DC Event This Wed: Ron Bailey vs. Intelligent Design


Attention, DC denizens, mark yer calendars for Wed, Sept. 14:

What's the deal with Intelligent Design?
September 14, 2005 | America's Future Foundation

Join us on Wednesday, September 14, for the next AFF Roundtable: "What's the deal with Intelligent Design?" Our panelists will ask what the debate over Intelligent Design tells us about American politics and culture. Is ID backlash for loss of local control over public schools and secularization of the curriculum? Is it symptomatic of a deepening cultural divide in America? Panelists will be Will Wilkinson of the Cato Institute; Ron Bailey of Reason Magazine; Blake Dvorak of the Washington Times; and Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America.

The event will take at the Fund for American Studies, 1706 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, near Dupont Circle. Drinks at 6:30; Roundtable begins at 7:00. Roundtables are free for members, $5 for non-members.

NEXT: Dirty Harriet, the Recycling Cop

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  1. I certainly hope that this roundtable will give equal time to the theory of FSM and how it will fit into this modern scientific teaching curriculum.

  2. Is it symptomatic of a deepening cultural divide in America?

    It's symptomatic of people who feel that their entire philosophy, politics, morality and world view revolve around a bunch of ancient Hebrew myths, and can't come to grips with reality no matter what the objective evidence tells them.

  3. An old professor of mine would babble about how Lagrangian mechanics is the key to everything and it's so radical and a shame that nobody talks about its real significance.

    What's funny is that Lagrangian mechanics has been around since, well, Lagrange. (Like, 200 years.) It's a pivotal element in theoretical physics and used extensively. But I guess we don't understand the REAL meaning behind it all.

    Anyway, I hope his ravings are given equal time. Teach the controversy!

    From what I hear, this guy has caused my alma mater (undergrad, not grad) to explore the limits of just how far you can go in reining in a tenured professor who won't retire.

  4. thoreau,
    You know the sainted R P Feynman rejected Lagrangian mechanics, until he had first fully assimilated Newtonian mechanics. Only then was his mind prepared to receive the word of the prophet LaGrange. Once so enlightened, he did if fact reveal a deeper truth.

  5. Warren-

    I realize that Lagrangian mechanics is a continuing source of insight. But my old prof pretended that nobody teaches Lagrangian mechanics.

  6. I wish I knew enough about physics to be able to even comprehend the difference between Newtonian and Lagrangian mechanics. When it comes to knowledge of hard sciences, I fear that I am nothing more than barely evolved pond scum.

    Curse the humanities!

  7. thoreau,
    Lifshitz, and Landau is apocryphal.

    Well, at least you aren't convinced of your own superiority as you scurry about in your short pointless life.

  8. Suffice it to say that Lagrangian mechanics is a more sophisticated mathematical way of writing down the laws of motion. It isn't always practical for engineering problems, but it can give important insights into the problem that you're solving. Without even solving all of the equations you can immediately identify key features of the problem.

    And it's better for connecting the classical laws of motion with other areas of physics.

  9. Most of the debate misses the key point. Although many proponents of I.D. do so for religious reasons, the majority do so because there exists no adaquate explanation for evolution. Natural selection from both random variation and mutations cannot account for development of new organs. Thousands of examples of organs that cannot develop by a darwinian process have overwhelmed the true believers in darwinism. Whenever I read a missive from a darwinian true believer, I search carefully for a scientific message, but all I find is "ad hominem" and anti-religion attacks. I.D. is ruled out of science by definition. Darwin himself said if an organ could be found that could not develop by natural selection than his theory failed. His theory has failed a thousand times over. Since life today is different than existed millions of years ago, and since there is no satisfactory explanation for the changes, I.D. is a reasonable explanation. Science may produce an alternative, but until then I.D. is the only contender. Readers who believe natural selection can account for evolution might try their mind by something simple like the poison sac and hollow fangs of certain reptiles. Remember any change must benefit the reptile to be preserved for the next generation. Why develop hollow fangs befor poison? or vica versa. Try to start with a non venomous snake and develop the poison mechanism by slght darwinian variations.If you think you have succeeded, then try blood clotting. This rube goldberg cascade involved many steps, none of which could exist without the the rest of the steps.Then try to find a nascent organ in nature. The only examples that I'm aware of are not developing, but are instead devolving. Finally, remember genes control. Evolution must occur at the genetic level. Darwin has no way to add genes. I hope that if a true believer replies, he will deal in facts, not just hand wave.
    David Moshinsky

  10. Lifshitz, and Landau is apocryphal.

    Yes, but other textbooks in wide use still teach Lagrangian mechanics.

    Anyway, the point is that this is a widely appreciated area of physics, and my professor acted as though he was the only person who cared about teaching it.

  11. David-

    We haven't filled in all the gaps (oh no!). But there's an indisputable timeline in the ground.

    Or do you care to challenge radioactive dating?

  12. thoreau,
    Actually lifshitz and Landau is rather heavy on Lagrange. I was having fun with my posts, mixing science and religion. They are not intended to be taken seriously, but its fun to see how well I can match the analogy.

    Plenty of questions about evolution remain unanswered. However, I.D. is no more a "reasonable explanation" than saying, aliens planted people on earth as a reality show.

  13. Although many proponents of I.D. do so for religious reasons, the majority do so because there exists no adaquate explanation for evolution.

    Could you show some examples of this majority? Or even any non-religious endorsers of ID?

    From my perspective, it seems like the majority of ID endorsers like the theory because it neatly dovetails with their belief in a God. There's nothing wrong with that, but at least be honest about it.

    aliens planted people on earth as a reality show.

    I kind of like this theory, Warren. It would explain a lot of the stupid things we do.

  14. David,

    None of the specific examples you cite are in any way problematic for Darwinian evolution, and in fact for every one intermediate forms have been found. To deal quickly with a couple of them, there are in fact venomous reptiles without fangs, and venomous snakes without hollow fangs (they often have fangs that are furrowed to various degrees, an obvious intermediate point on the way to hollow fangs), and these animals can still successfully use their venom to kill prey and protect themselves. And with regard to blood clotting cascades, it's not remotely true that none of the steps in the cascade could exist without the rest of the steps; in fact, intermediate and/or more primitive cascades have been found in a wide variety of animals, and in some cases related proteins with the same enzymatic activities have been found in bacteria.

    "....Darwin has no way to add genes." I'm not entirely sure what this bit and the couple sentences before it mean, but gene and whole genome duplication is actually a very active field of study in evolutionary biology, such duplication events have been documented literally thousands of times, examples have been found of recently duplicated genes taking on novel roles, and it's becoming increasingly clear that gene and genome duplication have played an important role in macroevolution.

    If you're honestly interested in knowing more about this and seeing how robust natural evolutionary theory really is (and how little ID actually has to offer), I would recommend http://www.talkorigins.org/ as a fairly accessible starting point.

  15. I'm looking forward to the Daily Show's special episode tonight, which will be dedicated to the competing hypotheses surrounding the origins of life on Earth. The episode is entitled "Evolution Schmevolution," so I think it will be quite fair and balanced.

  16. David,
    Your example of the poisioned snake is false. A "Gila Monster" of the SW United States has poision, but no fangs. It has evolved a set of grooves to channel poision from the poision glands to the bite wound. Why could not a primative snake also have had a similar mechanism that evolved into hollow fangs. Now, if we did not know about the "Gila Monster" then that would be a missing gap that could not be explained. Becuase a gap exists does not mean that the ONLY way it could have been created is by an outside force, it is simply a missing step that has yet to be discovered.

  17. From the earliest church reactions to autopsies, to the modern hand-wringing over stem cells... I don't understand why there is such a strong negative reaction to biological science among the ignorant.

    My science fiction dreams involve those of us who are not horrified at the thought of longevity treatments and gene therapy outliving the willfully ignorant by centuries.

    ID just seems to be a symptom of the larger bio-horror.

  18. As someone who obtained a degree in engineering, I feel like a moron for never having heard of Lagrangian mechanics before now. I'll blame it on being a chem eng.

  19. Count me as one of those who hasn't studied science since 11th grade physics class, and didn't learn much then either. Can any of you science types recommend some readings for those of us who want to rectify our woeful undereducation? Most books I've tried to read are either stupid enough that I get bored (and also wonder whether they're accurate) or assume I know a lot of things I don't, and are thus impossible to understand. Any thoughts?

  20. For a good overview of Darwinian Evolution, Richard Dawkins' 'River Out of Eden' is a nice, concise relatively easy place for the lays to start.

  21. 'Now, if we did not know about the "Gila Monster" then that would be a missing gap that could not be explained.'

    Also, if there were no hollow-fanged venomous reptiles, the grooved fangs would not look, in any way, like a "nascent organ," a way station on the route to hollow fangs, but would appear to be just as complete and "finished" an adaptation as any other organ or system you'd care to mention.

    The latest evolution fad is to point at a system containing elements A,B,C,D, and E and say "why would you evolve B without A? It doesn't do anything!"

    The answer, of course, is that those elements did not evolve fully formed, on after another. Instead, a primitive version of the system, we'll call it a-e, developed. Then it became a-c-e, then a-b-c-d-e. Then, it became refined into two elements, A and b-c-d-e. Then, A b-c-d and E. And so on, until you end up with A, B, C, D, and E.

  22. In addition to the http://www.talkorigins.org/ web site I mentioned above, anyone wanting to know more about gila monsters should check out Mystery Science Theater 3000's treatment of "The Giant Gila Monster." It turns out gila monsters are also big music lovers with a taste for the flesh of implausible 50's pop idols. God, I love that show.

  23. Really makes you think.

  24. sarnath,
    I wouldn't worry about it, suppose you learn and then know it all, then what? Guess you wait for that one hour every ten years where the subject comes up and you can impress folks with your knowledge of it. Your time may be better spent figuring out if you should dump Farve from your fantasy team this year although there is a slight probability he will dominate the defense this year.

  25. Although many proponents of I.D. do so for religious reasons, the majority do so because there exists no adequate explanation for evolution.

    I would love to see a roster of atheists (not agnostics, but atheists) who support ID. I'm guessing that roster numbers in the single digits. I'm not counting people who think "aliens" supplies the identity of the designer; that line of thought doesn't answer the fundamental question, "can life arise and develop through natural processes, or does life require supernatural influence?" The ID position is all about the supernatural influence.

    When the population of ID supports has a religious-to-atheist proportion that approaches the proportion in the general population, I'll believe the quoted assertion. Until then, my default position is that ID is supported for religious reasons.

  26. and aesthetic reasons in some small cases. it's pretty easy, see?

    darwin --> race-mixing --> social dancing --> homos

    bang! they'll bury us without firing a shot...

  27. "Really makes you think."

    It's true. I've been racking my brain trying to come up with an adaptive explanation for those particular gila monster qualities, but I'm stumped. Maybe the IDer's are right...?


    It's sort of the default answer, but have you read any Stephen Jay Gould? He used to write a column for Natural History that was aimed at the educated lay audience. He's published several volumes of collections of those columns. Folks seem to either love him or hate him. He could be extremely arrogant, but he certainly had an amazing breadth of knowledge (within and outside of evolution) and is by far the best known popularizer of evolution for the general public (with Richard Dawkins a distant but respectable second).

  28. Natural selection from both random variation and mutations cannot account for development of new organs.

    Why not?

  29. Extensive article on venom evolution:


    "This high-speed evolution allows snake venom to adapt to particular sorts of prey. Green mambas and black mambas, for example, are closely related species, but the green mambas live in trees while the black mambas live on the ground. "Not surprisingly, the black mamba venom is more potent against rats than against birds," Dr. Fry said, "while the green mamba venom is more potent to the birds than against rats.""

  30. David Moshinsky:

    here's your chance to take up Thoreau's challenge to ID'ers. explain how to test the hypothesis that a structure was designed by an intelligent, sentient designer and how to distinguish those structures from structures designed by natural selection

  31. "Our panelists will ask what the debate over Intelligent Design tells us about American politics and culture."

    Note that the validity of ID is NOT the topic here. Instead, the topic is the political and cultural impact of the widely held belief that ID is valid. Ron Bailey is Reason's science dude, he already knows that ID is not science.

  32. "he already knows that ID is not science."

    Sorry Ron, I was wrong to pretend to be able to read your mind, you might consider some cosmological theories that deal with ID to be within the realm of science.

  33. What happened to David Moshinsky? It sounded like he wanted responses, and he got a bunch. Are you there, David?

  34. The mechanism that joe explains is also explained in:

    Finding Darwin's God: A Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution


    This volume contains a very cogent defense of evolution. Full Disclosure: I'm a believer in evolution and a non-believer in any gods.

    Also, I'm reading The Ancestor's Tale : A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution by Richard Dawkins-really interesting so far!


    Dawkins is gonna be at the Tattered Cover LODO here in Denver this Friday evening at 7:30 talking about this volume.

  35. David Moshinsky:

    Natural selection from both random variation and mutations cannot account for development of new organs.

    When coupled with selection, sure they can. Remember, organs did not pop up fully formed, but rather developed in increments. The eye is a well explained example.

  36. http://www.guardian.co.uk/life/feature/story/0,13026,1559743,00.html

    One side can be wrong

    Accepting 'intelligent design' in science classrooms would have disastrous consequences, warn Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne

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