Adventures of the Wedge: Synchronicity

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Paul Nesselroade’s latest Wedge Update, titled “Defending the Wedge”, attempts to allay fears concerning the “wedge”. Nesselroade’s approach is two-fold: assert that the “wedge document” and the “wedge strategy” are distinct, and that the “wedge strategy” is about answering a pair of arguments made by “Darwinists”. If the “wedge strategy” is just about answering some arguments, that’s all very metaphysical and non-threatening, right?

Nesselroade is, of course, wrong. The “wedge strategy” is more than just coming up with counter-arguments to “Darwinism” or “materialism”. There is a strong practical component to the “wedge strategy” that is apparent to anyone who not only listens to what “intelligent design” advocates say, but also watches what “intelligent design” advocates do. It is in this practical component that one recognizes that the “wedge strategy” is still all about implementing the specific policies and activities that were specified in the “wedge document”. The asserted separation between “document” and “strategy” is non-existent.

I want to take up two cases of synchronicity that demonstrate just how lame these apologetics for the “wedge” really are. The first involves Nesselroade’s essay and the announcement of an “intelligent design” conference to be held June 24-26 in Highlands, NC. The second concerns an interview with Phillip Johnson back in 2001 and the Santorum amendment.

Nesselroade’s disclaimers about the “wedge strategy” and how it is about argumentation that will either rise or fall based on how it meshes with “scientific truth” ring hollow when one also examines the coeval announcement for the “IDConference”. Is the IDConference about getting scientists together to consider the “wedge strategy” arguments and how well they mesh with “scientific truth”? Hell, no. It’s about getting various ID advocates and young-earth creationists in front of a bunch of teachers to convince them to go back to their schools and insert “intelligent design” argumentation into their curricula:

Through asking the right questions and through careful consideration of Intelligent Design, we can inspire others to become informed about the facts. We are all educators in some capacity. Solid evidence can be presented in schools and in the public arena that challenges Darwinian theories and that points us in the direction of a God who designed the universe.

Compare that to this snippet from the “Phase II” goals stated in the “wedge document”:

Alongside a focus on influential opinion-makers, we also seek to build up a popular base of support among our natural constituency, namely, Chnstians. We will do this primarily through apologetics seminars. We intend these to encourage and equip believers with new scientific evidences that support the faith, as well as to “popularize” our ideas in the broader culture.

The IDConference also has a “World Views Conference” for junior and senior high school students. Check out the conference purpose:

Conference Purpose: To introduce Jr. and Sr. High Youth to two worldviews.

1. The secular worldview which is humanistic in nature placing man at the center of all philosophy.

2. The Biblical worldview which looks to the Bible as the ultimate authority of all truth.

[…]

What to Bring: Casual clothing, recreation equipment (hiking, softball, and swimming are options), Bible.

I note that they did not suggest bringing along a copy of Futuyma’s “Evolutionary Biology”, though it is likely that the attendees (and, for that matter, the presenters) will be far less familiar with its contents than they are with those of the Bible.

So, is Nesselroade incompetent to see what is happening within “intelligent design” advocacy, or is he deliberately feeding us a line of bullshit that he knows is erroneous? Is there a legitimate third option? I don’t think a third option exists. We may not be able to determine which of the first two actually holds, but we can tell that there is no distinction between “wedge strategy” and the actions specified in the “wedge document”.

Now, let’s consider Phillip Johnson holding forth volubly in an interview published in the summer of 2001 (June 20):

But Johnson argues that forcing intelligent design theory into public schools is not his goal. “We definitely aren’t looking for some legislation to support our views, or anything like that,” he says. “I want to be very cautious about anything I say about the public interest, because obviously what our adversaries would like to say is, “These people want to impose their views through the law.’ No. That’s what they do. We’re against that in principle, and we don’t need that.”

(See Intelligent Design?)

Those of you with good memories may also remember the summer of 2001 for another bit of news in the evolution/creation controversy, which was the “Santorum Amendment” that was attached to the Senate version of the “No Child Left Behind” Act. Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum proposed the amendment, which stated:

“It is the sense of the Senate that – (1) good science education should prepare students to distinguish the data or testable theories of science from philosophical or religious claims that are made in the name of science; and (2) where biological evolution is taught, the curriculum should help students to understand why this subject generates so much continuing controversy, and should prepare the students to be informed participants in public discussion regarding the subject.”

Notice how evolutionary biology is singled out and how the standard is preparation for “public discussion”, not scientific validity.

There are those who think that such artfulness is beyond Rick Santorum. In this case, another person has claimed authorship of the original draft of this amendment: Phillip E. Johnson.

An IDEA Club article gives the date of introduction of the Santorum Amendment as June 13, 2001.

So, in this case we have a June 13th, 2001 date for the introduction of an amendment to legislation where the text was taken from something that Phillip Johnson wrote for Rick Santorum, followed by a June 20, 2001 denial by Johnson that legislation was something that ID advocates would seek.

How stupid do ID advocates think we are? It seems that they must think that we are stupid enough not to notice contradictory statements and actions that may occur within days of each other, as each of these examples of synchronicity demonstrate.

30 Comments

Nesselroade complains that

it is impossible to generate scientific evidence in favor of design - science simply doesn’t allow it.

This is incorrect. It is not science which does not allow evidence in favor of design, it’s that flawed foundation of the design inference combined with a claim of no false positives which fails to generate evidence in favor of design. At most the design inference can show, and even such a task is quite daunting, that existing/known mechanisms do not explain a particular event/system.

Nesselroade’s attempt to identify a logical flaw is based on a strawman argument so often found in ID literature namely that science a priori excludes design inferences. Thus Nesselroade has to equivocate on the term ‘design inference’ when he claims that “So, for instance, Wedge advocates point out, among other things, that legitimate sciences infer the presence of design all the time.” Science however appeals to motives, means, opportunities to infer design. As Del Ratzsch has pointed out, Dembski’s design inference is not suitable for detecting new design.

So typically, patterns that are likely candidates for design are first identified as such by some unspecified (“mysterious”) means, then with the pattern in hand S picks out side information identified (by unspecified means) as relevant to the particular pattern, then sees whether the pattern in question is among the various patterns that could have been constructed from that side information. What this means, of course, is that Dembski’s design inference will not be particularly useful either in initial recognition or identification of design.

Maybe ID proponents should take notice of these facts. Del Ratzsch has some very wise words

“I do not wish to play down or denigrate what Dembski has done. There is much of value in the Design Inference. But I think that some aspects of even the limited task Dembski set for himself still remains to be tamed.” “That Dembski is not employing the robust, standard, agency-derived conception of design that most of his supporters and many of his critics have assumed seems clear.”

Paul Nesselroade asks “Examine the evidence and judge for yourself, isn’t that the way science is supposed to work?”

Indeed and when examining the evidence, it quickly becomes clear that there is not really any evidence that shows

if biological evidence continues to surface, the most honest assessment of which repeatedly merits this inference to design? What if it becomes more and more apparent that there are verifiable signs of designing intelligence in the natural world? This is indeed the juncture at which we sit.

Not only has ID failed to present any evidence that honestly and verifiably shows signs of evidence of designing beyond natural selection and other natural processes as the designers, but it also has failed to provide any unique or scientific contributions.

Del Ratzsch on ISCID

More wise words from Del Ratzsch

“What I have reservations about, however, is the fact that designs produced by the deliberate setting of natural processes to produce them seem to escape the filter, and that means that all filter-relevant design theories become gap theories. “

and

“In the present case, however, it seems to me that design theories are going to have to produce some positive results which are not easily assimilable by reigning theories. And it seems to me that to date design has not achieved that. “

While we’re on the topic of the Wedge Document, we’ve started an annotated edition of the Wedge Document at EvoWiki (link) and contributions are welcome.

Jack Shea’s off-topic comment now graces the Bathroom Wall.

…and another 0ff-topic comment by Jack complaining about the first off-topic comment being moved now joins the first.

And if Jack keeps insisting upon posting off-topic comments, the only other means we have of correcting that is banning his IP address. It’s his choice… stay topical, or take his keyboard elsewhere.

Wesley:

Apologies. I was unaware of the protocol. I will keep my posts to this thread in the Wall. You have redirected comments there and I’m sure people will find me if they want to.

When Nesselroade complains that “it is impossible to generate scientific evidence in favor of design - science simply doesn’t allow it,” isn’t he actually inadvertantly alluding to the real truth? The real truth in this case of course, beyond the obvious that science cannot generate evidence proving or disproving God or religion, being that there has yet to be any visible attempt by ID advocates to engage in the necessary scientific research - and when and if ID advocates DO engage in real scientific research, if by some miracle that research in fact DOES generate any scientific evidence in favor of design, it will, when properly presentd, be examined and judged on its scientific merits?

When Nesselroade complains that “it is impossible to generate scientific evidence in favor of design - science simply doesn’t allow it,” isn’t he actually inadvertantly alluding to the real truth?

The sense in which IDists mean this oft repeated claim is misleading. Their “Design inference” is based on Designer of the gaps. Their way of making their favorite inference, making Design the default in place of ‘don’t know’, is indeed not scientific. Positive evidence is needed instead, and of course it is allowed, pace anthropology. It is the absence of positive evidence that leads them to grasp at gaps.

From my observation of ID rhetoric so far, most if not all of their claims are misleading. The basis for the “theory”, as far as I can see, remains rooted in Divine Creation - denials notwithstanding.

Nesselroade also tries to downplay the significance of the Wedge Document by dismissing it as a mere “fundrasing proposal”. Of course, it has very little in common with most fundraising proposals, which are genearlly short, emotive, and – get this – ask people for money. While I don’t doubt that the DI showed the Wedge Document to people like Howard Ahmanson to help sucker him out of some of his millions, the document is more properly regarded as a manifesto, which oulines their goals and rationales and provides a specific plan of action.

Another thing lacking from most fundraising proposals is secrecy; most of the time when you want to raise money, you don’t keep your plans under wraps and then, once they’ve accidentally leaked out, pretend like you know nothing about them. It took several years for the DI to finally admit authorship of the Wedge Document and respond to the criticism directed at it, which they seem only to have done when they couldn’t ignore it any longer.

Another thing lacking from most fundraising proposals is secrecy; most of the time when you want to raise money, you don’t keep your plans under wraps and then, once they’ve accidentally leaked out, pretend like you know nothing about them.

Actually the secrecy thing is a basic ploy in industry, Having worked for startups, I’ve seen it many times, and of course the justification is that you put yourself at a disadvantage if your competitors know what you’re doing. Also, the appeal for money is separate from the rest of the documentation, because you may be asking for different amounts from different venture capitalists. These folks may be scientific idiots, but they understand marketing and business politics.

When I was a system engineer in the chip world, we had a saying: No product _ever_ wins market share based on good engineering; market share is all about marketing. Good engineering isn’t sufficient and is often not even necessary. The ID folks understand this.

They better understand marketing. They’ve got no scientific product. Nor do they understand history. If they did they’d know that trying to make science which supports your religious notions is an effort destined to end in embarrassment.

Bob et al:

there has yet to be any visible attempt by ID advocates to engage in the necessary scientific research -  and when and if ID advocates DO engage in real scientific research, if by some miracle that research in fact DOES generate any scientific evidence in favor of design, it will, when properly presentd, be examined and judged on its scientific merits?

ID and neodarwinism are both interpretations of existing scientific data. Neither are “science” per se. They both refer to the same body of scientific evidence but draw different conclusions from that evidence. This is not uncommon in science. At the present time both ID and ND are unproven, possibly unproveable, explanations for evolution. But the body of evidence leading to their conclusions is identical. Biological science is not “owned” by neodarwinism.

The Wedge is not a threat to science or the scientific method. At the very worst it is agnostic, as science is by definition agnostic. The source of the “intelligence” can never be identified. It can either be assumed, based on the evidence, or disassumed based on the evidence. The existence of intelligence, as “the gathering or distribution of information”, DNA, is accepted by both camps. The dispute is over how that intelligence system is derived. Neither ID or ND provide complete descriptions of the mechanics of this derivation. Both are flawed by virtue of their inability to provide rigorously specific mechanisms yielding functioning DNA. This is why the debate continues. If the Wedge were proposing something akin to a flat earth theory it would never have gotten off the ground.

Jack: Your comment that no interpretation “owns” science is well taken. I would take issue, though, with the notion that ID and the modern synthesis are equivalently positioned. The latter has made and continues to make testable predictions, where the former has not.

Also, where ID consists entirely of trying to poke holes in the the modern synthesis (and in that sense depends on it for its own existence), ID is pretty much irrelevant to the modern synthesis.

Lastly, you wrote: The Wedge is not a threat to science or the scientific method. At the very worst it is agnostic, as science is by definition agnostic

… which is a little difficult for me to square with this, from “the Wedge document”:

Governing Goals

To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies. To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and hurnan beings are created by God.

Russell:

OK, so we agree that science is public property. Why then do you lay claim to “testable predictions” for the modern synthesis? Surely it is the results of those experiments and not the belief system of the experimenter which are the public property. Many of the “testable predictions” of evolutionists have produced results which I find good arguments against the modsynth. But I get your point. So let me offer some testable predictions.

1. I predict that the next 3000 years of horse breeding will be exactly the same as the last 3000 years of horse breeding. That is, no horse offspring will appear as if they are on their way to becoming cows.

2. I predict that the next X billion generations of experimentally observed fruit flies will not produce anything but fruit flies, as was observed in the last X billion generations.

3. I predict that…you can see where this is going.

Many of the ID experiments have already been done. The results are in. Living organisms are to a large extent homeostatic. The modern synthesis is an accurate description of what takes place at the level of superficial characteristics, attributes which influence but do not negate an animal’s survival.

Does this indicate “intelligence”? I don’t know. It’s smarter than me or you. We’re just trying to work out how it does what it does. Does it think? I don’t know, what is “thinking”? Does it have to think? Um… It does indicate impregnability to random effects.

Yeah, the oppositional stance is reactionary. But at that level I know zero about what is going on in the USA. It does feel like some throats are getting rammed, on both sides.

So let me offer some testable predictions. 1. I predict that the next 3000 years … 2. I predict that the next X billion generations of .… . . you can see where this is going.

Yes: nowhere.

When I say “testable” I mean observable in my lifetime.

In my lifetime, the ModSynth predicted that the nested hierarchy of DNA sequence homologies would coincide with similar nested hierarchies derived from morphological, paleontological, etc data. I think that’s largely panned out. Now ID, on the other hand has predicted.….…?

Does this indicate “intelligence”? I don’t know. It’s smarter than me or you. We’re just trying to work out how it does what it does. Does it think? I don’t know, what is “thinking”? Does it have to think? Um … It does indicate impregnability to random effects.

You’ve lost me here. What is “it”?

Also - can you address the question I put in my last comment about the “agnosticism” of the Wedge?

Jack Shea: The results are in. Living organisms are to a large extent homeostatic.

To a large extent perhaps but there is still plenty of evidence of speciation.

The fossil record, DNA sequences, experiments all support the fact of evolution.

ID has however contributed NOTHING to our understanding of mechanisms, hypotheses etc despite Jack’s claim that “Many of the ID experiments have already been done.”

None of these were particularly ID relevant nor ID inspired.

Jack Shea: The Wedge is not a threat to science or the scientific method. At the very worst it is agnostic, as science is by definition agnostic.

At best it is agnostic if one could make the caqse that the Wedgte is all about science. But the Wedge is little about science and strong on socio-political approaches.

Not surprisingly because the Wedge relies on the scientific relevance of ID and so far the attempts to raise ID to a scientific status have been largely unsuccesful. Behe’s concept of IC has been found not to be a reliable indicator of design, Dembski’s CSI has been found not to be a reliable indicator of design and in the larger picture ID has been unable to eliminate natural processes as the designer. In other words, the theoretical foundation of ID has failed, the practical foundation of ID is largely absent, the scientific relevance of ID is absent.

The Wedge is strongly religiously motivated, science appears to be an afterthought at most as it is a means to a goal. That the failure of ID as a science has not slowed down the Wedge should not come as a surprise.

Jack,

You said, “ID and neodarwinism are both interpretations of existing scientific data. Neither are “science” per se. They both refer to the same body of scientific evidence but draw different conclusions from that evidence. This is not uncommon in science.”

I agree that drawing different conclusions from the same evidence is not uncommon in science. Where I disagree with you is when you claim that ID has anything to do with science.I also disagree that “the body of evidence leading to their conclusions is identical.” The major piece of evidence upon which ID’s claims stand or die is the current lack of complete evolutionary explanations for various biological organs and processes.

Pim:

The fossil record, DNA sequences, experiments all support the fact of evolution.

ID has however contributed NOTHING to our understanding of mechanisms, hypotheses etc despite Jack’s claim that “Many of the ID experiments have already been done.”

None of these were particularly ID relevant nor ID inspired.

The fossil record seems to show rapid bursts of “evolution” that are inexplicable by the neodarwinist mechanism of random mutation and natural selection. ID proposes the mechanism of “intelligence” but can’t reveal how that intelligence operates. To my mind both ND and ID are unsatisfactory as final conclusions but I believe ID is at least on the right track.

ID has “failed” in exactly the same way that ND has “failed”, in the same way that the Big Bang “fails”, in the same way that theories of consciousness “fail”. Whenever science gets near the “quantum leap” phenomena (birth of universe, emergence of life, human consciousness) it runs out of steam, scientific, complete answers become noticeably scarce. At these junctures science rubs shoulders with mythology. The reason is obvious. Science needs “stuff” to work with and there is no “stuff” available. We are in the realms of the supernatural, which may exist or may not exist but in any case is undetectable by scientific means. It’s nothing for scientists to worry about -the remit of science is to explore the realm of the physical- but of course scientists do worry. In biological evolution they worry because they confuse the mythologies of, say, neodarwinism or ID, with actual science. There is a vast body of actual science which frames both conclusions but the conclusions themselves are mythologies: “accident did it”, “intelligence did it”. “Accident” has a body but no brain. “Intelligence” has a brain but no body. Bizarrely, if the Accidentalists ever do find a brain the Intelligentalists will claim proof for their beliefs. If the Intelligentalists ever find a body the Accidentalists will claim proof for their beliefs. At the quantum leap coalface there can never be a final answer. In “Gulliver’s Travels” the Big-endians and the Little-endians argue eternally over who is right.

The Wedge illustrates this unresolveable dilemma. Neither accident nor intelligence can be scientifically proven. Accident definitely functions genetically, but how deep does it go in the genome? Why is so much of the genome immune to accident? The genome definitely possesses organized information but how is that organization derived by means of blind processes?

The Wedge and Scientific Materialism have always been at war. The Catholic Church put scientists under house arrest then. Scientific publications muzzle anti-darwinian spokesmen now. Even insignificant little me gets shunted to the Bathroom Wall on false charges of “off topic comment”! What is at issue is the right to frame one’s own mythological perspective on a body of scientific evidence which leads beyond the edge of science.

The Wedge is embarrassing and infuriating to SciMats because it forces them out of their agnostic hiding places and into committing themselves to a decidedly “non-supernatural” world. The embarrassment is caused because SciMats confuse inability to prove or disprove the supernatural with belief in its nonexistence. They are forced to come face to face with the mythological nature of what they would like to claim are scientific conclusions. Wedgies are not embarrassed but they are infuriated by SciMat’s refusal to abide by its own rules regarding the supernatural. They are infuriated because by the logic of science their mythological conclusions deserve at least the same status as the mythology of the SciMats but are given second-class status as “non-science”. This is where the Wedgies have a good argument.

The SciMats counter this by claiming that their evolutionary theories are factual proofs, the Wedgies prove they are not.…round and round it goes.

Jack - a few points. (I guess the common theme tying them all together is that in the absence of specifics, rhetoric is just rhetoric.)

The fossil record seems to show rapid bursts of “evolution” that are inexplicable by the neodarwinist mechanism of random mutation and natural selection

You’ll have to be more explicit here. In some cases it looks more like punctuated equilibrium than Darwin might have thought, but that seems a pretty fine point.

Whenever science gets near the “quantum leap” phenomena (birth of universe, emergence of life, human consciousness) it runs out of steam, scientific, complete answers become noticeably scarce.

What’s wrong with “we don’t know”? It doesn’t mean we’ll never know. Maybe we will never know; that takes nothing away from science unless you really do want science to be a “religion”. (I don’t). In order to force a kind of “ND”-ID equivalence, you seem to be ascribing mythologizing to the former. You’ll need to be more specific.

Why is so much of the genome immune to accident?

You lost me here.

The genome definitely possesses organized information but how is that organization derived by means of blind processes?

Natural selection, acting on excess genetic material (available, e.g., through gene duplication). That doesn’t explain the ultimate origin of genetic material, of course, but that’s where “I don’t know (at least not yet)” comes in handy.

Scientific publications muzzle anti-darwinian spokesmen now.

We need specific examples here.

Even insignificant little me gets shunted to the Bathroom Wall on false charges of “off topic comment”!

Well (A) there’s nothing wrong with the bathroom wall. Hey, we all have to go sometimes! and (B) there will always be shades of gray between arguably on topic and clearly off-topic. Once again, without specifics I’m reluctant to accept your characterization of “false” charges.

What is at issue is the right to frame one’s own mythological perspective on a body of scientific evidence which leads beyond the edge of science.

This is opaque to me, but I’ll take your word for the proposition that this means something to you. Consider, though, the possibility that what’s at issue for, say, the author of a particular post here at PT, or the editors of a scientific journal might be keeping a reasonable focus on the topic(s) at hand.

The Wedge is embarrassing and infuriating to SciMats because it forces them out of their agnostic hiding places and into committing themselves to a decidedly “non-supernatural” world.

Maybe I’m not a “SciMat”, but I don’t find the Wedge embarrassing at all. Quite the contrary.

…SciMats confuse inability to prove or disprove the supernatural with belief in its nonexistence.

I don’t know; you may be right. Maybe that’s the definition of a “SciMat”. I don’t know anyone that fits this characterization.

They are forced to come face to face with the mythological nature of what they would like to claim are scientific conclusions.

Like, for instance?

Wedgies are not embarrassed…

No, that’s a problem. Wedgies seem to be unembarrassable. (Some might say “shameless”, but that sounds so judgmental.)

…SciMat’s refusal to abide by its own rules regarding the supernatural

Here we reach a critical mass of ambiguity. What is SciMat? what are its rules regarding the supernatural? For that matter, what is supernatural?

…by the logic of science their mythological conclusions deserve at least the same status as the mythology of the SciMats but are given second-class status as “non-science”. This is where the Wedgies have a good argument. The SciMats counter this by claiming that their evolutionary theories are factual proofs, the Wedgies prove they are not . …round and round it goes.

Sounds suspiciously like nonsense, but once again: specifics, specifics, specifics! I would note however: “the Wedgies persuade Jack” != “the Wedgies prove”.

Paul Nesselroade’s defense of the “wedge” fails because he didn’t bother to even address all the socio-political action that ID advocates undertake, like the ID Conference in Highlands, NC. Jack Shea is reduced to unsupported assertions about the “wedge” and can’t come up with any argument that supports Nesselroade in the least. In the meantime, the science of evolutionary biology continues, with new research results being reported all the time, despite the repeated lies of people like Jack who find it inconvenient that what they object to does have scientific standing.

Wesley R. Elsberry Wrote:

I’d like to make an observation on “intelligent design” in general. ID claims are aimed at obtaining a concession that evolutionary processes are insufficient to account for observed biological phenomena. After that, ID advocates hope that people will simply fill in with an “intelligent designer” of their preference to cover the gap. ID arguments are all of the negative variety: because evolution can’t do this, you must accept that an “intelligent designer” did.

So, how do ID advocates wend their way toward finding evolutionary insufficiency? Do they identify phenomena with good evidential records of their origin and find that no natural mechanisms are able to cover the situation? No, they do not. ID advocates identify the systems that have the least evidence that can bear upon just how they might have arisen and whack on those. If evolutionary biologists don’t have the evidence to work with, they certainly can’t generate “detailed, testable pathways” that ID advocates like Rob claim it is their burden to produce. This is such a weak and pathetic strategy that the term I use for Michael Behe’s arguments now is “God of the crevices”. You see, Behe’s claim to fame is to have taken the old young-earth creationist bleat of “what good is half a wing?” and bring it into the modern era of molecular biology, reborn as, “what good is half a flagellum?” Biochemistry, Behe says, is the basement floor, and there is no further place to go. Thus, the gaps Behe goes on about have a bottom, and are crevices. Back in 2001, I was in a panel with William Dembski, and pointed out that the only way for ID to progress was to take up those case where there was evidence at hand. Things like the impedance-matching system of the mammalian middle ear and the Krebs citric acid cycle. Michael Behe was sitting in the audience at the time. Have ID advocates taken up those sort of systems for analysis? Not on your life.

“Intelligent design” advocates use Behe’s “irreducible complexity” and Dembski’s “specified complexity” as arguments to convince people to disregard theories which have some evidential support, and force acceptance of conjectures with no evidential support. It’s a good trick, that.

http://www.corante.com/loom/archive[…]49.html#3697

Jack - a few points. (I guess the common theme tying them all together is that in the absence of specifics, rhetoric is just rhetoric.)

——Aye, but there’s a difference between logic and empty rhetoric. I try to use logic . …but the rhetorical flourish is always fun.

The fossil record seems to show rapid bursts of “evolution” that are inexplicable by the neodarwinist mechanism of random mutation and natural selection

You’ll have to be more explicit here. In some cases it looks more like punctuated equilibrium than Darwin might have thought, but that seems a pretty fine point.

——I’ve just never seen anyone posit a mechanism for the “bursts”, ND or ID. It only becomes a “fine point” if the unprecedented complexity of trilobites in the Cambrian is considered an easy achievement for an essentially undirected process. It has a tinge of the miraculous, the suddenness as well as the variability. I’m not suggesting the “miracle” comes from an exterior deity. I would look to processes within existing forms for energy expressions which possessed some form of coding. Kind of “pre-DNA” if you like.

Whenever science gets near the “quantum leap” phenomena (birth of universe, emergence of life, human consciousness) it runs out of steam, scientific, complete answers become noticeably scarce.

What’s wrong with “we don’t know”? It doesn’t mean we’ll never know. Maybe we will never know; that takes nothing away from science unless you really do want science to be a “religion”. (I don’t). In order to force a kind of “ND”-ID equivalence, you seem to be ascribing mythologizing to the former. You’ll need to be more specific.

——-I have no problem with “we don’t know”. I have big problems with “we know” when the facts apparently indicate otherwise. I do see science as a kind of religion. Search for truth, sense of awe, cathedral-building, high priesthood, dogmatism, monastic refuge for intelligentsia, uncomprehending adherence by the masses to its edicts, etc. It’s a kind of art as well. Science is very inspiring! The “myth” (as fallacy) of science is that it sometimes appears to believe it has an infinite capacity to understand the workings of the universe. At the point where the rational mind collides with the inconceivable, “myth” (as description of the invisible) becomes the only reality. Because this form of myth can only ever be subjective (ie outside rational proof or perception) there will always be arbitration over which is the “true” myth.

I go for the “we will never know” because I believe the rational mind has inherent limitations. Take consciousness for example. Can we ever scientifically, completely understand the conscious mind? No, because the tool we are using to examine it is identical to the object under study. The deepest understanding of consciousness can only come from the subjective experience itself and the subjectivity more or less precludes the understandings being considered scientific. The novel is our best science of consciousness, poetry, the arts. The science of the mind teaches us its mechanics, not its capabilities. So here is a very clear venue where scientific knowledge of a thing is less relevant and extensive than the non-scientific expression of the thing. But even in the arts the problems and limitations of “the thing examining itself” is felt. Sartre writes “Nausea”.

The genome definitely possesses organized information but how is that organization derived by means of blind processes?

Natural selection, acting on excess genetic material (available, e.g., through gene duplication). That doesn’t explain the ultimate origin of genetic material, of course, but that’s where “I don’t know (at least not yet)” comes in handy.

——-That’s the hurdle, the “ultimate origins of genetic material”. The pre-DNA stuff. I do believe it’s out there. The natural selection side of things interests me zero. It’s just self-evident. The real problem is how the shapes emerge in the first place.

Scientific publications muzzle anti-darwinian spokesmen now.

We need specific examples here.

—–I checked out an exchange between Michael Behe and the editors of two unnamed peer-reviewed publications. His article was provisionally accepted, then rejected after peer consultation. He then offered to put something in the letters page, which the editor seemed to think was an acceptable alternative. Then the letter idea was rejected after some back room consultations. It felt like he was being given the runaround.

Even insignificant little me gets shunted to the Bathroom Wall on false charges of “off topic comment”!

Well (A) there’s nothing wrong with the bathroom wall. Hey, we all have to go sometimes! and (B) there will always be shades of gray between arguably on topic and clearly off-topic. Once again, without specifics I’m reluctant to accept your characterization of “false” charges.

—-Yeah, I don’t mind being there. I just didn’t agree that I was off topic. And maybe I’m wrong. You can check out my foot-stamping if you go to the Wall.

What is at issue is the right to frame one’s own mythological perspective on a body of scientific evidence which leads beyond the edge of science.

This is opaque to me, but I’ll take your word for the proposition that this means something to you. Consider, though, the possibility that what’s at issue for, say, the author of a particular post here at PT, or the editors of a scientific journal might be keeping a reasonable focus on the topic(s) at hand.

——-ND and ID are equally vacant as science and equally profound as mythology. If one is allowable in public schools the other should be as well. The body of scientific evidence producing the mythologies remains unchanged and is shared by both points of view. Also there’s nothing more fun than a good, fiercely contested debate. I can imagine students getting attracted to biology just because there’s such a good fight going on there. I use the word “myth” in the sense of “frozen hypothesis”. I don’t suggest the use of the word “myth” in the science classroom. That’s for us denizens of the tavern pissoir exclusively.

The Wedge is embarrassing and infuriating to SciMats because it forces them out of their agnostic hiding places and into committing themselves to a decidedly “non-supernatural” world.

Maybe I’m not a “SciMat”, but I don’t find the Wedge embarrassing at all. Quite the contrary.

——You can’t be a SciMat then. When I write “SciMat” I mean Richard Dawkins (I just realized!)

… SciMats confuse inability to prove or disprove the supernatural with belief in its nonexistence.

I don’t know; you may be right. Maybe that’s the definition of a “SciMat”. I don’t know anyone that fits this characterization.

—–There is possibly only one such person. I don’t know anything about the religious/political realities of this debate. What I sense, from this blog and others, is a powerful rejection of something called the “supernatural” as a creative force. I sense an active fear that the “supernatural” might exist and observe a quite vicious condemnation, usually by ridicule, of anyone who might believe the supernatural does exist. I witness otherwise very intelligent people suddenly becoming very stupid and very defensive of their own point of view. I can understand it up to a point, given the ways that religious mythologies have abused humanity in the name of “supernatural authority” throughout history. But I see Science as having a kind of declaration of independence from this sort of muddled thinking. I see the same thing in some of the creationist blogs where a mass of very cogent, illuminating scientific thought suddenly gives way to calculations of the feasibility of fecal removal on Noah’s Ark! Cognitive dissonance all around.

They are forced to come face to face with the mythological nature of what they would like to claim are scientific conclusions.

Like, for instance?

——-Neodarwinism. For me, not for you.

Wedgies are not embarrassed …

No, that’s a problem. Wedgies seem to be unembarrassable. (Some might say “shameless”, but that sounds so judgmental.)

——–I’d like to meet a Wedgie.

… SciMat’s refusal to abide by its own rules regarding the supernatural

Here we reach a critical mass of ambiguity. What is SciMat? what are its rules regarding the supernatural? For that matter, what is supernatural?

——–Badly worded. Me, not you. “A critical mass of ambiguity” is pretty spot-on. Scientific materialism is Richard Dawkins. The supernatural is Bob Dylan. That’s the best I can do.

… by the logic of science their mythological conclusions deserve at least the same status as the mythology of the SciMats but are given second-class status as “non-science”. This is where the Wedgies have a good argument. The SciMats counter this by claiming that their evolutionary theories are factual proofs, the Wedgies prove they are not . …round and round it goes.

Sounds suspiciously like nonsense, but once again: specifics, specifics, specifics! I would note however: “the Wedgies persuade Jack” != “the Wedgies prove”.

—–True. The proof is only in my mind. It is not a proof, it is a belief. The same is true of neodarwinism. Belief, not proof. We’re not arguing about a flat earth.

Wes:

In the meantime, the science of evolutionary biology continues, with new research results being reported all the time, despite the repeated lies of people like Jack who find it inconvenient that what they object to does have scientific standing.

Geez, I might be misguided and ignorant Wesley but I’m certainly not lying! A lie is a deliberate statement of something which is known to be false by the person making the statement. I am patently not guilty.

However, on to happier matters. The knowledge produced by the science of evolutionary biology is not owned by evolutionists. It is free for all to observe and interpret. This, I have to say, is one of the great beauties of scientific knowledge. Even idiots like me can get their hands on it and wrestle with its implications. So how does an idiot like me deal with science? Firstly I admit that I am incapable of assessing the actual validity of scientific evidence itself. That is the province of the professionals. So I accept the evidence as fact if scientists take it as fact. Secondary to the actual evidence are the interpretations of that evidence. In evolutionary biology ND is one interpretation of the evidence and ID is another. Both are hypotheses, not fact. Idiots follow both persuasions.

ID arguments are all of the negative variety: because evolution can’t do this, you must accept that an “intelligent designer” did.

That isn’t my interpretation of ID but it may be the way it is projected in actual Wedge confrontations. The ID people say they are just indicating “design” but there may be hidden agendas which I am not aware of. I support the idea that there is a directedness in evolutionary processes which constitutes a kind of “intelligence”. I do not agree that this idea necessitates an anthropomorphic “designer”. But neither does it exclude the possibility of a “designer”.

Jack Shea: I’d like to meet a Wedgie. I don’t know if you checked out the refs at the start of this thread. If not, you’ll definitely want to read this and this, though, before casting your lot with them.

In an earlier post:

Scientific publications muzzle anti-darwinian spokesmen now.

We need specific examples here.

——-I checked out an exchange between Michael Behe and the editors of two unnamed peer-reviewed publications. His article was provisionally accepted, then rejected after peer consultation. He then offered to put something in the letters page, which the editor seemed to think was an acceptable alternative. Then the letter idea was rejected after some back room consultations. It felt like he was being given the runaround.

That’s an anecdote, but it’s not specific enough that anyone else could reasonably run it down. Behe had research to publish? He told me he had nothing to publish on irreducible complexity or intelligent design.

What publication? What research? When? Please provide specifics.

Ed Darrell Wrote:

That’s an anecdote, but it’s not specific enough that anyone else could reasonably run it down.

Well, there’s Correspondence with Science Journals: Response to critics concerning peer-review.

I come away from it convinced that their reasons for rejecting the paper were rock solid, as articulated. What exactly is his point?

His point is: “Your version of science keeps rejecting my delusions, so you must all be closed-minded or frightened of my ideas.” In his mind he is a David facing the godless Goliath of Evolution. If he fails in his duty the Philistines will overrun his country. In my mind he’s more akin to the Black Knight guarding a religious bridge. He’s still armed at the moment and as such should be considered dangerous to unsuspecting travellers.

Jon Fleming provided a link to a discussion of Behe’s “articles”:

Well, there’s Correspondence with Science Journals: Response to critics concerning peer-review.

(The link is in Mr. Fleming’s post above – it goes to the Discovery Institute site.)

So all of ID is based not on research that can’t get published, but on pique that can’t see print.

The point we were trying to make, I think, is that ID needs to pay its dues, do some real research and publish some real articles in real peer-reveiwed journals. What Behe proposes in that entire string is responses to letters and news reports, and book reviews.

That’s not evidence to support “intelligent design.” It doesn’t demonstrate any science, it doesn’t demonstrate any gain in knowledge based on ID methods or philosophies or hypotheses.

Behe has more than 40 papers published in science journals, real, peer-reviewed papers of research he has done. I’m sure he can remember how to do it. A couple of years ago Behe made some appearances in Dallas (for the that well-established biology research organization, the Campus Crusade for Christ). I asked him when he would publish either on intelligent design or on irreducible complexity, and he said he had no plans to publish at all. I e-mailed him about a year ago, and he said he might have something.

But it’s not published yet. ID does not have the foundation laid to stake a claim that it is science. ID needs to pay the dues to get into the club. The club is anxious to get the dues, but no ID advocate is willing to fork ‘em over.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Wesley R. Elsberry published on May 30, 2004 9:54 AM.

EvoMath 3: Genetic Drift and Coalescence, Briefly was the previous entry in this blog.

The IDEA Club’s Punk Eek FAQ is the next entry in this blog.

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