Kingdom of Priests

Kingdom of Priests


The Cowardice of Richard Dawkins

posted by David Klinghoffer

I realize my earlier post on Dawkins’s defense of evolution, The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution, was on the long side so let me crystalize my point briefly here since not one of the Dawkins-defenders in the comments thread there has chosen to respond other than irrelevantly. 

In his book, atheism evangelist Dawkins argues with Scriptural literalists and Darwin-doubters who make no claim of speaking on the basis of scientific or other appropriate academic training. This is picking on children. The real evolution debate going on pits Darwinism versus intelligent design, which contests the evidence for evolution. There, an argument is being conducted not about the age of the earth or whether the fossil record exhibits change over time but about whether unguided Darwinian natural selection — the heart of evolutionary theory — can explain the history of life, how it started and how it got to be the way it is. ID theorists, whatever you think of them, make their case from science, not Scripture. They have scholarly training no less serious than Dawkins’s own. They may be wrong but they aren’t children or naifs.
Dawkins argues at great length with the lady who’s president of Concerned Women for America, and even reprints the transcript since he’s so proud of it, but in the index of his book you will not find the name of a single ID advocate or other scientifically trained Darwin doubter. He says ID hasn’t “earned it.” So apparently Mrs. Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America has “earned it” while Stephen Meyer (PhD, Cambridge University), Doug Axe (PhD, Caltech), William Dembski (PhD, University of Chicago), Jonathan Wells (PhD, UC Berkeley), and David Berlinski (PhD, Princeton) haven’t? Now, dear Darwinists, tell me why avoiding the argument with ID is not cowardly on his part and why positioning his book as a defense of “the evidence for evolution” is not fraudulent?
Try to stay on topic this time.


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Brian Westley

posted January 6, 2010 at 7:10 pm


Sorry, you’re the intellectual coward here.



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David Klinghoffer

posted January 6, 2010 at 7:12 pm


OK, Brian, so we’ll note you down as being unable or unwilling to answer the challenge I pose.



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Dugesia

posted January 6, 2010 at 7:19 pm


Creationism has not earned the right to debate on a par with scientists, especially one as accomplished as Richard Dawkins, because creationists do not conduct and publish scientific research. Research in support of evolution can, and does, fill libraries. Research supporting creationism would not fill one volume.



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Christopher Mohr

posted January 6, 2010 at 7:23 pm


Actually, this whole “debate” is off course. Darwin drew directly from Genesis to get his theory. THe worst criticism good believers should have is that he didn’t give proper attribution. Look at the order in which Darwin claims evolution happened, and you’ll find it’s directly parallel to the order in Genesis.



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David Klinghoffer

posted January 6, 2010 at 7:25 pm


And we’ll note down Dugesia as being unable even to understand my challenge, while in all fairness I must put myself under the heading of those unable to comprehend what Christopher Mohr is getting at.



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Your Name

posted January 6, 2010 at 7:37 pm


Id proponents do publish. They would publish more but the editors decide not to publish their works. And they don’t have to do research because they base their opinions onthe research that is published.
And I understand Dawkins did debate Rabbi Boteach. He did so poorly that he denied the debates even happened until Rabbi Boteach produced the videos. Dawkins then claimed he forgot. Maybe that’s why he’s ducking bebates with Id proponents.



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Glen Davidson

posted January 6, 2010 at 7:40 pm


I’ve tired greatly of David Klinghoffer, who will never discuss the issues with us, but constantly attacks persons. Hence I do not and will not comment here often.
I do not, of course, have any responsibility for Dawkins, nor have I read a book of his. What is certain is that IDists like David avoid answering the relevant issues that someone like myself brings up. Therefore I will copy in a list of predictions of non-teleological evolution that I put in months ago, and which are explicitly aimed at the lack of entailed predictions from ID. It was a list of 10, but at the end is appended one more that I asked of Paul Nelson, which, naturally, Paul did not answer. David has yet to answer the original list, and I would like to know why such cowardice should not be highlighted for David and the rest of the IDists who avoid the entailed predictions of evolution which are so clearly fulfilled by the evidence, only to demand that the unknown be fully answered.
Here it is:

Of course the Designer is an undefined being. Meyer’s not doing science–that is, he’s not matching up specific causes to specific effects, he’s instead generalizing from one thing to another. That’s nothing like science, it’s the old faulty analogical method used prior to the scientific method.
Then the 10 predict:
The fact is that evolutionary theory predicts a number of things, all of which turn out to be true. Here are some I can think of quickly:
1. Life will begin with simple organisms. This is where it is in fact true that evolution and abiogenesis are intertwined, although not the same thing. For, the chance of abiogenesis producing complex, multicellular forms is fantastically against, while simple life may not be turn out to be very difficult to produce by “random trial and error.” In this sense, life must begin simple, and more complex organisms will appear later. This is what we see in the geological record.
2. Older organisms will be more unlike later ones. More of the (especially higher) taxa that we see in early times will be extinct today. This is true because evolution cannot remake, say, a phylum, and, organisms will evolve, even if they are in relative stasis. This is what we see in the fossil record, of course.
3. Evident radiations will have causes, like extinctions. This was true for the mammal radiation after the Cretaceous. Extinction may have played a role in the Cambrian radiation as well, but that was almost certainly driven in part by dramatic increases in oxygen levels as well. So again, the prediction succeeds.
4. All life coming from a shared origination event will be related. Of course the prediction is not that all life will be related, but perhaps that’s the most likely event, regardless, since it seems likely enough that later abiogenetic events will be eaten by extant life, or it will be so dramatically improved over earlier life that it will outcompete and drive to extinction the earlier life forms (less likely). Anyhow, we do find all life to be related, using the same genetic code and mostly the same amino acids, with a few variations. So again, another prediction succeeds.
5. Life will branch off into clades. This is a more difficult one, because it hangs upon the unrepeatability of evolution, and yet convergence can make identification from mere fossils difficult. Nonetheless, in living forms there little question that organisms whose genes are essentially vertically transferred only, there is only divergence, and no repetition of anything without substantial differences being obvious. Fossils are largely that way as well, the unrepeatability of evolution meaning that geologists can use “index fossils.” This is also why evolution is now used almost exclusively for taxonomy, because analogies do occur, but there are always underlying homologies that betray evolution’s unfailing divergences (apart from lateral gene transfer, of course).
6. Rationality will not be found to have been behind life. Perhaps this is more of the opposite of ID’s inherent prediction, but regardless of that, in some sense evolution predicts that the expectations of design will not be found in life (save where brains have caused limited design). And of course we never find the predictions of design in life, except for things like genetically-engineered corn.
7. Transitional organisms had to exist in the past. Evolution cannot make leaps via “hopeful monsters” and the like, so a reptile has to evolve gradually into a bird, if birds are to evolve. It may be gradual evolution, yet it may occur relatively rapidly, hence transitionals are often not readily found. Nonetheless, we have found a large number, from the obvious Archaeopteryx reptile-bird transition, to transitions between dinosaurs and even a few species transitions. Some of these would have to be found by now, at least among relatively robust fossils, and they have been, another successful prediction. Evolutionary theory is what identifies transitionals, as well, since some organisms may be “intermediate” without at all being transitional–and nothing looks like the transitions among human designs.
8. Another prediction is that the DNA “clock” will work reasonably well, despite the fact that selectional pressures vary. This prediction, which might be one of the less certain ones, relies upon neutral evolution, because this is what is behind much of the “ticking” of the evolutionary clock. Anyway, it works quite well. Attendant with this is the fact that in most proteins one finds increasing numbers of changes as the taxonomic divergences increase, which, on average, is the expectation of evolution. Again, the prediction succeeds, and Behe agrees that it does, apparently without recognizing that divine intervention would not be expected to work much like neutral evolution does. So while selective and neutral evolution are not particularly in sync, they do accord rather well with each other, as expected.
9. Convergence will occur, but will betray its separate origins. I have mentioned this before, yet I wish to emphasize the importance. Sometimes the similarities of eyes in cephalopods is brought up by creationists as too difficult for evolution to effect. However, the cuttlefish eye comes about via an invagination of its skin, while our eyes come partly as an outgrowth of our brains. The receptors in the two are completely different.
10. Parts of organisms and of organs will be made up of the parts of previously existing organs. We see this voluminously in the eukaryotic flagellum, and then we see, yes, in the vertebrate eye we have the eukaryotic flagellum operating in its seemingly very unlikely manner. But how else is an eye to be made by evolution, except by co-opting other parts? And, as I’ve mentioned in other posts, vertebrate wings are always made from the limbs of the terrestrial antecedents to those organisms, not from other wings as a designer might do (a really good designer would
probably begin from first principles).
Well, that’s enough. I could probably think of some more, but these ten are an excellent list of how evolution makes predictions, and these are fulfilled. Quite unlike ID, which doesn’t make honest (entailed) predictions, and the ones that honest IDists like Paley made failed completely.
One other prediction I think I should have included is that gene-swapping organisms will have quite a different “natural” taxonomy than would those that involve almost entirely vertical transmission of genes. I asked Paul Nelson to explain why these difference are found in life, which of course he did not do.

Since I do not in the least avoid dealing with ID where it makes entailed predictions, I would certainly like these to be answered substantively by David. I am not interested in his avoidance of the issues in order to vilify persons (even were it justified), since the issues do not revolve around specific humans. The viciousness of ID, however, is seen in its focus on persons and groups, and their continual dishonesty about them, such as this false claim from Stephen Meyer (which I put at Biologos today):

#
” Yeah on the global warming debate I think you see—this nature worship to that animates a lot of the and the Darwinian that the Darwinian world view I think leads him to the idea that nature is the end—be all—some people take that even further but.—a big interest in connection for me is the in the arrogance of the scientific consensus of this whole climate—thing in England does.
http://multimedia.play.it/m/audio/27941971/stephen-meyer-interview.htm
(it’s a machine transcript, so the wording is not perfect. However, the audio is at the same place.)

Oh yes, worship of nature is what drives “Darwinism” (mere name-calling from David and Stephen, since they lack substantive answers to, well, anything at all).
The cowardice behind such dishonesty is what makes ID not only wrong, but clearly evil.
Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p



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David Klinghoffer

posted January 6, 2010 at 7:52 pm


Glen Davidson, rather than trying to post what appears to be the same thing over and over again, why not compose your thoughts briefly and in one comment? That way, people (including me) are likelier to actually read what you write.



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Glen Davidson

posted January 6, 2010 at 8:07 pm


Here’s David at the DI’s blog:

Yet isn’t it funny that the Darwinist faithful are often perfectly happy to launch attempts to clobber intelligent design on factual and scientific grounds — just as if ID were genuine science — only to retreat immediately behind the barricade of the Falsifiability Myth? If they had confidence either in the myth or in the attack, presumably they would choose one and stick with it.

Yes, how many times have we explained it to you?
There are falsifiable versions of ID, like Paley’s was, at least potentially. Those are always falsified, as noted in my post above. Whether or not these falsifiable versions are, or at least were, science is something that could be argued, since even a Paley cherry picked his examples, yet either way it can at least be falsified if put into the correct form.
But because the falsifiable versions are falsified, yet David et al. will not admit it, today’s version is clearly not falsifiable (not via entailed predictions, that is, and the made-up “falsifiable predictions” in Meyer’s book are worthless as science). That’s the answer to David’s “dilemma,” which has been explained to him over and over again.
ID cannot predict “irreducible complexity” or other fictions that are claimed to be “potential falsifications,” for the simple fact that ID has no identifiable proximal causes. Nor can it predict that an unspecified amount of “junk DNA” will have function, both because the amount is unspecified and because it denies that the purposes of the “Designer” are or can be (presently, at least) known.
Clearly today’s ID is a moving target that its authors intend never to be put to any honest test at all, so that they will pretend that they know that the designer would not produce “too much junk DNA” because that would be “poor design,” while they deny that “poor design” (which, importantly, is explainable via nonteleological evolution) in every other category counts against the “Designer” at all.
If David doesn’t know these things in broad terms, it can only be because he is highly deficient intellectually, or highly resistant to learning the actual cases that we make against various versions of ID, depending on whether they are falsifiable or not.
Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p



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Glen Davidson

posted January 6, 2010 at 8:14 pm


Glen Davidson, rather than trying to post what appears to be the same thing over and over again, why not compose your thoughts briefly and in one comment? That way, people (including me) are likelier to actually read what you write.

Why are IDists afraid to read?
Yes, David, I know that avoid answers to the questions that you pose.
To paraphrase your question, why don’t I make less of a case against ID? Since you wish to avoid science in preference of demonizing people like myself, it makes sense that you don’t want to discuss the fact that nonteleological evolution makes many predictions that have been fulfilled, while honest ID predictions have failed, and present-day ID makes no honest, entailed predictions.
You may as well just attack people, the principal activity of CSC fellows (and some other DI fellows as well), since you’re not the slightest bit interested in dealing with the fact that evolution has the evidence, while ID spins itself into knots trying to avoid evidence.
Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p



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Glen Davidson

posted January 6, 2010 at 8:26 pm


Glen Davidson, rather than trying to post what appears to be the same thing over and over again, why not compose your thoughts briefly and in one comment? That way, people (including me) are likelier to actually read what you write.

I was trying various ways to get my post to go through, since I have previously been told that my comments were being held for approval by the owner, and they never ever appeared. You said that you weren’t blocking my comments, and I believed you, hence it appeared that “being held for approval” essentially meant that they were eaten up by the server.
Apparently at this time they really are held for approval.
And no, I will not make my comments on science so brief that you can easily fob them off. You have been given the evidence for evolution, vs. meaningful and entailed ID insofar as I can see that it can (does?) exist. And also you have been told why today’s ID, which does not put forward the predictions entailed by known design mechanisms because it knows that these are falsifiable and would be immediately falsified, cannot be credited with any honest scientific intentions.
All that we have heard in response are the same tired claims, usually in conjunction with attacks upon persons, collectively and individually. Those are the marks of a pseudoscience.
Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p



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Lauren

posted January 6, 2010 at 8:27 pm


“….why not compose your thoughts briefly and in one comment?”
Intelligent design is dishonest, unscientific, and misleads well meaning but ignorant people of the tremendous amounts of evidence that exist for evolution by misusing scientific jargon, slandering scientists who refuse to kowtow to their beliefs by attempting to link them with atrocities against humanity, and attempting to deny children a science education by seeking to teach them pseudoscience.
A run on sentence, but one nonetheless. Really, David, take an introduction to evolution course at a local college and blog about it; it would be interesting….



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David Klinghoffer

posted January 6, 2010 at 8:39 pm


Glen, your problem with the commenting feature stems from the fact that your comments, like everyone else’s, are held for approval. That doesn’t happen instantaneously.



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Max

posted January 6, 2010 at 8:45 pm


David,
Dawkins isn’t avoiding anything. There has been no science done on ID for him to discuss. All ID is is complaints against evolution by men who freely admit that they have no theory. Not only don’t they have any science, they continue to refuse to even tell us what kind of tests they could even do to show ID. According to them, we’ll never be able to learn who did it, how it was done or when it was done. Well, what CAN we learn from ID? I don’t mean that rhetorically, I’d like you to please tell me.
To sum up, saying “nuh uh” to evolution is not science and deserves no rebuttal in Dawkins’ book. All, I repeat ALL ID claims have been thoroughly refuted already. But go ahead and say nuh uh anyway if it makes you feel better.



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David Klinghoffer

posted January 6, 2010 at 9:07 pm


Max, even if what you say were true — and it’s not — but even if it were, you can’t mean that science has indeed been done on the Young Earth Creationism side of sufficient seriousness that yes, there Richard Dawkins finds something legitimate to discuss. Or is that what you mean? Because he spends many, many pages arguing against YEC and, again, arguing by name with some not very intimidating laymen (lawyer, YEC minister, anti-abortion activist) but not with the credentialed scientists on the ID side.



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Your Name

posted January 6, 2010 at 9:32 pm


Do you really think attacking Dawkins personally makes ID anymore like science? ID charlatans don’t use science they use cherry picked evidence to produce their theories with no falsification and no peer review. Also “how it started” is not evolution as it is about the origin of species. Science does not know that answer for sure but since we can detect amino acids in far off galaxies and comets it is not impossible to sumise how it might of started. Iders have no special knowledge about the start of life either except to say God or aliens did it, neither of which, as yet, have any basis in reality. Therefore, unlike every other scientific theory theirs has supernnatural causality. Every ID theory has been thoroughly debunked and would not be regarded as science 100 years ago nor will it be 10,000 years from now.



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Jonathan

posted January 6, 2010 at 9:44 pm


David,
I think Christopher Mohr’s point was merely that evolution follows the same order of developement as first set forth in Genesis (albeit with a different time scale. From that view, Darwin was merely following the guideposts of the Bible.



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Glen Davidson

posted January 6, 2010 at 10:03 pm


I listened to the audio on my first post on this thread, the longest one, and realized that while Meyer does start saying that nature worship is behind most “Darwinism,” he does correct himself. I don’t really consider what he wrote to be the objective truth nonetheless, but felt the need to correct myself on that score.
Well, perhaps I jumped the gun, or anyway, felt too rushed at the time to check the transcript against the audio. No real matter, the fact is that there are a host of false statements on the CSC’s blog, for which Meyer is at least indirectly responsible. Then there are more direct smears against “the Darwinists,” like this one:

The public has been intimidated into thinking that “non-experts” have no right to question “consensus” views in science. But the scandal in at the University of East Anglia suggests that this consensus on climate may not be based on solid evidence.
But what about the Darwin debate? We are told that the consensus of scientists in favor of Darwinian evolution means the theory is no longer subject to debate. In fact, there are strong scientific reasons to doubt Darwin’s theory and what it allegedly proved.
http://www.discovery.org/a/13751

No, they have not been “intimidated” by the truth that consensus is the sociological measure of the success of a scientific theory or assertion, nor by the fact that you really must have knowledge and evidence if you are going to question a theory such as evolution.
Meyer managed to leave out an important qualifier to the usual statement that “Darwinian evolution” is no longer subject to debate, which is “within the scientific community.” Clearly any assertion that it cannot be debated in the public square, or that it is fully off-limits to discussion, is false, and not commonly stated by real biologists.
Since the DI has often reported on debates that they imply are “hidden” in the community of evolutionary scientists, the fact that an honest debate about evolution is not closed off, although scientists are not much interested in the usual tripe which fails to respond to, say, the list of fulfilled predictions I posted above.
And there are not “strong scientific reasons to doubt Darwin’s theory,” at least if by that he means the present theory which has moved considerably past Darwin (it’s difficult to respond to such sloppy writing, perhaps one reason for it). That is an assertion that he cannot back up. As an isolated statement, I would not complain much about that claim, as it is his opinion, but here it falsely props up his defamation of scientists as people who stymie discussion. A mere unsupported opinion (no, his misrepresentations of the Cambrian radiation does not support his implication of suppression) does not properly back up this attack upon the scientists who are subject to checks on dishonesty in a way that none of his CSC fellows are.
I was searching for a quote such the one above when I stumbled into the interview transcript, which I then thought was sufficient for showing that Meyer relies upon unsupported attacks upon his opponents. That one is not so good, in fact, but the present one is.
Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p



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Your Name

posted January 6, 2010 at 10:10 pm


I don’t understand how ID can be said to be debunk and unfalsifiable at the same time.



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RickK

posted January 6, 2010 at 10:33 pm


People point to someone like Meyer and say “but he has a Ph.D.!!”. Meyer and his supernatural “Intelligent Designer” have no more credibility because of his degree.
Let’s look at some other distinguished doctors, shall we?
David Menton, Ph.D., Biology, Brown University:
“Evolution is supposedly based on science, but the science does not prove what they want it to. Creationism is not based on scientific observation but on God’s word. God created everything in six days, and that’s it.”
“We may safely conclude that there has never been an exception to the simple words of Genesis 1:24: “And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.””
Kurt Wise, Ph.D., Geology, Harvard:
“Either the Scripture was true and evolution was wrong or evolution was true and I must toss out the Bible. . . . It was there that night that I accepted the Word of God and rejected all that would ever counter it, including evolution.”
In the words of Carl Sagan: “intellectual brilliance is no guarantee against being dead wrong.”
So the fact that Meyer or Dembski have degrees is not the issue. The fact that their arguments have all been completely refuted and rejected IS the issue. The fact that they can still make a living while failing to do proper science, because their pseudoscience is propped up by Christian religious funding IS the issue.
And the fact that Meyer can author “The Wedge”, and then claim to be applying objective science just demonstrates the profound dishonesty of the man and the movement. Meyer and the Discovery Institute are a Christian religious political organization. The scientific community has every right to ignore a group that is trying to fundamentally destroy the teaching of science in this country.
And here you are, Mr. Klinghoffer, defending and promoting people who’ve dedicated their careers to bringing down science in the name of some 2500-year-old tribal myths. Well done!



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Brett Allen

posted January 6, 2010 at 10:41 pm


Falsifiable means you have a test that if true would invalidate your theory. Debunked is your theory is better explained by other theories, based on cherry picked evidence or is complete rubbish. If you do not understand that than you do understand science so no argument will make sense to you and you can only decide emotionally.



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Glen Davidson

posted January 6, 2010 at 10:56 pm


nor by the fact that you really must have knowledge and evidence if you are going to question a theory such as evolution

A “properly” is implied in that sentence fragment, as in “if you are going to properly question a theory such as evolution.
That should go without saying, however what normally would be understood by educated people often is not (or the implied understanding is conveniently ignored) by creationists/IDists.
Hence this clarification.
Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p



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Turmarion

posted January 7, 2010 at 12:13 am


Analogy: According to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, the entropy in a system always increases over time. Without going into detail, the most important result of this is that it is always impossible to get out as much energy from a system as was originally put into it. This is the reason that perpetual motion machines are impossible.
Now you regularly see people claiming to have invented machines that will run indefinitely or which put out more energy than is put in (which would also violate the First Law of Thermodynamics). An example from a few years ago is discussed here.. Such people talk a good talk of scientific doubletalk, but the fact is that not one such claim, not one, not ever, has stood up to critical scrutiny. It is hypothetically possible that someone, someday, will prove the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics wrong, but no one out there in the physics community is holding their breath. So well are the First and Second Law established that no trained physicist is going to waste his or her time even bothering with such a claim, unless extraordinary and unassailable evidence were put forth. To repeat, such evidence has never been put forth.
Now, even an intelligent non-scientist might not get all this. In fact, a close friend of mine, call him J., who is quite intelligent but with relatively little scientific training, and none in physics, brought the Orbo example linked to above to my attention with some excitement back when it first made news. I told J. that with all the open-mindedness in the world I did not believe the claims, and that if they proved true it would be literally the greatest discovery in physics of the century, probably of the last several centuries. I also gave him a brief, non-technical rundown of the Laws of Thermodynamics. Well, of course, the whole thing fizzled. I’m just waiting for the shoe to drop this time, too. Does that mean I’m 100% sure that Orbo hasn’t made such a breakthrough? No, but I’m 99.99999999999999999999999% sure, which is close enough, barring something astounding.
Now, if a person I knew to be a physicist came to me and pushed a claim such as the Orbo claim, I’d say, “Prove it.” Short of that, I’d not waste my time with him, any more than I would with a flat-Earther (and really, to say that you’ve found a way around the Laws of Thermodynamics is on the same level as asserting a flat Earth). The fact is that most people who push a pseudo-scientific theory such as this and who claim scientific backing are either charlatans deliberately seeking suckers, or pushing a hidden agenda, or people working outside the field of their training, or every once in awhile a real scientist trained in the relevant field who, for whatever reason, flakes out (scientists being human, it happens; e.g. Wallace and seances). In none of these cases, pending evidence, is argument even worthwhile.
However, if a non-scientist, such as my friend J., were to put forth such a notion, I’d try, patiently and gently, to explain as best I could in layman’s language why such a claim was almost certainly wrong. I’d do this for two reasons: One, because I think one should stick up for the truth. Two, if one believes falsehoods, they are more likely to get suckered (as by Orbo seeking investors, e.g.). Note–it’s not a matter of J. having “earned it” or my bullying him (which I didn’t–we had a polite and interesting conversation. He was doubtful of what I said, but after the dénouement, he said to me, “Gee, you were right.”). It was a matter of trying to explain a complex truth to someone who might otherwise be taken in by a falsehood.
OK now. No ID proponent–Dembski, Behe, Meyer, or anyone else has given one shred more of proof or even valid evidence for ID than any proponent of perpetual motion has for the invalidity of the Laws of Thermodynamics. Thus, pending such evidence, a trained scientist would, and should, give no more hearing to the one than to the other. Accusations of persecution or exclusion don’t cut it either, as I’ve pointed out in my discussions of Lema&icirc”tre in the past, which you’ve never responded to, of course.
On the other hand, if some layman expressed the belief that the Earth was 6000 years old or some such, I would try, with patience and courtesy, to explain the actual state of affairs in the least technical language possible, just as I explained the Laws of Thermodynamics to J. Same motivation–I think people should know the truth, to the best that we understand it.
Is this clear?
Now while Dawkins is an excellent scientist and outstanding writer in his field, I think that he is way off base when he tries to write about theology and philosophy (in which respect I fully agree with Hunt in First Things). I also think that he often is a truculent bully. While I agree with him on evolution, I feel no need at all to defend his methods or to buy his views on religion.
However, even truculent bullies deserve a fair shake. I do not have The Greatest Show on Earth to hand, so I can’t read the transcript in order to tell if Dawkins bullied Wendy Wright or not. I”ll try to get the book from the library tomorrow to have a look at it. If Dawkins was indeed a nasty rude bully towards her, then that is indeed reprehensible and should not be excused, regardless of motive. However, to try to correct her erroneous beliefs (which you, David, also believe to be erroneous, if she is a young Earther) is not of itself bullying, for the reasons I’ve explained.
Is that clear?
I’ll end by asking you point-blank a question I doubt you’ll answer. You yourself do not believe the young-Earth account. You have said more than once that you accept the multi-billion-year picture of the cosmos. You have also acknowledge change and succession of species over time. Thus, given your beliefs, it follows that the beliefs of young-Earthers are false–just as false as belief in a flat Earth. Do you think that such people should be (courteously, graciously, and respectfully, of course) disabused of their beliefs in the service of truth? Or if not, how is that any different from saying it’s OK to believe that the Earth is flat or that the sun goes around the Earth? Should we not be concerned that our fellow citizens not hold false beliefs about the world? We’re waiting to hear what you have to say.



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bradbury

posted January 7, 2010 at 2:11 am


RickK: “So the fact that Meyer or Dembski have degrees is not the issue. The fact that their arguments have all been completely refuted and rejected IS the issue.”
Similarly, YourName writes: ” Every ID theory has been thoroughly debunked and would not be regarded as science 100 years ago nor will it be 10,000 years from now.”
– Not 60% refuted or debunked. Not 80%. Not even 99%. But 100% of their arguments have been proven wrong. Wow, that’s quite a record! If any claim shouts out “argument from emotion,” it’s a claim like that.



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zrk

posted January 7, 2010 at 3:16 am


If some thing evolves the thing it evolved from would cease to be



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Glen Davidson

posted January 7, 2010 at 3:25 am


What should be telling about claims of “falsifiability” of ID that David and others make is that generally the criteria used by scientists are not those proclaimed by IDists.
Indeed, our side generally looks for purpose, rationality, and foresight, these being the usual markers for human design.
Their side claims “irreducible complexity” or some such thing, which “prediction” is not entailed by any known cause.
This indicates that we’re not talking about the same ideas. Partly this difference comes because we demand actual evidence of identifiable design causes, while IDists aren’t really talking about design, rather about a miraculous superintelligence who would not do things like humans would do.
The upshot is that even when ID is treated like at least a potentially falsifiable theory, this is because at such a time we’re responding to a public which actually expects intelligence to be quite evident throughout life, sort of as Meyer indicates in front of a friendly audience:

the creator was not only capable of creating great beauty but he was a pretty adept computer programmer
http://multimedia.play.it/m/audio/27941971/stephen-meyer-interview.htm

[I checked the audio (starting around 3:20) first this time, and the transcript is quite good, though I improved its readability a bit]
None of this “we don’t know what to expect” from the “Designer” like we get from the DI officially. Meyer’s peddling God there, not the bland “Designer” meant to fly under the radar.
Yes, we can falsify something like that well enough, since the lack of adept “programming” in the tandem repeats, Archaeopteryx, and the recurrent laryngeal nerve, are more than a little obvious. But this isn’t the official court version of ID, which pretends that IC or some version of it really indicates design.
That version refuses to say what Meyer said for public consumption, because no adept programmer of cells was responsible for the historically-constrained information encoded in DNA.
Yes, we can deal with the court version of ID, and with the one for public consumption, just not in the same manner. The former is deliberately unfalsifiable, while the latter is understood in science as being falsified by revealing how non-adept and lacking in foresight any putative “programmer” of cells was.
Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p



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Turmarion

posted January 7, 2010 at 7:21 am


I came across this excellent article on Georges Lemaître, and the following quote from it stood out (emphasis added):
Monsignor Lemaître preferred the natural beginning of the universe compared to the “external push” that Pascal and Laplace used to incorporate God into creation. Specifically, he preferred the Savior mentioned in Isaiah because “even though he is hidden, you can still know him.” In many ways he fought a battle against medieval approaches to cosmology influenced by otherwise good men that lacked the knowledge we have today, such as Archbishop Peter Lombard (d. 1160). Popular opinion then, and to a lesser degree now, is comfortable with a literal interpretation of Genesis.
One can see in Monsignor Lemaître’s homilies the classical analysis common in Catholic academic circles in the early twentieth century. His distinction between the scientific order and theological order are also representative of his time. Before even beginning his cosmological research, Lemaître wrote an essay in which he said, “The Holy Spirit, when speaking through the holy authors, does not want to teach man about the deep constitution of things we are looking at; such a knowledge would have no value for salvation.” Lemaître goes on to say, in true Augustinian form, that while both science and theology seek to explain the objective reality that we experience, they have different intentions….
I especially like the part about Pascal and Laplace. Indeed, many theorists believed that if the planets stars moved and went about their business by natural laws, that left no room for God’s action in the cosmos and was thus unacceptable. Thus, there had to be some kind of “push” from God. This is exactly analogous to David’s complaints that evolution leaves no room for God’s action, and the ID claim that God must have intervened or “pushed” the evolutionary process at various points. Unfortunately, this concept didn’t hold up in astronomy, and it’s not holding up in biology, either.
By the way, David, I see by your more recent post and the released comments that you must have read my last post. What about the question? Huh? Is it OK to believe the Earth is 6000 years old or that it’s flat?



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Mark2

posted January 7, 2010 at 8:21 am


Glen Davidson writes: “Yes, we can falsify something like that well enough, since the lack of adept “programming” in the tandem repeats, Archaeopteryx, and the recurrent laryngeal nerve, are more than a little obvious. ”
Wait, are you saying that if an artist painted a masterpiece, and ALSO sloppily painted a paint-by-numbers, then he is no master painter at all? Do you consider the masterpiece “the luck of a novice” or do you consider the crappy drawing “the scratchwork of the expert”?



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Glen Davidson

posted January 7, 2010 at 10:49 am


Wait, are you saying that if an artist painted a masterpiece, and ALSO sloppily painted a paint-by-numbers, then he is no master painter at all? Do you consider the masterpiece “the luck of a novice” or do you consider the crappy drawing “the scratchwork of the expert”?

I consider the “argument” to be the work of an amateur intent on ignoring the importance of evolutionary constraints in order to make a “point” that is both artificial and incompetent at dealing with the specifics of “poor design.”
First off, what master painter sloppily paints a paint-by-number piece? Even the “poor work” of by far the most master painters reveals talent, so that even quick sketches are considered of artistic value. I know the creationist plaint, which is, well, after all it’s possible that a master painter could make a sloppy incompetent piece.
What of that? It’s a bare possibility which would at best obscure knowledge, the only thing IDists do at all well.
More importantly, we’re not talking about “masterpieces” existing beside sloppy incompetent “creations.” Your analogy would properly be masterpieces which have incompetent and sloppy parts to them, like the giraffe which is mostly well-adapted, but has an absurdly configured recurrent laryngeal nerve, and the famous vertebrate “inverted retina” eye. This in particular is not expected from known designers, and more special pleading is necessary to get around this unexpected “design feature.”
Meanwhile, evolution competently explains “good design” and “bad design” according to contingencies over the course of evolution, none of your special pleading being necessary.
Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p



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Ray Ingles

posted January 7, 2010 at 12:58 pm


Actually, Genesis and the current understanding of Earth and the progression of life don’t line up very well:
http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/12/day-age_creationism_is_almost.php



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Jared Jammer

posted January 7, 2010 at 1:10 pm


If so-called ‘bad design’ is evidence against intelligent design, then surely ‘good design’ would be evidence for it, no? In that case, I.D. easily trumps I.D.-denialism in a no-contest. After all, the brilliant machinery of the cell far outclasses anything the genius of mankind will create for centuries if not millenniums, which trumps any and all ‘bad design’.



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Jared Jammer

posted January 7, 2010 at 1:23 pm


Dawkins would be exposed badly if he were to debate even a mediocre I.D. proponent. Put him up against someone the caliber of Stephen C. Meyer, who goes through Darwinists like a hot knife through butter, and it would completely destroy what little remains of his credibility. Can you imagine the hilarity of Dawkins’ trying to use dog breeding (his ‘A’ game) as proof of Darwinian evolution in a debate against Meyer? *laughs*
Clearly if Dawkins was confident in his position, he’d be more than happy to enlighten the world through debate. After all, he has far more to gain (the 90% who doubt Darwinism) than to lose (the 10% who lack a brain). Unfortunately he knows his arguments are a sham, so he must hide behind his literature. where his arguments will remain seemingly unchallenged to the masses.
It’s pathetic, but such is life for Darwinists, who care not one iota about scientific integrity, but entirely about their preferred world-view.



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Mark2

posted January 7, 2010 at 1:24 pm


GlenDavidson writes: “Your analogy would properly be masterpieces which have incompetent and sloppy parts to them, like the giraffe which is mostly well-adapted, but has an absurdly configured recurrent laryngeal nerve,”
Fine, I’ll go with that. No matter.
“First off, what master painter sloppily paints a paint-by-number piece?”
No, first off, what novice creates even a partial masterpiece?
“and the famous vertebrate “inverted retina” eye.”
The rebuttal isn’t as famous as the propaganda.
http://www.arn.org/docs/odesign/od192/invertedretina192.htm



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Dan

posted January 7, 2010 at 1:49 pm


Jonathan Wells doesn’t think HIV causes AIDS.



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Glen Davidson

posted January 7, 2010 at 3:00 pm


No, first off, what novice creates even a partial masterpiece?

No, first quit avoiding the fact that both “good design” and “bad design” reveal the adaptation of pre-existing structures which would by no means utilized by any known designer. You do well to avoid the actual facts, since you have no answers for such matters.
I sometimes tell our side that “good design” and “bad design” ought not to be what we discuss, rather issues like (the lack of) foresight and rationality should be. The fantastically fine wings of modern birds are not the least bit “bad design,” yet they still reveal their origin in terrestrial forelimbs, which are hardly the sort of thing that an intelligent being would choose to modify into wings, while in context it is all that evolution could modify into wings.
Your “question” only begs the real questions, as it was designed to do (if likely by someone else).

“and the famous vertebrate “inverted retina” eye.”
The rebuttal isn’t as famous as the propaganda.
http://www.arn.org/docs/odesign/od192/invertedretina192.htm

Quite unconvincing. I mentioned the “giraffe’s” inverted retina not just because it accords with the giraffe’s bizzare (from a design standpoint) recurrent laryngeal nerve, but because it isn’t a bird’s eye. Even if it were the case that the retina is “inverted” quite functionally, the fact is that there are better ways of dealing with the problems it causes than the mammalian response of simply having one fovea per eye relatively free of obscuring blood vessels.
Birds have both fovea (at least some have more than one per eye) and a pecten which avoids many of the problems the giraffe and humans have:

The pecten or pecten oculi is a comb-like structure of blood vessels belonging to the choroid in the eye of a bird. It is non-sensory and is a pigmented structure that projects into the vitreous body from the point where the optic nerve enters the eyeball.[1] The pecten is believed to both nourish the retina and control the pH of the vitreous body.[2] It is present in all birds and some reptiles.[3]
In the vertebrate eye, blood vessels lie in front of the retina, partially obscuring the image. The pecten helps to solve this problem, lifting the blood vessels away from the retina and leading to the extremely sharp eyesight of birds such as hawks.[4] The pigmentation of the pecten is believed to protect the blood vessels against damage from ultraviolet light.[5]
From Wikipedia

Beyond that, no, I won’t accept the idea that the omniscient God who is really the Designer that Meyer and the rest of you fashion your apologetics around could come up with nothing better even than the birds’ pectens to avoid the inherent problems. The “arguments” that it is so “functional” make sense (if they indeed do) within the constraints of evolution and of historical contingencies, not for your “Designer.”
Again the special pleading, rather than actually considering what truly intelligent design could produce.
And this is enough of these word games and your continual avoidance of the issues you don’t wish to consider. I am probably out of this thread now, and responded now primarily because you were a convenient foil against which to point out the vacuity of ID responses to actual problems and constraints that genuine scientists deal with using the theory of evolution. But that’s done, and you can spin as much as you wish without me bothering you (quite likely, anyway).
Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p



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Cindy

posted January 7, 2010 at 4:47 pm


Why does the universe need a creator but god doesn’t?
LOL That one always makes me laugh.
Intelligent Design is B.S. Religions is B.S. Spirituality is B.S.
Read Dawkins books and learn something. Atheism is a fact.
BE KIND TO OTHERS, TELL THE TRUTH AND DON’T SPREAD YOUR RELIGIOUS LIES.



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Pete Boyd

posted January 7, 2010 at 4:53 pm


ID can not possibly be argued from a scientific view point since it assumes the existence of a creator, for which there is no empirical evidence. Science is not in the business of reductionism, that is to say, seeking to disprove anyone’s faith, since all faith has its basis in scripture handed down over a few thousand years and not in any actual data which can be derived from the natural world. Science, in its pure form is the gradual iteration of the best available models to describe and predict the behaviour of natural phenomena and not to presume the existence of anything which is not required for what we see to exist (c.f. Occam’s razor).
The argument that eminent scientists believe in a faith, or intelligent design, is a weak argument commonly known to philosophers as “appeal to authority”, and lends no credibility, scientific or otherwise to ID. In fact, as there are also scientists who believe in Islam, Hinduism, Taoism, Scientology etc.. you are inadvertantly lending all faiths the same proverbial “leg up” as you yourself are trying to gain. Unless ID proponents can produce some kind of data which points towards a supernatural sentience (kind of a flawed term as anything described by science ceases to be supernatural and can simply be described as natural), then any association between life on earth and a creator is theological and can be considered a supplementary interest of the scientist, and certainly NOT a facet of their scientific findings.



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Paul

posted January 7, 2010 at 4:57 pm


When IDers produce a coherent, testable, falsifiable, theory, then ID may become science. Until then it isn’t, regardless of how many PhDs its advocates have (some of which have nothing to do with evolutionary biology).



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Your Name

posted January 7, 2010 at 5:02 pm


Two simple reasons, and Dawkins and many others make this clear-
(1) ID assumes a virtually infintely complex creator, and then you get into a who (or what) created the creator argument? Did the creator spontaneously come into being? What then?
(2) The propensity of scientific evidence for evolution through natural selection is a far more compelling scientific argument than ID.
Degrees from fancy institutions don’t really matter. Present scientific evidence of ID and we’ll listen to you. Arguments from complexity et. al ring hollow.
As for Dawkins picking on children – you are right. Unfortunately, most of the world behave and think like children, so Dawkins’ voice has value and impact.



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JoeT

posted January 7, 2010 at 5:04 pm


This is an argument? A short list of names? As someone already said: appeal to authority. How about listing the names of those who don’t agree with ID???? (I bet it’s longer)



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David Klinghoffer

posted January 7, 2010 at 5:08 pm


JoeT, my short list of names is not meant as an “argument” for any proposition other than that Dawkins could have argued with these guy who know their stuff but instead chose to grapple with naifs and that this is disgraceful in a book that claims to defend evolution.



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Carl

posted January 7, 2010 at 5:08 pm


Intelligent Design theorists don’t, in fact, make their case from science, because an argument from ignorance is not science. They like to pretend they’re doing science, and use lots of scientific-sounding words, but it’s telling that virtually every major cdesign proponentsist–oops, I mean “design proponent”–is a Christian.



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David Klinghoffer

posted January 7, 2010 at 5:12 pm


Carl, most Americans are Christian.



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JoeT

posted January 7, 2010 at 5:21 pm


David, Please explain ID theory. Is it: “WOW! This is pretty complicated. There must be a designer.” By the way, you need to explain that designer. And your theory must be, at least in principle, falsifiable. A list of names doesn’t count. These few people you list don’t give any arguments to argue with.



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Ismael

posted January 7, 2010 at 5:21 pm


Ok. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that Evolution got it completely wrong. Not that I think that way, but lets say that it just doesn’t work nor accounts for life as we know it:
You’d be back to square one. You’d still need a convincing, evidence-based explanation to account for the existing of life on Earth. If Evolution is wrong, it doesn’t mean that there must have been a god doing all the work. The God solution would be as arbitrary as saying that a pink Elf did it.
But of course I don’t think Evolution is wrong. Why? Not because of a particular “world view”! It’s just the theory out there that is best supported by existing evidence.
Sure, there are gaps in the evidence. You can point at them as deficiencies in the theory all you want, but you would still need to provide solid evidence (at least more solid than that for Evolution) to support your alternative solution.
And no, saying “this is very complex” is not evidence for a Designer. It works just as well as saying that life is complex because Aliens did it. Or the Pink Elf.
Yes, some of those “educated” IDists point out some clever gaps in the evidence for Evolution (with some sneaky and gratuitous assumptions, too), but the world is still waiting for some actual evidence FOR ID.
ID proponents start with the assumption that there is a God, and build up the argument from there, omitting evidence or providing circular interpretations if it doesn’t fit the God idea. Real scientists look at the evidence first and arrive at the argument that best fits it, whatever it may be.
That’s the difference between ID and real science, and that’s why ID vs. Evolution is not a real scientific debate.



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JoeT

posted January 7, 2010 at 5:25 pm


I think Carl means Christians, not christians. Know what I mean?



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Ismael

posted January 7, 2010 at 5:26 pm


“Carl, most Americans are Christian.”
Exactly.
I wonder which western country do most ID people come from?



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lolwhut

posted January 7, 2010 at 5:28 pm


…show me a list of ID articles in peer reviewed scientific journals.
Got a scientific theory ? publish or perish (or in this case shut up while waiting for the rapture)



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Colin Walls

posted January 7, 2010 at 5:34 pm


There is no such thing as the “theory of intelligent design” since intelligent design is not science. The philosopher of science Michael Ruse gave testimony at the Arizona trial as to why creationism is not science and Barbara Forrest did the same at the Kitzmiller-Dover trial.
If you want to extend this further, then to take some of Kuhn’s criteria: Is it accurate, does it fit the available evidence? Is it simple, does it limit the number of entities it needs? Is it both self-consistent and self-consistent? Does it have broad scope, does it explain only a small number of observables or does it provide explanation for a whole range of phenomena? And finally, does it open up other avenues of research or close them down?
If this is insufficient then some of Popper’s criteria could be included: Does it have a high empirical strength? Does it make predictions which can be tested? Is it falsifiable.
But most of all, is there any evidence for the conjecture?
ID fails most if not all of these. It doesn’t even rate as a conjecture, never mind a theory.



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Carl

posted January 7, 2010 at 5:39 pm


David,
So what if most Americans are Christian? Scientific facts don’t change from country to country. If Intelligent Design is true, then it’s true outside of America, as well, including in countries whose populations (and scientists) are largely non-Christian. And yet none of those non-Christian scientists subscribe to the Intelligent Design “theory.”
Further, you went out of your way to emphasize the scientific credentials of the ID proponents you listed. The proportion of Christians among scientists in the US is significantly less than among the population at large, so even if we only consider Americans for some reason, my original point stands; believers in Intelligent Design are Christian much more so than one would expect for a theory that really was based upon non-religious ideas.



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Jabbo Stubblfield

posted January 7, 2010 at 5:43 pm


An ID theorist is no more a scientist than the mind numbing piped in sounds one frequents in an elevator is music.
It resembles music provided that you know nothing of music.
No they don’t refute the gradual appearance of life in the fossil record, they simply pretend that rather than the representation through natural selection of beneficial traits in a changing geology, a fickle and short sighted god had continuously brought on extinction and creation to fit that changing geology.
One explains and the other just explains it all away.



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Beth B.

posted January 7, 2010 at 5:43 pm


Perhaps it’s easier or more fruitful to debate with YECs because they actually make substantive and falisfiable (if stupendously wrong) claims about the universe? And whether or not Dawkins’ book is the intellectual equivalent of picking on children, it is aimed squarely at a widely held belief among the public — at least in America. Ignoring YEC is no solution.



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David Klinghoffer

posted January 7, 2010 at 5:54 pm


Carl, while ID has distinguished supporters outside the U.S., certainly the action is centered here and not in, oh, Tibet. Therefore what? Also, there’s no denying that ID is religion-friendly in its implications while Darwinism is quite the contrary. So if the Darwin-doubting scientist is more likely to be Christian than the Darwin-believing one, what else would you expect?



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David Klinghoffer

posted January 7, 2010 at 5:56 pm


Beth B., I didn’t say he should ignore YEC. I said he owed it to his audience to grapple manfully with ID.



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Turmarion

posted January 7, 2010 at 6:02 pm


David, I notice you haven’t responded to my question as to whether it’s acceptable for someone to harbor the false belief that the Earth is 6000 years old in the face of all scientific data, and if they should be (gently and courteously) disabused of these notions. Well?



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JoeT

posted January 7, 2010 at 6:03 pm


@zrk,
Me thinks you don’t understand. Better read up, huh?



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TCM

posted January 7, 2010 at 6:08 pm


Dawkins’ book is intended to give some of the evidence for evolution and gives some evidence against an intelligent designer. Most of it reads like his other scientific books, as if he’s just sharing his enthusiasm for Biology with you. Therefore the vast majority of it applies to anybody who does not understand evolution, ‘IDers’ included.
As I say, it is primarily about the evidence FOR evolution, but he often points out things for which not only is evolution is a perfect fit but which make a mockery of the idea that they were intelligently designed. To take an example at random, the molecularly-derived trees of life David Penny in chapter 11, where the most parsimonious tree turns out to be the same for each gene studied. This is obviously simultaneously evidence strongly FOR evolution and AGAINST intelligent design.



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Heather

posted January 7, 2010 at 6:09 pm


None of the creationists you mention have PhD’s in biology are anything remotely relevant. Furthermore, ID is not a scientific theory and does not make any positive statements. All it does is say, “such and such is too complex to have evolved, therefore Goddidit.” This is laughable (and cowardly). And in every case where creationists have pointed at the hemoglobin molecule or whatever as being “too complex”, in the first place they never define what they mean by complexity or where the threshold is that makes it impossible for something to evolve, and secondly, scientists have responded with a way the item in question could have evolved, or two ways, or twenty ways.
For something to be considered a scientific theory, it must make positive and testable statements, put forward a mechanism to explain what it claims to explain, and increase our understanding of the natural world. Evolution does all of this and more. It is the central organizing principle in all life sciences and a hugely productive source for new theories, ideas and research. Almost all of modern medicine and agriculture would not exist without it.
By contrast, creationism (whether biblical or ID) fails on all counts. Its assumptions and conclusions are one and the same. It makes no postive statements, posits no mechanism, springs from no recognized branch of science, can never be tested, and does not advance our understanding of the universe one iota. If anything is a “Fraud, Disgrace & Swindle”, it is the cheap, childish and dishonest just-so story of creationism which you are cynically peddling.



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Ohnhai

posted January 7, 2010 at 6:11 pm


Richard is not being a coward. It is simply the plain truth that ID has NO scientific validity to it what so ever. Every irreducibly complex example raised by the church of ID has been shown, in more than one peer reviewed paper, to be not irreducible. Therefore it is below Richard to debate creationists as if their dogma was science, when it plainly is not.
He will happily debate theists on the subjects they ARE qualified to talk about (check out his recent IQ Squared debate for an example) but the ID proponents are determined for Richard to engage their drivel on a scientific platform because they what that level of validation for their pseudo-science. He is just simply not prepared to allow them to claim vicarious legitimacy on his coat tails.



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David Klinghoffer

posted January 7, 2010 at 6:15 pm


Turmarion, re “disabusing” creationists, haven’t I done that, if indirectly, any number of times in this very space? I’ve done it in person too. But to answer your question, I don’t feel any need or obligation to correct people who think the world is less than 6000 yo. It’s a harmless belief and they make no effort to “disabuse” me. So where’s my beef with them, exactly?



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What's Good for the Goose

posted January 7, 2010 at 6:19 pm


The emotional fervor–and nastiness–of ID opponents suggest to me a profound sense of inadequacy. Why the attitude?
This isn’t my area and I don’t follow the ins and outs of this fight closely. But it seems to me that ID is a heterodox hypothesis. It is not religion. As I see it, ID proponents are now testing that hypothesis based on scientific research and study, much of it the same evidence as used by the Darwinists.
But I don’t understand why if something would make sense from design, it should be rejected solely because there is some conceivable way for it to have happened at random-even if the better or more plausible explanation is design. The ability to try and figure out how something evolved–often described ironically, as if it were design, but denying it–doesn’t prove it happened at random.
I recall some talk about junk DNA proving no design. Because, after all, that would be so inefficient. Design hypothesis would claim that such DNA had a purpose. Oops, we now know much of it does.
Yea, but what about the appendix? Darwinists say that a useless and potentially dangerous appendage proves no design. Only now we know, it appears to have a purpose of protecting good bacteria needed for our digestion. Yet, when evidence supporting design pops up, it is never acknowledged as so supporting.
Isn’t Berlinski a secular Jew? Makes it hard for him to be a Christian. But I don’t care about one’s religion. Darwinism shouldn’t be rejected because many of its adherents are atheists either.
Frankly, I think there is more than one thing going on, but that is just my common sense.



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Matthew Hardwick

posted January 7, 2010 at 6:35 pm


There is no point to ‘debate’ an ID’er, even if they are established in any sort of scientific community. If you’ve ever seen an evolutionary biologist actually debate observable information, facts, and data with an ID’er, please show me a video or some sort of transcript.
It always comes down to the theory (fact) of evolution being defended, which we have known for quite a long time, by the biologist, while the ID’er points at gaps saying “ah-hah!” or playing the reductionist game (conveniently only to the origin of life, not to the origin of their supernatural creator)
All that a debate would do is put ID in the same ‘class’ as Evolution by Natural Selection. This would be terribly misleading to the young and uneducated folks who are actually trying to learn.
ID has no data. It really is as pure as that. As soon as I can see an independent theory, and not an article pointing at “missing links in evolution!” then we, and Richard, should debate these people. But this will never happen, and this is why debate can not exist between the two.



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David Klinghoffer

posted January 7, 2010 at 6:38 pm


Hello Matthew, then why will he debate Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America?



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Pete UK

posted January 7, 2010 at 6:49 pm


David,
The book, as Dawkins states quite clearly, is a presentation of the evidence for evolution. Not a defence of evolution. Not an attack on intelligent design. If you want the attacks, go to the Blind Watchmaker or the God Delusion, by all means.
But that apart, no David, the ID crew don’t make their case from science. Science has built theories effectively from a blank sheet, ID starts with a counter-factual postulate: that there is a god and therefore that there must have been intervention. The Intelligent Design faction are not objective scientists who have a different theory. They are believers who need to find something for their god to do. They are not creating a new theory. They are hijacking evolution, taking the bits they feel they can’t argue with at all and then trying to find things we can’t yet explain and turn them into evidence for a deity. It’s a logic leap science would never make.
I know you can’t see this, but there it is.



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Boni

posted January 7, 2010 at 6:51 pm


ID is a pseudoscience. There is no definition of what intelligence is in the term Intelligent Design. If intelligent design is the design which is product of a intelligent behavior, then the cause of such intelligent behavior is a complex system. And there is no example in HUMAN HISTORY of a complex system capable of exhibiting the complex behavior of giving rise to a universe. Intelligence is, by definition, complexity that comes after simplicity. Things are not designed, they just happened. Just like the inflationary expansion after all the fundamental laws broke in symmetry, just happened and we don’t know why stuff need to exist instead of not existing. The rest is just metaphysics.



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JG

posted January 7, 2010 at 6:54 pm


Article States:
“ID theorists, whatever you think of them, make their case from science, not Scripture. They have scholarly training no less serious than Dawkins’s own”
How can you expect to be taken serious after a statement like that?



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Piero

posted January 7, 2010 at 6:58 pm


David, can you post a single argument from ID supporters which has not been thoroughly debunked by evolutionary biologists? Just one? If you find one, then please publish it: you would be doing science a big favour. If you cannot, can you then post an apology?



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Matthew Hardwick

posted January 7, 2010 at 7:00 pm


Thank you for replying, David.
I can’t pretend to know Richard’s motives, but I assume it’s because she represents the majority of misinformed or uneducated people in America due to the false information, misleading assumptions, and sometimes just plain lies that ID’ers feed her (them)
It’s important to show how bad ideas can create ignorance, and how that ignorance spreads amongst otherwise smart, hard-working people. These people are clearly off-base, and wrong, therefor it doesn’t place their arguments in the same category of actual, real science.
My point is, that a real debate, where both sides point out their data and can discuss them, can not exist when it’s Evolution vs. ID. Evolution has collected data for 150 years without any scientist (in the field of evolutionary biology) coming up with a better idea. ID can only point at the gaps in Evolution and insert a creator. Any ‘data’ or observable information on a supernatural creator would instantly declassify it as supernatural. That makes ID unfalsifiable, and unfalsifiable ideas can not be scientific theories.



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Your Name

posted January 7, 2010 at 7:04 pm


“Hello Matthew, then why will he debate Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America?’ Oh hello David, Having read TGSOE you will no doubt recall that one of the early points RD makes is that over 40% of Americans believe in creationism, and of those a large percentage are represented by political lobbying groups such as CWA. Perhaps thats why he interviewed her. And of course to demonstrate to the rest of us moronic she is. Regards from NZ



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Ohnhai

posted January 7, 2010 at 7:05 pm


@ David re Wendy.
While she is deeply religious and freely regurgitates all the ID mantras (gaps, complexity…) She does not speak on behalf of the laughably named ‘Christian Science’ organisations. She is not asking to be validated as a scientist, and in turn have her hypothesises validated as worthy of merit.
She is simply another in a long line of ultra right, religious, conservatives who are either woefully ignorant of the real science or cynically uses the ID proponents mantras for her own political/ideological ends. In other words the ID proponents gain nothing by Richard interviewing Wendy.



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William Thorlay

posted January 7, 2010 at 7:16 pm


Who created the Inteligent(?)Designer?



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Your Name

posted January 7, 2010 at 7:51 pm


Glen Davidson said something about Tiktaalik above. Now it seems that the status of Tiktaalik as a transtitional fossil is suspect.
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v463/n7277/full/463040a.html
First Ida, then archeaopteryx, now tiktaalik. The list of transitions is getting smaller.



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Dean Buchanan

posted January 7, 2010 at 8:09 pm


Topic:
The argument you make is silly. He was not ‘formally debating’ this woman, he was trying to discern the basis of her beliefs and educate her, discovering in the process that she willfully rejects evidence in favor of her preconceived belief.
The fact that you seem to not be able to understand the not so subtle difference between this situation and a formal debate, says a lot about why you can’t discover one shred of evidence for your intelligent (cough, cough my sinuses are acting up and my back hurts) ‘designer’. You seem to not really understand.
In short,
Boo hoo for you.
PS:Will you debate me somewhere near my house? Live feed to beliefnet and rdfsr?
Why not? Are you scared?



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Carl

posted January 7, 2010 at 8:16 pm


David: “Carl, while ID has distinguished supporters outside the U.S., certainly the action is centered here and not in, oh, Tibet. Therefore what?”
Therefore, we should ask *WHY* the “action” is centered squarely in the US. If the case for Intelligent Design is truly not made from scripture, as you claim, then there is no reason to think that it would take hold only in a country whose population is mostly Christian, like the US. But that’s exactly what’s happened. Why is that? It’s because ID really *IS* based on religion, despite protests to the contrary from ID supporters.
There are many reasons we know this is so, but one of the most compelling to me, personally, is one I referenced above with my “cdesign propenentists” remark. For those who don’t know, the published version of the de facto standard ID textbook, Of Pandas and People, contained no substantive differences from earlier drafts, except that the phrase “crationism” had been systematically replaced with “intelligent design.” In one case, the replacement was done rather sloppily, leaving evidence of the earlier verbiage: http://ncse.com/creationism/legal/cdesign-proponentsists
No matter how much its supporters like to deny it, ID was borne out of creationism and doesn’t offer anything beyond earlier “creation science.”



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Turmarion

posted January 7, 2010 at 8:22 pm


David, thank you for at least some answers.
Turmarion, re “disabusing” creationists, haven’t I done that, if indirectly, any number of times in this very space?
Very indirectly, and seemingly reluctantly and apologetically.
But to answer your question, I don’t feel any need or obligation to correct people who think the world is less than 6000 yo. It’s a harmless belief
So would you consider the belief that the Earth is flat or that the sun goes around the Earth or that the Earth is hollow “harmless”? Isn’t emeth, the truth, a value in itself for its own sake in both Judaism and Christianity? Just because it’s “harmless”, does that mean ignorance and falsehood are OK?
and they make no effort to “disabuse” me.
Gee, aren’t the Creation Museum in Northern Kentucky, the Creation Research Institute, and, oh, the Discovery Institute (many of whose supporters and funders are YECers, regardless of the fact that you, Behe, and others may not be) attempts to disabuse everyone of the notion that evolution is true?
So where’s my beef with them, exactly?
Doesn’t truth always have a beef with falsehood, and knowledge a beef with ignorance?



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David Klinghoffer

posted January 7, 2010 at 8:36 pm


Turmarion, obviously you have to pick your battles and that one doesn’t seem like a wise pick, that’s all.



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from Rotterdam

posted January 7, 2010 at 8:58 pm


Dear mr. Klinghoffer,
You seem like a very good debater to me, because you have a smart way of using words.
You also know very well how to avoid difficult questions by simply ignoring them and only reacting on trivial matters. That’s the luxury of your own blog. For your supporters this must be a great show.
However, it would be nice if you at least make the case for ID and in that sense I’d like to repeat Piero’s questions:
“David, can you post a single argument from ID supporters which has not been thoroughly debunked by evolutionary biologists? Just one? If you find one, then please publish it: you would be doing science a big favour. If you cannot, can you then post an apology?”



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David Klinghoffer

posted January 7, 2010 at 9:04 pm


Thanks, Rotterdam. Regarding Piero’s question, I did do that in my long review of Dawkins. Please see there. Dawkins attacks Behe’s notion of irreducible complexity with a refutation that Behe himself has refuted, a fact of which Dawkins gives the appearance of being ignorant. In other words, he presents Behe’s argument as if it has been defeated when in fact it has not.



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Mark2

posted January 7, 2010 at 10:30 pm


David, it looks like someone informed all his very like-minded friends about your site, judging from all the new names.
Cindy, above, writes:
“Why does the universe need a creator but god doesn’t?
LOL That one always makes me laugh.”
I was going to totally agree with you, Cindy, but then I read the rest of your post. I then realized you were laughing at what you considered bad logic, while I was laughing at the immature understanding of the person who asks that question.
Your Name, above, from January 7, 2010 5:02 PM writes:
“Two simple reasons, and Dawkins and many others make this clear-
(1) ID assumes a virtually infintely (sic) complex creator, and then you get into a who (or what) created the creator argument?”
That’s Dawkin’s (and your) fatal flaw. I don’t know anyone who assumes a “virtually infinitely complex creator.” In fact, most believers believe in a virtually infinitely SIMPLE creator.



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Turmarion

posted January 7, 2010 at 11:32 pm


Turmarion, obviously you have to pick your battles and that one doesn’t seem like a wise pick, that’s all.
True; but young Earthers are the ones who have picked the battle. You and Behe and Dembski may not be YECers, but you know as well as I do that YECers are enthusiastic supporters (probably the majority of supporters, in fact) of the Discovery Institute and ID. This is either out of ignorance (they don’t realize that a lot of you guys don’t share their literalistic beliefs) or on the theory that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”, i.e. they may not agree with you, but at least you’re attacking those awful evolutionists.
It has been amply shown time and time again that the whole ID movement is in essence a front to get religion back into schools and to bring our society back to a more Christian model, as interpreted by conservative Evangelicals. You, Behe, and others may deny this; and you may in fact even sincerely believe it is untrue; but stuff that has leaked about the Wedge strategy and the great difference in some IDer speeches before Christians as opposed to those for wider public consumption demonstrate the point. Now, anyone, liberal or conservative, Jew, Christian, Hindu, or Pastafarian has the right to work toward his or her model of a better society; but they should do so openly and honestly, mindful that in a pluralistic society, everyone else has the same rights, too.
Frankly, I don’t care if a person thinks the Earth is flat, since flat-Earthers aren’t trying to displace standard geology in schools or trying to push a covert religious agenda. Of course, if it came up in conversation, I would try to charitably correct a flat-earther. However, in the case of YEC people, as I pointed out, they have picked the battle and are being disingenuous about it. Thus it is the duty of us who understand science to fight back against falsehood and ignorance. Religion should have no part in this either way.



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Ghetting Spafly

posted January 7, 2010 at 11:42 pm


ID isn’t a scientific theory. It’s the horrible and willfull misuse of pieces of the scientific method. ID is to science what Jedi is to religion.



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Carl

posted January 8, 2010 at 12:24 am


Mark, a link to this article was posted on richarddawkins.net, and I’m sure that’s where most of the new traffic is coming from.
As for your assertion that the creator if “virtually infinitely simple,” I’d like for you to explain that a bit more, as it doesn’t make sense to me. Life is extremely complex, and our task is to explain that complexity. The difficult part of that task is that any complex phenomenon is usually explained by an even MORE complex phenomenon–just as a watchmaker is a much more complex entity than a watch, to use a common example. Similarly, a creator must by definition be more complex than his creation. So by postulating a creator, you haven’t really solved the problem of explaining the complexity, you’ve just pushed it back a step. Instead of explaining the complexity of life, you’re now tasked with explaining the complexity of the creator.
The beauty of evolution is that it finally offered an explanation of how complexity could arise from simpler things. In so doing, it provided a REAL solution to the problem! But since creationists don’t believe evolution is responsible for the complexity in question (some believe that evolution is responsible for SOME of the complexity in nature, but that still leaves other examples of complexity to be explained), what is their explanation for how that complexity arose? Waving your hand and saying “the creator did it,” isn’t a helpful response, because again, that creator must be at least as complex as his creations.



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JoeT

posted January 8, 2010 at 12:27 am


@Pete UK,
Very well put, sir!
“the ID crew don’t make their case from science. Science has built theories effectively from a blank sheet, ID starts with a counter-factual postulate: that there is a god and therefore that there must have been intervention.”



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JoeT

posted January 8, 2010 at 12:31 am


OK Mark2, where did the SIMPLE creator come from? And HTF did he(she/it?) create all this? Oh what…no theory??



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Three words:

posted January 8, 2010 at 1:39 am


Cintelligent design proponentsists.
I think the Dover trial put an end to any reasonable doubt that ID and Creationism are one and the same. Do your research.



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Leon

posted January 8, 2010 at 2:14 am


Can the ID-supporters please view the Kitzmiller vs. Dover series on Nova before re-opening the debate? In the absence of any new information supporting their case this discussion is a waste of time. The trial is over. ID lost. Case closed.



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Rosbif

posted January 8, 2010 at 4:37 am


Another article trying to goad respected biologists in to the ID debate in an attempt to give it some credibility.
The way to entice Prof Dawkins and the like into a discussion is to provide facts, evidence and results from scientific experimentation. Then any scientist will be willing to reproduce the experiments, check the facts, study the evidence against the claims, etc … because that what science does.
If your hypothisis is: “We don’t understand how that works so Goddidit” or “Goddidit so you can’t be right”, then you cannot expect to attract evolutionary biologists in to a debate and should expect to be ignored.
If however, you then suggest that despite the overwhelming weight of evidence that Natural Selection is the driving force behind the observable fact of evolution and you want to tell children that it’s not true because you faith tells you there must be a creator so he must have done it, then you cannot expect to avoid derision and resistance from those who oppose such child abuse.
On top of this, your arrogance for suggesting that you have any knowledge of such a creator and he just happens to be your interpretation of god, not one of these “other” gods, can only elicit ridicule.



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Geoff Fraken

posted January 8, 2010 at 6:18 am


Mr Klinghoffer, Read the Blind Watchmaker by one Richard Dawkins, or indeed the Greatest Show on Earth. Or indeed any of his books apart from The God Delusion.
You clearly haven’t done this. I have.
Richard Dawkins thoroughly covered this ground years ago. The science speaks for itself.
Or are you going to criticise an author without actually reading his works properly or even at all?



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ellie

posted January 8, 2010 at 7:01 am


Oh good grief. This has been explained numerous times, quite eloquently by Dawkins himself. See this article:
http://richarddawkins.net/articles/119
For him to engage in debate with ID proponents (who are just creationists in pseudoscientific drag) would validate them, give them a platform upon which to appear “level” with a *real* scientist. Which, quite clearly, they’re not.
They don’t merit the recognition, much less the time wasted in arguing with them.



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Atle

posted January 8, 2010 at 7:22 am


ID, as far as I understand, tries to prove that some natural phenoma are too complex to be described by natural causes, and therefore there must be an intelligent designer behind.
This is not science. You cannot prove that something is too complex. All you can prove is that you are not able to understand how natural phenoma can create this kind of complexity. ID as described above is in essence nothing but the fallacy of appealing to (personal) incredulity.
If ID wants to be science there needs to be positive evidence in favor of their theory. They need to put forward theories that describe the ID process, and gather observation supporting this theory. Then ID could be considered to be science.
If someone was able to falsify the theory of evolution, that would not support ID. ID cannot be put forward as a default theory to fall back on when/if another theory fails. A scientific theory can only be accepted as such when there is positive evidence supporting the theory.



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Christopher

posted January 8, 2010 at 7:51 am


Just an FYI…the theory of evolution, the explanation of the observable fact that life evolves, does not touch on how life started. It only explains, using our current knowledge based on the millions of documented pieces of evidences, how evolution works.



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Red Mann

posted January 8, 2010 at 8:10 am


David said:
Beth B., I didn’t say he should ignore YEC. I said he owed it to his audience to grapple manfully with ID
David, apparently you just ignore the many times when scientists have risen to the bait and attempted a “debate” with creationists/IDers. There is no debate, one side has all the facts and a sound theory to explain them and the other side has.. Well is has nothing the remotely resembles facts. It only has the misguided attempt to twist reality to fit the words from a set of 2000 plus year old myths. To debunk one creationist/ID mistruth can take up to an hour to explain, since reality is a little more difficult to explain than made up stuff. Most scientists have learned not to submit themselves to “debate” someone who has no facts and no interest in facts. All it does is give false credibility to creationism/ID. Richard Dawkins once invited a film crew of creationists, who of course did not represent themselves as such, into his house. The deceitfully edited result was an attempt to make Professor Dawkins out to be a simple fool. Wendy Wright is just another, but very influential, willfully ignorant person with no idea what they are talking about whose reaction to facts is fingers in the ear “lalalalalalalala”. Why should Dawkins, who was not particularly rude to her, have to put up with explaining reality over and over again to people who care not to know.
BTW, David, with your dancing skills you should be on Broadway.



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SteveN

posted January 8, 2010 at 8:16 am


I am afraid that it is you, not Dawkins, who is being disingenuous, fraudulent and cowardly.
Disingenuous because you must surely realize by now that there is no ‘theory of intelligent design’. Unsupported assertions such as “I can’t imagine how this particular biological structure evolved, therefore God (oops, I mean an intelligent designer) diddit” do not constitute a scientific theory. The fundamental tenets of ID (irreducible complexity and specified complexity) have been thoroughly and widely discredited and debunked by experts in the fields of biology and mathematics. Despite all this, you still try to present ID as a scientific theory (which it isn’t) and people such as Dembski and Behe as ‘ID theorists’ (which they are not).
Fraudulent because the attempt by you and your colleagues to sell ID to the public as a scientific theory (see above) is a cynical and pernicious strategy to circumvent America’s constitutional separation of Church and State. The Wedge document and the underhand replacement of the word ‘creationist’ with ‘design proponents’ (accidentally yielding ‘cdesign proponentsists’, ha ha) in ‘Of Pandas and People’ is more than sufficient proof of this.
Cowardly because you are afraid to accept and acknowledge the overwhelming and multifaceted evidence for evolution by natural selection so eloquently described by Richard Dawkins and many others. You may try to take solace from the unsupported claims of your so-called ‘ID theorists’, but we all know that the driving force behind your opposition to evolution is a (literally) blinding fear of accepting the reality-based view of life that has no need for belief in the supernatural.



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Monty Gaither

posted January 8, 2010 at 8:25 am


David,
You stated “Dawkins attacks Behe’s notion of irreducible complexity with a refutation that Behe himself has refuted”.
Your verbage is incorrect. Dawkins refuted (proved wrong by evidence or argument) Behe’s notion of irreducible complexity with a refutation that Behe himself denies but has never refuted.
ID has been shown to be creationism with pseudo-scientific terms thrown in to make it appear to be scientific. But it is in no way a scientific theory.
ID is nor more scientific than is astrology. Should the Astronomy and astrology be considered equally credible sciences?



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abacus

posted January 8, 2010 at 8:53 am


Dear Klinghoffer you describe ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ as presenting a “defense of “the evidence for evolution””.
The book is not a defence of the evidence, it is a presentation of the evidence. The vast majority of the book is just that – a presentation of the evidence for evolution in many different fields. I urge people to read it.
Inevitably, he has to attend to some of the arguments from the ID congregation. His transcript of his discussion with Wendy Wright was there to highlight one particular, regularly used and utterly ludicrous ‘argument’ against evolution; that there is no evidence for it.
In the end, Dawkins debating, or not debating the ID proponent of your choice makes no difference to the weight of the evidence for evolution, which is overwhelming.
Whether he is a coward or not (he is not), makes no difference to the weight of the evidence for evolution, which is overwhelming.
On the other hand, there is no evidence for ID and no science being done to prove it. There are only debunked arguments and unfalsifiable ideas.
Go ahead Dear Klinghoffer with your personal attacks – it doesn’t detract from the weight of evidence for evolution by one iota.



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MattHunX

posted January 8, 2010 at 11:10 am


It is unbelievable how someone, after having read The Greatest Show On Earth, could still NOT accept (not “believe”) in evolution. I have serious doubts that you have read the whole book. AND understood what was in it.
Either you are getting paid to be so ignorant and thus only pretending to be so incredibly stupid. Or you are the real deal. A genuine ignoramus.
Here’s how you could save yourself from complete humiliation. Maybe you should adopt the view that a god made the Big Bang and everything else just turned out as it did. Things heated up, planets coalesced, things cooled down, life evolved (as hard as a very simple concept such as this is for you), and here we are.
Maybe if you would adopt this version, and still have god in there as the one who started it all, as some now “believe”…you would appear less stupid.
I bet this doesn’t even gets past moderation. The truth hurts, I know. I know it’s a little late, but what did Santa bring you?



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Tom Kiely

posted January 8, 2010 at 1:56 pm


The evidence for evolution: In the region of 250,000 peer reviewed scientific papers in the last 150 years that have greatly furthered our understanding of all life on Earth. Enough said.



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Carl

posted January 8, 2010 at 2:16 pm


Reading this article again, I was struck David’s dismissal of Dawkins’ treatment of creationism as “picking on children.” David says, “The real evolution debate going on pits Darwinism versus intelligent design.” How convenient that David’s own brand of creationism is the one that’s the subject of the REAL debate against evolution. I’m sure that young-earth creationists and other Bible literalists would insist that THEIR beliefs comprise the REAL debate against evolution, too.



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William Carlton

posted January 8, 2010 at 4:04 pm


Mr. Klinghoffer, people who irritate you by refusing to give ID the time of day would make the case that ID is a more or less political adaptation of Creationism—not necessarily YOUNG EARTH Creationism, as you strained to assert, but a form of Creationism nonetheless. Unscientific. Unfalsifiable. Sort of a shoddy Trojan horse in which for a federation of well-meaning and/or duplicitous folks to smuggle in the notion of a Creator to our supposedly God-starved society. You appear literate enough to know that this is pretty much the stated goal of some of ID’s biggest backers.
I wonder, whichever group of which you are a part—the canny or well-meaning—whether you would be willing to acknowledge this scenario among the set of possibilities? Isn’t it at least POSSIBLE the antagonism between empirical discovery and revelation has churned out this wierd bastard hybrid, and plenty of otherwise intellectually honest individuals might for whatever reason or reasons become swept up in what is essentially a fraud? Could this happen?
I submit that if you will at least recognize the POSSIBILITY, then you will find a much more plausible explanation than cowardice for why the ID “movement” gets no traction with people like Richard Dawkins.



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Korinthian

posted January 8, 2010 at 5:15 pm


“ID theorists, whatever you think of them, make their case from science, not Scripture. They have scholarly training no less serious than Dawkins’s own.”
Hilarous!



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Wolf Man

posted January 8, 2010 at 10:02 pm


Forgive me if this is repetitive, but the reason ID is not considered science is fairly simple. It is unfalsifiable. Ideas need to be able to be proven wrong to be considered scientific.



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Wayne Robinson

posted January 9, 2010 at 3:27 am


“The Greatest Show On Earth” was written for the 40% of the American population who think that the world was created within the last 10,000 years. ID “theorists” can’t be engaged until they actually develop a theory. Paul Nelson, of the ID “think” tank, the Discovery Institute, said “Easily the biggest challenge facing the ID community is to develop a full-fledged theory of biological design. We don’t have such a theory right now, and that’s a problem. Without a theory, it’s very hard to know where to direct your research focus. Right now, we’ve got a bag of powerful intuitions, and a handful of notions such as ‘irreducible complexity’ and ‘specified complexity’-but, as yet, no general theory of biological design”. ID is just being used by creationists to cloak their religious beliefs in pseudoscientific terms (like Don McLeroy, ex-chairman and still current member of the Texas board of education).



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B. Jordan

posted January 9, 2010 at 10:51 am


Richard Dawkins Foundation/RDF TV has produced a segment available online where A.C. Grayling explains why intelligent design and creationism are not serious competitors to evolution and should not be taught in science classes, any more than ancient demon possession should be taught in medical school or that astrology should be taught as a competitor to astrology. Dawkins and RDF are hardly ducking ID, they are just giving it the credence it deserves scientifically. A book on astronomy need not discuss astrology as a serious competitor – even if astrology was backed by powerful institutions, it would not make an ounce of difference to the merits.



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Aleph

posted January 9, 2010 at 1:18 pm


“Now, dear Darwinists, tell me why avoiding the argument with ID is not cowardly on his part and why positioning his book as a defense of “the evidence for evolution” is not fraudulent?”
The burden of proof lies with those who make the claim. It is not up to evolutionists to engage with ID proponents. It is the responsibility of ID proponents to furnish compelling, rigorous evidence in support of their claims. Scientific knowledge is swayed on the strength of evidence – evidence which ID does not explain adequately. Evolutionary theory fits the evidence, thus it is the accepted theory.
You can believe whatever you want, but that doesn’t make it (factually) true.



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TCM

posted January 9, 2010 at 2:17 pm


Well it looks like you’re getting pretty well owned on your own blog, David.
I’ve just listened to chapter 12 of the audiobook version and he mentions ‘Intelligent Design’ over and over. Some cowardice. I guess he must be afraid of the insignificant group of a whopping 5 educated people who support ID that you mentioned, I mean he only has tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of professional biologists on his side. Not that I wish to stoop to your appeal-to-authority level.



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Davis

posted January 9, 2010 at 6:15 pm


The Biblically based Creationism that Dawkins attacks in his book forms the basis for most Americans’ beliefs about the history of life on Earth. ID was mainly important for its ability to overcome the legal barrier to teaching Creationism in American schools because it is not overtly religous. Now that ID has been defeated in the courts, and since it is not nearly as widely believed in as overtly religous Creationism, Dawkins likely considers it irrelevant.



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Timothygmd

posted January 9, 2010 at 8:15 pm


Dawkins fears no scientist because at most he will learn something new.
All an IDist can offer is insight into human folly and examples of the logical contorsions which follow from those who hold a manufactured bronze age faith above reason and perception. The few academic credentials possessed by those creationists who pretend to authority mean nothing. Arguments from authority have little weight.
Dawkins has spoken with and in regard to most of those you mention. He may make particular points using what examples he feels most appropriate. As a teacher, he will use what examples he may. As a silly vacuous apologist, you will use your means also. It, however, is not too late for you.
I hope you learn a bit about your universe and life before you die.



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Mergatroid

posted January 10, 2010 at 12:00 am


Mr. Klinghoffer,
The next time you write, “Try to stay on topic this time,” you may want to try font size 72.



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Ade

posted January 10, 2010 at 12:39 pm


“The real evolution debate going on pits Darwinism versus intelligent design, which contests the evidence for evolution.”
Oops, that’s a shot to the foot.
Contesting a little bit of the evidence for a theory does not, in itself, constitute an alternative theory. An alternative theory will need positive evidence all of it’s own.
Saying “It is very complicated, so it can’t have happened by chance, and evolutionary theory seems a long way off to me, so it HAD to be a kind of super-intelligent (god-like) being” is not science. If you doubt some of the evidence for evolution, fine.
Let’s say evolution is wrong. Dead in the water. Cool, what now?
What is ID theory, and what is the positive evidence?



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Turmarion

posted January 10, 2010 at 8:46 pm


Carl: I’m sure that young-earth creationists and other Bible literalists would insist that THEIR beliefs comprise the REAL debate against evolution, too.
Exactly, but consider this: As you can see here, most people who reject evolution are young-Earth creationists. The surveys don’t disaggregate those who, like David, Behe, Dembski, and others, oppose evolution but are not young-Earthers, but I suspect that old-Earth anti-evolutionists are rare birds in the anti-Darwin crowd. This is why David is so coy and apologetic when speaking of YECers–they constitute, for the most party, his home team, so to speak. I strongly suspect that most DI funding comes from the YEC community, too.
In essence you have a very small number of real scientists (e.g. Behe) who are unwilling to accept the neo-evolutionary synthesis completely, though they accept most of it (old Earth, common descent, etc.). They seem to think that if God is not directly involved at certain points, He’s not involved at all. This is fallacious in my view. The point, in any case, is that these people, being unable to provide any scientific evidence for their views have essentially cast in their lots with the young-Earth crowd. The YECers either don’t get that the ID folks do not share their young-Earth beliefs, or are willing to put up with them in order to advance their religious agenda. Conversely, the IDers keep mum about their real views, and coddle the YECers who pay their bills.
It also is germane to point out that the higher a person’s level of education, the more likely they are to believe in evolution. If you read the whole article, it is stunning that 45%–nearly half—of those who disbelieve in evolution can’t even accurately connect it to Darwin! I point this out because David calls YEC a “harmless” belief (even though he thinks it’s false). To the extent that this “harmless” belief seems to correlate with ignorance and lack of education in general, and to the extent that we value education and consider ignorance a bad thing, I think this makes it clear that it’s not all that “harmless”. Can people effectively exercise citizenship and participate in decisions about science and education if they don’t even know the originator of the most controversial area of science?
Red Mann: To debunk one creationist/ID mistruth can take up to an hour to explain, since reality is a little more difficult to explain than made up stuff.
Very true. Science, as powerful as it is, is imperfect, and never attains (or claims to attain) 100% perfect truth. I forget where I read it, but I saw the point made recently that it’s always easier for a pseudoscientist or science skeptic to debate a real scientist before a crowd of laypeople because all he has to do is throw out gaps or imperfections in the accepted theory. Since our knowledge of everything is in a sense provisional and incomplete, all theories, no matter how firm, have some gaps or flaws or anomalies. Pseudoscientists exploit these, since lay audiences will give such gaps more weight than they deserve, and the scientist is forced into a lengthy explanation that may go over the heads of the audience.
To use a simple example, if an object falls or a loud noise occurs for no obvious reason, a friend might say, “Hey, your house is haunted!” When I brush this off, he says, “So what caused the noise?” I say, “I don’t know.” Then he goes on to say, “Well, if there’s no natural explanation for it, it must be a ghost or poltergeist.” You see how this goes—I don’t have an explanation for everything that happens, but this doesn’t mean that an unproven speculation (the existence of ghosts) is implied, or that the gap in my knowledge somehow constitutes a proof. However, such a debate tends to get tangled up in the fact that I may not have a specific explanation for the sound, and an illegitimate shifting of the burden of proof (that is, rather than trying to prove his assertion that ghosts exist, my friend is trying to make me prove that they don’t exist). This is how all fringe scientists, including IDers, tend to argue. So why should Dwikins put up with this kind of thing?
I think I’ll leave it there. I don’t expect it to convince any die-hard proponents of ID, but at least I think it shows what the situation is.



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Your Name

posted January 11, 2010 at 5:01 am


You neglect to mention that Dawkins devotes about one fifth of his much better known book ‘The God Delusion’ to countering the arguments of Behe et al (he’s reviewed several of the authors you claim he’s avoiding in scholarly journals), and has written elsewhere and in great detail, for both non-specialist and specialist readers about the poverty of so called scholarly ID. Being generous, perhaps this might be because you’re unaware that he’s already countered most of the arguments you claim that he’s deliberately avoiding. If that’s the case then I recommend ‘The God Delusion’, ‘A Devil’s Chaplain’ and ‘The Blind Watchmanker’ to you.
Or perhaps you’re perfectly well aware that Dawkins isn’t running scared from the handful of scholarly ID advocates, who represent less than one percent of professional opinion on these matters. Seen in that light I’d say Dawkins has given them more than their fair share of attention. Remember, there is actually real science being published all the time by the +99% who aren’t producing tired restatements of Paley’s watchmaker argument.



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V for Victory

posted January 11, 2010 at 5:49 am


Science can only deal with phenomena that can be measured and that obey natural law, the laws of physics, mathematics. You may think that is a tremendous flaw, as it skips the entire notion of a supernatural being, but that is all that science can ever do. And it does go a long way of explaining the world and the universe, without recurring to Deus Ex Machina solutions.
We might find out more and expand our understanding of the laws of physics in the future, thereby pushing the boundaries of what is considered “natural” beyond where they currently lie, but supernatural phenomenon are by definition beyond the bounds of natural law, and cannot be classified as science as they are not meassurable nor subject to any known law.
As ID thrives on presenting what it considers as negative evidence against evolution. But that would make it the first scientific theory based solely on negative evidence against another scientific theory. ID has not been able to make a positive scientific case for their supernatural claims. By definition, ID is not a science. And it couldn’t possibly be. It may one day graduate from being a widly shunned pseudo-science and an embarassment to the evolution of modern culture, to becoming a more sophisticated version of Biblical Literalism, and it may have a bright future as a more modern form of Christian religion, but a science it is not.
Furthermore, ID starts out with the conclusion= God Designed it All. Most scientists before Darwin were religious to some degree.Darwin himself started out as a devout man of faith. I dare say that it took thousands of years of study and research before any man or woman was finally lead to the conclusions that Darwin would eventually reach. ID proponents never had any doubt where their conclusions had to lead to. So we know that, despite ID being a very young creed, it will not change its conclusions in 100 years nor even in 1’000 years, nor in 5’000 years, if it is still around. What type of a science starts out with the conclusion? Science is a method which constantly leads to challenge, revisions and changes, sometimes even revolutions, in the understanding, and what is true today may be false tomorrow.
The only changes we see in any supernatural understanding of the world is the tendency towards less literal and more symbolic and metaphorical interpretations of what used to be considered the Literal Word of God, and now we also see the more realistic-sounding, modern-looking, science-mocking guises that religious people must armour their faith with to keep ending up with the same conclusion they reached thousands of years ago TO AVOID sounding like it was all a foregone conclusion and exposing themselves as having advanced very little from the beliefs of shepherds and goat herders of 4,000 years ago.



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Eric MacDonald

posted January 11, 2010 at 8:18 am


Well, the IDers may not be children or naifs, but do they have a theory? And do they have evidence for it?
Just listing a number of men with degrees doesn’t really achieve anything, other than to confirm, perhaps, that the PhD is no guarantee of either intelligence or ability. Sure, PhDs have held all sorts of crackpot theories. Some even turn out to be true, after being thoroughly vetted and confirmed by evidence and the consensus of their peers. Many are just shots in the dark. But what makes a theory worth considering is whether it has evidence to support it, can be confirmed by other scientists working in the same field, and contributes to the growth of knowledge in the way that a crossword entry contributes to the solution of other entries in the crossword.
It is not cowardice not to respond to those who have no evidence to provide. What is truly cowardly is continuing to hold theories about the the natural world, and refusing to engage fully with those who are making contributions to our knowledge. This refusal to put their own beliefs about the world to the test is so obviously cowardly that it is amazing that you should think that Dr. Dawkins a coward for declining the invitation to share in your own determined commitment to faint-heartedness.



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Oolon Colluphid

posted January 11, 2010 at 6:13 pm


I can’t help but feel that your complaint rather misses the point of ‘T.G.S.O.E.’, spelled out very clearly in the introduction. It isn’t an academic text destined to be peer-reviewed by specialists and experts but a work of popular science addressed to the intelligent, but non-specialist reader, possibly one who, like Wendy Wright of CWA, is sceptical of evolutionary theory and equipped with the popular religiously-motivated counter-arguments to it. But above all, as it states on the front cover of my (UK harback) copy, it is a book addressed to the lay person which concisely describes the evidence FOR evolution. That’s its focus. The evidence FOR.
Elsewhere and previously, in peer-reviewed scholarly journals that I’m aware of, Dawkins has indeed addressed the counter-arguments (evidence AGAINST notice)by several of the names you accuse him of avoiding. That simply isn’t the case. But a book addressed to the general reader is not the place to include such material.
I honestly don’t understand why you feel that “positioning” his book as a concise survey of the evidence for evolution is “fraudulent”. He wished to write a book outlining in layman’s terms some of the more prominent and persuasive evidence for evolution, and has now done so. You seem to be complaining that he hasn’t written the book that you wished he had written, another book entirely, addressing tediously technical counter-arguments to evolution refuted a hundred times over by Dawkins and many, many others. That’s just too bad sir, but I’m sure you’ll manage to cope with it.



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Your Name

posted January 11, 2010 at 9:15 pm


ID proponents are decidedly not naifs or children; they only wish they could claim such innocence.
Your contention that evolution must explain “how [life] started” repeats a falsehood commonly employed by the ID crowd to stoke the “controversy” by identifying purported weaknesses in evolutionary theory. This falsehood serves to highlight the intellectual dishonesty and willful ignorance that is at the heart of the ID movement.
For 150 years the theory of evolution by natural selection has marvelously explained the diversity of life. The theory of the origin of life, however, is called abiogenesis. This is not a semantic quibble. ID proponents who should know better (and, I suspect, probably do) continue to use the “failure” of evolution to explain how life started to prop up ID.
Of course, even if this actually were a failing of the theory of evolution, it would offer exactly no support for ID. The scientific method is not a zero-sum game, and the probability that ID is true is not directly proportionate to the number of gaps in the theory of evolution. Were Darwin proven entirely incorrect it would not prove ID any more than a refutation of germ theory (and it is a theory) would prove that the latest pandemic was actually caused by the Swine Flue Fairy.
And this is where Behe, Wells, Meyer, et al. refuse to step up to the intellectual plate. All these men with scientific degrees have done so far is attempt to poke holes in the theory of evolution. None have offered a remotely coherent affirmative scientific theory – i.e., one that is falsifiable, evidence-based, and subject to replicable testing – in favor of ID. Worse, by simply declaring that ID is “science” because evolution can’t explain things it doesn’t claim to explain, they license the even more harmful idiocy spouted by their populist progeny, such as Ben Stein.
In short, despite decades of invitations to do so, ID “scientists” have yet to offer any actual science, including anything to suggest that there exists a scientific controversy regarding the fundamental soundness of the theory of evolution by natural selection.
Dawkins has hardly avoided the argument, but such a choice would hardly be “cowardly.” Little can be gained in arguing with people who engage in such repeated and calculated misrepresentations of what the argument is.



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Your Name

posted January 12, 2010 at 1:38 pm


Richard Dawkins and many others have refuted the claims of Intelligent Design supporters many times over and yet they keep coming back with the same tired and dead arguments. Bacteria Flagellum right? we have all heard it, its nothing new and its not scientific, Behe simply demonstrates a willful ignorance of some pretty basic biology, which I have to assume is entirely religiously motivated since he has the proper education to know better.
Why would Dawkins waste time in his book putting bunk ID claims out to the public eye? his books reach so many people it would basically be free advertising for ID supporters. Scientific theories stand on their own feet, and ID has fallen flat time and time again, perhaps because it is neither a theory or science?



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Arthur

posted January 14, 2010 at 9:52 pm


The author writes, “The real evolution debate going on pits Darwinism versus intelligent design, which contests the evidence for evolution.”
Where is this “real evolution debate” taking place? Certainly not in the realm of science. “Intelligent Design” never made it past first base when it came to evidence and predictive qualities and thus the assertions were curtly dismissed as unscientific fantasy.
Until proponents of Intelligent Design come up with something tangible, there is no “real debate”, and people like Dawkins are correct to give it the lack of attention it deserves.



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Shona

posted January 16, 2010 at 8:57 am


Well, I’m not a darwinist, since I have no idea what one of them is. But the reason dawkins doesn’t argue with creationists or IDers is that they are liars and believe in magic.
You can’t argue with people like that because the scientist argues with truths and reality, and they argue with scripture and fantasy. It’s two different worlds, and the results of them clashing are usually trainwrecks.



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Mark2

posted January 18, 2010 at 2:15 am


Shona, say what you want about IDers who lie (as opposed to evolutionists who never do), but don’t say they argue with scripture. Thankfully, they leave scripture out of their arguments.



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George Hardy

posted January 19, 2010 at 2:07 am


God created the universe. Who created God?



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Mark2

posted January 19, 2010 at 8:17 am


George, we ALL have the “infinite turtles” problem to deal with. Frankly, those who believe in God have it a whole lot easier.



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Carl

posted January 19, 2010 at 2:37 pm


Invoking the supernatural might be the “easier” solution to a problem, but its hardly conducive to scientific discovery. It’s okay to admit that we don’t know everything, and continue to search for the answers. The simplistic “God did it” response doesn’t permit this kind of discovery, because it presumes that we already have all the answers.



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Mark2

posted January 19, 2010 at 6:57 pm


I agree with you (well, not about the last phrase, but the part before that). Now, if you tell us how you deal with the infinite turtles problem, we’ll be off to a good start.



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stefan

posted January 19, 2010 at 7:02 pm


Mark2 “George, we ALL have the “infinite turtles” problem to deal with. Frankly, those who believe in God have it a whole lot easier.”
Yeah. Easier and lazier. At least Science goes about trying to find answers to hard questions, something your arm-chair theology will never produce.



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Carl

posted January 20, 2010 at 10:20 am


How do I deal with it personally? I don’t, because I’m not an astrophysicist. Like I said before, I’m comfortable saying “I don’t know.” I’m okay with the fact that I don’t have the answer to every problem in the universe, so I’m not compelled to invoke a supernatural “explanation” for the things I can’t personally explain.
Meanwhile, people who are a lot smarter than I am and who do specialize in such things are investigating the problem. I look forward to learning about whatever they might discover.



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Your Name

posted January 25, 2010 at 11:13 am


You display a fundamental misunderstanding about how scientific “debate” occurs. The validity of scientific theories are based on the degree of support they receive from evidence in peer reviewed journals. The proponents of ID have yet to publish so much as a single word of evidence in support of ID in that venue, so deserve to be dismissed as the charlatans they are. That they don’t explicitly state that their beliefs are based on Scripture is merely a cynical ploy to try and “Wedge” their religious doctrine into school curricula without running afoul of the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution. These are established facts, that were accepted as such in the Dover trial.
The ID proponents are the true cowards, for refusing to submit their “scientific” evidence to the peer-review process, while insisting that they be given the same degree of respect as the hardworking scientists who do so.



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Mark2

posted January 25, 2010 at 1:07 pm


YourName writes: “The proponents of ID have yet to publish so much as a single word of evidence in support of ID in that venue”
The number of such published words is indeed small, but it’s not zero. Anyone who has kept up with the debate should’ve known that by now.
“The validity of scientific theories are based on the degree of support they receive from evidence in peer reviewed journals.”
Oh, just like geosynclinal theory was?



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Carl

posted January 26, 2010 at 3:01 pm


I think I’ve kept up with the debate pretty closely, and I know of no Intelligent Design research published in any peer-reviewed journals. Michael Behe even admitted as much on the stand during the Kitzmiller trial. If you know of any such papers, kindly list them here.



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Jeremy

posted January 29, 2010 at 11:13 am


Aren’t all the people you’ve listed Discovery Institute fellows?



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