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December 23, 2005

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» The Court's Contempt from Cross-Currents
Prof. Albert Alschuler of the University of Chicago is blogging his reactions to the ID decision (as noted by Michael Hobson)... Read more here and here. [Read More]

» http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2005/12/the_dover_court.html from The Panda's Thumb
Albert Alschuler wrote: The Dover court is wrong, however, when it says that anything that implicates religion also endorses it. Alschuler is talking about a part of the endorsement analysis presented by Judge Jones where J... [Read More]

» Alschuler's confusions from The Panda's Thumb
Albert Alschuler wrote: The Dover court is wrong, however, when it says that anything that implicates religion also endorses it. Alschuler is talking about a part of the endorsement analysis presented by Judge Jones where J... [Read More]

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Roach

Good post. Setting aside the question of whether courts should be making these kinds of decisions at all, we should consider to what extent the "science" of evolution is not nearly so well grounded as the experimental sciences.

Schools would be well served to use the debate on creationism and evolution to distinguish science from religion and philosophy, as well as to distinguish different branches of philosophy. The hardest of the hard sciences, such as physics and chemistry, proceed through experimentation. X will or won't happen. And it will or won't happen regularly and predictably. Saying these things with greater clarity and precision does not strictly speaking answer the bigger questions of these events' significance. To use Aristotelian language, physics (and science generally) can explain efficient causes but not final causes.

In addition, the taxonomic or historical methods of biology are distinct from physics and chemistry. When the biologist finds fossils and tries to explain their significance and relationships, his methods are not so different from those of a historian or anthropologist. His activity is inductive and imaginitive. The presence of these historical and descriptive methods in what is ordinarily thought of as the experimental world of falsifiable hypothese would be a useful clarification of why such biological inquiry should not and cannot claim the same pedigree as, for example, formulae that show the effects of gravity or radiation. Competing, defensible explanations may emerge from the same facts. And those facts cannot be proven or disproven through experiments; they can merely be known as more or less supported by the evidence.

As it stands, not science but a rationalistic and near religious faith in science--scientism, if you will--makes unsupported claims about what science can reliably tell us regarding the origins of man and the universe that alienate religous people, who would otherwise be open to its message. Far from encouraging superstition and obscurantism, a science curriculum that acknowledged its well-known limitations--limitations essential to its circumscribed methods and subject matter--would find a more receptive audience and a happier coexistence with all Americans. Instead archaic religious views confronts an equally archaic and quaint scientism, which would be more at home among the encyclopedists than it would be with any thoughtful scientist. Perhaps a starting point for this discussion would be the frank acknowledgement that the scientific method finds its cultural origins in the Christian worldview, which describes an orderly universe created and set in motion predictably for our benefit by God.

I'm personally ambivalent about intelligent design; I think that the universe was set in motion by God according to natural laws and the interaction of those laws is itself miraculous and does not reqluire the postulation of some divine intervention at any particular point in the unfolding of those structures. But I'm certainly not willing to dismiss out of hand the arguments of those that say otherwise, so long as they're supported by evidence.

What is truly impoverished is any education in science that does not focus on the limitations of scientific knowledge and its own grounding in implicit and explicit foundations in philosophy and metaphysics, themselves areas highly intertwined with theology.

Sergio

How do you know that our design is intelligent? Seeing ourselves as complex creatures doesn't mean we are intelligently designed. Evolutionary biologist have pointed out many evitable flaws which if our design was intelligent shouldn't be there (i.e. using the same conduct to breath and eat: placing the breathing device in the lower neck would easily prevent us from choking). Science must be rigorous while attempting to give explanations, intelligent design doesn't seem to pass that cut.

Dennis J. Tuchler

Don't adenoids and wisdom teeth provide amunition against ID?

The Law Fairy

Dennis -- we also used to think tonsils served no purpose. Just because we don't understand why something is there, doesn't mean it has no reason to be there.

Kaiser Soze

Sergio:

If I create a computer program with some bugs in it will you reject the possibility that the program was designed?

Just because something has a flaw doesn't discount the possibility of it being the product of design. ID doesn't make a theological claim about the nature and talents of the design mechanism, it is the opponents of ID who do that. They insist that if the designer can indeed design and build life forms then any seeming flaws in the life forms precludes the possibility of a designer. That is a theological argument against the preceived "perfection" of the designer. ID makes no such theological argument.

That fact of the matter is that the opponents of ID come in two basic categories. Those that oppose it for personal and philosophical reasons and those who oppose it for scientific reasons.

Most people who oppose it do so because they believe it has no scientific credibility. They are the ones who have never studied in-depth the ID literature. If they had done so, then no intelligent person could argue against ID on the basis of it having no scientific credibility. The other type of person may or may not have studied in-depth the ID literature, either way it doesn't matter because they have a personal or philosophical agenda which is a stake in the debate. No amount of argument and reason will change their position because they have an agenda. It's like a lawyer who defends someone whom he knows is guilty. Nevetheless he will defend the client to the best of his ability because he has an agenda e.g his reputation as a good lawyer.

James

While the boundaries of science are hazy, some things are clearly not science. The problem with ID is that it conflates the following:

1. Criticism of Darwinism. Good-faith criticism of any theory should be welcome. The qualifier "good-faith" is significant, because we teach Newtonian physics in high school though we know it to be inexact. The ID crowd doesn't lobby to put stickers on physics books reminding everyone that Newtonian physics is "wrong." Nevertheless, no reasonable person thinks that any scientific theory should be taught dogmatically.

2. The retreat to supernatural explanations for observed phenomena. This, it seems to me, is the opposite of science. Not only is it unproductive (no predictive power), it casts attention in the wrong direction. It was when we abandoned "whim of the gods" as an explanation for everything around us that we began to make scientific progress. People feel strongly about this issue not only for 1st Amendment reasons, but because we fear that ID is a regression away from the scientific approach that has served us so well.

Kaiser Soze

James; a rebuttal.

1. Evolution is presented in schools as de facto absolute truth. Any problems are explained away with the caveat "We know evolution is true, but we haven't been able to figure it out yet". Is that good faith science? I see a double standard. If the study of the question of the origin or mechanism which leads to the diversification of species leads us into the realm of mathematical probablity concepts which points towards the necessity of an intelligent design mechanism working in nature, then it would be bad faith to disallow that mathematical conclusion because it points towards a conclusion which some people feel uncomfortable with.

2. ID is not a supernatural explanation. It is a question of logic and probability. The intelligent design mechanism may be natural or it may be supernatural, what is unavoidable is the fact that some type of intelligent design mechanism is in fact needed to explain how biological systems have come to exist in the way in which they exist. It is the mathematical probability that ID is true i.e that evolution is based on mathematical probabilities which are so astronomical that they are not acceptable, and that the nature of biological systems is that they are based upon millions of cases of specified complexity which makes evolution completely untenable. Simply stated there is no mathematical support for any other argument other then ID when it comes to biology. Also the fossil record conclusively rejects any kind of evolutionary paradigm because there is absolutely no trace of evolution in the fossil record. Ultimately science must win, but evolution is not science, it is faith that no other solution is possible.

From Dr. Emile Borel, who discovered the laws of probability:

"The occurrence of any event where the chances are beyond one in ten followed by 50 zeros is an event which we can state with certainty will never happen, no matter how much time is allotted and no matter how many conceivable opportunities could exist for the event to take place."

From Professor Harold Morowitz:

"The probability for the chance of formation of the smallest, simplest form of living organism known is 1 to 10-340,000,000. This number is 1 to 10 to the 340 millionth power! The size of this figure is truly staggering, since there is only supposed to be approximately 10-80 (10 to the 80th power) electrons in the whole universe!"

From: I.L Cohen, Darwin Was Wrong - A Study in Probabilities , Member of the New York Academy of Sciences and Officer of the Archaeological Institute of America

From http://www.geraldschroeder.com/evolution.html

"Proteins are coils of several hundred amino acids. Take a typical protein to be a chain of 300 amino acids. There are 20 commonly occurring amino acids in life. This means that the number of possible combinations of the amino acids in our model protein is 20 to the power of 300 (that is 20 multiplied by itself 300 times) or in the more usual ten-based system of numbers, 10 to the power of 390 ( Ten multipled by itself 390 times or more simply said a one with 390 zeroes after it!!!!!) . Nature has the option of choosing among the possible 10 to the power of 390 proteins, the the 1.5 x (10 to power of 12) proteins of which all viable life is composed. Can this have happened by random mutations of the genome? Not if our understanding of statistics is correct. It would be as if nature reached into a grab bag containing a billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion proteins and pulled out the one that worked and then repeated this trick a million million times."


"Any suppression which undermines and destroys that very foundation on which scientific methodology and research was erected, evolutionist or otherwise, cannot and must not be allowed to flourish ... It is a confrontation between scientific objectivity and ingrained prejudice - between logic and emotion - between fact and fiction ... In the final analysis, objective scientific logic has to prevail - no matter what the final result is - no matter how many time-honored idols have to be discarded in the process ... After all, it is not the duty of science to defend the theory of evolution and stick by it to the bitter end -no matter what illogical and unsupported conclusions it offers ... If in the process of impartial scientific logic, they find that creation by outside intelligence is the solution to our quandary, then let's cut the umbilical chord that tied us down to Darwin for such a long time. It is choking us and holding us back ... Every single concept advanced by the theory of evolution (and amended thereafter) is imaginary as it is not supported by the scientifically established probability concepts. Darwin was wrong... The theory of evolution may be the worst mistake made in science"

Kaiser Soze

I made an error. The last quote was supposed to follow Professor Harold Morowitz's quote.

"Q" the Enchanter

A bona fide scientific response to Darwinism wouldn't "implicate" religion in the relevant way.

Finding the precise criteria demarcating "science" from "nonscience" has proven devilishly difficult. But please let's not pretend ID is an intersticial case. Or if we need to pretend, at least let's stipulate (as Behe did) that astrology is also an intersticial case.

Milk for Free

Indeed most life on earth is so complex as to suggest that it was designed. This isn't because it actually was designed, but because our definition of design - broadly, symmetry and function - does not allow life to be otherwise. Species poorly suited to their environments don't survive long enough there for us to find them and point to them as examples of really dumb, or random design. Everything seems perfectly designed for its niche because all the species that weren't are extinct.

The anthropic principle in physics is a good example of this same error. Isn't it miraculous that we live on a planet with an orbit that allows for liquid water, with a molten metal core whose magnetic field protects us from solar flares, far enough away from an asteroid belt that we aren't constantly being incinerated by impacting cosmic debris? Well, no - Earth's habitability in that sense is a prerequisite for our wondering how neat it is that everything seems to fit perfectly in place.

Why is it that people believe that an omnipotent invisible man wiggled his nose and brought us all into existence, but included only such mysteries as could easily be explained as the result of a process of fitness-guided mutations? If you really want me to believe in intelligent design, show me something amazingly improbably and completely orthogonal to an organism's evolutionary fitness. How about a bacterium that, when cultured, grows into an exact representation of the Torah? Or a reindeer that shits Hummel figurines? If your definition of design is merely that an organism functions well enough to have survived to be examined, I'm afraid that's a mite too circular for me, and I'm frankly embarrassed that the law faculty at such a prestigious institution would take a stance on such an issue without availing themselves of, say, any coursework about biology.

vkrishna

It is often said that a little knowledge is sometimes a dangerous thing. This post of Prof Altschuler's is an excellent demonstration of the truth in this saying.

Prof Altschuler states:
"The claim of a distinctive “scientific method” is as conceited as my own profession’s claim of a distinctive method of “legal” reasoning."

There is a distinct difference between the scientific method and the legal profession's methods of "legal reasoning". The scientific method is subject to experimental verification. In other words, the consequences of one's hypotheses can be quantitatively and experimentally measured to be true or not. This is not true of any legal reasoning. Two legal scholars can hold opposing views on a given topic and can never be proven right or wrong in either sense. If this statement were true for scientific work, Prof Altschuler would not have access to the technology which enables him to write these posts. This does not mean that every paper or scrap of research done is of this nature. Science proceeds by a process of trial and error, where ideas are proposed, conclusions are drawn from these ideas and the conclusions are compared with observation. If the conclusions are wrong, a new idea is proposed and so on, until a comprehensive understanding of existing evidence regarding phenomena is reached.

"New data never require the abandonment of a particular belief when we are willing to sacrifice other beliefs. In that sense, no scientific proposition is ever falsifiable."

This is plain wrong. Reasonable theoretical explanations make detailed and clear quantitative predictions about aspects of physical phenomena. Experimental work similarly generates data at similar or greater levels of detail-and these data typically reduce the number of possible explanations, until only one remains. This sort of postmodern reasoning (every point of view is correct if interpreted in the appropriate manner) has no place in scientific work. A statement of this kind can only be made by someone who has no real familiarity with how science is done.

"In practice, scientists do not abandon a paradigm whenever any contradictory evidence appears. Nowhere is the weakness of the Popperian model more evident than in evolutionary biology, the land of the “just so” story."

Umm, if the evidence completely contradicts the existing paradigm, scientists do move away from it. The fact is that oftentimes, the recognition that a particular paradigm is unsatisfactory precedes the creation of a new one by a gap in time. This is because new workable paradigms take time to be created. This is what happened with the creation of both quantum mechanics and relativity in Physics. The problems with existing paradigms began to be recognized in the 1880s' and were confirmed by *experimental* work of Michelson and Morley, until Einstein came up with relativity in 1905. With quantum theory, a recognition of the limitedness of the Newtonian paradigm began with Planck's work in 1900, and it was only in 1928-32 that quantum mechanics was created to solve these issues. Similar is the case with Darwin and Wallace's theory of Evolution which replaced previous Lamarckian and other ideas regarding evolution.

Finally, I must mentioned that no paradigm which successfully explains a certain set of phenomena is completely abandoned. It is rather subsumed into a more comprehensive theory. An example is Newtonian mechanics. For most everyday phenomena Newton's laws are correct and explain them very well. At the same time, they can be shown to be
a special case (and an approximation) to more general quantum mechanical laws.

"Nowhere is the weakness of the Popperian model more evident than in evolutionary biology, the land of the “just so” story.
&
"Show a Darwinist an anomaly, and he will devise a story that fits it to his theory. As long as he can do that, the theory of natural selection cannot be falsified. New bits of evidence can merely shift the plausibility of this theory in one direction or the other."

This is an extreme claim, with little backing. I am sure, Prof Altschuler being the distinguished lawyer that he is, is competent to judge the validity of a scientific theory without knowing very much about it. Perhaps he can make a similar judgement about the celebrated experiments of a certain monk named Gregor Mendel on these matters?

Science is not like law where one can afford to reject certain arguments based on one's beliefs (c.f Prof Altschuler's statements regarding legal methods of reasoning). One cannot reject the validity of Newton's laws because one does not like them. For example, if one believes that Gravity is really a make believe thing, one is free to jump off the top storey of the nearest multistorey building to verify this belief. Similarly, the laws of genetic and natural selection are independent of an individual's belief about how nature should be.

Finally, the most striking thing about these arguments is the sheer lack of humility on the part of the ID arguments. Science, at the end of the day, demands a certain humility wherein an individual is forced to subordinate their beliefs and opinions to what is observed in natural phenomena. To my mind, this is exactly the opposite sentiment on the part of advocates of ID.

PantsB

"The academic role of the ID biologist is essentially negative – to challenge Darwinist explanations and look for phenomena that the Darwinists cannot explain or, more realistically, can explain only by stretching. This critical role (“look at all those epicycles”) cannot fairly be excluded from science."

But thats a false dichtomy. The set of explanations for the rise of life is much more than "Intelligent Design" or "Darwinism." Both could be false, and thus falsifying one does not prove the other.

I'd ask that you forward your summary of the case of evolution to some of your fellow U of Chicago Professors in the Biology department (or whichever relevent field you wish) and see if they agree with your analysis of the evidence and science in general. However, I do not think this will likely occur.

Would teaching Creationism be Constitutional if it was presented as an alternative to evolution in your view? The same logic that evidence against evolution is positive evidence for ID could be applied to Creationism with a deceptive God.

Also, is it really reasonable that an "Intelligent Designer" is not a God? Since "theism" constitutes a religion.....

Kaiser Soze

I am always amazed at the way people can make arguments against things they have never studied in-depth. The repetition of the ignorant of their ignorance in their clamor to justify their views is remarkable. The egotism necessary to condemn concepts and theories about things you have never studied in-depth is surely the product of a child like resistance to self introspection.

How can anyone claim to be knowledgeable on a topic they have never studied? Yet we see it all of the time in people who attack ID and fanatically defend evolution. They know little to nothing of either, yet speak like they are pundits deeply educated on each. All the while not knowing that their ignorance is on full display for anyone who is actually educated on these topics.

Life is funny that way.

To know the limits of your knowledge is necessary in order to acquire more knowledge.

AlanDownunder

Dear Prof,

Where to start? Try par.3 of your Part II:

"The Dover court is wrong, however, when it says that anything that “implicates” religion also “endorses” it."

So as to not to discount the possiblility of decontextualizing - a useful skill for n advocate with a dud brief - I searched the judgment for "implicates". Thankfully, the search gives up just one hit (top of page 62) at the conclusion of the following paragraph:

"The 225 letters to the editor and sixty-two editorials from the York Daily Record and York Dispatch that Plaintiffs offered at trial and which we have admitted for consideration in our analysis of the endorsement test and Lemon’s effect prong, show that hundreds of individuals in this small community felt it necessary to publish their views on the issues presented in this case for the community to see. Moreover, a review of the letters and editorials at issue reveals that in letter after letter and editorial after editorial, community members postulated that ID is an inherently religious concept, that the writers viewed the decision of whether to incorporate it into the high school biology curriculum as one which implicated a religious concept, and therefore that the curriculum change has
the effect of placing the government’s imprimatur on the Board’s preferred
religious viewpoint. (P-671-72, 674-75). These exhibits are thus probative of the
fact that members of the Dover community perceived the Board as having acted to
promote religion, with many citizens lined up as either for the curriculum change,
on religious grounds, or against the curriculum change, on the ground that religion should not play a role in public school science class. Accordingly, the letters and editorials are relevant to, and provide evidence of, the Dover community’s
collective social judgment about the curriculum change because they demonstrate that “[r]egardless of the listener’s support for, or objection to,” the curriculum change, the community and hence the objective observer who personifies it, cannot help but see that the ID Policy implicates and thus endorses religion."

The judgment cites and discusses Epperson & Modrovich in support of the relevance of the newspaper letter and editorials.

Professor, please explain how you maintain that the judgment is flawed at this point.

More troublingly, the following sentence in par.3 of your post is this:

"The Constitution does not forbid all discussion of religion in the schools,"

Neither does the relevant order which is as follows:

"2. Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 65, Defendants are permanently enjoined from maintaining the ID Policy in any school within the Dover Area School District."

I corrected you on this assertion of yours ina reply to Part I of your Kitzmiller review. Please acknowledge and correct.

EcoEquity

vkrishna may not be aware of the irony of the claim that "a little knowledge is sometimes a dangerous thing." His or her representation of "the scientific method" is demonstrably oversimple, with consequences that would undermine his/her entire argument.

For example, s/he writes

"Reasonable theoretical explanations make detailed and clear quantitative predictions about aspects of physical phenomena. Experimental work similarly generates data at similar or greater levels of detail-and these data typically reduce the number of possible explanations, until only one remains."

Under this theory, the theory of evolution by natural selection itself is not a "reasonable theoretical explanation", since it makes no detailed and clear quantitative predications about aspects of physical phenomena.

Modern philosophy and sociology of science has made it fairly clear that there is no simple "demarcation" between science and non-science, and no unitary "scientific method." Science as we know it is an extraordinarily diverse and historically contingent set of practices, beliefs and institutions.

My conclusion from this is that ID *could* be a scientific theory, but that the judge was correct to interpret it in this context as simply a religiously-based attack on the teaching of evolution. The probability-based arguments cited by Soze represent an interesting approach that, if valid, would represent an interesting challenge to the theory of natural selection. But prima facie the argument that the combinatorics of proteins is an argument against natural selection is silly; the whole point of natural selection is that there is an extraordinarily non-random basis for survival of all the components of life as we know it.

Kaiser Soze

Paul you wrote:

"My conclusion from this is that ID *could* be a scientific theory, but that the judge was correct to interpret it in this context as simply a religiously-based attack on the teaching of evolution."

I disagree. A religious attack would need some form of religious...attack. In the case of Dover all that was being done was telling the truth. Isn't that true? The truth is outlawed in Dover. All they were doing was having a message saying that there are problems with evolutionary theory (the truth), that there is another theory (the truth). Here is the whole thing.

"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. (the truth)

Because Darwin's Theory is a theory, it is still being tested as new evidence is discovered. (the truth) The Theory is not a fact. (the truth) Gaps in the Theory exist for which there is no evidence. (the truth) A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations. (the truth)

Intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view. (the truth) The reference book, Of Pandas and People is available for students to see if they would like to explore this view in an effort to gain an understanding of what intelligent design actually involves. (the truth)

As is true with 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."

Where was the religion?

Then you said:

"But prima facie the argument that the combinatorics of proteins is an argument against natural selection is silly; the whole point of natural selection is that there is an extraordinarily non-random basis for survival of all the components of life as we know it."

I don't think you understand what Dr.Schroeder was saying. For a deeper explanation see http://www.darwinismrefuted.com/molecular_biology_02.html

Natural selection doesn't do anything but thin the herd, supposedly leaving the "survival of the fittest". And it is by the elimination of the non mutated creatures within any species that the mutation becomes dominant in the species gene pool.

There are many problems with this theory. First off is that there are mutations all of the time within species. But we don't see beneficial mutations. (except for viruses, but thats a completely different circumstance then the types of mutations needed for larger species transformation into new species) The reason we don't see beneficial mutations in larger creatures is simple; let's say dogs are destined to grow wings and fly. In order to get to the finished stage of being able to fly there would first have to be a mutation, then another, then another, etc, one on top of another, all leading to the development of flight. Until the flight system is complete, the mutations will not be beneficial for survival. For instance in order for flight to occur many things have to change, for example bones have to hollow out, which will severaly weaken the animal. Because of that, natural selection will weed out the mutations leading toward flight because they harm a species survival.

So the problem is that natural selection is in self contradiction to the theory of evolution. Natural selection supposedly changes the gene pool of species by weeding out the old and leaving the new. The reality is that mutations are always weeded out by natural selection because mutations make a creature less able to survive. For mutations to enhance a creatures ability to survive it would take a very long time for enough mutations to take place and take place in the exact needed way for those mutations to be anything but harmful. Therefore natural selection works against evolution. In fact Darwin didn't put forth the idea of mutations. That idea (the one accepted today) wasn't put forth until the 1940's. Darwin believed that new species could come about simply and naturally. He observed that breeders could breed bigger cows that could give more milk, so he concluded that there was no limit to this kind of change within species. He believed that natural selection and survival of the fittest alone could produce new species. This was rejected when genes were discovered and it was found out that there is a limit to what the gene pool of species could produce from breeding. So a new evolutionary theory was created called "The synthetic theory" or more commonly "Neo-Darwinism". In order to get around the new knowledge of genetic homeostasis a new mechanism had to be thought of which could account for the change of species.

Mutation was the answer. But mutations are in contradiction to natural selection because they harm a species chance of survival.

Anyways this is like I said, just the tip of the iceberg.

Albert Alschuler

Reply to AlanDownunder:

Yes, you've found the passage in which Judge Jones says that editorial and letter writers "viewed the decision of whether to incorporate [ID] into the high school biology curriculum as one which implicated a religious concept, and therefore that the curriculum change has the effect of placing the government’s imprimatur on the Board’s preferred religious viewpoint" and that "the community and hence the objective observer who personifies it, cannot help but see that the ID Policy implicates and thus endorses religion." The judge's argument looks like a flaming nonsequiture. Those letters to the editor are all about religion. The policy therefore "implicates" religion. And because the policy "implicates" religion, it "endorses" it. My point was that ID is indeed about religion, but you can still talk about it in the schools.

My statement that the Constitution does not forbid all discussion of religion in the schools was just a statement. It did not purport to be a description of the judge's order. It is true that although Judge Jones said on one page that he would issue an order forbidding the board from requiring teachers to refer to ID, the order he issued on the next page doesn't seem to do it. I don't know what would happen if the plaintiffs went to him and said, "Your Honor, we know that you were in a rush to issue your blockbuster, but your order doesn't seem to do what you said it would do. Would you please fix it?" If, as you say, teachers may still mention ID, what may they say about it? May they say that it criticizes natural selection? May they ask students whether they think that it's all nonsense or believe that there might be something to it? Wouldn't that be a great victory for the ID movement? Isn't that essentially what they're asking for?

John Lederer

William Blake's question:

Tyger Tyger. burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies.
Burnt the fire of thine eyes!
On what wings dare he aspire!
What the hand, dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?
What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!

When the stars threw down their spears
And water'd heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
Tyger, Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?


Might have at least a germ of a suggestion of a thoroughly unsatisfying answer in this:

Creating First Synthetic Life Form


Work on the world's first human-made species is well under way at a research complex in Rockville, Md., and scientists in Canada have been quietly conducting experiments to help bring such a creature to life.

Robert Holt, head of sequencing for the Genome Science Centre at the University of British Columbia, is leading efforts at his Vancouver lab to play a key role in the production of the first synthetic life form -- a microbe made from scratch.

The project is being spearheaded by U.S. scientist Craig Venter, who gained fame in his former job as head of Celera Genomics, which completed a privately-owned map of the human genome in 2000.

Dr. Venter, 59, has since shifted his focus from determining the chemical sequences that encode life to trying to design and build it: "We're going from reading to writing the genetic code," he said in an interview.

***
He insists the main goal of his project to build the first synthetic life form, however, is to understand the essence of life, how it evolved and the essential elements that sustain it.

"Here we are trying to understand the human genome with 24,000 some odd genes and 100 trillion cells and we don't know how 300 or 400 genes work together to yield a simple living cell," he said.

"So if we ever have any hope of understanding our own genome, we need to start with something we can actually tear apart, break down and rebuild. So we're starting with a four-cylinder engine instead of a space shuttle."

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20051219.wxlife19/BNStory/specialScienceandHealth/

Mike B.

"My statement that the Constitution does not forbid all discussion of religion in the schools was just a statement."

Religion is discussed in the schools. It is discussed in social studies and history classes. ID can be discussed as well, in social studies and history classes. But not in biology.

The facts of this case are simple and unshakable.

1. Darwin's theory of evolution is the accepted explanation for the appearance of new species.

2. There is no debate, much less a scientific controversy, in the field of biology.

3. Debate among contested and contesting theories takes place in the peer reviewed journals of the various scientific fields, not on school boards or high school classrooms.

4. ID has failed--utterly--in the scholarly marketplace of ideas, i.e., peer-reviewed journal articles, representation among tenured faculty, papers presented at conferences. The support for ID almost entirely comes from outside the field of biology.

ID is, at its core, a tautology. If natural selection does not explain something, it must be evidence of intelligent design. But, as another poster observed, this ignores the possibility of a third explanation, neither ID nor evolution, that accounts for the phenomenon.

While there are institutional barriers to entry for theories that overturn the prevailing theories, these barriers are not even remotely close to insurmountable. The potential rewards for the scientist who demonstrates that something other than natural selection accounts for the diversity of life, currently and over time, would be near-infinite. He or she would stand among the giants--alongside Galileo, Newton, and Einstein--in the history of science.

anon

"Religion is discussed in the schools. It is discussed in social studies and history classes. ID can be discussed as well, in social studies and history classes. But not in biology."

This seems precisely right. Why should science teachers be coerced by school board members who lack scientific training to teach something virtually no one with such training supports as science? ID is much more akin to philosophy or social studies. If anything, schools should allow students to study the current debate for what it is - the clash between science qua science and religion.

John Lederer

"Why should science teachers be coerced by school board members who lack scientific training to teach something virtually no one with such training supports as science?"

Because school board members are elected by the people served by the schools to determine the curriculum. They are responsible and accountable. Biology teachers are not.

ctw

"My statement that the Constitution does not forbid all discussion of religion in the schools was just a statement. It did not purport to be a description of the judge's order."

judge jones's opinion is a serious blow to the ID movement. some judges are basically just scum sucking, lying, sleaze bags.

oh, that second sentence was just a statement. It did not purport to be a description of judge jones.

an earlier charge that prof alschuler's posts are disingenuous was way too generous.

Kaiser Soze

Mike B:

You wrote:

"1. Darwin's theory of evolution is the accepted explanation for the appearance of new species"

Accepted by whom? Poll after Poll shows that the makority of Americans do not accept evolution and want alternate theories to evolution taught in schools.

"2. There is no debate, much less a scientific controversy, in the field of biology."

That's ridiculous. see
http://www.ideacenter.org/contentmgr/showdetails.php/id/1207

"3. Debate among contested and contesting theories takes place in the peer reviewed journals of the various scientific fields, not on school boards or high school classrooms."

Says who? Who died and made peer reveiwed journals King? How can a something be peer reviewed if by presenting something to be peer reviewed you jeopardize your career because of the fascism present amongst the academic community? see http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?command=view&program=CSC%20-%20Views%20and%20News&id=2402

"4. ID has failed--utterly--in the scholarly marketplace of ideas, i.e., peer-reviewed journal articles, representation among tenured faculty, papers presented at conferences. The support for ID almost entirely comes from outside the field of biology."

That's not true. The support from ID as already shown in a link is strong in the academic community especially amongst biologists.

Then you said:

"ID is, at its core, a tautology. If natural selection does not explain something, it must be evidence of intelligent design. But, as another poster observed, this ignores the possibility of a third explanation, neither ID nor evolution, that accounts for the phenomenon."

You may want to take the time to study the ID literature. Only people who are ignorant of ID and who get their information from second and third hand sources would say such a thing.

Then you wrote:

"While there are institutional barriers to entry for theories that overturn the prevailing theories, these barriers are not even remotely close to insurmountable. The potential rewards for the scientist who demonstrates that something other than natural selection accounts for the diversity of life, currently and over time, would be near-infinite. He or she would stand among the giants--alongside Galileo, Newton, and Einstein--in the history of science."

You would think that to be true, but you would be wrong. The essence of the fight against ID is because ID has indeed done exactly what you claim should and would be welcomed. And it is because it has done that that it is attacked. ID is attacked so venemously and in such crude and lying manner (see your attack) is because it has proved evolution wrong. It's just that the proof is something many so called intelligent people don't want to hear. I'ts bigotry, plain and simple, which drives the anti ID engine.

maurile

Professor Alschuler wrote: "My point was that ID is indeed about religion, but you can still talk about it in the schools."

To "talk about it in the schools" before it's been talked about in the science journals is putting the cart before the horse.

Highschool science textbooks summarize and report what's in the primary literature. If a biology book wanted to include some information about ID, where would it get such information? In someone's blog? In newspaper editorials? In popular books?

As Nick Matzke wrote at the Panda's Thumb, "If you don’t want damaging court decisions, don’t make the very first book systematically using the term “intelligent design” a 9th grade biology textbook!!! ... fact, if the ID movement were intellectually serious, they would withdraw completely from interfering with public education, realizing that introductory science classes simply have to educate students in the basics of accepted science, and are not the right places to try getting recruits for fringe science. They would stop trying to make their case in the media, and instead take the only legitimate route to academic respectability — winning the scientific battle, in the scientific community. IDists have made much of comparing ID to the Big Bang model — but did Big Bang proponents kick off their model in a high school textbook? Did they go around the country mucking with kiddies science standards to promote their view? Did they ever lobby legislators? I don’t think so."

Right on.

Kaiser Soze

maurile your comments attack ID proponents when in fact it was a school board which attempted to do what they did. They called in ID proponents to help in their court case when they were sued.

I disagree that ID is "about religion". ID is strictly about science, if the science leads to some type of relgious connotation that doesn't make ID about religion. There is no theology being touted by ID.

I'm glad you brought up the Big Bang theory. The BB theory was created by a catholic priest on the order of the vatican to create a scientific sounding version of the Catholic Church's position of creation ex nihilo (creation from nothing).

At first the BB theory didn't receive much support, but eventually it gained more and more support and in the 1950's-60's it became the mainstream view. Since then numerous problems with the BB theory have been scrutinized and now the BB theory is rejected by a large number of scientists even though you rarely hear about that (see plasma cosmology). Why? Because once a theory becomes ensconsed and mainstream there is a lot of reputations and positions of authority riding on the acceptance of that theory as a scientific truism. The academic establishment is loath to admit mistakes, theories which tear down sacred cows do not get support and are in fact blacklisted and fought against tooth and nail. The same thing is going on with evolution. It has many problems and it is discounted by many scientists, but many people don't hear about the many scientists who have a big problem with evolution and who support ID because the "evolution establishment" controls the academic world through intimidation.

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