Via Gene Expression I came across this post, at the Discovery Institute’s blog, from erstwhile ID lackey Casey Luskin. It’s title: Mathematicians and Evolution. Hmmmm. Sounds like something I should read.

Luskin writes:

As recently highlighted here, mathematics is an academic locale where scientific skepticism of Neo-Darwinism can survive the current political climate! Discovery Institute recently received an e-mail from someone commenting on the Scientific Dissent from Darwinism List where over 600 Ph.D. scientists from various fields agree that they are “skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life.” This skeptic of evolutionary-skepticism e-mailer wrote “I’m a mathematician and certainly am NOT qualified to support such a statement. Only evolutionary biologists are qualified to respond here.” While the Dissent from Darwinism list does contain individuals trained in evolutionary biology, the question remains “Is the objection valid?”

See the original for links.

I will consider Luskin’s reply in Part Two. First, here is my answer to the question.

The Discovery Institute’s list of scientist’s skeptical of “Darwinism” is entirely an argument from authority. The criterion for placing your name on their list is that you hold a PhD in some branch of science. When reading the names on the list we are meant to say, “Gosh! This fellow says Darwinism is suspect, and he has a PhD in mathematics (or physics, or engineering, or some other branch of science other than biology).”

In that context, the criticism raised by Luskin’s e-mailer is entirely valid. There is absolutely nothing in a mathematician’s training or professional work that qualifies him to discuss evolution. Unless you are one of the very small percentage of mathematicians who actually work in mathematical biology, evolution is not something that ever arises in your graduate school courses or in your professional research. A PhD in mathematics by itself is, therefore, no more of a qualification than a degree in English for speaking intelligently about biology. Anyone perusing the DI’s list would be right to sneer at the large number of signatories with no training in biology.

But that doesn’t mean that a mathematician (or any non-biologist) is therefore forever excluded from discussing biology. It means simply that their professional training gives them no authority for doing so. Whether you should accord any weight to their pronouncements depends entirely on the specific arguments they make in defense of their views.

In my own case, my interest in evolution began as a fourth-year graduate student in mathematics, after reading a pro-creationist op-ed in the Dartmouth student newspaper. At that time I knew next to nothing about evolution (or any of its allied fields like paleontology or genetics). Having decided I wanted to learn more about the subject, I went to the library and picked up a book of Stephen Jay Gould’s essays. Why Gould? Because he was the only contemporary evolutionary biologist I knew about. When I started I had no idea that anything he said was controversial.

Over the next several years I read pretty much everything I could get my hands on (and since I have had access to several excellent university science libraries, that’s a considerable amount of material indeed). I started with the standard popular-level literature by people like Gould, Dawkins, Ruse, Wilson, Maynard Smith and countless other less famous people. From there I started working my way through the textbooks on the subject, notably the ones by Futuyma and Ridley. Eventually I worked my out to the periphery and learned about population genetics and geology. I finally got to the point where I could read actual research papers in evolutionary biology and generally get the gist of what they were saying. I also started participating in various e-mail discussion groups where I could discuss these issues with professional biologists. I spoke to my colleagues in the relevant departments at the various universities I worked at.

During this time I also devoured every scrap of creationist and ID literature I could get my hands on. Initially I was impressed by some of it. For example, I didn’t know enough about thermodynamics at that time to give a solid refutation of the second law argument, and I didn’t know enough paleontology to refute their claims about the lack of transitional forms. But after going back and forth for a while, reading creationist arguments and the responses from scientists, it quickly became clear that the creationists didn’t have the faintest idea what they were talking about.

It is now several years later. Despite the extensive amount of work I have done to educate myself about matters biological, the only claim I make on behalf of my expertise in the area is that I know enough to see why the creationist and ID arguments are utterly wrong. But when I read, say, P. Z. Myers, I am immediately reminded of how little I actually know about the subject. Through my hard work in this area, however, I have gained an appreciation of just how much evidence there actually is for evolution, and of just what a pathetic, ridiculous caricature of it you get from the ID folks. Even the large body of popular-level, pro-evolution literature barely scratches the surface of what’s out there. I have also gained a healthy contempt for the ignorant hacks who feel no shame in pontificating on subjects they don’t know the first thing about. By which I mean virtually all of the prominent ID advocates and bloggers.

The DI’s list is a propaganda stunt pure and simple. It is a club they use to browbeat the scientifically ignorant. They know that when they shamelessly claim that over 600 scientists have signed their vague, meaningless petition, most people are not going to make distinctions between biologists and non-biologists. They know that almost no one will take note of the fact that a large number of the signatories do not work in any branch of the life sciences, or were not active in their fields after obtaining a PhD, or do not have any sympathy for ID despite their naivete in lending their names to the list.

In fact, lists like this are one of the reasons ID folks find almost no knowledgeable people willing to take them seriously. You see, a serious scientist takes one look at the list and knows immediately that ID is a political and religious movement. Scientists promoting controversial views do not rely on blatant PR stunts in making their case.

Comments

  1. #1 RBH
    July 14, 2006

    Glad to see you got on this. I was about to email you with the response Casey sent to the mathematician he’s responding to — the guy sent me Casey’s response this afternoon for comment and it’s essentially word for word what Casey posted.

    It’s noteworthy that most of Casey’s quotations are mined from a 1966 conference. Think maybe those folks have learned anything since 1966?

    And Casey’s remark that

    While evolutionary biologists and other types of biologists can yield many insights into evolutionary biology, scientists other than biologists, such as mathematicians, are most certainly qualified to comment on the feasibility of Neo-Darwinian evolution.

    is deceptive. Only if they know enough about evolutionary biology to appropriately map the terms and operators of the math into the objects, processes, and relationships of the theory can they hope to say anything useful about evolution.

  2. #2 Simon
    July 14, 2006

    Although I agree with the general point made here, I think it may be a little unfair to say that mathematicians are unable to speak authoritatively about biology. How much biology would you actually need to show evolution not to be true? Although, I’m still waiting for a mathematician with a spade to find that fossil rabbit…

    You also forget that many disciplines (maths, engineering, computer science) use things like genetic algorithms(etc), and that many of the people who work with these also study the biology in depth. Would these people, who are not true biologists, not have valid opinions on evolution?

    They may not be true evolutionary biologists – but evolution is not all about the biology, but about the concepts.

    Anyway, I think you should promote project steve: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Steve I think it puts the DI’s list making into perspective!

  3. #3 dogmeatIB
    July 14, 2006

    Simon,

    I think you misunderstand. It isn’t that they can’t express an opinion, it’s that their opinion holds no more authority than any other layman. I could personally say, “as an educator, I stand firmly behind the theory of evolution” and I wouldn’t be lying, but I would be misleading people. Does my educational background make me an expert who has an opinion basd upon authority? Perhaps, perhaps not, how do you know?

    The fact is that my major and advanced coursework were in history, which gives me no more information or training than the average person off the street. I have additional training in political science which doesn’t add an ounce of authority behind my statement. The only training with which I would have any authority would be my minor in anthropology and some additional courses in paleontology and biology. Would you go to your attorney for medical advice? Your doctor for legal advice? Both of them have years of advanced training and instruction, both of them have to be among the top 5-10% in the nation in educational achievement, yet you consider them experts only in their specific field … right?

    Same concept, no?

  4. #4 RPM
    July 14, 2006

    Evolutionary biology is one of the most mathematically and computationally intense fields fields in the life sciences. I often find myself defering to people who have a far better understanding of mathematics than I do. That said, all the knowledge of math does you no good if you don’t understand the biology to which you’re applying your models. If your parameters make no sense (see Dembski, Bill), your work will get eaten up and spit out.

  5. #5 BilZ0r
    July 15, 2006

    But that doesn’t mean that a mathematician (or any non-biologist) is therefore forever excluded from discussing biology. It means simply that their professional training gives them no authority for doing so.

    I don’t understand. In order to comment on what is the likelyhood of any event, you need to understand the maths of probability and you need to understand the nature of the event in question. While obviously, someone with no understanding of biological chemistry can not comment on the likelyhood of a chemical event; likewise, someone with no knowledge of maths can not comment on the probability of anything.

    One would hope that people with a high level of education would realise that they shoudn’t comment on things they have no understanding of, moreover, saying that all mathematicians can not make an educated and highly relavent comment on evolution is as foolish as saying that all biologists can not make a relavent comment on a maths problem.

  6. #6 Zeno
    July 15, 2006

    Unfortunately for the reputations of mathematicians as universal experts, the track record of mathematical commentators on evolution has not been brilliant. Fred Hoyle was whip-smart when it came to maths in school, but he’s the promulgator of that persistent but stupid probabilistic argument against evolution (“tornado in a junkyard”). It’s not that he didn’t understand probability: He just had no clue how to apply it to the process of natural selection.

    Then you have Dembski, who blows smoke at people by disguising trivial anti-evolution arguments in dense mathematical symbology, and Berlinski, who offers absurd continuity arguments in his attack on the fossil record.

    I know some math, too, but I have also been paying attention when mathematicians try to use their knowledge to advance their ideologically anti-evolution viewpoints. Frankly, their math sucks because they’re applying it in illegitimate ways. It’s embarrassing.

  7. #7 Simon
    July 15, 2006

    dogmeatIB, I guess I made two slightly different points. The first, people in other disciplines do have training in evolutionary biology – but they aren’t true evolutionary biologists. However, they should know enough to comment with some authority on evolution. It turns out people can be experts in more than one field, and that “mathematician” or “biologist” are just labels.

    My second point(hidden away!) that science sometimes sets itself up for simple debunking. Someone was once asked for an example of something to disprove evolution – he said a fossil of a modern rabbit in pre-Cambrian strata (or something like that). Can only an evolutionary biologist find this piece of evidence?

    Anyway, why do mathematicians have issues with evolution? Is it because when they want to model it they would use infinite, homogenous popultations?

    (BTW, I don’t want people to think I’m defending the DI here!)

  8. #8 Mark White
    July 15, 2006

    I think that anyone who is truly knowledgeable about the methods of science is qualified to express an opinion about evolution. Even without knowing any of the details of the subject, a physicist or chemist or engineer has to understand the overwhelming acceptance of evolution among the scientific community, and the process by which such acceptance occurs. I believe that any of the scientists named above knows far more about the second law of thermodynamics than a typical biologist, and would immediately see that the 2nd law argument is nonsense.

    The methods used in evolutionary biology are the same methods used in physics, chemistry, or any other science (replicable experiments, peer-reviewed papers, etc.). Every scientist knows that the most widely-accepted and far-reaching theory can be disproved by a single observation, but that as overwhelming evidence builds up over the years to support the theory it becomes less and less likely that such an observation will ever be found. In my view, the greatest threat posed by the ID movement is it tells people that the scientific method is wrong, and that nothing in science can be believed. Every scientist has an interest in defeating this attack.

  9. #9 Corkscrew
    July 15, 2006

    Anyway, why do mathematicians have issues with evolution? Is it because when they want to model it they would use infinite, homogenous popultations?

    Well, first you have to assume that all the animals are uniform and spherical…

  10. #10 Winawer
    July 15, 2006

    Degrees, training, letters after your name – these are all shortcuts that other people use to make evaluating our position easier. “Oh, she’s published fifteen papers in the field, perhaps I should devote a little time to figuring out if what she’s saying is absolute crap or not”. It’s a way of determining whether we should pay any attention to the person before we have to spend the time doing so. A PhD doesn’t mean that someone is always going to be right about their subject – it’s a signal to other people about the amount of time and effort that individual has expended on the topic, and the overall level of intelligence required to get an advanced degree (hopefully!). In effect, it just means that they’ll be wrong less often than someone outside the field.

    But anyone can make a statement about evolution that is true – be they an evolutionary biologist with twenty years in the field, or a six year old child with Down’s syndrome. The question of whether someone is “qualified” to talk about evolution is misleading, because if we had infinite resources we would evaluate every statement made by every passer-by for its truth value. The question being asked should be “How much time or energy should I spend on evaluating this person’s statements for truth?”, or in other words, “How likely is this person to be a waste of my time?”

    The question is really one about probability. An evolutionary biologist is more likely than most other people to say something cogent about evolution, but they can still be wrong. A mathematician, by virtue of his or her training, is more likely to say something useful than the six year child above, but we might evaluate them as being less worthy of our time because they lack the technical knowledge of biology. Yet just because they are less likely to say something useful, doesn’t mean that they won’t. (Mathematicians might remember that Srinivasa Ramanujan had no formal training in mathematics beyond the high school level, and yet he was considered to be one of the greatest mathematicians of the twentieth century. Extremely uncommon, but entirely possible.)

    Mark White commented above that “anyone who is truly knowledgeable about the methods of science is qualified to express an opinion about evolution”. But even this isn’t quite right – anyone who can form a coherent sentence is “qualified” to express an opinion about evolution. It’s just that anyone without a degree in evolutionary biology is going to have to spend that much more time and effort to be heard, even if they are saying something that is true.

  11. #11 Mike White
    July 15, 2006

    One of the biggest problems with the DI’s approach to this issue is summed up in Luskin’s quote that the first commenter posted: “Scientists other than biologists, such as mathematicians, are most certainly qualified to comment on the feasibility of Neo-Darwinian evolution.”

    Biology is so damn complex that it is ridiculous to think any mathematician or statistician can just come in and make blanket statements about what is “feasible,” especially if it is a mathematician without a professional-level knowledge of evolution. On top of that, the field of evolutionary biology itself of incredibly complex. Someone without a professional knowledge of evolution making feasibility statements is almost certainly going to badly misunderstand some fundamental aspect of the field.

    What’s even worse is that people make these blanket statements, and then treat them as if they were proofs, and not hypotheses to be tested against the observations of biologists and paleontologists. So no, such people are not qualified to “comment on the feasibility of evolution.”

  12. #12 Barry
    July 15, 2006

    (re Hoyle’s comment): ” It’s not that he didn’t understand probability: He just had no clue how to apply it to the process of natural selection.”

    I’d say that ‘no clue how to apply it’ is a charitable thing to say. ‘Fool’ would be more accurate, IMHO. Somebody who’s spent their career dealing with math has no excuse for applying it in ways which are just plain wrong.

  13. #13 Keanus
    July 15, 2006

    For Luskin to hinge his entire argument on a conference held 40 years ago is lunacy in a field that has grown like biology. My education was in physics a half century ago, so I’m not even close to being current in biology, but even I know that biology has produced a prodigious amount of data supporting evolution in the last 40 years, almost certainly more than was produced in the century from Darwin’s “Origins” to 1966. I’d be willing to conjecture that any biologist whose education ceased in 1966 and who hadn’t worked in the fleld since wouldn’t even be able to land a job in biology today.

  14. #14 Chiefley
    July 15, 2006

    Actually, I think everyone has the right to express an opinion about evolution. But that and $3.25 will get you a caramel macchiotto at Starbucks. Even a practicing biologist’s opinion is not worth much until it is carefully elaborated in peer reviewed journals that are devoted to the subject, and then stand the test of time.

    I think that is what goes missing from some of the debates I see on these boards. I maintain that noone should care about mere opinions in science, really. They have no value until they are published in a way that they can be subject to the challenges of the best in the field.

    Dembski may call this “consensus science” as a perjorative, but that is the only science that makes sense. Otherwise science would be “he said, she said”. Actually, I am surprised that he uses the term, because it is a great invitation for people to point out that he is not practicing consensus science. He simply has an opinion. But so do the Pastafarians.

    If a hypothesis survives true consensus science it ultimately doesn’t matter who proposes it and what their credentials are. Its the process, not the person that turns an opinion into a scientific theory.

    Anyway, thats my opinion

  15. #15 linda seebach
    July 16, 2006

    Fred Hoyle was primarily an astronomer, or perhaps a cosmologist, not a mathematician. But OK, throw him in with Dembski and Berlinski. That’s three anti-evolution mathematicians out of how many? Just to operationalize matters, let’s say “mathematician” means someone who has a Ph.D. in the subject (which I, alas, do not, although I spent several years unsuccessfully pursuing one). Roughly a thousand people a year get doctorates in math in American grad schools, half of them foreign students, many of whom stay. So how many working mathematicians are there? Somewhere between 15,000 and 40,000.
    And three of them are publicly anti-evolution? Why is that a reason to castigate mathematicians as a group?

  16. #16 Michael Suttkus, II
    July 16, 2006

    Some years back I was in a very nice used-book store wherein I found two books. One a creationist book I no longer have (I think by Phillip Johnson, but by a lawyer at any rate) and the other a book on trilobites written by a physicist.

    I remember being struck by the different tones the two books took towards the fact that in both cases, the author was significantly off field.

    The creationist book trumped the author’s unfamiliarity with the subject as a feature. He was “unbiased”. He was a valuable outsider’s perspective. He was trained in telling plain truth from wishful thinking and to know good from bad arguments! He wasn’t beholden to mainstream views to keep his job, all this rubbish. Why, you could hardly trust biologists to know biology, you need LAWYERS!

    The take in the Trilobite book (still on my shelf) was completely different. The author begins by all but APOLOGIZING for being off subject and assures us that, despite not being a formally trained biologist, he has been interested in trilobites for years, studied them extensively, and vetted his book by as many actual paleontologists as would put up with him pestering them for book revisions.

    The difference in tones could not have been greater. Neither could the difference in factual content. Whenever I run into someone pushing one of those “Lists of scientists who doubt Darwin”, with their motly collection of mathematicians, economists, chemists, and “food scientists” (Never did figure out what that was supposed to be), I think of those two books and how different they were. It’s a whole different mindset. For one, authority is a game. You need authority to make pronouncements. Any old authority will work, you just need to SOUND impressive. For the other mindset, you actually need to be impressive, authority isn’t all that important at all…

  17. #17 Larry Fafarman
    July 16, 2006

    From opening post —

    Anyone perusing the DI’s list would be right to sneer at the large number of signatories with no training in biology.

    Carrying this line of reasoning far enough, it can be argued that only those scientists who have specialized in evolutionary biology are well qualified to decide whether or not to sign DI’s letter. I think that the idea behind getting signatures from professors and researchers in science and technology in general is that these people tend to be familiar with scientific methods and to have an ability to reason that is well above average. But a lot of evolutionary biology is just philosophy, so often no special training is required to comment on it.

    Seventy-two Nobel laureates in science added their names to an amicus brief that was submitted to the Supreme Court in the Edwards v. Aguillard (1987) creation science case, but most of them were physicists and chemists (though several of the chemists had earned Nobel prizes for work in organic chemistry) and the rest got Nobel prizes in physiology and medicine — see http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/edwards-v-aguillard/amicus1.html These Nobel laureates were attempting to use their prestige to give added weight to the amicus brief, but presumably most of them were less qualified in the field of evolution than the average biologist.

    It is noteworthy that a recent poll showed that a large percentage of physicians — who are well-educated in the biological sciences — are skeptical of Darwinism. See
    http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/2006/06/many-physicians-skeptical-of-darwinism.html

  18. #18 Larry Fafarman
    July 16, 2006

    Keanus said ( July 15, 2006 10:52 PM ) —

    For Luskin to hinge his entire argument on a conference held 40 years ago is lunacy in a field that has grown like biology.

    There is a double standard here. You say that it is “lunacy” for Luskin to hinge his argument on a decades-old conference, but Darwinists often argue that ID is just a “rehash” of creationist arguments that were refuted decades ago. So it is OK for Darwinists to rely on decades-old arguments but not OK for anti-Darwinists to rely on them.

  19. #19 Manduca
    July 16, 2006

    Michael Suttkus wonders what food science is.

    From UMass Amherst Food Science Department (in the College of Natural Resources and the Environment):

    “A major goal of the U.S. is to provide a sufficient variety of foods throughout the year to meet the energy and nutrient needs of its citizens, promote health, and export value-added food products that improve our international competitiveness and trade balance and create jobs. Our food supply must be safe and properly preserved to maintain high quality, yet must be low enough in cost for all to have access to a nutritionally adequate diet, irrespective of income. This responsibility is in the hands of the Food Scientist.

    Food Scientists work on the scientific and technological aspects of processing food and related products. Using their pooled knowledge of chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology, and engineering, they create high-tech foods to reduce the risk of disease and determine how safe and nutritious our food will be, and how long and well it will keep. They also explore and analyze the many questions that have to be asked — and answered — before a new product can go on the market.”

  20. #20 Bob Maurus
    July 16, 2006

    Reading Fafarman’s comment, I can only wonder if he actually read through the post and comments before popping off. Perhaps he suffers from poor reading comprehension?

  21. #21 John Marley
    July 16, 2006

    Wow, is it just me or did a lot of people miss the point here?

    The point is not that someone with a PhD in Mathematics is automatically unqualified to say anything about evolutionary biology.

    The point is that a PhD in Mathatmatics, by itself, does not make one an authority on evolutionary biology. And the list at DI is meaningless because says nothing about the signatories except that most of them have PhD’s in some unrelated field.

  22. #22 Caledonian
    July 16, 2006

    Any fool is qualified to have an opinion. It takes real knowledge to make an informed judgment, and the greater the quality and quantity of knowledge, the more weight should be given to that judgment.

    I am neither a mathematician nor a biologist, but that does not mean that I am not competent to identify the logical errors in invalid arguments, at least when those errors can be easily found by general reasoning.

  23. #23 Jim Wynne
    July 16, 2006

    Jason:

    Well done, as usual, but you should look up erstwhile and find out what it means.

  24. #24 Jim WYnne
    July 16, 2006

    And I should be more careful with the tags. That should have been erstwhile

  25. #25 Larry Fafarman
    July 16, 2006

    Bob Maurus said ( July 16, 2006 10:53 AM ) —

    Reading Fafarman’s comment, I can only wonder if he actually read through the post and comments before popping off. Perhaps he suffers from poor reading comprehension?

    I submitted two posts, one appearing right after the other. Which one are you referring to? I can only wonder if you actually read both of them before popping off. Perhaps you suffer from poor reading comprehension. I will assume that you are referring to my first post.

    In my first post, I gave examples of two extremes: extreme specialization and extreme exploitation of prestige —

    Specialization: If knowledge of evolutionary biology is going to be a qualification for having a valid opinion about evolution, why should being a biologist be sufficient? One should be expected to be a specialist in evolutionary biology.

    Exploitation of prestige: Seventy-two Nobel laureates in science tried to use their prestige to add weight to an amicus brief in a Supreme Court case on creation science, even though most of them were not biologists or specialists in an evolution-related scientific field.

    I also pointed out that a recent poll showed that a large percentage of physicians — who are well-trained in the biological sciences — are skeptical of Darwinism.

    Also, I said that since a lot of evolutionary biology is just philosophy, anyone is qualified to state an opinion on the subject. I have no education in biology past high school, yet I have come up with some arguments against co-evolution — see http://scienceblogs.com/evolutionblog/2006/07/derbyshire_states_it_plain.php#comment-171469 I challenge you to rebut these arguments.

  26. #26 Manduca
    July 16, 2006

    Larry says:

    “[S]ince a lot of evolutionary biology is just philosophy, anyone is qualified to state an opinion on the subject.”

    Many people who have never studied philosophy think it must consist of unsubstantiated opinion. In fact, philosophy is a rigorous, disciplined field of methodical inquiry, comprising logic, ethics, aesthetics, metaphysics and epistemology, whose practitioners must adhere to strict rules of reasoning and evidence. It is simply not true that any old idea is philosophically equivalent to any other. “Anyone” may have an opinion, of course, but only those who have thoroughly examined the evidence and painstakingly tested the logic can claim authority.

  27. #27 Dave S.
    July 16, 2006

    Larry, not finding people to read his own blog, decides simply to import his posts to other people’s blogs:

    Specialization: If knowledge of evolutionary biology is going to be a qualification for having a valid opinion about evolution, why should being a biologist be sufficient? One should be expected to be a specialist in evolutionary biology.

    I can see why your reading comprehension is being questioned Larry. The point is that mathematicians do not have any specialized authority to discussed evolutionary biology merely by being mathematicians.

    Exploitation of prestige: Seventy-two Nobel laureates in science tried to use their prestige to add weight to an amicus brief in a Supreme Court case on creation science, even though most of them were not biologists or specialists in an evolution-related scientific field.

    But they were scientists, and much of that brief was devoted to defending the practice of good science. In addition, there were also 17 state academies of science and 7 other scientific organizations represented.

    I also pointed out that a recent poll showed that a large percentage of physicians — who are well-trained in the biological sciences — are skeptical of Darwinism.

    But not well trained in evolution.

    Also, I said that since a lot of evolutionary biology is just philosophy, anyone is qualified to state an opinion on the subject.

    I’m sure this sentence makes more than a philosoper or two cringe with the sheer mindless hubris of it.

    Of course you said so, but unfortunately you have yet to show this.

    I have no education in biology past high school …

    Really? You took biology in high school?

    yet I have come up with some arguments against co-evolution

    Arguments which require no evidence other than your merest assertions apparently.

  28. #28 Jason Rosenhouse
    July 16, 2006

    Jim Wynne-

    Ugh! You’re right! To think I’ve been using the word “erstwhile” incorrectly all these years. I guess the word I was looking for was “dumbass”.

    Linda Seebach-

    Excellent point. ID folks get so excited when they can find anyone with a PhD to support their view. But when you point out that virtually everyone else with a PhD is aginst them they just shrug it off.

  29. #29 Barry
    July 16, 2006

    “It is noteworthy that a recent poll showed that a large percentage of physicians — who are well-educated in the biological sciences — are skeptical of Darwinism. See
    http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/2006/06/many-physicians-skeptical-of-darwinism.html

    Posted by: Larry Fafarman

    This was covered on Orac’s blog a while back. A summary would be that most physicians are not well-educated in the biological sciences.

    BTW, in the next post, Larry, you actually contradict yourself. Not only are you not reading others’ posts, but you don’t seem to read what you, yourself, write.

  30. #30 Larry Fafarman
    July 16, 2006

    Dave S. said ( July 16, 2006 03:32 PM ) —

    Larry, not finding people to read his own blog, decides simply to import his posts to other people’s blogs:

    Just as Jason Rosenhouse, Ed Brayton, and others import their posts to Panda’s Thumb.

    I can see why your reading comprehension is being questioned Larry. The point is that mathematicians do not have any specialized authority to discussed evolutionary biology merely by being mathematicians.

    And my point is that biologists in general do not have specialized authority to discuss evolutionary biology merely by being biologists.

    Exploitation of prestige: Seventy-two Nobel laureates in science tried to use their prestige to add weight to an amicus brief in a Supreme Court case on creation science, even though most of them were not biologists or specialists in an evolution-related scientific field.

    But they were scientists, and much of that brief was devoted to defending the practice of good science.

    Just as the signatories of the DI letter are professors or researchers in the fields of science and technology.

    In addition, there were also 17 state academies of science and 7 other scientific organizations represented.

    Yes, but the Nobel laureates felt that just adding their names would add extra weight to the amicus brief, even though most of them were not specialists in evolution-related fields or even biologists.

    I also pointed out that a recent poll showed that a large percentage of physicians — who are well-trained in the biological sciences — are skeptical of Darwinism.

    But not well trained in evolution.

    But many biologists do not know as much about evolution as evolutionary biologists do. So maybe only evolutionary biologists should be allowed to sign letters about evolution.

    Also, I said that since a lot of evolutionary biology is just philosophy, anyone is qualified to state an opinion on the subject.

    I’m sure this sentence makes more than a philosoper or two cringe with the sheer mindless hubris of it.

    Anyone can philosophize. Judge Jones does a lot of philosophizing, although he does a very poor job of it, as I amply demonstrate on my blog.

    You took biology in high school?

    Did you take common sense in high school?

    yet I have come up with some arguments against co-evolution

    Arguments which require no evidence other than your merest assertions apparently.

    There is lots of evidence to support these assertions.

    You are just a big bag of hot air, Dave S..

  31. #31 Larry Fafarman
    July 16, 2006

    Barry said ( July 16, 2006 05:05 PM ) —

    This was covered on Orac’s blog a while back. A summary would be that most physicians are not well-educated in the biological sciences.

    A summary of what? Where?

    All pre-med programs require college-level courses in the biological sciences. Many college majors — even in science and technology — do not require any college-level courses in the biological sciences.

    You Darwinists keep moving the goalposts. If an opinion poll showed that a large percentage of biologists are skeptical of Darwinism, you would argue that many of them are not specialists in evolutionary biology.

    BTW, in the next post, Larry, you actually contradict yourself. Not only are you not reading others’ posts, but you don’t seem to read what you, yourself, write.

    What “next post”? What does it contradict? I have no idea what you are talking about.

  32. #32 Scott H
    July 16, 2006

    Luskin quotes Murray Eden as saying: [A]n opposite way to look at the genotype is as a generative algorithm . . . Assuming this to be so, the algorithm must be written in some abstract language. . . No currently existing formal language can tolerate random changes in the symbol sequences which express its sentences. Meaning is almost invariably destroyed.

    If we assume that novel arrangements of DNA correspond to “random changes in the symbol sequences,” as the author seems to intende, wouldn’t that imply that sexual reproduction is an impossibility? After all, I, you, and Mr. Luskin each contain our own unique arrangement of DNA “code.”

    And if that’s the case, isn’t the existence of sexual reproduction enough to disprove the notion that the genetic code can be compared to human-created formal languages in this manner?

    I’d appreciate any qualifed opinions on that argument. Thanks!

  33. #33 dogmeatIB
    July 16, 2006

    Simon,

    My point wasn’t that a Phd in another field couldn’t discuss or express an opinion regarding evolution, it was simply that their degree holds no special authority. They could have a Phd in math, quantum physics, underwater basket weaving, it doesn’t matter. Their opinion isn’t any more valid than anyone else without specific training in the field.

    I would also disagree that anyone trained in a scientific field is an authority when it comes to evolution. Just because they know the steps/concepts/basics of scientific inquiry doesn’t mean that they know enough about the specifics of the field to make a qualified argument. I’ve seen people who allegedly were trained in the scientific method try to attack evolution based upon information 10, 20, even 30 years out of date. The argument against “transitional fossils” is a prime example. Basically all fossils are transitional, to argue that there are no transitionals therefore evolutionary theory has a serious (perhaps fatal) gap might make perfect sense to someone trained in another scientific field, but without the specific knowledge that all fossils are transitional … their argument is based on a flawed understanding of the evidence.

    Phd does not equal authority.

  34. #34 Torbjörn Larsson
    July 16, 2006

    Larry says:

    “”Larry, not finding people to read his own blog, decides simply to import his posts to other people’s blogs:”

    Just as Jason Rosenhouse, Ed Brayton, and others import their posts to Panda’s Thumb.”

    They are invited posters – you are not.

    “”But they were scientists, and much of that brief was devoted to defending the practice of good science.”

    Just as the signatories of the DI letter are professors or researchers in the fields of science and technology.”

    You still don’t get it – DI’s signatories are supporting a business they do not have any specialized authority to discuss. Which comes back to what you initially objected to: “Anyone perusing the DI’s list would be right to sneer at the large number of signatories with no training in biology.” Perhaps you should try to understand what that means before commenting. It isn’t too difficult, really.

    “Anyone can philosophize.”

    Apparently you can’t if you can’t distinguish philosophy and science.

    And you need to read Orac’s post before commenting on it. He explains what is wrong with your argument.

  35. #35 Larry Fafarman
    July 17, 2006

    Torbj?Larsson said ( July 16, 2006 11:01 PM ) —

    Larry says:

    “”Larry, not finding people to read his own blog, decides simply to import his posts to other people’s blogs:”

    Just as Jason Rosenhouse, Ed Brayton, and others import their posts to Panda’s Thumb.”

    They are invited posters – you are not.

    So I need an invitation to post a link to my blog on this blog?

    BTW, have you noticed that “URL” option when you submit a comment? The purpose of that option is to provide a link to your blog or other website (if you have one).

    You still don’t get it – DI’s signatories are supporting a business they do not have any specialized authority to discuss.

    — and most of those 72 Nobel laureates who added their names to an amicus brief submitted to the Supreme Court in Edwards v. Aguillard were also supporting a business — or should I say opposing a business, creation science — that they did not have any specialized authority to discuss. You are the one who still doesn’t get it.

    “Anyone can philosophize.”

    Apparently you can’t if you can’t distinguish philosophy and science.

    A lot of Darwinists cannot distinguish between philosophy and science — see “Is Darwinism science — or philosophy?”

    And you need to read Orac’s post before commenting on it. He explains what is wrong with your argument.

    I was never even given a link to Orac’s post. OK, I found the post on my own and read it.

    You Darwinists just keep moving the goalposts. First you stereotype Darwinism Doubters as fundies who never finished high school and never took a course in biology. Then when shown that a large percentage of physicians are also Darwinism Doubters, you come up with new excuses.

    I wish that scientists and physicians were polled more frequently about evolution so that trends in their opinions could be seen.

  36. #36 Dave S.
    July 17, 2006

    Larry plunges bravely forward:

    And my point is that biologists in general do not have specialized authority to discuss evolutionary biology merely by being biologists.

    Yet you also seem to think that doctors do have a specialized authority merely because they’ve taken biology at some point in the past. Why else would you continue to place so much weight on some poll? There’s consistency for you.

    Just as the signatories of the DI letter are professors or researchers in the fields of science and technology.

    Nice how you broadened the professions of the signatories while narrowing the claim they signed. There’s a difference between a physicist supporting good science and a mechanical engineer dissing evolution.

    Yes, but the Nobel laureates felt that just adding their names would add extra weight to the amicus brief, even though most of them were not specialists in evolution-related fields or even biologists.

    Yes but they were scientists who know what good science entails, and these other groups were there too. A fact you convenently choose to ignore. Also, creationism inolves more than evolution…they also have a lot of stupid things to say about geology and astronomy, and bits of other sciences like chemisrty or physics feel their ignorance too.

    But many biologists do not know as much about evolution as evolutionary biologists do. So maybe only evolutionary biologists should be allowed to sign letters about evolution.

    It’s not about “allowing” people to sign Larry. It’s about what significance you give to the document, considering the people which have signed. Of course you also need to consider the text itself – what it actually says, and how its spun afterwards.

    Anyone can philosophize.

    Anyone can do surgery too Larry. It’s just a matter of cutting stuff. That doesn’t mean I should have my carpenter do a consult.

    Judge Jones does a lot of philosophizing, although he does a very poor job of it, as I amply demonstrate on my blog.

    The only thing you demonstrate there is a need for an increase in your medication.

    Did you take common sense in high school?

    No. What I was taught in high school about common sense was that it’s a nice thing to have, but it’s a very bad idea to base science on it, since nature does so many things that defy commmon sense.

    There is lots of evidence to support these assertions.

    I’m talking about actual evidence Larry, not the hypothetical situations you envisage in your mind.

    You are just a big bag of hot air, Dave S..

    That hurt Larry. *snif*

    I think I’ll go to my quiet space and have some ice-cream.

  37. #37 Lynn
    July 17, 2006

    When I took my first upper-division biochemistry class, the instructor began our first day by projecting a gigantic electron micrograph of a cell onto the screen. His comment was, “For the chemists in the class, this is a cell.”

    He was poking a teasing finger at an inescapable reality–it is possible to go a long way toward a chemistry degree without learning a shred of biology. However, the converse is not true. In order to gain even a low-level understanding of biology, you must become very knowledgable about chemistry.

    This is even more true when the subject is mathematics. Even for my undergraduate degree in general biology more than thirty years ago, I was required to take mathematics through calculus, including rigorous courses in statistics and biometrics. By the time I was well into my advanced degrees (particularly the genetics degree), math was simply second nature. But you can earn a PhD in mathematics without ever darkening the door of any biology class.

    The message here is that the typical BS in biology knows more about math than the typical PhD in math knows about biology.

    And that means that for any mathemetician to present him/herself as an authority on any aspect of biology–certainly including evolution–the onus is on that mathemetician to establish his or her expertise *in biology*. The highest conceivable credentials as a mathemetician cast no mantle of biological expertise on the owner.

    Lynn

  38. #38 Larry Fafarman
    July 17, 2006

    Dave S. said ( July 17, 2006 09:46 AM ) —

    And my point is that biologists in general do not have specialized authority to discuss evolutionary biology merely by being biologists.

    Yet you also seem to think that doctors do have a specialized authority merely because they’ve taken biology at some point in the past.

    In addition to the examples I mentioned, 38 Nobel laureates sent a letter to the Kansas Board of Education opposing ID — see http://media.ljworld.com/pdf/2005/09/15/nobel_letter.pdf The categorical breakdown of their prizes are as follows: 9 in physics, 4 in peace, 1 in economics, and the rest in chemistry and medicine or physiology (there is no prize in biology). You Darwinists have a problem with credentials and expertise only when the signatories are Darwinism Doubters.

    Judge Jones does a lot of philosophizing, although he does a very poor job of it, as I amply demonstrate on my blog.

    The only thing you demonstrate there is a need for an increase in your medication.

    Judge Jones is a buffoon. In a commencement speech, he showed such great hostility towards organized religion that he should recuse himself from any case involving religion. See
    http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/2006/07/judge-jones-wrong-about-founding.html

    I think I’ll go to my quiet space and have some ice-cream.

    How can someone with so much hot air eat ice cream?

  39. #39 Larry Fafarman
    July 17, 2006

    (this comment failed to post, so I removed the http:// prefixes from the URL links in case these links caused the problem)

    Dave S.said ( July 17, 2006 09:46 AM ) —

    And my point is that biologists in general do not have specialized authority to discuss evolutionary biology merely by being biologists.

    Yet you also seem to think that doctors do have a specialized authority merely because they’ve taken biology at some point in the past.

    In addition to the examples I mentioned, 38 Nobel laureates sent a letter to the Kansas Board of Education opposing ID — see media.ljworld.com/pdf/2005/09/15/nobel_letter.pdf The categorical breakdown of their prizes are as follows: 9 in physics, 4 in peace, 1 in economics, and the rest in chemistry and medicine or physiology (there is no prize in biology). You Darwinists have a problem with credentials and expertise only when the signatories are Darwinism Doubters.

    Judge Jones does a lot of philosophizing, although he does a very poor job of it, as I amply demonstrate on my blog.

    The only thing you demonstrate there is a need for an increase in your medication.

    Judge Jones is a buffoon. In a commencement speech, he showed such great hostility towards organized religion that he should recuse himself from any case involving religion. See
    im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/2006/07/judge-jones-wrong-about-founding.html

    I think I’ll go to my quiet space and have some ice-cream.

    How can someone with so much hot air eat ice cream?

  40. #40 Dave S.
    July 17, 2006

    Larry:

    (this comment failed to post, so I removed the http:// prefixes from the URL links in case these links caused the problem)

    Maybe it was the blog-gods telling you something Larry.

    In addition to the examples I mentioned, 38 Nobel laureates sent a letter to the Kansas Board of Education opposing ID — see media.ljworld.com/pdf/2005/09/15/nobel_letter.pdf The categorical breakdown of their prizes are as follows: 9 in physics, 4 in peace, 1 in economics, and the rest in chemistry and medicine or physiology (there is no prize in biology). You Darwinists have a problem with credentials and expertise only when the signatories are Darwinism Doubters.

    Actually I do find fault with their statement. For instance they say that evolution is an “unguided, unplanned process”. Although I think it’s not unreasonable to say that, it’s not something that you could support with any science. I’d say that instead that there appears not to be any particular direction to evoltion.

    And they do still have some authority when it comes to speaking on science even if they are not specifically experts in evolutionary biology. You see Larry, creationism is not just about attacking evolution. Creationists (and of course that includes the intelligent design creationists) attack all science in the process. I know they scream in denial and try hard to isolate only those sciences that make conclusions that don’t jibe with their faith, but that’s exactly what they do.

    You just assumed I’d support their statement whole hog, but once again, you hit your thumb with your hammer.

    How can someone with so much hot air eat ice cream?

    The hot air melts it and it runs right in.

    You shouldn’t trust your personal credulity so much Larry. Evidence is so much more reliable.

  41. #41 David D.G.
    July 17, 2006

    Sorry, but I don’t know how to set this stuff into proper indentations and so on; please forgive my lack of Web skills.

    The following was a comment from L. Fafarman:

    Keanus said ( July 15, 2006 10:52 PM ) —

    For Luskin to hinge his entire argument on a conference held 40 years ago is lunacy in a field that has grown like biology.

    There is a double standard here. You say that it is “lunacy” for Luskin to hinge his argument on a decades-old conference, but Darwinists often argue that ID is just a “rehash” of creationist arguments that were refuted decades ago. So it is OK for Darwinists to rely on decades-old arguments but not OK for anti-Darwinists to rely on them.

    ————————————

    I think that there are a few points to be considered here. First, it is that Luskin was misrepresenting the entire outcome of that “decades-old conference”; it was this dishonesty that really matters, claiming that his pet stance was represented by a majority of that conference, or at least a sizable minority of it, when all it amounted to was the opinions of only a couple of stubborn mathematicians who wouldn’t admit that they were wrong!

    Second, if Luskin had had something better or more recent to work with, he would have named it; but even with so much work being done in biology lately, the BEST he could find was a couple of stubborn mathematicians at a conference a full 40 years ago — which he then tried to misrepresent as something stronger. That is why his use of a “decades-old conference” as his only real argument is so pathetic in itself.

    Third, the characterization “Darwinists” is itself disingenuous and misleading. There are people who recognize and accept evolutionary theory, and there are people who deny it. (There are also people who recognize the basic nature of relativity; should we call them Einsteinists? I prefer to call them people who understand physics.) Evolutionary theory is not what it was in Darwin’s day; it has, metaphorically speaking, evolved. To characterize it as being blindly followed just as Darwin introduced it is nothing less than several levels of false insinuation, and it is a dead giveaway of the thought processes of the creationist camp — whose belief in creationism is merely that of religious credulity. Projection much?

    ~David D.G.

  42. #42 Dave S.
    July 17, 2006

    David D.G. –

    Welcome to the party.

    Sorry, but I don’t know how to set this stuff into proper indentations and so on; please forgive my lack of Web skills.

    For doing what I just did, type [blockquote]TEXT YOU WANT TO QUOTE[/blockquote], except use angled brackets instead of the square ones I used. You can also substitute [i]TEXT[/i] or [b]TEXT[/b] for italicising or bolding. Again, use the angled brackets.

    I’m sure there are other neat tricks, but that’s all I use pretty much.

  43. #43 David D.G.
    July 17, 2006

    Thanks for the help and the welcome, Dave S.!

    ~David D.G.

  44. #44 truth machine
    July 17, 2006

    Although I agree with the general point made here, I think it may be a little unfair to say that mathematicians are unable to speak authoritatively about biology. How much biology would you actually need to show evolution not to be true? Although, I’m still waiting for a mathematician with a spade to find that fossil rabbit…

    Finding a rabbit fossil in pre-Cambrian strata would not in fact disprove evolution. It might help to know some philosophy of science, as well as biology … which is particularly relevant because mathematicians are not generally scientists or trained in the scientific method. Also, the word “authoritatively” here is an amphiboly; while one might be able to speak “authoritatively” on some specific empirical claim due to a personal encounter with relevant evidence, that doesn’t make one an authority in the field. Notably, the subject here is not one’s digging skills, but the evaluation of an abstract statement about “claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life”. Anyone can be skeptical of such claims … including evolutionary biologists who are aware of other elements such as genetic drift, making the list all the more ridiculous. But even if the statement weren’t absurdly vague, any skepticism by a mathematician would certainly not be “authoritative”, unless the mathematician also happened to be an evolutionary biologist or otherwise trained, practiced, and competent in the field.

  45. #45 Larry Fafarman
    July 17, 2006

    Lynn said ( July 17, 2006 01:25 PM ) —

    He was poking a teasing finger at an inescapable reality–it is possible to go a long way toward a chemistry degree without learning a shred of biology.

    Organic chemistry (biochemistry) is a major branch of chemistry and for this branch I think it would be very helpful to be familiar with biology. Of the 13 Nobel laureates in chemistry among the 72 Nobel laureates who were listed in the Edwards v. Aguillard amicus brief opposing creation science, 2 received their prizes for work in DNA and at least 3 others got prizes for work in biochemistry — see http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/edwards-v-aguillard/amicus1.html. But what is the significance of specializing in a particular field? Scientists can become so specialized that they cannot see the forest for the trees, even within their own areas of specialization such as evolutionary biology. Anyway, I really don’t think that credentials necessarily count for much in discussing the evolution controversy. I did not study biology after high school and became interested in evolution only a few months ago, yet I have come up with questions about co-evolution that have baffled the experts.

    In order to gain even a low-level understanding of biology, you must become very knowledgable about chemistry.

    I disagree. Chemistry is not a pre-requisite for high-school biology courses, which provide a “low-level” understanding of biology.

    This is even more true when the subject is mathematics. Even for my undergraduate degree in general biology more than thirty years ago, I was required to take mathematics through calculus, including rigorous courses in statistics and biometrics.

    Unfortunately, though scientists (particularly physicists) and engineers have taken mathematics coming out the ears, they are often considered unqualified or poorly qualified to teach high school math because they did not major or minor in math. At my university, all the engineering majors were required to take two post-calculus courses that had EE course numbers and engineering course titles but were not engineering courses at all — they were pure mathematics. I suggest that science and engineering majors take the few extra courses required for a math minor so at least they will have credentials representing their expertise in math.

  46. #46 truth machine
    July 17, 2006

    Even for my undergraduate degree in general biology more than thirty years ago, I was required to take mathematics through calculus, including rigorous courses in statistics and biometrics. By the time I was well into my advanced degrees (particularly the genetics degree), math was simply second nature. But you can earn a PhD in mathematics without ever darkening the door of any biology class.

    The message here is that the typical BS in biology knows more about math than the typical PhD in math knows about biology.

    That may be true, but one should be careful not to be misled into thinking that it means that a typical BS in biology is more knowledgeable than the typical PhD in math; the latter has learned a great deal more math than calculus, statistics, and biometrics, and has a much deeper training in mathematical thinking.

  47. #47 truth machine
    July 17, 2006

    Many people who have never studied philosophy think it must consist of unsubstantiated opinion. In fact, philosophy is a rigorous, disciplined field of methodical inquiry,

    I’ve studied philosophy, and I can firmly state that that is complete and utter horsepucky. Consider, for instance, that the mathematician Andrew Wiles nearly committed suicide when his purported proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem was cooked when another mathematician pointed out a subtle misapplication of a theorem that broke the chain of reasoning; Wiles spent another year seeking an alternate way to bridge the gap, and eventually did, coming up with a proof that passes the actually rigorous and disciplined standards of mathematics. OTOH, a professional philosopher like John Searle can loudly proclaim that he has proved that computers can’t have mental states by virtue of executing an algorithm (his Chinese Room argument), and numerous philosophers repeat this claim despite the “proof” being riddled with flaws that wouldn’t make it through a freshman course in logic. Despite the numerous refutations by philosophers of such standing as David Chalmers, and philosopher Larry Hauser devoting his PhD thesis to demonstrating the depth and breadth of Searle’s errors, the “rigorous, disciplined field of methodical inquiry” of philosophy provides no way to resolve the dispute, because logical rigor and intellectual honesty may be given lip service, they are not in practice requirements for philosophers.

  48. #48 Curtis Patton
    July 18, 2006

    WOW! Is it just me or has anyone thought, really, about the subject that started this thread. What degree in science did Darwin hold. Please be honest.

  49. #49 Dave S.
    July 18, 2006

    Curtis Patton says:

    WOW! Is it just me or has anyone thought, really, about the subject that started this thread. What degree in science did Darwin hold. Please be honest.

    Darwin didn’t have a degree in science as such, not as we have them today anyway (B.Sc., M.Sc., Ph.D.). But then again, such degrees did not exist in Darwin’s time, which might explain why. He had a BA and took many subjects, focusing on the natural sciences like geology. He also had half of a medical degree (he dropped out), again with the focus on the natural sciences.

    That he was a scientist is hardly in doubt. He was elected to the prestigious Royal Academy in 1839, 20 years before his evolution work ever saw the light of day. He was already a well established scientist by mid-19th century standards before boading the Beagle.

  50. #50 Torbjörn Larsson
    July 18, 2006

    Larry says:

    “So I need an invitation to post a link to my blog on this blog?”

    No, but that wasn’t the comment. You said that you posting a link on this blog was the same as what invited posters did.

    “– and most of those 72 Nobel laureates who added their names to an amicus brief submitted to the Supreme Court in Edwards v. Aguillard were also supporting a business — or should I say opposing a business, creation science — that they did not have any specialized authority to discuss. You are the one who still doesn’t get it.”

    They were supporting the business if science. Opposing junk science such as creation science is part of the business of science. Scientists know what is science and what is junk science. You have read this claim a number of times from a number of commenters. What is so hard to get about that?

    Your only response is to say “did not”, as a child. It is you who must invalidate the simple claims that scientists can support the business of science, that opposing junk science is supporting science, and that creationism isn’t science. Can you do that?

    “A lot of Darwinists cannot distinguish between philosophy and science”. You are obtuse. Evolution (not Darwinism) is trivially science made by scientists. Nothing in your lengthy comment can or indeed does negate that. Evolution isn’t based on Miller’s explanation on why intelligent design is a bad theory.

    “I was never even given a link to Orac’s post.” That didn’t stop you from commenting, did it?

    “You Darwinists just keep moving the goalposts. First you stereotype Darwinism Doubters as fundies who never finished high school and never took a course in biology. Then when shown that a large percentage of physicians are also Darwinism Doubters, you come up with new excuses.” Believe it or not, I have some sympathy for your argument. (Except that “you darwinist”. I’m neither a biologist, nor is a biologist a darwinist.) The goalposts were moved. But that is because you invented those goalposts. No one has claimed what type of maldeformed thinking makes creationists. We are merely observing the facts. I note that you finally accept an argument in the face of facts (even though it wasn’t my argument ;-( ).

    Curtis says:
    “What degree in science did Darwin hold.” Before his theory stood up to peer review and testing, he couldn’t very well call himself evolutionist, could he? He was a scientist of his day (less specialisation and degrees) and apparently a very good biologist. ;-)

  51. #51 Anton Mates
    July 18, 2006

    Larry Fafarman said:

    I did not study biology after high school and became interested in evolution only a few months ago, yet I have come up with questions about co-evolution that have baffled the experts.

    and it’s very, very true.

  52. #52 Larry Fafarman
    July 19, 2006

    Torbjorn Larsson said ( July 18, 2006 03:55 PM ) —

    Larry says:

    “So I need an invitation to post a link to my blog on this blog?”

    No, but that wasn’t the comment. You said that you posting a link on this blog was the same as what invited posters did.

    It doesn’t matter whether it was the same or not — the fact remains that there was nothing wrong with posting a link to my blog on this blog. In fact, the commenting procedure itself gives commenters an opportunity to link to their blogs or other websites.

    They were supporting the business if science. Opposing junk science such as creation science is part of the business of science. Scientists know what is science and what is junk science.

    Without having specialized in evolutionary biology and with no evidence that they studied evolution on their own, how are they particularly qualified to judge the scientific merits of evolution theory? Why should their opinions be worth any more than the opinions of lay people who have studied evolution extensively on their own? As for mathematicians, their analytical rules are even more stringent than those of scientists — no gaps are allowed in mathematical analysis. Scientists often try to prove things by means of examples, but as a math professor of mine once said, nothing in mathematics can be proven by example because we can never run out of examples.

    “I was never even given a link to Orac’s post.” That didn’t stop you from commenting, did it?

    I never commented specifically about Orac’s post. And how could I have commented on it before I read it?

    The goalposts were moved. But that is because you invented those goalposts.

    Wrong. When did evolutionists ever agree that evolution is questionable just because a large percentage of the public questions it? Evolutionists say that the problem with Darwinism Doubters among the general public is that they are not well educated in the biological sciences, but the evolutionists cannot really say the same about Darwinism-doubting physicians, even though physicians do not specialize in evolutionary biology.

  53. #53 Larry Fafarman
    July 19, 2006

    Anton Mates said ( July 18, 2006 11:26 PM ) —

    Larry Fafarman said:

    I did not study biology after high school and became interested in evolution only a few months ago, yet I have come up with questions about co-evolution that have baffled the experts.

    and it’s very, very true.

    Well, thank you so much, Anton, I so rarely get a compliment on these blogs.

  54. #54 Dave S.
    July 19, 2006

    Wrong. When did evolutionists ever agree that evolution is questionable just because a large percentage of the public questions it? Evolutionists say that the problem with Darwinism Doubters among the general public is that they are not well educated in the biological sciences, but the evolutionists cannot really say the same about Darwinism-doubting physicians, even though physicians do not specialize in evolutionary biology.

    Yes they can, as most physicians aren’t well versed in evolutionary science either. I took organic chemistry in college, but I’d be hard pressed to give anyone an authoritative statement on thermodynamics and kinetics. Even though both are just chemistry. I can read up on them of course and understand the basics, but my training in organic chem doesn’t by itself give me any special insight.

  55. #55 Larry Fafarman
    July 19, 2006

    Dave S. said ( July 19, 2006 09:36 AM ) —

    …. most physicians aren’t well versed in evolutionary science either.

    At least they are not pig-ignorant about evolutionary science like Darwinism Doubters are supposed to be. Seeing as how such great importance is attached to biologists’ opinions about evolution, why aren’t there some formal polls of those opinions? I have never seen a poll of biologists’ opinions about evolution and the only such poll I have seen of scientists in general is a greatly outdated 2002 poll of scientists in Ohio.

    I took organic chemistry in college, but I’d be hard pressed to give anyone an authoritative statement on thermodynamics and kinetics. Even though both are just chemistry.

    Thermodynamics is an important subject in physics and engineering as well as chemistry, but there is no guarantee that any particular course in chemistry will cover the basics of thermodynamics. Kinetics in chemistry is different from the mechanical kinetics in physics & engineering — it is probably better to use the term “chemical kinetics” when referring to kinetics in chemistry in order to avoid confusion. It should not take long to review either thermodynamics or kinetics (chemical or mechanical).

  56. #56 Dave S.
    July 19, 2006

    Larry says:

    At least they are not pig-ignorant about evolutionary science like Darwinism Doubters are supposed to be.

    I’m a Darwin Doubter too Larry, since I accept the DI statement that natural selection and mutation cannot account for the complexity of life.

    Seeing as how such great importance is attached to biologists’ opinions about evolution, why aren’t there some formal polls of those opinions?

    Because science is done using evidence, not polls. Since the anti-“Darwinists” don’t have any evidence, they have to make do.

    Thermodynamics is an important subject in physics and engineering as well as chemistry, but there is no guarantee that any particular course in chemistry will cover the basics of thermodynamics. Kinetics in chemistry is different from the mechanical kinetics in physics & engineering — it is probably better to use the term “chemical kinetics” when referring to kinetics in chemistry in order to avoid confusion. It should not take long to review either thermodynamics or kinetics (chemical or mechanical).

    The point being Larry, that my training in one branch of chemistry does not automatically entitle me to make authoritative pronouncements, even in another branch of chemistry.

  57. #57 Larry Fafarman
    July 19, 2006

    Dave S. said ( July 19, 2006 03:26 PM ) —

    I’m a Darwin Doubter too Larry, since I accept the DI statement that natural selection and mutation cannot account for the complexity of life.

    That’s the opposite of what you have been saying on this blog for about the last 3 weeks. So you mean that you have just been playing the devil’s advocate all this time? You sure had me fooled.

    Seeing as how such great importance is attached to biologists’ opinions about evolution, why aren’t there some formal polls of those opinions?

    Because science is done using evidence, not polls.

    What is this? I thought you had confessed to playing the devil’s advocate, and now you are back to defending Darwinism!

    The issue of acceptance in the scientific community was one of the factors that Judge Jones considered in ruling against ID in the Dover case:

    “After this searching and careful review of ID as espoused by its proponents, as elaborated upon in submissions to the Court, and as scrutinized over a six week trial, we find that ID is not science and cannot be adjudged a valid, accepted scientific theory as it has failed to publish in peer-reviewed journals, engage in research and testing, and gain acceptance in the scientific community

    The point being Larry, that my training in one branch of chemistry does not automatically entitle me to make authoritative pronouncements, even in another branch of chemistry.

    So what was the point of having all those Nobel laureates vouch for Darwinism?

  58. #58 Shane Caldwell
    July 20, 2006

    Hi Jason, thank you for the perspective you offer here. I find it interesting that yours appears to be an argument from your own authority. That you do not seem to appreciate the silliness of this does not help to commend that authority. Maybe that is a mistake on my part, but I thought I would offer it to you in return, from someone who cares much more about the practice of good thinking and good science than about matters of natural history, such as evolution.

    By the way, physicists have much better standards of evidence than do any kind of natural historians.

    Best,
    Shane

  59. #59 Dave S.
    July 20, 2006

    Larry says:

    That’s the opposite of what you have been saying on this blog for about the last 3 weeks. So you mean that you have just been playing the devil’s advocate all this time? You sure had me fooled.

    Wrong Larry. I made it clear, and have always been consistent, that I did not hold the position that mutation and natural selection all by themselves account for the complexity of life. And yet, I still accept the mainstream theory of evolution as the only existing scientific theory for life’s development. That’s because the statement itself is a sham. No-body holds the position it argues against Larry.

    What is this? I thought you had confessed to playing the devil’s advocate, and now you are back to defending Darwinism!

    I didn’t confess to anything. And I certainly don’t need to “defend” evolution. The evidence is just so abundant that it hardly matters my poor ability to add or detract. My point is somebody could be the most avid evolution supporter, and still sign that statement. It’s all PR stunt Larry. You make some vague statement that really anybody could sign, and then you pretend that anyone who does must repudiate evolution.

    The issue of acceptance in the scientific community was one of the factors that Judge Jones considered in ruling against ID in the Dover case:

    The judge was talking about accepting the evidence and methodology as a whole dimwit, not some vague two sentence statement that could be taken any number of ways.

    So what was the point of having all those Nobel laureates vouch for Darwinism?

    They know good science when the see it. But it ain’t good science because of their say-so. It’s good science because it is so. They merely recognized that fact.

  60. #60 Larry Fafarman
    July 20, 2006

    Dave S. said —

    I made it clear, and have always been consistent, that I did not hold the position that mutation and natural selection all by themselves account for the complexity of life. And yet, I still accept the mainstream theory of evolution as the only existing scientific theory for life’s development.

    There is no point in my continuing this discussion with you, because you are not even being consistent — “the position that mutation and natural selection all by themselves account for the complexity of life” is actually part of the “mainstream theory of evolution.”

  61. #61 Dave S.
    July 20, 2006

    No Larry, it isn’t. You are wrong. If you are correct you should have no problem showing us many examples of evolutionists saying exactly that. So far, you have shown us 0 examples. The only people you can point to that say that are anti-“Darwinists”.

  62. #62 Torbjörn Larsson
    July 23, 2006

    Keeping up with blogs during vacation is obviously too much for me – I have a life to keep up with too.

    Larry says:

    “It doesn’t matter whether it was the same or not — the fact remains that there was nothing wrong with posting a link to my blog on this blog.”

    That was the contested point. So you can’t conflate the positions.

    “Without having specialized in evolutionary biology and with no evidence that they studied evolution on their own, how are they particularly qualified to judge the scientific merits of evolution theory? Why should their opinions be worth any more than the opinions of lay people who have studied evolution extensively on their own?”

    They are experts on science and junk science – lay people are not as you so generously show.

    “As for mathematicians, their analytical rules are even more stringent than those of scientists — no gaps are allowed in mathematical analysis.”

    Math isn’t science. Applying math to science is usually difficult for mathematicians, as Dembski so generously show.

    “Scientists often try to prove things by means of examples, but as a math professor of mine once said, nothing in mathematics can be proven by example because we can never run out of examples.”

    Scientists justifies theories with a finite number of observations. The theories may well be formal, and in any case the predictions to use for jsutification may well be general. Proving by example in math is done by induction.

    “I never commented specifically about Orac’s post. ”

    You said on the reference to Orac before reading it:
    “All pre-med programs require college-level courses in the biological sciences. Many college majors — even in science and technology — do not require any college-level courses in the biological sciences.

    You Darwinists keep moving the goalposts. If an opinion poll showed that a large percentage of biologists are skeptical of Darwinism, you would argue that many of them are not specialists in evolutionary biology.”

    “”But that is because you invented those goalposts.”

    Wrong.”

    You didn’t check the reference to Orac, so your allegation of goalposts are not substantiated.

    “Evolutionists say that the problem with Darwinism Doubters among the general public is that they are not well educated in the biological sciences, but the evolutionists cannot really say the same about Darwinism-doubting physicians, even though physicians do not specialize in evolutionary biology.”

    Biological sciences are based on evolution.

    “Thermodynamics is an important subject in physics and engineering as well as chemistry, but there is no guarantee that any particular course in chemistry will cover the basics of thermodynamics.”

    There is no guarantee that any particular course in engineering will cover the basics of thermodynamics – it is less important than in chemistry.

    “Kinetics in chemistry is different from the mechanical kinetics in physics & engineering”

    Thermodynamic kinetics in chemistry is no different from thermodynamics kinetics in physics & engineering. Especially solid state physics share much other stuff with chemistry.

    “gain acceptance in the scientific community”

    Peer review among experts is obviously not polls among lay persons.

  63. #63 Larry Fafarman
    July 28, 2006

    Just a few comments. I thought that this thread was dead, but it has been extended.

    Torbjorn Larsson said ( July 23, 2006 01:53 AM ) —

    Math isn’t science.

    I never said it was. But math is an important tool in science and mathematicians have a great appreciation for analytical rigor.

    Proving by example in math is done by induction.

    Wrong. Mathematical inducition is completely rigorous. Mathematical induction shows that something is true for all integers out to infinity if it is true for n and n+1.

    There is no guarantee that any particular course in engineering will cover the basics of thermodynamics – it is less important than in chemistry.

    Wrong. Thermodynamics is an extremely important subject in mechanical engineering. I was an ME major and I took two full courses in thermodynamics.

    Thermodynamic kinetics in chemistry is no different from thermodynamics kinetics in physics & engineering.

    Not necessarily. It depends on the branch of engineering. Both chemical engineering and chemistry, for example, are concerned with the thermodynamics of chemical reactions. But mechanical engineering tends to be more concerned with the thermodynamics of changes of state — e.g., the thermodynamics of steam power and refrigeration cycles — than with the thermodynamics of chemical reactions. There are of course overlaps between the applications of thermodynamics in the different fields, but there are differences in emphasis.

  64. #64 Dennis
    March 18, 2010

    Wow, . . more hype. It is funny how any scientist who doubts, or says anything against evolution is suddenly demeaned, and of course they know absolutely nothing, . .right? All I see is a whole lot of arrogance in these writings. Hello? Any REAL scientist writing on these pages, . .I mean any who have been out of college more than a few years and perhaps are published at least once or maybe three or four times? Good luck!

  65. #65 A. Scientist
    March 18, 2010

    I’m A Scientist, Dennis, and double-blind studies show that Casey Luskin doesn’t know what he’s talking about. His lacking of “know”, we believe, gives him an undeserved confidence in his own level of, scientifically speaking, “geniusness”.
    Also, he’s an amoral douche.

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