What is this thing called Science?

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Over at ID the Future is an open letter to Science from several Discovery Institute luminaries protesting that, despite the fact that they do no research and have published no original research on ID, Intelligent Design Creationism is indeed Science.

Alan I. Leshner (Redefining Science, July 8) says intelligent design isn’t science because scientific theories explain what can be observed and are testable by repeatable observations and experimentation. But particular design arguments meet this standard.

Before going on to their example, I’d like to point out that some of the arguments of Young Earth Creationism (YEC) also meet this standard. For example, YEC makes specific, testable claims about the age of the Earth, so why isn’t YEC science? Several reasons, not the least that when confronted with clear, unambiguous, multiple independent lines of evidence that their claims are wrong, the YEC will ignore this evidence, or invoke miracles, or pretend the evidence doesn’t exist. They will not accept evidence to the contrary of their preconceptions, so despite having testable claims, YEC isn’t science.

How does ID creationism fare?

Let’s take a simple example. Michael Behe has argued that the blood clotting system is irreducibly complex, and so cannot evolve [1]. Indeed for a time the blood clotting system was the key exemplar of an irreducibly complex system. Nearly 10 years before that, Russell Doolittle [2], on the basis of molecular clock arguments amongst other things, predicted that “lower” vertebrates would lack the “contact pathway” of blood clotting. Recently the complete genome of the puffer fish and a draft of the Zebrafish genome have become available, and guess what? They don’t have the contact part of the clotting system [3]. The “irreducible” clotting system is reducible (whales and dolphins have the contact pathway proteins, but one of the enzymes is broken, so the pathway doesn’t work, yet they get along fine).

The response of the ID folks to this is:

SFX: crickets chirping.

The clotting system fails the ID test, yet you wouldn’t know about it from the ID press releases. Indeed, Behe still uses the clotting system as IC, saying that “if any one of the more than 20 proteins involved in blood clotting is missing or deficient…clots will not form properly” when he knows that fish and whales function perfectly well without the contact system. So ID fails the YEC test; a real scientific research program would have faced up to this failure.

Biologist Michael Behe, for instance, argues that design is detectable in the bacterial flagellum because the tiny motor needs all its parts to function is irreducibly complexa hallmark of designed systems.

Now there is a lot wrong with this sentence. Firstly, the bacterial flagellum is not a motor (not in the sense we understand motors anyway, it has a driving system we might think of as a motor as part of its structure, but it is not itself a motor). Secondly, the flagellum doesn’t need all of its parts to function, you can do away with various chunks of the flagellum and it still works. However, Michael Behe’s argument was subtler than that. He claimed that the “system” of the flagellum was the “motor”, “universal joint” and “propeller”; each of these items contains several proteins, all of which contain at least one element that can be dispensed with. Behe’s claim was that if you got rid of the “motor” or the “universal joint” or the “propeller” then the system would not function and that was IC. At least ID the Future could get Behe’s argument right. As we will see, we already have accounts of flagellum evolvability even using Behe’s system. Even then, Behe has a “get out of jail free” card. He has said that IC systems might evolve “indirectly” [1, pg 40] so even if we find an IC system that has evolved, his argument is unassailable.

Thirdly, Michael Behe has dropped his “all parts necessary” definition of IC (at least in part due to various demonstrations that the blood clotting system could evolve). His definition is now based on the probability of neutral mutations occurring as steps. Last time I looked, neutral mutations were not a hallmark of designed systems. Even with the old definition, multiple interacting parts are not a feature of the design of a paperclip, and many other things we know are designed. IC has not been demonstrated as a hallmark of design by any means.

How to test and discredit Behe’s argument? Provide a continuously functional evolutionary pathway from simple ancestor to present motor. Darwinists like Kenneth Miller point to the hope of future discoveries, and to the type III secretory system as a machine possibly co-opted on the evolutionary path to the flagellum.

Why the flagellum? Why not the clotting system (shown to be evolvable)? Or the immune system (shown to be evolvable, and specific predictions from evolutionary biology about the immune system have been confirmed)?

Archea_flag.jpg The relationship of Type II secretory systems to type IV secretory/motility systems and the archebacterial flagellum. Homologous proteins are indicated by colour, the GspM/FlagG homolg Y1 has been omitted due to uncertainly as to its location in the membrane (click on image to enlarge, modified from [4])

Now we actually have presented a continuously functional evolutionary pathway from a simple ancestor to a functional flagellum [4]. It is based on elaboration of a secretory system. The flagellar filament must be secreted to project outside the bacterial cell, so it makes sense that secretory systems from the heart of the flagellum. The type II secretory system features a small “piston” made up of helically arranged proteins. Up and down movement of the piston (powered by a “motor”) pushes materials outside of the cell. The type IV secretory system is an elaboration of the type II, except now the piston is a long filament, and that filament can stick to surfaces. The back and forth movement of the filament pulls the bacterium along, resulting in gliding motility. The flagellum is an elaboration of the Type IV secretory system, but now the filament freely rotates, rather than being stuck to a surface, and drives the bacteria along. Now we have all these real, functional intermediates leading to a functional flagellum and the response from the ID creationists is:

SFX: crickets chirping.

Oh sorry, that’s the archebacterial flagellum. What, the ID folks didn’t tell you that there is more than one sort of flagellum? Or that flagellar motility is a minority amongst motility systems? Why ever would they ignore things like that? We know that at least William Dembski is aware of this system. I can’t think of a reason for them to ignore it if ID was science, can you?

Now the eubacterial flagellum is similar to the archebacterial flagellum in the sense that it built around a secretory system, but it’s a bit more complicated. Nick Matzke has a marvelously detailed article [5] about the evolution of the eubacterial flagellum. The basic story is similar to that of the archebacterial flagellum. The core of the eubacterial flagellum is a type III secretory system. Virtually all the proteins in the flagellum can be accounted for as parts of existing systems or internal duplications (as predicted by evolutionary biology). Importantly, several gliding motility systems use similar motors and guidance systems to eubacterial flagellum, so a sequence of secretory system -> gliding motility -> swimming motility similar to the archebacterial flagella is plausible (although there are other ways to get there).

Furthermore, the eubacterial flagellum is still a secretory system [4,5], and is even used by some bacteria to attach to cells and inject them with toxins (just like type III secretion systems) [4,5]. You can remove the “motor” or the “propeller” from the eubacterial flagellum and it still functions as a secretion system [4, 5]. Indeed, some bacteria with paralysed flagella use them as anchors to attach to cells and inject toxins into them. So you can see how you could build a eubacterial flagellum piecemeal around a core of a simple secretory system by direct Darwinian processes, then a small functional shift adds motility to this system.

There is still a fair bit of information to be filled in, but by analogy with the archebacterial flagellum, the evolution of the eubacterial flagellum is not a mystery.

The argument is riddled with problems, but it shows that Miller, at least, understands perfectly well that Behe’s argument is testable.

As I said before, certain elements are testable, but like the YEC’s, the ID creationists won’t accept the results, or make ridiculous preconditions for acceptance that no amount of research could ever provide. They have ignored the fact that the blood-clotting system has been shown to be evolvable. They have ignored the evolvable archebacterial flagellum. And what would they accept as a level of proof? Michael Behe is on record as saying he would not accept anything but a mutation-by-mutation account. Not only that, he requires a detailed account of the selective pressures that would be operating, the difficulties such changes would cause for the organism, and much more. This is a level of proof which we couldn’t supply even if we evolved a flagellum in the lab.

In principle, no evidence biologists can provide will sway the ID creationists. This puts ID firmly outside the realm of science.

References: [1] Behe, MJ. Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution (New York: The Free Press, 1996) [2] Doolittle RF & Feng DF (1987) Cold Spring Harbor Symposium on Quantitative Biology, 52, 869-874. [3] Yong J & Doolittle RF (2003) Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, 100, 7527-7532. [4] Evolution of the Bacterial Flagellum (2004) IF Musgrave, pp 72-84, In “Why Intelligent Design Fails”, ed. M Young and T Edis [5] Evolution in (Brownian) space: (2003) NJ Matzke Last accessed 22/08/05. Warning, big file.

Further reading: Darwin’s Black Box: Irreducible Complexity or Irreproducible Irreducibility? by Keith Robinson Irreducible complexity demystified by Pete Dunkelberg. A Darwinian explanation of the blood clotting cascade by Kenneth Miller Evolving Immunity by Matt Inlay

170 Comments

We know evidence is irrelevant to creationists. We know that creationists use the word “science” only to piggyback on the well-deserved reputation science has earned. We know creationists know that their claims of science are flat false, but use them anyway because it has proved to be effective PR. We can confidently predict that creationists will call their doctrines “science” so long as science keeps producing stuff people appreciate, and so long as fundamentalism continues to appeal to a public poorly educated in science.

I enjoy reading about how these systems evolve, but I can’t see how this material is going to matter to those whose purposes are not served by paying any attention to it. Are we trying to reach the voting public this way? I ask Ian Musgrave to spend all day on main street asking every passerby to compare a Type II with a Type IV secretory system. That’s the voting public.

The creationists have the right idea: you will find more citizens sitting in the average Baptist church each Sunday than you will find people in the *entire city* who have ever even HEARD of a Type IV secretory system. If these “ordinary Christians” are the target audience, this blot is a terrible way to try to reach them. It just sounds like righteous frustration.

Nice essay Ian. The Matzke link doesn’t work though.

I’m shocked, shocked to discover that Divine Design is not science.

I’m still not convinced that the best strategy for dealing with ID or YEC is to say “its not science”. This gets into an endless debate about lines of demarcation.

I think it makes a lot more sense to talk about what constitutes a valid claim to knowledge and an invalid claim to knowledge. Similarly, we can point to research traditions that “work out” and research traditions that “don’t work out” and have been discredited by widely accepted empirical evidence.

That means that YEC and ID have to resort to endless ad hoc strategems, rather than offering clear explanations or predictions for phenomena.

Can anyone explain what is meant by microevolution and macroevolution? Is it that Micro is descent with modification within a species and macro is the evolution of new species? I think some ID’ers claim to believe in Microevolution but not Macroevolution. Some also say they believe that evolution within a species takes place but that evolution cannot create new species. Have there been any experiments that have shown that new species can be created? I think I read about one such with fruit flies. Thanks.

Micro and macroevolution are elements on evolutuonary continua. They are used by people to separate small tiny observable changes in descent versus the time-gap of fossils and between extinct (as well as extant) but distinct taxa. As continua, there is no difference, only scale. Forest for the trees, vice versa, and all that jazz.

Ken, go to the Talk Origins web site for a great discussion (with evidence!) on micro and macro evolution.

Ken -

In my non-expert opinion, you seem to have answered your own questions pretty well. Keep in mind that the terms micro/macroevolution are pretty vague and, for that reason, not all that useful. Here is a linke you might like to read regarding evidence of macroevolution: 29 Evidences for Macroevolution.

Can anyone explain what is meant by microevolution and macroevolution?

Sure. Microevolution is evolution that even creationists have to accept. Macroevolution is evolution that they don’t want to accept because they have their fingers in their ears and they can’t hear you!!!

Dave Carlson Wrote:

Here is a linke

Should be “link”.…obviously. Me no spell so good. :(

Flint Wrote:

The creationists have the right idea: you will find more citizens sitting in the average Baptist church each Sunday than you will find people in the *entire city* who have ever even HEARD of a Type IV secretory system. If these “ordinary Christians” are the target audience, this blot is a terrible way to try to reach them. It just sounds like righteous frustration.

Scientific “debate” does seem to be irrelevant. If this doesn’t make ID stealth religion, I don’t know what else to call it. But how do you rationally confront religious dogmatism masking as pseudoscience masking as science masking as science that is teachable to our youth??? It would seem that demagoguery, hysteria, fear-mongering, and plain lying are the only way…sad to say, but marketers have known it for years. The bottom line is “We need to make evolution sexy again!”

Ian Musgrave Wrote:

So ID fails the YEC test

Eh? I suspect an heretical substitution of “YEC” for “science” has taken place here.

Flint, one of the things sources like this do is provide scientists and teachers with counterarguments that can be used when ID proponents try to bamboozle people. You don’t lead with the type IV secretory system, you bring it up (in suitably simplified form) when somebody like Behe claims there is no way to evolve a flagellum.

LackOfDiscipline:

The bottom line is “We need to make evolution sexy again!”

It’s always been sexy. But Americans like their sex best when it’s repressed.

To break through this repression, maybe what is needed is a little, um, discipline applied to the, ahem, “bottom line.”

Comment #44472

Posted by Ken Willis on August 23, 2005 05:30 PM (e) (s)

Can anyone explain what is meant by microevolution and macroevolution? Is it that Micro is descent with modification within a species and macro is the evolution of new species? I think some ID’ers claim to believe in Microevolution but not Macroevolution.

Creationists used to deny evolution root and branch. But there are now so many cases where we understand what evolution did on a small time scale, this is no longer tenable. So they try to say that little bit of evolution happens, but it doesn’t change the essence of the thing. The fly is still a fly.

It’s kind of like you have a cultist who denies the existence of water. Eventually you throw some on him, and he says, “Allright, but I still don’t believe in the ocean.”

Regarding this whole ID/science thingie, I think it worthwhile to re-post this:

The scientific method is very simple, and consists of five basic steps. They are:

1. Observe some aspect of the universe

2. Form a hypothesis that potentially explains what you have observed

3. Make testible predictions from that hypothesis

4. Make observations or experiments that can test those predictions

5. Modify your hypothesis until it is in accord with all observations and predictions

NOTHING in any of those five steps excludes on principle, a priori, any “supernatural cause”. Using this method, one is entirely free to invoke as many non-material pixies, ghosts, goddesses, demons, devils, djinis, and/or the Great Pumpkin, as many times as you like, in any or all of your hypotheses. And science won’t (and doesn’t) object to that in the slightest. Indeed, scientific experiments have been proposed (and carried out and published) on such “supernatural causes” as the effects of prayer on healing, as well as such “non-materialistic” or “non-natural” causes as ESP, telekinesis, precognition and “remote viewing”. So ID’s claim that science unfairly rejects supernatural or non-material causes out of hand on principle, is demonstrably quite wrong.

However, what science DOES require is that any supernatural or non-material hypothesis, whatever it might be, then be subjected to steps 3, 4 and 5. And HERE is where ID fails miserably.

To demonstate this, let’s pick a particular example of an ID hypothesis and see how the scientific method can be applied to it: One claim made by many ID creationists explains the genetic similarity between humans and chimps by asserting that God — uh, I mean, An Unknown Intelligent Designer — created both but used common features in a common design.

Let’s take this hypothesis and put it through the scientific method:

1. Observe some aspect of the universe.

OK, so we observe that humans and chimps share unique genetic markers, including a broken vitamin C gene and, in humans, a fused chromosome that is identical to two of the chimp chromosomes (with all the appropriate doubled centromeres and telomeres).

2. Invent a tentative description, called a hypothesis, that is consistent with what you have observed.

OK, the proposed ID hypothesis is “an intelligent designer used a common design to produce both chimps and humans, and that common design included placing the signs of a fused chromosome and a broken vitamin C gene in both products.”

3. Use the hypothesis to make predictions.

Well, here is ID supernaturalistic methodology’s chance to shine. What predictions can we make from ID’s hypothesis? If an Intelligent Designer used a common design to produce both chimps and humans, then we would also expect to see … ?

IDers, please fill in the blank.

And, to better help us test ID’s hypothesis, it is most useful to point out some negative predictions — things which, if found, would FALSIFY the hypothesis and demonstrate conclusively that the hypothesis is wrong. So, then — if we find (fill in the blank here), then the “common design” hypothesis would have to be rejected.

4. Test those predictions by experiments or further observations and modify the hypothesis in the light of your results.

5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until there are no discrepancies between theory and experiment and/or observation.

Well, the IDers seem to be sort of stuck on step 3. Despite all their voluminous writings and arguments, IDers have never yet given ANY testible predictions from their ID hypothesis that can be verified through experiment.

Take note here — contrary to the IDers whining about the “unfair exclusion of supernatural causes”, there are in fact NO limits imposed by the scientific method on the nature of their predictions, other than the simple ones indicated by steps 3, 4 and 5 (whatever predictions they make must be testible by experiments or further observations.) They are entirely free to invoke whatever supernatural causes they like, in whatever number they like, so long as they follow along to steps 3,4 and 5 and tell us how we can test these deities or causes using experiment or further observation. Want to tell us that the Good Witch Glenda used her magic non-naturalistic staff to POP these genetic sequences into both chimps and humans? Fine —- just tell us what experiment or observation we can perform to test that. Want to tell us that God — er, I mean The Unknown Intelligent Designer — didn’t like humans very much and therefore decided to design us with broken vitamin C genes? Hey, works for me — just as soon as you tell us what experiment or observation we can perform to test it. Feel entirely and totally free to use all the supernaturalistic causes that you like. Just tell us what experiment or observation we can perform to test your predictions.

Let’s assume for a moment that the IDers are right and that science is unfairly biased against supernaturalist explanations. Let’s therefore hypothetically throw methodological materialism right out the window. Gone. Bye-bye. Everything’s fair game now. Ghosts, spirits, demons, devils, cosmic enlightenment, elves, pixies, magic star goats, whatever god-thing you like. Feel free to include and invoke ALL of them. As many as you need. All the IDers have to do now is simply show us all how to apply the scientific method to whatever non-naturalistic science they choose to invoke in order to subject the hypothesis “genetic similarities between chimps and humans are the product of a common design”, or indeed ANY other non-material or super-natural ID hypothesis, to the scientific method.

And that is where ID “theory” falls flat on its face. It is NOT any presupposition of “philosophical naturalism” on the part of science that stops ID dead in its tracks —- it is the simple inability of ID “theory” to make any testible predictions. Even if we let them invoke all the non-naturalistic designers they want, intelligent design “theory” STILL can’t follow the scientific method.

Deep down inside, what the IDers are really moaning and complaining about is NOT that science unfairly rejects their supernaturalistic explanations, but that science demands ID’s proposed “supernaturalistic explanations” be tested according to the scientific method, just like every OTHER hypothesis has to be. Not only can ID not test any of its “explanations”, but it wants to modify science so it doesn’t HAVE to. In effect, the IDers want their supernaturalistic “hypothesis” to have a privileged position —- they want their hypothesis to be accepted by science WITHOUT being tested; they want to follow steps one and two of the scientific method, but prefer that we just skip steps 3,4 and 5, and just simply take their religious word for it, on the authority of their own say-so, that their “science” is correct. And that is what their entire argument over “materialism” (or “naturalism” or “atheism” or “sciencism” or “darwinism” or whatever the heck else they want to call it) boils down to.

There is no legitimate reason for the ID hypothesis to be privileged and have the special right to be exempted from testing, that other hypotheses do not. I see no reason why their hypotheses, whatever they are, should not be subjected to the very same testing process that everyone ELSE’s hypotheses, whatever they are, have to go through. If they cannot put their “hypothesis” through the same scientific method that everyone ELSE has to, then they have no claim to be “science”. Period.

Andreas Wagner’s new book Robustness and Evolvability in Natural System provides a global refutation of the ID argument about irreducible complexity. Living systems are not the fragile, house-of-cards contraptions postulated by Behe et. al. Indeed, in a world of mutations and mere thermal noise, systems that could not function in the face of phylogentic and ontogentic shocks could hardly persist even if they miraculously appeared. At each level, genetic, developmental, and metabolic, functioning continues despite substitutions and deletions. Indeed, robustness is a defining characteristic of life itself.

Wagner’s book is utterly unpolemic and I’m sure he wouldn’t dream of slumming by engaging in a debate with a nonscientific social movement like ID. Nevertheless, his book is the most complete refutation of ID I’ve seen.

I wrote a brief review of the book, We Must, We Must Develop Roubust, at my blog. Scroll down to find it.

The Salk Institute is right here in San Diego (just a few miles up I-5 from my place), and most folks around here are at least dimly aware of the Salk Institute’s reputation. So when the subject of ID comes up amongst co-workers/acquaintances, I like to give the ID sympathizers this little assignment.

1) Go to http://www.salk.edu 2) Locate the “search” button (top-center of the Salk home-page). 3) Do a search on “evolution”. 4) Do a search on “intelligent design”. 5) Compare the results of the “evolution” search with the results of the “intelligent design” search.

That gives ‘em a little something to think about.

I like to tell people that if a theory doesn’t pass the “Salk” test, then it shouldn’t be taught to their kids in science class.

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Having read much on the subject of evolution, I am finding that with all the “evidence” that is being presented as proof I still find great leaps being made. When I trace the terminology used to the root, and truly understand what has been reported it is not as difficult to understand as it seems. It does take time and effort and a lot of study. What I find instead of proof of evolution is rather a fingerprint. Just as we are able to recognize a Picasso by becoming familiar with his work, I see the work of a designer evident in creation. I realize this is not a popular statement to make on this website. (Is that an understatement or what?)

Another thing that I have noticed on this site is a frequent use of words like “believe” in regard to evolution. I have noticed in at least one place a reference to Nature personified. I find most do NOT want to speak of origins. While most of you seem to be 100% convinced of your claims, I wonder if there isn’t still a little doubt in the minds of some.

Looking closely at evolutionary claim, perhaps we should not be so surprised by similarities in DNA across species. The amazing thing isn’t the similarities, but the variety found. I recommend for reading a book entitled, Fingerprint of God for anyone who is interested.

Flint Wrote:

I ask Ian Musgrave to spend all day on main street asking every passerby to compare a Type II with a Type IV secretory system. That’s the voting public.

How many of them read Science? That’s where the letter that Ian is responding to was sent.

In Comment #44467

SteveF Wrote:

Nice essay Ian. The Matzke link doesn’t work though.

Fixed now! (and the Inlay link as well)

In Comment #44466

Flint Wrote:

I ask Ian Musgrave to spend all day on main street asking every passerby to compare a Type II with a Type IV secretory system. That’s the voting public.

Well, I do actually. Mostly it’s on trains, although I do a once a year gig at Rundle Mall, and another at the University Open Day. I don’t talk about flagella generally, but other complicated phenomena people have only vaugely heard of, if at all. I talk about oxidative stress, protein misfolding, neuronal sprouting, black holes, occultataions, and how to determine the structure of comets (being a neuroscientist and an amateur astronomer gives you lots of scope). I’ve spoken to people with backgrounds as diverse as accountants and Prawn Trawler Captains. All of them were interested, and although none of them had any science background, careful explanation and scene setting let me get this material across to them.

Flint Wrote:

The creationists have the right idea: you will find more citizens sitting in the average Baptist church each Sunday than you will find people in the *entire city* who have ever even HEARD of a Type IV secretory system.

Well, I’m in Australia, and Baptists are a minority, we have more Buhddists. (And we are a bit different, listen to a talkback show on ID here (realplayer)

But generally, most people in the street haven’t even heard of flagella either. The point is when Behe or Dembski says smugly, “you can’t evolve a clotting system or flagellum” you can say “Well, yes you can, Doolittle has made successful predictions about the structure of the clotting system based on evolution, and fish and whales don’t have sections of the clotting system you say they can’t do without”. The general public gets to see that they don’t know what they are talking about. They can see that regardless of their educational background.

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White Stone Wrote:

Another thing that I have noticed on this site is a frequent use of words like “believe” in regard to evolution. I have noticed in at least one place a reference to Nature personified. I find most do NOT want to speak of origins. While most of you seem to be 100% convinced of your claims, I wonder if there isn’t still a little doubt in the minds of some.

I for one say I believe in evolution all the time. But I am not a biologist by training. The last time I studied any biology I was 16 and far more interested in the anatomy of my female classmates than the anatomy of the pig embryo we were dissecting. I cannot prove to you that evolution is the best, most explanative theory. That is the role of scientists in a society prominantly featuring division of labor. They teach me about evolution, and I set up computer systems that process trades in their retirement accounts- division of labor.

The theory of evolution has arisen as the most explanative theory science has to offer. It has done so both in spite of and because of over 150 years of unceasing hostility from society at large. Lets face it, evolution is the most controversial theory (in a societal, not scientific sense) since heliocentrism. Most western religions (and several eastern religions) do not abide the idea that man is not the direct handiwork of the divine creator/alien race/flying spaghetti monster. Scientists don’t believe in evolution- they have been convinced by the overwhelming amount of evidence that it is a useful and the most explanative theory.

I applaud your courage to post of your religious convictions here. But I have to ask, “So?” Your religious world view should in no way shape or form be threatened by a scientific theory of evolution- unless you are a biblical literalist- and then you have problems with much much more than just evolution.

Comment #44517

Posted by White Stone on August 23, 2005 07:50 PM (e) (s)

Having read much on the subject of evolution, I am finding that with all the “evidence” that is being presented as proof I still find great leaps being made.

Perhaps after 4 years of undergrad biology, and 5 years of graduate biology, those wouldn’t look like leaps to you.

“Just as we are able to recognize a Picasso by becoming familiar with his work, I see the work of a designer evident in creation.”

This is fascinating, and I can’t wait to follow up on it.

“Just as we are able to recognize a Picasso by becoming familiar with his work…”

I live just down the street from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, where I can go to become acquainted with the works of what are verfiably those of Picasso, whereby I can learn to recognize his “fingerprints”.

Please, please, please tell me where I can go to become acquainted with the works that are verifiably the works of Yahweh. A street address would be most helpful.

After all, I’d hate to think that IDC was not science…

Caenaenoenerbog, that’s a good suggestion. I would use PubMed though. “Intelligent design”: 22 hits “evolution”: 162927 hits

Just as we are able to recognize a Picasso by becoming familiar with his work, I see the work of a designer evident in creation.

I once saw the face of Fidel Castro in a tortilla. It was pretty evident. (shrug)

I realize this is not a popular statement to make on this website.

(sigh) Another fundie with a persecution complex. … .

But hey, since you’ve made such a massive and thorough study of evolution and all (giggle), perhaps you’d be so kind as to answer a simple question that not one single ID/creationist has ever answered for me in the past 23 years.

*ahem*

All I want to know is this: what is the scientific theory of creation or intelligent design, and how can we test it using the scientific method?

I do *NOT* want you to respond with a long laundry list of (mostly inaccurate) criticisms of evolutionary biology. They are completely irrelevant to a scientific theory of creation or intelligent design. I want to see the scientific alternative that you are proposing—- the one you want taught in public school science classes, the one that creationists and intelligent design “theorists” testified under oath in Arkansas, Louisiana, Kansas and elsewhere is SCIENCE and is NOT based on religious doctrine. Let’s assume for the purposes of this discussion that evolutionary biology is indeed absolutely completely totally irretrievable unalterably irrevocably 100% dead wrong. Fine. Show me your scientific alternative. Show me how your scientific theory explains things better than evolutionary biology does. Let’s see this superior “science” of yours.

Any testible scientific theory of creation should be able to provide answers to several questions: (1) how did life begin, (3) how did the current diversity of life appear, and (3) what mechanisms were used in these processes and where can we see these mechanisms today.

Any testible scientific theory of intelligent design should be able to give testible answers to other questions: (1) what exactly did the Intelligent Designer(s) do, (2) what mechanisms did the Designer(s) use to do whatever it is you think it did, (3) where can we see these mechanisms in action today, and (4) what objective criteria can we use to determine what entities are “intelligently designed” and what entities aren’t (please illustrate this by pointing to something that you think IS designed, something you think is NOT designed, and explain how to tell the difference).

If your, uh, “scientific theory” isn’t able to answer any of these questions yet, then please feel free to tell me how you propose to scientifically answer them. What experiments or tests can we perform, in principle, to answer these questions.

Also, since one of the criteria of “science” is falsifiability, I’d like you to tell me how your scientific theory, whatever it is, can be falsified. What experimental results or observations would conclusively prove that creation/intelligent design did not happen.

Another part of the scientific method is direct testing. One does not establish “B” simply by demonstrating that “A” did not happen. I want you to demonstrate “B” directly. So don’t give me any “there are only two choices, evolution or creation, and evolution is worng so creation must be right” baloney. I will repeat that I do NOT want a big long laundry list of “why evolution is wrong”. I don’t care why evolution is wrong. I want to know what your alternative is, and how it explains data better than evolution does.

I’d also like to know two specific things about this “alternative scientific theory”: How old does “intelligent design/creationism theory” determine the universe to be. Is it millions of years old, or thousands of years old. And does ‘intelligent design/creationism theory’ determine that humans have descended from apelike primates, or does it determine that they have not.

I look forward to seeing your “scientific theories”.

Unless, of course, you don’t HAVE any . … . .

Time to put up or shut up.

Chip P. writes: I’m still not convinced that the best strategy for dealing with ID or YEC is to say “its not science”. This gets into an endless debate about lines of demarcation.

Yes, and the demarcation is difficult and not as easy as many would like it to be, but still absolutely necessary. Bad science is not unconstitutional when taught in public schools.

If science cannot somewhat demarcate where it differs from religion and all other supernatural claims, it is in trouble. And there would be no grounds, legally, for precluding ID or YEC in the classroom.

Despite his own admonition not to do so, Buddha has become deified in some systems, especially in Mahayana Buddism; see, e.g., http://www.wsu.edu/~dee/BUDDHISM/MAHAYANA.HTM http://www.beliefnet.com/story/80/s[…]_8045_1.html

For more on the deification of Buddha see, e.g., http://members.aol.com/_ht_a/gayzen[…]fication.htm http://www.san.beck.org/EC9-Buddha.html

However, Buddha is not seen as a creator or ruler of the universe, and thus doesn’t resemble the God of monotheistic religions.

Flint Wrote:

Can you present some of these axioms? Are you talking about methodological naturalism here?

According to Carol, there’s an assumption that the laws of physics are constant over time. But if this is an assumption, then so is every expectation we have, no matter how well justified; it is, for instance, an assumption that the word “assumption” has the same dictionary definition that it had 10 seconds ago.

But in fact science makes no such assumption, any more than the laws of physics themselves are simply assumed. Nor does science have any expectations; unlike the people who use it, science doesn’t have mental states. Rather, science contains predictive models, and those models are adjusted in light of confirming and disconfirming observations. If observations contradicted the constancy over time of the inverse square law, then the law wouldn’t be a law, and we would need some other law. Or suppose that observation contradicted the classic model of linearly summable velocities – oh, wait, it did.

But here’s the kicker: if the universe were so erratic that it wasn’t possible for us to formulate predictive models or have justifiable expectations, if all we could do from moment to moment is latch onto unjustified assumptions, then the universe never would have built us. It is because of the regularity of the universe that evolution, which represents (very lossily) the history of our development in our genome, is able to occur. One could say that we are built in the world’s image.

Despite his own admonition not to do so, Buddha has become deified in some systems, especially in Mahayana Buddism

Buddhism, like the other Asian traditions (Zen, Taoism, Hinduism, Tantra) depends at root on the individual, and the ability of that individual to depend on him or her self.

Alas, there are lots of people in the world who are absolutely terrified at the prospect of depending on themselves, and who instead desperately need to have a Sky Daddy to hold their hand and tell them what to do.

In modern Christianity, we call those people “fundamentalists”.

Buddhists are not immune. Those who are unable to depend upon themselves, manufacture their very own Sky Daddy to depend on instead. Are those who do this (despite, as you correctly point out, Buddhism’s specific advice NOT to do this) “Real Buddhists”™(c)? Well, who knows? Who cares? If it works for them, who the hell are we to tell them not to do it? (shrug)

For the most part, this is harmless, and may even do some good for these individuals by giving them some basis for living their life, rather than just spending it as a quivering mass of indecisive terrified jelly.

The harm comes when, like the fundamentalist Christians, these individuals are not content only to live THEIR lives in accordance with their Sky Daddy’s hand-holding, but demand that everyone ELSE do so, as well.

Flint,

You are confusing Judaism” (a religion) with “being a Jew” (a fact of birth). When one converts into Judaism, one joins the faith of the Jews. You can cease practicing the “faith of the Jews” but cannot cease being a Jew. There are many people who have no religious affiliation whatsoever, some even are atheists, yet they identify themselves as Jews. The only argument in the Jewish community (the folks who care at all about this) about this is whether patrilineal descent alone makes you a Jew. In the Reform Jewish movement it does, in all the others it does not. All Jews, including the most fanatically religious types, consider any totally non-religious type born of a Jewish mother to be a Jew.

The best scholarly definition of a Jew is NOT a religion or a race but that of an extended family or “clan”. You can be born into this family or join by conversion which is akin to joining a family by adoption or marriage. For a good summary of these issues why don’t you read “We Jews” by Adin Steinsaltz (a scholar of the millenium by Time Magazine and, no, I did not edit that book). Is there a genetic component to this clan? That remains an open question. Recent studies do indicate that the “Kohanim” branch of Jews share genetic characterisics, supporting the Biblical assertion that they are all descendants of one kinship group (traced to Aaron?)

Your distinctions between classes of scientific arguments hold no water, with all due respect. In the context of our discussion the important point is that they are (were) arguments within the community of scientists to be contrasted with arguments within the theological community and how these arguments are dealt with by the respective communities.

I indicated that scientific principles, not mere data, are based on axioms. When scientists proclaim that the earth is 4.5 billion years old, for example, that is a pronouncement based on data AND the assumption (axiom!) that the laws of nature pertaining to decay rates (lambda in the exponential) were unchanged thru billions of years. That assumption is NOT based on data, is certainly not by itself a datum, and remains unproven. Is it a reasonable one that we choose to make, Yes, but an axiom it remains. If this makes you unconfortable, I am sorry, but I submit it is scientifically accurate.

Paul,

I think you will find my response to one of your question above. As to axioms in theology, why is that so hard to find? Is it not a starting assumption of some religions we are familiar with that the Bible is divinely authored, accepted even if there is no proof?

Lenny,

I have checked with some recognized scholars of Buddhism. The answer by all - A single God is assumed in Buddhism but not to be talked about, for various theological reasons.

I know of no Hebrew scholar who disputes Landa’s ideas and neither do you. Since I know that ancient language very well myself, that is virtually impossible.

Since you continue to deliberately distort what I say and to put words into my mouth you are approaching the point (already achieved by Ts) where it will be become pointless for me to respond to you.

Paul,

Watch your insults. Just because I choose not to respond in kind, does not make your argument any stronger. Behavior here by some is not very different from YEC types when challenged.

Paul,

Another comment on Hinduism, if I may.

I think I was clear in stating that I was ambivalent about the polytheistic nature of Hinduism (as opposed to Buddhism which, if anything, is monotheistic). That is the case for many reasons, some of which were elucidated by other posters. Hindus have many “gods” but it is unclear to my western mind what precisely they perceive by “god”. And I am not alone in this ambivalence.

A few years ago it was discovered in the Jewish community that human hair wigs sold in this country come from Hindu women in India who grow their hair very long, then cut them and donate the hair in the service of various Hindu rites performed for their gods. After these rites are performed the hair is sold on the market. Now, to observant Jews it is forbidden to benefit in any way from from any item used in the service of “idols”, loosely defined as “other gods” meaning other than the one God/creator. To qualify as an “other god” the people involved in the rite must perceive the entity has having power to act indepently of the one God/creator. So, are the human hair wigs permitted or prohibited? Rabbis sent investigators and scholars to interview Hindus of various denominations to ascertain how they viewed their so called “gods”. To make a long story short, after years of debating and meeting and interviewing, the issue remains unresolved, with some Jewish organizations banning human hair wigs while others permit them. So, I guess our western minds are having some difficulty understanding Hinduism. But not as difficult is Buddhism.

By the way, in light of the above, Islam is perceived by all Jewish authorities as monotheistic, while Christianity is still unresolved. The great Jewish philosoher Maimonides (900 years ago)described Christianity as “not monotheistic”. But Christianity itself has evolved over the years.

W. Kevin,

Again, you are right about the use of force in Islam as well as Christianity. But the battles were not fought for monoitheism but for brands of monotheism. If the crusaders, for example, were concerned about sheer monotheism, why would they battle Moslems and Jews who were themselves monotheistic? Also, most of the use of force ended many centuries ago, while monotheism continued to gain acceptance. Since its inception can be traced to a small number of people (primarly a faction of the Israelites), I think it can be said, which is what I was saying, that a consensus has emerged in the theological community, after MUCH arguing, as to the existance of one God. There used to be many strong arguments in favor of many gods, such as the existance of good and evil in the world. Those arguments were apparently sidelined in favor of monotheism.

Does science have “sects,” comparable to religious sects? Carol has argued yes; others have argued no - science settles disagreements by applying the scientific method, making predictions from theories and testing them against reality. Flint conjectured a half-life of such disagreements as “perhaps a year or two.”

Of course Flint is conjecturing that half of all scientific disagreements last longer than that, a point that Carol seemed to have misunderstood. She provided in #44998 a list of “arguments” in science which she claims (apparently) lasted for centuries. What they all have in common is that the disagreements were settled, every one of them, by the scientific method. There are, for example, no scientific sects clinging to Aristotelian mechanics. Once Newtonian mechanics was proposed and its predictions tested, it was immediately seen to be superior. There was no extended period of disagreement, certainly not the centuries that Carol has implied.

Carol’s example of big bang vs. steady state was a disagreement that lasted a only a couple of decades (not centuries.) Scientists noted that the big bang theory predicted the existence of a cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation; the competing steady state theory did not. When the CMB radiation was detected, and found to have the properties predicted by the big bang theory, the steady state theory was effectively dead. Carol claims that some still debate this. Well, evidence-deniers still debate heliocentrism and evolution, but that says nothing about the scientific consensus. This steady state theory is no longer a viable model of the universe - it fails to account for the observed CMB radiation.

Another of Carol’s examples. Atomic theory was accepted by chemists almost as soon as it was proposed by Dalton. The reason was simple: it worked. Resistance to atomic theory was philosophical - can we assign physical reality to atoms whose effects had never been directly observed? Analysis of Brownian motion first provided the evidence of the physical reality of atoms, and (of course) much more evidence has since followed. There are, as a result, no scientific “sects” denying atomic theory.

Similarly with Carol’s other examples. They all make the point that differences in opinion among scientists are resolved by use of the scientific method. If there are competing theories, scientists search for predictions that separate the theories. They then check to see which predictions conform to reality. That’s the way science settles disagreements, and Carol’s examples are case studies of this process in action.

As has been previously noted, religious sects have no such mechanism. On that basis, the comparison between disagreements among religious sects and disagreements in science is invalid.

I have checked with some recognized scholars of Buddhism. The answer by all - A single God is assumed in Buddhism but not to be talked about, for various theological reasons.

But you idolise Landa as a scholar. So we already know your judgement on who is and isn’t recognised as a scholar is flawed. If these people with whom you “checked” Buddhism are merely ones you know and your intellectual equals, then they are likely to be as clueless as you. How about you name them and we’ll see if these mysterious experts are any such thing or just more fakers.

NB The real deal with Buddhism is that it’s a philosophical overlay onto existing cultures. So the goddyness varies according to that rather than being part of Buddhism itself. Hence my original reply about it being nontheistic to polytheistic. Anyone brought up in just one culture (eg Carol’s Buddhists might be essentially Christian) may not even know about the wider situation.

Americans (the largest group on these American sites for obvious reasons) do seem to be disgustingly ignorant of such things. Eg of the nature and history of Unitarianism. I suspect their research all too often consists of assuming something about that bloke down the street whom they’ve met in passing and now want to invoke as an unnamed expert.

I know of no Hebrew scholar who disputes Landa’s ideas and neither do you.

Failure to ask them at all does not constitute obtainingg agreement from them. That’s Nelson refusing to look properly at the signal flags and then saying he didn’t see any. Besides which, if any you have asked are not merely as clueless as you they might even be lying. Name the scholars who have agreed with Landa’s version in full.

Landa’s apologetics are rubbish. As I’ve pointed out before, it doesn’t matter how much wriggling he and you do over individual words. None of that will ultimately help because the order of events given in Genesis is wrong. Ergo the Bible (Jewish and Christian) is wrong. It is contradicted by the evidence of reality (ie science). So the writers were either clueless fantasists or their sky fairy was lying to them.

the laws of nature pertaining to decay rates (lambda in the exponential) were unchanged thru billions of years. That assumption is NOT based on data

It is in fact based on a vast amount of data regarding the constancy of physical constants, as well as independent observations that would be inconsistent with decaying rates. The YECs have tried to come up with models based on changing physical law, but those models are always inconsistent with observation.

Since you continue to deliberately distort what I say and to put words into my mouth you are approaching the point (already achieved by Ts) where it will be become pointless for me to respond to you.

This is Carol’s final evasion when she runs out of others after being proven wrong and a liar.

inconsistent with decaying rates

Oops, I meant inconsistent with changing decay rates.

I really have to wonder what Carol is trying to achieve. She came originally came onto this site touting the Landa book. Not only did she not get a single person to go out and buy the book, but she made a lot of people think badly of her. And everything else she has to say, about science education, science, YEC, etc. adds to their number.

I think I was clear in stating that I was ambivalent about the polytheistic nature of Hinduism

Oops, Carol – you mis-spelled “[deleted] ignorant about”.

I have checked with some recognized scholars of Buddhism. The answer by all - A single God is assumed in Buddhism but not to be talked about, for various theological reasons.

[deleted], Carol.

I know of no Hebrew scholar who disputes Landa’s ideas and neither do you.

Um, then why waste time on the book. If it just tells us things that everyone already knows anyway, there’s no point in wasting money on it, is there. Just as I don’t spend money to read books that tell me “the sun rises in the east”. What’s the sequel gonna be, Carol — “Water Is Wet” ?

I find it remarkable, though, that your hero has managed to do what no other religious scholar in the past 15,000 years has managed to do —- write a book about theology that nobody disagrees with.

Unless, of course, you are just full of [deleted] in your assessment, Carol.

To make a long story short, after years of debating and meeting and interviewing, the issue remains unresolved

Well heck, maybe you can send Jay El over to straighten them all out. After all, he de man, right?

it will be become pointless for me to respond to you.

Then don’t. (shrug) I will, of course, continue to go right along and point out to everyone where and why you are full of [deleted]. And I don’t need your permission to do that. Or your cooperation.

“Rev Dr” Lenny, Ts, SEF,

You folks are an embarrassment to science.

No, we’re merely embarrassing you, Carol, more than you already do yourself by showing up your shoddy arguments for what they are - shoddy. However, you appear to be trying to be an embarrassment to theology by making your shoddy arguments and bogus claims. Except I doubt the theologians with some legitimate claim to expertise (degrees, papers, dinner engagements or whatever passes for eminence in their realm) would acknowledge you as one of their own anyway.

carol clouser Wrote:

“Rev Dr” Lenny, Ts, SEF,

You folks are an embarrassment to science.

As oposed to you, who are an embarrasment to humanity for being an undercover peddler of goods and both quite ignorant in the topics you speak of and a frequent liar?

Why don’t you tell us *why* they embarras science by defending it and present, you know, *evidence* for a change, carol? I’ve yet to see even the slightest sliver of evidence from your side. For God’s sake, you wouldn’t even admit you were promoting a book your company is selling until someone pointed it out, instead of what ethically would be the correct thing: mentioning in your opening post “hi, I’m an editor/secretary/whatever for a publishing company and I love this book we’re carrying”.

Mind you, that wouldn’t help you look better in the face of all your other false statements.

Hope that helps,

Grey Wolf

You folks are an embarrassment to science.

BWA HA HA HA !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Your concern for, uh, “science” is touching, Carol.

Sheesh! I go away for a recuperative weekend and this degenerates into a slanging match. While you should all be ashamed of yourselves: Carol, consider learning something about a topic before posting confidently on it. Lenny, please don’t use profanity. Apart from anything else we want the Thumb to be accessible to schools, and your actions could get us filtered out. English is a rich language, you can get your point across without profanity.

This thread is now closed.

McE,

I beg to differ with much of what you said (#45211).

(1) Flint did NOT say the MEDIAN scientific disagreement lasts a year or two, but that their HALF LIFE is a year or two (#44944). To make sure I got the point he emphasized that again and had the temerity to imply that I did not know what the term meant (#44986). To me that meant he was saying that all scientific disagreements (or the typical disagreement), like a sample of some radioactive isotope, is very much on the wane after six years, practically comatose after seven years and virually dead after eight years. He then switched to MEDIAN in #45025 but introduced “days and months” instead of years. All these statements were in need of clarification in my opinion.

(2) While HE looks at the four cases I cited and sees no real science but “areas” of permanent investigation, YOU see real science that was resolved rather quickly. I submit both views are off the mark. All four cases are areas of scientific disagreement that endured for long periods. We think some have already been resolved, others have not.

(3) The issue of the laws of motion were not at all settled by Newton. Yes, Newton’s laws totally demolished Aristotle’s scheme. But there remained stubborn, unresolved, problematic issues. Newton’s laws work only in inertial frames. But how do you experimentally know that your frame is inertial? Newton’s answer was, it is inertial if my laws work. Very much circular reasoning. Eventually this led to the concept of absolute motion and the ether. This notion, in which almost all scientists believed in the existance of something nobody had ever detected, lasted some two hundred years! Sounds theology-like to me. The ether idea had some huge holes punched in it by the Michelson-Morely experiments and was finally killed by special relativity.

(4) The issue of the evolution of the universe has been debated for decades and a few otherwise reputable scientists, to this day, oppose the Big Bang Theory. Compare them to a small “sect”, like the Coptics, with a different theological twist on Christianity.

(5) The atomic theory issue was debated from long before Dalton. (I wanted to write “pre-Dalton” instead of “Dalton” in #44998). Dalton’s experiments swayed many scientists in the direction of atomism, but some two hundred years later we find some real scientists like Ernest Mach contesting the atomic view. And he had a few supporters. Another “sect”. It was Brownian Motion and Einstein’s explanation of it in 1905 that finally and firmly closed the books on that debate.

(6) Of course you are right that science has a method for resolving issues and disagreements. Nobody is disputing that. It happens every day. But it works because there is a steady stream of incoming data. Theological issues are subject to reasoning and discourse and to some extent data (usually archological). It has not worked as well for them, not because they are opposed to settling unresolved issues, but because the flow of data is sparse. Nevertheless, there has been movement toward consensus in many areas of theology, such as the example I cited with regard to monotheism vs. polytheism. Stated otherwise, it is a difference of DEGREE, not one of KIND.

But thanks for your thoughts. It’s nice to have a civil conversation here with someone, FOR A CHANGE.

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This page contains a single entry by Ian Musgrave published on August 23, 2005 4:34 PM.

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