Thinking Christian

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Concluding Unscientific Postscript

Posted on Oct 19, 2009 by Tom Gilson

This entry is part 8 of 8 in the series Is ID Creationism?

Commenter John on one of the recent Intelligent Design threads said that science never interprets results after bringing them in. I think there’s truth in that as a general principle, though its extreme nature makes it subject to frequent exceptions, and not the absolute truth he seemed to want it to be.

Anyway, I’m about to make an interpretation after the results, and it’s by way of a postscript to all this recent discussion, so by John’s standard this might count (with abject apologies to Kierkegaard) as a concluding unscientific postscript.

Here’s my observation and interpretation. Once I commented on Panda’s Thumb, using the user id TomG (I later found there’s a regular there who also uses that handle), making a very specific point about a very specific aspect of how the controversy has been played out in public discussion. I really can’t remember what the question was now, but it wasn’t about ID’s scientific, legal, or religious status; it was about something more obvious and more narrowly focused than that.

Those of you who have seen PT in action can guess what happened. Of course I got jumped on; that was expected. But I wasn’t jumped on for that point I made. I was held personally responsible for the Wedge document, the Discovery Institute’s political agenda, Michael Behe’s stupid mistaken theories of irreducible complexity, all of ID’s idiotic arguments for incredulity, and every creationism court case since the Scopes trial. (I exaggerate, but only slightly.) It was impossible to get any traction on the one point I made, and it was impossible for me to make it clear that all I was taking responsibility for was that point.

This last discussion has been focused on a very specific question: whether calling Intelligent Design “creationism” (without specifying what is meant by that) is helpful to clear communication and productive communication, or whether it is a source of confusion; and if it is a source of confusion, what motivates ID antagonists to keep calling it that. It was a specific issue that should have had a focused discussion following it.

But I have been challenged with ID’s scientific status, all the court cases since (not quite) Scopes, Behe’s (allegedly) mistaken views on the edge of evolution and irreducible complexity, the Discovery Institute’s political purposes, the definition of science, the exclusive nature of Christianity’s claims, what I personally think about old-earth creationism and common descent, and even why I haven’t decided to go to grad school and become a biologist!

I do this for fun and it still is fun; I’m not whining about being jumped on. I’m more amused, bemused, or perplexed at the way ID’s antagonists seem to be ready to spread the argument around. I’m not sure we got anywhere on whether calling ID “creationism” without specifying what is meant by that is a bad thing, as I have proposed. Objectors said ID isn’t science, as if that meant that it was therefore that vague “creationism,” they said it was found unconstitutional, as if that meant it was that vague “creationism,” they said that the people who do ID don’t have the right to name what it is they are doing, as if that gave detractors grounds to call it that vague “creationism,” they said that ID is political, as if that made it that vague “creationism.”

What the ID detractors commenting here really never did was consider that there are varieties of meanings to the word “creationism,” that some of those meanings properly apply to ID and some of them don’t, and that to be either intentionally manipulative or carelessly confused in applying “creationism” to ID without specifying what one means is to obfuscate communication. That, along with my tentative wondering about what might be at the root of that obfuscation, has been my only point throughout all of this.

Two terms with contrasting and/or ambiguous denotations/connotations, brought together as in “Intelligent Design Creationism,” will result in ambiguity at best, contradiction at worst. It seems so straightforward and so simple.

Oh, well.

Series Navigation (Is ID Creationism?):<<< Who Defines ID?

32 Responses to “ Concluding Unscientific Postscript ”

  1. SteveK says:

    But I have been challenged with ID’s scientific status, all the court cases since (not quite) Scopes….

    Don’t forget that you were also thought to be receiving financial compensation from the DI.

  2. realpc says:

    Atheists call ID creationism simply because it’s easier to win a debate against biblical creationism than against ID. They also call the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution “evolution,” as if there had never been any other evolution theories. ID is a competing theory of evolution, but they pretend ID is opposed to evolution.

    It’s all atheist PR and spin, and the public has bought it.

  3. Tom Gilson says:

    Steve, how could I have forgotten that!?

  4. Tom Gilson says:

    By the way, since so much of the issue surrounding ID is political, or has been political, or used to be political, or all of the above; and since even some strong Christian scientists, friends of mine, have been sharply critical of the politicization of ID, this is what I support:

    - ID’s ability to pursue its research without getting hammered or distorted by mainstream science and media,
    - Academic freedom, especially at the post-secondary level, for people who raise legitimate evidence-based doubts about undirected evolution’s absolute explanatory power, and
    - Honesty in science education in public school classrooms.

    That last needs several qualifications; I don’t intend it as a cut-and-dried statement. First, I acknowledge it might be taken as code language for what the (“evil!”) Discovery Institute is seeking: that both the pluses and minuses of evolution’s evidential basis should be taught in schools. That actually is my view in essence, but not necessarily in the details and not necessarily in the strategy.

    Science textbooks could certainly be improved. One of my children’s biology textbooks, for example, presented quite an overly positive picture of origin-of-life research. That kind of thing needs correcting. (Origin of life isn’t evolution, I know, but conceptually the two are very closely linked, and the textbook’s distortion on that topic stood out to me.)

    As to the educational details, however, I am not a science pedagogue and I have not looked at the Discovery Institute’s detailed proposals for how this honesty in education should be carried out, but I suppose (like so many other things in this series of posts) I’ll be held responsible for that anyway.

    I do not advocate teaching ID in public schools, and I’m not at all fond of attempts to “get God back into the schools.” It’s not that I think God doesn’t belong in schools, it’s that I don’t have any expectation that the schools could teach religion fairly, accurately, or at all well. And I am quite sure God is in the schools anyway. He is God, after all.

    There certainly isn’t anything automatically wrong with ID proponents expressing a political position: people with beliefs that impinge on social policy have every right to express them; just take a look at how much mainstream science seeks to influence public policy. But ID’s political push got too far ahead of the scientific and philosophical work, which should have led, rather than being pushed by the politics. In the case of Dover, that was not ID leaders’ fault, it was (as far as I can tell) a mistake made by a local school board, that never should have been a national issue (and especially should not have been an invitation for a federal judge to define what science is!).

    I regret that educational politics have confused the whole issue of research into intelligent design in nature and philosophy. In that respect some ID leaders have made mistakes along the way. For that reason I think a go-slow approach is wiser. The science and philosophy must get farther ahead of the politics than they have done so far. I have not used my platform here to push the third point above, honesty in public school science education. There is still a significant danger of politics obscuring what else is being done in ID, and it seems it might be the better part of wisdom just to settle down on that front for at least a while.

    I do not agree, however, that ID is nothing but politics; there is a genuine program of research there.

  5. Tony Hoffman says:

    Wow. What a whitewash. Way too many misrepresentations here to list. I’ll just go with the first one that caught my eye:

    Tom: What the ID detractors commenting here really never did was consider that there are varieties of meanings to the word “creationism.” …

    So it was the ID detractors who never considered that there are varieties of meaning to the word creationism? But in your second sentence, second paragraph in the first post in the series you are summarizing you wrote this:

    Tom: Creationism begins in Genesis and argues for certain conclusions based on a certain understanding of the Scriptures. It is known for its persistence in seeking scientific data that fits that interpretation of Genesis, and for finding creative but irregular interpretations to help in that search.

    Later, under criticism for this narrow definition, you retain your position.

    Tom: And “created by God” is not “creationism” as creationism has historically been understood (science driven by a particular interpretation of Genesis).

    So, you begin the series and continue for some time to hold that creationism is defined as beginning with Genesis and is based on Scripture.

    But in fact it is the detractors you belittle here who have to coax you into realizing that creationism has a variety of meanings, and that your definition is too narrow. Here’s just one example from the original post:

    Wheels: The fact is that you’re using a definition of “Creationism” that is too narrow. Creationism is not in any way limited to Abrahamic faiths, so it’s incorrect to describe it as “starting from Genesis.”

    And because of this barrage of criticism, you come to admit:

    Tom: The good that I glean out of the above discussion is this:
    There are multiple versions of Creationism, and the one I used in the original blog post is a narrow one.

    Which you later characterize in this summation above as:

    Tom: What the ID detractors commenting here really never did was consider that there are varieties of meanings to the word “creationism.” …

    Thanks for the summary, but I suggest reading the discussions themselves to anyone who wants to understand what happened, what arguments made the most sense, and what questions were left unanswered.

  6. Tom Gilson says:

    Tony, you ask,

    So it was the ID detractors who never considered that there are varieties of meaning to the word creationism?

    Of course, Tony. My goodness. They’re the ones who are using the word so carelessly. Are you going to fault ID proponents for not being careful about how we use the varieties of meanings of a word we don’t use?

    You go on in your comment to chide me for being slow to acknowledge there are varieties of definitions for creationism, and that ID fits into some of them. You say,

    Later, under criticism for this narrow definition, you retain your position.

    In support of that you quote something I wrote at 10:13 pm, October 11, just several hours into this whole long discussion.

    It was slightly more than eight hours after that, at 6:29 am on October 12 that I wrote,

    The good that I glean out of the above discussion is this:
    There are multiple versions of Creationism, and the one I used in the original blog post is a narrow one. A wider view of the term could well apply to Intelligent Design. I think this is largely true; most ID proponents accept some version of some creation account, or are at least open to the possibility.

    And then I went on to support why I think there is an “operative” definition of creationism, which earlier I had (rather carelessly, but now corrected) called the “historic” definition.

    In between those posts I actually got some sleep. Now really, how much time are you going to charge me with for failing to give up my allegedly entrenched position?

    And how slow will you be to recognize that calling ID creationism, without specifying what one means by it, in view of the various meanings for the term is ambiguous at best, contradictory at worst? Will you be even slower to acknowledge that it is obfuscatory? Will you be even slower to acknowledge that it hinders clear communication?

    Going back to what I quoted from you earlier:

    So it was the ID detractors who never considered that there are varieties of meaning to the word creationism?

    It took from 5:25 pm on the 11th, when I wrote the post, to 10:13 pm when I repeated that egregious error, to 6:29 am the next morning when I corrected it. Thirteen hours and four minutes, including sleep time. Let’s suppose that was “slow” as you seem to believe. Most people wouldn’t call that slow, but let’s just go along with that description.

    It is still hardly what one describes as “never.” “Never” is what describes how quickly you have learned anything about the communication issues here. So far, anyway. It’s still not too late.

  7. Dave says:

    Hi Tom

    ID:Creationism::evolution:atheism.

    I think this was a very profound and simple illustration of the point I was attempting to communicate except I might modify it slightly to include your follow-up comment that atheism entails evolution.

    Both Creationism and ID imply an purposive intelligence behind life and/or the universe. The purposive intelligence implicit in both ID and Creationism is anathema to atheism. Evolution is an unguided, a-telelogical, process. The atheist cannot see any distinction between the two.

    In a very real sense ID is a “Trojan Horse” because it reintroduces teleology. By focussing its resources on the science and poking holes in the Darwinian narrative the ID makes implicit the religious aspect of atheistic evolution. Whenever the evolutionist calls on the “problem of evil” or makes the “argument from bad design” he is making a theological argument, albeit for a negative theology. It is like saying a Ford couldn’t be designed because it crashes, experiences mechanical failure.

    The Gods Must be Tidy
    http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/print.php?id=17-06-025-f

  8. Tom Gilson says:

    Dave, just curious: by “Trojan Horse” are you referencing Forrest and Gross’s book of that name, or did you not intend a connection to it?

  9. Dave says:

    Hi Tom

    Never heard of it. I think that ID is an entry point for atheists who have realized that atheism is dehumanizing and restrictive. As such, ID offers a deliberately non-theistic argument to design and purpose. We humans are intuitively aware of design and purpose in the universe and it is only through a rigorous course of indoctrination that materialism ever gets hold of our imagination. That is why the atheists use every trick of law and politics to sieze and maintain control of the education system. You change the world one person, one generation, at a time. Incrementally.

  10. Dave says:

    Hi Tom

    Just went to their web site. It is the usual “religous” smear of ID. That’s like saying all evolutionists are atheists. The research stands on its own but the atheists can’t admit it. They must brand it as religion and deny their own religious views. Hypocrisy on a grand scale. If evolution is not religious then ID is not religious and vice versa. The problem is that atheists have been pushing their Trojan Horse for 150 years and we have been complacent. Even the “infamous” Scopes Monkey Trial was initiated by atheists with Christian collusion.

  11. Tony Hoffman says:

    Tom,

    You chose to summarize the posts around this topic (Your title here is “Concluding Scientific Postcript”), not me. From the list in which you take a bemused (again, your word, not mine) stance, you state:

    Tom: What the ID detractors commenting here really never did was consider that there are varieties of meanings to the word “creationism.” …

    I didn’t fault you for sleeping, or taking time between posts, or modifying your position. I faulted you for making a summary statement like the above that is clearly false.

    The ID detractors commenting here were the ones who pointed out to you that creationism has a variety of meanings, not just the one you found inapt for pairing with ID. You say in your summary that the ID detractors commenting here NEVER considered that creationism has a variety of meanings, when in fact they brought it to your attention. This was such an obvious inaccuracy I had to point it out. (I don’t have the time now, but if you like I could probably go through the entire summary and show similar problems throughout.)

    I don’t understand the rest of your response. You seem to be making a defense for things I never accused you of (Tom: “Let’s suppose that was “slow” [I never used this word, so I don't know why you're quoting it] as you seem to believe. Most people wouldn’t call that slow, but let’s just go along with that description.” Etc.)

    If you want common ground, I’ve found the easiest way to reach it is to not misrepresent others’ words, arguments, and positions. I would like to be able to discuss these issues with the best version of your argument, but when you misrepresent what your opponents say, adopt a belittling stance, ignore valid refutations, etc., the discussion becomes the first casualty.

  12. David Ellis says:

    I too am a bit puzzled about the lengthy comment concerning slowness. What were you talking about, Tom? I don’t see anywhere that Tony even implied anything like what you seem to be saying. He simply pointed out that you’ve made some glaringly inconsistent statements and have inaccurately characterized the positions taken by some of the atheists in this discussion

  13. Tom Gilson says:

    Tony,

    You faulted me for stating a position and then for “retaining” it and for “continu[ing] for some time” to hold my original position, as if retaining it for a few hours was a sign of entrenchment on my part. You say I had to be “coaxed” into change, which connotes a relatively lengthy process. So I hope that explains to you and David why I answered your comment the way I did.

    You quote from my post above and cut it off in the middle of the sentence. To pull it out of context they way you did, as if you were representing a complete thought of mine, is irresponsible, even though you were able to find an error in the first clause. Here’s the whole thing.

    What the ID detractors commenting here really never did was consider that there are varieties of meanings to the word “creationism,” that some of those meanings properly apply to ID and some of them don’t, and that to be either intentionally manipulative or carelessly confused in applying “creationism” to ID without specifying what one means is to obfuscate communication.

    The first clause was intended to be introductory, and I didn’t write it perfectly. (Writing is like that, by the way; sometimes you don’t recognize an ambiguity until someone points it out to you.) Since you’ve pointed it out I would be happy to clarify how it was intended in the sentence:

    What the ID detractors commenting here really never did was consider that because there are varieties of meanings to the word “creationism,” and some of those meanings properly apply to ID and some of them don’t, then to be either intentionally manipulative or carelessly confused in applying “creationism” to ID without specifying what one means is to obfuscate communication.

    The ambiguity of “ID creationism” has been pointed out to you. It’s your turn now to choose to communicate accurately.

  14. Geoff Arnold says:

    Dave: you keep saying things like

    I think that ID is an entry point for atheists who have realized that atheism is dehumanizing and restrictive.

    This would make sense if either (a) ID as a concept was primarily developed by atheists, or (b) ID supporters were disproportionately atheist. Since neither of these seems to be true, I’m curious how you can justify it.

    Geoff (back in Shenzhen) (and an atheist who finds atheism humanizing and liberating)

  15. Tony Hoffman says:

    Tom,

    I think you continue to misread what I wrote. That makes it very hard to have a fruitful discussion.

    I’ll just look at your first sentence in your last comment.

    You faulted me for stating a position and then for “retaining” it and for “continu[ing] for some time” to hold my original position, as if retaining it for a few hours was a sign of entrenchment on my part.

    I didn’t fault you for retaining a position. I faulted you for incorrectly summarizing. To elucidate this point, I made temporal references to point out the chronology of the discussion with terms like “for some time” and “later,” but time has almost nothing to do with the inaccuracies of your summary.

    You said:

    What the ID detractors commenting here really never did was consider that there are varieties of meanings to the word “creationism.” …

    But I then pointed out that this wasn’t true They considered the varieties of meaning right out of the box (not just in the few hours before you changed your position, btw), they brought it to your attention so that you could modify your position, but even if they brought it up late or you accepted it instantly your statement above is false.

    To be clear, I did not fault you for taking time to modify your opponents. I faulted you for incorrectly summarizing and mischaracterizing your opponents’ final position.

    As for quoting you out of context I was not taking a thought out of a sentence to misrepresent you, as the rest of your sentence in no way modifies the part I quoted. I quote from part of the sentence because the sentence is lengthy, and it does not pertain to the inaccuracy I was singling out. If I quoted you out of context, you would not recognize it now as an error.

    So in response you mischaracterize my claim to be that you were too slow to modify your position (false), and that I quoted you out of context (false). This does not contribute to dialogue.

    At the end of your comment you correct the sentence to conform more with how you intended to write it. If you had done this instead of mischaracterizing my charge, I would have found it not quite so objectionable and would happily move on.

    I find it ironic, however, that I had to point out that the language in your summary on this series could be fairly characterized as “intentionally manipulative or carelessly confused.” Maybe we all should be more careful to say and write what we really mean, and to be more forgiving of those who do not.

  16. pds says:

    Tom,

    You said,

    “Two terms with contrasting and/or ambiguous denotations/connotations, brought together as in “Intelligent Design Creationism,” will result in ambiguity at best, contradiction at worst. It seems so straightforward and so simple.

    It is pretty straightforward and simple. You showed amazing patience in discussing this.

    So many points I would love to add, but, alas, no time. I will put in one.

    If you are interested in civil discourse, you need to clearly define your terms and use them consistently accurately and fairly. Many who commented here have no interest in clear communication and getting to the key points. They want to misrepresent ID in order to more easily dismiss it. Ron Numbers had it right:

    University of Wisconsin historian Ronald L. Numbers, an ID opponent and author of “The Creationists,” agrees the creationist label is inaccurate when it comes to the ID movement. But, he adds, it’s “the easiest way to discredit intelligent design.”

  17. Tom Gilson says:

    Tony, I have some “why” questions for you.

    Why is it that even though I corrected one mis-characterization, explaining how it happened (a grammatical miscue, not an intentional misrepresentation)—and you even acknowledge the correction—you still say, “I think you continue to misread what I wrote.” (I would strongly encourage you to be more forgiving, just as you recommended in your last sentence.)

    Why is it that, if you think time had nothing to do with the inaccuracies of the summary as you now say, you nevertheless used time references that implied it took me a long time to acknowledge the points that had been made earlier? Was I supposed to ignore the false implications there? (Could it be that you unintentionally said something you didn’t mean, just as I unintentionally said something I didn’t mean? You corrected me for saying something I didn’t mean to say, and I accepted your correction. I would be happy to accept a correction from you if that is what you are trying to say with this current comment. I think that actually is what you are trying to say, but it’s still a little unclear.)

    Why is it that although I have responded positively to your call to straighten out language that seemed “intentionally manipulative or carelessly confused,” you continue to ignore my call to you to do the same with respect to “ID Creationism”?

    (By the way, what I straightened out really was “carelessly confused,” but it was not “intentionally manipulative.” Careless confusion is one thing when the communicator responds to calls to fix the problem, it’s another thing when he or she won’t budge on it even after being made aware of the problem.)

    I’m committed enough to honest dialogue that I will admit a mistake, acknowledge that I wrote something that was either wrong or misleading, grant the point to my interlocutor, and correct myself. It’s a commitment to good-faith debate.

    In view of that, I now point out that there has been one over-riding theme to all of these posts: that “ID Creationism” is ambiguous and/or confusing language. You have yourself recently strongly re-emphasized your own assent to the fact that “creationism” has multiple meanings. Surely you recognize that not all of them add understanding to the discussion. Surely you recognize that the potential ambiguity of those meanings is so great, that it is either careless or manipulative to speak of “ID Creationism” without specifying what one means by the word “creationism” attached to ID. If it is carelessness, it is repeated ongoing carelessness that bespeaks a carelessness not only about the term but also about debating in good faith.

    And just as surely, you have not expressed the slightest interest in straightening out the terminology, or in refusing to support the careless, unspecified use of “ID Creationism” terminology. I’m challenging you on this. I have set you an example of being willing to correct myself when wrong.

    It’s your turn now.

    Note: minor edits in comment made at 10:30 am

  18. Tom Gilson says:

    Thank you for that, pds. (I like the name of your blog!) Do you have the source of that Numbers quote?

  19. pds says:

    It took me a little while to track down the original article. A Washington Post (AP) article from 2002, reprinted here:

    http://www.arn.org/docs2/news/apohioschoolboarddebate031802.htm

  20. Tony Hoffman says:

    Tom,

    Why is it that even though I corrected one mis-characterization, explaining how it happened (a grammatical miscue, not an intentional misrepresentation)—and you even acknowledge the correction—you still say, “I think you continue to misread what I wrote.

    Because your previous comment to me charged, again, that I was chastising you for being too slow. I had already explained why this was not my intention – that your error was not a one time oversight, but one in which you appeared to misrepresent what occurred over many posts.

    Why is it that, if you think time had nothing to do with the inaccuracies of the summary, you nevertheless used time references that implied it took me a long time to acknowledge the points that had been made earlier? Was I supposed to ignore the false implications there?

    I have already explained why I used temporal language several times now. I don’t think I can state it any more clearly.

    Why is it that although I have responded to your call to straighten out language that seemed “intentionally manipulative or carelessly confused,” you continue to ignore my call to you to do the same with respect to “ID Creationism”?

    Because I have no idea what you intend I should do. I have already stated that I do not use the terms together, and my reasons for not doing so. How do you intend that I “straighten out language” I do not use?

    In that context I point out that there has been one over-riding theme to all of these posts: that “ID Creationism” is ambiguous and/or confusing language.

    That has been your theme, but many here have made good arguments for they’re being times when the two could be correctly combined. I also resent, as do many other commenters here, the implication that “potential ambiguity of meanings” from the ID opponents’ side is a principle cause of distrust in these discussions.

    If you are going to decry potential ambiguities of meaning and their source in the ID debate I will bring your attention to my last comment to you regarding your own use of ambiguous language regarding ID and science (my request for you to clarify these remains unanswered, so I don’t think you can accuse me of springing this on you):

    Tom: “ID employs science and conducts investigations by scientific means. When Behe, Minnich, Marks, Seelke, Gonzalez, etc. go into their labs, they are doing scientific investigation. In that sense ID is scientific.”

    Tom: ID is not a mature body of established theory and practice, such that it should be designated “a science.”

    Tom: “ID employs science and conducts investigations by scientific means.”

    Tom: “I do not hold that ID is purely scientific.”

    Tom: “I don’t think I’ve used language that “ID can be defined as scientific.”

    People. Stones. Glass houses and all that.

    And just as surely, you have not expressed the slightest interest in straightening out the terminology, and refusing to support the careless, unspecified use of “ID Creationism” terminology. I’m challenging you on this. I have set you an example of being willing to correct myself when wrong. It’s your turn now.

    What? I’ve contributed a number of comments here during these postings. How can this be characterized as having no interest in the topic you raised? I state again I do not use the term ID creationism, and why. What do I need to straighten out?

  21. Tom Gilson says:

    Tony, you say,

    That has been your theme, but many here have made good arguments for they’re being times when the two could be correctly combined

    Thank you for reminding me what I have already agreed to repeatedly, and yet for missing the fact that (a) they often get incorrectly combined, and (b) where they are correctly combinable, the ambiguity and the rhetorical loading of the terminology require that the terms be defined carefully to avoid tendentiousness.

    My “ambiguous language” with respect to ID and science is an attempt to provide a nuanced description of a nuanced relationship. What do you want, black-and-white, “ID is science” or “ID is not science”? The world ain’t that simple, and both of those statements taken bare are wrong. I presented a more complete discussion of this topic than what you have quoted here, by the way.

    What do you need to straighten out, considering you do not use the term ID creationism? You did tell us that once in these discussions. I quote:

    I don’t speak for any other Darwinists, but if I were to use the term I’d mean for it to distinguish between those who are proponents of ID as a religious and political movement, as opposed to those who are adherents of ID as science alone. Seeing as how ID does not employ a scientific methodology for its proponents to adhere to, I find it unnecessary to use the term, and when I say Intelligent Design I mean the religious and political movement.

    I am coming to see, though, why those in the public forum might use the term, as a necessary pre-emption to those on the ID side who insist upon representing ID as a scientific movement without every providing evidence to that effect.

    I guess you consider that your disavowal of the terminology.

  22. Tom Gilson says:

    Tony, the way you pulled things out of context in my extended discussion on the scientific status of ID is another example of bad-faith discussion. It reminds me of this.

    For example, you pulled out, “I don’t think I’ve used language that ‘ID can be defined as scientific.’” Here is the whole paragraph.

    I don’t think I’ve used language that “ID can be defined as scientific.” I would say instead that some of the approaches and activities undertaken by ID researchers can be accurately described as doing science. There’s a subtle difference there. I think it would be bizarre to say that Guillermo Gonzalez’s work is not science. He published a lot, and was featured on the cover of Scientific American. You may disagree with his interpretations of his work, but he was doing science.

    That is not at all inconsistent with (note the phrase, in that sense):

    “ID employs science and conducts investigations by scientific means. When Behe, Minnich, Marks, Seelke, Gonzalez, etc. go into their labs, they are doing scientific investigation. In that sense ID is scientific.”

    The other statements you pulled out are similarly not mutually contradictory, if read in context. If they are ambiguous it’s not because I have not attempted to be clear—I devoted several comments to trying to clarify things—but because ID’s relationship to science is not simple. Contrast with the ambiguity in the term “ID Creationism.” There is a complex relationship between those two terms, and virtually never any care taken to try to clarify it.

    The problem, you see, is not that there’s ambiguity; that’s reality, not a problem. The problem is unexamined ambiguity, especially in a case like this where the terms are so rhetorically loaded.

    You wrote just now,

    What? I’ve contributed a number of comments here during these postings. How can this be characterized as having no interest in the topic you raised?

    That’s really cute. It almost looks like I mischaracterized you, doesn’t it? Of course you’re interested in the topic, how could I possibly have suggested you were apathetic? But the issue I raised was not whether you were interested in the topic. It was whether you were interested in moving toward what has been amply demonstrated to be its proper conclusion. Here’s what I said. You already quoted it yourself, but apparently it needs to be repeated.

    And just as surely, you have not expressed the slightest interest in straightening out the terminology, or in refusing to support the careless, unspecified use of “ID Creationism” terminology.

    Your surprised look of “what, me guilty?” on this matter just doesn’t hold up to the evidence.

    Tony, if just once you would admit there was an ounce of sense in anything written by anyone here who didn’t agree with you coming in to the debate, then I might have some hope that you were here to debate in good faith. But lately you responded instead with an innocent “I never use that term,” while glossing over your growing approval of others using it.

    You repeatedly pulled things out of context on me.

    You actually did use language that implied there was something wrong about my speed of correcting myself, but when I pointed that out to you, and offered you the opportunity to acknowledge that was what you said but wasn’t what you meant to say, and even made a similar admission myself about something I wrote, you just ignored it. You don’t evidence any care for acknowledging even an innocent inadvertent miscommunication.

    The warning I gave you earlier, linked from the beginning of this comment, has intensified. I said then that I do not lightly or quickly ban long-term commenters, but in your case, because of bad-faith discussion tactics on your part, I’m very close to it now.

  23. Tony Hoffman says:

    Tom,

    I think I’ve explained myself perfectly well. I think it’s interesting that if one were to imagine an ID opponent defending their use of ID creationism with an argument that substitutes the word “creationism” for “scientific” in your explanation we’d have a very similar defense. One you find compelling, the other not. I’ll leave it readers to guess why.

    But the issue I raised was not whether you were interested in the topic. It was whether you were interested in moving toward what I think has been amply demonstrated to be its proper conclusion.

    I have agreed with you on the term ID creationism to the extent that I can (as stated previously), and having read and followed almost all this debate I have seen no compelling argument to change my statement of use. Your insistence that I avow to have fallen in line with your conclusion after much reasoned and sometime unanswered opposition is, frankly, authoritarian and contrary to debate.

    The warning I gave you earlier, linked from the beginning of this comment, has intensified. I said then that I do not lightly or quickly ban long-term commenters, but in your case, because of bad-faith discussion tactics on your part, I’m very close to it now.

    If you want to ban me, I’m afraid that it will appear to many readers here that you are not willing to tolerate supported opposition over something on which your mind is made up. Debate should not be about “winning” through statements of conversion, but making people think about the arguments and the evidence offered. If your argument is well-made, and I do not proclaim that I agree, so what? Shouldn’t you leave it to the reader to determine whose mind is closed?

    I leave my commenting status in your hands, but I can’t say that I won’t take positions contrary to your conclusions whenever you deem the argument decided.

  24. Matteo says:

    It couldn’t possibly be more clear: the last thing atheists want or can afford (for others, and perhaps most especially, for themselves) is clarity in the origins debate. The phrase “intelligent design creationism” is a desperate smokescreen–nothing more and nothing less. When I see the term employed, it reminds me of how a toddler will cover his eyes, thinking that it means you can’t see him. For heaven’s sake, it’s absolutely laughable.

  25. Tom Gilson says:

    Tony, you wrote,

    I have agreed with you on the term ID creationism to the extent that I can (as stated previously), and having read and followed almost all this debate I have seen no compelling argument to change my statement of use.

    Thank you for agreeing to the extent that you can; that’s all I can ask, even though I think a case for doing more than that has been successfully made. But I’m still surprised at your growing approval of others using the term.

    If you want to ban me, I’m afraid that it will appear to many readers here that you are not willing to tolerate supported opposition over something on which your mind is made up. Debate should not be about “winning” through statements of conversion, but making people think about the arguments and the evidence offered. If your argument is well-made, and I do not proclaim that I agree, so what? Shouldn’t you leave it to the reader to determine whose mind is closed?

    Many readers here already know that I am willing to tolerate supported opposition, and I do not insist on winning. I have been demonstrating that for almost five years. What I have warned you about is not your disagreements, which are always welcome, but your participating in a manner that does not demonstrate good faith: taking me out of context, falsely making it look like I have misrepresented you (as I demonstrated in my previous comment), your acknowledged snideness, charging me with errors I never made, and failing to acknowledge admissions of agreement or of errors made (see here for those last three).

    And you have again distorted me and my position, by suggesting that banning you has anything to do with unwillingness to tolerate opposition. That was yet one more distortion, and now you have crossed the line that I had hoped you wouldn’t. The ban goes into effect.

  26. Dave says:

    Hello Geoff Arnold (back in Shenzhen)

    I think that ID is an entry point for atheists who have realized that atheism is dehumanizing and restrictive.

    This would make sense if either (a) ID as a concept was primarily developed by atheists,

    Why? ID was developed primarily by scientists who found the atheistic assumptions of mainstream science were, in priciple, incapable of accounting for their observations. Since the concept of ID is consciously non-theistic is permits atheists to look at the data without the theistic baggage implicit in the naturalist “just so” stories.

    or (b) ID supporters were disproportionately atheist.

    Why should ID supporters take any theistic position? Are you implying that athiesm is the only valid position for science? If science is the search for the truth about the natural world and the natural world is designed then eliminating design from the equation would necessarily eliminate any possibility of discovering the truth about the natural world. One could investigate design, and as many design advocates confess, remain agnostic about the designer.

    Since neither of these seems to be true, I’m curious how you can justify it.

    It is, like so many criticism of design, a false dilemma. Atheism, both implicitly and explicitly, asserts a nihilistic amoral universe. Human beings are creatures with an inherent moral sense. We sense significance, meaning, and value in ourselves, others, and the world in which we live. We may not be capable of detecting the source of this “moral sense” but nearly every human being on the planet recognizes a moral standard. some things are “right” and some things are “wrong”. We may not always agree on the particulars but even the nihilist will act on this moral sense while proclaiming it illusory. For those who will not wish to live with such a contradiction ID opens the door to meaning and value.

    Geoff (back in Shenzhen) (and an atheist who finds atheism humanizing and liberating)

    Then you haven’t studied the metaphysic of what you proclaim.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=IRfC5enFeH8C&printsec=frontcover&dq=%22Architects+of+the+culture+of+death%22#v=onepage&q=&f=false

    Something for you to read in those quieter moments.

  27. David Ellis says:


    And you have again distorted me and my position, by suggesting that banning you has anything to do with unwillingness to tolerate opposition. That was yet one more distortion, and now you have crossed the line that I had hoped you wouldn’t. The ban goes into effect.

    There was no reasonable basis for suggesting a ban for Tony’s having quoted comments of yours that he finds inconsistent. Even if he were mistaken in how he took them there was nothing to suggest intentional deception.

    Tony, in his comment no. 5, clearly demonstrated that you’ve made inconsistent statements and that you’ve mischaracterized the position of others in this discussion.

    Though I can’t read your mind, I strongly suspect the actual motive for the ban is that you’re smarting from having your own comments so ably used against you and, as a result, have acted unreasonably.

    Regardless, the ban was grossly unjustified and I, for one, will no longer be visiting so badly mismanaged a blog as this. I suggest other nontheists do the same.

  28. Dave says:

    Just to follow up on the comments above, here is a prime example of the foolish efforts to explain away theism one can find masquerading as “science” – it isn’t unique, I look for quality books that will challenge my own views in the (hope?) that they will provide me with an excuse to return to my atheistic roots. Not really… but I am really discomfitted by the probability of God existing. We may fritter away our minds with drugs, telelvision, and trivialities but anyone who uses their mind must either explain, or explain away, our sense of the divine. So much for “live fast, love hard, and die young”.

    Anyhow, on to the reviews of “In Search of the Multiverse” from the “Not Even Wrong” blog

    Unfortunately he doesn’t end the book there, but adds a final chapter promoting his own interpretation of the significance of the multiverse. His idea is that we are the product of a baby universe created by some race of superior beings:

    The intelligence required to do the job may be superior to ours, but it is a finite intelligence reasonably similar to our own, not an infinite and incomprehensible God. The most likely reason for such an intelligence to make universes is the same as the reason why people do things like climbing mountains or studying the nature of subatomic particles using accelerators like the LHC – because they can. A civilization that has the technology to make baby universes might find the temptation irresistible, while at the higher levels of universe design, if the superior intelligences are anything at all like us there would be an overwhelming temptation to improve upon the design of their own universes.

    This provides the best resolution yet to the puzzle Albert Einstein used to raise, that ‘the most incomprehensible thing about the Universe is that it is comprehensible.’ The Universe is comprehensible to the human mind because it was designed, at least to some extent, by intelligent beings with minds similar to our own. Fred Hoyle put it slightly differently. ‘The Universe,’ he used to say, ‘is a put-up job.’ I believe that he was right. But in order for that ‘put-up job’ to be understood, we need all the elements of this book.

    Personally, I think there’s an air-tight argument against this: any race of superior beings that produced a universe in which science descended into this level of nonsense would immediately wipe out their creation and start over. Since we’re still here, there can’t be such a race operating out there.

    http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=2365

  29. Tony Hoffman says:

    I have to confess the primary reason I’ve been visiting here over the last few months now has to been read David Ellis’s comments (along with some of the other contributors who visit here less frequently).

    With David signing out, there’s really no further reason for me to stick around any longer either.

  30. Tom Gilson says:

    I’m sorry to see you go, David. The reasons that I gave for banning him were genuine. Notice that I have not banned you, Geoff, DoctorLogic, Nick Matzke, Paul, or Kevin Winters. Notice that I have intentionally engaged some of the best non-theists, including Tom Clark. All of those named are people with whom I have strong differences of opinion, but you and they have not engaged in persistent bad-faith disputation as Tony has.

    I find it passing strange that you would say this was my reason:

    There was no reasonable basis for suggesting a ban for Tony’s having quoted comments of yours that he finds inconsistent.

    … considering that was not the reason I “suggested” banning him; and especially in view of the fact that at least twice recently, when non-theists have pointed out inconsistencies in my position, I have acknowledged that they were right and I was wrong, and made corrections.

    If you don’t want to continue here that is certainly your choice, but you’re welcome to stay.

  31. Dave says:

    Here’s another one that’s making the rounds… but I think this one is a prank. The comments are a hoot!

    October 13, 2009 5:55 PM
    Time-travelling Higgs sabotages the LHC. No, really
    Richard Webb, physics features editor

    Could the Large Hadron Collider be sabotaging itself from the future? That’s the suggestion of a couple of reasonably distinguished theoretical physicists, which has received a fresh airing in the New York Times today.

    Actually, it’s the Higgs boson that is doing the sabotage. Apparently, among the many singular properties of the Higgs that the LHC is meant to discover could be the ability to turn back time to stop its cover being blown.

    Or as the New York Times puts it:

    \the hypothesized Higgs boson… might be so abhorrent to nature that its creation would ripple backward through time and stop the collider before it could make one, like a time traveler who goes back in time to kill his grandfather.\

    http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/shortsharpscience/2009/10/is-a-time-travelling-higgs-sab.html

  32. Dave says:

    Score 1 (or is it 2?) for ID

    No Such Thing As ‘Junk RNA,’ Say Researchers

    ScienceDaily (Oct. 18, 2009) — Tiny strands of RNA previously dismissed as cellular junk are actually very stable molecules that may play significant roles in cellular processes, according to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI).

    [...]

    “But until we did our experiments, we didn’t realize that RNAs as small as 15 nucleotides, which we thought were simply cell waste, are surprisingly stable, and are repeatedly, reproducibly, and accurately produced across different tissue types.” Dr. John said. “We have dubbed these as usRNAs, and we have identified thousands of them, present in a diversity that far exceeds all other longer RNAs found in our study.”

    [...]

    “These findings suggest that usRNAs are involved in biological processes, and we should investigate them further,” Dr. John noted. “They may be valuable tools to diagnose diseases, or perhaps they could present new drug targets.”

    [...]

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091013105809.htm

    Although catchy, the term ‘junk DNA’ for many years repelled mainstream researchers from studying noncoding DNA. Who, except a small number of genomic clochards, would like to dig through genomic garbage? However, in science as in normal life, there are some clochards who, at the risk of being ridiculed, explore unpopular territories. Because of them, the view of junk DNA, especially repetitive elements, began to change in the early 1990s. Now, more and more biologists regard repetitive elements as a genomic treasure.”

    (Wojciech Makalowski, “Not Junk After All,” Science, Vol. 300(5623):1246-1247 (May 23, 2003).)

    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2009/10/experimental_data_force_resear.html#more

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