Nick Matzke posted Entry 2978 on March 12, 2007 05:19 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/2968

Last week’s Chronicle of Higher Education had several letters responding to J. Scott Turner’s January 19 piece that rhetorically asked, “Why Can’t We Discuss Intelligent Design?” One of them was actually from me. I sent it back in January and figured it had been forgotten about, but I guess not. It is cut down a bit, but has the essential points. See also good replies from David Barash and Gred Laden.

The letters are freely available at the CHE website not freely available, so I will post the text of my original submission below the fold.

Discuss ID, but do it in context

J. Scott Turner (“Why Can’t We Discuss Intelligent Design?“, January 19, 2007) has his heart in the right place. ID indeed should be discussed in universities. Indeed, this is impossible and undesirable to prevent. But it needs to be discussed in context. ID is not an honest attempt to understand the natural world. It is not as if someone made a stunning new research finding, published it in a scientific journal, and proposed ID as the explanation. Instead, ID arose as a cynical attempt to come up with a newer, vaguer label for creationism. Just after the Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that “creation science” was a specific religious view and therefore unconstitutional to teach as science in public school science classrooms, creationists working on a “two model” creation/evolution textbook decided to delete hundreds of instances of the word “creation” and its cognates and replace them with “intelligent design” terminology. This origin of ID was documented in the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover case (the decision is available online at www2.ncseweb.org/kvd). What scientific movement begins life as a textbook revision?

To discuss “intelligent design” as if it did not have this historical and legal baggage, as Turner seems to want people to do, is naive and plays into the hands of the ID public relations campaign which has, again cynically, been designed to ellicit just such responses. The official line of ID advocates is that they just want to “teach the controversy” over “Darwinism” – but the truth is that the vast majority of ID advocates deny the common ancestry of humans and apes in favor of special creation, many of them are agnostic on the age of the earth, and these views emerge not from serious scientific research on these questions, which they have not done, but from the fundamentalist doctrine of reading the Bible as inerrant. This is what motivates them, and what they want taught or implied in the public schools, and if these points are missed the true heart of ID is not really being discussed.

Finally, although Turner rightly notes the debatable nature of Richard Dawkins’s attempt to make science into an apologetic for atheism, he fails to note that Dawkins’s “appearance of design” concept is itself a product of Dawkins’s longstanding feud with theism. Dawkins sets up “appearance of design” as the only good argument for God’s existence, and then knocks it down with natural selection and concludes there is no God. But while it may be apologetically useful for both Dawkins and ID advocates, it is worth pointing out that “appearance of design” is not an indisputable description of biology. In the opinion of many it is no better than describing the Earth as having the “appearance of flatness” – at best a superficial description based on an extremely restricted view of the data.

By including points like the above, even though they do not conform to the ID movement’s official talking points and its policy of strategic ambiguity on uncomfortable topics, Turner and others would both advance scholarly understanding and minimize the chances of being misunderstood.

Nick Matzke

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Comment #165135

Posted by Bill Gascoyne on March 12, 2007 5:44 PM (e)

The letters are freely available at the CHE website.

That is not my experience.

Comment #165137

Posted by waldteufel on March 12, 2007 5:48 PM (e)

The letters are freely available if you plunk down 45 bucks for a half-year subscription.

Comment #165138

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on March 12, 2007 5:48 PM (e)

Is the link not working? I may have registered for access long ago and therefore I can see the link…

Comment #165143

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on March 12, 2007 5:59 PM (e)

Whoops, sorry about that. I have edited the OP.

Comment #165144

Posted by David B. Benson on March 12, 2007 6:04 PM (e)

It seems that some are privileged and some are not. I read the three letters and just now checked hat I can still read the letters.

Comment #165145

Posted by Steviepinhead on March 12, 2007 6:07 PM (e)

Once again, the post has been formatted too “broadly” and its appearance is overlapping and interfering with the display of the sidebar.

Please fix, thanks!

Comment #165150

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on March 12, 2007 6:36 PM (e)

Once again, the post has been formatted too “broadly” and its appearance is overlapping and interfering with the display of the sidebar.

Please fix, thanks!

It looks fine to me so it is hard to find anything to fix. You might try decreasing the size of the text on your screen (CTRL-minus).

Nick

Comment #165153

Posted by David B. Benson on March 12, 2007 6:40 PM (e)

Steviepinhead — As I said, some are privileged. Looks fine to me as well.

Comment #165154

Posted by Flint on March 12, 2007 6:47 PM (e)

Of course, the context here isn’t everything, it’s the only thing. To paraphrase P.T.Barnum, creationists don’t care what you say about ID so long as you say it in science class. Go ahead, announce in science class that ID is pure blind fundamentalist anti-scientific idiocy. No problem - the PR machine will joyfully report that “ID is being discussed in science class, where it belongs.”

The *content* is irrelevant. Everyone knows ID is the political arm of creationism, funded by religious sources for religious reasons. The only thing that matter is where the terminology is voiced, and how that can be positioned for propaganda purposes. Really, that’s the entire purpose of ID. The FACT of discussion is everything, whatever is said is irrelevant.

Comment #165155

Posted by Chip Poirot on March 12, 2007 6:50 PM (e)

ID is discussed all the time on college campuses. The question is not whether, but where and how.

First, I am against using any significant amount of class time in a natural science class to discuss ID. While there may be some limited pedagogical value to discussing fringe theories, philosophy of science and even some good old fashioned debunking in a natural science class, that should not be the primary purpose. The focus should be on teaching good science.

On my campus ID is discussed in the classroom in two venues: it is discussed (sympathetically) by a philosophy professor in ethics and philosophy and it is discussed (unsympathetically but I trust fairly) by me in an interdisciplinary class. I spend a very small amount of time on why it is not science in my anthro class. I also spend some time talking specifically about mythological worldviews. After all, it is a Cultural Anthropology class. These seem to me to be appropriate venues for discussion of ID.

There is a question of academic freedom which is a complex one. Even advocates of fringe theories should be protected in a Unversity setting. First and foremost however it seems to me that professors should focus on teaching established principles. If one really must bring up ID or YEC in the classroom, then is it too much to ask that the person actually cover evolution fairly, accurately and competently? I’m in an odd position as I am a tenured associate professor and my wife is a full time biology major. My wife and I both think she has a right to have evolution taught so that she can learn the appropriate, relevant material for grad school.

There is nothing stopping people (especially at colleges like mine-small, public schools without huge research committments) from writing and publishing in ID if they so choose.

If you will all pardon my rant let me end with my biggest complaint however: that is the spread of a non-discourse situation wrt ID.

What happens is that ID advocates, some of whom have no knowledge of the science, have no interest in the science, and refuse to actually investigate the science continuously make allegations about evolutionary biology and related fields (ev psych, bio-social and ecological anthropology) that have nothing at all to do with the issues and the research in the field.

Significant amounts of time can be spent trying to argue with people. The logical result is that the argument is fruitless because to fully correct the arguments takes the time and energy one normally devotes to writing a journal article. Yet the argument is then viewed as a “controversy”. Personally, I call this a non-discourse situation.

I can respect and fight for the academic freedom of any fringe or unpopular view. That does not mean I have to be happy about the non-debate.

Here’s another thought: why don’t we discuss evolution on college campuses?

Comment #165156

Posted by Steviepinhead on March 12, 2007 6:54 PM (e)

I’m sure on some browsers, it is fine.

But, just for the heck of it, try reducing the airspace given to the right margin both within and outside of the blockquote. I expect that would take care of it.

Or not.

It doesn’t seem to be one of those fireball days at PT anyway.

Comment #165157

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on March 12, 2007 7:32 PM (e)

I vaguely recall having this experience with the CHE website before, almost like they give you a number of views for free, and then cut it off after awhile.

Nick

Comment #165160

Posted by shiva on March 12, 2007 7:59 PM (e)

Nick,

Now only if the likes of Krauze or MikeGene would stop pretending! Good letter! Makes great sense!

Comment #165170

Posted by Kevin on March 12, 2007 10:31 PM (e)

“What scientific movement begins life as a textbook revision?”

well it was a textbook case of the re-use of adeles for new capabilities.

maybe?

Comment #165176

Posted by Popper's ghost on March 13, 2007 3:15 AM (e)

Richard Dawkins’s attempt to make science into an apologetic for atheism

What’s called for in place of this dishonest ad hominem is a response to Dawkins’ actual arguments.

Dawkins sets up “appearance of design” as the only good argument for God’s existence, and then knocks it down with natural selection and concludes there is no God.

In “The God Delusion”, Dawkins writes “The argument from improbability, properly deployed, comes close to proving that God does not exist. My name for the statistical demonstration that God almost certainly does not exist is The Ultimate Boeing 747 gambit”.

Dawkins offers a positive demonstration that God almost certainly does not exist. The claim that he concludes that there is no God by knocking down some argument that there is a God – which would be a fallacious approach – is a serious mischaracterzation. For some reason, Matzke finds it necessary to tell such lies about Dawkins nearly every time he writes a piece or a letter critical of ID. This sort of attack on leading promoters of evolution, aside from its immorality, plays into the hands of the creationist PR machine.

Comment #165183

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on March 13, 2007 4:38 AM (e)

Richard Dawkins’s attempt to make science into an apologetic for atheism

This thing between Nick and Richard is getting very old. And the shoe is on the other foot. Dawkins is answering religious apologetics, as I understand it.

Steviepinhead wrote:

I’m sure on some browsers, it is fine.

No exactly. In my Firefox, the blockquotes are placed under the protruding sidebars, but the text flows besides. It is readable, but the graphics element (blocks) are fooling instead of helping the eye.

The protruding sidebars are distracting without providing new information except for the “Recent Comments” bar. Combine that with an apparently faulty graphic script, and it’s a mess.

Perhaps the designer had his panda’s thumb in the middle of the hand?

Comment #165186

Posted by Popper's ghost on March 13, 2007 4:54 AM (e)

This thing between Nick and Richard is getting very old.

Well, it’s not exactly “between Nick and Richard” – it’s an ongoing series of gratuitous and dishonest attacks on Richard by Nick. But it is indeed very old – over and over, Matzke has taken the opportunity to say, in effect, “I concur with your dishonest strawman ad hominem attack on Richard Dawkins” when responding to creationists, fence sitters, and evolutionists alike.

Comment #165187

Posted by Frank J on March 13, 2007 5:01 AM (e)

Nick Matzke wrote:

The official line of ID advocates is that they just want to “teach the controversy” over “Darwinism” – but the truth is that the vast majority of ID advocates deny the common ancestry of humans and apes in favor of special creation, many of them are agnostic on the age of the earth, and these views emerge not from serious scientific research on these questions, which they have not done, but from the fundamentalist doctrine of reading the Bible as inerrant.

Once again I’ll try to say this without being misunderstood. I don’t disagree with the above, but I consider an additional point far more important:

What defines the ID scam as we know it is not the fact that most followers deny common descent or are even closet YECs. Nor is it the abrupt language change prompted by the Edwards v. Aguillard ruling. Rather it is the gradual takeover of the scam by those who appear not to (personally) deny common ancestry of humans and (other) apes – or of humans and broccoli for that matter. While only a few admit it outright, none of the others have challenged them directly.

If I’m wrong, I’m wrong the other way, in that creationism has been a scam from the beginning. Whether “classic creationists” truly believe that the evidence supports independent origin of “kinds,” or in some cases a young Earth, or whether, unlike IDers, they just prefer to tell a fairy tale directly, instead of letting the audience infer it, they at least make testable hypotheses about the basic “whats” and “whens” of biological history.

Somewhere along the way to “evolving” into ID, and attracting a new generation of leaders, it became painfully obvious that trying to support those alternative hypotheses would not only call attention to the failures, but also to the irreconcilable differences between YEC, OEC and non-biblical models. If IDers honestly believed that the evidence supported any of those models, they’d have no problem advocating a “critical analysis” of them. As long as “creation” or “design” language is left out of the lesson plan, they’d have no legal problems at all. If anything it would help their pretense about being strictly about the science. How about the “naturalistic” anti-evolution hypotheses of Schwabe and Senapathy? Why is there virtually no mention of them, let alone demand for “equal time” to critically analyze them? Especially since, unlike the phony “critical analysis” of evolution, that critical analysis wouldn’t require cherry picking evidence, bait-and-switch definitions or quote mining. The reason is simple. Today’s scammers know that, if the evidence is considered fairly and honestly, evolution wins hands down.

Comment #165188

Posted by Popper's ghost on March 13, 2007 5:06 AM (e)

And to preempt Raging Bee, I offer this observation by Sir_Toejam. The other comments about Dawkins in that thread are also revealing.

Comment #165193

Posted by Jack Krebs on March 13, 2007 5:44 AM (e)

Good letter, Nick, with some good lines.

I like your point about “the appearance of design.” Dawkins’ famous remark has been used as the jumping off point for IDists from the beginning, overlooking the fact that further inspection has shown that life is not designed in the way that IDists claim it is.

Comment #165196

Posted by Popper's ghost on March 13, 2007 6:04 AM (e)

Dawkins’ famous remark has been used as the jumping off point for IDists from the beginning

Ah yes, the “ID is Dawkin’s fault” smear.

Comment #165199

Posted by Flint on March 13, 2007 6:49 AM (e)

Ah yes, the “ID is Dawkin’s fault” smear.

Huh? How so? My observation is that the ID people quotemine everything they can find, by anyone, that can be misinterpreted to their advantage. Have you not noticed this? Are you disinclined to notice the across-the-board dishonesty of the DI on the grounds that if you notice this, YOU will somehow become “responsible” for their actions?

Dawkins has written that he is reluctant to use the rhetorical strategy of presenting an apparent problem, then explaining the evolutionary solution to that problem, because this expositional technique invites the creationists to extract his statement of the problem out of context and use it to say “Dawkins himself admits that…” evolution has fatal issues.

ID proponents are equal-opportunity liars in their choice of jumping off points. Dawkins, being both prominent and prolific, presents a larger targe than most.

Comment #165200

Posted by Laser on March 13, 2007 7:04 AM (e)

I’m a chemist, but I have to teach a liberal arts (not a natural science!) course in which the students read the “great works”. Right now the students are reading an excerpt from Paley and an excerpt from Origin of Species. I’m going to have the students talk about ID today in class. In fact, one of my students is from the Dover area, so I’m going to ask her to give the class her perspective. Based on my conversations with the students to date and the fact that most of my students are biology majors, I’m pretty sure they aren’t impressed with ID.

Comment #165203

Posted by Raging Bee on March 13, 2007 7:38 AM (e)

PG wrote:

…over and over, Matzke has taken the opportunity to say, in effect, “I concur with your dishonest strawman ad hominem attack on Richard Dawkins” when responding to creationists, fence sitters, and evolutionists alike.

Care to provide some examples of such statements? Or is this just another dishonest strawman ad hominem defense of Dawkins?

If you really want to defend Dawkins, perhaps you should address the specific points made in this review of The God Delusion:

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/19775

Comment #165208

Posted by analyysi on March 13, 2007 8:23 AM (e)

Nick Matzke wrote:

What scientific movement begins life as a textbook revision?

Hi Nick!

What makes you think, that ID-movement began in 1987?

You know, that the idea of ID is old, and that even the term “intelligent design” was before Panda’s used several times for example by James E. Horigan. (See for example his book “Chance or Design?” (Philosophical Library, 1979) or his article at JASA (December 1983: 209-216)), where he used the term.

[Also for example Fred Hoyle (1982), Raymond G. Boblin, Kerby Anderson (1983), Walter R. Thorson (1985), and others including Tipler and Barrow (The Anthropic Cosmological principle, p. 32) have written about “intelligent design”.]

I dont’ know, how you define the term “ID-movement”. I think, that “ID-movement” is either very old (Paley etc.) or began perhaps after Phillip E. Johnson’s Darwin on Trial. It could be also claimed, that Discovery Institute (and its Wedge) is so essential part of the term “ID-movement”, that ID-movement began, when DI’s “Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture” started. But I would like to hear your opinion.

Comment #165209

Posted by wamba on March 13, 2007 8:29 AM (e)

Ah yes, the “ID is Dawkin’s fault” smear.

Dembski says that Dawkins fuels ID. How could you ask for a more reliable source than that?
;)

Comment #165211

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 13, 2007 8:47 AM (e)

…over and over, Matzke has taken the opportunity to say, in effect, “I concur with your dishonest strawman ad hominem attack on Richard Dawkins” when responding to creationists, fence sitters, and evolutionists alike.

Care to provide some examples of such statements? Or is this just another dishonest strawman ad hominem defense of Dawkins?

It’s not a defense of Dawkins at all, you silly git.

If you really want to defend Dawkins, perhaps you should address the specific points made in this review of The God Delusion:

It’s been done, you ignoramus. And here’s an interesting piece on Orr’s “tactics of deceit”.

Huh? How so?

You’re right, I probably misinterpreted Jack Krebs’ comment.

Have you not noticed this?

Uh, yes.

Are you disinclined to notice the across-the-board dishonesty of the DI on the grounds that if you notice this, YOU will somehow become “responsible” for their actions?

Uh, no.

Comment #165213

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 13, 2007 8:52 AM (e)

Uh, yes.

That is, I have noticed that “ID people quotemine everything they can find, by anyone, that can be misinterpreted to their advantage” – duh. But I wonder if Flint has noticed that a number of people (if not Jack Krebs) have blamed Dawkins for his, as his response doesn’t seem to recognize this.

Comment #165214

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 13, 2007 8:54 AM (e)

Uh, “blamed Dawkins for this”.

Comment #165216

Posted by Flint on March 13, 2007 9:13 AM (e)

But I wonder if Flint has noticed that a number of people (if not Jack Krebs) have blamed Dawkins for this, as his response doesn’t seem to recognize this.

I believe you and I may interpret this a bit differently, but maybe I’m wrong.

My interpretation is that Dawkins has never explicitly argued that there are no gods; that his target is rather the claim that gods are required. At most, Dawkins denies that the notion of gods is in any way useful for scientific understanding of anything. To the best of my knowledge, no scientific explanation either does, or can, include any supernatural components. So Dawkins is correct.

But Christians, especially the evangelical types, have no room in their model for neutrality. One either worships (their) god, or one denies their god; one cannot be neutral or indifferent. Dawkins clearly does not worship their god, therefore he MUST be arguing that they are all deluded (it sure *sounds* like he’s saying that!)

Yes, Dawkins is a highly visible, prominent lightning rod. But Dawkins doesn’t cause the lightning. I think there are some Christians who are not creationists, who are uncomfortable with Dawkins for his rigidly logical omission of their god altogether. Theistic evolutionists tend to fall into the category of regarding their god as less interactive, but this is a delicate position – taken to the extreme (and there’s nothing to prevent this), non-interactive and non-existent are functionally identical.

So these are the people who can’t let go of their god completely, but aren’t willing to deny reality either. So they have engineered a more minimal or deistic role for their god, and Dawkins denies them even that much. And so I see these people (theistic evolutionists) blaming Dawkins for making their Goldilocks position untenable. Not too much god, not too little, but just right. Dawkins continues to point out that you can’t have too little god.

Comment #165217

Posted by Chip Poirot on March 13, 2007 9:31 AM (e)

Dawkins is a useful target for opponents of evolution. They attack his “atheism” and “materialism” without ever really bothering to try and understand what he is trying to say. Ditto for Dennett. Yet most of the attacks I have heard on Dawkins and Dennett seem to indicate that the attacker has never even read them.

Speaking for myself, I’m not that great a fan of Dawkins/Dennett as far as their general approach to epistemology goes. But they are hardly the source of all evil.

Comment #165218

Posted by PvM on March 13, 2007 9:33 AM (e)

nice letter

Comment #165225

Posted by Frank J on March 13, 2007 10:18 AM (e)

analyysi wrote:

I dont’ know, how you define the term “ID-movement”. I think, that “ID-movement” is either very old (Paley etc.) or began perhaps after Phillip E. Johnson’s Darwin on Trial. It could be also claimed, that Discovery Institute (and its Wedge) is so essential part of the term “ID-movement”, that ID-movement began, when DI’s “Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture” started. But I would like to hear your opinion.

If you don’t mind 2c from the “evolutionist” who usually provides the counterpoint to the usual statement that the defining moment of the movement was the 1987 change in the “Pandas” drafts, see my comment # 165187 above, and some postscripts below.

The ID anti-evolution movement is an “evolving” strategy, necessitated more by the scientific failure of classic creationism than the legal failure to have it taught in public schools. All the key players were in place by 1999, when the “Wedge” document appeared, so that could be considered an official launching, following a few decades of development. But even since then the tactics have been changing, continuing the trend toward “don’t ask, don’t tell” (what the designer did and when – not the designer’s identity). And changing the educational strategy from “teach ID” to a design-free “teach the controversy.”

BTW, I have great respect for Nick, who probably did more than anyone to defend science education at the Dover trial. And from what I read about Paley, I doubt that he would be a fan of the ID movement today.

Comment #165229

Posted by Dizzy on March 13, 2007 10:48 AM (e)

Yet most of the attacks I have heard on Dawkins and Dennett seem to indicate that the attacker has never even read them.

I’ve noticed that, as well…at least, I’ve noticed that some readers tend to oversimplify/misrepresent their conclusions and the reasoning behind them. In some cases, people appear to “project” conclusions onto them that they explicitly reject in their books.

Unfortunately, nuanced or conditional arguments don’t tend to play well in the sphere of PR.

Comment #165246

Posted by Raging Bee on March 13, 2007 12:20 PM (e)

PG: Thanks for the link to Rosenhouse’s response to that review. I’ll just respond to a few of Rosenhouse’s points:

Dawkins provides no serious discussion of Jewish or Christian theology? Of course not, because such theology is mostly irrelevant to how religion is actually practiced. Theology is an academic pursuit, and like many such pursuits it concerns itself primarily with esoterica far removed from people’s actual lives.

This is a bit of a false dichotomy: yes, academic/esoteric theology is not the same as the beliefs preached to the masses; but the former is derived from the latter, is constrained by the latter, and can only deviate so far from the latter before further discussion is shut down. Rosenhouse’s response seems like an after-the-fact excuse for Dawkins’ refusal to understand what believers actually believe.

And since Orr is criticizing Dawkins’ superficiality, it is a bit rich for him to reduce Augustine’s views to the slogan that he rejected biblical literalism…

Non sequitur. What does one have to do with the other?

…Augustine did take the view that the Bible should be interpreted in as literal a way as possible, and in some of his writing he even endorsed a young-Earth position. He was willing to countenance a somewhat allegorical interpretation of Genesis, but that was only because he felt the Bible should not be read in a way that contradicts what clear scientific evidence is telling us.

So Augustine really did reject Biblical literalism, at least when common sense demanded it. Which makes Rosenhouse’s complaint here even emptier.

Orr sums up all of this intellecutalizing by protesting that Dawkins’ book is too middlebrow. Of course it’s middlebrow! It was intended as a popular-level book published by a mainstream outfit that people are actually intended to read.

Note that Rosenhouse does not defend Dawkins’ handling of the facts; he merely says that a “middlebrow” book like Dawkins’ doesn’t have to get the facts right. In other words, a sort of “pathetic level of detail” dodge, which all propagandists make.

…But a better explanation is that religious hostility was born out of the entirely correct realization that Darwin’s work posed a genuine threat to their beliefs. Many believers responded to Darwin with a “So what?” Show me a believer who had that reaction and I’ll show you someone who either didn’t understand Darwin’s work, or made a point of not thinking carefully about it. You might be able to reconcile traditional Christian belief with evolution, but it requires some serious mental engagement to do so.

Rosenhouse shows absolutely no sign of knowing exactly which beliefs are “threatened” by the theory of evolution, or how many people hold such beliefs, or how strongly or inflexibly those beliefs are held. He merely asserts that “their beliefs” are threatened by evolution, and adds – without evidence – that anyone who doesn’t feel threatened is either dumb or dishonest. This assertion is an atheist’s echo of the fundamentalist’s “all or nothing”/”with us or with the Devil” absolutism.

And Rosenhouse closes by agreeing with one of my own criticisms of Dawkins:

One of the weaknesses of Dawkins’ book is that he frequently writes as if the really important distinction in forging a civil, livable society is theism vs. atheism. It isn’t. The important distinctions are secular society vs. government involvement in religion, and rational thought and evidence vs. irrational faith and revelation. You can reasonably say that theism is more closely associated with the bad parts of those last two dichotomies, and atheism is more closely associated with the good parts. But atheism good / theism bad is not born out by the evidence.

Finally, Rosenhouse does not even address what I consider Dawkins’ most odious opinion, that religious moderates “enable” extremists just by being religious. That’s too harsh a charge, levelled at too many decent people, with too little supporting evidence; and it reduces Dawkins’ credibility to zero.

PS: you really ought to cut back on the grade-school name-calling, PG. I’ve asked you this before: if Dawkins knew how you were “defending” him, would he be proud, or embarrassed?

Comment #165251

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 13, 2007 12:45 PM (e)

But I wonder if Flint has noticed that a number of people (if not Jack Krebs) have blamed Dawkins for this, as his response doesn’t seem to recognize this.

Well, it seems not. I wasn’t talking about “Christians, especially the evangelical types”, I was talking about folks like Matzke, Raging Bee, and the whole “Dawkins is bad for us, I wish he would just shut up about religion” crowd.

Dawkins is a useful target for opponents of evolution. They attack his “atheism” and “materialism” without ever really bothering to try and understand what he is trying to say.

He’s also a useful target for the NOMA crowd that insists, against all evidence, that “moderate” religions make no empirical claims contradicted by science, that religion provides “another way of knowing”, and that religion is a source of knowledge or wisdom about areas that science does not address, and they too attack his atheism without ever really bothering to try and understand what he is trying to say.

Comment #165252

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 13, 2007 12:55 PM (e)

PG: Thanks for the link to Rosenhouse’s response to that review. I’ll just respond to a few of Rosenhouse’s points:

It’s amusing how you respond to an article that I only linked to in response to your idiotic OT reference to Orr’s review. But even if it were relevant, there’s no need for anyone to defend Rosenhouse against an intellectual gnat like you.

you really ought to cut back on the grade-school name-calling, PG.

It’s not my fault that you are such a sick pathetic loser with a pathological fixation on Dawkins, whose books you admit never having read and who you liken to Ann Coulter.

Comment #165256

Posted by Flint on March 13, 2007 1:14 PM (e)

I was talking about folks like Matzke, Raging Bee, and the whole “Dawkins is bad for us, I wish he would just shut up about religion” crowd…He’s also a useful target for the NOMA crowd that insists, against all evidence, that “moderate” religions make no empirical claims contradicted by science…

Yes, obviously. What I was attempting to do was understand why non-evangelicals might object to Dawkins’ going on about religion. Certainly the born-again biblical-inerrancy contingent doesn’t need a Dawkins to find reality uncongenial. If they find one, they’ll focus on him, but so what?

My speculation, then, was that Dawkins is viewed as a threat to (and by) the moderates. I speculate that they wish he’d shut up not because he’s wrong or “gives religion a bad name” but because he shows that their doctrinal beliefs wear no more clothes than the fundamentalists’ beliefs wear. “I see these people (theistic evolutionists) blaming Dawkins for making their Goldilocks position untenable. Not too much god, not too little, but just right. Dawkins continues to point out that you can’t have too little god.”

Maybe the moderates think they can appease the fundies out of their zealotry? You really think so?

Comment #165257

Posted by Raging Bee on March 13, 2007 1:17 PM (e)

PG: Your name-calling might carry a little weight if you could actually, you know, refute or disprove what I said. As it is, you sound as thin-skinned as DaveScot, without the power to hide behind.

Comment #165258

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 13, 2007 1:26 PM (e)

Finally, Rosenhouse does not even address what I consider Dawkins’ most odious opinion, that religious moderates “enable” extremists just by being religious.

What’s odious, you putrid scumbucket, is that you admit that you have never read Dawkins’ book containing the section “How ‘moderation’ in faith fosters fanaticism”, so you have no idea what his argument is. There he writes

… what is so hard for us to understand is that – to repeat the point because it is so important – these people actually believe what they say they believe. The take home message is that we should blame religion itself, not religious extremism – as though that were some kind of terrible perversion of real, decent religion. Voltaire got it right long agao: ‘Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.’ So did Bertrand Russell: ‘Many people would sooner die than think. In fact they do.’

As long as we accept the principle that religious faith must be respected simply because it is religious faith, it is hard to withhold respect for Osama bin Laden and the suicide bombers. The alternative, one so transparent that it should need no urging, is to abandon the principle of automatic respect for religious faith. This is one reason why I do everything in my power to warn people against faith itself, not just against so-called ‘extremist’ faith. The teachings of ‘moderate’ religion, though not extremist in themselves, are an open invitation to extremism.

One can disagree with Dawkins, but that’s different from misinterpreting him:

That’s too harsh a charge, levelled at too many decent people, with too little supporting evidence; and it reduces Dawkins’ credibility to zero.

Because you’re stupid, refuse to read what Dawkins writes, and have a pathological animosity toward him, you misrepresent him. He does not personalize it as you do; he’s not leveling a charge against “people”, but against religion. He’s not talking about “religious moderates”, he’s talking about “‘moderate’ religion”. That moderate people justify teaching moderate religion as if it weren’t harmful doesn’t make them indecent in Dawkins’s eyes, it merely makes them mistaken – which is why he expresses his concerns to them. Whether these moderates “enable” extremism has nothing to do with their decency, and everything to do with a question of fact, which decent people – like Dawkins and unlike you – can debate.

Comment #165259

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 13, 2007 1:37 PM (e)

My speculation, then, was that Dawkins is viewed as a threat to (and by) the moderates. I speculate that they wish he’d shut up not because he’s wrong or “gives religion a bad name” but because he shows that their doctrinal beliefs wear no more clothes than the fundamentalists’ beliefs wear.

But many in the “I wish Dawkins would shut up about religion” crowd are non-believers.

Maybe the moderates think they can appease the fundies out of their zealotry? You really think so?

“Neville Chamberlain” specifically refers to non-believers, “moderate” in their strategy, not moderate believers. It’s the moderate believers, not the fundies, that they want to “appease”, afraid that they will lose them as allies in the defense of science if scientists say anything critical of religion.

Comment #165261

Posted by Flint on March 13, 2007 1:53 PM (e)

But many in the “I wish Dawkins would shut up about religion” crowd are non-believers.

I didn’t know this. So you think these people fear that Dawkins will drive theistic evolutionists into the biblical inerrancy camp? I don’t know, maybe so. Dawkins *might* be polarizing these people into being forced to choose between reality and their god, and if so few choose reality. But I don’t think this is much of a danger. I haven’t seen any sign of a theistic evolutionist deciding Noah was real after all, because they read Climbing Mount Improbable.

But I confess religious belief is a mystery to me. From where I sit, anyone who can believe in gods can believe in anything. I don’t know if the non-believers are misjudging the Faithful Realists or not.

Comment #165262

Posted by Dizzy on March 13, 2007 1:57 PM (e)

“Neville Chamberlain” specifically refers to non-believers, “moderate” in their strategy, not moderate believers. It’s the moderate believers, not the fundies, that they want to “appease”, afraid that they will lose them as allies in the defense of science if scientists say anything critical of religion.

I remember an article (can’t remember the source) pointing to this exact issue as a major strategic difference between folks like Ken Miller and folks like Dawkins.

People in the Miller camp (regardless of whether or not they are religious) generally follow Gould’s NOMA approach, apparently hoping that popular support will lead to better outcomes now. Dawkins’ camp views this as sacrificing the future for the sake of the present - they see NOMA as drawing an arbitrary dividing line where there should really be none, and they worry that this will harm society down the road.

Comment #165264

Posted by harold on March 13, 2007 2:02 PM (e)

I personally wish Dawkins would shut up about religion, although it’s a very low priority wish.

Naturally, he has every right not to. But I have every right to wish he would.

I actually don’t care what Dawkins’ specific arguments or views on religion are. I’ve read one of his books (yes, only one), and I realize that he’s a reasonable enough guy in most ways. He strikes me as excessively interested what other peoples’ relgious beliefs may be.

I didn’t enjoy the book very much, but not because of an emphasis on atheism. Rather, I found that it was somewhat oversimplified “popular” stuff. Molecular biology, genetics, and basic mathematical models were markedly lacking. I sympathize that it’s hard to know what to leave in or out in a book for lay people, but I found it a bit weaker on substance than necessary (the book in question was The Blind Watchmaker). It’s quite conceivable that this flaw isn’t Dawkins’ fault, of course, but merely what his publishers exige.

I think Dawkins may deserve to be characterized as one of those figures who make deliberately provocative statements in order to draw attention to themselves. Again, this may be unfair, since I don’t pay much attention to Dawkins, and am by no means an expert, but it’s possible. That type of public figure can undeniably be annoying. Again, he has every right, in a free society, to be such a figure if he wishes.

I generally support encouraging everyone to educate themselves about science, regardless of their religious or cultural background. If they have a personal religious or cultural issue with what mainstream science shows, that’s their business unless they ask me about it. I’m thus generally inclined to repeat the point that many religious leaders and scientists have argued that their religious tradition is not at odds with the finding of science. (The Dalai Lama etc, etc, etc.) Whether someone else feels that the Dalai Lama’s religious views must actually be at odds with science, and must be corrected, is somewhat irrelevant, as long as they respect his right to hold whatever views he wishes.

Obviously, in our society, it is not atheists who attempt to censor or distort science, but rather, figures on the authoritarian political right, who make overt claims of religious faith (of which I am most dubious), who attempt to do so.

It strikes me that there is a lot of pixel wastage on the subject of Dawkins here. A number of posters seem to be very vigilant for anything they perceive as a slight toward Dawkins. As far as I know, his scientific views are perfectly mainstream, albeit generally expressed in a simplified manner for general public consumption. I don’t much care about his position on religion, nor agree that the theory of evolution somehow supports his position on religion relative to everyone else’s (certainly, it supports his position relative to positions that are directly at odds with science, such as the claim, sincere or not, to take the Book of Genesis “literally”, but that’s not saying much). But his position on religion is his own business.

Comment #165265

Posted by Dizzy on March 13, 2007 2:03 PM (e)

I didn’t know this. So you think these people fear that Dawkins will drive theistic evolutionists into the biblical inerrancy camp?

As I understand it, “these people” tend to fear that when religious moderates are forced to choose between their religious beliefs and reality, they will choose the former.

Dawkins brings up a very real (and imo, very sad) case of a (formerly) “moderate” geologist who experienced a crisis upon discovering, through his studies, that geological evidence proved some key components of his religious beliefs wrong. The man decided, deliberately, to kill his own career as a geologist in order to cling to his faith.

Comment #165266

Posted by Raging Bee on March 13, 2007 2:04 PM (e)

According to PG, Dawkins wrote:

As long as we accept the principle that religious faith must be respected simply because it is religious faith, it is hard to withhold respect for Osama bin Laden and the suicide bombers.

This is precisely the sort of odious, bigoted non-sequitur that completely sinks Dawkins’ credibility: Dawkins is simply making a totally unsupported asertion of of how religious people view religious faith in general (do we really respect all religious faith merely because it is faith?), then making up a guilt-by-association argument to link persons of faith (any faith?) with Islamofascist terrorism. If Dawkins described a specific cause-and-effect link between the two, you – and the rest of Dawkins’ flock – have yet to find and quote it.

And since this argument comes directly from Dawkins’ own writings, PG, as you admit, you can’t hide behind the “you’ve never read Dawkins so you don’t know what you’re talking about” excuse anymore. You quoted a bit of Dawkins in his defense, and his logic is horseshit.

…he’s not leveling a charge against “people”, but against religion.

Yeah, right, and Louis Farrakhan wasn’t attacking Jewish people, he was only attacking their “gutter religion,” right?

Comment #165269

Posted by Dizzy on March 13, 2007 2:12 PM (e)

A number of posters seem to be very vigilant for anything they perceive as a slight toward Dawkins.

I think it’s more about being vigilant about misconstruing what he and others (like Harris & Dennett) actually say, which applies to most of the authors we talk about here.

But his position on religion is his own business.

If someone’s religious beliefs include a belief that they need to kill me and everyone I know, that’s very much my business.

Comment #165277

Posted by harold on March 13, 2007 2:41 PM (e)

Dizzy -

“If someone’s religious beliefs include a belief that they need to kill me and everyone I know, that’s very much my business”

Indeed, but this doesn’t seem related to anything I wrote.

It would be the height of absurdity to conflate an argument for tolerance and mutual respect of human rights with an argument in favor of killing other people. Such an obvious distortion of my intent - which may not be what you intended - would barely be worthy of refuting.

With regard to your other point, it is true that if Dawkins’ statements have been distorted, it may be reasonable for his avid readers to set the record straight, at least as far at the distortion is concerned. Nevertheless, I stand by my opinion that discussions of Dawkins over-dominate this site.

Comment #165278

Posted by David B. Benson on March 13, 2007 2:43 PM (e)

Raging Bee — Popper’s Ghost is just a ghost! Appears thin-skinned because ghosts don’t have any skin at all. :-)

Comment #165280

Posted by Dizzy on March 13, 2007 2:55 PM (e)

Sorry harold, I meant to refer to your comment:

“Whether someone else feels that the Dalai Lama’s religious views must actually be at odds with science, and must be corrected, is somewhat irrelevant, as long as they respect his right to hold whatever views he wishes.”

Replace “Dalai Lama” with “Osama bin Laden,” and “science” with “our sense of morality,” and you have the crux (as I understand it) of one of Dawkins’ and Harris’ arguments…the point being that the main difference between the DL and ObL is that latter is *currently* offensive to *our* culture, while the former is not - change the time period or location, and either or both might be acceptable.

I do agree that (at least this thread) seems to be a bit too Dawkins-centric, but I think that may partially be due to the fact that he represents/summarizes the views of a few other prominent authors.

Comment #165282

Posted by Dizzy on March 13, 2007 3:08 PM (e)

Sorry, another follow-up:

It would be the height of absurdity to conflate an argument for tolerance and mutual respect of human rights with an argument in favor of killing other people.

Agreed, and that wasn’t my intent - sorry if it came across that way. My point was that tolerance per se is not a virtue, especially if it is at odds with human rights - it can go too far. Harris, I’m sure, would argue that it goes too far when it accommodates beliefs based solely on religion.

Comment #165287

Posted by GuyeFaux on March 13, 2007 3:34 PM (e)

As long as we accept the principle that religious faith must be respected simply because it is religious faith, it is hard to withhold respect for Osama bin Laden and the suicide bombers.

This is precisely the sort of odious, bigoted non-sequitur…

Where is the non-sequitur? What part of the consequent, that we should respect bin Laden’s religious faith, is not a valid deduction from the antecedent, that faith must be respected because it is faith?

Comment #165289

Posted by Jackson on March 13, 2007 3:36 PM (e)

Raging Bee-
Although as written it is a non-sequitur, what it seems like Dawkins is trying to argue is:
“As long as we accept the principle that religious faith must be respected simply because it is religious faith, it is hard to withhold respect for (the religious faith of) Osama bin Laden and the suicide bombers”
In this reading there is no guilt by association, but the attempt to show the rediculousness of “respecting faith simply because it is faith” by coming to the absurd conclusion that a violent faith must be respected.

Comment #165293

Posted by steve s on March 13, 2007 4:55 PM (e)

Once again, the post has been formatted too “broadly” and its appearance is overlapping and interfering with the display of the sidebar.

Please fix, thanks!

You can’t expect web software to keep up with cutting edge standards. While the web may be 17 years old, the HTML and browser technology involved in increasing or decreasing text size is really bleeding edge stuff. It’s no surprise that it breaks sites like Panda’s Thumb and MSNBC. If all basic browsers had been able to modify text size, say, 5 years ago, it might be a little strange that web sites today wouldn’t be able to handle it. If such functionality has been around since HTML 1.0, the problem would be downright retarded. But I think browsers got that kind of Web 2.0 technology just a few months ago, and so it’s not surprising that all websites haven’t caught on.

Comment #165308

Posted by Stevie "Dead Horse Beating Pinhead on March 13, 2007 7:01 PM (e)

Steve, I wasn’t attempting to indict PT’s technical cutting-edgitude in general.

Or even suggesting that all PT’s contributing posters ought to be equally tech savvy.

But, in other similar cases, other posters have been able to deal with the problem, if they happened to be paying attention and were asked politely.

Nick was clearly paying attention, but didn’t see the problem showing up via whatever browser he was using, and may or may not have the expertise to deal with it even if he had experienced it.

No biggie.

I’ll add, though, that changing the text size doesn’t solve the problem. What does solve the problem is having some idea of how to set or size the “margins” of the new post–particularly when quoting or inserting images–such that the new post doesn’t overlap the sidebar.

Obviously harder to do if you don’t happen to be familiar with the default settings–as many posters may not be–and/or if you don’t “see” the problem show up through your own browser.

Comment #165310

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on March 13, 2007 7:24 PM (e)

Comment #165308

Posted by Stevie “Dead Horse Beating Pinhead on March 13, 2007 7:01 PM (e)

Steve, I wasn’t attempting to indict PT’s technical cutting-edgitude in general.

Or even suggesting that all PT’s contributing posters ought to be equally tech savvy.

But, in other similar cases, other posters have been able to deal with the problem, if they happened to be paying attention and were asked politely.

Nick was clearly paying attention, but didn’t see the problem showing up via whatever browser he was using, and may or may not have the expertise to deal with it even if he had experienced it.

No biggie.

Yeah, I have no control over formatting, all us posters have is a text box that we put the post into. My post shouldn’t be any different than any of the others. It may be the long skinny image I put in this post that is messing up your display, I dunno.

Reed Cartwright is the guru/magician that can fix bugs like this, email him and if he has a chance he might be able to help.

Comment #165312

Posted by Sir_Toejam on March 13, 2007 7:34 PM (e)

It may be the long skinny image I put in this post that is messing up your display, I dunno.

yes, that’s exactly it.

if the graphic is moved to the top of the post box, instead of letting the text wrap around it, the problems go away.

this issue started about the time that the latest version of IE came out, and I suspect has to do with the way the new version deals with the way layers are coded on this site, as it does not occur on other sites like pharyngula, and not with other browser types that I have noticed.

Comment #165315

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on March 13, 2007 7:54 PM (e)

In a more silly vein:

Comment #165208 Posted by analyysi on March 13, 2007 8:23 AM

Hi Nick!

What makes you think, that ID-movement began in 1987?

Uh…you mean apart from The Great Creationism Relabeling Event Of 1987?

You know, that the idea of ID is old, and that even the term “intelligent design” was before Panda’s used several times for example by James E. Horigan. (See for example his book “Chance or Design?” (Philosophical Library, 1979) or his article at JASA (December 1983: 209-216)), where he used the term.

[Also for example Fred Hoyle (1982), Raymond G. Boblin, Kerby Anderson (1983), Walter R. Thorson (1985), and others including Tipler and Barrow (The Anthropic Cosmological principle, p. 32) have written about “intelligent design”.]

Yadda yadda yadda. Heck, Darwin conjoined the words “intelligent” and “Design” once or twice in his letters, I guess that means he invented it.

I have accumulated quite a list of occasions where the words “intelligent” and “design” appear together, going back to a piece of natural theology published in Scientific American in 1848. But, say I, so what? Discussions of the classical Argument from Design go way back, and occasionally (very sparsely, actually) in those discussions the word “intelligent” gets put in front of the word “design.” But this is no more significant than the fact that the conjunction “irreducibly complex” can be found long before Behe made it a phrase (search JSTOR).

The point is that the 1989 Of Pandas and People was the first book to use “intelligent design” as a phrase, in a systematic fashion. It is the first book that uses the term exclusively, instead of a rare minority descriptor of traditional creation/design arguments. It is the first work of any kind that uses it more than a handful of times. And it is the first book that explicitly gives a definition to “intelligent design.”

I dont’ know, how you define the term “ID-movement”. I think, that “ID-movement” is either very old (Paley etc.) or began perhaps after Phillip E. Johnson’s Darwin on Trial.

The real history is that Johnson was a latecomer. The proto-ID movement was the group organized around Charles Thaxton (Academic Editor and organizer of the Pandas project) in the late 1980s – basically the several dozen people listed in the Acknowledgements section of Pandas. Phillip Johnson joined this group around 1989, but “intelligent design” was already fully codified at that point. PJ’s early work actually doesn’t use the ID terminology, it talks about “creation”, naturalism, and Darwinism mostly. It took him a few years to drink the koolaid, and now through some bizarre and highly ironic process, he is considered the founder of the ID movement by many on both sides, apparently including PJ himself.

It could be also claimed, that Discovery Institute (and its Wedge) is so essential part of the term “ID-movement”, that ID-movement began, when DI’s “Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture” started. But I would like to hear your opinion.

This was certainly a major event, but it was not the beginning. The ID guys already had a number of conferences and anthologies out at that point (1996, still more a few years later with the Wedge), plus Pandas.

I think 1996 is about the point at which the “intelligent design” terminology became widely used by its advocates *instead* of creation/creationism. Many of the IDers in the early 1990s freely interchanged the terms in their writings. But eventually the Pandas strategem of “ID is not creationism, no sirree” won out.

I am actually working on writing all of this up formally, it is a big job.

Comment #165317

Posted by steve s on March 13, 2007 8:08 PM (e)

my post came off as mean, I know. I don’t mean to indict anybody at Panda’s Thumb. It’s just that I know a little bit about design, and it amazes me that very simple capabilities aren’t accomodated by modern web software. If you have sensitive eyes and use computers 15 hours per day, as I do, for instance, it’s necessary to default the background to a low-intensity color. Say, a light grey. If I tried to read thin black text on a blaring white background, which is fairly common formatting on the internet, my eyes would be bleeding in short order. So built into the earliest standards and browsers, beginning in the early 90’s, is the ability to lessen the harshness by using slightly larger sans serif fonts and changing the background color to a lower intensity. (While serif fonts are more readable on the printed page, on monitors it’s often the opposite) It’s just shocking to me that 15 years after these capabilities were built into HTML and browsers, there are still sites which go totally farkakta when you use these settings. Enforce your own background color and go to MSNBC, and you’ll be shocked that the fly-out menu text superimposes on the regular site text, creating an unreadable morass.

On the plus side, two huge design catastrophes show up less and less on web pages. 1 People no longer have as many animated doodads on their pages*. 2 Mostly disappearing are lines of text whose vertical separation distance is enforced. Popular science used to be bad about this. If you have enforced vertical distance with lines of text, and default settings which make the text larger than expected, the tops and bottoms of text rows can overlap.

* Except for all those Flash ads, which I presume nobody ever sees anymore because they’re using Adblock and the autoupdating firefox plugin for filterset G. ;-)

Comment #165319

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on March 13, 2007 8:26 PM (e)

Comment #165187 Posted by Frank J on March 13, 2007 5:01 AM

Nick Matzke wrote:

The official line of ID advocates is that they just want to “teach the controversy” over “Darwinism” – but the truth is that the vast majority of ID advocates deny the common ancestry of humans and apes in favor of special creation, many of them are agnostic on the age of the earth, and these views emerge not from serious scientific research on these questions, which they have not done, but from the fundamentalist doctrine of reading the Bible as inerrant.

Once again I’ll try to say this without being misunderstood. I don’t disagree with the above, but I consider an additional point far more important:

What defines the ID scam as we know it is not the fact that most followers deny common descent or are even closet YECs. Nor is it the abrupt language change prompted by the Edwards v. Aguillard ruling. Rather it is the gradual takeover of the scam by those who appear not to (personally) deny common ancestry of humans and (other) apes – or of humans and broccoli for that matter. While only a few admit it outright, none of the others have challenged them directly.

Eh, this doesn’t really work. Essentially all major IDists (except Behe, kinda-sorta) deny common ancestry. Of Pandas and People denies it repeatedly and explicitly, which led to one of the most entertaining episodes in the Behe cross, wherein Behe tried to explain away a dozen different instances of Pandas denying common ancestry.

By the way, everyone should read this and rid themselves of the “ID is fine with common ancestry” idea.

Another example: The Kansas Kangaroo Court of 2005. The Intelligent Design Network ran 3 days of hearings in support of the pro-ID science standards in Kansas in 2005, which mainstream scientists boycotted. The transcripts are online at talkorigins, and here are the numbers:

===============================
23 witnesses, 19 were asked the questions about age of the earth and common ancestry

* Age of the earth: 11 old, 4 said perhaps old but with significant reservations, 2 don’t know, 2 say young
* Common ancestry of humans with apes: 2 yes, 17 no.
* Ditto for common ancestry in general
* Behe was one who accepted common ancestry, James Barham was the other, and he testified that he wasn’t really an IDer.
* Notable people who rejected human-ape ancestry: Stephen Meyer, Charles Thaxton

(Transcripts online here)
===============================

If I’m wrong, I’m wrong the other way, in that creationism has been a scam from the beginning.

No argument from me on this, but probably not the quite way you mean this.

Whether “classic creationists” truly believe that the evidence supports independent origin of “kinds,” or in some cases a young Earth, or whether, unlike IDers, they just prefer to tell a fairy tale directly, instead of letting the audience infer it, they at least make testable hypotheses about the basic “whats” and “whens” of biological history.

Somewhere along the way to “evolving” into ID, and attracting a new generation of leaders, it became painfully obvious that trying to support those alternative hypotheses would not only call attention to the failures, but also to the irreconcilable differences between YEC, OEC and non-biblical models. If IDers honestly believed that the evidence supported any of those models, they’d have no problem advocating a “critical analysis” of them. As long as “creation” or “design” language is left out of the lesson plan, they’d have no legal problems at all. If anything it would help their pretense about being strictly about the science. How about the “naturalistic” anti-evolution hypotheses of Schwabe and Senapathy? Why is there virtually no mention of them, let alone demand for “equal time” to critically analyze them? Especially since, unlike the phony “critical analysis” of evolution, that critical analysis wouldn’t require cherry picking evidence, bait-and-switch definitions or quote mining. The reason is simple. Today’s scammers know that, if the evidence is considered fairly and honestly, evolution wins hands down.

I’m not so sure about this. I have come around to the view that IDists/creationists pretty much believe what they say. Via Morton’s Demon they are almost psychologically immune to empirical refutation. What mostly influences them to change is court cases and the eventual decisions, as far as I can tell.

There are some additional influences that can be identified that pushed the proto-ID movement to its minimalist position:

1. Some of the YEC arguments were so incredibly poor it was embarrassing. E.g. the Second Law of Thermodynamics argument. According to legend, when Duane Gish spoke at Berkeley in 1982, every time Gish mentioned the 2LoT, hecklers shouted “in an open system!!” at him.

2. On the other hand, the proto-IDers couldn’t bring themselves to openly criticize the YEC’s egregious mistakes either. Hugh Ross tried this with his Old-Earth Creationist ministry Reasons to Believe, and he took vicious flack from the YECs. The people organizing the ID movement probably looked at that and concluded that selling their scientific souls to the YECs with “Big Tent” approach was a better option.

Comment #165326

Posted by Sir_Toejam on March 13, 2007 8:51 PM (e)

By the way, everyone should read this and rid themselves of the “ID is fine with common ancestry” idea.

actually, WD-40 (dembski), is the only IDer I have seen change his view to consistently state in public that he has no qualms with common descent that “the evidence for it is overwhelming” as he stated in a debate with Ruse a couple of years back.

the problem is, when you get into the details of what he means by “evidence” and the mechanism he thinks the evidence supports.

It then becomes a war of interpretation and semantics, of course, which is exactly what WD-40 wants in a debate.

so, the answer is that some IDiots can SAY they suport the idea of common descent, simply because they redefine the very meaning of the term to be something that isn’t actually known as common descent within the scientific community.

ah yes, co-option and projection, the most effective tools in the creobot toolbox.

so, Nick, while you are writing this whole mass projection up, I suggest one of the things to focus on would be exactly how the IDers use co-option to redefine standard terms, and why when dembski says he supports “common descent”, it uh, doesn’t mean what he thinks it means.

good luck with that project; I’m sure you’ll blaze your way through it in less than a year.

Comment #165327

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on March 13, 2007 8:55 PM (e)

Lastly, on the Dawkins and “appearance of design” issue – in that letter, I was reacting to J. Scott Turner’s essay, which went on and on in unquestioning fashion about “design” in biology and how it is such an interesting thing to discuss even if we don’t buy into ID.

My point was that “apparent design” is not some kind of obviously true descriptor of biology. Even amongst famous biologists, it is emphasized by people like Darwin and Dawkins who are steeped in the British natural theology tradition and the reaction against it. But it is not prominent at all with people with other backgrounds, e.g. T.H. Huxley, Theodosius Dobzhansky, etc. who have continental backgrounds.

That’s why I really like the “appearance of flatness” response. At one level, the earth “appears flat”, and even large industries are built on a kind of flat-earth model – e.g., any map displayed on paper or a 2-dimensional computer monitor.

But we all agree it would be silly, knowing what we scientifically know, to go around emphasizing that the earth “appears flat.” But if people were doing this, even though they later explain why it’s not really flat, it wouldn’t be at all surprising that Flat-Earthers would pick up on it and turn it against the scientists.

After all, a large part of pseudoscience involves promoting “common sense” and eyewitness (but superficial) observations above the difficult-to-understand science that consists of quantitative observation and statistical characterization, complex theory, etc.

For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t be surprised if Dawkins agree with me that life appears designed like the Earth appears flat. This is what his scientific arguments are saying at bottom. It just sometimes gets lost because he is fighting metaphysical battles in addition to the scientific ones.

Comment #165328

Posted by Sir_Toejam on March 13, 2007 9:05 PM (e)

But we all agree it would be silly, knowing what we scientifically know, to go around emphasizing that the earth “appears flat.” But if people were doing this, even though they later explain why it’s not really flat, it wouldn’t be at all surprising that Flat-Earthers would pick up on it and turn it against the scientists.

actually, unlike ID, which is completely vacuous from a theoretical perspective, no matter at what level you examine it, at least “flat earthism” as a “theory” has practical application, when working on reduced scales (when building a foundation for a small house, we can essentially say the earth is flat for all intents and purposes).

kind of like newtonian mechanics, while not completely accurate at some scales, is entirely functional for a great many things.

ID, OTOH, is just completely useless as anything other than a socio-political tool, and it’s even failed at that, in the end.

Comment #165329

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on March 13, 2007 9:08 PM (e)

actually, WD-40 (dembski), is the only IDer I have seen change his view to consistently state in public that he has no qualms with common descent that “the evidence for it is overwhelming” as he stated in a debate with Ruse a couple of years back.

the problem is, when you get into the details of what he means by “evidence” and the mechanism he thinks the evidence supports.

Is there anything written or on video where Dembski says he accepts e.g. the common ancestry of humans and apes? Whatever you saw at that talk with Ruse might just be Dembski talking about common ancestry “within a kind”, or the old “I accept evolution (by which I mean microevolution, not macroevolution)” routine.

What Dembski has put in writing is pretty clear, e.g. this piece from 1995 or so:

Depending on how one construes the words “creation” and “evolution,” one’s answer to the question Do you believe in creation? and Do you believe in evolution? are likely to show quite a bit of variability. For myself, Yes, I believe that God created the world with a purpose in mind, and No, I don’t believe that God created the world in six 24-hour day periods. No, I don’t believe in fully naturalistic evolution controlled solely by purposeless material processes, and Yes, I do believe that organisms have undergone some change in the course of natural history (though I believe that this change has occurred within strict limits and that human beings were specially created).

(bold added, italics original)

Comment #165333

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on March 13, 2007 9:17 PM (e)

LOL. What’s missing from the ResearchIntelligentDesign.org wiki Intelligent design timeline?

Comment #165334

Posted by Sir_Toejam on March 13, 2007 9:22 PM (e)

Whatever you saw at that talk with Ruse might just be Dembski talking about common ancestry “within a kind”, or the old “I accept evolution (by which I mean microevolution, not macroevolution)” routine.

similar, but not exactly. The first time I heard him say he accepted commmon descent was a debate about two years back he had with Michael Ruse on Tim Russert’s show (IIRC); since then he has explicity stated support for common descent (over on uncommon descent, ironically), without going into detail.

I think I still have the original video clip of the dembski/ruse debate where he says it (have to wait for that machine to be repaired though), and have linked to it both on PT and in ATBC in the past.

IIRC, Russert elaborated how scientists have overwhelming amounts of evidence to support the idea of common descent, and asked Dembski point blank whether he disagreed with this evidence, whereupon WD said, no, he did not, then went into the idea that while common descent is well supported, the MECHANISM underlying the pattern is where his argument with evolutionary theory lies.

which of course allows him to redefine what the evidnence and terminology means from there, which is exactly what he did.

hmm. if you want to wait until i have my other machine repaired (a few days, i hope), i can dig up the exact video clip for you. Or, I know i posted the link to that clip more than once, so it should be searchable on something like “dembski ruse” either in PT or ATBC.

also, I don’t spend time on Uncommonly Dense, but if you can search the archives there, it’s likely WD at least left one or two of his posts up where he defines his position on common descent.

if you strike out totally, just post back and I’ll likely be able to find the video link for you.

Comment #165336

Posted by Sir_Toejam on March 13, 2007 9:35 PM (e)

ahh, that wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, but it was actually a nightline show from back in 05.

here ya go:

http://darwiniana.com/2005/05/dembskiruse-debate…

the direct link to the video is:

http://www.telicthoughts.com/media/dembski-ruse-…

this clips the first few minutes of the actual debate, but the segment I’m talking about is 1:30 into the video clip.

It’s pretty close to the way I remembered it:

Dembski:

…If we’re talking about common descent, universal common ancestry, I think there’s good evidence for that.

…then he immediately proceeds to define a non-existent mechanism to qualify his acceptance.

Comment #165340

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on March 13, 2007 9:51 PM (e)

Thanks for looking that up. I guess I have seen Dembski talk in that fashion before. I think “good evidence” is different than “convincing evidence.” I am pretty sure Dembski would also say there is “good evidence” against common ancestry. E.g. his human evolution chapter for The Design of Life.

Comment #165342

Posted by Sir_Toejam on March 13, 2007 9:53 PM (e)

LOL. What’s missing from the ResearchIntelligentDesign.org wiki Intelligent design timeline?

ROFLMAO!

seeeeee, ID didn’t start in 1987 after all.

1987 simply doesn’t exist.

we skipped that year.

Comment #165343

Posted by Sir_Toejam on March 13, 2007 10:00 PM (e)

I am pretty sure Dembski would also say there is “good evidence” against common ancestry.

*snort*

these guys, Dembski ESPECIALLY, will say anything to avoid being pinned down (so he at least looks to be less of a crank than he is) and keep the rube’s wit’s dulled.

why do you think I call him WD-40?

“lubrication to free rusty nuts”

literally.

somehow “snake oil salesman” simply wasn’t adequate to describe how he operates.

Comment #165344

Posted by Sir_Toejam on March 13, 2007 10:22 PM (e)

..oh and of course there isn’t ANY actual research in the “researchintelligentdesign” timeline, either.

Comment #165377

Posted by analyysi on March 14, 2007 6:31 AM (e)

Nick Matzke wrote:

analyysi wrote:

Hi Nick!

What makes you think, that ID-movement began in 1987?Uh…you mean apart from The Great Creationism Relabeling Event Of 1987?

Nick Matzke wrote:

The real history is that Johnson was a latecomer. The proto-ID movement was the group organized around Charles Thaxton (Academic Editor and organizer of the Pandas project) in the late 1980s – basically the several dozen people listed in the Acknowledgements section of Pandas

Ok. Your position seems to be, that (proto-)ID-movement was there before Pandas. What is your opinion about when the real ID-movement began?

Nick Matzke wrote:

The point is that the 1989 Of Pandas and People was the first book to use “intelligent design” as a phrase, in a systematic fashion. It is the first book that uses the term exclusively, instead of a rare minority descriptor of traditional creation/design arguments. It is the first work of any kind that uses it more than a handful of times. And it is the first book that explicitly gives a definition to “intelligent design.”

No. James E. Horigan wrote in his book “Chance or Design?” (Philosophical Library, 1979):

To hold that the universe was intelligently designed is to expect that an intelligent Designer would have had reason and purpose to bring the universe, and all that lies within it, into existence. The remarkable purposefulness we will consider in the natural world herein is of itself not demonstrable of ultimate purpose. When one seeks to argue to the existence of an ultimate Designer of the universe on the strength alone of inferences arising from present-day empirical knowledge, and without resort to biblical or other religious references, it restricts one’s possible avenues of explanation of purpose that could otherwise be available. No doubt some will find this approach to be in error.

Thus he defined the term “intelligent design” in his book (1979). He used the term “intelligent design” also several times (8 times + 2 times the phrase “intelligently designed”) in his article (1983).

Nick Matzke wrote:

I think 1996 is about the point at which the “intelligent design” terminology became widely used by its advocates *instead* of creation/creationism. Many of the IDers in the early 1990s freely interchanged the terms in their writings.

It may be possible. Behe’s popular DBB was released in 1996, and he used the phrase “intelligent design” in his book.

Comment #165384

Posted by Raging Bee on March 14, 2007 8:00 AM (e)

Jackson wrote:

Although as written it is a non-sequitur, what it seems like Dawkins is trying to argue is…

It seems? You mean you’re not sure what he’s saying? Are his own words not clear enough?

…“As long as we accept the principle that religious faith must be respected simply because it is religious faith, it is hard to withhold respect for (the religious faith of) Osama bin Laden and the suicide bombers.”

“Hard” for whom? How many of “us” really accept that principle as Dawkins states it? Do religious leaders routinely go around advising their followers to respect differing faiths on the principle that faith should be respected in itself? Of course not – they tell their followers that their faith is right, and other faiths are wrong, dangerous, and in need of correction. That’s one of the main (and good) reasons why atheists disdain religion, remember?

I certainly don’t remember Pat Robertson saying that Christians should respect the faith of Buddhists, Hindus, or Pagans. And while the Pagans I know advocate respect for other faiths, that respect is clearly contingent on decent behavior on the other believers’ part. Suicide-bombers need not apply.

I know, and have heard of, plenty of people who have, and respect, religious faith; and none of them have any problem withholding respect from people whose actions seem contrary to their core values. Dawkins’ reasoning is based on an assumption/assertion about people’s attitudes toward faith that is observably false. In fact, I suspect that Dawkins, or his followers, have reworded the assumption to support the desired conclusion.

In this reading there is no guilt by association, but the attempt to show the rediculousness of “respecting faith simply because it is faith” by coming to the absurd conclusion that a violent faith must be respected.

The guilt-by-association lies in misrepresenting what people believe, then drawing an absurd and damning conclusion from that false assumption.

Comment #165390

Posted by Dizzy on March 14, 2007 8:47 AM (e)

Do religious leaders routinely go around advising their followers to respect differing faiths on the principle that faith should be respected in itself? Of course not – they tell their followers that their faith is right, and other faiths are wrong, dangerous, and in need of correction. That’s one of the main (and good) reasons why atheists disdain religion, remember?

I do think this thread is now getting way too heavily focused on Dawkins, but tbh the line of reasoning you’re talking about (I’m pretty sure) originated from Sam Harris. Dawkins summarizes some of Harris’ arguments.

I would suggest reading at least the chapter that you’re discussing. In particular, I think you’ll find that a) Dawkins’ statement isn’t a bare assumption, he (I believe mostly quoting Harris) cites a wide variety of examples; b) he isn’t referring to “religious leaders,” as you seem to read it, but the general tendency in Western society to shy away from rational discussion whenever someone’s religious beliefs come into the picture; and c) when you say

I know, and have heard of, plenty of people who have, and respect, religious faith; and none of them have any problem withholding respect from people whose actions seem contrary to their core values.

…I think his response would be that religious beliefs form an integral part of an individual’s “core values,” and when core values are built on the premise that belief without/contrary to evidence is a virtue, they can easily be manipulated to support actions that, by many “objective” measures, could be considered evil.

Comment #165393

Posted by Jackson on March 14, 2007 9:04 AM (e)

raging bee wrote:
Are his own words not clear enough?

In this phrase no, his words don’t make sense, which is what I said originally.

raging bee wrote:
It seems?

yes, it seems. Because his words did not make sense, and Dawkins is generally a rational person who makes sense, I interpreted a pharse that did not make sense as writen, rightly or wrongly.

raging bee wrote:
The guilt-by-association lies in misrepresenting what people believe, then drawing an absurd and damning conclusion from that false assumption.

I was under the impression that this was a strawman, not guilt-by-association, because he was not trying to compare all religious people to violent religious people.

Comment #165394

Posted by harold on March 14, 2007 9:12 AM (e)

Raging Bee -

I meant to throw some words of agreement here.

Perhaps Dawkins is guilty, not so much of a non-sequitor, but merely of arguing against something that doesn’t exist.

Certainly, I don’t respect “religious faith just for being faith”, and even if I did, that still wouldn’t mean that I condone every physical action that claims to be justified by faith.

I’m utterly opposed to any vision of religious faith that endorses murder, to take an almost silly example, whether in the form of human sacrifice or suicide attacks.

Do I “respect” the human-sacrifice religions that, say, the Aztecs, or my own bronze agen and neolithic ancestors not much longer ago, practiced? While, I guess that depends on what you mean by “respect”, but it would be massively immoral (as well as illegal) for us modern people to retain such beliefs and practices.

What I do respect is the right of everyone to privately hold and practice such beliefs as they see fit, as long as the rights of others are not impacted.

I also respect that others can decide for themselves whether their religious faith is at odds with science.

As I said, I most certainly don’t want to get into a multi-post Dawkins donnybrook here, but it’s hard to understand why he would make the comment in question. It is a comment that will CLEARLY be interpreted by many as implying that any religious position whatsoever, or even any respect for any other person’s religious position, is morally equivalent to support for the actions of Ossam Bin Laden. One can argue that Dawkins didn’t intend this per se, but this interpretation is so predictable that he must have foreseen it. The “strictly correct” interpretation is so unimportant - essentially, “An imaginary algorythm which is compelled to homogenously ‘respect’ all ‘religion’ will be compelled to ‘respect’ ‘Ossama bin Laden’ (which is, of course, logically true, but irrelevant to real life) - that it’s hard to see why the comments were written, if not with the intent that they be interpreted in an inflammatory way. (With the “strictly correct” interpretation carefully planted to be offered after the fact.)

Dawkins has every right to make such statements, and I support those rights. I would far rather that he have those rights and use them, than that he not have those rights. But that doesn’t mean I have to say that I like it when he makes such statements.

Comment #165395

Posted by Raging Bee on March 14, 2007 9:26 AM (e)

…b) he isn’t referring to “religious leaders,” as you seem to read it, but the general tendency in Western society to shy away from rational discussion whenever someone’s religious beliefs come into the picture…

In other words, he’s retreating (or you’re retreating) from a testable claim about the specific words and actions of specific persons or groups, into a completely nebulous claim about a “general tendency” in “Western society”* – thus making the claim less testable and more vacuous. This is really no better than a religious demagogue preaching about the “general tendencies” of gays, Pagans, atheists, or “unbelievers” in “godless secular society.”

…I think his response would be that religious beliefs form an integral part of an individual’s “core values,” and when core values are built on the premise that belief without/contrary to evidence is a virtue…

First, you leap from one premise to the other without establishing any link between the two. Are you trying to imply that one follows from the other? Second, that sentence is so full of abstractions, and so empty of specific grounding, that my Orwell-Grade BS Detector is now flashing red. Third, are the core values of any significant sample of any population really built on that premise? And even if they are, is it really inevitable that such people would be unable to recognize or resist evil, especially when it comes from beliefs contrary to their own? (I’m sure there are plenty of devout Christians who are perfectly capable of recognizing the evilness of Osama’s actions.) Of course, none of your claims can be tested, since we’re talking about “general tendencies” in “Western society,” not specific beliefs of specific groups.

*Is this “tendency” less prevalent in Eastern society?

Comment #165397

Posted by Raging Bee on March 14, 2007 9:48 AM (e)

The “strictly correct” interpretation [of Dawkins’ thesis] is so unimportant…that it’s hard to see why the comments were written, if not with the intent that they be interpreted in an inflammatory way. (With the “strictly correct” interpretation carefully planted to be offered after the fact.)

Thank you, harold, I’ve long suspected much the same thing: Dawkins is, for nearly all prectical purposes, making shit up to stir up an unnecessary conflict, and thus make himself look and feel relevant, when there are plenty of pre-existing REAL conflicts that the rest of us have to deal with already – conflicts for which Dawkins has all-but-explicitly said he didn’t much care, and to which he doesn’t seem to have much to contribute. While the rest of us are trying to cobble up strong political support to neutralize the Christofascists, Dawkins and Harris are busy trying to erase and cover up the line between allies and enemies. Beneath all the noise they make, that lot are pretty much irrelevant in the real-world conflict between reason and unreason.

Comment #165398

Posted by Dizzy on March 14, 2007 9:49 AM (e)

Ok, I want to preface this by saying this is not necessarily my personal approach to such issues, but I’m attempting (perhaps lamely) to emulate what Dawkins/Dennett/Harris might respond:

Certainly, I don’t respect “religious faith just for being faith”, and even if I did, that still wouldn’t mean that I condone every physical action that claims to be justified by faith.
I’m utterly opposed to any vision of religious faith that endorses murder, to take an almost silly example, whether in the form of human sacrifice or suicide attacks.

Surely most “reasonable” people would agree. What criteria do you use for condonement/opposition, though?

Do I “respect” the human-sacrifice religions that, say, the Aztecs, or my own bronze agen and neolithic ancestors not much longer ago, practiced? While, I guess that depends on what you mean by “respect”, but it would be massively immoral (as well as illegal) for us modern people to retain such beliefs and practices.

Again, agreed - but what makes it immoral? Certainly *they* didn’t consider it immoral - they likely considered it essential.

What I do respect is the right of everyone to privately hold and practice such beliefs as they see fit, as long as the rights of others are not impacted.

There are quite a large number of people not far from here (and there were even here, not too long ago) who don’t agree that this is a right. (I’m talking about Europe under the various Inquisitions, and modern Middle Eastern countries where apostasy is punishable by death.) What makes you “right,” and them “wrong”?

It is a comment that will CLEARLY be interpreted by many as implying that any religious position whatsoever, or even any respect for any other person’s religious position, is morally equivalent to support for the actions of Ossam Bin Laden.

My understanding is that the authors in question mean “logically equivalent,” not “morally equivalent.”

Here’s the upshot, as I understand it: If your answers to my questions above essentially fall along the lines of “because my religion says so,” and if by “objective” measures your religious beliefs are no more grounded in observable evidence than someone else’s, then we have no defensible basis for declaring that you are “right” and they are “wrong.”

But maybe I should wait for responses before trying to continue…

Comment #165401

Posted by Dizzy on March 14, 2007 10:05 AM (e)

In other words, he’s retreating (or you’re retreating) from a testable claim about the specific words and actions of specific persons or groups, into a completely nebulous claim about a “general tendency” in “Western society”* – thus making the claim less testable and more vacuous.

As I mentioned above, he and Harris do provide specific examples, and they don’t make a “nebulous claim” without them. Again, I would recommend reading at least that chapter of Dawkins’ book. The examples that stick in my mind are from the medical world, but there are others.

First, you leap from one premise to the other without establishing any link between the two. Are you trying to imply that one follows from the other? Second, that sentence is so full of abstractions, and so empty of specific grounding, that my Orwell-Grade BS Detector is now flashing red.

No. I am not going to reiterate or type up every major example or sub-argument established by Dawkins or Harris in The End of Faith or The God Delusion. I would suggest doing that on your own time before assuming that my paraphrasing of their arguments is completely based on bald assertions and unsupported assumptions.

Dawkins is, for nearly all prectical purposes, making shit up to stir up an unnecessary conflict, and thus make himself look and feel relevant

I note that you also are “abstracting” by projecting some kind of strange and unproductive goal onto a single author, when it’s clear you have no idea what the basis for his reasoning is and have not read a single complete paragraph of the sources you supposedly rail against. You take one or two isolated quotes, assume he (and others) offer no support for it, and draw some emotionally-charged conclusion from it - while accusing others of not providing evidentiary support?

I’ve tried to summarize my high-level take-away from the authors in question, but it’s not my job to lay all the details out for you.

Comment #165402

Posted by analyysi on March 14, 2007 10:09 AM (e)

LOL. What’s missing from the ResearchIntelligentDesign.org wiki Intelligent design timeline?

Sir_Toejam wrote:

1987 simply doesn’t exist.

Hmm. From www.ResearchIntelligentDesign.org:

Percival Davis and Dean Kenyon publish Of Pandas and People, a high-school level textbook that contains information on intelligent design and has been endorsed by some design proponents. The term first appeared in drafts of the book in 1987.

But what is missing? ;)

For example Hermann’s Review Essay, where he wrote (1984):

in the years following the publication of The Origin Darwin faced an unexpected challenge to his Positivist biology from two groups within the Creationist paradigm, the “ providential evolutionists” and the “providential Darwinists,” who maintained that it was possible to harmonize some form of evolution, by whatever mechanism, with their creationist commitment to the presence of intelligent design in nature. The providential evolutionists (e.g. Owen, Argyll, Mivart) believed that the entire evolutionary process was designed by ‘god’; the providential Darwinists (e.g. Gray, Wallace, Lyell) argued that natural selection was the means by which ‘god’ created new variations and species. Both groups felt that they had thus blunted Darwin’s critique of Creationism by effectively synthesizing Creationist ‘design’ with his theory of evolution and natural selection.

Hermann didn’t define “intelligent design”, but he seems to say, that “creationist commitment to the presence of intelligent design in nature” could be belief, that common descent and ‘god’ coexist…

;)

Comment #165407

Posted by harold on March 14, 2007 10:42 AM (e)

Dizzy -

Your question is simple - why am I “right” and others “wrong”?

Good question. Beyond the realm of this discussion, but good question.

I didn’t necessarily say I was right, I merely described my preferences. But I’ll try to answer your question.

A functional answer is “the laws of the country I live in”. Likewise, international consensus bodies such as the UN tend to agree with me. I have enormous problems with the details of how my society is governed, but pragmatically, the rights I support with respect to religion or its lack are enforced by the authorities, Dover being a case in point. (I’ll give a more philosophical answer below.) The inquisition would be massively illegal under the constitution of either the US or Canada. If someone tried to change the constitution to allow inquisitions or human sacrifices, I’d fight against it, with votes and money if that sufficed, physically if need be. There’s a simple functional answer for you.

It’s really very simple. Under the type of laws that I both live under and agree with, people can live a far stricter life of observant Islam than the average Saudi if they want, and many thousands do. But I can live my life my way. All we have to do is respect each other’s legal rights and it all works out. Sure, it’s absurd that there are laws against smoking marijuana and obscene that human rights are violated egregiously at Guantanamo and so on - I massively oppose both of those things and many others - but overall I like the basic framework of rights that we have in place.

Of course, if some other guy does things that are congruent with my preferences, and says he does them because of his religious faith, or that he knows it’s right to do what I see as good because of his religious faith, heck, I have no problem with that. Quite the contrary. Take Dr Martin Luther King for example.

Of course, my view that it is courteous to allow others to form their own conclusion as to whether their religious faith is in conflict with science, rather than to harangue them if they say it is, is merely my own preference. There’s no law (unless the line of the law - eg harrassment, trespassing, discrimination, vandalism, etc - is crossed) against haranguing religious people. Nor should there be. Note that I also consider it discourteous for religious people to harangue atheists. Note also that I don’t proclaim myself as an epitome of courtesy at all times.

If you want to know my philosophical position, I tend to think that the dharmic religions, especially but by no means exclusively some branches of zen, have the best grasp of the human relationship with the universe.

For cultural reasons, I don’t formally practice a dharmic religion. I consider myself an “existentialist Christian”. I believe that Judaism, Islam, and Christianity contain valuable elements of truth. Of course, I vehemently disagree with homophobia, sexism, the idea of eternal punishment, and so on - things which some people, but not me, incorporate as part of their interpretation of Christianity. I see “secular humanism” as perfectly valid, too.

Sorry if you don’t like that, and if you’re either a right wing ideologue who claims to adhere to ID/creationism, or a strident advocate of pure atheism as the only way, you probably don’t like it. There’s nothing you can do about it, though.

I’m not claiming that my “religion” is “right”, though. I’m just saying that I prefer that humans grant each other certain rights and fundamental dignities, and that behaviorally, I’ll work to make that happen.

I don’t have the least problem with atheism as a rational stance, nor with the fact that atheists can be as ethical as anyone else.

I don’t agree that atheism is always associated with being rational. Many atheists are into astrology and other pseudoscience.

I do agree that humans tend to be violent, and tend to be religious. I don’t agree that if we got rid of the religion we’d experience a net reduction in violence. MAYBE. But who knows? All we know is that humans have always been prone to be religious, and always been prone to be violent. The only “officially atheist” societies we know of are places like the USSR. It’s almost a nonsense question to ask “what would happen if humans weren’t prone to being religious”. There is no serious answer, only imaginary made-up answers. There is no control planet populated by humans who aren’t religious, but are otherwise just like earth humans.

Comment #165413

Posted by Dizzy on March 14, 2007 11:06 AM (e)

harold -

Wow, thanks for the very detailed response.

A functional answer is “the laws of the country I live in”. Likewise, international consensus bodies such as the UN tend to agree with me.

Well, I would suggest that laws and rights are the encoding/enshrinement of our pre-existing sense of right and wrong…to suggest that we consider certain actions immoral because they are against the law seems backwards to me. Maybe I’m misunderstanding you here.

I’m going to skip over the points about your personal beliefs, not because I don’t think they’re important (and they happen to not be too far from mine, practically speaking), but because I don’t think they’re going to be an impediment to the discussion we have going here.

Would you agree with my suggestion that laws follow from morals, not the other way around? If not, and if enshrining something in law inherently makes it moral, then is it moral to punish apostasy with death?

I’m sure you can see where this would go - if the answer is “Yes, if you live under those laws,” then if a law allows killing of people who don’t follow your laws, that kind of killing would be moral, right?

Comment #165414

Posted by Raging Bee on March 14, 2007 11:09 AM (e)

I note that you also are “abstracting” by projecting some kind of strange and unproductive goal onto a single author…

I’m not “projecting,” I’m remembering that he had said in an interview that he considered his crusade to debunk and eradicate religion in general more important than the daily battles that ordinary people are forced to wage against religious tyranny. He also brushed off the idea of joining those real-world struggles as “politically expedient” (by which he seemed to mean “relevant to other people,” as if that were somehow bad or beneath his stature). All in all, he came off as another academic trying to stay above it all and not get his hands dirty with a real job. And this impression of mine is only reinforced when his followers defend his uninformed statements by saying things like “He refuses to be a whore!” – as if trying not to insult people who have done no wrong (and might be willing to help) was equivalent to prostitution.

Comment #165415

Posted by Frank J on March 14, 2007 11:10 AM (e)

Nick,

Thanks for the references. I have read them before, but will scrutinize them better, and change my opinions if necessary.

I often add the caveat that is that it is impossible to truly know what anyone believes in private. What they lead others to believe is easier to pin down. With ID, I agree that it is mostly OEC and YEC, and not the “front loading” scenario that is ironically the only one that ID ever proposed in any “pathetic level of detail.” So it’s no surprise that they avoid criticism of YEC or OEC, and might do so even if there weren’t those pesky flaws and contradictions.

I’m also aware that Bryan Leonard’s telling his students the scientifically accepted age of the Earth, but insisting at the Kangaroo Court on qualifying it with “I tell my students” can be interpreted 2 ways. Either he believes in a young Earth and doesn’t want to admit it to science students, or he rejects a young Earth, but doesn’t want to admit it to a general audience, because it’s more important to him for that audience not think that ID commits to an old Earth position.

As long as their target audience doesn’t care that ID isn’t scientific, IDers have no need to promote arguments like those of Schwabe and Senapathy, which actually try to support “independent abiogenesis” on its own merits, even though that would get them in less legal trouble than their usual negative approach that relies on anti-“Darwinism” canards that ties ID to classic creationism. Then again, they seem to be able to spin their legal defeats to their advantage, so that’s probably the less risky option.

Although my unprovable suspicion remains that most major IDers and many classic creationists privately know that evolution is correct, as opposed to them being affected by Morton’s Demon, my concern is not that very few people share my suspicion, but that almost no one ever suggests it even as a possibility. That’s especially puzzling when IDers are of the extreme political ideology that is most expected to promote to the “masses” what “elite members” don’t necessarily believe.

As for Dembski’s 1995 comment, he could have changed his mind (after conferring with Behe?), or possibly been referring to souls with “specially created,” or both (& of course, or neither).

Update: I have some company in the “Coulter Hoax” thread.

Comment #165417

Posted by Dizzy on March 14, 2007 11:21 AM (e)

Ok, I lied. I just want to make a point:

Sure, it’s absurd that there are laws against smoking marijuana and obscene that human rights are violated egregiously at Guantanamo and so on - I massively oppose both of those things and many others - but overall I like the basic framework of rights that we have in place.

The fact that you consider some laws absurd and would fight against other laws seems to indicate that you don’t really believe that laws per se determine morality.

So I guess we’d go to this:

I didn’t necessarily say I was right, I merely described my preferences.

Would I be correct in assuming that, if your opposition to suicide bombing, etc. stems from a personal preference, that the personal preferences of others would be as objectively valid? Is “as long as it doesn’t interfere with my rights” a personal preference, as well, or is it something more?

Comment #165421

Posted by harold on March 14, 2007 11:36 AM (e)

Dizzy -

The law is mainly congruent with my morals, or ethics if you prefer.

But I actually hope that the law is somewhat independent of any specific moral system.

Rather, I perceive the law as a “social contract”, to use a philosophy term.

For example, someone may think that human sacrifice is moral, yet agree that, for the convenience of not having to worry about being sacrificed themselves, it should not be illegal.

Likewise, some may think that all manner of behavior which I consider okay, or even commendable, is immoral. But at the same time, they may realize that it isn’t free to arrest, try, and penalize people. Plus if there’s a power struggle one may lose.

So people may implicitly agree that it’s best not to hunt down heretics and burn them at the stake, even if they think that, morally, that’s what some heretics deserve. By having laws that protect people from such things, they lose the satisfaction of really sticking it to a heretic, but they save the tax dollars that would be spent, and avoid the inconvenience of worrying that they themselves might be accused of heresy.

I don’t so much claim that my morals are right, as advocate for a social structure that, while coincidentally congruent with my private morals, is most convenient for everyone.

Comment #165422

Posted by Raging Bee on March 14, 2007 11:39 AM (e)

Dizzy: Sorry if I sound obtuse, but where, exactly, are you going with your cross-examination?

Comment #165423

Posted by Dizzy on March 14, 2007 11:39 AM (e)

RB:

I’m remembering that he had said in an interview that he considered his crusade to debunk and eradicate religion in general more important than the daily battles that ordinary people are forced to wage against religious tyranny. He also brushed off the idea of joining those real-world struggles as “politically expedient” (by which he seemed to mean “relevant to other people,” as if that were somehow bad or beneath his stature).

Dawkins is, for nearly all prectical purposes, making shit up to stir up an unnecessary conflict, and thus make himself look and feel relevant

Are you implying that the one follows from the other?

And again, how can you know if he’s “making shit up” or making “uninformed statements” if you don’t know what he (and others - like Harris, to whom he often refers) have actually written?

Btw, assuming your recollection of your unreferenced interview is correct (N.B. you did not extend the same courtesy of assumption to me above, despite the fact that I named my sources), his position would not be unusual. Education leaders don’t go into classrooms day after day to help kids learn better; they identify the root causes of poor educational attainment, create policy, and leave the implementation to people who are better at it than they are.

I personally do disagree with Harris and Dawkins on specific points, which leads me to disagree with many aspects of their conclusions. But I *don’t* disagree with their conclusions based simply on the fact that I don’t like them - or based on simplified misrepresentations of their reasoning.

Comment #165425

Posted by Dizzy on March 14, 2007 11:45 AM (e)

Dizzy: Sorry if I sound obtuse, but where, exactly, are you going with your cross-examination?

Sorry that it’s so round-about, but in this area I think the point would be made better if someone else pointed to the conclusion that I have in mind, rather than presenting the conclusion myself and trying to justify it in retrospect. (I realize this style is really long-winded and annoying sometimes)

harold - will be back in a bit, but thanks for the response.

Comment #165432

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on March 14, 2007 1:14 PM (e)

Analysi,

It seems dubious to call that 1979 usage of “intelligent design” a definition. Pandas has the term in a glossary, for goodness sakes.

As I said before, the fact that sometimes the phrase “intelligent design” sometimes appears in works discussing the Design argument (usually with a capital D) is not highly significant. Search JSTOR on “irreducibly complex” as an analogy.

The pre-1989 usages of “intelligent design” are furthermore (a) about creationism and (b) about God, both of which are explicitly denied in Pandas’ usage of the phrase.

Comment #165436

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on March 14, 2007 1:41 PM (e)

And if you don’t believe me, just look at what the ID guys were saying in 2004, before it became popular to attempt to disconnect ID from Pandas:

A decade has passed since Of Pandas and People‘s second edition appeared in print. Written by Percival Davis and Dean Kenyon, this book was the first intelligent design textbook. In fact, it was the first place where the phrase “intelligent design” appeared in its present use.

[This Preface, by Jon Buell, to the third edition of Pandas entitled The Design of Life, was freely online at William Dembski’s DesignInference.com website for much of 2004, but was taken down about the time Kitzmiller v. Dover was filed in December 2004 – see Wayback archive, where it can still be downloaded, and a May 2004 blog post quoting the beginning of Buell’s Preface.]

Comment #165443

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on March 14, 2007 2:34 PM (e)

The book (and article) by Ray Bohlin and crew is significant though, that’s where the panda stuff in Of Pandas and People comes from. It was produced by Probe Ministries, the progenitor of FTE and Jon Buell which produced Pandas.

The book is Natural Limits to Biological Change.

Comment #165445

Posted by Dizzy on March 14, 2007 2:53 PM (e)

For example, someone may think that human sacrifice is moral, yet agree that, for the convenience of not having to worry about being sacrificed themselves, it should not be illegal.

Likewise, some may think that all manner of behavior which I consider okay, or even commendable, is immoral. But at the same time, they may realize that it isn’t free to arrest, try, and penalize people. Plus if there’s a power struggle one may lose.

So people may implicitly agree that it’s best not to hunt down heretics and burn them at the stake, even if they think that, morally, that’s what some heretics deserve. By having laws that protect people from such things, they lose the satisfaction of really sticking it to a heretic, but they save the tax dollars that would be spent, and avoid the inconvenience of worrying that they themselves might be accused of heresy.

So, if I understand you correctly, it’s ok (even “good”?) for the pragmatic - secular - needs of society to take priority over individual moral needs?

If we extend the theme of “some people may think X is moral” and “I personally don’t think Y is moral, but others might,” doesn’t it follow that *any* action could be considered moral by *someone*?

It seems like your justification for the laws you mention evinces the conviction that standards of acceptable behavior (the pragmatic side of “morality,” as I see it) are not entirely relative - is that right?

I don’t so much claim that my morals are right, as advocate for a social structure that, while coincidentally congruent with my private morals, is most convenient for everyone.

In that case, you are imposing your advocacy goals on others who might not like it, aren’t you? If I’m a devout Saudi Muslim and you tell me I can’t stone your wife to death for heresy because it’s not “most convenient for everyone,” you’re imposing on my morals (and pushing me toward an eternity in hell), as well as breaking the law. If, on the other hand, you contend that there are pragmatic, objective justifications for your approach - which transcend religion - then you can make a good case that I shouldn’t do so.

What I think I see you doing is providing pragmatic justifications for imposing certain kinds of behavior. The thing about such justifications is that they are objective - one can demonstrate that allowing murder or suicide bombing will likely have “inconvenient” or detrimental effects on society or the human race as a whole.

As I understand it, Harris and Dawkins maintain that the *only* way to credibly establish standards of behavior that can apply to *all* humans is by using objective, evidence-based justifications. IIRC, they do caution against imposing standards willy-nilly, as new evidence is always incoming and secular knowledge is always expanding, and they do allow that certain assumptions (“suffering is bad”,”people do not enjoy living in fear”) need to be made until objective evidence either confirms or refutes them, but they insist that not all assumptions are equal.

The assumption, for example, that there is an afterlife in which you will burn eternally for forgiving heresy, or will live in paradise for killing infidels, is far less defensible, based on our empirical knowledge of the universe, than the assumption that killing people is generally detrimental to our survival as a species.

Through a bit of reasoning, and some very interesting examples, they come to the conclusion that people like suicide bombers are not irrational - they are actually quite rational, given the beliefs that have been instilled in them. If I truly believed that failing to stone your wife to death would significantly increase my chances of spending an eternity in hell, it would be distinctly against my rational self-interest to fail to stone your wife. I think Harris was the one who said, “These people actually believe what they say they believe.” It’s the belief itself that is at the root of behavior, just as your belief that one should pursue solutions “that are most convenient for everyone” influences your behavior.

Their contention, as I see it, is that the vast majority of religious beliefs we see touted as justification for harmful (or even beneficial) actions are equally indefensible based on evidence (isn’t this a corollary of “faith”?), and none are more defensible than any others. The difference between moderates and extremists is one of degree, not category; moderates are only moderates to the extent that they share with a majority of their culture and time period an arbitrary set of secular beliefs that override their religious beliefs.

There are a number of implications and corollaries they draw from this basic argument with which I disagree substantially, but that’s the jist of it…in my (probably incomplete) recollection, at least.

Comment #165463

Posted by AC on March 14, 2007 4:56 PM (e)

Dizzy wrote:

As I understand it, Harris and Dawkins maintain that the *only* way to credibly establish standards of behavior that can apply to *all* humans is by using objective, evidence-based justifications….

I had a feeling this was where you were going. That’s it exactly. And it’s why faith itself (belief without - or in spite of - evidence, as well as a conveniently bankrupt concept of evidence) must be abandoned before any common ground can be revealed. Otherwise, it’s nothing but handy short-term alliances built on ever-shifting sand.

analyysi wrote:

From www.ResearchIntelligentDesign.org: “Percival Davis and Dean Kenyon publish Of Pandas and People, a high-school level textbook that contains information on intelligent design and has been endorsed by some cdesign proponentists. The term first appeared in drafts of the book in 1987.”

Fixed that for you.

Comment #165465

Posted by analyysi on March 14, 2007 5:11 PM (e)

Nick Matzke wrote:

Analysi,

It seems dubious to call that 1979 usage of “intelligent design” a definition. Pandas has the term in a glossary, for goodness sakes.

As I said before, the fact that sometimes the phrase “intelligent design” sometimes appears in works discussing the Design argument (usually with a capital D) is not highly significant. Search JSTOR on “irreducibly complex” as an analogy.

There is many definitions of “IC”. Behe made his own definition (1996). And also some others have made their own definitions.

If you want to use “irreducibly complex” as an analogy, remember, that the term “irreducible complex” was NOT in (DBB’s) glossary. However, Behe defined his “irreducible complexity” in his book. He didn’t need to define his term in glossary.

Why it is not enough, if Horigan only defined the term “intelligent design”:
Should he have defined the term in glossary?

Nick Matzke wrote:

The pre-1989 usages of “intelligent design” are furthermore (a) about creationism and (b) about God, both of which are explicitly denied in Pandas’ usage of the phrase.

I have not read Pandas. Is it said there, that designer cannot be God? If it is, could you quote it?

But as I (and Hermann) have shown, your claim (about creationism and pre-1989 usages of “intelligent design”) can be true only, if also “theistic evolutionists” (Ken Miller etc.) are labeled as “creationists”.

Ps. I cannot agree with Jon Buell (whoever he is), because I have seen so many earlier uses of the phrase “intelligent design”.

Comment #165466

Posted by harold on March 14, 2007 5:16 PM (e)

Dizzy -

At this point I think I’ve made myself abundantly clear, but I’ll address a couple of your points, just to clarify even further.

I’m not trying to win any philosophical battles or “prove” any “absolute truths” here.

“In that case, you are imposing your advocacy goals on others who might not like it, aren’t you? If I’m a devout Saudi Muslim and you tell me I can’t stone your wife to death for heresy because it’s not “most convenient for everyone,” you’re imposing on my morals (and pushing me toward an eternity in hell), as well as breaking the law. If, on the other hand, you contend that there are pragmatic, objective justifications for your approach - which transcend religion - then you can make a good case that I shouldn’t do so.”

Just to make it really clear one more time - I would oppose laws against stoning for heresy (I don’t believe that actually is the law in Saudi Arabia, but putting that aside…). Although I personally believe it is immoral to stone people, my argument against it is, in fact, grounded in preference justifications, rather than in a futile attempt to argue who is “more moral”. It is more convenient for everyone not to worry about being stoned for heresy. Bit this isn’t necessarily “objective”, read on…

“What I think I see you doing is providing pragmatic justifications for imposing certain kinds of behavior.”

Correct. Easy to understand, pragmatic justifications.

“The thing about such justifications is that they are objective - one can demonstrate that allowing murder or suicide bombing will likely have “inconvenient” or detrimental effects on society or the human race as a whole.”

They are not entirely objective. Some people are sadistic and enjoy seeing suffering, even if it puts them at risk. Some religious or ideological fanatics believe that the physical extermination of the human race, or most of it, would be better, even if this view puts them at greater risk of being exterminated themselves. However, I make the basic and perhaps subjective assumption that it is better not to create excess suffering, and many people agree with me.

“As I understand it, Harris and Dawkins maintain that the *only* way to credibly establish standards of behavior that can apply to *all* humans is by using objective, evidence-based justifications. IIRC, they do caution against imposing standards willy-nilly, as new evidence is always incoming and secular knowledge is always expanding, and they do allow that certain assumptions (“suffering is bad”,”people do not enjoy living in fear”) need to be made until objective evidence either confirms or refutes them, but they insist that not all assumptions are equal.”

I certainly hope I’m not around when empirical evidence refutes the assumption that “people do not enjoy living in fear”. With all due respect, I don’t accept Dawkins and Harris as valid experts on what is the “only way to credibly establish standards of behavior”, either. I can’t think of a single reason why, based on what I know about them, I should accept them as experts on ethics or law at all. They seem to be law-abiding citizens, and to avoid such grotesqueries as racism, sexism, homophobia, and war-mongering, but that doesn’t make them ethical or legal authorities. (Yes, yes, it’s my “subjective” opinion, my “preference”, that those things are bad.)

“The assumption, for example, that there is an afterlife in which you will burn eternally for forgiving heresy, or will live in paradise for killing infidels, is far less defensible, based on our empirical knowledge of the universe, than the assumption that killing people is generally detrimental to our survival as a species.”

I don’t happen to believe in such an afterlife, or have an opinion on an afterlife at all, for that matter. I don’t necessarily think that our empirical knowledge of the universe really helps much in terms of answering this question. That the universe has the physical attributes and history seems to, and functions indepently of magic as far as we know, does not address the question of whether we go to Hell for not killing heretics. True, if someone’s claim that we need to kill heretics is linked to claims about the physical universe, that type of claim may be refuted by science, but in theory, someone could equally claim that we all go to Hell for not killing heretics, without addressing the characteristics of the physical universe as well. I’m optimistic that the number of people who actually believe that they should kill others to gain uncertain benefits in the afterlife has always been rather low (much lower than people who kill for selfish reasons and claim such justification after the fact), and seems to be gradually reducing.

“Through a bit of reasoning, and some very interesting examples, they come to the conclusion that people like suicide bombers are not irrational - they are actually quite rational, given the beliefs that have been instilled in them. If I truly believed that failing to stone your wife to death would significantly increase my chances of spending an eternity in hell, it would be distinctly against my rational self-interest to fail to stone your wife. I think Harris was the one who said, “These people actually believe what they say they believe.” It’s the belief itself that is at the root of behavior, just as your belief that one should pursue solutions “that are most convenient for everyone” influences your behavior.”

They (referring to Dawkins and Harris) seem to be building up to a conclusion that they should not merely be satisfied with respecting other peoples’ rights (and having their own respected), but that rather, they should try to discover and control what others ‘believe’. I can’t help finding a strong similarity between this attitude and that of inquisitors of the fifteenth century. Fortunately, it’s attitude only, not actions. They have every right to have any attitude they wish. Of course, I could be misreading, but that’s the impression that these arguments make on me.

“Their contention, as I see it, is that the vast majority of religious beliefs we see touted as justification for harmful (or even beneficial) actions are equally indefensible based on evidence (isn’t this a corollary of “faith”?), and none are more defensible than any others.”

This is certainly true from their perspective but the actions of others, and in fact, only those actions that happen to impact on someone else’s legal or human rights, are all they have any right to care about. Again, they seem to building up to a justification for sticking their noses into other peoples’ private beliefs and practices. Again, though, since they restrict themselves merely to verbally critiquing others, they are free to do this. Should they or any of their followers ever hypothetically “cross the line” and resort to violence or property destruction in an effort to force others to believe as they do (not that I expect this, of course!), then they’ll be in violation of the law.

“The difference between moderates and extremists is one of degree, not category; moderates are only moderates to the extent that they share with a majority of their culture and time period an arbitrary set of secular beliefs that override their religious beliefs.”

The decision as to who is “moderate”, and who is “extremist”, is obviously subjective. My definition of an extremist is someone who tries to force their opinions on others. Thus, a super-orthodox rabbi, monk, imam or yogi who leaves me alone, and doesn’t engage in political scheming to undermine human rights, is not, in my view, an extremist. A right wing ideologue who embraces the ID/creationism scam is, by definition, an extremist. In my view, people who live a very religious lifestyle can actually be far more moderate than other people who live a secular lifestyle of luxury and decadence, but seek to impose beliefs on others by force.

I’m afraid I’ll have to make this my last post on this thread. I hope I’ve clarified my positions.

Comment #165467

Posted by harold on March 14, 2007 5:18 PM (e)

Damn. Guilty of writing one of those unreadably long posts. And I’m not even a ranting creationist.

Comment #165489

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on March 14, 2007 7:31 PM (e)

Ps. I cannot agree with Jon Buell (whoever he is), because I have seen so many earlier uses of the phrase “intelligent design”.

Analysi,

Um, Jon Buell is the guy that ran the group (the Foundation for Thought and Ethics) that published Of Pandas and People and the other early material put out by the ID movement. He is one of the key people in the whole story. Google him and you will see.

Unfortunately, there is no one single good history of ID that I can refer you to. Much of the history was actively hidden by ID proponents until the 2005 Kitzmiller case. But if you want to get a sense of the major outlines, read:

1. Barbara Forrest’s expert reports in that case
http://www2.ncseweb.org/kvd/index.php?path=exper…

2. The “history of creationism” posts here at PT:
http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/evolution_of…

Also feel free to read the following works on the history of ID, and then ask why The Great Relabeling Event Of 1987 was systematically left out.

* Thomas Woodward, Doubts About Darwin
* Larry Witham, By Design
* Larry Witham, When Science Meets the Bible
* Donald Yerxa, “Phillip Johnson and the Origins of the Intelligent Design Movement

…and various things on the Discovery Institute website.

Comment #165557

Posted by Dizzy on March 15, 2007 7:00 AM (e)

harold -

Again, thanks for the reply. Hope this isn’t truly the end of the discussion, but just to be brief:

The fact that you provide “easy to understand, pragmatic justifications” at all seems to indicate that your beliefs are not solely “grounded in personal preference.” If you approach a lawmaker with the proposition that death for apostasy (which actually is the law in Saudi Arabia and many other countries, often along with death for blasphemy) is not a law that should be on the books, you’re not going to justify it solely by saying “because I would prefer it that way,” you’re going to put forward some of the pragmatic justifications you mentioned above, right?

You justify your essentially “live and let live” advocacy with the contention that it is more “convenient for everyone” than “kill all infidels” - if you didn’t have that justification, and your only justification was “because I feel that way,” what separates you from someone who prefers “kill all infidels?”

“The thing about such justifications is that they are objective - one can demonstrate that allowing murder or suicide bombing will likely have “inconvenient” or detrimental effects on society or the human race as a whole.”

They are not entirely objective. Some people are sadistic and enjoy seeing suffering, even if it puts them at risk.

Demonstrating based on evidence that allowing murder or bombing generally has inconvenient/detrimental effects on society/humans would be entirely objective. The examples you mention don’t refute that fact, they only point to the possibility that some (due to personal preference) may not conclude from it that they should not murder or bomb people.

This happens to underline my point above - if personal preference is the only basis for “don’t infringe on others’ rights,” then the pragmatic justifications don’t matter. In that case, there is no basis for society to support “don’t infringe on others’ rights” over “kill all infidels.” But your pragmatic justifications *do* matter, and they are not subjective - they are buttressed by objective evidence.

Comment #167925

Posted by analyysi on April 2, 2007 7:58 AM (e)

Nick Matzke wrote:

The point is that the 1989 Of Pandas and People was the first book to use “intelligent design” as a phrase, in a systematic fashion. It is the first book that uses the term exclusively, instead of a rare minority descriptor of traditional creation/design arguments. It is the first work of any kind that uses it more than a handful of times.

I have given you only one quote from Horigan’s book. Horigan though used the phrase “intelligent design” (or “intelligently designed”) more than 50 times in his book “Change or Design?” (1979). Here are some more examples:

James E. Horigan wrote:

It is broad objective of the work to show that,…, a coherent picture of intelligently designed creation is to be seen far more clearly and convincingly than ever before, and that the modern materialistic view of creation by pure chance and accidnet is an unsupportable, if not an irrational, alternative. This is to be premised alone on the kind of knowledge that comes from presentday observation, rather than from reference to biblical or other religious sources which lie beyond the research and intended scope of this work. (p. 3)

James E. Horigan wrote:

“the view of intelligent design simply provides the best explanation for the very existence of such phenomena as the origin of self-replication in living organisms: the cognitive nature of the protein molecule and the basic code representing inheritable information, the structural pattern for species differentiation, the life cycles the tolerance aspect in the makeup of living things that allows for freedom to adapt, the goal-seeking and goal-archievingtendencies of living organisms toward functioning and purposive end-results, mind and consciousness, etc. (p. 26)

James E. Horigan wrote:

In Chapters 9-11 we shall see how this aspect of chance in DNA fits quite well into a designed scheme of things, and that intelligent design may be seen ads providing a better explanation than chance for the origin of DNA and its activity. (p. 38)

James E. Horigan wrote:

As an idea, chance has neither a firm foothold to a beginning, nor does it have an ending, in what is claimed for it in an empirical way. This includes the contention that chance alone is responsible for evolutionary processes as relate to living organisms which, as we shall consider in Chapters 10-12, may reasonably be best exolained when viewed in the context of foreknowledge and intelligent design. (p. 39)

James E. Horigan wrote:

During the time of Hume, and for several centuries thereafter, the effects (“B”) in nature that were said to give the appearance of “intelligent design” were of a limited general scope and mainly related to analogies of the sort described abobe. (p. 52)

James E. Horigan wrote:

Probably the most significant book of this century, relating to “intelligent design” was written in 1913 by the American biochemist, L. J. Henderson, and entitled “Fitness of the “Environment. When put into a modern empirical context, it may be seen retrospectively as having opened up (and, in a way, re-opened) a most important pathway in support of the view of intelligently designed universe. (p. 55)

James E. Horigan wrote:

In terms of intelligent design, an alternative supposition to the above might be that the few chemical elements of the atoms that are involved in life processes were programmed in advance, in some yet unknown manner, to bring about in time the end results that are evident in an interplay with evolutionary processes. (p. 165-166)