Thursday, February 09, 2006

Macro-evolution as a religious Doctrine.


“It is totally futile to ignore the reality of a scientist’s subjectivity.
This is to deny to faith, to religious and moral convictions, to metaphysics and philosophy their influence on scientific study.

One may attempt it but will never succeed because the scholar can never be separated from the human being.”

Herman Bavinck – Reformed Dogmatics- Prolegomena.

One of the very useful things that the Intelligent Design Movement has achieved is that it has underlined the reality of what Herman Bavinck was articulating 100 years ago. A much wider audience has learned that some supposedly objective scientists who are only concerned with “facts” actually have a deeply emotional and what could accurately be described as a “religious commitment” to macro evolution as the central dogma of naturalism. This emotional and “religious” commitment extends well beyond the realm of facts and functions in a way analogous to any organised religion.

49 Comments:

Blogger allygally said...

"One of the very useful things that the Intelligent Design Movement has achieved is that it has underlined the reality of what Herman Bavinck was articulating 100 years ago. A much wider audience has learned that some supposedly objective scientists who are only concerned with “facts” actually have a deeply emotional and what could accurately be described as a “religious commitment” to macro evolution as the central dogma of naturalism. This emotional and “religious” commitment extends well beyond the realm of facts and functions in a way analogous to any organised religion".

So ID is religious!

Seriously, scientists support evolution because it is supported by the evidence. If evidence is found which evolution cannot explain, then true scientists will abandon the theory and support the new/better theory.

4:40 pm  
Blogger allygally said...

"One of the very useful things that the Intelligent Design Movement has achieved is that it has underlined the reality of what Herman Bavinck was articulating 100 years ago. A much wider audience has learned that some supposedly objective scientists who are only concerned with “facts” actually have a deeply emotional and what could accurately be described as a “religious commitment” to macro evolution as the central dogma of naturalism. This emotional and “religious” commitment extends well beyond the realm of facts and functions in a way analogous to any organised religion."

So ID is religious!

Seriously. Scientists support evolution because it is supported by the evidence. If new evidence is discovered which cannot be explained by evolution, scientists will abandon the theory, and adopt the new / better theory.

4:43 pm  
Blogger Lifewish said...

So how do you tell the difference between scientists holding onto an idea because they have an emotional attachment to it and scientists holding onto an idea because it's the best scientific explanation presently available?

More interestingly, how do you tell the difference between scientists reacting negatively to an idea because it's against their deeply-held convictions and scientists reacting negatively to an idea because it's bloody stupid? One of my friends is an evolutionary biology student, and I know from discussion that she places the unevolvability of Irreducible Complexity firmly in this category.

What evidence do you have that the reason for scientists' behaviour is their inherent bias, when the central goal of the scientific method to which they subscribe is to eliminate as much bias as possible?

I might take this argument more seriously if the Flat Earth Society hadn't gotten there first. Note particularly the comment about round-earthism being a "theoretical dogmatic assumption". Obviously this factoid doesn't imply that the statement is wrong, but it does shift the burden of proof very strongly onto the ID movements' shoulders.

"Because they won't accept our idea" is obviously not a valid answer to the question "So why do you think scientists are biased?"

7:28 pm  
Anonymous Nathan said...

"So why do you think scientists are biased."

Lets face it, everyone is biased in one way or another. I mean, I could dig for a few minutes online and find many "religious" like statements involving evolution.
Probably the most famous is Dawkin's, when he say's that Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fullfilled atheist.
You have to ask yourself if militant atheist's who use evolution to promote their ideas would so willingly give up an entire worldview so easily.
It is possible to be so blind as to ignore or disregard evidence that does not fit ones world view.
Saying that scientists are not biased is absolutely absurd. Give me a break, everyone is biased.

8:43 pm  
Blogger Lifewish said...

"So why do you think scientists are biased."

Lets face it, everyone is biased in one way or another. I mean, I could dig for a few minutes online and find many "religious" like statements involving evolution.


That's not an answer. I agree that everyone is biased; your task is furthermore to explain how said bias managed to fly under the radar of a scientific community who, you will recall, was until very recently mostly strongly Christian.

Probably the most famous is Dawkin's, when he say's that Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fullfilled atheist.
You have to ask yourself if militant atheist's who use evolution to promote their ideas would so willingly give up an entire worldview so easily.


Speaking as someone who would probably be classified as a militant atheist in the average debate, absolutely I would. If there was strong evidence for God I would accept it at face value and would probably move to being a theist rather than an atheist. I might not be too happy about God's behaviour, but I'd be perfectly happy to accept that He existed.

It is possible to be so blind as to ignore or disregard evidence that does not fit ones world view.

No kidding. So please explain in detail the checks and balances that are in place to prevent you disregarding evidence based on your worldview. Scientists have the scientific method - what's your approach?

Saying that scientists are not biased is absolutely absurd. Give me a break, everyone is biased.

I agree completely. Scientists of all stripes are inherently biased in a whole range of different ways. This is why there's a set of common-sense methodologies in place to ensure that a biased individual can't poison the well.

For example, peer review. It is essential that each and every paper be presented to impartial judges who can ensure that it's good science. Obviously, since ID is of course superb science, it will have lots of these.

What's that you say? It has a rather miniscule number of peer-reviewed papers? And yet people still fight to try and prove it correct regardless of this complete lack of valid scientific output? The thought comes to me that maybe people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones...

(Disclaimer: I've just been out drinking with the university Atheists and Agnostics Society, so I'm possibly not as on-the-ball as I could be. Rest assured that once I sober up I'll be happy to apologise for anything that's blatantly wrong.)

12:14 am  
Blogger Lifewish said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:45 am  
Blogger Lifewish said...

Uh... my first sentence there is technically wrong - that was an answer. Apologies.

However, to show that that bias has any relevance whatsoever to the situation under discussion, you need to show that a decent proportion of scientists in relevant fields are not only biased towards atheism (or against religion) but would also be willing to place this doctrine above the evidence. This is a very strong allegation you're making, particularly given the amount of self-policing the scientific community engages in, so I assume you have equally strong evidence supporting it?

I personally have seen no evidence in favour of this and a decent amount of evidence against it, so that evidence you've got stashed away really will be necessary to render your argument convincing.

1:04 am  
Anonymous Nathan said...

What I am saying is this: Everyone has biases. Whether you want to admit it or not, scientists and every other person in the work force takes their own personal bias with them, and it is very hard to shake that bias off before you step in the door at work.


I think it is harder to discard ones beliefs than you make it out to be. Biases have an uncanny ability to make one see the evidence in a certain light or alter meaning to suit predetermined ideas.

Lets talk a bit about peer review, it is an excellent example of how bias has poisoned the so called well. You ask me why there are so few peer reviewed ID articles, I would suggest that many articles are rejected because they fail to agree with current evolutionary thought.
It is this kind of bias that I am talking about.
Also, Professors risk their necks for suggesting alternatives to evolution. This is not what I would call strictly objective.

6:15 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Lifewish,

The effect of bias is greater than all of us realise.

Kuhn's "Structure of Scientific Revolutions" provides some help here I think.

2:08 pm  
Blogger Lifewish said...

What I am saying is this: Everyone has biases. Whether you want to admit it or not, scientists and every other person in the work force takes their own personal bias with them, and it is very hard to shake that bias off before you step in the door at work.

I agree completely. Scientists, on the whole, will be biased. The system works by:
a) Making bias very easy to detect
b) Making bias something that you get hanged, drawn and quartered for (ref. Dr Hwang and Drs Fleischman and Pons)

And on the whole it demonstrably does work. The computer that you're reading this on is a superb example.

ets talk a bit about peer review, it is an excellent example of how bias has poisoned the so called well. You ask me why there are so few peer reviewed ID articles, I would suggest that many articles are rejected because they fail to agree with current evolutionary thought. It is this kind of bias that I am talking about.

I'm sorry, but that's bull. Neither General Relativity nor Quantum Mechanics agreed with the physics thought at the time. The periodic table didn't agree with the chemical thought at the time. Mendelian genetics didn't agree with the (Lamarckian) thought at the time. The Big Bang not only didn't agree with the cosmological thought at the time, but ran strongly counter to a lot of physicists' philosophical bias.

And yet these all managed to get through the peer-review process just fine. So what's so special about Intelligent Design? Could it be that it's not a revolutionary and powerful idea, but is instead scientifically vacuous? The bits I personally am qualified to examine certainly are.

Also, Professors risk their necks for suggesting alternatives to evolution. This is not what I would call strictly objective.

Care to give me a few examples? The only people I'm aware of who have suffered disadvantage in conjunction with their acceptance of ID have done so due to playing silly blighters with the scientific process rather than because of the beliefs themselves. (Dembski being the classic example here)

2:20 pm  
Blogger Lifewish said...

Andrew,

If Intelligent Design is anywhere near as important a discovery as many of its proponents claim, it should be virtually impossible to reject it. There'd be too much evidence supporting it.

For example, General Relativity, whilst being a completely bizarre theory at face value, earned the respect it got by demonstrating how the perihelion effect arose in a truly beautiful fashion. The Big Bang hypothesis earned its respect by having strong real-world evidence (red-shift, Olber's paradox etc). What has Intelligent Design done to earn the respect you evidently feel it deserves?

I haven't read Kuhn's book yet, but I'd point out that ID is very unconventional when compared to other scientific revolutions - in particular:

1) it has generated almost no peer-reviewed research
2) it has tried to subvert the scientific process by political means

I know of no successful scientific revolution that followed this course.

2:31 pm  
Blogger Lifewish said...

An interesting subsidiary question for you: can you think of any method for eliminating bias that isn't already a part of the scientific method?

5:12 pm  
Blogger Mike Godfrey said...

Hi Guys
I think the hub of the matter is this:
There is bias in all forms of data collection and interpretation.
Bias shows in the way the data is interpreted and in the type of data chosen to be collected.
What you don't look at is as important as what you do look at.
People's worldviews are invested in the data so on one is going give up there worldview lightly.
ID in regards to peer review papers, cannot get the funding due to the bias in the system.
The Political process has tried to stifle open discussion -just think of Guillermo Gonzalez and the smithsonian as one episode that springs to mind.
ID in its present form is still developing ideas and answers to challenges.
I ve yet to see any evidence to repudiates the IC nature of the falgellum mentioned in Behes book.
I cannot see that blind chance plus nothing has produced anything of complexity seen in the most 'basic' cell.
Just seen this post on Uncommoin descent regarding bias:

'The recent discrediting of stem cell work by Woo-Suk Hwang at Seoul National University sparked media debates about the system’s failure to detect fraud. Authors, meanwhile, are lodging a range of complaints: Reviewers sabotage papers that compete with their own, strong papers are sent to sister journals to boost their profiles, and editors at commercial journals are too young and invariably make mistakes about which papers to reject or accept.'

Scientist support materialistic answers because thay are committed to a materialistic explanation of events.
Materialism is there religon.
Evolution tells them where they came from,how to behave,where they are going. Sounds like a religon to me.

10:51 pm  
Blogger Lifewish said...

ID in regards to peer review papers, cannot get the funding due to the bias in the system.

This is factually inaccurate - the Discovery Institute in particular is pretty much loaded.

I'll accept that it's probably fairly hard to get funding from respectable sources for work that's specifically labelled as ID research. However, if there's anything to ID, that war-chest is more than enough to do the groundwork necessary for ID to start generating serious results.

Sadly, it's also enough to brainwash large numbers of non-academics and academics in unrelated fields (particularly religious people), regardless of the accuracy or otherwise of ID's claims. This was clearly demonstrated by the Scientific Creation movement back in the day.

The Political process has tried to stifle open discussion -just think of Guillermo Gonzalez and the smithsonian as one episode that springs to mind.

Richard Sternberg's "martyrdom" is extremely overrated. He probably did get bawled out by his colleagues a little, but that's natural when you bypass your journal's official editing policy to publish a paper of a type that they don't get involved with, on a subject that's not their focus, and which is very badly wrong.

I had't heard of Gonzalez before, so I'll need to do more research before commenting, but I imagine he'll get roughly the same treatment as a non-physicist would if they went on the news claiming that the world was only 6000 years old. (And yes that is a valid analogy. Regardless of its potential, currently the scientific status of ID is approximately equivalent to the scientific status of YEC)

I ve yet to see any evidence to repudiates the IC nature of the falgellum mentioned in Behes book.

That's a problem that's easily solved. Note in particular that some parts of the flagellum aren't actually essential and that large chunks of it were apparently stolen wholesale from other cell structures.

If you're looking for an explanation of how IC systems can arise through evolution, I'd recommend reading my commentary on lung evolution in the previous thread for an example of one possible approach.

I cannot see that blind chance plus nothing has produced anything of complexity seen in the most 'basic' cell.

I'd agree. However, blind chance plus natural selection can demonstrably produce fairly sophisticated stuff. For example, the famous Nilsson and Pelger paper demonstrates that it's entirely possible to create a complex eye from a set of basic light-detecting cells in a way such that every single tiny step en route improves the eye's functionality. That means that eye formation at least is evolutionarily plausible.

We discussed it in depth in this thread.

1:53 pm  
Blogger Mike Godfrey said...

Hi Andrew & Lifewish,
ID is more than just the discovery Institue -by peer reviews i was thinking of Publications in Nature,Science,Cell and the like.

Brain washing -by that I assume you mean coercive techniques of indoctrination into a dogma ?
Well that can be applied to all and any sides of a debate-even a lack of support could be seen as a method of coercion... such as not being allowed to publish papers or fund research.
In regard to Guillermo Gonzalez and his film 'The privledged planet' Premiered at the smithsonian.
Amoungst other things James Randi offered $20,000 to stop the showing -the smithsonian showed it anyway.
With regard to the E.Coli flagellum as detailed in Behe's book :which if you remove any part of it, will not function -this is Ireductibly complex.
With regard to Nilsson and Pelger paper please see :
[ Berlinski, David. “A Scientific Scandal.” Commentary 115 No.4 (April 2003:29-36)]
A cracking critique of that paper.
Heres a summary of the key points seen inan ISCID Forum:
To highlight a few of the arguments:

1)He pointed out how simplified their calculation was – it ignores biological structure within the initial assumed patch (such as blood vessels, nerves or bones).
2)Nowhere in the paper are details of their key calculations given.
3)They only addressed morphological change of the eye, completely ignoring the necessary biochemical change.
4)Their calculations are based on 1% steps that are never expressed in terms of biological change. (Just how many years are in a 1% step?)
5)Nilsson and Pelger did not utilize selection in their calculations of eye evolution.
6)Berlinski points out the potentially high costs of developing an eye socket for the evolving eye – an issue completely ignored in the paper.
7)Nilsson and Pelger used selection pressure as a constant for 300,000 years, and never offered population figures to justify their figures.
8)Nilsson and Pelger never mentioned randomly occurring changes.

4:39 pm  
Blogger Lifewish said...

Brain washing -by that I assume you mean coercive techniques of indoctrination into a dogma?

Sorry, "brainwashing" was almost certainly the wrong word. What I meant was that, with many millions of dollars at one's disposal, it's fairly easy to convince even educated people of a falsehood. The only people you're never going to have a chance of convincing in this fashion are experts in the field.

Completely coincidentally, ID has almost no supporters in the evolutionary biology community.

Well that can be applied to all and any sides of a debate-even a lack of support could be seen as a method of coercion... such as not being allowed to publish papers or fund research.

Please point to examples where a good scientific paper has failed to be published because it supported ID (I'm aware that "good" is a relative term, but if the rejection is as wholesale as you claim there should be at least a few decent examples). Please also point to cases where someone has been denied funding as a direct result of their support of ID.

It's very easy to make allegations about dogmatism and persecution when your pet conjecture doesn't pass scientific muster. I have yet to see much to actually support those allegations. The mere fact that allegations have been made does not constitute evidence - the Creation Science movement, for example, has been claiming persecution for years, as has the Flat Earth Society.

In regard to Guillermo Gonzalez and his film 'The privledged planet' Premiered at the smithsonian.
Amoungst other things James Randi offered $20,000 to stop the showing -the smithsonian showed it anyway.


I believe the issue here was less the validity of ID - neither Randi nor the Smithsonian think ID is good science - but the apparent prostitution of the Smithsonian's credibility arising from their implicit endorsement of bad science. The Smithsonian was stating that the fact that it was showing the film was in no way an endorsement; Randi said that on the contrary, it would most certainly be seen as an endorsement.

Randi offered the $20,000 to make it easier for the Smithsonian to refuse the DI's cash. I'm guessing that the Smithsonian felt that a climbdown would do more damage to their reputation than showing the film.

With regard to the E.Coli flagellum as detailed in Behe's book :which if you remove any part of it, will not function -this is Ireductibly complex.

Any particular flagellum may indeed be irreducibly complex. However, the general design of the flagellum is not irreducibly complex.

And, as mentioned before, it's fairly easy for irreducibly complex structures to evolve. For example: pick a reducibly complex structure that's designed for a particular function, and remove all the bits that can be removed. Bingo, an irreducibly complex structure.

With regard to Nilsson and Pelger paper please see: Berlinski, David. “A Scientific Scandal.”

Andrew Rowell: I need an opinion here. Should I start going into detail on why the assumptions in the paper are valid, thus derailing the conversation with a debate that we've already had elsewhere, or should I ignore Mike's point? Given that we've already gone over the appropriacy of deterministic approximations to stochastic processes at least twice, I'd tend to go for the latter option, but I'm happy to defer to your decision.

5:55 pm  
Anonymous Nathan said...

"The only people you're never going to have a chance of convincing in this fashion are experts in the field."

Intelligent Design has many experts in biological sciences and related fields that find Darwinism unconvincing, and Intelligent Design quite palatable. Do not try and tell me that Darwinism has a monopoly on the brains, there are educated people on both sides of the equation.

"Completely coincidentally, ID has almost no supporters in the evolutionary biology community."

No, its no coincidence, you know as well as I do, exactly why Intelligent Design has little support in the evolutionary biology community.
Could it be perhaps because they are evolutionary biologists whose lives are dedicated to Darwin's theory?
Much of what ID shows, flies in the face of macroevolution, thats why we are having this debate right now.

I see evolution as the biggest cult to come around in a long while. It attempts to further its doctrines by force. I think you will recall a popular quote by Richard Dawkins: "It is absolutely safe to say that, if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I'd rather not consider that)." So thats how it is, take your pick: do you want to be ignorant, stupid, insane or evil?
People are bullied into believing the theory, and people who speak up or even suggest alternatives are shut down quickly. Thats why I call evolution a religion unto itself.

Happy Darwin day.

4:37 am  
Blogger Lifewish said...

Intelligent Design has many experts in biological sciences and related fields that find Darwinism unconvincing, and Intelligent Design quite palatable. Do not try and tell me that Darwinism has a monopoly on the brains, there are educated people on both sides of the equation.

Let's try to make a list of ID proponents with degrees in relevant fields shall we?
1) Behe
2) Um... feel free to append more here

No, its no coincidence, you know as well as I do, exactly why Intelligent Design has little support in the evolutionary biology community.
Could it be perhaps because they are evolutionary biologists whose lives are dedicated to Darwin's theory?
Much of what ID shows, flies in the face of macroevolution, thats why we are having this debate right now.


I find this highly unlikely. I actually know a couple of evolutionary biologists. They are among the most intellectually honest people I have ever met and would have no problem admitting they were wrong if that were actually the case. Please provide actual evidence for your assertions before insulting my friends' integrity further.

I also draw your attention back to my point that it's those who disprove the common wisdom in science who get the most kudos. If it were actually demonstrable that certain stuff couldn't evolve by known methods, any evolutionary biologist would jump at it. And we know they engage in this sort of thing - it's how the idea of punctured equilibrium was thrashed out.

What they haven't done is said "oh, we have evidence against the current model, let's throw everything away". And the reason they haven't done this is that we have much direct evidence of all the major components of evolutionary theory, and zero (yes, zero) direct evidence of Someone else messing with the works.

Of course, if ID can provide that evidence, or produce a predictive model that works better than the current systems, then game on and I'll wish ID good luck. I have yet to see any such evidence/model. In fact I have yet to see any reason whatsoever for believing ID to be true. Given the amount of time I've spent discussing it, this is somewhat surprising.

I see evolution as the biggest cult to come around in a long while.

There's many millions of man-hours spent critically analysing that theory that disagree with you. Cults discourage critical analysis. Evolutionary biology positively encourages people to tear it apart in scientifically legitimate ways.

It attempts to further its doctrines by force.

Please give examples of evolutionary biologists using force to teach people about evolutionary biology. I can't remember any such example since the abolition of corporal punishment in schools.

I think you will recall a popular quote by Richard Dawkins: "It is absolutely safe to say that, if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I'd rather not consider that)." So thats how it is, take your pick: do you want to be ignorant, stupid, insane or evil?

I'd note that Dawkins isn't actually representative of the entire field of evolutionary biology - given his stance on religion, I think it's safe to say that Kenneth Miller would prefer not to be represented by him for a start. For example, Dawkins classifies people who believe in something purely as a matter of faith in the "insane" category, which I personally would strongly disagree with.

I would however note that, in his system of classification, "ignorant" isn't as much a pejorative as you're probably thinking. Ignorance on a subject is something that no scientist should be afraid to admit. I'll freely admit that I'm ignorant of evolutionary biology compared to actual evolutionary biologists in the field. And I imagine that none of the other readers of this blog have spent years of their lives studying EB either. As such, I'd say that we all probably fall into the "ignorant" category.

People are bullied into believing the theory, and people who speak up or even suggest alternatives are shut down quickly. Thats why I call evolution a religion unto itself.

Please give examples of how people are bullied into believing the biological theory of evolution any more than they are bullied into believing the geographic round-earth theory. Note: I'm adding that caveat not to imply that the theory of evolution is as strongly supported as the theory that the Earth is round (that's another argument entirely), but rather to calibrate our respective definitions of what constitutes bullying.

Happy Darwin day.

You too :) I'm tempted to buy a wreath for Darwin's shrine in my college or something.

1:48 pm  
Anonymous Nathan said...

Lifewish, could you please classify what you would consider a "relevant field" for ID, and evolution. I would consider people with PHD's in biology, chemistry, and to a degree, mathematics (Dembski, and ID patterns) as perfectlly capable of making statements on ID and evolution. I think you would agree that there are many such people with degrees in these fields who find darwinism less than satisfactory.
If you disagree with me, please explain exactly why.

I am much less optimistic then you about evolutionary biologists "leaping" at alternatives to evolution.

You say that Dawkin's isn't representative of the entire field, but I see this atheistic, recurring theme time and time again. I find that Kenneth Miller seems to be an exception to the rule, and one need not dig too far in the literature to find many quotes by evolutionists, which line up with Dawkin's ideas.

""ignorant" isn't as much a pejorative as you're probably thinking."

I find it hard to believe that Dawkins meant this in the best sense of the term, seeing as the word ignorant had company with such words as: evil, and stupid.

People are bullied by threats, whether they be threats of losing their job such as Caroline Crocker experienced. Or simply being regarded as "stupid." I.E. If you don't believe in evolution, you are a stupid fundamentalist. Dawkins has said that if you want to talk to him, he will first ask you whether you believe in evolution, and if you say no, he will turn his back and ignore you. Now what do you think he is implying here? Nobody wants to be regarded as stupid, and so many people are suppressed for this very reason. This behaviour in my opinion constitutes bullying!

Buying a wreathe for Darwin's shrine eh? Interesting.

6:46 am  
Blogger Lifewish said...

Lifewish, could you please classify what you would consider a "relevant field" for ID

A few suggestions:
1) Anything with the word "evolutionary" in it
2) Bioinformatics (I can tell you from personal experience that mathematics per se is not sufficient)
3) Palaeontology

A few things that would provide a good grounding but not be sufficient in and of themselves:
1) Computational biology
2) Biochemistry
3) Zoology
4) Biology

The only person I'm aware of in the first set who's an ID supporter is Behe (there almost certainly are others but I have yet to come across them). There is probably a decent number of people in the second set who support ID, but I can't think of any off the top of my head.

The reason why I don't think mathematics is sufficient in and of itself is because I'm most of the way through a bachelors in maths at one of the better universities and I have yet to come across any subject matter that would qualify me to speak about evolution. Even the Mathematical Biology lecture series didn't give me that much to go on.

Unless Dembski specialised in Bioinformatics (I have no idea if he did or not, but I suspect not) he would not be substantially more qualified than an interested layman such as myself when talking about evolutionary processes. If his specialisation was in the broader fields of Information Theory or Operational Research he'd just about be qualified when talking about genetic algorithms, but given the hash* he's made of the No Free Lunch theorems I find this somewhat doubtful.

I think you would agree that there are many such people with degrees in these fields who find darwinism less than satisfactory.

One thing to add here: finding evolutionary biology as it stands today to be incomplete, even for scientific reasons, in no way implies support for Intelligent Design. In particular, every single evolutionary biologist alive today finds evolutionary biology to be incomplete (otherwise they wouldn't be trying to extend it).

This may or may not extend to cover Darwinism, since I can't remember seeing a definition of Darwinism that wouldn't render it almost nonexistent in the scientific community.

You say that Dawkin's isn't representative of the entire field, but I see this atheistic, recurring theme time and time again.

You could be right, but I've always considered the atheistic theme to be less of a feature of the "halo" of interested atheists that has formed round origins science. This makes sense when you think about it - in some sense, atheists are the ones most in need of supplemental information about where we come from.

I would suspect (although I certainly can't confirm it) that there's a higher proportion of atheists in evolutionary biology than elsewhere, but they're certainly not universal. At worst, they're just the most vocal segment, which I suspect is more a reaction to about 2 centuries of creationist attacks than anything.

I find it hard to believe that Dawkins meant this in the best sense of the term, seeing as the word ignorant had company with such words as: evil, and stupid.

You could of course be right there - I wouldn't presume to speak for Dawkins. However, I'd note that elsewhere - in his famous "been wrong all these years" anecdote, he pushes willingness to accept ignorance as one of the primary scientific virtues. I'd tend to interpret his attitude as: ignorance is fine as long as you're aware that you're ignorant. Which is pretty much my attitude - it's OK not to know about something as long as you're willing to defer to people who actually do know what they're talking about.

For example, due to increasing levels of piracy worldwide, I don't believe that global warming is likely to be much of a problem in future (see here for details), but I would definitely defer to a climatologist on the subject.

People are bullied by threats, whether they be threats of losing their job such as Caroline Crocker experienced.

Caroline Crocker didn't fail to get rehired when her contract expired because of her creationist views, or even because of an attempt to incorporate those views into her scientific work**. She failed to get rehired because she was abusing her position as a teacher to forcefeed students dogma. You do not teach material to young minds unless you can defend that material against informed adults first.

Whatever field you work in, if you don't follow this rule, you're not teaching - you're indoctrinating. This is one of the few unforgiveable sins of science education. Frankly I'm surprised she wasn't tarred, feathered and run out of town.

Or simply being regarded as "stupid." I.E. If you don't believe in evolution, you are a stupid fundamentalist.

If you don't have strong scientific evidence for believing, and yet you still proselytise in the face of reasoned argument, then yes you would probably be considered stupid. If you did have strong scientific evidence for believing, however, you'd probably win a Nobel prize. It's all in the basis on which you believe.

If you didn't proselytise, of course, you'd probably be considered ignorant rather than stupid, which as previously discussed is only a very mild pejorative. It's the thinking you can overrule scientists without having any scientific evidence that merits the upgrade.

Dawkins has said that if you want to talk to him, he will first ask you whether you believe in evolution, and if you say no, he will turn his back and ignore you. Now what do you think he is implying here?

Could you provide me with a reference here? I haven't heard that particular Dawkins quote before.

I imagine what he's implying here is that he's heard one idiotic "falsification" of evolution too many (regardless of your feelings about ID, it's hard to deny that there are plenty of these) and has given up trying to debate reasonably with the people who hold to them. I wouldn't agree with that sentiment for at least two reasons:
1) I'm young and idealistic enough to think it's worth trying to upgrade "stupid" to "ignorant"
2) It's always possible that someone will come up with an actual valid argument against evolution, in which case I want to be the first to know

Nobody wants to be regarded as stupid, and so many people are suppressed for this very reason. This behaviour in my opinion constitutes bullying!

Do you actually have any evidence here of hordes of evolutionary biologists with mountains of evidence against evolution being suppressed by peer pressure, or is this just wishful thinking?

Buying a wreathe for Darwin's shrine eh? Interesting.

Yeah, it's a lovely little memorial hut thing with a bust, a tree and a stream. Wonderful place to sit and work in Spring. Do visit it if you ever pass through Cambridge.

* I can't remember if I mentioned that I finally got round to reading his Displacement Theorem paper. Turns out he's disproved evolution if and only if he's disproved the idea of a ball rolling into a hole. More information available on request.

** Although, if she held to those views for religious reasons, that would probably damage her objectivity sufficiently that she'd be fairly useless as a scientist.

2:11 pm  
Anonymous Nathan said...

You state that degrees in fields such as Biochemistry and Zoology are insufficient to accurately evaluate evolution and ID. I completely disagree. People who possess PHD's in these fields are perfectly capable of evaluating the validity of arguments relating to these areas. For example, Biochemists have an excellent understanding of cellular activity, if indeed evolution is a scientific process, it will conform to current scientific ideas about natural processes. The theory of evolution is supposed to be a biological/chemical process. There are none better to assess its credibility than those who are very learned in these subjects. So stop trying to tell me that you have to be an evolutionary biologist to give these fields a valid critique!

As far as math is concerned, I feel quite confident that Dembski knows what hes talking about. His book the Design Inference was published by Cambridge University Press, which I understand to be very reputable. Did they make a mistake? I personally am not in a position to give his math an evaluation (thats why I am studying biology).

Caroline Crocker lost her job because she taught the weak points in the evolutionary theory. I do not call this force feeding students dogma. This is called science. I see nothing wrong with teaching the strong/weak points of theories.

As far as the Dawkins quote, I honestly can't remember whether I read that in Darwin's Black Box, or somewhere else. I will definately try and find it for you though.

As far as "the hordes of evolutionary biologists with mountains of evidence against evolution," I have already addressed the "evolutionary biologist" part of the question. However, I see lots of evidence against evolution in biological systems such as the bacterial flagellum, but I'm sure you would disagree with me there and suggest some imaginary pathway involving the TTSS.

"finding evolutionary biology...incomplete in no way implies support for an intelligent designer."
Sorry please quote me where I said this, I can't seem to find it.

Thanks

5:25 am  
Blogger Lifewish said...

You state that degrees in fields such as Biochemistry and Zoology are insufficient to accurately evaluate evolution and ID.

Slight correction: a biochemist or a zoologist would be able to accurately evaluate evolution and ID, but they'd need to do a hell of a lot of background reading first. For a serious understanding of how it's believed that irreducibly complex structures can evolve, for example, you'd need at least a week (probably longer) spent on nothing but reading books and papers to have even the vaguest clue as to what the state of the biological art was.

ID would probably take slightly less time to evaluate due to the fact that it hasn't produced much in the way of academic papers.

The theory of evolution is supposed to be a biological/chemical process.

And that's the problem. Evolutionary biology is both a biological and a biochemical process, as well as having aspects of population dynamics, developmental biology and God only knows what else. Any of the fields on my "good grounding but not sufficient" list would have a good understanding only of the bits that overlapped with their field. That wouldn't be good enough for an in-depth analysis without the aforementioned massive amount of background reading.

As far as math is concerned, I feel quite confident that Dembski knows what hes talking about. His book the Design Inference was published by Cambridge University Press, which I understand to be very reputable. Did they make a mistake?

I don't know what would constitute a mistake by a publishing house. I imagine they got fairly good sales from it, so on that front I imagine they're happy with their decision. Publishers, however reputable, aren't academic journals - they don't have the same responsibility to vet their content (and in practice it's impossible to vet a book to the same degree that you would an academic paper).

Come to think of it, I'll be walking past the CUP bookshop later on today. I'll pop in and see if anyone knows anything about the selection process.

I should note that I'm semiqualified in mathematics, and what I've seen of Dembski's work hasn't been terribly convincing. To avoid derailing the thread I'll resist the urge to go into detail, but said detail is available on request.

Caroline Crocker lost her job because she taught the weak points in the evolutionary theory. I do not call this force feeding students dogma. This is called science. I see nothing wrong with teaching the strong/weak points of theories.

Except for the fact that almost 100% (possibly actually 100%) of people working in the field she was teaching about do not think that these weak points are in fact weak. It'd be like a YEC using a teaching position to tell kids that the Earth's magnetic field is decaying, and that this falsified most of modern geology. Or a flat-Earther using a teaching position to explain that the Sun was in fact only a few hundred miles above the surface of the Earth.

This is not science. If it were science, Crocker would first have presented her results to the informed adults and, once academic consensus had been reached, only then presented them to impressionable young minds not fully equipped with the critical thinking skills and information they'd need to tear falsehoods apart. Regardless of whether you think Crocker is correct in her beliefs, it's easy to see how incredibly destructive any alternative would be.

You don't teach even tentative conclusions as fact, and you certainly don't teach things that the majority of the relevant academic community disagrees with as gospel. Tarring and feathering would be too good for this individual.

As far as the Dawkins quote, I honestly can't remember whether I read that in Darwin's Black Box, or somewhere else. I will definately try and find it for you though.

Thanks. I can well believe he'd say it, but it'd be good to have confirmation before discussing at great length - bit of a waste otherwise :)

As far as "the hordes of evolutionary biologists with mountains of evidence against evolution," I have already addressed the "evolutionary biologist" part of the question.

Yeah. Of course, you have yet to provide me with any evidence that evolutionary biologists are not scrupulously following the scientific method every step of the way. If you have any, please share - as I said before, a couple of these people are my friends so, if they can't be trusted, it'd be good to know now rather than after I lend them cash.

I remain firmly convinced that it is effectively impossible to build an entire field of study out of hot air if one scrupulously follows the scientific method. Again, any evidence to the contrary would be appreciated.

However, I see lots of evidence against evolution in biological systems such as the bacterial flagellum, but I'm sure you would disagree with me there and suggest some imaginary pathway involving the TTSS.

By "imaginary", I presume you mean "speculative", yes? Two questions:
1) How is my pathway any more speculative than your Designer?
2) Which actual proposed step in the evolution of the flagellum is it that you have a problem with? I'll research it for you, see if I can figure out how implausible it would be.

"finding evolutionary biology...incomplete in no way implies support for an intelligent designer."
Sorry please quote me where I said this, I can't seem to find it.


You said "I think you would agree that there are many such people with degrees in these fields who find darwinism less than satisfactory." My response was intended to indicate that, if by Darwinism you mean evolutionary biology, this isn't exactly a radical statement. In particular, it in no way reflects badly on evolutionary biology - if EB was 100% satisfactory, it'd be a dead field.

One last thing: I've got an apology to make. I was rereading my previous comments and I noticed that when I said:

I wouldn't agree with that sentiment for at least two reasons:
1) I'm young and idealistic enough to think it's worth trying to upgrade "stupid" to "ignorant"
2) It's always possible that someone will come up with an actual valid argument against evolution, in which case I want to be the first to know


it sounded like I was accusing most of those here of being stupid. This was purely an artefact of my ineptness - it's quite possible that you all fall into category 2.

1:43 pm  
Anonymous Nathan said...

"a biochemist or a zoologist would be able to accurately evaluate evolution and ID, but they'd need to do a hell of a lot of background reading first."

Oh wait a minute, I recall just the other day my anthropology prof. evaluating evolution by saying: "evolution is not a theory, but a scientific fact," I recall my invert zoology prof teaching me about the evolution of molluscs, and a multitude of other organisms. What are they thinking! If these people are not qualified to evaluate the validity of the theories, what are they doing teaching them as fact in the classroom?

As far as the evolution of the flagellum, I have seen the arguments for it, and I find the whole argument less than satisfying.

"You said "I think you would agree that there are many such people with degrees in these fields who find darwinism less than satisfactory." My response was intended to indicate that, if by Darwinism you mean evolutionary biology, this isn't exactly a radical statement."

Ok but I said nothing about it lending support to ID.

6:18 am  
Blogger Lifewish said...

What are they thinking! If these people are not qualified to evaluate the validity of the theories, what are they doing teaching them as fact in the classroom?

1) The bits they're teaching are specifically the bits that fall within their field's remit, so they're more qualified to evaluate them than they would be to evaluate other bits
2) Where the bits they're teaching rely on stuff that's outside their field's remit, they rely on the knowledge of those who do specialise in that stuff. The reason they can do this is because it's very hard, in the presence of the scientific method, to play silly buggers without being caught out, so they can be fairly sure that the consensus those other people have reached is a fairly accurate representation of reality.

As far as the evolution of the flagellum, I have seen the arguments for it, and I find the whole argument less than satisfying.

That's not terribly helpful as it gives us:
a) no way to refine the argument (if it turns out to be broadly accurate)
b) no solid reason to ditch the argument (if it turns out not to be broadly accurate)

I'd also note that I found Quantum Mechanics less than satisfying when I was younger. Finding a theory less than satisfying isn't necessarily an indictment of that theory.

Ok but I said nothing about it lending support to ID.

In that case I apologise for reading into it stuff that you hadn't put there.

2:24 pm  
Blogger Ed Darrell said...

Kuhn's "Structure of Scientific Revolutions" provides some help here I think.

Yes, Andrew: He points out that some religious people are biased against accepting evolution.

Was that what you meant?

10:10 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Ed,
Do you think that the converse may also be true?

3:25 pm  
Blogger allygally said...

Nathan said...

"Lets face it, everyone is biased in one way or another."

Dead right. I always find that tight-fisted guys seem to suppose that everyone is the same, i.e. watching the pennies, unwilling to stand their round etc., . The same goes for selfish people. They base their approach to life on pre-supposing everybody else is also a selfish sod.

On the other hand, open hearted and generous people always think that everyone is nice, just like them.

These attitudes colour your world view. So when I see people whose prime motivation is religious claiming that evolution is a religion, or atheism is a religion, I see people projecting their own bias onto someone else -they are saying "I'm religious, therefore you must also be religious, even if you say you are not". It's a well known psychological trait.

Nathan said:
"Probably the most famous is Dawkin's, when he say's that Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fullfilled atheist.
You have to ask yourself if militant atheist's who use evolution to promote their ideas would so willingly give up an entire worldview so easily."

Militant atheist? I am not aware that Prof dawkins has equipped a ministry and sent it convert the heathen. It is Christianity that is militant, sending out missionaries to force innocent animists to cover their sinful bodies in the sweltering heat. Of course calling someone a militant atheist chimes with the previous paragraph. "I'm a militiant Christian, therefore you are not allowed to be a content-within-yourself atheist, you have to be militant to fit in with my bias.".

Nathan said;

"It is possible to be so blind as to ignore or disregard evidence that does not fit ones world view."

It is indeed. Could you be doing just that in this discussion? Think about it.

"Saying that scientists are not biased is absolutely absurd. Give me a break, everyone is biased."

Lifewish answered this perfectly. Everyone is biased. A scientist is someone who has an ethos, and methods and procedures to fight against that bias.

Do religious people have the same balancing mechanisms?

11:16 am  
Blogger allygally said...

Ed Darrell said...

Kuhn's "Structure of Scientific Revolutions" provides some help here I think.

"Yes, Andrew: He points out that some religious people are biased against accepting evolution.

Was that what you meant?"

Andrew Rowell said...

" Ed,
Do you think that the converse may also be true?"

I'm not sure that this is a true opposition. The converse of being biased against evolution is not, necessarily, a bias against religion. It is undoubtedly true that some religious people are biased against evolution because of their religious beliefs. It is not true that scientists are biased against religion (if they are, and not all are, in fact most are not), because of their belief in any particular scientific theory.

Even if you dismiss this reasoning, surely we can agree that it is possible that anyone may show bias. The important question is: what is the basis of the bias?

If a supporter of the theory of evolution is biased against accepting religion on the basis of his understanding of the evidence, that would be scientific.

If a religios person is biased against the theory of evolution because it goes against the received word of his god, as he believes it to be, then that is religion, not science.

So the bias is not equal or oppositional. It boils down to the real bedrock of the argument: do you accept the given word, regardless of the evidence, or do shape you understanding of the world on the basis of the evidence?

11:47 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Allygally,

Phillip Johnson's basic point behind the Wedge and behind the book Darwin on Trial was that macro-evolution is accepted by most scientists NOT because of the evidence but because they have presumed naturalism and rejected the possibility of anything else as superstition or magic or astrology.

(BTW the Behe Astrology thing is an excellent example of anti-ID dirty tricks and quotemining)

Evolution must be true because anything else is religion and not science.

12:06 pm  
Blogger allygally said...

Andrew Rowell said...

"Phillip Johnson's basic point behind the Wedge and behind the book Darwin on Trial was that macro-evolution is accepted by most scientists NOT because of the evidence but because they have presumed naturalism and rejected the possibility of anything else as superstition or magic or astrology."

It may have been Phillip Johnson's basic point. That does not make it true.

"BTW the Behe Astrology thing is an excellent example of anti-ID dirty tricks and quotemining"

Quoted below the Dover judgement transcript, showing that Michael Behe accepted that a definition of science which fits ID would have to be stretched so far that it would also include astrology. Also that the ID people are quite open in their religious (supernatural)aims.

DOVER JUDGEMENT EXTRACT


"It is notable that defense experts’ own mission, which mirrors that of the IDM itself, is to change the ground rules of science to allow supernatural causation
of the natural world, which the Supreme Court in Edwards and the court in McLean correctly recognized as an inherently religious concept. Edwards, 482 Case 4:04-cv-02688-JEJ Document 342 Filed 12/20/2005 Page 67 of 139 68 U.S. at 591-92; McLean, 529 F. Supp. at 1267.

First, defense expert Professor
Fuller agreed that ID aspires to “change the ground rules” of science and lead
defense expert Professor Behe admitted that his broadened definition of science,
which encompasses ID, would also embrace astrology. (28:26 (Fuller); 21:37-42 (Behe)).

Moreover, defense expert Professor Minnich acknowledged that for ID to
be considered science, the ground rules of science have to be broadened to allow
consideration of supernatural forces. (38:97 (Minnich)).
Prominent IDM leaders are in agreement with the opinions expressed by
defense expert witnesses that the ground rules of science must be changed for ID to
take hold and prosper. William Dembski, for instance, an IDM leader, proclaims
that science is ruled by methodological naturalism and argues that this rule must be
overturned if ID is to prosper. (5:32-37 (Pennock)); P-341 at 224 (“Indeed, entire
fields of inquiry, including especially in the human sciences, will need to be
rethought from the ground up in terms of intelligent design.”).
The Discovery Institute, the think tank promoting ID whose CRSC
developed the Wedge Document, acknowledges as “Governing Goals” to “defeat
scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies” and
“replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and
human beings are created by God.” (P-140 at 4). In addition, and as previously noted, the Wedge Document states in its “Five Year Strategic Plan Summary” that
the IDM’s goal is to replace science as currently practiced with “theistic and
Christian science.” Id. at 6. The IDM accordingly seeks nothing less than a
complete scientific revolution in which ID will supplant evolutionary theory.14"

Andrew wrote:
"Evolution must be true because anything else is religion and not science."

No scientist would say that evolution is "true" in the sense that it is unchalengeable. The theory of evolution is good science, in that it best explains and encompasses the current evidence. If "anything else" included scientific evidence which conflicted with evolutionary theory, scientists would evaluate the evidence. If it undermined or disproved the theory of evolution, scientists would amend or abandon the theory.

In contrast, the very basis of religion is faith: i.e. regardless of the evidence, we continue to believe.

12:30 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Allygally,

I have read the Dover Judgement in full.

I have read the transcript of the section of the cross examination of Behe regarding the need to the definition of science to change.

I am personally 100% satisfied that what he was saying is not what the anti-ID folks are portraying him as having said.

The question was designed as a public relations stunt and that is what it has been used for.

Turn it into a sound bite and it looks impressive but the serious issues which he was trying to address (albeit as a self confessed non-expert in the history of science)are ignored completely.

What was the source of your large quote?

Have you looked at this piece:
Behe an astrologist?

12:40 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Lifewish,
You said:
"With regard to Nilsson and Pelger paper please see: Berlinski, David. “A Scientific Scandal.”

Andrew Rowell: I need an opinion here. etc etc"

Did you look at Berlinski's piece... sorry if you did and told me about it...

But I would be interested in what you think.

Berlinski is supposed to be a bit of a Maths Wiz

1:04 pm  
Blogger allygally said...

Andrew said: "
I have read the Dover Judgement in full. I am personally 100% satisfied that what he was saying is not what the anti-ID folks are portraying him as having said."

I don't know what you believe he is portrayed as having said. What he actually said was that, for ID to be accepted as science, the definition of science would have to be so broad as to include astrology. Astrology is by Michael Behe's definition a discredited and redundant approach to knowledge. And that is exactly what the anti-IDers are accusing him of propogating.

"The question was designed as a public relations stunt and that is what it has been used for."

Poor old DI, victim rather than perpetrator, of a PR stunt for once! In reality, I think that they walked into the trap because their thinkng is fuzzy.

"What was the source of your large quote?"

Direct quote from the Dover Judgement. Pages 67 and 68.

"Have you looked at this piece:
Behe an astrologist?"

Here is quote from that blog..

"So, no, Michael Behe doesn't believe in astrology. He thinks it is "foolish" and points out that "the educated community has not accepted astrology as a science for a long long time". No, he doesn't think it has any scientific standing today. Which means that people who suggest otherwise when they have access to the facts - for example, New Scientist, Red State Rabble and Panda's Thumb - are all wilfully distorting the truth."

No-one is accusing Behe of believing in astrology, unless it is his supporters trying to set up a straw man.

Michael Behe admitted that ID is in the same scientific category ( the definition of science that would include ID would also include astrology)as ID.

I have no problem with people believing in astrology, as long as it is not taught as science, in science classes.

4:04 pm  
Blogger Lifewish said...

AllyGally:

Militant atheist? I am not aware that Prof dawkins has equipped a ministry and sent it convert the heathen.

Well, in the interests of fairness, I should point out that Dawkins is patron of the Cambridge University Atheist and Agnostic Society (which does wonderful talks on Thursdays at 7:30 - do come along if you're ever in the area). However, that may not count as I think we approached him rather tha vice-versa. Certainly we don't get millions of dollars in funding for our (complete lack of) evangelical activities.

Andrew:

Phillip Johnson's basic point behind the Wedge and behind the book Darwin on Trial was that macro-evolution is accepted by most scientists NOT because of the evidence but because they have presumed naturalism and rejected the possibility of anything else as superstition or magic or astrology.

I think that's an unfair characterisation. It would be more accurate to say that scientists aren't going to propose intelligence as an explanation for what unintelligence can adequately explain (especially not when postulating that the causes are unintelligent gives rise to better predictions).

This is standard practice in all areas of science. In fact, some of them go even further than that - we still can't explain by naturalistic means how high-temperature superconductors work, and yet chemists feel perfectly comfortable about stating that an intelligent entity is probably not pushing the electrons around.

(BTW the Behe Astrology thing is an excellent example of anti-ID dirty tricks and quotemining)

I'd tend to agree that the Behe quote isn't as damaging as many people think it is (I think it's been misinterpreted, although probably not deliberately), but there's still a core of truth to the outcry.

Behe is saying that, in its day, astrology would have been considered a valid scientific hypothesis. Problem is: it's still astrology's day. Astrology is a case in point of a conjecture that's completely unfalsifiable, and the fact that it lives on is a classic demonstration of why Occam's razor is such an essential portion of science.

Behe's claim that such a fuzzy, unparsimonious mishmash as astrology would ever, under any circumstances, qualify as science is thus still worrying.

Evolution must be true because anything else is religion and not science.

Well, anything else that involved an infinitely powerful Designer would indeed qualify as religion, although I'm not sure that would disqualify it from being science. You can decide for yourselves whether you want science breaking open the supernatural dissecting kit in the fashion that would result from positive evidence for God.

However, in the absence of actual evidence for the idea that a designer got involved, that premise cannot be considered scientific. Thus, when acting as scientists, we're forced to fall back on the "null premise" - that a designer probably didn't get involved.

6:35 pm  
Blogger allygally said...

Lifewish said...

AllyGally:

"Militant atheist? I am not aware that Prof dawkins has equipped a ministry and sent it convert the heathen."

"Well, in the interests of fairness, I should point out that Dawkins is patron of the Cambridge University Atheist and Agnostic Society (which does wonderful talks on Thursdays at 7:30 - do come along if you're ever in the area)."

Yes but.... Pof Dawkins waits for people to come to him. He explains his position with reference to argument, reason and logic. If they do not agree he lets them catch the bus home.

Chritians go out on crusade (SORRY mission), they introduce sin and guilt to disturb innocent people, who never asked them to come along, who never had the concept of guilt, who live at one with nature, and the Christians destroy these peoples' lives by introducing nonsense like supernatural designers into their universe. If they don't agree, they are sent to HELL! and burned forever and ever. It's called Christian compassion.

Thanks for the invitation, I would lov attend the Prof's lectures, but I live in Scotland which is a long way from Cambridge although we don't yet have a Christain mission (unless you count the Free Presbytarians). Poor souls that we are.

11:59 pm  
Blogger Lifewish said...

Yes but.... Pof Dawkins waits for people to come to him. He explains his position with reference to argument, reason and logic. If they do not agree he lets them catch the bus home.

Chritians go out on crusade (SORRY mission), they introduce sin and guilt to disturb innocent people, who never asked them to come along, who never had the concept of guilt, who live at one with nature, and the Christians destroy these peoples' lives by introducing nonsense like supernatural designers into their universe. If they don't agree, they are sent to HELL! and burned forever and ever. It's called Christian compassion.


It's funny you should mention that - I did get into a discussion this evening about how circumspect CUAAS is. Apparently our management has put a great deal of effort into hitting the borderline between not getting in believers' faces but being there for anyone who would benefit from joining.

By contrast, the uni Christian union puts a great deal of effort into recruiting all and sundry. For example, its members often start scribbling information on the blackboard between lectures.

It's interesting that the society that in some sense is the most evil in Cambridge - it's the one that every single religious society would disagree with - is the one that takes the most care vis-a-vis not converting anyone who doesn't want to be converted.

1:54 am  
Anonymous Dean Morrison said...

I see from the original post you share Homer Simpson's post-modernist take on 'facts':

"Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything that's even remotely true!"

11:27 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Dean,

I do not share Homers view of facts. I believe in science and I believe we can discover truth about the material universe using the scientific method.

In the original post I was not articulating a view that requires the demolition of science... more an awareness that the views of the scientist can have a strong influence on his interpretation of some facts.

9:31 pm  
Blogger allygally said...

Andrew Rowell said...

"I believe in science and I believe we can discover truth about the material universe using the scientific method."

In which case we can end this thread immediately. If you believe in the scientific method, then ID will be about number 1000 on your list of priorities, since it is an unproven assertion with no substantial ( or even unsubstantial) body of evidence to lend it any credibility. You can turn your blog over to discussing real science, defined as science which is conducted using the scientific method.

Andrew said

"In the original post I was not articulating a view that requires the demolition of science... more an awareness that the views of the scientist can have a strong influence on his interpretation of some facts."

This has been addressed a number of times in this thread. Everyone is biased. The scientific method, which you support, is a mechanism for minimising bias. Crucially, it excludes "I believe" as a proof. That's why it's the scientific method and not the religious method.

You could say that supporters of ID are most biased of all, since they refuse to accept the overwhelming proof, from 9.9% of the scientific community, from Dover, and from other sources, that their parrot is deceased. It's an ex-parrot. It has gone before. It has fallen off it's perch. Need I go on?

P.S. the parrot is only dead if you apply the scientific method. If you apply blind faith, you could still believe it was alive, if you were so inclined, (inclined, that is, in the sense of "biased").

9:02 am  
Blogger allygally said...

OOPS

"You could say that supporters of ID are most biased of all, since they refuse to accept the overwhelming proof, from 9.9% of the scientific community,"

Should read 99.9%, of course.

9:05 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Allygally,

You said:
"ID will be about number 1000 on your list of priorities, since it is an unproven assertion with no substantial ( or even unsubstantial) body of evidence to lend it any credibility."

All scientific hypotheses are unproven assertions at some point in their history.

The Theory of evolution was such an idea- there was a time when it had "no substantial ( or even unsubstantial) body of evidence to lend it any credibility."

If all unproven assertions were to remain at position 1000 no interesting science would ever be done.

10:26 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Allygally,

You said:

"You could say that supporters of ID are most biased of all, since they refuse to accept the overwhelming proof, from 99.9% of the scientific community, from Dover, and from other sources..."

If there was already overwhelming proof of RMNS macro-evolution and a naturalistic origin of life then
biological ID would be a dead parrot.

However if there was overwhelming proof that RMNS macro-evolution was true evolutionists would not trumpet new evidence that supports it to counter ID...they would simply rehearse the already overwhelming proof and if ID people were not convinced by overwhelming proof then that is a demonstration of irrationality in which case an argument is pointless.

By engaging in a debate and by being excited by new supporting evidence evolutionists are being real scientists...but at the same time they are saying that ID is not total nonsence.

10:35 am  
Blogger allygally said...

I said:
"ID will be about number 1000 on your list of priorities, since it is an unproven assertion with no substantial ( or even unsubstantial) body of evidence to lend it any credibility."

Andrew said
"All scientific hypotheses are unproven assertions at some point in their history."

All unproven assertions are not demanding to be taught in schools.

12:32 pm  
Blogger Lifewish said...

The Theory of evolution was such an idea- there was a time when it had "no substantial ( or even unsubstantial) body of evidence to lend it any credibility."

That's not entirely accurate - I'm currently reading Origin of Species (can't believe I never read it before) and it appears that evolutionary theory was articulated as a response to evidence that supported it. So the time when it had no substantial (or even unsubstantial) body of evidence to lend it credibility actually ended some years before RMNS evolution was actually proposed.

If there was already overwhelming proof of RMNS macro-evolution and a naturalistic origin of life then
biological ID would be a dead parrot.


What, in your opinion, would constitute overwhelming evidence? Which bits of evolutionary biology do you think are insufficiently demonstrated (with as much specificity and use of examples as possible, please)?

However if there was overwhelming proof that RMNS macro-evolution was true evolutionists would not trumpet new evidence that supports it to counter ID...they would simply rehearse the already overwhelming proof and if ID people were not convinced by overwhelming proof then that is a demonstration of irrationality in which case an argument is pointless.

This point is taking some thought...

I'll quickly note that I do believe the evidence is overwhelming. In particular, I'm fairly sure the evidence is conclusive that RMNS evolution can achieve some impressive stuff, that the "design" of modern lifeforms is more characteristic of RMNS evolution than of intelligent design, and that change has historically occurred in a fashion that's compatible with RMNS evolution (which you wouldn't necessarily expect if a Designer had been involved). I'm also fairly sure that there is no historical or mathematical* evidence for the presence of a designer.

There are a couple of valid reasons for "trumpeting" new evidence. Firstly, it stops people thinking of evolutionary biology as resting on its laurels, and of research into this area having started and ended with Darwin. This is a completely false impression - evolutionary biology is a quite ridiculously active field at the moment - but the prominence of words like "Darwinist" in creationist and ID output indicates that it's a message that could do with more repeating. Next thing you know, they're saying evolutionary biology is a priesthood and then it's all over bar the shouting.

Secondly, there's always the chance that some new piece of evidence will be the straw that breaks the camel's back, or the lasso that drags the ostrich's head out the sand, or some other metaphor.

Thirdly, it's a fun way for the evolutionary biology community to show off a little. Academics don't get to do that much.

I would also disagree that argument is completely pointless if someone has failed to accept the existing evidence. Firstly, as I said, there's always the chance that they'll eventually change their position. That's why I come to this blog - I get the impression that many of the pro-ID participants have a degree of intellectual honesty such that, if I put forward my case convincingly enough, they'll accept it. This is one of the reasons why debating here is so intellectually rewarding.

Secondly, pointing out obvious refutations of dodgy arguments is a necessary chore to prevent the next generation being taken in by them. Hence TalkOrigins. Sadly, a lie can often run around the world before the truth has got its boots on.

* As a maths student who has now read a decent amount of Dembski literature, I can now officially endorse Wolpert's characterisation of Dembski's maths as "written in Jello". More info available on request.

4:24 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

* As a maths student who has now read a decent amount of Dembski literature, I can now officially endorse Wolpert's characterisation of Dembski's maths as "written in Jello". More info available on request.

Yes please!

What sort of certainty level are you at ...between 1-10 (10 being willing to stake your life on it)?

11:01 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

The Theory of evolution was such an idea- there was a time when it had "no substantial ( or even unsubstantial) body of evidence to lend it any credibility."

That's not entirely accurate - I'm currently reading Origin of Species (can't believe I never read it before) and it appears that evolutionary theory was articulated as a response to evidence that supported it. So the time when it had no substantial (or even unsubstantial) body of evidence to lend it credibility actually ended some years before RMNS evolution was actually proposed.

It depends really where you start….

If you start with Epicurus and Lucretius then I am right… at least they did not present evidence in the way that Darwin did.

Which bits of evolutionary biology do you think are insufficiently demonstrated (with as much specificity and use of examples as possible, please)?

1. Abiogenesis (often connected with evolution both in the popular culture and even in science education.)
2. The origin of “morphological complexity” - complex pathways which have a whole series of stages through which development passes in order to reach complex organs and organ systems.
3. The origin of complex control systems for gene expression.
4. The origin of photosynthesis.
5. The origin of motility.
6. The origin of flight.
7. The origin of complex behaviour patterns- eg. Bee behaviour, migration in fish and birds etc.
8. The major historical transitions between major groups of organisms. E.g. I would not regard the evidence for common descent of humans with apes as conclusive as opposed to common design.
9. The origin sexual reproduction.

Do you regard the evidence for these as overwhelming or are you extrapolating from other areas?

11:03 am  
Blogger Lifewish said...

What sort of certainty level are you at ...between 1-10 (10 being willing to stake your life on it)?

Currently my certainty level is 9 out of 10 that Dembski's maths is icky*, and 7 out of 10 that it's just plain wrong.

The reason why the second score is significantly lower is because I was just reading about Louis de Branges, who managed to prove the Bieberbach conjecture despite having an absolutely atrocious mathematical style. It should be noted that:

1) De Branges is very much the exception rather than the rule. In fact, he differs qualitatively from actual cranks, although it'll take a minor treatise in mathematical problem-solving to successfully articulate the difference.

2) De Branges' subsequent attempts to solve the Riemann hypothesis have not only failed dismally but, because of his completely incomprehensible style, have failed to contribute anything to the sum total of mathematical knowledge. So definitely not the best role model.

However, I'll consider him a cautionary tale, hence the lower score of 7 out of 10. I fully expect that subsequent reading will raise this score, but that'll require my having a bunch more afternoons free to sit in the university library and finish The Design Inference.

* This is a rather bad attempt to translate the same visceral reaction that Wolpert is referring to with his Jello comment. Dembski's maths is fuzzy in a world where neat edges are everything. It makes pronouncements, such as the Explanatory Filter, without any mathematical backing whatsoever. For something as broad-ranging as the EF, I'd have expected him to at least start discussing logical foundations and philosophy of science. To skip right over that stuff, in what's supposed to be a groundbreaking mathematical monograph, is Bad And Wrong.

3:02 am  
Blogger Lifewish said...

Thanks for making the distinction between evolutionary biology and abiogenesis plain. I'm currently discussing evolution with another guy I met online and everytime he conflates the two it sets my teeth on edge. It's good to come back to this blog where people consistently know what the terms actually mean! :)

Do you regard the evidence for these as overwhelming or are you extrapolating from other areas?

I am not personally aware of any evidence for most of these, so in stating that I accept the conclusions of the scientific community I would indeed be extrapolating from other areas. I'll do some more research when I have a moment, though.

A couple of clarification questions: when you say "motility", are we talking bacterial flagella or animal legs? I believe that there's a decent evolutionary pathway for the latter, based in substantial part on the behaviour of the lungfish (which is in kind of a transitional state between fish and land animals).

Also, when you say flight, which specific example are we talking about? Pterodactyl, bat, bird, beetle or something else entirely?

(As an aside I'd note that these various instances of flight are evidence against common design as I understand it, since all the implementations are structurally different despite being morphologically similar. Coincidentally, this is more or less exactly what we'd expect if they'd evolved independently.)

Final question:
The major historical transitions between major groups of organisms. E.g. I would not regard the evidence for common descent of humans with apes as conclusive as opposed to common design.

What scientific evidence for common design are you aware of? I'm thinking specifically of examples that wouldn't be predicted by evolutionary biology. Sharing of DNA between species that are morphologically similar but that come from very different branches of the tree of life would constitute an example - others available on request to avoid clogging the thread.

Also, does it count for anything that confirmed predictions* have been drawn from the hypothesised close relationship between modern-day apes and humans?

* A terminology note: when I say "confirmed predictions" I mean predictions that were made in print and later confirmed.

3:18 am  
Blogger Lifewish said...

9. The origin sexual reproduction.

I should note that I'm currently reading a rather good book on this: "The Red Queen" by Matt Ridley. His extremely-thoroughly-discussed assertion appears to be that sexual reproduction is a necessary evil to stay one step ahead of parasites - I'll give more details when I've finished the thing. This book comes recommended by a Cambridge uni bionatsci (biological natural sciences student) so should be worth reading.

4:34 pm  

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