Kansas: public hearings vs. “expert panel”

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The Kansas Department of Education (KSDE) recently posted a complete transcript of the public hearing on the science standards held on February 1 at Schwagle High School in Kansas City, Kansas. If you are interesting in seeing for yourself the kinds of concerns and arguments the public has about evolution and Intelligent Design creationism, you might want to read some of the transcript (here).

Also, as I reported in the post Creationist Power Play in Kansas, this week the state Board of Education created a special Science Hearings committee, comprised of three creationist Board members, to hear testimony from “scientific experts” concerned the two “opposing views” (evolution and Intelligent Design creationism-based anti-evolution) - essentially giving the Intelligent Design creationists the “equal-time” platform they desire to try to give Intelligent Design creationism credibility as science and to deflect criticism that it is really disguised religion.

These two events, the public hearings that are an established part of the standards development process and the creation of this kangaroo-court Science Hearings committee, are related in an interesting way, I think. Let me explain.

The Kansas City public hearings

It was obvious that much of the support at the hearing for the Intelligent Design creationists’ proposal was really anti-evolutionism fueled by religious concerns. For example, one man got a large round of applause (even though the audience had been asked to not applaud), when he ended his speech by stating,

It [Darwin’s theory] is not scientific. Why do you waste time teaching something in the science class that is not scientific? We must, by no means, get rid of science. I don’t think the argument is between maintaining scientific approach and inquiry and study and not doing so, but I think truth needs to get a hearing, along with scientific theory. In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. Thank you.

On the other hand, there were no scientists supporting the Intelligent Design creationist proposal, nor were there people trying to defend Intelligent Design creationism with even nominally “scientific” arguments.

And last, there were a number of people who spoke about their religious faith and its lack of conflict with evolution. For instance, one biology teacher at a Catholic high school said,

The Catholic schools teach evolution. They always have. There is no conflict in our religion. Evolution is not a belief system. We believe God created us, but how is open to the discovery through scientific processes and inquiry.

John Calvert’s response

John Calvert, leader of the Intelligent Design creationist group, wrote an article for the Discovery Institute’s Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture, Media Complaints Department, here. Calvert made it clear that he was not happy with certain parts of the overall impression left by the hearings. Here’s some of what Calvert wrote:

One thing is obvious. This is not the proper process for deciding this issue. Focused hearings from experts are desperately needed to cut through the misinformation, ridicule and half truths.

It would have helped to have more scientists on our side. If that had been the case we would have won the debate hands down. As it was, the objective observer would leave scratching his head.

We also need theologians who can rebut the argument of the Christian biology teacher that there is no conflict between evolution or naturalism and Christianity. We need someone to explain the two logical conflicts that allow Dawkins to claim to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist and that precludes a Christian from making the same claim.

We see here the seed of the ideas that blossomed just one week later - “focused hearings from experts … to cut through the misinformation, ridicule, and half-truths,” which are needed because the public hearings are “not the proper process for deciding this issue.”

And why aren’t the public hearings the right process? Well, because the vast bulk of the supporters for Intelligent Design creationism are there for religious reasons, and they are not shy about making that clear. They know very little about what Intelligent Design creationism claims scientifically, but they know it’s their best bet against evolution.

And why do we need an “expert panel”? Because there are very few scientists who will and can speak for Intelligent Design creationism in a way that can superficially pass for science, and most of them work for the Discovery Institute. Without a protected forum for the “scientific experts” in Intelligent Design creationism (with expenses paid for by the state, by the way), there is no way for them to get an opportunity to have the floor.

And so now we have this Science Hearing Committee, which is what Calvert said we needed; and this is no coincidence. The state Board will do what they have to to try to give an air of legitimacy to their eventual decision (which is almost certain) to insert Intelligent Design creationism into the standards. Having hearings which supposedly focus on the “science” of Intelligent Design creationism is meant to blunt, or even negate, the effect of the public hearings and the work of the writing committee, which is, we might remember, the body with the official responsibility to consider all input in revising the standards.

But the Intelligent Design creationists didn’t like what the committee has done (voting down their proposals) and they didn’t like what the public hearings did (showcasing the religious issues), so they manufactured a third option - their own personal showcase, playing by their rules and with them in control.

As KCFS wrote in a commentary last week (KCFS Update 2-10-05,

For a movement that often talks of “fairness,” the Intelligent Design and Young-Earth creationists on the Board and the Writing Committee don’t seem willing to be fair when trying to advance their ideas. Failing to have their ideas compete successfully in the marketplace of ideas in the world’s science community, they want to inject these ideas directly into the public school science curriculum. That amounts to asking for a government subsidy to teach non-scientific ideas in public schools, and in this case, the government (the creationist majority on the State Board of Education) is apparently willing to let them.

Theology

And what about these theologians who are needed to “rebut the argument of the Christian biology teacher that there is no conflict between evolution or naturalism and Christianity?”

Well, first note the conflation of evolution and naturalism - it is exactly the point of the Catholic science teacher that these are not the same. However, this insistence that the Catholic position is wrong (as is that of all theistic evolutionists - a position that runs strongly throughout the Intelligent Design creationist movement), highlights the fact that the Intelligent Design creationism movement is primarily a theological movement; and even more importantly, one that sets itself against much of mainstream Christianity. That is what Calvert didn’t like seeing come out in the public hearings.

Mainstream Christians, as well of those of other religious and a-religious perspectives, should be concerned about Intelligent Design creationism, for its efforts to insert its concepts into public education aim to advance those religious perspectives that do not accept evolution, and to inhibit those that do. The religious stakes here are as significant as the scientific and educational stakes.

72 Comments

Given the reasoning in the Federal Court’s ruling on the Cobb County, GA, stickers, the record of the Feb 1 public meeting is a valuable resource.

RBH

“eminent scientists” - Discovery Institute idealogues

Glossary definition for those unfamiliar with Calvert

Jack writes

The religious stakes here are as significant as the scientific and educational stakes.

The stakes for anyone who believes that human lives and ideas have meanings which can be articulated without resort to the Christian Bible are substantial.

Calvert wrote

We also need theologians who can rebut the argument of the Christian biology teacher that there is no conflict between evolution or naturalism and Christianity.

Spoken like the first Christian Ayatollah of the United States! Amen, Calvert!

I’ve seen Joe Carter and his flock float or quote this sort of argument at least a hundred times over at the Evangelical Outpost. It’s a popular fundamentalist script: “My ‘worldview’ is more consistent than yours because [insert incoherent argument here] therefore either I’m right and science is religion, or your life is meaningless.”

Just lovely.

We need someone to explain the two logical conflicts that allow Dawkins to claim to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist and that precludes a Christian from making the same claim.

If I were an educated Christian who knew that evolution was good science or a Christian who simply trusted what the vast majority of biologists say about evolution, I’d be furious at insults like this. According to Calvert, if I simply agree with all the world’s experts on this subject, I’m either “illogical” (see argument above) or not a Christian.

Calvert should drop by and outline the “logical arguments” he expects his expert “theologians” to recite. I’m intrigued (and somewhat amused) that he needs to hire “elites” to decipher Jesus’ position on evolutionary biology.

But he won’t bother dropping by. He knows very well how bogus his “arguments” are and he knows that his hired gun theologians get weak knees unless they’re preaching to the choir.

I like how they ignore the fact that Kansas has lots of great evolution experts, like Ed Wiley, and of course, Jack Krebs and the rest of the Science standards committee, and the fact that the scientific community has offered a clear statement in favor of evolution science and against intelligent design.

These expert hearings, and the illegal meetings on stickers, are particularly rich coming from a movement that uses “hearing all voices” as their most compelling argument for IDC in schools.

RBH has an excellent point. It always behooves anyone in a position to do so to record these meetings, or better yet to make sure that a transcript is entered into whatever official record exists. Such records can be extremely important in legal actions later; courts need to be able to see into the motives of the authors of creationist laws and regulations, and the more information is available as a public record or otherwise entered into evidence, the better.

Again I wonder: Is there no legal process to follow? The addition of committees in the approval proces – is that legal? There are at least two legal issues I see: Authorization and appropriation. Unless the process of the extra committees has a clear legal basis, it’s simply not allowed. And either way, from where does this agency get the extra money to finance these operations? Who appropriated it?

And, to the extent that any of these hearings are to be used for official decision-making, the agency is responsible for created complete transcripts, in most states, and certainly in the federal government.

It’s also interesting to note that there is no science agency asking for these ultra vires operations. Heck, for that matter, there doesn’t appear to be any religious agency asking, either.

There’s a whiff of scandal here. Do Kansas state agencies have inspectors general?

I found this part of Calvert’s report interesting as well:

Once again, (reporter Diane Carroll’s) coverage is very accurate and balanced. Although most of the opposition characterized the Proposals as seeking to teach ID and Religion, Diane makes their intentions clear:

“The eight committee members proposing the changes say intelligent design is too new to be taught. Instead, they are asking that students study evolution more carefully to become aware of the questions that they say it does not answer. They also contend that the current definition of science limits inquiry, because it allows only natural explanations. They propose changing it to encourage students to “follow the evidence wherever it leads.”

How the media presents such a story as this one is always important. I like the way Carroll accurately reports here on what’s being actually proposed and the reasons offered.

It really does constitute a serious misrepresentation for pro-evolution people to characterize the current proposals as seeking to teach ID and religion, when in fact the proposals are clearly not doing so.

FL

Calvert also wrote,

We also need theologians who can rebut the argument of the Christian biology teacher that there is no conflict between evolution or naturalism and Christianity. We need someone to explain the two logical conflicts that allow Dawkins to claim to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist and that precludes a Christian from making the same claim.

Although I’m not a theologian, I find that statement to be a fascinating invitation, especially in light of some of the pro-evolution comments on the transcript Jack provided.

When I read stuff like the transcript testimony of Rachel Robson, who says “As a Christian, I know that there is absolutely no conflict between Evolution and my faith, or between naturalistic science and the Christian religion,” I instinctively want to ask, “But how do you know that there’s absolutely no conflict?”

I strongly suspect that there’s some very real, very intense, very irreconcilable conflict in there, but it would take a bit of digging to bring it to light and explain it.

That’s why Calvert is calling for theologians to address the issue (but imo, any person would do, as long as they can locate the answer(s) and boil it down to two minutes of plain-English explanation. I don’t know if I can do so right now, but that’s an issue I’d like to explore further.)

FL

Instead, they are asking that students study evolution more carefully to become aware of the questions that they say it does not answer.

They are asking that students be tauught their position. Since their position is religiously motivated, they are asking that religion be taught. Students are already taught to study evolution, like all subjects carefully; “more” carefully means directing them to keep studying it until they come to the conclusion the IDers want them to come to – it can mean nothing else. And that creates a bias – it carries with it a prior assumption that IDers are right. It is anti-scientific.

They also contend that the current definition of science limits inquiry, because it allows only natural explanations. They propose changing it to encourage students to “follow the evidence wherever it leads.”

Empirical evidence by its nature is naturalistic and can only play a role in naturalistic explanations; that’s why science is sometimes characterized as applying “methodological naturalism”. If anything, this proposal undermines the nature of religious faith by suggesting that it is falsifiable through evidence found in the natural world.

It really does constitute a serious misrepresentation for pro-evolution people to characterize the current proposals as seeking to teach ID and religion, when in fact the proposals are clearly not doing so.

That’s funny coming from an intellectually dishonest sophist troll who lives on misrepresentation.

to Ed: in Kansas the state BOE is self-governing, so unless they break the law, there is no higher authority: they can break their own policies with impunity if they have the votes.

Also FL who writes,

“As a Christian, I know that there is absolutely no conflict between Evolution and my faith, or between naturalistic science and the Christian religion,” I instinctively want to ask, “But how do you know that there’s absolutely no conflict?”

She certainly can speak with certianty about evolution and her own faith, although I agree she cannot accurately say that there is no conflict “between naturalistic science and the Christian religion,” because obviously Christians don’t agree on his issue.

But that’s the point - the issue is theological, not scientific. As I wrote (and I stole the phrase from a friend on another list), ID advances the cause of religions which don’t accept evolution and inhibits (and in fact at times denounces) those that do accept evolution. This is a religion vs. religion battle - Christians vs. Christians (and others.)

FL makes it clear that in his view Diane Carroll’s reporting …

“They [the ID supporting minority of the science standards committee]also contend that the current definition of science limits inquiry, because it allows only natural explanations. They propose changing it to encourage students to ‘follow the evidence wherever it leads.’”

… accurately reflects a thoroughly scientific approach to the issue in Kansas. However, the references to “ … only natural explanations … “and “ … follow the evidence wherever it leads … “only beg the questions “what are the alternatives?” and “where does it lead?” The copious public writings of FL’s “eminent scientists” make clear the what and the where are one, ID.

Further in glorious contradiction, FL in arguing for ID as a science asserts …

That’s why Calvert is calling for theologians to address the issue … and boil it down to two minutes of plain-English explanation.

If that doesn’t clarify the issue raised by the minority on the science standards committee as religious, I don’t know what more is needed. Calvert’s and FL clearly view the issue as religion vs. religion and that should be debated at seminaries and in the pulpit, not before a state education committee of any type.

Jack Krebs notes that the BOE is self-governing and can make any policy they want, if they have the votes. But surely aren’t there sunshine laws that require public meetings, transcripts, and the like? With an ad hoc committee I smell the prospect of closed hearings with a stacked deck of selected witnesses and no transcripts. Bear in mind that the Dover School Board in Pennsylvania, despite state rules about transcripts and notes on all meetings, destroyed their recordings of the board meetings at which the local newspapers reported the discussion sometimes veered to arguing for support for Jesus. I don’t know the exact wording of Pennsylvania law, but I suspect that the board destroyed their tapes will play some kind of role in the court case now pending.

It’s a real problem for you KCFS people… These Christian adults that are anti-science, anti-evolution have a weekly continuing education program for training conformity to an ideological base. And you are not even coming close to being competitive with such a platform. Just reading the transcript, one can notice this serious imbalance. They all repeat the same mistakes using the same catch phrases and sound bites. Is it even remotely possible that all these people can conjure up the same mistakes all by themselves?

In the politics of science, I think gaining accessibility to those disseminators of bad science remains the key issue towards defeating anti-science fervor. Do you even know who they are? Addressing it may be a more important outcome than these short-lived victories against Creationist school boards.

And speaking of Dover, Pennsylvania, keep in mind the nasty outbreak of amnesia of convenience suffered by those board members when giving deposition. Fortunately, two local newspapers recorded some of the comments, and William Buckingham was caught on videotape saying precisely what he swore he did not say.

WWJD? Lie apparently.

Typical extrapolation

9 I have read the proposed changes to

10 the science standards from the

11 Intelligent Design promoters, and am

12 very much against their acceptance. As

13 a microbiologist, I watch bacteria

14 change into resistant bacteria from

15 sensitive, and I know that change, over

16 time, is a fact; it is not an unproven

17 theory.

Excuse me, ma’am, but an antibiotic resistant bacteria is still a bacteria. What evidence have you that the same mechanism that explains antibiotic resistance drove the process that turned bacteria into bacteriologists?

Sheesh. Gimme a giant break.

What evidence have you that the same mechanism that explains antibiotic resistance drove the process that turned bacteria into bacteriologists?

Time it takes for antibiotic sensitive bacteria in a population to die when exposed to antibiotic: 1 hour.

Time it took for humans to evolve: at least about 1x10^16 hours.

Seems reasonable to me and the vast majority of experts (i.e, people with some knowledge of biology).

But DaveScot, a mediocre computer programmer, thinks some mysterious alien beings must have done it. 10,000,000,000,000,000 hours is just not long enough!!!

So, how long did your mysterious alien beings take to evolve, Dave?

And how long did they take to design all the life forms that ever lived on earth (according to your “theory”). Don’t forget to state your assumptions.

Calvert states,

One thing is obvious. This is not the proper process for deciding this issue. Focused hearings from experts are desperately needed to cut through the misinformation, ridicule and half truths.

It would have helped to have more scientists on our side. If that had been the case we would have won the debate hands down. As it was, the objective observer would leave scratching his head.

It looks like the “Big Tent” philosophy is going to come back and bite the IDCists in the butt.

It’s like Calvert is saying, “Don’t these rubes know that when they’re in public they can’t argue our side in religious terms because it establishes a religious motivation for what we’re trying to do here? Is there a way we shut these people up but still enjoy their support?

FL and others continually try to make a lot of use out of Dawkins’ famous comment about being an “intellectually fulfilled atheist,” but always fail to really examine it’s meaning. Further, they try to argue that Evolution (Darwinism) is religiously based because it is atheistic and therefore should not get more consideration than their Christian based ID idea, while at the same time trying to state that ID is not religiously based. But, the IDists trying to have their cake and eat it too is not at all original.

The point to this post, however, is to examine Dawkins’ quote. Up until Darwin, all science on the issue had to be based on religion. After Darwin, there was finally an explanation for things that was neutral on religion, thus providing, finally, a way for one who is atheist to have an explanation of the world that did not rely on god. In other words, having something that is neutral to religion means that one does not have to profess faith in god in order to study the science, thus it became possible for one who does not believe in god to be intellectually fulfilled. It does not mean that evolution is atheistic, only that it is neutral to religion.

‘According to Calvert, if I simply agree with all the world’s experts on this subject, I’m either “illogical” (see argument above) or not a Christian.’

This is what gets me. Not to start an argument, but to be a scientist and a Christian is abit illogical. It means in one aspect of your life you follow logic and reason, the scientific method etc, while in a completely different sphere you accept people flying around, snakes talking, and people dead for days returning to life and THEN flying away. When a Christian says they are a logical person, they are not really being forthright in this area. It takes a certain illogic to buy any of it. Its a spectrum.

So yes in some aspect you are illogical. I’m not saying it is bad, but it is so nontheless.

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Uber

Not to start an argument, but to be a scientist and a Christian is abit illogical. It means in one aspect of your life you follow logic and reason, the scientific method etc, while in a completely different sphere you accept people flying around, snakes talking, and people dead for days returning to life and THEN flying away.

Relax, Spock.

Humans and other animals with a certain amount of brain power have emotional needs in addition to the traditionally recognized physical needs of food and water.

There is nothing “illogical” about understanding that science, when properly applied, is a fantastic tool for testing and understanding nature, but it’s not such a great tool for understanding why Budd Boetticher’s westerns are so awesome.

And if you’re afraid of dying a painful death, science isn’t going to comfort you. And science isn’t going to bring back your beloved pet, child, wife or mother (claims of cloners notwithstanding). But the human mind is obviously capable of imagining and/or comprehending “things” that are beyond science’s reach.

In your comment, Uber, you seemed to appreciate the resolution to your “conundrum”. You referred to a “completely different sphere.” And that’s what it is. There is a sphere for surviving and understanding the material world and everyone us who isn’t a monk or a yogi or a lunatic spends the vast majority of our lives in that sphere.

And then there are other realms – of the imagination, of the spiritual world – where we can create whatever we want to please our minds.

The great Judy Garland used to sing a song about that aspect of life – a song whose power can never be fully explained by science!

Once again, I urge the “ID theory” peddlers to turn their attention to Jimi Hendrix. If there is any truth to the claims that mysterious alien beings have intervened in life on earth, it is far more likely to be found in the DNA which encodes Jimi’s brain, auditory neurons, manual (and mandible!) dexterity than in the DNA that encodes a bacteria’s flagella.

Thanks I am relaxed.:-)

‘And if you’re afraid of dying a painful death, science isn’t going to comfort you.’

Maybe not, But honesty is honesty

‘And science isn’t going to bring back your beloved pet, child, wife or mother (claims of cloners notwithstanding).’

Maybe not, but who knows what the future holds. Then again religion isn’t bringing them back either–just making you think that it might.

‘But the human mind is obviously capable of imagining and/or comprehending “things” that are beyond science’s reach.’

Agree, it’s called imagination. I often wonder exactly what is beyond sciences reach. You hear it alot but is it true. Maybe for current science but a jumbo jet would have been beyond sciences reach 300 years ago.

We also need theologians who can rebut the argument of the Christian biology teacher that there is no conflict between evolution or naturalism and Christianity. We need someone to explain the two logical conflicts that allow Dawkins to claim to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist and that precludes a Christian from making the same claim.

I can’t believe intelligent people can allow someone to get away with such a blatant lie. This is a bogus dichotomy, pure and simple. Philosophical naturalism may be anathema to religion. But, methodological naturalism (which is what the scientific method relies upon) says nothing about religion. And, what the hell kind of role would a theologian have at a meeting on science? Boy, these guys are way out in right field.

Mainstream Christians, as well of those of other religious and a-religious perspectives, should be concerned about Intelligent Design creationism, for its efforts to insert its concepts into public education aim to advance those religious perspectives that do not accept evolution, and to inhibit those that do. The religious stakes here are as significant as the scientific and educational stakes.

Mainstream religionists should be concerned, indeed.

While we may laugh at the absurdity of Jack Chic comics, the reality is that many fundamentalist Christians (who make up the majority of the ID/creationist movement) have a rather low opinion of Catholicism and “liberal” protestant denominations.

When I was growing up, the “independent, fundamentalist Bible-believing church” I attended taught that the Catholic Church is the “Whore of Babylon” referenced in the Book of Revelation.

It would come as no surprise to me to learn that IDers are including non-fundamentalists in their crosshairs while they’re also trying to assassinate science.

“You say you’re supposed to be nice to the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians and the Methodists and this, that, and the other thing. Nonsense. I don’t have to be nice to the spirit of the Antichrist. I can love the people who hold false opinions but I don’t have to be nice to them.” –Pat Robertson, The 700 Club, January 14, 1991

John Calvert Wrote:

We need someone to explain the two logical conflicts that allow Dawkins to claim to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist and that precludes a Christian from making the same claim.

This has to be the all-time most frequent misquote by the IDCs. If you read the passage from The Blind Watchmaker in which Dawkins makes this statement, you’ll see that his point was about intellectual fulfillment, not atheism. In other words, as Dawkins plainly writes, evolution isn’t necessary to be an atheist, it’s necessary to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. There is nothing about this sentiment which precludes a Christian from accepting evolution as well.

Of course it’s neither here nor there because Dawkins doesn’t speak for all biologists, just as Calvert doesn’t speak for all Christians.

There is no logical conflict that allows Dawkins to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist, AND precludes Christians from the same intellectual fulfillment.

It’s a bit odd, really – a rebuttal to the biology teacher could only be to the point that Dawkins does not have the right to be intellectually fulfilled.

That’s the point. Government can’t do that. If we grant to government the right to discriminate against Dr. Dawkins in such a fashion, we have also granted it the right to discriminate against the 8-year-old girl who wants just to be a good little girl ‘to please Jesus,’ as Madison famously noted in his Memorial and Remonstrance.

She has a right to be intellectually fulfilled, even at 8. Why IDists wish to overcome that right is a question we need to get them to answer.

Jack Krebs Wrote:

to Ed: in Kansas the state BOE is self-governing, so unless they break the law, there is no higher authority: they can break their own policies with impunity if they have the votes.

So in other words, Calvert has the board wrapped around his finger, otherwise he couldn’t start creating his own special commitees at will.

If a majority of the board is going to let Calvert dictate their agenda, why don’t they just get it over with and insert the ID stuff right away, without wasting time on all the fluff? Are they just trying to give this whole thing a veneer of legitimacy?

Yep, giving themselves the veneer of legitimacy is one of the things they are doing - trying to give themselves a good rationale when they finally subvert the standards offered to them by the real science writing committee.

As importantly, they are using Kansas as a national stage to give ID a big PR victory. It’s all about winning the hearts and minds of the people, and giving ID a boost - some momentum that they carry onto the next state, whichever it may turn out to be.

They also contend that the current definition of science limits inquiry, because it allows only natural explanations. They propose changing it to encourage students to “follow the evidence wherever it leads.”

I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s something about science that IDers just don’t get. But, for the life of me, I can’t figure out what it is. It’s like talking to someone about binary logic in computers. Some people pick up on it quickly. Others couldn’t grasp it to save their lives.

Have the opponents of science ever contemplated what science would become if inquiries allowed for “explanations” that could not be verified or falsified? What purpose would there be in such “explanations?” An un-verifiable idea is like a tit on a bull. It may be interesting to look at (or not). But, it adds zero value.

If methodological naturalism is to be tossed out, the constraints it puts on scientific inquiry also get thrown away. And, if science is no longer limited to an examination of the natural world using explanations that involve natural mechanism, what are the new limits? Or are there no limits? Is it pretty much anything goes?

I can dream up all sorts of “explanations” for natural phenomenon. But, none of them are testable. Should science spend time on these “explanations?” Why or why not?

The ‘different spheres’ approach to distinguishing religion and science leads to some hard questions. When I use the words ‘true’ or ‘truth’ I rely on a kind of vague, conversational understanding of what they mean.

Now, when it comes to common sense descriptions of familiar things, this is pretty straightforward– what’s true is something we can agree on, after a little investigation. (Of course this has to allow room for difficult cases, where politics or manipulation or weird circumstances make agreement hard or maybe even impossible.) In science, of course, we’ve refined these standards and arrived at very specific procedures for various kinds of observations and measurements.

But when it comes to relgious ‘truths’, the idea of agreement doesn’t seem to have any traction. Instead, ‘truth’ takes on a different role– as an intensifier, or a table-thumping word, or (in all too many cases) as a threat: accede to this form of words, or we’ll fix you (in a bad way). Maybe it’s time to recognize that ‘truth’ in this context has very different uses and different force and different objectives associated with it.

Of course the intuition that links truth in science and truth in religion is the connection to

1. Sincere assertion. 2. The notion of ‘things being a certain way’, i.e.

things being such as to sustain/ render correct the assertion.

But without some notion of how to get to agreement, I’m not sure we have a stable account of what it is that a form of words asserts,i.e. just what it means to say that things are the way a religious claim asserts they are.

This is to just to say, in a fancy, philosophical sort of way,that I’m strongly sympathetic with Uber’s worries about the status of religious language and the evaluation of religious claims.

What I offer is a psychological explanation for why people persist in a view even after the original evidentiary basis for the belief is stripped away.

Cognitive dissonance is a psychological phenomenon which refers to the discomfort felt at a discrepancy between what you already know or believe, and new information or interpretation. Cognitive dissonance was first investigated by Leon Festinger and associates, arising out of a participant observation study of a cult which believed that the earth was going to be destroyed by a flood, and what happened to its members — particularly the really committed ones who had given up their homes and jobs to work for the cult — when the flood did not happen. While fringe members were more inclined to recognise that they had made fools of themselves and to “put it down to experience”, committed members were more likely to re-interpret the evidence to show that they were right all along (the earth was not destroyed because of the faithfulness of the cult members).”http://www.dmu.ac.uk/~jamesa/learni[…]ssonance.htm

As far as I can tell from everybody I know or have read about, “evidence” for faith is always based on personal experience

I don’t believe that you actually believe that, since it is patently false, as is clear just from creationists posting in this blog.

never is and never was based on anything admissible as objective data in science.

That’s a bizarre qualification. Of course the evidentiary beliefs that support people’s faith aren’t admissible as objective data in science, because the beliefs are erroneous. But they are held nonetheless, and go far beyond anything that could be characterized as “based on personal experience”, except in the sense of classical empiricism that people reading the bible or listening to their parents or preachers is necessarily a matter of “personal experience” – as is reading a science text or doing a scientific experiment. Darwin himself at one time believed the bible to be literally true, and that was most certainly not entirely due to “personal experience” in the sense of seeing God in nature. It is worth noting that it was Darwin’s reading of William Paley and accepting Paley’s arguments that convinced him of God’s hand in nature, and led him to a deepened interest in science – which in turn led him to refute Paley.

Indeed, Rachel, I join with those who view your post as “eloquent.” I have no problem characterizing it that way. Btw, I accept your apology, and believe me, I know there are professing religious folks who’ll badger you in the parking lot instead of listening and thinking while you’re at the podium. And for their behavior towards you, I am sincerely sorry. It’s wrong, and if I’m ever in the parking lot at the same time, I’ll run interference for you gladly.

On the other hand, I do not accept your suggestion that I was wrong for saying:

I strongly suspect that there’s some very real, very intense, very irreconcilable conflict (between naturalistic science and the Christian religion)in there, but it would take a bit of digging to bring it to light and explain it.

That’s simply my own initial personal response, concerning your claim that you directly and openly made, but that response clearly has nothing to do with you as a person or even as a person of Christian faith, nor did I suggest otherwise in the least. (Again, please show me if otherwise.)

Still, I read your post with great interest. I have to say, though, that I think Dan sorta nailed it there when he responded to your paragraph—

Ironically, ID offers no solution for the magnified problem of evil posed by deep time, the most serious theological argument against evolution. ID accepts deep time with all its mind-boggling pain and loss, accepts extinction, accepts hideously cruel internecine warfare within species (or family, or class, or whatever they’ve decided is the impregnable boundary between “kinds” this week). The only thing ID does not accept is the humility that brings Job comfort.

by saying—

Rachel - I don’t see why the problem of evil is any worse for those who accept deep time. It seems that even the slightest amount of unexplained suffering is sufficient to bring the problem to the fore in full force. After all, if God is omnipotent, he should be able to stop any amount of suffering with equal ease.

It’s even as much a problem for, say, theistic evolutionists like yourself, as for ID advocates like myself. Why? For the reason Dan so succinctly stated. Notice how it cuts across the spectrum from YECs to theistic-evolutionists. “After all, if God is omnipotent, he should be able to stop any amount of suffering with equal ease” Dan says.

Simply stated, then, buying into descent rather than design doesn’t alleviate the challenges posed by “the problem of evil”. In light of that, maybe it doesn’t work well to single out ID.

Still, as you said, theodicy is a problem for all thoughtful people, and I want to leave it at that for now.

Of more interest to me is still your original claim that “I know that there is absolutely no conflict between Evolution and my faith, or between naturalistic science and the Christian religion…”

I’m sure your God is “bigger” than the KBOE’s two-minute limit on public testimony, and mine is too, but the fact remains that inside of two minutes, you made a claim worth critically examining and responding to.

(No comment on the “humility” thing. We all need to be humble, on all sides, but that ain’t always happening, now is it? Let each person sweep their own sidewalk.)

I close with a quotation from Cornelius Hunter’s book Darwin’s God. This is just food for thought, an opinion, nothing more, but it does relate to your claim:

It is not surprising that science historian John Hedley Brooke concluded that beliefs in evolution and in a sovereign God do not overlap: “It should not be difficult to see why intelligent people have often taken the view that Darwin’s theory, properly understood, and Christian conceptions of an active providence are not merely incompatible, but belong to two mutually exclusive worlds of thought.” (pg 173)

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

Hey, GWW, I also noticed that you said

Calvert, FL and other ant-science preachers

I presume you meant to say “anti-science”, of course. Very recently, in another forum, I’ve started asking evolutionists who use this particular term to please define it for me, as specifically as possible, so I can know what to make of the term. Not trying to create more debate, but would you be willing to offer a specific-as-possible definition for me?

(The evolutionists are moving kinda slow at the other forum. Apparently nobody ever asked them to define this alleged “anti-science” phrase previously.)

FL

Oh, one more thing as my time winds up for now—Rachel, thanks for taking time to do your extended response there. Best wishes for you too.

FL

There are two problems:

1) The problem of evil, or at least pain and suffering. This is a theological/metaphysical problem for any belief system that alos posits some sort of universal goodness.

2) But that’s not the problem that separates that young-earth creationists from the old-earth theistic evolutionists. The issue here is those who believe that sin (evil,etc.) started with the original sin of Adam and Eve have an incontrovertible conflict with deep time that the theistic evolutionists don’t have. That’s different than the first problem.

FL, you may find comfort in John Hedley Brooke’s assertion that

“ … Darwin’s theory, properly understood, and Christian conceptions of an active providence are not merely incompatible, but belong to two mutually exclusive worlds of thought.”

But Kenneth R. Miller, Professor of Biology at Brown University, a practicing Roman Catholic, begs to differ. In the final chapter of his book Finding Darwin’s God he writes …

“It is often said that a Darwinian universe is one whose randomness cannot be reconciled with meaning. I disagree. A world truly without meaning would be one in which a deity pulled the string of every human puppet, indeed of every material particle. In such a world, physical and biological events would be carefully controlled, evil and suffering could be minimized, and the outcome of historical processes strictly regulated. All things would move toward the Creator’s clear, distinct, established goals. Such control and predictability, however, comes at the price of independence. Always in control, such a Creator would deny his creatures any real opportunity to know and worship him—authentic love requires freedom, not manipulation. Such freedom is best supplied by the open contingency of evolution.”

… and …

“A believer in the divine accepts that God’s love and gift of freedom are genuine—so genuine that they include the power to choose evil and, if we wish, to freely send ourselves to Hell. Not all believers will accept the stark conditions of that bargain, but our freedom to act has to have a physical and biological basis. Evolution and its sister sciences of genetics and molecular biology provide that basis. In biological terms, evolution is the only way a Creator could have made us the creatures we are—free beings in a world of authentic and meaningful moral and spiritual choices.”

… and concludes …

” … to a believer, even in the most traditional sense, evolutionary biology is not at all the obstacle we often believe it to be. In many respects, evolution is the key to understanding our relationship with God.”

Miller’s observations may not address your or Rachel’s concerns about theodicy and the problem of evil—questions that have been around a long time—but they address the questions more satisfactorily than Brooke’s comment which casts light on nothing.

If you have more questions about Miller’s views, I strongly recommend you read Finding Darwin’s God. Miller is an excellent writer and well informed about both evolution and Christianity and reading it would inform your knowledge of evolution and a view of religion and evolution that differs from what you have pushed on PT.

Hi, FL. Thanks very much to you and to GWW and Jack! It’s extremely flattering to read such things.

Here I’m going to quote FL, quoting Cornelius Hunter, quoting John Hedley Brooke:

It is not surprising that science historian John Hedley Brooke concluded that beliefs in evolution and in a sovereign God do not overlap: “It should not be difficult to see why intelligent people have often taken the view that Darwin’s theory, properly understood, and Christian conceptions of an active providence are not merely incompatible, but belong to two mutually exclusive worlds of thought.” (pg 173)

It’s also not surprising when an ID apologist like Hunter takes a quote out of context to claim support for beliefs that the quote’s original author does not share. John Hedley Brooke’s entire career is built on reconciling perceived conflicts between science and Christian faith. Even the partial quote Hunter cites does not say what Hunter claims it does: Brooke is saying that he understands why sharpies like yourself, FL, might think that evolution and providence are in conflict–not that he personally thinks that they are.

To be clear, I agree with you and Dan that deep time does not invent the problem of evil–it just brings it into sharper focus, magnifies it. A single case of injustice is enough to establish the problem of evil. But like Job’s friends, we’re often inclined to write off such evidence. Deep time makes the evidence for theodicy impossible to ignore. We can barely wrap our heads around a century, and yet creatures have been fighting and suffering and dying for almost four billion years. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Eliphaz the Temanite!

Deep time does not create needless suffering, but it does destroy our cheesy rationales as to why that suffering isn’t a problem by magnifying the amount of suffering we have to explain away. This is equally a theological problem for ID and evolution, as both accept deep time and late arrival of Homo sapiens. Theodicy is still a very real problem for young-earth creationists, but they have a slightly better excuse for it: the suffering we see is our fault, not God’s, and it’s a fairly recent development. YECs claim there was no suffering or death unitl we chose to disobey God and eat the damned apple. Yes, the past brief 6000 years have been pretty ghastly, but those first few weeks were perfect, until we went and screwed things up. That belief, combined with another–that soon this bloody business will end, the righteous will be redeemed, and we’ll all go back to our original blissful state–goes a long way toward ameliorating the problem of evil. And I feel that longing to make the problem of evil go away, too.

But in faith as in molecular biology, I do not believe that God wants us to stop trying to understand. I do not believe that God wants us to be satisfied with the pat answers of Eliphaz the Temanite, or of Michael Behe. I believe God challenges us to understand, to never stop grappling for the truth, even if we can never attain it, and our answers will forever provisional. This struggle, too, I believe is an act of faithfulness, if not always an act of faith.

FL:

I presume you meant to say “anti-science”, of course. Very recently, in another forum, I’ve started asking evolutionists who use this particular term to please define it for me, as specifically as possible, so I can know what to make of the term

anti-science is the outright rejection of science; i.e. rejection of the scientific method, of facts or observations made through scientific discovery, and misuse of other scientific principles.

Creationists fall into this category because as their most basic tenet they state that science is materialistic/naturalistic in its scope and thus cannot account for the supernatural/spiritual (e.g. God). They also deny facts that don’t support their position.

A classic example of this anti-science is the misuse of the 2nd law of thermodynamics. They use it to disprove evolution by saying that complexity cannot arise from less complex things, thus design and creation. But both these assertions can easily be disproven. The most obvious example is the sun. Anyone can go outside (during the day) and look up at that big orange globe in the sky. What is going on in it? Fusion. The process of making helium (and other metals) from hydrogen. Helium is plainly more “complex” (both scientifically and in the sense that creationists use it). It is also a natural process (the apparent violation 2LoT). Also, science has been able to design a machine, and create the process of fusion here on Earth, in a lab. This is evidence of “Design” needing a “Designer.” But as we can plainly see, the same process also is purely natural; thus something that clearly LOOKS designed, need not be at all!

The point: “anti-science” denies (1) the basic tenet of scientific method, (2) denies scientific facts, and (3) pretends to use “science” to prove a point that is natural and observable.

Sorry, I wrote:

The point: “anti-science” denies (1) the basic tenet of scientific method, (2) denies scientific facts, and (3) pretends to use “science” to prove a point that is natural and observable.

I meant to say: The point: “anti-science” denies (1) the basic tenet of scientific method, (2) denies scientific facts, and (3) pretends to use “science” to dis-prove a point that is natural and observable.

FL said:

I presume you meant to say “anti-science”, of course. Very recently, in another forum, I’ve started asking evolutionists who use this particular term to please define it for me, as specifically as possible, so I can know what to make of the term. Not trying to create more debate, but would you be willing to offer a specific-as-possible definition for me?

(The evolutionists are moving kinda slow at the other forum. Apparently nobody ever asked them to define teyhis alleged “anti-science” phrase previously.)

Creationism is anti-science. At various times, creationism denies every aspect of science that makes up creation, denying each aspect of creation.

For example, creationists argue the universe cannot possibly be 12 billion years old or so – the universe was created to present a false age. The universe lies.

Stars also lie about their ages. They cannot possibly be more than 6,000 or 10,000 years old, so the appearance that they have aged to the point of being a red giant or white dwarf is false.

Planets also lie. Earth, for example, can’t be 4.5 billion years old. The tectonic actions were not real, but the plates have been jumbled by the (deceitful) creator in order to create a semblance of age that does not exist, the better to fool the unwary scientist or Christian who simply assumes nature manifests God. The layers of soil or lake varves that reveal millions of annual accretions were really created in short order, perhaps by a flood that left no evidence that it ever occurred.

And, while they’re at it, creationists say the rocks themselves lie when they reveal fossils, or when they suggest a different timetable in any fashion.

The creatures of the Earth also lie, both in fossil form and in DNA. Fossils cannot possibly be so old as they appear, and DNA evidence showing the relatedness of life – chimps and humans as near cousins, for example – are false, signs put there (by the Great Deceiver, apparently) to snooker scientists and provide grist for Kent Hovind-fueled sermons. The chemicals that make up DNA are liars about their true natures. Tree rings that the dendrochronologist counts to find trees 9,000 years old? Those trees are liars, too – to the creationist.

The atoms that make up the chemicals are also liars, according to creationists. Atomic theory, which undergirds radioisotope dating, is clearly incorrect, the creationist argues. While atomic decay in theory and in actual measurement provide consistent date estimates across many isotopes in many different situations, such dating cannot be trusted, the creationist says.

So there you have it, FL: Creationists claim the universe lies, the stars lie, the planets lie, the rocks on the planets lie, the oceans lie, the animals and plants lie, and the very atoms that make up all of creation lie.

Such a total rejection of all of reality, all of God’s creation, probably deserves being called “crazy,” or “divorced from reality,” or “a bravura performance of insanity.” But since it is tied together with a rejection of all science, biology, geology, chemistry, physics, and all permutations of those sciences, we simply call it “anti-science.”

The IDists don’t reject enough of creationism to merit leaving the label behind. Instead they raise to a new high the practice of calling the scientists themselves as untruth tellers – such as the way Jonathan Wells notes every moth scientist in the world as saying exactly the opposite of what they have said. ‘Can’t trust the moths, so the scientists must have meant the opposite of what they said,’ I suppose.

Whatever science actually finds nature manifests, creationists or IDists will say the science is in error. If you wait five or ten minutes, they will end up denying each and every aspect of science, from the quarks at the small end to the entire universe at the big end. Check and see if that’s not so.

I posted: “Factoring in all organisms (from viruses to bacteria to elephants to humans), the daughter-cell has a different genome than that of the parent-cell in at least one-tenth of all divisions. It might happen in as many as one-third of all divisions.”

Those numbers might be too high. I’m not an expert. But according to John W. Drake, RNA-based lytic viruses average 1 new mutation per division. However, other organisms mutate at a less frequent rate than RNA-based lytic viruses. For instance, D. melanogaster (fruit flies) average about 0.058 mutations per division.

Here is a link to an abstract of an article by Drake:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/[…]opt=Abstract

On a different note, I don’t like the word “mutation.” It doesn’t help people get a picture of the series of events that result in daughter-cells having genomes that are different than those of their parent-cells. It also might contribute to some people not trying to determine the events that cause disanalogous daughter-cells. Some people say: “The organism has a new mutation.” Sometimes that is the end of the discussion. But the question is: Why does the organism have a new mutation?

I especially don’t like it when people modify the word “mutation” with the word “random.” That makes it sound like the phenomena of disanalogous daughter-cells is an “uncaused event.” The idea of an “uncaused event” makes no sense – at least at a non-quantum level. (The Big Bang is also a puzzle – some people suggest that it was, in some sense, an “uncaused event.”)

But basically the idea of an uncaused event makes no sense. For instance, what if my friend says: “The eight-ball went from the middle of the table into the corner pocket.” Say I ask him: “What caused it to go into the corner pocket?” Say he answers: “Nothing. It was uncaused event.” That would make no sense.

Scientists should do a better job of trying to determine what events tend to cause daughter-cells’ genomes to be different than their parent-cells’ genomes. I’m almost sure that there is not a gene that causes cells to divide so that daughter-cells have different genomes. And it is clear that some rates of disanalogous daughter-cells have contributed to some organisms reproducing more times than some other organisms. But more work should be done on the issue of what causes some daughter-cells to have different genomes than those of their parent-cells. I suspect that mundane events often contribute to daughter-cells that have different genomes than those of their parent-cells. Here I’m thinking of things like friction. Different densities in cell walls. Objects hitting against a cell when it divides. Diet.

Scientists say that a large percentage of new mutations are caused by “copying errors.” Well, what does that mean? It is like a metaphore that doesn’t help me much. It doesn’t help me figure out what is happening.

The nice thing about sexual reproduction: The offspring’s genome is different than its parents’ genomes no matter what – even if the offspring does not have one “new mutation.” In humans, the offspring inherits 23 chromosomes from its mother and 23 from its father. The 23 it inherits from the father are a mish-mish of parts of the father’s 46 chromosomes. Same with the 23 that it inherits from its mother. In the offspring, the two clusters of 23 chromosomes never blend. I don’t think they even physically touch each other. The two clusters stay separate – but close together – in the nucleus of each cell. So, when choosing your mate, choose wisely. Also, recessive genes are important. Some organisms have certain traits only if both of the parents have a given gene.

I posted: “However, other organisms mutate at a less frequent rate than RNA-based lytic viruses. For instance, D. melanogaster (fruit flies) average about 0.058 mutations per division.” This issue of mutation rates is complicated. For instance, what do we measure? D. melanogaster averages 0.058 new mutations per cell-division. In other words, when two fruit flies reproduce, the fertilized cell may have genome X. Before the new fruit fly is born, the fertilized cell divides 25 times. In the course of those division, a cell may have genome not-X. But the fruit fly that gets born may end up having genome X. So, from cell to cell their may be a new mutation, but the new fruit fly ends up having the same genome as that of the first fertilized cell.

According to Drake, fruit flies average 1.4 new mutations per genome per sexual generation. In other words, that is looking at things not from cell to cell, but from fruit fly to fruit fly. Also, fruit flies average 0.005 new mutations per effective genome per cell division. “Effective” meaning genes that actually code for proteins. Finally, fruit flies average .14 new mutations per effective genome per sexual generation.

In the following paragraph, Drake mentions some of the different ways one might calculate mutation rates:

“Although mutation has chaotic aspects, spontaneous mutation rates assume certain characteristic values when expressed per genome per genome duplication. The rate among lytic RNA viruses is roughly 1, while the rate among retroelements is roughly 0.2. The rate among viral and cellular microbes with DNA chromosomes is close to 0.0034. Mutation rates among higher eukaryotes, estimated from specific-locus studies, vary greatly. Most of this variation can be suppressed if the rates are expressed per cell division instead of per sexual generation, and if the genome size is taken to be only a little larger than the sum of the protein-encoding sequences; then, the mutation rate is roughly 0.01. The reasons for different characteristic mutation rates among different organism groups remain mysterious and pose a substantial challenge to students of evolution.”

If you talk to people who don’t believe evolution happened, one might get the impression that mutations are rare. You might think that, across the animal kingdom, there is only one new mutation every year. That is ridiculously wrong. RNA-based lytic viruses average 1 new mutation per division. Humans average about 2 new mutations among only coding genes per sexual generation. Mutations happen frequently. They may happen about as frequently as reproduction itself.

Partly because of the frequency of mutation and other things I’ve read, I can justifiably infer that most new mutations do not make an organism more able or less able to reproduce. However, some people say that new mutations that immediately help an organism’s reproductive ability happen infrequently. That may be. But we are talking about 3.8 billion years. That is going to be a heck of a lot of mutations that contribute to reproductive success.

Also, though most new mutations don’t help organisms reproduce, they also don’t hurt. So they contribute to differences among organisms that get passed along. A trait that doesn’t hurt an organism’s chances of success are going to continue in the population and contribute to phenotypic differences among organisms. If a gene doesn’t hurt reproductive, and it is connected to a successful animal, then that gene will stay alive in the population.

Finally, I don’t like the word “mutation.” But I don’t want to be too hard on scientists for using it. It’s quick and easy. And it is often very difficult to determine which events caused a subsequent event. For instance, if a daughter-cell’s genome is different than its parent-cell’s genome, it might be hard to figure out why. Causation is complicated. For instance, think of all the different events that were in play when you played roulette and the ball landed on the black number 8. Both positive events and events that weren’t present. Humidity. Air Pressure. What the person had for dinner. How good a night’s sleep he had. It’s all very complicated. If want to get really complicated, you can say that the Big Bang was a cause of the ball landing on the black 8. If the Big Bang had not occurred, the ball would not have landed on the black 8.

However, we are justifiably confident in believing that varying degrees of reproductive success has contributed significantly in bringing about the existence of every organism that has lived on earth over the last 3.8 billion years. Specifically, that some organisms have reproduced more times than some other organisms has contributed significantly to the existence of each organism to live on earth – and probably each trait of each organism to live on earth.

Finally, scientists should do a better job of trying to explain to people what event(s) are most important in daughter-cells having different genomes than those of their parent-cells. It will help people understand evolution and why it is clear that it has happened.

And we should make clear how important sexual reproduction has been in producing some of the organisms that have lived on this planet. That’s how I got here. And when organisms sexually reproduce, the offspring’s genome is always different than it’s mom’s genome and/or it’s dad’s genome. Often with more nucleotides.

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This page contains a single entry by Jack Krebs published on February 13, 2005 9:57 PM.

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