Home » Intelligent Design » More Hand Wringing Over Texas

More Hand Wringing Over Texas

In my earlier post about the Texas Science standards, I noted the hand wringing over the new language by Eugenie Scott, at the NCSE. Well, the moaning continues. An article has appeared in Education Week entitled Retooled Texas Standards Raise Unease Among Science Groups

Steven Newton of the NCSE frets over the wording of this statement in the new standards:

“In all fields of science, analyze, evaluate, and critique scientific explanations by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing, including examining all sides of the scientific evidence of those scientific explanations so as to encourage critical thinking by the student.”

This is too much for Mr. Newton.

But Steven Newton, a public information project director at of the National Center for Science Education, an Oakland, Calif.-based organization that supports teaching evolution in public school science classes, said the document’s call for students to examine “all sides of scientific evidence” is problematic.

Supporters of “intelligent design,” he noted, have claimed that scientific evidence supports their view—an assertion rejected by the vast majority of scientists.

We sure wouldn’t want students to examine all sides of scientific evidence now would we, Mr. Newton!? Why, some of them might have the audacity to question some of the evidence for evolution. But why is that a problem? As I pointed out in the prior post, that is exactly what real scientists do all day long.

Mr. Newton isn’t alone in his fretting. Francis Q. Eberle, the executive director of the National Science Teachers Association, also has some issues with some of the wording.

Another amendment approved by the board requires students to “analyze and evaluate a variety of fossil types, such as transitional fossils, proposed transitional fossils, fossil lineages, and significant fossil deposits with regard to their appearance, completeness, and alignment with scientific explanations in light of this fossil data.”

Francis Q. Eberle, the executive director of the National Science Teachers Association, a professional organization based in Arlington, Va., said that language, particularly the wording about “proposed” fossils, is unscientific and misleading.

It is “an attempt to interject subjectivity and belief systems into a major unifying theme of science by isolating the concept out of context of the other evidence,” Mr. Eberle said in an e-mail. “Hence, this is no longer science, but something else.”

Something else? And what would that be, Mr. Eberle? Perhaps the real worry is that some students might come away from all this analyzing, evaluating and critiquing with some serious doubts about the claims of evolutionary theory. In turn, that might lead to seriously consider (gasp!), Design! (eek!!!)

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59 Responses to More Hand Wringing Over Texas

  1. 1
    CannuckianYankee

    “Supporters of ‘intelligent design,’ he noted, have claimed that scientific evidence supports their view—an assertion rejected by the vast majority of scientists.”

    Question-begging, arguments from consensus:

    A vast majority of ID supporters find this kind of argumentation problematic.

  2. 2

    The idea that the earth is flat, the idea that the sun revolves around the earth, the idea that the theory of gravity is wrong. Why aren’t scientists ever worried that students will believe these things when they are allowed to analyze, evaluate and critique? We are constantly told that the theory of evolution is as solid a fact as any you will find in science, yet it’s the only theory that scientists seem to feel they need to protect at all costs from being objectively studied in the classroom. I can’t help wondering why that might be…

  3. 3
    CannuckianYankee

    Louisianna, now Texas – buncha gun-totin’, bible-believin’ Jesus-praisin’ fundamentalists if you ask me.

    Never happen in the Education Week-readin’ pseudo-science rejectin’ establishment-worshippin’ Northeast.

  4. My college biology teacher enjoys reading newspaper articles before he starts teaching the class and I the regular curriculum, and one day he ran across the issue about Texas and the teaching the Theory of Evolution. I’m not sure if he misunderstood the article or if the article misunderstood the issue, but their conclusion was the same: a group of people are trying to bring “Creationism” into the Texas classrooms. However, that’s not the case: people are simply trying to give students the freedom to think critically and analyze the Theory of Evolution rather than be taught it dogmatically. It has nothing to do with bringing “Creationism” into the classroom. (Indeed, bringing “Creationism” into the classroom has been an issue before, but in this case, in Texas, it is not the issue.) I raised my hand because I wanted to clarify the issue, but he didn’t see me (he wasn’t doing it on purpose as he doesn’t have a problem with me, he just didn’t realize my hand was up). My biology teacher is a cool guy and he even called faith (what he deems is held by those of religious beliefs) a beautiful thing, but he thinks it should be left separate from science which should be objective rather than subjective. (I guess this implies that religious beliefs are subjective? lol)

    Still, it’s unfortunate that he seems to misunderstand the issue.

  5. CannuckianYankee,

    You’re post @ 3 made me wonder:

    You ever get the idea that those who believe that chance can solve anything over enough time almost believe in an invisible deity? They blame those of ID and religious beliefs for believing in something they can’t see, but I’m pretty sure they can’t see “chance” either.

  6. Domoman,

    Or Deep time or its affects.

  7. 7
    CannuckianYankee

    Domoman, Your biology teacher is right; religion should be kept out of science classes. Most religious people would agree with that – they don’t want non-believers teaching their children about religion.

    You are also right in that he misunderstands the issue. It’s not that religious implications should be kept out of science classes – otherwise the religious implications of Darwinism could not be taught – and they most certainly are taught.

    Science classes should be taught on the basis of following evidence wherever it may lead. This is why some academics are pushing for academic freedom – you can’t have an environment where you are free to follow the evidence and critically analyse in order for the evidence to lead where it may, when the religious implications of one theory are mandated to be taught as the gospel truth.

    The Darwinists are not on the side of academic freedom – they are on the side of suppression, because they stand to lose a whole lot if they are proven wrong. This is why they paint the issue as a “creationism in the classroom” issue, rather than as an academic freedom one. If they can convince the public that it’s simply a creationism issue, they’ve already won in legal courts and in the court of public opinion. However, they are already losing that argument in the court of public opinion, because they aren’t convincing the public that it’s a creationism issue, which it isn’t.

    Now regarding your question about chance: It takes faith to be an atheist. Atheism is logically absurd – therefore to believe that no gods exist requires faith; faith in chance as you have observed.

    All the chance in the world required for evolution is not enought for evolution to have occurred in the way the Darwinists claim it has. It requires a miraculous amount of chance IMHO, which is essentially trusting in something that is absurd.

    The Darwinists are not well versed in the cosmological arguments for the existence of God. If they were, they would see the error of their thinking. One cannot traverse an actual infinite. Since this is so, and unplanned evolution implies the traversing of an actual infinite, then the idea of a necessary being, or first cause becomes much more reasonable. There’s one necessary being, who created all other contingent beings.

    Now ID does not go into this area, because it deals with metaphysics, and is not scientific in the strict naturalistic sense. But because the Darwinists fail to grasp this, they delve into absurd notions of undirected, unplanned random mutations without a blueprint as an explanation for how we got to the advanced complexity we now see in ourselves and other complex beings.

    It’s not that they have evidence for the Darwinian process, it’s that they have to convince others that they have the evidence, because they “cannot allow a divine foot in the door.” Theism is just not an option, no matter what the evidence may show.

    Now I ask you to think about this – because let’s assume that as a result of this academic freedom legislation, a whole lot of students of biology are led to conclude that there is a god based on the evidence. What sort of god would such a student accept? Would it be the irrational god of postmodernism, who allows your belief is as good as mine, no matter how contradictory? Would it be the literalist god who cannot appear any different than that revealed in a narrow 19th Century interpretation of the bible? Or would it be a logical god, who divinely interacts with his creation and continually leaves evidence for other mysteries to be solved because he trusts in the inquisitive nature of his highest creature?

    The god that the Darwinists fear is one that is like either of the first two examples, which is a strawman god if one ever existed. But they believe that the god of the first two examples is the only one that is believed in.

  8. The “problem” is if students start analyzing the evidence then the teachers will be in trouble.

    Why?

    Because the students will start asking questions neither they nor anyone else can answer.

  9. @saywhatyouwill in [2]

    You say they are only ever worried about people questioning evolution, and not all the other scientific facts you mention, but only evolution makes people question what they believe (even tho some believe evolution poses no threat to their christianity), and only evolution has to be defended from people trying to manipulate the facts to suit their own agenda’s.

    This may sound like I’m already defending an ‘agenda’, but as always, the agenda you would accuse me of defending has been scientifically articulated to be readily falsifiable if it is untrue, and as it has not yet been falsified… but what falsifiable theory supports the orriginal ‘agenda’ I brought up (that of creationism and ID).

    These people speaking out against perceived threats to the education standards are doing so because they believe science teachers will use those standards to push ‘ideas of theories’ onto students who are not yet ready to evaluate what is a falsifiable theory and what is just pseudo-science.

    Perhaps all science starts as pseudo-science, so that is not a veiled insult, it is just to say is it what it is.

  10. @CannuckianYankee in [7]

    “The Darwinists are not on the side of academic freedom – they are on the side of suppression”

    - Part of Academic Freedom is the principle that tenured professors cannot be fired because of what they research, no matter how it upsets the people/government (as long as they do not stray from their field of study too far while they are upsetting people with their research). With this in mind, all your ‘darwinists’ are presumably tenured professors, so your comments are meaningless with that in mind.

    Also, MARK MY WORDS, and remember them well, the person that disproves evolution will have fame and fortune beyond their wildest dreams, if anyone ever manages it…. It is the highest achievement in academic circles for a scientist to disprove a falsifiable theory that had until that point been presumed to be true. It is how science progresses, and how it always will! :)

    “The Darwinists are not well versed in the cosmological arguments for the existence of God. …[snip]… one necessary being, who created all other contingent beings.”

    -Are you well versed in the eastern view of the world having a beginingless beginning? From that point of view your comments are absurd, so there are large proportions of Asian people that would find your comments a bit like crazy ravings. Not saying that’s my point of view, but just thought I’d mention.

    “Theism is just not an option, no matter what the evidence may show.”

    - If science start using the ‘God dun it’ hypothesis, no more progress would be made, as I’m sure you’ve heard before, the ‘God of the Gaps’ is getting smaller and smaller. Just saying.

    Reading the rest of your post you are steeped in mono-theistic thinking. I’d suggest you expand your horizons a bit.

    When I use the term ‘falsifiable theory’ I’m referring to a theory that has been formulated in a way that if it is untrue, it can be easily proved as such. Stated that already, but just thought I’d make sure, otherwise it could be read a bit wrong. lol

  11. Nnoel:

    I think you completely misunderstand the issue and you completely misunderstand Intelligent Design. You have only a surface, pop-culture understanding of ID.

    I’m glad that you’re here but I think it would be appropriate for you to learn more about the thing you disagree with so much.

  12. umm… I’ve read Denise O’Leary stating she believes in evolution but also promotes ID. (I may have mis-read that bit, as it surprised me at the time of reading)

    I understand that, but for a while I thought everyone here was completely anti-evo, partly because of the people I have responded to above.

    It is my understanding that ID says ‘evolution is ok to a point, but after that, something must have had a ‘guiding hand’. How accurate is my understanding?

    You say I have a pop-culture understanding, but I think using your terminology, I was responding to a pop-culturists. Also, I must say it is a bit typical of most ID’ist that you give criticism but offer no other options, or to use another term, it is not constructive criticism because you offer no information to show how I am suppose to learn more. Very much like a Creationist saying ‘Darwin was wrong, but we provide no falsifiable theory of how he is wrong’.

    Please, correct me, dont just say “learn more about the thing you disagree with so much”. That is of no use to me.

    Btw, I Love you random internet person, cause your me! (in a everyone is everything kind of way!) And I apologise if you not feeling my love right now, but it’s there!

  13. public information project director

    Iow, Darwinian Fundamentalist Propaganda Director. ;-)

  14. Mnoel:

    You say: “the person that disproves evolution will have fame and fortune beyond their wildest dreams, if anyone ever manages it…. It is the highest achievement in academic circles for a scientist to disprove a falsifiable theory that had until that point been presumed to be true.”

    The above statement is so apropos, maybe or maybe not as you intended. You are right that no person will become astoundingly famous for disproving macroevolution by RM&NS because it is not falsifiable. Richard Dawkins and those of his ilk can paint all of the pretty verbal pictures of how the mammalian eye evolved, and with much bravado and bluster maintain and defend such pretty verbal scenarios, but in the end it is all so laughably unfalsifiable. In other words, ZERO EVIDENCE.

  15. Nnoel:

    I apologize for the lack of explanation, but it was more of a time issue than a lack of desire.

    First, I am not an IDer. But my main problem with ID is not a scientific one. Most deist would consider me an atheist, so it’s hard for me to fathom a designer. That’s a personal block for me, and is actually kind of irrelevant to ID, which as you can see, I personally respect a lot.

    Just a couple things came to mind when I saw your post (I should be working, but… luckily I work at home)

    ID does not dispute evolution at all. While there are some IDers who would argue that evolution “is fine, up to a point”… ID actually only takes issue with the mechanism by which evolution happened, arguing that current explanations fall well short of what the current consensus claims.

    You say ID puts “God in the gaps” and ID says science currently puts “Darwin in the gaps”. It is really quite amazing how much of the current scientific understanding of evolution is educated guessing and inference, and how little of it is observed or even testable. All of this coming from a previous assumption that Neo-Darwinism is essentially proven. These assumptions and the lack of direct knowledge of how speciation and morphological change happens is what makes it so difficult to falsify, not the validity of the theory itself. This is why I find arguments of falsifiability so unconvincing and much more of a debating tool than a genuine search of truth.

    The Cambrian Explosion still serves as a massive challenge to Darwin’s theory. Darwin expected us to fill out the gaps as fossil discoveries continued, but that hasn’t happened. But today’s science has focused on explaining the Cambrian Explosion away as opposed to accounting for it. “Yes, it seems to falsify Darwin’s arguments, but because we know Darwin was essentially right, we’ll figure out why it doesn’t falsify it later.”

    It seems it really is about what you already believed beforehand. I find this a massive problem all across the scientific spectrum. From Darwinist (for lack of a better term) to IDers alike.

    The argument for ID is pretty simple: that there are natural systems that cannot be explained by unguided natural forces, and that these systems, in any other context, would be attribute to intelligent design.

    ID looks to infer design on the natural patterns, much like Darwinist infer natural selection and other evolutionary engines into evolution. (This is another area where I think ID needs to expand its thinking. Just because current explanations are lacking, does not mean we will not discover an explanation later on that makes total sense and makes everything fall into place. But that’s what science is about and what makes the field so exciting as people from all different perspectives keep exploring)

    The key is not to be confused with, “Sure, it appears designed, so it must be designed”. The argument looks for sufficient complexity in the pattern that eliminates random chance.

    We actually infer intelligent design on things everyday. ID just takes this logic and problem-solving to a whole new level.

    And yes, it’s true, ID takes no stand on whether it was God or aliens that designed these systems. Though, obviously, most tend to believe the former. :)

    Darwin himself said that certain things would falsify his theory. ID decided to take him on in that area (irreducible complexity) and I have enjoyed the debate. That is actually where I learned just how little current science knows about evolution as they tried to explained away irreducible complexity with more hypotheticals that I could even keep track of. They were right, that there were a few possible, almost miraculous explanations of how such a thing could have happened, but what they ultimately proved to me was how small our current understanding was. They were stuck with “This probably happened”, “this could have happened” or “maybe this happened”…

    They just didn’t know how, but they damn well it happened by accident.

    Also, the amount of pressure on both tenured and non-tenured scientists to stick with conventional neo-Darwinist thinking is immense. I would call it a war footing.

    Anything that doesn’t support Neo-Darwinism is considered possible ammo for Creationist and severely attacked. The industry funding puts tremendous pressure on people to stick with conventional thinking. Tenure does not protect you from social or funding pressure, and this doesn’t even count the pressure to conform before you even get tenure.

    There is an immense culture war that has infected the scientific community. I have seen it myself, and I have read many stories indicating it is wide-spread. I wish science was pure, but it is not.

    There are plenty more people who understand these arguments better than me, so please allow me the right adjust my writing if I stated anything incorrectly.

    (This is why I deferred to offer an explanation before! This is just the tip of the iceberg of this discussion!)

  16. saywhatyouwill

    We are constantly told that the theory of evolution is as solid a fact as any you will find in science, yet it’s the only theory that scientists seem to feel they need to protect at all costs from being objectively studied in the classroom. I can’t help wondering why that might be…

    Good point. If evolution really was as well established as, say, the theory of gravity, or or some other well estabished law or theory of science, then why should there be any concern whatsover about students analyzing, evaluating and critiquing it? If the evidence for evolution is so obvious and overwhelming that it can not be missed, then there doesn’t seem to be any good reason to protect it from analysis and evaluation.

    All this hand-wringing over the remote possibility that “creationism”, or something like it, might sneak into a science classroom somewhere is a smoke-screen. The real fear, I think, is that bright students, taught how to properly analyze, evaluate and critique a scientific hypothesis or theory, might conclude there’s something amiss about evolutionary theory and its explanations for how diverse biological life forms came to be. In other words, its about protecting dogma and not about teaching science.

    If science teachers in Texas adhere to the new standards, then perhaps one day a bright high school student will raise her hand and say: “Mrs. Dunwoodie, how do we know scientifically that the apparent design we’ve been observing in all these life forms we’ve been studying could not possibly be actual design?”

    That’s the sort of question the NCSE and the NSTA want to avoid at all costs! They’d much prefer to simply tell students what Francis Crick told a group of scientists: “Scientists must remind themselves everyday that what they are observing through their microscopes was not designed.”

    I wonder what the response would be if Mrs. Dunwoodie were to answer that hypothetical bright young student with that sort of an answer.

  17. 17

    Tommy V’s post to Nnoel is excellent, and it describes how many ID followers came to be where they are.

    Nnoel, (welcome to UD) take a moment and read the research paper under the heading “Three Subsets of Complexity” by Trevors and Abel. You can google it and download it. If you are not accustomed to techinical data in maths and such, then power your way through it anyway. The framing of the argument will become clear nonetheless.

    Of course Behe’s book “Darwin’s Black Box” and Michael Denton’s book “Theory in Crisis” are also excellent. (as is Behe’s second book “The Edge of Evolution”. and surely Mike Gene’s book “The Design Matrix”) For a non-technical but powerful (and elegant) outline of the debate there is also David Berlinski’s “The Devils Delusion”. Berlinski pulls no punches and will give you gutteral laughs as well. It’s brilliant.

    In any casse, I am glad you are on the board, as well as Tommy V.

    His corrective comments are appropriate. The debate is not about evolution per se, and it’s certainly not about teaching standards.

    ID is about evidence.

  18. Nnoel:,

    Here is something I wrote about 6 months ago as to what everyone should know before they debate about ID so there is no waste of time discussing irrelevancies.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-296129

    Tommy V has a good assessment

  19. Thanks for the informative post jerry. I suppose I would have some follow-up questions. To the extent that ID questions the sufficiency of RM&NS as a mechanism to produce complexity, I would wonder what ID has to say regarding the mechanism of design.

    What is the mechanism by which an intelligence “designs” biological structures? In the way the mechanism by which this coffee cup reaches my mouth is muscle contractions in my arm which grip and lift the cup towards me, is ID capable of elucidating a mechanism by which an intelligence designs biological structures? Would the intelligence require appendages? Does the design of biological structures indicate that the intelligence must exist as an entity within space and time? If it does not live as such, and lives outside of space and time, how would an intelligence existing external to space and time manipulate structures existing within space and time?

    Really, I suppose I’m interested in the extent to which ID is interested in the designer, as opposed to cataloging entities as “designed” as an endgame.

  20. DonaldN @ 16

    If science teachers in Texas adhere to the new standards, then perhaps one day a bright high school student will raise her hand and say: “Mrs. Dunwoodie, how do we know scientifically that the apparent design we’ve been observing in all these life forms we’ve been studying could not possibly be actual design?”

    To which “Mrs Dunwoodie” ought to reply:
    “Science does not say that the appearance of design in Nature could not possibly be actual design. Anyone who tells you that is misrepresenting what science can and cannot say.

    What Charles Darwin did was to construct an explanation of how life on Earth could have changed and diversified over time which did not require the intervention of an intelligent agent. His theory does not exclude the possibility of an Intelligent Designer but it does not include one because it does not need one.

    There is nothing to prevent anyone from presenting a case for an Intelligent Designer. But if a proponent of Intelligent Design wants to persuade you or me or anyone else to accept that claim they will have to give us good reasons to do so in the form of evidence and arguments. That is no more or less than what is required of any candidate explanation in science.”

  21. 21
    CannuckianYankee

    Nnoel, re: #10

    I was going to answer every point, except that I later noticed that Tommy V had done such a good job already, except regarding the following (which he didn’t address):

    I stated: “The Darwinists are not well versed in the cosmological arguments for the existence of God. …[snip]… one necessary being, who created all other contingent beings.”

    …and you stated: “Are you well versed in the eastern view of the world having a beginingless beginning? From that point of view your comments are absurd, so there are large proportions of Asian people that would find your comments a bit like crazy ravings. Not saying that’s my point of view, but just thought I’d mention.”

    I like to say that I’m well versed at least in some basic areas of logic, and to say that something has a beginningless beginning, while it may sound poetic, is an obvious logical contradiction. Therefore, it would be completely invalid as an argument for anything at all. A billion people believing my logic is absurd does not make it so.

    Furthermore, the cosmological argument is perfectly logical and non-contradictory. Absurdities arise when we begin talking about traversing an actual infinite, because actual infinites do not exist in the real world. Yet the logical beginning of evolution is found in an infinite past. It has to be so, because the Darwinists do not believe that there was a necessary first cause for everything that exists. If there is no first cause, then there is an infinite regression of causes, which is logically absurd.

    With that in mind, it makes no difference if there are large numbers of anyone who believe in a beginningless beginning, it is no less contradictory. Truth is not so, based on the numbers of people who believe a proposition, but on the solidity of a proposition’s logic. And besides that, for every 100 Asians that believe in the proposition you stated, I’m sure there are 100 others who believe otherwise.

  22. 22
    CannuckianYankee

    Tommy V,

    I appreciate your understanding of what ID is and what it is not, and that coming from an atheist. The fact that there are atheists questioning Darwinism is no surpirse to me. One of the first books I read regarding the weaknesses of Darinism is a book by an atheist philosopher, the late Austrailian David Stove, in “Darwinian Fairytales.” Stove called Darwinism “a ridiculous slander on human beings.” And this coming from an expert on the philosophy of David Hume, which was pretty much a precursor to Darwin’s philosophy.

    Stove was precise and consistent in his scepticism. To him, nothing is worth believing without some logical argument based on evidence. He could not support Darwinism simply because it supported his philosophy of atheism, because for him, it was such an illogical explanation, based in fables and half-truths, from its very beginnings, right on through to the neo-Darwininian synthesis. His book is an excellent read if you want to discover just how absurd much of the Darwinian “just-so” story telling really is.

  23. TommyV

    It is really quite amazing how much of the current scientific understanding of evolution is educated guessing and inference, and how little of it is observed or even testable. All of this coming from a previous assumption that Neo-Darwinism is essentially proven. These assumptions and the lack of direct knowledge of how speciation and morphological change happens is what makes it so difficult to falsify, not the validity of the theory itself. This is why I find arguments of falsifiability so unconvincing and much more of a debating tool than a genuine search of truth.

    Excellent point! Falsification can only work if a process is well understood. For example, the process of heating water to 212deg F at sea level results in the water boiling. This is well understood. If someone were to heat water to 150deg F at sea level and the water boiled, then a possible falsification might have occured. Because the process is well understood, whether an actual falsification took place could be better investigated.

    However, with evolution, Tommy V points out, the process isn’t well understood. Some might say it isn’t understood at all. Thay pretty much makes it unfalsifiable, because we don’t know what the seemingly contrary evidence is telling us (i.e. the Cambrian Explosion).

    It is also interesting to note, that the more we learn about how some things work, the intricate complexity of the cell, for example, the more difficult these things are to explain by chance and/or necessity. It would seem to me that if evolution really were as obvicus as advertised, then the processes by which it operates would become cleaerer as our understanding of biological systems increases. The exact opposite seems to be the case.

    And, to yank this back to the OP, I think the hand wringing over the new Texas standards is precisely because of a fear that if students learned how to properly analyze, evaluate and critique a scientific hypothesis and the evidence for it, they might begin to see the disconnect between the evidence and the theory as well as how poorly understood are the processes of evolution.

  24. Saywhatyouwill,

    We are constantly told that the theory of evolution is as solid a fact as any you will find in science, yet it’s the only theory that scientists seem to feel they need to protect at all costs from being objectively studied in the classroom. I can’t help wondering why that might be…

    and, DonaldM,

    Good point. If evolution really was as well established as, say, the theory of gravity, or or some other well estabished law or theory of science, then why should there be any concern whatsover about students analyzing, evaluating and critiquing it? If the evidence for evolution is so obvious and overwhelming that it can not be missed, then there doesn’t seem to be any good reason to protect it from analysis and evaluation.

    That neo-Darwinists object to evidence against the Theory of Evolution cannot possibly be of scientific matters. There’s scientists that object to the Big Bang, that even object to Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, etc., that are not so persecuted as those who object to the Theory of Evolution. I honestly believe it’s an intellectual/emotional issue (if you will). It’s that those, at least many of them, who believe in the Theory of Evolution like thinking of life as not having a creator. Dawkins, for instance, doesn’t just believe in the Theory of Evolution, but he also has a problem with God (or at least, the general picture of God). I would go so far as to say that Dawkins probably hates God (a being he claims doesn’t exist.) :P

    If it was really a science issue then most people wouldn’t care about the issue. It’s when ethics and ultimate purpose get involved with issues of science that people raise objections. But this speaks true of both sides, whether you be a theist or atheist; creationist or darwinist; educated or uneducated.

  25. DonaldM,

    However, with evolution, Tommy V points out, the process isn’t well understood. Some might say it isn’t understood at all. Thay pretty much makes it unfalsifiable, because we don’t know what the seemingly contrary evidence is telling us (i.e. the Cambrian Explosion).

    Maybe we can’t understand it because it isn’t true. lol (At least, from a completely materialistic neo-Darwinian position.)

  26. 26

    Seversky #20

    I don’t know if you’re a Darwinist but your post isn’t an explanation of Darwinism that is particularly well articulated to the world. Your explanation leaves open the possibility of other mechanisms, even an intelligent designer, provided there is evidence. That at least is far less dogmatic than the way Darwinists normally portray the theory, i.e. it is very often asserted to be indisputable fact. In fact, if others held to your idea of the theory (that other explanations could be given for the observed evidence), then there would be little need for the Science Standards to demand objectivity and analysis. Sadly, they do not.

    As for what constitutes evidence for ID, and this is also relevant to the falsifiability of the grand theory of evolution, it’s very difficult to find consensus on what that might be (other than a rabbit in the Cambrian!) or even openness to the possibility of its existence. For instance, Dr Behe and others have written of the irreducibly complex bacterial flagellum. Unable to point to any known incremental beneficial stages in its evolution, they cite it as evidence against undirected random mutation and selection. However, the Darwinists reply that we may not know the stages at the moment, but it’s possible we will in the future, and even if we don’t it’s not proof it didn’t evolve.

    The paucity of transitional fossils, likewise thought by many as strong evidence against Darwinism, is dismissed as being down to poor preservation of fossils, a poor fossil record, etc., on to punctuated equilibrium where the absence is now the evidence! There are many other examples I could use (others have mentioned the Cambrian explosion) which show that lots of aspects of the theory of evolution have real problems, to the point that many believe these particular aspects have been falsified. But they are brushed off as unimportant since ‘we know evolution is a fact’, or they are ‘futurised’ (we may not know how to explain them at the moment but we will in the future) despite many having been around since Darwin. Or the theory…well, evolves to fit contrary data. Scientific theories are often adjusted, but evolution seems particularly slippery and able to explain contradictory data. It is not falsifiable, although certain aspects of it may be.

  27. Per DonaldM:

    “It is also interesting to note, that the more we learn about how some things work, the intricate complexity of the cell, for example, the more difficult these things are to explain by chance and/or necessity. It would seem to me that if evolution really were as obvious as advertised, then the processes by which it operates would become clearer as our understanding of biological systems increases. The exact opposite seems to be the case.” [edited for spelling]

    As, to quote DonaldM, “the exact opposite seems to be the case”, and ID is proposed as an alternative explanation, how clear then is the process of design? How is it that an intelligence “designs” the cell? Does this insinuate that some sort of planning, for lack of a better term, is involved? Is the intelligence bound by existing materials in order to design biological structures? If not, and the intelligence must indeed “create” biological materials, what is the mechanism by which an intelligence “creates” matter?

    Are these not questions which IDers think about?

  28. theface:

    I can’t speak for other people, but I assume if/when there is scientific data that leads down those paths those questions will be addressed. They will probably be addressed the same way most of the questions are answered now: by inference. That inference then leads you down certain trails where hopefully the inference becomes a unified theory.

    Correct my if I am wrong, but I detect an underlying tone of criticism in your post. If that’s so, then I think your criticism is similar to some creationists’ dismissal of Darwin’s theories because he does not offer an explanation for how life began. While it is true, Darwin did not offer such an explanation (his most famous work is called On The Origin of Species, not On The Origin of Life), the lack of such an explanation has nothing to do whether he was correct or not. (I think he was incorrect for other reasons). I assume you are not equally critical of Mr. Darwin for this massive oversight?

    I am being a little snarky here, but I hope you see my point.

    While people may have their own personal ideas of the questions you raise, ID itself offers no insight on anything that we lack scientific data on. If other theories offer no insight into what we lack data on, why are you asking ID to do so?

  29. Tommy V, thank you for the response.

    You would be correct in detecting criticism in my post, your dismissal of it, however, is lacking.

    “I assume you are not equally critical of Mr. Darwin for this massive oversight?”

    Are any questions I present not valid, or even interesting, if I do not post some pointed questions towards proponents of evolution beforehand? Furthermore, why would I wish to ask for a defense of evolutionary theory from an ID website?

    “While people may have their own personal ideas of the questions you raise, ID itself offers no insight on anything that we lack scientific data on. If other theories offer no insight into what we lack data on, why are you asking ID to do so?”

    I am not more or less critical of ID than I am of any other theory, it’s what I do, and how I think. This venue would be, however, a strange place to discuss the shortcomings of theories in the social sciences, for example. More directly, here I am asking some questions of intelligent design because this is, after all, a site constructed with the purpose of serving the intelligent design community.

    “…I assume if/when there is scientific data that leads down those paths those questions will be addressed.”

    The purpose of my questions are to gauge a few assumptions of ID theory that I do not believe its proponents give much thought. After all, ID gives the appearance of having two key elements:

    1. A comprehensive criticism of the sufficiency of evolution to explain the appearance of complexity.

    2. The positive assertion that the apparent design in biological structures is actual design.

    My questions are directed towards number 2. For the sake of continuing, lets assume that the criticisms of evolution by ID are entirely correct. That being the case, my questions concern underlying assumptions of ID. While concepts such as irreducible complexity may be used to infer that biological structures ARE designed, is it not a prerequisite question to ask if biological structures CAN be designed? HOW are biological structures designed by an intelligence?

    If these questions do not have answers, or cannot be answered, are the inferences of design any different from the “just so” narratives of the progressive evolution of biological complexity?

  30. Theface,

    I very much welcome you to UD and also your questions. I’m honestly not sure how to reply, at least in much detail, to your questions towards position #2 of ID, but I’d like to at least make a point. ID theorists may not know how life was designed, but the focus is more on the idea that we can detect this design within living organisms. Of course it may very true that in the future ID may focus on the methods of the designer used to create life, but I would not say that is the main focus right now.

    You asked,

    While concepts such as irreducible complexity may be used to infer that biological structures ARE designed, is it not a prerequisite question to ask if biological structures CAN be designed?

    For organisms to reach certain specific states of being, through changes to its structure, it requires steps. This means that if the steps are possible, then these steps are theoretically possible to achieve via neo-Darwinian processes or an intelligent agent. Thus, the possibility that organisms can be intelligently design appears to be necessarily possible.

    It might be questioned whether such an agent exists which could create biological organisms, but if it is even possible that such an intelligent agent exists, then organisms could certainly be designed. How? I’m not sure. But that is, of course, up for research, debate, and philosophical pondering. :)

    Hope that helped answer some of your questions! :D

  31. Domoman, thank you for the thoughtful response.

    “For organisms to reach certain specific states of being, through changes to its structure, it requires steps. This means that if the steps are possible, then these steps are theoretically possible to achieve via neo-Darwinian processes or an intelligent agent. Thus, the possibility that organisms can be intelligently design appears to be necessarily possible.”

    This, I suppose, is the assumption of ID I am most interested in. Whether Neo-Darwinian processes are sufficient or not, there is an identifiable mechanism in the step by step process – heredity. The intervention of an intelligent agent would insinuate that the mechanism by which it produces complexity is that there is some manner of “contact” between the agent and the designed. I’m interested in this “contact”. It is, as you say, necessary, however, it is only necessary in as much as intervention by an intelligent agent is a viable alternative. Just as, for example, if I were to revive the theory of spontaneous generation, it would be necessary for biological structures to be capable of spontaneously appearance. This necessity would, unfortunately, assume that which it sets out to prove.

    Is intelligent design different from spontaneous generation in this respect? Does ID assume that intervention by an intelligent agent is possible, because it would be necessary that intelligent agents CAN intervene and alter biological structures by a yet unknown mechanism?

  32. theface,

    The ID debate is over whether naturalistic mechanism could have created the organized complexity seen in life. This organized complexity requires huge amounts of information to run properly. ID does not deny that naturalistic processes can change the information somewhat or possibly add an occasional function to the information. But the latter is quite rare. ID also suggests that some intelligent inputs have been made to life after it was first created.

    Thus, ID questions that naturalistic processes could create the incredible complexity present in the data to control the functions of life or some of the changes seen in the fossil record after this initial creation. The debate is around information and how it arose.

    Now we have evidence that intelligence can create the information found in the genome but we have zero information that a naturalistic process could accomplish even after extensive investigation. See the website below to show how serious some people view this project.

    http://lifeorigin.org/

    So far no one has a clue as to how it could happen.

    So we have two alternatives, a naturalistic mechanism and an intelligent alternative. One has been shown to be able to accomplish the task while the other has shown no capability to do so.

    So what ID says is that the possibility exists that life was created by an intelligent source. Some will carry this assessment further to say that various steps in the evolution of life is best explained by an intelligent input. Nothing absolute but a distinct possibility.

    Since this had to be accomplished a long time ago, the identity of the intelligence, the methods and the timing are a mystery. People have speculated on some of these issues but it is just that speculation. You are welcome to persist on these questions and they are interesting in their own right but do not affect whether the genome was designed or not.

  33. Jerry, thanks for the reply and the link.

    “People have speculated on some of these issues but it is just that speculation. You are welcome to persist on these questions and they are interesting in their own right but do not affect whether the genome was designed or not.”

    This is exactly what I meant by prerequisite questions in an above post. The question of whether the genome can be designed carries no importance towards whether it was designed? I would disagree. Here is an analogy.

    The hypothetical construction of a massive monolith in the center of Asia. Upon viewing the structure, one may ask how it came to be. Consider one possibility, construction by humans. Lets say, by chance, there was no possible technology by which humans could construct the monolith, by your reasoning, this is an irrelevant detail. Whether or not humans COULD construct the pyramids does not affect whether humans DID, in fact, construct the pyramids. This brings me to the following quote:

    “So what ID says is that the possibility exists that life was created by an intelligent source. Some will carry this assessment further to say that various steps in the evolution of life is best explained by an intelligent input. Nothing absolute but a distinct possibility.”

    Alright, lets say that this is not a possibility, but true. Can one describe the process of “intelligent input” as it relates to biological structures?

  34. Ah, I’m sorry. I made a bit of a mix up with my analogy. “…construct the pyramids.” Lets just assume that says “monolith”. Thanks.

  35. theface:

    I think you’re being unnecessarily defensive.

    My point is quite valid. I was not suggesting you need to be equally critical of other theories in order to ask a question. I was simply asserting, by example, that no theory should be required to have scientific explanations for things it does not have data for, no other theory has this expectation, so why should ID?

    Neo-Darwinism is not invalid because it offers no explanation for the origin of life, so I see no reason to invalidate anything else for such a reason.

    It has nothing to do with what your asking about other explanations. As I said, I was being snarky. I apologize, and on top of that, I did myself a disservice because it distracted away from my point.

    The question of whether biological structures CAN be designed I think is assumed in the thesis. (And certainly science today, as Jerry pointed out, clearly shows that intelligence can change the information of life) If there is a designer, then systems can be designed.

    I suspect this is where your hang-up might be, as you’re obviously focusing on it. It happens to be my hang-up as well, but I recognize it as a personal block and somewhat irrelevant to the thesis. My atheism is mine and has no bearing on anything outside my own mind. (needless to say, it works the other way for Deist as well)

    Just because I cannot imagine a designer, doesn’t mean one doesn’t exist. That is a limit to my imagination and somewhat irrelevant as ID takes no stand on who or what the designer may be.

    One can infer design on a system. There is data that one can draw conclusions from, right or wrong.

    One can not make any legitimate assessment on who or what the designer may be because there is simply no data yet to even work up a hypothesis.

    I don’t consider this a dismissal at all, but a recognition that ID is science, and does not/can not draw conclusions from whole cloth. It does not just make stuff up.

  36. theface:

    I might be misreading what you’re saying, but it seems to me you are using design inference on that monolith example.

    If there is a massive monolith in the middle of Asia, and we know, absolutely know (I am assuming this is genuine) that humans did not have the technology to create such a monolith…

    Then the neo-Darwinist would then say… It happened by natural causes because humans could not have made it.

    Others would say… humans may not have done that, but there is clear design there so someone designed the darn thing! There is no natural explanation for that event and just because we don’t know who or what designed it, doesn’t mean it wasn’t designed.

    Am I somehow misreading what you’re saying?

  37. Tommy V, thanks for the response.

    I think, perhaps, we’re working with differing thresholds to mark a sufficient explanation. Consider the following quotes:

    “I was simply asserting, by example, that no theory should be required to have scientific explanations for things it does not have data for, no other theory has this expectation, so why should ID?”

    “The question of whether biological structures CAN be designed I think is assumed in the thesis.”

    I would question whether ID is on solid enough ground to assume that a particular mechanism or process is real and true in the absence of data.

    (It would be a disservice, however, not to address the end portion of the above quote.

    “(And certainly science today, as Jerry pointed out, clearly shows that intelligence can change the information of life)”.

    Forgive me if I’m mistaken, but the work of Abel and colleagues (especially in the most recent issue of International Journal of Molecular Science) demonstrates that human experimenters can influence information. This would seem to be a different level than the molding, shaping, and even the creation of biological structures. All of which are assumed capabilities within the ID framework, yet to be demonstrated. Again, is it valid to assume such capabilities are available to an intelligence in the absence of data?)

    Also, regarding the monolith, yes, there is a bit of misreading, mostly because you are bringing the example beyond the reductio ad absurdum of JerryV’s assertion.

    The point I was making was that the question of whether an entity CAN be responsible for an event is indeed a relevant question to whether that entity ultimately was responsible for that event, a point which JerryV disagreed with.

    When you bring the analogy beyond the reductio, you do have a point, but only in the sense that the monolith is a structure of stone. If an unknown intelligence was responsible for its construction, investigators would be able to detect signs of tools or sculpting. Regarding biological structures, however, this is the question which I suppose I am ultimately interested in.

  38. theface:

    I don’t mean to imply current science is more capable than it is, only that that the changing of data is apparently possible.

    I think we will have to simply disagree here. I think you are holding ID to an unfair standard, that no other explanation of evolution is held to.

    “I would question whether ID is on solid enough ground to assume that a particular mechanism or process is real and true in the absence of data.”

    ID, by definition, concerns itself solely with the design, and not the designer. That is, it concerns itself with data and nothing else. This is how it should be.

    If there is, in fact, design, then the means to create that design is possible. To conclude anything else is to conclude that the system was not designed in the first place.

    You want more about the designer. Admittedly, a very reasonable request, but there is no data available. It is a question that must still be pursued.

    As I have stated in my initial post, as an atheist myself, I cannot fathom a designer, so I am unable to fully agree with ID. I agree with you wholeheartedly that, at least for me, without a better personal understanding of the designer (or the means and capability, as you put it), I cannot really emotionally come to the same conclusions as others on this board do.

    But as I also stated, my personal feeling about this is actually irrelevant.

    ID infers design on natural systems. It requires sufficient complexity in the design to eliminate natural causes as a probable cause.

    I have never spoken with a genuine proponent of ID who claimed any of it was definitive, but rather the infant stages of a new pursuit. Something worth pursuing with great vigor. I happen to agree.

    I think ID’s strongest arguments are its attempts to eliminate natural causes.

    Because we lack total understanding of ancient biological events ID is less convincing, I think, as it attempts to infer design as the only other possible explanation. I don’t believe that this is because its arguments are weak, but rather that our understanding of natural processes is far weaker than we’re willing to admit.

    If I had to choose, I would pick ID over Neo-Darwinism. But much of ID comes from eliminating Neo-Darwinism as a cause, assuming its the only other possible explanation, thereby leaving design the only one standing by default.

    I think our limited knowledge here is the great unknown. It is just as possible that better natural explanations are around the corner. But because we cannot eliminate a possible cause that we are unaware of, we are really stuck with what beliefs we brought to the table to begin with:

    If you can fathom a designer, ID is a very comfortable conclusion. The design inference is quite convincing and it matches with core beliefs.

    If you cannot fathom a designer, then you disagree with ID, despite the fact that design inference is quite convincing (The “illusion of design” as Dawkins calls it).

    But ID itself has nothing to say about anything past the design inference. How could anyone reasonably ask it to? Being disappointed with it because it doesn’t offer such an explanation says more about us than it does about ID.

  39. theface,

    I have been posting here for over 3 1/2 years and have been reading on this for 10 years and have yet to see a coherent explanation of a naturalistic process that has led to evolution that has empirical evidence backing it. I once thought the Darwinian paradigm explained evolution so had no previous bias against it. If you asked me 10 years ago what explained evolution, I would say that I thought it was Darwin’s ideas on natural selection. But it doesn’t and it is being abandoned by the hard core atheists who practice evolutionary biology in the world for other equally speculative systems. I was surprised at first but after awhile started to understand what it is all about.

    ID is an alternative explanation and one that is feasible given our understanding of intelligence. Your objection as to the nature of the designer is an interesting question but one we cannot answer now. All we know is that highly incredible machines exist within the human body and no naturalistic processes seem capable of even approaching a nursery school application when what is needed is a post doctoral level of operation. Even giving it a nursery school level for naturalistic processes is a real stretch.

    So you are entitled to your opinion that one needs to know something about the designer but we find such a knowledge interesting but definitely not necessary.

  40. Seversky

    DonaldM:
    If science teachers in Texas adhere to the new standards, then perhaps one day a bright high school student will raise her hand and say: “Mrs. Dunwoodie, how do we know scientifically that the apparent design we’ve been observing in all these life forms we’ve been studying could not possibly be actual design?”

    Seversky: To which “Mrs Dunwoodie” ought to reply:
    “Science does not say that the appearance of design in Nature could not possibly be actual design. Anyone who tells you that is misrepresenting what science can and cannot say.

    That doesn’t answer the question. Evolution does say that the observed design in biological systems is only apparent and not actual. You said it yourself:

    What Charles Darwin did was to construct an explanation of how life on Earth could have changed and diversified over time which did not require the intervention of an intelligent agent. His theory does not exclude the possibility of an Intelligent Designer but it does not include one because it does not need one.

    What students are actually taught in science classrooms is that “evolution proceeds without plan or purpose”, as Miller and Levin wrote in their popular high school biology textbook Biology. You’re saying the same thing here. The message to students is clear: design in nature is only apparent and not acutal. The student’s question is not answered because no scientific explanation is given as to how we know it is only apparent and not actual. It is philosophy masquerading as science. Its the very sort of question that Eugenie Scott and the NCSE don’t want students to ask.

  41. theface

    As, to quote DonaldM, “the exact opposite seems to be the case”, and ID is proposed as an alternative explanation, how clear then is the process of design? How is it that an intelligence “designs” the cell? Does this insinuate that some sort of planning, for lack of a better term, is involved? Is the intelligence bound by existing materials in order to design biological structures? If not, and the intelligence must indeed “create” biological materials, what is the mechanism by which an intelligence “creates” matter?

    Are these not questions which IDers think about?

    I think you misunderstood my point here. What I was ssying is that if evolution were such an obvious explanation for the complexities of biological systems, then it would seem probable that the more we learn about how biological systems work, the better we would understand the evolutionary processes that brought them to be. But it is just the opposite. The more we understand of the complexities of, say, the intracies of the cell, the less obvious it is how evolutionary processes could have produced those systems. I’ve made this point before, but I’ll reiterate it here: its been 13 years since Dr. Michael Behe first published Darwin’s Black Box and clearly showed that there were not any detailed research studies in any peer reviewed scientific journals with proposed models that offered evolutionary explanations for any of the biological systems he described in the book, the bacterial flagellum being the best known example. Here we are 13 years later, and that is still the case.

    However, that is not to say that we have not increased our understanding of how these biological systems function in those 13 years because there have certainly been a number of studies along those lines. What we don’t have, however, is any increased understanding of how evolution produced them while the hurdles for evolution have gotten even higher. That is the point I was trying to make.

  42. Tommy V, Jerry, thanks for the responses.

    After reading them, I’m going to chalk up my qualms to a difference in opinion (a very important difference though).

    “ID, by definition, concerns itself solely with the design, and not the designer. That is, it concerns itself with data and nothing else. This is how it should be.”

    Forgive the harsh terminology, but I believe this is disingenuous. It may be that I am implying social scientific reasoning to the ID argument, where it possibly does not belong (and trust me, I am not implying that as a social scientist I have the necessary qualifications for a technical refutation of any biological theory, I am only interested in reasoning). One last analogy should show you how I feel.

    Unless I am mistaken, for ID, design is inferred by a threshold of information and complexity. Consider then, the sparingly tested General Theory of Crime (GTC) by Gottfredson and Hirschi. This theory posits that crime is a by-product of low self control. The reason it is sparingly tested is its inherently circular reasoning.

    Crime is the product of low self control. How does one know a individual possesses low self control? By observing the occurrence of a crime.

    Allow me to alter this slightly to prove a point.

    Complexity and information are the product of design. How does one known a structure is designed? By observing its complexity and information.

    Reasoning aside, I believe the assertion that ID is not concerned with the designer is disingenuous because using the example above one would be left to conclude that the GTC is not affected by the factors which cause low self control. Using ID, one is primed to detect design, but this carries no implications to the cause of that design, and ultimately whether that cause is even capable of design.

    Such an implication is simply alien to me.

  43. “Reasoning aside, I believe the assertion that ID is not concerned with the designer is disingenuous because using the example above one would be left to conclude that the GTC is not affected by the factors which cause low self control.”

    A couple things:

    A large percentage of the people who come here to challenge ID end up resorting fairly quickly to who is the designer, what were his/her/its intentions, methods, timing etc. This is a game that is played because inevitably the so called searcher for honest information about ID only wants to catch the pro ID person in some gotcha so they can then divert the conversation to this irrelevant point. You have already done that and fairly quickly.

    Most of the time the objective is to get the pro ID person to admit there is some religious connection so the conversation can be steered towards the religious foundation of ID. It is a convenient way to avoid the science on which ID is based and to imply it is just religious based. We get this objection nearly all the time from someone new here challenging ID so it gets real old. It is like there is a template out there that says go and challenge them on the nature of the designer because you will lose on the design issue. Don’t get bogged down in defending naturalistic evolution because there is no defense so attack their positions.

    Here is a somewhat sarcastic reply I gave to a frequent contributor here about SETI and the nature of the designer.
    —————-
    Comment by an anti ID person – “Should SETI come across unusual signals from space one of the first things they would investigate would be how might they have been generated. As happened in the case of pulsars.”

    My reply – Another irrelevant but useful comment for us because it is such a softball.

    The SETI example depends on the nature of the signal. If the signal was the series of prime numbers as in Contact, no one would care a rats rear end how it was generated in order to believe it was from an intelligent source. Oh after a while they might be interested what kind of device did the transmitting but no one would question that it was not an intelligent transmission until they could identify the transmitter. They would know it was designed.

    There would be a thousand questions but no one would question if it was an intelligence behind the signal. They would want to know the nature of the intelligence, where it came from, how long it took to get here and what else might be transmitted. But they would not question the design. And there would be all sorts of speculation about who it was, how intelligent it was, the late night tv shows would be populated with known experts on extra terrestrial life etc. But they would not say that because we do not know the motives of the sender, or how they did it, or when they did it, that it must be a non intelligent source. There would actually be research to see if nature could generate the prime numbers by lawful processes and so be it. It should do so before any hurdles are leapt.

    In your pulsar case the question is not how it was transmitted or not but was it designed. The amazing thing about this is that such a low level signal immediately got them into the intelligence detection mode. The signal itself did not reach the quality of certain design but it could have been. So what they got was an iffy signal which was then attributed to a lawful origin as opposed to an intelligent origin when they found the pulsars. Your pulsar example does not reach the level of FCSI but the prime numbers does. The pulsar signal doesn’t even come close.

    It is the Explanatory Filter at work.

    Thank you for your comment that shows that we have no need to know the motive of the intelligent source or the means by which they act to conclude that the artifact, the signal, is the result of intelligence just as we have no need to know the method and motive to conclude that the artifact, DNA, is the result of intelligence . As I said you make our jobs here easy.

    You do not have to answer this, because I don’t expect it. I am just using comments from the anti ID people to show how weak their arguments are and yours have been unusually fruitful. So thank you for helping us and keep on contributing.
    —————– end of comment

    So your persistence already in pushing for the nature of the designer is what I would call disingenuous, a term you used. I suggest you stick to the science involved and assume we have seen nearly all the objections before. I have no idea what your crime example has to deal with the specified complex data in DNA which leads to extremely elaborate systems when transcribed and translated by elaborated biological processes.

    Another comment made:

    “I have the necessary qualifications for a technical refutation of any biological theory,”

    If this is true then you already know that Darwinian macro evolution is bogus and you are a long way to understanding our position here.

  44. Jerry,

    You seem to have missed part of the quote at the end.

    “(and trust me, I am not implying that as a social scientist I have the necessary qualifications for a technical refutation of any biological theory, I am only interested in reasoning).”

    Just to clear things up.

    Your SETI example is quite clear in what ID sets out to do, I appreciate your bringing it up. We would differ then, I suppose, on the filter’s calculation of complexity.

    The Contact example is clear cut in that the information involved are in the form of numbers. It would be very straight-forward to determine if the probability is less than 10^-150. Regarding the formation of biological structures, however, how are probabilities assigned? Being completely honest, I have not read Dembski’s work on the matter, is he clear about this? One may question whether such probability assignments would have a valid methodology. As you said, I’m sure you’ve heard this all before, the question is not meant to patronize anyone, it is all in the interest of science.

    The crime example may be inappropriate (though one could argue that human behavior, in its unpredictable glory, is quite elaborate) but the point was to equate ID measurement techniques to what I perceive to be circular reasoning.

    Your charge of disingenuousness does hold some water, it would have been very interesting to learn how people believed the process of intelligent input occurs. In my opinion, however, the ID argument still has not escaped its own disingenuousness. Consider the question, “what does it mean to be designed?”

    I would expect that some on this board would reply with “why, it means to have a particular threshold of specified complex information!” But really, this is only part of the explanation. “How did one come to be designed?” It is really very surprising that this question is not considered to be part of ID, in that it is a direct implication of the label of “designed”. The ID theory really has some deep implications that it does not own up to.

  45. I will say this again. I do not believe in a designer. I cannot personally envision it.

    But I do not find ID’s arguments difficult to understand and I honestly believe you have to TRY to not understand them to find them disingenuous.

    Again, I believe you are holding ID up to a standard that no other scientific theory is held to. That is, have answers for things it does not have data for. You would not ask such a thing of any scientific theory so I continue to be confused why you ask this of ID.

    As for your crime example, when reduced, the same reasoning is used with natural selection. Natural selection chose stripes for skunks. How do we know it chose stripes for skunks? Because all the skunks have stripes.

    Nor do I see this as terribly far removed from your argument that the reason it is not design is that you don’t believe there is a designer. That’s a fine personal position to take (I take it as well) but it is not really dealing with the science and those are two separate things.

    I think it’s been made pretty clear that not only is the identity of the designer not relevant, but also why it is not relevant. To make the point even more clear…

    If someone believed that aliens were the designer, and someone believed that God was designer…

    They would use the exact same reasoning to infer design on the patterns. They would be no different.

    Now, I don’t believe either one of those, but if I had to choose I would choose aliens. My ID friends think that is pretty silly. I am more willing to believe in aliens than God?

    But my inability to imagine God has no bearing at all on whether God exist. Why on Earth would I have such hubris to believe that reality is restricted by my imagination?

    I think this is an equal criticism of my ID friends. Just because they cannot imagine an as yet unknown natural process that would explain the emergence of form doesn’t mean there isn’t one.

    That is why we keep exploring and we keep trying to answer these questions and we don’t try to destroy ideas just because we don’t agree with them.

    To say that it is disingenuous of ID to not have a stand on the designer is not only unkind, but reveals a certain hostility that I suspect prevents you from listening and respecting the ideas of others.

  46. theface,

    I apologize for misreading your comment and then misquoting you. Thus, my comment on this was inappropriate. Thus, you may not know that the Darwinian paradigm is essentially passé.

    We can look at things that are designed because we know in fact that an intelligence designed them. We can then take a subset of them that we can make the following conclusion about them; that they have certain characteristics that are not in evidence any place in nature. For example, a sculpture of a human face or a painting of a landscape. Such artifacts are not found anywhere in nature. If we went to Mars and found such an artifact we would be in state of amazement but like the SETI example not think twice that somehow an intelligence had not produced them. The intelligence did not have to be human but it would be obvious it had access to human activity. Maybe it decoded an electrical signal from earth. We could speculate all day on this and write some interesting science fiction.

    There are some other things if we found them on earth, we would assume they had an intelligent origin. Namely the same things as what we found on Mars but here we would just assume, maybe wrongfully, that a human produced them by the normal methods. But we would know that they could have been produced by humans and definitely not by natural processes.

    We then discover some other combinations of things in nature (non living world) and we remark that the only place this combination has been found besides here is in something very similar from human activity. We would be amazed at this phenomenon in that it mimicked human activity but it is found in nature. We would investigate it and try to understand the laws which produced this phenomenon. Then if we reversed the process and looked at human activity and failed to find similar activity in nature, no one would be the least surprised. They would say that is not unusual because humans have intelligence and they can create things that natural processes couldn’t for example the sculpture and landscape. No one would think twice about the explanation. But we look in life and we see a process where the only other place it is found is in human activity. No where else in nature is such a process in evidence. So what is the origin of this process? Do we say nature or some form of natural process governed by the laws of nature? But nature has not shown that it has the capability of generating such a process, at least no one has yet seen it even though they have looked very hard. But man has. Nature could have done it some say and maybe it is true and then someone has offered a nice prize if they can authenticate a natural process.

    We can also imagine that there are other beings like man in the universe. The SETI process is based on this and Carl Sagan, well known atheist, speculated there were millions. So theoretically, many of these could have the same capability as man and could create the process we see in life. So on the one hand we have a known capacity that is able to create something and another highly improbable capacity to create the same thing. Reason leads one to accept the know capacity as a possible explanation for the source of the phenomenon and to suspect the other capacity as the “certain” source. Even Richard Dawkins admitted as much.

    Regarding the assignment of probabilities to DNA sequences, that is quite easy. Any particular sequence can be assessed as to its likelihood that it arose by chance. Just as any letter sequence in a sentence can be assessed as to its likelihood of arising by the chance typing of the notorious infinite number of monkeys. The chance of any sequence gets out of bounds of any imaginable number very quickly. But the particular sequence is amazing not because it is so unique because any random sequence would be of similarly low probability. What makes it unique is that this highly unlikely sequence specifies something useful, namely another highly unlikely thing, a useful protein. There has to be some adjustments to the DNA sequences for probabilities to account for the fact that more than one sequence will code for the identical protein and that more than one amino acid sequence can accomplish the same function. But such an adjustment only reduces the immensely large number by a small amount.

    Few proteins are useful and one of the areas of debate in the coming years will be the frequency of these useful proteins and how likely is it that natural processes can find them and once they find them, use them in a meaningful and orderly fashion. For example, it is one thing to find English words by some random process, it is quite another to arrange them in some way that communicates something useful.

  47. theface,

    ID is not interested in the designer for basically the same reasoning that the theory of evolution is not interested in the origin of life.

    They are SEPARATE questions.

    Ya see we do NOT have to know the designer(s) BEFORE reaching a design inference on a given object.

    As a matter of fact reality dictates that in the absence of direct observation or designer input, the ONLY possible way to make ANY scientific determination about the designer(s) or the specific processes used, is by studying the design in question.

    And people who refuse to understand that simple fact have no business conducting investigations.

    There isn’t anything in ID which prevents people from trying to answer the questions about who, how and why.

    Separate questions- period- end of story.

  48. saywhatyouwill @ 26</i

    I don’t know if you’re a Darwinist but your post isn’t an explanation of Darwinism that is particularly well articulated to the world. Your explanation leaves open the possibility of other mechanisms, even an intelligent designer, provided there is evidence. That at least is far less dogmatic than the way Darwinists normally portray the theory, i.e. it is very often asserted to be indisputable fact.

    I cannot speak for an entire field of science but I suspect that, once away from the posturing that bedevils the public debate, most biologists are not as dogmatic as people here might think.

    I am not sure what you mean by “Darwinist” but I believe that, in biology, the theory of evolution is the best available explanation of how life has changed and diversified since it appeared on Earth. It should be noted that Darwin’s original theory has been substantially modified and expanded since it was first published in 1859 but neither in its original form nor in its most recent manifestations did it say anything about how life originated here. Abiogenesis is a closely-related but nonetheless separate field of research.

    There is nothing in evolutionary theory which denies the possibility of an extraterrestrial intelligence having started life on Earth or of having been involved in its evolution. There is nothing in evolutionary theory which denies the possibility of an originating Intelligent Designer or Creator or God. Whatever some individuals believe, the theory itself is silent on all these matters.

    Richard Dawkins, in The Blind Watchmaker, claimed only that “…Darwin made it possible [my emphasis] to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist”. Although he himself was led to atheism by his interest in evolution we have enough counter-examples, such as Kenneth Miller, to show that an interest in science does not compel anyone to be either religious or atheist.

    As for what constitutes evidence for ID, and this is also relevant to the falsifiability of the grand theory of evolution, it’s very difficult to find consensus on what that might be (other than a rabbit in the Cambrian!) or even openness to the possibility of its existence.

    The famous Cambrian rabbits would certainly pose a serious challenge for the theory of evolution but would not necessarily be fatal to it. We would need much more detail. It is hard to see, though, how they could be evidence for Intelligent Design.

    For me, evidence of non-human intelligent design would either require the discovery of indisputably alien artefacts or compelling evidence that design, whatever its origin, leaves unmistakable imprints on whatever is designed and that these traces have been found in the biological structures of life on Earth.

    For instance, Dr Behe and others have written of the irreducibly complex bacterial flagellum. Unable to point to any known incremental beneficial stages in its evolution, they cite it as evidence against undirected random mutation and selection. However, the Darwinists reply that we may not know the stages at the moment, but it’s possible we will in the future, and even if we don’t it’s not proof it didn’t evolve.

    Behe’s original claim was that there are certain biological structures, notably the bacterial flagellum, that are irreducibly complex because there is no conceivable way they could have been produced by evolutionary processes. Biologists were able to refute that specific claim by describing conceivable evolutionary pathways that could have led to something like the flagellum. It seems unlikely, at least for the present, that any hard evidence from the fossil record will be found to support either case since microscopic structures like the flagellum do not appear to leave detectable traces.

    The problem for us all is that, like it or not, fossilization is a relatively rare occurrence and some biological structures appear to leave no traces at all in the record. The absence of any evidence where we would not expect to find any evidence, therefore, proves nothing one way or the other.

    Some explanations in biology are undoubtedly speculative to varying degrees and there is nothing wrong with that. Science is a creative endeavor and needs all the speculations, conjectures, hunches, guesses and intuitions it can get. What must be guarded against is any temptation to pretend that they are anything else until they have been put to the test.

  49. DonaldM @ 40

    What students are actually taught in science classrooms is that “evolution proceeds without plan or purpose”, as Miller and Levin wrote in their popular high school biology textbook Biology. You’re saying the same thing here. The message to students is clear: design in nature is only apparent and not acutal. The student’s question is not answered because no scientific explanation is given as to how we know it is only apparent and not actual. It is philosophy masquerading as science. Its the very sort of question that Eugenie Scott and the NCSE don’t want students to ask.

    You should ask Eugenie Scott and the NCSE whether they would have a problem answering such a question from a student. Personally, I doubt that they would.

    The simple answer is that we do not know for certain whether certain biological structures were or were not designed. Yes, they have some similarities to things we design but there are also differences. And in spite of those similarities we are also pretty sure that, if design was involved, it was not us that did the designing.

    What we do have is a highly successful theory which offers an explanation for how what appears to have been designed in living creatures could have emerged as the product of undirected, naturalistic processes. It does not exclude the possibility of design or intervention by alien intelligence or divine agency but neither does it require it.

    When we say something has the appearance of design we are simply saying it looks like it was designed to us. We also say that it has the appearance of design because it looks similar to things that we design. In other words, our only benchmark for what is designed is based on what we ourselves can do. We really have no idea what alien design or divine design might look like.

    The Argument from Design is also an argument by analogy and, as David Hume, amongst others, pointed out, it is a weak argument. It depends for its force on the extent to which the two cases being compared are similar and is vulnerable to the fallacy of selective reporting. We tend to highlight the similarities but downplay the differences.

    As I see it, for Intelligent Design to have any chance of superseding the theory of evolution it must be able to give a positive answer to three questions. The first is, if we tally both the similarities and the differences fairly, is there still a persuasive case for design? The second is, can we demonstrate incontrovertible evidence for non-human design in the natural world? The third is, can a theory of intelligent design explain what is already explained by the theory of evolution but also go further and explain phenomena that are not, or cannot, be explained by evolution?

  50. Seversky:

    For me, evidence of non-human intelligent design would either require the discovery of indisputably alien artefacts or compelling evidence that design, whatever its origin, leaves unmistakable imprints on whatever is designed and that these traces have been found in the biological structures of life on Earth.

    Transcription of DNA into RNA. Proof-reading, error-correction AND editing. More proof-reading and error-correction. Translation of mRNA into a polypeptide chain.

    What part of that strikes you as being cobbled together via unguided processes?

    Behe’s original claim was that there are certain biological structures, notably the bacterial flagellum, that are irreducibly complex because there is no conceivable way they could have been produced by evolutionary processes.

    UNGUIDED processes.

    Biologists were able to refute that specific claim by describing conceivable evolutionary pathways that could have led to something like the flagellum.

    They haven’t. They have no idea. The best they can do is show similarities between proteins exist and declare homology.

    However no one has come up with a conceivable anything describing how a flagellum could arise from a population that never had one.

    The assembly instructions have eluded biologists.

    And it will because they are stuck on the sequence.

    The instructions are not the sequence and that is where the theory of evolution has failed scientists.

    Then you say argument by analogy is a weak argument- or Hume said it- whatever.

    But look at the ToE- it doesn’t even have an argument by analogy.

    IOW it is at least a step behind ID.

  51. 51

    Seversky #48

    Firstly, by ‘Darwinist’, I am referring to those who assert that evolution of all life from a common ancestor, through unguided random mutation and natural selection, is a fact as indisputable as the sphericity of the earth. Normally, they will not so much as tolerate (at least in public and in the classroom) the idea that there is any other plausible explanation for the variety and complexity of life we see in the world today, or the idea that neo-Darwinism is a loose explanatory theory as opposed to a cast-iron certainty. They are why the legislation is required, because unlike you, they do not allow ‘a divine foot in the door’, or to be less focused on any supernatural force, they simply to not allow the the questioning of the explanatory power of neo-Darwinism.

    My mention of the Cambrian rabbits was simply an illustration of the unfalsifiability of Darwinian evolution and the demonstrable lack of engaging with ID arguments. As you note, even that would not qualify as falsification in itself as it could potentially be explained within the theory. Indeed, many cases of ‘out of place’ fossils have been explained away by reference to reworking, or simply reclassification of a particular geological strata. I wouldn’t deny that reworking takes place, but often the evidence is minimal to non-existant. As far as a Cambrian rabbit being evidence for ID, it certainly isn’t the best, however the best evidence is usually dismissed (information, meta-information, irreducible complexity, and the things mentioned by Joseph in post #50).

    Finally, with regard to the flagellum and the irreducible complexity argument, Joseph has given a good explanation of the problem. As far as I am aware, the Darwinist response has been that a less sophistocated mechanism is evident in some organisms, which is used for a different purpose. Even if we accept that this is a precursor to the flagellum, rather than a structure devolved from the flagellum (which I believe there is good evidence for), it is nowhere near offering a conceivable explanation of how the structure was built in stepwise, unguided, neo-Darwinian fashion, with evidence or even conceivability of how each stage would function and in turn be naturally selected. And that’s without turning to how this occured at the information level.

  52. This is for khan who placed it on a thread having to do with OOL and I did not want to continue discussing it there because it was inappropriate. Actually I prefer not to discuss it at all since it keeps repeating the same old things but khan persists and it gets it off the other thread. Khan said:

    ” i still want to know who is furiously defending common descent, and from whom.”

    Well maybe I am wrong and all the ideas of Darwin on macro evolution are now of little use. The big three

    natural selection – relegated to minor duty to just select what is already in the gene pool. No creative abilities as verified by khan and attested to by ID for years. It actually is a constrictive force and could be the source of ultimate extinction of a species as it reduces gene pools to such an extent that the species cannot adapt to new environmental changes.

    adaptive gradualism – not proven to be much of a creative mechanism since it is relegated to whatever is in the gene pool and produces only minor informational changes and essentially incapable of leading to major changes in the gene pool. These minor changes in the organism or gene pool promote survivability to a new environment and are useful but are trivial in the evolutionary debate which centers around the origin of complex novel capabilities and the information to control these capabilities. Another Darwinian essential that is not a major factor in macro evolution debate.

    common descent – I thought this was still held by evolutionary biologists and any assault on it was viewed as heresy. But now gone by observation of khan who demands to know who is defending it which I assume by his comment means he can think of no one who is. So I will defer to khan on this and add it to the parts of Darwin’s theory that have been superseded and abandoned. Many ID people, most creationist and some evolutionary biologists have questioned common descent but as khan has noted there does not seem to be any strong desire to defend it.

    Remember all of the above are relevant to Darwin’s theory of micro evolution which is still valid and very useful but in this case the term “common descent” should be changed to “common ancestry.” Otherwise it is mostly honky dory.

  53. jerry,
    in your original comment you suggested that evolanders were furiously defending common descent and that it would soon fall by the wayside thanks to a brutal assault by someone.

    Only common descent remains which is why now you have people fighting desperately for that. Once that is gone all of Darwin is gone.

    as far as i can tell, common descent is fairly non-controversial and I pointed out that even your hero Michael Behe accepts it.

    natural selection relegated to minor duty to just select what is already in the gene pool.

    first, “relegated”? this is the same role Darwin proposed for it. you are arguing with yourself here; no onew else has ever proposed any creative role for natural selection. second, this is hardly minor duty.. it is an essential component of all adaptive evolution.. perhaps you’re saying minor duty bc it’s so well established now?

    It actually is a constrictive force and could be the source of ultimate extinction of a species as it reduces gene pools to such an extent that the species cannot adapt to new environmental changes

    in some cases yes, in others no. as you well know, most species that have ever lived are extinct now, so natural selection wasn’t any big help to them. but when, say, natural selection “restricts” the gene pool to just those having opposable thumbs and large braincases, this is certainly helpful regardless of any environmental change, no?

  54. Seversky

    In other words, our only benchmark for what is designed is based on what we ourselves can do. We really have no idea what alien design or divine design might look like.

    That’s only true if we already know that everything we observe wasn’t designed. But that is part of the issue. If the apparent design is actual design, then we most certainly DO know have a good idea what alien or divine design might look like – it’ll look exactly like everything we’ve been observing. This type of criticism doesn’t work because it assumes the very point at issue.

    The Argument from Design is also an argument by analogy and, as David Hume, amongst others, pointed out, it is a weak argument. It depends for its force on the extent to which the two cases being compared are similar and is vulnerable to the fallacy of selective reporting. We tend to highlight the similarities but downplay the differences.

    This is not correct. Detecting design within biological systems can be obtained by locating systems that exhibit complex specified information (CSI). Dembski persuasively argues in No Free Lunch that CSI can not be produced by chance and/or necessity, but requires intelligence. This has nothing to do with comparisons.

  55. Khan,

    The problem with universal common descent is that there isn’t any genetic data which would demonstrate that the changes required are even possible.

    IOW there isn’t any way to objectively test the premise.

    For example-“Evidence”(?) for the evolution of the vision system

    Andrea Bottaro said the following over at the panda’s thumb:

    Eyes are formed via long and complex developmental genetic networks/cascades, which we are only beginning to understand, and of which Pax6/eyeless (the gene in question, in mammals and Drosophila, respectively) merely constitutes one of the initial elements.

    IOW the only evidence for the evolution of the vision system is that we have observed varying degrees of complexity in living organisms, from simple light sensitive spots on unicellular organisms to the vision system of more complex metazoans, and we “know” that the first population(s) of living organisms didn’t have either. Therefore the vision system “evolved”.

    Isn’t evolutionary “science” great!

    I say the above because if Dr Bottaro is correct then we really have no idea whether or not the vision system could have evolved from a population or populations that did not have one.

  56. Sorry people, joined this debate while I had some free time at work. Back now, if a little late.

    CannuckianYankee re. #21

    Just to defend beginningless beginnings…

    ‘while it may sound poetic, is an obvious logical contradiction. ‘

    ummm.. great, so we all agreed, the christian God is a logical contradiction.

    This appears to me to be the clasic situation where people supend their logic abilities when they start talking about their own religion, but everything else (including other people’s religion), must be subject to logic. To me, a beginingless beginning is no less absurd that what Richard Dawkins describes as the ‘Ultimate Boeing 747′, that of explaining our complexity by invoking a EVEN more complex entity

    Calling a beginningless beginning absurd but poetic is actually attacking everyone’s religion beliefs! Why has no one pointed this out? Stuck in a box of your own theology perhaps?

  57. Nnoel

    ‘while it may sound poetic, is an obvious logical contradiction. ‘

    ummm.. great, so we all agreed, the christian God is a logical contradiction.

    This appears to me to be the clasic situation where people supend their logic abilities when they start talking about their own religion, but everything else (including other people’s religion), must be subject to logic. To me, a beginingless beginning is no less absurd that what Richard Dawkins describes as the ‘Ultimate Boeing 747?, that of explaining our complexity by invoking a EVEN more complex entity

    The phrase “beginningless beginning” is meaningless. It does not apply to the Christian God at all. Christian theology holds that God has no beginning, but always was, is and ever shall be. Dawkins criticism is misguided because he (and apparently you as well) completely misunderstand the nature of no beginning.

    That said, what does any of this have to do with the subject of this thread? My OP is about the new science standards in Texas and not about the philosophical ramifications of “beginningless beginnings”.

  58. DonaldM,
    I am surprised by your answer, while you claim that your god had no beginning, your say the phrase ‘beginningless beginning’ is meaningless. To my mind, and I’d hope to anybody viewing your theology from the outside, what you are saying is ‘x is meaningless, because our god’s definition is [slight variation on x]‘.

    As to what this is relevant to, I brought this up because ID to my mind is religiously motivated (in most supporters’ minds), and this is because of the ‘ultimate boeing’ people need to invoke to bring reality into alignment with their religion, but as I said in post 10, your motivation in light of other religions’ theology is just another answer, it is not ‘obvious’, it is only ‘obvious’ to those that do not have other options.

    I say this because I still understand ID as an attempt to justify guided evolution, almost like “yes evolution is true, but all this couldn’t possibly be chance, so it was our god that ‘dun it’, with a helping hand and a pile of premordial soup”, but all i’m saying is that some people consider everything around us as a conscious inteligent energy that is everyone and everything at the same time, we are already the ‘ultimate boeing’, why invoke ‘god’. Just let science be science! There are no obvious answer, no conspiracies, and lying for jesus and telling kids evolution has ‘weaknesses’ is not the way forward.

    love you like your me !

  59. Nnoel

    I am surprised by your answer, while you claim that your god had no beginning, your say the phrase ‘beginningless beginning’ is meaningless. To my mind, and I’d hope to anybody viewing your theology from the outside, what you are saying is ‘x is meaningless, because our god’s definition is [slight variation on x]‘

    Having ‘no beginning’ is not a “slight variation” on ‘beginningless beginning’ It is a completely different statement. As far as I’m concerned ‘beginningless beginning’ is a contradiction in terms. Having no beginning is not.

    As to your understanding of ID, I think you have some further reading to do, if your understanding of ID is limited to “an attempt to justify guided evolution, almost like “yes evolution is true, but all this couldn’t possibly be chance, so it was our god that ‘dun it’, with a helping hand and a pile of premordial soup”…”

    As a scientific research program ID seeks to differentiate between undirected, natural causes from intelligent causes. Its that simple. No mention of God, or supernatural entities, or guided vs unguided evolution.

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