The first cracks are showing

| 56 Comments
John West:Discovery Institute Wrote:

There’s little question that the Earth is billions of years old, said John West, senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, a public policy think tank in Seattle that is critical of Darwinian theory.

“Critics would rather tar everyone with the brush of creationism,” said West, who teaches political science at Seattle Pacific University. “I think the idea that Genesis provides scientific text is really farfetched.”

LA Times: Adam, Eve and T. Rex

The big tent is only comfortable when it serves one’s purpose but when the tent becomes to crowded, ID seems to be quickly back pedalling. Now ID is not only fighting science but also young earth creationism. And it is ill equipped to handle either one.

Science because ID fails to propose a scientifically relevant theory and thus remains scientifically vacuous. Creationism because it invited it into its big tent.

Luckily scientists like Padian get to add their own comments

Padian Wrote:

“Dinosaurs lived in the Garden of Eden, and Noah’s Ark? Give me a break,” said Kevin Padian, curator at the University of California Museum of Paleontology in Berkeley and president of National Center for Science Education, an Oakland group that supports teaching evolution. “For them, ‘The Flintstones’ is a documentary.”

Flintstones, a documentary to YEC’ers. Now that is funny. YEC in the business of entertainment, now that’s a novel idea. At least there is a market…

56 Comments

Yabadabado!

Can you give us a link to this article? Thanks.

i think it’s this one.

I always thought that ID was a cave in for creationists. That it takes on most of Evolutionary theory as fact and just nit picks at the details. I think the YEC’s are starting to get this. ID is a profound backtracking of the whole creationist movement.

PvM Wrote:

And it is ill equipped to handle either one.

Actually it’s quite well equipped to handle YEC, if it ever has the courage to follow up the brief disclaimers that are designed to divert attention from, instead of critically analyze, the fatal flaws of YEC.

Granted, the DI (CSC) has no relevant peer-reviewed scientific publications (the few that it has do not support ID and/or are useless arguments from incredulity). But it has some smart people like Michael Behe, who has gone on record as accepting an old earth, and common descent to boot, with a decade of opportunity and pressure to change his mind. DI (CSC) fellows can spin some rather elaborate misrepresentations of evolution, so they can surely muster some impressive arguments against YEC, with no misrepresentations, quoting out of context, etc. necessary.

John West might be happy to know that I have been objecting quite vocally lately to those critics who “would rather tar everyone [in the ID movement] with the brush of creationism.” As I just wrote on Talk Origins, I do not mean it as a favor to IDers, but on second thought it is “tough love.” Sooner or later (Judgment Day, perhaps?) they are going to have to come clean. Don’t be afraid, John, take the next step now.

“Now ID is not only fighting science but also young earth creationism.”

Be careful how you word this. The DI’s fight with science is decidedly not the same fight as the one with YEC. We pro-evolution advocates certainly are not bedfellows with YECs in this twisted struggle. West at best is shunning those Creationists who think that the Genesis is literal Truth. But, as we already know, the AiG Creationists were the first to break with the DI. It is hardly a preemptive strike by West in making that statement.

I am going to give West more political credit for this apparent faux-pas. He is appealing to the mainstream, in the same mode that the New Republic article is. He is keenly aware that this is where the political battle has to be won, not by kow-towing to the hard right. There is nothing worse we can do here than to give them reason to lump us with Literalists (i.e. “Look at the evolutionists. They think just like the Creationists when it comes to evolution vs. design.”)

“Now ID is not only fighting science but also young earth creationism.”

For a moment there I thought I heard an echo of the most beheddled IDer of them all…

Lurker Wrote:

West at best is shunning those Creationists who think that the Genesis is literal Truth

West and his DI (CSC) buddies are smart enough to know that there is no “Genesis literal Truth” but several mutually contradictory interpretations, each claiming to be the literal one, and each with fatal scientific flaws. YECs, day-age, gap OECs, etc. have been debating each other for years, and ID’s “big tent” strategy was, in part, an attempt to draw attention away from it. Maybe I’m too cynical, but the recent more forceful “distancing” from YEC (alas, still nowhere near “equal time” with their attacks on “Darwinism”) may be purely political, if somewhat desperate. Not unlike their uncomfortable association with the Raelians. YEC group AIG has been turning up the heat on it’s criticism of “don’t ask, don’t tell” ID too.

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More on Dembski, The New York Times has a Aug. 28, 2005 op-ed from Dr. Daniel Dennett here (requiring a free substription) which goes into a discussion of the issues without bringing up God in terms simple enough, perhaps even the president could understand it. Maybe further cracks will show.

From the op-ed, Dennett (who wrote “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea” – and dangerous it seems to DI) describes this strawman:

“A creationist pamphlet sent to me some years ago had an amusing page in it, purporting to be part of a simple questionnaire: “Test Two Do you know of any building that didn’t have a builder? [YES] [NO] Do you know of any painting that didn’t have a painter? [YES] [NO] Do you know of any car that didn’t have a maker? [YES] [NO] “If you answered YES for any of the above, give details: “Take that, you Darwinians! The presumed embarrassment of the test-taker when faced with this task perfectly expresses the incredulity many people feel when they confront Darwin’s great idea. It seems obvious, doesn’t it, that there couldn’t be any designs without designers, any such creations without a creator.”

Which leads me to this incredulous statement on my part: “Oh, my Lord! suddenly there is a God because obviously my littler finger is a watch!”

Dennett goes on in this four virtual-page article to describe the infamous piece of creationist misunderstanding about the organization of the eye, and includes the backwards retina with impairs our vision more than enhances it, and further states:

“If you still find Test Two compelling, a sort of cognitive illusion that you can feel even as you discount it, you are like just about everybody else in the world; the idea that natural selection has the power to generate such sophisticated designs is deeply counterintuitive. Francis Crick, one of the discoverers of DNA, once jokingly credited his colleague Leslie Orgel with ‘Orgel’s Second Rule’: Evolution is cleverer than you are. Evolutionary biologists are often startled by the power of natural selection to ‘discover’ an ‘ingenious’ solution to a design problem posed in the lab.” (Emphasis added.)

Dennett describes what science tries to do:

“The legitimate way to stir up such a storm is to come up with an alternative theory that makes a prediction that is crisply denied by the reigning theory - but that turns out to be true, or that explains something that has been baffling defenders of the status quo, or that unifies two distant theories at the cost of some element of the currently accepted view.”

…and what this leads to…

“To date, the proponents of intelligent design have not produced anything like that. No experiments with results that challenge any mainstream biological understanding. No observations from the fossil record or genomics or biogeography or comparative anatomy that undermine standard evolutionary thinking. “Instead, the proponents of intelligent design use a ploy that works something like this. First you misuse or misdescribe some scientist’s work. Then you get an angry rebuttal. Then, instead of dealing forthrightly with the charges leveled, you cite the rebuttal as evidence that there is a ‘controversy’ to teach.”

more…

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He sets up an example …

“Note that the trick is content-free. You can use it on any topic. ‘Smith’s work in geology supports my argument that the earth is flat,’ you say, misrepresenting Smith’s work. When Smith responds with a denunciation of your misuse of her work, you respond, saying something like: ‘See what a controversy we have here? Professor Smith and I are locked in a titanic scientific debate. We should teach the controversy in the classrooms.’ And here is the delicious part: you can often exploit the very technicality of the issues to your own advantage, counting on most of us to miss the point in all the difficult details.”

… and then uses W. Dembski to detail it:

“William Dembski, one of the most vocal supporters of intelligent design, notes that he provoked Thomas Schneider, a biologist, into a response that Dr. Dembski characterizes as “some hair-splitting that could only look ridiculous to outsider observers.” What looks to scientists - and is - a knockout objection by Dr. Schneider is portrayed to most everyone else as ridiculous hair-splitting.”

What critical thinking on the bad doctor’s part! Dembski employs this high-handed approach to ignore data and use anything to serve his interests, including an outright objection and facts about the world around us, which lead to “controversy” and “naturalism”, both very good for desires, or very bad, respectively.

Even better, Dennett proposes this theory of evolution:

“About six million years ago, intelligent genetic engineers from another galaxy visited Earth and decided that it would be a more interesting planet if there was a language-using, religion-forming species on it, so they sequestered some primates and genetically re-engineered them to give them the language instinct, and enlarged frontal lobes for planning and reflection. It worked. “If some version of this hypothesis were true, it could explain how and why human beings differ from their nearest relatives, and it would disconfirm the competing evolutionary hypotheses that are being pursued. “We’d still have the problem of how these intelligent genetic engineers came to exist on their home planet, but we can safely ignore that complication for the time being, since there is not the slightest shred of evidence in favor of this hypothesis. “But here is something the intelligent design community is reluctant to discuss: no other intelligent-design hypothesis has anything more going for it. In fact, my farfetched hypothesis has the advantage of being testable in principle: we could compare the human and chimpanzee genomes, looking for unmistakable signs of tampering by these genetic engineers from another galaxy. Finding some sort of user’s manual neatly embedded in the apparently functionless “junk DNA” that makes up most of the human genome would be a Nobel Prize-winning coup for the intelligent design gang, but if they are looking at all, they haven’t come up with anything to report.”

And that’s the crux of it, isn’t it? They aren’t out to search for the truth, they “know it” already. Such unscientific garbage. Dennett tells us that science is about theory and testing, and something which is tested is being “proved” against the evidence, not tricks of light and handwaving, which demonstrate nothing.

more…

Dennett proposes an alternative:

“Instead of spending more than $1 million a year on publishing books and articles for non-scientists and on other public relations efforts, the Discovery Institute should finance its own peer-reviewed electronic journal. This way, the organization could live up to its self-professed image: the doughty defenders of brave iconoclasts bucking the establishment.”

and closes with:

“For now, though, the theory they are promoting is exactly what George Gilder, a long-time affiliate of the Discovery Institute, has said it is: “Intelligent design itself does not have any content.” “Since there is no content, there is no “controversy” to teach about in biology class. But here is a good topic for a high school course on current events and politics: Is intelligent design a hoax? And if so, how was it perpetrat- ed?”

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Do you know of any building that didn’t have a builder? [YES] [NO] Do you know of any painting that didn’t have a painter? [YES] [NO] Do you know of any car that didn’t have a maker? [YES] [NO]

How is this relevant with what we see in nature?

Do you know of any building that make little buildings that grow up to full new buildings? [YES] [NO] Do you know of any painting that creates new paintings? [YES] [NO] Do you know of any car that create cute little baby care that grow up and become v8 monsters? [YES] [NO]

West at best is shunning those Creationists who think that the Genesis is literal Truth

West and his DI (CSC) buddies are smart enough to know that there is no “Genesis literal Truth” but several mutually contradictory interpretations, each claiming to be the literal one, and each with fatal scientific flaws.

Dudes, this is all nothing but legal maneuvering. The IDers know that creation “science” has already had the kabosh put on it by the courts. If ID is to have any chance – any at all – of surviving in court, then it absolutely MUST, without any prevarication at all, publicly distance itself as far as possible from creation ‘science’.

I’m willing to bet my next month’s pay that Discovery Institute doesn’t send back checks that come in from YECers.

And let’s not forget that a very high proportion of ID’s, uh, “scientific witnesses” at the Kansas Kangaroo Kourt either embraced YEC or hemed and hawed about the question to avoid saying anything against YEC. It turned out to be a political disaster for them (and, if the matter goes to court, it will turn out to be a legal disaster as well).

Apparently, the Wedge-ites do have the capability to learn from past mistakes after all.

But then, so do earthworms.

Evolutionists are constantly on the defensive in this debate.

I agree. For far too long, we’ve allowed the Wedge-ites to set the agenda and set the terms of the “debate”.

Fortunately there is a simple way out of this, the one that I use here. Any time some IDers shows up and starts spouting his crap, all we need to do is ask a few simple questions that cut straight to the point —– “What *IS* this scientific theory of ID, and how do we test it using the scientific method?” “If ID is all about science, then why do IDers keep bringing up God, Christianity and religion?” “What makes your religious opinions any more authoritative or better than anyone else’s?” And then, more importantly, **don’t let the IDer dance away from the question**. Keep asking, as many tiems as you need to, every time the IDer shows up here, until you get an answer. If I have to ask my question to an IDer a hundred times before he answers (or runs away), then I’m perfectly willing to do that. I’m a patient man, and I absolutely refuse to let THEM set the agenda.

Either ID has something scientific to offer, or it doesn’t. If it does, I want to see it, and I’ll keep asking until I *do* see it. If it doesn’t, then my continued questioning (and the IDer’s continued refusal to answer) demonstrates to all the lurkers, quickly cleanly and with very little effort on my part, that IDers simply have nothing scientific to offer (and are simply lying to us when they claim otherwise).

Dan Dennett Wrote:

William Dembski, one of the most vocal supporters of intelligent design, notes that he provoked Thomas Schneider, a biologist, into a response that Dr. Dembski characterizes as “some hair-splitting that could only look ridiculous to outsider observers.” What looks to scientists - and is - a knockout objection by Dr. Schneider is portrayed to most everyone else as ridiculous hair-splitting.

See Schneider rip Dembski several new ones here.

Dennett has largely the right message, but unfortunately, I think he is the wrong messenger. The easiest put away from the DI spin machine is to keep harping on Dennett’s atheism. Here’s the problem. Despite his brilliant exposition on Creationist tactics in manufacturing “controversies,” he sprinkles his essay with rather atheistic assertions. Consider these back to back paragraphs:

“All it takes is a rare accident that gives one lucky animal a mutation that improves its vision over that of its siblings; if this helps it have more offspring than its rivals, this gives evolution an opportunity to raise the bar and ratchet up the design of the eye by one mindless step. And since these ***lucky improvements*** accumulate - this was Darwin’s insight - eyes can automatically get better and better and better, ***without any intelligent designer***.

Brilliant as the design of the eye is, it betrays its origin with a tell-tale flaw: the retina is inside out. The nerve fibers that carry the signals from the eye’s rods and cones (which sense light and color) lie on top of them, and have to plunge through a large hole in the retina to get to the brain, creating the blind spot. ***No intelligent designer would put such a clumsy arrangement in a camcorder***, and this is just one of hundreds of ***accidents frozen in evolutionary history*** that confirm the ***mindlessness of the historical process***. “

[*** highlights are mine, of course.]

All this about luck and mindlessness and assertions about the Intelligent Designer are exactly the kind of fuel for DI’s fire. Why? Precisely because these are metaphysical claims that cannot be substantiated by scientific data. Just how “lucky” was a mutation? And how do we measure such luck… keeping in mind that we tell most Creationists their (im)probability calculations are bunk, because we don’t have a good statistical model of all evolutionary processes? How about Dennett’s asserting unqualified universal negatives [“No intelligent designer…”, “mind_less_ness”]? Draw the parallel with Creationist talk of “no evolutionary processes…” and “no detailed step-by-step material causes”.

My problem with those two paragraphs is that there is a lack of … well, balance. Against Dennett’s worldview, there does exist an opposite religious message that can be derived from the same evolutionary evidence. In particular, after Dennett spends pages gawking about the “brilliance” of evolutionary mechanisms, after drooling about how much more clever natural designs are in achieving practical solutions, can anyone doubt that these characteristics of evolutionary design could be spun in a religious manner? I guess only Dennett could miss it. I will give NYT readers more credit, however. So, when the DI comes back with an anti-materialism response, that completely side steps Dennett’s points about the lack of science, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that people are going to buy the spin that this has everything to do with a defense against anti-religious attacks from the Dennetts of the world. In fact, Dennett may have no intent whatsoever, while writing those two paragraphs, in countering religion… but who is going to believe that after the DI’s done?

I have cautioned people in the past about pairing up atheists vs. fundamentalists in evolution-creation debates. The DI has clearly picked up on this theme, however. [Look at the recent match-ups in their broadcasted “debates.”] To an indifferent public, such debates give the perception that the “controversy” is just about extremists battling for control, neutralizing each other in the process. American notions of “fairness” dictates that both opinions be given their dues. The DI however knows how to leverage this to propagandize their religious causes. Given that a significant majority of citizens are religious, in the end, it is the DI comes out ahead in terms of political capital. Can anyone here argue that would be a good thing?

the reverend dr. said: //What *IS* this scientific theory of ID, and how do we test it using the scientific method?” “If ID is all about science, then why do IDers keep bringing up God, Christianity and religion?” //

This is one approach. Another (my favorite) s to ask two questions:

“1) What is evolution? Provide an outline of the theory of evolution which reveals your understanding of the subject which you are criticizing.

Bonus question:

2) Can you give a clear explanation of the scientific method and the rules of evidence? (Discuss how is science done, how is evidence accumulated and how are ideas tested.)”

Sometimes they leave skid marks.

You know, lurker, I was going to comment on the problems of using language to describe science, then I read your post again. Then I changed my mind. Instead, I ask you to explain what is wrong with saying that

“And since these ***lucky improvements*** accumulate - this was Darwin’s insight - eyes can automatically get better and better and better, ***without any intelligent designer***.”

given that the current paradigm, evolutionary biology, functions well enough without an intelligent designer. In the context of evolutionary biology, whether there is an intelligent designer or not is not a metaphysical question, it is a scientific one, and so far the answer is that there is no scientific evidence to suggest any kind of intelligent designer.

As for “luck”, “mindlessness”, “accidents”, that is a problem with language. It is extremely hard to put the science into english that cannot be misunderstood. If anyone can come up with a better way of putting things that doesnt take a sentence of digression in each explanation, be my guest.

There is nothing lucky about better eyes. Look at it this way: take all the members of a generation of the prey species of your choice, and classify them from best to worst eyesight. Natural selection states that the ones at the start of the list are most likely the ones reaching adulthood and reproducing because a) they see the predators coming and b) they see the oposite members of the species. Calling those lucky is ignorant at best, since from a detached point of view, there is always some that will have better eyesight (or are faster runners or bigger or smaller or whatever).

Calling it luck is playing to creationist ideals like the old cannard “the universe being like this is so impossibly lucky it must be God”, ignoring that if you call the guy picking the longest straw lucky, it doesn’t mean a thing because someone *had* to.

Hope that helps,

Grey Wolf

Can anyone here argue that would be a good thing?

We, uh, just had a big long religious war over this very question. Let’s not start another one. It’s irrelevant anyway. ID isn’t science, whether there is a god or not. ID doesn’t belong in a science classroom or textbook, whether there is a god or not. It’s illegal to teach religious opinion (like ID) in public schools, whether there is a god or not. So it simply doesn’t matter at all in this matter if there is a god or not. Arguing over it is just a waste of time and effort. All it does is piss people off, drive away people who are on our side, give the nutters a chance to score some propaganda points, and divert attention from the real issue, which is ID’s utter inability to produce anything remotely resembling science and thus its complete lack of any reason to be included in a science classroom.

Leave the holy wars to the Middle East. As they show, nobody ever wins.

“As for “luck”, “mindlessness”, “accidents”, that is a problem with language. It is extremely hard to put the science into english that cannot be misunderstood. If anyone can come up with a better way of putting things that doesnt take a sentence of digression in each explanation, be my guest.”

I agree. It is a problem with language. And problems with language in a political struggle should not be dismissed lightly.

Let me be clear. I don’t think there is an issue with atheists promoting their worldviews. But my problem is that in inherently ambiguous areas that are political powder kegs, having only one interpretation presented will likely have explosive outcomes. The best approach, in my opinion, is to have alternative religious interpretations (besides the Creationist/IDists ones) presented alongside Dennett’s. In the ideal world, we would have a Christian/conservative scientist write something like Dennett’s article, or write a companion piece to it. Short of that, I guess I can only rely on the atheist’s best judgment just how far he thinks he really should be pushing his worldview in the evolution/creation debates.

“In the context of evolutionary biology, whether there is an intelligent designer or not is not a metaphysical question, it is a scientific one, and so far the answer is that there is no scientific evidence to suggest any kind of intelligent designer.”

This is wrong, if left unqualified. For one thing, it is not clear if the context is really just evolutionary biology… or if it is religion vs. science… or atheism vs. theism. It is convenient for an atheist to claim the high ground of science here, and sneak in the anti-religious worldview on the side, but I bet you, with the amount of scrutiny and political saavy of the opposition, that’s not going to work anymore. It is the ambiguity and sloppiness with which Dennett airs his metaphysics that concerns me. Don’t take my word for it. Just wait for the DI’s spin.

Look, if certain theists want to have their Designer subjected to scientific validation, then yes, theirs is a metaphysical position amenable to naturalistic testing. But, most theists assert an opposite point of view. As such, a lack of scientific evidence of their Designer really has squat to do with the validity of the theist’s metaphysical claims of a Designer. For instance, just having Dennett’s sense of awe of evolution has as much to support Dennett’s atheism as a Christian’s theology.

My beef with Dennett is that he did not explicitly cite his atheistic worldview, or that it was the manner in which he interpreted the evidence metaphysically. A lack of disclaimer, combined with sloppy language, is the source of a lot of confusion that we see in these debates. Is there no scientific evidence of a Mind or a Designer? No? Fine, but only for an atheist does that provide confirmation of a lack of a material, intervening Designer. A theist does not necessarily have to reach the same conclusion. And, make no mistake, one of Dennett’s conclusion is that the evidence deems any possible Designer incompetent… which presupposes that a Designer must design Perfection through non-evolutionary processes. Once again, an implicit metaphysical assumption that is not made clear.

In the meantime, I agree with Grey Wolf’s take on the metaphysics of being lucky.

“It’s illegal to teach religious opinion (like ID) in public schools, whether there is a god or not.”

I agree. It is also illegal to teach anti-religious opinion (like Dennett’s and Dawkins’) in public schools, whether there is a god or not. If the Creationists are doing nothing right, they at least keep us honest about this.

We do have the upper hand as far as good science is concerned. Let’s not give any “nutter” the excuse to divert attention from what really matters. Thus, I am going to continue to remind people that atheism is not the only possible interpretation or logical conclusion of evolutionary science.

Well, I fail to see exactly what we are talking about here, lurker. The quoted bits of Dennet look fine to me as examples of modern evolutionary biology. The fact that you claim to be able to make out metaphysical atheism and stuff out of them is something I just dont understand at all. Ultimately I think it is probably impossible to make a reasonable and scientifically truthful statement about evolutionary biology that doesnt pre-suppose a lack of an intelligent designer or related entity.

It is also illegal to teach anti-religious opinion (like Dennett’s and Dawkins’) in public schools, whether there is a god or not.

And no one is doing any such thing. (shrug) I am not aware of a single biology textbook published anywhere in the United States of America that is “anti-religion” in any way shape or form. Outside of the fundie’s paranoid delusions that EVERYONE is out to get them.

There is nothing lucky about better eyes.

Strawman. Dennett’s statement was “All it takes is a rare accident that gives one lucky animal a mutation that improves its vision over that of its siblings; if this helps it have more offspring than its rivals, this gives evolution an opportunity to raise the bar and ratchet up the design of the eye by one mindless step. And since these lucky improvements accumulate - this was Darwin’s insight - eyes can automatically get better and better and better, without any intelligent designer.”

It’s fortuitous mutations that Dennett is referring to, not fortuitous eyes.

guthrie has it right, Lurker has it wrong. As in the past, he is trying to create a religion-vs-atheism debate where there was none, taking the ID line that methodological naturalism is equivalent to metaphysical naturalism, and that Dawkins and Dennett are trying to inject their atheistic “religion” into science education. But science is based on methodological a-theism – theistic belief plays no role in the methods or explanations of science, which is all Dennett said in that article. Dennett certainly is an atheist and takes a hard line on atheism elsewhere, but someone like Ken Miller could have written that NYT piece just as well.

All this about luck and mindlessness and assertions about the Intelligent Designer are exactly the kind of fuel for DI’s fire. Why? Precisely because these are metaphysical claims that cannot be substantiated by scientific data. Just how “lucky” was a mutation?

This is fundamentally the wrong way to look at it, and Dennett can be faulted for that – which is perhaps what Grey Wolf had in mind. It doesn’t have anything to do with “luck”. Luck, like intelligent design, is a teleological concept; it looks at the process from the point of view of the final outcome – do we have eyes because we’re lucky, or because they were designed for us? But evolution doesn’t operate with a goal in mind – that’s not a metaphysical statement, it’s a statement about the scientific model of the theory of evolution. Rather, evolution simply climbs some local fitness hill, and when the environment shifts and the peak is no longer a peak it climbs some other local fitness hill, and so on. It doesn’t matter which mutations occur; mutations occur – not “luckily” – but with a random distribution (which leaves room for theistic metaphysics for those who must believe that humans were intended by God), and evolution moves in the direction that those mutations allow. Some features, like eyes, are so advantageous that they can be reached by many different paths – but not all paths. Grey Wolf says there’s nothing lucky about eyes – but he misses the mark, because all he has stated is that there is variation of eyesight within a population, and those with the best eyesight are most likely to reproduce, but this doesn’t explain why eyesight improves, and it doesn’t explain why every species on the planet doesn’t have the eyesight of an eagle. Different organisms reflect different histories of advantageous mutations, and different shifting environments. There are strains of bacteria that have been on the planet for billions of years and yet still don’t have eyes or even light-sensitive patches; this is because there are environments where such bacteria can thrive without any need for such features, and such environments have been around for billions of years. Bacteria are neither more nor less “lucky” than are we eyed folk.

It’s bizarre to see Lurker say that the DI will complain that Dennett states that “eyes can automatically get better and better and better, without any intelligent designer”. Of course they will, since their thesis, “intelligent design”, is that eyes can’t get better without any intelligent designer. That’s the thesis that stands in opposition to the theory of evolution, the thesis that they want to put into science classes, the thesis that, with Dennett, we all stand in opposition to. As Laplace said when Napoleon asked why he didn’t mention God in his astronomy book, “I have no need for that hypothesis”. And for the same reason, God is not mentioned in any scientific theory, nor in science classes.

“Ultimately I think it is probably impossible to make a reasonable and scientifically truthful statement about evolutionary biology that doesnt pre-suppose a lack of an intelligent designer or related entity.”

In other words, theistic evolutionists are defective thinkers who are not being reasonable or scientifically truthful to themselves…

Look, there is nothing scientifically verifiable about a metaphysical presupposition. To call a mutation “lucky” or “fortuitious” is just as scientifically unverifiable as calling it “God-given” or “teleological”. Dennett’s atheism combined with his choice of language is most unfortunate. That is my point.

“As in the past, he is trying to create a religion-vs-atheism debate where there was none, taking the ID line that methodological naturalism is equivalent to metaphysical naturalism… But science is based on methodological a-theism…”

ts, I challenge you to distinguish methodological atheism from metaphysical atheism. In case you need help, I suggest this discussion on an atheist forum: http://www.iidb.org/vbb/showthread.php?t=131302

“Dennett certainly is an atheist and takes a hard line on atheism elsewhere, but someone like Ken Miller could have written that NYT piece just as well.”

In politics, unfortunately, the message depends on the messenger. Therefore not all things are equal. Dennett fundamentally has a credibility problem amongst religious people, more so than Ken Miller.

ts Wrote:

Grey Wolf says there’s nothing lucky about eyes — but he misses the mark, because all he has stated is that there is variation of eyesight within a population, and those with the best eyesight are most likely to reproduce, but this doesn’t explain why eyesight improves, and it doesn’t explain why every species on the planet doesn’t have the eyesight of an eagle.

I’m afraid it is you, ts, the one missing the mark. I do not pretend to teach anyone about evolution, in this forum. I might as well try teaching tensile stregths to an architect. I was merely illustrating the point I was trying to make, i.e. that talking about luck in mutations is wrong and that there is no real “luck” involved, anymore that it is lucky that after drawing twenty-one cards from a deck you get at least three different clubs.

Now, what you are doing here is overstepping my example and stretching it until it breaks. I could try to defend it - in fact, I even figured out why a deer wouldn’t need the eyesight of an eagle - but I said to myself “why should I even try? My point was made and still holds”.

Hope that helps,

Grey Wolf

Lurker Wrote:

ts, I challenge you to distinguish methodological atheism from metaphysical atheism.

I already did.

Grey Wolf Wrote:

I’m afraid it is you, ts, the one missing the mark.

You have failed to demonstrate that.

I was merely illustrating the point I was trying to make, i.e. that talking about luck in mutations is wrong and that there is no real “luck” involved, anymore that it is lucky that after drawing twenty-one cards from a deck you get at least three different clubs.

That is the point I made, not you, but I’m glad we agree.

“This is fundamentally the wrong way to look at it, and Dennett can be faulted for that — which is perhaps what Grey Wolf had in mind. It doesn’t have anything to do with “luck”. Luck, like intelligent design, is a teleological concept; it looks at the process from the point of view of the final outcome — do we have eyes because we’re lucky, or because they were designed for us? But evolution doesn’t operate with a goal in mind — that’s not a metaphysical statement, it’s a statement about the scientific model of the theory of evolution. Rather, evolution simply climbs some local fitness hill, and when the environment shifts and the peak is no longer a peak it climbs some other local fitness hill, and so on. It doesn’t matter which mutations occur; mutations occur — not “luckily” — but with a random distribution (which leaves room for theistic metaphysics for those who must believe that humans were intended by God), and evolution moves in the direction that those mutations allow. Some features, like eyes, are so advantageous that they can be reached by many different paths — but not all paths… Bacteria are neither more nor less “lucky” than are we eyed folk.”

Well said, ts. Now if only you could the NYT to print that as an editorial…

Dudes, not another religious war, please.

Didn’t anyone learn *anything* from the LAST one?

Shooting people who are on our own side, does us no good at all. Save the ammo for those who deserve it.

Certainly it’s a bad idea to shoot at atheists like Dennett and Dawkins. That’s what started the war – articles here like “One Reason Evolutionists Are Losing the PR Battle” that blamed atheists for something that – if one is paying attention – hasn’t happened. Dennett is an able defender of evolution and science and a critic of ID and DI, and his editorial is, for the most part, on the mark. It’s ridiculous to pick it apart for language that we we all use all the time, like “chance”, “random”, “mindless”, “accidents”, “without an intelligent designer”, etc. Not only does Dennett have the right message, but he’s as much the right messenger as Ken Miller is. The wrong message is that atheists must shut up or are responsible for the IDiots’ PR successes; that’s highly inflammatory and just leads to more infighting.

In other words, theistic evolutionists are defective thinkers who are not being reasonable or scientifically truthful to themselves…

Who are you speaking for? I’m a theistic evolutionist yet I would describe evolution in very similar terms as Dennet did.

I know exactly when to seperate my religion from science and it’s those who can’t that cause some of the key problems with this debate.

“It’s ridiculous to pick it apart for language that we we all use all the time”

What is ridiculous, and all so hypocritical, is for *you* to be complaining about nitpicking language.

“I know exactly when to seperate my religion from science and it’s those who can’t that cause some of the key problems with this debate.”

Pretty much my point. On a bad day, I would broaden religion to include just about any form of -ism that inapprorpriately wields science as a heavy bat for cultural/political purposes. There are double standards at play, though. We do let people on our side get away with a lot of crap that we wouldn’t stand to see the other side doing. Imagine if Dembski came on this board and wrote:

“Ultimately I think it is probably impossible to make a reasonable and scientifically truthful statement about evolutionary biology that doesn’t pre-suppose an intelligent designer or related entity.” [NB: this is my edit of guthrie’s original post]

Would we all simply let it slide? I don’t think so.

There is no atheist-bashing. There is no blaming them for PR losses. There is, however, intellectual accountability. And if we wish to pursue it to such extremes for our opponents, then we should expect the same hyper-critical scrutiny on us. In my opinion, it is better that we straighten up what we’re trying to say, rather than the DI spinning something else in our place.

What is ridiculous, and all so hypocritical, is for *you* to be complaining about nitpicking language.

Nice tu quoque fallacy.

There is, however, intellectual accountability.

Not for you, apparently.

“Nice tu quoque fallacy.”

It would be a tu quoque fallacy if I were complaining about nitpicking. I am not.

“Not for you, apparently.”

No, I wouldn’t expect you to understand what is intellectual accountability. How about it, ts. Why don’t you explain to J O’Donnell why he is a defective thinker? Do you not want to be accountable for making such statements in the recent past about theists?

Frank J Wrote:

John West might be happy to know that I have been objecting quite vocally lately to those critics who “would rather tar everyone [in the ID movement] with the brush of creationism.”

Phillip E. Johnson Wrote:

Persons who believe that the earth is billions of years old, and that simple forms of life evolved gradually to become more complex forms including humans, are ‘creationists’ if they believe that a supernatural Creator not only initiated this process but in some meaningful sense controls it in furtherance of a purpose.

Luker, i was very careful in my choice of words. I said:

“Ultimately I think it is probably impossible to make a reasonable and scientifically truthful statement about evolutionary biology that does’nt pre-suppose a lack of an intelligent designer or related entity.”

Now, I assume you know that in the sceince of evolutionary biology, no evidence has been found for an intelligent designer, or the operations of one. Therefore, in my own cack handed way, I was trying to point out that according to the best current scientific knowledge, no intelligent designer did any designing.

“Nice tu quoque fallacy.”

It would be a tu quoque fallacy if I were complaining about nitpicking. I am not.

Say what? You avoided responding to my criticism of picking apart Dennett’s language by accusing me of nit-picking. Now you’re quibbling about just exactly what sort of ad hominem irrelevancy that was.

No, I wouldn’t expect you to understand what is intellectual accountability. How about it, ts. Why don’t you explain to J O’Donnell why he is a defective thinker? Do you not want to be accountable for making such statements in the recent past about theists?

I’ve never made such statements, as I’ve noted each time you’ve told this lie. And this is another tu quoque argument.

“Say what? You avoided responding to my criticism of picking apart Dennett’s language by accusing me of nit-picking. Now you’re quibbling about just exactly what sort of ad hominem irrelevancy that was.”

No, the ad hominem irrelevancies are yours. You are the nitpicker. Everybody on this forum knows just how irrelevant your tedious arguments.

“I’ve never made such statements, as I’ve noted each time you’ve told this lie. And this is another tu quoque argument.”

That is a lie, and a big one. You explicitly stated that everybody is a defective thinker. Then you said that the specific reason religious people are defective thinkers is that they do not know how intellectual inquiry works. Consider this:

“Religion is an elaborate mechanism for fooling oneself about purpose in the universe. All scientific data clearly indicate that there isn’t a purpose, but if enough people can agree on a mass psychosis that there is some purpose, then they can feel safe even when they are not. If you ask for the details of this purpose, the religious person will only give a vague response or avoid the question.”

Do you disavow this statement?

No, the ad hominem irrelevancies are yours. You are the nitpicker. Everybody on this forum knows just how irrelevant your tedious arguments.

This is not only ad hominem, but an appeal to the crowd.

You explicitly stated that everybody is a defective thinker.

Do you wish to claim otherwise?

Then you said that the specific reason religious people are defective thinkers is that they do not know how intellectual inquiry works.

Liar.

“Religion is an elaborate mechanism for fooling oneself about purpose in the universe. All scientific data clearly indicate that there isn’t a purpose, but if enough people can agree on a mass psychosis that there is some purpose, then they can feel safe even when they are not. If you ask for the details of this purpose, the religious person will only give a vague response or avoid the question.”

Do you disavow this statement?

I suppose I should be flattered that you mistake me for Bertrand Russell. But even this statement does not assert that “religious people are defective thinkers”. As I have noted before, making a specific sort of error does not generalize to the whole person.

Read carefully. I didn’t ask you who wrote that statement. I asked you if you disavowed that statement. So you agree that theistic evolutionists are fooling themselves because they agree on a mass psychosis?

Come now. Why are you dodging the issue with more ad hominem irrelevancies?

“‘You explicitly stated that everybody is a defective thinker.’ Do you wish to claim otherwise?” Why would I care? No doubt you also think everybody is a liar, and that has no reflection on the whole person.

I think we were talking about Daniel Dennett’s work. All else is ad hominem irrelevancy. But as for that quote, I already noted that it doesn’t have the implication you draw from it. However, of course I think theistic evolutionists are fooling themselves – I’m an atheist, and atheists generally think something like that; duh. As for whether it’s a mass psychosis – well, I think it’s something like that. What of it?

But I think I’ve figured out that quote a bit more – I googled it and found it on a blog, with a reference to Bertrand Russell, so I leapt to the conclusion that it was something Russell wrote, but apparently it’s from the author of that blog. The author’s name is Tom Schneider – ah, “T. S.” Well, I’m not Tom Schneider.

Come now. Why are you dodging the issue with more ad hominem irrelevancies?

I think it’s clear that talking about me being “tedious” is an ad hominem irrelevancy. If you actually have some point that you want to make, if you want to sway someone reading any of this to your point of view, you’re undermining your own objective with such childish tactics. To the degree that you’re right, people will just think of you as some bozo having a pointless argument with that tedious ts fellow.

“‘You explicitly stated that everybody is a defective thinker.’ Do you wish to claim otherwise?” Why would I care?

That’s not a response. You cared enough to point it out. I can hardly be faulted for stating something that’s obviously true.

No doubt you also think everybody is a liar, and that has no reflection on the whole person.

I strongly suspect that nearly everyone has told a lie at some point or another, and indeed that has no reflection on the whole person, other than that it’s a fact about their history, and that they have such a capacity. This is so bleeding obvious that I have to wonder why you are determined to make yourself look so bad by posing yourself in opposition to it. But my curiosity is not so great that I have any desire to continue responding to your idiocy. Feel free to take that as a comment about you as a person.

Whoever, thanks for that Dennett article link. He’s my hero.

Everybody on this forum knows just how irrelevant your tedious arguments.

Which is why everyone ignores him.

You should maybe consider it, too. ;>

Which is why everyone ignores him.

Untrue (in its basic assertion let alone the reason given) - as you obviously already know.

Lenny should pay more attention to one of those Saul Alinsky rules he posted:

RULE 7: “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.” Don’t become old news.

“Which is why everyone ignores him.”

Indeed, ts has in his last several replies made my points to J. O’Donnell more forcefully than I ever could. After all, what else could a person say to someone who believes that everybody is a defective thinker, that everybody is a liar, and that everybody except himself is entitled to the very ad hominem fallacies that he whines about?

For the record, no, I do not believe that everybody is a defective thinker. I actually know most people are reliable thinkers, as much as human thought can be relied upon in daily life. I do not believe making mistakes renders one “defective”, as most people have the capacity and willingness to self-correct those mistakes. I think J. O’Donnell is not a fool for believing in his religion, nor that he is participating in some mass psychosis. Finally, I am not one of “those” atheists ts generalizes about (without evidence), nor do I believe most of them share ts’s unreasonable views.

everybody except himself is entitled to the very ad hominem fallacies that he whines about?

That’s your position, not mine, since you wave yours away and point your finger at me when your are noted.

I do not believe that everybody is a defective thinker. I actually know most people are reliable thinkers

False dichotomy. (Which is a form of defective thinking.)

I do not believe making mistakes renders one “defective”

Nor do I, as I have repeatedly pointed out. Nonetheless, mistakes are defects.

most people have the capacity and willingness to self-correct those mistakes

Not consistently, as you so well demonstrate.

I think J. O’Donnell is not a fool for believing in his religion, nor that he is participating in some mass psychosis. Finally, I am not one of “those” atheists ts generalizes about (without evidence), nor do I believe most of them share ts’s unreasonable views.

Bully for you.

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on August 27, 2005 5:05 PM.

Creationism and consequences was the previous entry in this blog.

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