Monday, November 30, 2009
Darrel Falk is at the Biologos Foundation's blog, Science and the Sacred, with an article that tries to explain how otherwise intelligent and accomplished people in the sciences can accept young-Earth creationism. How good the "explanation" is I will leave to the reader.
What interested me was his description of conversations he had with three YECs with Ph.D.s in science or related fields who Falk refused to name. Here are his descriptions of the three:
Person A ... obtained his Ph.D. in paleontology at the nation's most prestigious university with one of its most prestigious scholars.
Person B ... is well-trained in the field of population genetics and served as a professor in plant genetics at a university which has a long tradition of being the world leader in this discipline. He is also the inventor of a very important biotechnology tool.
Person C ... has a Ph.D, in the history of science from another of the world's best universities. ... [H]e eventually told us he would step away from his position in a "second," if he became convinced that is what God wanted of him [no other description of his "position" is given].
Person C has certain similarities to Stephen Meyer, who has a Ph.D. in the history and philosophy of science from Cambridge, and whose "position" as director of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute would be, even if indirectly described, a dead giveaway. On the other hand, I have never heard that he is a YEC.
Person B I don't know but, annoyingly, I remember recently seeing a creationist described with similar credentials.
Anyway, if anyone has any further or alternative guesses, that's what the comment section is for.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Motorizing the Ol' Goal Posts
It seems that Australians ... or at least a certain Matthew MacDonald among them ... are familiar with the old tradition of moving the goalposts:
Not all discrimination is unjust and not all relationships are the same. Parents love their children – including their adult ones – but the law will not allow them to marry. Would we allow siblings who loved each other to marry – of course not! We discriminate and make distinctions between different kinds of relationships and with good reason. Only the relationship of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others for life can be a marriage.
Women and men are equal in dignity but we are not the same. We are a bit like hydrogen and oxygen – though both are gasses, they are not the same. When mixed they create water. So, too, only the love of a man and a woman, when intimately joined, have the possibility of creating something new – a child. Mixing hydrogen and hydrogen creates nothing – all you have is hydrogen. Only the joining of a man and a woman creates a 'marriage'.
So, it is only the potential to have children that somehow makes a marriage a "marriage." Not quite:
It does not follow that because some couples, either because of age or medical infertility, cannot have children they are the same as a homosexual couple. Their relationship – being between a man and a woman – has by nature the possibility of procreation even if that possibility is never realised. A relationship between two men or two women is of its nature simply not the same as the relationship between a man and a woman and cannot bring forth children.
Let's review the definition of "possibility": 1: the condition or fact of being possible; ... 3: something that is possible; 4: potential or prospective value. Let's even go on to the definition of "potential": 1 a: something that can develop or become actual; b: promise 2: reason to expect something; especially: ground for expectation of success, improvement, or excellence.
So, "possibility" does not mean "actually being possible" and "potential" doesn't mean "something that can develop or become actual" or a "reason to expect success." The words mean, apparently, in Mr. MacDonald's private definitions, some general notion that men and women can, together, make babies, regardless of the actual potential of the man and woman who are getting married. Note the circularity: a marriage can only be between men and women because they are men and women, irrespective of whether they can produce babies. But Mr. MacDonald is not done yet:
Social science has given ample evidence to support what common sense would tell us – that a child has the greatest possibility of growing to be a healthy and well rounded contributor to the community when raised with the love of both father and mother. In a same-sex household, children will always be unjustly deprived of the chance to be nurtured in the unique relationship which exists genetically and spiritually with at least one of their biological parents.
It does not follow that because some parents, usually at enormous personal cost, do an heroic job of raising children on their own that it would not have been better for both the child and the solo parent had they had the benefit of the love and support of the other parent. The sad reality of a parent's death or a marriage breakdown is no justification for deliberately depriving a child of that important and irreplaceable relationship.
But wait a minute, Mr. MacDonald is claiming that:
Same-sex relationships are not the same as the union of a man and a woman. They can never be marriages. This is an attempt at social engineering that will have disastrous consequences.
Shouldn't we be taking the children away from single parents then and placing them in two parent households? If being raised by two daddies or two mommies is such a disaster, then surely being raised by only one is twice as damaging to children? No doubt, Mr. MacDonald will say the cases are different because ... um ... they are simply different as he did before.
And they wonder why certain atheists (and others) make mockery of their beliefs.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
On Orthodoxy In Science
The ranks of the Darwinians, it should be noted, underwent a series of changes during the 1860s as 'Darwinism' had to be redefined and purged of any unwanted metaphysical baggage, such as Haeckel's materialistic monism. Individuals who had originally been a part of the Darwinian crew were dropped in the late 1860s for their sins—Alfred Russel Wallace for his spiritualism, and Asa Gray for his attempt to preserve a concept of design in evolution. Later, in the late 1870s, Samuel Butler's critique of natural selection led to his banishment. Wallace, Gray and Butler all were, or became, involved in popularizing evolution, and their works swelled the ranks of the non-Darwinian popularizers. But even among those who remained Darwinians there could be disagreement on aspects of evolutionary theory. Huxley, for example, was never enthusiastic about Darwin's theory of natural selection. He preferred to think of saltations, or mutational jumps, as the main evolutionary mechanism. Huxley's uncertainty about natural selection affected how he popularized evolution. In The crayfish: an introduction to the study of biology (1880), Huxley's contribution to the International Scientific Series, he pushed his readers to accept evolution but never discussed the role of natural selection. Huxley's attraction to Darwin's theory of evolution may have had more to do with his crusade to instil the principles of naturalism into British science. However, Huxley's attitude towards natural selection did not prevent him from accepting Darwin's conception of evolution as non-progressive. He believed that degeneration was part of the evolutionary process.
-Bernard Lightman, "Darwin and the popularization of evolution," Notes & Records of the Royal Society
Via Michael Barton at The Dispersal of Darwin
Friday, November 27, 2009
Remember that YouTuber who claimed there is Biblical evidence that Barack Obama is the Antichrist? If not, I'll wait while you review ...
Professor James McGrath, who previously showed that, in fact, the Bible compares President Obama favorably with Jesus, has now uncovered clear scriptural evidence that Sarah Palin is actually Satan (okay, coals to Newcastle, but still ...)!
Meanwhile, Brian Leiter points to evidence that Palin/Satan can turn people into mindless zombies ... or at least make mindless zombies show up at Borders.
Excuse me while I now attempt to recover from L-tryptophan poisoning.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Dilemmas of the Two-Faced
Here is more from the Ministry of Misinformation on the American Freedom Aliance's suit against the California Science Center because of its cancellation of the AFA's screening of the Dishonesty Institute's propaganda film, Darwin's Dilemma.
As I suspected, the CSC (at least allegedly) relied on the provision of their agreement that all promotional materials had to be submitted to CSC for review and approval prior to printing or broadcast as grounds for canceling the event. The particular press release supposedly involved, however, was clearly issued by the Discovery Institute, not the AFA.
If that is the sole basis for the cancellation, the CSC can be in some trouble and should probably settle. An argument could possibly be made that the DI is so thick with the AFA in this case that it is not credible that it was acting other than on the AFA's behalf, and vice versa, but I think that would be a hard row to hoe. On the other hand, I would not be at all surprised if the DI and AFA looked at the agreement and decided that the DI should handle the sleazy publicity ... something the DI has much practice at in any event.
But just to cap off the evidence of the utter disingenuousness of these people, remember how the AFA characterized the other film they were supposed to show, We Are Born of the Stars, as a "pro-evolution film" meant to "provide balance" against the pro-ID side? That's not exactly how it was described at the AFA's site:
We Are Born of Stars - Premiere!In other words, the AFA, and the DI drones in attendance, fully intended to use We Are Born of the Stars not as pro-evolution balance but, instead, as a pro-ID "argument" of the "gee, that's so complex I can't understand it, therefore Goddidit" variety.
This extraordinary IMAX film (3D re-mastered) provides a view of the true structure of DNA never before witnessed in a wide screen format. Once one views DNA in motion, with the full scope, intricacy and supercoiling magnificence of this essential building block of life, the issue of our origins takes on an even deeper mystery and wonder.
Is there something about creationism that impels the believer to misrepresent everything?
Labels: California Science Center
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
You may remember the Undiscovery Institute's attempt to trade on the name of the Smithsonian Institute (once again) by screening its propaganda piece, Darwin's Dilemma, at the California Science Center, which has the nifty sounding position as a "Smithsonian Institution Affiliated Science Center" that is, in fact, less exalted than it sounds. Then the Science Center canceled. Now the group that sponsored the DI's dogma and pony show, the American Freedom Alliance, has announced (in no coincidence at all, at the Christian News Wire) that it is suing.
The lawsuit is believed to be the first since the 2005 case of Kitzmiller v. Dover to consider the public's right to learn about Intelligent Design. While that case focused on whether a public school violated the First Amendment "No Establishment Clause" by instructing students about the theory, AFA's lawsuit alleges that the museum violated its First Amendment rights by caving in to demands within the scientific and academic communities to deny Intelligent Design a public forum for discussion.According to the AFA's announcement:
"The Center is a public institution and our event was planned as a debate with both sides of the controversy represented," said Avi Davis, AFA's president. "It is Orwellian when a public institution tries to suppress particular ideas it deems unsavory. It can be likened to a public library removing certain books from its shelves because the librarian disagrees with the viewpoints expressed in them."
The museum was selected for the event because one of the two films scheduled to be shown required a 3D IMAX projection system. The pro-evolution film, "We Are Born of the Stars," was meant to provide balance to a discussion about life's origin.Strangely, there was no mention of this other film in the original PR release by the DI. Does anyone else smell a rat?
All I can find out about We Are Born of the Stars is that it is a 1985 Japanese animated film that is all of 11 minutes long. Darwin's Dilemma, on the other hand, is 71 minutes long. In addition, according to the Dishonesty Institute's press release, there was also to be a "post-film discussion featuring Darwin skeptic Dr. David Berlinski, author of The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions, and leading intelligent design scientist Dr. Jonathan Wells, biologist and author of Icons of Evolution." The only other "balance" mentioned is that real scientists, Simon Conway Morris and James Valentine, appear in Darwin's Dilemma but, unsurprisingly, under the same sort of cloud of suspicion that always accompanies appearances by scientists in creationist endeavors.
So there was to be hours of creationist bafflegab, including live presentations, with the other side of the "controversy" represented solely by an 11 minute, 20+ year old, animated film. That's what passes for a balanced "debate" in the opinion of creationists.
But to see how this lawsuit is going to go, there is this:
"Certain museum officials and their cronies in academia and throughout the scientific community are part of a subtle but effective movement to marginalize a scientific theory that challenges their world view," said AFA's attorney, William J. Becker, Jr. ...Whew! That's a beauty! An accusation of "cronyism" and the elevation of ID to the status of a scientific theory, while simultaneously ID opponents are reduced to "world view" peddlers, all in one sentence!
It's utter bollocks ... but as a fellow lawyer, I have to admire the technique displayed.
Labels: California Science Center
A thought (on a particular anniversary):
ON THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES was published in London on 24 November 1859, while Darwin was taking the water-cure at Ilkley. It was a very ordinary-looking volume bound in sturdy green cloth, 502 pages long, and somewhat expensively priced at fourteen shillings, not nearly as gaily decked out as Murray's red-and-gilt version of Darwin's earlier Journal of Researches and nothing like the pocket-sized duodecimo Darwin had at first proposed.
The author's serious intent was obvious. There were no eye-catching natural history illustrations, no pedigree fatstock emblazoned in gilt on the cover, not even a frontispiece of an evocative prehistoric scene as there might be today in a book about evolution. For a volume that described the teeming fecundity of life on earth, the pages were curiously devoid of living beings. But it was a fair specimen of nineteenth-century typography, well printed on decent paper, and serviceably bound. The book's unassuming demeanour suited its author perfectly. "I am infinitely pleased & proud at the appearance of my child," Darwin told Murray when his advance copy arrived in Yorkshire. "I am so glad that you were so good as to undertake the publication of my book."
Unassuming or no, this book transformed his life. Of course, he expected controversy, although even in his gloomiest moments he could not have begun to imagine the convulsions of public opinion, praise, and denigration that would follow. From the start, he was prepared to go to any lengths to give his theory the best support that he could provide. But there was more than this. That November he chose the kind of man he wanted to be -- he chose to dedicate himself to his book, to placing his views as fully as he could before audiences that he as yet hardly envisaged, prepared to influence and urge to a degree that would become second nature to him, displaying a deepening of purpose and strength of character that he rarely acknowledged even in his most private correspondence and yet that marked the rest of his days. His active intervention in the post-publication process was hidden but intense. Paradoxically, the intimate process of writing personal letters, one individual speaking to another, became an integral part of his public voice, an activity that could be just as shrewd and tactical --even predatory-- as any polemic dreamed up by Huxley. Without moving out of his home, Darwin came to dominate through letters. Promoting the finished book became the directing theme of the life to come as completely as his earlier years had been governed by constructing the theory.
- Janet Browne, Charles Darwin: A Biography, Vol. 2 - The Power of Place
Monday, November 23, 2009
PZ Megahertz had better watch out:
Two fingers cut from the hand of Italian astronomer Galileo nearly 300 years ago have been rediscovered more than a century after they were last seen, an Italian museum director said Monday.
They were purchased recently at an auction by a person who brought them to the Museum of the History of Science in Florence, suspecting what they were, museum director Paolo Galluzzi said.
Three fingers were cut from Galileo's hand in March 1737, when his body was moved from a temporary monument to its final resting place in Florence, Italy. The last tooth remaining in his lower jaw was also taken, Galluzzi said. ...
Removing body parts from the corpse was an echo of a practice common with saints, whose digits, tongues and organs were revered by Catholics as relics with sacred powers.
There is an irony in Galileo's having been subjected to the same treatment, since he was persecuted by the Catholic Church for advocating the theory that the earth circles the sun, rather than the other way around. The Inquisition forced him to recant, and jailed him in 1634.
The people who cut off his fingers essentially considered him a secular saint, Galluzzi said, noting the fingers that were removed were the ones he would have used to hold a pen.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Creationism may be a strict, pure, and literal belief in the Genesis account, or it may be a more general belief that God created the universe, without any adherence to the specifics of the Genesis account. For example, many people believe that evolution is the mechanism through which God created the world and humanity. These are often referred to as "theistic evolutionists," and they are held in contempt as "sellouts" by the more vocal creationists who hold to a literal interpretation of Genesis. A visit to the Answers in Genesis Web site will reveal almost as much verbal abuse hurled at "theistic evolutionists" as against "evolutionists."
For most people, creationism is a belief system -- there is no attempt or need to evaluate carefully the scientific evidence for or against creation. They simply believe. Arguments supporting evolution are easily dismissed as rhetorical devices favoring a morally dangerous substitute belief system, while arguments against evolution are accepted as supportive of their personal beliefs. Most creationists resemble the American public as a whole, in that they are not well educated in the sciences and so are unable to judge between creation-science arguments and the rebuttals offered by scientists. I would argue that this also extends to professionals who have earned graduate degrees. In eight years of teaching in medical school, I was surprised by the number of medical students who were not trained in the philosophical or even practical form of science, but rather in the assimilation and management of facts. Though many physicians consider themselves scientists (and indeed many are), there is broad confusion between training that involves learning and skillfully using large amounts of scientifically derived information in contrast to that which involves the actual process of generating such information.
- J Michael Plavcan, "The Invisible Bible: The Logic of Creation Science," Scientists Confront Creationism: Intelligent Design and Beyond
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Pants On Fire!
Here is yet another example of why we call it the Dishonesty Institute: Stephen Meyer is at Focus on the Family's CitizenLink website peddling the usual bafflegab but he can't help but tell this lie:
I think the scientific community is increasingly becoming more open to the evidence and the case for intelligent design. I was pleasantly surprised when my book received endorsements from a number of prominent scientists that had not yet publicly weighed in on intelligent design, such as Dr. Phillip Skell, a member of the National Academies of Science, and Dr. Norman Nevin, a prominent British geneticist.What crap!
Here is a "recommendation" for Guillermo Gonzalez' and Jay Richards' The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos is Designed for Discovery, which was published back in 2004:
"In this fascinating and highly original book, Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards advance a persuasive argument, and marshal a wealth of diverse scientific evidence to justify that argument. In the process, they effectively challenge several popular assumptions, not only about the nature and history of science, but also about the nature and origin of the cosmos. The Privileged Planet will be impossible to ignore. It is likely to change the way we view both the scientific enterprise and the world around us. I recommend it highly."As far as Norman Nevin, there was this report in January of 2007:
- Philip Skell, Evan Pugh Professor Emeritus of Physics, Pennsylvania State University, Member, National Academy of Sciences.
[T]welve senior academics have written to the Prime Minister and Education Secretary in support of Truth in Science.So who is "Truth in Science"? Well, for one thing, they are a favorite of Meyer's Discovery Institute (and vice versa). And no wonder, here is a statement from its home page that could come right out of the DI's playbook:
The group was led by Norman Nevin OBE, Professor Emeritus of Medical Genetics, Queen's University of Belfast and included Antony Flew, former Professor of Philosophy at Reading University and a distinguished supporter of humanism.
"We write to applaud the Truth in Science initiative," the letter said. Empirical science has to recognise "severe limitations concerning origins" and Darwinism is not necessarily "the best scientific model to fit the data that we observe".
We consider that it is time for students to be permitted to adopt a more critical approach to Darwinism in science lessons. They should be exposed to the fact that there is a modern controversy over Darwin's theory of evolution and the neo-Darwinian synthesis, and that this has considerable social, spiritual, moral and ethical implications. Truth in Science promotes the critical examination of Darwinism in schools, as an important component of science education.And, by the by, it is a young-Earth creationist organization ... you know, the thing that ID is definitely not. Truth In Science bears the same relationship to "truth" as the DI has to "discovery" ... and neither would recognize it if it spit in their face.
To pretend that these are "scientists that had not yet publicly weighed in on intelligent design" is an unmitigated, bald-faced, lie. There is no other word for it.
That Meyer lies to his own co-religionists tells us all we need to know about his wish to lecture everyone else on "morality."
Friday, November 20, 2009
Ken Miller's Ankles Are In Danger
Oh, my goodness!
The Discovery Institute's attack chihuahua, Casey Luskin, is actually taking a page out of Answers in Genesis' (and about every other young-Earth creationist organization's) book. It is the ol' "we are using the same evidence but just interpret it from different starting points" ploy.
In responding to what Luskin characterizes as Ken Miller's argument that evidence for common descent refutes Michael Behe's "irreducible complexity" claims, Luskin says:
[A] piece of evidence Dr. [Kenneth] Miller commonly cites as demonstrating human/chimp common ancestry is the fusion of chromosome 2 in humans, which he argues has a structure similar to what one would expect if chimp chromosomes 2a and 2b were fused together, end to end. Without belaboring the details (which are covered elsewhere), the evidence for human chromosomal fusion simply indicates that our ancestors once had 48 chromosomes. But it tells us nothing definitive about whether our lineage leads back to a common ancestor shared with with apes. Human chromosomal fusion merely shows that at some point within our human lineage, two chromosomes became fused. That's it.Luskin even produces a diagram to "illustrate" his point:
If we step outside the Darwinian box, then the following scenario becomes possible: (1) The human lineage arose separately from that of apes with 48 chromosmes, (2) a chromosomal-fusion event occurred, and (3) the trait spread throughout the human population. In such a scenario, the evidence would appear precisely as we find it, without any common ancestry between humans and apes. The two diagrams at right show two models for explaining the evidence for human chromosomal fusion.
At most, the fusion evidence confirms something we already knew: humans and apes share a similar genetic structure. But this might have been predicted by morphological studies without considering evolution. Again, common design can also account for such functional genetic similarities, and the fusion evidence does not demonstrate that humans share a common ancestor with apes.
Dr. Miller may reply that his model predicts the fusion evidence. But if we didn't find evidence for fusion in human chromosome 2, would that really refute Darwinism? No. Evolutionists would just claim that the fused telomeres and extra centromere were deleted. Miller assumes that functional genetic similarities must result from common descent, ignoring the possibility that such biochemical similarities might result from common design upon a functional blueprint.
First, let's get Miller's argument from his own mouth, rather than as spun by Luskin and the other IDers:
We've known for a long time that we humans share common ancestry with the other great apes—gorillas, orangs, chimps, and bonobos. But there's an interesting problem here. We humans have 46 chromosomes; all the other great apes have 48. In a sense, we're missing a pair of chromosomes, two chromosomes. How did that happen?Note what Miller is really saying here: we have lots of evidence that we share common ancestry with the other great apes (heck, even Luskin has to admit that "humans and apes share a similar genetic structure") but, when we encounter something that raises a question how close that relationship is -- our different number of chromosomes -- and we go and look, we find convincing evidence that it is as close as we originally thought. If we hadn't found the fused chromosome, it would not have refuted evolution or common descent but it would have greatly changed our ideas about the relationship between gorillas, orangutans, chimps, bonobos and human beings. In short, it supports the other evidence that led us to think there was not just shared ancestry, but a close relationship.
Well, is it possible that in the line that led to us, a pair of chromosomes was simply lost, dropping us from 24 pairs to 23? Well, the answer to that is no. The loss of both members of a pair would actually be fatal in any primate. There is only one possibility, and that is that two chromosomes that were separate became fused to form a single chromosome. If that happened, it would drop us from 24 pairs to 23, and it would explain the data.
Here's the interesting point, and this is why evolution is a science. That possibility is testable. If we indeed were formed that way, then somewhere in our genome there has to be a chromosome that was formed by the fusion of two other chromosomes. Now, how would we find that? It's easier than you might think.
Every chromosome has a special DNA sequence at both ends called the telomere sequence. Near the middle it has another special sequence called the centromere. If one of our chromosomes was formed by the fusion of two ancestral chromosomes, what we should be able to see is that we possess a chromosome in which telomere DNA is found in the center where it actually doesn't belong, and that the chromosome has two centromeres. So all we have to do is to look at our own genome, look at our own DNA, and see, do we have a chromosome that fits these features?
We do. It's human chromosome number 2, and the evidence is unmistakable. We have two centromeres, we have telomere DNA near the center, and the genes even line up corresponding to primate chromosome numbers 12 and 13.
Is there any way that intelligent design or special creation could explain why we have a chromosome like this? The only way that I can think of is if you're willing to say that the intelligent designer rigged chromosome number 2 to fool us into thinking that we had evolved. The closer we look at our own DNA, the more detailed a glimpse we get of our own genome, the more powerful the evidence becomes for our common ancestry with other species.
What is Luskin's response to this evidence? Not wanting to go the "trickster Designer" route, he can only fall back on a presumption that there is a "Designer" and simply say that, if you look at the same evidence with their presumption, you can mangle it to fit their preconceived idea ... i.e. "the possibility that such biochemical similarities might result from common design upon a functional blueprint."
But why would a "Designer" abandon the "common design" of an already "functional blueprint" to fuse the human version of chromosomes 12 and 13, shared by all other primates? Now here is a research project that the Biologic Institute could take on: find the functional reason to fuse these two chromosomes. Otherwise, IDers are just offering a reason to ignore one piece of the massive total evidence, gathered across numerous lines of investigation in many different fields, that forms a consilience favoring common descent of all the great apes, including humans, and evolution in general.
Remember how Stephen Meyer crows about using "the same method of inferential reasoning that Darwin used," namely: "the inference to the best explanation"? When you take all the evidence, instead of selectively ignoring the evidence that your theory does not even attempt to explain, the best inference clearly favors common descent through processes that can be naturalistically explained.
And no amount of ankle biting can change that.
Update: "NickM" asked in the comments if Luskin wasn't arguing that the originally created humans had 48 chromosomes which later fused; not that the creator fused them himself. If so, then the Biologic Institute wouldn't have to find the functional reason to fuse the two chromosomes (though there'd still be the question why the "Designer" didn't build in safeguards to prevent random fusing of chromosomes, which could be catastrophic).
But now we learn from Stephen Meyer (via Richard Hoppe at The Panda's Thumb) that:
If an intelligent (and benevolent) agent designed life, then studies of putatively bad designs in life–such as the vertebrate retina and virulent bacteria–should reveal either (a) reasons for the designs that show a hidden functional logic or (b) evidence of decay of originally good designs (Signature in the Cell, p. 497).So, if the "Designer" didn't originally and intentionally fuse our chromosomes for some reason to improve his already "functional blueprint" for primates, there should be evidence that human chromosomes are inferior to the rest of the great apes. Still something the Biologic Institute could get its teeth into ... if it had any.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Massimo Pigliucci has, I think, an excellent post at his blog, Rationally Speaking, entitled "On the difference between science and philosophy," that nicely captures most of my objections to the attempts by some atheists to smudge the very real lines between science and philosophy and/or to denigrate philosophy.
Science, broadly speaking, deals with the study and understanding of natural phenomena, and is concerned with empirically (i.e., either observationally or experimentally) testable hypotheses advanced to account for those phenomena.
Philosophy, on the other hand, is much harder to define. Broadly speaking, it can be thought of as an activity that uses reason to explore issues that include the nature of reality (metaphysics), the structure of rational thinking (logic), the limits of our understanding (epistemology), the meaning implied by our thoughts (philosophy of language), the nature of the moral good (ethics), the nature of beauty (aesthetics), and the inner workings of other disciplines (philosophy of science, philosophy of history, and a variety of other "philosophies of"). Philosophy does this by methods of analysis and questioning that include dialectics and logical argumentation.
Now, it seems to me obvious, but apparently it needs to be stated that: a) philosophy and science are two distinct activities (at least nowadays, since science did start as a branch of philosophy called natural philosophy); b) they work by different methods (empirically-based hypothesis testing vs. reason-based logical analysis); and c) they inform each other in an inter-dependent fashion (science depends on philosophical assumptions that are outside the scope of empirical validation, but philosophical investigations should be informed by the best science available in a range of situations, from metaphysics to ethics and philosophy of mind).
So when some commentators for instance defend the Dawkins- and Coyne-style (scientistic) take on atheism, i.e., that science can mount an attack on all religious beliefs, they are granting too much to science and too little to philosophy. Yes, science can empirically test specific religious claims (intercessory prayer, age of the earth, etc.), but the best objections against the concept of, say, an omnibenevolent and onmnipowerful god, are philosophical in nature (e.g., the argument from evil). Why, then, not admit that by far the most effective way to reject religious nonsense is by combining science and philosophy, rather than trying to arrogate to either more epistemological power than each separate discipline actually possesses?
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Peas In a Pod
Here's something I did not know before.
Anti-vaccination denialists share more in common with creationists than just a disdain for science. Of course, I knew that they shared many of the same tactics: appeals to a nonexistent scientific "controversy;" argumentum ad populum; claims of scientific "elites" choking off "debate;" etc. But I did not know to just what extent they follow the same trail.
As pointed out by Orac, they even have tales of "deathbed conversions" by scientists.
Supposedly, Louis Pasteur recanted the germ theory of disease on his deathbed.
In the clip of Bill Maher Orac points to, Maher seems (or feigns) hurt that he has been described as being a denier of the germ theory of disease but Orac also shows where Maher has propagated the myth of Pasteur's recantation. Apart from the fact that, logically, the fact that one person, even the originator of a scientific idea, might change his or her mind does nothing to refute all the other science done by other scientists, the people who trot out these myths never seem to consider the possibility that people in extremis might not be the most reliable of witnesses.
Maher's reaction is so like the Discovery Institute's faux outrage at being described as evolution deniers, while still sending out their attack puppy, Casey Luskin, to make a fool of himself in arguing against transitional fossils.
Maybe there is something in the architecture of the brains of denialsts that attract them to these kind of "arguments." A "just so story" to explain such an adaptation would be a doozy.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Putting On a Dogma and Pony Show
The board of trustees of La Sierra University in Riverside California is asking the impossible. After voting last week unanimously to endorse Seventh-day Adventist beliefs that the world was created in six 24-hour days, it:
... also proposed that all 15 North American Adventist universities develop a curriculum that includes a "scientifically rigorous affirmation" of Adventist creation beliefs.Good luck with that!
It seems that the university's science department is a victim of popular dissent from evolution within the church:
More than 6,300 people from across the country have signed an online petition expressing concern that evolution is presented as fact at La Sierra and other Seventh-day Adventist universities. ...That's the way religions do science ... by political pressure to support dogma, instead of trying to discover how the world actually works.
Shane Hilde, the Beaumont man spearheading the petition drive, said he will be satisfied only when Adventist creation beliefs are presented as the preferred world view in classes in which evolution is discussed.
"To me, this is a positive statement, but that's what it is, just a statement," Hilde said of the board resolutions. "They didn't do anything about how to hold employees accountable for representing the church's position."
Hilde and others say Adventist beliefs must be integrated into all classes in which evolution is discussed. He said faculty statements that God created everything in the world are insufficient, because they don't specifically endorse Adventist beliefs.
Update: The excellent Nick Matzke is over at The Panda's Thumb delving into the reasons why the hard-creationist-line Adventists are in such a tizzy (i.e., the "backsliding" by the faculty at Adventist universities).
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Duane Gish Rides Again!
The Rev. Charles Welch, pastor of the Meadowbrook Church in Howard, Wisconsin, has an article in the Green Bay Press-Gazette, "Scientific fact or philosophy?". It is a classic example of a "Gish Gallop," a series of bogus (if not outright dishonest) arguments that take much longer to debunk than to make. Fortunately, we have resources that greatly help, including Mark Isaak's "Index to Creationist Claims" (also available in book form as The Counter-Creationism Handbook); 29+ Evidences for Macroevolution: The Scientific Case for Common Descent; and the Quote Mine Project and other resources on creationist abuse of quotes.
Pastor Chuck says:
Let me ask a few honest questions.
Turn a frog into a prince? Even a child recognizes it is not fact, but fiction.
1.Really, the claim is "I can't conceive that (fill in the blank)." Others might be able to find a natural explanation; in many cases, they already have. Nobody knows everything, so it is unreasonable to conclude that something is impossible just because you do not know it. Even a noted antievolutionist acknowledges this point: "The peril of negative arguments is that they may rest on our lack of knowledge, rather than on positive results" (Behe 2003).
2.The argument from incredulity creates a god of the gaps. Gods were responsible for lightning until we determined natural causes for lightning, for infectious diseases until we found bacteria and viruses, for mental illness until we found biochemical causes for them. God is confined only to those parts of the universe we do not know about, and that keeps shrinking.
He next trots out a quote mine of Darwin:
"Why, if species descended from other species by gradual transcending orders of complexity, do we not find embedded in the earth (fossil record) or living (in the present), innumerable transitional forms?"
1. Some important factors prevent the formation of fossils from being common:
• Fossilization itself is not a particularly common event. It requires conditions that preserve the fossil before it becomes scavenged or decayed. Such conditions are common only in a very few habitats, such as river deltas, peat bogs, and tar pits. Organisms that do not live in or near these habitats will be preserved only rarely.
• Many types of animals are fragile and do not preserve well.
• Many species have small ranges. Their chance of fossilization will be proportionally small.
• The evolution of new species probably is fairly rapid in geological terms, so the transitions between species will be uncommon.
Passenger pigeons, once numbered in the billions, went extinct less than 200 years ago. How many passenger pigeon fossils can you find? If they are hard to find, why should we expect to find fossils that are likely from smaller populations and have been subject to millions of years of potential erosion?
2. Other processes destroy fossils. Erosion (and/or lack of deposition in the first place) often destroys hundreds of millions of years or more of the geological record, so the geological record at any place usually has long gaps. Fossils can also be destroyed by heat or pressure when buried deep underground.
3. As rare as fossils are, fossil discovery is still rarer. For the most part, we find only fossils that have been exposed by erosion, and only if the exposure is recent enough that the fossils themselves do not erode.
As climates change, species will move, so we cannot expect a transition to occur all at one spot. Fossils often must be collected from all over a continent to find the transitions.
Only Europe and North America have been well explored for fossils because that is where most of the paleontologists lived. Furthermore, regional politics interfere with collecting fossils. Some fabulous fossils have been found in China only recently because before then the politics prevented most paleontology there.
4. The shortage is not just in fossils but in paleontologists and taxonomists. Preparing and analyzing the material for just one lineage can take a decade of work. There are likely hundreds of transitional fossils sitting in museum drawers, unknown because nobody knowledgeable has examined them.
5. Description of fossils is often limited to professional literature and does not get popularized. This is especially true of marine microfossils, which have the best record.
6. If fossilization were so prevalent and young-earth creationism were true, we should find indications in the fossil record of animals migrating from the Ark to other continents.
Where are the half-bird, half-reptile creatures today? Where are the half- ape, half-man creatures today?
1. The claim might be true if there were no such thing as extinction. But since species do become extinct, intermediates that once existed do not exist today. Since extinction is a one-way street, species can only become less connected over time. This is clear if we look at the fossil record, in which early members of separate groups are much harder to tell apart.
2. Environments (and ecological niches) are not really as continuous as the claim pretends. Dogs bring down their prey through long chases, and cats ambush their prey; dogs are made for long-distance running, and cats are made for short sprints with high acceleration from a standing start. These requirements are quite different, and it is hard to achieve both in a single body. Compromises between the two have disadvantages in competition with specialists for either type, and thus natural selection culls them. Intermediates are competitive only so long as specialists are absent; so when specialists evolve, the intermediates are likely to become extinct.
3. In part, distinctness is an illusion caused by our choice of which groups to give names to. Groups with unclear boundaries tend not to get separate names, or groups in which intermediate forms exist are chopped in half arbitrarily (especially obvious if fossil forms are considered; e.g., the line between dinosaurs and birds is arbitrary, increasingly so as new fossils are discovered).
4. There are indeed several cases of continua in nature. In many groups, such as some grasses and leafhoppers, different species are very hard to tell apart. At least ten percent of bird species are similar enough to another species to produce fertile hybrids (Weiner 1994, 198-199). The most obvious continua are called ring species, because in the classic case (the herring gull complex) they form a ring around the North Pole. If we start in Western Europe and move west, similar populations, capable of interbreeding, succeed each other geographically. When we have traveled all the way around the world and reach Western Europe again, the final population is different enough that we call it a separate species, and it is incapable of interbreeding with herring gulls, even though they are connected by a continuous chain of interbreeding populations. This is a big problem for creationists. We expect kinds to be easily determined if they were created separately, but there are no such obvious divisions:
They are mistaken, who repeat that the greater part of our species are clearly limited, and that the doubtful species are in a feeble minority. This seemed to be true, so long as a genus was imperfectly known, and its species were founded upon a few specimens, that is to say, were provisional. Just as we come to know them better, intermediate forms flow in, and doubts as to specific limits augment. (de Condolle, quoted in Darwin, 1872, chap. 2)
Where are the transitional forms today, evolving from one species to another? The honest study of fossils do not show it. They merely show a vast array of organisms that have become extinct over time.
[A]ll living organisms can be thought of as intermediate between adjacent taxa in a phylogenetic tree. For instance, modern reptiles are intermediate between amphibians and mammals, and reptiles are also intermediate between amphibians and birds. As far as macroevolutionary predictions of morphology are concerned, this point is trivial, as it is essentially just a restatement of the concept of a nested hierarchy.
Why did the eruption of Mount St. Helens a few years ago give evolutionary appearance as though it took millions of years in its formation, while in reality it occurred within a short number of days?
1. The sediments on Mount St. Helens were unconsolidated volcanic ash, which is easily eroded. The Grand Canyon was carved into harder materials, including well-consolidated sandstone and limestone, hard metamorphosed sediments (the Vishnu schist), plus a touch of relatively recent basalt.
2. The walls of the Mount St. Helens canyon slope 45 degrees. The walls of the Grand Canyon are vertical in places.
3. The canyon was not entirely formed suddenly. The canyon along Toutle River has a river continuously contributing to its formation. Another canyon also cited as evidence of catastrophic erosion is Engineer's Canyon, which was formed via water pumped out of Spirit Lake over several days by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
4. The streams flowing down Mount St. Helens flow at a steeper grade than the Colorado River does, allowing greater erosion.
5. The Grand Canyon (and canyons further up and down the Colorado River) is more than 100,000 times larger than the canyon on Mount St. Helens. The two are not really comparable.
Why do scientists ignore the observable evidence of a huge flood? Fish fossils, for example, were found in the high mountains of Wyoming and elsewhere.
1. Shells on mountains are easily explained by uplift of the land. Although this process is slow, it is observed happening today, and it accounts not only for the seashells on mountains but also for the other geological and paleontological features of those mountains. The sea once did cover the areas where the fossils are found, but they were not mountains at the time; they were shallow seas.
2. A flood cannot explain the presence of marine shells on mountains for the following reasons:
• Floods erode mountains and deposit their sediments in valleys.
• In many cases, the fossils are in the same positions as they grow in life, not scattered as if they were redeposited by a flood. This was noted as early as the sixteenth century by Leonardo da Vinci (Gould 1998).
• Other evidence, such as fossilized tracks and burrows of marine organisms, show that the region was once under the sea. Seashells are not found in sediments that were not formerly covered by sea.
How about the many places where petrified tree trunks stand upright through various layers of sediment, showing a rapid laying down of strata, not following the proposed idea of the geologic time scale?
Sudden deposition is not a problem for uniformitarian geology. Single floods can deposit sediments up to several feet thick. Furthermore, trees buried in such sediments do not die and decay immediately; the trunks can remain there for years or even decades.
The same is true of so-called evolutionary family trees, which are based on speculation and not true science.
If it was just speculation, we wouldn't be able to make predictions based on them, as pointed out in 29+ Evidences for Macroevolution, Prediction 1.4: Intermediate and transitional forms: the possible morphologies of predicted common ancestors:
[A] phylogenetic tree does make significant predictions about the morphology of intermediates which no longer exist or which have yet to be discovered. Each predicted common ancestor has a set of explicitly specified morphological characteristics, based on each of the most common derived characters of its descendants and based upon the transitions that must have occurred to transform one taxa into another (Cunningham et al. 1998; Futuyma 1998, pp. 107-108). From the knowledge of avian and reptilian morphology, it is possible to predict some of the characteristics that a reptile-bird intermediate should have, if found. Therefore, we expect the possibility of finding reptile-like fossils with feathers, bird-like fossils with teeth, or bird-like fossils with long reptilian tails. However, we do not expect transitional fossils between birds and mammals, like mammalian fossils with feathers or bird-like fossils with mammalian-style middle ear bones. ... (See the article for numerous examples of confirmation in bird-reptiles, reptile-mammals, human-hominids, land mammal-whales and land mammals-seacows.)
Why the unscientific circular aging of the fossils by the rocks and the rocks by the fossils?
1. Many strata are not dated from fossils. Relative dates of strata (whether layers are older or younger than others) are determined mainly by which strata are above others. Some strata are dated absolutely via radiometric dating. These methods are sufficient to determine a great deal of stratigraphy.
Some fossils are seen to occur only in certain strata. Such fossils can be used as index fossils. When these fossils exist, they can be used to determine the age of the strata, because the fossils show that the strata correspond to strata that have already been dated by other means.
2.The geological column, including the relative ages of the strata and dominant fossils within various strata, was determined before the theory of evolution.
1.The geologic column was outlined by creationist geologists. For example, Adam Sedgwick, who described and named the Cambrian era, referred to the theory of evolution as "no better than a phrensied dream" (Ritland 1982). The geologic column is based on the observation of faunal succession, the fact that organisms vary across strata, and that they do so in a consistent order from place to place. William "Strata" Smith (1769-1839) recognized faunal succession years before Darwin published his ideas on biological evolution.
2.The geologic column is validated in great detail by radiometric dating, which is based on principles of physics, not evolution. Furthermore, different dating techniques are consistent, and they are consistent with the order established by the early pioneers of stratigraphy.
Speaking of origins, where did matter come from to begin with? The philosophy of evolution has no answer.
Yes, and the science of evolution also does not answer why chemistry works reliably or why your car can turn gasoline into mechanical energy. Here, Pastor Chuck is confusing biology with physics and cosmology. The important point is: however matter and the universe first came into existence in the Big Bang, once it did, biological evolution became possible.
Evolution has to assume that nonliving matter gave rise to living matter, contradicting the proven Law of Biogenesis, that only life reproduces life.
What exactly is "nonliving matter"? All of life on Earth is made up of the same carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, etc. that is found in the crust of the Earth and its atmosphere. It is just arranged in molecules that come about through the ordinary "laws" of chemistry, where elements will combine in certain ways given a proper energy source. Life is an ongoing chemical reaction no less understandable than any high school chem lab experiment.
As for the so-called "Law of Biogenesis":
The spontaneous generation that Pasteur and others disproved was the idea that life forms such as mice, maggots, and bacteria can appear fully formed. They disproved a form of creationism. There is no law of biogenesis saying that very primitive life cannot form from increasingly complex molecules.
See, also, John Wilkins' excellent article "Spontaneous Generation and the Origin of Life."
There you have it. Pastor Chuck, in an article of a mere 592 words has misrepresented science to such a degree that it has taken 2,830 words to give even a sketchy reply to him. Hundreds of thousands of more words could be expended and still not fully lay out the case on science's side. Truly, a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get it's boots on.
Pastor Chuck describes himself as having a degree in chemistry and natural sciences from the University of Wisconsin-Madison ... no doubt to the great chagrin of UWM. It's a shame he learned so little.
Labels: Quote Mining
Saturday, November 14, 2009
"You can't teach creationism or intelligent design without getting into a little bit of trouble in the public schools, which is a shame," said former Green Bay East High School science teacher Jim Kraft of Allouez. "What's being promoted in the public schools is really atheism. … There's the (presumption) that the Earth is millions, billions of years old, and that is really a very subtle attack on the Bible, and on Christianity."
Kraft used to be an evolutionist, but later became a Christian and an adherent to creationist principles. He thinks public schools should teach creationism, and he isn't alone.
Kraft doesn't think someone can be a Christian and an evolutionist.
"It really boils down to the authority of Scripture," he said. "Are you going to believe God, or are you going to believe man?"
But it's funny that Mr. Kraft apparently thinks the Pope ain't Catholic since, as the article points out, the Catholic Church's position is that evolution and faith are not incompatible.
If those blinders on Mr. Kraft get any tighter, he won't be able to see at all.
* "Black and white: Nearly 150 years after Darwin, creationists and evolution theorists hold tight to their arguments," Green Bay Wisconsin Press-Gazette, November 15, 2009.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Mirages In the Mirror
David Klinghoffer is peddling inanity again but in a hilariously un-self-aware fashion.
Once more, he is promoting David Berlinski's Argumentum ad Poetica, where Keats' line (still mangled by Klinghoffer) about "Beauty is truth, truth beauty ..." is somehow supposed to be a measure of scientific theories. He has a minor point about PZ Myers' also holding that "ideas have consequences" when it comes to religion but, of course, there is a major difference between the ideas of religion and the ideas of science. Science does not say, as religion does, that:
We have a responsibility to hold fast to every doctrine God has seen fit to reveal to us in Scripture; in particular, we are under obligation to receive by faith the doctrine of Creation.
But here is Klinghoffer's comedy routine:
Islam doesn't particularly interest me -- any religion can be made to look inherently wicked by a selective quoting of sources ...
I've got news for Klinghoffer. It doesn't take selective quotations to make his version of religion, which has no scruples about lying to children about what science is, look bad.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Striving to Be the Worst
This may be the stupidest example of brain-damaged ramblings to ever be posted to the internet. I know that is an extremely high ... or low, depending on how you look at it ... bar to meet but Steve Kellmeyer has made a mighty try at exceeding it. It's no surprise that his efforts are sponsored by Alan Keyes' RenewAmerica website, giving him an enormous running start.
His premise is that "leftist liberals" (which later morphs into "atheist liberals" without explanation) love Islam.
His "evidence" for this is hard to discern but apparently has to do with some unspecified "protection" of Major Nidal Hakim Hasan (perhaps by not being as willing as some to take the Major out and summarily lynch him?) and this:
Why allow the name of Allah and the practice of Ramadan into public schools while forbidding the name of Jesus and the practice of Christmas?Last I looked, "leftists liberals" were for treating Islam and Christianity the same under the First Amendment: children should be taught about both, since they have been and are major social forces in our world; children can speak the name of Jesus and Allah in the appropriate circumstances (i.e. when not disrupting class work); and reasonable accommodation has to be made for their practice of their religion. The one thing that government schools can't do is force the children to practice someone else's religion, say, by organizing a Christmas pageant in a public school, replete with readings from the New Testament.
But then he gets truly weird:
[F]rom an atheist's point of view, Allah has a marvelous attribute: Allah can change his mind. Allah turns good into evil and evil into good by simply commanding it. And for the liberal atheist, this is very comforting. Sure, Allah doesn't like homosexuality or rape today, but He might change His mind tomorrow. My self-destructive behaviour today may turn out to be a wonderful moral good tomorrow. ...Huh? I'm reasonably certain that I can find many more Christian and Jewish clergy accepting of gays and gay rights than I can imams. But something tells me that Kellmeyer would just say that they aren't real "Judeo-Christians."
With Judeo-Christianity, no such possibility exists. God will never change His mind because God does not change. But with Islam all bets are off. Allah may decide tomorrow that rape is perfectly fine, that homosexuality is the preferred form of sexual expression. All we liberal atheists need to do is convince the imams that this is so. And how tough can that be?
And when crazy rears its ugly head can downright offensiveness be far behind?:
He [Hasan] did to the soldiers at Fort Hood what every good atheist liberal has always wanted to do to those Christian, God-fearing, courageous American soldiers — he shot them through the head. He shot them through the heart. He drove a stake into them, chased them down while they were wounded and pumped more bullets into them. He shot them and shot them and shot them until their blood flowed like water, until their blood clotted on the floor, and then he shot them again. He destroyed them, he vented his rage upon them, he annihilated them for daring to question the annihilation that is coming to us all. He ground them to dust, the dust of the universe.Ummm ... I suppose Kellmeyer is so divorced from reality that he doesn't even make the connection that the very fact that Major Hassan is a Moslem demonstrates that not all American soldiers are Christians. But to attribute murderous intent generally to "leftist" or "atheist" liberals is bizarre. It no doubt comes from Kellmeyer's involvement in anti-abortion activism, where he maintains his lack of objectivity:
[L]ook at the leftist embrace of abortionists, men and women who wear body armor to their place of work. Even though you are much more likely to end up dead from being pro-life than you are from being pro-abort, the left constantly touts the dangers of being in favor of abortion.I'm not quite sure if wearing body armor is supposed to be a sign of their perfidy but I can only wonder if he considered the case of Dr. George Tiller, shot down by a Christian inside a Christian church ... one of many examples of why pro-choice providers might consider body armor. How many anti-abortionists have been shot down by pro-choice activists?
I can't reproduce the full batshit insanity of Kellmeyer's piece without reproducing the entire disjointed mess ... further depressing myself. If you need something to cause yourself to despair for your country, you'll have to go and read the original.
Update: James McGrath, who actually knows something about the Bible, gives some examples, contrary to Kellmeyer's assertions, where the "Judeo-Christian" God changes his mind.
PZ Megahertz on the dangers of argument by analogy:
We know that human beings build penis-shaped objects; that does not imply that Bill Dembski's penis is made of silicone and has an on-off switch, let alone that someone made it in an injection-molding machine.It would be crude and unfair to ask how PZ knows the state of Wild Bill's penis and we can, instead, put it down to a charitable assumption that the living fart sound effect machine is not as weird as that implies.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Lying Liars Lies
Casey Luskin's lips are moving again.
This time he is claiming that Intelligent Design Creationism is not merely a negative argument and accusing Ken Miller of "misrepresenting" (i.e. lying about) its nature. I'll summarize his "positive" arguments (with the sources he gives: Michael Behe, Scott Minnich and Stephen Meyer:
"[W]e recognize design by the purposeful arrangement of parts" and "parts appear arranged to serve a purpose" (Behe); "irreducibly complex systems in which the cause of the system is known by experience or observation, intelligent design or engineering played a role ... we regard it as an inference to the best explanation, given what we know about the powers of intelligent (sic) as opposed to strictly natural or material causes" (Minnich and Meyer); and "experience-based knowledge of information-flow confirms that systems with large amounts of specified complexity (especially codes and languages) invariably originate from an intelligent source from a mind or personal agent" (Meyer). (Emphasis added)In addition, Luskin assets: "ID proponents have made it clear that ID appeals to an intelligent cause, and necessarily not to a supernatural one."
Let's take a closer look at these. What is a "purposeful" arrangement of parts? What about the arrangements of the parts of a water molecule? Water is a highly unique "system" in our world with a number of properties that are not found in most substances. It exists in three different states (gaseous, liquid and solid) within a very narrow range of temperatures; it expands when both heated and cooled; it is a near universal solvent; and it is absolutely necessary for all living things. Moreover, it is irreducibly complex. Remove any part of the molecule and it is no longer water and does not serve the "purpose" of sustaining life. But does observational experience demonstrate that intelligent design or engineering invariably plays a role in water formation? Thus, we have a ubiquitous example of an irreducibly complex part of our world that needs no intelligent design or engineering to explain it (unless, of course, everything must be explained by design, in which case design is no "explanation" at all).
Furthermore, all these arguments boil down to an argument from analogy: we see things we know are designed have some traits, therefore everything with similar traits must be designed. As we have already seen, the analogy breaks down because it depends on a subjective determination of "purpose." Furthermore, it is nothing but warmed-over William Paley, who was refuted before he even wrote his more honestly entitled book, Natural Theology, because the analogy of living things to human designs is not nearly close enough to be persuasive. Even as we start to "engineer" life, it will be based on our learning about what life already was, which has never resembled what we have engineered before.
As to the claim that ID is not appealing necessarily to a supernatural agent, not only is Wilkins' epistemological hat in serious danger, but if there is a potentially natural "Designer," why does Casey (and Of Pandas and People before him) then assert that the nature and abilities of the intelligent agent is unanswerable by science must be left to religion and philosophy?
That last part is the final nail in the coffin of ID as science. Even when science does make an inference to the best explanation (which has its own philosophical problems), the last thing science does is then throw up its hands and say that's all we can do. When Darwin made an inference to the best explanation he fully expected the scientific community to go on testing it relentlessly, as he himself kept doing. (Allen MacNeill has a nice example of this in the way we have gone on testing the hypothesis that whales evolved from Artiodactyls, with no end of testing in sight.)
The fact that ID advocates try to protect their "inference" from further testing is more than enough reason to say that it is not science. That's why they have to try to change the definition of science in support of a "broadly theistic understanding of nature." The failure of its "positive" evidence to bear the scientific weight of the claims made for it renders the whole of ID nothing more than an attempt to use empiric facts about the world (such as the complexity of the blood clotting cascade) as a negative argument against evolution.
All the smoke and mirrors in the world cannot hide that fact.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Religion Conflicted Science
Alvin Plantinga, a John O'Brien professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, traveled to UNLV Thursday to present his lecture "Science and Religion: Where the Conflict Really Lies."
The event, which was co-sponsored by the UNLV philosophy department, the Thomas Aquinas Catholic Newman Center and the UNLV geosciences department, outlined naturalism, evolutionary theory and the relationship of those ideas with the idea of theism.
"There are various alleged conflicts between science and religion," Plantinga said. "[I] argue that contemporary evolutionary theory is not incompatible with theism."
Plantinga discussed where humans and other living organisms come from, prospects of life after death and how living things relate to one another.
"In the Bible, it says that God has created human beings in his image," Plantinga said. "That's what I am thinking of when I think of theistic beliefs."
Plantinga said that when people think about the compatibility of theism and evolution, they have to think of the four evolutionary theories.
"The four evolutionary theories include descent with modification, Darwinism and natural selection, Christian evolutionary beliefs and scientific evolutionary beliefs," Plantinga said. "When we ask if they are compatible with theism, we have to think of each one individually."
Plantinga said he believes the conflict between religion and evolution is non-existent, but, he added, the idea of naturalism is not so well-suited to religious belief.
Plantinga suggested that there is a conflict between naturalism and the Christian belief of evolutionary theory.
"A naturalist is an atheist," Plantinga said. "You have to be an atheist to be a naturalist, but you don't have to be a naturalist to be an atheist."
-Danielle Decuir, "Speaker contrasts views in age-old debate," The Rebel Yell, (the student newspaper of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas), November 9, 2009
Monday, November 09, 2009
According to this story, "Lutheran camp plans creation-science learning center," the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and its Lutheran Island Camp in Otter Tail County, Minnesota, is planning to open the first creation-science environmental learning center in the state and possibly the country:
"There are 64 environmental learning centers that are run by the state of Minnesota or the federal government. You couldn't teach creation science at any one of those," said Bill Schultz, who heads planning and resource development at Lutheran Island Camp.All I can say is "thank goodness!"
Not only will this be opening in PZ Mxyzptlk's back yard but there is even an alumni involved:
"What we're finding is, many kids are subject to ridicule, lower grades, being laughed at, just because they lay forth different arguments and different interpretations of the same information," Schultz said.Well, if someone interrupts a science class to spout religious doctrine, I'd hope they would be directed to the nearest theology class and asked to take it there. Of course, there is the usual creation "science" bafflegab:
The Rev. George Sagissor, who is working to help create the learning center, said he ran into similar reactions when he attended the University of Minnesota-Morris in the 1960s.
He recalled one lecture when he said he politely raised his hand to ask a question from a creation standpoint and was asked to leave the class.
"We don't get a chance to let our point of view be heard because we're put down and we're asked to shut up," Sagissor said.
"We often hear creationism versus evolution. In a sense, it's creationism versus evolutionism. Both are faith issues," [Brian Young, founder of Creation Instruction Association] said.In fact, it is not "evolutionism" or even "scientism," it is science, which has a set of rules that creationists are not willing to play by, because their beliefs have long ago lost that game, and so they come in and try to kick over the board and stomp on all the pieces and then act surprised and hurt that they are asked to leave. Sometimes they even have a glimmer of what the problem is:
Schultz said from the church perspective, questions about the age of the earth or whether evolution is valid, are more than academic.Yes, it is not "academic" ... which is why it is so wrong to call it a "learning" center, instead of an "apologetics" center or "indoctrination" center. And he's also right that they are not interested in scientific arguments. But then you have to wonder why they are going to pretend to teach science there.
"When we have children who are, from the age of infancy on, inundated with a message that is contrary to what the church teaches and what the Bible teaches, we have a lot of parents and a lot of children who begin to question their faith, their salvation.
"This really, from our perspective as a ministry, has more to do with salvation and redemption and the fact that we are sinners, than it has to do with trying to prove some kind of a scientific argument," Schultz said.
Sunday, November 08, 2009
Pity poor ERV.
Everyone has to live somewhere but it has to be a extra burden to live in Oklahoma:
NORMAN, Oklahoma – A stimulus-funded research project at the University of Oklahoma has some people questioning how stimulus money is being spent.
The study is titled "Research, Education and Capacity Building – Genomic Structure of Native Peruvian Populations," and is a 5-year, $650,000 project.
State Senator Randy Brogdon is an outspoken opponent of President Obama's stimulus package.
"The people of this state should be outraged to hear about this kind of nonsense going on right here in the great state of Oklahoma," Brogdon said.
Senator Brogdon said he believes every single stimulus-funded project in Oklahoma creates unconstitutional oversight by the federal government, even at the university level.
"The issue is government over-reaching, federal government over-reaching into the state of Oklahoma and controlling our state budget, controlling what the professors teach or what kind of research is going on in the universities," Brogdon said.
Friday, November 06, 2009
Eugenie Scott's reply to Ray Comfort's moronic objections to evolutionary theory has been posted at U.S.News & World Report's blog, God & Country. Scott's reply is more temperate than my own but, nonetheless, devastating. Scott features one of Comfort's more lunatic claims:
Consider Comfort's view on the evolution of sex: "No one even goes near explaining how and why each species managed to reproduce (during the millions of years the female was supposedly evolving to maturity) without the right reproductive machinery." Of course not. That's because no biologist thinks males and females evolved separately!It is an interesting question, that "or worse." Wes Elsberry (who also does a neat dissection of Comfort well worth the read) points to an "apology" by Comfort:
Birds do it; bees do it; even educated fleas do it: but so do the majority of plants and even certain single-celled organisms. But they do it in radically different ways. A male bee has no father and cannot have sons, for example, while there are animals, even vertebrates—bonnethead sharks and Komodo dragons—in which virgin birth occurs. So it's not just for the obvious reason that sex is a fun topic for biologists.
The myriad ways in which organisms reproduce, sexually and asexually, have fascinated biologists for decades and have been examined, in a thoroughly evolutionary context, since Charles Darwin and August Weismann. But none of them have thought that lonely males waited patiently for millions of years for the first females. And anyone who, like Comfort, tells you otherwise is ignorant—or worse.
I’m going to try and put this so that it can’t be taken out of context. I sincerely apologize for misrepresenting what Darwinian evolution says about the origin of males and females. I have checked out the references you have given me as to what the theory has to say about their genesis, read them again and again, and I still don’t understand what you believe. It doesn’t make sense to me because I can’t reconcile what I see in creation with what you would have me believe about evolution. Still, that doesn’t give me the right to misrepresent your beliefs, even if it was done in ignorance.But wait a minute! It wasn't that long ago (March 07, 2009) that, in response to an upbraiding by PZ Myers, Comfort told us that:
"Okay, I've got it," Comfort continued. "Your belief is that species do not arise from single new mutant males that then have to find a corresponding mutant female.So why was he still peddling the same hooey in this series as late as November 02, 2009? Could he have forgotten in eight short months? Even if he was still confused about evolutionary theory (as other parts of his WingNutDaily article clearly indicated) wasn't he put on notice of his ignorance of the science of evolution? Should anyone now accept his "excuse" that he was misrepresenting evolutionary science only out of ignorance?
So, he is either suffering from a neurological disease or deficit severe enough to cause amnesia or is pretending in his U.S.News & World Report's article (not to mention the preface to his copy of the Origin) to have knowledge about evolutionary theory that he does not, in fact, have. Even if he does not claim to be an expert, he is leaving out the fact that he has good reason to know he is ignorant of the science of evolution. Doesn't theology have a phrase for that? ... Oh, yes, a "lie by omission."
But he is doubtless telling the truth that he can read explanations of evolution "again and again" and still not understand them. And I don't doubt that he is right about the cause -- that it "doesn’t make sense to me because I can’t reconcile what I see in creation" with science. When you start with your conclusion -– creation –- and, consciously or unconsciously, reject anything that might contradict that presupposition, you have little chance ... and less desire ... of understanding that which shows you are wrong.