Science

Attack of the Super-Intelligent Purple Space Squid Creators

Debating evolution and intelligent design at FreedomFest 2008

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Below is a slightly cleaned up version of my remarks this past Saturday during the FreedomFest 2008 debate: "Is There Scientific Evidence for Intelligent Design in Nature?" The debate took place between Discovery Institute intelligent design proponents Stephen Meyer and George Gilder and evolutionary biology proponents Michael Shermer, the executive director of the Skeptic Society, and me.

Let me begin by acknowledging that the Discovery Institute website states: "Unlike creationism, the scientific theory of intelligent design is agnostic regarding the source of design and has no commitment to defending Genesis, the Bible or any other sacred text." So far so good.

Near the end of the silly new anti-evolution film, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed—in which fellow panelist Steve Meyer appeared—host Ben Stein asks Richard Dawkins, who is arguably the best-known living evolutionary biologist on the planet, if he could think of any circumstances under which intelligent design might have occurred. Incautiously, Dawkins brings up the idea that aliens might have seeded life on earth; so-called directed panspermia. This idea was suggested by biologists Francis Crick and Leslie Orgel back in the 1970s. In the film, Stein acts like this is a great "gotcha," like it's the silliest thing he's ever heard. Of course, the irony is that this is precisely what proponents of intelligent design are claiming—that a higher intelligence has repeatedly created life on earth.

So, since our esteemed opponents are agnostic with regard to the "source of design," and because intelligent design cannot rule out the hypothesis that super-intelligent purple space squids are not the "source of design" of life on earth, I will provisionally accept that hypothesis for the remainder of my talk.

As I understand it, intelligent design proponents—such as our distinguished Discovery Institute panelists here—fully accept the fact that the earth is around 4.5 billion years old and that some form of life has existed on earth for about 3 billion or so years. If that is the case, it would seem the record shows that the intelligent designers—which I am hypothesizing are super-intelligent purple space squids—evidently spent more than 2 billion years tinkering with single-cell algae and bacteria before they got around to creating multi-cellular species. Do intelligent design proponents have a theory to explain that? Were the space squid creators just lazy?

In addition, the record clearly shows that when more complex forms of life were created by super-intelligent purple space squids, they apparently arranged their creations in a specific order. Why did the purple space squids arrange the fossils in a sequence in which fish appear before amphibians which appear before reptiles which appear before mammals? And why did the purple space squids arrange 390 million years ago for the first amphibians to resemble Crossopterygian fish that were also alive at that time? These first amphibians had such characteristics as internal gills, fish-like skull bones, and—interestingly—eight digits just as the Crossopterygian fish did. Apparently our intelligent purple space squid creators (or whoever) found eight digits displeasing, and simply eliminated the extra three digits after they killed off the early amphibians and individually created thousands of later species of amphibians with only the now standard five digits.

Interestingly, the fossils of early reptiles—which the purple space aliens apparently created around 300 million years ago—were still rather amphibian-like in their overall structure. Their legs were splayed out sideways, bellies just barely lifted from the ground, tails dragging behind—in short, a salamander-like gait. Eventually, the creator aliens chose to produce tens of thousands of new reptile species which differed considerably from the old sticks-in-the-mud amphibians. Among their creations were much grander reptiles such as the impressively armor-plated stegosaurus (145 million years ago), and the massive apatosaurus (formerly brontosaurus), which measured 75 feet long and weighed 25 tons, and of course the largest land predator ever known, the 7-ton, 43-foot-long tyrannosaurus rex (65 million years ago).

Another puzzle—why is it that the super-intelligent purple space squid creators made the earliest mammals share so many characteristics with the therapsid reptile species that lived alongside them? Interestingly, researchers have now pieced together how the purple space squid created the mammalian inner ear over a period of 70 million years from reptilian jaw bones.

Starting with the mammal-like reptile Sphenacodon 270 million years, ago, purple space squid creators evidently spent the next 70 million years tinkering with the hinged reptilian jawbones. The squids shrank the bones, moving them back toward the ear holes in the skulls of some of the thousands of increasingly mammal-like species that squids were busy individually creating. Eventually the purple space squid creators ended up after 70 million years making a tiny mammalian-type critter called Hadrocodium which had a single jawbone (like mammals do today) and three middle-ear bones (like mammals do today). I am sure that intelligent design proponents will shortly explain why apparently intelligent purple space squid creators (or whatever creators they prefer) used this pathway for creating inner ear bones. Since, by definition, the purple space squids are intelligent and should know what they want in advance—what ID proponents call "complex specified information"—why did they piddle around so long and why not instead just create species with inner ear bones without generating a series of creatures through slow intermediate steps?

Which brings me to an even bigger puzzle—why, after going to all the trouble to finally populate the earth with millions of magnificent species, did the purple space squid creators (or whichever creator design proponents prefer) apparently allow either a five-mile wide asteroid to hit the Earth, or a huge outbreak of volcanic eruptions, or both, to wipe out at least 50 percent of the species—including the dinosaurs—living 65 million years ago? In fact, something worse occurred 250 million years ago when some event, possibly also an asteroid strike, destroyed 95 percent of all living species.

Of course, there is an alternative hypothesis that intelligent design proponents—such as the distinguished representatives from the Discovery Institute on the panel here—might fruitfully want to explore. That hypothesis is that the purple space alien squid creators actually caused asteroids to strike the earth in order to wipe the biological and ecological slate clean so that they could start over.

Perhaps like a thrifty artist who whites out an earlier painting on a canvas in order to create a masterpiece, the purple space squids destroyed most of life on earth in order to make room for new creations. Interestingly, the creator squids seem subject to a strange kind of creative conservatism. Their new, post-extinction, individually created species looked very much like earlier created species that apparently survived the massive extinction events. What hypothesis do intelligent design proponents offer to explain this interesting observation of creative conservatism? Purple space squids appear to be progressive creationists: They bring species into existence over and over again, forming each species so that it bears a striking resemblance to a species that has just gone extinct.

I have been using the phrase individually created species throughout my talk. Why? Because intelligent design proponents—such as Steve Meyer and George Gilder here on the panel—insist that micro-evolution, which I take to mean any evolutionary change below the level of species, cannot lead to macroevolution, which I take to mean any evolutionary change at or above the level of species—which means at least the splitting of a species into two new species.

Since micro-evolution, according to ID proponents such as Steve and George, cannot lead to the creation of new species, then the purple space squid creators (or whomever) must create each new species individually. Trying to figure out how super-intelligent space alien creators go about creating individual species would be a fascinating question for intelligent design researchers to look into. Do the squid creators somehow tweak genes while embryos are developing in their eggs or in their mother's wombs? Or do they work at the level of sperm and eggs before conception? Would the space squid creators use radiation to do this? Or chemical mutations? Or errors in genetic transcription? What's their favorite method for producing new species? And most crucially, how would whatever processes the purple space squid have used to create tens of millions of new species over billions of years differ from the natural processes suggested by evolutionary biology?

And there is yet another puzzle. Conservative super-intelligent purple space squid creators apparently recycle genes over and over again in new species. Biologists have found that many genes are like Animal Kingdom cassettes or Lego blocks: They can be mixed and matched across vastly different species. For example, biologists have shown that a gene crucial to building a fruit fly's eye—the Pax-6 gene—will trigger eye development in a frog and a mouse.

In addition, now that both the human and mouse genomes have been sequenced, researchers know that 99 percent of mouse genes are similar to those found in humans. Even more amazingly, 96 percent of the genes in both mice and men are present in the same order on their different genomes. Why would this be? A fascinating question for intelligent design researchers to answer is what constrains the super-intelligent purple space squid creators (or any other intelligent creator) to use the same genes over and over again in millions of species?

And here's another minor curiosity: Why did the purple space squids design humans so that we need to eat foods like oranges that provide us with vitamin C? Without vitamin C people die of the deficiency disease scurvy. It turns out that the super-intelligent squids created nearly all other mammals so that they have genes—including the GLO gene—that synthesize this vitamin in their livers. Biologists have discovered that when the purple space squids created us, they for some reason left a broken remnant of the GLO gene in our genomes. There is one group of mammals that share our inability to make vitamin C —orangutans, gorillas, chimpanzees, and macques all have broken GLO genes. Even more interestingly, biologists have found that gorillas and chimpanzees have exactly the same errors in their GLO genes that people do. So why did the purple space squids create those species along with us with exactly the same errors so that they and we could not produce vitamin C?

One other consideration: Are the intelligent designers—the super-intelligent purple space squids—finished creating new species? Are they resting from their creative labors for now? What evidence would show that intelligent designers are still at work creating new species around us? And how would we know?

The point of the foregoing is that intelligent design proponents do not have good answers to the questions I have posed. But evolutionary biologists do. In his new book, Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America's Soul, Brown University biologist Kenenth Miller argues, "Design rests ultimately on the claim of ignorance, upon the hope that science cannot show evolution to be capable of producing complex organs, assemblies of molecules, or novel biological information. If evolution cannot achieve that, the argument goes, then design must be the answer.

"Since any field of biology, including evolution, is filled with unsolved problems, intelligent design can be invoked as the default explanation for any one of them," adds Miller. "The hypothesis of design is compatible with any conceivable data, makes no testable predictions, and suggests no new avenues of research."

Ultimately, the intelligent design hypothesis just leaves everything up to the ineffable whims of the moral equivalent of super-intelligent purple space squids or whoever else is the alleged "source of design."

One addendum: During his presentations, Gilder claimed several times that evolutionary biology somehow undermined the notions of freedom and economics. He just couldn't seem to get his head around the concept of bottom-up order. This so frustrated me that I eventually quipped, "Intelligent design is to evolutionary biology what socialism is to free-market economics."

Ronald Bailey is reason's science correspondent. His book Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution is now available from Prometheus Books.

Disclosure: I want to gratefully confess that I took many of the arguments I used in the debate from Kenneth Miller's interesting new book.

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  1. Oh your god!

    Another ID thread.

    Going to make popcorn.

  2. Ronald Bailey takes aim at the evidence that allegedly proves intelligent design in nature.

    Jeez Ron,
    That’s like going hunting at the zoo.

  3. I predict an evolution toward hypertext links embedded in human speech.

  4. That’s a hell of a lot of words to shoot down something so stupid.

  5. Back with the popcorn now.

    Come on Fundy nutjobs start with the entertainment!

  6. Here’s the simple question to ask creationists:
    If creationism (by whatever name you are calling it this year) were wrong, how would we know?

    BTW, P.J. O’Rourke used your quip a few years ago to describe China’s development of Shanghai as being, not a evolutionist market economy where survival is based on fitness, but “a creationist development where the city’s greatness was bestowed by a higher power. The city was literally ordered to be great.”

  7. The bottom line, ID is not a scientific theory, it doesn’t have compelling evidence, verifiable hypothesis or treads for further investigation.
    If North America wants to keep its status as a world power in science all attempts of teaching ID in schools should be overruled without political deliberations.

  8. I’m going with Idiotic Design.

    If the creator(s) were so smart, why did they put the playground next to the sewer?

  9. This is one reason to be wary of school vouchers that can be used at any school. A shocking number of people either believe this stuff is real or believe that it is a scientific equal to evolutionary biology and thus worthy of equal time in schools. If you don’t believe me, head out of the large metropolitan areas and have conversations with people.

  10. This is one reason to be wary of school vouchers that can be used at any school. A shocking number of people either believe this stuff is real or believe that it is a scientific equal to evolutionary biology and thus worthy of equal time in schools.

    This is a reason to support school vouchers. With school vouchers, these people send their children to schools where ID is taught. Without vouchers, they send ID to the schools where their children are taught.

  11. If the creator(s) were so smart, why did they put the playground next to the sewer?

    The sewer is also a playground, hater.

  12. Back when I worked as a Mexican (planting trees, etc.), I had a coworker who laughed at me when I said I believed in evolution. Of course, he did have a Pittsburgh Steelers deadhead tattoo, so I think it’s safe to say that he’s worse than me in every possible way. But it still bothers me to see such joyful idiocy.

    Regarding Ron Bailey’s speech: you might have gotten the point across just as well by rolling your eyes, laughing, and making the jerkoff motion for 10 minutes. These creationists get far too much respect.

  13. So the ID’ers basically subscribe to David Brin’s Uplift scenario. Who are our patrons? Why did they abandon us? Why do the Tandu hate us?

  14. The sewer is also a playground

    A turd and two tampon strings make a terrible swing-set.

    If you think that makes me an elitist, I can live with that.

  15. thedifferentphil said:

    This is one reason to be wary of school vouchers that can be used at any school. A shocking number of people either believe this stuff is real or believe that it is a scientific equal to evolutionary biology and thus worthy of equal time in schools. If you don’t believe me, head out of the large metropolitan areas and have conversations with people.

    So what? I’m not sure why I should care if (other people’s) kids are taught ID, as long as it is with the parent’s consent. Even on my dime. Publicly funded education is meant (at a minimum) to make people functionally literate. Teaching ID is not contrary to that goal.

    Kids in religiously oriented schools don’t spend all day in Bible study. And they don’t spend all day in Biology. Far from it.

  16. A turd and two tampon strings make a terrible swing-set.

    NutraSweet, I wish I was perverted enough to understand this. Please explain.

  17. David Brin’s Uplift scenario

    This is really where the ID movement is revealed as a Christian sham. If all they are talking about is evidence of intelligent guidance of species adaptation, then Von Daniken is just as valid as their precious Yahweh.

  18. (sewer = playground) -> substandard playground equipment made with items found in a sewer

  19. Sugarfree, my mind went far kinkier than that as well. I am deeply ashamed.

  20. You need to expand your sexual horizons, NutraSweet. Experiment, put things where they had never been before.

  21. Epi,

    Your spacedocking fetish is giving this whole blog a bad name.

  22. from Kenneth Brown’s interesting new book

    Kenneth Brown, or Kenneth Miller?

  23. I prefer to do strawberry shortcake. It’s the violent thug in me.

  24. “The patriarchy didn’t come around until after farming was invented.”

    I’m going to go play tennis. I’ve won the last 8 sets straight. I’m unstoppable.

  25. Somewhere, even R. Kelly went “yuck!”

  26. I’m going to go play tennis. I’ve won the last 8 sets straight. I’m unstoppable.

    You should get outside and get off the Wii.

    Last night I went to practice my serve and every fucking court was occupied. Annoying.

  27. Nah, my work wife had a kid back in January, and she’s still not up to speed yet. It’s hotter than Zues’ balls outside, but I’ll still whoop on her.

  28. but I’ll still whoop on her.

    For some reason, I envision you looking like the dude from Balls of Fury.

  29. Hey, let’s have much more mammalian earbone shit in Hit & Run, from now on. And I’m afraid it’s Kenneth Miller from Brown, not Kenneth Brown from Miller (my alma mater– go mealie bugs!)

  30. Creationists are just trying to be missionaries when they argue about evolution. They just want to hit on a way to bamboozle enough simple minded folk to accept the Bible and won’t be convinced by any counter arguments.

  31. I’m going to get crapped on, but…

    I don’t find the idea of ID to be all that offensive. Is the problem that ID’ers say that their “scientific theory” is somehow more rigorous than the theory of evolution? Because if that’s the case, I totally agree with Ron.

    But for people of faith (faith in Jesus, Yahweh, or purple space squid thingies) to say that there was some kind of design in the origin of life on earth, well, why not? Or that evolution gradually proceeded according to some kind of plan (albeit a pretty fucked up one)? Of course, it could be a complete accident too.

    Maybe I don’t know enough about the current theory of intelligent design. As I understand things, it doesn’t seem to conflict with evolution in any way that concerned parents couldn’t resolve with a little ID-themed sunday school.

  32. taz- ID (which isn’t a “theory” sensu stricto) violates the principle of parsimony and additionally suggested examples of “irreducibly complex” structures have been shown to not actually be irreducibly complex. It’s a hypothesis that at best doesn’t add anything useful to the discussion as of yet. At worst, it’s a thinly-disguised version of creationism.

    That said, Ron’s essay (of which I’ve only read the first part, admittedly) is largely a strawman relative to Behe’s version of ID. I haven’t read all the various versions of ID because it’s philosophically invalid on its face, and I don’t want to waste my time.

  33. taz

    If you don’t invoke a deity at some point, ID turns into an infinite regression.

    i.e: Where did the super-intelligent beings come from?

  34. Purple Space Squid? You mean it’s not a Flying Spaghetti Monster???
    JMR

  35. I, for one, welcome our new super-intelligent purple space squid overlords.

  36. If you don’t invoke a deity at some point, ID turns into an infinite regression.

    i.e: Where did the super-intelligent beings come from?

    Where did “God” come from? That question was my first step on the hell bound journey to atheism.

  37. innominate – Thanks. I have now added “parsimony” to my vocabulary. It’s a damn fine word. I don’t intend to devote much time to researching ID, because in my experience, evolution is really only disturbing to the breed of post-reformation fundamentalists that populate much of the Midwest. Unfortunately, I don’t feel free from my agnostic struggles just yet.

    Aresen – I agree. However, I feel like I run into the same problem when I ask where matter (or electrons, leptons, etc.) came from. That certainly doesn’t prove intelligence, but it is a similar problem, I think.

  38. Astute note about on the addendum.

    I always found that weird about right-wing creationists in general and George Gilder in particular. Somehow it is so easy and obvious to believe that a market can self-organize on an emergent basis, but they insist that biolgy must have a central planner.

  39. damn you kent brockman!

    ID is ridiculous, but i would have much less of a problem if the theory was that some spacesquid ‘invented’ the process of evolution

    its not falsifiable but it makes sense to me. shit had to start somewhere, according to physics

  40. Bailey, great speech. You presented an excellent agrument in favor of evolution. On the science, you are 100% right. The ID proponents see evolution as a threat to capitalism and other freedoms, because of the way politicians have historically used evolution to justify socialist or communist policies. If you mention that you believe our freedoms are fundamental rights and not based on scientific theories, you will nullify this concern. Mentioning your support for school choice and parental rights will undo some of the damage Dawkins does when compains about Sunday schools. Thanks for educating people about evolution. Good luck in future debates.

  41. JMR – don’t listen to them. Pastafari intelligently designed the planet in the image of his favorite meatball.

  42. The writer of this piece is an obvious amateur. Otherwise he would have known that one of his key arguments (re: GLO/GULO “pseudogene” = common descent) has long since been refuted by further studies. For more, consult the following website:

    http://www.detectingdesign.com/pseudogenes.html

  43. J sub D | July 15, 2008, 5:34pm | #

    If you don’t invoke a deity at some point, ID turns into an infinite regression.

    i.e: Where did the super-intelligent beings come from?

    Where did “God” come from? That question was my first step on the hell bound journey to atheism.

    Considering the number of my friends that are thus “hell bound”, I’d say that the afterlife, if there is one, is going to see one of the best libertarian gatherings since Chicago. 😉

  44. In all seriousness, ID was kind of a policital fad… hasn’t that kind of faded?

  45. I’ve always thought George Gilder was a bit of a moron.

    Now I’ve got proof.

  46. Intelligent people should be able to simply ignore the ID morons, in the same way we ignore flat-earthers and believers in a geocentric planetary system.

    Unfortunately, if we ignore them, they break out of their padded cells and take over the asylum.

    I recently read Richard K. Morgan’s ‘Thirteen’ and was amused by the idea of the sane states seceding from ‘Jesusland’. It’s childish, but sometimes I wish we really could just leave the True Believers to stew in their own ignorance… in another country entirely.

    … which, of course, is why the Middle East is such a mess. Maybe that’s not such a good idea.

  47. twistedmerkin: Thanks. It’s fixed now.

  48. Ron,

    Nice speech. How did the overall debate go? Were your esteemed opponents as intelligent as ID is in general?

  49. Hmmm….

    Seems that my grammar and spelling are lacking in intelligent design.

  50. Joel, darling. As much as I hate to give you the satisfaction of responding to your post . . .

    In science one does not begin with one’s conclusion (e.g., Yahweh created the universe) and massage the evidence (and the method) to support that conclusion.

    Ronald Bailey is not an amateur. But you — as a mere MD at play in the fields of the real scientific powerhouses — are definitely a poseur.

    There’s a child with a cough out there who needs you. Go attend to him and leave the adults to move humanity forward.

  51. Ron would have improved his argument by citing this recent finding regarding Tasmanian devils.

    http://sciencenow.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/2008/714/1

    the findings would make the devil the first known mammal to rapidly evolve its reproductive patterns in response to a disease.

    http://people.bu.edu/wwildman/ben/tassie/taz.jpg

  52. This is a f***ing useless debate. The evolution-creationist arguments are never going to end because the creationists don’t have any real goal except to piss off the evolutionists. They do, they’re happy, they’ll keep up the attack because it costs them nothing and garners infinite egoboo.

    Let’s just ignore them. When asked to debate an ID supporter, require that that person have (paying) patents for biological or medical products produced by creationist methods. Specify that pro-ID debators must have advanced degrees in relevent scientific subjects — biology, for example, instead of law or architecture. Demand to see the financial records of pharmaceutical firms producing marketable products by ID-based technologies. Etc. Etc. Etc.

  53. I have no idea why “macro” evolution is more or less of a threat to the existence of God than “micro” is.

    Why can’t this be the truce: Darwinists agree that evolution does not disprove God or render him unnecessary in the grand scheme of things, and IDers agree that evolution is best studied as natural selection acting on variation, and we all came from a common ancestor.

    The fact is, in a deterministic universe such as ours, which “random” organism was going to win which “random” contest for survival was already programmed into the laws of physics, as they were set by the big bang.

    So there really is no randomness. Evolution is no threat to God. But, the study of evolution doesn’t require us to invoke God at any point, or to deny the role of Natural Selection in all evolutionary processes.

    The only role I see for the existence of God to play within the study of evolution is to give us the knowledge that amazingly unlikely things are liable to happen in pursuit of the evolution of life, if it’s part of God’s plan. However, a nonbeliever could equally chock these miracles up to the Anthropic Principle.

  54. Mike,

    The problem with ignoring creationists is that whether we like it or not, they have substantial influence over policy in some parts of the country and are bent of expanding that base of power. The American public is already grossly uninformed on the realities of modern biology and if people like Ron Bailey (and Shermer, of whom I’m also a big fan) don’t speak out against these ideas then they’re only going to spread their influence further.

  55. Nick M,

    That’s not a principle, it is a “selection effect”, and it requires a unobservable multiverse to justify it.

    The Anthropic Principle was put forth by physicist Brandon Carter, in Krakow Poland, in 1973 as a “Line of [ ideological ] reasoning”, “a reaction against conscious and subconscious – anticentrist dogma”, which leads to absurdities by ideologically predisposed scientists.

    He was talking about counter-reaction-ism among scientists against old historical beliefs about geocentricism and creationism that causes them to automatically dismiss any relevance to features of the universe that also permit our existence, and this leads to equally absurd theoretical extensions for an expectation of mediocrity and meaninglessness that do not agree with the direct observation. It isn’t hard to understand why this would be the case, given the relentless pressure that scientists are constantly put under by their ideological adversaries, but it is just as obvious that this common reaction-ism is bad for science when it causes scientists to become consciously ignorant of facts that they wrongly perceive to support creationism. Which is something to think about the next time that you hear someone make the righteous claim that science isn’t political, because science doesn’t work that way. While the statement may be necessarily-true, in of itself, Carter’s point is that it isn’t generally true of scienTISTS, which are a whole nother ideologically warped ball-o-wax, and that’s got to be the understatement of the new millennium, contrary to the highly vocal denial by scientists.

    Carter’s example was as follows:

    “Unfortunately, there has been a strong and not always subconscious tendency to extend this to a most questionable dogma to the effect that our situation cannot be privileged in any sense. This dogma (which in its most extreme form led to the “perfect cosmological principle” on which the steady state theory was based) is clearly untenable, as was pointed out by Dicke (Nature 192, 440, 1961).”
    -Brandon Carter

    How Carter’s point applies, including the strength of the statement, depends on the cosmological model that is being assumed, so the mediocrity of Brandon Carter’s own multiverse application differs from what is actually observed, because the closest actual natural approximation to what is observed to be in effect is a biocentric cosmological structure principle, which produces a Goldilocks Enigma of commonly balanced Habitable Zones that appear over a very specifically defined region of the observed universe.

    It would appear that “being privileged in some sense” means that we are only as privileged as the next galaxy over within the intergalactic habitable zone of the observed universe, so there is no established reason to claim that the principle is strictly anthropic. The fact that this still isn’t commonly known, proves that Carter’s point is even more true and applicable today than it was in 1973, except that the AP is itself also now the target of the very politicians of science who are interested only in abusing the physics to their own selfish end, and regardless of the lack of integrity that this generates when scientists intentionally or otherwise suppress information that appears to support the creationists argument.

    Carter’s statement gives a certain level of real scientific credence to the point of Ben Stein’s movie, in other words, so I wouldn’t advise “non-believers” to fall-back on anthropic selection unless they have a complete theory to back it up.

  56. Die Wahrheit writes: “In science one does not begin with one’s conclusion (e.g., Yahweh created the universe) and massage the evidence (and the method) to support that conclusion.”

    TELL THAT TO THE HIGH PRIESTS (in this case, Richard Dawkins) OF THE TEMPLE OF DARWIN:

    “In 2005 online magazine ‘Edge The World Question Centre’ posed the following question to a number of scientific intellectuals: ‘What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?’ Dawkins revealingly answered: ‘I believe that all life, all intelligence, all creativity and all ‘design’ anywhere in the universe, is the direct or indirect product of Darwinian natural selection.'”

    http://www.iscid.org/papers/Williams_GodDelusionReview_02012007.pdf

  57. Because, Joel, the existing evidence supports that contention. Do you have any evidence that Dawkins started with that conclusion in mind and worked to torture the evidence to support it?

  58. The fact is, in a deterministic universe such as ours, which “random” organism was going to win which “random” contest for survival was already programmed into the laws of physics, as they were set by the big bang.

    So there really is no randomness. Evolution is no threat to God. But, the study of evolution doesn’t require us to invoke God at any point, or to deny the role of Natural Selection in all evolutionary processes.

    Nick M, you appear to be about a century behind in your knowledge of physics.

  59. stuartl | July 16, 2008, 1:28pm | #

    Nick M, you appear to be about a century behind in your knowledge of physics.

    I assume you are saying that Quantum Mechanics describes an indeterministic universe.

    But, if we allow that Quantum Mechanics applies to observers as well as to what they observe, and there’s no logical reason not to, then what Quantum Mechanics describes is not an indeterministic universe, but a deterministic multiverse.

  60. There are also treatments of QM that are strictly deterministic, like those that Gerard ‘t Hooft has published, not to mention the fact that Schrodinger’s equations are also strictly deterministic.

    You have to be very careful to distinguish the difference between unproven or semi-established assumptions that the cutting edge works from, and what is actually known.

    It is a big mistake to assume that this has been settled without a final theory.

  61. Bailey’s comments about ID are, of course, on the mark. Obviously, postulating intelligent design is an unscientific and unverifiable answer to the question of life on earth, which is why it is rejected out of hand. However, evelution theory itself, while it is the best explanation of the observed fact, is unsatisfactory in at least one regard.

    In all other scientific disciplines, water runs downhill and all systems tend to run out of energy. Only in evolutionary biology does the opposite happen. Unless we engage in magical thinking, somehow energy is put into the system.

  62. Roughton – ever heard of the sun?

  63. Roughton – ever heard of the sun?

    Game, set, and match.

  64. In all other scientific disciplines, water runs downhill and all systems tend to run out of energy. Only in evolutionary biology does the opposite happen. Unless we engage in magical thinking, somehow energy is put into the system.

    Y’know, this one is trivially easy. It seems to be an ID/creation science favorite, though.

    Life operates by taking ordered energy (sunlight, mostly) and transforming it into disordered energy (heat). Whatever order organisms have comes from the ordered energy of sunlight, but it is more than balanced by the disorder in the final product (heat).

    Besides which, entropy must only increase in a closed system. Which the earth is not; the sun inputs energy, and the earth radiates energy into space. And if you grant the existence of a transcendent God, then even the universe is not a closed system. So give up the entropy argument, guys; it doesn’t work, unless the people you’re trying to convince don’t know anything about science.

  65. All the article proves is that some intelligent design proponents aren’t very good at defending their theory.

    What if they posited an alien space geek video game programmer, who created the whole “Earth and Mankind” game about 6,000 years ago, complete with embedded evidence to make it look like the universe was 14 billion years old and life had been evolving for the past 2 or 3 billion years.

    If life is created randomly in nature, why does every living species share the same basic program?

  66. Craig –

    If life is created randomly in nature, why does every living species share the same basic program?

    common ancestry

    you have a fundamental misunderstanding – mutations are random, which mutations are preserved and increase in frequency is usually not random

  67. Nick M,

    Nice wiki-ing, but the math works out such that quantum behavior in this universe is uncertain.

  68. the innominate one writes: “Because, Joel, the existing evidence supports that contention. Do you have any evidence that Dawkins started with that conclusion in mind and worked to torture the evidence to support it?”

    So Dawkins uses evidence to enhance the credibility of his FAITH. Same approach as Creationists. Interesting.

    And yes, it is quite obvious that Dawkins leans on Darwin to help him feel good about his atheist faith committments:

    “…although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.”

    Dawkins, Richard , “The Blind Watchmaker,” [1986], Penguin: London, 1991, reprint, p.6.

  69. What Dawkins personally believes is irrelevant to the factuality of evolution. If evidence pointed away from evolution, Dawkins would have to abandon his belief (which is more like “opinion” in this context).

    Creationists frequently dishonestly distort facts, quotes, evidence, etc. to support their particular interpretation of the Genesis creation story and ignore the thousands of other creation stories from other religious traditions.

    Francis Collins, the head of the Human Genome Project, is a Christian who believes in evolution.

  70. I think that Dawkin’s belief can be independently verified by a complete theory:

    http://www.lns.cornell.edu/spr/2006-02/msg0073320.html

  71. the innominate one writes: “What Dawkins personally believes is irrelevant to the factuality of evolution. If evidence pointed away from evolution, Dawkins would have to abandon his belief (which is more like “opinion” in this context).”

    There is a huge body of evidence that points away from Darwin’s ToE. What do you think Creation and (to a lesser extent) ID Scientists have been pointing out all this time?

    the innominate one further writes: “Creationists frequently dishonestly distort facts, quotes, evidence, etc. to support their particular interpretation of the Genesis creation story and ignore the thousands of other creation stories from other religious traditions.”

    There are bad apples and people who make mistakes in both camps. Indeed, the list of liars and frauds for evolution is quite long. Should this then be used as grounds to throw out the ToE?

    Finally, why should Christian and Jewish Creation scientists pay attention to “thousands” of other creation stories? They are testing the scientific merits of one particular creation account–the one (primarily) contained in the Book of Genesis.

  72. In all other scientific disciplines, water runs downhill and all systems tend to run out of energy. Only in evolutionary biology does the opposite happen. Unless we engage in magical thinking, somehow energy is put into the system.

    One of the all time best creationist arguments, showing clearly that creationists do not believe in air conditioning.

    There is a huge body of evidence that points away from to Darwin’s ToE.

    True, sadly virtually none of it is in peer reviewed, scientific journals.

    Indeed, the list of liars and frauds for evolution is quite long.

    Go for it.

    Joel, which kind of creationist are you? Young earth or old earth? Do you accept micro-evolution? Do you accept that genotype leads to phenotype? Do you accept that errors occur during gene transcription?

    Tell the truth, is there any possible evidence that would get you to accept evolution and modern biology?

  73. There are bad apples and people who make mistakes in both camps.

    Okay, so let’s take that as a given. After excluding arguments about bad actors on both sides, what we’re left with is:

    1) Evolution: a theory that explains the available evidence, is falsifiable, and has proven to have considerable predictive power in the field, versus

    2) Creationism/ID: a just-so story that fails to explain the available evidence, lacks falsifiability, and has shown, to date, no predictive power whatsoever.

    If you want to believe #2, that’s your perogative, but please don’t pretend that what you’re doing is anything like science.

  74. There is a huge body of evidence that points away from Darwin’s ToE. What do you think Creation and (to a lesser extent) ID Scientists have been pointing out all this time?

    no, there isn’t. various points have been addressed and usually debunked on endless evolution sites. what’s been pointed out is frequently shown to be ridiculous nonsense. see the comment above on “water flowing downhill”.

    the list of liars and frauds for evolution is quite long

    I’d like to see just some of that list. If you include Piltdown man hoaxes and the like, I’d like to point out that scientists debunked Piltdown man using the scientific method, not by reading the Bible.

    They are testing the scientific merits of one particular creation account–the one (primarily) contained in the Book of Genesis.

    No, they’re not testing it, they’re accumulating evidence to try to prove it, it being their particular interpretation of the Genesis creation story, which they’ve already decided a priori must be true. Other Christians and Jews have other interpretations.

  75. Bailey does not give any evidence for a non intelligent way to achieve the obvious design of livng things by mutations, random variations and natural selection. He does not like the way the designer did it, but does not prove the current Darwinian paradigm. He has not given any reason to accept the Darwinian Theory, only he has tried to ridicule his own version of ID. (That is called the straw man fallacy). There are so many problems with Darwin that only a “true believer” can accept it. I once posted ten reasons Darwinism could not be true on a pro-Darwin website and got a few feeble rebuttals and then my post was taken down so true believers could not be contaminated. They had no answer to my problems with Darwin.
    ID is not just about evolution, it is also about big bang cosmology, the fine tuning of the universe, the code of dna, the creation of life and finally the failure of Darwin to explain the purposeness of life. The big bang as currently believed, is the first event in time. There is no infinite regress of causes. The physical laws that govern the universe seem fine tuned so that galaxies and life can exist. The simplest life has factories to make proteins, a Fed-ex dept to package and ship as well as pick up for disposal, a power plant, a membrane to admit wanted materiel and bar unwanted, a governing body to regulate all this activity etc. Anything simpler is parasitic and cannot be the first life. The code of DNA is not just a chemical reaction, any more than a code written out is just a reaction of ink to paper. As I previously stated Darwinism has failed. All these point to an intelligence.
    If Bailey is so sure Darwin can explain the life evolved, I will be glad to post my problems with Darwinian evolution for his rebuttal.

  76. Creationism and all its variants new as well as old – disguised or open – institute in Seattle or elsewhere – deserve contempt for all the lies and trickery that are their stock in trade. These sham debates are good for only one thing to voice a scientist’s contempt for such trickery. Bailey did the right thing by dismissing the devious proponents of creationism’s latest variant. Scientists have compared creationism and ID and found several points of difference all of which are superficial. Here is one more. Creationism uses the active voice – “You Know Who did it”

    ID uses the passive – “It has been done/created/designed”.

    To users of science both statements invite scrutiny. If indeed “it has been done” the next step is to find who did it. Bailey outlines an excellent research program – and that’s where we shopuld direct our energies. Let’s leave the neo-creos to wallow in their self-pity.

  77. We are the only idiotic country that wastes time with stupid debates like this. The future does not bode well for a bunch of fools who can’t even discern ID and the theory of evolution.

  78. Honestly, I think the science heads and the god heads live together in a very small and limited basket.
    Science has no more Proof of the start of the universe than some backwards power abusing follower of the holy church from 1,000 years ago.
    Well they can show you “Proof” that that itself has yet to be proven and to prove that you can use this theory, which of course is theory and not proven in the least.

    Sciences holds today life and not spontaneously generate … and it also holds that the start of life spontaneously generated. If it can Prove it. Until then scientist you lose, after all those are YOUR rules.

    As for religions / faiths / whatnot they can’t prove their points at all. However, their points are based in belief so all they have to do is . . . . believe.

    In the end their both just beliefs, but the religious people know this and the scientific people do not.

    However, this idea or development of the use of science to prove god is quite an odd twist.

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