The Future of Science Teetering on The “Edge”

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Jerry A. Coyne’s New Republic review of Giberson’s and Miller’s books is already stirring some controversy, and has spawned a discussion on Edge. I have some thoughts on the subject at Freespace.

41 Comments

Timothy Sandefur said: These are three separate assertions about reality which he is willing to endorse not only without reasons, but without even acknowledging the need for reasons. And this he amazingly calls “honest and open empiricism”!

It’s definitely honest and open. I don’t know about the empiricism part though!

Thanks for allowing the rare opportunity for comment. Twas a pleasure. :P

There didn’t seem to be a way to leave comments over there, and so I’ll comment here instead. It seems to me inaccurate to state that, because science involves a committment to reasoned investigation, therefore it must be all-encompassing. I have great appreciation for music, and I do not doubt that evolution’s tuning of my senses for survival is part of the explanation for why I find certain music beautiful. But to suggest that one must be committed to reducing the experience of music as beautiful to some other level of description seems to me problematic, if not simply wrong.

It is certainly the case that some religious views are subject to scientific critique. If you claim that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old, you are wrong - there is no doubt about it, in spite of the YEC protests to the contrary. All the evidence points clearly in a single direction.

But I don’t see why individual scientists/believers like Miller, who are clearly committed not only to doing excellent science but also to adapting their religious worldview in light of scientific evidence, ought to be criticized for having a particular view about the origin of the universe (or multiverse, or whatever it is). It seems not only necessary, but unhelpful. Science education will benefit from an alliance between all those who support genuine science, and to suggest that one must choose between one’s religious worldview and one’s support of science is not only incorrect, but counterproductive.

I completely agree that science is superior to religion on matters of empiricism. However, the problem with this essay is that, because it is insightful and gets so many things right, it gives the things that it gets wrong an air of authority. The problem is with the following philosophically naive statement:

Keep the issue in mind: the question is not whether it is possible for someone simultaneously to hold unproven, baseless beliefs about a supernatural dimension and scientific, reasoned conclusions with regard to observed phenomena. It is possible for all sorts of people to believe all sorts of things—just as Humpty Dumpty practiced every day believing six impossible things before breakfast. But it is not possible to do these things and still have intellectual integrity.

In the battle between science and religion, scientists typically (and often rightly) view the conflict as one over epistemology. However, to the religious, it is really a conflict of metaphysics. The primary problem we face is that the religious often mistake metaphysics for epistemology. However, scientists are also to blame when they mistake epistemology for metaphysics; metaphysical naturalism is not a scientific tenet no matter how much its adherents wish it so.

Empiricism is incapable of addressing question metaphysics. There is no incongruity in holding metaphysical beliefs about concepts that are provably unknowable. There have been several instances of world-class mathematical logicians embracing mysticism after coming to grips with the limitations logic (I have often seen this as the dual of the person who studies theology and embraces atheism), for precisely this reason.

Yes, you can argue against the pragmatism and utility of holding beliefs about the unfalsifiable. This is not a new argument, and religious scientists have long found it wanting. But to claim that such beliefs are a lack of intellectual integrity demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of both the debate between religion and science, as well as the power of science itself. It is not productive to the debate.

“But this is a two-edged sword. If rebellion and disrespect are indeed part of the American talent for science, then what should we make of the anti-evolution movement? One part of the analysis is clear. The willingness of Americans to reject established authority has played a major role in the way that local activists have managed to push ideas such as scientific creationism and intelligent design into local schools. Giberson agrees: Americans have never been eager or even willing to be led by intellectual elites. A simple commonsense argument by someone you trust is worth more than the pompous pronouncements of an entire university of eggheads. America is a nation that loves cowboys, and cowboys don’t need experts telling them what to think.”

And yet they (Americans) bow to anyone who claims they are a direct emissary of the deity, whatever credentials they might (or might not) have, the self-appointed, self-annointed spiritual leaders will take people by the nose and fill their heads with nonsense, no questions asked, please, and make more than a buck while they’re at it. Comfort food, that’s all, but then people want/need comfort food. Does science offers such an ammenity?

“But this is a two-edged sword. If rebellion and disrespect are indeed part of the American talent for science, then what should we make of the anti-evolution movement? One part of the analysis is clear. The willingness of Americans to reject established authority has played a major role in the way that local activists have managed to push ideas such as scientific creationism and intelligent design into local schools. Giberson agrees:

Americans have never been eager or even willing to be led by intellectual elites. A simple commonsense argument by someone you trust is worth more than the pompous pronouncements of an entire university of eggheads. America is a nation that loves cowboys, and cowboys don’t need experts telling them what to think.”

And yet they (Americans) will bow to the word of anyone who claims to be a direct emissary of the deity, no matter what credentials they might (or might not) have, no questions asked. They would prefer a Rasputin or a Jeanne Dixon to a scientist anyday. Creationists compare evolutionists to the Hitler regime, yet look how readily the (christian) German people took to their Fuhrer for salvation. Their heads become filled with fluff, thinking is not an option; people want/need comfort food, religion offers it to them, science does not.

The above comment by Walker addressed the same problem that I noticed in as much as empiricism is an epistemology, but does not address metaphysics (and one does not have to be theist to have a metaphysical view of the world), so I will confine my remarks here to the political realm.

The problem is this: both the scientists who want to force others to pay for their research through tax money, and the religionists that want to force others to be taught religion in the public schools have the same problem. Neither really respect the right of individuals to think as they wish, and neither are willing to accept the consequences of that.

The religionists want tax dollars to pay for “equal time” which really boils down to religious instruction in the science classroom. They are also unwilling to look closely at the consequences of their belief system. For example, if evolution is untrue, then why do they need new antibiotics to fight off old diseases?

But the scientists want tax dollars to fund their research, which leaves others ultimately in charge of what is said out loud and what the boundaries of scientific investigation are, since those who pay the bills must have some say in how the money is spent. The consequences were clearly seen in Bush’s ‘war on science.’

The founders did indeed want an educated and skeptical public, able to rationally debate, and as Jefferson said, question even the existence of God. But they didn’t expect the public to be educated in schools supported by Federal dollars, with curriculum set by government fiat.

As the book of Proverbs says, “the borrower is the slave to the lender.” Although I do not believe these words were handed down from Sinai, I do believe our ancestors had some wisdom of the world. These words are true. If we continue to force people to pay for our research, we shouldn’t be surprised if they want to control what we do.

This is a conundrum of vexing proportions.

I think it’s germane to point out that the New Republic is both a rabid, frankly racist and theologically bigoted Zionist magazine AND a free-market fundamentalist magazine. I suspect if this writer had pointed out that you can’t cling, evidence-free, to the importance of insisting on using the Torah as a history book and a Domesday book and insist on a minority viewpoint (to put it mildly) among the world’s economists against the evidence of history and statistics and have a self-trumpeted commitment to empiricism and science and have any intellectual integrity, this would never have been published.

I have great appreciation for music, and I do not doubt that evolution’s tuning of my senses for survival is part of the explanation for why I find certain music beautiful. But to suggest that one must be committed to reducing the experience of music as beautiful to some other level of description seems to me problematic, if not simply wrong.

And it seems to me a category error to confuse aesthetics with epistemology.

It also feels to me like we’ve been through this with positivists like Dennett, etc., before. You don’t settle issues with declarations, however firm you choose to make them, that people who don’t have your worldview have no intellectual integrity.

Krauss is onto something when he writes that this is all a waste of ink (or pixels), but not for the reasons he gives. All the argument seems predicated on the notion that science gives us (or is supposed to give us) a “God’s eye view”, and that false. There is no absolute truth in science. With every new refinement of observation and theory the “God’s eye view” lurches away from us because our powers of observation are limited. Science and religion can’t be reconciled, not because one is superior to the other, but because both have limits imposed by the human condition.

Elisheva Levin said: The problem is this: both the scientists who want to force others to pay for their research through tax money, and the religionists that want to force others to be taught religion in the public schools have the same problem. Neither really respect the right of individuals to think as they wish,

I think you are drastically overestimating the influence of the scientific community vs the power of the State. Nations fund research because they think that in the long run they will get something out of it. Not out of some ideological crusade to change minds. No group of scientists forces the Department of Defense to spend billions of dollars on research.

If we continue to force people to pay for our research, we shouldn’t be surprised if they want to control what we do.

Well, yeah. The populace elects representatives. These representatives then pass budgets. Those budgets will include funding for items the representatives think are valuable. I am not sure how this is a “problem” for science.

Before arguing against public science funding, you may also want to consider the problems associated with the alternative (private funding). In the private sector, knowledge is profit. Private corporations have little or no incentive to publish their research findings openly. This is a trend that I think we are seeing in the biotech and medical industries, to the detriment of the public as a whole. While it benefits the nation as a whole if company A comes up with a cheaper cure for a disease, it does not benefit company B. So B has no incentive to share information with A, unless they are forced to as a condition of accepting public research funds.

This is a conundrum of vexing proportions.

Its not vexing at all. Nations are going to invest in research whether the individual likes it or not, because they think it benefits the State. And some public funding for science is better than the alternative of no public funding. A mixed strategy where both public and private funds are spent on research is probably better than either funding method alone.

In furtherance of what Elisheva Levin said, the US in particular increased science funding top to bottom after Sputnik - not because scientists lobbied DC or the media. The US population, government, and business all saw science as a part of their arms race, and later the fiscal arms race on behalf of “American companies”. It was only after there was a complete decoupling of corporate business from nationalism (in the US, corporate taxes went from being the bulk of revenue to a small fraction, corporations became increasingly multinational, etc.), and corporations responded to the ability to bring in as many students from overseas with acceptable k-12 educations or equivalents, that we were not all on the same page anymore. After that, more research became quid pro quo. And more along the lines of libertarian-approved spending - cops, courts, military. None of which, even the most coercive like the FCC and others involved with intellectual property and reserving a monopoly on the use of the commons, provide any vexing conundrums to the market fundamentalists.

I think it quite ironic that a Southern Baptist, venture capitalist, and famous public debater on behalf of free trade, globalization, and the end of tariffs became a prime target for conservatives, first in their revisionism about the history of the internet, a government program, and now about climate change.

is it me or does it seem a little arrogant to say that a scientist who has faith lacks intellectual integrity? not everything can be reduced to rationality. Humans are creatures of both intellect AND emotion. I do not need to have a rational reason as to why I fell in love with my wife, or why I prefer one type of music or art instead of another - these are not logical decisions. Likewise it is not logical or rational in the technical/scientific meanings of those words to hold religious beliefs. But holding those beliefs need not interfere with my ability to reason, be a good scientist (or a mathematician, plumber, architect etc. ) I am using a different part of my brain to THINK than I do to EMOTE!

Last October at the Geol Soc of America annual conference in Houston I gave a paper entitled Evangelicals and evolution, in which I traced out the involvement of evangelicals and geology from 1800. It was often a sorry story. This is my Abstract.

********

Michael Roberts , Lancaster, UK.

Did Evangelicalism influence geology?

Evangelicalism is the fastest growing and most active part of Christianity, and soon there will be more evangelicals in China than the USA. The influence of Creationism scarcely needs stating but what has the influence of Evangelicalism been on geology for 200 years? This is best answered by considering three periods.

First, the early 19th century, which saw both geological put on a sure footing and the dominance of evangelicals in USA and UK. Evangelical geologists were common – Sedgwick, Townsend, Miller, Hitchcock, Silliman and most evangelical theologians eg Chalmers “supported” geology. Scriptural geologists were firmly put down. To conclude, evangelicals did not “make” geology, but made geology acceptable to an evangelical society.

Secondly, a century later evangelicals were marginalized in the Scopes era. With the rise of Dispensationalism and literalism, evangelicals became hostile to evolution and ambivalent to geology (but not in the UK) and the seeds of creationism were sown (McCready Price).

Thirdly, we move to today with a worldwide spread of evangelicalism and creationism. On geology and evolution, evangelicals are split down the middle, but pressure groups and legal challenges make the teaching of geology contentious in the USA, UK, and elsewhere. It is difficult to assess the influence on the practice of geology, but religious and media influence creates a hostile environment. Further creationist ideas support an anti-environmental agenda pace Beisner with geological implications

It may seem a paradox but geological time was more acceptable to evangelicals 200 years ago than today. Part is due to change in the status of the Bible, from a book revealing God, to one which is inerrant in all it says.

***********

As I wrote up the paper I also added some predictions and pointed out if this creationism nonsense did not stop then by 2050 the USA would not be a leading scientific nation aas the torch would be passed to India and China. I based this partly on projected population figures.

I am writing up this paper now, though my thesis seems less urgent as McCain and Palin missed the boat, but with so many creationists on the ground both in the USA and the rest of the world the worry is always there.

jasonmitchell said: is it me or does it seem a little arrogant to say that a scientist who has faith lacks intellectual integrity?

I think Coyne, Edge etc… are simply rehashing the argument about whether science is methodological naturalism or philosophical naturalism. The the PN’s find MN lacking consistency in principle, the MN’s find PN unnecessary in practice.

Like you I find very little wrong with a wearing different philosophical hats on different occasions. For instance, my attitude towards lying is completely different in a lab setting vs. a poker game setting. When it comes to deception, my reasoning and principles are not self-consistent - and this doesn’t trouble me at all.

(Unless you consider both behaviors consistent with a more general rule of ‘follow behavior appropriate for the social setting.’ But since following that rule is as much an MN approach as having different context-dependent rules, I’m an MN either way you cut it.)

Dear Michael,

Your thesis is more timely than ever, in light of recent “discussions” on science standards at the Texas State Board of Education hearings. Both McCain and Palin did accept the scientific validity of evolution, even though they also have insisted that it taught be alongside Intelligent Design creationism.

Someone - I believe it was Donald Prothero in his recent book, “Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters” - noted that evangelical Christians in the USA did accept the scientific validity of evolution until World War I, when, in response to German militarism - including widespread endorsement of “Darwinian” ideas by German intellectuals against their country’s foes - they concluded erroneously that it was “Darwinism” that was responsible for Imperial German war crimes. Hope you did note this in your paper.

Sincerely yours,

John

Michael Roberts said:

I am writing up this paper now, though my thesis seems less urgent as McCain and Palin missed the boat, but with so many creationists on the ground both in the USA and the rest of the world the worry is always there.

I don’t think the defeat of the McCain/Palin ticket can necessarily be taken as making matters less urgent.

I have noticed a distinct increase in ID/Creationist complaints in our local letters to the editor. The primary theme is alarm at how they are now being persecuted.

Yesterday’s paper contained a letter expounding the faults of string theory and multidimensional models of the universe as the writer pretended to understand what he was talking about. Scattered throughout was the theme that scientists are trying desperately to find a way to eliminate or disprove God.

For example,

“The theory of multi-verses is the latest newcomer counted on to disprove the existence of God”,

And

“Many scientists believe so fervently in the nonexistence of God that they are more willing to suspend their own criteria, disregard rules of logic, human experience and the behavior of objects and forces which have come to bear the name ‘laws of physics’ to latch onto the latest fashionable theory.”

and

“I am not trying to influence the curricula of our schools, but only to point out that the belief of some in the nonexistence of God is at least as fervent as the much more reasonable belief of others there is a God.”

and,

“As every true scientist knows, a theory of everything is not the same as a theory of anything.”

The writer also seems to think the universe had to have come from something instead of nothing. Therefore God. However he doesn’t seem to carry the point over to his deity.

The persecution theme seems to be the new whine to get attention. Obama (the Muslim) is also going to take away their money.

It remains to be seen how effective this new campaign will be. But it definitely has an alarmist tone to it.

Michael Roberts said: As I wrote up the paper I also added some predictions and pointed out if this creationism nonsense did not stop then by 2050 the USA would not be a leading scientific nation aas the torch would be passed to India and China. I based this partly on projected population figures.

I would have thought this outcome inevitable not just in terms of population growth, but also the rate of economic growth and (perhaps relatedly) the increasing number of academics and highly trained experts (whether educated domestically, or abroad). I fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if this happened in the next couple of decades instead of forty years out. Hopefully, by then Chinese citizens wouldn’t need proxy servers to use Google.

John Kwok said:

Dear Michael,

Your thesis is more timely than ever, in light of recent “discussions” on science standards at the Texas State Board of Education hearings. Both McCain and Palin did accept the scientific validity of evolution, even though they also have insisted that it taught be alongside Intelligent Design creationism.

Someone - I believe it was Donald Prothero in his recent book, “Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters” - noted that evangelical Christians in the USA did accept the scientific validity of evolution until World War I, when, in response to German militarism - including widespread endorsement of “Darwinian” ideas by German intellectuals against their country’s foes - they concluded erroneously that it was “Darwinism” that was responsible for Imperial German war crimes. Hope you did note this in your paper.

Sincerely yours,

John

This is most evident in the reaction of William Jennings Bryan. When Mr. Bryan was Secretary of State, he visited Germany after the outbreak of WW 1 and was appalled at the attitude he witnessed there. German officials often cited their interpretation of Darwins’ theory of evolution in support of German superiority. This had the effect of turning the somewhat credulous Bryan against the theory.

By the way I should have written “in furtherance of what ERIC REPLIED TO Elisheva Levin” above, I was misreading the label at the start of the comment as to who was saying what.

It’s pretty obvious I agree with eric and not Elisheva, but still..

eric said:

Like you I find very little wrong with a wearing different philosophical hats on different occasions.

I long ago learned that when someone tells me (usually by implication of course) that they are creatures of reason at all times, it’s wise to back up out of arm’s length – because they invariably turn out to be at least as crazy as everyone else, or actually worse because they don’t know it.

I’m certain I’m better off when I think things out clearly in a logical fashion, but people who don’t believe the monkey brain is calling the shots much of the time are kidding themselves. I absolutely don’t consider myself an exception, but I consider myself better off for realizing it.

Cheers – MrG / http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

It wasn’t just Bryan, but indeed, the entire American Fundamentalist Protestant movement which “divorced” itself from “Darwinism” as soon as they heard from German intellectuals how “Darwinism” had inspired the entire German Empire to wage war and to commit atrocities against civilians during the opening phases of World War I. Bryan was merely the most prominent public face of that movement, which, as early as the 1870s, had voiced support for “Darwinism”:

SLC said:

John Kwok said:

Dear Michael,

Your thesis is more timely than ever, in light of recent “discussions” on science standards at the Texas State Board of Education hearings. Both McCain and Palin did accept the scientific validity of evolution, even though they also have insisted that it taught be alongside Intelligent Design creationism.

Someone - I believe it was Donald Prothero in his recent book, “Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters” - noted that evangelical Christians in the USA did accept the scientific validity of evolution until World War I, when, in response to German militarism - including widespread endorsement of “Darwinian” ideas by German intellectuals against their country’s foes - they concluded erroneously that it was “Darwinism” that was responsible for Imperial German war crimes. Hope you did note this in your paper.

Sincerely yours,

John

This is most evident in the reaction of William Jennings Bryan. When Mr. Bryan was Secretary of State, he visited Germany after the outbreak of WW 1 and was appalled at the attitude he witnessed there. German officials often cited their interpretation of Darwins’ theory of evolution in support of German superiority. This had the effect of turning the somewhat credulous Bryan against the theory.

Timothy Sandefur Wrote:

Openness and dissent are the marks of scientific culture, not of the culture of religion.

The contrast is most striking when comparing the evolutionary biology subset of the “scientific culture” to the anti-evolution subset of the “culture of religion.” I just read the theological debates among Coyne, Miller and others. Elsewhere, one can see heated debates about the science (selection/drift, etc.). Yet here we have Henry Morris III admitting that he’s a biblical creationist but recommending that ID, not “biblical creationism” be taught. The culture of “don’t ask, don’t tell” among anti-evolution groups, with rare and rapidly disappearing exceptions, is startling. The obvious question is whether Morris would have advocated “only ID” if they had won Edwards v. Aguillard. Why not? - the evidence would have been the same.

Sadly, most people just don’t know that it’s the “scientific culture” that values “openness and dissent”. And worse, when they do see scientists disagree, most of them uncritically fall for pseudoscience’s lie that the prevailing theory must be “in crisis.”

The no-win theological debates between scientists may take away precious time from more important matters, like correcting the public misconceptions I mentioned above, but I think we mostly agree that they ought not be avoided. I certainly have learned a lot from them. Whereas all I learned from anti-evolution activists is how they increasingly cover up their scientific and theological differences for the sake of the big tent.

One thing does bother me, however, about the articles by Coyne et. al. From the context there seems to be several definitions of “religion” used, resulting in a lot of “talking past each other.” Though it may make an already hard job (of correcting public misconceptions) harder, we must be as clear as possible with definitions, especially of emotionally-charged words. That brings up another fact that most people are unaware of - science cannot affort to use nonstandard and bait-and-switch definitions, but pseudoscience, especially if religion-based like ID/creationism, thrives on it.

No matter how many court cases we win, there’s still a lot of work to do.

I enjoyed Dr. Coyne’s essay. I think he raises interesting questions about the intellectual consistency of Dr. Miller and Dr. Giberson.

Question - Is there a difference between creationism and theistic evolution?

RWard said:

I enjoyed Dr. Coyne’s essay. I think he raises interesting questions about the intellectual consistency of Dr. Miller and Dr. Giberson.

Question - Is there a difference between creationism and theistic evolution?

Sounds naive, or driven by militant atheism. Even if not atheism in this case, it is a common refrain among prostylitizing atheist bloggers. Its an indication that some are more interested in perpetuating the culture wars than in removing evolution denial from discussion of science education. There are, in fact, atheists who are just as interested in fomenting controversy around science education as anti-science religious fundamentalists. It would be more in their interest to remove the culture wars from biology education than to stoke it. It doesn’t matter who started it. I’d like to claim this as my own idea, but its not. Its mainstream among organizations and individuals, regardless of their personal beliefs are, who are successfully influencing the debate. Its not a stealth campaign, nor is it a call for anyone to stop fighting for their civil rights. But complaining about believers who don’t feel the need to resort to conspiracy theories and distortions is intolerant and counter-productive.

Yes, there’s a big difference between creationism (as inadequately popularly defined - I prefer evolution denial) and theistic evolution (which also has problems with definition).

RWard Wrote:

Question - Is there a difference between creationism and theistic evolution?

Mike Wrote:

Yes, there’s a big difference between creationism (as inadequately popularly defined - I prefer evolution denial) and theistic evolution (which also has problems with definition).

TE differs from both creationism as popularly defined (generally equated with honest belief in one of the mutually contradictory “literal” interpretations of Genesis) and as defined by us critics (any strategy to promote unreasonable doubt of evolution that proposes a design-based alternate (non)explanation).

TE only adds superfluous personal opinion of ultimate causes (so does atheistic evolution), and concedes all the testable starements to evolution. Miller (TE) and Michael Behe (creationist - critics’ definition) may believe the same exact version of biological history and the same ultimate cause, but Behe and pretends that design can be empirically detected, and misrepresents evolution. Google “Jerry Coyne” and “More Crank Science” to see how Behe quote mines Coyne to misrepresent his meaning.

Bottom line: Anti-evolution activism needs to be defined in terms of strategy to mislead others, not personal beliefs.

Here’s the link to where Behe quote mined Coyne.

Here’s another link where Eugenie Scott curiously identified Behe as a Theistic Evolutionist. From the context she was referring to his belief not his strategy. Note that the article was in response to William Dembski’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” tactics. My own suspicion is that Behe only admitted an old earth and common descent in the mid 1990s (and has no choice now but to stand by it) because, unlike Dembski he had not yet appreciated the strategic value of “don’t ask, don’t tell”.

If you really want to see the true colors of an anti-evolution activist, don’t waste your time arguing the designer’s identity or existence. Just ask them “What happened when?”

Frank J, I would add too that theistic evolutionists have been prominent in the past too, and that Ken Miller’s view should not be construed as its only manifestation. I believe philosopher Robert Pennock, in his “Tower of Babel”, draws an excellent distinction between what is - and what isn’t - theistic evolution, and one which is worth noting:

Frank J said:

RWard Wrote:

Question - Is there a difference between creationism and theistic evolution?

Mike Wrote:

Yes, there’s a big difference between creationism (as inadequately popularly defined - I prefer evolution denial) and theistic evolution (which also has problems with definition).

TE differs from both creationism as popularly defined (generally equated with honest belief in one of the mutually contradictory “literal” interpretations of Genesis) and as defined by us critics (any strategy to promote unreasonable doubt of evolution that proposes a design-based alternate (non)explanation).

TE only adds superfluous personal opinion of ultimate causes (so does atheistic evolution), and concedes all the testable starements to evolution. Miller (TE) and Michael Behe (creationist - critics’ definition) may believe the same exact version of biological history and the same ultimate cause, but Behe and pretends that design can be empirically detected, and misrepresents evolution. Google “Jerry Coyne” and “More Crank Science” to see how Behe quote mines Coyne to misrepresent his meaning.

Bottom line: Anti-evolution activism needs to be defined in terms of strategy to mislead others, not personal beliefs.

Frank J said: Bottom line: Anti-evolution activism needs to be defined in terms of strategy to mislead others, not personal beliefs.

I agree with that, but I’d add that many anti-evolution activists also want to change the scientific method, whereas most TEs such as Ken Miller operate within it and even vigorously defend it.

Eugenie Scott’s labeling of Behe as a TE is a little problematic for me. The way I’d use the term, he isn’t, but to each his (or her) own usage.

eric,

Genie Scott may have regarded Behe potentially as a TE back in 2001, but I can assure you that she most definitely doesn’t now, and certainly, at least since the 2002 AMNH ID debate which included both Dembski and Behe:

eric said:

Frank J said: Bottom line: Anti-evolution activism needs to be defined in terms of strategy to mislead others, not personal beliefs.

I agree with that, but I’d add that many anti-evolution activists also want to change the scientific method, whereas most TEs such as Ken Miller operate within it and even vigorously defend it.

Eugenie Scott’s labeling of Behe as a TE is a little problematic for me. The way I’d use the term, he isn’t, but to each his (or her) own usage.

TE differs from both creationism as popularly defined (generally equated with honest belief in one of the mutually contradictory “literal” interpretations of Genesis)…

I’ve personally encountered two different definitions. The most popular default meaning refers to a fundamentalist claiming a “litural” interpretation of the Bible, and opposing evolution science (understood to mean misrepresenting science). An older, and still used, meaning refers to someone that simply believes that God is somehow responsible for creation, but doesn’t necessarily have a problem with scientific knowledge, and distinguishes that person from an atheist, or, perhaps, a deist. An Ohio Board of Education member who was influential in turning back the most recent attempt to institutionalize evolution denial in Ohio’s standards called herself a creationist in debates and interviews. It was very helpful in signalling that the proscience board members weren’t just flaming atheist liberals.

eric Wrote:

I agree with that, but I’d add that many anti-evolution activists also want to change the scientific method, whereas most TEs such as Ken Miller operate within it and even vigorously defend it.

As Behe himself admitted at Dover, when he said that his revised scientific method would also accommodate astrolgy.

eric said:

Frank J said: Bottom line: Anti-evolution activism needs to be defined in terms of strategy to mislead others, not personal beliefs.

I agree with that, but I’d add that many anti-evolution activists also want to change the scientific method, …

What they’re promoting is alchemy, not science, so that too, of course, falls under “misleading others” - what some of us would call “lying” in our more unguarded moments. A “new kind of science” wouldn’t be science at all.

Frank J, I finally had a chance to read quickly the observations posted over at The Edge, and find especially chilling, physicist Lisa Randall’s conversation with a young actor who studied molecular biology in college, taught middle school, is an enthusiastic Obama supporter, AND YET does not accept evolution as valid with regards to human evolution. Her conversation merely proves my point that “evolution denial” is not a problem that’s endemic to fellow conservatives and Republicans, but one which grips all of American society, as evidenced by Gallup polling.

John,

I’m not surprised at all. While I’m no fan of the religious right (though I agree with them on many other issues), it is very tiring to hear the implication that they are the only source of evolution-denial.

In addition to those who steadfastly deny evolution (and usually common descent and the antiquity of life) there seems to be a growing number that uncritically repeats lines like “the jury’s still out.” Probably most of that group is not fundamentalist.

You might recall one US poll (not the usual Gallup one) that showed a slight decrease in both acceptance and denial of evolution over ~20 years but a very significant increase (~7 to 21%) of those who were not sure.

Mike said: What they’re promoting is alchemy, not science, so that too, of course, falls under “misleading others” - what some of us would call “lying” in our more unguarded moments. A “new kind of science” wouldn’t be science at all.

Well just to quibble, Behe’s pretty up front about his opposition to (i.e.) AAAS’ defintion of science. There’s no lying about it. Others in the creationist/ID movement have also been fairly up front about their desire to change science. So IMO “deception” and “change science” are two different traits of creationists, not different expressions of the same trait.

But it really doesn’t matter whether we call it one trait or two, the relevant point is that - to answer RWard’s question - yes, there is a difference between ‘creationists’ and ‘theistic evolutionists.’ TEs do not agree with the goals of creationists nor the strategies creationists use for achieving said goals.

I can honestly say that I am a biblical and scientific creationist.

The effect can be amusing.

Michael Roberts Wrote:

The effect can be amusing.

But not so amusing when IDers deliberately confuse at least 3 different definitions.

James McGrath said: It seems to me inaccurate to state that, because science involves a committment to reasoned investigation, therefore it must be all-encompassing. I have great appreciation for music, and I do not doubt that evolution’s tuning of my senses for survival is part of the explanation for why I find certain music beautiful. But to suggest that one must be committed to reducing the experience of music as beautiful to some other level of description seems to me problematic, if not simply wrong.

So.…are you saying here that non-religious people do not find music beautiful? Finding music beautiful is a different claim for religious people than for non-religious people? Religion (in this case, at least) is just different language that is not actually making any claims distinguishable from non-religion? Something else?

I believe he is only saying that there is no discernable reason why we should have evolved an aesthetic sense, a notion of beauty. It’s no good saying simply that we find beautiful things beautiful because they are beneficial to us in some sense. Most people find tigers beautiful, for example. I can’t imagine our distant ancestors finding benefit in them, though. Rather the converse.

Thirty feet underwater, a coral reef is beautiful. So are the high mountains, or the deep oceans, or the painted deserts, but these are certainly alien environments for an animal evolved to cope with an African savannah. Indeed, without very specialised, rather high-tech equipment, they are deadly to humans. Why should we find such environments beautiful? Surely we should be evolved to avoid them; surely we should find them ugly.

And colours. Vibrant, glowing colours, especially reds, oranges and yellows are in animals often associated with threat, warning, or poison. Why, then, should we find a sunset beautiful? Snow means the threat of hypothermia, plus an inability to produce food. Why should a snowscape be beautiful to us? And so on.

It’s an interesting question.

Of course, humans show a remarkable degree of both abstraction and pattern-seeking tendencies, so there doesn’t necessarily have to be a one-to-one correlation between what we notice and what we instinctively fear. Furthermore, even birds eat brightly colored monarch butterflies every so often, only to find out their toxic nature after the fact. At the end of the day we might find tigers beautiful, but we also use bright yellow/orange and black stripes for our DANGER! signs.

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This page contains a single entry by Timothy Sandefur published on February 3, 2009 1:39 AM.

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