Ruse News

In 2002 I attended an ID conference near Kansas City. Among the speakers was philosopher J. P. Moreland. During his talk he unleashed a broadside against Michael Ruse, accusing him not only of perjuring himself during the famous 1981 Arkansas creationism trial but also of having publicly admitted to his misdeeds.

I had an audio recording of the talk and wrote to Ruse to ask him about it. I transcribed Moreland’s exact statement and asked Ruse if he had admitted any such thing as was being alleged. Ruse flatly denied Moreland’s assertion and was kind enough to give me a quote to use in my write-up (PDF format) of the conference for Skeptic magazine.

Ruse’s e-mail to me contained another interesting nugget. I was a post-doc at the time. Ruse, knowing this, observed that I was very young, and that fighting creationism should be left to older folks like him. I think his concern was that creationism can be something of a black hole, and not something a young academic early in his career should be worrying about. Obviously, I chose not to take that advice.

I was moved to think about this again in light of two recent developments. The first is reported in this post over at Jerry Coyne’s blog. Seems Ruse is not happy with Coyne’s recent writing about science and religion, and decided to express his displeasure in the form of an e-mail to Coyne. As quoted at Coyne’s blog, Ruse’s e-mail contained the following statement:

But as it is, we are in a battle in America for the scientific soul of its children. I don’t know who does more damage, you and your kind or Phillip Johnson and his kind. I really don’t.

Yeah, that’s a tough one.

Phillip Johnson spearheaded the ID movement. In doing so he revitalized creationism after the setback of the 1987 Supreme Court decision in Edwards v. Aguillard. Through his eloquence and relative sophistication, he successfully promoted a streamlined version of creationism that gained respectful coverage in virtually every major media outlet in the country. The people he recruited to the movement managed to get their books published by reputable publishers. He was able to unite diverse schools of creationism under one banner, making them a very potent social force. School boards were besieged with efforts to rewrite science standards and curricula along ID lines. Things even got to the point of having to be litigated in 2005. Mercifully, the verdict ended up being a huge setback for ID. That notwithstanding, the movement Johnson and his kind started still thrives today, and continues to make trouble among school boards across the country.

Jerry Coyne, by contrast, wrote a book review for The New Republic. Then he continued to defend his views at his blog. “His kind” have written books expressing their antipathy toward religion. Occasionally they even speak publicly about it.

Real hard to tell who does more harm, don’t you think?

Still, maybe we benighted atheist types can learn something from Ruse’s strategic prowess. What sorts of things has Ruse been doing since 2002, when he told me creationism-fighting should be left to him?

In 2004 he edited a book with William Dembski called Debating Design, published by Cambridge University Press. In doing so he effectively cut the legs out from under those fighting school board battles on the ground. It’s pretty hard to argue that the evolution/ID issue is a manufactured debate when Ruse has one of the most prestigious university presses in the world certifying that it is, indeed, a real debate.

Making matters worse was the fact that the four essays Ruse chose to represent “Darwinism” added up to a very weak case for the good guys. If all I knew about this issue came from that book, I would be an ID proponent.

More recently Ruse said, in a public debate with Dembski, that the book The Design Inference was a valuable contribution to science. I’m sure this will come as news to the scientific community which, to the extent that they noticed it at all, dismissed the book as worthless.

When the ID folks were putting together a book in honor of Phillip Johnson, Ruse was happy to contribute an essay to a section entitled “Two Friendly Critics.” The other critic? David Berlinski. Get the idea?

It would not have occurred to me that the proper response to a political/religious movement striving to inject bad ideas into science classes is to put my arms around them and legitimize them in any way I can. Shows you what a dumbass atheist I am. Perhaps, though, I am justified in being suspicious of strategic advice coming from Ruse.

The second tidbit is this essay from Andrew Brown, writing in The Guardian. Seems Ruse recently visited the Creation Museum, and wrote to Brown of his experiences. For example:

Just for one moment about half way through the exhibit …I got that Kuhnian flash that it could all be true — it was only a flash (rather like thinking that Freudianism is true or that the Republicans are right on anything whatsoever) but it was interesting nevertheless to get a sense of how much sense this whole display and paradigm can make to people.

Ruse has been doing this for how many years and he is just now tumbling to the fact that YEC can seem pretty darn convincing when it is presented slickly? Ruse continues:

It is silly just to dismiss this stuff as false — that eating turds is good for you is [also] false but generally people don’t want to [whereas] a lot of people believe Creationism so we on the other side need to get a feeling not just for the ideas but for the psychology too.

Gosh! To be that clever. Who would have thought that defeating creationism involved more than just marshalling arguments against it?

I assume, though, that part of that psychological analysis would involve an examination of whether at least some of what creationists believe is well justified. On the question of whether evolution genuinely poses a challenge to central principles of Christianity (not just fundamentalist Christianity mind you) many of us think they are completely justified. For myself I say that not because I have failed to consider the elaborate theological arguments to be found in books like Ruse’s Can a Darwinian be a Christian, but precisely because I have read so many such books. I don’t think creationists are being unreasonable in rejecting Ruse’s arguments on this subject. Ditto for Haught, Polkinghorne, Zycinski, Domning, Miller, Dowd, Giberson….

Brown’s essay goes on to repeat the standard brain-dead canards of this topic. P. Z. Myers has already levelled the proper vituperation in his direction, so I won’t go into that here.

The hysteria directed at people like Coyne on this issue is really hard to comprehend. If you don’t like his arguments, then by all means go offer better ones of your own. But just think of the level of insanity it takes to suggest that publicly arguing that science and religion are not so easily reconciled does as much harm to the cause of science education as does the work of the ID movement. With this sort of rhetoric we are way beyond honest philosophical disagreements or disputes over strategy.

Comments

  1. #1 John Kwok
    June 18, 2009

    For a few years Ruse and Dembski have collaborated on a “dog and pony show” – er, I mean – debates between evolution and creationism around the country. As much as I have had ample respect for Ruse’s writing in the past – especially prior to the mid 1990s – I am both perplexed and dismayed that he would agree to put on this show with Dembski (I think at least on one occasion recently, he said that he “loved” Dembski as though he was his brother.), whom I regard with ample suspicion and disdain as the “Joseph Goebbels of the Intelligent Design movement”. With “friends” like Bill Dembski, then who needs enemies?

  2. #2 Jason Rosenhouse
    June 18, 2009

    John Kwok –

    In my last few posts on this topic you have posted an exorbitant number of comments, to the point where my recent comments bar is largely filled up with your name. In light of that, I’d appreciate it if you would limit your comments to no more than one per 24 hours. I don’t think that’s unreasonable, and I would ask you to respect my wishes in this.

    Also, even when you are talking about William Dembski, lay off the Nazi analogies.

  3. #3 a lurker
    June 18, 2009

    I am sure that Dembski just loves Ruse. He kicks Ruse’s ass in debates and Ruse is either too stupid to know it or simply does not care.

    Ruse will argue that ID is religion in abstract terms. Dembski will claim ID is science and will present what will seem to his sheep to be real world examples like bacterial flagella. Never mind that Dembski gets his facts and logic all wrong. Ruse simple will not attack Dembski’s “science” in terms of its “facts” and just goes on whether or not it fits his entirely academic/philosophical definition of science with no actual concern on whether what Dembski says is actually true.

    Philosophical definitions of what is or is not science might help in a court of law where one must technically show that creationism is religion and is useful for those who want to study the nitty-gritty for the “debate.” But it worthless for debating creationists with an audience made up of the general public.

    All the philosophy reasons for saying that ID is not science are no where near as important as the simple reality that what they say can be show to be dead wrong. Concentrate on why creationism is wrong factually both in general in in their specific arguments against evolution.

    If all I knew about the “debate” was the content of a Ruse/Dembski discussion then I would be a creationist. I am not a creationist: I know that many of the things Dembski said is false (something Ruse is not good at pointing out) and that plenty of evidence for evolution (something not really mentioned in the discussion).

    To steal an analogy from Richard Dawkins, Michael Ruse is like Sir Alec Guinness in The Bridge on the River Kwai — someone who might be loyal but whose desires have been subverted by the enemy and whose actions helped the enemy carry out its goals and is totally clueless about it.

  4. #4 James F
    June 18, 2009

    I don’t think creationists are being unreasonable in rejecting Ruse’s arguments on this subject. Ditto for Haught, Polkinghorne, Zycinski, Domning, Miller, Dowd, Giberson….

    Until the creationists advance the notion that the Earth rests on pillars and start stoning their neighbors for working on Sunday, they are pikers…pikers, I tell you! Reconciling Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 would be nice, too.

    But on a more serious note, Ruse has wandered off of the compound. I can’t think of anyone else involved in fighting creationism who has co-edited one of their books. Collaboration to the point of empathy?

  5. #5 llewelly
    June 18, 2009

    But just think of the level of insanity it takes to suggest that publicly arguing that science and religion are not so easily reconciled does as much harm to the cause of science education as does the work of the ID movement.

    Insanity? Perhaps ingrained fear would be a better description. People in America have been trained for decades (especially during the cold war) to view atheism as a an anathema so awful that the word’s primary use in public discourse was to defame someone. There’s a genuine, deep-seated, and nurtured-for-generations fear that any cause associated with atheism will fail. (It reminds me of how many of the late 19th and early 20th century feminists went to great efforts to disassociate themselves with the numerous “anti-religious” tracts and books (like The Woman’s Bible) which Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote.)

    Ironically – one of the reasons Myers, Dawkins, and others are so loud about atheism is that they want it to be known as something other than a concept which is only used to defame.

  6. #6 IvanM
    June 18, 2009

    If all I knew about this issue came from that book, I would be an ID proponent.

    Or even a cdesign proponentsist. ;^) (someone had to say it)

  7. #7 steve s
    June 18, 2009

    My first Philosophy of Science class, the professor could hardly hide his scorn for Ruse. He thought Ruse’s testimony on why creationism wasn’t science was complete garbage.

    (to be clear, he didn’t think creationism was science. He just thought the reasons Ruse gave were wrong several different and obvious ways)

  8. #8 Heraclides
    June 19, 2009

    Jason,

    John Kwok is, erm, “well known” (i.e. not a good way) in science blogs, ask around with your fellow bloggers.

  9. #9 Robert O'Brien
    June 19, 2009

    More recently Ruse said, in a public debate with Dembski, that the book The Design Inference was a valuable contribution to science. I’m sure this will come as news to the scientific community which, to the extent that they noticed it at all, dismissed the book as worthless.

    Didn’t you say it was valuable as “exoheresy?”

  10. #10 Takis Konstantopoulos
    June 19, 2009

    Well done Jason! I think that young people should not ignore the dangers posed by IDiots and Creationists and should be aware of them and react to them. It’s not a job for old guys only. It affects everyone. So I applaud your courage to stand against it and appreciate your writings.

    Last year I attended a debate between Christopher Hitchens and John Lennox. Although Lennox is not a creationist per se (albeit an ID admirer–as he finds Dembski credible), he uses “sophisticated” arguments to show existence of God. I wish I had recorded the talk so I could write it up, like you did. But I hadn’t done that at the time.

  11. #11 SLC
    June 19, 2009

    Re John Kwok

    Mr. Kwok is something of a pest who has been banned over at PZs’ and Abbie Smiths’ blog, the later for cyberstalking. However, despite his constant name dropping and incessant invoking of his high school and university affiliations, he at least occasionally shows signs of intelligence. This is quite unlike one Mr. Anthony McCarthy, who is a total moron who has yet to provide a cogent argument about anything. His posts mostly consist of his bad mouthing non-theist scientists who, unlike himself, have accomplished something.

  12. #12 Anthony McCarthy
    June 19, 2009

    This is quite unlike one Mr. Anthony McCarthy, who is a total moron who has yet to provide a cogent argument about anything. His posts mostly consist of his bad mouthing non-theist scientists who, unlike himself, have accomplished something.

    Gee, just yesterday another science blogger asked me to keep participating because I’d made “valuable contributions”. SLC, I asked you several times for a list of particulars of my looniness and have yet to see one. Actual quotes, not the between-the-lines fictions you folk are so fond of creating. Could it be that you lack that desideratum of all materialist pretension, evidence of your claims?

    I’d have not commented here today except for your attack. So, if Jason wants to know why I’ve commented, that’s the reason.

    Ruse seems to get it from both sides. Poor guy. Guess it’s what happens when you take on two sets of dishonest fundamentalists at the same time.

  13. #13 Jason Rosenhouse
    June 19, 2009

    Anthony McCarthy –

    Same warning I gave to Mr. Kwok. Please limit our comments to one per day.

    SLC -

    Keep your comments relevant to the post. Thanks.

  14. #14 Jerry Coyne
    June 19, 2009

    Nice post. I’ve always maintained that inside Ruse there is a creationist trying to claw its way out. He repeatedly gives on the impression that only HE knows the proper way to fight IDers and the like, and that way is to massage and osculate them. . .

  15. #15 Gingerbaker
    June 19, 2009

    Nice post. I’ve always maintained that inside Ruse there is a creationist trying to claw its way out. He repeatedly gives on the impression that only HE knows the proper way to fight IDers and the like, and that way is to massage and osculate them. . .

    Well framed. ;)

  16. #16 slpage
    June 19, 2009

    Ruse… what to say? I, like some of the commenters above, found his earlier work enlightening. But ever since he pulled that ‘ID could be true’ schtick with Genie Scott sitting on the stage next to him in shock, I’ve wondered what he is up to.

    Now we have him condescending about who should be defending evolution from the attacks of religious zealots, tsk-tsk-ing an actual scientist for not being Joe Compromising-Nice-Guy.

    Screw him. He’s been doing more to undermine real science than Johnson did, fromo where I sit.

  17. #17 Robert O'Brien
    June 19, 2009

    Last year I attended a debate between Christopher Hitchens and John Lennox.

    I’m amazed that Hitchens was able to crawl out of the bottle long enough to participate.

  18. #18 SLC
    June 19, 2009

    Re Robert O’Brien

    Actually, Mr. Hitchens is at his best when he’s partly in the bag. He’s not nearly as effective on the rare occasions when he’s sober.

  19. #19 Wes
    June 19, 2009

    I met Ruse a few years back. I asked him if he was aware of Phillip Johnson’s and Jonathon Wells’ contributions to the AIDS Denialism movement (one of the most dangerous forms of pseudoscience). He laughed and said yes. And yet he still has the nerve to compare Johnson to coin.

    What’s really bizarre to me is that Ruse’s work in the 70′s and 80′s was largely very good scholarship, as far as I can tell. I don’t know what prodded him down the road he’s currently on, but the Ruse of 1979 doesn’t look a lot like the Ruse of 2009. Maybe his involvement in creation/evolution debates somehow warped his thinking.

    Anyways, I still respect his past contributions. I just don’t know what to think of his behavior over the last few years, though.

  20. #20 Wes
    June 19, 2009

    D’oh! That should say “Coyne” in my post above…

  21. #21 Morgan-LynnGriggs Lamberth
    June 20, 2009

    Coyne, Provine, Kurtz, and others show Ruse and Scott to be the willimg victims of Giberson and Miller’s theistic nonsence.

  22. #22 Anthony McCarthy
    June 20, 2009

    I’ve always maintained that inside Ruse there is a creationist trying to claw its way out. He repeatedly gives on the impression that only HE knows the proper way to fight IDers and the like, and that way is to massage and osculate them.
    Posted by: Jerry Coyne

    That would be as opposed to dividing the ID’s opposition and kicking out all the faith heads, after distorting what they’ve said and done? Apparently the atheists who are so heretical that they can see a losing strategy as it loses are to be kicked out too. And you think the new atheism isn’t faith based?

  23. #23 Science Avenger
    June 20, 2009

    Ruse [to Coyne]: “But as it is, we are in a battle in America for the scientific soul of its children. I don’t know who does more damage, you and your kind or Phillip Johnson and his kind. I really don’t.

    Such a public admission of ignorance is admirable in it’s sincerity, if not pathetic in its sheer cluelessness. Perhaps if Mr. Ruse would stop thinking of scientific issues in terms of souls, he would be able to recognize such basic differences between the work of those who do science and defend science, and those who dress up centuries-ago debunked pseudoscience in a cheap tux in order to pass it off as real science in our children’s education.

    Next I suppose he’ll wonder who is doing more damage to the environment, James Hansen or James Inhofe. Nice takedown Jason.

  24. #24 Robert O'Brien
    June 20, 2009

    Coyne, Provine, Kurtz, and others show Ruse and Scott to be the willimg[sic] victims of Giberson and Miller’s theistic nonsence[sic].

    That’s just nonsense. Are you trying to make some sense?

    Such a public admission of ignorance is admirable in it’s sincerity, if not pathetic in its sheer cluelessness.

    You would do well to admit your own ignorance.

    Perhaps if Mr. Ruse would stop thinking of scientific issues in terms of souls, he would be able to recognize such basic differences between the work of those who do science and defend science, and those who dress up centuries-ago debunked pseudoscience in a cheap tux in order to pass it off as real science in our children’s education.

    How many children do you have, Bubba?

  25. #25 pough
    June 20, 2009

    He repeatedly gives on the impression that only HE knows the proper way to fight IDers and the like, and that way is to massage and osculate them. . .

    Shades of Nisbet!

    How many children do you have, Bubba?

    Looks like someone’s putting in some effort in the hopes of getting another Robert O’Brien award… I’m rootin’ for ya!

  26. #26 Science Avenger
    June 20, 2009

    There’s a reason the award’s named after him, aside from the endless non sequitors, he can’t even get his epithets right. Mick, Kaut, Wop, Frog, or even uppity city boy are your choices for me, if you’re determined to go that route. That is, if you can elevate your thinking above the “he’s from Texas he must be a Bubba” level.

    It’s comforting to see that sort of dung tossing, Kuhnian flashes and such, are the best they’ve got.

    With this sort of rhetoric we are way beyond honest philosophical disagreements or disputes over strategy.

    Indeed, which is why this is one of those rare instances where ridicule is the better part of valor. No point in approaching an argument seriously with someone who is clearly disinterested, ultimately, in serious discussion. By embracing the patently absurd, boderline insane, they beg for ridicule. It is if they are daring us to call them on it. Well consider yourselves called. Your arguments border on the insane. As evidence, simply oberve the supporters you attract.

  27. #27 Robert O'Brien
    June 20, 2009

    Looks like someone’s putting in some effort in the hopes of getting another Robert O’Brien award… I’m rootin’ for ya!

    I don’t accept awards from fat-assed failures.

    There’s a reason the award’s named after him, aside from the endless non sequitors[sic], he can’t even get his epithets right.

    I’m not the one who can’t distinguish between formal mathematical terms and a word that carries no fixed mathematical meaning.

    That is, if you can elevate your thinking above the “he’s from Texas he must be a Bubba” level.

    You’re not a bubba cuz’ you’re from Texas. You’re a bubba because you are a pretentious poseur from Texas.

    Now, I think it is clear that a) you have no children of you own and b) you’ve demonstrated no particular harm in dropping common descent from the curriculum. (I have yet to observe how the alleged common descent of apes and humans contributes to the common weal, especially given the very different immunobiologies.)

  28. #28 SLC
    June 20, 2009

    After the Dover trial, there was a seminar at Prof. Ruses’ current university, Florida State, in which the trial was discussed. A videocast of the seminar is available on the Internet somewhere. I downloaded it but the file is currently unavailable. My impression of Prof. Ruse was that he is a loudmouth who had very little of substance to add to the proceedings.

  29. #29 Jason Rosenhouse
    June 20, 2009

    Robert O’Brien –

    Same warning I gave to Kwok and McCarthy. One comment per 24 hours, please.

  30. #30 Collin Brendemuehl
    June 20, 2009

    Steve is on the right track. The problem is not the science but the framework that is wrapped around the science. This has been a long discussion. Even Polanyi leveled a blow at the theory structure in the 50s (in Personal Knowledge).

    Oh, and a question about Coyne’s book. In the discussion of Haeckel’s work, he says that Haeckel was only talking about adult stages. And he did not include one of Haeckel’s drawings that included embryonic comparisons. So was he misrepresenting Haeckel when he said that “Embryonic stages don’t look like the adult forms of their ancestors, as Haeckel claimed” (p. 78)?
    And is this “science” by observation and not by genetic or other verifiable study?
    Who is right: PZ Myers (and Jonathan Wells) or Jerry Coyne?
    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/wells/haeckel.html

  31. #31 Anthony McCarthy
    June 21, 2009

    Jason, while I have no problem with you doing what you like on your own blog you seem to have a very selective attention of things like multiple comments and off topic invective. In his multiple comments I’ve seen little but invective from “Science Avenger” and several of your other regulars.

    I’ve been coming here only to collect information about the new atheism but if my name is mentioned I will feel entitled to comment on what is said. Either here where you might see it or other places, where you might not. I’d prefer to be above board, though.

  32. #32 Scott Hatfield, OM
    June 21, 2009

    Jason, your ‘accomodationist’ reader Scott here. A couple of points.

    1) First, as with many other commenters here, I find much admirable in Ruse’s writings, even in some more recent books such as ‘The Evolution-Creation Struggle’. I don’t think a person is well-informed on this topic if they can’t refer to Ruse’s testimony in the McLean case, or Ruse’s general views on evolution.

    2) At the risk of (ahem) name-dropping, I’ve corresponded with Ruse on some points and I’ve found him somewhat aloof from the actual business of opposing creationism. I think he feels that his job as a philosopher is not to throw spears at the likes of Bill Dembski, but to clarify what is or is not properly a ‘spear’ by either side. You might say that he is guilty of ‘functional accomodation’ in that, regardless of what he believes regarding creationism, he enables their belief that their viewpoint is justifiable as science by the manner in which he interacts with them, to the point of academic collaboration.

    I think this is a pretty weak criticism of Ruse, however, because there is a slippery slope where engaging creationists is concerned. It seems to me that we could make the argument Gould and others have made, that ANY interaction between legitimate scientists and creationists tends to enable the latter’s belief, even confrontations such as when Coyne publicly debated Hugh Ross. I can tell you as someone who participates in a ‘Reasons To Believe’ chapter that Ross and his disciples are greatly encouraged when they are given a chance to publicly debate a scientist like Jerry Coyne. These people are sincere and not given to the petty rhetorical trickery of a Hovind or a Gish, but they also appear incapable of realizing when they have the worst of such an exchange. They are simply buoyed by the fact that such an exchange exists. To the extent that any of us encourage creationist enthusiasm through honest engagement, we are all enablers. Of course, if we completely stonewall them, then they can just paint us as agents of a conspiracy against Christianity who are afraid to debate. So it’s a ‘heads they win, tails we lose’ sort of proposition. I can’t entirely fault Ruse for not being interested in that sort of ‘debate.’

    3) Having said that, however, I think that the criticism made by Ruse and Brown of atheist commentary in general is way off-base. Clearly, in terms of promoting ignorance of science, someone like Philip Johnson has done far more harm than PZ Myers or Jerry Coyne, etc. It’s ridiculous to assert otherwise. But I don’t think that’s what Ruse and Brown are actually saying! Instead, I think they are concerned about the ‘damage’ done to their particular understanding of the philosophical underpinnings of evolution. Scientists tend to be disinterested in these points, of course, but where Ruse and Brown have left the reservation is not in their support of the science (which they would no doubt say is unwavering), but in their assumption that their particular nuanced ‘take’ on the matter is essential to the PROPER defense of evolution. This ironically leads them to make sympathetic noises about creationists—not because they agree with their views, but because the creationists tend to be more interested in the nuanced points that they are making, inasmuch as they address the relationship between evolution and belief.

  33. #33 Dan L.
    June 21, 2009

    (I have yet to observe how the alleged common descent of apes and humans contributes to the common weal, especially given the very different immunobiologies.)

    Then your name belongs on that trophy. I’m not entirely sure what you mean by “common weal,” but assuming you mean “useful in the course of science education,” then I’m sorry: you’re wrong. Chimpanzees are much more like human beings than most animals (surprise, surprise, right?). Chromosome 2, tool use, social behavior, “morality,” cognitive and behavioral psychology — the more one learns about these animals, the more one is struck by their underlying resemblance to ourselves. And that’s not just useful in science education: it is essential. Human beings are animals and a science education that doesn’t address human evolution is incomplete.

  34. #34 Bryson Brown
    June 21, 2009

    Many people, including many former theists, have found the argument from evil, especially with respect to cases like the Holocaust, to be a convincing argument against theism. Would Ruse argue that this fact provides legal grounds for removing the Holocaust (and the Rwandan genocide) from the public school curriculum? Would he argue that people who publicly articulate such arguments are putting the history curriculum at risk? I sure hope not, but I don’t see what he could say to distinguish this case from the case of evolution.

  35. #35 Machiavelli
    June 21, 2009

    “(I have yet to observe how the alleged common descent of apes and humans contributes to the common weal, especially given the very different immunobiologies.)”

    I’m sure that sentence sounded good in your head.

  36. #36 Citizen Z
    June 21, 2009

    I think the best phrase to describe Ruse is “useful idiot”.

  37. #37 Kagehi
    June 21, 2009

    Creationists have nuanced points, Scott? Really? Why is it then that you can go to one of these “debates” they like to have and spend all your time just checking silly arguments off the list at Talk Origins, without ever hearing any of these “nuanced” arguments.

    Oh, right, they are nuanced in the same way that “real” theologians have “deep and complex” ideas about religion, which when actually “asked”, as in one article a while back, strangely appear to be nothing more than the very points that their supporters claim are “not” the key issues, are harped on too much by writers like Dawkins, and “ignore” the deeper nuances of what “real” theologians actually talk about. lol

    As for immunobiologies, as brought to us by an even earlier post… Seriously, if we had immunobiology back when people where settling the US, would we have said the same thing about Native Americans? Or, how about very isolated groups that are not basically non-existent, due to outside diseases. And that is a “tiny” number of generations. Its like arguing that modern PCs are not “evolved” from the same ancient 8080 processors, because most of the hardware is different, while ignoring the software that is what is “actually” being propagated from generation to generation. OK, maybe not quite the same, but, you get my point. Immunity is probably the single most “rapidly” changing thing in the body, due to how quickly viruses adapt, and we have to adapt with them, and the simple fact is, we haven’t shared the “exact” conditions in which we would/could get the “same” viruses as the other great apes in a ***very*** long time. You expect them to be the same O’Brian? That the immune system is radically different is what you would “expect” from something that deals with radically different environment, has “no” mixing of genetics with its closest cousins, so neither passes around those changes, and where the “solution” to handle specific viruses and conditions may even differ (i.e., just because we use sequence A to prevent B, doesn’t mean something else can’t use sequence Q, and maybe do a better job at it). Its the stuff that doesn’t “have to” change rapidly that is the commonality, which is pretty much the other 96-97% of the genome.

  38. #38 Jerry Coyne
    June 21, 2009

    Oh, you forgot to mention that one of the horrible things I did to hurt the “evolution” cause was to write a book laying out to the general public the evidence for evolution.

  39. #39 tomh
    June 21, 2009

    @ #32
    …that Ross and his disciples are greatly encouraged when they are given a chance to publicly debate a scientist like Jerry Coyne.

    Of course they are, it legitimizes them. If a real scientist engages them they can tell themselves and others that they must have an actual argument worth refuting. The problem with a debate is that you will never convince the hard line, dangerous ones, you merely give them a platform to trumpet their vews. As for so-called moderates, or fence-sitters, you might make a few of them think about their convictions, but what’s the point, they were never a problem in the first place.

    … if we completely stonewall them, then they can just paint us as agents of a conspiracy against Christianity who are afraid to debate.

    So what? Christians say things like that all the time, “there’s a war on Christmas”, or, “Christians are being persecuted”, or any number of wacko claims. Add, “scientists are afraid to debate”, to the list, who cares?

    But I don’t think that’s what Ruse and Brown are actually saying! Instead, I think they are concerned about the ‘damage’ done to their particular understanding of the philosophical underpinnings of evolution.

    But that’s exactly what Ruse said. Devising an interpretation to cast it in a favorable light just seems disingenuous.

  40. #40 Collin Brendemuehl
    June 21, 2009

    Mr. Coyne,
    I await your resonse to the question re Haeckel.

    Bryson,
    A good number have noted that the 20th c., the bloodiest century in human history, was really the death of modern liberalism. It was the end of Marx, Hegel, and Nietzsche as it proved the evil that they created.

    Jason,
    Did your really read Coyne’s book? In detail?

  41. #41 SLC
    June 21, 2009

    Re Collin Brendemuehl

    I would appreciate it if Mr. Brendemuehl would inform us as to what relevance Haeckel has to modern evolutionary biology. Prof. Haeckel proposed a hypothesis that turned out to be wrong so that it was discarded. Happens all the time in science. For instance, the aether theory of light transmission was around for a long time but was found to be wrong by the Michaelson-Morley experiment and the Special Theory of Relativity and was discarded. The continuous hypothesis of the universe was proposed by Fred Hoyle and accepted for a long time. Experimental observations showed that the big bang hypothesis gave a better explanation for the observed phenomena so the continuous creation hypothesis was found wrong and discarded.

  42. #42 Vytautas
    June 21, 2009

    A classic Fundagelical double-oxymoron:

    “Encourage maturity in the local church’s educational soution [sic].”

    Methinks Collin should pray for a spell-checker…especially for use within the title of his blog.

  43. #43 Scott Hatfield, OM
    June 21, 2009

    Ah, just a few points to those who favored me with a reply:

    #37 (Kagehi): I’m afraid you misread me. I did not claim that ‘creationists have nuanced points.’ These ‘nuanced points’ are the positions that Brown and Ruse are attempting to stake out within the philosophy of science. Like many commenters here, I’m trying to make sense of the fact that these gentlemen claim to be pro-evolution and yet seem to want to cozy up to clowns who are very much anti-evolution and anti-science. My point is that working scientists aren’t all that interested in their (Brown and Ruse) nuanced points, but the creationists are, for reasons I described. Comprende?

    #39 (Tomh): Again, I’m just trying to make sense of Ruse’s position. I’m not, in your words, “devising an interpretation to cast it in a favorable light.” If you’ll read my post again, you’ll see that I consider “the criticism made by Ruse and Brown of atheist commentary in general is way off-base.” They appear to be conflating their philosophical interests with the welfare of science education. If so, I think that’s a mistake on their part, and a bit of a self-serving mistake. That’s hardly casting Ruse in a favorable light, nor disingenuous on my part. Try again.

  44. #44 Collin Brendemuehl
    June 21, 2009

    SLC,

    So what is the issue? Perhaps you just missed them. I stated two: 1) Is his presentation a “science” by observation or do those who differ provide a better “science” and so a better model. 2) Did he midrepresent Haeckel to make his point? If not I would like to know what I might have misunderstood.

    I’m going to do a post tomorrow in response to Jason’s post and cover some of the PhilSci questions. It will be posted to both Evangelical Perspective and Philosophy for Christians.
    Enjoy.

  45. #45 SLC
    June 21, 2009

    Re Collin Brendemuehl

    And again, Mr. Brendemuehl fails to inform us as to the relevance of Haeckels’ hypothesis. It is no more relevant then the 19th century hypothesis of the aether. Haeckels’ hypothesis about development has been proven wrong, just as the aether hypothesis has been proven wrong. Period, end of story. Mr. Brendemuehls’ attempts to dispute the theory of evolution by natural selection and genetic drift by invoking Haeckel is doomed to irrelevance. It has all the relevance of attempting to dispute the relationship between HIV and AIDS by invoking Duesberg.

  46. #46 Collin Brendemuehl
    June 21, 2009

    SLC,
    What? Did you never learn to read? Start with Coyne’s book where he supports Haeckel’s model. And it’s a significant part of his book.
    And don’t confuse criticizing the major evolutionary models with trying to disprove them. One does not simply disprove a model, but instead show it deficient and inadequate.
    Quit trolling and go home.

  47. #47 tomh
    June 21, 2009

    @ #43
    They appear to be conflating their philosophical interests with the welfare of science education. If so, I think that’s a mistake on their part, and a bit of a self-serving mistake. That’s hardly casting Ruse in a favorable light, nor disingenuous on my part. Try again.

    Try again? Why, thank you.

    You said:
    Clearly, in terms of promoting ignorance of science, someone like Philip Johnson has done far more harm than PZ Myers or Jerry Coyne, etc. It’s ridiculous to assert otherwise. But I don’t think that’s what Ruse and Brown are actually saying.

    In spite of the fact that that’s what they actually said. The quote from Ruse was, “But as it is, we are in a battle in America for the scientific soul of its children. I don’t know who does more damage, you and your kind or Phillip Johnson and his kind. I really don’t.” Obviously, with the reference to children, the damage he refers to is in the battle against bringing creationism into education. That’s what the whole fight has always been about. Yet, out of whole cloth, you invent the interpretation that what he really means, (whether he knows it or not), is that Coyne, et. al., are damaging his philosophical underpinnings, or some such. Since there’s no evidence for such an interpretation it certainly looks like a disingenuous invention in a vain attempt to cast Ruse in a favorable light.

  48. #48 Badger3k
    June 21, 2009

    My first experience with Ruse was on Nightline, where he really sucked up to…Dembski, I think. I couldn’t tell whose side he was on. Ever since then, I’ve pretty much ignored what drivel he has to say, and hope that in his “defense” of science and evolution, he doesn’t do too much damage to it.

  49. #49 Kagehi
    June 21, 2009

    Mr. Brendemuehl, perhaps you are referring to the “sometimes” limited defense that Haeckel’s drawing, while faked to exaggerate similarity, where never the less not “wrong” in the sense that at certain stages you get the same “basic” morphology. This isn’t hard to work out. If you start out with the lump, and you need it to have a spine, legs, etc., its a “lot” easier to follow a pattern that forms those things in the “same” way, than to invent a billion “different” ways, one for each species. Its not even unreasonable to have some things form, then disappear, if the “later” processes operate on the similar form to “refine” it closer to what its final result is intended to be. Kind of like.. shaping clay with the intent of producing “either” a gorilla, or a human. In the “early” stages, the form, assuming you don’t add clay, but simply stretch and mold it, “must” share commonalities, since both have similar forms. With genetics, this just goes farther, in that the early stages are not *yet* running the genetic developmental instructions necessary to say, “This is going to be a chicken, not a lizard, so lose the tail.”, for example.

    However, the similarity is a result of “necessary” morphological systems, and the fact that the “basic” instructions being followed are all “inherited” from earlier forms, which shared the same “process” to get from lump to final animal.

    However, what **is not** defensible, and I doubt very much Coyne does, is that Haeckel’s *theory* is valid, even if his pictures are not 100% wrong. The theory was that an animal had to go through every “step” in its evolution, to get to the final result, not just the “steps” needed to get to where the divergence was needed. I.e., to mangle the idea, but still make the difference clearer:

    Evolution might say – You need to take plastic, melt it, then mold it to a shape, to get your thingy.

    Haeckel would say – You need to start with melted metal, then convert that to bakelight, then to something else, and finally to plastic, molding the thingy, each time, to the shape it had in 1895, 1903, 1920, 1945, and finally 2003, to “get to” the thingy you have now.

    Well, the later is pure BS. All you need is to save the steps in the process “needed” to get from a raw lump of what ever you start with, and end up with the 2003 version. You don’t need to go through “every” step taken by everyone ever making a model of the “thingy” from the time it was originally invented. Same with evolution. Embryonic development follows the steps it “needs”, even if some are redundant and you have to “trim” stuff off later to get the final result, not “every single step that every species from an germ to a human “went through” to get the final result.

    This is why Haeckel’s “theory” can be wrong, but his “pictures” still defensible.

    That you choose to confuse the two is your problem, not ours.

    Oh, and as for any “death of modern liberalism”… Not ***one*** for the people committing those bloody acts was “liberal”. Liberal means, “Finding a common solution, from numerous ideas, based on what works.”, in the loosest sense. Marxism has *never* been followed by “anyone”. Those claiming to follow it have all been totalitarian dictators, who thought they had 100% all the right answers, and hounded and killed “anyone” that questioned their authority. Most of them where anti-church not due to false claims of Marxist ideals, or any sort of real atheism, but **solely** due to the fact that religions are *competition* for people that imagine they have all the answers. Even in the Middle East today, and in the US, and other places, where there are neo-fascist style religious leaders, the **first** thing they **all** do is declare that only “their” religion is the right one, everyone else, including other Muslims/Christians are wrong, and that, if they had their way, all of those “false” Muslims/Christians would no longer be **allowed** to “ruin” their grand vision of how the world should be run.

    The only thing the so called “communist” leaders ever did is be honest about what they where doing, which was to have absolute rule over everyone, under a false banner of Utopian ideals. Marx, Hegel, and Nietzsche would have been there, right with the rest of us, to say, “This is bullshit!”, and spit on their ideas, if not in their faces, for claiming to “believe in”, never mind following, any of their ideas. Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, etc., have far more in common with modern Fundamentalists that they “ever” had with liberal “anything”. 1. Their ideas are right, full stop. 2. Their ideas may not be questioned. 3. Anyone that does, isn’t a “true Russian/Chinese/Korean/Muslim/Christian”. 4. Only “true R/C/K/M/Cr” should be “allowed” to define what the rules of their nation are, and what defines right and wrong, good or bad, etc. 5. Anyone that apposes this agenda should be made second classed citizens, and ignored, or deported, or jailed, or simply *shot*. 6. Even when nothing they do has worked **ever** for decades, keep trying the same things, over and over, until someone revolts and destroys them, because – see rules 1 and 2.

    What part of “any” of that thinking can be claimed to be based on the ideas of people that stated that “resources should be shared, as per need, not wealth”, or that, “people should think more, instead of believing everything someone else tells them”, has *anything* to do with the above thought processes of “both” Fundie Christians, radical Muslim religious leaders, *or* the various “I can solve all the worlds problems if you just do everything I tell you, though, if you don’t, I will have to shoot some of you anyway”, style anti-liberal leaders of the false-communist nations that we saw in the last century?

    You might as well blame naval war on the building of cruise ships, instead of on the fact that people invented ships, and sometimes people just happened to take trips on them, at a time when the things they “most commonly” did with every new means of travel was ship stuff around that other people wanted to steal, and start wars over who stole them. Marx wrote his work in a time when ambitious people where trying to find a way “other” than outright conquest, to “steal” people’s countries. Nietzsche simply gave some of them a excuse to rid themselves of the church, as part of those false promises, instead of sucking up to one, and having to help those churches get rich, in the process of establishing their “own” power. As for Hegel.. Why not blame Freud for some of his ideas, or any of a number of others? Looking at the Wiki on the guy, since I don’t know much about him, I think his view of things sums up the problem: “a progression in which each successive movement emerges as a solution to the contradictions inherent in the preceding movement”

    In other words, had better weapons “not” coincided with philosophy that suggested not needing religion, Marx’s easily misappropriated and distorted ideas to create a new made up “Utopian” ideal (which bears no resemblance, beyond the superficial, to anything he wrote), and the rise of a small number of radicals willing to “use” these things the way they did, they would have “still” done it, just “with” religion, instead of against it, and in a more “traditional” vision of Utopia, instead of a false-Marxism, and the same number of people would have died, because **they had new means to kill people, in larger numbers**.

    Its just unfortunate that those philosophical concepts arose when they could be mangled and abused the way they where. But, no “honest” person, examining “either” would call any prior, or current, communist government “marxist”, or any anti-religious nation “atheist/Nietzsche-like”. On the contrary, they define the near 100% opposite of “both” perspectives, in that they respect fantasy over fact, imaginary solutions over ones that “work”, and try to “force” equality and uniformity, even to the extent to “forcing” people to fill roles they lack either the interest or natural ability, to do, instead of letting those people’s *actual* ability and interests drive their contributions, the way Marx suggested it should work.

    But, then.. I somehow doubt you have read either Marx *or* Nietzsche, and are just babbling the right wing, “Those other fascists are not like our fascists, their atheist, Marxists!”, propaganda.

  50. #50 Robert O'Brien
    June 22, 2009

    Dan L.,

    I’m not entirely sure what you mean by “common weal,”

    Then you need to make recourse to a dictionary.

    but assuming you mean “useful in the course of science education,”

    I meant “of practical benefit.”

    Chimpanzees are much more like human beings than most animals…[when it comes to] cognitive and behavioral psychology…

    Cognitive ethology is glorified haruspicy. (There is another word for you to master.)

    – the more one learns about these animals, the more one is struck by their underlying resemblance to ourselves.

    Chimps most certainly do not resemble us where AIDS, malaria, cancer, hepatitis B, or Alzheimer’s are concerned.

    And that’s not just useful in science education: it is essential.

    There is nothing essential about it. Most humans get by quite well without the concept. By way of contrast, mathematics and statistics are essential.

    Human beings are animals…

    People knew that long before Darwin came along.

    Kagehi,

    Immunity is probably the single most “rapidly” changing thing in the body, due to how quickly viruses adapt, and we have to adapt with them, and the simple fact is, we haven’t shared the “exact” conditions in which we would/could get the “same” viruses as the other great apes in a ***very*** long time. You expect them to be the same O’Brian? That the immune system is radically different is what you would “expect” from something that deals with radically different environment, has “no” mixing of genetics with its closest cousins, so neither passes around those changes, and where the “solution” to handle specific viruses and conditions may even differ (i.e., just because we use sequence A to prevent B, doesn’t mean something else can’t use sequence Q, and maybe do a better job at it). Its the stuff that doesn’t “have to” change rapidly that is the commonality, which is pretty much the other 96-97% of the genome.

    I was not necessarily citing the very different immunobiologies of apes and humans as evidence against the alleged common descent of apes and humans. Rather, it was directed at “Science Avenger’s” (IRL he is an actuary* but apparently he likes to don a cape and pretend that reading scientists gives him vicarious credentials) ridiculous, “Would someone, please, think of the children!” Not only does “Science Avenger” appear to be childless but I have observed no practical application of the hypothesis that apes and humans share a common ancestor. (The apparent lack of practical application does not mean that the hypothesis is false, of course, but it does belie the fevered claims of common descent advocates.)

    *Please note: Not all actuaries are as vacuous and vapid as “Science Avenger.”

    Jason R.,

    Robert O’Brien -

    Same warning I gave to Kwok and McCarthy. One comment per 24 hours, please.

    As you wish, but please don’t pretend you admonished me because I was posting as much as Kwok.

  51. #51 Tyler DiPietro
    June 22, 2009

    “There is nothing essential about it. Most humans get by quite well without the concept. By way of contrast, mathematics and statistics are essential.”

    Most humans also lack a clue about mathematics and statistics beyond basic arithmetic. Ditto for most of physics, chemistry, etc.

    “…but I have observed no practical application of the hypothesis that apes and humans share a common ancestor.”

    Common ancestry is more than that one relationship, and overall is the basis of phylogenetic analysis, an essential tool in drug discovery and epidemiology. See here for a few examples.

  52. #52 Scott Hatfield, OM
    June 22, 2009

    Tomh, thanks for the second attempt. But again, as I said, I think Ruse may be conflating his philosophical interests with the defense of science ed. If I’m right, he’s making the mistake of thinking that his approach is essential to making the case for evolution. I mean, don’t get me wrong, he’s still throwing atheists under the bus, and I don’t think that follows at all. I’m just trying to understand his motivations. I’m not defending them.

    Of course, I could be completely wrong. But if so, do you or anyone else here have an explanation of how one of the witnesses for evolution in the McLean case could morph into an apologist for creationism? It’s bizarre.

  53. #53 tomh
    June 22, 2009

    @ #52
    do you or anyone else here have an explanation of how one of the witnesses for evolution in the McLean case could morph into an apologist for creationism?

    Who knows? McLean was 28 years ago. People change. Ruse is now 69 years old, (today, in fact), and mental faculties often decline with age. It certainly seems to be true in this case.

  54. #54 Bruce Gorton
    June 22, 2009

    Posted by: Collin Brendemuehl | June 21, 2009 5:19 PM

    On a per capita basis – the twentieth century was nothing of the sort.

    The 8th and the 13th were far worse, and when you get right down to it, the 20th century saw a doubling of average life-spans, so a lot of the “blood spilt” that wasn’t in warfare, that wasn’t counted in previous centuries because it was so absolutely endemic, ended.

  55. #55 SLC
    June 22, 2009

    Re Collin Brendemuehl

    As Mr. Bremdemuehl has proved on many occasions in the past, his understanding of science is sorely deficient. As Mr. Kagehi carefully explains, Haeckels’ theory of recapitulation has been shown to be incorrect. I have not read as yet Prof. Coynes’ book but I would be willing to bet a considerable sum of money that he in no way, shape, form, or regard considers’ recapitulation to be a correct theory, nor does any other reputable evolutionary biologist today.

    However, I would like to make another point about scientists being wrong as Haeckel was about recapitulation. It is no disgrace to Haeckel that he was wrong about recapitulation. As Enrico Fermi once said, a scientist who have never been wrong is a scientist who has never accomplished anything. Take the example of the three most important scientists who have ever lived.

    1. Issac Newton was wrong about a particulate theory of light being able to describe diffraction. He was also wrong about the stability of the solar system.

    2. Charles Darwin was wrong about inheritance which he considered to be an analogue process. As was first shown by Mendel, inheritance is a digital process.

    3. Albert Einstein was wrong about the existence of black holes. He was probably also wrong about quantum mechanics.

  56. #56 Collin Brendemuehl
    June 22, 2009

    Oh, boy. Here we go.
    SLC — READ THE BOOKS!!!

    Coyne, p. 77-78
    The “recapitulation” of an evolutionary sequence is seen in the developmental sequence of other organs – our kidneys, for example.
    :::
    You could answer this question superficially as follows: each vertebrate undergoes development in a series of stages, and the sequence of those stages happens to follow the evolutionary sequence of its ancestors. So for example, a lizard begins development resembling an embryonic fish, the somewhat later an embryonic amphibian, and finally an embryonic reptile. Mammals go through the same sequence, but add on the final stage of an embryonic mammal.

    This answer is correct but only raises deeper issues. Why does development often occur in this way? Why doesn’t natural selection eliminate the “fish embryo” stage of human development, since a combination of a tail, fishlike gill arches, and a fishlike circulatory system doesn’t seem necessary for a human embryo? Why don’t we simply begin development as tiny humans – as some seventeenth-century biologists thought we did – and just get larger and larger until we’re born? Why all the transformation and rearrangement?

    The probable answer – and it’s a good one – involves recognizing that as one species evolves into another the descendant inherits the developmental program of its ancestors. …

    … the development of an organism simply replays its evolutionary history. But this notion is true in only a limited sense. Embryonic stages don’t look like the adult forms of their ancestors, as Haeckel claimed, but like the embryonic forms of ancestors. Human fetuses, for example, never resemble adult fish or reptiles, but in certain ways they do resemble embryonic fish and reptiles.

    Haeckel’s law has fallen into disrepute not only because it wasn’t strictly true, but also because Haeckel was accused, largely unjustly, of fudging some drawing of early embryos to make them look more similar than they really are. We shouldn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. Embryos still show a form of recapitulation: features that arose earlier in evolution often appear earlier in development. And this makes sense only if species have an evolutionary history.

    And Donald Prother, “Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters” (p. 110-111):

    If you had any doubts that you once had ancestors with fish-like gills and a tail, Figure 4.11 shows what you looked like five weeks after fertilization. Why did you have pharyngeal pouches (predecessors of gills) and a tail if you had not descended from ancestors with those features?
    **************************************

    Kagehi,
    However, what **is not** defensible, and I doubt very much Coyne does, is that Haeckel’s *theory* is valid … This is why Haeckel’s “theory” can be wrong, but his “pictures” still defensible.

    But isn’t Haeckel’s theory supported by the drawings?
    Like SLC, you’ve not read the book that you’re defending.
    It is you who have not done your homework.
    That is, most evidently, your problem.

    Your understanding of liberalism as a philosophical movement is certainly lacking. Your idealized view of a Marxist economic and redistribution shows your naive perspective. You are appealing to classic liberalism and its emphasis on individualism. But the movement changed with Hegel & Marx as it attempted to recapture the community (for them the state and collective) that liberalism abandoned in its rebellion against the synthesis of church-state. Their product is mere statism, and that is modern liberalism as a movement. Nobody at the time “mangled” Marx — he promoted violence and revolution. If anything, your idealism does more damage to the real Marx than those who actually listened.

    *********************

    What I have actually read, you do not know. But what you have not read, Prothero and Coyne, is by your clear admission.

  57. #57 Anthony McCarthy
    June 22, 2009

    It’s too bad that it’s impossible to make a real, scientifically sound critique of Darwinism or even some of the things Darwin wrote without having it dishonestly identified with creationism-ID.

    Modern evolutionary science would be better off if it dumped the Darwin brand name. It doesn’t work to promote science teaching. He and those around him, including Haeckel, gave the opponents of science some extremely effective PR material. Denying that exists is stupid, since it’s there to be seen, even within Darwin’s own writing.

    Save the science. Dump the Darwin logo. He’s been dead a hundred-twenty years, science has moved on, it’s time the promotion of science did too.

  58. #58 Collin Brendemuehl
    June 22, 2009

    Anthony,
    I agree. But there is also the problem of scientists still hanging on to uniformitarian gradualism, key to Darwinism. There is still a lot of bad science out there.

  59. #59 SLC
    June 22, 2009

    Re Collin Brendemuehl

    Not being a biologist or having any training in the subject, I am reluctant to provide an explanation as to why Prof. Myers and Prof. Çoyle are not in disagreement. I suggest that Mr. Brendemuehl go on over to Prof. Coyles’ blog and post his question there.

    However, as I understand it, there appear to be 2 forms of the notion of recapitulation, the strong form and the weak form, just like there are 2 forms of the anthropic principal. The strong form which was proposed by Heackel is the one that has been discredited. The weak form is, however, considered sound science. I strongly suspect that Prof. Coyne is referring to the weak form of the hypothesis in the quote from his book. I also strongly suspect that Prof. Coyne is referring to the strong form when he says it doesn’t fit with observations.

    I am not going to even try to explain the difference between the strong and weak forms of the theory of recapitulation. This is an issue that should be addressed by somebody who is an expert on the subject, of which I certainly am not.

  60. #60 Michael Fugate
    June 22, 2009

    Now it is all Darwin’s fault. Just what did he do that was so awful that we need to repudiate him? Who knew the high-powered science department at Grace University had overthrown the whole of modern science with their adjunct faculty. By the way let’s get rid of this Jesus guy too. Christianity has moved way beyond this – it was 2000 years ago and all. I mean he was a liberal – he stopped people from stoning an adulterer. I think he even talked to a prostitute once.

  61. #61 Ed Darrell
    June 22, 2009

    It pays to pause and reread Kuhn from time to time.

    Ruse said:

    Just for one moment about half way through the exhibit …I got that Kuhnian flash that it could all be true.

    He’s confusing Kuhn with Gish. Kuhn wrote that sometimes new movements in science, new theories, need to wait for all the old guys to die so no one is left to defend them against the better stuff coming on. One example Kuhn offers of where the new, more correct paradigm has difficulty is evolution. Kuhn doesn’t side with creationism in any sense, even ID creationism.

    I don’t recall Kuhn arguing for gut reactions and “flashes” to inform of the accuracy of an idea. I think he came down on the side of data and research.

    Maybe Ruse is more than aptly named, eh?

  62. #62 Collin Brendemuehl
    June 22, 2009

    SLC,
    Just admit that you didn’t read the books and then go read the books.

    Fugate,
    Ya. You’re cool.

  63. #63 Tyler DiPietro
    June 22, 2009

    “Modern evolutionary science would be better off if it dumped the Darwin brand name.”

    Just thought I’d mention that this statement is coming from a non-evolutionary scientist who’s probably never been involved in the biological research program in his entire life.

  64. #64 Michael Fugate
    June 22, 2009

    Collin,
    And you are extremely arrogant to think someone with a degree in Bible Studies can tell 99.9% of biologists they are mistaken. I am sure Dr. Coyne has forgotten more biology than you are capable of learning. When you spend 25 years doing experiment after experiment, reading all the available biological and geological literature and then writing your book documenting how every species was created one at a time 6000 years ago, get back to me and maybe I will care what you have to say.

  65. #65 Collin Brendemuehl
    June 22, 2009

    Tyler,
    Credentialism does your position no good.
    There have been many critics of evolution who are neither creationists nor genetic scientists. Michael Polanyi, for one.

  66. #66 Tyler DiPietro
    June 22, 2009

    “There have been many critics of evolution who are neither creationists nor genetic scientists.”

    And none of them are worth a damn.

    Besides, as far as I can tell, Anthony isn’t a critic of evolution (though considering his apparent penchant for fellating guys like you and Robert O’Brien on this blog, I may be wrong), he’s saying that evolutionary biology should disassociate itself with Darwin. It’s an odd assertion, considering that Darwin has a lot more to do with the evolutionary research program than being a “brand name”*.

    (* It’s also noteworthy that Anthony frames his assertions in marketing lingo).

  67. #67 Anthony McCarthy
    June 23, 2009

    Ah, Tyler, we meet again, always a sign that the discussion is going down hill. I talk about marketing lingo because that’s all Darwin is now. As Richard Lewontin pointed out once, he built the factory that all evolutionary biologists work in, but he hasn’t owned the company for ages.

    Now it is all Darwin’s fault.

    No, like I told you, he’s dead. Deader than dead. He’s a late scientist.

    It’s the fault of those who can’t stand that he’s been an effective tool for the side who don’t like the fact that we evolved from other species. It’s the fault of those who insist on keeping him as the central figure of an argument that should have moved on with the science. It’s the fault of the Sci-Blog wannabees who can’t give up their emotional dependence on a fictionalized version of him and those around him when that phony figure is a proven failure with the general public. Let me break it to you gently, Darwin has been dead for more than five score years. Science has moved on. Mendel was just one of the major confirmations of evolution that came after The Origin of Species.

    Michael Fugate, I don’t happen to be a Christian. So if you think your insulting cartoon of Jesus is going to sting me, you are quite as mistaken about that as you are with the suggestion that the very Victorian Darwin constituted “modern science”, but that’s not an uncommon display of ignorance on the ScienceBlogs. I suspect that a Christian wouldn’t be more than mildly annoyed with something so puerile.

  68. #68 Collin Brendemuehl
    June 23, 2009

    Michael Fugate,
    Gee, and if you saw a PhD in math do a divide by zero, you’d probably pass because he just knows more than you.
    http://books.google.com/books?id=Zd4oeHzIBRgC&pg=PA99&lpg=PA99&dq=einstein+divide+by+zero&source=bl&ots=I1gTHYgMa1&sig=8trc9_PUpMXq4NP9dMvaPjkGH-4&hl=en&ei=0bNASqDBNZSWMZS33dII&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=6
    (And I’m not YEC.)

  69. #69 Tyler DiPietro
    June 23, 2009

    “I talk about marketing lingo because that’s all Darwin is now. As Richard Lewontin pointed out once, he built the factory that all evolutionary biologists work in, but he hasn’t owned the company for ages.”

    And as we all know, all commercial enterprises completely disassociate themselves from their founders once they relinquish ownership. Someone should tell Ford to get with the program.

  70. #70 Michael Fugate
    June 23, 2009

    McCarthy,
    Darwin was a damn good scientist and if we just ignore history somehow every one will accept evolution. Sure. I ask again what did Darwin do wrong? What did he do that wasn’t part of modern science? He was and is as much a part of modern science as anyone. You have no understanding of how people learn and what is needed in science education.
    I know you are a little slow on the uptake, but I was really making fun of Brendemuehl and his democrats are evil, liberals are more evil, socialists are even more evil and then there are those marxists. Character assassination as an attempt to discredit someone’s ideas is so juvenile – and you call me puerile?

    Brendemuehl,
    Given the vast majority of Christian theologians believe Jesus is God, was born of a virgin, was crucified and rose again, if I came over to your blog and said I found a Christian theologian who didn’t believe any of these things and maybe throw in a Jewish and Islamic theologian and a sociologist and a historian, would this change your mind?
    Evolutionary biologists are not dividing by zero or any thing else that is contrary to the evidence. Do we know everything? No, but we know enough that creationism is wrong. You really need to move on from trying to pass off crap from Jonathan Wells’ “Icons of Evolution” as a critique of biology. If your not a YEC, then please explain the diversity of life on earth.

  71. #71 Tyler DiPietro
    June 23, 2009

    To be more serious, the real reason that modern evolutionary biology shouldn’t disassociate itself with Darwin is twofold: 1.) it would give an unnecessary victory to the creationists who spend so much time and effort vilifying him and 2.) Darwin is still relevant to modern science. Whereas someone like Newton laid a foundation that is known now only to be a special case of the broader picture in his discipline, Darwin laid a foundation (random variation culled by natural selection) that has yet to be superseded by anything better.

  72. #72 Collin Brendemuehl
    June 23, 2009

    Michael,
    To your first question: No. But if you asked something intelligently then we might have dialogue.
    Nothing contrary to evidence? There are some fundamentally exclusive positions that evolutionists hold onto. Why is invalid to question those assumptions?
    Oh, and my reference to Wells was because of his particular agreeement with a prominent evolutionist, and disagreement with Coyne on a major point. So …
    I’ll answer your question when Coyne answers mine.

    Like I told the other two — go read the books.

  73. #73 Tyler DiPietro
    June 24, 2009

    I may be loopy as a motherfucker right now, but I’m sure as hell that this thread should be going faster than this. Seriously, where are the FLLLLAAAAAMMMES motherfucker!

  74. #74 Michael Fugate
    June 24, 2009

    Anyone who denies the evidence for evolution cannot be intelligent. I think that pretty much says it all from my end.

  75. #75 Modusoperandi
    June 24, 2009

    Science Avenger #24 “…and those who dress up centuries-ago debunked pseudoscience in a cheap tux in order to pass it off as real science in our children’s education.”
    It’s not a tux. It’s a labcoat (…with glasses, because people with glasses are smart). No labcoat = Creationism. Labcoat = Scientifical!

    Robert O’Brien #27 “I don’t accept awards from fat-assed failures.”
    How about from me? I’ve got a little butt. Interesting side note: I’ve only got one buttock. It goes all the way across. It makes it kind of hard to ride a bicycle. I keep sliding off one side or the other.
    “…you’ve demonstrated no particular harm in dropping common descent from the curriculum.”
    Dropping knowledge in exchange for ignorance isn’t harmful? Yes, by all means, let’s not teach stuff in school. Down with facts! Come on, people! Who’s with me?!
    #50 “Cognitive ethology is glorified haruspicy.”
    Yes. Obviously, when we look like we’re doing something moral, we’re doing something moral, but when a primitive beastie does the same, it’s just a simulation of morality. We’re obviously just “reading into” their actions our own motivations. Damn those bonobos for appearing to be so human! They’ve sucked us in, I tell you, by appearing to do things that we would do in the situations where we would do them.
    “There is nothing essential about it. Most humans get by quite well without the concept. By way of contrast, mathematics and statistics are essential.”
    Really? I rarely use anything beyond even the most basic of math. We’re still base10, right?
    “People knew that (human beings are animals) long before Darwin came along.”
    Probably, but they didn’t know just how closed linked everything is. Common Descent’ll do that.

    Collin Brendemuehl #30 “And is this ‘science’ by observation and not by genetic or other verifiable study?”
    Aren’t the latter also the former?
    #40 “A good number have noted that the 20th c., the bloodiest century in human history, was really the death of modern liberalism. It was the end of Marx, Hegel, and Nietzsche as it proved the evil that they created.”
    Utopianism, perhaps. Absolutism, probably. Liberalism, not so much.
    #56 “Their product is mere statism, and that is modern liberalism as a movement.”
    So, were those the modern liberals who were absolutist totalitarians or the modern liberals who were anti-absolutist totalitarians?

    Anthony McCarthy #31 “I’ve been coming here only to collect information about the new atheism…”
    It’s the same as the old atheism, but with silver jumpsuits. Next year, we’re getting rocket boots! I shit you not!

    Jerry Coyne #38 “…one of the horrible things I did to hurt the “evolution” cause was to write a book laying out to the general public the evidence for evolution.”
    Quotemined in 3, 2, 1…

    Michael Fugate #74 Anyone who denies the evidence for evolution cannot be intelligent.”
    Yes, but they’ve got street smarts. Raised on the mean streets. Attended the school of hard knocks. I’ve lost my train of thought.

  76. #76 Modusoperandi
    June 24, 2009

    Wups. That should be “anti-absolutist/anti-totalitarianists”. Darn you, vaguaries of language!

  77. #77 Science Avenger
    June 25, 2009

    Robert O’Brien earned his rep thusly: I was not necessarily citing the very different immunobiologies of apes and humans as evidence against the alleged common descent of apes and humans. Rather, it was directed at “Science Avenger’s” (IRL he is an actuary* but apparently he likes to don a cape and pretend that reading scientists gives him vicarious credentials) ridiculous, “Would someone, please, think of the children!” Not only does “Science Avenger” appear to be childless but I have observed no practical application of the hypothesis that apes and humans share a common ancestor…*Please note: Not all actuaries are as vacuous and vapid as “Science Avenger.”

    He’s amazing isn’t he, able to make no sense on three topics at once. Quite the contrary to your assertions my reality-challenged cohort, I defend scientists against those who think having unrelated credentials qualfies them to challenge those scientists on the scientists’ area of expertise. Contrary to your usual adolescent interpretations of events, I’ve never implied I had credentials I hadn’t earned, which gives me quite a leg up on many of the ID leading lightss.

    Consider your obsession with whether or not I have children noted and dispensed in the same “ramblings of a loon” file your “hayseed” comments land in. (my friends thank you for the belly laughs)

    Of course the idea of dispensing with Darwin is ludicrous. We should simply recognize him as a scientist who made some great discoveries and his share of mistakes, as we do with any great scientist. What we should not do is shy away (as Ruse does) from calling out worms like
    Dembski and company for demonizing Darwin without cause, and for pretending that effects the standing of evolution in the scientific community one whit.

  78. #78 Steven Schafersman
    June 26, 2009

    I happen to know Michael Ruse. He is as much an atheist/humanist as me or anyone on this list. He fully accepts the reality of evolution and thinks Creationism, including ID, is nonsense and has no scientific legitimacy. He has repeatedly stated this in the presence of Dembski and in public. He does appear with and edit books with Bill Dembski because, as would be the case with any good philosopher, thinks that controversial issues should be discussed and debated in a rational manner on a level playing field.

    Yes, Dembski distorts the evidence, uses specious arguments, and draws incorrect conclusions, and Ruse can’t refute every one of those with his knowledge and time as we can over the years. But Ruse thinks the effort to fairly investigate the issues is commendable even if ultimately useless, since true believers can’t usually be convinced by evidence and rational arguments. Personally, I would not engage in this cooperative effort with Dembski because I think it’s a waste of time and demeaning to science, but Ruse thinks otherwise. Our different thinking about this is undoubtedly due to the fact that he is a philosopher and I am a scientist (and Dembski is a pseudoscience).

    Yes, Ruse believes that Christians can fully accept evolution, as do I. We both agree that the acceptance or belief process of may not be completely logical, but it is possible. It is quite likely that most Christians do not fully understand the implications of evolution, or they have an inaccurate understanding of it, or they think God intervenes miraculously somewhere along the line. I could care less what they believe, but I accept their right to believe it. I do reject that argument that we should downplay the implications or consequences of evolution because they so harshly make the existence of the Christian God unlikely and we need the political support of theistic evolutionists. Dawkins, Coyne, and Myers should continue to speak the truth as they know it. So should Mooney and Nisbet, for that matter. We are all adults.

    On another topic, SLC is correct in his judgment of Haeckel. What many do not appreciate is that Haeckel’s hypothesis (not theory or law) that “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” is wrong because Haeckel believed that ontogeny recapitulated phylogeny EXACTLY. This is demonstrably incorrect. The imprecise, inexact, or limited recapitulation of phylogeny (deduced from fossils and living fossils) by embryological development–described by Brendemuehl–was well-known in the nineteenth century and used by Darwin and others as evidence for evolution. It is still excellent evidence for evolution today, but no one claims that the process is exact and precise as Haeckel did. The other great scientists that SLC mentioned were wrong, too. It’s a good thing that science is a self-corrective process and not an authoritative dictatorship.

    Haeckel’s drawings of the embryological stages of vertebrates are another issue. He fudged the earliest stages and made them look identical, when in fact they are not. This error was pointed out by embryologists during Haeckel’s lifetime and periodically thereafter. Attributing this fudging to deliberate deception as Steve Gould did and the ID Creationists still do is almost certainly wrong. The current best explanation is that Haeckel was ignorant of the actual evidence and didn’t want to take the time to discover the truth, still not a very flattering explanation. The fact that the embryonic stages of different vertebrate classes are very similar (but not identical) is both recapitulation and excellent evidence for evolution. A human embryo, for example, contains a notochord and pharyngeal pouches and grooves (or clefts or slits, aka “gill slits”) but these are absorbed early in development. These structures are exactly homologous with similar structures in adult but primitive chordates, such the lancelet (amphioxus), and primitive vertebrates, such as fish. This is certainly recapitulation and outstanding evidence for human evolution, but also does not confirm Haeckel’s “Biogenetic Law.”

    Of much more interest to me is the persistence of Haeckel’s inaccurate embryo drawings in introductory biology textbooks into this DECADE (as late as 2004 when I last reviewed biology texts). This is both incompetent and shameful.

  79. #79 Robert O'Brien
    June 30, 2009

    Most humans also lack a clue about mathematics and statistics beyond basic arithmetic. Ditto for most of physics, chemistry, etc.

    Yes, but mathematics, statistics, and the physical sciences impact the lives of most humans every day. The same cannot be said for the concept of common descent.

    Common ancestry is more than that one relationship, and overall is the basis of phylogenetic analysis, an essential tool in drug discovery and epidemiology. See here for a few examples.

    Phylogenetic analyses of humans, apes, and other mammals are cited as evidence for common descent; you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

    Moreover, I am not impressed by the specific “examples” you cited. Citing examples of “microevolution,” which no one disputes, is pointless, and who says one could not arrive at the other examples operating under the hypothesis of a “common designer” or even no hypothesis whatsoever concerning how genetic commonality arose? If I know a genetic sequence codes for X in humans and I see a similar code in chimps (or vice versa), then I don’t need “common descent” to suspect the latter may code for the same thing or a similar thing.

    Incidentally, I am reminded of a absolutely moronic claim Ed Darrell’s once posted to the wretched hive of scum and villainy. He claimed that, without the concept of common descent, we would not know whether to conduct animal testing on chimps or octopi (or some such).

    Apparently, dim bulb didn’t realize that animal testing predates Darwin by centuries. The scientists knew to use terrestrial mammals because we are terrestrial mammals. Unlike dim bulb, the scientists didn’t need Darwin’s imprimatur for the obvious.