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Michael Zimmerman of Clergy Letter Project and Evolution Weekend fame tells us that his recent article The Nonscience of the Scientific Arguments against Evolution received the seventh-highest number of comments in the history of the Huffington Post. I was frankly very pleased to hear that his contributions are catching on so fast. Richard B. Hoppe commented on an earlier article here.

Mr. Zimmerman’s latest article is called The Danger of Ignoring Creationism. For those who don’t already know, he explains, among other things, why the Discovery Institute is little more than a shill for the billionaire Howard Ahmanson, whom Mr. Zimmerman quotes as saying, “My goal is the total integration of biblical law into our lives.”

Creationism correlates with HIV denial, global-warming denial, and probably many other denials, not to mention Holocaust denial. It is thus easy to argue with Mr. Zimmerman’s contention that creationism is essentially a religious war, not a controversy between science and religion. Why can’t it be both?

Picky, picky! The article is very well worth reading, and if you don’t characterize it as scary or weird, you must not have paid enough attention. I receive Mr. Zimmerman’s e-mails every week or so, and I look forward to a continuous stream of equally enlightening articles.

Creationism really is a science stopper

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We often argue that saying that “God did it” is a science stopper. That claim is typically countered by pointing to numerous examples of scientists who were (Newton) or are (Kenneth Miller) Christians (though as we know, Newton was a peculiar sort of Christian, even for his time).

The Disco ‘Tute, of course, doesn’t think that positing an Intelligent Designer is a science-stopper. Their ‘solution,’ embodied in the Wedge strategy, is to redefine science to include God an unnamed intelligent designer with inscrutable goals and skills as an “explanation.”

One variety of Christian “science,” however, is clearly willing to stop science in its tracks, and Todd C. Wood, faculty member at Bryan College, has provided a stark illustration of that. While Wood has shocked his creationist peers on occasion, for example for saying that

Evolution is not a theory in crisis. It is not teetering on the verge of collapse. It has not failed as a scientific explanation. There is evidence for evolution, gobs and gobs of it. It is not just speculation or a faith choice or an assumption or a religion. It is a productive framework for lots of biological research, and it has amazing explanatory power. There is no conspiracy to hide the truth about the failure of evolution. There has really been no failure of evolution as a scientific theory. It works, and it works well. (All bolding original)

However, Wood has clear boundaries. Writing on his blog more recently Wood says

That’s why I don’t care about the origin of life (and why I’ll probably never finish reading Meyer’s book). I already know where life came from. I open the book of Genesis, and the Bible tells me exactly where life came from. Speculating on how it might have happened in a naturalistic scenario seems like a waste of time to me. Just like it would seem like a waste of time to an atheist to study the logistics of Noah’s Ark.

Can’t get any clearer than that.

But it’s not about religion …

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The Disco ‘Tute has announced the opening of a new site, Faith+Religion, which purports to discuss the relationship between evolution and religion. A brief survey of the site shows that it has two objectives. First, of course, is the traditional ID goal of denigrating evolutionary theory. Right up on the home page we see a review of Collins’ The Language of God by Moonie Jonathan Wells that says

Collins’s defense of Darwinian theory turns out to be largely an argument from ignorance that must retreat as we learn more about the genome–in effect, a Darwin of the gaps.

Sure thing, Jonnie. Wells knows more about the scientific implications of new genetic knowledge than the former head of the Human Genome project. Yup.

The Washington Post has an excellent editorial on the recent attempts by Intelligent Design Creationists to ‘teach the controversy’ and ‘academic freedom’, observing that

Red-herring arguments about ‘academic freedom’ can’t be allowed to undermine the teaching of evolution.

The editorial points out how these efforts to undermine science are at best misguided.

NO ONE would think it acceptable for a teacher to question the existence of gravity or to suggest that two plus two equals anything but four. It’s mystifying, then, that a movement to undermine the teaching of evolutionary biology is attracting some support. Equally perverse is that this misguided effort is being advanced under the false guise of academic freedom.

Intelligent Design Creationists like Bill Dembski have argued that Woese’s work contradicts evolutionary theory or more specifically common descent and Darwinian theory. See for instance “Woese: Life could have started “millions of times”” or this old posting of mine.

Since many creationists have come to misunderstand Woese’s arguments, the impact on Darwinian evolutionary theory, let’s start exploring Woese’s argument

Dembski’s article which references (and fully reproduces) an article by Ronald Kotulak claims that Woese commented in 2002 that life could have started “millions of times”, a statement I have not been able to track back to his scholarly work.

The 2002 paper is likely: Carl Woese On the evolution of cells PNAS June 25, 2002 vol. 99 no. 13 8742-8747

On Uncommon Descent William Dembski claims that Richard Dawkins has admitted that life could be designed and thus wonders: “Is ID therefore scientific?”. As I will show this is a logically flawed conclusion.

First of all lets point out Intelligent Design does not claim merely that life is designed but that such design can be detected via scientific methods. In this aspect if differs from science which admits that design always remains a logical possibility, however science also accepts that if such design is ‘supernatural’ no scientific method can detect such design.

When everything else fails…

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The Discovery Institute, after having realized that Intelligent Design is doomed to remain scientifically infertile and vacuous and after their devastating loss at the Dover trial, seems to have retreated to their fundamental opposition to materialism. Hopelessly confused by Phil Johnson’s misunderstanding of methodological and philosophical naturalism, the DI seems to be intent to blame evil Darwinists for immoral behaviors such as eugenics.

Let me start of by pointing out that any such attempt is doomed from the beginning for the simple reason that the Discovery Institute and other ID Creationists have claimed that Darwinism cannot provide foundation for morality, or in other words, Darwinism cannot serve as a principle on which to build a decision of what is ‘good’ and what is ‘bad’. This means that Eugenics cannot have a foundation in amoral scientific concepts lest there exists an external principle on which to base the decision as to what is good and bad for society.

People should therefor not be surprised that eugenics has been a principle which preceded Darwinism. Equally unsurprised will be the well informed readers who are familiar with the eugenic history of Christian evangelicals in the United States.

But I digress. The Discovery Institute, after having come to the inevitable conclusion that Intelligent Design is likely to remain without scientific relevance has changed its approach. While I predict that their attempts will become an ever greater disaster than their attempts to introduce the concept of Intelligent Design into schools, there is an even greater concern. Namely by violating St Augustine’s fair warnings about Christians saying foolish things (about science), an observer may easily come to reject the whole teaching of Christianity as a similarly foolish enterprise.

In today’s Washington Post, there is an editorial entitled Dissing Darwin that is recommended reading. I’ll offer some commentary on the flipside.

Cristián Samper Wrote:

Statement by the Director, National Museum of Natural History

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History recently approved a request by the Discovery Institute to hold a private, invitation-only screening and reception at the Museum on June 23 for the film “The Privileged Planet.” Upon further review we have determined that the content of the film is not consistent with the mission of the Smithsonian Institution’s scientific research. Neither the Smithsonian Institution nor the National Museum of Natural History supports or endorses the Discovery Institute or the film “The Privileged Planet.” However, since Smithsonian policy states that all events held at any museum be “co-sponsored” by the director and the outside organization, and we have signed an agreement with this organization, we will honor the commitment made to provide space for the event.

Word has reached the ears of the Thumb (!) that the Discovery Institute has managed to get the Smithsonian to co-sponsor an ID-friendly presentation, surprising us to say the least. (Indeed, Prof. Steve Steve was as crestfallen over the matter as anyone with a fixed expression could be.)

How could the Smithsonian, the quintessential archive of evolution as natural history in our nation, have agreed to co-host this video? How could the director be “Happy to announce” this private screening? Does the director even know if any Pandas were harmed in the production of this film?

Today, the NY Times has an article that explains the situation. We’ll discuss this and other possible violations of Panda rights on the flipside.

While wandering the web the other day, I noticed Crux Magazine - "determined to supply a high-quality alternative to the principle tastemakers of our target demographic, young adults aged 25 to 45 ... a creative and trailblazing entity in our own right, the embodiment of a fresh and radical perspective on culture that is gaining adherents by the day, [with the aim of] redeeming the times and redirecting the prevailing orthodoxy of our age." Stirring stuff. At the site you can read a plug for Priviledged Planet [link] and By Design or By Chance? [link].

Things get interesting when you look at the Editorial Advisory Board. There we see Beckwith, Budziszewski, Dembski, Johnson, Meyer, Moreland, Nelson, Reynolds, Richards, and West - a veritable cluster of Discovery Fellows and fellow travellers. Also on the list are Norm Geisler and Hugh Ross.

Only Crux is solely committed to exposing the pernicious ideologies that have degraded the American mind. Only Crux is open-minded enough to look beyond popular assumptions and locate insights that have been buried by the mainstream media. Only Crux is giving a voice to those on the margins, to the academics, scientists, celebrities, and artists who simply will not kowtow to convention or the party line.

Another front in the Wedge strategy, methinks.

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