The Discovery Institute and publications

| 118 Comments

In responding to a recent New York Times article (already discussed in detail here and here), the Discovery Institute’s John West once again points to the Discovery Institute’s list of “peer-reviewed and peer-edited publications” as evidence that the Discovery Institute really does do science.

That document, like so much that the Discovery Institute puts out, does not paint an accurate picture of what is actually going on. The list has been available in one form or another for quite a while now, and individual entries on the list have been critiqued in a number of locations. I’m going to address the list as a whole here. I will briefly comment on some of the individual entries in the process, but I am not going to take the time to address all of them. For the most part, I will assume, FOR THE SAKE OF ARGUMENT ONLY, that the articles are more or less what they claim to be.

Continue reading (at The Questionable Authority):

118 Comments

The total absense of peer-reviewed ID literature has been pointed out several times before [e.g., Zimmer’s post]. One important literature search not yet shown is for Dembski’s concepts of “complex specified information”, the “law of conservation of information”, and “specified complexity”.

The answer from IEEE Xplore: zero articles.

  • Searching IEEE Xplore for “complex specified information” yields zero articles.
  • Searching IEEE Xplore for “law of conservation of information” yields zero articles.
  • Searching IEEE Xplore for “specified complexity” yields one completely unrelated article on VLSI design.
  • Searching IEEE Xplore for “dembski information theory” yields zero articles.
  • Searching IEEE Xplore for “dembski” yields zero articles.

By the way, if there really were a “law of conservation of information”, where do the daily weather reports come from?

Previously I’d searched the IEEE ITSOC website. Nothing there either. As far as I can tell, the publications of the primary group of information theory researchers contain no mention whatsoever of Dembski or any related thing. He’s irrelevant to Information Theory.

“law of conservation of information”, Also known as the “news” in todays paper is tomorrows garbage wrapper.

Hey, I can play this game too. :-)

Searching Web of Science for (as topic, unless specified)… “complex specified information”: Pennock RT Creationism and intelligent design ANNUAL REVIEW OF GENOMICS AND HUMAN GENETICS 4: 143-163 2003

“law of conservation of information”: VANDENBLEEK CM, SCHOUTEN JC CAN DETERMINISTIC CHAOS CREATE ORDER IN FLUIDIZED-BED SCALE-UP CHEMICAL ENGINEERING SCIENCE 48 (13): 2367-2373 JUL 1993

“specified complexity”: Charlesworth B No free lunch: Why specified complexity cannot be purchased without intelligence NATURE 418 (6894): 129-129 JUL 11 2002 [This is a book review, I’ll let you puzzle over what it’s reviewing]

KAZAKOV IE, MALCHIKOV SV APPROXIMATE DESIGN OF PUGACHEV FILTERS OF SPECIFIED COMPLEXITY AUTOMATION AND REMOTE CONTROL 42 (12): 1618-1624 1981

“dembski information theory” (Demski as author):

“dembski wa” (as author):

Berlinski D, Gross PR, Perakh M, et al. Darwinism versus intelligent design COMMENTARY 115 (3): 9+ MAR 2003

Milner R, Maestro V, Behe MJ, et al. Intelligent design? NATURAL HISTORY 111 (3): 73-80 APR 2002

Dembski WA, Meyer SC Fruitful interchange or polite chitchat? The dialogue between science and theology ZYGON 33 (3): 415-430 SEP 1998

Dembski WA Schleiermacher’s metaphysical critique of miracles SCOTTISH JOURNAL OF THEOLOGY 49 (4): 443-465 1996

DEMBSKI WA RANDOMNESS BY DESIGN NOUS 25 (1): 75-106 MAR 1991

So, we either have works about IDC, or something nothing to do with evolution. I don’t even want to look at the abstract of the Pugachev filters paper: the title is scary enough for me.

Bob

It seems to me that this business of counting the number of peer reviewed publications as a measure of the significance of one’s scientific “output” is a bit silly. What if one leads the life of a hermit and refuses to publish any results of one’s research, such as was the case with for example Henry Cavendish, the first person to find the value of G, are we to claim that such work is inherently not science? That just seems to be a bit ridiculous.

True. And Darwin didn’t publish for many years until pushed by up and comers developing similar ideas. Still, these are examples of individuals. We’re talking about a large, multi-million dollar “institute” here. And they aren’t hermits either. They publish profusely. They just choose not to do so in any scientifically recongnized venue. Perhaps the world would be a better place if the DI were hermits…

Just curious, Ms. Clouser: What is your profession?

Carol I see your back How did you go with Harold Bloom’s theory the Old Testament was written by Women and the Hebrew Gnostics. ……Must have been a bad marriage. Now about that book your getting some FREE promotion here for. Do me a favor and just don’t mention it.

Now back to ‘Count’ Dembski, his dream of unreason and the Mad “Disinformation Theory on Creationism” on how to Factualize GOD.

1. By numbers -failed 2. Postmodernist mumbojumbo- failed 3. By Ancient Greek philosophy - failed 4. Conning Salvador T. Cordova to shout down facts - Success 5. Salvador T. Cordova shouting down facts - failed 6. Conning The Great Theistic Religions - failed 7. Conning Experts in his field - failed 8. Publishing the proof of GOD - failed 9. Selling a bunch of Creationist books - success 11. Publishing Religious and political diatribes- success 12. Pointing out to the whole world an interesting result of their fallacy; that not all people who claim to be Christians actually believe in Christianity.- success 13. Pointing out to the whole word that “Mad Scientists” who claim they see god in material things, may not actually beleive in God at all. 14. Next move.… Impersonating “Mad King George”

Now since you don’t actually get this at all Carol. Have a look at something you may just get, the Damage that you and your truly beligerant haters of TRUTH are doing.

Kung Fu Monkey .

Man, poor Carol Clouser. That’s what I’d call “taking it in the poop chute.”

carol clouser Wrote:

It seems to me that this business of counting the number of peer reviewed publications as a measure of the significance of one’s scientific “output” is a bit silly. What if one leads the life of a hermit and refuses to publish any results of one’s research …

How about Isaac Newton? His delay in the publication of the Principia led to a conflict of priority with Leibniz over the discovery of the calculus. But his ideas, of course, were solid.

In contrast, William Dembski—called the “Isaac Newton of information theory” by his acolytes—has not published any peer-reviewed technical papers on ID because his ideas are frankly crackpot.

Really, if there were a “law of conservation of information,” where do the daily weather reports come from?

What serious professional journal would publish such transparent nonsense as this? The truth is that the ID movement invokes information theory because it is a legitimate mathematical subject that impresses many people, while at the same time is understood by very few. Not only are Dembski’s arguments irrelevant to information theory, IT invalidates many ID arguments, especially Dembski’s.

As I understand it, Carol’s profession is that of PR and editor/publisher for a Landa person who is a fundamentalist Bible reader. Carol swears this guy has the answer to any and all problems between reality and the Bible, and it seems Landa has demonstrated that the Bible *is* a completely literally true account of history of the universe. The kind of mental acrobatics needed for this to be true, however, are so over the top everyone else lacks to see it this way (like “the days mean ages, but they aren’t consecutive but overlap and, even though fish predate fishes by untold millions of years, they belong in the same day-age”). I’ve never heard Landa’s explanation for the flood, or the flat earth, or the cud-chewing rabbits, but I’m sure they would be equally fascinating.

Carol will probably say her profession is not actually PR - so I will admit here it might just be her hobby.

Hope that helps,

Grey Wolf, doing this from memory so might be very wrong

Let me explain why I asked about your profession, Ms. Clouser:

I would never question what constitutes a measure of “professional activity” in an profession that I am not a member of. If you are a scientist, I am surprised you would not recognize the importance of scientific publication.

When I was younger, (and had an healthy back and pelvis) I used to ride and train horses. My instructor used to tell me: You can say that you school your mount to X level, but it doesn’t mean diddly-squat until a registered judge scores you at that level. Scientific work done in secret or in isolation doesn’t mean diddly-squat until it has passed muster in the scientific community. Any scientist or science teacher that doesn’t know this should not be in the profession.

But, as Grey Wolf remembers, you are not a scientist. Your ignorance is excused, but your excusing Dembski and his ilk from this requirement is out of line.

I understand that the DI’s count is grossly inflated. Now, let’s leave out the books, the “peer-edited” stuff, the duplication, the philosophical and other nonscientific items, etc. As has been pointed out, Darwin and Newton really needed only a single, non-peer-reviewed publication to stake their considerable claims.

So when boiled down to the kernel of valid items, do we find ANY actual science in support of ID? I should think one single valid scientific study would be all they’d need. Do they have that many?

Re: counting papers.

Silly or not, this is a commonly used measure of productivity in the modern world of science. Tenure committees use it, granting agencies use it, and - more to the point in this case - the Disco Institute itself regards it as important enough to inflate their pathetic numbers by double-counting and fudging definitions.

I believe the motivation is to puff up their bogus “theory” in the eyes of folks who don’t know better. But with these guys, they may just be lying to keep in practice.

As has been pointed out, Darwin and Newton really needed only a single, non-peer-reviewed publication to stake their considerable claims.

As I understand it, science in the 21st century operates much faster. In addition, work by people like Darwin and Newton were discussed in correspondence between scientists of the day (I remember a tale of Priestly writing a letter to Benjamin Franklin after his discovery of “de-phlogisticated air”, later to be named oxygen) The amount of scientific work being done today is exponentially larger, and in specialized areas. It takes specialists in those areas who are familiar with the existing work to pass judgement on new findings. Gentleman-scientists who are generalists are a thing of the distant past.

Add to that the phenomenon of public education and the speed at which information can be communicated. It’s just not a valid comparison. Darwin’s and Newton’s base ideas have stood the test of time and massive amounts of new data. ID seems unable to even start; unable to leave the realm of philosophy (I apologize to any philosophers-it may not even qualify as that) and “play” in the arena of science.

Carol, the Discovery Institute and ID advocates claim that ID is good, tested science.

How else to tell, besides looking for the results of the experiments in which their hypotheses were tested?

ID advocates have made the claim. We are merely checking it out for veracity.

As opposed to Einstein, whose five papers in 1905 not only set physics on its ear, but also provided suggested experiments to disprove what Einstein said. One of his papers proposed that gravity could bend light – preposterous! In 1919, several scientists confirmed that light bending does occur around our Sun, during an eclipse. That was 14 years from hypothesis of theory to successful testing. In contrast, “intelligent design” was invented for a high school textbook in 1989. Today, 16 years later, there is not even one testable hypothesis provided for intelligent design.

Why shouldn’t intelligent design advocates get at least the same respect, and scrutiny of course, as Einstein? Are their ideas to holy for analysis? Or are they too crackpot to consider?

If their ideas ARE science, why would we not find them tested in experiments published in peer-reviewed journals?

Religious ideas don’t appear as experimental results in peer-reviewed science journals, either. Do you begin to see a trend?

I like the publication count metric, since it implies that HEP experimentalists are the best scientists evah!!! (unless the metric is diluted by dividing the publciation number by the number of authors per publication)

I think what’s probably more relevant is the number of confirmed scientific results under ID’s belt (hint: I am thinking of an integer between -0.1 and +0.1 )

Something like a demonstration of how the DNA strand of aa amoeba has the entire human genome encoded in it or something to that effect would be such a ‘result’, but I really don’t see that happening.

bleh.

I know very little about Cavendish. His gravity experiment gets a mention in introductory physics and there’s a famous lab named after him at Cambridge. That about sums up what I know.

But I’m always pretty skeptical about this hermit-researcher business, so let’s see what I can find. He was reputedly a recluse (BTW, he did collaborate with at least one other scientist, John Michell). But even the reclusive Cavendish published 20 papers over his lifetime of about 80 years. http://scienceworld.wolfram.com/bio[…]vendish.html That’s an average of one paper every four years cradle-to-grave and it’s from a scientist widely considered to be an outlier on the introvert/extrovert scale.

How many scientists are allegedly working on ID? How long have they been at it? If they’ve been at it for 10 years and are all as reclusive as Cavendish, then they should each average 2.5 papers by now. If their grand total so far is 28 papers, then that implies there are at most 11 of them, or that some are even less prone to publishing than Cavendish. Otherwise, you’d expect a more impressive list of results.

So there you have the ID research program in a nutshell: 11 pathologically shy hermits working in a vacuum, publishing very little. But we will assume generously that like Cavendish they have done important experiments and just never got around to telling anyone. Am I supposed to be impressed?

Another question is, why *not* publish if you have the results? Real, working scientists can’t wait to get their results peer-reviewed and published as soon as there are enough reliable data to put in a journal publication. It isn’t just a matter of “counting papers” – it’s a matter of having your work vetted by others who may be more knowledgeable than you are, to look for holes but also to get valuable feedback and suggestions from other experts. Running results by your peers is not a technicality or formality; it is a necessary part of furthering your work. (Assuming your assertions aren’t bogus, of course…)

Dembski once said something like he chooses not to publish in peer-reviewed scientific journals because “you often have to wait two years to get things into print.” This, of course, is rubbish to anyone who knows the system. Some journals are slower and some are faster, and the actual turnaround depends on what sort of revisions the reviewers ask for (and how long you take to do them), but two years is way over the top for mainstream scientific journals. My experience has been three to six months between submission date and print date.

”.…the Discovery Institute and ID advocates claim that ID is good, tested science.”

Except when they are cross examined under oath. Then they say that is not science unless you change the definition of science, and that it has not *actually* been tested. They also testify that there are no scientific peer reviewed papers on IC, and only one that “kind of sort of” supports ID.

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/dov[…]l#day11pm132

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/dov[…]l#day20pm921

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/dov[…]tml#day15pm3

The Discovery Institute is blatantly and unrepentantly lying.

Where are you, Ms. Clouser? Surely you have a response to all of these various comments? Or perhaps the individuals you are trying to defend have something to say? I’d be interested in hearing from the “other” side on this…

The history of science is replete with examples of researchers who either refused, delayed or hesitated to publish their work. I used the example of Cavendish because it is an extreme case of refusing all his life to publish the great experiments he performed on gravity. (His papers on gravity were publicized by his family after his death.) While it is true that a paper must be peer reviewed to be considered by the scientific community, and by extension the world, as “scientific”, the absence of publication cannot in and of itself render a work “unscientific”. But this is what this article is implying, that ID cannot be “science” since they are not publishing much of anything.

In other words, the public is not impressed by this type of argumentation. The argument must revolve about the substance of the claims, not the nonsense of counting papers.

I don’t mind discussing my background or “profession” but why can this discussion too not proceed on the basis of substance rather than personalities, stereotypes and other nonsense? Why are some folks here attracted to distracting matters of no impoprtance? Are they running out of substantive arguments?

Madam Pomfrey Wrote:

It isn’t just a matter of “counting papers” — it’s a matter of having your work vetted by others who may be more knowledgeable than you are, to look for holes […]

What holes? We’re talking about ID here, not Evolution, which is nothing but a bunch of holes: gaps in the fossil record, lack of explanation of the origin of life… etc.

(I’m just trying to be funny, sorry)

Ms. Clouser

As a member of the public (I’m a woodcraftsman, not a teacher or scientist or a publisher or anything), I have to say that in fact, I AM impressed with the argument of publication (or complete and utter lack thereof). If ID has some sort of science, anything at all, I’d sure like to see it in something other than a pop-science book. Anybody can publish a book, and not one single word in the book has to be true or even supported.

As for the final paragraph of your latest statement, in order for there to be a discussion on the substance, there actually has to BE some substance to discuss. Where is it?

NEWSFLASH

http://www.kansas.com/mld/eagle/liv[…]13337930.htm

Professor beaten; attackers cite KU creationism class

LAWRENCE - A professor whose planned course on creationism and intelligent design was canceled after he sent e-mails deriding Christian conservatives was hospitalized Monday after what appeared to be a roadside beating.

University of Kansas religious studies professor Paul Mirecki said that the two men who beat him made references to the class that was to be offered for the first time this spring.

Originally called “Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationism and other Religious Mythologies,” the course was canceled last week at Mirecki’s request.

The class was added after the Kansas State Board of Education decided to include more criticism of evolution in science standards for elementary and secondary students.

“I didn’t know them,” Mirecki said of his assailants, “but I’m sure they knew me.”

One recent e-mail from Mirecki to members of a student organization referred to religious conservatives as “fundies,” and said a course describing intelligent design as mythology would be a “nice slap in their big fat face.” Mirecki has apologized for those comments.

Lt. Kari Wempe, a spokeswoman for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department, said a deputy was dispatched to Lawrence Memorial Hospital after receiving a call around 7 a.m. regarding a battery.

She said Mirecki reported he was attacked around 6:40 a.m. in rural Douglas County south of Lawrence. Mirecki told the Lawrence Journal-World that he was driving to breakfast when he noticed the men tailgating him in a pickup truck.

“I just pulled over hoping they would pass, and then they pulled up real close behind,” he said. “They got out, and I made the mistake of getting out.”

He said the men beat him on the head, shoulders and back with their fists, and possibly a metal object.

Wempe said Mirecki drove himself to the hospital after the attack.

Mirecki told the student newspaper, the University Daily Kansan, that he spent between three and four hours at the hospital. He said his injuries included a broken tooth.

“I’m mostly shaken up, and I got some bruises and sore spots,” he told the Lawrence Journal-World.

Wempe said Mirecki described the suspects as two white men between 30 and 40 years of age. One of the men was described as wearing a red, visorlike ball cap and wool gloves. Mirecki said the men left in a large pickup.

Wempe said the department would investigate “every aspect,” but couldn’t discuss specifics.

Andrew Stangl, president of the Society for Open Minded Atheists and Agnostics at the university, described the attack as “bizarre and terrifying.” He said Mirecki, who is the group’s faculty adviser, was adamant that the beating was related to the recently canceled course.

“That absolutely shocked me,” he said, “because people don’t do that in a civilized society.”

State Sen. Kay O’Connor, a Mirecki critic, said there is no excuse for someone physically assaulting the professor – regardless of their politics.

“I have zero tolerance for thugs,” she said. “There is never an excuse to behave in such a manner. This was just thugs. They used a flimsy excuse, if they had one, to behave as thugs. They can talk about the ID (intelligent design) course if they want to, but that’s not an excuse.”

Your profession is important; to critique how the scientific community judges the value of scientific work is arrogant if you yourself are not an expert. I would not pass judgement on legal matters if I was not a lawyer. I’d ask the members of the profession. Science is not validated by public opinion, but by scientists in their accepted forum.

Ms. Clouser doesn’t like the metric of peer-reviewed publication counting. What other metric should we apply?

the absence of publication cannot in and of itself render a work “unscientific”.

No, I suppose not. But the absence of the “work” itself sort of does.

But this is what this article is implying, that ID cannot be “science” since they are not publishing much of anything.

Well, no. It’s just that you can’t expect scientists to take it seriously, or schools to teach it, if “there’s no there there”

Oh my god. Read “city of god” by e.l. doctorow

I saw a bumper sticker this morning which read, “Christians: can’t live with ‘em, Can’t feed ‘em to the lions anymore”

Ha! Doing my part to promote randomness.

I really grow tired of the other side. Honestly, they do a hit and run here every so often. They run in, wave their arms frantically about some nonsensical idea or criticism of mainstream science (the latest being that the validity of a scientific idea cannot be measured by its publication acceptance rate), then when more logical minds begin to reply with reasoned (and admittedly often deservedly disparaging) responses, they flee back into the ether of the internets ;)

On the other hand, when one of ours goes to the blogs of “the other side,” posts, no matter how reasoned, are deleted and their authors banned.

A note for those new here: the other side is not interested in scientific discourse. They want a stage, or perhaps more aptly, a pulpit. The refusal to publish in scientific journals; their preference for books as a means of publication; the hit and run blog postings and the banning of dissenting opions on their own blogs are all symptoms of the underlying disease.

Carol The DI is not just a US phenomenon http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/2005120[…]051207160603

$200/hr is not self-deluded. If it’s anything, what it ought to be is criminally fraudalent, but it is certainly not self-deluded. However, if the marks want to be gulled, cullied, and diddled out of their money like that, who am I to complain.

BWE,

What exactly is the your question that I am supposed to answer?

Carol Wrote:

My scientific background is in physics, in particular MHD. What I do advocate here is that the general assumption that science contradicts the Bible is not correct, at least as far as the original Bible is concerned. Some folks don’t like to hear that, but they know not what they talketh about.

and

If in your opinion IDers are not doing science, and they claim they are, then the ONLY reasonable recourse is to focus on whether or not their output, whatever its size, constitutes science.

I wrote:

Ok, ID papers aren’t science. How are the experiments designed? And please answer my last question about your background carol, I am curious.

Referring to:

That is what makes me wonder about your real background. I know that it looks like an ad hominem attack here but, I think that any body with a certain amount of knowledge of physical and life sciences has the capacity to judge the the claims made by the scientific theory of ID and the scientific theory of evolution. I’m thinking undergrad stuff here: maybe geology, astronomy, oceanography, physical geography, biology, archaeology etc. at the 100 level. A few of these mixed together ought to give you plenty of ability to judge these claims. And Carol, I don’t think that you could arrive at your conclusions if you had this knowledge. So please, set the record straight and explain to me how we know how old the earth is or why those whacky scientists think we could go back to a common ancestor? At least convince me that you have a modicum of information to work from.

And, after you answer those two, I have another one:

Do you think that ID is valid science with evidence that seems to hold up under scrutiny?

BWE,

I don’t care for the condescending tone of your questions. My posts speak for themselves. Read them carefully and focus on the substance, not the personalities.

I am sorry if I seem condescending. I am truly interested in what you have to say. I personally have a specific background which has molded my opinions. My education left me with little doubt that evolution as it stands, is the correct way to understand a certain kind of occurrance. Obviously, other people with different educations have different opinions. When I read you posts, I find that you sincerely talk about the original form of the bible a lot. You made a pretty bold claim to match credential for credential a while ago and that struck me as odd. Then you made a claim that ID papers were doing science, and since I do science too and I was unaware of any science from the DI, I looked it up. I read a few of those papers and there wasn’t any science in what I saw. What I saw was political science term papers about science. Now, that is not condescending, it is sincere. I obviously missed your point. And, if you have an expert background, you could use it potentially to support your case.

In case you are wondering, my credentials are not all that stellar. They are actually pretty ordinary:

BA -Graphic Design -Cornish College of Art 1978 BA -Political Science -University of Washington 1982 MS -Marine Biology -University of Washington 1987

So, my questions are, 1. What is your background? 2. How are ID experiments designed? 3. Do you think that ID is valid science with evidence that seems to hold up under scrutiny?

I am perfectly willing to be wrong if that is what you are telling me. I do not have a phD, nor am I an expert on anything other than various rockfish above 40 fathoms off the pacific Northwest. (Well, I know quite a bit about trawling).

So, I am unclear on where we stand and whether this is a debate, an argument or whether we both think roughly the same things and I am too dense to understand. (My wife would no doubt opt for the third category)

Good luck BWE but I don’t think Carol knows the difference between a spade and a manuo-pedal excavationary implement she just came here to promte her book.

No, i think she wants to say something. I mean, who among us would read her book? It’s about the bible. I don’t care much about the bible and I doubt many people who read this stuff do either. I mean, we are posting because of some nascent urge to force our opinions on others right? DOn’t you think she is doing the same? I only wish I had a book to promote while I posted here. My book would be about the rational pursuit of altered states of consciousness to commune with god. Maybe it could be about the futility of the rational pursuit of altered states of consciousness to commune with god. Or about the futility of god in general. Or about the sublime experience of diving in puget sound with eight foot octopi. ANyway, I think she is just having trouble articulating something that she really feels is important. Like when, as a passenger, you realize that the driver cares more about her makeup than the car in the merge lane and you search for words but the ticking of the clock confuses you and you miss the opportunity to say something relevant and get stuck with only an empty curse after the fact.

While we are on the subject, I’d like to know what Carol’s teaching experience is (secondary school) since she had clear opinions on that. Just curious since the thread my interchange with her was addressing the “controversy” in high school science classes.

I suppose Carol is technically correct. Counting papers doesn’t necessarily map one-to-one with assessing the validity of the science, and a single breakthrough paper may have more science in it than a hundred papers replicating known results. But we might also usefully visualize papers as being like ripples around where good new ideas got dropped into the mix. If there is even a kernel of good science involved, then given time the ripples will spread a long way. ID has had what, 15 years? And in that time, they have produced 32 papers if you misrepresent what they say, and zero papers if you do not? By now, this is meaningful. The actual science becomes increasingly questionable as time passes without ANY papers, tests, testable hypotheses, research, research budget, or results.

On a somewhat different note, I have a question about the material bwe quoted in post #61959, about horseshoe crabs. It does seem strange to me that species (with normal genetic variation) seem to defend their identity so doggedly. Are horseshoe crabs today really different species in all but morphology from a very different species 200 million years ago? Or is this an example of the species statis Gould hammered away at for so long? Are horseshoe crabs not qualitatively different from any other species, staying in statis from formation to extinction, and different only quantitatively, by surviving for so very long?

What IS the mechanism(s) causing species stasis despite lots of genetic variation?

Flint asked

What IS the mechanism(s) causing species stasis despite lots of genetic variation?

Ask sponges.

RBH

I would have to guess that this is, in fact, punctuated equilibrium. What pressure is there to make it change? I chose that article because it was the first one I came across. If you are going to make that claim, you would need to set up some proceedures for demonstration. Including actual genetic variation over time.

Punctuated equilibrium is more of an observation than a hypotheses, a better crab would have had to develop. These guys are pretty darn efficient exploiters of their niche. Also, there are a lot of different populations of horseshoe crabs that exhibit different characteristics. I think there are some distinct species maybe in asian or australian waters. If memory serves me correctly, there used to be fresh water varieties and several different marine species and that the ones we have today are actually evolved although not so much as say a cat is from an early amphibian. Also, they are chelicerates rather than true crabs so you really need to follow a different family tree and you might find a spider or scorpion somewhere that you could follow the mitochindria back to something similar. I think that some of the species used to have segmented opisthosomas (the part that isn’t a head). But nothing like that was addressed in the paper and the stability of the species was never related to its success at exploiting its niche.

Carol, are you there?

BWE Wrote:

No, i think she wants to say something. I mean, who among us would read her book? It’s about the bible.

From what I understand, the Landa book attempts to argue that Genesis creation is scientifically accurate by referring to the OT in its original Hebrew. Original language? Okay, great. I’ll happily grant that Torah scholars probably have a better grasp of what the bible really says than KJV-clutching American fundies do.

But claiming that statements like “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” are scientifically accurate is a whole other kind of grasping. The vagueness of poetry is one of the pillars of myth. Science, on the other hand, abhors vagueness because it is useless in practice. Regardless of translation, the bible does not contain cosmological equations, and the Big Bang Theory is not fairly summarized as: “In the beginning, BOOM!”

P.S. There are nimrods in India these days claiming that certain passages in Hindu scripture indicate that ancient humans had mystical knowledge (divine revelation) regarding quantum physics. This phenomenon is not new. It is not unique. It riddles the history of every religion. It is desperation in the face of discredit.

I don’t care for the condescending tone of your questions.

“I won’t answer your questions because you were mean to me !!!! (sniffle) (sob) Boo hoo hoo!!!!”

I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard this excuse.

It ranks right up there with the “Ralph Kramden response”: “You think I won’t tell you? You think I won’t TELL YOU? Well, JUST FOR THAT, I’M NOT GONNA TELL YOU !!!!”

AC,

For your information the original Bible does not begin with your quote. Instead it reads: “In the Begining of God’s creation of heaven and earth… When the earth was.… Then God said…” Thus the first era describes the appearance of light only. You ought to read up on this in such good books as…well, you know.

Nobody claims that the Bible is a science primer. To claim that is to desecrate the document, in the eyes of believers. So don’t expect it to sound like one. Instead, the issue is, does science conflict with the Bible? Is the Bible inconsistent with the discoveries of science, particulary if it’s interpreted literally? The common perception is that the answer is, yes. Landa’s achievement is that he demonstrates that the correct answer is very reasonably, no.

Carol, So, my questions are, 1. What is your background? 2. How are ID experiments designed? 3. Do you think that ID is valid science with evidence that seems to hold up under scrutiny?

I am perfectly willing to be wrong if that is what you are telling me. I do not have a phD, nor am I an expert on anything other than various rockfish above 40 fathoms off the pacific Northwest. (Well, I know quite a bit about trawling).

So, I am unclear on where we stand and whether this is a debate, an argument or whether we both think roughly the same things and I am too dense to understand. (My wife would no doubt opt for the third category)

Nobody claims that the Bible is a science primer.

Actually, the YECers do.

Is the Bible inconsistent with the discoveries of science, particulary if it’s interpreted literally? The common perception is that the answer is, yes. Landa’s achievement is that he demonstrates that the correct answer is very reasonably, no.

Other Biblical scholars, of course, think Landa is full of cow crap. He, of course, thinks THEY are all full of cow crap. And NONE of them has any objective way to determine which interpretations are cow crap and which aren’t. Other than their say-so.

That is, uh, probably why scholars have been arguing over Biblical interpretations for thousands of years before Landa was even born. And will very likely still be arguing over it thousands of years from now (assuming Christianity or the Bible still exist then).

(shrug)

Lenny,

I do enjoy your comments, one question though: don’t your shoulders get tired with all the shrugging?

Seriously, science can’t speak to religion generally, but good scholarship certainly can shake most common biblical interpretations. The conservatives are fighting a battle they cannot win.

don’t your shoulders get tired with all the shrugging?

I lift shoulder weights. (shrug)

;>

Now Beckwith has deleted the rest of the comments from his blog.

What an a$$hole.

But they’re still on Google cache.

What a stupid a$$hole.

Comments

Wow, Frank, _this_ is how I can tell that I haven’t been paying very close attention to what has been going on surrounding ID–I hadn’t heard about this flap at all until I read this post.

What a bunch of baloney. There is a “stop at nothing” feeling about these folks. Sorry you’ve been witch-hunted. Hopefully the new Baylor administration will leave things to the academic department, which sounds like it wants to keep you on your academic merits. Posted by: Lydia at May 26, 2005 07:19 AM

Mr Beckwith, You went about it all wrong. You should have stressed you’re 1/16th Indian,handed out condoms to twelve yr olds and cited Bush as a war criminal with Rumsfeld to be tried by an international court. A few encomiums about Fidel Castro and loud approval of gay marriage would have clinched it. It’s never too late to learn. I almost left out the most important thing,continually bleat about the open mind,diversity on campus,the academic pursuit of truth wherever it might lead,and toleration of opinions no matter how outrageous. You got that? Posted by: johnt at May 26, 2005 09:22 AM

Hi Frank.

You say “I stand by my work on intelligent design,” but when challenged on this subject quite recently, you said that “my views on ID are not fully formed.”

Which is it? Why do you stand by work based on your “not fully formed” ideas?

Do you have any evidence for ID now, beyond the nonsense you already showed that appears in an index of creationist claims?

ID is pseudoscientific claptrap, useful only to ideologues who want to see religion taught in public schools.

That’s what this criticism is about, not your academic freedom that Forrest and Branch expressly defended. Posted by: Steven Thomas Smith at May 26, 2005 02:40 PM

Steven,

If you’d slow down and read rather than jumping to conclusions, you’d see that there’s no discrepancy in Dr. Beckwith’s statements. In your hurry to score rhetorical points, you’ve failed to master even the basic point of Beckwith’s squib.

Dr. Beckwith’s book is called Law, Darwinism, and Education. His interest (and his work), as he’s clearly stated, are on the legal aspects of the teaching of ID, rather than the theory itself. In fact, if you had taken more than five seconds to read what he wrote in your rush to bloviate about “psuedoscientific claptrap,” you’d notice that he even pointed out that not an intelligent design advocate.

His point is a legal one–that it is Constitutionally permissible to teach ID in the schools, and this is the work he says he “stand(s) by.” Or, to put it another way (as my kids would), “duh.” If you wish to dispute Beckwith’s legal argument, fine. But you haven’t even attempted to make a legal argument. You don’t even seem to understand that it’s a legal argument. Indeed, you would actually have to have some knowledge on the subject beyond a few perjoratives to have figured that out, which perhaps is why you’re forced to substitute ad hominem for substance.

If this is the kind of thinking prevalent among the supposedly scientifically-minded, we’re in more trouble than any of us realized. Failure to grasp basic points of logic and language in the rush to label and marginalize is the very point to begin with. Thank you for offering us such a pristine example.

Meanwhile, how about showing us your thesis for the Washington University law school? Posted by: John R. at May 26, 2005 04:46 PM

John is perfectly correct. My views on the scientific merits of the ID case are not fully formed. If some of the ID arguments do not work, I won’t lose any sleep. So, I am not an ID advocate.

However, as a trained philosopher, I am interested in the philosophical questions raised by certain ID advocates that challenge demarcation theories, philosophical materialism, and narrow foundationalism (in epistemology). I think here is where the ID guys have an important point to make. Regardless of whether Behe’s or Dembski’s arguments work, I think the case against materialism as a worldview is strong. That is, there’s much more to anti-materialist philosophy than ID proper, and I make that point in my book.

Having said that, John is correct that my book and law review articles explore a particular niche in this debate, a legal one. If you take the time to read the book, you will see that my presentation of ID in chapter 3 is mostly philosophical, dealing as much with demarcation theories and philosophy of science as with the standard ID stuff.

I hope that I’ve made myself clear.

BTW, my letter to the editor concerned an injustice committed against me by Steve’s allies. Now, if I were given to committing the guilt by association fallacy, I would have interpreted Steve’s silence in addressing this injustice as tacit endorsement of it. But I’m not a practitioner of the fallacy. I prefer to practice the principle of charity. Thus, I interpret Steve’s silence as tacit condemnation of this disreputable tactic, since he chose not to support it. Posted by: Francis Beckwith at May 26, 2005 06:05 PM

I’m looking in vain for anything resembling an argument in Mr Smith’s post, and am not finding anything. Is the mere assertion that something is claptrap an argument? Posted by: Eric Vestrup at May 26, 2005 06:21 PM

I’ve got a quick question that touches on the ID issue. I haven’t thought about this a too much. But, it seems to me that there might be a lot of things that aren’t taught in high schools, but that might be constitutional to teach in high schools (e.g. comparative religion, philosophy). So, why all the support for intelligent design being included in science classes, rather than these other alternatives? As any good Christian knows, just because it is legal doesn’t necessarily make it a good idea.

Over and over again I hear ID protagonists claiming that students should be taught to critically examine the claims of science, materialism, evolutionary theory, etc. Okay, all of this can be taught without talking about ID, right? It isn’t necessary to talk about ID to talk about demarcation because you can just use astrology as an example. It seems to me that there are lots of open questions here regarding whether or not ID should be taught in manner that tends to be proposed by the ID movement. Posted by: philosopundit at May 26, 2005 07:11 PM

Spot on, philosopundit. I’m all for philosohpy being taught in schools. And for ID to be discussed in this context makes perfect sense. On the other hand, I’d strongly suggest it shouldn’t be taught as part of a science programme. Because at heart it’s a metaphysical rather than a scientific theory. Posted by: rob stowell at May 26, 2005 08:45 PM

“…holding “challenge conferences in significant academic settings” in order to “draw scientific materialists into open debate with design theorists.”

Watch out! It’s a conspiracy to have an open debate!

Of course, one might want to have things like evidence and facts and research to support them in such a debate.

It is sad that Dr. Beckworth is being unfairly persecuted for providing only a tangential support to this theory. Posted by: Step2 at May 26, 2005 10:43 PM

I think the case against materialism as a worldview is strong. That is, there’s much more to anti-materialist philosophy than ID proper,

My apologies if this seems like nit-picking, but I just wanted to make sure it was noted that anti-materialism doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with ID. That is to say, you can reject materialism without accepting anything like ID.

I consider myself to be in the tradition of anti-materialists like Nietzsche and Chomsky–i.e., scientific naturalists who nonetheless reject the claim that the world can be entirely captured in materialistic terms. Posted by: Dadahead at May 27, 2005 05:30 AM

Whoo boy! A tempest in a teapot. Francis is the en passant subject of two factual sentences in a very lengthy article and now he’s being “persecuted”?

Francis, did members of the Dawson family complain about your appointment? Yes, they did, quite publicly in an open letter, as documented here: http://www.baptiststandard.com/post[…]&print=1

Are you affiliated with the Discovery Institute? Of course you are. You’re a Fellow of the CSC of the DI. Hardly the detached relationship you attempt to portray.

The article questions Baylor’s motives in hiring you, not your credentials. So what is this really about? Posted by: wai at May 27, 2005 01:26 PM

I was under the impression that hiring people based on credentials was legitimate. The article you link to includes comments from my press release in which I directly address the completely stupid guilt-by-association “Discovery Institute” tactic offered by my persecutors. So, instead of just linking to it, why don’t you quote from it in which I address your-already answered-18-months-ago question. Actually, don’t bother, here it is:

Beckwith, who in addition to his administrative position is associate professor of church-state studies, affirms the principles championed by the Dawson Institute, he said.

“I am a strong proponent of the separation of church and state as well as religious liberty, though in a free society such as ours, citizens of goodwill will differ on how to understand these principles in the 21st century, an era nearly a half-century removed from the time J.M. Dawson published the bulk of his work,” he said.

“For example, my scholarship on law, Darwinism and public education explores a new, important and fascinating question …: Would certain critiques of Darwinism, including intelligent design theory, pass constitutional muster if subjected to standard judicial tests?”

Beckwith’s affiliations with think-tanks such as the Discovery Institute are merely affiliations, he stressed. “Think-tanks are not churches or lodges; there are no oaths or statements of faith that one must sign. …

“My work is my own, and I stand by it. However, it is inappropriate and not in the spirit of J.M. Dawson’s philosophy for his descendants or any members of the Baylor community to blacklist faculty because they receive funding, however modest, from think-tanks and foundations with which other members of the academic community disagree.”

Why don’t you ask Baylor why they hired me instead of making cloaked insinuations? In fact, why don’t you quote from my colleague who specifically addresses it in the article to which you link but from which you do not quote:

Hankins also debunked what he called rumors that have surfaced since Beckwith arrived at Baylor.

“It is simply not true that Frank was forced on the department by the administration,” Hankins insisted. “He was the best qualified person for the job and in my view strengthens the department, both because of his credentials as a scholar and because of his views on various church-state matters.

“There are faculty at Baylor who believe Frank should not have been hired because of his work on intelligent design or because he could be called a ‘cultural conservative.’ I believe the academic enterprise is strengthened when a variety of views are represented in institutes and departments where complex and controversial issues are to be debated. We are in the business of educating, not indoctrinating.”

I applied for a job that I saw in an advertisement in Chronicle; I was interviewed; I was offered it. And then, oddly enough, I accepted it. What did you expect me to do, consult Baylor alumni and ask their permission as to whether I should take this great job? Please, give me a break.

You have no idea the emotional pain and hurt inflicted on me and my wife when we arrived in Waco. Do you know how it is to open the morning paper, see your face on the front page above a story about people wanting you “reassigned,” employing tactics honed by Senator McCarthy in the 1950s. Yes, I was persecuted, big time. But, of course, Forrest and Branch are on a witch hunt and they do not give a damn about the damage they do to people’s lives and families when they present their “facts” in a way that distorts the truth. Forrest and Branch should be ashamed of themselves. Serious critics of ID, if they have any self-respect, should condemn their disreputable tactics, tactics that say that scholars with religious motivations or beliefs should not be accorded the respect of having their arguments assessed on their merits, but rather, should be dismissed, ridiculed, and called names because of these beliefs. Last time I checked, we called this “bigotry.” Posted by: Francis Beckwith at May 27, 2005 03:04 PM

Frank,

Two quick points in response, one about ID, and one about you.

Intelligent Design has no intellectual or scientific merit whatsoever. Its arguments have been thoroughly debunked. Borrowing from Monty Python, ID is off the twig, kicked the bucket, shuffled off the mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible.

Now about you. What’s your beef with methodological materialism? How do you think that you’re able to fly around the country or operate your computer? Computer pixies? How do you think that you’re able to think? Brain pixies?

You know that I haven’t been silent in my criticism of your association with the Discovery Institute. In its “Wedge Document,” the DI says:

> “Design theory promises to reverse the stifling > dominance of the materialist worldview, and to > replace it with a science consonant with > Christian and theistic convictions”

The same document lists as a five-year goal “legal reform movements.” You’re a DI Fellow actively arguing a legal point for teaching Intelligent Design creationism as science in public schools.

Why would not a reasonable person link your work with the DI goals of replacing materialistic science “with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions”?

Guilt by association is only a fallacy if it’s a fallacy, and it’s tough to see how it is in your case.

FYI Frank, I’m running out the door to enjoy the long weekend in spite of our crappy New England weather. I’ll be able to pick this up Tuesday at the earliest. I hope that you and your wife have a pleasant weekend yourselves.

Steve Posted by: Steven Thomas Smith at May 27, 2005 04:39 PM

****Quote from Smith to Beckwith*** Now about you. What’s your beef with methodological materialism? How do you think that you’re able to fly around the country or operate your computer? Computer pixies? How do you think that you’re able to think? Brain pixies? ****End Quote****

Let me make sure I understand the winning syllogism that is implicit in the above rhetoric:

Some things work [in a certain sense] relative to Mr Smith’s views on MN.

Therefore, MN is the sole proper view for answering questions.

Maybe I wasn’t paying attention in logic class, but I don’t remember that argument form, though I can assert that it has the same shallowness as does Bultmann’s famous claim regarding the incompatibility of holding a supernaturalist worldview in light of the use of electricity. Posted by: Eric Vestrup at May 27, 2005 09:32 PM

I thnk that professor Beckwith’s computer and airplane both work because they were not produced by non-directed causes. Nice design argument, Steve.

Here’s my suggestion: take the time to read books on this subject, such as J P Moreland’s CHRISTIANITY AND THE NATURE OF SCIENCE. Moreland deals with this subject in great detail.

Also, ponder this: if agents are necessary conditions to produce computers and planes, then MN is impotent in accounting for the very objects you offer as analogies.

Of course, if human agents are purely material beings, your problem gets even murkier. Now, you have to account for something–agency–that seems to be actualized in ways not accountable to non-rational material causes. However, if you in fact say that agency is the result of such causes, now your entire view is imperiled by an appaling loop of irrational causes that cannot account for the scientists who draw inferences based on data.

What’s wrong with MN? It account for itself or the reason necessary to arrive at it. In other words, it sucks to methodological naturalism. Posted by: Chuckie Darwin at May 27, 2005 10:18 PM

Oops. Too many typos in previous post. Here’s a revised version.

I thnk that professor Beckwith’s computer and airplane both work because they were not produced by non-directed causes. Nice design argument, Steve.

Here’s my suggestion: take the time to read books on this subject, such as J P Moreland’s CHRISTIANITY AND THE NATURE OF SCIENCE. Moreland deals with this subject in great detail.

Also, ponder this: if agents are necessary conditions to produce computers and planes, then MN is impotent in accounting for the very objects you offer as analogies.

Of course, if human agents are purely material beings, your problem gets even murkier. Now, you have to account for something–agency–that seems to be actualized in ways not accountable by non-rational material causes. However, if you in fact say that agency is the result of such causes, now your entire view is imperiled by an appalling loop of irrational causes that cannot account for the scientists who draw inferences based on data.

What’s wrong with MN? It cannot account for itself or the reason necessary to arrive at it. In other words, it sucks to be methodological naturalism. Posted by: Chuckie Darwin at May 27, 2005 10:21 PM

Picture on the front page of the local newspaper??

I’ve gotta say, Frank, there’s something very odd about Baylor. It sounds like the whole school is a war zone. I try to imagine similar hysteria attending your appointment at a secular university and fail. People just have better things to do with their time. I guess there’s something to be said for a big, anonymous university with no “identity.” Then there’s no war for the school’s identity!

Mind you, you might not have _been_ hired at a secular university. The black-listing probably would have taken place more quietly by the department itself, and for the same silly reasons you are getting grief for here. But if the department wanted you, I suspect everybody else would just shrug.

I loved that bit about people’s objecting to you on the grounds that you’re a cultural conservative. Don’t they have any of those at Baylor besides you? Or are they just blocked from making any new hires from such a rad group? Posted by: Lydia at May 28, 2005 09:07 AM

“I’ve gotta say, Frank, there’s something very odd about Baylor. It sounds like the whole school is a war zone.”

Lydia is on to something here, I think. Another dimension is added to Dr. Beckwith’s situation when we consider the context at Baylor.

Baylor’s on a mission, headed up by Sloan, to become a top-notch research institution and strengthen its Christian identity at the same time is the source of controvery at Baylor that ranges from worries about the financial management of the university to worries about fundamentalsts taking the place over from the inside. Being associated with the ID movement isn’t helping the aim of becoming a top-notch research institution because it is precisely the academic merits of ID that are open to question. Providing a forum for the ID movement on campus might promote the Christian identity of the university, but not in a good way. Given the bigger issues at Baylor it is unsurprising that there are controversies over ID at Baylor since it stands at the crossroads of the two prongs of the university’s mission to be a Baptist version of Notre Damn. Posted by: philosopundit at May 28, 2005 11:18 AM

Philosopundit: Did you know Pres. Sloan’s been fired? They’ve got a new guy as president. I don’t want to start a debate on abortion, but he’s supposedly a big Planned Parenthood supporter. In other words, the antithesis of Sloan.

I didn’t make my comment with any intent to _excuse_ the behavior of those criticizing Frank’s appointment. On the contrary, I think they are over the top and need to chill out big time. They are trying to be “more Catholic than the Pope,” as it were–“more virulently anti-ID than the secular institutions.” I sense a kind of hysterical fear on the part of the anti-ID people at Baylor lest they be looked down upon by anti-ID people outside of Baylor. It ends up almost looking pathetic. I can’t help thinking that biologists (for example) at a secular university, however low their opinion of ID, would not feel they had to prove themselves by this kind of wild opposition to an appointment in another department. I think any naturalist at Baylor is insecure if he thinks he needs to scream this loudly about Frank’s appointment and get opposition to Frank put into the local _newspaper_, for heavens’ sake! Posted by: Lydia at May 28, 2005 11:43 AM

Ah, yes, Barbara Forrest, the pseudo-scientist who dishonestly claimed the following (in an op-ed piece co-authored with Gross):

“Evolution, on the other hand, is at the center of all life science, much physical science (as in geology), and applied fields such as medicine and agriculture.”

Evolution does not inform geology or any other physical science. Forrest tried to hoodwink readers by conflating biological evolution and geological “evolution” (i.e., uniformitarianism and plate tectonics) because biology suffers from an inferior evidentiary threshold and epistemological footing.

Forrest has no credibility and no business speaking on matters on science. Posted by: Robert O’Brien at May 28, 2005 12:08 PM

Mr. Vestrup:

Are you the same Eric Vestrup who authored a text on measure theory that I plan on adding to my library? Posted by: Robert O’Brien at May 28, 2005 12:31 PM

Lydia,

I did hear that Sloan is out (I’m an alum), and that the new guy is different. But, did Sloan get fired or did he step down, technically?

I agree that the ID issue at Baylor has many sides to it, and many of them are no doubt pathetic. Yeah, there’s probably a little hysteria among some of the anti-ID crowd at Baylor. But, given that the academic merits and the political aspects of the ID movement are at least open to a good deal of debate there is probably some justification to worry that if the school is associated with ID they’ll look like crazy fundamentalists to the rest of the academic community and not be taken seriously. I don’t think it is all hysteria because no doubt to many outside Baylor the place will indeed look like it is run by fundamentalists if it is associated with ID. Of course, I don’t want to give anybody a pass for violating academic freedom either. Although to be completely honest, since the academic merits of ID are in question I find it a little troubling that much of the ID debate is framed in terms of an academic freedom issue. I’m just saying that it is a difficult issue, given the nature of the debates around ID and the culture at Baylor. It is almost as if the circumstances at Baylor and the issues with the ID movement have led to the paradoxical situation in which Baylor is threatening academic freedom (Beckwirth’s appointment) in order to save its academic reputation in the eyes of those outside the “Baylor bubble.” What a mess! Posted by: philosopundit at May 28, 2005 12:37 PM

Dr. Sloan did step down. He was not fired. What makes my case particularly odd is that my work on ID–as I stress in my letter–makes up a small portion of my work in social and political philosophy. Most of my work has been in applied ethics and philosophy of religion. My interest in ID and public education has much to do with my fascination with the way in which many of the questions in philosophy of science, philosophy of religion, and jurisprudence overlap. For example, Rawls’ call to state neutrality on issues metaphysical has much in common with the claim that science is apparently neutral on ultimate questions as well. I just find this stuff incredibly interesting.

A Christian university ought to be a place where a Christian philosopher of law should be able to explore these interesting questions with the support and encouragement of his peers, even if those peers are skeptical of the project. I fully understand why some of my colleagues at Baylor are uneasy about ID. But most of these guys are scientists and they are, frankly, not trained to deal with the philosophical questions that percolate beneath these debates. For this reason, they have no category for someone like me. I am not a fundamentalist, and never even flirted with creationism (though she did give me her number, but that’s another story. ;-)). In any event, as a Christian who believes that my theology is part of a knowledge tradition, I am interested in better understanding how that tradition intersects, and may conflict with, the deliverances of our leading academic disciplines. Because I think materialism as a worldview if false, and because I believe that things like souls, moral properties, minds, and numbers have ontological standing, it is important that I carry my epistemic weight and offer to those who are skeptical of my point of view a conceptual framework on how Christian theism fits in with the academic enterprise. Some of my brethren come to different conclusions than I do, and there some conclusions I don’t feel comfortable announcing because I have not even convinced myself. So, on the question of Darwinism and Chrsitian faith, I can live with theistic evolution in John Paul II’s sense (that is, God has explanatory power in the theory). However, on matters concerning the ulitmate nature of things, materialism is not very good at accounting for much of anything important, such as free agency, moral properties, personal continuity over time, intrinsic human dignity, purpose in life, etc.

When I came to Baylor, I wish people had just asked me to my face what I thought about these matters instead of trying to hurt and punish me for what they believe were past injustices committed against them.

I love Baylor. I’m in a great department. And things have been wonderful after the dust settled when I first arrived. I think the folks that wanted me reassigned are not bad people, but well-meaning alumni who are not accustomed to people like me who did not fit the Baptist-Bible-war paradigm. I am a half-Sicilian, Yankee, Brooklyn-born, Jesuit-trained, olive-skinned, evangelical, baptised-Catholic, Vegas-raised philosopher who went to law school. I am not your typical Central Texas resident.

I sort of regret posting my AAUP letter on Right Reason, since the events of Fall 2003 seem more like a distant dream than a present reality. But I thought that posting an easily accessible public record was in order. So, this is all I will say about this.

Peace.

Frank Posted by: Francis Beckwith at May 28, 2005 01:48 PM

Perhaps now would be a good time for me to ask about a hunch I have concerning materialism and ID. Maybe Dr. Beckwith can point me in the right direction or tell me if I’m on to something or not since he’s more familiar with ID than I am.

My main area of research is in recent European philosophy (esp. ethics, political philosophy), phenomenology and post-structuralism. Some of my work in this area has recently led me to complexity theory. I’ll spare you the whole story, but the short of it is that Deleuze and Guattari draw on complexity theory and the notion of self-organizing matter/energy in order to avoid determinism and vitalism while at the same time remaining materialists. It looks to me, primia facia, that this kind of perspective goes a long way towards agreeing with the ID protagonist that traditional accounts of materialism can’t account for the stuff it must, but that does not lead us to the conclusion that irreducilbe complexity is evidence of a design. It would just be evidence of self-organizing matter/energy. Does ID reject the possibility that self-organization is an inherent capacity of matter and energy? If so, how? I’m really new to the complexity theory stuff, and I don’t have a handle on anywhere close to all of it. But, it looks to me as if complexity theory answers the ID criticisms of materialism and shows that positing a designer is to overstep the evidence. Any help with this query would be greatly appreciated. I’d like to know ASAP if I’m chasing a rabbit with this line of thinking. Posted by: philosopundit at May 28, 2005 02:55 PM

Mr. O’Brien:

I am the same person who authored the Wiley text on measure theory, and I have the grey hairs, bleary eyes, and expanded waistline to show for it!

I’m not sure if Forrest claimed that evolutionary theory is the center of measure and integration theory, but I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody as incompetent as her made such a triumphalistic comment. I for one do not use Darwinism nor methodological naturalism in the textbook. =D

If you purchase the book, I hope it serves you well and is found to be clearly written. On the other hand, if you have any questions about the book before buying, you’re welcome to email me. Posted by: Eric Vestrup at May 28, 2005 04:57 PM

Dr. Beckwith,

Alas for your congenial academe illusion, you offered opinions favoring the legality of teaching what the courts have said is illegal to teach. Alas for you, it appears, you’re the closest thing to a real lawyer the ID folks have to make that erroneous argument.

I regret you did not realize the depths to which ID advocates would sink, that they’d have to put you up front as the key legal mind in their argumentative front.

If you wish to extract yourself, you could do it neatly by publishing a letter noting that all of your opinions are premised on the notion that there is, indeed, science to be found in “intelligent design” that would meet the court definitions of science, and that nothing you have said is operative until such a time as several courts agree that there is science there.

I would also advise you to stay away from testifying on things you now seem to say you don’t understand, before official bodies. Your testimony to the Texas State Board of Education was not billed by your friends as simply the rambling ideas of a gentleman philosopher who had no Earthly idea about the scientific veracity of intelligent design.

Otherwise, yeah, it’s hot in the kitchen. Your testimony has been used to try to destroy the science education of my kids, and I’m pretty hot about it. If that’s not your intent, get your spoon out of the crock and retreat to the dining room, or library.

>From those who are given great gifts are expected great contributions. If you don’t want to contribute, don’t clog up the hall. Posted by: Ed Darrell at May 31, 2005 03:18 PM

On the “legal aspects” of ID: Under well established law, it is illegal to teach stuff that is grounded primarily in religion, as science, in science classes. Until such time as ID produces serious science output, in science, that is accepted by most scientists in the field and which also meets the courts’ definitions of what is science, rather than junk science, it is illegal to teach ID in science classes.

It ain’t science if no one’s doing research. Can anyone show us the photos of the ID labs? Is there any output of science from any of these places?

No. So it ain’t science, and it’s not legal to teach it as science. Consequently, any school board that tried to do order its teaching would be subject to litigation, and would lose.

No attorney should advise a client any differently. No philosopher should pretend to offer different legal advice. Posted by: Ed Darrell at May 31, 2005 03:23 PM

Evolution doesn’t inform other sciences? Well, Mr. O’Brien, would you care to take Lord Kelvin’s position on the age of the Sun as calculated from its color, or Darwin’s position, as calculated from the present state of life on the planet?

Here’s a clue: See Rutherford’s biography, and the graceful way he let Lord Kelvin down. Posted by: Ed Darrell at May 31, 2005 04:25 PM

Ah, my regional Lex Luther, Ed Darrell, makes his appearance on Right Reason. He writes: “From those who are given great gifts are expected great contributions. If you don’t want to contribute, don’t clog up the hall.” Two observations. First, I am flattered that he would imply that I have great gifts. Does that mean that there is a great gift giver that I should thank? :-) Second, he seems to be saying that people with great gifts function properly when they use their gifts to make great contributions. But proper function is design language. I’m going tell Pandas Thumb on you. :-)

Ed, seriously, calm down. I have this image of you as Madilyn Murray O’Hare in drag. Please disabuse me of this disturbing mental picture.

Cheers, Frank Posted by: Francis Beckwith at May 31, 2005 06:59 PM

If it disturbs you, Frank, why would I want to disabuse you?

Yes, of course you have gifts – many and great. Thank the great gift giver, and quit trying to disclaim the great gift giver’s creation just because it doesn’t show the science you prefer. It wasn’t your turn to choose.

Okay, I’ll disabuse you. I’m not Lex Luther – I’ve no designs on evil empires, and you’re not Superman. Nor do I have as much in common with the late O’Hair as perhaps you do. You’re a lot closer to her haunts. I start from an assumption that God created the universe, and you’re stuck on the side that is promoting godless creationism – perhaps it is you who is doing the drag O’Hair?

Design is design. The question is whether the design needs constant shoring up from a sloppy or careless designer, or whether the design is robust enough that it can function on its own. We choose robust – that’s the evidence Darwin found. You argue for constant shoring up, but you can’t find any instances to illustrate your case.

Philosophy is one thing. Evidence is more stubborn. There are more things on heaven and Earth than are dreamed of in philosophy, and most of them testify to evolution. Posted by: Ed Darrell at May 31, 2005 09:05 PM

Frank,

You are young and talented, but it doesn’t matter where your gifts came from if you waste them campaigning for pseudoscience.

If theists are right and your talents are God-given then you’re wasting your God-given talents. If atheists are right, then you’re wasting a precious part of the one life you have on bullshit.

Either way, please stop.

It’s not clear to me how you got yourself into this mess – I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that your religious and philosophical predispositions led you to trust people who lied to you and let you down.

It’s tough to be wrong and easy to be in denial about it. My advice is to face up to the truth sooner, not later. You are obviously a sincere Christian, and should consider seriously the caution that Alan Orr delivers to the devout:

> Dembski, Behe and associates may in the end prove a thorn in the side > of not only biologists but also the devout. By promising devastating > objections to evolution but delivering half-baked technobabble that > disintegrates upon close inspection, they subject certain religious > persons to unnecessary and traumatic cycles of expectation and dashed > hope. The point is that all skirmishes involve risk of friendly fire > and the faithful will, sooner or later, have to ask who poses the > greater actual danger: those who merely suggest that life evolves or > those who routinely announce �proofs� of the handiwork of an > interventionist Designer�proofs that have, so far, been fantastically > flawed, noisily imploding almost immediately after their much > publicized debuts.

Ed Darrell suggests one face-saving exit for you that seems reasonable. Why not take it?

After that, anyone that criticizes you for a mistake you admit and disown really is on a witch hunt and deserves criticism.

Until then, you deserve criticism for promoting creationist nonsense. Posted by: Steven Thomas Smith at June 1, 2005 09:15 AM

I appreciate your concern for me. However, I am not going to pretend that I do not find this entire discussion–and its implications for questions of knowledge and law–fascinating and intriguing.

Steve: what is nonsense is to call anyone a creationist who harbors thoughtful doubts about philosophical and/or methodological naturalism. If that is what you are claiming, then anyone who believes that he or she has good reasons to believe that he or she knows that there exist nonmaterial entities is a “creationist?” This is an attempt to win an argument by ridicule rather than by reason. It is just as bad as those Christians who say that belief in evolution is equivalent to atheism. That is nonsense as well.

I have never promoted creationism, unless you define creationism as belief that God created the universe. But that would make all theists of whatever stripe “creationists,” including Ed Darrell and Ken Miller as well as folks like Polkinghorne and Owen Gingrich. Either creationism means something or it doesn’t. It can’t include everything remotely theistic without devolving into mere name-calling.

The term “witch hunt” is appropriate for all the reasons I outlined in my letter: the self-serving selection of facts, the insinuated, though not outright stated, claim that discretion rather than desert was the basis for my hiring, and so forth.

My work on ID, as I have stated ad infinitum, is very narrow and deals with a particular legal question that I find fascinating since it overlaps many of my philosophical interests: law, religion, politics. The fact that my conclusions are inconsistent with your cultural project is not my concern. The proper response is to offer counter-arguments to my legal case. Calling me a “creationist’ and trying to drive a wedge between me and my friends will not work.

Ed: I’m Clark Kent, not Superman. And my wife is kryptonite.

Frank Posted by: Francis Beckwith at June 1, 2005 10:24 AM

Frank,

With my own eyes I’ve seen you campaign for teaching creationism as science in public schools by citing widely debunked “evidence” for Intelligent Design creationism.

Whether or not you are actually a creationist or not matters little.

I expect that people on this board really like C.S. Lewis’s false trichotomy about Jesus – I’ve been trying hard to avoid applying Dawkins’ false trichotomy of “ignorant, stupid, insane (or wicked)” for people who disbelieve in evolution and allow for the possibility that you’re wrong but in denial.

Now that you’ve closed that alternative to me, what am I left to conclude? Would you please tell me exactly why you disbelieve in evolution?

Do you have any evidence for ID now, beyond the nonsense you already showed that appears in an index of creationist claims?

How did that make you feel when your foolish and pathetically bogus claims supporting ID, supplied to you by your “friends,” were identified publicly as fraudulent? Did you feel betrayed because you did not know that they are fraudulent, or did you know, but present them anyway?

Can you cite any evidence falsifying evolution?

Any at all?

Can you understand why it’s difficult to believe a person who says that their interest in ID is merely philosophical, but is an active member in an organization dedicated to “replacing” science with a “science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions�?

Are you even able to answer one of these questions directly?

Steve Posted by: Steven Thomas Smith at June 1, 2005 12:56 PM

But Steve, my worry is this: Most of us Christians view science as simple observation of God’s creation. What creation shows, is the truth.

When ID advocates talka about “replacing science” with something “consonant with Christian and theistic convictions,” I gotta worry about their premises. Evolution IS consonant with Christianity. What faith are they really talking about? Posted by: Ed Darrell at June 1, 2005 05:09 PM

“With my own eyes I’ve seen you campaign for teaching creationism as science in public schools by citing widely debunked “evidence” for Intelligent Design creationism.”

Steve, I was at the same event at which you heard me speak, and what you state is completely false. What I did was present the arguments offered by ID advocates with the disclaimer that I was not advancing or defending them, but simply showing what sorts of arguments are out there.

BTW, I have offered a detailed argument in my book and articles as to why ID is not creationism. In fact, at the even you attended, I did the same. Respond to those arguments instead of merely asserting your position.

Admittedly, design is a necessary condition for creationism, but not a sufficient one. So, every creationist believes in design, but not every ID advocate is a creationist. For example, Tiellard de Chardin held that the universe was intelligently designed to evolve, but he was no creationist.

Much of my case, as you recall, dealt with questions of philosophy of science and the nature of knowledge. In fact, a specific example I used was from the philosophy of mind, comparing two different arguments: one that attempts to show that mind is merely brain (and thus under some accounts “science”) and another that attempts to show that mind is immaterial (and thus under some accounts “religion”). What I argued is that if the argument for the latter is stronger than the former, does not it mean that we have a reasonable defeater to a materialist account of science and that the latter should not be dismissed because it is inconsistent with some metaphysical litmus test? That was my core illustration to show why trying to distinguishing science from non-science is a waste of time if the whole thing is a matter of arguments anyways. After all, what would we gain in saying materialist views of mind are science but not as rational to believe in than immaterialist views?

Steve, you listened to me with a cluster of prejudices. You did not listen with an open mind or an intent to learn something. Posted by: Francis Beckwith at June 1, 2005 10:01 PM

Frank,

Got it. No direct answer to any of these questions. And if you mean that I’m prejudiced against transparent, crank-headed absurdities, yes I am – you really got me there.

In my “prejudiced cultural project”, the United States ought not to base its education in competitive fields like science that affect our well-being and national defense on debunked chicanery like Intelligent Design creationism. But it’s a free country, and you may disagree with my wild-eyed ideas about basing our judgments on objective realities like the fact of evolution.

Your faulty style of argumentation is so common it even has a fancy Latin name attached to it: Ignoratio elenchi (also a favorite of Aristotle!).

Your MO is to run through a laundry list of fraudulent nonsense supporting ID, carefully ascribing the nonsense to selected “others”, then conclude that if the fraudulent nonsense is true, then it’s Constitutional to teach ID as science in public schools.

That’s exactly what you did in the presentation I saw, and that’s the truth. Your premises are false, and so is your conclusion.

On top of that, you expect me to believe that you’re just dealing with “questions of philosophy of science and the nature of knowledge” and hector me saying that an idea “should not be dismissed because it is inconsistent with some metaphysical litmus test”.

Give me a break. ID is dismissed because it fails to stand up to really simple logical and physical litmus tests, not because it may touch on the immaterial.

Show me the money. Do you have any evidence for ID now, beyond the fraudulent nonsense you already presented that appears in an index of creationist claims?

Intelligent Design really is creationism in a cheap tuxedo. Your fellow epistler Walter Bradley co-authored the 1984 creationist book _The Mystery of Life’s Origin_, and his creationist paper “The trustworthiness of scripture in areas relating to natural science” is online. Because creationism is not supported by any evidence at all (not too mention being downright absurd) as is religiously motivated, it was declared unconstitutional. So the creationist movement regrouped and rejiggered the words to eliminate mention of religion in the hope of sidestepping this constitutional roadblock. But the motivation for ID is entirely religious (e.g., the “wedge” document), and the evidence for ID is as equally vacant as that for creationism.

It just doesn’t sound as silly to lay-people to hold forth on absurdities like the “law of conservation of information” as does a 6,000 year-old-earth with people and dinosaurs running around together.

Your job in the wedge is to hold up the legal end. In spite of your effective and successful PR campaign, the truth will out, and your efforts are doomed to fail and are already turning to dust before your eyes. You could send your critics packing by citing any plausible evidence for ID, or falsifying evolution. But you can’t, so you just retreat to philosophical mumbo-jumbo.

Which gets me back to my questions:

How did that make you feel when your foolish and pathetically bogus claims supporting ID, supplied to you by your “friends,” were identified publicly as fraudulent? Did you feel betrayed because you did not know that they are fraudulent, or did you know, but present them anyway?

Can you cite any evidence for ID or falsifying evolution?

Any at all?

I’m looking forward to hear you answer just one of these questions.

Steve Posted by: Steven Thomas Smith at June 2, 2005 12:50 PM

Sigh.… Posted by: Francis J. Beckwith at June 2, 2005 02:26 PM

Frank, what is the philosophical justification for teaching junk to kids? Sure, one can make a case that some junk is constitutional to teach – but is there not a moral case to be made against it? Posted by: Ed Darrell at June 2, 2005 03:37 PM

I’m against teaching junk to kids. As a result of that, I am against begging the question and poisoning the wells, both of which are junky ways of reasoning. Posted by: Francis Beckwith at June 2, 2005 08:19 PM

Carol Wrote:

For your information the original Bible does not begin with your quote. Instead it reads: “In the Begining of God’s creation of heaven and earth… When the earth was.… Then God said…” Thus the first era describes the appearance of light only.

Fair enough. I admit I have not yet paid my $24.50 for these revelations.

Though I’m pretty sure light existed before the earth…and the sun…and all matter in the universe for that matter.…

AC,

And I agree with you about all those things and so does the Bible.

*blinks*

…it reads: “In the Begining of God’s creation of heaven and earth… When the earth was.… Then God said…”

If I’m reading this correctly, the translation that changes the first line does not change the order of events presented by Genesis. The earth is still extant (being without form, and void) before God says “Let there be light”. Whether this light is the mere presence of photons in the universe or the specific light from our sun, the “earth first” order is incorrect.

AC,

“Heaven and earth” refers to “all that exists” and is a phrase so employed frequently in the Bible. The reason Earth is mentioned at all is that the Bible is addressed to the humans on it. To these ordinary mortals the earth is a most important body indeed.

The second verse, properly translated, actually reads, “And the earth was…”, followed by “And God said.…” (In my haste in the previous post I was a bit careless with the words. You can double check the correct translation in Landa’s book. The first few pages are available for viewing FREE on Amazon.)

So the Bible is saying that in the beginning of God’s creation of all that exists, without specifying precisely when or at what stage of “the beginning”, the earth was unformed and void.… Apparently it wants that message conveyed. The earth was not always as it is these days. Then the Bible shifts to another development. The creation of light by the birth of a great number of stars in the early universe in a relatively short period of time (as compared to the rate today). Since the entire Bible is most definately not organized chronologically, there is no problem with this being out of chronological order.

And I agree with you about all those things and so does the Bible.

The Bible is a book, Carol. It doesn’t “agree” with anything. It just sits there on the table like any other book.

So the Bible is saying

The Bible is a book, Carol. It doesn’t “say” anything. It just sits there on the table like any other book.

And I’d sure like to know where the heck YOU got the Divine Authority to tell us mere mortals “what the Bible is saying” …

Once again, I thank Carol for demonstrating so clearly to all the lurkers that ID is religious apologetics. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.

And they are simply lying to us when they claim otherwise.

Comment # 62721

Carol Clouser Wrote:

Comment #62721 Posted by Carol Clouser on December 13, 2005 07:24 PM (e) (s) …Since the entire Bible is most definately not organized chronologically, there is no problem with this being out of chronological order.

Carol these stories imply a sequence of events. You interpret different meanings into the words or more precisely discard meaning to fix any known inconsistencies. Then you declare there are no inconsistencies. You may not see it but most of us find this a bit of a stretch. Given : The bible is supposed to be the “word of God”. That “God” supposedly wants all humans to know and understand the “word”. Why would the bible imply an order to event using words for us only to have to discard that order on the authority of people like you? Why should we care that you, and others, want to remove any inconsistencies of the “word of God” with general observations of the world?

If you are calling this a short coming of early Hebrew then I have to ask “Why did “God” have humans use early Hebrew to record “God’s” word? Why did “God” not have the first humans imbued with the knowledge of a language that is more descriptive and needs less interpretation? Did “God” speak Hebrew? Why did “God” not point out recording events in Hebrew, removing vowels and spaces, would be problematic in the future? For this was a time that “God” was apparently very interactive with the world.

Let me also thank you for, once again, pitching “the book”. Carol how about this. Find a book that is not published by the company you work for and use that as a reference or put a statement in any post you make referencing “the book” saying you work for the publisher in the interest of full disclosure. Claiming you don’t benefit from the sale of the book is like Lenny’s Pizza Boy claiming that he does not benefit from people buying pizza from Lenny’s favourite pizza bar.

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This page contains a single entry by Mike Dunford published on December 6, 2005 2:59 AM.

The scientific vacuity of Intelligent Design was the previous entry in this blog.

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