Convocation on Intelligent Design Creationism with Robert Pennock

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On, Tuesday, November 14th, 2006, Robert Pennock, author of “Tower of Babel, The Evidence Against the New Creationism” presented a lecture titled “The Ground Rules of Science: Why the Judge Ruled Intelligent Design Creationism Out of Court “ on the topic Intelligent Design as part of the Helen Edison Lecture Series [1]. Apparently, the lecture was attended by close to 5000 people, filling the beautiful RIMAC arena

Since the Sixth College sponsored the event, “[a]ll Sixth College students[ we]re strongly encouraged to attend the Convocation, and first-quarter CAT students [we]re required to attend. The 2006-2007 Council of Provosts Convocation Series is also open to the general public. “

As an ironic side note, it seems that Luskin’s confusion as to who was required to attend may have contributed to the full house.

UCSD-TV has scheduled the program for the following dates

12/11/2006, 8:00 PM pacific time zone 12/12/2006, 11:00 PM pacific time zone 12/15/2006, 7:00 PM pacific time zone 12/17/2006, 8:00 PM pacific time zone 12/26/2006, 10:00 PM pacific time zone 1/8/2007, 9:00 PM pacific time zone 1/9/2007, 11:00 PM pacific time zone 1/12/2007, 6:00 PM pacific time zone

Pennock’s background is quite impressive

Robert T. Pennock has studied the creationist movement for over 20 years, focusing especially on the intelligent design creationists since the early 1990’s. His book Tower of Babel: The Evidence Against the New Creationism has been positively reviewed in over 50 publications, both scientific and religious; the New York Review of Books called it “the best book on creationism in all its guise.” He also edited Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics: Philosophical, Theological and Scientific Perspectives, which is the most complete source book on the topic. In addition, he has published over a dozen scholarly articles on philosophical issues in the creationism debate and given well over a hundred invited talks on these subjects at universities and professional conferences both nationally and internationally.

Dr. Pennock has testified on the subject of creationism before State Boards of Education, assisted legislators in opposing intelligent design legislation, and given workshops for public school teachers to help them better teach about evolution and the nature of science. In September 2005, Dr. Pennock was called as an expert witness in the Kitzmiller et al v. Dover Area School Board case, which was tried in the US District Court in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The suit tested the constitutionally of a policy that allowed the teaching of intelligent design creationism in a public school. He is the founder and president of Michigan Citizens for Science, which works to defend and promote sound science education in Michigan.

Robert T. Pennock is a philosopher and a scientist. He graduated with honors in Biology and Philosophy from Earlham College and earned his Ph.D. in History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Pittsburgh. He is Professor of Science & Technology Studies at Michigan State University’s Lyman Briggs School of Science and Professor of Philosophy in the department of Philosophy. He is also a faculty member in MSU’s Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Behavior graduate program and in the Department of Computer Science, doing research on artificial life and evolutionary computation.

[1] The Helen Edison Lecture Series is the result of a major gift from the late Helen Edison, a San Diego philanthropist who supported numerous local, educational, cultural, and arts efforts. In accordance with the gift, the Helen Edison Lecture Series presents ongoing free public lectures on issues that advance humanitarian proposes and objectives. [2] Campus partners for this special event include Sixth College, Council of Provosts, the UCSD Division of biological Sciences, and Calit2.

33 Comments

The Study of Religion website at UCSD notes

Past Events -

“The Ground Rules of Science: Why the Judge Ruled Intelligent Design Creationism Out of Court” Speaker: Robert T. Pennock Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2006, 7 p.m. RIMAC Arena All Sixth College students are strongly encouraged to attend the Convocation, and first-quarter CAT students are required to attend. The 2006-2007 Council of Provosts Convocation Series is also open to the general public.

Similarly we read about the CAT program

On Nov 14, all first year CAT students must attend the Robert Pennock Convocation lecture at 7pm in RIMAC. Attendance will factor into the participation grade, and will be asked to write a page or two in response to each event

What a little research can do… And how it could have saved our dear Casey from yet another embarrassment.

I hear about this and wanted to attend (I live about 23 minute away from UCSD’s campus), but completely forgot about it. DOH!

Comment #145118 posted by PvM on November 18, 2006 9:04 PM said:

What a little research can do… And how it could have saved our dear Casey from yet another embarrassment.

What “embarrassment“? Casey discussed the confusion and gave a link to the announcement that all first-quarter freshmen – not just first-quarter freshmen in the Sixth College CAT classes – were required to attend:

Finally, there have been questions as to whether all freshmen were actually required to attend. UCSD is composed of 6 undergraduate colleges, and one page suggested only students from “Sixth College“ had to attend. … . . But the day of the event, the main student website at UCSD, Tritonlink, clearly stated that all UCSD freshmen have to attend. The website read, “All first-quarter freshmen are required to attend the event“ (see here for a screen shot). – from http://www.evolutionnews.org/2006/1[…]nocks_t.html

What “embarrassment”?

Well, for starters you can check out his 5 bullet points from his alternate universe.

In particular, note his claim that ID isn’t religious. I mean really, who the f*ck does he think he’s fooling? “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”

From Luskin’s press release of November 14, 2006 on this topic:

So ID doesn’t even violate methodological naturalism which Pennock will assert is a “ground rule” of science.

(http://www.evolutionnews.org/2006/1[…]a_san_d.html)

Is this a new line from the DI, that ID does not violate methodological naturalism?

IDists complain about methodological naturalism all of the time.

The embarrassment is that Casey Luskin, by complaining about the ‘all freshmen are required to attend’, interpreted this to refer to all UCSD freshmen, not the Sixth College freshmen. By doing so he may have contributed to the high attendance, although Pennock is hardly an unknown name in the ID controversy and is one of the best to describe the Kitzmiller ruling why ID fails to be scientifically relevant.

I can understand why Casey would ‘complain’ about Pennock discussing the obvious legal flaws in ID, after all, the Media Complaint Division has been desperately trying to control the message. Such as the ‘bias’ against ID. Of course there is a scientific ‘bias’ against ID, just like there is a ‘bias’ against any other scientifically vacuous concept.

The reason ID failed to be scientifically relevant was clearly exposed during the Kitzmiller trial. Casey complains that statements about God by ID proponents were ‘taken out of context’ and yet, they provided the context that, ID since it lacks a scientific context, is clearly about religion. Its history shows that it was founded on a wedge attempting to circumvent the Edwards v Aguillard ruling.

Casey: Flew’s statement demonstrates that ID is based upon empirical science.

This is funny since Flew clearly stated that he had been misled about this. How come we do not get to hear about this part of Flew’s statement?

Flew points out that he has not yet had time to examine any of the critiques of Schroeder. Nor has he examined any of the literature of the past five or ten years on the science of life’s origin, which has more than answered his call for “constructing a naturalistic theory” of the origin of life. This is not to say any particular theory has been proven–rather, there are many viable theories fitting all the available evidence that have yet to be refuted, so Flew cannot maintain (as in his letter to Philosophy Now) that it is “inordinately difficult even to begin to think about” such theories. I have pointed all this out to him, and he is thinking it over.

and

Flew also makes another admission: “I have been mistaught by Gerald Schroeder.” He says “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.”

Casey also attempts to redefine ID

ID is a positive, empirically based argument which does not appeal to the supernatural, which makes its arguments using uniformitarian reasoning and a scientific way of knowing, and no amount of motive-mongering by Pennock can change that fact.

1. ID is not a positive argument but rather an eliminative argument or as Del Ratzsch describes it a “set theoretic complement of regularity and chance” 2. ID is not empirical as it is based on absence of evidence to make its claims. In fact, this ID bluff is easily exposed by asking about how ID explains a particularly designed system. You’d be surprised how ID activists consider such a question to be ‘pathetic’. 3. ID is based on two concepts: Specification (which in biology is trivial via function) and complexity which is just another name for improbability based on our present knowledge.

So next time ID activists try to tell you that ID is a positive, empirical argument, it’s time to remind them of the facts.

Oh yes, the supernatural part… That one is obvious since ID insists that said ‘intelligent designer’ cannot be captured by regularity and chance hypotheses, and in fact has to exist outside nature to explain the origin of CSI. Of course, some ID activist are quick to conflate ‘intelligent design’ with ‘Intelligent Design’, where the former is well captured by present scientific methods, and the latter one is supposedly captured by the God of the Gaps approach chosen by ID.

IDists complain about methodological naturalism all of the time.

Indeed, Donald comes ‘round once every month to do so.

ID is a positive, empirically based argument which does not appeal to the supernatural

So ID is atheistic . … ?

Do all of DI’s financial backers know this . … . ?

Casey complains that statements about God by ID proponents were ‘taken out of context’

The way people like Casey apply that phrase could lead one to conclude that they mean “presented in a way that refutes my position”. It is similiar to the way they want to look at the U.S Constitution, which is why most folks of their stripe are strict constructionists. It is also exactly the way many blind adherants to Biblical inerrancy react when shown otherwise. It stands as one more nail in the coffin that their viewpoint is, in every way that matters, religious.

I attended Pennock’s talk. The RIMAC Arena was packed with young freshmen, many of whom would rather have been somewhere else. (From my vantage point, I could see several guys playing video games on their laptops during the lecture. Quite a few students quietly chatted amongst themselves, not paying very close attention to Pennock).

However, Pennock’s presentation of the creationist -> cdesign-proponentsist -> intelligent-design-proponent transitional series (from the OPAP drafts) *did* make a pretty good impact on the audience. That part of the talk prompted laughter and murmuring from the students in the audience.

So even though many of the students were less than enthusiastic about attending Pennock’s talk, it was my impression that Pennock did make a significant impression on much of the audience. The one thing that I took away from Pennock’s lecture is that the transitional-form “text fossils” that were excavated from the “Of Pandas and People” drafts in Kitzmiller v. Dover really are gifts that just keep on giving.

PvM — You need to get together with Mike Dunfield regarding Dr. M&M. I believe the person posting as “Dr. Michael Martin” has violated at least one of the posting rules on Panda’s Thumb. Mike Dunfield stated on his thread just below that this abuse needs to be sent to the College of William and Mary, from which M&M posts, as his posting are probably in violation of the college’s computer use rules. Mike Dunfield also stated something about sending an abuse notice to Yahoo, for some reason…

cleanup cycle initiated.

Dr. Pennock is my advisor here at Michigan State University. I wish I could have attended.

Didn’t Doc get his dishonest ass kicked out of here . …?

What on earth?

This guy’s just going to drag every single thread offtopic until he gets banned, isn’t he?

IDists complain about methodological naturalism all of the time.

Indeed, Donald comes ‘round once every month to do so.

Thanks, Lenny, that’s a good example. And Dembski and Fuller have compained about it too.

But I didn’t mean my question to be rhetorical; I really would appreciate a little history from those of you who have been watching the DI for a long time.

Is that a new claim coming from the DI that ID does not violate methodological naturalism (e.g., new since Dover?) Have they always had differing opinions amongst themselves on this major issue or is the DI trying to find a more defensible position?

Uh, Mikey-Troll, you better head back over to the Peer Review thread.

Your, uh, “credentials” just got fisked again.

Note that everybody from our favorite pinhead to our favorite Viking, er, skullbanging docoction-rinking pizza delivery lady has managed to see through your pitiful charade.

Maybe you should quit while you’ve still got a tail to tuck between your hind legs, little puppy.

Is that a new claim coming from the DI that ID does not violate methodological naturalism (e.g., new since Dover?) Have they always had differing opinions amongst themselves on this major issue or is the DI trying to find a more defensible position?

It’s new to Luskin. Most of the “professional” IDers avoided the entire subject like holy water (only the rank-and-file idiots, like Donald, were stupid enough to complain about “materialism” and therefore reveal ID’s religious aims and goals). But since they lost in Dover, there’s not much need for IDers to conceal their religious aims and goals anymore, is there . …

20 people on his dissertation committee (‘cmon, Mike, make it FIFTY! Make it a HUNDRED!), yet he couldn’t remember their names, and he still can’t give us a title or citation for his dissertation. Ho ho.

Isn’t time for living-in-his-mother’s-basement boy to get banned from PT altogether?

Isn’t time for living-in-his-mother’s-basement boy to get banned from PT altogether?

When he began posting under another email addy to avoid moderation, that should have sealed his fate. … .

It’s Farfarman all over again.

Comment #145160 posted by PvM on November 19, 2006 1:44 PM said –

The embarrassment is that Casey Luskin, by complaining about the ‘all freshmen are required to attend’, interpreted this to refer to all UCSD freshmen, not the Sixth College freshmen.

What other interpretation is reasonable?

By doing so he may have contributed to the high attendance

Casey‘s article was posted just a little over an hour before the start of the speech, so how could his article have contributed anything to the high attendance? And are large numbers of the UCSD freshmen frequent readers of the Evolution News & Views website?

ID since it lacks a scientific context, is clearly about religion.

That is just your own “contrived dualism.“ Alchemy, for example, is unscientific but is not considered to be a religious concept (and no, I am not saying that ID is like alchemy).

And are large numbers of the UCSD freshmen frequent readers of the Evolution News & Views website?

Of course not. NOBODY pays any attention to DI anymore, or their whiny “press releases”. (shrug)

ID since it lacks a scientific context, is clearly about religion.

That is just your own “contrived dualism.”

Indeed. ID isn’t about religion because it lacks science. It’s about religion because IDers ***SAY*** it is about religion:

We are building on this momentum, broadening the wedge with a positive scientific alternative to materialistic scientific theories, which has come to be called the theory of intelligent design (ID). 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. (Discovery Institute’s “Wedge Document”) 1. To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies. 2. To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God. (Discovery Institute’s “Wedge Document”)

What I always say is that it’s not just scientific theory. The question is best understood as: Is God real or imaginary? (Phillip Johnson).

Our strategy has been to change the subject a bit so that we can get the issue of intelligent design, which really means the reality of God, before the academic world and into the schools. (Phillip Johnson)

Intelligent design is the Logos of John’s Gospel restated in the idiom of information theory. (William Dembski)

PvM: The embarrassment is that Casey Luskin, by complaining about the ‘all freshmen are required to attend’, interpreted this to refer to all UCSD freshmen, not the Sixth College freshmen.

What other interpretation is reasonable?

That the UCSD freshman population is quite big and that the lecture was cosponsored by the Sixth colllege and that it was announced that all freshmen of Sixth College needed to attend. Remember that it was Sixth college which was found to have 40 percent of the enrolling students in 2004 to have problems with evolution.

PvM: By doing so he may have contributed to the high attendance

Casey’s article was posted just a little over an hour before the start of the speech, so how could his article have contributed anything to the high attendance? And are large numbers of the UCSD freshmen frequent readers of the Evolution News & Views website?

Ah, but the news could have spread. But you are right, it seems far more reasonable that students and attendees were interested in hearing Pennock speak.

PvM: ID since it lacks a scientific context, is clearly about religion.

That is just your own “contrived dualism.” Alchemy, for example, is unscientific but is not considered to be a religious concept (and no, I am not saying that ID is like alchemy).

Exactly, which is why the religious motivations are so relevant. Since ID lacks scientific context, the motivations explain its relevance.

Exactly, which is why the religious motivations are so relevant. Since ID lacks scientific context, the motivations explain its relevance.

The motivations also explain why ID is illegal to teach.

It’s not illegal to teach vacuous “science”. It *IS*, however, illegal to teach fundamentalist religious doctrine pretending to be science.

Theoria Darwiniana evolutionis specierum absurda est. Constat inter omnes universitatem rerum ab naribus Saturni venisse!

Constat inter omnes universitatem rerum ab naribus Saturni venisse!

Fortasse erit, fortasse non erit

“ID is based on two concepts: Specification (which in biology is trivial via function) and complexity which is just another name for improbability based on our present knowledge.”

I would make a distinction between IC, which isn’t a pure supernatural claim, and ID, which is for the reasons noted.

IC is observable and falsifiable as a block for evolution. It has indeed been falsified since evolution have been shown to have both mechanisms that produces it and produces from it.

It was a poor idea anyway - it is local simplicity, and global simplicity is an illdefined concept. “given a system S, you cannot in general show that there is no smaller/simpler system that performs the same task as S.” ( http://scienceblogs.com/goodmath/20[…]ibly_c_1.php ) In other words, you can be sure that there are workarounds to simpler or more complex systems unless you can show a specific exception.

ID falls indeed back on SC from which it builds concepts to make more specific claims, such as ‘evolution breaks 2LOT’. One can read much into these claims, since they aren’t stable or well-defined.

I like Chu-Carroll’s analysis: “In information-theory terms, complexity is non-compressibility. But according to Dembski, in IT terms, specification is compressibility. Something that possesses “specified complexity” is therefore something which is simultaneously compressible and non-compressible.” ( http://scienceblogs.com/goodmath/20[…]_of_comp.php ) In other words, you can’t observe SC from Dembski’s definitions.

I briefly thought about attending but I guess I did not find the prospect interesting enough to make the effort. Anyway, I would have loved to argue with Dawkins (and Harris) when they visited but, alas, that event was not open to the campus.

20 people on his dissertation committee…

20? WTF? Was he also awarded the Nobel prize by the mayor of France?

[Note to bull****er: Try 3-4 the next time you spin that yarn.]

I couldn’t resist posting a comment at Touchstone magazine’s website, Touchstone has been declaring Darwin dead for a number of years, and of course, impled that the Pennock lecture was a form of secret atheistic indoctrination, citing Luskin and the DI. My comments pointing out out th the very same UCSD also had Phillip Johnson and Wells and was the site of the first IDEA club founded by Casey himself. Those got such a rise out of Casey Luskin, he responded.

That gave me an opportunity to ask him some questions.

I’m not an expert biologist (and no Dr. Reverend Lenny Flnak, either)a so I might have stumbled on my questions. I’d appreciate any help in reformulating the questions for next time.

http://merecomments.typepad.com/mer[…]ent-25636367

Well, if I were there, my very first question to Luskin woiuld have been “Given the fact that you have claimed in writing that ID isn’t about religion and doesn’t rest on anything supernatural, what do you have to say to all the ID supporters here who are weeping about “atheism”. Isn’t ID, in your opinion, every bit as “atheistic”, since it, uh, doesn’t rest on anything supernatural?

Let him squirm over THAT one for a while.

Actually, Joe, I thought you asked some pretty fair questions.

You won’t get straight answers, of course, but demonstrating that is all part of the fun!

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on November 18, 2006 8:31 PM.

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