An Atheist Defends Intelligent-Design Creationism

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Bradley Monton thinks he understands intelligent-design creationism better than either its opponents proponents or its critics. He’s about half right.

Monton, a philosopher at the University of Colorado, has recently been making a bit of a name for himself by publicly debating ID creationism and also moderating a debate between Francisco Ayala and William Lane Craig. So I decided it was time I read his book, Seeking God in Science: An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design from cover to cover. I am working from a proof copy that the author kindly sent me last spring, so I will not comment on minor errors. I thought the book was well and clearly written, if not always well argued, but I thought that if I saw one more instance of an awkward and wholly superfluous phrase such as “it is the case that,” I was going to scream or throw my shoe through the monitor.

Monton begins by accusing the opponents of ID creationism of employing the genetic fallacy, though he does not use that term. He is familiar with the Wedge Document but consciously discusses neither the Wedge Document nor the evidence connecting intelligent design to more-traditional creationisms. Instead, he treats us to a few endnotes and says he is just going to evaluate the arguments, as if the context of the arguments were wholly irrelevant. He admits that your beliefs or preconceptions can influence your reasoning, but seems to think that he is immune.

Ignoring the Wedge Document gives him permission to accept the disingenuous claim that the designer need not be supernatural; indeed, he says that ID creationists need that claim to achieve scientific legitimacy. He devotes what seems like an interminable chapter trying to tell the ID creationists exactly what they are saying (though he ignores role of ID creationism as a supposed link between science and theology). Ultimately, he defines ID creationism to include not just biology but also arguments such as the fine-tuning argument. Here he has a point: “Intelligent design” usually means anti-evolution, but it certainly could apply to the origin of the universe or even the origin of what are alleged to be human souls. Indeed, my coeditor Taner Edis and I included a chapter on the fine-tuning argument in our book, Why Intelligent Design Fails—but the book was overwhelmingly about biology, and when people talk about introducing intelligent-design creationism into the schools, they generally mean biology.

More than once, Monton seems to say that the lack of a compelling argument against a given premise is equivalent to evidence in its favor, or at least that the argument is “plausible.” Thus, later in the book, he discusses the hypothesis that we are actually living in a computer simulation or that we are disembodied brains in a vat. I think he must have read Donovan’s Brain once too often. At any rate, he claims to see some evidence in favor of an intelligent designer and further that the designer is God; though he remains an atheist, he is now less certain of his atheism than he had been. Monton thinks there is, in fact, no explanation for, say, the existence of the universe. But if you insist that there must be an explanation, then he asserts that intelligent design is the best explanation we have. Thus, he devotes an entire book to defending a bad argument because there is none better.

In Chapter 2, Monton takes on Judge John Jones’s demarcation criteria and debates methodological naturalism with Rob Pennock. He argues, correctly, that we need to focus on evidence for and against ID creationism, rather than try to label it as science or pseudoscience. In particular, he says that a false theory should not necessarily be ruled out of science class—Newtonian theory is technically false. This argument could give sophistry a bad name; even if you think that all theories are technically false, good theories are useful within their ranges of validity. ID creationism is not useful anywhere. Says Monton: “I conclude that even if intelligent design’s negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community, it doesn’t follow that intelligent design is not science.” You could say the same for phlogiston or caloric; at best, then, intelligent-design creationism is obsolete or indeed useless science, just like phlogiston or caloric. We do not require teaching phlogiston or caloric in science class; they barely deserve mention. Why then should we mandate teaching ID creationism? The answer is political, not scientific.

Monton argues first that science is not committed to methodological naturalism. Then he sets up a straw man, that science could not investigate evidence in favor of the supernatural if it is committed to methodological naturalism; therefore, science is not committed to truth. I argue that there is a difference between saying God did it and investigating a claim of supernaturalism. The demarcation between philosophical naturalism and methodological naturalism is not sharp. I can surely apply the methodology of science to a claim of the supernatural without betraying that methodology. That is what we do every time we try to debunk a claim of a miracle. If we found enough miracles for which we could not develop a naturalistic explanation, we might, by a diagnosis of exclusion, tentatively accept the supernatural hypothesis (but we need to be very sure that we have considered and rejected all the possibilities). Indeed, Monton argues, correctly, I think, that science has not postulated the supernatural only because it has had no need to do so.

Under the rubric, Other Arguments, Monton quotes Edis and me to the effect that the proponents of ID creationism do not practice science. He then takes us to task for saying that ID creationism is not science, a contention which I could defend, but which we did not say. Practicing nonscience is only one way to not practice science; you could also practice science improperly, and Edis and I note several failures of ID creationists in this regard. At any rate, if one ID creationist comes along and practices it as science, our conclusion is falsified. I won’t hold my breath. Similarly, Monton attacks our claim that ID creationists make no substantive predictions: He says that in fact they predict that if we look for it, we will find evidence of a designer. That is at best a very tenuous prediction, since it does not include a testable hypothesis, but Monton compares it to the “prediction” that there is matter in the universe. That is not, however, a prediction; it is an observed fact.

The third chapter details four arguments in favor of his generalized version of ID creationism, which he considers “somewhat—but only somewhat—plausible”: the fine-tuning argument, the kalam cosmological argument, the argument from the variety of life, and the simulation argument. The fine-tuning argument is well-known, and I will not discuss it, but I thought that Monton should have discussed counter-arguments such as his colleague Victor Stenger’s Monte Carlo calculation, wherein Stenger changes more than one fundamental constant at a time. I will also not discuss the kalam cosmological argument, which seems to me not substantively different from Thomas Aquinas’s argument from first cause.

What Monton calls the argument from the variety of life leads him to discuss the possibility of disembodied souls in an all-hydrogen universe. I suppose that possibility is theoretically possible, but I would like to have seen some speculation as to how such life might have arisen by natural selection or any other mechanism.

Twenty or more years ago, I asked at a skeptics’ conference, “I’d like to know what we are afraid of. Why don’t we simply teach creationism as the bunk that it is, etc., etc.?” I was rudely awakened to the idea that more is involved than just logic, that too many teachers would not teach it as bunk, that many parents would object, and in short that matters were not so simple. Indeed they are not; what we teach in school is a social and political matter, as well as an educational matter. It is naïve to think otherwise.

Monton, in his final chapter, finds uncompelling the arguments that ID creationism should not be taught in public school science classes. He argues that it could reasonably be “taught in an intellectually responsible, non-proselytizing way.” In principle, he is right, but in practice he is dead wrong, if he means to include it in the science curriculum, as opposed to simply responding to honest questions by students. Intelligent-design creationism in its usual incarnation as pseudobiology is religion, pure and simple, and has no place in the public-school science classroom. If Monton had read the Wedge Document carefully and if he were not so credulous in believing Discovery Institute propaganda, he would know that. Indeed, he worries that he may be playing into the hands of people who think that the true goal of ID creationism is just to get religion into the schools. And well he might.

Acknowledgments. Glenn Branch of the National Center for Science Education discussed the book with me and reviewed a draft of this article. Bradley Monton also reviewed a corrected draft and commented on it.

229 Comments

You could say the same for phlogiston or caloric; at best, then, intelligent-design creationism is obsolete or indeed useless science, just like phlogiston or caloric.

That’s exactly Philip Kitcher’s argument in Living With Darwin. He calls ID “dead science” and refers to its modern proponents as “resurrection men.”

Very good review. Very sad that there are nitwits with tenure.

Matt Young Wrote:

Monton, in his final chapter, finds uncompelling the arguments that ID creationism should not be taught in public school science classes. He argues that it could reasonably be “taught in an intellectually responsible, non-proselytizing way.” In principle, he is right, but in practice he is dead wrong,

I would argue that he is not right, even in principle.

ID/creationism is simply full of serious misconceptions, misconceptions that have been repeated over and over despite attempted corrections by scientists for over 40 years. One doesn’t need to load up a class with misconceptions in order to placate some political/religious “sensibilities.”

It is hard enough dealing with student misconceptions and preconceptions to get the proper understanding and nuances of scientific concepts across. Throwing in deliberate misconceptions would make the task impossible.

The only way to deal with such misconceptions is to leave them out of the curriculum. Otherwise simply deal with them, if they come up as a question from a student, by referring the student to the appropriate literature, such as Talk Origins or the many books that have already dealt with the deceptions in ID/creationism.

In rare cases where a student persists, I have been able to use such misconceptions as a humorous foil to get across the true concept, but I don’t recommend doing this often; it might be taken as a provocation by religious fanatics.

To say that ID “substantively” predicts that there is a designer is idiotic. It is not a prediction entailed by any sort of observation or credible idea emanating from those observations. If I predict that a magical unicorn will be found in the universe, it would be just as substantive.

What Monton and Nagel (Nagel’s made claims that ID is science because, if it can be falsified by evidence (which we do with certain versions of ID), it’s science–seeming to ignore the fact that IDiots won’t allow any observation to falsify ID) seem to forget is the importance of following evidence, even when the hypothesis is produced. I’m not at all certain that even Paley’s at least potentially falsifiable ID was truly scientific at the time, because it was cherry-picking “apparent design,” rather than accounting for the totality of biology.

So would ID truly be science even if it made honest predictions like Paley’s writings could do? I’m not at all sure, it might still be more properly considered to be apologetics, not science. Demarcation problem again, because honest design predictions can be treated like science, and put to the test like hypotheses which are more legitimately produced. And there’s no point in wading into the demarcation problem.

At best, then, ID is failed science, dead science. These sorts of falsified ideas are typically treated as non-science, in fact.

But it’s bizarre that Monton lumps biological ID and cosmological ID together, because cosmological ID deals with the real problem that the universe is not adequately explained, while biological ID deals with their real problem that life is adequately explained (there are gaps in knowledge, but the theoretical parameters we have appear to be adequate at our present level of knowledge). A god-like being (including aliens) just might be responsible for one, while no reason exists to suppose any such thing for the latter (essentially none for the former, but I think the bare possibility should be acknowledged).

I do think that Monton’s correct that methodological naturalism is a red herring–and I’d note further that the IDiots make good propagandistic use of it against us by claiming that science simply precludes their nonsense from being considered properly, despite the web being full of treatments of a sort of Paleyian (falsifiable) ID which take design claims entirely seriously. Indeed, Darwin’s own considerations of Paley’s sort of ID show that science certainly can treat supernatural claims as if they are science, as long as they are constrained and falsifiable–totally unlike what today’s ID happens to be now.

But Monton fails especially badly when he ignores the fact that IDiots simply want to prevent science from demanding rigor and, classically, cause and effect analyses from evaluations of the supernatural. They want sermons and vague analogies to decide science, such as in Stephen Meyer’s conflation of the evolved genome with rationally-produced (in part) human codes.

If he dealt with biological ID as it actually is–a superstitious analogy of biology with human productions which does not in the least deal with the telling differences between such entities–he’d have to acknowledge that it’s nothing other than religion. And if he dealt with the Wedge, or any of the ongoing religious statements by prominent DI fellows, he’d have to acknowledge the fact that they’re pushing for a theistic pre-emption of today’s science.

Glen Davidson

http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

Meyer’s “scientific approach” is revealed here:

At Whitworth College in Spokane, Professor Norman Krebs introduced Meyer to books by Francis Schaeffer that helped him answer theological questions and also led him to a philosophy of science: “I was very taken with Schaeffer’s argument from epistemology that the foundation of the scientific enterprise itself rested on certain assumptions that only made sense within a theistic worldview, in particular, assumptions about the reliability of the human mind.”

worldmag.com/articles/16170

Which ignores the fact that Schaeffer knew little about science and its philosophies, let alone the fact that the “theistic worldview” came from largely from the Greeks, and need not be understood “theistically.” Better, Kant did a reasonable job (and people following him did a better job) of explaining how science can be completely valid even if the human mind/perceptions might not reveal anything of the “truth” of the world.

And Meyer clearly matters, as he’s at the helm of the DI’s CSC, the heart of the attempted deception that is ID.

The CSC’s own blog proudly announced that Meyer was proclaimed “Daniel of the year,” a reference in evangelical circles to one who stands up for God against the heathens (in this case, science at large).

So they’re waging a transparent war against secularism, including science, while Monton is claiming that ID may be considered to be science.

Glen Davidson

http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

Matt, don’t you need to change that first sentence?

Also, Monton seems to be addressing a version of ID which is quite different from what its proponents say and do about it.

At any rate, he claims to see some evidence in favor of an intelligent designer and further that the designer is God; though he remains an atheist, he is now less certain of his atheism than he had been. Monton thinks there is, in fact, no explanation for, say, the existence of the universe. But if you insist that there must be an explanation, then he asserts that intelligent design is the best explanation we have. Thus, he devotes an entire book to defending a bad argument because there is none better.

What a load. Purely from a neutral, philosophical view point: How is “God Did It” better than a less supernatural explanation for the origin of the Universe, “These Things Just Happen From Time to Time?” How is it superior to, say, “Incompetent Design,” where things only happened to work out without any intent? If he can claim to see evidence for Intelligent Design, why can’t other claim to see evidence for Incompetent Design?
On what basis, in short, does he claim that ID is superior? The fact that things allow for life to exist? But why would ID even explain that? You can just as easily imagine a Designer creating a Universe with no life.
What does he think, philosophically, is there to ID if you don’t allow that the same questions were asked by out-and-out Creationists decades ago, and already answered by the scientific community? ID is just the re-branded persistence of bad arguments. It’s one thing to claim that critics are dismissing it without considering its merits because of its connection to earlier forms of Creationism, but I think it’s another entirely to find anything original in ID that didn’t exist in those previous incarnations which he probably would have rejected. Then again, I have to wonder what he thinks about the Kalam Argument if he brings it up. To me it’s just rephrasing the same old Cosmological Argument except stipulating that certain things “being to exist” and others don’t.

BTW, I’m looking at the January 2010 issue of SciAm, where the featured article’s blurb reads, “Life in the Multiverse: Could the strange physics of other worlds breed life?” The attending article’s conclusion is “yes, it’s plausible under certain conditions.” A universe without a weak nuclear force, and several possible universes with quarks of slightly different mass than ours’, can still be amenable to the development of life. Personally, I’ve always thought the best refutation to “fine-tuning” or the “anthropic principle” was simply this: “If the conditions were different and didn’t allow for life, we wouldn’t be here to ask about it. If the conditions were different and did allow for life, we’d be there and asking the same question we are right now.” That, or Douglas Adams’s Puddle.

don’t you need to change that first sentence?

Yes, thank you!

Philosophers can write all the books they want arguing why ID should be considered science, but until some ID concept is used in science or by scientists, its all just hot air.

Monton et al. are confusing armchair quarterbacks with actual quarterbacks. IDers will tell you all about the problems with mainstream scientific research, but they have yet to get off the couch and actually pick up a ball.

Monton should have titled his book,

“Another reason why philosophy has a bad reputation.”

There really hasn’t been that much new in philosophy since Plato. So the academics are always coming up with shocking new findings so someone will pay attention to them.

Monton being an ivy towerist:

Monton, in his final chapter, finds uncompelling the arguments that ID creationism should not be taught in public school science classes. He argues that it could reasonably be “taught in an intellectually responsible, non-proselytizing way.”

Monton is wrong here. This is equivalent to saying communism or anarchism is the ideal system as long as it operates voluntarily and without coercion. A true statement but that never happens in the real world at the level of the nation state. Hundreds of millions suffered to find this out.

It won’t work in practice. Secondary school is also not the place to wage culture wars or introduce ancient discredited theories as if they were real and currently taken seriously by scientists. These are children in school to learn enough to survive in our society and possibly go to college. There isn’t any need or enough time for ancient mythology.

ID isn’t new. If one form or another it predates xianity, over 2,000 years old. There also isn’t a theory of ID. Since they refuse to put forward a testable theory, there are numerous versions all with the same name and nothing else in common.

The CSC’s own blog proudly announced that Meyer was proclaimed “Daniel of the year,” a reference in evangelical circles to one who stands up for God against the heathens (in this case, science at large).

That is apt and funny but not quite the way the fundies mean it.

Daniel is one of the more obviously shakey books of the bible.

It is historical fiction written around 150-200 BCE but set 400-500 years earlier. The writer makes a lot of prophecies after the fact. They are more or less correct although he had a lousy history book and got some things wrong anyway. The future predictions were all wrong as usual.

Hmmm, let’s see. Daniel is historical fiction pretending to be inspired by god and it is wrong. Yep, that is Steven Meyer and the DI.

“If we found enough miracles for which we could not develop a naturalistic explanation, we might, by a diagnosis of exclusion, tentatively accept the supernatural hypothesis (but we need to be very sure that we have considered and rejected all the possibilities)”

This is wrong and a science stopper. The only correct conclusion to draw from (I’ll call it) an event for which we cannot develop a (naturalistic) explanation is ‘we don’t know’.

Apparently Michael Polanyi leans towards ID:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Polanyi

Critique of Darwinism and reductionism

In the late 60’s and early 70’s Polanyi wrote essays dealing with issues regarding the origin of life. In Life’s irreducible structure[4] he argues that the information contained in the DNA molecule is a non-material phenomenon irreducible to physics and chemistry. Polanyi argued that the reductionist approach which is considered the ideal of science was actually clouding our understanding, and that the recognition of life’s irreducibility to physics and chemistry would enable genuine science to advance in the right direction, even if this demonstration should prove of no great advantage in the pursuit of discovery.

In Transcendence and Self-transcendence[5] he further criticizes the mechanistic world view science had inherited from Galileo. The paper is also thoroughly anti-reductionist. Using analogies Polanyi makes more arguments against determinism and mechanism in this paper. These papers are still being cited by scientists to this day and the arguments against mechanism and reductionism put forth by Polanyi in these papers makes him a favorite among intelligent design proponents as well as biosemioticians

Or is it a case of his views making him susceptible to quote mining ?

Peter Henderson said:

Or is it a case of his views making him susceptible to quote mining ?

Is there any other quoting method employed by creationists?

Unfortunately Monton is just another example of why philosophers are useless creatures. Add him to the list of people outside of science who think they can tell scientists how to go about their business.

Oh and if Meyer is the new Daniel does that mean we can get the lions ready?

“In Life’s irreducible structure[4] he argues that the information contained in the DNA molecule is a non-material phenomenon irreducible to physics and chemistry.”

How does he figure that the information in DNA is non-material? We know the structure of DNA in great detail and there is nothing non-material about it. There is certainly information in the structure, but there is absolutely nothing non-material in that structure. There is information in the structure of the earth as well, is that non-material? Of course it can’t be explained by physics and chemistry, you also have to include mutation and natural selection. How can you say that evolution could not produce something by ignoring the role that evolution played in producing it?

“Polanyi argued that the reductionist approach which is considered the ideal of science was actually clouding our understanding, and that the recognition of life’s irreducibility to physics and chemistry would enable genuine science to advance in the right direction, even if this demonstration should prove of no great advantage in the pursuit of discovery.”

Well, what’s he waiting for? He’s had at least forty years now. Who was forcing him to use the reductionist approach? Why didn’t he make science advance in the right direction if he supposedly knew how? It’s real easy to be an armchair quarterback, but there is a reason why they don’t have a hall of fame.

Great. More intellectual wanking from a clueless pedantic windbag. Just what the world needs.

The past dead ends of science may not be relevant for a science class, but they are quite relevant for a *history of science* or *philosophy of science* class, as a corrective to the notion that science is a linear progression of successful theories. That’s as mistaken as the notion that evolution proceeds as a linear progression of successive species.

I don’t really agree with the philosopher-bashing going on. On another note, I just found out that Monton is associated with ARN, the Discovery Institute’s mouthpiece in the philosophy community.

Agreed and it is precisely because ID is loaded with ample “misconceptions” and a fundamentally flawed view of science that Ken Miller has said, including in his “Only A Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul” that ID is a science stopper. Moreover, he states, most persuasively, that ID proponents seek the same kind of cultural and political relativism found in the humanities and social sciences which Allan Bloom criticized in his “The Closing of the American Mind”. Substitute for ID and one could write a book on “The Closing of the Scientific American Mind”:

Mike Elzinga said:

Matt Young Wrote:

Monton, in his final chapter, finds uncompelling the arguments that ID creationism should not be taught in public school science classes. He argues that it could reasonably be “taught in an intellectually responsible, non-proselytizing way.” In principle, he is right, but in practice he is dead wrong,

I would argue that he is not right, even in principle.

ID/creationism is simply full of serious misconceptions, misconceptions that have been repeated over and over despite attempted corrections by scientists for over 40 years. One doesn’t need to load up a class with misconceptions in order to placate some political/religious “sensibilities.”

It is hard enough dealing with student misconceptions and preconceptions to get the proper understanding and nuances of scientific concepts across. Throwing in deliberate misconceptions would make the task impossible.

The only way to deal with such misconceptions is to leave them out of the curriculum. Otherwise simply deal with them, if they come up as a question from a student, by referring the student to the appropriate literature, such as Talk Origins or the many books that have already dealt with the deceptions in ID/creationism.

In rare cases where a student persists, I have been able to use such misconceptions as a humorous foil to get across the true concept, but I don’t recommend doing this often; it might be taken as a provocation by religious fanatics.

Monton “drove” by a US News and World Report blog thread pertaining to the Darwin bicentennial earlier this year and I tried unsuccessfully to engage with him, especially in private e-mail correspondence, after I discovered his DI ties:

Wheels said:

I don’t really agree with the philosopher-bashing going on. On another note, I just found out that Monton is associated with ARN, the Discovery Institute’s mouthpiece in the philosophy community.

Jim Lippard said:

The past dead ends of science may not be relevant for a science class, but they are quite relevant for a *history of science* or *philosophy of science* class, as a corrective to the notion that science is a linear progression of successful theories. That’s as mistaken as the notion that evolution proceeds as a linear progression of successive species.

However, the current ID/creationism (in the last 40 years or so) is not an example of a historical dead end. It is, and always has been, a set of deliberate distortions designed to advance a sectarian political agenda.

It falls directly into the category of pseudo-science because its premises and concepts have not been part of the development of scientific understanding.

I have occasionally advocated including a unit in a history and philosophy of science course that deals with pseudo-science and other abuses of science.

ID/creationism would definitely be an example of some of the most contorted abuses. In fact, it has been far more political than other pseudo-scientific movements such as transcendental meditation, quantum gods, dianetics, pyramid power, new age woo woo, chariots of the gods, and perpetual motion.

wheels:

I don’t really agree with the philosopher-bashing going on. On another note, I just found out that Monton is associated with ARN, the Discovery Institute’s mouthpiece in the philosophy community.

I don’t see why. Philosophers spend much of their time bashing each other around.

Not going to go so far as to say all philosophy and philosophers are idiots stringing words together and desperately trying to get someone to pay attention.

But Heinleins rule applies. A lot of it is trash.

I wonder if Monton is trying to finagle some Templeton foundation money. They seem desperate to find people who aren’t the usual creationist lunatics.

Personally, I ascribe to “Lastthursdayism”. Everything and everyone was created instantly with complete memories. Bradley Monton only thinks he remembers writing “Seeking God in Science” and you only think you remember receiving a proof copy of the book last Spring. See? It explains everything completely.

I begin to suspect that Monton is a closet creationist.

Raven:

Did you mean Sturgeon’s Revelation?

crap. It looked okay in preview.

Wiki “Sturgeon’s Law”.

Monton, in his final chapter, finds uncompelling the arguments that ID creationism should not be taught in public school science classes. He argues that it could reasonably be “taught in an intellectually responsible, non-proselytizing way.” In principle, he is right, but in practice he is dead wrong, if he means to include it in the science curriculum,

Non-proselytizing way? Leaving it up to the pupils/students to chose what to believe, say what is more consistent with what they are being taught to believe at home? It does matter what we teach, doesn’t it? If untruth is taught untruth will be believed. Why teach what we do not hold to be true? So far this is mostly an US problem but I’d hate to see a ‘teach the controversy’ movement over here.

GH:

I begin to suspect that Monton is a closet creationist.

With the door wide open.

Bob Carroll said: Monton seems to be addressing a version of ID which is quite different from what its proponents say and do about it.

That’s the old “bait and switch.” First we have Monton’s strangely limited vision of ID, then the Dishonesty Institute crows: “ID is true! Atheist philosopher says so!”

Rolf Aalberg said:

Monton, in his final chapter, finds uncompelling the arguments that ID creationism should not be taught in public school science classes. He argues that it could reasonably be “taught in an intellectually responsible, non-proselytizing way.” In principle, he is right, but in practice he is dead wrong, if he means to include it in the science curriculum,

Non-proselytizing way? Leaving it up to the pupils/students to chose what to believe, say what is more consistent with what they are being taught to believe at home? It does matter what we teach, doesn’t it? If untruth is taught untruth will be believed. Why teach what we do not hold to be true? So far this is mostly an US problem but I’d hate to see a ‘teach the controversy’ movement over here.

If it starts up, a good way to squash it quickly is to put counter-pressure on the controversy of the creation side- they’re not allowed to edit your stuff unless you can edit their stuff.

Usually works pretty quickly.

Gary Hurd said: I begin to suspect that Monton is a closet creationist.

I can understand (in theory) how fundagelical apologists like Meyer or Dembski are constrained to deduce that the “Intelligent Designer” must be Jehovah, the Creator God of Genesis. But I cannot understand how Monton, purportedly an atheist, could determine that the “Intelligent Designer” is Jehovah, the Creator God of Genesis.

(Monton is working with the same information dataset used by another eminent philosopher, Harun Yahya, who has come to a slightly different conclusion.)

Of course Monton is a closet intelligent design creationist. And as a cultivated tool of the Dishonesty Institute, his authentication certificate as an atheist seems to have expired.

Yes. The question is, what doubt should creationists be given the benefit of? Why should good scientists and rigorous philosophers of science not find creationism “obnoxious”, and why should they not say as much? What is it about creationism that should spare it from the same contempt that they give to, say, antivaccination, or geocentrism, or astrology, or homeopathy?

But the DI is worse than that. Mere superstition, ignorance and prejudice is not sufficient to account for its subtle and recondite political manoeuvres, its consistent deception and dissemblement. The DI misrepresents not only the evidence, the theory, science and scientists. Much of its effort goes into misrepresenting itself.

Professional courtesy may be shown to colleagues whose data or reasoning turn out to be slightly mistaken - although persistence in the face of contrary data or better reasoning will rapidly erode that courtesy, in practice. But scientists are here confronted with liars backed by a nonce coalition of fools and rogues whose whole purpose is to replace a scientific theory with a religious dogma, and whose tactics in pursuit of that purpose are dishonest to the point of outright fraud. What are scientists to say to this? Is there any wonder that they grow warm, and their language becomes blunt?

“He who throws mud loses ground.” Indeed, and that is an accurate observation at the tactical level. But honest outrage is not only understandable when dealing with the DI, it is a proper and ethical response to it.

Brenda confuses the symptoms of honest outrage with causeless personal prejudice. (She attributes the same error to Monton, and intimates that it is the origin of his other errors, although how she knows this she does not say.) What she complains of is the former, not the latter. She is wrong to complain, especially since she is complaining vicariously, on behalf of creationists generally and the DI in particular.

Or is it vicariously? She has been very careful not to say.

I listened to the audio on my last post up on this thread, and realized that while Meyer does start saying that nature worship is behind most “Darwinism,” he does stop and say something much less offensive. I don’t really consider what he wrote to be the objective truth nonetheless, but felt the need to correct myself on that score.

Well, perhaps I jumped the gun, or anyway, felt too rushed at the time to check the transcript against the audio. No real matter, the fact is that there are a host of false statements on the CSC’s blog, for which Meyer is at least indirectly responsible. Then there are more direct smears by Meyer against “the Darwinists,” like this one:

The public has been intimidated into thinking that “non-experts” have no right to question “consensus” views in science. But the scandal in at the University of East Anglia suggests that this consensus on climate may not be based on solid evidence.

But what about the Darwin debate? We are told that the consensus of scientists in favor of Darwinian evolution means the theory is no longer subject to debate. In fact, there are strong scientific reasons to doubt Darwin’s theory and what it allegedly proved.

http://www.discovery.org/a/13751

No, they have not been “intimidated” by the truth that consensus is the sociological measure of the success of a scientific theory or assertion, nor by the fact that you really must have knowledge and evidence if you are going to question a theory such as evolution.

Meyer managed to leave out an important qualifier to the usual statement that “Darwinian evolution” is no longer subject to debate, which is “within the scientific community.” Clearly any assertion that it cannot be debated in the public square, or that it is fully off-limits to discussion, is false, and not commonly stated by real biologists.

Since the DI has often reported on debates that they imply reveal “hidden questions” in the community of evolutionary scientists, we may conclude from that alone that an honest debate about evolution is not closed off, although scientists are not much interested in the usual tripe which fails to respond to the many fulfilled entailed predictions that non-teleological evolution makes.

And there are not “strong scientific reasons to doubt Darwin’s theory,” at least if by that he means the present theory which has moved considerably past Darwin (it’s difficult to respond to such sloppy writing, perhaps one reason for it). That is an assertion that he cannot back up. As an isolated statement, I would not complain much about that claim, as it is his opinion, but here it falsely props up his defamation of scientists as people who stymie discussion. A mere unsupported opinion (no, his misrepresentations of the Cambrian radiation does not support his implication of suppression) does not properly back up this attack upon the scientists who are subject to checks on dishonesty in a way that none of his CSC fellows are.

I was searching for a quote such the one above when I stumbled into the interview transcript, which I then thought was sufficient for showing that Meyer relies upon unsupported attacks upon his opponents. That one is not so good, in fact, but the present one is.

Glen Davidson http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

Quotes come awfully close to the argument from authority, yet do work. Anyway, many of us have made a case for being less than civil to ongoing attacks upon science, including Pennock on the link I gave and as specifically quoted by John Kwok. So my point in adding quotes to this discussion is certainly not primarily to appeal to authority, rather to add to the understanding of the arguments made via past formulations by respected people. The fact that authority does persuade many is also a reason.

So:

“Ridicule is he only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them…”

Attributed to Thomas Jefferson

When you can’t make them see the light, make them feel the heat.

Attributed to Ronald Reagan

Regardless of whatever one thinks of Reagan, I include his quote for the fact that many on the right–from which most of creationism comes–consider these to be words to live by. Unfortunately, we cannot see the light of ID/creationism, for there is none, which does not keep creationists from trying to apply the heat.

For too long, those without light have been intent on making those with it feel the heat, while we’ve pretended that light will reach at least enough people. Well, I’m afraid that not enough will without heat backing up the light.

Glen Davidson

http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

I hope you post a version of this over at you know where, merely to remind readers of that blog:

Glen Davidson said:

Quotes come awfully close to the argument from authority, yet do work. Anyway, many of us have made a case for being less than civil to ongoing attacks upon science, including Pennock on the link I gave and as specifically quoted by John Kwok. So my point in adding quotes to this discussion is certainly not primarily to appeal to authority, rather to add to the understanding of the arguments made via past formulations by respected people. The fact that authority does persuade many is also a reason.

So:

“Ridicule is he only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them…”

Attributed to Thomas Jefferson

When you can’t make them see the light, make them feel the heat.

Attributed to Ronald Reagan

Regardless of whatever one thinks of Reagan, I include his quote for the fact that many on the right–from which most of creationism comes–consider these to be words to live by. Unfortunately, we cannot see the light of ID/creationism, for there is none, which does not keep creationists from trying to apply the heat.

For too long, those without light have been intent on making those with it feel the heat, while we’ve pretended that light will reach at least enough people. Well, I’m afraid that not enough will without heat backing up the light.

Glen Davidson

http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

Robert Byers said: Nope. Its [creationism] not taught in school because the claim is that 1700’s New Americans put in the constitution bans against God and genesis as options when kids are taught abort origins.

In reality then , since, and now, great heaps of people think creationism(s) are the truth behind origin subjects and wait for the promise of freedom and America where truth will be allowed to be weighed in the public institutions that claim to be seeking and finding truth.

That’s hilarious. Creationism(s)? Can multiple different creationism stories all be the truth?

C’mon Robert, answer Stanton. Imagine you’re in charge of the “Origins” unit for H.S. Science. What do you teach? When did the origin of life occur? How? Who or what caused it?

If you want “creationism” taught in school you have to actually teach something, some content. Outline for us in broad strokes what you think that content is.

… and the experiments you’d design for high school students. And the research on which you would base your textbooks. You know, the actual physical, factual discoveries that have been made, as opposed to the kind of armchair quarterback blithering you’re so fond of.

eric Wrote:

That’s hilarious. Creationism(s)? Can multiple different creationism stories all be the truth?

C’mon Robert, answer Stanton. Imagine you’re in charge of the “Origins” unit for H.S. Science. What do you teach? When did the origin of life occur? How? Who or what caused it?

Now I’m almost convinced that Robert is a Poe. In 12 years of following this debate I can’t recall any creationist admitting so clearly that there are mutually contradictory “creationisms.” Mostly they just pretend that it’s either theirs or “Darwinism.” And they say do little about theirs, that most audiences infer that it coincides with theirs, even if it doesn’t.

If I may answer the question posed to Robert, if it were up to me I would teach the following in a non-science class, and outside of public schools if not legal. I would teach that there are many origins accounts, and not only do they contradict each other, they are all easily falsified. I would leave out the designer/Creator identities as it is irrelevant to “what happened when”. Then I would show that these accounts were all “supported” by seeking only the evidence that fits (and discarding the rest) and fabricating if necessary. And even with that cheating, they were unable to have the evidence converge on a mutually agreeable account. So the trend toward “don’t ask, don’t tell what happened when, just promote unreasonable doubt of evolution” began, and continues to this day.

Then I would discuss evolution, and note how someone who had more vested interest in it being wrong than almost anyone, namely Pope John Paul II, not only admitted evolution, but spoke of the evidence supporting it as “convergence, neither sought nor fabricated.”

Robert Byers said:

Anyways creationism can take on science claims or origins first because we claim science doesn’t occur in origin subjects. No testing is possible if one pays attention.

If a atheist commentator agrees with creationisms claims to legitimacy then what hope is there for the resistance to change in origin subjects by better ideas!?

First, if making inferences based on evidence pointing to past activities was not scientific, then detectives using forensic techniques to attempt to solve crimes wouldn’t be using scientific methods either. Yet that’s exactly what they are supposed to be doing. Would you argue that all the criminals convicted via forensic techniques have been wrongfully convicted and should be freed?

Second, the claim that Creationist ideas are “better” than evolutionist ones is merely an assertion without substance, and the fact that one atheist is more tolerant of Intelligent Design (ID) does not change the fact that ID is devoid of any practical application as far as scientific productivity is concerned. Indeed, that is true of all Creationist ideas. They are useful only to promote religious extremism, which is itself destructive to civilizations, as history makes clear.

I’ve posted a reply to Young’s review of my book here:

http://bradleymonton.wordpress.com/[…]-of-my-book/

I’m sorry, Mr Monton, and I agree with you that a philosophical theory should be evaluated on its intellectual merits. But I’m a historian by training, and believe that an idea and its expression are also historical facts to be further evaluated by referring to its origins and present outcomes.

That means that the Discovery Institute, the institution, and intelligent design, the idea, are to be evaluated not only by examining the idea’s intellectual validity, but by considering where it comes from, what its proponents have done and still do, how they do it, and their objectives in doing this.

Where it comes from is religiously dogmatic young-earth creationism. What its proponents do is prevaricate, by fudging, obfuscating and misrepresenting the evidence. How they do it is by bypassing the scientific method of empirical research reported after peer review, and going direct to popular appeal using a publicity machine. Their immediate objective in doing this is to open the public schools to the teaching of a religious dogma, namely, that life was created by a God. A more distant objective is to rival, and then to replace, an evidence-based scientific theory with that dogma.

I regret that I cannot separate these historical facts from an evaluation of the Discovery Institute or the idea it advocates, and I am further chagrined to discover that I don’t think it is useful to try.

I regret that I cannot separate these historical facts from an evaluation of the Discovery Institute or the idea it advocates, and I am further chagrined to discover that I don’t think it is useful to try.

I think that’s because the attempt has already been made to separate them, with the conclusion that I.D. and it’s relatives don’t contain an explanation for any observed patterns in the relevant evidence. Evolution theory, otoh, does explain observed patterns, several of them.

Henry J

Henry J said:

I think that’s because the attempt has already been made to separate them, with the conclusion that I.D. and it’s relatives don’t contain an explanation for any observed patterns in the relevant evidence. Evolution theory, otoh, does explain observed patterns, several of them.

Henry J

Ah, but that is to attack intelligent design - correctly - from principle from the philosophy of science: that a scientific theory should explain observed patterns in nature. I quite agree with that, but I would widen the attack by considering the Discovery Institute and the idea of intelligent design in its historical and political context.

This is contra Mr Monton’s idea that putting these considerations aside, one may evaluate intelligent design by examining it purely as a philosophical theory. I don’t think that approach is useful, or even valid, for it neglects reality to an unreasonable degree. Whatever the arguable merits of intelligent design - and in my opinion the assertion of intelligent design has precisely the same merits as, say, solipsism or last-thursdayism - it has origins and effects in the real world, and these cannot reasonably be neglected or set aside.

Bradley Monton said:

Also, I’ve started replying to the comments here:

http://bradleymonton.wordpress.com/[…]view-part-i/

Would be nice of you to turn on comments.

Yes, ARN.org has a profile with links to some of Darwin’s writings online (they don’t actually host any themselves except some bookmark(?)). But he’s dead, and can’t object to being associated with them, or personally answer any points they raise. You assume that since they’ve got Darwin, it’s okay. If they had Hitler as a featured author, would you object on the grounds that it was a problem? No? Then why should their posthumous inclusion of Darwin be indicative of anything relevant to your making the decision to contribute?

What makes you think they haven’t simply co-opted Darwin expressly for the purpose of making themselves seem more legitimate, a veneer of diversity in opinion and expertise to cover up their being run entirely by Intelligent Design proponents and Discovery Institute fellows? How do you know they aren’t just throwing Darwin up as a “beard,” in other words?

Dave Luckett said: This is contra Mr Monton’s idea that putting these considerations aside, one may evaluate intelligent design by examining it purely as a philosophical theory.

Gut reaction - if we discuss it purely as a philosophcal theory, then it belongs in philosophy class, not science class(es). This seems a sneaky attempt to justify the theory one way - as philosophy - so you can teach it a different way - as science. Sort of like claiming WWII was an important historical event worthy of study…therefore we should teach it in math class.

However I haven’t read Dr. Monton’s replies, so I will go do that and see if he explains this.

The rest of my replies to the comments in this thread are here: http://bradleymonton.wordpress.com/[…]n-matt-young’s-review-part-ii/

So you didn’t really respond to my points at all except parenthetically informing us which of the reviewers are theists. Which doesn’t matter in the least.

Also, what has the ARN.org cooptation of Charles Darwin got to do with whether or not they’re the Discovery Institute’s mouthpiece to the philosophical community? Why do you choose to so heavily associate yourself with the leaders of the Discovery Institute?

Monton, if you not “buy into” Intelligent Design, then why did you criticize Judge Jones’s ruling at the conclusion of the 2005 Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District trial? Would you care to comment here? Am looking forward to it:

Bradley Monton said:

The rest of my replies to the comments in this thread are here: http://bradleymonton.wordpress.com/[…]n-matt-young’s-review-part-ii/

Physicists are searching for the “creator”; they call it the Higgs boson. Evolution came later. To say evolution is not intelligent or lacks design is to deny recent discoveries of microbiology and astrophysics. Before you reject ID entirely, read the 40 books on psychology, biology and physics in the bibliographies of my e-book at http://www.suprarational.org If we were to completely dismiss that which we didn’t understand, progress in science and technology would come to a halt. It is the mysteries of life that drive researchers onward.

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This page contains a single entry by Matt Young published on January 2, 2010 11:25 AM.

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