Owens-Fink vs. Kenneth Miller

| 23 Comments

Last week I announced that Kenneth Miller, Deborah “[The NAS is] a group of so-called scientists” Owens-Fink, and Tom “No, not from Mark Twain” Sawyer were doing a radio debate. ID guy Chris Williams was evidently the anti-Kenneth Miller guest, although for some reason they never realize that Ken Miller knows all their talking points.

Listening to it is like listening to the DI versus PT, actually. Owens-Fink really knows her DI talking points – although according to her, Icons of Evolution is not an ID book, and she thinks that it should have been left in the “critical analysis” lesson plan (the reference, but not the content, was deleted after scientists complained). And she is still defending the “critical analysis” lesson plan and claiming it isn’t creationism or ID. Chris Williams tries to say that evolution equals atheism, citing the recent cover story of Wired – and of course Ken Miller cheerily points out that he himself is a counterexample. For extra fun, board member Martha Wise called in to dispute claims that Owens-Fink made about board procedure. The radio guy’s introduction is pretty good also.

The show is online here (mp3 direct link, 22 MB).

PS: There is also a great bit where Chris Williams claims that evolution held back the discovery of small interfering RNA – and Kenneth Miller replied by pointing out that Craig Mello, who won the Nobel Prize 3 weeks ago for his work on RNA interference, was a student in the first biology class Ken Miller taught. Bam!

23 Comments

So did they hire the announcer off the People’s Court, or what? I kept waiting for him to say, “…Or is this just a case of Monkey see, Monkey do?”

I thought the last caller summed up things nicely regarding the very educational issues Ohio is trying to address by stating that he didn’t believe in “goofy evolution” or “goofy intelligent design,” either.

Big trouble will be brewing in Ohio because of this statement. Now the Disney lawyers are going to get into the act.

1 Creeky Belly: HAHAHAHAHA

2

PS: There is also a great bit where Chris Williams claims that evolution held back the discovery of small interfering RNA — and Kenneth Miller replied by pointing out that Craig Mello, who won the Nobel Prize 3 weeks ago for his work on RNA interference, was a student in the first first biology class Ken Miller taught. Bam!

The Intelligent Design movement exists to make me laugh.

They would be better off running comedy show.

The faith claim that all existence, life, mind, and reason itself is the product of mindless forces still has not been demonstrated.

You all are having as much trouble separating your faith and science as the ID people are.

Now, I find THAT amusing!

“the faith claim that the world is not blanketed in complete and utter darkness still has not been demonstrated”

..and it won’t be as long as i keep my hands over my eyes.

idiot

Christensen posted:

The faith claim that all existence, life, mind, and reason itself is the product of mindless forces still has not been demonstrated.

You all are having as much trouble separating your faith and science as the ID people are.

Now, I find THAT amusing!

First, I doubt that what you claim is being taught in Ohio or the creationists would be pounding the California court law instead of going with the stupid creationist replacement scam to ID. What IDiot still believes that ID has any scientific basis, when the ID scam artists are the ones that played the bait and switch scam on the Ohio board and instead of giving them the promised ID science gave them a creationist obfuscation scam that can’t even mention that ID ever existed.

What is being taught is the science, and if ID had any it would be taught too. If you don’t believe that why did the scam artists at the Discovery Institute start playing with the replacement scam back in 1999? Look up the papers by Meyer at the Discovery Institute. “Teach the controversy” was proposed and the legal issues discussed years before they sprang the scam on the Ohio rubes. Why would they need a replacement scam if ID was so wonderful?

Ron Okimoto

Remember, more info on all the Ohio Board of Ed elections can be found on:

http://www.OhioHope.org

Remember, more info on all the Ohio Board of Ed elections can be found on:

http://www.OhioHope.org

The faith claim that all existence, life, mind, and reason itself is the product of mindless forces still has not been demonstrated.

Your trouble is that you think that staying with the proper bounds of evidence involves a faith claim, you believing the propaganda of the dishonest ID forces. We ascribe phenomena not produced by known minds to “mindless forces” simply because we know that these operate, and because it is dishonest to claim that minds have acted where there is no evidence that they have.

When it comes to life we find what “mindless evolution” predicts what is observed in cladistics, in genes, and in fossils, with none of the novelty, rationality, and horizontal “borrowing” of ideas that characterize design.

When it comes to the universe, we fail to discern purpose in the violence and the very common conditions which are not favorable to life, and we see plenty of “mindless forces” at work. Being conservative, we do not automatically assume that Baal or Shiva is operating where we see only “mindless forces”.

See, the problem with many non-scientists is that they don’t recognize that science isn’t saying anything about “all life”, “all existence”, or even “all minds”. Science is saying things about what we observe, and is properly dedicated to not going beyond what can be demonstrated using the evidence. Science is not philosophy or religion, hence it also doesn’t declaim on the existence of any God who is posited to exist beyond the realm of scientific investigation.

You all are having as much trouble separating your faith and science as the ID people are.

You are incapable of recognizing the bounds of science, that is, you conflate faith and science as a matter of course, failing to recognize that science only makes statements regarding the visible and is not making claims beyond that region (in which we have not found analogous intelligences to have left effects).

Now, I find THAT amusing!

No doubt you do, not realizing that you are laughing at your own bigoted view of science.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

The faith claim that all existence, life, mind, and reason itself is the product of mindless forces still has not been demonstrated.

Yes. If by “product of” you mean “product solely of”.

You all are having as much trouble separating your faith and science as the ID people are.

Uh, no. There are a few net.atheists around who do have trouble separating (non-)faith and science. But for the most part we are not they. Now I am, in fact, an atheist, and I do think atheism is a reasonable inference from what science has demonstrated. But I do agree that the non-existence of God, or a solely “clockwork” universe (not quite the same thing) has not been demonstrated. For the most part this is a red herring to distract from what science has demonstrated. Science has not ruled out the existence of God, true, but it has ruled out the Earth being only a few thousand years old, and has also demonstrated that humans are … well … apes. That is the elephant in the room. Not for all Christians: not at all! But for enough to feed the ID shysters.

Nick Matzke Wrote:

PS: There is also a great bit where Chris Williams claims that evolution held back the discovery of small interfering RNA — and Kenneth Miller replied by pointing out that Craig Mello, who won the Nobel Prize 3 weeks ago for his work on RNA interference, was a student in the first biology class Ken Miller taught. Bam!

While that is deservedly rich, more basic is that Chris Williams is obviously clueless about science and scientific discovery just from that assertion. If you don’t have a working paradigm about what to expect, it’s essentially impossible to recognize the unusual or significant. Otherwise, all the data are just noise.

For example, without the central dogma–the assertion that DNA leads to RNA leads to protein–recognition of retroviruses as such would simply not be possible. If your only conception concerns a sloshing mixture of nucleic acids and proteins, the experiment that signals something different is going on will just be results with no basis for interpretation.

A classic example from particle physics was the discovery of parity violation in the 50s. A few daring theorists raised the possibility, two of them pressed the question and convinced several experimentalists to test the matter, and within months three teams reported parity violation. But it was soon noted that the first experiments showing parity violation had actually been done in the 30s, but at the time, no one realized there was a parity worth violating in the first place.

“atheism is a reasonable inference”

When I’m stretching my imagination into the fabulous “what if…”, I would like to see a meta-analysis on the hypotheses “only natural processes” and “some non-explainable processes breaking solid basic physics as we know it” over the set of available models in all sciences. If we don’t get up above say 3 sigma certainty to reject the last hypothesis I will go look for a certain circling teapot instead. Maybe I can spot it.

Now, the rejoinder is surely that is an indiscriminate hypothesis on a funny domain perhaps relying too much on the cosmological principle, and we may think of a discriminative one on a simple universal and observable domain. How do we do that? (Okay, prayer studies. Didn’t go too well. Next idea on how to make a specific theory of gods?) As long as the burden of proof is put squarely on the right shoulders, on the shoulders of the friends of imaginary things contradicting all observationary evidence thus far, I’m satisfied.

(I see I leave a gap open. “imagination”, “imaginary”… But I’m not afraid of temporary and probably contrived gaps.)

“As long as the burden of proof is put squarely on the right shoulders”

I guess I am saying that I would rather like to live with specified uncertainties than unspecified probabilities.

(So induction bad, hypotheses testing good. Two of my pet peeves (hypotheses of acting gods, ‘proof by induction’) in one package. Hmm, no wonder I get back to this often.)

Torbjörn Larsson,

When I’m stretching my imagination into the fabulous “what if…”, I would like to see a meta-analysis on the hypotheses “only natural processes” and “some non-explainable processes breaking solid basic physics as we know it” over the set of available models in all sciences.

That’s not possible. Solid basic physics is known broken, and we simply don’t know if the problems can be resolved. There are a number of theories, well established in their respective domains, that are mutually inconsistent. There are even some prominent theories of physics that aren’t even self-consistent and require special hacks (renormalization) to work in any domain.

Next idea on how to make a specific theory of gods?

Oh there’s plenty of those. God created the Earth about 6 millenia ago… God punishes homosexuality with hurricanes… The Earth was almost completely flooded a few thousand years ago… The thing is, people who give a damn about science tend not to have theories of God that are easily tested. This is probably on account of the fact that many of the theories of God that are easily tested have been, well, tested, and found wanting.

“There are a number of theories, well established in their respective domains, that are mutually inconsistent.”

You seem to be discussing that we have effective theories, not fundamental ones. But as long as we have models that works, we can predict the results of experiments and proclaim them to be natural.

Quantum gravity is a problem as you say, but big bang and black holes are only two phenomena. And partially understood by todays methods, so I would count them natural. But I can see how others may want to defer them to the unexplained. I think I can live with a few exceptions as long as we meet 3 sigma.

“There are even some prominent theories of physics that aren’t even self-consistent and require special hacks (renormalization) to work in any domain.”

Again, I’m looking at natural models, not Ultimate Nature. Whatever gives a prediction works for me.

“The thing is, people who give a damn about science tend not to have theories of God that are easily tested.”

Exactly my point, which of course is in favor of my method. The latest such idea I saw was the set of all sets.

Next it will be Cat, the category of categories. (Oh no! I *like* cats!) It makes sense because if it isn’t restricted by the axiom of universes it doesn’t really exist. :-)

Again, I’m looking at natural models, not Ultimate Nature. Whatever gives a prediction works for me.

Ok, fair enough. But I don’t quite see how you can get a random sample of phenomenon to test for naturalness. And without a sample that’s random, you run the risk of proving tautologies such as “natural phenomenon are natural” or “successful theories are successful”. And even then, there are quite a number of unexplained or poorly modeled phenomenon. Gamma ray bursts are poorly understood. The cause of cosmic inflation is unknown. (There are some tentative guesses). Supernovae are still poorly understood. (There have been some very recent advances in this area). The appearant abundance of large planets very close to stars is unexpected and poorly understood. Planetary formation is poorly understood; our models have trouble accounting with the speed with which the planets formed. (The gas giants in particular, need to form before the solar wind deprives them of gas). We don’t know what dark matter is. (Actually we know a fair chunk of it is baryons (matter), but don’t know what the rest is). The solar cycle is understood, but the long-term trends in it are not.

Now, most of these unexplained or poorly explained phenomenon are recent, and if history is any judge most of them will be explained soon. But not all; there are some old problems in that list as well.

I should say at this point that I am not an astronomer so I may not be fully up to date on the state of the art, and may have made a couple of errors.

Now don’t get me wrong: it would take a particularly silly sort of theist[1] to posit that God was responsible for the dearth of sunspots in the late 17th century. It is quite apparent that the dominant forces shaping our cosmos are natural ones. But I see fundamental difficulties in quantifying that last statement, and in generalizing “cosmos” to “life, the universe and everything”. (By natural, I simply mean regular; i.e. weight is a function of mass, not God’s whim).

[1] There are unfortunately many silly theists.

Andrew: This was an interesting discussion. I can see that what I believed was sufficient (any poor partial model) may be judged differently - one really need to quantify “poor model” which is too hard. On the other hand it is just these questions that I think should be overcome for a more definite answer.

My initial idea was similar but not so general, so I may revert to that one.

Study a large number of wellunderstood systems for a simple, general and robust property of naturalness, such as energy conservation. Mostly EM, probed locally by chemical reactions in suitable reactors, perhaps gravity probed locally by masses, forget localized interactions (weak and strong force). Make enough diverse measurements on diverse places to get under 3 sigma failures to meet conservation and declare success by generalizing, over forces and with the cosmological principle.

I don’t think it can be a good or strong theory if at all, it doesn’t seem to lead to any new stuff. It is however falsifiable and with quantified uncertainty as it should have.

A simple reversal of the burden of proof not only for supernatural observations but also for such ‘theories’ would be nice if achievable. I don’t like the woo of dualism ideas, and this is the only remaining I know of that isn’t suitably debunked.

And all researchable questions should be looked at. I don’t see why this is not one of those.

Torbjörn Larsson,

This was an interesting discussion. I can see that what I believed was sufficient (any poor partial model) may be judged differently - one really need to quantify “poor model” which is too hard.

That’s part of the problem. The other problem is what to compare our models to. A hypothesis that supernatural forces exist doesn’t actually make any testable predictions in itself, and without testable predictions it’s simply not scientifically tractable. However, specific supernatural theories do often make testable predictions, so more modest versions of your proposed project are certainly possible.

My initial idea was similar but not so general, so I may revert to that one.

Study a large number of wellunderstood systems for a simple, general and robust property of naturalness, such as energy conservation. Mostly EM, probed locally by chemical reactions in suitable reactors, perhaps gravity probed locally by masses, forget localized interactions (weak and strong force). Make enough diverse measurements on diverse places to get under 3 sigma failures to meet conservation and declare success by generalizing, over forces and with the cosmological principle.

Projects like this are underway, albeit with a somewhat different aim. Scientists are looking for failures in EM, gravity, energy conservation etc., as those failures may contain hints for new theories of physics. But as a result these theories are well-tested where possible.

I don’t think it can be a good or strong theory if at all, it doesn’t seem to lead to any new stuff. It is however falsifiable and with quantified uncertainty as it should have. A simple reversal of the burden of proof not only for supernatural observations but also for such ‘theories’ would be nice if achievable.

Who the burden of proof falls on really depends on context. In science, the burden of proof most definitely falls on those proposing supernatural theories. And interestingly enough, in the history of science that burden has been met a number of times—this is obscured because such theories have been accompanied by shifts in the consensus on what is natural. What is the difference between the holy ghost and electric fields but that the latter is a component in a well-tested scientific theory, and the former is not? To be honest, I find supernaturalness to be a red herring, and the testability and simplicity of hypotheses to be important in science. Debates over whether electric fields are really real are best left to philosophers; debates over whether electric fields are useful concepts when developing predictions are very much the domain of scientists. I don’t see why the holy ghost or chi should be any different. (And so far, the answer for the last two is “no”.) But if I walk into a church, I don’t expect to get very far with the observation that they haven’t proved the existence of the holy ghost to my satisfaction.

… I don’t like the woo of dualism ideas, and this is the only remaining I know of that isn’t suitably debunked.

And all researchable questions should be looked at. I don’t see why this is not one of those.

I’m not sure exactly what question you’re referring to here, but it sounds like a philosophical one, not one tractable to scientific inquiry.

Andrew: “A hypothesis that supernatural forces exist doesn’t actually make any testable predictions in itself, and without testable predictions it’s simply not scientifically tractable.”

I’m using an embedding into nonnatural phenomena, the prediction being that they do not obey energy conservation for example. By testing for this in a hypothesis test one can rule this out. (And the best theory is that we only observe natural phenomena.)

Then it becomes the burden of those who claim supernaturalism to come up with observations, for example by specific theories.

“Scientists are looking for failures in EM, gravity, energy conservation etc., as those failures may contain hints for new theories of physics.”

Yes, that is a weakness. I have a hard time to see how basic stuff like energy conservation and Noether’s theorems can be broken. But if they are broken, we can’t immediately claim supernatural forces. We have two options, and I don’t think the above method is untractable because of this.

“In science, the burden of proof most definitely falls on those proposing supernatural theories.”

The difference here being that it would be a stronger claim, a falsifiable theory with specified uncertainty instead of discussing tractability and relegating the question to philosophy.

“it sounds like a philosophical one” Exactly, intractability is often claimed but not substantiated. I think we can do better than a bayesian belief reasoning such as Dawkins’ seems to be.

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This page contains a single entry by Nick Matzke published on October 30, 2006 1:52 PM.

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