“Outright gibberish”

by Chris Bertram on July 19, 2008

Steve Fuller gets a good kicking from the excellent Steven Poole:

… Fuller happily adopts ID’s rhetorical tactics: speaking of biologists’ “faith”; forgetting to mention (or merely being ignorant of) the wealth of evidence for evolution in modern biology that wasn’t available to Darwin himself; and even muttering about the “vicissitudes” of fossil-dating, thus generously holding the door open for young-Earth creationists, too. The book is an epoch-hopping parade of straw men, incompetent reasoning and outright gibberish, as when evolution is argued to share with astrology a commitment to “action at a distance”, except that the distance is in time rather than space. It’s intellectual quackery like this that gives philosophy of science a bad name.

(Hat tip: SO)

{ 98 comments }

1

Barry 07.19.08 at 12:03 pm

What I wonder is how this BS puff pasty got multiple professorships? I’ve read his guest posts on (Micheal Berube’s) website, defending creationism (excuse me, ‘intelligent design’) as a valid science[1], and it was an amazing display of voluminous writing with no intellectual content or honesty whatsoever. It’s like somebody wanted to do a mockery of the right-wing conception of a post-modernist intellectual, and the parody writer was in a manic phase while doing so.

[1] Or rather, as the currently leading attack *on* science, which Steve Fuller seems to think is a good thing.

2

Jeff Rubard 07.19.08 at 12:45 pm

It’s nice this Poole fellow is almost grown-up enough to admit the traditional virtues of scientific reasoning are “physico-theological” in character.

3

Steve LaBonne 07.19.08 at 1:20 pm

It’s nice this Poole fellow is almost grown-up enough to admit the traditional virtues of scientific reasoning are “physico-theological” in character.

I love the smell of a genetic fallacy in the morning.

4

Jeff Rubard 07.19.08 at 1:24 pm

I guess it is about what you love, because it’s a fact of the history of science that the “monotheistic hypothesis” was critically important for formulating the canon of scientific inference. I’m interested in facts, not phony logic: I’m funny like that.

5

"Q" the Enchanter 07.19.08 at 1:28 pm

Poole is far too grown up to think that historical facts about what once “inspired” most early scientists lends any support to the traditional transcendental arguments.

Modernly, of course, most scientists are inspired more by how the world actually happens to be. This, I take it, is an improvement.

6

Steve LaBonne 07.19.08 at 1:30 pm

Historical origin != “character”. (That you consider logic to be phony would tend to make you a Fuller fan, I suppose.) That what we now think of as scientific inquiry once had a theological flavor is an utterly trivial observation, since we’re talking about periods in which almost everybody was a theist and absolutely everybody had to at least pretend to be one.

7

"Q" the Enchanter 07.19.08 at 1:32 pm

The materialistic hypothesis has also been kind of historically important.

Again, though, the question vis-a-vis doing science is what is logically important. Given that most contemporary scientists believe monotheism is not true, I guess we have our answer.

8

Jeff Rubard 07.19.08 at 1:33 pm

I’ve never tripped about a personal god, and don’t care about other people’s such trips beyond politeness, but the idea of a unified, law-governed cosmos is not self-evident. If you don’t want to talk about “that man”, the Stoics had similar ideas about “authored nature”.

9

Steve LaBonne 07.19.08 at 1:34 pm

I hope it’s clear, “q”, that I was replying to Jeff and your #5 snuck in while I was typing.

10

Steve LaBonne 07.19.08 at 1:37 pm

I don’t agree with #8, either. Finding some comprehensible order in natural phenomena is a deep-seated human need which lies at the root of both religion and science. Religion is the black-sheep older sibling of science, not the daddy.

11

Jeff Rubard 07.19.08 at 1:44 pm

Steve, do you want to rap about Herbrand? “Fallacies” are cheap attempts to weasel out of considering proposals on their merits; I don’t know, maybe they have a place, but really. As for matter, stuff is stuff that obeys laws; as for human needs, it’s a strange kind of scientific realism that depends on them.

12

Steve LaBonne 07.19.08 at 2:02 pm

The fallacy lies in ASSUMING, without evidence or argument, that the theological flavor of early sicence is a permanent part of its “character” or essence (rather than simply period costuming). Above I’ve given my considered opinion of your proposal. Provide real arguments to the contrary and we’d be getting somewhere.

As for scientific “realism” (though I lean more towards a Peircean pragmatism) depending on human needs, nothing contradictory there; see “Darwinian epistemology”.

13

Jeff Rubard 07.19.08 at 2:15 pm

It’s not a fallacy if it’s true: the kind of order and cohesion that the great modern scientists perceived in the world had a theological flavor compared to things like “Darwinian epistemology”, which (unless it’s very sophisticated) is a crock of shit that leads people to feel justified in whatever they think. I’m not going to state it in the form of an “argument”, another kind of window-dressing for historically inaccurate and conjuncturally inappropriate views.

14

Michael Dufel 07.19.08 at 2:17 pm

Please don’t link young earth creationism with ID. To do so is combine the straw men and ad hominem logical fallacies. It’s really poor taste to go after someone else’s logical blunders while making your own in the process.

15

Steve LaBonne 07.19.08 at 2:40 pm

I see neither evidence nor argument there, just repeated Fullerian assertion. Again, the early modern period was one still permeated by theism; NOTHING in the culture of that time could escape flavoring by it. (If we want to go back a bit further to the late medieval period, we can see that the theology of a Dante was also the best “science” available in his time and place.) However we can observe a clear tendency towards (at a minimum) religious dissent among the early modern scientific pioneers, just as proto-scientific speculation was often associated with freethinking in both ancient Greece and ancient India.

By the way, anything idea whatsoever can be turned into a crock of shit if treated in a ridiculously simple-minded way. So what?

16

Steve LaBonne 07.19.08 at 2:41 pm

“Any idea”, that is. Is preview ever coming back?

17

rea 07.19.08 at 2:50 pm

Is preview ever coming back?

No, because action at a temporal distance is just like astrology

18

Jeff Rubard 07.19.08 at 2:51 pm

Okay, Steve, I’ll explain. You seem to be thinking there is a transhistorical “essence” to science such that the confluence of law-governed explanation and theism in the mind of a Newton was just adventitious. I am not a theist, but I do not regard the interrelationship as simply adventitious: the cognitive excellences of unity, simplicity etc which have traditionally been regarded as hallmarks of good science are not strictly speaking natural functions of the human mind and if they’re not reinforced by something they may fall out.

As for science and freethinking, I agree: that is historically accurate.

19

novakant 07.19.08 at 2:54 pm

Modernly, of course, most scientists are inspired more by how the world actually happens to be.

I think it would be much wiser to push abductive reasoning and Occam’s Razor as central principles of science, when trying to fend off the claims made by creationists et al. Defending a naive scientific realism or playing down the anthropocentric elements in science is a losing battle.

20

Matt 07.19.08 at 2:56 pm

I mostly agree w/ Steve above but would put the pont a bit different: while the context of discovery can be important to the context of justification there’s no necessary implications that can be drawn from the former to the later and to draw them you have to do hard work. The better sociologists of science do this while the worse ones, like Fuller, tend not to. (To my mind you can see something similar in a lot of political ‘theory’- an illicit move from the context of the origin of an idea to claims about the validity of an idea w/o doing the sort of work needed to establish the claim. As a philosopher this is something that drives me nuts.)

21

Steve LaBonne 07.19.08 at 3:03 pm

You seem to be thinking there is a transhistorical “essence” to science such that the confluence of law-governed explanation and theism in the mind of a Newton was just adventitious.

Funny that, because to me YOU seem to be thinking there is a transhistorical “essence” to science (and one, moreover, that is closely connected with its suposed historical origins because- well, just because) such that the confluence of law-governed explanation and theism in the mind of a Newton was NOT adventitious (and therefore needs to be seriously taken into account to understand his physics). Mere historical correlations are nowhere near sufficient to do this kind of work.

Besides, and as you seem to acknowledge, the cognitive ideals of which you speak were conspicuously practiced even in ancient times by non-believers e.g. the Carvaka philosophers in India. So even the correlation is far from invariable.

I just don’t see any real intellectual mileage to be generated by ruminating about the religious beliefs of early modern scientists. It’s possibly somewhat more relevant than their taste in food or clothing, but not a lot more. Humans have an amazing capacity for tolerating cognitive dissonance, and both rigorously scientific and flagrantly antiscientific thinking can coexist in the same noggin even when no religion is involved eg. a great chemist like Pauling going off the deep end about Vitamin C.

22

Jeff Rubard 07.19.08 at 3:32 pm

Indeed I do think there is a transhistorical essence to science: I suppose it has something to do with the nature of the world, although our grasp of that may not always be as good as we think. But I don’t find your views that objectionable, and we don’t really seem to be learning from each other, so I’ve said my piece.

23

dfreelon 07.19.08 at 3:59 pm

An exquisitely substantiated discussion of the roots of modern science is far beside the true crux of the ID “controversy,” which is about ID’s validity as an epistemology. The former appears to be the discussion many ID supporters would rather hold, because as has been amply pointed out here, the greatest scientists of 400 years ago were theists nearly without exception. But this is a textbook red herring and has no bearing whatsoever on the fact that belief systems which position what ought to be their conclusions as postulates are unscientific by definition.

The charge of scientistic piety leveled at scientists by IDers is particularly interesting–it claims that science is just another religion, and therefore that the controversy ought to be taught. But if this is true, science does not exist, because its adherence to falsification and aversion to question-begging are insufficient to distinguish it from unconditional faith in fixed dogma. Do we really want to go there?

24

novakant 07.19.08 at 4:28 pm

Do we really want to go there?

No, because most of these people either don’t know what the hell they’re talking about or are arguing in bad faith.

But I think it’s important to differentiate such efforts from the criticism characteristic of much of 20th century philosophy of science and aimed at absolutist, reductionist and naively realist conceptions of science.

Such criticism has generally improved our understanding of these matters and the natural scientists I’ve spoken to oddly enough generally don’t seem to have much of a problem with it.

If we choose to ignore or play down these debates and instead hold on to an idealized view of science, we’re only putting up a very weak defense and present an easy target.

25

abb1 07.19.08 at 4:57 pm

There is no need to argue, brothers and sisters. Science is God’s creation, as well as pseudo-science, as well as everything else.

26

noen 07.19.08 at 5:44 pm

Non Christians have made enormous contributions to science. The fact that they viewed the universe differently than their western colleagues was exactly what made their discoveries possible. This is true in other disciplines as well. The idea that only the western concept of an omnipotent ruler can bring forth science is racist or at least ethnocentric in the extreme.

27

Jonathan 07.19.08 at 5:47 pm

I posted a discussion of Fuller’s Dover testimony a couple of years ago. I haven’t read the book, but it sounds from Poole’s short review as if many of the same arguments were being made.

28

abb1 07.19.08 at 5:51 pm

Monotheism is not a western concept.

29

Jeff Rubard 07.19.08 at 6:08 pm

I guess something needs to be said to people who aren’t practicing scientists like Mr. Labonne, though: Steve Fuller knows a hell of a lot more about science than you. He doesn’t really like Intelligent Design, he’s just giving it the benefit of the doubt; that’s what “science in a free society” is.

30

noen 07.19.08 at 6:14 pm

I wasn’t thinking of monotheism specifically but of how different concepts or ways of viewing the world have allowed non-western scientists to make contributions western scientists might not have made.

31

Barry 07.19.08 at 6:14 pm

Wow. Fantastically wrong about science – if there’s one thing about science, it’s that it’s really, really stingy with ‘benefit of the doubt’.

32

a philosopher 07.19.08 at 6:16 pm

“I guess something needs to be said to people who aren’t practicing scientists like Mr. Labonne, though: Steve Fuller knows a hell of a lot more about science than you.” This is one of those appeal-to-authority moves that get trotted out now and again in these discussions, and this particular version doesn’t make any sense to me. Now, there’s nothing epistemically wrong with appeals to appropriate authorities — but if you think that you can play the “Steve Fuller knows more science than you” card against random passersby, then the problem is that “the entire scientific biology community knows more science than Steve Fuller” should thereby trump the bejesus out of your initial play.

33

Barry 07.19.08 at 6:19 pm

Sorry; my comment in #31 was aimed at #29.

34

Salient 07.19.08 at 6:31 pm

“He doesn’t really like Intelligent Design, he’s just giving it the benefit of the doubt; that’s what “science in a free society” is.”

Suppose I don’t especially like Wiccan weather magic. As a scientist in a free society, shall I give them the benefit of the doubt?

35

Paul Gowder 07.19.08 at 6:35 pm

re: 11-14, I do wish people would stop training students to reason by jumping up and down and pointing at some informal logical fallacy that’s been beaten into their heads. The wrongness of the notion that religion, because of its history, is a permanent part of the scientific “character” is that a) we have no account of what the “character” of an enterprise is, in that sense, and b) there’s no reason given to believe that its theological past affects the truth of any claims made by contemporary scientific reasoning. Not because someone can attach some label to it.

36

a philosopher 07.19.08 at 6:44 pm

I’m sympathetic to what you say, Paul, but mostly because people often misapply the memorized term. In this case, though, what you say in your (b) really is equivalent to making an accusation of the genetic fallacy, as Labonne did in his earlier comment. So the problem here is perhaps that some of the participants have had the dangers of the genetic fallacy _insufficiently_ pounded into their heads, not that they have been over-pounded.

37

Steve LaBonne 07.19.08 at 6:51 pm

I’ve read a fair amount of Fuller’s rubbish. He knows nothing about anything except how to parlay being a pompous ass into a minor academic career and a certain amount of notoriety.

I am not, by the way, by any means a reflexive opponent of STS or whatever they’re calling ti these days. But people like Fuller give that discipline a bad name and many of its practitioners would be happy to tell you so themselves.

#35:

The wrongness of the notion that religion, because of its history, is a permanent part of the scientific “character” is that a) we have no account of what the “character” of an enterprise is, in that sense, and b) there’s no reason given to believe that its theological past affects the truth of any claims made by contemporary scientific reasoning.

Which, of course, is what I said.

Not because someone can attach some label to it.

People often assume (rather than argue) that the historical, contingent origin of X must tell you a lot about X as it is today. It’s handy, though obviously non-essential, to have labels readily to hand for such particularly frequent errors of inference. Now if I had applied the label and said nothing else, you’d have a point. But see above.

38

abb1 07.19.08 at 6:56 pm

People are (or should be) pointing at logical fallacies not to attach the label but to save time and effort. There is the argument behind the label, it has been made a million times, all you need to do is call it. It’s convenient, that’s all.

39

Matt 07.19.08 at 6:56 pm

Jeff- the other day in the NDPR there was a review, a pretty fawning one, of another new book by Fuller. It was more positive than warranted, I think, but even still, the reviewer pointed out that while Fuller knew (supposedly) quite a bit about sociology and some about economics that he wasn’t so strong on the physical sciences, knowing them mostly via popular works and not more than most well-read readers. This is apparent, I think, in his discussion of ID and evolution. Since this characterization of Fuller as far from an expert in the physical sciences, including biology, was from a very sympathetic reviewer I’m strongly inclined to believe it’s true.

40

Jeff Rubard 07.19.08 at 6:58 pm

I am presenting tests of whether people are capable of recognizing historical (biographical, scientific) fact. If you don’t have an idea of what would generally motivate someone to be like Steve Fuller, or what generally motivated scientists before they discovered they made their own reality, no amount of cliche informal logic is going to help you, or help other people deal with your “awesomeness”.

41

Steve LaBonne 07.19.08 at 7:09 pm

I am presenting tests of whether people are capable of recognizing historical (biographical, scientific) fact.

Get over yourself. You’re not the only person in the world who recognizes that there’s a thing called “history of science”.

What motivates someone to be like Steve Fuller is a desire to be taken as an intellectual without actually having to know anything.

42

Jeff Rubard 07.19.08 at 7:19 pm

No, there are very many, Steve, people that are not prone to accusing the historical record of irrationality.

43

Steve LaBonne 07.19.08 at 7:28 pm

I would certainly never approve of anyone accusing an inanimate, abstract concept like “the historical record” of irrationality. Or of rationality, for that matter.

44

Jeff Rubard 07.19.08 at 7:37 pm

Steve, there’s the “book of nature”, and then there’s the book of culture, filled with the works and days of humanity. There are people who would like to tidy it up and slur over things because it would be convenient at the present time: I like to call this “committing palimpsest”. As for you, you’re over-impressed with your own abilities and as a result you’re not taking the “ethnomethodology” of great scientists seriously.
That’s an instance in my book.

45

noen 07.19.08 at 7:41 pm

I am presenting tests of whether people are capable of recognizing historical (biographical, scientific) fact.

Your fact is exactly what is contested.

The monotheistic hypothesis: the idea that belief in a unified, law-governed cosmos was critically important for formulating the canon of scientific inference.

I hope that is a fair characterization.

46

Dave Weeden 07.19.08 at 9:50 pm

@29 Steve Fuller knows a hell of a lot more about science than you. He doesn’t really like Intelligent Design, he’s just giving it the benefit of the doubt; that’s what “science in a free society” is.

For someone purportedly defending science, the above passage is remarkable. How does Jeff Rubard know how much Steve Fuller knows about science? (Fuller’s books are all about the philosophy of science.) Since Fuller is not a practicing scientist, why is he in a special position: why can’t other non-practicing scientists know as much or more?

If Steve Fuller doesn’t really like “Intelligent Design” why does he feel the need to write a book defending it? Can’t “ID” believers do that themselves? Jeff Rubard seems to know an awful lot about Steve Fuller’s motivations and what he knows. If I were casting aspersions, I’d say that I haven’t seen a blog comment writer so knowledgeable about an author since Mary Rosh stood up for John Lott.

Finally, where does the “science in a free society” come in? It’s just the title of a book by Paul Feyerabend. No one mentioned it before. We’re talking about science (some of us are, anyway – and others are doing it) and we’re in a free society. Isn’t that what “science in a free society” is? What’s the point of this comment? – it looks like emotional blackmail: “If you believe in freedom, don’t be nasty about Steve Fuller.” Don’t forget, Jeff, that you started the nasty comments with “almost grown-up enough”.

47

Jeff Rubard 07.19.08 at 10:02 pm

1) Um, because it’s really patently obvious unless you’re doing special pleading that people who do “science studies” are nerds manque (as opposed to actual scientists, who know everything about everything).

2) Because it’s possible to like Darwinism too much, i.e. use enthusiasm for evolution to justify immoral and unscientific views. There have been a variety of books written for this reason, and “ID” is the flavor of the month.

3) It at least used to be a standard practice in written intellectual English to “name-check” some commonly known trope in a field, such as a book title by a widely read author, as opposed to coming on like this: “Hi, I know everything and you know nothing, let me tell you all about it”. As for emotional blackmail, doing science in a free society is what “science in a free society” would be about; if it cuts to invoke it, that’s not necessarily my fault.

48

Steve LaBonne 07.19.08 at 11:19 pm

Because it’s possible to like Darwinism too much, i.e. use enthusiasm for evolution to justify immoral and unscientific views.

Oh for Christ’s sake. First of all, nobody actually trained in biology jabbers about “Darwinism” (evolutionary biology really has come a long way since 1859, you know); that terminology is the special province of the ID loons and other creationists. Secondly, there is no idea that can’t be abused, generally by people who are not actually conversant with it.

49

Jeff Rubard 07.20.08 at 12:56 am

Oh for Christ’s sake.

I would prefer not to.

50

Lee A. Arnold 07.20.08 at 4:19 am

I don’t understand Fuller’s argument but I think it’s possible to say that evolution is being assumed for a pop-science explanation of things that it hasn’t been shown to apply to, yet.

But I think the real cause of creationism is deeper: I think the problem is that the subject-object relations of rational discourse, such as those that compose scientific argument, never transcend self-reflective, circular loops in consciousness.

Scientists take the position that science is the way out, the way to find objective knowledge: there are “things,” and there are “connections” between them. We will let the reflective loops take care of themselves!

That means that at the present, a scientist’s position on the theory of the origination of living beings must be as follows: that evolution has proceeded to the point where certain beings since Darwin have now identified “evolution.” Evolution has identified “evolution.”

For someone seeking a total explanation, this is an intellectual loop much like the structure of arguments for the existence of God.

That makes evolution suspect to the creationists because they already believe in a theology. There are several variants but I think it is safe to say that all major theologies were written and programmed by the mystical-path psychology that transcends self-reflective loops.

The failure of understanding is on both sides, since most scientists on the other hand do not suspect that there are sustainable states of consciousness which can only be attained by temporarily rejecting the subject-object relationship. For the most part, this is currently taken to be an hallucination.

The existence of “consciousness-without-an-object” (from a book title by Merrell-Wolff) would of course put a new wrinkle into epistemology, because it tends to demote science from being an explanation of the universe to being a description of a subset of our total cognition. (I happen to think that is the status of mathematics.) Research into brain states during deep meditation may provide a clue to resolving this.

51

Lee A. Arnold 07.20.08 at 4:46 am

Science does continue to find truth in some assumptions that arose as necessary corollaries to the millennial and religious Great Chain of Being (the title is of course from Arthur Lovejoy,) before the chain was finally inverted (not exactly discarded — curiously!) by the evolutionary turn in the 19th century. One of those corollaries for example is the set of various expressions that are equivalents to Leibnitz’ Law of Sufficient Reason: that nothing happens without a cause or precursor.

A close variation from Aristotle: “There is no exception to the rule that capacity of being an object of a purposive action is the essential feature establishing reality.”

52

bad Jim 07.20.08 at 5:45 am

Of course we’re talking past each other. The question of how life began on earth may never be resolved (how sneaky of those early life forms not to leave fossils!) but the question of how they might have come about is not only provocative but leads to some interesting and possibly fruitful avenues of exploration. I’d bet on the extremophiles; the ancient ones would have needed a local power supply. I can’t rule out God, or a visiting extraterrestrial whose sneeze seeded the planet, as Stanislaw Lem suggested.

Science succeeds by answering, in a practical manner, one question at a time. We don’t have to have a theory of everything to explain something, and we’re not afraid of saying “I don’t know”. With regard to some questions, we’re generally too polite to say “I don’t know what you’re talking about”, much less the implied “and we don’t care about it, either.”

Science works. That’s it. The whole scheme. Compare the world into which you were born with the one you inhabit now. Notice the changes? Or consider what you were taught as an adolescent with what you can read about now. (I’m 56; the progress in biology is a mind fuck. I can’t keep up.)

This process works in spite of its general disregard for philosophy or theology. It certainly doesn’t tell you whom you may or may not fuck, in which direction to pray or for whom you ought to vote, though it may consider any of the above actions grist for its many mills. It doesn’t pretend to be a religion or an ideology. It’s more than a job, but so is music.

53

abb1 07.20.08 at 9:36 am

Hmm, 52, that sounds like a total capitulation.

54

rageahol 07.20.08 at 10:04 am

what’s with all this talk of “truth”?

models, friends. models.

sheesh.

55

Dave 07.20.08 at 10:41 am

Wow, the troll:sense ratio in this thread may be approaching an all-time high…

56

Barry 07.20.08 at 12:39 pm

Dave Weeden 07.19.08 at 9:50 pm

” For someone purportedly defending science, the above passage is remarkable. How does Jeff Rubard know how much Steve Fuller knows about science? (Fuller’s books are all about the philosophy of science.) Since Fuller is not a practicing scientist, why is he in a special position: why can’t other non-practicing scientists know as much or more?

If Steve Fuller doesn’t really like “Intelligent Design” why does he feel the need to write a book defending it? Can’t “ID” believers do that themselves? Jeff Rubard seems to know an awful lot about Steve Fuller’s motivations and what he knows. If I were casting aspersions, I’d say that I haven’t seen a blog comment writer so knowledgeable about an author since Mary Rosh stood up for John Lott.”

From the writing styles, they’re not the same person. Steve Fuller is more positive and extremely long winded, like somebody having a pleasant euphoric experience (ecstasy + THC?). Jeff is bitter, negative and not long-winded. The fatuousness and extremely poor logic might lead one to believe that they’re the same, but even those differ – again, Steve Fuller is more of the euphoric blatherer school of non-logic, while Jeff is of a bitter school, and is at least trying to ape logical arguments.

IIRC, they did go to the same school, though (U Pitt), which should raise serious questions about that school.
” Finally, where does the “science in a free society” come in? It’s just the title of a book by Paul Feyerabend. No one mentioned it before. We’re talking about science (some of us are, anyway – and others are doing it) and we’re in a free society. Isn’t that what “science in a free society” is? What’s the point of this comment? – it looks like emotional blackmail: “If you believe in freedom, don’t be nasty about Steve Fuller.” Don’t forget, Jeff, that you started the nasty comments with “almost grown-up enough”.”

It’s an attempt to shame people into holding their minds so open that their brains fall out, as the saying goes. IMH, it’s also related to one technique of ID, of trying to use ‘freedom’ as an excuse to introduce what they want.

57

Barry 07.20.08 at 12:46 pm

Michael Dufel 07.19.08 at 2:17 pm

” Please don’t link young earth creationism with ID. To do so is combine the straw men and ad hominem logical fallacies. It’s really poor taste to go after someone else’s logical blunders while making your own in the process.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wedge_document

ID was developed after the failure of creationism to get past the gatekeepers.

58

Jeff Rubard 07.20.08 at 1:42 pm

Barry, there are some serious questions about that school, but Steve Fuller has a PhD and I was just an undergraduate there.

59

Dan S. 07.20.08 at 2:46 pm

Michael Dufel implores us: “Please don’t link young earth creationism with ID.

as Barry pointed out, young earth creationism (YEC) is utterly linked, – culturally, politically, historically, and theologically – with intelligent design creationism. It’s like vanilla ice cream and chocolate ice cream – they’re not identical, of course, but they’re both ice cream.

Two words: cdesign proponentists. This odd phrase comes from an early draft of the founding intelligent design creationism high school textbook Of Pandas and People. See, what happened was that it started out in the 1980s as a standard creationist work, including claims like:

Creation means that the various forms of life began abruptly through the agency of an intelligent creator with their distinctive features already intact. Fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, and wings, etc.

But then disaster struck , in the form of the 1987 Supreme Court decision in Edwards v. Aguillard, finding that teaching the religious doctrine of creationism in public schools was unconstitutional. What’s a Christian publisher with markets to capture (oh, and souls to save) to do? Well, (as was dramatically revealed in Kitzmiller v. Dover), the publishers simply, literally, find-and-replaced through the text, changing “creationism” to “intelligent design”, “intelligent creator” to “intelligent agency”, “creationists” to “design proponents”, and so on, so that the bit above became:

Intelligent design means that various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency, with their distinctive features already intact. Fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, wings, etc.

In one place, however, there was a bit of a goof, so that

Evolutionists think the former is correct, creationists accept the latter view.

became

Evolutionists think the former is correct, cdesign proponentsists accept the latter view.

Oops.

60

Dan S. 07.20.08 at 4:14 pm

He doesn’t really like Intelligent Design, he’s just giving it the benefit of the doubt; that’s what “science in a free society” is.

As pointed out above, science’s version of “benefit of the doubt” is “trial by fire” (although as neither Fuller nor most of us are scientists, we might use different standards). Now, I don’t think it’s inherently impossible that intelligent design creationism (like YEC baraminology) might have by sheer difference of outlook happened to stumble upon something of genuine scientific interest – after all, see the argument above about the interplay between theism and early modern science. Sure, the textbook hijinks, the major proponents who babble things like “Intelligent design is just the Logos theology of John’s Gospel restated in the idiom of information theory.” or “Father’s [Sun Myung Moon's] words, my studies, and my prayers convinced me that I should devote my life to destroying Darwinism, just as many of my fellow Unificationists had already devoted their lives to destroying Marxism. ” (Jonathan Wells), the lavishly-right-wing-funded think tank, and the manifesto that raves about how “Discovery Institute’s Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture seeks nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies . . . . we are convinced that in order to defeat materialism, we must cut it off at its source. That source is scientific materialism. This is precisely our strategy. If we view the predominant materialistic science as a giant tree, our strategy is intended to function as a “wedge” that, while relatively small, can split the trunk when applied at its weakest points. . . Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions” (the Wedge Document) . . .

- well, that doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, but again, it doesn’t rule out accidentally bumping into something real. However, ID creationism, now about 20 years old, has so far not just been scientifically vacant (the perfect image here comes again from the Dover trial, of cdesign proponentist Mike Behe, up on the stand, slowly disappearing behind an ever-growing pile of journal articles and books on the evolution of the supposedly unevolved & irreducibly complex immune system, works he had insisted didn’t exist and was forced to admit he mostly hadn’t read.) It’s that – as its manifesto makes clear – IDC’s utterly opposed to modern science as we know it. We can’t currently explain, in absolute detail, how some system or structure evolved? Then the Intelligent Designer made it. The fact that one flagship example after another of “irreducible complexity” has been confronted by detailed work on how they might have evolved? That shows nothing – just pick the next thing we don’t yet understand and insist that it’s evidence of intelligent design, until all examples are exhausted (if ever). (The Intelligent Designer of the Gaps). Cases of apparent poor or inefficient “design” that – well, that look exactly like what we’d expect to find given evolution? (see for example here). No, no, no – that’s assuming understandable motives and standards for the Designer, which we can’t do. (Maybe lower back pain and backwards-designed eyeballs with unnecessary blind spots provide It with aesthetic pleasure, or are the equivalent of name-checking of commonly known trope in the field). So we can’t work from known attributes of the Designer (s) to understand biological diversity on earth, nor can we use our studies of that diversity to learn about the attributes of that designer. Not only is the Designer unknowable, but we can’t say anything about how they designed – that’s also unknowable. (This is all a lie, of course – they’re all very certain about the answers, and what book we can find them in, but realize if they discuss that too openly then it’s game over – although they can’t always help themselves, and their less sophisticated followers make a mockery of the whole thing). What’s intelligent design creationism? ‘The Designed Designed! – now shut up and sit down.’ It’s humanity sitting quietly in a small, dark room, too afraid to get up and open the window to look outside. Even YEC is less impoverished.

As the current strategy of a cultural movement, of course, ID creationism isn’t quite so barren – indeed, at times it has been ludicrously, manically grandiose, with its aim of not only driving real science out of public school classrooms, but of overthrowing “scientific materialism” and almost the entire modern world – my favorite part of their little manifesto reads:

Materialists also undermined personal responsibility by asserting that human thoughts and behaviors are dictated by our biology and environment. The results can be seen in modern approaches to criminal justice, product liability, and welfare. In the materialist scheme of things, everyone is a victim and no one can be held accountable for his or her actions.

Product liability. The horror! The horror!

2) Because it’s possible to like Darwinism too much, i.e. use enthusiasm for evolution to justify immoral and unscientific views. There have been a variety of books written for this reason, and “ID” is the flavor of the month.

As mentioned, it seems that all sorts of atrocities can be justified by whatever idea or worldview happens to carry sufficient weight at the time. But ”Darwinism’ caused the Holocaust!’ (Stalin/school shootings/the crazy rock music/product liability lawsuits! – while definitely a pre-existing trope among YECers – is kinda obviously a bit of opportunism on the part of ID creationists, their other attempts having failed. I suppose in theory some good might come of it, though warning people of the dangers of justifying prejudices with half-understood (and wholly-warped) science, but at this point it’s like getting the Boy Who Cried Wolf to give presentations on the dangers of unsustainable grazing practices, as part of an attempt to discredit the conclusions and very methods of agricultural science.

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Dan S. 07.20.08 at 4:16 pm

(left out above – The Logos quote is Will Dembski’s)

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concerned bystander 07.20.08 at 4:24 pm

Bad Jim says “The question of how life began on earth may never be resolved “
That’s assuming the question of what “life” is has already been resolved. Because we all know what that is, it’s us being alive.
The beginning and end of that aren’t very distinct though. There’s no physical break between your body and the bodies of your parents. You walk around all separate, but it’s an illusion. You’re nothing more than expanded bits of mom and dad linked up together.
Rocks aren’t alive, but they have cohesion, viruses aren’t alive but they move and replicate. The sun isn’t alive but it has most of the attributes, and it powers virtually every organic process on earth.
When life began may be more an arbitrsary definitional thing than a boundary issue.

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Alex Leibowitz 07.20.08 at 4:51 pm

I really begin to tire of this dispute. And yet here I am.

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Barry 07.20.08 at 4:55 pm

Dan S. 07.20.08 at 2:46 pm
Michael Dufel implores us: “Please don’t link young earth creationism with ID.”

” as Barry pointed out, young earth creationism (YEC) is utterly linked, – culturally, politically, historically, and theologically – with intelligent design creationism. It’s like vanilla ice cream and chocolate ice cream – they’re not identical, of course, but they’re both ice cream.”

What I was thinking of posting is that the relationship between YEC, other creationism and ID is like a defendant under cross-examination:

1) ‘I wasn’t there’ (prosecutor shows proof that the defendant was there).
2) ‘I was there, but didn’t shoot him’ (prosecutor shows proof that the defendant shot the victim).
3) ‘I shot him, but in self-defense’ (prosecutor shows proof that the defendant ambushed the victim and emptied the weapon into the victim’s back).
4) ‘I shot him, but in a blind panic’ (prosecutor shows proof that the defendant bought the weapon at a pawnshop in another city the week before the killing, and that the defendant threatened the victim repeatedly).

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Dan S. 07.20.08 at 6:42 pm

Yep, pretty much. The latest step does seem to be a) DarwinCausedtheHolocaust!!!!! and b) academic ‘freedom’ bills, neither of which even really pretend to make a case for creationism, just ‘science = icky’ and ‘everybody should get a say’ (which is a fine principle in most cases – but obviously not especially appropriate for, ie, math or history or of course science classes.

And in my 4:14 rant, that should be: “What’s intelligent design creationism? ‘The Designer Designed! – now shut up and sit down.’ ” I want preview! I

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Jeff Rubard 07.20.08 at 7:04 pm

Dan, I heartily endorse your attempts to conceptually separate evolutionary theory and modern genocide, approving of the one and condemning the other: I myself have made similar efforts my whole life.

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Roy Belmont 07.20.08 at 8:04 pm

Back in the naive and innocent days of 2003, as Bush was being prepped for his next four years of puppetry and mimesis, there were more than a few threads at CT around this severely polarized and massively unequal conflict. Then it was more about the nasty snark and scorn.

Bush, or Bush and his masters more accurately, were riding a floodtide of the manipulated credulous. And it seemed like most of the rational respondents to these childish assertions of divine intent behind the world and life felt it like it ought to be enough to just deride them, with here and there some irritated logical rebuttal such as it was.

I said then and I’m saying now that that comes from the background of the respondents being essentially academic success. Above average intellects, rewarded by a self-reinforcing educational system, insisting that the losers take their rightful places within that system.
All well and good, if we were still in school, but hey now, Bush got in for the second time, and despite being valiantly thwarted at the ramparts of beleaguered school boards, the core of that fundamentalist drive remains active and powerful in public affairs.

Evolutionary biology clearly demonstrates that the only rule for survival of species is survival, and that not always as a result of qualities that would seem to guarantee success.
Streamlined survival machines like the great saurians disappeared overnight, the tiger is almost gone now, the thylacine a mere antipodean footnote, many more examples exist.
Squirrels survive by insane and bizarrely illogical and thus unpredictable behavior under threat, starfish have no brains, etc.

So being stupid, or crazy, or any other attribute that within human-constructed environments will usually guarantee failure, or at least lack of success, isn’t necessarily going to work that way outside the human environment, which is actually where we all live, where that human environment has been constructed.

Despite its outward form it’s not really a contest between differing ideas, one accurate, reasoned and backed by centuries of dispassionate research; the other nebulous, illogical, and dependent on credulity toward unprovable assertions by an invisible authority. It’s more like a contest between competing mutations.

My allegiance is mostly to the rational team in the main, but the dimmer side has a lot of my sympathy as well. Especially considering the present state of the world. The whole real earthly world, whose human-caused problems can’t be attributed to just one side or the other.

While science may not be colored by the monotheistic background it emerged from, the wrong-living that’s creating the awfulness of this age is directly a result of both the delusions of religion that demean and disregard the world as temporary and unimportant, and a conscienceless factuality that refuses the responsibilities of its power. Both sides are anthropocentric, selfish ultimately, and the polarity as it is does nothing but burn energy and confirm entrenched positions, feeding that selfishness.

Academics and scientists feel attacked by the barbarian hordes of delusional believers, and the believers feel attacked by the amoral and fragmental armies of science.
The scientists enjoy the safety provided by a society whose moral boundaries did originate in and still get their validity from religious institutions, religionists enjoy the material advantages provided by scientific endeavor.

There was a time when both camps were united. You can see it in so-called primitive cultures where technology and mysticism are inseparable parts of a whole way of being in the world. We lived like that a lot longer than we’ve lived like this, or under the iron hand of the church.

And you can see parallels to this conflict in the artificially generated and amplified “clash of civilizations” that’s wasting so many lives and resources today.
When these polarities intensify so dramatically there’s probably another team, maybe not out on the field, maybe not in identifiable uniforms, but playing to win all the same.
Divided we fall.

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sg 07.20.08 at 8:23 pm

Roy! Above average intellects?! Speak for yourself!

Leaving the Natural History Museum today (they are having a competition for artwork on the ceiling of one of their galleries, to be in place to celebrate Darwin’s 200th birthday) I was thinking to myself, maybe some of these experts on evolution should strike back by teaching the controversy from a pro-evolution standpoint. But I think it might be like confronting neo-Nazis, as soon as you start talking about their ideas you give them credence which no self-respecting teenage science student would extend to them absent their teacher’s efforts. So maybe best left well alone…

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abb1 07.20.08 at 8:45 pm

Divided we fall.

And what’s wrong with that? Remember, the objective of this project is not to survive, but to “be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it”. Way too ambitious and arrogant, if you ask me. Inner fighting and disunity scales it down a little bit, not to mention makes it more interesting.

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Ginger Yellow 07.21.08 at 12:48 pm

The thing that made me stop paying any attention to Fuller was when, during one of the Berube’s debates, people including myself started focusing on his argument that it doesn’t matter that ID has no research, because it would open up avenues in future. A bunch of us pointed out that for that to happen, ID would have to abandon its science-stopping modus operandi. You can’t open up new avenues of research when your MO is to find something you can’t yet explain and declare it inherently inexplicable. His response was to hand-wave and change the subject. When you consider that is his very strongest argument for ID, I was none too impressed.

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Brian 07.21.08 at 3:20 pm

While science may not be colored by the monotheistic background it emerged from, the wrong-living that’s creating the awfulness of this age is directly a result of both the delusions of religion that demean and disregard the world as temporary and unimportant, and a conscienceless factuality that refuses the responsibilities of its power. Both sides are anthropocentric, selfish ultimately, and the polarity as it is does nothing but burn energy and confirm entrenched positions, feeding that selfishness.

I’m curious about the basis on which you issue your moral evaluations and judgments of intellectual health, and in terms of what view of reality and knowledge you assume that there is anything like an objective criterion of morality and proper noetic functioning by which to find them lacking?

Your statments above seem to presuppose some absolute standard of moral and noetic wisdom by which you grade one morality as either inferior or superior to others.

The curiosity to me is, what are you comparing the universe with, to find it lacking in some regard? How can the universe have something wrong with itself?

Doesn’t a measuring stick have to be independent of the thing measured? Since you are just a part of the universe, where did you get that moral yardstick you’re using?

Cordially,

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Jim A. 07.21.08 at 6:22 pm

Although I disagree with ID (and I am also conventionally religious), it seems to me that Fuller’s point is a bit more complex. I suspect that all the bloggers on CT (and a good number of the people who comment) are committed to some sort of radical democracy. Yet, when it comes to local control of education or to public control of the scientific enterprise, ostensibly radical democrats succumb to a sort of French dirigisme: smack the Know-Nothings, make sure every science class in the Republic is on the same secular page at 2:00 p.m. on Friday afternoon. What would the democratization of Big Science look like? What are its appropriate limits? That’s the real discussion, and it’s one Fuller seems to advocate.

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jre 07.21.08 at 8:04 pm

Sorry; I still can’t get over “Steve Fuller knows a hell of a lot more about science than you. “

It bears remembering that Steve Fuller <a href=”http://crookedtimber.org/2006/03/27/if-there%E2%80%99s-a-war-please-direct-me-to-the-battlefield/”demonstrated in this very space that he does not know a hell of a lot more about science than, well, just about anyone. Also that he seems unable to recognize an evidence-grounded argument when it bites him on the ass. Which it did, on both cheeks.

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jre 07.21.08 at 8:05 pm

Aaargh! Set the link-closing tag, matey!

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jre 07.21.08 at 8:13 pm

Begging the moderators for a do-over:

Sorry; I still can’t get over “Steve Fuller knows a hell of a lot more about science than you. ”

It bears remembering that Steve Fuller demonstrated in this very space that he does not know a hell of a lot more about science than, well, just about anyone.

Also that he seems unable to recognize an evidence-grounded argument when it bites him on the ass.
Which it did, on both cheeks.

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Roy Belmont 07.22.08 at 2:24 am

Brian, cheers for using “noetic” in a sentence.

I tried a few times to frame a reply to what I think you were after doing with those four odd little paragraphs, but each time I tried I got this creepy feeling in my hands that traveled right up my arms and into my head.

It felt like when you know you’re out in the woods, in your tent? And it’s night time? Then reaching out and picking up a snake in the dark when you thought you were going for the flashlight.

Sincerely,

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Jeff Rubard 07.22.08 at 3:30 am

It bears remembering that Steve Fuller demonstrated in this very space that he does not know a hell of a lot more about science than, well, just about anyone.

Yeah, and we’re at war with Eastasia. Really, it’s that you don’t know anything about liberality.

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Dan S. 07.22.08 at 11:36 am

The thing that made me stop paying any attention to Fuller was when, during one of the Berube’s debates . . .

It bears remembering that Steve Fuller demonstrated in this very space . . .

Have gone back and read through some previous brushes with Fuller here, there and elsewhere (Panda’s Thumb) And . . . well . . . [fades off into a gentle silence, punctuated only by the sound of head hitting desk repeatedly].

Two somewhat late comments – on his 2006 posts/comments here and at Berube’s. . .

Suppose we took the pulse of Darwinism in 1909 . . .
Fuller’s using this mainly to try to excuse ID’s unsavory proponents&causes by noting that ‘Darwinism’ was kept “in the public eye” by different kinds of unsavory fellows&causes. But by staring fixedly into the (not unimportant, to be sure) public eye, he misses what was going on among then-contemporary scientists. My understanding – and my history of science chops are weak to nonexistent – is that while the reality of evolution was quickly accepted, the mechanism/s were very much in debate (indeed, Fuller mentions this himself) – and Darwin’s natural selection was doing rather poorly, and there were all sort of alternatives being bandied about within the scientific community. I can’t say that the ideological and public-opinion aspects had no influence upon matters, but what mostly happened was that work in other fields progressed to a point where supporters could convincingly show how natural selection fit together with genetics, etc. to provide the best explanation so far of things in the world – without government-provided ‘affirmative action’ (and of course, nowadays these ideas have been added on to and modified so much that some folks have argued – rightly or wrongly, but not obviously absurdly – that we’re on the brink of yet another great big ol’ synthesis: Fuller of course will keep going on about Neo-Darwinian paradigms.)

PZ at one point commented (at Berube’s) that “How strange. So the way to argue against modern evolutionary theory is to insist that it wear a late 19th/ early 20th century straightjacket? Ignore everything since Fisher and Wright . . .? And why shouldn’t biologists be allowed to include mechanisms other than natural selection? Our goal is to describe biology, not to shoehorn everything into some limited theoretical contrivance of your design.” That really captures some of my reaction to Fuller – whatever else is going on, part of it seems to be that he just has his own little purposes and standards, with little or no relation to science as practiced or any broader sociology of science.

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Barry 07.22.08 at 12:22 pm

Of course. By now it’s clear that Fuller (& Rubard) are either fantastically stupid[1] or lying through their teeth. In Rubard’s case, I’d chalk it up to the former (and a good demonstration of the value of a U Pitt philosophy major), but Fuller has had to compete on a higher level. This puts him in the same boat with other creationists who’ve confronted good counter-arguments, and still BS.

[1] With with a strong additional possibility that Fuller is also merely a blatherer, and was able to become a professor of sociology of science because that’s all that’s needed – the whole field is BS.

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Barry 07.22.08 at 12:23 pm

Note – I put a ‘close italics’ tag at the front of my post; the blogging software doesn’t seem to care.

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Jeff Rubard 07.22.08 at 12:46 pm

Oh yeah, my degree is not worth the paper it’s printed on, but although I like to think I am a good demonstration of the value of a Pitt philosophy education (even though I don’t have anything to do with them intellectually) lumping Fuller with me is an indication of your patent laziness and malice. Anyone with significant training in the philosophy of science is going to actually know lots of actual science; that’s a sociological fact. People who try to argue sociological facts away don’t succeed in arguing them away.

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Dan S. 07.23.08 at 2:44 am

Interesting post on Stranger Fruit (scienceblogs) about The Value of History of Science to Science Education.

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Dr. Free-Ride 07.23.08 at 5:28 am

I haven’t read Fuller’s recent book, but if his line of argument with respect to affirmative action for ID is similar to that he used in the CT seminar on The Republican War on Science, then my response to that earlier argument is still one I stand by:

If Fuller’s account is true, evolutionary theory had to run the gantlet of the criticisms raised by physical and biological sciences. This suggests that the very fact that physical and biological scientists now raise criticisms to ID does not in itself mean that ID cannot prove itself to be a respectable scientific theory. However, the fact remains that evolutionary theory has earned its respectability by its performance in the scientific arena, not the arena of public opinion. Evolutionary theory is productive in guiding actual empirical research. Indeed, it makes claims that are independently testable, and thus, falsifiable. (Philip Kitcher’s discussion of tenrecs on pp. 50-53 of his book Abusing Science shows nice examples of this, and a working biologist could likely point you to many others .)

If ID is to be taken seriously by the scientific community, then surely ID must first meet a similar burden.

So far, the demonstration that ID could productively guide scientific research is still wanting. But in the meantime, pressure has been brought to bear on the scientific establishment to take ID seriously. However, rather than coming from rank-and-file working scientists, this pressure has come primarily from forces outside the tribe of science. …

Fuller skates rather quickly by a salient point for those who would seek to influence science from within or without: there are certain kinds of demonstrations that move the tribe of science, and others that do not. Demonstrations which put up empirical evidence, successful predictions, coherent explanations — which speak to a theory’s ability productively to guide scientific research — are persuasive to scientists. Since such demonstrations are meant to be the sort of things other scientists could check for themselves, whether by checking their logical structure or bringing additional data to bear, they are put into a public space (such as the scientific literature) where all the scientists in the tribe of science can weigh in on them — including scientists who are inclined toward other views. Indeed, those other views are part of the scientific dialogue, but they, too, must meet the evidentiary burden to be taken seriously.

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Roy Belmont 07.23.08 at 11:26 pm

Just to see.

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Roy Belmont 07.23.08 at 11:27 pm

Again.

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Roy Belmont 07.23.08 at 11:27 pm

It’s broken for good.

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Steve Fuller 07.23.08 at 11:40 pm

Finally someone is talking about my book who has actually read and understood it!

http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=402929&c=2

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Dan S. 07.24.08 at 2:16 am

Finally someone is talking about my book who has actually read and understood it!

{follows link}: “There is a major proofreading error on page 173, which turns the Ontological Argument into nonsense. Deleting the word “that” will restore sense.

I have to say, this is one of the most amusing things I’ve read out of this whole to-do (along with the Wedge Document’s mention of “modern approaches . . . to product liability” as one of the hideous consequences stemming from the evil triumph of materialism – also certain bits of the Dover trial transcript and that pithy little saying about Dembski and jello).

Anyway – Mr. Fuller, I was hoping you might show up – having gone back and read some of your earlier posts& comments here and at Berube’s old blog, I’ve been walking around with that frustrating stuck-arguing-in-one’s-head-with-an-absent-interlocutor feeling, one not easily satisfied by talking back at years-old blog comments. Although I must admit I haven’t read your book or any other non-bloggish works, and from what I’ve seen suspect I wouldn’t be able to make sense of it – like I was saying yesterday, you often seem to be approaching these issues with utterly unfamiliar (to me) aims and means, and very little in the way of common ground. And real life demands that I step away from the computer for at least a few hours . . .

Still -I’m curious about what that reviewer describes as your characterization of methodological naturalism as “a ‘pseudo-philosophy’ fuelled by bigotry.” At least on the surface, this does seem unfortunately familiar – Phillip Johnson and all. What’s up with that? – and why does (what I see as) a highly formalized version of ‘No, no, we need a plumber, not an exorcist’ (etc.) comes in for such criticism? (There also seems some contradiction or shift of focus, if I understand correctly, since you appear to be arguing for design as (despite no current evidence for any accuracy or predictive power on its part) a way to encourage certain (useful?) attitudes and outcomes — yet one could view methodological naturalism in something of a similar light, and with much more evidence of its usefulness and . . . nonintrusiveness, I guess, but that’s going to have to be left confused for now.

Also, something Dr. Free-Ride’s responding to in her old linked post:
what was provocative about Origin of the Species was not the prospect that a theory of plant and animal species could also explain humans, but the exact opposite: that a theory so obviously grounded in the explanatory framework of laissez faire capitalism could be generalized across all of nature.
– that’s not an interpretation I’m familiar with (though I should repeat here that I have at best a rather pop acquaintance with the history of evolutionary theory), esp. in terms of scientific work – where should I look, what contemporary works, arguments, figures?

I’m also unsure how your general . . . framework? applies elsewhere, say in terms of the history of plate tectonics, or the Alvarez hypothesis (dinosaur, meet asteroid. bye-bye!), the channeled scablands debate (perhaps the closest, in some ways, but also showing how much contrast there is really is), or the role of Helicobacter pylori in causing many ulcers – another striking contrast, really . . .

Also, to bounce off what jim said at 6:22 on 7/21, about democratization of science – I think Dr. Free-Ride had an excellent point in saying (old linked post again):
However, it seems to me that there is a way in which lack of uniformity in core science curricula may actually undercut the prospects for democratizing the tribe of science. Sound scientific education — education that reflects the methodologies scientists actually use to build new knowledge, and that exposes students to the theoretical frameworks scientists have found most productive in building new knowledge — may be necessary for students to have, as a live option, the possibility of becoming scientists and joining the tribe of science.

More later. FWIW.

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Dan S. 07.24.08 at 2:22 am

I have no idea where that strikethrough came from.

The Designer did it?

also: “that’s not an interpretation I’m familiar with . . . esp. in terms of scientific work – that really should lose the “esp.” – although I actually haven’t seen reference to that argument before the early 20thC – would like to hear more ’bout that?

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Steve Fuller 07.24.08 at 2:36 am

Dan S., here’s a radical idea: Read something of mine that is NOT in a blog — preferably more than five pages, and then ask a sensible question. I’m not here to solve problems that you’ve imagined from reading blogs that are now several years old.

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Dan S. 07.24.08 at 4:44 am

Hmm.

Well.
. . . I suppose I could try that. And certainly I have so little background in the relevant fields I’m sure there’s much I’m not understanding . . .
– Though, have you significantly changed your views since ’05/’06? I’d be particularly curious to hear where you currently stand on ID in the classroom, especially if it doesn’t involve international shipping fees (a depressingly large amount of my teeny book budget went, amusingly enough, towards Lebo’s “The Devil in Dover“).

Anyway, my first question, on methodological naturalism, references the current review you linked to; given your comment about how the reviewer had “actually read and understood it,” I was assuming that you didn’t feel it substantially misrepresented anything. I don’t entirely understand why it’s a non-sensible question.

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Steve Fuller 07.24.08 at 6:33 am

Yes, the reviewer clearly read the book, and he actually has a well-defined view on the topic. (He happens to be one of the leading theistic evolutionists.) So I know where he’s coming from and why he says what he does, given what I say in the book. The problem with launching into a discussion with anonymous people about something they only know second or third hand is that the situation is potentially fraught with misunderstanding on all sides. In particular, people will very quickly find their way back to their pet loves or hates, regardless of what one says in response. If you look at this very thread, it almost reproduced what happened when I appeared on the various blogs concerning ID over two years ago — now without even my being here.

But of course, I realize that threads of this kind are not designed really to discuss serious issues but simply to engage in some form of intellectual bloodsport, where you declare lynching season on someone. Some of the bloggers on Crooked Timber seem to find this acceptable behaviour. How it squares with their avowed dedication to liberalism completely eludes me.

The only reason why I posted Keith Ward’s review from the Times Higher is that the review that got this thread going, which was so widely lauded by people who hadn’t even read the book, was by someone (Steven Poole) whose main achievement has been in the aesthetics of videogames. He clearly did not know what to make of ‘Dissent over Descent’ but knew he didn’t like me (he was part of an earlier lynch mob on this blog) and so he trotted out some anti-ID boilerplate and cherry-picked some suitably outrageous quotes to put the book in the worst possible light. I suppose that’s his right. However, more neutral parties coming to this blog might wonder whether Poole got it right with his ‘outright gibberish’ judgement. Of course, I could have said no myself, but given the number of people on this blog who presume that if not I’m an idiot, I’m a liar, I realized that would have been a futile gesture.

There are some very interesting and important discussions to be had about methodological naturalism and all the other evo-ID topics, but this is not the place to have them.

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Dan S. 07.24.08 at 12:44 pm

Oh well. That’s a shame.

Guess I’ll go read some Pennock.

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Sam Centipedro 07.24.08 at 4:59 pm

The key thing that Steve Fuller seems wholly to misunderstand is that ID and its older sister creationism have nothing to do with science; they are political movements. They dress some of their arguments up in science and abuse the tools and techniques of science to clad that activism in a cloak (or cloaca) of spurious respectability, for the same reasons that advertisers of washing powders often used laboratories and men in lab coats to push their products.

ID (or Paleyism) is NOT a clever and novel scientific idea with some possible insights for unimaginative traditionalists; it’s a fraud perpetrated by fraudsters. The reason many scientists won’t engage in debate with proponents (or should that be propenstists?) of ID is that their vacuous drivel has prejudice but no insight. As Michael Behe showed, their most powerful argument is an argument from their own ignorance: “I don’t understand it, therefore nobody understands it, therefore God, sorry some unspecified intelligent designer, did it.”

There is no case for a discussion of the methodological naturalism with regard to ID any more than there would be with regard to a political party or campaigning group.

Of course, if ID people want to do some honest research of their own, rather than publish speculation in creationist tracts, I’m sure the world of biology would be interested and amused to read it!

Steve Poole gave the book a flaming review because he’s a sensible guy using his brain. One does not need specialist knowledge to know a crocked argument when it’s as grotesquely obvious as suggesting that the mendacity of religious dunderheads could provide rational insight.

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Steve Fuller 07.24.08 at 9:17 pm

More yada yada… None of you have read the book in question. This is just a profession of faith-based science that does both science and religion an injustice.

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Dan S. 07.24.08 at 10:26 pm

None of you have read the book in question.

Probably true – after all, it just came out last month and (for those of us in the States) apparently isn’t being sold in the US yet (though it can be ordered). Of course, you being the author and all, you’re in a pretty good position to explain what we’re missing, though I can certainly understand that you’d be reluctant to do so in what’s proved to be a fairly unsympathetic forum.

This is just a profession of faith-based science

What does that even mean, besides also being a common creationist claim (that science is just another religion, and a particularly dogmatic kind of fundamentalism at that – see also ‘I know you are but what am I’)?

Apparently your new book’s cover flap argues that* “
Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is itself best understood as the work of a failed ID theorist.
“. That’s quite clever!, given Darwin’s respect for and early admiration of Paley’s work. It’s a fascinating perspective though, a bit like describing William Harvey as a failed Galenite.

From what little I’ve picked up of the history of science, though, I certainly wouldn’t discount the importance of (within science) now-discarded guiding ideas, worn-out intellectual structures, and obsolete methodologies in providing focus, impetus, space for study and question-framing, avenues of research and argument – in their time. But when their time has passed . . . ah, a perfect metaphor: ID creationism (and related issues) once was a living field of inquiry, but ultimately died. Unfortunately though, over a century later foolish mortals sought to resurrect it and now it wanders the the earth not as a living science, not even a pseudoscience, but as an undead science! Indeed, as a scientific vampire, a simulacrum of life lacking any productive power and able to sustain its unnatural and twilight existence by draining others. And it sucks.

Yes, I’m just entertaining myself (and am so easily amused!) but it’s not like you’re giving me anything to work with, so why not?

And it does sound like you might be pushing ideas about the importance of certain ideas within Christianity for the development of modern science unusually far . . .

Cover flap says: “Steve Fuller argues that hostility to ID is based less on science than sheer anti-religious bigotry.

Do you really believe this? (Which is, of course, another, albeit implicit, creationist talking point). Can you think of any other reasons why people might be hostile to ID? Although yes, I know that the tireless opposition to ID of noted hardcore atheist and anti-religious bigot Ken Miller . . . wait, what? Oh . . . (yes, yes, I know, proves nothing, and anyway he’s just a horrible ol’ theistic evolutionist . . . )

* and yes, I know that analysis via blurb can be a bit . . . tricky. Hey, if you send me a free copy, I’ll certainly read it!

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Dan S. 07.24.08 at 10:38 pm

“given Darwin’s respect for and early admiration of Paley’s work. “

And that should be phrased even stronger, given its influence (along with the standard others) upon Darwin’s thought – what sort of things he looked at, what questions he (eventually) asked.

But who keeps the scaffolding up after the building’s finished?*

* _horrible_ analogy, of course, since the building is most certainly not finished, but a better one would have to involve some weird self-hoisting scaffolding that removes itself from each floor after it enables work to begin on the floor above. . . . Ugh. And for my next trick, I’ll draw an ironic New Yorker cover . . . !

IIRC, at least earlier you had argued that design could help people to look at biological structures from a design perspective, and so learn useful things. What confuse me is, well, isn’t this what already happens, without any need to undermine modern science?

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Dan S. 07.24.08 at 11:18 pm

xkcd.

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