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Tilting at Windmills

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January 11, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

INTELLIGENT DESIGN UPDATE....The El Tejon Unified School District has approved a new class:

An initial course description, which was distributed to students and their families last month, said "the class will take a close look at evolution as a theory and will discuss the scientific, biological and biblical aspects that suggest why Darwin's philosophy is not rock solid. The class will discuss Intelligent Design as an alternative response to evolution. Physical and chemical evidence will be presented suggesting the Earth is thousands of years old, not billions."

The course, which began Jan. 3 and is scheduled to run for one month, is being taught by Sharon Lemburg, a special education teacher with a bachelor of arts in physical education and social science.

And just how are school officials planning to apply a gloss of secular lipstick to this transparently religious pig? Why, it's a philosophy class, they say, not a science class.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Maybe both. But it does go to show that the real divide in California is not the famous one between north and south, it's the less well known one between coastal and inland. Drive a hundred miles into the interior of the state, and you might as well be in Mississippi.

Kevin Drum 1:46 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (331)

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Comments

I get your point, but perhaps you haven't been to Mississippi lately.

Posted by: chris brandow on January 11, 2006 at 1:50 AM | PERMALINK

Sigh.

So, who's going to sue the school district?

Posted by: Rad Racer on January 11, 2006 at 1:53 AM | PERMALINK

Heh... I was just going to ask if Kevin had ever been to Mississippi.

I'd guess that the better parts of any town over, say, 25,000 people could pass for anonymous strip-mall-dom, as long as you don't talk to anyone over 30 for more than five or ten minutes. Beyond that, though, it's bleak as hell; I only really plan on going back for funerals at this point.

Posted by: latts on January 11, 2006 at 1:55 AM | PERMALINK

Ahh, this is happening in cosmopolitan Lebec, CA.

Posted by: Rad Racer on January 11, 2006 at 1:56 AM | PERMALINK

Disclaimer: although to be fair, we did in fact learn evolution properly in my Mississippi public school in the early/mid-eighties. Our biology teacher was religious enough to know that she was teaching science classes instead of Sunday school, and if we'd had a philosophy class of any kind, a coach probably would have taught it & no one would have learned a thing.

Posted by: latts on January 11, 2006 at 1:58 AM | PERMALINK

As a matter of fact, Mississippi is one of the few states I've never had the pleasure of visiting. But I just pulled it out of a hat anyway. My only point was that inland California is as red as any red state out there.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on January 11, 2006 at 2:07 AM | PERMALINK

Well, if it's a philosophy class, where's the philosophy?

Because Darwin's Theory (theories, rather) aren't philosophy, so saying they aren't rock solid in the class description is a perjorative...

...Which once again, isn't philosophy. It's theology.

Posted by: Crissa on January 11, 2006 at 2:12 AM | PERMALINK

San Bernadino Co and Riverside Co - the two 100 miles inland from Kevin - gave Bush 56 & 58% of the vote.

Utah gave him 72%.

It's not quite so bad out that way.

Posted by: hopeless pedant on January 11, 2006 at 2:16 AM | PERMALINK

You should have used Tennessee or (I'm embarrassed to say) Pennsylvania. PA's rural/urban divide is even worse than California's.

Posted by: joe on January 11, 2006 at 2:23 AM | PERMALINK

Um, she's "a special education teacher with a bachelor of arts in physical education and social science."

Questions:

A. There aren't enough special needs kids that she's got spare time to teach this?

B. What do those degrees offer in terms of qualifications to teach a comparative course like the one suggested?

Posted by: Linkmeister on January 11, 2006 at 2:26 AM | PERMALINK

I wonder if they are going to accurately discuss the science that is done to determine that the earth is much older than thousands of years. I'm particularly interested in whether they discuss the error in the experiments. I've talked to a young earth creationist that only says the experiments aren't exact as if they are really are as error prone as they would need to be for the earth to be only a few thousand years old.

It seems as though there should at least be some objective oversight when discussing the science behind some of the experiments done. The science is so much stronger than it's given credit by the young earth creationists--hell, even most ID advocates don't accept the young earth hypothesis. And there is little discussion of the actual speciation that has been directly observed for plants as well as animals.

My favorite reason for dinosaur bones by a young earth creationist: The devil put them in the earth to confuse us.

Posted by: gq on January 11, 2006 at 2:26 AM | PERMALINK

And just how are school officials applying a gloss of secular lipstick to this transparently religious pig?

How is it religious to question the truth of evolution? One of the big problems in evolution theory (and it is only a theory) is the irreducible complexity of organisms and in particular human beings. Evolution is simply random chance and randomness by itself could not have produced systems of such great complexity.

Posted by: Al on January 11, 2006 at 2:27 AM | PERMALINK

So the class is only a month long - I couldn't find mention that it wasn't just a before school 'class' that was optional (do they really have 1 month classes there?).

I think this would be acceptable, provided the teacher was not on the payroll while doing it. It would be like a club, for which the only 'sponsorship' the school would provide would be the classroom.

What really got me though was this:

With one exception, the suit asserts, "the course relies exclusively on videos that advocate religious perspectives and present religious theories as scientific ones -- and because the teacher has no scientific training, students are not provided with any critical analysis of the presentation."

Sounds strictly evangelical.

Posted by: Saam Barrager on January 11, 2006 at 2:28 AM | PERMALINK

Apologies for the pre tag. Thought I was being clever - I shant to that again!

Posted by: Saam Barrager on January 11, 2006 at 2:31 AM | PERMALINK

is the irreducible complexity of organisms and in particular human beings. Evolution is simply random chance and randomness by itself could not have produced systems of such great complexity.
Posted by: Al

simply because right wing xtians aren't bright enough to understand evolution doesn't mean they need to bring the rest of us down to their ignorant level.

Posted by: Nads on January 11, 2006 at 2:37 AM | PERMALINK

I have a sister who lives in Tehachapi, and I can verify that every place in those mountains is full of rednecks and fundies. Bigotry and evangelism is the norm there. Unfortunately, Sis has been there for more than 30 years and she's one of 'em. We live in the same state but on different planets.

Posted by: Emily on January 11, 2006 at 2:57 AM | PERMALINK

Acutally El Tejon is only 50 miles from LA. It's about to be developed into a huge suburban sprawl, and its quaint rural character will vanish. Along with its atavistic academic standards. As much as I love you Kevin, this is much ado about nothing.

Posted by: Aristotle on January 11, 2006 at 2:59 AM | PERMALINK

Speaking of irreducible complexity as a competing theory to evolution...As long as they also teach a class about the Flying Spaghetti Monster, I'm satisfied.

Posted by: gq on January 11, 2006 at 3:02 AM | PERMALINK

every place in those mountains is full of rednecks

Oh come on. Ever been to Frazier Park? Lake-of-the-Woods? We're not talking Lake Sidney Lanier here. How about Big Bear? Arrowhead? There are what, twelve students in El Tejon? It's about to be developed into a godawful, greedy suburban land grab - ruining some of the best wildflower viewing in SoCal.

Posted by: LW Phil on January 11, 2006 at 3:06 AM | PERMALINK

Lebec can't be that Red, it's the home of the IKEA distribution center for all of California (easy access to I-5 and already over the pass). As we all know IKEA's colors are BLUE and GOLD (Go Bears!)

(Sigh, I guess it is true that IKEA's founder attended some Nazi meetings in his teens....)

Posted by: jerry on January 11, 2006 at 3:10 AM | PERMALINK

Okay, when a statewide school board was poking at this, the concern was understandable, but are you people so monomaniacal about this that a little district of about 370 kids in the Tehachapi Mountains has to be brought to heel?

The bit about Mississippi is more of the same condescension that I'm beginning to wonder if you even see. How many schools are there in so-called "red" California that aren't doing classes like this? Note also that it's local parents out there in Hooterville that are filing the suit, not people from one of the Glorious Blue Cities in the Sky floating far above the flyover country.

Posted by: tbrosz on January 11, 2006 at 3:19 AM | PERMALINK

Why does all this remind me of "Donnie Darko"? It must be the fanatical creepy teacher ...

Posted by: Dave F on January 11, 2006 at 3:28 AM | PERMALINK

When you consider that many of the daring and dashing he-men of the 40's were nazi sympathizers such as Gary Cooper and Errol Flynn and many others, I find nothing surprising in a red-necked Bush backing Reagan spawning state like California that would sweep a moron like Schwarzenegger into power based on his credentials as the Terminator. Almost as valid as Minnesota electing Jesse "The Body" Ventura as their Governor.

Posted by: murmeister on January 11, 2006 at 3:29 AM | PERMALINK

Ah, if they want to have philosophy classes like this, whatever. I just want this bullplop out of science class.

Posted by: plunge on January 11, 2006 at 3:31 AM | PERMALINK

tbrosz,

Public schools have enough problems providing an adequate science education without being hijacked by religious nut-bars for the purpose of evangelism.

Posted by: joe on January 11, 2006 at 3:55 AM | PERMALINK

I think the ACLU should stay away from that one. If it's presented as philosophy, it opens the door for other teachers to do one month seminars on their own favorite philosophy as well. Like maybe a month of Popper, and a month of Rawls ... surely those would be unobjectionable. It's a matter of willpower, not regulation, once it's done this way.

Posted by: mac on January 11, 2006 at 4:00 AM | PERMALINK

I really don't have a problem with this if it is:

1. Not mandatory; and

2. not a science class.

If they want to offer a philosophy class that is elective that teaches bunk and that the parents want their kids to take, I really don't care. Maybe a little irksome that they are using taxpayer money to pay the teacher, but I don't live there so...

Posted by: platosearwax on January 11, 2006 at 4:02 AM | PERMALINK

Just wondering, would an intelligent design theorist consider the Mandelbrot set to be irreducibly complex?

Posted by: matt on January 11, 2006 at 4:09 AM | PERMALINK

At a special meeting of the El Tejon Unified School District on Jan. 1, at which the board approved the new course, "Philosophy of Design"
-excerpt from LA times article.

The course is classified as philosophy by the way....what's the problem? Only Liberal myths deserve to be taught.

Posted by: McA on January 11, 2006 at 4:13 AM | PERMALINK

The course is classified as philosophy by the way....what's the problem? Only Liberal myths deserve to be taught.
Posted by: McA

probably because evolution is neither myth nor philosophy. It cheapens evolution to be uttered in the same sentence as the bullshit that is ID.

Posted by: Nads on January 11, 2006 at 4:20 AM | PERMALINK

evolution to be uttered in the same sentence as the bullshit that is ID.

Posted by: Nads on January 11, 2006 at 4:20 AM | PERMALINK

Can you read or think independently? Are knee-jerk reactions what passes for thinking in a liberal?

Evolutions would be taught in the Science class.
Philosophy of Design as a Philosophy class. Kinda, unlikely to be in the same sentence.

Lots of posts and the links mention this.


Posted by: McA on January 11, 2006 at 4:42 AM | PERMALINK

Lawsuit has already been filed:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10796064/from/RSS/

Posted by: Just visting on January 11, 2006 at 4:44 AM | PERMALINK


You've obviously never been to Davis, Kevin.

Like Berkeley, with fewer drugs.

Of course, it's more a spinoff of the Bay Area than representative of non-coastal as a whole.

Now, you get up to places like Alturas, Burney, Bishop, et al ... I think the better comparison would be eastern Washington, rather than Mississippi. The conservatism is rooted in the predominantly white demographic combined with the economic importance of the logging industry; this is applicable at higher altitudes - a lot of the flatland conservatism is, to be blunt, rooted in anti-Mexican and anti-Hmong racism.

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Posted by: 成都机票查询 on January 11, 2006 at 4:49 AM | PERMALINK

Hmmm...teaching kids in public schools that the geological and chemical evidence points to the earth only being thousands of years old. Sounds like it belongs in a philosophy class...let's call it "sophistry".

Posted by: Jimm on January 11, 2006 at 4:50 AM | PERMALINK

I also blogged about ID re: Daniel Dennett's interview at Der Spiegel at Huffington Post as well as at my own place, SteveAudio.blogspot.com.

This kind of dishonesty is really sad. Imagine, if you will, if this "teacher" wanted to teach a philosphy class about the Gilgamesh Epic...I think some folks might be annoyed, since that wouldn't be the 'one true religiosophy' they so yearn for.

Bastards.

Posted by: SteveAudio on January 11, 2006 at 4:59 AM | PERMALINK

if this "teacher" wanted to teach a philosphy class about the Gilgamesh Epic

Posted by: SteveAudio on January 11, 2006 at 4:59 AM | PERMALINK

Hey, they covered the Crucible in Literature. And what about the Illaid. Lots of Greek Gods there....

You just happen to hate the Jewish god, 'cos you are knee-jerk anti-semites.

Posted by: McAristotle on January 11, 2006 at 5:17 AM | PERMALINK

Let me guess. They "don't have enough money" for the Biology AP class any more. Losers. They deserve the scarce M.D.s that they will end up graduating and the high health care costs that go with them. Darwin will have his revenge.

Posted by: JamesP on January 11, 2006 at 5:17 AM | PERMALINK

I am NOT-NOT-NOT a Christian, but I have to say, Darwinian evolution is not as settled a theory as you think. Non-religious people believe they have o accept it a pat of who hey are. They take it with the same kind of unquestioning faith that the fundies accept all their silliness.

The problem is the very uneven pace of evolution. It typically putters along in low gear for thousands of years, without huge changes in species, then steps on it to produce big changes in too short a span of time to allow for natural selection.

Darwin himself noted the problem and wrote that he hoped future fossil finds would even out the pace, but that has not happened. S. J. Gould was the only well-known anthropologist who had a theory to explain it, but it was too crazy for me to make much sense out of and that was the typical reaction among his peers.

The history of science is chock full of settled certainties that were overturned to the great consternation of the smug. Until every hole in Darwin's theory is plugged, don't be so certain.

Posted by: James of DC on January 11, 2006 at 5:29 AM | PERMALINK

Darwin himself noted the problem and wrote that he hoped future fossil finds would even out the pace, but that has not happened.

Posted by: James of DC on January 11, 2006 at 5:29 AM | PERMALINK

Yes. But anti-creationism is anti-Bush so it must be true.

This is liberal logic, remember.

Posted by: McAristotle on January 11, 2006 at 5:47 AM | PERMALINK

Evolution is a liberal myth...like gravity is a communist conspiracy.

Welcome to "philosophy" class at Wingnuttia Junior College. No textbooks needed, just bring a bible and stupidity pills.

Posted by: Tim B. on January 11, 2006 at 5:48 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps, rather than evolution not sputtering out, you're miscontrusing the environment not changing over thousands of years.

No input means little output.

Your 'little time' is still millions of years.

If bugs can evolve in a human timeframe, what's your complaint again?

Posted by: Crissa on January 11, 2006 at 6:01 AM | PERMALINK

This is almost certainly guaranteed to be a fun class, so long as they have field trips. (One time, in Band Camp)

They're in a sparse conifer forest, high above and north of Los Angeles. They're acquainted with sea level creatures who drive a ways into the mountains and start to wonder about the meaning of life.

Some of it is the oxygen attenuation, and then there is the terpene intoxication, "pining", if you will.

Been there, done that, loved it, recommend it.

Posted by: bad Jim on January 11, 2006 at 6:09 AM | PERMALINK

This is such a great blog. Where else on the Internet(s) can you find a place to bash conservatives believing in Creationism and only 4 posts below it find a whole thread bashing liberals who believe in their own version of Creationism?

Conservatives want evolution completely out of the classroom and liberals want it there but taught as though it doesn't matter, or in neatly circumscribed spheres where it doesn't threaten their dieties.

A pox on both houses.

Posted by: TangoMan on January 11, 2006 at 6:13 AM | PERMALINK

"Physical and chemical evidence will be presented suggesting the Earth is thousands of years old, not billions."

Should be a very short presentation, since there is no physical or chemical evidence suttesting the Earth is only thousands of years old. None.

Posted by: Joel on January 11, 2006 at 6:37 AM | PERMALINK

suttesting=suggesting

gotta use preview.

Posted by: Joel on January 11, 2006 at 6:38 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps the wingnuts who do not believe in evolution will contract a life-threatening antibiotic resistant infection in a hospital. That would focus their minds nicely I think on some of the mechanisms at play. (I don't seriously wish this on anyone, I'm just pointing out a good model for a selective pressure producing change over a period of generations, and rebutting those who say that evolutionary theory does not have any "practical use").

Imagine the screams of horror and rage from the Right if a school district offered a Philosophy class called Historical Basis of Religion in which one of the main points was to challenge the idea that Jesus was a historical figure or that at the least, nothing can be learned of him from the New Testament? It's really a pity we will never see it happen.

Posted by: Ba'al on January 11, 2006 at 6:42 AM | PERMALINK

From time to time we hear gentle pleading from delicate Christians whose faith we fail to honor. One might assume that their education failed them, to the extent that they fail to find meaning in life.

Why are there flies? they ask, and Why are there ants?

If evolution isn't taught as the root of biology, they'll never get to the idea that the flies are the nail salons and the ants are sort of Wal*Mart.

Posted by: bad Jim on January 11, 2006 at 6:50 AM | PERMALINK

". . . a Philosophy class called Historical Basis of Religion in which one of the main points was to challenge the idea that Jesus was a historical figure or that at the least, nothing can be learned of him from the New Testament?"

Indeed.

There is far more evidence for evolution than there is for Jesus.

Posted by: Joel on January 11, 2006 at 6:53 AM | PERMALINK

Ah, if they want to have philosophy classes like this, whatever. I just want this bullplop out of science class. - plunge

I kind of agree with this way of looking at it, but another way to look at it is like an infection. If the Fundies had managed to get I.D. into science classes (and don't think for a second they have given up) then inserting this virus of an idea into a science curiculum would be like having your blood get infected. Every child in America is required to get a certain amount of science in their curriculum so the infection rate would be 100%. Teaching this slop in a "philosophy" class is more like an infected boil, as an elective the infection rate will be much smaller and while it is possible that the infection might travel deeper, it is also likely that the boil will burst spewing its vile contents harmlessly outside of the body. At the very least it is easier to watch and lance a boil, I don't know how you treat an infection of the circulatory system but I bet it is a hell of a lot harder.

Just wondering, would an intelligent design theorist consider the Mandelbrot set to be irreducibly complex? - matt

An intelligent Design theorist would find a Lego set irreducibly complex. I'd be surprised if most of them had mastered the belt buckle yet.

Posted by: Eric Paulsen on January 11, 2006 at 7:16 AM | PERMALINK

In fact, this is exactly what many evolutionists suggest. Teach ID in philosophy class. In point of fact, the philosophy of religion is worthy of study, and thus I don't see this as a problem. Sounds like a reasonable approach to me.

I have a Ph.D. in psychology, and work in a medical school.

Posted by: POed Lib on January 11, 2006 at 7:39 AM | PERMALINK

(Sigh, I guess it is true that IKEA's founder attended some Nazi meetings in his teens....)

On the other hand, IKEA was one of the first, if not the first major retailer to feature overt gays in an advertisement, I believe about 5 years ago. Two guys who had met at a sister's wedding whose relationship "had developed to the point where we need a serious dining room table".

Posted by: 2.7182818 on January 11, 2006 at 7:46 AM | PERMALINK

The course is classified as philosophy by the way....what's the problem? Only Liberal myths deserve to be taught.

Because human knowledge is one. If an English course spent its time undermining the teaching of chemistry, would that be acceptable? Or if the math teacher spent his time denigrating the teaching of Spanish?

But I basically agree with Poed Lib. It's too bad the whole topic is so polarized. Intelligent Design is a hypothesis, not a theory, and I think it would be beneficial to students to be presented to it as a hypothesis, and then have a dialogue on the scientific method, the nature of scientific proof, and the boundaries, conflicts and agreements between science and religion(s).

NOTE: By Intelligent Design, I don't mean Young Earth Creationism.

Posted by: 2.7182818 on January 11, 2006 at 7:49 AM | PERMALINK

liberals want it there but taught as though it doesn't matter, or in neatly circumscribed spheres where it doesn't threaten their dieties.

what the fuck ?

Posted by: cleek on January 11, 2006 at 7:51 AM | PERMALINK

James of DC,

The problem is the very uneven pace of evolution. It typically putters along in low gear for thousands of years, without huge changes in species, then steps on it to produce big changes in too short a span of time to allow for natural selection.

Darwin himself noted the problem and wrote that he hoped future fossil finds would even out the pace, but that has not happened. S. J. Gould was the only well-known anthropologist who had a theory to explain it, but it was too crazy for me to make much sense out of and that was the typical reaction among his peers.

The above is almost completely wrong. The fundamental phenomenon of evolution, the change in gene frequencies over time, occurs at a steady rate. Large scale changes in the physical characteristics typically occur in small isolated populations and only under particular circumstances which occur at uneven intervals. (These circumstances would be relatively rapid environmental changes, a population being divided by some natural event, or the like) The evolution taking place at these times is completely consistent with natural selection.

Whatever difficulties you may have had understanding Punctuated Equilibrium, Gould's theory, it is neither crazy nor difficult to understand for the vast majority of scientists, nor rejected by his peers. It, like all new theories, has faces many challenges, but it has held up well.

Posted by: MSR on January 11, 2006 at 7:52 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin,
I appreciate your points. This speaks to the overall quality of education in rural vs. suburban school districts.

I hope that some of you saw "Country Boys" on PBS last night. There was a scene in a science class where the teacher presented Darwin and evolution. The discussion quickly devolved into "man from monkey". One of the students made the point that if this were true then Jesus would have had to have been a monkey. He most obviously was not a monkey so evolution could not be true. The teacher followed up with the observation that evolution does not conform with the Bible so evolution could not possibly be true. End of two minute evolution lesson.

This represents the sorry state of science education in many, many school districts around the country. I doubt if 5% of high school graduates have a firm scientific understanding of evolution. It is rather evident that the majority of college graduates, including many otherwise intelligent individuals, also lack the most fundamental grasp of what evolution actually means. How many people actually bothered to read the news articles recently published about cat evolution? How many people had the intellectual and scientifically minded curiosity to look past the headline? How many people saw the word "evolution" in the headline and diverted their eyes away from such devilishly, secular words?

I am somewhat saddened that so many people are missing out on the most incredible scientific discoveries of our age because they choose to live in little time rather than big time.

Posted by: lou on January 11, 2006 at 7:53 AM | PERMALINK

The problem is the very uneven pace of evolution. It typically putters along in low gear for thousands of years, without huge changes in species, then steps on it to produce big changes in too short a span of time to allow for natural selection.

bzzzt. that is incorrect. the speed of natural selection is the time it takes for an individual to die.

Darwin himself noted the problem and wrote that he hoped future fossil finds would even out the pace, but that has not happened.

wrong. there is no reason at all why the pace should be "even".

S. J. Gould was the only well-known anthropologist who had a theory to explain it, but it was too crazy for me to make much sense out of and that was the typical reaction among his peers.

sorry. wrong. many people understood Gould's "punctuated equillibrium" theories well enough to give them a go... some have survived, some have not.

The history of science is chock full of settled certainties that were overturned to the great consternation of the smug.

true. if only the same could be said of religion and other smug idealists...

Until every hole in Darwin's theory is plugged, don't be so certain.

you sound pretty certain. odd, since there is a hell of a lot more evidence that points to evolution than there is that points away.

Posted by: cleek on January 11, 2006 at 8:02 AM | PERMALINK

TBrosz is absolutely about Kevin and many liberals being condescending to Southerners. Why all one has to do is study the heavy settlement of Kern County by people from other liberal states. Many of these were present at book burnings of John Steinbeck's books. They came from those famously liberal bastions of Oklahoma and Texas. They were Southern Democrats and began switching to the Republican Party in the mid 60s.

But Tom T is correct. Why should we be "condescending" to such an enlightened group?

My wife is from Bakersfield - Her entire family came from Texas and Oklahoma - Fortunately after graduating from UCLA and Mills, she saw the light and is a proud liberal Democrat.

I was raised in a very bigoted Republican home in Kansas. I became a "born again" Democrat in the 60s. There is hope out there, trolls. Put on a record of Almost Persuaded while listening to John Kennedy speeches. It can do wonders for you.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on January 11, 2006 at 8:10 AM | PERMALINK

I hope that some of you saw "Country Boys" on PBS last night. There was a scene in a science class where the teacher presented Darwin and evolution. The discussion quickly devolved into "man from monkey". One of the students made the point that if this were true then Jesus would have had to have been a monkey. He most obviously was not a monkey so evolution could not be true. The teacher followed up with the observation that evolution does not conform with the Bible so evolution could not possibly be true. End of two minute evolution lesson.

This doesn't surprise me, actually... I mentioned above that we learned evolution in school, but we also had the best biology teacher in the district. I was in her first advanced bio class & it was basically a full anatomy & physiology course. The smaller schools in the area were probably just like what you described, and we routinely kicked their asses at science fairs.

Posted by: latts on January 11, 2006 at 8:14 AM | PERMALINK

Whether ID/creationism invades science class or 'philosophy' class makes no difference - the establishment clause is being contravened either way.

What these yokels really need is a philosophy class that explains the difference between methodological naturalism (science) and philosophical naturalism (atheism). Too many of them think that science is atheism.

Posted by: AlanDownunder on January 11, 2006 at 8:23 AM | PERMALINK

"Physical and chemical evidence will be presented suggesting the Earth is thousands of years old, not billions."

"I don't know whether to laugh or cry"

Laugh Kevin because it isn't possible to prove that the earth is less than billions of years old because you can't prove unmitigated bullshit. Next they'll be telling us that dinosaurs and humans lived peacefully together in eden. That T-Rex lived on tender new soots and leaves before original sin. Or perhaps they'll tell us a different gut buster, that T-Rex never really existed. HA!! Not buying it.

Posted by: Lurker42 on January 11, 2006 at 8:28 AM | PERMALINK

Next they'll be telling us that dinosaurs and humans lived peacefully together in eden.

they're already telling us that.

Posted by: cleek on January 11, 2006 at 8:35 AM | PERMALINK

Have you been to Mississippi lately?

Posted by: aiko on January 11, 2006 at 8:35 AM | PERMALINK

tbrosz: Okay, when a statewide school board was poking at this, the concern was understandable, but are you people so monomaniacal about this that a little district of about 370 kids in the Tehachapi Mountains has to be brought to heel?

Huh? Why shouldn't a little district of 370 kids, no matter where they are, receive as good an education as kids anywhere in the US?

And then you complain about Kein being "condescending". Tb, it's you who's being condescending: arguing that it doesn't matter if this "little district of about 370 kids in the Tehachapi Mountains" gets their science mixed up with their religion, and teaches kids that a theory fundamental to biological science is only an opinion that can be debunked by any half-educated Bibliolater. But, you're saying, these are unimportant kids in an unimportant district; why should they be treated the same as anyone else?

Why shouldn't they, Tbrosz? What right do you have to condescend to them?

Posted by: Jesurgislac on January 11, 2006 at 8:37 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, Mississippi isn't the best comparison, Kevin; you would have done better with Nebraska or some other lily-white agro-rural state. Perhaps Wyoming.

And you need to except Sacramento, which has been Democratic for decades. And the Sierra foothills are changing pretty rapidly, too, and then there's Eureka...

But at the very broadest level you're right.

Posted by: S Ra on January 11, 2006 at 8:44 AM | PERMALINK

KD And just how are school officials applying a gloss of secular lipstick to this transparently religious pig?

Al How is it religious to question the truth of evolution? One of the big problems in evolution theory (and it is only a theory) is the irreducible complexity of organisms and in particular human beings. Evolution is simply random chance and randomness by itself could not have produced systems of such great complexity.

If there's one thing we can take out of this it's that the transparently religious pig with the lipstick goes by the name of Al.

Posted by: ogmb on January 11, 2006 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

In fact, this is exactly what many evolutionists suggest. Teach ID in philosophy class.

Except the proposed class isn't about ID, it's about Young Earth Creationism, using materials from Answers In Genesis.

When discussing this particular class in this particular lawsuit, don't get trapped in thinking about the ID movement in the abstract. It's the specific construction of this course that makes it legally questionable.

Of course, any sincere answer to the "teach ID in social studies or philosophy" compromise would necessarily be hostile to ID. Because it would have to be exposed as a political & religious movement as opposed to genuine science. You'd have a survey of teleological theories, from Aristotle to Aquinas to Paley to Darwin. And then you'd get to ID and the Wedge Document, and the jig would be up.

Posted by: Grumpy on January 11, 2006 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

Next they'll be telling us that dinosaurs and humans lived peacefully together in eden.

"they're already telling us that."
Posted by: cleek


OMG You're right!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA Nope still not buying it. If this planet had gone through all of the tectonic activity that is evident geologicaly within a span of a few thousand years it would probably look like Io.

Posted by: Lurker42 on January 11, 2006 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

McA Evolutions would be taught in the Science class. Philosophy of Design as a Philosophy class. Kinda, unlikely to be in the same sentence.

Read the course description in Kevin's post, moron boy: "the class will take a close look at evolution as a theory and will discuss the scientific, biological and biblical aspects that suggest why Darwin's philosophy is not rock solid. The class will discuss Intelligent Design as an alternative response to evolution. Physical and chemical evidence will be presented suggesting the Earth is thousands of years old, not billions."

Posted by: ogmb on January 11, 2006 at 9:02 AM | PERMALINK

ID supporters find it impossible to reconcile the massive time periods necessary for evolution with their own limited experiences in their human life-spans.

The thing that irks me the most (it used to be the "just a theory" argument, but that's taken a backseat) is the folks who claim that Intelligent Design should be taught over what's commonly accepted because, in the past, what was commonly accepted may later have turned out to be wrong.

Pure bullshit.

By that logic, we'd have to reject any tenets of belief in anything, scientific, metaphysical or otherwise, since it might later be proven wrong. If these nutbars were presented with the same type of relativism in a moral setting, they would cry foul with ferocity. As such, all they're doing is highlighting their ignorance to the more discerning among us.

Posted by: Fargus on January 11, 2006 at 9:07 AM | PERMALINK

I don't know, a philosophy course on Darwin and ID might well backfire on the fundamentalists as long as they were required to include writings and ideas from people on both sides of the debate. It might raise theological issues and philosophical ideas that would blow some minds in ways they would never have been blown otherwise.

Posted by: The Fool on January 11, 2006 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

People in the desert are all crazy, from E. California to Arizona to Nevada and Utah.

Posted by: jacob on January 11, 2006 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

Excellent article in NYTimes from 3 Jan From 'Bacteria to Us: What Went Right When Humans Started to Evolve?' but unfortunately now behind Times Select barrier.

Starts with divergence of eukaryote (complex multicellular) entities.

Nothing whatsoever PC about my convictions on the subject, which conform to those expressed by Oxford zoologist Richard Dawkins:

''It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid, or insane."

Posted by: CFShep on January 11, 2006 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

Hilarious! We people are trying to put it into a science class, you guys say that it would be fine topic for a philosophy class. Then when someone does that, you're falling all over yourself that someone thought this belonged in a philosophy class.

You don't like religion. Fine. I heard you the first time.

Posted by: Chad on January 11, 2006 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

Of course it fits in a philosophy class.

However, philosophy classes don't 'show why x is flawed' because that's not how philosophy works, that's how theology works.

Posted by: Crissa on January 11, 2006 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

We people are trying to put it into a science class, you guys say that it would be fine topic for a philosophy class. Then when someone does that, you're falling all over yourself that someone thought this belonged in a philosophy class.

a brilliant intellect such as your own should be able to see that what you're seeing is the reactions of (at least) two different groups: one who sees teaching ID in Philosophy/Comparative Religion as no big deal, and another group that doesn't.

unless you'd like to argue that everyone who disagrees with you thinks exactly alike about all things...

Posted by: cleek on January 11, 2006 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

You don't like religion. Fine. I heard you the first time. - Chad

I don't like Nazis either and would probably balk at Holocaust Denail being taught as philosophy. What's your point?

Posted by: Eric Paulsen on January 11, 2006 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

I don't see what is wrong with the class. It sounds like a class I would like to take.

"Physical and chemical evidence will be presented suggesting the Earth is thousands of years old, not billions."

I would be interested to see some evidence that the moon is older than the earth that carbon dating is only valid to test the age of things if the result shows the item to be millions of years old.

I just hope there are some smart kids who will question the teacher.

Posted by: neil wilson on January 11, 2006 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

Ah, the standard comparison to Mississippi. You think it would get old, don't you? Alas, even though Kevin said he had not been here, he manages to understate the nature of MS. I have only been here ten years (but that is enough, thank you). What can I tell you about this state? Hmm, third grade class teaches the Civil War as the War of Northern Agression. Yep, in the class, that is the moniker of choice. A typical class at the University of Mississippi will be overwhelmingly Republican. The only Democrats in class will be the African Americans. The Republicans in class will be ultra conservative, but will be unable to express anything other than tidbits of knowledge. A pre-school teacher told one of her students that he was going to hell for something (can't even recall what). My little county has no homeless problem - we simply drive them to the next county over. De facto segregation is massive in all aspects of life (outside of school). Churches, funeral homes, grocery stores, shopping, etc. Twin worlds. At least once a week I will hear somebody use the N-word in conversation, often with no emphasis. It is just another word. In the state legislature, you will find not one official who is publicly pro-choice. Yep, zero. In a poster about the great things of Ole Miss, it mentions that UM has produced 4 Miss America winners. This is listed above any academic aspect. The state opted to keep the flag a few years ago, in large part because "we" did not want outsiders telling us what to do (holding that position even in the face of economic costs). The Governor, casting about for a national future, is so wed to a no tax platform that the state is choking on the poverty.

Well, OK, now my day is ruined.... Kevin - come visit and see the state that will reset your metric for comparisons.

Posted by: john on January 11, 2006 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

EMILY , YOUR DESCRIPTION ALSO APPLIES TO SOUTH CAROLINA , MISSISSIPPI AND TEXAS.
BEEN THERE DONE THAT ! !

Posted by: BEEN THERE DONE THAT on January 11, 2006 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

"You don't like religion. Fine. I heard you the first time."

Uh, no you didn't hear. How we feel about religion is irrelevant. We don't want American taxpayers to support the teaching of your religion in science class or philosophy class.

Maybe you heard it correctly this time?

Posted by: Joel on January 11, 2006 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

''It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid, or insane."

I wouldn't go that far, That's just mean and uncalled for. There are a lot of very prominent individuals who believe in creationism (or profess to) from goverment officials to scientists. That doesn't make them right but I wouldn't call them any of the above labels either. If that is what they want to believe let them. I just don't think ID should replace science.

Posted by: Lurker42 on January 11, 2006 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

Here's the thing: they are clearly trying to sneak religion into the schools in the guise of a philosophy class. But discussing religion in a philosophy class is much more dangerous to religion than doing so in a science class. When they drag ID into a biology class they have an advantageous position since they are allowed to just take pot shots at the scientific evidence.

By contrast, in a philosophy class, presumably they would have to examine arguments on both sides. In my experience, philosophical discussions of religion are perilous in the extreme for religion. Religion is a crock of shit which thrives by stifling debate. And it has done that so successfully that few ever really hear any philosophical arguments against it. Once one begins to rationally analyze the basis of religous beliefs they begin to crumble.

Posted by: The Fool on January 11, 2006 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

in the early seventies the california triple a magazine ran an article on the delta which included a comparison to mississippi right down to the line ..."old black men fishing along the banks...."

and the gropper isn't doing anything to bring the divergent parts together

and to the sleazoid dems who have gone to work for him...screw you ...get a real job

Posted by: Katherine Graham Cracker on January 11, 2006 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

Well, if it's a philosophy class, where's the philosophy?

I believe they're using the word "philosophy" in the approved fundie sense: "discussing some of life's Big Issues without directly mentioning Jesus." It's Theology Lite in their definition.

As for tbrosz' ridiculous comment, this is standard MO when he can't defend something: Instead of simply remaining quiet with dignity, charge that this doesn't affect too many people anyway, so it really doesn't matter. It would be highly entertaining to arrange to levy a special 100% income tax on Brosz so we can solemnly assure him that it doesn't matter because few are affected.

(Cue the predictable response: "Aren't we getting close to 100% already?")

Posted by: shortstop on January 11, 2006 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

Well, I'm quite familiar with Mississippi (spent much of my childhood in southern MS, where I had family, and now live about a 15 minute drive from MS), but not familiar with Cali, so I can't personally say if the comparison is valid. I'm guessing probably Kevin's characterization is too generous; if he had ever been to rural MS, probably he would have used a slightly less retrograde state as a base of comparison. However, I did know a girl from outside Fresno (who relocated here to Memphis) who assured me that her home area was a lot like Mississippi with better weather.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on January 11, 2006 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps a course that teachs the origins of creation myths would be the most appropriate place to begin the teaching of young earth creationism. Not sure what discipline the study of myths falls under. Maybe it is just called mythology. Some bright student might learn a few terms like "neolithic". Could be dangerous though. Some students might discover that their "truths" had their origins in pagan cultures long before the advent of writing, monotheism, and Genesis. But, but, but.... this all could not be true because the Bible tells me it ain't so. So, there you go, back to the same argument that ain't going to change no matter where you try to pigeon hole it.

Posted by: lou on January 11, 2006 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

Incidentally, here in TN not long ago there was a big effort to offer a class in Bible studies as a high school elective. The people involved turned down any suggestions for a Comparative Religions class- I guess they didn't want their kids to be exposed to any of those other, stupid religions. But they sure did spend a lot of time and effort trying to build a Bible study class that would pass constitutional muster.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on January 11, 2006 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

The heavyweight proponents of Intelligent Design here in Seattle at the Discovery Institute are not young earth creationists by any means. They and myself all heartily agree with the fossil record,the timetable, and with humans having monkey cousins and a lot of "monkey" behavior and attributes ourselves. It is unfortunate for us that that we appear as fellow travelers with the most fundamentalist of the creationists, but that is a cross we have to bear.

Where we rise up in rebellion against the Darwinist establishment and methodological atheism in general, however, is that we believe that there are junctures in the evolution story where the commitment to believe that a "blind watchmaker" can create the incredible complexity exhibited by current living things simply becomes untenable. In fact, it takes such blind faith that natural selection can overcome all the obstacles to life surviving in a hostile, uncaring universe, and against the constantly degrading forces of reverse evolution and entropy, that methodological atheism and the philosophical atheism so popular nowadays have joined hands to raise a loud and shril clamour against anyone who challenges their orthodoxy.

The first such juncture is the creation of life itself. By this I mean something very specific--the appearance of the first prokaryotic cell capable of self-reproduction. One of the wonders of the universe is that it teems with all manner of pre-biotic biochemicals. I regard a virus as such a strand of molecules, as, despite its complexity, it is basically a crystal that in the very special environment of a living cell becomes active and capable of reproducing itself.

I keep searching for the metaphor that will epitomize our precise revolutionary flash point regards the Darwinist establishment. Perhaps chemist J.J. Henderson, in his book THE FITNESS OF THE ENVIRONMENT was the father of the modern I.D. movement, in which he pointed out that organisms would not exist without the staggeringly precise characteristics of certain properties of matter.
Astronomer Fred Hoyle said his atheism was shaken to the core when he noticed the remarkable arrangement between carbon and oxygen nuclear resonances. In the 11-1981 issue of Cal-Tech's alumni magazine, Engineering and Science, Hoyle wrote:
Would you not say to yourself, "Some supercalculating intellect must have designed the properties of the carbon atom, otherwise the chance of my finding such an atom through the blind forces of nature would be utterly miniscule"? Of course you would. . . .A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question."
Hoyle was speaking of only one phenomenon--the ridiculously precise parameters that prevented all the carbon in the universe from being converted to oxygen.
I.D. proponents find many, many other such parameters, conditions, and critical junctures in the story of life. We have a doctrine of "irreducible complexity" that makes arguments about things like rotary flagella in e-coli, the clotting of blood and how it could have evolved, or the dance of bumblebees as a means of communication between creatures with brains the size of a grain of sand.
We have a lot of arguments about the relentlessness of reverse evolution, or what it means philosophically if humanity eventually produces a supercomputer that is so powerful it not only has consciousness itself, but it can manipulate any law of nature, travel backwards in time, and create worlds of its own choosing.


Posted by: Michael L. Cook on January 11, 2006 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

Just curious, is ID and this "debate" over evolution a uniquely American topic? I have trouble believing that ID is even being considered anywhere else.

Posted by: E. Henry Thripshaw on January 11, 2006 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

Poster note: type "quantum measurement paradox" into
Google and a thread I started in 2000 comes up first.

Getting to the more interesting question of what actually went on with evolution and why: Look more into the anthropic principle (that the physical constants etc. couldn't have been very different or we couldn't be here - see the excellent _The Anthropic Principle..._ by Barrow and Tipler.) And please, don't put up the idiotic reverse-causality canard that they must be like that because we're here to ask - that begs the question (hah!) of why there was a life-friendly universe with the resultant beings who could ask, versus a not-friendly universe without; those two combined cause-effect situations being what is selected from "all possible worlds."

Once we acknowledge that initial constraints (fine structure constant etc.) could make life possible at all, why stop there? Maybe the "design" (which should apply to the atoms etc, to begin with, not likely to "interference" afterwards) is such that not only does carbon have the sort of chemical properties allowing life, but even that carbon, nitrogen etc. are so fine-tuned that DNA is specifically likely to form. Then it's just a more extreme example of the same question, why are things the way they are and why is that so likely to produce thinking creatures?

As for the idea of infinite universes with all possible physical laws, such luckily ours is one monkey-typed to have just the right properties: that claim is hypocritical coming from logical positivist types, who have no evidence for the idea, no known way to test it (not to be confused with the simpler but weirder idea of multiple universes with the *same* laws created by quantum possibility branching, which at least derives from our own universe.) Some, like Tipler, even say that for a universe to be like ours and be the only one of the "logically possible universes" that "actually exists" violates both a fundamental ontological "principle of sufficient reason" as well as there being no way to explain just what "really existing" means versus "just being a logically possible world." (The POSR is: why is a given non-simple way distinguished to be actualized - as if the angle for attraction between bodies was just 17 degrees; compare history of science regarding laws.)

More interesting still: If you really believe in "all possible universes" why stop at things which are like collections of stuff? Why not gods and demons, angels and fairies, heavens and hells, and even God Itself? What would restrain the plentitude of what there was in such a case to what scientists feel comfortable with?

Finally: Don't blame me for being so metaphysical - I'm just responding in like kind to those supposed hard physicists who spin grand metaphysical tales of other universes in order to hypocritically try and stop other grand metaphysical tales about God and etc.

Posted by: Neil' on January 11, 2006 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

Americans United is on the case...

www.au.org

Americans United for Separation of Church and State today filed a lawsuit in federal court in California to stop a public school district from teaching a course that promotes a religious perspective about the origins of life.

On Jan. 1, the board of trustees of El Tejon Unified School District approved an elective called “Philosophy of Design” that advocates “intelligent design” and other concepts of creationism. The course is now being taught at Frazier Mountain High School in Lebec.

Americans United, representing parents of Frazier High students, sent a Jan. 4 letter to Superintendent John Wight and school board members advising them that teaching a particular religious viewpoint in a public school class violates the constitutional separation of church and state.

Posted by: Name withheld on January 11, 2006 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

Why doesn't anyone want to teach alternatives to the theory of gravity, or how about dissenting opinions on the theory of quantum physics and the uncertainty principle.

I guess God doesn't give a damn about any science other than biology. How narrow minded of Him.

Posted by: Ed in Montana on January 11, 2006 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

E. Henry: Just curious, is ID and this "debate" over evolution a uniquely American topic? I have trouble believing that ID is even being considered anywhere else.

Yes. Just part of our inimitable and whimsical current culture. See what happens when Americans have too much time on their hands?

Posted by: shortstop on January 11, 2006 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

Until every hole in Darwin's theory is plugged, don't be so certain.

One can usually spot someone hostile to the science of evolution in that they call it "Darwin's theory" (it isn't any more, of course -- one might even say the scientific understanding of evolution itself has evolved), in much the same ways that the faux-liberal posters here give away the game by using Rushisms like "the Democrat party."

Posted by: Gregory on January 11, 2006 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

Is this class required? If it is an elective, then most kids can just say NO.

I know that is not the best solutution, but if no one but some kool-aid poisoned fundie kids take the class, no harm really, they are already a lost cause.

Posted by: lilybart on January 11, 2006 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

Gregory: ...the faux-liberal posters here give away the game by using Rushisms like "the Democrat party."

Cracks me up every time. They never seem to know they're doing it.

Posted by: shortstop on January 11, 2006 at 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

Michael Cook: I got a lot of arguments too. But would you please propose how you are going to do the experiments to prove your arguments? I suppose you got some circular argument to prove that experimentation is not needed.

Posted by: lou on January 11, 2006 at 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

We have a lot of arguments about the relentlessness of reverse evolution

Swell. The problem is, ID proponents have no falsifiable hypothesis of your own to present.

And, of course, many of your arguments have already been answered.

For all the kvetching I hear from ID proponents trying to claim that the theory of evolution -- which has withstood rigorous scientific scrutiny for more than a century -- is accepted as a matter of faith -- indeed, "blind" faith," as Cook would have it! -- the entire movement is based on creationists' refusal to accept the scientific data.

Posted by: Gregory on January 11, 2006 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

Just curious, is ID and this "debate" over evolution a uniquely American topic? I have trouble believing that ID is even being considered anywhere else.

I believe it's also considered a valid theory by several Stone Age tribes in the Amazon interior.

Posted by: Stefan on January 11, 2006 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

Step off the Yanomami, Stefan! Your comparison insults their good name!

Posted by: shortstop on January 11, 2006 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

Interesting to me was that the cultural so-called Christians ain't the only ones with loony "science" claims. Waldorf "science" texts contain alarming claims, directly contrary to visible evidence, and the spiritual element is held as the guiding light. It's crazy stuff: plants breath good air in through the tops of leaves, and exhale bad "dephlogistinated" air out the bottom. And on and on. The Waldorfians have some really neat teaching techniques and results, but also stuff from way out in bizarro-land.

This raises a question for me: mightn't it be actually illegal to teach known untruths?

There was the court case stemming from the Fox news affiliate in Florida's editing to a fare thee well and beyond of a GBHT story that ruled that there is no law to keep a news station from reporting "news" that is known to be false, so likely not.

I had the experience of teaching science in a Christian school and having a student say "we don't know the Earth is more than six thousand years old." Ouch. You shall know the truth, and it shall set you free. But it might hurt first.

Posted by: Cassandro on January 11, 2006 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

I don't give a rat's ass if they teach this in Mudville (oops, CA, El Tejon), just keep it out of my school district.

Maybe calling it a philosophy class will be enough to get a pass from the courts. Fine, whatever. There's even room here to discuss the philosophy of science, though I doubt either side will be calm enough to do so.

This kind of thing is the best argument for state and local determination in K-12 education. Keep the feds out of it.

Posted by: alex on January 11, 2006 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

As a Scientist, I am interested in how things work, why they work, where they came from and how they get here. That's science. As a philosopher, I like to muse on alternate realities, current realities, or future possibilities. That's philosophy. Here in the US, I can choose which product that I see advertized I will buy, and I can do all the research needed before buying it. That's the US for you. This new class is jsut another offering on the smorgasboard of freedom. Intelligent Design squarely belongs in the camp of philosophy. It shoudl be discussed. Why does Kevin assume that the people taking the class will "beliebe" in it? shoudln't those things that are laughable not also be taught? shouldn't people be able to have the information at hand to say: wait a minute, Darwin's Theory actually is pretty solid, and this whole Intelligent Design thing isn't? Can't teaching Intelligent Design lead to enlightenmnet not becasue one believes in it, but preceisly because once one learns about this philosophy, one cannot help but relegate it to a dusty cardboard box in one's brain?

Posted by: Chris on January 11, 2006 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

As a liberal who lives in the south, I have to say that I am offended by the knee-jerk reactions many on this board have about the south.

I grew up in a small southern town and I learned about evolution in a racially integrated high school.

A quick review of the recent intelligent design
debate would show anyone that the hotbed of this activity is not in the south. See Kansas and Pennsylvania (and CA).

Posted by: Stephen on January 11, 2006 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

Incidentally, some of my ancestors believed that their people first emerged from a hole in the ground in Winston County, Mississippi. Sounds weird, I know, but no weirder than most other religious claims. And they, at least, had the decency to say it was just them who came from the hole in the ground- everyone else was free to come up with their own creation story.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on January 11, 2006 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

Ed in Montana: your point is not good. With the other subjects, we have outcomes that we can make happen and (usually) simple theories to apply and test. With evolution, it isn't just whether creatures changes over time (itself a deductive work of great complexity and not logically like finding inverse square laws etc.) The issue is often misframed and should (for serious thinkers; ie not classic "Biblical creationists" who are just trying to reconcile a revelatory text which is indeed not science) be put as: what can really explain how atoms knocking together produced the results that we think happened over time? Is probability up to the task, or not? What about the "design" as it were of the nature of things to begin with? None of that is a priori mandated to be a certain sciencey-sounding way, that is the mistake called "legislating reality." (I'm hoping to have some intelligent *discussion* here about those issues,)

Posted by: Neil' on January 11, 2006 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

One of the big problems in evolution theory (and it is only a theory) is the irreducible complexity of organisms and in particular human beings. Evolution is simply random chance and randomness by itself could not have produced systems of such great complexity.

Just because you don't understand it doesn't mean it can't happen.

Type "complexity" into google and you will find a whole science dedicated to complex systems that evolve from simple beginnings.

Posted by: Stephen on January 11, 2006 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

ML Cook:

I think we'd have a lot more sympathy for what you're trying to argue if you weren't so in love with anthropomorphic metaphors.

Others have said it: Show us the testable hypotheses.

Otherwise, I don't care *who* you're citing or how powerful these ideas are as intuitions -- it's just ...

*singing* Met-a-phys-i-cal blo-vi-a-tion.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 11, 2006 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

"Incidentally, some of my ancestors believed that their people first emerged from a hole in the ground in Winston County, Mississippi. Sounds weird..."

No more weird than an infinite, omnipotemt, omni-present being getting bored and creates a universe. etc.etc.

Posted by: Lurker42 on January 11, 2006 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

transparently religious pig

This is the kind of rhetoric I can support when talking about the influence authoritarian myth has on our lives.

What about the turtles?

Posted by: Hostile on January 11, 2006 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

Stephan - anyone can just say it couldn't have been random, or it could have been. Neither as a sentiment shows much about the real prospects. Look around indeed on Google, and find that there are lots of genuine doubts about the chance that atoms would get together in the right ways (needed for real molecules that work, not the game-like prefab contrivances that are used in the sort of simulations you are in effect referencing.) Many biochemists will acknowledge (again, see Barrow and Tipler) that the chance is small. Ironically, they often use an infinite universe as an out: with a 1:10^400 or so odds of getting the right molecules, it will happen anyway (an infinite number of times, even with infinite copies of us saying these same things!) In such a case, forget about finding ETs since the nearest ones are likely about the same number of light-years away.

That is at least a continuation of our own universe, and not the hypocritical scheme of infinite numbers of universes with difference physical laws. However, we have the problem that even then, the physical constants and laws must be just right for life to thrive and all the rest as I described in my big post upthread.

Posted by: Neil' on January 11, 2006 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

Laugh of the week - The web site of Discovery Institute calling itself "non-partisan". From Howard Ahmanson and Bruce Chapman, down through Slade Gorton and Susan Hutchinson, who wants to run for Guv as a Republican, this board is heavily Republican. Lots of Microsoft money on the board. I would imagine that any of those with children, who are in local schools in Seattle, probably send them to Lakeside (Bill Gates and Paul Allen alums) - Does Lakeside teach ID or any other "voodoo" pseudo course?

Posted by: thethirdPaul on January 11, 2006 at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

If you outlaw evolution, only outlaws will evolve!

Posted by: psiniq on January 11, 2006 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

"Evolution is simply random chance and randomness by itself could not have produced systems of such great complexity"

Evolution isn't even slightly random. Evolution is a response to environmental stimuli. Simple as that. That's why some species haven't evolved much and are much the same as they were millions of years ago. The shark for instance. Where there is no stim to evolve there is no need to evolve. The wooly mamoth, on the other hand, had to grow a thick coat of fur to survive in the colder, ice age climates. See? Not random. In fact it's realy quite specific.

Posted by: Lurker42 on January 11, 2006 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK
How is it religious to question the truth of evolution?

When the basis of the questioning is explicitly biblical, I think its pretty obvious what is religious about it.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 11, 2006 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK
I know that is not the best solutution, but if no one but some kool-aid poisoned fundie kids take the class, no harm really, they are already a lost cause.

Well, other than the funds of local, California, and American taxpayers being expended improperly on the latest dodge to get a particular version of Christian theological indoctrination performed at public expense.

That's a harm, too.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 11, 2006 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

You need to get out of the OC! Your grasp of California geography outside of the greater Los Angeles / San Diego metropolitan area is quite poor. Perhaps you could take a motorcycle trip with Ahnuld to select destinations in the state?

Some recommendations: Crescent City, Yreka, Denny, Hyampom, Boonville, Elk, Guadalupe, Aromas, Inverness, Isleton, Markleeville, Deep Springs, Jupiter, Balch Camp, Beegum, and most assuredly Petrolia. This is in addition to the aforementioned Burney, Alturas, and Bishop.

Re: Kurt Montandon

The only thing that makes Davis "Bay Area" is the trophy wife / soccer moms trying to runover bicyclists with their "No on X" adorned GMC Yukons.

Posted by: Conun Drum on January 11, 2006 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

Neil' , evolution doesn't address the origin of life; it only addresses what happened once it got started.

However, we have the problem that even then, the physical constants and laws must be just right for life to thrive

there is no problem. the constants and laws are just right for life as we know it to thrive. that fact doesn't mean life couldn't begin someplace where the conditions are different. and because we don't even know yet how our own version of Life got started, it's foolish for anyone to flatly state that life requires certain molecules arranging themselves in specific ways for it to begin.

Posted by: cleek on January 11, 2006 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

Lurker42 = Don P?

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 11, 2006 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

Lurker42 = Don P?

No, separate histories.

Don P has likely departed us for good. Here's hoping his particular brand of insanity is tormenting others...

Posted by: Pale Rider on January 11, 2006 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

The only class that could possibly teach the Invisible Deity theory would be called "Comparative Religion". In this class, students can learn all about mankinds search for the answers of his origins. All major religions would be discussed and dissected. Including the Flying Spaghetti Monster "theory", I love that one.

Anything else needs to be taught on Sundays in those tax-free (and full of profit) places called church.

Of course, the fundies will never have it. If you don't believe in the Invisible Deity you are a heathen and must be SAVED!!! So why teach about other religions?

Posted by: MyPetGoat on January 11, 2006 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK
I keep searching for the metaphor that will epitomize our precise revolutionary flash point regards the Darwinist establishment. Perhaps chemist J.J. Henderson, in his book THE FITNESS OF THE ENVIRONMENT was the father of the modern I.D. movement, in which he pointed out that organisms would not exist without the staggeringly precise characteristics of certain properties of matter.

Which has nothing to do with "Darwinism" or evolution, but with cosmology. And, of course, is a vacuous argument, anyway, as, without establishing that something existed before the universe, and knowing what that was, there is no prior probability of any distribution of the characteristics of the universe, so one cannot argue that the particular arrangement observed is unlikely.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 11, 2006 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

Besides all this defiant lunacy, ID proponents also have to answer for their amazing dishonesty. Their motive is fundamentalist. Their arguments are fundamentalist. Their theory is fundamentalist. And then they have the nerve to say, Oh no, my ridiculous nonsense is scientific.

Posted by: Gary Sugar on January 11, 2006 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

and randomness by itself could not have produced systems of such great complexity.

Complexity is just a word and it has a very flexible meaning.

Anything unknown can be tossed into the pile of too complex to be understood. Missing socks, for example. I cannot possibly understand where my socks went. Therefore, my eventual discovery of my missing socks are an example of Divine Intervention.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on January 11, 2006 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

PZ Meyers has a good post on this effort from a biologist's viewpoint over at Pharyngula (http://pharyngula.org/index/weblog/comments/philosophers_are_you_furious_yet/). Philosophy trains you to think critically. With 19 of 24 videos in course supporting creationist/intelligent design/young earch views, I don't think critical thinking is being asked for.

Posted by: RefManTim on January 11, 2006 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

No Lurker42 = Mike O
LOL

Posted by: Lurker42 on January 11, 2006 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

Conun Drum: Some recommendations: Crescent City, Yreka, Denny, Hyampom, Boonville, Elk, Guadalupe, Aromas, Inverness, Isleton, Markleeville, Deep Springs, Jupiter, Balch Camp, Beegum, and most assuredly Petrolia. This is in addition to the aforementioned Burney, Alturas, and Bishop.

Those places are all west of the Hudson and hence of no consequence.

This notion of "flyover country" though is absurd. There is no need to fly to, for example, California. Either you can get someplace by subway, or it's not worth visiting.

Posted by: A New Yorker on January 11, 2006 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin-I know what you mean about Mississippi. I grew up in the Bay Area and now live in Placer county, it just blows the mind. Where did these people come from?

Posted by: Nocal on January 11, 2006 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

How about these for "testable" observations that would tend to conform Intelligent Design.

(1) Someone truly invents life in a test tube, or a series of test tubes, or even just specifies the series of highly unique special environments it would take, so that we I.D. folks can get busy and critique the "just so" stories that would have to unfold.

(2) Someone invents intelligent life in a computer. Perhaps the computer itself becomes conscious and fights to prevent it ever, ever being unplugged. As part of its campaign to convince us it is indeed, conscious, it will probably invent some type of religion or ethical system to persuade us it is immoral to unplug a smart computer.

(3) We find intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. Actually, if the currently orthodox Darwinist paradigm is correct, we MUST find intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. If blind chance worked here, it has to work elsewhere as well, because this universe is so vast. . .

(4) We find alien intelligent life, but they are humanoids very much like us, not intelligent lobsters or supercalculating crystals on frozen worlds like Neptune. The anthropic principle then looks very good, especially if the aliens are monotheistic with religious structures similar to ours.

(5) Short of creating life in a test tube, researchers are able to take a eukaryotic cell without a flagellum and give it a rotary flagellum in a series of gradual bio-chemical manipulations introducing only one or two brand new proteins at a time, not the dozen it apparently took nature to make these structures work.

I would say that any of these events would "falsify" intelligent design claims.

Posted by: Michael L. Cook on January 11, 2006 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

I don't see the problem with teaching ID in a philosophy class. As the Judge in the recent case pointed out, ID may or may not be true in some absolute or metaphysical sense. How can you prove or disprove the existence of G-d? So it's obviously not science, but speculation about the causes of Creation and the purpose of life, well, that seems like a fine subject for a philosophy class, if you ask me.

Posted by: DBL on January 11, 2006 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

I don't think critical thinking is being asked for

No because critical thinking is the antithesis of blind faith.

Posted by: Lurker42 on January 11, 2006 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

cmdicely:

I have no problem with the anthropic principle (a summation of ML Cook's and Neil's arguments) as a strong intuition for intentional creation.

I mean, aside from the fact that it's tautological and vacuous :)

Otherwise, it's a fine goad to believe in a Supreme Being.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 11, 2006 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

Please stop bashing Mississippi. Let's recall that the west coast activities of the Klu Klux Clan were centered around Bakersfield and that Oildale used to have a sign at its city limits that said, "No Niggers or Okies." Here is a letter to the editor in a local Kern County paper, the Ridgecrest Independent (the letter was extensively discussed on Atrios at the time it appeared -- to the point that the local clergy made the author retract the following views). Nevertheless, it provides a good look into the mindset of these people.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Letter To The Editor

Newspaper shouldn't print Liberal voices

Wednesday, January 19, 2005 2:01 PM PST

Editor:

Thank Goodness for such literate and intelligent men as Julius Wolfson, Derek Cooper, Ron Scott and May Shaw.

I just can't understand why more good conservatives haven't spoken out against the dangerous opinions of rabble-rousers such as Phyllis Lilly, Linda Robin and that R C Johnson person. Why does The Daily Independent print the degenerate views of poisonous Liberals who hate freedom?

As Mr. Scott points out, the glorious Constitution is there to protect the rights of Christians to profess their faith. This country was founded by good Christians and the Constitution guarantees our right to express our religion.


It just is completely beyond me how we have allowed Liberals to deny us this guaranteed right.

Oh, they raise ridiculous arguments like other (false) religions would be "upset" if they were forced to pray alongside the righteous in schools or council meetings.

Surely those others would appreciate the opportunity to be saved. As God's chosen people, we Christians have the right to express our religion and praise tolerant, patient and merciful God, and I don't want to read any more letters from Liberals suggesting non-believers should be allowed to express their superstitions just because we Christians can express ours.

The Founding Fathers were God-fearing men and never intended the first Amendment to promote other superstitious beliefs.

Ridgecrest used to be filled with right-minded, polite and decent people.

I can't believe the vicious slander of some people who have the nerve to portray or suggest Jesus behaved as a Liberal.

Jesus makes his position very clear. The wisdom of an "eye for an eye" would never occur to a Liberal.

Liberals are always talking about peace at any price, when Jesus said: Do not think I have come to bring peace, but a sword.

Liberals hate people who have managed to raise their station in life, and instead insist on giving money away to the irresponsible: Store yourselves treasures for Heaven for where your treasure is, there your heart is also.

No one can serve two masters, either your are a good conservative with God or you are not with God. Remember: A bad tree cannot bear good fruit.

Billie Miller

Ridgecrest

Posted by: kostya on January 11, 2006 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

cleek - (with an unintentional red herring): what and who does (or should) address the question of how life got started? Biologists, and "biology" in general not just "evolution" is the issue anyway. And before you start throwing around top-of-the-head sound bites about just how different the rules of physics could be and still permit life, you need to look into the considerable research done into just that question using real tools of analysis.

PS - I notice a horrid mistake here and around. That is thinking "testability" has to do with the conclusion one draws rather than the question itself. If you believe that life credibly formed (here I am talking origins - not "evolution" then by definition if cleek is right but still a relevant question anyway!) by random interactions of molecules, then the question of *whether* that is a credible hypothesis is testable in some sense, right? (Well, at least to the sloppy extent that hypotheses involving probabilities can be at all!) Then, if the hypothesis is testable, the answer might turn out to be "no" - otherwise you are committing the fallacy of legislating reality. Sure, we wouldn't have a good idea of how to deal with a "no" answer or who or what was picking up the slack for "randomness", but at least the concept is a viable outcome we might have to deal with.

Kudos to Mr. Cook upthread for putting some quality thought into his posts - agree with him or not (or me - and I'm mostly being a gadfly not pushing a specific theory), he comes across better than the "skeptical" scientism punks infecting such threads with sophomoric broadsides.

Posted by: Neil' on January 11, 2006 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

Couldn't be much worse than the crap I was taught in Catholic school.

The unverse as intelligent? Interesting.

One would have to prove that when a course was taken in the universe, that course was marginally better than some alternative course; for that would be intelligence at work.

If these religionists keep it up, they might just discover evolution.

Posted by: Mat on January 11, 2006 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

I can't help but thinking of the epistelogical implications of the ID movement especially when taught to the youth of this country.

ID v EV is nothing less then a battle for how we choose to intrepret the world and understand and use knowledge.

The motives behind a religious view of the world have always been control. The motive behind science is knowledge and the improvement of humankind. The achievements of religious based epistemology are limited to the raise of a ruling institution that kept most people in ignorance, poverty, disease, and death. The achievements of science, OTOH are all around us every day good and bad. Are you warm, well-fed, healthy today? You don't have religion to thank for that, you have sceince.

The fundamentalists would have us return to the days of ignorant superstition in which the arbitors of religeous knowledge are in control.

Religion is nothing but a power grab of the few.

Posted by: the fake Fake Al on January 11, 2006 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

Michael Cook:
"(1) Someone truly invents life in a test tube... Someone invents intelligent life in a computer"

Geez, are you that lazy that you expect real scientists to do *all* the work? Get cracking on it yourself if that's what you're interested in.

"Actually, if the currently orthodox Darwinist paradigm is correct, we MUST find intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. If blind chance worked here, it has to work elsewhere as well, because this universe is so vast. . ."

First off, evolution isn't blind chance. And what makes you think we "must" find intelligent life elsewhere? Just because it may exist, it does not follow that we must find it. We could quite possibly go extinct or go back into another dark age before ever getting that far.

So, how are those experiments coming along? Anything? Or are you still waiting for someone else to do the work for you?

Posted by: MJ Memphis on January 11, 2006 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

in my 9th grade science class it was said that ( humans in particular ) could not create or destroy anything , but only change its form. the humans has fucked up this world and nature keeps trying to put it back like it should be .the dunb ass human has no idea where it came from and no real knowledge of what happens when their stinking ass turns back to dirt.
BRASS MONKEY

Posted by: BRASS MONKEY on January 11, 2006 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

Neil', for at least the past few thousand years or so, every time humanity did not understand something they attributed it to God (or 'design' if that makes you feel better). The record for this line of thought has not been very positive, to say the least.

Pointing out that there are a lot things that science does not currently understand is not the same thing as disproving a specific theory.

Like many other people have said - propose an alternative theory that is testable... or just admit that evolution is the best explantion that we have now and teaching our children something different is not just wrong but counter-productive.

p.s. I loved the part where you classify yourself as a 'serious thinker' and then later admit you get your scientific information from Google.

Posted by: hrf on January 11, 2006 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

ML Cook:

Sounds more like a series of plots for sci-fi novels, but fine then -- you get busy.

Get back to us when you've published something in a peer reviewed journal.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 11, 2006 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

rmck1:

"I have no problem with the anthropic principle (a summation of ML Cook's and Neil's arguments) as a strong intuition for intentional creation.

I mean, aside from the fact that it's tautological and vacuous :)"

In what sense is it vacous? Your just saying that, after I went to a lot of trouble to cover the needed philosophical bases, is a bit ... vacuous, no? Do you really understand the issues? I was hoping we'd at least have intelligent critique of intelligent design, but you guys here have done poorly. You sound like a liberal humanist version of the trash posted at LGF.

Posted by: Neil' on January 11, 2006 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

I don't see the problem with teaching ID in a philosophy class.

A class in philosophy of science might spend five minutes on ID. A class in comparative epistemology might spend five seconds on ID.

A one month class that spends one month on ID vs evolution is a a class in ID. Only a liar would claim that this class is anything but another attempt to teach religion in school.

Posted by: Gary Sugar on January 11, 2006 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

kostya: There is no way that that letter is for real.

Posted by: shortstop on January 11, 2006 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

Stephen,

You are correct about Kansas, Pennsylvania and California - However, the head of the Kansas School Board is from Wichita, which is in the southern part of Kansas. Dover, PA is in the southern part of PA. Lebec is in Southern California.

Hmmmmmmmmmm?

Posted by: thethirdPaul on January 11, 2006 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

hrf - there are plenty of good scientific references on Google and especially Google Scholar, why not try looking for them instead of repeating idiotic cliche smears against anything serious being on the Internet.

Your point wasn't any good anyway. As I said, if this question is something we can investigate (and some already have looked into it) we may find there is something fishy about it. That was a matter of principle anyway, since I don't know what the best evaluation of the known facts is.

BTW, the idea of design going into the laws and particles is logically completely separate from the idea of "intervention" which is the *sort* of idea of God being responsible that you were referring to. Finally, you can't prove material points by the track record approach. The only way to get a handle on whether life orgins look credible as usually posited is to check that directly.

Posted by: Neil' on January 11, 2006 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

(with an unintentional red herring)

which red herring is that? you were discussing the origin of life in a thread about evolution.

And before you start throwing around top-of-the-head sound bites about just how different the rules of physics could be and still permit life, you need to look into the considerable research done into just that question using real tools of analysis.

i will repeat myself:

we don't know how life here got started. therefore, we are in no position to dictate the conditions under which life may or may not start anywhere else. how can anyone say "the way we got here is the only way to get here" if we don't know how we got here ?

and, even if we do someday find a plausible explanation of how life started on Earth, that explanation will not necessarily be a prohibition on life forming in other ways under different conditions.

and, finally, if you're supposing "different rules of physics", you're writing science fiction, not doing science.

Posted by: cleek on January 11, 2006 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

Neil', please, you're a bloviating ass.

I've already said my piece, in a rather detailed fashion, in a series of posts to ML Cook on the ID thread of about three weeks ago. You can look them up in archive if you'd like.

But spare us the hypocritical high-mindedness from a self-admitted gadfly, huh.

Science deals in phenomena. It is mute on ontological issues.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 11, 2006 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

Meanwhile, the rest of the world is rolling about on the floor, laughing their heads off...

Posted by: Wonderin on January 11, 2006 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

Neil',

"In what sense is it vacous?"

Well, it comes from a basic misunderstanding of probability for one.

There is an unknown P(life-supp) such that the universe has parameters capable of supporting intelligent life, the converse being P(no life-supp), where the universe does not have parameters capable of supporting intelligent life. Then there is also a P(life) where intelligent life does, in fact, exist. P(life-supp|life) = 1. P(life|life-supp) is not known but is presumably less than 1. And P (life|no life-supp)=0. The fact that intelligent life does exist indicates that the conditions for developing intelligent life do exist, but it does not follow that those conditions "must" have existed, just that if they didn't exist, we wouldn't be here to wonder about it.

This is rather like saying that, given the fact that I exist, it is 100% certain that the conditions for me to exist are satisfied (that my parents met, were capable of reproduction, did in fact reproduce, and so on). It does not follow from the fact that I exist that I necessarily "must" have come into existence at some point. Unless, of course, you are an actualist, but that is another discussion altogether.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on January 11, 2006 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

I see cleek beat me to it, and in a much more concise form. :)

Posted by: MJ Memphis on January 11, 2006 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

Turtles,turtles,turtles... nothing but turtles, all the way down - to where the pasta starts, matey.

Posted by: jay boilswater on January 11, 2006 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

Teaching ignorance is an act of fraud. Ignorant people, however, are easy to exploit. Therefore, there will always be lots of money pushing superstition in the classroom. This is not an ontological struggle, it's a political one. The ontology (and cosmology) being pushed simply constitute advertising in another form.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on January 11, 2006 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

MJ:

Which David Hume definitively took apart as the Inductive Fallacy.

Exactly.

You can't establish a-prioris by arguing from the specific.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 11, 2006 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

How about these for "testable" observations that would tend to conform Intelligent Design.

All of those reveal that you don't understand what "testable" means in science.

A testably hypothesis works like this:

1. You observe something.
2. You propose an explanation (the hypothesis).
3. You determine things that must be true under well-defined conditions, that can be reproduced, if the hypothesis is true -- ideally, things that are also unlikely to be true if it is substantially at variance with reality.
4. You then create those conditions and see if those necessary things are true or false.
5. If they are false, your hypothesis is falsified. If they are true, your hypothesis remains viable.


Posted by: cmdicely on January 11, 2006 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

"Turtles,turtles,turtles... nothing but turtles, all the way down - to where the pasta starts, matey."

No no, you're all wrong there. It's elephants all the way down, and that pasta is pad thai.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on January 11, 2006 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

Bob: If science is mute on ontological issues, then it can't express a view one way or the other on how atoms could come together naturally to form DNA etc? Is that your point? It must simply describe in effect what happened - well I suppose that is a possible stance, but are you saying no one should look at how likely given things are to happen and draw conclusions from that? Why the hell not? Many non-creationist/ID scientists quite hypocritically (if you are right about science, which I doubt) indulge quite freely and even grandly in such speculation, as I noted, as long as the results are the sort they like and not something irritating to them.

I don't know just what "high-mindedness" is supposed to mean here, and why it would have to be hypocritical coming from me. It certainly isn't high-minded to expect posters to have a bit of substance behind their posts, especially when science and philosphy principles are involved, however low-brow an adolescent medium you consider this to be. I deal with the "metaphysics" here because that seems to be what everyone is ultimately arguing about other than the political angle.

Posted by: Neil' on January 11, 2006 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

I say let them have the class. Much worse things have happened. I mean, who knows, a theory based on an intelligent universe; may lead somewhere.

Posted by: Matt on January 11, 2006 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

Evolution isn't even slightly random. Evolution is a pure response to environmental stimuli. Simple as that.

No it is not. Simple as that. Unless you can show how a changeed environment changes the genome (not activates a gene, changes the thing itself) then evolution is not a response to stimuli.

But I also agree that evolution isn't random. I don't think that our genes are randomly varying helter-skelter, and we happen to randomly generate an appendix or other part. It looks to me that there is a generative process that drives creation of new things not completely randomly at all, and a culling process that weeds out the variants. Studying the generative process, the process of complexity arising from simple stuff and simple rules of interaction plus some energy to shove it along, is the key. It needs to take us from leftover supernova gases to organisms.

That's why some species haven't evolved much and are much the same as they were millions of years ago. The shark for instance. Where there is no stim to evolve there is no need to evolve. The wooly mamoth, on the other hand, had to grow a thick coat of fur to survive in the colder, ice age climates. See? Not random. In fact it's realy quite specific.

Words like "need" are anthropic. Are you saying sharks have yearly reviews to determine if they "need" to modify their genomes? More likely they keep generating variants, but the ones that are already in their "potential well" keep kicking the other's butts. They are evolving in circles, so to speak.

Posted by: Red State Mike on January 11, 2006 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe it's time to revive the 1960s bumper strip, "Mississippi: The Most Lied-About State in the Nation." As you may recall, this was popular when, looking for the corpses of the civil rights workers Goodman, Cheney and Schwerner, searchers found two or less-publicized lynching victims.

Hey, I hate saying it, but Mississippi is a shit-hole, and, if you live there, you know it better than I.

Instead of trying to defend the indefensible, why not try something more intelligent. Like, MOVE.

And, while I admit Atwater and Wasco ain't exactly Castro St. or Santa Monica, Democrats can and do win elections in places like that. Indeed, without Valley Democrats, many of California's famous speakers--Willie Brown and Jess Unruh among them-- would have been minority leaders.

Which takes us back to Miss. The Dems have a chance to pick up a seat there if they can find a candidate who is as backward, uneducated, prejudiced and generally culturally benighted--or like Gingrich and Bush, knows how to pretend to be-- as his constituents.

And if he has to campaign against EVILution and take care not to be out-negroed in his praise for Jubal Early, Jefferson Davis, Huey Long, Strom Thurmond, Byron de la Beckwith, and all the other fine sons of the South we can all take such pride in, why then the dumb trailer-park fucks can spend the next two years trying to figure out how Nancy Pelosi got to be speaker.

God, but I hate those crackers.

Posted by: Steve High on January 11, 2006 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps the wingnuts who do not believe in evolution will contract a life-threatening antibiotic resistant infection in a hospital. That would focus their minds nicely I think on some of the mechanisms at play. (I don't seriously wish this on anyone, I'm just pointing out a good model for a selective pressure producing change over a period of generations, and rebutting those who say that evolutionary theory does not have any "practical use").

I don't think that is a good model. I can argue that the drug-resistant bugs were always there, but in low numbers since the non-drug resistant ones predominated. Antibiotics merely changed the balance of power between them. No new bugs were created.

Posted by: Red State Mike on January 11, 2006 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

Forgive if redundancy -- just skipped to bottom to post, and will now go back and read thread. If someone else said it firster or better I'm sorry...

But I am just so sick of this fight. Fuck 'em.
If they WANT their kids to grow up ignorant, as they so clearly do, let's just let 'em. These are the same people who yell and scream about "personal responsibility," so when their stump-dumb brats can't get jobs in ten or twenty years, we can remind them, as we turn down their demands for gov't handouts and protectionism, that "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." (Galatians 6:7 KJV -- we know our Scripture too)

Posted by: smartalek on January 11, 2006 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

cmdicely: Is the *conventional* view of what happened with dancing atoms testable under your scheme which you propose for ID? How about that point number four, heh....

MJ Memphis - you are *completely* missing the point of the AP. The point is most certainly *not* that things had to be the way they are. That they didn't *logically* need to be, but that way to be is good for life is the point. The crude points about certainly or we are here etc, obscures the specific *logical* selection of say, the fine structure constant to be just around 1/137 instead of any other number, and it (provably) needs to be just that withing a narrow range for life to exist. Please look at the Barrow and Tipler classic (see, I don't get all my knowledge from the Internet!)

Posted by: Neil' on January 11, 2006 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

Neil':

Your rhetoric is grandiose. You're assuming bad motives in people and mounting broad-brush attacks on ideas you appear to only vaguely understand.

Let me use smaller words for you.

Science deals in the observable. Period. Read Neils Bohr on the subject.

Metaphysical speculation is fine, but it's not science. That's the entire point of the people here who argue against ID as a subject fit for a science class.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 11, 2006 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

RSM,
Exactly! That is also why evolution seems to move in fits and starts. Once you reach a "local optimum", so to speak, in your environmental adaptation, any variants are likely to be inferior and therefore culled; then you end up with long stretches where there isn't really much change in the genome. However, if the environmental conditions change significantly, the old optimum is unlikely to be the new optimum; then the best variants win out in the reproductive game and start the move towards a new local optimum. Unless, of course, none of the variants are sufficiently well-adapted to survive under the new conditions, in which case you get an extinction.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on January 11, 2006 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

Neil',

No, I think you're missing the point. You can point out whatever conditions you like as being necessary for life to exist, but the fact remains that if that condition did not exist, we wouldn't be here to question it. Therefore the fact that we do exist doesn't give us any information about the probability of any other value existing for the universal constants.

Also, we are in no position to know exactly what the constraints are on the existence of life, or what the theoretical probability distribution was in the values of any given universal constant. All of which points to the AP being pretty much a tautology. It adds nothing to our knowledge. Zero. Although it probably sounds pretty impressive if you're stoned.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on January 11, 2006 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think that is a good model. I can argue that the drug-resistant bugs were always there, but in low numbers since the non-drug resistant ones predominated. Antibiotics merely changed the balance of power between them. No new bugs were created.

You could argue that, and in fact advocates of "intelligent design," or whatever the code-word for creationism is this week, do exactly that. They will claim that there are no new microbes, when in fact there are entire new classes of microbes that consume synthetic materials, like nylon, not available before the mid-20th century.

This is only one instance of their strategy of pretending that questions haven't been answered and hoping their audience doesn't know otherwise, which is why I call their movement a "self-replicating ignorance disease."

Maybe they could use that name next week?
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on January 11, 2006 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

Shortstop:

You're absolutely right to question the legitimacy of the letter -- that was the general reaction to it when Atrios posted it. At least you should be willing to concede that the kind of people that move to the desert may be a bit outside the mainstream. For example, the local sheriff had been called to investigate a man who was alleged by a neighbor to be engaging in carnal relations with his canine. When confronted by the sheriff, he argued "Well, its my dog, ain't it?"

Posted by: kostya on January 11, 2006 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

Neil':

There is very little doubt that if a few or even one of the molecular constants were changed, that the entire universe as we know it wouln't exist. How about that proton decay time, huh.

But that's *still* a vacuous argument, because there's no way to determine or even imagine whether or not life would have evolved with a different set of constants.

The only thing that we can say for certainty is that our form of life wouldn't be here. But that's hardly the same thing as ruling the possibility of life itself out of the ballpark.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 11, 2006 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

rmck1: First, I was describing the poor quality of what I directly saw here, not impugning motives (God only knows....)

As for science: you are quite wrong, regardless of what your favorite thinker says. Scientists come up with conceptual schemes and organizing philsophies all the time. Look at Kuhn and real study of the subject. Bohr was BTW reacting specifically to ideas of how to interpret quantum mechanics, which is something that in physical principle we often can't get behind (uncertainty principle etc.)

Plenty of things can be and are "interpreted." For example, uniformity is assumed such that the burden of proof is considered to be on one conjecturing that maybe the inverse square law for gravity doesn't apply at micron scales. Indeed, assuming and teaching that it does, which hasn't been measured yet (well, they're getting close) is an (appropriate) act of philosophical presumption, of assuming continuity for things not yet directly measured. Then there are the conceptual entities like fields used to explain the raw events, etc.

Posted by: Neil' on January 11, 2006 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK
Getting to the more interesting question of what actually went on with evolution and why: Look more into the anthropic principle (that the physical constants etc. couldn't have been very different or we couldn't be here - see the excellent _The Anthropic Principle..._ by Barrow and Tipler.) And please, don't put up the idiotic reverse-causality canard that they must be like that because we're here to ask - that begs the question (hah!) of why there was a life-friendly universe with the resultant beings who could ask, versus a not-friendly universe without; those two combined cause-effect situations being what is selected from "all possible worlds."

Er, no, because the possibility of other "worlds" (universes, actually) is not established. To do that, you'd have to know the fundamental boundaries shaping the parameters of what universe could actually exist (rather than merely what we can imagine existing, which may not actually have ever been possible.)

The whole "highly improbable conditions" argument simply misunderstands probability. Probability simply describes the likelihood of something being true given a limited universe of knowledge, including, in that limited universe, some defined relation between what is known to be true and the thing whose probability is being investigated.

But the probability of any given set of physical constants in the universe is indeterminant (neither "very probable" nor "highly improbable" nor anywhere inbetween) without some other knowledge.

Given the knowledge that we exist, the probability that the universe has conditions that allow us to exist is 1. We know the universe has such conditions, because we know we exist. This is essentially the weak anthropic principle, and it is not retrocausal in any respect (or controversial, either -- its a simple tautology that nevertheless is a useful weeding tool in the process of cosmological speculation.)

But the prior probability of the universe ending up with constants that allow us to exist is, absent some knowledge or assumptions about the parameters that constrain the kinds of universe that could exist, entirely undefined. And, therefore, the strong anthropic principle and, a fortiori, the final anthropic principle are, as scientific "principles" of any kind vacuous.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 11, 2006 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

Grand Moff:

Self-replicating ignorance disease! ROTFL !

Which seems to *evolve* as its environment becomes increasingly hostile! At first, it was called Creationism. When the SCOTUS ruled that one out of the ballpark it *changed its DNA* to become ID, which was had a vastly different genome -- the Young Earth, outtathere!

Now that the PA judge has ruled, what *will* it evolve into next, one can only wonder ...

Thank you, Intelligent Design, for being an object lesson in the existence of Darwinian evolution.

:)

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 11, 2006 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

MJ Memphis and rmck1: You are both ignoring the considerable work (not to be confused with my own opinions) which went into defining the anthropic principle, into checking the results of other constant values using model-universe calculations, etc. You substitue intuitive fluff off of the top of your heads against the work of widely-acknowledged experts like Barrow and Tipler, then pick on how crude and dumb the Red Staters etc, are. Please, at least do your homework. Even if the AP theorists are off-base, you should be reading their work first and critiquing it like you have read and understood it.

Posted by: Neil' on January 11, 2006 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

I missed the part about why evolution predicts what it predicts, though I am not an expert.

Why is the lion so successful? Even in its hey day it had far fewer animals on the plain than its hunting victims.

Does evolution seek to put more life everywhere, fewer but more complex life somewhere, or just put life in some locally vacant niche for the time being. The last I think.

But what a useless theory, except in hind sight, examining closely related species. It has lousy predictability, no limit theorem, so to speak. Doesn't evolution have some goal, predictable in the limit?

Is there even an algebra the evolutionists can use to test and construct limit theories? Has anybody done the work?

We better let them have their class, we may discover the next Einstein.

Posted by: Matt on January 11, 2006 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK
Unless you can show how a changeed environment changes the genome (not activates a gene, changes the thing itself) then evolution is not a response to stimuli.

Er, evolution is not the process by which genomes changes, genome change is a part (but not the only part) of the mechanism by which evolution occurs. Genome change happens all the time, driven by physical processes in the environment (from radiation to the presence of virii, to actual mechanisms inside some cells that actively rearrange DNA, among other factors). Now, most changes to the genome that occur and affect the traits of offspring are nonadaptive, which is to say, they lack relative reproductive fitness in the environment in which the progenitor lives, compared to individuals without the change. Thus, they tend not to result in "evolution", since the changes tend not to be retained. This is less true, however, when the environment has changed, and, therefore, evolution occurs in response, largely, to environmental changes.

So, yes, saying that evolution is driven by (in large part, though not exclusively) environmental changes is largely correct.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 11, 2006 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

Is there even an algebra the evolutionists...

What the hell is an "evolutionist"?
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on January 11, 2006 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

Drum -

Most states are like that (reasonable coast, hick interior)- my own state of Washington, for example.

Posted by: cdj on January 11, 2006 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely: Of course the AP is not testable experimental science, that's not its point and thinkers about it don't pretend it is(however, then why do many scientists feel the need to fend off design concepts by hypocritically positing those infinities of other possible universes?) The point is, rather, that such is of *course* philsophical speculation, and what if it is? Why not entertain it, as long as we don't treat it like the directly accessible empirical issues? As long as we present a science class as being somewhat entangled in philosophy, so be it. Furthermore, I still haven't seen your answer about how we could replicate etc. the early earth to properly prove what happened with life either way... Are those who *don't* posit design making a mistake of principle too?

Posted by: Neil' on January 11, 2006 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

Umm... Neil'... hate to burst your bubble, but I *am* a red-stater. Any insults I make to the red states come from personal experience.

As for your argument from authority, you may be interested to know that Tipler's work is not considered very convincing by most physicists. Frank Tipler is the fellow who argued that we will all get to be immortal after death thanks to a benign artiicial intelligence called the Omega Point. His work has not had a kind reception from scientists; in Nature they called his ideas a "masterpiece of psuedoscience."

Posted by: MJ Memphis on January 11, 2006 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

OK, I suppose I was too snooty (but it's fun to write...) to you guys about "fluff" etc. However, please do understand that there is considerable work - call it philosophy then if not "science" - about the issues the anthropic principle raises, and at least not take it dismissively.

Posted by: Neil' on January 11, 2006 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK
Scientists come up with conceptual schemes and organizing philsophies all the time.

People who are scientists engage in activity that is tangential to, or even entirely unrelated to, science all the time.

Science is not a religion or a lifestyle, its a process of proposing and weeding predictive explanations of physical phenomena.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 11, 2006 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

MJ M - the AP work of Tipler is separable from his more grandiose speculations. Many main-stream physicists like Roger Penrose have acknowledged the oddity and technical accuracy of AP claims about constants, even if they don't have the same philosophical take on its ultimate significance.

Posted by: Neil' on January 11, 2006 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

You could argue that, and in fact advocates of "intelligent design," or whatever the code-word for creationism is this week, do exactly that. They will claim that there are no new microbes, when in fact there are entire new classes of microbes that consume synthetic materials, like nylon, not available before the mid-20th century.

Well, there are entirely new classes of people that drink Diet Pepsi, which was not around in Cro-Magnon eras. And I don't see how you can prove those microbes weren't there, eating something else while waiting for nylon to be created. I don't see your argument working. I'm not disagreeing with you that microbes evolve, I am saying you've proved nothing.

Posted by: Red State Mike on January 11, 2006 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

" 'Scientists come up with conceptual schemes and organizing philsophies all the time.'

People who are scientists engage in activity that is tangential to, or even entirely unrelated to, science all the time."

Er, don't you think I meant as part of science?

Posted by: Neil' on January 11, 2006 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK
Of course the AP is not testable experimental science, that's not its point and thinkers about it don't pretend it is(however, then why do many scientists feel the need to fend off design concepts by hypocritically positing those infinities of other possible universes?) The point is, rather, that such is of *course* philsophical speculation, and what if it is? Why not entertain it, as long as we don't treat it like the directly accessible empirical issues?

The reason we are discussing it here is because it was raised as both a fact and an empirical argument for intelligent design, and, therefore, the question of "Why not entertain it, as long as we don't treat it like the directly accessible empirical issues?" is misplaced. It is being treated as a directly accessible empirical issue.

It is not. The strong and final anthropic principles are simply inherently unsupportable speculation that are often advanced by misrepresentations of probability.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 11, 2006 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

Neil':

Appeals to authority are always *so attractive* in these kinds of discussions. If those ideas are cogent, you can synopsize them here. Otherwise, citing authors only demonstrates an inability to reason from your preferred arguments.

You know, bringing up Kuhn really exposes your game. On the one hand, we have the religionists corroding the study of science through absolutism. Un the other, we have the postmodernists corroding it through relativism.

A coincidence that the Dover attorney loved to mouth Kuhn by calling ID "the next great paradigm in biology?"

Look, at least ML Cook offered up some experiments, ludicrous as they are. Until you can offer some way of falsifying the conclusions you're drawing from the AP, cmdicely's right -- you're just stating an intuitively attractive tautology: We're here in the form we are because the laws of the universe are as they are.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 11, 2006 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, kostya--

No arguments that these people exist! And I've seen a few letters to the editor written by the genuine article (my grandma-in-law, for example) that came damn close to the sentiments expressed in that letter. But the real thing generally lacks the subtle humor, not to mention the literacy, of that letter. I wasn't really arguing, just observing.

Posted by: shortstop on January 11, 2006 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK
Furthermore, I still haven't seen your answer about how we could replicate etc. the early earth to properly prove what happened with life either way.

Suggesting this is necessary misunderstands, again, the process of scientific testing. The hypothesis that life came about a certain way produces predictions which are falsifiable without attempting replication of the entirety of the conditions of the early earth and the creation of life itself.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 11, 2006 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

Niel',

"Many main-stream physicists like Roger Penrose have acknowledged the oddity and technical accuracy of AP claims about constants, even if they don't have the same philosophical take on its ultimate significance."

So, in other words they do agree with the trivial observation that the conditions of the universe are such that life can exist, but don't find it very useful. Probably because they know how to do statistics.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on January 11, 2006 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK
Er, don't you think I meant as part of science?

I was being generous, and interpreting your statement in the only way in which it was true.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 11, 2006 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

Of course the AP is not testable experimental science

And neither, of course, is so-called "intelligent design."

Posted by: Gregory on January 11, 2006 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

Evolution is too slow.

Posted by: Dr. Frankenstein on January 11, 2006 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

"Evolution is too slow."

Sometimes you just have to give it a little kick with some un-natural selection. Then you can turn a useless wolf into a perfectly good chihuahua in just a few thousand years of selection!

Posted by: MJ Memphis on January 11, 2006 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

Let me guess. They "don't have enough money" for the Biology AP class any more. Losers. They deserve the scarce M.D.s that they will end up graduating and the high health care costs that go with them.

Actually, the number of M.D.s is already artificially limited by a cartel of medical schools. They collude to cap the number of med-schools slots. An antitrust suit would do wonders to reduce health care costs.

Posted by: aretino on January 11, 2006 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

"I don't think that is a good model. I can argue that the drug-resistant bugs were always there, but in low numbers since the non-drug resistant ones predominated. Antibiotics merely changed the balance of power between them. No new bugs were created."

If that is what you really think, you haven't studied microbiology.

Posted by: valerie on January 11, 2006 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

ID is falsifiable.

Evidence indicates that species have come into existance and gone out of it across natural history, and probably continue to do so. If ID is correct, and evolution incorrect, there will be or has been spontaneous generation of whole species.


Posted by: Boronx on January 11, 2006 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely:

> "Er, don't you think I meant as part of science?"

> I was being generous, and interpreting your
> statement in the only way in which it was true.

Ouch :)

BTW, I responded to your big reply over on the Debra
Dickerson thread, which of course is in archive now.

Sorry for sounding so dismissive. I was exhausted when I wrote
that post ("Dude, I'm not writing an anthropology thesis.")

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 11, 2006 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

It's curious how so many people toss words like "Darwin" around, yet seem to know next to nothing about what he actually said. In Origin of Species, Darwin was working from a pre-Mendelian perspective -- in other words, he started with the observation that there is variation both in domestic and wild plants and animals, then went on to discuss how selection could focus the resulting evolution of a species. He had lots of examples, even in his own day, of pigeon types, plants, and insects that appeared to have evolved through human breeding programs or other natural phenomena. Modern science is gradually unraveling the mechanisms by which genetic change results in changes of form and function. It's complicated because there are lots of base pairs, and the regulatory complexity is high. Nothing in modern science argues against molecular evolution over periods of time that go from very long to pretty short. You can see "evolution" of bacterial colonies pretty much overnight.

By the way, that argument that the resistant bacteria were always there is not only testable, but fraudulent. It is the very essence of bacteriology, and was analyzed pretty well by Luria and Delbruck in the 1940s (for which they received the Nobel prize).

Another "by the way": There are lots of things that are testable in the lab, and there are various ways to "test" hypotheses that discuss ancient history. The two are not quite the same. To argue that the only way to "test" evolution is to reproduce the whole thing in the test tube is to argue that science can have no views on what came before, only on what happens now or later.

The creationists argue that there are no new species coming into existence (except through God's intervention), that development of structures we now observe couldn't have happened without an external (ie: divine) plan, and so on. It is to raise lack of imagination to the level of certainty.

What's curious is that the objections that are raised by creationists generally are, or have been, answered -- often several times, with carefully thought explanations. Mostly though, it is the basic circular argument of the watch found in the desert. The answer to that riddle is easy: the watch was made by humans, who came into existence by evolution. Without evolution, the watch would not have existed.

Posted by: Bob G on January 11, 2006 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK
ID is falsifiable.

Where is the test?

Evidence indicates that species have come into existance and gone out of it across natural history, and probably continue to do so. If ID is correct, and evolution incorrect, there will be or has been spontaneous generation of whole species.

Yes, but there isn't a reproducible test proposed here, its just (at best) a speculation along the lines of what might be called an "intermediate hypothesis" -- a more specific corollary of a major hypothesis designed to get closer to a practicable test. But there is still no actual test proposed.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 11, 2006 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

So, yes, saying that evolution is driven by (in large part, though not exclusively) environmental changes is largely correct.

We almost agree. I would change one word to make it..

"evolution is a response to (in large part, though not exclusively) environmental changes."

Why? Because I don't think the environment had to be changing for life to initially appear, yet the initial appearance of life is part of evolution. It appeared and life could have evolved to some static state with no environmental changes.

I think the process of generating the variants is not nearly so random as people think. I think life has an inevitability to it in the universe, and that initial forming of life was not random, it was the outcome of inevitable physical processes.

And if that part is mostly not random, than neither should the generative process. Stuart Kauffman says, ""Self-organization mingles with natural selection in barely understood ways to yield the magnificence of our teeming biosphere. We must, therefore, expand evolutionary theory."

I agree with him.

Posted by: Red State Mike on January 11, 2006 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

Boronx:

I think that applies to Creationism more than ID. I don't think ID disputes, e.g., a common simian ancestor for humankind.

Then again, I'm letting ML Cook be my spokesman for ID, so perhaps this isn't what the ID gurus themselves allow ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 11, 2006 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

RSM:

What is "self-organization" as Kaufman articulates it?

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 11, 2006 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, but there isn't a reproducible test proposed here, its just (at best) a speculation along the lines of what might be called an "intermediate hypothesis" -- a more specific corollary of a major hypothesis designed to get closer to a practicable test. But there is still no actual test proposed.

I totally agree. I'm not trying to propose a scientific ID theory, just pointing out that such a theory could be proposed.

I don't think ID disputes, e.g., a common simian ancestor for humankind.

If so, I don't really understand ID. Does ID keep common descent but throw out natural selection? Or does it only hold to partial common descent?

Posted by: Boronx on January 11, 2006 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

Does ID keep common descent but throw out natural selection?

ID doesn't posit anything.

Safer that way, I guess.

Instead, it suggests that there are problems with "Darwinism," whatever that is, and says it's only fair/necessary that we admit them to the science curriculum...

...even though they do no science.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on January 11, 2006 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

I hypothesize that sea water or 'ocean air' affects the political views of humans.

Posted by: WhoSays on January 11, 2006 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

You know, Chris has a point. Maybe ID should be taught in schools, because then those impressionable kids will reject it for being ridiculous. That's such a good idea that we should teach them that Jews are to blame for all the world's problems, black folks are genetically inferior, women are divinely ordained to be subjugated to men, and the earth is flat too. I'm sure they'll reject all of those notions too. Or wait, maybe indoctrinating kids into racism, sexism, and anti-intellectualism might actually work, and not have the 'backfire' effect that Chris envisions.

Posted by: libdevil on January 11, 2006 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

Well, there are entirely new classes of people that drink Diet Pepsi, which was not around in Cro-Magnon eras. And I don't see how you can prove those microbes weren't there, eating something else while waiting for nylon to be created. I don't see your argument working.

1. false analogy

2. it's not my argument
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on January 11, 2006 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

"Words like "need" are anthropic. Are you saying sharks have yearly reviews to determine if they "need" to modify their genomes?"
Posted by: Red State Mike on January 11, 2006 at 11:48 AM

So you are saying that animals don't "Need" to eat? Or "Need" oxygen? I disagree that the term Need is anthropic. It doesn't take a commitee to identify a "need". All living creatures have "needs". Just because they can't discuss them doesn't mean they don't have them. If an environment changes any organism "Needs" to adapt. If the adaptation is severe enough then that adaptation appears to be able to stimulate changes at the DNA level, thus..evolution.

"More likely they keep generating variants, but the ones that are already in their "potential well" keep kicking the other's butts. They are evolving in circles, so to speak."

That's possible, I imagine, but I wouldn't say "More Likely"

Posted by: Lurker42 on January 11, 2006 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

(Sigh, I guess it is true that IKEA's founder attended some Nazi meetings in his teens....)

Well, to be fair, my grandfather, now deceased, studied abroad in Germany in '38, He was fascinated by the Nazis, and from perusing his writings from the time, it's clear that he loved the order, ritual and energy of Nazi rallies. After Pearl Harbor, he signed up for the US Army, and fought with distinction (and lost his baby brother at the Bulge) I think the guilt of being enamoured with such evil is one reason he was a miserable son of a bitch, but he raised 6 children, all loving tolerant people, (including my Dad) and spent his life as a teacher of humanities, so I can forgive him his early transgressions.

Let's be honest, we all did things at the age of 20 that we might like expunged from the record, and if you are the same person at 25 that you were at 20, you haven't lived enough.

Posted by: northzax on January 11, 2006 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

What is "self-organization" as Kaufman articulates it?

Google it. The Wiki gives a pretty good definition.

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

Self-organization refers to a process in which the internal organization of a system, normally an open system, increases automatically without being guided or managed by an outside source. Self-organizing systems typically (though not always) display emergent properties.
Posted by: Red State Mike on January 11, 2006 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK
Why?

I just explained why.

Because I don't think the environment had to be changing for life to initially appear,

Perhaps it didn't. That has at most tangential relevance to evolution. Nor do I argue, anywhere, that environmental change is a necessary contributor to evolution, just that, in practice, for the well-defined reasons I explained earlier, it is one of the principle drivers. At the time of the first life, it would seem more likely that changes that affected the traits of offspring would be adaptive, thus environmental change would be a less important trigger. Once you have a wide variety of forms specialized to particular environments, changes are less likely to be adaptive.

yet the initial appearance of life is part of evolution.

No, it isn't. The original origin of life is not part of evolution. Evolution is the process of the divergence of species from the first life. How the first life arose is a separate question (though, clearly, the universe of information looked to, and some of the physical process involved, overlap between the two inquiries.)

I think the process of generating the variants is not nearly so random as people think.

If by "people", you mean "evolutionary scientists", they actually think the process of generating variants is largely deterministic but chaotic, though a few of the inputs (radioactive decay, for instance) are, as best they are currently understood, random. At any rate, that you think something is hardly an argument without any reasoning or evidence supporting your belief.

I think life has an inevitability to it in the universe, and that initial forming of life was not random, it was the outcome of inevitable physical processes.

And if that part is mostly not random, than neither should the generative process. Stuart Kauffman says, ""Self-organization mingles with natural selection in barely understood ways to yield the magnificence of our teeming biosphere. We must, therefore, expand evolutionary theory."

I agree with him.


Posted by: cmdicely on January 11, 2006 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

Cripes, you people are working WAY too hard.

--Anybody who claims intelligent design because complexity must have a designer, has to also explain where the "designer" came from. Six-year-old kids spot this one.

--The "watchmaker" analogy falls flat if you know anything about atoms and molecules, and their inherent tendency to inevitably form specific patterns. Take a thousand coins, and put them in a huge box with a metal bottom. Shake it around. How long would it take until all the coins read "heads" when you stop shaking? Wow, huh? Okay, now slap a little magnet on the "tails" side of each coin, and try the experiment again. Well, whaddaya know. Hell, in organic chemistry it's all you can do to KEEP some atoms from forming a complex chain molecule.

--Evolution is real. And it's a kludge. The genetic code of complex life forms is not an elegant pattern of design, it's got oddball parts, seemingly (but not actually) useless DNA, and random bits of things that pop out now and then, or go away. It's like a piece of software code that has never been rewritten, but patched and re-patched a billion times, and very little gets really thrown away. Move one little sequence, and odd things can happen. Sometimes good things. Sometimes bad ones. But most of them affect more than just that gene. Genetic engineers are just now discovering that making changes is going to be a lot harder than simply adjusting a "gene for this trait." This is why evolution moves quite rapidly in some cases--much of the "blueprint" is already there, waiting to be expressed. You don't have to poke a chicken's genes very hard to come up with teeth.

If God designed this, he pushes his glasses up on his nose way too frequently.

--Whales got leg bones. Get over it.

Posted by: tbrosz on January 11, 2006 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

How about some applause for tbrosz?

Excellent post.

Posted by: Pale Rider on January 11, 2006 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

...but regardless of the fact that evolution is real, it's certainly understandable that Bush and his supporters would want to teach ID in the public schools, because Democrats teach far worse stuff.

Posted by: the rest of tbrosz's post on January 11, 2006 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

Er, I forgot to clip the last part of RSM's post that I wasn't discussing. Everything after:

If by "people", you mean "evolutionary scientists", they actually think the process of generating variants is largely deterministic but chaotic, though a few of the inputs (radioactive decay, for instance) are, as best they are currently understood, random. At any rate, that you think something is hardly an argument without any reasoning or evidence supporting your belief.

In my previous post is his, not mine, and wasn't supposed to be there at all.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 11, 2006 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK
You know, bringing up Kuhn really exposes your game. On the one hand, we have the religionists corroding the study of science through absolutism. Un the other, we have the postmodernists corroding it through relativism.

If I'm reading that right, its tremendously unfair to Kuhn, by implication; Sure, Kuhn gets abused by nuts a lot, but I don't think pointing to Kuhn is really prima facie evidence of being a nutball attacking science from either side.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 11, 2006 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

tbrosz:

> You don't have to poke a chicken's genes
> very hard to come up with teeth.

> If God designed this, he pushes his
> glasses up on his nose way too frequently.

ROTFL !

This wins my award for the greatest tbrosz post of ALL TIME.

Well done, you engineerin' fool, you.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 11, 2006 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

...but regardless of the fact that evolution is real, it's certainly understandable that Bush and his supporters would want to teach ID in the public schools, because Democrats teach far worse stuff.

Now that you mention it, sometimes I wish there was as much pressure to get advocates of the Theory of Marxism out of our colleges. ;)

Posted by: tbrosz on January 11, 2006 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

You need an intelligent design theory, here is mine.

Nature is primarily affected by the final state of the environment during the previous cycle.

Nature retains complexity in generating its next cycle.

This theory holds at all levels, including the big bang and evolution. For each natural cycle, nature retains what is has learned and seeks to lengthen the next cycle.

My theory explains explains everything. Send me a nickel.


Posted by: Matt on January 11, 2006 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

I never thought I'd hear witness myself typing this, but tbrosz did just compose an excellent post.

Nice job, Tom.

clap clap clap

Posted by: trex on January 11, 2006 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

No, it isn't. The original origin of life is not part of evolution. Evolution is the process of the divergence of species from the first life. How the first life arose is a separate question (though, clearly, the universe of information looked to, and some of the physical process involved, overlap between the two inquiries.)

I doubt that some new physical process took over once life occurred...I think that the two questions are one and the same. For starters, there's probably a smooth gradation between alive and not-alive.

I think the process of generating the variants is not nearly so random as people think.

If by "people", you mean "evolutionary scientists", they actually think the process of generating variants is largely deterministic but chaotic, though a few of the inputs (radioactive decay, for instance) are, as best they are currently understood, random.

By "people", I mean "people who think it is mostly random" which is what most people who are neither ID-ers nor scientists versed in the area think.

At any rate, that you think something is hardly an argument without any reasoning or evidence supporting your belief.

Thanks, cmdicely. That's why I use words like "I think". You are a Master Of the Obvious.

I do research in dynamic systems, and so I can't help but see the whole problem as a dynamic system. The environment directs evolution? Well, the organism that evolves changes the environment. I see life as full of arms races where two organisms continuously evolve longer teeth and thicker hides while the larger environment doesn't change. Or if the environment is defined as to include the predator, then I guess it does.

A lot of our minor bickering here hinges on definition of terms.

Posted by: Red State Mike on January 11, 2006 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

tbrosz: Theory of Marxism out of our colleges. ;)

But that would leave us with only one major political party.

Posted by: alex on January 11, 2006 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely:

> "You know, bringing up Kuhn really exposes your game.
> On the one hand, we have the religionists corroding
> the study of science through absolutism. Un the other,
> we have the postmodernists corroding it through relativism."

> If I'm reading that right, its tremendously unfair to
> Kuhn, by implication; Sure, Kuhn gets abused by nuts a
> lot, but I don't think pointing to Kuhn is really prima facie
> evidence of being a nutball attacking science from either side.

Ok, well-taken. That was more like a knee-jerk (and probably
unfair) reaction to Neil''s dillettantism, trying to get the
camel's nose of metaphysics into the tent of science through the
kind of vague yet assertive rhetoric I remember all-too-well
when I used to be an English undergrad before I changed my
major to American Studies to escape the deconstructionists.

I have a lot of respect for Kuhn. I've read all of The Structure
of Scientific Revolutions and think it's a compelling argument --
(although more recent information about the critical role of Rosalind
Franklin in DNA research factually undercuts his chapter on Watson
and Crick). And he was a structuralist, not a post-structuralist.
He never fundamentally questioned the nature of scientific truth
the way the postmodernist history of science folks do, only said
that contrary to a beloved mid-20th century myth, that the March
of Scientific Progress was not linear. Scientists are human
beings with professional interests and jealousies that make them
zealously guard the learning they've accumulated over the lifetime
of their careers, and thus resistant to (and properly skeptical of)
entirely new ways to see problems. This is just common sense.

Nonetheless, Kuhn was co-opted by the attorney for the Dover
case, which in my mind was a tremendously ironic use of
cultural relativism (along with "teach the controversy")
in the service of what is, in truth, an absolutist agenda.

Not Kuhn's fault that he became an ur-text of
postmodernists, of course. But he did nonetheless.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 11, 2006 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

"Just wondering, would an intelligent design theorist consider the Mandelbrot set to be irreducibly complex?"

Oh, Matt, what a wonderful question.

Ever since seeing a PBS show on the Madelbrot set narrated by Arthur C. Clarke, I have seen it absolutely everywhere I look. I'm ready for a religion based on it. The computer generated graphic running of the set was one of the most mesmerizing things I've ever seen in my life. It struck me like a thunderbolt: That's what life looks like. That's what life IS.

All hale the Mandlebrot set!

Posted by: Cal Gal on January 11, 2006 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

But that would leave us with only one major political party. Posted by: alex

Somehow, I doubt that corporate socialism would be interrupted. Stalinism, after all, was merely an aping of American monopolies. Since America had admitted that competition was wasteful and had abandoned capitalism, transforming an agricultural nation into an industrial powerhouse, why shouldn't the USSR do the same?

However, if you were to throw ALL of Marx out of the academy, including the inside-out version that appears as free-market fundamentalism, in what pile of sand would people stick their heads next?
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on January 11, 2006 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

Not Kuhn's fault that he became an ur-text of
postmodernists, of course. But he did nonetheless.

I could actually see that force at work in graduate school. With otherwise careful (or even conservative) minds, the notion that paradigms change and that they tend to be accompanied by generational changes led to the false conclusion that whatever science 'is' now will be something else tomorrow so we might as well believe anything we like.

Ack. At least Tertullian recognized absurdity.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on January 11, 2006 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

"Drive a hundred miles into the interior of the state, and you might as well be in Mississippi."

you mean dumb as a stump, bass-ackward republican slugs?

Posted by: justfred on January 11, 2006 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

you sound pretty certain. odd, since there is a hell of a lot more evidence that points to evolution than there is that points away.
Posted by: cleek on January 11, 2006 at 8:02 AM | PERMALINK

There is NO evidence that points the other way. Just wishful thinking.

Posted by: Michael7843853 GO in 08! on January 11, 2006 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

I have a sister who lives in Tehachapi, and I can verify that every place in those mountains is full of rednecks and fundies. Bigotry and evangelism is the norm there. Unfortunately, Sis has been there for more than 30 years and she's one of 'em. We live in the same state but on different planets.

Posted by: Emily on January 11, 2006 at 2:57 AM | PERMALINK

I lived in Tehachapi from 1994-2000 and I have to take exception to Emily's characterization. I was surprised moving there at how diverse the population was. It is true that there are lots of conservative and religious people there a legacy of its farming & ranching past, but there are lots of engineers and scientists from Edwards AFB,NASA Dryden, and Antelope Valley aerospace companies that live there. One of my friends was a retired astronaut. Also a fair number of professionals of all stripes who commute to Bakersfield or Antelope Valley and live there to get out of the heat.

Also there is a sizable contingent of people from the entertainment industry there. A number of actors (Jack Palance is prob. best known) live there and movie people who don't have to continually be in LA. One of my friends was a consultant working on movie special effects. Another neighbor was a stunt-man. Also some screen-writers. None of these fit the profile of ignorant bigots.

Both of my kids attended public school there (through high school) and an ID course like this would be laughed out of there. There is surprisingly little racial tension in the schools.

And don't forget that the Hispanic population is about 25%. The headquarters of United Farm Workers is just out of town in Keene. Cesar Chavez lived in Tehachapi and my kids went to school with his (great?) grandchildren, who are very proud of the fact.

So Tehachapi isn't like LA, but it's nothing like Mississippi either. I grew up in Memphis, I know.

Posted by: Campesino on January 11, 2006 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

A lot of our minor bickering here hinges on definition of terms.

By that, do you mean terms or values? The term life of a value inherent in the term utilized to define the point made thus far as simplified and codified means x to the base value where y is understood to be -4.

Posted by: Pale Rider on January 11, 2006 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK
I doubt that some new physical process took over once life occurred...I think that the two questions are one and the same.

Well, sure, in that all questions about the material world are "one and the same" in that once you understand the fundamental governing equations of physics, everything should be determined by them (except to the extent that the universe may contain irreducible randomness, which will also be explained by those fundamental equations.) But useful models often work at higher levels, where, notwithstanding that the same underlying physics governs them, "evolution" and "the origin of the first life" and "economics" are three different areas of inquiry.

Thanks, cmdicely. That's why I use words like "I think". You are a Master Of the Obvious.

Sorry, that was a bit of kneejerking on my part; there's been a lot of "I think X" or "I don't think X" offered without explanation or support on ID threads...looking back, you weren't doing that and it wasn't really necessary to respond that way.

I do research in dynamic systems, and so I can't help but see the whole problem as a dynamic system.

And it is, certainly. I would say "I don't think anyone disputes that", but then I'd have to narrow it down and probably get into "No true scotsman" arguments, so I'll just say I agree.

The environment directs evolution?

I wouldn't say "directs", as I see that as misleadingly anthropomorphic.

Well, the organism that evolves changes the environment.

Certainly.

I see life as full of arms races where two organisms continuously evolve longer teeth and thicker hides while the larger environment doesn't change. Or if the environment is defined as to include the predator, then I guess it does.

There is quite a bit of that, to be sure. OTOH, other organisms (including, certainly, food sources or predators of the organism in question) are important parts of the environment.


But, yeah, I think your right that a lot of our "bickering" on this issue is semantic; I think you and I largely agree on the substance.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 11, 2006 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

My problem with Intelligent Design (and I ALWAYS capitalize it out of respect for the clergy) is this, who designed the Intelligent Designer?

Posted by: Cal Gal on January 11, 2006 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

Cal Gal:

Shhhhhhhhhhhhhh !!!!!!

:)

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 11, 2006 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

Cal Gal:

Computers, of course.

And tbrosz, nice post. I salute you, or something.

Though "the rest of tbrosz's post" was pretty funny.

Posted by: craigie on January 11, 2006 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK
My problem with Intelligent Design (and I ALWAYS capitalize it out of respect for the clergy) is this, who designed the Intelligent Designer?

ID proponents would probably assert that there is no evidence that the Designer must have the features from which design of the rest of teh universe is inferred.

To really make out the challenge that ID is not merely vacuous but self-defeating, what is really needed is someway to link the minimal complexity of the designer with the complexity of the design, which might be difficult to do with rigor. Though it might not.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 11, 2006 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

Cal Gal & craigie:

All hail the Mandelbrot set!

S'cuze me, gotta go change a Sierperski gasket on my motercycle engine.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 11, 2006 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

"ID is falsifiable.

Evidence indicates that species have come into existance and gone out of it across natural history."

Good point: the Intelligent Designer must have an eraser on the end of His pencil.

Shorter Intelligent Design: "I don't understand the origins of life, the universe, and everything, so someone more intelligent that I must have put the whole thing in motion."

Posted by: Cal Gal on January 11, 2006 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

Thank you all for your kind comments.

(I'm here all week. Try the veal.)

Posted by: tbrosz on January 11, 2006 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely:

> ID proponents would probably assert that there is no
> evidence that the Designer must have the features from
> which design of the rest of teh universe is inferred.

I thought -- and all of this is just metaphysical bloviation
beause there's no way to logically link the creator with creation
-- that the idea among ID folks is the same with Creationists and
more standard believers: that the Creator is ineffibly complex,
infinitely more powerful and knowing than is even conceivable in
the realm of creation. Omniscient and omnipotent. Otherwise, you're
into various flavors of theodicy that circumscribe the Creator's
powers in ways to account for things like evil in the world, etc.
And at that point you're into the realm of theology, not cosmology.

> To really make out the challenge that ID is not
> merely vacuous but self-defeating, what is really
> needed is someway to link the minimal complexity of
> the designer with the complexity of the design, which
> might be difficult to do with rigor. Though it might not.

Minimal complexity of the designer? I've not heard this argument.

How do you derive it from the complexity of creation?

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 11, 2006 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

It's an elective, and it's not a "science" course. It will do no harm, and the course materials could easily be adopted for the first month of a semester long course in evolution. ID depends on superficial analysis of selected adult organs in surviving organisms; the strategy for effectively killing ID is to take the same examples, but tell the whole story from the fertilization of the eggs of a cohort to the adulthood of the few survivors; from start to finish, nothing in nature looks like it was intelligently designed.

For example, of fertilized human ova, fewer than 2/3 result in live births, and fewer than 1/3 survive to adulthood (except in a few of the more technologically advanced countries); what definition of "intelligence" could have designed such a stupid system?

Darwin was initially impressed with the Reverend Paley's argument from design, but he came to disparage it after further study of actual organisms. We would all do well to travel the same path: start with ID, then move on to real science.

Posted by: contentious on January 11, 2006 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

"Drive a hundred miles into the interior of the state, and you might as well be in Mississippi."

You got that right. It's a whole 'nother world. And everyone inland is sunburned and fat.

Well, half of everyone. Seriously.

Posted by: The Tim on January 11, 2006 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

""Drive a hundred miles into the interior of the state, and you might as well be in Mississippi."

Except that it's a DRY heat.

Posted by: Cal Gal on January 11, 2006 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK
I thought -- and all of this is just metaphysical bloviation beause there's no way to logically link the creator with creation -- that the idea among ID folks is the same with Creationists and more standard believers: that the Creator is ineffibly complex, infinitely more powerful and knowing than is even conceivable in the realm of creation.

I think that is, indeed, the idea. I was just noodling around with an avenue for showing that the argument for design from complexity (overlooking its flaws for the moment) inconsistent with the idea of the Christian God.

Since the proponents of ID like to pretend that they aren't trying to sell Christian fundamentalism, such a demonstration would, I think, put them in a bit of a bind, and the post I was responding to sort of triggered a thought about how one might go about seeking to show that.

Minimal complexity of the designer? I've not heard this argument.

Probably because no one's gotten around to making it yet -- I was sketching the kind of argument that would show that, even granting, arguendo, that ID was a valid "theory", all that establishing it could do was get you infinite regress.

How do you derive it from the complexity of creation?

I'm not sure you can, especially if you allow for the possibility of incremental creation; though it seems intuitively likely that you could, at least if you assumed a creator capable of simultaneously comprehending all of its creations. And that would be enough to show you that ID based on the argument from complexity is inconsistent with the Christian God, since you have to either accept that the Creator is created or abandon anything even approaching omniscience for it to be consistent.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 11, 2006 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

Are you fucking retarded? Complexity arivses from randomness quite easily given enough iterations. I've written programs that generate amazingly complicated behaviours from random changes in code. Ever heard of genetic algorithms? I suspect not you ignorant twit. Don't bring us down you god damn knuckle dragger.

And just how are school officials applying a gloss of secular lipstick to this transparently religious pig?

How is it religious to question the truth of evolution? One of the big problems in evolution theory (and it is only a theory) is the irreducible complexity of organisms and in particular human beings. Evolution is simply random chance and randomness by itself could not have produced systems of such great complexity

Posted by: Stephen Crowley on January 11, 2006 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

would anyone here have a real a problem if the class was on Native American creation stories ?

surely those stories are at odds with evolution and much of modern biology.

Posted by: cleek on January 11, 2006 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

The history of science is chock full of settled certainties that were overturned to the great consternation of the smug.

For instance, last fall a half-dozen berryllium atoms were put into a "cat state" and essentially disproved Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle.

Posted by: Global Citizen on January 11, 2006 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

"what is really needed is someway to link the minimal complexity of the designer with the complexity of the design"

cmdicely get this, I think. he first rule of ID in the academic setting is to set aside the postulate that the designer and the designed are unconnected. The ID scientist must look for intelligence patterns in the noise and chaos of the design.

Nothing unscientific about ID, and I am coming around to see its point of view. IDers have no other aim than to solve the ultimate riddle of evolution, where is it going?


Posted by: Matt on January 11, 2006 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK
would anyone here have a real a problem if the class was on Native American creation stories ?

I wouldn't have a problem if the class was on Christian creation stories, so long as it did not purport that the mythology in those stories provided a basis for challenging well-established science.

But the class does not purport to be about creation myths. It purports to be about challenges to the theory of evolution -- a scientific theory -- arising from scientific, biological, and biblical sources.

It's a class whose entire theme is, apparently, why you shouldn't believe in evolution. Which is inappropriate ideological indoctrination for the public schools no matter how the class as labelled.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 11, 2006 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

For instance, last fall a half-dozen berryllium atoms were put into a "cat state" and essentially disproved Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle.

Assuming this was a serious post, do you have a citation? I'd love to read up on that. If, on the other hand, it was sarcasm, then D'oh! I fell for it. (I've always had a difficult time identifying sarcasm)

Posted by: Edo on January 11, 2006 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK
It's a class whose entire theme is, apparently, why you shouldn't believe in evolution. Which is inappropriate ideological indoctrination for the public schools no matter how the class as labelled.

Exactly, 100%, right. You want a creation myths class, go for it, as long as you don't use it to attack science (or math, or whatever)

Posted by: Edo on January 11, 2006 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

Not sarcasm, although sarcasm is one of my long suits. Let me go find the references. It was in the NYTimes Science pages a couple of Tuesdays back.

Posted by: Global Citizen on January 11, 2006 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

For example, of fertilized human ova, fewer than 2/3 result in live births, and fewer than 1/3 survive to adulthood (except in a few of the more technologically advanced countries); what definition of "intelligence" could have designed such a stupid system?

A particularly cruel and sadistic one.

It's ironic, given the agenda of the ID Creationists, to consider what their shabby excuse for a scientific theory actually proves.

Posted by: Gregory on January 11, 2006 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

For instance, last fall a half-dozen berryllium atoms were put into a "cat state" and essentially disproved Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle.

Really? Awesome! 'Cause I'd really love to see a reliable system of teleportation, and Heisenberg pissed all over that fancy.

Posted by: Gregory on January 11, 2006 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

Nothing unscientific about ID

Except for its glaring lack of falisfiable hypotheses.

Posted by: Gregory on January 11, 2006 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

...Although the details of the experiments were not published, it was reported that this fall scientists had managed to put about a half-dozen beryllium atoms in a "cat state." Those still reading probably know that the "cat state" refers to being in two diametrically opposed conditions at once - up and down, black and white, dead and alive...remember Schrodingers Cat from physics 101?

Basically, the experiments, if they bear out, will disprove Heisenbergs Uncertainty Principle (we can know the electron configuration of an atom, or we can know it's velocity, but we can not simultaneously know both, because the more certain one aspect becomes, the foggier the other becomes) and they have proven parallell Universe theory (reality is relative - in actuality, 360 to the 360th power versions of reality are possible.

Posted by: Global Citizen on January 11, 2006 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

My applause for the best tbroscz post ever, as well. It's nice to be reminded that we're not all on opposite sides of every issue.

Someone give that man a virtual beer.

Posted by: Robert S. on January 11, 2006 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK

Global:

Unfortunately, the cat-state experiment didn't disprove Uncertainty. I read the article when you linked it in the wee a couple weeks ago.

This is essentially a laboratory replication of Bell's Inequalities. It only *looks* like "spooky action at a distance" (Einstein's phrase), but understand you get *no information* out of what's happening on the other side of the experiment. You can predict action at a distance, but you can't use this prediction to gain any new information. Information is still conserved.

So faster-than-light communication (not to mention teleportation) is still in the realm of science fiction.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 11, 2006 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

Only Liberal myths deserve to be taught.

The fact that McA would describe evolution this way just indicates how disinterested in discussing reality he is.

There are countless conservatives who believe in the science (not philosophy) of evolution. And in Europe, where they have some educated folks, the validity of evolution is not even an issue, regardless of one's political background.

The religious right are trying to make it a political issue. It ain't one. (John Derbyshire is living proof of that.)

Posted by: Robert S. on January 11, 2006 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

Quantum Trickery: Testing Einstein's Strangest Theory in the (ny times) Science Times on December 28th, 2005.

Posted by: Global Citizen on January 11, 2006 at 5:34 PM | PERMALINK

Bob;

I admit I got a little bit prematurely excited...Science does that to me, I'm a geek. I would like to see the actual experiment notes and know the methodology used.

Posted by: Global Citizen on January 11, 2006 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks Global - do you perhaps have a link to that story that ain't behind the NYT's pay-only section? (Grrr.)

Posted by: Robert S. on January 11, 2006 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

I don't understand why Republicans do not believe in evolution. Look at the "leaders" of the Republican Party: Lincoln - Lodge - Roosevelt - LaFollete - Norris - Dewey - Dole - D'Amato - Lott - Barbour - Inhofe - Coryn.
Certailny appears to be an increasing selection for
wingnuttiness.

Posted by: Evolving on January 11, 2006 at 5:46 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely:

> "How do you derive it from the complexity of creation?"

> I'm not sure you can, especially if you allow for the possibility
> of incremental creation; though it seems intuitively likely
> that you could, at least if you assumed a creator capable of
> simultaneously comprehending all of its creations. And that
> would be enough to show you that ID based on the argument from
> complexity is inconsistent with the Christian God, since you
> have to either accept that the Creator is created or abandon
> anything even approaching omniscience for it to be consistent.

Okay then, it seems my problem here is not understanding the
concept of incremental creation. Help me out here, Chris ...

BTW, I responded to that big social codes discussion we're having on the Debra Dickerson thread in archive. Anybody wants to check it out -- keyword: homey :)

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 11, 2006 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

Evolution, I think you're confusing evolution with entropy.

;)

Posted by: Robert S. on January 11, 2006 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

Oopd, I meant, "Evolving, I think..."

My brain is in entropy.

Posted by: Robert S. on January 11, 2006 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

"Oopd" - OK, my drain is truly bramaged.

Posted by: Robert S. on January 11, 2006 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

Stephen Crowley:

> Are you fucking retarded?

Duhh, umm, uhh, I think so. That's what the doctors say.

*drooling in the corner, waiting for the
orderly to change the channel to Fox News*

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 11, 2006 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK
Okay then, it seems my problem here is not understanding the concept of incremental creation.

By "incremental creation" I mean "God (or whoever) creates a bunch of stuff in sequence, but after he finishes creating, say, starfish and moves on to sunflowers, he doesn't retain complete comprehension of the design of starfish."

Posted by: cmdicely on January 11, 2006 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

FIRST:

Complexity arivses from randomness quite easily given enough iterations. I've written programs that generate amazingly complicated behaviours from random changes in code. Ever heard of genetic algorithms? I suspect not you ignorant twit. Don't bring us down you god damn knuckle dragger.

BUT THEN:

How is it religious to question the truth of evolution? One of the big problems in evolution theory (and it is only a theory) is the irreducible complexity of organisms and in particular human beings. Evolution is simply random chance and randomness by itself could not have produced systems of such great complexity

Huh? The same guy wrote both of these paragraphs? Too claim to know so much about one subject and then to know so little about the other? To admit to patterns arising out of chaos at first, but then join the ID cry of "irreducible complexity" in the next?

Dude, Darwin himself explained irreducible complexity away himself. What have you been reading? Since then every example of so-called "irreducible complexity" has been *demolished* by scientists. (And yet, the ID crowd *still* reach for that old chestnut example about the human eye - which was dismissed ages ago.) So, again, what have you been reading?

This explains a lot about how people buy into ID so easily.

Stephen, I advise you to start here:

http://www.talkdesign.org/faqs/icdmyst/ICDmyst.html

Then you'll find another 46 citations in the footnotes. Go ahead and read 'em. You might come back here with a different point of view.

Posted by: Robert S. on January 11, 2006 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK

rmck1 wrote: Minimal complexity of the designer? I've not heard this argument.

Setting aside the notion of a "designer", as I understand standard cosmological models, the origin of the universe was in fact "minimally complex" -- a quantum singularity -- and indeed the basic parameters of physical reality established in the Big Bang were extremely simple. But they were of a nature to engender ever-increasing complexity.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 11, 2006 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

Grand Moff Texan:

(What is a Grand, Moff, btw?)

> "Not Kuhn's fault that he became an ur-text of
> postmodernists, of course. But he did nonetheless."

> I could actually see that force at work in graduate school.
> With otherwise careful (or even conservative) minds, the
> notion that paradigms change and that they tend to be
> accompanied by generational changes led to the false
> conclusion that whatever science 'is' now will be something
> else tomorrow so we might as well believe anything we like.

Hehe ... do you remember the great Alan Sokol hoax he published
in the peer-reviewed journal Social Text? The one where he sat
down and bloviated a completely ridiculated postmodern take on
quantum physics? He just sat there, pulling Foculdian buzzwords
out of his ass and pasting them into equations. Probably laughed
his ass off the whole time. I hope he was drinking something good.

NOBODY at Social Text thought to reject his article, because even
though nobody had the slightest clue WTF he was talking about (which
was nothing), none of them wanted to admit this to their colleagues.
And besides which, the buzzwords sounded *so good*. So the great
academic journal of the mid-80s social-construction-of-everything
crowd published an incomprehensible paper, which Sokol then
took the greatest of pleasures (worth the hangover, I'm sure)
in announcing to the world was a flat-out made-up bullshit.

The greatest bullwark against this kind of vetted nonsense is the
scientific method. At the end of the day, paradigms do
change if the evidence stands up -- and they change only
if they're successful at explaining what is trans-observable.

You can fool some of the people some of the time ...

> "Ack. At least Tertullian recognized absurdity."

Sophocles, too :)

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 11, 2006 at 6:21 PM | PERMALINK

"would anyone here have a real a problem if the class was on Native American creation stories ?

surely those stories are at odds with evolution and much of modern biology."

Well, I mentioned one of them waaaay upthread. Some of my ancestors, who were Choctaw Indians, believe they emerged from a hole in the ground in Mississippi (Nani Waya). And yes, if this was taught in science class as though it was in any way shape or form a scientific theory, I would have a serious problem with that. Now, if it was being taught in a comparative religions or anthropology class in a section on creation myths, then I would have no problem with it, or with the Christian creation myths for that matter. But I don't want my ancestors' myths taught as fact any more than the Christian myths.

Unfortunately, many Christians tend to get a bit prickly when you refer to their creation stories as mythology.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on January 11, 2006 at 6:21 PM | PERMALINK

Who designed the Intelligent Designer?

You're very clever, young man, very clever. But it's Intelligent Designers all the way down.

Posted by: Robert S. on January 11, 2006 at 6:23 PM | PERMALINK

Foculdian = Foucauldian

Posted by: rmck1 on January 11, 2006 at 6:26 PM | PERMALINK

MJ Memphis: Unfortunately, many Christians tend to get a bit prickly when you refer to their creation stories as mythology.

Which is quite sad, since it means they are missing the true psychological and spiritual depth and richness that can be found in their creation stories when they are understood as mythology.

Ironically, "Biblical literalism" is a radically impoverished view of one of the greatest compendiums of mythology that human culture has ever produced.

There is certainly nothing wrong with myth. It can embody profound truths about the human condition, the fruit of countless generations of human experience. To imagine that myth is nothing more than a literal, science-like description of reality is to tragically miss its real value.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 11, 2006 at 6:35 PM | PERMALINK

Tbrosz Watch applauds the eponymous Tbrosz for his staunch defense of science. And, in a show of magnanimity, TW now withdraws the charge that Tbrosz learned his science at the Discovery Institute.

But, before this love fest could go too far, and before any of us did something we'd regret in the morning, Tbrosz went and spoiled things by making a snarky comment about Marxism. Which raises a key question, comrade Tbrosz: can you give us any examples where a Democrat (or for that matter any sentient being outside North Korea) advocated replacing Darwin with the Science of Historical Materialism?

Notwithstanding his flirtation with reason, Tbrosz can't resist reverting to form! Which, we guess, is pure Tbrosz. Accept not substitutes.

Posted by: Tbrosz watch on January 11, 2006 at 6:52 PM | PERMALINK

Even this Wikipeida entry proves a useful primer on the holes in "irreducible complexity":

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

It includes quotes by Michael Behe where he concedes to faults in the idea.

Posted by: Robert S. on January 11, 2006 at 8:09 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I see tbrosz is getting compliments regarding his acknowledgement of evolution.

But still...

Tbrosz does not acknowledge the problem to which Kevin alludes. Many folks are aggressively teaching their kids that evolution is crap, science is suspect, and the Bible is the only true source of knowledge. If you and your kids happen to be caught in one of those schools, its not so funny.

I know of two churches that sponsored camps this past summer that were dedicated to demonstrating how ungodly evolution is. There is organized ongoing effort to discredit evolution and replace it with Biblical truth.

Tbrosz, I grew up in Mississippi and I know all kinds of adults who are accomplished professionals, including computer programmers and analysts, but they have these weird religious/political views which prevent them from even considering sending their kids to public schools where they would be taught things like evolution by the devils advocates. Its just crazy and its widespread.

I dont condescend about Mississippi. Its my home state. But, there are problems; man, there are problems.


Posted by: little ole jim from red country on January 11, 2006 at 8:12 PM | PERMALINK

Eric Paulsen wrote:
"An intelligent Design theorist would find a Lego set irreducibly complex. I'd be surprised if most of them had mastered the belt buckle yet."

Posted by: Eric Paulsen on January 11, 2006 at 7:16 AM | PERMALINK


Hilarious.

I also liked: "If evolution is criminal then only criminals will evolve."


If I walk out of a store with a pen and when they catch me and charge me with theft could I claim it was a case of Intelligent Design; that some God or other had made the pen only an instant ago, rather than the company, and that my taking it was simply God's will?

Where is the end of this ID crap?

Doesn't belief in ID pretty much invalidate all private property and related law?

Posted by: MarkH on January 11, 2006 at 8:42 PM | PERMALINK

Evolution is simply random chance and randomness by itself could not have produced systems of such great complexity

That's an assertion of no merit. Darwin's genius was to realize that complexity could result from random variation and natural selection, and ever since we have seen plenty of examples of how: parasites, vectors and infectious micrio-organisms, for example, become more complex by random variation in the presence of man-made chemicals intelligently designed to kill them. Your line does demonstrate something: for some people, it is unimaginable that complexity can arise from random variation and natural selection. However, this limit on human imagination is not evidence of Intelligent Design.

Most people still can not imagine how it is that providing anti-retroviral medications at low cost in Africa and S. America creates multi-drug resistant HIV faster than American pharmaceutical companies can find new drugs. Yet it's happening as we speak and write, and it is being quite well documented.

Posted by: contentious on January 11, 2006 at 9:05 PM | PERMALINK

Which raises a key question, comrade Tbrosz: can you give us any examples where a Democrat (or for that matter any sentient being outside North Korea) advocated replacing Darwin with the Science of Historical Materialism?

Uh, no. Nor have I heard of anyone advocating replacing the teaching of "intelligent design" with a class on free-market economics. It's, like, you know, two totally different subjects?

On the other hand, I have seen a number of enthusiastic Marxists teaching in economic, political science, and philosophical departments at universities. And yes, they defend those ideas, which have no more basis in reality than phlogiston chemistry.

Far more often, Marxist ideas are "snuck into" the arena under other names, like "progressivism," or "economic democracy." Come to think of it, it's pretty much the same way they're trying to slip creationism into the debate disguised as the "science" of intelligent design.

BTW, did you hear about Venezuela's coffee shortage? That didn't take long.

Posted by: tbrosz on January 11, 2006 at 9:10 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely, I have a question that you might know the answer to. Do the proponents of ID have either (a) a definition of "intelligent" or (b) a rationale for the many things that seem unintelligent?

In the latter category are things like: human wisdom teeth and appendices; whales' leg bones (thanks tbrosz); horses' cuspid teeth ("canines"). As to this "irreducible complexity" bit, what about the apparent non-intelligence of color blindness, cataracts, near-sightedness and other imperfections in human eyes? Eagle chicks sometimes suffer from near-sightedness, but not the adults -- that's an effect of selection, not "design".

Posted by: contentious on January 11, 2006 at 9:32 PM | PERMALINK

tbrosz:

No, the analogue to Intelligent Design is free-market fundamentalism -- where Say's Law would allegedly work on Mars.

Neoclassical economics trots itself out as a science. It is no such thing. Read Paul Mirowski's "More Heat Than Light" and "Machine Dreams: Economics Becomes a Cyborg Science."

Walrusian equilibrium theory was lifted whole cloth from Clausius's thermodynamics. Replace Energy with Utility and there you have it: the equations are identical.

Except for one tiny detail:

There is no analogue for entropy in Walrusian equilibrium theory.

Neoclassical economics is just metaphysical bloviation gussied up as a pseudoscence.

Economics is always, in all cases, about how society allocates resources -- at the end of the day, a political decision.

Leftist economists (and I'm talking about Keynesians, not Marxists) are just a tad more honest about it.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 11, 2006 at 9:41 PM | PERMALINK

Walrusian = Walrasian

Posted by: rmck1 on January 11, 2006 at 9:45 PM | PERMALINK

Bob,

Walrusian economics would involve the allocation of fish and clams among large tusked arctic mammals. :)

Posted by: MJ Memphis on January 11, 2006 at 9:55 PM | PERMALINK

What is a Grand, Moff, btw

Peter cushing's character in the first Star Wars film was Grand Moff Tarkin. Grand Moff was apparently an Imperial title, although he was also called "Governor."

I'm a g33k too.

Posted by: Gregory on January 11, 2006 at 10:01 PM | PERMALINK

The best part is that one of the speakers listed in the syllabus is, well, dead. That kinda sums it up.
http://www.mountainenterprise.com/IntelDesignSyl/IntelDesignSyllabus051209_kjh_markup.htm

A philosophy of science elective would be neat. As pointed out - and as is quite obvious from the syllabus - this is just warmed over creationism.

Posted by: Dan S. on January 11, 2006 at 10:06 PM | PERMALINK

rmck1: Read Paul Mirowski's "More Heat Than Light"

Sounds like a great book - gotta see if my library has it.

Another recommendation: Debunking Economics: The Naked Emperor of the Social Sciences

The author is an economics prof. Much of the book is about the internal inconsistencies and self contradictions of neoclassical economics.

In all fairness I think that Walras admitted that he didn't know how to show that general equilibrium was possible. He suspected it was but admitted he was stumped and left it to others. Of course, it's now over 40 years since it's been proven to be impossible, but why let a little thing like that destroy a cozy racket like teaching neoclassical economics.

Tomorrow's physics lesson: the luminiferous ether theory.

Posted by: alex on January 11, 2006 at 10:20 PM | PERMALINK

I proposed five hypotheses that would derive from common Intelligent Design points of view that inevitably will (or will not) be eventually falsified. I maintain it is not necessary to confirm the existence of God somehow or to absolutely prove that natural selection is an over-rated illusion--we can confine ourselves to much less ambitious and manageable questions.

My view of Intelligent Design is that all we fans of it have to prove is that some type of limited, unknown factor intervenes in certain rare bio-chemical situations in order to produce results that known forces can not explain. I think the situation is highly analogous in physics to the discovery (actually it was more like the postulating of) the weak force.

Nobody has ever seen the nuclear weak force. Nobody ever will see it. It has scientific respectability only because the equations regarding nuclear decay will not work without it. Another new force in physics is more recently being floated about called "Dark Energy", because without Dark Energy it is difficult to explain why the expansion of the universe should be accelerating.

That is all I hoped to do with my five falsifiable ideas that would speak to the underlying conceptualization of I.D. If we come to an impasse that known laws can't resolve, independent thinkers have a right to "christen" a new force and describe it sufficiently that, hopefully, someone can make a prediction about where the new force's effects might pop up.

And this brings me to the Galileo problem. The main rebelious thing that Galileo did is that he challenged the establishment view of the heavens then held by the vast majority of qualified authorities (all of whom were in the Catholic Church.) Galileo basically said to hell with peer-reviewed journals, I am all alone but the observations are with me, so I must be right!

Some people chided me to get on with my silly little experiments to falsify I.D. Well, I think a lot of people a bunch brighter and better-funded than I am are working on the Artificial Intelligence thing right now, so stand by on that. A fair amount of money is being spent on SETI. We will probably in a few decades have a lot more evidence on whether alien microbes, at least, can be found on our planetary neighbors.

Personally, although I once attended a Frank Tipler lecture and got really excited about the possibility of insights from the dizzying pace of computer evolution combining with the many positively metaphysical insights of modern physics, I really wonder if all that is necessary.

Consider the Mandelbrot set. On the one hand, it seems pretty damned mechanical, just take a formula that has some complex numbers in it and crank and crank and crank, and look at this beautiful thing that falls out. On the other hand, this may be all the proof we ever need that the universe of mathematics has a Platonic existence that pre-existed the mundane universe, or at least is unconnected with the latter.

I can't prove that pi is or is not a random number. I can't prove that it eventually doesn't fall into some type of predictable repetition. If it does tend to all 7's for a hundred decimal places, I can't prove it won't snap out of it on the 101st. Intuitively, however, I can find pi and the golden mean in all kinds of relationships evidenced in the lowly matter of this existence. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the golden mean doesn't pop up in some equation written by a geneticist to explain punctuated equilibrium someday, and to me that gets the I.D. hypothesis a nudge closer to respectability for the reason that a Platonic number behind the scenes is almost as good as an unseen creator.

Posted by: Michael L. Cook on January 11, 2006 at 10:32 PM | PERMALINK

alex:

LOL! Yeah, right. In the unit with phlogiston chemistry :)

Mirowski's a great writer. He knows his shit cold, but he bring a fine contempt and a gift for a good turn of phrase. Machine Dreams is even more lurid; it explors when happened when the students of Kenneth Arrow (the guy who proved that democracy was hopelessly inefficient at allocating choices compared to the free market) migrated over to the RAND corporation and sat at the feet of John von Neumann while he drifted over into game theory and the rat(ional) choice movement was born.

Hehe, I love that. Rat Choice. The choice of nasty little rodents everywhere.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 11, 2006 at 10:33 PM | PERMALINK

Red State Mike,

On January 11, 2006 at 11:50 AM you wrote:
I don't think that is a good model. I can argue that the drug-resistant bugs were always there, but in low numbers since the non-drug resistant ones predominated. Antibiotics merely changed the balance of power between them. No new bugs were created.

Actually, it can be shown that new varients are created by natural selection. It is possible to culture a population of bacteria from a single initial cell. Every member of the resulting population is decended from that one starting cell. From that population one can easily generate anti-biotic resistant strains. It is not possible for multiple varients to exist in an initial population of one.

Posted by: MSR on January 11, 2006 at 10:49 PM | PERMALINK

Tbrosz writes:
Uh, no. Nor have I heard of anyone advocating replacing the teaching of "intelligent design" with a class on free-market economics. It's, like, you know, two totally different subjects?


Yes, that is the point. And a rant about Marxism has no place in a discussion of the teaching of science.

Indeed, go ahead and kick Marxism (and Marxists) out of the universities, but while you are at be sure to give the boot to those other pseudo-scientists called "neoclassical economists" along with that devout mystical sect, known as the Straussians - all of whose work has "no more basis in reality than phlogiston chemistry."

We knew the Tbrosz boomlet wouldn't last; it took him all of one post to return to form.

Posted by: Tbrosz Watch on January 11, 2006 at 10:56 PM | PERMALINK

Incidentally, what a living illutration the Mandelbrot set may be of irreducible complexity' in that its endlessly recursive features are always somehow a little bit different, yet still they maintain a "sameness" about them that registers in our minds, at least. In some of these I.D. threads I've dived into the incredible psychology of perception, which if you aren't careful nosedives right over into the morass of the observer in quantum physics.

MSR, if you are starting with one drug resistant bug, of course natural selection will favor it in a drug environment that kills its competitors. But that doesn't solve the question--did a RANDOM mutation produce this lonely bug? DNA molecules are pretty tightly bound and well protected, so to get a mutation you have to hit a cell nucleus with a pretty powerful type of radiation, like a cosmic ray. The odds are overwhelmingly against getting a useful mutation out of this process. It's like trying to sculpt a totem pole from a log, not using a chain saw but a naval cannon 20 miles away over the horizon. Having that one drug-resistant microbe around when it is needed may have required some type of force or principle not yet recognized in order to come about.

Posted by: Michael L. Cook on January 11, 2006 at 11:09 PM | PERMALINK

Eric Paulsen wrote:
"An intelligent Design theorist would find a Lego set irreducibly complex. I'd be surprised if most of them had mastered the belt buckle yet."
Posted by: Eric Paulsen on January 11, 2006 at 7:16 AM | PERMALINK

And he'd be right in that it wasn't produced by random chance.

Funny, how you make fun of a view when you can't even understand it.

Again proving liberals, are now the hope of pseudo-intellecualism. Knee-jerk repeated opinions without thinking.

Posted by: McAristotle on January 11, 2006 at 11:40 PM | PERMALINK

McAristotle, sounds like you have some reading to do, too:

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

http://www.talkdesign.org/faqs/icdmyst/ICDmyst.html

Cheers mate.

Posted by: Robert S. on January 12, 2006 at 12:03 AM | PERMALINK

CORRECTION:

The author of "More Heat Than Light" and "Machine Dreams: Economics Becomes a Cyborg Science" is Phillip Mirowski, not Paul Mirowski.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 12, 2006 at 12:43 AM | PERMALINK

McAristotle, sounds like you have some reading to do, too:

Posted by: Robert S. on January 12, 2006 at 12:03 AM | PERMALINK

And still it continues.... How does Lego evolve from a series of small random changes without a designer?

Answer: it didn't

Eric makes fun of the intelligence of an Intelligent Theorist because he'd find a Lego set 'irreducibly complex' then Robert S provides links to the definition without thinking.

What's your liberal position? Science says Lego has no designer?

Posted by: McAristotle on January 12, 2006 at 1:07 AM | PERMALINK

Intelligent Design. "Beam me up Scotty. There's no intelligent life here."
Homo sapiens. Sapient has been taken both as wise and foolish. Are we having fun unscrewing the inscrutible yet ?
Didn't take bio. Dad was a priest. "Saving" someone always seemed to imply unconscionable arrogance : faith that you were wiser than another. Sales/conundrum games are all flim-flam. If something has to be accepted on faith, it will almost certainly appear to be a lie.

Centuries have passed since the beginning of the evolution discussion. Obviously a nerve has been touched ; today was darn good fun.

Posted by: opit on January 12, 2006 at 1:13 AM | PERMALINK

If something has to be accepted on faith, it will almost certainly appear to be a lie.

Posted by: opit on January 12, 2006 at 1:13 AM | PERMALINK

So you store all your savings in a money belt, do you?

Your bank account could be empty if you aren't looking at it every second!

Posted by: McAristotle on January 12, 2006 at 1:16 AM | PERMALINK
Far more often, Marxist ideas are "snuck into" the arena under other names, like "progressivism," or "economic democracy." Come to think of it, it's pretty much the same way they're trying to slip creationism into the debate disguised as the "science" of intelligent design.

Well, other than the fact that "progressivism" and "economic democracy" are honest and openl moral/ideological positions, whereas intelligent design is Christian theology pretending to be science.

And that's without even discussing your ridiculous assertion that the ideas of progressivism or economic democracy are Marxist in any substantive sense.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 12, 2006 at 1:22 AM | PERMALINK
And this brings me to the Galileo problem. The main rebelious thing that Galileo did is that he challenged the establishment view of the heavens then held by the vast majority of qualified authorities (all of whom were in the Catholic Church.) Galileo basically said to hell with peer-reviewed journals, I am all alone but the observations are with me, so I must be right!

Actually, the main rebellious thing Galileo did was to, in his published discourse on various models of the universe, put, at the end of the work, the argument preferred by the then-reigning Pope -- who had been, prior to that point, Galileo's friend and patron and a defender against the many other people he had angered (often not by his substantive positions) -- in the mouth of a character who had been ridiculed throughout the work.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 12, 2006 at 1:33 AM | PERMALINK
My view of Intelligent Design is that all we fans of it have to prove is that some type of limited, unknown factor intervenes in certain rare bio-chemical situations in order to produce results that known forces can not explain.

Your view is, put simply, completely wrong. All that shows is that there are unknown physical forces, it does not show -- or provide any reason to believe -- that those forces are a product of an intelligence.

Nobody has ever seen the nuclear weak force. Nobody ever will see it. It has scientific respectability only because the equations regarding nuclear decay will not work without it.

More accurately -- and your failure to get this right demonstrates that you don't understand the first thing about science -- it has "scientific respectability" because it was (1) consistent with prior observation, and (2) produce falsifiable predictions confirmed by later observation for which no more parsimonious and powerful explanation has been proposed.

That is all I hoped to do with my five falsifiable ideas that would speak to the underlying conceptualization of I.D.

Your five ideas were not testable, falsifiable predictions logically following from I.D. Aside from not being systematically testable, in most cases, neither of the possible outcomes you suggest in most of those cases would either confirm or contradict the speculation that there is an intelligent designer responsible for the existence of the universe.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 12, 2006 at 1:46 AM | PERMALINK

Your five ideas were not testable, falsifiable predictions logically following from I.D. Aside from not being systematically testable

Posted by: cmdicely on January 12, 2006 at 1:46 AM | PERMALINK

So, how do I test the proposition that life forms in organic soup after billions of years....
Not testable either, is it?

Posted by: McAristotle on January 12, 2006 at 1:51 AM | PERMALINK

If God designed this, he pushes his glasses up on his nose way too frequently.

Posted by: tbrosz on January 11, 2006 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK


But if evolution, can retain tons and tons of hidden designs and trigger them by fortuitous chance whenever necessary....

Maybe someone really, really smart wrote the thing in the first place.

Survival of the fittest cannot select to preserve a hidden design, so how does evolution provide for that?

Secondly, if the mutation producing chicken with teeth is so easy. Why in all the years of recorded history and all the chickens in the world..don't we have just one?

You are ascribing powers to mutation that scientists cannot observe.

Posted by: McAristotle on January 12, 2006 at 2:47 AM | PERMALINK

Bob:

Economics is always, in all cases, about how society allocates resources -- at the end of the day, a political decision.

Real economics also needs to deal with how resources are actually created, taken from raw sources and converted to human use.

The Arabs sat on their oil resources for hundreds of years, living in tents. What was finally added? And by who?

And of course, when it comes down to it, results count as much as theory. We have had laboratory experiments with Marxism and free-market economics. East and West Germany. North and South Korea. Hong Kong/Taiwan and China. Only one basic variable was different: One side thought that wealth belonged to the collective, to be "distributed" as the leadership saw fit. The other side thought wealth belonged to those who created it, to be traded freely and voluntarily. I didn't see a lot of people trying to get INTO East Germany.

When a nation selects which road to head down, history should count at least as much as theory.

The idea of "society allocating resources" runs into a snag when you start asking who exactly "society" is. Most socialists aren't often that clear on this, but if you talk to them long enough, you start to get the idea that they expect themselves to have a lot to say about who gets what.

Posted by: tbrosz on January 12, 2006 at 2:54 AM | PERMALINK

tbrosz:

> "Economics is always, in all cases, about how society allocates
> resources -- at the end of the day, a political decision."

> Real economics also needs to deal with how resources are actually
> created, taken from raw sources and converted to human use.

Sure.

> The Arabs sat on their oil resources for hundreds of years,
> living in tents. What was finally added? And by who?

Well keep your evolution helmet on for a minute, Tom. There's no
teleology in it, no absolute correct path of human evolution. If
it turns out that by unleashing the uniquely efficient stored energy
in buried hydrocarbons allows us as species to create an advanced
techological civilization that dominates the planet and then causes
a vast man-made catastrophe (we're still not safe from a planet-
devastating nuclear exchange, let alone whatever may come of global
warming or ever-more frequent and destructive resource wars on the
other side of the oil peak) and we blip out like the dinosaurs in the
next century or so, well then, who's to say if the Arabs living in
their tents for a few milliennia previously weren't right after all?

I mean, *we* value flush toilets and a sanitary left hand. Is this
an objective value in terms of human evolution? The dinosaurs were
lords of the earth. Did their dominance guarantee them a future?

> And of course, when it comes down to it, results count as
> much as theory. We have had laboratory experiments with Marxism
> and free-market economics. East and West Germany. North and
> South Korea. Hong Kong/Taiwan and China. Only one basic
> variable was different: One side thought that wealth belonged
> to the collective, to be "distributed" as the leadership
> saw fit. The other side thought wealth belonged to those
> who created it, to be traded freely and voluntarily. I
> didn't see a lot of people trying to get INTO East Germany.

Well, many would argue that this is a false dichotomy. I don't think
the statist authoritarian command economies have or had any more to
do with Marxism than Western capitalist societies have to do with the
"free market." You'd have to look at anarcho-syndicalist communes as
a test of Marxism; Lenin tinkered with what worked. And no society
or group of trading partners ever approached free market relations.

Collectivism wasn't and isn't the deal in statist command
economies; oligarchy is. And in Western systems, wealth
hardly belongs to those who created it in an equitable
fashion; corporatism tends toward monopoly and oligarchy.

Bottom line is, industrial society requires organization,
organization requires hierarchy and hierarchy fosters inequities.

> When a nation selects which road to head down,
> history should count at least as much as theory.

Right. And the choice isn't between an Ayn Randian Galt's
Gultch on the one hand and statist totalitarianism on the other.
Every single advanced democracy has a government structure which
to certain degrees intercedes in the workings of the marketplace
to equitably meet human needs that the marketplace cannot address.

> The idea of "society allocating resources" runs into
> a snag when you start asking who exactly "society" is.

You're not an anti-sociology reverse snob like rdw, right? Emile
Durkhem said society exists sui generis -- in itself. Individualism
isn't the only way to look at the world -- certainly not the
particularly American brand of it, which is a product of our unique
history. Europeans and Canadians have a somewhat different view.

> Most socialists aren't often that clear on this, but if you
> talk to them long enough, you start to get the idea that they
> expect themselves to have a lot to say about who gets what.

Sure. But so do corporate board members. Or politicians.
Or policy wonks at a think tank. Or the collective actions
of a marketplace for that matter -- speaking of alternatives
to methodological individualism. I'm not arguing for a command
economy, lords know. There are some things that only a free market
does well -- like make and sell cars. And there are things that
the free market absolutely sucks at -- like delivering healthcare.

The trick is not to be an ideologue about it
and find the solution that's appropriate for what
sort of goods and services you're trying to allocate.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 12, 2006 at 4:35 AM | PERMALINK

Durkhem = Durkheim

Posted by: rmck1 on January 12, 2006 at 5:14 AM | PERMALINK

I want my chicken punch'n tbroz back.

Posted by: troll on January 12, 2006 at 5:54 AM | PERMALINK

Well, hopefully someone specifies what a pre-biotic soup would be like, then we skip a billion year's worth of random events and set up all those conditions, then we observe.

I think what happens then is we see a new, unknown influence at work which helps pre-biotic material self-organize into a legitimate cell. Since I don't even know for sure how to define the word "Intelligent" I would maybe start out more modestly and call the new force or influence Elegant Design.

We can prove things by elimination. If we can rule out all known thermodynamic chemical reactions from causing self-organization, then we get to anoint a new principle, especially if we see it at work inside a test tube or a supercomputer striving for A.I.

The current Darwinian establishment posits and uses the word "random" though it can be argued in both a philosophical and a theoretical physics sense that "randomness" is just an illusion, a construct of our limited perceptions.

If we indeed discover an influence or force that I might call Elegant or Intelligent Design, I don't have to answer the questions "Where did it come from or who designed the Intelligence behind Intelligent Design." All I have to do is show that this power of self-organization appears in certain conditions, in the same way that the highly theoretical propositions called "chance" or "randomness" are called into service in certain circumstances.

Posted by: Michael L. Cook on January 12, 2006 at 8:16 AM | PERMALINK

"It's [the role of mutation in evolution] like trying to sculpt a totem pole from a log, not using a chain saw but a naval cannon 20 miles away over the horizon. "

Like the 'tornado-in-a-junkyard' argument, this is a false analogy. To the degree that this kind of argument appears intuitively convincing, I think it might say some interesting things about the way people think not just about statistics, but also about bodies, living things, etc.

After all, organisms are not static , mechanical sculptures or constructions - totem poles, for example. A better analogy would be recipes. Fiddle around with the ingredients, order, ratios, cooking process, time, etc., and yes, a lot of the time you get inedible muck - at least when I try it, anyway - but sometimes you'll get something perfectly fine - an interesting variation or even a entirely new dish.

Of course, to really work we would have to imagine that souffles and such were in the habit of reproducing, creating kitchen offspring with an observable range of variation, which in turn met with greater or lesser reproductive success depending on the current culinary landscape . . .

And even recipes don't do justice to how complicated, involved, etc. the whole DNA->organism developmental process is. I think some of the power of "totem pole/naval cannon"-style analogies comes from a popular understanding of genes being 'for' things - blue eyes, diseases, etc - instead of the real complexity of the process. As pointed out a lot, ironically, the problem is our mental models are just too simplistic!

I wonder if gender enters into it at all . . .

Oh, and DNA *isn't* incredibly hard to mess up (often to our grief). I mean, it doesn't just fall apart, and I think we have pretty good repair mechanisms, but . . . well, someone who actually knows the science could step in here with real details.

Posted by: Dan S. on January 12, 2006 at 8:30 AM | PERMALINK

"The current Darwinian establishment posits and uses the word "random" though it can be argued in both a philosophical and a theoretical physics sense that "randomness" is just an illusion"

"Darwinian establishment" is a lot like "Gallilean establishment' or "Wegnerian establishment" (that would be those dogmatic geologists who blindly accept plate tectonics). But yes, one can argue that random is just another word for God doing stuff in ways we will never comprehend. As long as one realizes that you're crossed the border between science and theology - don't forget to have your passport stamped at the NOMA station . . .

The problem with proving things by elimination is that it only works to prove a specific thing when there's a set of limited choices. Faced with four multiple-choice answers, it's great! Faced with reality, all one can do is say that the answer is something else, whatever one might label it. I have no understanding of the subject, so perhaps there was an "unknown influence at work which help[ed] helps pre-biotic material self-organize into a legitimate cell" - although I can't see why we should *expect* needing to invoke such an influence. As long as it's understood that probably 99%* of ID advocates want/insist/know this currently evidence-free unknown influence is a supernatural being called God - an illegal move in the game of science, much as declaring that my pawn has lobbed a small nuke across the board and won the game is not really ok in standard chess . .

speaking of which . . .
"methodological atheism"
What's that? Do you mean methodological naturalism -as in, modern science, where you have to work only in reference to natural laws, ie, witches didn't cause the outbreak of ebola through magic, etc.? It's been a very useful rule. If you insist that your chess pawn has nuclear weapons - or perhaps, more appropriately that your checker piece can move like a bishop - you just end up without anyone to play with. Allow literally supernatural explanations back into science and - well, we don't really *need* any more progress, do we? (Although presumably they would simply be selected against, except at very high levels with no practical applications).
Now metaphysical (or ontological) naturalism - nature is all that there is, "above us only sky", etc. - that's different, and also not science.
Sorry, I like making this point.

* ok, I made this number up. It might be 97% , or even 95% . . .

Posted by: Dan S. on January 12, 2006 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

Eric makes fun of the intelligence of an Intelligent Theorist because he'd find a Lego set 'irreducibly complex' then Robert S provides links to the definition without thinking.

No, I got it McA (I actually got it when I frst saw the post and before you commented on it)- the Lego set *was* constructed by an intelligent being, so the metaphor's a bad one. I was just cutting to the chase and giving you the homework you also need to do.

Cheers mate!

Posted by: Robert S. on January 12, 2006 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

Thank you all for your kind comments.

(I'm here all week. Try the veal.)
Posted by: tbrosz

Veal, eh? Only if you can verify it's not Dutch Method.

Adding my little mite of applause - belatedly 'cause it's taken me a while to wade through this stuff.

Posted by: CFShep on January 12, 2006 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

I would maybe start out more modestly and call the new force or influence Elegant Design

Hmm, how about ratcheting up the modesty even more and callng it "Elegant Chaos."

That'd actually be more scientific because it doesn't presuppose the existence of anything with offering an iota of evidence or testable and repeatable results for it.

Otherwise, "Elegant Spaghetti Monster" is just as scientific. (And, don't get me wrong, O Great Spaghetti Monster, thou art elegant!)

Posted by: Robert S. on January 12, 2006 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, I suspect that something resembling an Elegant Design bio-genetic theorem is going to come out of a full understanding of what "junk" DNA is and how it really works.

About a billion years ago I was taught in college that junk DNA is just junk--kind of like genes that are useless hitchhikers but are preserved because selfish genes are able to trick all the other matter involved in a cell into preserving them forever, uselessly.

No, I don't presume that genes code for a single purpose. A gene might make a single protein, but proteins are notoriously able to do all kinds of things and seem to excel at cooperating to inform themselves of the right time and place to catalyze particular bio-constructs.

An Elegant Design theorem might well come out of realizing that junk DNA is nature's way of providing survival capability even in wildly unlikely future hostile environments. A few posts ago someone was lecturing me on how a single, drug-resistant cell can be promoted by natural selection when anti-biotics are over used and multiply. I agreed with that, but not with how the luckily capable single cell happened to be johnny-on-the-spot in the first place.
Suppose junk DNA operates mechanically kind of like the Mandelbrot Set--turning out countless iterations of the same basic plans, only each one slightly different, in case of drastic environmental change. Now we don't need high speed particles banging about trying to produce needed mutations by the cannonball or junkyard method.
Hmmm, I like it. Better get the tux pressed for when they call from Stockholm....

Posted by: Michael L. Cook on January 12, 2006 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

Suppose junk DNA operates mechanically kind of like the Mandelbrot Set--turning out countless iterations of the same basic plans, only each one slightly different, in case of drastic environmental change.

I've placed in bold the part where I think you go off the rails. You assign purpose to something, immediately after describing a random process.

The Mandelbrot Set is purposeless, so why can't the junk DNA be, too?

Do you see how you're automatically positing your POV, when it isn't necessary to do so? That's what seems to taint any "scientific thinking" done by the ID crowd, too.

Better keep the tux in closet, I'm afraid.

Posted by: Robert S. on January 12, 2006 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

The Mandelbrot set is purposeless? Blasphemy! God could not invent such a beautiful artifact without some purpose, even if it is only the purpose of the sunset, which even my ape cousins have been reported (by Jane Goodal) to gaze at as if appreciating sheer beauty.
And JUNK DNA, I wager you, is already being found to store up useful surprises and more are to come. Stay tuned on junk DNA....

Posted by: Michael L. Cook on January 12, 2006 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

In fact, I will venture further and predict that every speck of junk DNA will be found to step up and perform useful functions, not only producing timely mutations, but in the timing and orchestration of genetic operations. Nature seems to do that with genetic material--get multiple duties out of each player.
Hey, if I make a prediction and it comes true, doesn't that usually mean I have stumbled upon a natural law? I christen it "The Principle of Elegan Design."
I hope the King of Sweden is nicer than some of the people around here!

Posted by: Michael L. Cook on January 12, 2006 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

"or what it means philosophically if humanity eventually produces a supercomputer that is so powerful it not only has consciousness itself, but it can manipulate any law of nature, travel backwards in time, and create worlds of its own choosing."

Ooh, you should read Dan Simmon's Hyperion um . .. . quadrilogy.

"We have a doctrine of "irreducible complexity" that makes arguments about things like . . . the dance of bumblebees as a means of communication between creatures with brains the size of a grain of sand."

Interesting topic. Know nothing about. Wikibooks says:
" Lindauer performed historical analysis that reveals that distantly related bees might have evolved through 3 stages of development: First stage analysis reveals that the genus Trigona conveyed direction by buzzing to gain their hivemates attention. The odors trapped on the bee trigger others to forage in search of the odor. The secondary stage involves marking the path from the resource to the hive with mandibular pheromones. She then buzzes, and the bees follow the scent markers. The third stage involves an in-flight "waggle dance" in the direction of the resource (Lindauer 1961)."
http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Honeybee_Foraging_Behavioral_Analysis

Who knows? We might not, ever. But just throwing up one's hands and saying 'No way'?

". . . a single, drug-resistant cell can be promoted by natural selection when anti-biotics are over used and multiply. I agreed with that, but not with how the luckily capable single cell happened to be johnny-on-the-spot in the first place."

Well, how? God stretching out his finger and zapping Johhny E. Coli in the DNA? Some sort of universal life force striving for survival? - this sort of gets back to turn-of-the-century alternate evolution-ish explanations . .

Why is chance not a decent explanation? Especially given mutation rates and population size?


Posted by: Dan S. on January 12, 2006 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK
Actually, I suspect that something resembling an Elegant Design bio-genetic theorem is going to come out of a full understanding of what "junk" DNA is and how it really works.

In addition to not understanding what "falsifiable", "hypothesis", and "theory", mean, I think this just demonstrates you also don't know what "theorem" means.

Plus, it demonstrates you don't understand that finding utility in "junk" DNA isn't even remotely a challenge to evolution.

About a billion years ago I was taught in college that junk DNA is just junk--kind of like genes that are useless hitchhikers but are preserved because selfish genes are able to trick all the other matter involved in a cell into preserving them forever, uselessly.

And quite likely some of it is; experiments with evolving self-modifying computer code, IIRC, frequently develop some dead code, and one would expect that there will be some unused DNA. But, additionally, its not surprising that some of that DNA contributes to long-term reproductive fitness in ways of which we are not currently aware.

No, I don't presume that genes code for a single purpose. A gene might make a single protein, but proteins are notoriously able to do all kinds of things and seem to excel at cooperating to inform themselves of the right time and place to catalyze particular bio-constructs.

This is needlessly anthropomorphic fluff.

An Elegant Design theorem might well come out of realizing that junk DNA is nature's way of providing survival capability even in wildly unlikely future hostile environments.

Over the long-term, forms which had such capacity would be more fit than those that did not; this tends to suggest that they would, over a very long term, tend to displace those others, all other things being equal, under the logic of evolutionary theory. Given the extremely long time between the first life and the even the first multicellular life, its not entirely unreasonable to believe that forms without such long-term tools were entirely, or nearly so, displaced before macroscopic life even existed.

So, since such a function would be completely within the understanding of evolutionary theory, invoking Elegant Design to explain such a function would be positing and unnecessary entity.

Now we don't need high speed particles banging about trying to produce needed mutations by the cannonball or junkyard method.

Radioactive decay is not the only -- or even, as I understand, the most common -- source of mutation, so this is something of a strawman.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 12, 2006 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK
So, how do I test the proposition that life forms in organic soup after billions of years

You develop some testable prediction from that hypothesis, just like any other hypothesis. But, please, keep demonstrating that you don't understand the first thing about science.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 12, 2006 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, if I make a prediction and it comes true, doesn't that usually mean I have stumbled upon a natural law?

No, it does not.

But thanks for demonstrating that you don't understand science at all.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 12, 2006 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry about the delay getting back to you McA. You have summed up the situation exactly. The kind of mental effect described can only be achieved by constant feedback/reinforcement. Whether you see this as constant prayer or self-inflicted delusion still points out a ridiculous insecurity on the part of those claiming to have faith in the process. They protest too much ; that makes me think perhaps they have not jumped in with both feet. And evolution ? What price valid theological revelation ? The much-maligned Jews thrived on anaytic contests : interesting occupation for "God's Chosen". If Christianity truly extends their thought into new territory what should we conclude about those uncomfortable making that effort ?

Posted by: opit on January 12, 2006 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

re: philosophy

Isn't anthropomorphism a logical fallacy?

Posted by: cld on January 12, 2006 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

tbrosz sneered: I have seen a number of enthusiastic Marxists teaching in economic, political science, and philosophical departments at universities. And yes, they defend those ideas, which have no more basis in reality than phlogiston chemistry.

Guess who disagrees?

Why Marx is Man of the Moment
by Francis Wheen
July 17, 2005
The Observer/UK

Excerpts:

Fifteen years ago, after the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, there appeared to be a general assumption that Marx was now an ex-parrot. He had kicked the bucket, shuffled off his mortal coil and been buried forever under the rubble of the Berlin Wall. No one need think about him - still less read him - ever again [...] By August 1998, economic meltdown in Russia, currency collapses in Asia and market panic around the world prompted the Financial Times to wonder if we had moved 'from the triumph of global capitalism to its crisis in barely a decade'. The article was headlined 'Das Kapital Revisited'.

Even those who gained most from the system began to question its viability. The billionaire speculator George Soros now warns that the herd instinct of capital-owners such as himself must be controlled before they trample everyone else underfoot. 'Marx and Engels gave a very good analysis of the capitalist system 150 years ago, better in some ways, I must say, than the equilibrium theory of classical economics,' he writes. 'The main reason why their dire predictions did not come true was because of countervailing political interventions in democratic countries. Unfortunately we are once again in danger of drawing the wrong conclusions from the lessons of history. This time the danger comes not from communism but from market fundamentalism.'

In October 1997 the business correspondent of the New Yorker, John Cassidy, reported a conversation with an investment banker. 'The longer I spend on Wall Street, the more convinced I am that Marx was right,' the financier said. 'I am absolutely convinced that Marx's approach is the best way to look at capitalism.' His curiosity aroused, Cassidy read Marx for the first time. He found 'riveting passages about globalization, inequality, political corruption, monopolization, technical progress, the decline of high culture, and the enervating nature of modern existence - issues that economists are now confronting anew, sometimes without realizing that they are walking in Marx's footsteps'.

Like Molire's bourgeois gentleman who discovered to his amazement that for more than 40 years he had been speaking prose without knowing it, much of the Western bourgeoisie absorbed Marx's ideas without ever noticing. It was a belated reading of Marx in the 1990s that inspired the financial journalist James Buchan to write his brilliant study Frozen Desire: An Inquiry into the Meaning of Money (1997).

'Everybody I know now believes that their attitudes are to an extent a creation of their material circumstances,' he wrote, 'and that changes in the ways things are produced profoundly affect the affairs of humanity even outside the workshop or factory. It is largely through Marx, rather than political economy, that those notions have come down to us.'

Even the Economist journalists John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, eager cheerleaders for turbo-capitalism, acknowledge the debt. 'As a prophet of socialism Marx may be kaput,' they wrote in A Future Perfect: The Challenge and Hidden Promise of Globalization (2000), 'but as a prophet of the "universal interdependence of nations" as he called globalization, he can still seem startlingly relevant.' Their greatest fear was that 'the more successful globalization becomes the more it seems to whip up its own backlash' - or, as Marx himself said, that modern industry produces its own gravediggers.

The bourgeoisie has not died. But nor has Marx: his errors or unfulfilled prophecies about capitalism are eclipsed and transcended by the piercing accuracy with which he revealed the nature of the beast. 'Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones,' he wrote in The Communist Manifesto.

Until quite recently most people in this country seemed to stay in the same job or institution throughout their working lives - but who does so now? As Marx put it: 'All that is solid melts into air.'

In his other great masterpiece, Das Kapital, he showed how all that is truly human becomes congealed into inanimate objects - commodities - which then acquire tremendous power and vigor, tyrannizing the people who produce them.

[...] Marx's portrayal of the forces that govern our lives - and of the instability, alienation and exploitation they produce - still resonates, and can still bring the world into focus. Far from being buried under the rubble of the Berlin Wall, he may only now be emerging in his true significance. For all the anguished, uncomprehending howls from the right-wing press, Karl Marx could yet become the most influential thinker of the 21st century.

Francis Wheen is author of the biography Karl Marx: A Life.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 12, 2006 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

Blasphemy! God could not invent such a beautiful artifact without some purpose, even if it is only the purpose of the sunset, which even my ape cousins have been reported (by Jane Goodal) to gaze at as if appreciating sheer beauty.

Wow, my friend, you may be bright, but this paragraph reveals you're so incapable of separating your personal and religious presuppositions from intellectual investigation, that nothing you say in relation to this topic can be considered *remotely* scientific.

It's fascinating how smart, even brilliant people can be wholly waylaid in their thinking processes by their inability to separate scientific inquiry from presupposition and bias. A tendency that -right out of the gate - intimates, hell, trumpets their lack of understanding of the true nature of scientific inquiry.

In fact, what we see isn't "inquiry" at all, it's forcing the facts to fit. And, boy, does it increasingly take a lot of force.

Posted by: Robert S. on January 12, 2006 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

Michael L. Cook: MSR, if you are starting with one drug resistant bug, of course natural selection will favor it in a drug environment that kills its competitors. But that doesn't solve the question--did a RANDOM mutation produce this lonely bug? DNA molecules are pretty tightly bound and well protected, so to get a mutation you have to hit a cell nucleus with a pretty powerful type of radiation, like a cosmic ray. The odds are overwhelmingly against getting a useful mutation out of this process. It's like trying to sculpt a totem pole from a log, not using a chain saw but a naval cannon 20 miles away over the horizon. Having that one drug-resistant microbe around when it is needed may have required some type of force or principle not yet recognized in order to come about.


useful mutations are rare, but bacteria reproduce rapidly enough to create billions in short order. You do make one good point: no drug has ever been invented that killed ALL the members of the exposed microbe population (indeed, most antibiotics only slow their reproductive rate, and don't kill them at all, killing is done by the immune system.) The remnants that survive low doses of drugs eventually produce progeny that can survive high doses.

Intelligent Design can always be rescued by postulating that some mutation many generations ago was guided by intelligence. This is one of many reasons why Intelligent Design is intrinsically non-testable.

Posted by: contentious on January 12, 2006 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

Michael L. Cook: An Elegant Design theorem might well come out of realizing that junk DNA is nature's way of providing survival capability even in wildly unlikely future hostile environments. A few posts ago someone was lecturing me on how a single, drug-resistant cell can be promoted by natural selection when anti-biotics are over used and multiply. I agreed with that, but not with how the luckily capable single cell happened to be johnny-on-the-spot in the first place.
Suppose junk DNA operates mechanically kind of like the Mandelbrot Set--turning out countless iterations of the same basic plans, only each one slightly different, in case of drastic environmental change. Now we don't need high speed particles banging about trying to produce needed mutations by the cannonball or junkyard method.

Where Darwinian evolution, including modern complications and enhancements, becomes a faith is when the people who believe it extrapolate backwards many generations and assert positively that intelligence could never have been involved. What happened many generations ago can not be known, but what we observe now could have been the result of many generations of random variation and natural selection.

Where ID ceases to be a science, as illustrated by your comment, is where the proponents assert that ID is required to account for complexity merely because there might have been intelligence at some point many generations ago. Since the processes that we observe entail natural variation in all things independent of subsequent usefulness, followed by natural selection of the the most useful, proponents of ID have to create an unobservable process to account for what can already be accounted for by the observed processes (especially considering the paleontological record). Since there is plenty of randomness in the observable processes, and since there are vast numbers of examples of non-intelligence (horses' canine teeth), evolution is a far better match to the observable facts than ID is.


McAristotle asked why there are no chickens with teeth if they are so easy to create. Actually, there are from time to time chicks born with little mounds that are like tooth precursors, but the genes do not spread in the following generations because the teeth impose a cost without an offsetting advantage. It's roughly the same reason that eagle chicks are sometimes born with astigamtisms, but the genetic abnormality does not increase in frequency in the subsequent generations: the feldglings are unable to catch prey. Critics of evolution for some reason are frequently unable to think about both natural variation and natural selection.

Posted by: contentious on January 12, 2006 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

Three hundred and counting. This would be fascinating, but for the fact that although I have been around liberals all of my adult life, I have never once run into anyone who attempted to argue that scientific eveolutionary theory "proved" that God did not exist.

Talk about a one-way strawman argument.

I don't know why these ID proponents never seem to admit what really bothers them. Organized religion seems to heavily depend upon the members of the religion believing that God does in fact intervene in daily life. Apparently, the thought that there might be a completely hands-off God doesn't do it for them. Thus, the fact that a God could certainly have ordered the universe and its physical laws, pushed the start button, and sat back to be entertained, while completely consistent with observed life, can't be allowed to become theory.

The next thing you know someone will assert that if there is a God, it is irrelevant which organized religion you choose. Can't have that.

Posted by: hank on January 12, 2006 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

A final (?) note: There was a lot of talk about "proof" and experiments here, but it is a fuzzy boundary about what is really proven when probabilities of whether something could happen are involved. That's just the breaks.

Posted by: Neil' on January 12, 2006 at 8:53 PM | PERMALINK

Let us make some simplifying assumptions about unknowable things. SOMETHING must have caused the universe to exist--it may not have been an intelligent impetus in the way we understand intelligence, it may not have been at all anthromorphic, it may have been cold, formal, and Platonic and abstract to a degree we can't begin to imagine. But something established spacetime, something created the wrinkle in nothingness that sparked the Big Bang, and something established all the parameters and constants that have worked out so fortuitously for life. I am using the word "something" in the barest sense possible, as opposed to "nothing."
Anyone who seriously says "nothing" caused the universe in the strictest logical sense is proclaiming that existence can't possibly be an effect of anything at all, because, well, because they said so, that's why.

Now, maybe some Intelligent Design proponents would say that this unknowable "something" whatever it is, continues to intervene in complex processes like life from time to time. I don't think that. I think that all the original laws and principles the universe came equipped with are still in effect and unchanged, but we don't happen to know all the laws yet and there may be laws out there that apply very rarely and we just haven't encountered them yet. This isn't God intervening or putting anything in by hand, it is just a law 14 billion years old just getting noticed.

So, I am going to suppose I have some example of irreduceable complexity, let us take for instance the challenge of first life. The simplest living, self-reproducing prokaryotic cell we can find today still seems amazingly complex. But (I am assured) possessed researchers are working around the clock to create life in a test tube and they are getting close, close, very close to their goal.

I am going to make a testable hypothesis right now that when they get the pre-biotic soup right to the brink, the materials will self-organize to go right over the brink and become life. I am going to add one more caveat--when the researchers try to account thermodynamically for the reactions that happened, they won't be able to.
Like just about everything else in the universe, the pre-biotic molecules have an impetus within them to cooperate with the project of life. Does what we perceive as "chance" play some roles? Of course. But chance does not play every role.
But let's get back to the question of what the discovery or non-discovery of alien life will tell us about evolution.
PROPOSITION:
(1) If chance is king, alien life ought to be everywhere. The universe ought to be teeming with it. Those strains that went extinct should have started up again with all the time and resources (including earth-like planets) available.
(2) If some type Elegant Design, Intelligent Design, or even weak Platonic guidance gives the spark to the creation and evolutionary change of life on Earth and elsewhere, then life should be everywhere in the universe. If life has Anthropic support, it should be everywhere. The stronger the Anthropic principle, the more likely that smart aliens will look tolerably like us and enjoy the same type of homeworld.
(3) No non-terrestial life of any type is ever found! That definitely kicks both sides of this debate in the butt! Where do we go from there, folks?
(4) Alien microbes are found, but they are very simple and have essentially the same bio-chemistry going on that terrestial life exhibits.
(5) Alien microbes and even some higher life forms (we think) are found, but they are so damned strange we can't even decide if they are as smart as the dancing bumblebees.

It seems to me these propositions do form a kind of program for testing the various hypothises concerning the origin of life, do they not?

Posted by: Michael L. Cook on January 12, 2006 at 10:00 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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