Desperate Times for ID?

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At the Discovery’s Website for the Renewal of Science and Culture, Logan Gage proudly presents the statements by a British Scientist who claims that Intelligent Design is a valid scientific theory.

Professor of Design and Nature Stuart Burgess of Bristol University (UK) was interviewed in yesterday’s The Independent. This is a man who knows something about design. He is worth heeding:

I’ve been designing systems like spacecraft for more than 20 years. One of the lessons I’ve learnt is that complex systems require an immense amount of intelligence to design. I’ve seen a lot of irreducible complexity in engineering. I have also seen organs in nature that are apparently irreducible. An irreducibly complex organ is one where several parts are required simultaneously for the system to function usefully, so it cannot have evolved, bit by bit, over time.

Source: Independent

An engineer…

But it gets better, as the BCSE reports Stuart Burgess has a rich history in the creationism movement in the United Kingdom.

Surely these must be desperate times for Intelligent Design when it has to point to a British Mechanical Engineer with a well documented creationist history as evidence that ID is a valid scientific theory.

Note how misplaced his arguments are about the mammalian knee joint. Using his ‘arguments’ much of anything in biology is irreducible. And we know how irreducibly complex systems such as the middle ear, evolved which is why Behe moved the goalposts to microbiology where our level of ignorance was vast enough to allow for Intelligent Design to reign in the shadows of our ignorance. But even at the micro biological level and biochemistry level, it has become clear that irreducibly complex systems can very well have evolved. Of course, that is no evidence that it happened that way, but rather than inferring that ‘thus designed’ it seems far better that science concludes “we don’t know yet”. But that would be the end of ID.

One thing is correct, this man, as a creationist, does indeed know something about Design. How this helps ID is somewhat less clear…

44 Comments

I saw Burgess quoted in the UK Independent about this. From those quotes it’s apparent that he willfully ignores the whole of biology in his assertions. Unbeknownest to him, every one of his claims has long ago been shot down as invalid, reducing his position to one of personal incredulity.

Stewart Burgess is a well-known, stark raving bonkers, nut-case British creationist and he’s not even a “closet” creationist. He doesn’t even pretend that the designer is You Know Who. Burgess has written that evolution is a plot by Satan.

Satanic plots, eh? Well, there’s a bit of intelligent design science for you.

The Discovery Institute is obviously on it’s last legs…we hope!

Is it true that to counter Dodos the DI will be airing reruns of Designing Women?

It would be a step up.

One of the interesting things about the Creationist movement is that it has drawn many of its leaders and such from the ranks of engineers – including of course Henry Morris. Many of the biologists who are part of their movement got their degrees in areas with little evolutionary connections and have worked in industry not the academy.

professor of design and nature?

wtf?

hmm, based on the description of his work that followed, I rather think we would normally term that…

Engineer

shocker.

Gage said:

“I have also seen organs in nature that are apparently irreducible.”

I am reminded of the time when the prospective groom first meets the prospective in-laws and says to the prospective bride, “Your family seems nice.” To which she replies, “Yes they SEEM nice don’t they.”

Thngs are not always as they appear. The illusion of design is of course exactly what one would expect as the result of random mutation and natural selection. It proves absolutely nothing about evolvability, just as the fact that the earth appears flat and the sun appears to move in the sky do not prove those conjectures either. Why engineers insist on interpreting everything as though it must follow the rules they use in their work is a mystery to me. Why they sometimes insist they know more about Biology that professional Biologists is even more of a mystery. Good thing Biologists don’t automatically assume competence in engineering.

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“I have also seen organs in nature that are apparently irreducible.”

funny, my girlfriend said the exact same thing one time after I experimented with Viagra.

Fundamental and basic fact: people who are ignorant about something are also ignorant about their ignorance. When a Creationist or ID person insist that they can’t think of any reason to believe in evolution through natural selection, they aren’t kidding.

Fundamental and basic fact: people who are ignorant about something are also ignorant about their ignorance.

How is it, then, that I and many other people, especially scientists, are very aware of their ignorance about many things? Are you ignorant of your ignorance that leads you to make this erroneous claim about this so-called “basic fact”, or is more a matter of seizing on an idea without actually examining whether it is true or not?

Posted by Sir_Toejam on February 9, 2007 11:18 PM (e)

“I have also seen organs in nature that are apparently irreducible.”

funny, my girlfriend said the exact same thing one time after I experimented with Viagra.

That’s not what mine said…she said “the views great from up here.”

.…and now back to our normal program…what was it again?…oh yeah discussing the unconscionable proposing the impossible.

OK serious meta-comment

Posted by Popper’s Ghost on February 10, 2007 2:00 AM (e)

Fundamental and basic fact: people who are ignorant about something are also ignorant about their ignorance.

How is it, then, that I and many other people, especially scientists, are very aware of their ignorance about many things? Are you ignorant of your ignorance that leads you to make this erroneous claim about this so-called “basic fact”, or is more a matter of seizing on an idea without actually examining whether it is true or not?

Not you PG, they themselves, in other words why are they so unself-aware?

I suspect Jim did not mean exactly that as an actual fact to be considered as a truth but more as an observation of a ‘basic’ human foible, if perhaps clumsily said.

The creationist concept of nature as something being designed i.e. preconceived by a human like intelligence, not just implies a designer but demands one, to me seems to be a hopelessly limiting idea.

Have those people really experienced nature at all? Do they have any concept of the sheer vastness of scale and variety and how each individual animal and plant lives or dies in its own unique circumstance. Life just is, there is no mystery to life itself.

What creationists are really saying is they are completely unable to see nature/life for what it truly is, a reflection of their own process of slowly moving toward dying. They want to control the language of life and death. Create a magical reality where death is a continuation of life as they understand it, simplified into a word …g$d.

The real question to which the answer is obvious to all but the truly demented is why does man create gods in his own image over and over through time. Home work for creationists to keep them out of the lab.… yes, yes I know.…it’s irony.

Burgess said: “Three hundred years ago, there was so much support for intelligent design that life could be difficult if you were an atheist. Now the opposite is true; life can be difficult if you show the slightest sympathy for intelligent design.”

Actually nothing has changed. Creationists are as intollerant of people with different beliefs today as they were 300 years ago.

”…people who are ignorant about something are also ignorant about their ignorance.”

This is not universally true, but unfortunately it is often true. This is why so many people are so astonished when the judges on American Idol,(or Idle if you prefer), don’t think they can sing. They honestly don’t know what they sound like in the shower. Sounds good to them, or their equally ignorant friends. Maybe, before going on national television and humuliating yourself, you should seek the advice of a professional first.

I am not an expert in engineering so I would never presume to tell a professional engineer his business. I know that I am ignorant in this area, no matter how smart I think I am.

Likewise engineers, and everyone else, should at least realize that there are journals titled Evolution, Molecular Biology and Evolution, Journal of Molecular Evolution, Molecular Phylogenetics, etc. If you don’t understand the articles in these journals, don’t presume to dictate to those who write and edit the articles. And not reading the journals does not absolve you of this responsibility (unless your initials are MB and you are testifying at Dover).

Jim Harrison Wrote:

Fundamental and basic fact: people who are ignorant about something are also ignorant about their ignorance. When a Creationist or ID person insist that they can’t think of any reason to believe in evolution through natural selection, they aren’t kidding.

If you mean the creationist or IDer on the street I agree. But when it comes to the major anti-evolution activists, they seem fully aware of what they know and don’t know, and that what they peddle is nonsense. They’re not “kidding” in the sense of eventually letting their “victims” in on the joke, but they are deliberately fooling them. They know that evolution is not just natural selection, but they know just when to bait-and-switch it with its caricature, when to conflate evolution with abiogenesis, when and how to quote mine, etc.

The Salem hypothesis rears its head again.

What gets to me is that engineers should know better. Just take any of these engineers and ask them why they don’t use ID type notions for engineering purposes. When they are running over budget, why can’t they just use cheaper and less structurally sound components and just claim that the intelligent designer will hold the structure up or keep the machine running? If they can’t depend on the intelligent designer to make their projects work, why do they expect scientists to use the intelligent designer to bolster their working theories?

It is just that simple. When engineers can use the intelligent designer, scientists will also be using the intelligent designer. Until they can make the claim that they can rely on the intelligent designer to make their systems work, they obviously don’t have a leg to stand on to make someone else use the bogus notion.

Just bring up Behe and his claim that the intelligent designer could be dead. What kind of excuse is that when you don’t know if one ever existed?

people who are ignorant about something are also ignorant about their ignorance.

Reminds me of some research I saw years back, but have not been able to locate since. Basically, the researchers found that the level of aptitude for a given task that a person exhibited was highly correlated with that same person’s ability to accurately judge how good he/she was at the task. Essentially, the people who were bad had no idea how bad they were; the increased variance in their self-assessment led many to believe that they were far more adept than they actually were. I’d say that these results certainly match my personal experience.

“Why People Fail to Recognize Their Own Incompetence,” David Dunning, Kerri Johnson, Joyce Ehrlinger, and Justin Kruger, Department of Psychology, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York (D.D., K.J., and J.E.), and Department of Psychology, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, Illinois (J.K.).

http://eres.olin.wesleyan.edu/eres/[…]/dunnwhy.pdf

I’ve misplaced the references, but recent psych research has verified my observation about the correlation of ignorance to ignorance of ignorance. In the study that impressed me the most, researchers gave a group of individuals a set of tests on various subjects and then asked them to predict how well they did relative to the others. With impressive consistency, those with poor scores vastly overestimated their performance while those with good scores tended to underestimate their performance. The effect was quite strong.

I don’t discount the possibility of cynicism on the part of people who retail Creationism or I.D.; but does anybody think that the mass of people who reject evolution are insincere about their beliefs?

I majored in engineering during my undergraduate. Here’s a thought for everyone: why do most people go into engineering? Is it because they’re passionate about science? Or because they want to make a lot of money in a traditionally respected field?

In my experience, the draw is money and prestige, and they’re never really taught disciplined science. They’re taught to shoot from the hip, so to speak. Make a few estimations to ensure whatever you’re designing works. Some of them get this mentality that they can estimate pretty much anything right by instinct, so they don’t trust “eggheads” who actually have to look something up.

Engineering schools tend to attract a very conservative student body (I remember my fellow engineers booing Coretta Scott King at my commencement!) The fact that one of the nuttier engineers pops up once in a while to say something absurd comes as no suprise to me.

Sheese, what is this, beat up on engineers day?

“Why engineers insist on interpreting everything as though it must follow the rules they use in their work is a mystery to me.”

“They’re taught to shoot from the hip, so to speak.”

“Likewise engineers, and everyone else, should at least realize that there are journals titled Evolution, Molecular Biology and Evolution, Journal of Molecular Evolution, Molecular Phylogenetics, etc. If you don’t understand the articles in these journals, don’t presume to dictate to those who write and edit the articles.”

Can you spell “over generalization”?

I am a licensed Professional Engineer. I’ve been reading and learning here since the time of the Kitzmiller decision. I’ve learned a lot and don’t usually post because I’m not a biologist and cannot contribute to the discussion. I assure you that the “engineers” referred to in the quoted over generalizations are a small, small minority. Remember, some of the proponents of ID and some YECers claim to be biologists!

Dave

In the paper I cited, the contrast was not quite as stark as Mr. Harrison implies. The third and fourth quartiles estimated their scores on an exam fairly accurately. The fourth (top) quartile indeed underestimated its scores slightly but statistically significantly, because they overestimated everyone else’s abilities, not because they underestimated their own test scores.

The lowest two quartiles, by contrast, were astonishing. The lowest quartile ranked itself in approximately the 60th percentile, whereas in reality it averages the 12.5th percentile. The second quartile was not much closer, ranking itself in about the 65th percentile, instead of the correct 37.5th.

I do not know what relevance this study has to creationism, but it is interesting anyway.

I hope I did not insult engineers as a whole with my posting. What I wanted to pointed out is how this witness for ID is a mechanical engineer with a well described past as a creationist activist, hardly the kind of scientific support one would imagine ID to be proud of.

Thanks for the reference, Matt. I was going nuts trying to find it.

Delphi_ote,

Re Engineers vs. science

It also depends upon the opportunities available and quality of instruction - which greatly varies from land to land. Where I am from, India. the best and brightest get into the engineering (IITs anyone) and medical schools. Because these offer the best career opportunities. And the IITs do an uncharacteristically good job of teaching science, because there is a lot of emphasis on fundamentals. And many highschoolers enter an engineering oriented program only to find that they prefer the sciences and mathematics. For instance these guys, http://snipurl.com/19u7a Agarwal, Kayal, and Saxena at IIT Kanpur found themselves wanting to study mathematics after entering IIT Kanpur. The not so good ones in India get to do the sciences in less reputed colleges. However if one wants to jump off the cliff of reason, there is less holding you in the case of engineers. Of course that doesn’t explain why a once well trained academic like BillyBoy is today making a mess of the simplest ideas.

shiva — Well, he is paid to do it? Maybe paid fairly well?

Should Intelligent Design (ID) be taught as Science, and posed as an argument to Evolution? Hey, wait a minute, shouldn’t I rephrase that as: Should the Theory of Intelligent Design (ID) be taught as Science, and posed as an argument to the Theory of Evolution?

I’ve heard of the “Theory of Evolution” before, but I never actually heard of the “Theory of Intelligent Design”. Maybe just a faux-pas… you know how things get overlooked in our “modern” world. Is this ID thingy a “science” or what? Scientific theories are usually allowed to be scrutinized, and allowed to be tested from All standpoints.

Lots of people that believe in Evolution still know it as “The Theory of Evolution”. Time, laziness, and a growing confidence have shortened how we refer to it, but as people find additional clues and facts, we hold them up to scrutiny and would not be afraid to examine things that pose a valid argument - even to the theory of Evolution.

Or at least how I learned Science, and Evolution… (see I did it too)!

Now we got something called Intelligent Design that proponents feel deserve an equal status to Evolution in Science classrooms. Or even alternative status, with NO Evolution taught at all. We could say this effects just “Biology” Classrooms, but we might include all Science classrooms because ID proponents (Fundies, may I call you Fundies… thank you) desire equal (or preferred) status everyplace. Astronomy, Geology, Microbiology, Zoology, Botany, Astrophysics, and others are (or will be) affected.

Seems the Fundies got tired of being relegated to just Philosophy, History, Religion, and Sociology type areas. They probably figure, Why Not?… I mean… Really! The modern world just can’t be RULED by marshmellow subjects like those! They need Substance… Weight… Facts… and the resulting POWER. Yup, power… but that’s not even the same as POWER !

The “Scientific Method” has become accepted, and respected. And that is why Fundies want ID to be in Science classrooms. They want the “validity”, and “respect” given to something that has actually worked for validity and respect for the last 150 years, but want to skip over the “work” part themselves.

Soooo… Here we are, in 2007 CE. Like I say, Fundies seem to want validation. They are empowered with All their facts, they are huddled into groups that curse polititians and voters that disagree. They feel the need for Veracity (truthiness, if you will), and to be able to hold their heads up high in society… one of Their making. I just can’t accept the other alternative that they really, really, Really believe their recently promoted religious dogmas. Religion, accepted for thousands of years on Faith (and Faith alone), has suddenly become their Major Scientific Fact that explains EVERYTHING from the creation of the universe to mankind’s raison d’etre (sp?) and the true explaination of gravity.

Fundies are using the logic: Because an Intelligent Human could design and build something that is Complex, Beautiful, Large, Small, or Colorful… ERGO, only an Intelligent Entity (a god, and only their god if “truth” be told) could design something in nature that is Complex, Beautiful, Large, Small, or Colorful… you get the idea.

But don’t Fundies see ANY difference between “man”the designer, and “god” the designer? Hmmmm.….

Is Math a Science? Engineers know about math. I know we used math in Science classes… but is it a Science itself? Do you remember those stupid “Word” problems we used to be subjected to in fourth or fifth grade? I hated them, well… I hated math, but that’s neither here nor there.

If we hypothetically accept Intelligent Design as even a “Theory” in Science (and I’m not saying we should)… Let’s try a little “Word” problem, and look at the Math.

The Intelligent Design Question: (as stated above) “Because an Intelligent Human could design and build something that is Complex, Beautiful, Large, Small, or Colorful… ERGO, only an Intelligent Entity (..god..) could design something in nature that is Complex, Beautiful, Large, Small, or Colorful…”

For this math problem we will use a Bridge as the creation designed by an intelligent human, and we will use the term “Complex Stuff” for that created and designed by an intelligent entity (Intelligent God).

Soooo… Using: B=Bridge, IP=Intelligent People, and C=Complex Stuff, and IG=Intelligent God. The ID equation in question becomes: [ (if B, then IP) then (if C, then IG) ]. This seems quite a complex equation! I’ve heard of (if A =B, and A=C, then B=C). But [ (ifA,thenB)then(ifC,thenD) ] seems quite unwieldly.

But, what the heck… Ok, I’ll go with it.

Only… What if I find a Bridge that’s really designed poorly, you know, like that walkway that collapsed a few years ago with lots of people on it. Can I assume that it Wasn’t intelligently designed / created. You’re darn right I can. And do!

Sooo… Using: -B=NoMoreBridge, SP=Stupid People. (if —B, then SP) I’m not sure where this is all going, but can I state: [ (if-B,thenSP)then(ifC,thenIG) ] ?

Orrrr…

What if I find something in Nature that isn’t complex, crazy, beautiful, large, small, or colorful… can I assume that it wasn’t designed by an “intelligent” entity? Sure I can. I mean Really, would an intelligent designer (man, or god) really design something that wasn’t worth their time?

Sooo… Using: -C=NoComplexStuff, SG=… (Hey, I’m not the one that’s proposing the whole ID argument… don’t blame me). (if-C,thenSG)… (Nuthin personal God)

Le Grand Interrogative: Is the equation [ (if B, then IP) then (if C, then IG) ] true?

If the equation [ (if B, then IP) then (if C, then IG) ] is true, is [ (if-B,thenSP) then (if-C,thenSG) ] a valid statement?

Believe what you will, but before these fancy equations are solved we really, Really should go back just one step.

There are a few unresolved things to discuss: 1. B (or —B) is somehow directly/indirectly associated with C (or —C). 2. IP (and SP) exist, but the IG (or SG) remains an Unknown Quantity. Proof of IG (or SG) remains an unproven theorum, not indepently proven to be related to B (or —B), C (or —C), or IP (or SP). 3. IP necessarily produces B. 4. SP necessarily results in —B. 5. IP (or SP) could never design something that might be mistaken as a usual part of C (or —C).

Of course, Fundies could just redefine the word “Science”…

Oh, wait… they already tried that in Kansas.

Jim Harrison Wrote:

I don’t discount the possibility of cynicism on the part of people who retail Creationism or I.D.; but does anybody think that the mass of people who reject evolution are insincere about their beliefs?

To be clear about my comment above, I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of the “masses.” But they too annoy me sometimes when they defend what they have been sold. Typical of any pseudoscience, not just creationism/ID, is a “selective incredulity,” whereby anything from mainstream science is suspect, yet anything peddled by their “underdog” gets a free pass. If they are backed into a corner, then it becomes “your ‘theory’ has problems too.” IOW they set it up so they can never lose. I don’t know if that’s innate, or a technique that is rote-learned from the pseudoscience peddlers, or some of each.

I do not know what relevance this study has to creationism, but it is interesting anyway.

Well, it does explain Dembski’s labelling of himself as a mathematician.

Not you PG, they themselves, in other words why are they so unself-aware?

C’mon; he said it was a fundamental and basic fact. That means it applies to everyone, not just those it applies to.

I suspect Jim did not mean exactly that as an actual fact to be considered as a truth but more as an observation of a ‘basic’ human foible, if perhaps clumsily said.

That’s completely ad hoc, and we wouldn’t accept Sal putting forth such an arbitrary defense for something silly that Dembski wrote. The fundamental and basic fact is that what was claimed to be a fundamental and basic fact isn’t.

I’ve misplaced the references, but recent psych research has verified my observation about the correlation of ignorance to ignorance of ignorance. In the study that impressed me the most, researchers gave a group of individuals a set of tests on various subjects and then asked them to predict how well they did relative to the others. With impressive consistency, those with poor scores vastly overestimated their performance while those with good scores tended to underestimate their performance. The effect was quite strong.

What’s quite strong here is that the findings don’t provide support for your claim. Rather, people tended to misrate themselves toward the mean. One possibility is that people generally don’t know where the mean is – something not only to be expected, but that is borne out in other areas such as people’s estimates of what percentile of wealth they are in (e.g., most people who think they are among the richest 1% or 10% aren’t). In any case, this self-ranking of where one falls relative to others doesn’t even touch upon their awareness of their own ignorance; one would need an absolute ranking (an estimate of how many they got right) to touch on that.

“Why People Fail to Recognize Their Own Incompetence,”

Notably, this is about certain skills, not about knowledge generally. It applies to those skills that are necessary to recognize who has those very skills. The absence of such skills naturally results in both wrong answers and misestimates of the number of wrong answers; this would manifest not only in misjudging one’s own performance, but also misjudging the performance of others. But it’s quite possible to be aware of one’s ignorance and still be ignorant; thus it’s not a “fundamental and basic fact” that “people who are ignorant about something are also ignorant about their ignorance”, it’s a fallacy of affirmation of the consequent; while it’s true of some people who are ignorant of some things, it’s not true of all people in regard to their ignorance of all things. But then, as the paper says, “The skills needed to produce logically sound arguments, for instance, are the same skills that are necessary to recognize when a logically sound argument has been made.”

OK, first thing: the vast majority of engineers are not creationists. But a large percentage of “scientifically” qualified creationists are engineers…

Being an engineer myself, I’ve often wondered about the prevalence of engineers and doctors in the creationist “scientist” ranks. Recently I noticed one thing that the two groups have in common: they both work with highly complex systems that nobody fully understands.

The result is that we get comfortable with the idea that there are gaps in our knowledge, and that these gaps aren’t likely to get us into any trouble.

The trouble is that this view of the world is fundamentally false. One day, one of those complex interactions that we judged as unimportant will bite us on the backside - think of any of the various space shuttles that have blown-up/disintegrated. Each one was the result of some minor problem resulting in catastrophic failure. Or, in the medical realm, think of the test last year of the immuno-modulator that nearly killed the six trial patients.

The better engineers/doctors don’t stop at a “good enough” solution, but push through until they fully understand everything that’s going on in their system, at least as far as that is feasible with today’s knowledge. Sadly, this is not standard operating procedure, at least not in the engineering world, and neither, IMHO in the medical world (note: I’m not talking about medical research here, but your day to day doctor/specialist).

Anyway, it’s not such a long jump from this less rigourous application of science, to creationism. They don’t understand evolution, having not researched it enough, and yet they make the assumption that, based on a very few first principles, they can correctly determine the validity or not of evolution. Big Mistake, may thee never be involved in designing a spaceship!

Also, from that paper:

As Alfred North Whitehead once observed, it is not ignorance, but ignorance of ignorance, that is the death of knowledge.

But if it were a “fundamental and basic fact” that “people who are ignorant about something are also ignorant about their ignorance”, Whitehead’s distinction would be pointless.

To get to the bottom line: while it is true that the question of why creationists are “so unself-aware”, as k.e. put it, is largely due to their ignorance of their own ignorance, it is not a “fundamental and basic fact” that everyone (and we are all quite ignorant about many subjects) is like a creationist, and it is Whitehead’s distinction that makes the difference.

It’s been said, fairly logically (I think) that the more we learn, the more ignorant we become. I understand PG’s distinctions among ordinary ignorance (I don’t know squat about X), abject ignorance (ignorance about ignorance), and creationist ignorance (X doesn’t exist because it doesn’t fit).

Next, we move on to the question of whether stupidity works this same way: whether it is logically necessary that a stupid person lacks the horsepower to grasp the nature of his condition. The distinction has long been recognized: ignorant can be cured; stupid is forever.

demallien Wrote:

OK, first thing: the vast majority of engineers are not creationists.

And a good bet that most of those that are creationists are not YECs, and that many accept at least common descent.

demallien Wrote:

Being an engineer myself, I’ve often wondered about the prevalence of engineers and doctors in the creationist “scientist” ranks. Recently I noticed one thing that the two groups have in common: they both work with highly complex systems that nobody fully understands.

The result is that we get comfortable with the idea that there are gaps in our knowledge, and that these gaps aren’t likely to get us into any trouble.

That’s a problem not with evolution, but how it’s sold to the public. The scientists are very aware of the gaps, which conclusions they may threaten and which conclusions they are unlikely to change regardless of how they are “filled”. Anti-evolution activists are skilled at pretending that any gap threatens the entire theory. And IMO, defenders of evolution mostly do a poor job of exposing those tactics.

Posted by Popper’s Ghost on February 12, 2007 1:01 AM (e)

Not you PG, they themselves, in other words why are they so unself-aware?

C’mon; he said it was a fundamental and basic fact. That means it applies to everyone, not just those it applies to.

I suspect Jim did not mean exactly that as an actual fact to be considered as a truth but more as an observation of a ‘basic’ human foible, if perhaps clumsily said.

That’s completely ad hoc, and we wouldn’t accept Sal putting forth such an arbitrary defense for something silly that Dembski wrote. The fundamental and basic fact is that what was claimed to be a fundamental and basic fact isn’t.

You are quite correct as usual, you bring a rigor that I (and I am guessing others) are not accustomed to. I read “The fundamental and basic fact” as a figure of speech in a subjective manner

Posted by Popper’s Ghost on February 12, 2007 2:04 AM (e)

Also, from that paper:

As Alfred North Whitehead once observed, it is not ignorance, but ignorance of ignorance, that is the death of knowledge.

But if it were a “fundamental and basic fact” that “people who are ignorant about something are also ignorant about their ignorance”, Whitehead’s distinction would be pointless.

To get to the bottom line: while it is true that the question of why creationists are “so unself-aware”, as k.e. put it, is largely due to their ignorance of their own ignorance, it is not a “fundamental and basic fact” that everyone (and we are all quite ignorant about many subjects) is like a creationist, and it is Whitehead’s distinction that makes the difference.

Excellent point: Creationists are not aware of the “fundamental and basic fact” that their religious beliefs make them ignorant, by in my opinion; being incapable of finding within themselves the reasoning required to both hold logically consistent conceptual models and make an abstract idea function in synchrony with extant reality. Due in part to very limited life experiences, at least compared to my own.

Here are my personal observations of a two creationists in particular. Both were adult conversions. They got mixed up in fairly coercive cult like religions and surrendered their logical reasoning in exchange for inclusion in the group. They were both adolescent males and there may have been females involved in either case the ‘pathology’ for want of a better word was not unlike a case of adolescent ‘love’. They were literally smitten by the narrative.

The more creationists carry on with their crusade the more focus they bring to their short comings

Strangely evolution of the intellect itself could be responsible for delusions.

Schizophrenia could be ‘evolution of the intellect’.

I’m not claiming that the ignorance of a thing necessarily implies the ignorance of that ignorance as a matter of logic—I’m ignorant of category theory, for example, but perfectly well aware that I’m ignorant of it. I’m underlining a general fact about the natural history of ignorance that seems relevant to me in relation to Creationism and I.D. Folks don’t realize they don’t have a leg to stand on because they don’t have a leg to stand on. They lack the information they would need to recognize their own lack of information, much as stroke patients sometimes deny that they can’t feel anything on one side of their bodies precisely because they don’t feel the absence of feeling. In the case of popular anti-evolutionism, I believe that this mechanism is at work. Since a lot of people are unaware of the vast body of empirical work lies behind evolutionary theory, they tend to believe that there is no such body or rather, to be more precise, the empirical evidence, like a paralyzed limb, is a nonthing for them. What’s involved is more than a lack of knowledge about specifics. If you’re unfamiliar with the sciences, you don’t know of the scale and weight of scientific research on any subject. You’re very likely to think that theories like the theory of evolution are just matters of opinion because absent all the evidence that backs ‘em up, theories are just opinions. Which is why I expect that making people more familiar with what scientists actually do and how much they do may be a more effective tactic than arguing with them if the goal is to change minds.

Back to the (main) subject of the thread, it seems not. Well, at least for YEC. Front page article in today’s TNYT regarding YECer Marcus R. Ross who received his PhD in Geosciences from the University of Rhode Island. He doesn’t appear to be at all conflicted about being both a YECer and a paleontologist!

Also mentioned in the article are YECers John R. Baumgardner (geophysicist on staff at LANL) and Kurt P. Wise (Stephen Jay Gould, adviser).

What always gets me about the “creationist engineer” is that they don’t seem to understand the smallest bit about evolution/natural selection.

Do they pop out of the womb with the ability to assemble a car?

No, they spend years learning from the collected knowledge of thousands of scientists and engineers before them.

They rely on manufacturers to built parts out of raw materials, using processes that took centuries to develop and years to put in place.

They use tools - many of which are not used exclusively for car-making, but are used (or were originally used) for *other* purposes.

Yet somehow, the idea of an incredibly complex multicellular organism being “poofing” into existence is more plausible to them than someone popping out of the womb with the ability to create a car?

Thank you Dizzy… and previously, k.e. for addressing the issue of evolution, and an engineer’s quest to explain the universe through Intelligent Design (Creationism).

The thought that mental disease might be an evolutionary process is… is suppose, a possibility. In the right environment.

I liked Dizzy’s thoughts about the possible “creation” of an engineer, and the “evolution” of the various things like Language, Mathematics, Science, etc. A wonderful analogy.

Another novel thought on the subject might be that “evolution” doesn’t necessarily mean “from bad, to good”. As I walk my dog Margaret, I realize that I am the one less adapted. My center of gravity, lack of hair, sense of smell, poor eyesight, etc. make me less adaptable to various environmental situations. My (and your) ancestors had the wits to make improvements upon their environment to make “life” possible, but in the past those individuals without “smarts” probably died. I’m not sure what the mechanism of the mammal knee had to do with anything, reptiles, marsupials, birds, etc. have joints that any crack-pot could pull out of a hat as an example of this-or-that.

All life forms are, or were, relegated to live in areas that best suited the limits of physical characteristics. And canids probably had a wider range of suitable environments than “man”.

Yet, we prevailed (Man), who’d a thunk it! We created language, and mechanical means of disseminating information. We created mechanical devices to warm ourselves, transport ourselves, and kill-off any other plant / animal that might harm us (or even argue with us).

We assume (yes, you can joke), that our “self awareness”, opposable thumb, and intellect are that which makes “Man” superior. The “superior” merely connotes our attitude, and really only describes how we think of ourselves. I’m sure that Margaret (my dog) looks upon me as something that she should protect… because I’m such a helpless and poorly designed organism.

Getting back to my previous thought that “evolution” doesn’t necessarily mean “from bad, to good”. “Good” is such a relative term, and here it merely means “suitable for conditions”. It appears that the Only thing we really have going for us is our “intellect”… OK, the opposable thumb thingy is pretty important too, but I think our “self awareness” is totally over-rated.

What we have to do now is protect our intellectual heritage. Just because somebody gets the hair-brained idea that religion should dictate it’s dogma to everybody and reign supreme over all known fields of endeavor, it doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. Ok, maybe religious beliefs can/should be used as a bell-weather, and be used to guide / reign-in science at times. But any religion that pretends to have any / all explanations for any / all Scientific questions is definitely Wrong… and not what we want for evolutionary developments of any kind.

demallien, I’m a little late getting back to this thread. I just wanted to say that I think we’re both seeing the same thing (granted, the bits about conservatives was meant to apply only to American culture.) All of my ideas on this subject apply directly to medical professionals as well, and I never even thought about applying it there. It’s definitely worth thinking about a bit more. Thanks.

Also, just in case any of the engineers come by this thread again, I wanted to say that I was NOT trying to be down on engineers. It’s my own background. It’s a fantastic discipline, much needed and underappreciated by the public. I was trying to explain why I see so many engineers promoting pseudoscience.

Finally, I want to share something hilarious. You want to make an engineer mad? When they tell you they’re an engineering major, ask “What kind?” No matter how they respond, you reply, “Oh, so you’re not a REAL engineer.” Try it. The results are too funny.

Especially with CivEs, because we all know they’re not REAL engineers! (kidding!)

Re “I was trying to explain why I see so many engineers promoting pseudoscience.”

I wonder if it’s largely that (1) people who aren’t experts at something aren’t likely to become leading advocates, (2) the various forms of engineering may account for a large fraction of people who have expertise in something, and (3) people with expertise in the relevant scientific subjects aren’t likely to advocate non-science.

Also, I wonder if the total number of I.D. pushers may be a much smaller number than the total number of engineers, in which case a large percentage of engineers in the I.D. group doesn’t really say anything about engineers in general.

Re “When they tell you they’re an engineering major, ask “What kind?””

Well, I’m a software engineer. Ergo, don’t ask me to build anything, or repair anything. ;)

Henry

Also, I wonder if the total number of I.D. pushers may be a much smaller number than the total number of engineers, in which case a large percentage of engineers in the I.D. group doesn’t really say anything about engineers in general.

Hehe, well from a statistical standpoint, it would say something, if true…not about engineers in general, but about population differences among groups…

Why does anyone take the design of an inert machine or a structure as an analog for the organic growth of biological organisms anyway? Machines and widgets are at best mere parodies of biological structures.

It is as if ID advocates think that the biosphere is dead.

That’s it, isn’t it? I don’t want to go all Little Big Man on you, but nature is dead to them, isn’t it? And if that’s the case, they are the materialists, not “atheistic Darwinists.” I use the word “machine” as metaphor, but they mean it literally. So who are the materialists, then?

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on February 9, 2007 8:52 PM.

Zimmerman: Writer (Wells) missed point of Evolution Sunday was the previous entry in this blog.

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