Not because it’s false, mind you. There is no reasonable definition of science that includes Intelligent Design and Creationism, and it is perfectly legitimate to point that out. In certain contexts, like when you are arguing that it is unconstitutional to teach ID in public high school science classes, it is even an important and relevant point.

But it is not the main reason serious scientists want nothing to do with the notion and it should not be the first thing you say when debating the subject. Case in point, consider how the usually excellent Steven Novella opens this post about ID:

The primary scientific criticism of ID is that it is not a legitimate scientific theory, but rather a transparent attempt at recasting religious faith (creationism) in scientific-sounding jargon.

No, no, no!! That is not the primary scientific criticism of ID. The primary scientific criticism of ID is that the specific assertions made by ID folks, about irreducible complexity, complex specified information, the alleged holes in evolutionary science, and so on, are universally false. That’s why scientists reject ID.

Stating things as Novella has plays right into ID hands. It creates the false impression that scientists won’t give ID a fair hearing because it fails to conform to some definitional contrivance. The reality is much simpler and so much more powerful. ID’s scientific claims are rejected because they are wrong, in precisely the same sense that it is wrong to say that 1+1=3. ID claims are wrong independent of whether evolution in its modern form is substantially correct. If tomorrow a stunning discovery is made that shows common descent to be a lot of nonsense, it will still be true that William Dembski’s probability calculations are meaningless. It will still be true that his use of the No Free Lunch theorems is not legitimate. It will still be true that “irreducibly complex” biological systems can evolve via a variety of well-understood mechanisms.

Just so we are clear, ID isn’t science, and it is just a transparent attempt to conceal an especially blinkered sort of religious faith beneath the clothing of science. That, however, is not the primary reason that scientists reject ID. Nor should it be. If there were any merit to the charges the ID folks make, their lack of conformity to some definition of science would hardly be the big news.

That said, go read the rest of Prof. Novella’s essay. After my annoyance at his opening died down, I found I enjoyed it a quite a bit.

Comments

  1. #1 Steven Novella
    April 9, 2008

    Jason – Thanks for reviewing my blog post, but I must respectfully disagree with you. The fact that ID is not falsifiable and therefore not science is the primary scientific criticism of ID. All of the things you mentioned are also proper criticisms, but I think they are trumped by the fact that ID is not even science. Nowhere did I state that ID being not science should end the criticism.

    Also – when ID proponents try to defend themselves on the very points you mention, they invariably wiggle out of criticism by creeping their position over to one that is not falsifiable. In the end, they always end up outside the arena of science defending an unfalsifiable version of ID. So your position is also a bit of a false dichotomy since – the points you mention and the unfalsifiable nature of ID are related in the way that I stated.

    Further, I agree that we have to be mindful of how we state the case for evolution and against ID so as not to be easily exploited. However – the fact the ID is not science is not a point we should gloss over. It is an incredibly important point – we should fight over it and win. Keep in mind that ID was created for the very purpose of expanding the definition of science – this is actually THE fight. Everything else – while legitimate and important – is actually a distraction. Don’t get distracted.

  2. #2 infopractical
    April 9, 2008

    I just wrote up almost exactly what Steven Novella posted above, so there’s no point in rehashing. It’s good to point out that ID has other flaws, but from the start, it doesn’t pass the very first threshold for reasonability in the realm it portends to inhabit, science. It’s from this point that we springboard to most other points in the debate, or else those other points orbit this one, such as the minutia of details regarding irreducible complexity and other flaws in mathematical/scientific reasoning.

  3. #3 royniles
    April 9, 2008

    I’d have to agree with Jason, at least on a philosophical basis. ID proponents don’t really care if someone says their overall theory is not falsifiable – that means nothing to the general public who in the end run the school boards, the legislatures, and especially the broadcast media. It’s the specifics of ID that need to be challenged as unteachable as true science at any level. And in addition, there needs to be a willingness to attack them on a philosophical basis that puts their particular brands of religion to the test as to just how the creation of both the world and its life forms were seemingly cobbled together out of thin air. ID makes a lot of inference, openly and covertly, as to what was done and why, which captures the public’s imagination as the best explanation for anything. But they invariably omit the “how” part of the equation. That aspect is not supposed to be fair game. But they shouldn’t be left as the sole referees of that game. Especially when their side continues to cheat.

  4. #4 Duae Quartunciae
    April 9, 2008

    The key sentence.

    The primary scientific criticism of ID is that the specific assertions made by ID folks, about irreducible complexity, complex specified information, the alleged holes in evolutionary science, and so on, are universally false.

    Quite right; I agree wholeheartedly. Other more meta-issuse are really just analysis of how anyone could have proposed such a travesty. The bedrock problem; the one thing that kills ID stone cold dead, is that the arguments are simply wrong.

    To show this requires taking each individual argument, on a case by case basis, and showing where it is false to fact. This has been done already. Not because of links to religion, not because of philosophical concerns about naturalism, not because of definitions of what is or is not science; but because the arguments themselves fail, one by one, due to sophomoric basic errors of fact.

  5. #5 royniles
    April 9, 2008

    A scientific hypothesis is essentially a philosophical concept until it’s tested. That’s the framework in which I used the term. A philosophical concern that leads to a workable hypothesis is a perfectly valid way to present what might otherwise have been a purely religious argument.

  6. #6 J. J. Ramsey
    April 9, 2008

    The thing is that there are unfalsifiable positions and unfalsifiable positions. There are unfalsifiable positions for which there is no conceivable evidence that could either reinforce or rebut them. There are also positions that are unfalsifiable only because the holders of them keep dodging or explaining away would-be failures. ID falls into the latter category. ID isn’t so much a case of something that fails a Popper-style falsifiability test (which itself can be a bit dodgy) as it is a case of a hypothesis with a poor track record.

  7. #7 Steven Novella
    April 9, 2008

    So far no one has addressed my actual points.

    The notion of attacking the false claims rather than the fact that ID is not falsifiable is a false dichotomy. You have to do both – because as soon as you try to attack the false claims ID proponents retreat to unfalsifiable land.

    Also – the entire ID construct was created (remember Philip Johnson) so as to allow supernaturalism (i.e. unfalsifiable causes) into the arena of science. That is the fight. It always comes back to that.

    If you focus ONLY on the false claims, you are playing their game. You have been duped. It was never about the scientific claims – it’s about allowing god into science.

    In short – It is far more true to say that ID is not science than to say that it is a failed science.

  8. #8 royniles
    April 9, 2008

    Steven: I for one specifically pointed out a way to attack the plausibility of letting god and supernaturalism into science, and it’s more consistent with jason’s position than with yours as to the best way to present ID’s weaknesses to the general public. Of course ID is not falsifiable, but the point is that there are better ways to attack their position than to lead off with that argument. The question at hand is one of the proper strategy rather than one of deciding how fine are the differences between failed science and no science at all.

  9. #9 Steven Novella
    April 9, 2008

    I understand Jason is making an argument about strategy – as I indicated in my first comment. This is a strategic failure. The entire conflict matters the most when it comes to the question of ID in the public schools. And as Jason admits – in that (most important)context the fact that ID is not science is most relevant.

    Relaying the issue to the public? – I think that properly arguing that ID is not science is more effective. If you make some complex argument as to why it is wrong, then the public will think this is some convoluted argument AMONG SCIENTISTS – that lets in the whole academic freedom, minority opinion, EXPELLED crap. How is this a winning strategy?

    And – as I said – you often cannot argue that ID claims are wrong without also explaining how they are not falsifiable. Explain how irreducible complexity is wrong without resorting to the notion that it cannot be scientifically falsified.

  10. #10 royniles
    April 9, 2008

    Steven: You explain it in part by pointing out how ID is unable to demonstrate that their hypothesis of an immaculate conception of life, and the earth it sprang from, is in any way a less irreducibly complex explanation than the one offered by the theory of evolution. Included with that would be the most “common sense” analysis feasible of why ID’s various proposals in this regard would turn all known laws of science on their heads.

    Coincidentally, I received a notice today from he Council for Secular Humanism that “God: The Failed Hypothesis” is now out in paperback. There’s apparently some good science there that is quite suitable for the above purpose.

  11. #11 royniles
    April 9, 2008

    Let me add what is obviously an oversimplification, but hopefully outlines the differences in approaches here. Yours to me is primarily a “point out what has to be wrong” approach, but I’m suggesting more emphasis on a “point out why it’s not right” approach as well.

  12. #12 Explicit Atheist
    April 9, 2008

    Jason is absolutely correct. When ID proponents attempt make formal arguments for ID those arguments fail. Those failed attempts are frequently incorrectly cited as sucesses by ID proponents to serve as the Trojan Horse to get into the curriculum. If some ID proponents also retreat into unfalsifiable assertions, that doesn’t by itself make ID unscientific since ID proponents are also make these other arguments. The best approach for defending science is to understand the formal arguments made by ID proponents and how those arguments have been decisevely refuted.

  13. #13 Joe Shelby
    April 9, 2008

    I think there’s the 2 sides of ID and each here (Jason and the first commenter) is addressing their own.

    ID side 1 – evolution is false because of (insert creationist claim here). this really translates to “the scientific claims made by ID are false” is the exclusive position that should be taken in higher education academia and the media.

    ID side 2 – ID postulates that the problems pointed out with evolution in side 1 above (never mind that they’ve been proven false and were proven false long before Darwin) can be resolved by acknowledging the actions of some intelligent designer (but we’re not going to say who, how, or why). This is the “unscientific” part, the back door to get their religious indoctrination into public schools. This is where their “you’re not letting us be science because of your materialistic philosophical definition of science that intentionally denies God exists” at the heart of the Wedge document comes into play.

    So yes, there’s truth on both sides of the anti-ID argument. And (yes, that framing thing) the right one needs to be used at the right time. science doesn’t need to address ID because 1) the claims made by ID on evolutions flaws are false (ID is bad science), and 2) the postulates assumed by ID to explain those claims rely on some supernatural entity (ID postulates a scientifically unsupportable tenant).

    its up to the context of each anti-ID writing, or really the specific claim of the ID supporter being reacted to, that the author decides which of the two points is the more important.

    when dealing with science in the public media, ID is proposing claims easily shown to be false.

    when dealing with science education in public schools, ID is proposing a religious entity as an alternative to the accepted scientific explanations, which is unconstitutional. oh, and its bad science, too.

    both are fully legitimate “primary scientific criticisms” against ID.

  14. #14 itchy
    April 9, 2008

    I find myself going back and forth between Jason’s and Steven’s positions.

    Interesting that both claim that each other’s approach is “playing their game.”

  15. #15 tomh
    April 9, 2008

    Steven Novella wrote:
    the entire ID construct was created (remember Philip Johnson) so as to allow supernaturalism (i.e. unfalsifiable causes) into the arena of science.

    Not really. ID was invented as a legal stratagem, and a rather clever one, to circumvent anti-creationist Supreme Court rulings. That’s what lawyers do. Johnson couldn’t care less about science, he just wanted the Bible back in schools. The whole redefining science thing was just a feeble justification forced on ID when nothing else was selling. Same with the vacuous irreducible complexity and the rest, just smoke and mirrors to try and prop up the legal strategy.

  16. #16 royniles
    April 10, 2008

    I can agree this was at least partly a legal strategy to get the bibles back in schools, but it was also a strategy to have them stay in the schools by having an alternative to the science that might otherwise negate the effects expected from the initial legal victories. So it was a strategy with both short term offensive and long term defensive tactics.

    And Johnson didn’t just come up with a creationist theory for the particular occasion. He was “born again” and really did give a damn about this view of “science.” He did however craft a particular strategy for the occasion.

  17. #17 SLC
    April 10, 2008

    What I think that Dr. Novella is missing here is that falsification is not the only reason that ID fails as a science. ID also fails because it explains nothing (the designer did it) and it predicts nothing. A hypothesis that explains nothing, predicts nothing, and is not falsifiable is not science. Period, end of discussion.

    Just as an example, what does ID predict relative to the fusion of ape chromosomes 12 and 13 to form human chromosome 2? The only thing that ID can state ex post facto is that that’s the way the designer designed it!

  18. #18 Ginger Yellow
    April 10, 2008

    I’ve got to agree with Steven. While it’s important to point out that ID’s specific claims are wrong, it can’t be the “primary” objection to it, because as we’ve seen they’ll just back off the strong claim and move to a weaker one, or come up with some other false claim. If you’re relying only on knocking back specific claims, you’re just playing whack-a-mole. Witness Behe’s shifting of the goalposts over IC. The fundamental point is that their claims are false because the heart of the ID enterprise is using anti-science (Goddidit) to attack well established science. This inevitably produces false claims.

  19. #19 gary
    April 10, 2008

    I tend to look at this from an entirely different direction. To me, the ultimate problem isn’t ID. The ultimate problem is millions of Americans who don’t know what science really is and only know that it’s teaching their childern things which are contradicting their literal interpretation of the bible.

    I think down deep most of these fundamentalists realize that believing dinosaurs were roaming around America 5,000 years ago is laughable, but they don’t want to think about it. They prefer being ignorant. They love the benefits of science, but otherwise, they see it as a real threat to their faith.

    I don’t think science has to choose what is the number one problem with ID. Science has already won the battle in court and will keep on winning it. I think that what needs to be done now is to energeticly push against the irrationality af fundamentalists in every way possible.

    Unfailingly challenge their lack of any rational basis for believing what they believe. Basically, that is what has been done against religionists in Europe and it has worked admirably. In my opinion, it’s just a matter of time until it happens here too. Keep the faith, baby.

  20. #20 Chris Bell
    April 10, 2008

    As a lawyer, I’ve been working for some time now on some anti-ID work and I’m getting close to publishing. This is a perfect opportunity to have my ideas critiqued while commenting. :-) (Hey, we need good guy lawyers too!)

    Let me start with this comment by tomh:
    ID was invented as a legal stratagem, and a rather clever one, to circumvent anti-creationist Supreme Court rulings. That’s what lawyers do. Johnson couldn’t care less about science, he just wanted the Bible back in schools.

    Having spent the last year reading most everything Johnson has written on the topic, I disagree. The ID position is (sometimes) more sophisticated than that. Johnson is arguing that he has found Truth by a means other than the typical scientific method.

    That would be just fine, except this position was not enough for the ID side. It was not enough because of the dominance of science in our society and the general muddled understanding that science produces Truth. When that is the situation, the ID side has to make one of two choices. Either (1) knock science off its pedestal, or (2) co-opt science for your own purposes. They went for #2. They wanted to “liberalize” the definition of science so that their Truth could be produced by the (changed)scientific method.

    At the risk of writing a really long comment, I’ll say it a different way. Take these three statements:

    1) God created the world 6,000 years ago, and the process of creation left the fossil record and carbon deposits that we see today.

    2) God “helped” evolution over important bumps and created the soul in humans

    3) Evolution happened

    (I tried to write all three to be consistent with natural evidence.) For science, the “correct” answer is #3. But it is correct by default; the other 2 answers are no good scientifically. That is important, because we at this blog do rule out the first 2 answers, we just rule them out for other (atheistic) reasons. Many religious people rule out #1 and #2 because they think “science” rules them out. It doesn’t.

    A limited definition of science forces people to confront their implicit atheism. That, I think, is why ID went with “enlarge science” over “knock science off its pedestal.” They were worried that atheism would step on the pedestal in science’s place.

    Based on that, I must cast my lot with Novella.

  21. #21 msn nickleri
    April 10, 2008

    I find myself going back and forth between Jason’s and Steven’s positions.

    Interesting that both claim that each other’s approach is “playing their game.”

  22. #22 Steven Novella
    April 10, 2008

    Interesting discussion. Let me clarify a few points about my position.

    I am saying that we need to criticize ID from every angle – we need to point out that it is not science (and yes, I agree, as I have written elsewhere, that it fails to be science for several reasons – not falsifiable, makes no predictions, explains nothing) AND we need to point out that its specific criticisms of evolution are false. But also point out that these are connected – it criticizes evolution because it CAN’T support ID because it is not science. Then they fall back on the false dichotomy – it’s either evolution or ID; not evolution therefore ID – without ever having to provide evidence FOR ID.

    This is one comprehensive strategy – you can’t really pick it apart and “retire” one piece of it.

    To get around the “not science” problem – they try to redefine science ala Philip Johnson – which predates the ID movement and in many ways kicked it off. The specific change from “God” to “Intelligent Designer” was the legal dodge. The redefinition of science was to get around the not science problem. And then the ID movement coalesced around a few writers who formulated specific false criticisms of evolution. It’s a package – and we have to take on the whole thing.

    It is misguided to avoid a piece of it as a “strategy.” IMHO the most important piece is to teach the public what is and is not science. If we get bogged down only in the minutia of the false arguments against evolution (again – I am NOT saying we avoid this) that is playing defensively, it is a losing strategy, and it doesn’t keep them out of the game. They become a minority scientific opinion – not an ideological attack against science.

    Read my latest post replying to Egnor: http://www.theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php?p=270#comments

  23. #23 royniles
    April 10, 2008

    Steven: Come on now, I don’t recall anyone advocating avoiding a piece of your strategy or of retiring it. The question was one of what part of the strategy to emphasize. Answering that question to the complete satisfaction of others is difficult if not impossible, as everyone will have their own reasons, including those that are emotionally charged, for presenting their side of the matter and approving of the position of any others. Ultimately those who have attained the status as effective advocates in this fight will have to make up their own minds as to their particular strategy, and more importantly, their particular tactics.
    Chris Bell, for example, has done that and I predict will be very effective in the way he carries it out. Sometimes strategy is simply decided on because of the capabilities of the strategist to apply it. That may have made your strategy, with your tactics, a better fit for him, and I expect he has approved of it partly on that basis.

    When you said ‘It is misguided to avoid a piece of it as a “strategy”, ‘ you used a false assumption and a false description of the process in the bargain, doing exactly what you most strongly object to in others.

    And you are framing this now as a question of right way versus wrong way, when it is clear there is no definitive way to decide on the winner.

  24. #24 Steven Novella
    April 10, 2008

    Roy – read the actual blog entry at the top of the comments again, including the title.

    And I did not mean to imply that my opinion as to the best strategy is definitive. IMHO means “in my humble opinion.” I wrote that for a reason.

    For the record – I agree no one has the final answer as to the best strategy. We are all just doing what makes sense to us. And I welcome this conversation. But, keep in mind, Jason started this with a very clear statement about what he thinks is the best strategy, couched as a criticism of my take on it. It does seem like you forget there was a blog entry.

  25. #25 Jason Rosenhouse
    April 10, 2008

    I’ve attended quite a few ID and Creationist conferences. At every one I’ve seen speakers proudly present claims to the effect that “ID isn’t science,” as evidence that scientists refuse to give ID a fair hearing because they simply rule it out of bounds by definition. They obviously don’t think this point hurts them, and I think they are right to see it that way. Most people don’t care about internecine disputes about the proper definition of science, or about the fact that a design hypothesis offers nothing that a scientist can bring into the lab to guide his work. They care about whether the claims are true, and until you make it clear that the claims are not true you should not be arguing on procedural grounds.

    The public face of ID is a series of books, public presentations, newspaper op-eds and so on that make a lot of specific scientific assertions about modern evolutionary theory. That’s what most people see. It is a message that is being marketed to a public that is already somewhat suspicious of scientists, and is also vaguely theistic in its outlook. Telling such people that ID isn’t science, without also making it very clear that its specific claims are utterly without merit is not rhetorically effective. In fact, it makes precisely the point the ID folks are selling.

    I speak partly from personal experience here. When I first got interested in this subject as a graduate student in mathematics, knowing relatively little about biology, I found it very annoying to have Michael Behe, say, tell me that modern biology had no explanations to offer for complex anatomical systems, and then have various reviewers reply with, “Design isn’t science!” Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t, but what I cared about was whether Behe’s claims were true.

    That’s why I am mystified that anyone can say the question of whether ID is or is not science is the primary issue. That’s an academic/philosophical dispute far removed from what most people care about, including myself. The main point that should be front and center is that ID folks and Creationists have no good point to make about anything. After that is made clear, then you can go on to argue about the nature of science.

  26. #26 royniles
    April 10, 2008

    Steven, I read it, and read it again, and I just don’t see where Jason advocated either avoiding or retiring your strategy. Or your tactics, which would have been a better way to describe what the post was about.
    Admittedly the title is provocative, but in his post he seemed rather specific in stating when it was important to point your strategy/tactics out.
    I took the use of the word Meme as a reference to how the tactic was being used – memes being a somewhat questionable concept to begin with.
    So I didn’t forget this blog entry at all (even though I have on occasion done that), and yes he did make a clear statement as to what he thinks is the best strategy, and perhaps he did contribute to the framing of a right or wrong question.
    if all this has ended in an agreement on the bottom line, then the whole provocative process seems to have worked – this time anyway.

  27. #27 royniles
    April 10, 2008

    It seems when I was two-finger typing my marvelous response, the fickle finger of fate was pointing out that what I thought had worked was till being worked on.

  28. #28 Chris Bell
    April 10, 2008

    I think Jason’s last comment (1:44pm) was excellent, and it shows why I am thinking differently about this than him. We know (and the ID folks know) that ID is not science. In fact, that’s their entire point. They think ID is not science but still true. As atheists we reject this.

    Jason said, “I am mystified that anyone can say the question of whether ID is or is not science is the primary issue. That’s an academic/philosophical dispute far removed from what most people care about, including myself.” Jason cares about truth, not science v. non-science.

    I am saying that I think we have to do the science v. non-science thing first because regular people (mistakenly) think that science is truth, and non-science is non-truth. The ID crowd is not happy if the general public thinks ID is non-science because that also means that the general public thinks ID is false.

    I am arguing in my work that the fight over classroom education will never end as long as regular people mistakenly think science/nonscience is truth/nontruth. Religious people are angry that their religious claims are excluded from the science class because they think it is the same as denying those claims.

    That’s why Jason and I came out different ways. Jason says the public is “somewhat suspicious of scientists” and “vaguely theistic.” I semi-agree, but I think the public also respects science in a schizophrenic manner.

    It’s perversely funny, in a way. The creationists dislike “godless” science, but they try so hard to have their ideas taught (!)in science class(!) because they recognize that science=legitimacy in the mind of the modern (wo)man. And legitimacy is what they crave.

    In the end, I guess it depends on what you are doing. If you are debating truth, like Jason, then wade right in. The science/nonscience issue is totally irrelevant. Get down with your bad atheist self.

    If you are concerned with the separation of church and state and, like me, then the science/nonscience debate is crucial because we have to explain why a statistically popular idea is excluded in a democracy. Moreover, we have to convince the excluded side that exclusion is not denial, and we can’t do that if, at the same time, we are repeating Jason’s atheistic talking points.

  29. #29 Steven Novella
    April 10, 2008

    I think the differences of opinion show how thorny this issue is – because the ID crowd are intellectually dishonest and engaged in propaganda with an ideological agenda. It is difficult to be dedicated to science and logic and deal with a movement founded on a complete disrespect for science and logic. I have seen the pro-evolution side recently reduced to a great deal of in-fighting over the issue of “framing” and strategy – because every strategy we choose is met by a clever deception on the other side.

    Jason – you seem to be saying that the ID crowd are using the claim that “ID is not science” to their rhetorical advantage, therefore we should avoid/minimize our use of it. But I think you are missing that they use EVERYTHING we say to their rhetorical advantage. If you say ID is not science they cry “unfair”. If you say Behe’s scientific arguments are wrong they say “well, at least you admit it’s science, so let’s teach the controversy and let the public/students decide for themselves.”

    Your other unstated premise is that it is more important to convince the public than to convince legislators and judges. So your strategy is aimed at the public. But we live in a Republic – you get much more bang for the buck by convincing those in government, and toward that end “ID is not science” is THE issue.

    But again – as skeptics, the defenders of science and reason – we have to lay it all out there. Our job is to educate. I am against downplaying or hiding points because you fear how they will play in public or be twisted by the IDiots.

    We have to take on both major aspects of ID – falsely promoting ID as science, and false attacks against evolution. They are a combined strategy that works together – and we need to address them both. What’s wrong with saying – ID itself is not even science (and here’s why) AND their arguments against evolution are demonstrably wrong (and here’s why)? Don’t get hung up on the “primary” comment – that totally depends on your purpose and perspective. I have given equal time to both sides of this issue.

  30. #30 Ginger Yellow
    April 10, 2008

    “I’ve attended quite a few ID and Creationist conferences. At every one I’ve seen speakers proudly present claims to the effect that “ID isn’t science,” as evidence that scientists refuse to give ID a fair hearing because they simply rule it out of bounds by definition. ”

    Well, yes, but they’re doing so to an audience of committed anti-evolutionists. They’re pretty much a lost cause, for so long as fundamentalism holds any sway in the US. The people we need to convince (besides politicians, judges etc) are those who don’t go to conferences, but who read articles about ID in the press. For them the Gish Gallop approach to ID can be effective. Which is why the “science-stopper” argument is (in my opinion) more important than knocking down individual claims. The point isn’t just to say that ID isn’t science, but to explain simply and clearly why it is a science-stopper, why it cannot lead to new knowledge. I think the uncommitted general public will be receptive to that approach, and it kills all the false claims in one go rather than dealing with them piecemeal.

    Again, this isn’t to say the false claims shouldn’t be rebutted vigorously. But it gets to the core of why ID is dangerous, and helps to counter the “evolutionists are so angry” line. Why should we be angry about false claims? Lots of things turn out to be wrong in science. But the ID endeavour aims dishonestly to stop research, to put hard limits on our knowledge. That’s something to be angry about, and people can understand that.

  31. #31 royniles
    April 10, 2008

    I would think you could legitimately propose that religious faith per se does not require a denial of evolution any more than it requires a denial of the scientific method in general.
    But if the faith itself rests on a denial that scientific explanations, and in particular those of the biological sciences, have any validity, then there would be no effective way to deal with that other than by a confrontation which would necessarily involve an attack on the dogmatic structure of the faith itself.

    The tactic for attacking the scientific dogma of that faith could or should be one that puts the faithful in a position of needing to defend that “science” without necessarily having to defend the concept of faith itself. Other faiths, such as that of many Catholics, have found ways to evolve when faced with such a dilemma. The fundamentalist way of evolving is often though factionalism, an apt term for a dispute over the factual basis for their overall beliefs.
    All faiths in the end have had to adapt or die. They all have a need for constant reinforcement, and over time there are subtle changes in the reinforcement process that allow for such adaptation.
    Science can hope to facilitate that adaptation, but hasn’t much hope of facilitating an extinction of the species any time soon. And we don’t know yet if we should really want to.

  32. #32 J. J. Ramsey
    April 10, 2008

    Jason – you seem to be saying that the ID crowd are using the claim that “ID is not science” to their rhetorical advantage, therefore we should avoid/minimize our use of it. But I think you are missing that they use EVERYTHING we say to their rhetorical advantage.

    They at least try to use everything to their rhetorical advantage, but some things are easier to take advantage of than others. A claim such as “ID isn’t science” is far easier to spin than “ID has a lousy track record of failed explanations, misrepresentation, and outright deceit,” and the latter claim is also far less fuzzy, too. Furthermore, it’s that lousy track record, especially the part about deceit, that is the real reason for the scientific rejection of ID.

  33. #33 Alexander Vargas
    April 10, 2008

    “the specific assertions made by ID folks, about irreducible complexity, complex specified information, the alleged holes in evolutionary science, and so on, are universally false. That’s why scientists reject ID”

    In fact, what some creationists have done for decades now is simply copy some completely true and valid arguments form the scientific community about the limitations of neodarwinism and frame it as if implying a questioning of common descent. It is not hard at all to find people with the following attitude; science has triumphed, there are no problems or disgreements of importance. It’s called neodarwinism and anything else is a kookish”. These people are likely to reinforce the creationist’s trick, since there is indeed lots of truth in the long standing and just criticism of neodarwinism that has been ripped off by the ceationists.

    There is controversy about the actual power of the theoretical framework of neodarwinism. Of course, this mostly unchanged paradigm from the 40′s is still upheld by a significant percentage of biologists, specially those in the more ecological sciences. Yet not everyone thinks population gentics is THAT wonderfully explicative and insightful (or if it doesn’t even sometimes just get in the way!). However, the interest in the more organismal-developmental level of evolutionary mechanisms has always presented a steady trickle and of late can be described to be indeed in very good health. The same for other areas of evolutionary research that do not require much of neodarwinism at all (phylogenetic systematics, paleontology) and that traditionally have harbored critics that did not share in the neodarwinian enthusiasm.

    I guess what I’m saying is that you cannot paint things as if all that the steps in the argumentation of the creationists are constructed upon errors of logic and falsehoods. We simply are not that lucky. What you say further seems to me an ultimately useless and shallow attitude, because you provide no tools to dintinguish what’s crap from what isn’t. All the help you provide in this sense seems to boil down to this message: “no matter what a creationist says, it is false” Which is quite obviously a recipe to be caught in error.

    I wish to end this saying that ID IS NOT SCIENCE, and THAT is THE problem.

  34. #34 royniles
    April 10, 2008

    Another and fairly obvious reason to favor a strategy fashioned more for the public than for their legislators is that you may change one’s mind but not their vote unless you have changed their constituents’ minds as well. Also, any proposals that reflect more than a tinge of atheism as well as agnosticism will just not fly, as there are no representatives for any substantial constituency of such adherents in this country.

  35. #35 Alexander Vargas
    April 10, 2008

    Let me clarify a little more:

    By legitmizing ID as a scientific hypothesis with simply a bad scientific track, we are practically ensuing a niche for creationists, since the debate of every single nonsensicality (there is no macroevolution, no continental drift, no old earth)This is indeed pointless when on ALL these topics what it actually comes down is simply this: “Open your eyes, and SEE”.

    The debate on a stupidity is a fabrication: IT IS NOT SCIENCE. You know they’ll move right onto the next “fact” and have another “scientific” debate.

    So what you basically say is that, we argue with them fact denial after fact denial, and show them just how creationism is nothing but BAD science. There is never-ending well for the debate of “facts”. All they have to do is choose one they don’t like and deny it.

    In the US, I have encountered one grad student who was open about his belief in ID. We discussed the “appereance of design a little”, where I simulated complicity; but then I switched and all I had to say was, “well, but ID is not a SCIENTIFIC explanation. It provides no mechanism”. That’s all it took. He completely switched sides, dissing ID from then onwards, pretending hard that he never was once an ID believer hehehe

    The poitn being that, unlike the discussion of each phony denial of a well-established scientific fact, this is an argument for once and for all.

  36. #36 royniles
    April 11, 2008

    Mr. Vargas: Not that I disagree, as believe I have advocated a similar approach, but it also appears that your guy was more open to recognizing the best argument than a lot of the rest seem to be. And hopefully that’s not the only guy you tested it out on.
    The inference I’m getting (possibly because I want to get it) is that those still on the fence may be the best candidates for understanding that yours is the best argument.

  37. #37 Alexander Vargas
    April 11, 2008

    It’s as simple as this. Your car broke down. You have two ways of explaining it: 1) God wanted my car to break down and made it happen 2) My car’s structure has been altered. Upon identifying and reversing that change I’ll get the car going again. Which is the scientific explanation? Which one is a matter of faith?

    Regular people will get it (believe it or not, most people are reasonable). Now, if you are confronting a vocal creationist, there is one thing you immediately know about him. He does not know what he is talking about; and to do that is not possible without some part of the brain realizing it. Yet some of these people are sufficiently fake and unauthentic as to not admit that, and they are indeed very willing to talk about what they do not know about.
    I won’t discuss science with them because, it’s useless (they cannot, and further won’t, understand). I use the philosophical basic argument that ID is not science as well as other arguments that they cannot wriggle themselves out. I make them face their true religious churchy background and motivations. That inhibited part of their brain that knows they are phony may become stimulated.

    Not that any of those has ever manifested changing their minds, but they decreased their attacks.

  38. #38 royniles
    April 11, 2008

    You’re talking about self-deception and self-delusion, which is often complicated by the ID adherent being consciously deceitful as well to protect his own delusions – in addition to being their advocate. The part of the brain that may suspect it’s ideas are phony is also the part that doesn’t want to believe it. Anyway, if this method works for you, whatever the dynamic, then go for it.

  39. #39 conradg
    April 11, 2008

    I think both sides in this argument are essentially right. The problem is that there are two separate issues at work here. One, is whether ID itself is true. The other is whether evolution by natural selection is true. The ID proponents bait and switch these two issues endlessly, creating confusion.

    The first argument of ID proponents is that evolution by natural selection is false. This is where the counterargument that all the assertions of these people about scientific findings supporting evolution are flase. These guys just get the science wrong in a thousand different ways.

    The other argument is that ID is true. This is where the counter-argument demonstrating that ID isn’t even a scientific theory comes in.

    The problem is that ID proponents try to link the two, at least by implication, such that if evolution by natural selection can be show to be false, improbable, or unsupported by rational argument and evidence, then ID is the logical default truth. This of course doesn’t follow.

    So it seems that both counterarguments being discussed here are needed, depending on which of the two arguments is being made by ID proponents. Each is essential to each of those arguments.

  40. #40 WKM
    April 11, 2008

    What about the simple fact that ID is not science because its advocates do absolutely no laboratory or field research (and therefore have no original scientific findings to publish in real scientific journals). If I remember correctly, Behe (supposedly one of their head gurus) admitted as much at the Dover trial. On that basis, it follows that they cannot possibly have anything useful to say about science.

  41. #41 royniles
    April 11, 2008

    That in itself hasn’t stopped them from claiming it’s nevertheless a valid theory in the nature of a self-evident truth.

  42. #42 royniles
    April 11, 2008

    I thought briefly that perhaps ID should be more correctly labeled as an anti-theory – and then I found that as usual someone else (probably a number of someones) had already described it as such, and they have what looks like an interesting site for that subject.

    http://www.jonathantweet.com/jotevolutionantb.html

  43. #43 Reginald Selkirk
    April 12, 2008

    Can We Please Retire the “ID Isn’t Science” Meme?

    relax. It looks like soon we’ll be able to replace it with the “ID is a criminal conspiracy” meme.

  44. #44 conradg
    April 12, 2008

    “That in itself hasn’t stopped them from claiming it’s nevertheless a valid theory in the nature of a self-evident truth.”

    Self-evident truths are not scientific theories. They are religious assertions, and you can’t argue against them scientifically. People can believe them all they like, but they can’t be taught in the schools as a valid scientific theory. Knowing the difference between a self-evident truth and a scientific theory is something kids need to be educated about.

  45. #45 royniles
    April 12, 2008

    conradg, of course self-evident truths are not scientific theories. They don’t have to be confined to religious assertions to demonstrate their lack of evidence, however.
    And in the case of ID or creationism, and this was my inference, these theories are neither true nor evident.

  46. #46 harmonicminer
    April 13, 2008

    This is not a rhetorical device, but an honest question. I’ve been skulking around the web, trying to find if any scientist at any time has observed a species (maybe a fruit fly or something) evolving in the following sense: that the newly evolved organisms breed true, but cannot breed with their predecessors.

    I’m not a biologist… but to me that would be somewhat convincing evidence of the kind of evolution required for so-called “macro” evolution.

    Anybody know of such a thing?

    If not, I would think that a determined biologist could more or less force something like that to happen: find a short lived sexually reproducing organism of some kind, with very short generations, start inducing mutations, cull the fatal ones, and keep trying, to you come up with something.

    comments?

  47. #47 conradg
    April 13, 2008

    “And in the case of ID or creationism, and this was my inference, these theories are neither true nor evident.”

    The problem is, you can’t prove a “self-evident truth” to be false. So scientists run in circles if they try to do so. Creationists can always laugh and point at their folly if they try. It’s pointless. It has to be pointed out that these aren’t theories at all, and because they can’t be falsified, they aren’t science either. They are religious beliefs, plain and simple.

  48. #48 royniles
    April 13, 2008

    Actually I think you can prove that a “truth” based on a religious assertion does not qualify as a self-evident truth in that the truth of the religion is only evident to the adherents of that religion. Of course you can’t prove to them that the religion isn’t based on truth, but you can at least demonstrate it’s the only basis for what has now become a non-scientific proposal. In which case we may have made some headway with those in the public that are on the fence, including those that some call functional agnostics.

    But the theme of this post has been one of strategy, about which there is a disagreement on emphasis – in other words, which part will find most resonance with which audience, and why. And about some suggestions as to different tactics as well.
    My suggested tactic was to recognize and affirm that it’s about religion and not science, avoid a fruitless attempt to attack the religion itself, and then basically do as you suggest and attack the lack of any workable theory as to how these apparent miracles were accomplished in any way consistent with what we regard as science. And that if they can’t, they haven’s shown why it should be taught as such.
    And of course people are doing this – but it isn’t necessarily a preferred method. I think it should be, but as I said before, I have no status as an effective advocate in this fight.

  49. #49 Shirakawasuna
    April 13, 2008

    While it’s good to emphasize both points – scientific vacuity and patently false and ridiculous claims, I don’t think anyone should take how *they* use our points as a good indication that they aren’t successful. ID proponents have shown themselves to be wildly incompetent in precisely this way in the past (like Behe in Dover), so our best bet for these kinds of things would be real data! Get some legitimate pollsters (oxymoron?) together and see which side should be emphasized! It would be like framing, only the legitimate form!

  50. #50 Shirakawasuna
    April 13, 2008

    harmonicminer: Well, you could check the Wikipedia article on speciation for one. ;)

    There’s the often-cited example of sexual speciation in lab fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster), but some incredulous people exclude this because it’s “artificial”. It’s silly, as the conditions are just a simple bottleneck, but there are other examples, especially among plants (polyploidy ftw!). This article is longer and more technical, but it has quite good explanations: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-speciation.html .

    “I’m not a biologist… but to me that would be somewhat convincing evidence of the kind of evolution required for so-called “macro” evolution.”

    — Perhaps. Far more interesting is phylogeny and developmental biology, imo, not to mention fossil transitions for easily-recognized properties (like nostrils-> blowhole in cetaceans). I don’t understand sexual speciation terribly well aside from the generalities, but so far as I know daughter species need not be vastly different and I believe this is the case for the observed speciation events.

    “If not, I would think that a determined biologist could more or less force something like that to happen: find a short lived sexually reproducing organism of some kind, with very short generations, start inducing mutations, cull the fatal ones, and keep trying, to you come up with something.”

    — This is called artificial selection, at least if the culling is done in an active manner for various traits. It’s what we did with dogs and cats (we still do it, actually) and would be trivial to do in a lab assuming there was financial backing and interest in such an endeavor. For an example of specialized animals for labs, there are plenty. Many of the microbes and lab animals are differentiated from their parent population and are anomalies, be it the albino lab mice or immortal cancer cell lines (HeLa).

  51. #51 J. J. Ramsey
    April 13, 2008

    Shirakawasuna: “While it’s good to emphasize both points – scientific vacuity and patently false and ridiculous claims …”

    The catch is that the claim being spread is not that ID is vacuous, but rather that it “isn’t science,” and the latter has been spun into the claim that ID isn’t considered science for reasons that are arguably arbitrary.

    Shirakawasuna: “It would be like framing, only the legitimate form!”

    Yes, this is essentially about framing. The idea is to get out the word that ID is wrong, and if you are aiming that at laypeople, you don’t want to get bogged down in the minutiae of the philosophy of science but rather make clear that ID is garbage that doesn’t make a lot of sense. “IDers lie and distort the facts” is a clear message that makes clear why ID isn’t scientific.

  52. #52 harmonicminer
    April 13, 2008

    Thanks, Shirakawasuna.

    You said there are specialized microbes and lab animals that are differentiated from their parent populations.

    Do you mean that these lab animals cannot breed with the predecessor population, but that the mutation(s) they exhibit (making them useful lab animals) breed true among themselves?

    Forgive stupid questions, please. Just to want to understand your meaning.

    A common assertion among some ID proponents is that we have never observed an actual speciation event taking place. We only infer them from fossil and DNA history, and so we infer the mechanism as random mutation/natural selection.

    If we could show some obvious mutation that now existed in a population which could only breed true with itself, and could not breed with un-mutated populations, that would, I think, permanently settle the matter.

    I think a whole bunch of biologists need to be working on this if it hasn’t been done. And if it HAS been done, it needs to not be hidden in technical literature, but should be trumpeted far and wide.

    Thanks for the links. The wiki article didn’t directly address the matter. The talk.origins article did, but, as you say, in a highly technical manner… I couldn’t really tell if it answered my question or not. I note it is about 15 years old, judging by the age of the references, and refers more than once to failures to duplicate results.

    I would love to get this settled in the public mind, in a way that does require a expert to understand, with some unmistakable mutation that breeds true and can only breed with itself.

  53. #53 harmonicminer
    April 13, 2008

    Shirakawasuna, I think I need to be clear about one thing. It would be awesome if the mutation could be “environmentally induced”, that is, if it could be shown to be adaptive to the (presumably artificial) environment, regardless of the actual mechanism that causes the mutation.

    Imagine if we could show an environmentally useful mutation that exclusively bred true, and could point at the history and mechanism by which it happened, with before and after pictures. Even non-scientists would understand THAT.

  54. #54 windy
    April 13, 2008

    harmonicmimer: when people say something “breeds true”, they usually mean traits that are reliably inherited through generations, not groups that only breed within themselves. We can show useful mutations that “breed true”, but a single mutation is not likely to produce both full reproductive isolation and a new adaptation to the environment. It’s much more likely that speciation happens gradually.

  55. #55 Bayesian Bouffant, FCD
    April 13, 2008

    Harminicmimer: About “breeding true” – there are numerous examples of species which can be hybridized (i.e. interbred), with the most famous being the cross of a horse with a donkey, which produces either a mule or a hinny. Camels and llamas can be interbred, although this requires artificial insemination and a low success rate. Camels and llamas are separated by tens of millions of years. Given the time usually required, the low number of speciation events observed within modern scinetific history is not at all surprising (although, if you go the the Talk.Origins link above, it may be higher than many people realize.) The question amounts to “show me 50 million years of evolution by next Thursday.”

  56. #56 JimCH
    April 13, 2008

    Self-evident truths are not scientific theories. They are religious assertions, and you can’t argue against them scientifically.

    conradg…

    Are you claiming that gravitation (at least before general relativity), for instance, would have been a religious assertion?

  57. #57 conradg
    April 13, 2008

    If strategy is the issue, we need to look at who the target demographic is. Obviously the 5% of the population who are scientific atheists are not the target. Likewise, I don’t think the 25% who are biblical fundamentalists are the target either. They aren’t going to listen in any case. The target audience is that middle 70% who are religious to varying degrees without being fundamentalist about it. It’s really a debate between the 5% and the 25% for the hearts and minds of the 70% (assuming my numbers are accurate, but the categories remain the same even if the numbers are different).

    First point is, I don’t think the 5% can win this argument if they position themselves as being against religion, or trying to invalidate religious beliefs, and the self-evident claims of religious people, since the 70% are religious, or at least hold some basic religious beliefs. That’s why I think it’s important to use the argument that ID is a religious belief, not a scientific theory, in order to separate evolution from religion. It moves the argument away from falsification of religion to a separation of religious belief from science, which I think is a winning approach. It doesn’t alienate religious people, or make them feel that their basic religious beliefs (as opposed to certain specific religious beliefs) are in opposition to science. Once the argument is moved away from a falsification of religion, the audience feels re-assured that evolution is not being used to promote atheism or to knock religion itself, and they can look at evolution as a scientific study rather than a religious debate.

    The second point is that from this tactical approach is aimed at marginalizing and segregating the 25% of fundamentalists from the mainstream religious population (the 70%). Rather than attacking religion, it aims to position the science of evolution as merely refuting certain religious beliefs directly implicated by scientific investigation, not religion altogether. The effect is to separate out the fundamentalist religious people who oppose religion from the mainstream of religious people (the 70%), who are then portrayed as trespassers upon scientific territory that has been well-explored and found to be valid.

    The third point of this strategy, which some may not like, is that it requires restraint on the part of evolutionists to refrain from trying to use evolution be bash mainstream religion altogether, or to promote atheism. I think the scientific evolution argument is hurt most of all by those who try to equate it in the public mind with atheism ? whether those people are atheists or fundamentalists. It’s clear that some atheists do indeed try to promote this perception, because they think it will further the cause of atheism. But even more so, it’s a perception that is promoted by fundamentalists, because they feel certain that it will help alienate the 70% from the arguments of scientific evolutionary theory. To the degree that atheists do this, they are playing into the hands of fundamentalists, who are all too happy to agree that scientific evolutionary theory states that atheism is true, and religion false, because they know that the 70% does believe in God, or some form of religion, even if not in a fundamentalist answer, and they will reject scientific explanations if they are seen as inexorably leading to atheism.

    So I would say that there’s an inherent conflict within the scientific community between promoting evolutionary theory and promoting atheism. It’s not a zero-sum proposition, but there are real conflicts on the level of public perception and sympathy that have to be taken into account.

    Personally, I don’t think the scientific community has any business promoting atheism, in that atheism is not a scientific theory, it’s a religious one. The scientific community needs to make clear that choosing to be an atheist is not a scientific choice, it is a personal one that many scientists make on their own. Likewise, they need to make clear that scientific theories such as evolution are not in conflict with religion, because religious propositions and religious truths are not studied by science. It is only when religion makes claims that can be studied by science that science has anything to say about it, and it cannot address the fundamental religious perspective itself. So while it can refute the notion that the earth was created 6,000 years ago, it cannot refute the notion that God created the universe ultimately. The notion that the laws of physics and the universe itself were ?designed? is simply not something science can ever support or deny, because it is not a scientific proposition.

    So I don’t think it helps to put aside the argument that ID isn’t science, when that’s really the best way to marginalize it. Scientists have to accept, whether they are atheists or not, that most people believe in God in some form or other, and that they are not going to accept evolutionary theory if it is presented as being in conflict with those general beliefs. They will only accept it if they are given the message that it’s okay to believe in both God and evolution, as long as the two are kept separate, and not encroach upon one another. Thus, religion can’t make assertions about the world that are incompatible with science, and science can’t make assertions about religion that are unsupported by science (such as atheism). I don’t know if atheists can accept that approach, however, in that it requires them not to try to wrap atheism in the flag of science, or vice versa.

  58. #58 conradg
    April 13, 2008

    JimCH,

    “Are you claiming that gravitation (at least before general relativity), for instance, would have been a religious assertion?”

    No. Newton’s theory of gravitation was a scientific theory supported by loads of evidence, data, and rational argument. It was not a “self-evident truth”, in that Newton didn’t simply declare to everyone “gravity makes things fall”, and then leave it at that. He set out to logically demonstrate this theory, and support it with evidence. Likewise, Newton never asserted that gravitation was self-evident, nor has any scientist that I’
    ve heard of.

    A self-evident religious proposition would be “God makes things fall in whatever way he wants them to fall”. To a religious person, this might be self-evident, and to a scientist, completely impossible to either prove or refute. Whatever scientific theory is developed, whether Newton’s or Einstein’s or whoever’s, the religious person can always say, “Yes, it’s self-evident that’s exactly how God wanted things to fall”.

    The same is true of evolutionary theory. A religious person can always say that it’s self-evident that God created the universe so that human beings could evolve through natural selection. That does not make evolution by natural selection a self-evident truth, however. It was certainly never self-evident to anyone before Darwin, and Darwin himself never asserted that it was self-evident.

  59. #59 J. J. Ramsey
    April 13, 2008

    “Self-evident truths are not scientific theories. They are religious assertions …”

    I think that you are misusing the term “self-evident.” It’s a dicey term in the first place, but one could say, for example, that the law of non-contradiction is self-evident, or that syllogistic reasoning is self-evidently correct, and those are not religious propositions.

  60. #60 J. J. Ramsey
    April 13, 2008

    Oh, and on the issue of speciation, Talk.Origins is your friend.

  61. #61 Matt
    April 13, 2008

    Hi my name is Matt and I am a high school biology student attending a private school. We teach both sides of the spectrum at our school, but in different classes. Science is based off of facts and evidence and can be tested. Religion and creation can not. It is possible to agree with both. Science is not shooting down ID it just does not support it because it is not science. Science fully explains evolution and everything that happened that has led to where we are now, but I can not say I agree with how science says the world was created. Possibly both can be true to where the world was created by some supernatural greater power and has evolved from that. Evidence can not prove that.

    Check out our class blog at: http://www.missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog

  62. #62 conradg
    April 14, 2008

    J.J. Ramsey,

    I think the term “self-evident truth” refers to propositions which do not, and perhaps cannot, require evidentiary or rational proof.

    The law of non-contradiction, and syllogistic reasoning, are both forms of reasoning, and thus require reasoning to be upheld.

    You are perhaps right to say that self-evident truths need not be specifically “religious”, in that they could be purely philosophical propositions, or foundational principles. But in the context of our discussion, such things could generally be referred to as “religious”.

    Take the famous line in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal…” If evidentiary or rational proof is required of this statement, it falls apart. The “self-evident” nature of human equality rests upon the specifically religious nature of the proposition that we are “created equal”. An evidentiary or rational investigation would reveal that men are not equal, but it is impossible to investigate our spiritual “creation”, and thus the proposition can stand unchallenged. That is the nature of self-evident truths, and I’d suggest that it is very much a religious assertion, not a rational one.

  63. #63 royniles
    April 14, 2008

    Matt: Although there are theories or conceptions that cannot be proved false, these same constructs can be shown as extremely improbable and not worthy of belief to any degree of certainty. There is for example a difference between scientific standards for proof and philosophical standards. And science DOES shoot down the claims made by ID precisely because they claim to be scientific, even if not actually science. So in fact it is NOT possible to believe in these two extreme versions of creation (and I assume that includes the creation of humans) at the same time. To believe one is to necessarily disbelieve the other.

    If you want to believe in supernatural forces, such as good and evil, karma, and the like, that’s your choice. Just don’t kid yourself that they offer any illustrations of creation that are in any way as comparable to a believable explanation as those offered by science..

    Nice website, however. Have you tried talking to your teacher about the viability of a claim that God created the world, then created humans separately, and other such “scientific” claims? Or are you even allowed to ask such questions in your science class?
    And if not, why not, if scientific claims are being questioned in another class at your same school?

  64. #64 harmonicminer
    April 14, 2008

    Thanks Bayesian,

    I’m just trying to wrap my head around the vocabulary.
    Your comments on the timeframe of inferred speciation are why I suggested trying to actually DO it in a lab with an organism of very short lifespan, so that in the lifetime of a human experiment, we could hope to observe a non-fatal mutation that was conserved because it was adaptive, and which resulted in a large enough change that the population could not breed with its predecessors.

    Look: we want people to believe that over a 100,000 years homo sapiens sapiens developed out of… well, no one is quite sure, last time I looked. We should be able to estimate the number of generations involved, and induce some considerably less complex yet adaptive mutation that will result in a new species in a similar number of generations, in some sexually reproducing organism of far shorter generation length.

    And your assertion of “long times to create new species” is not what everyone says. I hear a lot more talk about isolated populations speciating relatively quickly in response to specific environmental pressures. I’m suggesting we do the isolation, create the specific environmental pressures, maybe even help create the mutations, and see what happens.

    And I’m suggesting that a LOT of biologists should be doing this, with different kinds of organisms, and different protocols, so that we don’t have all our eggs in one basket. If we’re confident of our theories, why don’t we set about directly proving them, once and for all, even if it takes time scales on the level of a couple of human generations? We’d learn a lot of fascinating things along the way, I think, and these are the sorts of timescales that will be required to explore Pluto with robot craft or… you get the idea. It’s doable. We should be about it.

    or so it seems to this admittedly ignorant layman

  65. #65 royniles
    April 14, 2008

    In fact, a self-evident truth is very much intended to be a rational assertion, often, but not always, used to justify a religious assertion. And in an epistemological sense (whatever that means) its “truth” relies on an inference that the truth is obvious when you compare
    it to things you already believe to be true.

  66. #66 harmonicminer
    April 14, 2008

    I guess what I’m trying to say is pretty simple. Either speciation events for sexually reproducing species (preferably animal) have been observed in the last century or so, or they have not.

    If they HAVE, and especially if they have resulted in something that is obviously different to any observer, that fact should be front and center in every evolution apologetic.

    If they have NOT, we should get busy and make it happen. If it takes 50-100 years to do it for a simple organism, oh well, get it started. Darwinism has been around for 150 years without complete public acceptance. It can survive a few more decades.

    Look, either we’re so confident that we KNOW this experiment is going to work out, for somebody, sometime, or we’re not. And, either we think failure to get public acceptance is a big problem, or we don’t.

    If we think that failure to get public acceptance is a problem, and if we’re confident, we DO this.

    And in the meantime, we have the apologetic point that we’ve put our money where our mouth is, and we challenge the ID types to point at ANY experiment THEY are running to prove THEIR point in a way that will be unavoidably clear to non-scientists.

    The public responds to confidence. And the fact is that sometimes it seems like the biologists retreat to jargon and polemics, which just does not sound confident.

    Surely there is SOMETHING better than a 15 yr old internet posting on this. If there isn’t, we’d better be about creating it.

  67. #67 royniles
    April 14, 2008

    ” – that fact should be front and center in every evolution apologetic.”
    Really? Perhaps the fact should instead be front and center that evolution has nothing to apologize for.

  68. #68 conradg
    April 14, 2008

    Royniles,

    “In fact, a self-evident truth is very much intended to be a rational assertion, often, but not always, used to justify a religious assertion. And in an epistemological sense (whatever that means) its “truth” relies on an inference that the truth is obvious when you compare it to things you already believe to be true.”

    Perhaps you could give a common example to demonstrate what you mean. I don’t think “self-evident truths” merely refer to things that are obvious. They seem to refer to claims that are only obvious to certain religious intuitions. As mentioned, the most famous usage is in the Declaration of Independence, to refer to the equality of men and the assertion that we have certain inalienable rights given us by God. These are not, strictly speaking, rational assertions, but are assertions of some inherent religious intuition about what is true in spite of rational analysis.

    Logicians do not, to my knowledge, speak of self-evident truths. They refer to various axioms, postulates, or “givens”, but do not equate truth with self-evident knowledge.

    It seems to me that the idea of “self-evident” truth is that it is a truth whose evidence is found in oneself. This would seem to be of the same order of truth as religious faith.

  69. #69 conradg
    April 14, 2008

    Harmonicminer,

    The reason speciation is hard to determine is that it is a living matter, not a laboratory definition. There is a huge difference between a species evolving so far from a relative that they are unable to interbrred and it’s actual inclination to do so. Lions and tigers, for example, are considered separate species because they do not naturally interbreed. In the wild, they would kill each other before interbreeding. However, in captivity it is shown that they are biologically capable of interbreeding, even though they have not done so naturally for what is probably millions of years.

    This is the way it is for most species. They diverge from their relatives gradually, out of natural behavioral differentiation. Their DNA only very gradually become incapable of producing offspring as a result. It doesn’t happen the other way around. The reason for this is that in nature there are no hard and fast categories, no “plans” for new species that differentiate them from other species.

    As for humans, we have of course been around for longer than 100,000 years. The evolutionary line that we are descended from last diverged from a relative species between 500-800,000 years ago, when the Neanderthals moved into Southern Europe and were isolated from the main Homo Sapiens population in Europe. The Neanderthals occupy a grey area in speciation. They developed separately from the rest of Homo Sapiens, and while it appears that they did not interbreed with us, it appears that they had the capacity to do so. Isolated genetic markers suggest this may have happened occasionally as recently as 35,000 years ago. And yet, they are generally considered a separate species, or at least a subspecies of Homo Sapiens. The reason it is hard to define which is because the definitions are artificial. In the real world of evolution there are no fixed rules, and there are no defined species. We are at best trying to describe nature through these limited categories.

    As for your idea of trying to duplicate this in the lab, I think you can see that such an enterprise would be rather silly. One cannot artificially create a “species” that means anything if it only appears in a laboratory. Nor would it prove anything to anyone. People who are committed for religious reasons to disbelieving in evolution are not going to be convinced by an artificial laboratory breeding program that produces non-interbreeding populations. Nor, frankly, would most scientists. Evolution is the study of a natural phenomena, not an artificial one.

  70. #70 wallpaper
    April 14, 2008

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  71. #71 royniles
    April 14, 2008

    Conrad, I’m the one that first mentioned self-evident truths on this thread, and that’s the meaning I put on it at the time. And basically I’m saying you had the explanation of its meaning backwards. (Someone else had pointed out you had it wrong as well.)
    You say they are religious assertions, and I say they are rational assertions sometimes used to justify a religious assertion. They refer to claims that are obvious in the culture where they are used, or at least obvious to the person who’s making the claim. The example would be the same on you gave involving the Declaration of Independence. The person making the statement believed it to be rational, justified by what people then understood was consistent with the teachings of their religion.
    You insist it has to be a religious assertion, and it doesn’t and I don’t know why it’s so important to assert otherwise. In any case I’m giving the definition I had in mind when I first used the term, and which I expect most others will agree with.
    If you don’t, then you don’t.
    As to logicians, as far as I know they don’t believe in self-evident truths outside of those in mathematics, and to apply the term to anything else would be a fallacy. That never stopped people from using the term for effect when they felt the need, and believing it was a rational statement. It’s part of the rhetoric.

  72. #72 conradg
    April 14, 2008

    Royniles,

    If you want to make up your own definitions of terms, fine. I’m just pointing out that self-evident truths are, essentially, not different from religious assertions of truth. You are trying to make a distinction without a difference. Obviously everyone who makes a claim that is a “self-evident truth” thinks it is rational and reasonable, whether it is or not. ID proponents think that ID theory is a self-evident truth that is both rational and reasonable, when in fact it is an essentially religious view that is immune to such things. Self-evident moral truths, such as those proposed in the Declaration of Independence, are also essentially religious in nature, even if they are made to sound rational and reasonable. Again, they are immune to rational criticism or scientific falsification. So what is the difference between a self-evident truth that is not explicitly “religious” in nature, and one that is?

  73. #73 royniles
    April 14, 2008

    Conrad: I didn’t make it up. It’s the commonly accepted definition. Yours isn’t. And there IS a distinction with a difference as your definition (until slightly altered) was that there was no difference.

    Everybody makes small correctible mistakes. Some try to learn from them. If you have nothing to learn here, then as I said before, if you don’t, you don’t.

    Oh, and ‘what is the difference between a self-evident truth that is not explicitly “religious” in nature, and one that is?’ The difference is that some claim to scientific in nature, some claim to be philosophical in nature, some turn out to be merely tautologies, and most turn out to be wrong.

    Also as an aside, I notice you told another commentator (who I agree needed to be told something) that:
    “Lions and tigers, for example, are considered separate species because they do not naturally interbreed. In the wild, they would kill each other before interbreeding. However, in captivity it is shown that they are biologically capable of interbreeding, even though they have not done so naturally for what is probably millions of years.”

    Of course there’s no evidence to show they would kill each other before interbreeding or that this is why they don’t.

    Check this out: From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liger
    The Liger is a hybrid cross between a male lion and a female tiger (i.e, Panthera leo � Panthera tigris[1]). A liger resembles a tiger with diffused stripes. They are the largest cats in the world, although the Siberian Tiger is the largest “pure” taxon. Ligers and tigers enjoy swimming, whereas lions do not. A similar hybrid, the offspring of a male tiger and a female lion is called a tigon.
    Rare reports have been made of tigresses mating with lions in the wild.[2] Such mating may have occurred when, in uncommon circumstances, tigers were forced into ranges inhabited by the Asiatic Lion, Panthera leo persica. However, since the present-day ranges of wild lions and tigers no longer overlap,[3] it is generally held that such a combination of species would occur very rarely”

    This really didn’t detract from the message you were sending in general, but it might detract from someone’s eagerness to rely on your illustrations.

    So you can and do make mistakes, and it’s no big deal unless you persist in claiming the mistake was in someone else’s interpretation.

    But I’m not going to be drawn into another long argument with you, where your purpose in the past has been only to prove that anyone who disagrees with you in the slightest is an idiot. I had thought you got over that, as up to know you had just been restating what everyone else had already said, as if to say, look folks, everybody else isn’t an idiot after all. But I guess you will concede that was your mistake as you have apparently discovered, in spite of parroting everything I said up to now, that I am after all indeed an idiot. So you have just self-evidenced your own truth once again. (And I’m not even religious.)
    If I don’t answer your next chapter, it’s because i was just too dumb to handle your devastating logic. You have powers of inference heretofore unimagined.

  74. #74 harmonicminer
    April 14, 2008

    I’ll try again.

    Again, my question is about the possibility of letting evolution create a new species on a relatively short human timescale by using organisms with very short generation length in our terms, creating an environment that induces adaptive mutations to survive, and waiting around to see what happens.

    Read previous posts on this thread for more details.

    The correct answer is NOT to talk about special cases and incredibly long time scales. At some point, cro-magnons seem to have appeared relatively quickly. It doesn’t matter how long the previous equilibrium was, how long the previous species from which we sprang existed more or less unchanged. Our predecessors “died out”. They aren’t here any more. They certainly are not “us”. The last I heard, neanderthals would not have been able to interbreed with cromagnon, based on genetic/DNA incompatibilities. Not so?

    In any case, since they are an apparent dead end, doesn’t matter to us, does it?

    If evolution worked THEN, it should still work NOW, and we should be able to prove it with a sufficiently long-time-frame experiment, in a way that demonstrates it beyond all doubt, by encouraging the development of a new species, with some identifiable characteristic that non-experts will be able to SEE, and which cannot interbreed with the old species.

    To this non-expert, when someone raises an issue like this, the reply is always about how gradual evolution was, but when problems with the gradualist perspective are raised, everyone starts talking about isolated groups, fast mutation/reinforcement, punctuated equilibrium, and the like.

    Of COURSE you can point to species that separated some time back, that can still interbreed in one limited way or another. I don’t think you can claim ligers on this point, however… last I heard, they do not successfully CONTINUE to create new generations. For the same reason, horse/donkey mixtures prove nothing. And plant hybridization is not an example of “mutation” in the normal sense, but taking advantage of a compatibility that was already there, and so does not demonstrate “evolution” in the usual sense.

    The point is to try to prove by DOING it that new species with significant new characteristics can develop out of particular environmental pressures, and generally to show that new species so created act like other species, i.e., they do not successfully interbreed for multiple generations with the predecessor.

    I find myself wondering if the reason no one attempts this is because it is a career-long timescale, and no one wants to take the risk that their particular version of it won’t work out, although if enough people do it, surely SOMEONE’s will.

  75. #75 Joe
    April 14, 2008

    Liger — come on, did no one else see “Napoleon Dynamite”? It’s pretty much his favorite animal.

  76. #76 conradg
    April 14, 2008

    Royniles,

    I continued to be entertained by your inability to acknowledge errors on your part, and to instead try to blame me for your carelessness.

    I’ve already examined the Wikipedia reference to self-evident truths, and it generally supports my view, as it states ?a self-evident proposition is one that is known to be true by understanding its meaning without proof.? Which is what I already said. My point, which you simply can’t bring yourself to address, is that this is pretty much the definition of a religious claim as well: a proposition that is to be understood and accepted without proof. Wikipedia also says that in epistemology self-evident claims are either ignored or rejected outright, except for certain basic propositions such as our own self-awareness (which I’ve already explored extensively in previous threads).

    But this distracts from your original reference, which was:

    ?That in itself hasn’t stopped them from claiming it’s nevertheless a valid theory in the nature of a self-evident truth.”

    The point here is that a self-evident truth can’t possibly be a valid scientific theory, in that the very nature of a self-evident truth (per Wikipedia) is that it is to be understood and accepted without proof. The very fact that ID is proposed as a self-evident truth means that it can’t be a scientific theory, by definition, because scientific theories require proof, by definition. Pointing out that this is because it is of the nature of a religious truth is merely pointing out the obvious, which nevertheless you have tried to deny in an endless and futile effort to appear incapable of error.

    Now, as to Ligers and Tigons, their existence is precisely what I have pointed to in my reference to speciation. I’ve seen Ligers and Tigons in animal shows, and talked with experts about them. They have told me that in the wild, lions and tigers will usually fight to the death, being competing predators, and do not intermix socially. While rare instances of mating between lions and tigers have been reported in the wild, no actual offspring have ever been found (to my knowledge and a cursory search, at least). The point being that the species simply don’t as a rule intermix and produce offspring in the wild, though in captivity they can be induced to do so. And it is behavior in the wild that is important.

    Now, if you want to point to this as a mistake on my part, fine. I wasn’t trying to suggest that species don’t EVER interbreed, only that even when they can, as in the example of lions and tigers, or humans and Neanderthals, as a rule they simply don’t, for behavioral reasons. Exceptions always exist to every rule (even this one), and if you want to spend your life hunting down those exceptions to prove me wrong, go right ahead, but you are just being foolish, and simply demonstrating the maxim that exceptions prove the rule.

    Your personal animus to me is a continuing source of amusement, by the way. Please, don’t let me stop you from publishing your next rant.

  77. #77 conradg
    April 14, 2008

    Harmonicminer,

    I think you are right that the reason scientists don’t do this is that it would take a very, very long time to even try, and the results would likely be very ambiguous at best. It would also depend greatly on producing the right kind of environmental stresses among different populations to produce different species. Scientists have already produced highly divergent strains of rats, fruit flies, etc. But calling them different species is a stretch, precisely because their breeding segregation is artificial, rather than natural. It’s a bit like calling a chihuahua a different species than a St. Bernard. In practice, they are never going to interbreed, so you could say they are separate species, but biologically, they certainly could. Would that be proof to you of evolution of species? If not, why not? I guess it depends on your definition of “species”, which is the problem. Species is a way of classifying animals groups based on characteristics and natural interbreeding. We can certainly breed dogs that don’t interbreed with one another, and we could do the same with other species as well, but this probably isn’t what you are looking for. How far apart do you need two lines of a species to diverge before you call them separate species? At what point do you simply say, yeah, that shows evolution produces diverging populations?

  78. #78 royniles
    April 14, 2008

    Conrad: “Self-evident truths are not scientific theories. They are religious assertions, and you can’t argue against them scientifically.”

    Me:”In fact, a self-evident truth is very much intended to be a rational assertion, often, but not always, used to justify a religious assertion. And in an epistemological sense (whatever that means) its “truth” relies on an inference that the truth is obvious when you compare it to things you already believe to be true.”

    Conrad: ‘I’ve already examined the Wikipedia reference to self-evident truths, and it generally supports my view, as it states “a self-evident proposition is one that is known to be true by understanding its meaning without proof.” Which is what I already said.’

    But what Conrad “already said” is clearly nothing like anything he quotes in his own demonstration of what he now seems to think he said.
    And now I ask the audience, where is any Wikipedia reference to them being religious assertions, and only religious assertions (as he continued to insist they were)?

    And any comparison of both our definitions to the one in Wikipedia (and in countless other references) clearly shows mine to be both the most complete and the most accurate. Yet he even said earlier that I made it up. In fact Conrad’s alleged definition has not been a definition at all, but merely assertions of what he thinks self-evident truths are not.

    And what he has said they are not is hardly an explanation of why ID people might believe that they were. He also seems to be implying that I somehow felt they were scientific as well, necessitating his need to reassure all of us again that they truly weren’t.

    Animus? The man is basically a fraud and most of us who even try to help him end up having to defend against his animus. It’s truly pathological.

    Oh, yes, and there’s this:”Lions and tigers, for example, are considered separate species because they do not naturally interbreed. In the wild, they would kill each other before interbreeding. However, in captivity it is shown that they are biologically capable of interbreeding, even though they have not done so naturally for what is probably millions of years.”

    How much, dear audience, is wrong in that statement? Everything? Well, maybe one thing isn’t, which he thought would allow him to make up all the rest. Of course they both live on the same continent in the same habitat because he once saw a cartoon where they were fighting each other. He has many such sources from which he regularly draws his inferences.

    I would leave him with this last observation: It’s amazing how accurately one can explain something if they aren’t trying to fool someone else about what they really know in the process. Conrad should try that sometime.

  79. #79 BTW
    April 14, 2008

    royniles,
    You are obviously dealing with a raving maniac. Everyone reading this thread (& numerous past others) can see that. You really should learn to (as they said in the church that I was forced to go to as a child) “let go & let God”.

  80. #80 royniles
    April 14, 2008

    BTW: You got that right. I tried and I tried, but just didn’t try that one more time. Hopefully I can resist all such provocation in the future.

  81. #81 harmonicminer
    April 15, 2008

    thanks conradg

    I think for this purpose, my definition of “species” (I realize there is no universally agreed definition, but I’m shooting for the apparent mainstream one) would be a group that breeds with itself, but if it CAN breed outside the group, quickly loses the ability to continue to breed anything like itself. Like lions/tigers, horses/donkeys, etc., both of which are considerably farther apart than wolves and terriers.

    People struggle to wrap their heads around the notion that something as different as we appear to be from our putative immediate ancestor could appear in a relatively brief time. They intuit, rightly, that the development wasn’t all that gradual… in fact, we tell them that “so and so” lived from “this time to that time”, and gave way to “thus and such”, with maybe some overlap. That produces the (correct, I think) sense of longer periods of stability with fairly slow adaptive changes happening, and then apparent larger, more rapid changes, followed by periods of stability again. I think most folks assume that after one of these “bursts”of activity, the resultant population would not breed well with the predecessor population. That is, even if it was possible, it would not produce a viable mixture that would remain stable itself though several generations, and would likely produce offspring that would not breed well with either the old or the new populsation.

    If we could demonstrate the adaptive development of some distinctive feature, something non-experts could SEE, and demonstrate that the newly created population was not “backwards compatible”, that would satisfy most people that maybe indeed one population could give rise to the next.

    Regarding “lab” vs. “natural”, the laws of nature are the same in a lab or in the forest, presumably. Failure to do it the lab doesn’t necessarily mean it absolutely couldn’t happen in the forest, but SUCCESS in the lab would silence many critics, I think.

    It just has to be a visible mutation that is ADAPTIVE to the environmental pressure created by the experiment, breed exclusively true (please no biologist hair splitting here… I’m talking the common concept of a species) and NOT breed “backwards” effectively.

    And that’s why I’m suggesting some very short generation organism, drosophila or something.

    Come on biologists reading this… stop lecturing me about my incorrect use of terms as your way of not dealing directly with the idea. If you believe your own press, get with the program here and design a BUNCH of experiments (organisms isolated with environmental pressures and mutation causing agents), at least some of which have a chance to succeed.

    Try to imagine your photo on the cover of TIME… accepting your Nobel. Because you surely would…..

  82. #82 conradg
    April 15, 2008

    Royniles,

    Keep preaching to the choir, is my recommendation. Talking to anyone outside your own small world of true believers is fraught with danger.

    As for my info on tiger and lions being deadly enemies in the wild and not interbreeding, I got that from a guy who breeds lions and tigers for a living, and has done many cross species breeds for over thirty years. If you’ve ever seen a real liger or tigon in the US, he probably bred them. But if my source is wrong, then I’m wrong. I just trust my source better than I trust yours.

    As for the Wiki article not mentioning religion, I have one small piece of advice: think.

  83. #83 conradg
    April 15, 2008

    harmonizer,

    Be honest with us for a sec. Are you a creationist trying to issue a rhetorical challenge here to somehow demonstrate that creationism is a valid concept, and evolution is somehow “unproven” because it hasn’t been demonstrated in the lab? Or are you really serious about learning anything about biology?

    Because if you are really trying to use this forum to actually encourage biologists to do such things with their lives, I think you are sadly misguided. The guys who post here are relatively well-educated, but they’re more interested in arguing over petty issues of increasingly dwindling significance than in doing life-long research at the behest of some guy heckling them on the internet. If you are serious, you should contact top biologists at top universities and sell them on your idea. If not, why pretend to be? If you just want to learn something about biology and evolution, read some books, take some courses, and get to the point where you know what you’re talking about. Better yet, go get an advanced degree in biology, and then spend the rest of your life actually doing the research you are trying to get everyone else to do for you. What are you waiting for? That Nobel Prize is there for the taking. I hope to see you on the cover of Time sometime soon.

  84. #84 conradg
    April 15, 2008

    Harmonicminer,

    Do you know how to do a search on google? If you did one on ?experiments in evolution? you’d get the following hits:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/11/061106094904.htm

    http://www.hhmi.org/genesweshare/e120.html

    And ?experiments in evolution of new species? yeilds:

    http://berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2005/10/27_greeneyed.shtml

    And ?laboratory experiments in evolution of new species yields:

    http://berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2005/10/27_greeneyed.shtml

    As well as this one, which gives you a lot of what you want to know about:

    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-speciation.html

    Pay particular attention to section ?5.0 Observed Instances of Speciation?. It gives you instances of the creation of new species by scientists.

    Now, was that really all that hard? Couldn’t you have done that simple search yourself, without bothering everyone here to do it for you? If you really care about answers to your questions, ask google.

  85. #86 conradg
    April 15, 2008

    This speciation event is worth considering, since you suggested the breeding of fruit flies:

    “Dobzhansky and Pavlovsky (1971) reported a speciation event that occurred in a laboratory culture of Drosophila paulistorum sometime between 1958 and 1963. The culture was descended from a single inseminated female that was captured in the Llanos of Colombia. In 1958 this strain produced fertile hybrids when crossed with conspecifics of different strains from Orinocan. From 1963 onward crosses with Orinocan strains produced only sterile males. Initially no assortative mating or behavioral isolation was seen between the Llanos strain and the Orinocan strains. Later on Dobzhansky produced assortative mating (Dobzhansky 1972).”

    From:

    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-speciation.html

  86. #87 conradg
    April 15, 2008

    I take that self-evident laugh personally, I hope you know.

  87. #88 conradg
    April 15, 2008

    Talkorigins also has this brief article listing other speciation events that have been observed:

    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/speciation.html

  88. #89 brokenSoldier
    April 15, 2008

    Steven,

    Great essay, first of all. When it comes to figuring out which way to come at ID, I believe Jason has the right idea for one simple reason – audience. The only ground on which scientists can stand and argue about ID from a particularly unassailable position is scientific ground. It is painfully obvious that the religious aspect of ID is its reason for existence, but this premise also shows us that the audience the ID movement is hoping to reach is not scientists – it is the public…the voting public, mind you. ID’ers are going to try to fabricate, theorize, write papers, and “experiment” just enough to hold the science community off while they can win over the ears and minds of enough of the voting public to suit their needs. Once they do that, they’ll push for more instances like Dover, where they can get into a courtroom and try to gain access to the school system.

    The problem I see with arguing with them on the religious aspect is the simple fact that the majority of americans are religious, and sooner or later ID will find a school district somewhere in this nation that will allow them to sneak in, setting a LEGAL precedent. That’s all they are driving for, because once they have that, they’ll have their validation. The best way to keep that from happening is to cut them off from that effort by publicly and continuously debating ID proponents solely on the scientific foundations of their theory. If their entire theory is repeatedly shown to be scientifically fallacious, then hopefully no school district in the country will want to be the one district that let ID in the door. If their science is NOT widely shown to be embarrassingly incomplete, I don’t doubt that there would be certain districts who would love to be the first – for political or other reasons – to allow ID a safe haven.

    Put simply, I think everyone agrees that faulty science should be kept out of the classroom, but unfortunately in our society you cannot say the same thing about religion.

  89. #90 A Lurker
    April 15, 2008

    I am going to have to agree with Jason. Indeed it has been my view for years. While we certainly don’t want to stop using the ID/creationism is not science angle, it is not the primary reason why we are on the evolution side.

    Frankly, the general public does not really care much of what falls on what side of someone’s idea of where the dividing line between science and non-science nor do very many of them understand it. And if I did not know about the huge amount of evidence that supports evolution (as the vast majority of people) then overemphasis of the ID is not science line of attack would give me the impression that evolutionary biology simply lacks the goods. The average Joe expects that if your side is correct and the other is not that you will provide some reasons for that as opposed to some philosophical discussion of the demarcation problem.

    We got the goods. We have more evidence for evolution then could possibly be presented in months of lectures. Much of it can be understood by the general public. We also can show that the creationists’ examples are false.

    Indeed if you really want the best proof the various forms of creationism are not science, I can’t think of anything better than that claims that the creationists make are false. There is no question that they are false and they are very easily shown to be false. And yet they continue to use them. If that does not show that they are not doing science nothing will. And it is even more powerful then merely showing that ID is not science. It shows that it is not honest. And indeed not only are they not doing science, they don’t even deserve the designation of philosophy.

    Again, I don’t advocate ignoring of the demarcation problem. Indeed I encourage the strong use of it. But only after a strong emphasis of the actual evidence. Evidence the ID people wish us to ignore and wish the school children not to see. Evidence that the ID people and other creationists will often outright lie about.

    I might also point out that once one understands the evidence for evolution (and other science theories) and know why the creationists’ arguments are wrong, the reasons why ID is not science is much more obvious and the demarcation problem ceases to be mere philosophic abstraction.

    Evidence: We got. They don’t. Never forget it.

  90. #91 Randy Olson
    April 15, 2008

    I guess I’m late to this discussion, but I did my best to address this in my documentary, “Flock of Dodos,” which has been airing for the past year on Showtime. You are both approaching it from a NEGATIVE perspective — “what I.D. is not.” That is not the right perspective. Mass audiences communicate best through statements of positivity and affirmation. The public needs to know what intelligent design IS. And the simplest, and most dignified word for it is “intuition.”

    As said by a number of people in the above discussion, things like irreducible complexity can’t be shown to be false, and that’s the whole problem. That sort of idea isn’t science, it’s just a gut feeling they have that some things are too complex to have evolved. That’s called intuition, albeit bad intuition.

  91. #92 Jason Rosenhouse
    April 15, 2008

    Randy-

    Could you clarify who you mean by “You are both approaching…”? Who is both?

    Another term for “bad intuition” is “error”. Intelligent design is a collection of blatantly false statements about modern science coupled with a political agenda for promoting various right-wing causes. The claim that “irreducibly complex” systems could not have evolved by natural means can, and has been, shown to be false. Over and over again.

    I’d appreciate it if you could clarify your point. You started by saying we shouldn’t argue negatively, but your closing seems to agree that “ID isn’t science” is an appropriate way to argue. I’m afraid I’m not sure what your argument is.

  92. #93 conradg
    April 15, 2008

    As a religious guy, I’d like to affirm Randy’s point of view. Using science to rebuke ID theory just doesn’t work, because it isn’t a scientific theory, it’s a religious intuition. There is no actual “ID theory”. Religious people are not idiots (though some here seem to think so) and they do recognize religious ideas for what they are. They respect religious ideas, and the reason they respect ID is that it has all the hallmarks of a religious idea. As a religious idea, ID is respectable. As a scientific theory, it is not. So if you wish to gain the respect of that large majority out there who is religious, it needs to be pointed out again and again that ID is a religious theory, not a scientific one. Therefore, it can’t be taught in science class. Most religious people agree that religion shouldn’t be mixed with science or taught in the schools. It should be taught at home or in church. So I think it’s a winning tactic to keep this criticism of ID theory going strong.

    Attacks on evolution are a separate matter, and are not really related to ID theory, except that proponents of ID theory are the primary people attacking evolution. It’s here that the body of scientific knowledge comes is – defending evolution against its detractors, not in attacking ID theory. The vast weight of factual data supports evolution, and it should be emphasized whenever evolutionary theory is attacked. But that should be kept separate from ID theory itself, which it should be emphasized over and over again is a religious notion, not a scientific theory.

    Speaking as a semi-literate religious person who is friendly to science, that’s the better strategy as far as I am concerned.

  93. #94 tomh
    April 15, 2008

    conradg wrote: Most religious people agree that religion shouldn’t be mixed with science or taught in the schools.

    That’s certainly not true in America. Polls shows that about 2 of 3 Americans favor teaching creationism in schools, either alongside evolution or instead of evolution. Here is a representative one, but there are plenty of others. The teaching question is about halfway down the page.
    http://pewforum.org/docs/index.php?DocID=115

  94. #95 antigod
    April 15, 2008

    tomh,
    You will find that conradg won’t let facts get in the way of his single-minded rampages.

  95. #96 conradg
    April 15, 2008

    tomh,

    Wow, I stand corrected. I thought I’d seen polls from a few years ago which had the numbers looking quite different. Is there a trend line available somewhere? My impression is that things must be swinging against evolution due to the recent stories in the media and the campaigns of ID and creationists.

    Still, I have to wonder what the poll results actually mean. As it states in the article:

    “Despite these fundamental differences, most Americans (64%) say they are open to the idea of teaching creationism along with evolution in the public schools, and a substantial minority (38%) favors replacing evolution with creationism in public school curricula. While much of this support comes from religious conservatives, these ideas particularly the idea of teaching both perspectives have a broader appeal. Even many who are politically liberal and who believe in evolution favor expanding the scope of public school education to include teaching creationism. But an analysis of the poll also reveals that there are considerable inconsistencies between people’s beliefs and what they want taught in the schools, suggesting some confusion about the meaning of terms such as “creationism” and “evolution.”

    What’s not clear is what, exactly these people want to see taught, and what confusion they have over the terms “creationism” and “evolution”.

    I would still suggest that the reason for this general swing in opinion is that people are equating evolution with “atheism” and they want to balance this in some way.

    And I have to wonder just how correct this kind of polling is, when taking into account that there are still no public school systems in the country which actually teach creationism – or is even that out of date? If that large a majority really wants creationism taught in the schools, why isn’t it happening?

    My guess would be that people say one thing when a polster asks for a straight yes/no answer, but they act differently when it comes down to the realities of the school system, and what can actually be sensibly taught in a science class. Clearly, they don’t believe very strongly in teaching creationism in the classroom, or it would already be happening.

    As for the debate topic of how best to go about addressing these issues, I still think the “ID is not science” meme is still the best. Why? Because at the very least, if ID is going to be taught in the schools, this keeps it out of the science class. ID can certainly be taught in social studies class, as part of a general education about religion in America. It just doesn’t belong in a science class. Perhaps those who want such ideas brought into the school would settle for that compromise. And given those poll numbers, that’s about the best one could hope for.

  96. #97 conradg
    April 15, 2008

    anti-god,

    “You will find that conradg won’t let facts get in the way of his single-minded rampages.”

    And I’m sure that my response to tomh won’t change your opinion of me in the slightest. Keep your brand of anti-religious bigotry going full steam. Pretty soon you’ll have alienated every religious persona in American, and have creationist taught in every school in the land.

  97. #98 anti-god
    April 15, 2008

    “…and have creationist taught…”
    Do you mean “creationism”, because having “creationist” taught in the schools might occur as a dissection in anatomy class. Damn, you’re gruesome too.
    I noticed your response was hardly the bow that you seem to think that it was. I mean, right away it demanded this caveat:
    “Still, I have to wonder what the poll results actually mean.”

    So, no, even though you didn’t pose it in the form of a question, I haven’t changed my opinion of you.

  98. #99 conradg
    April 15, 2008

    anti-God,

    Yes, I make typos too.

    And yes, I do wonder what the polls really mean, in the face of the fact that creationism is not being taught in the schools. If 64% of people in America thought that knitting should be taught in the schools, you’d think there’d be a lot of knitting classes in the schools, wouldn’t you?

    Do you have an intelligent observation to make about this discrepency, or what people mean when they answer very general poll questions like this?

    You didn’t have to tell me your opinion of me hasn’t changed. I would no sooner expect you to actually change your ideas on someone like me than a fundamentalist Christian would change his ideas of someone like you. Once you get locked into a mindset, it’s death to new ideas.

  99. #100 conradg
    April 15, 2008

    One other thought in relation to this survey:

    Perhaps it indicates that the best way to overcome creationism is to actually allow it to be taught in the science classroom, as a scientific theory – and then show that all the evidence is against it, and in favor of evolution.

    Perhaps the reason why creationism remains popular is that it has never been subjected to this kind of comparison for most people, since it isn’t addressed in the schools. Addressing it in a scientific fashion might remedy that. Giving creationists enough rope to hang themselves might do the trick.

  100. #101 conradg
    April 15, 2008

    (Mu above comment, btw, would play into Jason’s argument that scientific evidence should be made the principle argument against ID, rather than the “ID is not science” meme).

  101. #102 tomh
    April 16, 2008

    conradg wrote: I do wonder what the polls really mean, in the face of the fact that creationism is not being taught in the schools. If 64% of people in America thought that knitting should be taught in the schools, …

    The only reason creationism is not formally taught in US schools is because Supreme Court decisions over the last 40 years have prevented it. Government sanctioned knitting classes are not prohibited by the Constitution. Informally, creationism is promoted and endorsed in many public schools all over the country, but especially in the South and Southwest. Teaching evolution is suppressed in many areas, usually by parents intimidating teachers. All of this is well known and regularly reported on.

  102. #103 conradg
    April 16, 2008

    Tomh,

    “The only reason creationism is not formally taught in US schools is because Supreme Court decisions over the last 40 years have prevented it. Government sanctioned knitting classes are not prohibited by the Constitution.”

    If this is true, why did they have a trial in Kansas recently about teaching ID theory? If the Supreme Court disallows it, it’s not necessary to have a trial in the first place.

    If your counter is that ID theory is the same as creationism (as the judge in that case ruled) then doesn’t that mean that the primary argument to both the public and school boards ought to be that ID theory isn’t science at all, but is a form of religion? (thereby ruining Jason’s argument almost entirely)

  103. #104 conradg
    April 16, 2008

    Also, I must confess I find it hard to believe that the 64% of people answering “yes” to the polling question about having creationism taught in the schools are confined to the south and southwest. I’m aware that some districts in those areas (and Kansas obviously) have pushed for creationism to be presented side by side with evolution, or even erected barriers to the teaching of evolution, but my impression has been these are nowhere near a large percentage of school districts even in those places. And elsewhere it seems hardly to exist. Whatever the case, it seems that while people might say yes to a poll, when it comes time to elect school boards, they don’t much seem to be voting for creationist school board members. I could have a false impression, coming from liberal northern california, but I just haven’t heard of this being as widespread as that 64% figure would indicate it ought to be, which makes me suspect that it’s not a true reflection of what people really want to happen, but is a reflection of something else.

    It makes me wonder about the polling numbers on related issues, whether they are really reflective of people’s real life views, or just a part of their personal subconscious that rises up when they answer polls. In other words, perhaps people’s beliefs in creationism are much softer than such polls might lead us to think. (They think they are supposed to say they believe in creationism, but when it comes down to it, they don’t really).

  104. #105 Anonymous
    April 16, 2008

    But…but…

    tomh,
    Wow, I stand corrected.

  105. #106 tomh
    April 16, 2008

    conradg wrote: If this is true, why did they have a trial in Kansas recently about teaching ID theory? If the Supreme Court disallows it, it’s not necessary to have a trial in the first place.

    Do you know anything about the US legal system? From first word to last this question and the observation make no sense at all.

  106. #107 conradg
    April 16, 2008

    tomh,

    The Supreme Court hasn’t made any rulings about ID theory.

  107. #108 harmonicminer
    April 16, 2008

    Thanks, conradg, I had already seen that example. It is interesting. But it does not seem to fit the criteria I outlined, because there is no apparent adaptive mutation involved, merely a loss of ability to interbreed. If there is an adaptive mutation, it isn’t mentioned in the description. And, I have to say, if it’s so easy to do this in a mere few years (not the decades I thought might be needed), somebody needs to go at this again.

    I haven’t weighed in on the science/ID discussion thus far: but it seems the most effective way to do this is for ID to be taught in the classroom as a competing theory, and then lead students in discussions about the nature of a scientific theory, testability, prediction, falsifiability and so forth, and let them draw their own conclusions. They’re going to, anyway. So instead of running screaming from the room, open up the discussion, have the conversation, sponsor debates, etc. If the case cannot be made in the open like that, making it behind closed doors and ejecting dissenters isn’t going to help much in convincing the people you most want to convince.

  108. #109 conradg
    April 17, 2008

    tomh,

    I the American legal system, a case can’t be brought to trial without an underlying legal basis. If the Supreme Court has ruled that creationism can’t be taught in the shcools, there’s no basis for a trial. The judge simply would have ruled against the School Board, citing the Supreme Court Precedent. The Kansas case was brought to trial because the School Board claimed that ID was a valid scientific theory that could be taught in the schools. At the end of the trial, the Judge ruled that it was not science, but was a religious teaching, and therefore violated church/state separation. I don’t know if the case is being appealed to a higher court, but as of yet the Supreme Court hasn’t ruled on it, so the ruling has no binding precedents for other legal jurisdictions.

    The point being that the “ID is not science” argument is central and crucial to the legal argument against teaching ID in the schools (at least as a valid scientific theory). Arguing against it scientifically is actually a way of admitting that it is a scientific theory, which would mean that it could be taught in the schools as such. That would be a step backwards.

  109. #110 conradg
    April 17, 2008

    Harmonicminer,

    Did you read the entire link I gave you? It lists more examples of speciation that include adapative mechanisms. I’m not sure why you harp on the issue. There’s no controversy among scientists that requires further proof of the basic fact that evolution occurs.

    I’m not sure why you think ID should be taught in the schools. It isn’t a scientific theory at all, and has no scientific argument that can even be tested against evidence, or argued as being supported by evidence. It’s a religious theory, and if it is to be taught in the schools, it would be in the context of social studies, history, mythology, or comparative religion.

    Should we teach alternative cosmological theories such as are found in Jainism, Hinduism, Taoism, or various philosophical systems that have nothing to do with scientific research?

  110. #111 shortie
    April 17, 2008

    Catch this conrad person in a trap and it appears he just chews off his foot.

  111. #112 BTW
    April 17, 2008

    shortie,
    Just keep watching him. The mental contortions this guy makes are breath-taking. Someone before has commented that his reading comprehension skills are lacking. Understatement. I, for one, was unaware that they allowed computers in padded-cells.

  112. #113 conradg
    April 17, 2008

    Wow, the smugness factor here seems limitless. And inversely proportional to the rational arguments in support thereof.

  113. #114 Chris Bell
    April 17, 2008

    I [sic] the American legal system, a case can’t be brought to trial without an underlying legal basis. If the Supreme Court has ruled that creationism can’t be taught in the shcools [sic], there’s no basis for a trial. The judge simply would have ruled against the School Board, citing the Supreme Court Precedent.

    The Supreme Court has ruled that teaching creationism is unconstitutional. The case was Edwards v. Aguillard.

    The reason that Edwards didn’t automatically decide the Pennsylvania [not Kansas, like you said] case is because the ID crowd claimed that their ideas were different from creationism. There ideas were “science” while creationism, they admitted, was “religion”. The judge couldn’t just dismiss the case because the ID crowd might have been right. That’s what the trial was for.

    The important thing the judge decided was that ID was not science. In fact, ID was creationism in disguise.

    You are right that this decision is not “binding” on the other courts, but other courts will certainly read the decision if they get an ID case in their courtrooms.

    In fact, no other ID cases have occurred, mostly because the Pennsylvania decision was so one-sided. No one wants to waste money on a lawsuit they will lose.

    (Everyone, sorry for feeding….)

    For what it’s worth, I think the judge was wrong to call ID the same as creationism. ID tried very hard to be something different. It is more accurate to call ID and creationism “attempts to introduce religious ideas in the science classroom.” Creationism was a blatant attempt; they just called religion “science” and put it in a book. ID tried to be more honest; they tried to develop a real “science”, but they found that they needed to change the definition of “science” to do it. They figured that was better than nothing, but it was still enough to ensure their defeat.

  114. #115 shortie
    April 17, 2008

    The conrad person would be chewing on his foot now if he had any left.

  115. #116 conradg
    April 17, 2008

    Thanks, Chris. (The condescension is so uplifting)

    I was under the impression that Kansas case was decided similarly – ID is just a fancy facade for religion, not science.

    I’m not sure why you think the judge was wrong to call ID religion rather than science. You seem to think it isn’t science, unless you change the definition of science, which I take it you are against. Or not?

    Point being that the “ID isn’t science” meme seems to be the only thing keeping ID out of the science classroom. Or are you in favor of that?

    In any case, public pressure doesn’t seem to be leading to a mass movement that insists on teaching ID in the public schools. With 64% support a constitutional amendment could solve any problems with the court. Why do you think this isn’t anywhere near to happening?

    (Take your time while I continue gnawing at this pesky ankle-bone here. Way too much gristle).

  116. #117 conradg
    April 18, 2008

    Did some checking and found that the Kansas School Board case wasn’t settled in court, but in public hearings, but was decided along the same lines as the Dover PA case – ID isn’t science. The conclusion was:

    “Creationism, intelligent design, and other claims of supernatural intervention in the origin of life or of species are not science because they are not testable by the methods of science.”

  117. #118 conradg
    April 18, 2008

    Correction:

    The quote above was not issued by the Kansas school board itself. The school board simply voted in 2007 to reject their previous (2005) definitions of science that allowed ID and Creationism to be taught, and returned to a definition of science as “the search for natural explanations for what is observed in the universe.” Amounts to the same thing.

  118. #119 harmonicminer
    April 19, 2008

    Thanks conradg,

    Being a teacher myself, I believe in teachable moments. Instead of banning ID from science classrooms, teach a theory of science first (describe the nature of scientific knowledge, and the way science works, review how it has resolved controversies in the past, etc.), then describe the kinds of observations and predictions made that appear to support the standard neodarwinist model, and then describe those the support ID (presumably a shorter list). Students will get the message without the heavyhandedness. The list of predictions made by ID will be pretty short, yes? Compare that to the list of predictions made by neodarwinism, and maybe you get somewhere.

    I READ the link. I did not find the very subtle things described there to be all that convincing, in exhibiting both adaptation and unmistakable speciation in the same case, so convincingly that no reasonable person could look at the “new species” and say “that looks pretty much like the old species”. What I described as a research strategy WOULD be convincing to many fence sitters, if it was successful.

  119. #120 harmonicminer
    April 19, 2008

    Sorry, I worded this senence wrong:

    [I did not find the very subtle things described there to be all that convincing, in exhibiting both adaptation and unmistakable speciation in the same case, so convincingly that no reasonable person could look at the "new species" and say "that looks pretty much like the old species".]

    It SHOULD read:

    [I did not find the very subtle things described there to be all that convincing, in exhibiting both adaptation and unmistakable speciation in the same case, so convincingly that any reasonable person could look at the "new species" and not say "that looks pretty much like the old species".]

  120. #121 shortie
    April 19, 2008

    Two nits apickin’

  121. #122 conradg
    April 19, 2008

    Harmonicmincer,

    I’m not entirely opposed to the notion of creating a “teachable moment” using the ID-Darwinism debate. The problem is that the only reason to make this into a teachable moment is the controversy between science and non-science it represents. In and of itself, there’s simply no genuine scientific controversy at this level. In other words, there’s no scientific reason for the debate. There’s a cultural reason for it, however. But teaching the difference between science and non-science is perhaps good enough a reason, given that a lot of people seem not to undestand the distinction.

    As for the links not being convincing to you, this is part of the problem with science – reasonable people not well-trained in specific scientific disciplines often don’t know how to evaluate scientific information. They look for some kind of “proof” that makes sense to them, so they imagine the kind of experiment you are proposing. If even teachers like yourself can’t grasp the significance of these examples of speciation, how will they be able to teach children what they mean? Delving into the details of evolutionary theory really does require some pretty strong scientific training. Which is why we don’t go into the supporting details of nuclear physics in describing why the sun is fueled by certain nuclear reactions, and not by Divine Radiance. We could, certainly, but neither students nor their teachers would actually understand it well. We could create a “teaching moment” with supporters of the Sun God Ra on one side, and nuclear physicists on the other, but would it really teach people anything meaningful? At the level of the “reasonable”, I’m sure reasonable arguments could be made for Ra, and holes poked in the theories of scientists, but what would students learn from such an exercise?

  122. #123 conradg
    April 19, 2008

    Hey, shortie, keep it up. I’m sure your mother will be proud.

  123. #124 shortie
    April 19, 2008

    Conrad person,
    Here at my school we are learning to cut and paste. Can you come be my show and tell friend?

  124. #125 conradg
    April 19, 2008

    Shortie, is there a point you think you’re making?

  125. #126 harmonicminer
    April 20, 2008

    thanks conradg

    Just to be clear: are you saying that incontrovertible proof of adaptive response to environmental pressure producing a brand new species has been observed? Does that species look any different in a fundamental anatomical way (as opposed to spots or something)? Is it able to “retro breed”, or can it breed only with its own, updated version?

    If that evidence exists, why do some biologists (NOT the ID types, but others) say that while common descent is a slam dunk, the natural selection from random mutation part is somewhat less established as a “macro evolution” mechanism?

    If that evidence is so clear, why isn’t it in the public eye more? This is so important that I would think popularizers would have it out front and center. Why don’t they?

    Re: your amusing Sun God Ra story, I suppose that might be necessary if any scientists were claiming that. It won’t do to claim that ID types aren’t scientists. You have to show them to be BAD scientists. They’re here. Sun God Ra types aren’t.

    One of the things we teachers learn is that you have to teach people WHERE THEY ARE. All the condescension in the world won’t change that. And it is the job of serious scientists to do it convincingly, and without mere arguments from authority, whether they like it or not, because they are demanding public funding, for all kinds of things. If you didn’t HAVE to convince the public, would you bother to try? So since you DO, better do it well. Lose the attitude, and be about your work.

    And my first questions in this post were not rhetorical. I am genuinely interested: is the evidence for adaptively created new species THAT good?

  126. #127 Leni
    April 20, 2008

    conradg wrote:

    Thanks, Chris. (The condescension is so uplifting)

    What condescension?

    Do you mean the part where Chris politely explained the ruling to you?

  127. #128 conradg
    April 20, 2008

    Leni,

    What condescension?

    Do you mean the part where Chris politely explained the ruling to you?

    No, the part where he said:

    (Everyone, sorry for feeding….)

    Is that difficult for you to understand?

  128. #129 conradg
    April 20, 2008

    Harmonicminer,

    The purpose of science is not to convince the public of anything. Science is not a political activity. What you want is for science to become political, to engage in a political debate about evolution, to make some sort of dramatic proof for political purposes, all of which has nothing to do with science itself. Teaching science is not a political activity either. First it involves teaching people what science is. Then it is about teaching people what, and how, science has learned what it has learned. Much of that, unfortunately, is above the heads of non-scientists, unless they make considerable effort to understand science. Science doesn’t work by “common sense”. Many of its methods and conclusions defy things that were, and still are, considered “common sense”. The difference is demonstrated in what science is able to build from those methods. If bilogical science were unable to build vaccines and antibiotics and perform surgeries and so on, we could doubt its methods and findings with good reason. If ID theory or creationism were to lead to such inventions and capabilities then it too would gain credibility.

    There is no such thing as a creationist scientist or an ID scientist. There may be scientists who beleive in ID, or who believe in creationism, but there are no scientists who actually do science based on creationism of ID theory. None of the ID or creationist institutes out there actually perform research or do “creationist science”. Why? Because there’s no such thing. There’s nothing for them to do. There’s nothing for them to build on or produce. There’s no experiments to run. There’s no theory to develop. It’s a purely political endeavor staffed by public relations people and secretaries and people writing occasional articles and so forth. It’s not a scientific movement in any sense that matters. So what exactly is there to teach about it?

    Science isn’t responsible for where people are at. It’s not responsible for “reaching” people. Teachers such as yourself have that responsibility. It’s not in the business of trying to convince religious people that creationism is false, or that evolution is true. The facts speak for themselves, to the degree that people can understand the scientific process. If you can’t teach them about the scientific process, then they won’t understand it. If you don’t understand the scientific process, then you won’t be able to teach it. It’s as simple as that.

    It would be nice if people understood science better, but it doesn’t change the way science is done one way or another. It would be nice if people understood evolutionary theory better, but it doesn’t change the way science studies evolution.

    The adaptations you are talking about are like breeding pigs to grow wings. It’s pretty much just an insult to science to think it has to jump through hoops like that to be taken seriously. The people who don’t take science seriously won’t take science seriously no matter how many breeding programs it embarks upon. If people don’t think evolution should be taken seriously, they should understand that without evolution there’s simply no basis for understanding the entire discipline of biology. What should science do, just start from scratch? And why? Because the general public doesn’t understand basic biological theory?

    And what do you mean that scientists aren’t claiming that the sun is fueled by nuclear reactions rather than by Divine Radiance? Of course they are. Ancient Egyptian worshippers of Ra the Sun God claimed that sunlight is the result of Divine Action. So should we teach the Ra controversy or just the science?

  129. #130 shortie
    April 20, 2008

    ID is “a purely political endeavor staffed by public relations people and secretaries and people writing occasional articles and so forth.”
    This conrad person forgot what the other conrad person said about ID being purely religious.
    See what happens when a cut and paster misses the cut?

    Actually science never claimed that nuclear reactions were NOT divine radiance, but you can’t cut and paste that simple thought if you don’t have enough thought to find it.

    How many feet do trolls have to lose?

  130. #131 conradg
    April 20, 2008

    Shortie,

    You seem to have trouble thinking yourself out of a paper bag.

    Of course ID is a religious idea. And of course the ID movement is a political movement. It’s a political movement aimed at promoting a religious idea, and insinuating it into both science and politics. Ever noticed that religion and politics sometimes mix? Or did you really think it’s an either/or situation.

    “Actually science never claimed that nuclear reactions were NOT divine radiance, but you can’t cut and paste that simple thought if you don’t have enough thought to find it.”

    Science never claimed that evolution by natural selection isn’t the product of some Intelligent Design either. It’s just irrelevant to the discussion. If ID people were merely claiming that, there’d be no problem. But they are claiming that there is some other mechanism, unnamed but vaguely called “design”, which is responsible for the biological world we see today. They dispute evolution, and natural selection. This is the equivalent of Ra worshippers claiming that nuclear reactions aren’t the source of the Sun’s energy, but some other, unknown Divine Process is responsible, and pointing to problems in nuclear physiscs theories such as the measured numbers of neutrino production from the sun as a sign that the theory was false, and that therefore Ra should be taught as an alternative.

    And btw, shortie, for someone so smug and condescending, your ability to actually think logically and mount a serious argument falls way short. No wonder you don’t actually say much. It’s embarrassing when you actually speak up.

  131. #132 shortie
    April 20, 2008

    Conrad person, saying purely one and then purely the other isn’t even an either/or situation – it’s a double null hypothesis.

    And why was the divine radiance remark suddenly irrelevant when you made an assertion that turned out to be incorrect? Science has not denied divine radiance as an ultimate cause of anything to my knowledge – or has it, Mr. Religious Person?

    And I agree it’s embarrassing for whatever pose you are making at the time when almost anybody else speaks up.

    Thinking is not a form of babbling.

  132. #133 conradg
    April 20, 2008

    shortie,

    Please, keep up the silly statements and false contradictions. Your mother continues to applaud from cribside. Of course science denies that there’s any validity to the Ra hypothesis of Divine Radiance powering the sun. Your notion that nuclear reactions are the source of “Divine Radiance” is self-contradictory. If you claim that Ra is behind the whole “nuclear reactions” phenomena, then you have stepped outside the bounds of science is all. Which is your prerogative, but it isn’t an alternative scientific theory then. Like ID, it’s a way of leaving the arena and claiming to have designed the arena.

  133. #134 shortie
    April 20, 2008

    conrad person, I claim nothing except that you don’t know the difference between saying something is and saying something isn’t. No-one said nuclear reactions are the source of divine radiance. But you said it’s one or the other, and that science says it’s NOT divine radiance. Science has never said that. Divine radiance according to religious persons could be the cause of the big bang, the maker of the sun, the cause of life itself, the first cause ever, the force of whatever your god is. Science has never directly said there is no divine force. Science only deals with the forces it can detect and measure.
    Are there then no divine forces, or none that radiate, Mr. religious person?

    Consistency is the hob-goblin of the cutter and paster.

  134. #135 harmonicminer
    April 20, 2008

    thanks conradg,

    Perhaps you don’t think science is a political or educational enterprise. I take you at your word.

    I conclude that a great many eminent scientists disagree with you, or else they would not be trying so hard to reach the public mind on this point, and to make sure the schools teach it the way they want them to teach it.

    Further, you seem unaware of the sociological aspects of the development of scientific theory. I recommend Karl Popper and Thomas Kuhn as a good place to start. Read THEM, not just the wikipedia link about them.

    Finally, you seem unaware that since big science requires big money, the public must be convinced, in a general way, that the money is worth the science, i.e., that it matters whether we know more about which hominid is actually our predecessor.

    I’ve enjoyed the conversation, conrad… but you need to get out more. You appear to worship science and scientists, and seem almost offended that we normal folk are trying to understand them and their work, and have serious questions and concerns.

    Carl Sagan understood all of these things.

  135. #136 BTW
    April 20, 2008

    You appear to worship science and scientists, and seem almost offended that we normal folk are trying to understand them and their work, and have serious questions and concerns.

    I’ll give conradg this much … if anyone thinks that this is his problem then they haven’t been paying attention.

  136. #137 conradg
    April 20, 2008

    conrad person, I claim nothing except that you don’t know the difference between saying something is and saying something isn’t. No-one said nuclear reactions are the source of divine radiance. But you said it’s one or the other, and that science says it’s NOT divine radiance. Science has never said that. Divine radiance according to religious persons could be the cause of the big bang, the maker of the sun, the cause of life itself, the first cause ever, the force of whatever your god is. Science has never directly said there is no divine force. Science only deals with the forces it can detect and measure.

    Shortie, this is a wonderful demonstration of the sheer silliness some people on this site think is intellectual brilliance. A Divine Radiance that has no power apart from the natural laws of physics isn’t much of a Divine Radiance. Of course there’s no difference, in practice, between saying nuclear physics is the mechanism behind the Sun’s energy and saying that Ra’s Divine Force isn’t the mechanism behind it. Arguing that while Ra may not be the mechanism behind the Sun’s energy, but he is the mechanism behind the mechanism, is simply a fallacious conflation between mechanisms of the physical world and mechanisms of a metaphysical world. And pretending that by NOT conflating those two that I am being inconsistent betrays a remarkable inability to reason.

    Are there then no divine forces, or none that radiate, Mr. religious person?

    There may well be, but by definition such forces are Divine in nature, not physical or mental in nature. Divine explanations are metaphysical explanations, not physical ones. They stand outside of observable nature. One can certainly say that the reason the Sun is fueled by nuclear reactions is that God created the world that day. But one cannot say that God is the physical mechanism that powers the Sun by some supernatural influx of energy (which is the Ra hypothesis).

    Consistency is the hob-goblin of the cutter and paster.

    Do you ever bother to think before typing?

  137. #138 shortie
    April 21, 2008

    My goodness, conrad person, I made no mention of your Ra hypothesis – you must be referring to your comments about that to the harmonicminer.

    I was just curious why a religious man would say the things quoted below:

    “Which is why we don’t go into the supporting details of nuclear physics in describing why the sun is fueled by certain nuclear reactions, and not by Divine Radiance.”

    “And what do you mean that scientists aren’t claiming that the sun is fueled by nuclear reactions rather than by Divine Radiance? Of course they are.”

    But science has never said what you are saying. It does not exclude the possibility that nuclear forces and divine forces could be the same. But you as a religious person were unwittedly (and I use the term advisedly) doing just that.

    And you don’t even seem to understand the import of your own remarks – or if you do, you’re just trying to weasel out of it with a “yes, but” answer which, since you couldn’t find one to cut and copy, is not all that smart.

    ” ‘Are there then no divine forces, or none that radiate, Mr. religious person?’
    There may well be, but by definition such forces are Divine in nature, not physical or mental in nature.”

    That doesn’t sound like science has said they don’t exist as forces, now does it?

    What does this “prove?” Only that you ramble on thoughtlessly, unable see what others see the instant they see it.

    Oh, and I expect my teacher will give me a gold star, and my mommy will make some cookies and the sun will come up tomorrow and somebody will say thank you Jesus at the same time. And the conrad person will chatter excitedly with the other birds.

  138. #139 conradg
    April 21, 2008

    shortie,

    You have yet to contribute a single intelligent thought to this thread. I keep waiting, and waiting, and waiting.

    You seem to think this sentence of mine is somehow flawed:

    “Which is why we don’t go into the supporting details of nuclear physics in describing why the sun is fueled by certain nuclear reactions, and not by Divine Radiance.”

    I’ve explained that if one considers nuclear reactions to be “Divine Radiance”, it means there is no definition of “Divine Radiance” apart from nuclear reactions, and thus it’s a meaningless attribution. You’re just playing a word game, in other words. Unless “Divine Radiance” is defined as something other than nuclear reactions, it’s just substituting one word for another. Scientists could get together and decide to rename nuclear physics ‘the physics of Divine Radiance”, but it wouldn’t change anything in the actual science. You seem incapable of understanding this, but prattle on endlessly with these semantic arguments that have no substance to them whatsoever. There is no additional force called “Divine Radiance” that is different from the forces science calls “nuclear reactions” that adds anything to the science. You just keep digging yourself a deeper and deeper hole.

    Btw, the under/over betting for your age is now at 11. If you’re any older than that, it’s getting embarrassing.

  139. #140 conradg
    April 21, 2008

    Harmonicminer,

    Perhaps you don’t think science is a political or educational enterprise. I take you at your word.

    I conclude that a great many eminent scientists disagree with you, or else they would not be trying so hard to reach the public mind on this point, and to make sure the schools teach it the way they want them to teach it.

    I never said that scientists as individuals or as members of the educational establishment don’t engage in politics, or try to teach people about science. I said that the actual ?doing? of scientific research is not political in nature. It simply tries to follow the evidence. There are certainly examples of the actual doing of science being politicized, such as Lysenko in communist Russia, etc., but by and large this is considered anathema in science. The actual study of biology, of evolutionary theory, is not guided by some political agenda, nor should it be. Scientists didn’t set out to promote evolution, it’s only that the evidence has led to the virtually universal adoption of evolutionary theory as a way of explaining most of what occurs in biology. Scientists promote the evidence, for the most part, not theories in and for themselves. They are interested in finding out new things, not making public demonstrations that might claim to prove what they already know. (The experiments you think should be done wouldn’t prove anything about our evolution, however, so what the point?)

    Now, of course scientists are interested in seeing to it that science is taught properly. But teaching science isn’t a political operation either. It’s supposed to simply reflect the current state of affairs in scientific research. It becomes political when various interest groups don’t like the conclusions of scientists. This isn’t limited to religious issues. Economic interests also get upset when science comes to conclusions they don’t like either (such as the tobacco business, or the agribusiness community altogether). It corrupts science when it takes on a political agenda, just as much as science is corrupted by those who approach it with a political agenda.

    In regards to evolution, as I’ve said, if the scientific evidence pointed to some other set of facts or theories as being convincing, it would change ships. In physics it did so with the introduction of Relativity Theory and Quantum Mechanics, it can do so in biology as well. It just needs an actual body of evidence that contradicts evolutionary theory and that points to some other genuine scientific mechanism which better explains the evidence. ID theory just doesn’t qualify in any respect as a genuine scientific theory which explains anything. As I’ve said, it’s a religious theory being promoted by political means, not scientific means.

    Further, you seem unaware of the sociological aspects of the development of scientific theory. I recommend Karl Popper and Thomas Kuhn as a good place to start. Read THEM, not just the wikipedia link about them.

    Yes, I’ve read them. I don’t see how they in any way help your basic argument about evolutionary theory.

    Finally, you seem unaware that since big science requires big money, the public must be convinced, in a general way, that the money is worth the science, i.e., that it matters whether we know more about which hominid is actually our predecessor.

    The money appropriated for scientific research can’t be dependent upon obtaining an answer that is suitable to the public. Scientists are charged with finding the truth, not with echoing what people already think they know. If you don’t want to find out humanity’s origins, fine, don’t fund such research, but if you do, you can’t bitch about the evidence not supporting your pet theory. Basic research is always difficult to find funding for, because it’s applications are not always immediately evident. But without it, you can’t get very far. Without the entire drive to understand our origins and the genetic process involved science never would have discovered a whole host of hugely important things about our bodies and minds which have proven immensely valuable. Generally speaking, basic research pays off hugely in the long run. But you can’t do basic research effectively under the yoke of political expectations.

    I’ve enjoyed the conversation, conrad… but you need to get out more. You appear to worship science and scientists, and seem almost offended that we normal folk are trying to understand them and their work, and have serious questions and concerns.

    I find that hilarious, in that I’m the despised religious dude on this site. I certainly don’t worship science and scientists, but I certainly do appreciate them. I do worship God, I just don’t conflate God with science, or vice-versa. I think the two fields of endeavor should be kept appropriately separate.

    I think you should, indeed, try to understand science and scientists. The problem is, you don’t seem to want to do that. You want scientists to play politics, and be something other than scientists for your sake. You will never understand science that way. You actually have to get ?into? science to understand it. That’s what a science teacher should be doing. People have to come to understand and appreciate that science is a discipline with rules and boundaries and procedures, etc. They have to learn those rules and boundaries and procedures in order to understand what is science, and what isn’t. And the same goes for religion. If you want to understand religion, you have to get ?into? it. Scientists who stand outside of religion don’t have much chance of actually understanding it, any more than religious people who stand outside of science have much change of understanding science.

    I’m not putting down religion, btw. I’m just pointing out the obvious ? that religion is not science, and science is not religion. A religious theory about the origins of the universe is not a scientific theory. A religious theory about the origins of species is not a scientific theory. Period.

  140. #141 shortie
    April 21, 2008

    No religious theory is consistent with scientific theory? Conrad person, tell me you didn’t say that. Isn’t it written somewhere that the earliest scientific theories were in fact born as religious hypotheses? And that they were precisely about the origins of the universe and life in that universe? And that a particular religious theory CAN lay a just claim to being scientific as well, even though science has not yet laid claim to being a religion?

    My mommy said if you keep on stepping in it, it must be because you like the feeling more than you hate the smell. Up to now I didn’t know what she meant.

  141. #142 shortie
    April 21, 2008

    Conrad person, mommy said to tell you this: The fool sees a wise man in the mirror where the wise man merely sees a fool. (Forrest Gump)

  142. #143 harmonicminer
    April 21, 2008

    I’ll just say this: if speciation/adaptation HAS BEEN OBSERVED in human time in an unmistakable way, as it happened, then biologists have missed getting the story of the century out to the public.

    If it hasn’t, biologists need to start the process to make that happen, if they possibly can. It isn’t like it will be a terribly expensive thing, it will just take some time, perhaps decades with something like fruit flies or whatever, something with a short generation length. Public health organizations do decades long studies… it can be done, and funded.

    It is irresistible not to wonder if part of the reason this is not being done is because biologists are afraid it doesn’t quite work the way they say it does… Much easier to say it is established, and that’s that, than to actually do the research. That has happened more than once in the history of science.

    Further, you actually made my point in discussing the “spin offs” of basic research. You couldn’t get much more basic than this. If it has been done, show me. If it hasn’t, it needs to be.

    I think, conrad, that you underestimate the degree to which modern science depends on public funding and public understanding, and the concomitant responsibility of scientists to educate and convince the public of the validity of what they do.

    I did not say that should determine what research is done (though it always HAS, and probably always WILL, or we’d have a Super Collider in Texas, and Apollo would not have been cancelled), or what theories espoused, or whatever. What I said is that scientists would be wise to do their best to help the public understand. This strikes me as a relatively inexpensive long term experiment, that could be spread over different careers. And I strongly suspect some considerable understandings would eventually flow from it.

  143. #144 dude
    April 21, 2008

    I’ll just say this: if speciation/adaptation HAS BEEN OBSERVED in human time in an unmistakable way, as it happened, then biologists have missed getting the story of the century out to the public.

    Ever hear of getting a flu shot every year. Why do you think you should do that every year?

    I think, conrad, that you underestimate the degree to which modern science depends on public funding and public understanding, and the concomitant responsibility of scientists to educate and convince the public of the validity of what they do.

    It’s a two-way street. Much of science is very rigorous (surprise) & therefore takes a serious concerted effort on the part of the individual. I’m sorry to have to tell you that, but it’s true. For a certain level of understanding there just is no alternative to rolling-up your sleeves & doing hard work. This is actually the maddening part. If the science community just presents current theory then people like you ask why; however, when told what you need to do to know why? you aren’t willing to do the work.

    I did not say that should determine what research is done (though it always HAS, and probably always WILL, or we’d have a Super Collider in Texas, and Apollo would not have been cancelled)…

    There are other factors, you know. When you look at the price-tag for watching a couple of guys play golf on the moon you might wonder if that may have been the best use of public funds.

  144. #145 shortie
    April 21, 2008

    harmonicminer has zeroed in on conrad person because even though harmonicminer has a rather weak argument for doing something that is not at all necessary, the conrad person in his role as a faux scientist, with his cut and paste mind, says things that make the initial argument appear irrefutable.

  145. #146 BTW
    April 21, 2008

    harmonicminer,
    The evidence you request (as mentioned by dude) is out there. The problem is groups like the DI & the Kansas school board are also out there obfuscating the issue. Add to that a know-nothing media that thinks that every side of an issue deserves equal time, even for an extreme minority view. Then the result is the appearance of a controversy where none really exists. Is this the scientists’ fault? I ask you, what science organization do you know of that controls major media outlets?

  146. #147 conradg
    April 21, 2008

    Harmonicminer,

    Okay, you have a hypothesis here: that scientists are afraid to test evolution in the way you say they should, because they are afraid it won’t turn out. Now, you should test it by talking to actual biologists studying evolution to see what they say. You might find out that the reasons they don’t do this have nothing to do with fear.

    You could also test this out by making the same offer to creationists. They have tons of money, and they’ve never done a single experiment. If they could test this out, and it fails, then you could prove some kind of point. So talk to them and see what they think. Maybe they’re afraid it would work.

    Until you actually do the leg work and find out for yourselves why biologists aren’t rushing to do this kind of demonstration, you are just blowing smoke. Get some data. Write a peer-reviewed paper about it. Then we’re talking.

    “Further, you actually made my point in discussing the “spin offs” of basic research. You couldn’t get much more basic than this. If it has been done, show me. If it hasn’t, it needs to be.”

    In the first place, what you are proposing isn’t “basic research”. It’s just a PR demonstration. People doing basic research wouldn’t be much interested in this idea precisely because it doesn’t have much new to say about the basics of biology. Biologists are much more interested in studying DNA and the actual building blocks and processes of evolution. When it comes to creating new species, there’s an obvious shortcut now available, called genetic engineering. Scientists have certainly created new species through genetic engineering already. Doing so by pure natural selection is rather quaint at this point. The spin-offs are all in the DNA these days.

    The point is that studying evolution and genetics already led to the great spinoff – which is DNA. For some reason scientists think this has more to do with actual evolution, and actual spinoffs from the study of evolution, than ID theory and creationism. Give them a reason to think there’s something valuable to be found by your methods, however, and I’m sure you can entice them to do the experiments and research. Scientists are greedy bastards. If there’s any promise of a payoff, they’ll do the work.

    Getting the public to understand scientific research isn’t really the way to get funding. It’s getting congressmen and government bureaucrats to understand scientific research that makes a difference. That’s why basic research isn’t generally decided by those types. They simply rely on the experts to tell them what’s important, and if they see some payoff down the line, they fund it. Which is why defense department research gets the most bucks. But I don’t think that research aimed at proving evolution true and creationism false is going to get much funding, frankly. It sounds like science trying to poke one in religion’s eye.

    And I don’t think the problem with basic research funding has anything to do with the evolution debate to begin with. You certainly wouldn’t get more funding if the public knew that it was being used to deliberately undermine religious beleifs without serving any serious scientific purpose.

  147. #148 conradg
    April 21, 2008

    shortie, I got an idea for you. Why don’t you actually say something intelligent for a change? You know, actually contribute to the discussion, rather than just snipe from the sidelines looking for a sentence to parse the wrong way. You’re just proving your own total irrelevance as a human being here.

  148. #149 shortie
    April 21, 2008

    conrad person,
    Some people call it “misspoke” and you call it “parsing a sentence the wrong way.”
    Here on the farm we just call it bullshit.
    “Watch out for the bullshit” is one of our more intelligent comments here.

  149. #150 shortie
    April 21, 2008

    Oh and conrad person, just take these questions you declined to answer and parse them in the positive.

    Isn’t it written somewhere that the earliest scientific theories were in fact born as religious hypotheses? And that they were precisely about the origins of the universe and life in that universe? And that a particular religious theory CAN lay a just claim to being scientific as well, even though science has not yet laid claim to being a religion?

    After you parse them, try to reconcile them with your statements:
    “A religious theory about the origins of the universe is not a scientific theory. A religious theory about the origins of species is not a scientific theory. Period.”

    Let someone else judge the relative level of intelligence involved.

  150. #151 harmonicminer
    April 21, 2008

    Thanks conrad,

    Um… I started out this conversation by admitting my ignorance. I am a humble musician (hence the handle). I do know of one “old earth creationist” organization that is actually making predictions out of a theory that on the surface looks like “intelligent design” but is in fact quite a bit more subtle. Some of those predictions are testable, so they say, and time will tell.

    http://www.reasons.org

    For my part, I have no trouble believing God used evolution to make us, or some combination of it and direct intervention. I really don’t know, but am OK with it either way.

    However, I have heard and read more than one biologist say that the theory of evolution is separable from the theory of natural selection from random mutation. That is, evolution is, in their view, proved by the observation of common descent (which is proved both on morphological and DNA grounds), while natural selection from random mutation is only their best guess about what caused the changes during the period of common descent (like the last 4 billion years or so).

    Do I have that wrong?

    Assuming I have understood correctly, then the kind of experiment I am proposing would do nothing to confirm common descent, which needs none in any case, but WOULD unmistakably confirm the natural selection from random mutation via environmental pressure.

    You say this experiment would be trivial. I have a hard time believing that is the case, if it has not been done. If it has been done, can you direct me to an explanation and description that is understandable to a layperson?

    If I have misunderstood something about the state of current knowledge, consider my apology in advance to be sincere….

  151. #152 conradg
    April 21, 2008

    Shortie,

    “Isn’t it written somewhere that the earliest scientific theories were in fact born as religious hypotheses? And that they were precisely about the origins of the universe and life in that universe? And that a particular religious theory CAN lay a just claim to being scientific as well, even though science has not yet laid claim to being a religion?”

    I’d like you to tell us where this was written for starters.

    I don’t think the earliest scientific theories had much to do with the origins of the universe. Mostly they would have been about very practical matters here on earth, having to do with hunting, building houses, making things out of stone and iron and copper, etc. These are the kinds of things people could actual test and see if they work. Theories about the origins of the universe wouldn’t have been testable, hence, not scientific. You don’t really get genuinely testable scientific theories about the universe until Copernicus and Kepler and Galileo. Although one greek philosopher did make a fairly accurate measurement of the earth’s circumference. Unfortunately, he couldn’t verify it.

    So, in short, no, religious cosmologies are not scientific theories. You could try to create a scientific theory from a religious cosmology, but I don’t think it would make much sense. Scientific theories are built from data, not from religion. I can’t think offhand of a counter-example. Scientists look at data, and begin to think of explanations for the data. They may look at the data for religious reasons, such as in astrology, but once they start using the data itself to build theories, they move away from religion and into science, and create scientific theories. It’s really not that hard to tell the difference between the two.

    You could do both, of course. Kepler did both science and astrology. Newton did both physics and alchemy. His physics theories were scientific theories, whereas his alchemical work was not. Combining the two doesn’t work, and over time the two approaches have been understandably separated.

    As for your crazy parsing of my sentences, no, I don’t think you’ve made a single valid point there. You don’t seem to be very good at the English language, so perhaps you should simply say what you mean to say on matters of substance, rather than try to evaluate finer points of rhetoric.

  152. #153 conradg
    April 21, 2008

    Harmonicminer,

    I’m not at all opposed to religious ideas about creation, or the notion that “God created evolution in order to create man”. I just recognize that there’s no scientific theory in that statement. It’s purely a religious concept. And so it doesn’t belong in a science classroom. It’s like the Ra idea – it doesn’t add or subtract anything from the science of evolution or nuclear physics.

    You’re right that there’s a difference between evolution, which is a hugely demonstrated fact, and the theory of evolution by natural selection, which is a way of explaining those facts. It’s certainly true that natural selection is not proven to the point of being considered a “fact” rather than a theory. It’s just supported by the overwhelming evidence, in a way that no other theory comes even close to. (It’s not a guess by any means). When people sometimes talk about “new theories” of evolution, they are all simply variants of natural selection. There’s other things involved, of course, such as what’s called “genetic drift”, which isn’t natural selection per se. But it’s not accurate to say that natural selection relies on “random mutation”. The mechanisms of mutation are not fully understood, but they are not random either. There’s an element of randomness to them, but far more is involved than that.

    As for confirmation, I don’t think any experiment along the lines you are suggesting would provide real confirmation of the theory. Scientists already feel they know enough to say that natural selection happens. What is needed is confirmation that this is the way it happens in all cases, and that it is the overwhelmingly dominant factor in evolution, which no amount of tests like yours could answer. That kind of confirmation comes slowly as the whole process in every detail is investigated. It has been coming for over 150 years already, and it will continue for at least another 150 years. If factors other than natural selection are discovered (as with genetic drift, say) they will certainly be noted and researched. Science doesn’t yet rule out any other factors, they just don’t have evidence for other factors yet.

    One thing I think is not well-appreciated by the public is what an incredibly powerful idea natural selection is. Science teachers could really emphasize the genius of natural selection, and why many people have considered it the single most powerful idea any human being has ever come up with. Before I studied the subject I was skeptical, but at this point I’d have to agree with that general assessment (at least within the realm of material life). It’s often put down as something that is just about “random mutations”, but it’s quite a lot more than that.

  153. #154 shortie
    April 22, 2008

    conrad person,
    Everything you said in answer to my questions is patently wrong. You pulled the lengthy response straight out of your ass.

    There’s a recent book on religion (one of many) and science that does an excellent job of outlining their close relationship and the religious/philosophical basis for the development of the scientific method.

    And your blather about the theory of evolution to harmonicminer, as if you really understood the science -’it’s certainly true that natural selection is not proven to the point of being considered a “fact” rather than a theory’ blah, blah, blah – is pitiable. By the way, you putz, it’s the theory that is the fact – natural selection is the concept. You can’t even get the jargon right. let alone the science.

  154. #155 harmonicminer
    April 22, 2008

    thanks conrad,

    As/if we continue our conversation, maybe we can both agree to just ignore shortie, who appears to be short in more than one area.

    If we don’t respond, maybe he’ll get bored and go away… and this is the last time I’ll mention him.

    I understand that natural selection is extremely well confirmed in intra-species evolution.

    While it does seem a powerful theory on the surface, it does require an awfully large number of *beneficial* mutations, in just the right order, to be of any use in inter-species evolution, assuming that saltatation is a dead letter.

    What other source of mutation is their other than “random” (e.g., background radiation, transcription error, etc.) to produce a change on which natural selection can work? I know plants can hybridize, etc., but I’m more interested in animals. Gene flow can’t explain the mutations that lead to fins instead of legs, let alone bigger brain size, or so it seems to me. I can see how it can cause mutations to move around… I don’t see how it causes them.

    As I understand the Blind Watchmaker notion, it IS essentially a random mutation process followed by natural selection. What have I missed?

  155. #156 shortie
    April 22, 2008

    Oooh, another putz heard from! What neither of you, and especially the conrad putz, have no way of knowing is that when it comes to the counterintuitive, you are lost. You (conrad person) are not only unaware of what you don’t know, you (this time both) are not capable of knowing it. Which has a lot to do with not being aware of these things of course.

    Conrad person will fall into the counterintuitive trap every time, because that’s something he just can’t fake by cutting and pasting what he presumes would be the obvious. And it looks like the harmonica person has the same deficiency, except he is honest enough to admit part of it, but then turns to the faux poseur for an appropriate answer that to him at least will make sense. Hey music man, this guy is not a scientist, not even close.

    To him the blind watchmaker is a parable of the blind leading the blind (quite apt, is it not?). You have (seemingly) missed the real point and he won’t know it either. Because it’s counterintuitive.

    But music man, I have detected subtle changes in both your stances, as if each is maneuvering to suck the other one in and close the trap. You must know that the conrad putz has never succeeded at this game, so perhaps even you can beat him at it.

    But this little game is the only thing (he thinks) he has any chance of winning. First he will try to lure you by mimicry onto some small area of common ground. Once you are there (and the time is now), he will sneak up behind you and try to push you off – but this is when the counterintuitive trap snaps shut, and he’s been had again.

    So this strategy has never worked for him so far – but he thinks he will soon find a way to win by fine-tuning his tactics, as strategic thinking has been too difficult for him. But up to now the tactical thing hasn’t worked for him either.
    Others here have called him nuts and worse. They are wrong. He’s just a poor putz who needs to find a poorer putz. He’s in the process right now of proving it’s you, music man. Are you leading him on instead?

  156. #157 conradg
    April 22, 2008

    Harmonicminer,

    I’m forced to agree with you about shortie. I try to engage people even when they are hostile, but I think you are right that in his case it’s simply hopeless. We can just consider it background noise from here on out.

    The whole mutation business is fascinating, I think, and I’m not conversant enough in the research to make it clear what’s going on, but my readings suggest that there’s plenty of reason to think that mutations are not merely random, that they are mechanisms that actually help produce mutations. It doesn’t entirely take away the random nature of mutations themselves, but you might say that it’s like human gambling – under certain stresses the organism is more likely to roll the dice than in good times. So more variations in the genome are produced when environmentals stresses are most pressing, leading to a faster evolutionary rate of change. This isn’t necessarily hard to explain – each organism has mechanisms that “error correct”, and it may be as simply as allowing more errors to pass through uncorrected, or even a partiality for certain kinds of errors that have been shown to be beneficial in the past.

    Likewise, once a particular line of development is embarked upon, mutations tend to build on that line, rather than steer things in some random direction. So there’s a kind of momentum that builds that directs the progress of mutations.

    But I’m very much speculating, and the science is far from determined here. What I’m saying in general is that this is a far more interesting area of research than the kind of experiment you are talking about. The mechanisms of mutation and the control of mutations is practically ground zero in the research on evolution, not only because it can help answer key questions about evolution, but because it has huge implications in health and cancer research and cloning, etc. Anti-aging research is also relevant here, in that error-correction may be the reasponwith why we age.

    The long and the short of it is that recent research on the actual mechanisms surrounding mutations and how they are processed in the cells is making these evolutionary processes look more and more viable as an explanation for adaptive selection.

  157. #158 shortie
    April 22, 2008

    Conrad putz says he is not conversant enough in the research to make it clear what’s going on. But he is optimistic the research will be productive.

    He could have said that 40 pages ago and skipped all that baloney.

  158. #159 harmonicminer
    April 23, 2008

    sigh

  159. #160 pier
    June 9, 2008

    thank you could have said that skipped