Journalistic integrity

By Phil Plait | January 18, 2006 10:42 pm

A lot of people — including me– have been griping about how journalists feel like they have to be fair, and present “both sides” of an issue. We gripe, because when it comes to something like science and Intelligent Design, there aren’t two sides. There’s science, and there’s fantasy. So a lot of articles in the press elevate ID to an issue, when it isn’t one.

So instead of griping, let me instead sing the praises of Robert Sprackland, director of the Virtual Museum of Natural History, and guest columnist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, who wrote a fine op-ed peice about just why ID is garbage. It appears he’s written a book on this topic, too.

Seattle, huh? Isn’t that where the ID-shilling Discovery Institute is located?

Comments (56)

  1. ID is also a theological dead end as it hangs off of “God of the Gaps”. They only seem to go for the apparent “complex” parts. So “simple” stuff was not ID’d but the trickier bits were?

    ID seems to me internally inconsistant.

  2. Alex W.

    That reminds me, I had a fantastic idea last night. ID proponents are insistent that we “teach the controversy” (the one they constructed) in biology classes. Well, perhaps we should start pressuring schools to “teach the controversy” in religious education classes regarding the existence of God, or the usefulness of religion on general.

    Okay, it’s not too likely to happen, and we’re not nearly that cynical, but I’d love to see it put to an ID proponent in an interview, just to see their reaction.

  3. Fontwell

    What annoys me most about ID is that it is basically just like trolling, in that it wastes the time of proper scientists, who could be doing other things and it only manages to perpetuate itself by enlisting the help of the terminally ignorant (the media). In any sane world this idea would never have made it out of the first bar/padded cell in which it was first dreamed up, because nobody would be stupid enough to pay it any attention.

    p.s. A while back, having just finished your BA book, I managed to re aligned a programmer friend of mine who was ‘open minded’ about the Apollo hoax conspiracy by being able to point out the solutions to all the ‘inconstsacnies’ he could remember and then finally emailing him some photos off the internets .

  4. As a former fundy I can tell you how this goes. Someone comes up with something that at least sounds like it fits with your particular views on the Bible and so you glom to it, often without researching it independently, even more often without even knowing what it is. But you are told it fits with your fundy beliefs so you go with it, and most of the ignorant masses never know the difference anyhow.

    Oh, and Alex, I got practically booted out of my Fundy religion for trying to teach the idea of questioning the Bible and the teachings of that particular denomination. So good luck with that suggestion, about teaching controversy.

  5. Tom K

    I have a question. The alleged reason that ID proponents give for including it in the curriculum is that evolution is a controversial, flawed theory and that alternatives should be considered. If that is so, are there any _scientific_ alternatives to evolutionary theory, as opposed to ID’s supernatural “designer”? I have yet to see any.

    I asked this question on a previous thread and didn’t get an answer – maybe there isn’t any serious alternative.

  6. Chet

    Phil commented: “A lot of people — including me– have been griping about how journalists feel like they have to be fair, and present “both sides” of an issue. We gripe, because when it comes to something like science and Intelligent Design, there aren’t two sides.”
    Well, Phil, there sure does seem to be “two sides”.
    There are also religious journalists, too.
    Most journalists are not scientifically educated. Most people are not scientifically minded. However, the minority need to express their “balanced” views, too?
    *******************************************
    My wife teaches six grade Earth Sciences. She just finished the Astronomy section. I helped her grade the student’s tests. Wow, I was quite saddened as well as concerned that many students:
    1. made so many spelling and grammar errors even though astronomical terms were included on test or they couldn’t rewrite the questions into sentence answers;
    2. could not follow instructions “answer in complete sentences”;
    3. did not understand astronomical concepts such as Big Bang Theory
    (one religious student wrote “myth”), lunar vs solar eclipses, seasons on Earth, meteorites vs meteors, etc..
    Many students (adults) have misconceptions and misinformation about the sciences.
    So, even though most of her students did well, we still felt badly about those that didn’t.
    There are teachers that do not have a science education background teaching science subjects or skipping over areas that they do not feel “comfortable” teaching (biological evolution, Big Bang Theory, plate tectonics, etc.). Also, lack of cooperation between grade level educators (grade to grade) to develop a strategy of increasing the skill and knowledge standards progressively in subject areas with student mastery of concepts.
    Many students are still getting “promoted” to the next grade even though they have not successfully completed (failed or lost too many days attending) the objectives of their grade level compentence standards. Too many students!

  7. RAD

    I don’t think you can use journalists and integrity in the same sentence unless you add are not in there. Anyone who can’t learn science and keep their belief in God has pretty weak faith. I think that ID is very flawed, not in their belief in a creator but in trying to make it a science. Its a religious idea and not a very good one at that. They miss the boat all around

  8. Tom K,
    In science, they look at the evidence and come up with a model that best fits the evidence they have. They label these ideas “Theories”. They use these models to make predictions. So, according to the theory of gravity, when we shoot a rocket towards Pluto, if we swing by Jupiter the rocket will be attracted and speed up. Thus, it will sling-shot past and accellerate towards Pluto.
    The “Theory of Evolution” is much the same type of thing. It is a model of how life forms interact and change. Thus, Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is very much different than the current Theory of Evolution. It has been updated to incorporate new information. Genetics didn’t exist in Darwin’s time.
    So, when people speak of “Problems with the Theory of Evolution” what they are speaking of are parts of the theory that haven’t been fully explored. The Theory of Evolution best explains the data collected for the last 150 years. It fits with genetics, the fossil record, the genome projects, etc. Nothing has come up that contradicts evolution and common decent.
    Therefore, to answer your question, the Theory of Evolution is constantly being shaped by new research and new information. How the ear evolved is something that is being explored now. (I just read a story about it…) None of the data has contradicted any parts of the model for evolution. Thus, there are no “competing scientific theories” for evolution. And, there likely will never be any just as there will never be any competing scientific theories for gravity.

  9. Chet, I teach 6th grade Geography in Flori-duh, and I can tell you these kids are some of the most apathetic wretches on the face of the earth. In all honesty, it starts at home, and if the families of these children aren’t impressing on them the importance of an education they will never consider it important either.

    That said, we have a statewide mandate currently about reading, special reading classes separate from Language Arts classes and the emphasis is on understanding what is being read. Even with all this extra work and time and emphasis I can still see kids who have no clue as to what the text they are reading means.

    No easy answers to any of this, but again, it has to start at home or we are just spinning our wheels in the education system.

  10. In past government and sociology classes, I’ve expressed my views on evolution and ID. Basically, I was said to be “unethical” or that I have “loose morals” because I don’t believe in ID or creationism and because I’m a democrat. I’m tired of hearing that sort of thing.

    Also…

    Some friends of mine are really into science (and one is currently in med school), but they don’t see a problem with ID (they are also very religious). Talking logic with them doesn’t work, so I don’t know what to do anymore.

  11. Leon

    Tom K Says:

    I have a question. The alleged reason that ID proponents give for including it in the curriculum is that evolution is a controversial, flawed theory and that alternatives should be considered. If that is so, are there any _scientific_ alternatives to evolutionary theory, as opposed to ID’s supernatural “designer”? I have yet to see any.

    There are / have been scientific alternatives to evolution, but they’ve all been rejected because they didn’t explain the evidence nearly as well as evolution.

    Not that this needs to be said, but this is a good illustration why ID is not science. Scientific theories succeed or fail on their own merits, whereas ID is perpetuated by people’s preconceived notions.

  12. PK

    Eric Ingram says: Talking logic with them doesn’t work, so I don’t know what to do anymore.

    I know the problem. Most people have pre-conceived notions about the world, and overturning those in a single debate is extremely unlikely. Often you even have to start from scratch and explain why using logic is a better way of thinking than just accepting some random set of internally inconsistent statements as the truth. Very few people are willing to burn some calories with that Great Grey Muscle.

    And that, too, is a consequence of evolution…

  13. Anthony Wright

    Eric,

    I know what you mean – only I’m on the other side of it. I am (or until recently, was) a Republican and a Christian who does believe that God did create the universe. Then, everywhere I turn around, people want to bash my beliefs and my personally for them (I’ve gotten this a lot in some slashdot forums). People never bother to find out that I can accept science fact and keep my religion in the realm of “faith” and out of science.

    Tikifire,

    I whole heartedly agree. Fortunately, I was in advance classes with other students who were either gifted or had parents who had education as a priority. But I remember being in high school and seeing so many kids slacking off that went home to parents who just didn’t care. My wife’s school was even worse. Then we’ve taken away almost all ability for teachers to maintain control in the class rooms. That’s why we are planning to home school our child(ren). I have a strong science, math and music background while my wife is strong in arts and humanities.

  14. L. Fuller

    Unfortunately, Eric, many of those we would like to think are well-trained in science and accepting of it are not. Engineers and Medical Doctors, for example, are great users of science, but are not necessarily scientists, per se, unless they are also involved with rigorous research projects. Don’t let it get to you. It isn’t your job to train them in the scientific method or to convince them to accept scientifically validated fact. Be there as a resource, however, and inject a little rationality when you can…

  15. L. Fuller

    Oh, before I get myself in trouble… of course there are also a great many engineers and doctors that keep well-informed on science and scientific method that are not in research — they just like to keep well-informed. I hope I dodged that bullet.

  16. Eric, religious people have hijacked the words “ethical” and “moral” claiming to have invented the concepts.
    You and I both know, that back when we lived in the trees it was not considered good manners to push each other off the branches because we knew how it would feel if some other ape did the same to us.
    From this simple concept comes both ethics and morality but since some people think we were all created by “the spirit in the sky” they conclude that the concepts must have been created at the same time.

    I don’t know what to do either, it really hurts me when seemingly intelligent people suddenly seeks explanations in unconfirmable nonsense.

  17. L. Fuller, them are fighting words around here ;-)

    As an engineer I perform commissioning and troubleshooting on a daily basis. I can never assume a piece of equipment or software does what I think I programmed it to do. I have to confirm my program with tests to prove that it works and also what happens if it fails.
    It doesn’t require me to be up to date with every single new piece of technology or research, but it does require me to think critical thoughts of my own work. This of course extends to other peoples work and ideas too.

  18. L. Fuller

    I knew I would get in trouble :)

    Aye, but I also know a lot of engineers (and doctors) that stay blissfully ignorant of science where it conflicts with personal (often religious) views but they make a good living within their own professons applying information supplied by science … but to be fair, that could apply to anyone of any profession… it just surprises me when otherwise intelligent people (of any profession) won’t consider logical argument. I am a software engineer with a BS in Geology and an MBA so I’m pretty confused much of the time anyway ;) … Cheers!

  19. Hari Seldon

    “There’s science, and there’s fantasy”………..and there’s also Advanced Technology which we’ve got to wake up to already- we’re not on the top of the Intelligent Life in the Universe scale. It’s the next step beyond Galileo.

    We’ve got to consider the possibility of insanely advanced Super Intelligences from ancient galaxies being able to manipulate the elements on an unconceivable scale. We haven’t seen them yet- but just wait as we are now pulling the curtain back on the universe as never before!

    Anyone read Asimov, The Gods Themselves?

    Acknowledgment of the potential for Super Intelligences in astronomy is severely lacking. How long can we pretend we’re the only life in this universe- and thinking we’re the most advanced- Ha! The sun wasn’t the center of the universe and neither are we the only, most advanced life in this mind blowing ether.

    That said, if there are any “spirits in the sky”, they are robots with the ability to manipulate any particle of matter or energy they so desire, having evolved billions of years earlier and developing nanotech, biotech and quantum computing billions of years earlier than us- maybe from those early, perfectly formed galaxies we’ve just seen in the past 2 years.

    We are somewhere between Creationism and Science now.

    Both sides must give as we all realize the truth lies between the two seemingly opposed concepts. The seeds of life are planted everywhere in the cosmos. We were not the first to bloom. This won’t even be a debatable point in the next 20 years!

  20. Irishman

    Tom K, Evolution is a “controversial, flawed theory” only in the sense that certain religious mindsets are not able to accept anything that conflicts with their religious beliefs regarding the origins of Earth and Humanity. The controversy is strictly engendered on religious, political, and personal grounds, but not at all on scientific grounds. “Flawed” is a loaded term. It is true that not every step in, for instance, the evolutionary path of humans from homonids, has been mapped out and a complete line of succession can be shown of all intermediate forms. In that sense, Evolution is certainly incomplete. Some people consider that, and other similar arguments, as reasons that Evolution is “flawed”. Flawed suggests broken, not working, failing, wrong, weak. None of those correctly describes Evolution. Incomplete is correct, if you look at the stepwise sequences. One might propose that Evolution does not currently include all actual mechanisms for change and development, and that some have not been recognized yet. If so, the challenge would be to identify where and how it is incomplete and then to propose mechanisms to fill those gaps.

    ID pretends to take that approach. It states that the diversity and complexity of life is too great to have developed by “random chance”, the IDer’s claims for the complete mechanisms of Evolution. Ergo, ID tries to state there must be design, and proposes some ways/reasons to identify that design is involved. However, critical evaluation of those ways/reasons shows they are flawed, and that the IDer’s description of how Evolution works is incomplete and incorrect. Ergo, it is ID that is flawed, not Evolution.

    As far as scientific alternatives to modern Evolution (based upon Darwinian Natural Selection but incorporating genetics and other modifications), there are none. “Evolution” as a buzz word means change over time. There was plenty of recognition prior to Darwin and Wallace that change over time was occurring with species of animals and plants, even ignoring agriculture and animal husbandry. There was, for instance, Lamarkianism as a proposed mechanism for that Evolution. Lamarkianism was shown to be faulty and disproven. There was Lysenkoism in the Soviet Union, pushed more through ideology than science. It was flawed as well, and sabotaged Russian biological and medical science substantially.

    If Natural Selection and Mutation are shown to be incomplete and incapable of fully explaining the diversity of life, that will not make Evolution go away. The Change over Time aspect of Evolution is fully demonstrated and common sense just by paying basic attention to nature. Evolution as a theory may be shaped and morphed, changed by additions and subtractions so that it more fully and accurately describes the processes involved in biological adaptation, but it will still be Evolution. The Creationists just can’t seem to grasp this reality.

  21. Irishman

    Chet Said:
    >Phil commented: “A lot of people — including me– have been griping about how journalists feel like they have to be fair, and present “both sides” of an issue. We gripe, because when it comes to something like science and Intelligent Design, there aren’t two sides.”
    Well, Phil, there sure does seem to be “two sides”.

    You missed Phil’s point. Yes, there are two sides to the political argument over ID. However, Phil was speaking about the scientific issue of how life developed and changed. That issue has one scientific theory. ID is not a scientific idea, and it is not being advocated scientifically through the mechanisms of science. It is being pushed politically through the media and public awareness. It is a marketing attempt to brand it as an equivalent status alternative to Evolution, which it is not. Phil is stating that sometimes there are two sides, but they are not equal.

    For instance, do you advocate equal time in science class for the Flat Earthers, the people who claim the Earth is really a flat disk and not a sphere? That would be ludicrous. The bulk of the evidence points at a spherical Earth, and none points at a flat disk Earth. The two are not equivalent propositions, and should not be treated as such. But modern media would get a spokesperson for each, and treat their positions as equivalent. “Some say this, some say that. You decide.” That is exactly the case with ID. “Science says this. End of story. Religious ideologues don’t agree, so make up drivel like that, but it doesn’t have any evidence and doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. But you decide.”

  22. Tom K

    Thanks to those who replied to my question about alternatives to evolution. When I was a kid growing up in the ’60s I would read older astronomy books and of the arguments between the Big Bang and the Steady State theories of cosmology. When the debate was going on, there wasn’t enough evidence to pick a clear winner. I was simply wondering if there was any proposed mechanism for change other than evolution that fit the known data and was plausible (as opposed to “magic”).

    I didn’t think there was.

  23. Nigel Depledge

    L. Fuller – I know what you mean about doctors and engineers. When I was an undergrad (Biochemstry with Chemistry), one of our pharmacology lecturers once mentioned that he gave the same lecture on three different levels – one for the biochemists, one for the medical students, and one for student nurses. The feeling amongst us biochemists was one of superiority over the poor scientific grounding of the medical students. Of course, we didn’t know much about injury, diseases, anatomy or surgery, so it probably went both ways.

    Irishman – Additional information on evolutionary theory: there used to be quite heated debate over gradualism versus punctuated equilibria, so in some sense there have recently been alternatives. But, the alternatives concern the contribution of different mechanisms to evolution, rather than the fundamental fact of change over time. This debate was settled by the gradual recognition that the rate of evolution can also change over time, particularly in response to environmental changes or mass movement of populations geographically.

    There has also been some debate over the relative contributions of such factors as genetic drift, natural selection and sexual selection (and others). As far as I am aware, some of these questions are still open (but I do not follow the evolutionary primary literature).

  24. Evolving Squid

    plate tectonics

    There are actually still people who don’t believe plate tectonic theory? You can’t be serious. What do they think? God shakes the ground, makes volcanoes and just rearranges the earth for something to do between heavenly poker nights?

  25. Irishman

    Squid, there’s that Hydroplate Theory we’ve been hearing so much about here from a certain reader. More Creationist nonsense.

    Nigel, yes the Punctuated Equilibrium vs Gradualism debate and the other open questions you mention are all debates within science over the shape and mechanisms of Evolution. But consistent with my previous post, none of them are alternatives to Evolution, they are just fine-tunings of Evolution.

  26. Phobos

    “There are actually still people who don’t believe plate tectonic theory? You can’t be serious. What do they think? God shakes the ground, makes volcanoes and just rearranges the earth for something to do between heavenly poker nights? ”

    Haven’t you been listening to Pat Robertson lately? :)

    Never mind Plate Tectonic theory, which does not affect many people’s daily lives, there are still people (e.g., “Christian Scientists”) who don’t accept the Germ Theory of Disease.

  27. Kevin

    Now the Vatican has come out against ID.

    http://tinyurl.com/c2qle

  28. Scouter573

    Don’t blame Seattle for the Discovery Institute. We have moss, too, and we didn’t ask for it, either.

  29. Evolving Squid

    Never mind Plate Tectonic theory, which does not affect many people’s daily lives, there are still people

    There are people all around the Indian Ocean who probably disagree with that statement.

  30. First Minister Hari Seldon said:

    We’ve got to consider the possibility of insanely advanced Super Intelligences from ancient galaxies being able to manipulate the elements on an unbelievable scale. We haven’t seen them yet- but just wait as we are now pulling the curtain back on the universe as never before!

    Someone has to be first. The essential elements of life are created in massive furnaces we call stars – but to be released to the cosmos these stars must explode. This has to happen many times to create large enough quantities to form the solid planets. Then the eons must pass so that these generated planets can form life, that life evolve, and civilizations arise. Many times civilization may fail, some never learning to manipulate their environment, some manipulating it too much, some blow themselves up, and some survive. These are parts of the Drake equation I probably don’t need to list for this group.

    If the Universe we see is about 14 Billion years old and our Solar system is about 4.5 Billion, we can see it took nine or ten Billion years to make our sun. I suspect it reasonable to assume it took a couple Billion years before substantial planets were possible and a Billion or two more for systems like ours (large rocky planets remote from dangerous systems with black holes, pulsars and the like). Some systems may have occurred as early as ten Billion years ago, but I’d bet later.

    So while it is hugely likely other life exists all over the Cosmos, nothing says it must evolve sentience. Nothing says sentience must develop super intelligence. Nothing says super intelligence brings with it super wisdom (so these smart folks unwisely kill themselves off). Finally, maybe our understanding of the Universe is as good as any developed so far – maybe we’re the first to get this far. I think this equally likely relative to there being some super high tech race waiting just beyone the orbit of Kuiper Belt objects to see if we annilate ourselves or if we’re worthy of admission to the Galactic community.

    With no evidence to support or deny their existance Extraterrestrials belong to the pages of science ficture – where they may have any attribute the author wishes to ascribe to them.

    jbs

  31. Phobos Said: “Never mind Plate Tectonic theory, which does not affect many people’s daily lives, there are still people (e.g., “Christian Scientists”) who don’t accept the Germ Theory of Disease.”

    I will cough in their general direction :-)

  32. Bryn

    Yes, the Discovery Institute (now there’s an oxymoron!) is here in my home state. Kind of ironic considering how this state has one of the lowest church attendance rates in the nation. And Scouter, I wouldn’t compare ‘em to moss. Moss is pretty, green and serves a purpose. I think they’re more akin to slugs.

  33. Wendy

    I hope this following article from last week is encouraging: Frazier Park is about a couple of hours drive, maybe an hour and a half, north of the San Universal Studios in the San Fernando Valley.

    LINK (link edited by The Bad Astronomer for formatting)

    10:23 AM PST, January 17, 2006
    latimes.com : California
    Kern County School to Stop Teaching ‘Intelligent Design’
    From Associated Press
    FRESNO, Calif. — A rural school district agreed to stop teaching a religion-based alternative to evolution as part of a court settlement filed today, a legal group said.

    Frazier Mountain High School will stop teaching a philosophy class discussing the theory of “intelligent design” this week and won’t teach it in the future,
    said Ayesha N. Khan, legal director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

    A federal judge in Fresno, who had been scheduled to hold a hearing today on whether to halt the class midway through the monthlong winter term, must approve the settlement.
    El Tejon school officials were not immediately available for comment.

    A group of parents sued El Tejon Unified School District for violating the constitutional separation of church and state by offering “Philosophy of Design,” a course taught by a minister’s wife that advanced the theory that life is so complex it must have been created by God.

    “The course was designed to advance religious theories on the origins of life,
    including creationism and its offshoot, ‘intelligent design,”‘ said the lawsuit
    filed last week in U.S. District Court.

    The high school in the Tehachapi Mountains about 75 miles north of Los Angeles draws 500 students from a dozen small communities.

    Americans United for Separation of Church and State had successfully blocked Dover, Pa., schools last month from teaching intelligent design in science courses.

    Superintendent John Wight had said the subject was proper for a philosophy class meant to introduce students to both viewpoints.

    The legal organization argued the course relied almost exclusively on videos that presented religious theories as scientific ones.

    “This sends a strong signal to school districts across the country that they
    cannot promote creationism or intelligent design as an alternative to evolution whether they do so in a science class or a humanities class,” said Khan.

    The course ignited debate in the hamlets that sit atop the mountains dividing the left-leaning Los Angeles basin from the conservative San Joaquin Valley. The weekly newspaper, the Mountain Enterprise, devoted five pages to letters from readers.

    Teacher Sharon Lemburg, the wife of an Assembly of God minister, defended the course she designed in a letter to the editor.

    “I believe this is the class that the Lord wanted me to teach,” she wrote.

    Here’s the link to the original story.
    LINK (link edited by The Bad Astronomer for formatting)
    A Fault Line for ‘Intelligent Design’
    January 12, 2006

  34. TJ

    Religion, quite simply, is the scourge of free thought and scientific exploration. Other than some very tenuous tolerance by the Catholic church the two have always been opposed.

    Science doesn’t try to stop religion. It never has. Unfortunately with this ID bollocks, science is being called to task. We’re being forced to divert our attention from exploration of ideas and the quest for knowledge to fight the ID wars and protect the one thing we hold so dear; the truth.

    It makes me nauseous to watch so many people throw their minds out the window and embrace some easy, ‘divine’ answer. What a relief it must be for them to not have to think about their origins and embrace a fantasy. I find the truth to be so much more interesting; so much more mind boggling.

    The size of the galaxy alone is hard for me to put my arms around. I’m too limited, to finit to be able to relate to the extreme speeds, temperatures, gravitational forces, etc. There’s so much to understand it inspires me to seek it out and to learn it. I pity those who would circumvent this wonderful search for knowledge.

    Attention ID proponents: I’m sorry that your life is so meaningless and empty that you have to try and drag others into your own personal hell on earth. Open your eyes, open your minds, and you’ll see the beauty and wonder that only the truth can provide to you.

  35. L. Fuller

    Well put, TJ… or to paraphrase myself from another source:

    Why do I believe (in evolution)? I have studied geology and biology for many years and the fossil record. I don’t believe this stuff because I was told to… I believe it because of overwhelming evidence. I see all life as a single tree with many branches, with beautiful fruit of different shapes, sizes and complexity… all related and all worthy of respect and awe. It is a wonder! It makes me feel so small and so large at the same time. Together We are the Garden of Eden… every root, branch, leaf and fruit.

  36. MakBeth9

    Aloha Anthony, Just a quickie response to your post of yesterday about keeping your religion out of science. Science and religion are not necessarily separate studies. They examine the same material, but science explains HOW it happened, and religion explains WHY. When those disciplines try to explain the other’s kuleana (area of expertise), that’s where they get into trouble. I think that’s not even the biggest problem with the ID folks … they aren’t even looking at a rational (or any other kind of) explaination of how the Universe was developed. They just made up something and want us to teach it in science class. That’s like asking teachers to teach StarWars as an accurate recount of history. Separate stuff!
    Mahalo =)

  37. Irishman

    TJ Said:
    >The size of the galaxy alone is hard for me to put my arms around.

    That would take some really big arms! ;-)

  38. L. Fuller

    Aye, what MakBeth said. In fact, I believe ID Will just undermine the faith that the Christian movement is trying to rekindle (yes, I honestly believe that ID is a Christian movement and not truly separate from any one religion) … simply by forcing people to choose. If anything, they aren’t going to draw more believers as lose those who truly seek to broaden their understanding of evolution so that they can compare it to ID. I myself had no trouble being a scientist and a Christian until one of my siblings started telling me I was going to Hell for rejecting ID and believing in evolution. Things like that start making you introspective. MakBeth is right. Trying to explain science in the terms of religion is like trying to explain the color blue in the terms of a tuna fish sandwich.

  39. Frank Sullivan

    I don’t think the article accurately represents Irreducible Complexity. If Behe were to respond, he would argue that IC is _not_ about whether we can explain how something evolved. It’s about _knowing_ that something can’t. In other words, he has identified certain chemical systems inside the cell that he believes cannot possibly have evolved. He believes that it is _demonstrably_ impossible.

    So the bit about the car engine being designed by God simply because the author personally does not know how the engine was made, is in my opinion not a accurate description of what IC is all about. I’m sure that Behe would readily acknowledge that there are some systems for which we have no evolutionary explanation, but for which an explanation might be forthcoming after some research. These are not the types of systems that Behe is talking about when he refers to IC. When Behe refers to IC, he is talking about system where, he believes, evolutionary explanations are impossible.

    My problem with IC is different that the author’s. My problem with IC is that, I believe, it can be demonstrated that IC systems can arise through slight, successive modifications (i.e., evolution).

    For instance, consider a protein (which we will name “a”) that does some function (clots the blood, for example). It doesn’t do a great job at it, by our standards, but in some situations it means the difference between life an death.

    Now, suppose our hypothetical organism evolves yet another protein, which we will call “B”, which improves the blood clotting function. The only problem with B is that it can’t work without a. We now have an “aB” system which works much better than the “a” system, and the only caveat is that removal of “a” will shut down the whole system. Removal of “B” will not shut down the whole system, but it will drastically reduce its effectiveness.

    Now, suppose that a is modified to become A. The new A is an improvement over the old a, however the new A requires B in order to function. We now have an “AB” system that is a drastic improvement over the “aB” system. Loss of either A or B will result in total loss of function, so the system is irreducibly complex. Yet, it arose through slight, successive steps, each of which were bridgeable by evolutionary processes.

    This is a very simple example, however it is not difficult to imagine how larger systems, with perhaps 10′s or 100′s of parts, could come together in this way.

    Another evolutionary method that can produce IC systems is deletion. An example of this found in human design, that is often used by authors like Richard Dawkins, is the archway. An archway is irreducibly complex because if you remove any of the stones in the archway, the entire archway will fall to the ground.

    So when we humans build archways, we first set up a system of scaffolding to hold the archway up until the keystone is in place. Then, we remove the scaffolding.

    Similarly, imagine a system for bacterial motility evolves, which in many ways resembles the bacterial flagellum but which is bulkier, slower, and less-efficient. Our hypothetical motility device is, unlike the flagellum, not irreducibly-complex and so imagining an evolutionary pathway for it is not difficult.

    But then, imagine that we deleted some of the proteins to make it less buly and more efficient. So, if the entire system evolved in 60 steps, we remove the proteins that evolved in steps 31-36, and this makes our motility structure more efficient. And, perhaps, these deletions make the motility structure into something that resembles a modern flagellum.

    Because these deletions involved proteins that evolved during some of the _middle steps_ of the evolutionary pathway, we create the appearance of a vast evolutionary gap which, Behe might argue, must be crossed in one step. However, in our hypothetical example, we know that the gap wasn’t crossed in one step — it was crossed in 5 steps. Those 5 steps were later erased, creating the _appearance_ of a gap.

    Like removing the scaffolding after the completion of an archway, nature has the ability to delete proteins from a structure once its function is in place. These deletions can force us to scratch our heads and wonder how evolution took the structure from A to D without stopping at B and C first. The point here is, evolution DID stop at B and C, but once evolution arrived at D, it found that it could improve the function of the structure by deleting B and C.

    The other method that springs to mind is cooption, i.e. change in function. The flagellum is a great example of this, because almost all of the flagellum’s 50 or so proteins can be ascribed to 10 or so “sub-functions.” The most famous example of this is the Type Three Secretion System, which consists of 10 proteins, which are homologous to the base of the flagellum. This is not the only sub-structure found in the flagellum; it is just the most famous example. In any case, it is a lot easier to imagine how 10 structures, each with their own distinct functions in the cell, could come together to form a flagellum, then to imagine how the 50 individual proteins came together at once to form the flagellum. This method, cooption, allows structures which have a certain function to actually _change_ function over the course of evolution, such that even if the final result is irreducibly complex for a specific function, like motility, it is not irreducibly complex entirely, because although removal of some of the parts of the flagellum will cause it to lose its _motility_ function, it’s quite possible that the resulting structure will have another function that is perfectly valid and selectable, albeit different than motility.

    It’s interesting to note that, in 1939, a Nobel Prize-winning geneticist named Hermann Muller actually predicted that evolutionary processes _should_ create irreducibly-complex systems [1]. He didn’t call it Irreducible Complexity, though. He called it Interlocking Complexity, but the concept is basically the same: evolution can create systems which seem impossible to have evolved, because the processes of deletion, modification, and cooption can mask the system’s true evolutionary pathway from us. In other words, the system evolved, however in doing so it covered its tracks from us, creating the appearance of something that did not evolve at all.

    It’s also worth noting that there are enough examples in the scientific literature of IC systems evolving in the lab, that there really is no need to pay attention to Behe’s claims anymore.

    As Ken Miller once said, this is not evidence for the evoluion of any particular IC system; it is just an argument for the possibility of it. ID adherants often like to point that out, saying that even though we’ve identified several processes through which IC systems can evolve gradually, we have not yet explained how ________ evolved (that blank could be the flagellum, or the blood-clotting system, or what have you). However, in responding in this way, ID adherents are moving the goalposts. Their original argument was “the evolution of ________ is impossible”, and when we point out that it is not, they not-too-cleverly switch to, “you haven’t proven how ________ evolved.” In other words, they switch from an argument that purports to falsify evolution, to an argument that simply expresses their personal incredulity of it. Their argument morphs into a classic God of the Gaps.

    Well, science need not provide a complete narrative of the evolution of every single system in order for us to conclude that we did, in fact, evolve from a common ancestor. At this point, with the plethora of evidence found through paleontology, embryology, comparative anatomy, comparative genetics, and the discovery of various vestiges, atavisms, and sub-optimal traits, all of which simply screams “Common Descent”, arguments from personal incredulity are no longer persuasive.

    [1] Muller, H. J. 1939. Reversibility in evolution considered from the standpoint of genetics. Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society 14: 261-280

  40. Tracy

    As much as I agree with Phil about psuedo-science advocates like Hoagland and his theories, I have to disagree completely with his terse comments about Creationsim and Intelligent Design.
    First and foremost, let us be honest about something – Darwinian Evolution is a theory not a fact. Despite the claims, the fossil record DOES NOT bear out Darwinian Evolution. You can’t make that case because of the total lack of any TRANSITIONAL CREATURE SKELETONS. For Darwinian Evolution to be right, then there has to be a whole lot of transitional fossils between say, the skeleton of a Dinosaur and the skeleton of a modern bird.
    Most people who don’t hold that Darwinian Evolution is true are not soothe-sayers or mystics who are living in the Dark Ages. They are everyday people like me who study both pros and cons of competing views (and the facts associated with each view), and then make up their mind what they believe based on A) What solid evidence there is to support a view and B) How those facts can be applied to the world we are aware of and live in.
    I don’t have anything against Phil and others who don’t believe in Creationsim or ID, but I do have a problem with their seeming unwillingness to have an open and civil discussion about it. If those who discount Creationsim and ID are so right, when why are they so defensive when it comes to a different viewpoint? Why the effort to stop critical thinking where Darwinian Evolution Theory is concerned?
    I’m not trying to start an argument, but I do think that true followers of Science should be interested in exploring questions instead of stifling debate.
    Since Phil is so convinced of his correctness on the issue, I would invite him to debate Dr. Ken Hovind, who is a known Creationist and has many facts to back up his arguments. I think Phil would be well served if he believes what he claims.

  41. Frank Sullivan

    >>As much as I agree with Phil about psuedo-science advocates like Hoagland and his theories, I have to disagree completely with his terse comments about Creationsim and Intelligent Design.

    First and foremost, let us be honest about something – Darwinian Evolution is a theory not a fact.>Despite the claims, the fossil record DOES NOT bear out Darwinian Evolution. You can’t make that case because of the total lack of any TRANSITIONAL CREATURE SKELETONS.>For Darwinian Evolution to be right, then there has to be a whole lot of transitional fossils between say, the skeleton of a Dinosaur and the skeleton of a modern bird.>Most people who don’t hold that Darwinian Evolution is true are not soothe-sayers or mystics who are living in the Dark Ages. They are everyday people like me who study both pros and cons of competing views (and the facts associated with each view), and then make up their mind what they believe based on A) What solid evidence there is to support a view and B) How those facts can be applied to the world we are aware of and live in.>I don’t have anything against Phil and others who don’t believe in Creationsim or ID, but I do have a problem with their seeming unwillingness to have an open and civil discussion about it. If those who discount Creationsim and ID are so right, when why are they so defensive when it comes to a different viewpoint? Why the effort to stop critical thinking where Darwinian Evolution Theory is concerned?> I’m not trying to start an argument, but I do think that true followers of Science should be interested in exploring questions instead of stifling debate.

    Since Phil is so convinced of his correctness on the issue, I would invite him to debate Dr. Ken Hovind, who is a known Creationist and has many facts to back up his arguments. I think Phil would be well served if he believes what he claims.

  42. Frank Sullivan

    Sorry about the previous comment I posted. I was using greater-than and less-than signs to section off the parts of Tracy’s post that I was quoting. The site must have interpreted them as HTML tags and so my responses were lost. If an admin wants to delete that post, please feel free. Here is a re-post:

    ________
    “As much as I agree with Phil about psuedo-science advocates like Hoagland and his theories, I have to disagree completely with his terse comments about Creationsim and Intelligent Design.”
    ________

    First and foremost, let us be honest about something – Darwinian Evolution is a theory not a fact.”

    Tracy, this is a point of confusion for many people, but what you have to understand about the word “theory” is that, in the context of science, it does not mean “speculation” or “guess.” A theory is a set up statements that lend an explanatory framework to a large collection of facts, which is widely-support by the facts and widely-accepted by the scientific community. The word “theory” is not meant to convey any sense of uncertainty, as it does in common vernacular. The word “theory”, in the colloquial sense, means “speculation”. Scientifically, theories are no more uncertain than facts or laws.

    ________
    “Despite the claims, the fossil record DOES NOT bear out Darwinian Evolution. You can’t make that case because of the total lack of any TRANSITIONAL CREATURE SKELETONS.”
    ________

    That is a huge surprise to me, Tracy, given that I’m currently reading a book about Tetrapod evolution, where there are no less than 17 species of tetrapodomorphs (i.e., transitional species between fish and four-legged creatures), with even more transitional species on either end of the tetrapodomorph phylogeny (classified as either “fish” or “tetradpod”, but which have transitional features), and with several individual specimens found per species.

    Tracy, that is just for tetrapods. There are also many reptile/bird transitions and many reptile/mammal transitions. In any case, you should really check this book out. It’s called Gaining Ground and the author is Jennifer Clack.

    ________

    “For Darwinian Evolution to be right, then there has to be a whole lot of transitional fossils between say, the skeleton of a Dinosaur and the skeleton of a modern bird.”
    ________

    Tracy, the evidence we gather through comparative genetics of _currently-existing_ species is more than enough to convince any dispassionate observer that all organisms descended from a common ancestor. We don’t need the fossil record at all. (If you email me at gimbal.lockedATgmailDOTcom, I will be happy to share some of that comparative genetics information with you, but it is out of scope for this post).

    The fact is, fossilization is rare and we can’t always expect to find fossil evidence of every species that ever existed. The fossil record is bound to have gaps. Lucky for you, we HAVE found many, many transitions between theropaud dinosaurs and birds, which you can read about at the following link:

    http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CC/CC214.html

    ________
    “Most people who don’t hold that Darwinian Evolution is true are not soothe-sayers or mystics who are living in the Dark Ages. They are everyday people like me who study both pros and cons of competing views (and the facts associated with each view), and then make up their mind what they believe based on A) What solid evidence there is to support a view and B) How those facts can be applied to the world we are aware of and live in.”
    ________

    Tracy, if only that were true. However, any notion that you have about cdesign proponantists being objective is, it appears, strictly pretense. The Intelligent Design movement is a fringe movement comprised almost entirely of Christian Creationists. They desperately cling to arguments that have been debunked over and over again by mainstream scientists. Outwardly, they pretend to want to be objective, but their own literature proves that this is not the case. I recommend reading about the Discovery Institute’s Wedge Strategy, as well as Barbara Forrest’s book, entitled Creationism’s Trojan Horse.

    ________
    “I don’t have anything against Phil and others who don’t believe in Creationsim or ID, but I do have a problem with their seeming unwillingness to have an open and civil discussion about it. If those who discount Creationsim and ID are so right, when why are they so defensive when it comes to a different viewpoint? Why the effort to stop critical thinking where Darwinian Evolution Theory is concerned?”
    ________

    You are presuming that the reason people get upset about Intelligent Design stems from some insecurity about their beliefs.

    However, the real reason people get upset about Intelligent Design is because it is bad science, and there are people who are trying to teach children that it is good science. That tends to make people angry.

    Even worse, they are not following the normal scientific procedures in doing so. They are supposed to make their case in the scientific arena, in peer-reviewed journals, so that they can convince their collegues and gain a consensus in favor of their position. Only then should the idea be taught to children in school.

    Instead, they are all but ignoring the research and review processes, and they are instead spending their resources on public relations and political campaigns in order to convince U.S. citizens and politicians that it would be a wise idea to allow them to skip all of the steps that involve scientific scrutiney, and inject their beliefs directly into the public school. They very obviously want to do so because children are more impressionable and are less apt than real scientists to think critically about their ideas. Their insistance on ignoring the normal checks and balances built into the scientific process is very, very dangerous and the thought of what this might do to the world of science scares not just biologists, but physicists, geologists, and astronomers as well.

    So obviously there is a lot of emotion surrounding the ID movement and what they are trying to do. You should try not to confuse these legitimate peeves with some sort of insecurity on evolutionists’ part. Evolutionists welcome the debate _within_ the scientific arena, and I’m sure most of them would be happy to see ID proponants produce some actual research programs that _genuinely_ answer lingering questions about our origins.

    ________

    “I’m not trying to start an argument, but I do think that true followers of Science should be interested in exploring questions instead of stifling debate.
    Since Phil is so convinced of his correctness on the issue, I would invite him to debate Dr. Ken Hovind, who is a known Creationist and has many facts to back up his arguments. I think Phil would be well served if he believes what he claims.”
    ________

    Are you sure you want to chose Kent Hovind? I think that is a poor strategic choice on your part. Michael Behe or William Dembski would be a much better choice. Unlike Hovind, their credentials are actually REAL.

    Tracy, it is interesting to hear you claim that it is the evolutionists who want to stifle debate, presumably because they are insecure about their beliefs and they are afraid of people like Hovind and Ham. A Creationist named Bob Beckel made a similar claim in a recent USA Today column. In response to a question about whether Bob would go for a public debate on the topic, he said:

    “I’m all for it. I just wonder if the Darwinists will show up.”

    In response to this, Patricia Princehouse, who works for the Department of Biology at Case Western University in Cleveland, OH, said:

    “You bet we will! In fact, we’ll host.”

    Ken Miller, a cell biologist and professor at Brown University, agreed to debate for the Evolutionist side. Patricia Princehouse says:

    “The question is, will the designists show? Calls go out every day to present scientific data at scientific conferences. The designists are always busy that decade.”

    William Dembski, a mathematician/philosopher, decided he would debate for the Intelligent Design side.

    Guess who didn’t show? The answer is, “Demski.”

  43. TheBlackCat

    Tracy says:
    “Darwinian Evolution is a theory not a fact.”

    This is probably the one Creationist claim that scientists hate most of all. First, nobody follows “Darwinian evolution” anymore. That was abandoned about 100 years ago with the re-discovery of Mendelian genetics, and the evolutionary scene was completely turned on its head 50 years ago thanks to Watson and Crick. The modern theory of evolution, although similar in its basic principles to what Darwin came up with, has evolved a lot in the last 150 years. That is the great thing about science, it advances and improves itself. The Creationist claims, on the other hand, have not changed whatsoever in the last 150 years.

    Second, in science “theory” and “fact” are completely different things. A fact is a piece of information. A hypothesis is an explanation used to explain a fact. A theory is a hypothesis has been tested over and over again, with tests it can potentially fail, and has passed them all. A theory does not become a fact, a theory explains a fact. No matter have much evidence a theory has to support it, it is still a theory. The modern theory of evolution (NOT Darwin’s theory) has, very likely, passed more tests than any other theory EVER. It is without doubt in the top 5 or so best supported scientific theories ever, and I would say it is probably at the top of the list simply because it is tested every single day in countless ways. Creationism and ID, on the other hand, have not passed a single fail-able test that evolution has not passed. They have failed a great many tests, but there are none that they passed that evolution has not.

    Third, evolution IS a fact. It is a fact that species have changed over time, both within species and between species. The evidence is overwhelming in support of this, in the fossil record, in modern creature’s body structures, in developmental biology, in molecular biology, in biochemistry, in species and gene distribution, in gene frequency, and in actual experiments and real-world observations where changes within and between species have been seen by people. Evolution is a fact.

    Tracy says:
    “You can’t make that case because of the total lack of any TRANSITIONAL CREATURE SKELETONS.”

    This is wrong. There is a massive, absolutely massive, number of transitional fossils that have been found. No matter how many times the ID and Creationist crowd claim otherwise, we have not only found transitional fossils, we have found a ton of them. We have the most of the main steps in the evolution from early fish to bony fish to amphibians to reptiles to mammals and dinosaurs, not to mention detailed transitional lines of most modern mammalian groups including humans. We are talking probably hundreds, maybe even thousands of transitional SPECIES, many with dozens of fossils. Sure there are gaps, but the gaps are no impassible. Considering how rare fossilization is, and how rare it is to find fossils once they are formed, and considering what a small fraction of Earth’s surface has been thoroughly searched for fossils, it is really surprising the huge number of transitional fossils we have found.

    Tracy says:
    “For Darwinian Evolution to be right, then there has to be a whole lot of transitional fossils between say, the skeleton of a Dinosaur and the skeleton of a modern bird.”
    That is not correct. Fossilization is an extremely rare occurrence. Only an extremely small percentage of the creature that have died have formed fossils. Then, only an extremely small percentage of those fossils that formed have survived until the modern day thanks to plate tectonics and erosion. Then, only a very small percentage of the land’s surface that may have fossils can be searched practically. Then only a very small percentage of the fossils in such an area have been found. And on top of that, only a very small percentage of such areas have actually been searched. So as you can see, the odds of finding a fossil of a given species is very, very slim. This is all a moot point though, because there ARE “a whole lot of fossils” between a dinosaur and a bird. The creationist community loves to cite quotes saying otherwise, but these quotes are decades old, before most the transitional bird fossils were discovered.

    Tracy says:
    “If those who discount Creationism and ID are so right, when why are they so defensive when it comes to a different viewpoint? ”

    Because the Creationist/ID crowd fight dirty. They quote people out of context to twist their sources’ meaning to suit their agenda, they quote statements made decades ago that have no bearing on how things are today, they cite data that is decades out of date and is has either been superseded by better results or discredited as flawed, they take good studies and extract only the data that supports their conclusions while ignoring the rest, they ignore people who have shown their statements to be wrong and continue to use them, and they flat out lie. They make up data and quotes out of thin air to support their claims, and alter the data and quotes of others to suit their purposes. This is not hearsay and second-hand information. I have been to a debate between IDers and real scientists, I have seen the tactics the ID/Creationist community use first-hand, and I can tell you everything I have said here is true. It is extremely hard to debate IDers/Creationists because they just use dirty debate tactics. “Dr.” Hovind, however, has been thoroughly discredited on any number of websites, he is probably the least respected Creationist of them all because his claims are so amazingly wrong. A simple web search, or a trip to talkorigins.org, will tell you everything you need to know about him. He has NO real facts to back up his arguments, this has been well established for many years now.

    Tracy says:
    “I’m not trying to start an argument, but I do think that true followers of Science should be interested in exploring questions instead of stifling debate.”

    Science is not stifling the debate. The questions that the Creationists/IDers raise are not new. Most have been looked at thoroughly, analyzed, discussed, and settled decades ago. A few have been settled more recently. Many have were settled close to, or even more than, 100 years ago. Those issues that have not been settled we at least have very good explanations for, it is more an issue of figuring out which of several scientific explanations is actually the correct one. in these cases, it is not the debate that is settled it is simply that the IDers/Creationists are using analysis techniques that have been long discredited, but they try to portray as new and innovative. The debate is happening, or happened long ago. If the ID/Creationist community has something worthwhile to add, they are welcome to. However, it has to be something worthwhile, not the same old thing that they have been using for the last 150 years and has been thoroughly and totally discredited hundreds of times before. So far, all they have done is the latter. Science won’t take them seriously until they do the former.

    However, despite constant requests to do so, the ID/Creationist crowd does not seem to want to offer anything new. The reason is simple: the old stuff works. Despite the fact that people familiar with the issue (including many of the IDers/Creationists making the claims) know the claims are wrong, they still manage to convince people with less knowledge on the issue. If the claims convince people, the IDers/Creationists use them. They do not seem to want to offer anything new because the old, patently wrong claims are still working for them.

  44. Scott Mooney

    “Since Phil is so convinced of his correctness on the issue, I would invite him to debate Dr. Ken Hovind, who is a known Creationist and has many facts to back up his arguments. I think Phil would be well served if he believes what he claims.”

    There are a few problems with this. First, Phil has stated that he does not debate pseudoscientists. Second, The designation “Dr.” belongs to people who earn an actual PhD from an ecredited university. Hovind’s degree came from a diploma mill, and as such has no more right to call himself a doctor than I do. Third, even other creationists disavow the looniness that “Dr.” Hovind espouses. AiG has an entire page of Hovind’s claims described as “Arguements Creationists Should NOT Use”. Phil, and most6 other scientists, speak with facts. Hovind speaks in sound bites that sound good until they get put under critical scrutiny. He has made no effort to present any facts to the scientific community for analysis of his claims, and he has not written a single peer-reviewed paper. In short, he is a creationist who tries to dress up his assertions in scientific-sounding garbage, and ignores it when he gets found out.

    Whew. I’ll rest a bit now.

  45. Simon

    I have several friends who claim to be both Scientific in thought and Religious in belief, making the distinction touched on in several posts, keeping religion in the faith-based realm and thus seperate from testable, investigatable (is that a word?) science. I myself find it very hard to imagine this kind of double-think, and I’m surprised it seems to work for so many apparently intelligent people (The Dali Lama, for instance, is very well informed on a wide range of scientific issues, and writes in support of critical thinking, yet reserves space for belief in the supernatural).
    The point I am getting to, however, is that many people with deeply held religious beliefs have no time for ID. An Anglican Bishop recently made a neat point about the whole ‘God of the Gaps’ approach. ‘It means that with each new (Scientific) discovery or breakthrough, God is diminished rather than glorified’.

  46. Irishman

    Frank Sullivan Said:
    >I don’t think the article accurately represents Irreducible Complexity. If Behe were to respond, he would argue that IC is _not_ about whether we can explain how something evolved. It’s about _knowing_ that something can’t. In other words, he has identified certain chemical systems inside the cell that he believes cannot possibly have evolved. He believes that it is _demonstrably_ impossible.

    The two cases are indistinguishable. Behe believes that evolution is impossible. His justification for that is Irreducible Complexity, his argument that complex systems cannot be explained by piecemeal steps. However, his judgement to that effect is based on the reasoning that he cannot see how it was done, so no one can. But your own explanations show that he is in error, other people can explain ways that the complexity could have developed. That isn’t exactly explaining how it did develop, complete to the steps along the way, but it is sufficient to show that Behe’s belief that evolution is demonstrably impossible is wrong.

    Maybe I’m misunderstanding you. Behe’s argument is essentially that because we cannot explain the steps along the way, and there appear to be gaps too large for any step, then there must be Design. The response is that, while we may not be able to fill in exactly every step for every case and every gap, we can explain and demonstrate types of processes that will cover those gaps in sufficiently small steps that Evolution does work, so Design is not required. The article is trying to condense Behe’s argument to the underlying premise. Behe says we can’t explain it, so it can’t be true. Evolutionists say we can explain it, so Behe’s wrong.

  47. Irishman

    Tracy Said:
    >Most people who don’t hold that Darwinian Evolution is true are not soothe-sayers or mystics who are living in the Dark Ages. They are everyday people like me who study both pros and cons of competing views (and the facts associated with each view), and then make up their mind what they believe based on A) What solid evidence there is to support a view and B) How those facts can be applied to the world we are aware of and live in.

    You are correct that there are many everyday, ordinary people who do not accept Evolution, and believe in direct divine creation. Most of these people are not idiots, whatever we Evolution supporters would like to believe. They try to evaluate for themselves the various information they have accummulated from different sources, filtered through their own perspective and belief system. We all do that – we can’t escape it. However, much of the information is being distorted and reinterpreted and misrepresented, which makes that evaluation suspect – garbage in, garbage out, as it were.

    Our religious viewpoints are usually built up during our childhood, and frame the way we look at the world and how we evaluate the data we gather later. It is a scientifically demonstrated fact that the way people perceive and interpret information is shaped by their expectations and by their mental frameworks. You may have heard of the term “congnative dissonance”. This is the effect where information does not match your mental framework and expectations, and your mind tries to retain the existing framework rather than change it to match the new information.

    When people typically begin to learn about science, and especially Evolution, it is being placed into a mindset and a framework that is already built along religious beliefs. When those religious beliefs are constructed with a very literalist bent about the Biblical stories, and they are strongly reinforced by a family and community (i.e. church, social network) that strongly adheres to the same belief system, the scientific information creates cognative dissonance for the believer. It is easier and more comfortable (and not entirely conscious) to reject the new information in favor of the old, regardless of the implications. It is only when the implications are so staggeringly at odds with the rest of one’s experiences that the break can be made and the new information replace the old. This is why revelations can be so shocking.

    So these everyday people are already at a disadvantage when it comes to assimilating Evolution. Their mindset is structured to “see the world” in a particular way, and science is presenting that the world is fundamentally different. That in itself is a big leap to make, but there is another factor that makes the situation worse. In trying to evaluate the new information, especially when it is uncomfortable and creating cognative dissonance, one obtains more information on the topic from a variety of sources. But people find sources that they are comfortable with, sources that fit into their worldview. And the problem is that these sources may not be accurate. In fact, the simple truth is that many of the major Evolution critics deliberately misrepresent and misquote and distort the information in order to support their agenda.

    The person trying to evaluate this information often isn’t able to fully evaluate the various claims. Much of the details are buried in technical journals and conference notes and the like. So most people are operating on summaries of information compiled by proponents of each side. Given their existing lack of in-depth information on which to build and their comfort for sources that match their pre-existing framework, the natural conclusion is to accept the information at face value, and then make judgements about the relative worth of the different positions from that information. But if the information is distorted, the judgment isn’t valid.

    These misconceptions and invalid arguments are spread among the community of congnative dissonance, people with a similar worldview at odds with the information from Evolution. The counter arguments and claims and rebuttals are spread around as much by the common people as by the deliberate disinformation agents. And even after the flaws in the arguments are shown, the rebuttals made to the rebuttals, the misquotes shown to be out of context, they continue to spread and be repeated and reused, because the community of believers spreads their information in larger circles than they spread the responses. And even when believers see the responses and the counter-arguments and the proof of the misquotes, they still have difficulty accepting the final result, because of their original cognative dissonance.

    To be fair, the same factors are at work in everyone, related to every issue. That is why two intelligent people can debate a topic indefinitely, fundamentally unable to reach an agreement. Their perceptions are different, their perspectives are different, their worldviews are different, so their evaluations are filtered differently, so even if they’re using logic and reasoning they’re still reaching different conclusions.

    One could also point out how similar factors are playing a role in the Evolutionist argument’s side. We find sources that we like, we share the same examples and arguments and repeat them frequently, we have difficulty accepting information at odds with our worldviews. However, Evolutionists are not deliberately distorting the arguments and misquoting their opponents. And most Evolutionists are willing to point out to each other when we are wrong. Also, we don’t have the same cognative dissonance problem on this topic, because either our religious framework was not overly reliant upon the literal interpretation, or we’ve already suffered our cognative dissonance and associated revelation, or our worldview was not constructed on the same religious framework to begin with.

    In fact, that’s probably part of why Evolutionists feel Creationists are stupid. If we’ve already been through the cognative dissonance break and found our way through to accept Evolution, we see how we ourselves were not thinking clearly, were missing and misinterpreting information. And so we think, “How could I have been so stupid?”, which means anyone else who still thinks that way gets the same appellation.

    >I don’t have anything against Phil and others who don’t believe in Creationsim or ID, but I do have a problem with their seeming unwillingness to have an open and civil discussion about it. If those who discount Creationsim and ID are so right, when why are they so defensive when it comes to a different viewpoint? Why the effort to stop critical thinking where Darwinian Evolution Theory is concerned?
    I’m not trying to start an argument, but I do think that true followers of Science should be interested in exploring questions instead of stifling debate.

    What is the proper forum for that debate? Is the question a scientific one? If so, the proper forum is the science field, the science community. Sure, anyone can participate, but in order to participate meaningfully, one must first learn enough about the topic to be up to speed. So one must study the literature and the arguments and the line of reasoning used and the data behind those theories. In other words, one must become part of the science community in order to contribute and shape the results of that community’s efforts.

    What is not the proper forum for that debate is school boards, church sanctuaries, newspaper columns, websites, TV ads, webblog’s, etc. Those are all venues for spreading information, for informing and persuading and enacting policies, but not for scientific debate. But these are the methods of proposing and debating Evolution that the Creationists use.

    What are the proper methods for scientific debate? Reviewing the evidence – the data. Proposing alternate explanations that match the data, and then testing those alternate explanations against each other. Reviewing the tests to make sure that the data was collected accurately, that the test was conditionally valid, and that the conclusions conform to the data and that the data was processed appropriately. Proposing, testing, writing up the articles, and peer review. Letting your informed critics hash out everything you did wrong. Then repeating it, and letting others repeat it to get the same results.

    Methods that are not valid? Taking a rhetorical comment out of context and representing that it conveys the actual opinion of the person quoted. Distorting the theory and then showing how that distortion is false. Making logical fallacies. Proposing a “theory” and then publishing it in a commercial, non-technical book or website. Letting only your like-minded colleagues review your work and not your critics. Repeating positions that have been refuted as if they are new. “Because Genesis says so,” is not a valid scientific method. Neither is “I believe in God.”

    >Why the effort to stop critical thinking where Darwinian Evolution Theory is concerned?

    There is no effort to stop critical thinking where Evolution Theory is concerned. Evolution is under constant scrutiny, and the mechanisms and methods are under ongoing scientific debate. What looks like a refusal to think critically is the presumed assumption of the validity of Evolution and the need to only debate the fine points. However, that is only presumed to be an assumption. It is not – it is a point that has already been demonstrated and scientifically validated by data.

    Quite simply put, life on Earth is in constant flux. Species are adapting, gene pools are changing, environments are changing and changing the life that lives there accordingly. This is a given. This was known and accepted before Darwin. Even Creationists acknowledge this when they accept “microevolution”. This state of constant change is evolution in the broadest sense. This is the underlying premise that the Theory of Evolution is explaining. The fact of change is established, it is the mechanisms and drivers that are the unresolved issue. So science doesn’t assume that there is change, change is proven already. Selective breeding and agriculture and horticulture are the proof that adaptation occurs. That is why any changes to the Theory of Evolution will be internal changes that affect the form and methods but leave intact the fundamental principle, life forms change over time.

    That is why most Creationists have backed off the Young Earth version, they accept an Old Earth and they accept microevolution. Their key sticking point is accepting the explanation that Evolution accounts for the origins of humanity. They’re unable to get beyond the literalist interpretation of a special creation for humanity, so they argue against the whole edifice that supports that conclusion. They are unwilling to accept what many other equally religious believers are able to accept, that perhaps God works through evolution. Perhaps the “special” part of the creation was not necessarily the creation itself or the a distinct method of doing so, but rather the result.

  48. Tracy

    Thank you all for your thoughtful and respectful posts.
    I think this a case where we can just agree to disagree on some elements of what should be considered SCIENCE and what shouldn’t. Let me tell you what I can discern based on the SCIENCE that we do know and most likely agree on. I believe that a dog and a wolf have a common ancestor. I don’t believe that a dog and a banana have a common ancestor. That’s Micro verses Macro Evolution. I’ve can’t dobut micro-evolutionary changes becaus they happen and can be easily proven. Take Europe of the Middle Ages. If you go to an old, walled city in Germany that was standing in the 12-15th Century, you will notice that you have to duck down to walk through many archways and doors. People were smaller in that time period, didn’t have good nutrition, vaccines or sports nutrition. Today peole do, and they grow much taller, stronger and healthier. That is micro-evolution. A species adapts and changes with it’s enviroment, but it doesn’t change to a whole new species.
    Another point I want to make is about Dr. Kent Hovind. I read Frank Sullivan’s point about me needing to get someone else because of Dr. Hovind’s credentials. What is wrong with Dr. Hovind’s credentials Frank?
    He has a Masters and a PHD in Education, and he has taught high school mathematics and science. Granted, he doesn’t have a degree in Paleontology or Physics, but that doesn’t make him any less qualified. His arguments are sound and based on SCIENCE. He does try to reconcile science to the Bible, but that doesn’t mean that his views should be dismissed.
    About Trematodes. Flukes and worms are pretty basic and simplistic life forms. I would think that they have remained pretty similar looking throughout world history. I checked out a couple of sites but thus far don’t see any really convincing evidence. Can you provide other links? I would appreciate it.
    About gaps in the fossil record. Sorry, but there are not just gaps that are ” few and far between,” but rather whole periods of time unaccounted for with no transitional fossils at all. Again, I’m not trying to fight here but just to find clarification. Yes, it is true that some Creationists are blinded by their faith and they refuse to examine contesting evidence. There are also many on the other side who refuse to look or listen to anything that contradicts their faith in Evolution. It’s a level playing field.
    There is another issue I didn’t mention in my original post, and that deals with the subject of GENETICS and how GENETICS prove that Neanderthals have no link to modern man. This evidence along with the frauds of Java, Piltdown and Peking man should at least cause those on both sides of the debate to take a look.
    Basically I’m saying that there is still so much more to this debate than just the surface we’ve scratched. I think everyone (including me), should be open-minded and willing to find out what is true and what is not.
    Again, I appreciate the kind thoughts and wonderful points everyone has been willing to share.

  49. Tracy

    One last thing I forgot.
    Darwinian Evolution does not meet the criteria imposed by the SCIENTIFIC METHOD. It isn’t observable and it can’t be duplicated in a laboratory setting.
    Frank, one thing I didn’t mention above. Darwin’s Black Box is a good book by Behe. I would recommend you read Fatal Flaws by Hank Henegraff. I enjoyed it as well.

  50. PK

    Tracy says: People were smaller in that time period, didn’t have good nutrition, vaccines or sports nutrition. Today peole do, and they grow much taller, stronger and healthier. That is micro-evolution.

    This is Lysenkoism, and has been thoroughly refuted.

    It was favoured by Stalin, because “survival of the fittest” does not agree with the communist philosophy. There are interesting parallels with the creationism crowd.

  51. L. Fuller

    Please see http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-misconceptions.html#observe on the misconception that evolution has never been observed. It has been both observed directly and indirectly http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/

    In fact, here is a good FAQ page that has links to resources on many misconceptions about evolution, including transitional vertebrate fossils.
    http://www.talkorigins.org/origins/faqs-qa.html

    I would recommend reading Darwin’s Black Box as well. I did so when it first came out and I have found it an invaluable resource for understanding the ID mindset and how to counter the damage that it tries to do to real science.

  52. Irishman

    Kent Hovind credentials:
    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/credentials.html

    read also here

    Tracy said:
    >About gaps in the fossil record. Sorry, but there are not just gaps that are ” few and far between,” but rather whole periods of time unaccounted for with no transitional fossils at all.

    We could have no fossil record whatsoever and Evolution would still stand. The fossil record provided the first insights into understanding evolution, but modern genetics and other elements of biology provide plenty of footing for Evolution if there were no fossils at all.

    >There is another issue I didn’t mention in my original post, and that deals with the subject of GENETICS and how GENETICS prove that Neanderthals have no link to modern man.

    I fail to see how this defeats Evolution. Evolution allows for divergence and competing lines. There are gorillas and chimps and orangutans. The existence of gorillas does not make chimps obsolete.

    >This evidence along with the frauds of Java, Piltdown and Peking man should at least cause those on both sides of the debate to take a look.

    I am aware of Piltdown man, but are Java and Peking man frauds?

  53. RAD

    Tracy, I see a common problem that creation believers have is that they think the theory of evolution is all about how life began. Not true, its about how life has changed. If you could just get past life this and realize that evolution is a true and tested theory in that change happens and is still happening, then I think you could come to terms with evolution and life origins not being the same thing. The life origins link above should exlain that point clearly including the “common ancestor” theory is not evolution but only a part of it. This conflict between creation and evolution seems to be, at the very core anyway, this very same problem. There is more involved then that but that is where the problem begins

  54. Irishman

    RAD Said:
    >Tracy, I see a common problem that creation believers have is that they think the theory of evolution is all about how life began. Not true, its about how life has changed.

    This is a point where I have a quibble. Creationists lump life origins into Evolution not just by mistake, but because Evolution is a naturalistic approach to describing how life diversified. While technically evolution is the process of change of life forms, there is the underlying premise that life began at some point and changed from there, whereas Creationists take life to have begun in diversified form, not from a common point.

    But the real issue is that when scientists get around to discovering about life origins, their answer will not be *poof* “it came from nowhere”. Rather, the scientific answer will be a naturalistic explanation about how the complex molecules formed and combined into more complex structures and began replicating. That answer will be every bit as naturalist as Evolution is now. The premise of whether or not God is ultimately responsible will still be a religious question that has no bearing on how life began.

    So I sometimes don’t agree with the harping on “Evolution doesn’t say anything about life origins”, because any scientific answer will have to be merged with Evolution and will have the same naturalist foundation.

  55. Tim Farley

    Most readers of this site have probably seen it before, but just in case not I thought I would call attention to a great piece on the whole issue of “fairness” in reporting of science issues in journalism at the Columbia Journalism Review.

    Blinded By Science
    How ‘Balanced’ Coverage Lets the Scientific Fringe Hijack Reality
    URL: http://www.cjr.org/issues/2004/6/mooney-science.asp

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