Science and the Sacred

Science and the Sacred


Science and the Law

supreme court.JPG

Every Friday, “Science and the Sacred” features an essay
from a guest voice in the science and religion dialogue. This week’s
guest entry was written by David Opderbeck. Opderbeck is a professor of
law at Seton Hall University School of Law and serves in the school’s
Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology. His blog Through a Glass Darkly addresses issues in theology and the science and religion dialogue. This is a follow-up to his post “In Defense of Dover”.

This post will discuss how the law interacts with “science.” The interaction of law and science is a vast and fascinating topic. I can mention here only some brief highlights of a handful of the important issues. As part of this discussion, I’ll offer some thoughts about Judge Jones’ treatment of “science” in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District intelligent design case. At the end of the post, I’ll suggest some resources for further reading on the relationship between law and science.

The Gatekeeper Function

One of the most significant ways in which law and science relate is in the use of “expert” testimony. Federal Rule of Evidence (“FRE”) 702 states that

If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise. . . .

For example, in a product liability case, engineering experts might testify as to the soundness of the design of the product at issue, and medical experts might testify as to the nature and extent of the plaintiff’s injuries.

When a party seeks to introduce expert testimony, the court must serve as a “gatekeeper” over what can be presented to the jury. According to FRE 702, when the court exercises this gatekeeper function, it must ensure that “(1) the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data, (2) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods, and (3) the witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.” These criteria were grafted into the FRE as a result of the Supreme Court’s opinions in Daubert v. Merrill Dow Pharmaceuticals and Kuhmo Tire v. Carmichael, in which the Court discussed the gatekeeping functions of trial courts with respect to expert testimony.

The Daubert standard represents both a pragmatic and an epistemological limitation on the adversarial trial process. The scope and propriety of this limitation has been hotly debated among legal scholars, lawyers and judges. It seems clear, however, that there must be some limits on what can count as “expert” testimony, and that the trial courts, in their traditional role as evidentiary gatekeepers, must to some extent determine what can be presented to juries as “scientific” evidence. We lack the judicial and social resources to turn every trial into a perfect search for the truth. The best we can do is come as close as possible to the truth as the time, cost and functional limitations of the judicial system can accommodate. This means there must be some limits on what testimony can be presented under the “expert” umbrella.

Gatekeeping and Kitzmiller

Supporters of Judge Jones’ approach in the Kitzmiller case suggest that a similar gatekeeping function is important with respect to public education. Without some demarcation of what can be taught as “science” in the public schools, aren’t we opening the floodgates to the teaching of all sorts of pseudo-science, such as astrology and young earth creationism? I think this is a valid concern. For this and other reasons, I personally don’t agree with the “teach the controversy” approach promoted by many ID advocates. If I were to serve on my local school board, I would not vote in favor of introducing ID materials into the science curriculum, primarily because I don’t believe the ID program has generated sufficient results to reach the public schools. Like the courts, the public schools lack the time and resources to address views that fall far outside the scientific mainstream.

In my view, however, when the issue is the local public school curriculum, the political level at which such resource allocation decisions should be made ordinarily is that of the local school board, in conversation with the academic community and under the broad oversight of state and national standards-setting bodies. The judicial scientific gatekeeping role usually should relate only to traditional judicial functions, such as what sorts of evidence can be considered by juries.

What if a local school board gets a curricular decision “wrong” and there is no improper religious purpose or other illegality? In my view, that concern ordinarily should be addressed through the process of open debate and political action. The reality is that local political bodies sometimes make “bad” decisions that are not unlawful or unconstitutional. The possibility of bad local decisions is one of the costs of democratic governance. It’s a cost that usually is mitigated by the self-correcting processes of democracy. Concerned parents remain free to elect new local officials.

In the relatively rare circumstances in which the local political body acts for clearly improper religious purposes (such as the Kitzmiller case and the McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education and Edwards v. Aguillard cases), the courts can remedy those actions under the establishment clause of the first amendment to the Constitution. The primary inquiry in such cases, however, is not to ask if it is “science”, Even if this demarcation question could be answered definitively in a philosophical sense (which I believe is doubtful at best), this still would not necessarily resolve whether the governmental decision involved an improper religious purpose or entanglement.

“Science” and “religion” use different methodological tools and varying rules of discourse, but both disciplines inquire into the same ultimate reality. It is therefore entirely possible for interdisciplinary approaches to exist that are neither purely “science” nor purely “religion.” In fact, much of today’s serious faith-and-science scholarship relies on this notion of interdisciplinarity. (For a discussion of this notion, see Alister McGrath, A Scientific Theology: Reality (Eerdmans 2002)). There is nothing facially unconstitutional about exploring such interdisciplinary approaches in a public educational setting.

This leads to my primary criticism of the Kitzmiller decision. I don’t believe Judge Jones should have ventured a broad definition of “science” in the Kitzmiller case, as though such an exercise necessarily ends the discussion of constitutionality. Under the applicable standards for establishment clause cases, the proper inquiry is into purposes and effects: was the government’s purpose “secular” and was the primary effect of the government’s decision to advance or inhibit religion or to produce an excessive entanglement of government and religion? Whether an idea is labeled “religion” or “science,” in itself, is irrelevant to the constitutional question. “Religion” is a constitutionally proper subject of study in the public schools, provided that the purpose and effect of that study is not sectarian.

Rather than wading into the deep waters of defining “science” over against “religion,” then, Judge Jones should have focused primarily on the purposes of the Dover school board, which clearly were to proselytize for a particular kind of creationism, rather than to explore interdisciplinary approaches to science and religion generally.

This analysis, of course, begs one of the big questions in the ID debate: is ID inherently entangled with religious purposes? Should efforts to introduce ID into the public school science curriculum always be met with skepticism under the establishment clause?

The looming presence of this question is one of the key reasons I don’t believe Judge Jones played the role of “activist judge” in Kitzmiller, even though I am critical of the opinion. The question whether ID, like “creation science,” is inherently religiously motivated, is a live concern, and was extensively briefed and argued to the court by both sides. In order to address the question of religious motivation, the court could not have avoided some consideration of the essential nature of ID theory.

In my view, however, there is a significant qualitative and quantitative difference between giving an issue some consideration and making it the central issue in the case. The court could easily have said something like this, and nothing more than this, on the demarcation issue:

The question of ID theory’s scientific merits, and indeed whether ID theory is properly considered ‘science,’ is hotly disputed by the parties. The court finds, after hearing extensive testimony, that the mainstream scientific community generally does not consider ID theory to be valid science. Combined with the clear overriding religious purposes of the school board members, this finding establishes that there was no valid secular purpose for the school board’s actions and that the proposed curriculum would result in excessive government entanglement with religion.

In this context, the Judge Jones’ effort to define “science” in a broad sense was unnecessary, but not “activist.” In any event, the term “activist judge” generally sheds far more heat than light on the complex nature of the judicial function.

What, then, should we make of the link between ID theory and religion? I’ll address this in my next post. I’ll also offer my views about ID theory as a form of “natural theology.”

Some general resources on the intersection of science and law:

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Peter

posted November 20, 2009 at 8:45 am


The first thing to note (and it annoys me incredibly) is that there is no such thing as “ID theory.” This is admitted by its leading proponents and is obvious to anyone who cares to take a cursory glance at the output of its ‘research’ centre, the Biologic Institute. ID raises nowhere near the level of a scientific theory, and it is highly debatable as to whether it could even been considered a hypothesis.
‘Certain aspects of the natural world are best explained by reference to an intelligent agent rather than undirected natural processes’ (or something similar): OK, hands up anybody who can give me a single testable claim that follows from this.



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dopderbeck

posted November 20, 2009 at 9:00 am


Peter — by using the term “theory,” I was not intending to enter into the “science” demarcation debate. There are many theoretical discourses the claims of which are not testable by the methods available to the natural sciences (e.g., literary theory). My use of “ID theory” here is intended simply as shorthand for what ID advocates claim, whether those claims are scientifically testable or not.



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Knockgoats

posted November 20, 2009 at 9:13 am


dopderbeck,
I accept what you say about your intentions of course. But since IDists make deliberate use of “ID theory” to imply that their nonsense is on a par with evolutionary theory, the term is not a neutral one. You have mostly just used “ID” above: I suggest keeping to that.



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Peter

posted November 20, 2009 at 9:21 am


My point was not simply in response to you, but mainly in response to people such as Stephen Meyer who is going around referring to ‘Intelligent Design theory’, deliberately playing on the misunderstanding most people have of the term theory in the first place. The point remains and is crucial to understand, ID purports to be scientific and if it is to be referred to as a ‘theory’ then we are going to have a alter the terms applied to genuine scientific models and explanatory frameworks and call them something else. To equate evolution and ID and attempt to put them on the same level of scientific integrity is to engage in deliberate distortion and outright misrepresentation of the scientific method.



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Mere_Christian

posted November 20, 2009 at 11:18 am


Mr. Opderbeck,
Is it legal for humanist/atheist public school teachers to teach that evolution disproves Christianity?
It is clear that they do do this.
What recourse do Christians have in rebuttal?
What say ye?



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Kristian

posted November 20, 2009 at 11:34 am


Any teacher that tells students what their religious beliefs should be, Christian, atheist, or otherwise, is breaking the law. Teaching evolution as scientific fact is not the same thing as telling children that they cannont believe in Jesus.
The folks most likely to teach that evolution disproves Christianity are Christians. Every biology teacher I had in high school, college, and grad school (at public schools and universities) was careful to tell me that I did not have to reject Christianity to accept evolution. On the other hand, every pastor I had in every evangelical church I have attended, and Ken Ham when he came to my university, told me that I cannot accept both Christ and evolution.
If you really believe that the teachings of mainstream science are at odds with your faith, if you really believe that a teacher simply stating the knowledge of science constitutes a violation of your right to ignore science, then I suggest you stay out of school. As for legal recourse, the Christian tradition for the first centuries of the church was pacifism and non-involvement with the government. The Christian response is to turn the other cheek.



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Daniel Mann

posted November 20, 2009 at 11:38 am


David,
You wrote, “Judge Jones should have focused primarily on the purposes of the Dover school board, which clearly were to proselytize for a particular kind of creationism, rather than to explore interdisciplinary approaches to science and religion generally.”
Censuring the Dover board because it was religiously motivated represents an unacceptable bias. Let’s face it, everyone is in the proselytizing business. Everyone has a worldview they’re trying to push, as George Bernard Shaw had correctly observed, “All good art is propaganda!” This also applies to the pushing of the religion of Darwinian naturalism, as evolutionist Michael Ruse observed:
“Evolution came into being as a kind of secular ideology, an explicit substitute for Christianity…an ideology, a secular religion—a full-fledged alternative to Christianity, with meaning and morality… Evolution is a religion.”
In light of this, the Dover decision was highly prejudicial and granted a virtual and repressive monopoly to Darwinian naturalism, sidelining its only opposition – ID. And what horror had the Dover school board committed? They didn’t even impose ID teachings on the science classroom!
This decision will have a stifling effect upon discussion and the free exchange of ideas. It will silence any criticism of Darwinian naturalism, enthroning one particular religion in the science classroom. It will also embolden the evol.-establishment to act punitively against any who might challenge their hegemony.



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Paul Burnett

posted November 20, 2009 at 11:53 am


David Opderbeck added a comment, “…by using the term “theory,” I was not intending to enter into the “science” demarcation debate. … My use of “ID theory” here is intended simply as shorthand for what ID advocates claim, whether those claims are scientifically testable or not.”
ID proponents use the term “ID theory,” just as ID opponents use the term “intelligent design creationism.” By using the term “ID theory” you are lending credence to the “cdesign proponentsists” (Google the term if you are not familiar with it) – you are siding with the intelligent design creationists and supporting their pseudoscience.
And make no mistake about it – ID is a pseudoscience. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_scientific_societies_explicitly_rejecting_intelligent_design for a list of essentially every actual scientific society and professional association in America – they all say ID is a pseudoscience. Whose opinion would you respect more – the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Academy of Sciences, or a distinct of overtly or covertly religious persons?



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dopderbeck

posted November 20, 2009 at 12:03 pm


Mere_Christian,
I think Kristian’s response was a good one, and it resonates with my own experience.
But, to go with your hypothetical, if a public school teacher were to make explicit statements about mainstream science “disproving” Christianity, IMHO that conduct would be constitutionally suspect (as well as patently false). There are at least two difficult legal issues you’re hitting on here: (1) what is “religion”; and (2) what is “establishment”? I hope to touch on those issues a bit in my next post. It’s a knotty question and I don’t think there’s clearly a “right” answer as a matter of law or public policy.
Your question about “recourse” is a good one as well, on a number of levels. Within some conservative Christian circles in North America, I’d suggest we’ve seen two dominant and contradictory strategies to slights real and perceived: combat and withdrawal. The Kitzmiller case is a good example of combat through the legal system. The burgeoning Christian school and homeschool movements are examples of withdrawal. Again, this is a knotty issue without one “right” answer, particularly as it impacts parents who are trying to make the best decisions they can for their own children in particular circumstances.
I’d suggest, however, that we (the Church) ought to consider whether the public posture of combat/withdrawal has really been faithful to our missional calling or to the great history of our Tradition. I’m convinced there are more robust ways for us to construct public theology that are not limited to these poles. This isn’t to suggest that litigation is never appropriate or that there isn’t an important place for specifically Christian schools or homeschooling (I myself benefited greatly from studying at a Christian liberal arts college). It’s a broader question of temperament, posture, an eschatological expectations, I think.



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Knockgoats

posted November 20, 2009 at 12:16 pm


Daniel Mann,
Whatever Michael Ruse says, the theory of evolution is not a religion: it has no sacred texts, dogmas, places of worship, rituals or any of the other markers of religions. As for “Darwinian naturalism”, can you actually identify anyone who refers to themselves as such? If so, what do they mean by the term? Some have tried to formulate various forms of “evolutionary” ideology and even religion (e.g Teilhard de Chardin, Julian Huxley), but these neither follow from scientific findings, nor are they accepted by most of those who accept that evolution has occurred, including atheists.



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dopderbeck

posted November 20, 2009 at 12:18 pm


Paul Burnett — I remain bit baffled by the kerfuffle over my use of the word “theory.” As I said, there’s no conspiratorial intent behind it.
Concerning your list of groups that call ID a “pseudoscience,” I think this highlights a broader problem, which is the authority of “science” in our culture. I’m really not very interested in whether something is called a “science” beyond the pragmatic reasons I mentioned in my post. I’m even less interested in whether a naked argument from authority can be constructed about whether or not something is a “science,” which is all your list represents.
My ultimate interest is whether something is “true.” I believe lots of things are “true” that I would not classify as “science,” at least not as “natural science,” including most of the things that I hold most dear (e.g., the love of my family and the love of God). As I have noted, I’m not persuaded that many of the key arguments raised by ID advocates are “true” (e.g., the irreducible complexity of the flagellum, or the viability of the design filter), but that really has nothing to do with whether they are “science.” In fact, IMHO one of the core problems with “ID theory” is that it capitulates to the cultural authority of “science” and thereby compromises the intellectual integrity of “theology.” But that is a topic for my next post.



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pds

posted November 20, 2009 at 12:36 pm


The Design Spectrum
David,
Interesting post. You make some good points.
I find it quite interesting the beating you are taking for simply using the phrase “ID theory.” I find the comments attacking this phrase unhelpful and uncivil, as they do not respect thoughtful ID proponents, and they do not further the debate. They reflect a form of knee jerk fundamentalism. Does Biologos endorse this kind of rhetoric?
I wish I had more time to comment, but I will make one important point of fact: you seem to equate “teaching the controversy” with “introducing ID materials into the science curriculum.” That is not accurate, at least as far as the Discovery Institute is concerned. They are the leading advocates of teaching the controversy. Teaching the controversy means presenting evidence for evolution, and evidence that poses problems for evolution, such as the Cambrian Explosion and the fact that genetics and morphology present a mixed picture as to whether there is a single, consistent “tree of life.” Only solid mainstream evidence would be presented. Then students are encouraged to think critically about the evidence.
I don’t know why any good educator would oppose this, as long as the evidence is presented accurately. Judge Jones suggested that even this should be banned. The Supreme Court in Edwards v. Aguillard clearly stated that teaching the controversy is permissible, if done the right way and with the right intent. Edwards trumps Kitzmiller, obviously.



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Knockgoats

posted November 20, 2009 at 12:38 pm


dopderbeck,
The authority of science derives from the fact that it has systematic methods and institutions for detecting and correcting error (which can be applied by people from a very wide range of cultural backgrounds and initial assumptions), and as a result, it works. If you resent this authority, may I suggest that you live without the results those methods and institutions have produced – such as, for example, computers, not to mention modern medicine. ID is pseudoscience precisely because it attempts to borrow the authority of science, without adopting any such methods.
As for theology, how exactly would you discover that you are wrong about, for example, the nature of the trinity?



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Knockgoats

posted November 20, 2009 at 12:51 pm


Teaching the controversy means presenting evidence for evolution, and evidence that poses problems for evolution, such as the Cambrian Explosion and the fact that genetics and morphology present a mixed picture as to whether there is a single, consistent “tree of life.”- pds
These do not cause “problems for evolution”, in the sense that neither casts any doubt on the reality of the process. The “Cambrian explosion” might have done so when Darwin wrote, but we now have an extensive fossil record from before that event. The “explosion” itself occupied some tens of millions of years. What is most extraordinary about the evidence from genetics is how far it has confirmed inferences about descent made on the basis of morphology. It has led to modifications of previous theory: for example, it has shown that there are processes of “horizontal gene transfer”, involving retroviruses, and has confirmed the endosymbiotic theory of eukaryotic origins (which does mean that on occasion, branches of the “tree” have merged). That is, it has broadened, deepened and refined our understanding of evolutionary processes and history, as any major new type of evidence would be expected to do if the main lines of the theory are correct.
Of course any evidence against evolution should be presented: the trouble is, there isn’t any that stands up to serious examination.



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pds

posted November 20, 2009 at 1:04 pm


Knockgoats,
Your opinion of the evidence is not shared by many scientists. Different opinions on the evidence abound. This issue is not going to go away by pushing dogmatism.



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pds

posted November 20, 2009 at 1:07 pm


Knockgoats,
Do you believe the Cambrian Explosion occurred? Is that data good science? Should it be banned from public schools?



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Glen Davidson

posted November 20, 2009 at 1:13 pm


“Science” and “religion” use different methodological tools and varying rules of discourse, but both disciplines inquire into the same ultimate reality. It is therefore entirely possible for interdisciplinary approaches to exist that are neither purely “science” nor purely “religion.”

Yes, and what if that is possible? What would religion add to finding any kind of definitive facts? Could courts utilize both science and religion in order to decide what kinds of evidence could be introduced in, say, a paternity case?
And I don’t see science and religion inquiring into the “same ultimate reality” at all. Religion is interested in what or who is “behind” everything, which some would argue is no reality at all, but which I will accept at least for the sake of argument. Science is interested in whatever has an empirical basis, and may never ever be able to reach what one might call “ultimate reality” (some string theorists would likely disagree with me).
Science deals in appearances, to slip into Platonic language, or, it deals with noumena and phenomena in Kantian terms. It makes no claims about ultimate reality, at least not in the philosophical sense, and we may know never know anything about a “thing in itself” with science not suffering from that fact whatsoever. Religion is rarely content to claim as little about “ultimate reality” as science is.
And as far as demarcation problems go, there’s nothing new about the fact that the distinction between science and other human activities is not hard and fast. Obviously it works well enough in the courts for most purposes, however, and also in science for saying what is propaganda (ID) and what is science (evolutionary theory). Bringing up the demarcation problem only obscures what is typically reasonably clear, and which is quite adequate for suing to prevent the teaching of religious apologetics as science.
We also have no difficulty distinguishing between theory and lack thereof in the case of ID. Using language so carelessly as to imply that ID has anything worthy of calling a theory is inappropriate, and it is proper to note that it is. On the other hand, it’s no flogging offense, and might be let alone by now, after Opderbeck disclaimed that it was supposed to really mean anything.
Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p



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Knockgoats

posted November 20, 2009 at 1:20 pm


Do you believe the Cambrian Explosion occurred? Is that data good science? Should it be banned from public schools?
Yes, yes, no. It simply does not conflict with evolutionary theory, as you have apparently been told. It is evident that you are taking your beliefs uncritically from ID proponents. “Many scientists” do not disagree with what I have said – at least, there are very, very few scientists in the relevant fields who do so. If I am “pushing dogmatism” then it is also “pushing dogmatism” to reject the “flat Earth” thoery in favour of the “spherical Earth theory”, and the “stork theory” of human conception in favour of the “sex theory”.



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Bubbles

posted November 20, 2009 at 1:42 pm


Who thinks the Cambrian slow fuse poses problems for evolution? No reputable scientist you can possibly find, and certain no paleontologist who works in that area. However, we can be quite sure that Messrs Dembski, Meyer, Wells etc regard it as a problem for evolution. What do these people have in commmon? None of them is a scientist. None of them has made any contribution to any area of science. All of them are pseudoscientists engaged in ideologically-driven propaganda.



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dopderbeck

posted November 20, 2009 at 1:57 pm


Knockgoats — the cultural authority of science has nothing to do with whether computers and vaccines work. They work because they work, and this would be so even in a culture that afforded science no authority at all. Personally, I use computers and vaccines not because some cultural authority tells me to, but because they work.
Moreover, I certainly haven’t argued that science should have no cultural authority at all. As you note, the empirical methods of the natural and engineering sciences are uniquely suited to investigating the natural world and developing useful technologies. Those methods therefore have an integrity that should be fostered and respected. Problems arise, however, when science is afforded substantial authority over questions of ultimate meaning, purpose, and ethics, for which the methods of the natural and engineering sciences are not uniquely suited.
I’d also suggest that your somewhat postivistic view of what “science” is and how it works isn’t entirely accurate. I’m a big fan of Michael Polanyi on this score. (Do not interpret me here to be arguing that Polanyi’s views support ID: on this, see the Polanyi Society’s website.)
Re: your question about theological discourse and how one would discover that he/she is wrong about something like the nature of the Trinity — theology as a discipline has its own integrity and employs methods and tools that are appropriate to the subjects it investigates. These include scriptural texts, tradition, reason, and experience. (See the McGrath book I cited in my post for more on this distinction). Using these tools, one can come to reasoned conclusions about things like the doctrine of the Trinity.
I can anticipate at least one objection here: none of these tools can settle the question of the Trinity in the same way that the tools of the natural sciences can settle questions such as, say, the chemical structure and function of a particular protein. True. But so what?
The question of the nature of God is an enormous one that by definition lies beyond the capability of human reason to fully articulate. By comparison, defining the nature and function of a protein is easy. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have any “knowledge” at all about big, difficult questions. Even the natural sciences, after all, must admit that human beings (at least presently) lack the capability to observe, describe, and explain perfectly everything in the universe. Positivism died an ugly death long ago.



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dopderbeck

posted November 20, 2009 at 2:03 pm


BTW, please also don’t read me to agree that the Cambrian explosion refutes evolution. That isn’t my point. It doesn’t surprise me that models about how common descent happened will vary and will need to adjust to all sorts of data, nor, given my understanding of evolution, does it surprise me that there have been periods of rapid speciation in geological history. I have little doubt that robust models of common descent can readily incorporate the Cambrian explosion.



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Knockgoats

posted November 20, 2009 at 2:11 pm


dopderbeck,
Knockgoats — the cultural authority of science has nothing to do with whether computers and vaccines work. They work because they work
Nonsense. They work because the principles on which they were designed were arrived at by methods which are good at detecting and correcting error (you will notice that I have focused on this, not on any “positivist” claim that science achieves absolute truth – it may, but we can never be certain of this) – not by scriptural texts, tradition, and personal experience, which have shown no evidence whatever that they have this property. The authority of science derives from the fact that it does work in this way.
I can anticipate at least one objection here: none of these tools can settle the question of the Trinity in the same way that the tools of the natural sciences can settle questions such as, say, the chemical structure and function of a particular protein. True. But so what?
They cannot even provide any evidence, or good reason to believe, that any god or gods exist: the theological emperor is completely naked.



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pds

posted November 20, 2009 at 2:11 pm


Knockgoats,
It is evident that you are taking your beliefs uncritically from ID proponents.
It is not evident at all. And your assertion about me is false.



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Beaglelady

posted November 20, 2009 at 3:06 pm


Personally, I use computers and vaccines not because some cultural authority tells me to, but because they work.

And just how do you determine that vaccines work? Does your doctor or the medical profession or the FDA have anything to do with it? Or do you consult a fortune teller?



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Beaglelady

posted November 20, 2009 at 3:17 pm


I find it quite interesting the beating you are taking for simply using the phrase “ID theory.” I find the comments attacking this phrase unhelpful and uncivil, as they do not respect thoughtful ID proponents, and they do not further the debate. They reflect a form of knee jerk fundamentalism. Does Biologos endorse this kind of rhetoric?

The truth is, science is hard work and scientists have to constantly defend their work after presenting it to their peers. Of course, it would be much easier to simply present ID to schoolboys and schoolgirls!
If ID wants a place at the table they should stop whining and playing the victim card. They need to get into the lab but they seen to prefer doing an end run around the scientific process.



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Gordon J. Glover

posted November 20, 2009 at 3:21 pm


Teaching the controversy means presenting evidence for evolution, and evidence that poses problems for evolution, such as the Cambrian Explosion and the fact that genetics and morphology present a mixed picture as to whether there is a single, consistent “tree of life.”
The whole point of a scientific theory is to provide a framework for interpreting data. You don’t just abandon a well-established theory with a long track record of sucess because a few pieces of the puzzle don’t seem at first to fit. The probability that we do not fully understand the supposed anomalies is much greater than the probably that we are wrong about everything else. So you stick with the theory until its utility is exhausted, or until a more robust theory replaces it. The bottom line is that you can’t beat something with nothing.
When the orbit Neptune was found not to obey the law of gravitation, this discovery was not touted by scientists as evidence aganist gravity. Gravity had a long track record of sucess. The anomalies in the orbit of Neptune meant that we were missing something very important in our understanding of Neptune — not that the law of gravitation was wrong. That “something” turned out to be Uranus, whose gravitational effects were contributing to the misbehavior of Neptune. And the reason Uranus was discovered is because scientists stuck with the theory of gravitation. Had they abandoned gravitation, they would have had no way to predict the existence of Uranus — that’s the value of a working model that enables scientists to make testable predictions. “Look here and you should find a plenet with mass x” – and there it is. ID can’t do anything like this.
When the orbit of Mercury was found not to obey the law of gravitation, the theory had to modified by the theory of relativity. This is similar to how the slow and steady change of Evolution was modified by Punctuated Equilibrium, or how the traditional idea of the molecular phylogenies was modified to accommodate horizontal gene transfer, etc…
That’s how science works. The only persons who claim that such “anomalies” are evidence against a well established theory have a hidden (or sometimes not so hidden) agenda to discredit the theory in question. Were it not for scores of people philosophically and theologically opposed to Evolution, ID wouldn’t exist. It simply serves no scientific purpose and answers no questions of a scientific nature.



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Unapologetic Catholic

posted November 20, 2009 at 3:27 pm


I think this is a generally good discussion of how courts address science. One important point is that in a particular case, the litigants themselves and the court system have limited resources and therefore cannot address “all” possible issues for all time and all parties.” Some things just have to be “close enough” not necessarily definitive.
It is also true that courts do not need to be the immediate supervisor of school district curriculum decisions. The voting booth can be just as effective as the sponsors of the Dover Intelligent Design debacle found out. They were voted out of office at the next election.
That said, there is an undercurrent in the judicial decision addressing the intersection of science and intelligent design issue that are unique to legal discussions of “What is science.” That intersection is crtiqued by Professor but I don’t think it was very important to the decision in this case.
One thing courts are routinely called to do is to answer the question, is “A” really “B” even though it claim to be “A?”
Courts are pretty good at devising procedures and laws that address the various forms of this question. Take the following situation: Vito Corleone of Corleone Olive Oil sues on a contract for failure to pay for $100,000 worth of olive oil. The defendant claims that the $100,000 contract was not for the delivery of olive oil at all, it was for a “protection racket” and the defendants was given the choice to put his signature or his brains on the promissory note.”
The court is asked to determine is the $100,000 debt an “A– legitimate contract,” or is it a “B–protection racket” masquerading as an A–legitimate contract?”
Courts resolve these questions by looking at evidence. Upon finding that Corleone Olive Oil has no inventory, no olive oil delivery records and is not a member of any Olive Oil trade associations, and people who have cancelled contracts with Corleone in the past seem to have an increased chance of violent death, a court might conclude that the so called “A– legitimate contract” is really a disguised “B–protection racket.”
In thousands of courtrooms, the same scenario comes up ever day. Tax dodges masquerade as legitimate investments, income is disguised as “gifts.” Frauds masquerade as “sales pitches.” Was it suicide or accident? Distinguishing apparently similar scenarios is what courts routinely do every day.
Here’s where I disagree with Professor Opperdeck. The issue before the court was to put Intelligent design into one of two categories: Category A–”science” or Category B–a scam, a fraudulent attempt o smuggle religious teachings into school dressed up as “Science.” In short, was ID “A” or is it really “B” pretending to be “A.” It is important to realize that the court can only address the issues presented by the parties to the case, and not any other issues not presented by the parties. BOTH sides posed the question, “Is ID science?” Even if the court did not define the boundaries of “Science” to the satisfaction of philosophers, it did develop a working definition close enough for this case. All the court had to do was ID either “A—science” (the school board’s position) or was it “B—something else masquerading as science” (the parents’ position)?
The Court found that ID was a scam, a fraud, a “B” masquerading as an “A.” As in the Corleone example above, the court relied on the evidence. ID proponents testifying at trial could not distinguish “ID” from “creationism.” ID proponents concealed evidence of their creationism connections and motivations. The book at issue, “Of Pandas and People,” used identical language defining “ID’ as it had used to define “Creationism” in earlier editions. There was the unfortunate “cdesign proponentsists” typo in which “creationist” had not been cleanly replaced by “Intelligent Design Proponent” using the serach and replace feature from the earlier edition to the later edition. Behe himself admitted that ID called for supernatural intervention and was therefore “not science” as that term is currently used. Behe himself admitted that there was no-peer reviewed ID scientific work being performed. Behe admitted that “irreducible complexity” was an unworkable definition.” He refused to acknowledge the vast body of scientific work showing evolution of systems he had identified as irreducibly complex. Dembski refused to testify. The ID proponents attempted to get Dembski’s declaration into evidence by an underhanded back door method rebuked by the judge. ID also proponents committed perjury in the courtroom.
With that evidence, the court did not need to spend a lot of time determining a precise definition of “A-science.” A broad definition was good enough in this case. On the other hand, the evidence that ID was a sham–and was in fact “B–creationism” masquerading in the trappings of science, was overwhelming.
A good, mainstream well-thought out decision by the judge.



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Daniel Mann

posted November 20, 2009 at 3:32 pm


Knockgoats and Kristian,
We’re talking about religious-philosophical-proselytizing motivations – something we all have – and those who push evolution are not exceptions. Therefore, I’ve argued that the Dover decision is horribly biased. To consistently apply its reasoning means that anyone with any religious-philosophical motivation should be denied a seat at the table. If you have convictions, you’re therefore disqualified, unless you’re a robot.
Teachers can also “push” their views in quiet ways, even while saying that “evolution is not about religion and is not against Christianity.” Actually, this is the tact of most evolutionists I’ve talked to. They don’t like the in-your-face Richard Dawkins types because he tends to alienate a lot of people and to put Christians on guard. Olivia Judson, for one, prefers the gentle approach, but according to her own confession, she too is a proselytizer for Darwin.
For my taste, I prefer Dawkins. No subterfuge there! He, Hitchens and Harris tell you right up front that they’d love to see religion disappear – for good!



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dopderbeck

posted November 20, 2009 at 3:52 pm


Knockgoats — your making a major category mistake. Computers and vaccines work because of the way the universe works — not because science says they work. The tools of scientific inquiry enabled human beings to understand the principles on which computers and vaccines work, but the principles are a given of the universe we inhabit. I think you actually agree with this, but you’re not expressing yourself with any analytical clarity, and therefore your argument is a muddle.
Beaglelady — Ultimately I determine that vaccines and computers (and automobiles and airplanes and so on) work through experience, not just because someone says so.
I think what you’re both stumbling towards is the idea that the methods of science produce results that afford science epistemic authority over certain spheres of life. I agree.
Thus, Beaglelady is quite correct that my belief in the effectiveness of vaccines must begin with some degree of faith in the authority of institutions such as the FDA, which employ methods and tools (such as epidemiological studies and the like) suited to the questions they are tasked with investigating. This is why I have noted a couple of times now that “science” demarcation questions have some pragmatic purposes for law and public policy. To the extent folks are reading me to denigrate the value of science, they are misreading me.
But the interplay of law, policy and science is extraordinarily complex, and it is naive to assume that it is all a simple matter of demarcating the authority of science. The notion that “science” is a final cultural authority is just as ideologically presumptuous as the worst ID rhetoric. Check out the resources I list at the end of my post for a more sustained discussion of this question. None of those resources, BTW, have anything to do with ID, or even with specifically theistic presuppositions.
Finally, Knockgoats, I just don’t get your dismissal of any warrants for theistic belief. I suppose if you define what counts as warrant in a very crabbed way, it’s possible to get where you are. It probably isn’t worth much further discussion if you’re going to presuppose that only a very limited kind of empirical evidence counts as warrant for any sort of belief.



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dopderbeck

posted November 20, 2009 at 4:00 pm


U-C — good to see you here!
You’re correct to think about what courts are good at doing. My primary critique of Kitzmiller is that courts are not good at answering big philosophical questions. The question “what is science” is enormous, to the point where philosophers of science have at times despaired of being able to answer it. A court should not, IMHO, try to wade into that kind of deep water.
In this regard, you said: “The issue before the court was to put Intelligent design into one of two categories: Category A–”science” or Category B–a scam, a fraudulent attempt o smuggle religious teachings into school dressed up as “Science.””
I don’t think that was precisely the issue before the court. The issue was whether the policy of the Dover school board violate the Constitution’s establishment clause. Under the prevailing law, it wasn’t necessary to venture a final definition of “science” in order to resolve this issue. I think the kind of holding I mention in my post would have been a wiser and more circumspect exercise of the judicial function in this instance.



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Bubbles

posted November 20, 2009 at 4:24 pm


Gordon, I agree with you that theories should of course be modified as more becomes known, and they should be capable of adjusting to the new data. The problem is that the scientific community does not regard the Cambrian ‘explosion’ as any sort of a problem for evolution. I’ve yet to find a single paleontologist who thinks we need to reject natural evolutionary mechanisms during the Cambrian and invoke a supernatural designer to zap organisms into existence de novo. Yes it was a reasonably rapid diversification but it still took tens of millions of years, and we have good ideas about what could have caused it. It’s not hard to understand that when basic body plans were being invented, there could have been fairly development as evolution ‘experimented’. I don’t see the need for an “injection of information” by a designer to explain this as the ID guys seems to suggest.
The problem with comparing evolution to gravity is that we aren’t told constantly that gravity is a “theory in crisis” and is being abandoned by scienists. Nor are the problems it has with various pieces of empirical data heralded as evidence against it and as a way to invoke ad hoc supernatural alternatives to it.
Similar to the point you make Sean Carroll in The Making of the Fittest says “Were it not for its theological appeal and the tactics of its opponents, we would have never heard of intelligent design, and it would join other notions in the vast ashcan of rejected ideas.”



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Knockgoats

posted November 20, 2009 at 4:41 pm


dopderbeck,
Knockgoats — your making a major category mistake. Computers and vaccines work because of the way the universe works — not because science says they work.
No, I’m being quite clear; you are being obtuse (and accusations of “positivism” and “category mistakes” will not do in place of real arguments). It was absolutely clear in context that what I meant was that we are able to design computers that work because the principles on which that design is based were arrived at scientifically – not by guesswork, or theologically.
I just don’t get your dismissal of any warrants for theistic belief. I suppose if you define what counts as warrant in a very crabbed way, it’s possible to get where you are. It probably isn’t worth much further discussion if you’re going to presuppose that only a very limited kind of empirical evidence counts as warrant for any sort of belief.
Translation: “No, I don’t have any good evidence or arguments”.



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pds

posted November 20, 2009 at 4:57 pm


David,
You seem to be endorsing UC’s ad hominem attack on ID as a “scam” and his many misrepresentations. Interesting. Doesn’t seem like you.



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Knockgoats

posted November 20, 2009 at 4:58 pm


dopderbeck,
Problems arise, however, when science is afforded substantial authority over questions of ultimate meaning, purpose, and ethics, for which the methods of the natural and engineering sciences are not uniquely suited.
Can you give specific examples of where you believe this has been done? I agree that science cannot answer ethical questions, although it can certainly provide information essential for deciding them. As for “ultimate” meaning and purpose – there is, and logically can be, no such thing. Even if the universe was designed by an agent for purposes of its own, we as individuals would still have to decide whether that purpose was one we wanted to adopt.



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Knockgoats

posted November 20, 2009 at 5:01 pm


ID is a scam: it was designed simply to get round the legal obstacles to getting creationism into science classes, and will be dropped in favour of some new scam (probably the claim that science cannot investigate the past) if it fails in this purpose.



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eric

posted November 20, 2009 at 5:07 pm


The issue was whether the policy of the Dover school board violate the Constitution’s establishment clause. Under the prevailing law, it wasn’t necessary to venture a final definition of “science” in order to resolve this issue.
And he didn’t give a final definition. Jones first used the defence’s own scientific expert testimony to arrive at the conclusion that ID wasn’t science – because Behe, Minnich, and Fuller said it wasn’t. Then he noted that ID – exactly like creationsm – invokes supernatural causation; that ID relies on – exactly like creationism – a false dichotomy, and; that ID relies on the exact same arguments against evolution used by creationists for the past 20 years.
Was this necessary? Probably not. Like you, I think the defense case was dead in the water before the ‘is it science’ question ever came up. But you can’t accuse him of venturing a final definition of science. His conclusions that ID isn’t science are completely grounded in testimony, not philosophy. And defense testimony for the most part, at that.
Re: the Cambrian explosion, Bubbles is right. There is no issue here, the only place you see this listed as a “problem” is in creationist talking points. The time from the extinction of the dinosaurs to today is on the same order of magnitude (tens of millions of years), yet if anyone told you the “mammalian explosion” was a problem for evolutionary science, you’d rightly think they were crazy. I reccommend in the future you avoid using whatever source told you it was a problem – they are themselves either very ill-informed about science, or lying to you (or both).



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Mere_Christian

posted November 20, 2009 at 5:27 pm


Daniel Mann
November 20, 2009 3:32 PM
http://www.MannsWord.blogspot.com
Knockgoats and Kristian,
We’re talking about religious-philosophical-proselytizing motivations – something we all have – and those who push evolution are not exceptions. Therefore, I’ve argued that the Dover decision is horribly biased. To consistently apply its reasoning means that anyone with any religious-philosophical motivation should be denied a seat at the table. If you have convictions, you’re therefore disqualified, unless you’re a robot.
Teachers can also “push” their views in quiet ways, even while saying that “evolution is not about religion and is not against Christianity.” Actually, this is the tact of most evolutionists I’ve talked to. They don’t like the in-your-face Richard Dawkins types because he tends to alienate a lot of people and to put Christians on guard. Olivia Judson, for one, prefers the gentle approach, but according to her own confession, she too is a proselytizer for Darwin.
///
How do you call people liars so nicely? So politely? The reason our society is so sickened is precisely because humanists, all dressed up in enlightenment garb have masqueraded as angels of light, peddling the permissiveness of darwinian morality, seducing children into vice and violence (The fruits of secularism as it were) and laughing all the way to tenure.
I’m heading to your blog.
You are such a nice guy.



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dopderbeck

posted November 20, 2009 at 5:49 pm


Knockgoats, you said: “As for “ultimate” meaning and purpose – there is, and logically can be, no such thing. Even if the universe was designed by an agent for purposes of its own, we as individuals would still have to decide whether that purpose was one we wanted to adopt.”
I respond: What a dreary philosophy! I think you’re making some enormous leaps here with respect to individual agency and autonomy. If God really is God, you cannot thwart His purposes, and you are not free to make any meaning you choose. I might agree, however, along with the preacher in Ecclesiastes, that questions of ultimate meaning and purpose eventually collapse without God. In any event, this has gotten way beyond my original post. For more on the question of warrant, religious belief, and the role of theology, see, e.g., Nicholas Wolterstorff, Reason Within the Bounds of Religion; Alvin Plantinga’s work on warrant; John Milbank, Theology and Social Theory; and a variety of other sources.
Pds: fair enough, “scam” is not a helpful word, and is not one I would choose to employ.
eric: the Judge offered a lengthy definition of science, pasted below. It’s not bad as a pragmatic definition, but it obviously ignores vast swathes of debate in the philosophy and history of science over the past fifty years.

“Expert testimony reveals that since the scientific revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries, science has been limited to the search for natural causes to explain natural phenomena. (9:19-22 (Haught); 5:25-29 (Pennock); 1:62 (Miller)). This revolution entailed the rejection of the appeal to authority, and by extension, revelation, in favor of empirical evidence. (5:28 (Pennock)). Since that time period, science has been a discipline in which testability, rather than any ecclesiastical authority or philosophical coherence, has been the measure of a scientific idea’s worth. (9:21-22 (Haught ); 1:63 (Miller)). In deliberately omitting theological or “ultimate” explanations for the existence or characteristics of the natural world, science does not consider issues of “meaning” and “purpose” in the world. (9:21 (Haught); 1:64, 87 (Miller)). While supernatural explanations may be important and have merit, they are not part of science. (3:103 (Miller); 9:19-20 (Haught)). This self-imposed convention of science, which limits inquiry to testable, natural explanations about the natural world, is referred to by philosophers as “methodological naturalism” and is sometimes known as the scientific method. (5:23, 29-30 (Pennock)). Methodological naturalism is a “ground rule” of science today which requires scientists to seek explanations in the world around us based upon what we can observe, test, replicate, and verify. (1:59-64, 2:41-43 (Miller); 5:8, 23-30 (Pennock)).
As the National Academy of Sciences (hereinafter “NAS”) was recognized by experts for both parties as the “most prestigious” scientific association in this country, we will accordingly cite to its opinion where appropriate. (1:94, 160-61 (Miller); 14:72 (Alters); 37:31 (Minnich)). NAS is in agreement that science is limited to empirical, observable and ultimately testable data: “Science is a particular way of knowing about the world. In science, explanations are restricted to those that can be inferred from the confirmable data – the results obtained through observations and experiments that can be substantiated by other scientists. Anything that can be observed or measured is amenable to scientific investigation. Explanations that cannot be based upon empirical evidence are not part of science.” ( P-649 at 27).”



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Beaglelady

posted November 20, 2009 at 6:03 pm


Nova had a very good 2-hour special on the ID trial called “Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial” and you can view it online .
The website has lots of other good information.



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Beaglelady

posted November 20, 2009 at 6:32 pm


Daniel,
Should schools teach that the American Indians (native Americans) are descended from Jews, as the Mormons believe? Since schools don’t teach that, aren’t the schools horribly biased against Mormons?
What about germ theory? We can’t teach it objectively, without being horribly biased against Christin Scientists, who don’t believe such things.
What do you think?



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pds

posted November 20, 2009 at 8:52 pm


This is quite a thread. What most people are describing here is not ID, but what I call “Straw Man Intelligent Design.” You have really given him quite a pounding.
That is also what Judge Jones describes in his opinion.



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dopderbeck

posted November 20, 2009 at 9:59 pm


Beaglelady: I think the public schools could constitutionally and respectfully teach, in something like a comparative religions class, about the distinctive beliefs of Mormons and Christian Scientists (and Christians and Muslims and Jews and so on), and that this would be a very useful exercise for students living in a pluralistic democracy. In science classes, for pragmatic reasons as well as reasons relating to the methodology appropriate to the natural sciences, only empirically-bases theories relating to naturalistic causes should be taught.
But here is a catch: science education should be clear about its methods and limitations. This is the heart of the disagreement I’ve been having here with Knockgoats. Science can only explain what it’s competent to explain. Problems often do arise when science advocates argue that the “scientific method” is the only valid method of acquiring any sort of knowledge at all. I’d resist any claim that only “scientific” knowledge counts as “knowledge,” and I’d suggest that any such claim made in a public educational setting should run into its own constitutional establishment and free exercise clause problems.



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Paul Burnett

posted November 20, 2009 at 10:32 pm


David Opderbeck quoted from Judge Jones’ 2005 Dover Decision: “As the National Academy of Sciences (hereinafter “NAS”) was recognized by experts for both parties as the “most prestigious” scientific association in this country, we will accordingly cite to its opinion where appropriate.”
Let’s see what the NAS has to say about intelligent design creationism: “Creationism, Intelligent Design, and other claims of supernatural intervention in the origin of life or of species are not science” – from a statement, “Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences, Second Edition National Academy of Sciences.”



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Dan

posted November 20, 2009 at 11:17 pm


Daniel Mann,
You wrote “Therefore, I’ve argued that the Dover decision is horribly biased. To consistently apply its reasoning means that anyone with any religious-philosophical motivation should be denied a seat at the table. If you have convictions, you’re therefore disqualified, unless you’re a robot.”
This isn’t what Judge Jones said. You might want to actually read his decision, its available online. He said that the school board’s decision amountated to an establishment of religion, which is outlawed in the Constitution. Please read the decision, you will see that how it was presented to you is not factual.
As Beagle Lady pointed out, I think you would be upset if Mormon’s forced teachers to teach in history class that American Indians were decended from Jews. Or think about if a group of New Age mystics forced the teachers to say that quantum mechanics proved that their philosophy was true. Wouldn’t you be upset?
The same thing happened in the Dover case. A group of people wanted to influence teaching of a subject in school due solely to religious conviction regardless of the evidence. IDers don’t have the evidence, only a supernatural hypothesis that is untestable, yet they still want ID exposed forcebly to students.
I have also never had a college teacher say that evolution disproved Christianity. The only people who have told me that I can’t be a Christian and still accept the finding of science is people like Kent Hovind and Mere Christian, and, especially sadly, a few of my Christian school teachers. I am surpised that you would prefer that teachers act like you think Dawkins does and say something that is untrue (evolution disproves Christianity if it is true), instead of actually teaching the science and not trying to overturn people’s faith. Very puzzling.



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Paul Burnett

posted November 20, 2009 at 11:19 pm


The intelligent design creationism apologist “pds” wrote: “What most people are describing here is not ID, but what I call “Straw Man Intelligent Design.”
That’s true – there are amazing differences between the “official” Dishonesty Institute party-line version straw man version of “ID” and the actual ID that is observed in the field and in the pulpits of churches and church-sponsored conferences.
Most “cdesign proponentsists” have given up on the original scam – and I deliberately use that term, as it is technically accurate – that the “intelligent designer” is officially not (wink wink nudge nudge) the Creator God of Genesis. The identity of the “intelligent designer” was made implicitly clear at the 1993 ID Founders’ conference at Pajaro Dunes, CA, and the follow-on conference at the former Bible Institute of Los Angeles in 1996, culminating in the 1998 “Wedge Document,” which starts “The proposition that human beings are created in the image of God…” It’s obvious that this is about creationism and religion, not science.
Read Dr. Barbara Forrest’s paper, “Understanding the Intelligent Design Creationism Movement: Its true Nature and Goals,” available at http://www.centerforinquiry.net/uploads/attachments/intelligent-design.pdf to see what is actually going on here. It isn’t pretty – and it isn’t science.



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Beaglelady

posted November 20, 2009 at 11:43 pm


But here is a catch: science education should be clear about its methods and limitations. This is the heart of the disagreement I’ve been having here with Knockgoats. Science can only explain what it’s competent to explain. Problems often do arise when science advocates argue that the “scientific method” is the only valid method of acquiring any sort of knowledge at all. I’d resist any claim that only “scientific” knowledge counts as “knowledge,” and I’d suggest that any such claim made in a public educational setting should run into its own constitutional establishment and free exercise clause problems.

I would agree with you here and I happen to be a Christian. Science is the human activity of seeking natural explanations for natural phenomena. It doesn’t have the tools to investigate supernatural phenomena. The belief that the natural world is all there is is called scientism.
Public school teachers should be careful to explain what science is and what it is not. And public school teachers are not allowed to denigrate faith.
Are you involved in some particular case where a public school teacher and or public school biology book is actually teaching scientism?



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Knockgoats

posted November 21, 2009 at 5:27 am


dopderbeck,
I note that you have not provided any actual examples of science “is afforded substantial authority over questions of ultimate meaning, purpose, and ethics”. Do you have any, or is this just empty rhetoric?
“As for “ultimate” meaning and purpose – there is, and logically can be, no such thing. Even if the universe was designed by an agent for purposes of its own, we as individuals would still have to decide whether that purpose was one we wanted to adopt.”
I respond: What a dreary philosophy! I think you’re making some enormous leaps here with respect to individual agency and autonomy. If God really is God, you cannot thwart His purposes, and you are not free to make any meaning you choose.
Is this really the best you can do? Even if one cannot thwart a tyrant’s purposes, one can still refuse one’s consent – and what this tyrant wants, if the Bible is correct, is willing surrender – so I can thwart his purposes. Of course, if we are just God’s sock-puppets, then he is simply amusing himself by making me an atheist.
“What a dreary philosophy!” is not an argument. Nor, of course, is rational atheism in the least dreary. I am free to choose my own meanings and purposes, and don’t feel the need to describe myself as a “sheep”, a “slave”, or “stupid, wicked and blind”, as various Christians have described themselves on this blog in the short time I’ve been commenting here. What a dreary philosophy!
Alvin Plantinga’s work on warrant
You take that IDiot seriously? Plantinga’s “reformed epistemology”, and in particular the idea of “properly basic beliefs” is as transparent a piece of special pleading as I’ve ever come across: you just declare whatever you like an “axiom” of your belief system and hey presto! you are warranted to believe it, without evidence or argument. It leads, in fact, straight to complete relativism, since there can be no principled way to determine what counts as “reasonable”, “consistent”, or a “sensible world view”.



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Knockgoats

posted November 21, 2009 at 5:37 am


I’d resist any claim that only “scientific” knowledge counts as “knowledge,” – dopderbeck
Oh, so would I. Mathematics, logic, history, and parts of philosophy among other disciplines can all produce what can reasonably be called knowledge. Religion and theology, on the other hand, cannot. This is obvious from their complete failure to reach consensus and move on to new questions: there are said to be over 30,000 Christian sects, most of them convinced they alone have the truth – and then there are all the other religions. The theological emperor is indeed completely naked, despite all the earnest discussions about the colour of his robes, and the type of feather that he wears in his hat.



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Knockgoats

posted November 21, 2009 at 6:12 am


The belief that the natural world is all there is is called scientism. – Beaglelady
No, it’s called naturalism. According to Wikipedia:
“The term scientism is used to describe the view that natural science has authority over all other interpretations of life, such as philosophical, religious, mythical, spiritual, or humanistic explanations, and over other fields of inquiry, such as the social sciences.”
I’m an advocate of naturalism, but not of scientism: science cannot tell us what our intrinsic goals (i.e., goals that are not adopted in order to achieve higher-level goals) should be.



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dopderbeck

posted November 21, 2009 at 7:45 am


Knockgoats — Soviet Russia and communist China are obvious examples in which science supposedly “is afforded substantial authority over questions of ultimate meaning, purpose, and ethics”. Again, read Polanyi on this.
Your statement that “Mathematics, logic, history, and parts of philosophy among other disciplines can all produce what can reasonably be called knowledge. Religion and theology, on the other hand, cannot” is simply incoherent as it relies on artificial and arbitrary distinctions.
As to the various Christian denominations, for the most part we agree on what is most essential, i.e. what is summarized in the Apostle’s Creed. I’d daresay that there are thousands of “sects” within the natural sciences with differing views and competing research agendas. In fact, the ability to disagree and to self-correct is one of the great features of the scientific method, isn’t it?
I think the naked Emperor is the New Atheist rhetoric. It’s mostly historically inaccurate, philosophically naive, ethically bankrupt, culturally arrogant piffle.



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pds

posted November 21, 2009 at 9:16 am


The Design Spectrum
Every paleontologist I have read has said that the Cambrian Explosion poses “problems” for evolutionary theory. That includes Gould, Simon Conway Morris and Steven Stanley. I find it remarkable that so many here insist that the Cambrian fossils pose no problems at all. That reflects bad science education in America.
The 3 scientists I named, and many others, believe that the problems can be solved, but they also agree that the answers are not obvious and they are not certain. They have very different ways of explaining the evidence.
Teaching the controversy entails providing high school students with the facts, providing them with different perspectives by different leading scientists, and asking them to think critically about the facts and arguments. It exposes them to unanswered questions in science, and encourages them to think.
Gould called them the most important fossils ever discovered. Most high school students never hear about them. Sounds like most of the people here think that ignorance is a good thing.
Am I the only person here who thinks high school kids should learn about the most important fossils ever discovered?



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Knockgoats

posted November 21, 2009 at 9:28 am


dopderbeck,
With regard to Soviet Russia and Communist China, as you say, science is supposedly afforded substantial authority. In fact, as the example of Lysenkoism shows quite clearly, this is not the case. In fact, it is the Party that has (or had) authority over all spheres of life, and defines what counts as knowledge. Try again.
The distinction between mathematics, logic, history, and some areas of philosophy on the one hand, and religion and theology on the other, is far from arbitrary. In all the first set, so far as conclusions are based on supposed facts about the world, these must be in principle available for anyone to check. In religion and theology, this is not the case: one is required simply to have faith – to accept without or against reason – the authority of the holy books, and/or the founder, and/or private experiences.
As to the various Christian denominations, for the most part we agree on what is most essential, i.e. what is summarized in the Apostle’s Creed.
This excludes the Eastern Orthodox, Coptic Churches and Nestorians, among others. Also Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, who consider themselves Christians. Many Protestants still consider the Pope the Antichrist and deny that Catholics are Christians, while Roman Catholics consider him God’s Vicar on Earth, infallible under certain circumstances, and the RCC does not recognise the validity of Protestant orders. I need hardly remind you of the numerous and bloody wars and persecutions that these difference have produced. Nor have you even attempted to deal with all the other religions – they can just be ignored as obviously wrong, can they? Doctrinally orthodox Christianity, in fact, has the remarkable distinction of being the only religion that is necessarily false: the doctrine of the hypostatic union cannot possibly be true, as “god” and “man” have incompatible attributes. So it’s more absurd than Scientology, which is quite an achievement.
I’d daresay that there are thousands of “sects” within the natural sciences with differing views and competing research agendas. In fact, the ability to disagree and to self-correct is one of the great features of the scientific method, isn’t it?
OK, identify those alleged “sects”. Yes, the ability to disagree and self-correct is one of the great features of science, but since science has recourse to external evidence about the real world to settle disputes, scientific “sects” are generally short-lived, and seldom seem to persecute, murder and torture each other like Christians.
I think the naked Emperor is the New Atheist rhetoric. It’s mostly historically inaccurate, philosophically naive, ethically bankrupt, culturally arrogant piffle.
Ah, the Courtier’s Reply ! How predictable.



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Knockgoats

posted November 21, 2009 at 9:43 am


Gould called them the most important fossils ever discovered. – pds
If, as I imagine, you are talking about the Burgess Shale fossils, of course school students should learn about them, and about the various interpretations of the real scientists you mention. They do not, because creationists have done their utmost to minimise the extent to which evolutionary biology is taught. No knowledgeable palaeontologist sees them as casting the slightest doubt on the reality of evolution by entirely natural processes – and I am sure they would all be delighted if these fossils were on the school curriculum.
You really haven’t the slightest idea what you’re talking about, pds.



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pds

posted November 21, 2009 at 9:48 am


Dan,
You said:

The same thing happened in the Dover case. A group of people wanted to influence teaching of a subject in school due solely to religious conviction regardless of the evidence. IDers don’t have the evidence, only a supernatural hypothesis that is untestable, yet they still want ID exposed forcebly (sic) to students.

Lots of misinformation in there. You are also talking about SMID, not ID. I encourage you to do more reading on genuine ID using the principle of charitable reading.
For one, the Dover policy merely required that a one minute statement be read at the beginning of the year to biology students. There was no “forcible” exposure to ID. Here is the statement:

“The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin’s theory of evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part.
“Because Darwin’s theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The theory is not a fact. Gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.
“Intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin’s view. The reference book, “Of Pandas and People,” is available for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what intelligent design actually involves.
“With respect to any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of the origins of life to individual students and their families. As a standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on standards-based
assessments.”

I don’t endorse the policy. But listening to a one minute statement inviting students to do extra reading if they are interested and “keep an open mind” is hardly “forcible exposure.”



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pds

posted November 21, 2009 at 10:12 am


Knockgoats,
Both Kansas and Ohio included the Cambrian fossils in their state standards for a period of time. You should do some research as to who wanted them included and who had them removed. Based on your claims, you will be surprised by what you find.
Perhaps then you will drop the insults. Given your gratuitous insult, I will likely not reply to you further.



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Beaglelady

posted November 21, 2009 at 10:49 am


For one, the Dover policy merely required that a one minute statement be read at the beginning of the year to biology students. There was no “forcible” exposure to ID.

Well, let’s take a look.
“The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin’s theory of evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part.
We biology teachers are teaching evolution because we are forced to! After all, it’s on the test you have to take.
“Because Darwin’s theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The theory is not a fact. Gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.
Evolutionary theory is riddled with problems! It’s just a theory. A theory is not factual!
“Intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin’s view. The reference book, “Of Pandas and People,” is available for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what intelligent design actually involves.
Well fear not. There’s this other really neat theory called Intelligent Design with none of the problems that plague evolutionary theory. Why not go read about it? Evolutionary theory is really just “Darwin’s View”!
“With respect to any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of the origins of life to individual students and their families. As a standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on standards-based
assessments.”

Again, this class simply prepares you to take standards-based tests. We aren’t teaching real science here. But you know what you have to do!
Now what if the school board had asked that a 1-minute statement on Holocaust denial be read in history class? Or a statement on alchemy in chemistry class? Or astrology in astronomy class? No big deal, right?



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Knockgoats

posted November 21, 2009 at 11:15 am

pds

posted November 21, 2009 at 11:24 am


Beaglelady,
Pretty funny. You are good at inventing humorous subtext. I like this game. Can I play too?
Because Darwin’s theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered.
Subtext:
Darwin’s theory has been proven true. All smart people believe in it. Don’t trouble your pretty little heads with the evidence. That has been done already for you by people far smarter than you are. If you think of any interesting questions, purge your mind of them immediately.



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pds

posted November 21, 2009 at 11:35 am


Knock,
The sentence you cite is not “grossly misleading,” especially in context. The paragraph that precedes it gives some of the info you require, and the exercise requires that the student do further research.
Show me the new standards on the Cambrian Explosion that replaced the ones you cite. My understanding is they don’t exist.



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Knockgoats

posted November 21, 2009 at 12:03 pm


pds,
It is indeed misleading, and intentionally so. “Sudden” in everyday language does not mean “over 20-30 million years”.
So what if the Cambrian explosion isn’t included? There is room for only so much in a curriculum. As I’ve made clear numerous times, it does not represent any challenge whatsoever to the reality of common descent and evolution by natural selection, despite the claims to the contrary of the Dishonesty Institute. It is strongly featured in popular science books by real scientists, which shows conclusively that there is no attempt to hush it up.
Those actually interested in the truth might like to look at this A Guide to the “Critical Analysis of Evolution” Lesson Plan Controversy and links therefrom. In particular, note this statement:
“The structure and organization of this lesson, the specific topics, the approach to the materials, and the assignments to students have all been tracked to Jonathon Wells’ ICONS OF EVOLUTION, Michael Behe’s DARWIN’S BLACK BOX, and to the Discovery Institute’s partial curriculum that was posted on their website in March 2000. The entire lesson conforms to the philosophy of Intelligent Design. We show specific comparisons between the published statements of Intelligent Design philosophy and the implementation of this philosophy in the lesson.”
The whole thing was an IDiot Trojan Horse.



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Beaglelady

posted November 21, 2009 at 6:04 pm


pds,
I will repeat my question,
Now what if the school board had asked that a 1-minute statement on Holocaust denial be read in history class? Or a statement on alchemy in chemistry class? Or astrology in astronomy class? No big deal, right?



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Unapolgetic Catholic

posted November 21, 2009 at 6:29 pm


Don’t pay attention to pds. He is making stuff up again.
He says with no basis, “Show me the new standards on the Cambrian Explosion that replaced the ones you cite. My understanding is they don’t exist.”
The standard high school student biology textbook is Miller and Levine’s “Biology.” It has a whole seciton on the Cabrian.
pds has never read it–and won’t be bothered to read it.
pds, you have a question pending you have never answered. From what creaitonsit website did you get your mispresented Gould quote?



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Dan

posted November 21, 2009 at 7:13 pm


PDS,
You wrote, “Every paleontologist I have read has said that the Cambrian Explosion poses “problems” for evolutionary theory. That includes Gould, Simon Conway Morris and Steven Stanley.”
I know this is false concerning Gould. I’ve read a lot of stuff that he has written, and he never said that the 10s of millions of year period refered to as the Cambrian “Explosion” poses a problem for evolution in general. The period is interesting when it comes to the debate about how fast evolution can work, that is what Gould was saying. He just thought that perhaphs the “explosion” showed that evolution occured in faster, punctuated periods than we thought, not that it posed a problem to evolution.
Besides, we have found many pre-Cambrian fossils since then anyways.
Anytime you see Gould quoted you should probably look at the quote in context. He is one of the favorite targets of dishonest quote-mines from the ID creationists.
You don’t seem to be able to tell the difference between something being an interesting question in evolutionary biology, and that same fact being a problem for evolution. Just because something isn’t fully explained yet by a theory doesn’t mean that it is a problem for the theory.



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Dan

posted November 21, 2009 at 7:27 pm


PDS,
You wrote, “Lots of misinformation in there. You are also talking about SMID, not ID. I encourage you to do more reading on genuine ID using the principle of charitable reading.”
I understand ID pretty well. I read most of the ID books when I was a creationists, and have re-read several of them since. I’ve read Behe, Dembski, Wells, Johnston, and Denton’s books (as well as many books by YEC, which also use similar ID arguements). I’ve also watched several movies on ID by the Discovery Institute, and read most of the stuff on their website.
The stuff was very convincing to me until I actually did real research into what science is, how science works, the evidence for evolution, and when I saw how dishonest most of the ID proponents are about quote-mining.
I do understand ID. How much have you read about the evidence for evolution from actual biologists, instead of the straw men that the creationists set up?



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Paul Burnett

posted November 21, 2009 at 10:40 pm


The intelligent design creationism apologist “pds” wrote: “Every paleontologist I have read has said that the Cambrian Explosion poses “problems” for evolutionary theory.”
Name those paleontologists – provide URLs for their statements saying “that the Cambrian Explosion poses “problems” for evolutionary theory.” NOTE: URLs from Answers In Genesis or the Institute for Creation Research don’t count.
“pds” continued: “That includes Gould, Simon Conway Morris and Steven Stanley.” Provide URLs for their statements.
“pds” continued: “Gould called them the most important fossils ever discovered.” Provide a URL for Gould’s purported statement.
Prediction: “pds” will not – cannot – provide citations for the quotes.



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Knockgoats

posted November 22, 2009 at 4:04 am


Interesting – the new post by Karl Giberson: “With God all Things Are Possible”, which appeared yesterday, has vanished again. Pretty poor stuff it was, too. Down the Memory Hole, eh, Karl?



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Mere_Christian

posted November 22, 2009 at 7:31 am


Dan
November 20, 2009 11:17 PM
Daniel Mann,
“You wrote “Therefore, I’ve argued that the Dover decision is horribly biased. To consistently apply its reasoning means that anyone with any religious-philosophical motivation should be denied a seat at the table. If you have convictions, you’re therefore disqualified, unless you’re a robot.”
Dan, Humanists are not robots. They are neo-chimps (Neo-Bonobos) preaching darwinian morality (of course with sexual permissiveness in tow) that demand that evolution disproves ANY supernaturalism. And, as you can see from the garden-variety atheist here (like Knockgoats), there is no other reality. These kinds of people, these secularists, rant and mock their way into tenured immutability on the “fact” that evolution DISPROVES the Bible and the new crop of “New Atheists” preach Darwin AS a Prophet of Atheism. And there is no way to deny this due to the evidence of people in western society as we write.
“This isn’t what Judge Jones said. You might want to actually read his decision, its available online. He said that the school board’s decision amounted to an establishment of religion, which is outlawed in the Constitution. Please read the decision, you will see that how it was presented to you is not factual.”
Where does the Constitution actually have words saying there is an establishment of religion in teaching ID? Which religion is being set up in a High School science class? Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Wicca? Which God (gods) is being proclaimed?
“As Beagle Lady pointed out, I think you would be upset if Mormon’s forced teachers to teach in history class that American Indians were decended from Jews.”
What Mormons believe IS history. Mormons really exist and existed. In history.
“Or think about if a group of New Age mystics forced the teachers to say that quantum mechanics proved that their philosophy was true. Wouldn’t you be upset?”
I wouldn’t.
“The same thing happened in the Dover case. A group of people wanted to influence teaching of a subject in school due solely to religious conviction regardless of the evidence. IDers don’t have the evidence, only a supernatural hypothesis that is untestable, yet they still want ID exposed forcebly to students.”
Evolution does not happen by nothing causing it.
“I have also never had a college teacher say that evolution disproved Christianity.”
That is very hard to believe seeing that college is well-stocked with liberal/humanist “teachers.” Our current state of religion on campus bearing witness of their personal influences.
“The only people who have told me that I can’t be a Christian and still accept the finding of science is people like Kent Hovind and Mere Christian, and, especially sadly, a few of my Christian school teachers.”
I have replied to your accusations many, many times that “I” do not disbelieve evolution up to Adam. Evolution is meaningless to eternity. It is liberal Christians that use evolution to dismantle the Bible. And, most Christians have just cause seeing how Richard Dawkins and his legions of college pals use evolution to deride and disprove the Bible. Ever heard of Daniel Dennett? http://ase.tufts.edu/cogstud/incbios/dennettd/dennettd.htm He is typical of college employees.
“I am surpised that you would prefer that teachers act like you think Dawkins does and say something that is untrue (evolution disproves Christianity if it is true), instead of actually teaching the science and not trying to overturn people’s faith. Very puzzling.”
You may want to do a bit of research on John Dewey (The Father of Modern Education) and his Huamsnist soldiers and see what has been going on in “education” for the last oh seven or eight decades Dan.
The single issue I have with BioLogos and their Christian fans, besides a woeful lack of evangelism, is that they are attacking Bible-believing Christians, while ignoring the demonic powers (and principalities) of secularists who are REALLY destroying people’s lives.
Ever read the historic reality of the New Testament?



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Mere_Christian

posted November 22, 2009 at 8:05 am


The evolution of ego:
http://the-brights.net/



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Knockgoats

posted November 22, 2009 at 9:23 am


college is well-stocked with liberal/humanist “teachers.” Our current state of religion on campus bearing witness of their personal influences. – Mere_Christian
That’s just because as people learn how to think critically, and learn more about the world, particularly science, they are less likely to believe in ridiculous fairy tales.



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Knockgoats

posted November 22, 2009 at 9:29 am


By the way, Mere_Christian, I am most insulted by this:
“the demonic powers (and principalities) of secularists who are REALLY destroying people’s lives”
I’ll have you know I was promoted to full demonic throne status last century, and while on my current special assignment, report directly to Beelzebub himself!



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Paul Burnett

posted November 22, 2009 at 9:37 am


“Mere_Christian” asked: “Ever read the historic reality of the New Testament?”
What does the purported historic reality of the New Testament have to do with the 2005 Dover Decision and the pseudoscience of intelligent design creationism? (Other than adding more nails to the coffin of intelligent design creationism being a religious belief system and not science.)
The New Testament as we know it today was written over a period of several centuries (along with many other works since set aside such as the Gnostic Gospels) and were mostly written in Greek – not the primary language Jesus or his apostles even spoke. The reality of the New Testament is based mostly on Christian apologetics rather than history.



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grammar checker

posted November 22, 2009 at 12:19 pm


Hey, its Helping People Learn to Read and used
check out these grammar software
Regards,



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Knockgoats

posted November 22, 2009 at 3:14 pm


There’s something almost sublime about spam for a grammar checker that contains at least 10 grammatical errors in four lines!



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Mere_Christian

posted November 22, 2009 at 4:28 pm


Knocky G,
I know.



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Knockgoats

posted November 22, 2009 at 4:54 pm


Merey C,
Sorry, I forgot just how stupid you are. I should have included “[joke]” at the end.



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Daniel Mann

posted November 22, 2009 at 5:19 pm


Dear Tes and CEs,
I would be more in sympathy with you if your argument was simply, “I am not happy with the extent of ID research and argumentation. I think they should be able to do a lot better.” This, of course, is reasonable, especially considering the fact that IDers are few in number and resources, and besides they have been barred from major universities and funding sources.
However, your disdain for ID goes far beyond my ability to comprehend, mainly because ID is a solidly Biblical concept as Paul asserted:
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:18-20; Psalm 19; Acts 14:17).
Instead of crying out to the world that the evidence of God is all around us and so obvious that we “are without excuse,” TEs and CEs deride this blatant God-given evidence and denigrate those who attempt to make this evidence known. This is what I find so utterly perplexing.



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Knockgoats

posted November 22, 2009 at 5:28 pm


Daniel Mann,
Where is this “blatant” evidence? When I asked you for some before, the best you could come up with was some nonsense from the Talmud, describing supposed omens centuries after they were alleged to have occurred. It was truly pitiable. The “TE”s you deride are most unlikely to convince me, but at least they do not appear laughably ignorant about science and history, as you do.



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pds

posted November 22, 2009 at 5:58 pm


Dan,
If you have done all that reading, then it is pretty sad that you resort to misinformation, straw man arguments and ad hominem arguments against fellow Christians. It doesn’t matter how much you read. It is what you understand. If you think ID is “only a supernatural hypothesis that is untestable,” you don’t understand it. We are talking about two different things. I enjoy dialogue with people who have a general understanding of ID.
Beaglelady,
I thought your question was rhetorical. Suggesting Michael Behe is somehow similar to a holocaust denier is offensive. It is a Richard Dawkins trick for which he was roundly criticized by people on both sides of the debate. It is certainly unseemly coming from a Christian.
Paul,
I find your comments sneering. I enjoy dialoguing with people who engage in respectful debate.



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Knockgoats

posted November 22, 2009 at 6:35 pm


pds,
You have failed to show any respect in which ID is more than an untestable supernatural hypothesis. Nor have any of its propagandists. In fact, Dan’s description is too generous: at the top level it is a scam, nothing more, and this is well-documented – see Paul Burnett’s link above. At your level, it is simply a parade of ignorance, as your absurd misunderstanding of the Cambrian explosion demonstrates.



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Dan

posted November 22, 2009 at 6:55 pm


PDS,
I can give you several examples of ID people admitting that ID is supernatural and does not make testable hypothesis. Read Behe’s testimony in the Dover Trial, watch Dembski saying that ID is just John‘s Logos Gospel restated, and read the Discovery Institutes Wedge Document (or read “Of Pandas and People). All these people admit that ID is supernaturally based.
I know many ID people do say that ID makes testable hypotheses, but that is simply untrue. The general argument seems to be that “if something is too complicated to be explained by modern science than it must be a miracle, and evidence for a designer.” I know that is an over-simplification, but in reality that is what it boils down too. The Discovery Institute has been claiming for years to be doing research to prove ID, but they still haven’t produced any results, shown any date for ID, or even said what their testable hypothesis is. They won’t even let non-ID scientists tour their intelligent design “lab.”
ID just tries to cast doubt on evolution, and seems to think that “evidence” against evolution is somehow evidence FOR ID. Even if evolution was completely discredited, that wouldn’t indicate that ID was true, only that evolution was discredited. ID isn’t science, Michael Behe admitted in the Dover trial that for ID to be considered science the current definition of science would have to be broadened until even astrology would be considered science (see the transcripts of the trial if you don’t believe me). Behe, who I feel is the most honest of the IDers, admitted that ID does not meet the definition of science.
Again, I do understand ID. I used arguments from Behe, Johnson, Dembski, Denton, and Wells in debates with evolutionists for years. When I actually studied ID I saw that in reality it doesn’t make a testable hypothesis and is based on supernatural intervention. It may or may not be true, but it isn’t science, it’s a religious philosophy with no evidence.



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Beaglelady

posted November 22, 2009 at 7:01 pm


I would be more in sympathy with you if your argument was simply, “I am not happy with the extent of ID research and argumentation. I think they should be able to do a lot better.” This, of course, is reasonable, especially considering the fact that IDers are few in number and resources, and besides they have been barred from major universities and funding sources.

Daniel, I have asked you over and over what kind of specifically ID-related research ID theorists are seeking funding for, since you always complain that they don’t get funding. Do you have any answers, or are you simply playing the victim card here?

However, your disdain for ID goes far beyond my ability to comprehend, mainly because ID is a solidly Biblical concept as Paul asserted:

Don’t spill the beans! Remember, ID theorists like to keep their religious agenda top secret.
And PDS, I never suggested that Michael Behe is somehow similar to a holocaust denier. Quite obviously, the point I was trying to make is that teaching all views just because some group likes them is not necessarily desirable. ID theorists should concentrate on doing research and convincing scientists first, instead of doing an end-run around the scientific process and going directly to high school boys and girls.



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Dan

posted November 22, 2009 at 7:37 pm


Daniel Mann,
You wrote, “However, your [TEs in general] disdain for ID goes far beyond my ability to comprehend, mainly because ID is a solidly Biblical concept as Paul asserted: (Romans 1:18-20; Psalm 19; Acts 14:17). Instead of crying out to the world that the evidence of God is all around us and so obvious that we “are without excuse,” TEs and CEs deride this blatant God-given evidence and denigrate those who attempt to make this evidence known. This is what I find so utterly perplexing.”
I, and most other theistic evolutionists, do believe in an intelligent designer. Just read what Francis Collins wrote about that in “The Language of God.” We are also creationists, in the literal sense of the word. The problem is that Christians with a particular anti-science theology have defined those words in a much different, narrower way than those terms imply on the surface.
Paul certainly does endorse the idea of intelligent design in a general sense, but not in any sense that is related to the term as used by the Discovery Institute. Paul certainly isn’t saying that what is not explained by current science is due to miraculous interventions into the laws of nature by some nebulous designer. Paul isn’t saying that evolution can’t explain the development of complex biomolecular systems.
The more I understand about the way nature works, whether through chemistry, evolution, neurology, or genetics (or the little I understand about particle physics and quantum mechanics) the more I believe that there must be some kind of creator or intelligent designer of the basic laws of nature. What is different between me and the ID proponents is that I don’t feel the need to try to prove God by placing his direct miraculous intervention into every interesting question in science. Or the need to try to disprove a particular scientific theory that is backed by overwhelming evidence because of my personal interpretation of the Bible (which I don’t believe was ever intended to teach science, or to be used to argue against a scientific theory).
I also freely admit that my belief in God based on the laws of nature is NOT scientific. It is philosophical and speculative. I don’t think that any scientific experiment will ever prove God exists (unlike what ID says). And I think that science is a fantastic way to learn about how God created and designed the universe, but again this is speculation. From what I understand Pascal (Christian philosopher and a brilliant scientist) to write, he seems to say that we can never prove with our heads that God exists. I tend to believe that. I see the weakness of ID as their believing that they can use a tool that can only look at natural laws (that I believe God set up) and try to use it to identify and prove the miraculous intervention of God into those laws.
If ID can form a testable hypothesis and generates positive research that backs up intelligent design (not just bash evolution), than I will be happy to accept it. But even so, if it was proved that that designer existed through these experiments (that the DI says they are conducting, but won’t talk about) it still wouldn’t prove that the God of the Bible existed. That why I don’t understand Christians putting so much faith in the ID movement. Even if they do generate some research, which seems doubtful (considering they can’t even tell us what testable hypothesis they have generated to begin testing) it wouldn’t help Christianity much at all. Especially since the majority of Christians accept the evidence for evolution anyways.
Anyways, I, and most other TE, certainly do believe in intelligent design in the way the verses you quoted talks about. We certainly don’t reject those verses. We just don’t feel the need to cry “miracle” every time an interesting question in science is brought up. I remember CS Lewis writing that the surest way to cheapen miracles was to say that they never happened, or to cry miracle at everything. That is exactly what I feel the ID crowd does. They cry miracle for everything unexplained, then when it is explained later if just cheapens the whole idea of a miracle anyways. Judging from the track record of the last several centuries, it is ALWAYS a bad idea to cry miracle for a question that science can directly test.



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Daniel Mann

posted November 22, 2009 at 8:00 pm


Knockgoats and other ID skeptics,
We are surrounded by examples of intelligent design in whichever direction we look. I will not torment you with the many examples of the fine-tuning of the universe, of which I’m sure you are already painfully aware and which drive you to postulate highly imaginative solutions such as an infinite number of universes in order to account for it. Nor will I tell you about the wonderful associations I find between my conscience and the salutary direction its promptings lead me to take, lest you ascribe it once again to natural selection.
Nor will I mention the informational DNA system and the inability of evolution to even whisper a theory regarding its origin. Nor will I be so cruel as to challenge you about the origin of life and the cell, when I know it will only promote feverish, ill-conceived theories. Nor will I even suggest you consider consciousness and freewill, lest this forces you to resort to the ultimate faith-answer: “Naturalism might not have an explanation now, but this doesn’t mean that we won’t have one later!”
Nor will I be so indelicate as to raise the matter of the elegance of our equations which express the operations of the physical laws. (Indeed, there isn’t a law, formula, or equation that doesn’t carry His fingerprints!) For instance, my gullible unscientific mind was so impressed by the beautiful and simple formula for gravity: Gravitational Attraction = 1/ (distance separation between two bodies)². Why must it be exactly squared? Why couldn’t it have been 1.999 or 2.0001 instead? Why soooo elegant? Can you answer this? Does natural selection have anything to say about this? Can it explain why these laws are unchanging in the midst of a changing, expanding universe? Can it explain from where our tools of reason of and logic came or how they correspond so wonderfully and unchangeably to the challenges of life? Could all of this originated from an explosion, the big bang?
And E = MC²? Again the elegance! But also the incredible coordination and harmony among energy and matter! Light, energy and mass all intimately related! And then there is the chemical periodic table which reflects so poignantly the order we find among the elements. Can you account for this elegant design? Even musical notes are related so precisely and mathematically. Not only that, but our ears and tastes also resonate to their precise relationships.
Have you considered the perfect size relationship between our moon and sun and their relative distances from the earth, enabling us to see perfect eclipses of the sun? Have you considered the fortuitous properties of water causing it to expand at 33 degrees so that ice doesn’t sink and kill our aquatic life?
However, I’m not doing justice to ID by merely pointing to particular instances of intelligent design. Rather, it seems that everything reflects harmony and beauty. The very fact that we can so meaningfully and constructively contemplate these lofty issues with a grey sponge we call “brain,” also points us to the bewildering correspondence between our minds and the world. And now we are being told that even “chaotic” arrangements evince their own fractal designs. It leads us to wonder whether everything is the product of intelligent design. Indeed, “The earth is filled with His glory!”
This brings us back to the question of natural selection, which can’t even begin to explain the phenomena of design outside of biology. If it fails to enlighten us regarding life, DNA, freewill, consciousness, fine-tuning, and the origin and the perpetuation of the laws of nature, perhaps science is best advised to look for another mechanism that can parsimoniously explain ALL, even biological diversity!



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Beaglelady

posted November 22, 2009 at 9:17 pm


This brings us back to the question of natural selection, which can’t even begin to explain the phenomena of design outside of biology. If it fails to enlighten us regarding life, DNA, freewill, consciousness, fine-tuning, and the origin and the perpetuation of the laws of nature, perhaps science is best advised to look for another mechanism that can parsimoniously explain ALL, even biological diversity!

Daniel,
Evolution, which includes natural selection, explains the diversity we see in living organisms. That’s about it, as far as I know.(Still, I might add, the sciences are integrated.) You seem to be wandering all over the place, so it’s helpful to define what we mean. When I speak of Intelligent Design or ID (note the capital letters), I am referring to the movement associated with Dr. Behe, Dr. Dembski and others associated with the Discovery Institute, and their ideals about irreducible complexity, etc.
And I’d still like to know what sort of research, if any, they are seeking funding for. I’m curious as to what ID research looks like. Why can’t you answer me?
Anyway, Dan is right, intelligent design (small letters) is purely philosophical. You can’t stuff God into a test tube and we aren’t interested in trying. (And even less interested in slipping it into high school science classes.)



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Dan

posted November 22, 2009 at 9:58 pm


Daniel Mann,
You seem to think that evolution is not parsimonious because it can’t explain everything in science. Neither can germ theory, or genetics, or organic chemistry, or geology. Does that also mean that those areas of study should be rejected? No one has ever said that natural selection explains everything. There is overwhelming evidence for it as a biological explanation. Just because a theory is not the “theory of everything” doesn’t mean that it is wrong.
An equation being something squared (instead of to a power 1.99 or 2.01) does not indicate that god exists. This is the biggest jump I have ever seen. So if we used a base 8 system would that have been evidence against ID, since the equation wouldn’t be to the 2nd power anymore? I hope that shows you how silly of an example that is. Many constants in mathematics, chemistry, and physics are not “elegantly” simple (like the Rydberg constant, Avogadro’s number, pi, or the Plank constant). If an atheist used these numbers not being “elegant” as an argument against god I am sure you would make fun of him. A number or equation being “elegant” is just a function of our numbering system and the human brains tendency to seek patterns.
Just so you know, many theistic evolutionists, like Francis Collins, do use the fine tuning argument, so your criticism just shows you haven’t read much by theistic evolutionists. Biologos even uses this argument in their answers section! I personally think it is a very poor argument for God’s existence, and don’t use it in debates with atheists, but many, if not most, of theistic evolutionists disagree with me. And of course natural selection doesn’t explain gravitational physics. Why would it? Only a very scientifically ignorant person would think it should, so I’m not sure whose opinion you are trying to challenge with that example.
You wrote “Nor will I mention the informational DNA system and the inability of evolution to even whisper a theory regarding its origin.” Biological evolution can’t explain this, this is an astrobiology question (as we have pointed out repeatedly to you). I have given you a reference to an article in Scientific American several times that that certainly “whispers a theory” on how DNA came to be. You continue to refuse to read it, and then use your ignorance of DNA as an argument against evolution! Evolution does have hundred of research papers that show how evolution can build new genes and traits, and increase genetic information, as I demonstrated when I posted those references for you in the other thread.
You wrote “Can it [natural selection] explain from where our tools of reason of and logic came or how they correspond so wonderfully and unchangeably to the challenges of life?” Absolutely it can. Reason and logic have perfectly logical scientific explanations. This is an exploding are of research right now. You can read Stephen Pinker’s books for some interesting, if somewhat speculative, ideas on this. The main criticism of evolutionary psychology is that it is TOO easy to come up with evolutionary explanation for our human tendencies.
The very fact that we find something beautiful being an evidence against evolution is just silly. Colleges teach whole classes on aesthetics, with a heavy emphasis on evolutionary explanations.
You wrote “[Natural selection] fails to enlighten us regarding life, DNA, freewill, consciousness, fine-tuning, and the origin and the perpetuation of the laws of nature, perhaps science is best advised to look for another mechanism that can parsimoniously explain ALL, even biological diversity!”
Algebra also can’t explain the origins of life, DNA, or consciousness. Do you think that means we should throw out algebra too? I can see it now, Daniel Mann says “2×2=4 can’t explain everything in the universe, therefore 2×2 no longer equals 4, throw it out, let’s look for something more parsimonious!” That would be just as logical as your statement. The idea of trophic levels doesn’t explain particle physics, should we discard trophic levels? Neural synapse theory can’t explain why grass is green, do you think that means we should throw out the idea of how neurons operate? If scientists only accepted a theory that could explain everything, we would have zero explanatory theories until the elusive (and perhaps impossible) “theory of everything” in physics is found. How would you propose physics, or medicine, or agriculture, or organic chemistry, or geology operate in the meantime?
You have made numerous other scientific and logical errors in your post, but I hope my few examples have shown that you are very mistaken. I especially found it ironic that you chastise us with the fine tuning argument even though Dr. Collins and the Biologos site also use this argument!
Again, all us theistic evolutionists DO believe in intelligent design, and ARE creationists. We just don’t agree with the anti-scientific connotations that these terms have taken on when they have been redefined by anti-science fundamentalists. I do believe that the universe points towards God’s existence (points, certainly not proves, and that is pure speculation, not based on science), but that is very different from believing that every gap in our knowledge implies a supernatural miracle. Again, it’s like you don’t see the difference between methodological and philosophical naturalism. Did you read the reference I gave you that explained the difference? Because you still seem confused.



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Larry

posted November 22, 2009 at 11:26 pm


So if we used a base 8 system would that have been evidence against ID, since the equation wouldn’t be to the 2nd power anymore?
Of course it would be, you must be a biologist.



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Dan

posted November 23, 2009 at 12:33 am


Larry,
Thanks for the correction. I was writing and not thinking real hard on that, and made a stupid error. Math isn’t my stongest subject, thats for sure. I guess I should have taken that computer programing class!
The point I was trying to make was that their isn’t anything amazing about an equation being to the second power exactly. Anyways, thanks agin.



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Unapologetic Catholic

posted November 23, 2009 at 1:56 am


A question is pending to you PDS.
You’ve dodged it several months now.
I’ll keep asking it.
Here it is again:
“What creationist website is your source for the Gould misquote?”



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Daniel Mann

posted November 23, 2009 at 6:46 am


You entirely baffle me when you charge that I am denying math and science in the process of affirming ID. Instead, I’m denying naturalism, and not methods!! Apart from the fact that there are so many phenomena naturalism can’t even begin to explain, there is not one shred of evidence for naturalism, Darwinian or otherwise. Although we all agree that phenomena result formulaicly and predictably, the laws are more likely intelligent than non-intelligent, coordinated and unified within the Mind of God (which would explain their harmony, elegance, and immutability) than independent.
As such, naturalism is a pathetic, baseless philosophy which would have no standing at all apart for our all too human antipathy to God (Romans 8:7; 5:8-10; 1:18-20).



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Knockgoats

posted November 23, 2009 at 7:16 am


Daniel Mann,
Dan and Beaglelady have dealt well with most of your ramblings, I’ll just pick up a couple of points where I have something specific to say. Dan is right that the fine-tuning argument is not a good one, nor need one resort to speculations about multiple universes to counter it. I’ve actually discussed this before here, I can’t be bothered to go through the arguments again, so I’ll just refer you here . I don’t suppose you’ll read it, given your past record, and if you do, I’m sure you’ll manage to misunderstand it.
For instance, my gullible unscientific mind was so impressed by the beautiful and simple formula for gravity: Gravitational Attraction = 1/ (distance separation between two bodies)².
You’ve proved your gullibility over and over again – there’s no need to harp on it. The “coincidence” of gravitational attraction falling off with the square of the distance – well really. In fact, it does not do so exactly, I believe, because of the complications dealt with by the theory of general relativity; but the very close approximation is simply due to the fact that we live in a three-dimensional space. Light behaves in the same way, because the same amount of light has to spread out to cover more area – and the area it must cover is proportional to the square of the distance from the source. As Dan pointed out, many constants do not have this kind of neat value – so according to your way of thinking, they must be evidence that God does not exist – or is a bit of a klutz.
Nor will I be so cruel as to challenge you about the origin of life and the cell, when I know it will only promote feverish, ill-conceived theories.Nor will I even suggest you consider consciousness and freewill, lest this forces you to resort to the ultimate faith-answer: “Naturalism might not have an explanation now, but this doesn’t mean that we won’t have one later!”
On the contrary, in broad terms these problems are solved. Read Consciousness Explained and Freedom Evolves by Daniel Dennett. (I know you haven’t, and won’t.)
Have you considered the perfect size relationship between our moon and sun and their relative distances from the earth, enabling us to see perfect eclipses of the sun?
I have to ask: are you really being serious here?
Rather, it seems that everything reflects harmony and beauty.
Oh yeah? Tell that to someone whose child was born with harlequin syndrome, or sees their spouse losing their personality or becoming violent as they fade into dementia, or hears them groaning in agony under the rubble left by an earthquake and cannot reach them. Tell it to someone pulling a guinea-worm out of their leg, inch by inch over weeks. Tell it to someone dying of rabies.



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Knockgoats

posted November 23, 2009 at 7:21 am


Sorry – reposting with correct italicisation.
Daniel Mann,
Dan and Beaglelady have dealt well with most of your ramblings, I’ll just pick up a couple of points where I have something specific to say. Dan is right that the fine-tuning argument is not a good one, nor need one resort to speculations about multiple universes to counter it. I’ve actually discussed this before here, I can’t be bothered to go through the arguments again, so I’ll just refer you here . I don’t suppose you’ll read it, given your past record, and if you do, I’m sure you’ll manage to misunderstand it.
For instance, my gullible unscientific mind was so impressed by the beautiful and simple formula for gravity: Gravitational Attraction = 1/ (distance separation between two bodies)².
You’ve proved your gullibility over and over again – there’s no need to harp on it. The “coincidence” of gravitational attraction falling off with the square of the distance – well really. In fact, it does not do so exactly, I believe, because of the complications dealt with by the theory of general relativity; but the very close approximation is simply due to the fact that we live in a three-dimensional space. Light behaves in the same way, because the same amount of light has to spread out to cover more area – and the area it must cover is proportional to the square of the distance from the source. As Dan pointed out, many constants do not have this kind of neat value – so according to your way of thinking, they must be evidence that God does not exist – or is a bit of a klutz.
Nor will I be so cruel as to challenge you about the origin of life and the cell, when I know it will only promote feverish, ill-conceived theories.
What reading have you done in this area, Daniel? I mean, of refereed journal articles where science is done, not in the scrawlings of IDiots. Some of the latter already have their fall-back position prepared for when life is produced from lifeless matter in the lab: “Well, that proves it needs intelligence!” In other words, they are utterly immune to evidence, and are arguing in bad faith.
Nor will I even suggest you consider consciousness and freewill, lest this forces you to resort to the ultimate faith-answer: “Naturalism might not have an explanation now, but this doesn’t mean that we won’t have one later!”
On the contrary, in broad terms these problems are solved. Read Consciousness Explained and Freedom Evolves by Daniel Dennett. (I know you haven’t, and won’t.)
Have you considered the perfect size relationship between our moon and sun and their relative distances from the earth, enabling us to see perfect eclipses of the sun?
I have to ask: are you really being serious here?
Rather, it seems that everything reflects harmony and beauty.
Oh yeah? Tell that to someone whose child was born with harlequin syndrome, or sees their spouse losing their personality or becoming violent as they fade into dementia, or hears them groaning in agony under the rubble left by an earthquake and cannot reach them. Tell it to someone pulling a guinea-worm out of their leg, inch by inch over weeks. Tell it to someone dying of rabies.



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Daniel Mann

posted November 23, 2009 at 9:36 am


What I am saying is really quite simple. But just in case it isn’t, let me just break it down further:
What makes more sense –
1. That everything – order, beauty, elegance – came uncaused out of nothing, or is there an eternal uncaused Causer?
2. That the fine-tuning of the universe is a product of chaos or intelligence?
3. That life just happened with all its glorious and necessary parts, or that it was the product of design are any computers or Boeing 747? That our over 3 Billion bits of DNA information and the thousands of cellular machines necessary to support life just happened, or are they the product of design?
4. That all the laws of physics – elegant, immutable, and harmonious – just strange into existence from nothing, supported by nothing, or that an incredible force or intelligence is sustaining them?
5. That consciousness is just an accident of the chance association of billions of molecules, or evidence of Transcendence?
6. That freewill doesn’t exist because naturalism has no room for it, or that we are a miraculous creation in the image of a loving God?
To the discerning, your resort to personal insults in order to make your case, merely exhibits the poverty and desperation of your case and the perversion of your God-given moral sense. May He bless you by opening your eyes (2 Tim. 2:24-26).



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Knockgoats

posted November 23, 2009 at 10:07 am


Daniel Mann,
Since you evidently have not considered any of the arguments I and others have made against your claims, it is clearly a waste of time to respond to your distortions at any length. I note that most of your points are false dichotomies: there are further alternatives to the two possibilities you give. Since many of these have already been pointed out to you, I can only assume you are being deliberately obtuse in ignoring them.
1) The universe may have emerged from some sort of non-intelligent “multiverse”. This could in fact be your “eternal, uncaused creator”. At the current state of knowledge, I would simply say we don’t know how the universe came into existence.
2) The claim that the universe is fine-tuned has not been established. Have you read the article I linked to (I already know you haven’t).
3) Life neither “just happened”, nor is it the product of design, but of natural selection and other natural evolutionary processes.
4) If an “incredible force or intelligence” is sustaining the laws of physics, what is sustaining the “incredible force or intelligence”. If you answer that it is self-sustaining, why could this not be true of the laws of physics?
5) Consciousness evolved because it is useful in some environments. Once again, natural selection is not sheer chance. Got it yet?
6) Naturalism does not rule out free will.
Your every comment is an insult to anyone who cares about intellectual honesty. I will not treat you with a respect you have not earned.



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Beaglelady

posted November 23, 2009 at 10:23 am


David Opderbeck,
I think that Judge Jones really had to come up with a professional, working definition of science in order to determine whether teaching ID had a valid secular purpose. The school board mandated that their statement be read in biology classes, so the court needed some practical way to determine whether or not ID really is science. Teaching ID as part of a philosophy or comparative religions class would probably not have caused a problem.



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Daniel Mann

posted November 23, 2009 at 10:56 am


Since you accuse me of not responding, let me try to correct myself:
1) The universe may have emerged from some sort of non-intelligent “multiverse”. This could in fact be your “eternal, uncaused creator”. At the current state of knowledge, I would simply say we don’t know how the universe came into existence.
NO EVIDENCE FOR EVEN A SECOND UNIVERSE! AN ETERNITY OF PAST TIME IS AN INCOHERENT CONCEPT. BESIDES, HAVEN’T YOU HEARD OF THE BIG-BANG?
2) The claim that the universe is fine-tuned has not been established. Have you read the article I linked to (I already know you haven’t).
EVEN ATHEISTS ACKNOWLEDGE THAT IT IS INCREDIBLY FINE-TUNED. THAT’S WHY THEY RESORT TO SUCH A LEAP OF FAITH TO POSIT AN INFINITE NUMBER OF UNIVERSES.
3) Life neither “just happened”, nor is it the product of design, but of natural selection and other natural evolutionary processes.
NATURAL SELECTION AND RANDOM MUTATION CAN’T WORK WITHOUT LIFE.
4) If an “incredible force or intelligence” is sustaining the laws of physics, what is sustaining the “incredible force or intelligence”. If you answer that it is self-sustaining, why could this not be true of the laws of physics?
PHENOMENA IN THIS WORLD AREN’T SELF-SUSTAINING! JUST LOOK AROUND!
5) Consciousness evolved because it is useful in some environments. Once again, natural selection is not sheer chance. Got it yet?
NICE MIND-NUMBING ANSWER! IT WOULD BE EASIER TO ASSERT THAT THE SPACE-SHUTTLE JUST EVOLVED!
6) Naturalism does not rule out free will.
HOW SO?



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Knockgoats

posted November 23, 2009 at 11:21 am


Daniel Mann,
Do you really think that putting your answers in ALL CAPS makes them true?
1)Since you talk about an “eternal uncaused creator”, it’s pretty rich to then say that “an eternity of past time is an incoherent concept” – which, of course, it is not. If you say that “eternal” does not mean “an eternity of past time”, then any other concept of “eternal” could equally apply to an unthinking reality as to an intelligent one.
2)Some atheists may think so; I don’t, nor does the author of the article I linked to, and he explains why. Why don’t you read it?
3)you are coreect that natural selection requires at least something quite lifelike: I took it that by “life” you meant “life as it is today”. Contrary to what you evidently believe, research in this area is making rapid progress. I have already asked you – but in your usual cowardly fashion you have not replied – what you have read about the research into the origins of life. I also referred in another thread to a recent New Scientist article on the subject. Of course, you won’t read it, because your method of defending your views is equivalent to sticking your fingers in your ears and singing “La la la, can’t hear you!”.
4)That the parts are not self-sustaining does not imply that the whole is not. The fact that your limbs, head, stomach etc. could not continue to live on their own in your normal environment does not mean that you cannot do so. Get the point?
5) I see you have no argument here. Nothing to respond to.
6) For a detailed answer, see the book by Dennett I referred to. In brief, those who claim that the two are incompatible contend that there must be some special feature of human beings (a “soul”) that gives them “free will” – but no coherent account of what this feature is has ever been given. However, let’s suppose for a minute that it has. Now, would anyone with a “soul” be judged to be exercising free will under all circumstances? What about someone who is demented – who no longer knows who they are, or what they are doing? Or someone who – say – kills their wife while sleepwalking? (A man who did that has just been acquitted in the UK). Or a paranoid schizophrenic who believes the person he stabs is a demon? Or someone given a powerful frug without their knowledge? Or a newborn baby? Clearly, we make a distinction between the acts of a mentally sound adult in a normal state of awareness, and these other cases. We also recognise intermediate cases, where some degree of responsibility attaches to a person’s acts, but they are held to have “diminished responsibility”, in a UK legal phrase. So in practice, we recognise that free will is not an all-or-nothing matter, and that acting with free will requires various conditions to be met which have nothing to do with whether or not we possess “souls”. Therefore, if we assume that we don’t have souls, our judgements about whether or not someone is acting with freewill in a particular case are completely unaffected.



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Knockgoats

posted November 23, 2009 at 11:29 am


In my last, “powerful frug” should be “powerful drug”!



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Daniel Mann

posted November 23, 2009 at 12:25 pm


Knockgoats,
You continue to try to justify naturalism although you have failed to even give me one piece of evidence that there even exists such a thing as a natural law or force.
Perhaps more importantly, you continue to write in ways that are morally unacceptable. Since I don’t want to encourage your abuse, I must ask you to apologize. If you fail to do so, I won’t even bother reading your responses. Fair?



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Knockgoats

posted November 23, 2009 at 12:39 pm


Daniel Mann,
Whether you read my responses is entirely up to you. Since you never answer in ways that contribute anything of use to the discussion, it is a matter of complete indifference to me.
If you don’t believe in forces, I suggest you jump off the top of a high building. After all, if there’s no force of gravity, you’ll be just fine, won’t you?



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#John1453

posted November 30, 2009 at 11:50 am


It was pretty evident to me that the use of ALL CAPS by Mann was to distinguish his responses from the text of the emails that he was quoting.
It is a well known and accepted philosphical problem that an infinitely past beginning is, if not incoherent, a very difficult proposition to defend. There isn’t any fully successful defence of that proposition, and the proposition of a finitely past beginning to the universe is far more defensible.
There are a number of “just so” stories about the evolution of consciousness, but none that actually explain the how. Indeed, scientists still disagree about what consciousness is, or even if it exists (as popularly understood).
Anyway, these things are getting us quite a bit off topic.
regards,
#John



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