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Signature in the Cell: Darwinist demands to rewrite product copy

But why should that be a surprise? Of course, Darwinists don’t want anyone to read Signature in the Cell. Darwinism is a tax-funded origins cult, especially noxious in countries like the United States and Canada, which do not have and – for good reasons* – do not want established religions.

Yes, I have in my files a recent brownbagged letter, written to Amazon by a Darwinist, demanding that the editorial description of Signature be altered to reflect Darwinist bias.

Some useless flunky actually assured the Darwinist that these changes would indeed be made.

When I protested, I received an insulting e-mail assuring me that the ‘Zon guys understand that I might be upset, but that Amazon does not “support or promote hatred or criminal acts.”

Upset? That doesn’t cover the half of it.

I am a Canadian free speech journalist. A minor one to be sure but we have been kicking butt up and down the country with benighted sons of ditches like him, and their arrogant bosses.

I have had a good relationship with the ‘Zon over the years, and sold many books for them. But … if they cave to some aggrieved Darwin scammer – just another tax burden, really – I am transferring all my business to Barnes & Noble, and I recommend that all good citizens do the same.

It doesn’t matter whether you agree or disagree with me about Darwinism. Why on earth should these people have dictatorial rights over a private company’s business?

Oh wait, if you are a Darwinist, maybe you know that you are right, and you should rule, and that no one must be permitted to simply publish a book showing that your theories are inadequate to nature, without your interference.

Well then, the remaining good citizens must step into the breach.

*For one thing, countries tend to be more religious when the government avoids meddling. That’s why religious people here want the government out of religion. Except for Darwinists, who need to impose their unbelievable beliefs by law.

Anika Smith at the Discovery Institute also advises me that Meyer is World Magazine’s Daniel of the Year. I’m not sure how helpful that is. Basically, Darwinism is wrong no matter what one’s religion, unless it is atheistic materialism – in which case Darwinism is the only game in town, and tax-funded to boot. But re Daniels, I submit to more experienced judgement.

Also, from Evolution News and Views:

The continued success of Signature In The Cell has driven Darwinists crazy. They’re desperately making louder and ever more ridiculous denunciations of the book and anyone who might have the temerity to suggest people read it for themselves.

An interesting and informative back and forth has been taking place on the pages of the Times Literary Supplement, where last month noted atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel recommended SITC as one of the best books of the year. Not surprisingly, he was attacked (he responded, and he was attacked again) by a Darwinist who told people forgo reading SITC and instead just read Wikipedia. Is this what passes for civil discourse on important topics now? Just ignore the arguments you don’t like? A pretty pathetic state of affairs if true.

Go here for the rest and for the links.

Never mind what you think of Darwinism. If you think that ‘crats are not smart enough to run your life and do all your thinking for you – join the revolution now.

Go here for intellectual freedom news from Canada.

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137 Responses to Signature in the Cell: Darwinist demands to rewrite product copy

  1. I am a Canadian free speech journalist

    But does this necessarily mean that you can publish whatever you want on a privately owned newspaper or journal? Amazon is not even this, it is just a commercial web page and should not be mistaken for Spaeaker’s Corner.

  2. I hear that modern Darwinists, to a man (and woman), are members of the Misologist Society.

  3. Please keep us updated on this issue. If Amazon buckles to the darwinian mafia, I will be
    sending a letter informing them that the many dollars I spend there each year, will now be going to Chapters/Indigo.

  4. Mrs O’Leary,

    In the spirit of transparency, would you share that letter and the response you received? I think it would be illuminating to see Amazon agreeing to change text provided by the publisher.

  5. O’Leary:

    The continued success of Signature In The Cell has driven Darwinists crazy.

    Not all of them, I presume. I, for one, am laughing.

  6. May I offer my support for Nakashima’s request to have the correspondence published in the interests of full disclosure? I am curious as to why Amazon should refer to the “promotion” of “hatred” or “criminal acts”. Nothing I have read about Meyer’s book suggests it refers to any such thing.

  7. The word choice of this post, the tone… it is a textbook example of slanting, of propagandist writing. I will bookmark it.

  8. Nakashima at 1 and Seversky at 3:

    I won’t publish someone else’s brownbagged correspondence, absent a serious threat to the public in general. (Incidentally, I believe that Climategate met that test.)

    Here is what the ‘Zon’s botnik told me (I can publish that – or anyway, I had better be able to, because I am just about to):

    - 0 -

    Thank you for writing to Amazon.com with your concerns. I understand that you feel very strongly about this issue.

    As a retailer, our goal is to provide customers with the broadest selection possible so they can find, discover, and buy any item they might be seeking. That selection includes some items which many people may find objectionable. Therefore, the items offered on our website represent a wide spectrum of opinions on a variety of topics.

    Let me assure you that Amazon.com does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts; we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions.

    We value all feedback from our customers, and I thank you again for taking the time to send us your comments about this issue. Although we won’t be able to comment further on this topic, we hope you’ll allow us to continue to serve you.

    Did we answer your question?

    - 0 –

    Naturally, I wrote back and told them that they had not answered my question. I am lying low for a while, as it is possible someone with good sense got through and canned the business of rewriting a product description to suit some peeved Darwinist.

    Retroman at 4, if you think what I had to say is “a textbook example of slanting, of propagandist writing”, I am glad to hope that you do not teach English or Rhetoric.

    Do you live in an unfree society? And you love it there, right? In which case, all this Nineteen Eighty Four* stuff feels normal?

    I was a mid-thirtyish adult in 1984, and – so far as I can see – 2009 is far more Nineteen Eighty Four than 1984 ever was.

    The beauty of it all: So long as governments keep their sticky fingers off the Internet, if you don’t like it here, you are only a back browser click away from solving your problem.

    Until I am sure that the Peeve has not been allowed to dictate copy to the ‘Zon, to be run, I will link books/media in future posts to Barnes & Noble. It’s a bore and a trouble, but the price one pays for a free society.

    Point of interest: This sort of thing (a demand to print one’s submitted copy) was precisely the issue in the famous case of the Islamic Sock Puppets vs. Maclean’s Magazine in Canada last year.

    The Sox wanted something like five thousand words of free space to respond to an article by Mark Steyn, warning of the dangers of Islamic jihad. And if the Sox didn’t get that, they were going to the “human rights” Commission. Briefly, editor Ken Whyte said he would rather go bankrupt, and told them to go to Hull (a boring place on the border between Ontario and Quebec provinces). They went to the “human rights” Commission instead. But guess what – very unusual for our local tinpot Torquemadas (oops, Commissions), the Sox lost.

    But it’s not as simple as to say justice was done. Maclean’s, our national news magazine, could afford good lawyers; most victims can’t. And even Maclean’s can’t afford them indefinitely. A number of such cases would cripple them.

    Of course, there are elements in society to whom such a regime would be admirably suited. Especially peple fronting an unbelievable belief like Islamism, Darwinism, Communism, whatever.

    *Title of a famous dystopic novel by George Orwell (pen name of Britrish journalist Eric Blair.)

  9. Wow, just wow. Definitely one of the most bizarre posts I’ve ever read.

    The language…

    ‘Zon? ‘crats? Botnik? Sons of ditches? Hull? Free speech journalist?

    Incredible.

    I would really like to see the letter you wrote to Amazon. From Amazon’s response it seems you were suggesting that Amazon supports hatred or criminal acts.

  10. IrynaB, here you are: A letter that gives notice of my intent to change my supplier if changes to the product copy description are made on a political basis:

    12/18/09 07:53:54
    Your Name:Denyse O’Leary
    Comments:Dear [redacted],

    I surely hope you do not really intend to do anything of the kind suggested below. If so, I – who am an active linker to Amazon and have sold many books and other products for you – will very regretfully stop now, and link to Barnes and Noble instead.

    There has been an active campaign against “Signature in the Cell”, of which this is only one phase – attempts to force YOUR COMPANY to rewrite its copy to suit Signature’s competitors – because they cannot stand the heat.

    Okay, look, I understand. Perhaps your company is not situated in a free country.

    Mine is.

    If you were to give in to this interference, I could not endorse your services as good quality for my readers, which would be a great grief to me, as in the past I have always found you helpful.

    How many books has that Wheeler guy sold for you?

    Please try to understand: Your capitulation to illiberal elements in the science community will not save Darwinism. It will only have the same effect on you as it has had on legacy mainstream media. People go elsewhere for news and services.

    Thank you very much for considering my comments.

    Cheers,

    Denyse O’Leary
    Journalist, author, and blogger

    PS: IrynaB, I am sorry that your unfamiliarity with English as she is spoke* presents a barrier for you. Many people can easily guess what these terms mean. Some evade child-friendly filters; others are just handy monosyllables.

    “Free speech journalist” is the designation for Canadian journalists standing up to the soft Euro-style totalitarian state where, for example, French journalists run their copy about the government past the government WILLINGLY. See my “silk stockings” post below.

    I love interacting with Darwinists because it is fascinating to study an illiberal community up close. It’s just not what I am used to.

    *”English as she is spoke” I am told is the title of a centuries-old manual for Portuguese trying to learn English. It became a catchphrase among English speakers, for obvious reasons.

  11. @Nakashima (#1). Mrs O’Leary has brownbagged a letter from a Darwin scammer to the Zon and the reply from the Zon flunky botnik to the tax burden, and summarised their contents here. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to take her at her word that the exchange shows a demand of dictatorial darwinian control over the Zon’s business rather than just someone asking for a change of wording in their on-site advertising.
    Publishing the text of the correspondence to allow people to make up their own minds about the contents would only impede the work of free speech journalists to kick the arrogant sons of ditches’ crat butts up and down the country.
    Also there might be a risk that publishing the text could reveal how the letters were brownbagged and possibly endanger agents in the field by exposing them to darwinbot retributions.

  12. Seems to me obvious that Amazon doesn’t want to appear analogously as “scab” to the striking Evolutionary Biological “union.”

    Someone comes along and writes a book that can be taken seriously that opposes the powers that be and the squelching begins. How predictable––and how nauseating.

  13. Mrs O’Leary’s reluctance as a journalist to publish “brownbagged” correspondence is an admirable protection of the correspndents’ confidentiality and of her source’s identity. Coincidentally, a letter from one Stephen Wheeler (“that Wheeler guy” in O’Leary’s post #7?) to Amazon, and Amazon’s reply, was published at Richard Dawkins’ website by Stpehen Wheeler few days ago (http://tinyurl.com/y8ppd28).
    Outrageously, replying to a complaint about wording and a suggested change the zon flunky replies to the darwin scammer with “Thanks for letting us know about the error in the product description. We use many sources to build our website information, and we really appreciate knowing about any errors which find their way into our catalog. I’ll notify our catalog team about this and will ask them to correct the error.”! This certainly doesn’t sound like a boilerplate reply to a letter of the type they received, and is surely a craven example of darwinianist dictatorial tax-funded control over the zon’s business.

  14. waterbear, if Wheeler has published this, then readers know at least part of the story, I am glad to say, so I have not violated a confidence.

    FYI, boilerplate or no, I redacted the name of the person who actually sent me the note because he/she is undoubtedly just a cog in a huge wheel system.

    There is a history of such people taking it in the neck while their more responsible bosses look on and stay safe. And I do not intend to contribute to that history.

    If the ‘Zon carries through with the intent in the correspondence brownbagged to me, part of which appears at Dawkins’s site, I will change my supplier.

    And that is all I intend to – or can do – about it. Not willingly, either.

    I don’t think B&N’s architecture is anywhere near as good for a blogger like me.

    But in bookselling, wholesale corruption in the service of an ideology is far worse than non-blogger-friendly architecture.

  15. I’m pretty certain that Amazon’s reply in 5 is a pro-forma, partly because it’s not even an appropriate pro-forma: it’s clearly intended as a PFO response to complaints about Amazon’s decision to stock a particular item. So I don’t think it’s possible to discern much from that reply about whether or why Amazon intends to alter Signature‘s blurb.

  16. I have been reading some of the one-star reviews of Dr. Stephen Meyer’s Signature in the Cell at http://www.amazon.com/Signatur.....roduct_top and I have to say I am disappointed at their mediocrity and lack of substance. Few of the negative reviewers evince any sign of having read the book. Even those one-star reviewers who have read it rarely make any attempt to summarize its best arguments and address them – which is the proper way to critique a book with which one disagrees.

    Instead, critics of Dr. Meyer’s book have argued with wearying regularity that: (i) it is creationism in disguise; (ii) it is not science because it invokes the supernatural; (iii) it makes no predictions; and (iv) it contains nothing new.

    All of these criticisms miss the mark.

    Professor Bradley Monton (who is, by the way, an atheist) makes a powerful case that intelligent design is not inherently theistic, in his online essay, Is Intelligent Design Science? Dissecting the Dover Decision .

    In the same essay, Professor Monton skilfully dismantles the argument that intelligent design is not science.

    Although belief in intelligent design neither requires or implies belief in the supernatural, the oft-repeated claim that science can have no truck with the supernatural is simply mistaken. In an blog post by Professor Bradley Monton entitled Physicist Sean Carroll agrees with me on methodological naturalism (October 19, 2009), Monton writes:

    In my (by now somewhat infamous) discussion of the Dover trial (which occurs here, and in Chapter 2 of my book [ https://www.broadviewpress.com/product.php?productid=952&cat=0&page=1 ]), I took issue with Judge Jones (and with Robert Pennock) for endorsing methodological naturalism, understood as the claim that science can’t in principle investigate supernatural phenomena. I was happy to come across an article by physicist Sean Carroll where he endorses the same anti-methodogical-naturalism point that I do:

    There’s no obstacle in principle to imagining that the normal progress of science could one day conclude that the invocation of a supernatural component was the best way of understanding the universe. Indeed, this scenario is basically the hope of most proponents of Intelligent Design. The point is not that this couldn’t possibly happen — it’s that it hasn’t happened in our actual world.

    I’ve been given a hard time for saying this, so I’m happy to see smart people agreeing with me.

    The silliness of leading one-star critic Kevin McCarthy’s assertion that “There are no predictions” in Dr. Meyer’s book can be seen by the fact that another one-star critic, John Kwok, in the review immediately following McCarthy’s, acknowledges that Dr. Meyer “notably, offers a series of testable hypotheses in a technically-minded Appendix that could establish Intelligent Design as a viable scientific theory capable of making many important predictions and discoveries in all aspects of biology, especially, for example, in molecular biology and epidemiology.”

    In the interests of reporting accuracy, I should add that Kwok describes Dr. Meyer as a “mendacious intellectual pornographer,” lambasts his book as “an intellectual exercise in smoke and mirrors,” and then goes on to find fault with one of his claims: that during the Earth’s history, newly emergent life-forms should show a ‘top-down’ pattern of appearance, in which large-scale differences in form precede small ones. Kwok argues that this is inconsistent with the mass extinctions occurring in the fossil record. Ironically, Kwok’s argument demonstrates that at the very least, Dr. Meyer is putting forward a scientifically falsifiable claim.

    Finally, the assertion by one-star reviewer Kevin McCarthy that “the exact same arguments were used by Behe almost 15 years ago” is refuted by the grudging praise offered by evolutionary biologist John Kwok: “I will concede that Meyer is uncommonly good…” – even if he does go on to add: “but he’s uncommonly good as both a shill for the Dishonesty Institute and as a mendacious intellectual pornographer pretending to be a credible historian and philosopher of science.”

    Well, quite a few notable scientists and philosophers of science disagree with John Kwok. See here for their positive reviews of Dr. Meyer’s work.

    But it is the shrillness of the attacks by the one-star reviewers, more than anything else, that betrays the poverty of their arguments, as well as their lack of maturity. People who are sure of themselves do not need to shout.

    To those who are still skeptical of intelligent design, I would like to say: “Look. If you don’t like what Dr. Stephen Meyer has written about the origin of life, go and write a better book on the subject. The ball’s in your court.”

    In conclusion, if Amazon capitulates to demands by Stephen Wheeler to de-list Dr. Meyer’s book as science, then it is showing to all the world that it can be bullied. Such a capitulation, were it to occur, would merit condemnation by people who care about truth.

  17. Cabal:

    “Not all of them, I presume. I, for one, am laughing.”

    Go look in a mirror. Keep laughing. Who are you laughing at? Yourself of course. Keep laughing, sooner or later…

  18. Great post Denyse, and I for one totally approve of your language.
    They deserve what they get.

    The Amazonians have been crippling themselves with such biases and blatant stupidity for a while. Sooner or later it will show up in customer response as the smart ones notice the sham.
    They’re following the same path as Enron, the NY Times and the 100s of other cies that have gone south for good or are on their merry way down the tubes.

    SEE HERE

  19. Thanks, Borne, at 15. I am not saying what I did to trash anyone just for fun.

    I really did have a good relationship with the ‘Zon for years, when I could honestly link to books, pro or con various issues, or just for info – confident that normal commercial standards were observed.

    This Wheeler business – if it really happens – changes everything. Now I don’t know whether people are just reading propaganda dictated by … well, who knows?

    I just happened to catch sight of this “Wheeler,” due to a brown bag.

    So how would I know how many others are out there? My mail from the ‘Zon bot was hardly reassuring.

  20. Cabal: I bet you laugh at your own jokes, but I will admit – you are funny.

  21. 21

    OK, let me get this straight. Wheeler is miffed about the following quote:

    “One hundred fifty years ago, Charles Darwin revolutionized biology, but did he refute intelligent design (ID)? In Signature in the Cell, Stephen Meyer argues that he did not.”

    Then he writes to Zon and states:

    “This is a lie. Based on his discovery of incalculable numbers of examples of the process of transmutation of species, Charles Darwin’s great scientific work, On The Origin Of Species, presented his thesis that the (then current) belief that species were unchanging parts of a designed hierarchy was discredited.”

    Well…um…no, it’s not a lie. The key wording is “Meyer argues that he did not.” How is this a lie? Meyer clearly argues in his book that Darwin did not refute the design argument. Whether one agrees with Meyer is another issue, but there is no lie in the statement. I think the Zon will be reasonable in recognizing this.

  22. 22

    The key issue is what the book is about, not what Darwinists believe.

  23. Denyse wrote: “I am transferring all my business to Barnes & Noble…

    When I bought my copy of “Signature,” the clerk in the Barnes & Noble store I went to took me to the “Comparative Religion” section – but alas, there were no copies. It was in stock in the second Barnes & Noble I went to – in the “Comparative Religion” section – not the “Science” section.

  24. PaulBurnett,

    When I bought my copy of “Signature,” the clerk in the Barnes & Noble store I went to took me to the “Comparative Religion” section – but alas, there were no copies. It was in stock in the second Barnes & Noble I went to – in the “Comparative Religion” section – not the “Science” section.

    It was also in the comparative religion section at the Barnes and Noble I went to. However, I was told by the manager that Barnes and Noble decides where to put these books, and Richard Dawkins’ The Greatest Show on Earth was also in the comparative religion section, along with Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens and David Berlinski’s The Devil’s Delusion. I think, quite honestly, that they don’t know what to do with these books, and Comparative Religion is a catch-all. However, if I recall correctly, The Science of God by Gerald Schroeder was in the Science section. In short, I wouldn’t allow my thinking, nor my reading list to be determined by a Barnes and Noble shelving system.

  25. I just want a system where I can be sure that the book house is not manipulating product copy in response to complaints by peeved establishment wallahs.

    I can find any book anywhere, thanks to computers and the Internet, no matter how the house chooses to shelve it – and I needn’t even visit the store – so how much should I care where they shelve it?

    As a matter of fact, my local Big Book Store is crammed, on the ground floor, with house, gift, and party ware.

    If I needed all that stuff, I wouldn’t have time to read books. SO I usually order via the ‘Net.

    But if I think that their product copy has been doctored, I can’t recommend the site.

  26. Denyse (#25) wrote: “I just want a system where I can be sure that the book house is not manipulating product copy in response to complaints by peeved establishment wallahs.

    So how would you feel about the very detailed revelation of how ID “wallahs” were gaming the review system at Amazon? See http://pandasthumb.org/archive.....ntell.html for specifics. Or is that different?

  27. Amazon, Google, Wikipedia. Investigate where the early capital for these originated.
    As for me, I prefer to purchase books locally, and keep jobs close to home.

  28. PaulBurnett, I don’t care what goes on re “reviews” on the ‘Zon. I participate rarely and only in response to urgent requests I can’t decently refuse without social fallout.

    I can only wish friends would see the matter as I do – proof positive that the Darwin people usually have nothing to do and all day to do it in, very often at tax expense.

    Now THAT is a matter waiting to be addressed …

    I have no illusion that you understand this, but for others who may be listening:

    Tampering with a product description on the basis of a gripe from Sir Peeve or Lord Willies is totally different from nasty on-site reviews from people who probably couldn’t get published in their local pennysaver.

    The publisher or independent reviewer usually supplies the copy.

    In the former case, the group paying for the project is reasonably allowed to describe it. In the latter, the job is farmed out, with whatever result.

    In no case, are Sir Peeve and Lord Willies allowed into the process. And if they are, I can no longer have confidence in the system. I do not have time to read every book I point to. I just want to be sure that normal industry rules are followed.

    Too much to ask in a system where Darwinists have a chokehold? Well, then, we must break that hold.

  29. The editorial copy at the Zon hasn’t changed yet. We shouldn’t discount the possibly this is a result of Zon flunkies rethinking their kowtowing to Sir Peeve after they received O’Leary’s notice that she’d move her business away from them if they went through with their assurance – in the correspondence originally brownbagged but not posted here – to change the description.

  30. Your efforts to spread the truth are appreciated O’leary.

  31. vjtorley @ 16:

    What makes you think that John Kwok is an evolutionary biologist? Did he provide any links to his Ph.D. dissertation or any of his peer-reviewed scientific articles? If you reply to him on Amazon.com, ask him point-blank whether or not he holds a Ph.D.,and if so, where he got it, and whether he is a member of any scientific societies, and if so which ones, and whether he has published any peer-reviewed books or articles in any field of natural science, and to provide full references to them. The answers may give you some notion of how seriously you should take his reviews of scientific books.

    T.

  32. Timaeus, welcome back. You have been missed.

  33. 33

    Hello Timaeus,

    Happy New year. I had hoped you might have stopped by earlier, November 5th to be exact.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....darwinist/

  34. 34

    I do hope that Timaeus’ comment to vjtorely marks an extended return to his commenting on this blog.

    I hope to see GP again soon as well.

  35. Dear Stephen and Upright BiPed:

    Thanks for your welcome and your loyalty, and for taking up the argument with Allan MacNeill and Mark Frank for me.

    I saw that November 2009 thread, but didn’t check on it daily, and didn’t realize that Allan MacNeill had finally replied, or I would have seized on the opportunity to engage him again.

    Months earlier, Allan MacNeill’s excuses for not replying to me were pathetic, on the level of “the dog ate my essay”. He was asked on several occasions, by me and others, over a period of a few weeks, and had a different excuse each time. Finally I gave up.

    In his much belated, recent answer in November 2009, I note that he did not deal with the fact that sometimes the genomic evidence conflicts with the anatomical evidence, but that’s a minor point.

    More important is that he did not address the problem of “infinite evolutionary pathways”. If one pathway is closed down, Darwinian theory can always invent another — until that’s disproved, and then it can invent another. The process can go on forever. In any honest scientific theory, there is a point at which the theorist is duty-bound to admit that he should stop maintaining a weak and improbable thesis at all costs, but Darwinism is so open-ended (“mutation” and “natural selection” are such broad and loose causes than an infinite number of combination of the two can be imagined), that Darwinists never seem to need to admit this. I’d like to see Allan respond to David Berlinski’s question about how many genetic and developmental adjustments (an approximate number, please!) it would take to turn a nostril into a blowhole, and to Michael Denton’s question about how underwater nursing was achieved, when intermediate, incomplete stages would almost certainly be fatal to sea-going mammalian offspring. (On another topic, I’d like to be enlightened on how many steps, and which steps, it would take to turn a shrew-like animal into a bat.)

    Mark Frank is wrong about “unguided”. Apparently he has not read Darwin (or any of the major neo-Darwinians up to recent years). The neo-Darwinians have recently downplayed “unguided”, but purely for political reasons — in their heart of hearts they still believe, almost to a man, that evolution is unguided. The reason that Ken Miller took “unguided” out of his book, and that organizations like the NABT took similar statements out of their public pronouncements, was that they wanted to be able to accuse ID of being “religious” for trying to suggest that evolution needed to be guided, and they could hardly do that if they were making a clearly equally religious statement about unguidedness.

    This is very relevant to the schools controversy. If Darwinian evolution is inherently unguided, then it can’t be taught in the schools — it would violate the establishment clause by attacking the religion of the majority of Americans. So the neo-Darwinians can’t admit (though they nearly all privately believe, and clearly lead the public on to believe) that evolution was unguided. So they pretend that Darwinian theory is neutral regarding the question of guided versus unguided. This allows them to do the science *as if* evolution were entirely unguided, and thus to have things all their own way, without incurring court cases.

    Darwin himself would have regarded this as contemptible cowardice, as a failure of scientific nerve in the face of anti-scientific superstitions about “miracles”. He certainly did not regard evolution as guided, and his own mechanism, indeed, precludes guidance. Darwinism is anti-teleological at its very heart, as every significant historian of ideas known to me has argued. (Richard Dawkins has that much right, and when Dawkins, in *Expelled*, spoke of Darwinians who were not being honest, I am quite sure that he had the NCSE people — Scott and Miller and others — in mind, though of course he would not knife his evolutionary allies in the back by saying so directly.)

    True, if you want to engage in proof-texting, you can find all kinds of statements in Darwin to the effect that God could just as easily have used a process of evolution to produce species and man, in place of direct creation. But those statements are political and social rhetoric on Darwin’s part. The overwhelming sense of his work is that the process in inherently unguided, and people like Gaylord Simpson (a major player in the Modern Synthesis), Isaac Asimov, Robert Jastrow, Carl Sagan, Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Dawkins, and many, many others have always understood that, and even *stressed* it in popular presentations of evolution, until recently, when, in the wake of various court decisions, it became clear that Darwinism would have to be treated as “religion” unless it was stripped of the qualifier “unguided”.

    If Allan MacNeill and Mark Frank can’t see this, I suggest they read Darwin as slowly and carefully as I have, and I suggest they read Gaylord Simpson and the others slowly and carefully, too. I also recommend that they read the writings of Michael Flannery, an expert on Darwin and on Darwin’s co-discover, Wallace, who later endorsed (to Darwin’s great disgust) a form of intelligently guided evolution.

    I challenge either Mark Frank to Allan MacNeill to provide the members of this list with a step-by-step macroevolutionary account of the creation of even one major organ, system, or organism. (Eye, avian lung, cardiovascular system, etc.) I don’t want citations of thousands of articles, but a plain-language description — which part of the genome changes, what bases are substituted for what bases, how this produces a new organ, how the organ gives the creature an advantage, how the intermediate stages, where the organ is incomplete, are useful, etc.

    I don’t want the bedtime story-telling about the eye that Dawkins gives us, or that Darwin gave us — a purely qualitative line-up of different kinds of eyes, with a logically illegitimate inference that they represent an actual historical sequence — but a bloody-minded, technical “recipe for a camera eye”, or “recipe for a cardiovascular system”, or “recipe for a bacterial flagellum”.

    They won’t be able to do this, I know, because even biologists much more competent than they are can’t do it — Orr can’t do it, Coyne can’t do it, Dawkins can’t do it, Carroll can’t do it — but it would be interesting to see them try. It would show what all of us here already know, that Darwinians, when forced to stand on their own two feet, not allowed to appeal to authority or consensus, and compelled to argue wholly on the basis of their own personal biological knowledge of genetics, development, ecology, etc., can’t explain how things happened, and can’t even come close. Yet my physics and chemistry teachers could always stand up on their own two feet, and explain to me why things happened, without citing thousands of obscure journal articles, and without appealing to authority or consensus or political statements of scientific organizations or documents signed by 70 Nobel Prize Winners. Why can’t the evolutionary biologists do what every physicist and chemist routinely does?

    The embarrassing answer is that they cannot explain how evolution happened, beyond offering purely qualitative general concepts (like mutation and drift and selection), and trivial examples of microevolution like finch beaks and antiobiotic resistance. They are utterly incapable of bridging the chasm between longer finch beaks and the creation of a new organ system. They can’t tell me how it works, the way an engineer can tell me how to build a dam or a computer. It would be nice if they were modest enough to admit what they don’t know.

    Of course, if evolutionary biologists were to frankly admit all they don’t know, they would lose their monopoly position in the school system, as everyone would realize that design is just as good an explanation as anything they have to offer. Also, their requests for research grants would be turned down more often, and that scientific research money must keep on coming. Otherwise, God forbid, evolutionary biologists would have to survive like most Arts professors, having to live without grants on (gasp!) merely their salary, and a modest salary at that. And wouldn’t that be a shame?

    T.

  36. 36

    Allen MacNeil,

    Would you now please rejoin the conversation?

  37. Timeaus, your comments @35 provide one of the best reasoned evaluations of the Darwinist paradigm I have ever read. It is nothing short of a mini-seminar, yet it wastes not a single word. May I offer my sincere congratulations!

  38. Timaeus: This is very relevant to the schools controversy. If Darwinian evolution is inherently unguided, then it can’t be taught in the schools — it would violate the establishment clause by attacking the religion of the majority of Americans.

    Sorry, but that is not correct. In the U.S. system, just because someone may believe that angels move planets on crystal spheres doesn’t mean they can veto the teaching of Newtonian mechanics.

    Timaeus: More important is that he did not address the problem of “infinite evolutionary pathways”. If one pathway is closed down, Darwinian theory can always invent another — until that’s disproved, and then it can invent another. The process can go on forever.

    That’s correct. However, that’s not the basis of the Theory of Evolution. You have to start, as always, with Common Descent. From the strong support for that theory, we know that mice and men share a common ancestor, and the differences are due to descent with modification. That guides the search for the details of those transitions, including the discovery of fossils.

    Timaeus: Mark Frank is wrong about “unguided”.

    The term “unguided” is subject to equivocation. The Theory of Evolution, just like the Theory of Planetary Dynamics, is robust and intelligent intervention is extraneous to explaining the data. If someone posits a purpose that is beyond the available scientific evidence, then that would be considered a religious view—not a scientific one.

    Timaeus: I don’t want the bedtime story-telling about the eye that Dawkins gives us, or that Darwin gave us — a purely qualitative line-up of different kinds of eyes, with a logically illegitimate inference that they represent an actual historical sequence — but a bloody-minded, technical “recipe for a camera eye”, or “recipe for a cardiovascular system”, or “recipe for a bacterial flagellum”.

    Again, you have to start with the evidence for Common Descent.

    Timaeus: Otherwise, God forbid, evolutionary biologists would have to survive like most Arts professors, having to live without grants on (gasp!) merely their salary, and a modest salary at that. And wouldn’t that be a shame?

    Because we all know that most evolutionary biologists are millionaire playboys and playgirls. Nothing like a little sweet talk about phylogeny to get the opposite sex interested.

  39. Zachriel @ 38:

    Why do you suppose that the NCSE, the NABT, and many other scientific organizations have retreated from the language of “unguided” or “purposeless” evolution? These associations would certainly never change their language to please churches, creationists, or ID supporters. Their only motivation for changing their language is to avoid potential legal challenges. If you teach a ninth-grade biology student (who is forced to take biology by law) that we arose through a process which was “unguided”, you are teaching that student that God was not involved, and therefore are using the power of the state to coerce belief in a theological statement. The establishment clause, at least as it has been interpreted in recent years, clearly forbids this.

    What do you mean when you say that the theory of evolution is “robust”? That is can do 50 push-ups without panting? I call a theory “robust” if it can explain things. So explain to me how the camera eye evolved. Give me the specific changes of nucleotide sequences please.

    By the way, how do you “know” that mice and men share a common ancestor, when you can’t provide anything even close to a detailed description of *how* the primitive ancestor was transformed into both mice and men? That’s like saying that you “know” that Mt. Rushmore was carved out by lightning, water erosion, and wind, even though you can’t give a coherent account of how those forces could have accomplished such a task.

    Common descent, even if entirely true, proves nothing about the adequacy of Darwinian or neo-Darwinian mechanisms. The same fact might equally be explained by God or spacemen tinkering with existing genomes. If you can’t show that Darwinian mechanisms are up to the task, you can’t count Darwinian evolution as a “fact”. And in repeated confrontations with Ph.D.s in the life sciences, I have asked where I can find a book or article that tells me exactly how the foot evolved from the fin, or how the eye evolved from the light-sensitive spot. The silence from the evolutionary “experts” is deafening.

    T.

  40. Zachriel: The term “unguided” is subject to equivocation.

    Timaeus: Why do you suppose that the NCSE, the NABT, and many other scientific organizations have retreated from the language of “unguided” or “purposeless” evolution?

    Because the term can be ambiguous, conflating empirical and theological senses. NCSE advocates religious-neutral teaching and allowing students to accomodate their religious views to science.

    Timaeus: I call a theory “robust” if it can explain things. So explain to me how the camera eye evolved… By the way, how do you “know” that mice and men share a common ancestor, when you can’t provide anything even close to a detailed description of *how* the primitive ancestor was transformed into both mice and men?

    Any discussion of evolution has to include the Theory of Common Descent. After many attempts, no one seems to want to engage the argument, and the moderation delays make detailed discussions difficult. The latest attempt has yet to establish whether we should group whales with mice or fish.

    Timaeus: That’s like saying that you “know” that Mt. Rushmore was carved out by lightning, water erosion, and wind, even though you can’t give a coherent account of how those forces could have accomplished such a task.

    Mt. Rushmore was manufactured by a peculiar species of primate known for such activities.

    Timaeus: Common descent, even if entirely true, proves nothing about the adequacy of Darwinian or neo-Darwinian mechanisms.

    True, but it’s virtually impossible to have a reasonable discussions of the mechanisms involved in the divergence of life from common ancestors when you are not comfortable with the evidence for that common ancestry.

    Timaeus: And in repeated confrontations with Ph.D.s in the life sciences …

    If you are really interested in the evidence, you should start with Common Descent. Organisms are the way they are because of what they once were. That mice and men share a common ancestor is one of the most profound discoveries in all of science.

  41. Timaeus: I have asked where I can find a book or article that tells me exactly how the foot evolved from the fin, or how the eye evolved from the light-sensitive spot. The silence from the evolutionary “experts” is deafening.

    Science isn’t omniscient, so revealing the details of ancient history can take a bit of a detective work.

    From Common Descent, we know that land vertebrates evolved from fish. As the first land vertebrates are about 360 millions years old, and the earliest lobe-finned fish are about 380 million years old, in order to find a possible ‘fishopod’, you would look in geological strata in that range of ages. There’s only a few places where rocks of that age are exposed on the Earth’s surface.

    Researchers mounted an expedition to the Canadian Arctic to find at least part of the answer to your question, Tiktaalik, and this discovery not only provides a window on this historical transition, but also lends support to the Theory of Common Descent. This is not a trivial discovery.

  42. I could argue that common descent is nothing more than a designer making adjustments to the ecology as new organisms with different capabilities were needed at different points in time to ensure that a steady progression was proceeding toward a long term objective.

    Everything in biology and nature can be explained by such an idea. Or as a famous biologist once said “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of an intelligent designer.”

    Now do I believe this. No, because there is not enough information to support it. Could it be true. Possibly. But what I do know is that common descent is a construct that if true, can be explained by a lot of things but one thing it cannot be explained by is gradualistic changes of organisms over time because these gradualistic changes did not happen. If they did, someone would present them and we would all go home and call it a day.

    To evoke common does not point to anything in particular. So if one wants to worship common descent, find another reason to do so other than Darwinian principles.

  43. #41 and 42

    Zach with all due respect to appeal to common descent as an answer to timaeus question

    “Timaeus: I have asked where I can find a book or article that tells me exactly how the foot evolved from the fin, or how the eye evolved from the light-sensitive spot. The silence from the evolutionary “experts” is deafening.”

    Is a non answer. Timaeus and others want to know the details, the How.

    Vivid

  44. “Is a non answer. Timaeus and others want to know the details, the How.”

    The more I think about it to use common descent as evidence for unguided evolutionary processes is a circular argument.

    What mechanism is responsible for common descent? Answer, Darwinian evolutionary mechanisms.

    What is the evidence for Darwinian evolutionary mechanisms? Answer, common descent.

    Vivid

  45. Mr Timaeus,

    Are you as demanding of all explanations? Do you want Mt Rushmore explained by the sculptor at the level of the chisel strike before you accept that it was sculpted? Is there some alternative to Darwinian evolution that you prefer, and what is the equivalent of your nucleotide by nucleotide demand of it?

    It is quite sad that there are not enough evolutionary biologists in the world, that even one could not write the book you are interested in. I think the only reasonable solution to this problem is to train more evolutionary biologists, and hope that one of them accepts the ambitious agenda that you have sketched out.

    You want something basic and simple and also detailed, nucleotide by nucleotide. Who gave you the idea that this is a reasonable request? Do you also ask astronomers for this pathetic level of detail in explaining the origin of the solar system? I would also like to see the next 150 years of biology delivered by next Tuesday, but I try to keep the childish petulance out of my voice when Tuesday arrives and only a week’s worth of science has happened.

  46. 46

    Oh yes. I would say that struck a nerve.

    All things associated with ID must fit through an ideological sieve, yet the grand claims of materialism are never tested.

    Perhaps the stricken nerve is the one left atrophic, having never used it before.

  47. Mr BiPed,

    The nerve is called ‘fairness’. How is asking for evidence, and an equal level of pathetic detail in evidence an ideological seive? Intelligent design is science, I have been told, and wants to be taught in science classes some day. Science is an evidence based enterprise. Mr Timaeus is right to ask for evidence, though he is naive in demanding it be produced to his timetable.

    Here is a question I am not asking rhetorically: Will it be possible in the future for the science of design detection to calculate the probabilities that specific characters, the bacterial flagella, the opposable thumb, etc. are designed? I’m not asking by next Tuesday, just your estimate, standing on your own two feet, without citation of thousands of obscure journal articles, of whether it ever will be possible. Will it ever be possible to ask of design detection scientists, as we do so commonly of our professors of physics and engineering, to “show your workings” – the step by step details of the calculation?

  48. If science is an evidenced based enterprise then the theory of evolution ain’t science as there isn’t any evidence that the transformations required are even possible.

    But anyway given time and money someone will figure out the designed genetic algorithms which determine form.

  49. ZAchriel:

    From the strong support for that theory, we know that mice and men share a common ancestor, and the differences are due to descent with modification.

    LoL!!

    We don’t even know if such a transformation is even possible.

    IOW we can’t even test the premise that mice and men share a common ancestor.

    Is that how your “science” operates?

    From Common Descent, we know that land vertebrates evolved from fish.

    Again no one even knows if such a transformation is even possible.

    The premise is untestable.

  50. Zachriel says that we have to start with the evidence for Common Descebnt.

    However that “evidence” is not exclusive to Common Descent.

    IOW the same data that supports Common Descent can also be used to support convergence and/ or common design.

    And that is why Common Descent needs to find something that explains the DIFFERENCES observed.

    Yet to date no one can- scientifically.

  51. Mr Joseph,

    If science is an evidenced based enterprise then the theory of evolution ain’t science as there isn’t any evidence that the transformations required are even possible.

    Ignore that Augustinian monk behind the curtain.

  52. Nakashima-san,

    Thank you for proving my point.

  53. vividbleau: The more I think about it to use common descent as evidence for unguided evolutionary processes is a circular argument.

    What mechanism is responsible for common descent?

    The evidence for Common Descent is found independently in the nested hierarchy. Mechanism is entailed, of course. So, no. It’s not circular.

  54. Timaeus has a history here but especially over at the ASA site. He is a patient person and I am sure what he is doing is expressing that those who back the theory of evolution essentially have nothing.

    Nakashima reemphasizes that point everytime he comments here. He is one to search the depths of the internet for facts to back up his case and yet essentially provides nothing except the occasional interesting fact.

    The recent invoking of Mendel is a case in point. Mendel only showed that changes could be made if the basic material was already there. Mendel is the not the basis for any real theory for major change. So Nakashima screams ID every time he makes a post by his silence or deflections.

  55. vjtorley: Timaeus and others want to know the details, the How.

    Yes, and to do that requires establishing Common Descent. Notice how the Theory of Common Descent led to the discovery of a fossil with intermediate characteristics which helps answer his question.

  56. 56

    Nakashima: “The nerve is called ‘fairness’.”

    Oh my. The PZ Huxley Party has called a foul for fairness against the IDiots.

    We have now entered the Twilight Zone.

  57. Mr Jerry,

    Thank you for recognizing that I do put in some effort to support my positions by referencing peer reviewed research in obscure journals with names like Science and Nature and Cell Biology, the kind Timaeus would prefer not to see cited in his basic yet detailed while standing on one foot and holding his breath (but patiently) explanation.

    Thank you for recognizing that I go searching for facts, and share facts. I’m glad you find them interesting occaisionally. I do also! ;)

    You are also correct that, just as every scientist is really an ID scientist, all of my posts are really ID supporting posts, especially the ones that say nothing. My choice of words might, on the surface, support evidence based methodological naturalism and the tendency of alleles to change frequency over time, thus fomenting totalitarianism and libertinism simultaneously, but the blanks between the words, the pauses, the ellipses, the might I even say … gaps … certainly speak volumes about ID.

  58. To Nakashima:

    First, your number of 150 years is appropriate, though not for the reason you suppose. Darwinian theory has had exactly 150 years now — and has failed to explain the detailed evolutionary pathway to even one major organ, organelle, system, or organism. Compare that with the first 150 years of physics since Galileo, the first 150 years of chemistry since Boyle, the first 150 years of solar system studies since Kepler, the first (less than) 150 years of genetics since Mendel, the first (much less than) 150 years of molecular biology since Crick and Watson, the first 150 years of geology since Lyell, the first (much less than) 150 years of computer science since Turing. What’s the hold-up? Could it be that evolutionary biology is proceeding so slowly because it is fundamentally flawed science?

    Second, it isn’t necessary to provide every chisel strike in order to demonstrate that Mt. Rushmore, or any other complex sculpture, is a designed object, whereas it is necessary to demonstrate a very large number of the steps that would be necessary to create a lung — if the possible causes of the lung are limited to chance and mechanical laws (as they are in Darwinian theory). The intrinsic improbability of Darwinian macroevolutionary change ups the standards of proof. Darwin knew that this was a fair criticism to make, which was why he was so upset when the evidence at first showed that the earth was very young. He knew that he needed at least billions of years to overcome the low probabilities. (Though as we now know, thanks to Dembski, Meyer and others, even billions of years aren’t nearly enough.)

    Thus, it is totally reasonable to insist that the figures on the plains at Nazca or the rocks at Stonehenge were not produced purely through chance and necessity, but required intelligent design, and equally reasonable for a man of science to doubt that Darwinian mechanisms can deliver the goods. If dissenting scientists were allowed to speak freely, without fear of reprisal regarding degrees, hiring, tenure, grants, etc., Darwinian theory would have much less public support than it does, because it is an implausible hypothesis. What keeps it alive is one over-riding virtue — it keeps God out of the picture. And for a certain kind of scientist — and science propagandist — that’s enough to qualify it as a scientific hypothesis, no matter how shoddy. Read Lewontin’s famous quotation daily — science cannot allow a divine foot in the door. Better a ludicrous, weak, undocumented theory, consisting of little more than generalities and promissory notes about what biology will establish in the future, than a coherent theory, in tune with the empirical facts, which admits design.

    Regarding the current power of ID theory, Bill Dembski’s *No Free Lunch* already provides preliminary calculations of the type you are demanding, and for the bacterial flagellum in particular. I suggest you read it. And the more we learn about actual mechanisms (genetic and deveopmental), the more precise we will be able to make such probability calculations.

    This puts Darwinian theory in between a rock and a hard place. If we don’t learn more — much more — than we know today about genetic and developmental mechanisms, Darwinian theory will never be more than a bedtime story, lacking the necessary details to be scientific. And if we ever get to the point where we *do* understand literally everything about genetics and development, then we will be able to calculate with razor-sharp precision how likely it is that random mutations plus natural selection could produce macroevolutionary change, and the threat this poses to Darwinism is that the probabilities will be so low that even trillions of years couldn’t do the job. So I don’t feel threatened by progress in basic biological knowledge; I say, bring it on! If it works out that that the probability of life’s evolution on the earth (completely without design) is as high even as 1 in 10, I will concede to the Darwinians that that’s how man and all the species got here. But if it works out that the probability is more like 1 in 10^40, I will expect the Darwinians to swallow their pride and admit that design was necessary. I’m putting my God on the firing line, if you put your atheism on the same firing line. Do you agree to these terms, Nakashima?

    T.

  59. Zachriel @ 40, 41, etc.:

    There was nothing “ambiguous” in the notion of unguided evolution in the writings of Bertrand Russell, or any of a host of scientist-popularizers of evolution in the 20th century. They did not hide behind a distinction between empirically unguided and theologically guided. When they said unguided, they meant unguided, period. Of course, this was back in a manly era when both scientists and philosophers were not forced to tippy-toe due to completely irresponsible interpretations of the Establishment Clause foisted upon the nation by activist judges.

    The NCSE’s “neutrality” regarding the guidedness or non-guidedness of evolution masks as a principle of fairness, but in fact is merely a social and political concession to those deemed “stupid” enough to still be religious. Beneath the formal neutrality the substantive position is anything but neutral. Basically, its position is that species originated via Darwinian means, i.e., without guidance, but if you wish, you can privately believe that there really was some mysterious and incomprehensible (and by the principle of parsimony, redundant) form of guidance going on — just as long as you shut up about it in all public contexts, including curriculum, textbooks, high school science classes, grant proposals, thesis proposals, tenure applications, etc. In other words “unguided” evolution is demanded in all but name, and career-killing penalties are applied for refusal to comply with the demand. Some neutrality.

    A decent school system would allow open debate on this topic (guided versus unguided), not hem it in by all kinds of restrictions, coming from churches on one side, and atheist establishment-clause pushers on the other. Americans have unfortunately forgotten the lesson that they used to know and teach the world so well, i.e., that the price to pay for a free society is free and open debate, where some thin-skinned people get offended. The American school system should reflect and uphold this principle of “the right to incidentally offend” rather than the current principle of “you’re not allowed to say that because it offends my theistic/atheistic beliefs, and if you say that, I’ll take you to court and make you stop saying it.” On both sides of the ID/Darwinist debate, the religious and the anti-religious, there are those who seek to control the schools so that they can control thought. This is an utterly un-American attitude, and all moderate Americans should unite to oppose it. If necessary the Establishment Clause should be re-written with an explicit statement that “establishment of religion” does not touch the right of educational institutions to explore (in a non-coercive atmosphere) *all possible rational explanations for the order of nature* — including both non-design and design explanations.

    By the way, at no point did I indicate any discomfort with the notion of common ancestry. Both scientifically and theologically I am indifferent to the notion, and could live with either a proof or a disproof of common descent. However, I think it’s scientifically irresponsible to insist on common ancestry as a fact, when no convincing detailed Darwinian explanation has been found for *any* major organ, organelle, system, or organism. It would be more appropriate to say that there is circumstantial evidence for common descent, but that we really have very little idea, on the level of mechanical idea, of how macroevolution can possibly work. So we’re in the position of a prosecuting attorney who can show Bill had the opportunity to murder Mary, but is unable to show that Bill had the means.

    Thus, I disagree with you that the argument for the mechanism must first take for granted the truth of common descent. The fact is that common descent itself is in doubt without a plausible mechanism. You know, they say that everyone on earth has a “double”, someone who looks exactly (for all intents and purposes) like them. Does it follow that I am genetically descended from my “double”, who lives in Boise, Idaho? Surely not. Merely establishing similarity of features proves nothing about historical lineage, unless a mechanism tying features to lineage is established. This is why Tiktaalik is a complete yawner. Tiktaalik doesn’t tell us how the fin became a foot. So how is it proof for common descent? If someone were to ask you, “How do you know that this *morphologically* intermediate form is a *historically* intermediate form?”, what argument could you give that does not presuppose the conclusion that you wish to establish? Where is the proof that morphologically (or genetically) intermediate forms are necessarily historically intermediate forms? They may well be; but where is the demonstration that they must be? This is not a theological issue for me, as I have no axe to grind against common descent. It is a methodological issue. What justifies the move from “is genetically similar to” or “is morphologically similar to” or “is biochemically similar to” to “is descended from” or “is the ancestor of” or “shares a common ancestor with”? I do not see the demonstrative force of the argument here.

    As for Mt. Rushmore, you have “insider” historical information. But what if you were to land on a planet that showed no sign of any past civilization, but which had on it a sculpture like that on Mt. Rushmore — a sculpture apparently portraying a group of intelligent-looking beings (maybe vaguely humanoid, but with antennae or Vulcan ears or other such variations, or maybe less humanoid and more octopus-looking or more arthropod-looking, but still apparently organic beings of some sort) – what would you conclude, if you bound yourself by the NCSE’s principle of “methodological naturalism”?

    By NCSE principles, you would have no right to infer a designer, because you have no independent knowledge of the existence of any non-human designers in the entire universe. (In NCSE-science, remember, you aren’t allowed to postulate designers of unknown nature and unknown motives, because you can’t offer a plausible prediction of what such designers might design, and therefore can’t test purported artifacts against any criteria.)

    Thus, barred by a mechanical methodological rule from the obvious design inference, you’d have to say that you “knew” that natural forces had produced the sculpture, even though you couldn’t provide any plausible detailed account of how blasting sand or ultra-violet rays could carve out such intricate and structured figures in the rock. This methodological naturalism would in this case lead you to a completely wrong conclusion, since in fact the sculpture was designed.

    That’s the problem with the monopoly status given to non-teleological origins theories; it willfully excludes possibly correct teleological explanations of origins. A truly neutral science of nature would consider both possibilities. But “truly neutral” is something that neo-Darwinism is not. And that applies equally to the NCSE.

    T.

  60. Mr Timaeus,

    Do you agree to these terms, Nakashima?

    Certainly, though if you’ve read some of what I’ve posted here, ‘atheist’ might not be the term I would agree to use about myself.

    My personal opinion, like Michael Denton and many others, is that protein based life was inevitable in this universe’s choice of physics and chemistry, on this planet and probably many others during the history of the universe.

  61. Timaeus: There was nothing “ambiguous” in the notion of unguided evolution in the writings of Bertrand Russell, or any of a host of scientist-popularizers of evolution in the 20th century. They did not hide behind a distinction between empirically unguided and theologically guided. When they said unguided, they meant unguided, period. Of course, this was back in a manly era when both scientists and philosophers were not forced to tippy-toe due to completely irresponsible interpretations of the Establishment Clause foisted upon the nation by activist judges.

    Rather odd to bring up the U.S. Establishment Clause with the Third Earl Russell, the Viscount Amberley in the same paragraph. Russell’s thoughts were somewhat more nuanced than you seem to imply.

    Russell: Am I An Atheist Or An Agnostic?
    … None of us would seriously consider the possibility that all the gods of homer really exist, and yet if you were to set to work to give a logical demonstration that Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, and the rest of them did not exist you would find it an awful job. You could not get such proof.

    Perhaps Zeus does throw lightning bolts at the wicked in the Vale of Témpi below, but the science indicates an ‘unguided’ process of electrical discharge.

    Timaeus: A decent school system would allow open debate on this topic (guided versus unguided), not hem it in by all kinds of restrictions, coming from churches on one side, and atheist establishment-clause pushers on the other.

    Science classes are for teaching science, not theology. Sorry, there is no scientific evidence that lightning (or evolution) is ‘guided’ in the sense you suggest.

    There is nothing in U.S. law preventing you from teaching your children religion, opening your own church or teaching catechism to anyone who wishes to listen to you.

  62. Nakashima @ 60:

    OK, I shall withdraw the term “atheist”. But let’s talk about Michael Denton. Though he doesn’t belong to ID understood as a certain movement, he is certainly a design theorist. In his second book he uses the concept of design throughout, and the word “design” figures strongly in his conclusion. He even speaks of science as pointing to natural theology.

    He also speaks much against the Darwinian understanding of evolution (though not against evolution itself). His critique of Darwinian theory is much the same as my own — it relies far too much on chance and does not take into account how finely-tuned everything in nature is.

    You have one odd phrase: “this universe’s choice of physics and chemistry”. What does “choice” mean here? Are you using the word loosely, or in its proper sense? We don’t normally speak of universes as “choosing” things for themselves. We could, however, speak of God as having chosen a physics and chemistry for the universe.

    Or did you perhaps mean that there are many universes, with different laws of nature, and we just happen to live in one of the few whose laws of nature are suitable for life? If so, I wonder what reason can be given for believing in multiple universes, other than speculations in theoretical physics which are disputed among the physicists themselves, and are untestable against the empirical world, where any alternate universes, even should they exist, are forever unobservable to us. What intellectual advantage does the notion of multiple universes have that “God” or “the designer” doesn’t have?

    T.

  63. —Nakashima: “Certainly, though if you’ve read some of what I’ve posted here, ‘atheist’ might not be the term I would agree to use about myself.”

    What term would you use?

  64. Mr Timaeus,

    I only gave Dr Denton’s name to provide a reference point, a shorthand for a position. I am aware that there are people like Simon Conway-Morris who wold hold that far more specific things than protein based life are inevitable, but my opinion is based on what I see today as the limits of our current evidence. It could be that upright bilaterians with intelligences like our own are inevitable, but I haven’t seen that evidence presented yet, while the lack of obvious disturbance to the universe is an argument against that view, IMHO.

    Darwin himself, in his original conception of a theory of evolution, may certainly have emphasized some parts overmuch. This may have come from a perceived need to stress a uniformitarian perspective, a great lack of understanding the eventual physical basis heritable and variable traits, and an almost complete ignorance of how chemistry could drive the origin of life and thereby determine forever things like the genetic code.

    These failings of Darwin and Darwinism as a historical artifact do not detract from the power of his theory in the abstract. We can study evolution without fixing it to a certain biology via population genetics and genetic algorithms. These tools do tell us about the edges of evolution – where it works and where it doesn’t.

    My use of the word choice merely shows that I think the actual values taken by certain physical constants are somewhat arbitrary. Our universe is not ‘fine’ tuned for life – life is an expectation of universes over a wide range of possible values for these constants. I am not a fan of multiple universes outside of science fiction.

    Similarly to using GAs to study evolution in the abstract, we can study choices of physics and chemistry in the abstract. There are interesting cellular automata in which life arises based only on the ‘energy’ of a random start and a particular choice of physics. So we can start investigating these things without waiting for DNA to be extracted from dinosaur fossils.

    Mathematics has an interesting heuristic – if you are having trouble solving a particular problem, try solving a more abstract version of the same problem. If you succeed, apply these new insights to your original problem. Abtracting evolution to GAs and universes to CAs is in that grand tradition.

    Part of the problem of evolution is that it is an abstraction of a process, not a relation. F=mA is a relation. Evolution is an iterated function system. The results of a continued IFS are notoriously complex even for very simple choices of function – look at how many fractal pictures are generated of the Mandelbrot set.

    So instead of waiting for that dino DNA, I recommend to you to try to understand evolution by exploring these mathematical tools.

  65. Nakashima @ 64:

    My friends just call me Timaeus.

    You wrote:

    “So instead of waiting for that dino DNA, I recommend to you to try to understand evolution by exploring these mathematical tools.”

    Why is it my job to explore these mathematical tools? I’m not an evolutionary biologist, and I’m not claiming that Darwinian or analogous processes produced all the species of life. It’s the job of the evolutionary biologists, who make an utterly audacious claim to knowledge of origins, to master these tools (along with a whole lot of genetics and developmental processes that we don’t understand yet) before imposing their theory as fact upon the world, and upon a captive audience of ninth-grade science students.

    If the Darwinians can’t show in any detail how the process occurred, what justifies their monopoly over the educational process? Over the editorial pages of the New York Times and the New Republic? Over the production decisions of NOVA television? Darwinian biology has been granted cultural and social and legal and even political power that is completely unearned by its very petty achievements (explaining finch beaks and antibiotic resistance).

    Come back to me when you – or some Darwinian in a book you have read — can give a near-complete evolutionary pathway to *any* organ, organelle, system, or organism. Until then, I continue to class the undisciplined and ad hoc imaginative reconstructions of Darwinian evolution under “armchair speculation which would be laughed out of court in serious disciplines such as mathematics, physics, chemistry or engineering.”

    T.

  66. Mr Timaeus,

    I prefer to maintain a certain formality, and our friendship has not yet passed the slap and tickle phase.

    I admit I am a bit perplexed by your reversion to “grumpy culture warrior” mode after a few thoughtful posts. Are you as math averse as Darwin? It is a pity. Separating evolution from the context of biology is helpful. The process of evolution has proven useful in exactly those fields you consider serious.

  67. Zachriel @ 61:

    Obviously you have not read the statement on cosmic and biological evolution in Bertrand Russell’s “A Free Man’s Worship”, or you would not have written what you have written. After you’ve read it, I will gladly accept your retraction.

    My point about the Establishment Clause (which is not against the clause itself, but against the way it has been overextended by activist judges), is that it has produced cowardly equivocation and an oily politics of strange bedfellows. Absent the judicially activist interpretation, Eugenie Scott could say what she really thinks about the religious idea of a designer, without fear of jeopardizing the NCSE’s educational agenda, and Michael Behe’s views could be (I don’t say should be, but could be) taught (not endorsed, but taught, i.e., explained) in ninth-grade biology class. Such frankness would be better and healthier for American society all around. The current situation produces court-created institutionalized hypocrisy. You perhaps never wondered why Dawkins was not summoned as a witness for Darwinism at the Dover trial; rather, Ken Miller, a much more minor player on the world scene of evolutionary theory, was employed. If you do not grasp the bearing of the legal team’s choice, and its relationship to the current understanding of the establishment clause, I can only recommend that you take some courses in political science and/or jurisprudence, or simply consult a wise old uncle who understands realpolitik.

    Your ravings about not teaching religious catechism in science class I disregard. I never advocated any such thing. Of course, the Founders of the U.S.A. would completely disagree with you that mentioning the possibility of intelligent design in nature constitutes catechism or is a violation of the Establishment Clause. There’s a little document called The Declaration of Independence that you should read sometime; it contains an interesting word –”Creator”. Perhaps you think it should be illegal to mention the Declaration in science class? Or in *any* public school class, lest atheists be offended? And perhaps, then, you think it should be illegal to mention Darwin’s *Origin of Species* in biology class, or at least to discuss the passages where he takes design seriously as a hypothesis to be refuted. Was Darwin “teaching religion” when he wrote those passages? (But perhaps I have no right to presume that a champion of evolution has read Darwin.)

    In any case, if the ninth-grade biology students in America are being left with the impression (even if it isn’t stated directly) that undirected processes sufficiently explain the origin of all species, they *are* being taught religion — they are being taught the theological position known as “naturalism”. The only neutral approach — you still have not grasped this — is to allow naturalism itself to be questioned, within the confines of science class. I realize that for a person of modern education, such as I take you to be, this is a dreadful heresy, as naturalism is equated in modern times with rationality itself. But it was not always so. The greatest minds of the ancient and medieval worlds — minds much finer than Coyne and Dawkins and Carl Sagan and E. O. Wilson and others who are perhaps your heroes — found naturalism an inadequate account of nature.

    I said nothing whatsoever about lightning being guided. Further, there is no accurate analogy between lightning (an actual natural process, whose causality is fully or almost fully understood) and macroevolution (a hypothetical natural process, which, even if real, is nowhere near understandable in terms of unguided natural causes). When you can explain how an eye evolved as well as an atmospheric physicist can explain how lightning works, come back to me and I’ll reconsider your analogy.

    T.

  68. 68

    Please allow Zach to keep posting here. His posts are nicely instructive.

    It’s not that his over-educated dribble is all that rare, its just that he laces them with such honest bigotry.

  69. Mr StephenB,

    What term would you use?

    I think agnostic would be closer to the truth.

    I am in the process of acquiring a Zen Buddhist as a brother-in-law. We had a great set of talks over the holidays about superconductivity (his day job is physics) and Buddhism. He gave me a Christmas present of the book “Patience With God” by Tomas Halik. Halik was a Czech psychologist who was secretly ordained a Catholic priest prior to the Velvet Revolution.

    While the book has some problems with organization and translation from Czech, I am working through it. The book uses the gospel story of Zaccheus to structure an argument that the doubtful and diffident are important to the Church. Halik has no use for smug triumphalism (is made almost physically ill by American megachurch evangelicalism) and is arguing that doubt and even atheism have important lessons in the mystery of God for everyone. I just finished a section on St. Therese of Lisieux, which contained this interesting section:

    Last year I read what is perhaps the most thorough and in-depth biography of St. Therese, from the pen of the American theologian Thomas Nevin. Free of the sweetly pious icing of previous editions, the author, who had carefully studied Therese’s authentic and unexpugated texts, came to the convincing if somewhat shocking conclusion that this saint and doctor of the church died without faith, literally without belief in heaven and eternal life.

    Thank you for asking the question, I appreciate the chance to share some of this with you. Next up with the brother in law is the question of whether the True Nature of Man follows Bose-Einstein statistics or Fermi-Dirac statistics! Exciting stuff…

  70. Timaeus: Absent the judicially activist interpretation, Eugenie Scott could say what she really thinks about the religious idea of a designer, without fear of jeopardizing the NCSE’s educational agenda, …

    The NCSE is a private organization and can say anything they want.

    Timaeus: … and Michael Behe’s views could be (I don’t say should be, but could be) taught (not endorsed, but taught, i.e., explained) in ninth-grade biology class.

    Behe’s has yet to convince his scientific peers that his ideas have merit.

    Timaeus: Your ravings about not teaching religious catechism in science class I disregard.

    Raving? Are you alright?

    Public schools teach a secular curriculum, but you are free to teach most anything you want to your children, or the children of your congregation in catechism classes, or Bible Studies, or at the Temple.

    Timaeus: Perhaps you think it should be illegal to mention the Declaration in science class?

    As an important political document, it is entirely appropriate to discuss this in political science or history classes. It’s not a scientific document, though.

    Timaeus: And perhaps, then, you think it should be illegal to mention Darwin’s *Origin of Species* in biology class, or at least to discuss the passages where he takes design seriously as a hypothesis to be refuted.

    You have a very odd view of how a secular eduation works. Darwin’s Origin of Species is an important moment in scientific history. It shouldn’t be used to teach the state of current science, but it can be used to discuss that moment in scientific history.

    Timaeus: The only neutral approach — you still have not grasped this — is to allow naturalism itself to be questioned, within the confines of science class.

    Naturalism is a philosophical position, hence belongs in classes on philosophy.

    Timaeus: I realize that for a person of modern education, such as I take you to be, this is a dreadful heresy, as naturalism is equated in modern times with rationality itself.

    It would be appropriate for you to refrain from making stuff up.

    Timaeus: I said nothing whatsoever about lightning being guided.

    Then let’s be explicit. Is lightning guided? Is it appropriate to say that there is no scientific evidence God uses lightning to punish the wicked?

  71. Zachriel,

    You have a very odd view of how a secular eduation works. Darwin’s Origin of Species is an important moment in scientific history. It shouldn’t be used to teach the state of current science, but it can be used to discuss that moment in scientific history.

    You have a very odd view of what constitutes a secular work that you think should be taught in school, because The Origin of Species has about 70 references to religion and creation. If we are to be consistent, that book cannot be taught from either by your criterion of secular education. I suppose, one could, black-out entire sections of it that make religious arguments, and teach the rest of it, but that is not the current form of the book. So if you want to teach the current form of the book, you’re going to be teaching religion, I should say, anti-religion, but religion nevertheless, and creation, miracles etc., are all discussed. Let’s be consistent Zachriel. Have you actually read the book?

  72. Clive Hayden: You have a very odd view of what constitutes a secular work that you think should be taught in school, because The Origin of Species has about 70 references to religion and creation.

    A secular education can certainly include the study of religion, though in a science class, it would be Darwin’s scientific influence that would be of primary interest.

    Clive Hayden: Have you actually read the book?

    Um, yes. It terms of scientific influence, it ranks with Dialogo sopra i due massimi sistemi del mondo and Spezielle Relativitätstheorie.

  73. Zachriel,

    A secular education can certainly include the study of religion, though in a science class, it would be Darwin’s scientific influence that would be of primary interest.

    Agreed, but that’s not what you said, you said the book that he wrote should be studied.

  74. Let me emphasize the preceding comment. A quality secular education requires understanding various religions, their history, and their influence on the world today. A quality education in biology requires understanding the Theory of Evolution, including what is known of life’s long and storied history.

  75. Zachriel: A secular education can certainly include the study of religion, though in a science class, it would be Darwin’s scientific influence that would be of primary interest.

    Clive Hayden: Agreed, but that’s not what you said, you said the book that he wrote should be studied.

    Not sure of where you find the contradiction.

    Origin of Species should be studied for its importance to history. However, the specifics of evolutionary theory have changed considerably since then, so a study of biology would only reference those aspects of Darwin’s work that have survived the test of time.

    (Usually, basic level classes mix a bit of history with the science to allow students to understand how progress is made. Astronomy 101 might mention the ancient Babylonians. More advanced science classes won’t spend a lot of time on discarded theories, though history or philosophy classes might.)

  76. though in a science class, it would be Darwin’s scientific influence that would be of primary interest.

    You would think that in a high school science class, the subject wouldn’t involve teaching about the influence of particular philosopher but in objective facts and learning the methods to find and take advantage of them.

    Anyway Mendel should have far, far more of an impact on the curriculum than Darwin.

  77. Zachriel,

    Origin of Species should be studied for its importance to history. However, the specifics of evolutionary theory have changed considerably since then, so a study of biology would only reference those aspects of Darwin’s work that have survived the test of time.

    If you mean excising and expurgating The Origin of Species with all of its 70+ references to creation and miracles and religion, and further excising bad science like the discarded notions such as gemmules, and leaving whatever has “stood the test of time” to be taught in a history class or as history within a science class then I agree with you. But, that’s not The Origin of Species anymore.

  78. tribune7: You would think that in a high school science class, the subject wouldn’t involve teaching about the influence of particular philosopher but in objective facts and learning the methods to find and take advantage of them.

    Darwin isn’t known for his philosophy, but for his scientific work. Mendel’s theory of genetics should certainly be taught, and usually is taught. Most high school biology classes include the study of cell and cell structure, taxonomic groupings, genetics, evolution, ecology, and major organ functions (respiration, digestion, reproduction).

  79. Clive Hayden: If you mean excising and expurgating The Origin of Species with all of its 70+ references to creation and miracles and religion, and further excising bad science like the discarded notions such as gemmules, and leaving whatever has “stood the test of time” to be taught in a history class or as history within a science class then I agree with you. But, that’s not The Origin of Species anymore.

    Origin of Species includes several important scientific concepts, including Common Descent and Natural Selection. (Darwin’s discarded pangenesis theory was introduced in The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication.) In any case, evolutionary biology is not usually taught directly from Origin of Species any more than than physics is taught directly from Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica.

    As an historical scientific argument, considered within the context of its time, it is a remarkable work by the greatest scientist of the Age. Origin of Species is an important work whose ramifications are still being felt today.

  80. Zachriel:

    Our science education appears to have differed, mine being somewhat broader. It was common for my science teachers, in both high school and university, to “set the stage” by referring to the views that prevailed before the great theories came along and reshaped scientific thinking. Do you agree that this is a legitimate part of a science curriculum?

    For example, do you agree that it would be legitimate to briefly explain some of the views held by Ptolemy (including some of the reasons for those views) in order to set up the discussion of Copernicus etc.? Do you agree that it would be legitimate to briefly explain the views held by Aristotle to set up the discussion of Galileo’s physics? Do you agree that would be legitimate to briefly explain the views predominant in biology (e.g., the special creation of species, or at least of basic types, and the Paleyan sort of argument for design, and catastrophism in geology, etc.) at the time of the publication of *The Origin of Species*?

    Do you further agree that simply *explaining* (not advocating) these earlier views, and their rationale, would not in itself constitute “religious instruction” or “catechism”, even if taught in science class? And therefore would not violate the establishment clause, but would come under “valid science pedagogy”?

    T.

  81. Zachriel,

    In any case, evolutionary biology is not usually taught directly from Origin of Species any more than than physics is taught directly from Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica.

    I never said it was, it was you who said that The Origin of Species should be taught in science classes for whatever reasons you believe. I merely pointed out that if we are to be consistent with not teaching matters of faith in science, then the Origin and all of it’s faith commitments and 70+ references to miracles and creation wouldn’t qualify unless we cut it up into pieces, but then it is only pieces, not the book itself.

  82. Clive Hayden: I never said it was, it was you who said that The Origin of Species should be taught in science classes for whatever reasons you believe.

    Zachriel (from above): Darwin’s Origin of Species is an important moment in scientific history. It shouldn’t be used to teach the state of current science, but it can be used to discuss that moment in scientific history.

  83. Zachriel,

    In response to a comment that I will not approve, you have to actually answer the questions, not retrofit them to some previous post. Timaeus is asking you specific questions, and your re-heated answers don’t really answer them. You’re just being passive aggressive, as if Timaeus shouldn’t be asking, given that you think you’ve already answered his questions, when you haven’t. I won’t allow this comment. Answer the questions and/or stop resubmitting your answers if, according to you, they have already been given.

  84. Zachriel,

    You’re not fooling anyone, the context of your comment was what should be taught in SECULAR education. This is what you said:

    You have a very odd view of how a secular eduation works. Darwin’s Origin of Species is an important moment in scientific history. It shouldn’t be used to teach the state of current science, but it can be used to discuss that moment in scientific history.

    You have an odd view of what constitutes as secular if you think the Origin of Species with all of it’s 70+ references to God, creation, and miracles is secular. If you want it cut into pieces, and have all of the religious context removed, and then taught as a historical relic, that’s perfectly fine. But it wouldn’t be The Origin of Species anymore.

  85. Clive Hayden: You have an odd view of what constitutes as secular if you think the Origin of Species with all of it’s 70+ references to God, creation, and miracles is secular.

    You have a very odd view of a secular education if you think it means pretending religious thought isn’t a part of history.

  86. Zachriel,

    You have a very odd view of a secular education if you think it means pretending religious thought isn’t a part of history.

    I guess you need to decide what it is that you consider secular.

  87. Timaeus: It was common for my science teachers, in both high school and university, to “set the stage” by referring to the views that prevailed before the great theories came along and reshaped scientific thinking. Do you agree that this is a legitimate part of a science curriculum?

    Yes, as mentioned above, introductory classes often include a brief history of a field of study, including pre-scientific beliefs and their influence on scholarship.

    Timaeus: For example, do you agree that it would be legitimate to briefly explain some of the views held by Ptolemy (including some of the reasons for those views) in order to set up the discussion of Copernicus etc.?

    Of course.

    Timaeus: Do you agree that it would be legitimate to briefly explain the views held by Aristotle to set up the discussion of Galileo’s physics?

    Yes, as mentioned above, it would be difficult to discuss Galileo’s seminal work, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, without discussing that it is a counterpoint between two world views.

    Timaeus: Do you agree that would be legitimate to briefly explain the views predominant in biology (e.g., the special creation of species, or at least of basic types, and the Paleyan sort of argument for design, and catastrophism in geology, etc.) at the time of the publication of *The Origin of Species*?

    Of course. It’s a matter of history.

    Timaeus: Do you further agree that simply *explaining* (not advocating) these earlier views, and their rationale, would not in itself constitute “religious instruction” or “catechism”, even if taught in science class?

    As already mentioned, a secular education can certainly include the study of religion, and in science classes when appropriate to the curriculum.

    Timaeus: And therefore would not violate the establishment clause, but would come under “valid science pedagogy”?

    It’s entirely appropriate. But teachers have to be careful not to proselytize or to diminish anyone’s particular religious tradition. A comparative religion, history or philosophy class is a more appropriate venue for delving into those fields.

  88. Zachriel: You have a very odd view of a secular education if you think it means pretending religious thought isn’t a part of history.

    Clive Hayden: I guess you need to decide what it is that you consider secular.

    Do you really think that teaching history in a secular school means you can’t mention that the Pope is Catholic? Or what the Reformation was reforming? Or that the Islamic Conquests had something to do with Islam?

  89. FYI, here are the New Jersey Core Curriculum Standards (2009) for high school biology. While they contain significant content on evolution, the focus is on the theory, not the history. Darwin, the Beagle, OoS etc are never mentioned.

    I know y’all are having fun with the could be/should be, but the brute fact is that it is all irrelevant.

  90. Zachriel,

    Do you really think that teaching history in a secular school means you can’t mention that the Pope is Catholic? Or what the Reformation was reforming? Or that the Islamic Conquests had something to do with Islam?

    I take it that you have not read the Origin of Species if you think it should be taught, as it was written, in a science class.

  91. Clive Hayden: I take it that you have not read the Origin of Species if you think it should be taught, as it was written, in a science class.

    How many times does it need to be repeated? You don’t teach biology from Origin of Species. It only has historical interest.

  92. Zachriel,

    How many times does it need to be repeated? You don’t teach biology from Origin of Species. It only has historical interest.

    In a science class it has only historical interest? Didn’t you say that Common Descent and Natural Selection should be taught in a science class? Now you’re saying that the book should only be taught in a history class? Which is it Zachriel? It is a book with many religious arguments, so it should only be taught as a historical relic in a history class, is that right? Or should we cut it to pieces, and teach CD and NS in a science class, excising all of the religious content and wrong science? But if we do that, it is no longer The Origin of Species, because so much has been removed. So what would you prefer?

  93. Clive Hayden: Didn’t you say that Common Descent and Natural Selection should be taught in a science class?

    Yes, they are fundamental concepts in biology.

    Clive Hayden: Now you’re saying that the book should only be taught in a history class?

    Origin of Species is over 150 years old, is dated on a number of concepts, wrong on others, and was never written as a textbook. Modern textbooks are available to teach the basic concepts of biology.

  94. Zachriel @ 87:

    Good. Now we are getting somewhere. We have some agreement, that mentioning earlier scientific views, even when those views were partly grounded in religion, does not in itself constitute preaching religion, teaching catechism, or violating the principle of disestablishment of religion. Now let’s move to the next step.

    Suppose that, after introducing Darwin’s theory in the way that you and I have agreed upon, and after covering all the usual bases of evolutionary theory (the contribution of Mendelian genetics, theories of drift, bottlenecks, DNA, mutations, various tree-of-life schemes, etc.), the teacher closed off the unit with a brief discussion (not an endorsement) of various critiques of neo-Darwinian theory and various alternative explanations for the integrated structures of life. Suppose that one of the alternatives mentioned was intelligent design. Suppose that the teacher gave a judicious ten-minute summary of the ideas of Behe, and a similar summary of the ideas of Dembski and Meyer. Suppose that no endorsement of the theories was offered, and no connection of them to religion was made. Suppose that the teacher also mentioned rebuttals of Behe, Dembski etc. that have come from the neo-Darwinian community. Suppose the teacher stressed the minority status of ID proponents among the scientific community, and suggested that much more work would need to be done before ID could become mainstream. Finally, suppose that the teacher was not *mandated* to do this by a local school board or any state curriculum, but merely thought it would be an interesting way of finishing off the unit — give the students a sense of the clash of foundational ideas that makes science so exciting.

    I ask you: where is the “religious” content in this? Where is the “catechism”? Where is the violation of the establishment clause? Where is the coercion of students by religious teachers?

    Also: What harm could be done by such teaching? What harm does it do students to know that there are some scientists with valid Ph.D.s from reputable secular universities who have doubts about Darwinism, and who think that there is evidence in nature for design? How does such a presentation negate or invalidate the evolutionary unit of the curriculum? How does it undermine respect for science?

    More important, might not such a presentation make the evolution unit more engaging to many students? Not just to the religious students, but even to those who are of a more critical bent, and who like to hear about foundational debates? I wasn’t at all religious, but I was a bright little whippersnapper, and I always preferred those parts of science class where the teacher talked about “big ideas” to those parts where he or she just showed us how to calculate stuff. The “big picture” issues showcased by the ID-Darwinism debate are just the sort of thing that impels the brighter, more thoughtful students into the study of science. They want to wrestle with those grand problems. (Of course, in my day, it wasn’t ID, but things like Carl Sagan’s views on exobiology, and the SETI project, that offered such grand attractions.)

    If merely *explaining* (not preaching) some ID arguments is not religious, and not in violation of the establishment clause, and stimulates some bright students to choose to study biology rather than, say, philosophy, why would you object?

    I have never contended, here or elsewhere, that ID should be mandated in the schools. My position has always been that it should be permissible to mention its existence in the schools, and even to discuss it in the context of evolutionary theory, where the teacher feels competent enough to do so, and where the teacher feels that there is some pedagogical advantage to doing so (e.g., by bookending the non-teleological unit on Darwinism with Paley at one end and ID at the other, to show the constant recurrence of teleological ideas about nature). Why would you be opposed to such an approach?

    Or are you opposed to such an approach? Would you perhaps agree with me that discussing (not endorsing) ID for perhaps half an hour, during the entire high school science curriculum, is not in itself religious teaching, and *could* (in the hands of a good teacher) be a useful pedagogical device?

    T.

  95. Zachriel,

    Are you going to answer my last question about which class the Origin should be taught and in what form?

  96. Clive Hayden: It is a book with many religious arguments, so it should only be taught as a historical relic in a history class, is that right?

    Your terminology is confused. You don’t teach Origin of Species any more than you teach Mendel’s Versuche über Pflanzen-Hybriden. They’re historical artifacts. In science, you teach the fundamental concepts as they still apply to modern biology. You may mention the historical context of their discovery.

  97. Timaeus: We have some agreement, that mentioning earlier scientific views, even when those views were partly grounded in religion, does not in itself constitute preaching religion, teaching catechism, or violating the principle of disestablishment of religion.

    As long as you don’t abuse your position to proselytize or diminish anyone’s personal religious beliefs, especially with regards to teaching children. (There much more flexibility with adult students.)

    Timaeus: Suppose that, after introducing Darwin’s theory in the way that you and I have agreed upon, and after covering all the usual bases of evolutionary theory (the contribution of Mendelian genetics, theories of drift, bottlenecks, DNA, mutations, various tree-of-life schemes, etc.), the teacher closed off the unit with a brief discussion (not an endorsement) of various critiques of neo-Darwinian theory and various alternative explanations for the integrated structures of life.

    Generally, those critiques would be covered in context. In introductory courses, well-established science is largely covered with only broad outlines of areas under current investigation.

    Timaeus: Suppose that one of the alternatives mentioned was intelligent design.

    As there is no scientific support for Intelligent Design, it should not be part of the science curriculum.

    Timaeus: Suppose that the teacher gave a judicious ten-minute summary of the ideas of Behe, and a similar summary of the ideas of Dembski and Meyer.

    Behe et al. should convince their peers before their speculations should be taught to children as science.

    Timaeus: Suppose that no endorsement of the theories was offered, and no connection of them to religion was made.

    There is documented evidence of people using Intelligent Design as a subterfuge to undermine science education for religious purposes.

    Timaeus: I ask you: where is the “religious” content in this?

    Even if we grant the (historically inaccurate) Immaculate Conception of Intelligent Design, it’s still not science and undermines the teaching of the actual science.

    Timaeus: What harm could be done by such teaching?

    Because it’s not science, but pretends to be.

    Timaeus: How does such a presentation negate or invalidate the evolutionary unit of the curriculum?

    Because it gives the imprimatur of science to pseudoscience.

    Timaeus: How does it undermine respect for science?

    Because it’s nonsense masquerading as science.

    Timaeus: More important, might not such a presentation make the evolution unit more engaging to many students?

    Dinosaurs and expeditions to faraway lands in the search of scientific evidence are plenty engaging. There’s lots of great material. It depends mostly on the teacher.

  98. Timaeus: I said nothing whatsoever about lightning being guided.

    Zachriel: Is lightning guided? Is it appropriate to say that there is no scientific evidence God uses lightning to punish the wicked?

    I didn’t see the answer to this question. It may help illustrate a subtle distinction in the use of the term “guided.”

  99. Zachriel @ 97:

    Awww, and we were doing so well. Then you turned dogmatic. How do you expect conversation to continue when you utter down-from-Mt.-Sinai statements such the ones which fill your post?

    Let’s see now. Richard Dawkins, who has a Ph.D. from a legitimate secular university, and many scholarly publications, argues that random mutations plus natural selection are capable of creating complex new cellular machinery. Michael Behe, who also has a Ph.D. from a legitimate secular university, and many scholarly publications, argues that random mutations plus natural selection are incapable — as far as the empirical evidence shows up to this point, anyway — of creating complex new cellular machinery. So one trained scientists has uttered statement A, and another trained scientist has uttered statement not-A. Can you explain to me how a statement, thesis, or argument can be “scientific”, whereas its negation is not?

    I can conceive how you could argue that Behe is incorrect. But that would be to argue that Behe’s position is false science, bad science, weak science, unsubstantiated science, etc. That would not mean that his position is, in itself, unscientific. All kinds of statements made by scientists have been proved wrong, but have not been considered “unscientific” in form or content. (The arguments against continental drift, for example, were scientific, even though they were wrong. For that matter, the arguments against heliocentrism were scientific, though they were wrong.)

    So I’m trying to figure out why you wouldn’t want students to hear Behe’s views. We’ve already established that his views don’t involve preaching religion or teaching catechism, so there’s no constitutional barrier. I’ve just shown that it’s logically incoherent to allow the statements of Dawkins to be taught, but not Behe’s negation of those statements, so there’s no methodological barrier. The only reason I can think of that you would object to including a discussion of Behe’s ideas is that they are bad science, i.e., already falsified science. But to falsify Behe’s science you would need to provide a demonstration that Darwinian processes can accomplish what they claim to have accomplished. In Behe’s books, he gives reasons (entirely independent of any religious or philosophical commitment) for doubting that they can. Further, when scientific critics have tried to refute his reasons, he has replied to them at great length, showing why his reasons stand. He has not dodged any honest criticism (though he has ignored a lot of savage, low-class, vulgar, unscientific ad hominem criticism). He has been a model of humble scientific behaviour, which is more than can be said for some of his critics.

    So why exclude Behe from classroom discussion? Because, in your judgment, his science is bad? That’s fine — but what if some science teacher somewhere disagrees with you? What if, in that science teacher’s judgment, Behe’s arguments, even if not unassailable, are just good enough to warrant a five-minute mention in one class? Are you saying you want the political power to walk into that teacher’s classroom and say: “I forbid the ideas of Behe from being presented here, and you will lose your teaching post with this school board if you exercise your independent professional judgment regarding science pedagogy”? So are school teachers to be mere civil servants, slaves of the state who blindly parrot the opinions endorsed by the state curriculum, rather than motivators who encourage students to think and debate things for themselves? That’s the kind of thinking behind Fascism and Marxism. (Indeed, there is much of the kind of thinking that lies behind Fascism and Marxism behind many modern causes celebres, from Darwinian evolution through global warming.)

    Possibly I am missing something. Possibly there is some proof that Darwinian processes can produce complex new cellular machinery, lying in some library book that I have missed. Didn’t I ask you about this? Weren’t you undertaking to inform me where the books and articles were that show exactly how Darwinian processes can do this, or else to show me yourself how Darwinian processes do this? I don’t remember your answer, but perhaps I missed the post.

    And if you *can’t* show how Darwinian processes do this, by what right do you stand between teachers and students, when the teacher simply wants to inform the students of the facts, i.e., that Darwinian processes have not been validated for anything beyond finch beaks? Do you not want students to hear the truth? Would you rather they emerged from high school biology believing that Darwinian theory has proved things that it has not proved? Would you not rather that they were aware of the failures of Darwinian theory? Are you interested in science education, or propaganda?

    T.

  100. Zachriel@ 98:

    I thought I answered your question about lighting indirectly, by implication, when I denied the legitimacy of the parallel between lightning and Darwinian evolution.

    But if you need a direct answer, here it is: I see no evidence that lightning is guided. Its behaviour can be explained fully without reference to any redundant hypothesis of guidance.

    In the case of macroevolution, all the evidence suggests that no such process could occur, were it not either guided or front-loaded (front-loading being just guidance at a temporal distance). At least, no formulation of unguided evolution yet in existence can explain the unguided emergence of anything more complicated than antibiotic resistance and longer finch beaks.

    That’s not my fault. I’m not an overpaid and underperforming evolutionary biologist. If you don’t like the fact that evolutionary biology is all promissory notes and very little accomplishment, don’t shoot the messenger. Take your complaint to Coyne, Dawkins, Orr, etc., and tell them to get off their duffs and prove something, instead of offering purely qualitative story-telling about past events that can never be recovered, and past DNA that cannot be studied. Ask them to write the book that shows in detail how the camera eye and the avian lung were formed without any planning or guidance whatsoever.

    T.

  101. 101

    Zachriel,

    Your terminology is confused. You don’t teach Origin of Species any more than you teach Mendel’s Versuche über Pflanzen-Hybriden. They’re historical artifacts. In science, you teach the fundamental concepts as they still apply to modern biology. You may mention the historical context of their discovery.

    But of course your assessment was that the Origin was secular and should therefore be permitted to be taught as science (whatever is still scientific about it is beside the point) in a science class (whether as history or not doesn’t matter). It is not a secular book, with its many references to God and creation and the miraculous. To be consistent, it is not a secular book, and the religious arguments that it makes have no place within a secular scientific curriculum, in which case the book would have to be heavily edited, and would no longer by The Origin of Species once editing was finished. So your initial assessment that claimed that the book should be taught in secular education of science is wrong. The book cannot be taught as a whole, and maintain a secular curriculum, for it makes many many religious arguments. This fact cannot be denied. That you want it taught as historical is irrelevant to the question of the efficacy of a secular education from a book that makes repeated religious arguments.

  102. Timaeus: Awww, and we were doing so well.

    Clive Hayden deleted the previous response and insisted on a more direct answer. That’s what you got.

    Timaeus: Then you turned dogmatic.

    It’s not dogmatism. ID undermines science education because ID is not science. You asked. That’s the answer.

    Timaeus: So one trained scientists has uttered statement A, and another trained scientist has uttered statement not-A.

    The vast majority of scientists and scientific organizations in the relevant fields reject Intelligent Design. There are always contrarians. We could discuss the evidence, but that wasn’t the question.

    Timaeus: But that would be to argue that Behe’s position is false science, bad science, weak science, unsubstantiated science, etc.

    ID is based on equivocation, hence it can be all of those things. Worse, it’s scientifically sterile. It leads to nowhere. Worse still, it claims to be something it’s not.

    Timaeus: All kinds of statements made by scientists have been proved wrong, but have not been considered “unscientific” in form or content.

    ID falsely claims much more than being mere speculation. (And as speculation, it’s not particularly interesting. It’s Creationism drained of its Divine Spark.)

    Timaeus: So I’m trying to figure out why you wouldn’t want students to hear Behe’s views.

    Because ID isn’t science.

    Timaeus: We’ve already established that his views don’t involve preaching religion or teaching catechism, so there’s no constitutional barrier.

    It’s been established that ID has been used as a pretext to undermine science education for religious purposes.

    Timaeus: So are school teachers to be mere civil servants …

    Public school teachers *are* civil servants who are hired to teach a curriculum. There is more flexibility with adult students.

    Timaeus: … rather than motivators who encourage students to think and debate things for themselves …

    There are better ways to encourage students to think than to teach them pseudoscience as science. Perhaps in a class on rhetoric.

    Timaeus: That’s the kind of thinking behind Fascism and Marxism.

    Sure. Telling teachers not to teach the Flat Earth Theory is Fascism. Who’s being dogmatic?

    Timaeus: Possibly there is some proof that Darwinian processes can produce complex new cellular machinery, lying in some library book that I have missed.

    That would take us afield of the appropriateness of teaching pseudoscience to schoolchildren.

    (There are scientific journals that can provide ample support for the Theory of Evolution, but for the basics, you should start with Common Descent.)

  103. Timaeus: I see no evidence that lightning is guided. Its behaviour can be explained fully without reference to any redundant hypothesis of guidance.

    That does clarify the matter somewhat. Many people would disagree, believing that God is in all things and that nothing happens without his Will. However, most people wouldn’t try to claim they have scientific evidence to support this view, at least not since Franklin.

    Timaeus: In the case of macroevolution, all the evidence suggests that no such process could occur, were it not either guided or front-loaded (front-loading being just guidance at a temporal distance).

    The vast majority of scientists in the relevant fields strongly disagree.

  104. 104

    Timaeus @99,

    Phenomenal post. You’ve certainly been more than fair in describing the inadequacies of the current educational climate.

    I also just wanted to say: I hope you continue to post here on a regular basis. I remember reading many thoughtful discussions between you, StephenB, and others from some time ago.

  105. Clive Hayden: But of course your assessment was that the Origin was secular and should therefore be permitted to be taught as science (whatever is still scientific about it is beside the point) in a science class (whether as history or not doesn’t matter).

    This is Zachriel’s very first mention of Origin of Species on this thread: “You have a very odd view of how a secular eduation works. Darwin’s Origin of Species is an important moment in scientific history. It shouldn’t be used to teach the state of current science, but it can be used to discuss that moment in scientific history.”

    Your continued confusion is that you apparently believe non-secular books can’t be studied in a secular education. This is simply incorrect. You can even study the Bible as part of a secular eduction. Indeed, any study of Western Civilization would have to include a thorough understanding of the Bible.

    In any case, Origin of Species is largely a secular work, and was intended as a scientific treatise for the scientific community. It does involve a discussion of prevailing Creation Science views of the time, mostly in opposition. Those aspects of interest to the study of science are secular.

  106. Nakashima @69. It appears that you are doing some interesting reading. I have not read anything by Nevin. Does he attribute Teresa’s reputed faith crisis to a “dark night of the soul?”

  107. This may not be the perfect place for this but Abel has published a new paper on what he calls the The Universal Plausibility Metric (UPM) & Principle (UPP)

    http://www.tbiomed.com/content/6/1/27

    Sounds just like Bill Dembski’s UPB. The paper is about the need for estimates of feasibility in some obvious domains, origin of life, but in any other area as well. Here is the abstract

    Abstract

    Background
    Mere possibility is not an adequate basis for asserting scientific plausibility. A precisely defined universal bound is needed beyond which the assertion of plausibility, particularly in life-origin models, can be considered operationally falsified. But can something so seemingly relative and subjective as plausibility ever be quantified? Amazingly, the answer is, “Yes.” A method of objectively measuring the plausibility of any chance hypothesis (The Universal Plausibility Metric [UPM]) is presented. A numerical inequality is also provided whereby any chance hypothesis can be definitively falsified when its UPM metric of ? is < 1 (The Universal Plausibility Principle [UPP]). Both UPM and UPP pre-exist and are independent of any experimental design and data set.

    Conclusion
    No low-probability hypothetical plausibility assertion should survive peer-review without subjection to the UPP inequality standard of formal falsification (? < 1).

    There goes the neighborhood. No Darwinian proposition will survive this type of screening.

  108. Mr StephenB,

    Halik does not quote Nevin on this issue. He does say that Mother Agnes (Therese’s sister Pauline) interpreted it this way, and Halik is critical of this interpretation.

    Halik seems to think that Therese’s experience was different from what John of the Cross described, and this difference is part of the reason she is a doctor of the Church. Halik sees a deep lesson in accepting atheism in Therese’s experience.

  109. 109

    Zachriel,

    It does involve a discussion of prevailing Creation Science views of the time, mostly in opposition. Those aspects of interest to the study of science are secular.

    But it was in opposition to creation, miracles, etc., which are religious arguments, not scientific. If the argument can be made against Creation Science in a classroom, then so can the argument for it be made in a classroom. Is this what you mean to say?

  110. —Zackriel: “The vast majority of scientists in the relevant fields strongly disagree.”

    Arguments from authority do not resonate well with most ID advocates. A more thoughtful answer to Timaeus’ question take on a structure such as the following:

    [a] Unguided “macro evolution,” that is, macro evolution driven solely by an unprogrammed, naturlistic forces, could occur by the following process………..”

    or,

    [b]“I have no idea how naturalistic forces could drive macro evolution and neither does anyone that I read, nevertheless I accept the possibility as an act of faith.”

  111. Dear HouseStreetRoom @ 104:

    Thanks for your encouraging words. All the regulars here have been very supportive of me. I’d like to offer my thanks to all.

    StephenB @ 110:

    Your economical post hits the nail right on the head. Yes, that’s what I’d like to see from Zachriel, Nakashima, Dr. MacNeill, Mark Frank, or any of the other Darwinians who post here.

    And if I may make a comment to no one in particular, or to everyone, I’m not personally hostile to the Darwinians who post here. In fact, I admire their courage for posting in what probably seems to them as hostile territory, and territory where they are decisively outnumbered. I hope that I’m being personally polite to them even if I’m giving no quarter intellectually, because I wouldn’t want to drive them away. We IDers need constant opposition and criticism to sharpen our arguments.

    Also we need to make it clear to the Darwinists that not *all* ID proponents are against evolution *per se*. Many ID proponents are opposed only to totally undirected and unplanned notions of evolution. In fact, on this list, I suspect that a substantial minority of the pro-ID posters accepts a significant amount of macroevolution. The Darwinian critics here often don’t take that into account. They sometimes write as if this is a place where everyone holds to a literal version of Genesis, and therefore needs to be educated about the age of the earth and transitional fossils. In fact, ID is all over the map on the amount of macroevolution that has occurred, and allows for various combinations of causes (intelligence, chance, natural laws) as drivers of micro and/or macroevolution. The Darwinians have to stop assuming that every one of us rejects evolution out of hand, or that every one of us denies the possibility of finding “missing links”. the issue is not whether or not there are links; the issue is what drives the change. If chance and natural laws alone can’t do it, then how can evolutionary biology rule out design?

    I accept macroevolution as a “working hypothesis”, as a plausible explanation of the fossil record and of some genetic data. I don’t regard it as an unshakeable truth about nature, but I’m willing to treat it as “fact” for the sake of argument, so that I can go on with the question: what causes this purported fact? What natural causes known to us could produce such an effect? And I find no convincing set of causes, other than the vaguest set of general notions (mutation, drift, selection, etc.). I am looking for the level of causal specificity that one finds in physics, chemistry and engineering, and for that matter in experimental biology. I don’t find it in evolutionary biology. Until I do, the most charitable thing I can say about macroevolution is that it may well have happened, but if it did, we don’t know why, and that it is dishonest for anyone to say that “science” can say why.

    T.

  112. StephenB: Arguments from authority do not resonate well with most ID advocates.

    Arguments to valid authority are entirely appropriate when discussing what should be taught to children.

    StephenB: A more thoughtful answer to Timaeus’ question take on a structure such as the following: [a] Unguided “macro evolution,” that is, macro evolution driven solely by an unprogrammed, naturlistic forces, could occur by the following process………..”

    Actually, it would not. The equivalent answer for this discussion would be “the vast majority of scientists and scientific organizations in the relevant fields agree that the Theory of Evolution is strongly supported and Intelligent Design is not.”

    We would be happy to engage a discussion as to why scientists believe the Theory of Evolution is strongly supported, but previous attempts have been fruitless. For instance, in the latest discussion (Whale Evolution Darwinist ‘Trawlers’ Have Every Reason To Be Concerned), it can’t even be agreed whether sparrows group best with eagles or with toads.

    This does illustrate how little Intelligent Design Advocates really care about the messy details of living things, though. Meanwhile, actual scientists will spend years testing their hypotheses, even if it means launching an expedition to the arctic tundra, or politically unstable regions.

  113. Timaeus: Your economical post hits the nail right on the head.

    That is incorrect. Your questions concerned not the evidence for evolutionary theory, but whether Intelligent Design should be taught to children in public schools as science. When Intelligent Design ‘Researchers’ convince their peers of the validity of their position, then we can revisit this question.

    Timaeus: I accept macroevolution as a “working hypothesis”, as a plausible explanation of the fossil record and of some genetic data.

    If you understand the evidence and are convinced of Common Descent, then you should make every attempt to convince your peers. The fact that hummingbirds and humans share a common ancestor is one of the most important and explanatory facts in all of biology.

  114. This helps clarify your position.

    Clive Hayden: But it was in opposition to creation, miracles, etc., which are religious arguments, not scientific. If the argument can be made against Creation Science in a classroom, then so can the argument for it be made in a classroom. Is this what you mean to say?

    Most introductory biology classes do not delve into the arguments in Origin of Species. That is typically reserved for the history of science. To reiterate, Origin of Species is not a textbook, and extensive quotes or arguments are rarely made. So, it’s irrelevant to the question of education.

    On the more general point, a perusal of most of these references simply concern the metaphysics of appeal to unevidenced miracles to explain the unexplained.

    He will be forced to admit that these great and sudden transformations have left no trace of their action on the embryo. To admit all this is, as it seems to me, to enter into the realms of miracle, and to leave those of science.

    It’s a simple statement of methodological naturalism (which long predates Darwin, and is clearly assumed to be already accepted by his scientific audience). Just saying *poof* is not sufficient to constitute a scientific explanation.

  115. Zachriel @ 113:

    You have a short memory. Please see our discussion at 39, 40, 41, and the fourth and fifth paragraphs of 59. Also have a look at my discussion with Nakashima, which has been at points been intertwined with my discussion with you. My discussion was not limited primarily to questions of schools, and initially focused more on the question of detailed evolutionary mechanisms, and the lack thereof. You have tactically avoided this part of my discussion. The most logical inference is that you cannot supply the mechanisms. This is exactly what I expected. I have never met a Darwinian who can do so.

    You also seem to confuse two points: (1) whether it would be *constitutional* to discuss ID in a science class, as historical, philosophical, and methodological framing to contemporary evolutionary theory; (2) whether ID counts as good science, bad science, or non-science. The second question is irrelevant to the first. A science teacher could, for example, take ten minutes to discuss the American revolution in biology class. Would that be unconstitutional to do in a science class? No, of course not. But it would be irrelevant to a science class, and therefore no teacher would do it. But if a science teacher were to say: “There is this guy named Behe, who disagrees with Dawkins, and these are his three arguments against Darwinian mechanisms …” that would not be irrelevant to science class. So unless you think it is unconstitutional, on what basis would you deny the science teacher the professional freedom to introduce the students to ID thought? (Assuming that you would do so, i.e., assuming that, if you were a parent, and heard about such a teacher, you would launch an objection to such a lesson.)

    Would your protest be that ID is non-science? Or that that it’s bad science? (It can’t be both.) If you think it’s bad science, then you have to show why it’s bad. I haven’t seen this done — and I’ve read virtually every published scientific reply to Behe and all his rejoinders.

    On the other hand, if you think it’s non-science, you again have to explain why. Last I heard, arguments (1) which are couched entirely in terms of molecular structures and probability theory (2) which make absolutely no reference to God or religion, (3) which cite peer-reviewed literature to make their points (4)which are offered by a Ph.D. with 35 peer-reviewed publications in his field — count as science. The onus is on you to show, with reference to specific passages from Behe’s writings, their non-scientific character. If you can do this, let’s hear it. If not, you should withdraw your claim.

    I note that you have evaded several points in several of my posts, including my argument about the parallel epistemological status of statements of “A” (Dawkins) and “not-A” (Behe). Since you have trouble with this, let me spell it out for you:

    Dawkins says that random mutations plus natural selection, utterly unguided by intelligence, are capable of building complex new molecular machinery. According to you, this is a scientific claim. Behe says that there is no evidence that random mutations plus natural selection can build very much complex new molecular machinery. You imply that this is not a scientific claim. Such a position is incoherent. Dawkins may be right and Behe wrong, but Behe’s statement of his position is every bit as scientific as Dawkins’s is. And scientists often conduct debates of exactly this form, i.e., one scientist asserts that mechanisms X, Y and Z, have produced A, and another scientist asserts that the proposed mechanisms are insufficient to have produced A. The scientific community then examines the claim and the counterclaim, and determines, if it can, who is right.

    If you are not familiar with this sort of debate, I am wondering what sort of scientific training that you have.

    Just as an aside, I’m curious how you established the “fact” that hummingbirds and humans have a common ancestor, without first verifying the capability of Darwinian (or any other) mechanisms to achieve this miracle of diversification. If you cannot prove that a mechanism capable of doing this exists, how can you be sure of the fact? I could tell you that I flew to Mars and back last night, and that this “fact” proves that human interplanetary travel is possible. But you would not accept my flight to Mars as “fact” until I showed you my space ship. Show me your space ship, please.

    There is much more that I could say, but I will stop here. My general complaint at this point is that, after what appeared to be a pleasant willingness to engage, you seem now to be evading and giving excuses for evasion, and ducking for cover behind authority. (Whatever most scientists say is right, according to you. A very sound principle, to be sure. Ever heard of “ether”? “phlogiston”? “alchemy?”)

    If there are detailed mechanisms explaining the origin of organs, organelles, systems and organisms, please give them to us on your own authority (if you have discovered these mechanisms as part of your own original scientific research but have not yet published them), or on the authority of others (if you can cite books and journal articles which provide these mechanisms, rather than the usual generalities, speculations and literature bluffs which are standard among Darwinian evolutionary biologists). And if you cannot provide either your own account of someone else’s, please have the decency to admit that Darwinian evolution is nowhere near to proving the adequacy of its proposed mechanisms. (And what applies to Darwinian evolution applies, mutatis mutandis, to all current theories of evolution taught by evolutionary biologists.)

    T.

  116. 116

    Zachriel,

    He will be forced to admit that these great and sudden transformations have left no trace of their action on the embryo. To admit all this is, as it seems to me, to enter into the realms of miracle, and to leave those of science.

    Who is “He”? And what is he admitting? You may have a philosophical prejudice against miracles because of a prior commitment to methodological naturalism, but that is a philosophy, one that is not, itself, evidenced by anything natural or physical. If you think the natural world ordinary and working in a way that we have an explanation of, not just a description of, then you’re mistaken, nature doesn’t provide real explanations of itself, we can only collect descriptions, and no matter how many we collect, they do not add up to an explanation. Until we can have knowledge of the inner synthesis of nature, as a rule, which we do not possess, we cannot disregard the exception to the rule. This is the problem with methodological naturalism, it assumes an answer when it has only a list of neutral particulars that do not add up to an answer. If we do not understand the rule, we cannot rule out the exception. Descriptions of nature never amount to arguments for or against proscriptions of nature. Let that sink in. And when that is understood, we understand that Darwin continually made religiously (atheistically) motivated arguments. If you think this perfectly fine for the classroom, I submit it is only because you do not understand the real implications, probably because you are yourself committed to the same logical fallacy as Darwin.

    It’s a simple statement of methodological naturalism (which long predates Darwin, and is clearly assumed to be already accepted by his scientific audience). Just saying *poof* is not sufficient to constitute a scientific explanation

    I’m sorry but I have no idea what you mean here by poof. Is poof supposed to mean something to me?

  117. Clive Hayden: Who is “He”?

    See Darwin, Origin of Species, 6th Edition, Pg 204.

    http://darwin-online.org.uk/co.....ageseq=232

    Clive Hayden: You may have a philosophical prejudice against miracles because of a prior commitment to methodological naturalism, but that is a philosophy, one that is not, itself, evidenced by anything natural or physical.

    The scientific prejudice is against a claim of unspecified forces acting in an unspecified manner. Such a hypothesis has no clear and distinguishing empirical entailments. (This doesn’t require the invocation of Methodological Naturalism, though that is clearly the prevailing heuristic at the time.)

    Clive Hayden: Until we can have knowledge of the inner synthesis of nature, as a rule, which we do not possess, we cannot disregard the exception to the rule.

    Science can observe and catalogue the exceptions. So no one is disregarding anything.

    It’s the *claim* of a miracle (meaning here an unspecified force acting in an unspecified manner) that has no scientific content, because it doesn’t entail clear and distinguishing empirical predictions. *Poof* is scientifically empty.

  118. Timaeus: Just as an aside, I’m curious how you established the “fact” that hummingbirds and humans have a common ancestor, without first verifying the capability of Darwinian (or any other) mechanisms to achieve this miracle of diversification.

    So it is an aside to the discussion, and not something avoided.

    Valid cites to authority are entirely appropriate for determining what is reasonable to teach to childen in science classrooms. You might object and say that Intelligent Design has merit, but the proper forum for that is not a child’s classroom.

    We can have a discussion about evolutionary mechanisms, but it would be best to do so without interspersing it with the discussion on children’s education, as there are significantly different standards of argument.

  119. 119

    Zachriel,

    The scientific prejudice is against a claim of unspecified forces acting in an unspecified manner. Such a hypothesis has no clear and distinguishing empirical entailments. (This doesn’t require the invocation of Methodological Naturalism, though that is clearly the prevailing heuristic at the time.)

    I’m glad you admit the philosophical prejudice, which is not scientific, but philosophical. And it’s not a hypothesis.

    Clive Hayden: Until we can have knowledge of the inner synthesis of nature, as a rule, which we do not possess, we cannot disregard the exception to the rule.

    Zachriel: Science can observe and catalogue the exceptions. So no one is disregarding anything.

    If science can observe and catalogue the exceptions, (which is impossible with what occurred in the past, before science) then it is not an unspecified force nor unspecified manner by your methodology. But in reality, all forces remain unspecified as an explanation, all that is specified is the description that it entails. I have not the faintest idea what you mean by “poof”, which I’ve already asked if you expected that to have any meaning to me.

  120. Clive Hayden: I’m glad you admit the philosophical prejudice, which is not scientific, but philosophical. And it’s not a hypothesis.

    To be called science, claims have to be subject to empirical verification. It’s the definition.

    Clive Hayden: If science can observe and catalogue the exceptions, (which is impossible with what occurred in the past, before science) …

    Claims about the past are verified just like any other claims—through observations.

    Clive Hayden: … then it is not an unspecified force nor unspecified manner by your methodology.

    A scientific claim has to entail specific and distinguishing empirical implications. Even those having to do with history.

    Clive Hayden: I have not the faintest idea what you mean by “poof”, which I’ve already asked if you expected that to have any meaning to me.

    As already said, it’s an unspecified force acting in an unspecified manner.

  121. Zachriel @ 118:

    I am not interested in getting caught in procedural wrangles, i.e., about what the topic originally was and whether or not it has changed and so on. I am interested in discussing contents. If you are going to continue to dodge questions of content by pleading that you aren’t getting the questions in quite the context or quite the order you’d like them, I see very little point in continuing the discussion.

    I give you complete freedom to answer the various questions in any order you like, in one long omnibus post or in several separate posts, and I am willing to reply in whatever format you wish, omnibus or separate posts for separate questions. But if you are not going to answer the questions, just say so and we can discontinue.

    On the table are two discussions:

    1. Can you explain the transition from shrew-like animal to bat, fin to foot, light-sensitive spot to camera eye, etc. — in any detail? (Generalized references to “drift”, “adaptation”, “mutation”, “selection” etc. don’t count as detail. “Detail” means references to specific alterations in identified sectors of the genome, associated alterations in the developmental plan, etc. What alterations does it take to engineer a fin into a foot, to engineer a sonar system out of nothing, to engineer an eye from a sheet of light-sensitive tissue? How are alterations saved, if they are not immediately useful? How is cross-interference from undesirable alterations overcome? Etc.) Either you can personally explain these transitions, or you can’t. Either you know of books and articles where these transitions are explained, or you don’t. It’s a question of stating what you know, or admitting what you don’t know.

    2. The second discussion on the table concerns the constitutionality and/or pedagogical appropriateness of teaching ID in science classrooms. (Note that I am not talking about mandating ID in the curriculum, but only about employing it on a voluntary basis if a teacher thinks it would be useful to further valid educational goals.) I believe that you have already conceded that mentioning the historical role of earlier versions of ID (e.g., Paley) is legitimate in introducing a unit on Darwin — legitimate in the sense of “not unconstitutional” and legitimate in the sense of “pedagogically sensible”. So what we are disputing is whether introducing modern versions of ID, post-Darwinian versions, which make use of science which Paley had no access to, are legitimate constitutionally and pedagogically. I would be interested in a clear statement from you whether a brief classroom discussion of Behe etc. — *in the form I gave, i.e., without proselytization* — would be in your view (a) unconstitutional; (b) inconsistent with the purposes of a science course. I have not heard your answer to (a). Your answer to (b), as far as I can make it out, is that ID is either lousy science or non-science (you haven’t clarified which, even though I asked) and therefore would be of no benefit to discuss at any point in the evolution unit. I have not heard, however, two things yet: (i) How you can justify forcing the students hear Dawkins assert A while denying the pedagogical usefulness of their hearing Behe assert not-A; (ii) Whether you would go so far as to take legal action or other intervention should some teacher in your local school district teach a lesson of the sort I described.

    Those are, as I see it, the questions on the floor. I would be interested in your answers to them, in one post or in several, divided up into as many sub-topics as you find necessary.

    T.

  122. Zachriel, at 117, wrote:

    “The scientific prejudice is against a claim of unspecified forces acting in an unspecified manner. Such a hypothesis has no clear and distinguishing empirical entailments.”

    I am not sure who here has ever insisted that biology should be explained by “unspecified forces acting in an unspecified manner”. Nothing in ID requires any such hypothesis. ID is about design detection, not about hypothetical forces. ID claims that design in living systems is detectable. ID claims that neither the origin of life nor any major evolutionary changes in life can be explained without reference to some design in nature, whether immanent or imposed by some intelligent agent. It is not necessary to specify any particular force to make this argument.

    For example, if I find an alien sculpture on Mars, I can be certain it is designed even if I cannot comprehend the advanced technology which carved it out of the rock. I can be sure that it wasn’t carved out by lightning or erosion.

    If ID is correct, neo-Darwinism offers the equivalent of a sculpture’s being carved out by lightning or erosion, and is just as implausible. Design, however, is intrinsically plausible as a source of order (we know there is at least one designing intelligence in the universe — our own, and if there is one, there may be others), and design accounts for facts that neo-Darwinism cannot account for, i.e., the co-ordinated development of overlapping and mutually reinforcing systems, inexplicable on the hypothesis of scattergun mutations.

    If you are looking for a causal account of how the design is embodied in nature, ID cannot supply that. But a refutation of neo-Darwinism is a pretty significant achievement by itself, and therefore worthy of scientific attention even if no adequate causal account for the insertion of design can be found. Better for us to know that neo-Darwinism is hopelessly flawed, even without having an alternative account of origins, than to continue to believe in that flawed account.

    T.

  123. 123

    Zachriel,

    Clive Hayden: I have not the faintest idea what you mean by “poof”, which I’ve already asked if you expected that to have any meaning to me.

    Zachriel: As already said, it’s an unspecified force acting in an unspecified manner.

    As already said, no force is specified as an explanation, only by description, but that is not an explanation against other forces.

  124. Timaeus: I am not interested in getting caught in procedural wrangles …

    Must be nice. Everything is procedural for those of us with the contrary position. Zachriel’s comments are delayed for indeterminate periods (up to 2-3 Jovians days have been recorded), and are sometimes deleted entirely without warning.

    Timaeus: If you are going to continue to dodge questions …

    Consider again—remembering that you are shielded by moderation from answers someone has decided might be uncomfortable for you.

    Timaeus: I give you complete freedom to answer the various questions in any order you like, in one long omnibus post or in several separate posts, and I am willing to reply in whatever format you wish, omnibus or separate posts for separate questions.

    You say “whatever format,” but when a separate thread for the science discussion was proposed, you rejected that reasonable suggestion.

    Timaeus: 2. The second discussion on the table concerns the constitutionality and/or pedagogical appropriateness of teaching ID in science classrooms.

    You were provided a detailed response to your concerns about education on 1/6/2010, but that was deleted by the moderator. We will make another attempt.

    Timaeus: I would be interested in a clear statement from you whether a brief classroom discussion of Behe etc. — *in the form I gave, i.e., without proselytization* — would be in your view (a) unconstitutional; (b) inconsistent with the purposes of a science course.

    The strong consensus of the scientific community is that Intelligent Design has no scientific validity. Hence, it does not belong in the science classroom. A child’s classroom is not the proper forum for resolving any such dispute.

    The last time ID went to court in the United States, it was shown that the ‘Christian’ plantiffs lied repeatedly, ID was found to be a subterfuge to promote religion in the public schools—being just repackaged Creationism, a.k.a. cdesign proponentsists.

    You will maintain that ID can be properly sanitized, drained of the Life’s Blood of the Spirit, but the very fact that it is so important to so many to introduce a sliver of ID into children’s classrooms implies the strong possibility of non-permissible motives.

    Timaeus: as far as I can make it out, is that ID is either lousy science or non-science (you haven’t clarified which, even though I asked)

    Because Intelligent Design is based on equivocation, it’s both.

    Timaeus: I have not heard, however, two things yet: (i) How you can justify forcing the students hear Dawkins assert A while denying the pedagogical usefulness of their hearing Behe assert not-A;

    Because Behe’s arguments are specious.

    Timaeus: Whether you would go so far as to take legal action or other intervention should some teacher in your local school district teach a lesson of the sort I described.

    Only interested parties can take legal action, and it would depend on the particular circumstances. But legal action to prevent falsely teaching children that Intelligent Design has scientific validity is obviously an option for the communities involved.

    Timaeus: 1. Can you explain the transition from shrew-like animal to bat, fin to foot, light-sensitive spot to camera eye, etc.

    It depends on the evidence for Common Descent, which is found primarily in the nested hierarchies of phenomics, genomics, embryonics, and the geological succession. Once we look at the historical pattern, it is quite easy to determine that life diversified from common ancestors through a process of descent with modification.

  125. Clive Hayden: As already said, no force is specified as an explanation, only by description, but that is not an explanation against other forces.

    If we consider Newtonian gravity, it’s just a name for the force, a simple inverse-square rule. It replaced the previous notion of angels making complex and continuous adjustments to the crystal spheres. It’s considered scientific because it makes specific predictions of empirical phenomena and unifies observations of the celestial and the terrestrial.

    Unlike gravity, *poof* doesn’t have entailed predictions: It can mean anything. That’s what most people consider a miracle, a violation of the normal course of natural events.

  126. Timaeus: I am not sure who here has ever insisted that biology should be explained by “unspecified forces acting in an unspecified manner”. Nothing in ID requires any such hypothesis. ID is about design detection, not about hypothetical forces.

    Something has to implement the design, so it certainly entails a mechanism. Of course, that mechanism may not be immediately known or testable.

    Timaeus: ID claims that design in living systems is detectable. ID claims that neither the origin of life nor any major evolutionary changes in life can be explained without reference to some design in nature, whether immanent or imposed by some intelligent agent. It is not necessary to specify any particular force to make this argument.

    Lack of a valid mechanism is a problem that can’t be overlooked. That doesn’t mean some progress can’t be made otherwise, but the attitude that it’s not a problem reflects poorly on the whole enterprise.

    Timaeus: For example, if I find an alien sculpture on Mars, I can be certain it is designed even if I cannot comprehend the advanced technology which carved it out of the rock. I can be sure that it wasn’t carved out by lightning or erosion.

    What? A sculpture of a bipedal, large-brained organism with a chisel held with an opposable thumb? All such inferences are made through comparison to known artifacts. Even then, they are subject to additional hypothesis-testing.

    Timaeus: Design, however, is intrinsically plausible as a source of order …

    Designed objects are manufactured. There is a link of causation between the artifact, the art and the artisan. Entailment.

    Timaeus: Darwinism cannot account for, i.e., the co-ordinated development of overlapping and mutually reinforcing systems, inexplicable on the hypothesis of scattergun mutations.

    There are more sources of variation than simple mutation. And we can observe the process at work, at many time-scales.

    Try a close study of the evolution of the mammalian middle ear. Bones in the reptilian jaw are coopted in stages and optimized so that they no longer resemble jaw bones at all, but have become closely matched, forming a very sensitive amplifier. Each step is an incremental improvement in function with a clear benefit to the organism. And the final result is irreducibly complex. (Interestingly, the embryonic data predicted the fossils decades before their discovery.)

    Timaeus: If you are looking for a causal account of how the design is embodied in nature, ID cannot supply that.

    You might try to work on that. Let us know what you discover.

  127. 127

    Zachriel,

    If we consider Newtonian gravity, it’s just a name for the force, a simple inverse-square rule. It replaced the previous notion of angels making complex and continuous adjustments to the crystal spheres. It’s considered scientific because it makes specific predictions of empirical phenomena and unifies observations of the celestial and the terrestrial.

    Of course, of course, however, these are only descriptions of a force or what we call a law or rule of nature, the description doesn’t amount to an explanation, and since we have no knowledge in the way of explanations as we perceive the reasonableness of the laws of logic and reason, all we can say of these observations is that they have been observed and have certain descriptions, but we do not understand them as explanations. It doesn’t matter what example you give me, Newtonian or otherwise, we rely on a philosophy that what we observe is all that there is and that it is regular and lawlike, but not based on a real law, like the law of non contradiction, but only based on repeated behavior, but behavior doesn’t amount to a law by being regular. This is what I think you’re missing the point on, empiricism is an observation of descriptions, not an explanation of knowledge. It cannot rule out other forces, for there is no rule that it adheres to logically.

  128. Clive Hayden: … all we can say of these observations is that they have been observed and have certain descriptions …

    Not quite. We can make and test predictions based on the hypothesis.

    Clive Hayden: It cannot rule out other forces, for there is no rule that it adheres to logically.

    This didn’t seem to be your earlier point. You’re just pointing to the problem of induction, but scientific claims still stand (or fall) because induction is encompassed in the methodology.

    Timaeus: I see no evidence that lightning is guided. Its behaviour can be explained fully without reference to any redundant hypothesis of guidance.

    Notice that Timaeus doesn’t invoke extraneous entities to explain lightning, though your argument could just as easily apply to that.

  129. 129

    Zachriel,

    This didn’t seem to be your earlier point. You’re just pointing to the problem of induction, but scientific claims still stand (or fall) because induction is encompassed in the methodology.

    My point is that description of nature never amounts to an argument against proscription of nature. This is the point, and it is a philosophical position that Darwin and you have that you even understand, as explanations, a description, and think that you can therefore provide against other explanations, when you cannot, for you do not possess a knowledge, based on reason, between the descriptions, only that there are descriptions (which doesn’t amount to an explanation). In reality there could or could not be extraneous entities behind every force, but we could never know one way or the other by studying an effect or describing the force’s effect. You cannot answer the why question, so you cannot answer the why not question.

  130. Clive Hayden: My point is that description of nature never amounts to an argument against proscription of nature.

    It seems you would be arguing the converse, that one seeming generality doesn’t impose restraints on all of nature.

    Science is its own paradigm, and its claims are subject to verification through scientific methodology. Perhaps the world is not what it seems, or it may change tomorrow, or it was created Last Tuesday. But science is as science does.

    If your point is that miracles can conceivably occur, then okay. But if we observe an unexplained irregularity, then the scientific answer is we don’t know. *Poof* is not a valid scientific hypothesis.

  131. 131

    Zachriel, if only you could understand The Ethics of Elfland (Chesterton). Here’s a sample:

    BEGIN QUOTE: “There are certain sequences or developments (cases of one thing following another), which are, in the true sense of the word, reasonable. They are, in the true sense of the word, necessary. Such are mathematical and merely logical sequences. We in fairyland (who are the most reasonable of all creatures) admit that reason and that necessity. . . . But as I put my head over the hedge of the elves and began to take notice of the natural world, I observed an extraordinary thing. I observed that learned men in spectacles were talking of the actual things that happened — dawn and death and so on — as if THEY were rational and inevitable. They talked as if the fact that trees bear fruit were just as NECESSARY as the fact that two and one trees make three. But it is not. . . . they could not be got to see the distinction between a true law, a law of reason, and the mere fact of apples falling. If the apple hit Newton’s nose, Newton’s nose hit the apple. That is a true necessity: because we cannot conceive the one occurring without the other. But we can quite well conceive the apple not falling on his nose; we can fancy it flying ardently through the air to hit some other nose, of which it had a more definite dislike. We have always in our fairy tales kept this sharp distinction between the science of mental relations, in which there really are laws, and the science of physical facts, in which there are no laws, but only weird repetitions . . . When we are asked why eggs turn to birds or fruits fall in autumn, we must answer exactly as the fairy godmother would answer if Cinderella asked her why mice turned to horses or her clothes fell from her at twelve o’clock. We must answer that it is MAGIC. . . . All the terms used in the science books, “law,” “necessity,” “order,” “tendency,” and so on, are really unintellectual, because they assume an inner synthesis, which we do not possess. The only words that ever satisfied me as describing Nature are the terms used in the fairy books, “charm,” “spell,” “enchantment.” They express the arbitrariness of the fact and its mystery. A tree grows fruit because it is a MAGIC tree. Water runs downhill because it is bewitched. . . .” END QUOTE

  132. So even the emergent collective properties of matter are just descriptions? Quantum mechanics and the apparent randomness of radioactive decay just description?

    If anything is possible then nothing is impossible. In that case, evolution is possible along with Intelligent Design or even the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I am no philosopher; I just wonder if Immanuel Kant would agree.

    We do not live in a rational universe; astrology is science and magic is a reality. Or not?

  133. 133

    Cabal. Read Chesterton again, and perhaps you will understand what he is saying. Your comment betrays the fact that you do not. He says nothing about “possible” and “impossible.” In philosophy speak he is talking about the difference between “necessary” and “contingent” and how we should not confuse the latter with the former.

  134. 134

    Zachriel,

    If your point is that miracles can conceivably occur, then okay. But if we observe an unexplained irregularity, then the scientific answer is we don’t know. *Poof* is not a valid scientific hypothesis.

    What Barry quoted from Chesterton 8)

  135. Zachriel @ 124:

    I’ve requested no “shielding” from your comments. If moderators are preventing your comments from coming through, I would hope that it is not to protect me from your arguments — I fear none of them — but because you have violated some rule of discourse established here, regarding language or ad hominem comments or false accusations against the Discovery Institute or the like. As long as you stay within the bounds of normal politeness and stay away from false accusations, I would like to get all your arguments, in their full force, as soon as you post them, without delays. But it’s not up to me. I am not a moderator here. The moderators are authorized to make the call whether or not something should be posted, and I have to trust their judgment. All that I can do is try to respond to whatever gets through, and respond in good faith, trying to answer your questions. I hope you will do the same with mine.

    For example, I am still not satisfied that you have dealt with the epistemological question I posed. How can two propositions, one affirming the competence of random mutations and natural selection to build complex new machinery, and the other denying it, have different epistemological status, i.e., how can the affirmative be a scientific statement but the negative not be a scientific statement also? I cannot see any way to maintain such preferential distinctions. And that means that Behe’s denials have the same status as Dawkins’s affirmations, not necessarily regarding their truth but regarding their “scientific” character. If Darwinian theory is scientific, then the denial of Darwinian theory (in the terms I described) will be the same. Scour Behe’s books and find me any spot where he relies upon a religious or theological premise to overturn one of Dawkins’s scientific claims. You won’t find one. His denial is cast in exactly the same language as Dawkins’s affirmation.

    I didn’t “reject” your proposal for a new thread. I’m not a columnist here — I can’t start new threads, at least, if by “thread” you mean a new topic with its own title. I can of course divide up our arguments into several different topics, and keep them in separate postings, and this I have offered to do. I think I have been very reasonable.

    Regarding the “strong consensus” of “the science community”, you may not know every corner of “the science community” as well as you think you do, and there may be more dissent than you think. In fact, there is considerable dissent regarding Darwinism, and there always has been a strong minority voice against it, since Darwin’s day; further, long before the ID movement of the current day got started, design ideas were “in the air” among serious thinkers about nature and even among the life scientists. But the pedagogical point to be made is that high school science teachers, the good ones, anyway (and keep in mind that I was educated in a different country, where the idea of “teaching” may be less mechanical than in the USA), often stimulate students by throwing in bits that are not strictly required by the curriculum, but which shed light on the nature of science, or on some frontier area of science which may in the long run prove important.

    Also, you fail to see that discussing ID could be very useful even if ID is regarded as complete non-science — pointing out exactly *why* ID is non-science could help high school students better understand the nature of science. For example, the teacher could wax eloquent about the alleged failure of ID theorists to grasp “methodological naturalism”, and turn this into a tidy little lesson on the role of methodological naturalism in modern science. So why wouldn’t a good high school teacher seize on the opportunity of an event in the news which has already caught some of his students’ attention (e.g., the Dover Trial), to illuminate the nature of science? That is exactly what a sharp, on-the-bit, non-mechanical, non-drone science teacher would do. But maybe you never had any high school science teachers who were that pedagogically alert.

    It may well be that many people who would like to see ID in the schools are animated by non-permissible motives. What of it? If there are cases where there are no such motives, where ID is discussed out of the pure love of knowing the truth about nature, those are the cases I am interested in. Those are the cases where I see no harm in teaching ID. I’m not defending the teaching of ID as a sly way of slipping six-day literalism or Protestant theology into a science classroom. People who want to teach such things should do it after school hours, in voluntary religion classes, or in parochial schools. But pointing out the incredible orderliness of the living cell, or pointing out the astronomically low odds of a shrew-like animal accidentally turning into a bat, has nothing to do with six-day creationism or Protestant theology.

    In your complaint against one book (Of Pandas and People) that was referenced (not even used, but merely referenced) by one school board, you overlook the fact that “intelligent design” in lower-case letters long preceded “ID” in upper-case letters. In fact, ancient Greeks were proposing “intelligent design”, and opposing it to ancient proto-Darwinian theories, long before any Greek knew anything about the Bible, which proves that Christian religion need not be the motivation for such arguments. I don’t see why a non-fundamentalist, thoughtful science teacher in Cleveland should be prevented from raising some difficulties with Darwinism simply because some fundamentalists in Dover had the wrong motivations.

    As for your claims at the end about how evolution works, I would welcome a separate post from you, focusing exclusively on that subject, with some of the details that I have asked for, and that you have not yet provided. If you write such a post, I will stay entirely on topic in my reply to it, and will not wander into constitutional or pedagogical questions. So the ball is in your court.

    T.

  136. Zachriel @ 126:

    I am astounded that you cannot see the point of the alien sculpture example. The point is simple: we can be certain that the sculpture is an artifact produced by intelligent design, not a product of chance collisions, natural processes such as erosion, etc. It does not matter if don’t have a clue who carved it, what technology was used to carve it, what the purpose of the sculpture is, etc. We can be sure that it was the product of design, not necessity and chance alone. If there was not a single trace of intelligent life anywhere in the universe, and all we had to go on was that one sculpture, we could infer the existence of intelligent life from that one sculpture alone.

    If I were to argue that the sculpture was carved out by erosion, lightning, etc., you would think me a fool — and rightly so. And if you asked my reason, and I said that my reason was that I was unwilling to allow that there might be intelligent designers (other than human beings) anywhere in the universe, and therefore the sculpture *must* have been carved by natural forces and chance, and that it is the job of science to determine *how* natural forces and chance did it, not *whether* natural forces and chance did it, you would think I was dogmatic and not open to the evidence for a designer.

    Yet this is exactly what neo-Darwinians do when they can come up with only the most strained, stretched, forced and improbably explanations for the eye, the cardiovascular system, etc. They are determined that there shall not be a design explanation, and that there shall be only a “chance and natural laws” explanation. They could see the ludicrousness of the metaphysical bias in the Martian sculpture example, but they can’t see it when it comes to their own favoured theory.

    Regarding the bones in the inner ear — and by the way, I hope you aren’t under the illusion that in employing these standard examples you are informing us for the first time about the evidence for evolution; most of us here could recite such examples chapter and verse without your help — you are making an argument from homology to history, i.e., you are assuming from similarity of form and number of bones that there is a historical progression. It does not follow logically; there might be alternate developmental patterns based on common design elements that do not require recourse to historical transformation. It is logically conceivable that each alleged historical stage was a special creation employing a certain variation on the possible developmental patterns for the bones. Thus, only if you have ruled out design in advance is the argument from homology decisive. Otherwise, it is just one explanatory option, special creation of each different variation being another.

    And, lest you should jump all over this last response, remember — I am making only a *logical* point about special creation. My position does not in fact require special creation. Indeed, I am not attacking “evolution” as such. I am attacking only the idea that evolution could have been entirely unguided and/or unplanned. So I am not against the idea that the bones of the reptilian jaw became inner ear bones. I am against the idea that this could have happened by plain dumb luck — even dumb luck aided and abetted by natural selection. Clearly, if this transformation happened, there was a “set-up” of some kind, in which the developmental processes which produced jaw bones were made “switchable” to produce other coherent sets of possibilities. How do we account for this set-up? The answer is, of course, design.

    So we have three possibilities:

    1. The homologies indicate an actual historical progression which was caused by blind natural laws and sheer chance.

    2. The homologies indicate the use of common design elements, slightly varied each time, by an intelligent creator.

    3. The homologies indicate an evolutionary process, but one guided or front-loaded by an intelligent creator.

    I regard both 2 and 3 as possible. I regard 1 as irrational and unsubstantiated by the evidence.

    If you reject my argument here, if you are holding out for position 1, you have an easy recourse — simply show me how the transformation you are discussing could have occurred by chance. With the details.

    T.

  137. 137

    Zachriel,

    If your point is that miracles can conceivably occur, then okay. But if we observe an unexplained irregularity, then the scientific answer is we don’t know. *Poof* is not a valid scientific hypothesis.

    This from the same Zachriel who argued against StephenB and the law of causality by asserting that quantum particles “poof” into existence without a cause. That’s consistent. (sarcasm)

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