Friday, January 20, 2006

Supporters of science must adapt, during the fight over "Intelligent Design"... Pt I

One of you wrote: “You once mentioned that Orson Scott Card should have a dog in the ID fight. Here's his dog. It appears to intersect with yours quite a bit, with, perhaps, some stuff you might consider a strawman or two.”

Hrmmm.. Card is a complex and interesting person. First an aside. He long ago began savaging me in public, I think perhpas because he’s irritated by the fact that we have fans in common. After many years of this, I began looking around for things to dislike about him too (I am only human), and found a few. (I have to look hard because I like to see the good in people, and Scott has plenty on that side of the ledger.)

OtherTheoriesINtelligentDesignWhat I have mostly criticized (and it is non-ad-hominem) is his apparent literary obsession with ubermenschen demigods, relentlessly returning to the trope of mutant superbeings who so-o-o-o-o regret having to impose their will on benighted/foolish humanity... for our own good, of course. And yet, Card’s are among the most interesting demigods around! Really angst-ridden and filled with painful doubts... that somehow never seem to prevent them from finally deciding to squish us, after all. Unlike Yoda, at least his midi-chlorian Ubers are willing to answer questions -- at prodigious length. I hope, if we ever are taken over by mutant Homo superiors, they will be OS Card characters, because at least they won’t enjoy it.

Enough about that lit-gossip. As for Card’s paper on ID, it is a superior piece of work, legitimately chastising the “either-or” dichotomy and authoritarian posturing that too many scientists have bought into.

Or, at least, the essay begins that way, before ultimately falling apart. To start with, he enumerates a number of responses that have been offered by Darwinists, in reaction to the community that promotes teaching Intelligent Design in public school science curricula. Here’s his list:

1. Intelligent Design is just Creation Science in a new suit (name-calling).

2. Don’t listen to these guys, they’re not real scientists (credentialism).

3. If you actually understood science as we do, you’d realize that these guys are wrong and we’re right; but you don’t, so you have to trust us (expertism).

4. They got some details of those complex systems wrong, so they must be wrong about everything (sniping).

5. The First Amendment requires the separation of church and state (politics).

6. We can’t possibly find a fossil record of every step along the way in evolution, but evolution has already been so well demonstrated it is absurd to challenge it in the details (prestidigitation).

7. Even if there are problems with the Darwinian model, there’s no justification for postulating an “intelligent designer” (true).



There is merit to many of these points.

For starters, Card is perfectly right that many scientists have acted childishly, in responding to challenges from outside their community of peer-reviewed doctorate holders. Some do resort to “credentialism” and “expertism” and other smug tactics. Carl Sagan was among the worst perpetrators of this almost ecclesiastical abuse of position, using authority and standing as cudgels against whatever he chose to call “superstition.” While evangelizing and sermonizing about the beauty and wonder of science, he would also assert a privileged position of wise authority, in terms that would have needed little modification -- just a little terminology-swapping -- to befit some ancient High Priest. Indeed, by making such claims, some of the best-known scientific spokesmen have walked right into a trap.

I have spoken elsewhere of our civilization’s obsession with the mythos of Suspicion of Authority - or SOA -- that pervades nearly all popular western culture. SOA had its modern origins in the same Enlightenment movement that engendered science, during an era of revolution against the old collusions of royalty and clergy that had kept our ancestors in bondage, for four millennia. Indeed, good science is fundamentally grounded in an enlightenment willingness to question established perceptions and accepted beliefs, challenging them to survive the give and take of reciprocal criticism and the experimental process. It cannot be over-emphasized that science was -- and remains -- the rebel phenomenon, opposing (and always endangered by) older habits of hierarchy and nostalgic dogma, that dominated nearly every other culture, keeping us shrouded in darkness.

Hence, it can be profoundly ironic when the opponents of science find ways to reverse roles and portray an entrenched scientific “establishment.” One seeking to protect its authoritarian power and turf, insisting upon a rigid catechism of accepted Truth. Hierarchs obsessed with suppressing alternative explanations or brushing aside inconveniently contrary evidence.

9780316013338_p0_v1_s260x420Yes, there are imperious authority figures in science. And yet, all in all, these accusations tend to be deeply unfair. Scientists are busy, busy people, doing among the most important things, ever. The topics of their research, from biology to starflight, are deeply attractive to a well-read public and to their credit, many scientists and science-journalists strive to share popularized accounts, on TV and in journals like DISCOVER Magazine. No prior “priesthood” ever worked so hard to share deep insights and include the average citizens who ultimately pay for it all.

Still they are very busy. So it is natural for their hackles to rise when they are chivvied and harried and sniped by indignant outsiders who express Suspicion of Authority to an indignant and unreasonable degree, insisting on attention being paid to this or that or the latest kooky thing. If as little as 98% of these “unconventional” notions are meritless or meretricious, one might hope that the remaining 2% will get attention from experts, in the due course of time. Yet, is only natural that scientists sometimes duck for cover, not only in their labs, but by using the same dismissing language toward all unsolicited, uncredentialed input, even by sincere and educated citizens with interesting questions to raise.

How to solve this problem? There is a desperate need for some system of merit that allows and encourages good ideas to rise up, outside the establishment, so that the best can legitimately demand attention, while denying credence to mere distracting dross. For this reason, I have long been a supporter of the Society for Amateur Scientists (http://www.sas.org/).

Having said all that, those of us who have worked in science know that no other system ever succeeded so well at compensating for flaws in human nature. Yes, powerful scientists, being human, cannot help sometimes throwing their weight around. On the other hand, bright graduate students desire nothing more deeply than to discover some chink or flaw in accepted paradigms, just the sort of tumultuous discovery that can make a reputation, forever. While human nature does keep pushing in one direction, toward priest-like hierarchies of dogma -- and this trend can be abetted by political pressures -- science still remains remarkably free of reactionary corruption. No other system has ever put in place as many counter-forces and incentives to shove the other way, constantly renewing the drive for innovation and change.

Alas, these subtleties are not well-known outside of academia and the lab. Given the prevalence of SOA in mass culture... and the palpable power of science in the modern age... it is only natural for tales of authoritarian repression to gain some romantic credence. Much of the UFO community, for example, revolves around paranoid fantasies, claiming that hundreds - even thousands - of the very best scientists and engineers might cooperate with a 60 year program, secretly investigating the greatest discovery of all time, without anyone blowing the whistle or breathing a word in all that time. Talk about fantasy!

Getting back to specifics, one of the underlying emotional appeals made by proponents of Intelligent Design has been to tug at this image of stodgy, establishment high priests, busy protecting a rigid dogma by repressing competition, resisting even a fair discussion of alternative ideas. As I described in another chapter, the ID community plays this card well, by appealing to the twin notions of completeness and fair play. (“Why should students be prevented from hearing all sides and deciding for themselves?”)

What can be profoundly irritating and counterproductive is when scientists inadvertently feed this image of ID as some kind of righteous underdog, instead of helping the public to see it as the stalking horse for a powerfully reactionary coalition. This cannot be done by oversimplifying or creating a strawman. As Orson Scott Card rightfully points out, Intelligent Design (ID) differs - in important ways -- from old style Creation Science (CS).


Next time we will deal with some of those differences, pondering whether those opposing evolution are, in fact, demonstrating it, in action, as they change and adapt to different social, educational and political circumstances.

See: Other Theories of Intelligent Design: Intelligent Design is Only One of Many Alternatives to Darwinian Evolution 

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is the rise of Intelligent Design proof of a sort of evolution?

On the contrary, it is the result of . . . intelligent design. A deliberate creation by people with an agenda.

I've posted this before, and I'm posting it again.

From "The Wedge Strategy" (full text at
http://www.antievolution.org/features/wedge.html):

GOALS

Governing Goals

* To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies.
* To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.

Five Year Goals

* To see intelligent design theory as an accepted alternative in the sciences and scientific research being done from the perspective of design theory.
* To see the beginning of the influence of design theory in spheres other than natural science.
* To see major new debates in education, life issues, legal and personal responsibility pushed to the front of the national agenda.

Twenty Year Goals

* To see intelligent design theory as the dominant perspective in science.
* To see design theory application in specific fields, including molecular biology, biochemistry, paleontology, physics and cosmology in the natural sciences, psychology, ethics, politics, theology and philosophy in the humanities; to see its innuence in the fine arts.
* To see design theory permeate our religious, cultural, moral and political life.


--

So, by its proponents own admission, I.D. isn't even a theory in the scientific sense of theory. I.D. isn't intended as a solution to a knotty, insoluable problem in science. It is a solution to a percieved social problem . . . the advent of an age when ideologues don't call the shots.

* * *

Scientist do need to change their approach. Not by no longer refusing to debate these bozos, but by pulling aside the curtain and exposing the humbugs pulling the levers of this cynical enterprise.

Stefan

Big C said...

I've been following this issue with interest for some time, and I have seen a lot of vitriol on both sides. However, I have a problem with Card's essay in that he seems to want to blast scientists for being unreasonable (and why the "Darwinist" name-calling? Scientists are people who support evolutionary theory along with other well-supported theories based on the vast amount of evidence, they aren't members of the Church of Darwin who adhere to some strict dogma) while ignoring the fact that the major players in the Intelligent Design movement are at best repeating long-ago refuted falsehoods about evolutionary science and at worst being extremely deceitful and lying about everything to do with this issue.

In this context, I can understand why the major scientists who have been voicing opposition to ID are quite testy. They have to correct ad nauseum the falsehoods being spread by the ID media and PR machine, and it never seems to stick. Sometimes it takes an order of magnitude more of scientific explanation to correct major falsehoods that make good soundbites and can be said in a single breath. As you said, scientists are busy, and don't generally devote their time to debunking pseudoscience PR. They'd rather be doing real research.

On the other side, the ID folks claim they're not getting a fair hearing in the scientific community, but they focus almost exclusively on PR and political battles while doing no research and collecting no data. The Discovery Institute (the major organization pushing ID) has a multi-million dollar yearly budget many times the size of any typical university biology laboratory. Yet they publish no original research findings, perform no experiments or observations, and apparently employ no biologists with the exception of Michael Behe. Despite the ID folks' protestations, the major meat of ID still appears to be oft-repeated criticisms of evolutionary theory; many of them the exact same erroneous criticisms used by creation scientists that have long been refuted.

The two major novelties presented as ID "results" are irreducible complexity proposed by Michael Behe (biochemist), and Complex Specified Information proposed by William Dembski (mathematician). Maybe you'll cover these in your next post, so I won't elaborate on them. But I'm not impressed by either of those arguments, especially since scientists have evaluated and rebutted these arguments, yet the IDer's ignore the scientists' criticism. If you're doing real research, and you want other scientists to accept your conclusions, you have to address the criticisms of your colleagues.

I'm interested to hear what you see as the differences between ID and creation science. The differences I see are not important in the scientific sense, but rather important in that they updated their political and rhetorical strategies to obscure their religious motives.

Did you check out any of the trial transcripts from the Dover court case? Take a look at the text of Judge Jones' 139-page decision. The ID folks got a conservative judge appointed by George W. Bush, who is a Lutheran and good friends with Tom Ridge (former PA Governor and former Homeland Security Chief) and Senator Rick Santorum (ID supporter) and they STILL couldn't win the case. Then after they lost, the ID camp blasted the judge for practicing "judicial activism" as if he were some dirty leftist commie fascist anti-religion liberal (I'm being sarcastic!).

I would love to see some ID proponents actually doing real research, testing their ideas, and responding to criticisms honestly. You know, behaving like real scientists. Sadly, I have yet to find any of that on the ID side. It's very frustrating.

On the science side, I do see some folks being rude, impolite, and feeding into the ID's persecution complex. Yet the majority of the scientists I see addressing this issue can thoroughly debunk ID eloquently and convincingly. They just don't have a multi-million dollar PR and propaganda campaign backing them up.

For anyone interested, here's a few links:
The Panda's Thumb - a great blog that covers the ongoing political battle between evolution and ID
The TalkOrigins Archive - a collection of resources on evolutionary science, and an archive of rebuttals to creationism and ID arguments
The Wedge Document - If you thought ID was all about science and has nothing to do with religion, read this document detailing the strategy of the Discovery Institute that was leaked onto the Internet (Stefan already beat me to the punch, but I'm levaing it in my comment)
DI Response to the Wedge Document - read the DI's "explanation" of the wedge document, and judge their motives for yourself.

Fhydra said...

@Stephan

"Is the rise of Intelligent Design proof of a sort of evolution?

On the contrary, it is the result of . . . intelligent design. A deliberate creation by people with an agenda."

Actually, I think Brin is saying that the Creationists have evolved, and changed their tactics to try to disprove evolution, since Creation Science wasn't working. I find that a little ironic.

But I also don't think the people pushing for ID will listen to scientists who ask for proof or research. They will probably just claim that scientists aren't playing fair again.

I remember someone once pointing out that if Christians find their religion scientific enough to teach in school, then they should also find science spiritual enough to teach in church. Perhaps some of us could also be using this tactic to counter their arguments.

Rob Perkins said...

I've never seen anything in writing by OSC which savages you. No comments whatsoever in all the time I've been reading him. If he's thinking of you, perhaps he's not interested in savaging any longer. At least not personally. His articles still try to sting, obviously. Then again, they're designed as circulation-enhancing polemics for that small newspaper.

And as far as ubermenschen go, well, you had your Tom and Gillian, and Creideiki, and that strapping young boy on Garth who managed glyphing, didn't you?

(Granted, these people were *not* in charge. Even so, they did superhuman (supercetacean) things in your books.)


And so forth. Feel free to swat point aside however you wish! :-)

So it makes me wonder if you've read any of his later stuff, published in the last 8 years or so. The Shadow series, in particular, doesn't depict Peter Wiggin in much of a non-modernist mode at all. His world federations have elections (which the United States continued to stubbornly not join right up to the end of his life), and his other supermen settle down to raise families well offworld, in most cases.

In fact, I'd argue that the Shadow series was his attempt to show the *damage* those ubermenschen can do, (three of them, in particular, by the end) if left among the general populace. His hero in those books was a man who simply didn't care about winning at all costs. The others rose to positions of power and launched wars.

Also, I think he would agree with you that real scientists, the busy ones who would rather do science than write grants, are damaged beyond belief by the ID/Darwinism argument in the public sphere. Just like real environmentalists are damaged by the rhetoric of Greenpeace and the ELF. I'm going to ask him, of course.

michael vassar said...

Card's books always do feature supermen, and it annoys me too. What actually annoys me is less the presence of the supermen than the degree to which they are unchallenged by ordinary people. Real people can, of course, be the best at something, but they can't be *that* superior.

palliard said...

I like reading Card's essays, but this, like many, misses the main point. In the case of ID debate: why is a designer necessary?

This concept is most easily summed up in the phrase "The God of the Gaps". As the ID argument runs: "Whatever science can't explain, God is responsible for." (If anyone cares to argue that Designer!=God, I'll be very interested to see that.)

The practical consequence of that is that whenever science grows an inch, God shrinks an inch.

For fear of God shrinking completely out of sight, those amongst us who have much of their identity vested in an Almighty God have taken to finding the gaps in our knowledge and shoving crowbars into them.

This isn't a bad thing insofar as it promotes critical thinking... but promoting critical thinking is not the intent. The intent is to keep the gaps where God can dwell as wide-open as possible.

Woozle said...

I'm wondering if everyone caught OSC's conclusion (in the last 2 paragraphs) -- it seems about as fair a compromise between faith and science as one could come up with.

The way I read it, he's saying that ID is essentially a faith-based doctrine (not a scientific one), and that school (public/secular school, anyway) has no business teaching articles of faith.

I'm curious to hear if anyone (on either side) will have arguments with that.

(The rest of the essay does have its flaws, but those flaws don't seem to affect the conclusion.)

Francis said...

1. Intelligent Design is just Creation Science in a new suit (name-calling).

Rebuttal: It is. See the Wedge Strategy for details (posted above). Also see the notes from the court case and the draft of the book which included the word creationism (later replaced with "Intelligent Design).

If it is name-calling to call someone what their own statements proclaim themselves to be, I can't rebut the charge - but will accept the label.

2. Don’t listen to these guys, they’re not real scientists (credentialism).

Rebuttal: They aren't. In the case of a fringe theory, burden of proof is on the protagonist. Not being scientists means that it is less likely they could have such proof in an esoteric subject.

3. If you actually understood science as we do, you’d realize that these guys are wrong and we’re right; but you don’t, so you have to trust us (expertism).

Translation: I'm a scientist who, unlike my (un)learned friend is not getting payed for this. I've spent years of my life learning Biology and going through it all would take years. I simply don't have the time.

I find this attitude quite understandable (if sometimes counterproductive).

4. They got some details of those complex systems wrong, so they must be wrong about everything (sniping).

Tell me when the Creationists have anything more to offer scientifically than sniping. Then tell me when any of their testable claims which opport evolution can't be taken out by a bored sniper.

In short, sniping is what's done because it is all that is necessary and all that IDers make possible. You don't use tank-guns to take out paper targets.

5. The First Amendment requires the separation of church and state (politics).

Rebuttal: This is an argument that ID should not be taught in the classroom (or rather in science class). It is not a rebuttal of ID per se - just the desire to see it taught, which is a different matter.

6. We can’t possibly find a fossil record of every step along the way in evolution, but evolution has already been so well demonstrated it is absurd to challenge it in the details (prestidigitation).

And OSC had the nerve to complain about sniping coming from scientists. The prestadigitation he's objecting to is because the IDers are sniping at a known net and therefore getting some of the bullets through. There is consistency in criticising for one or the other - but none in criticising the scientists for both.

7. Even if there are problems with the Darwinian model, there’s no justification for postulating an “intelligent designer” (true).

(true) - 'nuff said.

Francis said...

Oh, and whatever happened to "Natural Theology"? - The belief that the creator always leaves some himself (or herself) in the creation, therefore a good way to get close to the creator is to try honestly to understand the creation.

I think that this is the counter-meme we need to combat the IDers. Especially as it includes the belief that lying about God's creation is blasphemy.

fpoole said...

Heheh... I think our friend Francis here has the right idea. :)

Rob Perkins said...

More to the topic, however, I have to confess to being almost as disquieted about the push to add Intelligent Design to science curriculums around the country.

On the subject of religious people having a position on ID, I confess my own Church (same as Card's) has none. Instead, they say that the claims they make apply only to mankind, and that science can do what it will without interference from the Church.

They put that statement out in the early 20th Century. I'm sure it helped the cadre of Biologists at BYU along (most of them are faithful Mormons) when they publicly decried the idea of ID, right along with other scientists, and helped talk the Utah Board of Education into rejecting the call for its teaching.

That ought to be a clue, right there.

(Yes, Utah is the same state which contains that Buttars guy, who is undoubtedly also Mormon and publicly in favor of ID in the schools. Isn't a neutral position fun?)

I add a couple of topical points:

1 -- I think OSC is on record as watching Fox News. I've made my points about Fox in the past, how I think it's a shrill screamfest chasing after ratings. Recent time I've spent watching (not to exceed an hour a week, lately) suggest a conservative bias, but only a bias of the same character as the bias I see in any television news organization.

Because he watches Fox News, he sees shrill Creationist/ID-ists arguing with shrill science reporters, and more rarely, shrill scientists. (He could probably get the same shrill entertainment out of MSNBC, and maybe certain CNN programs, for that matter. They're all chasing the same three million people, after all.)

2 -- Those are who he labels "Darwinists", not the hard workers doing research and writing grants in the trenches. I think Card is precise enough to use the word "scientists" if that's who he met.

@Palliard -- I think the question "Why is a designer necessary?" is not cogent to Card's arguments, nor is any rebuttal to his enumeration, such as Francis', is also beside the point. He lists the set of arguments which, because of the emotion behind the debate, do not really sway.

@Francis -- Rebutting by playing in the ID-er's field, by rebutting their approach at all, in any way, is in my opinion a losing strategy. The *winning* one is Stefan's: To get to the premises and expose ID-er's, not as frauds or idiots, but as natural philosophers who are not doing science per se. Of course, the counter-name-calling he does is counter-productive. Drop that, too, and howl only if they actually win a point.

Honestly, what I see with many of you is that you're reacting as though Card is in support of ID. Not-entirely-with-us-therefore-entirely-against-us is unhealthy, and won't actually win in the end, I think.

Francis said...

@Francis -- Rebutting by playing in the ID-er's field, by rebutting their approach at all, in any way, is in my opinion a losing strategy. The *winning* one is Stefan's: To get to the premises and expose ID-er's, not as frauds or idiots, but as natural philosophers who are not doing science per se. Of course, the counter-name-calling he does is counter-productive. Drop that, too, and howl only if they actually win a point.

See my second comment. To those who believe their claims, we rebut them. We then launch the counter-offensive of calling them blasphemous theologians who, by their own actions, demonstrably support the Father of Lies.

Once we've managed to successfuly equate lying about scientific evidence for religious reasons with following the Father of Lies, and then demonstrated that they regularly lie, I believe that any support is going to melt - and they are going to be kicked back through the theological classrooms and into the wastebin.

Honestly, what I see with many of you is that you're reacting as though Card is in support of ID. Not-entirely-with-us-therefore-entirely-against-us is unhealthy, and won't actually win in the end, I think.

No. I see Card as having missed where we are coming from - and therefore worthy of both listening and honest rebuttal. (Behe, to take one example, isn't worthy of that). Therefore rebutting Card's points (and admitting point 3 along with explaining it) is a worthy endeavour as long as he (and those like him) is honest enough to accept the points or to find where he disagrees with them and explain further.

There is a huge difference between saying "You're wrong and here's how" and "You're stupid/lying/evil". Ignorance is curable... (Were I speaking to Card directly, I'd have been somewhat more tactful, of course).

A defence without an attack just makes the loss a matter of time, and an attack without a defence is risky. Using your defence to put the opposition off balance for the attack is just efficiency in action.

Big C said...

@Rob:
"Honestly, what I see with many of you is that you're reacting as though Card is in support of ID. Not-entirely-with-us-therefore-entirely-against-us is unhealthy, and won't actually win in the end, I think."

Although I don't agree with some of the points in Card's article, I do agree with the conclusion: ID shouldn't be taught in schools as science. I just think it's counterproductive to spotlight the rare scientists who behave badly and scold them, while ignoring the quite transparent dishonesty of the major ID proponents.

Card says:
"Creation Science was an attempt by fundamentalist Christians to give the Genesis account, as interpreted by them, a scientific veneer.

"But it was only that – a thin surface – and any student who actually believed that Creation Science had anything to do with science would have been educationally crippled.

"Now the controversy is between advocates of the theory of Intelligent Design vs. strict Darwinists. And some people want you to think it’s the same argument.

"It isn’t."

This is where I have a problem. Essentially ID *is* the same argument. Take the analysis of the drafts of the ID textbook _Of Pandas and People_ from the Dover court case. It was shown that before the 1987 Supreme Court decision outlawing creation science in public schools, the book draft used the term "creationists" throughout its pages. Then, after the trial decision was announced, the draft replaced all mention of "creationists" with "design proponents" without changing *any* of the substance of the text. There was even a left over "transitional form." One draft had a term "cdesign proponentists" as an artifact of the changeover.

@Rob:
"To get to the premises and expose ID-er's, not as frauds or idiots, but as natural philosophers who are not doing science per se."

Well, I don't know if they're frauds, but they certainly seem to have problems being truthful and consistent. Why can't we talk about both their intellectual dishonesty and the fact that they're not doing science?

Charles

Rob Perkins said...

@Charles -- First, because it's counterproductive to insult people, or to scold them. ID has a marvelously compelling set of underpinnings, in that it permits a person to still believe in God. Certain interpretations of Darwin's theories, namely the set Card called "Darwinism", don't.

Scads of people believe in a God who either created the world or the Universe. That's a fact on the ground. Teaching evolution without upsetting that applecart is more honest than knocking over the applecart, precisely because it *is* compelling scientific theory which, if taught and understood correctly, will absolutely help a person come out of false conceptions of God.

(Gotta admit, false conceptions of God are legion. And in any case, I've often asked, "Why can't the verified bits of evolutionary theory be evidence that God is much cleverer and more subtle than anyone ever thought before Darwin came around and uncovered His mechanisms?" Like DB, I'm convinced that part of the reason we're in a world like this is to *joyfully figure out for ourselves how it works.*)

But here, I'll offer that *my* conception of God permits full belief in every verifiable bit of evolutionary theory, including speciation by natural selection.

And whether or not they're intellectually dishonest hinges on whether they've been dishonest under their own set of premises, not yours. Demonstrate first that ID is not science. That's the easy part. See who buys into that. The remainder possess a *difference of opinion* on what science is.

In that sense it won't at all help that you're correct about what science is and they are not. (Who, after all, are the arbiters of how the word "science" is defined?)

But at that point you will have identified all the dogmatists, just as you will be able to identify all the people who are "strict Darwinists" by seeing which unverifiables they use evolution theory to explain.

Big C said...

@Rob said:
"@Charles -- First, because it's counterproductive to insult people, or to scold them. ID has a marvelously compelling set of underpinnings, in that it permits a person to still believe in God. Certain interpretations of Darwin's theories, namely the set Card called "Darwinism", don't."

I don't believe I've advocated insulting people, or scolding them. I'm talking about pointing out how the major proponents of ID have been telling lies. That's a verifiable fact. Namely, they talk out of both sides of their mouth when they claim ID is only about science and has nothing to do with "God." They've stated this point repeatedly in the media, claiming that the "unspecified designer" doesn't have to be God. Then they turn around to their base of Christian fundamentalists and talk about how ID shows that science verifies God, and evolution is false. Am I wrong to label this behavior as dishonest?

I have no problem with ID as a philosophical or religious concept. My belief in God is about along the same lines as yours regarding evolution. But this isn't what's being pushed in the public. They're claiming that science can verify the existence of God, or rather, the "unspecified designer" because they claim they have evidence that evolution is flat-out wrong. They also claim that evolutionary theory *denies* God's existence, and that it's based on the assumption that God doesn't exist. This is another falsehood that they trumpet over and over. No scientific theory claims to support or refute the existence of God. It's not a question science can answer.

@Rob:
"Scads of people believe in a God who either created the world or the Universe. That's a fact on the ground. Teaching evolution without upsetting that applecart is more honest than knocking over the applecart, precisely because it *is* compelling scientific theory which, if taught and understood correctly, will absolutely help a person come out of false conceptions of God."

I don't see any scientists arguing to teach evolution in such a way that it claims to prove God doesn't exist. It would be ludicrous to do so. Evolution explains *how* life became all we see around us, not why. Again, that's the realm of philosophy and theology.

@Rob:
"And whether or not they're intellectually dishonest hinges on whether they've been dishonest under their own set of premises, not yours. Demonstrate first that ID is not science. That's the easy part. See who buys into that. The remainder possess a *difference of opinion* on what science is."

I'm not sure what you mean about the dishonesty point. I elaborated at the beginning of this message why I think they're being dishonest. They state their position one way to the media, then say something else entirely when catering to their base. They also misrepresent science, evolution in particular, as claiming to deny God, when no scientific theory claims that. If it's really just a misunderstanding about science, why do they ignore all the scientists who repeatedly tell them this?

@Rob:
"In that sense it won't at all help that you're correct about what science is and they are not. (Who, after all, are the arbiters of how the word "science" is defined?)"

The scientific method is a well-defined process of investigation. I do think some scientists make a tactical error when they claim ID isn't science only because it invokes supernatural causes. This sounds like implying science claims the supernatural doesn't exist, which plays right into the IDer's rhetorical strategy. The real problem with ID is that they don't - and can't - test their hypotheses against any observations or experiments. Allow me to snip a bit from Lenny Flank's Debunk Creation Science website:

----

"The scientific method is very simple, and consists of five basic steps. They are:

"1. Observe some aspect of the universe

"2. Form a hypothesis that potentially explains what you have observed

"3. Make testible predictions from that hypothesis

"4. Make observations or experiments that can test those predictions

"5. Modify your hypothesis until it is in accord with all observations and predictions

"NOTHING in any of those five steps excludes on principle, a priori, any "supernatural cause". Using this method, one is entirely free to invoke as many non-material pixies, ghosts, goddesses, demons, devils, djinis, and/or the Great Pumpkin, as many times as you like, in any or all of your hypotheses. And science won't (and doesn't) object to that in the slightest. Indeed, scientific experiments have been proposed (and carried out and published) on such "supernatural causes" as the effects of prayer on healing, as well as such "non-materialistic" or "non-natural" causes as ESP, telekinesis, precognition and "remote viewing". So ID's claim that science unfairly rejects supernatural or non-material causes out of hand on principle, is demonstrably quite wrong.

"However, what science DOES require is that any supernatural or non-material hypothesis, whatever it might be, then be subjected to steps 3, 4 and 5. And HERE is where ID fails miserably.

"To demonstate this, let's pick a particular example of an ID hypothesis and see how the scientific method can be applied to it: One claim made by many ID creationists explains the genetic similarity between humans and chimps by asserting that God -- uh, I mean, An Unknown Intelligent Designer -- created both but used common features in a common design.

"Let's take this hypothesis and put it through the scientific method:

"1. Observe some aspect of the universe.

"OK, so we observe that humans and chimps share unique genetic markers, including a broken vitamin C gene and, in humans, a fused chromosome that is identical to two of the chimp chromosomes (with all the appropriate doubled centromeres and telomeres).

"2. Invent a tentative description, called a hypothesis, that is consistent with what you have observed.

"OK, the proposed ID hypothesis is "an intelligent designer used a common design to produce both chimps and humans, and that common design included placing the signs of a fused chromosome and a broken vitamin C gene in both products."

"3. Use the hypothesis to make predictions.

"Well, here is ID supernaturalistic methodology's chance to shine. What predictions can we make from ID's hypothesis? If an Intelligent Designer used a common design to produce both chimps and humans, then we would also expect to see . . . ?

"IDers, please fill in the blank.

"And, to better help us test ID's hypothesis, it is most useful to point out some negative predictions -- things which, if found, would FALSIFY the hypothesis and demonstrate conclusively that the hypothesis is wrong. So, then -- if we find (fill in the blank here), then the "common design" hypothesis would have to be rejected.

"4. Test those predictions by experiments or further observations and modify the hypothesis in the light of your results.

"5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until there are no discrepancies between theory and experiment and/or observation.

"Well, the IDers seem to be sort of stuck on step 3. Despite all their voluminous writings and arguments, IDers have never yet given ANY testible predictions from their ID hypothesis that can be verified through experiment.

"Take note here -- contrary to the IDers whining about the "unfair exclusion of supernatural causes", there are in fact NO limits imposed by the scientific method on the nature of their predictions, other than the simple ones indicated by steps 3, 4 and 5 (whatever predictions they make must be testible by experiments or further observations.) They are entirely free to invoke whatever supernatural causes they like, in whatever number they like, so long as they follow along to steps 3,4 and 5 and tell us how we can test these deities or causes using experiment or further observation. Want to tell us that the Good Witch Glenda used her magic non-naturalistic staff to POP these genetic sequences into both chimps and humans? Fine —- just tell us what experiment or observation we can perform to test that. Want to tell us that God -- er, I mean The Unknown Intelligent Designer -- didn’t like humans very much and therefore decided to design us with broken vitamin C genes? Hey, works for me — just as soon as you tell us what experiment or observation we can perform to test it. Feel entirely and totally free to use all the supernaturalistic causes that you like. Just tell us what experiment or observation we can perform to test your predictions."

----

Please forgive Lenny's snarkiness towards the ID position, but I think that makes the case quite eloquently.

Or maybe this is a strawman and the IDers don't actually claim humans and chimps are not related by a common ancestor. The IDers are notoriously vague on exactly which part of evolutionary theory is wrong. Is it that natural selection is real and causes small changes in organisms, but it can't account for different species? Is it that some different species of animals are related by a common ancestor, but humans are so complex that they must have been created separately? Is it that common descent is completely wrong, and all species were separately created? Is it just the complex biological functions like the immune system and the bacterial flagellum that the designer had to create and can't be accounted for with evolutionary mechanisms? These are all positions I've seen, and there doesn't appear to be a coherrent position on where and how ID fills in the holes in evolution. It consists mainly of sniping at evolutionary theory.

Rob, maybe we're misunderstanding each other. I don't have a problem with the concept of ID. I have a problem with the major *promoters* of ID. In my estimation, they've been dishonest in they're presentation of ID and challenges to evolution. I assert that they are presenting their arguments in bad faith. They claim to be practicing science, and that they are only interested in advancing science. They claim they are being ignored and excluded by scientists, and that they present a legitimate scientific issue that they want to debate in the scientific community. Meanwhile they only attack the issue politically in the court of public opinion, and do no actual research at all. They busily try to get their ideas pushed into high school science classes, before they've been accepted by scientists. They ignore criticism of their ideas by scientists, and state the same falsehoods over and over as if they weren't refuted. Isn't this behavior relevant? Doesn't it indicate dishonesty?

It's true that some scientists are hardcore athiests who take the position that science and religion are incompatible. But even these folks don't advocate teaching children that God doesn't exist in a science class. They have no multi-million dollar PR machine working to force God out of American life. I think it's wrong to put the spotlight on these people and take them to task as if they are the major problem, or even an equal problem to the organized group of religious fundamentalists who want to force God into science.

Charles

jbmoore said...

I think that there is a more fundamental flaw underlying this whole debate of I.D. versus Evolution. The flaw is a complete lack of critical thinking throughout our society. If most people thought all this through with as critical an eye as these readers, we would all be better off. If I.D. were taught in a philosophy or religious course, there would be no issue and no debate. One can be a theistic evolutionist - believe that God uses evolution as a process to generate new life forms. The belief is not testable, so it is not science, but it allows an individual to reconcile his religious beliefs with his current scientific knowledge. That is the crux of the matter. It comes down to individuals reconciling two opposing dichotomies, dogmatic religious beliefs versus verifiable, testable ideas, in other words, being told what to believe versus testing one's beliefs and ideas. To the public, it is a values issue, my beliefs are more important than your facts or beliefs. To the politicians and elected officials, the I.D. debate is a nice distraction from more pressing issues, such as global warming, rising gas prices, the rebuilding of New Orleans, etc. Until people are taught to think critically and see the public opinion manipulation for what it is, then they will be sucked into to these useless, hyperbolic values issues again and again. How much tax money was wasted in Federal Court to have a District Judge decide that I.D. wasn't really science from a legal and scientific standpoint when any bright individual could see the debate for what it was in about 2 seconds and come to the same conclusion?

Cat said...

Sometimes one side is with out any doubt completely wrong.

Slavery, sorry there is no need to compromise here. One side was absolutely wrong.

A woman's right to vote, again, there is no need to find a middle ground. One side was out right wrong.

Antisemitism, one side was wrong.

For the ID/Evolution controversy, it falls into this category. One side is just plain wrong. There is no need to compromise. There is no longer even a need to play nice any longer. Unless they bring some NEW EVIDENCE to the table.

Any new scientific concept faces the prospect of an uphill battle for acceptance. That is not a sign of dogma in science. It is a strength that has served science well. Lynn Margulis recieved such a response when she proposed chlorophyll as originally individual entities of their own (gross simplification here... google it for the details). Her theories were accepted because she did the research and presented the evidence to back it up. She didn't go crying to the media about how her ideas should be accepted without that work. The ID crowd has had their chance and have put nothing on the table of any substance. They do not even have a working theory.

ID was never intended as legitimate science. It is a political movement targeting secularism and naturalism that has absolutely nothing to do with new scientific theories. It is a weapon in the "culture war" as some right-wing ideologues see it.

People do not play nice with Holocaust deniers. They are rediculed and humiliated. That is because their work has nothing to do with history but has everything to do with their racist agenda. And that conclussion is not reached by apealing to the idea that the very concept has no merit in and of itself. That conclussion can be reached simply because they have never been able to present any supporting evidence of any merit. It has reached the point were what Holocaust deniers do throw out is just rehashed garbage that has been refuted time and time again. With ID we find the same type of situation.

There is a reason the ID folks throw all of their "research" money into public relations efforts. Follow the money. Then think of how much RESEARCH could be funded with the amount of money they spend on SPIN!

Read the transcripts of the Dover case. Pay close attention to Behe's cross. The part were he agrees that his proposed modification to the definition of science (required by his own admission in order to allow for ID) would allow for astrology to be included.

Again, one side can be completely wrong.

Rob Perkins said...

@Charles -- Don't mistake me for a supporter of ID. And, honestly, I don't need a primer on scientific method.

Yeah, their methods are dubious. I believe noone in his right mind would accept I.D. in a science class if the folderol were cut through. And as far as I can see, I.D. is not winning.

And Card is right, absolutely right, that I.D. is not Creation Science. Instead, I think it's something much more pernicious. It's easy to see through Creation Science; the premises for it are right there in Genesis 1-10 or so.

And you're right: Lenny Flank is *typically* snarky about the supernatural. (nota bene: I don't myself believe in the "supernatural," or in very many strict Aristotlean dichotomies, or in Plato's shadowlands...) Specifically by lumping the word "God" in with things like pixies and djinn. Flank didn't do that here, but his enumeration invokes that very common thing.

A couple other thoughts come to mind. Because of my time in places like talk.origins and offshoots, so many years ago, I know that the sorts of dismissive rejoinders Card enumerates absolutely exist.

When I offered, once and very recently, that I'd be completely convinced if I could observe speciation for myself, I was met with incredulity, since such a thing would take an amount of time orders of magnitude greater than one human lifespan. I offered that I'd be willing to hold it in abeyance until proven, and offered a really bad example of something that would have been nice to see, my interlocutor didn't offer a better example. Instead he mocked my ignorance. When I insisted that the only way I'd be less ignorant was by being taught what was right instead of what I understood incorrectly, I was met by silence.

Sometimes the Internet brings out the worst in people, I guess. And I would still like to see spectacular speciation through natural selection in progress. Or at least really good scientific records over the span of time needed to prove it.

One other thought that occurs to me comes from a snarky commentary by John Gibson, who now commands the dinner hour on Fox News, with his "Big Story" show. He offered that he'd believe in accidental origins (scientific definition of "accidental", he meant) if someone could show him the mud come alive.

I've often wondered who might see the irony in producing an experiment which brought "the mud to life", as it were. After all, what is proven by such a thing? That accidental origins is true? Or that an intelligent designer can set up the preconditions necessary to make it happen?

And David has even written about such a thing! In his denouement at the end of Earth!

plunge said...

I happen to be one that feels that while Card can probably dredge up some examples of sloppy rebuttals for his main points (heck, I can do so for ANY position at all!), by and large his criticisms are unfounded and misleading.

You can easily portray some major responses to ID as his simplistic fallacies, but to do so you really have to falsely portray the actual nature of those criticisms. For instance, on point 3, almost no refutation of bogus ID claims I've ever seen has said "just trust us." Instead we get reams of explanations to exactly why they are wrong. The discussions of credentials then FOLLOW this, and the discussion is usually made to show why people speaking outside their area of expertise often miss very basic things that people within the field know. It's okay to go outside your field, even criticize outside your field. But you have to do so with the understanding that this is a very dangerous ground and its easy to trip yourself up. Caution and care are required. ID proponents, especially people like Wells or Johnson, show none of this concern (in fact, in the case of Johnson, he shows bizarre post-modern disdain for the very idea)

Card also gets wrong the very basic idea of ad hominem. Ad hominem involves arguing that some claim is false because of who made it. But that's not to be confused with first showing why something is false, and then discussing HOW that person got it wrong and what their motives for that falsehood were. For instance, when a creationist or IDst quote mines, it's NOT ad hominem to point out that not only is the quote wrong, but the method employed to find the quote was probably not really understanding or reading the text, but scanning through it for something that sounded good for the cause... which is a TERRIBLE way to do citations and science.

And I beg to differ with the idea that CSI and IC are really new ideas. Darwin basically anticipated the concept of IC in Origin for goodness sakes (noting that the seeming complexity and inter-reliance of the parts of a system on each other is demonstrably a lousy guide to whether or not a feature could have evolved). CSI is basically a mathematical restatement of personal incredulity: now with symbols to make it too obscure for laypeople to understand or argue with it!

"When I offered, once and very recently, that I'd be completely convinced if I could observe speciation for myself, I was met with incredulity, since such a thing would take an amount of time orders of magnitude greater than one human lifespan."

Whoever told you that told you wrong. Some, maybe even most, speciations can take lifetimes (however, that doesn't prevent us from ammassing so much physical evidence of them happening that its undeniable). But not all: there have been plenty of observed speciations within both human history and human lifetimes. The genetic mechanisms for speciation are not particuarly mysterious: for many recent species we even know most of what was involved genetically (heck, even for something as old as humans vs. other apes back to their common ancestor, we can even see the fused chromosome because of the big silly looking double chunk of telomere ends sitting right in the middle of our fused chromosome).

Big C said...

@Rob:
"@Charles -- Don't mistake me for a supporter of ID. And, honestly, I don't need a primer on scientific method."

I didn't mistake you for a supporter of ID, sorry if I gave that impression. Also, I didn't mean to imply that you were unaware of the scientific method. I posted the excerpt from Lenny just to demonstrate what I think is a well-constructed argument that refutes the position that ID is science. I would personally be less snarky than Lenny, but I think he hits all the valid points.

I pretty much agree with the rest of your points. I've seen lots of rude behavior on both sides in Internet forums. The Internet seems to foster misunderstandings, and sometimes people will mistake someone who's legitimately trying to figure things out as "yet another creationist troll" and treat them with unwarranted scorn. This of course plays right into the IDers' hands that they're being persecuted and excluded.

What frustrates me is that essays like Card's, which highlight the bad behavior of some scientists, get wide circulation and even when arguing against ID, seems to give the IDers credibility in their claims that the scientific community is close-minded. He also gives no specific examples of specific "Darwinists" presenting unreasonable arguments. Thus, it sounds like a broader indictment.

Yet, none of the facts that show the duplicity of the IDers seem to make it past the Internet forums. None of the media's reporting of the judge's decision in Dover highlighted how the IDer's were misrepresenting the "controversy" and spreading falsehoods about evolution. Instead, we get unchallenged accusations of "judicial activism" and claims that the judge's ruling was meant to ban or censor ID from all discussions, when it was really just about preventing the school district from promoting ID as science. The judge wrote as much in his ruling.

Finally, for anyone interested, PZ Myers, a biologist who is prominent in the online evolution discussions, has written a detailed response to Card's arguments in his blog. I think he refutes a lot of Card's arguments about scientists nicely. However, I think he's wrong when he labels Card as an ID supporter, as the conclusion of Card's essay still makes the point that ID isn't science and shouldn't be taught in public schools.

Warning: There's a lot of vitriol in the comments. Some of the commenters focus on their dislike of Card for his political views rather than the issues raised in the essay. Also, David's blog post gets mentioned a few comments down.

Charles

Anonymous said...

What to ask an ID apologist:

1. Why did the "Intelligent Designer" design extinct species? Poor designer? Or, just "too complicated" for us mere humans to understand.

2. Men's nipples?!

3. etc.

No, it is not time to play nice. When a group of people representing a school board can decide the definition of science, it is time to come out swinging.

Humans really need to get over themselves. Why is weather forcasting accepted?

4. If we discover an Intelligent Designer, and say, "He" is completely different than ID'ers hypothesize (whatever that is), will they still believe?

As a previous poster mentioned, sometimes one side is completely wrong. This need for news channels to portray both sides of the story, regardless of the content, is not helping.

To Rob: It doesn't matter if ID is not winning in the classroom. The fact that there is so much support for this idea shows a severe critical thinking epidemic in this country.

palliard said...

Leaving the Flying Spaghetti Monster aside for the moment, "Intelligent Design" is certainly a theory with flaws, IF you assume that the goal of the design was to come up with humans.

From an engineering perspective, humans are pretty terribly designed: inefficient digestive systems, bronchial systems that are poorly adapted to walking upright, painful vestigal molars from when our ancerstors had longer jawbones...

All of this argues for an entirely different theory, assuming (as I've previously stated) that a designer is necessary at all: "Stupid Design".

Now, if you don't assume that humans (i.e., us) were the design goal... what is?

Rob Perkins said...

"What to ask an ID apologist"

No, both of those are snarky sniping, far too easy to swat aside. I prefer the approach that ID is simply not science.

On the subject of school boards, which are popularly elected bodies, is it really any surprise that one or more of them would fall for it?

@Charles -- Meyers is openly contemptuous of Card and anyone who thinks like him. It's evident he gave up in disgust halfway through the essay, in order to rant.

The comment section takes time to toss off quick derision of the Mormon religion (which takes no stand on origins questions and explicitly directs that capital-E Evolution be taught at its universities). "Anyone who believes Joseph Smith is mad" and such, which is simple demagoguery, and evidence, in combination with Meyers' own rebuttal, that he and they are guilty of the same thing he ascribes to Card, namely, insufficient thinking.

In my opinion, Meyers and his commenters are examples of the sort of headway someone like me can't possibly make: "If Mormon, therefore Fundamentalist Mormon, therefore ID supporter."

They're ignorant of Card's and my religion and its position on their pet topics, wear that ignorance on their sleeves, and simply don't care that they're wrong.

In that ignorance, he's made assumptions about Card's position, begun his rebuttal with name calling, continued it with expertisms, mockery, and ended by calling Card a "hateful homophobe", which is just about as outrageous an ad hominem as you could ever get.

Dogmatists. Darwinists, in the very sense Card has claimed, reacting in an indignant huff over anything that might even seem to serve their cause, and makes Card's point more completely than Card did!

So the question becomes, with an attitude like that, which of the ID supporters will switch sides to be with a group like Meyers' and his commenters, who are so convinced of their purity and righteousness on the matter that no rhetorical tactic is unreasonable, including the unreasonable ones?

Bzzt. Meyers gets to feel correct, and he is correct, I suppose, but he's already rejected *my* company with his own pompous namecalling, deconstructionism, and yes, poor writing. He doesn't get to advance his playing piece at all, because he's won noone to his side who wasn't already there.

And his commenters are simply spewing the sort of demagoguery that in previous ages (say, the mid 1800's, for example, since that's when it actually happened) would have gotten me and Card thrown from our homes, with the barns burned, the women raped, and the men beaten bloody.

(When DB says "stay burnable", it means something only a few decades less recent for my people than it does for his.)

Rob Perkins said...

@palliard -- Many people I know who are utterly convinced of Evolution, and who are also deeply religious philosophers, if a bit amateurish about the latter (aren't we all?), conclude that learning about good and evil through pain is a part of life on Earth for Man.

In that context it makes perfect sense that the "breath of life" would be introduced into bodies which are imprefectly adapted for the environment. It's yet another example of how, with a different set of premises, the same evidence can point to wildly different conclusions.

Rob Perkins said...

Oh, I have another comment. We've been talking about Card's description of "Darwinists" as though they were actually "scientists".

I think we're forgetting about all the journalists, computer engineers, housewives, delivery truckers, and so forth, who are fundamentally atheist and casually use Evolution as one support beam of that atheism. They could also be "Darwinists", knee-jerking Behe and others instead of properly deconstructing and discarding him.

In that sense, reacting as though Card were attacking all scientists under the name "Darwinist" would itself be constructing a strawman.

plunge said...

"In that ignorance, he's made assumptions about Card's position, begun his rebuttal with name calling, continued it with expertisms, mockery, and ended by calling Card a "hateful homophobe", which is just about as outrageous an ad hominem as you could ever get."

No. Ad hominem is the claim that an argument is wrong because of who makes it. Saying you find something detestable about a person, and are not surprised to find they hold one wrong or dishonest position when you find they hold a set of others, is not ad hominem.

Ironically, dismissing people's arguments because they criticize other aspects of a person AFTER taking down their arguments, IS ad hominem. :)

If Card is going to use dishonest and sloppy arguments to slander the scientific community, then yeah, he's going to get ridiculed afterwards for doing it: even jokingly and sloppily. And as long as his arguments are properly dealt with without fallacy, it may be counterproductive to the tenor of a debate, but it's not ad hominem.

Anonymous said...

Fhydra said, "I remember someone once pointing out that if Christians find their religion scientific enough to teach in school, then they should also find science spiritual enough to teach in church. Perhaps some of us could also be using this tactic to counter their arguments."

But I do teach science in church! Solid scientific and historical background helps clarify the events in my Sunday School lessons. I also like using math puzzles as craft projects. Today we folded origami fish, but I am especially fond of the day I made Jacob's Ladder toys for the lesson about Jacob dreaming of the ladder from heaven.

Science is not the enemy of Christianity! (I would say that science is not the enemy of religion, but Christianity is the religion I know well enough to defend.) Christianity is a living faith; it can adapt to new discoveries and glorify in observing new wonders in God's creation. A faith that must be protected from critical thinking is dead. The freedom of thought that we have in America has led to both strong science and strong faith.

When dogmatic pedagogues declare science and religion in opposition and demand that one must defeat the other, both lose. Neither can destroy the other; instead, the battle creates an intellectual no-man's-land between them. Big C quoted Lenny Flank's Debunk Creation Science website, and Lenny Flank said that science can seriously investigate the supernatural. I agree, yet when I discussed Intelligent Design with my on-line friends, they said that science by definition could not cover the supernatural. Some people are taught that science and religion exist in different spheres, limiting both in order to prevent a conflict between the two. People are taught not to think about the two at the same time. Let me shorten that. People are taught not to think.

Scientists do think, and many are not atheists and agnostics. They have reconcilled science and religion in their own lives. The comments in this blog show that many people well educated in science are willing to honestly consider Intelligence Design enough to explain its flaws to the layman. Keep up the good work. And please remember that the enemy is not religion. The enemy is upholding closed-minded conflict as a virtue.

To end on a humorous notion, Bob Perkins said, "One other thought that occurs to me comes from a snarky commentary by John Gibson, who now commands the dinner hour on Fox News, with his 'Big Story' show. He offered that he'd believe in accidental origins (scientific definition of 'accidental', he meant) if someone could show him the mud come alive." In that case, give Mr. Gibson what he said he wants. Take some good sterile mud, loaded with nutrients, and leave it outside for a few days. It will come alive. Oh sure, we know the life will come to it from its surrounding environment instead of spontaneously generating, but one needs science to prove that. John Gibson would have to study the biology he disbelieves to prove that the mud did not come alive on its own. It took several careful experiments by Lazzaro Spallanzani and Louis Pasteur to prove that mold appearing on bread and maggots appearing on uncovered meat were not cases of spontaneous generation of life.

Erin Schram

Rob Perkins said...

Plunge, I think you're incorrect. Drawing in undesirable characteristics of your interlocutor is absolutely ad hominem.

It's also "red herring", since his position on homosexuality is utterly beside the point. Most sophistries offered by complex people are themselves complex and hard to categorize. Ad absurdium, in particular, often depends on the listener/reader drawing the absurd conclusion on his own, unstated by the sophist.

You assume too much, as well, if you assume I've dismissed the cogent bits of Meyers' counterargument. I think he's destroyed what effect he might have had, by combining it with outrageous sophistry.

Incidentally, a "turnabout = fair play" counterargument, which *you* have argued, is also sophistry, but since you're sure about the various categories of sophistry I'll leave it to you to identify which one.

In other news, please don't call me "Bob". I don't know who that is. :-)

David Brin said...

Rob, Card has been sniping at me with little gossipy jabs ever since the eighties. But I must honestly say that “savaging” may have been too strong a word. There’s no vendetta. Just a general grouchiness that I spent a decade trying to overcome with the technique of unrelenting friendliness... a technique that has worked with others, on occasion... till I finally sighed and gave up. Some people like their competitors neatly categorized and Scott slotted me long ago.

I agree that Card’s ubermenschen are more complex, occasionally giving a philosophical nod to the possibility of democratic institutions and progress. It is like the love-hate relationship Card displays toward “secular humanism.” He is a complex person and would be interesting to explore, if (as I said) it weren’t just not worth the effort.

Yes, Card sometimes explores the cost of ubermenschen intervention, as does JRR Tolkien, who is willing to unmask the utter selfishness and irresponsibility of his High Elves. But honestly, do more than 1% of Card or JRRT fans come away chastened and warned, as opposed to the op[posite, surficial reaction? Enthralled and eager for a Caudillo, a Leader, a Chosen One?

Our upcoming STAR WARS ON TRIAL book is aimed at increasing atht percentage, for the Lucasian universe, from 1% to maybe 1.1% !!!!

As for my own “superior” characters, they are meant to illustrate the Star Trek (vs Star Wars) approach to such beings. Gradually, incrementally, we may get better. There may be superior people and heroes and geniuses. But anyone who claims to be a whole quantum leap ahead of his civilization is viewed with suspicion. And tests are demanded by commonfolk.

Michael said “The practical consequence of that is that whenever science grows an inch, God shrinks an inch.”

Exactly! This is a driver of the reactionary fear/dread that propels counter-attacks against the Enlightenment. Philosophically, it is not necessary. Indeed, I will point out in my coming religion series that there is an out! A way that God is not diminished if Man grows. It is a blatantly obvious one. And yet an out that is almost never mentioned.

Woozle, I agree that Card touched all the right bases. He is officially in agreement with me and all other reasonable moderate. Yet, his tone is utterly down on those who think the ID fight worth fighting. He shrugs aside the battle, instead of offering ways to win it.

plunge said...

"Drawing in undesirable characteristics of your interlocutor is absolutely ad hominem."

No, it's not. Not unless you claim that these undesireable characteristics themselves disprove their argument. Saying that someone is wrong AND that this falsehood is further evidence that they are a lousy person and reasoner is not the _fallacy_ of ad hominem. It may be insulting, but it is not a logical error.

"It's also "red herring", since his position on homosexuality is utterly beside the point."

It's only a red herring if the only subject being discussed is the rightness or wrongness of the point made. But often discussions range far beyond that: for instance to discussing the nature of the debate in general and the sorts of people engaged in it and their motives. Card, of course, indulges in plenty of this in his original article. The reason his excesses are unwarranted is that they are wrong and unfair accusations, not that they are irrelevant.

"You assume too much, as well, if you assume I've dismissed the cogent bits of Meyers' counterargument."

You've apparently also dismissed the proper spelling of his name. It's Myers.

"Incidentally, a "turnabout = fair play" counterargument, which *you* have argued, is also sophistry"

But I didn't say anything about turnabout being fair play. If someone uses a dishonest form of argumentation, and uses it consistently, can't we also draw conclusions about their character? Why is that illogical and beside the point? People judge each other's character and styles all the time. As long they don't confuse these issues with the rightness or wrongness of arguments, there's no sophistry involved. You are simply confused on that point.

Tony Fisk said...

I made a couple of posts of my own on ID a while back (Nothing really new and I won't bore you with the details):
- Notes On Framing: (not about ID, as such, but a discussion of the rhetorical tools being used to leverage ID.)
- How To Reframe the ID Debate: a few tips for anyone having to teach ID to impressionable young minds. (Written prior to the Dover School ruling. Hopefully free of 'expertism', although, of course, the whole post could be construed as a 'snipe';-)
- Here Be God: My musings on ID and 'the God of the gaps'. Of course, I much prefer my phrase (hmm! I wonder if any society ever had a catch-all diety to fill in those bits not formally covered by the pantheon?).

In brief: I agree that those of a scientific inclination need to counter ID. They also need to do something a bit more sophisticated than simple naysay.

It is indeed ironic that creationism has adapted to the environment (the way in which ID has been presented was quite deliberate, and anticipated the dismissive waves of the scientific community.)

The creatures of the ID are implacable practitioners of 'ratchet' logic (all take, no give). The wedge document, with its predefined objectives of 'theistic understanding' proves that conclusively.

Rather than gloating on the verdict given by a Bush appointee, be heartened that the Dover School council was thrown out of office by the parents *before* that verdict was known (what if those officials had been reelected? Where in the Wedge timeline would that have fallen?).

Be disheartened by three words:

'It ain't over!'

----
Off topic.
Worldchanging has an interesting coverage on the use the web tools in corporate watchdogging.

I note the US DOJ has woken up to the possibilites, too, in seeking access to the Google databases.
Ah well, it is only a tool.

So who's using the sledgehammer?

Rob Perkins said...

@David Brin -- "Yet, [Card's] tone is utterly down on those who think the ID fight worth fighting. He shrugs aside the battle, instead of offering ways to win it."

I didn't come away with that at all. I thought he was offering a Third Way out of the fight altogether; offering compromise.

It might be that he and I share enough of the institutional apathy our religion has about the Evolution/ID fight, that we see it as a waste of time.

No matter though. If the spectre arises in *my* school district, I'll call the school board member I know personally, to find out how to schedule five or ten minutes of speaking time, and take your cues a bit when I formulate something absolutely pro-science and utterly optimistic at the same time! :-)

@plunge -- You're incorrect, or at the very least, have failed to convince me that I'm incorrect.

Avail yourself of any decent guide to the logical fallacies; any exposition of an interlocutor's character, if not related to the argument at hand, is ad hominem fallacy.

Attempting to insult *me*, by tossing out a red-herring spelling flame, is also sophistry. And with that, I have to simply finish rejoining you. Other things could be occupying this time.

Rob Perkins said...

I should probably explain the institutional apathy comment a bit. Our church (Card's and mine), for nearly a hundred years, has a publicly published policy of "no position" on the debates which have been going for all that time about Evolution vs. Creationism. I've pointed that out before.

I think that trickles out into membership into a kind of apathy about any of the fights so characterized. Evolution/Creation Science was one of those, and really , not worth making a fuss about in my opinion, since the holes in "Creation Science" were brutally easy to see.

And, if true that ID is "no more than Creation Science", what would be the point of getting in to that fight?

But this is also a church which funds and supports a university or four where Evolution is taught, and where the Trustees (higher-up leaders in the Church along with a few others) also insist that it not fail to be taught.

Not really interested in doing the fight, just the science. They're busy!

But, the scientists themselves at BYU were not too busy to decry and deny ID-as-science before the State Board of Education in Utah. That neutral church position, that institutional apathy and the confidence that the truth always eventually comes out, permitted them freedom to do that.

rws1st said...

I think that is a great tactical rhetorical message to get across.

It is still the case that one should not give ground to the ID folk that what they are doing is science. The criticism of the existing particular story of evolutionary history can qualify as science, but they didn't name their movement after their criticism but their favored alternative hypothesis. The hypothesis that they advance has no basis in observation and there is no claim that any specific testable result would follow from it.

ID should be treated as philosophy. Which is fine, I like philosophy. But the philosophical claim is by no means new. It is the very old argument from design. While I wouldn't send my child to a public school except as a anthropology field trip, I otherwise would think it fascinating if they would teach ID as philosophy along with the classical design arguments. Particularly if they also gave the historic responses. I can just imagine the PTA meeting after a strong argument from evil, and regress argument were made.

If life is so complex irreducibly complex as to require a designer, where did the designer come from? How complex is that designer? If you compressed the designer what would be the length of his program?

What you get here is the answer “we don't know.” But thats the same answer to the question “how did life evolve given that it looks so irreducibly complex?” So answering a designer does not add any information to the system it simply pushes out ignorance one more step. Occam's razor (as well as complexity based compression theory) demands that we shorten the explanation from “GOD...I don't know” to the more simple “I don't know”

plunge said...

"Avail yourself of any decent guide to the logical fallacies; any exposition of an interlocutor's character, if not related to the argument at hand, is ad hominem fallacy."

No, unfortunately, it's not. I don't think you understand what logical fallacies are. The emphasis is on LOGIC, not any sort of gentlemanly code of cordiality.

"Attempting to insult *me*, by tossing out a red-herring spelling flame, is also sophistry."

It demonstrates that you don't really pay much attention to the details of the people and arguments you are attacking. This sort of conduct is pretty much what Card is doing: attacking poorly informed caricatures of positions instead of the positions themselves.