"The only debate on intelligent design that  OCT 21 2005

"The only debate on intelligent design that is worthy of its subject". Hootingly funny. (And I have no doubt that someone from the other side of the debate could construct something equally as amusing, so...)

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There are 47 reader comments

Jason41 21 2005 9:41AM

Unfortunately, that story is representative of the attitude of many in the evolution camp. Instead of being willing to engage in honest debate, they resort to belittlement or even refuse to show up at the discussion table (as if the debate is beneath them). That elitist attitude isn't winning any converts.

Nick Douglas56 21 2005 9:56AM

We're not elitist, we're just smarter than you.

Overworm20 21 200510:20AM

The problem is, there is no honest debate on this issue. One viewpoint uses history tested scientific methodology to state its case. The other viewpoint uses blind religious faith. An "honest" debate between these camps is akin to an "honest" debate between those who believe the moon is made of blue cheese and those who don't.

Blind religious faith is a fine thing when it comes to believing in your deity of choice. It's not necessarily a good thing when it comes to setting scientific precedent.

The evolution camp may be wrong. However, that will be proven through the application science, not a meaningless debate with those who place their faith in the seven-day theory of intelligent design.

Nels46 21 200510:46AM

There is no '"honest" debate' on this issue, because there simply can be no debate on this issue. The two premises of the two sides of the issue are defined by completely different, incongruent disciplines. One is philosophical, the other is mystical. Any debate that takes place must be conducted within the confines of those disciplines. I see no problem with that.

mike01 21 200511:01AM

You really seem to love this issue. A link comes up just about every week, about how flawed 'Intelligent
Design' is. Why is that?

Eloy Anzola21 21 200511:21AM

Funny it is...

The thing is, you see, the scientist did use the bat. He makes the point of ID. The pain and broken knee was, IN FACT, designed.

An honest debate would be nice.
We were both designed and have evolved.

the valrus23 21 200511:23AM

Probably because the thought that we should be teaching it as science in our schools is a travesty, and representative of the war on actual education that seems to be going on in this country.

Beerzie Boy25 21 200511:25AM

Nels, that is a great summary of the problem (and my annoyance) with this whole debate.

And Mike, would you have posted that comment if you felt JK's slant on this issue was in favor of Intelligent Design?

the valrus26 21 200511:26AM

Erm, that was for Mike, by the way.

david31 21 200511:31AM

In this sort of discussion, it could be of value to occasionally repeat the current definition of the terms under debate.

At its simplest, evolution means a long, long history of living things changing their average expression (or form)

Intelligent Design at its simplest says that the current expression is not a mistake, but was intended by some-thing/one/FSM

There is no inherent conflict between the two. The conflict comes when either party attempts to fix the timeline to the exclusion of the other camp.

I am no expert on ID or evo, I made up both definitions.

And mike, the answer to why kottke links to this type of thing is that when he turned pro, Jason became an entertainer and a delivery system for entertaining product.

Thanks Jason. Keep it up.

Jason35 21 200511:35AM

The debate over evolution and intelligent design is really just the most visible outgrowth of the heart of the matter: a philosophical and metaphysical debate. Proponents of evolution who attempt to couch the debate in terms of "tested scientific methodology" versus "blind religious faither" are missing the boat.

Intelligent-design supporters aren't opposed to scientific inquiry. In fact, we welcome it, and we support the teaching of evolution in the classroom. But what we are opposed to is the notion that nothing can be taught that challenges the philosophy of materialism — the idea that all aspects of reality can be reduced to matter and its various particles and that it accounts for everything that has ever happened or will ever happen. The philosophy of materialism isn't science; it's metaphysics. And we oppose it being misrepresented as or taught under the guise of science.

Jason36 21 200511:36AM

and by "faither" I mean "faith"

Matt Haughey07 21 200512:07PM

You know, people that support ID tend to have politics that pride patriotism. Patriots love America and are sure that we're #1 in everything and will remain so. But moving children from science-based Biology to one grounded in your faith means that in a generation or so, science majors, biochemists, biologists and other sorts of professions will decline, because kids won't be taught science and ever major in it.

When that happens, American pharmaceutical companies which are currently at the top of the heap in terms of revenue and fighting diseases will begin a rapid decline. China, South Korea, and other countries will be more than happy to outpace and outclass our scientific community, and reap the benefits. If you think we have a trade deficit now, just you wait until Claritin comes from Seoul.

In other words, if you love ID, you hate America. Why do you hate America? Do you want us to be #3 or #4 in the world? Remember how the UK used to be on top? That's our future if we stop teaching kids science.

Western Infidels18 21 200512:18PM

...what we are opposed to is the notion that nothing can be taught that challenges the philosophy of materialism... The philosophy of materialism isn't science; it's metaphysics. And we oppose it being misrepresented as or taught under the guise of science.

Science isn't materialism. It doesn't even require materialism to be true, or assume that it's true. In my experience, it's not taught that way, either. It's perfectly possible to construct scientific models and experiments for nonmaterialist phenomena or hypotheses (like the power of prayer, for example) - there's no inherent conflict.

The issue scientists have with ID has nothing to do with materialism. The problem is that ID is incompatible with the scientific method, and therefore isn't scientific. It's a very simple objection.

Any elaborate semantic evasions one might concoct, conflating science, materialism, metaphysics, philosophy, and religion, aren't aren't going to change that fundemental problem.

TokenMormon50 21 200512:50PM

Why is it that none of the web's proponents of evolution ever actually make any clear statement of what, exactly, evolutionary theory is?

I have my hypotheses as to why, and it has nothing to do with whether or not evolution is a valid theory.

Evolution might win more converts if, rather than pedantically belittling those who haven't signed on, its proponents would actually clearly state what evolution is, and briefly state, specifically, the manner in which it went from being a hypothesis to a widely accepted theory.

Saying "it has been proved using the scientific method" or just giving the steps of the scientific method doesn't count. If you don't know how evolution, specifically, became an accepted theory, you have no place belittling those who question it.

(and by the way, I wholeheartedly embrace the theory of evolution, and think ID folks just make us religious folks look stupid by proxy)

Overworm06 21 2005 1:06PM

Okay, TokenM, what is your clear statement on what, exactly, evolutionary theory is?

Rory16 21 2005 1:16PM

Western Infidels hits the nail on the head. ID, as defined by its proponents, is not just opposed to evolution (a debatable scientific theory), it is fundamentally outside the bounds of what the academic community defines as science. People get confused because everyone positions things as evo vs. ID, but it's total apples and oranges. The really nasty trick that ID folks do is to make people believe that because the argument is nonsensical, it can never be resolved, and that's why it's so important that ID be taught alongside evolution. What their real goal (whether they know it or not) is for ID to be taught alongside Science, not within the context of it. It's like arguing that Chinese verb conjugation needs to be taught in an English classroom so that students can choose for themselves which system makes sense to them. That's not to say that it's a bad idea for them to learn Chinese (or, necessarily, ID), but it belongs in a different classroom.

All that being said, despite the minor humor value I gotta say that the linked page really adds nothing to the debate. Yeah, I get it; sure, I chuckled a bit; but I'm already on your side. As Jason (not Kottke) above said, this isn't winning any converts. This isn't just preaching to the choir, it's turning your back on the congregation and making jokes at their expense to the choir. I don't mind that Jason (Kottke) keeps posting ID links, I just prefer the ones that raise the level of debate (and it could certainly use some raising), rather than lower it.

Rory32 21 2005 1:32PM

TM - I sort of agree with you, that lots of people in the evolution camp have no idea what they are talking about. But the same could be said of those in the ID camp, probably to an even greater extent. More importantly, however, evolution doesn't have to win "converts", it already did that when people fought to bring it into the classroom years ago. There are a lot of idiots yelling on both sides of the issue, but the important thing is that evolution is already widely accepted in the scientific community. How an idea fares in the political community, the religious community, etc. is pretty much irrelevant to whether or not it belongs in a Science classroom. Which is a long way of saying that I guess you're right - this isn't really an argument that I should be engaged in, as I'm not a scientist. I'd certainly love to leave it to the experts, but it's the ID camp that keeps bringing in religious leaders, politicians, etc. to support them.

TokenMormon33 21 2005 1:33PM

Overworm: Evolution is the process by which populations of organisms acquire and pass on novel traits from generation to generation, affecting the overall makeup of the population and even leading to the emergence of new species.

As an aside, evolutionary theory, notably, does not purport to have any implications whatsoever as to the existence of deity, or the possible involvement of some deity in the evolutionary process. Indeed, man has been meddling god-like with evolution for millennia, so it would be silly to suggest that evolutionary theory (or any other scientific theory) disproves or even disagrees with the premise that someone other than man could meddle with or manipulate evolution.

As to the proof of the theory, it has generally been proved simply by observing its occurrence in simple organisms over even very short timeframes.

The idea that all species have a single common ancestral gene pool cannot, of course, be proved, tested, or really in any way subjected to the scientific method. It makes sense, and can be intelligently discussed and rationally accepted as a good likelihood, but believing it's a fact is a lot like believing in God: a good idea, probably true, but ultimately a matter of reason and faith. Indeed, perhaps the idea of a single common ancestor of all life on earth is actually just a restatement of creationism. Is the single common ancestor God? Who knows? Certainly not me, but philosophical questions are as valid a gateway to scientific hypothesis and discovery as any other, I think.

barlow44 21 2005 1:44PM

So, Haughey, can you adduce a single technological application of science that was made possible only because the researcher assumed that all life evolved from non-life? I really think you are overstating the role that a commitment to macroevolution plays in the daily life of a scientist or an engineer. It's a good bet that high-quality scientific work is being done everyday by biological scientists who have had no more training in evolutionary biology than the one or two required classes in their undergraduate curriculum, no matter what their evaluation is of the grand claims of either ID or neo-Darwinianism. When you're researching how a virus mutates, it doesn't really call for a position on whether horses or humans are the final link in a chain extending from non-life through single-celled organisms, past the advent of sexual reproduction, through mammalia to the modern day horse.

jh44 21 2005 1:44PM

"The problem is that ID is incompatible with the scientific method, and therefore isn't scientific. It's a very simple objection."
Yet the very definition of 'scientific theory' demands the results of a hypothesis (ie. evolution) be able to be recreated. Both theories require "blind faith" by it's followers. There are major, unresolved holes in the fossil records concerning evolution, yet scientists believe that they're still - just yet to be discovered. There are holes in the geological records, yet scientists except in faith that their theory is true and so these issues too will resolve. The same for those who believe in 'Intelligent Design.' Their faith in their belief stems not from some humanistic, natural premonition but from a spiritual, personal belief which gives bounds and meaning to their worldview.

Neither theory can ever be proven 100% utilizing true scientific method because this was an historical event that occured singularly within history. No one was there. We cannot recreate it. I think the ID crowd's largest objection is not the fact that evolution is taught, but that it's presented as a fact, when in fact it is a theory.

And to the person who said that believing in ID means the end of American pharmaceutical dominance -- bullshit. The ID crowd aren't a bunch of wizards and witches practicing potions and waving wands to cure the world's woes. Their still scientists, and despite their beliefs to how they think this whole thing got started, they still cannot disregard the plethora of scientifically proven facts. Their assignment of origin doesn't mean they can ignore the very real scientific laws which govern our universe today.

nick45 21 2005 1:45PM

People here seem to have the idea, the two topics are mutually exclusive. Proving one right does not make the other one wrong. The people commenting on the linked article did not seem to have that down.

Joel54 21 2005 1:54PM

"In other words, if you love ID, you hate America. Why do you hate America? Do you want us to be #3 or #4 in the world?"

Exactly how will other countries outpace us if we don't teach students evolution? Both ID and Evolution require leaps of faith that are totally outside the scientific method. You have to be a 'true believer' to honestly believe in macro-evolution or design from an original source.

Rory55 21 2005 1:55PM

Nick - fair enough, but the people in this thread are not the only ones making that mistake. All of the ID propaganda is based around the idea that this is a competing theory, that should be taught as an alternative to evolution, so that kids can decide "what makes sense to them" (i.e. one or the other). I agree with you that some ideas from both go pretty well hand in hand (personally, i've always felt that God started the ball rolling and then evolution progressed from there), but neither side is pushing for that kind of explanation.

Sarah00 21 2005 2:00PM

Two friends of mine, independently, did master's theses in psychology, both relating to attitudes that make activists successful. They each concluded that the most common internal failing of activist groups is a failure to empathize with the people they are trying to convince. Activists are often converts to the cause and haven't forgiven themselves or anyone else for unenlightened behaviour.

It is really hard to get someone to see your point of view and agree with you if you hate them and think they're stupid. They get defensive, obviously. I think this is a major problem for people who oppose teaching intelligent design in science class. Especially in attempts to explain scientific viewpoints to the public, who don't all have a solid background in science and evolution, but who are often spiritual.

If honest debate is not a practical option, insults and scorn are not a useful alternate strategy. Try harder, scientists. This kind of link makes me sad.

Western Infidels28 21 2005 2:28PM

Why is it that none of the web's proponents of evolution ever actually make any clear statement of what, exactly, evolutionary theory is?

But the web is veritably littered with such things.

...just giving the steps of the scientific method doesn't count. If you don't know how evolution, specifically, became an accepted theory, you have no place belittling those who question it.

Oh, I don't know. I'm not saying it's helpful or right to belittle people, but "just giving the steps of the scientific method" is sufficient to show that ID is can't be science, and that people who insist that it is absolutely don't know what they're talking about.

In contrast, even though I don't know every excruciating detail of electromagnetism's history, with some understanding of the scientific method and a brief summary of electromagnetism, I can see that electromagnetism makes falsifiable, testable predictions.

TokenMormon38 21 2005 2:38PM

Western Inf.:

You can make an electromagnet using just three household items, and test the hypothesis in about 10 minutes on your kitchen counter: A battery, a screwdriver and some wire.

Can you make an experiment to test the hypothesis of evolution using household items and perform the experiment in a matter of minutes on your kitchen counter? Please describe the experiment, for the audience.

Can you make a similarly simple experiment to test the hypothesis that someone or something designed the earth and its inhabitants? My guess is no.

A little more explanation than "it's falsifiable" might be in order where both parties are concerned.

Western Infidels53 21 2005 2:53PM

jh: Yet the very definition of 'scientific theory' demands the results of a hypothesis (ie. evolution) be able to be recreated.

The scientific method as I understand it merely requires falsifiable, testable predictions, not re-creatable circumstances or events. It's possible to make predictions about future finds in the fossil record - or predictions about things that should never be found - without re-creating anything.

Neither theory can ever be proven 100% utilizing true scientific method because this was an historical event that occured singularly within history.

Neither theory can "ever be proven 100%" using the scientific method because the scientific method isn't about proving anything - it's actually about disproving things. In a sense, the scientific method is a plan for making ideas themselves evolve, by killing off the ones that aren't fit to survive.

I think the ID crowd's largest objection is not the fact that evolution is taught, but that it's presented as a fact, when in fact it is a theory.

"Theory," as scientific jargon, refers to the very highest-confidence level of knowledge, not to something second-rate or tentative in the everyday sense. Physics, math, and chemistry are also taught as if they're factual subjects full of settled questions, even though they are, in the scientific sense, also theoretical.

Anyone who's genuinely interested in understanding the scientific position on evolution and ID could do a lot worse than to spend some time at the the talk.origins archive.

Western Infidels50 21 2005 3:50PM

TokenMormon: I'm not sure I'm following your point. It would be great to develop a way to demonstrate evolution in just a few minutes, although frankly, I doubt it would convince much of the ID crowd - witness the macro/micro evasion, for example. But such things aren't always possible. I can't build a rocketship at my kitchen table to send my kid brother on a 20-year near-lightspeed trip around the western spiral arm, either - but I don't think of that as a reason to doubt relativity, and I don't insist on an experiment I can do personally in ten minutes before I believe it.

Many USians spent some time in science class or Boy/Girl Scouts splitting some shale, with the expectation that we might find a few fossil trilobytes (or contemporaries) but absolutely no dolphins, killer whales, or corporate attourneys. Basically, making independent observations that turn out to be consistent with the theory of evolution by natural selection.

Various factions of the ID crowd say that the shale isn't really the age we think it is, that the dearth of anything but trilobytes is evidence of divine intervention at some later time, that the trilobytes clearly had high standards and didn't associate with corporate attourneys, or that demonstrating that the spectrum of living things changed over time isn't the same as demonstrating that one species leads to another. All of these objections are either wrong (I hear those trilobytes were actually a pretty shabby bunch) or completely missing the point of what science is. They focus on what they perceive as weaknesses in evolution, without ever understanding that their ID alternative isn't science at all.

That's why I think it's important to focus on the scientific method. IDers are never going to be won over with reason if they don't understand the strict rules of the game. Experiments are fine, but understanding why they're done the way they are is crucial. Understanding the scientific method makes it very clear what kinds of questions science can and can't answer, and shows how crisply its limits are drawn.

Sean54 21 2005 3:54PM

Western Infidel - if rabbit fossils were found along with those of others in the Pre-Cambrian period then Evolution would be disproven immediately.

However, I welcome the idea of the Flying Spaghetti Monster as our Intelligent Designer.

TokenMormon07 21 2005 5:07PM

The fossil record is not evidence of evolution in any pursuasive sense. The fact that the fossil record appears to be, for the most part, consistent with the idea that organisms have become more complex over the millennia, tends not to discredit the theory of evolution. The fact that one of the biggest sources of information about prehistoric biology doesn't seem to contradict evolutionary theory is one of the pieces of why scientists put stock in evolution -- but it's not affirmative evidence, I'm afraid.

By the same token, the discovery of a fossil of a rabbit, corporate whale or killer attorney along side one of a trilobite wouldn't discredit Evolution, either. Besides, maybe the prehistoric killer corporate attorney-whales burned all their dead and scattered the ashes at sea, and that's why there are no fossils of them. Or maybe they were immortals, like the Highlander.

Ultimately, evolution is not 'science' because it's falsifiable -- it's 'science' because it's well thought out and because there is tangible evidence of it, so long as you don't try to explain the origin of life with it.

Intelligent Design is, as far as I can tell, only marginally scientific at best, and those who accept it as valid haven't subjected it to the same scrutiny that other science receives. That should raise a few red flags.

Oh, and the term "USians" which is used above presumably to describe Americans is inaccurate and misleading, as it could apply equally to citizens of the United States of Mexico (Estados Unidos Mexicanos), our immediate neighbor to the south. Since the United States of America is the only country with "America" in its name, I propose we refer to it by the shortened name "America" or "U.S.A." if you prefer. I've never met a non-American who, upon being accused of being an American, didn't immediately correct the speaker.

Hooboy30 21 2005 5:30PM

Sarah played the 'rapture right conservative as a victim card' wonderfully. Nice play, Sarah!

This debate has nothing to do with science or mythology or right or wrong. It'e merely politics and the right is getting a say because they've figure out how to twist and spin language in a way that appeals to that naive middle american populace. It's rather fascinating.

Western Infidels41 21 2005 5:41PM

Token Mormon: Can you make an experiment to test the hypothesis of evolution...?

The fact that one of the biggest sources of information about prehistoric biology doesn't seem to contradict evolutionary theory is ... not affirmative evidence, I'm afraid.

You didn't ask for affirmative evidence, you asked for a simple test. I said, well, a simple test may not really be possible, but here's one thing (which many people have actually done) that has a shot as disproving the theory. If you want affirmative evidence, I hear there's a book or two on the matter.

By the same token, the discovery of a fossil of a rabbit, corporate whale or killer attorney along side one of a trilobite wouldn't discredit Evolution, either.

It seems very obvious to me that it would indeed discredit evolution, since there can be no modern rabbits, indeed no mammals, that old, according to our reconstruction of the timeline. It would mean a species had effectively appeared out of nowhere. How could evolution survive such a discovery?

...maybe the prehistoric killer corporate attorney-whales burned all their dead and scattered the ashes at sea, and that's why there are no fossils of them. Or maybe they were immortals, like the Highlander.

Occam's razor cuts such stuff to ribbons.

Ultimately, evolution is not 'science' because it's falsifiable -- it's 'science' because it's well thought out and because there is tangible evidence of it...

But my point wasn't that falsifiability alone makes something scientific. (The careful application of the scientific method makes something scientific.) My point was that it's really pretty easy to show that the complete inability of ID to work with the scientific method renders it hopelessly non-scientific.

TokenMormon49 21 2005 7:49PM

1. I know I didn't. I didn't say I had. I do think it's amusing that you don't seem to have understood that I understand evolution and believe it to be a valid theory. I'll refrain from postulating as to what makes you think I don't.

2. Your definition of 'evolution' apparently encompasses a lot of stuff that's really not part of the theory of evolution at all. Neither congruity nor incongruity in the fossil record proves or disproves anything about the theory of evolution. The theory depends on obervation of currently living or very recently dead things, and is quite substantiated on those bases alone. Overexension of the theory is problematic, and I suggest avoiding it.

3. Occam's razor is actually a logical fallacy. Evolutionary theory and the biological observations that led to its acceptance is one of the strongest proofs that Occam's razor is complete manure. If the simplest explanation were always correct, biodiversity would not exist, we'd all still be single-celled organisms.

4. I didn't say that's what your point was. I said that ID is a bunch of crap, and that proponents of evolution should be careful they're not full of crap, too.

Guillermo43 22 2005 1:43AM

Someone asked upstream about technological advances that relied on an understanding of evolution.

Um, Antibiotics? Animal Husbandry? The entire science of Genetics?

The fundamental difference between ID and science is that given a complex phenomenon, ID invokes divinity, while science, causality. If you've got a problem with causality, I suggest you kick a hippo, and find out just what causality is all about.

Western Infidels35 22 2005 6:35PM

TokenMormon: I do think it's amusing that you don't seem to have understood that I understand evolution and believe it to be a valid theory.

I did read what you wrote about accepting evolution, but some of your statements honestly don't make sense to me unless you're a skeptic. (What is achieved by pointing out that evolution can't be demonstrated at the kitchen table in 10 minutes, for example? Not every true thing can be demonstrated in 10 minutes at the kitchen table.) When I said I wasn't following your point, I meant it.

Neither congruity nor incongruity in the fossil record proves or disproves anything about the theory of evolution. The theory depends on obervation of currently living or very recently dead things, and is quite substantiated on those bases alone.

Which doesn't answer the question: how could out-of-order fossils be reconciled with evolution as we understand it? I don't think there could be a reconciliation. Sure, the theory was developed on the basis of a more limited timescale. That doesn't mean that evidence from outside that timescale can never have bearing on the theory. Making predictions based on the model and testing those prediction (by examining dinosaur family trees, for example) is what the scientific method is.

Occam's razor is actually a logical fallacy... If the simplest explanation were always correct, biodiversity would not exist, we'd all still be single-celled organisms.

"The simplest explanation is always correct" is a pithy, easy-to-remember corruption of Occam's Razor. It's also wrong. Occam's Razor makes no pretense of being a logical certainty, so it doesn't make sense to call it a logical fallacy.

I imagine that if some law of nature did did imply that the simplest possible system were always the one that would naturally arise (Occam's Razor doesn't say anything like that) then the universe would probably be a huge, uniform ball of hydrogen gas, with no stars, planets, or life of any kind.

Jacob Morse27 24 200511:27AM

Evolutionists (particularly like the one referenced by Kottke's original post) find it all too easy to simply say, "You're an idiot" or "You are simply ignoring evidence" when this is often far from the truth. Richard Lewontin, an evolutionary biologist has been respectably honest by saying, "...we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated."

There are numerous examples of geological mix-ups, misplaced strata, etc. that call the evolutionary timetable into serious question. It has baffled me since I was about 12 years old how these serious problems are simply glossed over by loyal evolutionists - supposedly "honest, fact-checking scientists."

There has been more than one example of entire geologic periods being flip-flopped in various locations. There have been tree trunks that stood vertically through 3-4 layers of strata, implying - by modern interpretation - that the bottom of the tree was "millions of years" older than the top. These problems may seem simple, but they are significant. The fact is, geology has been literally constructed to fit a timescale that has grown exponentially in the past few decades. The timescale has been constructed to fit a biological theory that is so statistically far-fetched (should I say impossible?) that we have to allow billions of years for chance to accomplish what we see now. And like Epicurus' materialist philosophy, the idea of macroevolution has been constructed to facilitate a modern Epicurean mentality.

It's frustrating to see this debate going on when so much is being ignored. Evolutionists (ex. - "AbstractFactory") say that creationists are "deceitful, dishonest or ignorant", while the whole concept of Intelligent Design is about asking honest questions (i.e. - When did the first material spontaneously generate? How do complex interdependent systems such as respiratory and circulatory develop independently? etc.). That seems more honest to me than glossing over the empirical evidence we do have in order to "tow the Darwinian party line."

There is so much to be said on this issue; a thread on one of Kottke's remaindered links doesn't do it justice. I'd be more than willing to discuss these things in more detail on my website or via e-mail. I greatly appreciate the tone of this discussion, by the way!

TokenMormon42 24 200511:42AM

Western Infidels:

You're the one who compared evolution to an electromagnet in terms of falsifiability. I was pointing out the shortcoming of that comparison.

How can incongruities in the fossil record be reconciled with evolution as we understand ig? They can't. We understand it wrong, and need to be more open minded in our analysis of both science and religion.

Sorry I didn't post an in-depth analysis of Occam's Razor, but resorted instead to something I could type quickly for a blog post. Next time, I'll just post several pages. But you agree: Occam's Razor is a logical fallacy, and the fact that a scientific theory violates it doesn't mean it's incorrect. Indeed, Occam's Razor is a handy tool for minimizing work in the laboratory, and getting to the right answer sooner sometimes, but is virtually guaranteed to lead to the wrong result 90% of the time, at least.

I am not a skeptic of evolutionary theory in general. I do think it's a long way from an accurate representation of reality, but that makes me more like a scientist than a theologian, I think. I also apply the same level of skepticism to religion as I do to science, which I think is only appropriate. The problem with the vast majority of people on both sides of the "debate" is they apply insufficient scrutiny to one side while not giving the other side a chance.

huh?47 24 200511:47AM

"You are simply ignoring evidence" when this is often far from the truth.

There is *no* evidence for ID. It's just a faith/belief.

that call the evolutionary timetable into serious question.

Yep. So they question it, spend decades doing more research, more tests, revising the knowlege base. Discovering. Huh...dinosaurs had feathers! Who knew!? Well, let's revise things and keep exploring!

IDers? Nope. Same story. Nothing new here. No need to question it. The bible said so...which is FINE. But it's NOT a science. And has nothing to do with science.

The timescale has been constructed to fit a biological theory that is so statistically far-fetched (should I say impossible?)

Yes. You should say impossible. Because that's the ID talking point. Fuzzy logic to make something sound impossible. Calculus is impossible for a majority of the human population. Might as well just tell those math zealots that they are wrong.

It's frustrating to see this debate going on when so much is being ignored.

It's frustrating that the ID crowd still gets away with calling it a debate. Let's start a more productive debate that has many more correlations than this one...the merits of Strawberry Ice cream vs. South Africa's Economic history during Apartheid.

Jacob Morse06 24 200512:06PM

That's the kind of rhetorical dismissal I was talking about. You inserted the Bible, which I never mentioned. You gloss over geological contraditions as "revising the knowledge base."

I'm not talking about "ID" per se; the term "ID" is as much a talking point for evolutionists attempting to dismiss it. I am offering real debate, on evidence - geological, biological, mathematical, etc. - that has nothing to do with "faith" or "God." Evolution can be question on evolution's own terms. Dismissing that by lumping it in with religion is frustratingly dishonest.

Jacob Morse30 24 200512:30PM

As for fuzzy logic, consider this:

Let's take for granted that matter just popped into being out of nothing, sometime, somehow. Let's also take for granted that this matter, though non-living, was able to somehow become living...

For a 200-part organism to have formed randomly (200 parts being Ameoba-like), we're talking about odds like 1-in-200! (factorial). 200 factorial is a 375 digit number.That's staggering. Extrapolate that to *all living things*, ecosystems, even social, rational creatures, and you have something that is statistically impossible, all talking-points aside.

Go ahead, allow billions of years for this to occur, it is still laughable - even treating as givens the spontaneous generation of matter and the conversion of that inorganic matter to living matter! Now, living matter capable of having this discussion!

I'm interested in an explanation. Is that fuzzy? Is that dishonest? Are those questions that shoudn't be asked?

Darrel20 24 2005 1:20PM

I'm not talking about "ID" per se

Ah, well, you're talking about something else then.

the term "ID" is as much a talking point for evolutionists attempting to dismiss it.

Scientists don't dismiss it. It's like a scientist dismissing country music. It's not a science to dismiss.

I am offering real debate, on evidence - geological, biological, mathematical, etc.

I'd be up for that. Alas, my formal geology/biology science education ended around highschool, so I am in no postition to contribute as well as those that work in the field daily can.

Let's also take for granted that this matter, though non-living, was able to somehow become living...

Tangental, there was a great show on PBS last week that talked about exactly that and how scientists are close to creating new living creatures from non-living matter.

200 factorial is a 375 digit number.That's staggering.

Yes, we humans aren't quite there yet at being able to easily grasp numbers that map to the magnitude of the universe.

you have something that is statistically impossible

In an infinite universe, EVERYTHING is statistically possible.

I'm interested in an explanation. Is that fuzzy? Is that dishonest? Are those questions that shoudn't be asked?

If you ask science for that explanation, bravo. It'll happen. Maybe next year. Maybe 100 years from now. maybe a billion years from now.

if you ask religious doctrine, well, if that satiates your quest for knowledge, more power to you...but I'd prefer that those folks not prevent others that want to pursue that knowledge from doing so.

TokenMormon04 24 2005 2:04PM

Assume that the natural phenomena we observe today are the same natural phenomena that have occurred throughout time.

One of the natural phenomena we observe today is a highly evolved organism learning how to create life from non-living matter.

Therefore, it is likely that, in the past, a highly evolved organism learned how to create life from non-living matter. Maybe (and it's at least as big a maybe as the idea that life could just occur by chance) life on earth started when someone other than us did the same thing we're trying to do - create life from non-living matter. Is that hypothesis not at least as scientifically valid as any other?

But we'll just ignore that, since we don't want to pretend that the concept of a being greater than man could ever do the kinds of things that man is trying to do is "scientific."

We can "play god" by trying to create life, but we certainly won't admit that anyone even a little bit more godlike than us could possibly have existed in the past.

Ask yourself this: When the New York Times reports that a scientist has created life from nonliving matter, will you dismiss the claim? For millennia, various religions have been reporting that a scientist created life from nonliving matter. Many of them claim to have learned of that creation directly from the scientist who did it, and hold up as evidence the very living creatures the scientist claimed to have created. If you dismiss the claims of those people, but not the claims of the New York Times, what are your reasons for doing so? Surely the claim itself is no less credible from one source than from the other. Why, then?

Darrel20 24 2005 2:20PM

Therefore, it is likely that

No. One can't just toss out 'it is likely that' like that if you want to be seen under the same scrutiny as the scientific method.

In terms of a theory (a non-scientific theory) it's perfectly valid. A valid as the FSM. Both are good stories, both could potentially be true, and both are fun to think about and ponder. Neither are a science, though.

Is that hypothesis not at least as scientifically valid as any other?

Uh, no. It's not. Now, if you back that hypothesis up with data, research, peer reviews, etc, then maybe it would be as valid.

We can "play god" by trying to create life, but we certainly won't admit that anyone even a little bit more godlike than us could possibly have existed in the past.

You seem to assume that scientific theory disproves religous doctrine. They don't even exist on the same plane. They're perfectly happy in their own worlds and don't conflict with each other at all.

When the New York Times reports that a scientist has created life from nonliving matter, will you dismiss the claim?

Again, you're trying to put an ID spin on science. All IDers DO is dismiss claims. Not with any reasoning, but with just a wave of the hand. A scientist will question every aspect of that NYTimes article. They will dismiss it, but not with a wave of the hand, but rather with repeated experiments, research, testing, poking, prodding, analysis, data, data, data, debate, scrutiny, retesting, peer review, critique, etc. THAT is the difference between the two camps.

. If you dismiss the claims of those people, but not the claims of the New York Times, what are your reasons for doing so

I don't dismiss religious texts. I just don't call them science.

TokenMormon37 24 2005 2:37PM

I did back the hypothesis up with data, research, peer reviews, etc, by referring to your previous statement that scientists were doing just such a thing.

I didn't say you do dismiss religious texts. I'll say now that you don't pay much attention to the text of what I've typed, though.

ID is not science. Neither is the theory that life on earth came to exist by chance. Evolution is science, but it says nothing about the origin of life. That's what makes the ID debate so stupid: ID is not an alternate theory to evolution at all, even if it were scientific.

Darrel14 24 2005 3:14PM

I did back the hypothesis up with data, research, peer reviews, etc, by referring to your previous statement that scientists were doing just such a thing.

You lost me.

ID is not science. Neither is the theory that life on earth came to exist by chance. Evolution is science, but it says nothing about the origin of life. That's what makes the ID debate so stupid: ID is not an alternate theory to evolution at all, even if it were scientific.

Yes, we agree. ;o)

Western Infidels41 24 2005 3:41PM

TokenMormon: You're the one who compared evolution to an electromagnet in terms of falsifiability. I was pointing out the shortcoming of that comparison.

We simply aren't communicating here. I did not make any electromagnet/evolution comparison. I tried to contrast a non-controversial scientific theory (electromagnetism) with a non-scientific theory (ID), in an attempt to show that even a layman can see the fundamental difference between real science and fake science, given half a chance. Evolution wasn't a part of that comparison, and it wasn't meant to be, since my point wasn't to support evolution so much as to show that ID is fake science.

I still don't see the relevance of the existence of a kitchen-table demonstration.

But you agree: Occam's Razor is a logical fallacy, and the fact that a scientific theory violates it doesn't mean it's incorrect. Indeed, Occam's Razor is a handy tool for minimizing work in the laboratory, and getting to the right answer sooner sometimes, but is virtually guaranteed to lead to the wrong result 90% of the time, at least.

I hope you do read that link about Occam's Razor sometime, because it's painfully obvious that you have no idea what Occam's Razor is. Logical fallacies are flaws in arguments. But Occam's Razor is not an argument. It's not even possible to agree or disagree with a statement like "Occam's Razor is a logical fallacy," because the statement makes no sense, in the same way that "surprise is orange" or "Tuesday is pungent" makes no sense. Occam's Razor is not a shortcut or a way of "minimizing work." It's a fundamental principle of clear thinking, a formal way of saying "stick to the evidence." There is no guarantee that a theory developed with that principle in mind will prove correct, but to say "[Occam's Razor] is virtually guaranteed to lead to the wrong result" is to broadcast your ignorance.

The problem with the vast majority of people on both sides of the "debate" is they apply insufficient scrutiny to one side while not giving the other side a chance.

If one side in this debate hasn't yet been given a fair chance, it is evolution. ID, in one form or another, has been around for thousands of years - basically all of recorded human history. Relatively speaking, evolution is brand new. Yet which is supported by a growing mountain of tangible evidence? Which has actually been observed in action? Which has made testable predictions that turned out to be correct again and again? And yet, which has faced fanatical opposition from the day it was new? It is a tribute to the awesome explanatory power of evolution that it has gained any traction at all in the relatively short time it's been around. It is on much firmer scientific ground than many laypeople realize.

I think I'm going to stop posting to this thread. I've taken up more than my share of space already.

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.

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