The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design Review: Why Should Words Have Meanings? (Chapter 1)

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Jonathan Wells (2006) The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design. Regnery Publishing, Inc. Washington, DC.Amazon

Read the entire series.

By titling his first chapter “Wars and Rumors”, Jonathan Wells invokes a snippet of scripture in which Jesus describes the end times

And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all [these things] must come to pass, but the end is not yet.

Wells uses such dramatic quotations and general martial language because the struggle between “intelligent design” and science is very much a culture war, at least to him and other creationists. In order to advance his thesis, Wells has to convey the idea that “Darwinism” pits itself against traditional Christianity: to allow pupils to learn it is to give them up to atheism, decadence, liberalism and to lose the culture war.

Note that Wells does not wage war against evolution. In fact, he is at pains to make it (somewhat) clear that he wages war against “Darwinism”, which in context might sound like the sort of thing any sensible Christian would want to guard against. Unfortunately, Wells isn’t exactly clear what he means by Darwinism as opposed to evolution. In this chapter and chapter fifteen, “Darwinism’s War on Traditional Christianity”, we find many references to “Darwinism”. Assuming that even creationist words have meaning, let us set those invocations in series while adjusting the language only to merge them syntactically. Presumably there is consistency of meaning, and this will hopefully help us gain a greater understanding of what this nasty Darwinism thing is.

“[There] is a fundamental conflict here [but] it is not between religion and science, or even between Christianity and evolution, but between traditional Christianity and Darwinism. Although the latter may allow for the existence of a deity, [that deity would not be] the God of traditional Christianity” (p. 173). Darwinism differs from evolution because it explains “the origin of not just one or a few species, but all species after the first—in short, all the diversity of life on Earth” (p. 3). Wells does not disagree with evolution itself or even its attendant conclusions of descent with modification or even perhaps common descent; his objection is that scientists haven’t found any direction to evolution (pp. 2,3,5). It is this failure to perceive direction in evolution that defines Darwinism, which might be considered unguided or undirected evolution (p. 6). This distinction between evolution and “Darwinism” is quite important because at some point after Darwin published his work, “Darwinism declared war on traditional Christianity” (p. 170).

Did You Know?

  • No scientific society has endorsed “intelligent design” as science.
  • Most scientists view “intelligent design” as religion.
  • Under oath “intelligent design” activists believe that ID is at best fringe science.
  • But Wells also writes, “[Intelligent] design is compatible with some aspects of Darwinian evolution” (p. 8). Note that he did not write “evolution” but “Darwinian evolution”, presumably “Darwinism”. According to the stated definition on page six, Darwinism requires a component of undirectedness or unguidedness—the idea that any apparent design must be illusory—to distinguish itself from mere evolution. So intelligent design, a philosophical perspective that makes evolution compatible with “Traditional Christianity” by imputing design and direction to its inputs or outcomes, is compatible with perspectives of evolution that declared war on “Traditional Christianity” and considers any perceived design in the outcomes of evolution illusory.

    Confused yet?

    One gets the distinct impression that, despite the time Wells spent pondering the material in his book, a better working definition for Darwinism would have been, “everything about evolution to which creationists like me object”. This definition, unlike the one Wells offers, at least would have made sense in context.

    Easily, one of the prominent faults of Wells’s screed is a pervasive confusion between terms. Words, like “Darwinism” and “Traditional Christianity”, seem to mean whatever Wells wants them to mean for that specific sentence. In many cases words are used without regard for his own stated definitions and usually without regard to usage elsewhere in his book. There are several possible reasons for this confusion in terms. First, Wells confusion may be by design. I have argued elsewhere that creationists intend to confuse their audiences when they argue. Second, if you review the acknowledgements page, you’ll read how Wells used many authors to help him prepare this text. It is possible that Wells’s editorship was so insufficient that he allowed a term that makes up part of the book’s very title to have a flexible meaning. My suspicion is that there was both disparity between the understanding of key terms by different authors as well as an intention to confuse.

    Wells doesn’t spend a great deal of time defining intelligent design. This is in keeping with creationist strategy. As federal Judge John E. Jones III of the Middle District of Pennsylvania noted:

    ID’s backers have sought to avoid the scientific scrutiny which we have now determined that it cannot withstand by advocating that the controversy, but not ID itself, should be taught in science class.

    Wells does not actually define “intelligent design” and thus does not lock “intelligent design” down into a form that could actually be scrutinized. Instead he chooses to list to list a few things “worth noting” about “intelligent design”. Throughout chapters one and fifteen, Wells defends ID creationism as the sort of thing that “traditional Christians” should support. But in this section, presumably in an effort to accommodate the obvious imperfections in biological structures or the lack of justice or beneficence in competing organisms, Wells writes, “ID does not claim that the design must be optimal; something may be designed, even if it is flawed. When automobile manufacturers recall defective vehicles, they are showing that those vehicles were badly designed, not that they were undesigned” (p. 8). We here at the Thumb support Wells’s freedom to believe in a God or gods of his choosing, but we aren’t so sure that the consideration of God as incompetent is a feature of “Traditional Christian” beliefs. This is yet another example of words meaning whatever Wells wants them to mean.

    The real meaning of “intelligent design”, for the most part, is left unclear. Again, this is likely by design, since it is in keeping with creationist strategy:

    One consistency among the Dover School Board members’ testimony, which was marked by selective memories and outright lies under oath, as will be discussed in more detail below, is that they did not think they needed to be knowledgeable about ID because it was not being taught to the students.

    Indeed a popular talking point by creationists is that they need not necessarily have an alternative to “Darwinism” in order to know that “Darwinism” is wrong. (c.f. Jeremy Paxman’s interview with Ann Coulter around 2:00: “I can be a restaurant critic without opening up a restaurant.”)

    Darwin considered that the evolution that he was noting in organisms affected humans as well and that man had a phylogenetic history just like the beetles he was studying. It is instructive that this is likely Wells’s biggest objection against Darwin. Wells quotes Darwin as writing,

    There seems to be no more design in the variability of organic beings, and in the action of natural selection, than in the course which the winds blow. [Although] I cannot look at the universe as the result of blind chance, yet I can see no evidence of beneficent design, or indeed design of any kind, in the details.

    The reader will recall Darwin’s previous intention to become a country pastor and his schooling in the ministry (short as it was) and impute sorrow to the words Darwin wrote above. Darwin mourned the lack of evidence of design in the evolution he discovered. Like all scientists with the courage to discard a favored hypothesis, Darwin had to admit to himself that which he would have preferred to not: there was no evidence of design in the world he was observing and measuring with the tools of science and what happened to the beetles and orchids was happening and had happened to humans and to our progenitor species as well.

    The idea that man is an animal must be offensive to Wells, who appears not to tolerate any view of our specie’s emergence other than an immaculate conception. What was Darwin’s fault according to Wells? “He set out to explain the origin of not just one or a few species, but all the species after the first.” What a scoundrel that Darwin was! One can almost hear Wells saying to himself, “Had Darwin simply stopped at beetles or orchids, that would have been one thing. But to suggest that even humans share a deep kinship with all the living things on the planet or that man is an animal as well? That’s just beyond the pale.”

    Perhaps instead of reading Genesis 1 so much, Wells should have read Ecclesiastes 3.

    Tune in tomorrow, when PZ Myers deals a mortal blow to Jonathan Wells’s thoughts on embryos and development. (How may mortal blows can one hack take?) Those who visit Pharyngula know that PZ has already posted this portion of the review over there and the Thumb is poised to simply re-air his essay. Now you know what life is like on the West Coast.

    3 TrackBacks

    Burt's write-up of Wells' first chapter of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design is up at The Panda's Thumb. PZ's also re-posted his review of Chapter 3 at PT; link here.... Read More

    Jonathan Wells (2006) The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design. Regnery Publishing, Inc. Washington, DC.Amazon Synopsis: One thing is for sure, Jonathan Wells is too modest. His recently published, The Politically Incorrect ... Read More

    Over on The Panda’s Thumb a number of writers are reviewing the new book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design. I haven’t read the book. I should, but I probably won’t get to it for two or three months.... Read More

    52 Comments

    After being hit left and right when they tried to make a foray into “science”, the IDiots are now left out in the cold playing silly word games.

    *snicker*

    The idea that man is an animal must be offensive to Wells, who appears not to tolerate any view of our species’s emergence other than an immaculate conception.

    Is there anything specific which leads you to conclude that this in particular is the sticking point behind Wells objection to evolution explaining “all the species after the first”?

    Wells’ apparent definition of “Darwinism” is truly bizarre. So evolution is okay, as long as it isn’t “directionless”? By what mechanism could evolution be any other way? And why is directionlessness so automatically incompatible with “the God of traditional Christianity”? It seems to me the only thing it is incompatible with is a strictly literal reading of Genesis 1 and 2. Are we supposed to believe these two things are the same thing? St. Augustine seems to have been pretty uncomfortable with the idea that the “days” in Genesis 1 were literally a day long each; is Augustinian Catholicism thus incompatible with “the God of traditional Christianity”? Also, why exactly is “directionless”ness specifically identified with the name of Charles Darwin? Is the implication that Lamarckian evolution would be okay?

    Should ‘traditional Christians’ support Wells’s advocacy of the Reverend Moon?

    Should ‘traditional Christians’ support Wells’s advocacy of the Reverend Moon?

    Why not? Jesus supports Moon. In fact, Jesus even went to the trouble of signing an affidavit affirming Moon as Savior-Emperor of the world or some such.

    “Directionless” evolution is objectional to Wells for one reason only: it makes god unnecessary. That’s all he wants–one gap for his god to reside in. One momumental puzzler in which every man, woman, and child on the planet must throw up their hands and say “this can only have been caused by god.”

    Too bad his god, if he exists, left no such trace. God as a hypothesis is irrelevant, and my how that disturbs him so.

    Andrew McClure wrote: >>Is there anything specific which leads you to conclude that this in particular is the sticking point behind Wells objection to evolution explaining “all the species after the first”?

    Yes. Wells knows that even the young earth creationist community supports the idea of descent with modification and natural selection. Even if they didn’t, Wells thinks that those aspects of evolution need to be intellectually isolated from the more troubling aspects of evolution because they are more obvious, straightforward, or something. So, Wells goes on about how this or that narrow aspect of evolution is okay, as long as it is within species or limited or whatever. Then he drops the quote about Darwin about how he didn’t just try to find the origin of one or two species, but all the species of the world. Horrors! A concept that worked for one organism worked for all of them and sauce for the goose was sauce for the gander!

    Stephen Carr wrote: Should ‘traditional Christians’ support Wells’s advocacy of the Reverend Moon?

    Dude, you are so totally scooping my review of Chapter 15: Darwinism’s War on Traditional Christianity. (My review has been written for the better part of a week and I’m going to have to wait until we get to Chapter fif-freaking-teen before I can point this out.

    But great minds think alike!

    H. Humburt wrote: “Directionless” evolution is objectional to Wells for one reason only: it makes god unnecessary… Too bad his god, if he exists, left no such trace. God as a hypothesis is irrelevant, and my how that disturbs him so.”

    I disagree with this, unless you’re saying the logical and straightforward thing that to science, the God hypothesis is irrelevant. We humans are free to find all kinds of importance in things that may not necessarily be useful in terms of explaining and predicting observations in the natural world, i.e. doing science. John Edwards took his wife to Wendy’s on their anniversary and Wendy’s is special for them because it was the location of their first date. (Or something.)

    Human beings will be happier - not when they cure cancer or get to Mars or eliminate racial prejudice or flush Lake Erie but when they find ways to inhabit primitive communities again. That’s my utopia. ~Kurt Vonnegut

    Who also said if ‘god’ were alive today ‘he’ would be an atheist.

    Just an off topid question…what else does Well’s deny.

    I recommend to get the book, as I did. It’s a great catalog of Disco talking points. Make your own notes on some chapters ahead of The Thumb just to see the comparison.

    The first person who used the term “evolution” to describe the progress of a “scala naturae” (geat chain of being) was Charles Bonnet a French neurologist of the early 18th century who was a natural philosopher and concurrent with Leclerc (Comte de Buffon). His complex ladder of progress was highly directional and progressive and very much reflected the original meaning of evolution which implied God intervening movement to preordained perfection. This is why Darwin resisted the use the term preferring the word “transmutation” which I think came originally from Lamarck whose scheme was also progressive but involved environmental mechanisms as well as God-given drives to complexity and spontaneous generation. Since ID advocates are so enamored with the 18th century and believe that American high school children need to be scientifically educated to compete in this century should it ever come back again it is no surprise that their resistance to “evolution” is much less than to “Darwinism”.

    Although slightly OT, I can recommend the clip of Jeremy Paxton interviewing the hideous Ann Coulter (cited above). First question: “I’ve read chapter 1 of your book. Does it get any better?” Like Wells, she doesn’t see it necessary to provide an alternative to evolution to overthrow it: unfortunately for the creationists that is exactly what they must do before we take them for anything other than the Christian apologists they are.

    Seems like a further retreat from saying anything at all specific: They concede that maybe some species evolved from others, but insist that something, we can’t say what, was designed, not necessarily very well, and they can’t say by whom.

    The ironic thing about the history of Creationism/ID is that as it has attempted to take on more and more of the trappings of science, it has become less and less scientific. Young Earth Creationism was actually a real scientific theory—it made all sorts of predictions about things like the age of rocks, the source of fossils, etc. They were wrong predictions, to be sure, but at least they were real predictions. “Scientific” Creationism at least predicted something like perfection of design, but it left them struggling to explain how the panda’s thumb and the backwards orientation of the vertebrate retina were really examples of design perfection that we poor humans are just too stupid to appreciate. But with ID, they seem to finally have completed the evolution of Creationism from science to pure propaganda, having finally extirpated the last vestige of scientific content.

    Wells is the member of a cult that believes that Rev. Moon is the Messiah. That also is not compatible with traditional Christianity (though it has apparently been acceptable to evangelical Christians interested in Moon’s money, like Tim LaHaye and Jerry Falwell).

    As I recall, Wells’s “second denial” was to join up on Peter Duesberg’s list of people who dispute that the HIV virus is the cause of AIDS.

    “is Augustinian Catholicism thus incompatible with “the God of traditional Christianity”?”

    According to literalists, yes. Only THEY have the correct interpretation of scripture - and it’s in Jacobean English.

    Burt Humburg wrote:

    I disagree with this, unless you’re saying the logical and straightforward thing that to science, the God hypothesis is irrelevant.

    I said god as a hypothesis is irrelevent, meaning there is never any need invoke him as an explanation for any phenomena.

    Yes, there shall probably always remain an emotional desire to worship something larger than themselves in some segment of the population, but that is incidental to the point I was making.

    Why do you think fundies like Wells attack science? I propose that it is precisely because it has no need of his diety. It can get along quite nicely without having to rely on his all-powerful god, thank you very much. Science allows one the possibility of being, as Dawkins put it, an intellectually satisfied atheist. And that possibility is unacceptable for Wells. For him, that’s the unthinkable danger. A god that isn’t required to explain the creation of all things is a diminished god, a largely superfluous god.

    Of course, scientific theories don’t contribute in any way to one’s emotional satisfaction, which is where you rightly point out belief in god may still play a role. Apparently that fact does little to comfort the fundies.

    The notion of God as incompetent may not be a feature of “Traditional Christian” beliefs, but it does seem to be a feature of the teachings of Moon. Wells doesn’t promote just ID; he promotes a specific view of the Designer that supports his own personal religious views, views that would likely be deeply offensive to most “Traditional Christians” if they understood what he is saying.

    Why do your reviewers find it necessary to resort to so may half truths and distortions to refute his arguments. You would do better to stick with the science. If the facts are on your side stick with the facts and cut out the bullshit.

    Why do your reviewers find it necessary to resort to so may half truths and distortions

    Name one.

    So a guy who’s a member of the Unification Church is talking traditional Christianity? Truly rich.

    I’ve wondered if playing up Well’s association with Moon would be a useful tactic - to indicate that a man who talks about Christianity doesn’t follow what most Americans would consider traditional.

    I don’t notice any trackbacks on any of these threads to UD or AIG or ICR denouncing the idiocy of this program.

    Did the Discovery Institute make a clear stance about how this is just so much piffle?

    I must have missed it. Did Dembski post anything on UD denouncing Kennedy’s clatptrap?

    no… instead we find William “WD40” Dembski, saying things like this:

    The outrage which says that the Nazi racial theory is a vulgarization of Darwinism is simply unmerited. The Nazis took Darwinian theory and ran with it, much as Peter Singer does these days, though Singer and his disciples are careful not to bring race into the picture — they take an equal opportunity approach in advocating the elimination of human lives they deem defective or inconvenient.

    right. So much for “intelligent” design, eh Dembski? here we see william not only taking Kennedy’s idiotic thesis to heart, but even goes a step further, and has the gall to suggest that evolutionary “still” (as if it EVER did) promotes eugenics in science.

    In case it wasn’t obvious to the lurkers, I do hope any idiot can now see where Dembski’s bread is buttered.

    So who is worse, an ignorant bigot like Kennedy spouting this claptrap, or someone who supposedly has multiple degrees saying something even more heinously stupid.

    I vote for Dembski actually being the worse of the two offenders.

    all in favor?

    oops, sorry, that should have gone on the Kennedy thread.

    Larry Vescara wrote: >>Why do your reviewers find it necessary to resort to so may half truths and distortions to refute his arguments. You would do better to stick with the science. If the facts are on your side stick with the facts and cut out the bullshit.

    I’m with Wesley, Larry. Name one.

    Because I note that you could have written those words without even reading the essay. There is no indication in your words alone that you were referring to my work and not to, say, Oliver Stone’s JFK.

    Pick an issue and let’s discuss it. Otherwise, you don’t have a leg to stand on.

    BCH

    “The reader will recall Darwin’s previous intention to become a country pastor and his schooling in the ministry (short as it was) and impute sorrow to the words Darwin wrote above. Darwin mourned the lack of evidence of design in the evolution he discovered. Like all scientists with the courage to discard a favored hypothesis, Darwin had to admit to himself that which he would have preferred to not: there was no evidence of design in the world he was observing and measuring with the tools of science and what happened to the beetles and orchids was happening and had happened to humans and to our progenitor species as well.”

    I think the advances in science after the death of Darwin actually make the design argument harder to refute. Darwin himself was unaware of the difficulties of attributing all design to natural selection. Quoting a 150 year scientist, no matter how renowned, isn’t an accurate representation of the state of the evidence today due to the rapidly increasing pool of scientific knowledge. I think the current state of evidence is as what former Atheist Antony Flew observed just a few years ago:

    “I think that the most impressive arguments for God’s existence are those that are supported by recent scientific discoveries… I think the argument to Intelligent Design is enormously stronger than it was when I first met it…

    …It seems to me that Richard Dawkins constantly overlooks the fact that Darwin himself, in the fourteenth chapter of The Origin of Species, pointed out that his whole argument began with a being which already possessed reproductive powers. This is the creature the evolution of which a truly comprehensive theory of evolution must give some account. Darwin himself was well aware that he had not produced such an account. It now seems to me that the finding of more than fifty years of DNA research have provided materials for a new and enormously powerful argument to design.”

    We live in a changing world. I think that support of Intelligent Design will get stronger, and may eventually overthrow the current dominating sceintific paradigm of Naturalism. As some people say, “Science is self-correcting”. We should just come to whatever conclusion the evidence suggests.

    [We should just come to whatever conclusion the evidence suggests.]

    So, where is all your so-called evidence to support your raving gibberish above? Why wasn’t there any evidence for ‘design’ at the trials where the IDiots got their asses publicly kicked over and over again?

    >>We live in a changing world. I think that support of Intelligent Design will get stronger, and may eventually overthrow the current dominating sceintific paradigm of Naturalism.

    Naah. With every scientific discovery, we end up with more questions than answers, and that is the beauty and not the curse of science.

    Think about fossils. Two organisms, A and C, are known. Creationist says, “How did A become C? Haha!” Then scientist finds fossil B. Then creationist says, “How did A become B or B become C? Haha!”

    So it is with ID. Twenty years ago, I guess, we didn’t know diddly about the flagellum. Because we didn’t know about it, it was design. Then we learned that it has a portion that works well as a hypodermic (well, hypomembranic) needle. Because we didn’t know about the origin of *that*, it was design.

    Science has a well-recognized history of taking these little creationist challenges and overcoming them. Of note, seldom are these challenges taken on because a creationist challenged them to answer a particular question. Rather, the answers arise in the normal day-to-day business of science. I’m sure the authors who described Pakacetus didn’t even know who Behe was, but when they did with his idea that the lack of transitional fossils in whale lineages represents intelligent design what Schwartzkopf did with the Iraq military in Desert Storm, they were just doing their jobs.

    Your perspectives that with time and as new mysteries are revealed ID will strengthen is ahistorical. We might salvage your proposition by pointing out that ID creationism does tend to dwell in ignorance. Thus, as we learn more and more about the world, and ask many more questions than we even knew to ask, ID creationism will always exist as an excuse to not do the hard work of science. It will always be more simple to (I’m writing this as a theist) mindlessly invoke GODDIDDIT as your answer.

    I think that’s unbecoming of scientists who are Christians, at least to the extent they are trying to do science.

    BCH

    We should just come to whatever conclusion the evidence suggests.

    The evidence suggests evolution.

    All ID, creationism, FSI and all the other anti-evolution pseudo-science has ever had is the argument that evolution can’t explain little detail X.

    But none of them has ever provided positive evidence of their position.

    You know what? You don’t need every little detail to know you’re right.

    Decoding the laws of nature is like putting together a puzzle without seeing the box.

    In the beginning, you have few pieces and you have no idea what puzzle looks like. That piece you hold might legitimately be a coconut on a palm tree or a polar bear’s eye, and people can have an honest argument about it.

    But eventually you have enough pieces that you know what you’re looking at. You might still be in for a surprise or two, but there’s enough of the picture that any honest observer can tell that we’re looking at the view from a tropical island, and not fall in New England or polar bears in the snow.

    Especially since new pieces come in all the time, and every single one of them is the color of an ocean, palm tree, or sand.

    Show me a piece with one single clear golden maple leaf, or shut up about evidence.

    Ahh, Wing|esS, ever trying to fly, forever flopping flat on his mush. Maybe if you keep working on that ‘natural selection’ thingy, you may one day. ;)

    “I wish I could fly - right up to the sky, but I can’t.” - Orville.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/comedy/littleb[…]/orville.jpg

    I think that support of Intelligent Design will get stronger, and may eventually overthrow the current dominating sceintific paradigm of Naturalism.

    Waterloo !!!!! Waterloo !!!!! Waterloo !!!!!!!

    I, uh, wouldn’t hold my breath waiting if I were you, Wing|ess.

    Geez, if I had a dollar for every fundie nutter who’s preached the imminent end of evolutionary science, I could retire to the Bahamas by now.

    Wing|esS Wrote:

    Darwin himself was unaware of the difficulties of attributing all design to natural selection.

    Have you read the Origin? Enumerating and dealing honestly with those difficulties takes up a large fraction of the book.

    Quoting a 150 year scientist, no matter how renowned, isn’t an accurate representation of the state of the evidence today due to the rapidly increasing pool of scientific knowledge.

    Precisely. So Jonathan Wells shouldn’t have tried to present it as such, should he?

    I think the current state of evidence is as what former Atheist Antony Flew observed just a few years ago:

    “I think that the most impressive arguments for God’s existence are those that are supported by recent scientific discoveries… I think the argument to Intelligent Design is enormously stronger than it was when I first met it.…..It seems to me that Richard Dawkins constantly overlooks the fact that Darwin himself, in the fourteenth chapter of The Origin of Species, pointed out that his whole argument began with a being which already possessed reproductive powers. This is the creature the evolution of which a truly comprehensive theory of evolution must give some account. Darwin himself was well aware that he had not produced such an account. It now seems to me that the finding of more than fifty years of DNA research have provided materials for a new and enormously powerful argument to design.”

    You mean the Antony Flew who’s a philosopher, not a scientist, and later wrote,

    “I now realize that I have made a fool of myself by believing that there were no presentable theories of the development of inanimate matter up to the first living creature capable of reproduction.”

    and wrote of the authority he relied on for this claim,

    “I have been mistaught by Gerald Schroeder.…it was precisely because he appeared to be so well qualified as a physicist (which I am not) that I was never inclined to question what he said about physics.”

    That one?

    We live in a changing world. I think that support of Intelligent Design will get stronger, and may eventually overthrow the current dominating sceintific paradigm of Naturalism. As some people say, “Science is self-correcting”. We should just come to whatever conclusion the evidence suggests.

    Yes.

    We should pre-empt the conclusion.

    Then claim the evidence suggests it.

    I think that support of Intelligent Design will get stronger

    So you think that; so what? Do you have evidence to support your expectation?

    So evolution is okay, as long as it isn’t “directionless”? By what mechanism could evolution be any other way? And why is directionlessness so automatically incompatible with “the God of traditional Christianity”?

    Because, Andrew, directionlessness depends upon the contingencies of circumstance (random mutation, time-lag, etc.).

    This is, in essence, the bugaboo for the ID advocates. Dembski, upon hearing a statement about randomness by Persi Diaconis (“We know what randomness isn’t, not what it is,”) had his epiphany that randomness is derivative of design, design being for him the more fundamental concept. Design is all about explaining, or at least putting into a larger context, randomness.

    Wells, Dembski, and Behe argue that randomness is only apparent, and that design, which Dawkins argues is only apparent, in fact isn’t.

    That’s the issue. Now, why is this the issue?

    I have heard plenty a theologian state that randomness could be built into the universe by a Creator. That apparently is neither emotionally satisfying nor theologically correct (notice how quickly we slip from “science”) for Wells & Co., but I can’t exactly discern why. I do think, at least in Dembski’s case, that ID is a sort of mysticism for him, by which he seeks to understand God’s mind, or at least to make neato discoveries, along the lines of chaos theory perhaps.

    He’s barking up the wrong tree, of course; randomness is no more “derivative” of design than turbulence is derivative of engineering. I see no reason why randomness in mutation or in environmental change should lead to so-called “purposelessness” or “meaninglessness” in one’s personal life, but that is how it is articulated for the average reader (for whom this book was written, and who really couldn’t care less about science except as a rubber-stamp for personal issues). All of this has nothing to do with the scientific validity (or lack thereof) of Wells’ argument, but is shoe-horned in along with their “science” by the fear-mongering/guilt-trip so readily employed by these people.

    “First, Wells confusion may be by design. I have argued elsewhere that creationists intend to confuse their audiences when they argue.”

    Not unlike yourself, I might add. So far, you have been about as clear as primordial soup.

    “We here at the Thumb support Wells’s freedom to believe in a God or gods of his choosing, but we aren’t so sure that the consideration of God as incompetent is a feature of “Traditional Christian” beliefs. This is yet another example of words meaning whatever Wells wants them to mean.”

    “Incompetence” is your interpretation primarily b/c your understanding of God and theology is so limited.

    “Indeed a popular talking point by creationists is that they need not necessarily have an alternative to “Darwinism” in order to know that “Darwinism” is wrong.”

    Kind of like the Democrats constant criticisms of the “war on terror” but their utter lack of any substantial solutions and/or alternative defense.

    Well, that’s about all that I can take this evening.

    Well, that’s about all that I can take this evening.

    Yet another good reason to be thankful for a diurnal cycle and this battered old globe’s rotation.

    I’m an engineer perpetually rejected as a juror because I’m too logical, with a Ph.D., meaning I am a non-expert but have a passion for science and rational thought. Anyway, my objection to ID is that a super-intelligent being could not have designed a violent, superstitious and cannibalistic species like homo sapiens. Why would God assert herself by purposefully modifying evolution in order to end up with flawed creatures - and then put them at risk with bacteria, viruses, prions etc. ? I think the Christian creationists need to admit that their God is malevolent before they push ID. Either that, or allow the devil equal time in the ID game. The Vatican cleverly sidestepped the issue by allowing scientists to study and draw conclusions freely about the reality created by their God. That’s too smart for the ID dummies.

    Secondly, I don’t understand the singular focus on Christian creationism and ID vs. evolution. There is a pretty detailed creation story in Hinduism as well, but you don’t see Hindus getting all worked up over evolution. I think part of the problem is that everyone in the Christian tradition - including the scientists - insists on literal truth of the written word. On both sides (science and ID) there can only be absolute truth, or that lack of it. Why can’t there be partial truth in each camp? Or why can’t the two approaches be alternate (but not necessarily equally valid or equally useful) explanations of the same thing? That would be a Hindu strategy. Anyway, my point is that I can see merit in mentioning - and debunking - ID in science class.

    Name one.

    Conflating ID with Creationism.

    “Conflating ID with Creationism.”

    ‘cdesign proponentsists.’

    Heck, what am I worried about, after all, nobody said it.

    Subhash Garg Wrote:

    Secondly, I don’t understand the singular focus on Christian creationism and ID vs. evolution. There is a pretty detailed creation story in Hinduism as well, but you don’t see Hindus getting all worked up over evolution.

    You do occasionally.

    I think part of the problem is that everyone in the Christian tradition - including the scientists - insists on literal truth of the written word. On both sides (science and ID) there can only be absolute truth, or that lack of it. Why can’t there be partial truth in each camp?

    Science never assumes absolute truth (well, individual scientists may occasionally think they have such, but their colleagues don’t let them get away with it); only an empirically-guided gradual approach to truth. ID may be true, certainly, but no one’s shown how you could empirically verify this; hence it has little relevance to science class.

    It is my persoanl belief that before anyone totally disenvows the idea of creation, he/she should take time to study the bible and its’ history. The bible, translated from the deadsea scrolls, was written by 400 men over a period of 1600 years, and here is the kicker. Every part of scripture points to two main ideas. Either looking forward to the coming of the CHRIST or looking back on the life of CHRIST. In each instance by each writer, there is a hint of the creation account.

    What is th likelyhood of 400 men, talking about the same (idea) and having it all intertwine to tell the same story? Most scientist can’t even do that on carbon dating, which is just a viscious cycle of reasoning. Think about it for a minute. To say that a fossil can be accurately dated by the layer it is found in, and then they say they can know the date of the layer by the fossil found in it. That my friends is circular reasoning if I ever saw it.

    But creation is told in the same sequence of events each time you read it in the scriptures. One more thing for those who might be interested. Check out this web site.…drdino.com , or creationscienceevangelism.com

    Thank you for your time.

    It is my persoanl belief that before anyone totally disenvows the idea of creation, he/she should take time to study the bible and its’ history. The bible, translated from the deadsea scrolls, was written by 400 men over a period of 1600 years, and here is the kicker. Every part of scripture points to two main ideas. Either looking forward to the coming of the CHRIST or looking back on the life of CHRIST. In each instance by each writer, there is a hint of the creation account.

    What is th likelyhood of 400 men, talking about the same (idea) and having it all intertwine to tell the same story? Most scientist can’t even do that on carbon dating, which is just a viscious cycle of reasoning. Think about it for a minute. To say that a fossil can be accurately dated by the layer it is found in, and then they say they can know the date of the layer by the fossil found in it. That my friends is circular reasoning if I ever saw it.

    But creation is told in the same sequence of events each time you read it in the scriptures. One more thing for those who might be interested. Check out this web site.…drdino.com , or creationscienceevangelism.com

    Thank you for your time.

    this site sucks!!!!

    –but only because evolutionary science abhors the vacuous.

    It is my persoanl belief that before anyone totally disenvows the idea of creation, he/she should take time to study the bible and its’ history.

    And remember that creation ‘science’ doesn’t have anything to do with religion. No siree Bob. It’s just them lying atheist darwinists (and activist judges) who say it does.

    (snicker) (giggle)

    I love watching creationists shoot themselves in the head.

    They are utter idiots, all.

    Alex has convinced me that evolution makes no sense and creationism is the way to go. Thank you Alex for the clearing that up for me. The depth and precision of your arguments is truly breathtaking.

    highlander Wrote:

    It is my persoanl belief that before anyone totally disenvows the idea of creation, he/she should take time to study the bible and its’ history.

    Darwin did, and so did I. Are we excused now?

    How about all the scientists who continue to believe in creation, but don’t think the Bible provides a literal description of it? Are they excused?

    The bible, translated from the deadsea scrolls, was written by 400 men over a period of 1600 years, and here is the kicker. Every part of scripture points to two main ideas. Either looking forward to the coming of the CHRIST or looking back on the life of CHRIST. In each instance by each writer, there is a hint of the creation account.

    Er, the Dead Sea Scrolls were written by Essene Jews, and don’t seem to have much of anything to do with Jesus.

    What is th likelyhood of 400 men, talking about the same (idea) and having it all intertwine to tell the same story? Most scientist can’t even do that on carbon dating, which is just a viscious cycle of reasoning. Think about it for a minute. To say that a fossil can be accurately dated by the layer it is found in, and then they say they can know the date of the layer by the fossil found in it. That my friends is circular reasoning if I ever saw it.

    No.

    Haa, you guys make me laugh! One day you’ll see the truth. In the words of Malcolm Muggridge, “I myself am convinced that the theory of evolution, especially to the extent it’s been applied, will be one of the great jokes in history books of the future.” and Ernst B. Chain, nobel prize winner in physiology “I would rather believe in fairies than in such wild speculation.”.

    I preface with: I believe in Evolution! Not only that, I love the idea. It gives me comfort. Many of people’s comments here pretty intellectual, and above my head. Ergo, natural selection… as I won’t be able to keep up with any convoluted argument. My personal viewpoint is that Evolution has direction, just no apparent direction or “end-point” in mind. It seems that it is Mutation that is directionless. Changes in genetic structure may cause chemical or physical changes that that are Either good or bad in one’s environment. Survival of the Fittest / Natural Selection allows traits to be repeated in subsequent generations that best allow species to survive in one or in numerous environments. Changing environments probably induce the greatest selective pressure. What makes Evolution appear to have direction… We can see the value of characteristics as selected for in the past, in the same way as the proverbial “Monday-Morning Quarterback”.

    Is it just me…or do most of you take it on faith that evolution is indeed flawless? Or are each and every one of you doctorial candidates in biology? Just wondering…I mean since you have such a dismal view on people who have views other than your own, one would wonder where you yourselves formed your views? certainly not on “faith” in what you’ve read, right? You’ve all done actual study into evolutionary theory beyond reading i in a book, yes?

    It’s just you.

    Bill said

    Is it just me…or do most of you take it on faith that evolution is indeed flawless? Or are each and every one of you doctorial candidates in biology? Just wondering…I mean since you have such a dismal view on people who have views other than your own, one would wonder where you yourselves formed your views? certainly not on “faith” in what you’ve read, right? You’ve all done actual study into evolutionary theory beyond reading i in a book, yes?

    Bill, the difference between faith in an aspect of science and faith in a particular religion is that in science you can be shown why things are believed to be true and, if you don’t believe it, you can confirm the information for yourself. Admittedly to be convinced of the reality of a top quark or an electron transport chain in photosynthesis may require at least average intelligence and years of study, possibly including original observations, but in principle it is accessible.

    By contrast, no-one can show you why you should believe their particular god and nobody can share their religious experiences with another (although that does not stop people from talking about them at great length). In fact, most people can’t even describe their god in detail. In the end, all there is is faith.

    You seem to take the attitude that science is a matter of ‘views’ on a topic. Although there is certainly room for different views in areas where there is little evidence, once information becomes available the room for differing views becomes increasingly constricted. I might have the view that my car won’t start because of an electrical problem but once a mechanic shows me the fuel pipe is broken my view becomes untenable.

    It is the same with evolution: the evidence is so overwhelming (and most non-biologists do not realize how vast it is, with literally tens of thousands of supporting research papers published every year) that denying that the theory of evolution is basically correct is completely unrealistic. The room for alternative views shrunk to near zero many decades ago. Having said that, yes, there is room for differing views on aspects of evolutionary theory and if you attend any scientific conference on evolution you will likely hear heated exchanges on topics that seem trivial to an outside observer.

    Oh - and books can be wrong. I like to point this out to students and tell them that if they ever read something that seems improbable they should check with the original source or with other books and publications.

    Ah, as the year at hand draws to a close, one final chance to toss a festive holiday cookie to the trolls.

    Bill ventures..

    Is it just me…or do most of you take it on faith that evolution is indeed flawless?

    Flawless, no! Not by a long shot!

    It’s terribly messy and incompetent. It took billions of years to accomplish what a good designer could have knocked out before lunch, and even after all that, it left us with infected appendixes and swelling prostates.

    Nope. Evolution is a horribly inefficient system.

    Nobody would want things to work that way — it’s so… random.

    Problem is, it’s also the most thoroughly proven fact in science.

    There simply is no real competition.

    Literally every week, someone turns up an interesting new tidbit in support of evolution.

    Here’s a new transition fossil!

    Here’s another hominid skull!

    Here’s a better mapping of the human and gorilla genomes — let’s compare!

    That’s not to say it doesn’t have its detractors. Evolution is, after all, theologically rather… um… awkward.

    But somehow those cynics never seem to actually come up with any actual evidence. The other side never - ever - brings anything to the party except a Bible and a wish that things weren’t so.

    Am I wrong? Enlighten me!

    Show me the tinyist little scrap of evidence that speaks in support of creation.

    It just isn’t there.

    And finding some should be easy.

    After 15 centuries of searching, there should be whole buildings full of evidence of creation, but you know what? There’s not.

    Instead, ID is left arguing about the flagellum. Which, frankly — even if it weren’t thoroughly discredited (in dramatic sworn testimony at the “trial of the century”, no less!) - would be pretty pitiful evidence compared to the truckloads of hominid fossils in the worlds great museums (one of which, by the way, is probably not far from you right now)

    … are each and every one of you doctoral candidates in biology? … since you have such a dismal view on people who have views other than your own, …

    Sigh…again with the ad hominems. If you can’t attack the facts, attack the man.

    Anyway - No, Bill, I don’t look down on creationists, I just think they’re wrong.

    And no, I don’t have a PhD in biology.

    I would point out, though, that with the exception of Behe, nobody aggressively advocating ID has one either, unlike, say, many of the contributors here who do. That’s a fairly conspicuous absence.

    But I am an engineer. And that means that I learned long ago and I learned the hard way, that you can’t ignore the laws of nature, and wishing will not make it so. My profession is littered (sometimes literally) with the bodies of those who decided to pretend things were different than they are.

    Nature couldn’t care less what any of us thinks wishes, or fervently desires. She is not open to negotiation. She cannot be coerced, massaged, sweet-talked or ignored, only measured.

    It’s not contempt, or disdain, it’s resignation. The fact remains that you can only do so much when you find yourself standing in a field with someone who steadfastly refuses to admit that the sky is blue and the grass is green. Eventually, you just shrug your shoulders and walk away.

    And by the way…

    You’ve all done actual study into evolutionary theory beyond reading in a book, yes?

    Why yes, I have, Bill. And so can you. That’s the great thing about science, there are so many people who don’t want you to take their word on it. They’re more than happy to “show you the money” and let you figure it out on your own. It’s a shiny new year, why don’t you start it off by going on down to the nearest natural history museum and asking for the hominid display. That way you can see some of the evidence for yourself? Maybe they’ll even let you touch some.

    That would be nice. I don’t know about you, but having the actual, physical thing in front of me always gives me that warm, fuzzy feeling that nobody is trying to bull***t me.

    And hey, best of all, if you do that, and you discover that we’ve gotten this whole evoltion thing wrong all these years, you can come right back here and gloat over your new, improved, explanation of how all those half man / half gorilla skulls got buried in Africa a million years ago.

    I’ll be waiting.

    Well said, stevaroni!

    Happy New Year!

    About this Entry

    This page contains a single entry by Burt Humburg published on August 26, 2006 12:00 AM.

    Fisking Seth Cooper Again was the previous entry in this blog.

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