The Architect of the Iraq War Addresses "Intelligent Design"

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Yesterday George W. Bush declared that schools should teach "intelligent design"—the theory that life is so complex that it must have been designed by some outside intelligence, which itself must be pretty complex, but hey, there's no need to account for that. From Knight-Ridder's account:

Bush compared the current debate to earlier disputes over "creationism," a related view that adheres more closely to biblical explanations. As governor of Texas, Bush said students should be exposed to both creationism and evolution.

On Monday the president said he favors the same approach for intelligent design "so people can understand what the debate is about."

If it's "the debate" that concerns the president, how's this for an educational philosophy: Schools could teach the actual debates that serious scientists have about how evolution works, thus leaving kids immune to the creationist cranks' notion that there is a single, unchanging Darwinian "orthodoxy." At some point, as an intellectual exercise, the instructor could assign a reading in "intelligent design" and have the students write papers explaining what's wrong with it. If parents protest, they can send their kids to another school.

Alternately, an instructor could teach Father Guido Sarducci's theory reconciling evolution and creation. Quoting from faded memory, it went something like this: "Yes, God created man in His own image—but God evolved too. Here we have a picture of Neanderthal God…this is Cro-Magnon God…"

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  1. I used to believe in evolution until I spoke to the most persuasive intelligent-design proponents. And they’re right: no way in HELL did they evolve.

  2. I just knew this was coming. Fools like Bush are generally foolish about many things. 🙁

  3. Even God evolved into nothing.

  4. Jesse Walker,

    You might want to tie in this link on the new wave of Bible Courses in public schools: http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2005/08/the_bible_as_el.html#more

  5. I propose a very simple test for the theory of ID. If the theory can pass this test then I’ll endorse teaching it:

    There are organisms out there that were the products of intelligent interventions: Selective breeding of animals and plants, genetically modified food, weaponized viruses, etc. Come up with an algorithm that can use data on these organisms to determine which features resulted from intelligent interventions and which features evolved without intelligent interventions.

    If your algorithm works, then you present your theories in science classes: Use your algorithms to point to organisms (or, more accurately, features of organisms) that were the result of intelligent intervention.

    Until this theory passes experimental tests it doesn’t belong in science classes.

  6. Gah, as if we needed more evidence that our society and government are screwed up. Who gives a flap what the president thinks about evolution or teaching? We hire him to (theoretically) do a very limited set of tasks; whatever the hell he thinks about religion, evolution, or teaching shouldn’t make a bit of difference. I’m sure all his fundie supporters are rubbing their hands in glee over this bone he’s thrown them, though.

  7. it shouldn’t be such a surprise. didn’t the esteemed dr. bush already say something like “the jury’s out” on evolution? being the head of a party whose chief purpose seems to be writing their values into law, this is just another logical element of that policy.

  8. The Architect of the Iraq War Addresses “Intelligent Design”

    Isn’t calling him the “architect” of the Iraq War giving him too much credit?

    …If credit is the right word.

  9. point to organisms (or, more accurately, features of organisms) that were the result of intelligent intervention.

    My hairstyle.

  10. Intelligent Designs of the Intelligent Designers

    Put that on your thong and wear it!

  11. Oh, one other thing: The algorithm should have a low rate of false positives. For instance, if the algorithm said that antibiotic resistance in bacteria was the result of design, that would be a big problem.

    To keep the test simple, I picked a phenomenon that has been observed on human time scales, so that we know for absolute certain (well, as certain as science can ever be) that antibiotic resistance is the result of natural selection.

  12. Sigh. Idiocy on top of idiocy. I will confess to being the flavor of libertarian who votes Republican on the grounds that these sorts of things will never become policy. This gives me a headache.

  13. This should be impeachable. It is a psychological and sociopathic disorder.

  14. being the head of a party whose chief purpose seems to be writing their values into law, this is just another logical element of that policy.

    This is, in fact, what both parties do. Unfortunately both sets of values seem to hinge firstly on “expanding government” with all other concerns playing off the bench.

  15. Is anybody here old enough to remember when Sputnik went into orbit and the leaders of the US had the idea that we needed scientific competency to retain our military and industrial edge?

    I’m not, but I read about it in my history books, and just think it’s a damned shame how we’ve devolved since then. I can’t even think of a sarcastic comment to make about it.

  16. Here the proponents of state-run schools finally get a real-life example of the why they are wrong. State run schools are great when you are in power and get to impose your own agenda on the system. Leftists love the public schools.

    But now we have Bush pushing an agenda for the schools that the leftists don’t like. Bush’s wish is perfectly legitimate. It’s not different than any other ideologue’s approach to public schools.

    nmg

  17. Sometimes I think what with China and India cranking out scientists and engineers and Europe and Korea doing stem cell and cloning research we can’t do here, while we’re debating whether to teach a creation myth in a book written by middle eastern nomads 2000+ years ago . . . we’re going to get buried. You want fries with that? Too stupid to survive.

    Then again maybe it’s just a version of the “Japan’s going to take over” stuff from 15 years ago. We’re such a ludicrously prosperous country that we can afford silly luxuries like Intelligent Design.

  18. Jennifer,

    Maybe devolution is just part of the ultimate design:)

  19. Brian Marks,

    “Who designed the designer?” is always an excellent question to ask an IDer (or a straight out creationist).

    When a creationist or a religionist gets on a discussion of morality and claims that one needs a God to have a moral universe, just ask how did God come upon this idea of morality? Or, alternatively, who created it for God?

  20. Thoreau:

    your deference to science is like a religion. therefore all you write will be discounted until you bring back the pelts of 69 terrorists. Smacky will verify…

    so there.

  21. I should write a booktitled:

    Fifty Simple Things You Can Ask A Theist To Rattle Their Brains 🙂

  22. Are we not men?
    D
    E
    V
    O

  23. We’re such a ludicrously prosperous country that we can afford silly luxuries like Intelligent Design.

    That’s like a farmer saying he’s so prosperous he can afford silly luxuries like throwing away his seed corn. Knowledge, science, innovation–THAT is what made us prosperous.

  24. nmg,

    de Tocqueville warned that public schools would lead to tyranny.

  25. Jennifer,

    See, this is the problem with us paleo-libertarians; we need to learn to compromise on issues like ID. 🙂

  26. nmg, last fall when I voted I had no idea Bush, Kerry, and that other guy were running for my local school district board AND trying to become President of the United States.

  27. Keep in mind that the students who will buy into intelligent design and reject evolutionary theory were never going to become scientists or doctors or anything that requires book learning. The guy who takes tickets for the tilt-a-whirl can believe anything he wants about the origins of life and still take your ticket.

  28. After many years and a lot of effort, I see that Bush has finally beaten the Republican out of Jason Ligon. Poor kid.

  29. Well, Hakluyt, that’s why I gave up on evolution and became a proponent of DD–Dumbass Design. How’s your tailbone these days? Getting much use out of your male nipples? Hope that appendix isn’t causing you any problems.

  30. This is, in fact, what both parties do. Unfortunately both sets of values seem to hinge firstly on “expanding government” with all other concerns playing off the bench.

    right. i meant religious values, really.

  31. Jennifer – well, yeah . . . it’s not going to last forever. My current crackpot theory is that the Bushies are a bunch of oil guys. Thus they see prosperity as something that’s just sitting there and you can extract it and goof off with the money. The last 5 years have been something of a strip mining operation.

  32. (disclaimer: In the past, I have defended the teaching of ID.)

    The nice thing about a lesson in intelligent design is that it’s going to be very short.

    And that the answer to every question on the test will be the same.

  33. Will Bush now argue that the the notion that HIV was really created by the CIA should be taught in schools? 🙂

  34. Actually, I can’t think of a better way to destroy religion and make it unpalatable for the large majority of Americans than to intetgrate it into government and government run schools.

  35. Keep in mind that the students who will buy into intelligent design and reject evolutionary theory were never going to become scientists or doctors or anything that requires book learning.

    unfortunately, that’s not true at all. there are plenty of doctors and lawyers that buy into this stuff.

  36. People who want creationism taught in schools try to work around breeds of dogs, antibiotic resistant bacteria, and flesh eating bacteria by saying they’re “microevolution” (same species) rather than “macroevolution” (different species) but this only disproves the notion that creationism is a red state, and therefore rural, thing.
    Because of their chests are so big (for big turkey breasts) modern domesticated male turkeys are physically incapable of having sex naturally. Making turkeys requires artificial insemination. If taxonomists were consistent about being capable of producing fertile offspring being the determining factor as to whether 2 animals are the same species, domesticated and wild turkeys would now be separate species even if there’s some chance inseminating a wild turkey would create a fertilized egg that would live to adulthood. For the same reason, the only male broiler chickens who are capable of having sex are those with smaller than average chicken breasts. Some breeds of pigs and cattle are sometimes reluctant to have sex when they’re in close quarters, which is part of the reason insemination’s now used with them too.
    In the last couple thousand years, rice and corn have been changed so much no one knows what their wild anscestor is, so they each have their own species.
    And yet the farmers of the red states are supposedly the constituency whose values this sort of thing is supposed to serve.

  37. Thoreau,

    A very creative idea, but I think it is flawed in terms of actual ability to accomplish anything. You say “determine which features resulted from intelligent interventions and which features evolved without intelligent interventions”.

    I think ID believers would immediately argue the impossibility of this. I think they’d argue a) that you are presupposing evolution has occurred, and b) that since everything has been created by intelligent intervention (design) there is nothing left without it.

    I’m convinced there’s no point in talking with these people. As the saying goes, “Never bother to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and annoys the pig.”

    I wonder how an ID believer would respond to the following proposition: There are many Christians who accept evolution; but let’s let all of the Atheists who accept ID decide what gets taught in schools. If ID has any merit, there must be some atheists out there willing to believe it. (Hah.)

  38. “Come up with an algorithm that can use data…”

    Whoa, whoa, hold on there, Mr. Smartypants. Don’t go persecuting them with your “algorithm” this and your “data” that. God said it, they believe it, and that’s all that matter.

    This is as perfect an example of Bush’s brilliant manipulation of his mouth-breathing base as I have ever seen. There is absolutely nothing the President of the United States can do about teaching creationism in schools, so he can spout off about it as much as he wants. He’s been handling the Cletuses who vote him with empty nonsense like this since his first run for Governor, and he plays them like a fiddle every time. They never catch on, and they keep coming back for more. Brilliant.

  39. Bush is merely channeling his inner Straussian. 🙂

    We’ve got to keep the hidden, secret, esoteric, etc. knowledge, well, hidden. 🙂

  40. Keep in mind that the students who will buy into intelligent design and reject evolutionary theory were never going to become scientists or doctors or anything that requires book learning.

    unfortunately, that’s not true at all. there are plenty of doctors and lawyers that buy into this stuff.

    …or a president of the United States.

  41. There is absolutely nothing the President of the United States can do about teaching creationism in schools, so he can spout off about it as much as he wants.

    Oh, yes he can. Mr. Party-Of-Smaller-Government can have his Department of Education make the teaching of ID in HS biology classes a part of the federally-mandated standards of NCLB, or otherwise inserted into DoE guidelines, with the commensurate funding carrots and sticks.

  42. I, for one, welcome our return to magic and mysticism as the dominating factors guiding our society. These will be the best years since Reagan devined policy through the use of stargazing and tarot.

    –Keith

  43. Oh, yes he can. Mr. Party-Of-Smaller-Government can have his Department of Education make the teaching of ID in HS biology classes a part of the federally-mandated standards of NCLB, or otherwise inserted into DoE guidelines, with the commensurate funding carrots and sticks.

    he could also use his political influence to try and pass ID legislation.

  44. And when I say devined, I mean, of course, divined.

  45. Keith,

    Our policy will be directed by John Waters movie stars?

  46. If our president wants to teach this then I’m all for it. It is treason to not support the president.

  47. Our policy will be directed by John Waters movie stars?

    And a dead one, at that. Does it make any less sense than anything else that’s been going on?

    I’d pay — if not good, then at least a little — money to see the look on a foreign leader’s face when Bush interrupts a meeting to say, “Well hold on. Let me ask the disembodied head of my drag queen advisor. I keep it in this here crystal ball. Heh heh. crystal ball. Get it?”

    -Keith

  48. Isn’t this another good reason for separation of education and state? Politicians appeal to voting blocks, the way Bush has, with ideas for education that are detrimental to educating. These bad ideas, if adapted, then have the force of taxpayer dollars behind them.

    Like Jason Ligon, I’m also te flavor of libertarian who votes for certain Republican because the myths that the Democrats believe more thoroughly are more likely to be enacted and are more harmful.

  49. thoreau PhD,

    Do you think that the first part of your test could actually be done? Could we actually:

    Come up with an algorithm that can use data on these organisms to determine which features resulted from intelligent interventions and which features evolved without intelligent interventions.

    Perhaps a more pertinent question is; are there algorithms of evolution that can be observed in the features of one natural organism and than be applied to other natural organisms?

  50. he could also use his political influence to try and pass ID legislation.

    Like he did Social Security reform?

    I feel better about this already.

  51. R.C. Dean,

    No, more like when he got his bloated, bribery-ridden medicare bill passed.

  52. Mr. Party-Of-Smaller-Government can have his Department of Education make the teaching of ID in HS biology classes a part of the federally-mandated standards of NCLB, or otherwise inserted into DoE guidelines, with the commensurate funding carrots and sticks.

    I was going to argue that he couldn’t but now that I think of it could be a no lose plan for Bush. The SCOTUS would likely strike down such a plan, which would add steam to the judicial tyranny/persecution of the faithful claim that’s been made recently. Or, on the off chance they didn’t strike it, ID would be part of public ed, and the fundy base gets thrown a huge bone.

  53. “If taxonomists were consistent about being capable of producing fertile offspring being the determining factor as to whether 2 animals are the same species, domesticated and wild turkeys would now be separate species…”

    Mr. Bobo, taxonomists use more than one criteria to distinguish among the various species, not just the ability to create fertile offspring.

  54. “I will confess to being the flavor of libertarian who votes Republican on the grounds that these sorts of things will never become policy.”

    I used to be that kind of libertarian. …But now, I’m concerned that my support for Republicans will be misconstrued as support for the president, and we just can’t have that.

  55. Thoreau, the problem with an algorithm is that every time we crunch the numbers, the Flying Spaghetti Monster will touch our data with His Noodly Appendage.

    http://www.venganza.org/

    (from which I quote: “What these people don?t understand is that He built the world to make us think the earth is older than it really is. For example, a scientist may perform a carbon-dating process on an artifact. He finds that approximately 75% of the Carbon-14 has decayed by electron emission to Nitrogen-14, and infers that this artifact is approximately 10,000 years old, as the half-life of Carbon-14 appears to be 5,730 years. But what our scientist does not realize is that every time he makes a measurement, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is there changing the results with His Noodly Appendage. We have numerous texts that describe in detail how this can be possible and the reasons why He does this. He is of course invisible and can pass through normal matter with ease. “)

  56. I really enjoy Richard Dawkins and I recently bought, but have not yet started to read, the book, Dawkins’ God…

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/1405125381/reasonfoundation-20/

    …by a guy who has PhDs in both molecular biology and divinity, I believe. The book is a critique of some of Dawkins’ views. Is anyone familiar with this volume?

  57. Obviously teaching “intelligent design” in a science class is just stupid. But from a tactical standpoint, this is great for libertarians. We should be encouraging the social conservatives to go all out in pushing religious indoctirnation and religious pseudo-science into the public classrooms. Right now the people on the left generally view the libertarian dream of abolishing public education with complete contempt. Once they have to endure their kid recreating Noah’s flood in science lab or have little Becky Finkelstein sit through her mandatory Gospel class maybe a few more of them will come over to our side. I’m not naive enough to think that most would, but we should be able to gain at least a little more support.

  58. Thoreau,

    Your scientific test seems to assume that intelligent interventions made by humans would have some kind of similarity to those made by a putative higher intelligence and some dissimilarity to random genetic mutations (assuming that these mutations are random and not the result of some kind of invisible hand). What is your basis for assuming this similarity and dissimilarity?

    Addressing the larger issue, I haven’t seen anything that proves that the starting conditions for evolution were randomly made. I haven’t seen anything that proves that evolutionary genetic mutations are random and completely pre-determined by laws of physics we already know about. Just because the mutations happened slowly over geological time doesn’t make them random.

    Evolution proves that mutation and survival of the fittest are mechanisms for change, even change of species. However, this does not answer or even address whether the mechanisms are ultimately controlled by an intelligence or, alternatively, a lack of intelligence.

    When I engage atheists on this question, they usually say that there is no intelligence in the starting conditions of the universe or in ongoing evolutionary mutations because they haven’t seen independent evidence of the intelligence. Of course, that is not scientific disproof of ID. Rather, it is just allocating the burden of proof to your opponents in debate. That ain’t science — that’s lawyer logic!

    Neither kids, nor most laypeople, care about the physical mechanisms of evolution. Rather, they care about how actively some God creature (if any) is intervening. Science can’t answer that either way. Kids should be taught about science’s uncertainty (and frankly uselessness) on the overarching God question. Too bad GWB is leading the charge on this issue. He’s a idiot.

  59. I haven’t seen anything that proves that evolutionary genetic mutations are random and completely pre-determined by laws of physics we already know about.

    I don’t know any evolutionary biologist worth a damn who would claim for one second that genetic mutations are random, either.

  60. conversely, doesn’t that prove god’s uselessness on the question of science?

  61. rick barton,

    i have an e-mail containing a brief critique of “Dawkins’ God”. it’s part of a skeptic newsletter run by michael shermer. i went to his site, but i can’t find a link to the archived newletter anywhere, so i’ll just forward you the e-mail.

    it’s only two pages or so long. if enough people are interested in seeing it, i’ll cut-and-paste it to H&R.

  62. Dave W,
    How does God intervene in evolution? Or in anything?

    What is the difference between a human with a soul and one without one? (I mean other than losing the ability to dance)

    Why did God create us?

  63. Zach,
    Post it. Hell people post silly songs, people post their own silly manifestos. You might as post it, I am interested.

  64. conversely, doesn’t that prove god’s uselessness on the question of science?

    No.

    However, God seems to have given us very little useful scientific info from his theologians, qua theologians. This is some evidence indicating God’s uselessness as a science teacher.

    At any rate, I am proposing that science classes teach that science can’t even meaningfully experiment one way or the other on the God question. This is very different than teaching that science favors God. It is also very different than teaching that science disfavors God.

    What my approach does do is teach kids that there is stuff that science currently can’t observe or know about with any authority. That is an important lesson in itself, one that I think science classes currently tend to neglect.

  65. When I engage atheists on this question, they usually say that there is no intelligence in the starting conditions of the universe or in ongoing evolutionary mutations because they haven’t seen independent evidence of the intelligence. Of course, that is not scientific disproof of ID. Rather, it is just allocating the burden of proof to your opponents in debate. That ain’t science — that’s lawyer logic!

    actually, it’s called occam’s razor. of course it can never be disproved there was an intelligent designer, nor can it be proved. but since the existence of an intelligent designer is not necessary to explain evolution, the desire to postulate the existence of ID anyway is irrational.

    it could be that cars have immortal souls. but since it’s possible to understand the way cars work without needing to assume the existence of their immortal souls, a belief in the immortal souls of cars is irrational.

  66. How does God intervene in evolution? Or in anything?

    As a matter of reason (small r) and science: I don’t know.

    As a matter of personal, extra-rational, religious faith: yes, God intervened in evolution either by setting the starting conditions, controlling mutations contemporaneously over pre-history, and/or using time travel to reach back from the future and set the conditions correctly at some point(s) in the process.

    Why did God create us?
    Because He loves us. That’s a easy one!

  67. haven’t seen anything that proves that evolutionary genetic mutations are random and completely pre-determined by laws of physics we already know about.

    I don’t know any evolutionary biologist worth a damn who would claim for one second that genetic mutations are random, either.

    By random, I meant: “not intelligently controlled.” As was writing for the layperson, but your caution on the terminology is sound and appreciated.

  68. alright. i guess kwais counts as “enough people”. the punctuation is going to be a little messed up.

    Science & Religion –
    The Blind Godmaker
    a book review by Michael Shermer

    In 1999, Frank J. Sulloway and I conducted a study on religious attitudes that included a question asking survey takers to explain in their own words why they believe in God. The most popular reason given was: “Good design, natural beauty, perfection, and complexity of the world or universe” 1. As pattern-seeking primates, we have a natural tendency to look for and find design in nature. Before 1859 the default explanation for that design was a top-down designer, God. This was most forcefully argued by the 18th-century English theologian William Paley: If one stumbled upon a watch on a heath, one would not assume it had always been there, as one might with a stone 2. A watch implies a watchmaker. Design implies a designer.

    In 1859, Charles Darwin provided a scientific explanation of design from the bottom up: natural selection 3. Since then, arguably no one has done more to make the case for bottom-up design than the Oxford University evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in a series of books that includes the aptly titled The Blind Watchmaker 4, a direct challenge to Paley. But if design comes naturally from the bottom up and not supernaturally from the top down, what does that imply about the existence of God? Although most scientists avoid the question altogether or take a conciliatory stance along the lines of Stephen Jay Gould’s non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA) 5, Dawkins unequivocally concludes: “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist” 4.

    Dawkins has generated controversy within the ranks of evolutionary theorists for his strict adherence to Darwinian natural selection (“random mutation plus non-random cumulative selection” in his succinct description) as the only mechanism of evolutionary change worth bothering about – Gould called him a “Darwinian fundamentalist” 6 – but it is his statements about religion that have drawn attention to him from outside the scientific community. Now, in Dawkins’ God, we have a book-length analysis by Alister McGrath, professor of historical theology at Oxford. With professional training in the sciences as well as theology (he earned a doctorate in molecular biophysics), McGrath is well qualified to assess Dawkins’s literary corpus.

    The book begins with an engaging first-person account of McGrath’s own journey from atheist to theist, emphasizing the shortcomings of the former and the strengths of the latter 7. During his time as a graduate student at Oxford, McGrath began to explore the relation between science and religion, which led him to realize that Christianity was more sophisticated than his atheism allowed him to appreciate. “While I had been severely critical of Christianity as a young man, I had never extended that same critical evaluation to atheism.” When he did, he discovered “that the intellectual case for atheism was rather less substantial than I had supposed.” At the same time, he was reading Dawkins, whose conclusions were just the opposite; thus was born this book, decades in the making.

    After a brief tour of the life and science of both Darwin and Dawkins, McGrath addresses Dawkins’s vision of evolutionary theory as a complete worldview. “I’m a Darwinist because I believe the only alternatives are Lamarckism or God,” Dawkins explains, “neither of which does the job as an explanatory principle” 8. Because science supports Darwinism, the implications are broad and deep. “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference” 9. What place, then, for God?

    The remainder of Dawkins’ God consists primarily of a point-by-point critique of Dawkins’s writings on religion, which McGrath sees as too simplistic and full of easy-to-topple straw men. McGrath summarizes his position thusly: (i) “The scientific method is incapable of adjudicating the God hypothesis, either positively or negatively.” (ii) “God need not be invoked as an explanatory agent within the evolutionary process” (to be subsequently dismissed). (iii) “The concept of God as ‘watchmaker,’ which Dawkins spends so much time demolishing, emerged as significant in the eighteenth century, and is not typical of the Christian tradition.” This is, in essence, Gould’s NOMA – science and religion serve different purposes using different methods, and attempts to bring them into harmony or conflict cannot be logically justified.

    Then how do we know there is a God? Faith. According to Dawkins, faith “means blind trust, in the absence of evidence, even in the teeth of evidence” 10. This, says McGrath, “bears little relation to any religious (or any other) sense of the word.” In its stead McGrath presents the definition of faith by the Anglican theologian W. H. Griffith-Thomas: “It commences with the conviction of the mind based on adequate evidence; it continues in the confidence of the heart or emotions based on conviction, and it is crowned in the consent of the will, by means of which the conviction and confidence are expressed in conduct.” Such a definition – which McGrath describes as “typical of any Christian writer” – is an example of what Dawkins, in reference to French postmodernists, calls “continental obscurantism.” Most of it describes the psychology of belief. The only clause of relevance to a scientist is “adequate evidence,” which raises the follow-up question, “Is there?”

    Obviously McGrath must think there is, but he never says. On this point I found the book frustrating. As McGrath’s relentless deconstruction of Dawkins unfolds, he repeats, over and over, that religion offers a worldview every bit as sophisticated and worthy of respect as science. His defense of religious faith is a passionate and honorable one, and he demonstrates that some of Dawkins’s characterizations of religion are indeed overly simplistic or selective, but he never delivers an answer to the God question. The closest thing to an argument for God’s existence I could find in the book is this: “Why should God require an explanation at all? He might just be an ‘ultimate,’? one of those things we have to accept as given, and is thus amenable to description, rather than explanation.” That may be, but like all other arguments made in favor of God’s existence, this only works as a reason to believe if you already believe. If you do not already believe, science cannot help you.

    I was eager to read Dawkins’ God because of the gladiatorial weight of the contestants and what they represent. And although McGrath presents many side issues in a pleasantly readable fashion (e.g., Darwin’s religiosity, the historiography of science and religion, and how and where religion embraces science), he dodges the biggest question of all, the question at the heart of Dawkins’s writings: Is there a God? Whether Dawkins is simplistic or sarcastic or sardonic is a secondary issue. By elevating it to the primary focus of the book, McGrath missed an opportunity to make his case, pace Dawkins, and give us the very best arguments in his arsenal. With McGrath, I still do not know why he believes in God. With Dawkins, there is no doubt about where he stands.

    References & Notes
    The results are reported in M. Shermer, How We Believe: The Search for God in an Age of Science (Freeman, New York, 2000).
    W. Paley, Natural Theology: Or, Evidence of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity (London, 1802).
    C. Darwin, On the Origin of Species (John Murray, London, 1859).
    R. Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design (Norton, New York, 1986).
    S. J. Gould, Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life (Ballantine, New York, 1999).
    S. J. Gould, N. Y. Rev. Books 44, 34 (12 June 1997).
    See also: A. McGrath, The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World (Rider, London, 2004).
    R. Dawkins, in The Third Culture, J. Brockman, Ed. (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1995), pp. 75-95.
    R. Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1995).
    R. Dawkins, The Selfish Gene (Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford, 1976).

    you can’t say i didn’t warn you.

  69. Wow, Occam’s Razor sounds like an important rule of rational thought.

    I am surprised scientists don’t use it to explain everything. Easier than the old fashioned methods of proof that’s 4 sure.

  70. I am all for alternative theories being taught in the schools – and I am not alone!

    http://www.venganza.org/

  71. Wow, Occam’s Razor sounds like an important rule of rational thought.

    I am surprised scientists don’t use it to explain everything. Easier than the old fashioned methods of proof that’s 4 sure.

    you’re not making any sense. occam’s razor can’t be used to explain anything. in fact, it means that the only useful explanation for anything is based on “old fashioned methods of proof”, namely, the scientific method.

  72. Dave W.,

    However, this does not answer or even address whether the mechanisms are ultimately controlled by an intelligence or, alternatively, a lack of intelligence.

    I’d say that’s because the question isn’t important.

    …because they haven’t seen independent evidence of the intelligence.

    No most atheists will tell you that lacking evidence for God, the question just isn’t that important or interesting.

    Of course, that is not scientific disproof of ID.

    ID can’t be proven or disproven, that’s why its inherently so boring. Its not science, in other words, its philosophy.

    Kids should be taught about science’s uncertainty (and frankly uselessness) on the overarching God question.

    Which is of course why ID shouldn’t be in a science class; a philosophy class maybe.

  73. “Why did God create us?
    Because He loves us. That’s a easy one!”

    That would imply, I guess, that God did not create love. Or that love is the closest thing to explain what God feels for us.

    Love in humans is largely an illusion. A feeling of needing and belonging, of being incomplete without.

    A part of the illusion most times being that it feels permanent, but is not. When a better match is percieved, the love dissipates, and is replaced by a different emotion.

  74. Dave W.,

    What would be interesting is a philosophy class where arguments for God was presented (its not hard, there are only five major arguments) and then shot down. 🙂

  75. Hakluyt,
    If it is so boring, why so many posts?

  76. kwais,

    No, the correct question is: who created love? 🙂

    You’ll find that eventually all God-talk is based on circular reasoning.

  77. kwais,

    Because the question of how power is allocated isn’t boring.

  78. Kids should be taught about science’s uncertainty (and frankly uselessness) on the overarching God question.

    Which is of course why ID shouldn’t be in a science class

    No. This is exactly why it is important to teach about atheism/God in a science class. It is good for kids to know what science can tell us with reasonable certainty. It is equally important to understand the limits of scientific knowledge. The whole God question is one of those limits and a great lesson.

    The philosophy stuff you suggest sounds good for a college course.

  79. “At any rate, I am proposing that science classes teach that science can’t even meaningfully experiment one way or the other on the God question.”

    that’s not a bad idea, but hardly feasible in the u.s. at least outside of a disclaimer that “science is science and not an assigned mandate of policy or creed” which is pretty wishy washy too. it’s sort of pointless.

  80. Dave W.,

    Its not science, thus it doesn’t belong in a science class.

  81. No. This is exactly why it is important to teach about atheism/God in a science class. It is good for kids to know what science can tell us with reasonable certainty. It is equally important to understand the limits of scientific knowledge. The whole God question is one of those limits and a great lesson.

    Painting with watercolors can offer no help with understanding English composition. Should this fact be mentioned in art class?

  82. String theory isn’t science either, thus its inclusion in a physics text isn’t very apropos either. You could say the same thing about cryptozoology and biology courses as well. These these at the “margins of science” simply aren’t appropriate for a basic introduction to science.

  83. Dave W,
    Here is another more complicated question for you;

    How can there be a heaven and hell, when God made us what we are? God gave us our genes and our experiences, and our environment, all our choices are the direct inevitable result of those mentioned.

    Hitler was inevitably Hitler, how can he burn in hell for what God made him?

  84. No. This is exactly why it is important to teach about atheism/God in a science class. It is good for kids to know what science can tell us with reasonable certainty. It is equally important to understand the limits of scientific knowledge. The whole God question is one of those limits and a great lesson.

    i agree completely. kids need to be taught what scientific empirical observation can and can’t tell us. just as science is useless in the religious “god question”, they should be taught why beliefs not based in empirical observation are of no use to science. which means, teaching them why a belief in an intelligent designer is not a scientific theory, and is useless to the scientific pursuit of knowledge.

    i’ve been a proponent of presenting ID in this way for quite some time.

  85. David,

    Dave W.’s line of reasoning leads to the inclusion of all manner of crackpot notions; be it “Nessie,” alien abductions, God(s), etc.

  86. Kids should be taught about science’s uncertainty (and frankly uselessness) on the overarching God question.

    Which is of course why ID shouldn’t be in a science class; a philosophy class maybe

    Not at all pointless or trivial. The lesson could point out that string theory postulates 17 dimensions, but science has only been able to directly observe 4. That’s a lot of places God may or may not live. Science has established the existence of vast expanses of space (dimensions 1 to 3). Although we have observed lots of stars, some black holes and a couple of planets, we haven’t explored deep space. Again, a lot of places God may or may not live. Then there is the science of oceanography, of the Earth’s core, of the Sun’s core, etc., etc.

    This kind of lesson would give kids an idea of what has been explored by science, and conversely, and at least equally importantly, the vast expanses that have not been explored.

    I can’t imagine a lesson for a budding young scientist more exciting than that. It spells opportunity, and it will help the kids to know that this opportunity for new scientists cannot be whisked away with a blade as flimsy as Occam’s (important lesson, also: not everybody here seems to have gotten the memo).

  87. A very creative idea, but I think it is flawed in terms of actual ability to accomplish anything. You say “determine which features resulted from intelligent interventions and which features evolved without intelligent interventions”.

    I think ID believers would immediately argue the impossibility of this. I think they’d argue a) that you are presupposing evolution has occurred, and b) that since everything has been created by intelligent intervention (design) there is nothing left without it.

    Slainte-

    My test would be unconvincing to the young-earth crowd, of course. However, many ID proponents are actually old-earth types. They accept that SOME amount of evolution has occured, but they think that at least here and there some divine intervention happened. Michael Behe is in that camp. (And yes, Hakluyt, I know, Behe is wrong on many things, I’m just saying that he’s an example of the type of person who wouldn’t immediately discount my proposal.) So some ID proponents might take up my challenge. Or if they failed to take it up it would be because of cowardice rather than an ideological refusal to accept that evolution has EVER occurred.

    Now, granted, the old-earth ID types are mostly a bunch of “useful idiots” for the young earth crowd. But these idiots are useful precisely because they seem respectable: Many of them have degrees in science, math, engineering, or medicine. They accept that at least SOME amount of evolution has occurred, and that the earth is 4 or 5 billion years old. They provide a respectable front for creationism.

    So if they want to debate on scientific grounds (“…blood clotting requires 10 different proteins to act simultaneously, so it couldn’t have happened gradually…”) rather than religious grounds (“…the Bible says so!”) then let’s give them that debate: If their theory works then they should be able to devise a method that could say that antibiotic resistance evolved, but weaponized bacteria were designed in labs.

    joe-

    There is absolutely nothing the President of the United States can do about teaching creationism in schools, so he can spout off about it as much as he wants.

    He could always tie strings to federal funds or dangle extra funding for schools that want to spend it on developing ID curricula or whatever. With money anything is possible.

    Rick Barton-

    I don’t actually think that anybody can achieve the problem that I laid out. But I presented it because if the ID crowd is correct then they should be able to do it. They claim that it should be possible to examine an organism and identify features that can only arise by design. Well, if so, then do it!

    And the neat thing is that there are a handful of organisms out there with features that everybody agrees are products of evolution (my favorite is always antibiotic resistance, but there are others on the tip of my tongue). Just as there are organisms with features that everybody agrees are products of design (e.g. genetically modified food).

    So we’ve got these undisputed examples of evolution and design, now let’s test the theory. If they can prove me wrong and come up with an algorithm that does the job then I’ll give their theories very serious consideration. I’m a scientist, and I change my mind when I’m confronted with convincing data.

  88. “Its not science, thus it doesn’t belong in a science class.”

    I have no problem with mentioning the limits of science in science class.

    Actually I have no problem with any of this, as long as the parents get to choose the school that they send their kids to.

  89. Dave W.’s line of reasoning leads to the inclusion of all manner of crackpot notions; be it “Nessie,” alien abductions, God(s), etc.

    maybe not all of these things, but some of them really should be mentioned in a science class, as a good science class should teach the kind of critical thinking that is necessary to make the scientific method work.

  90. kwais,

    Questioning why/if God created evil is one of the classic questions to ask a theist. Indeed, its especially problematic for Calvinists and other advocates of predestination because its even more clear from the standpoint of that argument that God is the author, well, evil.

  91. Hak: Dave W.’s line of reasoning leads to the inclusion of all manner of crackpot notions; be it “Nessie,” alien abductions, God(s), etc.

    Dav: Not at all pointless or trivial. The lesson could point out that string theory postulates 17 dimensions, but science has only been able to directly observe 4. That’s a lot of places God may or may not live. Science has established the existence of vast expanses of space (dimensions 1 to 3). Although we have observed lots of stars, some black holes and a couple of planets, we haven’t explored deep space. Again, a lot of places God may or may not live. Then there is the science of oceanography, of the Earth’s core, of the Sun’s core, etc., etc. This kind of lesson would give kids an idea of what has been explored by science, and conversely, and at least equally importantly, the vast expanses that have not been explored.

  92. dave, i’m still waiting for you to explain how occam’s razor is “flimsy”. without it there’s no need to investigate anything, ever, because the answer may be left at “it was god”.

  93. Painting with watercolors can offer no help with understanding English composition. Should this fact be mentioned in art class?

    If enuf ppl out there in the US of A start maintaining that painting proves or disproves English comp, then yes. Otherwise, no.

  94. Dave W.,

    You’d think for an all-powerful, all-knowing, etc. being that according to you is constantly interfering in the life of universe that we wouldn’t have to look for this God in such far away places.

    I can’t imagine a lesson for a budding young scientist more exciting than that.

    I’m sorry, but telling kids that God may be out there isn’t science; its religion.

    zach,

    Its a slippery slope.

  95. Hakluyt-

    First, I’m no fan of string theory. To be fair, they’re working hard to move in the direction of testable predictions. Their endeavor is a noble one, even if it’s utterly uninteresting to me. But regardless of whether one thinks it is or isn’t science, it’s irrelevant to any debate over public high school science classes because it will never, ever, ever be taught in any high school.

    As to Dave W.-

    Your scientific test seems to assume that intelligent interventions made by humans would have some kind of similarity to those made by a putative higher intelligence and some dissimilarity to random genetic mutations (assuming that these mutations are random and not the result of some kind of invisible hand). What is your basis for assuming this similarity and dissimilarity?

    Science is usually done in gradual steps. Nobody knows for sure what a divine intervention would look like. So let’s start with a type of designer that EVERYBODY can agree on: Genetic engineers, selective breeders, etc. The basic notion of ID is that we can identify things that couldn’t happen “in the wild” and use them to infer that some intelligent entity stepped in.

    So let’s start by testing the theory with things designed by humans. If the ID proponents ever pass that test, then we can move on to consider questions pertaining to non-human or supernatural designers.

    If the theory of ID (and this one really is “just” a theory) can’t even pass that hurdle, how can we ever apply it to situations involving more unknowns (e.g. a divine designer)?

  96. dave, i’m still waiting for you to explain how occam’s razor is “flimsy”. without it there’s no need to investigate anything, ever, because the answer may be left at “it was god”.

    No. It is not “It was God.” It is: “As far as science can determine it could have been nothing or God or something else.” Anyway, you and I seem to have converged on the sweet pedagogical plan here, these details notwithstanding.

  97. Dave W.,

    BTW, let’s note that your agenda has changed from making the comparison so as to show the limits of science to one of informing a class of students that God might be out there, so let’s treat God as if God can be discovered empirically. Its that sort of sloppy reasoning that leads to evangelism in the classrooms.

  98. hak,

    Its a slippery slope.

    what is? teaching kids critical thought? all i’m saying is that, just like anything else, some examples should be given while teaching what is and is not scientific. the fact that ID is in the spotlight now makes it perfect fodder.

  99. thoreau,

    I can imagine a water-down version of string theory being taught in classrooms.

    Dave W.,

    Discussions of God have about as much business being in a science classroom as do discussions of feng shui. They are both religions and are therefor outside the realm of science.

  100. BTW, let’s note that your agenda has changed from making the comparison so as to show the limits of science to one of informing a class of students that God might be out there, so let’s treat God as if God can be discovered empirically. Its that sort of sloppy reasoning that leads to evangelism in the classrooms.

    If the children are intellectually mature enough, we can hit them with the possibility that God lives somewhere science hasn’t yet even hypothesized. Hell, if they are really mature we can hit them with the possibility that the place God lives might be empiracally unknowable, regardless of scientific advances.

    These are great lessons in the limits of empirical science, but they seem a bit too advanced for high school.

  101. zach,

    I’m curious. Why must critical thought be fostered by discussions of God or religion in public school science courses?

  102. actually, it’s called occam’s razor. of course it can never be disproved there was an intelligent designer, nor can it be proved. but since the existence of an intelligent designer is not necessary to explain evolution, the desire to postulate the existence of ID anyway is irrational.

    I’ll quote what I wrote last time this topic came up:

    Occam’s Razor is often brought out by atheists to ask why one needs God to explain an otherwise rational appearing reality. Yet when you apply Occam ruthlessly, you would come to the conclusion that the most likely reality is one where you are alone in the universe and some unseen process is stuffing perceptions into your mind: there is nothing but your mind, your perceptions, and whatever is behind those perceptions. Surely, compared to that, the notion that there is a 13 billion year old universe full of matter, energy, delicately balanced natural laws, and other living beings like you is a fantastical concept, ridiculously more complex and thus cut out by Occam’s Razor.

    Since the existence of an external objective reality is not necessary to explain your perceptions, the desire to postulate the existence of reality anyway is irrational. Or will you succumb to preconceptions and biases that cannot be justified by the scientific method? Is that an irrational behavior?

  103. No. It is not “It was God.” It is: “As far as science can determine it could have been nothing or God or something else.”

    right. and occam’s razor dictates, for lack of evidence of “God or something else”, stick to “nothing”, so that knowledge may continue to expand and fill the vacuum.

    Anyway, you and I seem to have converged on the sweet pedagogical plan here, these details notwithstanding.

    i think you may be misunderstanding me. i think ID should be presented in schools as an example of an unscientific belief masquerading as a scientific theory.

  104. Dave W.,

    You are interested in really revealing “limits,” what you are interested in is evagelizing (that’s why focus on the limits only being able to be revealed via discussions of God). Do it with your own money and not mine.

  105. BTW, let’s note that your agenda has changed from making the comparison so as to show the limits of science to one of informing a class of students that God might be out there, so let’s treat God as if God can be discovered empirically. Its that sort of sloppy reasoning that leads to evangelism in the classrooms.

    Because too many yung-uns (lookin’ at u Hak) have gotten the mistaken impression that science has disproven God or made Him less likely somehow. In view of these mistakes, it is good to get the real story out there. When these mistakes stop being so prevalent, it may then become less important to teach kids what the limits of science really are.

  106. trainwreck, you’re right that in practice being able to produce fertile offspring doesn’t determine whether 2 animals are the same species, but that’s the criterion Carolus Linnaeus set, and it’s still something some scientists think ought to be a major factor.
    Take a college course related to human evolution or read a book and you’ll see references to being able to produce fertile offspring theoretically being the criterion, but not being applied that way in practice.

  107. How does God intervene in evolution? Or in anything?
    Dave W.: As a matter of reason (small r) and science: I don’t know.
    Hak: what you are interested in is evagelizing

    ???

  108. Dave W.,

    Because too many yung-uns (lookin’ at u Hak) have gotten the mistaken impression that science has disproven God or made Him less likely somehow.

    Liar.

    End of discussion. If all you can do is lie about what I have stated, so be it. I’ve never, ever argued anything like that. Indeed, as you might recall that’s why I consistently call myself a weak atheist (which many others her can attest to, BTW).

  109. nmg:

    “Bush’s wish is perfectly legitimate. It’s not different than any other ideologue’s approach to public”

    NO. It’s NOT legitimate, and it IS different. ID is religion, period.

  110. Dave W.,

    What you “know” has really nothing to with your particular agenda.

  111. Dave W.,

    Again, you are interested in teaching the “limits of science,” you are interested in evagelizing (which is why you made your statements about teaching children to go off and discover God in the numerous undemonstrated dimensions of string “theory”). Now what I get from you ceaseless backpeddaling and the sort of lies I expect out of religionists who favor I.D.

  112. Darwin thumpers suck.

  113. Simply put, when you start stating before a classroom that there are “lot of places where God” might live, you have ceased being neutral on the matter; you have started to evangelize. This is course illustrates the problem with teaching God in a science course.

  114. scott,

    you and the other randroids who want to abolish government schools and are hoping to use ID as a way to get liberals to join you are forgetting this fact:

    liberals for the most part understand the point of public education – that is, NOT to pay for those who could easily afford private schools; but to educate those who could NOT.

  115. which is why you made your statements about teaching children to go off and discover God in the numerous undemonstrated dimensions of string “theory”).

    No. It is why I made my statements about teaching children to go off and help disprove God by exploring the numerous undemonstrated dimensions of string “theory”.

  116. Dave W.,

    You wrote nothing of the kind.

  117. M1EK,

    Education is a form of indoctrination; that is their primary purpose up to a point.

  118. Actually, I can’t think of a better way to destroy religion and make it unpalatable for the large majority of Americans than to intetgrate it into government and government run schools.
    Worked nicely elsewhere in the world.

    kwais-
    How can there be a heaven and hell, when God made us what we are?
    Traditionally, Christianity would say that God made humans as eternal creatures and that existentially a sinful creature can’t be in Heaven with Him and thus must be stored elsewhere, Hell. That Hell is awful either due to the mere absence of God or to active punishment is arguable.

    God gave us our genes and our experiences, and our environment, all our choices are the direct inevitable result of those mentioned.
    Arminian free-will Christians would argue those choices are not inevitable and then cite lots of anecdotal evidence.

    Calvinists would argue if you got lucky and were selected you would eventually be able to chose beyond your experiences.

  119. Herman,

    A sort of almost existential angst is at the heart of Calvinism (or Reformed) Christianity.

  120. Hak-
    Yes. Gives me headaches.

  121. I’m curious. Why must critical thought be fostered by discussions of God or religion in public school science courses?

    it doesn’t have to be. but it should be fostered somehow. and maybe the most effective way of doing so is to discuss the most common pseudoscientific beliefs, like ID.

    MikeP:

    …the notion that there is a 13 billion year old universe full of matter, energy, delicately balanced natural laws, and other living beings like you is a fantastical concept, ridiculously more complex and thus cut out by Occam’s Razor.

    this is an common example of a complete misunderstanding of occam’s razor. occam’s razor is: “pluralitas non est ponenda sine neccesitate.” that is, “plurality should not be posited without necessity.” as applied to empirical observation, it means that theories are useless unless they are necessary to explain known phenomena. in other words, if we know through observation how A results in B, don’t then bring a C into the equation out of nowhere. the phrase “the simplest explanation is most likely true” is a way of simplifying it, but leads to misinterpretations like your own. how “complex” or “simple” an idea is is not the question to those applying the razor, but rather the necessity of that idea to explaining the phenomena in question.

    similarly, the idea that “the most likely reality is one where you are alone in the universe and some unseen process is stuffing perceptions into your mind” may well be true, but is not necessary to understand the physical laws of reality, whatever that may be, and thus is negated from scientific pursuit by occam’s razor.

  122. zach,

    Well, apparently Dave W. (once he gets done fibbing about my positions) believes it must be done! 🙂


  123. Actually, I can’t think of a better way to destroy religion and make it unpalatable for the large majority of Americans than to intetgrate it into government and government run schools.
    Worked nicely elsewhere in the world.

    Well, they did have to go through the Dark Ages, but we knew it’ll get worse before it gets better, eh?

  124. If enuf ppl out there in the US of A start maintaining that painting proves or disproves English comp, then yes. Otherwise, no.

    So it’s the number of believers that make an idea worth discussing rather than the idea itself?

  125. Herman,

    Calvin’s acerbic style of writing could be hilarious sometimes. The biggest difference in his theology from Luther’s is that Luther would go out and drink with you (yes, I am being flippant). 🙂

  126. Hak to Zack-
    I’m curious. Why must critical thought be fostered by discussions of God or religion in public school science courses?

    How about just critical thought discussions of goofy quasi-religious stuff like bigfoot and UFOs? Sure you’ll run afoul of the people who believe that hairy non-human primates roam the forests of North America AND that their presence is very, very important to humanity. But there aren’t many of them and they don’t have enough money or passion to make it a public policy issue.

  127. David,

    Its a classic fallacy from popularity.

  128. right. and occam’s razor dictates, for lack of evidence of “God or something else”, stick to “nothing”, so that knowledge may continue to expand and fill the vacuum.

    This is not science.

    This is not reason.

    Even assuming for the sake of argument that Occam’s razor were a valid form of scientific reasoning, I fail to see why ID is less simple or obvvious or whatever-the-Occam-touchstone-is than the alternative.

  129. hak,

    Well, apparently Dave W. (once he gets done fibbing about my positions) believes it must be done!

    i’m so sick of hearing IDers’ circular arguments that i’m about ready to use the word “must” myself.

  130. If enuf ppl out there in the US of A start maintaining that painting proves or disproves English comp, then yes. Otherwise, no.

    So it’s the number of believers that make an idea worth discussing rather than the idea itself?

    It is an important factor. We teach English comp, rather than Finnish. We stress practical math over theoretical. Etc. Etc. Educatio, in every area, should take into account the problems that enuf kids will face in life.

    I am saying that trying to determine what science tells us about God is just such a problem. Now, if science suggested that God exists or did not exist, then there would be a first amendment problem. However, because science doesn’t say one way or the other, the First Amendment problem is not raised now (nor in the foreseeable future).

  131. This is not science.

    This is not reason.

    LOL… yes! it is! again, i don’t think you’re understanding me. when i say “stick to nothing”, i don’t mean that the scientific opinion becomes “there is no god”. i mean that science does not interject a hypothesis into the vacuum. so to say that “science can’t disprove god, and thus a belief in god can still be scientific” is nonsensical. and to someone who sees science as the best way of coming to conclusions about the world around us, maintaining a nonscientific belief anyway is nonsensical.

    Even assuming for the sake of argument that Occam’s razor were a valid form of scientific reasoning, I fail to see why ID is less simple or obvvious or whatever-the-Occam-touchstone-is than the alternative.

    it’s unnecessary to explain evolution, and thus useless.

  132. it’s unnecessary to explain evolution

    What do you mean by “unneccessary?”

    Do you mean “unneccessary” in the way that it is unneccesary for people to know the shape of the Earth? Or are you talking some other brand of unneccessity?

    Is any science “neccessary” in your preferred sense? Remember, people got along without science for a long, long time

  133. i gotta run. i’ll come back to this tomorrow.

  134. Dave W.:

    it means that the explanation for evolution does not require invoking a deity – that the explanation for evolution can stand using only empirical evidence

  135. occam’s razor: Entia non sunt multiplicanda sine necessitate.”

    ie, Don’t multiply difficulties without necessity.

    ie, KISS

    ie, Keep it simple, stupid.

    Basically, if one explanation of a phenomenon requires really complicated maths and another can be offered with really simple maths, the latter is probably the correct explanation.
    ———

    I’ve said this before (and been shot down, but what the heck): Science isn’t about answers, it’s about questions. Science always doubts.

    It uses what works so long as it works. And only so long as it works. But it always attacks and questions – even (and especially) what works.

    ID is an alternate theory to the origins of the universe, and it held sway a heck of a lot longer than modern theories have. In fact, it still holds sway – probably in the minds of a majority of human beings.

    It is not a “provable” one (imo), but it is worth acknowledging and discussing in a science class.

  136. Jesse Walker writes, “At some point, as an intellectual exercise, the instructor could assign a reading in ‘intelligent design’ and have the students write papers explaining what’s wrong with it.”

    Jesse, Jesse, Jesse! You can NOT explain what’s “wrong” with “intelligent design.” It’s UNFALSIFIABLE. That’s precisely what makes it NOT science!

    It’s like when I put my bet #180 on Long Bets:

    http://www.longbets.org/180

    I bet that science fiction author Michael Crichton’s projected warming of 0.81 degrees Celsius in the 21st century would be more accurate than the IPCC Third Assessment Report’s midpoint projection of 3.06 degrees Celsius.

    In response to this bet, a scientist at the “Real Climate” website claimed that, even if the warming was closer to Michael Crichton’s value, that would just prove that Michael Crichton was WRONG, because it would mean that humans had listened to the scientists and done something about global warming!

    I kid you not. You can look it up, as Dave Barry would say:

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=114#comment-995

    So do NOT argue about Intelligent Design. It’s unfalsifiable. Have students conduct scientific debates on things that ARE falsifiable:

    1) Is the earth 6000 years old?

    2) Did all the animals and all the humans on earth get killed in a Great Flood approximately 2000 years after that (or whatever the Bible Scientists say is the proper date)?

    3) Are all of the animals and all of the humans on earth descended from a group of animals/humans that survived that Great Flood?

    These are all falsifiable assertions. For example, if all the animals/humans on earth were let off a boat in a single place 4000 years ago (or whatever) why is it that there are different races of humans? (Were the inhabitants of the Ark different races…or did the races evolve in the 4000 years since the Flood? If they evolved, when did they “change”…since, for example, Oriental people clearly look different from Caucasian people?)

    Why is it that species diversity isn’t greatest at one single point, with progressively less diversity radiating away from that point? That’s what one would expect if all the animals were let off at a single point. For example, why are there tigers in India, but no lions, and lions in Africa, but no tigers? Why are there penguins only in Antarctica?

    If one set up that kind of debate, I guarantee you that virtually none of the students would be a 6000-year-old earth, Noah’s Ark creationists. But more importantly, they’d be against those ideas because they’d **thought** about them, and seen for themselves that they are false, not because someone told them they were false.

  137. ID is an alternate theory to the origins of the universe, and it held sway a heck of a lot longer than modern theories have. In fact, it still holds sway – probably in the minds of a majority of human beings.

    It is not a “provable” one (imo), but it is worth acknowledging and discussing in a science class.

    Comment by: raymond at August 2, 2005 05:56 PM

    your post reveals that you know that ID is just a camoflague for (strict, literal) creationism – which is clearly not science, and belongs in a science classroom for just as much time as it takes to explain to the students why it’s not part of science

    what makes something an appropriate subject for science research is not that the proposition be provable, but that the proposition must be disprovable

  138. metalgrid-
    I was thinking of more recent Protestant Europe, where the churches are at least partially funded by a government collected tax. Native population has lost its interest in going to church and I would guess part of that has to do with it being so official.

    Similar problem in the Arab world where the governments appoint imams in mosques. While those imams will preach angry stuff about say the U.S. or joos they won’t say anything bad about the government. Really angry folks turn to the jihad oriented types who will say bad stuff about everyone who isn’t them including the government.

    Not sure if Arab governments sign off on Christian clergy.

  139. Mark:

    let students try to design experiments to falsify ID. that’s how they know what’s “wrong” with it – it is not falsifiable, and therefore not a scientific theory

  140. Dave W.,

    …I fail to see why ID is less simple or obvvious or whatever-the-Occam-touchstone-is than the alternative.

    You fail to do a lot of things (like tell the truth).

    Anyway familiar with I.D. knows that it violates Ockham’s (I perfer the non-Latin spelling) Razor because Ockham himself confronted similar notions from scholars during his time (namely the “Scholastics”). To be more blunt, Okham demanded that the observeable (and the simple) be the basis for science and I.D. certainly isn’t observeable. Thus it fails at least one of the demand’s of the “razor.”

  141. I tell my students the limits of science

    I think that it’s critical to their understand and ability to distinguish science from pseudoscience and religious belief

    it’s also critical to let them realize that evolution doesn’t infringe on their belief in God, and makes them willing to listen

    kind of like Thoreau’s disclaimer idea from last week’s evolution/ creation discussion

  142. biologist,

    Now, that is a sensible approach; but the idea that God must be discussed in science class to teach critical thinking, is just stupid.

  143. similarly, the idea that “the most likely reality is one where you are alone in the universe and some unseen process is stuffing perceptions into your mind” may well be true, but is not necessary to understand the physical laws of reality, whatever that may be, and thus is negated from scientific pursuit by occam’s razor.

    I don’t follow this argument. It is absolutely necessary to understand the source of the perceptions one receives if one is to understand the “physical laws” of this so-called “reality” you talk about. All one gathers about any reality comes from one’s perceptions.

    I grant that — provided one accepts that the source of those perceptions are an external reality — Occam’s Razor is an excellent tool for adding to the two axiomatic observations of self and perception to arrive at a healthy collection of theories on the universe. But Occam’s Razor does not get one over that hump.

    There is no experiment one can perform that will distinguish an external objective universe from the mind-perceptions-feeder universe. My preference for believing in the former is based on values, costs, benefits, and probabilities. But it is not based on science, and it is not based on Occam’s Razor.

    I’m reducing to absurd positivism above, but…

    and thus is negated from scientific pursuit by occam’s razor

    …my real issue is the certainty you put on statements such as this. Occam is a tool, an indicator, a heuristic. It is not something which “negates from scientific pursuit” anything.

  144. “let students try to design experiments to falsify ID. that’s how they know what’s “wrong” with it – it is not falsifiable, and therefore not a scientific theory”

    Well, that’s much, much, much more difficult. And even if they DON’T come up with such tests, it doesn’t mean that ID is not a scientific theory.

    For example, General Relativity included the postulation of the existence of gravity waves. But we’re only ~70 years later gaining the technology to test that postulation.

    I think it’s a much better idea to work with things that ARE falsifiable.

    In fact, I don’t remember too much from it, but I took a “History of Science” course in college as an elective. I thought it was fascinating…those early scientists were geniuses. It would be a great course to start with some of the disproven assumptions, and show HOW they were disproven.

    For example, the teacher could say, “I say babies are born exactly the way they are in the womb…that is, they just get bigger in size, they don’t change in form. Now, you students go out and find something that proves my assertion wrong.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homunculus

  145. Mark, true it’s more difficult, but that’s the critical thinking process we need to cultivate in all our citizens, not just those going into technical fields. science is an ideal subject for teaching critical thinking skills

    even if the technology doesn’t yet exist, it’s still possible to derive tests of cutting edge hypotheses. 80 years after Einstein predicted them, physicists only recently demonstrated that he correctly predicted the existence and behavior of Bose-Einstein condensates (don’t ask for an explanation from me, I’m a biologist, not a physicist)

    science classes, or at least introductory biology courses typically begin with a history of the subject as you suggest. for example both introductory general bio and microbio courses recount the experiments that disproved abiogenesis under modern environmental conditions

  146. for example both introductory general bio and microbio courses recount the experiments that disproved abiogenesis under modern environmental conditions

    The problem with trying to recreate abiogenesis in a lab is that ions ago there were untold pools of amino acids sitting around for a long time, which enhanced the probability by a lot.

    Also, there’s the little problem of oxygen, which tends to have corrosive effects.

    So I’m not sure what you’re saying. Are you saying abiogenesis is possible or impossible?

  147. “science classes, or at least introductory biology courses typically begin with a history of the subject as you suggest.”

    Yes, and that’s how a science teacher could use the 6000-year-old earth and Biblical Flood ideas to show that they are wrong.

    The teacher could say, “I know the earth is 6000 years old. I know that all the animals of the earth and all the humans on earth descended from those who were on a boat 4000 years ago. I challenge you to prove me wrong.”

  148. kmw writes, “Are you saying abiogenesis is possible or impossible?”

    “Biologist” will no doubt answer this, but I think he’s referring to abiogenesis such as that maggots spontaneously appear from meat:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abiogenesis

  149. P.S. In that sense, “abiogenesis” is false. The maggots don’t spontaneously generate from the meat, they come from the eggs that flies lay on the meat. So if the flies can be kept of the meat, the maggots don’t appear.

  150. I.D. certainly isn’t observeable
    Nor is N.I.D., at least in the exact same sense that I.D. is unobservable. So that fails, too.

    Oh, and tone down on the ad hominem, pls, Gare-Bear.

  151. “Nor is N.I.D., at least in the exact same sense that I.D. is unobservable. So that fails, too.”

    Yes, absolutely. There is no conflict between I.D. and N.I.D. Neither of them are scientific theories.

    What ARE scientific theories are:

    1) That the universe is 14 billion years old, not 6000 years old.

    2) That humans evolved from ape-like creatures hundreds of thousands of years ago.

    3) That humans have NOT always looked like they do today.

    4) That there were creatures on earth hundreds of millions of years before human beings.

    etc. etc. etc.

  152. Personally, I’m very sure that there is intelligent life beyond the earth.

    But the big question I have is, “If that’s so, why can’t we detect their presence?”

    That’s why SETI puzzles me…why haven’t we detected anything? One possibility is that they are ALL so advanced compared to us, that they can hide without us detecting them, and choose to do so.

    But that’s a completely unfalsifiable hypothesis…except if we find some that aren’t hiding. Then we’ll know that some exist that aren’t hiding. But we won’t know that there aren’t many others who ***are*** hiding.

  153. kmw, Mark is correct about what I was referring to regarding abiogenesis. the actual example I had in mind were the experiments by Pasteur that showed the lack of abiogenesis of spoilage organisms such as bacteria in broth that had been boiled to sterilize it (I’m simplifying here)

    abiogenesis of life may have occurred and the Miller – Urey experiments show that it’s possible to get organic molecules that are necessary precursors to life to form spontaneously in a soup of inorganic molecules that have an electric charge applied (to simulate lightning). abiogenesis is not part of Darwin’s theory of evolution, but a natural abiogenetic theory is necessary to explain the origin of life using science (i.e. testable, falsifiable explanations)

    abiogenesis is not possible (well, not likely) under currently environmental conditions because of the high concentration of oxygen in the biosphere mostly precludes the formation of long organic polymers

  154. Mark:

    SETI likely hasn’t detected other intelligent life (if it exists) because of the long distances involved combined with the short time that we have had the technology to detect extraterrestrial cultures (which would also have to have the technology to transmit information for us to detect)

  155. biologist,

    OK, good to know we’re thinking along the same lines. I just wanted to be sure.

  156. I for one welcome our new omnipotent and universal overlord!

  157. George W Bush,
    I’ve just been skimming here, but are you rolling out the red carpet for moi just now? Aw shucks.

  158. But, seriously, George, you must admit your God has evolved. Else why would there be a New Testament? Old Testament not good enough for you?
    Either God changed his mind or he evolved.
    Don’t be scared.

  159. Dave W.,

    Thankyou for breazily missing the entire point of my statement. I’m curious, when have I even mentioned N.I.D.?

    As to my statements regarding your person, well, its true, you’re a liar.

    Ruthless,

    Christianity and Judaism are human constructs, therefore its not surprising that their writings change in emphasis, thought, etc. over time. Culturally constructed things do that.

  160. Ruthless,

    The beauty of it all is that all the efforts of creationist whackjobs, etc. to make their faith into a science are simply like throwing seed on barren ground. Creationist whackjobs want to act like what they are doing is science because science is respected and its where they have to play if they want to attack evolution, etc.

  161. For example, General Relativity included the postulation of the existence of gravity waves. But we’re only ~70 years later gaining the technology to test that postulation

    I’m no expert on GR, but I’m pretty sure that gravity waves were a PREDICTION of the theory, NOT a postulate.

  162. Someplace above, Jennifer mentioned the American response to Sputnik: Beef up science education. (And yes, I know, public schools were not the right way to do it.)

    Maybe somebody should remind the Theocrat in Chief that a good understanding of microbiology is necessary for combating bioterrorism, and microbiology is an excellent testing ground for evolutionary biology: Humans may go through one generation every 20 years or so, but microbes can go through a generation every few hours. That’s enough time for mutations to accumulate and be selected or discarded by natural pressures.

    Anyway, I have no illusion that the GOP Congress will banish evolution from schools any time soon. But I can see them getting away with a little seed money to develop “Science curricula that teach students to evaluate competing ideas and understand the limitations of methodologies.” (Which would be great if it were an accurate description rather than a collection of code words.)

    I can see them giving a few pork barrel grants to scientists working on intelligent design. (For the record, and I know Hakluyt disagrees, I think there are a few ID people asking good questions, but I’d be more impressed if their answers amounted to something other than “This question is unanswerable without invoking the God of the Gaps!”)

    I can see a “Religious Freedom Bill” that includes a hidden amendment that protects “Teachers who follow their conscience” (i.e. talk about creationism in science class).

    They won’t hold a Scopes Monkey Trial tomorrow, but they might try a litle monkey business.

  163. Final thought: Once upon a time the God of the Gaps was awesome to behold: He Who Brought The Flood And Confounded Radioactive Dating!

    Today the God of the Gaps is greatly diminished: he who tinkered with a few chemical reactions here and there to make sure that the right proteins were there.

  164. biologist writes, “SETI likely hasn’t detected other intelligent life (if it exists) because of the long distances involved combined with the short time that we have had the technology to detect extraterrestrial cultures (which would also have to have the technology to transmit information for us to detect)”

    No, that’s not right. The time WE’VE had the technology to detect ETs is irrelevant. It’s the time that THEY’VE had to detect ***us*** that’s important.

    Imagine our technology only 20-50 years in the future. We’ll be able to detect earth-size planets, and even evaluate them for chemicals that are signs of life.

    If multiple ETs exist in the Milky Way, then some of them have probably had that level of technology for say, 100,000 years. That means that they’ve been able to monitor us for the last 100,000 years, and send a signal to us all the way across the galaxy. (About 100,000 light years in diameter.)

    So even if they couldn’t actually come to us (and they really should be able to, since they should be able to shrink themselves to very small dimensions), why haven’t they sent us laser beam signals?

  165. “I’m no expert on GR, but I’m pretty sure that gravity waves were a PREDICTION of the theory, NOT a postulate.”

    Yes, you’re right. Prediction. (I don’t know anything about GR either…I was just thinking off the cuff of something that has required a long time to refute or confirm.)

  166. Mark, you’re a smart guy, but you’ve read a bit too much sci-fi.

    1) “Laser beam signals”? More likely they’d send radio signals
    2) It’s postulate, not postulation. (from a previous post)
    3) Um, why would they be able to shrink themselves? And how would that reduce the time it takes to traverse space?

    Don’t get me wrong, maybe there are ways to shrink objects that we have no clue about yet. Maybe there are ways to go faster than light. (And to the armchair cosmologists who say they heard some string theorist talk about it, just because a string theorist solves an equation that doesn’t mean it can actually happen.) Maybe aliens will find means of communication that are far superior to radio signals. But I’m not going to predict any of those things. Because for all I know it could turn out that the future will be far stranger than any sci-fi writer or string theorist has guessed.

    Anyway, my guess on alien civilizations? If they’re rare enough it’s possible that there aren’t any in our galaxy that are broadcasting right now. (Or, more accurately, were broadcasting a long time ago, when a signal would have had to be sent from their planets could have reached ours today.) Civilizations could be wiped out by nuclear warfare, or comets, or disease, or even Nietzsche essays (if you believe gaius marius).

  167. Hakluyt,
    Stop being silly already. Dave W is no more a liar than you or anyone else on this thread.

    Go back re-evaluate what he wrote, and if he made a misstatement try to figure out what the real cause of his error was. I am sure if you think about it long and hard enough you will realize that he was not intentionally trying to missrepresent information.

    That whole excersise might help you generally with your discussions with other posters.

  168. Here is the thing about aliens. I think we try too much to project our own image on to them. I don’t know that their developement would have any similarities with ours. Would they use radio waves or something completely different?

    If they were really ahead of us they wouldn’t need radio waves.

    Just because we are curios about them doesn’t mean that they would be curios about us. Or at least curios about us in the same way. I mean they just fly over, kidnap some hick, and stick probes up his ass, and all their questions are answered and then they go back. They have no need to comunicate with us, they already know what we are going to say. Much more accurately than Thoreau predicts what certain posters are going to say.

  169. Yes, and that’s how a science teacher could use the 6000-year-old earth and Biblical Flood ideas to show that they are wrong.

    I’d rather read: “…to show that they no longer meet our needs.”

    One hundred years from now, I suspect that people on this forum will be saying how cute we all are for having “believed” the Theory of Relativity and the Theory of Evolution.

    imo, Every science teacher should start out his year by saying: Everything I know is wrong.

  170. BTW,
    I would still like Dave W to answer my question about hell.

    And if any other person that believes in hell wants to take a crack at it.

    Why does God forsake some? Why would God create Hitler and then punish him for being Hitler.

    If there is some other ingredient to a choice besides; genetics, a persons history, and the environment, what is it? And where does it comefrom? And why do some get the good ones and others get the bad ones?

  171. Kwais: someone on this thread gave the standard answer, but I’m too lazy to go find him, so I’ll just make it again. A lot of theologies (including the Catholic Church, for one) say that Heaven is unity with God, or something very similar. God wants us all to be in union with Him, but we have free will and he loves us so he won’t force us to be in union with Him. Those who have chosen to reject God won’t be forced to be with Him; “Hell” is the name we give to the condition of eternity without God. It’s a “punishment” in the Monkey’s Paw sense; He’ll give us what we want, but we’ll decide that we really shouldn’t have wanted it after all.

    This is actually why I often say that I’m choosing to go to Hell; if God is the God described in the Christian Bible, I’m not a big fan, and don’t want to spend eternity in union with him. So I’m doing consciously what all the other people in Hell have done subconsciously: choosing to reject God and spend eternity away from His presence. (Obviously, I’m not really a believer. But when people ask me what I’ll do and find out God is real, that’s my answer).

  172. And if any other person that believes in hell wants to take a crack at it.

    I don’t believe in hell, but I’ll try to explain it anyway.

    Hell is where God is not.

    Hell is actually God’s mercy. Those who have rejected God would be infinitely more tormented if they had to face Him.

    Purgatory is a sort of temporary Hell. It’s the place (it exists in time and space and so will cease to exist at the end of time) where those who have not made a major decision to reject God go to purify themselves of their minor imperfections so that they can face God.

    Why does God forsake some?

    God doesn’t forsake anyone. Those who go to Hell have forsaken Him. They have made a choice. Because they possess Free Will, their choice is respected. If God ignored their choice and “saved” them, He would be violating their Free Will.

    Why would God create Hitler and then punish him for being Hitler.

    Hitler possessed Free Will. God did not create what Hitler did. Hitler did that all by himself.

    (NB – We cannot know if Hitler is in Hell or not.)

    If there is some other ingredient to a choice besides; genetics, a persons history, and the environment, what is it?

    It’s Freedom. Free Will. The ability to choose.

    And where does it comefrom?

    It is in our nature. God created us that way – in His image. We are Godlike in that we possess Freedom.

    And why do some get the good ones and others get the bad ones?

    It doesn’t matter – the details of genetics, environment, etc. What matters is that we are all equal when it comes to Free Will.

    Please note that the above is not the Puritan explanation. In that explanation, good works are not essential to gaining Heaven. What is essential is God’s predetermination. Because He is omniscient, He knows which choices we’ll make, and so His creation of us is actually destiny.

    We can get a pretty good idea of who is predestined to Heaven by looking at how they’re living their lives now, by their wealth…

    It’s also not the “faith-without-good-works” explanation. In that “theology”, Faith alone is what saves us. However, since Faith is a form of grace, and since grace is a gift of God, it boils down to the same thing as the Puritan explanation.

  173. If they were really ahead of us they wouldn’t need radio waves.

    Why? There are only — as far as we know — a limited number of ways to manipulate and deliver information and energy over long distances in the universe. Radio waves are a fairly efficient manner of doing so. Given sufficient transmitting power, in fact, they’re extremely efficient.

  174. kwais-

    It could very well be that there are advanced civilizations that don’t want to talk to us, and they’re so super-efficient that they don’t produce much in the way of stray radio waves.

    Or maybe they’ve discovered something even better than radio waves (or any other type of electromagnetic wave, for that matter) and to them this discovery is so obvious that they never even considered trying to contact other civilizations with anything other than that technology. If they knew we’re searching for radio waves they’d be like “Wha?” So maybe we have to discover some new physics first.

    Or maybe you’re right and that probe in Jethro’s ass is telling them everything there is to know about the human race. I should build a microchip stick it in a redneck’s ass, and then I’ll be able to perfectly predict what all of you are going to write. Maybe I’ll program the probe to automatically post for you guys using a wifi connection 😉

    One hundred years from now, I suspect that people on this forum will be saying how cute we all are for having “believed” the Theory of Relativity and the Theory of Evolution.

    I doubt it. Some things really are forever. For instance, even though Newtonian mechanics was eventually superceded by relativity and quantum mechanics, Newtonian mechanics is still incredibly accurate in a huge range of situations, so people still use it in all sorts of research and applications. Even though classical thermodynamics was eventually shown to be a limiting case of statistical mechanics, classical thermodynamics is still used by engineers. Even though light was eventually found to be composed of photons, we still use Maxwell’s classical electromagnetic theory all over the place in physics and engineering.

    In biology, our understanding of the mechanisms and manner by which evolution proceeds has changed or been elaborated since Darwin’s day, but the basic notion of natural selection acting on small changes to produce descent with modification has remained. We know so much more about cells than we once did, but a lot of the same basic ideas remain from the old days.

    100 years from now they won’t talk about how cute it is that we actually believed all this shit. Rather, they’ll point to the framework that was laid, and then point to all the new things that have been added to that framework, and the additional pieces of scaffolding discovered later on that made the whole edifice even bigger.

    Some things really are forever in science.

  175. Some things really are forever in science.

    And then again, some things aren’t.

    Newtonian mechanics is still incredibly accurate in a huge range of situations, so people still use it in all sorts of research and applications.

    (Sorry to repeat myself, as if my words are wisdom, but…) We use what works.

    I know that the part of my finger between my first (from the top) and second knuckles does not equal precisely one inch. Yet I use my finger for quick-and-dirty measurements.

    I know that my table is primarily empty space, but I still have my computer sitting on it.

    But I will give you this, thoreau. You’re probably right.

    For the moment.

  176. the wikipedia entry that raymond links to as evidence of the ephermerality of some theories lists recapitulation theory (aka biogenetic law) as an obsolete biological theory, but the entry reads:

    Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, also called the biogenetic law or the theory of recapitulation, is a hypothesis in biology first espoused in 1866 by the German zoologist Ernst Haeckel, a contemporary of Charles Darwin, which has been discredited in its absolute form, although recognised as being partly accurate. In biology, ontogeny is the embryonal development process of a certain species, and phylogeny a species’ evolutionary history. Observers have noted various connections between phylogeny and ontogeny, explained them with evolutionary theory and taken them as supporting evidence for that theory.

    note that the original formulation in absolutist form is discredited, but the basic idea still holds true – take a look at an vertebrate embryology book

  177. raymond, thoreau, and others,
    When will you take the quantum leap from libertarianism to anarchy?

  178. When will you take the quantum leap from libertarianism to anarchy?

    To do that I need to calculate the matrix element &ltthoreau|H|anarchy> where H is the Hamiltonian describing my time evolution.

  179. “Intelligent Design” should be debated in schools however, ID will lose every time. If the local want to teach ID in public schools that is fine with me, but it should not be taught in science class because it is not science. President Bush (or any federal official) should not have the power to decide on what schools should or should not teach. Leave that up with the local governments to decide.

  180. If the local want to teach ID in public schools that is fine with me,…

    I meant to say local schools.

  181. thoreau writes, “Mark, you’re a smart guy, but you’ve read a bit too much sci-fi.”

    I don’t read ANY sci-fi anymore. And I didn’t read much when I was a child. What I DO read is technological-trends literature (e.g. MIT Technology Review, Ray Kurzweil’s stuff, Michio Kaku, others.

    “1) “Laser beam signals”? More likely they’d send radio signals”

    No, if they were, say, 50,000 light-years away (halfway across the galaxy), they would at present (our time) only know us as we were 50,000 years ago. So they’d know we see light, but not radio waves.

    2) “It’s postulate, not postulation. (from a previous post)”

    I already agreed with you that gravity waves are a *prediction* of General Relativity. (Not a postulate.)

    3) “Um, why would they be able to shrink themselves? And how would that reduce the time it takes to traverse space?”

    Shrinking things allows faster space travel because F=ma, and because m goes to infinity as one approaches the speed of light.

    I didn’t mean that they’d shrink a body like a human body. I meant they’d send miniaturized circuits. (Logically, miniturized circuits that grow into something bigger when they get here. Conversely, humans could send embryos, as long as they also sent something that grew up and was able to feed and protect the embryo as it grew to adulthood.)

    Which gets to a final, more important point: if there ARE ETs in the galaxy that are more than 100,000 years advanced than us, why aren’t they HERE ALREADY? (Forget the “monitoring from the home world” stuff!)

  182. “Intelligent Design” should be debated in schools however, ID will lose every time.

    It won’t “lose” because it can’t. It’s not falsifiable. Just like the belief that there is NOT a God (or Gods) is not falsifiable (except by such God or Gods revealing themselves).

    ID versus athiesm (or agnostiscism) is not a matter of scientific debate.

    What ARE matters of scientific debate are:

    1) What is the age of the universe?

    2) What is the age of the earth?

    3) When did dinosaurs live?

    4) When did the first mammals appear?

    5) When did the first homosapiens appear?

    etc.

  183. When will you take the quantum leap from libertarianism to anarchy?

    Anarchy would work – if human beings weren’t so obnoxious.

  184. thoreau said:
    “To do that I need to calculate the matrix element where H is the Hamiltonian describing my time evolution.”

    D’oh! How could I have overlooked that detail?

  185. raymond said:
    “Anarchy would work – if human beings weren’t so obnoxious.”

    Which cometh first: obnoxity or lack of faith in anarchy?

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