Best op-ed yet: “The E Word”

| 232 Comments

Extra kudos to Ben Fulton of the Salt Lake City Weekly for his perceptive op-ed piece, “The E Word.” Many op-eds have pointed out that “intelligent design” is simply creationism with a new coat of paint, that ID proponents are trying to “cut in line” and get ID into the public schools before it gains scientific acceptance, that there is no ID research program, no “ID theory”, and that it is really all one big misguided exercise in conservative evangelical Christian apologetics.

However, Fulton puts his finger exactly on the point that really drives most of us science fans at PT:

Just imagine that, for every question you presented to someone in power, they answered with the words, “We don’t really know. It’s a mystery.” Now imagine if you or your child asked a question about the origin of the human species in a science class, only to have a learned instructor tell you, “We don’t really know. It’s a mystery.” Would anyone dare call that education?Ben Fulton, “The E Word,” Salt Lake City Weekly

The “intelligent design” movement takes scientific knowledge and substitutes ignorance. It’s not so much that ID takes unanswered questions and says, “Hey, maybe an intelligent designer did it!”, although that is fairly annoying since they never give means, motive or opportunity for the designer, which would be the bare minimum required to begin testing ID.

The biggest problem is that ID proponents take answered questions, and assert – usually through laziness or raw ignorance – that no answers exist, and then substitute their flaky, empty, non-explanation of “Poof, ID did it.” The origin of ‘information’ is one prominent example – this core ID argument, stretching back to Charles Thaxton in the 1980’s, is that evolution can’t create new information. “New information requires intelligence,” they say. But ID proponents have systematically ignored the actual explanations for how new genes with novel functions arise. They studiously ignore papers like this one that explain the various processes that give rise to new genes (this paper gives 20-odd examples where the origin of new genes has been reconstructed in detail – it was cited in the PT critique of Meyer’s ID paper, and the Discovery Institute promised they would reply back in October, but they stopped as soon as they got to this section).

In his conclusion, Fulton writes,

Those among the “Intelligent Design” movement, such as Pennsylvania’s Dover School Board, which succeeded recently in requiring that creationism be taught alongside Darwin, don’t care about the gaping problems of their explanations, which are far more complex and harder to swallow than evolution. “Intelligent designers,” as they’re called, can’t explain how their “designer” creates new species. “We don’t know,” a director of the Intelligent Design-oriented Discovery Institute’s Center for Science recently told Newsweek. “It’s a mystery.” And some people call talk like that “education.”

These same people would have countless American students’ heads wrapped in a similar veil of know-nothingness. Why ask questions about the origins of life? Indeed, let’s demolish the whole foundation of scientific discovery–questions–and leave the mind blank. Somewhere, for some unknown reason, some “designer” executed the whole scenario.Ben Fulton, “The E Word,” Salt Lake City Weekly

All you ID fans out there on the blogosphere: if you really want to address the core issues here, attempt to rebut Ben Fulton’s op-ed. Use the origin of information (please tell what is wrong with Long et al. 2003) or the common descent of humans and apes (please tell us where the gap is between human and ape) as test cases. Are you proposing an answer to an unanswered question, or are you taking the actual answers, ignoring them, and proposing magic as an alternative?

232 Comments

I have no problem with teaching evolution in school and am not an advocate of teaching ID (although I always had an optional lecture on cosmological ID when I was a prof.) However, I do not share your enthusiasm for Fulton’s journalistic skills. If he were on the other side, he just as easily could have written:

Now imagine if you or your child questioned the prevailing view in science class, only to have a learned instructor tell you, “We’re not even going to discuss that, what I am presenting is fact, not theory.” Would anyone dare call that education?

…“We don’t know,” a director of the Intelligent Design-oriented Discovery Institute’s Center for Science recently told Newsweek. “It’s a mystery.” And some people call talk like that “education.”

Just in case FL will come into this thread, don’t forget to ask him if he still insists that ID is not mysticism.

To David: Now imagine if you or your child questioned the prevailing view in science class, only to have a learned instructor tell you, “We’re not even going to discuss that, what I am presenting is fact, not theory.” Would anyone dare call that education?

Firstly I cannot see the relevans to the op-ed. As I see it it argues the opposite - that we should try to find answers - and explain those to the children.

If a teacher for no reason refused to discuss a childs questions - it would be a bad teacher.

If the child said for instance - “why are there no intermediate fossils” the teacher should explain that there are - for a fact - plenty of intermediate fossils. That is answer the question - never refuse (unless they are silly og irrelevant).

“We’re not even going to discuss that, what I am presenting is fact, not theory.”

Maybe too rude. But how about this? :

“We’re not going to discuss that here on this level, because what I am presenting is the consensus of experts far more experienced than we are”.

Soren,

actually I was the witness of a positive example for a similar situation when I was at high school several decades ago. When a fellow student, who had obviously on the receiving end of a lot of nationalist rhetoric, complained he did not believe some sources on the terror of the Nazi regime we were reading, our teacher did not silence him with ‘Wise up, the facts say otherwise!’, although he would have been technically correct in doing so. Instead he walked his student through a good part of the evidence contradicting historic revisionism. This took quite some time but has definitely been worth the effort. I can not imagine a scientist who would not wish for a similar reaction in a biology teacher teaching evolution, as scientists in general do believe that the current theories are the best available and are the accepted ones for good reasons - a view they would surely like to impress on pupils taking science classes. This of course will not spare students fom having pointed out to them that their criticism of a well founded theory is probably ludicrous, and the sources it is founded upon outdated and/or untrustworthy, as doing so just to comfort the children or their parents would be patently dishonset.

But you know, the “it’s a mystery” quip is an unfair shot at IDers. Until recently, in graduate level physics classes, if you asked what happened before the big-bang, you would get essentially the same answer. (Now you get something more sophisticated, but still untestable.) And I have been told several times in this blog that the origin of life is outside the province of evolution, so in effect there is a threshold that is not crossed even in a die-hard evolution course.

It seems to me that if I taught evolution I would want to tackle the predictions of ID head-on, rather than dismissing through Fulton’s tired caricature. For example, I would guess that ID predicts that the earliest life is already fairly complex. What does evolution say? What is the evidence? (I’m asking pedagogically/rhetorically – not looking for a debate.)

Or the irreducible complexity. What kind of answer is “the majority of respected scientists say it’s not so?” Why not charge into the fray? I can tell you, so far, in terms of this debate carried out at the level of intelligent non-experts, the IDers beat you hands down. Behe’s arguments, in my estimation, are much more compelling that the counter arguments I have read (again, at the popularized level). For example, on the evolution blog I once read:

The fact that every part in its current form is needed for the machine to function in its present context does not imply that every part has always been necessary in every ancestral organism in which it appeared. In other words, as biologist H. Allen Orr first pointed out, you could have the following scenario: Initially you have a simple system performing some function. Later a part gets added that improves the functioning of the system, but is not necessary. Later still, a change to the original system renders the added part essential. The result will be a system that formed gradually, yet satisfies Behe’s definition of irreducible complexity.

Not exactly a rebuttal that reeks of being on firm scientific footing.

I guess I am trying to say that you do a disservice to your own cause and to education in general if you demonize your opponent (even as they demonize you.) To me, the best way to respond would be to answer their criticisms about things like irreducible complexity, convergence, insufficient time, the complexity of the earliest life, reemergence of extinct species, etc., rather than making fun of them and then teaching the same-old same-old. After all, you’d be teaching the same science you want to teach anyway, and in a manner that would be engaging, and in a manner that would address the critics.

Ben Fulton Wrote:

Just imagine that, for every question you presented to someone in power, they answered with the words, “We don’t really know. It’s a mystery.” Now imagine if you or your child asked a question about the origin of the human species in a science class, only to have a learned instructor tell you, “We don’t really know. It’s a mystery.” Would anyone dare call that education?

This touches on what has always been a sore point with me, the reluctance of science to admit that they don’t know and the need to make up just-so stories or to offer unsupported explanations to fill in the missing information. When I was a young teacher, I went to visit another school and I was talking to the science teacher. A little girl came up to us and showed the other teacher a rock she had found. “What kind of rock is this, Miss Smith?” the student asked. Miss Smith thought for a second and then replied “it’s an igneous rock”. The little girl skipped away to tell all her friends. I turned to the teacher and I said “why did you tell her that? You have no idea what kind of rock that is, nor do I”. She replied (and I’ll never forget this) “ I had to tell her something. I’m her teacher and she expected me to have an answer”. I also remember when I was a little boy in Catholic school in Brooklyn. I was a “W”, so I was always seated in the window row, last seat. I spent hours being fascinated by the pictures of the planets lined up along the walls depoicting what they looked like. And the very last one, right next to my seat, was Pluto, it’s surface covered with ice and there in the middle of the picture, a wooly mammoth, with icicles hanging off it’s tusks. Obviously, an accurate description of what could be found on a cold planet like Pluto. These experiences shaped my skepticism about the proclamations of scientists. They constantly are making up these stories to explain what they don’t know because the public “expects them to have the answers”. I posted my very first message on talk.origins on July 26, 2000. Here’s what I wrote:

I have been involved with this debate for nearly 40 years and after millions of words read, spoken and written in a variety of books, articles, forums and conversations I have reached the conclusion that the horrible truth of the matter is that we just don’t have a clue as to where the universe and the life that’s in it came from. It seems to me that it’s time to end this ridiculous bickering and be brave enough to admit this simple truth. All we have is speculation, your speculation and my speculation. That’s what makes the argument interminable and absurd. It’s gotten to the point where I know in advance, every argument that will be made by either side at almost any time. Nothing really new is ever offered because there is nothing new. The proof that we don’t really know is proven by the fact that the argument continues on. If either side had convincing evidence, everyone would have packed their bags, folded their tents and gone home long ago. We also have to face the dismal possibility that we will never really know. At least not in the forseeable future. Insofar as I can see, there’s not a shred of credible evidence to support the idea that mutation and natural selection are the mechanisms by which life progresses from its beginning (if indeed it had a beginning) to its present state. There’s also not a shred of credible evidence that there exists a supernatural being that created the universe and all the life in it. So, we must analyze why the debate goes on. If it’s just to generate discussion and thought provoking ideas, then it probably has some value. So, newcomers on both sides come into the discussion fresh and full of piss and vinegar, hoping to convince others of the truthfulness of their thoughts on the matter. But they’re surely travelling down roads that have already been traversed by countless others. All of the ideas have been thought of before, all the arguments have been made and almost no one has changed their minds. But those of us who have been over and over and over these matters countless time can clearly see that it will probably never be resolved. That is, until science can clearly and definitively advance a believable mechanism by which life has “evolved” or until God almighty himself comes down from heaven and proclaims authorship. I’m not holding my breath waiting :-) So let’s be brave about this and admit (gasp!) the horrible truth. No one alive today has a shred of credible evidence to support either of these two paradigms. And I defy anyone to prove otherwise.

David,

But you know, the “it’s a mystery” quip is an unfair shot at IDers. Until recently, in graduate level physics classes, if you asked what happened before the big-bang, you would get essentially the same answer.

The big difference is that ID is content to rest on that conclusion, while cosmology is not. In the former case, the real answer is not “it’s a mystery” but “a Creator did it.” Only the ‘hows’ are supposed to remain a mystery.

In the latter case, the follow up to “we don’t know” is “but we are trying to find out.” It does not invoke an entity that uses an unknowable process. Maybe, at some point, science may conclude that it simply cannot know certain things. But there is no branch of science content to proclaim “it’s magic” and feel satisfied that an answer has found.

Wagner Wrote:

This touches on what has always been a sore point with me, the reluctance of science to admit that they don’t know and the need to make up just-so stories or to offer unsupported explanations to fill in the missing information.

It shouldn’t be a sore point, because it’s not true. Scienctists don’t need to admit that “they don’t know” because they do know many of the things you are ignorant of; when they don’t know, the answer isn’t to wallow in ignorance but to find the answer. That, again, for the millionth time, is the failure with ID. It cherishes ignorance and denies knowledge for ideological reasons.

As for your first post, it seems that you haven’t taken the intervening time to educate yourself.

Wagner Wrote:

All we have is speculation, your speculation and my speculation. That’s what makes the argument interminable and absurd.

That’s not true. It’s extremely dishonest to pretend that “all we have is speculation.” All that creationism has is speculation; science has a massive quantity of evidence, available in almost any library. The evidence of evolution and the theory that explains it is verified constantly by scientists and researchers in both practical and theoretical applications. That evidence is not defeated by your ignorance of it, no matter how stubbornly you cling to it.

Wagner Wrote:

Nothing really new is ever offered because there is nothing new.

That is also patently untrue. I learn about new discoveries and theories just from this website alone, not to mention other sites, articles, and books. Even creationists, who cannot make new discoveries, refine their rhetoric and tactics. Something new is happening all the time, whether it’s in a laboratory or a Cobb County courtroom or a Kansas schoolboard meeting.

Wagner Wrote:

If either side had convincing evidence, everyone would have packed their bags, folded their tents and gone home long ago.

Again, that is untrue and ridiculous. Creationists are not interested in discovering scientific truth; evidence of evolution is at best meaningless to the devout. The point of creationism is to confirm the accepted teleology and theology, not to discover something new. There is no evidence that would convince the religious radicals who comprise the core of creationism. Similarly, since neither YEC nor ID make any attempt to provide actual evidence for their ideas, it would be strange to expect scientists to wallow in ignorance in deference to their rhetoric.

Wagner Wrote:

Insofar as I can see, there’s not a shred of credible evidence to support the idea that mutation and natural selection are the mechanisms by which life progresses from its beginning (if indeed it had a beginning) to its present state.

This, again, is your failure, and it is no excuse to ask other people to eschew reason or logic or the love of discovery. Your ignorance is not a compelling argument for anything.

Wagner Wrote:

That is, until science can clearly and definitively advance a believable mechanism by which life has “evolved” or until God almighty himself comes down from heaven and proclaims authorship.

One of those things has happened. There is no “or”; the fact that science has advanced the mechanism does not preclude God eventually proclaiming his authorship. The dichotomy you suggest simply does not exist. Most evolutionists are religious, in fact; they simply cleave to a less radical form of faith.

Wagner Wrote:

No one alive today has a shred of credible evidence to support either of these two paradigms. And I defy anyone to prove otherwise.

It has been proven. Exhaustively proven. Creationists refuse to accept the proof, however, for ideological reasons. I believe that they are the same reasons that lead creationists to insist that there are two seperate and exclusive paradigms. Unfortunately, the effect of this ideological commitment to dogma is to perpetuate ignorance. Insofar as creationists confine that ignorance to themselves, I am critical and disappointed but not about to do anything about it. The problem that exercises so many people here and elsewhere is that the ideology is outwardly-directed; the goal now is to foster ignorance on schoolchildren to perpetuate a narrow dogma. In other words, you aren’t defying someone to prove evolution to you, you are trying to prevent teachers from showing evolution to, for instance, Kansas school children.

I agree, the debate is tired and draining. It is deeply depressing that so many people so dearly cherish their refusal to learn that they are committed to spreading it; the evangelism of ignorance. What drives the debate on the part of the rest of us is that we believe that education and discovery are important, and we are unwilling to allow zealots and extremists to destroy the values of critical thinking and objectivity that empower those things.

David Heddle wrote

“But you know, the “it’s a mystery” quip is an unfair shot at IDers. Until recently, in graduate level physics classes, if you asked what happened before the big-bang, you would get essentially the same answer. (Now you get something more sophisticated, but still untestable.)”

The ID people would seem to say “It is a mystery and we have to accept that we can never know”. (Perhaps I am wrong about that but I have never heard anything else. I would be happy to see examples that differ – this is in regard to the nature of the designer, the motives of the designer, and the reason certain design choices were made. Indded, I would be happy to hear exactly what is designed and what not.) Contrast this with “we do not know because we have not figure out how to test hypotheses, but you can look here for speculation on the answer”, which seems to me to be the more likely scientific answer.

DH: “And I have been told several times in this blog that the origin of life is outside the province of evolution, so in effect there is a threshold that is not crossed even in a die-hard evolution course.”

This is just silly. Assuming this happens, the teacher is not covering material in a course because it is outside the scope of the course. “That is abiogenesis rather than evolution and this is an evolution course where it is assumed life exists and the focus is on how life developed after it can into existence. There is a great deal written about abiogenesis: look here and here etc. But we do not have time to discuss it in this course.”

DH: “It seems to me that if I taught evolution I would want to tackle the predictions of ID head-on, rather than dismissing through Fulton’s tired caricature. For example, I would guess that ID predicts that the earliest life is already fairly complex. What does evolution say? What is the evidence? (I’m asking pedagogically/rhetorically – not looking for a debate.)”

Yeah, but where are these exact predictions. You are “guessing” what ID predicts (and I gather there is not a paper by you on this subject 8-). But is there a paper with these predictions spelled out? ID material I am familiar with are either philosophical (how conceptually to recognize design) or how evolution fails, but nothing on “if ID were true, we would see this”. It is a bit much to expect the teacher to assume the role of an IDer and come up with predictions just to shoot them down. (We are talking high school here remember.)

DH: “Or the irreducible complexity. What kind of answer is “the majority of respected scientists say it’s not so?” Why not charge into the fray? I can tell you, so far, in terms of this debate carried out at the level of intelligent non-experts, the IDers beat you hands down. Behe’s arguments, in my estimation, are much more compelling that the counter arguments I have read (again, at the popularized level). For example, on the evolution blog I once read:”

[And a quote with no real link – the link is to evolution blog, not to a specific article, and I could not find the quote searching on the current display.]

I do think it is unfair to grab something someone once said about something – in who knows what context – and present it as the strongest statement available against a soundbite. One can say about IR: Behe asserts structures are IR, but presents no proof and ignores all research trying to answer the question he poses [one reference out of many Finding Darwin’s God by Kenneth Miller]. And say “In this high school course, let us start with what mainstream biologists believe. I will present a reading list for people interested in this question and if we have time after the material we need to cover has been done, we can discuss some of these issues…”

David Heddle pretends to forget what we are talking about (as he has done before)

But you know, the “it’s a mystery” quip is an unfair shot at IDers. Until recently, in graduate level physics classes, if you asked what happened before the big-bang, you would get essentially the same answer. (Now you get something more sophisticated, but still untestable.)

Graduate level physics classes, huh? How … irrelevant.

I thought were talking about middle school and high school biology classes. Are scientists advocating the teaching of pre-Big Bang theories in high school? Are pre-Big Bang theories relevant in any meaningful way to understanding and appreciating physics as its taught at the high school level?

We know the answers to my questions, David, and so do you.

Based on your comments to this blog in the past, I have zero reason to trust your opinion as to the scientific merits of any theory. My impression is that your religious beliefs (some sect of Christianity that you insist is not fundamentalist) cloud your judgment in this area. You speak as if the existence of your deity is a scientific fact.

You have never successfully articulated why “ID theory” is scientific and why it amounts to anything more than an argument from ignorance that invokes mysterious alien beings to explain phenomenon that you and others are “impressed” by (and which many primitive humans were also impressed by, hence their creation mythos, holy books, and “magical” rites, which some modern humans accept as scientific fact!).

Are you ready to do that today, David? Have you formulated your argument?

And I am betting that you want to avoid this issue (a losing one for you, as we have seen over and over again) and turn down the road and argue instead that theories for the origin of life are untestable. Take my advice: don’t waste your time.

100 years of awesome science under the critical eye of (admittedly not too sharp) folks like you, thousands upon thousands of research papers, predictions confirmed in the most profoundly beautiful ways, doesn’t lie. Evolution is a fact.

Stories about mysterious alien beings with awesome (but undefined) powers belong in comic books, not in public school science classes.

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The biggest problem is that ID proponents take answered questions, and assert — usually through laziness or raw ignorance — that no answers exist, and then substitute their flaky, empty, non-explanation of “Poof, ID did it.” The origin of ‘information’ is one prominent example — this core ID argument, stretching back to Charles Thaxton in the 1980’s, is that evolution can’t create new information.

As an comm. systems engineer, I’ve always been shocked that these guys can repeat this canard.

I mean, I can create the model that refutes them in my sleep.

GWW,

Today I refuse to be dragged down to your level. I regret the level of sarcasm that I have sometimes used. If you continue to insult me, I will leave and never come back. No because it hurst ny feelings, but because it wastes my time. Do you think you can engage in a discussion without getting personal? Do you have in in you?

David Heddel Wrote:

It seems to me that if I taught evolution I would want to tackle the predictions of ID head-on, rather than dismissing through Fulton’s tired caricature. For example, I would guess that ID predicts that the earliest life is already fairly complex.

ID doesn’t make any predictions. You cannot predict anything about living organisms or natural history if all you are saying is that “design occurred” without further elaboration. There is no reason to suspect that the earliest life would already be complex. It would be equally consistent with ID if it were simple and the designer added onto it from there. Or if there were no early life and it all appeared recently. Or anything else you can imagine.

What does evolution say? What is the evidence?

The evolutionary view is that complex organisms have arisen from simpler ones. We would therefore expect that simpler life forms occurred first followed by more complex ones. And that’s what we see. Prokaryotes appeared first, then about a billion years later the first eukaryotes appeared. Then after a billion or so more years the first multicellular life appeared, and so on. Of course there is some legitimate room for disagreement over what exactly “more complex” means, but the order of apperance fits evolutionary predictions.

Even if there are no predictions (I have referred to at least one paper) why not say, “The IDers say convergence is a problem for us. Let’s look at some of the examples they give (the salamander and some fish with the same type of eyes) and discuss how this happened via evolution.” You would still be teaching science but would be able to say that, like all good scientists, you are addressing criticisms of the theory. Where is the downside?

To David Heddle:

I do not know if you are being confrontational. I did not consider myself to be confrontational. I still think it is silly to suggest that material outside the scope of a course should be discusses in detail within a course.

I do not know how the filter works. Let us see if this one gets through. The “Origin-of-Life Predictions Face Off: Evolution vs. Biblical Creation” by a Dr. Fazale Rana link is on this web site:

www.reasons.org/

at this location:

resources/fff/2001issue06/index.shtml#origin_of_life_predictions_face_off

(i.e. concatenate those two locations.)

the explicitly creationist predictions are:

1. Life appeared early in Earth’s history. 2. Life appeared under harsh conditions. 3. Life miraculously persisted under harsh conditions. 4. Life arose quickly. 5. Life in its minimal form is complex.

I am not impressed. 1 seems to be wrong according most dating schemes I am familiar with. 2 is ill posed (harsh = what?). 3 is untestable absent creation of life in a modern lag. 4 is ill-posed (quickly = what, and also Life is well defined? – that is how if that different from naturalist explanation?). 5 is perhaps ok, though complex = what? and how could this be tested?

So no, considering these questions in a high school course is a waste of time (problems are a lot of knowledge is necessary for the answers to be meaningfully discussed even if the predictions were properly posed.)

Okay, now we know that you can add web addresses as text (requiring cutting and pasting to follow a link but that is easy enough) because I just did it (see my previous post).

I knew that would happen: (1) There are no predictions (2) Here are some predictions (3) Those predictions suck. It’s a cousin of (1) ID is not science because it doesn’t publish and (2) ID doesn’t publish because it is not science.

So okay, forget predictions, since you’ll never agree that what they call predictions are in fact predictions. As per my previous post, what’s wrong with putting, say, two weeks in the syllabus where you address criticisms of evolution? Think of the political capital, and, as I said, you’d be teaching science. And equipping the students to answer the criticisms.

David Heddle threatens

If you continue to insult me, I will leave and never come back. No because it hurst ny feelings, but because it wastes my time.

Just answer the questions, David.

If you can’t answer the questions, then just suck it up and ADMIT that I am right about the emptiness and comic book nature of “ID theory” and it’s inappropriateness for public school science classrooms.

Why can’t you admit that, David? Grow up and learn to admit that you are wrong. It’s not the end of the world if “ID theory” is unscientific garbage suitable for religious philosophy classes and not public school biology classes. Or do you disagree, David? Is it your view that if you admit that I am right that you are going to hell?

I’ll stop taking you to task for your dissembling here when you start facing the music. Unlike some trolls around here, I suspect (indeed, I HOPE) that you have the threshold intelligence to know the difference between a scientific fact and fantasy (whether religiously inspired or not).

Do you think you can engage in a discussion without getting personal?

If you want impersonal discussions than stay on your blog and sign all your posts with “STAFF” like the chicken-hearted liars at the Disclaimery Institute.

Recall that you wrote the following:

But you know, the “it’s a mystery” quip is an unfair shot at IDers.

I can think of very little in the way of responses to the “ID theory” peddlers that is “unfair” and certainly equating the claim that “the designers of all the life on earth are mysterious alien beings” with “it’s a mystery” is about as fair as it gets. If humans were spontaneously created out of nothing and the first one looked around at the animals and never saw a single one reproduce, that theory might be compelling.

That is not reality, though, is it David? Let me know if you disagree. Let me know if you think that you were spontaneously created, David. I’m guessing you were born, just like I was. And I’m guessing that you didn’t get all your DNA from your mom.

You talk about “wasting time” but read my previous two paragraphs. How pathetic is it that such things need to be pointed out to you? Is it impossible for you to anticipate these straightforward facile responses?

I doubt it. That’s why the term “dissembler” is an appropriate one to describe the rhetorical games that you enjoy playing.

The sleazy way in which those peddlers have pushed Johnsonite Christianity down the throats of your so-called “red staters” is as despicable as it is exhaustively documented. Or are you willing to deny that fact as well, David? Are you going to stand up for the integrity of the “Staff” at the Discovery Institute and the drones in their robot army (e.g., Casey Luskin)?

And if not, then what are you doing, as a self-described intelligent adult, sitting in the dugout with people who are demonstrably ignorant or dishonest? Is it because the peanuts are fresher or what?

GWW,

Ask me a question, I don’t know what question I am refusing to answer. Go ahead, if you ask (without insulting) I will do my best to answer.

Mr. Heddle:

Once again you show that, by leaving words undefined, one can pretty much make them say whatever one wants.

(1) There are no predictions. (2) Here are some “predictions”. (3) Those are NOT predictions. Try again.

Those are NOT predictions because they are chock full o’ undefined terms. What does “early” mean? What does “harsh” mean? what does “quickly” mean? What does “complex” mean?

Those sound suspiciosly like Nostradamus “prophecies”, which have many merits, including flexibility, but are definitely not science.

The best example I’ve seen of ID “predictions” was described by Salvador on ARN:

To clarify what “deal breaker” menas, and just so you know where I stand, IDist and creationists have had the following lines of argument:

1. hierarchies do NOT exist in molecular taxonamies therefore ID is true

2. hierarchies DO exist in molecular taxonamies therefore ID is true

3. hierarchies simultaneously DO and do NOT exist in molecular taxonomies therfore ID is true

How’s that for covering the territory?

RBH

Emanuele, go read the entire paper. Maybe the terms are defined. That was just one table from the article. I didn’t read the paper, just saw that it contained predictions. I just did a quick search for “intelligent design predictions” and found it.

” I had to tell her something. I’m her teacher and she expected me to have an answer”.

I agree that this was a rediculously lousy answer. The right answer would have been to teach the girl a little bit on how to research. Show her a book of rocks, let her describe the rock in terms of color, texture, etc, then flip through the pages with her to find all the ones that seem to come close. finally, start looking at the finer details and rule out option by option until only one answer remains, the right one.

*sigh*

something so simple, science…

David Heddle wrote:

“I knew that would happen: (1) There are no predictions (2) Here are some predictions (3) Those predictions suck. It’s a cousin of (1) ID is not science because it doesn’t publish and (2) ID doesn’t publish because it is not science.”

But those prediction DO suck. And they are not ID predictions: they say nothing at all about what we would see in living things today and essentially nothing at all about what the fossil record would show (modulo the meaning of “complex” but isn’t any organism with cells “complex”, because if so, no prediction about what the fossil record will look like).

Does evolution make predictions? Tons of them, many relating to life living today (how will frogs arrange themselves on the edge of a pond containing a predator, do certain members of a herd sacrifice themselves delibrately for the good of the herd, reproductive organs and behavior change more slowly than other organs and behavior, won’t find humans in same strata with dinosaurs, etc. etc.)

I just cannot believe you think the referenced predictions do not SUCK.

And if you read the rest of the referenced paper, well it is just not good biology. Why do we not have predictions about life today and the fossil record from Behe, Dembski, etc.?

DH: “So okay, forget predictions, since you’ll never agree that what they call predictions are in fact predictions. As per my previous post, what’s wrong with putting, say, two weeks in the syllabus where you address criticisms of evolution? Think of the political capital, and, as I said, you’d be teaching science. And equipping the students to answer the criticisms.”

First of all, I wish people would say “The purpose of this high school course is to make students familiar with the current theories of modern biology.” That is a worthwhile goal. Would that we did it.

The problem with two weeks on criticism is who would design it and what would it say. Where you have two real competing scientific theories (and just look at geology in the 20th century for a whole bunch of competing theories surviving simultaneously), you have deep, positive papers and deep counterarguments, and eventually one side or the other prevails (in the geology case, at least). In evolution you have deep positive papers, and deep counterarguments about details and aspects, but criticisms (if you mean ID theory) that amount to God of the gaps which do not acknowledge existing research and arguments about theories no longer widely subscribed to and misstated arguments based on misunderstanding (I am thinking of Wells’s book – embryo identity no longer subscribed to, moth coloration misunderstood).

I know this is confrontational and you do not want to get into another ID/evolution argument, but your proposal requires that someone design two weeks of criticism of evolution (more than Here is what we do not yet know variety, which would be a reasonable thing for a couple of days) and that requires the existence of serious criticism which has been fully argued.

Behe in his NYT article said there is no research on the origin of flagella. When confronted later, he admitted that there was but he felt it was inadequate. So why did he say there was none? He has been told about it repeatedly since DBB was published. And you want this guy’s ideas taught in High School?

Mr. Heddle:

I DID read the article. Some numbers are given, but no formal definition is there, as far as I can tell. This holds especially true for the “logical” derivation of the “predictions” from the premises.

By the way, said premises are the book of Genesis, not a scientific theory of any kind. Maybe it was written before the IDers decided to pretend ID was not religious in nature.

Actually, even if I were a die-hard IDer, I would rather have good evolution teachers than lousy teachers sympathetic to ID (unlike you guys, I am not worried about indoctrination.) At the moment, my son’s science class is horrible – read this chapter, answer these questions, etc., etc. No wonder so many kids hate science.

David H:

“Behe’s arguments, in my estimation, are much more compelling that the counter arguments I have read (again, at the popularized level). For example, on the evolution blog I once read: The fact that every part in its current form is needed for the machine to function in its present context does not imply that every part has always been necessary in every ancestral organism in which it appeared. In other words, as biologist H. Allen Orr first pointed out, you could have the following scenario: Initially you have a simple system performing some function. Later a part gets added that improves the functioning of the system, but is not necessary. Later still, a change to the original system renders the added part essential. The result will be a system that formed gradually, yet satisfies Behe’s definition of irreducible complexity. Not exactly a rebuttal that reeks of being on firm scientific footing. “

Look, I’m trying to take you seriously here, but I’m going to have a hard time if you seriously think that Behe’s arguments are as compelling as the responses. Behe makes strong claims like that IC systems by definition cannot have functional intermediaries. Scientists demonstrate over and over that all the structures he complains about do, in fact, have functional intermediaries. So how is that not on good footing? He made a strong claim, one that can be refuted even in pure argument. Scientists do him one better: they refute the argument AND point to all the studies that Behe claims “don’t exist” discussing how biochemical systems evolve. How is that not a powerful rebuke of Behe’s core claims?

David Heddle Wrote:

But you know, the “it’s a mystery” quip is an unfair shot at IDers. Until recently, in graduate level physics classes, if you asked what happened before the big-bang, you would get essentially the same answer. (Now you get something more sophisticated, but still untestable.) And I have been told several times in this blog that the origin of life is outside the province of evolution, so in effect there is a threshold that is not crossed even in a die-hard evolution course.

Biogenesis isn’t part of evolution, and neither is planetary formation or nuclear synthesis. You have to draw the line somewhere, and since evolution is the study of the nature of living things it makes a certain amount of sense to limit it thusly. As it happens, I don’t believe anyone has a problem with discussing naturalistic theories of biogenesis with creationists - just not in the context of defending evolution. “Evolution can’t explain the start of life” is a common battlecry. “No. That’s chemistry’s job” is the proper refrain. “Want to talk about chemistry?”.

As for the ‘it’s a mystery’ - you can then ask a scientist “how do you propose exploring it?” and expect a cogent answer. Even if it is massively impractical, there will be some approach to handling the problem through standard science that can at least be treated as a thought experiment - and who knows, next year it’ll be better than that. I’ve never, ever seen an ID’er who’ll even engage with the question “what does this tell us about the designer? How would you find out?”. That lots of people were thinking about the “what happens ‘before’ the Big Bang” issue is evidenced by the fact that now, there are some plausible ideas floating around. Testable comes later. That’s OK. They’re thinking about that, too.

The ID’ers are not doing science. It is impossible to pretend that they are just for the sake of arguing with them. Imagine you come across a man pouring concrete in a field: you ask him “What are you doing?”, to which he replies “Planting wheat to feed my family”. How do you explain to him that his family will go hungry if you’re not allowed to say that concrete isn’t cereal?

(Now imagine that this man is in charge of the State Department of Agriculture, and his friends - the ones with the concrete factories - are on the school boards. Still feel like going along with him?)

R

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Flint

If you look closer you will find that cosomology and evolution share a common attribute they are both events that are in the past and have only component aspects that are verifyable in present day.

Science in general is about the future and the ability to predict the future. When science is used on events of the past without the ability to reproduce them in the future it is a completely different thing.

As such all types of science that speculate about what occured in the past without first showing mastery of the material by predicting events in the future are equally suspect.

I am only aware of evolution and cosmology that do this and claim to be science. Forensic science uses theories that have been EXTENSIVELY verified by predicting future events.

So no I don’t see the difference between quasi-science as used in cosomology and quasi-science as used in evolution.

Correction

“All scientific theories change when faced with new evidence. Why is this news?”

Should read

“All false scientific theories change when faced with new evidence. Why is this news?”

Indeed, Jari, you can’t beat something with nothing. To displace a theory as powerful as evolution, you’d need an even better theory. That would be one hell of a theory, by the way, at this late date. Which explains why ID is doomed*. They don’t even have a wrong scientific theory. ID is not even as good as Lamarckianism, or the Steady State universe. Those were at least theories.

What was it that creati–I mean, Intelligent Design Theorist said? “What you call Intelligent Design, I call religion, or christianity.”

Yep.

* I mean scientifically, of course. Politically, it’s a tidal wave now, and it could possibly win in several ways. I wouldn’t be surprised if ID became part of science ed in half the country, over the next 10 years. Creationist activists are like the insurgents in Iraq–they don’t represent the majority of the population, but they’re aggressive and crazy, therefore disproportionally influential.

I’m still laughing at Donkey Kong’s claim that a belief that “life exists” is a “religious” belief! Where do these trolls come from? How can I exploit their dumbness to earn additional money for myself?

Read FLATLAND if you fail to understand how powerful this argument against you is. Its a childrens book so you can manage it in 30 min at the bookstore and it is a classic.

Edward Abbott’s Flatland is not a children’s book and science does not tell us that we live in a 12 dimensional space. You KNOW you’re not well educated, yet post in a forum where people are, and expect them not to be able to tell. That’s arrogance bordering on insanity.

BTW, I do not believe there was ever a time when the universe didn’t exist. Read Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time”. It’s under 200 hundred pages, and shouldn’t take you more than 30 years to read and comprehend.

Classic religious belief

Indeed, Jari, you can’t beat something with nothing”

That has nothing to do with SCIENCE.

In SCIENCE you do indeed replace falsified theories with nothing.

Sorry but you guys are cultists.

ts

The (smart) educated folk who disagree with me in this forum have stopped posting in general.

The weaknesses in evolution I am posting about are real. The serious evolution scientists know this.

When I attack the belief many people put into evolution being stronger than the scientific support, your serious guys don’t respond because they know there is truth in what I am saying (they may disagree but they see my point).

I have respect for the big bang scientists who UNDERSTAND that there is a good chance that their theory will not hold up over time. I have respect for evolution scientists who understand that their is a good chance that evolution will not hold up over time.

When Einstein said that he believed that only the 3rd law of thermo would survive and all other theories would be shown false it was because he understands how science works.

For theories like gravity there is a large amount of recorded events that behave like our “belief” in gravity. Since these observations are unlikely to be invalid any replacements for gravity will at least look like the gravity we understand within the time and location that those measurements were made. Einsteins replacement of gravity was so similiar to Newton gravity within our Earth and speeds we travel that we haven’t even stopped teaching the false Newtonian theory.

With evolution this is not as likely. The evidence for evolution will remain, but each piece of evidence is not taken under a controlled enviorment as the gravity observations are. As such a new theory of what all that evidence means may not be as similar to evolution as would be the case in a replacement to gravity. For example if the Cambrian explosion were caused by external intervention, introducing all the genes used in humans but not in the right combination, it would completely invalidate evolution as it is taught today even though all the observed data would have not changed.

As such there is a very REAL possibility that evolution as you would like to forcibly teach to all HS students is false. I am not against teaching the aspects of evolution for the purpose of advancing science. I am against teaching it without also being open to the very real possibility that it is false (in the greater sense not just in the details). Einstein understood this because he understood how SCIENCE works.

The kool aid drinkers among you are against this exactly because you are a RELIGIOUS CULT.

Donkey Kong

I have respect for the big bang scientists who UNDERSTAND that there is a good chance that their theory will not hold up over time. I have respect for evolution scientists who understand that their is a good chance that evolution will not hold up over time.

What about the geologists who understand that there is a good chance that their erosion theory will not hold up over time? Do you have respect for them, DK?

I want to hear more about how the claim that “life exists” is a “religious belief.” That is so wacky I still can’t believe a human being said it. But you did DK!!! And you haven’t admitted that you were just being a buffoon and a troll and making up stuff without thinking about it for two seconds!!! Hilarious!!!

DonkeyKong Wrote:

The kool aid drinkers among you are against this exactly because you are a RELIGIOUS CULT.

Moron.

DK:

Science in general is about the future and the ability to predict the future.

No. Empirical science is about observations and the ability to predict new observations.

As such all types of science that speculate about what occured in the past without first showing mastery of the material by predicting events in the future are equally suspect.

In other words: if you can’t match them in their game, it’s a lousy game and nobody should play it.

In SCIENCE you do indeed replace falsified theories with nothing.

No. You replace them with new theories which have not yet been falsified and which have at least some evidential support. Or that’s what you should at least try to do, if you were a scientist. And that’s why your creationist dreams don’t have a chance here, because they have no evidential support at all, no matter what happens to evolution. And that’s why you were right when you said that the current theory of evolution, were it falsified, would just be replaced by a new one, because to you “evolution” is everything else but your creationist dreams, which are nothing. Surely everything is “evolution” if creationism is nothing.

BTW, you misunderstood the context in which I used the phrase: you can’t beat some evidence with no evidence; be as open minded as you please. But it applies to theories as well.

For theories like gravity there is a large amount of recorded events that behave like our “belief” in gravity. Since these observations are unlikely to be invalid any replacements for gravity will at least look like the gravity we understand within the time and location that those measurements were made.

For theories like evolution there is a large amount of evidence, much of it discovered well after Darwin, that match to his and our “belief” in evolution. Since this evidence is unlikely to be invalid any replacements for darwinian evolution will at least look like the darwinian evolution we understand within the timeframe and locations that produced the evidence.

For example if the Cambrian explosion were caused by external intervention, introducing all the genes used in humans but not in the right combination, it would completely invalidate evolution as it is taught today even though all the observed data would have not changed.

Then how would you know anything about this intervention?

I am against teaching it without also being open to the very real possibility that it is false (in the greater sense not just in the details).

Yes. Perhaps evolution should be taught with a possibility that something new emerges and refutes it. We don’t have a clue of it, let alone any records, and all we can do is imagine some wild dreams about aliens transplanting human genes into trilobites, or something. But let’s be open to the possibility that things of which we know nothing are something after all. Bearing this in mind, I look forward to see how they will teach evolution. Or something.

Jari.

The reason Science usually restricts its verification to events in the future is because controlling the enviornment is crucial to providing that it is in fact your cause that is making the effect. When you do not controll the enviornment you lose this extream power of simplification and muddy the waters as to wether you are right or not.

Most of science is actually limited to effects that you can cause over and over at will. That is how others know that you have mastery of the cause effect relationship. When you have a theory that is edited to match the data and then some slightly different data matches your theory once or twice its not really all that impressive. Add to it a complete inability to chart the course from amino acid to cell or cell to modern cell or single cell organism to complex organism in DETAIL.

It is the lack of familiarity with evolution that science has that makes it a religion. We remember Newton as the father of gravity, but do you really think 100,000 years worth of modern man didn’t realize that apples fall down? Why isn’t it named after them? Because they didn’t UNDERSTAND it, it was magic to them. You don’t understand evolution it is MAGIC to you. Magic==RELIGON

Jari.

“We don’t have a clue of it, let alone any records, and all we can do is imagine some wild dreams about aliens transplanting human genes into trilobites, or something. But let’s be open to the possibility that things of which we know nothing are something after all.”

Lets name aliens randomness, and we can call it evolution.

Oh its not silly to you now?

LOL

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DonkeyKong writes

Lets name aliens randomness, and we can call it evolution.

Can someone save this quote for the Hall of Shame?

This is one of the top two or three stupidest propositions I’ve seen posted here.

Jari

Today they discovered a new species of ancient rabbit. Were evolution predictive there would have been a scientist that said I postulate that there will be an ancient rabbit found and that it will look like this and the bones will be like this etc etc etc.

But evolutionists look at the data AFTERWARDS and say oh ya that fits kinda let me just change my assumptions.

If that is science then my digital camera can do science. It changes its picture IN DETAIL to match reality. Evolutionists change their theory to match new discoveries. Woo hoo.

Science isn’t about connecting the dots. Science is about predicting where the next dots will be.

Any theory that cannot predict isn’t science. By its very nature science is a predictive thing. Any theory that cannot predict IS NOT science.

Jari

Controlled enviornment means that you can limit the variables that are candidates. so you say take A, B and C shake and you get D independant of E.….…Z.…..

For example to show evolution in a lab using amino acids + electrical shock and form a cell would be a scientific test of evolution. A test that has FAILED over and over and over. But evolutionists didn’t give up.

For example to take bacteria in a petri dish and add radiation and show that a simple bacteria gene can go from a circle to a line to a similiar shape of some more evolved species. Again consistent failure.

Can you see what I am talking about?

DK,

just some comment on your last two posts. I assume, the rabbit you are talking about does not have features combining the apomorphic structures of two well established lineages, thus contradicting the nested hierarchy predicted by common descent? It does not show traces of a completly alien bio-chemistry, thus contradicting the unity of life predicted by common descent? It does not exhibit an distinct feature not homologeous to anything other rabbits close in place and time show, thus contardicting the gradual change predicted by an extrapolation from evolutionary mechanisms seen in the lab?

If the answer is no, then which basic assumption of evolution - as opposed to a specificapplication of evolution - has to be reassessed? It fits perfectly i.e. all predictions have been confirmed. To put this in the easy to understand analogy, gravity on astronomic scales can not be tested in the lab and does not really predict the future, as all events beyond the solar system have already happened years before observation - it does not matter anyhow, as we can not influence these events to any meaningful degree. The only thing that matters in terms of prediction is whether data not considered so far fits the theory. So if I measure the mass and motion of a stellar object, it does not matter for the theory of gravity whether I have predicted it being their or behaving exactly the physical parameters I am measuring now. Maybe it moves in a way already exactly computed in advance, maybe it has properties pointing towards an unknown force of gravity, but the only thing forcing me to change my assumptions concerning gravity would be a behaviour inconsistent with basic principles of gravity. Everything else actually is evidence for gravity or a process looking exactly like gravity. Likewise with a new fossil or recent organism: maybe it has been predicted in detail (ichthyostega, ambulocetus or seven-gill sharks come to mind), maybe it has unexpected features pointing paleaontology and systematics in a new direction, but as long as it is not inconsistent with basic principles of evolution, there is no need for change, in it is evidence for evolution or a process indistinguible from evolution. And concerning science not being about concerning old dots: you would probably be pretty shocked how often new scientific finds come from the re-evaluation of data already years or decades old (and I am talking about particle physics here, not exactly an ‘origins science’). Your second post posed two challenges that are fallacious on two levels. - they assume that pretty big steps in abiogenesis and evolution (amino acid to cell and bacterial genes to protozoon-like genes) should (and indeed have to) be demonstarted in experiments running on timescales hundreds of thousand times shorter than the time scales predicted. This smacks of people wanting to have a Big Bang in the lab before they are willing to consider any other astrophysical evidence. There are quite some papers showing small sucesses in creating basic cellular membranes and test the potential of progressive self assembly of amino acids in the lab, as there are on changes on the bacterial genome increasing it in length and complexity. As long as those are only countered with ‘I don’t believe these changes can add up in the long run’ and no mechanism actually preventing them from doing so is at least proposed, they are excellent candidates to fill any gaps in abiogenesis and some specific applications of evolution. - they assume that scientific theories have to explain everything. There are a lot of very useful and well-founded theories which have well-known limits. E.g. in spite of many efforts it is afaik still unclear how exactly to combine general relativity on large scales with gauge theories of interaction on small scales. Nevertheless, both approaches stand unchallenged in their area of applicability. So, even if you were to find some areas of application in which evolution had to remain inaccurate or contradictory, it still would remain the only game in town for all other problems, as long as no different theory had been proposed, rivalling evolution in detail, testability and usefulness in explaining and predicting phenomena both old and new.

Jonas

“but as long as it is not inconsistent with basic principles of evolution, there is no need for change, in it is evidence for evolution or a process indistinguible from evolution.”

“they assume that scientific theories have to explain everything.”

“So, even if you were to find some areas of application in which evolution had to remain inaccurate or contradictory, it still would remain the only game in town for all other problems, as long as no different theory had been proposed, rivalling evolution in detail, testability and usefulness in explaining and predicting phenomena both old and new.”

Now change the word evolution to Creation and you can poke holes in your own arguments.

Jonas

As for the differences between evolution and gravity regarding testibility. NASA predicts the future location(of the light signatures) of the planets and every discovery of planets in far away solar systems obeys the laws as best we can tell. Thats literally 1000s and 10000s and 100000s of confirmations without any counter observations or change in theory (once you explain black holes, quasars etc which have their own predictions which have been confirmed after theory formation).

Evolution on the other hand rests on several things that have never been observed and has massive confirmation only in that the tree of life is genetically similiar and therefore appears similiar physically. In the last week alone the timeline of Human life changed and the timeline of rabbits changed .

Evolution as a theory is evolving to avoid its many flaws. My theory of gravity being attractmion to heat could evolve to explain observed inefficiency. We are attracted to the the Earth, we are attracted to the sun, they are both hot. The basic theory of heat attraction is sound its just the details that need to change. In any other setting you would reject such a weak theory.

Only with the religious belief of Darwinism can you accept such a weak theory.

First post:

If there was a theory of creation presenting a model for the ‘process of creation’ and providing any level of ‘detail, testability and usefulness in explaining and predicting phenomena both old and new’ maybe I could. In the absence of this, your point is moot.

Second post:

You apparently agree that all the new fossils did only change the exact timelines of evolution and none of it changed the basic predictions of common descent and evolutionary processes. So unless you can actually tell me, which single short term step necessary for biological evolution has so far not been observed, or in how far in a non-evolutionary theory similar morphology would require similar non-coding DNA or similar enyzmes within a group of enzymes of identical functionality, you are actually saying that evolution is an excellently verified theory.

BTW, heat attraction already breaks down when comparing the moon with the moons of Jupiter - one does not even have to go into cold dark matter. If there was any such showstopper in evolution, I am quite sure somebody had pointed it out. And low and behold - nobody started to bash Newton or Einstein for not knowing in advance about black holes or the galactic halo. And, yes, if you want to continue this thread, please come up with a testable theory of creation or a case under which the basic prediction of common descent had to be reassessed. Assertions semantic tap dancing and shifting of the discussion will be ignored - at least by me.

Jonas

You seem to miss my main point.

Science demands that you back off your claims for creation. Science has a long history of saying “I don’t know” when we in fact don’t know.

“If there was a theory of creation presenting a model for the ‘process of creation’ and providing any level of ‘detail, testability and usefulness in explaining and predicting phenomena both old and new’ maybe I could. In the absence of this, your point is moot.”

You are very clearly relying on the greater weakness of alternate arguments to gloss over the obvious weaknesses of current evolution theory.

Thats not science. When you teach something about the origins of the universe that isn’t science we call it religion.

I am against the religion of evolution being taught in HS.

You and I both know there are large untested portions of evolution or unconfirmed at any rate as most of the holes have been tested such as trying to evolve a cell from amino acid etc. To teach evolution when the main piillars are untested is not science its a Darwinism religion.

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This page contains a single entry by Nick Matzke published on February 10, 2005 2:26 AM.

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