posted by Ed Darrell on March 6, 2006 5:39 AM (e)

Hmmm… andy h. would have a good point, except for that little detail that “pro-Darwinists” have never conditioned the validity of evolutionary science on the number of clergy or non-biologists who have signed some petition. Fortunately for us, the evidence itself speaks loudly enough for evolution.

So, maybe it’s in selling the sizzle.

Perhaps we should headline notes about the various statements from scientists as “IDists conspire to withhold the truth from students: 10,000 clergy won’t be silenced!” and “Scientists protest attempts to censor from Discovery Institute: 700 Steves cry out for justice!”

Would those headlines help you out, Andy?

Comment #83976

Posted by Frank J on March 6, 2006 6:33 AM (e)

I started drafting a less “vacuous & mealy-mouthed” statement, but Wesley’s (Comment #83906) is better. I would add, however, a part about the nearly 4 billion year history of life and common ancestry of species. I’d bet that most of those who signed the DI’s statement are not YECs or classic OECs, and except for the few who have a prior commitment to “don’t ask, don’t tell” (e.g. the DI fellows and their closest allies), they’d have no problem admitting that science is correct about the general history of life, however incomplete they think the Darwinian theory may be.

Comment #83977

Posted by Andy H. on March 6, 2006 6:35 AM (e)

Comment #83757 posted by orrg1 on March 4, 2006 10:30 PM

The 10,000+ clergy aren’t saying that religion is the reason that the truth of evolution should accepted. They know full well why it is being rejected (by the usual suspects), and are just stating that the reasoning behind the denial is bad religion, as well as being bad science. Sorry that the distinction escapes you.

What has not escaped me is the fact that the clergy’s letter virtually treats as a sacrilege any suggestion that Darwinism is not the absolute truth. The letter says that even just to treat Darwinism as “one theory among others” is “a rejection of the will of our Creator” and an “attempt to limit God, an act of hubris.” See Comment #83741 .

Comment #83807 posted by Frank J on March 5, 2006 11:10 AM

How about a “Dissent from ‘Darwinism’” statement without the “vacuous & mealy-mouthed” wording. IOW a dissent from the “Darwinism” caricature promoted by pseudoscientific anti-evolutionists, with an honest statement of healthy disagreements on the mechanism, but with a clear admission that the theory is correct regarding common descent and the antiquity of life.

But the DI statement does not dispute the ideas of “common descent” and “the antiquity of life.” The statement only disputes the idea that evolution was driven solely by random mutation (and – by extension – less important natural causes of genetic variation) and natural selection. The DI statement looks quite straightforward to me. I disagree with the notions that the statement is ambiguous, misleading, or that the signers did not know exactly what they were signing.

Comment #83954 posted by W. Kevin Vicklund on March 6, 2006 12:41 AM

Opinion polls are not objective. Even my wife, who is an anthropologist and has to write the questions as part of her research, says this. By the way, she is using interviews with 20 people as a representative sample of a population of 4000 for her doctoral research. A 2.5% sample size is not very small when it comes to polls.

That depends on the size of the population.

It appears that most public opinion polls have a sample size of around 1000, as this number appears to be a good compromise between cost and accuracy. A table of sampling errors shows that for a 50-50 split in opinion, the margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level is 3 percent for a sample size of 1000 and 11 percent for a sample size of 100. For a 90-10 split in opinion, the margins of error are 2 percent and 6 percent for sample sizes of 1000 and 100, respectively. See “What is sampling error?” subtopic under “Total Survey Error” in http://www.ropercenter.uconn.edu/pom/polling101.…

Comment #83979

Posted by Frank J on March 6, 2006 7:42 AM (e)

Andy H. wrote:

But the DI statement does not dispute the ideas of “common descent” and “the antiquity of life.”

I agree. So what’s the harm in making that crystal clear in their statement?

Andy H. wrote:

The DI statement looks quite straightforward to me.

It looks quite straightforward to me too, as a means to cover up, rather than expose, the fatal flaws in the mutually contradictory “classic creationist” accounts. And to cover up the fact that, for all their “skepticism,” they haven’t a clue as to a potential alternate theory.

Comment #83985

Posted by Rilke's Granddaughter on March 6, 2006 8:01 AM (e)

STJ wrote:

or do you prefer endlessly posting your mindless drivel instead?

Yes, he does, actually. You will have noticed that Larry doesn’t actually do anything except post mindless messages. If he had any actual experience with the nonsense he peddles, he wouldn’t do it.

Comment #83989

Posted by David Heddle on March 6, 2006 8:06 AM (e)

wad of id asked,

When was the last time a religiously motivated criticism of a scientific theory turn out to hold any water? Could John Q. Public even name one?

Piece O’ cake (to name one–not sure if it is the last). That would be when the bible believers insisted that our universe had a beginning, and people like Eddington, Hoyle, and Einstein held that it didn’t. You do recall the outcome of that debate?

Comment #83991

Posted by Rilke's Granddaughter on March 6, 2006 8:08 AM (e)

By the way Larry, I’ve pointed out your laziness, deceit, igorance, and inability to construct a logical thought here: http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2006/02/ento….

I can post it here, if you like - I know you have reading problems.

Comment #83995

Posted by Andrea Bottaro on March 6, 2006 8:22 AM (e)

What has not escaped me is the fact that the clergy’s letter virtually treats as a sacrilege any suggestion that Darwinism is not the absolute truth. The letter says that even just to treat Darwinism as “one theory among others” is “a rejection of the will of our Creator” and an “attempt to limit God, an act of hubris.” See Comment #83741 .

Now you are purposefully misleading, or perhaps your reading comprehension is extremely poor. Nowhere do the clergy say that rejecting Darwinism is “a rejection of the will of our Creator” and an “attempt to limit God, an act of hubris.” They say that rejecting a well-grounded theory like that of evolution is to “embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children”. Which is, quite simply, correct.

They do say that rejecting critical thought, which they see as a God-given human faculty, is a “a rejection of the will of our Creator” and that any theology that requires to give up on critical thought is an “attempt to limit God, an act of hubris”. This is a theological statement that does not necessarily imply or require acceptance of the theory of evolution (that is, our faculty of critical thought may well lead us at some point to reject the theory of evolution, but just not now). Of course, clergy are entirely authorized to make theological/metaphysical statements of this kind - it’s their job.

But the DI statement does not dispute the ideas of “common descent” and “the antiquity of life.” The statement only disputes the idea that evolution was driven solely by random mutation (and — by extension — less important natural causes of genetic variation) and natural selection. The DI statement looks quite straightforward to me. I disagree with the notions that the statement is ambiguous, misleading, or that the signers did not know exactly what they were signing.

The use of the statement is misleading, Andy. The DI is trying to sell the statement as implying there is skepticism about the mechanisms that drive evolution, and therefore students should be taught that evolutionary theory is “controversial” among scientists. However, that’s not what the statement says, because the theory of evolution already includes mechanisms other than random mutation and natural selection.

Of course, if they had crafted a statement more in line with what the belief of the majority of ID advocates is, and with the content of the lesson plans and curriculum changes they are trying to introduce in schools, they would have had to add explicit mention that issues like common descent, or the origin of biological information, or whether the origin of specific complex biological systems was natural or supernatural, are somehow “controversial” among the scientific community, which would have exposed their game as stealth Creationism and laughed them out the door. So they went with a mealy-mouthed, ambiguous statement instead, and misrepresent it to the public.

It appears that most public opinion polls have a sample size of around 1000, as this number appears to be a good compromise between cost and accuracy. A table of sampling errors shows that for a 50-50 split in opinion, the margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level is 3 percent for a sample size of 1000 and 11 percent for a sample size of 100. For a 90-10 split in opinion, the margins of error are 2 percent and 6 percent for sample sizes of 1000 and 100, respectively. See “What is sampling error?” subtopic under “Total Survey Error” in http://www.ropercenter.uconn.edu/pom/polling101.…

Come on, let’s be serious now: those are samples sizes for accurately polling a population of 200 million. For small populations, sample sizes diminish. But this is irrelevant, because neither Chang nor I ever claimed the survey was scientifically designed, it only is useful to give a general idea of the group. In fact, it was West who trotted out actual percentages, not Chang in his article. I just took West’s numbers at face value. As I said, all the DI should have done to definitively dispel Chang’s “misleading impression” was to interview a large enough group of the signatories themselves. But in fact, they just accepted Chang’s numbers (which I think were actually quite favorable).

Comment #83996

Posted by Rilke's Granddaughter on March 6, 2006 8:23 AM (e)

Dave wrote:

Piece O’ cake (to name one—not sure if it is the last). That would be when the bible believers insisted that our universe had a beginning, and people like Eddington, Hoyle, and Einstein held that it didn’t. You do recall the outcome of that debate?

Dave, your ignorance is showing. There was no theory of an eternal universe, nor was there ‘religiously motivated’ criticism of the theory.

There was an strong atheistic criticism of a religously held belief which created the ‘steady-state’, but that was no more than a hypothesis looking for data.

I thought you knew something about this. I guess I was mistaken.

Comment #84003

Posted by Flint on March 6, 2006 8:55 AM (e)

Larry wrote:

Major polling organizations — e.g., Gallup, Harris, and Ipsos — are very concerned about maintaining an image of objectivity. They would not knowingly ask a poll question that is ambiguous, misleading, or loaded. And if bias is a problem, balance could be provided by having polls commissioned by organizations on both sides of the issue.

And what would you say if a truly random poll of working scientists in directly related field didn’t happen to select a single creationist? You are aware, I hope, that the number of practicing creationist biologists is WAY less than 1%, right? You could probably count every one in the world on your thumbs. However, the number of working biologists who are believing Christians may well be high enough for several to be selected. And this makes the wording of the questions very important - I would have no difficulty constructing questions that either would or would NOT distinguish between pro-science Christians and anti-science creationists. Which set of questions would be biased?

Many Darwinists seem to have this big phobia about opinion polls of scientists.

As you’ve been told endlessly, science is not PR, and does not work by opinion polls. Science works through research and peer review, an approach whose results so resoundingly refute your position that you have simply tuned it out as though it does not exist. Do you really expect anyone to believe that if they went to the trouble to do an opinion poll, you would accept poll results equally damaging to your needs? It’s not like you have yet demonstrated that evidence means anything to you.

Comment #84009

Posted by wad of id on March 6, 2006 9:16 AM (e)

lol. I was almost sure Heddle was going to cite Darwin and his religious motivations, but somehow, that may have been hoping for too much. ;-)

Comment #84020

Posted by Torbjorn Larsson on March 6, 2006 10:33 AM (e)

“ “That would be when the bible believers insisted that our universe had a beginning, and people like Eddington, Hoyle, and Einstein held that it didn’t. You do recall the outcome of that debate?”

Dave, your ignorance is showing. There was no theory of an eternal universe, nor was there ‘religiously motivated’ criticism of the theory.”

Rilke’s is correct of course, but also the shoe goes on the other foot.

There has been a philosopical/theological idea of ‘a first cause’. Newer cosmology theories uses other mechanism, starting from the random quantum fluctuation cosmology, I believe, through Hawking et al ‘no boundary’ proposals, multiverse/endless inflation scenarios, string brane cosmologies, Carroll et al symmetrical time scenario and doubtless many others. The later ideas embeds big bang in infinite time universes/multiverses without any ‘first cause’.

It turns out that when physicists come up with physical explanations for cosmology, a ‘first cause’, or (signs of) gods, isn’t usable as part of a theory of cosmology. That was the outcome.

Comment #84022

Posted by Torbjorn Larsson on March 6, 2006 10:40 AM (e)

That should have been “(putative signs of) gods”, even a hypothetical ‘first cause’ doesn’t necessarily mean “gods did it”, of course.

Comment #84025

Posted by Engineer-Poet, FCD, ΔΠΓ on March 6, 2006 11:16 AM (e)

Landarry H. Farfarfromsmart wrote:

What has not escaped me is the fact that the clergy’s letter virtually treats as a sacrilege any suggestion that Darwinism is not the absolute truth.

It looks more to me that the clergy treat as sacrilege any suggestion that $DEITY is a pathological liar who constructed the world and everything in it as an elaborate deception about its origins.

Of course, I don’t expect someone who believes that natural reality will be altered by changing public opinion to grasp the difference.  You’re still funny, though.

Comment #84026

Posted by AD on March 6, 2006 11:16 AM (e)

It appears that most public opinion polls have a sample size of around 1000, as this number appears to be a good compromise between cost and accuracy.

As an aside, I find it highly ironic that Larrandy is willing to take, at face value, a highly biased and non-representative poll of 500 individuals who support his view, but when confronted with a group that does not, he demands at least 1,000 drawn in a non-biased manner.

Logical fallacy strikes again!

Has anyone ever seen Letterman where they have the counter for the number of times Bush mispronounces “nuclear” in a single speech? I think we need one of those for Larrandy, where we can keep a running total of the number of logical fallacies he’s committed in a single thread.

Using this, we might become the first set of people to count to infinity.

Comment #84030

Posted by Engineer-Poet, FCD, ΔΠΓ on March 6, 2006 11:20 AM (e)

AD, you’re assuming that Landarry’s fallacies are countably infinite rather than uncountably infinite.

Comment #84042

Posted by William E Emba on March 6, 2006 11:48 AM (e)

Rilke's Granddaughter wrote:

There was an strong atheistic criticism of a religously held belief which created the ‘steady-state’, but that was no more than a hypothesis looking for data.

The steady-state model was created to allow for an extended Copernican principle: not only is there nothing distinguishing any point in space, so too there is nothing distinguishing any point in time. When proposed, astronomers had found nothing to suggest the universe was vastly different billions of years ago, so in fact, it was a highly reasonable suggestion. From a philosophical point of view, it was taking relativity one step further.

Comment #84073

Posted by Torbjorn Larsson on March 6, 2006 1:22 PM (e)

“you’re assuming that Landarry’s fallacies are countably infinite rather than uncountably infinite”

Yes, how was it again, was the possibilities of language (and wrong commentaries on the web) countably or uncountably infinite?

If the later, the next interesting question is if IDiots fallacies comprises a dense set. I guess so, a continous function should project a dense (IDiots) set (all IDiots) to another dense set. :-)

How about that, finally a workable theory of ID.

Comment #84079

Posted by AD on March 6, 2006 1:39 PM (e)

AD, you’re assuming that Landarry’s fallacies are countably infinite rather than uncountably infinite.

I’m only stating that the number of occurences is uncountably infinite, and because that is a set defined by positive integers only, I can be safe in assuming them to be countably infinite.

Were we to actually delve into the quality measurements of his misrepresentations, I have no doubt it would be uncountably infinite.

Yes, I would also think ID is dense. We can prove it, too.

Ahem.

Comment #84083

Posted by Rilke's Granddaughter on March 6, 2006 1:58 PM (e)

Rilke’s is correct of course, but also the shoe goes on the other foot.

Yes and no. I admit I was sloppy in my post.

I agree that the ‘default’ (i.e. oldest) theological position is that the universe has a beginning. And this, in turn, influenced both the philosophers’ and the scientists’ take on the issue. I don’t think that any scientific position vis-a-vis finite or eternal appeared until some degree of formalization of the Cosmological Principle in the early twentieth century.

To the extent that theistic (or, more properly, anti-theistic) concerns played into the development of cosmological theory, Hoyle is probably a better example than Einstein or Edding.

That said, Mr. Heddle peculiar obsession with the meaningless anthropic principle is still nonsense.

%:->

Comment #84090

Posted by Henry J on March 6, 2006 2:20 PM (e)

Re “Yes, I would also think ID is dense. We can prove it, too.”

But are you talking about the set of IDers, or the members of that set?

Comment #84095

Posted by AD on March 6, 2006 2:25 PM (e)

Yes.

Comment #84130

Posted by Raging Bee on March 6, 2006 3:53 PM (e)

Larry/Andy/Billy-Bob/Sue/whatever you want to call yourself: given your demonstrated — and often admitted — lack of knowledge of the subjects of which you speak; given your constant refusal to answer questions regarding your motives and dishonest use of multiple names; given your blatant repetition of arguments that have been refuted several times before; given your explicitly-stated disregard for all facts and logic that contradict your assertions; given the mockery you now consistently attract; and given your now-obvious reputation as a lonely pathetic dishonest cranky loser; I have to ask the following questions:

Why do you continue posting here, when you are clearly unwilling to deal honestly with us?

What makes you think you can convince anyone of anything here?

What makes you think your assertions have any credibility?

Comment #84174

Posted by BWE on March 6, 2006 5:56 PM (e)

I’m sorry about this. I’m having a bad day so maybe I’m being grouchy but I take issue with the statement:

The issue of course is not that religious beliefs (or lack thereof) must be considered in themselves ground to dismiss anyone’s specific scientific opinions,

Comment #84175

Posted by Andy H. on March 6, 2006 5:58 PM (e)

Comment #83995 posted by Andrea Bottaro on March 6, 2006 08:22 AM

What has not escaped me is the fact that the clergy’s letter virtually treats as a sacrilege any suggestion that Darwinism is not the absolute truth. The letter says that even just to treat Darwinism as “one theory among others” is “a rejection of the will of our Creator” and an “attempt to limit God, an act of hubris.” See Comment #83741

Now you are purposefully misleading, or perhaps your reading comprehension is extremely poor….……They do say that rejecting critical thought, which they see as a God-given human faculty, is a “a rejection of the will of our Creator” and that any theology that requires to give up on critical thought is an “attempt to limit God, an act of hubris”.

They said that merely treating Darwinism as “one theory among others” is a “failure to fully employ” the “gift” of “critical thought.” My summary of their statement merely cuts the malarkey and goes directly to the point. The letter was not just an assertion that Darwinism is not incompatible with Christianity.

The DI is trying to sell the statement as implying there is skepticism about the mechanisms that drive evolution, and therefore students should be taught that evolutionary theory is “controversial” among scientists.

There is skepticism about the mechanisms that drive evolution, so why not tell students the truth ?

However, that’s not what the statement says, because the theory of evolution already includes mechanisms other than random mutation and natural selection.

Like what other mechanisms? I have already named some mechanisms for genetic variation that are in addition to random mutation.

So they went with a mealy-mouthed, ambiguous statement instead, and misrepresent it to the public.

The statement is not “mealy-mouthed” or “ambiguous.” The statement is what it is. Why should DI have added extraneous things which would have reduced the number of scientists willing to sign the statement ?

A table of sampling errors shows that for a 50-50 split in opinion, the margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level is 3 percent for a sample size of 1000 and 11 percent for a sample size of 100.

Come on, let’s be serious now: those are samples sizes for accurately polling a population of 200 million. For small populations, sample sizes diminish. But this is irrelevant, because neither Chang nor I ever claimed the survey was scientifically designed,

I am being serious. I just wanted to give some feel for the margins of error in different size samples. The table of sampling errors shows that the margins of error are already getting out of hand for a sample size of 100, let alone a sample size of only 20. For a given sample size, the margin of error for a sample from a small population is not going to be any smaller than the margin of error for a sample from a large population. Anyway, I was just trying to help show that the 20 signers who were interviewed by Chang might not be a good representation of all the signers of the DI statement or of other scientists and technologists who agree with the statement.

Comment #84198

Posted by Steviepinhead on March 6, 2006 6:31 PM (e)

Let me be the first to resist the urge to simply say,

“Shut up, Larry!”

Wow, this self-denial really grows on you!

Comment #84203

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on March 6, 2006 6:37 PM (e)

That would be when the bible believers insisted that our universe had a beginning, and people like Eddington, Hoyle, and Einstein held that it didn’t. You do recall the outcome of that debate?

I sure do. Science adopted Big Bang theory, and fundies have been bitching about it ever since. (shrug)

Hey Heddle, why, again, do all the creationists think Big Bang theory is wrong …… ?

Could you at least be consistent in your balderdash?

Comment #84299

Posted by Henry J on March 6, 2006 9:56 PM (e)

Re “Let me be the first to resist the urge to simply say,”

Apparently, resistance was futile? ;)

Henry

Comment #84469

Posted by wad of id on March 7, 2006 8:10 AM (e)

There is skepticism about the mechanisms that drive evolution, so why not tell students the truth ?

There is skepticism about every aspect of science, so why single out evolutionary science for special treatment?

Comment #84481

Posted by David Heddle on March 7, 2006 9:39 AM (e)

Lenny,

I sure do. Science adopted Big Bang theory, and fundies have been bitching about it ever since. (shrug)

Do you not grasp that that’s the point? “Wad of id” asked if any religiously motivated criticism of science was ever shown to hold water. Well, the religiously motivated criticism of the steady state model was, as you pointed out, spectacularly successful at “holding water.”

Hey Heddle, why, again, do all the creationists think Big Bang theory is wrong …… ?

Demonstrating once again the lack of cogency found in the PT faithful. Out of one side of his mouth Lenny will call me a “creationist.” Out of the other, he says that all creationists hate the Big Bang. The fact is that I, like many other Christians, embrace the Big Bang as evidence for creation (and the truth of the bible). Lenny has no problem postulating violations of the Law of Noncontradiction.

It’s taken me a while, but I now understand why nobody on Panda’s Thumb will ever define “creationist.” (While simultaneously whining incessantly that nobody will define “Darwinist.”) It’s just too inconvenient to have a definition—and impossible to create a precise one that will cover those you want it to cover while excluding those (e.g., Ken Miller) that you don’t want to stigmatize with that most heinous of labels. So, on PT, “creationist” doesn’t have any meaning beyond “someone we consider an idiot.”

Comment #84494

Posted by Rilke's Granddaughter on March 7, 2006 10:01 AM (e)

Heddle wrote:

It’s taken me a while, but I now understand why nobody on Panda’s Thumb will ever define “creationist.” (While simultaneously whining incessantly that nobody will define “Darwinist.”)

“Darwininst” is a null word. After all, it’s not Darwin’s theory any more; it’s been expanded to such an extent that to call it “Darwin’s” is meaningless.

And the trouble with “creationist” is that there are so many flavors. When I use it (not often) I try to specify which kind it is: YEC, OEC, TE, etc.

Comment #84512

Posted by Russell on March 7, 2006 10:39 AM (e)

It’s taken me a while, but I now understand why nobody on Panda’s Thumb will ever define “creationist.” (While simultaneously whining incessantly that nobody will define “Darwinist.”)

Here’s my understanding of “creationist”: someone who rejects the conclusive evidence of common descent, and/or someone who believes that supernatural intervention is necessary to explain the current state of the natural world, particularly that part of the natural world we call biology. Now, I’m sure you can construe that to include “theistic evolutionists” - indeed, I know some who proudly lay claim to the label “creationist”. But as long as they recognize that their understanding of divine intervention can never fall under the purview of science, they’re not “creationists” in my understanding of the word.

So - what’s your definition of “Darwinist”?

Comment #84515

Posted by Andrea Bottaro on March 7, 2006 10:48 AM (e)

Major polling organizations — e.g., Gallup, Harris, and Ipsos — are very concerned about maintaining an image of objectivity. They would not knowingly ask a poll question that is ambiguous, misleading, or loaded.

Glad you didn’t include Zogby in the list: check out the latest Discovery Institute-commissioned poll for an example of ambiguous, misleading and loaded poll question. Quite a farce.

Comment #84517

Posted by Arden Chatfield on March 7, 2006 10:49 AM (e)

Here’s my understanding of “creationist”: someone who rejects the conclusive evidence of common descent, and/or someone who believes that supernatural intervention is necessary to explain the current state of the natural world, particularly that part of the natural world we call biology.

Well put. And by this definition Heddle is assuredly a creationist.

Another interesting thing about this definition is that it effectively includes ID advocates as well.

Comment #84522

Posted by Flint on March 7, 2006 10:56 AM (e)

check out the latest Discovery Institute-commissioned poll

Makes you wonder just how many polls the DI has commissioned and then “forgotten”? As a rule of thumb, polls are almost never conducted to discover anything; they are conducted to *ratify* policy positions.

Comment #84528

Posted by Jim McPhee on March 7, 2006 11:14 AM (e)

The religious right is hellbent on destroying science in the United States. Their intent is to allow the chinese communists to surpass the U.S. in science. Why are they so against science and the US. Why do they want the U.S. to be subservient to other nations. Is it the they are happy in their ignorance and want to share it with all of us. Why do they want the U.S. to be a second class science nation. Is stupidity a blessing in disguise. Are they insisting that we don’t deserve to be the best nation on earth.

Comment #84556

Posted by David Heddle on March 7, 2006 12:03 PM (e)

Arden Chatfield, quoting Russell,

Here’s my understanding of “creationist”: someone who rejects the conclusive evidence of common descent, and/or someone who believes that supernatural intervention is necessary to explain the current state of the natural world, particularly that part of the natural world we call biology.

Well put. And by this definition Heddle is assuredly a creationist.

I see you cut off Russell’s definition. By this first part (neglecting the comments about common descent and biology–there were creationists long before the advent of these disciplines, therefore the definition should have no reference to them.) I agree: I think it is necessary to invoke divine intervention to explain the state of the natural world. Guilty as charged.

However, Russell also wrote:

But as long as they recognize that their understanding of divine intervention can never fall under the purview of science, they’re not “creationists” in my understanding of the word.

This is the Ken Miller loophole–but I also walk through, because I also do not believe that divine intervention falls under the purview of science.

So depending on which part of Russell’s definition you prefer, I either am or am not a creationist. Not very precise. And then there is Lenny’s statement:

Hey Heddle, why, again, do all the creationists think Big Bang theory is wrong …… ?

By which, again, I am not a creationist.

Why not just use the gist of the first part of Russell’s definition:

Creationist: someone who believes, to some nonzero but unspecified degree, that supernatural intervention is necessary to explain the natural world.

Any objections?

Comment #84558

Posted by Raging Bee on March 7, 2006 12:05 PM (e)

Andy/Larry/Billy-Bob/Sue/whatever: you haven’t answered the questions that have been raised about your honesty, competence, knowledge, or credibility. Why not? We know you saw them.

Why should we consider you anything but an idiot living in his own world? What makes you more worthy of our attention than a raving street-loony?

Comment #84562

Posted by BWE on March 7, 2006 12:13 PM (e)

All ID advocates (“IDists?” Is it appropriate to call this political movement “IDism?”)

I prefer, “People in the ID Sciences”
Andrea Bottaro wrote:

Glad you didn’t include Zogby in the list: check out the latest Discovery Institute-commissioned poll for an example of ambiguous, misleading and loaded poll question. Quite a farce.

Here’s one of the questions:

Statement B: Biology teachers should teach Darwin’s theory
of evolution, but also the scientific evidence against it. 69%

Statement A: Biology teachers should teach only Darwin’s
theory of evolution and the scientific evidence that supports it. 21%

Neither/Not Sure 10%

I firmly believe in statement B. I would like to see that evidence. Isn’t that what Judge Jones said too?

Comment #84582

Posted by David Heddle on March 7, 2006 12:47 PM (e)

Russell,

Thanks–your definition was good blog fodder.

Comment #84584

Posted by Russell on March 7, 2006 12:51 PM (e)

However, Russell also wrote:

But as long as they recognize that their understanding of divine intervention can never fall under the purview of science, they’re not “creationists” in my understanding of the word.

This is the Ken Miller loophole—but I also walk through, because I also do not believe that divine intervention falls under the purview of science.
So depending on which part of Russell’s definition you prefer, I either am or am not a creationist. Not very precise.

That’s the trouble with definitions. You can always wish they were more precise. But I stand by mine. I would say, if you were consistent about this purview of science thing, that you are not a creationist. But I don’t think you are very consistent. When you’re on about your favorite hobby-horse, “fine-tuning”, you seem to be defending the notion that this is scientific evidence of divine intervention. When you grant credence to specious doubts raised by (other?) creationists about chimp-human relatedness, that leaves me wondering. When you raise the objection that evolution is no more scientific than ID, that makes me think your understanding of what science is - what is and is not in its purview - does not overlap mine.

Why not just use the gist of the first part of Russell’s definition:

Creationist: someone who believes, to some nonzero but unspecified degree, that supernatural intervention is necessary to explain the natural world.

Any objections?

Yes. Which is why, of course, I added the second part.

Look. The DI’s number one enemy here in Ohio is state BoE member Martha Wise. She does proudly consider herself a “creationist”. And that’s fine with me. But since she recognizes - I mean really recognizes, not just gives lip service to - the wrong-headedness, inappropriateness and unacceptability the current attacks on science from the DI and the folks I consider “creationists”, I see an important distinction there.

Sure, we could just come up with yet another term to distinguish a Martha Wise “creationist” from a Michael Behe “creationist”, and I’m open to suggestions. But for the meantime, I’m OK with my definition, imperfect though it may be.

So - what’s your definition of “Darwinist”? Or - if you agree that that term is useless - why do you characterize PTers as “whining” about it?

Comment #84585

Posted by Rilke's Granddaughter on March 7, 2006 12:51 PM (e)

Heddle wrote:

By which, again, I am not a creationist.

Why not just use the gist of the first part of Russell’s definition:

Creationist: someone who believes, to some nonzero but unspecified degree, that supernatural intervention is necessary to explain the natural world.

Any objections?

Yes. You’re clearly mistaken. Aren’t you the one who claims that the Universe is ‘fine-tuned’? If you actually believe that, then according to the defintion you have just given you’re a creationist.

Of course, I suppose you could just blame the ‘fine-tuning’ on something non-supernatural, to give yourself an out…

Comment #84595

Posted by David Heddle on March 7, 2006 1:03 PM (e)

Russell and Rilke’s Granddaughter :

Fine-tuning is clearly part of science–many scientists discuss it. Virtually none of them deny it. Many atheist scientists affirm that our universe is fine-tuned.

Perhaps you mean: “Fine tuning as evidence for design, i.e., divine intervention.” That is cosmological ID. You might recall at least one of the bazillion times that I stated ID is not science. So the divine-intervention explanation for fine-tuning is not, by my own oft-repeated words, in the purview of science. Therefore I walk through Russell’s Ken Miller loophole.

Comment #84597

Posted by David Heddle on March 7, 2006 1:07 PM (e)

RGD,

In case it is not clear, I am not denying that I am a creationist. I am stating that by the first part of Russell’s definition I am, by the second part I am not, and by Lenny’s comment I am not, even though he calls me one. It’s the PT inconsistency I am commenting upon.

Comment #84611

Posted by Russell on March 7, 2006 1:29 PM (e)

Therefore I walk through Russell’s Ken Miller loophole.

Fine with me.

Perhaps the reason you don’t join folks like Martha Wise in identifying, let alone actively fighting, the wrongheaded, inappropriate and unacceptable assault on science education that is the DI’s ID movement, and the reason you grant credence to doubts about chimp-human relatedness, and the reason you’ve claimed that evolution is no more science than is ID… perhaps the reason for all that is that, even though you recognize the intellectual error of creationism, you just can’t help being a creationism sympathizer.

It’s the PT inconsistency I am commenting upon.

Yes, well. PT is a “group blog”, and of course you’re probably lumping in all the commenters. So there’s a limit to how much consistency you’re going to see. Is that a problem? Are you similarly concerned about the consistency of IDists, with respect to, say, common descent?, age of the earth?, anything at all?

And - what about “Darwinism”? Isn’t it inconsistent for you to be worrying about the precision of “creationist” while dismissing as “whining” the suggestion that IDists use “Darwinist” imprecisely, to put it charitably, and disingenuously, to put it more accurately?

Comment #84612

Posted by CJ O'Brien on March 7, 2006 1:29 PM (e)

It’s the PT inconsistency I am commenting upon.

Yeah, would you groupthinking Darwinian conspirators all get on the same page?
Sheesh.

Comment #84639

Posted by Arden Chatfield on March 7, 2006 2:09 PM (e)

Heddle, I think your ultimate point here is pretty trivial. There are numerous people out there who describe themselves as creationists – are you getting on their case for not defining creationism and all sticking to a single definition? Also, last I checked, there were wild inconsistencies in the beliefs of ID advocates and Christians as well; are you losing sleep over there not being a consistent package of beliefs for those folks as well? I think you’re belaboring this mostly just to have something to complain about.

FWIW, I’m quite happy to believe you qualify as a creationist. The reason I like the short form of Russell’s definition (although Russell might not view it as a valid statement of what he was getting at) is that it seems to me to hit the main points, plus it readily includes IDers as creationists, which makes a lot of sense to me. I’ve long thought that the similarities between IDers and creationists were ultimately much more salient than the differences between them.

Comment #84762

Posted by Torbjorn Larsson on March 7, 2006 6:14 PM (e)

“Fine-tuning is clearly part of science—many scientists discuss it.”

Yes, in an abstract way. Ie they recognise that some parameters seem finetuned.

“Virtually none of them deny it. Many atheist scientists affirm that our universe is fine-tuned.”

Which is why this is disingenuous. The finetuning is seen as a bad thing, and most expects it to go away silently as the understanding of physics increase.

““Fine tuning as evidence for design, i.e., divine intervention.” That is cosmological ID.”

There is also some recent speculations about finetuning in regards to endless inflation and string theory. In each of those cases several physical mechanisms have been proposed, since as for ‘first-cause’ arguments, design arguments isn’t usable in science and there are plenty of realistic alternatives. Here ‘realistic’ really mean ‘things as they really are’.

Comment #84811

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on March 7, 2006 7:51 PM (e)

I sure do. Science adopted Big Bang theory, and fundies have been bitching about it ever since. (shrug)

Do you not grasp that that’s the point? “Wad of id” asked if any religiously motivated criticism of science was ever shown to hold water. Well, the religiously motivated criticism of the steady state model was, as you pointed out, spectacularly successful at “holding water.”

Um, hey Heddle, I know you’re not terribly bright, but the Big Bang theory was not religiously motivated.

Just ask Ober.

But hey, Davey — why is it that the fundies excoriate Hoyle for his “religiously motivated” criticisms of Big Bang theory, but fall all over themselves to congratulate Hoyle for his “Archaeopteryx is a fake” and “evolution is too improbable” criticisms?

Oh, and I’d sure like to hear YOU define a “creationist”, Davey.

And I’m a little curious about something, Davey. Why do you need to preach on behalf of God? After all, as a good Calvinist, you already KNOW that certain people are predestined for Heaven (and naturally you assume that you are one of them) and other people aren’t. So what’s the point in your preaching? If it’s already predestined, then anything you say is totally utterly absolutely one-thousand percent useless anyway, right? Or are you just so arrogant and self-righeous as to think that you can change God’s mind about who is Heaven-bound and who isn’t, by force of your golden oratory?

I’m curious to hear about that, Davey.

Oh, on second thought, scratch that. I’m not at all interested in your religious opinions. After all, your religious opinions are just that – your opinions. They don’t mean any more than my religious opinions or my next door neighbor’s or my car mechanic’s or the kid who delivers my pizzas. (shrug)

Comment #84812

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on March 7, 2006 7:54 PM (e)

I agree: I think it is necessary to invoke divine intervention to explain the state of the natural world. Guilty as charged.

So what? Why should science (or anyone else) give a flying fig about your religious opinions, Davey? Who the hell are you?

Comment #84814

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on March 7, 2006 8:08 PM (e)

by Lenny’s comment I am not, even though he calls me one.

Actually, Davey, what I call you is “a self-righteous arrogant prideful prick who thinks, quite literally, that he is holier than everyone else”.

Whether you are or aren’t a “creationist” (however the heck you want to define the word), I couldn’t care less. Science doesn’t give a flying fig about your opinions, and neither do I. After all, your opinions are no more authoritative than anyone else’s, despite your silly delusions of divinity. (shrug)

You are just a man, Heddle. Just a man. You are no more holy or divine or godly than any other mere mortal, and you don’t know any more about God than anyone else on earth does.

Sometimes you seem to forget that. And when you do, I will always be here to remind you (and everyone else) of it.

No need to thank me, Davey. I’m very happy to do it.

Comment #84820

Posted by David Heddle on March 7, 2006 9:15 PM (e)

Lenny

Um, hey Heddle, I know you’re not terribly bright, but the Big Bang theory was not religiously motivated.

Didn’t say it was–what met wad’s criteria was that there was criticism of the steady-state model based on religious grounds–and that there was. C’mon Lenny–pay attention–this is not exactly nuanced.

I did define creationist above and on my blog–even gave you a link.

Torbjorn Larsson

There is also some recent speculations about finetuning in regards to endless inflation and string theory. In each of those cases several physical mechanisms have been proposed, since as for ‘first-cause’ arguments, design arguments isn’t usable in science and there are plenty of realistic alternatives. Here ‘realistic’ really mean ‘things as they really are’.

Yes and they are as falsifiable as ID, meaning they aren’t. Or do you know of some experiments that have been proposed to explain the fine-tunings? Please share if you do. Don’t bother with the string theory landscape–Susskind has already admitted that it’s not falsifiable but says that doesn’t mean it isn’t right. Just like ID.

Comment #84866

Posted by guthrie on March 8, 2006 4:44 AM (e)

Do they teach much of string theory in high school in the USA?

Comment #84875

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on March 8, 2006 8:13 AM (e)

Um, hey Heddle, I know you’re not terribly bright, but the Big Bang theory was not religiously motivated.

Didn’t say it was

Don’t bullshit me, Davey.

Comment #84876

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on March 8, 2006 8:15 AM (e)

So what? Why should science (or anyone else) give a flying fig about your religious opinions, Davey? Who the hell are you?

Well?

Too nuanced for you, Davey?

Comment #84883

Posted by Rilke's Granddaughter on March 8, 2006 8:57 AM (e)

Fine-tuning is clearly part of science—many scientists discuss it. Virtually none of them deny it. Many atheist scientists affirm that our universe is fine-tuned.

Perhaps you mean: “Fine tuning as evidence for design, i.e., divine intervention.” That is cosmological ID. You might recall at least one of the bazillion times that I stated ID is not science. So the divine-intervention explanation for fine-tuning is not, by my own oft-repeated words, in the purview of science. Therefore I walk through Russell’s Ken Miller loophole.

To summarize your position, then, Mr. Heddle:

1. You are a creationist

2. You do not believe that biological ID is a scientific theory

3. Your opinions on Cosmological ID are entirely religious.

Good to know.

Comment #84921

Posted by Torbjorn Larsson on March 8, 2006 12:35 PM (e)

“Or do you know of some experiments that have been proposed to explain the fine-tunings? Please share if you do.”

I don’t think fine-tuning is shown to be necessary, which is really the main question here.

But it’s a fair enough question about these mechanisms. I don’t know of any proposals apropos. But maybe I can make one myself first.

In endless inflation, parts of space blows up to form a new universe through inflation on a random basis. If string theory can explain inflation, and is independently tested, what remains is to see if the values of the parameters that maximises multiverse production through inflation corresponds closely to those we observe.

The assumption here is that it’s very improbable that we should happen to live in a universe that deviates from that maximum. This is a verification only, but if the rest of the theory is able to be falsified plenty, as physics is and will be, a few unfalsifiable predictions that closes the theory are all right, as long as they don’t come from ad hocs. At least, that’s what the physicists usually does, so it should be fine here too.

Comment #84925

Posted by Torbjorn Larsson on March 8, 2006 12:47 PM (e)

Actually, thinking about it and your objection about falsification, it’s a weak form of falsification.

If the values that maximise multiverse production is way off what we observe, while it doesn’t falsify the theory absolutely, it does so relatively, since no one would be satisfied with the result as it’s unreliable in this particular case. Even if it isn’t an ad hoc, and closes the theory, it’s too large part of the theory to be unfalsified, at least as long as we can’t study the multiverse creation directly.

The theory would be junked, and the search for a new theory that fit all observations better would continue.

Comment #84926

Posted by Torbjorn Larsson on March 8, 2006 12:56 PM (e)

I see i made o good (or bad :-) job of arguing both sides. Whatever of those two scenarios happens (and right now I think the last one is the correct one) the theory will be physically fine without any creator messing about.

And as I said, as long as fine-tuning is a convenient tag and a speculative hypothesis without any claim to being necessary, it isn’t obvious that the scenario will ever play out. But physics can explain it, obviously.

Comment #84929

Posted by Andy H on March 8, 2006 1:02 PM (e)

Comment #84515 posted by Andrea Bottaro on March 7, 2006 10:48 AM

Major polling organizations — e.g., Gallup, Harris, and Ipsos — are very concerned about maintaining an image of objectivity. They would not knowingly ask a poll question that is ambiguous, misleading, or loaded.

Glad you didn’t include Zogby in the list: check out the latest Discovery Institute-commissioned poll for an example of ambiguous, misleading and loaded poll question. Quite a farce.

Which of the questions was ambiguous, misleading, and loaded, and why? How should the question have been worded ?

I would say that the results of this Zogby poll are basically consistent with the following results from a Harris poll conducted in June 2005 (from http://www.pollingreport.com/science.htm ) –

Regardless of what you may personally believe, which of these do you believe should be taught in public schools?

Evolution only – 12%
Creationism only – 23
Intelligent design only – 4
All three – 55
None of these (vol.) – 3
Unsure – 3

Anyway, we’ve got lots of recent polls of the general public – what we need now are some up-to-date polls of scientists, particularly biologists.

Also, I have been so busy quibbling about the margins of error of small samples that I neglected to say that I basically agree with West’s point – that the results of the NY Times’ interviews of 20 signers do not support the stereotype that scientists signed the DI statement primarily for religious reasons rather than scientific reasons.

Comment #84935

Posted by k.e. on March 8, 2006 1:26 PM (e)

Lawrence “I’m not a Holocaust denier just a revisionist” Fafarman posting as Andy H. and has never once denied it

quibble over this

A sample of 20 out of 500 scientists who signed the ID list AND DO NOT REJECT evolution means that for all practical purposes 100% of the people on that list agree with evolution and BY DEFINITION reject the DI position.

Comment #84942

Posted by Steviepinhead on March 8, 2006 1:53 PM (e)

It’s a workday and (unlike Larry) I’m busy, so self-restraint will have to wait for a more auspicious moment:

Shut up, Larry. Thanks so much.

Comment #84977

Posted by Sir_Toejam on March 8, 2006 4:24 PM (e)

Do they teach much of string theory in high school in the USA?

of course! It’s actually taught at the elementary school level. By the time students get to high school, it’s expected that they are well versed in string theory already.

what else would they have to talk about if they weren’t?

evolution?

phht.

Comment #85248

Posted by BWE on March 9, 2006 11:30 AM (e)

Actually, I was helping my wife design a buoyancy lab for 6-8th graders just last night and she kept getting frustrated with me for not understanding string theory. It went something like this:
“You went to school so long ago your education is almost worthless. If you cant even use string theory to help explain the cup sinking when you add the water weight in sand then what can you do?”

Comment #85669

Posted by Andy H on March 10, 2006 4:06 AM (e)

Comment #85248 posted by BWE on March 9, 2006 11:30 AM

Actually, I was helping my wife design a buoyancy lab for 6-8th graders just last night and she kept getting frustrated with me for not understanding string theory. It went something like this:
“You went to school so long ago your education is almost worthless. If you cant even use string theory to help explain the cup sinking when you add the water weight in sand then what can you do?”

I thought buoyancy forces were governed by Archimedes’ principle – the buoyancy force is equal to the weight of the liquid displaced.

Comment #85675

Posted by Alan Fox on March 10, 2006 4:23 AM (e)

Andy H

You need an irony meter.

Oh and…

Shut up, Larry.

Comment #85714

Posted by k.e. on March 10, 2006 7:54 AM (e)

Larry is from Missouri he doesn’t ‘do irony’ that would take imagination, he thinks intelligence is the act of creation, and does not realize that imagination is required for er…well whatever he can’t imagine real or otherwise.

Comment #85754

Posted by BWE on March 10, 2006 11:39 AM (e)

Andy,

You must have gone to school a long time ago too. That’s exactly what I said to her. It turns out that nowadays, teachers are using landscape theory coupled with non-euclidean geometry to get far more accurate results. The old Archimedes principle worked pretty good but it was an approximation it turns out. When you get to Very Large Massive (VLM) bodies, the principle breaks down and a new kind of math had to be discovered to solve the problem. The scientists turned to string theory and found exactly what they were looking for. It has become so commonplace now that they begin using string theory in 5th grade geometry and by 7th grade, calculating buoyancy using string theory isn’t too difficult. It’s actually easier than displacement because you don’t need a scale or a beaker to test it. It’s like god that way: perfect and infallible.

Comment #85759

Posted by k.e. on March 10, 2006 11:57 AM (e)

string ….isn’t that a musician ?

Anyway I see the problem here
Archimedes was an engineer …not a physicist.