keep your science off my children!
May 25, 2005 7:20 PM   Subscribe

Why "Intelligent Design" Isn't. The New Yorker takes an informative look at the "factual" basis for so-called "Intelligent Design" theory, while an all too infrequent victory is won in Georgia.
posted by scrim (196 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Do you mean to tell me there isn't a giant invisible wizard who made everything? Well, I guess someone doesn't want to join me in giant invisible wizard land, where everything is fun and I live with Grampy.
posted by paul_smatatoes at 7:27 PM on May 25, 2005 [1 favorite]


For those interested in further information on the issue, check out the Talk Origins website. A wealth of interesting information.
posted by extrabox at 7:53 PM on May 25, 2005


Very good article. Thank you.
posted by yhbc at 7:54 PM on May 25, 2005


15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense
posted by caddis at 7:58 PM on May 25, 2005


I think, perhaps, you made an error in your post title, it should read:
Keep your "science" off my children.
posted by R. Mutt at 7:59 PM on May 25, 2005


Richard Dawkins also has a recent diatriabe on IDers and creationism in the London Times:

My favorite part?

The creationists’ fondness for “gaps” in the fossil record is a metaphor for their love of gaps in knowledge generally. Gaps, by default, are filled by God. You don’t know how the nerve impulse works? Good! You don’t understand how memories are laid down in the brain? Excellent! Is photosynthesis a bafflingly complex process? Wonderful! Please don’t go to work on the problem, just give up, and appeal to God. Dear scientist, don’t work on your mysteries. Bring us your mysteries for we can use them. Don’t squander precious ignorance by researching it away. Ignorance is God’s gift to Kansas.

Man oh man do I love RD.
posted by mowglisambo at 8:02 PM on May 25, 2005


New Yorker Response

Evolutionism Stickers

caddis

15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense

15 Reponses to SciAm Nonsense
posted by bevets at 8:05 PM on May 25, 2005


Bevets! Are you looking forward to giant invisible wizard land or what? See you there, homes.
posted by paul_smatatoes at 8:13 PM on May 25, 2005


gosh, but intelligent design just feels soo good.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 8:13 PM on May 25, 2005


From caddis' post:

"6. If humans descended from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?

This surprisingly common argument reflects several levels of ignorance about evolution. The first mistake is that evolution does not teach that humans descended from monkeys; it states that both have a common ancestor.

The deeper error is that this objection is tantamount to asking, "If children descended from adults, why are there still adults?" New species evolve by splintering off from established ones, when populations of organisms become isolated from the main branch of their family and acquire sufficient differences to remain forever distinct. The parent species may survive indefinitely thereafter, or it may become extinct. "


As someone with a degree in human paleontology, I have to point out that it's apes with which humans share the last common ancestor, not monkeys. The line that produced apes diverged from monkey ancestors roughly 15 million years ago; the divergence between hominin ancestors and the ancestors of chimpanzees was some 6 to 7 million years ago. Genetically and physiologically, there's a significant difference between apes and monkeys.
posted by fossil_human at 8:16 PM on May 25, 2005


Evolutionism Stickers

Wow. Fundy wingnut "humor" is apparently a lot like fundy wingnut "science".
posted by Armitage Shanks at 8:16 PM on May 25, 2005


...students will be made aware of gaps/problems in Darwin’s theory...

As they always have been no? When I learned about evolution in school it wasn't presented as a completely infallible theory but rather one that continues to, well, evolve as it were. Any holes it had were readily presented and discussed.

Behe and his followers now emphasize that, while irreducibly complex systems can in principle evolve, biologists can’t reconstruct in convincing detail just how any such system did evolve.

Ask one side to provide "convincing evidence" but fail to present your own...

In the end, it’s hard to view intelligent design as a coherent movement in any but a political sense.

And what is the ultimate political objective? When will this sort of thing invade arts studies and destroy the concept of a metaphor because there are some who read a certain book (or books) of certain importance to certain groups as fiction rather than fact? Walking on water is not a literal thing. It means much more as a metaphor or symbol.

In the nearly ten years since the publication of Behe’s book, by contrast, I.D. has inspired no nontrivial experiments and has provided no surprising insights into biology.

Indeed. How could it?

Biologists aren’t alarmed by intelligent design’s arrival in Dover and elsewhere because they have all sworn allegiance to atheistic materialism; they’re alarmed because intelligent design is junk science.

Exactly.

They should make the Babel Fish sequence from Hitchhiker's mandatory as well.

Summon Bevets... but of course.
posted by juiceCake at 8:18 PM on May 25, 2005


oh but I just have to post this: the Jesus Nebula. sorry, carry on.
posted by dhruva at 8:21 PM on May 25, 2005


OK, this works. Bevets was here for the seventh comment, a much better mark than the last time. My question is, is this thread a bimonthly feature now? Because I would be surprised to find any different argument or to notice someone has seem the light and changed sides.
posted by nkyad at 8:29 PM on May 25, 2005


mowglisambo, I don't often archive stuff from the internet on my hard drive but that article is archival quality. Thank you.
posted by fleetmouse at 8:30 PM on May 25, 2005


Great post. We just don't talk about this nearly enough on Metafilter.
posted by brownpau at 8:30 PM on May 25, 2005


About those stickers, if this madness ever reach my country I think I will form a parent group to demand stickers in all Physics textbooks:
a) “This textbook contains material on Gravity. Gravity is a theory, not a fact, regarding the attraction among bodies. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.”
b)“This textbook contains material on Time. Time is an illusion, lunchtime doubly so. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.”
c)“This textbook contains material on Quantum Mechanics. Quantum Mechanics is a theory, not a fact, regarding invisible particles nobody has ever seen doing things no one in his right mind would believe. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.”
posted by nkyad at 8:38 PM on May 25, 2005


Might contain peanuts.
posted by Krrrlson at 8:41 PM on May 25, 2005


Great post. We just don't talk about this nearly enough on Metafilter.

These things evolve, you know.
posted by juiceCake at 8:42 PM on May 25, 2005


We have to keep bevets involved somehow.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 8:48 PM on May 25, 2005


I read this article the other day in print. I think it's disjointed and a little aimless, particularly by New Yorker standards. It's similar to their bio pieces' meandering non-linear discussion. Given the subject, I don't think it's appropriate. They discuss "specified complexity", chat about "N.F.L" for a bit, and then 5 paragraphs after we started to read about Dembski's notions, Mr. Orr writes "Dembski’s mathematical claims about design and Darwin are almost entirely beside the point."

The whole article was a funny combination - discussing the hard questions where ID asserts itself, slighting the movement as a whole ("Why intelligent design isn't"), and not addressing the current ID movement's connection to the "watchmaker analogy" first used by William Paley in 1802. Maybe I'm foolish, but I'd like people to be able to make up their own minds. I would allow ID to be mentioned in the classroom, along with a discussion of arguments from ignorance, the scientific method, etc.. A student is unlikely to discover ID in a proper frame of reference, the classroom might be the best place for it's introduction.

If the New Yorker (my favorite magazine) is going to publish polemics, I'd expect they be well written.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 9:02 PM on May 25, 2005


my favorite refute of ID has got to be the nerve in a giraffe that does a couple loops-de-loops and is about 4x longer than it needs to be. Happened by random mutation and didn't hurt anything so it stuck around. Would never have been designed that way.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 9:03 PM on May 25, 2005


More Fun Stickers
posted by obloquy at 9:08 PM on May 25, 2005


Jack Karaoke

I would allow ID to be mentioned in the classroom, along with a discussion of arguments from ignorance

Tryptophan-5ht

my favorite refute of ID has got to be the nerve in a giraffe that does a couple loops-de-loops and is about 4x longer than it needs to be. Happened by random mutation and didn't hurt anything so it stuck around. Would never have been designed that way.

Tryptophan-5ht, meet Jack Karaoke
posted by bevets at 9:09 PM on May 25, 2005


Jack Karaoke writes "Maybe I'm foolish, but I'd like people to be able to make up their own minds."

We make science by voting about it now? Going about asking the priests, the farmers and the senators what they thing about the string theory as a step in the direction of the Grand Unification and then letting them "make up their own minds"? We stopped teaching people about the flat earth, about the ether, about the Sun circling the Earth because we thought we had something better to teach. But then I think you want those back, too, so people can "make up their minds", right?
posted by nkyad at 9:10 PM on May 25, 2005


That New Yorker piece will go a long ways towards convincing all those fundamentalist who read the New Yorker to alter their beliefs.

Oh, wait...
posted by LarryC at 9:25 PM on May 25, 2005


my favorite refute of ID has got to be the nerve in a giraffe that does a couple loops-de-loops and is about 4x longer than it needs to be. Happened by random mutation and didn't hurt anything so it stuck around. Would never have been designed that way.

Ever read the Bible's Book of Job?
posted by davy at 9:41 PM on May 25, 2005


Oh, how I wish we lived in a world where science and voting could be seperated. This development in the UK has me a bit nervous, just because there aren't even any glaring 'moral issues' like some people have with embryonic stem cells. I understand that the government is mainly trying to communicate with the public and head off PR problems, but still... someday we voting citizens are just going to have to accept that many scientific issues are just too complex to be explored by any non-scientist.
posted by spooman at 9:42 PM on May 25, 2005


Bevets - because I was bored, I read the "15 Reponses to SciAm Nonsense". It was a bit of a trial, because it was astonishingly boring and poorly written, spending literally pages and pages and pages on largely irrelevant trivialities like the proper definitions of "fact" and "theory". But it was worth it for the amusement value when I got to the laughable basic misunderstandings of thermodynamics, genetics, biology, the scientific method, and, of course, evolutionary theory. Some choice quotes:

"In evolution, one species (or a portion of it) allegedly turns into a second, better-adapted species through mutation and natural selection. However, in the context of human reproduction, I do not turn into my children; I continue on as a totally independent entity."

This was from a serious attempt to explain why a species cannot possibly exist at the same time as another species it evolved from; apparently, evolution states that the old species MAGICALLY TRANSFORMS into the new one.

Oh, unless they don't, since the next argument, mutually exclusive with that one, states:

"Furthermore, in evolution, a certain portion of a species turns into a more advanced species because that portion of the species allegedly possesses certain favorable mutations ... Thus the newer, more advanced group comes into direct competition with the older unchanged group and eventually eliminates it through death."

Right. Because the new species must be in direct competition with the old one - even if the change is that, say, it eats a completely different kind of food - and will of course completely eliminate the old one in all situations with no possibility of survival even on a remote island where the new species doesn't exist. For some reason.

Also -

"... cells do not arise from amorphous matter, but instead come only from preexisting cells."

Not that it matters, since we're talking about things far less complex than cells at the beginning. Which brings us to:

"Thus ordinary amino acids and nucleotides will not spontaneously form proteins and nucleic acids at any temperature."

Never never never! As everyone knows, complex, ordered forms never occur spontaneously in nature! Except when they do. Which is often. But it must be true, because we say it is!

"Mutations do not result in new information!"

Again, because we say so! Even though they can and do, and have been observed to do so, we say they can't and don't, because they shouldn't!

Seriously. What a load of garbage.
posted by kyrademon at 9:43 PM on May 25, 2005


Great links, thanks.
posted by dead_ at 9:49 PM on May 25, 2005


(I'll be more specific later if anyone cares.)
posted by kyrademon at 9:53 PM on May 25, 2005


Metafilter: Ignorance is God’s gift to Kansas
posted by mai at 9:57 PM on May 25, 2005


Kyrademon: Yes, please.

And as a sidenote, are there any Christians out here who also support non-ID evolution? If so, how? I've thought about it (for a full five minutes) and can't reconcile the two. At all. Unless one uses the old "moves in mysterious ways" argument.
posted by Panfilo at 10:05 PM on May 25, 2005


"are there any Christians out here who also support non-ID evolution?"

Neither Catholics nor Jews nor most non-fundamentalist Protestants have any doctrinal reasons not too. It's Biblical literalists that can't cope. (Yes, I know they're very selective about which bits they take literally). See also. But yeah, moving in mysterious ways pretty much sums up how He does it as far as reconciliation with the Bible goes. Unless you're poor old Gosse.

"Never was a book cast upon the waters with greater anticipation of success than was this curious, this obstinate, this fanatical volume," writes the younger Gosse in his book Father and Son. ". . . He offered it, with a glowing gesture, to atheists and Christians alike. . . . But, alas! atheists and Christians alike looked at it and laughed, and threw it away . . . even Charles Kingsley, from whom my father had expected the most instant appreciation, wrote that he could not . . . 'believe that God has written on the rocks one enormous and superfluous lie.' . . . a gloom, cold and dismal, descended upon our morning tea cups"

You all keep up with The Panda's Thumb, don't you?
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:39 PM on May 25, 2005


What bothers me about some level of the "intelligent design" arguments (you know, aside from my intelligently designed tonsils, which I had to have out), and about the memes of conservative Christianity, is the abdication of nature and by extension, humanity.
When it is argued that due to whatever reason, life cannot exist without God, and more specifically that people cannot have evolved without God, I feel like there's a denial of autonomy and independence at the core.
Of all impulses, this absolute determinism scares me perhaps the most. At least social determinism leaves me feeling that the structures in which humanity operates are complex enough that there is a navigational freedom, but if God determines everything, than I really don't have any responsibility, do I? Yes, yes, free will and all, but by putting the responsibility for every cell purely on God, I feel like something very human has been lost.
At the very least, our ability to understand ourselves is compromised. God is, if you buy the banquet, ultimately unknowable.
Anyway, there is such an inherent appeal to authority contained within the arguments of "intelligent design" that I fear for its adherents and proponents. If God fills in all the blanks, who are we to question God?
Further, to take a bit of political theory into it, Arendt's thesis on totalitarianism seems to connect. These aren't Augustinian arguments, where the City of God is separate from the City of Man, but rather this is an ideology with no distance between God and existence. That, combined with the anti-modernism and anti-materialism bent of the writing, and that these are popular movements, makes me wonder just what has to be done to get people to question these assumptions. Maybe Plath was right about the affection and the boot, but was too gender-specific. Maybe everyone loves a fascist.
Anyway, I'll stop bogarting the thread. Gotta let Bevets back in so that he can respond with out-of-context quotes, just like that SciAm article said he would.
posted by klangklangston at 10:42 PM on May 25, 2005


Panfilo writes "And as a sidenote, are there any Christians out here who also support non-ID evolution?"

Plenty - not myself (agnostic), but most of Christians in my circle, including my Episcopal priest father, don't take a great deal of the Bible literally. Heck, even the must fundamental fundies would have a hard time adhering to each dictate in the books (polyester bad, slavery good). Even when I believed in the Bible, I felt that much of its message came through metaphor rather than exact reporting. I mean, what is a "day" to God? And why quibble over the eons when we're doing such a bad job with the Golden Rule, which would seem more important in the grand scheme of things? But then I was never raised as a strict literalist in any regard.

I hear a lot of despair from my Christian friends that their faith is currently represented, in politics and the media, by one narrowly dogmatic subgroup that, in effect, reduces the often beautiful complexity of faith to blind literalism. There's a good overview of ways groups have reconciled or clashed Christianity and evolution here.
posted by bibliowench at 10:46 PM on May 25, 2005


are there any Christians out here who also support non-ID evolution? If so, how? I've thought about it (for a full five minutes) and can't reconcile the two.

If by "non-ID" you mean a belief other than "God put life on Earth in basically its current form" then there are plenty of ways to reconcile evolution by natural selection and Christianity.

1 - God created the universe and placed the first spark of life in the primordial soup, then walked away, Darwin took over from there. God still has a hand in things, and the "7 days" thing is just a nice story. That helps explain the whole "life is really complex" thing and the whole "there seems to be something about life that is more than just chemistry." We evolved from apes, but God started the ball rolling.

2 - God created the universe and then gently guided evolution. As in "random mutations" that lead to evolution aren't so random. That's actually reasonably consistent with almsot a quantum-mechanics view -- it's impossible to know whether a given X-ray will mutate a given strand of DNA and God just gets to pick when a mutuation happens. Creatures still live and die independently, sexual selection happens, and evolution by natural selection happens. We evolved from apes, but God gave us a loving push along the way.

Do I believe in either of the above? Nope. Not a bit.

But they are consistent with both Christianity and evolution.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 10:49 PM on May 25, 2005


Or see bibliowench's very long but interesting article.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 10:49 PM on May 25, 2005


The question I have for the ID'ers is, "Why do men have nipples?"
posted by Balisong at 10:53 PM on May 25, 2005


And really, evolutionists, too.
posted by Balisong at 10:58 PM on May 25, 2005


And really, people riding the bus with me.
posted by klangklangston at 11:18 PM on May 25, 2005


...
posted by Galvatron at 11:19 PM on May 25, 2005


Balisong, the current popular theory is that since the differentiation between men and women doesn't occur until slightly later on in the womb, and that because women need nipples in order to suckle, that men get them as a kind of by-product.

Same theory goes on to state that the same is true of the female orgasm. This may or may not be found popular.
posted by 5MeoCMP at 11:26 PM on May 25, 2005


"Plenty...of Christians...don't take a great deal of the Bible literally". And this, at the core, strikes me as a problem. The only way I could make Christianity work for me is to be a zealous fundamentalist. I wouldn't be comfortable with the "I believe in the Bible, but not really"-stance. So Genesis is optional, or at least open to interpretation. What about the Virgin birth? Is it also a metaphor? If you don't believe in it, what is then the freaking point? I might as well form a social club that loosely interprets Dutch folktales to give us meaning and hope, and then petition lawmakers to make my interpretations of science (based on my folktale studies) be taught in schools. It seems kooky. Now if God appears at my doorstep and tells me differently, I'll obviously have to re-think it.
posted by Panfilo at 11:27 PM on May 25, 2005


balisong,

as it was explained to me, men have nipples because after conception we develop into females before developing male sex organs and birthing as males. certain female characteristics just don't go away.
posted by Ziggy Zaga at 11:28 PM on May 25, 2005


well, this Designer can't be too intelligent. after all He created us!
posted by muppetboy at 11:30 PM on May 25, 2005


If you don't believe in it, what is then the freaking point? I might as well form a social club that loosely interprets Dutch folktales to give us meaning and hope...

Again, I don't subscribe to this idea... but as an outsider one explanation that has been given to me is that the Bible is not God's word directly on paper, but rather God's word filtered through a bunch of apostles who may or may not have understood it all, later translated into English by people who might not have understood it all. If you'd tried to explain evolution through natural selection based on inhereted DNA to somebody back at the time the Bible was put on paper then they'd look at you funny and everytime God said "DNA" it would become "a rib" on paper.

The whole "it's not directly God, rather we have to interpret people who were trying to interpret God" angle gives a whole lot of flexibility in interpretation of "what they really meant was..."
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 11:34 PM on May 25, 2005


"If you don't believe in it, what is then the freaking point? I might as well form a social club that loosely interprets Dutch folktales to give us meaning and hope, and then petition lawmakers to make my interpretations of science (based on my folktale studies) be taught in schools."

personally, i think the point isn't and never was that religion relays this kind of literal truth (how things work or why we are here). it is and always has been a source of stories and metaphors to give people perspective and hope and help us to live our lives better. "interpreting" them as literal truth is insane as far as i'm concerned.

the difference between dutch folktales and religious texts is that the former would have to be made with a rich and meaningful spiritual interpretation in mind. the stories that make up our religious texts were carefully and deliberately constructed /for interpretation/. if those dutch folktales have this kind of core to them, then yes you could base a religion on them.

"It seems kooky."

and your argument is what exactly? that people aren't kooky? ;-)
posted by muppetboy at 11:46 PM on May 25, 2005


Well, since I was asked . . . here’s my attempt of a quick summary of the excuciatingly long article bevets linked to, and what’s wrong with it. The article in question is an attempt at a rebuttal of the famous Scientific American “15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense” article linked to by caddis.

Point 1 – theory vs. fact

We begin with an incredibly long, tedious, and almost painfully irrelevant discussion of the various semantic definitions of “theory” and “fact” as they have been used in scientific circles. When I was just about convinced that they had missed the point entirely, they finally presented a relevant idea – that, since certain specific mechanisms of evolution are disputed among scientists or have a dearth of evidence, then evolution cannot reasonably be considered a “fact”.

This is supported by the usual barrage of meaningless quotes; I do not understand why so many creationists think that quoting someone saying “Support for the theory of evolution is weak!” constitutes evidence that support for evolution is weak, rather than what it actually is – evidence that this particular person believes it to be weak. And there is, as usual, a complete lack of any real evidence for a differing theory.

Nonetheless, this is a fair point, since it is arguable that “facts” should be relatively undisputed by experts in the field, so that, until more evidence is in the disputed areas should probably not be considered “facts”. However, they utterly fail to explain why this means that evolution is wrong, rather than meaning more data is required to iron out the details, or why, if this is the case, the best alternative theory around must be one supported mostly by poorly translated, selectively edited, and literally interpreted tribal legends.

Point 2 – natural selection “tautology”

This section makes much of the fact that “survival of the fittest” does not explain how the “fittest” appeared in the first place – merely why they survive and thrive. It fails to explain why anyone should care, since natural selection is not and never was considered to be the mechanism by which new species are generated, making this whole section pretty much meaningless.

Point 3 – evolution’s testability

Another tediously long section. This one attempts to make the point that it is not the data that is in dispute, it is the interpretation of such. Starts with the much-believed lie that no one has ever observed macroevolution in action (incidentally, there have been about twenty new species of plants which have demonstrably appeared in my lifetime.) Then it launches into a long disquisition on minor discoveries in which the interpretation appears to have been altered to fit the currently held notions of evolution, rather than the details of evolution being adjusted to fit the data. Probably a fair criticism of an occasional stumbling block for scientific advancement, but the only evidence presented for creationism here is that, faced with the complexity of the universe, the idea of creationism is “attractive”. Um . . .

Point 4 – doubt of evolution

More meaningly quotes! This time mostly from scientists who believe in god. No actual evidence for any god presented.

Point 5 – dispute among scientists

This is an amusing section.

First it claims that creationists do not use disputes among scientists to claim that evolution is false – this is a strawman argument!

Then . . . it uses disputes among scientists to claim that evolution is false. Immediately after.

Then it claims that creationists do not selectively quote (and misquote) scientists out of context to prove their points.

As evidence, it uses an important misquote of a scientist used by creationists. But, you see, it’s OK, because the misquote didn’t *originate* with the creationists – it was a typo, and they just didn’t bother to check it even though it made no sense and directly contradicted that scientist’s other works. So, they’re . . . off the hook?

Then, it looks at the specific accusation that Stephen J. Gould in particular has been quoted out of context to provide support for creationism. Nonsense, it says – everyone knows Stephen J. Gould wasn’t a creationist!

Then it quotes Stephen J. Gould out of context to provide support for creationism.

Wow.

More in a bit.
posted by kyrademon at 11:50 PM on May 25, 2005


"but if God determines everything, than I really don't have any responsibility, do I?"

a friend of mine once said "i tried believing in determinism, but it made me lazy."
posted by muppetboy at 11:51 PM on May 25, 2005


kyrademon, is there really any point in discussing ID in the first place? what about ID makes it a testable scientific theory? and why should anyone take it seriously if it isn't testable?
posted by muppetboy at 11:59 PM on May 25, 2005


here's another way to put it:

can anyone state the testable ID theory on its own and /without/ referencing other theories? evolution does not reference the bible or ID theory? why? because it is an actual scientific theory. so what exactly is ID theory and how do we test it? i have yet to hear any explanation of it that makes any sense at all. unless you take the bible or the existence of god as an axiom. in which case, haven't you just assumed your conclusion and demonstrated nothing?
posted by muppetboy at 12:03 AM on May 26, 2005


ugh. i hate that i can't edit posts... ;-)

"evolution does not reference the bible or ID theory?"

was supposed to be a statement

"evolution does not reference the bible or ID theory."
posted by muppetboy at 12:04 AM on May 26, 2005


muppetboy - no, there's no point at all. But I'm bored and can't sleep. So:

Point 6 – If humans are descended from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?

One of my favorite sections. I went into this fully expecting them, in my naivete, to denounce this as a strawman argument that thoughtful creationsists don’t really use. Imagine my surprise when they spend this section seriously attempting to PROVE THAT IF ONE SPECIES IS DESCENDED FROM ANOTHER, THEN THE FIRST SPECIES CAN NO LONGER EXIST. This is the section, about a bazillion pages in, where they actually start to demonstrate how crazy they really are.

It starts with an innocuous but pointless tirade about how even if humans and monkeys are actually descended from a common ancestor, it’s still reasonably to call that ancestor a monkey. Whatever. Then they get *weird*. They use the quotes I made earlier (which they call “absolutely correct”) to attempt to demonstrate that evolution somehow states that a species must either completely transform (somehow) into a new species, or utterly destroy the old one (somehow defying even geographical separation, not to mention all logic and reason, to achieve this.) Again, wow.

Section 7 – The origins of life

This section misinterpret biogenesis (the idea that biological beings are born from other biological beings, rather than rats spontaneously generating in the grain silo) to mean that, somehow, there is a proven and unbreachable wall between nonliving things and living things, and that therefore there is no way a living thing can possibly have been at some point solely made from the nonliving parts it is actually made of. No proof, evidence, or even explanation is offered as to why this should be so.

Section 8 – Mathematical chance

Attemps to demonstrate, again with quotes rather than actual evidence, that the chances of proteins organizing on their own is mathematically impossible. No mention is made of the contradiction between the last section (it’s completely impossible!) and this one (it’s really really unlikely!) Demonstrates an utter failure to comprehend the physics of self-organizing systems. Also fails to understand the difference between an undirected process and an unorganized process (e.g. crystal formation – undirected by organized.) Therefore claims that any organization at all, apparently down to the level of what molecules stick to what other molecules, must be determined by some outside force. Derides idea that this can occur naturally as nonsensical. Offers no explanation as to why.

More in a bit.
posted by kyrademon at 12:11 AM on May 26, 2005


re: nkyad: "Make up their own minds" was poor phrasing. Scientists are still addressing Irreducable Complexity, and so there is a point where our theories are still being formed. I have a bad gut reaction to not being allowed to mention the ID hypothesis. It would be presented with (from wikipedia):
* Intelligent Design, the argument that irreducible complexity occurs through the input of some "intelligent designer". One example of an Intelligent Design theory is Creationism.
* Francis Crick's suggestion that life on Earth may have been seeded by aliens (although it is argued that this begs the question, as it does not say how the alien life arose).
* Stuart Kauffman's complexity theory, which promotes self-organisation as an additional factor in producing the complexity of biological systems and organisms.
* The hypothesis of quantum evolution.


I see it as a thought experiment, nothing more. Placing it alongside alien seeding is hardly flattering. I am no doubt giving the ID people far too much credit, and characterizing the "movement" as something much more benign than it is.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 12:12 AM on May 26, 2005


kyrademon: Well, to be fair, I think that Scientific American falls into the ID trap by conflating two entirely different theories: biological evolution, and theories that attempt to explain how life got here on Earth in the first place.

These are two radically different theories, and largely unrelated to each other. While evolution is the only strongly supported theory for describing the mechanisms that shaped the diversity of life from the archean age to the present, there are multiple theories for explaining how and where the first self-replicating molecular structures came into existence. Perhaps life started in sea, in fresh water, in brine, in mud, in sulfurous vents, from comets, from Mars, from aliens or from god. It does not matter to the status of evolution as a theory. Natrual selection combined with descent with modification works no matter how life got here. It even works for describing the behavior of systems that might not even be called "living."

The ID project in many ways is rather like trying to discredit Ohm's law by pointing out that we don't really know the origin of electrons, or trying to discredit economics by pointing out that we have no idea which human made the first deal. Most electrical engineers don't worry about fundamental physics and cosmology, and most economists don't worry about paleolithic athropology. In most cases, they don't need to. Likewise, the origin of the first cell is a trivial question for most evolutionary biologists. Evolution is sufficient for describing patterns of diversity in diatoms and dinosaurs. And that is all that matters.

In accepting the creationist/ID view that these are related theories, SciAm is making what I think is a big mistake. I'm convinced that good science education demands admitting when there are significant mysteries, (the origin of the first cell is just one), not because they open the door to "god," but because those are the questions that will produce the next Albert Einstein or Marie Curie.

(Speaking of dinosaurs, when I was a kid, it was interesting that birds were the classic, "can't get there from here" argument for god. New Scientist this week reports on finds from a fossil bed in China leading to the description of dozens of feathered dinosaurs leading up to birds.)
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:38 AM on May 26, 2005


muppetboy, the point of going point by point through an IDer's logic is it's fun. I, for one, am enjoying kyrademon's dismantling of the SCIAM critique. I guess I am just a person who appreciates a good idealogical fight. I don't think I'm alone. People like Richard Dawkins are largely preaching to the choir. The people who read his books don't usually do so because they can't make their minds up about evolution. It's just unspeakably satisfying to watch him swipe his opponents, unworthy as some of them are.
posted by mowglisambo at 12:41 AM on May 26, 2005


KirkJobSluder, you're probably right. But, as mowglisambo correctly points out, I'm really just having fun dissecting the arguments they made at the moment, without tackling the rest of the issues involved. But I will say that, even given that SciAm may have made a tactical error trying to tackle the origins of life as well, ID really still doesn't have a leg to stand on, there. They offer no evidence and no credible reasons. Only inaccurate analogy and a truckload of meaningless quotes.

Anyway, to resume:

Point 9 – The Second Law of Thermodynamics

The first half of this section is spent misunderstanding the second law of thermodynamics. After spending many pages establishing that the laws of thermodynamics apply to evolution (duh), it asserts that the second law of thermodynamics states that all natural processes tend towards greater randomness rather than greater organization. They totally miss the point that, within any given process, any number of things can proceed towards greater organization, as long as this results in randomness in general increasing for the universe as a whole. Then it states that evolution is therefore impossible, since it means organization (again missing the point that there’s no problem with organization, as long as something else is thereby rendered even more disorganized, such as the sun losing its heat as it powers the process.) Then, it asserts that the law is true for an open system as well as a closed one (it isn’t.) Then it argues that, if entropy isn’t true for open systems, we wouldn’t see its effects on earth, since all processes here are open (which is utterly ridiculous – everything is effected by entropy; in an open system you may have to look outside the system in question to see the effects, but it’s not like they don’t happen and can’t be seen.)

That utter nonsense out of the way, it proceeds to completely ignore it all and move on to a completely different argument (which is mutually incompatible with all of the above) – that energy alone is insufficient to organize something; there must be some organizing principle at work. Which, again, duh. Apparently, the fact that there are natural organizing principles, such as, well, the second law of thermodynamics, among many others, isn't enough. Why? Because . . . the things in question are really, really complicated. Much more complicated than many things which are obviously self-organizing, such as crystals. The fact that there are many self-organizing things which are equally complicated (weather patterns, for example), is not gone into or explained.

Point 10 – Mutations cannot produce new information

It is asserted that mutations cannot produce new information. No evidence is offered; no reasons are given.

Point 11 – Speciation

The authors state that creationists have no problem with the idea of speciation . . . so long as the new species is like their forebears in all respects except for the ability to reproduce with them, since that’s a “loss of information” rather than a “gain”. Makes much of the irrelevant fact that what constitutes a separate species has a kind of fuzzy definition. Speculates that orginally, say, dogs and hyenas were just part of a kind of uberdog that has devolved through “information loss” into the two separate types. Somehow fails to note that this is an utterly insane idea in light of the fossil record clearly showing a chronological progression from simple species to complex ones rather than the other way around.
posted by kyrademon at 12:53 AM on May 26, 2005


Once upon a time (if the first half of this true faery tale is to be believed). A boy thought, "What would happen if I went faster than the speed of light? Would I catch up with the light bouncing off my body? Would it pile up like waves in front of a fast boat?" The boy never stopped thinking about this problem, and continued to think about it well into manhood. This is at least is the widely repeated story behind the story. Probably a chunk of is was made up after fact, but there probably is a bit of truth to it.

What is known is that 100 years ago, that boy published an amazing paper. Actually he published three, but it's his answer to his childhood question that has been most famous. Would Albert Einstein have gone on to ask some of the more powerful questions in cosmology, and spend his life developing answers, if he had accepted the design argument, "it's so because god made it so?"

As someone who is deeply interested in science education, the ID argument strikes me as dangerous because it seems to be a way to just eliminate what is central to science: questions, curiosity, doubt. We may not know how the bacterial flagellum evolved. But the teenager sitting in a classroom in Kansas, Cobb Co., or Dover, PA may be the person who takes home the Nobel in physiology figuring it out.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:06 AM on May 26, 2005


This is the end of it, folks:

Point 12 – New species

States that the accusation that creationists claim that “no one has ever seen a new species evolve” is a strawman argument, since point 11 clearly states that they have no problem with the idea of new species evolving.

Then they slyly imply that, you know, however, no one *has* ever seen a new species evolve, though, wink wink. (Which is, incidentally, untrue.)

Oy.

Point 13 – Transitional forms

Brings up the fairly ancient tactic that the lack of the discovery of “transitional forms” somehow invalidates evolution. Which it doesn’t, really. And of course, lots of transitional forms have now been discovered. But that doesn’t keep 'em from trotting out the twenty-five year old quotes saying they haven’t!

Point 14 – Complexity

Claims that living organisms are really, really complex. So complex that it is difficult for humans to understand how it is possible for them to be natural occurences. Apparently, once again, the idea that it was done by magic instead is a more “attractive” alternative is sufficient evidence that it is so.

Point 15 – More Complexity

Yep. Really, really complex. Like, if you found something complex in the desert, like a cactus, wouldn’t you assume it had been built by someone? You wouldn’t? It *grew* there? Are you mad?! Things that complex can’t organize themselves spontaneously!

Getting a little tired here . . .

Conclusion –

They will continue to defend the nonexistent evidence they have failed to present in favor of creationism against people who actually like to try to figure out what data means rather than shove it all into a pre-existing structure. They will also continue to project their own shortcomings onto their opponents.
posted by kyrademon at 1:11 AM on May 26, 2005


Thanks kyrademon. I actually loaded that linked page out of umm..I don't know, maybe deference to bevets or the notion of balancing the arguments or something, but I just hadn't brought myself to the point where I actually wanted to look at it. I feel happier now having heard the other side a bit anyway. so I'll kill the other window, rather than engage in masochism Thanks also KJS - natural wonder is the fuel of science indeed.
posted by peacay at 1:34 AM on May 26, 2005


Strange thing. God visited me last night and told me that we secular humanists had it right about evolution, but wrong about gravity. Who knew?
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:38 AM on May 26, 2005


Err, why is it such a big deal if someone is taught ID and creationist stuff. If they continue their studies in science they will inevitably come up to a point zenith, where evidence over-rules lazy thinking. Excuse the sexism, but this event separates the Men from the Boys.

I worked with an ID'er once, a P.hD. student. The funniest thing was a talk she gave about her work, she had to mention evolutionary principles in light of her "real time" results. We all knew she was having difficulty, and soon after she had a religious breakdown. It was not pretty.

I don't mind if 99% of the world believes ID, there have been many examples of huge swathes of people believing stuff that is nonsense, in the pre-Wittgenstein way.

Oh, and where are the Panspermia links?
posted by gsb at 3:19 AM on May 26, 2005


kyrademon - that was a really top piece of work. thanks.
posted by soi-disant at 3:33 AM on May 26, 2005


I have always seen the problem that creationists have with evolution to be not really the fact that mutations happen, or that the actual process of evolution occurs, but rather the timeframe involved in those changes, because it invalidates some of their beliefs. It seems to me that it is the concept that the earth is older than 10,000 years or so that causes the biggest intellectual hurdle for these people.

In some ways, I find it sad, in others, almost funny; it is our modern age's heliocentric argument, with certain religious entities unable to cope with our growing understanding of the world around us.


"But the earth is flat you see? it says so h.........oh ok.
OK, but we ARE the center of the universe? right?.... around the sun you say? IMPOSSIBLE!!........ok darn you got me on that one too.
ok but SURELY this all was just put into place magically some few thousand years ago, I mean -clearly- this is implied in our book..right?.."

Flat Earthists, terracentrics, creationists: same thing, different year.
posted by oneiros at 3:40 AM on May 26, 2005


muppetboy

can anyone state the testable ID theory on its own and /without/ referencing other theories? evolution does not reference the bible or ID theory? why? because it is an actual scientific theory. so what exactly is ID theory and how do we test it? i have yet to hear any explanation of it that makes any sense at all. unless you take the bible or the existence of god as an axiom. in which case, haven't you just assumed your conclusion and demonstrated nothing?

If you happened to be walking by Mount Rushmore one day (and had never heard of the place before) would you assume that this was a result of a billion years of wind and erosion? Why or why not?

Evolution is the best explanation for life given the arbitrary restriction that God MUST NOT be invoked.

thedevildancedlightly

Again, I don't subscribe to this idea... but as an outsider one explanation that has been given to me is that the Bible is not God's word directly on paper, but rather God's word filtered through a bunch of apostles who may or may not have understood it all, later translated into English by people who might not have understood it all. If you'd tried to explain evolution through natural selection based on inhereted DNA to somebody back at the time the Bible was put on paper then they'd look at you funny and everytime God said "DNA" it would become "a rib" on paper.

The whole "it's not directly God, rather we have to interpret people who were trying to interpret God" angle gives a whole lot of flexibility in interpretation of "what they really meant was..."


Such a view is consistent with a willingness to accept evolutionary mythology over divine revelation. It does not represent orthodox Christianity.
posted by bevets at 4:46 AM on May 26, 2005


Metafilter: a result of a billion years of wind and erosion
posted by queen zixi at 4:55 AM on May 26, 2005


If you happened to be walking by Mount Rushmore one day (and had never heard of the place before) would you assume that this was a result of a billion years of wind and erosion? Why or why not?

If I was truly interested in the question, and didn't want to just stand behind the viewing guard rail, I'd do some research. First I might just think about it in a general way and, knowing that human beings have a propensity to create monuments to themselves (because I'd seen a lot of them) I'd hypothesize that it might be man-made. If I could, I'd get right up next to the artifact, where I'd probably notice that it appeared to be carved by hand (in places not yet smoothed by weather), and perhaps find a discarded tool or two, which I would consider to be evidence that it was man-made. Lastly, I'd walk into the visitor's center and pick up one of many books that had pictures of it being carved, which I would consider to be very strong evidence that it was man-made.

Evolution is the best explanation for life given the arbitrary restriction that God MUST NOT be invoked.

Creationism is an explanation for life given from behind the guard rail, arms crossed, refusing to ask questions for fear of the answers.
posted by papercake at 5:36 AM on May 26, 2005


bevets, sorry. Your statement:

Evolution is the best explanation for life given the arbitrary restriction that God MUST NOT be invoked.

This is called a null hypothesis. It is not the basis for any science regarding evolution. I don't know of any scientist whose major motivator is proving that God does not exist. By starting with such a premise one is skewing the results. It's a bit like your comments, you believe in ID or the Creator made all this *stuff* happen. So, it adjusts all your arguments to fit the evidence. OR:

Intelligence Design is the best explanation for life given the arbitrary restriction that Science MUST NOT be invoked.

Is that fair?
posted by gsb at 5:41 AM on May 26, 2005


And, that's what really pisses Creationists off, isn't it bevets? That evolutionists get in there and muck around and "ruin" the beauty and the majesty and the mystery of it all. Life should be simple and elegant, Creationists seem to think. Unfortunately, it's not, and to argue for simplicity in the face of mountains of evidence of complexity is delusion.
posted by papercake at 5:45 AM on May 26, 2005


If you happened to be walking by Mount Rushmore one day (and had never heard of the place before) would you assume that this was a result of a billion years of wind and erosion? Why or why not?

papercake

Lastly, I'd walk into the visitor's center and pick up one of many books that had pictures of it being carved, which I would consider to be very strong evidence that it was man-made.

You cant trust what you read at the visitors center!!! Those stories were obviously written for religious zealots who refuse to ask questions for fear of the answers.
posted by bevets at 5:46 AM on May 26, 2005


"We have to keep bevets involved somehow."

Yeah, he seems to be involved, he just doesn't seem to evolve. Maybe he was IDeed this way.
posted by acrobat at 5:51 AM on May 26, 2005


So bevets, going to disagree with kyrademon or going to chase after the joke instead?

Thought so.
posted by longbaugh at 5:58 AM on May 26, 2005


bevets -

If you happened to be walking by the Great Stone Face in New Hampshire one day when it was still around (and had never heard of the place before) would you assume that it had been carved by a human hand? Why or why not?

When you come across a tree, do you assume that it grew there or that someone built it? Why or why not?

Do you believe that mineral crystals require forces outside of natural ones to organize themselves into complex yet orderly patterns? How about cloud formations? Weather patterns? Flocks of birds?

Does the fact that natural objects can spontaneously align themselves into complex orderly patterns imply to you that the "complexity" objection of ID is a matter of degree (quantity) rather than possibility (quality)? Do you believe that the fact that humans design things implies that all things must have been designed by someone?

If you agree, as most creationists do, that "microevolution" does happen on scales visible in a human lifetime, how is it possible for the accumulated changes of "microevolution" over billions of years *not to* result in macroevolution? Do you believe the universe is significantly younger than billions of years old? If so, why is the light from stars billions of light-years distant now reaching us? Do you disagree with relativity? If so, how do you account for its predictive successes? Or, if alternately, you believe a god put the light in the appropriate place upon creation, and similarly monkeyed with geology and the fossil record, then why would a god deliberately make the universe seem much older than it is?

The originators of ID posited nothing remotely like the creation story described in Genesis. Do you disagree with them because of this?

What solid evidence can you offer that the creation story you prefer is more valid than any of the numerous others? How do you explain the fact that it seems to be repeatedly and consistently contradicted by the findings of geology, astronomy, and paleontology? Why does the fossil record seem to show a clear chronological path from simple creatures to more complex ones?

Do you believe the Bible is literally true? If so, how do you explain the fact that it demonstrably miscalculates the value of pi? That it offers two, mutually exclusive accounts in several places, including Noah's Ark and creation itself?

If you bother to answer this, I would prefer you mostly use your own words rather than quotes, since they are almost all questions about your personal thoughts on the matter.
posted by kyrademon at 5:59 AM on May 26, 2005


Tom the Dancing Bug touches on the subject.
posted by infravires at 6:07 AM on May 26, 2005


And as a sidenote, are there any Christians out here who also support non-ID evolution? If so, how? I've thought about it (for a full five minutes) and can't reconcile the two. At all. Unless one uses the old "moves in mysterious ways" argument.
posted by Panfilo at 10:05 PM PST on May 25 [!]


I think that as long as the current explanation for the origin of the Cosmos (Big Bang) accepts the idea of a "singularity", God will always seem to be behind it. Also, it is possible to accept both scientific truth and spiritual truth. The first useful to the species, the latter to the individual.
posted by acrobat at 6:17 AM on May 26, 2005


If you happened to be walking by Mount Rushmore one day (and had never heard of the place before) would you assume that this was a result of a billion years of wind and erosion? Why or why not?

papercake

First I might just think about it in a general way and, knowing that human beings have a propensity to create monuments to themselves (because I'd seen a lot of them) I'd hypothesize that it might be man-made.

Do you think no one sees through your ploy? I asked a scientific question, and you have changed the topic to religion.

kyrademon

What solid evidence can you offer that the creation story you prefer is more valid than any of the numerous others?

Matthew 19.4 "Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' 5 and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'?"

Matthew 23.35 And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.

Luke 17.26 "Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. 27 People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all."
posted by bevets at 6:19 AM on May 26, 2005


Hmm. Well, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you're composing answers to at least some of my other twenty-two questions. I rather wish you'd heeded my request not to quote on this one, too, though, since, as I feared, it made your answer rather obscure and incomprehensible. Seriously - I'm not sure what the murder of Zechariah son of Berekiah has to do with the validity of the creation story you prefer.

I *think*, although I'm not sure, that you are asserting that the story is true because it says so in a book. Since there are other books which say different things, I can't see how this, in and of itself without additional support, demonstrates that yours is any more valid than any other. Please feel free to correct me if I have misinterpreted you.

Incidentally, really not sure what your objection to papercake's posts are - it seemed a fair enough answer to the question you asked.
posted by kyrademon at 6:34 AM on May 26, 2005


If I.D. is such a crock, what's the probably with spending half a class talking about what I.D.'s believe and why they're wrong?

There's no need to banish this idea from the classroom, especially if it doesn't pose a threat to your own, superior view.

I'd love to see someone named Scopes try to talk about I.D. in school--we'd probably have the same trial with full support of the same evolutionists who thought Inherit the Wind was ridiculous.
posted by null terminated at 6:35 AM on May 26, 2005


*probably = problem (arrgh)
posted by null terminated at 6:36 AM on May 26, 2005


Perhaps some of us are a little dubious that the proponents of ID are really aiming for half a class' worth of vigorous and informed discussion analyzing current theories of subcellular development, null terminated.
posted by kyrademon at 6:48 AM on May 26, 2005


I'm continously baffled by the stupidity of humans.
Bevets, I'm looking at you.
posted by spazzm at 6:52 AM on May 26, 2005


Err, why is it such a big deal if someone is taught ID and creationist stuff.

Its not a big deal that such would be taught in school, just NOT as science or in a science class.

bevets,

Sorry, try again. Quoting scripture is NOT evidence. That is faith in what you read and has nothing to do with scientific method.

The Bible is intended as a rule and guide for how we should live our lives through the use of parable and example. Nothing more.
It is NOT intended as a history book and especially as a complete history of time and creation.
It should never be used literally as it suffers from interpretation and translation errors by humans, whom we know are not perfect and yet "created' by God.
Which brings up an interesting question:
Why would a perfect God create such an imperfect being, since it is naturally implied He could have just have done so.
And why would He have created such a damn useless thing as an appendix?
And don't forget this one bevets: To God, a thousand years is as a day and a day is as a thousand years.
Care to explain that away?
Einstein could.
posted by nofundy at 6:53 AM on May 26, 2005


To be on the safe side, I suggest we replace those stickers with ones that say "Do Not Burn".
posted by CynicalKnight at 6:54 AM on May 26, 2005


I find it very telling that IDEA's refutation does not attempt to refute the most damning passage of the New Yorker article:
Though people often picture science as a collection of clever theories, scientists are generally staunch pragmatists: to scientists, a good theory is one that inspires new experiments and provides unexpected insights into familiar phenomena. By this standard, Darwinism is one of the best theories in the history of science: it has produced countless important experiments (let’s re-create a natural species in the lab—yes, that’s been done) and sudden insight into once puzzling patterns (that’s why there are no native land mammals on oceanic islands). In the nearly ten years since the publication of Behe’s book, by contrast, I.D. has inspired no nontrivial experiments and has provided no surprising insights into biology.
posted by Johnny Assay at 6:55 AM on May 26, 2005


if this madness ever reach my country

I think there's little chance of that. I have no basis for believing this (wishful thinking perhaps) but this rise of the reactionaries is, I think the last gasp of unreason in this country. Not that I see another age of enlightenment coming any time soon, but I do believe that the people that espouse these ideas are so poorly equipped to lead and govern, that they will shortly be thrown out on their backsides. Well... here's hoping.
posted by psmealey at 7:06 AM on May 26, 2005


You cant trust what you read at the visitors center!!! Those stories were obviously written for religious zealots who refuse to ask questions for fear of the answers.

This is what I love most about bevets: confronted with something he has no response for he tries to be funny, which is a skill he lacks, and ends up screeching and flailing verbally, making absolutely no sense whatsoever. . . which is funny.
posted by papercake at 7:06 AM on May 26, 2005


IMHO Robin Williams has a good take on this debate in his Live On Broadway -dvd:

...Fundamendalists take it to be the word, not translatable, not metaphorical. The Word. In the beginning, Genesis, "Let there be light" - could that be a metaphore for the big bang?

(southern accent)
"No, God just went click." *clicks a light switch*

(normal accent)
"So you're saying we are all descended from Adam and Eve, then we're all cousins?"

(southern accent)
"That's right."

*imitates playing banjo*
posted by hoskala at 7:06 AM on May 26, 2005


It says very clearly in the Book of Gabriel :

"And lo, on the eighth day, the Lord did put the bones of gigantic lizards under the surface of the earth. And he did this to test our faith, that the faithful would eschew the plastic toys of their youth and realize that it had all been a clever hoax. The unfaithful would be damned to a life of reconstructing these monsters and trying to determine their fate. In retribution for their sins, they are condemned watching Jurassic Park in Purgatory. And the Lord did grin for lo, he hath pulled one over on us."
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:09 AM on May 26, 2005


IDEA's refutation of the New Yorker article, once you get past all the minutae, hinges of one key point, really -

Orr never really explains a mechanism by which something that seems irreducebly complex, such as a flagellum, could have been organized in increments. If he did, he would have been able to destroy ID in one fell swoop. So why didn't he? Obviously, because he doesn't know of one.

This is true.

It is also, unfortunately for them, actually the most damning indictment of ID possible.

Orr can't explain a mechanism. To him, this means it bears further investigation.

ID can't explain a mechanism. To IDEA, this means that there must be an intelligence behind it. No need to investigate further. ID rests on the assumption that if something cannot be readily explained, the answer must be a supernatural force. Essentially, if it seems unlikely, fairies must have done it.

Good way never to find out anything ever again, really.
posted by kyrademon at 7:09 AM on May 26, 2005


Bevets:

I'm a fleabit peanut monkey
All my friends are junkies
That's not really true

I'm a cold Italian pizza
I could use a lemon squeezer
What you do?

But I've been bit and I've been tossed around
By every she-rat in this town
Have you, babe?

Well, I am just a monkey man
I'm glad you are a monkey woman too

I was bitten by a boar
I was gouged and I was gored
But I pulled on through

Yes, I'm a sack of broken eggs
I always have an unmade bed
Don't you?

Well, I hope we're not too messianic
Or a trifle too satanic
We love to play the blues

Well I am just a monkey man
I'm glad you are a monkey, monkey woman too, babe

I'm a monkey
I'm a monkey
I'm a monkey man
I'm a monkey man
I'm a monkey...


The rest of you:

Wicked Smaaat, as per usual.
posted by Divine_Wino at 7:09 AM on May 26, 2005


And as a sidenote, are there any Christians out here who also support non-ID evolution?

Yes. There are millions of us that don't believe that Genesis (or the rest of the OT for that matter) is meant to be taken literally. Most of us believe that God created this and perhaps many other universes, but not in any way that's knowable to our linear brains. As far as the big bang goes, that's seems a sensible enough theory, and worthwhile exploring, challening, using as a basis for future experiments and so on. But as far as needing to conceptualize a Creator that launched the Big Bang, I don't really have a particular need to do that, because it's not particularly relevant to my belief system.

Yeah, I used to do a lot of 'shrooms in college, so maybe this set of beliefs is unique to me, but I have talked with enough folks from seminary and read books on this to know that, for all but the strictest fundamentalist ("proof reader") interpretations of scripture, I venture that the majority of us belief that the story was written for a pre-intellectual readership to explain some very difficult concepts. Perhaps over reliance on imagery and over simplification was the best and only way to do this at the time.
posted by psmealey at 7:18 AM on May 26, 2005


*stands up, applauds kyrademon *

Great posts. I started reading the article, got to point 5 and gave up in disgust. The entire thing is completely devoid of ANY scientific reasoning apart from the random forays that explain how probability works and what "fact" means. Some of the quotes are priceless, too - there's one that says that transitional forms don't exist. Only, it was written in 1944. And we all know that the fossil record - or science generally - hasn't really advanced much over the past sixty years.

If the authors are really hoping to convince scientists that ID is the only rational explanation, they're going to have to do a lot better than that. Then again, I suspect that the aim of the article was to get a response out quickly so that creationists wouldn't have to reconsider their cosy world-view. Creationists/ID-ers aren't likely to read the whole thing - if they did, they'd realise that it's full of holes. They just want a long article they can shove under people's noses and say "See! This science proves I'm right!"

Bevets:
Evolution is the best explanation for life given the arbitrary restriction that God MUST NOT be invoked.

WTF? I don't even know where to begin with this. Scientists don't invoke God in their explanations because it's not relevant. And many of them don't believe he exists, either.

And good work in ignoring all the refutations of the article that you posted.
posted by blag at 7:19 AM on May 26, 2005


And I think "pre-intellectual" is the perfect adjective for creationists.
posted by blag at 7:22 AM on May 26, 2005


Err, why is it such a big deal if someone is taught ID and creationist stuff.

I've thought about this before. In the end, I realized that my opposition to teaching ID in schools is the result of patriotism. If our nation is to remain prosperous in the long-term, we'll need to continue producing and attracting the best scientific minds in the world.

If we stop teaching science in schools, we'll stop doing both.
posted by Eamon at 7:25 AM on May 26, 2005


And as a sidenote, are there any Christians out here who also support non-ID evolution? If so, how? I've thought about it (for a full five minutes) and can't reconcile the two. At all. Unless one uses the old "moves in mysterious ways" argument.

My father-in-law says that arguing over all this hooey is just silly. He's a Methodist Lay Leader ( I think, maybe a Deacon? I'm not terribly familliar with the Church structure; anyway), and he says that when you make something you really care about, you take your time and do it as well as you can, so seven days really must be a pretty story, because even an omnipotent being would want to take longer than that on a project that He loved.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:48 AM on May 26, 2005


gsb wrote "Err, why is it such a big deal if someone is taught ID and creationist stuff. If they continue their studies in science they will inevitably come up to a point zenith, where evidence over-rules lazy thinking. Excuse the sexism, but this event separates the Men from the Boys."

The problem is that many of these people do not continue their studies in science (often because ID and other crap teach them that science is worthless), but quite a few of them do vote to elect people who make laws that directly affect your ability to believe in things we can prove rather than basing our society on a book quite often (mis)used to spread hatred by the likes of Fred Phelps, or restrict reproductive freedoms, etc. That is the fundamental problem (no pun intended).

bevets wrote "You cant trust what you read at the visitors center!!! Those stories were obviously written for religious zealots who refuse to ask questions for fear of the answers."

I think you're confusing the Mt. Rushmore example with the book currently on sale at the Grand Canyon park service desk, the one that implies that God dug that big hole just for fun.

Science means spending your career asking deep thoughtful questions about what you believe to be true, testing these questions with experiments and observations, and quite often completely changing your mind when the facts show that what you thought might be true is actually not really correct - Newton's theories of gravity, for example, turned out to be not so universal once Einstein's evidence came out. Early ideas about the composition and arrangement of the solar system have been discarded because Galileo and later astronomers have shown evidence that the earth-centric view was wrong. This is science - explaining the world by asking questions.

How can you believe so strongly in something that you are afraid to question, bevets? Really, deeply question it, in a critical, logical way, using the facts and evidence available? I can say that my core beliefs have been tested and have held up against the evidence. From what I've seen, you are afraid to even start asking meaningful questions. If you can't trust yourself to deeply and thoroughly examine your core beliefs - if the foundation that you have built your life upon is indeed so fragile that it will collapse upon review - then you must ask yourself why you hold these ideas so closely.

Don't fall into the easy trap of accusing me of pushing atheism on you, either. A belief in god and a belief in the slow, gradual, random, non-directed, natural accumulation of everything in the universe as we know it are not mutually exclusive.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:51 AM on May 26, 2005


If god is omnipotent why didn't he just create the universe instantly? If it took any specific amount of time other than that then he it would seem that he obviously has limitations to his creativity/power.

Colour me baffled.
posted by longbaugh at 7:52 AM on May 26, 2005


Though, really, creation myths are absolutely wonderful stuff to read. Starting from Enuma Elis, the babylonian epic of creation of about 3.500 BC, on to the Greek myths of creation, the Bible, of course, all the way to the Hopi Indians' myths, I'd say they are fantastic reads. Put them all in a Literature class, away from Science classes. They are going to work miracles on anyone's (but hard core fundies) imagination.

Thanks Kyrademon. You saved us a lot of work.

Keep at it bevets. We do need comedy, if you can stand us.
posted by acrobat at 8:04 AM on May 26, 2005



If you happened to be walking by Mount Rushmore one day (and had never heard of the place before) would you assume that this was a result of a billion years of wind and erosion? Why or why not?


Well, for this situation to really be a parallel, your aside should really be: (and had never heard of the place before or seen a human being). In that case, I'd think that this was a really interesting rock outcropping that would be very unlikely to occur from geological forces and erosion. Assuming there were no human beings nearby for me to observe, it'd be really puzzling. If there were people, I would probably eventually see them doing something similar (blowing up rocks, carving sculptures) and make some hypotheses about it.

With a lack of humans to observe, I might test for residue from explosives, leftover tools, and analyze the water table -- you never know, maybe there was an acidic waterfall there at some point! I'd come up with lots of neat theories, and shoot them down from lack of evidence or the inability to recreate similar rock outcroppings from experiments. In the end, I might not ever come up with a theory that pleases me, but I could leave it open-ended -- someone might figure it out in a hundred years.
posted by mikeh at 8:06 AM on May 26, 2005


Regarding the whole Mount Rushmore issue - I'd probably point out the heads of Easter Island and draw a fairly decent conclusion.

A magical bunny rabbit who gives out chocolate eggs whittled them.

/worships magical chocolate giving bunny
posted by longbaugh at 8:09 AM on May 26, 2005


If I.D. is such a crock, what's the prob[lem] with spending half a class talking about what I.D.'s believe and why they're wrong?

There's no need to banish this idea from the classroom, especially if it doesn't pose a threat to your own, superior view.

posted by null terminated at 9:35 AM

The problem is there are too few hours in a day to teach a complex subject like evolution let alone waste time on irrelevancies. American students already have trouble grasping the basic concepts (I doubt many American High School students could have matched kyrademon's blow by blow refutation of the apologeticspress.org article.)

Ignorance breeds ignorance. I am still horrified by the letter to the ed. I read months ago from a woman who declared that scientific theory of Evolution was nonsense because "Mothers never give birth to babies that are not duplicates of themselves. Isn't that just a ridiculous idea?" This poor woman was doomed to ignorance because she never received the proper education.

If we allow a generation of students to grow up without a proper grounding in scientific education, what happens when they come of age? What happens when the majority of taxpayers, legislators, and parents do not even have the basic understanding of evolutionary concepts necessary to refute Intelligent Design or Creationist teachings?
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:11 AM on May 26, 2005


The great thing about science is that, by definition, if a better solution comes along, you go with it. "Better" meaning that the evidence and scientific method supports your conclusion. If something disproves a current theory and holds up to scienfitic vigor, then it's done. There might be a few stragglers who remain skeptical of the new theory, but if they're shown mathematical or experimental proof, they'll go with it.

This is why the scientific method should be the desired system of instruction -- it uses critical thinking, relies on evidence, and is less resistant to change in the face of new evidence than any other field I've encountered. If anything, this is an exercise in humility.
posted by mikeh at 8:18 AM on May 26, 2005


Bevets, not to join the pile-on or anything, but when you assert that evolution is the most probable explanation for the phenomena that we observe if you are forbidden from mentioning God, you've introduced something that simply cannot be proven into the equation. You might as well have said that evolution is the best answer if we can't mention invisible fairies.
I challenge you, Bevets, to prove that God exists. Now, I warn you, I'm an agnostic deist. I believe in God, but I realize that is faith and not based on proof (I'd argue that belief in God is necessarily irrational, but that doesn't make it bad). So, from that position, I eschew making any claims on God's influence, because I realize that all of the claims would have to stem from an inherently irrational argument.
But you don't, so you clearly assume that God is rational. If so, I ask you to prove that he exists. I'm going to go ahead and discount scriptural evidence, because it's really not historically sufficient. I mean, in Genesis, God created the animals before Adam, and then Adam names them as they are created. It takes two pages to be internally inconsistent. So, unless you want to argue that the earth is truly only around 5000 years old, we'd better do without scriptural sources. What else is proof of God besides putting your faith in a book? Again, Bevets, you must prove God without using faith. Are you strong enough to do it? Will you even read this? (Are you, as I've suspected, a Bot that runs on a fairly complex but deeply simplistic program?)
posted by klangklangston at 8:20 AM on May 26, 2005


"I am just a person who appreciates a good idealogical fight"

perhaps, but i still haven't heard a self-contained explanation of ID theory that makes any sense. and that's because it's /not a scientific theory/. so this can't be a good ideological fight. just a word war. and it's more like picking on a handicapped 5th grader than a fight.
posted by muppetboy at 8:20 AM on May 26, 2005


>[from] The problem is that many of these people do not continue their studies in science (often because ID and other crap teach them that science is worthless), but quite a few of them do vote to elect people who make laws that directly affect your ability to believe in things we can prove rather than basing our society on a book quite often (mis)used to spread hatred by the likes of Fred Phelps, or restrict reproductive freedoms, etc. That is the fundamental problem (no pun intended).

I understand this point, but still, I find it hard to believe that teaching ID will hurt anything. If it's about critical thinking then "let the chips fall where they may." Of course, if schoolchildren are told this ID thing is a valid way of thinking then it could leave horrid scars in their logic. But that can be repaired -- if the teaching is seen as a philosophy.

Anyway, from what I can see, folks in the U.S. are already mired in fundamentalist thinking and I don't think it's the teaching of ID that did it.
posted by gsb at 8:26 AM on May 26, 2005


I'm with a Secret Life of Gravy, here. We cannot pretend to students that evolution and creationism are on a par with each other and deserve equal time: one is science, the other is a bunch of lies, fallacies and make-believe bundled together to fit in with a religious viewpoint.

We're beginning to have the same debate over here in the UK: Thanks to the oh-so-wonderful "city academy" and "beacon school" schemes, local businesses are encouraged to play a much closer part in the running of schools. It is meant to help tie education more closely to the needs of businesses. Reg Vardy, a millionaire car dealer, has sponsored a number of city academies which are then run along his own, fundamental-religious lines. Teachers are are undermining the scientific teaching of biology in favour of persuading pupils of the literal truth of the Bible. And banning Harry Potter because of "satanic undertones".

This is the sort of thing you'd expect to see in Texas, for fuck's sake: not Britain.
posted by blag at 8:30 AM on May 26, 2005


i'd just like to see IDers demonstrate that "ID theory" is a scientific theory before they try to prove it right. that seems to be the step they skipped... and it ought to put an end to this whole discussion because they won't be able to demonstrate that.
posted by muppetboy at 8:30 AM on May 26, 2005


On the thermodynamics point, what kyradaemon said, with the added note that if the IDers interpretation were correct (that evolution is proscribed because it involves matter and energy tending towards increased organization) then not only would evolution be impossible but so would any form of life itself. Plants take in nearly random solar energy, water, carbon dioxide and a few other things and use it to build complex structures. A fertilized egg takes unstructured molecules and uses it to build itself as a complex living structure. They IDers don't dispute this -- they can't or they would be denying their own existence. Are they suggesting then that life cannot exist? The whole thing is a massive incomprehension of the meaning of the Second Law. Both life and evolution are massively entropic in that the processes they use require the introduction of energy, very little of which actually results in order -- in the larger system the vast majority ends up in a less ordered state, and entropy is preserved generally even if it seems to be flouted locally.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:37 AM on May 26, 2005


It's not only happening in the UK. This week the Dutch Minister of Science and Education called for a debate on evolution vs intelligent design. Quite scary.
posted by reynaert at 8:40 AM on May 26, 2005


the interesting thing to me isn't the discussion itself, but rather the way people discuss. i'm becoming more and more convinced that people aren't intelligent at all. we have complex behavior, yes. but it is not actually intelligent behavior. and i don't mean that some people are intelligent and others not. it's my hypothesis that human beings in general are not intelligent.

of course, now, if we were supposedly made in god's image, then god cannot be intelligent... which pretty much screws over ID theory.

;-)
posted by muppetboy at 8:40 AM on May 26, 2005


longbaugh:
"If god is omnipotent why didn't he just create the universe instantly? If it took any specific amount of time other than that then he it would seem that he obviously has limitations to his creativity/power"

I think the exact opposite is true. If I want to send a message to someone far away, I could travel there myself, and tell them. That's a lots of boring mundane work. But if I was omnipotent, I could see all possibility layed out before me, and all I would have to do would be tell the message to the exact right person at the exact right time, and they would relay it to another, who would getting on the plane later, and they could pass it on, and so on and so on until the person received the message. And just like the game of Chinese Whispers, each step along the way would have garbled the message slightly as each person had slightly mis-rememebered what they'd been told, but with all possibility layed out before me, I knew this, and my original message had been worded such that the garbles completed the message, and the message as delivered, while very different from the message I instructed, was word-for-word what I intended.

That's power.

Creating something directly is far FAR less impressive than setting in motion exactly the right processes such that your will is done, without you even leaving your armchair.

Furthermore, it's pretty fundamental to Christian belief that God granted man free-will. We can't have free-will if we're His puppets. He can't snap His fingers and control every aspect of the world, the world has to be independant of Him at some level such that is it possible to be free-agents within it. The scientific description of how the world came to be and how it operates seems like a perfect solution. God sets in motion the processes that result in both us, and a universe with the (at least partial) independancy necessary for free-agency.

(This quickly gets into more complex philosophical and theological stuff, which I don't really have the time to go into)
posted by -harlequin- at 8:49 AM on May 26, 2005


god has an armchair?
posted by muppetboy at 8:54 AM on May 26, 2005


One thing that bothers me about ID, which doesn't seem discussed much, is that as soon as you say "Anything sufficiently complex requires an intelligent designer" (which, despite protests there is more, is a necessary conclusion of ID), then you have infinite recursion - the same principle, having been concluded, MUST be applied to the unknown designer. A designer of sufficient intelligence to design life is clearly MORE demanding of being designed by an intelligent designer than the life we observe on earth. And that designer's designer, likewise, must be the product of another designer. Ad infinitum - it's like the woman claiming the world rests on the back of a giant turtle.
"So... what is the turtle standing on, then?"
"Why, a bigger turtle of course!"
"And what's that turtle standing on?"
"Another turtle. It's no use - it's turtles all the way down!"

WTF?

Instead of turtles, ID demands an infinite recursion of designers. That's nonsensical.
posted by -harlequin- at 8:59 AM on May 26, 2005


muppetboy:
god has an armchair?

The most comfy armchair in the universe. :-)

Plato got to sit in it once. That's where all his guff about the Forms and enlightenments comes from. He tries to hide it by talking about trees and caves and stuff, but really, all he ever wanted to do was get to spend another glorious moment sitting in that One Perfect Armchair. :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 9:03 AM on May 26, 2005


tell that to the infinite chain of turtles.
posted by muppetboy at 9:04 AM on May 26, 2005


i bet its one of them lazyboys.
posted by muppetboy at 9:05 AM on May 26, 2005


If bevet is wrong, then why are you creating his thoughts than letting them evolve?
Quit picking on him, as he has the same right to commenting as you. Unless you feel your corrections are equal to Bush telling you what is right. Questioning him is fine but mocking him is creating you into a monkey.

To the members that say, glad this crap is not seen in my country. May I ask if your Country has a national religion?
I ask as many Americans are unaware of this and many Countries in the World have a national religion, which is backed by their Government. Also, ideas formed by religion then becoming a national conflict among its country’s populace seems tougher when a Government is the religion.

I found the NY piece lacking, as there was ideas contained in it, which were new to me. Being a Christian I thought the ideas would have been heard before as the opinions are widely held views per its author.
posted by thomcatspike at 9:05 AM on May 26, 2005


Thanks kyrademon. You should get hardship pay.

Bevets actually did pretty well in thie discussion, limiting the quoting and everything. With another few thousand years, he might evolve an argument for ID.
posted by OmieWise at 9:08 AM on May 26, 2005


Oh wait; I’ll correct myself per the article's view. The ideas in it, which are new to me; "evolved than being created."
posted by thomcatspike at 9:11 AM on May 26, 2005


a friend of mine sends this proof that god is not intelligent:

1) Intelligence is a problem solving ability used to react to internal and external stimuli. Intelligence is used to make decisions.
2) Reaction and Decision making implies dynamism, therefore Intelligence implies dynamism (aka static objects like rocks cannot be intelligent)
3) God is eternal and omniscient (present at all times and aware at each time of all other times)
4) Imagine God in 4 Dimensional Space Time ... A being completely connected from each point to each other (implied by 3)
5) God is a completely static object in 4 - space
6) Since God is Static, he is not dynamic, therefore not intelligent.
posted by muppetboy at 9:16 AM on May 26, 2005


thomcatspike:
As far as I know, my country has no national religion (though Christianity is the predominant one). Oops, looks like I'm wrong - I just did a google search, which was pretty conclusive that the national religion is sports. :-)

More seriously though, national religion seems irrelevant. Even countries that I'm aware of that actually do have a national religion, seem to have religious freedom guarenteed. Not just guarenteed, but from the ones I've been to, there is MORE religious freedom in practise than I observe here in the USA.

AFAIK the USA seems to be the only western country still struggling with science. There are extremists like creationists and flat-earthers and IDers in all countries, but they're very small minorities, lacking the muscle to change school policy as you see happening in the USA.
posted by -harlequin- at 9:22 AM on May 26, 2005


nah, it's not happening in the USA. just kansas.

i favor a new donut shaped nation with a big hole in the middle.
posted by muppetboy at 9:25 AM on May 26, 2005


Just for the record, George_Spiggot is talking about negative entropy.
posted by gsb at 10:03 AM on May 26, 2005


Kyrademon: Amazing work, you need to bring that together and post it somewhere. I am a professor in the Bible belt, and fundamentalist students send me that "15 Answers" article all the damn time. It is widely circulated and considered irrefutable in the fundamentalist community.
posted by LarryC at 10:08 AM on May 26, 2005


-harlequin-

So what you are saying is that god took several days because it was cooler to do it that way? Cooler to who?

Who is god trying to impress with all this stuff anyway?
posted by longbaugh at 10:28 AM on May 26, 2005


If you happened to be walking by Mount Rushmore one day (and had never heard of the place before) would you assume that this was a result of a billion years of wind and erosion? Why or why not?

If you happened to be walking by a big granite boulder, would you assume that this was purposely created by an invisible superhero in the sky? Why or why not.
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:32 AM on May 26, 2005


More seriously though, national religion seems irrelevant. Even countries that I'm aware of that actually do have a national religion, seem to have religious freedom guarenteed.
I wonder which country may have set the example? A country whose democracy allows the freedom of religion?

there is MORE religious freedom in practise than I observe here in the USA
My observation started from a Swedish national talking about while in public school going to a Methodist Church for school events in it. She thought nothing wrong with it since it was a national place. Coming from an atheist in a socialistic country seemed odd to me when hearing this. I’m not sure if this was common throughout the country or isolated.

If you tried that in the USA, you would see more than an uproar by my Christian parents. In the USA, a religious group may meet in a public school’s building, yet having public school educated in a church is a no no. So you may be correct your country has MORE religious freedoms.
Where is your “MORE religious freedom” observed located in the world?
posted by thomcatspike at 10:44 AM on May 26, 2005


So what you are saying is that god took several days because it was cooler to do it that way? Cooler to who?
Anyone have the "correct" Hebrew translation?
The English language is crappy when being translated from a foreign language. Many foreign words have various meanings that don't translate or do it well. I've seen in the English version of the Bible the word "mind or brain" being translated as the word "heart."
posted by thomcatspike at 10:57 AM on May 26, 2005


thedevildancedlightly: there are plenty of ways to reconcile evolution by natural selection and Christianity.

Didn't Darwin lose his faith as a result of his research?

Your alternatives may not be logically inconsistent with Christianity and Darwinism, but the type of creator evisioned by Christians and that which would be envisioned by someone observing biological evolution are quite different. I don't think that (orthodox) Christianity and Darwinism are ultimately reconcilable --- darwinism implies an extremely brutal or indifferent god, and Christianity the opposite.

Further, I believe that this is the reason why there are so many creationists and ID-ers. Reconciliation between science and their religion seems impossible to most people. Their religion is central, so science must be wrong (or have been wrongly interpreted).
posted by goethean at 10:57 AM on May 26, 2005


ah, there we are. Darwin on design.

I read this passage as saying that attempting to reconcile evolution with Christianity bewildered Darwin.

It doesn't follow, however, that religion in general cannot be reconciled with evolution.
posted by goethean at 11:06 AM on May 26, 2005


Two points:

First, the ID argument, in plain language, states simply: "Evolution cannot be true because I can't see how it could be true given [fill in specific unexplained observation]" Of course, it's phrased "...it is IMPOSSIBLE for evolution to be true given [unexplained observation]" but that's just an assertion, and leaves open the possibility that someone could explain the observation anyway. So basically, you're left with: "Mitochondria could not have evolved because I cannot understand how they could have evolved. Speciation could not have occurred because I cannot understand how it could have occurred. And not just me! Bill over there -- he can't understand it either! And neither can Phyllis -- and she has a PhD!" Even before you take the next illogical step -- "therefore it was designed by some form of intelligence" it's still not a particularly persuasive argument.

Second, I think the clearest demonstration that anti-evolutionists arguments spring from ignorance of what science is and how it operates is those stickers they advocate stating, "Evolution is just a theory." Well, yeah. It's the most persuasive theory currently available. They say it's "just a theory" as if that somehow undermines it. In fact, science operates on a purely pragmatic basis, and its theories are entirely disposable if and when a better one comes along. Newton's theories were just theories, and so are Einstein's, which superceded them. Perhaps someday evolution will be superceded by a superior theory. But ID ain't it.
posted by haricotvert at 11:31 AM on May 26, 2005


LarryC: I agree, this is worth preserving. So, wiki.

kyrademon: hope you don't mind it being posted there. I was going to email you to ask first, but your email isn't listed. If you're not happy, let me know and I'll delete it.

adrianhon: thanks for the wiki. Again, I'll get rid of the page if you don't want it there.

Reading back over it again, my favourite part is: "More meaningly [sic] quotes! This time mostly from scientists who believe in god. No actual evidence for any god presented."
posted by blag at 12:17 PM on May 26, 2005


kyrademon (quoting the article linked to by bevins up there)
'but the only evidence presented for creationism here is that, faced with the complexity of the universe, the idea of creationism is “attractive”. Um . . .'

Sounds like people are just being lazy to me - "Oh, the world is just too complex, it would take too much work to try to understand it - let's just chalk it all up to God's will and leave it at that." Kind of an attractive way to look at things - I'm all for simplicity, so I can see why this way of thinking attracts many people. I'm not one of them, but I can definitely see the appeal...
posted by shoppingforsanity at 12:20 PM on May 26, 2005


I love watching bevets getting summoned, tarred and feathered, and then unsummoned.

Come on, seriously, quoting scripture as a response to a request for legitimate scientific evidence regarding the existence of God? Are you just playing a joke on us all? I hate to come across as callous but seriously, I'm just miffed. Mystified, as it were.

And when have you ever heard a proponent of evolution claim that evolution is conditional upon the absence of God? No scientist can prove that, so none would use it as the basis for any sort of experiment or reasoning. I've taken classes on the subject, taught by professionals whose job it is to understand human physical history (contrast this with religious wingnuts whose only knowledge of evolution comes from the misconceptions of their friends and idols), and never once did a prof say, "Oh, and by the way, this is all assuming God doesn't exist." What they do say, on the first day, is, "This has nothing to do with your conception of God, this is the physical history of our species and I'm going to teach you what we've learned about it through science."

I challenge you to take a class in evolutionary science at a local community college or university, many of them have open enrollment programs that will simply let you pay per credit. I guarantee that when you're done, if you pay attention and listen, that you will be shocked by how little you really knew beforehand.
posted by baphomet at 12:48 PM on May 26, 2005


Bevets: A Simple Question For You

Do you believe Intelligent Design theory is scientific?

Yes or no, please.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:53 PM on May 26, 2005


Err, why is it such a big deal if someone is taught ID and creationist stuff.

I've thought about this before. In the end, I realized that my opposition to teaching ID in schools is the result of patriotism.


I think it has a lot to do with what you believe the purpose of public education should be. Except for religious indoctrination, I see no need for ID (except in a comparative religion class, of course).

Yeah, I used to do a lot of 'shrooms in college, so maybe this set of beliefs is unique to me.

Classic, especially since every significant religious leader probably took psychedelic drugs too. Cheers!

If God-folks think evolution is trouble, just wait until they hear about the quantum vacuum.

The New Yorker article was great.

I quite agree that my argument against Darwinism does not add up to a logical proof

Now there's a great book blurb if I've ever seen one.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:56 PM on May 26, 2005


(I don't mind it being posted, but if I'd known that was going to happen I would have worked much harder to eliminate all the typos. "Meaningly" . . . *dies of shame*)
posted by kyrademon at 1:01 PM on May 26, 2005


Bevets, I don't mean to pile on, but you're a gigantic fucking idiot.

No one should waste their time with the likes of you; no one should attempt to explain these relatively simple concepts to you, because you are not worthy of them.

You are the enemy. You are the one whose vision is clouded and whose heart is black. If there is an Adversary, then it is you, not we, over whom he has dominion. You and your kind will bring us back to the dark ages of superstition and tyranny and ruin.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:17 PM on May 26, 2005


kyrademon: it's editable: just click on the "edit this page" link at the bottom of the page.

I think I found your LJ - you're an editor, no? :)
posted by blag at 1:24 PM on May 26, 2005


"You and your kind will bring us back to the dark ages of superstition and tyranny and ruin."

"back to" ??
posted by muppetboy at 1:29 PM on May 26, 2005


Ah, thanks - not used to wikis.

(Yep, that's probably me, since I am an editor ... made the typos even more embarassing.)
posted by kyrademon at 1:52 PM on May 26, 2005


paul_smatatoes: whoa, did you think up that invisible wizard stuff all by yourself? cuz, like, that's not only deep and original, it's fucking HI-LARIOUS too.
posted by quonsar at 2:00 PM on May 26, 2005


The Discover Institute "Wedge Document" mentioned in the article.
posted by revgeorge at 4:01 PM on May 26, 2005


Optimus Chyme writes "Bevets, I don't mean to pile on..."

All evidence to the contrary. That means bevets doesn't exist right?
posted by peacay at 4:22 PM on May 26, 2005


SUMMON BEVETS!!!

Oh... errr... I'm a bit late to this, aren't I?
posted by Decani at 6:06 PM on May 26, 2005


you and me both :)
posted by nola at 6:19 PM on May 26, 2005


The problem is that many of these people do not continue their studies in science (often because ID and other crap teach them that science is worthless), but quite a few of them do vote to elect people who make laws that directly affect your ability to believe in things we can prove rather than basing our society on a book quite often (mis)used to spread hatred by the likes of Fred Phelps, or restrict reproductive freedoms, etc. That is the fundamental problem (no pun intended).

I understand this point, but still, I find it hard to believe that teaching ID will hurt anything. If it's about critical thinking then "let the chips fall where they may." Of course, if schoolchildren are told this ID thing is a valid way of thinking then it could leave horrid scars in their logic. But that can be repaired -- if the teaching is seen as a philosophy.

Anyway, from what I can see, folks in the U.S. are already mired in fundamentalist thinking and I don't think it's the teaching of ID that did it.
posted by gsb at 8:26 AM PST on May 26 [!]


Teah ID in GRADE School, paralell with evolution.
If your parrents favor ID, you'll gravitate towards evolution... Does this go the other way? Hardly ever.

That's power.

Creating something directly is far FAR less impressive than setting in motion exactly the right processes such that your will is done, without you even leaving your armchair.


Ah!! A true Warlock!! Love is the Law, Love under Will! The true way is conversation with ones own Guardian Angel!
Creating change through the manipulation of energies guided by will!! Thelemites Unite!

nah, it's not happening in the USA. just kansas.

i favor a new donut shaped nation with a big hole in the middle.
posted by muppetboy at 9:25 AM PST on May 26 [!]


Sould we dig, or just use a ..um... "you-know-what"...
I'm willing to dig... But if no one else is...
posted by Balisong at 7:33 PM on May 26, 2005


If you happened to be walking by Mount Rushmore one day (and had never heard of the place before) would you assume that this was a result of a billion years of wind and erosion? Why or why not?

papercake

First I might just think about it in a general way and, knowing that human beings have a propensity to create monuments to themselves (because I'd seen a lot of them) I'd hypothesize that it might be man-made.

bevets

Do you think no one sees through your ploy? I asked a scientific question, and you have changed the topic to religion.

papercake

Lastly, I'd walk into the visitor's center and pick up one of many books that had pictures of it being carved, which I would consider to be very strong evidence that it was man-made.

bevets

You cant trust what you read at the visitors center!!! Those stories were obviously written for religious zealots who refuse to ask questions for fear of the answers.

shoppingforsanity

Sounds like people are just being lazy to me - "Oh, Mount Rushmore is just too complex, it would take too much work to try to understand it - let's just chalk it all up to human sculptors and leave it at that." Kind of an attractive way to look at things - I'm all for simplicity, so I can see why this way of thinking attracts many people. I'm not one of them, but I can definitely see the appeal...


Is there a point where something is so complex that it is reasonable to assume intelligent input? If so, how can such a point be determined?


15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense
posted by caddis at 7:58 PM PST on May 25

15 Reponses to SciAm Nonsense
posted by bevets at 8:05 PM PST on May 25


Kyrademon

Bevets - because I was bored, I read the "15 Reponses to SciAm Nonsense".

You have more time than me -- I gave up after a couple paragraphs.

Here is another article -- knock yourself out.

LarryC

Kyrademon: Amazing work, you need to bring that together and post it somewhere. I am a professor in the Bible belt, and fundamentalist students send me that "15 Answers" article all the damn time. It is widely circulated and considered irrefutable in the fundamentalist community.

You miss the point. The point is not that '15 Creationism Answers' is the final word. The point is that '15 Evolutionim Answers' is NOT the final word (as implied by caddis). The article I cited happens to be authored by 2 PhDs. Surely 2 PhDs are worthy of challenging John Rennie even though he has a Bachelors degree in Science. I suspect if the authors were here to defend themselves they would withstand the onslought of Kyrademon. Perhaps they would wish to clarify or even concede some minor points. Perhaps not. The point is that Creationists are capable of intelligent discussion. People who assume that creationists must be clueless are, themselves, not terribly well informed.
posted by bevets at 7:57 PM on May 26, 2005


balisong: Ah!! A true Warlock!! Love is the Law, Love under Will! The true way is conversation with ones own Guardian Angel!
Creating change through the manipulation of energies guided by will!! Thelemites Unite!



That was the greatest thing I have read in this thread.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:51 PM on May 26, 2005


*blink*

So, you offer up something you HAVE NOT BOTHERED TO READ as your shining example of an intelligent discussion, which you determined solely on the basis that the authors are PhDs?

I begin to understand your over-reliance on utterly meaningless quotations in lieu of evidence.

"Is there a point where something is so complex that it is reasonable to assume intelligent input? If so, how can such a point be determined?"

Since, as far as I can tell, the more complex something is, in general the *less* likely it is to be deliberately designed, this seems an odd question to me. Even ID doesn't try to claim that complexity is de facto evidence of design.

But, you know, since you haven't bothered to answer any of my questions to you but one, and that one you answered with mostly unrelated quotations, I begin to suspect your main goal is actually merely to deliberately waste our time anyway.
posted by kyrademon at 10:08 PM on May 26, 2005


Bevets, the only way you'll ever win an argument by appealing to authority is if the authority you use is recognized as such by all participants. Since it is manifestly the case that most of those you quote as authoritative are not recognized as such by those to whom you address these quotes, are you not simply wasting your time and everybody else's by pursuing this course so singlemindedly?

Also, your admission that the link you posted as a supposed counter to Caddis's is something you haven't even read all the way through is tantamount to a denial from you that it is authoritative. It seems to me that you have simultaneously undermined its value - and, by consequence, the value of your own support for your espoused position - and been incredibly rude to those who did take the time to read it through, myself included.

It seems to me that if you were serious about convincing people of the merits of ID, instead of simply causing trouble, you would behave differently. Therefore, I have no option but to consider you a minion of the Father of Lies, and pay no further attention to anything you say.
posted by flabdablet at 10:12 PM on May 26, 2005


Though he probably hasn't read it, bevets' second link appears to be a far more capable SciAm rebuttal than the first. (And, in comparison, mercifully brief.)
posted by Galvatron at 10:51 PM on May 26, 2005


I just read all of bevets second link...about halfway into it, it turns into an impassioned plea in favor of gay marriage and free abortions for underaged mothers! bevets, did you even read that thing before you posted it?
posted by mcsweetie at 11:15 PM on May 26, 2005


Just finished reading that one, Galvatron. And though it is an easier read, and doesn't fall into some of the ridiculous tortured logic the first one does by attempting to demonstrate that everything ever claimed by any creationist is true, no matter how ridiculous, and even if contradictory with something else they're trying to claim, Sarfati's article reveals its own problems pretty quickly.

Although it tries to maintain a veneer of scientific plausibility, in fact many of Sarfati's key assertions are laughably easy to refute. This is not surprising - he's a young earth creationist, as it turns out ("Of course I don’t believe the millions of years in the first place") who only pays attention to what seems to fit into the Biblical account, and considers the Bible the real sole authority on these matters ("The Bible claims to be a revelation by the Creator of life and the Universe ... yet [Scientific American] does not see this as casting doubt on evolution.")

So, while some have measured the speed of light, scanned the skies with telescopes, and determined the universe is billions of years old, Sarfati chooses to ignore this, without comment - the Bible tells him otherwise. The fossil column shows a progression from simple creatures to complex ones, but Sarfati chooses to believe otherwise, crying, mutations cannot result in new information! I can't prove it, but it is so, despite all evidence to the contrary, because to believe otherwise would disprove my book!

He cannot comprehend that evolution isn't about god. It contradicts what he believes, so it must have an agenda, be an attack. The Scientific American article at one point says that evolution would still be true even *if* the first cells had a nonevolutionary origin - they've still evolved. Rather than contradict this, Sarfati simply cries, No! Evolution is not what the evolutionists say it means, it is what I say it means! And "Evolution .... purports to explain life without God", according to him. Even if it has just been explained that it doesn't. Since it disagrees with his beliefs in how his god behaves, it must be trying to destroy the very idea of any god. So he lets the point lie, unanswered, simply because he cannot comprehend that it might be true.

bevets, you have not linked to an "intelligent discussion". You have linked to frauds who use falsehood, meaningless quotes, half-truths, twisted logic, selective omission, and outright lies to make their words seem plausible. They do not seek truth; they seek to make truth conform to what they already believe they know. You are even worse than they are; by your own words, you do not even pretend to seek truth. You post things you have not read, assuming they must be plausible simply because they agree with you. You ask questions but evade giving answers. When you are answered reasonably, politely, and plausibly, you mock the speaker and ignore their words if it was not the answer you wanted to hear. While claiming to hold the keys to real truth, you shun every hint of actual truth; you shut your eyes, cover your ears, and speak using the words of others so as not to expose your own falsehoods. I think it is very telling that you rely on quoting scripture; I think we all know which evil does that.
posted by kyrademon at 11:50 PM on May 26, 2005


The point is that Creationists are capable of intelligent discussion. People who assume that creationists must be clueless are, themselves, not terribly well informed.

You've mistaken amount of text and semantic soundness for intelligence. I could write 50 pages filled with nonsense and misunderstandings that happen to be organized into coherent English sentences, but that wouldn't make it "intelligent discussion."

Interesting insight into your motives, though. It seems clear that you don't make any attempt to evaluate the actual content of these various articles -- you admitted that you don't even necessarily read them. You don't perceive the difference between a logical argument and an illogical one because you don't even engage it on that level; you've already chosen your conclusion, and you just like to have large amounts of text and authoritative-sounding people on your "team." It's a really childish tactic.
posted by ludwig_van at 12:07 AM on May 27, 2005


The point is that Creationists are capable of intelligent discussion. People who assume that creationists must be clueless are, themselves, not terribly well informed.
...
You've mistaken amount of text and semantic soundness for intelligence.


In a rather backhanded *cough* defense of bevets (never thought I'd say that), let's be fair and say that the type of creationist likely to post on just about every discussion site on the web on a regular basis is probably not the best representative of the theory as a whole. People who enjoy defending lost causes (and ID is a lost cause on MeFi, Fark, and all the other places where the "Summon Bevets" card is used on a regular basis) are probably a little more fanatical than the average supporter.

That doesn't mean that the theory (is it too much to call it that?) is right at all, but let's not judge its supporters by bevets alone.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 12:46 AM on May 27, 2005


kyrademon, I'm not a Creationist or pro-ID, but your "rebuttal" to AiG is pathetic and filled with the same type of unreasoned assertions and tactics you claim that Creationists employ. Care to repeat the process you applied to the first article? Take your time.
posted by Gyan at 1:19 AM on May 27, 2005


Gyan -

I don't really care to, no. I posted that because I was pissed off. When I rebutted the first article, although I was occasionally sarcastic about some of the more eye-rolling errors, I still assumed I was engaging in a discussion. It turns out that the person who posted it didn't even care enough to read it. Why bother to rebut? He doesn't even know if the article had any merit in the first place. He doesn't care. He sucks.

So, for the second, I'm not going to bother to go point-by-point. I'm willing to point out the most glaring, ludicrous, article-destroying errors and move on, but I'm certainly not going to act as if bevets gives a damn about the veracity of what he links to, and if he doesn't, I don't see why I should try to argue with him about it.

As far as I'm concerned, the two points I mentioned are easily enough to invalidate the whole article, anyway.

1) Sarfati's a young-earth creationist, who believes the age of the universe can be measured in thousands of years. This is a central point of his beliefs, not a side-issue; without it, he essentially admits that much of what he says about "microevolution" and "information loss" - his pet topics - would make little sense.

How, then, does he explain how light from distant stars is now reaching earth? Why sedimentation rates cannot seem to account for the depth of geological strata in that time period? What uplift processes are so rapid as to account for the limestone on top of Himalayan mountains? Why stars with calculable nuclear burn rates appear to be at an age of billions of years? Black holes, which take much longer to form than he allots for the age of the universe, and which were successfully predicted before any were spotted? The process by which bone turns into stone in such a short time? The written records of human civilizations which seem to predate the age most young-earth creationists give for the dawn of time?

This means, for his point to make sense, he must successfully disprove the well-researched findings of relativity, astronomy, geology, nuclear physics, paleontology, and archeology - all of them! - and, ideally, explain why so many experts in so many unrelated fields, many having nothing to do with evolutionary theory, and often without consulting each other, all are getting time frames which largely agree with each other and all of which contradict his. Or else, I suppose, just say he believes god made it old-looking, in which case I don't know why he would bother with a scientific veneer in the first place.

2) His central thesis, really, is that mutation cannot result in new information, although he offers no real explanation as to why this should be so; he only asserts that no one has seen it happen in the relatively brief time they've been looking. This makes no sense in light of the fact that the fossil record shows a chronological progression from simpler creatures to more complex ones. Unlike the previous issue, he does not simply ignore it; rather, he argues: no, it doesn't. This assertion is, shall we say, surprising to anyone who has actually gone out and looked at fossils in rocks in a methodical way and found out which ones are where. He attempts to do a bit of sleight-of-hand with minor points like the exact first appearance of modern hominids and birds, but until he produces, say, even a single mammal fossil bone in a cambrian strata, or *anything* similarly startling and in line with everything being created around the same time, it's pretty much all hot air. He has no such evidence. The fossil record does not support his theory in any way.

In short, the article is bull. And since not even the link poster pretends to care whether or not it's actually true, I'm not going to be polite and treat it like it isn't bull. There is no argument being engaged in here. There is one odd troll posting links to things he does not bother to read.
posted by kyrademon at 2:50 AM on May 27, 2005


15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense
posted by caddis at 7:58 PM PST on May 25

15 Reponses to SciAm Nonsense
posted by bevets at 8:05 PM PST on May 25

Kyrademon

Bevets - because I was bored, I read the "15 Reponses to SciAm Nonsense".

You have more time than me -- I gave up after a couple paragraphs.

Here is another article -- knock yourself out.

LarryC

Kyrademon: Amazing work, you need to bring that together and post it somewhere. I am a professor in the Bible belt, and fundamentalist students send me that "15 Answers" article all the damn time. It is widely circulated and considered irrefutable in the fundamentalist community.

You miss the point. The point is not that '15 Creationism Answers' is the final word. The point is that '15 Evolutionim Answers' is NOT the final word (as implied by caddis). The article I cited happens to be authored by 2 PhDs. Surely 2 PhDs are worthy of challenging John Rennie even though he has a Bachelors degree in Science. I suspect if the authors were here to defend themselves they would withstand the onslought of Kyrademon. Perhaps they would wish to clarify or even concede some minor points. Perhaps not. The point is that Creationists are capable of intelligent discussion. People who assume that creationists must be clueless are, themselves, not terribly well informed.


Kyrademon

I begin to suspect your main goal is actually merely to deliberately waste our time anyway.

The link was not addressed to you. It was addressed to caddis. My impression of people who post the SciAm article and run is that they probably havent trudged through the tedious SciAm article either. I did not request a point for point rebuttal on the link from you. You chose to do this on your own. My objective for the link was very limited. I also posted two other links in my first post. These links refer directly to the oringinal MeFi article and they have been ignored.

I have long maintained that this is not primarily a scientific discussion. Here is my opinion of Creation Science.

"Is there a point where something is so complex that it is reasonable to assume intelligent input? If so, how can such a point be determined?"

Since, as far as I can tell, the more complex something is, in general the *less* likely it is to be deliberately designed, this seems an odd question to me. Even ID doesn't try to claim that complexity is de facto evidence of design.


Please elaborate. Perhaps you are aware that ID does not refer merely to 'complexity' but to 'specified complexity' or 'irreducible complexity'

This means, for his point to make sense, he must successfully disprove the well-researched findings of relativity, astronomy, geology, nuclear physics, paleontology, and archeology - all of them! - and, ideally, explain why so many experts in so many unrelated fields, many having nothing to do with evolutionary theory, and often without consulting each other, all are getting time frames which largely agree with each other and all of which contradict his.

Do you suppose he may have explanations for these other fields as well? The one thing each field has in common: time. Long periods of time are essential for Natualistic assumptions to have ANY plausibility.

His central thesis, really, is that mutation cannot result in new information, although he offers no real explanation as to why this should be so; he only asserts that no one has seen it happen in the relatively brief time they've been looking. This makes no sense in light of the fact that the fossil record shows a chronological progression from simpler creatures to more complex ones. Unlike the previous issue, he does not simply ignore it; rather, he argues: no, it doesn't. This assertion is, shall we say, surprising to anyone who has actually gone out and looked at fossils in rocks in a methodical way and found out which ones are where. He attempts to do a bit of sleight-of-hand with minor points like the exact first appearance of modern hominids and birds, but until he produces, say, even a single mammal fossil bone in a cambrian strata, or *anything* similarly startling and in line with everything being created around the same time, it's pretty much all hot air. He has no such evidence. The fossil record does not support his theory in any way.

His central thesis refers to genetics. You change the subject to paleontology. Back to the topic of genetics: Do you have an example of a mutation that has added new information?
posted by bevets at 5:38 AM on May 27, 2005


bevets : "Do you have an example of a mutation that has added new information?"

Define information.
posted by Gyan at 5:57 AM on May 27, 2005


(sorry if this has been addressed before, but too many delicious comment to read at this time.)

Late comer to the thread, skimmed the SciAM article. Too painful to read in full, though I will force myself to at some point. (Also noticing you take the I out of SciAM and you have SCAM). Anyway, loved this statement from the article:
"Why the hedging? The reason is that in “real life,” species do not fall into neatly nested categories. Dogs, jackals, coyotes, wolves, hyenas, and dingoes are all separate, distinct species. But they also frequently can interbreed—which they should not be able to do if the above definitions are legitimate. "

Disregarding the lack of fundamental understanding of the definition of a species and the fact that different areas of science disagree on the different definitions of a species, we have one painfully WRONG INCORRECT STUPID idea presented here. Hyenas are not able to crossbreed with dogs. Ever. The genetic code is just too dissimilar. They are more closely related to cats (though too distantly to to interbreed with them either.)

...

I could almost buy ID as an alternative theory (hypothesis) to evolution EXCEPT every (every!) article I have ever read has contained such egregious mistakes that I have to see ID as the product of flawed information. You show me a Pro ID paper that doesn't contain some major error about how the world works and maybe I'll give it a chance.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 6:38 AM on May 27, 2005


The article I cited happens to be authored by 2 PhDs.
Piled
Higher and
Deeper
X 2

In what field? Bullshitology?
From what university? The Church of the SubGenuis College?
PhD after one's name does not necessarily mean anything.
posted by nofundy at 6:55 AM on May 27, 2005


balisong: Ah!! A true Warlock!! Love is the Law, Love under Will! The true way is conversation with ones own Guardian Angel!
Creating change through the manipulation of energies guided by will!! Thelemites Unite!


Cool! A TheleMefite meetup is sorely needed. How about the seventh Aethyr, sometime next week?
posted by malocchio at 7:25 AM on May 27, 2005


Kyra, thank you for taking the time to go through that article. You did a very good job with it. I'm glad it will be preserved for others to see.

bevets, you say "My impression of people who post the SciAm article and run is that they probably havent trudged through the tedious SciAm article either." I assume you realize that this is pure conjecture? Just because you didn't even read what you yourself posted, doesn't mean that other people do the same thing.

Personally, I make sure to read every word of any article I post, unless I clearly indicate otherwise...something like "I only got halfway through this article but it's sure interesting, check it out." I make a point of that, because if I post something that turns out to be stupid, I look bad. You might consider adopting a similar policy.

Finally, your refusal to ever answer a direct, honest question with direct, honest facts, speaks volumes... your beliefs don't add up and cannot withstand critical scrutiny, so you dodge the issue. On some level, you must know that what you argue isn't consistent, or else you wouldn't ignore 99% of questions people ask you. If your beliefs were really solid, you could give an honest answer to any question.

Whether you 'intended that article for Kyra' or not, you posted it, and Kyra took the time to dissect it. He/she(?) did something you didn't do.... read your own article. I think you owe him/her the courtesy of engaging in a real debate, instead of dodging questions with airy hand-waves. "oh, that wasn't meant for you, go away."

Basically, you post question after question. You then ignore the answers you don't like, ignore counter-questions, and then spew out more questions. Useless questions, because you don't listen to the answers anyway.

You do your 'enemy' more good than yourself that way, because their positions add up and are self-consistent, and yours are not. If you actually want to convince anyone with two working brain cells, you're going to need to change your style.

All you are doing now is making Creationists and ID advocates look ridiculous. You couldn't possibly be a better advocate for evolutionary theory.
posted by Malor at 7:54 AM on May 27, 2005


argh.... "the theory of evolution" would be much better wording than "evolutionary theory". God, I wish this board had edit.
posted by Malor at 7:55 AM on May 27, 2005


It is possible to have an intelligent discussion with a Creationist. Just not about evolution or science on pretty much any level. Baseball, though. Other sports. Even sometimes hockey.

Bevets— So... our options are: Assuming that creation took a long, long, long time or assuming that God created everything? Just want to be clear on your argument.
posted by klangklangston at 8:00 AM on May 27, 2005


bevets: His central thesis refers to genetics. You change the subject to paleontology. Back to the topic of genetics: Do you have an example of a mutation that has added new information?

Well, there are a couple of types of mutations that add new information. The simplest ones involve the insertion or deletion of a single base in the sequence, resulting in frameshift errors for the rest of the sequence and a novel protein. More complicated examples are introns, and cross-chromosome interactions that can duplicate or modify existing genetic sequences.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:19 AM on May 27, 2005


kyrademon: As far as I'm concerned, the two points I mentioned are easily enough to invalidate the whole article, anyway.

Well, no, not really. The article is a point-by-point rebuttal of the SciAm attack. You can't read it like it's a standalone essay on the state of creation science; there is no "central thesis." The point is to show that Rennie makes some questionable statements and/or errors, and I think Sarfati achieves that.
posted by Galvatron at 9:27 AM on May 27, 2005


Is there a point where something is so complex that it is reasonable to assume intelligent input?

Don't be silly. Equating complexity with design is like saying, "If I get enough apples, I'll wind up with an orange."

To quote myself from another thread on the topic:

"... [T]he logic is that if we can deduce that a watch was made by someone who makes and designs watches then we must be able to deduce that the universe was made by someone who designs universes.

Are you kidding?

The reason that we can deduce that mechanical devices were created by designers is because we're familiar with observable phenomenon of people designing things. That is to say, assuming that a complex fabrication is the product of design is NOT the result of it's outward complexity, rather the obvious appearance of fabrication.
It's a huge leap from that to assuming that the universe must have been fabricated. We don't have any observable proof that anyone creates universes. You can't even look at a single cell and assume that it was designed. We simply don't have a pattern of fabrication on which to base that assumption.

Simply, I can look at a teapot and know it was designed because I know that people design teapots.
I can't look at the universe and know it was designed because I've never known anything to design universes."


Additionally, pointing to complexity as a clue of design origins really means that you don't know squat about designing things. Simplicity, ornament, and evidence of touch are really the most telling signs of design. Complexity doesn't tell you anything beyond the fact that the object is complicated.

With the (possible) exception of trump l'eoil style arts, everything that we make is immediately apparent as fabricated. Our eyes and brain are very much in tune with distinguishing even subtle differences between that which has grown and that which has been shaped.
Looking at the natural world and thinking, "This is complicated. Like an engine." mean that you're neither looking nor thinking hard enough.
posted by Jon-o at 9:43 AM on May 27, 2005


Galvatron - I realize it's not a standalone essay. My point was more, "I'm don't want to do this anymore with someone who doesn't care. Here are two points that are so bizarrely incompatible with all of the evidence we have been able to find about, well, just about anything that they make me question why I should take *anything* this guy says seriously until he offers some rational reasons why everyone else is wrong. Bye."

Following the links in what bevets just posted (which, I will cheerfully admit, finally answers some, although not all, of the questions he has been asked) are very revealing. They contain what I saw in the Sarfati article, but writ large and boldly rather than subtly concealed.

Bevets says outright that he starts with the assumptions that a god created the universe a few thousand years ago and subjected it to a universal flood. All evidence to the contrary he dismissis; it is inconsistent with what he knows to be true, and therefore must be false. Period.

What is just as interesting is that he assumes scientists operate the same way! He, like Sarfati, states that he believes evolution is nothing more than an attempt to explain the universe with the initial assumption that gods do not exist - nothing more, nothing less. He says it outright about evolution in his links, but thinks this about the whole of science - "Long periods of time are essential for Natualistic assumptions to have ANY plausibility."

In other words, the idea that someone could be looking at the evidence, and coming to appropriate conclusions which are mutually consistent and have predictive power, does not exist for him. You either assume a god exists, and did everything however it wanted, or assume a god doesn't, and, apparently, try to explain things in that light. To him, scientific "assumptions" require long periods of time; since he knows there was not a long period of time, these assumptions must therefore be wrong. There is no possibility for him that long periods of time were posited to account for boatloads of actual evidence in numerous different areas, and that if the evidence were different, scientists would have had no problem positing something else - up to and including a god. But there is no possibility for him that a god could easily have a place in this, since the evidence does not point to the particular kind of god conceived by bevets. And, for that matter, Sarfati.

This is not a position that can be argued with. He will discount the evidence of his own eyes if it does not fit his preconceptions, and accuse others of doing the same because he will not believe that others may be doing something different. His response to the problems I brought up with Sarfati's article is essentially, "Well, maybe Sarfati has an explanation for all that." He says this because, in fact, Sarfati does, and so does bevets - they know it is all wrong because their book tells them it is all wrong. Period.

There are none so blind as those who will not see.
posted by kyrademon at 2:37 PM on May 27, 2005


Good show.
posted by ludwig_van at 2:51 PM on May 27, 2005


Incidentally, if anyone's still paying attention to this thread, it offers a pretty fascinating look at exactly what the problem is with the movement to teach ID in science classes.

It's interesting to note that all the defenders of ID linked to here - and, for that matter, any I have ever seen - are creationists. ID, if you look at what it actually says, does not imply the existence of a god at all. Think of the following, making the assumption that the tenets of ID are absolutely and unquestionably correct: aliens exist, who evolved from cellular forms which are not irreducably complex. They learned the secrets of highly advanced biological engineering, and created "designed" cells which could not possibly have evolved on their own. For reasons unknown, on purpose or by accident, they "seeded" earth with its most primitive life forms, these "designed" cells.

This is completely in keeping with the theories of ID. It does not contradict them at all. In fact, it is *more* logical in terms of ID than the "god" idea - as has been pointed out, it is reasonable to assume that an omnipotent being is irreduceably complex (was there partial omnipotence first? how?), and by the very theory of ID itself, therefore must have been designed by another irreduceably complex being, and you get turtles all the way down.

So, nothing in ID actually implies the existence of a god. So why is it being campaigned for only by those who believe in a god?

Also, it's interesting to note that ID is always presented as needing to be taught side by side with evolution. And yet, in fact, ID has little to do with evolution. It attempts to raise questions about the origins of the very first, primitive cells. It says nothing - nothing! - about what happened to those cells after that, whether they evolved or not, which is the vast bulk of evolutionary theory. So, why is it trumpeted by those who believe that higher life forms could not have evolved from primitive cells? And why are those people promoting as an "alternative" theory to evolution, about which it says little?

The answer to these questions is that, for the vast majority of the people promoting it, ID is irrelevant. It's a more palatable code for something else, the same way that "states' rights" has been used as a code for anti-black or -gay measures, but is ignored when it comes to drug laws, or "activist judges" gets applied to liberal decisions but not conservative ones, no matter what the actual law says in either case.

No one who is fighting for ID wants half a class' discussion about unsolved problems in molecular biology. What they want is a legal excuse for teachers to be able to say, however subtly or outright, "A god exists, and it is therefore our god, and therefore our book is entirely right, and therefore all your science is wrong." If you look at the beliefs of the people promoting ID, as shown in this thread and many other places, it becomes obvious. ID is not their belief, any more than Jim Crow laws really were about "states' rights". In fact, if taken to its logical conclusion, it even contradicts many of their beliefs. It is the pseudo-scientific veneer they put over what they actually want to say, and have made clear they would.

Bevets even admits that, for him, it's not a scientific debate at all - it's a debate about belief. Sarfati tacitly admits the same thing when he begins raving that evolution is about godlessness, since it contradicts his own personal vision of a god. They believe that God created the universe and it is a few thousand years old, and fit all facts to this belief. This is not a castigation of them; it is their stated position.

ID is being presented as a contrast to evolution, to which it really only applies tangentially, because evolution is in obvious direct contradiction to their beliefs, and since it has limited obvious real-world applications, it is seen as a good area of attack. They know - or sense - that they would be laughed out of the courtroom if they were trying to present an "alternative" view of nuclear physics, which also completely contradicts their beliefs (age of stars, for one example.) But nuclear power plants and nuclear bombs clearly work. Evolution is seen as a little more "fuzzy", and much more symbolic since it's an immediate and obvious contradiction to a famous story in their book, so they look for a means to attack it.

So, ID should not be "taught" in science classes because no one really wants to teach ID anyway. They want an excuse to teach religion. They admit it is not about science; they want it taught in science classes because they wish to *replace* science. They think, essentially, that science is wrong, and the findings of science are wrong, and they wish to teach religion in its place.
posted by kyrademon at 4:36 PM on May 27, 2005


"Define information."

anything that is statistical noise is not information. anything that can be compressed is not not information.
posted by muppetboy at 4:50 PM on May 27, 2005


a mutation within a single dna molecule is noise. but over time, that mutation is clearly information. new information that came from noise.
posted by muppetboy at 4:53 PM on May 27, 2005


the mutation replicated over time is clearly information because it is a signal that you can isolate and/or compress using T. if it were noise, it would go away again in the next replication. but it doesn't. therefore mutations are noise that (in many cases and depending on fitness) becomes signal.
posted by muppetboy at 4:56 PM on May 27, 2005


and thus order arises from chaos and life from noise. if there is a god, he is noise.
posted by muppetboy at 4:57 PM on May 27, 2005


"Is there a point where something is so complex that it is reasonable to assume intelligent input?"

it is a fact of our universe and of simple mathematics that complexity can arise from astoundingly simple sources. the most complex possible form is noise because there is nothing that can describe it other than the actual noise itself. stephen wolfram has created some incredibly simple 1d automata that create forms that are this complex. we're not even talking physics here! just mathematics. something VASTLY simpler than our actual world. and the complexity that comes out of it is mind boggling!
posted by muppetboy at 5:11 PM on May 27, 2005


I'm still here.

I had a whole post written about why bevets should just pack it in - that he's doing no favours to the Creationist community and making them look stupid - when I realised, dammit, that if he wants to make himself and his fellow-thinkers look like asses then he's free to do so.

There's been plenty of meta about whether bevets deserves a ban. I say "no" wholeheartedly - his posts inspire some of the best-argued, best-researched and best-informed posts on MeFi. Witness Kyra's fantastic dissection of the article (and, really, the motives for the entire ID movement) in this thread and felix betachat's wonderful work in this one.

By posting the same tired quotes and articles again and again, bevets is actually helping us to compile a fantastic database of anti-creationism articles. When I've got some time, I'll compile them all on the wiki.

posted by blag at 5:30 PM on May 27, 2005


Damn well stated, kyrademon!
nthng tht cn b cmprssd s nt nt infrmtn. (ws tht nt-nt dlbrt? mks mr sns tht wy.)
posted by five fresh fish at 6:42 PM on May 27, 2005


no. everything that can be compressed is (not not) information. only noise has no information. that's loosely why you cannot compress it.
posted by muppetboy at 7:53 PM on May 27, 2005


(PS - bevets, I *did* also cover the article you posted attempting to refute the New Yorker piece. When I talked about the stuff written by IDEA, referring specifically to the New Yorker article? That was them. This is why it helps to read the links you post. The second link you posted that you object to no one refuting appears to be ... a lame extended joke about stickers. I'm not sure exactly why you think this needs to be responded to. Anyway, this thread will be dead soon, I think, so it's not a big deal, but I didn't want to leave it with your assertion that some of your points have been ignored unanswered. They were, in fact, responded to.)
posted by kyrademon at 9:02 PM on May 27, 2005


no. everything that can be compressed is (not not) information. only noise has no information. that's loosely why you cannot compress it.

What the hell are you talking about? Compressibility is directly related to the Shannon entropy. Are you claiming that low entropy implies high information content? That would be a bizarre definition indeed. If a signal emits nothing but binary 0's, can it tell you anything useful? Does an endlessly repeating DNA sequence achieve anything worthwhile?
posted by Galvatron at 10:09 PM on May 27, 2005


i think you're reading something into what i said that i didn't actually mean. a string of all 0's is a meaningful signal and does contain information even if it is only one bit. so while it has very low information content, anything with order IS information. noise, on the other hand, is the complete absence of any order and necessarily of any information since each bit in the sequence is random and meaningless. in other words, i am not making a comparison of the quantity of information, just of the existence of it. in other words, all i'm saying is that signal is whatever is not noise. maybe it's not a very interesting point, but i think it's correct.
posted by muppetboy at 12:08 AM on May 28, 2005


getting back to DNA, maybe i've got it wrong, but what i'm trying to refute is this statement:

"Mutations do not result in new information!"

this is simply not true! even though a mutation is "noise" in the transmission of the DNA "signal", it can become signal if the organism survives the change and reproduces. the reason for this is that the purpose of DNA is not to be perfectly replicated. if it were, random mutations would /reduce/ information like static on a phone line. the purpose of DNA is to be copied and /re-interpreted/. and so the meaning of the signal changes based on the organism that's constructed from it. in other words, it is true that SOME mutations do not result in new information (because the organism dies), but SOME do (because the change is good and propagates over time)!
posted by muppetboy at 12:43 AM on May 28, 2005


i think the problem with shannon here is that his theories are all about statistical information content in messages and not about the information extracted from messages when those messages are interpreted. in other words, if interpretation was very complex, that string of all 0's you mentioned might actually have very high information content to the listener even though the message itself has low information content statistically. it depends on the algorithm being used to interpret the message. in the case of DNA, the algorithm is unimaginably complex. so, just because a mutation changes the signal doesn't mean that information is affected one way or another because information in the context of DNA is not just about the message, but about the message over time and under interpretation and in relation to the organism it creates. the DNA message is not some abstract bunch of bits!!!! it is being processed by a mind boggling algorithm and that whole environment also determines the information content. in other words, the information a DNA message carries is the organism itself (the result of the information in the message PLUS /the algorithm that interprets it/).
posted by muppetboy at 1:02 AM on May 28, 2005


"Mutations do not result in new information!"

the thing that really bugs me about this statement is that not only are mutations sometimes new information, but that the overall argument has been misdirected. the question is not whether mutations result in new information, but whether they result in new /meaning/... because you can't think about DNA without considering its interpretation. mutations clearly /do/ result in new meanings.

how much information (or meaning if you prefer) does a poem carry? it's not the number of ascii bits in the message. it depends on the incredibly complex system that is the listener.
posted by muppetboy at 1:51 AM on May 28, 2005


i think you're reading something into what i said that i didn't actually mean. a string of all 0's is a meaningful signal and does contain information even if it is only one bit. so while it has very low information content, anything with order IS information.

OK, fine. But if this is the sort of "information" you are describing, then don't try to describe it in terms of compressibility, which is a function solely of statistics.

It sounds like you're hinting at the idea of specified complexity. It's perhaps a more useful concept than statistical information when applied to biological systems, but also suffers from being poorly defined if not outright tautological (how can you know a priori what sequences constitute useful "specifications?").
posted by Galvatron at 10:06 AM on May 28, 2005


i don't think that's quite what i'm getting at. what i'm trying to say is that the meaning of a message (and thus the information carried by it relative to a receiver) depends on the receiver. for example, the number "110" has very little information in it. unless the receiver happens to be the algorithm for stephen wolfram's 1d automata. in that case, the information that is meant or represented by that number is astounding. it's not about the structure in the message at all. it's about the interaction of the message with the structure in /the receiver/. i think that's a totally different concept. in other words, i don't think you can talk about information in the abstract at all. it has to have an interpretation context. and that interpretation context is part of the meaning of the message. a DNA molecule in a vacuum is meaningless. in a vacuum, it might have structure. but that is not meaningful information. the structure requires an interpretive environment to be meaningful information. "i love you" is not a meaningful message unless the recipient is a human being. to a computer or anything else in the universe (that we know of), those letters are not information. they are meaningless noise. whether they contain signal or not. am i making sense now?
posted by muppetboy at 12:13 PM on May 28, 2005


i think the difference between what Dembski is saying and what i'm saying is that he's talking about the message's structure in terms of "pattern". but this misses the key point. the message pattern only exists because of the existence and structure of a listener. without the entire listener and its structure, you cannot measure the "specificity" of the information. because /the listener is part of the message/. that's the problem. and i believe it's the reason why the DNA for human beings isn't significantly larger or more complex than that of other animals. our DNA is not the complexity that makes. it's just the seed that produces our complex meaning in a very particular context. i would introduce some new term like "algorithmic information complexity" to describe this. a message like 110 has almost no algorithmic information complexity to a disk drive. but it has enormous algorithmic information complexity if it is a message intended for a 1d automata.
posted by muppetboy at 12:26 PM on May 28, 2005


uh "our DNA is not the complexity that makes" should have read "our DNA is not the complexity that makes us".
posted by muppetboy at 12:26 PM on May 28, 2005


also, unlike dembski, my argument is an argument that refutes ID because it proposes that massive complexity can be contained in messages with almost no information because of the complexity of the listener (the interpretation context). while DNA has some complexity, the complexity of the molecule is trivial in relation to the organism it creates. dembski's calculation of odds for the natural occurrence of biological structure is particularly absurd to me. it's clear that complex structures (and i think biological ones) at least /could/ emerge quite directly from replicated algorithmic information complexity in the presence of noise. the thing is an automatic complexity generator that seeks fitness to its environment. over time, the trivial information in DNA in combination with the unbelievably complex interpretation environment /will/ create things as complex as biological forms. there is no magic. there is no intelligence behind it. it just does this. even the rules behind our universe may be completely random. maybe there are an infinite number of parallel universes out there which don't have the rules to create life. they're uninteresting. ours is only interesting to us because it created us. because this is a universe where DNA happens to be likely.
posted by muppetboy at 12:42 PM on May 28, 2005


am i making sense now?

Yeah, that's all fine, although (like specified complexity) I'm not sure it's useful for anything. The fundamental problem is that for biological systems we cannot evaluate the value of the system output for most input sequences. The search space is far too vast, our genetic toolset is too poor, and placing a value on a given output is a hard problem all by itself. Does an information metric have any value if you can't actually measure anything with it?

Out of everything you said, the only thing I really had a problem with was trying to relate this concept of information to compressibility. As to the statement "mutations cannot create new information," I agree that it's easily disputed, and I will continue to ignore the underlying question until someone comes up with a more useful information metric.
posted by Galvatron at 12:55 PM on May 28, 2005


i agree. but i wouldn't start with biological systems. automata and chaos theory seem like a more likely starting place. the algorithmic information complexity of very simple message-driven chaotic systems is probably measurable in some interesting way, even if it requires the execution of the algorithm in most cases. this is where i wonder if wolfram isn't right. we need a new kind of math/science to approach these problems (if they can be approached at all). what we have is totally insufficient.
posted by muppetboy at 1:15 PM on May 28, 2005


I still await bevet's answer: "Do you, Bevets, believe Intelligent Design is a scientific theory? Yes or No?"

Next time, maybe.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:23 PM on May 28, 2005


fff: You might be waiting until the second coming.

Hearty chortles all around for that one I hope.
posted by baphomet at 3:14 PM on May 28, 2005


« Older The Secret Way to War:...  |  Nature starts a weblog about t... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments