Via From Right 2 Left, I see that U of Iowa physics professor. Fred Skiff, will be speaking on intelligent design next week:

At the next “Finding God at Iowa” Lunch Forum, Fred Skiff, University of Iowa professor of physics and astronomy, will speak on the theory of intelligent design. The forum will be held from noon to 1 p.m. March 2, in the Ohio State Room (Room 343) on the third floor of the Iowa Memorial Union.

Skiff will offer “A ‘Fireside Chat’ on Intelligent Design.” He will discuss some of the questions underlying the debate over intelligent design in nature, such as: What are the appropriate assumptions, methods, and limits of science? Can the intelligent design argument be properly made within the realm of science?

Why am I so dismayed (well, besides the obvious)? More after the jump.

Now, first of all let me say that I’m absolutely not opposed to a discussion of all of those questions mentioned above–the nature of science, what intelligent design is, etc. In fact, I’ll remind any Iowa area folks that I’m assisting with a symposium next month to address some of those very questions (any teachers reading–register quick, we still have several scholarships left! /end plug). Honest discussion is a good thing, in my opinion. However, I’ve heard Dr. Skiff speak on the topic previously (discussed here and here), and I’ve been, well, underwhelmed, to put it mildly. He has a tendency to conflate acceptance of evolution with atheism (a typical tactic of the Discovery Institute, which is no surprise–Skiff is one of the “Dissent from Darwinism” signatories). I expect more of the same. As I noted in the second post above:

[Skiff] conflated abiogenesis with evolution, wrote off anything that’s “macroevolution” as being “overly reductionist,” said scientists claim that science is a worldview (and that’s in textbooks?), made a complete strawman of those opposed to teaching ID (suggesting that scientists want to “make it illegal to challenge a scientific theory”), and then pissed off both the scientists and philosophers by saying that Epicurean materialism equals hedonism.

So I’m concerned about two issues here. One, that Skiff will provide a strawman version of evolutionary theory (heck, and science itself) as he did last time I saw him speak, and present that to the audience with the authority of a working scientist (even though he’s not a philosopher of science, and even though he’s not an evolutionary biologist, or any type of biologist). Two, that Skiff will assert or imply that evolution implies atheism, and that if one accepts methodological naturalism, one therefore must also accept philosophical naturalism, and choose between evolutionary theory and their religious beliefs. Three, that he will assert that “intelligent design” is the sensible alternative to “orthodox” science, but its study is being repressed by “Darwinists” or something of that nature.

Hopefully I’m being overly pessimistic here; I’ll try to attend on the second and check it out for myself.

Comments

  1. #1 Guitar Eddie
    February 23, 2007

    Tara,

    They just never give it up. The really disturbing thing is that ID/creationists are not so much trying to shield their kids from “Darwinism” as much as they’re trying to proselytize everyone else’s children.

    As I’ve said before, if they really are unhappy with real science being taught in our public schools and universities, they should take the advice given by an esteemed college professor 40 years ago:

    “Tune in, turn on, and drop out!”

    That way they can live and raise their children the way they want and leave the rest of us alone. They can have their primitive societies and we can have our science.

    GE

  2. #2 Guitar Eddie
    February 23, 2007

    Tara,

    They just never give it up. The really disturbing thing is that ID/creationists are not so much trying to shield their kids from “Darwinism” as much as they’re trying to proselytize everyone else’s children.

    As I’ve said before, if they really are unhappy with real science being taught in our public schools and universities, they should take the advice given by an esteemed college professor 40 years ago:

    “Tune in, turn on, and drop out!”

    That way they can live and raise their children the way they want and leave the rest of us alone. They can have their primitive societies and we can have our science.

    GE

  3. #3 Dave S.
    February 23, 2007

    Question: Professor, if acceptance of evolution is tantamount to atheism because of methodological materialism, isn’t it true the same can be said of your own field of physics since that is also based on methodological materialism? If you disagree, please provide a reference to one of your papers (or anyone else’s) where you (or they) use a positive model of non-material methodologies.

  4. #4 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    February 23, 2007

    At the next “Finding God at Iowa” Lunch Forum, Fred Skiff, University of Iowa professor of physics and astronomy, will speak on the theory of intelligent design.

    How strange, since of course Intelligent Design has nothing to do with religion (wink wink nudge nudge)

    The forum will be held from noon to 1 p.m. March 2, in the Ohio State Room (Room 343) on the third floor of the Iowa Memorial Union.

    They did that on purpose to confuse people, didn’t they?

  5. #5 Lynn
    February 23, 2007

    Every time I see or hear “the theory of intelligent design,” I start to channel Snoopy with itchy teeth. You know… “I feel every now and then that I wanna BITE someone!”

    There is *no* theory of intelligent design. No matter what else this concept may be, it has not come remotely close to earning the right to be referred to as a theory.

    Lynn

  6. #6 Tim Sharp
    February 23, 2007

    I believe that it is time to point out that the majority of the proponents of ID are presenting material outside the scope of their disciplines. Does anyone question why a physicist is presenting on something that a biologist should be? Come on can anyone say that William Dembski can explain the inner workings of evolutionary theory to such a high degree to render it false? The way people are supporting ID reminds me of those quack healers on the internet supporting products found to be ineffective just because it gives them a financial gain. After all how much money has this ID controversy pulled in for Dembski and Behe? Jimmy Baker comes to mind.

  7. #7 Jorg Donde
    February 23, 2007

    It’s a lost cause, of course; they inhabit their own little corner of (ir)reality that is impenetrable to logic or even simple common sense (much as I hate that term). Once I realized that the battle was not about who actually was right, but who the audience thought was right, the choice of tactics became clear: pointing one’s finger at them and going “Bwahahahaha!” as well as farting in their general direction seems to work much better than any logical argument could.

    What would Monty Python do?

  8. #8 Inoculated Mind
    February 23, 2007

    Tara, I would suggest that you attend, take detailed notes, and write a guest opinion or a letter to the editor for the school paper. I did that last week for a similar situation, and I’ve gotta say, it hit hard… and the straw-man-abusing engineering professor that I slammed didn’t even respond.
    http://www.inoculatedmind.com/?p=155

  9. #9 RBH
    February 23, 2007

    I’ve taken to carrying a digital recorder. Works like a champ.

  10. #10 TYUN
    February 23, 2007

    Me too RBH.

    But Tara, if the head of the religion department can be a raving atheist (Hector Avalos) then why can’t the physics prof talk about ID?

    FACE IT…what you are UPSET about is that the PROFESSOR is allowed to speak AT ALL about these subjects.

    You people are doing everything you can to shut up any opposition to your atheistism fronting as science.

  11. #11 Gvlgeologist, FCD
    February 23, 2007

    TYUN’s reading comprehension seems to be lagging.

    Didn’t Tara state “…I’m absolutely not opposed to a discussion of all of those questions mentioned above–the nature of science, what intelligent design is, etc. In fact, I’ll remind any Iowa area folks that I’m assisting with a symposium next month to address some of those very questions … Honest discussion is a good thing, in my opinion. …”
    and
    “I’m concerned about two issues here. One, that Skiff will provide a strawman version of evolutionary theory (heck, and science itself) as he did last time I saw him speak, and present that to the audience with the authority of a working scientist (even though he’s not a philosopher of science, and even though he’s not an evolutionary biologist, or any type of biologist). Two, that Skiff will assert or imply that evolution implies atheism, and that if one accepts methodological naturalism, one therefore must also accept philosophical naturalism, and choose between evolutionary theory and their religious beliefs. Three, that he will assert that “intelligent design” is the sensible alternative to “orthodox” science, but its study is being repressed by “Darwinists” or something of that nature.”

    And (ahem) Tara, that’s three issues, not two. ;-)

  12. #12 wright
    February 23, 2007

    TYUN wrote:

    “You people are doing everything you can to shut up any opposition to your atheistism fronting as science.”

    Hilarious. Try reading all of the post before responding.

  13. #13 jtdub
    February 23, 2007

    It has always struck me as somewhat obvious what a large part the simple psychological concept of projection plays in a good deal of these (for lack of a better word) hot-button debates.

    For instance, those arguing for ID seek to squash every point of view with the exception of their own- therefore, when sparring with scientists, they project their own argumentative framework and goals onto the the scientists, resulting in these cries of “censorship” and “science as religion”.

    Scientists, on the other hand, because they are coming from an intellectually honest standpoint, project that onto the IDers and assume that any debate is really about getting to a better understanding of the world/universe- resulting in confusion and agitation when IDers don’t seem to accept scientific fact.

    Oversimplification? Possibly. But I wholeheartedly suggest thinking about the concept when standing on the sidelines of a debate: it can be quite illuminating (especially in the political arena).

  14. #14 Steve Reuland
    February 23, 2007

    Skiff will offer “A ‘Fireside Chat’ on Intelligent Design.”

    That sound you just heard was FDR rolling over in his grave.

  15. #15 John Hinkle
    February 23, 2007

    Lynn,

    IDers only use the phrase “theory of ID” to fool the choir. They know there’s no theory, scientifically speaking. They misuse the word “theory” purposely, knowing it means to certain people “hunch”, “gut feeling”, or “it *has* to be!”. Those who have any inkling whatsoever of what a scientific theory means know IDers are full of it.

    Speaking of full of it, there’s a man in my neighborhood who’s a prof at U of Chicago and was Dembski’s adviser at one time. When I asked him about ID he looked puzzled momentarily, then after realizing what I was referring to said, “It’s BS. And it’s not even good BS. [certain words abbreviated]” And he’s Catholic.

  16. #16 Chris
    February 23, 2007

    My problem is that it takes place in the “Ohio State Room.” Please, don’t drag my fine institution into this, Iowa.

  17. #17 Ichthyic
    February 23, 2007

    That way they can live and raise their children the way they want and leave the rest of us alone. They can have their primitive societies and we can have our science.

    have you ever seen the movie “Idiocracy”?

    to sum it up, 500 years in the future, america is entirely populated with complete idiots because they simply outbred the intelligent americans.

    funny, but scary too.

    makes me wonder what would have happened if we just decided to let the south secede.

  18. #18 Scott Hatfield
    February 24, 2007

    Dr. Smith: Sic ‘em!

  19. #19 djlactin
    February 24, 2007

    Two, that Skiff will assert or imply that evolution implies atheism, and that if one accepts methodological naturalism, one therefore must also accept philosophical naturalism, and choose between evolutionary theory and their religious beliefs.

    My interpretation of this approach is much more cynical.
    This statement is a thinly-veiled threat to the flock that if they accept evolution they will go to hell.

  20. #20 jbruno
    February 24, 2007

    Those damn atheistists.

    I second (third?) the suggestion on the digital recorder. Your camera might have one built in…

  21. #21 Mengele
    February 24, 2007

    Remeber this, “Fundies only dream about the end of the world, scientists have made it possible!”

  22. #22 entlord
    February 24, 2007

    My knowledge of physics ended with the introductory course some 30 years ago, but I have to wonder why the good scientist feels it is necessary for him to venture into the field of biology when he is a professor of physics and astronomy. To be sure there are ample examples in those fields with which to prove ID and sufficient peer reviewed materials to lend gravitas to his assertions.

    I suppose he is speaking because of the current thought in education today of presenting all possible explanations in a field of study and allowing the students to sort it out.
    In the interest of being fair and balanced, I think that an astrology expert should be present to explain why astronomy professors should be required to present astrology in a fair and balanced manner to their students and let the students decide if astronomy or astrology better explains the universe to them.
    Want to bet Skiff would “throw a hissy fit”?

  23. #23 JanieBelle
    February 24, 2007

    Dear Dr. Tara.

    It would appear that I owe you an apology.

    Approximately 3 minutes before your latest little fundy gnat “Mengele” appeared to grace you with his shining gem of logic and wisdom, a very similar comment appeared on my blog by someone named “Bogan” – and six minutes before that, another similar comment by the same person.

    I wouldn’t bother responding to Bogan/Mengele, he’s already demonstrated his high degree of intelligence and literacy on my blog by ranting about how I posted “some non sequitur” over on Red State Rabble about “Lying For Jesus”… on a thread entitled and about “Lying For Jesus”.

    I have serious doubts his comments will even approach the level of profundity or fun exhibited by anti-vaxers, HIV causes AIDS deniers, Moon Landing Hoaxers, DaveScot, Dembski, common ID sycophants, or even a box of rocks.

    Again, I offer my apologies for the transmission of this particular louse. Next time, I’ll be sure to send a higher quality of Dumbass your way.

    Kisses,

  24. #24 hoary puccoon
    February 24, 2007

    I’m with entlord. Physicists who want to shove aberrant biology down our throats should be required to teach astrology as an alternate theory. Geologists should teach flat earth. And all those mining engineers who insist on creationism should be required to use divining rods. Of course, that won’t be much of an imposition for the engineers. Divining rods work just fine, if you do all your mining in the pockets of the faithful.

  25. #25 Paul Power
    February 25, 2007

    Here are 3 questions that should be put to the Professor:

    1) What age is the Universe ?
    2) Is Evolution compatible with the Laws Of Thermodynamics.

    When he answers “1) 14 billion years” and “2) Of course it is”, then ask this:

    3) Why does he not point out these facts to the creationists and leave biology alone until he has convinced them ?

  26. #26 c. w. foster
    February 25, 2007

    the fundies look at the weapons of mass destruction that science has created and claim, my prayers have been answered

  27. #27 c.w. foster
    February 25, 2007

    Anyone who thinks evolution isn’t real, should be watching t v on the set my aunt had when I was 15 ( I’m 70 now )or have the washing machine my mother had that I lost my finger to in 1952

  28. #28 Mr. Gunn
    February 25, 2007

    “makes me wonder what would have happened if we just decided to let the south secede.”

    If you think the South is the problem, think again. It’s Missouri and Iowa you should be worried about. Yeah, there are some ignoramuses down here, but the politeness and laissez-faire attitude makes Southern christians much less dangerous than ammo-in-the-basement Midwesterners.

    It’s been that way for some years now, too, so your lack of attention is disturbing.

  29. #29 mc2
    February 27, 2007

    This guy makes me ashamed to be a physicist.

    I second Paul Power about asking those questions.

  30. #30 Ginger Yellow
    March 6, 2007

    Two, that Skiff will assert or imply that evolution implies atheism, and that if one accepts methodological naturalism, one therefore must also accept philosophical naturalism, and choose between evolutionary theory and their religious beliefs.

    When somebody says that, Skiff or any other ID-friendly scientist, ask them these questions:

    “In your last piece of published research, when you drew your conclusions, did you say that supernatural processes could be responsible for the results, even though you believe they can? Why not? On what did you base your conclusion that natural processes were responsible for the results? How about the research before that? And before that? Have you ever said that supernatural processes could be responsible for your observed results? If not, how are you any different from any scientist practising methodological naturalism?”

    The obvious answer, in case the rest of the audience present doesn’t follow, is that unspecified supernatural processes can always be responsible at least in principle, so allowing science to attribute results to them explains absolutely nothing. Every single piece of research would have to conclude something along the lines of Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, unless God says so.

  31. #31 Antiquated Tory
    March 7, 2007

    Perhaps you can ask the Professor why there isn’t a push by ID physicists to get a paper on ID Cosmology, or ID interpretations of quantum theory, published in Phys. Rev. Letters?

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