Monday, May 25, 2009
Doublethink Double Redux
Okay, Donald James Parker is not Willaim Dembski. Heck, he's not even Casey Luskin. But as an advocate for Intelligent Design Creationism not steeped in the misdirection so meticulously crafted by the Discovery Institute, his arguments are, in many ways, more revealing than what we get from those stalwarts of ID. Plus, there is a certain amusement in his flailings.
Despite having promised not to address ID again at the end of his last post, he's back again, after having gotten the relentlessly pedagogical Ken Miller to respond to an email. Parker posed three statements (apparently unable to pose a straightforward syllogism) and asked Miller if they were illogical:
A. God exists and created all things – which Miller believes
B. people, animals, and plants are things – which everybody knows
C. There is no design or designer for people, animals, or plants, and anyone who claims such a thing is endangering the soul of America (according to the hype for Miller's new book).
Does anyone else see the lack of logic? This seems pretty straight forward to me. Anyone who believes that God created everything yet argues against design must be saying that God created it, but he didn't design it. That's sounds like as slippery a slope as any I've ever seen. Perhaps I'd not heard that scientists were allowed to speak like politicians – out of both sides of their mouths.
As I drove to Church this morning, I thanked God for the beautiful sunrise that appeared in New England today after a stormy evening. When I acknowledge God as the creator of all things, that gorgeous sunrise is included. However, it's a fact that the cold front sweeping through the northeast pushed out last night's moisture, and that natural causes were the direct cause of the sunrise. We could go further, and explain the beautiful reds and blues in the sky as the product of refraction and light scattering…. In other words, that sunrise had a natural cause. It was not created directly by God. Nonetheless, God, who is the author of all things natural, is ultimately responsible for it.
Parker does get Miller's point to a degree, noting that such a definition of design "means that the Creator at least designed the laws which bring about the effects we see," a point I think Miller would agree to. But how could that possibly be a scientific conclusion that should be taught in public schools? Quite apart from the mention of a "Creator" running afoul of the Establishment Clause, Parker is still humping his ridiculously restrictive definition of science, which somehow excludes historic sciences, such as police forensics and archeology, but he has now added to it by excluding anything that "can not be reproduced by experiment or falsified in a test tube." So, according to Mr. Parker, astronomy, geology, plate tectonics, volcanology and the like are not "real" sciences and are just "conjecture based on circumstantial evidence and what I refer to as wishless thinking." By that standard, however, the notion of a creator that created the laws of the universe is an equally unscientific idea that cannot be taught in public schools.
Of course, Parker's definition of science or other forms of reliable knowledge is silly even on his own terms. Besides the fact that we find circumstantial evidence a good enough basis to execute people, what does Mr. Parker think such a standard would do to any arguments for the historicity of Jesus? Nor can the assertion of a designer of the laws of nature meet the correct definition of science, since it cannot be tested by the means available to science.
Speaking of logic, having declared that evolution is not science, he then says this:
ID people are not averse to allowing evolution to be taught. Why are evolutionists so paranoid about competition for their theories?
There is a simple reason why the opposite is not true: evolution, as science, can and should be taught in public schools but ID, as religion, cannot be taught as true in public schools under our Constitution. It can be taught in churches and religious schools or even in comparative religion classes in public schools, though. Why is that not good enough? ... unless they know that their religion, without the imprimatur of government, can't stand the competition of science? No doubt sensing his loss on all these fronts, the best he can do in the end is beg for mercy for his beliefs:
William Jennings Bryan had the solution to this dilemma back in 1925. He suggested that the science classes just shy away from discussion of origins. I'm sure there are more than enough facts about the millions of species on this planet to stuff kids' heads without bringing up points of conjecture.
In the end, Parker's arguments, as is the case with all creationists, are inconsistent and ad hoc attempts to save his beliefs from science -- either by using other peoples' tax money to bolster them or, in the alternative, by depriving children of the knowledge of the world that might save them from the kind of muddled thinking Parker exhibits. In one case, he is just a sneak thief, trying to pick my pocket; in the other, he wants to rob children of an education, which I would call a kind of child abuse.
Neither motive speaks well for Mr. Parker's fate if, in fact, he winds up before some eternal judge.
What makes it science is forming a predictive model to forecast future observations, whether that predictions is the path of a falling object or where we will find certain type of fossil in the geological column .
That's what I've called the "cosmic oddity shop" model of science, and it's not unique to Parker. I've run into it fairly often over the years. Unfortunately, it's in part a product of the way science is often taught in public schools.
Me too. But I like your name for it, which I will now "borrow" ... with appropriate attribution, of course ... when I remember. ;-)
Incidently, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who was a bit of a polymath, warned that biology was threatening to become stamp collecting in, IIRC, the 1840s. I'm not at home but when I get there I'll post the reference.
Even observing an event in the same room happened picoseconds before you see it. It is just a matter of magnitude.
So many of their arguments are simply things that sound good at first hearing but that they never think trough. To be honest, that happens with pro-science advocates too, such as in "the Second Law of Thermodynamics doesn't apply to open systems" but when the error is pointed out the pro-science types are usually embarrassed and stop using it. My experience is that the same does not happen with creationists.
"In 1934, when the polymath Samuel Taylor Coleridge died, he believed that the science of zoology was in danger of falling apart because of its huge mass of uncoordinated factual information. That was just four years before Darwin picked up Malthus's Essay on the Principle of Population and discovered the clue to natural selection, and thus to the great organizing principle of evolution ..."
The problem of a the "cosmic oddity shop" approach to science has been recognized for a long time.
This blog is a thing.
Ergo, I must bow down to you.
Finally! Someone got the point of all this!