Wednesday, November 30, 2005

An Outrageous Address!

I have now had time to read Lord May's retiring annual address as president of the Royal Society. I had read the brief comments from the BBC website on the address and my interest was aroused. The entire text of the address is now available and all Christians need to express their outrage about this address.

Lord May indulges in the usual ritual evangelical fundamentalist creationist intelligent designist bashing and about these sort of people having no real understanding of their own religion and being anti-science and seeking to bring the world into a new dark ages but he also goes several steps further.

The crucial quote comes as Lord May attacks biblical literalists and fundamentalist christians as equivalent to extreme terrorist groups in Islam. In this crucial quote he points the finger of blame for all Islamic terrorism at.....the last book in the Holy Bible - the book of Revelation.

The quote is apparently from a book by Scot Atran quoted by M. Brooks in the New Scientist.
(Meeting of minds. New Scientist, 8 Oct 2005, pp. 44-46.)

Here it is:

“People attribute Islamic fundamentalism to Islam, but I think it has as much – or more – to do with Christian fundamentalism. You’ll find no apocalyptic visions in Islam; it comes from the Book of Revelation.”

Did you hear that everyone! Britain's top scientist in Britain's top science institution at its most prestigious lecture in the year states that the Book of Revelation through St. John, the glorious exalted visions that close the Christian the cause of Islamic terrorism via evangelical Christians!

In other words (in Lord Mays opinion presumably) if we want to deal with terrorisom at its roots we need to reduce the numbers of evangelical Christians and cut the last book out of every bible.... perhaps, Lord May, we should go the whole way and burn the whole book!

Is the bible a book that brings a society out of the dark ages or a book that takes a society into darkness?

ID a threat to Science and Society?

Lord May has weighed into the debate about intelligent design in his final annual address as President of the Royal Society. He sees all forms of fundamentalism as variants of "dark unreason." He argues that faced with complex issues we are being tempted to retreat from living by reason and fact into a life of the deceptive security of revelation and faith.

He warns:
"In the US, the aim of a growing network of fundamentalist foundations and lobby groups reaches well beyond 'equal time' for creationism, or its disguised variant 'intelligent design', in the science classroom. Rather, the ultimate aim is the overthrow of 'scientific materialism', in all its manifestations."

The dangers he argues are not only over the theory but are impacting public policy.

Arguments from the creationist fundamentalists about the provision of condoms for preventing the spread of AIDS is resulting in polices that are less effective in containing the spread of this disease.

What this amounts to is public demonization of ID combined with an appeal to return to the orthodox morality of fundamentalist atheism!

What Lord May seems unable to distinguish is the distinction between science and scientific materialism. What he seems unable to appreciate is that he himself is a fundamentalist building on a different set of assumptions about reality from those who argue that personality and intelligence are more fundamental entities than matter and energy and time.

It looks to me like more of the same instinctive herd rejection of something which is unorthodox rather than a careful analysis of the arguments and evidence. Portraying ID as an attack on science rather than an attack on materialism by confusing science and materialism is a policy which is bound to fail in the long run.

I say bring back men like Robert Boyle who thought about science in an entirely different way from Lord May.

What is going on here is the begining of a process which exposes the religious nature of scientific materialism. Lord May is announcing his willingness to stand as leading priest of the ranks of orthodox materialists who which to exclude the reality of intelligent causation from science as a basic rule of science while at the same time pretending to embrace principles of "free, open, unprejudiced, uninhibited questioning and enquiry."

Secular humanism allied with scientific materialism needs to be recognised as a thoroughly religious position rather than being treated as the neutral factual basis from which all other worldviews can be compared. The distinction between science and materialism needs to be reasserted in no uncertain terms.

Secular humanism based on scientific materialism has its own moral agenda which is opposed to a Judeo/christian worldview but which seeks to present itself as having exclusive claims to reason and sound logic. These claims have gone unchallenged for too long. It is time for the Royal Society to go back to its roots!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Strict Darwinism.

Dr Andy Groves asked:
"What is "strict Darwinism"? Was Stephen Jay Gould a "strict Darwinist"? How about Lynn Margulis? Or George Gaylord Simpson? Or Theodosius Dobzhansky?"

I would say that “strict Darwinists” regard the issue of explaining biological complexity as essentially solved.

They say….
Darwin found the answer and we are just tinkering with a few loose ends.
All we need is chance and time.

As Sir Peter Medawar put it at the Wistar Institute meeting :

Clearly the eye has evolved therefore there must be errors in the equations the mathematicians were using.

And Ernst Mayr at the same meeting:
Somehow or other by adjusting these figures we will come out all right. We are comforted by the fact that evolution has occurred

Any thinking outside a rigid time plus chance box is regarded as “unscientific.”

Using this definition the above scientists ...I would guess (I have not read anything of Simpson or Dobzhansky other than brief quotes) were/are pushing at the edges of the “strict Darwinists” box but are/were not willing to look over the edge.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Creationists cannot teach Biology

P Z Myers is a lecturer in biology at University of Minnesota, Morris he runs a popular website: and has been fighting his way to the head of the militant fundamentalist wing of the Extreme Orthodox Darwinist denomination. He has recently committed himself passionately to the battle for Darwinist orthodoxy in every public school.

Some quotes:

Our only problem is that we aren’t martial enough, or vigorous enough, or loud enough, or angry enough. The only appropriate responses should involve some form of righteous fury, much butt-kicking, and the public firing and humiliation of some teachers, many schoolboard members, and vast numbers of sleazy far-right politicians.

Don't tell me to be dispassionate or less unreasonable about it all because 65% of the American population think creationism should be taught alongside evolution, or that Americans are just responding to common notions of "fairness". That just tells me that we scientists have not been expressing our outrage enough. And yes, we should be outraged that the president of our country panders to theocrats, faith-healers, and snake-oil artists; sitting back and quietly explaining that Bush may be a decent man who is mistaken, while the preachers are stridently condemning all us evilutionists to hell, is a (deleted word) ineffective tactic that has gotten us to this point.
I say, (deleted word) the polite words and careful rhetoric. It's time for scientists to break out the steel-toed boots and brass knuckles, and get out there and hammer on the lunatics and idiots. If you don't care enough for the truth to fight for it, then get out of the way.

For your information, I mentioned that there is a creationist teacher in my local high school. I have not “gone after” that person, because they do not inject that fallacious belief into instruction. If they were teaching that nonsense, then I would be furious, and yes, they would be pushing their incompetence off onto impressionable kids.

He seems to be advocating an orthodoxy test for all public school biology teachers. P Z Myers the developmental biologist is evolving into P C Myers the high school orthodoxy inquisitor. His key definition of scientific competence is a clear rejection of any kind of creationism... I believe in evolution....only evolution...exclusively...fully... with all my heart.... yes evolution is the only creative force in the biological realm... I promise and commit myself never to even as much as think that there may be intelligence involved in the origin of biological complexity.

In other words all biology teachers must behave as if they are atheists in the biology classroom. They must speak like atheists, behave like atheists and think like atheists. Human beings as intelligent designers are fine I assume. The possibility of extraterrestrial intelligent life is fine I suppose but the supreme test of biological pedagogical competence is an absolute rejection of any teleological(here for a purpose) thinking in biology.

I was a biology teacher. I was recognised by many colleagues at all levels as competent. I would however have refused to swear PC Myers oath of allegiance to evolution.

If I was asked whether I thought that the cell was explained by random collision of molecules and atoms in some kind of primitive soup I would have said that I personally think that no primitive soup would ever produce a cell on its own.

If I was asked whether I thought that chance bundling together and modification of other proteins could produce an elegant motor... I would have said and do still say ....nonsence!

If I was asked whether I thought the complexity of developmental pathways to produce complex mulicellular organ systems functioning together in an integrated body plan displaying real beauty developed as a result of random mutation and unguided DNA change I would have said ....No! I think such a theory is mistaken.

I assume that if PC Myers had been my teacher training supervisor he would have recommended that I be rejected for scientific incompetence!

I hope that most parents will be able discern which side of the argument sports the more incompetent observers!

I am happy to back a voucher system of education.... let the darwinists build their own curriculum from scratch. If needs be let them have their own land and their own legal system and form of government. Lets see which sort of education really works. Don't expect me to turn up in a hurry with my voucher to the PC Myers seminary of orthodox Darwinism however!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Chuckling behind their hands....

I found this very revealing quotation in David Samuel’s book “Without Excuse.” It was from a Letter of J.D. Hooker to Charles Darwin following Hooker’s address at a meeting of the British Association in 1866. In that address he had declared that he saw evidence for design in variation itself:

“By a wise ordinance it is ruled, that amongst living beings like shall never produce its exact like…. A wise ordinance it is, that ensures the succession of being, not by multiplying absolutely identical forms, but by varying these.”

He soon afterwards wrote to Darwin to assure him he was only talking like this to make the religious freaks feel comfortable with evolution!

He writes to Darwin:

The only thing I do not like…. Was the passage about a wise Providence ordering &c, &c or something of that sort (I forget the words, it matters little). It is bosh and unscientific, but I could not resist the opportunity of turning the tables of Providence over those who will have a Providence in the affair, that yours is the God one and theirs the Devil’s.
(Life and Letters of J.D. Hooker Vol 2 p106)

The clergy who suck up to Darwinists and say that there is no conflict at all between theism and atheism are rather like those who clapped Hooker’s address while he was chuckling behind his hand to his friend Charles.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Was the human blindspot intelligently designed?

I have been searching for good web pages about Intelligent design in the UK which is after all what this Blog is supposed to be about…. But there are painfully few. I am not really much concerned about whether they are PRO ID or ANTI ID so long as they have some reasoned and even original thinking I would be happy! What I find is that those that are ANTI ID are just monotonous rehashes of arguments that are not even straw men!

There is a sort of group mentality whereby so long as you hear a few “important” voices saying the right sort of sentences you “know” they are right and join in with them. We only hear what we want to hear.

The trouble is that it is often the things that we do not want to hear that are the things we most urgently need to listen to carefully. There is such a thing as an intellectual blind spot and if we are not careful it can become a larger and larger blind patch.

Sometimes it is the thoughts which cause us the most psychological pain and distress that are the ones which we are most in need of.

What are the symptoms of a developing intellectual blind patch?

We do not thoroughly question our instinctive responses to contrary evidences.
We are not prepared to read or listen carefully to those who we disagree with.
We trust in the crowd or especially the noisy members of the crowd and make the right sort of noises ourselves. Sheep mentality…. How much like sheep we actually are!
We are not willing to look long and hard at the consequences of being very wrong indeed.
We resort to force, authority or pressure of numbers rather than looking carefully at evidence.

Who was it that said….”There is no one as blind as the man who will not see.”

Intellectual opponents are very useful to help us see what is in our blindspots but those who know they have not got an intellectual blindspot will never see what is in it.

Are theists more in danger of having a blindspot over evolution than atheists and the practical-atheist agnostics are over design?

Are those whose careers depend on them looking at the world using methodological naturalism more likely to develop a blindspot over design?

Is it possible or even likely that they may find it difficult to see clearly any real evidence for real design.

Often what we want to see and hear has a huge impact on what we actually see and hear. The scientific method helps us to see things we did not want to see but it does not entirely prevent us from ignoring and dismissing things we do not want to see especially if the prevailing thinking of our whole society is consistent with ignoring or dismissing these things.

Was the human blindspot intelligently designed as a kind of physical reminder to watch out for intellectual blindspots developing?

Monday, November 14, 2005


Steve Fuller is a professor in the Sociology Department at Warwick University. He testified as an expert witness in favour of ID in the Dover, Pennsylvania trial.
His background is the study of the history of science and the philosophy of science and has written the following books on these subjects:

Social Epistemology
Indiana University Press.
Philosophy of Science and Its Discontents
Guilford Press, New York.
Open University Press
The Governance of Science: Ideology and the Future of the Open Society Open University Press.
Thomas Kuhn: A Philosophical History for Our Times
Knowledge Management Foundations,

After contacting him with regard to his debate with Jack Cohen he kindly agreed to write a piece for this Blog on his thoughts about ID and its future.

I have never been a ‘religious’ person in the conventional sense, though I was a scholarship student in a Jesuit school before going to university. However, in the 1970s, the Jesuits were more likely to talk about burning draft cards (in protest of the Vietnam War) and Marxo-Freudian accounts of alienation than the intelligent design (ID) of the universe. Recovering the human was a more pressing concern than discovering the divine. Nevertheless, the experience left me with an overall positive impression of Christianity, especially as the source for modern secular conceptions of social progress.

Both my M.Phil. (Cambridge) and Ph.D. (Pittsburgh) were in History and Philosophy of Science. My respective supervisors, Mary Hesse and J.E. McGuire, were renowned for their work interrelating science and religion. While my own research really had nothing to do with theirs, the idea that religion provided intellectual sustenance for science was assumed because it was so obviously borne out by history. Indeed, I have come to believe that the specific form of monotheism developed through Judaism, Christianity and Islam – whereby humans are said to have been created ‘in the image and likeness of God’ – best explains the West’s unique scientific achievement. Certainly Isaac Newton was convinced that he had got inside the mind of God. However, when Charles Darwin tried and failed, he concluded there was no divine intelligence to access. Yet, we live with the semantic residues of Darwin’s quest, since biologists still speak of ‘design’ (‘without a designer’, whatever that means) and, of course, ‘natural selection’, which is a metaphor from animal husbandry – but for what literally? But that is only the academic side of the story. There is also the political side.

The US has always had a ‘difficult’ relationship with religion because of the traumatic origins of the nation. The original British settlers, especially in what became the liberal northern establishment, were wealthy dissenters (including Catholics and Jews) who were prohibited from political participation in their homeland. Henceforth, all attempts to impose a religious orthodoxy would be prohibited – in the name of protecting religious freedom, of course. Thus, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, the trial in which I testified, is classed as a civil rights case. It is not the first time a moral panic has broken out over the prospect that some religiously inspired views might make their way into state-supported schools. The legal response has been characteristically thuggish. Thus, the American Civil Liberties Union bulldozed its way into Dover, Pennsylvania, just as it did eighty years ago in Dayton, Tennessee to turn the Scopes ‘Monkey’ Trial into an international sensation.

The intellectual content of the ACLU’s case against ID is largely based on fears about a right-wing religious takeover of the US school system. I don’t doubt that many of ID’s supporters harbour such desires, but the decentralised nature of the school system – which accounts for the seemingly endless court cases involving the teaching of evolution -- makes any such takeover unlikely. Indeed, this is part of the ‘federalist’ genius of the US Constitution. Nevertheless, the ACLU’s eagerness to pursue cases like Kitzmiller, especially given all the other civil rights violations in the US, reflects a profound lack of faith in the wisdom of elected local school boards to resolve these matters. Since schools are funded entirely through local taxes, if taxpayers dislike what is taught, they can always vote against the school board’s members in the next election. (And they do!) In this respect, the US provides a wonderful experimental environment for educational alternatives. Yet, this has not prevented an ingrained paranoid reaction to the slightest whiff of religion in the schools that serves, unwittingly, to stultify the spirit of free inquiry.

I was asked by the defence counsel to serve as a ‘rebuttal witness’ to the experts amassed by the ACLU. I agreed after having read the expert witness statements, which contain some of the most egregiously ignorant abuses of scientific and philosophical authority imaginable. I tried to address the most important of these in my own expert statement, but they continued to proliferate – more egregiously and ignorantly – in the ACLU expert witness transcripts. I don’t know if ID’s hardcore supporters are simply scared or polite, but it would not take much to deflate the significance of the ACLU experts’ claims. I tried to do this in my own court testimony, but in the end I was mainly trying to shore up ID’s scientific credentials, not deconstruct those of the ACLU’s experts. Nevertheless, I have plenty of notes about this and hope to be invited to publish them to a wide audience.

Finally, what do I think of ID’s own prospects? ID is currently stuck in the Neo-Darwinists’ image of them. Its proponents lean too heavily on the evidence against evolution. They too quickly reach for God and don’t make enough of the idea that ‘design’ is a concept indifferent to the life/non-life distinction. People (mostly younger ones) who generate virtual realities on computers and biotechnology in laboratories are quite happy to blur the life/non-life distinction, imagining themselves in a God-like capacity. They are a natural constituency for ID, and should be cultivated. That the inventor of the computer, Charles Babbage, and the founder of genetics, Gregor Mendel, were devout Christians who thought they had decoded the divine programme should be used to greater effect in promoting a positive image of ID. The problem with falling back on old William Paley is that his design argument presumed that people (e.g. David Hume) had already expressed doubts about its validity. Why waste time defending the possibility of an Intelligent Designer when you could show how presupposing its existence enables you to break new scientific ground?

Steve Fuller

Friday, November 11, 2005

Steve Fuller vs Jack Cohen - Warwick University.

Thanks go to Tom Abbott for this information.

A public discussion between the above academics occured at Warwick University.

The audio of the discussion is available here.
The webpage for comments is here.
I was left with 2 burning questions for Prof Jack Cohen (and lots of others at a slightly lower temperature.)

1. You said that Dembski's maths was "nonsense"... can you explain what you meant?

2. You said that after a few days work in the library you found lots(I think you said lots or may be several) of structures intermediate on the way to a bacterial flagellum. I am aware of the Type 2 Secretory system but I am not aware of any good homologies with the motor components… would you mind sharing your research?

Tom is going to try and get Prof Cohen to respond.... stay tuned!

A case of intelligent design?

This is a copy of a Bricklayers report, which was printed in the Newsletter of the New Zealand equivalent of the Workers Compensation Board.
It is allegedly a true story.

Dear Sir,
I am writing in response to your request for ‘additional information’ as per block 3 of the accident report form.
I put ‘Poor Planning’ as the cause of my accident and you have asked for a fuller account, I trust the following will explain.

I am a bricklayer by trade and on the day of the accident I was working alone on the roof of a new six-storey building.
When I had completed my work I found that I had some bricks left over, which, when weighed later, were found to be slightly in excess of 500lbs.
Rather than carry the bricks down by hand a few at a time I decided to lower them in the barrel by using a pulley, which was attached to the side of the building. Securing the rope at ground level I went up to the roof swung the barrel out and loaded the bricks into it. Then I went down and untied the rope, holding it tightly to ensure a slow descent of the bricks. You will note in block 11 of the accident report form that I weigh 135lbs.

Due to my surprise at being jerked off the ground so suddenly, I lost my presence of mind and forgot to let go of the rope. Needless to say, I proceeded up the side of the building at a rapid rate. In the vicinity of the third floor I met the barrel, which was now proceeding downwards at an equally impressive speed.

This explains the fractured skull, minor abrasions and broken collarbone as listed in section 3 of the accident report form. Slowed only slightly, I continued my rapid ascent, not stopping until the fingers of my right hand were two knuckles deep into the pulley.

Fortunately, by this time, I had regained my presence of mind and was able to hold tightly to the rope in spite of the excruciating pain I was now beginning to experience.
At approximately the same time, however, the barrel hit the ground and the bottom fell out of the barrel. Now devoid of the weight of the bricks, the barrel weighed approx. 50lbs, I refer you once again to my weight.
As you might imagine, I began a rapid descent down the side of the building.
In the vicinity of the 3rd floor I once again met the barrel, this time coming up, hence the two fractured ankles, broken tooth and severe lacerations of my legs and lower body.
Here, my luck began to change slightly.
The encounter with the barrel seemed to slow me enough to lessen my injuries when I fell into the pile of bricks and fortunately only three vertebrae were cracked.
I’m sorry to report however, as I lay on the pile of bricks, in pain and unable to move I lost my composure and presence of mind and let go of the rope. As I lay there I could watch the empty barrel begin its downward journey onto me. This explains the two broken legs.
I trust this answers your query.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Watch Analogy.

William Paley is justly famous for his watch analogy which is referred to at the top of this Blog. David Samuel (Without Excuse) points out that Paley got it from Bernard Nieuwentyt a Dutch physician and mathematician who lived from 1654 to 1718 "Let us suppose, that in the middle of a sandy down, or desart and solitary place, where few people are used to pass, any one should find a watch..."

These ideas were being discussed by English theologians prior to this however.

I happened to come across a passage in John Preston from 1631 which discussed the design argument in a very similar way to Paley's detailed examination.

Preston mentions "the impressions of skill and workmanship that is upon the creatures. All which argue that there is a God.... just as he that makes a watch or any ordinary work of art, he knows all the junctures, all the wheels, and commissures of it.... (John Preston- Life Eternal 1631)

US evolution wars

The BBC online had a report on the new Kansas Science Curriculum standards today. These standards provide a more well thought through response to evolution than the Dover schools requirement for teachers to read a statement about evolution which resulted in the Kitzmuller Vs Dover trial. The Kansas standards will provide a much more difficult target for the pure Darwinism supporters and a much better basis for a supreme court battle. What is not mentioned is that very similar standards have already been passed in Ohio and Minnosota.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

ID News

Peter Williams has three new posts up at IDplus. Where I noticed that the Times had a report this weekend relating to ID and the Vatican. He mentions Steve Fuller from Warwick University who testified in the Dover school Trial and the recent ID conference in Prague.

It seems a shame that this first major court case for ID in the US caused a considerable amount of confusion amongst the ID people. The method by which ID was to be introduced into the Dover schools curriculum was clumsy to say the least. This meant that the Discovery Institute was not fully behind the lawsuit. Then to make matters worse the Law firm representing the Dover school bungled badly in seeking to have the key players in ID testify without their own legal experts being involved (see here) Despite this Behe and Minnich did very well on the witness stand and seem to have enjoyed the opportunity to speak out for ID.

Unlocking the Mystery of Life

I ordered a copy of this DVD from the Access Research Network I watched it last night and thought it was excellent. It is produced as a high quality documentary and introduces many of the major players in the Intelligent design movement.... Behe, Minnich, Kenyon, Johnson, Dembski and Nelson. It also adds a little of the human side to the movement. I did not realise that the meeting at Pajaro Dunes, California was so significant.

I can thoroughly recommend this DVD and hope that it is widely seen in the UK. Buy it for yourself and get your friends a copy for Christmas!

Friday, November 04, 2005

Robert Boyle and the borders of Science.

"The rejection of Final Causes from the consideration of Naturalists, tends much to weaken.... if not to deprive us of, one of the best and most successfularguments, to convince men that there is a God."

Robert Boyle 1627-91

Boyle was one of the most significant of British Scientists and a founder member of the Royal Society.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Cicero - Intelligent Design supporter?

Cicero was born in 106BC and died in 43BC

"When we see some example of a mechanism, such as a globe, or a clock or some such device, do we doubt that it is the work of a conscious intelligence? So, when we see the movement of the heavenly bodies, the speed of their revolution, and the way in which they regularly run their annual course, so that all that depends upon them is preserved and prospers, how can we doubt that these too are not only the works of reason but of a reason which is perfect and divine."

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Richard Dawkins.... a man of faith?

You might want to watch the last of a three part series by Jonathan Miller which is being repeated on BBC 2 at the moment. It was shown on BBC 4 this time last year, and in the final part, Richard Dawkins is interviewed. In the interview, Jonathan Miller presses him about missing transitional forms. Dawkins eventually admits that “It is a matter of faith on my part”.

The Final Hour

BBC Two Monday 14 November 7pm-8pm TBC

The history of disbelief continues with the ideas of self-taught philosopher Thomas Paine, the revolutionary studies of geology and the evolutionary theories of Darwin. Jonathan Miller looks at the Freudian view that religion is a 'thought disorder'. He also examines his motivation behind making the series touching on the issues of death and the religious fanaticism of the 21st century.