November 20, 2005

REASON, NOT SCIENCE:

Vienna cardinal draws lines in Intelligent Design row (Tom Heneghan, 11/20/05, Reuters)

When Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn waded into a heated debate over evolution in the United States, his goal was not to persuade American schools to teach that God created the world in six days. [...]

"The biblical teaching about creation is not a scientific theory," he said, restating a Catholic view that contrasts with the literal reading of some conservative U.S. Protestants opposed to Darwin. "Christian teaching about creation is not an alternative to evolution."

Schoenborn agrees with the Intelligent Design theory that the complexity of life clearly points to a superior intelligence that must have devised this system. He based this on reason, not science, as Intelligent Design theorists claim to do.

"The next step is to ask -- which intelligence? As a believer, of course I think it is the intelligence of the Creator," he said." [...]

"If [Darwinism] is a scientific theory, it must be open to scientific criticism," he said. "What I'm criticizing is a kind of strategy to immunize it, as if it were an offence to Darwin's dignity to say there are some issues this theory can't explain.

"There's a kind of ban on discussing this and critics of the evolution theory are discredited or discriminated against from the start," he said.

"What I would like is to see in schools is a critical and open spirit, in a positive sense, so we don't make a dogma out of the theory of evolution but we say it is a theory that has a lot going for it but has no answers for some questions."

He questioned neo-Darwinism, the scientifically updated version of Darwin's thesis first published in 1859, and its argument that natural selection -- the so-called "survival of the fittest" -- created life out of matter randomly.

"Can we reasonably say the origin of man and life can only be explained by material causes?" he asked. "Can matter create intelligence? That is a question we can't answer scientifically, because the scientific method cannot grasp it."

"Common sense tells us that matter cannot organize itself," he said. "It needs information to do that, and information is a manifestation of intelligence." [...]

"It's all about materialism, that's the key issue," he said.


That evolution has occurred is a scientific fact. But none of the three great theories of evolution -- Creation, Darwinism, and I.D. -- are based on science. Teach all or teach none. All the kids really need to learn in school is that things evolved.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 20, 2005 9:38 PM
Comments

OJ: What do you mean when you say "evolution"?

Posted by: pepys at November 20, 2005 10:35 PM

life forms have changed over time

Posted by: oj at November 20, 2005 10:51 PM

Can one life form become another distinct form via evolution?

Posted by: Pepys at November 20, 2005 10:59 PM

Pepys:

Yes, that's nearly tautological. The question is whether meaninful evolution can occur via purely natural causes.

Posted by: Mike Earl at November 20, 2005 11:03 PM

I'd tweak that a bit, Mike, and say "... through purely material causes."

Posted by: ghostcat at November 20, 2005 11:20 PM

Mike, could you explain the tautology?

Posted by: Pepys at November 21, 2005 12:18 AM

ghostcat,

"I'd tweak that a bit, Mike, and say "... through purely material causes.""

How would you define the significant difference between "natural" and "material" in this instance?

Posted by: creeper at November 21, 2005 1:06 AM

Pepys,

I think what Mike is getting at is that the term 'evolution' can be seen as synonymous with 'one life form becoming another', as Orrin also points out above.

The term 'evolution' is often, and confusingly, used as short-hand for 'the theory of evolution' (a.k.a. the modern synthesis), or sometimes for 'natural selection'. It is better to use the appropriate terms in full to avoid confusion.

Posted by: creeper at November 21, 2005 1:11 AM

"But none of the three great theories of evolution -- Creation, Darwinism, and I.D. -- are based on science."

Creationism is based on the bible, not science, that much is true.

The theory of evolution is based on science, as any reasonable reading of it would show. One can draw one's own religious conclusions based on this scientific theory, but that does not in turn mean that the scientific theory does not also exist.

Intelligent Design, when it is not conflated into Creationism by people on all sides of this issue, boils down to the questions of irreducible complexity and specified complexity, which constitute an attempt to poke a hole into the theory of evolution on scientific terms. ID accepts, or at least has not found a way to challenge, almost all of the theory of evolution, and as of this point has not been able to propose a genuine alternative. As such, if ID were to be taught as science in a science classroom, it would not be as an alternative scientific theory, but as a footnote.

That is not to say that ID theory could not evolve into a scientific theory at some point, as I have pointed out many times before; it's just that at this point that is all it really is.

Posted by: creeper at November 21, 2005 1:36 AM

creeper -

I believe material and spiritual are both aspects of the natural world. I do not believe in the supernatural. But I do believe in the "supermaterial". David (Cohen) would probably say I'm just playing a semantic game. Doesn't seem that way to me.

Posted by: ghostcat at November 21, 2005 1:40 AM

Thanks, ghostcat, for the clarification - though it now leaves me a little confused as to how you would define a distinction between "supernatural" and "supermaterial". Seems to me that what you define as "supermaterial" is what most people would refer to as "supernatural".

Posted by: creeper at November 21, 2005 1:59 AM

creeper:

How could ID ever "evolve"( :-) )into a scientific theory, such as you and Jeff would recognize? All it seems to say is that, based upon the natural evidence, it is illogical or at least implausible to infer life arose from exclusively natural and material processes, and that to do so violates mathematical probabilty. It is a critique of the inferences darwinism draws from the evidence, not a competing theory, and that is exactly why it does belong in science class, just as marxism belongs in political science class no matter how destructive or misguided it is proved to be. (The most rigorous and open-minded education these days seems to be in Catholic schools and universities that do not shy away from teaching atheism and secular materialism). Where can ID possibly go from there? Seriously, do you mean something like it has to discover pixie dust?

Also, I would be interested in your take on the use of the word "science" as an authority, as in "literal creationism is based upon the Bible and darwinism is based upon science". We know more or less what people mean when they refer to scripture as authority, no matter how much we reject that authority or their particular interpretation of it, but what does it mean to say that "science" is an authority? Does it mean anything more than a consnsus of living scientists who all proudly assert that science is ever-changing and self-correcting? If so, by what authority does this majority consensus (with enough qualified dissenters to make dissent respectable) assert the right to determine what will be taught as science and what will not over the wishes of parents and trustees and despite the intellectual thirst of the better students? These scientists ressemble the Church in its most illiberal, ultramontane eras much more than the original scientific trailblazers they profess to revere.

All this arguing about what should and should not be taught in science class seems to be based upon the assumption of both sides that the other side's theory will be taught as "truth" and used to indoctrinate rather than presented as theory and used to educate. The darwinists are more guilty here than the ID proponents (both in insisting their theory is conclusively authoritative and that the other side's is backdoor religious indoctrination), and that is why so many of us see the anti-ID'ers as an establishment fighting to maintain status and privilege. If I were the kids (assuming late high school) I'd be bloody insulted by both sides.

Posted by: Peter B at November 21, 2005 5:31 AM

Peter,

”How could ID ever "evolve"( :-) )into a scientific theory, such as you and Jeff would recognize? “

Beats me. As it stands and as you also pointed out, ID is no more than a critique (and not an unchallenged one at that) of some inferences that the theory of evolution draws from the evidence. It’s really up to the IDers to define ID’s explanatory power and to provide testable hypotheses.

”Also, I would be interested in your take on the use of the word "science" as an authority[...]”

My ‘take’ is that the current state of science is indeed the consensus of living scientists, and that it is ever-changing and self-correcting. For this to be effective, yes, a process of open dialogue is necessary. New findings and scientific critiques need to be responded to. I am not in favor of the scientific establishment closing itself off from scientific critiques, and as far as I know, neither are the vast majority of scientists - they view literal creationism as not supported by scientific evidence, and find the scientific arguments in favor of ID wanting; rejecting ID and creationism is not the same as rejecting it blindly.

Trying to redefine the very definition of science to accommodate theology or ideology, on the other hand, betrays a fundamental understanding of both science and theology. Trying to argue that God reaches into test tubes to bring about certain test results renders the debate nonsensical. Faith and science can happily co-exist, and not just in my opinion.

”The darwinists are more guilty here than the ID proponents (both in insisting their theory is conclusively authoritative and that the other side's is backdoor religious indoctrination)”

I don’t think the blame for painting ID proponents as backdoor religious indoctrinators can be laid entirely at the anti-IDers’ feet. Surely there’s plenty of conflating of these terms on the other side to warrant such suspicion; for example Orrin here happily and repeatedly sweeps literal creationists and IDers into one supposedly homogenous whole so that he can satisfy his urge to claim some (fictitious) overwhelming majority against the teaching of evolution, when a strict reading of ID in scientific terms would clearly prevent this and show a more varied range of opinions.

The whole world, from whose hands? (USA Today, 10/10/05)

BIBLE VS. EVOLUTION

Which statement comes closest to your views?

God created human beings in their present form exactly as described in the Bible

All: 53% [...]

Human beings have evolved over millions of years from other forms of life, and God guided this process.

All: 31% [...]

Human beings have evolved, but God had no part in the process.

All: 12% [...]

Source: USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup telephone survey of 1,005 on Sept. 8-11. Margin of error +/- 3 percentage points.
Evolution & Intelligent Design: Understanding Public Opinion (Matthew C. Nisbet and Erik C. Nisbet, September 2005, GeoTimes)

Across several surveys, Gallup has measured the public’s beliefs specific to the view that humans developed over millions of years with no role played by God, the “theistic evolutionist” view that humans developed over millions of years with God guiding the process, or the creationist view that God created humans pretty much in their present form at some time in the last 10,000 years.

When Gallup first asked the public in 1982 about their views on the matter, 38 percent indicated they believed in the creationist explanation, 33 percent believed in the theistic evolutionist explanation, and 9 percent chose the “no God” account. Beliefs changed slightly over the next 10 years, trending toward the creationist explanation. In a 1991 Gallup poll, 47 percent chose the creationist explanation, compared to 40 percent for the theistic view, and 9 percent for the “no God” account. Gallup administered the question again in November 2004, showing beliefs changed little, as 45 percent chose the creationist explanation, 38 percent the theistic evolutionist account, and 13 percent the “no God” explanation. A December 2004 Newsweek poll replicates the most recent Gallup result within the margin of error.

A public divided on the role of God in evolution would not be surprising, given that a 1997 survey of U.S. scientists finds that only 55 percent subscribe to the idea that humans developed with no role played by God, compared to 40 percent who agree with the theistic evolutionist account. What is surprising, however, is the increase over the past two decades in public support for the creationist viewpoint, with Young Earth creationist beliefs reaching near-majority levels.

Although it might be difficult for some scientists to imagine even posing the question, polls indicate that when queried generally about the possibility of teaching creationism instead of evolutionary theory, only a slight majority of the public opposes such a move. If asked generally about teaching both creationism and evolutionary theory in public schools, the public is also remarkably consistent in favoring both.

Posted by: creeper at November 21, 2005 6:53 AM

The school board results are the school board results and a far more legitimate basis to include or exclude any teachings than so-called expert mutterings about how ID lacks deductive consequences to support it or whatever. But as much as the scientific establishment is revelling in this triumph of democracy, it isn't consistent with their position, is it? If you hold that, as a matter of objective reality, ID is "not science" and therefore must be excluded from science classes (and you are prepared to go to an undemocratic judiciary to enforce this), the fact that you win an election means little because presumably you wouldn't have recognized the legitimacy of an election that went the other way. Would you support the teaching of ID in science classes if that is what the democratically-elected trustees wanted?

BTW, saying that most scientists are more opem-minded and tolerant than their spokesmen in a political campaign appear may be true, but it isn't much more meaningful that saying most of the citizens of the old Soviet Union were really nice people.

Posted by: Peter B at November 21, 2005 7:07 AM

creeper:

No one opposes teaching evolution. Many oppose teaching that evolution proceeds via Darwinism, which is fitting since just 13% of the public believes in it. All science requires is evolution itself--the rest is faith.

Posted by: oj at November 21, 2005 7:13 AM

Of course scientists generally are more open-minded than the spokesman--most of them disagree with the spokesmen.

Posted by: oj at November 21, 2005 7:22 AM

Orrin,

I would very much appreciate it if you posted your comments in such a way that it is clear which contributions are yours, instead of pasting them into the middle of mine or, worse, altering or deleting my words, as this will leave other readers with mistaken impressions as to who holds what views. If you disagree with something I wrote, simply respond to it in your own name, and we can discuss and either reach a conclusion or clearly see where we stand.

Posted by: creeper at November 21, 2005 8:13 AM

I edit lies, inaccuracies and the like.

Posted by: oj at November 21, 2005 8:21 AM

Peter:

How could ID ever "evolve"( :-) )into a scientific theory, such as you and Jeff would recognize?

By developing their theory to the point where it can reliably distinguish between those things requiring design, and those that don't, and at what point the design must have occurred. Then deriving theory-bound deductive consequences. Then, through research, test the theory against first order knowledge. Then subjecting it all to peer review.

To date, ID is laughably inadequate at the first, and has done precisely zero research.

I agree with Creeper when he says there is no problem with discussing ID analytically in a science class. However, that is precisely the last thing ID advocates want.

OJ:

If your viewpoint is defendable, you wouldn't have to insidiously alter other's posts to defend it.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at November 21, 2005 8:35 AM

From the article: the cardinal spelled out a position that respects Darwin's achievements but rejects neo-Darwinist views he said go beyond what science can prove.

So what is there to disagree with?

Posted by: ANon at November 21, 2005 8:36 AM

Jeff:

One doesn't argue facts, only their meanings. You guys don't have facts on your side so you change them. I change them back.

Posted by: oj at November 21, 2005 8:40 AM

Sure, Jeff, ID advocates want to destroy science altogether, erase Darwin's name from history and impose the long-awaited theocracy they have been secretly planning all along.

Don't forget to lock your doors tonight.

Posted by: Peter B at November 21, 2005 8:40 AM

Agree with Jeff and Creeper. You really should be a man and stop deceitfully deleting and editing posts just because they're vile anti-factual propaganda.

You're developing a reputation for intellectual cowardice and dishonesty.

If you are right and your views are correct, you should not have to perform this Orwellian editing of threads.

5 gets you 1 that OJ will delete this post as well.

Posted by: Anon at November 21, 2005 8:41 AM

Anon:

Funny thing. You guys are here. I'm not there.

Posted by: oj at November 21, 2005 8:47 AM

Ah, a spirited call for free speech and openness from the one who posts as "Anon".

Posted by: Peter B at November 21, 2005 8:48 AM

Where do you guys get the idea you have the unfettered right to troll away and repeat yourselves endlessly, not to mention being openly disdainful of the views of many regulars here? Is that in the Constitution?

Posted by: Peter B at November 21, 2005 8:50 AM

Funny thing. You guys are here. I'm not there.

What exactly is this supposed to mean?

Posted by: Anon at November 21, 2005 9:25 AM

Peter,

Did you think that my comments on this thread that were deleted by Orrin (I hope you had a chance to catch them - if not, I can repost them for you) constituted trolling? Did you think they contained lies and inaccuracies, as Orrin claimed? I have looked at them again and could not find any lies or inaccuracies. Did you think my language was disrespectful? If so, please point it out to me, and I will gladly apologize.

Though I may have complained about Orrin's unethical acts at times, I don't think I ever had harsh words for anyone while debating the issues at hand.


Orrin,

In what way does pretending that your opinions are mine or anyone else's contribute to lessening or eradicating lies and inaccuracies?

Posted by: creeper at November 21, 2005 9:58 AM

Opinions wouldn't. But sticking to just the facts aids discussion.

Posted by: oj at November 21, 2005 10:02 AM

If we were not factual, then you should be able to easily defeat our arguments without relying on deletions or deceitful editing.

You know, I know, God knows. One day, He'll want an explanation from you.

Posted by: Anon at November 21, 2005 10:07 AM

Then why do you routinely erase facts that contradict your opinions?

Posted by: creeper at November 21, 2005 10:11 AM

I never delete facts. Indeed, I add them to show that your comments are contradicxted by the facts.

Posted by: oj at November 21, 2005 10:12 AM

Anon. I know that God sees every sparrow that falls from the sky, but monitoring inaccuracies on a blog and asking for an explanation for them at the pearly gates seems a bit much to ask of even an omnipotent God.

Posted by: erp at November 21, 2005 10:21 AM

Orrin,

"I never delete facts."

You have deleted the inconvenient fact that the majority of Americans do not want creationism taught as science in the science classroom (they prefer to have it mentioned as a belief in the science classroom, have it taught outside the science classroom, or not have it taught in school at all) more than once. The poll you substituted to make the opposite claim did not support your claim, since it did not ask whether creationism should be taught as science in the science classroom.

That's an example of you (repeatedly) deleting facts that contradict your opinions.

Posted by: creeper at November 21, 2005 10:24 AM

Erp, If they are inaccuracies they should be easy for OJ to defeat in open and honest argument, and there would be no need for deletions and editing now would there?

Posted by: Anon at November 21, 2005 10:26 AM

creeper:

See, so now even you concede that the overwhelming majority of Americans wants the alternate theories of evolution taught in science class. Thus my tactics.

Posted by: oj at November 21, 2005 10:30 AM

Anon:

Yes, "honest"

Posted by: oj at November 21, 2005 10:30 AM

Orrin,

"See, so now even you concede that the overwhelming majority of Americans wants the alternate theories of evolution taught in science class. Thus my tactics."

What I said was that the majority of Americans do not want creationism taught as science in a science class. That is hardly conceding that that "majority wants alternate theories of evolution taught in science class".

Not wanting it taught at all is not the same as wanting alternate theories of evolution taught in science class; wanting creationism taught outside of science class is not the same as wanting alternate theories of evolution taught in science class; wanting creationism mentioned as a "belief" is not the same as wanting alternate theories of evolution taught in science class.

What was that you were trying to insinuate about "honest" arguments to Anon?

Posted by: creeper at November 21, 2005 10:44 AM

creeper:

There are fewer angels on that pinhead than you think. After the overwhelming majority wantinmg it taught you slip into the ether.

Posted by: oj at November 21, 2005 10:48 AM

Orrin,

Surely you understand the difference between wanting creationism taught (which the majority favors) and wanting creationism taught as science in the science classroom (which the majority does not favor). The Dover school board members didn't comprehend that distinction until it was too late for them.

Posted by: creeper at November 21, 2005 10:53 AM

There are fewer angels on that pinhead than you think. After the overwhelming majority wantinmg it taught you slip into the ether.

OJ, you're babbling.

Posted by: Anon at November 21, 2005 10:55 AM

creeper:

No, I truly don't understand how the vast majority of Americans who believe in Creation or I.D. and want it taught in science class can be said to not want it taught like Darwinism in science class.

Posted by: oj at November 21, 2005 11:03 AM

Anon:

creeper understood. Perhaps you're blistening?

Posted by: oj at November 21, 2005 11:03 AM

Orrin,

"I truly don't understand how the vast majority of Americans who believe in Creation or I.D. and want it taught in science class can be said to not want it taught like Darwinism in science class"


http://www.geotimes.org/sept05/feature_evolutionpolls.html

Posted by: creeper at November 21, 2005 11:09 AM

creeper:

Yes, I get the part where you wish more than 13% of Americans believed in Darwinism and that a majority opposed teaching the alternate views of how evolution occurs, but wishing doesn't change the facts.

Posted by: oj at November 21, 2005 12:57 PM

Actually, Darwinian Evolution is just as sparse when it comes to predictive power as is claimed for I.D: Darwin predicted that the fossil record would show a graduation of species evolving from one to the other, and that has been disproven.

I.D. also takes Darwin at his word: He himself admitted in his master work that his theory would be refuted if it could be shown that a complex biological structure could not have evolved as a series of small incremental changes. I.D's claim is that "You can't get there from here that way.", and Behe, a microbiologist of no small repute, discussed several structures that he argued were irreducibly complex.

I agree that I.D. is in the infancy stage: IMHO, what is needed is the development of a rigorous mathematical treatment of molecular complexity, similar to that which underlies thermodynamics, that allows one to show that certain structures or molecular processes are simply not possible, in the same way that Thermodynamics can show that a heat engine cannot operate at a higher efficiency than X% given certain design parameters. We've tried probability analysis, but a demonstration that a hemogobin molecule can't self-form within the currently known age of the universe is dismissed by saying it's not zero, and therefore is still possible. There is a massive amount of studied ignorance about how probabilities work that borders on Innumeracy, so while it is also probable that a form of Biological Mathematics may be developed that can show that certain biological strucures could not arise spontaneously or at the end of a process of evolution, it would only convince Mathematicians that Darwinian Evolution didn't happen. As a side-effect, a biological mathematics would be useful to prove that certain biological organisms capable of certain pathologies cannot evolve naturally, indicating the direction in which medical research can best be directed. Or that a specific germ that slaughtered a third of our population was genetically engineered and not a random mutation. Or it could indicate which useful chemicals and biologically derived substances can and cannot be grown using a certain organism. Like any other revolutionary mathematics, I can only predict a small fraction of the useful applications that would come out of such a mathematics.

Finally, I should point out that the "rules" of science forbid outright the use of a non-natural explanation for natural phenomena: "Angels push the planets around the sun" is not an acceptable explanation, and Christians who are scientists (like the college professor who told me that) will be the first to tell you that: A working universe that requires God's Tibia to be some essential strut in the structure, or which requires continuous divine intervention to maintain Planck's constant at its current value, is neo-Pantheist. However, that is not the same thing as a ban on God not interfering with his Universe: A smoothly running machine that doesn't need constant attention from its creator is not proof that the creator did not exist, or that the creator will never intervene at some future date. The distinction is subtle, and I don't blame anyone for not seeing it.

Posted by: Ptah at November 21, 2005 2:24 PM

Ptah:

Actually, naturalistic evolution is far more predictive than ID.

For instance, evolution says isolated populations must diverge over time. And that the genetic difference between related organisms must be a function of the time since the last shared ancestor.

That is just two of many. Does ID have any similar constraints?

Regarding hemoglobin, Behe's assertion is more than you have portrayed. In particular, he has asserted that there is absolutely no function hemoglobin could perform other than in its present state. That is an argument from ignorance -- just because Behe doesn't know how hemoglobin came to be doesn't mean it happened all at once, or that a simpler variant of hemoglobin is useless.

As it turns out, he is wrong. Other mammals have a simpler version than we, and it works just fine. So, in this particular case, his irreducible complexity is actually quite reducible.

This argument is the Creationist argument about bird wings revisited. Once upon a time, not too long ago, Creationsists argued evolution was impossible, because there was no use for half a bird's wing, that it was an all or nothing affair, and there was no chance of it happening all at once.

Which was an irreducible complexity argument from ignorance. Too bad fossils discovered shortly thereafter crushed the argument.

Regarding God's part in the ongoing workings of the universe: How do you tell interference from not interference? I must admit, that is a distinction that escapes me.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at November 21, 2005 2:36 PM

Jeff:

But they don't diverge.

Posted by: oj at November 21, 2005 2:42 PM

OJ:

Oh yes they do. Every time.

Unless, of course, you cite an example otherwise.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at November 21, 2005 3:50 PM

Aborigines and Laps

But that's a trick.

The point is that the divergence within species was well known, not predicted. Darwinism had to explain it, not predict it.

Posted by: oj at November 21, 2005 3:56 PM

ID doesn't require it, naturalistic evolution does.

And if you can pinpoint the boundary between divergence within species ends, and species begins, there is a Nobel in it for you.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at November 21, 2005 5:17 PM

Jeff:

That's the point, there is no divergence into other species. Darwin's brilliant observation was that you could get some variation within species in Nature just as Man produced in barnyards. His catastrophic error was to assume that even though nothing speciated in the barnyard it must in Nature.

Posted by: oj at November 21, 2005 5:26 PM

OJ:

I recommend you more closely investigate the sequencing of the chimpanzee genome, and how it compares to ours.

Which is very much the point: there is divergence to the point of new species, families, genera, phyla, etc.

Or are you now denying common descent?

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at November 21, 2005 9:22 PM

OJ: I agree, that natural selection is an article of faith, but you should not edit comments, except to remove obscenity, insult and like abuse.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at November 21, 2005 10:04 PM
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