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December 31, 2005

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Josh

None: Sose is trying a standard quotemining tactic of creationists. The fossil record amply documents evolution at work.

He's partly misrepresenting what punctuated equilibrium is, and there's a nice description here: http://talkorigins.org/faqs/punc-eq.html

The same site has a nice discussion of transitional fossils: http://talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-transitional.html

The Field Museum houses actual fossils that show transitions of various types, and researchers there and at the U. of Chicago have and continue to demonstrate evolution at work.

And no, Kaiser Sose, macroevolution is no more "real evolution" than microevolution. Macroevolution is a series of microevolutionary events strung end to end. A long journey begins with a single step, and that step is followed by a thousand more. Each is real, and so is the journey.

AlanDownunder

Fairy: "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."

Agreed.

Fairy, following on: "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."

Totally disagree. Evolutionary theory, like all science is ONLY the scientific aspects of what you call evolutionary theory. Its methodological naturalism is not a denial of God but a modest recognition that it is unequipped to know anything about God. That's one reason why Judge Jones got it right. The other reason is that ID is faith mendaciously passed off as science. Bad faith at that, given what the 9th Commandment says.

Some aspects of some interpretations of some scriptures are in conflict with evolutionary theory. To believers who hold to those aspects (literalists, fundamentalists) evolution seems to be an atheistic philosophy because it appears to tread on religious turf. To make things worse, real atheists seize upon these conflicts and enter into real - not illusory - conflict with not only literalist believers but all believers.

This believer can tell the difference between an atheist and a scientist. So can the leaders of many mainstream religious denominations. Why can't you? What among your dogma does science offend?

And Prof, what's the dogmatic sticking point that so degrades your legal and philosophical scholarship?

Phil

Chance and design are logically contradictory hypotheses, perhaps, but it does not serve wisdom (or students who seek it) to build that simple contradiction up as an either/or controversy. More directly put, a thoroughgoing empiricism is not incompatible with the hypothesis of a benevolent and creative god.

A school district concerned that science may lead students away from faith, or vice versa, should work to cultivate in its pupils some facility with logic and appreciation of metaphor. The fact that angry people will line up on either "side" of a non-issue and carp at each other does not need to be stickered into schoolbooks.

(For tweedy types who need a citation, I'd suggest some C.S. Peirce. He's brutal, but well worth the effort provided you don't make the mistake of trying to discuss him with anyone not already laboring to understand his work. "Chance, Love and Logic" is a good collection with points on point for this kerfuffle. Agape ftw.)

The Law Fairy

The point isn't that evolutionary theory conflicts with the existence of God -- I don't think that it does at all, and I don't think that the way it is taught suggests that there cannot be a God. It does, however, suggest something in conflict with over views of the origins of life.

But aside from this (I think this point has already been pretty well fleshed out), I think evolution is more than science -- NOT because it suffers from inherent disagreement with certain other religions, but because the assumptions underlying evolution are not fully disclosed. Such things aren't necessary with mainstream religions because when you say "I'm Buddhist" or "I'm Jewish," people don't mistake what you're saying for gospel truth (no pun intended). When you say "this is science," people listen up and deem the information automatically more credible. The problem is that philosophical assumptions and determinations necessarily creep into scientific research and theory. I'm not saying this makes science "bad" or scientists "bad" or "wrong" somehow -- but it does mean that science, while quite useful, when it purports to tell us anything about why we're here -- which evolution certainly at least hints at -- it can't masquerade as pure science. We can do the useful things with science that we by studying the things we can presently observe. We don't need to know what happened a million years ago to know how to manufacture a flu vaccine, or how to design rockets to send a ship into space, or how to create a high-speed computer processor. If we needed to know these things, we'd be screwed -- because we *don't* know them! (Not under any philosophically honest definition of the word "know," that is). This isn't to say that researching our origins is a pointless or fruitless task. I think it's quite an interesting one -- but it's also more than scientific. It takes the scientific method and applies it to an historic and anthropological endeavor. As such, it's important to emphasize the fact that, like historic and anthropoligical research, it has an underlying philosophy that bears exposure. This is why at least the SMART supporters of ID have urged balance in the classrooms.

Josh

Fairy: The assumption that things work the same way now that they did back when is what lets us assume they'll work tomorrow. We call this uniformitarianism. It's why lab experiments in physics, chemistry, and even evolutionary biology are relevant to the real world, including supercomputers, flu vaccines, and space exploration.

Understanding human evolution is vital to biomedical research, including vaccine research.

Google "Darwinian medicine."

The Law Fairy

Josh,

Thanks for the suggestion. I did google Darwinian medicine and here are the first few sites that pop up (I reviewed these briefly; not in-depth reading but enough to get, I think, the gist of their contents):

http://www.people.virginia.edu/~rjh9u/darwmed.html

http://www.chester.ac.uk/~sjlewis/DM/TEXTS/TEXT1.HTM

http://darwinianmedicine.org/

http://www.kroh.net/rocketry/darwin.html

While the sites have some interesting and likely useful perspectives on medicine - it's not clear to me how evolutionary biology itself adds anything to the medical field. That is to say, from my reading of these sites they appear to be taking current observations of what happens in the course of bacteria or a virus, and seeing how evolution might have caused this. If they're then taking theories that are solely evolutionary in nature (that is to say, a theory that doesn't partly belong any other theory or method of medicine) and applying them to make predictions, these predictions prove useful, and they put them into action by manufacturing, say, a vaccine for a virus that hasn't infected the population, then I'll grant you that evolutionary biology has something to add to medical science. But from this brief research I'm not seeing how it's *necessary* to achieve the advances we have in medicine.

Part of this may be that apparently Darwinian medicine is a new study. So it remains to be seen whether it will prove a useful endeavor.

Kaiser Soze

Josh,

Microevolution is nothing more then variations of gene frequency within a species. Examples are the different types of dogs, different types of humans, etc.

Micromutations have been rejected as being able to explain macroevolution e.g a fish into an amphibian, a reptile into a bird.

In a 1996 article in the leading journal Developmental Biology, the evolutionary biologists S.F. Gilbert, J.M. Opitz, and R.A. Raff explained the matter this way:

"The Modern Synthesis is a remarkable achievement. However, starting in the 1970s, many biologists began questioning its adequacy in explaining evolution. Genetics might be adequate for explaining microevolution, but microevolutionary changes in gene frequency were not seen as able to turn a reptile into a mammal or to convert a fish into an amphibian. Microevolution looks at adaptations that concern only the survival of the fittest, not the arrival of the fittest. As Goodwin (1995) points out, "the origin of species- Darwin's problem-remains unsolved."

From Lewin, R. (1980)"Evolutionary Theory Under Fire" Science, vol. 210, 21 November, p. 883

"The central question of the Chicago conference was whether the mechanisms underlying microevolution can be extrapolated to explain the phenomena of macroevolution. At the risk of doing violence to the positions of some of the people at the meeting, the answer can be given as a clear, No.

... Evolution, according to the Modern Synthesis, moves at a stately pace, with small changes accumulating over periods of many millions of years yielding a long heritage of steadily advancing lineages as revealed in the fossil record. However, the problem is that according to most paleontologists the principle feature of individual species within the fossil record is stasis, not change...

In a generous admission Francisco Ayala, a major figure in propounding the Modern Synthesis in the United States, said "We would not have predicted stasis from population genetics, but I am now convinced from what the paleontologists say that small changes do not accumulate."

S. Lovtrup, (biologist, embryologist) (1987)Darwinism: The Refutation of a Myth London: Croom Helm, p. 422

"Micromutations do occur, but the theory that these alone can account for evolutionary change is either falsified, or else it is an unfalsifiable, hence metaphysical theory. I suppose that nobody will deny that it is a great misfortune if an entire branch of science becomes addicted to a false theory. But this is what has happened in biology: ... I believe that one day the Darwinian myth will be ranked the greatest deceit in the history of science. When this happens many people will pose the question: How did this ever happen? ..."

From darwinismrefuted.com

As we have seen, genetic science has discovered that variations, which Darwin thought could account for "the origin of species," actually do no such thing. For this reason, evolutionary biologists were forced to distinguish between variation within species and the formation of new ones, and to propose two different concepts for these different phenomena. Diversity within a species-that is, variation-they called "microevolution," and the hypothesis of the development of new species was termed "macroevolution."

These two concepts have appeared in biology books for quite some time. But there is actually a deception going on here, because the examples of variation that evolutionary biologists have called "microevolution" actually have nothing to do with the theory of evolution. The theory of evolution proposes that living things can develop and take on new genetic data by the mechanisms of mutation and natural selection. However, as we have just seen, variations can never create new genetic information, and are thus unable to bring about "evolution." Giving variations the name of "microevolution" is actually an ideological preference on the part of evolutionary biologists.

The impression that evolutionary biologists have given by using the term "microevolution" is the false logic that over time variations can form brand new classes of living things. And many people who are not already well-informed on the subject come away with the superficial idea that "as it spreads, microevolution can turn into macroevolution." One can often see examples of that kind of thinking. Some "amateur" evolutionists put forward such examples of logic as the following: since human beings' average height has risen by two centimeters in just a century, this means that over millions of years any kind of evolution is possible. However, as has been shown above, all variations such as changes in average height happen within specific genetic bounds, and are trends that have nothing to do with evolution.

We can sum up the situation like this: Variations, which Darwinism has seen as "evidence of evolution" for some hundred years, actually have nothing to do with "the origin of species." Cows can be mated together for millions of years, and different breeds of cows may well emerge. But cows can never turn into a different species-giraffes or elephants for instance. In the same way, the different finches that Darwin saw on the Galapagos Islands are another example of variation that is no evidence for "evolution." Recent observations have revealed that the finches did not undergo an unlimited variation as Darwin's theory presupposed. Moreover, most of the different types of finches which Darwin thought represented 14 distinct species actually mated with one another, which means that they were variations that belonged to the same species. Scientific observation shows that the finch beaks, which have been mythicized in almost all evolutionist sources, are in fact an example of "variation"; therefore, they do not constitute evidence for the theory of evolution. For example, Peter and Rosemary Grant, who spent years observing the finch varieties in the Galapagos Islands looking for evidence for Darwinistic evolution, were forced to conclude that "the population, subjected to natural selection, is oscillating back and forth," a fact which implied that no "evolution" that leads to the emergence of new traits ever takes place there.36

So for these reasons, evolutionists are still unable to resolve Darwin's problem of the "origin of species."

ctw

prof A's posts suggest a misunderstanding of what science is about and repeatedly ascribe to groups the characteristics of individual members, eg, "biologists believe/say/do X". several commenters have addressed these, so far to no avail. no doubt futilely, I'll nonetheless give it another shot.

science is about developing theories and conceptual models for physical phenomena that are consistent with available evidence resulting from the phenomena. the underlying mechanisms are often - like the wizard of oz - behind a screen and may remain behind the screen a long time, perhaps forever. however, a mechanism previously not understood may become so due to improved technology, leading to hypothesizing a more basic underlying mechanism. in that sense, a theory may never be complete (ie, the "ultimate mechanism" may never be known) and hence never "proved". altho new data consistent with a theory may become available and increase the confidence in the models, the theory and associated models may never perfectly reflect reality. but if they consistently generate predictions in accord with available data, they may be deemed close enough to label the theory a "fact", which as far as I can tell is the only sense in which thoughtful "biologists say that evolution is a fact not a theory", contrary to assertions by prof A.

if a model fails to generate predictions in accord with available data, it will be either tweaked until the inconsistencies are removed or perhaps abandoned (possibly temporarily). contrary to prof A's implications, it isn't necessary that participants in this process be disengenuous ("heads I win, tails you lose"). it is a matter of refining necessarily approximate models to be a better fit with emerging data. assuming, of course, integrity on the part of the scientists involved. if one starts with the assumption, implicit in prof A's posts, that a majority of scientists in multiple disciplines have none, then the compatibility debate is over since believers in evolution necessarily trust that most scientists do have integrity, and two positions based on fundamentally incompatible assumptions can never be reconciled.

much of prof A's (and other ID apologists) disdain for evolutionists appears to revolve around model tweaking. eg, his discourse on altruism seems to boil to observing that when models of the evolution phenomenon are inadequate to explain it, biologists change them. but when a current models fails to accommodate new data, scientists routinely rework the theory and change the models or abandon them. why prof A is disdainful of scientists who choose the first of these options rather than the second - or perhaps giving up and attributing the phenomenon to supernatural causes - is unclear.

prof A seems not to have a good grasp of how one deals with the concept of "randomness". statistical theories pose models for phenomena whose underlying mechanisms are assumed to be random. if a model predicts the statistical behavior of such a phenomenon, it's considered adequate. but note that it isn't necessary to identify the ultimate underlying mechanism for apparently random phenomena. it may be some cosmic singularity, the wizard of oz, or god. contrary to prof A's claim, assuming randomness isn't a religious belief so long as one doesn't dogmatically assert knowledge of the ultimate mechanism underlying the apparent randomness. which is why I doubt the validity of inferring atheism (which for the present context I take to be belief that the ultimate mechanism is not god) from belief in evolution and specifically random mutation. my guess is that the dominant posture among evolutionists is admission of ignorance and possibly indifference as to ultimate mechanisms.

I find prof A's assertion of incompatibility between religion and science to be incomplete, as are others' assertions of compatibility. biblical literalism is clearly incompatible with current scientific models of reality. existence of a theistic god doesn't appear to be supported by any scientifically accepted evidence (which, of course, doesn't prove non-existence, only that ID-like movements have failed to convince the relevant scientific communities to accept their "evidence" of underlying mechanisms attributable to a supernatural actor). an abstract concept of a "spiritual aspect of life" is outside the realm addressed by evolution science. and a deistic god seems to be by definition undetectable by scientific methods. it appears that in most cases, evolution theory simply has nothing to say on the topic of religion. which has been suggested in hundreds of comments in this forum and elsewhere.

Deborah Spaeth

Poor Perfesser Alshuler. He doesn't get it. And even when it's explained to him plainly, he plays dumb. And what's this? A "compromise"?

"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?"

Hahahahaahah. This is simply lying by omission, Perfesser.

Every scientific theory has its shortcomings. And scientists aren't afraid to admit it.

Compared to evolutionary biology, the "theory" of "intelligent design" is so deeply flawed and so utterly useless that it merits nearly universal derision from professional biologists of ALL religious faiths.

How is it a "compromise" to mention this "theory" alongside the cornerstone theory of biology, Perfesser?

How does it represent a "compromise" to mention "intelligent design" theory but not mention Enterocraftic Theory, which posits that every life form that ever lived on earth for the past 4 billion years was pooped out unconsciously by life form-pooping deities?

A "compromise" in your view, Perfesser, seems to mean simply telling the lies about evolutionary biology the way that you want them told.

The most pathetic part of Alschuler's tiresome long-winded complaint, of course, is that the ID peddlers themselves already recognize that ID theory is dead in the water.

Apparently Perfesser Alschuler didn't get the Discovery Institute's memo: it's about "critical analysis" of evolution now.

That's all right, Perfesser. Your new scripts are probably in the mail as we speak.

Deborah Spaeth

Let's count the falsehoods

"The emergence of humans and hippopotamuses from a one-celled organism over the course of 3.5 billion years could not have been the product of both a purposeful process and an entirely random process."

Why not? My deity is capable of making his purposeful processes appear entirely random. Isn't yours?

"Well-meaning efforts to bridge the chasm fail whenever it rains."

My effort (see above) would seem to resolve the issues for anyone who is interested in seeing them resolved. Are you going to "rain" on it, Perfesser?

"The brain can do many things that no instrument devised by human beings can."

So can bacteria. *shrug* And instruments can do things that brains or bacteria can't. *shrug*

"Although the brain appears to be designed, evolutionary biology says that this appearance is an illusion."

False. Evolutionary biology says there is no evidence for designers that created every bacteria and every brain that existed on earth for the past 4 billion years.

This is just lying, Perfesser. You've already been educated about this issue. Perhaps you failed to read the comments carefully? Rather sad for someone in your position.

"Evolutionary biology is not (and could not be) a profession with clear standards of proof."

Ah, the smearing begins in earnest. Of course, scientists know that "standards of proof" are not really the issue. The issue is utility and reproducibility. The proof is truly in the pudding, as the saying goes.

But what does the Perfesser care about such things? This is about smearing scientists. Not about facts or "reality" or anything grown-up like that.

"Of course visual perceptions and other perceptions of fact can be wrong. Like all other forms of knowledge, they should remain at least a bit provisional."

Hahahahahaha. Yeah, Perfesser. Let's get those sticker-machines rolling! "This thing that some people call a 'spoon' is really just light rays reflecting off some atoms." How about some stickers for the stickers, Perfesser? "This sticker is just some light rays and may not actually 'exist'." Hahahah!!! This is fun. Are your colleagues as clever as you, Perfesser?

"The views of humankind taught by Darwinism are not those taught in most churches."

Uh ... so what? Either are the pro-torture views of the Bush administration or the bribe-n-lie tactics of Abramoff's Republican cronies, yet the fundies vote for those guys like robots. Any other irrelevant points to make, Perfesser?

"Evolutionary biology is distinctive in insisting that the evidence proves randomness and in rejecting Einstein’s dictum that God does not play dice with the universe."

Again, the Big Lie. Evolutionary biology just says that, if there is a "purpose", it's not detectable by scientists.

Sort of like how angels and souls aren't detectable by scientists, Perfesser. Or do you have a problem with that "conclusion," too, Perfesser? Is that issue not discussed in your script?

Tell me, Perfesser: if I get 100 people in a room praying to their deity that a coin I'm flipping turns up heads EVERY TIME, and I flip that coin 1000 times and it turns up heads 50% of the time, is it wrong for me to conclude that -- scientifically speaking -- human prayer does not detectably affect the outcome of coin tosses?

Or must I -- as a scientist -- must I genuflect before your deity and your beliefs and state: "It is also possible that God simply didn't feel like answering those prayers on that day for his own reasons."

Is it your belief that the inclusion of the latter disclaimer makes my conclusion more SCIENTIFICALLY accurate?

If so, then we can pretty much wrap it here because, well, you're a fundy who doesn't distinguish between facts and your religious beliefs.

It'd be great if you'd clear this up, Perfesser.

"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."

It is difficult to see how students would be harmed by learning the facts about how scientists understand life on earth to have evolved.

I can see how a religion might lose members when the members discover that the leaders of the religion are lying about certain things.

But I don't see how students would be harmed.

Can you explain how students would be harmed by learning facts about evolution, Perfesser? In science class?

I'll be waiting right here, Perfesser. I want to see you admit -- just once -- that you took a little liberty with the truth in your arguments above.

I'll be waiting. But I won't be holding my breath.

Josh

Common descent is the principle which makes medical testing in animal models practical. We think that a medicine's behavior in a mouse tells us anything about its effect on a human because we share an ancestor, and therefore share most of the same biochemical pathways.

For other uses of evolution in medicine, check out Tears of the Cheetah, by the head of the Genomics lab at the National Cancer Institute. Understanding how to prevent AIDS relies on understanding human evolution, as does preventing and treating some cancers.

KS: "Microevolution is nothing more then variations of gene frequency within a species. Examples are the different types of dogs, different types of humans, etc."

I'm not sure if by "variation" you mean within a population at a given moment or over time, but only the latter is strictly accurate. Macroevolution doesn't mean what you think it does, so your argument from there is a straw man. The transition from terrestrial mammals to whales is well documented as a series of small evolutionary changes, for instance.

But let's not get bogged down like that. You say microevolution is within a species. Darwin's point, way back when, was that variation within a species was not really different from variation among species. You just extend the variation within a species, and you have two (or more) species.

Check out Dolph Schluter's work on sticklebacks, or the work others have done on Rhagoletis flies.

The evolution of higher taxonomic groupings is no different. You have two distinct species, each changing on their own, moving in new directions, splitting and evolving. At some point, the ancestors of one part of the split are so different from the ancestors of the other that we call it a new genus. At some point, the differences are so great that we call the groups different families, classes, orders, phyla, or kingdoms.

No one expects birds to emerge from a single mutation. The evidence all points to birds evolving from a series of mutations beginning in a reptile ancestor. To say otherwise is to misrepresent the state of the science. The same is true of the other transitions you mention.

Macroevolution, as biologists use the term, refers to patterns of evolution across groups. Here's a Google Scholar search with some examples: http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=macroevolution

The process of species formation is called "speciation" which can be divided into two basic classes. "Cladogenesis" is when a species splits (as described above), "anagenesis" is when a species changes so much over time that we give it a new name.

Both can be observed.

As for the Galapagos finches, you would only be right if your definition of evolution were right. It isn't, so you aren't. Evolution is change over time. The populations changed over time. Over time, the environment changed, and the populations changed again. More evolution.

If you fly from Chicago to Atlanta and then fly back, have you not traveled?

none

I'm sure Deborah will be waiting right here. From my quick perusal of these posts, she has nothing better to do.

Deborah Spaeth

"I'm sure Deborah will be waiting right here. From my quick perusal of these posts, she has nothing better to do."

Hahaha.

On the contrary. Fortunately, it doesn't take much concentration to shoot fish in a barrel, especially stupid, fat and predictably slow-moving ones.

Again, that's what's so sad about these academic-type creationists and creationists apologists. They really think that because they got "A" in English and History that they are "smart". Therefore, according to their arrogant small minds, we are supposed to take their bizarro opinions about evolutionary biology seriously.

Of course, the moment the creationists' "scientific" arguments are revealed to be specious and based on misrepresentation, deception and outright lies, they turn tail and start muttering about being "persecuted" by the conspiracy of atheist materialists who refuse to "compromise".

But let's see if the Great Perfesser has an "awakening" of some sort.

Deborah Spaeth

none

"I noted in my earlier post that there damn well may be constitutional issues with a scientific theory that discredits certain religious beliefs."

Let's consider one. Let's consider the scientific "theory" that a mammal whose heart and respiratory system has shut down completely, which has been stabbed in its vital organs, and which has been buried at ambient temperatures for 72 hours does not suddenly come back to life, perform feats of superstrength, walk around for a while, then disappear.

Scientifically speaking, this is a rock solid theory. You might even call it a scientific fact.

An honest, reasonable person who wondered whether scientists were aggressively seeking to replace religious beliefs with a "materialist worldview" (whatever that means) might ask the question: do scientists encourage the teaching of this "theory" in high school biology classrooms?

An honest, reasonable person, upon finding the answer to the question was "NO," might ask, "Why not?"

An honest, reasonable person, might come to the realization that scientists are at the very least (surprise!) happy to compromise with religious people when it comes to teaching science in public schools.

What does Perfesser Alschuler say?

Kaiser Soze

Josh you wrote:

"Common descent is the principle which makes medical testing in animal models practical. We think that a medicine's behavior in a mouse tells us anything about its effect on a human because we share an ancestor, and therefore share most of the same biochemical pathways."

I'm sorry josh but your thoery stated above is not verifiable. If someone tests a medicine on a mouse it's not because they supposedly share a common ancestor. It's because a mouse is a mammal and is thought of as being expendable. Biochemical pathways may be similar among various species for the same reason the design of a car engine from the 1930's and of one from today share similarities. Both of the engines of old and of today were designed using the same principles of motor design. There is no evidence in the fossil reccord for a common ancestor unless you simply use a tautological premise based on homology, which is what you do consistently i.e animal X has similar or homologous structures to animal Y there they evolved from animal B. That is the sum and susbtance of your argument. There is no actual data to back up that claim and a lot of data to refute it.

see http://www.darwinismrefuted.com/myht_of_homology.html

Your other points about the proper use of the word evolution and microevolution and your point of there being evidence of evolution:

"No one expects birds to emerge from a single mutation. The evidence all points to birds evolving from a series of mutations beginning in a reptile ancestor. To say otherwise is to misrepresent the state of the science. The same is true of the other transitions you mention."

There is no evidence in the fossil record, the only so called evidence is in the speculations of evolutionists, tautology is not evidence, speculative theories are not evidence. see http://www.darwinismrefuted.com/mechanisms.html

Deborah Spaeth

"There is no evidence in the fossil record"

For the love of jeebus, please do not bother responding to this lying fanatical science-smearing idiot.

And take note, Perfesser: Kaiser Soze's shopworn brand of recycled creationist apologetics has been heard, evaluated and flushed down the toilet a thousand times in a thousand different venues.

Why?

Because it's pure crap. Please visit www.talkorigins.org (for example) and educate yourself, Perfesser, if you're "skeptical" ...

...after you answer my questions, of course.

Nataly

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."

Nataly

"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.)

Deborah Spaeth

Nataly

"then mainstream religions would take issue with evolutionary biology. But they don't."

Yes, but the fundamentalists are soooo much smarter than those primitive, practically pagan Catholics with their queer priests, colorful frocks and vaguely cannibalistic rituals.

Perfesser Alschuler is trying to educate those mainstream Catholics, don't you see? He's trying to make those people "see the light" about how those Atheist Scientists are interfering with the right of religious fanatics to throw feces at whatever target is most convenient for their Rolex-sportin' preachers.

Bit Judge Jones is messing everything up with all his fancy judge-talk about "facts," "evidence," "falsifiability," the "scientific method," and "lying" creationists.

frank schmidt

I invite my fellow scientists to blog with a similar level of sophistication as Prof. Altschuler demonstrates regarding science on the topics of: "plea bargaining, sentencing reform, privacy, search and seizure, civil procedure, jury selection, legal history, legal ethics, confessions, courtroom conduct, William Blackstone, Oliver Wendell Holmes, American legal theory, and other topics, most of them in the area of criminal justice."

Sheesh.

Deborah Spaeth

Alschuler

"When the squirrels that give warning cries lose their lives at a higher rate than the squirrels that stay quiet, the altruistic squirrels should die out before long."

And furthermore, why haven't sharks grown legs and taken over the earth? Evolution doesn't explain this problem. Therefore, mysterious alien beings must have designed every living thing that ever lived on the earth for the past 4 billion years.

C'mom Perfesser. We all mistakes.

It takes a man to admit it, though.

Deborah Spaeth

Hee hee -- that should be "we all make mistakes."

My apologies.

See how easy that was, Perfesser?

Deboarah Spaeth

mms://mv-helix1.cwru.edu/a/2006/biology/intelligent_design_384kbps_01_03_2006_1.wmv

The link is to an archived movie of a lecture by professional biologist, textbook author, and Dover expert, Ken Miller, earlier this week at Case Western.

Educational.

Albert Alschuler

Here's a hokey hypo:

One day, Tom Aquinas was walking on the beach. He knew that Bill Paley had found a valuable watch there the day before, so he was on the alert. Tom didn't find a watch, but he did find a manuscript. The manuscript had a title, War and Peace, but no author was listed. Tom read the manuscript. It was very long and very good. Everything Tom knew about the coherent use of language told him that the manuscript must have had an intelligent author, but the author remained mysterious. Tom wasn't able to find out very much about him.

Some time later, Tom's friend Chuck Darwin said there wasn't any author, at least not in the sense in which Tom had used the word. Instead, millions of monkeys had typed randomly without knowing what they were doing until one produced War and Peace. Or rather, it wasn't just one monkey. All the monkeys typed until one produced the first sentence. Then the successful monkey's successors started with the inherited sentence and typed furiously until another produced the second sentence and so on. You might think that this process would never produce War and Peace, but the monkeys had billions of years to do it. Typing randomly, they produced not only War and Peace but also Moby Dick and thousands of other great novels.

Tom was unpersuaded and asked Chuck what evidence he had. Chuck said that he had discovered many 8-million-year old monkey fossils with 8-million-year-old IBM Selectric typewriters in close proximity. The typewriters were what had led Chuck to call his theory the theory of Natural Selectric. Then Chuck found some 7-million-year old monkey fossils with 7-million-year-old typewriters, and so on. Tom, however, still thought Chuck's idea was silly and continued to believe in an author.

At this point, Chuck, who was a true gentleman, departed, and his followers took over. Some of Chuck's followers started shouting things like this at Tom:

You could never falsify the idea of an "author." You can always posit an "author" to explain whatever you don't understand (just as you can posit a little green man with a horn growing out of his forehead). The idea of an "author" is supernatural, and we've ruled out supernatural explanations. You must be a creationist and a fundamentalist. You can believe whatever you want about an "author" or about little green men, but don't call it "science." We have a "scientific method." Moreover, we have real scientists working hard and publishing in peer reviewed journals. We have explained the mechanism by which those monkeys typed War and Peace, and you can't tell us anything about your "author." Who was he? When did he write? Did he dictate or use a pen?

For a complete catalogue of all the things Chuck's followers said to Tom, read the comments above.

Of course the point isn't that the argument for Natural Selection is no better than the argument for Natural Selectric or that the parallels between the hokey hypo and the current ID controversy are close. The only point is that there is nothing wrong with the form of Tom's argument. Get rid of pretentious claims of "falsification" and "scientific method"; start talking "inference to the best explanation"; and you'll make room for Tom Aquinas (who, in the hypo at least, has the better case).

tako

Professor Alschuler,

You are getting silly. It's hard to believe but you don't seem to understand how falsification works.

But let's use your War and Peace example. Forget about the monkey business. That is too ridiculous. If the manuscript is written in a human language, it is fair to assume that it was written by a human (unless it is disproven). The question is the identity of the author.

Suppose that three scholars examined the manuscript and came up with three different hypotheses. The first one said it was written in 18th century or earlier. The second one said it was written in 19th century. The third one said it was written in 20th century.

How can one falsify the hypothesis that it was written in 18th century or earlier? Closer examination found that the manuscript describes the war that happened in early 19th century. So, the manuscript must be written later than that. But it could be written in 19th century or 20th century.

Then, suppose that they found evidence that this manuscript is more than 150 years old. That will rule out the hypothesis that it was written in 20th century.

What ID proponents do is more like simply saying that there was some intelligent being who produced this manuscript. They don't say whether this intelligent being was human with flesh and blood, or god, or ghost, or whatever. They don't say when this manuscript was written. They don't say whether it was typed or written by a pen. They don't say in which language this manuscript was originally written. They don't offer anything testable.

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