Tom Gilson

Against One-Dimensional Thinking

“Pantalaimon,” a commenter on Thinking Christian, supplied a number of quotes yesterday to show that (in his words)

ID is not a scientific research program in any sense, and never has been. Scientific understanding is of no intrinsic interest to ID. Any “research” they may undertake is strictly subservient to the philosophical goal of crushing naturalistic science for religious and philosophical purposes.

Strong generalities like that are risky; nobody is one-dimensional, and in fact Pantalaimon’s quotes were a great example of quote-mining out of context. When I pointed that out to him, he graciously offered me the opportunity to track down the source of the quotes myself and put them in correct context. I have declined his generous suggestion. Instead I’m going to try to put the issue in its proper full perspective, based on my entire experience with Intelligent Design.

Intelligent Design is entirely a ploy, manipulating science in order to win religious/political battles. That’s the charge. This statement touches, albeit lightly, on something like the truth of the matter. Many leaders of the Intelligent Design movement are Christian believers, and one (Jonathan Wells) represents the Unification Church. (Unification Church theology as I understand it has little in common with Christianity, other than a belief in some spiritual reality.) These ID leaders recognize strong opposition between a certain dominant form of evolutionary theory–naturalistic neo-Darwinism–and their religious beliefs. Not surprisingly, they consider their religious beliefs not only true but also important. Thus there is a conflict.

I don’t know anybody who has ever handled a major conflict perfectly. I do not need to be convinced that everything ID leaders have done was done just right. The infamous “Wedge Document” was a strategic mistake, in that opened a wide and inviting door for interpretations of evil scheming. The Discovery Institute has worked hard to correct misinterpretations related to the Wedge, not entirely successfully. I think it’s fair to acknowledge errors, to learn from them, and move on wiser than before.

Phillip Johnson is regarded to be the father of the ID movement. At the core of his message is a direct, unflinching, head-on assault against philosophical naturalism, a form of atheism. From his first foray into this field, Darwin on Trial, Johnson has highlighted the close association between Darwinism and philosophical naturalism. His disagreement with Darwinism has been based in part on its assumptions that nothing could have happened, and nothing ought to be explained, by any means other than strict natural cause and effect.

Johnson has been accused of falsely assuming all evolutionists are Richard Dawkins; that is, that evolution is equivalent to atheism. I don’t know that he has actually always made that error. Nevertheless there is a strong association between evolution and atheism in this sense: evolution may not entail atheism, but atheism certainly entails evolution. Without evolutionary theory, atheism has no explanation for nature whatsoever.

Confronting philosophical naturalism has been one aspect of Johnson’s approach to the issue from the beginning. Further, he took a very long and careful look at the scientific literature, and came to the conclusion that evolutionary theory is not well supported by the evidence. Though he is a lawyer, let that not blind you to the fact that he was approaching the question from the basis of science and the available evidence. He concluded that evolution’s explanatory strength depends critically on the assumption that all explanations must be in terms of natural causes and effects and nothing else. This, he rightly noted, is a philosophical assumption that is open to question, which puts evolution itself open to question.

So in Johnson, back at the start of it all, there were three intersecting streams: religious, scientific, and philosophical. He was not an expert in all three (with apologies to all of you out there who are). He proceeded to gather conferences and symposia of scientists and philosophers to explore the question further. Out of this the Intelligent Design movement was born.

The three intersecting streams still pervade the question, but not monolithically so. When David Berlinski’s new book, The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions comes out, don’t expect a shrill screed for some kind of fundamentalist American Christianity. He is a secular Jew living in Paris. Whether or not Michael Denton wants to be associated with ID now, the fact is his Evolution: A Theory in Crisis critiqued evolution strictly on scientific grounds, and set a course that is still being traveled.

Anti-theists also follow the same three threads. Daniel Dennett employs philosophy and evolution in service of dissolving what he calls religion’s “spell” of misunderstanding. Richard Dawkins uses science, and something reminiscent of philosophy (I can’t call it better than that), to call God a delusion. They both have a strong interest in defeating religion, but that hardly means they are uninterested in science–though it would be easy to quote-mine them and make it appear that way.

By the same token, if ID leaders have an interest in philosophy and/or religion, as represented in the quotes Pantalaimon pulled, that hardly means they are uninterested in science. The relation between science and design is controversial; commenter Holopupenko is convinced design cannot be detected through the sciences and that ID scientists are philosophically naive; meanwhile ID-supportive philosophers like Stephen Meyer, Paul Nelson, J. P. Moreland, William Lane Craig, and my friend Rob Koons are confident it potentially can be. On that basis, the scientists in the ID movement proceed with their research.

Let’s grant the obvious, looming in the background, which is that ID’s record of published science is hardly stellar. That in itself does not show there is no interest in science, which was the charge Pantalaimon made. The activities of Minnich, Behe, Marks, Dembski, Seelke, Gonzalez, and many others put the lie to that. Their low published output could be attributed to the difficulty of defining relevant research problems, the fiery-hot hostility toward ID among other scientists and journal editors, the relative youth of the field, or many other explanations. Many observers think they know another reason, which is that ID cannot actually produce science. My somewhat educated word of caution is not to rush to judgment on this. Whatever science ID could produce, conditions are so set against it being published that it’s worth giving it considerably more time.

There is a fourth stream that has been sometimes bundled in with ID, the political, especially in regard to public education in America. Where schools have been pressured to teach a positive theory of Intelligent Design, that has been nothing but a mistake. On the other hand, schools’ resistance to bringing up evolution’s evidential difficulties seems puzzling to me, except as just another facet of academics’ ID-phobia. In hindsight, though, I believe it would have been preferable to leave even that question off the political table, innocuous though it should have been. ID miscalculated the opposition and ended up stirring up even more antipathy without much advancing its primary agenda, which is research. Now it has become difficult to pull out of the PR battles and get focused. Nobody gets everything right.

So to Pantalaimon, in summary, I see your own deep animosity toward ID seriously distorting your view of the matter. ID is not uni-dimensional. (Not even Richard Dawkins is uni-dimensional!) Intelligent Design cannot be defined by mined quotes. It has to bear responsibility for its missteps, but so do we all. It wasn’t very long ago that evolutionists confidently spoke of the useless, vestigial appendix and junk DNA as evidence for their theory, after all.

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38 thoughts on “Against One-Dimensional Thinking

  1. Tom:

    Generally speaking, a good post summarizing the situation and distinguishing carefully important issues usually lost within the emotional rants surrounding the ID-NDE debate(s). I could criticize a few points in terms of the accent (too much or too little) placed on some of the issues, but they are peripheral to the main points… and might end up confusing people more.

    One point I would like to draw your attention to a particular mistake (there are others) central to this whole debate from the philosophical perspective concerning the position of Moreland and Craig. (I realize this point is subtle and to most people may appear to be as interesting as the common brick… but from the philosophical perspective it’s crucial.) Their position on ontology (specifically being) is not clear: while, generally speaking, they seem to accept some modal distinction on beingness (which is good), their text book pretty much throws the proverbial baby out with the bathwater (“Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview,” pg. 168):

    “If being is a genus—that is, a univocal notion that applies in the same way to all things that have being—then this means that whatever existence itself turns out to be, everything that exists will have existence or being in the same sense. Being is a univocal notion that means the same thing for all entities whatsoever… It is most natural to take being as a genus, that is, to hold that a general theory of existence will give us a univocal notion of being that is equally true of all things that do, in fact, exist… Given that being is a genus, we are in a position to try to find out what existence or being is…”

    Consider the implication for the modern empirical sciences and metaphysics: if any accident of real being exists in the same way (univocally per Moreland and Craig) as the substance, then the very thing Aristotle overcame 2360-odd years ago is jettisoned, namely, wisdom (another term for metaphysics) is reduced to physics. This fits ID’s purposes quite well: if what the MESs “see” in changeable beings (their accidents) is the same kind of thing as the substance of the being itself, not only can you not explain change as such, but it reduces form, essence, quiddity, whatness (with purpose, design, intent following close behind) to that observable by the MESs—precisely Dembski’s claim. This is a huge mistake, for it literally plays into the hands of secular scientists and their naturalism. It also, albeit a bit indirectly, reduces God to just another kind of cause in a chain of natural causes, and finally it reflects more of a mechanistically-Newtonian “God winds the watch” (hence the confusion with that analogy) than those supporting ID might want to admit.

    The problem, among others, for ID is that it swerved from Johnson’s very good initial criticisms of the nonscientific presuppositions (naturalism) animating much of neo-Darwinism to Dembski’s attempt to mathematicize things (formal and final cause) that can’t be reduced in such a manner. The irony is that Dembski’s approach to science in trying to subsume part of philosophy under its wing in support of ID so as to validate (for itself I hasten to add) the label “science” reflects closely Dawkin’s approach to science in his attempt to subsume at least part of philosophy under his scientistic vision in support of his “there is no God” campaign (among other things).

    ID is NOT a modern empirical science—for more subtle and important reasons than are usually bandied about in blogs and similar discussions. BUT it is doing fine work criticizing weakness in the current evolutionary theories. If ID were to drop its philosophical pretenses (and it too close association with faith and the concomitant danger of fideism) and work within the (admittedly flexible) confines of biology, perhaps evolutionists would be happier in having errors and weaknesses pointed out using science. If, on the other hand, ID wants to get into philosophy, then surely they can’t lay claim to being taught as a science in the science classroom. I guess what I’m saying is ID needs to have a deep rethink about itself…

    (Dennett is a traitor to philosophy: he claims things about the MESs that basically “sell” the most important questions over to them—which they can’t handle and which result in ridiculous claims—while leaving philosophy with a mere “accountant”-like status that checks on language.)

    Sorry for getting a bit of subject, but this is an important point I hope IDers will think about. Much has been left out, much more can be—perhaps ought to be—said. And, you know me well by now: I love to expose the fallacies, ignorance, and even outright lies propounded by some of the atheist commenters on this blog. I’m hoping IDer’s see my challenges to their thinking not simply as criticisms but as suggestions on ways to assist in their quest.

    Secular Darwinists need to lose their insecurity over challenges—scientific ones as well as philosophical ones—to evolutionary theory. Honestly dealing with challenges and subsequent rethinking of positions is the hallmark of wisdom. Unfortunately, if the “new atheists” are any example, they have a long, long way to go… and as I stated earlier, only science (i.e., the great human endeavor of seeking truth about the natural world) will suffer… as it already has.

  2. Friends with Rob Koons, eh? Even though I never comment, I check your blog almost every day. If by some chance you are ever in Austin, shoot me an email, and I’ll buy you a beer.

  3. Pantalaimon’s quote is spot on for the following reason:
    Yes, both sides undertake scientific investigations. But the difference is for what purpose. When Dawkins or Dennett publish scientific work (and I’m not talking about their books), it is for the benefit of the biological sciences.
    When Dembski, Behe, etc publish scientific work, it is in order to knock down a branch of biology they do not like.
    With no positive claims coming from the ID side, it is not unreasonable for Pantalaimon to claim that “Scientific understanding is of no intrinsic interest to ID”

  4. Axis,

    The title of the post was “against one-dimensional thinking.” It was intended as a friendly warning to people who think some other people are one-dimensional. As a general principle, chances are if you view another person that way your perceptions are severely distorted.

  5. I’ll take that as a theoretical question, since in real life the possibility of an actual one-dimensional situation is so unlikely:

    If the person who sees another as one-dimensional has looked at the other with a clear, unbiased eye and has examined all the facts without prejudice, then there is a chance that he is not being one-dimensional.

    But since that kind of objectivity, and thorough knowledge of all relevant information, is not found among humans, that person ought to be examine himself more carefully before assuming he has accomplished it.

  6. It wasn’t theoretical, it was rhetorical, intended to get you to provide examples of ID’s positive claims (and the research/evidence supporting it). Again, without it, it’s not unreasonable to claim that scientific understanding is of no intrinsic interest to ID

  7. Your offer is almost as gracious as Pantalaimon’s kind opportunity for me to research all those quotes for him. I’ll decline. My point, I think, has already been made.

  8. You can find justification anywhere you want to find it.

    Answers to your question are available at the standard websites. You would find some reason to laugh it off, no matter what you found.

    Additional answers to your question are not going to be publicly available for some time, because the GTF (Get Tenure First!) requirement has become abundantly clear to everyone working in this area.

    I’ve said it a hundred times: the answers are not all in yet, time will tell. In the meantime your attitude toward it clearly indicates there’s no point in trying to satisfy you. I’m going to decline your kind offer to let me answer all your questions to your own satisfaction, once again.

  9. I and anyone else critical of evolution ask for positive, testable claims. I don’t see how you can say that those claims are available when Dembski himself has said that “ID is not a mechanistic theory”. My attitude towards ID is completely justified by the actions (or inaction) of the ID crowd and its supporters.

  10. Well, now you’re mixed up on the theory. “ID is not a mechanical theory” because it isn’t. ID specifically challenges the assumption that every cause-effect interaction is mechanical.

    If what you’re asking for is that ID prove its premises under terms that deny its premises, then it will certainly never satisfy you.

  11. “ID specifically challenges the assumption that every cause-effect interaction is mechanical”

    If that’s all it does, then why do you and its supporters insist on calling it a science? Science deals with the physical, material world. Since it’s attacking the foundation and methodology of science – wouldn’t it more correctly be called a philosophy of science?

    You guys can’t have it both ways. If you insist on calling it a science, then you have to play according to the rules of science and produce the scientific evidence (not just attacks on a rival theory, either). If you seek to change the definition of science, then don’t call your philosophy a science, and don’t claim to have positive evidence.

  12. I hope your question means we’re getting to the heart of the issue at last. I’ve answered this here . ID involves science, it includes science, but it is not just science.

  13. What I continue to miss is what evidence and proven hypotheses that have clearly supported theories (lest we think that there is one monolithic theory) in evolutionary biology are apparently 1) lacing or “in trouble” and 2) why ID is somehow a reasonable scientific corrective to this problem. This seems to be a strawman argument since it conflates tested scientific processes that continue to yield predictable and reviewed results with a philosophical assumption that cannot itself be verified through the same processes that make science what it is.

    I think the problem is that any of the theories of evolutionary biology that have been proven are open to continued criticism on evidential grounds. The notion of an intelligence governing this process, even if we are to make such a soft claim in terms of ID, cannot be dis-proven since it is beyond any instance of predictability. And prediction must be quite bound and limited to naturalistic foundations. There is no other way to do science.

    And this is why this is not even a thought in the minds of researchers in science for the simple reason that there is nothing really there to research! ID is a philosophical argument. Not an unimportant one to consider in science, but not one that ought to accompany a scientist in the lab.

    Let me put it this way as well so that the point is clear. If ID is in anyway a “science”, then so is Aristotle as well as many other arguments for the existence of God (I would recommend Avicenna which is a more rigorous first cause argument compared to Aristotle or Aquinas). Why do we not teach Aristotle in our science classrooms? It’s for students to learn in their philosophy and humanities courses. Synthesizing these ideas is something that should perhaps be done better at American universities, something still done in many liberal arts colleges quite well, but this is in no way a condition for doing science well.

  14. Thanks for being a lot more articulate than me, Drew. In a nutshell, supporters wish for ID to be classified as a science, but avoid the prerequisites that every other potential field has had to endure.

  15. Drew:
    With all due respect, in spite of your training in theology you appear not well versed in the philosophical (i.e., not theological) antecedents coloring Avicenna’s thinking—including his neo-Platonic interpretation of Aristotle (in fact, his notion that “first ideas” emanate from God is Platonic in character) as well as Averroes’ refutation of the pantheistic strain in his doctrinal classification of being (the strain of pantheism animates other aspects of Avicenna’s philosophy). Given the influence of these on the material aspects of Avicenna’s argument for a First Cause, it is his argument that fails to demonstrate what he intended. St. Thomas knew of Avicenna’s writings, and he did not make the Platonic and/or neo-Platonic errors Avicenna made. So, your personal opinion that Avicenna’s proposed “a more rigorous first cause argument compared to Aristotle or Aquinas” makes no sense philosophically.
    �����Moreover, you appear not to be aware of the fact that Aristotle and Thomas did “do” science, but in the broader and more cross-disciplined rigorous sense: the definition of science (episteme) is “mediate intellectual knowledge obtained through demonstration.” Any discipline whose goal is to demonstrate truths is a science, but you appear to narrowly limit “science” (and, by extension, truth) to that obtainable only by the modern empirical sciences (MESs). Philosophy, for example, does not have the luxury of limiting itself to the limited methodologies and instruments of the MESs: it’s “material” is any and all knowledge accessible to any and all people in any age and in any condition. The MESs are much more narrowly focused upon their particular subject matters. Example: every one knows that square circles don’t exist, but not everyone knows (or has experienced) an earthquake. Scientism is the attempt by the MESs to subsume everything under themselves—which is self-refuting because that attempt itself is not “scientific.” (DL makes this mistake over and over and over again—for example when he claims (unscientifically, of course) that God can be captured by the scientific method—and is worthy of the label he applies to things that don’t suit his personal, subjective fancies: it’s stupid.)

    �����Drew does have a point, and it is that point that is increasingly haunting the ID movement and the one to which I’ve alluded in the past two comments: the MESs are limited to descriptions of “how” things happen in the natural world limited to data accessible to the five primary senses: they do not deal with the “whatness” (formal cause—including substances in the broad sense) or with “whyness” (final cause—especially with intent or purpose). It doesn’t matter whether ID tries to qualify its approach as not (allegedly) implying who or what the designer is (i.e., whether it’s God or a hyper-advanced alien) because it is NOT science to suggest “something more” caused evolution and be satisfied with that. Think about what a “controlled experiment” is: the scientist tries to do everything in his power (if fact, he’s morally obligated to try) to remove extraneous physical influences upon the experiment—everything from cooking laboratory notebooks to human intervention in experiments to random acts of nature—in order to get at exactly what is going on and how it is occurring.
    �����The MESs do not seek design and cannot infer (by themselves) a designer because design is final causality. Period. Steven Weinberg (an atheist) is correct when he asserts, “[T]he only way that any sort of [MES] can proceed is to assume that there is no divine intervention and to see how far one can get with this assumption.” That is methodological naturalism, and there is nothing wrong (in fact, everything right) with it as long as it recognizes its bounds, i.e., that it is a “method” does not and cannot “interpret.” There is nothing atheistic about methodological naturalism: it is a straightforward method of the MESs. If the MESs can’t get any further, scientists don’t just drop their hands in resignation—they keep going.
    �����That’s not to say one should meekly accept a “promissory” note from any of the MESs (which Dawkins wants us to do) and assume that the MESs will (or even can) answer all questions. One should know the limitations of the MESs, and from this it is clear they can’t answer everything. But at that point (which could be the case with current theories of evolution) they appear to have reached a point where the more detail is discovered in cells, the less and less likely the MESs alone can address these. This is the point where the sciences do not appeal to God, but to philosophy to help the two together to reason to broader explanations.
    �����Yet, what do we see people like Dembski doing? Writing books called Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science & Theology. The subtitle of the book betrays his intent: he’s trying to pull the Creator into the fray. Well, okay… but then it is not science and therefore should not be taught in a science classroom, should it? Moreover, it’s a poor subtitle because bridge metaphor undermines the very important Dembski wants to assign ID: bridges are for getting from one place to another—one does not stay on them for very long, except perhaps to enjoy the scenery for a while. Finally, by wanting others to understand ID as science, he is (I repeat from before) guilty of the similar thing scientism is, namely, trying to subsume philosophy under the MESs. It ain’t gonna happen, and both are failing in their attemps.

    �����While your personal opinions are welcome, that’s all they are—subjective personal opinions. The following is a fine example of such B.S. on your part: “When Dembski, Behe, etc. publish scientific work, it is in order to knock down a branch of biology they do not like.” Perhaps you could enlighten us on the scientific content of that off-mark value appraisal, i.e., please provide verifiable references that clearly indicate such alleged intent in the work of these gentlemen. Science and Philosophy are anything but personal opinion—they are about truth, and so is this blog. You betray a latent scientism in your thinking—which is best cured by philosophy, and certainly not by science—similar to the problem DL has. And, whether you’ll admit to it or not, you’re trying to impose your atheism upon others by using science—which is not what science is about.

  16. Holopupenko, that branch of biology i speak of would be evolution. Are you telling me that Dembski and Co. aren’t trying to knock it down? And if “criticizing ID” equals “imposed atheism” to you, well, all due respect, you may want a thicker hide.

  17. Axis:
         You are not carefully distinguishing between being wrong about certain aspects of biology with being out to “knock down a branch of biology they do not like.” The former is likely correct, the latter is the imposition of your own personal value judgment as animated by your visceral atheism… and, I again request you back up your personal, subjective appraisal with verifiable references that highlight the ill-intent which you impute to these gentlemen. Unless you can provide such empirical evidence without emoting, you are not behaving “scientifically,” and therefore I suggest you keep unsubstantiated personal opinions to yourself—they contribute nothing to the discussion. Your emotional responses are, well, knocking you off your “axis.”

  18. Holo,

    I think that the comments you raise Re: Avicenna are worthy of exploration but quite aside the point here. I’ll ignore the comments regarding what I personally know or do not know since borderline ad hominem is rather not constructive.

    As far as the “whatness” of something physicists are engaged in this on a regular basis when conducting high energy experiments. The history of how we understand the nature of light and quantum mechanics is telling enough in this regard. But again this is a fine point quite aside from the point I was making.

    The point I was making is simply that ID confuses a fundamentally philosophical claim with what you have correctly observed as the definition of science I was employing in my previous comment – modern empirical science. That claim cannot be and perhaps ought not be explored within those scientific bounds.

    While we can debate tangential points in a more appropriate place, it seems like we are in at least general agreement about this one of relevance to the post itself.

    Further, I also agree that Dawkins does make a crucial value claim is placing this kind of naturalism in such a preeminent position – a position that cannot itself be disproven. So it’s bad to believe in God since this cannot be disproven on empirical grounds, but it’s all well and good to apply a kind of faith that empirical science alone will make the world better if we can only get rid of God.

  19. Drew, you have asked some good questions. Thanks.

    Here’s the heart of it, I think:

    ID is a philosophical argument. Not an unimportant one to consider in science, but not one that ought to accompany a scientist in the lab.

    My question in return is this: should philosophical naturalism accompany a scientist in the lab?

  20. Axis, you keep having trouble understanding what people are saying. Holopupenko said (paraphrasing) that you are not entirely correct in your assertion that:

    When Dembski, Behe, etc publish scientific work, it is in order to knock down a branch of biology they do not like.

    When he pointed that out, you responded,

    Are you telling me that Dembski and Co. aren’t trying to knock it down?

    Your first assertion (especially when viewed in context) was that Dembski et al. have no other motivation for science but knocking down evolution. This is false. In your final rejoinder you defended yourself by saying (paraphrased), “but they do want to knock down evolution!” That’s not the question you raised. The question was whether that is their only motivation in life. Granted, they believe there are enough flaws with evolution that it should be “knocked down.” But it is that same one-dimensionality I’ve warned against if you think that’s the only thing they think about day and night.

  21. Drew:
         Regarding your first paragraph: accepted.
         2nd paragraph: I disagree on your characterization of “whatness” (quiddity) in your high-energy physics example because you stroll dangerously close to what Dembski is trying to do in alleging “specified complexity” can be empirically detected. However, I will not pursue this here because you are correct: it’s tangential to the topic.
         3rd-5th paragraphs: generally agree.
         Thanks for your patience with me.

  22. Holo, perhaps I should point out that your personal opinions are just that as well – subjective personal opinions. Deriving “imposed atheism” from criticism of ID is a lot more of an emotional response than anything I’ve posted here (I hadn’t even mentioned the word atheism prior to your accusations). Do you see me decrying theocracy on Tom’s part whenever he criticizes evolution?

    You are reading far too much into my ‘knocking down biology commment’. I’m simply saying that when ID proponents do scientific work, they are criticizing a rival theory while doing nothing to strengthen their own. And because most of their criticism boils down to pointing out gaps, the only scientific benefit from their criticism is to fill those gaps and flesh out the details of what has already been established. ID proponents have a negative view of evolution. They ultimately would like ID to replace evolution as the most well-established theory in biology. I thought this was obvious, but if it really requires verifiable references, then just head on over to the Discovery Institute’s website.

    Now, when a “darwinist” publishes scientific work, he is contributing to his own field. he’s not attacking some other field, just strengthening his own.

    Now keep in mind that I am only talking about scientific work – no books, letters to the editor, media complaints, or brochures for school boards – I’m talking about work that would be submitted for peer review. I’m not talking about their “only motivation in life”. Such hyperbole, with that and “criticizing ID” equals “imposed atheism”, I am shocked that I’m the one here who is being accused of having emotional responses.

  23. Axis, that was the clearest thing you’ve written here in a while. Maybe the problem isn’t in what you’re thinking or intending to say, but in the way it’s getting across through the written word.

  24. Tom, call me Jared 🙂
    I feel that I can be more articulate on my own blog, (doesn’t everybody?) For some reason when commenting on someone else’s blog, I get the sense of a self-imposed time and/or space limit, which forces me to make make more hasty responses. Does that happen to you? Anyhoo, sorry for not being clearer.
    BTW, I have to mention that your new site’s look is absolutely gorgeous.

  25. Hmmm…
         Perhaps, Axis… (by the way, your tu quoque was cute). But, I remain suspicious given (1) as Tom said, the means behind your message, and, (2) after having purused your own blog, witnessing what you and your commenters write about people of faith.

         While I stray a bit too close to the genetic fallacy, you nonetheless have brought in some of that baggage to this blog. Perhaps I am guilty of that as well. However, when asked to provide empirical evidence behind the ill-intentions you impute to Dembski et al (quote: “to knock down a branch of biology they do not like”), you seem to avoid it. (What scientific category, pray tell, is captured by “do not like?)

         Worse, you repeat the same game: “They ultimately would like ID to replace evolution as the most well-established theory in biology.” While I agree with you that ID is neither an MES nor do they propose a valid MES theory (within the confines of what the MESs are), much of the time they’re going after the poor and illicit naturalistic philosophizing (“… hence, there is no God…”) which is NOT science on the part of Darwinists. Moreover, if you’d take the time to read what most of the IDers do say, they’re not out to “knock down” evolutionary theory but to rid it of illicit philosophical antecedents woven in to the fabric of neo-Darwinism. For example, Dembski and others have little doubt of the age of the earth and that evolution occured, but what animated it is a whole different matter.

         A simple and limited analogy, but one that provides a glimpse of insight: no matter how many gears you have in a clock, those gears will never move themselves. Note I’m not raising Paley’s (admittedly poor and highly mechanistic) design analogy; I’m getting at the very ontology of the actors and mechanisms involved. If that is not clear in the minds of all sides debating the issue, there will be no coming to terms.

  26. Holo:

    the MESs are limited to descriptions of “how” things happen in the natural world limited to data accessible to the five primary senses: they do not deal with the “whatness” (formal cause—including substances in the broad sense) or with “whyness” (final cause—especially with intent or purpose).

    Strictly speaking, from a methodology perspective, you are correct. However the people in the MESs who publish the papers violate this boundary all the time.

    Scientists and people like DL tell us ‘what’ and ‘why’ all the time and they use science to back up their claims. Thus they give ID a legitimate foot in the door.

  27. I never mentioned atheism, so it appears that I’m not the one who brought the “baggage” of my blog to this one. All I’ve done here is criticize ID, and those criticisms should be the only things addressed.

    Before I answer anything else, I need to know what MES stands for. I’m not a regular reader, so I must have missed this acronym’s establishment.

  28. My apologies: MES = modern empirical science(s), meant to separate what is loosely term “science” from an illicit necessary tie to philosophical naturalism or physicalism, but to bring out its “empiriological” (=empiriometric + empirioschematic) approach. Each of the MESs focuses on different types of objects to study, considers different subject areas, are always contingent upon the possible impact of new information/data, and employ different methodologies to obtain knowledge of their narrowly-focused part of physical reality.

  29. SteveK:
    ?????Good observation: it’s the 800-lb gorilla in the scientismist’s lab. There is no way the MESs can answer all questions, and they can’t even answer with certitude their own (they only provide contingent knowledge). The MESs depend–vitally–on concepts they themselves cannot observe, study, predict, falsify… for the very least because to assert otherwise would be circular. There is a “science before science” that validates terms and concepts that the MESs depend upon. So, it’s not that scientists “violate” the boundary as much as they depend on foundational principles to do their work. BUT, this does not give ID a “foot in the door” to call itself a science any more than it gives physics a foot in the door to call itself a philosophy… any more than Dawkins feels self-justified in using science to illegitimately and incorrectly to impose MESs methodologies and categories upon God.

  30. Here is the long path to controvert Tom’s assertion that my criticism of ID is “one-dimensional.” Please have patience; God isn’t finished with me yet. [0] In executive-summary form: Science is increasingly important in our lives; we must understand its nature and content. Intelligent design is not science, either as a positive theory or negatively. Its presentation by the Discovery Institute is an underhanded attempt to further a religious agenda.

    Science in general, and biology in particular, are becoming ever more important in our lives both as individuals and as citizens. A drug company touts a 99% accurate test for a genetic disease that kills one out of a million Americans every year—should we all rush out and get it? [1] Scientists say that humans are affecting global climate in ways that are quickly becoming disastrous—should we take expensive actions to counter global warming? [2]

    It is therefore important that all citizens understand the content and the process of science, just as they are taught the institutions and process of government in civics classes. It is also important to encourage children to become scientists.[3] Although the overall picture is not bright, at least the public accepts many areas of science. [4] As to biology, however, most Americans are at least skeptical of evolution, [5] and almost none have any understanding of it. [6] Teaching the organizing principles of any science are essential to understanding the rest of its content. One may think he has learned some biology without evolution, but it then becomes, in Lord Kelvin’s sarcastic words, merely “butterfly collecting,” without any deeper understanding for future situations in which we need to know what new developments may—or may not—be reasonable or plausible.

    A short detour here to connect these poor scribblings to the subject of Tom’s thread.. The only significant reason people reject evolution is possible conflict with their religious faith. They feel—and they are correct—that many scientists are atheists or agnostics. But many are not. [7] And science itself is godless only in the sense that plumbing is godless: Do plumbers invoke God to help explain why water flows a certain way in the pipes? Why not? Because it would not help to understand what is going on, or how to find the leak. Science is called “naturalistic” or “materialistic.” I’ve argued elsewhere that these terms are only a surrogate: science is a search for “dependable regularity.” Science attempts to find out “under conditions A, result B can be expected to occur,” and “results C1 and C2 seem to occur together repeatedly; does related effect C3 always occur with them?” Although many scientists are satisfied when they understand a phenomenon, or extend their result to further phenomena, the ultimate goal is to control some physical aspect of the world—and this cannot be achieved without finding dependable regularity. [8] Science of any kind does not—or should not—arrogate to itself any understanding beyond that. But it must and should pursue that form of understanding to the ultima thule.

    Back to our regular program. Intelligent design is not a scientific theory. [9] It has no scientific content, even under its own definitions. The least vague of these is “The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.” [10] This is truly content-free. Before Darwin, others had proposed common descent of life. But that was not a theory. Suppose Darwin had announced his explanation as “The theory of evolution holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an undirected process.” How would anyone even begin to test that? Of what benefit would it be in understanding the many phenomena of living organisms? Suppose scientists claimed that all they could do was to “detect” evolution, that all further inquiry as to the mechanism of this process is feckless. This would devalue Darwin to the level of ID. [11]

    Even if ID knew what kind of evidence might confirm or falsify its vacuous theory, no ID proponents have yet pursued any original research to support it. Dembski has never even applied his vaunted tool, the “explanatory filter” to any system whatsoever, living or dead. Behe has never shown “irreducible complexity” to infer design, even if he could find an example of it. [12]

    As a theory, ID is a science-stopper, as I have argued previously. It halts at detecting design. No further explanation is necessary or even possible under its aegis. Certainly no original research has been conducted by anyone, ID supporter or mainstream scientist.[13]

    Tom’s topic in the thread of which this is a continuation asks whether ID might be useful even in a gadfly role as a falsifier of Darwin. But even here, as discussed elsewhere, the research is negligible at best. At the most generous, I can identify only four efforts that might minimally qualify as original research. [14] All of these are flawed to the point of risibility, irrelevant to their stated goal, or both.

    Finally, the DI is not interested in presenting their arguments, positive or negative, to scientists qualified to judge it, even if Philip Johnson may have once wished for this. They complain about being rejected by journals, but, as far as I can determine, they have not, in the past couple of years at least, submitted anything to refereed mainstream journals.

    As is frequently the case, Philip Johnson provides a clear statement of ID’s goal: “Our strategy has been to change the subject a bit so that we can get the issue of intelligent design, which really means the reality of God, before the academic world and into the schools.” [15]

    I cite the Kitzmiller v. Dover case often. In it, Dembski got his wish for a forum to compel the Darwinists to come clean. [16] One of the primary tasks of a judge is to assess the credibility of the witnesses. The kindest words Judge Jones had for several defense witnesses was “disingenuous at best.” School Board members lied outright. The CEO of the publisher of Of Pandas and People swore ignorance of a number of important documents bearing his signature. Michael Behe airily dismissed as not relevant a stack of 58 literature publications directly in his field and controverting his chief contention. His assertion that Pandas was “peer-reviewed” dissolved into a wishful fairy tale.

    The litany continues down to the present, and down to the most venal. Harvard is currently deliberating whether to press charges against William Dembski for his theft of an expensively produced video, which Dembski then altered to favor ID. [17] Just yesterday, the DI, sore afraid from poor advance support for the movie “Expelled,” has offered rebates to schools for encouraging—or even forcing—their students to attend when it comes out; the value of the rebates could possibly exceed the ticket prices! [18]

    This is the kind of people that we are dealing with in connection with the non-theory of intelligent design. I do not feel at all one-dimensional in generalizing as to their goals and tactics. I have been curious about the physical world since, at age 3, bending a hairpin very carefully and sticking it in an electrical socket. I (in the guise of Santa 3.0) give science gifts to my grandchildren; one of them, at age 4, has already demonstrated my kind of curiosity. I hope he may wish to pursue less dangerous research that benefits mankind. ID, however, wishes to replace scientific curiosity with the blank wall of Goddidit, end of discussion.

    Oh, one final thought. Tom, I am a guest on your blog, and I appreciate the opportunity to use your facilities to present my prolix views. You may boot me off if you wish, for irrelevance, tiresomeness, exceeding abrasiveness tolerances, or any other reason. However, your summary dismissal of my quotations about lack of science in ID as mere “quote mining” is several elevator stops beneath you. Merely tarring the quotations with a label, and expressing high dudgeon that I might expect you to adduce any evidence to the contrary if you disagree, is a tactic usually found only at the Discovery Institute.[19]

    I realize that, in your domain of religion, challenging faith is a major crime, and I have apparently committed that. However, in my bailiwick of science, dishonesty is a mortal sin, and you have impugned my honesty. I would ask you either to support your charge of quote-mining or to retract the accusation.

    [0] Although Tom may be, by this time.

    [1] Knowing some statistics, Tom would classify this report under “humor.” Does anyone else understand why?

    [2] The Discovery Institute also denies human causes for global warming. See, e.g.,

    [3] A prominent US scientist of Indian descent recently said that India cannot be expected to continue to supply America with scientists forever. A number of drug companies are quietly moving their research facilities to China. Regular ads in Science entice American researchers to move to Singapore and South Korea, promising better facilities, more support, fewer restrictions, and greater respect.

    [4] People shake their heads at “quantum weirdness,” but only a few crackpots (Can you say C. David Parsons?) deny quantum physics. For an approachable introduction, see “Where Does the Weirdness Go?” D. Lindley, Basic Books, 1996.

    [5] For brevity, I’ll use this term to refer to Darwin’s theory of evolution, whose mechanism is inheritable variation, overfecundity, and selection by the natural environment.

    [6] An article a year or so ago—I can’t lay my hands on it just now—described a course specifically in evolution at a major university. The course included material on the process of biological research, as well as on the content of evolution. It was offered to all freshmen, but was especially encouraged for students skeptical of evolution. A poll at the beginning of the class showed a high degree of skepticism or outright rejection. At the end of several offerings of the course, more than 80% of the students accepted evolution. What a difference a little knowledge makes.

    [7] See, e.g., Kenneth Miller, “Finding Darwin’s God,” (Harper Collins, 1999) and Francis Collins, “The Language of God” (Free Press, 2006).

    [8] Scientist may have their individual views as to whether or not their findings demonstrate the existence vel non of God. Bit these are outside their competence qua scientists. Unfortunately, pace Richard Dawkins, they do not often label them as such. These proclamations—either way!—are embarrassing to the rest of us.

    My fine-tuning example was derided by Tom as very close to one of ID’s Gonzalez’s hypotheses. But that was exactly the point. In that situation, ID says “Design!” sits back, and smiles smugly. Real scientists, on the other hand, don their lab coats and try to figure out how to test it, what else it might explain, and how it fits with other theories. The contrast was the point.

    [9] Philip Johnson originally hoped that some positive science would appear to support ID’s philosophical and religious goals. The Wedge Document called for 100 peer-reviewed papers to be published within five years. (online at called for “3. One hundred scientific, academic and technical articles by our fellows” by 2003. The actual number, however, was and remains zero. (Kitzmiller v. Dover, testimony of Michael Behe, Oct. 18, 2005, PM session). Johnson has more recently admitted that ID cannot at present propose a positive scientific theory comparable to Darwin. See his 2006 interview, Michelangelo d’Agostino, “In the Matter of Berkeley v. Berkeley,” in Berkeley Science Review, Spring 2006, p. 31 (at 33)

    [10] For an official DI definition, see For other official material, see

    [11] William Dembski: “You’re asking me to play a game: ‘Provide as much detail in terms of possible causal mechanisms for your ID position as I do for my Darwinian position.’ ID is not a mechanistic theory, and it’s not ID’s task to match your pathetic level of detail in telling mechanistic stories.” (ISCID post, September 18, 2002. has the full quotation. Cf. for Dembski’s views..

    [12] In fact, papers from 1918 and 1939 argued that this concept, sub nom. “interlocking complexity,” is evidence _for_ evolution. See “Beyond Suboptimality; Why Irreducible Complexity Does Not Imply Intelligent Design” (Mark Perakh, 2006), at

    [13] In fact, as documented previously, the research output of DI fellows who are practicing scientists has plummeted since their involvement with the DI, even in mainstream areas.

    [14] Behe & Snoke’s paper on double-mutation limitations, Seelke’s unpublished bacterial experiments on tryptophan deprivation, Behe’s calculations of maximum mutation rates in The Edge of Evolution, and Robert Marks’ unreviewed computer simulations on information in evolutionary search algorithms. (References upon request. if anyone is really interested; I’d have to dig them out.)

    [15] American Family Radio, Jan 10, 2003 broadcast, in which Johnson discusses his book “The Right Questions.” Johnson is the least slippery of the ID spokesmen. He speaks his mind. He was the only IDer to grant an interview for PBS Nova’s program. He recounts his own involvement in ID in “Doubting Rationalist,” Washington Post, May 15, 2005; Page D01, on-line at

    One can see even here, however, the kind of thinking that permeates ID. Johnson’s spiritual awakening came first. Then he found evolution to be antithetical to this revelation. Then he “devoured dozens [of] evolutionary texts…. but the evidence didn’t much impress him.” (id.) Did he ask any biologists for their views? Did he peruse any of the primary literature? No and no. The next step was to write his magnum opus, Darwin on Trial (InterVarsity Press 1993), in which he violated two fundamental norms of his own legal profession. First, on his admitted background in the field, even a Guantanamo Bay judge would have refused to qualify him as any kind of expert on the subject. Second, no response by the accused was permitted. The right to confront witnesses is so fundamental it is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Except, apparently, that Darwin’s trial was to be a witch-burning.

    [16] “I’m waiting for the day when the hearings are not voluntary but involve subpoenas in which evolutionists are deposed at length on their views. On that happy day, I can assure you they won’t come off looking well.” (“Uncommon Descent,” May 6, 2005, speaking of the Kansas School Board hearings, where scientists boycotted the hearings as having been rigged.)

    [17] “DI Fellows– EXPELLED for plagiarism,” ERV, November 20, 2007, at It’s actually worse than that. He had originally requested permission to use the video, and was denied..

    [18] “Flunked, Not Expelled: Gaming the Movie Ratings,” The Austringer, January 16, 2008, at

    [19] I find I had omitted the citation for the quotation by Jonathan Wells. Sorry. It may be found with all its inglorious context at “Darwinism: Why I went for a second PhD,”

  31. Pantalaimon:

    You make the following morally-categorical assertion: “It is also important to encourage children to become scientists.” Could you please point to empirical evidence (meaning measurable data-producing qualities or somehow observable properties) or some aspect of the modern empirical sciences (MESs) that would support the moral “ought” you project, i.e., what is the MES basis for employing the word “important” in your assertion, i.e., what is the MES-content (if any) of the word “important”?

    Note: merely rehashing the successes of technologies that have arisen in the wake of scientific discoveries and merely rehashing why we have benefited from them is not an argument—let alone moral argument.

    Hint: I can give you a concise, knock-down response to the following question that is undeniable: “Why should anyone pursue obtaining scientific knowledge?” Would you know how to respond to this question? Are the MESs capable themselves of providing a response to my question?

    With respect to your claim that “almost [no Americans] have any understanding of [evolution],” that is disputable, for it sneakily presupposes and mistakenly conflates (1) agreement with the theory with (2) knowledge and understanding of the theory. Just because some disagree with your knowledge and interpretation of reality doesn’t mean they don’t know what they’re talking about. In other words: you’re pushing a straw man and false dilemma at the same time. (I might agree with you that (especially having lived abroad for a long time and having followed this issue) on average and compared to other parts of the world, what the secondary public school system in the U.S. produces is appalling.)

    Let’s try a little tu quoque on you to highlight the character of the false claim I just deflated: Most Americans don’t have any understanding of what a true relationship with Jesus Christ is, what Christianity is about, and certainly few have a grasp of that most important of sciences, philosophy—you, DL, Paul, BobC, ordinary seeker, etc. included. (Don’t miss the point I’m making here…)

    I don’t think anyone here has a problem with your fourth paragraph, and I made that point earlier with respect to Weinberg’s statement and methodological naturalism. So, why bring it up? Was it ever challenged, or were you bringing your own personal sentiments into the discussion?

    I think you need to stop making categorical and utterly unsupportable claims like “[ID] has no scientific content, even under its own definitions.” That is simply ridiculous, and it’s along the same lines as name-calling the DI the “un-DI.” Get over it. Moreover, it exposes your ignorance of what ID is about… which, interestingly, lends support to the following claim from their side: “almost no Americans have any understanding of ID, including Pantalaimon.” Do you think that’s fair?

    (By the way, I agree with you—but only to a limited extent per Tom’s point about “quote mining”—quoting [11] Dembski on his claim that ID is allegedly “non mechanistic.” It is, but (Holopupenko claims from the philosophical perspective) that is because Dembski doesn’t understand the implications of his own assertion. No need to expound upon this here. I also agree with you providing the Johnson quote [15] regarding the intentions of some of these folks: it would be a travesty to use and manipulate science in such a manner to bring people to a knowledge of God. I, who bows to no one in the culture wars with respect to the sickening attempts to remove faith from the public square, find Johnson’s statement troubling.)

    I’m not sure why you’re so worried about the movie “Expelled,” because my understanding is that it does not promote ID (although ID will enjoy the ancillary benefit from exposure), but rather exposes “mean-spirited” (that’s being very charitable) retributions faced by those who would like to challenge the current scientific and philosophically-naturalistic dogma.

    Your last paragraph is gratuitous and incorrect, and fairly well captures/summarizes your errors … over the whole evolution-ID debate.

  32. Pryvit, Holopupenko.

    Perhaps the boundaries between “opinion” and “science” were not marked well enough in my comment. And I will certainly admit a personal bias. I am not a scientist, but have dealt with them professionally for fifty years as a patent attorney—diving weekly from the shore of knowledge of a scientific or technical field to the depths of the primary literature. This, and a shared intense curiosity about how everything works, gives me a certain comfort with them and with their approach to science—MES science.

    I listed some (non-scientific) reasons for believing that science is important to our lives. These are opinions—some of which you seem to agree with, but you explicitly disagree with others. [1]
    Why anyone “should” pursue scientific knowledge is not a question within science—or at least not yet. Again, my reasons are non-scientific.

    But the question here is not whether science is everything, or whether it preempts religion or philosophy. The question here is whether or not a particular theory contains any science. And, in my practicality-oriented mind, whether that theory will add to or detract from the benefits that modern science gives to mankind. [2]

    I do not conflate knowledge of evolution with its acceptance. I said that acceptance was low and knowledge even lower. I did, however, give an (undocumented, sorry) example that tends to show a correlation between them.[3] Knowledge of ID is also low; I mentioned the example of the Dover school-board member who gave a rather confused definition of evolution when she was asked for a definition of ID. On the other hand, there is not much to know about the _theory_ of ID. Why not? Because there is no research to adduce positive evidence for it. And, of course, the theory is vague enough that no one really knows what kind of scientific observations would confirm it. [4]

    The Discovery Institute continually asserts, when challenged on a particular point, that the challenger “does not understand” ID. Yet, looking at these challenges, I have seen only bare assertions. No explanation of the particular aspect of ID that was misunderstood, or what is the proper way to understand the specific point that was challenged. You might try looking up some of them, for example on Evolution News & Views. See if you can build up a workable “correct” understanding from what they say. You might visit the DI’s official pages, read their own definitions of ID, and determine whether you could construct any physically testable hypotheses therefrom that might guide your research in adding more detail to the theory. [5]

    Having followed the ID movement for a few years, having read many of their soi-disant scientific books (there are of course no research papers to consult) and followed a few blogs—oh, and studied the court cases in some detail—I do feel I know something about both the ID movement and the organization that propels it. In the Dover trial, the DI made a huge effort to disqualify one witness from testifying. Barbara Forrest was especially dangerous, because she knows more about the DI than any other outsider, and could document her assertions. [8] And the DI was certainly correct as to the danger. [9]

    Biologists too often complain that the public does not properly understand scientific theories. On this side, however, they offer education, references to research literature, explanations of the evidence. For example, a number of science blogs have adopted a program of explaining results taken directly from the primary literature. When you visit Pharygula, Quintessence of Dust, Panda’s Thumb, etc., look for the logo: a small written page surmounted by a green checkmark. Please let me know when the DI comes out with a similar program.

    I have a continual problem with you and Tom making bare accusations of utterly unsupportable claims, and then dismissing my documentation of those claims without the slightest effort at refutation. Truly, if this is how philosophy is done, then I’ll stay away from philosophical arguments. If you ask me to agree that 2+2 does not equal 4 for sufficiently large values of 2, I will ask you to document observations of those values, or at the very least to lay out a mathematical argument for them.

    ID may pine for scientific content, but it has none now, and the only way to give it scientific purchase seems to be blocked by consistent refusals to characterize the designers or the designs in a way that can be investigated by the methods of science. ID may be “correct” in some other sense, and I will agree that it may contain aspects or hypotheses that can be investigated by the concepts of philosophy. In fact, being in the theistic evolution camp myself, I would be biased toward your philosophical arguments in its favor. Just quit pushing it as some kind of tool for scientific research. [10]

    The following grafs reply to some other points you make that are not directly related to your major contentions.

    I agree with your opinion that most Americans have little understanding of what Christianity is about. I have, however, looked into it myself, with study and courses. [6] Philosophy is important, although my own bent is more toward more concrete entities, and I must confess a proclivity toward Douglas Hofstadter’s sentiments. [7]

    I added the “detour” paragraph in my comment because, although we seem to understand methodological v. philosophical naturalism in an abstract sense, I feel that even you and Tom conflate them to some extent. Certainly many scientists conflate them.

    My reading of ID materials leads me to believe that the DI’s antipathy toward mechanism arises because framing a scientific model would necessarily characterize the Designer. ID is a “big tent” movement. Almost all the proponents believe that the Designer is God, in one form or another, but they disagree in other ways. Research to investigate the properties of God would induce in many supporters a theological stroke and an immediate paralysis of the pocketbook. There is already a simmering discontent between ID and YECers that may erupt into open schism. In sum: the refusal of ID to adopt a mechanism is politically and financially motivated.

    I’m not the one worried about “Expelled.” I think it’s a hoot and a half; I’ll probably go see it, if it lasts until I get back from Hawai’i in March. The DI is worried about it. If you don’t think the movie supports ID, ask them why they are concerned about its success to the point where their promotions may cost them a bundle of cash.

    Re the last graf of my previous comment. Granted that it was worded more as a flame than as a polite entreaty. Do you ever get upset if someone calls you a liar? Thus, not gratuitous. Have you or Tom documented or even argued your disagreements? Thus, not shown incorrect.

    [1] Encouraging scientific careers will keep science in the US, instead of exporting it to Asia, as we have with manufacturing and help desks. This may be jingoistic. But, if you had your druthers, wouldn’t you druther that the Kyivian Rus had not ceded to Moskva?

    [2] If you read The Golden Compass (as opposed to merely seeing the movie), you will remember that science was called “natural theology,” and physicists were “experimental theologians.” That is, science and religion were conflated—although not to the point of eliminating friction. Every scientific expedition had to include a representative of the Church, who dealt with any discovery that might contradict doctrine. That is scary.

    [3] The Chronicle of Higher Education has fairly frequent articles on evolution education. Unfortunately, my access to this journal is spotty and not first-hand.

    [4] Irreducible complexity does not imply design, even if shown to be true. Dembski’s explanatory filter’ is merely Bayes’ Theorem with three branches instead of two. Addition of the third branch, “design” is unsupported by physical evidence or logical argument.

    [5] I know you’ll chortle at this analogy, but please do think about it. Suppose an IDer places an empty box labelled “gasoline engine” under the hood (or bonnet) of your Lada. Then try driving to Kharkiv. I think you’d get a lot farther with the help of a traditional mechanic, who could fill in cylinders, fuel injectors, a crankshaft, and other less vague components to the bare box of a gasoline engine.

    [6] The Modern Major General can “tell a chasepot rifle from a javelin.” Just so, I can tell a gnostic heresy from an Arian. Most people think Sunday School as a child is enough; too bad. As our mutual friend Charles Darwin once said, “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge….”

    [7] “It seems to me that many philosophers believe that, like mathematicians, they can actually prove the points they believe in, and to that end, they often try to use highly rigorous and technical language, and sometimes they try to anticipate and to counter all possible counter-arguments. I admire such self-confidence, but I am a bit less optimistic and a bit more fatalistic. I don’t think one can truly prove anything in philosophy; I think one can merely try to convince, and probably one will wind up convincing onl;y those people who started out fairly close to the position one is advocating.” (“I am a Strange Loop,” Basic books, 2007, p.xvii)

    [8] It was she who documented the confidential religious affirmation that DI members must sign. She and Nick Matzke uncovered the “cdesign proponentsists” howler in an Of Pandas and People draft.

    [9] If you read the transcript, proposed findings, and decision, you will find that the defendants did not successfully controvert any point she made.

    [10] The Institute for Creation Research is at least more honest about their goals, and they do have a positive theory. Mechanism: the world and all that therein is was brought into physical being as stated in Genesis. They have adduced positive evidence ranging from the polonium halos of the ‘50s to last month’s claim to have discovered granite that could form in six days. They have developed a theory of baraminology to investigate the “kinds” of created life forms. Their designer is God, and they do not shrink from characterizing Him for framing hypotheses about their theory of the world. They do distort the evidence of mainstream scientists, sometimes grotesquely, but they have a leg up over ID in the science game.

  33. Ah, I thought so.
    As you were the first critic I’ve ever seen who was even aware of who Seelke is I figured you had to be that past champion of the ID -is-not-science meme I informed previously about Seelke.
    So, you must really be that patent attorney we met earlier?Welcome back, Olorin.

    Love the footnotes.

  34. Some responses to Pantalaimon:

    One may think he has learned some biology without evolution, but it then becomes, in Lord Kelvin’s sarcastic words, merely “butterfly collecting,” without any deeper understanding for future situations in which we need to know what new developments may—or may not—be reasonable or plausible.

    Phillip Skell would disagree.

    he only significant reason people reject evolution is possible conflict with their religious faith.

    Previously refuted.

    Science is called “naturalistic” or “materialistic.” I’ve argued elsewhere that these terms are only a surrogate: science is a search for “dependable regularity.” …. Science of any kind does not—or should not—arrogate to itself any understanding beyond that. But it must and should pursue that form of understanding to the ultima thule.

    Good statement; I wish more scientists viewed it in just that way.

    The least vague of these is “The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.”

    That’s distorted. I think ID has work to do in describing its research problems, but there are many that are less vague than this! Statements regarding IC, for example, may be controversial, they may even be wrong, but they’re certainly more concrete than this!

    Even if ID knew what kind of evidence might confirm or falsify its vacuous theory, no ID proponents have yet pursued any original research to support it.

    Demonstrably false.

    As a theory, ID is a science-stopper, as I have argued previously. It halts at detecting design. No further explanation is necessary or even possible under its aegis.

    It’s also a science starter, if for example one looks to design in nature as an organizing principle for investigations.

    they have not, in the past couple of years at least, submitted anything to refereed mainstream journals.

    Why bother? Who would even look at it?

    Michael Behe airily dismissed as not relevant a stack of 58 literature publications directly in his field and controverting his chief contention.

    Distorted and out of context. Not relevant to what, in what sense?

    However, your summary dismissal of my quotations about lack of science in ID as mere “quote mining” is several elevator stops beneath you. Merely tarring the quotations with a label, and expressing high dudgeon that I might expect you to adduce any evidence to the contrary if you disagree, is a tactic usually found only at the Discovery Institute.

    It was a long series of quotes taken out of context, distorting and misrepresenting the sources. I responded not by digging out each source document as you quite outrageously expected me to do, but with an overall response based on a fully rounded view of ID. On the full context, the quotes you gave gave a rather distorted, one-sided impression. Now, do I have the wrong definition of quote-mining when I apply it here?.

    The Discovery Institute continually asserts, when challenged on a particular point, that the challenger “does not understand” ID. Yet, looking at these challenges, I have seen only bare assertions.

    I won’t speak for the DI but for Thinking Christian. Every time I’ve challenged misunderstandings and misrepresentations of ID I have explained the misunderstanding. Or at least almost every time. It gets very repetitive.

    I have a continual problem with you and Tom making bare accusations of utterly unsupportable claims, and then dismissing my documentation of those claims without the slightest effort at refutation.

    Not the slightest effort at refutation? I hope this is hyperbole just for rhetorical effect. Even if it is, it’s so far out of reach of the truth that I’m stunned.

    If you read The Golden Compass (as opposed to merely seeing the movie), you will remember that science was called “natural theology,” and physicists were “experimental theologians.” That is, science and religion were conflated—although not to the point of eliminating friction. Every scientific expedition had to include a representative of the Church, who dealt with any discovery that might contradict doctrine. That is scary.

    Biology has been tied now to the church of materialism. That is scary.

    Now, I recognize I’ve been terse here, and I haven’t backed up every statement. You say I’ve never backed up any assertion. The fact is I’ve written support of these things often in the past, and some of it in just the past few days. I don’t think backing it up again is going to do any more good this time, at last not for Pantalaimon’s/Olorin’s satisfaction.

  35. This thread seems to have wound all the way down, with Tom still chasing the leprechaun of intelligent design, and Mike manning the bunker of mainstream biology. My thought was that, although you can shed the scientific evidence of evolution so facilely, you might be impressed by what ID proponents say of themselves. Apparently not.

    You might consider, however, that you and almost all of the public who dismiss established evidence for evolution, or who espy distant glimmers of evidence for ID, are no more qualified to judge the weight of the scientific evidence pro or con than Richard Dawkins is qualified to pontificate upon the nature of the Trinity.

    There comes a time when all of us take the informed opinion of experts. Please wrap yourself in the following fable emotionally, so that you feel it up close and personal. You have been diagnosed with a potentially fatal cancer. One surgeon after another tells you that, although they have not seen that exact type of tumor before, they think they can excise it with techniques that have proved successful many times in the past. There’s be a small chance, however, that they might fail. The cost will strain your pocketbook..

    Then a fellow church member, a chiropractor, hears of your problem, and claims that he can cure you without any surgery at all, that surgeons are trying to protect their cushy lifestyles. Although he has never tried his new procedure before, he is willing to give you a 100% guarantee of a complete cure. And he’ll do it for free! The question of course, is whether you’d trust your life to the expensive mainstream surgeon who promises only contingent success, or to the boundless confidence of the free renegade chiropractor. Please consider this analogy seriously before you attempt to differentiate the American College of Surgeons from evolutionary scientists, and a lone [1] chiropractor from the Discovery Institute in a way that would allow you to dismiss the chiropractor as a crackpot, while still clinging to intelligent design.

    Why does biology, and evolution in general, spark so much animosity? Physicists know that quantum physics and relativity can’t both be correct, yet their cosmic battle is confined hurling distant thunderbolts of string theory and quantum-loop gravity in arcane journals. Despite the claims that science and religion do not conflict, recent evolutionary research is beginning to offer basic insights as to who we are, why we do what we do, and how we got here. In the past these questions have been the sole province of religion. In my opinion, this inherent conflict will never go away. [2]

    Why is this important? Although both religion and science are powerful forces in America, we seem to be in no danger of losing any religious leadership to Asia. While the US is still the destination of choice for the world’s STEM graduate students, recently more of them are returning to their own countries after obtaining advanced degrees. And even the preeminence of American education is being attacked. Nankai University (who???) in China has recently hired 200 faculty from “top-tier institutions, including Yale University, Cornell University, and the University of Oxford” as department heads and senior faculty. [3] No, I don’t link this exodus to ID. However, it does point up the importance of not wasting time and effort on voodoo science that leads nowhere.

    ID will never achieve its goal of slaying “naturalistic” [4] science in general or Darwinian evolution in particular. But the DI may well succeed in driving it to Asia. In addition to the obvious loss of leadership and economic benefits, you, as a philosopher, should care about the resulting loss of political control over the directions that this research may pursue, and the uses to which it may be put.

    Please think about it.

    [1] Robert Parks, a physics professor at U. Maryland, public-information director for the American Physical Society, and author of Voodoo Science (Oxford, 2002) lists the signs of crackpot science as:

    1. The discoverer pitches the claim directly to the media , avoiding peers..
    2. The discoverer says that a powerful establishment is trying to suppress his work.
    3. The scientific effect involved is at the very limit of detection.
    4. Evidence for a discovery is anecdotal.
    5. The discoverer says a belief is credible because it has endured for centuries.
    6. The discoverer has worked in isolation.
    7. The discoverer must propose new laws of nature to explain observations.

    Lest you believe that Parks had ID specifically in mind, his motivation was to “help federal judges detect scientific nonsense. But as I finished the list, I realized that in our increasingly technological society, spotting voodoo science is a skill that every citizen should develop.” The full article, from The Chronicle of Higher Education, is worth a perusal at

    [2] In my opinion, science will ultimately “explain” religion. Curiously, this prospect does not seem to bother my own religious faith.

    [3] “Gunning for the Ivy League,” Science, 319:148-151 (11 Jan. 2008)

    [4] Thank you for inspiring the concept of “naturalism” in science as a surrogate for “dependable regularity.” Conflicting views often produce more insights than do discussions where everyone agrees.

    ***This comment is guaranteed to contain fewer than five links***

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