July 27, 2005

DON'T TEACH THE CONTROVERSY, TEACH THE CONSENSUS:

The evolution of George Gilder: The author and tech-sector guru has a new cause to create controversy with: intelligent design (Joseph P. Kahn, July 27, 2005, Boston Globe)

CREATIONISM: Ascribes creation of all matter and species to the work of a divine agency such as God.

EVOLUTION: Theorizes that plant and animal species developed from earlier life forms by a process of random mutation and natural selection.

INTELLIGENT DESIGN: Asserts that life is too complex to be explained by purely natural processes, and therefore some agent or agents of higher intelligence played a role in its creation. [...]

[T]wo primary influences began nudging Gilder toward intelligent design.

One was the work of Claude E. Shannon, which Gilder discovered through his interest in the science behind the computer chip. Shannon is regarded as the father of information theory, a branch of mathematics that combines probability theory and statistics and is used by communication engineers to orchestrate how information bits are transmitted.

The more the inner workings of the cell are understood, according to Gilder, the more Shannon's theory is useful in deconstructing life itself. Given the cell's complexity and capacity for information exchange, Gilder and other ID proponents maintain, it seems improbable that life could have evolved haphazardly. It's not that Darwin is wrong or irrelevant, they contend, or that processes like genetic mutation and natural selection play no role in how species evolve. But these processes cannot explain everything that biologists ascribe to them. Ergo, some form of higher intelligence -- call it God, a Supreme Programmer, or whatever -- must have played a role, they say.

''Physics and chemistry alone cannot account for the complexity of the genome," Gilder asserts. ''It's like trying to understand how basketball is played by studying the rules. There's far more to the game than that."

Though a conservative Christian by upbringing and temperament, Gilder insists his belief in ID is not a faith-based proposition.

''The analogy between Shannon and codes in biology isn't something that sprang from my belief in God," he says, shaking his head. Information theory and Christianity are not deeply entwined for him, he says -- ''except maybe on some deeper or more transcendent level." Using Darwin to explain how life began, he adds, ''isn't even remotely feasible in information-theoretic terms. Something else has to be posited. What that additional factor is, how this intelligence emerges in the universe, I don't know and isn't for me to say. But nobody else does, either."

Gilder is also cofounder of the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank established in 1991. The institute, which promotes a conservative public-policy agenda, has occupied a lead role in the ID movement recently, most notably through its Center for Science and Culture, which boasts a number of leading ID proponents among its fellows and advisers. The institute is headed by Bruce Chapman, Gilder's former college roommate, coauthor, and Reagan White House colleague.

As a senior fellow at the institute, Gilder primarily focuses on telecom policy. Yet the controversy over ID, recently reflected in the Smithsonian Institution's decision to screen an ID-friendly documentary titled ''The Privileged Plant: The Search for Purpose in the Universe," has brought the issue to Gilder's front doorstep.

And for an old culture warrior like Gilder, there's no ducking this fight, either.

''I'm not pushing to have [ID] taught as an 'alternative' to Darwin, and neither are they," he says in response to one question about Discovery's agenda. ''What's being pushed is to have Darwinism critiqued, to teach there's a controversy. Intelligent design itself does not have any content."


Not only does this profile demolish most of the stereotypes surrounding these questions, but using Mr. Kahn's common sense definitions it's plain that what's still controversial, all these decades after the Scopes trial, is Evolution, which only 13% of Americans believe in but which this fraction insists be exclusively taught in public schools.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 27, 2005 8:38 AM
Comments

"Evolution, which only 13% of Americans believe in"

Man developed, with God guiding--38%

Man developed, but God had no part in process--13%

38%+13%=51%

Nonsense. What is being suggested is that ID be restricted to classes for religion, history and etymology until such time as that ID proponents come up with actual scientific research to back up their views.

And this is worth a read:

http://www.reason.com/rb/rb071905.shtml

Creation Summer Camp
Live from the 2005 Creation Mega-Conference

"The creationists here at the Mega-Conference make it crystal clear that they are no namby-pamby Discovery Institute intelligent designers nor are they mere progressive evolutionists. As David Dewitt, associate professor of biology and head of the Creation Studies Center at Liberty University succinctly explains, "We believe that Adam and Eve were real people and that God created everything in six 24 hour days."

Romanian geologist Dr. Emil Silvestru "debunks" the notion that the earth had existed for millions of years in his talk "Rocks Around the Clock: The Eons That Never Were." In place of the scientific view that the earth is around 4.5 billion years old Silvestru offers a six thousand year "young Earth" chronology:

Creation—six 24-hour days
Lost World—1700 years—no big mountains, no plate tectonics
Flood—370 days—creation of high mountains, deep oceans, sedimentary rocks, plate tectonics form continents
Ice Age—1000 years
Post Ice Age—3000 years and counting. "

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at July 27, 2005 9:19 AM

"Physics and chemistry alone cannot account for the complexity of the genome," Gilder asserts.

As a religious skeptic, I have much sympathy for this observation. I willingly accept that minor changes can/do come about from evolution. Much harder to accept that life arose from nothing and that the fly I just swatted is a distant cousin, separated from me only by a long string of chance and randomness.

Posted by: Rick T. at July 27, 2005 11:10 AM

INTELLIGENT DESIGN: Asserts that life is too complex to be explained by purely natural processes, and therefore some agent or agents of higher intelligence played a role in its creation.

ID rests on a logical contradiction. If life is too complex to be explained by natural processes, isn't the creator of that life even more complicated? The watchmaker is more complicated than the watch. So who created the creator? If you say "He just exists," you have abandoned your premise that things that are "too complex" require a creator.

Posted by: PapayaSF at July 27, 2005 11:25 AM

Papaya: Look at nature as a closed set with certain characteristics. The IDers are saying that those characteristings can't explain these results. It's as if we found a nicely set machine screw holding together two pieces of metal, with a hammer resting next to it.

Posted by: David Cohen at July 27, 2005 11:31 AM

Papaya -

There is no contradiction - ID doesn't try to (or need to) explain the creator. Are you saying that I can't learn watchmaking without also learning all the intricacies of human biology?

I've never taken a sure position in the evo/ID debate but I think that the ability to say "I don't know how/why" is a strong point in favor of ID.

Posted by: Shelton at July 27, 2005 11:40 AM

Every thing is in g-d's image.

Posted by: ghostcat at July 27, 2005 11:51 AM

This increasingly reminds me of the differences here between the Church of England and the Roman Catholics.

You can accept gay marriages and women priests, and deny the virgin birth, all the miracles in the Bible, Hell, Purgatory and probably the Resurrection...and STILL be a respectable CofE vicar.

At least the Catholics stick to their guns. The Anglicans just go with the secular flow, all the time trying to squeeze religion into smaller and smaller gaps.

ID is for wusses. If you accept what science tells you about evolution, but just try to squeeze God into the ever-shrinking gaps, you've already admitted defeat.

Six-day Creationists are stark raving mad, but at least they're coherently stark raving mad.

Posted by: Brit at July 27, 2005 11:56 AM

ghost:

Not according to God, who seems like the best source.

Posted by: oj at July 27, 2005 12:15 PM

Brit:

I.D. and Evolutionism are quite similar, they're just the same observation interpreted differently.

Darwin look at variation within species and noted that it looked a lot like how farmers produce different breeds. He hypothesized that Nature might be able to do on its own what Man does, and go beyond to produce speciation and genuine morphological change.

I.D. take the same observation and say it looks like evolution is probably guided by intelligence just like breeding.

Bothg are plausible, though I.D. is more reasonable.

Posted by: oj at July 27, 2005 12:26 PM

oj:

Try adding some scientific journals to your reading list.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at July 27, 2005 12:34 PM

papaya:

Of course the Creator has a Creator.

Posted by: oj at July 27, 2005 12:37 PM

It is, at minimum, dishonest to claim that Discovery Institute is neutral or uncommitted as regards the Christian conception of creation.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at July 27, 2005 12:43 PM

Except that the Founder isn't a Christian?

Posted by: oj at July 27, 2005 12:48 PM

oj wrote: "Evolution, which only 13% of Americans believe in but which this fraction insists be exclusively taught in public schools."

Not exactly. I think they insist that only topics that are based on strictly natural phenomena are taught as science. By definition, creationism and ID don't qualify. I don't think they have a big problem with teaching creationism and ID as part of comparitive religions or philosophy or in sunday school.

Posted by: Bret at July 27, 2005 1:14 PM

oj-

What does man know of what g-d knows?

Posted by: ghostcat at July 27, 2005 1:34 PM

We know nothing of what He knows. We know everything He thought it important for us to know.

Posted by: oj at July 27, 2005 2:23 PM

Bret:

Exactly.

Posted by: oj at July 27, 2005 2:25 PM

oj-

Illuminate the consensus.

Posted by: ghostcat at July 27, 2005 2:44 PM

Ghost: Why do you refer to G-d as g-d?

Posted by: David Cohen at July 27, 2005 3:18 PM

david -

Because i'm Not jewish.

Posted by: ghostcat at July 27, 2005 5:05 PM

Right. That explains the lower case "g" but merely deepens the mystery of the hyphen, which is something done almost solely by Jews for inherently Jewish reasons.

Posted by: David Cohen at July 27, 2005 6:09 PM

Because I am close.

Posted by: ghostcat at July 27, 2005 6:13 PM

David -

Since you asked an apparently serious question, I'll give a more serious answer.

Remember the "Belief-O-Matic" back in April? I scored a 79% hit on Orthodox Jewish. And at the risk of rekindling oj's wrath, my favorite novelist (bar none) is Bellow. I'm only somewhat less fond of Roth. The second-generation Jewish/American experience resonates with me for a host of reasons.

Spiritually, I can perhaps best be described as an agnostic pantheist. While I'm definitely not an a-theist, I am prone to using a variety of terms for The Almighty. My current preference seems to be "g-d". This, too, shall pass.

Posted by: ghostcat at July 27, 2005 6:39 PM

How about a bris?

Posted by: oj at July 27, 2005 7:54 PM

I said "close to" Jewish. Ritual mutilation is a bridge too far.

Posted by: ghostcat at July 27, 2005 8:04 PM

wine drinker

Posted by: oj at July 27, 2005 8:09 PM

Saint Bris?

Posted by: ghostcat at July 27, 2005 8:12 PM

Ali:

The Globe defines Evolution differently than you and creeper, by, necessarily, excluding God doing the selection.

Posted by: oj at July 27, 2005 11:53 PM

I am happy to see that Gilder is using information theory to critique Dawkinsism.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at July 28, 2005 12:49 AM

OJ:

"Darwin look at variation within species and noted that it looked a lot like how farmers produce different breeds. He hypothesized that Nature might be able to do on its own what Man does, and go beyond to produce speciation and genuine morphological change.

I.D. take the same observation and say it looks like evolution is probably guided by intelligence just like breeding."

Oh, you think?

If they really observe a big Super Farmer, then he's the most incompetent and malicious one imaginable. They'd rightly be cursing or laughing at him, not doing what they actually do, which is attend a Christian church every Sunday, just as they had been doing before science made it too silly to buy Genesis.

Posted by: Brit at July 28, 2005 8:12 AM

Brit:

Yes, but that's just an argument about the quality of the Farmer not an argument against one. That's all Darwinism ever was.

Posted by: oj at July 28, 2005 8:37 AM

The point is that your portrait of ID is sadly inaccurate. It's actually Creationism for wusses.

Posted by: Brit at July 28, 2005 9:11 AM

Brit:

You don't have to believe in God to realize that Evolution doesn't work. ID is just a place for rational rationalists to go.

Posted by: oj at July 28, 2005 9:37 AM

Among the problems (there are many) with ID, is that IDers keep claiming that X cannot be explained, and then the evolutionists come back and have nifty, reproducible and checkable explanations of X.

ID fails on its own terms. It can neither explain anything nor debunk anything.

While brit is right and it is, in practice, just Creationism (and not merely Creationism but Christian Creationism) for wusses, it's more accurately described as a species of onanism.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at July 28, 2005 5:08 PM

Not that it can't be explained, but that it can't be explained scientifically. That's why skepticism of any stripe as regards Evolution works.

Posted by: oj at July 28, 2005 6:46 PM

I said reproducile and checkable. That makes it scientific.

Gilder, as shown by his childish response to Myers' evisceration, is just a pompous know-nothing.

And he even brags about knowing nothing.

If ID has any merit, it will start attracting higher quality adherents. So far, all it has is a bunch of dumb bunnies.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at July 28, 2005 7:15 PM

Harry:

Ernst Mayr said you're wrong. He's a more trustworthy source.

Posted by: oj at July 28, 2005 7:25 PM

"Don't teach the controversy, teach the consensus"

The consensus among scientists is, of course, accepting of the theory of evolution, and there is no problem teaching that consensus in science classes.

If you want the controversy not to be taught, well there goes Intelligent Design, right?

Posted by: at July 30, 2005 11:57 AM

"Ernst Mayr said you're wrong. He's a more trustworthy source."

Where does this trustworthy source say that?

Posted by: creeper at July 30, 2005 11:59 AM

Anonymous:

yes, the consensus is Creation.

Posted by: oj at July 30, 2005 12:25 PM

anon: since when do scientists pull any weight in this society ? they can earn a decent salary doing what they like doing but they are mocked for the most part by the rest of the population. they get one vote per, just like anyone else.

Posted by: cjm at July 30, 2005 4:28 PM

"yes, the consensus is Creation."

... and the majority thinks man evolved from less advanced forms of life. Not much of a consensus.

"since when do scientists pull any weight in this society ?"

Science classes should teach the current state of science, and obviously we turn to scientists, not high school dropouts, for the current state of science.

Posted by: creeper at July 30, 2005 6:45 PM

science classes should teach what has been proven not was has been speculated about. that's why newton is immortal and hawkings is a farce. teach your own kids what you believe, just like i do, and don't worry what the nea stooges get upto.

Posted by: cjm at July 30, 2005 7:55 PM

Proof is for mathematics and alcohol.

Posted by: creeper at July 31, 2005 8:59 PM
« JUST ONE DANG TRANSFORMATION AFTER ANOTHER: | Main | WITH EVERY BOMB THEY LOSE: »