Expelled Exposed: Flunked “Rebel” Part 1

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Our flunked ‘rebel’ at the appropriately named movie ‘Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed’ has made some claims which he believes are relevant to understanding the science and fact of evolution. Since our flunked ‘rebel has obviously missed many of the relevant science and education classes during his many ‘days off’ , we would not want his friends to be similarly affected. Even though exposing the flaws in our juvenile ‘rebel’ is as easy as taking Ben Stein’s money, the results can serve as a fair warning to other ‘rebels’ ready to imitate our flunked ‘rebel’.

Using his questions and assertions, we can explore the disastrous effects of Intelligent Design (ID) on scientific education as we observe him mindlessly and purposefully parroting the ID argument from personal ignorance and incredulity (perhaps less rebelling and more studying would have helped):

Our Flunked Rebel Wrote:

Each of these discoveries has, in one way or another, led a growing number of scientists to reconsider the simple view espoused by Darwin that life is a random, purposeless, chance occurrence. The universe, and life itself – is turning out to be far more complex and mysterious – than Darwin could possibly have imagined.

Two phrases, and yet each phrase is flawed in a variety of ways.

Each of these discoveries has, in one way or another, led a growing number of scientists to reconsider the simple view

While science indeed is always evolving and we have learned much since the days of Darwin, few scientists are ‘reconsidering’ the elegant and well supported arguments formulated by Darwin. In fact, scientists are coming to the conclusion that there are many additional processes which are relevant to evolution such as development, neutral evolution, and epigenetics, however few have come to reject the concept of variation and selection as first formulated by Charles Darwin.

the simple view espoused by Darwin that life is a random, purposeless, chance occurrence

Now, anyone familiar with the issues would notice how this description is misleading and in fact also untrue. Again, if our rebel friend would have been in class when they discussed the concept of science, he would have known that Darwin’s view was not that life is a random, purposeless, chance occurrence.

For the benefit of our flunked ‘rebel’, let’s examine these words in more detail. For instance ‘random’, while not necessarily used by Darwinian theory, it refers to the concept proposed by neo-Darwinian theory that variation is random with respect to immediate need. In fact, anyone familiar with Darwinian theory, and not asleep during biology classes, knows that the theory involves at least two components; namely variation and selection. While variation may be random in the sense described earlier, the combined process is far from random.

Now we get to the word which shows how our flunked ‘rebel’ fails to understand the concept of science. Science does not allow us to state if evolution is purposeless. In fact this concept has no place in scientific theory. Science cannot prove or disprove the existence of a supernatural entity.

Our rebel, in his almost childlike enthusiasm also has been misled into believing that there is a scientific theory of Intelligent Design.

The theory of intelligent design is simply an effort to empirically detect whether the “apparent design” in nature acknowledged by virtually all biologists is genuine design (the product of an intelligent cause) or is simply the product of an undirected process such as natural selection acting on random variations.

Note that Intelligent Design first of all lacks a theory, and second of all, is not about detecting detecting ‘intelligent causes’ but about detecting design which is defined as the “set theoretic complement of regularity and chance”, or in other words that which remains when science has eliminated some scientific processes as explanations for a particular system. In other words, design is nothing more than a synonym for our ignorance, or historically better known as a ‘gap argument’. Few Intelligent Design proponents have realized how through the (ab)use of terminology, a bait and switch argument has been proposed where complexity and information are defined to equivocate with how people more commonly interpret such terminology.

Now, the following may come as an even bigger shock to our flunked ‘rebel’, but as admitted to by ID proponents themselves, there does not exist a theory of Intelligent Design. In fact, Intelligent Design, as formulated presently as a negative argument, will continue to lack a theory. And many have come to see this as ‘by design’.

Young Earth Creationist and Intelligent Design Creationist Paul Nelson stated:

Paul Nelson Wrote:

Easily the biggest challenge facing the ID community is to develop a full-fledged theory of biological design. We don’t have such a theory right now, and that’s a problem. Without a theory, it’s very hard to know where to direct your research focus. Right now, we’ve got a bag of powerful intuitions, and a handful of notions such as ‘irreducible complexity’ and ‘specified complexity’-but, as yet, no general theory of biological design.

Source: Paul Nelson, The Measure of Design Touchstone Magazine 7/8 (2004): pp 64 – 65.

Philip “Godfather of ID” Johnson similarly observed:

Philip Johnson Wrote:

I also don’t think that there is really a theory of intelligent design at the present time to propose as a comparable alternative to the Darwinian theory, which is, whatever errors it might contain, a fully worked out scheme. There is no intelligent design theory that’s comparable. Working out a positive theory is the job of the scientific people that we have affiliated with the movement. Some of them are quite convinced that it’s doable, but that’s for them to prove…No product is ready for competition in the educational world.

Source: Philip Johnson In the matter of Berkeley v. Berkeley by Michelangelo D’Agostino 10, 2006 p31 Berkeley Science Review

and Bruce Gordon, who was interim Director at the Polanyi Center after Dembski’s unfortunate ‘Waterloo’ email caused his own untimely ‘Waterloo’.

Bruce Gordon Wrote:

Design theory has had considerable difficulty gaining a hearing in academic contexts, as evidenced most recently by the the Polanyi Center affair at Baylor University. One of the principle reasons for this resistance and controversy is not far to seek: design-theoretic research has been hijacked as part of a larger cultural and political movement. In particular, the theory has been prematurely drawn into discussions of public science education where it has no business making an appearance without broad recognition from the scientific community that it is making a worthwhile contribution to our understanding of the natural world.

Source: Bruce Gordon Intelligent Design Movement Struggles with Identity Crisis Research News & Opportunities in Science and Theology. January 2001, p. 9

Somehow our ‘rebel’ was not told about these little facts.

To which I can only present the following quote: “I bow to your superior intellect. I’m amazed, I’m impressed, I hate you, take my money, get out of here, you’ve done enough damage!”

Thanks ‘fellas’

32 Comments

*sigh*

It baffles me that they don’t get it: if you predicate your concept on untestable ideas, i.e., supernatural explanations, it’s not science and it won’t produce peer-reviewed scientific research papers. I’ve been discussing this at Pharyngula and the more I find out about the non-research papers that the DI claims support ID, the more shocked I am at how much they’re scraping the bottom of the barrel looking for supporting evidence. Distortions and outright lies don’t surprise me, but the quality of some of what they’re citing is truly pathetic.

Scientists do not pin down ID proponents enough on Dembski’s soi-dissant “explanatory filter.” PvM noted, and Dembski continues to emphasize, that design is _defined_ as the set-theoretic complement of chance and regularity.

So let’s apply the filter to a biological system. Assume we can eliminate chance. Then we apply the regularity segment. Assume that no regularity seems to explain the system. At this point, the filter proclaims that the system is the result of design.

But surely there are regularities (natural laws) of which we are yet ignorant. If the system can be explained by any such regularity, then the filter finds design for what is actually due to IGNORANCE of a regularity. Thus, according to the explanatory filter, ignorance is at least a subset of design.

I’m really just restating what PVM said above. However, I think this simple step-wise description of Dembski’s only tool for detecting design allows even people such as Flunked Rebel to understand that Dembski himself has demonstrated that design = ignorance.

One could also point out that regularity, chance, and design (as those terms are usually understood) are not mutually exclusive categories. For example, in physics the results of quantum experiments have both regularity and chance factors.

Nor is there any obvious reason to assume a priori that design isn’t at least sometimes a combination of the other two.

Henry

Nor is there any obvious reason to assume a priori that design isn’t at least sometimes a combination of the other two.

Exactly… In fact, that is what we observe in human design, a combination of regularity and chance guides us where we apply learned and observed patterns with an ability to add creative variations based on intuition and training. It is therefore really funny to see ID creationists attempting to define intelligence to be ‘non-material’ and ‘super-natural’ as they argue, without much vigor or rigor, that intelligence cannot be reduced to material processes.

James F Wrote:

It baffles me that they don’t get it:

They (the chief ID promoters if not their target audience) do get it. In the quote above, Johnson, referring to ID “scientists” says “…that’s for them to prove…” Yet he (a lawyer) and his “scientist” colleagues know that they can pull the bait and switch on their target audience, which is always predisposed to believe that it’s always mainstream science that has to prove them wrong, and that “alternatives” are always unfairly “shut out.”

They have no interest in impressing real scientists. Yet those pathetic papers keep critics busy pointing out flaws, and the criticism gives the scam artists more quotes to mine to impress their target audience (mostly fundamentalist nonscientists). Round and round it goes.

PvM Wrote:

Exactly… In fact, that is what we observe in human design, a combination of regularity and chance guides us where we apply learned and observed patterns with an ability to add creative variations based on intuition and training.

That plus the fact that design arguments applied to humans (and other animals, e.g. bird nests) are “shortcut” explanations. If someone commits a murder, we don’t need to determine all the muscle contractions and cell chemistry behind it. But that’s the kind of information we need to study biological “design.”

Yet ironically, even when a “shortcut” answer is all that’s needed (e.g. in forensics or archaeology), the investigators still obtain some detail on what the designer did, when. In contrast, IDers refuse to take it even that far - even though (1) that’s least they need to make ID scientific, and (2) classic creationists have shown that it is doable. The rub is that IDers know that if you start making the testable what, when, where, how questions like the classic creationists do, it leads right back to evolution, common descent and the mainstream timeline.

So it’s no surprise that they will resort to as much “don’t ask, don’t tell” that they can get away with.

James F:

*sigh*

It baffles me that they don’t get it: if you predicate your concept on untestable ideas, i.e., supernatural explanations, it’s not science and it won’t produce peer-reviewed scientific research papers. I’ve been discussing this at Pharyngula and the more I find out about the non-research papers that the DI claims support ID, the more shocked I am at how much they’re scraping the bottom of the barrel looking for supporting evidence. Distortions and outright lies don’t surprise me, but the quality of some of what they’re citing is truly pathetic.

Would not searching for signatures in the DNA be a valid testing procedure for ID?

Regarding Henry H’s comments about design not being separate from chance and regularity:

Chance is a common element in many designs. There is crackle-glaze pottery, distressing and antiquing, live performances that depend on audience reactions, and on and on. If a sporting event or other contest were perfectly predictable, it would be without interest.

But, perhaps more obviously, it is of the very nature of design that one relies on regularities in the medium and the laws of nature. Without regularities, design would be operating in a chaos where anything is possible. Where everything is possible, design could not work.

You have missed the point. What you and I wish to believe, provided it permits us to go on living as humane people in society, is between us and our consciences (or whatever). We are free to believe random selection, common descent, you name it. What you and I are not free to do is demand that others believe it. All you and I are entitled to do in science education is present facts and expound on the theories that reasonably might account for the facts.

Simply do that, and you won’t have people demanding that you change the curricula.

Do you really expect any thinking person to believe that this page HAS to be a chance coming together of type, over time? You know that this page is all but infinitely less complex than a microbe or an atom. If you or I personally do not wish to attribute an higher Cause to things around us, that is our business. To publicly demand that science be harnessed to that perticular car, is like going out and slapping people. And, of course, the reverse holds true, if, say, YEC was to be demanded in science courses. The qeer thing about this imbroglio is that neither ID nor Darwinism are necessary to science. They are personal, not empirical. You wish Darwinism, Common Descent and co. to be classed as scientific? Then make history here and now by telling everyone exactly how evolution got rid of the ape out of our genetics when you know full well that inheritable features in one’s ancestry inevitably reappear sooner or later. Ah - the rules change. What, to suit science or to suit one’s personal opinion? Follow this up by telling us how evolution knew to put the genetics for tetrapod limb development in fish, long before anything fishy started walking? There are at least 50 more deep questions to answer, which I suspect no-one here wishes to tackle - always have been, always were there, Darwin couldn’t answer them but maybe he expected some of his followers to answer them, instead of making him into a religio-political icon of some sort? The answers are now beginning to roll in, and, guess what? One can go on being personally aligned with Darwin, Calathumpus, Nostradamus, H.Clinton, or whoever, and yet practice science without creating a furore.

The problem isn’t ID: the problem is, ID shouldn’t need to demand an entry to where it always should have (implicitly) had a place. Fix the science.

Follow this up by telling us how evolution knew to put the genetics for tetrapod limb development in fish, long before anything fishy started walking?

And April Fool to you, too, PBH. Have a nice day.

As we can see pretty plainly, we’re trying to work forwards and the ID crowd is attempting to work backwards. They are all just as certain as Heywood here that goddidit. This is simply known. It isn’t subject to investigation. If science fails to establish this, then science is broken; fix it.

But the approaches used seem to depend on the individual. Some (like Johnson) sincerely believe that the evidence is actually there, if only it were properly investigated. Others seem to understand that their supernatural a priori convictions can’t possibly be supported by evidence, so the goal is to evangelize by pretending the support is there anyway. Some (like Heywood here) choose, perhaps deliberately and perhaps inadvertently, to misrepresent the science as required for a “forced fit” with their preconceptions. Rather hilarious to see evolution depicted as Yet Another God, with plans, intentions, purposes, and knowledge. So Heywood’s evolution “god rid of the Ape” (how clever), and “knew” to put legs into fish long before they needed any, etc. The notion that random variations on rare occasion just happen to be useful for something new, seems to have escaped him completely. For him, ALL processes in nature are supernaturally guided for divine purposes. There are no accidents. There is no random variation; it is all directed.

Natural processes escape him for a reason: because he KNOWS that goddidit, therefore evolution couldn’t have done it, therefore evolution DID NOT do it, therefore evolution has serious obvious flaws any dunce can see, therefore the most intelligent and knowledgeable people the world has produced for well over a century are all brainwashed. They MUST be. Otherwise, they’d “fix” science so that it supports what Heywood has “known” must be true since he was 5 years old.

Dude, science isn’t harnessed to any particular car, that’s the whole point. Do you really think Myers and Miller, and all the other men and women from all religions and none, who actually do the work could arrive at the same scientific conclusions if science was harnessed to each (or any) of their individual cars? Get a grip.

Wesley Elsberry discovered:

Pamela Thompson, Templeton Foundation spokesperson, says in her letter to the LA Times:

We do not believe that the science underpinning the intelligent-design movement is sound, we do not support research or programs that deny large areas of well-documented scientific knowledge, and the foundation is a nonpolitical entity and does not engage in or support political movements.

The Templeton foundation, a religious body that originally supported the DI with big bucks, backed out. They called it a political movement.

Harold posts this viewpoint often. He is right.

By now, it is obvious that ID is purely political.

1. Zero scientific research.

2. After 2,000 years in one form or another and 200 years in the modern version, there is zero data and no coherent scientific theory or research program.

3. What they do is pure Goebbelian propaganda. Trying to get school districts to violate the US constitution and sneak fundie religious ideas into our kid’s science classes. Sponsoring an “Academic Freedom” bill that is really a “Be Kind to Our Pseudoscience” bill. Making propaganda films equating science, biology, and evolution with Nazism and the Holocaust.

If you look at what they do, it is now pure Xian Dominionist politics. Not even pretending to be science or scientists. In fact, they are attacking science and scientists, just trying to cause havoc for the sake of havoc.

You wish Darwinism, Common Descent and co. to be classed as scientific? Then make history here and now by telling everyone exactly how evolution got rid of the ape out of our genetics when you know full well that inheritable features in one’s ancestry inevitably reappear sooner or later.

Simple: It didn’t. We are apes, albeit of a different sort. And no, BTW, there’s nothing “inevitable” about inheritable features from ancestral species reappearing; I don’t know where that one comes from.

Follow this up by telling us how evolution knew to put the genetics for tetrapod limb development in fish, long before anything fishy started walking?

Again, it didn’t. There are a huge number of possible tetrapod limbs that might have come about, but the one that finally did was one of the smaller number of possibilities that could be cobbled together our of a modified fin. There was no predestiny involved. Why can’t you see that?

The absence of an “I don’t know” category is what kills the Explanatory Filter dead. The only place for “I don’t know” to go… is in the category of “Design”. The filter itself defines design and ignorance as indistinguishable! No wonder nobody actually uses it.

The problem isn’t ID: the problem is, ID shouldn’t need to demand an entry to where it always should have (implicitly) had a place. Fix the science.

And yet ID has no hypotheses, no theory, nothing, other than “well science cannot explain it and it surely looks complex’, let’s call it design…

If ID had a scientifically relevant theory or contributions it would not have to demand entry via political means

Follow this up by telling us how evolution knew to put the genetics for tetrapod limb development in fish, long before anything fishy started walking?

You seem to have things backward, tetrapod limb development reused existing components by adding variations on a theme. See Evolution and development of the tetrapod limbs for an overview

Changes in the number and regulation of Hox genes may have strongly influenced the diversification of metazoan body plans. In particular, this family of DNA-binding transcription factors probably played an important role in the differentiation of amphibian limbs because, in addition to their function in anterior-posterior body patterning in all Bilateria, they are involved in morphogenesis of paired appendages. Hox genes are characterized by a 180-base-pair (bp) homeobox that is highly conserved among distantly related taxa. They are typically arranged in clusters with up to 14 genes that originated from a series of tandem duplications. Subsequent rounds of duplication in vertebrate evolution produced multiple Hox clusters.

Contrary to ID’s claims, information and complexity in the genome and the resulting morphology can be explained by processes of regularity and chance. No real surprise really.

[quote]Fix the science[/quote] What a wonderful summation of the ID whine.

Is that like fixing an ostensibly fair sporting contest? The DI should try outright bribery. They have some money lying around, and it’s not like they have any sort of reputation for ethical behavior.

Then make history here and now by telling everyone exactly how evolution got rid of the ape out of our genetics when you know full well that inheritable features in one’s ancestry inevitably reappear sooner or later.

“when you know full well that inheritable features in one’s ancestry inevitably reappear sooner or later.” You are Making Stuff Up. This isn’t even the least bit true and anyone who had a high school knowledge of biology would know it.

BTW, taxonomically we are classified as apes. This is why ID never caught on. Making Stuff Up and ignorance is the opposite of Science.

In point of fact, ancestral features do occasionally show up as either vestiges common to an extant population or as atavisms, throwbacks to previous species.

Whales are occasionally found with legs.

Humans are occasionally born covered with fur, or with a tail or with a low funcioning brain. The latter are sometimes confused with creationists but this is another issue.

Philip Bruce Heywood:

Then make history here and now by telling everyone exactly how evolution got rid of the ape out of our genetics when you know full well that inheritable features in one’s ancestry inevitably reappear sooner or later.

Dude! Clearly you’ve never dated a guy with hair all over his chest and back!

Philip Bruce Heywood Wrote:

You have missed the point. What you and I wish to believe, provided it permits us to go on living as humane people in society, is between us and our consciences (or whatever). We are free to believe random selection, common descent, you name it. What you and I are not free to do is demand that others believe it. All you and I are entitled to do in science education is present facts and expound on the theories that reasonably might account for the facts.

No, the point has not been missed by anyone here.

It is you who missed the point. You have guaranteed protection by the US Constitution for your freedom of religion. Yet you choose to come out of your churches and interfere with the secular educations of people who want nothing to do you’re your sectarian dogma.

Science is about evidence and the conclusions and theories that arise from that evidence.

Science is not about sectarian belief or theories bent to conform to sectarian belief. You are free to believe whatever sectarian dogma you wish; you are not free to impose those beliefs on others by using the power and authority of secular institutions.

The conspicuous absence of evidence for your sectarian beliefs, the sectarian agendas of the anti-evolution sects, their repeated distortions of scientific evidence and theory, and the complete lack of accountability and responsibility of the ID/Creationists are all sufficient reasons to bar their sectarian beliefs from the classroom.

Be thankful for your Constitutional protections. People fought and died and others put their lives at risk to preserve these for you. Don’t abuse your protections or you will convince the rest of society that you don’t deserve these protections and they will be taken away from you.

Philip Bruce Heywood said:

We are free to believe random selection…

All you and I are entitled to do in science education is present facts and expound on the theories that reasonably might account for the facts.

Simply do that, and you won’t have people demanding that you change the curricula.

Random selection? Back to basics bud, no one believes in that.

What you suggest would in itself be a change in the curricula, because science is made up of theories that have been tested by the evidence, not that merely have been conjectured to account for facts. It would be a mighty long class otherwise, and fairly useless.

Follow this up by telling us how evolution knew to put the genetics for tetrapod limb development in fish, long before anything fishy started walking?

So much error in so few words. In some ways, the same way the arrow I shot knew how to land exactly where it did. But in a real sense, what you say is nonsensical. The genetics for the tetrapod limbs weren’t “in” the fish or they would have had the limbs. The limbs evolved, thus they weren’t there before.

There are at least 50 more deep questions to answer, which I suspect no-one here wishes to tackle

Only because they are easy to refute to the point of being dreadfully dull as intellectual exercises.

Fnxtr said:

Do you really think Myers and Miller, and all the other men and women from all religions and none, who actually do the work could arrive at the same scientific conclusions if science was harnessed to each (or any) of their individual cars? Get a grip.

This excellent point is one big reason why the IDers are so obsessed with mischaracterizing their opponents as being all atheists. The idea that people from so many divergent world-views could all come to the same conclusion destroys their argument like nothing else. Any layman can discern that argument once the facts are presented.

Bill Gascoyne said:

there’s nothing “inevitable” about inheritable features from ancestral species reappearing; I don’t know where that one comes from.

Oooo! Oooo! I do! But it ain’t pretty…

Follow this up by telling us how evolution knew to put the genetics for tetrapod limb development in fish, long before anything fishy started walking?

That is easy. Evolution didn’t. The legs of tetrapods evolved. From lobe finned fish who had,…4 fins in 2 pairs with a bony skeleton. Which is homologous with your arms and legs.

Read the book, Your Inner Fish by Shubin. or Wikipedia.

Routine cut and paste by a creo who knows zero biology and has no intention of learning any.

Christian Reconstructionists will lie cheat and steal in an attempt to impose their idea of the world on us all. Don’t be surprised. Many know the shell game they’re playing and are happily towing the line. What? You want a glaring example? Do you really believe that Colin Powell thought Saddam had all those weapons he was lying about in front of the UN? He did it anyway because he was part of the ‘team’. These Christian nutjobs (I take a Sam Harris view of religion if you hadn’t noticed) need to be shunned and ostracized at least. Prosecuted for crimes against humanity at best…a man can dream.

Enjoy.

Just in case Bubba is reading, I used the Colin Powell bit as an example of otherwise decent people getting caught up in group-think and actions, and am not implying that Colin is one of the nutjob Christians. War criminal perhaps but not a Christian nutjob to my knowledge.

Enjoy.

you:

James F:

*sigh*

It baffles me that they don’t get it: if you predicate your concept on untestable ideas, i.e., supernatural explanations, it’s not science and it won’t produce peer-reviewed scientific research papers. I’ve been discussing this at Pharyngula and the more I find out about the non-research papers that the DI claims support ID, the more shocked I am at how much they’re scraping the bottom of the barrel looking for supporting evidence. Distortions and outright lies don’t surprise me, but the quality of some of what they’re citing is truly pathetic.

Would not searching for signatures in the DNA be a valid testing procedure for ID?

No. How could you identify what sequences are or are not “signatures” without some a priori knowledge of who put them there?

Olorin Wrote:

But surely there are regularities (natural laws) of which we are yet ignorant. If the system can be explained by any such regularity, then the filter finds design for what is actually due to IGNORANCE of a regularity. Thus, according to the explanatory filter, ignorance is at least a subset of design.

There’s more.

According to Dembski’s definition of a design process (a process whereby a choice is made between alternatives), Natural Selection is itself a design process. So, following this claim logically, he comes back to theistic evolution.

However, also according to Dembski’s definition of a design process, a seive is an intelligent designer.

Philip Bruce Heywood Wrote:

You have missed the point. What you and I wish to believe, provided it permits us to go on living as humane people in society, is between us and our consciences (or whatever). We are free to believe random selection, common descent, you name it.

Except that these are not beliefs, in the way that belief in the FSM is a belief. They are instead conclusions, based upon data and logical inferences from those data.

What you and I are not free to do is demand that others believe it.

No, but if they dissent from the only logical conclusion, and try to persuade others that the conclusion is wrong, we can demand that they justify that dissent.

All you and I are entitled to do in science education is present facts and expound on the theories that reasonably might account for the facts.

No. This is misleading, and I suspect, a sophism.

First of all, the job of science education is to familiarise students with both the principles of science and the predominant conclusions of science. In other words, humanity’s best current understanding of how the world works. All scientific findings are, in principle, provisional. However, one must have some explanation of natural phenomena. Thus, science collectively assigns a degree of confidence to various explanations. If one explanation fits the facts far better than all others, the failed ones are discarded and one can have a high degree of confidence in the successful explanation. Therefore, it is the job of science to find stuff out, and it is the job of science education to disseminate that information in which the scientists have confidence.

Many scientific theories now have so much support from the evidence that they are treated by scientists as fact (for example, the germ theory of disease; plate tectonic theory; general relativity; evolutionary theory). These theories have so much evidentiary support that we can draw an additional conclusion about them:- even if they are wrong, they are still close approximations of how reality operates.

These theories deserve to be taught as factual, because they are as close to proven fact as it is possible to get. Anyone disagreeing with these firmly-confirmed theories must justify that disagreement by reference to additional evidence. Not mere reinterpretation of existing evidence. Not cherry-picked data viewed through rose-tinted lenses. Hard data that gives us reason to doubt the factual status of one of these theories.

The creationists have tried to call evolutionary theory into question, but they have failed. They start from an a priori conclusion and cherry-pick data that they like, ignoring that which proves them wrong. They misrepresent what evolutionary theory actually claims, portraying it either as illogical or as immoral, purely so that they can demolish their straw man with a few feel-good sound bites.

In this context, it is more important than ever that the key focus of science education should be reinforced. Students should not be left free to draw their own conclusions, because they do not have the requisite knowledge of the evidence or the understanding of how that knowledge was acquired. Students should be taught what the science has found and why those conclusions were reached. Then they should be encouraged to find out more for themselves, but from reliable sources, not from creationist pamphlets.

Poor Heywood lives in a static world of black and white, where nothing is ambiguous, nothing changes, biology is composed of “immutable laws”, an organism is absolutely a member of one species (read “kind”) or another. The notion of a species as a breeding population of varied individuals, such that individuals at opposite ends of the curve of some variable might not even be able to interbreed, is incomprehensible to him. Ring species are strictly “look the other way, pretend they don’t exist” phenomena. I wonder how he’d deal with the notion that “species” is a term representing an often (but not always) useful taxonomic convenience, superimposed over the messy biological reality of a varied, dynamic population that changes somewhat with every generation.

And of course, inextricably infused in his confusion is his religious faith. In his world, there is no neutral with respect to his personal god - one accepts his god, or one (foolishly) denies his good. There is no neutral. The qualifications of biologists (and scientists generally) START with their religious faith; their science is either acceptable (i.e. they accept Heywood’s god) or blind and silly (i.e. they reject Heywood’s god). After all, how ELSE could we evaluate the quality of their scientific work?

And in this light, it’s hopeless to try to answer any of Heywood’s questions - every one of them without exception requires that one accept his assumptions. These are all leading questions. So I’m just trying to show that his assumptions track closely to his religious faith - that kinds are immutable, that goddidit, that evolution is a competing god (and a false one), that the world is composed of Rock Of Ages static absolutes, and that biology MUST be interpreted through this filter; it’s the only filter Heywood has available to him, nor ever will.

Not going quite yet: Courtesy of Nigel D we have-as I see it- a quite succinct account of how to arrive at the Aristotelianism that prevailed roughly up until Galileo; whereupon Flint shows-albeit in reverse-what happened to shift it: people started believing that questions about nature could be answered in absolute, mathematical detail. If you must drag religion into it - Galileo believed in a rational Creator who operated according to mathematics.

As Michael Palin said at the end of Brazil, “We’ve lost him.”

And in exactly the same way.

If his comments/questions had come from a name we hadn’t seen here before, I’d have given him the benefit of doubt as a clueless noob. But PBH has been here long enough and often enough that his postings can only be described as deliberately deceptive.

Is it full moon or something? Sal, Heywood and others seem to be intent on derailing discussions…

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by PvM published on March 31, 2008 5:30 PM.

Dr. Michael Egnor, Artificial Selection, and My Dog. was the previous entry in this blog.

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