Wright State U., you’re doin’ it wrong

| 94 Comments

Ratio Christi is a new-ish college campus oriented apologetics organization whose Wright State University (Ohio) chapter’s goal “… is to populate heaven by planting seeds of Truth into the minds of atheists, agnostics, skeptics, and spiritual seekers.” If one is so inclined, one can earn a Certificate in Christian Apologetics from Biola University (formerly the Bible Institute of Los Angeles) at a discount through Ratio Christi. In some ways Ratio Christi looks like a sort of successor to Casey Luskin’s now-defunct IDEA center.

Like Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis, Ratio Christi is heavy on anti-evolution. It’s recommended resources include books and papers by Disco ‘Tute stalwarts like Michael Behe, David Berlinski, William Dembski, Stephen Meyer, and Jonathan Wells, along with Fuzzy Rana of Reasons to Believe, young earth creationist Paul Garner, and apologetics philosopher Alvin Plantinga.

Ratio Christi spreads ID propaganda to the college campuses of its chapters. For example, according to a recent Dayton Daily News story, the Wright State chaper will hold an event called “Intelligent Design vs. Evolutionary Concepts” with “Dr. Paul Nelson of the University of Chicago.” That has to be our old friend of ontogenetic depth fame, Paul Nelson, a young earth creationist who got a Ph.D. in philosophy from the U of Chicago but who is now employed by the Discovery Institute as a professional propagandist for ID.

A couple of things in that newspaper article are worth noting. First, of course, there’s the obvious inflationary credentialism. Nelson got his degree from the U of Chicago 14 years ago, but AFAICT has had no particular professional association with it since then, unless one counts his forthcoming-in-perpetuity monograph On Common Descent, which has been hanging fire since he finished his dissertation. As far as I can tell, he has held one or two adjunct positions here and there, most recently in Biola’s Science & Religion program, but has been mainly employed by the Discovery Institute since the late 1990s.

Second, of course, there’s the “Evolutionary Concepts” part of the title of Nelson’s presentation. Anyone who has listened carefully to his presentations–see here for a selection–knows he tends to misrepresent evolutionary concepts. Those Wright State kids may get good apologetics (if there actually is such a thing as “good” apologetics), but will not get an accurate representation of evolutionary science. If that chapter genuinely wants to plant “…seeds of Truth into the minds of atheists, agnostics, skeptics, and spiritual seekers” it’s off to a bad start with Nelson.

94 Comments

“Science” by making up causes for the effects.

That ought to convince the skeptics.

Glen Davidson

Richard wrote “If that chapter genuinely wants to plant “…seeds of Truth into the minds of atheists, agnostics, skeptics, and spiritual seekers” it’s off to a bad start with Nelson.”

The first thing to always keep in mind is that creationists lie - they always lie. “Seeds of truth” from creationists - whether Young Earth Creationists or intelligent design creationists - just ain’t gonna happen.

“Darwinism in crisis” is one of Biola’s “vital topics”. Judging by citations the obvious crisis would be that evolution is too productive. I suspect that Biola ignores the obvious.

It sounds like this organization is a registered student organization. Is there some assertion that Wright State University has given support to this organization beyond that? That it is more official than the Campus Crusade for Christ, the In His Presence Gospel Choir, or the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship?

I looked up the Wright State University list of student organizations, and Ratio Christi is one of them along with all the above (and many others, including the Students for Organ Donation).

Richard, does the title of your post mean that your argument is that Wright State University should not have allowed this organization to register? To rent rooms and hold events? If so, there are an awful lot of student organizations at an awful lot of colleges in line ahead of Ratio Christi, so you have your work cut out for you.

Why would atheists, agnostics, or anyone at all want anything to do with a bunch of liars?

Hi Richard,

I hope you’ll attend the lecture: I’ve wanted to meet you for years. I’ll also be speaking that same week at Ohio State, so if that’s closer to your home, maybe we could meet there.

Paul Nelson said:

Hi Richard,

I hope you’ll attend the lecture: I’ve wanted to meet you for years. I’ll also be speaking that same week at Ohio State, so if that’s closer to your home, maybe we could meet there.

In the meantime,

1) Who is the designer? How can we test your answer?

2) What, precisely, did the designer do? How can we test your answer?

3) How did the designer do it? How can we test your answer?

4) When did the designer do it? How can we test your answer?

5) What is an example of something that is not designed by the designer? How can we test your answer?

6) The Bible contains passages which suggest that the sun revolves around the earth, that the earth is flat and has corners, and that pi equals exactly the integer value “3”. Do you accept these passages as literally true? If not, how do you deal with the inconsistency that the Bible is non-literal enough to indicate that these passages are symbolic, but too literal for the theory of evolution?

Paul Nelson said:

Hi Richard,

I hope you’ll attend the lecture: I’ve wanted to meet you for years. I’ll also be speaking that same week at Ohio State, so if that’s closer to your home, maybe we could meet there.

Bring a copy of your monograph. We would all like to get a look at it.

Prediction -

Paul Nelson will either not respond to any questions, or give a sleazy infomercial type dodge that he’ll deal with it in “the lecture” or some such thing, but magically can’t answer the questions here.

Apologetics assumes a respectful, deep and truthful understanding of those you are talking to. So you start with a respectful, deep, and truthful understanding of evolution and .….……

Paul Nelson said:

Hi Richard,

I hope you’ll attend the lecture: I’ve wanted to meet you for years. I’ll also be speaking that same week at Ohio State, so if that’s closer to your home, maybe we could meet there.

So is there anything you can share with us about what you’ve been up to for the last few years, aside than the Bible Institute Of Los Angeles and the Discovery Institute? Any books or articles published? Any further word on development of a full-fledged theory of biological design?

I think I know the problem here. Every time Paul gets ready to publish, along comes a new data set that he must address. First it was ribosomal DNA, then mitochondrial DNA, then retro transposons, then micro satellites, then evo devo. Now, just when he was no doubt all set to go to press, comparative genomics comes along. I’m sure he was just adding a new chapter to deal with the neanderthal mitochondrial sequence when human, chimp and gorilla complete genome sequences became available. So now he has all that much more data to explain and he must explain it better than the existing theory. No wonder this is taking so long. Any honest person would certainly want to address all of the data and it just keeps getting bigger and bigger. And of course you can’t trust the scientists who are actually doing the work to explain to you what it means, they are all blinded to the truth, or something.

Joe Felsenstein said:Richard, does the title of your post mean that your argument is that Wright State University should not have allowed this organization to register? To rent rooms and hold events? If so, there are an awful lot of student organizations at an awful lot of colleges in line ahead of Ratio Christi, so you have your work cut out for you.

Not at all, and I’m a little surprised you would suggest it. The title of the post is meant to convey the message that if Ratio Christi wants to present Wright State students with an honest and accurate representation of “Intelligent Design vs. Evolutionary Concepts” they’re going about it wrong. Paul Nelson is not, IMLTHO, a reliable source of information about “evolutionary concepts.”

Paul Nelson said:

Hi Richard,

I hope you’ll attend the lecture: I’ve wanted to meet you for years. I’ll also be speaking that same week at Ohio State, so if that’s closer to your home, maybe we could meet there.

Thanks for the invitation, but since my illness I don’t travel much. I’ll see how it’s going in the fall.

Richard B. Hoppe said:

Joe Felsenstein said:Richard, does the title of your post mean that your argument is that Wright State University should not have allowed this organization to register? To rent rooms and hold events? If so, there are an awful lot of student organizations at an awful lot of colleges in line ahead of Ratio Christi, so you have your work cut out for you.

Not at all, and I’m a little surprised you would suggest it. The title of the post is meant to convey the message that if Ratio Christi wants to present Wright State students with an honest and accurate representation of “Intelligent Design vs. Evolutionary Concepts” they’re going about it wrong.

I see. I was (over-)reacting to the title, which seemed to imply that the university had done something wrong. I see though that the pun on the word Wright was simply too hard to resist.

Paul Nelson is not, IMLTHO, a reliable source of information about “evolutionary concepts.”

I don’t see why anyone should be excited about hearing from Paul Nelson. He was supposed to be working on a monograph critiquing evidence for common descent, and that was supposed to be published in Lee Van Valen’s monograph series Evolutionary Monographs. That never happened, and in 2010 Van Valen died, so I assume that publication is unlikely. And then there was his promise to explain his concept of “ontogenetic depth”, which also has never happened.

Does Nelson have some argument that causes any evolutionary biologist difficulty?

And then there is the issue of why he allows himself to be described in the Ratio Christi conference program as “of the University of Chicago”. I too got my Ph.D. degree at that University, but if someone were to list me in that way, that would be very misleading, as it’s been 45 years since I was actually located there.

Joe Felsenstein wrote, “And then there was his promise to explain his concept of ‘ontogenetic depth’, which also has never happened.”

Please see these blog posts:

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2011/0[…]t045531.html

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2011/0[…]1045581.html

Joe also wrote, “And then there is the issue of why he allows himself to be described in the Ratio Christi conference program as ‘of the University of Chicago’.”

I couldn’t have allowed it, so to speak, simply because I didn’t know anything about the description until today. I haven’t seen the Ratio Christi conference program you mention. The Dayton Daily News article that Richard Hoppe cited, however, is in error, and I’ll see if a correction can be made.

Paul Burnett said:

Paul Nelson said:

Hi Richard,

I hope you’ll attend the lecture: I’ve wanted to meet you for years. I’ll also be speaking that same week at Ohio State, so if that’s closer to your home, maybe we could meet there.

So is there anything you can share with us about what you’ve been up to for the last few years, aside than the Bible Institute Of Los Angeles and the Discovery Institute? Any books or articles published? Any further word on development of a full-fledged theory of biological design?

Full-fledged theory? Don’t get carried away. How about a single testable hypothesis? How about one single logical argument in favor of non-human designed life which does not rely entirely on the wholly unjustifiable premise, if not evolution, then design?

Just kidding of course, no one knows better than Paul that there will never be any such thing, and that ID is just a transparent scam “designed” to get his personal version of Jeebus into public school classrooms at my expense.

All the politeness and congeniality in the world doesn’t mean a thing, Paul, when we all know you’re a habitual, perpetual, congenital liar. Nobody’s fooled.

What is the “ontogenetic depth” between a copper atom and a piece of solid copper?

What is the “ontogenetic depth” between hydrogen and oxygen and water in its liquid state?

The comparison between astronomical units and “ontogenetic distance” is bogus. ALL occasions of condensing matter involve emergent properties – both in form and in behavior – that are not evident in the constituents that go into the condensation.

So talking about some “ontogenetic depth or distance” from a single cell to a system made up of many moles of cells makes no sense. What are you measuring the “distance” between? How do you know what properties and behaviors will emerge?

Just because the notion is being proposed for living systems doesn’t change the problem; in fact, it simply exacerbates the problem because new properties and behaviors emerge more rapidly, and are more and more contingent, as systems become more complex.

Paul Nelson said:

Joe Felsenstein wrote, “And then there was his promise to explain his concept of ‘ontogenetic depth’, which also has never happened.”

Please see these blog posts:

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2011/0[…]t045531.html

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2011/0[…]1045581.html

Joe also wrote, “And then there is the issue of why he allows himself to be described in the Ratio Christi conference program as ‘of the University of Chicago’.”

I couldn’t have allowed it, so to speak, simply because I didn’t know anything about the description until today. I haven’t seen the Ratio Christi conference program you mention. The Dayton Daily News article that Richard Hoppe cited, however, is in error, and I’ll see if a correction can be made.

Paul wrote:

“The theory of evolution by natural selection does not explain the origin of animal form, because natural selection cannot account for origin de novo of the developmental stages required to construct (i.e., evolve) animals.”

This simply isn’t true. FIrst of all, natural selection isn’t the only process, or the only important factor in understanding the evolution of developmental pathways. Second, the field of evo devo has provided a reasonable explanation and several specific mechanisms to explain the evolution of development. The basic principles of evo devo are now becoming clear. I would recommend the book Endless Forms most Beautiful by Sean Carroll if you are unfamiliar with this field. Most of this information probably came out after you got you degree in philosophy.

The second link seems like nothing more than an elaborate argument from incredulity. Nowhere that I could see is “ontogenetic depth” defined or measured. Nowhere is the real biological evidence addressed. Dealing with the ever expanding evidence for evolution would be a real job. I would look forward to seeing the monograph that adequately addressed that evidence. Ignoring all of the evidence shouldn’t take all that long. What’s the hold up?

harold said:

Prediction -

Paul Nelson will either not respond to any questions, or give a sleazy infomercial type dodge that he’ll deal with it in “the lecture” or some such thing, but magically can’t answer the questions here.

Prediction going strong so far.

How about it Paul Nelson?

1) Who is the designer? How can we test your answer?

2) What, precisely, did the designer do? How can we test your answer?

3) How did the designer do it? How can we test your answer?

4) When did the designer do it? How can we test your answer?

5) What is an example of something that is not designed by the designer? How can we test your answer?

6) The Bible contains passages which suggest that the sun revolves around the earth, that the earth is flat and has corners, and that pi equals exactly the integer value “3”. Do you accept these passages as literally true? If not, how do you deal with the inconsistency that the Bible is non-literal enough to indicate that these passages are symbolic, but too literal for the theory of evolution?

Nowhere that I could see is “ontogenetic depth” defined or measured.

Which is amusing, since innumerable aspects of development from single celled zygote to multicellular metazoan (the only model Nelson deals with) has all kinds of features that could be quantified.

harold said:

Nowhere that I could see is “ontogenetic depth” defined or measured.

Which is amusing, since innumerable aspects of development from single celled zygote to multicellular metazoan (the only model Nelson deals with) has all kinds of features that could be quantified.

Must learn to proof even short comments. Anyway, I think the point is clear.

Despite the debates and the discussions, the evidence for the existence of God is there. He put it there. And He’s holding everyone accountable to the evidence He has given. http://atheistlegitimacy.blogspot.com/

And we know the bible is true because the bible SAYS it’s true! And this isn’t circular, it’s a fact because if it weren’t a fact, it wouldn’t be true!

David Tiffany said:

Despite the debates and the discussions, the evidence for the existence of God is there. He put it there. And He’s holding everyone accountable to the evidence He has given. http://atheistlegitimacy.blogspot.com/

Well then, I guess the bible was wrong, you don’t need faith. Imagine that, using the bible to prove that the bible was wrong!

David Tiffany said:

Despite the debates and the discussions, the evidence for the existence of God is there. He put it there. And He’s holding everyone accountable to the evidence He has given. http://atheistlegitimacy.blogspot.com/

Right, David Tiffany, we know gods exist because we can see them!

Oh, well, maybe not that, but we can hear them, right? and touch them and smell them and taste them!

No? Can we run down to Radio Shack and buy a god detector? Is there some sort of liturgical litmus paper which turns purple in their presence? Maybe an electrogodiogram?

In fact, David Tiffany, there is no empirical evidence for the existence of gods.

That’s because they don’t exist.

David Tiffany said:

Despite the debates and the discussions, the evidence for the existence of God is there. He put it there. And He’s holding everyone accountable to the evidence He has given. http://atheistlegitimacy.blogspot.com/

The evidence for Klingons is equally good. I can prove it using James T. Kirk quotes.

Glen Davidson

David Tiffany said:

Despite the debates and the discussions, the evidence for the existence of God is there. He put it there. And He’s holding everyone accountable to the evidence He has given. http://atheistlegitimacy.blogspot.com/

Sorry, but I know you are a liar.

Phhht, You make a valid point that we cannot measure God/ gods by any means that we have on this Earth, other than personal claims and experiences. Hence why we can say that God is not of this Earth/ World, because he cannot be measured by our tools. If you are only looking for scientific proof of God’s existence it cannot be done, unless you account the Bible as being a historical document. However I would also like to say that we cannot verify the concept of the “idea” or “dreams,” yet we still know they exist without a valid scientific measurement. Does that make them non existent? By no means.

Respectfully, -eX-

SWT said:

harold said:

When I was a child, and I get the strange feeling that you may not be younger that me (I could be wrong), the Soviet Union was still in power, many of those who are now evolution-denying neocons were self-proclaimed Marxist or Maoist radicals, and atheism was often used to mean outright denial of the possibility of god.

The term is now used by some who use it in exactly the same way the term “agnostic” used to be used.

Well, words change in meaning sometimes, especially words that refer to abstract concepts. However, an enraged claim that a particular word has not evolved in meaning, when it has, serves no purpose.

My experience was similar; I still have to recalibrate a bit when I read the discussions here so that I understand some posts as I think their authors intended.

[As a point of chronological reference, Eisenhower was president when I was born.]

I was born in 1963, so the communist-radicals-who-would-later-become-fudamentalist-neocons trend was at its peak when I was about ten or eleven.

Henry J said:

Rolf said:

Plenty of places for a god to hide.

No matter how far away he’d hide, we would always be able to grab him by the tentacles.

But if you do that, you’d just get sprayed with ink.

Invisible ink, I presume.

But of course - visible ink would leave evidence! :)

harold said:

I was born in 1963, so the communist-radicals-who-would-later-become-fudamentalist-neocons trend was at its peak when I was about ten or eleven.

And whether they were Communists or Neocons, they were scammers whose social influence we cannot get rid of fast enough.

And so are those apologists! They are not so much about convincing atheists to adopt Christianity as keeping those who are Christians from leaving the fold by appealing to their deeply held prejudices.

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This page contains a single entry by Richard B. Hoppe published on June 17, 2012 3:35 PM.

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