Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Dean Esmay, a blogger I respect, has a post about ID that might surprise some folks. Dean is an atheist, you see, but he doesn’t think it’s a bad idea to teach ID in schools, or at least to bring it up in biology classes and mention that there are some smart people who advocate it. The question he wants answered is essentially this: what would the negative consequences be of taking time in science classrooms to discuss intelligent design? So far all he has heard are vague slippery slope arguments (which he appears to erroneously believe is always a logical fallacy; it is not) and arguments to the effect that ID isn’t science and therefore doesn’t belong there. It’s a fair question, of course, and it deserves a serious answer. As someone who is involved in the day to day battle against the movement to put ID into public school science classrooms, I hope to provide that answer here, but first I feel I need to correct some of Dean’s misconceptions about ID and those who advocate it. For instance, in answer to a comment he says:

Actually the Discovery Institute folks–who if you examine their list of senior fellows includes a number of biologists, astronomers, and other Ph.D. level scientists as well as some historians and philosophers–make it fairly clear that they have no answer to that particular question. Some of their members believe there might be an alien intelligence involved; others some sort of universal demiurge, still others some sort of God, and so on.

This is false, so far as I know, and I’ve read virtually everything the CSC (Center for Science and Culture, the Discovery Institute’s ID branch) has ever put out. I don’t know of a single CSC fellow who believes in an “alien intelligence” or a “universal demiurge” or anything like that. Every one of the CSC fellows is a conservative Christian, with only two exceptions (David Berlinski is Jewish and Jonathan Wells is a Moonie). All of them, so far as I know, believes in not only “some sort of God”, but in the same God (though the Moonie might be an exception to that, their views on God are so bizarre as to be impossible to define). They like to claim publicly that their claims are consistent with belief in an alien intelligence (such as the Raelians believe) or a “universal demiurge”, or what have you, but none of them actually believes this. Now, this isn’t terribly relevant in and of itself; the mere fact that they share a common religious belief is not necessarily a reason to doubt what they say. But when they go to such trouble to disguise this fact, and when they’ve said publicly that they do so as part of a public relations/political strategy, and when they have declared in a document that was intended to be secret that their goal is nothing less than to put God at the center of every facet of society, it’s certainly worth looking at.

In fact, this deceit is part of their strategy, which was born out of a need to get around the Federal court decisions that said that teaching creationism was unconstitutional because it is a religious belief, not a scientific one. It is also important to note that this is not an assumption on my part. I’m not trying to read their intent. They made it very clear what their goals are in the Wedge document, a strategy blueprint for how they would destroy evolution and replace it with ID that was found on the DI website. After months and months of denying that it was authentic, they eventually admitted that it was genuine when they had no choice. This document makes clear their theological motivations, and they have nothing to do with an alien intelligence or universal demiurge, but with the very blunt goal to “reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.” Now, this does not in and of itself mean that their scientific claims are false, of course, and we will examine those claims in more detail later. But let’s at least start by being honest about their goals and motivations. I know that they don’t like it when we do that, but it is the truth and it’s easily documented, so let’s call a spade a spade. Their advocacy has one and only one goal, establishing a “theistic science” and destroying evolution and “materialism”.

It should also be noted that science is not simply whatever a given scientist advocates is true. The fact that there are genuine PhDs at the DI doesn’t mean that what they are doing constitutes science at all, much less good science. There have been scientists who did good work in their field and still advocated all sorts of nutty ideas. Isaac Newton and his ruminations on alchemy come to mind. The fact that the DI fellows have credentials matters as little as the fact that some of them are very nice guys (Paul Nelson and Frank Beckwith in particular are very pleasant and charming gentlemen). Even Nobel Prize winning scientists do not get a free pass on ideas they propose; they have to go through the same process of proposing a model, testing it and convincing their colleagues that it’s a fruitful idea that every other scientist has to go through. And it is the fact that ID is being promoted as a compelling alternative in the absence of that process that should raise red flags.

The second misconception that Dean has about the ID advocates is this:

And contrary to some assertions, they have published peer-reviewed literature on the subject.

Technically true, but let’s delve a little deeper into that. They managed to publish a single piece of “peer-reviewed literature”, in a fairly obscure journal. That article was ushered through to publication by one of their fellow travelers and the editorial board unanimously voted to disavow it publicly. But that’s not the most important reason why this is a misconception. The real problem with this article is that it contained nothing original at all. It was not a research article, it was a review article, and all it really did was review their own repeated claims about the subject. Equally as important is the fact that the only mention of actual research in the article was to instances where scientists had yet to give an explanation of the evolution of a specific biochemical system that they found satisfactory. This is a very important point because it gets to the heart of what ID really is, which is a purely negative argument. It is a classic God of the Gaps argument, whereby they point to places where there is not yet (at least in their opinion) a fully satisfactory natural explanation for a set of data and they say, “A ha! You can’t prove how that happened, therefore God must have done it.” The problems with such an argument are quite obvious. This argument can be made, and has been made, about any scientific theory whatsoever, and it has always proven to be false. The mere fact that we cannot explain something today does not mean it won’t be explained tomorrow, and the entire history of science shows that such proclamations are foolhardy. It was once believed that God sent disease and natural disasters. We now know that disease is caused by microorganisms (among other things, of course), that earthquakes are caused by tectonic plates shifting against each other, and that hurricanes are the result of mundane and natural weather patterns.

One could easily imagine an ID argument in any of those areas, of course. They would point to specific instances where meteorologists predicted that a hurricane would go in one direction only to have it go in another, or to instances where seismologists failed to predict an earthquake despite a pretty good understanding of their natural causes, and they would argue that this shows that meteorologists or seismologists are “blinded by their commitment to materialism” and refuse to consider the possibility of intelligent causes. They would point to genuine scientists who believe the bible to be true, including those verses that say that God sends natural disasters to punish His enemies or those who fail to follow His word, and they would say, “What is wrong with teaching our children about the weaknesses in meteorological or seismological theories? Why not teach the controversy?” I doubt their argument would seem so compelling in that context, but the analogy is as precise as it needs to be to illustrate the point that one can always make a God of the Gaps type of argument in any science. One could just as easily point to the lack of a solid Quantum Mechanical theory of gravity and propose an “angels pushing the planets around in their orbits” alternative to gravitational theory. But these alternatives don’t offer anything positive, only the negative argument “Not fully explained yet, therefore God did it”.

Such an argument is considered unscientific not merely because it includes God, but because it’s scientifically sterile. There is no model there, no theory from which one could derive hypotheses that would allow us to test and see if it is true or not. It can never be falsified because in a complex theory involving volumes of data spread over a dozen fields of science, there will always be areas in which our understanding is incomplete; explain the examples they use today and tomorrow they will merely move on to another. It can never be shown to be true and history has always shown it to be false where it has been invoked before. Thus, it has no explanatory power and serves merely as an excuse not to go any further in our research. In examining biochemical systems such as the bacterial flagellum, the favorite example of the ID crowd, the conventional scientific perspective allows for innumerable avenues for new research to find an explanation. By contrast, can you even conceive of a means to provide a positive test for ID as an explanation? Well neither can the advocates of ID. There is none, which means it will always remain a purely negative argument. And while it is true that dissatisfaction with existing explanations has often spurred the development of new and better explanations throughout history, those new and better explanations could only be accepted when they could be tested against the data and shown to have more explanatory power. With a purely negative theory of the form “not x, therefore y”, there is no way of doing this, even hypothetically. That’s why they can’t point to or perform any research that confirms the validity of ID; at best, they can only show that there is not yet a compelling evolutionary explanation and then leap to “and therefore, God must have made it that way.”

Let me give a little more background on the Wedge strategy because it really is important to answering the question of why ID should not be in science classrooms. Phase 1 of the strategy was intended to be “Research, Writing and Publication”, and according to them, this was “the essential component of everything that comes afterward”:

Without solid scholarship, research and argument, the project would be just another attempt to indoctrinate instead of persuade. A lesson we have learned from the history of science is that it is unnecessary to outnumber the opposing establishment. Scientific revolutions are usually staged by an initially small and relatively young group of scientists who are not blinded by the prevailing prejudices and who are able to do creative work at the pressure points, that is, on those critical issues upon which whole systems of thought hinge.

Yet they cannot point to any original research that establishes a positive case for ID, or even to an actual model of ID that might spawn such research. In all these years since this strategy was devised, the first phase has gone nowhere. They’ve done lots of writing, the vast majority of which only seeks to poke holes in evolution to set up the negative argument detailed above. Michael Behe’s book, Darwin’s Black Box, was a purely negative argument detailing why he felt that his fellow scientists had failed to provide an adequate explanation for a few complex biochemical systems. His fellow biochemists pointed to dozens of articles suggesting possible pathways by which those systems might have evolved, articles that Behe either ignored entirely or dismissed out of hand. They also pointed to the types of research that is ongoing that might provide more detailed explanations for the evolution of those systems, and pointed out that Behe did not even attempt to provide any explanation himself for those systems.

Jonathan Wells’ book, Icons of Evolution, again contained only negative arguments pointing to supposed weaknesses in evolution. His book was literally full of falsehoods and misrepresentations and used all the traditional creationist techniques: out-of-context quotations, oversimplifications, false predictions, evidence distorting, and of course vague insinuations of dark conspiracies among the Darwinian Priesthood to destroy those who dared question them. This is what passes for serious scholarship for these folks, and it illustrates a very good reason why they skipped over the research phase and went right to the public relations phase (Phase 2: Publicity and opinion-making). This kind of work would never get published in a journal reviewed by his fellow scientists, not because of an orthodoxy that refuses to consider alternatives but because it’s shoddy and dishonest. The gaping flaws would be spotted in a moment by someone who knows the field, but by publishing for the public directly they avoid being called on it.

So not only have the avoided doing the research and publishing it in the science journals, the popular books they’ve written as part of their PR campaign to persuade the public have been riddled with errors both of fact and reasoning. All of these writings, along with Dembski’s, have been pretty much universally dismissed by their fellow scholars. Is this because there’s a hardened orthodoxy that is resistant to criticism, or is it because they haven’t bothered to do any of the actual scientific work necessary to establish that ID is a credible explanation? I’ll let Bruce Gordon, a former DI fellow and Dembski’s assistant director for the Polanyi Center at Baylor, answer that:

Design theory has had considerable difficulty gaining a hearing in academic contexts, as evidenced most recently by the the Polanyi Center affair at Baylor University. One of the principle reasons for this resistance and controversy is not far to seek: design-theoretic research has been hijacked as part of a larger cultural and political movement. In particular, the theory has been prematurely drawn into discussions of public science education where it has no business making an appearance without broad recognition from the scientific community that it is making a worthwhile contribution to our understanding of the natural world.

A small but significant step forward was made when design research was recognized as a legitimate form of academic inquiry, with a rightful place on the university campus, by the external review committee’s report on the Polanyi Center. But inclusion of design theory as part of the standard discourse of the scientific community, if it ever happens, will be the result of a long and difficult process of quality research and publication. It also will be the result of overcoming the stigma that has become attached to design research because of the anti-evolutionary diatribes of some of its proponents on the one hand and its appropriation for the purpose of Christian apologetics on the other…

If design theory is to make a contribution to science, it must be worth pursuing on the basis of its own merits, not as an exercise in Christian ‘cultural renewal,’ the weight of which it cannot bear.

This is, to me, a major reason why ID has no place in public school science classrooms, because putting it there would give students a very bad example of how to distort the scientific process. Science has served mankind very well. The often difficult and laborious process of proposing models, devising ways to test them and putting your work out for your peers to criticize it, then going back and reworking it until you’ve got a really good theory, has allowed us to explain a virtually infinite number of things we once thought impossible. It has given us a clearer and clearer understanding of the processes at work on Earth and in the larger universe and produced an enormous boon to human standards of living. Contrary to popular misconception, the designation of “theory” in science denotes a high level of certainty about its legitimacy and represents the painstaking work of scientists to get it right. The fact that most people don’t know what theory means is proof positive of the lousy job we already do of teaching philosophy of science to our students. To reward the shoddy scholarship and public relations mongering of the ID crowd and put it into science classrooms on equal footing with one of the best established and most comprehensive scientific theories can only serve to worsen the students’ understanding of how science operates.

I would also make the argument that once we allow non-scientific alternatives into science classrooms, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to draw a line to keep other such alternatives out. ID is not the only religiously-motivated alternative to evolution, of course, not even the only one popular among Christians. If we’re going to give equal time to ID, don’t we also have to give equal time to the Raelians, or the Hindu creationists like Cremo and Thompson? And if we’re going to do this for evolution, do we also have to give equal time to geocentrism? After all, there is a genuine PhD astronomer who advocates it (Gerardus Buow). I’m sure there are a few real scientists who belong to the Christian Science Church, so must we then also give equal time in health class to their ideas that ill health is purely spiritual in nature and can be prayed away? I’m not saying all these things necessarily would get in there, but the fact is that we’d have no principled way to keep them out once ID is allowed in.

I should also make the point that I am not advocating that no student should be allowed to critically question evolution, nor would I want a teacher to gloss over those areas where evidence is currently lacking or pretend we know more than we do. Critical thinking should be encouraged at all times, and where a question is asked that betrays a misunderstanding of the evidence or of how science operates, this should be viewed as an opportunity for learning. Sadly, many of our science teachers are not equipped to deal with such questions effectively and aren’t prepared for the introduction of religious questions into the discussion. And let’s not pretend that ID is anything but a religious idea. Despite their efforts to mask the religious nature of it, the inescapable fact is that religion not only provides their only motivation for proposing it, but also provides the motivation for so many people to accept it without bothering to examine the validity of the claims being made.

Bruce Gordon was right when he said that ID has been hijacked for a role in Christian cultural renewal, without any attempt to establish it on firm grounds to begin with. That’s why the slippery slope argument is, in this case, not a fallacious one. Sometimes slippery slope arguments are fallacious. But when you have the very same people advocating step A saying bluntly that it’s a step on the way to results B and C, it is not only a reasonable conclusion it is an inescapable one. ID is only one of several ongoing projects whose goal is essentially to repeal the Enlightenment. There are similar projects going on in legal theory (look at any of Robert Bork’s popular books if you don’t believe me) and in many other areas. Before we let them take that first step, we should at least demand that they put up or shut up when it comes to the research and theoretical work necessary to ground their ideology in reality. Because Gordon is also right when he says that until that hard work is done to establish the validity of ID, it has no place in a public school science class.

Comments

  1. #1 KeithB
    December 21, 2004

    “Even Nobel Prize winning scientists do not get a free pass on ideas they propose”

    Linus Pauling, for example.

  2. #2 Steve Reuland
    December 21, 2004

    Here’s Esmay’s Maxim, which I’ve just made up on the spot: any scientific theory, no matter how well-founded or widely accepted, which cannot stand up on its own two legs and face questioning from a young mind without running like a scared puppy to the courts for protection deserves all the kicking around it can get.

    LOL. Here’s Steve’s Maxim: Any so-called scientific theory which is unconvincing to actual scientists, and must therefore be targeted to impressionable and under-educated grade school students, is clearly a lousy theory.

  3. #3 Steve Reuland
    December 21, 2004

    Hmm, something else that bugged me:

    Inevitably someone in these discussions asks whether we should teach witchcraft, shamanism, astrology, or voodoo in the classroom. My response is, “show me who’s proposing witchcraft in the classroom and we’ll discuss their ideas.”

    But “discussing their ideas” is precisely what he hasn’t done with respect to ID. His argument up to this point was that ID didn’t present any clear and present danger (nevermind the long-term danger, I suppose) and therefore there’s no reason to bar its teaching in science class. But the exact same argument could be made for teaching astrology, Holocaust denial, young-Earth creationism, or any number of other things considered contrary to science. None of that stuff will turn students into killers overnight, they’ll just hamper their science education.

    Now it would seem that Esmay is arguing that if we have a discussion on astrology, and we find that it’s baseless and supported by people for non-scientific reasons, then we shouldn’t teach it in schools. If that’s the case, then he’s got his reason for not teaching ID. On the other hand, if his original criterion of “doing no harm” is what we’re going by, then by all means, let’s open the flood gates and teach any old nonsense that some advocacy group happens to champion.

  4. #4 Lorri T.
    December 21, 2004

    Thank you, Ed. I learn something new every day here.

  5. #5 Lynn
    December 21, 2004

    So do I Lorri T. and I am closer to him than anyone is, but still I learn from Ed.

  6. #6 Pete
    December 21, 2004

    Ed mentions the DI fellows book _Icons of Evolution_.
    For specifics see
    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/wells/

  7. #7 Joshua White
    December 21, 2004

    I have seen these guys

    http://www.mtv.com/onair/wildboyz/

    do better science than the guys at DI.

  8. #8 melior
    December 21, 2004

    OK, I’m going to have to prod you for some evidence on one point…

    “…there are some smart people who advocate” ID.

    Be honest now, you’re just being civil, right?

  9. #9 Jillian
    December 21, 2004

    Smart people frequently believe stupid things. Intelligence provides no immunity from having bizarre quirks creep into ones’ thoughts – the most prominent example I’ve been having fits over lately is a quote from Justice Scalia (who is no dummy) that makes it sound like he believes Nazi Germany was officially an atheist state.

    There are smart ID advocates – I’ve seen Bill Dembski on TV, and he doesn’t present himself like an idiot – he’s presentable, well spoken, affable, and capable of complex sentence construction. This doesn’t make him any less wrong, but he sure doesn’t come across like a cretin.

    I appreciate the clever IDers, actually. They’re like the Jacob Marleys of the intellectual world (gotta sneak in a holiday reference somewhere!) They stand resolute, resplendent in their discorporate finery of “antimaterialism” (to steal a concept from Phil Johnson), ensnared in the chains created by their own misunderstandings of what science is, what it does, and how it works. They are a warning that unless we all take the time to review what we believe and why we believe it from time to time, we are all liable to fall into traps like these.

  10. #10 melior
    December 21, 2004

    I did get a chuckle from the Freudian slip in the Wedge strategy progress summary: “Christianity Toady”.

  11. #11 Ed Brayton
    December 21, 2004

    OK, I’m going to have to prod you for some evidence on one point…

    “…there are some smart people who advocate” ID.

    Be honest now, you’re just being civil, right?

    I give out an Idiot of the Month Award (now the Robert O’Brien Trophy); do I seem like someone who hands out false compliments in order to be civil? No, the fact is that there are lots of very smart people who advocate ID. Bill Dembski is many things, but stupid isn’t one of them. Paul Nelson teaches philosophy at one of the finest universities in the world; Stephen Meyer and Jonathan Wells have PhDs from 3 of the finest universities in the world; Phillip Johnson taught at one of the nation’s top law schools. These are serious, accomplished and brilliant men. That they are wrong about something doesn’t change that fact a bit, any more than Newton’s bizarre religious views and fascination with alchemy changes the fact that he was a genius.

  12. #12 Jan
    December 22, 2004

    Smart people frequently believe stupid things.

    Are you saying that a person who believes in Intelligent Design is believing something that is “stupid”? It seems to me that you are making an unbelivably stupid statement, if that is what you are saying.

  13. #13 raj
    December 22, 2004

    Oh, Jan, surely you jest.

  14. #14 Jan
    December 22, 2004

    Are you aware of the Intelligent Design Network

    http://www.intelligentdesignnetwork.org/PressRelease2-6-02.htm

    Also, consider this from Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness Center: When intelligent agents act, they tend to produce high levels of “complex-specified information”, and in our experience, complex-specified information is always the product of the action of intelligent design. From observing intelligent agents in the natural world, we know produce machines containing high levels of complex and specified information (CSI). CSI is a mathematical concept employed by William Dembski, philosopher/mathematician at Baylor University. In our experience, CSI is always the product of ID. The origin of CSI cannot be explained by any naturalistic process, such as evolution.

    Perhaps it is a good thing that some of you take such a radical and closed mind approach to the origins of life and our universe. It enables those who are seeking truth to see that your agenda is the thing that is important to you and any person or group who has ideas that are not in line with what you believe must be silenced.

  15. #15 Captain Sunshine
    December 23, 2004

    The closed mind appears to be yours. Mr Dembski’s “mathematical concept” holds no equations or solvable, repeatable relationships. It is based on a set of assumptions which are culled directly from Mr Dembski’s mind and cannot be tested. Argued, yes. Tested, no.

    And it is obvious, from the Dover case, the insertion of erroneous and outright false information in Texas science curricula, and many other examples, that it is the Christians in ID-clothing who are trying to silence science. The reason for this is also obvious: when it comes to science, evangelical Christendom in general has nothing to say, so if they just outshout or shut down the opposition, they “win.” Your complaint of scientists trying to silence you appears to be projection. You fail to understand that any other scientist who comes up with a wildly different explanation for a particular natural phenomenon without evidence or experiment or repeatable inquiry gets the same treatment. It’s a “put up or shut up” world.

    From Dr Gordon’s quote:

    [...] inclusion of design theory as part of the standard discourse of the scientific community, if it ever happens, will be the result of a long and difficult process of quality research and publication.

    Please read the article again above. It makes the case, and the entrance requirements, for ID to be considered seriously as science. All the other scientists follow these rules – the ones worth their salt, anyway. Why don’t yours?

    CS

  16. #16 Captain Sunshine
    December 23, 2004

    I again have to offer an immediate correction. There was no mention in jan’s comment of the evangelical Christian support of ID. I should have left that part of my response out. I don’t see it as a separate issue, but it was not necessary here.

    CS

  17. #17 Ed Brayton
    December 23, 2004

    Are you aware of the Intelligent Design Network

    I am quite aware of John Calvert and his organization. I’m also aware of the Flat Earth Society, but I don’t think the existence of an organization advocating an idea is sufficent evidence for the truth of that idea.

    Also, consider this from Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness Center: When intelligent agents act, they tend to produce high levels of “complex-specified information”, and in our experience, complex-specified information is always the product of the action of intelligent design. From observing intelligent agents in the natural world, we know produce machines containing high levels of complex and specified information (CSI). CSI is a mathematical concept employed by William Dembski, philosopher/mathematician at Baylor University. In our experience, CSI is always the product of ID. The origin of CSI cannot be explained by any naturalistic process, such as evolution.

    I’m well aware of Dembski’s concept of CSI. I’m also well aware of how inconsistently he has defined and used this concept, and of the numerous flaws in it. For a good introduction to the problems with Dembski’s concept of CSI, see this paper by my friend Wesley Elsberry and Jeffrey Shallit.

    Perhaps it is a good thing that some of you take such a radical and closed mind approach to the origins of life and our universe. It enables those who are seeking truth to see that your agenda is the thing that is important to you and any person or group who has ideas that are not in line with what you believe must be silenced.

    There is nothing radical or closed minded about demanding that an idea be supported by evidence before accepting it. Seeking the truth is exactly what I am doing, and the fact that the ID advocates have entirely skipped over the whole “establishing that our idea is true” phase and jumped right to the public relations phase suggests that there isn’t any truth there. Strangely, you seem to think that the mere fact that someone doesn’t accept an idea you want to be true is evidence of closedmindedness, but that’s an illogical idea. It’s especially illogical when thrown at someone who has actually taken the time to examine that idea in detail to see whether it’s compelling or not. In such a case, conclusionary statements like this are merely a way to avoid the substantive arguments against your position.

  18. #18 Redshift
    December 23, 2004

    I think discussing ID in science class has the same place as discussing forgeries in art class. It proceeds from entirely different motivations and uses different methods than the main field (science or art), but is intended to produce something that looks similar. In each case, understanding it properly requires a good grounding in the main field, which is why I wouldn’t want to see either one get more than a passing mention of its existence in a class below college level.

  19. #19 Craig T
    December 23, 2004

    On top of the bad science, I have a practical reason against adding ID to the science curriculum: time constraints. The over-emphasis of testing in education has all the science teachers I know forced to focus on test prep strategies rather than actual education. If it’s not on the test, there’s no room for it in the classroom. In Texas it’s the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills. I’m just glad the TAKS includes questions on evolution or it would be covered even less in Texas schools.

  20. #20 Bucky
    December 25, 2004

    Meeting the creationists/ID advocates head-on with reason and logical rebuttal is a good thing, and it’s becoming more and more rapidly a brave thing. But the confrontation takes place on the home field of science. It would help if there were more voices explaining why otherwise reasonable and intelligent men and women were espousing nonsense publicly, and demanding that it be taught to children.
    The what is clearly wrong – inaccurate and pathological, like a virus, or a prion. In that it’s like any other infection, it consumes resources and debilitates the infected body. But the why is right out of Darwin’s book I think. It’s an evolutionary gambit.
    The genes of the men who seek to shape the larger society around their belief system will be central in that reshaped system, and marginal in a society that treats their beliefs as no more significant than animism or sun-worship. It isn’t just a mistake, an illogical stubborness, it’s an adaptation, a means of gaining dominance and cementing the social integrity of the group. A reproductive strategy.
    It’s evolution in action.
    In the long run of course it’s perfectly possible that both sides as they’re now constituted may turn out to be mostly wrong, and have more in common with each other’s mistaken notions of what this all is than with the truth of it. The primary difference is the scientific side is trying not to be wrong, is rigorously dedicated to that effort; and the ID side is choosing to be wrong.
    Still, it was Cartesian science that gave us caged chimpanzees in primate labs and suffering dogs who “don’t feel pain like we do”.
    And while Holocaust denial occupies a special place in the pantheon of destructive idiocies, the Nazi rationale was arrogant in a very familiar way – anthropocentric supremacy refined and strictly applied, to the world. Interestingly enough that arrogance had its origins in a Christianity of the elect.
    It’s all evolution, even when they say it isn’t.

  21. #21 Jan
    December 25, 2004

    The attitudes and fears of those who post here are very interesting to me. There seems to be a great fear that somehow children will be subjected to creationism being taught in a science class and with that, Christianity will be introduced. Perhaps this is because of the passage from the Bible in Psalm 19, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” Actually, the passage is from the old testament and therefore could just as easily be taught by a Jewish instructor. Here is the conundrum. It need not be taught in a classroom. If there is Intelligent Design in our world, this truth and the truth of the above passage will supersede all science lessons that try so earnestly to convince that there is no intelligent design. On the other hand, if no design is evident, children will be the first to notice. Sort of like the (Emperor’s New Clothes) For this reason, I think we should all relax a bit. Science is not to be feared. We should only fear one who would mask truth of any kind or keep ideas out of the classroom. When teachers or text book writers begin to interpret scientific findings to prove or disprove a ‘pet’ theory, we need to take note. Truth will win out eventually. Here is an interesting website.

    http://www.intelligentdesignnetwork.org/

  22. #22 Ed Brayton
    December 25, 2004

    Jan-

    There is no fear here, only logical arguments. The type you seem to want to avoid engaging. But thank you for admitting what we all knew to be true, that the primary motivation behind ID is to convert people to Christianity. The IDers keep denying that, but at least you’re honest enough to admit it.

  23. #23 Jan
    December 25, 2004

    How did you manage to find some sort of admission in my post? :-) Christians recognize Intelligent Design. Personally, I think the “the heavens declare the glory of God” and I wonder what all the hoopla is about.

  24. #24 Ed Brayton
    December 25, 2004

    Of course you wonder what it’s about, because you don’t understand any of the science. For you, it is good enough that some scientists say that the evidence supports your position. That’s why you refer to webpages that advocate that position without bothering to engage any of the substantive arguments for why the claims contained therein are flawed. So rather than discussing the substantive arguments, you just declare that anyone who doesn’t see the obvious truth of your position is “closed-minded” and afraid. My post contains a fairly detailed examination of the claims of the ID advocates, and rather than engage those arguments, you just cast aspersions and dismiss them with a wave of your hand. Which is exactly why ID has made no headway among scientists. Like you, the ID advocates continue to just dismiss objections with a wave of their hand rather than actually presenting a model and proposing ways of testing it.

  25. #25 Jan
    December 25, 2004

    Intelligent Design is not recognized by all scientist, but there are many who do recognize the design of our universe has having an intelligence behind it. I think that your argument is that because the presence of intelligent design does not lend itself to being proven by a scientific procedure that I and others should humbly ‘admit’ that it therefore does not exist. Please believe me that I hold no ill will toward you because of your beliefs or comments. I simply believe that the preponderance of the evidence supports a belief in an intelligence behind our universe. It does not need to be taught in a science class. On the other hand, you should not insult those of us who believe by dismissing our ideas simply because they do not lend themselves to a scientific experiment. There are many other things in this world that cannot be proven; love, compassion, self sacrifice to name a few. They should not be taught in a science class, but neither should they be dismissed and the person who believes that they exist described as ignorant. While love has no place in the teaching of biology, it still plays a part in the human experience.

  26. #26 Ed Brayton
    December 25, 2004

    Intelligent Design is not recognized by all scientist, but there are many who do recognize the design of our universe has having an intelligence behind it.

    No, this doesn’t have anything to do with the design of the universe. Evolution deals only with the biodiversity of life on earth. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the origins of the universe. In fact, I myself believe that the universe was created. But that has nothing at all to do with the arguments put out by ID or with evolution.

    I think that your argument is that because the presence of intelligent design does not lend itself to being proven by a scientific procedure that I and others should humbly ‘admit’ that it therefore does not exist.

    No, not at all. My argument is that because ID cannot be established scientifically, the advocates of it should stop claiming that it can be established scientifically. That would be the honest thing to do, right? I don’t care what anyone chooses to believe, I care what they want to put into science classrooms.

    Please believe me that I hold no ill will toward you because of your beliefs or comments. I simply believe that the preponderance of the evidence supports a belief in an intelligence behind our universe.

    And I don’t hold any ill will toward your beliefs either. In fact, this conversation has nothing at all to do with your beliefs. I couldn’t possibly care any less what you choose to believe.

    It does not need to be taught in a science class.

    So if you don’t believe that ID is scientific and don’t think it should be in science classes, why did you come here pointing me to webpages that claim the opposite and do it in response to an essay saying it should not be taught in science classes?

    On the other hand, you should not insult those of us who believe by dismissing our ideas simply because they do not lend themselves to a scientific experiment.
    I didn’t insult anyone or dismiss their ideas because they do not lend themselves to scientific expirement; I said that if it doesn’t lend itself to scientific exploration, it doesn’t belong in a science class. Which you agree with. So I’m a little baffled as to why you bothered to say any of this at all. You appear now to agree with me. But you still seem to think that this has something to do with atheism, and it doesn’t. It never did. The only ones who are motivated by questions of religion are the ID advocates; I care only about the science because that is the only thing relevant to what goes into science classrooms.

  27. #27 Jan
    December 25, 2004

    Because I believe in Intelligent Design, you made an assumption that I think ID should be taught in a science class. You have made that assumption every time I have posted. It is amusing, but it is also a little frightening. Not only have you made the assumption, so have many who read your blog and most became hostile immediately. This is what bothers me about many who teach our children. Teachers should not become hostile toward those who are unlike themselves. Teachers should also realize that some things exist that cannot be measured in a science classroom. Misdirected fear has no place in a classroom. The idea of an intelligent design behind the universe should not be a threat to a science teacher and it should not cause a teacher to become hostile to a student. I am not saying that anyone here has acted in that manner toward a student, however, one has to wonder.

  28. #28 Ed Brayton
    December 25, 2004

    Because I believe in Intelligent Design, you made an assumption that I think ID should be taught in a science class. You have made that assumption every time I have posted. It is amusing, but it is also a little frightening. Not only have you made the assumption, so have many who read your blog and most became hostile immediately.

    Jan, you stepped into a conversation that was solely about the question of whether ID should be taught in science classrooms. Read the essay at the top, even the title in big bold letters says it’s about “ID in science classrooms”. All of the arguments addressed the question of whether ID should be in science classrooms. You showed up and cut and pasted from an ID webpage about complex specified information, obviously implying there was a scientific basis for ID (which you now admit is not the case). And now you want to pretend that it was unfair of us to assume that you were advocating ID in science classrooms and it’s “frightening” that we did so? Give me a break.

    I suspect what really happened here was that you cut and pasted material you didn’t understand, and when it became clear that this wasn’t going to cut it because the others here actually do understand it, you shifted gears and pretended never to be arguing for ID in the first place. I think you jumped into an argument you really don’t understand. And I think you did so primarily because you think it has something to do with atheism. It still doesn’t.

  29. #29 Bucky
    December 26, 2004

    Jan-
    At its best the teaching of science, real science, including biology, is an act of love, and often involves self-sacrifice and compassion, as anyone who’s ever worked in a classroom knows – especially these days, especially teaching science in the US. And those qualities are taught along with the subject, by example, in the classroom.
    -
    The universe, the thing outside us that reaches infinitely in all directions, may be the work of an intelligence, though that’s a human word for a human ability. It took a lot of hard work to get people on both sides of this argument, scientists and religionists, to admit that other primates were and are intelligent. It will take still more hard work to get both sides to admit that they may both be wrong about what this is we’re in, the universe. But again, science is starting from an honest admission of not-knowing, it makes it easier to change your mind, to admit you were wrong. The religious side began with false assumptions and has modified their position over time as proof of their errors became undeniable.
    Galileo was imprisoned for saying the earth went around the sun.
    The sun doesn’t go around the earth, the stars are not just little points of light.
    None of those scientific facts mean there is no God, but they do show clearly and plainly that the people who claimed they knew what we were and how we got here were wrong. Those same people are now trying to modify their claims for the origins of life, to make them fit the undeniable facts we’ve discovered.
    -
    A case could easily be made that the sun is alive, if we expand our definition of what it is to be alive far enough. It’s obviously the source of life-energy for virtually every creature on earth, and it has been all along. We can’t teach sun-worship in American schools though, not because it’s scientifically inaccurate, it isn’t, it has nothing to do with science, it’s conflicts with the religion of the majority.
    The issue isn’t really whether or not all this is planned or accidental, it’s whether it’s owned. There’s too much of a similarity, for me, between the claims of creationists and the claims of the colonists who planted flags and claimed continents for their kings and their god.
    I live in a state, California, that was claimed by the Spanish throne almost 500 years ago. It was done essentially by saying it was so. There were people living here but they were disregarded, because they didn’t believe, and when they complained and fought back they were beaten into submission or killed.
    The formula goes something like –

    “God made all this, we’re God’s people, so it’s all ours. You’re not God’s people, so it’s not yours.”

    That’s pretty much a biological move, a survival strategy. One that enables people who see themselves as moral to do immoral things.
    I’m sure no one here would mind at all if I insisted that the moon is as big as the sun, unless I tried to insert that in a school textbook. Because it isn’t true, and it can be proved that it isn’t.
    I believe the universe is infinite, and that the complexities that surround us are beyond our ability to comprehend, in total, because they’re infinite. It’s a personal belief, I have a right to it, but I don’t have a right to force it on other people.
    It’s a very human thing, trying to understand where we are and how things work. Along the way that understanding has undone a lot of fantasies, like the one that said the earth is the center of the universe. It isn’t. We know that now. We didn’t Know it, and now we do. It was comforting for a certain kind of person to believe that, and it was hard for them to realize that they were wrong.
    What it came down to in Galileo’s time, and what it comes down to now, is power. Truth is more powerful than lies, over time, no matter who wins the argument of force. A God that needs lies to keep his people is not big enough to create life, let alone worlds without end.

  30. #30 Jan
    December 26, 2004

    Bucky, I agree with most of what you have said. It seems to me that we need to be careful when we have the awesome job of helping to mold young minds. Many evolutionist appear to be doing the very things that they fear creationist will do. Ed, it is your post and you can assume that only an evolutionary “scientist” can understand the truths of your postings. While I do not understand everything out there, from what I read I do understand this much. Evolutionist seem to have turned a corner recently and decided that they have arrived at the “truth” and that all those who do not jump on the bandwagon must leave or be labelled. I see many scientist who reach different conclusions being attacked. It sounds to me as if, instead of welcoming ideas and keeping an open mind, evolutionist want to close doors and make sure that only precribed outcomes be reached. The scientific method and scientific conclusions do not have to be compromised to keep an open classroom. I do not think that the idea of intelligent design is a scientific theory that should be taught in a classroom, but rather an observation that should not be ignored or dismissed. Evolutionist fear creationist and it appears from where I stand that many are willing to close their eyes to the obvious for fear of accommodating an opposing view. There are other conclusions out there.

  31. #31 Ed Brayton
    December 26, 2004

    Ed, it is your post and you can assume that only an evolutionary “scientist” can understand the truths of your postings.

    I didn’t say that. I didn’t even imply that. And frankly, I’m beginning to wonder if you even bother reading what I say before you respond. You seem to respond to anything but the substance of my position.

    Evolutionist seem to have turned a corner recently and decided that they have arrived at the “truth” and that all those who do not jump on the bandwagon must leave or be labelled. I see many scientist who reach different conclusions being attacked.

    So what? The only question that matters is if the attack is justified. I have criticized those scientists who advocate ID of several things. I have accused them of running a PR campaign for their ideas rather than doing the hard scientific work necessary to establish the idea as valid. I’m not alone in that; there are people who accept ID who have said much the same thing. And the evidence clearly supports my position.

    I have accused them of hiding their true motives, talking in public press releases and material only about an unnamed and unknown “intelligent designer” and claiming that this is solely a question of science. But in private, or in front of groups of followers, they will speak boldly of their goal of destroying evolution and destroying “naturalism” (a phrase they often distort the meaning of) and “putting God back at the center of our culture”. And here again, the evidence is on my side. I have not only quoted those statements they make out of the public eye, I’ve quoted them saying that they do this intentionally as part of their political strategy.

    The problem you have is that I’m criticizing people you agree with. And rather than actually evaluating whether my criticism is correct or not, you instantly leap to the conclusion that I’m “closed-minded” and “afraid” of what they have to say. That’s just lazy, shoddy thinking.

    It sounds to me as if, instead of welcoming ideas and keeping an open mind, evolutionist want to close doors and make sure that only precribed outcomes be reached.

    This is simply nonsense. I am more than willing to evaluate a scientific theory of intelligent design. I have spent years evaluating the claims of those who say they have one. I didn’t just shut the door and say, “I’m sorry, I won’t listen to you.” I’ve read all of their books and most of their shorter writings; in short, I’ve given them their due and given them their shot. There just isn’t anything there. At best all they have done is shined a light on a few areas where scientists continue to do research to explain the development of a few specific biochemical systems. It simply isn’t logical to leap from that to “and therefore, God did it”.

    And if these folks actually want to present a model, derive hypotheses from it and propose ways to test those hypotheses, I will be more than happy to examine that model and evaluate it fairly, and my many scientist friends will be happy to do so as well, and to perform those tests and see if it passes. But so far, those things simply don’t exist, despite repeated promises that they are forthcoming. And that is precisely why it doesn’t belong in public school science classrooms. It should be a part of science education only after it has been established as a scientific theory, not before.

    Evolutionist fear creationist and it appears from where I stand that many are willing to close their eyes to the obvious for fear of accommodating an opposing view. There are other conclusions out there.

    Back to this “you’re just afraid” crap. If you haven’t shown that my arguments about why ID is invalid are false, then this is a presumptuous and unjustified claim. And frankly, I am getting tired at the continuous aspersions being cast without you even attempting to engage the substantive arguments for my position.

    If you’re not capable of evaluating the substantive arguments, then you have no basis for forming an opinion in the first place. If you can’t refute the substantive arguments, then intellectual honesty demands that you rethink your position. And if you just don’t care whether the substative arguments that justify my position are true or not, and you’re going to continue to insist that it is closed-mindedness and fear rather than logic that leads to those conclusions, then you really are just wasting your time and everyone else’s. In short, if I’m wrong tell me why I’m wrong. If you can’t, then you have no business explaining away my position as based on fear or closed-mindedness.

  32. #32 Jan
    December 27, 2004

    Ed, I printed out and read carefully your entry and believe it or not, I understand what you are saying. You did say referring to the wedge document that: “They made it very clear what their goals are in the Wedge document, a strategy blueprint for how they would destroy evolution and replace it with ID”. I do not think you should fear this. Could evolution be so easily destroyed? You also remarked that an argument is considered “unscientific not merely because it includes God…” I happen to disagree with you there. Also, I disagree with your presupposition that anything unproven by science will be immediately seized by the “ID crowd” as a “God of the Gaps type of argument”. I, personally am offended by this shallow thinking and accusation. There may be some who do this, but I think that Intelligent Design is something that is observable, but not something that lends itself to scientific experimentation or exploration. It does not threaten or change the nature of science in any way. At the very beginning of your treatise, you refer to Esmay as one who considers whether or not a person believes in God as a consideration of whether or not their work should be considered. You do go so far as to say this should “not necessarily be a reason to doubt what they say. But….it’s certainly worth looking at.” I believe that the works should speak for themselves, not the persons personal beliefs or whether or not they seem to be “hiding” a belief. There is a lot of disagree over what is acceptable published journalism and what is not. Actually, however, I am not trying to argue for or against those things. I find myself agreeing with what I think you meant when you say that after all is said and done you are “not advocating that no student should be allowed to critically question evolution”, nor would you want a teacher to gloss over those areas where evidence is currently lacking or pretend “we” know more than “we” do. If teachers or not qualified to be in a classroom, they should either get training or be removed. Whether ID is a religious idea or a scientific fact, the fact that it is there should be acknowledged. That is all I have been trying to say. I am sorry if I have upset you with my limited ability to converse and understand.

  33. #33 Jan
    December 27, 2004

    I have several small children in and out as I try and write this. I need to explain something that I realize is not at all clear in the above post. The reason I do not like the “God of the gaps” theory is as follows: I think God is above and transcends any scientific discovery that men make. I think that the idea we need a gap in science in order to fit God into our thinking is an insult to God. God is. We are privileged to make small discoveries here and there.

  34. #34 Ed Brayton
    December 27, 2004

    You did say referring to the wedge document that: “They made it very clear what their goals are in the Wedge document, a strategy blueprint for how they would destroy evolution and replace it with ID”. I do not think you should fear this.

    And I don’t “fear” it – I think it is dishonest. And dishonest things should be opposed, shouldn’t they? I do fear the potential results of it, as they don’t stop there. They speak boldly of making America a “god-based culture”. And given that a large chunk of the funding for the DI’s activities comes from wealthy folks with close ties to the Christian Reconstructionism movement, that kind of rhetoric may well imply a desire to impose biblical law as the civil and criminal law in the United States (they speak as boldly about establishing theism as the central idea in law as they do in science). So yes, the ultimate goals could very well mean the end of freedom for all of us and they are worth being concerned about.

    Could evolution be so easily destroyed?

    Not to scientists, for whom evolution is the central organizing theory in a dozen or more fields. But to an uneducated public dazzled by a small group of people with credentials who tell them that those big bad evil scientists are trying to kill God? Absolutely. It’s already working. And it should be opposed on multiple fronts.

    You also remarked that an argument is considered “unscientific not merely because it includes God…” I happen to disagree with you there.

    You can’t disagree with that, it isn’t a statement. The real statement is what follows the …, not what you pasted. Notice the word “not” in that little snippet. An idea is not considered unscientific merely because it includes God, but because of something more than that. If you disagree what you posted, it could only be if you believe that the inclusion of God alone makes something unscientific. Also note that just saying “I disagree with you” is not engaging or refuting the substance of an argument.

    Also, I disagree with your presupposition that anything unproven by science will be immediately seized by the “ID crowd” as a “God of the Gaps type of argument”

    You keep saying that you understand what I’m saying, but then when you restate it, you get it completely wrong. I didn’t say anything “unproven” by science will be seized on by the ID crowd. I said those biochemical systems for which we don’t yet have a fully satisfactory explanation will be seized. Why? Because those are the ones they HAVE seized on. It’s the only ones they CAN seize on, because no others could be replaced with “and therefore, God did it.” In fact, most of them will fully admit that there are perfectly good natural explanations for most of the complex biochemical systems found in living organisms on the earth. So, my statement was absolutely true. And the fact that you disagree with your misunderstanding of that statement doesn’t change that a bit.

    I, personally am offended by this shallow thinking and accusation.

    LOL. Well, you are entirely free to be offended. But until you actually engage the substance of any of my arguments, there is no basis for the offense. And the fact remains that the only shallow thinking that has been engaged in thus far here is on your part.

    There may be some who do this, but I think that Intelligent Design is something that is observable, but not something that lends itself to scientific experimentation or exploration.

    Then it has no business being in science classrooms. And since that was the only subject of this post, that really should be the end of the discussion, shouldn’t it?

    It does not threaten or change the nature of science in any way.

    The ID advocates certainly do intend to “change the nature of science”. They say so quite bluntly in the Wedge document. They openly yearn for a “theistic science”, but they never say what that might actually entail.

    At the very beginning of your treatise, you refer to Esmay as one who considers whether or not a person believes in God as a consideration of whether or not their work should be considered. You do go so far as to say this should “not necessarily be a reason to doubt what they say. But….it’s certainly worth looking at.”

    And I’ve looked at it. I’ve examined everything they’ve ever written on the subject and found it wanting for the substantive reasons I’ve stated, the very same substantive reasons that you seem to avoid like the plague.

    I believe that the works should speak for themselves, not the persons personal beliefs or whether or not they seem to be “hiding” a belief.

    And the “works”, by which I assume you mean the intellectual and scientific-sounding arguments from ID advocates, do speak for themselves. And they say that they simply don’t have a model or a way to test their idea. In science, that’s the end of the road. Until you can find some means of testing an explanation, it isn’t an explanation at all. From a science education perspective, end of discussion. Come back when you have something testable.

    There is a lot of disagree over what is acceptable published journalism and what is not.

    Uh, okay. But this isn’t about “published journalism”, it’s about science education. Are you sure you actually read what it is you’re responding to before responding to it? You don’t seem to have the foggiest idea what we’re talking about.

  35. #35 Ed Brayton
    December 27, 2004

    I need to explain something that I realize is not at all clear in the above post. The reason I do not like the “God of the gaps” theory is as follows: I think God is above and transcends any scientific discovery that men make. I think that the idea we need a gap in science in order to fit God into our thinking is an insult to God. God is. We are privileged to make small discoveries here and there.

    Congratulations, you have stumbled upon the primary theological objection that many Christian scientists, like Ken Miller and Howard Van Till, have against ID. Their argument is that God’s world is a “fully gifted creation”, capable of evolving on its own without the need for him to continually intervene to make sure everything works right. They reject ID because it is this type of “god of the gaps” thinking, where they admit that evolution occurs naturally but point to a few specific areas in which there is not yet a satisfactory explanation and assume that therefore, that must be the point at which God had to intervene to make a new system to keep things moving along. For Miller and Van Till, writing from, respectively, a Catholic and Calvinist perspective, this is an insult to God, it places limits upon him by saying that he was so bad at creating the world that he had to keep intervening to tinker with it to get it to do what he wanted. If you reject that too, your disagreement should be aimed at ID, not at me. They’re the ones making the “god of the gaps” argument; I’m just the one pointing out that it is one.

  36. #36 davescot
    December 27, 2004

    Anti-ID fanatics give a whole new meaning to the phrase “God Fearing”. :-)

    Theories stand or fail on their own merits not the personalities of those that hold them. So let’s try forgetting that Christians are the most vocal supporters of ID and atheists the most vocal opponents, shall we?

    Everyone’s asking for ways to find positive evidence for ID. Here’s one:

    http://www.seti.org/site/pp.asp?c=ktJ2J9MMIsE&b=178025

    Even the AAAS says it’s “good” science to search for intelligence amongst the stars.

    If it’s good science to search for intelligence amongst the stars I fail to understand why searching for intelligence in the machinery of life is bad science.

    Can someone please explain this dichotomy to me?

    Thanks in advance.

  37. #37 davescot
    December 27, 2004

    Y’all wanna know the real reason why everyone is so afraid of ID? Sure you do.

    It’s because ID is proven possibility. Presumably intelligent agents dressed in labcoats and wielding decidedly unnatural gene-splicing machines in 2002 took non-living chemical components, a gene map of poliovirus, and created a living organism. It took a couple of years. In 2003 the usual suspects employed the same means to create a bacteriophage in just a few weeks. Genetic engineering has been used to tinker with the genetic code to produce meatier sheep, disease resistant tomatoes, etc. in a well established science.

    Thus ID is a proven path for creating and changing living things.

    Proving that naturalistic means can turn a bacterium into a rhinoceros, or a primordial soup into a bacteria, has yet to be done.

    Thus we have competing a proven possible mechanism for the origin and diversity of life on earth vs. a still unproven mechanism. If I were the one dogmatically clinging to the unproven mechanism I’d be afraid of the proven means too. LOL!

    Fortunately for me I have an open mind. I was born an agnostic with insatiable curiousity and I expect to die with the same wonder and lack of all the answers.

    Just my opinion of course and I could be wrong.

  38. #38 Ed Brayton
    December 27, 2004

    Theories stand or fail on their own merits not the personalities of those that hold them.

    Absolutely. And if those who advocate ID as a theory can actually give us a theory, derive testable hypotheses from it and propose ways they might be tested, we can examine the merits of it. But so far all we have is “evolutionists can’t explain X, therefore God did it.”

    So let’s try forgetting that Christians are the most vocal supporters of ID and atheists the most vocal opponents, shall we?

    This simply isn’t true. Virtually all ID supporters are Christian (or some variation thereof). Meanwhile, the single most prominent critic of ID would almost have to be Ken Miller, author of Finding Darwin’s God, and he is a Christian. So is Howard Van Till, who is one of ID’s most prominent academic critics and who has written against ID in a wide range of Christian publications. Likewise Wes Elsberry, so vocal a critic of ID that Bill Dembski once called him his “stalker”. Same is true of Keith Miller, editor of a recent book on the subject, and of Rob Pennock, author of one of the most thorough examinations of ID with his book Tower of Babel and editor of a huge anthology that examined and criticized ID. Not an atheist in the bunch. Evolution is accepted by people of every conceivable religious and non-religious viewpoint; the same can certainly not be said of ID.

    Everyone’s asking for ways to find positive evidence for ID. Here’s one:

    http://www.seti.org/site/pp.asp?c=ktJ2J9MMIsE&b=178025

    Even the AAAS says it’s “good” science to search for intelligence amongst the stars.

    This is just a bad analogy. No one in their right mind denies that science can and often does search for evidence of intelligent intervention. Archaeologists do it all the time in distinguishing between manmade objects and natural objects. But that is not at all analogous to the ID position, which says that if evolution cannot yet explain how a particular system developed, a supernatural “intelligent designer” must have made it.

  39. #39 davescot
    December 27, 2004

    Anthony Flew is not a Christian. He’s purportedly the most famous atheist in the world. He’s recently been persuaded by science that DNA based life was probably created although he denies that it in any way makes him a believer in God. So much for the ID adherents all being Christians. I’m not a Christian either, which I made clear. I’m agnostic. A retired programmer/hardware engineer from Dell Computer in fact. I can’t help that as a computer scientist for 25 years I recognize a computer program (DNA codon sequences) and the machinery that does something with the code (ribosomes) when I see one. I can’t see how any computer scientist could deny it in fact. Information systems like that are unlikely to arise by accident. It’s kind of comical how biologists are just now “getting it” and are off on a merry chase for a workable RNA World (which also appears to be insufficient as sole prebiotic explanation due to the delicate nature of RNA molecules and hostile environment of half billion year old earth). Nevertheless I remain open minded to any reasonable naturalistic explanations proferred.

    ID has already been tested. Geneticists have created life from non-life in a laboratory with gene-splicers. It’s already a possibility. I’m sure you won’t try to tell me it’s not possible.

    What you’re objecting to is not knowing how to prove that life originated via intelligent direction. I will turn that around and ask how can it be proved that life originated via naturalism? At best the naturalistic explanation MIGHT be demonstrated as possible and thus stands equal with ID in that it can be shown to be a possibility. The RNA World is regarded as completely lost to the ravages of time with only a few ribozymes as scant evidence that it ever existed. It’s a totally hypothetical world and will probably always remain that way.

    And SETI is an excellent analogy. Both it and ID are searches for signs of intelligence other than human intelligence. ID is less mature but who knows, maybe whoever coded DNA signed his work and we’ll discover the signature buried in the code once we master the language. Maybe all that “junk DNA” is just the comments. I know I always sign my source code somewhere in the comments… ;-)

  40. #40 DaveScot
    December 27, 2004

    By the way, I don’t hold that an intelligent designer MUST have done it. ID is no more a monolithic theory of origin than is naturalistic evolution. It’s a matter of probabilities. It seems likely that an intelligence of some sort was involved. I wait with bated breath for persuasive evidence that non-intelligent means could move from a prebiotic soup to a bacterium. It’s a lesser leap to go from bacterium to rhinoceros so if a mechanism for the emergence of the first cell can be shown I’ll just concede that the rest of the naturalist explanation is possible.

  41. #41 Ed Brayton
    December 27, 2004

    Anthony Flew is not a Christian. He’s purportedly the most famous atheist in the world. He’s recently been persuaded by science that DNA based life was probably created although he denies that it in any way makes him a believer in God. So much for the ID adherents all being Christians.

    Antony (not Anthony) Flew is certainly not the most famous atheist in the world, nor would it matter if he was. He has converted to deism because he thinks abiogenesis is impossible. But that is not at all the same thing as being an “ID adherent”. Not even close. ID doesn’t deal with the question of whether God got life started on the earth, but whether God intervened at numerous spots (conveniently, whenever there is a point that evolution hasn’t yet got fully explained – hence, the god of the gaps form of their argument) in the history of life to insure certain outcomes.

    I can’t help that as a computer scientist for 25 years I recognize a computer program (DNA codon sequences) and the machinery that does something with the code (ribosomes) when I see one. I can’t see how any computer scientist could deny it in fact. Information systems like that are unlikely to arise by accident. It’s kind of comical how biologists are just now “getting it” and are off on a merry chase for a workable RNA World (which also appears to be insufficient as sole prebiotic explanation due to the delicate nature of RNA molecules and hostile environment of half billion year old earth). Nevertheless I remain open minded to any reasonable naturalistic explanations proferred.

    But the ID advocates don’t. They want to stop the process of finding explanations right now and say, “You can’t explain it, so God must have done it”. They admit that there is no reason to invoke God as an explanation for a thousand other complex biochemical systems, they just focus on those few that are still somewhat a mystery.

    ID has already been tested. Geneticists have created life from non-life in a laboratory with gene-splicers. It’s already a possibility. I’m sure you won’t try to tell me it’s not possible.

    Nope, it just isn’t what ID advocates argue for. The analogy is still just as flawed.

    What you’re objecting to is not knowing how to prove that life originated via intelligent direction.

    No, I’m not objecting to that. In fact, I never raised the issue at all because rarely does ID deal with it. Evolution doesn’t really deal with the origin of life. And I have no problem with the idea that a god placed the first self-replicating life forms on earth (or an alien, or whatever). It still has nothing to do with whether evolution is true or not. My objection to ID is the god of the gaps reasoning offered as an alternative to evolution.

    And SETI is an excellent analogy. Both it and ID are searches for signs of intelligence other than human intelligence.

    It’s a horrible analogy. There is obviously an enormous difference between searching for evidence of a non-human but still natural intelligence, and searching for evidence of a supernatural one. Natural causes and effects have limitations that can be used to make testable predictions; supernatural causes do not. One could just as easily explain a completely random pattern as being supernaturally caused as one could a non-random pattern.

    ID is less mature but who knows, maybe whoever coded DNA signed his work and we’ll discover the signature buried in the code once we master the language. Maybe all that “junk DNA” is just the comments. I know I always sign my source code somewhere in the comments

    Well, if and when ID advocates find anything approaching this, they are welcome to publish it and we’ll all take a look. But right now, all they have is “I don’t see how evolution can explain this system, therefore God must have done it.” And that’s not an explanation at all.

  42. #42 Jan
    December 27, 2004

    Ed, You have accused me of being ignorant along with several other unflattering adjectives. I must plead guilty. When I entered into the debates on your blog, I had not gone to your web site (at least not the main page) and I had no idea how ‘angry and anti’ you are in regard to Christians. I really am not a part of any movement and know very little about any “movement” to replace evolution with intelligent design in the classroom. I speak purely for myself and what I perceive the term ‘Intelligent Design’ to mean. I have read much since we began, and I realize that you are much more deeply involved in the political aspects as well as the scientific aspects than I. As to the motives of those who study intelligent design and comment publically, I am not speaking for them or anyone other than myself.

  43. #43 Ed Brayton
    December 27, 2004

    Ed, You have accused me of being ignorant along with several other unflattering adjectives. I must plead guilty. When I entered into the debates on your blog, I had not gone to your web site (at least not the main page) and I had no idea how ‘angry and anti’ you are in regard to Christians.

    I accuse you of being ignorant because you are, in fact, ignorant, at least on this subject. That’s okay, there are lots of subjects on which I am ignorant too, but I don’t jump into debates on those subjects because I know I’m ignorant on them. You won’t see me jumping into debates on the best engines for a muscle car, because I know absolutely nothing about the subject.

    And by the way, I am not the least bit “angry and anti” regarding Christians. I am firmly opposed to the agenda of the religious right, of course, but that agenda is not at all the same thing as being anti-Christian. I know a great many Christians who are every bit as opposed to that agenda as I am.

  44. #44 Pete
    December 27, 2004

    Jan:

    You appear to be usurping the DI’s label for your own ideas, leading to you & Ed talking past each other.
    ID is precisely God of the gaps. Like other facts about the world, this is not dependent on your believing it. You go on to say:

    The reason I do not like the “God of the gaps” theory is as follows: I think God is above and transcends any scientific discovery that men make. I think that the idea we need a gap in science in order to fit God into our thinking is an insult to God. God is. We are privileged to make small discoveries here and there.

    That settles it. You are not an IDiot.

    You also say odd things like ‘scientists are afraid of ID’ or ‘how can evolution be destroyed so easily’ or words to that effect. Let’s get real: what is at issue is lying to children by saying or implying that sundry nonsense is science when in fact it is not. ID has no effect on science, but in school it is a political door-opener for plain old creationism. That is what the fuss is about.

  45. #45 DaveScot
    December 28, 2004

    Ed,

    If one believes abiogenesis is impossible intelligent design is all that’s left. That’s what Flew believes. At any rate, it isn’t just Christians that believe it. You are simply wrong there.

    You are also wrong about ID advocates wanting to stop research. I’m an ID advocate. I don’t want to stop any research. I haven’t read any ID advocate wanting to stop research. Got link?

    In any case, you’re resorting to ad hominem again. That isn’t good science. It isn’t even good debate. Shame on you. Stick to the facts and leave the personalities out of it.

    Again, with SETI, that’s PRECISELY what intelligent design advocates are saying. You simply want (need is a better word) to change the subject to religion. Religion is a straw man. I understand the motivation. ID is difficult to attack without changing the subject to religion and questioning the motives of the adherents.

    There’s an old lawyers maxim: If the facts are on your side, argue the facts. If the law is on your side, argue the law. If neither the facts nor the law are on your side, change the subject and attack the motives of the opposition.

    Are you an old lawyer? You’re sure arguing like one.

  46. #46 DaveScot
    December 28, 2004

    Ed,

    You seem to be more interested in defending Darwin’s “The Origin of Species” and leaving the question of the origin of the first common ancestor to a different debate. Fair enough.

    By far the most successful species are single celled organisms using the metrics of sheer diversity, number, and biomass. This suggests that single celled organisms are the apex of mutation/selection rather than the starting point.

    You will of course protest by saying there’s no evidence in the fossil record of anything more complex than single celled organisms predating the more complex. But by your own standards of evidence this is not acceptable as it is negative evidence. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

    Thus we must accept that negative evidence is indeed relevant and survival of the fittest doesn’t necessarily explain everything as the top of the evolutionary tree is not the fittest.

  47. #47 DaveScot
    December 28, 2004

    Pete,

    I wonder whether the new field of ribozyme engineering would be around lacking the impetus of disputing ID.

    Far from retarding scientific inquiry I believe that criticisms of Darwinian evolution actually spur its adherents to greater heights in proving it. The controversy over it is a good thing.

    In fact the Discovery Institute disapproved of the Dover school board mandating the introduction of ID in the classroom. They’re only seeking, at least at the present, that criticisms of Darwinian evolution be discussed and that texts be vetted for inaccuracies such as those old drawings comparing frog embryos to human embryos offered as proof of Darwinian evolution.

    I don’t really care for slippery slope arguments positing that this is just an attempt to get a foot in the door for the teaching of biblical creationism as science. That’s just alarmist nonsense.

  48. #48 Ed Brayton
    December 28, 2004

    If one believes abiogenesis is impossible intelligent design is all that’s left. That’s what Flew believes.

    No, this simply isn’t true. You seem to want to equate “ID” with “the bare existence of a creator”, but that’s not what ID advocates argue (perhaps you do, but that’s not what the DI or any well known IDer argues). Their argument is that evolution is not a compelling explanation for the development of life (that is, for the natural history of life after the point at which it is here), and therefore God must have intervened at various points in order to insure an outcome. And those points just happen to coincide with the points at which they don’t think evolution provides a satisfactory explanation for the development of a very specific biochemical system, like the flagellum or the blood clotting cascade. That’s a different argument than the one Flew is making. Flew has simply become a deist of the Spinoza variety, which is essentially what I am. That doesn’t make me an ID advocate either.

    You are also wrong about ID advocates wanting to stop research. I’m an ID advocate. I don’t want to stop any research. I haven’t read any ID advocate wanting to stop research.

    That’s how a God of the Gaps argument works, and that is why I take the position that ID is not scientific – it doesn’t spur any new research the way a good theory does, it says “we don’t need any more research, the mere fact that you can’t explain it yet means God must have done it”. Now, that doesn’t mean they would stop people from researching, it means that if one accepts ID, there is no point to it. Good science spurs new research, it doesn’t declare that a supernatural something did it so there’s no need to keep searching for a better and more specific answer.

    In any case, you’re resorting to ad hominem again. That isn’t good science. It isn’t even good debate. Shame on you. Stick to the facts and leave the personalities out of it.

    Nonsense. I am not resorting to ad hominem. If I was only arguing “the people who advocate this are Christians, therefore they are wrong”, that would be an ad hominem. But that’s not my argument, and it never has been. The only reason it was raised in this thread was to correct Dean’s misconception that the DI fellows included some who believed in an “alien intelligence” or in a “universal demiurge”. I specifically rejected the ad hominem, in fact, when I said that the fact that they all share a common religious viewpoint is not a reason to reject their views, but from a legal perspective, it’s still an important issue.

    Again, with SETI, that’s PRECISELY what intelligent design advocates are saying.

    There’s no antecedent here for “that’s”, so I have no idea what you mean by it. But I already pointed out the differences between SETI and ID and you haven’t bothered to respond to the substance of that argument, you’ve only repeated that it’s a good analogy.

    ID is difficult to attack without changing the subject to religion and questioning the motives of the adherents.

    ID doesn’t need to be attacked, one need only point out that there simply is no theory of ID to attack. That has been my entire point here. Can you give us the “ID model” and the hypotheses that derive from it that can be tested? I bet you can’t state a theory of ID that isn’t purely negative and can be tested. And that’s okay, no other ID advocate can either. And that’s the whole point. Until ID advocates actually come up with a theory, derive testable hypotheses from it, and propose ways to test them, they aren’t doing science they are only using a technical-sounding god of the gaps argument. If you can’t think of a single positive test for ID, you aren’t doing science.

    You seem to be more interested in defending Darwin’s “The Origin of Species” and leaving the question of the origin of the first common ancestor to a different debate.

    I’m not the least bit interested in defending Darwin’s book. There were lots of things in it that were false. You do realize that evolutionary biology has advanced a bit since Darwin’s day, don’t you? That’s why those who refer to evolution as “Darwinism” are essentially full of shit.

    By far the most successful species are single celled organisms using the metrics of sheer diversity, number, and biomass. This suggests that single celled organisms are the apex of mutation/selection rather than the starting point.

    An absolutely ridiculous argument. We don’t measure “successful species” by those metrics, nor does natural selection, but merely by their fitness for their environment (their environment, not the environment as a whole). There is no “apex” of evolution because there is no single environment. By this “logic”, you could argue that flies are closer to the “apex” than humans because there are more of them and they’ve been on the planet longer. But there simply is no “apex”.

    You will of course protest by saying there’s no evidence in the fossil record of anything more complex than single celled organisms predating the more complex. But by your own standards of evidence this is not acceptable as it is negative evidence. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

    LOL. No, I don’t have to respond in any way like that. I just have to point out that your premise is absurd. But this is quite an amusing little argument series you have here. First you make an absurd statement, then you anticipate an even worse response to it that you project onto me, and then you conclude from that bad response that I never made that I must accept an even worse conclusion. And you top it off with the straw man implication that evolution believes that “survival of the fittest” explains “everything”, something no one actually believes. Can we count the fallacies in this one little unstates syllogism?

  49. #49 Pete
    December 28, 2004

    Davescot,
    I notice that you through out meaningless phrases like “the apex of mutation/selection” (in your comment just above your argument with my comment to Jan) which, like “intelligent design” and other slogans from the DI create an appearance of substance without the reality.

    I’m not going to go back & forth with this sort of thing indefinitely, but I will point out that your comment to me (Pete, above) is wrong all the way through. Science is well past proving evolution as such. Continued exploration of nature inevitably leads to learning more about evolution because is a pervasive feature of the natural world. Religiously misguided cranks have nothing to do with it. The public misunderstanding and mistrust of science, deliberately provoked by professional creationists including DI types, undermines education and contributes to our national slide in science. This is not a good thing.

    It is grossly misleading to feign innocence by stating as you do that the DI is “only seeking, at least at the present, that criticisms of Darwinian evolution be discussed and that texts be vetted for inaccuracies….”
    Of course the DI (the political club from which the nonsense flows) doesn’t want Dover to try to teach ID as such. They don’t want it to come out that there is no ID to teach. There is literally no content to ID in the narrow sense that they will put in a lesson plan and stand behind.
    Instead the DI follows a ‘bait & switch’ tactic. The ID slogan gets people fired up and makes creationism seem respectable, then the DI tells them “Teach the controversy” meaning the public controversy created by professional creationists and misleadingly presented as scientific controversy. Or “teach the errors, criticisms, holes” or other such term that they make people believe in. The DI conveniently provides, and directs people to, the alleged errors, namely the Wells trash mentioned much earlier in this discussion:
    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/wells/

    These “scientific arguments against science” are well known to be false and misleading, and are the stuff creationism was always made of although the DI’s presentation is nastier that the ICR’s. They are intelligently designed anti science propaganda and are far over the heads of students who have barely heard of evolution. Teaching this material, as advocated by the DI, amounts to lying to children.

    That ID functions as a cover slogan for standard creationist attacks on science is not an abstract ‘slippery slope argument’. It is a concrete reality (as illustrated by Dover) and a deliberate DI tactic. This anti science propaganda is ID in the broad sense: (convince the public by hook or crook that) science is wrong and therefore ID is right. This is the implication as creationists including DI fellows see it.

  50. #50 DaveScot
    December 29, 2004

    Ed,

    What “environment” isn’t occupied by single celled organisms?

    And what tests can you propose that will prove mutation/selection was responsible for the Cambrian Explosion?

  51. #51 DaveScot
    December 29, 2004

    Pete,

    Macro-evolution is a forensic science. It examines evidence of something that took place in the past and attempts to make certain determinations about it based upon the evidence left behind. There are no eyewitnesses in this case. The evidence is all circumstantial. In this case new evidence is still being discovered. While one may build a case that is beyond reasonable doubt based upon known evidence, new evidence may introduce reasonable doubt. ID merely proposes that in light of new evidence there is now cause for reasonable doubt.

    As for so-called “good” science that’s a red herring. Superstring theory is “good” science but it makes no testable predictions. No one can conceive of a partical accelerator that can possibly generate the energy required to explore the nature of matter at the scale of 10 to the minus 35 meters. Yet it is still “good” science. It’s also a forensic science. Should it be expunged from public schools because it can’t be tested and proven?

    The hubris from the evolutionist camp just boggles the mind. You might be wrong. Get over it.

  52. #52 Tom Beck
    December 29, 2004

    I would also make the argument that once we allow non-scientific alternatives into science classrooms, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to draw a line to keep other such alternatives out. ID is not the only religiously-motivated alternative to evolution, of course, not even the only one popular among Christians. If we’re going to give equal time to ID, don’t we also have to give equal time to the Raelians, or the Hindu creationists like Cremo and Thompson? And if we’re going to do this for evolution, do we also have to give equal time to geocentrism? After all, there is a genuine PhD astronomer who advocates it (Gerardus Buow). I’m sure there are a few real scientists who belong to the Christian Science Church, so must we then also give equal time in health class to their ideas that ill health is purely spiritual in nature and can be prayed away? I’m not saying all these things necessarily would get in there, but the fact is that we’d have no principled way to keep them out once ID is allowed in.

    Except, this isn’t about principle – it’s about a small group of extremist Christians who know that they – and only they – are right, and the rest of us be damned. They don’t care about the logical implications of their methods – that if you admit creationism, you have to admit any other nonsense – they just want to force every human being on the planet to worship Jesus. Even though they don’t have the guts to simply come out and say that, so they have to pretend that they’re really trying to be scientists and all.

    But don’t be fooled, this isn’t about science. It’s about crushing religious freedom. And, if you complain, then you’re the one oppressing their religious freedom! Since only they matter and only their ideas count.

  53. #53 Dave S.
    December 29, 2004

    Macro-evolution is a forensic science. It examines evidence of something that took place in the past and attempts to make certain determinations about it based upon the evidence left behind.

    There are many areas in science that rely on interpreting the evidence left behind to infer an event that cannot be itself be directly observed.

    Electrons for instance, or the nature of the core of the Earth, or the orbiting of Pluto about the Sun. None of which we can observe in any direct way, but we instead infer their existance based on evidence they leave behind which we can observe. Evidence for which we can infer a process, and if we’re doing our job a process which generates predictions we can test to verify it.

    There are no eyewitnesses in this case. The evidence is all circumstantial.

    I would say the vast majority of any scientific evidence is circumstantial. When I neuralize an acid with a base on a lab bench I cannot see the acids and bases combining directly. All I see is the colour change of an indicator or a voltage differential in some meter.

    In this case new evidence is still being discovered. While one may build a case that is beyond reasonable doubt based upon known evidence, new evidence may introduce reasonable doubt.

    “Beyond a reasonable doubt” is a legal standard in criminal cases, it is not a scientific one as no ‘verdict’ is ever reached. Indeed, science must continually be ready to examine theories in light of new evidence. That’s central to the very notion of that activity.

    ID merely proposes that in light of new evidence there is now cause for reasonable doubt.

    Not at all. ID does not rely on new evidence or any evidence in the positive sense. It merely claims that design is present because they (the advocates) can’t see how some feature could have come about without it. That’s merely a failure of their imagination, jamming ‘a designer must have done it’ wherever evolution fails (in their view). This doesn’t constitute “reasonable doubt”, but rather a classic god-of-the-gaps logical fallacy.

    As a scientific argument, ID is impotent since it makes no predictions which flow from the ‘theory’, cannot be tested, and is impossible to falsify even in principle. It is in fact not a scientific theory at all, but a mishmash of philosophical arguments of no scientific value.

    As for so-called “good” science that’s a red herring. Superstring theory is “good” science but it makes no testable predictions.

    If we can’t test it, even in principle, then it ain’t science. It might be good math, until we start to see some testable predictions, then it remains just neat math.

    No one can conceive of a partical accelerator that can possibly generate the energy required to explore the nature of matter at the scale of 10 to the minus 35 meters. Yet it is still “good” science. It’s also a forensic science. Should it be expunged from public schools because it can’t be tested and proven?

    Scientific theories are never “proven” since they are based on empiricism. They are at best supported.

    The hubris from the evolutionist camp just boggles the mind. You might be wrong. Get over it.

    So might you.

    I’m quite prepared to accept that it’s wrong. But not based on arguments as pitiful as those from the current ID crowd.

  54. #54 Ed Brayton
    December 29, 2004

    What “environment” isn’t occupied by single celled organisms?

    I love how you picked out this one thing and ignored the substance of my response to your ridiculous claim. It doesn’t matter how many environments are occupied by single cell organisms, it still doesn’t logically follow that they are the “apex” of evolution. The entire idea of evolution having an “apex” is incoherent and absurd. Even if one were to grant you this silly idea, what would it possibly mean? Would it mean that once this “apex” was hit, no more evolution could occur? Of course not. So this claim is not only false and incoherent, it’s completely irrelevant because even if it was true, it wouldn’t have any bearing on whether evolutionary theory is true or not. It’s a red herring packed inside a red herring.

    And what tests can you propose that will prove mutation/selection was responsible for the Cambrian Explosion?

    Nothing was “responsible for the Cambrian explosion”, because that phrase is a literary phrase used to describe a set of data, not a set of data itself. As far as “proof” goes, there is no such thing in science, and certainly no way that would satisfy someone who would demand it. What we have is logical inference based upon a number of lines of evidence, the same thing that most science has.

  55. #55 DaveScot
    December 31, 2004

    Tom,

    Study of electrons, the core of the earth, and planetary orbits are forensic?

    Ooooooooooooookay. ‘Nuff said there.

  56. #56 DaveScot
    December 31, 2004

    Ed,

    I’m just messin’ with ya at this point. Nothing I say will change your mind. This whole brouhaha is just entertainment. Ya gots yer bible thumpers on one side and self-annoited holy men of science on the other and they both got their panties in a bunch strikingly similar to a Klein bottle.

    On the apex of evolution – I was shown long ago life on earth organized into an evolutinary tree. Trees have bottoms and tops. Calling the top an apex doesn’t require a quantum leap in understanding does it? But maybe I’m out of date. Do you boys still put the evolutionary tree in biology texts?

    Imagine for just a second that life started out with a pair of humans. Applying the theory of survival of the fittest we’d expect to find single celled organisms at the top as they’re fitter than anything else by any metric – environmental niches occupied (they’re EVERYwhere), number, biomass, whatever. If the earth was hit by an asteroid big enough to bust it up single celled organisms would survive and nothing else would. They’re the fittest things on the planet. So I ask what makes you think it didn’t happen that way – humans first and everything else evolved from them in perfectly Darwinian fashion? Why, the fossil record of course. We can’t see any humans predating single celled organisms. If we could then we could easily construct an evolutionary tree with humans at the bottom and single celled critters at the top in a most Darwinian manner.

    I’m just trying to use nonsense here to illustrate the point of what happens when you extrapolate good observations out to extremes. Darwinian evolution works fine to explain how staph bacteria acquire resistance to anti-biotics but penicillin resistant staph bacterium is still a staph bacterium. Extrapolating this mechanism of adaptation to the environment out to explain bacteria morphing into elephants is quite a stretch of the imagination and the evidence doesn’t quite add up on many different levels.

    “A logical inference based on a number of lines of evidence” – what were you describing there macro-evolution or ID?

  57. #57 Ed Brayton
    December 31, 2004

    I’m just messin’ with ya at this point.

    Then go away. I have zero patience for sophistry, and all of this crap about bacteria being the “apex” of evolution and the phylogenetic tree could only be offered up by someone who is completely ignorant of evolution or someone who is just playing stupid games. Regardless, it’s gone past the point of being boring. Go mess with someone else.

  58. #58 DaveScot
    December 31, 2004

    Science of the Gaps

    The machinery of life resembles nothing so much as a computer controlled milling machine programmed to make all the parts required to replicate itself. The paradox of which came first – the machine or the program required to construct it has everyone stumped.

    There are many computer controlled machines in the world today other than living things. In every other case these machines were intelligently designed. I fail to see why it’s so difficult for some people to concede that maybe the biological machines we call living things were even partly the result of design. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it’s probably a duck. PROBABLY. Not for sure, just probably.

    But just suggesting the possibility of design in any stage of evolution is high heresy. It’s so heretical that we can’t even point out the problem areas of evolutionary theory to kids lest they come to doubt the naturalistic explanation of everything. It’s Science of the Gaps and some are so afraid of those gaps they go so far as pretending they don’t exist like ostriches with their heads stuck in the sand.

    As for the notion that “God of the Gaps” can’t be proven that’s a red herring. It can be disproven which amounts to the same thing. Science has done a fine job of disproving (as much as anything can be proven beyond reasonable doubt) that the earth is more than 6,000 years old for instance. Gap filled. Good work. Now get busy and fill in the rest of them with a plausible alternative to design. That’s what science is all about. In the meantime, admit the possibility there might be design in the universe that didn’t emerge from any human mind and teach children up front where the gaps are so that they might start thinking about how science might explain those gaps.

  59. #59 DaveScot
    December 31, 2004

    Ed,

    You seem to have zero patience for a lot more than just sophistry.

  60. #60 Richard Bennett
    January 1, 2005

    DaveScot says: There are many computer controlled machines in the world today other than living things. In every other case these machines were intelligently designed. I fail to see why it’s so difficult for some people to concede that maybe the biological machines we call living things were even partly the result of design.

    Dave, to say that life resembles a computer is to invert cause and effect. The von Neumann computer architecture (stored program computer) resembles the gross structure of biological phenomena because it was intended to – John von Neumann cribbed the design from biology.

    Computer programs, as you probably know, tend to be buggy, and their authors tend to be natural creatures, not perfect and divine intelligences. The exception is something we call genetic algorithms, which are self-modifying programs that are designed to mimic mutation and selection. There is nothing about the way that computers function that suggests a cosmic intelligence runs the world.

    As to your orders that scientists discover “design” I would submit they already have. There are lots of designs in the world, or certainly instances of order that resemble design to the human mind. The question is what connection, if any, these designs have to a supernatural designer, and that’s for you to answer, not that it makes any difference in how science is done.

  61. #61 jre
    January 17, 2007

    So this thread is still open!
    Hats off to Ed and SB for the spam control required to keep a 2+ year-old post weeded.
    And congratulations to Ed for having this piece included in Bora’s “Best of Science Blogging” anthology!
    However …
    Ed, you lost me at “Dean Esmay, a blogger I respect …”

    Esmay?
    As in Dean “HIV doesn’t cause AIDS” Esmay?

    You spent over 3,400 words refuting this ├╝berwanker?
    Ed, you have (or had) too much time on your hands.

  62. #62 Ed Brayton
    January 17, 2007

    Yeah well, I did respect him up to that point. After that, it quickly became apparent that Esmay is an ignorant blowhard who spouts off on subjects he knows nothing about.

  63. #63 Dean
    January 27, 2007

    Evolutionist fear creationist and it appears from where I stand that many are willing to close their eyes to the obvious for fear of accommodating an opposing view. There are other conclusions out there.
    Jan

    This is silly. I suppose I should fear flat earthers also, and astrologers, and numerologists, the “holy ghost”, and the flying spaghetti monster?
    Obvious? Only the blindly religious see something as “obvious”. I was going to go into a long critique of your entire post, but it’s pointless. As my mama used to say, “don’t argue religion with the religous, it just frustrates you, and angers the religious”. You’re not here to debate, you’re here to muddy the waters. As someone already pointed out to you this whole string is about whether ID should be featured in classrooms along with the science behind evolution. You’ve already said many times you agreed that it shouldn’t. So why keep your trolling? For the sake of Troll-ing is my distinct impression.

  64. #64 Dean
    January 27, 2007

    ID is difficult to attack without changing the subject to religion.
    DaveScot

    So ID being “Intelligent Design” who’s/what is the “Intelligence”. Would not an intelligence that you believe created the universe be considered a god? What is that intelligence to be that you want taught in schools? And what makes you think the christianists won’t put “religion” as the answer?

  65. #65 Dean
    January 27, 2007

    I fail to understand why searching for intelligence in the machinery of life is bad science.
    Can someone explain this dichotomy to me?.

    davescot

    Because the “intelligence” is not there, has never been found to be there. Seti looks for the possible. ID looks for god(hasn’t found him/it yet).

  66. #66 Dean
    January 27, 2007

    The hubris from the evolutionist camp just boggles the mind. You might be wrong. Get over it.
    DaveScot

    Maybe we are wrong, but all the evidence I’ve seen so far says evolution was and is an ongoing process. Prove we’re wrong and maybe ID should be in the classroom. The key word there being prove.

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