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December 21, 2005

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Timmy Thomson

Hi

My name is Timmy. I'm 9 years old.

I have read three books on evolution including one by Stephen J. Gold.

Evolution just isn't very convincing. I'm sorry. I think God probably did it.

Please don't make students pretend God didn't do it just because some scientists have a different theory.

That's all.

Timmy's Mother

Dear brothers and sisters,

This is Timmy's mother.

I have I have read five books on evolution including one by Stephen J. Gold and one by Darrel Dawkins.

Like Timmy, I just think evolution isn't very convincing. If we evolved from a bacteria, why don't bacteria fly spaceships? That is just one of many questions that scientists don't answer.

Timmy has a right to form his own opinion about what God did and he knows that he will suffer eternal torment in hellfire if he doesn't do that.

Why do scientists hate children?

Thank you for your patience. God bless you.

Timmy's Father

I am going to say this just once.

Jay Byrd and Deborah Spaeth, if I was an atheist like you two I would blow your brains out in two seconds.

May God have mercy on your souls.

Timmy's Pastor

Brothers and sisters.

My name is Pastor Land of Our Rovian Savior Neo-Baptist Megachurch.

I must rebuke the words uttered by Timmy's father, a member of my flock. Atheists deserve our pity, not our vengeance.

Our righteous anger should be directed at those who, in black robes and hoods, deem to make the laws which promulgate the secular reign of terror into which this Christian nation has been plunged.

Timmy, if you are still reading this thread, let me give you some advice. If you find yourself in a classroom where the idol of secular materialism is being burnished, simply reach into your pocket and find yourself a shiny American coin. On one side of that coin you will find four words that have been put there to comfort you.

Brothers and sisters, peace be unto you all.

Mr. Bird and Ms. Spaeth, I pray that you will discover the spiritual Vicodin you are seeking.

Timmy's Dog


I can type! I can communicate!

It's a miracle!

Uh-oh, someone's comi

AlanDownunder

Prof.Alschuler:
>

The Court:
>

Seems that the Court thought better about its contemplated order and that Prof.Alschuler can't have read to the end of the decision before writing about it.

Under the order actually made, ID is not verboten in public schools across the USA, or even in Dover PA. It can be studied politically and sociologically and it can even enter science class as an instructive counter-example when methodological naturalism is being explained (and hopefully uncoupled from philosophical naturalism).

This quote from the Prof above also troubles me deeply:
>

Since when did crediting witnesses involve psychoanalysis? Since when did courtesy preclude old fashioned fact and reason? Facts found on evidence adduced were that science warranted face value acceptance while religion had resorted to an ID mask and unconvincingly denied that it had done so.

AlanDownunder

Looks like my quotes disappeared. Here's a repost as should have been:

Prof.Alschuler:
"In Dover, moreover, the board may not direct teachers even to mention intelligent design. I quoted part of the relevant language in the first sentence of my post: "we will enter an order permanently enjoining Defendants from . . . requiring teachers to refer to a religious, alternative theory known as ID.""

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

Seems that the Court thought better about its contemplated order and that Prof.Alschuler can't have read to the end of the decision before writing about it.

Under the order actually made, ID is not verboten in public schools across the USA, or even in Dover PA. It can be studied politically and sociologically and it can even enter science class as an instructive counter-example when methodological naturalism is being explained (and hopefully uncoupled from philosophical naturalism).

This quote from the Prof above also troubles me deeply:
"Many evolutionary biologists undoubtedly regard religion as akin to sorcery and believe that the world would be a better place without it, but that’s not the argument most of them make publicly against teaching intelligent design. The argument they do make deserves to be taken at face value, and the proponents of intelligent design deserve the same respect. Freedom from psychoanalysis is a basic courtesy."

Since when did crediting witnesses involve psychoanalysis? Since when did courtesy preclude old fashioned fact and reason? Facts found on evidence adduced were that science warranted face value acceptance while religion had resorted to an ID mask and unconvincingly denied that it had done so.

Jay Byrd

Alan, a commenter at PandasThumb got it right, IMO:

http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2005/12/leiter_on_alber.html#comment-64182

"Yet one more illustration of the seductively corrosive power of religious faith. Presumably Alschuler is a competent, intelligent, knowledgeable individual until his religious convictions are perceived as threatened. At which point his eyes glaze over, his mind engages the instinct engines, and he starts lying for Jesus without skipping a beat.

What’s impressive is that a legal expert, an acknowledged authority on what he’s lying about, with a sterling reputation to uphold, can and will discard every bit of this. Like watching a famous mathematician unable to do basic arithmetic if he suspects Jesus disapproves."

AlanDownunder

Too true, Jay, but don't tar all religionists with the Alschuler brush. Most of us can distinguish between science and atheism.

The tragedy is that science, though utterly unequipped to study the supernatural, is the way people of all faiths can agree about the natural. Literalist extremists of all faiths just add to the sum total of world conflict. They are walking counter-evangelical advertisements for atheism.

ADR

Joe: thanks for your questions.

First, you begin with a conclusion - that ID is religion, pure and simple. If teaching ID were precisely the same as what is taught in Sunday school, that would be correct. But whether ID is a scientific or religious doctrine is precisely what it at issue. What the court concluded is hardly a given.

My question is: how should we get to that conclusion? An elected school board made the decision to teach it. The board was (probably correctly) removed at the next possible moment by the voters. It was a democratic victory against ID, and one that ID supporters cannot claim was rigged. A victory in court (needless at this point) does not have the same moral legitimacy as victory at the polls, which the anti-ID crowd had already secured. The judge's intemperate comments can also only fuel speculation that he was biased in the first place.

Many thanks to Prof Alschuler for such a though provoking post and the many commenters.

Unsympathetic reader

law fairy: "My point about the Big Bang was that any other postulated cause could be taken to explain things the way it is -- you could easily come up with numerous explanations that fit what we find evidence for."

Radical skepticism is a consistent philosophy, but most of us choose to move beyond "I think, therefore I am" (Rene Descartes knew from the start that his now famous phrase couldn't do much 'heavy lifting' in any practical sense). To actually accomplish anything besides sitting in a corner like a severe autistic, we need to assume that some explanations are better than others and that maybe there is some pattern to what our senses report to us. Otherwise we'll just spin our wheels forever.

Let's hit this from another direction: Let us propose that one additional reason why OJ should have gotten off was because a stampede of invisible pink unicorns *might* have killed Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman (note: Some invisible pink unicorns *might* have knife-like hooves). Is that good or bad reasoning? Why?


further: "And believing the earth is round is one hundred percent different. This is something we can PRESENTLY observe. We've seen it from space. It's not something we have to postulate happened billions of years ago. If you're going to analogize, at least do it responsibly."

How does one know we've actually seen it? How does one know that they don't exist as a disembodied brain in a virtual reality experience? Why do we translate the clearly 'round' image of the Earth into a sphere? One can image any number of possible, alternate explanations that fit the 'evidence'. Why do we pick one over the other?

We presently observe photons from galaxies that are billions of light years away. Observation reveals that the universe was smaller and hotter long ago. Certainly there is a chain of inductive and deductive reasoning that assists us in reaching such a conclusion. However, most scientists will tell you our ideas that the Earth is round and that the universe originated from a small, hot, dense region billions of years ago are not "one hundered percent different". The relative certainty of each prospect may be not be the same but the scientific reasoning and they way by which we reach these conclusions are not qualitatively different.

Unsympathetic reader

ADR: "A victory in court (needless at this point) does not have the same moral legitimacy as victory at the polls, which the anti-ID crowd had already secured."

Moral legitimacy is not something that is decided in the polls. Morality not something that is determined by vote. I'd go so far as to suggest that the only moral issue involved in this case is related to the board members who lied on the stand and in their pre-trial testimony.

The case had more *impact* than the vote because the trial and verdict spent a great deal of time deliberating about the arguments of Intelligent Design. In contrast, the elections mixed issues of religious opinion, fiscal responsibility, anger over deceit, science, responsibility of educators, and affiliation to political parties (just to name a few). The election of public officials is seldom a clear-cut referendum about "moral legitimacy".

John A. Mercer

"While professing to offer no opinion concerning the truth of intelligent design, the court consistently reveals its contempt for this theory."

Sorry, but there's no such thing as an ID theory. Theories start as hypotheses, and they have withstood many, many tests that have the potential to falsify them before being labeled as theories.

ID isn't even a hypothesis, because it doesn't explain the known data. That's why you'll never see IDers discussing the sequence data supporting the evolution of protein families across phyla, for example.

If you don't know what phyla are, keep in mind that I'm talking about macro-macroevolution in that context.

Red Mann

Dopderbeck said:

"You may be right that some assertions ID theorists have tried to make aren't really falsifiable."

Can you tell us about the “theory” that the “ID theorists “ are “theorizing” about ?

Dembksi’s Explanatory Filter? Behe’s Irreducible Complexity? These notions have been shown to be pure cods wallop over and over again, but they still keep spouting them. This is a prime trait of creationists/IDists and other religiously driven people. Ignore the truth no matter how many times you hear it, and keep telling the same old distortions. Check Ken Hovid, “Dr” Dino, sometime. Or Answers in Genesis or any of the other religious fantasy sites that deny the real world.

Law Fairy

Can you please tell me how you got to be so smart about the intricacies of science at the tender age of 24 - going to law school. You methods could save science student hours and hours of needless study and working scientists years of boring research.

You said:
“I think they have the right to be heard and not mocked for thinking something different from the scientific community.”

The way to be heard and not mocked by the scientific community is to talk about things that are actually science. Basically the creationist/ID thrust is attacking science itself and the integrity of scientists themselves. After having the work you have spent years accomplishing attacked over and over again with the same ridiculous lies tends to make scientists a little cranky.

The judges decision was completely correct. ID is nothing but religion trying to wear a scientific mask. It is not, and undoubtedly will never be, science. The judge clearly stated that the place to discuss ID is in a social studies environment.

Kali

How many people here have actually read "Origin of the Species"? How many have even read its introduction? Not too many, I imagine--that would actually involve work rather than the pleasant diversion of repeating inherited arguments. It's worth one's time. Darwin himself does not spend much time talking about "falsifiability". In fact, he never uses bad language and horrible manners to address those who disagree with him, and he admits that there are great evidentiary difficulties with his theory. There were plenty of naturalists before, during, and after Darwin's time that disagreed with his basic conclusions: many of them were evolutionists of one type or another who simply did not accept his prioritzing of natural selection over other factors causing species to modify.

The vulgarity and hatefulness expressed by those here who claim allegiance to Darwinianism would have been unequivocally condemned by him. The current spirit of dogmatism surrounding the acceptance or rejection of his ideas is one he abhorred.

Here is a quote from the introduction to Origin of the Species. I think all sides here should read it:

"This Abstract, which I now publish, must necessarily be imperfect. I cannot here give references and authorities for my several statements; and I must trust to the reader reposing some confidence in my accuracy. No doubt errors will have crept in, though I hope I have always been cautious in trusting to good authorities alone. I can here give only the general conclusions at which I arrived, with a few facts in illustration, but which, I hope, in most cases will suffice. No one can feel more sensible than I do of the necessity of hereafter publishing in detail all the facts, with references, on which my conclusions have been grounded; and I hope in a future work to do this. For I am well aware that scarcely a single point is discussed in this volume on which facts cannot be adduced, often apparently leading to conclusions directly opposite to those at which I have arrived. A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question; and this is here impossible."

The humility and fair-mindedness expressed by Darwin in this last statement is hardly to be seen in these posts. (My last post, on the empirical basis of the falsifiability criterion, was met with a suggestion that I quit smoking crack. After seeing that response, I almost did out of despair.)

Darwin did not look upon criticism of his interpretations of the biological evidence as a sign of the idiocy of his opponents, but rather as a tool to correct any mistakes of his own and also to arrive at the truth of the matter. He took the idea that species were independently created seriously. He even devoted five chapters of his book just dealing with serious objections to his theory. I didn't see any name-calling in them.

I would argue that Darwin's theory became the dominant one because he addressed his opponents so ably that later scientists felt they no longer had to re-visit the issue in any fundamental sense. However, Darwin would have been the last person to tell us that we should just take his, or any other scientist's, word for it. Whether the ID theorists have disproven Darwinianism or whether they're just crackpot fundamentalists, their objections should be taken seriously--if only to follow Darwin's example.

brentbrent

I am a religious person (possibly even confused with a "Fundamentalist" at times, which I am not), but I have also studied science in general and biology in particular. There is flat out no way that the ID theory belongs in a science class of any kind. Religious people everywhere need to accept that faith is not demonstrable in fact and if facts demonstrable as true under-cut your faith, it must not have been strong in the first place. Conversely, science is not based on a absence of information, but on the facts currently available and tested. Whether or not anyone likes it, the fundamental process of natural selection and evolution is real and clearly demonstrated. There may be some aspects of this enormous field of study that are not fully explained and offer conflicting information at this point, but there is no doubt it is true generally and with time, particular issues will be more fully explored. This is what should be taught in Science classes in our public schools - not alternative theories based on the premis that "our feeble minds cannot understand how our world could have happened without a plan so there must be a designer somewhere." Otherwise we might as well start teaching science classes on Nessie and Bigfoot, since we cannot prove they do not exist and many people believe in them - just like ID.

Red Mann

Kali

“I would argue that Darwin's theory became the dominant one because he addressed his opponents so ably that later scientists felt they no longer had to re-visit the issue in any fundamental sense”

Hardly, Darwin’s theory and the further understanding of evolution in the 150 years became dominant because it is the best explanation of the observable evidence. Scientific acceptance isn’t predicated on being “nice”, it‘s predicated on evidence, testing and predicting. Scientific debates can become quite heated, complete with name calling.

Try to remember that it is the religiously driven that do most of the attacking and name calling, who do virtually all of the distorting and outright lying. If certain segments of the religious community would spend less time attacking science and trying to force their particular beliefs into all aspects of everybody’s lives, then scientists would have to waste time defending themselves and could do more science and courts wouldn’t have to waste their time on such nonsense.

Red Mann

Oops:
...then scientists would'nt have...

ctw

"The relative certainty of each prospect ..."

this concept seems to elude many who criticize the scientific community and J jones's opinion. comments like "evolution is only a theory, not a fact", "scientists are as dogmatic about their scientific beliefs as are religious believers", etc. suggest an inability to understand - or accept - that "knowledge" is probabilistic rather than absolute. as noted in unsymp r's comment, most of us don't really "know" the earth is "round", we just think available evidence from credible sources (including personal experience) overwhelming suggests that conclusion.

similarly, J jones doesn't "know" that "ID=religion", "ID /= science", and "the board had no secular purpose", but in his "opinion", the evidence overwhelmingly suggests these conclusions. the obvious motivation for J jones's "intemperate" remarks were the attempt by various witnesses to thwart, by lying, his gathering the evidence necessary to reach conclusions about the issues he was obliged to resolve. to ascribe his hostility to anger at the witnesses for their religious positions per se is disingenuous, as is most of prof alschuler's post, as noted by many above.

Kali

One cannot know that Darwin's explanation for the "observable evidence" is the best one if one has never read Darwin's explanation itself. Have you? Do you even know what Darwin specifically says in his books? Darwin relies upon hundreds of reports of naturalists currently accepted in his day--have all of these reports since been verified (through the major scientific journals, for instance) in all of their fundamental holdings for the last 150 years as well? That would be quite a feat for Darwin, considering he died before the fields of biochemistry, molecular genetics, and microbiology were even founded. As Darwin admits himself, paleontology in his day was a very nascent science. I don't know of any other major figure in physics, chemistry, mathematics, or biology who is credited with the level of theoretical infallibility attributed to Darwin. Even Newton has been refuted on the sub-atomic level. Here's a challenge: see if any scientist in 21st century swallows his "Descent of Man" as a whole. Or better yet, why don't read it and then tell me about how eternally true its conclusions are, and why.


Let's face it: this debate has nothing to do with the rightness of Darwin's theory, but with both sides'laziness and unwillingess to confront, scientifically, their scientific or quasi-scientific assumptions. The real test of scientific objectivity is your willingness to play the devil's advocate with your own beliefs and assumptions. Can you make your opponent's argument as strong as possible in your own mind, asking yourself why he might be right, and only then seeing if your refutation of him holds up? I grew up thinking that evolution was scientifically impossible, that evolutionary biology was about as empirically sound as phrenology, as rhetorically dishonest as astrology, and as intellectually respectable as eugenics. But that, in the end, is not good enough. Darwin's books must be read directly, his theories confronted in his own words, not what others say he said. Darwin, despite what I assumed about him, may be right. He may be wrong. How are we to know for ourselves one way or another if we are constantly taking Michael Behe's or Kenneth Miller's word for things? Can any of us honestly say that we do not bring a lot of prejudices, political concerns, and even career self-interest to the table of this debate?

I again go to what Darwin said, that both sides must be presented in order to judge between them fairly. Who is willing to say Darwin is wrong here?

ctw

"A victory in court ... does not have the same moral legitimacy as victory at the polls ..."

this exemplifies a pervasive confusion between what is and is not subject to majoritarianism. a constitutional challenge is not decided by referendum. neither "moral" nor popular legitimacy are at issue.

"victory in court (needless at this point) ..."

the election occurred several days after testimony concluded, probably a bit late to say "hey, we won at the polls so forget the trial".

posting with such fundamental and easily avoided factual and logical errors makes one appear both lazy and disingenuous which in turn motivates "intemperate" responses. if the effect is so upsetting, avoid the cause or get used to being upset.

Amos

Kali

Several of Darwin's claims have been disproved. This is not a secret in the biology community; rather, it's extremely well-known, especially among evolutionary biologists.

You will get no denials from them.

And in the time since his first publication, the theory of evolution has been modified and greatly extended, most importantly taking on board genetics. But the most important thing is that the evidence for evolution itself has only become stronger.

Unsympathetic reader

Kali: "One cannot know that Darwin's explanation for the "observable evidence" is the best one if one has never read Darwin's explanation itself. Have you? Do you even know what Darwin specifically says in his books?"

Umm, yes. I've also followed what has happened in the field since the publication of Darwin's "Origins of Species" book. Things like the Modern Synthesis, Game theory, Neutral theory, EvoDevo (evolutionary developmental biology) come to mind. Note that no one is claiming infallibility for Darwin. Still, one cannot escape the fact that many people like to claim what Darwin did and didn't say without having a clue about the actual contents of his writings. Debate the fine points of evolutionary theory all you want; That's what scientists who study evolution do. But don't expect 'affirmative action'* or a free pass for ID, which at this point is nothing more than a hopeful notion. As I've said elsewhere, there is sometimes a real difference between sound science and something that "sounds scientific".

The philosopher of science, David Hull wrote: "Evolutionary theory seems so easy that almost anyone can misunderstand it." (Nature 377:494).

* Actually requested! Read the transcripts for Steve Fuller's testimony.

Timmy Thomson

Hi

My name is Timmy. I'm 9 years old.

I have read three books on evolution including one by Stephen J. Gold.

Evolution just isn't very convincing. I'm sorry. I think God probably did it.

Please don't make students pretend God didn't do it just because some scientists have a different theory.

That's all.

Emma Thomson

Dear brothers and sisters,

This is Timmy's mother.

I have I have read five books on evolution including one by Stephen J. Gold and one by Darrel Dawkins.

Like Timmy, I just think evolution isn't very convincing. If we evolved from a bacteria, why don't bacteria fly spaceships? That is just one of many questions that scientists don't answer.

Timmy has a right to form his own opinion about what God did and he knows that he will suffer eternal torment in hellfire if he doesn't do that.

Why do scientists hate children?

Thank you for your patience. God bless you.

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