14 / November
14 / November
Monkey Business

Pat Robertson quipped that the citizens of Dover, Pennsylvania, who voted out pro-Intelligent Design school board members, might try praying to Charles Darwin instead of Jesus Christ should a disaster strike the town. Richard L. Cravatts, who teaches at Boston University and Tufts University, compares proponents of Intelligent Design to Holocaust deniers. Both sides of this debate have their share of hyperbole, zealotry, and demonization, which leaves little room for actual science.

Darwin's theory of evolution is a theory of evolution, but some of its proponents treat it as a religion of evolution. In doing so, they play the role of dogmatist that they project upon their opponents. Consider the argument of Dr. Cravatts, who writes: "The intelligent design adherents, as well as their creationist predecessors, have aggressively attacked evolutionary theory as being no more valid a set of answers than their own explanation of the origin of life; in fact, they contend that evolution is merely a theory, not scientific fact, and therefore open to vigorous debate and scholarly inquiry." What are Darwinists so afraid of that they would close off "vigorous debate" about, and "scholarly inquiry" into, the theory (there is that inconvenient word again) of evolution?

So insecure are the Darwinists that the Kansas State Board of Education's rather sensible decision to introduce materials into the curriculum critical of the theory of evolution, which, in the board's own words, "do not include Intelligent Design," became a target of attack. "We're becoming a laughingstock," board member Janet Waugh lamented, "not only of the nation but of the world." The Washington Post, the Seattle Times, and other news outlets incorrectly reported that the Kansas board mandated the teaching of Intelligent Design, which it clearly and explicitly does not. "Regarding the scientific theory of biological evolution," the board states, "the curriculum standards call for students to learn about the best evidence for modern evolutionary theory, but also to learn about areas where scientists are raising scientific criticisms of the theory." In other words, the board mandates teaching evolution but does not mandate teaching Intelligent Design. Any number of news reports lead readers to believe the opposite.

Whereas Darwinism contains some holes punched by its critics, Intelligent Design is one big hole. The universe may have been designed by a Supreme Intelligence, but there is no scientific evidence saying this is so. Forget the damage done to science in Intelligent Design's name. By holding matters of faith to scientific standards, Intelligent Design stands to erode belief. Will some Christian next present the scientific case for Jesus walking on water or Moses parting the Red Sea? Just as Darwinists should reflect on the meaning of the word theory, creationists should reflect on the meaning of the word faith.

Supporters of Intelligent Design demote faith to science. Darwinists elevate science to faith. Both camps would be best served by staying within their own realm.

posted at 01:02 AM
Comments

"...Intelligent Design is one big hole. The universe may have been designed by a Supreme Intelligence, but there is no scientific evidence saying this is so. Forget the damage done to science in Intelligent Design's name. By holding matters of faith to scientific standards, Intelligent Design stands to erode belief. Will some Christian next present the scientific case for Jesus walking on water or Moses parting the Red Sea?"

I think you're being a bit unfair here, Dan. Intelligent Design does not necessarily lead to God belief. In his cross examination during the Dover Trial, Michael Behe (a proponent of ID) said the following:

Q. Dr. Behe, I first want to review with you the opinions you tend to offer in this case before we get to the basis of those opinions, okay?
A. Yes.
Q. Sir, do you have an opinion as to whether intelligent design is science?
A. Yes, I do.
Q. And what is that opinion?
A. Yes, it is.
Q. Do you have an opinion as to whether intelligent design makes testable scientific claims?
A. Yes, I do.
Q. What is that opinion?
A. Yes, it does.
Q. Do you have an opinion as to whether intelligent design posits a positive argument for design?
A. Yes, I do.
Q. What is that opinion?
A. Yes, it does.
Q. Do you have an opinion as to whether intelligent design requires the action of a supernatural creator?
A. Yes, I do.
Q. And what is that opinion?
A. No, it doesn't.
Q. Do you have an opinion as to whether intelligent design is young-earth creationism?
A. Yes, I do.
Q. What is that opinion?
A. No, it isn't.
Q. Do you have an opinion as to whether intelligent design is old-earth creationism?
A. Yes, I do.
Q. And, sir, what is that opinion?
A. No, it isn't.
Q. Do you have an opinion as to whether intelligent design is special creationism?
A. Yes, I do.
Q. And what is that opinion?
A. No, it isn't.
Q. Do you have an opinion as to whether intelligent design is a religious belief?
A. Yes, I do.
Q. What is that opinion?
A. No, it isn't.
Q. Do you have an opinion as to whether Darwin's theory of evolution is a fact?
A. Yes, I do.
Q. What is that opinion?
A. No, it isn't.
Q. Do you have an opinion as to whether there are gaps and problems with Darwin's theory of evolution?
A. Yes, I do.
Q. What is that opinion?
A. Yes, there are.
Q. Do you have an opinion as to whether making students aware that Darwin's theory is not a fact promotes good science education?
A. Yes, I do.
Q. What is that opinion?
A. Yes, it does.
Q. Do you have an opinion as to whether making students aware of gaps and problems with Darwin's theory of evolution promotes good science education?
A. Yes, I do.
Q. What is that opinion?
A. Yes, it does.
Q. Do you have an opinion as to whether making students aware of intelligent design promotes good science education?
A. Yes, I do.
Q. And what is that opinion?
A. Yes, it does.
Q. And, sir, do you have an opinion as to whether providing students with the opportunity to review the book Of Pandas and People promotes good science education?
A. Yes, I do.
Q. What is that opinion?
A. Yes, it does.
Q. Sir, what is intelligent design?
A. Intelligent design is a scientific theory that proposes that some aspects of life are best explained as the result of design, and that the strong appearance of design in life is real and not just apparent.
Q. Now Dr. Miller defined intelligent design as follows: Quote, Intelligent design is the proposition that some aspects of living things are too complex to have been evolved and, therefore, must have been produced by an outside creative force acting outside the laws of nature, end quote. Is that an accurate definition?
A. No, it's a mischaracterization.
Q. Why is that?
A. For two reasons. One is, understandable, that Professor Miller is viewing intelligent design from the perspective of his own views and sees it simply as an attack on Darwinian theory. And it is not that. It is a positive explanation.
And the second mischaracterization is that, intelligent design is a scientific theory. Creationism is a religious, theological idea. And that intelligent design is -- relies rather on empirical and physical and observable evidence plus logical inferences for its entire argument.
Q. Is intelligent design based on any religious beliefs or convictions?
A. No, it isn't.
Q. What is it based on?
A. It is based entirely on observable, empirical, physical evidence from nature plus logical inferences.

Posted by: Frank Walton on November 14, 2005 03:19 AM

Actually, I already had explanations for Jesus walking on the water, and the parting of the Red Sea. See...my ex-nun religion teacher (in my Catholic high-school) wanted us to understand that these were not really miracles...I can only imagine why...

For instance, Jesus walking on the water was probably a sand bank or ledge of some sort. And Moses didn't part the Red Sea. The Israelites waited until the Red Sea was at it's lowest point in the season (which came early -- the miracle part I guess), and then crossed.

Oh, and she went through a tortuously long explanation of how a virgin can become pregnant without the breaking of the hymen, thus explaining how the Virgin Mary probably wasn't really a virgin.

Thus ended my interest in religion for quite some time. See, she didn't convince me to take up her BS position. Rather, since I saw it was CLEARLY personally-motivated BS, it caused me to lose interest in religion totally.

Posted by: Homer J. Fong on November 14, 2005 09:13 AM

Right on, Mr. Dan Flynn. Great post.

Posted by: PMA on November 14, 2005 10:49 AM

"Intelligent Design does not necessarily lead to God belief." -Frank Walton

This is a very interesting claim. Unfortunately, Behe doesn't explain it in what you quoted. According to ID, who is the "intelligent designer" of life if not God?

Posted by: skeptic on November 14, 2005 10:57 AM

Skeptic,

The "intelligent designer" could be 10 foot tall aliens like a scientologist might suspect, or it could be a black monolith like Kubrick might suggest, or it could be the world-force itself or "life-force" of some kind, like a panthiest or eastern mystic might like to talk about. Or it could be what is usually denoted by the term "god." But even if it is "God" what's not to say that it isn't Chronos, or the demiurge, or Allah, or some other concept of God than the Christian triune one? Behe is apparently claiming that ID folk are scientifically agnostic on what/who the designer is, even if personally they may all have their definite opinions of who/what the designer is.

Posted by: Brian on November 14, 2005 11:15 AM

*The filter doesn't like the word a-n-c-e-s-t-r-y.

'Evolution' is a fact and a theory. 'Evolution' in the sense of common a-ncestry is a fact. 'Evolution' in the sense of the mechanism of common a-ncestry (say, mutation and natural selection) is a theory.

"Darwinists should reflect on the meaning of the word theory...." The word 'theory' can have a common, pejorative sense - 'Just a theory' - implying mere opinion or doubt. This is not how the word is used in scientific discourse. Quantum mechanics, for example, is a theory. It is, nonetheless, as certain as inductive claims can be. It's truth is established beyond reasonable doubt, and while (logically speaking) it 'could' be false, it isn't.

"Intelligent Design Theory" is based on the invalid notion that refuting Darwinism entails the confirmation of intelligent design (e.g., Behe's irreducible complexity argument). Thus, it's arguments are purely negative; there are no positive arguments (of the biological variety) in favor of an intelligent designer.

Finally, the truth or falsity of naturalistic evolution (Darwinian or otherwise) and that of Christianity are completely unrelated. Consequently, any attempt to refute 'evolution' in order to defend Christianity is misguided. In other words, Robertson is (and has been) an idiot.

Posted by: Ralph on November 14, 2005 11:18 AM

THe story is explained thusly:
One time Jesus was in a small boat off shore with a couple of fishing buddies when they saw another disciple on the beach. Jesus waved to the disciple to come to the boat and pionted several times down to the water. THe deciple's enthusiasm took over and he plunged into the water and immediately began to sink. Jesus poimnted down to the water again and said, "on the rocks, stupid."
Guido

Posted by: Guido on November 14, 2005 11:42 AM

Brian: Regress. If ID is right, then the problem they've got reiterates until we reach an intelligent being who is not created, nor could he (per ID hypothesis) arise spontaneously. What would you call Him? To say that the IDer of ID theory is not God, is absurd.

Posted by: skeptic on November 14, 2005 12:03 PM

Dan Flynn writes "The universe may have been designed by a Supreme Intelligence, but there is no scientific evidence saying this is so." While this is true in the strict sense of "scientific evidence," in that sense it is also true of Darwinism. Science is the process of proposing hypotheses and falsifying them through experiments. To be falsifiable hypotheses must assert continuing phenomena, not one time historical facts. To the extent that neo-Darwinian and Intelligent Design theorist posit unique explanations of the past, neither are "scientific."

Of course both go on to add b.s. criteria like Occam's razor or materialism or community consensus to what is "science." When they do that they are adding highly subjective probabilistic elements to the defintion of science. The problem here, as "Bayes Theorem" correctly implies, is that which explanations one finds most probable after looking at the evidence depends on one's "a priori" probabilities.

Given all that, there is still little doubt that Darwin's theories would not have been as widely adopted in the scientific community had those nineteenth century scientists been as knowledgable about the complexities of life as we are. That they pinned scientific prestige on Darwin in their fight with creationists partially explains their current "a priori" probabilites.

Posted by: DocMcG on November 14, 2005 12:45 PM

Skeptic,

A true ID scientist would respond that perhaps evolution or random chance or some prior flawed resident of some prior flawed universe from a "past" before the "big bang" created some intelligence that designed life in our part of the universe. This would not contradict their essential claim that the life that we know has only an infinitesimally small possibility of being generated through random processes, given our current knowledge of our universe.

Posted by: DocMcG on November 14, 2005 01:01 PM

Doc: "To be falsifiable hypotheses must assert continuing phenomena, not one time historical facts."

Not quite. I havn't seen a big bang anytime lately, but I'm pretty sure the results of experiments involving spectrum shifts, background radiation and the like confirm (but could have falsified) big bang theory.

As long as a past event has present effects that can be measured, hypotheses about the past event can be tested.

Posted by: Ralph on November 14, 2005 01:02 PM

Ralph,

The difference between the phrases "present effects that can be measured" and "continuing phenomena" is too small to argue about. In either case those are the things which constitute the falsifiable portions of the assertion and all elaborations or explanations of their causes which cannot be falsified by other theoretically possible measurements and which are logically equally capable of producing and helping predict "present effects" or "continuing phenomena" should be considered equally "scientific."

Posted by: DocMcG on November 14, 2005 02:04 PM

DocMcG: If there is an intelligent designer of "the life that we know" then he will either (a) be created by another IDer, (b) arise spontaneously, or (c) exist in himself, not having a beginning in space-time. To avoid the regress (a) will lead to (b) or (c) eventually. Now the claim that "the life that we know" is too complex to have arisen spontaneously absolutely militates against claim (b), that the IDer of the life that we know could have arisen spontaneously. To design "the life that we know" is far beyond OUR capacities; if our capacities are too complex to have arisen spontaneously then the development of our creator's more complex capacities hardly seem explanable by spontaneous generation. That leads us to position (c). Now, I don't but ID, but I think it is rather disingenuous of them to claim that the IDer would not merit the name God.

Posted by: Skeptic on November 14, 2005 02:48 PM

Ralph: why are you using words like "confirm" and "fact" about the big bang and common descent. These are matters of abduction from rather indirect evidence, and though I basically believe both of them, I think you are just abusing words. They are just theories, and by that I don't mean "mere opinion", I mean an unproved (even if highly substantiated) explanation of known phenomenon by means of otherwise unknown phenomena.

Posted by: skeptic on November 14, 2005 02:53 PM

Skeptic,

You seem then to not be saying anything of note.

Why must ID'ers, qua scientists, deal with the logical regress you mention? Their argument seems to only go so far as to indicate that "intelligent design" of life is a reasonable conclusion demanded by the evidence available. Calling it "God" to satisfy your demand, or to set themselves up for attack by secularists and religious skeptics, doesn't tell us anything at all about the nature of this "intelligent designer." All we have to go on is what the ID'er has already indicated the evidence suggests. I am putting to the side here whether or not empirical evidence suggests the truth of the intelligent design theory, but where is there any scientific indication from their claims of the content of the concept "intelligent designer" or even "God"?

In order for the ID'er as scientist to deal with your regress they would need to have more evidence of the content of what they call the "intelligent designer." But they don't have this and so they don't worry about it. In fact, I think this is the point of Hume's critique of the argument from design as an argument for the existence of God. Hume points out that the arg. from design makes an ana-logy between human designed machines, which reflect intelligence, and natural "designed" things which reflect an intelligent God. He then points out that even if they reflect a designer why not stretch the ana-logy between human designed machines and divine ones. Since clocks can be designed poorly what's not to say that "God" didn't totally botch up the universe, and since human intelligence is limited, what's not to say that divine intelligence is similarly finite, or since several people can work together to create some machine why could there not exist multiple gods who together created the world.

The regress you point out is only of interest in order to argue for a particular understanding of the nature of God as opposed to other people's, or other religion's understandings of God.

Posted by: Brian on November 14, 2005 03:15 PM

Skeptic,

The problem with your response to Doc is that in order to move from the initial "intelligent designer" ID'ers claim is indicated by empirical biological evidence given in this world, to a further "intelligent designer" of the initial one we would need more empirical evidence of the initial "designer." But all that the ID'er is saying is indicated by the given evidence is the reasonableness of some sort of intelligent designer as an explanation of what we see here on earth. So if no claims of positive content of the initial "intelligent designer" are made then your demands that this thing be called "God" don't even arise.

Posted by: Brian on November 14, 2005 03:30 PM

Hi Dan,

You are mistaken about the nature of Biblical Faith. In a biblical context the word faith (a rendering of the greek work pistis) is "a belief based on convincing evidence".

I agree it is not science, but it is a belief held on the basis of convincing evidence, not inspite of or in the absence of such evidence.

Jason

Posted by: Jason on November 14, 2005 04:00 PM

Skeptic,

I suppose the proper definition of 'fact' is a contentious question. A narrow definition of 'fact' would be the complex referent of an observation statement. Accordingly, observation is a necessary condition for facthood. While I am sympathetic with this definition in other contexts, it seems too stringent here.

That George Washington was the first president of the United States, for example, is a fact. Though it could be construed as a well supported hypothesis.

And your right about confirmation. Strictly speaking, I should say (a la Popper) that hypotheses are 'tested'.

Posted by: Ralph on November 14, 2005 04:50 PM

Jason: "In a biblical context the word faith (a rendering of the greek work pistis) is 'a belief based on convincing evidence'."

What kind of evidence? According to Hebrews 11:1 (KJV) faith is "the evidence of things not seen," i.e., extra-sensory evidence.

Posted by: Ralph on November 14, 2005 05:00 PM

lets all bow our heads for the late Eddy Guerrero who was found dead in his hotel room sunday! rip

Posted by: morris on November 14, 2005 05:20 PM

Ralph,

Logic and love, among other things, are not seen, yet give evidence.

Posted by: DocMcG on November 14, 2005 05:23 PM

great post.

one point I'd add is that I don't think that believers in Darwinism really treat it as a religion. However, I do think that a lot of liberals who know nothing about evolution, love to use the issue as an excuse to beat up on evangelical christians. The truth is that they themselves seem to be the most averse to the implications of Darwinism.

Interestingly enough, in the famous Scopes case, Williams Jennings Bryan opposed teaching evolution not so much on scientific grounds, but on the basis that Darwinian thinking led to justifications of eugenics, laissez faire capitalism, and war- things that most liberals would also oppose.

Posted by: Marcus on November 14, 2005 05:43 PM

"Logic and love ... are not seen, yet give evidence."

No and no. Logic is not hypothetical; it does not 'give' evidence at all. Love, on the other hand, is surely seen.

Posted by: Ralph on November 14, 2005 06:13 PM

> but some of its proponents treat it as a religion of evolution. In doing so,
> they play the role of dogmatist that they project upon their opponents.

Which ones? Please list them, not just repeat the same bullshit the ID people do to bolster their non-existant science. And for your information, despite all the idiot crap about how some or any scienctists are being dogmatic, science manages to keep plugging along. There is even on theory that suggests that species may in high stress generate some changes 'based on the environment'. Yep! That's right, intelligently guided evolution. But its still not Intelligent Design, which is nothing more than religion bullshit. Even Behe, which Frank Walton quotes, seems to love to leave out both the multiple times Behe contradicted himself, the multiple times those advocating it proved it was nothing *but* religion that drove them, Behe's own statement that he believes God did it, **and** the absolute complete and total lack of any evidence that they even have a theory, let alone evidence. The only people treating evolution as religion are religious fundimentalists, who know they can't compete with it unless they lie, distort facts, oversimplify the science by falsely claiming that evolution still has anything more to do with Darwin than modern chemistry has to do with alchemy, then try to claim that *no evidence* is the equivalent of tens of thousands of studies, hundreds of thousands of published evidence and millions of experiments. Not to mention that evolution has been used to 'predict' what we will find, and its been found. ID's only prediction is, "One day you will be sorry, because we are right!" Sure.... And when that happens, then it will be 'science'. Right now it is nothing but infitile whining by a small minority of fundimentalists that want to use evolution as a wedge to replace ***all*** parts of science with the equivalent of Church approved Astrology, which Behe also said in his testimony, "is a science by my definition."

And Kansas didn't introduce anything that criticises it, they redefined science to include, "Any stupid nonsense someone says is real, even if there is no current, or ever can be, any physical evidence of it." That is the problem the scientific community had. The idea that evolution is seen as flawless and isn't being debated is pure nonsense. It is, but its based on 'evidence', not conjecture about what someone can't find, because they are somehow not looking for it, but not even the advocates of the alternative 'can', 'will', or 'are able' to look for. The most idiotic joke I have seen in this entire thing is some IDiots saying insane shit like, "Evolution isn't challenged by scientists!", then two sentences later, "But if it was a perfect theory, why is there stuff like punctuated equalibrium?" Because it *is* being challenged by scientists maybe?!?

There are times Flynn that you can be a total incompetent. But then, when ever some clown with little or no understanding of something insists of expressing they opinion of which side they 'think' is right, while having made no attempt to find out what the #@$@#$ truth about the situation is, that tends to happen. Ignorance is not a defensible position when arguing about the validity or supposed dogmatic nature of a subject that takes at least 6-8 years to just get the education, then maybe 2-6 more to get past washing test tubes for *real* biologist. This isn't car repair, or even jet aircraft maintainence, both of which you could probably learn in six months (or at least gain basic competence in), for which most people posting here, including Flynn, are probably also not qualified to comment on.

Posted by: Kagehi on November 14, 2005 06:41 PM

Denyse O'Leary (award winning authur of "By Design or By Chance?: The Growing Controversy On The Origins Of Life In The Universe") responds to Dan Flynn's blog:

Pat Robertson quipped that the citizens of Dover, Pennsylvania, who voted out pro-Intelligent Design school board members, might try praying to Charles Darwin instead of Jesus Christ should a disaster strike the town. Richard L. Cravatts, who teaches at Boston University and Tufts University, compares proponents of Intelligent Design to Holocaust deniers. Both sides of this debate have their share of hyperbole, zealotry, and demonization, which leaves little room for actual science.

[From Denyse: Well, as you may know, I described Robertson as a moonbat in my blog on the Catholic Church and ID. I've never heard of Cravatts, but thanks for the hat tip and will I look him out. Re Robertson, I can't imagine why he isn't in trouble in his own religious denomination for freelance propheteering, but my focus, as a journalist, is primarily on how the controversies are covered.]

Darwin's theory of evolution is a theory of evolution, but some of its proponents treat it as a religion of evolution. In doing so, they play the role of dogmatist that they project upon their opponents. Consider the argument of Dr. Cravatts, who writes: "The intelligent design adherents, as well as their creationist predecessors, have aggressively attacked evolutionary theory as being no more valid a set of answers than their own explanation of the origin of life; in fact, they contend that evolution is merely a theory, not scientific fact, and therefore open to vigorous debate and scholarly inquiry." What are Darwinists so afraid of that they would close off "vigorous debate" about, and "scholarly inquiry" into, the theory (there is that inconvenient word again) of evolution?

[From Denyse: Darwinist Michael Ruse has often commented on the extent to which Darwinism has become a religion for some key science boffins. Indeed, when I was on a recent TV program, a local boffin who appeared against me announced that he was going to phone Ruse and tell him to QUIT saying that, because it was upsetting people and giving them ideas. Now, what does that tell you?]

So insecure are the Darwinists that the Kansas State Board of Education's rather sensible decision to introduce materials into the curriculum critical of the theory of evolution, which, in the board's own words, "do not include Intelligent Design," became a target of attack. "We're becoming a laughingstock," board member Janet Waugh lamented, "not only of the nation but of the world." The Washington Post, the Seattle Times, and other news outlets incorrectly reported that the Kansas board mandated the teaching of Intelligent Design, which it clearly and explicitly does not. "Regarding the scientific theory of biological evolution," the board states, "the curriculum standards call for students to learn about the best evidence for modern evolutionary theory, but also to learn about areas where scientists are raising scientific criticisms of the theory." In other words, the board mandates teaching evolution but does not mandate teaching Intelligent Design. Any number of news reports lead readers to believe the opposite.

[From Denyse: Yes, and that was what first attracted me to this issue. The apparent inability of media to get simple stories right. Contrary to worldwide publicity, the Kansas folk are NOT trying to prevent the teaching of evolution; they are trying to have it taught without all the baggage that caused the world's most famous Darwinist, Richard Dawkins, to say that Darwin made it intellectually fulfilling to be an atheist. What fulfils Richard Dawkins is, not to put too fine a point on it, no one else's concern. Put another way: What if Darwin had not made it fulfilling for Dawkins, or anyone, to be an atheist. So?]

Whereas Darwinism contains some holes punched by its critics, Intelligent Design is one big hole. The universe may have been designed by a Supreme Intelligence, but there is no scientific evidence saying this is so. Forget the damage done to science in Intelligent Design's name. By holding matters of faith to scientific standards, Intelligent Design stands to erode belief. Will some Christian next present the scientific case for Jesus walking on water or Moses parting the Red Sea? Just as Darwinists should reflect on the meaning of the word theory, creationists should reflect on the meaning of the word faith.

[From Denyse: Here, I think your columnist has gone off a cliff.

If some features of current life forms cannot be derived from a Darwinian mechanism, what then? If they cannot be derived from any mechanism that excludes design, what then? How do we get from there to Jesus walking on water? Or Moses parting the Red Sea? These latter events are commonly held to be divine interventions that are not explicable in ordinary terms, but it does not follow that all other events in the universe take place without any design. That may be true, but it must be demonstrated, not asserted as a fact. it is worth noting that design need not be a miracle or inexplicable. It may simply be a natural factor in the universe.]

Supporters of Intelligent Design demote faith to science. Darwinists elevate science to faith. Both camps would be best served by staying within their own realm.

[From Denyse: Personally, I would settle for an end to the systematic persecution of anyone who researches design. I was pleased to see that Barbara Bradley Hagerty of national Public Radio has begun to write about the modern McCarthyism (persecuting anyone associated with design advocacy), and will blog on that when I get a moment. Hope this helps, cheers, Denyse]

Posted by: Frank Walton on November 14, 2005 07:16 PM

Kagehi: "Which ones? Please list them...."

Well, Huxley, Dawkins and Dennett come to mind.

"...oversimplify the science by falsely claiming that evolution still has anything more to do with Darwin than modern chemistry has to do with alchemy...."

That's absurd. Make that statement at Pandas Thumb or Talk Origins and you'll get laughed off the board. Of course modern evolutionary biology is Darwinian at its core - natural selection (Darwin's mechanism) is still viewed as the primary mechanism of evolutionary change.

"But then, whenever some clown with little or no understanding of something...."

I believe this is called 'projecting'.

"Ignorance is not a defensible position when arguing about the validity or supposed dogmatic nature of a subject that takes at least 6-8 years to just get the education, then maybe 2-6 more to get past washing test tubes for real biologist."

You speak with such authority. I'd be curious to see your CV. Given your grammar, I'd say you havn't seen your first test tube yet. Piece of advice: drop the hyperbole and try some civility.

Posted by: Ralph on November 14, 2005 07:54 PM

Brian: "You seem then to not be saying anything of note." Well, yes, mine is an obvious point. But it is worth saying when people (you, DocMcG, Behe, and Frank Walton) are contradicting it.

And the regress is not in some way accidental to the ID theorist: it starts immediately and everyone knows it. (NB ID theory is making "claims of positive content of the initial intelligent designer." If not, what is the point of postulating him?) Were ID successful, this particular regress couldn't ever prove one infinite and perfect God (let alone adjudicate the claims made by various monotheistic religions about Him), but it certainly would prove the exist of at least one being worthy of the name God.

To say that ID if right wouldn't prove God's existence is just downright disingenuous.

Posted by: skeptic on November 14, 2005 08:10 PM

Skeptic,

I didn't mean for the "not saying anything of note" to sound so harsh, my apologies. But you again insist that it is "disingenuous" to not call the Int Designer God and I don't understand why you insist it is. If God is defined as "the intelligent being that created biological life" or expand that to cover the entire universe as I suppose some who argue from creation to God's existence would do; then, okay, sure, the ID is God. But Behe et. al., seem to think it is needlessly misleading to say that since, I am positive in his case since I know he is a Catholic and read his book, they just don't think that the inference of an "intelligent designer" is enough to give one the concept of "God" as it is traditionally understood. Hume points out the same problem to philosophers who try to make use of the arg. from design to prove God's existence.

Maybe you are just arguing this tact b/c you want to see the arg. from design as a vindication of theism. I think that the arg is part of a group of rational arguments for the existence of God but it still isn't disingenuous for a Behe to say that "well, the evidence of irreducible complexity and the mathematical problems of all theories of gradual evolutionary change makes drastic leaps forward guided by some kind of ID a probable conclusion and a reasonable one. What exactly that ID is like is anyone's guess." Isn't Behe taking the evidence as far as he thinks he can take it as a scientist? What is disingenuous about that? So what if logical reflection about what an intelligent designer would be like leads to the reasonableness of belief in God? I agree that it does do that logically but it doesn't do that demonstratively. Standing alone the arg. from design isn't terribly persuasive for the religious skeptic, it certainly doesn't overcome Hume's agnosticism and rightly so. If one can still reasonably be agnostic about God's existence even if one allows that evidence of intelligent design is present then why would it be disningenuous for some scientist to take that into account and not demand that people believe more than what he can provide evidence for?

As for the regress starting immediately and "everyone knows it" what is the significance of that, I don't see it? The same thing happens when the Big Bang is posited as the beginning of our universe. Logically the question follows, but what started the Big Bang? What was there before it? And lo and behold we have ourselves a regress. So what? The cosmologist says at that point, well so far the Big Bang theory is the best I can do, I don't know what came before it. Likewise the ID theorist says well, I think the evidence points to some sort of intelligent design but what it is like I just can't say.

I think I just am not following the significance of your point about the regress or something.

Isn't that sort of humble science a good thing?

Posted by: Brian on November 15, 2005 01:36 AM

Brian: I am assuming that ID doesn't work, but it would start the regress if it did. "What is the significance of that?" Well, this: if Behe's argument about ID worked it would prove pretty obviously that some being existed whom any sane person would call "God". That is, this particular regress would prove the existence of some intelligent being who created complex life (or created the thing that created life, etc.) and in turn was not created by anything nor arose through evolution. This is a very traditional understanding of God.

Behe thinks he is proving an Intelligent Designer. What does Behe think the Intelligent Designer looks like, Donkey Kong? I'm sorry, but if the eye is too complex to arise spontaneously, then so is Donkey Kong or any other creator.

Posted by: skeptic on November 15, 2005 12:53 PM

"I am assuming that ID doesn't work...."

A good assumption. The ID argument is essentially this: Not Darwinian evolution, therefore, intelligent design. The problem is that the implicit premise of this destructive dilemma - either Dariwinian evolution or intelligent design - is false (or, at best, indeterminate).

For the argument to work, 'Darwinian evolution' would have to be logically equivalent to 'not intelligent design'. It is not; end of story.

Posted by: Ralph on November 15, 2005 01:05 PM

Skeptic,

It still doesn't start the regress like you claim as Hume pointed out 200 plus years ago.

The whole issue is what any "sane" person would call God. I wouldn't call twelve foot aliens God but they conceivably fit the bill as an "intelligent designer." The whole point is that Behe doesn't think he can prove anything about the ID other than it(s) is intelligent and a designer. Like Hume points out, all that means is that Behe has established that nature exhibits a level of design ana-logous to human design of machines (if in fact he has). But even after establishing "design" as an empirical fact (if it can be done), then making that ana-logical leap from human intelligent design to nature's intelligent design does not establish the existence of anything that a "sane" person (taken as higher than your apparent low standard for sanity) would call God. Yes, there will exist the logical regress if one asks further questions about the ID, for example: "what is the intelligent designer like? You say 12 foot tall aliens, well then how did they arise? Clearly some earlier intelligent designer . . ." And so on until one gets to "God" as the purely subsistent creator. But Behe doesn't prove 12 foot tall aliens or any other specific kind of ID at all with his argument, so the regress doesn't come up as a practical matter b/c it exists only as a matter of logic and metaphysics, not as a matter of empirical science. The empirical evidence Behe claims to be following points to an ID as an explanation for the effect of design which he thinks cannot be explained under current gradualist evolutionary models. But the empirical evidence doesn't thereby reveal any direct information about the attributes of the ID which would make Behe, qua scientist, face up to the problem of a regress.

Actually, the regress you are pointing to is just the logical regress of Aquinas's second way, and it is a problem that in order to be consistent you have to apply to evolutionists just as well as to ID'ers. That regress crops up once the materialist scientist gets back to the Big Bang as I pointed out above, and it is the exact same problem you are saying someone like Behe is disingenuously avoiding. I rather think this state of affairs is just an expected result of what passes as science in modernity; the scientist is expected to stop his inquiry when it knocks up against metaphysics.

Posted by: Brian on November 15, 2005 10:56 PM

I'm sorry Brian; you can't just tell me that the regress doesn't start. You have to give me a reason. My argument is stronger than the one that Hume is attacking, because we are assuming for this argument that Behe's premise is true the life we know of proves a designer. Once given this premise, you can't really hold back the flood gates of the regress. (BTW I don't buy that premise.)

I don't know whether or not it is empirical to ask about the origin of this IDer. I'm just applying Behe's original argument about the life we know to his conclusion about this intelligent creator-life.

We could look at it this way: We are playing with probablilities, right? When Behe say's "can't" he means "really really super improbable"? Certainly, the IDer's evolution will be even less probable than a dog's evolution. If probablilities were to prove an IDer of the life we know, it would lead inevitably to an IDer for the IDer.

Posted by: skeptic on November 16, 2005 12:33 AM
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