Debating with Evolution Deniers

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Deborah Lipstadt, the distinguished expert on the Holocaust, refuses to debate with Holocaust deniers. If I remember a radio interview correctly, Prof. Lipstadt said, in so many words, “I do not debate with liars.” In her view, a respected historian’s debating Holocaust deniers would give them and their views stature and credibility they do not deserve. Indeed, the very fact of a debate will imply that there is something to debate, that Holocaust denial is a legitimate intellectual endeavor.

Evolution deniers such as intelligent-design creationists may not be consciously fabricating anything, but their intellectual output is as devoid of content as Holocaust denial. Debating or collaborating with them, it seems to me, will imply that there is something to debate, that evolution denial is a legitimate intellectual endeavor.

It is a pity, then, that the noted philosopher, Michael Ruse, saw fit to collaborate with William Dembski in an edited volume for Cambridge University Press. Indeed, on a recent edition of Science Friday on NPR, a representative of the Discovery Institute spoke of the Ruse-Dembski collaboration with approbation:

Recently the Cambridge University Press published a book entitled “Debating Design,” with a variety of scientists both making the case for design and criticizing the case for design and defending the traditional Darwinian position. And when school boards find out about this debate, they think, ‘Gee, our students would really benefit from learning about it.’ And I think that’s a great educational idea, and I don’t see any legal reason why students should be prevented from learning about it.

and

Well, I think there’s a distinction between the state of intelligent design theory as a way of exploring the scientific question and the policy of mandating it as part of the curriculum. We think it’s a great idea if a teacher has the urge to present this debate in a way, just as the Cambridge University Press presented the debate–obviously made age-appropriate in terms of the way the concepts are explained. But if the teacher has that urge, go right ahead and do that. We believe that’s legally permissible and great education.

Kenneth Miller of Brown University tried some damage control,

…I think there’s a pretty good reason for not mandating the teaching of intelligent design, and that is–and this is something that’s become apparent to people in Ohio and people in Kansas and people in Pennsylvania who’ve looked at the issue. And that is, there’s nothing to teach. And what I mean by that is–and I was one of the essayists in the Cambridge University volume that he is referring to. And what you see in that is that there simply is–even in the views of its proponents, there is no evidence for design, and that the papers in that booklet talking about design are really a collection of arguments against Darwinism, against evolution, I should say–arguments that I might add are pretty easily refuted.

but I am afraid that Prof. Ruse has collaborated with evolution deniers and may have given them precisely the credibility that so concerned Prof. Lipstadt.

Notes.

Before you ask, I make distinctions among appearing on a scheduled radio program on which evolution deniers may also appear, engaging in a formal debate with evolution deniers, and actively collaborating with them. The line is fuzzy, but I draw it at debating. I am sure Prof. Ruse had his reasons for drawing it elsewhere, and I am sorry if this article causes him any embarrassment.

You may find the Science Friday program, “Teaching Evolution,” at http://www.sciencefriday.com/pages/[…]_111904.html.

Deborah Lipstadt’s home page is http://religion.emory.edu/faculty/lipstadt.html. You may find an article about a libel suit against Prof. Lipstadt at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/709336.stm, http://archives.cnn.com/2000/WORLD/[…]olocaust.03/, or http://www.splcenter.org/intel/inte[…].jsp?aid=276.

The Dembski-Ruse collaboration is Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA, William A. Dembski and Michael Ruse (eds.), Cambridge, New York, 2004.

This article may be freely reproduced on the Web, provided that it is reproduced in its entirety and the copyright notice and the original URL are displayed. Copyright © 2004 by Matt Young.

138 Comments

In addition to the legitimizing effect, there is the nature of the “debate” itself–scientists may expect an exchange based on evidence and rationial explanation; creationists may expect to employ rhetoric and sophistry as in legal proceedings (“Darwin on Trial”). “Sure, my client murdered his father and mother. But, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, take pity on him–remember, he’s an orphan.”

I agree. The creationist side says idiotic things. Not just wrong, idiotic. “William Dembski is the Isaac Newton of Information Theory.” The right thing to do is to call it ridiculous.

They need every association they can get with actual scientists, to appear legitimate and scientific. It’s a political movement, so appearence is everything. Debating them gives them better field position.

But, watching this blog for six months shows me that the idiots will not stop asserting stupid things, and the smart people will not stop patiently trying to correct them, so who cares what I think.

I have to disagree with Matt Young. ID is not science, and I agree that it should not be debated as science. However, some elements of ID are (very poorly done) philosophy of science. Consequently it is OK to debate ID as philsophy of science. Further, ID is an active political movement. Consequently it is OK to debate it as a political movement. I do think the nature of the debate should be distinguished.

Consistent with this, I am not adverse to ID being discussed in the classroom - just not in the science classroom. Politics classes could, for example, discuss “the wedge strategy” as a recent example of political activism. Of course the text should come with a disclaimer:

“99.8% (or whatever the exact figure is) of practising scientists consider ID to not only be wrong, but to not even be science. Further, they believe the presentation of “facts” by ID theorists can only be distinguished from deliberate deception by a charitable assumption.”

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I believe we have no choice but to take the evolution-deniers on in debate. The comparison with Holocaust-denial is spurious. These are both nut belief-systems but Holocaust-denial is statistically fringe, whereas evolution-denial in America runs close to 50% The public needs to see these loonies engaged and engaged aggressively. Unfortunately, the fight can only be won with a certain amount of Barnumship. I also suggest that we are doing the cause a disservice in refusing to consider letting students see the arguments pro and con. The creationists say this makes it look like we have something to fear–and in this I think they are right.

Oops - didn’t read about Kwickcode before posting that comment. If a blog administrator would like to correct that for me (and delete this comment) it would be greatly appreciated.

I would give my left nut to debate any one of these bozos. The secret is to not let the subject matter of the debate stray from the only relevant plane: “ID” is an exceptionally transparent and useless argument from ignorance that has no more scientific merit than my claim that a sub-microscopic portion of my pinkie toe created the universe, the giant bat-winged god Suck-tor is the source of gravity on earth, and my farts created el Nino.

There is no reason why any debate with a creationist need ever rise about that level because that is the maximum level of intellectual and philosophical rigor any of them have ever attained.

Discussing genuine scientific questions and their possible answers with creationists is less fruitful than discussing global politics with a nursing infant.

Eric writes

I also suggest that we are doing the cause a disservice in refusing to consider letting students see the arguments pro and con. The creationists say this makes it look like we have something to fear—and in this I think they are right.

Listen and learn, my friend.

As was set forth above by several commenters, we do have something to fear: the likelihood that creationists will twist any debate with a genuine scientist into a claim that their religiously-compelled arguments from ignorance have scientific legitimacy.

Creationists will just have to patiently stand in line behind the Sasquatch trackers, anally-probed UFO abductees, John Edwards-style mediums, and poltergeist-molested housewives if they want to debate a genuine scientists. Why should creationist pseudoscientific claptrap be given special consideration?

Do the impatient six year olds who throw the biggest tantrums get to sit on Santa’s lap first? No, they don’t.

Those six year olds could, however, provide us with a sober explanation of how their “worldview” informs their understanding of Santa Claus’ powers, and how they arrived at their “worldview”. Their explanation, in fact, would be far more honest and logically sound than the mealy-mouthed knowledge-disparaging script recited by creationists here on a semi-daily basis.

Let me make another distinction. I will speak in any forum; I will not debate a creationist in that forum nor share a program with one, for the reasons I stated and also for those given by others. To debunk creationists is not the same as to debate them.

I could not agree more with Great White Wonder. Mr. Wonder fixes on precisely what we have to fear: that creationists will use the very fact of the debate to falsely claim scientific legitimacy. It is true whether they are a fringe or whether half the population is sympathetic.

Debating the issue in school, as Mr. Collier and Mr. Curtis suggest, is likewise a slippery slope inasmuch the fact of the debate gives life to the arguments. Do we debate Lamarck’s inheritance of acquired characteristics? No, we teach it as a failed theory, if at all. But there is no danger that Lamarckianism will spring to life as a result of our teaching it. The very opposite is true of intelligent-design creationism.

Those of you who know me and have followed my postings around the web are well aware that I never argue with creationists. I never dispute their belief in the truthfulness of the Bible or their interpretation of their religion. I’m not inclined to regard a person as a fool because I don’t understand them or because I don’t accept their version of truth. I do argue with evolutionists because they presume to represent science. They adopt the mantle of science, which I care greatly about, to give themselves legitimacy in their own eyes and (they hope), in the eyes of others. I hold to the view that we can understand ourselves better by identifying those traits and characteristics in others that most antagonize us. We meet ourselves every day in department stores, at school, in restaurants and in the pages of books (especially history books), magazines and on television. Each stranger that we meet is a reflection of ourselves, a portal to better self-understanding. Both evolutionists and creationists would be better served by not torturing those with whom they disagree, for certainly it is the tortured who soon enough turn into torturers. How quickly the worm can turn. Personally, I always defend science, because it informs us about the physical world better than any other method and it increases our store of knowledge more accurately than the use of pure reason alone. But a view that assumes that scientific understanding is the *only* kind of understanding that there is obscures and dilutes our insight and our harmony with the world. Science is a tool of the western mind, not all of mankind. Now I certainly can’t prove that God doesn’t exist, nor can I prove that he does. But I am sure of the fact that the *impression* of God (the archetype?) exists in *every* person. Whether God actually exists is mostly irrelevant. What is important is that large numbers of people believe it. I also believe that there is a huge advantage available to those who can locate this power, whatever its source, in their own individual self and use it for their benefit. Why should I deprive those who may have found this transforming energy in religion? What purpose does it serve me or them, to ridicule and condemn their beliefs as silly and unscientific as I might think they are? This doesn’t mean, of course, that I will allow others to impose their beliefs on me. The teaching of religion, while acceptable in church schools, is wholly unacceptable in public schools. Likewise, ideologies of any kind, especially those ostensibly validated by the mantle of science, are likewise unacceptable in public education. However, since religion is obviously an important part of my fellow citizens’ lives, I have no fear of sharing with them the joy and pleasure that they get from their mythologies, even though I’m a non-believer. I have no problem with a Christmas tree or a menorah in the town square or Christmas carols in the school concert or a moment of silence in a school day. These things do not threaten me, as they apparently threaten others. There’s little enough to feel good about in this uncaring and often cruel world; it seems a bit silly to deny people what comfort we may find, wherever they may find it.

Charlie Wagner http://enigma.charliewagner.com

Steve, I disagree – I think that creationists change their arguments over time as the evidence and good counter arguments accumulate. “Old Earth creationism” is one response to the overwhelming evidence against a young Earth, for example. ID is another response to the legal finding that there is no science in creationism, but that it is instead religious dogma.

And, since this forum so thoroughly analyzed the sundry ways it was stupid for the ID flaks to call the great ID chemist Schaeffer a “five-time Nobel nominee,” not the least that it’s a fatuous and hubristic claim, that claim has vanished from most ID propaganda. Not all propaganda has stopped making the claim – BIOLA’s recent conference still bills him as a five-time loser – but then, look at the source. (Remember, BIOLA is an acronym for Bible Institute of Los Angeles.)

One might wonder, however, what the Templeton Foundation is doing lending support to a group trying to drive a wedge between Christians and scientists. That’s quite the opposite of the foundation’s mission, as they explained it to me.

Hmmmm. Has anyone asked them about it?

As for me, I agree with Jonathan Wells. He wrote a little something for the local newspaper after participating in a 1999 roundtable discussion/debate at the local university with fellow ID advocate Stephen Meyer. Anyway, here’s the article:

http://www.iconsofevolution.com/emb[…]s.php3?id=64

Here’s an extended snip:

By the end of the evening, it was clear that the controversy was not about defending empirical science from biblical fundamentalism. Scientifically, what little evidence was presented challenged Darwinian evolution and favored intelligent design; philosophically, Darwinian evolution was shown to have as many implications for religion as intelligent design; and legally, teaching Darwinism while excluding other views in state-supported schools could not be justified on First Amendment grounds.

Ignoring these considerations, a panelist who had the last word concluded that Darwinian evolution deserves its privileged status because it is the consensus of biologists. This struck many people in the audience as odd, because I was the only biologist on the panel, and I had argued that the evidence does not support Darwin’s theory. (The scientist on the pro-Darwin side was a psychologist.)

I later learned that Washburn University biologists had been invited to participate, but declined because they didn’t want to provide a platform for creationism. They thereby reflected a nationwide tendency among Darwinians to demonize their critics rather than deal with the issues.

They also made it clear that a “consensus” exists only because Darwinians refuse to tolerate any dissent.

As the Washburn roundtable discussion showed, however, the strategy of sweeping the controversy under the rug is not working. The public clearly saw that there are important unanswered questions here. First, is the biological evidence more consistent with Darwinian evolution or intelligent design? If the latter, is it proper for Darwinians to decide the matter in their favor by redefining “science” to exclude design? Second, does Darwinian evolution have religious implications? If so, are state-supported institutions acting unconstitutionally when they teach Darwinism to the exclusion of other views? These are serious questions for empirical science and constitutional government. Pretending they do not exist will not make them go away.

The Washburn University roundtable discussion can serve as an example for all American high schools and colleges. Students should be taught the controversy and encouraged to discuss the issues. No dogma, scientific or religious, belongs in a science classroom. Instead of being indoctrinated in Darwinism, as they are now, students should be provided with the resources to think critically about it. The result will be better scientists and better citizens.

Again, I agree with Wells. I think debate is beneficial and helpful to public understanding, and there ARE important questions–including scientific questions–to be debated here.

But if evolutionists want to run and hide like rabbits from the top-drawer ID advocates, that’s fine too, as long as the general voting public is made aware of their rabbitesque behavior.

Btw, background information on the roundtable event itself (1000 people attended, and was broadcast on the Internet) can be found here.

http://www.cjonline.com/stories/110[…]lpanel.shtml FL

FL,

What is your considered assessment of the Unification Church and Son Myung Moon’s identity as God’s personification or envoy (or whatever)? This is directly relevant to Well’s motivations.

Michael Ruse has posted a brief reply to Young (as quoted by me) on Philosophy of Biology. The proper link is:

http://philbio.typepad.com/philosop[…]ruse_en.html

Ed, I’m not sure what you disagree about.

Charlie - I don’t know you, but two comments: “But a view that assumes that scientific understanding is the *only* kind of understanding that there is obscures and dilutes our insight and our harmony with the world.” People do claim this, sure. They’re dumbasses, though. You get those everywhere. None of this is necessary to defend evolution. You will find any people stressing the opposite - that both fields are of great value in understanding the world, just in *different* ways. Defending evolution does *not* mean attacking science. Darwinism isn’t anti-religion. There is no need to ridicule religion; those who do so in evolution’s name are motivated not by evolution, but by other factors.

“Likewise, ideologies of any kind, especially those ostensibly validated by the mantle of science, are likewise unacceptable in public education.” Evolution may give rise or contain ideologies, but the same can be said about any other part of science. Evolution is currently a major part of science, and therefore science teachers have both the right and the *responsibility* to teach it in any class touching upon relevent topics. C’mon, these are basic ideas! How on earth are we going to remove “ideologies of any kind” from public education? This is leaning over backwards so far that one risks falling down the slippery slope to sectarian religious public-ed, if not chaos.

-Dan S.

“Defending evolution does *not* mean attacking science” obviously I meant to say “does *not* mean attacking religion” oops. Dan S.

I am training to be a high-school biology teacher. I will probably teach in a community that favors creationism. I don’t want to have to fight the battle ahead of me alone. The more resources leaders in the feild of evolution (such as the contributors to Panda’s Thumb) can provide me with, the better. It is not always easy to dig up all the evidence that creationists continually say they need in order to fill a “gap in the theory of evolution.” The more gaps you patient people fill, the more they seek out. It is just such a draining process, but absolutely necessary. Thank you for the time you volunteer and the effort you continue to put forth, please do not stop. The debate must go on and on until the dead horse is deader, unfortunately. Dirty job, but someone has to do it.

Debate is not the only - obviously not the best - way to keep abreast of all the new creationist mumbo-jumbo, but laypeople don’t like to read detailed descriptions of biological processes, full of terminology.

The debates make it necessary to put sometimes difficult concepts in more simple and concise terms that would not only reach lay people, but that educators can then use to talk to young people influenced by the widespread creationist propaganda, who pose questions to teachers that they read on creationist websites.

Science is leaps ahead of the various forms of creationism, but science educators are a step behind on knowing how to respond to the clever propaganda tools… especially when they also have to defend their teachings to the community and p-d off parents. They are put under personal attack, asked what they believe, and it becomes quite emotionally charged.

CW Wrote:

I do argue with evolutionists because they presume to represent science

Note that Charlie Wagner has stated that the majority of professional biologist don’t represent science.

FL Wrote:

Again, I agree with Wells. I think debate is beneficial and helpful to public understanding, and there ARE important questions—including scientific questions—to be debated here.

But what do you do when the “debate” is constantly compromised by idividuals that diverge from the important topic.

When ID actually gets something positive then lets look at the “contriversy”. But not having any foundation all you are doing is instilling doubt, normally through outright lies, in those that are not fully immersed in the issue.

All sciences have religious implications if you want to look at them. It is just evolution and biology is at odds with the literal interpretation of the Christian bible. Evolution is not at odds with interpretations of the Qur’an as it talks about the genisis account in different terms and clearly shows that there was life before adam and eve.

I fully support looking at the holes in evolution. Let us research the edges of the holes thereby making them smaller and smaller. All creationists what do do is look at the wholes and say that the rest can’t be correct. I for one don’t look at the holes in swiss cheese and say “AH! there is no cheese!”. Coming up with solutions for a whole doesn’t mean anything if that solution must stand by itself outside a larger framework. These are arguements like the creationist saying that things in the past didn’t work like they do today theirfore our understanding of the worlding is wrong. Example The universe is currently estimated at over 14 billion years old. The furthest stars and galaxies are that far out. Creationist don’t like this since the light must have been in transit for that 14 billion years by our understanding of physics Scientists bring up the theory that the speed of light is not constant and has slowed down. Creationist take this and run with it saying that proves a 6000 year old earth Scientists point out that the speed of light has not changed that drastically. Creationist ignore what the Scientist say that is at odds with their claim but cherry pick the bits they want.

Creationist would have you believe that physisic in the not to distant past completely changed and that everything before that point was changing drastically but rescently, it stabilized to what we have today. They disregard there is no evidence for this. They use it in any type of aging meathod from carbon dating, to radiometric dating, to cosmic red shifts and other measurements.

Every time a professional debates them you’ll get a set of the population that will either, by themself, or more frequently being told by IDers/creationists that since the scientist are talking with them that the scientists must really have some doubts and that there is a debate to be had. Saddly we are in a catch 22 situation. The intelligent IDers/Creationist would rather try to instill doubt in the best explanation that we have then to actually do something that would support their position with positive and falsifiable evidence.

Its like talking to CW about his alians that must be the cause of life because life couldn’t “boot strap” itself into exsistance because he can’t grasp any way it could occur and that those same alians control every change in every living organism on the earth yet he has no idea how the alians could exsist given the same limitations he places on the life we see around us.

Pointing at the holes in knowledge does not strengthen your position. It shows you can see gaps in our knowledge.…or in many cases gaps in your knowledge for which there is a good chance that it has been addressed in the larger framework.

“I do argue with evolutionists because they presume to represent science. They adopt the mantle of science, which I care greatly about, to give themselves legitimacy in their own eyes and (they hope), in the eyes of others.”

I preferred to adopt the mantle of the bat..

..Creationists are a cowardly, superstitious lot.

How I Got Inclined Towards Atheism by Nobel Laureate Prof. Francis Crick

When Prof. Crick was informed about the Golden Jubilee of the Atheist Centre he was immensely happy and presented his latest book What Mad Pursuit an autobiographical account of his life as a scientist, to the Atheist Centre with his best wishes for the Golden Jubilee. This book is published by Basic Books, Inc., New York. Here are a few extracts from that book to acquaint readers with Crick’s views on religion.

“At exactly which point I lost my early religious faith I am not clear, but I suspect I was then about twelve years old. It was almost certainly before the actual onset of puberty. Nor can I recall exactly what led me to this radical change of viewpoint. I remember telling my mother that I no longer wished to go to church, and she was visibly upset by this. I imagine that my growing interest in science and the rather lowly intellectual level of the preacher and his congregation motivated me, though I doubt if it would have made much difference if I had known of other more sophisticated Christian beliefs. Whatever the reason, from then on I was a skeptic, an agnostic with a strong inclination toward atheism.

This did not save me from attending Christian services at school, especially at the boarding school I went to later, where a compulsory service was held every morning and two on Sundays. For the first year there, until my voice broke, I sang in the choir. I would listen to the sermons but with detachment and even with some amusement if they were not too boring. Fortunately, as they were addressed to schoolboys, they were often short, though all too frequently based on moral exhortation.

I have no doubt, as will emerge later, that this loss of faith in Christian religion and my growing attachment to science have played a dominant part in my scientific career not so much on a day-to-day basis but in the choice of what I have considered interesting and important. I realized early on that it is detailed scientific knowledge which makes certain religious beliefs untenable. A knowledge of the true age of the earth and of the fossil record makes it impossible for any balanced intellect to believe in the literal truth of every part of the Bible in the way that fundamentalists do. And if some of the Bible is manifestly wrong, why should any of the rest of it be accepted automatically? A belief, at the time it was formulated, may not only have appealed to the imagination but also fit well with all that was than known. It can nevertheless be made to appear ridiculous because of facts uncovered later by science. What could be more foolish than to base one’s entire view of life on ideas that, however plausible at that time, now appear to be quite erroneous? And what would be more important then to find our true place in the universe by removing one by one these unfortunate vestiges of earlier beliefs? Yet it is clear that some mysteries have still to be explained scientifically. While these remain unexplained, they can serve as an easy refuge for religious superstition. It seemed to me of the first importance to identify these unexplained areas of knowledge and to work toward their scientific understanding whether such explanations would turn out to confirm existing beliefs or to refute them.”

You can read more here http://www.positiveatheism.org/india/s1990a01.htm

Pericles

Perhaps a useful strategy might be to engage in such a “debate” but focus–from the outset–on the Wedge strategy and its educational and political implications. Many scientists are unaware of the Wedge, and I’ll wager many people who favor teaching creationism in schools are likewise unaware. This could be done without attacking religion per se (that would surely alienate many audiences), but perhaps it might lead some to consider that science might not be so great an evil, after all. It may be helpful to point out examples of non-atheistic evolutionary scientists, as indicating that religious people are not necessarilly ignorant bumpkins, but creationist dogmas reinforce that notion.

Katarina: I am training to be a high-school biology teacher

All the more reason I want to emphasize I didn’t mean to seem hostile in my rejection of the notion that “no one is not religious”.

Actually, Katarina, if I did subscribe to that notion - or to the extent that I do - you might qualify for sainthood.

Pointing out that the emperor has no clothes, or worse still, pointing out to people that they are being used and duped into promoting someone else’s agenda, only makes enemies.

I realize the importance of making the world aware of The Wedge Strategy and how it is a debasement of the scientific process (and the process by which legitimate science makes its way into the classroom), but it must be brought into light in the right way.

In a sharply-divided school board, it can only serve to increase the perception of a wedge already dividing the school region, the county, the state. It will only serve to make those who favor ID or creationism in schools all the more determined to succeed.

FL,

What is your considered assessment of the Unification Church and Son Myung Moon’s identity as God’s personification or envoy (or whatever)? This is directly relevant to Well’s motivations.

Well, as a evangelical Christian, I do not subscribe to the UC’s claims regarding Rev. Moon’s identity nor Moon’s other claims, such as those responded to in the following link:

http://www.tdl.com/~marzioli/unificat.htm

However, Wells is a member of that group and presumably accepts their truth claims. That’s his religion of choice, not mine. But hey, everybody’s got the freedom to choose.

Wells’ motivations? You tell me. Since Wells is religious, probably could find some religious motivations in there somewhere. However, as evolutionist Michael Ruse pointed out in court, a proposed hypothesis or theory is NOT unscientific merely because of any religious motivation of the people doing the proposing.

FL

Russel:

Thanks for saying so. I don’t blame you for your initial response. The comments were actually helpful.

Katarina, if you are not already familiar with them, you should look into the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) and the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). Both organizations are good resources for you in your anticipated teaching context. NABT’s recent national conference co-sponsored with the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) a two-day symposium on evolution aimed at an audience made up primarily of biology teachers and college professors. They promise to be putting together published materials from that symposium to come out soon - you may be able to find links to the same on their respective websites.

More generally, I want to praise you for your interest in your chosen field. Teachers are really in the trenches, so to speak, and deserve the honor and support of the professional biological community. The symposium of which I spoke was a good example of professional scientists reaching out to biology educators.

Charlie,

The Physician assistant I’ve got an appointment with this afternoon recommended Zecharia Sitchen’s “The Twelfth Planet.” Something about super intelligent aliens on an elliptically orbiting planet who gentically engineered homo erectus - what do you think? Of course, he (Stichins) evidently swears by the Martian face also.

Bob wrote:

The Physician assistant I’ve got an appointment with this afternoon recommended Zecharia Sitchen’s “The Twelfth Planet.” Something about super intelligent aliens on an elliptically orbiting planet who gentically engineered homo erectus - what do you think? Of course, he (Stichins) evidently swears by the Martian face also.

I once asked Isaac Asimov what he thought about “flying saucers”. In his usual style, he bellowed “only a fool would think that there’s any merit to such reports. I can tell you with great assurance that 99.999% of these reports are total nonsense.” I then asked him if he thought that intelligent life existed elsewhere in the universe. In his usual style, he bellowed “only a fool would think that we are alone in the universe. I can tell you with great assurance that there is a 99.999% certainty that life exists elsewhere in the universe. I thought about that for a while and with great trepidation, I asked him if that did not represent an inconsistency. If there is abundant life elsewhere in the universe, how come most of the UFO reports are untrue. He launched into a long, loud explanation of the subject, most of which I don’t remember, and then he threw me out for upsetting him. The next time we met, I asked him what he thought of cloning. That story will be for another time. But the point is, Asimov was right. The one point is really not related or dependent on the other. Most of the stories about space aliens and flying saucers most likely are hogwash, but that really does not speak to the issue of whether or not intelligent input was required for life to evolve.

Once agian Charlie.…how do you explain your alians exsistance? or are there alians for the alians? Does it never end?

Also Charlie you haven’t commented on D. Stump comment 11035 You like to ignore stuff like that don’t you because it doesn’t mesh with you view.

CW Wrote:

As we look deeper and deeper into these structures, processes and systems, we uncover increasingly high levels of organization and complexity.

So? We’ll also probably find that traces of their evolution that are no longer needed.

We’ve talked about your “level of complex organization,in which structures and processes are integrated in such a way that multiple functions support not only each other, but the overall function of the system cannot have been the result of random chance, but required intelligent input.” can be shown to be compatible with evolution. And for the final time Charlie while random mutations are random and organisms genetic code isn’t random because natural selection isn’t random. A bank can be blown up and money randomly thrown everywhere. People going around picking up that money isn’t random. While it might be highly complex and not predictive on the outcome it is a process that most of us can understand.

CW Wrote:

I asked him if that did not represent an inconsistency. If there is abundant life elsewhere in the universe, how come most of the UFO reports are untrue.

This is you being a troll or just narrow minded. Even if the universe is full of life what makes you think there is a significant portion of it evolved far enough to visit eart? What makes you think that Earth would intrest them? What makes you think they would even notice earth? What makes you think we would recongise them or vise versa. Universe is only 14 billion years old. A good portion of that would have been needed to get systems capable of producing life as we know it.…oh wait you can’t see how there is not an inconsistency because your alians made use but are not subject to the same limitations you put on our development. They “Boot strapped” themself into exsistance fully intelligent aware and with technology to allow them to come here and play with earth to make us because there is no WAY that simple life couldn’t have evolved over 4 billion years here. Much easier to say that your alians did it then throw up your hand and say “I have no idea about them”. In a way creationist are better then you. At least they have ideas about their creator.

Most of the stories about space aliens and flying saucers most likely are hogwash, but that really does not speak to the issue of whether or not intelligent input was required for life to evolve.

Of course it does. Unless you believe in “gods”.

In my humble opinion, this level of complex organization, in which structures and processes are integrated in such a way that multiple functions support not only each other, but the overall function of the system cannot have been the result of random chance, but required intelligent input.

This is an argument from incredulity, not a scientific explanation.

Sigh.

Charlie,

Thank you for showing those articles. I will look at them.

As a side, people keep bringing up your personal beliefs. Since you really have no way of proving those beliefs, just as I have no way of proving the existance of god, just as atheists have no way of proving his non-existance, why mix them with what CAN be proven?

I am sure there is much more to the universe than our perceptions can tell us. But the only things we can know with a high degree of certainty are things that other people with eyes and hands can also, independently perceive. That is the most reliable method we have to glimpse the truth, at least as it relates to us. That is the reason I value science. Is it not the same reason that you value it?

Katarina wrote:

As a side, people keep bringing up your personal beliefs. Since you really have no way of proving those beliefs, just as I have no way of proving the existance of god, just as atheists have no way of proving his non-existance, why mix them with what CAN be proven?

Beliefs in science are called hypotheses. Hypotheses are the very foundation of the scientific method. In science we don’t ever “prove” anything, we simply determine what is most likely. Hypotheses can be supported or falsified by empirical evidence, both experimental and observational. Some hypotheses are beyond our ability to support or falsify *at the present time*, due to the present level of technology, but there’s no reason to assume that they cannot be addressed using the scientific method at some time in the future. Some people believe in the “supernatural”, but I don’t. There are lots of things we don’t understand and supernatural gods were invented by man to explain those things. As soon as we discover the way something works, it no longer is a mystery to us and we no longer need to invoke “god” to explain it. While I don’t know if the entire world is within our capacity to understand it, I still believe that the scientific method is our best hope of resolving most of the questions.

Wayne wrote:

In a way creationist are better then you. At least they have ideas about their creator.

So you’re saying it’s better to make up a story than to say “I don’t know”?

Charlie,

I am really not sure what else to say, so I will let others speak if they feel the need.

NASA’s latest mission on Mars is providing growing indications that Mars once had conditions favorable to live. I guess that is good news for your hypothesis. To hear an interview, go to the npr.org website and look under the latest Science Friday.

I will see you in a week, I am going on vacation.

Have fun!

Charlie said:

As we look deeper and deeper into these structures, processes and systems, we uncover increasingly high levels of organization and complexity. There must be some point at which we discard random processes because they are inadequate to explain the phenomena we are observing. For me, this point was reached quite a while ago. In my humble opinion, this level of complex organization, in which structures and processes are integrated in such a way that multiple functions support not only each other, but the overall function of the system cannot have been the result of random chance, but required intelligent input.

Charlie, of course you are well aware that what you call “random causes” are not random, and not considered random by biologists. I’m not sure what you mean by the phrase, but in the context here you use the phrase to substitute for “natural causes.” Keep that in mind.

1. Why must we discard natural causes as an explanation for things whose cause we do not know for certain? You’re urging that we make a before-the-bridge decision not to ask the next questions as our research uncovers more knowledge. That’s intentional ignorance, and of course there is no justification for it. I don’t know why you think we’re at the point that we should stop asking, “Hmmm. I wonder what causes that?” I’m not sure how anyone could ever arrive at that point, even had the previous question been answered with, “God did it – and here she is.” It seems to me the next question is, “God, how did you do that?”

2. At what point is the design of a fjord so complex that we cannot ascribe it to natural causes alone? I admit that it may seem that the interaction of tides and estuarine waters, the effect of erosion causing the tumbling of the rocks in a particular pattern, and the complex patterns of life that result in the fjords make it appear as though it is such a complex organization, in which structures and processes are integrated in such a way that multiple functions support not only each other, but the overall function of the system and cannot have been the result of random chance, and so it appears to have required intelligent input – but if the erosion scientists then find that the next process is, indeed, one that arises naturally without intelligent intervention, why do you want to cut off the questioning?

It seems to me the only justification for cutting off the questioning of nature here is if we are afraid of the answers.

What answers are you afraid we’ll find, Charlie?

Ed wrote:

Charlie, of course you are well aware that what you call “random causes” are not random, and not considered random by biologists. I’m not sure what you mean by the phrase, but in the context here you use the phrase to substitute for “natural causes.” Keep that in mind.

First of all, I didn’t say “random causes”, I said random chance. What I mean by the phrase is the ordinary meaning of the words: random: having no specific pattern, purpose, or objective; chance: The unknown and unpredictable element in happenings that seems to have no assignable cause. It most assuredly does not substitute for “natural causes”. Natural means “present in or produced by nature”. That would seem to include everything in the known world. What is not natural? Now according to scientists, mutations are totally random. I don’t happen to believe that, but that is the position of scientists. Natural selection can only act on pre-existing variation. It has no power in itself to organize, design, construct or assemble any structures, processes or systems. Therefore, the mechanism of mutation and natural selection, as described by evolutionists, is totally random. The rest of your comments are based on an incorrect premise, so I can’t say much about it except that you don’t seem to understand what I mean by organization. I am not talking about complexity, I’m talking about something different. Read my article: http://www.charliewagner.net/casefor.htm for a better explanation.

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CW Wrote:

So you’re saying it’s better to make up a story than to say “I don’t know”?

But this isn’t all you are saying You are saying that A couldn’t happen theirfore B but can’t define B in any terms but say that you don’t believe in C either.

A being Evoloution, B being your alians, C being God.

In my view God is more likely then your Alians (note I’m agnostic) just because of the paradox you create with your “Alians”

I have not problem with abiogensis being extra terrestrial in nature. What I have a problem with is the exact processes you say could not occur with us some how do not apply to your “Alians”. Being they are not “Supernatural” themselves they must have occured naturally. But how can they occur naturally but we can not? It amazes me you won’t address this fundamental flaw in your hypothesis.

Charlie said:

Now according to scientists, mutations are totally random. I don’t happen to believe that, but that is the position of scientists.

I don’t know any scientists who believe that, or who say it. Got any in mind? Got a citation?

Wayne, your ignorance of basic science amazes me. Obviously, the aliens intelligently designed themselves. See, what they did was, at some point they invented a time machine, went back before there was life on their planet, and seeded it with life from the present.

I mean, duh.

Hehehe Steve that reminds me of this

Robert Heinlein Wrote:

A baby girl is mysteriously dropped off at an orphanage in Cleveland in 1945. “Jane” grows up lonely and dejected, not knowing who her parents are, until one day in 1963 she is strangely attracted to a drifter. She falls in love with him. But just when things are finally looking up for Jane, a series of disasters strike. First, she becomes pregnant by the drifter, who then disappears. Second, during the complicated delivery, doctors find that Jane has both sets of sex organs, and to save her life, they are forced to surgically convert “her” to a “him.” Finally, a mysterious stranger kidnaps her baby from the delivery room.

Reeling from these disasters, rejected by society, scorned by fate, “he” becomes a drunkard and drifter. Not only has Jane lost her parents and her lover, but he has lost his only child as well. Years later, in 1970, he stumbles into a lonely bar, called Pop’s Place, and spills out his pathetic story to an elderly bartender. The sympathetic bartender offers the drifter the chance to avenge the stranger who left her pregnant and abandoned, on the condition that he join the “time travelers corps.” Both of them enter a time machine, and the bartender drops off the drifter in 1963. The drifter is strangely attracted to a young orphan woman, who subsequently becomes pregnant.

The bartender then goes forward 9 months, kidnaps the baby girl from the hospital, and drops off the baby in an orphanage back in 1945. Then the bartender drops off the thoroughly confused drifter in 1985, to enlist in the time travelers corps. The drifter eventually gets his life together, becomes a respected and elderly member of the time travelers corps, and then disguises himself as a bartender and has his most difficult mission: a date with destiny, meeting a certain drifter at Pop’s Place in 1970.

The question is: Who is Jane’s mother, father, grandfather, grand mother, son, daughter, granddaughter, and grandson? The girl, the drifter, and the bartender, of course, are all the same person. These paradoxes can made your head spin, especially if you try to untangle Jane’s twisted parentage. If we drawJane’s family tree, we find that all the branches are curled inward back on themselves, as in a circle. We come to the astonishing conclusion that she is her own mother and father! She is an entire family tree unto herself.

Steve writes

Obviously, the aliens intelligently designed themselves. See, what they did was, at some point they invented a time machine, went back before there was life on their planet, and seeded it with life from the present.

Oy, I forgot about that theory, too. A low point in the history of creationist apologetics.

Okay, this should clear everything up. The whole story’s here. Sorry, don’t know how to paste an actual link on this site.

http://www.sitchin.com/adam.htm

;^)

Thanks all for the interesting comments. Just to make my position clear, I think we should counter the arguments of evolution deniers publicly and in any venue we can, but not engage in a direct confrontation or otherwise collaborate with them. Nothing I have read has changed my mind.

Interesting as the comments have been, they have gotten way off the original task, so I think it is time to close them. Doing so is also an anti-spam measure; I do not leave any thread open forever.

For further discussion of evolution denial, may I suggest the essay posted by Dr. GH at http://www.pandasthumb.org/pt-archi[…]39.html#more ?

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This page contains a single entry by Matt Young published on November 29, 2004 5:59 PM.

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