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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: derekb.lowe@gmail.com Twitter: Dereklowe

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December 22, 2005

Poor Put-Upon Intelligent Design

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Posted by Derek

I was driving last night and listening to NPR, when they broadcast a commentary by Joe Loconte of the Heritage Foundation. This was bemoaning the Dover decision tossing Intelligent Design out of the local Pennsylvania school curriculum, and I'm afraid I ended up adding some loud and vulgar commentary of my own while hearing it.

Loconte's analogy was to the Big Bang theory in cosmology. He claimed that when the theory was proposed, that some of the objections to it were because of its similarities to the creation account in Genesis. I wasn't aware that the Big Bang was considered too religious, but it seems that this was the case for some physicists. That's quite an irony, though, considering some of the religious objections to it now. (Here's a rundown from everyone's favorite creationist web site, Answers In Genesis, certainly the first time I've ever linked to them. Hours of entertainment await you there, though, I have to admit.)

And you can see where the rest of the commentary went. We should make room for seemingly heretical theories in science, even if they seem to have religious overtones, because the orthodox dogma of the scientists can indeed be overthrown, yea verily, just as it was with the Big Bang theory. Loconte has sounded this note before, many times - see this CNN transcript where he goes on about the "high priests of evolution" and the "divergence of views within the scientific community" on the issue.

But Loconte neglected to mention that Big Bang cosmology won its case by providing empirical evidence, and plenty of it. And this was done completely within the framework of scientific discovery - making testable predictions, for one thing.

And that's where the analogy with ID breaks down. If Intelligent Design has made any testable predictions, I've missed them. If it's advancing due to further research, I've missed that, too. Loconte has made the error, which is unfortunately common in those with no scientific background, of assuming that ID is just another scientific theory because it claims to be. "I can't see how something this complicated could have happened except by God doing it" is not a basis for scientific discovery. For that, you want something like "I can't see how something this complicated could have happened. Let's look at all the evidence we can get and follow it no matter where it leads."

Comments (147) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Current Events | Intelligent Design


COMMENTS

1. dave s on December 22, 2005 11:22 AM writes...

There's a great old joke slamming civil engineers, how can you tell from the way women are built that God is a civil engineer? Answer - who else would put a waste disposal site next to a recreation area! And a rather more tasteful riff on the same theme: "incompetent design" http://www.seedmagazine.com/news/2005/11/the_other_id.php?page=1 which talks about too many teeth and built-in back problems, etc.

Permalink to Comment

2. John Johnson on December 22, 2005 11:34 AM writes...

In addition to getting my adrenaline pumping to unhealthy levels, each day I look at ID arguments I find more and more that the whole movement is a sham. Not only is ID not science, it's not religion. It claims to start from "data" and "evidence" and arrive at God, or maybe not God but another being by that name, or something. It's a mutant "theory" designed solely for political purposes, nothing more.

While fair criticism against the prevailing theory is all part of the scientific process, creating "scientific" objections to the theory with post-hoc "evidence" that doesn't even rise to the level of "confirmation bias." It's simply dishonest, and I'd rather this country have the whole movement relegated to a dark spot in a history textbook.

If they want to have religious arguments against evolution, fine. I support that. Let's just be honest about what it is.

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3. michael class on December 22, 2005 2:02 PM writes...


I wonder, would a public school teacher in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, be allowed to say the following:

"It is interesting to contemplate ... [all the many forms of life on earth] ... HAVING BEEN ORIGINALLY BREATHED BY THE CREATOR INTO A FEW FORMS OR INTO ONE; and that from so simple a beginning, endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved."

Just imagine a public school teacher who says those words: that God created life and placed it on the earth in a few forms, and then that life evolved according to the physical and natural laws that God put into place in the universe.

Would that be allowed?

Actually, it should be REQUIRED FOR THE TEACHER TO SAY THAT.

Why? Because the quote is from: On the Origin of the Species, Chapter XV, Recapitulation and Conclusion, By Charles Darwin.

If you are going to teach Darwin's theory of evolution in public schools, you should teach what Darwin actually wrote about it.

Michael S. Class
Author / Photographer / Publisher

Anthony and the Magic Picture Frame: An American History Book for Right-Thinking Children and Their Parents

The Story of the Boy Who Traveled into the Past
by Stepping through the Picture Frame on His Bedroom Wall
and Returned to See His Own Time in a New Light

Look Inside the Book: www.MagicPictureFrame.com

Permalink to Comment

4. Derek Lowe on December 22, 2005 2:09 PM writes...

Nice ad for your book, Michael. As for your quote from Darwin, most of the ID people wouldn't agree with any of the rest of it. Evolved? Changed? One species turning into another? They wouldn't hear of it. You remind me of the way that Loconte and others love to quote Richard Dawkins on the appearance of design, without any of the rest of his paragraph.

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5. RKN on December 22, 2005 2:40 PM writes...

Devil's advocate here.

If Intelligent Design has made any testable predictions, I've missed them.

A shortcoming which pesters evo as well, vis-a-vis its inability to show, predictively, one species change into another in a labarotory setting. Nevertheless, you're right about ID.

If it's advancing due to further research, I've missed that, too.

It's worthwhile noting that Michael Behe (see http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?command=view&id=31&isFellow=true), qua PhD biochemist and a chief proponent of ID, has in fact published articles in peer reviewed journals. Without much difficulty at all I found this one on-line: http://www.proteinscience.org/cgi/content/abstract/ps.04802904v1. It was originally published in Protein Science. I wouldn't call it "ID research," per se. I read some of it. It tries to show the minimal population required to fix a two-amino acid change in a protein in a genetic population, and that the size required to do so would be impossible in a standard evo model.

Again, this is not pro-ID research as I see it, but if the conclusions are true, and the science sound (hey, it was peer reviewed!), then it exposes a weakness in the evo model, and thus calls it further into question.

Casting skepticism on evo has been the main achievement of ID if you ask me.

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6. paul j. on December 22, 2005 3:52 PM writes...

This reminds me of a heated discussion I had with a fellow researcher when I was in grad school. I had wondered aloud why nature "chose" (for lack of a better term) one enantiomer of amino acids over another, L over D.

This lead me to think (again, out loud) of what would happen if we had primarily D instead of L. Would I be left handed instead of right? Would Americans drive on the other side of the road...

This whole line of thought was because it was late and I was running a huge, ugly silica column (eluting with some solvent mixture that involved pyridine) that had multiple colors that were some shade of brown...

Anyway, the researcher in question had a simple answer to it all: "God chose L". Well, suffice it to say, the discussion turned ugly at that point.

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7. Jim Hu on December 22, 2005 3:57 PM writes...

Nice comment on the ad, Derek...did you catch the spam comment that was on one of your older posts yesterday?

IANAL, but my understanding was that the teacher is free to say that or even discuss ID if she wants to. The ruling was about whether or not the board could require it. My recollection of the coverage was that the science teachers in Dover didn't want this.

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8. SteveSC on December 22, 2005 4:30 PM writes...

I have always believed that science and religion, especially the existence/nature of God, should be kept independent as essentially orthogonal dimensions. Unfortunately, both sides of the ID debate are trying to collapse the issue into a single dimension, with God/ID on one side and science/no God on the other. It is similar to the way the MSM collapses all the varied political issues in to a simple right/left dichotomy.

Marginalized from the discussion are true scientists who believe in God, as well as pseudoscientific quacks who don't believe in God (e.g., astrology, crystals, Gaia, etc.), similar to the way Lieberman and others who don't fit into an 'approved' little box are shouted down by one side or the other (or both).

Of course, when two opposing scientific theories harden into sclerotic ideological camps, it often leads to a new paradigm breaking the logjam. We can only hope...

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9. Palo on December 22, 2005 4:34 PM writes...

I don't think the ID militants have any interest in evidence or testable hypothesis. If you attended any of Michael Behe's talk, you know that he closes with the most 'conclusive' evidence: a picture of a duck, and then he recites: "If it walks like a duck...." to allow the chorus of faithful believers to conclude "It is a duck!". It is very amusing if it wasn't so sad. Missing in Behe and his cheerleaders is the irony in the fact that what he calls a duck is actually a picture of a duck!. 'Evidence' to Michael Behe, as the trial showed, is reduced to knowing when something is designed. I think their use of the Big Bang as an analogy is simply another dishonest use of whatever is available to confuse the issues. Judge Jones blasted the members of the Dover School Board for pretending to advocate an ethical religious life while lying to no end when it suited their purposes.
Behind ID is simply a bunch of guys who think their 'call' in life is to be soldiers of faith, warriors for the Lord. I don't think Behe or Demsky or all the others care one bit about science and evidence. The do it to get a good sit when they "meet the Lord". If there was a God he wouldn't let these idiots make his case.

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10. A Christian Prophet on December 22, 2005 4:48 PM writes...

Testable predictions? As if Evolution could ever be tested. As if any scientific theory of beginnings could ever be tested? It seems science merely pretends not to be religious, then goes on making leaps of faith. The Holy Spirit's messages on The Christian Prophet blog say that both theories are incorrect, but the Holy Spirit does seem to be concerned by mindless worship of science. The good news is on The Holy Inheritance blog there's a message that says we were all created by love.

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11. Timothy on December 22, 2005 5:49 PM writes...

What is it about ID posts that always bring out the nutters? This is the blog of a research chemist, I wonder how many IDists are regular readers. My supposition is somebody at the Christian Coalition is busy forwarding emails with "Go attack this guy" and a link.

Permalink to Comment

12. jim on December 22, 2005 5:59 PM writes...

SteveSC: You're obviously not an IDiot, but, please, ID is not a scientific theory, and is not even in the same ballpark as modern evolutionary theory. There's no logjam. Just scary ignorance and twisted politics. I also don't see how scientists that believe in a god are marginalized; I'm pretty sure a great number and perhaps a majority of scientists are theistic evolutionists. With regard to the public discussion, I've heard or read more than one scientist discuss the "orthogonality" (as you nicely put it) of these issues.

Also, as a side note, you and some others have referred to "Gaia" and such, and I wonder if there is some parallel universe where that stuff is hugely influential, and that I'm not aware of. I've lived in three major US cities (including one that's not all that far from Sedona) and yet I've never seen that kind of thing come up any more than on this (and similar) blogs. Thanks.

Permalink to Comment

13. Anonymous on December 22, 2005 6:06 PM writes...

"Casting skepticism on evo has been the main achievement of ID if you ask me."

Um, no. Skepticism of propositions related to science is a major achievement of...scientists. That's one of the big things we do, buddy. Evolutionary theory is no exception. And, behold, much has stood up to inquiry, and some has been revised/refined (note to book-selling guy: there's more to evolution than Darwin). Let's see how ID research has done...oh, never mind.

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14. jim on December 22, 2005 6:08 PM writes...

Sorry, that was me, not anonymous.

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15. RKN on December 22, 2005 7:22 PM writes...

That's one of the big things we do, buddy.

I understand, I am a scientist, and so is Michael Behe.

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16. Dennis on December 22, 2005 7:26 PM writes...

Michael: I frankly wouldn't want teachers to be teaching "Darwinism" anyway. They should be teaching modern evolution. Darwin got some things wrong. No modern biologist believes that he got everything right. If he did, why the hell are we still funding research? Sheesh.

Permalink to Comment

17. wcw on December 22, 2005 9:02 PM writes...

Holy Hannah, where do these people come from?

The ID crowd fails utterly both at science and at theology. It wouldn't know a testable hypothesis if it were gored by one in a bullring, nor identify a working exegesis if one fell out of the sky like manna. Consistently to produce nothing but utter failure at science and pure marginalia at theology is something of an achievement, but it's not something I want to watch in real time.

Ugh.

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18. Jim Hu on December 22, 2005 9:07 PM writes...

Arg...another comment off to moderation heaven...

RKN,

Regarding the Behe paper you cite...see also the Sept 2005 issue of Protein Science for a rebuttal paper by Lynch, Behe's response, and an editorial.

You also say that you are a scientist and so is Behe. Behe is indeed a card-carrying biochemist who trained with Walter Englander and has many publications on DNA structure that predate his infatuation with ID, which I believe is unlikely to have been part of his scientific worldview when he published his 1990 TIBS article pointing out that large parts of histone genes are dispensible, or the 1991 PNAS paper from his sabbatical with George Rose, which is about the robustness of proteins to mutational substitutions. (Darwin's Black Box is from 1996...I haven't read it so I don't know if Dr. Behe describes his personal journey to ID)

But are you a scientist? When I click on your links, it seems that you are a blogging Airedale terrier! Most remarkable, and difficult to explain by neo-Darwinian mechanisms. ;^)

Congratulate your master on the impending nuptials!

Permalink to Comment

19. jim on December 22, 2005 9:28 PM writes...

RKN,
You should definitely do more research on Behe. There's lots of nice references in the Dover decision, for instance. Here's one:
"The one article referenced by both Professors Behe and Minnich as supporting ID is an article written by Behe and Snoke entitled "Simulating evolution by gene duplication of protein features that require multiple amino acid residues." (P-721). A review of the article indicates that it does not mention either irreducible complexity or ID. In fact, Professor Behe admitted that the study which forms the basis for the article did not rule out many known evolutionary mechanisms and that the research actually might support evolutionary pathways if a biologically realistic population size were used."
And just one more (for now): "First, defense expert Professor Fuller agreed that ID aspires to "change the ground rules" of science and lead defense expert Professor Behe admitted that his broadened definition of science, which encompasses ID, would also embrace astrology."

Permalink to Comment

20. Steve C on December 22, 2005 11:25 PM writes...

"Loconte has made the error, which is unfortunately common in those with no scientific background, of assuming that ID is just another scientific theory because it claims to be."

Nice post, Derek, except for the line quoted above. I'm not a scientist, but a liberal arts type, a writer, whose been a science aficionado since grade school. The statement about Loconte causes me great frustration because I've seen numerous scientific minds approach the ID issue this way over the last 10 years. Please help me understand how so many extremely bright people can be so myopic, naive, and well, perhaps egotistical. I don't know how to characterize your [all] behavior, so enlighten me.

Loconte DID NOT make an error. It was all, just like ID itself, very carefully calculated. It's all rhetoric aimed at the average conservative voter. These ID people all understand ID is not science, otherwise they'd be in the lab or the field, not squabbling over high school curriculum. The Discovery Institute, the Dover school board members who committed perjury, Senator Santorum [who's backtracking like mad], the Heritage Foundation and their ilk -- they all understand they are lying; they all understand this is a fight about political power and not science; and they all understand the objective is to influence the scientifically illiterate American electorate.

Why is this so difficult for so many scientists to comprehend? The entire ID movement is AMORAL [read the trial transcripts]. So far the scientific community has played along while letting ID set up the rules, choose it's opponents, choose the arena, and choose the audience. Their ultimate tactical goal is to control science's purse strings by going over your heads to the funders -- American taxpayers. The Dover ruling, to take nothing away from Judge Jones, is only a speed bump to these people. The Discovery Institute had already written off the Dover dolts by refusing to be involved with the trial.

Loconte didn't "forget", "neglect", "sound", "make an error", or etc. He lied. Period. Read Judge Jones' decision, then google the Discovery Institute's reactions in various media streams. Look at all the evidence and follow it no matter where it leads.

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21. Blair on December 23, 2005 12:20 AM writes...

This was a fun read. And here's my take on it.

Science is religion. They both start with initial, unprovable assumptions and then go from there. Geometry proves theorems based on postulates. Pick a different set of assumptions (beliefs), you get a different theory (religion).

What sets science apart from religion is the belief that the laws of nature apply the same everywhere at all times. Religion allows for miracles or unnatural events. If you can take seriously a mathematics that studies irrational and imaginary numbers, why can't religion have a few valid cause-effect theories?

Each law of nature describes a cause and effect relationship. Can you imagine Newton claiming that the force of gravity acts randomly?

But evolution is not a science or religion. Evolution says the observed effects are random and unpredictable. How do you test and replicate randomness?

Evolution dismisses the notion of cause and effect. Nobody knows what gravity is but we can see and predict its effects.

Evolution says there is no cause and the effects are random.

I don't see how the philosophy of evolution could be taken seriously as a science or religion.

(What do you think?)

Permalink to Comment

22. UndergradChemist on December 23, 2005 2:14 AM writes...

Blair, at a certain point, yes, science does rest on things that are assumptions (i.e. what we observe is reality, or reality insofar as we can call anything reality), but I completely disagree with your so-called "derivation."

First of all, you have evolution wrong. Evolution doesn't dismiss cause and effect. One of the two main tenet of evolution is Natural Selection, which is kind of a really basic logical tautology; that which survives best, survives best. Thus, organisms that have survived till now have probably, as far as we know, survived till now better than those that aren't around any longer. The other main tenet is a generation of variety, which is via mutations. Bats have wings, we have arms, and those differences are due to genes. That the structure of our arms and the structure of bats' wings seem to be common in terms of biological control, development, genes, and so on, with small variety allowing for wings and fingers, leads us to suspect that perhaps we come from a common ancestor whose descendents eventually became bats and humans. All the other genetic (and thus speciatic) variety that might have existed via mutations just didn't survive (e.g. the Neanderthal, the ancestors to the horse, etc.), due to Natural Selection.

And how does this lead one to say that there are no cause and effects in evolutionary theory? I mean, if you're just looking for non-predictability or sheer "randomness", tons of natural phenomenon have just that. Quantum mechanics predicts only probabilities, not any particular event. Similarly, classical mechanics has limited predictive power when applied to complex situations such as turbulent water flow, or the propogation of a crack in a cement block. Are these "gaps" in classical physics evidence that Newton's laws just ain't so? Of course not.

As for those who claim that evolution is hardly predictive, I'd say it quite is. Predictions hardly need to be small laboratory experiments. General relativity wasn't proven by experiments in a lab, but observations of stars and planets, of clocks on spaceships, and so on. Proof is often indirect; before the advent of spectroscopy, chemical structures were elucidated by various chemical tests, which were hardly direct proofs of structure. Similarly, we can look for indirect proof of evolution. If evolution really is correct, fossil records will concur and fit within the framework. Molecular and gene patterns will fit. Mathematical models (say, of population genetics) with sufficient complexity and accuracy to real life should predict things that can be verified against what actually happens. And, wonder of wonders, it all happens to. So....it seems that evolution is a very good description indeed of the world at large, since everything we've found so far agrees with it. We've found evidence for common ancestry. We've found evidence for mutational fluctuations with populations, as well as genetic drift.

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23. Jeff Bonwick on December 23, 2005 6:01 AM writes...

Here's the key difference between science and ID. If an Intelligent Designer were to show up in a lab and demonstrate his/her ability to design things intelligently, scientists would admit they had it wrong, pull up a chair, and listen. If, on the other hand, Nature were to publish an article tomorrow that closed every hole in evolutionary theory and explained how you too can reproduce the creation of life from elements to elephants... the ID movement would still persist.

Religion is robust for the same reason the Internet is robust. It interprets data as damage and routes around it.

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24. RKN on December 23, 2005 7:40 AM writes...

But are you a scientist?

Yes. I hold an M.S. in geophysics and worked in exploration for big oil for about twenty years in the role of geophysicist and software developer. I am presently pursuing a PhD in biomedical science.

When I click on your links, it seems that you are a blogging Airedale terrier! Most remarkable, and difficult to explain by neo-Darwinian mechanisms. ;^)

Indeed. It's my Airedale's blog, occasionally he channels me.


Congratulate your master on the impending nuptials!

Thank you, I adore her.

Permalink to Comment

25. Marc on December 23, 2005 8:25 AM writes...

I agree with undergradchemist about blair`s interpretation of evolution.

However, Blair does have a point about Geometry, as exposed by Euclid. High school geometry is based on The Elements. It has an arguably 'unscientific' philosophy.

But then again, it is classified as math, not science. And as far as I know except for a few old russian guys no one has an alternate theory for triangles.

Geometry in schools would make an interesting debate

Permalink to Comment

26. Jim Hu on December 23, 2005 1:35 PM writes...

Marc,

Having unproveable premises isn't what marks something as science or not. The notion that nature follows rules at all, or even exists outside your imagination (where you is whoever is reading this post) is not proveable...this goes back to Descartes, Hume et al. But of course, that doesn't make it likely that you are the center of the universe and life is but a dream. I'd guess that most scientists share my view of the unproveability of anything from cogito ergo sum - that's nice, but it's completely useless to the practice of science.

Jeff Bonwick,

I have to admit that the Designer would probably be escorted off the premises by security as a crank...depends on the nature of the demonstration, I suppose!

RKN,
I actually was pretty sure that your providing a link was evidence that you wouldn't be claiming to be a scientist unless you really were one. Asking was part of teasing you about the blog being authored by Rufus. But thanks for the additional details. I have some thoughts on Rufus' post on the ID debate, but I'll leave a link on your blog comments if I elaborate on my blog.

Permalink to Comment

27. Blair on December 23, 2005 7:56 PM writes...

Thanks Undergrad.

1. "Evolution doesn't dismiss cause and effect. One of the two main tenets of evolution is Natural Selection, which is kind of a really basic logical tautology; that which survives best, survives best. Thus, organisms that have survived till now have probably, as far as we know, survived till now better than those that aren't around any longer."

That which survives survives. The ones that survive are better at surviving. My Webster's college dictionary says a tautology is a proposition that's true in all its forms. A circular statement. It gives this example: "The candidate will win or lose."

Math is the language of science. In scientific terms, y = y where y is a survivng life form. It survives because it survives. It causes itself. How do you plot that out if x=time? Let's say 1=extant and 0=extinct.

When or how long will y=1 and when will y=0? It depends on ability to survive. If a life form becomes extinct, the cause of extinction was inability to survive. Sure, any number of circumstances can cause the extinction. So when does evolution predict whales will become extinct? Evolution does not predict what species will be "selected" to survive. Selection just happens "naturally". Its predictions are beginning and end points of line segments in the past.

Once a species becomes extinct, can it come back to life?

2. "The other main tenet is a generation of variety, which is via mutations. Bats have wings, we have arms, and those differences are due to genes. That the structure of our arms and the structure of bats' wings seem to be common in terms of biological control, development, genes, and so on, with small variety allowing for wings and fingers, leads us to suspect that perhaps we come from a common ancestor whose descendents eventually became bats and humans. All the other genetic (and thus speciatic) variety that might have existed via mutations just didn't survive (e.g. the Neanderthal, the ancestors to the horse, etc.), due to Natural Selection."

Did Neanderthals become extinct because nature decided (selected) to have fewer species and a de-generation of variety? Or did the homo sapiens conduct a genocide?

Which mutation will cause y=0? Which mutation will cause y=1? What's the force? Natural Selection. How do you predict which species will come into existence and which ones will die off in the future. Predicting past events is not a prediction. Actually, evolution predicts a set of probablistic outcomes once a given mutation has occurred randomly.

Evolution seems more like astrology than quantum mechanics. Intelligent design postulates an unseen force to explain why mutations (etc.) happen. Natural selection insists the cause that effected the mutation is natural albeit unknown. More circular reasoning.

At the core of every science is faith. The problem is the evolution faith wants to exclude other faiths for fear that an unconventional idea may come along and supplant evolution (take away the research money). By not including and competing with opposing ideas, evolution has stagnated and not evolved much since the days of Darwin.

Every major scientific breakthrough occurs by rejecting a basic assumption. Which postulate will we reject next? What new theory will unify evolution and intelligent design?

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28. LNT on December 23, 2005 9:57 PM writes...


I'm a believer in God and a PhD organic chemist. God doesn't intervene in my reactions (hopefully!) and therefore my chemistry is (usually) reproducible. But what good is a belief in God if I believe that he has never intervened in history?

The teachings of evolution presuppose that God has never directly acted in history. This is a RELIGIOUS assumption. Since our scientific endevors have never "caught" god "in the act", we assume he/she has never acted. If purist evolution is taught in schools, it is essentially a promotion of athiesm. There is no room for a god if he/she has never acted in history.

Statements about the absence of a god acting in "creation" are inappropriate. I think that more scientists need to keep an open mind that there MAY be more to the world than we can see with our eyes.

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29. Derek Lowe on December 23, 2005 10:04 PM writes...

LNT: "But what good is a belief in God if I believe that he has never intervened in history?"

Y'know, you'd get agreement to that rhetorical question from people at the complete opposite ends of the argument. . .

Permalink to Comment

30. tgibbs on December 23, 2005 11:24 PM writes...

Michael: Actually, it should be REQUIRED FOR THE TEACHER TO SAY THAT.

Why? Because the quote is from: On the Origin of the Species, Chapter XV, Recapitulation and Conclusion, By Charles Darwin.

If you are going to teach Darwin's theory of evolution in public schools, you should teach what Darwin actually wrote about it.

This is the sort of comment one often hears from creationists, and it illuminates one of the key differences between religion and science. The fundamental mode of thought in religion is appeal to authority: the sayings of the prophets, the words of the Bible. So creationists love to quote some remark apparently critical of evolution from Darwin or some other famous scientist, obviously convinced that they have made a telling point--and then can't understand why the scientists look at them as if they are idiots.

Because, of course, to a scientist, a theory exists independently of the guys who originated it--it rests not upon their authority, but upon the subsequent data that supports it. So Darwin's ideas on the origin of life, Isaac Newton's alchemical ideas, or Kepler's notions about nested solids may be of interest as historical footnotes, but they are not relevant to discussion of the modern theories that still bear their names. A modern biology class is not expected to teach evolution as Darwin understood it, but evolution as it is understood today, including gene duplication, symbiotic origin of organelles, epigenetic inheritance, and all of the other stuff that Darwin never knew about.

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31. Still Scared of Dinosaurs on December 24, 2005 1:08 AM writes...

Blair wrote: "But evolution is not a science or religion. Evolution says the observed effects are random and unpredictable. How do you test and replicate randomness?"
It's called statistics. People have a very unfortunate tendency to view randomness as implying that all outcomes have an equally likely chance of coming up, so that all random binary processes are 50/50 and all random selections of 10 outcomes must average out to 10% each. Baseball batting averages are an example of random phenomena where 0.3 is pretty good, and Benford's Law is a surprising example of where the latter assumption is not true.
Randomness is tested when you assume that observed events are selected from a certain distribution randomly and test whether your results are consistent with the assumption. You have to make assumptions that, if true, mean something, and in the end you have to make a judgment as to whether you are convinced that your model is valid.
Then, if you're a scientist, you have to convince other scientists in your field to judge your model valid. The frustrating thing for scientists about ID, I think, is that IDers seem to feel that if you can't eliminate every last shred of judgment about the validity of evolution then it's all open to question. The scientific consensus is that the evidence for evolution as the best explanation of the diversity of life on Earth, as compared with any other explanation including YEC or ID, is overwhelming. This was core to Jones's decision in the Dover case.
I wonder if you could test assumptions about random genetic changes by culturing two types of single-celled creatures with different supposed rates of mutation. If each is known to occasionally display a mutation that gives it an overwhelming advantage over the other, but one is 4x more likely to occur than the other, you might expect 100 cultures to ultimately lead to 80 dominated by one and 20 by the other. Lot's of other assumptions would have to hold true for the model to be valid, and scientists might debate about whether these also need to be tested.

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32. Jeff Bonwick on December 24, 2005 1:53 AM writes...

ID folks: you say that scientists should be open-minded. You're right. I am open to being convinced. Can you offer either of the following:

(1) Any new fact that we have learned through ID research.

(2) Any experiment that either has been run, or at least could be run, that would confirm or deny ID.

No changing the subject, please: just a fact or a test.

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33. Jim Hu on December 24, 2005 3:34 AM writes...

LNT,

"The teachings of evolution presuppose that God has never directly acted in history."
Really?...I think it would be more accurate to say that the teachings of evolution provide a model where divine intervention is not required to explain biological diversity that had been previously been attributed to God acting directly in history. I don't think it says anything about what a Judeo-Christian God did outside of the first part of the Book of Genesis...but I haven't read the whole thing.

"If purist evolution is taught in schools, it is essentially a promotion of athiesm."
I'm an actual atheist, so perhaps I'm tone-deaf on this...but I disagree. If science and the supernatural are nonintersecting, then purist evolution says nothing about the existence or nonexistence of a deity. Some prominent atheists (e.g. Dawkins) admittedly act like it does.

"There is no room for a god if he/she has never acted in history."
Couldn't one still have a god who observes and provides judgement, reward, punishment, salvation, and/or forgiveness in the afterlife?

"Statements about the absence of a god acting in "creation" are inappropriate."
I agree. I hope nobody actually does this as an affirmative statement (but I am afraid that I won't be surprised if some do). But I think that it is appropriate to teach the absence of a requirement for a god to explain the generation of biodiversity after abiogenesis.

"I think that more scientists need to keep an open mind that there MAY be more to the world than we can see with our eyes."
Well, our eyes are pretty limited and scientists think about all kinds of invisible things all the time.

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34. Brian on December 24, 2005 10:37 AM writes...

I don't know, but it seems only in the US that this debate goes on. How can a country that is so advanced be so regressive and primitive at the same time.

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35. LNT on December 24, 2005 6:50 PM writes...

>LNT: "But what good is a belief in God if >I believe that he has never intervened in >history?"

>Derek: Y'know, you'd get agreement to that >rhetorical question from people at the complete >opposite ends of the argument. . .

My point is that I believe that God HAS interviened in history even though science hasn't and won't ever observe it. Science studies the reproducible. God's interventions are (by definition) not reproducible. The biggest intervention of all is what many of us celebrate tomorrow! Merry Christmas!

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36. Phil Owens on December 26, 2005 11:05 AM writes...

Nevermind evolutionists vs. scientific creationists, let's talk about evolutionists vs. evolutionists. If most scientists accept evolution (macro evolution) to be a fact, it's not due to any research that they've done on their own but rather the blind faith that they have put in those who say it is a fact.

Evolutionists vs Evolutionists -

"It is therefore of immediate concern to both biologists and layman that Darwinism is under attack. The theory of life that undermined nineteenth-century religion has virtually become a religion itself and, in its turn, is being threatened by fresh ideas. The attacks are certainly not limited to those of the creationists and religious fundamentalists who deny Darwinism for political and moral reason. The main thrust of the criticism comes from within science itself. The doubts about Darwinism represent a political revolt from within rather than a siege from without."—*B. Leith, The Descent of Darwin: A Handbook of Doubts about Darwinism (1982), p. 11.

Just as pre-Darwinian biology was carried out by people whose faith was in the Creator and His plan, post-Darwinian biology is being carried out by people whose faith is in, almost, the deity of Darwin. They've seen their task as to elaborate his theory and to fill the gaps in it, to fill the trunk and twigs of the tree. But it seems to me that the theoretical framework has very little impact on the actual progress of the work in biological research. In a way some aspects of Darwinism and of neo-Darwinism seem to me to have held back the progress of science."—Colin Patterson, The Listener [senior paleontologist at the British Museum of Natural History, London].

"Throughout the past century there has always existed a significant minority of first-rate biologists who have never been able to bring themselves to accept the validity of Darwinian claims. In fact, the number of biologists who have expressed some degree of disillusionment is practically endless."—*Michael Denton, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis (1986), p. 327.
"I personally hold the evolutionary position, but yet lament the fact that the majority of our Ph.D. graduates are frightfully ignorant of many of the serious problems of the evolution theory. These problems will not be solved unless we bring them to the attention of students. Most students assume evolution is proved, the missing link is found, and all we have left is a few rough edges to smooth out. Actually, quite the contrary is true; and many recent discoveries . . have forced us to re-evaluate our basic assumptions."—*Director of a large graduate program in biology, quoted in Creation: The Cutting Edge (1982), p. 26

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37. WBurke on December 26, 2005 11:21 AM writes...

So Derek you're in for another round of "As The World Burns"? You "scientists" possess the only minds in the world wherein you claim you believe only that which is proven - yet have as your foundation that which has never been proven, nor ever could be for that matter. You possess the only imaginations that have elevated to god-like status a veritable outcast of his own generation whose philosophies are the product of science fiction rather than science fact.

Point #1 - Nowhere in the history of mankind has there ever been witness or accounting of one kind, male and female, coming together to produce another kind of creature - songbirds are still songbirds and apes are still apes and people, well some of them, are still people.

Point #2 - Only in the mind of a "scientist" would it be plausible to ignore the Creator and spend trillions of dollars and manhours investigating and espousing ideologies about the createds formation outside of the realm of reality and that be viewed as a benefit to mankind.

Point #3 - Denying a fact does not make it no longer a fact. And the fact remains Derek that you and all of your friends and foes will one day give an account to the Creator for every thought word and deed. This God you profane and ignore will hold you accountable for every wicked intention of your heart, every lie, lustful thought, covetous and angry thoughts as well will not go unpunished but for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ none would be able to escape God's wrath. Evidence reveals there was a flood in which all but 8 of the Earth's inhabitants were wiped out due to their wickedness (their thoughts were only evil continuously), yet you deny that evidence as if your denial has any weight on the reality of God. Evidence reveals the Son of God came to this Earth and lived a sinless life and suffered more than any other man to pay the debt we could not begin to pay, a debt He did not owe but willingly He laid down His life that all who repent and trust in Him might be spared the eternal sufferings we deserve. He rose from the dead, a fact evidenced by the faithfulness to the death of His followers and the lack of any evidence to the contrary, a skeleton, any remains at all would surely have proven this claim false, but alas none existed for He was resurrected and seated at the right hand of His Father to judge you and to judge me.

Now I'm not gonna convince you that evolution is a farce, because people choose to believe what they choose to believe. And likewise I cannot convince you of your need to repent and trust in Jesus Christ because the Holy Spirit is responsible for that and I haven't the ability aside from the aid of the Holy Spirit working through me, but know this much Derek - the days are numbered before which you will stand to give your account, with each passing night you step one day closer to the realization that every so-called accomplishment of your life matters not, lest you have the protection of the Son of Man on that day you too will perish into the flames for all eternity. There is nothing outside of the reach of God to change or accomplish but rather with Him "all things are possible".

I know your pride is welling up inside of you and you're about to burst either into nervous laughter or fiery anger at my use of your space for the purpose I'm using it. How dare I, right? But know this Derek - God will bear witness to you that He is real and He is who the Bible says He is either now when you repent and trust or after your last breath when it is too late for you to change your course. No one comes to the Father but the Spirit draws him - don't let your last chance slip away Derek.

www.needGod.com

In Christ,
Bill

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38. Psychic Chemist on December 26, 2005 8:27 PM writes...

Oh come on Burke, Maybe there were only 8 people left in Israel after a flood. Maybe you ought to read some other OLDER texts like the Rig Veda or the Avesta. The world's been fine for a long time. If you still think there is a hell, then you are probably in one and you will continue to burn in it for the rest of your life.

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39. UndergradChemist on December 27, 2005 1:03 AM writes...

Sigh. These are tiresome discussions....

"Its predictions are beginning and end points of line segments in the past."

Well, some of its predictions are that, yes, those points (kind of) exist, except that these are less line segments and more broad spectra of variability isolated by physical means that prevent reproduction. There are other predictions that can occur, in terms of genomic relationships and inheritence, but the fact that line segments begin in the middle of other line segments is one prediction, and that line segments that began from the same line segment will tend to be genomically and physically related.

"Did Neanderthals become extinct because nature decided (selected) to have fewer species and a de-generation of variety? Or did the homo sapiens conduct a genocide?"

Why is that at all relevant? Nature doesn't "decide" anything. The humans may have killed them off; I don't know. The fact that they don't exist anymore, however, and existed in the past, gives evidence that somehow, humans survived better, whether by sheer luck (e.g. a plague wiped out almost all the Neanderthals), competition (e.g. humans wiped them out via war, hunting, or competition for resources), or predation from other things that may have killed them off.

Anyhow, the point is that evolution predicts that such intermediary species or coevolved species as Neanderthals would exist, and we found that they did. That they don't exist anymore in the present is not a problem.

"Predicting past events is not a prediction. Actually, evolution predicts a set of probablistic outcomes once a given mutation has occurred randomly."

First of all, predicting past events is *so* prediction. I drop a ball. I use Newton's gravitational law to predict the time it takes to hit the ground based on the mass, the radius of the earth, the height from the ground, and the mass of the earth. I check back to see if what theory predicts matches up with what *just happened* (i.e. in the past). Theory confirmed. It is only a small difference in mechanics that the event was five minutes ago versus a much longer time ago. Cosmic background radiation is a thermal effect from an event from much longer ago, at least according to current physical models, but it is predicted by inflationary universe theories. As long as a theory can predict something to occur without considering the data, then it's prediction, regardless of the order of theory and experiment. It is *logical* order that dictates prediction, not temporal.

"Evolution seems more like astrology than quantum mechanics. Intelligent design postulates an unseen force to explain why mutations (etc.) happen. Natural selection insists the cause that