Richard Colling: New paradigm needed: More intelligent ‘intelligent design’

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New paradigm needed: More intelligent ‘intelligent design’

Richard D. Colling is chairman of the biology department at Olivet Nazarene University and author of “Random Designer – Created from Chaos to Connect with the Creator. His e-mail address is Richard Colling

Dr Colling points out how the debate about evolution and religious faith has been fueled by unsupportable statements by both atheists and creationists.

Fueled by bold, but unsupportable atheistic pronouncements from a few scientists that science and evolution render God superfluous, and reinforced by a continuous barrage of heated anti-evolution rhetoric flowing from scientifically naive creationist voices over many years, this idea of mutual exclusivity has seemingly become entrenched as the prevailing premise in contemporary American culture.

This has caused a tension which is now spreading into issues of public policy and education.

Dr Colling observes that Intelligent Design however is not the answer, at least not in its present form

However, in my view, as a measure that promotes sound science while preserving the long-term viability of faith, intelligent design, as it is currently understood, fails both tests.

I have been arguing much along the same lines namely that Intelligent Design poses risks for both scientific integrity as well as religious faith.

Dr Colling recommends that the Dover school board reconsiders their earlier decision for the following reasons

  • Intelligent Design is too new to have been subjected to scientific scrutiny needed for it to be included in a science curriculum
  • Intelligent Design is not an accepted concept within mainstream science
  • The links between Intelligent Design and creationism are too deeply rooted
  • Intelligent Design may run the risk of running afoul of the separation of Church and State although Dr Colling admits he is not a legal scholar

I will quote the following reason verbatim since it is so relevant

If the goal is to preserve an element of faith in the classroom, intelligent design provides but a temporary solution by positing an intelligent designer to explain perceived gaps in current scientific understanding. Such an approach is fraught with liability, and actually counterproductive to the stated purpose.

If history has any lesson for us, it is this: As understanding in science and biology inexorably march on, the perceived scientific mysteries of today will give way to well-understood processes tomorrow. And as this inevitability unfolds, science will incrementally, yet systematically erase the prospects of a designer – one data point at time.

The risks of Intelligent Design, formulated in its ‘argument from ignorance’ or ‘God of the gaps’ format seems to inevitable run the risk of causing grave damage to religious faith as gaps are slowly closed.

If science can show, convinvingly, that it can be open to the possibility of a Creator and if religious faith can accept wherever science may take them, then there may be future for faith and science.

A personal note

One may rightly object that ‘true science’ does not say anything about religious faith, one way or another. But reality is that many scientists have made statements which are now used by creationists to send a wrong message namely that science is hostile to their faith.

Even if one does not understand why people have the need for religious faith, one need to realize that many of the hotspots in the evolution/creation debate could have easily been avoided if people were less skeptical towards the scientific community.

PandasThumb is doing an excellent job at addressing the scientific aspects of these issues but this mostly impresses those who are already friendly towards the concept of evolution. There is a large group of people out there who rally in support of their faith all over this country with a misunderstanding of what science is really all about. That science is no enemy of religious faith and that religious faith is no enemy of science is something which may be self evident to many of us but it may be far less self-evident to mainstream US. The recent creation/evolution flare-ups around the country show that there are still many people who incorrectly feel threatened by science.

One cannot ignore the discomfort sceince may cause and hope that this will all go away. Over time the sides will become more and more polarized and any hope for reconciliation will be lost.

Professor Richard Colling, author of the book “Random Designer: Created from Chaos to Connect with Creator” is quoted by Sharon Begley in Tough Assignment: Teaching Evolution To Fundamentalists, Wall Street Journal, December 3, 2004; Page A15

Prof. Richard Colling Wrote:

In his new book, “Random Designer,” he writes: “It pains me to suggest that my religious brothers are telling falsehoods” when they say evolutionary theory is “in crisis” and claim that there is widespread skepticism about it among scientists. “Such statements are blatantly untrue,” he argues; “evolution has stood the test of time and considerable scrutiny. [1]” Sharon Begley in Tough Assignment: Teaching Evolution To Fundamentalists, Wall Street Journal, December 3, 2004; Page A15

An olive branch has been offered. Will we accept it? Can we afford not to?

59 Comments

The latest issue of the “Reports of the National Center for Science Education” (Vol. 24, Numbers 3-4, May-Aug. 2004) is almost entirely devoted to discussing science-religion issues, mostly through many book reviews. I recommend it highly. Several books expressing views similar to those of Richard Colling are featured (though, unfortunately, his is not mentioned). It might be useful to create a bibliography of these books to share with various public officials grappling with teaching ID in schools.

Colling states that intelligent design is a new thing?

I wonder what planet it’s new on. On earth it’s been around at least since cavemen began carving little gods out of mammoth bones.

Maybe someone should whisper the name “William Paley” in Colling’s ear.

Creation science, trying to find scientific justification for a literal interpretation of Genesis might be new. The notion of intelligent design is truly ancient.

Dave, stop confusing the concept of intelligent design, with the intelligent design movement whose arguments are based on the eliminative approaches of William Dembski.

Educate yourself. Do us and yourself a favor. If you had read Colling you would know that he is fully aware of the status of design in history.

Comprehesion requires a step up from reading, especially when you restrict yourself to abstracts or Cliff notes…

I own Colling’s book as well as Polkinghorne’s “the faith of a physicist” Miller’s Finding Darwin’s God is another excellent book

Intelligent design is as old as William Paley, at least?

Someone should whisper “Charles Darwin” in Dave’s ear.

Intelligent design, as understood by the ancients, was pretty much falsified by about 1830. In 1831 church authorities admitted it had failed in geology (famously in the speech by Rev. Adam Sedgwick), and in most other natural sciences. Darwin’s nail-in-the-coffin was merely to have discovered one of the mechanisms by which the appearance of design arises among living things.

That science is no enemy of religious faith and that religious faith is no enemy of science is something which may be self evident to many of us but it may be far less self-evident to mainstream US. The recent creation/evolution flare-ups around the country show that there are still many people who incorrectly feel threatened by science.

This statement expresses a principle not everyone can agree on. The search for some common ground is admirable, but as they said in the 60s, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. In other words, there IS no middle ground. From the creationist perspective, *by definition* nothing can be neutral with respect to God. Either you glorify Him, or you oppose Him. Being neutral, not addressing God’s Will one way or another, is NOT neutral, it is hostile. It omits God, which is ALWAYS hostile. There is no neutral.

We may dislike this viewpoint, we may prefer that it go away or wise up or otherwise stop causing all this trouble, but our preferences don’t change it. It’s real and it’s virulent.

Incidentally, I’ve read some material about arguments among the ancient Greeks, as to just how one could tell WHICH god was responsible for some phenomenon. They didn’t use Dembski’s eliminative approach as such, but the underlying ‘reasoning’ was the same: the identity of the responsible god was prima facie obvious and if you didn’t see it straightaway, you were morally deficient.. The rest has always been eyewash.

Flint said,

This statement expresses a principle not everyone can agree on. The search for some common ground is admirable, but as they said in the 60s, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. In other words, there IS no middle ground. From the creationist perspective, *by definition* nothing can be neutral with respect to God. Either you glorify Him, or you oppose Him. Being neutral, not addressing God’s Will one way or another, is NOT neutral, it is hostile. It omits God, which is ALWAYS hostile. There is no neutral.

But I don’t think the position being advocated was neutrality; merely that science and faith can co-exist. Certainly the strong-minded theist insists that others share his/her faith (logically, in his mind, since it represents truth). But accepting science is not a neutral position on the religious question.

wedgie

Are you appealing to any particular authority or just all authorities in general?

Rilke:

But accepting science is not a neutral position on the religious question.

Since we seem to agree, I assume we aren’t connecting. Creationist theology is that the “kinds” were created ex nihilo and as-is. Science either ratifies this doctrine, or science is wrong. PvM’s personal note argued that science and religious faith are not enemies, and I tried to point out that it depends on the religious faith. Creationism makes scientific statements (statements about the nature and history of the objective universe), and science has determined that these statements are not correct. Within the creationist theology, science is wrong. Period. There is no possibility of coexistence. The two are enemies.

Science can quite easily coexist with theistic evolution, the general view that in studing reality science is examining God’s handiwork and figuring out how He chose to do things. This is possible because the theist doesn’t know the details ahead of time; there is no a priori mold that scientific discoveries are required to fit. The argument has often been made that science is neutral with respect to God, neither accepting nor denying the supernatural, because the supernatural lies outside the competence and attentions of science.

But to the creationists, science MUST recognize their God, and MUST interpret the evidence in support of the scientific doctrine already specified. There is no room for compromise on these requirements. To compromise in such a fundamental way is to throw open the door to doubt or reinterpretation of the entire Bible! This in turn opens up the possibility that their interpretations might be human rather than divine. And THAT means they might be wrong!.

Flint, you are right that a reconciliation of science and faith needs an effort from all sides. It’s hard to insist on something by faith when science rejects the concept. In other words, young earth creationism or anti-evolutionism are positions which make reconciliation much harder. Your description of ‘the creationist’ is one for whom reconciliation is unlikely. Yet there are many Christians who are reaching out and are willing to go where the evidence leads them. Richard Colling is one of these persons who is showing how religious faith and scientific rigor can live side by side. He realizes that the positions of some scientists and many creationists have polarized the discussion leading to a sense of distrust. It’s those Christians who are led to believe by fellow Christians quoting some extreme (atheistic) comments (often from prominent scientists) who need to understand that science need not be an enemy of their faith. And similarly their faith needs not be an enemy of science. Getting this message out is not going to convince the extreme skeptics or those committed to hold a position that makes reconciliation unlikely. But it is a powerful message to those who are led to believe that science is teaching atheism when in fact science is very reconcilable with their faith. Reducing the distrust among Christians and scientists alike about motivations can go a long way towards resolving the evolution/creationism debates. For that to happen both sides need to realize that there is a range of religious faith, some more amendable than others to what science is telling them. What Colling is showing is that a Christian need not fear science. And that is a powerful message.

I’d have to respectfully but forcefully dissent from the view that “science is no enemy of religious faith”.

I’m quite in favor of building bridges, but I think it’s a mistake to try to lay the first stone in midair, halfway between the shores. Conciliatory NOMA-esque talk reminds me of statements coming from many different quarters immediately following September 11 to the effect that “Islam is a religion of peace.” Just as Ibn Warraq was quick to respond that, while there may be moderate Muslims, Islam is not itself moderate, so I maintain that while there may be people who endeavour to adapt their religious faith to science, religious faith is not itself compatible with science. I don’t think either camp is well served in the “peace negotiations” by papering over this fundamental fact.

Theist views of origins are compatible with biological science in the way that the view that putting a jesus-fish on your car increases gas mileage is compatible with automotive engineering. An engineer trying to explain that the data flatly fail to bear out this hypothesis is under no obligation to make some sui generis exception just for the jesusfishiologist by telling him “oh, don’t worry, empirical science can never rule out religious belief!”.

I’ve been in conversations where I’ve tried to defend variants of NOMA before. A theist being told his belief is the equivalent of the jesusfishiologist’s can smell a sour deal when he’s being offered one, and in my experience they always seem to pick up on the fact that they’re getting the short end of the stick. Reconciliation is a fine and noble goal, but IMO the project will never get off the ground unless defenders of science can face up to the nature of the division and acknowledge it.

Science has proved that intelligent agents can interfere with natural evolution.

I have a genetically engineered rotten tomato ready to throw at anyone who disagrees.

DaveScot,

You’re referring to Human intelligent agents, I presume? I’m not sure how that applies, positively or negatively, to Supernatural intelligent agents.

Of course intelligent agents can interfere with ‘natural evolution’ and your point being? Nobody is denying the possibility of intelligent design, it’s just that the scientific evidence for ID is a bit, how shall I say this gently, eh lacking?…

I guess that Davescot was trying to say is that the process of rotting requires some supernatural intervention :-)

I can interfere with a run-away train as well, not the the train would notice…

Ouch

Plenty of scientists are Christians so it is an empirical fact that evolution and Christianity are compatible, at least for them. That said, I find it extraordinarily implausible to claim that science and religion are irrelevant to one another since there is also abundant evidence that believers have altered their beliefs in the face in the results of astronomy, geology, and biology and that those even those who have not altered their beliefs feel challenged by scientific results.

Debates about science and religion are exceedingly unmysterious if you don’t have a dog in the hunt..Since religions are human affairs that contain little or no objective truth, they are bonelesss and can adopt almost any shape. Indeed, over the years they have. Just for this reason, science is not the enemy of “Christianity” or “Islam” but only of particular sets of ideas and practices that happen to be operating under these trade names at a given time.

Flint Wrote:

PvM’s personal note argued that science and religious faith are not enemies, and I tried to point out that it depends on the religious faith.

This is quite right - I think what PvM, and others, are trying to say is that science and religious faith are not intrinsically opposed to one another. As PvM says, this is the prevailing view among a) many secular intellectuals, who dominate college and university campuses, and b) fundamentalist/conservative Christians. Of course certain religious beliefs are in conflict with the scientific evidence - but the real debate is the metaphysical one. I think there is some truth to Phillip Johnson’s claim that there are competing metaphysical views at stake (I will avoid using the term ‘worldview’ in an attempt to avoid the cries of outrage from Great White Wonder). I think he makes a basic error when he conflates the naturalistic practice/focus of science with metaphysical naturalism, but there is no denying that this outlook (metaphysical naturalism) is quite prevalent in the scientific community, and in the academy in general, and that it is in conflict with religious beliefs and values.

WedgieWorld Wrote:

Getting this message out is not going to convince the extreme skeptics or those committed to hold a position that makes reconciliation unlikely. But it is a powerful message to those who are led to believe that science is teaching atheism when in fact science is very reconcilable with their faith.

This is the main point - there are a large number of Christians who are ignorant about science, and who will obviously place their faith above whatever someone claims that science says. If their leaders, following Johnson et al., say that evolutionary theory is incompatible with the Bible, they are likely to accept this without really understanding what, exactly, is incompatible and why (this is true regardless of whether the leaders themselves understand the science). But only a fairly small number will cling to this strict conflict model if they are faced with persuasive arguments from religious leaders and scientists that they trust. If they don’t perceive a threat from the scientific community, they won’t be motivated to counter it with actions like those undertaken in Dover. As is always the case, the extremists will have little power to do anything if they don’t have the tacit support of the larger population.

I know there must be plenty of Sunday Christians, whose ‘faith’ doesn’t cross their minds except insofar as they attend some nearby church each Sunday morning. They attend for a cocktail of various reasons - because their spouse goes, because they wish to expose their children to an essential part of cultural literacy, because the church is a good place to network with others for social or professional purposes, because it’s the path of least resistance in some way (their boss expects it of them, or whatever).

And I suppose that the majority of these people have no idea what evolution is, except for the various cartoons showing the fish morphing into a human linearly, with some monkey- or ape-like phases depicted in the middle. For most, if they’ve been exposed to evolution at all, it was their church dissing it. Since they basically tune out the sermons they attend, they don’t have any clearer grasp of the doctrinal specifics of their default denomination either. And this describes a class of people neither aware nor committed. Most of them are disinclined to believe scientific nonsense – their religion is supposed to glorify reality, not deny it. Finally, these people each have a vote.

But surely these people shouldn’t be considered creationists? If this is our target audience, I wonder if we have adopted effective tactics.

“Fueled by bold, but unsupportable atheistic pronouncements from a few scientists that science and evolution render God superfluous”

I really wish he’d actually provide some cites for this. The reality is, science and evolution clearly HAVE rendered God superfluous in a lot of the tasks that people believed that God played. There isn’t any kittyfooting around this.

One may rightly object that ‘true science’ does not say anything about religious faith, one way or another.

One may say that, but not rightly. If your religion makes testable claims about the natural world, science quite rightly has something to say about it.

If your religious faith requires you to believe that the Earth is flat, science has something to say about that.

If your religious faith requires you to believe that the Sun revolves about the Earth instead of vice versa, science has something to say about that.

If your religious faith requires you to believe that a human baby was cloned, science has something to say about that (or would, if testing were allowed).

If your religious faith requires you to believe that the variety of life we see about us is not the result of evolution from a common ancestor, science has something to say about that.

There’s a lesson in there somewhere about the wisdom of building a religious dogma on ‘God of the Gaps’ claims, but I am too struck down with religious ecstasy to understand what it might be.

In general, what PvM and Mike S. are arguing is that clear boundaries be drawn, ‘separate magisteria’ as Gould phrased it. This means that science can’t make any statements judging moral rectitude (which it does not), and religion can’t make any statements about natural history (which ALL religions do. Religion originated as a way of explaining the world around us, and isn’t about to abandon this role).

Dawkins has argued (as could be expected) that religion MUST make statements about the natural world, because morality can’t possibly exist in a vacuum - it must be based on something visible (and presumably admirable) in the real world to have any meaning at all. And the real world belongs to science. So Dawkins says Gould’s clean boundaries cannot be drawn, lest religion be reduced to an imbecile staring at its navel and babbling in tongues.

In Dawkins’ world, science gives us the facts and politics is how we exercise our preferences as informed by those facts, and religion is for the mental defectives. Dawkins is regarded as an extremist, but ducking his points doesn’t make them go away.

In Dawkins’ world, science gives us the facts and politics is how we exercise our preferences as informed by those facts

If you looked at the sum total of laws and regulations in any country, including any fundamentalist religious country, you would find that what you refer to as “Dawkin’s world” is, as a matter of scientific fact, the actual world.

I just finished discussing a client’s problems for half an hour. Did the Bible come up? Nope. My client is an evangelical Christian.

Wall Street closes soon. How many times was the Bible consulted by the traders on the floor? How many times were scientifically deduced facts about the world relied on?

The scientific viewpoint dominates the brains of earth’s humans because it is the only viewpoint proven (scientifically, as it happens) to reliably put food on the table and keep pestilence out of our children’s bodies.

And the real world belongs to science. So Dawkins says Gould’s clean boundaries cannot be drawn, lest religion be reduced to an imbecile staring at its navel and babbling in tongues

God forbid! According to the NYT, the fastest growing religion is not fundamentalist Christianity (one of the weakest religions on earth) but Pentecostalism. Do you recall what Pentecostals like to do in church (besides ritualizing fraudulent healing ceremonies)?

In looking at the progression of the ID movement, it seems to me that part of the PR problem that science is dealing with, and that is epitomized in many of these comments, is the approach to people who have beliefs that aren’t scientific.

While there is a certain advantage to not beating around the bush when confronted with nonsense, it shouldn’t be surprising that this is off-putting to many people. A better way to go about it is to view people who are confused about science as an opportunity to educate.

The main problem with the ID movement as far as science is concerned isn’t that their ideas are wrong, it’s that the proponents of ID refuse to participate in the scientific process. They won’t play by the rules of science. The most effective approach to such people, I think, is to play the naif, or even the advocate. That is, saying, “Hey, that idea is interesting. Why don’t you try to write it up in a journal article and get it out so that other scientists can hear about it?” Of course, at this point, it would be disingenuous to play that game with ID proponents, but it’s still reasonable to keep the spirit: “It’s impossible to judge the merits of ID until they engage the scientific community with more peer-reviewed research articles and the consensus opinion among biologists can be assessed.” Or, considering the relatively poor science behind ID, it might be more appopriate to say, “I’m eager to see more ideas from the ID community. Unfortunately, right now, their research has not yet reached a point where scientists can test the validity of their hypotheses.”

Anyway, it seems to me that, regardless of our individual opinions about religion, the science community is overwhelmingly inclusive. There is no reason why you can’t test particular beliefs about the natural world using science; science merely asks that you be open to the fact that your belief may be wrong.

Flint said,

Since we seem to agree, I assume we aren’t connecting. Creationist theology is that the “kinds” were created ex nihilo and as-is. Science either ratifies this doctrine, or science is wrong. PvM’s personal note argued that science and religious faith are not enemies, and I tried to point out that it depends on the religious faith. Creationism makes scientific statements (statements about the nature and history of the objective universe), and science has determined that these statements are not correct. Within the creationist theology, science is wrong. Period. There is no possibility of coexistence. The two are enemies.

Science can quite easily coexist with theistic evolution, the general view that in studing reality science is examining God’s handiwork and figuring out how He chose to do things. This is possible because the theist doesn’t know the details ahead of time; there is no a priori mold that scientific discoveries are required to fit. The argument has often been made that science is neutral with respect to God, neither accepting nor denying the supernatural, because the supernatural lies outside the competence and attentions of science.

But to the creationists, science MUST recognize their God, and MUST interpret the evidence in support of the scientific doctrine already specified. There is no room for compromise on these requirements. To compromise in such a fundamental way is to throw open the door to doubt or reinterpretation of the entire Bible! This in turn opens up the possibility that their interpretations might be human rather than divine. And THAT means they might be wrong!.

I concur. Carry on, Sgt. Major.

Freddy writes

The main problem with the ID movement as far as science is concerned isn’t that their ideas are wrong .…

From a scientific point of view, I am not aware of any “idea” unique to the “ID movement” which is not wrong.

For example, their idea of redefining science to include the awe-inspiring activities of “mysterious” invisible beings is incredibly stupid.

Funny, isn’t it, how evangelicals can vehemently oppose “redefining” marriage to accomodate loving families, yet demand out of the other side of their mouths that science be redefined to accomodate ignorant bigots?

“It’s impossible to judge the merits of ID until they engage the scientific community with more peer-reviewed research articles and the consensus opinion among biologists can be assessed.”

That is a falsehood. It certainly is possible to judge the merits of “ID theory” and it always has been. Moreover, it is easily done and the average high school student is perfectly capable of showing that the allegedly “scientific” theories peddled by the Johnsonite Christians are scientifically useless garbage.

Or, considering the relatively poor science behind ID, it might be more appopriate to say, “I’m eager to see more ideas from the ID community.”

Oy. You would have to pay me quite a bit of money to utter such a statement. If a credible evolutionary biologists ever uttered such a statement, I would have to assume he or she was impossibly naive about how the “ID community” uses quotes from credible evolutionary biologists, that he or she was paid to make the statement, or that he or she has lost his or her mind.

Great White Wonder: As I said, I was thinking about the problem in terms of the public’s view of science, rather than what is good or bad science. It just seems to me that the ID movement has very effectively baited scientists into highlighting what many people believe to be bad about science: that as an institution it is elitist, it is exclusionary, and it pretends to be omniscient. It seems to me that science is strong enough to admit in public that there may be merits to ID that we are missing out on simply because the proponents of the theory have not taken the time to put it into a form that can be tested scientifically. Additionally, this highlights (to the public) that science is open to new ideas, on the condition that such ideas can be tested scientifically. It is also important to keep in mind that the goals should be different when scientists appear in public than when they appear before their peers. Most of the public is not particularly interested or informed enough to follow scientific arguments, regardless of how convincing we may believe them to be. However, the public will pick up on the fact that scientists are not a priori judgmental of non-scientific ideas, that such ideas are perfectly acceptable provided the proponents of the idea agree to back up their claims with evidence. I would argue that scientists in the public arena should be as open as possible while still being honest, and that openess is the quality noticeably lacking among many scientists in the public arena nowadays.

freddy Wrote:

While there is a certain advantage to not beating around the bush when confronted with nonsense, it shouldn’t be surprising that this is off-putting to many people. A better way to go about it is to view people who are confused about science as an opportunity to educate.

I completely agree. Unfortunately, many defenders of quality science education often focus too much on the religious motivations of the major players of the ID movement and put very little emphasis on the overall scientific understanding of the general public. After all, it’s the general public who elect the scientifically confused school board members and legislators in the first place.

Education of the general public can be an effective tool for opposing the push to insert religious ideas in public school science classrooms. This was clearly demonstrated here in Kansas with the work of organizations like Kansas Citizens for Science (KCFS). Unfortunately, the successes following the 1999 debacle have quietly faded away. The lesson learned is that defenders of quality science education must be proactive, not just reactive.

openess is the quality noticeably lacking among many scientists in the public arena nowadays.

More accurately, I’d say that scientists are lacking in the public arena nowadays, not to mention atheists, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and liberal Democrats.

All the scientists I am aware of are open to testing any testable idea that has some possibility of success and utility. If you give the scientist enough money, he or she will probably even test some ideas that the scientist knows are worthless and have no chance of succeeding.

None of this changes the fact that invoking “mysterious” superpowerful alien beings to explain any phenomenon is about as unscientific and ridiculous as an idea get in 2005.

Scientists should mock such proposals loudly and derisively, at every opportunity they have, and challenge anyone to explain to them why science should be redefined to include such worthless fantasies within its purview.

The whole debate boils down to whether ignorance should be coddled if fundamentalists demand it. If the United States decides that the answer to that question is, then I suggest that those of us who are not fundamentalist learn to embrace the 2nd Amendment and prepare to take advantage of it.

Sorry, my KCFS link is bad. This one should work:

Kansas Citizens for Science (KCFS)

Unfortunately, many defenders of quality science education often focus too much on the religious motivations of the major players of the ID movement and put very little emphasis on the overall scientific understanding of the general public.

What level of scientific understanding is necessary to understand that a theory which purports to explain phenomenon by introducing hithero unknown “mysterious” alien beings with unprecedented powers is not scientific?

Maybe those same designers flew the airplanes into the Twin Towers back in 2001? After all, the planes hit the towers a bit too perfectly, didn’t they? Surely it would be easier to design a motor for a bacteria than it would be to turn the world’s tallest buildings into rubble within the space of an hour.

Improving the “overall scientific understanding” of the general public will require the general public to understand vividly and intimately the consequences of their ignorance. Among those consequences is an experience known as “humiliation,” wherein one is revealed to be a shill for ignorance in a public setting.

Why do you suppose that rich empty pundits and radio personalities pay tribute to “psychic” frauds and liars on their programs but will never put any of their suckered money behind the claims of such charlatans? Fear of humiliation. For the same reason, you’ll only find second-tier laughing stock goin-nowhere Congressmen like Santorum pretending that “ID theory” is science and that evolutionary biology is “in crisis”.

The worst thing that scientists can do is to continue to coddle the ID peddling fundamentalist rubes and Johnsonite Christians. But the people who read the “Left Behind” books and buy Billy Graham DVDs don’t need to know that pseudogene sequences can provide evidence of common descent. They need to know that Osama bin Laden was a creationist moron whose ideas are virtually indistinguishable from those of Phil Johnson. And they need to hear derisive scoffs when the subject of teaching creationism is raised coming from the same scientists who are providing them with medicine and diagnostic tools to prevent cancers in their children.

Feel free to augment this strategy any way you choose. But if you coddle and stroke the egos of the ID peddling t(u)rds by pretending that they merely need “more evidence” to be “competitive”, you’re playing right into their greasy hands.

freddy Wrote:

it pretends to be omniscient

This is precisely what frightens/intimidates many fundamentalists. And Wonder’s sarcasm, mocking of religious faith, and insistence that scientific knowledge is the only allowable form of knowledge in the public arena is, as freddy points out, precisely the kind of thing that convinces them they are right to dismiss the claims of science.

The problem with Wonder’s approach is that there are a lot more people sympathetic with the Fundamentalist’s position than with his. Calling those people ignorant bigots is not going to persuade them that they should listen when you claim that ID should not be taught in high school.

What does it mean to say that “if ignorance [is] coddled”, then those who are not fundamentalists should “embrace the 2nd Amendment”?

Great White Wonder Wrote:

What level of scientific understanding is necessary to understand that a theory which purports to explain phenomenon by introducing hithero unknown “mysterious” alien beings with unprecedented powers is not scientific?

I’m a science teacher myself, and I’m frustrated (and somewhat embarrassed) to admit that I don’t know for sure. But wouldn’t it be helpful to find out? We would like to think that the unscientific nature of ID would be obvious to most people, but recent events in Dover, Grantsburg, and here in Kansas seem to suggest otherwise. Rather than just assume this is obvious and call people “rubes” for not recognizing ID for what it really is, shouldn’t we put some of our focus on educating them about what actually qualifies as a scientific idea?

Don’t get me wrong, there are many ID supporters who clearly deserve public ridicule for their ignorance (and subsequent abuse) of science. I just don’t think this ridicule should be aimed at everyone who exhibits such ignorance. This strategy only reinforces the “elitist” view of science.

Mike S.

Wonder’s sarcasm, mocking of religious faith, and insistence that scientific knowledge is the only allowable form of knowledge in the public arena is, as freddy points out, precisely the kind of thing that convinces them they are right to dismiss the claims of science.

Strawmen. I never mocked “religious faith” nor did I “insist that scientific knowledge is the only allowable form of knowledge in the public arena”. For starters, you can count on me to never engage in pointless discussions about “forms of knowledge” as long as we are conducting those discussions on planet Earth. What planet are you commenting from?

Furthermore, it is “precisely” my point that what “convinces” religious fundamentalists to read from anti-science scripts is irrational fear: fear of free black people roaming the countryside, fear of black people voting, fear of black people marrying white people, etc. You know: irrational fear, arising from ignorance, and not from a sober examination of the scientific facts.

Christian fundamentalists (or whatever they choose to call themselves) are parasites whose only possible effect on society is to suck the life out of it, just like the Taliban sucked the life out of Afghanistan and just like the mullahs in Iran sucked the life out of that country. Thought experiment for you: imagine that ID is mandated in school, gays go to prison, women who abort their babies are executed, and anti-fundamentalist Christian behavior is outlawed. Sound good to you? Do you think the US will remain the world’s only superpower for very long? If so, would you care to explain why?

Also, feel free to explain where I’ve misrepresented fundamentalist Christians political positions.

Calling those people ignorant bigots is not going to persuade them that they should listen when you claim that ID should not be taught in high school.

No, but proving that, in fact, the people who peddle ID theory ARE ignorant fundamentalist lying bigots is undeniably a good thing for people who don’t want to live in a country where ignorant lying fundamentalists determine what “improvements” are necessary. Disagree? If so, please explain.

Is Philip Johnson not an anti-gay HIV-denying fundamentalist who willingly spreads lies to propogate his religious beliefs? Is there a problem with reciting this fact in the United States unashamedly and repeatedly? Is there a problem with asserting that the Johnsonite Christians who robotically recite Discovery Institute scripts are as backwards and ignorant as Johnson himself?

What does it mean to say that “if ignorance [is] coddled”, then those who are not fundamentalists should “embrace the 2nd Amendment”?

What is the purpose of the 2nd amendment if not to prevent our government from turning into a totalitarian state where truth is decided by a committee based on their interpretation of a “holy book”?

Compare James Randi’s web site or TalkOrigins with Answers in Genesis. The latter site is so full of garbage that it can be justified by reasonable human beings only as a crutch to support weak-minded rubes. The former are brilliant flashlight cast on scurrying cockroaches who prey on people’s ignorance and misunderstanding.

Are my statements inaccurate? If so, how so?

I’m not running for President. I don’t need to lie. I don’t need to pretend that these fundamentalists are inherently “different.” They are human beings just like you and me. They know that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west (because Philip Johnson hasn’t yet told them to dispute this). They know that angels don’t make light bulbs glow. They have rectums and their feces stinks just like mine and no amount of praying is going to change that.

The debate between evolutionary biology is a debate about the role of ignorance in society. The question is: do people have a right to have their ignorance coddled by the Federal government, whether that ignorance is about evolutionary biology and its tenets or whether that ignorance is about the nature of science itself?

If atheists must step outside of the classroom if they wish to avoid hearing the children of rubes recite a prayer to the God of our Flag, then likewise the children of evangelical parents should be forced to step outside the science classroom if their parents don’t want them to learn the facts about evolutionary biology. Why would that be unfair? If evolutionary biology is a load of crahp, then it’s the standardized test that is unfair, isn’t it? You don’t think the ID peddlers would go so far as to demand that the standardized test be changed, do you? Everything that gets in the way of any program which is intended to spread fundamentalist evangelical doctrine is unfair because that is the only purpose of fundamentalist religions: to spread itself across the face of the earth.

Have I lied yet? Let me know.

Refusing to take lying arrogant anti-science rubes to the woodshed is a huge mistake. Doesn’t their own holy book say something about “sparing the rod”???

Jeremy

Rather than just assume this is obvious and call people “rubes” for not recognizing ID for what it really is, shouldn’t we put some of our focus on educating them about what actually qualifies as a scientific idea?

Of course. But for the love of jeebus don’t ever pretend that some guy Popper decided what qualifies as a “scientific idea.” How many times have I seen that?

You say you don’t know “for sure” why a “theory” which purports to explain phenomenon by introducing hithero unknown “mysterious” alien beings with unprecedented powers is not scientific.

What part aren’t you sure about? What part of that theory is testable? What part of that theory is any more informative or useful than a theory which says that Ploink Ploink used the earth for a giant toilet 100,000 years, carved out the grand canyon with his hind legs (the third set, behind the giant udders dripping with purple milk), defecated all the earth’s life forms, but forget to cover them up (reminds me of my cat)?

You never need to get into the gory metaphysical details of “what is science”. That is the tar pit where the Johnsonite Christians want you to go. The fact is that “ID theory” falls so far below the bar that such discussions aren’t merited.

Have you noticed that Uri Geller’s amazing powers never lead to such hand-wringing about what is science? Or John Edward’s ability to communicate with the dead?

There is a reason for that. It’s because people aren’t afraid to say that Uri Geller and John Edward are charlatans who enjoy milking money from ignorant rubes.

But when it comes to bogus creationist claims and attacks on science – hoo boy, now we have to tippy-toe because we wouldn’t want to “offend” anybody.

It’s time to end this nonsense. These obnoxious frauds are playing for real. If you don’t believe that scientists are entitled to have their most basic irrefutable conclusions presented without massaging from religious cranks, then my opinion is that you’d be better off teaching something else. Frankly, I suspect that you believe such massages are disgusting. When is the last time you said so in public?

GWW,

We’re trying to have a high-brow blog here. Please find a way to communicate your points without the potty talk.

Jeremy,

I’m a science teacher myself, and I’m frustrated (and somewhat embarrassed) to admit that I don’t know for sure. But wouldn’t it be helpful to find out?

Yes, I suspect it would. However, I also suspect that the reasons for opposition to the teaching of evolution spring from a complex of religious beliefs (Christian or otherwise) which are not amenable to reason.

We would like to think that the unscientific nature of ID would be obvious to most people, but recent events in Dover, Grantsburg, and here in Kansas seem to suggest otherwise.

I’m not sure it’s that simple; it may have nothing to do with the ‘unscientific nature’ of ID - but rather with a willful ignorance of science… a point that Flint has made several times.

Rather than just assume this is obvious and call people “rubes” for not recognizing ID for what it really is, shouldn’t we put some of our focus on educating them about what actually qualifies as a scientific idea?

It would be interesting to consider the number of people that could be reached in such a fashion. I suspect that the true die-hards are not amenable to reason (as… Paine or Johnson or somebody once said, “Not having reasoned themselves to their beliefs, they cannot be reasoned from those self-same beliefs.”)

Don’t get me wrong, there are many ID supporters who clearly deserve public ridicule for their ignorance (and subsequent abuse) of science. I just don’t think this ridicule should be aimed at everyone who exhibits such ignorance. This strategy only reinforces the “elitist” view of science.

I am also not trying to imply that people are not intelligent; some of the most vocal and active opponents of good science are very intelligent indeed. “But intelligence is a tool that is used to serve an end; and ends are not always chosen intelligently.”

Sorry, I’m just feeling quotable tonight.

Great White Wonder Wrote:

You say you don’t know “for sure” why a “theory” which purports to explain phenomenon by introducing hithero unknown “mysterious” alien beings with unprecedented powers is not scientific.

What part aren’t you sure about?

Wait a minute. I didn’t say that. Look again. I said that I don’t know “for sure” what level of scientific understanding is necessary to recognize that ID is not scientific. I’d like to think that my students leave my classroom with this ability, but apparently many students do not. To me, this should be one of our primary objectives.

Great White Wonder Wrote:

It’s time to end this nonsense. These obnoxious frauds are playing for real. If you don’t believe that scientists are entitled to have their most basic irrefutable conclusions presented without massaging from religious cranks, then my opinion is that you’d be better off teaching something else. Frankly, I suspect that you believe such massages are disgusting. When is the last time you said so in public?

How about now? I consider it disgusting. But, please remember that I have to work with parents and students who truly believe those “obnoxious frauds” are right. Calling them names is counterproductive (and risky from an employment perspective).

Rilke:

You seem to be quoting Larry Niven

GWW Wrote:

Strawmen. I never mocked “religious faith”

Followed by,

Christian fundamentalists (or whatever they choose to call themselves) are parasites whose only possible effect on society is to suck the life out of it…

I’m sure you will split hairs and claim that you are talking about particular people, not about religious faith in general. But I’m afraid the distinction will be lost on most people whose sympathies lie with Christian fundamentalists.

Thought experiment for you: imagine that ID is mandated in school, gays go to prison, women who abort their babies are executed, and anti-fundamentalist Christian behavior is outlawed. Sound good to you? Do you think the US will remain the world’s only superpower for very long? If so, would you care to explain why?

Speaking of strawmen…

Also, feel free to explain where I’ve misrepresented fundamentalist Christians political positions.

Wonder, I don’t see how you expect anyone not to draw the conclusion that you are hostile to religous beliefs when you use such over-the-top rhetoric. I’ve never heard of anyone who wants women who have abortions to be executed (there are a few people who think doctors who perform them should be, but there are very few such people). And I have no idea what you are talking about with regard to ‘anti-fundamentalist Christian behavior’ - dancing will be banned? And what, exactly, are the chances that our government will be taken over by religious fundamentalists? Even the Great Satan Bush is not a fundamentalist. Besides, this country was founded largely by people you would call fundamentalist, and so far things have turned out OK. What was that you were saying about irrational fears?

No, but proving that, in fact, the people who peddle ID theory ARE ignorant fundamentalist lying bigots is undeniably a good thing…

It is precisely my point that you can demonstrate their ignorance and/or lying in a more effective manner than standing up and shouting “all fundamentalist Christians are ignorant rubes, and want to run this country like the Taliban ran Afghanistan!”

Flies. Honey. Vinegar.

Another point about discerning what is good science and what isn’t. There is no question that the level of general scientific literacy in our society is woefully low. But there are many reasons for this, most of which are not due to religious fundamentalism (and some of which are the fault of the scientific community). But even for fairly educated people, it can be very difficult to discern good science from bad. Robert Park’s book “Vodoo Science” makes this point effectively.

Even scientists can get taken in - look at the guy from Bell Labs who fabricated data. He got several publications in Science and Nature and only got caught because he directly replicated a figure. If he’d been slightly more clever he still might not have been found out. Of course he would have been found out eventually, but its silly to say that his fraud was obvious and/or easy to detect.

While it is true that ID is clearly bad science, that doesn’t mean that it’s always obvious what is good science and what is bad.

I don’t know how much I have to add to the discussion, which has had the benefit of a number of thoughtful posts. I would like to expand on my earlier posts a little bit with some points that have been eluded to in other posts but not really spoken about explicitly.

First of all, I think that there is way too much emphasis on “winning” the debate against creationists. The debate over the scientific merit of creationism is won. While scientists are debating the scientific merit of creationism, creationists are winning the PR war by portraying science as intolerant and close-minded and insufficient.

So, in a local sense, the PR-debate over creationism can be won, I believe, by shifting the debate from a debate over ideologies, that is a debate of evolutionism vs. creationism or science vs. religion, to a debate over process. Debates over ideologies are provacative and polarizing, debates over process are boring and hard to follow. So, simply argue that science has no problem per se with ID, the problem right now with ID is that it hasn’t gone through the process of engaging science through peer-reviewed articles and submissions at legitimate scientific conferences, etc. etc. We can then talk about how there are any number of ideas we as scientists are confronted with everyday, via email, phone calls, FedEx packages, etc. involving alien abduction, psychic healing, perpetual motion machines. All of these people believe that they deserve a place in science, but we simply don’t have the time or incentive to evaluate all of these ideas, which is why there is a system in place to evaluate what ideas are scientifically viable, and that process is peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences.

In a broader sense, though, I don’t believe that the debate over ID is really a problem for science. As several have mentioned already, there is an alarming amount of scientific illiteracy in the public nowadays, and, for the most part, people are remarkably uninterested in science. What the ID debate is giving scientists is the opportunity is to have a wide public forum. For the duration of the ID movement, scientists have been frustrated by the refusal of ID proponents to engage in anything like honest debate. These people merely repeat talking points that have been refuted many times over. I don’t see why scientists should not feel similarly free from engaging in honest debate. While given the opportunity to have a wide public forum, and I should mention that I’m thinking primarily of talk radio, television talk shows, and campus debates, we should feel free to talk about what we think is cool and interesting about science and about why we think it is important for the public to be engaged in scientific thinking. There is no reason why we should allow IDers to define the terms of the discussion.

Mike S

I’m sure you will split hairs and claim that you are talking about particular people, not about religious faith in general. But I’m afraid the distinction will be lost on most people whose sympathies lie with Christian fundamentalists.

Hardly splitting hairs and, more importantly, not my problem.

In case you haven’t noticed, fundamentalists are offended by everything. That’s why I say, “screw fundamentalists!”

Go ahead and coddle them. Pretend that their views are “reasonable” but, unfortunately, “are not quite correct at this time.”

After they redefine science so it expressly includes hypotheses that invoke the activities of mysterious invisible deity-like beings, tell me what’s left to defend?

It’s chilling to realize that you consider Philip Johnson’s agenda to be a strawman, Mike. What do you suppose the utility of the “wedge” is, Mike? What do you think Johnson meant when he talked about “turning the train around”?

Regardless of their ignorance and disgusting activity, the Johnsonite Christians can not be waved off and ignored. They have too much money. They need to be confronted, exposed, and stomped on like roaches.

It is precisely my point that you can demonstrate their ignorance and/or lying in a more effective manner than standing up and shouting “all fundamentalist Christians are ignorant rubes, and want to run this country like the Taliban ran Afghanistan!”

I never suggested that such statements were useful for demonstrating the ignorance or dishonest activities of the Johnsonite fundies. But I disagree that such statements are out of bounds or counterproductive.

Fact: people who sincerely believe that explaining phenomena by proposing mysterious allpowerful intelligent alien beings is a scientifically useful way of understanding the world are ignorant about science.

Fact: fundamentalist Christians believe that their religion is the one true religion, everyone else is going to hell, and the United States would be a better place if its laws were consistent with fundamentalist CHristian doctrine.

Now, put two and two together and look at the Discovery Institute, Mike S.

It’s not Buddhists, Catholics, Episcopalians, Zorastrians, Jews, or Muslims who are pushing this “ID theory” garbage. It’s Johnsonite Christians who want to “turn the train around.”

The vast majority of poorly educated kool-aid drinking Americans who buy Johnson’s scripts – folks like Bill Buckingam – do so out of irrational fear. They have been told to be afraid by the same folks who are selling them the “wedge”.

I am not suggesting that mocking these people as “suckers” is going to convince them that “ID theory” is “bad science.” But they need to made aware that is the most disgusting fraud in the history of public education in this country, bar none. And if they buy into it, they surely are suckers. They’ve sold their children to Ignorance for the price of a very expensive lawsuit.

It is far far too late to worry about being labeled as an “elitist”. Anyone who disagrees with the fundamentalists about any of their positions and attempts to justify that position by showing that the fundamentalists are mistaken about some fact is an “elitist.” Also a “sinner”. And a “humanist”. And a “baby killer”. Etc., etc.

Timidity and apprehension is a sign of weakness when dealing with people like Johnson. And weaknesses will be exploited ruthlessly.

The failure of scientists and educators to speak aggressively against the ID movement and the shameless behavior of its proponents is a major weakness, in my opinion. The so-called liberal media isn’t going to pay attention to pointy heads mumbling about Karl Popper and transitional fossils. But they’ll pay attention when scientists point out repeatedly that Bill Dembski is a dissembling jerkoff shilling on behalf of a scientifically ignorant lawyer who wants to redefine science in a way that would make Osama bin Laden happy.

But even for fairly educated people, it can be very difficult to discern good science from bad.

No kidding. Then why pretend that fundamentalist Christians high school educations aren’t despicably arrogant and out of their league when they disparage the work of evolutionary biologists?

Freddy writes

simply argue that science has no problem per se with ID, the problem right now with ID is that it hasn’t gone through the process of engaging science through peer-reviewed articles and submissions at legitimate scientific conferences, etc. etc.

I agree that the lack of data is one of many problems with “ID theory” but to “simply argue” that point and no other is to get caught up in a stupid debate about how scientists suppress contradictory data and also if you are careless you risk making a statement that can be construed as an admission that once those “peer-reviewed” papers appear which support “ID theory,” then “ID theory” is suddenly legit. That is baloney.

Let’s talk about defining terms, Freddy.

Notice how I never refer to “ID theory” without quotations. And how I always refer to mysterious intelligent powerful alien beings when talking about the “intelligent designer.” And how I refer only to the ID peddlers, never the “ID scientists”. And how I characterize the ID peddlers as seeking to redefine science (sound familiar?). And how I compare “ID theory” to enterocraftic theory to illustrate the colorful world “ID theory” opens up for us if we pretend that is remotely scientific. These positions are irrefutable (unlike the positions of the ID peddlers) but they are also effective at communicating the message that “ID theory” and the charlatans who push is stinky sleazy stuff (which it surely is).

These aren’t the only ways of avoiding the traps that the Johnsonite Christians have set for scientists. But it’s a sign that I’m paying attention.

Going on TV shows and playing Mr. Wizard is fine and dandy, but it isn’t going to shut these jackasses down in the near term and the near term is precious.

GWW: If you want ideological purity, then your approach is the one to take. Certainly scientists have every right to get up on their high horse and scream “bullshit” at the purveyors of ID. But that is precisely not the way to “shut the jackasses up.” As I keep saying, I am not concerned with the science debate. There is no science debate. I am concerned with the public debate. And the way to give ID proponents legitimacy is to act like what they are saying is a great threat to science, by using heated language and defensive arguments. If you want to make a case before the public, then you need to compromise, because not everybody agrees with you. You don’t need to compromise on core principles, that is, you don’t need to call ID a “theory” and you don’t have to say that there is any sort of controversy in science over evolution, but you do have to admit that it is worth listening to what other people have to say.

Certainly scientists have every right to get up on their high horse and scream “bullshit” at the purveyors of ID.

There is no need to mount even a miniature Shetland pony. That is a fundamental point which must be made. Anyone can destroy “ID theory” and expose its peddlers as charlatans without getting out of his or her chair. No more than an decent high school level understanding of the English language is necessary.

I am not concerned with the science debate. There is no science debate. I am concerned with the public debate.

Point one in the public debate: there is no science debate. Why? “ID theory” is bogus. It’s peddlers are dishonest charlatans trying to propogate their fundamentalist religious beliefs.

Any questions?

And the way to give ID proponents legitimacy is to act like what they are saying is a great threat to science, by using heated language and defensive arguments.

Huh????? I may be upset by the despicable actions of the ID peddlers but my emotions are justified. Their actions are deplorable.

As for your “defensive argument” claim, I have no idea what you are referring to. I am playing offense, Freddy. And after the ball is slammed through the net (nothing but twine) I’m going to step on Bill Dembski’s face, returning the personal fouls he effected during the first three quarters. That is how the game is played.

What country are you from anyway? Here in the United States the conservative fundamentalists don’t mince words when they play politics.

you do have to admit that it is worth listening to what other people have to say.

I’ve heard everything that the creationist apologists have to say. And then I heard it again. And again. And again. And that was back in 1930. Is there some new “evidence” in support of creationism that I’m not aware of? Have the fundamentalists provided data which shows that their children are more likely to become murderers and racists when evolutionary biology is taught in the absence of disclaimers which describe the “alternate” possibility of mysterious alien beings being responsible?

Flint,

Rilke:

You seem to be quoting Larry Niven

Ah, thanks. My suspicion is that he’s quoting someone else. He does that, I’ve heard.

Fyi, Kevin Drum and Chris Mooney are two thoughtful folks who tend to agree with me (at least, this morning they do):

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/mt[…]-tb.cgi/4378

CRACKPOTS.…Chris Mooney says we need to wake up:

[In Salon,] Michelle Goldberg really gives you a feel for the anti-evolutionist juggernaut that’s now preparing to bowl over the educational system, ending on this sobering note: “Evolution’s allies might win the battle for Dover’s biology classes, but they’re losing America.” Indeed, it’s nearing high time for some serious alarmism about the ongoing anti-evolutionist campaign. Scientists need to wake up, fast — those who haven’t already. And then they need to start to fight back. That said, I’m not as pessimistic as Goldberg. Although Democratic politicians tend to be cowards on this subject, the elite media still have no love for creationism, and that’s a powerful force to be reckoned with. Science’s defenders should bring out national television crews, and let them interview the Bible-thumpers who come out for these battles on the local level. One of these types appears in Goldberg’s article — and I’m telling you, mainstream journalists are not ready to embrace people like this.

I think Chris is right. As I’ve said before, the mainstream media really is biased toward showing what they’re familiar with, and what they’re mostly familar with is their fellow college educated social liberals. Unfortunately, this is a two-edged sword: lefty crackpots get a lot of press and end up convincing a lot of people that liberals are nuts, but conservative crackpots are mostly considered weird loons confined to their weird little rural communities and are therefore ignored.

If conservative crackpots got half that press that folks who camp out in redwood trees got, ordinary Americans would probably be a lot more scared of them. It’s time to put these guys front and center.

“Weird” may be an appropriately gentle term for the script-reciting sheep. But it doesn’t do justice to the lying charlatans running the show.

Another problem with ID and its links to fundamental Christianity is that it is dreadfully bad religion,too.

Think about it for a minute: The people who have complained since 1957 that evolution is evil because it is “godless,” now profess to save us with a new brand of creationism whose most distinguishing feature is that it, too, is godless?

GWW Wrote:

I am not suggesting that mocking these people as “suckers” is going to convince them that “ID theory” is “bad science.” But they need to made aware that is the most disgusting fraud in the history of public education in this country, bar none.

So they can be made aware that ID is “the most disgusting fraud” without thinking that it is “bad science”? Or maybe “these people” and “them” refer to two different groups?

The failure of scientists and educators to speak aggressively against the ID movement and the shameless behavior of its proponents is a major weakness, in my opinion.

I suppose it depends upon what you mean by ‘aggressive’. Certainly scientists, as a group, are not especially saavy about public relations (come to think of it, your approach isn’t especially saavy, either). But the examples to date where IDers have made inroads, like the Kansas situation, demonstrate that scientists can capably defend science and marshall public opinion when they are properly motivated. Perhaps they should be more proactive, but the evidence doesn’t bear out the claim that science as a whole is in grave danger from the ID movement. What is your evidence that it is? (Statements of intention from IDers don’t count, only concrete results.)

I suppose it depends upon what you mean by ‘aggressive’.

It means not pulling punches. It means responding to those who imply or explicitly claim that our nation’s scientists are fraudulently deceiving the American people with appropriate outrage. It means educating people about the loathesome nature of the Johnsonite Christians and their tactics. It means organizing everyday people to respond vociferously to those disgusting tactics.

Certainly scientists, as a group, are not especially saavy about public relations (come to think of it, your approach isn’t especially saavy, either).

You’re entitled to your opinion. I’d rather you spend your time expressing your outrage at the dishonest charlatans who are trying to redefine science so that it expressly includes their religious beliefs, and at those scientists who provide the charlatans and their followers with quotes which falsely suggest that “ID theory” is nascent science when, in fact, it’s the stinking rotting corpse of creationism.

Perhaps they should be more proactive, but the evidence doesn’t bear out the claim that science as a whole is in grave danger from the ID movement.

Now you sound like DaveScot, Mike S.

Good job.

Now you sound like DaveScot, Mike S.

Now that is a low blow!

Just to be clear, I’m not saying I don’t think ID is no threat to science. I’m saying that in the grand scheme of things, its relative threat is fairly small. I think video games, for example, have a much larger cumulative effect. I know you like to point to the slippery slope that leads from ID in high school curricula to women who have abortions being executed, but do you honestly think that the overall level of scientific literacy will drop appreciably if ID is introduced into even large numbers of school districts, let alone the handful where it is even an issue right now? If the bar is low, ID cannot push it much lower. We should certainly endeavor to raise the bar, and introducing ID would hinder that process, but it wouldn’t really make the situation drastically worse. And what are the chances ID will be taught in college science classes anytime soon? Pretty close to zero.

Again, I’m not objecting to standing up against ID, and standing up for good science and good science education. But I really do think that overheated rhetoric does more harm than help. If you said “appropriate passion” rather than “appropriate outrage”, I’d probably be more inclined to agree with you. But human nature is such that people act defensive if you attack. Your responses give the perception to others that a) you have something to be defensive about (i.e. that ID has ‘hit a nerve’), and b) they have a reason to defend themselves against you. Scientists can go on offense without giving offense. I’m not talking about offending Johnson et al., I’m talking about offending the large numbers of people who are sympathetic to him.

Wedgie (paraphrased) says

“Evidence of design is lacking.”

Hardly. In every case when we observe something that looks like a purposely designed machine, and where we are able to determine whether it was designed or not, it has been found to be designed. One might thus rightly call it a law, not a theory, that machines are designed as every machine we know of where design can be determined is in fact designed.

Anyone that has at least a rudimentary understanding of the mechanism underlying protein construction via the DNA/ribosome combination and denies that it is a machine with a purpose is either not playing with a full deck or is simply dishonest. DNA/ribosome is essentially a computer controlled milling machine with the express purpose of milling all the parts required to construct duplicates of itself.

No similar machine has ever been observed that did not have design input. That doesn’t prove that no complex machine ever came to be without design input but it does tend to put the burden of proof on the claim that design is not required.

DaveScot Wrote:

Hardly. In every case when we observe something that looks like a purposely designed machine, and where we are able to determine whether it was designed or not, it has been found to be designed.

You continue in your comparisons of things not subject to natural selection to things that are. Do you understand that your analogy fails in a way that is supremely relevant?

DNA/ribosome is essentially a computer controlled milling machine with the express purpose of milling all the parts required to construct duplicates of itself.

So you’ve said before. The analogy is not precise and it is not apt.

DaveScot Wrote:

Anyone that has at least a rudimentary understanding of the mechanism underlying protein construction via the DNA/ribosome combination and denies that it is a machine with a purpose is either not playing with a full deck or is simply dishonest. DNA/ribosome is essentially a computer controlled milling machine with the express purpose of milling all the parts required to construct duplicates of itself.

No similar machine has ever been observed that did not have design input. That doesn’t prove that no complex machine ever came to be without design input but it does tend to put the burden of proof on the claim that design is not required.

But what would happen to this argument if we didn’t have computer controlled milling machines (or other similar machines) for our comparison? What if such machines did not exist? Would you still infer design? Where’s the positive evidence?

But what would happen to this argument if we didn’t have computer controlled milling machines (or other similar machines) for our comparison? What if such machines did not exist? Would you still infer design?

Design is inferred on the basis of a comparison. DaveScot is explicitly comparing with known human design. If he lacked this database of knowledge, and thus any basis for comparison, he would not infer design.

Consider a human infant. Hold something up in front of the infant, and it looks and sees it. Move the item and the infant’s eyes do not follow it – the infant doesn’t yet have a mental model of the space around it. These models must be learned. And so it is with design. We have learned what human designs look like, we see similarities, and we draw conclusions not necessarily valid.

I speculate that the ability to infer intent (and hence design) is an evolved human characteristic, much as we have a hardwired ability to form language or see (human) faces. These abilities are profoundly useful, probably essential, for humans to coexist in a social fabric. But they also lead us to project human faces, human language, and human intent where they do not exist. We anthropomorphize reflexively, and we actually require effort to avoid doing so. We have to remind ourselves that the face in the clouds isn’t a real human face. Anthropologists find tribes attempting to appease or beguile the weather or the soil fertility directly, by projecting intent and purpose onto the inanimate. It’s the other side of a very old coin - a powerful ability poses a powerful potential for abuse.

Retaining rationality and perspective, in defiance of inappropriate applications of our wiring, requires willingness and diligence. If we fail, we see milling machines in ribosomes!

Well said Flint

Ditto.

Flint-

Thanks for so eloquently stating the point I was alluding to with my questions. I truly could not have put it better myself.

Sorry, I copied the wrong link. My previous questions were here.

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on January 9, 2005 8:53 PM.

Antony Flew’s Conversion to Deism: An Update was the previous entry in this blog.

The Constitutionality of Teaching ID is the next entry in this blog.

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