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Judgment Day on NOVA
November 13, 2007 11:15 AM   Subscribe

Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial. Tonight on NOVA, a documentary on the six-week trial of Kitzmiller v. Dover. [Full transcripts of trial] The court's decision [PDF] by Judge John E. Jones III, chastised the defense's dishonesty and the "breathtaking inanity" of the Dover School Board's policy. Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education recounts the the trial here. According to Salon, the Discovery Institute is not quitting -- preferring now to "teach the controversy," as part of their ongoing attack on naturalism. [Previously 1 2]
posted by McLir (193 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Does anyone know if Intelligent Design is gaining any foothold outside of the US? I'm honestly curious.
posted by slimepuppy at 11:24 AM on November 13, 2007


It isn't. All of the intelligent design in the world is confined to God's own country, America. Specifically, East Texas.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:26 AM on November 13, 2007


The "Wedge" document identifies the enemy as materialism, not naturalism.
posted by No Robots at 11:29 AM on November 13, 2007


Not in Canuckistan, but we're not God-fearin' folk up here. We're a buncha godless commie pinktards!
posted by illiad at 11:29 AM on November 13, 2007


John Tory just lost a provincial election in Ontario, partly because his suggestion that Christian private schools should be allowed to teach creationism if they receive public funding didn't sit too well with most of the public.

Thank God.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:31 AM on November 13, 2007


"Teaching the controversy" implies there is a controversy within the scientific community. There isn't. Period. I'm consistently shocked at just how difficult this is for some people to understand.
posted by Mikey-San at 11:32 AM on November 13, 2007 [8 favorites]


East Texas? Well, Dover's in Pennsylvania. The Discovery Institute is in SEATTLE.
posted by MrFongGoesToLunch at 11:32 AM on November 13, 2007


You're forgetting about the scienticians, Mikey-San. Lots of them support creationism.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:35 AM on November 13, 2007


Fuck these idiots. Fuck them.

If they want to teach religion in a science classroom, then I propose that Mrs. Howard, my hard-as-nails, took-no-shit, most favoritist biology teacher EVAR be allowed to come into their churches and teach them some honest-to-god (yes) science.
posted by rtha at 11:37 AM on November 13, 2007


the scientific community is not the only community. period. i'm consistently shocked at just how difficult this is for some people to understand.
posted by quonsar at 11:37 AM on November 13, 2007 [5 favorites]


No Robots: "The 'Wedge' document identifies the enemy as materialism, not naturalism."

That's true. I chose to use the word "naturalism" because it is more accurate -- naturalism in contrast to supernaturalism. The word "materialism" has a number of different meaning, some of which have negative connotations. (I'd venture to guess the Discovery Institute chose the word "materialism" for that very reason. But I don't know). In any case, "naturalism" is the more appropriate word.
posted by McLir at 11:38 AM on November 13, 2007


allowed to come into their churches and teach them some honest-to-god (yes) science.

church is not mandatory. for many, public school is the only option.
posted by quonsar at 11:39 AM on November 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Teaching the controversy" implies there is a controversy within the scientific community.

Which is why when NPR (and I'm assuming other news orgs) have stories on evolution or creationism, they assign their religion reporter, not their science reporter.

I scream at the radio every time they do it. Presumably, even the creationists would tell you this is a science story, right? They are trying to show that creationism is a science, I gather. So why have the religion reporter cover it, gathering quotes from ministers and so forth? It's dishonest in the extreme.

Creationism wants to be a theory of biology. So have Joe Palka or whoever ask some experts on biology what they think about the theory. Lots of tape of laughter, then cut to the next story. End of "controversy".
posted by DU at 11:40 AM on November 13, 2007 [2 favorites]


Theories are assessed via experiment, not community standards, period. I'm consistently shocked at just how difficult this is for some people to understand.
posted by DU at 11:45 AM on November 13, 2007 [8 favorites]


Does anyone know if Intelligent Design is gaining any foothold outside of the US? I'm honestly curious

To various degrees (chart, again), depending on yer definition of foothold. "Supernaturalists" seem to be on the rise in the Catholic and the Greek Orthodox world, plus England has a pretty vocal contingent of IDers, too.

At least it looks like the mainline (formerly-) Lutheran Nordic countries haven't been infected with the American strain of idiocy, yet.

Regnery Press, one of the locii of the Wingnut Welfare system, publishes anti-evolutionary screeds regularly. Must be tough to be a thoughtful conservative these days. Then again, cap gains tax is down to 10-15%, and that's the important thing.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 11:46 AM on November 13, 2007



It isn't. All of the intelligent design in the world is confined to God's own country, America. Specifically, East Texas.


Not true.
posted by ChestnutMonkey at 11:49 AM on November 13, 2007


While it's far from the US level of insanity, this stuff is most definitely growing in Canada.

Intelligent Design Hits Canada

Canada's First Creationist Museum (More)

Professor denied federal research funds for assuming evolution

Intelligent design creeping into Canadian schools

So basically, it's not going away yet. Narrow-mindedness is not an exclusively American talent.
posted by rokusan at 11:49 AM on November 13, 2007


heh, me and McLir are on the same page.

I was trying to think of a word for anti-naturalist, and "supernaturalist" came to mind. Natural processes are sun, gravity, chemisty. IDers, arguing from incredulity, posit some "intelligent" agent, outside of known nature, is responsible for evolutionary change over time, not known natural processes.

Certainly is a better "story" to tell someone that they are the loving hand-crafted product of a Creator rather than a mishmashed dog's breakfast of freak DNA protein encodings.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 11:53 AM on November 13, 2007


In spite of a few flaws Monkey Girl is an excellent read on this that busts a bunch of the commonly used myths that get brought up around Kitzmiller. For example, most of the parents who brought the suit to court were Christian, and Judge Jones was a long-time local Republican leader who was as convinced by the profound evidence of fraud by the school board as the scientific case against intelligent design. Humes calls the cross-examination of Behe in which he was verbally and figuratively buried behind evidence Behe claimed did not exist, one of the best examples of the art in American History, and Jones took the step of cross-examining defendants himself in an attempt to "clarify" inconsistencies in their testimony.

A problem with Kitzmiller, and the reason why the Discovery Institute and others are still pushing, is that arguably the evidence of fraud and perjury by the sitting schoolboard overshadowed the Intelligent Design decision.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:53 AM on November 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


But here's what I was really looking for.
posted by ChestnutMonkey at 11:54 AM on November 13, 2007


Three of City Academies (state-funded but privately-run schools in poorer areas) in north-east England have been accused of teaching creationism. The official government line is:

"To meet the requirements of the National Curriculum for science, teachers must teach about scientific theories. Neither creationism nor intelligent design is a recognised scientific theory and as such, they do not meet the requirements of the National Curriculum as agreed by Parliament. However, there is scope for young people to discuss creationism in RE."

However, there have been frequent allegations that schools run by Sir Peter Vardy's educational charity Emmanuel Education, which has close ties to some evangelicals, are breaking this rule.
posted by athenian at 11:55 AM on November 13, 2007


Fuck these idiots. Fuck them.
posted by Mr_Zero at 11:57 AM on November 13, 2007 [2 favorites]


the scientific community is not the only community. period. i'm consistently shocked at just how difficult this is for some people to understand.

Obviously. If only "the other community" would step up with some facts, testable hypotheses maybe someone would take them seriously.
posted by jeblis at 11:58 AM on November 13, 2007 [5 favorites]


Teach both sides; let the kids decide!
posted by ibmcginty at 11:58 AM on November 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


church is not mandatory. for many, public school is the only option.

Sorry, quonsar - what?

I'd imagine that for the folks pushing to have creationism in science classrooms, church is most certainly mandatory (culturally if not legally).

Or did I mis-take your point?
posted by rtha at 12:01 PM on November 13, 2007


"Certainly is a better "story" to tell someone that they are the loving hand-crafted product of a Creator rather than a mishmashed dog's breakfast of freak DNA protein encodings."

I get to believe both. Go me.
posted by oddman at 12:04 PM on November 13, 2007


the scientific community is not the only community. period. i'm consistently shocked at just how difficult this is for some people to understand.

It's the only community that counts when it comes to science. I wouldn't ask Peyton Manning how many hit dice an orc has, and I wouldn't ask you anything about reality.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:15 PM on November 13, 2007 [25 favorites]


John Tory just lost a provincial election in Ontario, partly because his suggestion that Christian private schools should be allowed to teach creationism if they receive public funding didn't sit too well with most of the public.

Uh, well, except for the entire Catholic school board. They get to teach a lot of religion and I think they skip the "intelligent design" stuff and just go straight to divine creation.

So I would say that while intelligent design isn't that popular in Canada (and specifically, Ontario), that doesn't mean that everyone is all agreed that evolution is correct.
posted by GuyZero at 12:15 PM on November 13, 2007


It's been awhile (32 years) since I took a science class in a public school, but I don't ever recall any course material covering the basics of defining what science IS and what it IS NOT. Could that be part of the problem?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 12:17 PM on November 13, 2007 [2 favorites]


This documentary is pretty excellent. I got a chance to see a preview of it last week. They're working right up to the last minute -- a lot of the animations still had stand-in signs.

The most amazing thing from the doc, to me, was an illustration of how drafts of the textbook "Of Pandas and People" changed in response to court cases at the time; at one point they changed a term they were defining from "creationism" to "intelligent design" without changing the definition.

I'm reading the Discovery Institute's Explore Evolution now -- know thy enemy. I very much hope that no public school kids, anywhere, ever get stuck with it.
posted by gurple at 12:20 PM on November 13, 2007


i find it difficult to care. in two more generations, religion will be dead.
posted by mr_book at 12:21 PM on November 13, 2007


i find it difficult to care. in two more generations, religion will be dead

People have been saying that since the Enlightenment. Probably long before. It's incorrect.
posted by gurple at 12:23 PM on November 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


in two more generations, religion will be dead.

Two generations ago, I would have said the same.
posted by DU at 12:23 PM on November 13, 2007


rtha I think quonsar meant that kids have to go to school and take science classes, whether their parents want them to or not. Nobody legally has to go to church (anymore).

The problem here is that he's putting creationism on the same intellectual footing as science. It's not. One is based upon an old book/tales passed down from long dead people/emotion/wishful thinking. The other is based upon observation/experiments.

Trying to use reason on someone who arrived at their beliefs in an irrational emotional way won't do any good. They won't follow your reasoning/logic. Either because they can't or are afraid that doing so would undermine their basic world view.

I think mocking may be the best strategy. The time honored school yard tactic of calling something that is stupid: stupid, is actually quite effective. Bit of social norming. The problem is that religion/faith are magic words where people immediately mocking someone for a silly notion is considered taboo in our society. Personally I think we need a little more tough love. Yeah believers, you heard me right, I called your belief stupid/childish. Akin to a belief in Santa Claus. You may otherwise be an intelligent person, but on this one you're being irrational.
posted by jeblis at 12:24 PM on November 13, 2007


Intelligent Design is reducible to Magic.

There will always be lunatics that push their madness onto others like succulent red herpes lips in a gas station parking lot, but what is so dangerous is the government loves religion, as it is an effective means of control.

It must be fought against, tooth and nail, forever.
posted by four panels at 12:24 PM on November 13, 2007 [11 favorites]


ZenMasterThis, I have hazy recollections of being taught the Scientific Method in Grades 8 thru 10. Anyway, I have a modest idea of what science is, and Intelligent Design ain't it.

I also did good in English.
posted by illiad at 12:25 PM on November 13, 2007


"naturalism" is the more appropriate word.

The problem here is that some naturalists (ie. idealists)oppose materialistic monism, which has its most elaborate expression in the Theory of Evolution.
posted by No Robots at 12:25 PM on November 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


There will always be lunatics that push their madness onto others like succulent red herpes lips in a gas station parking lot...

Hmm... what's the maximum length of a MeFi sockpuppet account name?
posted by rokusan at 12:26 PM on November 13, 2007


to comment on rokusan's links...

Alberta - ALBERTA - has a creationist museum? A province whose economy revolves around dead dinosaurs? Crazy. Of course, this is the province that most Canadians see as "most likely to want to form a country with Texas", so, I dunno.

That bit on the McGill scientist being denied funding cause they support evolution is shocking. I can only hope the "ID is Scientificalism!" virus going around doesn't infect too many here in Canada.
posted by Salmonberry at 12:28 PM on November 13, 2007


Or did I mis-take your point?

mistook my point. sending science teachers into churches isn't forcing the scientific view on anybody, because church attendance isn't required by law. school attendance is required by law, and for many, public school is the only option.
posted by quonsar at 12:31 PM on November 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yeah, sorry Zen, I dunno what school didn't teach you what Science is, but I know I was forced to memorize the steps of the scientific method, to say nothing of demonstrating that understanding through forced participation in school science fairs. In fact, scientific method gets introduced pretty early according to most curricula. . . well, at least it used to. [I teach social studies, not science]
posted by absalom at 12:33 PM on November 13, 2007


sending science teachers into churches isn't forcing the scientific view on anybody, because church attendance isn't required by law. school attendance is required by law, and for many, public school is the only option.

Which is why your fantasies need to be kept out of it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:33 PM on November 13, 2007 [3 favorites]


I'm disappointed that the path of intelligent design has turned into some sort of back-door way to lobby for replacing practical scientific method with the Bearded Guy in the Sky in educational science. Philosophically, the idea is intriguing to me, that some being or beings created our existence.

It doesn't seem that far-fetched; everything we've learned from science points to a sensible, logical system. The only things that don't follow that model, invariably will once we understand them more completely. It's easy for me to imagine that, assuming we can successfully navigate the tumultuous social and ecological barriers we face, and avoid a civilization-level catastrophe for the next, say, 10,000 years (I know, a very big assumption), we would have the power to duplicate the creation of many of the things we currently understand in the universe. Add 100,000 more years, and, well, you get the picture. Who's going to be calling us God at that point?

Obviously, such speculation falls squarely under the heading of philosophy in this day and age, as there's no way to scientifically prove or disprove the concept of intelligent design. But in that realm, I think it's a provocative concept, and it's sad to see it co-opted by religious zealots with no appreciation of science.
posted by Brak at 12:35 PM on November 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


Does anyone know if Intelligent Design is gaining any foothold outside of the US? I'm honestly curious.

In Sweden, the general consensus is that creationism is a bunch of batShitCrazy fairy tale stuff created by the religious right in the USA. Not even the Christians here are that terribly interested in it. The notion that creationism even could be considered to be taught i science classes is nervously laughed at.

Also, the Swedish school system doesn't give counties enough power to introduce bogus ideas such as creationism. The framework within which schools can operate are pretty solidly regulated by the government.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:36 PM on November 13, 2007


Totally unrelated, Kitzmiller v. Dover anagrams to Killdozer v. Vimter. And that would be a cool movie. Assuming there's a guy named 'Vimter'. Or it's set in Sweden during the winter.
posted by ardgedee at 12:37 PM on November 13, 2007 [2 favorites]


Which is why your fantasies need to be kept out of it.

but that would violate my civil rights.
posted by quonsar at 12:37 PM on November 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


This may sound incredibly cynical of me, but after listening to a protracted debate on the subject recently, I have come to the following conclusion:

I want self identified Intelligent Design folks to be as vocal and obvious as possible.

It makes it far easier for me just to get the fuck out of their way. I don't want to confront them anymore, I just want them to crawl back under their divine rock and leave me the fuck alone.
posted by quin at 12:38 PM on November 13, 2007


I'm disappointed that the path of intelligent design has turned into some sort of back-door way to lobby for replacing practical scientific method with the Bearded Guy in the Sky in educational science.

Pay attention. ID was invented in the past twenty-odd years as the successor to creationism. It denies that evolution is possible and is inherently anti-scientific.

Philosophically, the idea is intriguing to me, that some being or beings created our existence.

You and every theist who ever lived. That's not what "Intelligent Design" means- it IS, however, what the ID proponents want people to assume that it means.

But in that realm, I think it's a provocative concept, and it's sad to see it co-opted by religious zealots with no appreciation of science.

INTELLIGENT DESIGN IS NOT SCIENCE AND IS OPPOSED TO SCIENCE AND THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD AS EPISTEMIC TOOLS FOR INVESTIGATING REALITY

See what you made me do? Now I have a blink tag on my conscience.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:40 PM on November 13, 2007


but that would violate my civil rights.

No, it wouldn't. You do not have a right to force public schools to teach fantasy as science.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:41 PM on November 13, 2007


investigate reality? LOL!

you close your mind to whole swaths of reality because you cannot epistemically test it! you are like a little child, hands over ears, going "LALALALALALALA I CAN'T HEAR YOU!"

you couldn't investigate reality if it was homosexually raping you.
posted by quonsar at 12:43 PM on November 13, 2007 [2 favorites]


No, it wouldn't. You do not have a right to force public schools to teach fantasy as science.

it already does, it merely happens to be YOUR fantasy. the one about the primordial ooze evolving by happenstance into the human spirit. what a hoot that one is!
posted by quonsar at 12:46 PM on November 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


MeTa
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:49 PM on November 13, 2007


you couldn't investigate reality if it was homosexually raping you.

The world must really be a confusing, scary place for you.

If you can't see something, see the effects of it, or test for it's existence, for all practical purposes, it doesn't exist. And really, just where are you getting your definition of reality from?
posted by jeblis at 12:49 PM on November 13, 2007


quonsar: You have to being intentionally disingenuous to make some sort of extreme point, because I know believe that you're a bright enough guy to at least distinguish absolute fantasy from hypothesis supported by some data.
posted by absalom at 12:50 PM on November 13, 2007


I'm not a theist. I was educated as a scientist, and employ scientific method in my daily life. I consider science to be a far more likely candidate for the salvation of the human race than anything else, real or imagined. As a matter of fact, I hardly know anyone who is less of a theist than I am.

Also, it's been a long time since I've read anything about the tenets of intelligent design, but what I did read at the time was discussing ID in the way I described, as more of a philosophical exploration than a replacement for science, or even creationism.

But, you know, maybe the world is really just as black and white as you describe, and I should choose a camp. I'll take the idea under consideration.
posted by Brak at 12:52 PM on November 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


ID on wikipedia.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:56 PM on November 13, 2007


intentionally disingenuous is my middle name.
posted by quonsar at 12:56 PM on November 13, 2007


paradox is a bitch, eh?
posted by quonsar at 12:57 PM on November 13, 2007


Brak No there's nothing wrong with pondering philosophical ideas. The difference is that you know the difference between philosophy/speculation and science.
posted by jeblis at 12:58 PM on November 13, 2007


Brak: everything we've learned from science points to a sensible, logical system.

Precisely. There is fascinating, neglected stream of inquiry which in figure Spinoza, Hegel and Goethe, among others. Here we find an approach that unites the principle of design with a thorough-going naturalism.
posted by No Robots at 12:58 PM on November 13, 2007


No Robots: "The problem here is that some naturalists (ie. idealists)oppose materialistic monism, which has its most elaborate expression in the Theory of Evolution."

Are you talking about "idealistic monism" as described by Russell? (Idealism also has numerous meanings.)
posted by McLir at 12:58 PM on November 13, 2007


As a christian who's had discussions about this with other christians (I'm on the pro-evolution side), I just have this to say: the state of science education in the USA is bad. Real bad. No, badder than that. A lot of people have no clue what goes into a scientific study, how to evaluate what makes a good study, and no sense of proportion.

Michael Behe, the main proponent of ID, has had a couple published papers. A lot of people look at his 2 papers, and think it is somehow equivalent to the mountain of evidence in favor of evolution. The idea that "evolution is just a theory, after all" makes sense if you have no experience reading an actual scientific paper.
posted by selfmedicating at 12:59 PM on November 13, 2007


We, as a society have decided to teach science to kids. If you don't want your kids to learn science, then perhaps you can take them out of those classes.

Anyway in science class people should learn science. If you want them to learn something else, then teach it in another class.
posted by delmoi at 1:00 PM on November 13, 2007 [4 favorites]


An Open Letter to Dr. Michael Behe
posted by homunculus at 1:00 PM on November 13, 2007


it already does, it merely happens to be YOUR fantasy. the one about the primordial ooze evolving by happenstance into the human spirit. what a hoot that one is!

And the public schools still aren't teaching my fantasy, either, even though it's just as valid as quonsar's!
posted by cerebus19 at 1:00 PM on November 13, 2007


ID = Intellectually Dishonest

If they want to teach it in Sunday school, go fer it. Just keep the lies out of science class so that we don't further undermine the development of rational thinking in our schools.
posted by illiad at 1:01 PM on November 13, 2007


Alberta - ALBERTA - has a creationist museum? A province whose economy revolves around dead dinosaurs?

Only a few extreme crackpot fundies would deny the existence of dinosaurs; the rest think that dinosaurs and creationism are compatible. I went to a Christian grade school where we were taught Creationism AND about dinosaurs, the explanation being that the language concerning the "seven days of creation" was figurative.
posted by orange swan at 1:01 PM on November 13, 2007


Teaching ID in schools is actually worse than teaching creation in schools. I'd rather they taught the creation myth than some made-up drivel masquerading as science. At least creation myths have some educational merit, if only culturally and historically; and with our racially and culturally mixed schools we'd have to teach all of them, which would really be entertaining. But if you can teach ignorant bollocks that you pulled out of your ass in schools and call it science, even as a "competing theory", then there's no legitimate argument against teaching anything at all; teachers would be at liberty to teach geocentrism or sympathetic magic as well.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:01 PM on November 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


McLir: Are you talking about "idealistic monism" as described by Russell?

I look mainly to Spinoza and his German followers, notably Constantin Brunner, who describes his position as absolute idealism and relative materialism.
posted by No Robots at 1:02 PM on November 13, 2007


Quonsor-Despite school attendance being required by law, kids can be taught ideas outside of school, even ideas that directly conflict with information that is given inside the school. Thus, if it is important enough to the parents (guardians etc) that the child believe in intelligent design (or really any other idea), the parent has the power to introduce these ideas during time spent off school grounds and therefore not interfere with the teaching of a science class.
posted by miss-lapin at 1:09 PM on November 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


DU: "Theories are assessed via experiment, not community standards, period."

Theories are assessed via rational thought. Science assesses theory by way of experiment. Rational thought, which is not identical to science, cannot, unfortunately, rule out the possibility of divine intervention or revelation.

It's possible for the very proponents of rational thought to take it to irrational extremes. That's what happened when Spinoza tried to argue away the possibility of miracles, and that's what's happened ever since. There are limits to rationality, and even more limits to science.

Sometimes I think we shouldn't teach children anything about the way the world began in school. They're already jaded and cocksure already. A certain amount of wonder would do them good.
posted by koeselitz at 1:14 PM on November 13, 2007 [2 favorites]


koeselitz: That's what happened when Spinoza tried to argue away the possibility of miracles, and that's what's happened ever since.

Now that's a protest against naturalism, not materialism.
posted by No Robots at 1:17 PM on November 13, 2007


Good grief. Let the scientists be scientists, the theologians theologians and the philosophers philosophers. If everyone would stay the hell out of everyone else's kitchen, the world would be a quieter place.
posted by jquinby at 1:17 PM on November 13, 2007


ID loses every battle with scientific evolutionary theory, but is still winning the war because the scientific community does not seem to grasp that the way they are fighting back risks turning science itself into a mere competing religion in the eyes of a greater public.
posted by jamjam at 1:20 PM on November 13, 2007 [4 favorites]


jquinby: Let the scientists be scientists, the theologians theologians and the philosophers philosophers.

The question is not whether philosophy underlies science, but rather it is which philosophy underlies science?
posted by No Robots at 1:21 PM on November 13, 2007


jquinby: "Good grief. Let the scientists be scientists, the theologians theologians and the philosophers philosophers. If everyone would stay the hell out of everyone else's kitchen, the world would be a quieter place."

Who will teach kids, then?

Science, in order to function, must presume that miracles do not occur within the realm of its inquiry. It is therefore tempting to those who rely on science for their intellectual backdrop to say that miracles cannot ever occur. But this only amounts to universalizing assumed premises, and it doesn't work, unfortunately.
posted by koeselitz at 1:32 PM on November 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


Theories are assessed via rational thought.

No. Theories are assessed by their predictions.
posted by mek at 1:32 PM on November 13, 2007 [2 favorites]


Metafilter is the only community. Period. I'm consistently shocked at just how difficult this is for some people to understand.
posted by iamkimiam at 1:34 PM on November 13, 2007


In my American public high school, I got no serious teaching of evolution. Subsequently, I didn't believe in it. I actually argued against evolution. To sharpen my arguments, I took an evolution class and realized I had completely misunderstood the process of natural selection. Learning this was thrilling and truly enhanced my sense of wonder about the natural world. Unfortunately, many teachers and schools avoid the subject entirely because they don't want to get protested, baited, sued or otherwise hassled.
I'm glad I had the eventual luck of a decent education in biology.
posted by McLir at 1:36 PM on November 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


Based on its history of viciously crushing dissent, I think religion needs to be quiet and let science drive for a few centuries. When scientists start burning heretics, religion can have another shot.
posted by mullingitover at 1:37 PM on November 13, 2007 [6 favorites]


I agree with George Spiggot; ID is more dangerous than balls-out literalist divine creationism (as exemplified best, perhaps, by the Creation Museum), because it's more sneaky. It doesn't just seek to assault science, it seeks to undermine it.

There's a place for creationism in schools and colleges: it's called Comparative Religions (or 'World Religions' as I believe it's now called more frequently). Or maybe a course on myths and fables. They can teach it right after they get through Ginnungagap and Yggdrasil.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:39 PM on November 13, 2007


See, it's not really about limiting professionals to their respective field of study. It's the fact that scientific explanations of things are in the business of eliminating the theological, psychological, and other non-materialist explanations that existed before it. I mean, people can argue with me whether this statement actually means anything, but I would argue that it does a good job of describing what the "scientific revolution" is perceived as "doing" in university classrooms, in curriculums themselves, as it trickles down into more open, social organizations - such as church, and high school boards. People having a lot of time on their hands, I guess, and these are complex issues.
posted by phaedon at 1:40 PM on November 13, 2007


koeselitz, science calls miracles "extraneous variables," they are certainly "allowed to exist" though your impression that science somehow presumes what may exist seems confused at best. The entire experimental method is designed to minimize the influence of miracles on data, for a number of obvious reasons. Statistical outliers, or "miracles," also serve to explain away "supernatural" phenomena, too. That one guy who won the lottery three times may think it a miracle, but statistics class says otherwise. And with a universe as massive as ours is, scientific miracles occur on a regular basis.
posted by mek at 1:41 PM on November 13, 2007


the one about the primordial ooze evolving by happenstance into the human spirit.

Human Spirit? Oh, how marvelously quaint of you.
posted by aramaic at 1:41 PM on November 13, 2007


It is therefore tempting to those who rely on science for their intellectual backdrop to say that miracles cannot ever occur.

I dunno about that. The scientists I've known, who, when presented with a miraculous-looking thing, tend to say: Hmm, wonder how that happened? Let's see, maybe it happened this way...[experiments]....Nope, not like that, I guess. Maybe like this...[experiments some more]...

Rinse, repeat.

The ID/creationist proponents I've read seem to come to a dead stop at Hey, here's a miraculous-looking thing: must be a miracle!

And that's a stupid thing to teach in a science classroom.
posted by rtha at 1:43 PM on November 13, 2007 [4 favorites]


The problem is, most people already believe in natural selection, they just don't know it. But ask them if they think they passed on any traits of themselves on to their children (oh he has his father's eyes! oh, she has a birthmark in the same place mom does!), they'll say yes.
posted by agregoli at 1:47 PM on November 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


Science, in order to function, must presume that miracles do not occur within the realm of its inquiry. It is therefore tempting to those who rely on science for their intellectual backdrop to say that miracles cannot ever occur. But this only amounts to universalizing assumed premises, and it doesn't work, unfortunately.

So because it doesn't take into account that a pink koala bear from another dimension might be causing the apple to fall from the tree, science is useless?

Isn't it reasonable to begin with the assumption that the world is explainable? Sure, we're going to run up against things that seem to defy that rule, but that's what science sharpens its knife on -- the inexplicable. I was taught that "we don't know" is an acceptable answer, with a silent but hopeful "yet" implied.
posted by papercake at 1:50 PM on November 13, 2007


They can teach it right after they get through Ginnungagap and Yggdrasil.

ODIN!
posted by homunculus at 1:59 PM on November 13, 2007 [2 favorites]


mek: "koeselitz, science calls miracles "extraneous variables," they are certainly "allowed to exist" though your impression that science somehow presumes what may exist seems confused at best. The entire experimental method is designed to minimize the influence of miracles on data, for a number of obvious reasons. Statistical outliers, or "miracles," also serve to explain away "supernatural" phenomena, too. That one guy who won the lottery three times may think it a miracle, but statistics class says otherwise. And with a universe as massive as ours is, scientific miracles occur on a regular basis."

I think that you're confusing unknown variables with unknowables. The definition of "miracle" that I'm using isn't "variables reducing to as-yet-undiscovered features of the world;" it's "variables reducing to no features of the world." If variables that can have no observable or definable cause have some place in experiments, then experiments become somewhat futile, don't they?

To put it another way, in reference to the example at hand: I would, scientifically, lean toward theorizing that the world began many billions of years ago, and that it grew gradually, and that human beings took a long time evolving from apes. Another person might say that God made it and put it here in 1924. Now, assuming uniformity of processes, and assuming that miracles can't happen, that's just silly. But there's no scientific way to say that that didn't happen, unfortunately. The world is more difficult and mysterious than we'd like to presume.
posted by koeselitz at 2:00 PM on November 13, 2007


they just don't know it

they compartmentalize common-day experience into "microevolution", and anything that threatens the biblical literalist interpretation of "kinds" etc. as "macroevolution".
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 2:01 PM on November 13, 2007


papercake: "So because it doesn't take into account that a pink koala bear from another dimension might be causing the apple to fall from the tree, science is useless?"

I didn't say "useless." I said "limited. And I agree, it's good to assume that the world is explainable. That's why, when science hits its limit, we should know how to proceed reasonably.

In other words, as I said, science and rationality aren't the same thing.
posted by koeselitz at 2:02 PM on November 13, 2007


The world is more difficult and mysterious than we'd like to presume.

I think Gould's definition of "scientific fact" is useful here.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 2:03 PM on November 13, 2007


quonsar has gotten a lot suckier lately.
posted by BaxterG4 at 2:05 PM on November 13, 2007


oops, didn't see the MeTa thread

*kisses quonsar in a very unhomosexual way*
posted by BaxterG4 at 2:13 PM on November 13, 2007


science and rationality aren't the same thing

science is our (noun) self-consistent body of facts and theories of the observable, and the (verb) method of assembling them.

reason and rationality depend on their bases. When the bases are in science, "scientific" and "rational" are synonymous.

rationality not based in science is, well, not worth a bucket of warm spit, or on a good day, called Law, Philosophy, etc. I guess.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 2:25 PM on November 13, 2007


koeselitz: Well, to start with, one of the interesting things about the history of miracles is that phenomena that at one period of time seemed to be miraculous, often turns out on closer examination to be the necessary action of forces. Two examples of this were lightning and muscle action. We now understand that lightning is not the otherworldly expression of god's wrath, and muscle action is not the otherwordly action of the spirit. Instead, they are the necessary consequence of physical law.

But, I think one of the reasons that ID often tends to win in these debates, is because of the mistaken attempt to turn evolution into a narrative of fish becoming amphibians or dinosaurs becoming birds. And that's not where the really hard evidence for evolution lies. Evolutionary biology may never get a full detailed history of the human race. And it may never find all of the missing links between land-bound dinosaurs and birds in flight.

The real evidence comes not when you look at individual species and their probable ancestors, but at entire families, on the order of hundreds or thousands of species living and extinct. And when you look at biodiversity on that scale, descent from common ancestors with modification is a simple theory that explains all of the biodiversity.

In short, descent from common ancestors with modification is THE THEORY that unifies biology, in the same way that General Relativity (along with its Newtonian simplification) is THE THEORY that unifies astronomy. Just as astronomers find that gravity is a theory that parsimoniously explains everything from binary stars, to the riptides of galaxies in collision, evolution is a theory that parsimoniously explains everything from the exchange of genetic information from parasite to host, to the taxonomy of entire orders. Evolution is supported not only by tons of raw evidence, it is supported by multiple lines of evidence. And it is the latter that is most compelling.

If we choose to cast a singular shoud of doubt onto evolution, then the question becomes, what theories can we teach?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:28 PM on November 13, 2007


None.
posted by koeselitz at 2:30 PM on November 13, 2007


But, I think one of the reasons that ID often tends to win in these debates, is because of the mistaken attempt to turn evolution into a narrative of fish becoming amphibians or dinosaurs becoming birds. And that's not where the really hard evidence for evolution lies.

There are mountains of evidence for both your examples- they're two of the best-known and best-supported examples of evolutionary change.

And it may never find all of the missing links between land-bound dinosaurs and birds in flight.

Blathering about "missing links" is a creationist canard- any time you have two different specimens, they insist on seeing the missing link. But every missing link scientists find creates two more holes! Trying to find "all of the missing links" is a futile quest and only serves the Creationists' rhetorical purposes.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:34 PM on November 13, 2007


And that's not where the really hard evidence for evolution lies

actually DNA commonality among present-day species is "hard" evidence -- and the most persuasive IMO -- of common descent.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 2:34 PM on November 13, 2007


ID loses every battle with scientific evolutionary theory, but is still winning the war because the scientific community does not seem to grasp that the way they are fighting back risks turning science itself into a mere competing religion in the eyes of a greater public.

That just seems absurd. The average person is just as theologically illiterate as they are scientifically illiterate, and they are not going to spend their time thinking about the epistemological underpinnings of the theory of science. I mean come on. Most people don't think of science as "just a competing religion" they see it as guys in lab coats mixing colored liquids in Erlenmeyer flasks.
posted by delmoi at 2:54 PM on November 13, 2007


If Intelligent Design is going to be taught in schools I demand equal time for my pastafarian beliefs. The flying spaghetti monster created all after his heavy drinking and evolution is nothing more than a device to test the faith of us pastafarians.
posted by Talez at 2:57 PM on November 13, 2007


But there's no scientific way to say that that didn't happen, unfortunately. The world is more difficult and mysterious than we'd like to presume.

Sure there is, you can prove that there is no evidence for it, and therefore it "didn't happen" as far as science is concerned. QED.

Now, there is no way to prove it the way you would prove a logical statement, but that's not what science is even trying to do.

But, I think one of the reasons that ID often tends to win in these debates, is because of the mistaken attempt to turn evolution into a narrative of fish becoming amphibians or dinosaurs becoming birds. And that's not where the really hard evidence for evolution lies.

There is actually plenty of hard evidence to support those things.


In my American public high school, I got no serious teaching of evolution. Subsequently, I didn't believe in it. I actually argued against evolution. To sharpen my arguments, I took an evolution class and realized I had completely misunderstood the process of natural selection.

I'm curious about this, how did you understand natural selection before the class? in what way are your views different now then they were before? I'm actually curious about the details of your change in thinking.
posted by delmoi at 3:03 PM on November 13, 2007


Pope Guilty: There are mountains of evidence for both your examples- they're two of the best-known and best-supported examples of evolutionary change.

The problem is that you can never say that species A was an ancestor of species B. The only relationship you can propose is that they shared a common ancestor. This is a fundamental limitation of how we interpret fossil evidence that makes classical narrative inappropriate.

Pope Guilty: Blathering about "missing links" is a creationist canard- any time you have two different specimens, they insist on seeing the missing link. But every missing link scientists find creates two more holes! Trying to find "all of the missing links" is a futile quest and only serves the Creationists' rhetorical purposes.

If you present evolution as a narrative, you need missing links. If you present evolution as the most parsimonious explanation for a pattern of relationships, you don't need missing links. Which is why evolutionary biologists prefer too look at patterns of relationships rather than telling "just so stories" about how the bird got his feathers.

Or too be blunt. Intelligent Design advocates when when they shift the attention away from the big pictures, and focus on the little details where there is much debate about ambiguous evidence and new discoveries that change the timeline every year. But when you look at the diversity of vertibrates as a whole, there descent with modification becomes the most powerful explanation across the various branches.

Heywood Mogroot: actually DNA commonality among present-day species is "hard" evidence -- and the most persuasive IMO -- of common descent.

Yes, and this falls under the category of the cladistic evidence I posed above. Or do you have another point to make?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:06 PM on November 13, 2007


don't miss the "defence of intelligent design" with all the well-reasoned argument (and corresponding metaphysical conjecture) of a kid imagining the daily life of his toys.

seriously? i saw a creationist lecturer at university. it was sickening, how he used tricks of language, almost like brainwashing, to argue his point. I saw many people who looked unconvinced at the start falling for it, nodding their heads because they don't know any better.
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. The trick? talk just enough about "carbon dating" to confuse the average person, then blow off the experts as if they are somehow biased, or name-drop some obscure, poorly verified technique from a like minded crackpot in the field.

what bothered me the *most* that he used occam's razor to "justify" his viewpoint, as if throwing out all the scientific viewpoints and believing in creationism because it was simpler was a good, well reasoned course of action, because floating sky man is far simpler than mutation and selection over time... neglecting all the other stuff that must be true if we believe and god and the bible..

why can't they admit, well, yes.. pretty much every creationist is a christian, and that every theory that starts as a way to justify belief that can't stand on it's own two feet is doomed.

i'm so sick of the "fair" media coverage where the present these crackpots as if they are a vocal, esteemed part of the scientific community. they are not, any more than bin laden is a good representative of muslim religion.

but what annoys me the most, is "evolution hasn't been proved" - therefore any crackpot theory that can be "proved" by pointing to a book and going "see!" is all-good? science has never proved anything. it's not how it works. if you want proof go read some mathmatics (but not too deeply) science proves things are false, never the opposite. ugghhh. this revisionist history BS, reverse engineering science to suit your extremist views really pisses me off.
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 3:13 PM on November 13, 2007


Thank you Talez. I was stunned no one had brought up the Church of the FSM.
posted by Salmonberry at 3:17 PM on November 13, 2007


Uh, well, except for the entire Catholic school board. They get to teach a lot of religion and I think they skip the "intelligent design" stuff and just go straight to divine creation. [Re: ID not being common in Ontario]

I graduated from an Ontario Catholic high school with mostly science and math credits. Aside from the mandatory religion credit each year, there was very little religious content in other classes. In biology, we learned evolution with a brief disclaimer that we weren't in religion class. And in religion class I remember Genesis being described as something not to be taken literally.

That said, if I had kids they still wouldn't be going to Catholic school. But I don't think my science education was at all watered down.
posted by antigreg at 3:20 PM on November 13, 2007


It is unfortunate that in America science has been put to position where it has to define itself to defend itself. 'What is science?' is not a question that can be answered by reading a book or having a course, much less in courtroom. The question itself is an enterprise that will go on for as long as human race; like most of the things that include people, it kind of escapes definitions when people actually do it. It is much like 'What is family?' - you can have a clear answer in mind, but don't expect people to accept your definition or live by it, or that definition to work for future families. I'm part of scientific community -- I'm pretty sure about that -- but I never have had to pause think who of my friends are in scientific community or maybe something else. It is in air we breath and in language we speak: you don't have to choose between religion and science to know what to do when you meet something 'dishonest and breathtakingly inane'.
posted by Free word order! at 3:22 PM on November 13, 2007


quonsar writes "the scientific community is not the only community. period. i'm consistently shocked at just how difficult this is for some people to understand."

Then whom are the IDers trying to convince? If the claim that ID is science, then they have to play under those rules. That community doesn't consider evolution to be controversial.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:24 PM on November 13, 2007


Now, assuming uniformity of processes, and assuming that miracles can't happen, that's just silly. But there's no scientific way to say that that didn't happen, unfortunately. The world is more difficult and mysterious than we'd like to presume.
posted by koeselitz at 2:00 PM on November 13 [+] [!]


Er, does anyone else think this is nonsense? I think this embodies the term "sophistry".
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:27 PM on November 13, 2007 [2 favorites]


Sometimes I think we shouldn't teach children anything about the way the world began in school. They're already jaded and cocksure already. A certain amount of wonder would do them good.
posted by koeselitz at 1:14 PM on November 13 [1 favorite +] [!]


Yes, because the teaching of scientific theories of how the world began sucks all the wonder out of kids. That's why astronomers spend hours gazing at the stars; they're devoid of wonder. That's why biologists spend hours looking through microscopes; lack of wonder. Yes, it's only those who believe in superstitious beings that have a sense of wonder. Yes, I believe that's correct.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:33 PM on November 13, 2007 [7 favorites]


Mental Wimp: "Yes, it's only those who believe in superstitious beings that have a sense of wonder."

I've never met a scientist with a sense of wonder. I've never met a religious person with a sense of wonder. I hope to become something more than either.
posted by koeselitz at 3:40 PM on November 13, 2007


And that means letting go of silly superstitions like "God might not like me" or "experimental observation is the only way to find truth."
posted by koeselitz at 3:43 PM on November 13, 2007


I've never met a scientist with a sense of wonder.

You could have stopped at "scientist".
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:46 PM on November 13, 2007 [5 favorites]


I've never met a scientist with a sense of wonder.

??? I've met few who didn't. One of us has a busted sense of wonder detector. Or are you confusing "technologist" with "scientist"? I've met lots of people who wear lab coats and use scientific instruments for a living who didn't seem to have much of a sense of wonder, but they're not in my view scientists, they're people who, essentially just measure things.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:47 PM on November 13, 2007


When scientists start burning heretics, religion can have another shot.

Not that I want a return to religion, but scientists have certainly played their part in some horrors:
From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany / Richard Weikart.

The scientific origins of National Socialism: Social Darwinism in Ernst Haeckel and the German Monist League / Daniel Gasman.
posted by No Robots at 3:48 PM on November 13, 2007


it's only those who believe in superstitiousnatural beings that have a sense of wonder.

fixed that for you.
posted by quonsar at 3:49 PM on November 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


I've never met a scientist with a sense of wonder.

That's too bad. You've definitely been hanging out with the wrong scientists.
posted by rtha at 3:50 PM on November 13, 2007


"I've never met a scientist without a sense of wonder."

There, I've fixed that for you.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:52 PM on November 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's clear from the discussion that some posters don't understand what science is, how it differs from technology, and what its aims are. I'm not sure how beneficial arguing with them about "creation science" or "intelligent design" is, as the grounds for argument are not there for someone who is ignorant of what exactly science is about.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:55 PM on November 13, 2007


Ironically, belief in a supernatural big daddy that explains everything takes away wonder; I now no longer have to wonder why the stars are in the sky: God did it! Why do flowers bloom: God did it! etc., etc., etc. Nothing left to wonder about, we know the answer: God did it!

And how exactly this differs from superstition is beyond me.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:58 PM on November 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


I just want to say that whenever someone says "there are more things than science can discover", I think "how in the hell do they know this?". I mean, saying "love is a mystery" is fine and all, but science may someday discover what love really is. How do you know that science can't discover everything? How does anyone know?

You don't. You think you do, but you are making assumptions based on internally-processed experiences. Why not just assume your dreams are real then? They have as much validity toward reality as your assumptions. And whether a book, or a pastor, or a philosophy influences your thinking, you probably know far far less about the universe than the scientific literature presents. Why can't we accept we just don't know the answer yet?!

Certainty in thought is the fastest way to fall behind.
posted by Dantien at 3:59 PM on November 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


delmoi: There is actually plenty of hard evidence to support those things.

What is the hard evidence that we have? We have good evidence that modern fish and amphibians shared a common ancestor. What can we say beyond that? Well, we can put the first known amphibian at an estimated number of millions of years ago and that's about it. We can't say that this earliest known amphibian was an ancestor or a member of a population with no living descendants. We can't say that there were no earlier amphibians. We can make some hypotheses and conjectures but reallly, all we can say is that the known ur-amphibians had a common ancestor with modern fish, and modern amphibians.

The same is true for the bird-dinosaur link. We can say that theropods and modern birds had a common ancestor. But we can't point to any specimen and say that it had living descendants among the modern birds. We can't point to any specimen and say that it had extinct descendants among the theropods. We can't say that a given specimen was the first to take flight, because later findings might push that common ancestor back a few million years.

This is a basic limitation of evolutionary biology that is taught to every first-year biology major. You can establish common ancestry using cladistics, but you can't establish ancestry without substantial doubt.

The grand narrative version of biology demands a hero. It picks up each new provocative fossil and shouts out HERE! THIS IS WHERE IT ALL BEGAN! THIS WAS THE FIRST TO CRAWL UP FROM THE SEA. THIS WAS THE FIRST TO FLAP WINGS AND SOAR AWKWARDLY IN THE SKY! THIS WAS THE ANCESTOR! Then the next generation of fossil hunters finds a new hero, one that came before the last, or one that better fills out the tree.

The strong evidence for evolution isn't in the grand narratives of the vertebrates that discovered or created radically new environmental niches. It's in the bushy family trees of the bivalves that never left the mud. It's in the eb and flow of microfauna families. It's in the co-evolution of hundreds of insect species that paired with hundreds of plant species. It's in the modern genetic relationships across families.

The heroic narratives of evolution are speculative. This generation's hero may be next generation's backwater cousin.

The quiet family narratives of evolution though are rock solid. Statistical analysis of dozens of species isn't going to get anyone on the cover of National Geographic, but it provides the most powerful proof of evolution in action.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:59 PM on November 13, 2007 [3 favorites]


koeselitz, the basis of Gould's definition of scientific fact, and thus science in extension, is that set of "well-founded hypotheses that to which it would be perverse to deny provisional assent".

If you can't hook your "found truth" into the existing body of scientific knowledge (which used to be called Natural Philosophy, amirite?), you have found a Philosophical, Legalistic, Moral, or Religious "truth".

"truth" in scare-quotes since these are essentially untethered in empirical -- common -- reality and thus are private, not communal truths.

This is not to say Natural Philosophy aka Science subsumes all Reality; since it is empirical it is bound by what we humans can observe, either directly or indirectly via instrumentation, which any good scientist should know isn't squat in the overall scheme of things we call the Universe.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 4:01 PM on November 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


You are seeing shapes in mud, KirkJobSluder. You also use faith. You just put it somewhere else.
posted by ZachsMind at 4:02 PM on November 13, 2007


For a few moments I read that as naturism, and got excited.
posted by meehawl at 4:02 PM on November 13, 2007


Dantien: "I just want to say that whenever someone says "there are more things than science can discover", I think "how in the hell do they know this?". I mean, saying "love is a mystery" is fine and all, but science may someday discover what love really is. How do you know that science can't discover everything? How does anyone know?"

You assume that science and rationality are the same thing. But there certainly are some things that can't be tested experimentally.

I'll keep making brash statements about the modern-day equivalent of priests that make everyone gasp. For one, most of the scientists I meet make a whole slew of assumptions about the world that are wholly unwarranted. And, generally, they believe that they have everything quite well figured out, and think it silly that a philosopher quoting Aristotle thinks himself bold enough to question them.
posted by koeselitz at 4:04 PM on November 13, 2007


Heywoood Mogroot: I'd argue for another limitation on science. Since it is primarily an inductive and empirical enterprise, it tends to fall short with forms of knowlege that are deductive, abstract or normative.

For example, I wouldn't want to depend on science to confirm whether I have a right to due process under the law. Rather I would hope that a judge decided that my treatment in the courtoom must conform to certain a priori principles.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:05 PM on November 13, 2007


And how exactly this differs from superstition is beyond me

Feyman covered this in one his books, how a poet in coversation opined that science took the wonder and beauty out of human experience. Feynman of course begged to differ.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 4:06 PM on November 13, 2007


Heywood Mogroot: "If you can't hook your "found truth" into the existing body of scientific knowledge (which used to be called Natural Philosophy, amirite?), you have found a Philosophical, Legalistic, Moral, or Religious "truth". "truth" in scare-quotes since these are essentially untethered in empirical -- common -- reality and thus are private, not communal truths."

Thanks for your interesting comment.

If something can't be experimentally verified, but can be agreed upon and rationally proven, is it true, or is it not?
posted by koeselitz at 4:06 PM on November 13, 2007


I'll keep making brash statements about the modern-day equivalent of priests that make everyone gasp.

We're gasping because they're so staggeringly ignorant. You're not pointing out that the priest is giving his sermon in his underpants, you're flinging shit around the sanctuary and reveling in the shocked expressions.

For one, most of the scientists I meet make a whole slew of assumptions about the world that are wholly unwarranted.

Those would be the assumptions about the world that are necessary in order to engage in empirical investigation of reality.

And, generally, they believe that they have everything quite well figured out, and think it silly that a philosopher quoting Aristotle thinks himself bold enough to question them.

For the same reason that math majors find children who've just discovered negative numbers amusing.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:10 PM on November 13, 2007


It's been my experience, on this forum and elsewhere, that a lot of people who say they believe in evolution, or think they do not believe in deism, actually do. Their model of evolution is built on subtle teleology and buried fallacies, wish-fulfillment and obscurantist faith. Many branches of "Science" communicate and indoctrinate through ideologies and practices that tend to converge onto a kind of folk logical positivism that is itself teleological. It's therefore not that surprising that so many people attribute to the universe characteristics they find within the social discourses through which they live.
posted by meehawl at 4:11 PM on November 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


And koeselitz, one could replace "Aristotle" with "the Bible" in that last comment and you'd sound like just another chest-thumping Creationist.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:12 PM on November 13, 2007


If something can't be experimentally verified, but can be agreed upon and rationally proven, is it true, or is it not?

Why the obsession with truth? Just ask if it's useful or not.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:14 PM on November 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't want to depend on science to confirm whether I have a right to due process under the law

yeah, that's morality and legalisms, which have no communal bases ie. "facts" and have actually not been that universally applied in living memory. . . if we're lucky, "majority rules" is what we get with these.

One of my favorite Usenet argumenters makes the parallellism between moral philosophy (eg. the morality of allodial land ownership) and non-scientific medical traditions -- we have acculturated various beliefs and practices that have no greater foundation than that they apparently work and are long standing in our society.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 4:15 PM on November 13, 2007


ZachsMind: And oh yes, the old claim that everything other than complete gibbering solipsism is equivalent to the belief that a deity dictated the history of the universe to Moses on the mount.

koeselitz: It's not the brashness that makes people gasp, it's the utter ignorance combined with the revealed prejudice. I find dialog with someone who is unwilling to grant that I might be motivated in ways that conflict with their prejudices to be rather unproductive.

koeselitz: If something can't be experimentally verified, but can be agreed upon and rationally proven, is it true, or is it not?

For certain systems of truth, certainly.

But, of course, science is not about truth, and takes a skeptical view of truth. What might be a strong theory today, may be a weak theory given more evidence tomorrow.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:19 PM on November 13, 2007


Aside from the fact that Aristotle was a scientist (one of the first!), I wonder koeselitz why you keep saying that "you assume science and rationality are the same thing" when no one, especially myself, has claimed this. And what is the point? That we can discover truths about the universe through rational thought and not science? What are these things that cannot be tested experimentally? And again, to my point, how can you claim this in light of the fact that repeatedly, over generations, those claiming such as yourself have been proven wrong? Are you claiming better rationality than everyone ever?

And these scientists you talk to who think they "have everything quite well figured out" are POOR SCIENTISTS. No good scientist should assume anything beyond the necessities of their experiment, documenting said assumption, ever. So your claim, I'm truly sorry, holds no value. Rationally.
posted by Dantien at 4:24 PM on November 13, 2007


No Robots writes "Not that I want a return to religion, but scientists have certainly played their part in some horrors:"

Touché. To the best of my memory, religion has never been misused in order to exploit, rationalize ethnic cleansing, or enrich the few at the expense of the many. So you win, and without the aid of robots!
posted by mullingitover at 4:26 PM on November 13, 2007


For one, most of the scientists I meet make a whole slew of assumptions about the world that are wholly unwarranted. And, generally, they believe that they have everything quite well figured out...

My data point will fight your data point, then, since I don't know that I've ever met a scientist who thought this way.

Two data points enter...
posted by rtha at 4:26 PM on November 13, 2007


Dantien: What are these things that cannot be tested experimentally?

That there is an infinite quantity of real numbers.

Or for that matter, that there are different orders of infinity for reals, irrational, and imaginary numbers.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:26 PM on November 13, 2007


I find dialog with someone who is unwilling to grant that I might be motivated in ways that conflict with their prejudices to be rather unproductive.

Which is pretty much why I stopped following up in this thread early on. While many comments are thoughtful and tempered, there are just as many rooted in the sort of intractability that's simply not worth arguing with, regardless of one's position.
posted by Brak at 4:27 PM on November 13, 2007


And these scientists you talk to who think they "have everything quite well figured out" are POOR SCIENTISTS.

The things that he is saying do not convince me that he has met scientists.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:34 PM on November 13, 2007


God told me the Bible isn't really true. That's GOD, people! GOD told me. He also told me Evolution was spot on true. So forgive me if I don't listen to any of you liars anymore.
posted by tkchrist at 4:41 PM on November 13, 2007


Dantien: Well, if you want to be specific, Godel proved that no system can answer all questions that can be posed within that system.

But in general, few people make the claim that science is an all-encompassing system that answers every question. In fact, most modern philosophers of science who look at the epistemological roots of science argue that it is best limited to a particular type and flavor of knowledge. One consequence of this is that science is unable to deal well with deduction, abstraction, or singletons. So we need to turn to other ways of establlishing rigor to the claims we make.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:43 PM on November 13, 2007


10 til 8 eastern time...popcorn ready.
posted by greenskpr at 4:52 PM on November 13, 2007


KirkJobSluder: Well, if you want to be specific, Godel proved that no system can answer all questions that can be posed within that system.

Godel's proof applies only to systems based on arithmetic, not all formal systems.

But for the record, I agree with your ideas.
posted by Laugh_track at 4:53 PM on November 13, 2007


I’m wondering if this “teach both sides, let the kids decide” schtick applies to sex ed?
Yeah, I thought not. Especially given homosexuality.
(Simple really -
You fuck. That’s science.
Fuck you. That’s religion.)

(Church of Smedleyman creationism perfectly mirrors evolutionary theory. We could teach that religion in class.)
posted by Smedleyman at 4:54 PM on November 13, 2007 [5 favorites]


I am aware KJS of the basic tenets of both Godel and the Philosophy of Science (my degree must mean something!). The problem with your number argument is that numbers are not real but representations of ideas...much like a triangle isnt real (unless you want to claim Plato's Realm of the Ideals is somehow real....). The same goes for ideas such as deduction. These are tools to communicate, not "things" existing in the universe.

But when koeselitz claims that science fails to solve all problems, I would claim that it fails NOW. And I'm certainly not championing scientific analysis in all matters of human or nonhuman existence. But what I am arguing is the remarkable finality of so many IDers and others in this thread (koeselitz) are attributing to our current knowledge. We arent done discovering. We arent done learning. Claims such as "But there certainly are some things that can't be tested experimentally." are, i hope, temporal and not finite.

No scientist should claim they know all the answers, or even that they do know the Truth. But like others have said, no one seems to be willing to offer an alternative...they just say "there are more things under heaven and earth blah blah blah" and claim it as true. If an theory cannot be verified and reproduced, can we claim it to be true? useful? relevant?
posted by Dantien at 4:57 PM on November 13, 2007


God told me the Bible isn't really true.

that wasn't God. you know how to tell? God cannot lie.
posted by quonsar at 5:01 PM on November 13, 2007


you know how to tell? God cannot lie.

So much for omnipotence then. Besides:

"Abraham, I want you to sacrifice your son Issac. Really I do. I mean it."
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:07 PM on November 13, 2007


those teachers talk about the science classroom as if it were a sacred place. holy, so to speak. and so it is, in the religion of science.
posted by quonsar at 5:34 PM on November 13, 2007


God told me the Bible isn't really true.

that wasn't God. you know how to tell? God cannot lie.


When he told you that he was lying.
posted by Green With You at 5:38 PM on November 13, 2007


he didn't tell me that.
posted by quonsar at 5:41 PM on November 13, 2007


i reasoned it.
posted by quonsar at 5:44 PM on November 13, 2007


Intelligent Design is not science. It's not religion either.

Intelligent Design is politics. It is a smoke screen erected to create noise and distraction while fundamentalists sneak into schools and try to brainwash your children without your knowledge, much less your permission.
posted by device55 at 5:46 PM on November 13, 2007


"experimental observation is the only way to find truth."

Yep koeselitz, this is just so far off what any rational scientist would assert, I can't imagine you have any idea what you're talking about. Any undergrad student worth their salt should be able to explain the difference between scientific fact and "truth", and hell, write a good long paper on how thorny that latter word is. Any basic reading of Descartes, Hume, etc only begins to scratch the surface of why science and truth have very little, if anything, to do with each other.
posted by mek at 5:53 PM on November 13, 2007


Rightly or wrongly, I always get the feeling that those who believe in creationism and natural selection would never ignore that much evidence were it about, say, their spouse cheating on them.

Oh, there's photos of you in in flagrante delicto with another. They're recent photos, I can see a newspaper with a headline on them about the writer's guild strike. And I see a letter here in your handwriting proclaiming your undying love for another. I like the part about thinking me disgusting and how you're going to leave me in a short period of time. I've already spoken to a dozen people saying that while I'm away at work they can hear sex in our place with you shouting out someone else's name. I take it this is the one? Nice to meet you. But I don't believe that, even though I can see your genitals touching right this moment. This is just some elaborate ruse to test my love and I won't fall for it! Of course I'll give you both a few thousand dollars for plane tickets to the Bahamas!

If you want to decry evidence as not being able to ultimately prove anything I hope you don't turn around and use evidence in any other part of your life. That would be kind of hypocritical.

Of course, some people don't believe the evidence says what evolutionary scientist says it does in which case there's not much to be done against that except continued dialog about the evidence.
posted by Green With You at 5:58 PM on November 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


koeselitz: If something can't be experimentally verified, but can be agreed upon and rationally proven, is it true, or is it not?

Even for scientists, the concept of alternative hypotheses and falsifiable assertions can be hard to grasp. But these are the foundations of scientific and skeptical reasoning.

A falsifiable assertion is one that you can test, that you can actually disprove it. To crib from Wikipedia, the assertion "All men are mortal" is untestable. Nobody can actually stick around to observe this. By contrast "All men are immortal" can be tested quite easily. The next person to kick the bucket will prove this assertion false. Note that even if you keep observing, and everyone kept living, you could never prove that "All men are immortal" was true either. This is the case in science too. We can show through experiments and observation that certain assertions are false, but we can't show that they're completely true. If we cannot test an assertion at all, then we can't say much more about it.

How does science get anywhere? By coming up with lists of possible assertions, typically known as hypotheses, using a sense of wonder (yes, it's true). Then we disprove down the ones that we can, using experiments and observation. The hypotheses that stay up, we eye suspiciously. What lends credibility to these remaining assertions? We look at how well they fit the data, both present and future, and how well they resist our attempts to knock them down.
posted by Mercaptan at 6:00 PM on November 13, 2007 [5 favorites]


Intelligent Design is politics.

Bingo. Einstein, Bohr, Lemaître, and Alvarez didn't push their theories by selling textbooks to school districts, or by offering bottomless defense funds for pushing their theories in the school system.

They made predictions based on their hypothesis, they sought publication, and they sought independent verification.

These guys were radicals, heretics. They made conjectures that were in direct opposition to the accepted theory of the day.

Curvature of spacetime? Poppycock!
Quantum physics? Absurd!
Big bang? Even Einstein hates it!
Astroid impact causing mass extinction? Bullshit!

Four more outrageous ideas:
Chloroplasts and Mitochrondia are endosymbiots? You gotta be kidding.
RNA as a genetic medium? WTF are you smoking!
Plants and animals in the same kingdom? Huh?
Dark energy? Voodo physics!

All of these ideas went from the absurd and impossible to become mainstream and foundational theories, in under 30 years. Heck, even Kuhn revised his theory to propose that multiple scientific revolutions occur every generation.

There isn't an evil conspiracy against intelligent design, or against radically rethinking of the previous dogma in science. If you can produce the evidence to justify your new paradigm, it only takes a few decades of hard work. And once you get the peer review and even the hint of a debate among professionals in the field, you are in like flynn where education is concerned.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:19 PM on November 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


When I was younger, I was much more hostile towards organized religion than I am today. As I've entered (kicking and screaming) into some level of middle-aged acquiescence and wisdom, I realize that Lou Reed was right when he said " it takes a busload of faith to get by". If people want church in their lives, then God bless 'em. I don't begrudge them a thing.

But when they demand to teach their beliefs in SCIENCE class, then they obviously begrudge my son his right to learn SCIENCE. Just because they are unwilling, or unable, to tell the difference between opinion and SCIENCE doesn't mean that people in SCIENCE classes have to.

Teach ID in comparative religion class? Fine. Teach ID in church? Super. Teach ID at Christian summer camp? A-OK. But not in SCIENCE class. And if you insist on being able to teach ID in SCIENCE class, then you deserve all the derision and mockery and disdain that you receive. Not that you'd understand that.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:19 PM on November 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


Bravo Nova. That was very very good!
posted by McLir at 6:53 PM on November 13, 2007


Flying Spaghetti Monster tree ornament
posted by homunculus at 7:05 PM on November 13, 2007


the scientific community is not the only community. period. i'm consistently shocked at just how difficult this is for some people to understand.

That's not what this is about, quonsar. Our highest laws say that one cannot use the resources of the state to advance a religious objective. That's what these people did. They were caught red-handed in a web of actual lies. ID is a lie, not because it is untrue, but because it masquerades as something it is not in an attempt to fool those who are trying to learn science into learning the religious beliefs of a segment of the population. No matter how large that segment may be, such an attempt is more than dishonest, it goes against the Constitution and the intent of those who framed the document.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:05 PM on November 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


This thread reminds me of the early days of my political blog. We had been running along with 0-3 comments per thread. I ran a post on intelligent design and got 65 comments in one day.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:08 PM on November 13, 2007


Also, the mechanism of evolution is absolutely been proved in the lab and in the real world. All those who doubt this should just not take the whole bottle of antibiotics next time they get some.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:11 PM on November 13, 2007


Teach ID in a philosophy class? Fine. That's a perfect place for science and theology to duke it out.
posted by homunculus at 7:13 PM on November 13, 2007


Ironmouth, I wholeheartedly agree, though I would extend that sentiment to:

Those that reject evolution must to live in caves without cars, tv, plumbing, electricity, clothes, or video games to demonstrate their faith.

Rejecting evolution is tantamount to rejecting 1 + 1 = 2
posted by device55 at 7:17 PM on November 13, 2007


but that would violate my civil rights.

Um, no, it wouldn't. You don't have the right to have a public school teach your religious viewpoint to others. That's violating the right of others to be free to practice their own religion. If the state sponsors a religious doctrine, it can use its power to literally force people to believe what it wants.

What's ironic about all of this is that these laws were put in place in America by the Calvinist ancestors of the very fundamentalists pushing this crap on our school children today. They've totally forgotten that they began as a persecuted minority in a land where the state dominated religion and denied them the ability to hold office. That's why they came here in the first place.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:18 PM on November 13, 2007


It's tempting to snark, "cdesign proponentsists, all your base are belong to us." The whole cdesign story is extremely funny.

ID in philosophy class is OK, but Paley's watch is a more respectable line of talk. ID, on it's own, is a pretty cynical public relations ploy.
posted by McLir at 7:22 PM on November 13, 2007


[ID] is a smoke screen erected to create noise and distraction while fundamentalists sneak into schools and try to brainwash your children without your knowledge, much less your permission.

It's also a way to nerf big-s Science such that it doesn't tear a hole in their own kids' nascent faiths.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 7:23 PM on November 13, 2007


Uh. What?

Whose kids? Science's kids? Science has kids? Science never understood why his son, Philosophy wouldn't get his act together and just provide a little evidence to back his claims.
posted by device55 at 7:42 PM on November 13, 2007


As SCIENCE flamewars go, this one is a bit dull.
posted by meehawl at 8:25 PM on November 13, 2007


Intelligent design is dead. It was nothing more than a fundie faith game to answer the few children who were confused in school. I'm shocked that so many people here don't know it. The theories proposed by Behe and Dembski have been debunked both in scientific journals and literary magazines, and some of it has been disowned by their authors.
posted by Brian B. at 8:27 PM on November 13, 2007


i find it difficult to care. in two more generations, religion will be dead.

In two more generations, mr_book will be dead, and religion will find it difficult to care.
posted by pax digita at 8:28 PM on November 13, 2007


Teach ID in a philosophy class? Fine. That's a perfect place for science and theology to duke it out.

I've taken waaaay too many philosophy classes to believe this.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:55 PM on November 13, 2007


Yeah, that Nova was well done. Good thing, too, as I was beginning to doubt their ability to deliver quality science programming as of late. Many episodes seem to be dumbed down since the Republicans got hold of PBS. This was pretty good.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:00 PM on November 13, 2007


It was a complete joy to watch how the scientists testifying for the plaintiffs completely tore apart the defendant's experts with reasoned, rational, scientific arguments. Since the controversy took place a few miles from where I live in Pennsyltucky, I did follow the case in the local newspaper with great fear that it might not go the way I wanted; fortunately, reason prevailed.

It's very strange to live in this area; just to give an example of the right wing lunacy that characterizes this part of Pennsylvania, there's a gentleman on the local newspaper's message board that's boycotting a local convenience store chain because they donated $120,000 to a YWCA program that helps poor, developmentally disabled children.

One thing I came away with, in watching the Nova episode, is that belief in the idea of "irreducible complexity" is ultimately a failure of imagination.
posted by MegoSteve at 9:33 PM on November 13, 2007


Science vs. Norse Mythology
posted by lukemeister at 9:59 PM on November 13, 2007 [2 favorites]


They've totally forgotten that they began as a persecuted minority in a land where the state dominated religion and denied them the ability to hold office. That's why they came here in the first place.

I think there were also quite a few people setting up shop around these parts looking to get rich with gold, silver and fountains of youth.
But your point still stands. However, of the people that wrote, edited and approved of our federal constitution, how many of them were Unitarians? I mean, if many of them were indeed Christians, were they Christians in the Falwell/Robinson vain? (I hope this question makes sense.)

This was the first Nova program that I've seen in a long time and it was pretty great. It was a very riveting two hours.
posted by NoMich at 7:07 AM on November 14, 2007


NoMich,

What I'm getting at is that for the most part, the people believing this are fundamentalist baptists that believe in predestination in the Calvinist sense. In Great Britain, these people were denied the right to hold government or political office by the Test Act, an act which required anyone obtaining such a position to take an oath to the Church of England. The "Nonconformists" as they were called, would have to violate their religious beliefs to hold office.

That's why the pilgrims came over. They were a group of that sort of religious folk and it was their experience which created the part of our constitution that forbids state religion. Now they are trying to use the state to force others to believe in what they believe.

I don't think these people are Unitarians and there weren't many back then at all.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:31 AM on November 14, 2007


"It was a very riveting two hours."
posted by NoMich

True.

But god some of it was flabby!

I mean, I was preselected to be riveted because of my interest but I thought a lot of the filming was pretty deadly.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 7:37 AM on November 14, 2007


it was their experience which created the part of our constitution that forbids state religion. Now they are trying to use the state to force others to believe in what they believe.

The urge to fundamentalism was always there, coded within the religious DNA. As well as establishing various petty theocracies in some of their colonies in north America, in England within two generations the descendents of the Puritains had taken advantage of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, raised a jihadist army, won the civil war within England, beheaded a king, and ground Scotland and Ireland into the dirt. Their short but joyless religious rule basically soured the English on fundamentalism so much so that the Establishment basically imported a convenient, wholesale batch of libertines and sodomites as a restorative and, even following the ostensibly religiously motivated military coup of 1688, decided to favour secularism over religion as an instrument of State policy.
posted by meehawl at 7:55 AM on November 14, 2007


I'm sorry Ironmouth, but I inexplicably jumped ahead about 200 years in my original post. I went from the very beginning of the colonial period when people were coming here to form their own religious utopias and others coming here to find wealth to the 1790s when our Constitution was written, edited and ratified by people of varying beliefs.
Transitions are not one of my strong points. Football.
posted by NoMich at 8:05 AM on November 14, 2007


Intelligent Design tries rebranding as PBS looks at landmark Dover trial
posted by jeblis at 8:28 AM on November 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


Lehigh University disavows Michael Behe's ID ideas
posted by jeblis at 8:39 AM on November 14, 2007


ODIN!
posted by LordSludge at 9:36 AM on November 14, 2007


I liked how one of the actors in the trial scenes was imitating James Spader in Boston Legal.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:00 AM on November 14, 2007


I liked how one of the actors in the trial scenes was imitating James Spader in Boston Legal.

I thought the actors were terrible.
posted by jeblis at 10:02 AM on November 14, 2007


I thought the actors were terrible.


Totally, jeblis.

(I didn't want scenery chewing hysterics - but they were all furtively monotonous, and not in a good way!.)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 10:23 AM on November 14, 2007


were all furtively monotonous

I wasn't buying all the non-verbal expressions/communication that was added. I know it's not recorded, but I doubt the judge was giving smirks and nods of approval as they showed there. Just seemed so...fake.
posted by jeblis at 11:10 AM on November 14, 2007


Just start saying ' the law of evolution' as in the law of gravity.
posted by xjudson at 1:38 PM on November 14, 2007


I liked how one of the actors in the trial scenes was imitating James Spader in Boston Legal.

I thought the actors were terrible.


For the record, these are not incompatible, and I thought the acting was none too good myself. I was just amused that one of the none too good* actors obviously decided to base his character on Alan Shore.

*but still a billion times better than I would ever do even if you pumped me full of acting-steroids
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:59 PM on November 14, 2007


While you fucks argue about magic stories, pharmaceutical giants are pwning your genome, getting ready to charge you for your own genes. They don't have any problem at all believing in evolution, because they're going to make billions, nay, trillions off it. I'll bet they see the whole "intelligent design" vs. evolution debate as hugely hilarious.

"Hey, if they think it's god, we can charge more."
posted by telstar at 10:40 AM on November 16, 2007


Religious scholars mull Flying Spaghetti Monster
posted by homunculus at 12:02 PM on November 16, 2007


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