Intelligent Design = Astrology?

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So agreed Michael Behe, a leading proponent of intelligent design and author of Darwin's Black Box, at the Scopes II trial in Dover, PA. First they came for the biologists, next the astronomers and so on until the new Dark Age.

My reasonable solution to the "debate" over intelligent design and evolutionary biology is here.

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  1. Behe was called to the stand on Monday by the defence, and testified that ID was a scientific theory, and was not ?committed? to religion.

    You wouldn’t know that from what Behe has said on the matter during his more candid moments.

  2. this should put the final nail in the coffin of this thing as science — though, for an increasingly mystical american public in search of a home for its soul, i’m sure it won’t.

  3. Well, everybody knows that there was a star hovering over Bethlehem when Jesus was born, and the Three Wise Men followed it. So clearly astrology has something going for it!

    (I have heard speculation that the Three Wise Men were borrowed from Zoroastrianism, as was the Virgin Birth. Anybody know anything about this?)

    Seriously, though, if Behe actually admitted that, then why the hell did they call him as a witness? Creationists have much slicker BS artists at their disposal, why call him of all people?

    Finally, can we get 500 posts out of this? If it will help, I’ll just say that Behe is a traitor to science and should be interned like the Japanese were, and denied access to sex toys.

  4. By the same logic, we get rid of tax funded genetic research and wash our hands of those philosophical problems, too.

  5. Dave W.,

    Sounds good to me.

    thoreau,

    If you RTFA you’ll note that Behe takes issue with the definition of a theory used by opposing counsel and that in turn he wants to use a looser definition that would necessarily include things like astrology.

  6. Did he actually just come out and say that ID is a science ’cause he said so?

  7. (I have heard speculation that the Three Wise Men were borrowed from Zoroastrianism, as was the Virgin Birth. Anybody know anything about this?)

    a lot of the old testament is borrowed from the earlier religions of the sumerians and babylonians — great flood, et al — which is a natual consequence of the captivity, of course, through which the judaic oral tradition was filtered. and distinctly christian concepts — such as the virgin mother — are distinctly pagan in origin; after all, most primitive religions, as in the hellenic or teutonic pantheons, have some conception of an earth mother.

  8. btw, I don’t necessarily agree with the logic — just following it thru.

    (sorry if this is double post)

  9. this should put the final nail in the coffin of this thing as science — though, for an increasingly mystical american public in search of a home for its soul, i’m sure it won’t.

    Other than the bit where gaius seems to want to slavishly force midieval Catholocism on everyone, I have to say I find myself in agreement.

  10. Given Behe’s apparent conception of what peer review entails, it’s no surprise that his concept of “theory” would be . . . less than rigorous.

  11. duncan,

    No, he used the defintion of hypothesis as a means to get ID under the wire.

    gaius marius,

    Well, most of the “mystery cults” (of which Christianity is one of them) of the 1st and 2nd century CE had virgin birth scenarios. Isis worshippers did for example. (Note, a large number of these Isis worshippers fell into Christianity. Many of them were women and it was the tendency of Isis worshippers to shout and the like that likely led Paul to call for women to tone down their remarks in Church. So its less an issue of them not speaking, and more of them not shouting and making a ruckus. Its ok for women to speak in a Christian church in other words.)

  12. Under cross examination, ID proponent Michael Behe, a biochemist at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, admitted his definition of ?theory? was so broad it would also include astrology.

    this confusion as to what a scientific theory really is was at the heart of the last loooong discussion over whether or not ID is or is not a science.

  13. Astrology? A SCIENCE??? What other medieval notions are going to given credence in Behe’s world? Should we start teaching alchemy in chemistry class? (“Today class, we’re going to determine the molar weight of sulfer dioxide AND create a philosopher’s stone.”) When the biology students are done with their Intellegent Design unit, how about they are taught the “theory” of “Spontaneous Generation” and teach that rotting garbage creates maggots or that bad humours cause disease?

    Who gave this idiot a PhD and how do we go about taking it away from him?

    Creationists have much slicker BS artists at their disposal, why call him of all people?

    Slicker doesn’t usually mean brighter, Thoreau. If they got Ken “Dr. Dino” Hovind on the stand, I’d give him about 3 to 4 minutes before he has a Tom Cruise “Jump the couch” moment and accused the plantifs of being Communists in league with Satan and demand to know if they really thought we “came from a rock!”

    It would be entertaining to watch, though.

  14. gaius marius,

    Well, being selective and reasoned isn’t something that I.D. proponents are very good at.

  15. So why would he agree that his definition of theory is the same as the NAS definition of hypothesis unless his goal (in emulation of the left) is to gain undeserved support by deceiving people through unacknowledged definition swapping?

  16. My devil’s dictionary:

    Theory: any scientific conjecture that is at least as probabilistically likely as evidentiary biology, but no less.

    If the concept of a “theory” (as distinct from conjecture or absolute truth) ever had any meaning, it has long been lost thru politicking.

  17. It’s obvious to anyone with half a brain and the correct number of genes that ID is absolutely valid as a scientific theory. The problem is, who was the designer? We wish to ensure that if “all the theories” are going to be taught, that our theory is taught also. Which one? We Pastafarians believe the world was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. Prove it wasn’t!

    Check out An Open Letter to the Kansas Board of Education for more information.

    Ramen!

  18. slavishly force midieval Catholocism on everyone

    now where did i actually say that, mr mediageek? πŸ™‚ gosh, you folks are so reflexively antispiritual that a person can’t even bring up the idea that religion may have a role to play in human societies!

  19. gaius marius,

    It has a role as an oppressive agent certainly. πŸ™‚

  20. Well, being selective and reasoned isn’t something that I.D. proponents are very good at.

    indeed, gg, i think the point of the exercize is to try to blur the lines between scientific theory and philosophical conjecture in an effort to get a corner of the credibility which a soulless technological society such as ours misguidedly reserves only for that which can be proven using the method.

    if behe’s point (which he himself apparently doesn’t understand) is that philosophy should be taught in public schools… well, i’m all for it. but that’s what he and c/id proponents should then say, rather than attempting to pass of conjecture as theory.

  21. Keep your noodly appendages off me!

  22. Its ok for women to speak in a Christian church in other words.

    it’s a tragedy that so many later counterreformational interpreters misread the remarks of the church fathers, gg.

  23. thru politicking

    through roger bacon, mr w, not politics.

  24. (in emulation of the left)

    mr thoreau, we now have 1) catholicism, 2) intelligent design, 3) basic logic and 4) american partisan politics all on the same thread.

    if it doesn’t go up to D, it’ll only be because they were all introduced too quickly. πŸ™‚

  25. (I have heard speculation that the Three Wise Men were borrowed from Zoroastrianism, as was the Virgin Birth. Anybody know anything about this?)

    No idea if they were based in Zoroastrianism, but it sticks in my mind that one of the Wise Men is portrayed as being a member of that faith.

    now where did i actually say that, mr mediageek? πŸ™‚

    It’s more or less implied in everything you say. You damn every major institution and philosophy except the one you adhere to. You’d have gotten along splendidly with the Borgias, I’m sure.

    gosh, you folks are so reflexively antispiritual that a person can’t even bring up the idea that religion may have a role to play in human societies!

    The same could be said of you with your elitist disdain for Protestanism. Smarmy judgementalism is a two-way street, buddy.

  26. You darwinists have it all wrong! Every REAL American knows that Neptune crapped humans out to serve him! Now you speak of evolution?!? No wonder such disasters have struck the planet. You must repent and slaughter your livestock now, before all is lost!

    P.S. If you read this far and haven’t figured out that this is a joke, close your browser before you are late to Sunday school.

  27. Most of the basic concepts of Christianity that differ from Judaism were borrowed from Zoroastrianism. Without going into too much detail, Zoroastrianism involves a long-term celestial struggle between the ‘good’ god Ahura Mazda, and his ‘bad’ counterpart Ahriman. The holy texts of the Zoroastrians, the Avestas, say that in the end Ahriman and his followers will fail and be consumed in some big lake of fire, after a big sort of judgment thingy by Ahura Mazda (I admit that I’m a little fuzzy on the details). Does any of this sound familiar?

    Interestingly, Judaism does not feature the notion of God’s judgment or even a much more detailed conception of the afterlife than that of the ancient Greeks. So, most of the salient concepts of Christianity CLEARLY come from Zoroastrianism, which reached its historical zenith as the state religion of the Sassanian Persian empire from the 2nd C. AD until the Muslims took over–which, not coincidentally, is right around the time that Christian doctrine began to coalesce into the religion we know today.

  28. What other medieval notions are going to given credence in Behe’s world?

    How ’bout Phrenology?
    And for a modern twist on an oldie but a goodie, I submit that they should teach Free Energy Mechancis in Physics class.

  29. elitist disdain for Protestanism

    my elitist disdain is only for the ultimate product of protestantism, which is the political hero-cults that now pass for “religion” in the united states, mr mediageek. the initial impulse — to seek a humble spiritual home in a world where the institution of faith had become infatuated of power, wealth and itself rather than love — is admirable. would that the impulse and the institution could have been reconciled, as it was under gregory or the schoolmen. for without institution, christianity fractured into this deplorable diaspora of militant and degenerate tribes.

    it is only to the extent that roman catholicism was once the guardian of that idea of christ and its interpreter of it through the lens of hellenic philosophy in western civilization that it is admirable. i have hope that, in its alienation and destitution from the dying society it in no small way gave birth to, catholicism can be humbled and reconciled again not only to a loving god but to the great global faiths — all of whom, and not by coincidence, identify god as love.

  30. Note, by “God’s judgment” in the previous post, I’m referring to the judgment as to whether one goes to heaven or hell. The ancient Israelites were afraid of Yahweh and sought to placate him as the ‘occasionally angry’ god, but, like most ancient cultures, they believed that the bad stuff that he would send upon them if they failed to placate him would happen on earth, not in some Dante-esque afterlife. The Israelite afterlife was very similar to the Greek conception of indistinct ‘shades’ floating around the underworld somewhere, and didn’t involve the concept of ‘hell’, from what I understand. But I admit, I’m no scholar–just an atheist who used to be curious about the roots of the religion that helped shape my culture.

  31. Judaism is one major religion that is not, at its base, a personality cult.

    What was this thread about?

    Oh yeah. ID = Astrology

  32. How ’bout Phrenology?

    Oooooh, so many Bugs Bunny cartoons (“Hey Doc! How many lumps do you want?”), so little bandwidth.

    And for a modern twist on an oldie but a goodie, I submit that they should teach Free Energy Mechancis in Physics class.

    Or how about “luminous aether.”

  33. Waitatic.

    Gaius, you adhere not only to the Catholic faith, but also the power structure it represents and then you have the gall to accuse the protestant faiths of infatuated with power, wealth, and itself?

    Dude, you might want to bop on down to an eye doctor to see about getting that 2×4 removed.

  34. Ron Bailey, 10:37 am: “First they came for the biologists, next the astronomers and so on until the new Dark Age.”

    Nick Gillespie, 9:15 am: “First, They Came for the Supply-Siders…”

    And Tom Friedman catches hell around here for his metaphors?!

  35. Luminous aether? Is that anything like Phlogiston?

  36. Is there some kind of philosophical feud going on here too?

  37. you adhere not only to the Catholic faith

    it would be wrong to call me a devout catholic, mr mediageek, despite my upbringing. i renounced it all in 7th grade under an infatuation with scientism that persisted into by 20s. i’m more of an historical admirer of what the church represents, what it accomplished, and the sublime ideas of the higher religions generally regarding the nature of god, man and life.

    i find nothing appealing in the catholic church militant as it existed in the 16th c, which is the conception of catholicism that seems most common in scientific and modernist circles. churches infaturated with themselves, as opposed to god, are among the most destructive of man’s creations.

  38. the gall to accuse the protestant faiths of infatuated with power, wealth, and itself?

    it doesn’t take much gall, does it?

  39. Is there some kind of philosophical feud going on here too?

    Yes. Gaius believes he knows The One True Way and that the rest of us are all just little lost sheep bleating in the wilderness.

    This, of course, is tantamount to putting on a giant sandwich board emblazoned with the words “I AM FUCKING WRONG” and taking a stroll through Times Square.

  40. we now have 1) catholicism, 2) intelligent design, 3) basic logic and 4) american partisan politics all on the same thread.

    Yes, but when will American Pastasan politics be given its due limelight? I don’t imagine its day will come on this thread.

  41. Thoreau can correct me on this, but Lumionus Aether was a hypothetical medium that light was supposed to travel through. Needless to say, it was eventually abandoned.

  42. it doesn’t take much gall, does it?

    Pat Robertson is a money-grubbing asshole? Gaius, I’m shocked, SHOCKED. The scales have fallen from my eyes. Please direct me to the nearest church where I can sit and hear a sermon delivered completely in Latin.

    Perhaps afterwards the priest will be kind enough to stick a thumb in my ass, too.

    Were I in a more amicable mood, and not on my third cup of coffee, I’d happily point out that I’m not at least condescending to use a “No True Scotsman” fallacy.

  43. This, of course, is tantamount to putting on a giant sandwich board emblazoned with the words “I AM FUCKING WRONG” and taking a stroll through Times Square.
    Anybody seen anybody do this?

    Hey Pasta cultist! You want some love? Take up your steamed and boiled noodles and get militant.

  44. “all of whom, and not by coincidence, identify god as love.”

    that’s a trait shared by mystics and theologians and generally liberal practitioners. it’s not a trait shared by the church proper and never has been.

    hence the gold throne and ornate decorations and ridiculously large network of banks and land ownership. the focus on god as love becomes a popular conception as direct military ability wanes.

    the catholic workers are good people, though.

  45. I actually got a copy of darwin’s black box a few years ago from my brother…anyway the arguement of black box is that the complexity of the biochemical reactions in cells are far to complex to a product of evolution …such things as motobolism and sythisis etc…and how there simply was not enough time for these complex for single cell orginisms which reproduce a-sexually to generate enough useful mutations to create the diversity that exists today. It is an intersting argument…fins or wings or opposble thumbs are less complex then say glucose motabolism or insilin synthisis…and single cell orginism that (acording to black box) gains utility from a mutation would only pass it on to its direct offspring..

    The argument to this is that although simple orginisms reproduce a-sexually they do share genetic material through viruses and transposons and other mechenisms…so a protein gene that is i little better then the wildtype could be passed on to non-decendants.

    I think dawkins book the selfish gene gives credit to this…it is the gene that unit of self propogation and not the orginism…and that gene does not care by which mechanism it is propolgated…if it gets spread though reproduction or through a virus it does not matter to the gene.

    Anyway the book is interesting becouse it points to the fact that in order for the complexity that exists today to exist there must have been period of hyper-evolution…one that is not documented and becouse of a fosil recored (proteins don’t leave traces after millions ofyears) there never will be one.

  46. If you don’t understand basic arithmetic. That’s like the old joke about starting by giving me a penny today and doubling it every day…doesn’t take that long to run up against numbers so large they might as well be infinte. In side of a month you’re up to $10 million total, inside of a year it’s basically infinite. On day 100 you’re looking at being given 6.3383*(10^29) pennies, or $6.3383*(10^27). Honestly, that over a few billion years you wouldn’t have enough cell divisions is a patently stupid argument.

    Also, I’m pissed that mediageek beat me to phlogiston.

  47. The argument here ought to be which type of Astrology should be taught as a science, Chinese Astrology, classical Babylonian Astrology, or Modern Western Astrology? And is there going to be a quiz?

    On a non-related off-topic discussion, much of the Jesus myth is a direct copy of the myth of Gilgamesh. Coincidence?

  48. “If you don’t understand basic arithmetic. That’s like the old joke about starting by giving me a penny today and doubling it every day…doesn’t take that long to run up against numbers so large they might as well be infinte. In side of a month you’re up to $10 million total, inside of a year it’s basically infinite. On day 100 you’re looking at being given 6.3383*(10^29) pennies, or $6.3383*(10^27). Honestly, that over a few billion years you wouldn’t have enough cell divisions is a patently stupid argument.”

    Its the number of useful mutatations not the number of cell devisions…a number substantialy lower then the one you are talking about. I am not an advocate of “Black box” but I think the argument should be honest and acurate.

  49. the gall to accuse the protestant faiths of infatuated with power, wealth, and itself?

    Wait, wait. I thought gaius was saying that the Catholic Church had become “infatuated with power, wealth, and itself” and the Protestant faiths were born of a reaction against that.

    Oh, about the topic at hand. It looks like the problem is that Behe took the definition of “hypothesis” and applied it to “theory.” (I think the article says as much.) That’s a big part of the public debate over evolution. Most people don’t know the formal definition of a “theory” and they popularly use it in the same way a scientist would use “hypothesis” — a possible explanation for observed phenomenan, but not yet tested systematically against all the available evidence.

    But Behe should know better. So I have this hypothesis (not a theory!) that he may be trying to deliberately obfuscate the terminology.

  50. Stevo
    As I suggested much earlier:

    “So why would he agree that his definition of theory is the same as the NAS definition of hypothesis unless his goal (in emulation of the left) is to gain undeserved support by deceiving people through unacknowledged definition swapping?”

  51. “Yes. Gaius believes he knows The One True Way and that the rest of us are all just little lost sheep bleating in the wilderness.”

    We all agree in the end, It’s just so difficult to get there.

  52. Also, I’m pissed that mediageek beat me to phlogiston.

    Heh. I was on a coffee-inspired bender.

  53. I thought gaius was saying that the Catholic Church had become “infatuated with power, wealth, and itself” and the Protestant faiths were born of a reaction against that.

    yep.

    that’s a trait shared by mystics and theologians and generally liberal practitioners. it’s not a trait shared by the church proper and never has been.

    it’s fundamental to the religion, dating back to the sermon on the mount. though i would agree that, while the cornerstone of the religion, it has not been the universal guiding principle of the institution that ostensibly protected it.

    and it isn’t, in fact, a fundamental insight of religions. most primitive religions are ritualistic — eg, this dance makes rain — and contain no great philosophical insight into god. even the second generation religions incorporated a vision of gods as humans with human weaknesses which essentially boil down to the concept of god as power — as can be seen in the hellenic pantheon or in the judiac god of the old testament. it was only later that higher religion gained the profound and powerful insight of god as love — which was the core aspect of compelling attractiveness behind the spread of christianity in the decaying hellenic world. since then, i agree, it’s become the basic understanding of god throughout the developed world.

  54. I thought gaius was saying that the Catholic Church had become “infatuated with power, wealth, and itself” and the Protestant faiths were born of a reaction against that.

    yep.

    Oops.

    My bad. Apologies to gaius for stropping him over something I misread.

  55. Roger Bacon robbed the word “theory” of its meaning? That is a radical notion.

    Science includes work in both the pre-theory-stage (before the conjecture obtains theory status) and the post-theory-stage (after the theory obtains theory status).

    There seems to be a magical rule, operating in the background of this forum, that science class can only teach about post-theory-stage work. On a fanciful level, I don’t think Roger Bacon would like this rule. On a concrete level, I was personally enriched about learning in science class about science’s pursuit of a uniform field theory, about Ptolemy’s incorrect theory, even about phlostigon. My science teachers didn’t operate on the assumption that science was classifying work as theory or pre-theory in order to determine what could or couldn’t be taught about in the schools — they taught the full range of scientific endeavor, about how not all scientists have the luxury of a theory, about how science blends with philosophy at fuzzy boundary, about how even certified, bona fide theories (evidenced by REPLICABLE!!! experiments) can be wrong (Ptolemy) or heavily qualified (Newton).

    So, whenever this we-can-teach-theory / we-can’t-teach-non-theory paradigm emerges in the implications of some post, I just have to think: “that ain’t really the rule, nor should it be.”

  56. I’ve had it with you idiotic Earthlings and I’m leaving. I’ll check back on you in another thousand years. Here’s some advice: Lose the religion and join the rest of the universe.

  57. Space Oddity,
    You are not falsifiable. Therfore, you don’t exist. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but that is how the atheists would have it.

  58. Id Hypotheses:

    • The “Christians” (As in folks who believe Jesus is the son of God who created the universe) who promote intelligent design claim that it is “science” and not “religion” because while the ID proves that the universe is so complex it must have been created by an intelligent designer they aren’t saying that the designer is the Christian God. Therefore either:
      • They really don’t believe that the intelligent designer is God, and so cannot really be “Christians,” or
      • They’re lying.

    Either alternative violates one or more of the Ten Commandments.

    • The ID folks also discount the possibility that a truly intelligent designer, instead of cobbling together a universe that required constant tinkering, might invent a tool that would bring order to the living creatures. Like “evolution.”
  59. >if behe’s point (which he himself apparently >doesn’t understand) is that philosophy should be >taught in public schools… well, i’m all for >it. but that’s what he and c/id proponents >should then say, rather than attempting to pass >of conjecture as theory

    I agree there should be no problem with teaching ID as a philosophy, but that would never satisfy its proponents because they want to be able to say that ID is objectively true. Whether individual proponents believe it’s amenable to scientific method, misunderstand the meaning of concepts like empiricism, or are cynically attempting to manipulate the public’s understanding of science is open to question.

    As a non-believer myself, I don’t really care how the religious among us justify pursuit of their religious agendas, but I wouldn’t mind asking some proponents of ID what value they place on the role of faith in their religious beliefs.

  60. Space Oddity:

    You better not mess with Major Tom.

  61. Its the number of useful mutatations not the number of cell devisions…a number substantialy lower then the one you are talking about. I am not an advocate of “Black box” but I think the argument should be honest and acurate.

    In a virtually infinite number of cell divisions, you get an essentially infinite number of random mutations. If even a small subset of those are survival enhancing, you have more than enough. If you have a virtually infinite number of cell divisions, and a tenth of those create mutation, and only a tenth of those mutations are useful, you still have a virtually infinite number of useful (as in survival enhancing) mutations. The IDiots can go ahead and believe their “designer” magic if they wish, but it’s farcical that it be taught in a science classroom.

  62. It seems that science teachers need to spend a little time discussing terms such as hypothesis and theory. Enough that students remember.

  63. Dave W.,

    Misrepresenting what atheists state is always a useful indicator of the level stupidity to be found in a theist. Thanks for giving me a good idea re: yourself.

  64. according to science, isn’t there some probability that ID is the way? you folks are too newtonian in your attempts to discredit it.

  65. Dave W.:

    So, whenever this we-can-teach-theory / we-can’t-teach-non-theory paradigm emerges in the implications of some post, I just have to think: “that ain’t really the rule, nor should it be.”

    So, in other words, if you don’t like the outcome (i.e. evolution) we have to change the rules (i.e. the scientific method) to suit your notion of reality.

  66. Hak:

    you’re forgetting the “absence of evidence” line of reasoning, too…

  67. >You are not falsifiable. Therfore, you don’t exist. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but that is how the atheists would have it.

    It’s more accurate to say that that which is not falsifiable cannot be scientifically proven to exist. It’s true that many people who understand and endorse science don’t believe the existence of that which is not falsifiable, and it’s also true that many people who understand and endorse science are atheists. Nevertheless, there are also people who understand and endorse science who are not atheists, and vice versa.

    And there are people like me, an atheist who understands, etc., yet also *believes* (i.e., finds uncanny and places value on) all sorts of things that are not falsifiable. Like astrology, even.

    But I would never endorse the teaching of astrology as a science. Outside of proprietary schools devoted to the teaching of astrology and other “mystic arts,” I would only endorse the teaching of astrology from a historical or philosophical perspective, primarily to students who choose it as an elective.

    I apologize for being pedantic in this post, but sometimes I feel like I need to spell things out completely or risk being misunderstood. Did I make sense?

  68. There seems to be a magical rule, operating in the background of this forum, that science class can only teach about post-theory-stage work.

    That’s a valid point. There are basically 2 ways that ID, as a hypothesis that lacks the support of a Theory, could be mentioned:

    1) Just as my high school physics teacher mentioned ether when talking about what scientists once thought, the old version of ID (7 days, Adam and Eve, Noah and the flood, etc.) would have to be placed on the list of discredited theories. I somehow doubt that ID proponents would be happy if their only mention was in the “scrap heap” section of the lesson.

    2) Science classes also frequently mention ideas that are currently being worked on, e.g. string theory. ID could always be mentioned as a hypothesis that has not yet caught on and could very easily be wrong. I think most ID proponents would accept that as a kind of opening for their “wedge” strategy.

    The problem is that most of those speculative theories at least have something going for them. They offer testable predictions and solutions to problems. The tests might not be feasible yet, but people are working toward problems. ID, as of yet, has not yielded any testable predictions. It has no real supporting data. It doesn’t extend or utilitize pre-existing ideas.

    We can debate exactly what the ID people should do if they want to be mentioned in the same manner as string theory. Whatever, the answer, it will certainly be something like “A hell of a lot more than they’ve got so far!”

  69. thoreau,

    More to the point, just how many silly ideas must be taught in science classes to placate the P.C. attitudes of their adherants?

  70. Science classes also frequently mention ideas that are currently being worked on, e.g. string theory

    which brings up an interesting point: as i understand it, nothing in string theory is (as yet) falsifiable — that is, there are no tests, no observations that can be made.

    does it merit mentioning in a science class? i think not, in fact — it too is a philosophy, even if one that takes the physical as its point of departure.

  71. except that down the road, some aspects of string theory could be verified. the core statement of ID, “we don’t know, so it was god”, could never be verified scientifically.

  72. Hold on, string theory is being mentioned in high school these days? what next, a little differential equations and the history of 12th century mongolia? wtf? I think I may have discovered why the science test scores are low, “no, I’m not quite sure what momentum is or when the trains will meet, but I sure as hell and talk your ears off about string theory!!”

  73. Gaius:

    which brings up an interesting point: as i understand it, nothing in string theory is (as yet) falsifiable — that is, there are no tests, no observations that can be made.

    I pulled this up from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/String_Theory#Problems):

    String theory remains unverified. No version of string theory has yet made a prediction which differs from those made by other theories?at least, not in a way that could be checked by a currently feasible experiment. In this sense, string theory is still in a “larval stage”: it possesses many features of mathematical interest, and it may yet become supremely important in our understanding of the Universe, but it requires further developments before it is accepted or falsified. Since string theory may not be tested in the foreseeable future, some scientists have asked if it even deserves to be called a scientific theory: it is not yet a falsifiable theory in the sense of Popper.

  74. ChrisO-

    Interesting stuff on Zoroastrianism. Any good books that you’d recommend?

    gaius-

    String theory makes striking predictions that might be tested with very, very, very, very large particle accelerators. Falsifiable in principle, but not in practice in the near future. However, some versions of quantum gravity make predictions that will be indirectly testable soon in particle accelerators. Yeah, I know, there are a lot of qualifiers there (“some”, “indirectly”, “soon”). Other versions make predictions that would manifest in cosmological effects, or non-Newtonian gravity on micron length scales. Also, there is very real evidence that quantum mechanics and gravity interact (e.g. gravitational interference experiments with neutrons). So quantum gravity is a field of inquiry that is, at the very least, constrained by current and near-term experiments, and is motivated by direct experimental observations.

    Don’t get me wrong, there’s a ton of fanciful stuff in there, no question about it. However, they are working toward testable predictions, they are applying and extending tested theories (Quantum Mechanics, General Relativity, etc.), and they are accepting the constraints of observations. ID has not produced anything that’s even testable in principle (let alone practice). They aren’t working from any starting point that’s supported by evidence. And when evidence is found to refute their claims (e.g. somebody finds an intermediate form to contradict Behe’s claim that a system is irreducibly complex), their first response is to argue and then to shift the goal posts. I’ve been to talks on quantum and non-Newtonian gravity, and they like to put up plots showing regions of parameter space that have been ruled out. The ID folks like to put magnifying glasses over gaps.

    I’m no fan of string theory, but they are NOT in the same league as ID.

  75. gaius:

    I have no qualms about a closing to a science class that closes in speculation. We should be able to talk about the current limits of science and what theorists are working on.

    The distinction has to be made on the prediction front between philosophy, established science, and theoretical science. The discussion for theoretical science has to be something like, “String Theory is being postulated to bridge these specific gaps in our understanding. If it turns out to be valid, the following implications to our understanding of the universe would result …”

    The key elements are, a discussion of the gaps we are seeking to bridge and a discussion of implications to known theory. Experiments, at least theoretical experiments, arise out of those implications.

    ID is a meta explanation. You can’t take a single step further in implication analysis or the scientific method once it is on the table. It can’t predict and it is not even theoretically testable.

  76. gaius marius,

    As a passing aside in High School Physics course maybe. Then again, passing asides aren’t what the theists are interested in.

  77. “it’s fundamental to the religion, dating back to the sermon on the mount. though i would agree that, while the cornerstone of the religion, it has not been the universal guiding principle of the institution that ostensibly protected it.”

    that is putting it mildly. in many cases no one has been more ill-served by the church proper than ferverent believers. (i.e. the magdalene laundries, etc)

    i understand the distinction between “higher” and “lower” religions as practitioners tend to put them. god as love comes out of the essential annihiliation of philosophy in the western world by theology – since the answer was predetermined (god) the question is forced to revolve around said personality. inquiries only go so far before they’re brought back to the fold, generally with sharp objects and burning pitch, and sometimes with large-scale armed combat and massacre.

    which, again, is my problem with that dichotomy – what we term the higher religions are held as such, in part, because they have been removed from the place of objective power, namely military might. “xyz is a religion of peace” is only possible when their means to commit warfare and violence against others have been removed, generally through warfare and violence itself.

    having recent re-read the story of shiva and sati, the idea of a world with gods with both human and post-human features to them leads to a mythos that requires a reconciliation with those feelings and emotions and life experiences (birth, death, desire, fear, etc) which, though somewhat served through the legend of the voluntary death and rebirth of christ, includes the human attachments of love and sex without the divorce from the body that characterizes the western tradition.

    not that, in the long run, these traditions, or any of them, does well when given run over the lives of others, from the theocracy of tibet to the maltreatment of women in hindu lands to the aforementioned papacy. it makes for nice window dressing, perhaps, and it’s poetry (in every sense of the word) certainly enriches my life but it’s largely used as a tool; “please look away from the hand that’s stealing from you, beating you and crushing you, and look instead to this shiny ball you’ll get if you’re very nice and obey the rules forever.”

    which is, no doubt, rampant individualism which has caused my brain to go soft and moldy with the weight of youth and exuberance, but we’re stuck with the tools we’re given. that the shadow pupeteering of days past is no longer sufficient is, in my eyes, indicative of a need to create a new puppet show, if that’s what we’re stuck with as humans.

  78. thoreau:
    Interesting stuff on Zoroastrianism. Any good books that you’d recommend?

    No, sorry. Lots of googling/surfing, as well as random reading at libraries and Powell Books in Portland got me this far on the subject of Zoroastrianism. There’s actually quite a bit about the religion on the Web, though some of it is aimed at the modern Zoroastrian community or academics and can be a hard slog for the newbie.

    One of the more interesting topics in that area is the Parsi community of modern-day Bombay, who are the descendants of the Zoroastrian Persian elite that fled to India after the Muslim invasion. They maintain their Zoroastrian religion to this day, though many of the sacred Avestas were permanently lost during the journey (in other words, the modern version of the religion is incomplete), and they are now diminishing in population due to assimilation, non-reproduction, and refusal to accept converts.

    Also interesting is the fact that, even after years of repression by the Islamic Republic, there are still well over 10,000 Zoroastrians in Iran, who still maintain many of the old sacred sites. Historians estimate that it took centuries for the Muslims to convert most of the Persian population to Islam, and that the Zoro. community was still quite strong there as late as the 9th or 10th Centuries.

  79. Thoreau can correct me on this, but Lumionus Aether was a hypothetical medium that light was supposed to travel through. Needless to say, it was eventually abandoned.

    Well, I’m not thoreau, but I’ll take a crack at this one.

    Yes, the Aether theory was greatly debated a little over a century ago. Yet, like most other theories, there were direct experiments that could be performed to determine what the physical constants were. This theory was disproven by some Bell laboratory scientists who observed background microwave radiation that was the same in every direction. Since the earth is moving through the ether, this couldn’t possibly be true, unless you start making huge leaps of logic and claiming some extrordinary things and twisting your brain into a pretzel. Einstein came along and made a simple assumption and cleared everything up. Thereby, the simpliest scientific theory that explains all observations is always the best one.

    ID and string theory are both theories yes. Their logic is both internally coherent and explain most of the observations that they’ve tried to explain. However, one is a scientific theory, and the other is not. ID doesn’t pass the test because it relies on supernatural processes and string theory relies solely on natural causes. String theory may go the way of the Aether or it may go the way of Newtonian Mechanics or Quantum Mechanics, but ID will never be able to go any farther than it is right now.

  80. Design the universe? I did nothing of the sort. My wife is still laughing. “You can’t even boil an egg,” she says. Which isn’t true. I simply choose not to.

  81. Actually, Evolution = Astrology.

    Why? Because if you deny a Creator, and deny free will, and embrace scientific explanations for all outcomes (cause and effect, or Evolution), all of the actions and decisions during the life of an individual could be predicted from the initial conditions at the time of their birth, given a big enough computer to calculate the results.

    But if you assume that all you will ever be or do is predetermined at the time you are born, that’s the same thing as noting the position of the stars at the time you are born, and using that to predict how you will turn out…. in other words, Astrology.

  82. Oh, and even the physicist working on string theory know this is pretty wacky stuff. Check out the title of this actual journal article written by a prof here at the U of Iowa.

    http://arxiv.org/abs/hep-th/9503237

  83. wow abe, that’s deep. unfortunately you miss the point of the comparison entirely.

  84. Yogi-

    Was it actually published? A lot of stuff on Arxiv never makes it past peer review.

  85. Abe-

    Science doesn’t equal determinism. While Quantum Mechanics doesn’t kill determinism by itself, it definitely peirces its armor significantly. To my knowledge this is still more of philosphical question than a scientific one.

  86. Er, Scientific Determinism does not equal Astrology.

  87. Thoreau- I don’t know, but its listed on the prof’s webpage, and that’s where I found it.

  88. Here you go, I found the reference.

    14) A TRULY CRAZY IDEA ABOUT TYPE IIB SUPERGRAVITY AND HETEROTIC SIGMA MODELS.
    By S.James Gates, Jr. (Maryland U.), V.G.J. Rodgers (Iowa U.),. UMDEPP-95-76, Mar 1995. 9pp.
    Published in Phys.Lett.B357:552-557,1995
    e-Print Archive: hep-th/9503237

  89. Yogi-

    Well, at least he was honest about it πŸ™‚

  90. Your criticism of Behe is neither scientific or reasonable.

    1. The fossil record does not show the development of species over vast stretches of time. The fossil record does not speak to time at all. The animals and plants we see today are exactly the same in the fossil record. In fact there are no transitional forms in the fossil record where there must be billions in order to substantiate evolution. The fossil record says evolution never happened.

    2. You claim that Behe demands “every” step of evolution to be clearly defined. Please show me the scientific evidence that even one step of evolution has ever happened. I can show you billions of trillions of examples of one species reproducing ONLY it’s same species. There are zero, zip, nada examples of species producing different species. The scientific evidence we know today says evolution has never occured.

    3. I give you the periodic table, please show me single celled life. Life does not come from inert compounds. Yet evolutionists have blind faith that this has happened billions of times.

    4. The advance knowledge we have of genes and cell structure show you need hundreds of fully operational systems to come together in just the right order at precisely the same instant, completely by accident for one cell to be formed. As you prorate this out to manufacture multicelled organisms the odds of accidental, instantaneous combinations comming together in the proper order are obviously impossible. Something happening once every 10 to the 25th power is statistical imposibility. These “miraculous happenings” are once in 10 to the 150th power i.e. 10 to the 125th power past statistical impossibility. Only superstitious morons would believe this could happen millions of times.

    5. We assume design on sufisticated man made machines yet claim “accident” on biological systems that make man’s achievements look like simple sand box play. This line of reasoning is hysterical and unscientific.

    John Paul II was a very nice man. But he was an idiot when it comes to science.

    I don’t need to teach ID in school. Just present the pleathora of scientific evidence that shows evolution could not have happened and only those who operate on blind faith, hoping against hope that thousands of mechanisms yet to be discovered are out there and still operating. Its really obsured and censorship is the only way the high priests of evolution can continue the fraud.

  91. “Please do not feed the trolls”

  92. >We assume design on sufisticated man made machines yet claim “accident” on biological systems that make man’s achievements look like simple sand box play.

    RA,

    Accidents contribute to the evolution of technology, too. Evolution is the fundamental process underlying more than the development of organisms. It underlies the development of technologies and societies/cultural practices. Humans shape the development of these things but they don’t control it. Human design and goals fall apart but discoveries made along the way are applied in ways that those who discovered them never foresaw. Because random variation is the underlying “mechanism” of evolution, the process is inherently non-teleological and non-goal directed, however much we try to influence it.

  93. Yogi,

    Nice try, but wrong. The aether, which was the proposed medium for the transport of electromagnetic energy (e.g., light) was essentially proven not to exist by Michelson and Morley, two physicists at Case Institute of Technology (now Case Western Reserve Univ.) using an interferometer and a beam of light. After Einstein developed the concept of the quantum it was understood that light is a particle (with wavelike properties) and needs no medium of transport.

    RA,

    You just go on believing what you want to believe. Just about every point you try to make is not only wrong, but silly. And if you’re going to use ‘sufisticated’ words, at least buy a dictionary to check the spelling.

  94. “The animals and plants we see today are exactly the same in the fossil record.”

    Yeah. In fact, just today I was walking my trilobite when one of those damned pterodactyls flew overhead and took a huge crap on us.

    Oh wait, no I wasn’t. Because unlike RA, I live here in reality.

  95. J,

    See, the big flood got those critters. Otherwise, they’d be here too! πŸ™‚

  96. “In a virtually infinite number of cell divisions, you get an essentially infinite number of random mutations. If even a small subset of those are survival enhancing, you have more than enough. If you have a virtually infinite number of cell divisions, and a tenth of those create mutation, and only a tenth of those mutations are useful, you still have a virtually infinite number of useful (as in survival enhancing) mutations.”

    yeah Tim you don’t get it…the number isn’t infinate in fact it can be calculated…and it is smaller then a tenth when it comes to mutations (if this was true we would have all died from cancer a long long time age) and it is smaller then a tenth of that when it comes to useful mutations…much much smaller.

    and you missed one point if cell “z” gains benificial mutataion “a” and cell “y” gains benificail mutation “b” how will any off spring get both mutaions “a” and “b”?

    If they are a-sexually reproduced then they won’t…all benificial mutations would have to occure in a single cell line…and everytime a benificial mutation occured the infinate cell divisions that matter would be brought down to one…so lets say you have one million cells and one cell has a “good” mutation…well the other 999,999 cells don’t matter (well they do eat up resources so they have a negative effect) and only the prodegy of that one cell with the good mutation matters.

    “The IDiots can go ahead and believe their “designer” magic if they wish, but it’s farcical that it be taught in a science classroom.””

    that may be true but your argument does not hold up to the science.

  97. vabs,

    I’ve always been interested in how evolutionary principles can be found in non-biological systems like human culture and technology.

    I remember a while back watching the TV news and noticing the anchorwoman’s hair was in a style that 5 years prior you only saw on punker/alterna-chicks (that streaky, messed-up-part look). I was fascinated how something so “niche” could evolve into mainstream acceptance. I’m sure there are better examples of this in music, fashion, etc.

  98. “2. You claim that Behe demands “every” step of evolution to be clearly defined. Please show me the scientific evidence that even one step of evolution has ever happened. I can show you billions of trillions of examples of one species reproducing ONLY it’s same species. There are zero, zip, nada examples of species producing different species. The scientific evidence we know today says evolution has never occured.”

    cotton moth and some fruit fly that got infected by a virus in a lab somewhere…anyway before they could breed with others in thier species and now they connot…ie new species.

  99. Craig-

    Creationists have evolved. They’ve gone from bans on teaching evolution to short disclaimers before biology class. Which may still be too much to allow, but is definitely a step down from what they used to demand. And they’ve gone from flood geology to ID, which is basically an old earth with evolution and a touch of divine intervention here and there. Which is still not scientific, but certianly a big step back from what they used to try to get into schools.

    They’re getting their asses kicked and evolving in response. Although it’s more Lamarckian than Darwinian.

  100. thoreau,

    It depends on the creationists. As we witnessed this summer via the blogging from the creationist summit in Lynchburg, plenty of creationists completely reject I.D. in favor of their YE notions.

  101. I caught the ferry over to Shelbyville. I needed a new heel for my shoe, so, I decided to go to Morganville, which is what they called Shelbyville in those days. So I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time. Now, to take the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on ?em. ?Give me five bees for a quarter,? you?d say.
    Now where were we? Oh yeah – the important thing was I had an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time. They didn?t have white onions because of the war. The only thing you could get was those big yellow ones…

  102. There are zero, zip, nada examples of species producing different species.

    Bullshit.

    http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB910.html:

  103. Because if you deny a Creator, and deny free will, and embrace scientific explanations for all outcomes (cause and effect, or Evolution), all of the actions and decisions during the life of an individual could be predicted from the initial conditions at the time of their birth, given a big enough computer to calculate the results.

    which is hy, mr abe, scientism and the faith in a clockwork universe is a fraudulent belief system — but scientific method is something else again.

    evolution, fwiw, does not forecast which modes of life must evolve, for those depend on chaotic conditions that are beyond scientific evaluation. there is no causal mechanism that forces apes to evolve into humans, and no one posits one. evolutionary theory simply posits the existence of a set of rules within which life can evolve chaotically and unpredictably through generations.

    i fully agree with you — faith in a clockwork universe yields determinism and an abdication fo free will. but the universe can be both entirely physical and entirely undetermined — though whether or not you consider chaos to be god’s hand is up to you.

  104. 1. The fossil record does not show the development of species over vast stretches of time. The fossil record does not speak to time at all. The animals and plants we see today are exactly the same in the fossil record. In fact there are no transitional forms in the fossil record where there must be billions in order to substantiate evolution. The fossil record says evolution never happened.

    Bullshit.

    http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CC/CC200.html

  105. Yet evolutionists have blind faith that this has happened billions of times.

    Bullshit. Evolution is not based on “faith.”

    http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CA/CA612.html

  106. Toward the end of his life, Isaac Asimov was convinced that humanity was nearing its end as a “technological” species. Previously, I had written it off as the understandably pessimistic rantings of a sick and dying man (a la Orwell). Now, I’m beginning to think he had a point…

  107. Falsifiable in principle, but not in practice in the near future.

    which is to say string theory or m-theory or many of the things in cutting-edge physics are not yet falsifiable, mr thoreau.

    when they become so, they’ll be scientific theories and merit mention as such, imo.

    i agree with you that string theory is constructed to be falsifiable under some presumable future circumstances, and in this way it is vastly different than ID, which is designed (it seems) to be unverifiable and therefore conveniently irrefutable. but a line has to be drawn delineating science from philosophy, and popper’s falsifiability is a good place.

  108. As you prorate this out to manufacture multicelled organisms the odds of accidental, instantaneous combinations comming together in the proper order are obviously impossible.

    Bullshit.

    http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB010.html

  109. Slainte’ –

    Thanks for the correction. I got my Big Bang and Ether historical discoveries mixed up. There’s a reason I’m in the physics department and not the history department.

  110. Toward the end of his life, Isaac Asimov was convinced that humanity was nearing its end as a “technological” species

    i think asimov was a westerner, and the west indeed is approaching the end of its technological/philosophical age as it slides away into dissolution.

    but that’s not humanity and not forever. in a millennia, intrepid classicists will be perhaps inspired to a rennaisance by what was once the west in the same way that we in time rediscovered roman concrete.

  111. Gaius, that’s only assuming that The Singularity doesn’t happen first.

  112. there’s always that possibility, mr mediageek, and it may be (unbeknownst to us) a high-probability consequence of a technological age which reaches a certain fissionable caliber.

  113. Gaius, I was just joshin’ ya. The way I see it, Peak Oil will hit at about the same time that the Artificial Hyperintelligence needed for The Singularity to occur, which means that just as it’s achieving consciouness the powergrid will go dark and kill the whole thing.

  114. Bullshit. Amino acids have been created in the lab from inert elements. In fact, your entire body is composed of “inert” elements.

    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/abioprob/spontaneous-generation.html

  115. the powergrid will go dark and kill the whole thing.

    and you don’t believe in a higher power, mr mediageek? πŸ™‚ irony like that all but demands design! πŸ˜‰

  116. Whoops! Forgot to add RA’s moronic ramblings to go with my link:

    I give you the periodic table, please show me single celled life. Life does not come from inert compounds.

    Just add my previous statement here.

  117. Question for those of you with more of a scientifical understanding:

    Is there a list somewhere of the advancements that have made an impact on the every day person as a result of application of evolutionary theory?

    Things like antibiotics, gene therapy, etc?

    I know that’s not phrased well, but I’m not quite sure how to put it.

  118. mediageek:

    Funny you should ask! πŸ™‚

    http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CA/CA215.html

  119. Craig, making a connection between between fashion and evolutionary principals wouldn’t be easy because you’d have to find some way to tie apparent superficialities back to factors that would lend an edge in terms of the survival of a particular cultural development, culture, society, people, and so on.

    Actually, the existence of fashion itself requires explanation in evolutionary terms if theories that fall into the “social evolutionary” category have the power that their proponents say they do — which is, that they are the best hope for a unifying theory of social science. Of course, I am a proponent, but I’m also a slacker who got an “applied” job rather than pursuing a career in social science. So I doubt I’ll ever try to make that connection.

    A great book from a social evolutionary perspective is Cannibals and Kings: The Origins of Cultures, by anthropologist Marvin Harris. He called his theoretical approach “cultural materialism,” but it is social evolutionism. The book contains analyses of some of the most vexing cultural developments in our history, such as misogyny and female infanticide, and nonsensical food taboos. Harris is brilliant and as a writer, he’s a page-turner.

    Regarding Isaac Asimov: Humanity has been a “technological species” since the first time someone altered the shape of a stone to make it easier to grip. Our ability to create technology is what gave us the edge over other species when physically, we are as vulnerable as it gets. The day we stop being a technological species is the day we cease to exist. I don’t particularly think that the ID crowd has the power to bring down our entire species. But who knows? Maybe their actions and those of anti-capitalists, radical greenies, and religious fundamentalists of all persuasions will randomly coincide in some unforseeable configuration and set off a chain of events leading to our unexpected demise.

  120. i agree with you that string theory is constructed to be falsifiable under some presumable future circumstances, and in this way it is vastly different than ID, which is designed (it seems) to be unverifiable and therefore conveniently irrefutable.

    That was my only point. I would not want string theory taught in depth in high school physics, even if it could be presented in a simple yet meaningful form. It’s simply not science. However, it would be appropriate to have a short, speculative discussion at the end of the term. Something along the lines of “Here are topics on the horizon of science, that you may have a chance to contribute to if you pursue a career in science.”

    String theory would be appropriate for such a discussion, as it is on the horizon of science and is being pursued in a manner that shows scientific promise.

    ID would not be appropriate for such a discussion, as it has no grounding in supported scientific concepts, little (zero?) potential for falsifiability, no real agenda for making progress or developing methodologies, and the people who push it have trouble dealing with facts. (And not the kind of trouble that physicists like myself have with details, where we can never remember them so we rely on estimates and general principles.)

  121. …but that’s not humanity and not forever.

    Perhaps…but it’s cold comfort to me that my descendants will have to live through several centuries of a New Dark Age to get to the next Renaissance…

  122. I hold that the excessive complexity behind life indicates the opposite of what ID avers.

    If DNA were minimally complex to produce its various manifestations, that would be more indicative of intelligent design.

    DNA science is overwhelmingly supportive of evolution.

    And BTW, remember in your discussions with those who don’t understand, Darwins theory of evolution is referred to as ‘natural selection’. Evolution is considered as observed fact. That is, we can see that things have changed and the fossil record shows that things have changed. Whales have retrograde legs, etc.

  123. Pretty much my entire argument can be summed up in thoreau’s and Timothy’s statements.

    I’ll add just one thing. Where does ID get us? Does it drive us to something better, something tangible. No, it sticks us at a dead end and asks us to give up the search. In that way, it does not fufill science’s purpose to drive us forward and advance ourselves. And that is why it is not science. Present it as a philosophical subject, something that might be an ultimate truth, but is not in the realm of science. ID presents itself as THE answer, evolution presents itself as the mystery and the greatest part is not the solution to the mystery, but what is learned along the way.

  124. ID would not be appropriate for such a discussion, as it has no grounding in supported scientific concepts, little (zero?) potential for falsifiability, no real agenda for making progress or developing methodologies, and the people who push it have trouble dealing with facts. (And not the kind of trouble that physicists like myself have with details, where we can never remember them so we rely on estimates and general principles.)

    Disagree. High school science class
    is not just for scientists or even primarily for scientists. Rather, it is for regular folks. It is good for regular folks to have some science background. It is good if their science curriculum addresses science-related problems that these regular folks will have later in life.

    Take off your scientist hat for a second, T. and you will see that regular folks who live well away from your lab commonly make a big science-related mistake. That mistake is that regular folks sometimes get confused and think that evolution or science disproves ID generally and/or disproves their preferred god specifically.

    Now I KNOW that you don’t make that mistake. And neither would any of the other luminaries around here like Bailey, Hak or Akira. BUT, some people do end up making that mistake. THIS is the valid concern that supports teaching about the limits of evolutionary theory, and helping students identify the margins at which evolutionary theory dissolves into mere hypothesis and unverifiable conjecture. For example, evolutionary theory does not say what caused the mutations that provide the evolutionary theory with its material mechanism. To opine on the causation of the mutations is to slip into conjecture, where evolution-related CONJECTURE competes with ID.

    Of course, once students understand the preceding paragraph, there would be little need to explain in detail the competition between ID and evolutionary CONJECTURE. Rather, discussion could then shift gears and get back to actual, verified evolutionary theory, such as it is and carefully staying within the theory’s limits (that is, remind students as appropriate about the limits discussed above).

    You see no need for this. Then agian, being a smart guy, you probably remember the hypothetical I drew on the other thread about the coin flip, observed but imperfectly. I wanted people to help me work within the framework of that simple hypothetical to demonstrate exactly when a conjecture attained theory status. I put in nice probabilistic variable we could tweak so that we could capture that elusive boundary between conjecture and theory. Guess what? Nobody could draw the line for me in that highly simplified thought experiment.

    Hmmm, we can’t find the line between conjecture and theory when we know (hypothetically) all relevant confidence levels in the probabilistic statements we make concerning my hypothetical coin flip. Yet when we deal with uncertainties that are less easy to quantify, as in the evolution context, people are siupposed to be able to find that line between theory and conjecture on their own out in the confusing real world of mixed opinions and mixed media with various levels of competence and cred.

    I hope you can see now that there is plenty good reason to discuss the line between theory and conjecture in the context of evolution.

  125. So, Dave W., it seems like what you want is for the science teacher to acknowledge that ID is not disproven. That’s fine. We can do that. We’ll say that ID is not falsifiable and hence not worthy of a scientific discussion and move on. The ACLU would probably be OK with that, but I doubt you would be.

    And you’re right, evolutionary theory doesn’t address the origin of random mutations. Evolutionary theory just takes them as a given, in the same way that physiologists take cells as a given without addressing their structure, and biochemists take the existence of atomic nuclei as a given without addressing their internal structure.

    That doesn’t mean that some other branch of science hasn’t turned its attention to these issues. Biochemists and physical chemists understand that gene replication is imperfect because of thermal motion of molecules, leading to a probability that a different replication product will be produced. They also understand that radiation damage to DNA can induce mutations (usually harmful, but once in a flagellum’s twist useful).

    Anyway, now that I’ve demonstrated that scientists aren’t just stumbling around in the dark on the issue of mutations, I’ll acknowledge that any theory, no matter how well supported by OBSERVATIONAL EVIDENCE (has ID got any of that?) will still rely on assumptions. I’ve said before that I’d be totally cool with science teachers making the assumptions explicit and saying that if these assumptions break down then the theory would obviously need to be re-evaluated. I think that even the ACLU would be cool with that.

    Now, you want a little more than that. You want some assurance for the students that religion is not invalidated by science. Well, although the ACLU would probably freak out if this were included in the official curricula, my hunch is that a lot of science teachers out there are theists who say, off the record “We’re not going to discuss religion in here, but if you’re worried that what you’re learning causes religious problems, keep in mind that I still go to church and none of this causes me any problems.”

    Come to think of it, I guess I’d even be fine with including an official disclaimer of “For those who are worried that evolution causes problems for their religious convictions, please keep in mind that many professional scientists are practicing members of various faiths, so there’s no reason why science class should cause you too much anxiety over religion.”

    What else do you want?

  126. BTW, if natural selection acting on random mutation ever encounters an insurmountable problem, ID is not the only alternative that will have to be considered. Lamarckian evolution (changes are acquired during an organism’s lifetime as a response to environmental factors, and are passed on to offspring) would also have to be considered.

    Yes, I know, Lamarck’s theory lacks any significant supporting data. My only point was that if the current paradigm had to be reconsidered, supernatural explanations aren’t the only ones that would have to be tossed out during the “what do we do now?” brainstorming session.

  127. David W:

    If you are going to talk about theory and conjecture, you need to lose the direct link you are trying to establish between probability of being correct and status of a postulation with regard to those terms.

    A scientific theory:

    1) Has at least theoretical falsifiability. I am more generous than gaius or even thoreau here in giving the theorist leeway. Our inability to manufacture a singularity in the basement doesn’t, to me, indicate that cosmology is no different from astrology. ID is not even theoretically falsifiable. It is not an issue of energy magnitudes or time scales, there is no thought experiment or actual experiment that could invalidate ID under any conditions. It fails this test.

    2) Has to be a necessary and sufficient extension of empirically verified theory to explain an observed gap. If you don’t apply the Razor, all sorts of wacky junk winds up on equal footing, and you are discarding the accumulated knowledge of scientists up to this point. ID fails this test miserably. It postulates an undesigned designer and all of the baggage that comes with such a creature. ID proponents argue, “Why can’t this be true?” when the scientific answer is “Why on Earth would you make such a galactic assumption when there is perfectly good theory that flows from observations?”

  128. Thoreau:

    I’ve kept out of this thread because I realize that I don’t express my view clearly. Your last two points nail it succinctly.

    In other news, I will be in your neck of the woods this weekend, visiting my brilliant brother-in-law. Why can’t you DC folks hold a get-together when I’m in town? πŸ™‚

  129. Anyway, now that I’ve demonstrated that scientists aren’t just stumbling around in the dark on the issue of mutations, I’ll acknowledge that any theory, no matter how well supported by OBSERVATIONAL EVIDENCE (has ID got any of that?) will still rely on assumptions.

    Science sure is stumbling around on the cause of the mutations. And that is the point. Very little of this observational evidence is at all relevant to the cause of the mutations. The mutations have been observed. their cause hasn’t. So, we know that radiation can cause mutations. So what? Do we know that this is the only agency possible? Is there a plan for proving that radiation is the only agency.

    Also, your refernce to radiation just sweeps the important, central uncertainty under the table. Even if radiation is the only cause in mutations, science has no idea whether that radiation was randomly or purposefully directed. And by “no idea” I don’t just mean uncertainty regarding the exact nature of the rays that struck the gonads of primitive apes. I mean that in mutations naturally occurring in animal populations today, science has no idea whether the radiation causing those mutations is directed ways or random ways. (well, we have a pretty good idea that some of the mutations around Hiroshima or Chernobyl were caused by human built nuclear devices, which probably falls somewhere in between random radiation and purposefully directed radiation).

    On this issue of what *causes* the mutations (e.g., random, directed), scienct truly is stumbling in the dark. Sure, the science has its Baconian methods and 21st century technologies ready and willing to step in and explain things, but still it finds itself flummoxed by a lack of persuasive, solid evidence when it comes to causation of the mutations. It doesn’t have the evidence it needs to make this determination (eg, random or directed) or even a superior guess. You asked me what I would add to my lesson plan beyond what I said above. I would add:

    “When it comes to the problem of what causes the mutations that drive evolution, science is just stumbling around in the dark, and it probably will be for the span of your entire lives, young ppl. However, if you can figure out a way to *scientifically* determine the cause of the mutations, then you will be a successful scientist and you will make a lot of money. For the rest of you, you need to understand that there are things science can explain and things it can’t.

    When ppl find an area that science cannot answer, then various ppl fill that vacuum in various ways. Some ppl decide that issues science can’t solve are inappropriate subjects for discussuion or mental exertion (we call these ppl ‘scientists’). Other ppl fill the knowledge vacuum with philosophy. Still others fill it with religion (we call these ppl ‘mom and ‘dad’). Still other ppl attempt not to fill the vacuum, but rather to live with the uncertainty as uncertainty (we call these ppl ‘agnostics’ or ‘Dave W.s’).”

  130. “That mistake is that regular folks sometimes get confused and think that evolution or science disproves ID generally and/or disproves their preferred god specifically. THIS is the valid concern that supports teaching about the limits of evolutionary theory, and helping students identify the margins at which evolutionary theory dissolves into mere hypothesis and unverifiable conjecture.”

    Dave-I’ll totally agree with you here, what moves the creationist movement, including its new/old version of ID, is the threat that some religious folks feel to their cherished beliefs (as well as some non-religious folks who have very Romantic ideas of human beings). Thanks for admitting this (this by the way helps close the case in whether to teach it, since by your admission it is motivated by religious concerns and hence violates the 1st). But I disagree with you that this concern is “valid.” In fact, you yourself say it is a “mistake.” Let’s not muck with our educational system based on mistaken fears of some religious folks! IDer’s and yourself make silly statements about “atheists” all the time and their “faith” in evolution, but they and you admittedly are not possessed by the disinterested search for answers but instead by the hope that you will find a Higher Power behind things. That leads them and yourself to engage in apologetics not science, and folks who don’t see their religion threatened by evolution see that apologetics is always a bad place to start in a search for truth.

  131. RA,

    Trying to argue with someone like RA is like trying to have an argument with someone who believes the Earth is flat.

  132. Jason,

    ID has theoretical falsifiability. Lets say we meet intelligence from a distant galaxy and they falsify ID for us. That is theoretical falsifiability. ID meets it.

    You may want to go back to my coin flip example to better gauge how important this “theoretical falsifiability” really is. In that thought experiment that gave everybody such a hard time, you will recall that I inserted theoretical falsifiability into the thought experiment by positing a camera that captured the coin flip, but was subsequently misplaced. The idea that this missing camera could be the difference between theory and conjecture seems absurd to me. Nobody really argued otherwise within the context of my coin flip hypothetical.

  133. since by your admission it is motivated by religious concerns and hence violates the 1st

    Am I correct in hypothesizing that you are not a lawyer?

  134. Dave
    From your last comment I fail to see why you are not in the same boat that you place “scientists” in. When a scientist comes across something that cannot be empirically verified, they will declare sciences silence on this. As long as we conceptualize, say, God or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, as something unverifiable then science stays silent. It does not say it does not exist, it only says that we have no scientific reason to believe it does exist. I’m not sure how that is different from your idea of living with the uncertainty. In fact, one would think it is the IDer’s you would have the larger problem with: it is they who cannot live with the uncertainty of what science cannot explain an rush to fill the gaps with a certainty: an Intelligent Designer.

  135. Oh Dave-
    Apologetics will get you into intellectual trouble every time!
    I’m not a lawyer, but a professor of criminal justice at a state university. I do teach about the Constitution. But who cares about that (I mention it in response only to your veiled ad hominen)? It’s the arguments and ideas that count (anyone can get a PhD, look at Behe).
    Now when the Court goes to decide whether something like ID is a violation of the First it traditionally relies on the Lemon test.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lemon_test
    When it decided that teaching creation science was a violation of the 1st back in the 1980’s they found that it was so because a large motivator of teaching it was religious.
    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/edwards-v-aguillard.html
    Now, you admit the large motivator of ID is religious.
    Dave, do I have to draw the rest of the inferences in this syllogism, or can we just let it evolve?

  136. When a scientist comes across something that cannot be empirically verified, they will declare sciences silence on this.

    I think my declaration of silence is clearer, truer and better for the average students then science’s (usually unspoken) declaration of silence. I think atheists exploit average ppl’s confusion about science’s declaration of science to subtly lead ppl into conclusions that science cannot explicitly condone (eg, there is no God). I think this little game science is playing with its unspoken declaration of silence is religious in nature, specifically that it is intended to discourage theistic religions at the margin.

    I do like your coinage “declaration of silence.” I think that is a better name for what needs to be done here, than it is a description of how science classes work circa now.

  137. Dave W.,

    Heh. Yes, its just one big old conspiracy by the atheists. I wonder, why haven’t I, as an atheist, been let in on this conspiracy? πŸ™‚

  138. Dave W.’s commentary is a perfect example of what we already know: it just bugs the hell out of theists that atheists are free to speak their minds, and that theists no longer have a monopoly on these issues. There must be a conspiracy afoot!

  139. Ken,

    We’re coming to get your children! πŸ™‚

  140. Dave, do I have to draw the rest of the inferences in this syllogism, or can we just let it evolve?

    When I was in 9th grade (at a public school, of course!) I took social studies. One of the areas we learned about was India. The teacher taught us that many ppl in India follow the religion of Hinduism. We learned some of the Hindu terminology and belief system.

    The next year I moved up to 10th grade, but tere was social studies class that year, too. We learned about Martin Luther nailing up some number of theses (95? its been awhile) to the Church door (at Wittenberg?) because he was mad at the Catholic Tetzel for his religoius practices. We learned what some of Martin Luther’s beefs were with the Catholic Church, and how Luther started up a whole new set of religions to address the concerns that he and others had.

    So here are my legal questions for the law man:
    How does this play out under the Lemon test? Do I get to sue the school and win?

    My hypothesis:
    Was not denied by you, so I am going to upgrade it to theory status. Don’t be afraid of the bar exam. The worst that can happen is failure.

  141. Dave W.-

    You focused entirely on my statement about radiation. You ignored my statement about thermal motion and the laws of thermodynamics, which guarantee that these chemical reactions will occasionally produce something other than the standard product. These things are observed in chemistry labs every day.

    The fact that you chose to ignore my strongest argument rooted in basic chemistry is quite telling.

    ID has theoretical falsifiability. Lets say we meet intelligence from a distant galaxy and they falsify ID for us. That is theoretical falsifiability. ID meets it.

    OK, so we make contact with space aliens and they say “Nope, wasn’t us.” We still haven’t excluded the possibility that some other alien civilization did it, or some entity violating the laws of physics (i.e. supernatural) did it.

    I’m not convinced that ID will always be non-falsifiable, but I have yet to see them make any progress toward that goal.

    As to your coin toss example, the reason why we stopped arguing about it is because we never did figure out what it would actually prove.

    Finally, if you think that exposure to evolution undermines religious faith, then explain why our country is so religious compared with most of the West, and why even a lot of scientists are practicing Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, etc.

  142. Let’s not muck with our educational system based on mistaken fears of some religious folks! IDer’s and yourself make silly statements about “atheists” all the time and their “faith” in evolution, but they and you admittedly are not possessed by the disinterested search for answers but instead by the hope that you will find a Higher Power behind things. That leads them and yourself to engage in apologetics not science, and folks who don’t see their religion threatened by evolution see that apologetics is always a bad place to start in a search for truth.

    amen, mr ken. i have yet to understand why anyone would find their faith in a loving god threatened by the facts of the physical world around us. at worst, such advances in knowledge bring us closer to god by amending our misguided previous assumptions about his mind and will.

    It does not say it does not exist, it only says that we have no scientific reason to believe it does exist. I’m not sure how that is different from your idea of living with the uncertainty

    absolutely. excellent points, mr ken.

    Lets say we meet intelligence from a distant galaxy and they falsify ID for us.

    this contortion of falsifiability is why string theory doesn’t belong, strictly speaking, in a science class regardless of how it may one day be falsifiable. theoretical falsifiability — eg, we might dig up a spaceship in antarctic ice that lays out the alien’s master plan for the construction of the universe — is simply too broad.

    what can be tested now (as with evolutionary theory) is science. what cannot is philosophical.

  143. You ignored my statement about thermal motion and the laws of thermodynamics, which guarantee that these chemical reactions will occasionally produce something other than the standard product. These things are observed in chemistry labs every day.

    mr w has some strange perceptions of the determinism of science, mr thoreau.

  144. ID has theoretical falsifiability. Lets say we meet intelligence from a distant galaxy and they falsify ID for us. That is theoretical falsifiability. ID meets it.

    Thank you, Dave, I am now dumber for having read this.

  145. mediageek,

    Ouch. πŸ™‚

  146. gaius marius,

    Depends on how your faith is structured. For example, some people have to believe that the Earth is flat (in the literal, non-Friedman sense), is 6,500 years old, etc. in order to have faith in the little man in the sky.

  147. gaius marius,

    But, hey, as I’m an atheist I’m apparently just trying to brainwash you, and you have no powers to stop me! Muahahaha!

  148. You ignored my statement about thermal motion and the laws of thermodynamics, which guarantee that these chemical reactions will occasionally produce something other than the standard product.

    I didn’t address it because the same logic that applies to the radiation applies to this alternative agency of chemical reactions. We know tat humans do directed, purposeful chemical reactions involving chemical recatins all the time. Were the chemical reactions resulting in mutations in the ape gonads 1 million years ago random reactions or purposeful? The answer is that science has no way of knowing.

    I can imagine some complex probabilistic computations could, itheory, provide a confidence level that the mutations are randomly caused, but: (1) I haven’t seen this confidence level number yet (or the supporting calcualations); (2) the confidence level would have to be pretty high before you started excluding non-random theories; and (3) even the foregoing analysis would not distinguish a truly random universe from one in which the starting condistions were controlled to purposefully guide evolution through the use of a random mechanism at the microevolution level.

    So basically, despite the fact that genes can be spliced with catalysts as well as rays, this does nothing to reduce the fundamental uncertainty about the cause of the mutations. Even with its physics and chemistry well in hand, science is still stumbling in the dark on causation.

  149. what can be tested now (as with evolutionary theory) is science. what cannot is philosophical.

    depends on what you mean by “tested.” there are ppl about who think the Big Bang has been “tested” in the sense you mean. Do you agree with that, ancient roman poster?

  150. Dave W.,

    Those observations of “Hubble’s Law” velocities is a fairly elegant “test” of the “Big Bang’ theory. Unless of course you argue with the test that have been undertaken to demonstrate the universality of physical laws.

  151. As to your coin toss example, the reason why we stopped arguing about it is because we never did figure out what it would actually prove.

    Okay, let me explain. In my hypothetical, a coin was flipped, the result was observed from a distance and the coin was snatched before the scientists could make a full observation of which face was up. However, based on the distant, imperfect observations, the scientists felt that it sort of maybe looked like heads more than tails.

    the basic question that nobody can answer is, when the scientists are trying to figure out how the coin landed by collecting and scrutinizing their imperfect observations, are these scientists theorizing or conjecturing.

    It should be an easy question to answer, but none of you Baconians can seem to answer it.

    In an attempt at an answer, one poster asserted that the scientists were conjecturing because the coin was gone for good and there was no way to be sure. So, I inserted theoretical falsifiability into my example. If theoretical falsifiability really clears things up, then we would have our answer.

    In order to insert this theoretical falsifiability, I put a hidden camera in the example. the camera recorded the coin flip. However, the scientists can’t check the camera until much later because it has been temporarily misplaced. So, in the meantime, as the scientists try their best to guess at how the coin landed we can observe the role theoretical falsifiability plays in our thinking.

    If one really believed that theoretical falsifiability was the big dealee that y’all are saying, then one would say that the scientists are theorizing for as long as the missing camera continues to exist, but becomes mere hypothesis if / when the camera gets destroyed.

    To me, this absurd conclusion proves that theoretical falsifiability isn’t really the important distiction between theory and conjecture. Also, as Gaius insightfully points out: not all theoretical falsifiability is created equal — what quantum of theoretical falsifiability is required? Who decides? What criteria do they use?

    basically, if we can’t make theoretical falsifiability a meaningful construct in my simple coin flip example, then I don’t see how it could be a meaningful distinction in more complex contexts.

  152. If a coin falls in the forest and Dave W. starts obsessing about it, nobody else cares.

  153. Those observations of “Hubble’s Law” velocities is a fairly elegant “test” of the “Big Bang’ theory.

    Funny thing: I don’t recall the Hubble’s initial launch had occurred until after I graduated from engineering school. Yet somehow I remember hearing about the Big Bang years earlier, when I was in high school. Sounds like my high school science teacher fucked up big time.

    Just got a great idea dep’t: I figured out a fairly elegant test to see if life generateds spontaneously. We take various samples of common chemical mixtures and subject them to various conditions of radiation, heat, pressure, chemical proportions, etc. all over the world at various times over a period of a thousand years. If anybody observes that replicating matter results from the experiment, then random causation passes my elegant test and it can be a theory. Otherwise, random causation fails the test and becomes relegated to ID conjecture type status.

    Here’s the best part: we have done my fairly elegant test. the story of every mixture we humans have ever made (cakes, alloys, composites, solutions, titrations, you name it!) is this test. the result: random causation has failed. Nobody has ever observed the spontaneous generation of self-replicating matter, despite the thousand year, worldwide experiment. Whoops, there goes random causation, back in the “declaration of silence” bucket with the ID.

  154. “ID has theoretical falsifiability. Lets say we meet intelligence from a distant galaxy and they falsify ID for us.”

    Er, what did they say that falsified the notion of life being intelligently designed?

    Also, I have no understanding of what you are trying to demonstrate with your coin toss. You are talking about a single event, divorced from physical theorizing and absent observers. The term ‘scientific theory’ doesn’t apply. You can’t come up with a scientific theory to address the question of whether or not I ate pepperoni pizza for lunch at noon on Jan 3, 1978. The origins story is different because we do have fossil records, dating, observed evolution in short lived species of all sorts, blah blah blah.

  155. Random mutation is observed fact. There are many observed and statistically verified causes of mutations. Chemical, ionizing radiatiion, and environmental stress are all I can think of, but they are not mysterious.

    Darwin’s theory was about natural variation observed in any species and environmental reinforcement of any particulat natural variation leading to gradual change. Hence horse-like creatures eveolve into giraffe-like creatures as the lower branches are grazed into non-existance (seems the vegetation evolves as well).

    Seems like a good plan. What a marvelous system.

    Why do so many religious people forsake their god-given capacity for reason and deny the evidence supplied by the creation and instead prefer the uninformed interpretations of some flawed human being.

  156. Dave W.,

    Ahh, you do realize that “Hubble’s Law” velocities observations were observed long before the Hubble telescope was ever launched, right? Honestly, the red shift was first observed a couple of years before WWI! I have to say that I am flat out stunned by the level of ignorance you are demonstrating here. Did you even take physics in college?

  157. Dave W.-

    Hubble’s Law is named after the astronomer who formulated it based on telescope observations. It was formulated years before NASA launched a telescope named in honor of Hubble.

    As to self-replicating matter, I don’t know the latest work on production of nucleic acids, but I understand that people are rapidly approaching a plug in that gap.

    Given that this gap exists, what would you like the science teacher to say about it? Would you like the teacher to start discussing religion? Or start giving credence to theories with far less empirical support than evolution?

    What, exactly, do you want? It seems like you basically want the science teacher to assure students that studying evolution doesn’t mean they have to change their religious beliefs. I think we might actually be able to formulate such a disclaimer, and maybe even get it to pass legal muster.

    Something like “Now we’re going to study evolution. I know that a lot of people get upset over it, but please keep in mind that all we’re doing here is examining empirical evidence and the theoretical models that explain it while offering new and testable predictions. Also keep in mind that many people who study evolution find that it poses no real difficulties for their personal beliefs. If you find yourself encountering such difficulties you should discuss these matters with your families and/or other people who share your beliefs. Now, let’s look at some fossils…”

  158. Er, what did they say that falsified the notion of life being intelligently designed?

    All those experiments that Thoreau wishes he could do on this topic (he has explained these at some length) — well, the aliens have been colecting all the neccessary data to actually run these experiments, they ran the experiments, the experiments have come out just as Thoreau guesses they will and that is their falsification (Thoreau’s brain teamed up with alien superdata).

  159. Dave W.,

    BTW, an observeable red shift isn’t the only thing going for the Big bang; there is also cosmic what those two Bell lab scientists (Penzias and Wilson) descovered in the 1960s that won them the Nobel – cosmic background radiation. Their observations were consistent with the predictions of what that cosmic background radiation should look like.

    There are other observations which demonstrate that the Big Bang happened as well. Maybe thoreau could clue you into them.

  160. Ahh, you do realize that “Hubble’s Law” velocities observations were observed long before the Hubble telescope was ever launched, right? Honestly, the red shift was first observed a couple of years before WWI! I have to say that I am flat out stunned by the level of ignorance you are demonstrating here.

    Clearly I read the Hubble post too quickly, which resulted in the wrong explanation. The fact that this stuns you demonstrates that you aren’t very smart (which is why I ignore most of your posts).

    Yes, I know about red shifts and blue shifts. I hear them every day at the GO train station when trains pass. I think of them as Doppler shifts, rather than Hubble shifts. And, yes, I knew these Doppler shifts were important in deciding if the universe is expanding or contracting (or both).

    The reason that I don’t think these shifts rise to the level of proof is that many other alternative conjectures could explain the shifts. For example, if the speed of light has changed over time then Hubble will simply be remembered by history as the new Ptolemy. Even I acknowledge that the Big Bang deserves its theory status, but even here Hak, you are finding certainty where none exists. You are exactly the guy that should have been taught better in high school. You are the living embodiment of the bad outcome that I am trying to prevent here on this thread.

  161. dave W.,

    Clearly I read the Hubble post too quickly, which resulted in the wrong explanation.

    Yes, confusing “Hubble’s Law” velocity observations with the “Hubble Telescope” is so understandable. Not. πŸ™‚

  162. “You are the living embodiment of the bad outcome that I am trying to prevent here on this thread.”

    A bad outcome is a student who feels that “Because God said so,” is an adequate replacement for the scientific method. That is the outcome we are trying to avoid.

  163. Dave W.-

    I’m no cosmologist, but it’s funny that you bring up a variable speed of light. However wacky your alternative explanation might be, I can assure you that there is a cosmologist who thought of something even wackier. They keep bringing out alternative explanations. But every time they work out what the implications would be for present-day observations, the Big Bang keeps standing strong.

    Yeah, there are currently some crazy theories that haven’t been ruled out (including one theory that there has been a miniscule shift in the speed of light over time) but there’s a reason why the Big Bang remains the champion: It’s the only one that’s still doing the best job of explaining data.

    I trust the cosmologists because they’ve got the craziest people in the world churning out the craziest theories possible and testing the data against every explanation imaginable. Despite all that craziness going on, one consistent finding keeps coming out. That has to mean something.

  164. Dave W.,

    I’m stunned mostly because you are holding forth on a topic that you know very little about.

  165. A bad outcome is a student who feels that “Because God said so,” is an adequate replacement for the scientific method. That is the outcome we are trying to avoid.

    I fully agree. I have taken pains on this thread not to say anything at all inconsistent with this important objective.

    What a co-operative crypto-fundie that Dave W. is!!!

  166. Dave W.,

    You are the living embodiment of the bad outcome that I am trying to prevent here on this thread.

    Well, at least I know the difference between a “Hubble’s Law” velocities and the Hubble Telescope. πŸ™‚

    …but even here Hak, you are finding certainty where none exists.

    I wrote nothing about certainty.

  167. “I fully agree. I have taken pains on this thread not to say anything at all inconsistent with this important objective.”

    ID is precisely “because God said so”.

  168. Jason Ligon,

    You couldn’t have written it more elegantly. πŸ™‚

  169. That has to mean something.

    It sure does.

    One thing it means is that the Big Bang desrves its elevated theory status (in contradistinction to my conjecture about variable speed of light).

    Another thing it means is that I am glad that we spent a reasonable amount of time on Big Bang stuff in high school.

    We finally seem to be getting to some common ground.

  170. Leave it to an idiot like Dave W. to challenge the Big Bang and ask for a “test” of its conclusions, etc., for me to show that such tests have been undertaken and they have confirmed those conclusions, predictions, etc. and for Dave W. to in turn duck the original issue and claim that I am arguing from certainty.

  171. ID is precisely “because God said so”.

    No. That is you taking ID’s stupidest proponents and using their stupid words to build a stupid strawman.

    here’s a hint: any serious ID conjecture would make sure never to capitalize “God.” Good ID conjecture would not mention “gods” at all, but would rather speak in terms of higher intelligences or subsuming, pervasive intelligences.

    Anyway, you keep addressing your stupid strawman cause I seem to be making some progress in tandem with T. here.

  172. Dave, let’s play a little mind experiment: Hypothetically speaking, if evolution were to be proved to your satisfaction beyond a shadow of a doubt, would you continue to believe in God?

  173. How about knocking off the ad hominem crap here?
    That sets us back.

  174. Dave W.,

    No, that’s taking all of ID’s proponents. Do you even read the literature of people like Dembski, etc., the actual movers and shakers in this community?

  175. mediageek,

    I think one of Dave W.’s problems is that he is certain that there is a serious I.D. community out there. πŸ™‚

  176. Dave W,

    “Nobody has ever observed the spontaneous generation of self-replicating matter, despite the thousand year, worldwide experiment.”

    “You are exactly the guy that should have been taught better in high school.”

    And you seem to be the guy who slept through the class on how to design a useful experiment. If you’re trying to disprove that some event can occur under certain conditions, it would probably be worthwhile to actually attempt to replicate those conditions. And the conditions of your experiment with human-made materials over the past thousand years are pretty obviously not anywhere close to the climatic and chemical conditions that prevailed on this planet billions of years ago.

    Needless to say attempting to replicate conditions for phenomena that are suggested to have occurred over a span of millions of years and took place billions of years ago is not easy, to put it mildly. That’s why various sorts of indirect tests are useful. We know that short, simple strands of RNA with the capacity to self-replicate do in fact exist. Experiments have also shown that short RNA strands form spontaneously under a range of conditions similar to what was thought to have existed on prebiotic earth. There are various groups working on the details of RNA strand formation and stability under various climatic and chemical conditions.

    It’s completely unrealistic to expect a direct test in which someone creates what we would recognize as life in a petri plate under time spans that are plausible for humans. But given the simplicity of RNA strands with the capacity to self-replicate, the span of time available for the spontaneous generation of self-replicating RNA on prebiotic earth, and the number of “attempts” that were possible over that time span, the indirect experimentation that has been done is actually quite powerful – much more so than most people ignorant of the work in this field realize.

  177. The philosophical problem is: Where did everything come from?
    The answer “From something else”, does not solve the problem, but rather, moves it back a step.
    If we were to suppose that life on earth came from alien infection, then we would have to figure out how the alien infection originated.

    So, too, with the supernatural god hypothesis.
    How/where/when did this god originate?

    For the faithful, such a question is not to be seriously examined.

    I’ve tried to gat Morman visitors to explain to me what, exactly, “God” is. They fall into autoreferencing.

    Ah, the cult mentality.

  178. Dave, let’s play a little mind experiment: Hypothetically speaking, if evolution were to be proved to your satisfaction beyond a shadow of a doubt, would you continue to believe in God?

    that’s an interesting question, but I don’t understand it well enuf to answer. Couple comments, tho:

    1. by proving evolution, do you mean: (a) proving that genetic mutations caused speciation; (b) proving that *random* genetic mutations caused speciation; or (c) proving that *random* genetic mutations caused speciation and that these *random* mutations were based upon *random* staring conditions in the universe. My answer depends upon whether it is a or b or c or something else.

    2. For purposes of the present discussion, and for purposes of designing public school curricula, I do not believe or disbelieve in God, so in an important sense a premise of your question is faulty.

  179. yes J. That was my point and you have fleshed it out well. Uncertainty is exactly the agnostic remedy I am trying to peddle to the scientists and would be scientists. Well, not just uncertainty. Frankly and clearly admitted uncertainty. And that is true whether we are talking about the “philosophical” uncertainties of evolutionary CONJECTURE or the lesser uncertainties of evolutionary or Big Bang theory.

  180. Dave W., I still have no clue what it is that you actually want science teachers to do differently.

  181. Dave W:

    I’m not creating a Christian straw man. I’m saying that once you postulate ID regardless of terms, you are proposing that observation, existing theory, the fossil record, and so forth don’t matter. You are saying that the mere postulation of a designer is enough to make you throw all that scientific method stuff out the window. You are saying that ‘god did it’ puts you on epistemological even ground with the scientific method.

    The terminology doesn’t matter. Capital G, small g, aliens. The epistemology is still sloppy.

  182. You are saying that ‘god did it’ puts you on epistemological even ground with the scientific method.

    Scientific method has no application in areas with insufficient collected data. That is what puts the conjectural portions of science down on the same sloppy epistemological ground (whatever that means) that religion and philosophy occupy. Of course, when I find myself in an area where the science is conjectural and I am unavoidably down on the sloppy ground, I think the appropriate mental response is agnosticism. Religous people forget that, but then so do atheists.

  183. J,

    Well, more to the point, every test put to the evolutionary theory comes up with a resounding “Yes!” A couple of months some folks determined the exact order of the genetic code that makes up chimps; it helped them refine their measurements of just how close of a cousin we are to chimps (very close – as we’ve known for a long time). More importantly, it allowed them to use some neat math to predict the number of detrimental mutations in the Chimp’s DNA based on a different species’ DNA, which evolutionary theory predicts to be within a specific, narrow range. Guess what, their prediction turned out to be true. Its basically in the face of such observational data that Dave W. are howling into the wind.

  184. Dave W., I still have no clue what it is that you actually want science teachers to do differently.

    Instead of spending a week or two learning about various organelles or portions of the earthworm digestive track or all 7 layers of Linnaeus’ hierarchy (or any of the oter useless info I was subjected to in bio class), I would have the class read this thread (minus Hak’s insulting digressions) and spend a class period or two discussing what the various ppl’s viewpoints were. That would be much better for the children than what they are getting now.

    Sound good?

  185. Dave W.,

    Actually, you are trying to peddle uncertainty in the face of observations.

    …when I find myself in an area where the science is conjectural…

    Which merely begs the question, and is really at the heart of your argument. More to the point, is evolutionary theory really all that conjectural? No, it isn’t.

  186. Dave W.,

    You can’t on one hand dismiss every comment here and then on another merely dismiss mine and expect us to take you seriously.

  187. Well, that would certainly be worth considering. But they obviously won’t use this actual thread as the reading assignment. What are the points that you would like biology teachers to communicate?

  188. Dave W.,

    BTW, if having to explain the difference between “Hubble’s Law” velocities and the Hubble Telescope to is an insulting digression, well, so be it. πŸ™‚

  189. thoreau,

    That one specific area of science that happens to rattle his worldview is fraught with “uncertainty.” πŸ™‚

  190. Jason Ligon,

    I believe that Dave W.’s claim is that all that observation, etc. isn’t fruitful enough to bring one to certainty, and that this lack of certainty is why ideas like I.D. must still be taken seriously, even though I.D. proponents have nothing like the data presented by evolutionists. I mentioned this to Dave W. before, and it remains true; his mind his so open his brain has fallen out.

  191. his mind is so open his brain has fallen out.

    Ha! That’s a keeper.

  192. Well, that would certainly be worth considering. But they obviously won’t use this actual thread as the reading assignment. What are the points that you would like biology teachers to communicate?

    No, I think this thread is fine. We might have to take out some of the swears, but other than that, this thread seems like a beetween discussion of these type things for an ordinary high school student. Even my example about the imperfectly observed coin flip (and the objections of others thereto) should be understandable to a 10th grader.
    I imagine that a good writter could convert this thread into more polished language, but the exact points we are debating here are the exact points that high schoolers should get.

  193. thoreau,

    That’s what we call a non-answer, answer. πŸ™‚

  194. Dave W., do me a favor and distill for me the essential points of this discussion that you think students would benefit from.

    The part where I pull teeth to get a straight answer from you certainly doesn’t belong on that list.

  195. I would, but the cut and paste function won’t let me cut and paste large chunks of text into the response block (for editing down as you requested). I would do the editing in Word(R), but I don’t have time today. Those patent applications don’t write themselves.

  196. I’ll distill it.

    God of the Gaps can replace the scientific method whenever there is uncertainty.

    God of the Gaps is an argument immune to Occams Razor. It is better than answers derived from observation and known theory, because it is universal and unconstrained.

    God of the Gaps can always be postulated to be of equal probability with any other explanation for any unknown.

    Please believe me, children, we tell you these things so that you won’t grow up with sloppy thinking habits …

  197. Jason, what you said was incredibly mean.

    And probably true.

  198. Dave W.,

    Give us the top three.

    Jason Ligon,

    Oh, that had to hurt. πŸ™‚

  199. A few bullet points, Dave. That’s all we ask.

  200. Jason Ligon,

    Well, we all know that folks who confuse a telescope floating about in space with an observed physical phenomenon aren’t subject to sloppy thinking. πŸ™‚

  201. Anybody wanna go for 500 posts?

    See, if we were really designed by a benevolent deity then we wouldn’t have interned Japanese-Americans, denying them the right to purchase vibrators. And Lincoln was a good President. Oh, and left-wing dictators aren’t as bad as right-wing dictators. But it would suck if the left-wing dictator didn’t let you play violent video games.

    Come on, somebody take the bait?

    Oh, and for M1EK: Kerry would be worse.

  202. Wait, I’ve got it. From mostly browsing on another forum I know exactly what will get us 500 posts:

    9mm vs .45. Discuss.

  203. thoreau,

    To make it to 500 posts we need to flip a coin. But we’ll never be able to record that flip, so we’ll never know if we made it to 500 posts. That being said, we should accept that perhaps an intelligent designer did make it to 500 posts, and that our uncertainty on that matter should keep us away from any theories which state that 500 posts were come to in a fashion not administered by an intelligent designer even if there is a great deal of observable data, correct predictions, etc. about such a non-administered reaching of 500 posts.

  204. UFOs = time machines. that’s the secret.

    we hit 500 and rode back to set the posts at 203.

    Hak, Thoreau: the horse is dead. the quibbeldick can’t and won’t give anything except for “my imaginary friend says so” types of “argument”.

    and which one of you took my noam chomsky blow up doll? clean it off this time, m’kay?

  205. – teach that science is faraught with uncertainty and has a framework for dealing with various levels of uncertainty: (a) conjecture; (b) hypothesis; (c) unproven theory; (d) disproven theory; and (e) proven theory.

    – teach that some work in evolution falls under theory, but much also falls under the conjecture or hypothesis categories.

    – when evolution science work falls under the conjecture category, we are dealing with radical uncertainty. Uncertainty so radical that science competes with philosophy, religion and agnosticism in the domain of the unverifiable

    – as an example of evolutionary ***conjecture*** (not the theory part!!), spend 100 minutes discussing the problem of what causes the observed mutations in the fossil record, whether the cause is random or directed by a higher intelligence.

    – a consequence of the uncertainty of mere scientific conjecture is: science hasn’t proven or disproven ID, and it will probably not prove it or disprove it in our lifetimes. Science has no theoretical work discrediting ID, but none supporting it either. The ID question is beyond the current competence of science.

  206. as an example of evolutionary ***conjecture*** (not the theory part!!), spend 100 minutes discussing the problem of what causes the observed mutations in the fossil record, whether the cause is random or directed by a higher intelligence.

    “Mutation” generally refers to genetic changes. Such things would be inferred from the genetic record, not the fossil record.

    Scientists have identified mechanisms of “random” mutation, and we understand that they follow from molecular-scale processes. There are reasonable estimates of the rate at which such mutations occur. The only question is how frequently one of those mutations will be favorable and hence preserved by natural selection. That’s not a simple question to ask, because mutations of a gene can have very unexpected consequences, so it’s not entirely obvious how to calculate the rate of beneficial mutations. Partly because whether or not a mutation is beneficial depends on the environment facing an organism and partly because some mutations have no consequence, other mutations of similar magnitude on the genetic level can have huge negative consequences, some have small positive consequences, and others have huge positive consequences.

    Finally, you correctly observe that ID is currently not addressable by science. The problem is not that science lacks the competence, but that ID has not been developed very well. String theory is mostly beyond our competence to test for now, but it has abundance predictions. ID has no predictions (for now, anyway). If ID is addressed, it should not be presented as something too lofty for science to reach, but rather as something too weak to present any testable hypotheses.

    That’s all I have to say about that.

  207. Dave W.

    It would be worthwhile having a little more detail on how _you_ define conjecture (or CONJECTURE, of you prefer), and how you distinguish it from theory. Because you’ve used it in two very different ways when applying it to evolution (specifically pre-biotic evolution) and ID.

    Without a time machine and a few hundred million years to kill, we can’t directly test claims about pre-biotic evolution and the RNA world. We can, however, perform a large number of very informative experiments that indirectly test predictions made by these models (some of which I very briefly outlined above). There are no such possible tests, direct or indirect, that could falsify ID. So when you use the same word, conjecture, to describe pre-biotic evolution and ID, there’s some pretty serious equivocation going on.

  208. “science hasn’t proven or disproven ID, and it will probably not prove it or disprove it in our lifetimes.”

    It will never disprove ID, for the simple reason that ID is not falsifiable. It’s not beyond the “current competence of science,” it’s beyond science.

  209. Dave W.,

    – teach that science is faraught with uncertainty and has a framework for dealing with various levels of uncertainty: (a) conjecture; (b) hypothesis; (c) unproven theory; (d) disproven theory; and (e) proven theory

    Well, theories aren’t “proven,” so what you want is problematic from the start. Plus, science classes in highschool and college already teach the mantra about the differences between theory, hypothesis, etc. I know, I remember the lectures.

    teach that some work in evolution falls under theory, but much also falls under the conjecture or hypothesis categories

    Ahh, don’t treat evolution holistically; create doubts via attacking some gaps.

    when evolution science work falls under the conjecture category, we are dealing with radical uncertainty. Uncertainty so radical that science competes with philosophy, religion and agnosticism in the domain of the unverifiable

    In other words, God of the Gaps.

    spend 100 minutes discussing the problem of what causes the observed mutations in the fossil record, whether the cause is random or directed by a higher intelligence

    What problem would that be? Scientists observe mutations all the time. Only an unsubstantiated claim that somehow in the past the forces of nature worked differently than they do today would defeat the powerful inference that such mutations also occurred in the past.

    The ID question is beyond the current competence of science.

    The way you phrase that you create a bias in favor of I.D., indeed, you attempt to make science seem inferior to I.D.; I am sure the phrasing was on purpose and for a reason. After all, you can’t be confused of sloppy thinking.

    drf,

    Not quite dead yet. He is still spouting off reams of bullshit.

  210. Wow. You guys are like energizer bunnies.

    My main problem with ID is this: Ever since people started using reason and logic, they have slowly begun to throw away their supernatural understanding of the world for the physical understanding. Fire was not a gift from the gods, but can be man-made. Beyond the sea lies another continent and not Hades. We are not the center of the universe. Etc, etc. There is nothing wrong with filling in the gaps of science with the supernatural. There is nothing wrong with thinking that science will never totally eliminate the supernatural.

    While learning about science, it is key to understand the nature of the beast. Science finds truth through logic and reason. It needs to make predictions that can be confirmed or denied. If it doesn’t do these things, its not a scientific idea. It says nothing of the merits of discussing such an idea, but it requires that it cannot be labeled as scientific.

    If ID proponents want ID to be discussed in science classes by saying this is a non-scientific explanation of these phenomena, then fine. But why should we discuss this explanation and not others?

  211. Jason Ligon,

    Mean or not, you were mostly right.

  212. After all, you can’t be accused of sloppy thinking.

    I can of course be accused of sloppy writing. πŸ™‚

  213. J,

    we recently had a whole other thread where I admitted that I was unclear on the distinction between conjecture and theory. the problem is that I don’t have a comprehensive answer to that question from the ppl who claim to know.

    Trying to read btwn the lines of the non-answers on that thread and this, my best guess is that theory is related to some kind of concensus among scientists. However, the details of which scientists count, what the standard of proof should be for each scientist (eg, preponderance?, reasonable doubt? best guess?), and exactly what subject matter the scientists are agreeing about would seem to entail so much uncertainty that I am not sure anybody really knows what “concensus” might mean here.

    I am suspicious of touchstones like “theoretical falsifiability.” If Einstein was worried about theoretical falsifiability, then he wouldn’t have worked on relativity problems in 1905. What is theoretically unfalsifiable for one generation is often falsifiable in the next.

    I am also suspicious of touchstones like replicable experiments. The idea that every time you verify the current speed of light, you have done something akin to replicating the Big Bang. Consistency of data with a particular theory often does little to discredit competing conjectures and hypotheses. I am sure Newton collected a lot of data on his Newtonian physics. That didn’t stop his physics from being a lot more limited than he could possibly realize.

    So, that’s the long and short of what I know and don’t know on this. As I said at the top of this thread, I don’t think the concept of a “theory” is that meaningful. It is just a fancy way of saying what the law would characterize as the “majority view.” However, you would never go into court arguing a position solely because it is the majority view. Likewise, the history of science is littered with discredited theories. In view of all this, I simply don’t think the categories science has created are that useful or apt. Maybe science is trying to draw categories, where the more apt metaphor is a continuous spectrum from 100% certainty to absolute uncertainty.

  214. Ok, stop. Just stop. He doesn’t get it. He will never get it. It’s been explained to him 100,000 times and in 10,000 ways. He won’t ever get it. He’s just going to keep repeating himself. This will be my last try:

    The word “science” has a real meaning, but it’s only possible to understand it if you aren’t impossiply stupid. It’s just a catch 22 for you, Dave.

  215. Dave W.,

    However, you would never go into court arguing a position solely because it is the majority view.

    Prior to Daubert that’s exactly what people did do. Also, most courts still honor the words of Daubert and not its meaning.

  216. I am suspicious of touchstones like “theoretical falsifiability.” If Einstein was worried about theoretical falsifiability, then he wouldn’t have worked on relativity problems in 1905. What is theoretically unfalsifiable for one generation is often falsifiable in the next.

    Einstein was the master at coming up with thought experiments for his different theories. Each one of those thought experiments could be at a latter date when technology caught up with the science. For the record, some of Einsten’s thought experiments were verified years later, some were proven wrong. (Those were few and far between though.)

    Einstein was very much concerned with theoritical falsibility.

  217. Dave W.,

    In view of all this, I simply don’t think the categories science has created are that useful or apt.

    Because they exclude your pet theory, and that hurts your widdle feelings.

    …where the more apt metaphor is a continuous spectrum from 100% certainty to absolute uncertainty.

    And along that spectrum lie terms like theory, hypothesis, etc.

  218. Dave W,

    I’m curious then if you can see the distinction between “conjecture” (if you’d like) about pre-biotic evolution and conjecture about ID. Specifically, one can be falsified with indirect tests, and such tests have been done which “fail to falsify” it, in formal terms; and one cannot be falsified in any way. That makes them radically different sorts of conjectures – one is amenable to emperical testing and is within the realm of science, one is not.

  219. A scientific theory is NOT something that gets voted on. You can have a false scientific theory. The requirements for a scientific theory is that it is 1) internally logically consistent. 2) Makes falsifiable predictions

    If it meets those general requirements (it may be stricter than that), its a scientific theory. If those predictions turn out to be false, then the theory is false. You can never prove a theory. Just like we never know if the next time I drop a rock it won’t fly towards the sky and thereby invalidating the theory of gravity. However, because the theory of gravity has been tested and tested and tested again, and has never been invalidated, we call it the Law of Gravity. Who decides which theories are laws and which are “just theories” is, yes, the consensus of the scientific community. But, that’s not what we’re discussing here.

  220. Yogi,

    Generally philosophers of science, and the scientific community as a whole, has eschewed using the word “law” for newer concepts. That may be the source of some of Dave W.’s rampant confusion and why he wants a Boyle’s Law version of evolution before he is convinced.

  221. drf,

    I guess we are edging our way back up to 500 again. πŸ™‚

  222. That makes them radically different sorts of conjectures – one is amenable to emperical testing and is within the realm of science, one is not.

    I disagree with this. One way to help falsify ID is to search every celestial body and every dimension for unmistakable signs of a higher or alien intelligence. So, we are already working on falsifying that theory. Einstein-style, *my* thought experiment is that we accelerate this search and report back the results.

    Or, look at it another way. Time travel is a possibility. So there is your falsification of ID: we simply send thoreau’s great-great-grandson back to meet Lucy and Piltdown man and then come back and report what caused the mutations in their gonads. That may not get us all the way there, but it sure would help (in the same sense that confirming the current speed of light supports Big Bang Theory).

    I am sure that I will get about 5 different answers about why my future experiments aren’t as cool as Einstein’s future experiments, but I really doubt there is any sort of principled distinction here.

  223. Dave-

    I like it. I think you should start a campaign in the U.S. saying that ID could be confirmed if we find aliens or could time travel. I can see the school board members lining up to support this idea now.

  224. School boards are idiots. that is why I am working away at you guys instead of them.

  225. Dave-

    One more thing, the space travel thing invalidates ID on the internally consistent clause. Show me an internally consistent rationale for time travel, and we can consider that option. All current models of physics say this is impossible, even the variable speed of light one if I’m not mistaken. So unless in addition to ID you have a new theory there too, all your hopes rest with the aliens.

  226. Dave W.,

    You are not working at anyone but yourself.

    You realize right that Piltdown Man was a fraud?

    You do also realize the special problems associated with a claim of time travel to the past, right?

  227. Also, I’m still confused with the aliens thing. Are you saying that if we find the aliens that planted us here, then its validated?

  228. BTW, I brought up the school board to show you what kind of pretzel you are wrapping your brain into right now.

  229. Yogi,

    Thank you for putting the time travel issue into better perspective than I did.

    The “searching for aliens” bit gives a window in Dave W.’s mind. Instead of observation here on Earth that continues to show with amazing clarity the beauty and robustness of evolutionary theory, he proposes that we go on a universe-wide goose-chase for aliens.

  230. Yogi,

    Well, the whole aliens issue merely changes the locus of debate anyway, and hardly takes away from the demonstrated reality of speciation. In other words, where did these aliens come from? How helpful were they, given what we know of evolution on this planet?

    You also run up into the same sort of problems you mention re: time travel; unless you can come up with a means of transport far more useful than what we have now, the proposal looks like bunk.

  231. Dave W.,

    BTW, if your proposals are an example of your type of “clear thinking,” I wan’t nothing of it.

  232. Dave-

    Just because I have to go in a little while, I do want to say this: It was fun debating this with you. I’m glad you’re discussing this civilly and I know you have very good intentions. While I disagree with your reasoning, you surely make much more sense than the God said so people. These are the people that hurt your cause.

  233. Dave W., I simply don’t know where else to go arguing with you. I appreciate that you’ve remained civil, but I simply don’t know where else to go.

    BTW, just because we’re libertarians with tinfoil hats, that doesn’t mean we will automatically go for a theory that involves aliens πŸ™‚

  234. it remains shocking to me how many ID proponents don’t even understanding what it is they’re trumpeting. Behe admits that evolution occurred in Darwin’s Black Box. he only thinks that it must have been helped along by an intelligent designer, due to irreducible complexity. ID is a challenge to darwin’s theory of natural selection as the mechanism of evolution, not the occurrence of evolution itself.

  235. Yes, I know Hak. Piltdown Man was a like joke designed to detect whether there were any Asberger’s sufferers on the thd.

  236. zach-

    Behe may believe that evolution happened, but for many people he and the other old earth ID proponents are simply “useful idiots.” He is the tip of a wedge, whether he realizes it or not.

  237. zach,

    I also find it rather funny that I.D. proponents expect us to believe their “neutral” claims about the “designer.” Even Behe, in moments when he was caught off guard, has stated that the real rationale is to attack materialistic in an effort to promote Christianity.

  238. Thanks Yogi and T. I feel a sense of closure, too. the only sad thing is that if things you said here change my mind in one or 2 years time, then I will probably never get to thank you. I have a lot of little regrets of that nature in my past!

  239. Dave W.,

    Right. Was that also true of your statements re: time travel, space exploration and the Hubble telescope? In other words, when are you simply mistaken, flat out stupid or just horsing around?

  240. and i can’t believe no one has said this (unless i’ve missed it), but time travel still could not falsify ID, if God were in fact the designer (and not some physical entity). if God is creating life from Heaven by spiritual means, we could watch it happen, and still all we would see is life apparently springing from nothing. we would still be left with, “we don’t know how this is happening.” and ID proponents would still be left with, “since we don’t know, it must be God.”

  241. …to elaborate on my own point, if we did go back in time and see some physical entity claiming to be God creating life through physical means, scientists would be left with the question, how did that entity come to exist? they then could go further back in time and see him springing into existence out of nothing, and the cycle would repeat itself.

  242. thoreau,

    Even his views are a rarity amongst I.D. proponents. Of course Behe also has a tendency to write wholely fallacious shit as well. Like his claim that the literature is basically vacant of commentary on molecular evolution – when a scientist produced a massive list of articles on the topic, Behe didn’t even acknowledge his error as I recall.

    Others in the I.D. community are prone to misquoting people, half-truths, and sometimes what can only be construed as outright lies.

  243. zach, Thoreau, Dave W., etc.,

    This is a great page detailing the dishonest tactics of the I.D. community; one will either laugh or cry: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/quotes/mine/part4.html#quote4.10

  244. LOL, i’m pretty much thinking out loud here… my second example, although it would not be proof of God, would actually be proof of an intelligent designer of sorts (some being that came from nothing and claimed to be God). but even then, the process of intelligent design would have to be accomplished through physical means. thus, to be useful, the ID theory must be amended to opine that evolution was aided physically by a physical entity.

    and while such an idea would be theoretically falsifiable through time travel, so would any number of crazy ideas about what really happened throughout history and what will happen in the future, etc.; the fact remains that the only such ideas worth talking about are the ones that have physical evidence to back them up. and needless to say, there is no physical evidence of any kind of other intelligent life arriving on earth to physically aid the process of evolution. (Raelians be damned.)

  245. unless and until we can travel through time and observe events directly, of course.

  246. Dave W,

    Your test of travelling to every planet, every dimension, and every point in time would theoretically falsify certain types of intelligent design, but not intelligent design per se. The notion of an intelligent designer is pretty expansive, and includes beings that are outside of all those dimensions and not detectable by us. But even if we accept your test as a legitimate way to theoretically falsify ID, it still seems pretty clear that this is quite different from the empirical tests that can falsify models of pre-biotic evolution in the here and now. As such, it still seems like calling them both “conjecture” is serious equivocation on that word.

    Also, I’ve been a bit confused about your comments about mutation, but I think I see what you’re getting at – the old argument that plain ol’ random mutation is insufficient to explain the order we see in extant life. It’s been pointed out ad nauseum that, while mutations themselves are generally considered to be random with respect to fitness, the process of evolution by natural selection is anything but random. I don’t know if you’re falling into this same trap of considering evolution random, but it certainly is not (that doesn’t mean it’s directed to some specific end or goal though). The more common form of ID I hear is not about the mutations themselves, but about the intermediate forms that are necessary waypoints to what IDers consider to be “irreducibly complex” organs, tissues, etc. Every example I’m familiar with of an irreducibly complex biological structure has been thoroughly shot down by evolutionists and other biologists, so I don’t think that path is a very useful one to go down.

  247. also J, the examples of irreducible complexity commonly raised didn’t even need to be shot down to discredit ID. the idea that irreducible complexity = God is synonymous with “we can’t figure out how this happened, so it was God.” science says, “we can’t figure out how this happened, so, let’s try harder.”

  248. Wait, I’ve got it. From mostly browsing on another forum I know exactly what will get us 500 posts:

    9mm vs .45. Discuss.

    Thoreau, your post very nearly caused me to fall out of my chair from laughing.

  249. the idea that irreducible complexity = God is synonymous with “we can’t figure out how this happened, so it was God.” science says, “we can’t figure out how this happened, so, let’s try harder.”

    Exactly. I read Behe’s book 6 years ago. My first thought was that I know people working on self-assembly in biomolecules, and it seems rather early in the game to throw our hands up and declare that complex systems with many different molecules are impossible to understand in purely natural terms. Why surrender just when physicists and engineers are entering the game to bring in a whole new tool set and approach? That would be like surrendering just as your reinforcements arrive.

    mediageek-

    I’ve been reading TheFiringLine. I got some advice there before purchasing my Sig. And it didn’t take very long to figure out what the quagmires are.

  250. J,

    Every example I’m familiar with of an irreducibly complex biological structure…

    Even the very popular non-biological structure, the mousetrap, has been shot down.

  251. I like it. I think you should start a campaign in the U.S. saying that ID could be confirmed if we find aliens or could time travel. I can see the school board members lining up to support this idea now.

    Flying saucers? Time travel? Preposterous!

  252. FSM,

    We are sorry for our lack of faith. Take this painting as a gift so that your wrath might be assauged! πŸ™‚

    http://www.venganza.org/images/wallpapers/noodledoodle1024_768.jpg

  253. thoreau, never give up, never surrender. πŸ˜‰

  254. 1. by proving evolution, do you mean: (a) proving that genetic mutations caused speciation; (b) proving that *random* genetic mutations caused speciation; or (c) proving that *random* genetic mutations caused speciation and that these *random* mutations were based upon *random* staring conditions in the universe. My answer depends upon whether it is a or b or c or something else.

    2. For purposes of the present discussion, and for purposes of designing public school curricula, I do not believe or disbelieve in God, so in an important sense a premise of your question is faulty.

    I should have known you’d dodge a simple “yes” or “no” question with a two-paragraph, kung-fu style pretzel twist of intellectual denial.

    It must really suck to be the guy standing in line behind you at McDonald’s.

  255. “I’ve been reading TheFiringLine. I got some advice there before purchasing my Sig. And it didn’t take very long to figure out what the quagmires are.”

    Some people never leave the quagmires, ever. The big bullet debate, the 1911 vs everything else debate, the newer Glock vs. everything else debate, blah blah blah. Get some good use out of that Sig, okay?

  256. Jason Ligon,

    I find the discussions about terrorism (I never actually chat there) to be quite humorous.

  257. I forgot an important bullet point:

    – the idea of a 6000 year old Earth created in 7 24-hr days is highly unlikely from a scientific perspective.

    (in my defense, I forgot this bullet point because I was taught it twice during my actual education: in 7th grade at Catholic religous insttruction class; and then again in 10th grade biology. its a good bullet point and I am glad they were teaching it as far back as 1980)

  258. the idea of a 6000 year old Earth created in 7 24-hr days is highly unlikely from a scientific perspective

    That’s putting it, um, mildly.

  259. I’ve been reading TheFiringLine. I got some advice there before purchasing my Sig. And it didn’t take very long to figure out what the quagmires are.

    TFL is a great resource. That said, Jason is right, there are a lot of people out there who never seem to move beyond the whole “my favorite caliber/design/whathaveyou is The One True Demon Slayer, and all others came from K-Mart.”

    I just pretty much ignore those debates.

    Jason is also right about getting good use out of your SIG. A regularly fired gun is a happy gun.

    πŸ™‚

  260. well, I think by religous ed teacher might have said “total horseshit,” but she was using theological arguments (eg, God is not deceptive) to bolster her impressive science.

  261. thoreau,

    No, see, there is the possibility that all this evidence for the age of the Earth is merely the work of … you know … Satan! πŸ™‚

  262. A TRULY CRAZY IDEA ABOUT TYPE IIB SUPERGRAVITY AND HETEROTIC SIGMA MODELS.

    I went to check out the link because I was interigued by the title. Not the “truly crazy idea” part. But the “heterotic.” I figured that was like “homoerotic” but for heterosexuals: het-erotic. Plus there were “models” involved. And I’m vaguely aware that the word “sigma” is somehow related to very high quality. So what I’m expecting to find is hot, high-quality models.

    Well, I went to the site, and there’s not one damn thing in that paper that I understand. Plus, no pictures of hot, het-erotic models. Only about 8 pages of math symbols. I tried staring at the symbols to see if they were actually patterns that depict dirty pictures, like some kind of subliminal advertising, but no go.

    I am deeply disappointed.

    So much for scientific curiosity.

  263. Well, since Dave did not address my science or philosophical arguments but only my legal one I’ll comment on that. He said, after pointing out that he was taught about what Hindus believe and the history of the Reformation:

    “So here are my legal questions for the law man:
    How does this play out under the Lemon test? Do I get to sue the school and win?”

    Wow Dave, that is a very bad argument! I mean, certainly you see the difference between teaching that there are and were religious people who did X in history and teaching a religious idea FOR religious reasons. In Aguillard v. Edwards the Court found that the first prong of the Lemons test was violated because the reason the legislature wanted creationism taught was to advance religious ideas (a religious concept of creation and the existence of a ‘higher intelligence’ as you call it; and lets move away from aliens because we would have to figure out, empirically, how they got here as well). I’m betting the judge in Dover will find that the school board had a similar reason. In fact, you ADMIT that the concern that motivates IDers is that they MISTAKE evolutionary theory as proving there is no God. As I said, case closed legally.
    I wonder why you are so hung up on what is ok to be a theory versus just a conjecture. The question is this: what reason would we have to suppose that life was designed, as it is today (or not), by an intelligent force? No one can demonstrate this Designer’s existence. In fact, the evidence we have is INCONSISTENT with Design (things such as the Panda’s Thumb). The theory (idea, conjecture, whatever) of evolution was accepted and overthrew centuries of ID/Creationist ascendancy because the community of science just found it supported while the latter theory grew more and more untenable. You can read about this (unless you want to stay ‘agnostic’) in Edward Larsons recent book on the History of Evolution.

  264. I should note in fairness that the arguments that Dave did not make any attempt to address was on the thread about ID from last week, which I’ll cite here (dare I? Is linking two threads like crossing the streams in Ghostbusters? And does Dave believe we should talk about Ghosts in science class? I mean, we can’t prove they are NOT there now, but it could be falsifiable if we meet a magic unicorn that demonstrates Ghosts existence by waving its horn…):
    https://www.reason.com/hitandrun/2005/10/new_at_reason_801.shtml#comments

  265. I should note in fairness that the arguments that Dave did not make any attempt to address was on the thread about ID from last week, which I’ll cite here (dare I? Is linking two threads like crossing the streams in Ghostbusters? And does Dave believe we should talk about Ghosts in science class? I mean, we can’t prove they are NOT there now, but it could be falsifiable if we meet a magic unicorn that demonstrates Ghosts existence by waving its horn…):
    https://www.reason.com/hitandrun/2005/10/new_at_reason_801.shtml#comments

  266. mediageek-

    From talking to people, test firing, and reading, I figured out pretty quickly that (1) as long as you get something that’s reliable, the most important factor is not the model or caliber, it’s your how frequently and how well you practice. (2) If every responsible American owned a reliable firearm and practiced with it (and if the law allowed every responsible person the option of concealed carry), home invasions, muggings, and kidnappings would drop dramatically. And it wouldn’t matter whether we all owned .38 revolvers or 10 gauge semiauto shotguns.

  267. If everyone had a .303 Enfield, the world would be a better place.

  268. thoreau-

    I hope this doesn’t sound patronizing, but you get it. More so than a lot of people who’ve been shooting for a long time.

    The only thing I might add to your statement is that once you feel you are confident in your handling and shooting skills, go find some sort of competitive shooting that appeals to you, sally forth and check it out.

  269. 9mm are cooler.

  270. But I still prefer a 20 gauge side-by-side to just about anything else.

  271. Whew, glad I got in on the tail end of this learned pissing match. About ID, I mean. (Just doing my bit to reach 500.)

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