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December 31, 2005

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Some Young Guy

This is getting a little tedious, Professor. We now know where you stand on the ID vs. natural selection debate. Can we move on?

c&d

Albert Alschuler does not understand the court's opinion. In the very first paragraph of this post he demonstrates his ignorance or poor reading comprehension: “[F]alse duality” refers to the ID creationist and biblical creationist arguments that there are only two options: natural evolution and what they advocate for. This argument is a classic fallacy. It allows ID to claim it has evidence for its claims when, in fact, they only have arguments against evolution. Discussion of “false duality” does not have to do with evolution's conflict with certain religious beliefs.

And the rest of the post demonstrates the "false dualism" logical fallacy in action: scientists can't recreate the brain! intelligent design? scientists can't demonstrate to my satisfaction how altruism evolved! intelligent design?

Kitzmas

Well, at least this screed, which almost entirely about Alschuler's religious worries about evolution and almost entirely not about the judge's decision, shows us what is really going on here. Just another creationist who wants his particular religious views privileged in the public schools...

To pick one specific criticism, the judge was careful to distinguish between the ID movement's negative arguments against evolution (irreducible complexity, gaps in the fossil record, etc.), which are arguments *against* evolution and which can therefore be tested (and the judge found that they had been debunked) -- versus the positive claims of the ID movement for ID, which boil down to untestable theology.

Scientists debunking the negative arguments does not intrude upon theology, and therefore it is silly to say "scientists who debunk [the ID movement's] argument must have entered the religious sphere."

James

I agree with what Kitzmas says, and I would like to add a bit.

Alschuler notes that religion withdrew from theories about the natural world and argues that, "Over the long term, limiting religion to irrational ways of knowing gives the game to science." This is unduly harsh on metaphysics. At worst, religion is arational, not irrational. Science as a methodology is very successful in explaining the natural world, but it has no traction in the unobservable. Likewise, religion has a very bad track record in physical predictions, but has been pretty successful at gaining the loyalties of believers.

Relegating these institutions to the spheres for which they are best suited seems perfectly reasonable to me. Religion gets right and wrong and the afterlife; to say that it has been shortchanged seems ludicrous. Science can provide medicine, but it goes unused unless people think it's allowable. This is not an academic point; it makes a tremendous difference whether AIDS-plagued socities can be convinced to use condoms or accept HIV as the cause of AIDS. Science can help with the latter but is inferior to religion in the former.

Finally, dismissing game-theoretical extensions of Darwinism as "just so" stories seems unfair. Newton's theory of gravitation is wrong if objects fall at different rates depending on their mass. Physicists thus needed a theory of air resistance to save Newtonian physics. If less dense objects had in fact fallen faster, they would have had to come up with a different story, but this doesn't make air resistance a "just so" story. I think stories are "just so" if they are ad hoc AND they make arbitrary assumptions clearly chosen to favor the theory in question. Tit for tat and other explanations may be ad hoc, but they are also reasonably based on assumptions of rational utility (or survival) maximization.

Milk for Free

It's not mysterious at all why all major religions view self-sacrifice and restraint as superior to rape and pillage. The extant religions were formed before mass media made it possible to inculcate a large number of people with an idea. I have no doubt that a number of violent messianic types tried to form cults of their own. But unlike relatively unobjectionable early Christians, early proponents of, say, Pillagism proved threatening enough to nonadherents to provoke a conclusively violent response. A view of the nobility of self-sacrifice makes armies more effective at the cost of individual soldiers. Until very recently there have also been few implementations of religion that have preached complete nonviolence, even in the face of attack. I suspect that adherents of such religions that may have cropped up either changed their views or were annihilated.

All this was true before the mass media. Nazism is an example of a modern religion that upholds those elements of human nature Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and Islam denounce. The fact that Hilter was able to infect an entire modern industrial society at once meant that, unlike earlier violent messianic types, his sect was able to rampage over a wide portion of the Earth before the less violent ideologies proved triumphant once more. Had Hitler been executed after the Beer Hall Putsch, things might have turned out quite differently for world history - and quite the same as the fates of other militaristic sects smothered in the crib.

none

Alschuler: "Natural selection validates altruism no more than it validates our darker side."

In what sense is "validates" being used? "To make valid" can mean something like "to sanction" or, alternatively, "to have been correctly inferred."

If Alschuler intends the latter, then he is making only an extremely obvious point. If he intends the former, then I am concerned.

If you read Pinker or E.O. Wilson, you will repeatedly encounter this caveat: Evulutionary theory, in general, or evolutionary explanations, in particular, do not sanction anything. To explain is not to justify.

Alschuler either disregards that point, or takes it as a shortcoming of evolutionary theory. (If it is a shortcoming, something like intelligent design does NOT avoid similar deficiency.)

This is just one of the portions of Alschuler's post that confuses me. Whether or not religious belief (say, of the Catholic variety) is compatible with the world-view of evolutionary science (say, of the E.O. Wilson vatiety) is a fascinating question.

If, for instance, we concluded that an evolutionary outlook was compatible only with, at most, a generalized deist outlook (and was, necessarily, something like an attack on or repuediation of, say, Catholicism), then would instruction in evolutionary theory (in public schools) violate the First Amendment? Another interesting question.

But in Dover, the court was faced not with the relationship between evolutionary theory and religion, but with the relationship between intelligent design and religion.

As such, I am further confused about the point of Alschuler's post.

He seems disgruntled that evolutionists appear legally able to attack religion (at least what many religions have to say about the origins of life) in public schools, while anything appearing religiously motivated is barred from entering the classroom to defend religion or any religion's particular beliefs. (I don't doubt that, in terms of constitutional law, there probably is a difficulty here.)

His conclusion seems to be that we all try to get along, be more tolerant of others' beliefs, and be willing to compromise. Nothing in his post seems to result in that conclusion.

My cliched response is (as others have articulated) that to point out explanatory shortcomings of evolutionary theory is not at all even to begin to prove any competing theory, let alone intelligent design.

For instance, the Kansas State School Board, after holding hearings on intelligent design versus evolution, adopted science standards that only question the explanatory success of evolution. There is no positive assertion of intelligent design. As such, those standards are probably not unconstitutional (at least in the Dover sense).

Alschuler writes: "It is difficult to see how students would be harmed by devoting the last day of a high school biology course to the question whether the material they have studied leaves room for an intelligent designer."

Well, there's all sorts of things they could talk about on the last day of class that probably wouldn't harm them. I doubt a lesson in Catholic theology would harm them. But what has the likelihood of being harmed have to do with whether or not science class should (or constitutionally can) include a discussion of an intelligent designer?

If anything, Alschuler's posts have pointed out how difficult science is, how often difficulties arise.

However, Alschuler takes these difficulties as evidence against, for instance, evolutionary theory. To return to the cliched reply: OK, fine, evolutionary theory has some difficulties, but those difficulties certainly do not lead to intelligent design.

Moreover, what about all the difficulties with intelligent design theory? For instance, and I don't think this can be overstressed, please tell me about the intelligent designer and please tell me why it designed so unintelligently.

Evolutionists might encounter difficulties with certain bacteria and peacocks' tails, but intelligent designer proponents encounter the difficulty that they can demonstrate NOTHING (not even the verifiable existence) of their theory's primary explanatory device.

Repeatedly, Alschuler has pointed out that, in his opinion, too often evolutionary theory is, in his words, "Heads I win, tails you lose." Well, of course. If evolutionary theory is the grand explanation for the origins and complexity of life, then it certainly will have an explanation for . . . everything.

At least, though, evolutionary theory is cabined in by its own general rules. With intelligent design we get the intelligent designer planting a false fossil record or, from less extreme proponents, we get an intelligent designer designing biological things in what appear to be totally unintelligent ways, or we get an intelligent designer that, I guess, designed species such that micro-evolution might take place, but not macro-evolution.

The point: If the heads-I-win-tails-you-lose criticism of evolutionary theory is legitimate, then the knife cuts both ways, and I think it is far more devestating to any intelligent design argument than it is to any evolutionary argument.

Albert Alschuler

Most commentators haven't noticed what this post was about -- the Dover court's error in saying (or strongly implying) that Darwinism is consistent with mainstream religious views. Apparently Judge Jones' fans don't care to defend him on that point. Some of them would be happy to see Darwinism taught in the schools for the very purpose of smashing religion. In writing about things like consciousness and altruism, my goal was to show how sharply the Darwinist view of human beings differs from the view offered by most churches.

But the commentators sense correctly that I'm willing to make the argument they attack. As I explained in an earlier post, I consider it appropriate for ID proponents to emphasize "negative" arguments against natural selection. None of the commentators have responded to the argument I offered for this position.

Let's try it this way. When Thomas Aquinas made his argument for design, he was not offering a negative argument against natural selection. It would have been difficult for him to do so when the theory of natural selection lay 600 years in the future. And Thomas's argument was pretty good. It persuaded people for centuries.

Then Charles Darwin and his followers said they had a better idea. What seemed to be designed wasn't; it was entirely the product of natural selection. If the proponents of intelligent design now can show that Darwin's theory is full of holes and makes no sense, they will put Thomas' argument just where it was. Why do they have to do more?

What positive argument have the proponents of natural selection made for the proposition that those random mutations are random? The fact that they can't see a pattern doesn't mean that one doesn't exist. But when scientists can't see a pattern and no one has suggested one -- when those mutations sure look random to them -- it's appropriate for them to regard the mutations as random. They need not make what the commentators would count as a "positive" argument. If someone then maintained that the mutuations weren't random because they were dictated by the phases of the moon, shooting down this theory would restore the common sense perception.

Perhaps it would help to talk about default positions. The default position when things sure look random is that they are random. The default position when it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck is that it is a duck. (And answering the guy who claims it's a goose makes it a duck again.) And the default position when the duck sure looks designed is that it is designed.

Or maybe putting it this way would help: If randomness and design are a genuine rather than a contrived dualism -- if they are the only theories in play -- whatever tends to shoot down one tends to reinforce the other.

Could we compromise? How about this formulation? The theory of natural selection is full of holes and therefore leaves room for the possibility of intelligent design. Would the commentators settle for that?


James

The issue is what should be taught in public school science classes. The real question, then, is whether ID is science.

I think not. It is not falsifiable, it makes no testable predictions, and it resorts to supernatural explanations for physical phenomena. Now, it may be that supernatural explanations are the best explanations in some sense. That doesn't make them scientific.

For a long time, hepatitis C was called "non-A non-B hepatitis." It simply wasn't understood. Doctors didn't throw up their hands and say, "God must be punishing IV drug users." Instead they pursued physical explanations, not because those are more correct (for all we know, hep C is God's punishment), but because they are more useful.

Similarly with ID. It may be true, it may be smart, but it is not science.

So here is Alschuler's formulation: "The theory of natural selection is full of holes and therefore leaves room for the possibility of intelligent design."

My response is:

1. Natural selection is much healthier than Alschuler seems to think, but
2. Of course ID is possible. Nothing could ever refute it. Which is why
3. ID isn't science, and has no place in a public school science classroom.

Kitzmas

Alschuler's confusion about the word "random" appears to be terminal. He says "random" when he *actually* means "natural processes ranging from highly deterministic to moderately deterministic", or when he is even more confused, "the universe is purposeless and God doesn't exist".

There is not much point in writing out the answer to this basic error once again, but perhaps Alschuler will do us a favor and read the essay by Stephen M. Barr -- no dogmatic materialist, he -- in the October First Things.

One other point:

What positive argument have the proponents of natural selection made for the proposition that those random mutations are random?

One rather famous demonstration was a study by Luria and Delbruck in 1943. It was an exceedingly clever experiment -- so much so that they won a Nobel Prize for it in 1969. Evidence for the randomness of mutations -- in the scientific, statistical sense, not in the metaphysical sense you insist on adding to it -- also comes from study of the actual chemical reactions that cause mutations, from the statistical distribution of DNA changes in lab populations, and between lineages with sequenced genomes.

Scientists are not total morons - it is worth learning a bit about the relevant field, and the meaning of scientific terms, before pronouncing on whether or not some bit of quackery should be taught in public schools.

Links:

Stephen Barr on the term "random" in science:
http://www.firstthings.com/ftissues/ft0510/opinion/barr.html

Luria-Delbruck experiment:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luria-Delbruck_experiment

Max Delbruck:
http://www.biocrawler.com/encyclopedia/Max_Delbruck

Kaiser Soze

When strictly materialistic evolutionists are faced with the mysteriousness of the mind and consciousness their theories inevitably fail to account for what we all experience as truth.

Whether it's altruism or any other "thought" process, the simple fact of the matter is that materialism (as a scientific underpinning or philosophy)is unable to investigate properly that which is not comprised of particle/waves of matter/energy.

How can the mind and consciousness be examined unless it is examined by another mind and consiousness? You cannot see nor weigh thought and consciousness. The brain is connected to thought and consciousness but thought and consciousness are not the brain. You can watch activity in the brain related to thought but the thoughts themselves exist in a non material dimension. Materialistic science tries to explain everything it confronts with the pre-suppostion (except for some theories put forth in physics) that all that exists does so within 3 dimensions (time is also sometimes spoken of as the 4th dimension).

All of us as we read these words are hearing our mind repeat these words as we read them. What is doing the speaking of these words in our minds? what is hearing these words? and what is understanding these words? This phenomena of thought, mind, and conscious awareness or observer of thought and mind exists, it is very real, but are these phenomena comprised of 3 dimensional matter/energy?

Materialistic science cannot even approach these questions without stepping outside of it's self imposed boundaries on what is acceptable as science.

For more on this see: http://tinyurl.com/7922f

Joe


Professor Alschuler writes, "Could we compromise? How about this formulation? The theory of natural selection is full of holes and therefore leaves room for the possibility of intelligent design. Would the commentators settle for that?" He also writes, "Most commentators haven't noticed what this post was about -- the Dover court's error in saying (or strongly implying) that Darwinism is consistent with mainstream religious views."

Which is to say that... Prof. Alschuler is offering the commentators the compromise his post was designed to reject?

As *a* commentator--and I can't speak for others--I find it startlingly obvious that ID can "fill in the gaps" in *any* theory, that the presence of an Intelligent Designer is never inconsistent with any scientific theory. But it is not falsifiable. The supernatural can augment any sort of gap in human knowledge, as it has since the beginning of human history. But it is supernatural, and seems more fitting in a philosophy course dealing with, say, metaphysics than it does in a science course the purpose of which is to teach the scientific method. As I understand it, the scientific method would generally require the nonacceptance of supernatural explanations, because such explanations would preclude inquiry, measurement, objectivity, further search for and pursuit of factual knowledge; in short, science.

maurile

"Most commentators haven't noticed what this post was about -- the Dover court's error in saying (or strongly implying) that Darwinism is consistent with mainstream religious views. Apparently Judge Jones' fans don't care to defend him on that point."

It's such an obvious point, it doesn't need defending. If evolutionary biology were inconsistent with mainstream religious views, then mainstream religions would take issue with evolutionary biology. But they don't. (See, for example, Pope John Paul II's statements.)

In fact, if you remember back to the 1981 McLean trial (of which the Dover trial was a repeat in almost every way), nearly every plaintiff was an organization affiliated with a mainstream church.

none

I appreciate Professor Alschuler's reply to above comments, but I am still confused by his offerings.

First, am I correct to understand that he has NO positive argument for design and is willing to rely only on suggested difficulties with evolutionary explanations?

Second, Alschuler likes the if-it-looks-like-a-duck argument (I don't), but he never quite explains why it is so obviously the case that, say, a member of homo sapiens sapiens looks like it is the product of design. (Here, I can advance any of the arguments about how stupid or wasteful this supposedly intelligent designer is.)

I imagine, though, that Alschuler is not advancing the theory that homo sapiens sapiens, for instance, was designed, as we know the species today, but instead is advancing something like what he mentioned in his reply, that what evolutionists call "random mutations" are not random at all. But of course, even if the mutations in question could be best explained by the phases of the moon, we still need not mention an intelligent designer.

Also, Alschuler advances the if-it-looks-like-a-duck argument with regards to what he considers the dualism of design and randomness, but, apparently, not with regards to what, by his terms, I think equally deserves consideration as a dualism between science and religion. If intelligent design looks like religion and quacks like religion, then, on the basis of Alschuler's above argument, it probably IS NOT science. (I certainly am not advancing this simplistic argument, just pointing out what appears to me as a corollary of Alschuler's above statements.)

Furthermore, to add to what I wroter earlier (and to which Alschuler did not respond), many of the arguments that purport to discredit evolutionary explanations would also seem to discredit intelligent design explanations (thus, to knock down one is NOT to support the other).

Consider Alschuler's comments about the difficulties evolutionary theory has with altruism. For every perceived difficulty evolutionary theory might have with altruism consider the difficulties an intelligent design proponent has when he or she must confront things like murder, rape, suicide, et cetera.

Same thing with peacock's tails. Why did the designer design such a flamboyant tail?

(Here, with most design proponents, I would demand an explanation and description and evidence for the existence of design theory's most important operator: the designer. But I don't think Alschuler will enlighten me, and he doesn't think his argument really needs to answer such questions. If the supposed heads-I-win-tail-you-lose nature of (the postive) evolutionary argument is unfair . . .)

Once again, prey tell me about this intelligent designer.


Back to Alschuler's reply: I think it is pretty obvious that evolutionary theory discredits much of what is advanced by popular religions, like Catholicism (of course, as anyone who has argued with a practicing Catholic knows, a practicing Catholic, apparently, can believe or maintain just about anything, and still maintain that he or she certainly is a Catholic).

I noted in my earlier post that there damn well may be constitutiol issues with a scientific theory that discredits certain religious beliefs. (Question: did the defendants in the Dover case argue that the atheological implications of evolutionary thoery waived the seperation clause as regards the science classroom, or, alternatively, provide a basis for demanding that religion have a chance to defend itself against attack in the classroom?)

Lastly, though I have no problem with public school curriculums pointing out difficulties with evolutionary theory, we need to be realistic about what such efforts really are.

Thomas Aquinas may have advanced a pretty nifty explanation for design, but it is not that explanation that is the likely alternative to evolutionary explanations. How many well-educated people can articulate Aquinas's argument? Not many. (Not because they are unintelligent, but because, in our popular society, Aquinas isn't relevant.)

Thus, if Alschuler is right and the apparent dualism (between randomness and design) is what he calls "genuine," then, practically speaking, when science teachers rip holes in evolution and therefore necessarily offer support for the only other explanation, that explanation is much more similar to what is found in Genesis than what is found in Aquinas, no matter what the more sophisticated intelligent design proponents might say.

Further, and on a different tack, Aquinas probably shouldn't be taught in science classrooms because what he was doing wasn't science, no matter whether it is more or less accurate than scientifically-reached conclusions (see walking and quacking geeese that must necessarily not be ducks).

That's not to say that Aquinas's arguments are purely religious. They're not. They're philosophical.

But once again, if Alschuler's dualism is correct, the necessary implication of evolutionary theory's failure, as will be realized in the classroom, is NOT first-mover arguments or their like, but Genesis creationism.

Thus, I think it quite telling that what most scientists call religion is seeking the imprimatur of what even most religious people call science. No matter what theories are ultimately accurate, that fact says much about the relative positions of the religious and the scientific communities in our society today.

Kaiser Soze

Maurile you wrote:

"It's such an obvious point, it doesn't need defending. If evolutionary biology were inconsistent with mainstream religious views, then mainstream religions would take issue with evolutionary biology. But they don't. (See, for example, Pope John Paul II's statements.)"

But the recent Pope has the opposite views. Really it doesn't matter how some people want to interpret their religious scriptures to be compatible with evolution. That doesn't change the fact that those "mainstream" religions are all based on teachings which directly oppose evolution. If someone wants to interpret their religious scriptures in a way that is consonant with evolution that is their right, but that doesn't mean that their scriptures actually support evolution.

For example for followers of religions based on the old testatment of the Bible which include Islam, Christianity and Judaism they can claim to interpret the bible as being in accord with evolution, but the simple fact is that the bible clearly describes a God who builds earth and all living things. That is not consonant with evolution one bit. If people who claim to believe in the bible but accept evolution as biblically sanctioned, they are in delusion and I don't care if they are the pope or the mullah or the rabbi.

The other mainstream theistic religion of Hinduism has a wide variety of beliefs under the banner of hinduism, but none of the hindu scriptures are in accord with evolution even if some hindus think their religion is. So just because a religious person thinks evolution is consonant with evolution doesn't mean that the religion they claim to believe in actually is consonant with evolution.

They can believe in God and evolution if they want, but the mainstream religious scriptures of the world are very explicit on how this world and ourselves and all life has come into existence.

AlanDownunder

Prof.Alschuler:
"Perhaps a rigorous “methodological naturalism” could bridge the gap. Biologists might declare that they adopt only an assumption of natural selection, that their purpose is simply to see how far this assumption can take them, and that they take no position on whether this assumption is true. That, however, is not what the biologists say, and it may not be what they should say if their goal is to describe the world as it is. The biologists say that “evolution is a fact not a theory.” Their critics then insist that “evolution is a theory not a fact.” (For a school board to place a sticker with the critics’ statement on a biology textbook is unconstitutional, or so one federal court has held.)

Proclaiming “it’s a theory” or “it’s a fact” does not help. ..."

No it doesn't help, because physics theories preclude panic in aircraft and biological theories save lives whilst ascientific theories have abounded with near-random success since time immemorial. The Professor's beef about a biology textbook sticker is his blindness to the the sticker author's Lemon/endorsement-relevant reliance on the propensity of US religionists to apply the ascientific meaning of "theory" to a scientific theory.

If distinguishing among the disparate things called theories is tough, try distinguishing among the disparate things called facts! Not here, other than to excuse the Professor's biologists who try to communicate with rubes in Rubelish and to note that the Prof calls them "the biologists", not "some biologists".

Which brings us to Prof's first sentence: "Perhaps a rigorous “methodological naturalism” could bridge the gap." I should darn well hope that science class gave us rigorous methodological naturalism because otherwise it would not be rigorous science.

*Some* biologists are atheists, *some* biologists are agnostic, *some* biologists are religious but if they are not doing methodological naturalism they are not scientists (which why ID is not science). All of them allow that science is incomplete, open ended and falsifiable by contrary observation of the natural universe. The atheists among them will extrapolate from scientific disproofs of religious tenets into irreligion. The religious among them will weave the wonders of science into their personal and denominational theologies. The agnostics will do a bit of both or neither. But all biologists will adhere strongly enough to evolutionary biology to question the some of the specifics of some interpretations of some scriptures. Physicists do similar in geology and cosmology but they apparently offend fewer religious dogma and thus attract less constitutional controversy.

The Prof says "methodological naturalism could bridge the gap" between the separate spheres of science and religion that he feels the Establishment Clause is being interpreted so as to cede it to "the (atheist) biologists" in the way he wants it ceded to the IDiots. He'd do better to attack atheism with science rather than attack science with ID and other less mendacious forms of Creationism.

The Prof has a long way to go when he pens clangers like "whether this assumption (methodological naturalism) is true". It's not an assumption - it's a modest recognition that the supernatural does not yield to scientific investigation. Science has nothing to say about God because it knows nothing about God.

I'd also attack the use of E O Wilson as a straw man for evolution's alleged "unguidedness" and "randomness", but the Barr link above makes a start. Paul Davies' "The Mind of God" for example is one of several accessible works that would complete the job.


Josh

A few quick points. First, I'm an evolutionary biologist, and I have no problem with religion.

Second, evolution is both a fact and a theory. As a graduate of the U. of C. (AB '00 in biology), I'm disappointed to see a Chicago professor fall into a fairly trivial semantic trap. We can observe evolution right now. It is fact. We can infer that it happened at other times and in other places. This is theory. But then, so is gravity (and gravity is less well developed than evolution).

Third, the peacock's tail and the flagellum are not problems for evolution, and the Judge specifically discussed that fact. Did you skip over his discussion of the evidence about flagellar evolution? As Steve Pruitt-Jones to explain runaway sexual selection to you.

You may also want to discuss "verificationism" versus "falsificationism" with someone in the philosophy department. In science, we don't prove things true (theory never transforms into fact), we fail to reject a hypothesis. We cannot be certain that we're right, but if we test it enough, and it never comes up wrong (but it could), we feel confident.

So replace "just-so story" with "hypothesis" and reframe your final paragraphs in terms of failure to falsify a specific hypothesis and you transform a muddy, inaccurate passage into a nice discussion of how science succeeds, and why the argument from ignorance is foolish.

Before Trivers, a creationist could say "there's no way altruism could evolve without kin selection." This was an argument from ignorance, just as IDC is. People found ways. They require certain conditions to hold, and we can test whether those conditions do hold in real biological systems, and whether they lead to altruism. If those conditions don't hold, we've falsified that hypothesis for that system.

Science.

IDC offers nothing like that, so it isn't science.

Now, this little example I just did could be nice pedagogy. But to require that biology teachers spend a day on IDC is stupid. What real science should biology teachers leave aside so that they can spend time on non-science? Bear in mind that there's all ready too little time to cover the rapidly expanding field, and teachers are already complaining about that.

Like many on the science side of the creationism debate, I'd have no problem with IDC being presented in a philosophy class, a world religions class, or even a history class. But it isn't science, so it doesn't belong in science class.

The Law Fairy

Josh writes:

"Second, evolution is both a fact and a theory. As a graduate of the U. of C. (AB '00 in biology), I'm disappointed to see a Chicago professor fall into a fairly trivial semantic trap. We can observe evolution right now. It is fact. We can infer that it happened at other times and in other places. This is theory."

And two paragraphs later:

"In science, we don't prove things true (theory never transforms into fact), we fail to reject a hypothesis."

How do you reconcile these two statements?

Kaiser Soze

Josh if ID has done anything positive in the realm of "science" it is that scientists have taken evolutionary assumptions and put those assumptions to the acid test. What has been discovered is that evolution as a "fact" is about as based on reality as a castle in the sky.

The glib arguments you make are not even closely related to reality in the sense of an objective reality. ID scientists have written numerous books and articles detailing the severe problems with evolutionary theory vis-a-vis observations and actual data ,as opposed to castles in the sky masquerading as "facts" promoted by zealous propagandists.

What is taught as fact by dishonest evolutionists is and has been easily exposed as a large amount of hot air. But because these so called "scientists" don't actually read and find out what ID is all about, instead relying on critics of ID to give them their ideas of what ID scientists have written and studied, they therefore make glib uneducated statements like the above from josh.

Like a typical zealot whose sole mission is to sow mistrust you essentially make a blanket condemnation of what ID is about and a blanket endorsement of evolution as being able to produce easily all the answers to the questions evolutionists have failed for years to answer.

Next time come prepared. Try some reading...

http://www.iscid.org/boards/ubb-forum-f-6.html
http://www.designinference.com/
http://www.idthefuture.com/
http://www.ideacenter.org/

none

Until now I have disregarded all the comments from Soze. But I can contain myself no longer.

Soze wrote: "You cannot see nor weigh thought and consciousness. The brain is connected to thought and consciousness but thought and consciousness are not the brain. You can watch activity in the brain related to thought but the thoughts themselves exist in a non material dimension."

I don't think you are correct. I think there is pretty good evidence that you are wrong -- but, obviously, what I refer to as evidence doesn't really matter, because, like an intelligent designer or an ignorant designer, there can necessarily be no evidence (no material) either to prove or disprove the existence of a non-material dimension.

But, for now, I will concede that there exists a non-material dimension in, say, the universe (which, therefore, must be both material and non-material -- please report this finding to all physicists you know). If so, what can we possibly know, in an empirical and remotely verifiable way, about this non-material dimension? Well, once again, nothing. At least nothing in common. You might claim to know something about the non-material dimension, and I might claim to know something about the non-material dimension, but, unlike with the material dimension (what most of us call "reality") you cannot know, or even assume, that anyone else knows the same things about the non-material dimension that you do. Why? Because you can't show them anything aout that dimension. There is nothing to show.

It may exist. Soze may be correct. But science is NOT CONCERNED WITH ANY SUCH NOTION.

You speak of "reality." Indeed, I like to think that a common starting point for all human discourse is the notion that we are all naive realists. That is, we pretty much have to concede that my empirical observations are the same as your empirical observations. If we don't start here, then how can we discuss anything?

But from this starting point, you want to talk about a non-material dimension. Fine. But that certainly is not science. Your ideas about the non-material dimension are not based on empirical observations that, as a naive realist, you can expect that I, also a naive realist, perceive and perceive in the same way as you do.

Do I understand that you desire the imprimatur of "science" for your notions of the non-material dimension?

If so, why?

You obviously think that the bulk of mainstream scientific thought is poppycock, so why do you so earnestly desire that your theory be included in "science"?

You damn well might be correct. You obviously think you are. But what I don't understand is why it so upsets you that "scientists" disagree with you. They don't seem all that upset that you disagree with them -- just that you want to call what you do the same thing as what they do. (You can imagine that a physical therapist might become disgruntled, for any number of reasons, if a doctor told people that she, the doctor, also practiced physical therapy, when the doctor's idea of physical therapy was, in truth, pharmacolgogical medication.)

I will once again ask, as I have done in every one of my posts on this board: Please provide some evidence for the fundamental and most important part of any design argument. That is, please tell me about the designer. Please tell me why it designed as it did. Please tell me about the nature of this designer. (And, because I trust you more than any website, please don't simply provide hyperlinks.)

I don't doubt that some people are unfairly rejecting your theory. But buck up old boy. Show a little spunk and answer some questions.

You don't have anything to worry about. According to most surveys, the majority of Americans agree with . . . you. "Scientists" and scientific humanists are the real quacks.

So there's no reason for you or your brethren to be so . . . defensive and bitter.

Once again, I ask, why the hell do you so ardently desire the support of the one community (scientists) that, so recalcitrantly, disagrees with you?

Here you will probably say something about public education, and how ID ought to be taught alongside evolutionary theory in taxpayer-funded schools, and that that is what your beef is.

OK, fine with me. Teach ID in schools, teach it alongside evolutionary theory. Let's talk about the non-material dimension in the classroom. I'm all for it.

Have you ever been to a public university campus? There, the non-material dimension (usually in its familiar clothing of religion) is talked about ALL THE TIME. Non-stop. And how well does the non-material dimension compete in that market-place?

Here you probably will say something about the leftist academy, and you are probably right. Much of the leftist academy blindly endorses the evolution side of this debate but is in no way willing even to consider the potential ramifications of evolutionary theory (see the Larry Summer debate).

But you are up against more than the leftist academy. You are up against facts and evidence and proof. You've got to show people something. Do it here. Do it now. We want to see. Convince us.

But once again, the argument that I am wrong and therefore you are correct is not working (at least not with me). Alschuler's "genuine dualism" is unconvincing. Dynamic minds, with their, in your terms, non-material thoughts, can see past that.

Show us how and why a designer set in motion, say, micro-evolution, instead of just, say, creating all species as they currently exist, at their (because I love Aquinas) teleological endpoints?

I'm reading. I will continue to read. I'm open-minded. I'd certainly rather be correct than politically correct.

AlanDownunder

Fairy,

Read the bit in my post (the one immediately before Josh's) about "fact" and "theory" and don't be so binary and simplistic. And give Josh, your brother in Christ, a second fairer reading.

Some say that a dependable scientific theory (say of evolution - or even of gravity) is tantamount to fact. Some say that a translation of a translation of a herdsman's story about his ancestor's semi-comprehending encounter with God is fact. These people are talking about different kinds of "fact".

Kaiser,

To believe in God the Creator and to say that ID is science are two entirely different things. I believe in the Creation therefore ID is science is sheer cretinism.

The Law Fairy

Alan,

My point wasn't so much trying myself to delineate between "fact" and "theory" -- without anything else it's a bare semantic argument which does little to advance the debate. Josh, however, made the distinction himself by calling evolution a "fact" and historical evolution a "theory" and then positing that science can never demonstrate "facts." I was just pointing out that this appears to be an inconsistent position.

The problem with the whole fact/theory dichotomy is that it's generally not fully fleshed out. The problem is an epistemological one. Something can be a theory or a fact or any other word you'd like; this doesn't change the fact that, no matter how hard we think or test things, we'll never *know* with certainty the truth of any fact or theory. The refrain that is commonly thrown back at this point is that while that's technically true, it's unhelpful. I think, however, that the underlying basis for this counterargument ought to be disected. The reason the skeptical dilemma is unhelpful is because, if we take the fact that we can't know anything to mean, therefore, don't bother, then we'll never learn anything. If we never learn anything, we'll never function in what appears to be the real world. There's a chance that doesn't matter at all -- but most people are unwilling to take that chance, myself included. I believe that reality exists largely as it reveals itself to us humans -- but that's an unprovable belief.

What's the point of all of this? The point is that scientific "knowledge" can tell us useful things and help us to manipulate the environment we seem to exist in. But to say that science can do more than this is every bit as much a leap of faith as any religion. Any application of science to history or philosophy, therefore, cannot be called any more "scientific" than Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Wicca, Pagganism, Scientology, or any other religion you'd care to imagine. My argument in these comments has been that evolutionary theory as it currently exists necessarily implicates these areas. The debate becomes confused because there are scientific *aspects* of evolutionary theory, but evolutionary theory does not escape the religiosity of any other philosophical system or worldview. That's why Judge Jones got it wrong. That's why it's no more Constitutional to teach evolutionary theory than to teach ID.

Josh

LF: "Josh, however, made the distinction himself by calling evolution a "fact" and historical evolution a "theory" and then positing that science can never demonstrate "facts." I was just pointing out that this appears to be an inconsistent position."

Only if you misstate my claim. I have five fingers on each hand. I know this to be true: a fact.

I don't know how many fingers my great-great-grandfather had. I can infer that he had 5 per hand, but I cannot show that to be true. My theory is that people have 5 fingers per hand. Then I meet someone with excess fingers, or fewer fingers, and I have to reject my theory and replace it with a better one.

Theory cannot become fact. This is a central misunderstanding of creationists, one that they repeat ad nauseum, until people almost think it works differently.

Universal gravitation is a theory, as is universal common descent, or evolution in its broadest sense. We can show that evolution happens in one context (I have 5 fingers), but the general principle is an entirely different category of thing. The fact that apples fall down doesn't transform gravity from theory to fact, it just fails to falsify the theory of gravitation.

And Sose, I've read IDolators' writings, and that's why I'm so dismissive. They have rhetoric, but no data. Indeed, they can have no data by the nature of the argument they present.

Kaiser Soze

None, I think you are reading much more into my posts and making assumptions about my views on various topics that are not based on what I have written. I'll try and answer your questions nevertheless and I'll correct your mistaken assumptions as I go on.

You wrote:

---"Soze wrote: "You cannot see nor weigh thought and consciousness. The brain is connected to thought and consciousness but thought and consciousness are not the brain. You can watch activity in the brain related to thought but the thoughts themselves exist in a non material dimension."

I don't think you are correct. I think there is pretty good evidence that you are wrong, but, obviously, what I refer to as evidence doesn't really matter, because, like an intelligent designer or an ignorant designer, there can necessarily be no evidence (no material) either to prove or disprove the existence of a non-material dimension."---

Are thoughts made up of matter? I don't think that anyone can prove that thought or consciousness is comprised of matter. If they are not made up of matter then they exist in another dimension. Physicists talk about other dimensions all of the time, and it is in mainstream physics that dimensions other then the 3 we see are often thought of as being a very real possiblity.

Then you wrote:

"If so, what can we possibly know, in an empirical and remotely verifiable way, about this non-material dimension?"

String theorists and other physicists theorize many dimensions beyond our 3. What we can know right now from our moment to moment experience is that we as conscious entities are non material substance existing as and in an extra dimensional space. We are non matter substance existing within a matter body. Our thoughts and mind are also non matter. These phenomena may exist in more then one extra dimension, there may be many.

As far as what can we learn in an empirical way about these other dimensions; well that's what many physicists are trying to learn. There is another way that we can learn about some of these other dimensions which does not depend on science, and that is through the study of our own mind and consciousness using our own mind and consciousness. Some types of Yoga, for example, are all about the study of consciousness and mind.

Then you wrote:

"you cannot know, or even assume, that anyone else knows the same things about the non-material dimension that you do. Why? Because you can't show them anything aout that dimension. There is nothing to show."

I disagree. In the post which you are commenting on I gave a link to my observations on how memory works. I put it to you that what I wrote there is easily verifiable by anyone.

Then you wrote:

"It may exist. Soze may be correct. But science is NOT CONCERNED WITH ANY SUCH NOTION."

Says who? The definition of science which I like best is that science is the search for truth.

Then you wrote:

"But from this starting point, you want to talk about a non-material dimension. Fine. But that certainly is not science. Your ideas about the non-material dimension are not based on empirical observations that, as a naive realist, you can expect that I, also a naive realist, perceive and perceive in the same way as you do."

Many physicists are trying to come up with theories about other dimensions. I doubt they would appreciate you calling their work unscientific. You have thoughts and I have thoughts, we both experience another dimensions[s] all of the time.

Then you said:

"Do I understand that you desire the imprimatur of "science" for your notions of the non-material dimension?"

Like I said, physicists have been theorizing about other dimensions for quite some time. When I speak of non-material I mean not comprised of 3 dimensional matter/energy i.e electrons, protons, atoms, etc.

Then you wrote:

"You obviously think that the bulk of mainstream scientific thought is poppycock, so why do you so earnestly desire that your theory be included in "science"?"

How is that obvious? I reject evolution and I reject the Big Bang theory, many scientists with impressive credentials also reject those two theories.

Then you wrote:

"You damn well might be correct. You obviously think you are. But what I don't understand is why it so upsets you that "scientists" disagree with you."

I am not upset that many people have beliefs that are different from my own. I expect them to have different beliefs then my own. I wasn't raised on Mars and just suddenly became aware of what "scientists" think on Earth. If I speak forcefully that is simply a rhetorical style. I am not in the least upset about what anyone believes when it comes to science or religion or anything else.

Then you wrote:

"I will once again ask, as I have done in every one of my posts on this board: Please provide some evidence for the fundamental and most important part of any design argument. That is, please tell me about the designer. Please tell me why it designed as it did. Please tell me about the nature of this designer."

Telling you about the designer is not evidence, it would simply be my opinion. Telling you why it does the things it does the way it does them, again is not evidence, it would just be my opinion.

If you want my opinion I can give you that.

A common belief among physcists is a thing called the Higgs Field. Whether it exists or not no one knows, but it is a popular theory. The Higgs field is supposed to pervade the entire universe. It is supposed to be the cause of giving mass to matter along with the hypothesized Higgs Boson particle. Then there is the Quantum Potential and Bells' Theorem. These three theories are postulating an interconnectedness, a unified reality in our universe.

From my way of looking at things I see the "Designer" as being something similar to Bohm's implicate order. The universe (infinite universe) which we can perceive is only showing us what is visible to our eyes and to our technological instruments. But there is more then meets the eye and our instruments. It wasn't long ago that the quantum world was unknown to us as well as other things revealed by modern technology, like cosmic microwaves, space plasma, infrared light etc. As our technology has advanced more things pop into our field of view. They were always there but we didn't know it.

To me the designer is something we exist as a part of. We are the explicate order, the designer is the implicate order. The world of matter is the quantum expression from a sub quantum substratum of the material universe. The complete holisitic universe is a unified field of an unknown energy comprising many dimensions of which we are usually (most people) only able to perceive the 3 dimensions of matter, plus mind and consciousness.

That unified field is the designer. Mind and consciousness are part of the unified field. Our mind and consciousness exist as parts of the unified field, the unified field as a whole is a single mind and consciousness. A single universal entity. Essentially, reality as we know it, is a living being. We and everything else in our space time exists within and as a part of a conscious intelligent entity, that entity exists in many more dimensions then the ones we can perceive.

As to where it came from? It is part of the natural development of the infinite space time continuum. At some point in time long long ago the original substance of the space time continuum somehow changed from an inert state into an active state. Consciousness and mind was one of the results of that change. We cannot really understand fully what happened because there are many dimensions at play in what happened (is happening) and we can only relate to a few of them. But to give an idea of what happened try to imagine an infinite ocean of ice. In all directions there was ice on into infinity. Then for some unknown reason there was a chemical reaction which created heat in the ice, the ice started to melt and eventually started to boil and kept on boiling from now until forever.

In a similar way the original state of the infinite space time continuum was an inert potential of some type. Some kind of massive change occured to that inert potential and it morphed into a different state. It developed consciousness/mind and gradually developed it's mind and intellect. After a long time it developed it's intellect to the point of being able to build the 3 dimensional world we see around us. It didn't build it like we build something. We build things that are different from ourselves. It builds things out of itself. Matter and the laws of nature exist because they are part of a conscious intelligent being.

Imagine how a virtual reality works. The programmer and computer build a digital world. Everything in the virtual world can seem like it is real, the chair can seem like a chair, the apple can seem like an apple, but in fact all that we experience in a virtual reality is a combination of pixels designed to look like those things. The virtual apple is really a part of the computer which has been designed to appear like an apple.

Quantum particles, neutrons, protons, electrons, atoms, these are like computer pixels to the designer, the designer is like a programmer and a computer in one. We live in a cosmic living computer. Everything exists as part of a cosmic virtual reality.

As to why the designer does things the way it does things, I am sure it has it's reasons. There are many people who believe they can give you an explanation or answer to that question. As do I. If you don't first understand that such a being actually exists, then trying to explain why it does things the way it does, seems pointless.

You wanted to know "the nature" of the designer? I am not sure what you mean by that but I'll try and give my understanding anyways. It is a conscious intelligent person. Like any conscious intelligent person it wants compansionship, it doesn't want to be alone. It doesn't want to be bored. It wants to have personal relationships with other persons. It is very intelligent, vastly more intelligent then we are. It exists everywhere, it is conscious of everything, everywhere, all of the time. Our consciousness/mind is part of it's consciousness/mind. Our abilities compared to it's abilities are comparable to a drop of water to the ocean. The drop of water in the ocean is part of the ocean, but the ocean is vastly different then the drop of water. The ocean circles the globe and can carve continents, the drop of water is categorically different then the ocean and yet one with the ocean at the same time.

Why do we exist? It wanted companionship, it didn't want to be alone. Once that was taken care of, from then on it wanted to give life to as many new people as possible. Why is there death and suffering? That's something to do with karma and the journey to perfection. But that's another story altogether.

Then you asked:

"Once again, I ask, why the hell do you so ardently desire the support of the one community (scientists) that, so recalcitrantly, disagrees with you?"

I don't ardently desire their support, I am trying to help them come to a higher level of life.

Then you wrote:

"Here you will probably say something about public education, and how ID ought to be taught alongside evolutionary theory in taxpayer-funded schools, and that that is what your beef is."

Well not quite. I just want to help people out of their mental prisons. If all you see for your future is the grave, then that's a very sad thing.

Then you wrote:

"Here you probably will say something about the leftist academy, and you are probably right. Much of the leftist academy blindly endorses the evolution side of this debate but is in no way willing even to consider the potential ramifications of evolutionary theory (see the Larry Summer debate).

But you are up against more than the leftist academy. You are up against facts and evidence and proof. You've got to show people something. Do it here. Do it now. We want to see. Convince us"

Uhhh...no. I am a leftist. Politically I am very liberal. I don't like to see spirituality or science conflated with politics. Unfortunately a large section of the Left sees anything to do with spirituality as being consonant with the political right. What happened to the 1960's? The Left and spirituality were as one back then. And in fact for many people they still are. But when the 1980's started and with the Reagan revolution that followed, the new Left grew to see spirituality and the political right as being somehow cognate or of the same frame of mind. For many of us older leftists (I'm 46) we grew up when spirituality was really of great concern for the political left (the age of aquarius, new age, eastern philosophy, and all that).

Also I don't believe the "facts" are against my views. If you take the time to study the ID literature I believe any non biased person will come to the opposite conclusion.

Then you wrote:

"Show us how and why a designer set in motion, say, micro-evolution, instead of just, say, creating all species as they currently exist, at their (because I love Aquinas) teleological endpoints?"

Micro-evolution is a misnomer. There is no evolution in micro-evolution. Micro-evolution is simply another word for variation, like say breeding a small dog with various breeds so that eventually you can produce a different type of dog.

Real evolution is macro-evolution. The change of one species, one genus, one family, one order, one class, one phyla, one kingdom, one domain, into another, into another.

The fossil record according to paleontologists shows us that macro evolution never happened. All species come into existence and then become extinct looking the same. The higher classifications then species, like genus , phyla etc, the worse this reality becomes for evolutionary theory.

From Gould, S.J. (1977)"Evolution's Erratic Pace" Natural History, vol. 86, May

"The history of most fossil species include two features particularly inconsistent with gradualism:

1) Stasis - most species exhibit no directional change during their tenure on earth. They appear in the fossil record looking much the same as when they disappear; morphological change is usually limited and directionless;

2) Sudden appearance - in any local area, a species does not arise gradually by the steady transformation of its ancestors; it appears all at once and 'fully formed'."

From Kemp, Tom (1985)"A Fresh Look at the Fossil Record" New Scientist, Vol. 108, No. 1485, December 5, 1985), p. 66(Dr. Tom Kemp is Curator of Zoological Collections at the Oxford University Museum.)

"As is now well known, most fossil species appear instantaneously in the fossil record."

Simpson, George Gaylord (1953)The Major Features of Evolution New York: Columbia University Press, p. 360

"It remains true, as every paleontologist knows, that most new species, genera, and families, and that nearly all categories above the level of families, appear in the [fossil] record suddenly, and are not led up to by gradual, completely continuous transitional sequences"

Mayr, E., 1982The Growth of Biological Thought: Diversity, Evolution, and InheritanceThe Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, p. 524

"What one actually found was nothing but discontinuities. All species are separated from each other by bridgeless gaps; intermediates between species are not observed. ... The problem was even more serious at the level of the higher categories."

Mayr, E., 1991One Long Argument: Charles Darwin and the Genesis of Modern Evolutionary ThoughtHarvard University Press, Cambridge, p. 138

"Paleontologists had long been aware of a seeming contradiction between Darwin's postulate of gradualism ... and the actual findings of paleontology. Following phyletic lines through time seemed to reveal only minimal gradual changes but no clear evidence for any change of a species into a different genus or for the gradual origin of an evolutionary novelty. Anything truly novel always seemed to appear quite abruptly in the fossil record."

Gould, S.J., 1982"Is a new and general theory of evolution emerging?"Evolution Now: A Century After Darwin Maynard Smith, J. (editor)W. H. Freeman and Co. in association with Nature, p. 140

"[T]he absence of fossil evidence for intermediate stages between major transitions in organic design, indeed our inability, even in our imagination, to construct functional intermediates in many cases, has been a persistent and nagging problem for gradualistic accounts of evolution."

Stanley, S. M., 1981The New Evolutionary Timetable: Fossils, Genes, and the Origin of SpeciesBasic Books, Inc., Publishers, N.Y., p. 40

"[T]he fossil record itself provided no documentation of continuity -- of gradual transitions from one kind of animal or plant to another of quite different form."

Stanley, S. M., 1981 The New Evolutionary Timetable: Fossils, Genes, and the Origin of SpeciesBasic Books, Inc., Publishers, N.Y., p. 101

"Since the time of Darwin, paleontologists have found themselves confronted with evidence that conflicts with gradualism, yet the message of the fossil record has been ignored. This strange circumstance constitutes a remarkable chapter in the history of science, and one that gives students of the fossil record cause for concern."

Stanley, S. M., 1981 The New Evolutionary Timetable: Fossils, Genes, and the Origin of SpeciesBasic Books, Inc., Publishers, N.Y., p. 71

"The known fossil record is not, and has never has been, in accord with gradualism. What is remarkable is that, through a variety of historical circumstances, even the history of opposition has been obscured. ... 'The majority of paleontologists felt their evidence simply contradicted Darwin's stress on minute, slow, and cumulative changes leading to species transformation.' ... their story has been suppressed."

Paul, C. R. C., 1989 "Patterns of Evolution and Extinction in Invertebrates"Allen, K. C. and Briggs, D. E. G. (editors), Evolution and the Fossil RecordSmithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D. C., 1989, p. 105

"With the benefit of hindsight, it is amazing that palaeontologists could have accepted gradual evolution as a universal pattern on the basis of a handful of supposedly well-documented lineages (e.g. Gryphaea, Micraster, Zaphrentis) none of which actually withstands close scrutiny."

tako

Professor Alschuler wrote:
"Most commentators haven't noticed what this post was about -- the Dover court's error in saying (or strongly implying) that Darwinism is consistent with mainstream religious views. Apparently Judge Jones' fans don't care to defend him on that point."

I'm not an American nor Christian, so I'm not in a position to say what the mainstream religious views in this country are. But the fact is that many biologists including Ken Miller, who testified in the court, as well as Francis Collins, who lead the Human Genome Project are Christians. Professor Alschuler, on what ground are you dismissing their religious views as not mainstream? As I see, literal interpretation of the Bible is not realistic nor mainstream. I imagine that each Christian or Jew has to come up with his/her own personal views. How do you think that your particular religious views has any more weight than, say Ken Miller's.


Professor Alschuler wrote:
"Let's try it this way. When Thomas Aquinas made his argument for design, he was not offering a negative argument against natural selection. It would have been difficult for him to do so when the theory of natural selection lay 600 years in the future. And Thomas's argument was pretty good. It persuaded people for centuries.

Then Charles Darwin and his followers said they had a better idea. What seemed to be designed wasn't; it was entirely the product of natural selection. If the proponents of intelligent design now can show that Darwin's theory is full of holes and makes no sense, they will put Thomas' argument just where it was. Why do they have to do more?"


I'm not a historian of science nor evolutionary biologist. But I think it's a mischaracterization to say that what Darwin offered was only a negative argument against design. Therefore I don't think it is sufficient for ID proponents to offer only negative arguments against evolution. What Darwin offered was a mechanism of evolution. I cannot claim to have read Thomas Aquinas, but I don't think he had what can be considered a scientific mechanism. The mechanism that Darwin's predecessor Lamarck offered was not satisfactory. ID proponents today haven't even come up with a mechanism, even though they have more information than Aquinas or Darwin.


Professor Alschuler wrote:
"What positive argument have the proponents of natural selection made for the proposition that those random mutations are random? The fact that they can't see a pattern doesn't mean that one doesn't exist. But when scientists can't see a pattern and no one has suggested one -- when those mutations sure look random to them -- it's appropriate for them to regard the mutations as random. They need not make what the commentators would count as a "positive" argument. If someone then maintained that the mutuations weren't random because they were dictated by the phases of the moon, shooting down this theory would restore the common sense perception."


Randomness is such a subtle word that I feel uncomfortable the crude way you use it. You have a point that randomness depends on our ignorance and/or limited ability to predict. A card drawn from a deck of shuffled cards is random only because we don't know how the cards are ordered. Rolling a dice is deterministic in principle, but effectively random because we cannot predict the outcome. But I will leave philosophical arguments to someone who is more qualified.

For practical problems we face in science and mathematics, we can deal with randomness by probability and statistics. Statistics provides tools to test how random or non-random things are. Of course, there is always a possibility that there is some pattern that is not detected with the tests used. But that is the nature of science. In any case, is a possibility of a hidden but not yet detected pattern enough reason to dismiss randomness that is detectable and overlapping?

What we are talking about here is evolution. In order for Darwinian evolution to work, all you need is mutations to produce enough variations that make natural selection to work. Complete randomness - whatever that means - is not necessary.

I suspect what professor really have problem is not randomness in a scientific or mathematical sense, but randomness as lack of purpose.


Professor Alschuler wrote:
"Perhaps it would help to talk about default positions. The default position when things sure look random is that they are random. The default position when it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck is that it is a duck. (And answering the guy who claims it's a goose makes it a duck again.) And the default position when the duck sure looks designed is that it is designed.

Or maybe putting it this way would help: If randomness and design are a genuine rather than a contrived dualism -- if they are the only theories in play -- whatever tends to shoot down one tends to reinforce the other."


But I do think that to say that something is random is a positive statement in a sense that there are ways to rule out if not to prove. It is not a default position that you take until you find some kind of a pattern. Of course, to say that there is this particular pattern is a positive statement that can be tested (although there is some possibility of false positive here too). The more problematic one is to say there is "some" pattern, although we don't exactly know it.

I would also like to add that distinction between randomness and design depends on definition. Something designed by the so-called "genetic algorithm" (which involves random process) can be both designed and random.


Professor Alschuler wrote:
"Could we compromise? How about this formulation? The theory of natural selection is full of holes and therefore leaves room for the possibility of intelligent design. Would the commentators settle for that?"


No. Unless intelligent design offers something that can be tested, how can we even speculate the possibility of it passing the test?

none

Soze-

I appreciate the comprehensive reply.

I think it would be great if Professor Alschuler, and anyone else with a better science background than me, would comment on your last post. (Though some of this, esp. the fossil record part, would be simply to rehash arguments that have gone on all over the place.)

Later, if I get more time, I will post some more questions I have for you.

Again, I appreciate that you are willing to lay out what you think. I wish more commentators would do the same.

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