Declare, if thou hast understanding

by Henry on August 3, 2005

Cosma Shalizi on intelligent design.

The thing is, this leads to bad science, and, if an unbeliever can say so, bad religion. The stakes are more serious here than with silly “devotionals with mathematical content”, but the issues are not that different. Doing what you must know is shoddy science, in the hope that it will provide cover for propagating the gospel, shows a poor opinion of your fellow creatures, of the gospel, and of God. Of your fellow creatures, because you are resorting to trickery, rather than honest persuasion or the example of your own life, to win converts. Of the gospel, because you do not trust its ability to change lives and win souls. Last and worst, of God, because you are perverting what you believe to be the divine gift of intelligence, and refusing to learn about the Creator from the creation. And for what? To protect your opinion about what measure you think it fitting for God to employ.
One of the greatest passages in the Bible is when “the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind”:
Where was thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
Creationism is a way of responding to this profound challenge by saying “I know! I know! You did it just like I woulda!

{ 97 comments }

1

joe o 08.03.05 at 4:17 pm

God was little bit of a Nazi to Job though. It isn’t that we can’t understand why God did it; it is that we are too afraid to call God an asshole.

2

Grand Moff Texan 08.03.05 at 4:27 pm

There’s a parallel or corollary rather in Paul’s letter to the Romans, stressing that you can’t systematize Christianity because that’s a contradiction in terms.

The people pushing this may be Christian Reconstructionists, but they certainly aren’t Christians. They are strangers to their faith, science, and (since this is an American disease) to our Constitution, apparently. It’s like they came blinking out of the treeline, shrugged, and set about the business of destroying all that was not Trailer Park (w/ apologies to Douglas Adams). They had never seen any of it before, and so it all had to be wrong.

Joe: Moses wasn’t too afraid to call God an asshole at one point, though not in so many words. I’ve always thought that if you make Adam and Eve to fail (omnipotent) and know that they will fail (omniscient) and then blame them for failing, you need therapy more than veneration.
.

3

william 08.03.05 at 4:48 pm

4

Jaybird 08.03.05 at 5:13 pm

The ID debate *AIN’T* about science. It’s about a lot of things but science isn’t one of them.

They want to establish a social agenda that they see follows from the existence of an active and involved deity.

Responding to this with discussions of whether ID is good or bad science is to miss the point entirely.

It’s about, among other things, Abortion, Premarital sex, Homosexuality and Gay Marriage.

“If there is a God, then God has Rules. Luckily, we have a list of those rules right here.”

Don’t miss the forest for the trees, here. It’s not about science or the philosophy of science. At all.

5

Ian 08.03.05 at 6:39 pm

resorting to trickery, rather than honest persuasion or the example of your own life, to win converts

Isn’t this what Islam calls taqqiya?

God, of course, if he made us, also made every organic thing, including malaria and HIV. And, as Catholic priests will tell you, he also caused us to make bread so that we could have the Eucharist. But then they start going on about how time is an illusion and past, present and future coexist, and I start thinking about martinis.

There’s something nice about Anglicanism. A statement like ‘God made us’ registers no differently from ‘Mrs Pargeter does the flowers.’

6

Breaker 08.03.05 at 6:50 pm

Henry, Texan and Jaybird,

Your statements reveal that you are religious zealots. I will not try to label or categorize your religion beyond that it is based on a zealous belief that the Christian Biblical explanation of the origin of the universe is wrong and that the creation of life is explained based on Darwinism. Unfortunately, Darwinism provides no better answer to explain the creation of life based on the available science than intelligent design.

Your religion poses one belief – that a bunch of random events set off a progression leading to the human species. Christianity provides the answer that an all powerful intelligence set off the big bang resulting in a planned result – to date – leading in the existence of the human species.

I see nothing in science that offers proof as to either alternative. The ultimate answer may be a combination of either extreme dogma or possibly neither.

Science, since the Middle Ages, initially sought to explain observed events and to develop understandings of our environment useful to humans. Engineering sought to utilize these understandings for improvement of human comfort and utility of effort.

Scientific method is an effort to develop a theory of how stuff works and then demonstrate that stuff works that way.

So far, science has not created life out of elemental materials with or without injection of energy.

Today we have pseudo-science or junk science that states a popular theory and pronounces it valid.

One example of junk science is the conclusion that ozone layer depletion is caused by human releases of fluorocarbons into the atmosphere. Yes, you can demonstrate that fluorocarbons will chemically react with ozone on a micro level but there is no demonstration that this micro level event has caused the ozone hole over Antarctica. Most fluorocarbons are released in the Northern hemisphere yet the hole develops in the extreme Southern hemisphere – go figure.

Observed thermodynamics reflects entropy – things winding down. Christians say that God wound the universe up. I see no other plausible explanation based on my beliefs. And I see no consistency between entropy and evolution forming the basis of your religion based, as I understand it on raw happenstance.

The mathematical probabilities just don’t work out any more than a billion monkeys on computer keyboards are likely to produce the assembled works of William Shakespeare.

Don’t try to offer theological proofs that God doesn’t agree with intelligent design. If God as described by the Christian Bible exists, then of course there is intelligent design by axiom.

It’s high time to get back to good science and try to objectively explain what we can. It’s time to stop teaching Darwinism as science and admit that Darwinism is as much of a leap of faith as any Christian explanation of the origin of the universe or the origin of life or the existence of humans.

If you read the statement of President Bush on this issue it is quite brilliant and to make the statement off the cuff – genius.

7

albert 08.03.05 at 7:15 pm

Breaker,

There’s a significant amount in your post that I find faulty, but I’m no genius and thus will attempt to explain why I believe you to be wrong in the most coherent manner that I can.

Today we have pseudo-science or junk science that states a popular theory and pronounces it valid.
The problem here is “today.” As long as there has been science, there have been findings which turned out, upon further investigation, to be untrue. This is a phenomenon that is integral to the process of empiricism. Dealing with imperfect methods and findings does not disrupt the functioning of an empricist paradigm as it does the Christian theist paradigm.

There are two problems with the CFC example: 1) experimentation and replication are not a necessary part of the scientific enterprise. For some fields they are, for some they are not. All scientific explanation contains virtually unlimited “ceteris paribus” statements which hold unless disproved empirically. If there is something flawed in the CFC explanation of ozone depletion, your example does not locate it. 2) The presence of a “polar vortex” explains the accumulation of CFCs in the antarctic. I found this explanation in less than five minutes online. Did you not look for the dominant theory or do you not care? How does a Christian theistic outlook explain the ozone hole?

I think the most revealing thing about your post would be what might constitute “good science.” I agree that I do not find evolutionary biology’s explanation for the origin of life to be much beyond pure hypothesis. If we’re to ask about drosophila mutations or shared human/primate origins, I believe EB’s explanation to be far superior.

For me, the idea of a Christian God seems untenable given an empiricist paradigm. If I am a zealot, I am a zealot for empiricism, for which I do not apologize.

8

bill cowper 08.03.05 at 8:05 pm

Drat, I thought this was a thread about Tim Powers’ book. (Really good book. A supernatural cold-war thriller.)

9

Stephen Kriz 08.03.05 at 8:29 pm

Proponents of so-called “intelligent design” make much of the fact that evolution is a ‘theory’, demonstrating their profound, vernacular lack of understanding of that word. What they don’t get is that a theory is much more than a hunch or a guess. It is a reasoned and systematic means of defining, explaining and understanding observable phenomenon. Gravity is also just a ‘theory’, but that does not mean apples occasionally fall up when they leave the tree.

Finally, “intelligent design” only postulates how life on Earth got here in the first place. It doesn’t even attempt to explain how life progressed after it arose. Conversely, the theory of evolution says absolutely nothing about the origins of life. However, it does explain far better than any other theory, how life progressed after it began. They are skew lines…

10

Alex 08.03.05 at 8:37 pm

The desire for creationism is because without an inerrant bible, you can’t decry anything. Either the bible is literally true, in which case statments such as “do not suffer a witch to live” are completely valid, or it isn’t. If the latter than you can have any intrepretation of the bible you like and the rot (from the point of view of the fundamentalists) sets in. The bible has to be inerrant or you can’t use it as the ultimate argument from authority. Creationism’s sole purpose is to provide a basis from which people can be beaten over the head with the other bits of the bible that suit the fundamentalist adenda.

11

Breaker 08.03.05 at 9:11 pm

Albert,

I agree that scientific findings once thought to be true have historically been found to be false. Just as the world was once thought to be flat and then thought to be the center of the universe and then those theories proved to be wrong.

The concept of “ceteris paribus” is essential to the scientific analysis of hypothesis and experimentation with replication. Under the concept of “ceteris paribus” a competent scientist seeks to hold all variables constant but the one under observation to produce replicated results proving or disproving the hypothesis. Studies of complex systems such as atmospheric studies must seek replication showing constant variables against a dynamic variable to prove a hypothesis or the study is simply not science. In complex systems keeping variables constant and isolating a dynamic variable or variables is exceedingly difficult but the competent scientist seeks modes of replication of results of dynamics against constant variables nevertheless. As CFCs have been reduced in the atmosphere in recent years, the Southern hemisphere ozone hole has actually increased. What does that prove? Actually the system is so complex that the causation of observational results are highly debatable. The physical events of the polar vortex or historical changes in the temperature of the Sun might be significant enough to explain the ozone hole without the influence of man made chemicals.

Notwithstanding significant effort, no biologist has demonstrated creation of a human out of a fruit fly, let alone creation of life out of a random mixture of elements at just the right temperature and a strike of lightning.

As for your statement: “Dealing with imperfect methods and findings does not disrupt the functioning of an empiricist paradigm as it does the Christian theist paradigm.”

If you mean disruption of the perfection of God, then you may have something but that is something that cannot be demonstrated. If you mean that a finding supporting some aspect of evolutionary theory will disprove Christianity, you are wrong unless it could be proved that the statement at the beginning of the Apostle’s creed is disproved – I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:

And disproving that God is the creator of the universe would be difficult indeed. The fact of creation of the unniverse by God is essential to Christianity but God’s chosen method of creation is not essential.

As for your purported belief in an “empiricist paradigm,” that has no understandable meaning to me.

If, as I suspect, you believe, as fact, the tenet that life “evolved” from random combinations of favorable events without an intelligent designer, then you are no less a religious zealot than Jerry Falwell or the Rev. Sung Yung Moon because that belief is simply a leap of faith. There is nothing observable to prove that tenet.

12

Dirk 08.03.05 at 9:16 pm

I didn’t think crookedtimber got trolls like breaker.

13

Ian 08.03.05 at 9:17 pm

Funny, growing up as an Anglican I never knew about this controversy. It was only when I’d lapsed and was reading Victorian poets (the poetry of faith and doubt etc.) that the issue cropped up. And I remember thinking, ‘That’s bloody stupid. Why is Tennyson worried about Darwin’s effect on Christianity? It’s perfectly obvious they don’t clash.’

Stephen and Alex’s posts above set me thinking on this.

As an Anglican, I could not be accused, even by Breaker, of being a religious zealot…

14

Barry Freed 08.03.05 at 9:21 pm

resorting to trickery, rather than honest persuasion or the example of your own life, to win converts

Isn’t this what Islam calls taqqiya?

No. taqiyya, dissimulation, is primarily a Shi`ite practice. The idea being it is permissible to feign being a Sunni Muslim when among them and outside of one’s own community and one fears for one’s life, health, family, property from the majority.

Among the Isma`ilis, or Sevener Shi`ites this practice was adopted for purposes of spreading their doctrinal propaganda. (Still, this was effected not through trickery but through “honest persuasion or the example of your own life”).

The practice is frowned upon by Sunnis, of course given the prevalence of Sunnism throughout the Islamic world there has hardly been much need for it.

15

Breaker 08.03.05 at 9:22 pm

Alex, I think you misunderstand a significant segment of Christian thought. The Bible is the most profound work explaining the flawed human condition, the nature of God and the relationship between humans and God.

Yes, there are those on the fringes that would twist aspects of the Bible to their radical or reactionary views. There are atheist that are just as whacked out and don’t even start on radical Islam.

But belief in an intelligent designer is belief in God. That is essential for any Christian. Belief in intelligent design is not a subtrefuge for putting burkas on women or handling snakes.

16

junius ponds 08.03.05 at 9:25 pm

“Observed thermodynamics reflects entropy – things winding down. Christians say that God wound the universe up. I see no other plausible explanation based on my beliefs. And I see no consistency between entropy and evolution forming the basis of your religion based, as I understand it on raw happenstance.”

Wrong, wrong, wrong. The Second Law only applies to closed systems, as MC Hawking can tell you.

“The mathematical probabilities just don’t work out any more than a billion monkeys on computer keyboards are likely to produce the assembled works of William Shakespeare.”

You’ve worked them out? Actually, I’m fairly interested in the information theoretic take on evolutionary algorithms — both George Gilder (eviscerated on Pharyngula) and William Dembski have attempted to wield info theory against evolutionary science — but I don’t think I’ll be asking many questions of you.

17

junius ponds 08.03.05 at 9:30 pm

It appears CT swallowed my first attempt at making a comment, but I’ll try again:

“Observed thermodynamics reflects entropy – things winding down. Christians say that God wound the universe up. I see no other plausible explanation based on my beliefs. And I see no consistency between entropy and evolution forming the basis of your religion based, as I understand it on raw happenstance.”

Wrong, wrong, wrong! The Second Law only applies to closed systems, as MC Hawking can tell you. T

“The mathematical probabilities just don’t work out any more than a billion monkeys on computer keyboards are likely to produce the assembled works of William Shakespeare.”

You’ve worked out the probabilities? Actually, I’m interested in the information theoretic take on evolutionary algorithms — both George Gilder (eviscerated on Pharyngula) and William Dembski attempted to wield info theory against evolutionary science — but I don’t think I’ll be asking any questions of you.

(After reading a recommendation on CT, I’m currently in the middle of the excellent _Life’s Devices_, BTW)

18

Hodgepodge 08.03.05 at 9:41 pm

Breaker, while assuming that an intelligent creator did not plan the universe as it has developed to this point and time is necessarily a matter of belief, the problem is that evolution is an attempt to explain the presence of life based soley on the phenomena we have been able observe and record. To the best of my knowledge, these observations have not thus far included any factor exclusively explainable by the presence of an intelligent creator.

Intelligent design is perfectly satisfactory as observation regarding the interaction between this scientific enterprise and various religious beliefs which propose the existance of an intelligent creator, in so far as it points out that scientific observation has not and likely cannot rule out the presence of an intelligent creator, and that therefor scientific enquiry is not incompatable with these religious beliefs.

Conversely, intelligent design is a poor scientific theory, in so far as it posits the existence of an unobserved phenomena on the basis of accepted belief and attempts to find proof this phenomena maybe likely could have occured. That’s not exactly in the spirit of scientific enquiry.

That said, I’m actually in favour of discussion of religion in school, but in the context of a broad examination of historical and current religious belief which does not lionize or denigrate any particular religious belief. This would also be an ideal context in which to discuss the interaction between religion, philosophy, and science. Sadly, it is difficult to allocate the resources necessary to include detailed discussion of social issues in our children’s education when it is already so difficult to impart the skills necessary for basic functioning in society.

19

junius ponds 08.03.05 at 9:52 pm

I think this comment system was intelligently designed to frustrate me.

20

albert 08.03.05 at 9:55 pm

Breaker,

How is it that we can agree and disagree so much?

As CFCs have been reduced…the Southern hemisphere ozone hole has actually increased
Fine, but there’s no reason to suspect that there’s not intervening mechanism at work: a temporal lag in the process, or that the stable existence of the ozone requires a threshold that no longer exists. Either way, it’s up for investigation and debate. I don’t understand why the leading theory of CFCs would be “junk science.” Your hypothesis of non-anthropogenic decline lacks any evidential support.

Just because scientists haven’t produced interspecial change under controlled conditions or vivified matter doesn’t mean there’s anything that precludes it from occurring. My question is, what if they do? Would that make you rethink your position? The superiority of scientific explanation over theological ones hasn’t stopped people from believing in other theological explanations, so would anything? Is god falsifiable?

The disruption of the christian theist paradigm is akin to what commenter 10 said: the bible and explanation from faith would lack authority. This has nothing to do with disproving Christianity as a doctrine. That’s not testable in the same way.

Why is science supposed to prove the non-existence of god? It’s already given superior explanations for phenomena that were once the domain of god’s will. If a theistic perspective were competitive with empiricism, it’d be an open debate. This has ceased to be the case.

As for zealotry, I don’t “believe” in the random origins of life. I have no frickin idea what happened, but it’s your worldview that is premised things which are not observable, testable, or even investigatable, not mine.

21

Barry Freed 08.03.05 at 10:14 pm

Breaker breaker:

Unfortunately, Darwinism provides no better answer to explain the creation of life based on the available science than intelligent design.

Actually, modern evolutionary biology does not address the question of the origin or creation of life. It is rather a body of theory, observed and well-verified, that explains the diversity of life, speciation, as we find it.

As for CFCs and ozone depletion:

Paging Tim Lambert

22

Horatio 08.03.05 at 10:44 pm

Actually, the formation of amino acids and other proteins within sun-catalyzed reactions have been replicated in the laboratory. As these proteins are the building blocks of life as we know it, it’s simply not accurate to say we have no idea how life started on this planet. Indeed we have a very good idea. Was God involved? I don’t know. Was God involved when your stomach acid digested the ham sandwich you had for lunch today?

I blog about this subject often.

23

Breaker 08.03.05 at 10:53 pm

Hodgepodge, I would not postulate intelligent design as anything other than a religious belief. My point is that the essential aspects of Darwinism and related beliefs of the absence of God in the creation of the universe are equally religious beliefs. Teaching evolution as a “science” is faulty junk science and constitutes a preference of one religion over another.

Albert, See comment 14 relative to the Bible. As for the origin of life, other than my belief that God had a hand in the process, I have no frickin idea what happened either.

And yea, the whole climate change and ozone hole thing are beyond my understanding, way too many variables. It is a best management policy to try to conserve the natural environment, that is a responsibility assigned to humans in the Bible too. But I am not giving up flush toilets or toilet paper. Or antibiotics – my son just had strep throat.

Junius, Show me the monkeys.

24

Breaker 08.03.05 at 11:01 pm

Hortio, Are you God? You missed it by one day. I had a ham sandwich yesterday. I had pizza today.

25

albert 08.03.05 at 11:24 pm

2 Peter 3:8

If you’ve had a ham sandwich in the last 1000 years, then Horatio is certainly god.

26

Donald Johnson 08.03.05 at 11:29 pm

Horatio, making amino acids is all well and good and there are amino acids in meteorites as well, but it’s a long way from that to understanding the origin of life, which is why there are several different theories about how it happened and why the adherents often have harsh things to say about the competition. BTW, amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, not proteins themselves or so I understand it. (I’m not a biochemist.)

I think life had a naturalistic origin, but progress on this front has been very slow–people were optimistic back in the 50’s when Miller zapped some gases in a flask and got amino acids, but since then they’ve realized that was just a little baby step.

27

bad Jim 08.03.05 at 11:39 pm

I can’t believe that this was sincely meant:

If you read the statement of President Bush on this issue it is quite brilliant and to make the statement off the cuff – genius.

As P.Z.Myers and others have pointed out, the use of the word “Darwinism” is generally a sign that the writer is a creationist. Evolutionary biology has come a long ways in the last 150 years, after all. It’s unsurprising to find the code phrase deployed in an argument that science, or part of it, is in fact a religion.

No part of science is based upon faith, except perhaps for those ignorant of it.

28

Hodgepodge 08.03.05 at 11:43 pm

“Hodgepodge, I would not postulate intelligent design as anything other than a religious belief. My point is that the essential aspects of Darwinism and related beliefs of the absence of God in the creation of the universe are equally religious beliefs. Teaching evolution as a “science” is faulty junk science and constitutes a preference of one religion over another.”

I disagree that evolution is a religious belief. Though it may posit some conclusions that have not themselves been directly observed, evolution as a theory is based entirely on observable phenomena. That is to say, it takes an unexplained observed phenomenon and explains it in terms of what we know about other observed phenomena. Religion, to contrast, takes an unexplained phenomena and introduces an unobserved (and usually unobservable) phenomenon in order to explain it. One requires little faith (though one might not understand the science behind it, one knows that one could verify the matter by putting the work in to do so) and may be falsified. The other requires absolute faith, since one cannot verify or falsify the existence of unobservable phenomena.

29

schwa 08.04.05 at 12:12 am

I’m 100% in favour of teaching intelligent design in schools.

Unfortunately, my version of “teaching” it would involve devoting, let’s say, two weeks to breaking down its core tenets and examining each one of them carefully and critically with reference to the available scientific evidence — and somehow I don’t think that’s quite what the people calling for it to be quote-taught-unquote mean.

30

nick 08.04.05 at 1:06 am

Junius, Show me the monkeys.

There’s a mirror in your bathroom, mate.

I’d recommend that ‘breaker’ read Hume’s Dialogues concerning natural religion, but I suspect that they’d be beyond him. And that’s the problem. ‘Intelligent design’ is peddled by con-merchants to the naive, credulous and stupid.

And the fun thing about evolutionary biology is that ‘God’ simply doesn’t matter. A bit like Anglicanism, really.

31

Walt Pohl 08.04.05 at 1:48 am

Breaker, I’m sure you are sincere in your beliefs about science, but they are very wrong. The theory of evolution is one of the most well-documented facts in science, better documented than general relativity. The theory was invented by scientists, many of them Christian, elaborated by scientists, many of them Christian, and verified by scientists, many of them Christian. The vast majority of biologists (many of them Christian) have heard your arguments and rejected them.

The natural world is full of facts that without evolution are mysteries, but with evolution make perfect sense. Why do certain fossils tend to occur in particular strata of rocks? Why were there once dinosaurs, and now there are not? Why do bacteria develop immunity to antibiotics. Why does the human body possess such ad-hoc features such as (in men) a urethra that runs through the middle of the prostate? Why do cells sometimes turn cancerous?

Evolution is far from a random process. It selects for traits that are successful, and selects against traits that are not. We know how the traits are encoded (DNA), and how they are expressed (enzymes build proteins out of DNA). These facts were discovered not by creationists, but by biologists who accepted the truth of evolution.

32

abb1 08.04.05 at 3:19 am

As for the origin of life, other than my belief that God had a hand in the process, I have no frickin idea what happened either.

If God did exist, he’d definitely have had a hand in the process. And now if you care to present your prove of the existence of God (it shouldn’t be too difficult) we can consider this issue resolved, once and for all.

33

ajay 08.04.05 at 4:06 am

Bill Cowper: yes, I thought that too. What a disappointment – trolls, not djinni.

My only problem with Declare is that it is so damn convincing, and I find myself reading, say, books about the Arab Revolt or the Soviet Union and thinking “why don’t they mention Machikha Nash more often? She’s key to understanding this whole issue!”

34

robbo 08.04.05 at 4:42 am

It’s always great when someone who’s totally out of their league — in this case admittedly so — vaguely disparages all those PhD’s out there doing putatively bad science. Meanwhile, as breaker has been out there bravely throwing doubt on all those CFC-hating scientists, South Koreans just cloned a dog. Whether you love that or hate it, I’d bet my left nut that cloning an Afghan hound represents a far greater scientific achievement than any ID proponent will ever attain.

BTW, “dog” is “god” spelled backward — coincidence, breakster?

35

Brett Bellmore 08.04.05 at 4:43 am

“2) The presence of a “polar vortex” explains the accumulation of CFCs in the antarctic. I found this explanation in less than five minutes online.”

No, it explains why it gets cold enough in the antarctic to cause ice crystals to precipitate out of the upper atmosphere, catalyzing the destruction of ozone by a mechanism inapplicable away from the poles, while isolating that section of the upper atmosphere from general atmospheric recirculation, so that it’s ozone supply can’t be replentished from regions that are getting plenty of sunlight. (Ozone being created by the effects of UV on the atmosphere, not a lot gets created in places where the sun doesn’t shine in the winter.)

In other words, the ozone “hole” is a localized phenomnenon, which can’t occur elsewhere, and which for all we know might have been happening regularly for the last billion years or so.

I was a dual major in college, engineering and biology, and let me assure you that there are enough outrageous “mistakes” in the “design” of the human body, that if ID theory is falsifiable, it’s already falsified, by the presense of features no intelligent designer would admit responsibility for.

36

SamChevre 08.04.05 at 6:06 am

I still say “It depends what you mean by intelligent design.” It’s worth noting that intelligent design (in the form of pattern-recognition mathematics) is a sort of anti-theory, and is used all the time in most historic sciences. An anthropologist or archaeologist looking at a sharp-edged rock and trying to decide if it is a stone tool or just a broken rock, a linguist trying to determine whether some particular markings are writing or not–those are examples of the basic question that design theory tries to answer. That is, is this phenomenon accidental, or did someone/something make it intentionally?

Thus, intelligent design is a kind of anti-theory to evolution; it isn’t much use as an alternative theory, but it might be able to point out that the existing theory is inadequate. It’s like looking at one of those dyed fish at the pet store; I am not quite sure how the dye got in the fish, but I can fairly easily determine that it wasn’t random variation and natural selection.

37

asg 08.04.05 at 6:40 am

For a central site full of refutations of intelligent design/creationism arguments, including many of breaker’s claims & assumptions (such as that the process of evolution is random, a very common misconception), see:

http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/

38

Branedy 08.04.05 at 7:23 am

I always like the statement about ID like this: “If Intelligent Design is true, why did it turn out so badly?”

39

Steve LaBonne 08.04.05 at 8:09 am

I’d like to refer breaker to http://www.talkorigins.org, where his misconceptions about evolutionary biology, and almost any question he might have about it, and about the reasons why practically all biologists- religious believers included- reject the claims of “ID” and other forms of “scientific creationism”, are extensively addressed.

40

jet 08.04.05 at 8:21 am

What a great thread. Not only was ID’s issues given a good attempt at explanation, but we learned about the hole in the ozone. And I for one can’t figure out why evolution is so important to Christians. If one can accept ID, why can’t one accept that evolution is just a different form of ID? That all those random mutations of evoluation are only random to us, and the final result was already known.

I just can’t figure out why ID is so important an arguement for Christians.

41

Bertrand 08.04.05 at 8:25 am

Allow me to agree with Brett Bellmore for the second time in the history of the world. The design flaws are the big argument against “intelligent design”, unless you posit a brilliant but terribly haphazard designer.

If the human body had been designed for walking erect, we’d have a lot fewer backaches.

When I read about evolution, I read about hundreds of detailed arguments based on physiology, the fossil record, and the environments of the various species. When I read about ID, I read a lot of tendentious quibbles about the work of evolutionists. It’s all parasitical — there is no parallel body of ID science. ID people are mysterians — whenever they come across something hard to explain, they say “God did it”. One size fits all.

42

paul 08.04.05 at 8:42 am

Design “flaws” are only an argument against ID if you presume to understand the intent of the designer. Otherwise they’re just another part of the Divine Plan. QED.

Of course, the argument above pretty much cuts the entire foundation out of ID’s method of argument-by-stupidity. Saying that God (or some other entity indistinguishable from God, like the other greek of the same name who composed the works commonly attributed to Homer) must have created some particular mechanism because you don’t have the intelligence or imagination to conceive how it might have evolved places just as much of a blasphemous constraint on the deity as criticising His/Her/Its design choices.

43

Horatio 08.04.05 at 8:43 am

junk science

Ha. Someone’s been spending too long on Foxnews.com. Evolution is a theory, not fact. This is a true point that moron creationists like to bring up. Well, electricity is “just” a theory too. No one’s ever seen an electron, but since the theory has behaved according to expectation 100% of the time, we kind of figure it’s true. Same thing with evolution. No one saw it happening, but observable data backs the theory up 100% of the time.

Amino acids may indeed be a tiny step, but going from zero to one is the biggest of all tiny steps. Bottom line: intelligent design will never be proved, so it’s up to everyone to use there god-given flippin brains and figure out what physically happened.

BTW, I am not God. Now tuck in your shirt.

44

Grand Moff Texan 08.04.05 at 8:59 am

You know, I could talk about idiots like Breaker, or I can let them open their mouths and commit intellectual suicide. It would’ve saved me the effort.

Having epistemological standards is not “religious zealotry,” it’s a simple matter of not being an idiot. I happen to study religion and the people who, for whatever reason, have need to resort to one. The fact that you’ve decided to believe something means exactly nothing. Arguing from that belief merely marks your argument as a waste of bandwidth. Not only is the Biblical genesis story (cribbed from Chinese mythology around 100 BCE, but that’s another story) absurd on its face, but the rest of Biblical history fails the archeological and contemporary records tests, too, so the whole thing, as history, is crap. Throw in the fact that none of the cosmogeny matches the facts we know, as opposed to the myths some choose to believe, means that you have to choose between comfortable ignorance and the hard work of figuring things out.

You chose poorly.

To begin: “Darwinism” is the strawman of idiots like Breaker. Darwin’s questions led modern biology to discard much of Darwin’s original guesswork.

Outside your fevered delusions of having made a case: There. Is. No. More. Darwinism.

Write that down, you’ll need it.

Intelligent Design is not science, does no science, and consistently misquotes existing science. Therefore, to say that “Darwinism provides no better answer to explain the creation of life based on the available science than intelligent design” is a statement meaningless both in its terms and its reasoning. It is an artifact of pure comedy.

There is nothing “random” about evolution. This is another strawman, used by the ignorant to protect their precious ignorance.

Personal note: Do not pretend to speak about the “Middle Ages.” Your ignorance there is even more laughable. I say this out of a genuine concern for you.

More cursorily, air circulates and pseudoscience comes and goes. Does that help? Your reference to thermodynamics, furthermore, reminds me of a monkey playing with a camera. Put it down, and back away slowly. You see, there’s this giant, thermonuclear furnace in the sky. We call it “the sun.”

Now you know.

If you are looking for an explanation that fits your beliefs, you are not looking at all. If you need to rationalize what you already believe, kindly don’t waste the time of thinking people.

All George Bush did is show that he is as ignorant as you. Being incapable of grasping an argument is not the same as refuting it. There is no “debate” between “Darwinism” and your superstitions. You have energetically demonstrated this, along with your incapacity.

Do not, therefore, presume to have demonstrated anything to us, other than what we might become after a severe head-trauma.
.

45

Grand Moff Texan 08.04.05 at 9:08 am

I just can’t figure out why ID is so important an arguement for Christians.

It is essential for literalist Christians (which is a contradition in method itself, but nevermind) to pretend that they actually HAVE an argument, when they live in a world made by the science that shows that they don’t.

They hide their god behind their back and accuse anyone maintaining scientific standards of being “dogmatic.” It is an act of supreme projection, hypocrisy, and insecurity. It is also heavily bankrolled politically, which is the only reason we’re having to shoot it down.
.

46

Grand Moff Texan 08.04.05 at 9:23 am

Stirling, channeling Rude Pundit, unloads some similar smack on Those Who Are Beneath Contempt.
.

47

Horatio 08.04.05 at 9:33 am

#44 Being incapable of grasping an argument is not the same as refuting it.

What more can one say but…Fuck Yeah!!!

48

xyz 08.04.05 at 9:51 am

The presence of a “polar vortex” explains the accumulation of CFCs in the antarctic. I found this explanation in less than five minutes online.”

OK, if you’re so smart, then explain to me why when I have a headache I swallow a pill that goes down into my tummy?

You scientists think you know so much. Ha!

49

albert 08.04.05 at 10:06 am

Brett-

You don’t get any credit from me for not liking ID.

Your modification of my explanation the ozone hole didn’t really help that next statement about not knowing whether the ozone hole has been around before CFCs. Do you have some evidence for that? What would be the mechanism that causes these natural fluctuations? Why are experimental demonstrations of the CFC-induced breakdown of ozone not generalizable to the upper atmosphere? If we’re going to ‘teach the controversy’ on CFCs, let’s see some controversy.

50

Jake 08.04.05 at 10:11 am

Yeah, when I look at the pit that Russia seems to be climbing back into, I think of Machikha Nash myself.

51

Brett Bellmore 08.04.05 at 11:10 am

Geeze, Albert, I’m not saying that CFCs don’t destroy ozone. I’m saying that there’s no reason to suppose that they’re the cause of the ozone hole, which just happens to have been around for as long as we’ve been able to detect it.

Your explaination was patently nonsensical; You might concentrate CFCs with a high speed centrifuge, but the polar vortex doesn’t have a prayer of causing a measurable change in CFC concentrations.

On the other hand, the mechanisms I mentioned, (High altitude ice crystals accelerating ozone breakdown, lack of sunlight to generate fresh ozone, lack of air circulation to bring it in from elsewhere.) are both sufficient to cause it, explain why it’s where it is, and nowhere else, and have been around for roughly as long as the planet has had an atmosphere.

Just because something’s causing problems, doesn’t mean that every problem has to be caused by it, you know.

52

soru 08.04.05 at 11:18 am

The sequel, where Powers explains the truth behind 9/11 and the real reason for the invasion of Iraq, is even better.

Did he ever confirm whether the journalist-protagonist was based on Hitchens?

soru

53

Marc 08.04.05 at 11:27 am

. I think a reference to the 1995 Nobel Prize citation in chemistry for the work on the CFC-ozone depletion connection might be germane:

http://nobelprize.org/chemistry/laureates/1995/press.html

The existence of a winter drop in Antarctic ozone prior to people is not at all controversial. However, the fact that it became much more severe as CFCs were pumped into the atmosphere is also not at all controversial. Nobel prizes in the sciences are not awarded casually or politically. This is extremely solid work, and to characterize it as “junk science” misses the boat utterly. Such an effort is, however, exactly what I would expect from a creationist.

You should also go to section 8 of Parson’s comprehensive ozone faq, which can be found at

http://www.faqs.org/faqs/ozone-depletion/antarctic/

which gives the comprehensive experimental verification of the observational predictions of a link between CFCs and ozone depletion.

I’m really surprised that this is still an active area of debate anywhere. The skeptics were wrong.

cheers,

Marc

54

Windhorse 08.04.05 at 11:33 am

But belief in an intelligent designer is belief in God. That is essential for any Christian. Belief in intelligent design is not a subtrefuge for putting burkas on women or handling snakes.

Belief in an intelligent designer is not equal to a belief in God. It is only equal to a belief in a god. Some of the early Christian Gnostics believed that an evil god created the world of matter and entrapped us here, and while He was a god he was yet insignificant compared to the God of Light who was transcendent and had nothing to do with either the creation of or maintenance of this world. The believed this world is evil and illusory and exists only to keep souls trapped here as food for dark entities…and who ironically use orthodox religion to keep people from remembering their origin in the Light and escaping the zealotry and mental madness.

Personally, I think it is morally imperative that we teach the truth to our kids in school: how Odin fashioned the world from the giant Ymir’s bones and the sky from his skull. So-called “science” cannot disprove this, and even if mutation or natural selection could be proved it would not disprove the Alfather’s hand in creating Midgard or breathing life into our forebears Ask and Embla from pieces of driftwood cast up upon the shore — at least given the logic being used here.

Now I know some of my Hopi friends will argue that it was Tawa and Spider-woman who created the other gods and all of the earth, but they are no less religious zealots and extremists than the biologists and physicists who can’t explain exactly why I don’t understand the complexities of magnetic field theory or why there is air. How do they account for so many people having witnessed Thor’s thunderbolts? Or the millions who used to celebrate Frey’s return in the Spring to green the fields? Surely any fool can see that it is more likely for a 747 to spring fully-formed from a junkyard than it is for the people of Northern Europe to have just “made up” such a sophisticated knowledge of astronomy and metaphysics that they possessed, including the nine different kinds of soul that animate a human being.

Religious differences aside, I think it’s clear that for some people belief in intelligent design is EXACTLY a subterfuge for metaphorically (if not literally) putting burkas on women and handling snakes. As someone who has studied religion and spoken with a lot of fundamentalists, eliminating liberties and changing the structure of our society to more closely reflect an Old Testament culture is precisely what they are aiming for by attempting to bring biblical ontology into the classroom.

55

Jon 08.04.05 at 11:49 am

grand moff texan sez:

“I just can’t figure out why ID is so important an arguement for Christians.”

Shadia Drury’s recent book (Drury has also written extensively on the Neocon connection to Leo Strauss) “Civilization & Terror” provides some fascinating insights into the nature of fundamentalists’ love affair with literalism. She argues that, rather than terror and civilization being opposites, as Bush and the Neocons have suggested, that terror is the essential civilizing force in Western Civilization. Specifically, she argues that fear of hellfire has been the essential tool used by Christians to literally scare people into acting more civilized.

She chronicles the development of this notion from various biblical passages into the teachings of later Christian apologists, down to its current usage by fundamentalists. She further details that, unlike the Old Testament, where actions (obedience/disobedience) are key to God’s favor or displeasure, many so-called followers of Jesus have claimed that God’s displeasure will also be visited on unbelievers – those who harbor wrong ideas or beliefs. (By the way, Judaism still carries this strong connection to righteous and unrighteous works – a concept woven into the many prophetic messages in the Old Testament)

Now, here’s how this relates to ID:

1) Belief in an eternal hell of torment that all unbelievers will end up in is a lynchpin concept of literalist fundamentalists. This is what the “flawed human condition, the nature of God and the relationship between humans and God” revolves around that breaker alludes to in comment 15. In their view, their God, who is somehow also a God of love, enjoys tormenting folks for all eternity. (There must be some upside for God in this deal, right? He must get some satisfaction from this, correct? And yet, somehow he still is the God of love….) Believers will also get a ringside seat to this eternal torment. How fun.

2) This belief hinges upon a certain reading of the New Testament – one that takes certain texts in a literal fashion. (incidentally, many others choose other passages in the Bible to focus on and take the “fire” passages more symbolically) This type of interpretation leads them to a whole series of other beliefs.

3) These same folks have been taught that a wide assortment of other ideas, including evolution, are part of this vast sea of “unbelief”. And since unbelief leads to eternal torment, these folks, following this perverse logic right off the cliff, must repudiate evolution as a godless concept.

All you “secular humanists” should now be afraid. Be very afraid.

So the answer to why this is so important to these folks is simple: they’re scared shitless of God. They think that mere contemplation of wrong ideas will merit their eternal torment. In their view, God not only allows all sorts of mayhem here on earth, but he also provides a torture chamber for all eternity that makes anything any human ever dreamed up pale in comparison. Their “loving” God provides a way out that centers on all their beliefs, from which they may not deviate. Their eternal fate is at stake. No amount of reasoning will overturn this. Talk about a holy terror…. Yikes.

56

Jeremy Osner 08.04.05 at 11:49 am

though one might not understand the science behind it, one knows that one could verify the matter by putting the work in to do so)

Then you deny the obvious-on-the-face-of-it existence of a huge, worldwide conspiracy of black-robed “scientists”, Illuminati who have constructed this mockery of a “consensus” with which to mislead the mass of humanity while they rape the Earth of her vital energy, in preparation for their migration to Alpha Centauri? Do you???

[/giblets]

57

alkali 08.04.05 at 12:24 pm

Criticism of intelligent design is particularly effective when accompanied by (i) windy pronouncements on how silly you think religion is, and how silly you think religious people are; (ii) observations to the effect that anyone has bothered to think about the issue would certainly agree that the epistemological standards of scientific inquiry establish the nonexistence of God; and (iii) wildly inaccurate generalizations about Christianity and what Christians believe.

58

Grand Moff Texan 08.04.05 at 12:38 pm

grand moff texan sez:

“I just can’t figure out why ID is so important an arguement for Christians.”

Nope. That was me quoting Jet.
.

59

Deep Time 08.04.05 at 12:40 pm

Being incapable of grasping an argument is not the same as refuting it

“in the beginning, so these new myths of science would tell us, there was nothing. Absolutely nothing. Not matter, or energy, or space or time. Then came a tiny hiccup, a trivial fluctuation that transformed nothingness in to something. Perhaps, our myth would have us believe, the primordial nothingness was unstable.
Remarkable. The universe born out of nothing, of its own accord…
But no – not entirely nothing. For if time itself had its origin with some capricious inaugaral event, then how did that event manage to occur at all? How could the act of creation begin outside of time?”

60

Paul Du 08.04.05 at 12:58 pm

It’s a pity that the ID proponents don’t hold tighter to their own beliefs. After all, if I were to find a book lying in a field with “Bible “stamped on the spine, I would tend to conclude that like all the the other books I’ve met before, it was the design of some human writer(s) with all the limitations that entails. Instead, people try to tell me that, unlike all other books, it was the divine afflatus of some invisible, omniscent being. Now where is the irresistible Paleyan logic in that?

The ID mob should get off poor old Darwin’s back and give us a better argument from design.

61

Jon 08.04.05 at 1:05 pm

Sorry grand moff

62

Jeremy Osner 08.04.05 at 1:12 pm

deep time — I don’t see the contradiction. If there is a moment of the universe being created, there can’t be a before since time is part of the universe. So it is not “outside time”. “Time” doesn’t mean anything without the universe.

63

Breaker 08.04.05 at 2:02 pm

Sorry Mates, It was nighttime here when all the alchemists showed up and I need my beauty sleep.

Evolution, theory or not, is equivalent of trying to turn lead into gold. A lot of interesting observations turn up but none answer the fundamental questions of how did life originate? Or how did humans as creatures come to be? Or related questions of how did the universe originate and what existed before the big bang?

The big lie taught in schools around here is that “Evolution” answers all fundamental questions and religion is simply fodder for fools – unless of course the religion is practiced mainly by persons of color living in squalor then the religion must be esteemed even if it preaches misogyny and murder. What a bunch of shit.

It takes as much of a leap of faith to assume that God had no hand in the creation process as to assume that God did all of the work. Evolution, Darwinism or what not is simply a form of faith. It is a faith based on extreme arrogance to elevate humankind over God.

There is nothing wrong with efforts to explain things with critical and ethical observation, exploration, experimentation and careful study. That, after all, is what separates Western civilization from the other pack.

There is a problem with the echo chamber currently occupying the academy however. The occupants have simply become a pack of ill behaved children who never developed humility. If someone challenges your dogma, your technique is to shout the challenger down usually with ad hominem attacks.

Show me the rational basis for the mechanism that denies God in creation or admit that your axioms are based on a similar leap of faith. Evolution “theory” is as to science as lead is to gold.

Rather than puffing your chests with PhD stenciled to your hearts, engage in rational debate. (As my dear old Dr. Dad often stated, his PhD merely stands for “Piled Higher and Deeper”). Fortunately, my academic hood for my third degree carries different colors along with the three chevrons on the black robe so I don’t have the burden of the presumptuous title of “Doctor.”

So, stinky mates, I must return to the private sector where they expect results instead of smelly puffery. I have no more time for your manure. I did enjoy chatting with you, Albert. I’ll see you all around the electrons and photons later.

64

Robert P. 08.04.05 at 2:19 pm

Brett Bellmore, your understanding of stratospheric ozone depletion is seriously confused.

1. The antarctic ozone hole has *not* been around for as long as we have been able to detect it. (Claims to the contrary trace back to a couple of careless people who misunderstood a second-hand quote from an early paper.) It appeared quite suddenly in the early 1980’s. Antarctic ozone measurements go back to 1956.

2. Ice crystals (Polar Stratospheric Clouds) do not by themselves destroy ozone. They *amplify* the effect of chlorine and bromine in the stratosphere, by greatly increasing the amount of chlorine that is in a form that reacts with ozone. More than 80 percent of the chlorine in the stratosphere, and about half of the bromine, come from manmade organohalogens such as CFC’s.

3. Ozone depletion is not restricted to the antarctic – it has been measured at all latitudes outside the tropics. It is much more intense during the polar spring (both north and south, although the northern hole is considerably smaller) because of the amplifying effects of stratospheric clouds, but the reaction Cl + O3 -> ClO has been observed, in situ, over middle latitudes as well. (The first such observations were in fact made over the U.S., in the late 1970’s.)

4. There is an overwhelming body of direct observational evidence for the depletion of ozone by chlorine and bromine radicals. Key reaction intermediates have been measured, in situ, from high altitude aircraft flying right through the antarctic stratosphere as well as by remote sensing from the ground and from satellites. There is also an overwhelming body of evidence that about 80 percent of the chlorine in the stratosphere is anthropogenic in origin. Put together, the obvious conclusion is that the immediate cause for the formation of the ozone hole was the ~fourfold increase in stratospheric chlorine between 1950 and 1985, caused by primarily by manmade halocarbon emissions. Or more simply, CFC’s caused the ozone hole. This is one of the most thoroughly understood phenomena in modern atmospheric science.

See the links posted by Marc in #53 above for supporting references.

65

Steve LaBonne 08.04.05 at 2:22 pm

Breaker, you have to actually learn something about a subject before you’re equipped to criticize it, a step I’m afraid you seem to have skipped thus far. You’ve been pointed by two commenters to an excellent, readily accessible source of information. Go then and learn- because contrary to your self-justifying delusions, the hostile response to claims like yours is nothing to do with argument from authority, and everything to do with actually understanding the fundamental scientific principles and arguments involved (and the complete lack thereof on the “ID” side.)

66

saurabh 08.04.05 at 3:14 pm

robbo –

That dog/god thing is definitely NOT a coincidence! Check it out:

There are 26 letters in the alphabet. That means there are 17,576 possible three-letter words. But only ONE of them is the exact reverse of “god” – and that’s “dog”! What are the odds of that? 1/17,576. This is below what I call the “arbitrary limit of statistical significance”, or the “fictitious probability bound”, or “Planck’s constant”. This is therefore obvious evidence of DESIGN, by some entity or the other (probably god, but maybe aliens, too).

67

Bob 08.04.05 at 3:19 pm

There are a number of evolution vs. creationism threads today. The longest seems to be a Patterico’s Pontifications, but this one has a lot of good posts too.

I would like to comment that people with different views are not engaging each other’s arguments. Demonstrating that evolution is incompatible with a specific view of biblical interpretation is not a covincing argument to a scientist, while demonstrating that creationism is not a valid scientific theory is not convincing to a creationist.

However, I think that creationism is getting an undeserved pass in this discussion. Most Christians do not believe that the biblical account of creation is inconsistent with evolution. The Catholic Church has a fully worked out position that allows for the physical evolution of humanity.

In discussion, please do not blindly accept the position that a “literal interpretation” of an inerrant bible necessarily implies creationism. It does not.

Please do not accept the creationist argument that a “literal interpretation” of the bible is necessary for biblical authority, as in post 10. It is not.

Do not confuse creationism with a scientific inquiry. It is not.

Two cents from a catholic.

68

Keith 08.04.05 at 3:34 pm

Breaker continues the grand tradition of mistaking casue and effect. Evolutionary biology studies and catalogues the effects of evolution, postulating frameworks on how they came about. It’s all physics, when you get down to it. It has nothing at all to say on why. Asking why is a philosophical question and purely in the domain of metaphysics. This is where ID makes it’s first and most fatal error: trying to shoehorn physical theory into metaphysical shoes and then complaining that they don’t fit too well and therefore, must be exchanged for comfy slippers that they just happen to have handy.

69

des von bladet 08.04.05 at 3:42 pm

Perhaps the most irritating thing about the post-modern fucktardocracy of Bush and Breaker _et_ so very _al_ is that persons persist in asking “Why do Libruls/Yoorpeans/whoever hate America?” as there was any sane alternative.

We rejoice, though, that Brett Bellmore is an ozone hole denier, and recall that Jet is a global warming denier; has anyone, we wonder or muse, seen Eugene Volokh give a clear indication of his views of the causal relation between HIV and AIDS?

70

Brett Bellmore 08.04.05 at 4:19 pm

“Or more simply, CFC’s caused the ozone hole. “

But not concentration of CFCs by the polar vortex, which was MY point.

71

Pat Kirby 08.04.05 at 4:25 pm

Notwithstanding significant effort, no biologist has demonstrated creation of a human out of a fruit fly,

Well no, because…wait for it….
Evolution doesn’t claim that is possible.

Here’s a nifty idea, read a book that doesn’t have the words “Bible” on the cover, for gosh sake.

Dipwaddicus gigantus trollicus

72

Bertrand 08.04.05 at 4:50 pm

Breaker really writes well for a stupid person.

Notice how he departed without responding to any of the criticisms, claiming that he didn’t have any more time (even though he’d been wasting everyone else’s time)?

His ability simply to ignore counterarguments left his belief in his victory unshaken. Wow.

And he calls US pompous!

73

Walt Pohl 08.04.05 at 4:51 pm

Well, Breaker, I tried to engage your post in rational debate, and you completely ignored my comment. I’m not sure why I expected any differently. I know you’ve read a book on science, and that gives you a deeper insight to the practice of science than actual scientists could hope to achieve, but really, who gives a fuck what your Dad thinks? I know, those stupid Ph.D.’s, what do they know. They only invented the atomic bomb and discovered DNA; that surely pales in comparison to your many fine accomplishments, to say nothing about your Dad’s.

Evolution does not purport to explain the beginning of life on Earth or the beginning of the Universe. At this point, it’s simply not known how life on Earth began (though there are suggestive theories). How the Universe began is the province of physics and astronomy, not biology, and the current theories are not at all like evolution.

And finally, we come to the usually-unspoken conspiracy theory behind it all. Scientists are not in a big anti-Christian conspiracy theory. scientists come from all over the world, and they have a diversity of religious beliefs, including Christianity. Some are militant atheists, but some are devout Christians who feel that they are studying God’s handiwork. This scientific conspiracy theory is the purest of smears, a lie as baseless as the medieval myth that Jews made matzoh out of the blood of Christian babies.

74

Grand Moff Texan 08.04.05 at 4:58 pm

What a bunch of shit.
-Breaker.

Wow, he actually got one right.
.

75

John Lederer 08.04.05 at 6:10 pm

I am responding only to the main statement.

I am always troubled when someone declares that “X is wrong because X is a crackpot”.

I always am left with the sneaking suspicion that the speaker has no factual rebuttal to X’s claims.

So is intelligent design wrong? is there proof? Or are both sides just “proving” their opinion right by the vehemence with which they state their opinion.

I, of course, vehemently defend the space poop theory — life on earth started as the result of the deposition on earth of a chunk of frozen holding tank overflow from an alien spaceship, much like the occasional chunk you read about falling from an airliner.

As proof? — It seems the only theory that adequately explains the state of mankind.

So…why is intelligent design wrong? There is a a proof? Or are these just opinions, vehemently stated, about something not yet knowable.

76

Steve LaBonne 08.04.05 at 6:16 pm

Intelligent design is “not even wrong”, to borrow the famous bon mot by the physicist Dirac. It’s vacuous. There is no “ID” science, only incompetent attempts at snarking at real science. And I invite you, too, to visit http://www.talkorigins.org, where you can find answers to almost any question you might have about this phony “debate” as well as a cornucopia of reliable information about evolutionary biology.

77

Charles Park 08.04.05 at 8:15 pm

It seems to me Breaker has a problem with his father. Are there any psychoanlysts out here? I also think he is quite racist when he points out that only Western civilization is capable of “critical and ethical observation, exploration, experimentation and careful study.”

ID vs. EB is a political debate without scientific answers. But the irony is that in order to defeat ID, you have to throw around a lot of science. As the debate is occuring in the political sphere, this is the fight for the minds (and souls?) of the majority and power.

Instead of seeing yourselves above the ID vs EB debate, you need to come out of the ivory towers and show us the benefits of the scientific approach. The reason is that the ultimate target of ID is not EB but science itself.

Don’t blame the media for their silence. Their job is to report, not debate. It’s your job to debate. In your silence, the anti-science Bush gets the vote.

The reason is that if you are a Bible literalist, you expect all its prophecies will be fulfilled. Being self-righteous (or group-righteous), you expect, you hope, and you believe on faith that the prophecies will be fulfilled in your life time.

In order to make sure that happens, you work hard to undermine science since if the world works according to the way modern science describes it, revelations can be very far away (BBC reports that the universe is about 12.5 billion years old).

ID propoents may be entertaining for their scientific illiteracy but the stakes are high. If they succeed, it is hell for the rest of us. Remeber what happend to Galileo?

The spectacular thing is that, if they succeed, it would be hell for them too. Much of modern life owes its existence to scientific progress. If science can no longer sustain it, the result is nothing short of well, revelatory…

The validty of religious beliefs aside, one wonders if the ID proponents are really sincere. As a “Christian” conception, it is rather faulty. If ID is true, there is no free will (no randomness). If there is no free will, original sin, the nexus of Christian theology, is impossible. If ID is true, then the immaculate conception of God. But the fact is God whose image we partake is imperfect in so many ways. For example, in Job, we see a vain, capricious God. The Gnostic gospels is a testament to the this imperfectness with which Christians tried to grapple with the existence of God in their lives, before the Church settled on one reading of the Story.

78

Bertrand 08.04.05 at 8:37 pm

“So…why is intelligent design wrong?”

Because there is no evidence for it? Because there is no evidence for the existence of a designer? Because it’s difficult to imagine who or what the designer might have been? Because the people arguing for intelligent design don’t say anything about intelligent design or produce their own science, but just snipe at the already-existing science of evolutionary biology?

How many arguments do you need? Did you bother to read the rest of the thread, or are you just repeating what you thought before you came on by?

Don’t blame the media for their silence. Their job is to report, not debate.

Hooey. If they were worth anything they could report the truth about ID’s lame pseudo-science. But they aren’t.

79

bad Jim 08.04.05 at 9:11 pm

Charles Park, the proponents of Intelligent Design are not at all sincere. They crafted this ostensibly non-religious nonsense merely to sneak Creationism into the science curriculum without running afoul of First Amendment concerns. They admitted as much in something referred to as the Wedge Document.

Moreover, few of ID’s advocates bother to conceal their ultimate aims, particularly because this particular ploy appears to be failing.

80

John Landon 08.04.05 at 9:45 pm

It is certainly alarming that Bush should endorse ID but Darwinists have brought this situation on themselves, n’est ce pas? This scam started with an honest critique of Darwin’s theory in Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, from there picked up by P. Johnson, Darwin on Trial, which never even mentioned ID, and then the Big Scam on ID started. In all of that time there has hardly been a glimmering that something was wrong with the mainstream theory. It is almost unbelievable. The best defense against ID would be to junk Darwinian obsessions with natural selection, but the point never dawns on anyone. The theory is the most perfect target. Small wonder the ID people complain about the educational system. The failure to teach critical thought has been so monumental it’s staggering. And who are the stupidest people here? The academic high achievers, and top geek scientiests. Propaganda reigns in the name of science.
The New York Times had a piece about the Pentagon sending people to Hollywood to learn the script business. Why? For films improving the image of scientists?! What a bunch of screaming idiots. How many string theorists does it take to find the problem with Darwin’s theory?

81

nick 08.04.05 at 9:51 pm

So is intelligent design wrong? is there proof?

It’s unprovable per se. It’s replacing scientific method with ‘ta-da!’ That’s why it’s not scientific: it’s not falsifiable.

Try David Hume for size, though, as a good place to start on the holes in the philosophical argument. As ‘Philo’ notes, pointing to the original post:

I was from the beginning scandalized, I must own, with this resemblance, which is asserted, between the Deity and human creatures; and must conceive it to imply such a degradation of the Supreme Being as no sound Theist could endure.

Read the whole thing, as they say.

82

Charles Park 08.04.05 at 10:36 pm

Bertrand:

Well, it is said that the media has lost much of its spine in recent years with the concentration of media ownership (e.g., Murdoch et. al) and the increased savvy of those in political power to cower the papers (e.g. Rove et. al).

That weakens the media’s traditional role as the 4th Estate but there are many in the media who do critical reporting (people, help me name some).

If we had some scientists out there promoting science in defense against ID, I think we could encourage a more critical stand from the media. But it appears that too many scientists feel they are above debating ID because it is so a-scientific.

bad jim:

I agree that the ID proponents may favor a theocracy. Attempting to sneak creationism (ID) into the curriculum or sneaking the Ten Commandments into the court rooms are individual battles.

Actually, even with the first amendment laws in place, the neo-con religious right has deployed the fear of terror or some perceived social decay as a fascist instrument of curtailing first amendment speech (e.g., Rove’s strategy of character assassination, Patriot Act).

But my main point about the insincerity of ID is that it is contradictory to the teaching of original sin in Christianity.

If ID is presented as a protest against the alleged randomness in creation as they say EB argues (actually there are a lot of ordering forces in EB), then free will is impossible. If free will is immpossible, then the Christian concept of original sin is impossible. Adam and Even required free will to partake of the apple, when God had specifically told them not to. It was a randomness God risked. It was a choice taken, randome act Adam and Even ceased and made their own.

Thence, we evolved clothes to clad our naked bodies. Created languages. Prolifereated and populated the earth in quite random fashion. Civilization evolved only because of the exercise of random free will.

Don’t you think so?

(To the die-hard atheists out there, please have the finesse to play along with this logic game without balking!)

These are my opinions. Thanks.

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bill cowper 08.04.05 at 10:38 pm

Soru:

The sequel, where Powers explains the truth behind 9/11 and the real reason for the invasion of Iraq, is even better.

Wow. I would so buy that book. Given how Powers worked Middle Eastern folklore (djins, ghuls, Noah, the Fall, etc.) into the Cold War–and the older, colder, war–I think he could pull it off.

After Powers mentioned the Artists Rifles regiment (on Ararat in 1948) and then Stross used them in his Atrocity Archives I had to look it up. Yes, the Artists Rifles is the SAS’s reserve. Such a mild name for that group. “Hi, we’re the Artists Rifles.” That’s almost Pythonesque.

ObID: I’m not sure the entities in Declare would design life on this planet to favor humans in any way at all.

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Doctor Memory 08.04.05 at 10:39 pm

I always kinda wonder: why is it that the creationist rationalization that evolution is “just another religion” only ever gets applied to, well, evolution? Shouldn’t these people be out demanding that the theory of phlogiston be given equal billing with the laws of thermodynamics? After all, thermodynamicism is just another religion…

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robbo 08.05.05 at 1:31 am

Adam and Even required free will to partake of the apple, when God had specifically told them not to. It was a randomness God risked. It was a choice taken, randome act Adam and Even ceased and made their own.

Ken Wilbur’s take on this story, which makes perfect sense to me, is that A&E partaking of the fruit of the tree of knowledge equates with humans making the monumental and irreversible leap from animal awareness to something akin to what we recognize as human self-awareness. With that relatively recent leap inevitably came such concepts as time, abstract thought, agriculture, foreknowledge of one’s own death, religion, fashion, nukes, cloned dogs, and reality TV.

There’s obviously some good fun to be had with all that abstract thinking, but “God” would actually have been “warning” A&E about the dark side that comes with it all that brainpower. Had Eve — the original scapegoat — just said no to that old snake (or, more accurately, if evolution had taken a different turn) we hominids could have lived in that groovy, animalistic, jungley kinda way for all of eternity. We’d have had no more idea that we were gonna die than my cats have, and that would have saved us from all the insufferable religionistas vying for our precious soooouls and laying down all the ridiculous laws we just gotta follow if we’re gonna escape the boredom of sitting out eternity as a pile of bones in a pine box shoved under the crust of a planet orbiting a sun out in the middle of nowhere. So thanks a lot, Eve/evolutionary twist of fate. I like to think I’d have chosen 40 years of unselfconscious monkey-lovin’ good times over sitting here typing and worrying about the future — nah, who am I kidding…

The flaw in the construction of the A&E/original sin story as it’s commonly related is that humans could never have had a “choice” about whether to become self-aware or to engage in abstract thought. But those crafty religious types were able to frame the issue not only as one of choice but of defiance, thereby enabling them to label it the original sin. They’ve sure gotten a lot of mileage out of that one — today’s pulpit-barons have nothing on the high priests of yore.

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bad Jim 08.05.05 at 2:31 am

I’m constantly frustrated by unwillingness of the ignorant to challenge astronomy. Apart from urban legends of proof of a day lost, they seem to have abandoned the geocentric universe and the flat earth clearly described in scriptures. Perhaps they have satellite TV.

The question of evolution seems to challenge the idea of the soul, which is for them the locus of irreducible complexity. Whether ’tis the sperm, the ovum, the blastocyst, the fetus, at some point there is an infusion of a supernatural nature, which is arbitrarily denied to otherwise similar creatures, or precursors of creatures, because they do not partake of the ineffable essence of humanity.

Today we have the effort of the indefatigable Paul Krugman:

There are several reasons why fake research is so effective. One is that nonscientists sometimes find it hard to tell the difference between research and advocacy – if it’s got numbers and charts in it, doesn’t that make it science?

and (but this is written by a distinguished professor)

Finally, the self-policing nature of science – scientific truth is determined by peer review, not public opinion – can be exploited by skilled purveyors of cultural resentment. Do virtually all biologists agree that Darwin was right? Well, that just shows that they’re elitists who think they’re smarter than the rest of us.

The same idea of science that made the machine in front of you, and that made this conversation possible, concocted the theory of evolution with comparable tools and the identical attitude. Fuck with it at your peril.

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SamChevre 08.05.05 at 8:05 am

Bertrand,

Because the people arguing for intelligent design don’t say anything about intelligent design or produce their own science, but just snipe at the already-existing science of evolutionary biology?

But isn’t that a critical piece of “doing science?” It certainly is in my field of math and economics. Pointing out that “this theory doesn’t work–look at this result” does not require and has never required a better theory, although it leads to better theories.

As I said in #36, intelligent design is not an explanatory theory; it’s a demonstration that in some cases, evolutionary theory isn’t a satisfactory explanation.

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albert 08.05.05 at 8:34 am

But isn’t that a critical piece of “doing science?”

No, it’s only worth while if there’s evidence or falsifiable/testable claims upon which the new hypothesis can be made.

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Steve LaBonne 08.05.05 at 12:06 pm

And it doesn’t help that in the rare instances when they do try to make some criticism with actual empirical content- viz. Dumbski’s “information-theory” noodling- it’s always laughably incompetent. Which is only to be expected since the whole thing is really a political enterprise and not a scientific one at all.

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Jake 08.05.05 at 1:07 pm

SamC–

you’re really claiming that you can attack an accepted theory without offering anything to replace it? I find that hard to believe; don’t you at the least offer a modification and then a revised theory?

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SamChevre 08.05.05 at 2:26 pm

you’re really claiming that you can attack an accepted theory without offering anything to replace it? I find that hard to believe; don’t you at the least offer a modification and then a revised theory?

Jake–yes–that’s exactly what I’m claiming. I can say, “Your theory X is wrong; look at this case which contradicts it,” even if I have no better explanation.

Think of the experiments measuring the speed of light, which disproved the ether theory of how light moved. After that, the ether theory was known to be wrong, but it was several years and several explanations later until there was a new, well-worked-out theory.

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alex (a different one) 08.05.05 at 2:28 pm

Jake, the cliched image of the lonely researcher producing the One Brilliant Idea and overturning accepted knowledge is crap, and always has been. In reality, nearly every scientist has colleagues with whom new ideas are thrashed out. In that setting, it’s obligatory that holes are poked in any theory, no matter how small. If it prevents one from having a paper laughed out of a conference, that’s a good thing.

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nick 08.05.05 at 4:35 pm

As I said in #36, intelligent design is not an explanatory theory; it’s a demonstration that in some cases, evolutionary theory isn’t a satisfactory explanation.

Er, no. It’s a dodgy critique wrapped up in shiny ineffability.

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Brett Bellmore 08.05.05 at 7:11 pm

The most they’ve managed to do so far, is to demonstrate that in some cases, you can’t figure out how evolution could have produced some feature. That sort of gap isn’t particularly unusual in the application of theories to extremely complex situations.

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Steve LaBonne 08.06.05 at 7:52 am

Actually, most if not all of the claimed “gaps”, like the ones made much of in Behe’s book, are simply phony. Behe made false claims- which he has never publicly retracted AFAIK- about the absence of literature in areas where at the time he wrote there were actually tons of papers. Anyone who wants lots of details can find them on the talk.origins site.

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Jake 08.06.05 at 12:31 pm

Sam, Alex–
My fault, but we’re conflating some differernt things here.
An accepted theory isn’t necessarily abandoned immediately because of contradictory evidence, right? If a theory can be shown to contain a logical or mathematical contradiction, that’s one thing; but if the evidence is a test whose results contradict the predictions of the theory, that test gets replicated and others are devisesd before the theory is abandoned. There’s a weight of precedent (not entirely unlike the law, I reckon).

In any case, this question is important wrt ID because it bears on one of Johnson’s two basic claims in the original Darwin on Trial article, that even if a critic can offer no counter-theory with any principled basis, that evidence of imperfection in a theory is sufficient to reduce it to the value of the counter-theory. What Johnson claimed, as far as I can tell, is that some years ago, since we had not yet found the “missing link” between dinosaurs and birds, that at the time evolution was a failure and therefore deserving of no more consideration than ID. More recently, he might have argued that the inability of evolutionary theory to explain at this time the oddity of a certain bird’s set of features means that evolution is unsatisfactory. etc.

If there wasn’t the conflict with the beliefs of certain soi-disant Christians in this country, the above would be politically unimportant and Sam’s point in #36 would hold, rather benignly; but since people in general are not going to be exposed to these (if you’ll allow me) meta-concerns, the question of the amount of tolerance we ought to give to these kinds of objections is more vexed.

Sorry if the above is messy, got to get back to work.

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Edward 08.09.05 at 1:03 am

A: How did X happen?
B: I don’t know.
A: Ah-ha! That proves that God did it.

In response to the question of how Intelligent Design has been disproven, I would amplify on #81 a bit:

The main argument of ID is “If evolution cannot explain the development of X, then X must be a product of Intelligent Design.” The main logical fallacy here is that Intelligent Design is the only possible alternative to evolution, which must be defaulted to. Also, the assumption that evolutionary theory cannot explain something is invoked for anything which is currently unknown. The mere fact that something has not been explained by the theory of evolution is not proof that evolution cannot explain it (It is, however, conceivable for some empirical observation to apparently contradict evolutionary theory, but, creationists’ claims to the contrary, this has not been observed in actual fact).

It’s worse than that, though. In addition to merely invoking the genuine unknowns of biological evolution, ID proponents are fond of pretending that things which are actually well-understood are, instead, unknown.

Richard Dawkins explains this and more in greater depth in God’s Gift to Kansas.

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