About Rationally Speaking


Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Mondo Bizarro!

The United States is a truly bizarre place. Just look at two news items from today, both concerning the relationship between science and religion: on the one hand, the Kansas Board of Education decided to go ahead and redefine science so that it includes the study of the supernatural; on the other hand, the entire slate of members of the Dover (Pennsylvania) board members who pushed for the teaching of Intelligent Design that brought us the latest monkey trial has been voted out of office yesterday! How much more bizarre than this can it possibly get?

So, in Kansas -- and only in Kansas -- science has to entertain "supernatural explanations" for the facts of life. As John G. West of the Discovery Institute (a creationist think tank based in Seattle) said, Kansas now has "the best science standards in the nation." Yes, and there is in fact a Santa Clause on the North Pole too. Let's be clear on one thing: the very idea of a supernatural explanation is nonsense on stilts. The supernatural cannot "explain" anything because to explain means to provide an account of how something happened or came to be. To say that an "intelligent designer" (wink, wink, we really mean God, and in particular the conservative Christian flavor) did it is to explain precisely nothing. How did the intelligent designer do it? Why did she do it? And, most importantly, if we are talking about science, what sort of experiments are we going to do to test this alleged "hypothesis"? There is no answer to any of these questions for the simple reason that science cannot -- by definition -- deal with the supernatural. This doesn't mean that the supernatural doesn't exist (though, of course, that's a perfectly respectable position to maintain), it simply means that science is not equipped to deal with the whim of infinitely powerful beings. How exactly do you put God under the microscope, and keep Her there?

Of course, Kansas ain't new to this sort of stunts. Something like this happened in 1999, when the board of education eliminated practically any mention of evolution from the state's standards; that move was reversed in 2001, when creationist board members were voted out of office. Creationists gained controlled again in 2004, and -- I predict -- will lose it again at the next round, which means that the new standards probably will not go into effect (they would do so in 2007). But in the midst of all this upheaval the already battered image of Kansas (and the US at large) is getting yet another beating at the hands of these yahoos who truly believe that the earth was created in six days, just about 6,000 years ago.

The news from Dover are more refreshing. There, all eight pro-ID board members lost re-election, which means that even in conservative Pennsylvania there is a limit to how much crap citizens are willing to take from the religious right.

And so the religious wars continue, even among different religions, of course. CBS Evening News reported tonight that a school board in Florida canceled all religious holidays in order to avoid to have to grant one to the Muslim minority. The decision was eventually reversed after Christians and Jews complained about it (several of the former sending signed emails containing violent anti-Muslim), but the Muslims were still kept out in the cold. Yeah, that's religious tolerance for you!

121 comments:

  1. I thinks I feels an evolution debate coming on.

    Well, I just lit my candle on my Darwin alter. So let’s pray...I mean play.
    (Do I really have to explain that comment?)

    Noah

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  2. No. You don't have to explain.

    I assume that (you mean to say) there is enough energy for one life only, and you want to use it how you see fit.

    Tonight at around 6:20 pm on the way home from the hospital, (my friend has been in labor for two weeks) She and I both observed a bright, orange comet(?) blazin its way across the sky. From our pov, at least, its lifespan seemed to be possibly about two seconds. Perspective wise and otherwise, the time that we actually get on this earth to "play", when compared to a variety of other factors (relativistic-ally speaking) is probably MUCH less than two seconds. And especially, and even less, when compared up against billions of years of evolution.

    cal

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  3. Glad to see that the people of Dover have not succumbed to the dark forces of irrationality. Kansas, well.... maybe one day they will wake up and not be in Oz anymore.

    However, ever looking for the pragmatic angle, I again want to suggest that it is important not to alienate the liberal non-fundamental Christian majority in the ID/Evolution war.

    While we need to make case that ID is not a science and that it offers no theories or evidence, we need to also make less esoteric arguments that do not focus on godless materialist reductionism.

    In this battle for hearts and minds, a more persuasive argument to the masses (most of whom are not Biblical literalists) is something like the the following:

    Dear Average majority non-fundy liberal Christian:

    Do not fear Evolution.

    Evolution does not make any claims as to the ultimate origins of life, i.e. biogenesis. It merely suggests a mechanism by which new species are formed. A mechanism which incidentally is supported by mountains of evidence in various fields such as paleontology, geology and perhaps most convincingly molecular biology and genetics.

    Nor is there anything in Evolution which says that God (whatever your conception of God is) did not design Evolution as part of his plan, i.e. that God endowed life with the ability to adapt and specialize.

    Therefore Intelligent Design is completely redundant, aside from not being scientific in that it offers no evidence that is testable. In other words, Evolution does not negate a belief in God or a Supreme Being. They can be compatible, so don't be mis led into the unnecessary schism intentionally put forth by fundamentalists.

    Please don't be fooled by uninformed slogans such as "Evolution is only a theory". More or less everything in science is only a theory. Should we put labels on textbooks warning that the Theory of Gravity is "just a theory"?

    And finally (here is another often overlooked point) it does not matter if Evolution proves to be correct or not. It is simply the basis of all modern biology, and must be taught in schools, because it is what the current scientific community has accepted. Who are parents and school board officials to determine what goes into a science class? If we want our children to be able to compete in a world wide scientific community then they have to understand contemporary scientific thought. If someone, somewhere is to ever overturn Evolution (as is the hope of the creationists) then that person had better understand Evolution. Einstein did not ignite the quantum physics revolution by avoiding learning Newtonian theory.


    Most readers of this blog it appears to me are atheist or agnostic and as a minority in this country are tempted to defend their views and show theists the path to enlightenment. However, I warn that by too aggressively promoting the godless view of Evolution, we could push the masses to the side of ID and creationism which will ultimately do great damage. First, let everyone learn to accept Evolution alongside their Supreme Being, remove the controversy altogether. Then slowly over time, once the fundamentalist view is pushed to the fringes, the rest will follow.

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  4. For the record, it should be pointed out that the winners of the school board election in Dover are part of a group called Dover Cares. This group essentially still supports ID but they don't think it should be taught in science classes. They want to see it in a philosophy or comparative religion class that would be an elective for those students interested in the "ahem" theory.

    Personally, I don't have a problem with this. Debate is healthy, science standards set by any group of unqualified yahoos isn't.

    Noah

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  5. cal,

    I don't understand where you are going with your post.

    My post was simply a joke at the expense of those who think evolution is a religion. Maybe it wasn't a very good joke.

    Noah

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  6. "It merely suggests a mechanism by which new species are formed."

    The mechanism development is just too weak, i.e. idealized.

    Darwin relied most often on models of hybridization and thus essentially inbreeding, to develop the "progression" of ideas that he thought correlated to the fossil record. If the progression of "facts" is specialized or faulty, so must the conclusions one draws over the fossil record be.

    No matter what your belief happens to be, who could take that seriously anymore?! (or maybe gen xers really are smarter ;)

    cal

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  7. My post was simply a joke at the expense of those who think "evolution is a religion. Maybe it wasn't a very good joke.

    Noah"

    Well, it might have been funny if your life wasn't so terribly important.

    Strangely enough, it's possible that I think it's more important than you do. :)

    cal

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  8. Noah, you mean that you don't worship Darwin? Darn! I thought maybe you were a fellow True Believer. I will pray to Darwin tonight, (when I lower the sails on my model of The Beagle), that you be forgiven for your blasphemy.

    Eat well, stay fit, Die Anyway.

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  9. Not that I want to get into too personal a discussion with you cal, but where would you get the idea that just because someone accepts the theory of evolution, that means they don't think life is important?

    Granted, I may not think that my life affects the grand scheme of things, but I still love my life. What happens to me and what I do with my life affects the people I love, my community, the customers of the company I work for and the people who own and work for the buisnesses I choose to frequent. I don't need to belive in any higher source to understand that.

    Personally, I think life would be alot more arbitrary and meaningless under a fickle deity who creates creatures for the sheer enjoyment of being worshiped.

    (I know I'm asking for trouble here.)

    Noah

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  10. "Nor is there anything in Evolution which says that God (whatever your conception of God is) did not design Evolution as part of his plan, i.e. that God endowed life with the ability to adapt and specialize."

    True enough, but the catch is that evolution makes God superfluous at least as a cause for the diversity of life, and that can lead someone to say of God, "I have no need of that hypothesis." (Echoes of Laplace are intentional.) This is one of the reasons the opposition to evolution is so virulent.

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  11. "...let everyone learn to accept Evolution alongside their Supreme Being..."

    That hasn't worked, isn't working, and won't. As reasonable as it sounds, it's far too 'tolerant'. ID is here to stay. It’s the best shtick they’ve come up with since they discovered wood on Ararat.

    All God’s children want ‘scientific’ evidence of Jesus Sr. at work. ‘Design Intelligence’ is literally, a no-brainer. The ‘design’ language is ‘evolving’ into fairly convincing scientific confusion.

    ID has a different look, walk, an exceptionally noisier quack, and yes it’s still a ‘duck’, but it's now swimming in Darwin’s pond.

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  12. "ID has a different look, walk, an exceptionally noisier quack, and yes it’s still a ‘duck’, but it's now swimming in Darwin’s pond."

    William,

    I agree with you and feel that those of us who hold rational and skeptical thought to be important are often too tolerant. We respect the dignity of other humans, as we should, but often to the point of taking a "live and let live" attitude. This is not a benign position. Clearly the ID proponents have begun an attack on both science and rational thought by playing on the scientific illiteracy and lack of critical thinking skills of the general public. ID really is in Darwin's pond and it is our responsibilty to clearly (and respectfully) defend our positions. We should engage such people in (again respectful) dialog and not be apologetic for the implications.

    Having said this I do feel it is important that we not overstate what evolution does and does not tell us. It is not about the origin of life and it does not 'prove' the non-existence of a diety (if such could ever be done). It also tells as nothing about morality (naturalistic fallacy) which I think is one of the great fears of many.

    But, fundalmentalist or not, if you believe in a personal god that interacts with the physical world in response to prayer, or a soul seperate from the mind, evolutionary theory along with much of the rest of science says this is muddled thinking. This includes all of the mainstream Christian denominations that I know of, so we challenge them all with an honest discussion of science including evolution.

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  13. "...the catch is that evolution makes God superfluous at least as a cause for the diversity of life, and that can lead someone to say of God, "I have no need of that hypothesis."...This is one of the reasons the opposition to evolution is so virulent.

    jramsey,

    Very true. You and I know that and the opposition knows it, but that middle, moderate group does not. And once they start asking the superfluous question its too late for them :)

    The moderate religionist already believes things that the fundamentalist rejects. In some way the fundamentalist is more logically consistent, i.e. only Christians can go into heaven. That seems more consistent than the pluralistic view that Christians must observe a different set of rules than say Jews or Hindus. That pluralistic view makes God a bit of a moral relativist - which rightly (from their perspective) troubles fundamentalists.

    Also, many liberal Christians reject vast parts of the Old Testament, for example passages about women being submissive to men. That should also lead them to the next obvious question, but doesn't.

    My point was to not push the moderates towards Creationism by emphasizing the godless view. Again, if we obscure the fundamentalist voice, the liberal Christian will not even realize they have taken a first step to agnosticism (most will never go past that first step, but who cares? So long as they don't try to regulate policy and laws from a Biblical perspective).

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  14. That hasn't worked, isn't working, and won't.

    Perhaps. But it is my understanding that Creationism has made a comeback -- that Evolution co-existing in the minds of religous educated people was more common before the Young Earth Creationists began making their push.

    I'm not sure the argument I was making has ever been tried, i.e. pushing Evolution while re-assuring it is not necessarily incompatible with a person's idea of God -- I meet many people today (maybe the majority of who I have met) who believe in God, but not necessarily the exact Biblical version.

    From a personal perspective, I was raised Catholic and I never believed in creationism (except perhaps as a child). I was taught that the Adam and Eve story was allegorical.

    Then again, maybe thats why I lapsed into agnosticism. :)

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  15. Cal,

    I can't believe anybody can take creationism seriously anymore. And please, get over Darwin. Modern evolutionary biology is much more sophisticated, just as there is more than Newton to modern physics. Read up a bit of up to date stuff, will you?

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  16. "the already battered image of Kansas (and the US at large) is getting yet another beating"

    As a non-American, I don't really know much about Kansas, except that they have a lot of farms and tornados. So creationists reflect badly on the whole country, rather than just one state. With the Scopes trial in Dayton, and Kent Hovind living in Pensacola, I think it's spread around.

    According to my little informal poll (three people), the stupidity capital of the US is "Alabama", "the deep south" or "the bible belt". So Kansas still has a long way to fall.

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  17. "Modern evolutionary biology is much more sophisticated, just as there is more than Newton to modern physics."

    But then there is nothing that sets Darwinian or other evolution apart from all other ideas.

    Darwin is excluded now because you and I both know that he started with exceptional causes and cases. And that flatly and certainly disqualifies it from competing as some kind of a theory of everything.

    What now literally sets this ‘sophisticated’ idea apart from all others?

    cal

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  18. Cal, I can't make any sense of your post. What do you mean by "setting Darwin's idea apart from all others"? Why would one want to do that? Evolution is a scientific theory like many others, not unlike. It is by far the best explanation we have for the history and diversity of the living world, just like relativity-quantum mechanics are the best explanations for the physical world. What else would you want from a scientific theory??

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  19. I read an interesting article from eSkeptic recently that dealt with the issue of classic creationism vs. modern ID (I'm sorry but I havn't been able to track down the URL.)

    Apparently there was a conference of young Earth types at a prominent Christian college were the focus wasn't so much on evolution, but on how these guys are a little miffed at what they call "compromisers" (read "ID'ers".)

    I wonder if these two groups will eventually clash in such a way that they will take care of the problem for us.

    Noah

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  20. I really can't understand how ID has gotten so much traction ... I listened to Behe for 15 seconds and realized he'd just dressed up Paley's watchmaker argument in fancier clothing.

    I still think Hume's argument against design is sufficient to refute teleology.

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  21. Massimo,

    You said, "...relativity-quantum mechanics are the best explanations for the physical world."

    Perhaps they are the best explanations we have so far, but not in cases where both relativity and quantum mechanics are applicable. When studying phenomena where relativistic and quantum mechanical effects must be taken into account, they contradict each other.

    You ask, "What else would you want from a scientific theory??"

    To paraphase your original blog: To explain means to provide an account of how something happened or came to be. To say that Evolution did it is to explain precisely nothing. How did Evolution do it? Why did Evolution do it?

    The how is being earnestly tackled by the vast majority of the field. Certainly, there is progress, but we still await the complete answer.

    The why is trickier. Can Evolution answer that question? Does Evolution have to answer that question in order to be considered a valid scientific explanation? If not, then why should ID?

    Tying it back to physics, relativity and quantum mechanics also leave the why alone. The how is proving quite difficult as it is. In some instances, even the what is in question. Even Newtonian mechanics cannot answer all of these questions. Does that invalidate Newtonian mechanics, relativity, and quantum mechanics? Newton, Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg, Pauli, and a host of other scientific giants would turn in their graves!

    How about the theory of superstrings? It claims to have the potential to unite relativity and quantum mechanics and make them coexist peacefully. But there's a problem: As it stands, it cannot explain all known phenomena; even ones that can be explained by relativity and quantum mechanics. There's a bigger problem: Many of its predictions are either impractical or impossible to verify experimentally. Does that make it unscientific? Yes it does, in the minds of some prominent scientists. Just like ID.

    asg

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  22. Evolution provides a mechanism for the development of species which can be evaluated and falsified. Intelligent design does not, which is why it is not science.

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  23. asg,

    there is a bit of confusion in your post. The short answers to your questions are:

    "How did Evolution do it?"

    Read any graduate level textbook in evolutionary biology and you'll find hundreds of pages worth of explanation, referring to hundreds of thousands of pages of published technical work.

    "Why did Evolution do it?"

    This question is nonsensical. Nature doesn't do things for reasons.

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  24. Evolution provides a mechanism for the development of species which can be evaluated and falsified. Intelligent design does not, which is why it is not science.

    Einstein's Relativity does not provide a mechanism for warping space-time. It describes what mass does to space-time, but does not exactly say how. Does that mean that the Theory of Relativity is beyond the scope of science?

    The same could be said of Kepler's and Newton's laws of motion. Same goes for the theory of relativity Galileo used (that quack); not only was it unable to describe a falsifiable mechanism, it didn't even accurately describe experimental results.

    By your standard, none of these would make the "scientific" cut. That puts ID in rarefied company.

    asg

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  25. asg, not to be short and pedantic (although its going to come across that way), but you should look into the distinction between facts, theories, and laws. That will get you moving in the "right" direction.

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  26. Massimo,

    You said: Read any graduate level textbook in evolutionary biology and you'll find hundreds of pages worth of explanation, referring to hundreds of thousands of pages of published technical work.

    Of course the amount of literature is immense. But are you claiming that in those pages, one could find a universally accepted mechanism that completely explains the evolution from a sigle-celled organism to the complex organisms we find today and in the fossil record?

    If so, I'd like to get your nutshell version of it, since I don't have the time to read thousands of pages of graduate-level biology, much less the necessary undergraduate work required to fully comprehend it.

    ---

    "Why did Evolution do it?"

    This question is nonsensical. Nature doesn't do things for reasons.


    So, evolution has no discernible reason for what it does. It just does it. I suppose this is true for biology, physics, cosmology, geology, astonomy, etc.

    Why does ID have to answer what no other science does?

    asg

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  27. asg,

    I think what HG is trying to say is that with evolution (like most principals in physics) we have ways of testing and verifying the theory (or at least certain aspects of it.) For (a small) example, if we say that humans have a common ancestor with apes, we can test the DNA of apes and humans and see how closly they match up.

    We can test general relativity by watching the effect of light passing a massive object.

    ID, by contrast, offers NO way whatsoever to test it's claims.

    But that's not the real problem. The problem is with ID offering no way to test and THEN offering itself as a better explaination than evolution, which does offer testable claims. Superstring may not offer a way to test, but neither does it present itself as better explaination than something that does.

    Whats more is the ID movement does it by playnig politics rather than science. I have yet to see superstring pushing itself on the general public in order to get it to redefine science and give it the same weight as Newton and Einstien.

    Maybe that's because Newton and Einstien don't challenge the Bible the way ID does.

    Noah

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  28. Ditto Noah.

    Its like saying "evolution doesn't explain it" is an explanation, or rather, I'm going to explain this by saying it can't be explained.

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  29. Hume's Ghost,

    You said: you should look into the distinction between facts, theories, and laws.

    Sure. Newton had a law of gravity (F=GMm/r^2) that did not accurately describe the facts of Mercury's orbit, but was satisfactorily described by Einstein's new theory of gravity. (This illustrates a phenomenon common to many great scientists: The more you know, the more you know how little you know.)

    But you haven't addressed the fact that many scientific endeavors do not meet your gold standard of mechanism. Perhaps your standard is not rationally applied to all endeavors, just to those which are deemed undesirable.

    asg

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  30. I'm not sure what point you're trying to make. Galileo, Newton, Darwin, etc made claims that were testable, some of their claims have been found to be false and have since been amended.

    This is simple: make a claim, test it. Either fail to discofirm the claim, or disconfirm it. That's it. ID doesn't do that. It can't. It has no epistemic value.

    Not all "science" (here defined to be facts, laws, and theories) needs a "mechanism" to be science. Newton didn't have an explanation for his law of gravity ( or at least a correct one, Einstein provided that), but it was still science. Drop something, see it is rate of acceleration is 9.8 meters per second squared.

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  31. Noah,

    we have ways of testing and verifying the theory

    How does that apply to the branch of cosmology that studies the conditions of the Big Bang? How can they "test and verify" what happened back then?

    ---

    if we say that humans have a common ancestor with apes, we can test the DNA of apes and humans and see how closly they match up.

    Sure you can do that, but that doesn't mean the test is valid.

    Let's say you find that the DNA "match up" with each other. How do you negate the possibility of separate evolutionary paths that converge to very similar and successful designs? So, even if they match, it doesn't prove the theory.

    Let's say you find that the DNA don't match. How do you negate the possibility that the two species descended through the same evolutionary path, but have diverged due to environmental stressors? So, even if they don't match, it doesn't disprove the theory. (Doesn't evolutionary biology claim that all organisms came from a common ancestor?)

    Now you have a theory that can neither be proved nor disproved. Unless you come up with another test. But until then, your theory falls into the pit of untestable theories.

    Let's say there's a significant time gap between the formulation of the hypothesis and the formulation of a valid test. Does that mean that during that time, you are not a scientist but a philosopher? No; it just means that you're a scientist that hasn't come up with a good plan to test your theory.

    ---

    We can test general relativity by watching the effect of light passing a massive object.

    That can and has been done, verifying the theory. But that's not the theory's problem as it relates to the claims of ID opponents.

    Relativity can answer the what with great accuracy. But it is silent when it comes to how and why - mechanism and rationale.

    ---

    ID, by contrast, offers NO way whatsoever to test it's claims.

    Consider the profound discovery of Chandrasekhar that a sufficiently large mass will contract for an infinite time, to an infinte density. It was so revolutionary that it was, initially, almost universally rejected by his contemporaries.

    How did he propose to test his theory? There is not enough mass in the entire solar system to perform the experiment. Should we then disregard it as merely mathematical acrobatics, as many in his day did? We could, and we would be as wrong as the many in his day were.

    The lesson is that just because we don't understand some phenomenon, don't accept it, don't know how to test it, doesn't mean it's not science and certainly doesn't mean it's wrong.

    To this day, we still haven't run direct experiments to verify the theory; the solar system is still not massive enough. But better instruments have enabled us to observe events beyond our solar system that fit the theory very well.

    Is ID impossible to test? In the same way that Chandrasekhar's theory was.

    Can you reject ID because of that? In the same way Eddington rejected Chandrasekhar's theory. But you risk being as wrong as Eddington was.

    (BTW, Eddington rejected the theory because it demolished his own pet theory. Goes to show that scientists are susceptible to subjectivity, just like theologians.)

    ---

    But that's not the real problem. The problem is with ID offering no way to test and THEN offering itself as a better explaination than evolution, which does offer testable claims.

    If so, then you're fighting the wrong battle. It seems your problem is with ID proponents, not ID itself.

    ---

    Superstring may not offer a way to test, but neither does it present itself as better explaination than something that does.

    Actually, it does. If it didn't, there's no reason for it to exist. If it wasn't a better explanation, it would be shelved forever.

    Whether or not you like a theory, you judge it based on the data. That's the gold standard of objectivity: You accept something because it fits the facts better, with no regard for your personal preference.

    ---

    Whats more is the ID movement does it by playnig politics rather than science.

    Then your problem is with politicians, not ID proponents in general.

    ---

    I have yet to see superstring pushing itself on the general public in order to get it to redefine science and give it the same weight as Newton and Einstien.

    If superstring theory ever matures to that extent, then its proponents are obliged to do just that. Why would they sit around and let people be taught error when they have the truth? As Einstein's theory of gravity is given more weight than Newton's because it is a better explanation of reality, so also superstring theory will be given more weight if it proves itself.

    ID also must prove itself. But if one unnecessarily limits the directions from which proof can come, then he limits his potential to fully understand his environment.

    asg

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  32. ID also must prove itself. But if one unnecessarily limits the directions from which proof can come, then he limits his potential to fully understand his environment.


    No one has the power to limit the scientific study of ID. ID proponents are free to submit studies, findings, etc. to scientific journals for peer review. Sure they will be criticized heavily, but so were pioneers of other theories that eventually became accepted (and a great many more that did not).

    The difference as mentioned earlier is that instead of working to convince the scientific community (which for any legitimate science will eventually happen if the facts and evidence are on your side), they want to shortcut the whole process and force their way into schools via political means.

    That is a major reason why there is the backlash. There are plenty of crackpot theorists out there who do not draw any ire from the scientific community. If they ever gain consensus agreement with their theories, they will have the last laugh. But until then, they have no right to do and end-run around the scientific process.

    Publish all the ID books you want, hand out pamphlets, but do not politically elbow ID into classrooms. Its unfortunate that this debate involves to a certain extent religious differences --- because the anti-ID debate is not so much religious as it is an affront to science.

    If ID proponents were busily working through the proper channels, they would get no flak. If perpetual motion proponents were taking over our school boards to force perpetual motion theories in to the classroom then they would be the ones that scientists would be endlessly blogging about.

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  33. Hume's Ghost,

    I'm not sure what point you're trying to make.

    Let me refresh your memory.

    You said: Evolution provides a mechanism for the development of species which can be evaluated and falsified. Intelligent design does not, which is why it is not science.

    My point was that despite your claim, mechanism is not necessary for something to be considered science. Though you have lost track of my point, you have acknowledged it nonetheless: Not all "science" (here defined to be facts, laws, and theories) needs a "mechanism" to be science.

    Now you have moved on to another topic: testability.

    ---

    Galileo, Newton, Darwin, etc made claims that were testable

    And what do you make of theories that touch upon such things as superstrings, black holes, wormholes, and the Big Bang? Are these physicists and cosmologists wasting their time?

    ---

    This is simple: make a claim, test it. Either fail to discofirm the claim, or disconfirm it. That's it. ID doesn't do that. It can't. It has no epistemic value.

    Taking that logic further, you would also conclude that the topics of study I mentioned above do not have epistemic value.

    But the logic is faulty because epistemic value does not depend upon prediction and experimentation. (see aforementioned topics)

    ---

    Newton didn't have an explanation for his law of gravity ( or at least a correct one, Einstein provided that), but it was still science. Drop something, see it is rate of acceleration is 9.8 meters per second squared.

    With that, you have settled the what. But you still run afoul of Massimo's quest for the how and why. Based on his standard, your "explanation" falls far short because "to explain means to provide an account of how something happened or came to be."

    asg

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  34. Let's say there's a significant time gap between the formulation of the hypothesis and the formulation of a valid test. Does that mean that during that time, you are not a scientist but a philosopher?

    In a sense, Yes. It means you are a scientist who has postulated an idea -- it ain't actively "science" until one starts gathering evidence and showing how the evidence supports the theory.

    In all the examples you gave. There were observed phenomena and attempts to quantify the phenomena or create rules that could be used to predict them, i.e. gravitational equation, F=ma, etc. Why? was never a criteria.

    Shooting holes in Evolution does not constitute a separate theory. It may be even be useful if it someday forces biologists to amend or even give up on Evolution and Natural Selection.

    But how does that validate ID? Its a logical fallacy.

    Its like saying... "I have proved beyond a doubt that stress does not cause ulcers -- therefore I can now conclusively say that little green men from Mars do". Well maybe they do, but where is the evidence?

    You are free to try to kill the Theory of Evolution. Replacing it with "God" did it (though possibly true - hey I'm an open minded atheist), doesn't really help us understand the world any.

    P.S. - Maybe God was the designer and used Natural Selection to do it. Maybe (being God) he carefully set all the initial conditions of the Big Bang and precisely set all the physical constants in order to bring about RNA, DNA, single celled life and finally us multi-cellular life forms. I dare anyone to contradict my new theory. Can I publish it?)

    ReplyDelete
  35. But you still run afoul of Massimo's quest for the how and why.

    Massimo already explained that "Why?" is not a necessary question for science.

    "How?" - only depends on your initial hypothesis.

    Evolution is a "how" science because the whole question seeks to answer how one species evolves into another.

    The reason that the "Designer" question is not scientific is that it doesn't help us understand how the world works.

    God may have created thunder and lightning, but we still search for physical explanations of how thunder and lightning work.

    God may have created planetary orbits, but science still searched for a way to mathematically describe those orbits.

    God may have created iron, but science searched to understand the physics of iron atoms.

    In each of those cases, we would have learned nothing if we just stopped at "God created it".

    Likewise, Evolution/Natural Selection seeks to understand how species change.

    ID just stops at "God did it". Again, maybe that's right, but its not science.

    We are still obligated to find out how God did it, just like we did with thunder and lightning.

    After we figure it out, we can the discuss whether God did it (and which God did it? Or was it aliens?)-- or if it just came to be.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Alan,

    I like your last few posts, but I only have time for one (for now).

    You said, "In all the examples you gave. There were observed phenomena and attempts to quantify the phenomena or create rules that could be used to predict them, i.e. gravitational equation, F=ma, etc. Why? was never a criteria."

    You are absolutely correct. I was merely pointing out that though Massimo's blog made "Why" a criterion by which to test the scientific validity of ID, nobody rationally pointed out that such a criterion should never be applied to any natural science. It seems to me that the rational skeptics are not always rationally skeptical.

    ---

    Shooting holes in Evolution does not constitute a separate theory....

    But how does that validate ID? Its a logical fallacy.


    Again, you are absolutely correct. Shooting down one Theory A does not validate Theory B. That applies to evolution, ID, you name it.

    ---

    The error I see in the thread is the irrationality of the measures people take to discredit ID. Testability, mechanisms, rationale - all have been used to shoot down ID, but have not been aimed at "mainstream" theories. It doesn't seem rational to me.

    ---

    Maybe God was the designer and used Natural Selection to do it. ... I dare anyone to contradict my new theory.

    Tough to contradict. It's equivalent to the theory that everything came about as a fortuitous occurence - just exchanging God with probability. There's also the idea that things are the way they are because if they weren't we wouldn't be around to wonder about it.

    ---

    Can I publish it?

    Sure. Some have been able to publish the theory that "it just happened."

    Will someone print it? If you can find a publisher that's willing to spread your idea around.

    Will anyone accept it? That's an SEP.

    asg

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  37. Alan,

    You said, "No one has the power to limit the scientific study of ID. ID proponents are free to submit studies, findings, etc. to scientific journals for peer review."

    That's not what I mean. I'm sure nobody will prevent submission of research for peer review. But if those peers immediately reject the "proof" as irrational, those peers limit their potential to fully understand their environment.

    asg

    ReplyDelete
  38. The error I see in the thread is the irrationality of the measures people take to discredit ID. Testability, mechanisms, rationale - all have been used to shoot down ID, but have not been aimed at "mainstream" theories. It doesn't seem rational to me.

    I'll let Massimo (since he is a trained scientist) respond if he has a technical objection with the above.

    For now, lets assume you are correct. You have made some good arguements.

    The difference I see are three:

    1) See previous comment -- other sciences aren't trying to short cut the collect data, peer review, slowly convince everyone till you have a consensus approach that is how science works. I argued that if perpetual motion proponents tried to elbow their way into schools by politics -- they would get the "shoot down" treatment.

    2) See previous comment again -
    ID does not help us learn anything about the world. As with thunder and lightning, if we stopped at "God created it", we would not have learned anything useful. So it is with Evolution. Whether God created it (species) is not the question -- what can we learn about it is. ID doesn't help us much there -- whereas superstring theory or blackhole theory is trying to add to our knowledge of the physical world

    and

    3) Superstring theory, Blackhole theory, etc. are not trying to displace a more widely established theory that has much evidence in its favor. They are speculating at the edge of science. So there is tolerance of their speculative natures. This combined with 1) and 2) this makes a significant difference (where 2 is perhaps the most philosophically important and 1 is what raises the ire)

    Lastly, I apologize for not knowing all my internet abbreviations, but what is SEP?

    Alan

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  39. I'm sure nobody will prevent submission of research for peer review. But if those peers immediately reject the "proof" as irrational, those peers limit their potential to fully understand their environment.

    Well, the debate and the hostility centers around getting ID in the schools. Otherwise, we wouldn't necessarily be having this discussion.

    Yes, peers may reject the "proof" as irrational today. But that is always the burden of new ideas. The right ideas will win out in the end and if ID proves their case, they can have the last laugh. My point is there is no one being "unfair" to ID in the actual scientific arena.

    In other words, ID has to earn their way into the textbooks like other sciences who seek to displace and established world view. It can't do it by hi-jacking school boards.

    The real problem, as I alluded to, is that there is a difference between negating Evolution and establishing proof of a designer. One may have luck with the former i(if the evidence can honestly show that), but the latter doesn't really say much.

    ReplyDelete
  40. asg,

    You make many good points concerning philosophy of science questions. However, it does seem to me that you have been using a straw man of sorts in your claim that Massimo made 'why' a valid criterion in testing the scientific validity of ID. The comment was "Why did she do it?" and was in reference to the idea of an intelligent designer. This seems a reasonable question for a lowly human to ask of a conscious designer. It may not be essential for ID to answer such a question for it to be scientifically valid, but remains an interesting question. A double standard was clearly not intended as the question is simply nonsensical when considering natural non-conscious explanations. In addition, Massimo made it quite clear that nature does not do things for reasons in a previous response.

    I also agree with Alan's posts concerning the key points to consider. No one is preventing ID from proving itself though the regular channels of science. Until then, it should not be a part of a K-12 science curriculum. ID does not get a free pass and there must be some set of rules to which it and all new ideas must adhere in order to avoid "playing intellectual tennis without a net" to quote Danniel Dennett (I think).

    ReplyDelete
  41. asg,

    (I'm going to keep using "ID" instead of "ID proponents" mostly for simplicity's sake. But personally, I don't think the two are mutually exclusive.)

    1) Your response to my point about DNA,humans and apes would be a good point if you had remembered that I offered it only as an example. On it's own, any single peice of evidence can have various explainations, it is the convergence of many peices of evidence that give us a better picture of the truth. Which is the case with evolution. The evidence spans practically all biological fields.

    Let's play a little thought game. Imagine your sitting on the jury of a murder trial. The prosecuter has been able to show that the defendant had motive and oppurtunity. He has the murder wepon with the defendents finger prints on it and a whole slew of physical evidence to suggest that the defendent did it. Enough evidence, anyway, that any reasonable person could conclude that the defendent did it.

    Now imagine that the defense attorny stands up and says that the jury cannot convict unless the 12 members of the jury personally witnessed the murder. Sounds ridiculous right. Well that is pretty much ID in a nutshell. It has grasped on to a relatively small amount of seemingly contradictory evidence and has elevated it above the vast amount of supporting evidence for evolution. It has done this while offering almost NO evidence to defend the gaping holes in itself.

    Now correct me if I'm wrong, but I know of no other mainstream scientific theories that do this.

    2) My point about about superstring had to do with ID politics. I would Imagine (and again correct me if I'm wrong) that if superstring ever gained sufficent ground in terms of evidence and testability, it would do it honestly using scientific method not politics.

    3)Let's not mince words, this IS a political discussion. If you read M's post (the one your commenting on) it has to do with the current political climate concerning ID and evolution and the attempt by the ID movement to get the supernatural to be covered by scientific definition.

    Noah

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  42. asg,

    On a personal note, I'm glad your posting here. Most of your arguments have been pretty reasonable. Your exactly what most on this forum need to challenge ourselves.

    Noah

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  43. Noah: "The prosecutor has been able to show that the defendant had motive and opportunity. He has the murder weapon with the defendants finger prints on it and a whole slew of physical evidence to suggest that the defendant did it. Enough evidence, anyway, that any reasonable person could conclude that the defendant did it."

    You’re using “specialized” human examples who apply their intellect to these solutions.

    Is the "intellect" even material?

    I think not.

    If it didn't take intelligence to explain intelligence, to unravel clues, to explain what they mean and so on, we wouldn't have to wonder, (outside) of thought experiments, if intelligence was a factor to the construction of the universe. But we do, so we can and must.

    And I didn't forget about this Q. Noah:

    "Not that I want to get into too personal a discussion with you cal, but where would you get the idea that just because someone accepts the theory of evolution, that means they don't think life is important?"

    There are exceptions to general life philosophies, of course. But the trend of progressivists is to think in terms of "today", because most do not believe in an afterlife. That may make one relatively and reasonably happy, but is it realistic?

    There are certain forms of moral choices one can make that extend far beyond our lifetimes. Einstein's life's work is a more pronounced example of this effect.

    cal

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  44. OH, BY THE WAY, what I saw a few nights ago was probably not a comet. :) Oh well. By the description, it was likely one of these.

    "An oriented meteorite, which is rare, maintains a stable flight rather than tumbling."

    http://www.usatoday.com/tech/scie
    nce/discoveries/2005-11-11-meteoritediscovery_x.htm

    It was so bright, BIG and the flight path horizontal, I thought maybe it was something other than a meteorite. I just wonder for the life of me, where it wound up!

    Night skies are so beautiful and intriguing, aren't they?!!

    cal

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  45. "Night skies are so beautiful and intriguing, aren't they?!!"

    Yes they are. Thank God He put it all there just for our amusement. Damn but we're special.

    ReplyDelete
  46. da,
    I thought even skeptics could love and appreciate some phenomena like the night skies. I was just told something to that effect by Noah at least.

    Nonetheless, take it anyway you want. ;) I hate to under-whelm anyone here with my unsophisticated optimism.

    cal

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  47. "There are exceptions to general life philosophies, of course. But the trend of progressivists is to think in terms of "today", because most do not believe in an afterlife. That may make one relatively and reasonably happy, but is it realistic?"

    1) I don't think it's true that most progressives, atheists, or evolutionist think only of today. Just because they aren't too impressed with the idea of an afterlife doesn't mean that think only of the moment. In fact, most I've met seem to think alot about tommorrow in terms of the environment, the lives of their children and where the country is going. Of course, I'm prepared to amend that position if you could provide me with verifiable numbers that cotradict it. (And, for the record, most progressive aren't atheists and neither are a large number of evolutionists, but I guess we're back to lumping.)

    2)As to your question: Why not?

    3) Yes, my example is specialized, but I think it's a fair example. The point is that ID'ers and creationists have a double standard when it comes to evidence. The burden of proof for evolution is set unreasonably high and for creation, practically non-existant. Again, let's not mince words, this is dishonest.

    ReplyDelete
  48. Alan,

    No apology needed. That's not an internet abbreviation. :)

    SEP = Somebody Else's Problem

    That's all for now. Have to actually work today.

    asg

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  49. Oh, man... Ain't I in a foul mood lately regarding the "challenges" of evolutionary theories.

    So, to avoid being seen as just one of those bitter, arrogant scientists who are just pissed off because anyone and their dog have such a good handle on why their bloody field of study, where they spent 10 years to get a PhD, reading all those thousends of pages of graduate-level biology (and including the necessary undergraduate work required to fully comprehend it), is obviously just so plainly inadequate and wrong, I'll just pose a few little friendly questions I've came across in the last couple weeks. Wow, that was a really long sentence. I should have written it in German.

    I'd like the "defenders of ID as respectable candidate theory to compete with evolution" to please give me a few hints here. And please feel free to forward them to your favorite ID scientist, if you think they might be interested in studying these systems.

    - What are those little funny worms found in the northern Atlantic sea, the Xenoturbellida? Are they Lophotrochozoa or just reduced
    Deuterostomia? You know, last Friday we were in this systematics forum wasting our time as usual and one of our colleagues presented his work on these little guys. They're starting to get a better idea, by using standard evolutionary methods and looking at more and more molecular data. Anyway, I'd like to be able to blow his mind next time I see him by presenting ID's predictions on the subject, which I'm sure will be surprising (the predictions, not me presenting them).

    - If you think a harmless little seea worm is not anything worthy to worry about, please give some thought to this one, then: What are the Microsporidia, like Encephalitozoon, really? Please? I'd dearly like to know, since these little pesky parasites are a human and vet health problem. There's been some controversy on whether they are Fungi or Apicomplexa. I'd gladly like to know which, so we can have a better go at developing new drugs against them. What are ID's predictions here? Why? Can I test them, and if so, how? (you know, if I'm to try publishing this as something other than theoretical, I will need some experiments done or "they" won't swallow it...)

    Be at rest, I'll include you as an author in any paper (peer-reviewed, of course) or patent that eventually comes out of your valuable suggestions.

    Cheers
    J

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  50. "Yes, my example is specialized, but I think it's a fair example. The point is that ID'ers and creationists have a double standard when it comes to evidence. The burden of proof for evolution is set unreasonably high and for creation, practically non-existent. Again, let's not mince words, this is dishonest."

    You haven't seemed to notice that I don't ever even discuss ID. Tho the ID people have a right to their beliefs, it is not what I would consider a good way to order and arrange the hierarchy of related ideas.

    But maybe I'm just being a Pharisee on that count.

    I guess to me, ID could mean so many things to so many people. To leave it open for question as to "who" may have created the earth/ universe is neither right from a theological perspective or from a secular one. So I half agree with you on that.

    Also think that the age of the earth issue is one that most persons (on both sides of the debate) really ought to withhold their opinion on. No one knows, though everyone is free to study the matter, what the 'precise' age of the earth is. (so essentially practically everyone is wrong) However, I must point out, no matter how you phrase it, the "old earth" proponents are always going to be off in their guess work by a much greater margin of error. (billions vs. thousands)

    And so, you don't want to get into reconciling whether the 'intellect (is) or isn't material' and if that should matter to the materialist or not?

    cal

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  51. J: "Anyway, I'd like to be able to blow his mind next time I see him by presenting ID's predictions on the subject, which I'm sure will be surprising (the predictions, not me presenting them)."

    Har.

    "- If you think a harmless little seea worm is not anything worthy to worry about, please give some thought to this one, then: What are the Microsporidia, like Encephalitozoon, really? Please? I'd dearly like to know, since these little pesky parasites are a human and vet health problem. There's been some controversy on whether they are Fungi or Apicomplexa."

    Interesting, but its direction of study doesn't conform to what Darwinian evolution said about environmental pressures anyway. THAT IS WHY I continually insist, that one must take the whole food chain in to consideration. Some think that they do, but only to the extent that they think it confirms their evolutionary ideal. That’s not good enough.

    Your group can't figure the problem out probably because there is the tendency to take the problems from an evolutionary standpoint, i.e. in selective snapshots.

    Darwin would have suggested that the vet problem is something that should WORK ITSELF OUT IN TIME by evolution. (and if a lot of dogs die, that just part of weeding out the weaker of the species, thus making the canine species “stronger”) And you can already see that is not the way biology works. In Darwinian thinking, eventually all the dogs, or whatever animal, leave only progeny that are resistant to the worm. And that's precisely why Darwin was wrong.

    The following study will be more successful, presumably because important qualifiers are not left out or assumed to work as evolution has traditionally been seen throughout the study. But I can't read the whole story, (would have to buy the scotsman) so we'll have to see where the study takes it's findings

    http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/health.cfm?id=2231012005

    cal

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  52. Alan,

    My responses to your various posts (hope it doesn't get too confusing):

    >other sciences aren't trying to short cut...<

    I agree that as compared to traditional science, ID does "short cut" the scientific process. But if you understand the mentality of many IDers, you will see that it must be so because it is fundamentally different from traditional science. Now, there may be IDers out there that try to prove ID by using the same standards as physics, chemistry, bio, etc., but I think that's futile. I wish them luck, but as one whose life has been spent utilizing and enjoying traditional science, I don't think it will work.

    ---

    >if perpetual motion proponents tried to elbow their way into schools by politics -- they would get the "shoot down" treatment.<

    I don't know how schools do it now, but when I was studying physics, we studied perpetual motion. We didn't start off by saying, "This is wrong, but we're going to study it to pinpoint why it is wrong." Rather, we studied the fundamental laws of physics, then came to the conclusion that perpetual motion is impossible because it violates those laws. The teacher didn't decree it; the class derived it.

    Now, if ID could get that kind of treatment in the classroom, perhaps many IDers would be satisfied. As it stands, ID is completely left out. It is not discussed because it has been predetermined to be wrong and unfit for exposure to students. (There is another reason why it is left out, but I'll get into that another time.)

    I think IDers and evolutionary biologists could both learn from the method used by my physics professors. In general, I find physics less susceptible to the kind of "a priori" bias I see in ID and evolution.

    BTW, even the fundamental laws of physics are up for debate. Though it requires a ton of courage, it is not "illegal" to question fundamentals such as conservation of energy. If conservation of energy got knocked off its exalted station, perpetual motion could get some run again.

    ---

    >ID does not help us learn anything about the world. ...if we stopped at "God created it", we would not have learned anything useful.<

    Not necessarily so.

    Surely there are those who would be happy to stop at "God created it," but belief in ID does not demand you stop there. History is replete with great scientists who believed in creation, especially before the 20th century. Furthermore, Christians (who seem to draw most of the ire since they are the ones who push most for ID in this country) who read the Bible know that "God created" is at the beginning, not the end. So it is very possible, even probable, to believe that God created and want to invest significant time in finding out more about what God created and how it works.

    As for ID not helping us learn anything about the world, that all depends on how the world works. If the world runs only by fixed laws that can be detected by physical means, then ID is no help at all. On the other hand, if the world can be affected by an intelligent being that is normally beyond physical detection, then the previous worldview will be unable to lead one to understand all that is useful in the world. ID is for those who believe in the 2nd option.

    ---

    >Whether God created it (species) is not the question -- what can we learn about it is. ID doesn't help us much there<

    Here is where you misunderstand where IDers are coming from. With the paradigm I outlined above, God's participation in the world is the central point of concern.

    If I understand you correctly, you're saying that Evolution's concern is how Species R becomes Species S becomes Species T. How it all started with Species A is insignificant and can be tackled later ("After we figure it out, we can the discuss whether God did it...").

    For the IDer, how Species A got here is of great importance. Perhaps more
    important: If an Intelligent Designer was responsible for Species A-Z, is he still active in the affairs of these species? Of course, the IDer can still study the progression from A-Z, but it is all within the framework of a Designer who started it.

    Now, if Evolution clearly stated that it has nothing to say about the origin of the species, but merely tries to describe the process by which existing species adapt to various environmental stressors, then I would expect IDers to be more accepting of it and not be so bent on fighting it. But considering the fact that Darwin kicked it off with a book titled "Origin of the Species," it still might be a tough sell.

    ---

    >superstring theory or blackhole theory is trying to add to our knowledge of the physical world<

    If an Intelligent Designer is responsible for the physical world, ID is necessary to gain all the knowledge available. Without it, one would be unnecessarily limited.

    ---

    >Superstring theory, Blackhole theory, etc. are not trying to displace a more widely established theory that has much evidence in its favor. They are speculating at the edge of science.<

    The analogy to superstrings, blackholes, etc. breaks down on a very important point: They play by the same "rules" as the rest of physics. Therefore, the philosophical differences are minimal. All that's left is the math (kind of).

    If these new theories stand the test of experiment, they will certainly displace the old ones. But to be accepted, they will have to explain everything the old ones did (with at least the same accuracy) and explain phenomena that the old ones could not. The speculation is limited by the volumes of known data.

    When it comes to the clash between ID and Evolution, the rules are different, apparently. You see, ID is primarily about origins, while Evolution is primarily about change. If that was laid out clearly, there wouldn't be so much to clash about.

    ---

    In one of your old posts, you said, "Einstein did not ignite the quantum physics revolution by avoiding learning Newtonian theory."

    It seems both sides of the debate need to learn what the other is really saying. As I pointed out above, this could be just blown out of proportion because they don't really address the same issues.

    Side note: Einstein rejected quantum physics all his life. In fact, he worked hard to disprove quantum physics. He kept working on Relativity while the rest of the physics world forged ahead with Quantum Mechanics. Now we're waiting for some smart guys to come along and make the two theories play nice.

    But I get your point. :)

    asg

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  53. Noah,

    >I'm glad your posting here<

    Thanks. I always believed that any theory that cannot face opposition is one that is not worth defending.

    I'm glad there exists among evolutionists some who are willing and able to engage in rational debate. IMO, those who have the I'm-right-so-shut-up attitude - evolutionists and IDers alike - are not worth the breath or the keystrokes.

    asg

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  54. Cal,

    1) I don't seem to recall ever making any points concerning ID and the "who" issue

    2)No geolgist or cosmologist EVER claimed to be able to age the Earth or Universe "precisely". The difference in opinion on the subject surrounds real scientists using the best available data to come up with their best estimate vs. evengelical idealouges who will never, ever accept any evidence that does not support the Bible. Without Christianity, this issue is dead.

    3)I'm more than happy to discuss the "is intelligence material" issure. I just don't happen to think it matters or not if it is. (But, I will suggest that we move that discussion up to the Vermont post so as not to get too far off topic.)

    ReplyDelete
  55. Doug,

    >your claim that Massimo made 'why' a valid criterion in testing the scientific validity of ID.<

    If you look at the original blog, the why was sandwiched in a paragraph that questions the scientific validity of ID. If it was not meant as a criterion, it sure does a convincing impersonation.

    One of my purposes for calling attention to it is to "clean up" the debate. If we're going to determine ID's scientific value, let's not muddy the waters with superfluous or extraneous arguments and comments. Considering the intellectual condition of the general populace, it is very likely that Joe Shmoe will not be able to discern which are material arguments and which are red herrings.

    ---

    >The comment was "Why did she do it?" and was in reference to the idea of an intelligent designer. This seems a reasonable question for a lowly human to ask of a conscious designer.<

    It is indeed very reasonable. I would even suggest that many IDers spend a great deal of effort answering this question.

    ---

    >It may not be essential for ID to answer such a question for it to be scientifically valid<

    That's the point I want to make clear. Glad you agree.

    ---

    >A double standard was clearly not intended<

    It could have been clearer if the irrelevant subtopic was left out altogether.

    ---

    >No one is preventing ID from proving itself though the regular channels of science. ... there must be some set of rules<

    Massimo said, "...science cannot -- by definition -- deal with the supernatural."

    Yes, there must be a set of rules. But before addressing the rules, there must be consensus about the game.

    If the game is let's find out what we can using only physical means and processes, then Massimo's definition of science is fully adequate, and ID is disqualified from the game.

    If the game is let's find out what we can about the world, without physical limitation, then ID can play and traditional science is at a disadvantage.

    The difference is like playing basketball half-court vs. full-court. Playing half-court is fun, and could be even more enjoyable than full-court, if you don't like running. Playing full-court encompasses everything in the half-court game, but is not limited by the center line. You can still limit yourself to playing the half-court syle and be successfull (like the 90's Bulls), but to truly master the game you have to learn the fastbreak (like the 80's Lakers) - something that is impossible in the half-court game.

    Unfortunately, many on both sides treat the situation like a basketball coach would. They tell the team: We have to make them play our game and we will win. As if winning demands that the other side loses. As if everybody has to play the same game.

    In the search for truth, everybody can win. It all depends on what truth you're looking for.

    asg

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  56. If the game is let's find out what we can using only physical means and processes, then Massimo's definition of science is fully adequate, and ID is disqualified from the game.

    If the game is let's find out what we can about the world, without physical limitation, then ID can play and traditional science is at a disadvantage.


    This then is the crux of the whole debate.

    Science is by definition about physical processes. Nevertheless, for ID to say anything interesting (recall my argument that there is nothing inherent in Evolution that prevents it from also claiming a designer) ID has to provide physical proof that there was design intent.

    For example, say I produce two artifacts - one natural and one designed. What sciences could be developed, i.e. morphologies, algorithms, etc., to distinguish the natural from the designed? That is what ID needs to doing and that would be accepted as a science by Massimo's definition.

    But the whole problem is that ID is not trying to "find out what we can about the world" -- it merely stating an a apriori fact. That is exactly why it belongs in philosophy and not science. If ID proponents puts forth a hypothesis that does try to "find out what we can about the world", then it can play in the science arena. I have not seen such a hypothesis.

    Everything I have seen in ID, is merely anti-Evolution. That is fine. The science should not be called "ID".... the proponents should call themselves "anti-Evolution" and work hard to disprove the theory using real scientific methods.

    Either way -- even if you accept Evolution - the question of "is there a designer" remains and will probably only be ever answered on faith. In fact, in a manner of sorts, if you are a believer the Evolutionary Biologists are the real "ID" scientists -- they are the ones working out how the hypothetical designer did it, i.e. DNA, genetic algorithms, molecular biology, etc. Wouldn't be an ironic twist of fate if someday, some Evolutionary scientist found "proof" of a designer -- say in some secret message spelled out in DNA? I don't personally believe that will be the case, but I'm not closed minded against the possibility.

    ReplyDelete
  57. asg,

    Sorry, did this post of yours until now....

    Rather, we studied the fundamental laws of physics, then came to the conclusion that perpetual motion is impossible because it violates those laws.

    Fair enough. But part of the backlash is because of the organized political campaign to get it into the schools. Also with perpetual motion, there is a physical claim that can be tested and validated, so it makes an interesting exercise. ID offers no such claim -- only its a priori assertion. Also, the text books probably do say at some point that perpetual motion is impossible. Would ID'ers settle for a side bar that explained the theory and then concluded that "it was not a science, but should be pondered in philosophy"? I would not be opposed to that. However would ID'ers try to again force the text book writer's hand?

    So it is very possible, even probable, to believe that God created and want to invest significant time in finding out more about what God created and how it works.

    If you believe in God -- and as you say many great scientists have/do -- isn't this what science is all about? This is what the Deist movement in the Enlightenment was all about. Trying to know God, by understanding the physical universe. Unfortunately, the more knowledge we acquire, the less apparent the hand of God is. But I'd bet there are Evolutionary Scientists who do believe in God and believe (because its the best evidence yet) that Evolution was merely God's way of propagating species.

    On the other hand, if the world can be affected by an intelligent being that is normally beyond physical detection, then the previous worldview will be unable to lead one to understand all that is useful in the world.

    Even if the being is beyond physical detection, any manifestation of His actions on the world would still be apparent via science. And if all His actions were not observable, then again, the question becomes one for philosophy and theology only.


    But considering the fact that Darwin kicked it off with a book titled "Origin of the Species," it still might be a tough sell.

    Actually the title of the book was "The Origin of Species" -- meaning exactly now new species are formed. In that book Darwin did not propose to explain the first ever species, nor did he in fact really ever say anything about human evolution (though he would later). I know of no scientific accepted theory that says Evolution (by Natural Selection) accounts for the origins of all life. That seems to me is still an open question in science.

    You see, ID is primarily about origins, while Evolution is primarily about change. If that was laid out clearly, there wouldn't be so much to clash about.

    I agree. Though I would state ID is about the ultimate origins. The reason for the clash is that the former, not making any scientific claims, is trying to play on science's playground -- and is using the former (which as you say is in another arena) to do an end run around the latter. There wouldn't be any clash at all if ID merely kept the discussion about the ultimate origins -- which, again, without any hypothesis, is a philosophical question.

    Alan

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  58. From The American Heritage® Dictionary:

    sci·ence

    1.
    1. The observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena.
    2. Such activities restricted to a class of natural phenomena.
    3. Such activities applied to an object of inquiry or study.

    2. Methodological activity, discipline, or study: I've got packing a suitcase down to a science.

    3. An activity that appears to require study and method: the science of purchasing.

    4. Knowledge, especially that gained through experience.


    From this, science is not necessarily limited to physical processes.

    Of course, discussants must agree on terminology for the discussion to be useful.

    asg

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  59. Noah,

    1) The "who" is important to any person who thinks that ID is covert creationism, don't you think? And it should be important to creationists, too. And yes, you have brought that up quite a bit. But that's fine. I don't entirely disagree.

    3) So you think moving this to the Vermont post would be less off-topic? My only thing is, these other two persons, asg and alan, are such extremely deep thinkers, I have a hard time keeping up, even if I do read most of the comments. 9 out of 10 people multi-task better than I do. Turns out that I must have an IQ of about "40".

    (plus a hundred, give or take a point :)

    cal

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  60. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  61. Cal,

    I think moving to the Vermont post would be less off topic because it's not realy a debate post. It's just M telling us he'll be away for awhile. But he did leave the comments section oppen, and since I don't see anyone jumping to talk about M being away, I think it's a good opportunity for a free-for-all. That would be alot more on topic than discussing materialism on a post about the political tactics of ID proponents.

    As to the "who" debate, I'll concede; I may have metioned something to that effect at sometime or another and simply don't recall. Either way it's not really that important so I'll let it drop.

    Noah

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  62. Noah,

    >I don't think ["ID" and "ID proponents"] are mutually exclusive.<

    No, they are not, but they are distinct. The former is the theory, the latter is the group of people who promote the theory.

    Moreover, ID proponents (IDers for short) are not all on the same page. There is not some monolithic group of IDers that all think the same way. Regardless of the opinion of non-IDers, critical and rational thinking is required in ID circles, if one wants to avoid being labeled a nut case. Because of that, there are multitudes of variations on the theme.

    ---

    >Your response to my point about DNA,humans and apes would be a good point if you had remembered that I offered it only as an example.<

    Oh, I did not intend it to be an argument against the theory. I just capitalized on your example to show that valid tests are not always forthcoming. All theories go through the same stage. Though some theories can get through it in seconds, others require more time and effort. Scientific theories, like living organisms, are not born mature.

    ---

    >Now imagine that the defense attorny stands up and says that the jury cannot convict unless the 12 members of the jury personally witnessed the murder. Sounds ridiculous right. Well that is pretty much ID in a nutshell.<

    Though ID may have more than its share of nuts, very few of them will fit in that particular shell. Let me give you a view from the inside by expanding your analogy to better fit what we're dealing with.

    Suppose the defense attorney presents blockbuster evidence: He has a signed confession from the actual perpetrator, and it is not the defendant! And this new witness claims not only responsibility for the crime, but also the ability to explain all the previously presented evidence to show that he is guilty. The problem is that the perpetrator does not reside within the jurisdiction of the court, and extradition is not possible. The court can examine evidence only if and when the perpetrator decides to reveal himself.

    The prosecution goes nuts: Who is this witness? How can we be sure he's telling the truth? How can any other verdict be possible in light of all the previous evidence? Maybe the defense fabricated this confession for the sole purpose of clearing the defendant. Or maybe they have succeeded in deluding themselves in the all-consuming desire to clear the defendant.

    The defense counters: We can vouch for the veracity of the perpetrator's claims. We've seen him in action, and we know he can do what he says he did. He's never lied to us before, so we have no reason to believe that he's lying now. But you don't have to take our word for it, he can and will reveal himself to you when he deems you are ready.

    The prosecution turns to the judge: This is irrational! Who ever heard of some mystery witness that only shows up when he feels like it? This is a sham! We move to suppress this ridiculous evidence.

    The defense turns to the judge: Since it is obvious that none of the jurors personally witnessed the crime, there is a possibility that the defendant is innocent. We are not asking for the jury to believe the alleged perpetrator; he can convince them himself in his own time, in his own way. All we ask is to be able to present the evidence of a possible alternate conclusion. Each juror can decide for himself. In the meantime, we ask for a delay of the verdict. Anyway, the alleged perpetrator says he will come and prove everything beyond the shadow of a doubt; we just don't know exactly when that will be.

    What should the judge do? Should he enforce the technicality that the evidence doesn't count and should be suppressed because it is beyond the court's jurisdiction, unless the alleged perpetrator graces it with his presence? Or should he enforce the spirit of searching for truth, regardless of where it may be found?


    There is the nutshell.

    Do you codify a set of rules, then learn all you can within the confines of those rules? Or do you codify a goal, then make rules to help you reach the goal?

    ---

    >It has done this while offering almost NO evidence to defend the gaping holes in itself.<

    There is evidence, but not within the confines of the rules of traditional natural science. At least, not yet.

    But that really is beside the point. What you must understand is that ID is not necessarily the result of gathering physical data and hypothesizing an explanation for the data. It is more likely to be the conclusion from gathering data beyond the realm of physical processes.

    ---

    >if superstring ever gained sufficent ground in terms of evidence and testability, it would do it honestly using scientific method not politics.<

    You do not understand what is at stake as far as IDers are concerned. For convenience, let's narrow that down to those with a Judeo-Christian bent (for the rest of this post).

    Do you know how long in took for Chandrasekhar's discovery of a maximum mass for white dwarfs to gain scientific consensus? Decades. He was in his early twenties when he published it, and he was in his 80's (I believe) when he received his Nobel prize for it.

    Do you know how long it took for Copernicus's heliocentric ideas to gain scientific consensus? More than a century.

    For IDers, the reality of the Designer and his interactions with us is not merely a mathematical convenience or the results of applying Occam's Razor: It is the center of existence. Not only does it improve the quality of this life (as the natural sciences incontrovertibly do), but is also the only way to get to the next life in peace (which is beyond the scope of natural sciences).

    Most parents want their children to have the best chances for success, which generally requires a good education. For the natural scientist, that usually includes a strong academic foundation, grounded in logic, math, etc. For the IDer, the basic foundation is a personal experience with the Designer. In our society, how are most children educated? They spend most of their waking hours in an educational institution and with peers also educated in the same schools.

    Here's the big question: How will the IDer's child learn of the Designer as the center of life if the school does not allow ID in any form?

    There are some problems with that:

    1) It's a slippery slope to allow God and government to mix.
    2) ID parents do not have the luxury of waiting a hundred years for ID to gain scientific acceptance before their children learn it. It will cost them an eternity of bliss.
    3) The anti-ID people are also very pro-mass-schooling, limiting the options for IDers.
    4) Many IDers don't want to support an educational system that disregards and discredits their most cherished belief.
    5) Many IDers cannot afford alternative educational options.
    6) Compulsory education is enforced and run by the state.

    What's the solution to all this? More often than not, it ends up in the political arena.

    ---

    >attempt by the ID movement to get the supernatural to be covered by scientific definition.<

    I grew up in the public educational system. I know that though science theoretically limits itself to the description of physical phenomena, the reality in the classroom is far different. I think the current push by ID is the backlash.

    Then, there is also the definition of supernatural. If we went back a couple of hundred years and claimed to know how to slow a person's aging process, we would be accused of dealing with the supernatural. Today, we know that we can do that naturally merely by accelerating the subject to a speed close to the speed of light. What we consider supernatural can simply be natural events that we don't quite understand.

    In the end, the judge must decide how to allow the presentation of the evidence and let the jurors decide.

    asg

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  63. asg,

    As you already acknowledged in your latest post, ID is a belief. So, just accept the fact that ID is religion, to be kept in churches or homes or phylosophy/theology classes, and leave those who know what they're talking about spread the science. If you have any faith at all, you're showing it to be VERY weak.

    And no, ID is not a theory. With a lot of good will, it might be called a hypothesis. And a not very good one, since it does not come from observations, as others already pointed out tirelesly earlier and I won't repeat. (I can't have all that patience, Alan and Noah, I admire you for that...)

    When people get their definition of science from dictionaries, they should at least have the decency of not pretending to know what they're talking about. Or what do you think all those phylosophers wasting thousands of pages were doing? They could just have gone to Webster...
    (I admit you kinda did state you don't know biology and can't do the hard work to learn it; but you do seem pretty enthusiastic about wasting time learning ID, don't you?)

    And talking about that, you keep stating you're so well versed in ID in several posts, and that we should see what ID really is, who IDers are and what they do and whatnot. Marvelous! Could you then give us any prediction of the "theory", the rationale for said predictions and how to verify them? Does not even need to be regarding my two earlier questions, to make it easier for you or all those IDers you keep talking about.

    I hope you live in the Kansas school system, because that's the only place where your 'modified' definition of science has any traction. And that won't last, obviously.

    Now, the little court story. Well-writen, but clearly ridiculous plot. Good thing the judicial system does not work your way.

    ------

    Cal,

    you did not even understand my question, I see. I didn't ask for any further half-baked and uninformed opinions on why evolution supposedly does not work. I've seen enough in your posts on the subject to realize you have no clue about what you're saying when you try to discuss evolution, so I was hoping you would do better on illuminating us on ID. (but alas, I was disappointed to read on an earlier post of yours today that you don't have much of a liking for ID either!)

    Again, I want to know what would be the predictions of ID regarding those two situations I presented, why and how to test any such predictions. That's OK if you don't have an answer, because THAT is exactly the right answer.

    J

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  64. asg,

    1)As to your embelishment on my analogy. I'm still siding with the prosecution, because the defense has not met anything even remotely aproaching a reasonable standard of evidence. And we need some sort of standard for both the law and science, otherwise, niether is useful to us.

    Under your example, what is to stop every other defendent from using the same trick? How do we know the supposed confessor isn't a forgery? Is the defense attorney's word really enough to set a possible murderer free?

    And how about ID, should we now throw out the mountain of evidence supporting evolution just so we can "wait and see?" If so, then what's the use of having evidence at all?

    I'm inclined to agree that what an appropriate standard of evidence is a debateable topic for discussion. But there should be a reasonable standard. And I don't think either your example or ID cuts the mustard.

    2) As to the rest of your post:

    I'm not real impressed by the "what's at stake" argument. Any crack-pot can appeal to their own religion as an excuse for their behavior, but they still have to play by the rules.

    Otherwise, where does it stop? I hate to use inflammatory examples, but does that mean some get a pass on human sacrifice if they happen to belive their god will punish them if they don't?

    Secondly, ID'ers have plenty of places to teach their children ID. In the home, in church, some of us don't even have a problem with it in public school as long as it's not forced into science classes and as long as it's part of an elective.

    It is simply not true that ID proponents have no other recourse.

    3) I grew up in public school too. Now my experience may have been different from yours, but I don't remember evolution being taken that seriously when I was in high school (early 90's.) I can pretty much assure you that Darwin may have been covered in passing and not much said.

    Honestly, on a regular basis I heard more about creation and ID (although it wasn't called that then) than I ever heard about Darwin and evolution.

    And we're not talking about some small town in the south, this was probobly the most liberal suburb of Chicago.

    And that's one of my biggest problems with this debate. ID'ers wish they would teach ID. I wish they would TEACH evolution. Something tells me this debate would end pretty quickly if they did.

    Noah

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  65. I apologize to both asg and cal for cutting this short, (hah hah)
    but it appears as though I'm going to be busy for a couple of days so I won't be responding to any more here. But that's OK, we can play some more later.

    Noah

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  66. With respect to this topic there is probably limited value in parsing the definition of science further.

    Actually, I'll admit that you can perform science on the supernatural. For instance, if I were studying ESP, I could devise a double blind experiment to see if a person could guess the value of playing cards at a statistically greater rate than chance. ESP may be supernatural, but I can devise a scientific experiment based on how such a supernatural claim may manifest itself in our physical world.

    I can do this because a theory about ESP makes some testable claims.

    Other than challenging evolution, what claims does ID make? What experiments have been done, what mathematical models created, what statistical analysis has been performed in favor of ID (not just against evolution).

    (I'm not up to date on the latest ID work, so please give me some examples if there are any)

    If IDers produced these, there would be something to study.

    Otherwise, reference all my earlier arguments.

    The white dwarf and heliocentric examples did put forth testable ideas. It may have taken decades to acquire the means to test which delayed their acceptance, but at least there were testable ideas.

    I don't see any such things put forth with ID, hence the analogy is not strong.

    The court story does not really work for me.

    Anyway, the alleged perpetrator says he will come and prove everything beyond the shadow of a doubt; we just don't know exactly when that will be.

    That's a apt description of faith, of an a prori belief. That's a strong argument against allowing ID into the science text books.

    I could say something similar about any science - no matter how strong the evidence.

    I could say that about Christianity. Example: I have it on good word that all Earthly religion is false. I know this, because the alien which has constructed our entire universe in his laboratory test tube told me so and will produce all the evidence to prove it, but I don't know when.

    Again, this controversy is contrived. I'm open minded. Let IDers need to go to the laboratory and produce some data -- or at least some testable ideas, then I'll be eager to listen. Philoshophy and faith should not be confused with science. Yes, philoshophy is another avenue or tool to finding truth. Just because thats so, doesn't mean that ID should be taught as science.

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  67. Good, as usual, Alan. I couldn't agree more.

    But man, I'm still fuming! :-)

    So I'll say some more things.

    1. To those who insist that ID is new and will prove itself in just a little while, you're either unaware of history or purposefully trying to deceive the innocent (in which case I won't say what I think of such deceivers since this is a family blog - and Massimo might delete my comment). The "new" movement of ID is, as many pointed out before but this time I will repeat, just old William Paley's watch argument with new flashy words to make it look like something scientific-smelling (to the uninformed at least). No wonder the new incarnation of the movement was invented by a lawyer. And by the way, repeating again, David Hume refuted that, at least philosophicaly, even decades before Paley himself.

    So, ID is at least 200 years old, and did not produce any evidence, data, prediction or whatever in the meantime. Just poor politics and even worse theology.

    2. To those who like to point out that great and famous scientists were religious, I have two words: SO WHAT?

    I'm no physicist, but since physical science-related examples seem to be popular around here, let's go back to Newton, probably the most religious of the greatest of all time. Yes, his religious/theological writings were more voluminous than his scientific ones (but guess which ones are still respected, read and taught and which went to be historical curiosities?) But can anybody point it out where, in his scientific works, he uses the supernatural as explanation. Sure, he did use some rhetoric, in introductions and conclusions most probably, to the like of "this is god's grandeur", "god created it all" and things to that effect. I'm sure he must have done that. But why didn't Newton write F = m x a x G (G not being the gravitational constant here, but god's factor)? That would read somewhat like "the force 'F' needed to get a mass 'm' accelerating at rate 'a', in a god-willing manner 'G', which changes with god's mood, obviously". Or did Newton put, as part of inventing calculus, that you have to pray a certain incantation between taking the first and the second derivative? Is there faith involved in the operations for taking integrals?

    The point being: it does not matter how many great scientists who were also religious you can produce. They did not use magic to produce their science. When they tried, even the great failed (see Kepler's fights with planetary orbits).

    They were great scientists also because they knew science (the natural) and faith (the supernatural) are to be kept separate affairs if you want to have either one done properly.

    J

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  68. Noah,

    Don't know if this will make it before your "departure," but I'll send it out anyway.

    >I'm still siding with the prosecution, because the defense has not met anything even remotely aproaching a reasonable standard of evidence.<

    That is a perfectly acceptable response by a juror. Just like in a real court, each juror must decide for himself which pieces of evidence he will accept, and how much weight to give it.

    But is it proper to suppress evidence, bypassing the juror's right to judge for himself? The church leaders in charge of Galileo's trial thought so.

    ---

    >And we need some sort of standard for both the law and science, otherwise, niether is useful to us.<

    Absolutely. Set the standards and go by the standards.

    But if one person is playing half-court basketball while the other is playing full-court, they'll never have fun with each other. Only when they realize that they're playing by different rules will they sit down and decide what game they want to play.

    ---

    >Under your example, what is to stop every other defendent from using the same trick? How do we know the supposed confessor isn't a forgery? Is the defense attorney's word really enough to set a possible murderer free?<

    Nothing. You don't. It's not.

    But you seem to think the defense has the power to set the defendant free. It doesn't. It is completely up to the jurors. And as in a real court, the jury should hand down the verdict, not the prosecution, the defense, or the judge.

    You don't know if it's a forgery. But if you knew the confessor personally, and communicated with him, you'd have a better chance.

    ---

    >should we now throw out the mountain of evidence supporting evolution just so we can "wait and see?"<

    Nobody needs to throw out any evidence, unless the juror decides to reject evidence. Each juror can make up his own mind whenever he wants. But don't make up another juror's mind for him.

    ---
    >there should be a reasonable standard. And I don't think either your example or ID cuts the mustard.<

    From a physical standpoint, I don't think so either. But generally speaking, I don't think ID is the result of the type of physical evidence that traditional science accepts.

    ---

    >I'm not real impressed by the "what's at stake" argument.<

    It wasn't an argument. You don't have to accept it or subscribe to it or even allow it to modify your thoughts or actions. It was merely a statement of fact. What you do with it is up to you.

    ---

    >Any crack-pot can appeal to their own religion as an excuse for their behavior, but they still have to play by the rules.<

    Of course. But when those who make the rules do not have any regard for those who wish to follow different rules, it makes for a lousy situation. Ask Galileo.

    ---

    >where does it stop? ... does that mean some get a pass on human sacrifice if they happen to belive their god will punish them if they don't?<

    I'm not in the business of telling others what to do. If they want to sacrifice themselves, they can go ahead. Just make sure nobody else gets unwillingly involved in said sacrifice.

    Now, if they think they can sacrifice me or mine, they will have to think again.

    ---

    >ID'ers have plenty of places to teach their children ID. ... It is simply not true that ID proponents have no other recourse.<

    I never claimed otherwise. But it cannot be denied that ID is not the easiest thing to officially teach in school these days. Though there are several ways around it, the political method is what some have chosen to use. I don't agree with that course, but I'm still not in the business of telling others what to do.

    Consider this, if you are so inclined. What if the tables were turned and IDers were the ones in charge again, like in the old days? If they said something like, "You can teach Evolution at home, in the park, or wherever you want as long as it's not in science class and it's an elective." You should see very easily that such conditions are not ideal for teaching Evolution.

    ---

    >I don't remember evolution being taken that seriously when I was in high school<

    In my classes, we went at it (mid-late 80's, Lakers' glory days).

    ---

    >ID'ers wish they would teach ID.<

    I can't speak for all IDers, but there are those who don't wish that at all. If I wanted to teach my kids ID as it relates to their relationship with the Designer, I certainly wouldn't trust somebody else to do it for me; I'll take care of it myself.

    What IDers mainly want is the acknowledgement that there is an alternative.

    ---

    >I wish they would TEACH evolution. Something tells me this debate would end pretty quickly if they did.<

    There is the big difference between the two sides. Evolutionists want their theory taught, while IDers want their theory acknowledged.

    There seems to be an attitude among evolutionists of today that is not unlike that of the IDers of Galileo's day. And if that attitude goes unchecked, it will certainly end all debate, as it did in Galileo's day.

    asg

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  69. http://dailydoubt.blogspot.com/2005/03
    /intelligent-design-is-not-science.html

    Here, that's about as detailed an explanation of why ID isn't science that I can give.

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  70. I didn't get to read all 69 comments, so this my already be out there. As a former fundamentalist Christian, I think I am qualified (via my closed-system-sample) to theorize as to why fundies lobby so hard against Evolution. It's because deep-down, they know that, as one poster put it, once the truth is realized, people will have "no need of that hypothesis". I am one who has always looked for "reasons to believe" to "bolster" my faith. However, at the end of my 5-year evolution, I found no more reasons were convincing.

    I suspect that fear underlies most rejection of even looking into the arguments and (real) evidence for Evolution. In fact, I'm sorry to say that faced with my rejection of my faith, my dad indicated that he had no interest in finding out why I think the way I do - because he couldn't see any redeeming qualities of that belief system.

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  71. HG,

    I wish I had some kind of position paper for why ID is not a natural science, but that doesn't matter to hardcore IDers, but I don't. You'll have to distill it from my posts.

    I do like your blog. It is refreshing to see both pro and con materials referenced.

    But even so, I don't think it will convince the unconvinced (or unconvince the convinced, depending on how you look at it). It addresses ID from the standpoint of natural science, where theories are developed from a set of physical phenomena. ID was not developed from physical phenomena, so the physical/scientific arguments against do not address it at its roots.

    If you really want to topple ID, you must kill it at the roots. But its roots are beyond the scope of natural science, and therefore cannot be destroyed by scientific arguments.

    Until both sides understand what the other's beef is, there will be conflict. One side will be called yahoos, and the other side will be called heretics. And both sides will be using all available resources to persecute the other.

    asg

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  72. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  73. Alan,

    >This then is the crux of the whole debate.<

    I don't know if it's the crux, but it is definitely a major point. At a fundamental level, natural science and ID are playing different games. To make one play by the other's rules is never going to work. Even though there are IDers hard at work trying to prove ID using natural, scientific methods, I believe its success will be limited as far as converting the unconverted because the idea of a Designer is beyond the scope of natural processes.

    Another way of looking at it is this: Natural science tries to be as objective as possible, while ID is extremely subjective by nature. The objective aspect of ID is still subject to the desires of the Designer.

    ---

    >ID has to provide physical proof that there was design intent.<

    >distinguish the natural from the designed<

    Proving intent is almost impossible using physical evidence because there are gaps in our knowledge. If there was some event that pointed to a Designer (e.g. parting the Red Sea), someone could always posit that there is some natural cause that could explain the phenomenon, but we just don't quite understand it yet. If DNA was found that said, "God was here," would evolutionists immediately concede to the IDers? Not likely. A host of possible natural explanations would be thrown at it. And if the explanations don't pan out, how many evolutionists would gladly join the ID ranks, and how many evolutionists would sit down and say, There's got to be some explanation that we haven't thought of yet? Now, be honest.

    What if investigations of natural phenomena consistently show that life goes on very predictably without the logical need of a supernatural entity? What if things reveal a certain amount of randomness? What if you could outline definite physical processes that could explain events that were previously thought to be evidence of a Designer? Would ID conventions suddenly become Evolution conventions? Don't count on it. There is the catch-all in the ID back pocket: God could have designed it that way. How can you prove it isn't so? You can't.

    In spite of claims to the contrary, the respective adherents of natural science and ID are very subjective. For most of us, our basic paradigms can only be shifted by death. The tough part for ID is that unless one has a very personal experience with the Designer, ID sounds like a bunch of hooey.

    ---

    >ID is not trying to "find out what we can about the world" -- it merely stating an a apriori fact.<

    At this point in time, I agree. The source of ID is a priori, but that does not prevent it from expanding in the future.

    ---

    >If ID proponents puts forth a hypothesis that does try to "find out what we can about the world", then it can play in the science arena. I have not seen such a hypothesis.<

    >ID offers no such claim -- only its a priori assertion.<

    Here's one: The planet's age is around 10,000 years, not billions. There are people working along various lines to see if this theory holds up against physical data. I don't know the current state of affairs, but they're working on it.

    ---

    >Everything I have seen in ID, is merely anti-Evolution.<

    That's just the nature of beast. Evolution is entrenched in the minds of the scientific community. Therefore, for a competing theory to get any consideration, one must poke holes in evolution. If everybody thought that evolution answers everything, then nobody would look at another theory.

    If it ain't broke, don't fix it. ID must first show that evolution is broken in various places.

    ---

    >work hard to disprove the theory using real scientific methods<

    There are those who do. But regardless of any success they may have in this line, ID will eventually lead one beyond "real scientific methods."

    ---

    >the question of "is there a designer" remains and will probably only be ever answered on faith<

    You and I agree there. Unfortunately, I don't think either of us is typical of our respective camps.

    ---

    >part of the backlash is because of the organized political campaign to get it into the schools<

    I submit that the organized political campaign to get ID into schools would die down considerably if it got considerably easier for IDers to send their children to schools that taught it.

    ---

    >Would ID'ers settle for a side bar that explained the theory and then concluded that "it was not a science, but should be pondered in philosophy"? I would not be opposed to that.<

    I would be satisfied with that, but as I said before, I don't think I'm the typical ID guy. In fact, I don't even need that. I just need more freedom to teach my children in the way I see fit. (I might not even want that; I have my own misgivings about mixing state and religion.)

    If IDers and evolutionists rallied together to guarantee freedom for all, then we could all get it. You can be free from ID, and I can be free to teach it.

    ---

    >the more knowledge we acquire, the less apparent the hand of God is<

    I would agree to that with a slight modification: The more physical knowledge we acquire, the less apparent the hand of God is in physical processes.

    That argument has turned many people, such as Dave, into former fundamentalist Christians. And they are certainly within their rights to do that.

    I'd even go so far as to say that any Christian whose experience with God is primarily in the physical realm is very likely to move into the Evolution camp sooner or later.

    ---

    >I'd bet there are Evolutionary Scientists who do believe in God and believe (because its the best evidence yet) that Evolution was merely God's way of propagating species.<

    You could win a lot of money with that bet.

    ---

    >Even if the being is beyond physical detection, any manifestation of His actions on the world would still be apparent via science.<

    At least the observation part of it would be. But independent duplication would be nearly impossible. It would be like duplicating the random splash of a symmetrical drop of water falling into a symmetrical pool of water, but on a large scale.

    ---

    >if all His actions were not observable, then again, the question becomes one for philosophy and theology only.<

    If His actions had no physical manifestations, ID wouldn't exist. But the primary interaction with Him is not physically observable: We walk by faith, not by sight.

    ---

    >I know of no scientific accepted theory that says Evolution (by Natural Selection) accounts for the origins of all life. That seems to me is still an open question in science.<

    I wonder how many evolutionists, and natural scientists in general, would agree with you.

    ---

    >There wouldn't be any clash at all if ID merely kept the discussion about the ultimate origins<

    It would definitely reduce the clash, but there would be some left. The hypothesis that one organism can have descendants that are of a radically different kind would generate a clash.

    ---

    >I'm not up to date on the latest ID work<

    Me neither.

    ---

    >The white dwarf and heliocentric examples … I don't see any such things put forth with ID, hence the analogy is not strong.<

    I mentioned those to point out the time it takes to gain acceptance. And since ID is dependent on a Designer who is not completely predictable, acceptance on scientific grounds is impossible, IMO.

    ---

    >The court story does not really work for me.<

    But is that enough to deny the evidence to those for whom it does work?

    I came across a quote from Jimmy Carter today: "Also endangered are our historic commitments to ... treating dissenting voices and beliefs with respect…"

    ---

    >That's a apt description of faith, of an a prori belief. That's a strong argument against allowing ID into the science text books.<

    I don't think ID needs to get in the science books, as long as science books stay away from matters of faith.

    ---

    >I have it on good word that all Earthly religion is false. I know this, because the alien which has constructed our entire universe in his laboratory test tube told me so and will produce all the evidence to prove it, but I don't know when.<

    As far as I'm concerned, such "alienists" are free to believe that and teach it to those who would listen. And if they want, I can even tell my kids that there are people who believe such things. Then everybody could go on with his life, believing what seems best to him. And if the alien ever shows up, he will prove all doubters wrong.

    ---

    >Philoshophy and faith should not be confused with science.<

    Go on, preacher!

    ---

    >Yes, philoshophy is another avenue or tool to finding truth. Just because thats so, doesn't mean that ID should be taught as science.<

    I don't know why anyone would want that. If my children want hot water, I want them to know to light a fire under a pot of water, not pray for it; thermodynamics would be more effective than faith.

    asg

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  74. Whew, There are some terribly longwinded posts that go on forever. Anything over two times as long as Massimo original blog seem to be out of line with the intent here. That would also apply to post after post after post. Say your piece concisely.

    There's really no need to pick someone elses post apart, paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence, and phrase by phrase is not only boring and tedious, but show a lack of the ability to form ones own thoughts and put them on "paper."

    Whether Massimo agrees with me or not,I couldn't say. Just some thoughts ongeneral blog courtesy.

    ReplyDelete
  75. I know of no scientific accepted theory that says Evolution (by Natural Selection) accounts for the origins of all life. That seems to me is still an open question in science.

    Alan is right. Evolution happened, but it only deals with living things, which can reproduce selectively, leave descent with modification, etc. We don't know if and how the rules would apply at prebiotic levels, since we don't know how were things before the first organisms which could be called "living cells", which we do know follow evolutionary rules.

    On the other hand, we do have in vitro evolution experiments that show that selection can be performed on molecules, so the question is really open. But even then, it wouldn't account for the ORIGIN of these evolving molecules - that's a problem for biophysics, maybe - but only for their change through time.

    That IDers so frequently blame evolutionary theories for not accounting for the origin of life is just another demostration that they never learned about it in the first place.

    Dave,

    Your "case" illustrates very well what I mean when I say that IDers have weak faith - if you're trying to justify your faith using science (or their mockery of science), it means you don't really have much faith to begin with. And if you honestly want to learn the best available evidence, you most often than not end up losing your faith, or at the least weakening it even more. Faith is belief not only without evidence, but even AGAINST evidence. Trying to adjust the evidence to confirm your faith is not a good sign.

    The Catholic church and some other Christian denominations, being old and experient, learned that lesson long ago. They keep themselves to spiritual matters. Or at least that's how they present it on their official statements and the like. If you try to explain the physical world with superstition, you'll lose. And be ridiculed (aren't they still being mocked because of the Galileo thing?)

    J

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  76. I do agree with Dennis, people, keep it short and to the point, please. All you do otherwise is to alienate others from reading what you post (like, hmm, me, for example!).

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  77. J "I didn't ask for any further half-baked and uninformed opinions on why evolution supposedly does not work."

    If it's "uniformed", be a man, quit complaining and disprove it.


    "I was disappointed to read on an earlier post of yours today that you don't have much of a liking for ID either!)"

    Merely because in my mind, ID should be a "subset" to more important ideas. Not a "main" or leading idea.


    "...That's OK if you don't have an answer, because THAT is exactly the right answer."

    No it is not. You have given me a fairly ridiculous, failure prone set of choices here, when you know full well that I have my own ideas on this matter. Why?

    Do only people who believe that the universe was 'created' have to think about what they say on this blog? How old are you, please? Knowing this might make me more understanding. 19 - 24, 27 - 31 tops? If you are over 45, I may literally stand here and cry.

    "Again, I want to know what would be the predictions of ID regarding those two situations I presented, why and how to test any such predictions."

    So you know GOOD AND WELL I'm not in to it, and you are asking anyway? Funny.

    Okay - whatever the case, AS I'VE STATED BEFORE - I think that the food chain should be taken in its totality, and that we should COMPLETELY IGNOR the assumptions that are derived from the fossil record which might affect our determinations in regard to NON-evolutionary relationships.

    And are there any 'non-evolutionary relationships' between living things, btw? (In your blog host's mind -- no way!)

    THAT HAS GOT, as the scientific method would hold us to, disprove the whole idea hands down (just like ID) right off the bat!

    In my estimation, there are both. But the qualifiers are extremely important.

    If you expect a reply, I want precise answers over what is wrong (technically) with my above mentioned comment(s).

    Simple request, isn’t it.

    cal

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  78. SHORT, I PROMISE

    Dennis and Massimo, et. al,

    Sorry for the voluminous tomes. I'm not accustomed to extraneous comments during discussions, so I assumed that eveything written to me came with the expectation of a direct response.

    For those who fell asleep during the attempt to read my epics, let me try a Reader's Digest version:

    Natural science deals with the objective description of observed physical phenomena. You see some event, figure out some way to describe it, then, if correct, that description will help you predict what will happen next time.

    Intelligent Design deals with the subjective response to spiritual/non-physical phenomena. That's not to say that there's no physical manifestation; but the seen is secondary to the unseen.

    The dichotomy is living by faith vs. living by sight. Anyone who chooses to live by one principle has no right to force another with his choice. And in a civilized society, we should not only tolerate the fact of dissent, but guarantee the right to it.

    asg

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  79. I almost hate to post at the end of such a long thread but after having read 78 comments I still can't help but think that it all comes down to one simple thing. For ID to have any merit in any manner whatsoever (religion, science, philosophy) we first have to find something that is *intelligently designed*. There are at least three other hypotheses that should be considered before arriving at ID. They are (1) Unintelligent Design, (2) Careless Design and (3) Malicious Design. Any of those three would have more standing based on observations of the world around us than Intelligent Design.

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  80. The problem scientists like MP have with ID isn't as a metaphysical belief, it's that people like Behe, Dembski, and the folks at the Discovery Institute have formulated a plan to bypass the scientific process and insert Intelligent Design into school curriculum and the public arena on equal grounds as evolution with the subversive goal of the "overthrow of materialism".

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  81. HG,

    ID cannot be on the "equal grounds" as Evolution the way Chemistry is, for the fact that they do not inhabit the same ground. There may be overlap, but that's at the fringes.

    On the other hand, they can be on "equal grounds" the way Algebra and English Lit are on equal grounds with Evolution: They are all part of the curriculum.

    Why can't it be on the curriculum? Hume, Nietzsche, and Descartes are there.

    Don't worry about it overthrowing materialism. If they haven't been able to do it with members who get ID in the pews every week, they're not likely to succeed in the school room.

    asg

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  82. DA,

    If you were on a dig and found an airplane buried in the sand, it wouldn't take you long to conclude that of your 4 design options, intelligent design is the most likely.

    If, on that same dig, you saw a fly that could perform aerial maneuvers impossible in a plane, replicate itself, adapt to environmental changes, etc. - an almost infinitely more complex and astounding piece of engineering - could you truly conclude that intelligent design is the least likely?

    asg

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  83. It can't be on the curriculuum of a biology course because its not biology. Its not in the curriculuum for the same reason the Native American belief that the earth rests on the back of a giant turtle isn't taught in geology class as an alternative to plate tectonics.

    And this is what the debate centers around, since this is what the politically active persons who formulated the Wedge Strategy are attempting to do.

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  84. Neither is Nietzsche covered in biology.

    ID doesn't have to be in the biology course as long as biology does not touch biogenesis. If it goes there, it is only proper science to address and acknowledge its shortcomings in the area.

    asg

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  85. ID doesn't have to be in the biology course as long as biology does not touch biogenesis.

    Non sequitur. If biology uses only scientific arguments and data, it can be there. If ID does not use scientific methods (as you acknowledge it doesn't), it still has no place in science classes, even if it's trying to answer a question of the same nature.

    J

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  86. Massimo, you don't need to waste your time reading this one here. :-)

    If it's "uniformed", be a man, quit complaining and disprove it.

    The amount of biological misconceptions you put out in your posts can't be answered in the space of a blog, Cal. But I sure can point you to some nice biology books you can read to learn it, if you have any honest interest in learning. I'm sorry, but I don't have much patience with people who go around pretending they know what they're talking about (but don't). Mind you, I've seem a TALK like that not long ago (an IDer, by the way, who was an engineer pretending he knew biology, which he didn't). I admit that makes me behave a bit too rudely sometimes, which is unfortunate since it alienates other people. But I'm not gonna be apologetic because I'm a professional biologist, teaching evolution at undergraduate and graduate level, and sure know more than you about what I'm talking about, even if only on this sole subject. If you say nonsense, be sure I'll point it out and not be sorry for it.

    You say I gave you a set of choices. What do you mean? I just asked two questions, which nobody has answered. Again and again, I asked for predictions of ID, since IDers want to pretend it's a science. I think later I even relaxed my question to ANY prediction of ID, not just concerning the two questions (if I didn't, I'm doing it now). Even then, no luck. But don't feel bad, you're in "good" company. The guys who invented modern ID also don't give any testable prediction.

    So you know GOOD AND WELL I'm not in to it, and you are asking anyway? Funny.

    Sorry if I wasn't clear there, but I was just trying to clarify what my original question was, and not asking YOU again.

    Do only people who believe that the universe was 'created' have to think about what they say on this blog?

    Surely not, but I wish we all would think while reading too, and then either answer what was asked or go discuss some other point instead.

    If you expect a reply, I want precise answers over what is wrong (technically) with my above mentioned comment(s).

    First of all, that's not very generous of you. I asked first, and instead of giving me any answer related to my questions, you gave a completely unrelated "answer" for which you want a reply. But anyway, a "quick" answer to what you say.

    Starting with your ramblings about food chain: they make absolutely no sense, I can't even get your point. Therefore, there's nothing to answer there. Even if I could find some sense in it, the food chain has nothing to do with my questions. You don't need the food chain to tell a cow is a mammal, a trout is a fish or a fly is an insect. So why would you need it to tell whether Encephalitozoon is a fungus or something else? And you don't give any reason why we should ignore the fossil record - just because you don't like what the fossil evidence tells us? By the way, even if there was not even a single fossil available, we have plenty of molecular records, among others, to give us directions on how evolution happened. And they all agree to an absurd level.

    Regarding "non-evolutionary relationships between organisms", I don't know what you're saying, again. Any example?

    When you say that "Darwin would have suggested that the vet problem is something that should WORK ITSELF OUT IN TIME by evolution" and that "eventually all the dogs, or whatever animal, leave only progeny that are resistant to the worm", what you said is plainly wrong. What evolutionary ideas predict, and it has been observed many times, is an "arms race". Or do you think the parasite will not evolve itself, and leave progeny that's more effective in bypassing the new defenses of the host? That's what happens when bacteria are selected by the use of antibiotics (for details, check it out here: http://www.fda.gov/fdac/features/795_antibio.html - and if you think the FDA doesn't know what they're saying, I suggest you be consistent and don't take any more FDA-approved medicine :). Or when agricultural pests are selected by the use of agrotoxics and get resistant, for example. Or when people accumulate the mutant haemoglobin gene that causes sickle-cell anaemia, because it protects against malaria, but then lose this advantage when malaria is not there anymore. As I said there are plenty of examples confirming this simple "arms race" prediction of evolutionary biologists (even some involving your much esteemed food chain, by the way).

    So, there you have it. I wasted my time and did for free what I'm paid to do and explained some evolution to you. Which would, one hopes, convince you why you didn't know what you were saying regarding the subject. I'm not keeping high hopes on this one, though.

    J

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  87. J: "just because you don't like what the fossil evidence tells us?"

    What does it tell us?

    It tells us that more species are extinct (i.e. evolution was supposedly more active in the past) than have evolved in recent history.

    That is clearly the opposite of what Darwin predicted.


    "What evolutionary ideas predict, and it has been observed many times, is an "arms race". Or do you think the parasite will not evolve itself, and leave progeny that's more effective in bypassing the new defenses of the host?"

    Where did Darwin say anything like this? I've read 'On the Origin of the Species', and some parts of it four or more times. Darwin's general thesis is not like that at all. It is about the evolution and advancement of "higher" orders of species. etc. etc.

    What on earth does Darwin’s idea of "advancement" mean anyway? That we passed from small "simple" life forms, to larger mammal types? Wasn’t that how it went? And how many million years do you think a parasite can live without a host anyway? I’d say very few.

    Simple question: Where does the parasite you speak of reside on the most commonly accepted fossil record, and where on that same record does occur the evolution of its host? You seem to assume that they evolved somewhere in close proximity, but I completely doubt that is what the fossil record says.

    cal

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  88. J: "Or when agricultural pests are selected by the use of agrotoxics and get resistant, for example. Or when people accumulate the mutant haemoglobin gene that causes sickle-cell anaemia, because it protects against malaria, but then lose this advantage when malaria is not there anymore."

    Information loss is not what evolution predicts. Darwin specifically predicted "information gain".

    The "higher orders" of species are often losing the battle to what Darwin considered less complex forms. Neither Darwin or evolution has ever predicted that. And if it predicts the opposite, what is the progression of the fossil record good for anyway?

    Without information gain, what's the point?

    cal

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  89. J "Regarding "non-evolutionary relationships between organisms", I don't know what you're saying, again. Any example?"

    Genetic information gained or lost? What is your definition of an evolutionary relationship to "anything"?

    I'd say some relationship between entities is non-evolutionary, when environmental, genetic relationships DO NOT strengthen or advance a species.

    Or when "Pressures" or Natural selection causes a permanent loss of genetic info to the species at large. Even tho Darwin used hybridization as an example of increasing order,(or information) I think it likely qualifies as quite the opposite.

    That is, gain disease resistance, lose the ability to transfer or build up nutrients? Who knows.

    cal

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  90. Cal,

    what I find extremely irritating about your posts (and creationists arguments in general) is that you seem to equate finding alleged holes in scientific explanations as sufficient to make your case.

    But you are missing two crucial points: first, all scientific theories are partial and provisional, it's the nature of science. Second, what on earth is your explanation (other than "God did it," which ain't no explanation at all)??

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  91. Massimo, don't get bitter, get better.

    I know that there is more to accepting anything Genesis or creation related than finding holes in a theory. But evidence ("predictions" and chain of reasoning) is supposed to matter. No? One might find that irritating, but then he is entirely responsible for that feeling. I asked you eons ago if I should depart from your blog. What answer did I get?

    It is as simple a dismissal as saying "God did it" for you to suggest that persons such as myself go around claiming that "there is one BIG cause for everything", as if we (the collective "we") would never dream of looking at the intermediary details.

    That's a simplistic view. And anyone who chooses to think it through knows that it is.

    cal

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  92. Cal,

    mine was most certainly not a request for you to leave the blog. Without you, this thing would be much less entertaining... :)

    On the other hand, in your typical fashion, you didn't really address the substance of my criticism. As expected.

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  93. "On the other hand, in your typical fashion, you didn't really address the substance of my criticism. As expected."

    Guessing you mean the 'God did it' "thing".

    Cannot understand where the difficulty is about being able to go from 'general ideas', as the bible and Genesis is concerned, to more modern specific details. There’s nothing dishonest or misleading about use such a technique. Clearly this is done all the time over a variety of subjects. As anyone can see, that is just basically the use of induction, and is not the same as an oversimplification.

    And if when reviewing all the data in front of himself a scientist or lay person happens to conclude that "God did all this", why would you disparage that? If that's your chief criticism here, it's itself is a rather simplistic one. That is, it is simplistic in the sense that it is a refusal to acknowledge the processes individual go through to arrive at their conclusions. And it is not possible that every person that arrives at such conclusions is automatically dishonest if they choose not to live continually in the “partial and provisional”.

    Reality clearly has parts to it that are neither partial or provisional.

    cal

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  94. asg wrote: "- an almost infinitely more complex and astounding piece of engineering - "

    You are making the same mistake that Paley made in equating a mechanical process with a biological process. Iron and aluminum atoms will not come together in the shape of a jet engine but organic chemicals can come together to form proteins. The fly is not an astounding feat of engineering, it is not engineered at all. It is one of the many logical outcomes of biochemistry at work.

    And for cal:
    You seem to think that biologists view Darwin's works the way Xtians view the bible. That we see it as holy and inviolate. No, Darwin made some mistakes in his conclusions. What is astounding is how close he came considering that he was working with early 19th century science.

    Eat well, stay fit, Die Anyway!

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  95. J,

    If biology uses only scientific arguments and data, then biogenesis is fair game. Apparently, biology is not yet that mature, since both you and Alan believe that there is "no scientific accepted theory that says Evolution (by Natural Selection) accounts for the origins of all life." So as it stands today, biogenesis is off limits in science class.

    I never said that ID does not use scientific methods. I said that ID is not limited to scientific methods. As such, so long as it stays within the rules of science, it can be in science class.

    But if biology addresses biogenesis today, that is a sign that the rules have changed.

    asg

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  96. "That we see it as holy and inviolate. No, Darwin made some mistakes in his conclusions. What is astounding is how close he came considering that he was working with early 19th century science."

    Dozens and hundreds of scientists have come far closer in the inner workings of there theories and conclusions even before Darwin. But if Darwin's main, or leading idea is mistake ridden, (as I'm confident that it is) the whole premise should be torn apart and open for question. It is true that ‘On the origin’ is quite full of provisional language, but I do not think that it gives either Darwin or evolutionists an "out".

    Where would Darwin say "information" takes us (or other species), btw? If the answer isn't unique or distinct from what chemistry and physics would have predicted, then you are just banking on other disciples and scientists hard work to make Darwin's point for him, even tho he never predicted those conclusions himself.

    In 19th century language, I am wholly against such practices.

    cal

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  97. DA,

    What's the fundamental, scientific difference between mechanical processes and biological processes? In the end, they are both subject to the laws of physics - laws that have neither purpose nor goal.

    True, Fe and Al atoms do not form a jet on their own; they need some kind of catalyst to coax them to do it. If you put all the "ingredients" of a jet together in a box and let physics take its course, it's not likely to be anything more than a box of junk.

    What about organic chemicals? If you put all the "fly ingredients" in a testube (C, H, O, N, etc.) and let physics take its course, what would you get? Sure, you might get some interesting molecules in there, but would it ever be a fly? Is the fly really the most stable (i.e. high entropy) form that those atoms will take? If current thinking in biochemistry logically concludes that it will indeed someday become a fly (given enough time), doesn't that mean that spontaneous generation is again in vogue?

    asg

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  98. Atheistic Evolution studies the design and rejects the need for intelligence.

    Intelligent Design knows the Intelligence and marvels at His design.

    asg

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  99. asg,

    no you got it wrong on both counts.

    First, evolution is not atheistic, it is neutral as far as the supernatural is concerned, precisely like any other scientific theory.

    Second, ID doesn't know intelligence, it has wishful thinking about intelligence.

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  100. Massimo,

    evolution is not atheistic

    I was talking about the segment that is. Atheistic was used to narrow the field, not describe the whole. (You probably missed my post when I mentioned theistic evolutionists.)

    ID doesn't know intelligence

    That hypotheses can never be verified by observation of natural phenomena.

    asg

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  101. Sorry, asg, but I have to insist:

    1) There is no such thing as atheistic evolution, there are only atheists (and plenty of religious people) who accept the theory of evolution.

    2) Not only no observation of natural phenomena can verify ID. Absolutely nothing that could possibly count as verification can. That's the definition of faith.

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  102. Massimo,

    1) So, it has come to wrestling over semantics. I apologize for my sloppy use of the language. Replace Atheistic Evolution with atheists who accept the theory of evolution. My original assertion remains the same, with the improvement of more precise terminology. Thanks.

    2) That's the definition of faith. - I didn't know rational skeptics in general, and you in particular, had anything to do with faith (since you did say that the very idea of a supernatural explanation is nonsense on stilts). Watch out for J; he's liable to bite your head off for speaking on a subject in which you lack expertise.

    asg

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  103. "Without you, this thing would be much less entertaining... :)"

    For clarification, I was totally kidding about y'all just being entertainment for me. Generally and as a rule, I take people's real life issues rather seriously.

    To be perfectly real w/ya, it tended to hurt my 'feelers' a bit that you claim to not take me seriously AT ALL.

    Oh well. Can somebody call a Wahhhmbulance?

    :)cal

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  104. Watch out for J; he's liable to bite your head off for speaking on a subject in which you lack expertise.

    Sure I am! :-)
    But while I try to be an equal opportunity head biter, I'm also quite territorial. I limit myself to people who pretend to have the expertise I so hardly earned, specially when they clearly didn't earn it themselves.

    Anyway, if I'm not mistaken Massimo is not just a biologist but also a philosopher (is it so?), so he might know a thing or two about what qualifies as faith and what qualifies as science. I don't know.

    Back to biogenesis. It's not the case of IF biology uses only scientific data and arguments. It does. And you're right when you say that we still can't explain the origin of life - and we might never do it scientifically. But the little data we do have on formation of organic molecules in an abiotic environment, among other interesting aspects related to life's origin, were all generated using scientific methods only. You gave me the impression in your post that you only consider it "scientific data and arguments" if it can explain the whole thing from start to finish, and I'd guess by some of your previous posts that you know that's not really the case. A partial explanation can be as scientific, as long as it only uses scientific methods.

    I don't know if any "life origin" material is taught in schools here - they sure aren't in my country. We only have that in undergrad biology and up - because the subject is not sufficiently developed to go to high schools yet, maybe.

    When you say ID is not limited to scientific data and arguments, by definition you take it out of science. That's why I said you acknowledged it, but I might have been more precise if I had said you acknowledged ID is not science. It's like saying astrology is a science, just because it can use some astronomical data to predict the position of planets at certain times, and then conclude that their "personality profiles" or whatever they're called have scientific support. After all, they did use some scientific data (celestial positions), and some non-scientific "data". You can't have it all: it's either everything by the rules of science, or no deal.

    And for the sake of completeness, I might even dispute your claim that ID does even use scientific methods at all, but other people already did that in previous posts.

    J

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  105. Another long post! I'm feeling prolific today.

    Cal,

    It's revealing of your mindset that you, as DA said, consider Darwin as something like a prophet, and his "On the Origin of Species" (OotS) like a definitive and infalible holy book type of thing. In that case, you're even farther from hope than I imagined, there's not much point in discussing the matter with you. But I do it anyway, I like to practice my typing. And in the process I might give some interesting information to those who can use it.

    First, get over Darwin (and beware the flamboyant and not always precise language they used even in science at his time). We don't even read his books when learning evolutionary biology in college or grad school - only if we want, for fun, or as a history of science exercise, maybe. Reading his book is just a nice historical curiosity, and again as DA said, it's amazing how much he (and others in his time) could figure out correctly (by today's standards) without any idea of the nature of inheritance/variation and its causes. Not that I'm sure you really understand even Darwin himself, given the pretty weird "predictions" you attribute to him (example later). But science is not made of holy books and immutable ideas, you know? Evolutionary biology is not just what Darwin wrote, even if everything there were completely right. Many of the theories in OotS were long abandoned, like his use and disuse musings, among others (although some recent findings in epigenetics might one day remotely vindicate him and Lamarck, at least in spirit, a little bit here; but I digress as usual). Others, like natural selection, took MANY decades to be accepted by all biologists. And all of the "accepted" theories had adjustments and refinements since 1859 (and it's still going on), because we didn't sit on our hands for the past 150 years. Scientists exaustively tested, confirmed, refined, rejected, tested again, etc. various aspects of not only Darwin's ideas, but also those of countless other great minds of biology since his times. To the point that nowadays evolution is a widely recognized scientific FACT, like gravitation, atoms, the heliocentri model and plate tectonics, e.g.. To explain all those FACTS, we are still refining theories, making new discoveries of the mechanisms, trying to figure some things out and better explaining others. But there's virtually no doubt about their status as facts of life.

    To clarify, what the fossil record tells us is that evolution (change) happened - just check any Stephen J. Gould book, he was a paleontologist and well qualified to give you plenty of material on that. And yes, species do go extinct - we've seen it in the past and we're seeing that right now, aren't we? Now, would it seem too unreasonable to think that people estimate the number of extinct species to be much higher than the number of extant ones just because the fossil record is made of a billion years of organisms evolving (and therefore going extinct and accumulating as fossils) while what we see today is just... today? Even if we consider "today" as the past 1 million years, it's still a tiny fraction of the whole history of life on the planet. So no wonder there are much more extinct species than not...

    You say Darwin predicts information gain (among other weird, singular interpretations of yours, but I'll stick to this one for now). I'd suggest you read his book one more time, then. First, he used the word information 6 times, all of them in the context "...I have, also, reason to suspect, from information given me by Mr. W. W. Edwards..." (ch. 5, Laws of variation). Never in the context you want it to be, genetic information - and how could he, without a clue of genetics to start with! So I wonder how you got this "prediction". If you "interpret" it like you do with the Bible, it can be made to say whatever you want it to, you know...

    By the way, did you know Darwin himself NEVER even used the word "evolution" in the OotS? The closest he got was the very last word of the book. I like to put this sentence in my first slide of my intro to evolution lecture. Talk about flamboyant language: "There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved."

    J

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  106. asg wrote: "...(given enough time), doesn't that mean that spontaneous generation is again in vogue?"

    If you call a couple billion years "spontaneous" then I guess so. If you also include unicellular life gradually evolving into multicellular life and on into arthropods and exoskeletons. But then I'm sure you know the process and are just being facetious.
    And of course there is a great question of whether or not evolution would ever produce anything that looked like a fly if given a chance to start over again. On other boards that I have visited we have had some interesting discussions about the inevitability of certain body forms. Will evolution (say on other planets) always produce flying animals? Exoskeletons?, endoskeletons?, bilateral symmetry? Are 4 appendages optimum for large, land dwelling animals? We have 4 because some ancestral bony fish had 4. Could something large, air breathing, land living and possibly intelligent evolve from a 5 armed, radially symmetrical creature (eg a starfish)? For now these are just fun things to think about but someday, with enough genetic science at our disposal, we may be able to say for sure what the limitations are. We may be able to actually create such animals. Please note though that even though we may be able to do it using our own "intelligent design" doesn't mean that it happened that way the first time.

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  107. "For now these are just fun things to think about but someday, with enough genetic science at our disposal, we may be able to say for sure what the limitations are."


    The limitation, or barrier, if you will, is "energy". Always has been, always will be.
    And mind you, the food and energy requirement would be a rather large one! Whence cometh the food for each of the creatures depicted on your favored fossil record, PLEASE?

    How far apart did reptiles and various rodents evolve, for instance? I know that on occasion species can eat their own "kind". But sometimes they definitely cannot. How would a parasite live and evolve alone? Etc. etc. That might be one of the "fun" questions I think people could toss around in your group.

    cal

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  108. J "I like to practice my typing."

    Well, that's nice.
    Since you're just practicing your typing....and the rest is really JUST intended for someone else, I suppose that it would be best to JUST leave your comments to evolve in to something entirely by themselves. Make sense?

    ???

    cal

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  109. J,

    I limit myself to people who pretend to have the expertise I so hardly earned, specially when they clearly didn't earn it themselves.

    How about you use that vaunted expertise of yours to show evidence where I "pretend" to have expertise in anything. I'd like to see the data you used to formulate your theory.

    ---

    if I'm not mistaken Massimo is not just a biologist but also a philosopher (is it so?), so he might know a thing or two about what qualifies as faith

    You're right about Massimo being a philosopher. But you're wrong in thinking that necessarily means he knows anything about faith in that which is beyond the natural.

    ---

    I don't know.

    I'll concede that point.

    asg

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  110. J,

    You gave me the impression in your post that you only consider it "scientific data and arguments" if it can explain the whole thing from start to finish, and I'd guess by some of your previous posts that you know that's not really the case.

    Don't blame me for any false conclusions your impressions lead you to. I designed those posts just days ago, and already the data is confusing you.

    You are free to learn the truth by asking me what I meant. And you are free to draw conclusions based on faulty assumptions. You decide.

    ---

    A partial explanation can be as scientific, as long as it only uses scientific methods.

    Works for bio, works for physics, works for ID.

    ---

    I had said you acknowledged ID is not science.

    Let me clarify, before you go down another blind alley. ID is not based on natural science, but it uses scientific methods in some of its areas of study.

    asg

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  111. I've been trying to stay out of this, but this post just won't die.

    People, please. Dead horses are being beaten here. They're so dead, they're fossilized. (A little evolution humor...Thank you, I'll be here all week...)

    Nothing like a good ole ID/evolution debate to break records on the number of comments.

    :)

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  112. DA,

    I'm not being facetious at all. Regardless of how long it takes to get ready for life, the change from inanimate material to animate organism is the basic idea of spontaneous generation. (Bringing life from dead matter sounds like supernatural stuff, if you ask me.)

    It is interesting to wonder if fortuitous mutations will end up in generating a fly again. At the very least, it could be a nice exercise in probability theory.

    But the fundamental question remains. How can the laws of physics, which govern both mechanical and biological processes, explain the theory that a mixture of inorganic atoms will attach to each other in a way that makes them do all these wonderful things that even the simplest organisms do? More than that, how does it account for the theory that these organisms will naturally tend to become more complex, and perhaps paradoxically, tend to become more fragile?

    You have extended my example by bringing in biological systems that are, or could be, intelligently designed. I think that covers your original desire to find something that is intelligently designed.

    But you bring up the valid argument that it doesn't mean that it happened that way the first time. In essence, you are now the defense attorney in Noah's courtroom scene. There is evidence that intelligent design can and does happen, it's just that nobody witnessed it happening the first time around.

    True, using scientific methods, we can't say for sure it happened then. Neither can we say that it couldn't.

    asg

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  113. Alan,

    We don't want to discriminate against paleontologists, do we? ;)

    But I get your point. No more from me, unless someone asks me a direct question for information or clarification.

    asg

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  114. asg,

    just for my own enlightenment, what exactly is there to know about faith, other than its (admittedly complex) psychology and sociology -- on which plenty of studies have been published? Are we dwelling in "mystery" for the sake of mystery?

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  115. asg,

    I'm sorry, but to say that ID isn't natural science and yet is based on the scientific method is a contradiction in terms. The scientific method cannot be applied to the supernatural.

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  116. "The scientific method cannot be applied to the supernatural. "

    Induction is often applied to seemingly or partially 'non-material' chains of events. Why not when weighing the probability of an immaterial creator?

    I have a theory that even if people could see God, if it was in those same persons hearts to not accept evidence of his pre-eminence over nature, they would not accept God's authority anyway.

    Interpreting any sort of evidence is completely a matter of an individual's heart condition. Not a matter of what can be "seen" or touched.

    cal

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  117. Before anyone else replies, aarlier I acknowldeged that you could apply scientific methods to the supernatural -- or at least disproving a supernatural claim.

    I wrote:

    For instance, if I were studying ESP, I could devise a double blind experiment to see if a person could guess the value of playing cards at a statistically greater rate than chance. ESP may be supernatural, but I can devise a scientific experiment based on how such a supernatural claim may manifest itself in our physical world.

    I can do this because a theory about ESP makes some testable claims.


    And followed with this question:

    Other than challenging evolution, what claims does ID make?

    And this conclusion:

    Even if the being is beyond physical detection, any manifestation of His actions on the world would still be apparent via science. And if all His actions were not observable, then again, the question becomes one for philosophy and theology only.

    Thats sums it up, so on to the next topic :)

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  118. Cal,

    Interesting that I independently came up with a "theory" very similar to yours, some time ago, but with somewhat inverted polarity: "if God itself were to show up, in front of millions, in a public setting and with TV showing it live worldwide with great fanfarre, and then say that life really evolved by natural means (as God intended) and that the Bible was just intended to be an entertaining bedside book to put kids to sleep, even then the fundamentalists wouldn't accept it." So we're probably all even.

    J

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  119. Alan,

    I agree that claims made by supernatural "theories" can be tested, as in the ESP example you gave, or when statue after statue the Virgin Mary shows up "crying" or the like, or when Uri Gellar bends spoons, etc.

    But we have to differentiate between the claims with physical consequences - which can be tested - from the ones without. There are claims and claims... When ID claims a designer made every species around beacuse that life seems too complex not to be designed (by the way, they never specify what's their threshold of complexity for concluding this, but I digress again), it's analogous to that old argument of the invisible magical unicorn in your living room. Being magical, it can fool anything you throw at it to test its presence. Being supernatural, it's obviously not bound to obey natural laws either. Not even logic, maybe? After all, the invisible unicorn is pink, as is widely known.

    It's an intersting question, this one of testability - and what would count as a succesful verfication of the supernatural. Let's remember Randi's 1 million dollars are still there, waiting... :-)

    In conclusion, Uri Gellar is more "scientific" than ID since at least his claims can be proved phony! (well, at least the spoon-related ones...)

    Cheers
    J

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  120. Massimo,

    I'll go in reverse chronological.

    to say that ID isn't natural science and yet is based on the scientific method is a contradiction in terms

    I agree with you. If you find an IDer who claims that ID is based on the scientific method, tell him to stop fooling himself.

    ID sometimes uses the scientific method, but its central tennets are not in the physical realm.
    ---

    The scientific method cannot be applied to the supernatural.

    I agree there, too. Those two do not mix.

    But just because ID is based on the supernatural does not mean that it is all supernatural. The scientific method must be applied when dealing with ID's natural aspects.
    ---

    what exactly is there to know about faith, other than its (admittedly complex) psychology and sociology

    Let me start by asking a question. What is there to know about biology, other than its psychology and sociology?

    Assuming that biology is sufficiently similar to the physical sciences (I'm not sure since bio is not really my interest), even if one studied the hundreds of thousands of pages of published technical work, he still would not be fully equipped to answer the question. Sure, studying the psychology, sociology, and others' work can enlighten one about biology, but you don't know biology until you "do" biology.

    The same idea holds true for faith, but to an even deeper level. You can study the people, you can thoroughly study all the published works - including the Bible - but unless you experience it, you won't know it. That's why faith is shared, not taught.

    In the end, the dominant aspect of faith, and ID by extension, is one's relationship with the supernatural Designer. And to those who regard the supernatural as nothing but nonsense, faith will ever be a mystery.

    Sorry, Alan. Massimo directly asked for information. :)

    asg

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  121. I would suggest people make a distinction between the paranormal and the supernatural.

    Paranormal claims, like telepathy, can be tested by scientific methods; indeed, they have been tested and found wanting.

    Supernatural claims cannot be tested, because no matter what the test says, one can always retreat to the position that "God works in mysterious ways," and that's the end of the matter. Creationists do this all the times.

    Cal, there is a difference between induction and science. While science does use induction, inductive reasoning by itself isn't science.

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