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No Intelligence Allowed, indeed.
April 20, 2008 1:57 PM   Subscribe

Ben Stein's Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, a pro-Intelligent Design, anti-evolution polemic, arrived in theaters Friday to overwhelmingly negative reviews and anemic ticket sales. In response to the claims made in the film comes Expelled Exposed, a website which seeks to "show you why this movie is not a documentary at all, but anti-science propaganda aimed at creating the appearance of controversy where there is none."
posted by Pope Guilty (359 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
There were only two positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. One of them was from Christianity Today. And even it was kinda mixed.
posted by grouse at 2:00 PM on April 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


I mean really, what was Ben Stein thinking? Objectivity? How do you equal a playing field by letting geese shit all over it?
posted by auralcoral at 2:02 PM on April 20, 2008


Previous discussion.
posted by homunculus at 2:06 PM on April 20, 2008


If we must pay attention to this farce, let us do so in a proper spirit of mockery:

Ben Stein is a grandiose moron.
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:07 PM on April 20, 2008


See also: Reason.com
posted by ZenMasterThis at 2:07 PM on April 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


As bad as it (deservedly) did at the box office, it still left "Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?" in the dust.
posted by Class Goat at 2:08 PM on April 20, 2008


"I mean really, what was Ben Stein thinking?"

Bueller ... Bueller ... Buelller
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:09 PM on April 20, 2008 [5 favorites]


Six Things in Expelled That Ben Stein Doesn't Want You to Know... ...about intelligent design and evolution
posted by homunculus at 2:11 PM on April 20, 2008 [8 favorites]


I sort of thought Ben Stein was smarter than this. Too much time spent in the echo chamber I guess.
posted by Spacelegoman at 2:11 PM on April 20, 2008 [5 favorites]


auralcoral: "I mean really, what was Ben Stein thinking? "

As I understand it, Stein wanted to do this because he is "not a fan" of Darwinism because it was used by Nazis to justify the holocaust. Plus lets not forget he is still a huge conservative at heart, and about the biggest Nixon apologist this side of Charles Colson.

I almost want to see this movie as a sort of "see what the other side thinks" opportunity. I also enjoy the irony of the director excluding PZ Meyers from an early screening of the film.
posted by grandsham at 2:12 PM on April 20, 2008


It would be fun to visit some of the rabid conservative bloggers that 1) delighted in the poor ticket sales of the recent spate of Iraq war movies and 2) claimed anemic sales was evidence the US public disagreed with the ideology of those movies.

Ok, maybe not fun, but you know.
posted by mediareport at 2:14 PM on April 20, 2008


Scientific groups should hire Jimmy Kimmel to make a film rebutting Expelled's arguments, mainly taking the form of Kimmel repeatedly zinging Stein's unhipness.
posted by Bromius at 2:16 PM on April 20, 2008 [7 favorites]


Still, it was marginally better than Battlefield Earth.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:16 PM on April 20, 2008 [6 favorites]


It would be fun to visit some of the rabid conservative bloggers that 1) delighted in the poor ticket sales of the recent spate of Iraq war movies and 2) claimed anemic sales was evidence the US public disagreed with the ideology of those movies.

That's quite true, and should serve a reminder to everyone, regardless of their views, that the content's profit margin never dictates the right- or wrongness of said content.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:19 PM on April 20, 2008


From this interview, it seems like Stein is claiming that Darwinism supposes to explain the origins of life. Does Darwin ever make claims to the origins of life? I always thought the theory of evolution was about how species change over time not where they came from. Please correct me if I'm wrong.
posted by auralcoral at 2:20 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


It was very, very hard not to editorialise in this post.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:20 PM on April 20, 2008


auralcoral: First, Darwin ≠ modern evolutionary biology. Second, you are right, the theory of evolution is separate from abiogenesis.
posted by grouse at 2:22 PM on April 20, 2008


it seems like Stein is claiming that Darwinism supposes to explain the origins of life. Does Darwin ever make claims to the origins of life? I always thought the theory of evolution was about how species change over time not where they came from. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

You're absolutely correct. While the arising of life from non-living matter has been repeatedly demonstrated in laboratory experiments, it has nothing to do with evolution. Evolution is, if I remember Stephen Jay Gould correctly, "the nonrandom survival of randomly varying replicators". It's not origins, though creationists will probably still be attacking it on that front for the rest of time.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:23 PM on April 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


I was wondering if anyone would take the stone-looking guy from the Clear Eyes commercials seriously.
posted by mullingitover at 2:24 PM on April 20, 2008


Lots of subliminal sex in their design. Note the juxtapositions of "s" and "ex".
Then there's the lame attempt to portray followers as rebels. Some serious ad agency work here.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 2:27 PM on April 20, 2008


"Bueller? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?"

That is the only worthwhile thing that Ben Stein has ever uttered (and he didn't even write it).
posted by HyperBlue at 2:28 PM on April 20, 2008


I once saw Ben Stein in an airport, wearing a suit and some kind of hipster foot apparel. There weren't very many people around, and as a journalist who has met my share of very famous people, I generally know how not to behave around them. But as I'd been amused by Ben Stein's Money -- the game show that turned anti-Semitism into a laff ryot -- I gave him a little nod and smile when I walked past him. He whipped his head away with an absolutely exasperated look, as if I'd been a paparazzo from TMZ. Puh-leeze.
posted by digaman at 2:29 PM on April 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


While the arising of life from non-living matter has been repeatedly demonstrated in laboratory experiments,

This is not so. Not even close. Mankind has never even MADE life from non-living matter, though they're getting closer every day.

You're probably thinking of the Miller-Urey experiment, which simulated the chemistry of early Earth and demonstrated more complex organic molecules resulting naturally from less complex ones and a lot of energy. A very important result but not at all what you've said.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:30 PM on April 20, 2008 [8 favorites]


To take a completely different road toward pissing all over this, does it seem strange to anybody else that this actually got a theatrical release? I know it can't get nominated for an Oscar without one (stop laughing!), said nomination being the only way most documentaries ever get any kind of attention whatsoever, but still. The solution is to dump it in three or four theaters for a week, just so it qualifies, then pull it. They've actually advertised this on television (during Colbert, no less), which is just a stupid waste of money: Who in the fucking world is going to spend ten bucks to watch a movie -- any movie -- starring Ben Stein? Did he put up all the money for this himself?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 2:33 PM on April 20, 2008


Pope Guilty: "
You're absolutely correct. While the arising of life from non-living matter has been repeatedly demonstrated in laboratory experiments
"

I don't actually think scientists have produced any sort of abiogenesis in a lab. if you want to point me to an article about this, I'd be happy to be proved wrong, but I am almost positive what you've said here isn't true

But it is true that evolution has nothing to do with abiogenesis, but that creationist/ID types love to conflate the two issues since we know so little about abiogenesis.
posted by grandsham at 2:34 PM on April 20, 2008


kittens for breakfast: presumably the same people who packed theaters to watch the Mel Gibson Jesus movie, and the penguin documentary.
posted by grouse at 2:36 PM on April 20, 2008


lupus_yonderboy, grandsham, you're right. Sorry about that.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:36 PM on April 20, 2008


Please everybody stop saying "Darwinism". We're letting people who by rights shouldn't even be involved in the conversation control the discourse. It's like saying "the Democrat party". On one side there is creationism. On the other side there is the scientific method.
posted by penduluum at 2:37 PM on April 20, 2008 [48 favorites]


I sort of thought Ben Stein was smarter than this. Too much time spent in the echo chamber I guess.

Smarter then this? What do you mean? He's going to make a ton of money off moronic right-wingers, and elevate his stature in the conservative movement of which he is a part. Sometimes you really can attribute things like this to malice, even when they are adequately explained by incompetence.

From this interview, it seems like Stein is claiming that Darwinism supposes to explain the origins of life. Does Darwin ever make claims to the origins of life? I always thought the theory of evolution was about how species change over time not where they came from. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Well, Darwinian evolution explains where species come from, namely, from other species. It doesn't try to explain how life started.

This is not so. Not even close. Mankind has never even MADE life from non-living matter, though they're getting closer every day.

Well, humans have created life from pre-existing information using non-living matter, that is, generating DNA strands and creating new cells, but that's using what evolution provided. No one has ever created self-replicating molecules in a lab, as far as I know, although some people think that there are some simple self-replicating RNA strands which could have been created randomly pretty easily (If I'm remembering correctly)
posted by delmoi at 2:37 PM on April 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


I hate that disgusting worm.
posted by puke & cry at 2:39 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Why isn't it okay to question evolution? For the record I can believe in MICRO evolution, just not macro evolution....granted many "creationists" kinda come off sounding stupid, but then over the years many supposedly scientific theories eventually got blown out of the water by later facts...anyhow I thought this movie was about that rather than evolution/creationism itself-was I wrong?
posted by konolia at 2:41 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think the fact that humans (our only empircally controllable example of intelligent agents) have not been able to design living systems in the lab is pretty strong evidence that life cannot be created using design techniques and principles.

If these ID proponents think life can be intelligently designed, let's see them intelligently design some life de novo, without using any evolutionary techniques.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:43 PM on April 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


It would be fun to visit some of the rabid conservative bloggers that 1) delighted in the poor ticket sales of the recent spate of Iraq war movies and 2) claimed anemic sales was evidence the US public disagreed with the ideology of those movies.

The ticket sales seem pretty good all things considered. A $3 million open weekend for a documentary is amazing. Michael Moore and penguin movies aside, documentaries barely make a dent at the box office. It also pulled in more money per theatre than 3 of the movies that did better overall.

I don't want to defend the movie's content, but the numbers can easily be seen as a positive.
posted by Gary at 2:44 PM on April 20, 2008


Thank you Lupus_yonderboy and grandsham. I had quite a "wait, what?" moment at that. The general point PG was searching for I think (and forgive me if I'm putting the wrong words in your mouth here) is that Darwin's particular work and evolutionary theory in general, in now way rules out the existence of a God or his creation of life. It might rule out certain Biblical conjectures about the early history of the world, but that's a different matter entirely.

(or at least it would be if fundamentalists weren't so insistent that every comma in the King James version must be literal truth or else there's no concept of right and wrong in the world and we may well all just start raping our daughters and killing anyone who gets in our way. another idea I disagree with)
posted by Naberius at 2:46 PM on April 20, 2008


You can question anything you want, konolia. That's the scientific method. But first you have to deal with the fact that the overwhelming mass of evidence from the archeological record, as well as processes we can observe happening right now, suggest that evolution is a solid theory. Then you can point to the evidence in the archeological record that the theory of evolution can't explain. After doing that minimal amount of homework, fire away.
posted by digaman at 2:49 PM on April 20, 2008 [7 favorites]


The movie looks like a funhouse version of "Indoctrinate U" which is a real effort to demonstrate real bias in the academy.

However, it's rather hard to call Ben Stein a conservative these days, insofar as he is using his Sunday New York Times column week after week to campaign for higher taxes and higher regulations.
posted by MattD at 2:49 PM on April 20, 2008


konolia For the record I can believe in MICRO evolution, just not macro evolution

That's like believing in rain, but not in rivers.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:50 PM on April 20, 2008 [52 favorites]


Konolia, it's okay to question evolution when you have actual scientific proof to question it, not some silly 2000-year-old book written by someone who had no idea about biology.
posted by kldickson at 2:51 PM on April 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


Why isn't it okay to question evolution?

That's a dishonest question. Intelligent Design does not "question" evolution; it simply seeks to replace it with religion. Nobody is punished for "questioning" evolution.

For the record I can believe in MICRO evolution, just not macro evolution

There is no difference, and neither of those terms are used by non-creationists.

granted many "creationists" kinda come off sounding stupid, but then over the years many supposedly scientific theories eventually got blown out of the water by later facts

The difference is that when new evidence contradicts a scientific theory, the theory gets revised and changed. That's a STRENGTH of science, not the weakness that people who seek to raise other, correction-lacking epistemologies above science want it to be.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:51 PM on April 20, 2008 [32 favorites]


Life seems like an obvious corollary to the second law of thermodynamics. Take a system and pump energy into it for N years and its complexity will build over time, limited only by the limitations of physics and the available energy. I don't understand how this isn't obvious.
posted by mullingitover at 2:53 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think the fact that humans (our only empircally controllable example of intelligent agents) have not been able to design living systems in the lab is pretty strong evidence that life cannot be created using design techniques and principles.

As lupus_yonderboy notes, we're getting closer. Certainly there's no reason to believe that intelligently designing life is impossible; that life on earth was the product of said design, however, is absurd.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:54 PM on April 20, 2008


granted many "creationists" kinda come off sounding stupid

There's a reason for that.
posted by Optamystic at 2:54 PM on April 20, 2008 [17 favorites]


...but then over the years many supposedly scientific theories eventually got blown out of the water by later facts...

This is as strong an argument for evolution and/or the scientific method as one could hope for. Contrast the "intelligent design" movement, which not only hasn't advanced past its original "theories", but has no evidence with which to test those theories in the first place.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 2:55 PM on April 20, 2008 [9 favorites]


Stein, who was a speechwriter for Richard Nixon, lives at the Watergate in Washington DC which boasts a Safeway grocery store. He was in line behind my roommate and I shortly after he released the trailer for his 'documentary.' We started talking loudly about Nixon's speeches and anti-intellectualism and Stein put down his groceries, gave us the stink eye, and walked out.
posted by The White Hat at 2:58 PM on April 20, 2008 [34 favorites]


konolia: It's just fine to question evolution. Question it all you like.

There are quite heated debates about different aspects of evolutionary theory in many disciplines and sub-disciplines of biology. Authentic questioning happens all the time.

This film, however, questions a straw man and poorly. Additionally interviews for the film were made under false pretenses, equates "darwinism" with Nazi Socialism, used copyrighted materials without permission, among other things. It's not an honest attempt at open discussion.

Evolution is a set of concepts and theory and observation that has stood the test of academic rigor for over 150 years. If (giant huge pulsating "if" from Mars) strong, well corroborated evidence comes along that shows that macro-evolution is wrong - we have to accept that it's wrong and move on.

Why is it wrong to question this (shoddy) film?
posted by device55 at 2:59 PM on April 20, 2008


delmoi, I don't think anyone has actually created a cell from scratch.

The closest I can think of is creating genomes, especially for viruses, from random 6bp strands. To actually express the genome requires protein machinery, which must come from a pre-existing cell, since you can't build a replicative system without one already (ie. to open the box and get the key inside you have to already have the key).
posted by Orange Pamplemousse at 3:01 PM on April 20, 2008


The wild frenzy of hatred unleashed in this post actually justifies one of Ben Stein's assertions, which is that -- for some reason -- creationism triggers irrational emotionalism among those who oppose it, which eventually leads to persecution of believers. I mean, digaman taking offense at Ben Stein's not returning his smile and glance, and being offended enough by it to mention it here on this post, as if it were some kind of damning evidence of Stein's perfidy is the silliest thing I've ever read. (Especially since there's plenty of evidence of Stein's intellectual perfidy among his copious writings.

For my part, I consider "creationism" a charming fantasy, and see no reason why someone who believes the earth was created in six days by God couldn't do science and biology as well as someone who believes there are fairies at the bottom of his or her garden. In fact, I know a very hard-nosed physician at a major medical center who is a creationist, and saves quite a few more lives on a daily basis than Richard Dawkins, for all the latter's scientific laurels.

Stein's film is a troll, but you don't have to rise to the bait.
posted by Faze at 3:03 PM on April 20, 2008 [6 favorites]


...the arising of life from non-living matter has been repeatedly demonstrated in laboratory experiments...

Sorry about that.

hey, an honest mistake. it's easy to see how you could have gotten confused there. ya know, like saying "...the tracks of fish on bicycles have been repeatedly observed in the stratosphere..."
posted by quonsar at 3:04 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Please everybody stop saying "Darwinism".

Thank you. The term is an attempt to reduce a field of science to a cultist ideology like Maoism. Anyone who contrasts "Creation Science" vs. "Darwinism" has done a switcheroo on you -- an unsubtle bit of sleight of hand to invert the labels religion and science.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:05 PM on April 20, 2008 [14 favorites]


mullingitover: You might like the book Into the Cool.
posted by adamdschneider at 3:06 PM on April 20, 2008


konolia writes "Why isn't it okay to question evolution?"

Questioning evolution doesn't put it in doubt scientifically. For that, you need to come up with a better scientific explanation for all the things that evolution explains. Questioning it doesn't really do anything to the way it's currently understood and utilized scientifically; it only creates political controversy. But that still doesn't affect the science itself. ID can't really replace evolution, because it doesn't explain anything, nor can it be falsified. You can't really get around that part, and it's unfortunate that the ID/creation movement complains about it, but it's not something you can just skip and call it OK.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:09 PM on April 20, 2008


If you define macroevolution as the arising of new species as a result of natural selection (speciation), and two organisms as being members in the same species by the ability to produce fertile offspring, "macroevolution" has already been demonstrated in a lab.

I suspect that some use the term "macroevolution" as a shorthand for "the form of evolution that I reject", and not in a scientific sense.
posted by zixyer at 3:11 PM on April 20, 2008 [4 favorites]


Faze, I think the strong reaction is actually from all the lying and willful attempts to tell other people's kids what to think without permission.

If I went to see a physician who believes the earth was created in six days, I'd get a second opinion. He's not qualified to do the job.

I'm perfectly fine letting folks believe what they want to believe, but when they try to rewrite science guidelines in public schools (that I pay taxes for) and push completely dishonest propaganda in order to shore up their political position - in order to gain more power over the electorate, it ceases to be a 'charming fantasy'.
posted by device55 at 3:12 PM on April 20, 2008 [14 favorites]


The ticket sales seem pretty good all things considered. A $3 million open weekend for a documentary is amazing. Michael Moore and penguin movies aside, documentaries barely make a dent at the box office. It also pulled in more money per theatre than 3 of the movies that did better overall.

I don't want to defend the movie's content, but the numbers can easily be seen as a positive.


It depends on how much they've funneled into advertising. From anecdotal evidence, I can say it appears they've spent a lot. Certainly more than makes sense, being that the prospects for this movie cleaning up at the box office could never have gotten much better than grim. The subject matter is, I think, the best thing going for it -- it's a documentary, which is up there with "musical" and "western" in terms of movies Americans generally avoid like the plague, and it stars a two hundred year old man best known for a bit part in a movie from twenty years ago, and second best known for working for Richard Nixon. Goatse: The Movie has more mainstream appeal. Will it do well on DVD and definitely on TV? When it's free and you don't have to put in any effort to see it, you bet. But the big theatrical push strikes me as vanity.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:12 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Why isn't it okay to question evolution?
Huh? It is.

That's what scientists do.
posted by Flunkie at 3:13 PM on April 20, 2008 [11 favorites]


You know, I see evolution compared with gravity a lot, as both are considered 'certain facts'. This is a better analogy than many people realize, because both are theories (ideas) about observations in the physical world, and, interestingly, neither is certain.

Now, it's obviously true that if you drop an apple, it's going to fall down, barring some intervention. The apple will always fall if unsupported, 100 times out of 100. This part is absolute fact. But we still don't really understand why. We have many guesses about how the gravitic force is transferred, from bent spacetime to fundamental particles to something from string theory that I don't really remember.... but we definitely are not sure why things fall down. That does not change the fact that they do.

Evolution is quite similar. The observation is that creatures change over time. This is absolutely true; it's one of the best-supported facts in all of science. There is no doubt whatsoever that this happens; we can see it in the fossil record, we can see it in genetics, we can see it with short-lived organisms in the laboratory.

But the explanation for WHY they change over time is less certain. "Survival of the fittest" is a very, very likely explanation, but it's not absolute fact in the same way. Just like with gravity, however, our uncertainty over WHY creatures change does not alter the fact that they do.

What the creationists are proposing is simple nonsense. It's literally wild flights of fancy, purely imaginary bullshit that they're trying to substitute for real physical observations of the world around us. Evolution is weak only in one area; the explanation of WHY creatures change. That's the part we added to the fundamental evidence, and that's the part we could have wrong. (I don't think we do, but if any part of that theory can be attacked, it's there.)

Anyone who tells you that God created the Earth, in whole, 6000 years ago, is telling you something that flat, absolutely, is not true. If you were to print all the evidence against 6k earth and pile it in a nice stack, it would almost certainly reach the Moon.

Hell, we can tell this from very simple genetics; if you accept that CSI can determine who committed a crime from a hair left at the scene, or that we can reliably determine paternity from genetic testing, then you really can't accept 6,000 year old Earth. We can easily trace family genes back much farther than that. You can have one or the other... you can believe in paternity testing, or you can believe in 6k Earth. One or the other, but not both.

So, should you get into this argument with someone in real life, try that angle on them. If they accept paternity testing and crime-scene DNA analysis, how do they deal with the fact that we can clearly trace many thousands of human generations through our genes? If we can assure you who your parents were, and your grandparents, and your great-grandparents... where is the magic line where genetics suddenly stops working?
posted by Malor at 3:14 PM on April 20, 2008 [85 favorites]


The wild frenzy of hatred unleashed in this post

There's a difference between mocking idiots and "hating" them.

For my part, I consider "creationism" a charming fantasy, and see no reason why someone who believes the earth was created in six days by God couldn't do science and biology as well as someone who believes there are fairies at the bottom of his or her garden.

When said people insist that their fantasies are real and science is not, they're not doing science and biology well.

In fact, I know a very hard-nosed physician at a major medical center who is a creationist, and saves quite a few more lives on a daily basis than Richard Dawkins, for all the latter's scientific laurels.

What the hell kind of ad hominem nonsense is this? Who cares how many lives your physician saves? That has nothing to do with the fact that his ideas about where the various species of life came from are wrong.

hey, an honest mistake. it's easy to see how you could have gotten confused there. ya know, like saying "...the tracks of fish on bicycles have been repeatedly observed in the stratosphere..."

Oh good, another thread related to theism where quonsar shits everywhere.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:16 PM on April 20, 2008 [4 favorites]


I love Conservatives. They defend genetic modification with the claim that nature does the same thing, and oppose the teaching of evolution with the claim it doesn't.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:16 PM on April 20, 2008 [6 favorites]


Does anyone else feel like Scientific American fucked up the entailment in this counter-argument?

By those standards, design-based explanations rapidly lose their rigor without independent scientific proof that validates and defines the nature of the designer. Without it, design-based explanations rapidly become unhelpful and tautological: "This looks like it was designed, so there must be a designer; we know there is a designer because this looks designed."

For the argument to be circular (it's not strictly speaking tautological no matter how you interpret it) it would have to read "This looks like it was designed, so there must be a designer; we know there is a designer, so it must be designed."

Konolia: it's ok to question evolutionary theory, just know that if you do so you are basically barging into the middle of a conversation that the community of the science-educated has been having for more than a hundred years and that we've basically come to a couple of solid conclusions in the meantime. It might sound ridiculous that we evolved from apes, but that occurred to us back in the 19th century, it occurred to Darwin, and that concern has been put to rest. There were other serious objections to the theory that have been put to rest, and the remaining objections still voiced by the ID movement are almost exclusively mischaracterizations of the theory or mischaracterizations of the evidence, and we've been through all that too. We don't have the energy to recap the entire process everytime someone walks into the room and says "hey, that sounds crazy -- I can't possibly believe that." You can probably find the history of the whole thing on wikipedia, and that will explain our ridicule and contempt in this thread. Anyway, the strength of a theory doesn't really depend on whether or not laypeople find it believable. I find the theory of relativity almost impossible to believe, but physicists don't let my disbelief disturb them because who am I? Not a physicist, that's who.

On preview: wow, I'm like the 15th person saying exactly this.
posted by creasy boy at 3:16 PM on April 20, 2008 [4 favorites]


Evolution is weak only in one area; the explanation of WHY creatures change.

Creatures change because a) changes in their environment cause different genetic patterns to become better at self-replicating and b) sometimes, genetic mutations are beneficial. Simple as that.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:19 PM on April 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


The wild frenzy of hatred unleashed in this post actually justifies one of Ben Stein's assertions, which is that -- for some reason -- creationism triggers irrational emotionalism among those who oppose it, which eventually leads to persecution of believers. I mean, digaman taking offense at Ben Stein's not returning his smile and glance, and being offended enough by it to mention it here on this post, as if it were some kind of damning evidence of Stein's perfidy is the silliest thing I've ever read.

I don't take it as evidence that Stein is evil, but I do think it points to Stein as a dick with some serious delusions of grandeur, which seems...evident?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:20 PM on April 20, 2008


What bothers me is that I'm directing a documentary myself and know it'll never get the same kind of press as Ben Stein's turd.
posted by BrianBoyko at 3:20 PM on April 20, 2008


Stein's film is a troll, but you don't have to rise to the bait.

Better, perhaps, to rise to a troll's bait now, than to one day be thrown into ovens by his disciples.

If digaman's criticism is the "worst" we'll see, consider that there is a wealth of legitimate and damning criticism to follow it.

Anyway, just as bad as Stein being anti-science, Stein has been outed as a plagiarist, having lifted others' work for his own, without permission, compensation or credit.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:24 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Biologists question the theory of evolution all the time; that is how it has become so refined, and is so fundamentally proven in its essential claims.

There's a difference between questioning something seriously and shouting real loud to drown out the truth you don't like.

What I love, though, is that the "explanation" of the ID wackos is "god made it." This is neither provable nor disprovable, because it has no basis in factual observations of nature. No one has ever been able to isolate and demonstrate the existence of "god," so you have to "believe" in him/her/it. There is simply no evidence for which "God" is a reasonable explanation because there has never been any evidence that "God" is anything other than a figment of the imagination of one particular species that has not been on the earth for very long at all relative to the history of life on this planet.

Now the latest trick of the ID loons is to argue what is essentially a syllogism: the world is too complex to have been made by an "unintelligent" force, therefore it must have been made by an "intelligent" agent whose mind is similar to ours.

The one big, gaping, fucking problem with that is that whatever made the finch's beak and the strata of the Grand Canyon and the fly's eye *also* made our "intelligence." Our concept of intelligence as somehow supernatural or metaphysical is an obvious illusion, since the only intelligence we know for sure -- our own -- is made up of the same material as makes up the brain of a fly or the stem of a plant.

We flatter ourselves so foolishly.
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:28 PM on April 20, 2008 [9 favorites]


Better, perhaps, to rise to a troll's bait now, than to one day be thrown into ovens by his disciples.

That seems a little over the top to me.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:30 PM on April 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


Why isn't it okay to question evolution?

It is. Has anybody seriously suggested that it isn't?

There is a biological theory out there that is sometimes protected by law, and in those cases some people can be legally punished for questioning it in some venues. That theory is creationism or intelligent design.

For the record I can believe in MICRO evolution, just not macro evolution

The latter is the former iterated over tens of millions of years.

creationism triggers irrational emotionalism among those who oppose it

Not so. The heartfelt response many have against creationism is entirely rational. Creationism does not exist in a vacuum. At best, it is part of a movement towards traditionalism that anybody who is not traditionally favored, or whose relationships are not traditionally favored, would very reasonably oppose. At worst, it is a small, early part of a plan to fully theocratize the U.S.

Nobody really gives a fuck about evolution. Even the authors of creationist textbooks by and large couldn't give a rat's ass about how we explain biological changes over geologic time. For them, creationism is just the thin end of a wedge of forcing public schools, and later other public entities, to espouse their religious doctrines. Likewise, the people here reacting strongly against it probably aren't deeply invested in academic biology.

Instead, both sides are invested in other questions: can homosexuals kiss in public, or can we keep those faggots in their place? Can mixed-race couples marry and conduct themselves in public, or can we stop this mongrelizing? Can women make a career outside the home without social or legal reprisal, or can we make them be housewives like the lord intended? Should young single women be able to get contraceptives, or is that for little whores? People react strongly because this is yet another push from a group that has been on the wrong side of every social issue of significance for the past 50 years.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:30 PM on April 20, 2008 [105 favorites]


That seems a little over the top to me.

It can't happen here.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:32 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Also, there does not need to be a "why?" explanation for anything that does not entail our limited understanding of causality as agency. Why do tornadoes form? Why do suns burn out? Why do people die? Why are the innocent so often killed and the evil spared? Why are rocks heavier than wood per square inch?

We're like a bunch of little children when we cry "why, why, why?" and cannot accept the answer "because that is how things are." We want so badly for a big daddy god to be planning it all so it isn't as scary to die.

To the believers, just once I suggest you try to free your mind of the fiction that humans are at the center of all things. We're specks of sand, nothing in the universe, a blink of the eye in geologic time. The idea that we would be able to comprehend, scientifically, as much as we *do* after 100-200 years of finally casting of the yoke of religious superstition is amazing, and a testament to our intelligence, not "god's." But we still know almost nothing about the universe, and it's very comforting to cry out for help, to make up stories that make it all alright. If it gets you through the night, fine. But please don't get in the way of real science, please? Our children will need to take the material, natural conditions in which they live much more seriously than we have done so in recent generations. We've got a serious ecological crisis coming right at us like a bullet and there is no time to be daydreaming of a rescue from "god."
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:36 PM on April 20, 2008 [14 favorites]


You can't really compare evolution to gravity the way Malor does. In fact, evolution is in a way more true then gravity.

Here is what I mean. Some truths are mathematically provable truths. 2 + 2 will always equal four, but the force of gravity doesn't come from any fundamental mathematical that we know of. We have no idea how gravity works, it's just 'there'. We can observe it, and measure it, but we have no idea what causes it.

On the other hand, mathematical truths can be proven. We know 2+ 2 = 4, and we know the fundamental theorem of calculus. But here's the the thing, evolution through natural selection is a fundamental mathematical truth. If you build a simulation complex enough to have self-replicating populations with mutations Evolution will happen. Evolution through natural selection is a fundamental property of any universe (with enough complexity), while gravity is just an observed effect.

So my view is that evolution is a fundamental incontrovertible fact, while gravity is just an observed effect.
posted by delmoi at 3:37 PM on April 20, 2008 [9 favorites]


I've been watching these quite a bit lately. The "Why Do People Laugh At Creationsists" videos are nice because they do things in a lovely point-by-point manner and with a good deal of mocking while keeping it at an acceptable level. I like them because they make it clear how ridiculous most (if not all) Creationst ideas are.

My grandfather sent me an email once-- a forward about something Ben Stein had said about how stupid the idea of evolution was or some such tripe-- and I emailed back with a point-by-point return and rebuttal of each point made. I put a lot of time into that email. The response I got back was this: "There are not very many Liberals in the world I could say I loved, but you are one of them. XOXO"

I wanted to be upset that the email had basically been ignored, but after a few moments of thinking about it I was glad he hadn't decided to disown me.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 3:39 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


You can question it all you like, konolia, but if you want to be listened to you had better have alternative explanations and observations, not just "I don't believe in macro-evolution".

Science sees something it doesn't understand and says "let's think about that, let's study that, let's perform experiments and see if we can understand it".

"Intelligent design" sees something it doesn't understand and says "Oh well...must have been God!".

Two different things. Difficult to compare.
posted by Jimbob at 3:43 PM on April 20, 2008


Ben Stein: America's Most Smartest Creationist
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 3:45 PM on April 20, 2008


win ben stein's monkey
posted by pyramid termite at 3:51 PM on April 20, 2008 [15 favorites]


I don't know which group I find more narrow-minded and intolerable, those evolutionists who insist that anyone who believes in an unmoved mover is an anti-science, anti-intellectual rube or those Christians who hold that no one can profess Christ and recite the The Nicene Creed with conviction while believing that God could have used evolution to create. That is, that one can't be both, as if they were somehow mutually exclusive. I like Andrew Sullivan's remarks on this:
I believe that God is truth and truth is, by definition, reasonable. Science cannot disprove true faith; because true faith rests on the truth; and science cannot be in ultimate conflict with the truth. So I am perfectly happy to believe in evolution, for example, as the most powerful theory yet devised explaining human history and pre-history. I have no fear of what science will tell us about the universe - since God is definitionally the Creator of such a universe; and the meaning of the universe cannot be in conflict with its Creator. I do not, in other words, see reason as somehow in conflict with faith - since both are reconciled by a Truth that may yet be beyond our understanding
posted by dawson at 3:51 PM on April 20, 2008 [6 favorites]


Designer... designer... designer...
posted by fleetmouse at 3:51 PM on April 20, 2008


This week in New Scientist magazine (and online):
Evolution: 24 myths and misconceptions
posted by DarkForest at 3:52 PM on April 20, 2008


Anyway, just as bad as Stein being anti-science, Stein has been outed as a plagiarist, having lifted others' work for his own, without permission, compensation or credit.

That's hilarious! He's not even the first to plagiarize that animation, the Discovery Institute did the same thing last year.
posted by homunculus at 3:53 PM on April 20, 2008


Designer... designer... designer...

What is "What does Michael Behe cry out during sex?"

woo! I retain control of the board AND get the Daily Double!
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:56 PM on April 20, 2008 [4 favorites]


To all Stein's detractors: Don't feed the trolls.

It's possible to believe that the reductionistic empiricism which dominates MeFi and the scientific community is flawed--"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy"--but that doesn't mean Stein's stunt is worth the time it would take to refute it. I believe that the scientific method is most emphatically not the only way in which we learn truth. But I also believe Stein's project to be profoundly silly.
posted by valkyryn at 3:57 PM on April 20, 2008


Actually I'm not asking to be listened to here... I have my own opinions and thoughts but I also know I am no scientist. I have heard of prejudice directed at folks who ARE scientists who for whatever reason do question certain tenets of evolution.

What I do think is this-sometimes a person can look at a piece of evidence, and determine it must mean one thing, while another person from another mindset might look at that same evidence and draw a differing conclusion. The only thing I can say for certain to this crowd, here, on this thread is that none of us was around when life actually began. So I think it should be okay to question it all, every whit. Even stuff that seems to be set in stone. If something is really true, it can handle the scrutiny.

Who knows what people will believe and be taught on this subject in 500 years, assuming an asteroid doesn't plug us all before then?
posted by konolia at 3:57 PM on April 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


Evolution is no less consistent with the Bible than the Bible is consistent with Itself.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 3:58 PM on April 20, 2008


another thread related to theism where quonsar shits everywhere.

"the arising of life from non-living matter has been repeatedly demonstrated in laboratory experiments"

another thread related to theism where quonsar shits everywhere.

"the arising of life from non-living matter has been repeatedly demonstrated in laboratory experiments"

another thread related to theism where quonsar shits everywhere.

"the arising of life from non-living matter has been repeatedly demonstrated in laboratory experiments"

*cough*

say what now?
posted by quonsar at 4:01 PM on April 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


I don't know which group I find more narrow-minded and intolerable, those evolutionists who insist that anyone who believes in an unmoved mover is an anti-science, anti-intellectual rube or those Christians who hold that no one can profess Christ and recite the The Nicene Creed with conviction while believing that God could have used evolution to create.
Like who?

Specifically.
posted by Flunkie at 4:04 PM on April 20, 2008 [4 favorites]


One thing all my science courses have tried to instill in me is that a scientific theory has to do two things: it must predict, and it must explain. Especially in chemistry, the models tend to abstract themselves away from the physical reality of what's "actually" going on. Here's an example.

A model called hybrid orbital theory has proven itself extremely useful in organic chemistry as a way to rationalize bonding between atoms in organic molecules. There's one problem, though: hybrid orbital theory does not hold up for most of the periodic table. Hybrid orbital theory, in a strict sense, is false. Atoms don't actually do what hybrid orbital theory says they do.

Why, then, does hybrid orbital theory continue to be used by chemists**? The reason is that, for a known subset of observed behavior, hybrid orbital theory is true. For that subset, the theory is a useful predictor for how atoms will bond.

Scientific theories in general do not make claims about absolute truths in the universe. All a scientist is doing when he or she devises a new model is attempting to rationalize experimental data with the existing body of knowledge in that field. The more experimental observation that fits within the theory, the more accepted it becomes.

Going back to chemistry, one could say that the reason why atoms bond the way they do is that God made it that way. That very well may be true, but as a scientific theory it's pretty useless because it gives us no insight into how to predict behavior for situations that have not yet been observed empirically.

Perhaps paradoxically, scientific truth and absolute truth are not the same thing. The scientific veracity of a theory depends entirely on its ability to fit experimental data and predict the outcome of future experiments. Absolute truth is an intrinsic quality that can't really be measured. These two truths do not correspond on a one-to-one basis.

Intelligent Design (or whatever you choose to call it) could very well be true in an absolute sense. It will never be scientifically true because, while it explains life on Earth, it can't be used to predict future outcomes.

**Before any real chemists jump on me, though hybrid orbital theory is still used as a simplified way of describing C, N, and O bonding, it has been phased out, in large part, in favor of the more comprehensive molecular orbital theory.
posted by anifinder at 4:05 PM on April 20, 2008 [8 favorites]


Why isn't it okay to question evolution? For the record I can believe in MICRO evolution, just not macro evolution

They are one and the same. "Micro" and "macro" are terms used by ID proponents to appear like they are ceding ground and being reasonable . They say " evolutionary processes" can happen within species, but not across species.

That those processes occur within species is not debatable; it is easily demonstrated.

The across-species concept comes from the boneheads still trying to argue that man did not evolve from monkeys. Evolutionists have never made that argument. The theory is, and always has been, that man and apes share a common ancestor. We are the result of micro-evolution, if you will (or must).
posted by Benny Andajetz at 4:06 PM on April 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


The only thing I can say for certain to this crowd, here, on this thread is that none of us was around when life actually began. So I think it should be okay to question it all, every whit. Even stuff that seems to be set in stone. If something is really true, it can handle the scrutiny.

It's not a matter of whether evolutionary science can handle the scrutiny of people who find it to be lacking as an explanation. It's a matter of whether it's a good idea to condone people who feel that no one should give them crap about ignoring evidence because it doesn't fit in with what they've already decided. That's the kind of thinking that gets juries to convict innocent people. It's dangerous.
posted by 23skidoo at 4:21 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


I have heard of prejudice directed at folks who ARE scientists who for whatever reason do question certain tenets of evolution.

You say that as if saying it makes it so. Please, point to an example of somebody who is a scientist who has faced prejudice for "questioning" evolution.

Or don't, because honestly, I think you're being dishonest in how you speak. By saying "questioning certain tenets of evolution" you make it sound as though people are losing their jobs for saying "Gee, fellows, I don't know if that theory is complete." That's not happening, I'm pretty sure that you know it's not happening, and it's dishonest to suggest that it is.

What I do think is this-sometimes a person can look at a piece of evidence, and determine it must mean one thing, while another person from another mindset might look at that same evidence and draw a differing conclusion.

When one of them can provide actual chains of logic and evidence for his/her conclusion and the other cannot, suggesting as you are that somehow the two conclusions are equal is dishonest.

The only thing I can say for certain to this crowd, here, on this thread is that none of us was around when life actually began. So I think it should be okay to question it all, every whit.

Again, you are dishonest; questioning is exactly what you are not doing. Your position is the position dictated, as you understand it, by the Bible; yours is a thoroughly unquestioning position.

If something is really true, it can handle the scrutiny.

Again with the dishonesty. We do not object to Intelligent Design because of some ludicrous fear that evolution won't "handle the scrutiny". We object to dishonest attempts to replace scientific investigation with religious dogma. As long as you are a defender of those attempts- and the dishonest one that you have repeatedly shown yourself to be- expect opprobrium and resistance.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:22 PM on April 20, 2008 [13 favorites]


Pope Guilty, I was not bringing religion into it at all. You are assuming that the only folks who might think of a different take on a theory would have to be theists. It would be best if you simply took my statements at face value.

As to the micro and macro-okay, I know I don't know the terminology, so let me explain what I do think. I think natural selection can account for different types of birds, or differing breeds of dogs, stuff like that. I do not think, however, that if you went back far enough, that I am the eventual result of an amoeba or something sliding out of the goo. That is just too big a leap for me.

For one thing, I really and truly do wonder how in the crap something like sex could possibly evolve into what it is today? I mean, I do understand there are primitive mechanisms that involve two organisms swapping dna, but I am talking about sex as it is commonly practiced. Sorry, that's quite a leap of faith for me to take. And for that matter, why would organisms "evolve" to swap dna to begin with? If we assume there is no Overseer, what would be the chances of it happening at all, or the "benefit" to it? Why would an uncaring universe give a flying crap? Just saying.
posted by konolia at 4:34 PM on April 20, 2008


"win ben stein's monkey"

Literal laugh-out-loud here. Gold star for you.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:35 PM on April 20, 2008


If something is really true, it can handle the scrutiny.
Oooh...boy.
Konolia, with all due respect, neither you nor the Creationists are offering it any. If you don't understand what it means to be a scientist, it is unlikely that your "questioning" of the Theory of Evolution will make an impact on it. Why? Because any question you can come up with (do you have any? Maybe someone here can answer it.) has been gone over, compared with reams of evidence, and DISCARDED as unfit as a possible, rational explanation for OBSERVABLE facts.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 4:39 PM on April 20, 2008


"In his encyclical Humani Generis (1950), my predecessor Pius XII has already affirmed that there is no conflict between evolution and the doctrine of the faith regarding man and his vocation, provided that we do not lose sight of certain fixed points....Today, more than a half-century after the appearance of that encyclical, some new findings lead us toward the recognition of evolution as more than an hypothesis. In fact it is remarkable that this theory has had progressively greater influence on the spirit of researchers, following a series of discoveries in different scholarly disciplines. The convergence in the results of these independent studies -- which was neither planned nor sought -- constitutes in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory."^ (OMG, I have used that carrot to cite to a wikipedia article, shame, but I won't restrict myself to wikipedia alone. sure hope faux pas this doesn't derail this wonderful thread.)
posted by caddis at 4:39 PM on April 20, 2008


Funny, I just now got back from watching "Expelled" to review for our local alt-weekly, and saw this right at the top of the page.

Jesus wept. It started out intellectually dishonest and evasive, but took a hard right to moral repugnance about 2/3 of the way through. I didn't think Stein could do any worse than when he called the torture and rape at Abu Ghraib a bunch of fraternity hazing, but this movie's a contender.
posted by middleclasstool at 4:39 PM on April 20, 2008


konolia writes "Pope Guilty, I was not bringing religion into it at all. You are assuming that the only folks who might think of a different take on a theory would have to be theists. It would be best if you simply took my statements at face value."

Well then, what scientific questions are being asked about evolution that are not being answered?
posted by krinklyfig at 4:48 PM on April 20, 2008


Pope Guilty, I was not bringing religion into it at all. You are assuming that the only folks who might think of a different take on a theory would have to be theists. It would be best if you simply took my statements at face value.

You are, however, a creationist, and your statements are made by a creationist; to insist that your statements be taken at face value is to insist that your meaning be ignored, which I will not do. The words you use, like "micro evolution" and "macro evolution" are the language of creationism.

I think natural selection can account for different types of birds, or differing breeds of dogs, stuff like that. I do not think, however, that if you went back far enough, that I am the eventual result of an amoeba or something sliding out of the goo. That is just too big a leap for me.

There is no "leap" for you to make. The only gap is between the current state of scientific knowledge and your current knowledge, and you have declined to pursue anything like building a bridge across that gap; you, like all creationists, simply make the same arguments over and over again no matter how many times it is explained to you. The argument you are making has a name: Argument From Personal Incredulity. It does not mean that the evolutionary process is false; it means that your imagination is weak and you are depending on your imagination for argumentation.

For one thing, I really and truly do wonder how in the crap something like sex could possibly evolve into what it is today? I mean, I do understand there are primitive mechanisms that involve two organisms swapping dna, but I am talking about sex as it is commonly practiced. Sorry, that's quite a leap of faith for me to take. And for that matter, why would organisms "evolve" to swap dna to begin with?

The most immediate reason that springs to mind is that a species whose members are genetically nonidentical is far hardier than one whose members are genetically identical. Further, reproduction through meiosis is, as I understand it, necessary for genetic nonidentity within species.

If we assume there is no Overseer, what would be the chances of it happening at all, or the "benefit" to it?

I don't know what you mean by "benefit" here. If you mean what is the advantage to meiosis over mitosis, then I've already outlined it.

Why would an uncaring universe give a flying crap?

What does that have to do with anything?
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:51 PM on April 20, 2008 [17 favorites]


You're right, konolia. You and a surgeon might look at a microscope slide of your blood and see two completely different things -- where he might see signs of disease, you might see a lot of red splotches and stuff. Or, 300,000 surgeons might look at the same slide and see decisive signs of something, while two -- who got correspondence-course degrees in another country -- disagree. Multiply that by an order of magnitude or so and you'll have a sense of how many trained biologists believe the theory of evolution is correct versus those who don't. You've heard so much about the alleged controversy, though, for reasons having very little to do with biology or science, and a lot to do with elections.

Myself, I would probably trust the surgeon, while possibly getting a second opinion. But I wouldn't need 300,000 opinions.
posted by digaman at 4:51 PM on April 20, 2008 [8 favorites]


For my part, I consider "creationism" a charming fantasy

the problem as I see it is that we've got something approaching half this country caught into bullshit beliefs in fairytales of one sort or another..

ID/Creationism is just another front of the conservative right's war on the reality-based community.

IMV it's a very, very important front, because when you can disarm a populace's ability to reason you can control them more easily.

This is part of the whole Straussian enchilada that we need not get into here, but this angle of the issue is why I consider creationism something much more pernicious than a charming fantasy.
posted by tachikaze at 4:56 PM on April 20, 2008


quonsar, I was mistaken about that, and when it was pointed out to me, I corrected myself.

...er, you're just here to shit on the thread in hopes of provoking people to pay attention to you, aren't you?
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:56 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Multiply that by an order of magnitude or so and you'll have a sense of how many trained biologists believe the theory of evolution is correct versus those who don't.

Except you've already limited "biologists" to "those who think evolution is correct." If you take anybody who considers themself to be a biologist--including people who self-identify as "creation scientists"--you get a very different picture.

Your survey is like saying "9 of 10 trained yogis believe in the fourth chakra" and using it as proof that there is a fourth chakra. You've defined your survey so that you automatically win.
posted by Leon-arto at 4:58 PM on April 20, 2008


Actually, konolia, I think the most succinct way to put it is from the Reason article: "Neither the producers nor Stein understand that offering critiques of a theory with which they disagree is not the same as proving their own theory."

Once you've done that, you're there. Until then, not so much.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:00 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


The difference is that yoga provides health benefits whether or not there is a fourth chakra, whereas nearly all of our modern understanding of biology is built upon evolution. You cannot claim to be a biologist and not believe in evolution; you might as well call yourself a physicist and not believe in math.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:01 PM on April 20, 2008


The only thing I can say for certain to this crowd, here, on this thread is that none of us was around when life actually began.

This is the first and largest mistake. Darwinian evolution, in the modern sense, isn't a theory about biological origins. It doesn't say anything about how life started. It only says that once life started and mutations appeared, disfavorable mutations are selected against. That is all.

So I think it should be okay to question it all, every whit. Even stuff that seems to be set in stone. If something is really true, it can handle the scrutiny.

Except that creationism, in its most prominent form, isn't honest questioning or scrutiny. It's the mere insistence on a point about biology for broader political purposes, and its lack of honesty is patent when its proponents swear to tell the truth and then lie to judges.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:01 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Anyone who tells you that God created the Earth, in whole, 6000 years ago, is telling you something that flat, absolutely, is not true.

OK, that's not creationism. That's Young Earth creationism. And only a minority of creationists hold that view. In fact, few Intelligent Design folk are Young Earth.

You're conflating one specific set of beliefs into the beliefs of every Creationist, just as this documentary does in conflating the Darwinian origins of Nazi thought into the beliefs of anyone who believes in Darwinian evolution.

And that's the problem with this debate -- somewhere up the line someone took Darwin out of context (Social Darwinism anyone?) And now we're in this mudslinging mess. Clarity is just about impossible, save the Catholics, who have mostly been able to strike a balance between evolution and creationism and mostly stay out of this mess. Mostly.
posted by dw at 5:02 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


So I think it should be okay to question it all, every whit. Even stuff that seems to be set in stone. If something is really true, it can handle the scrutiny.

I whole-heartedly 1000% agree with this statement. Now apply it to your religious beliefs.
posted by anansi at 5:02 PM on April 20, 2008 [24 favorites]


Leon-arto writes "Your survey is like saying '9 of 10 trained yogis believe in the fourth chakra' and using it as proof that there is a fourth chakra. You've defined your survey so that you automatically win."

The discipline of science is practiced by scientists. We could also ask laypeople and attorneys about the law. Which group do you think would be better informed?
posted by krinklyfig at 5:03 PM on April 20, 2008


Except you've already limited "biologists" to "those who think evolution is correct." If you take anybody who considers themself to be a biologist--including people who self-identify as "creation scientists"--you get a very different picture.

Dude: there are probably less than 100 people on the face of the earth who self-identify as "creation scientists". Go ahead and include them. Creationism will go from a 99% minority to a 98.8% minority.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:03 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Nazi Socialism

And while I'm at it, that is redundant. Nazi = Nationalsozialismus, or "National socialism."

It also repeats itself. And you know who else repeated himself?
posted by dw at 5:04 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


I do not think, however, that if you went back far enough, that I am the eventual result of an amoeba or something sliding out of the goo. That is just too big a leap for me.

That's the beauty of evolution that you refuse to understand because it threatens your religious indoctrination.

Where do you draw the line between your micro and macro evolution? This process has apparently been operating for BILLIONS of years and TRILLIONS of generations and there IS no discontinuity in the process that you can point to to refute it.

When you fully understand the evidence, eg. the degree of commonality that YOUR DNA shares with a tomato plant, the apparent fact that that which "was created in the image of God" shares common ancestry, more or less, among everything else living on this planet you will see your God's Creation in a whole new, unflitered, light.

One of the "teachings" of Darwinian Evolution that I found intelllectually fascinating is that ALL of my ancestors, from Mom back to my poo-flinging ape ancestors, back to the rodents cowering in fear, back to the reptiles with the egg clutch, back to the fish, etc etc. were SUCCESSFUL parents.

The only developed nation on this planet that disbelieves evolution more than the US is Turkey. They too, have caught a nasty case of religious Fundamentalism. It saddens me.
posted by tachikaze at 5:05 PM on April 20, 2008 [4 favorites]


dw writes "And that's the problem with this debate"

The problem with this "debate" is that it's purely political. There is no scientific debate, because the anti-evolution side is not arguing from a scientific basis.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:05 PM on April 20, 2008


You cannot claim to be a biologist and not believe in evolution; you might as well call yourself a physicist and not believe in math.

Then you're still making a circular definition: "Evolution is true because all biologists believe it. Anybody who does not believe it cannot be a biologist."

It's an interesting problem of definitions, but it hardly proves that evolution is true.

The fact that yoga has health benefits has nothing to do with whether the fact that 9 of 10 yogis believe in a fourth chakra means that there is such a thing. I submit that the fact that 9 of 10 yogis believe in a fourth chakra doesn't make it any more true than the fact that 10 of 10 "biologists" (using the quotes to signify the fact that you only count those who believe in evolution to be "real" biologists) believe in evolution.

The fact that biology is predictive doesn't guarantee that it's right -- solar and lunar eclipses could be predicted with geo-centric (world goes around the earth) models for centuries before we realized that the world actually went around the sun. The fact that a model (evolution) is predictive is a good hint that we're onto something, but it's far from conclusive.

The point is this: You can get where you're going without slaughtering logical reasoning. Do so.
posted by Leon-arto at 5:06 PM on April 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


I just have two things to add to the shitstorm. Firstly, There IS a difference between "Creationism" and "Intelligent Design". It is a lot like the difference between "Darwinism" and "Evolutionary Science", where one is the proper scientific term and one is the term you use to make it sound stupid. So please, don't whine about people saying "Darwinism" when you go around saying "Creationism" in any other context than "Young-Earth Creationism" which is a whole different kettle of fish and more or less completely unrelated to Intelligent Design.

Secondly, like a few have commented before me I find that even as people here call Stein's documentary a bunch of lies and whatnot, they fall into the same seething outrage that Stein exemplified in the documentary. There are plenty of (otherwise?) intelligent people and scientists that have concluded that evolution isn't the only answer. That doesn't mean they're going to trade their brains in for Bibles, unless you're operating with the straw man that intelligent design = Christianity.

If nothing else, Expelled did a pretty good job of demonstrating what a lousy philosopher Richard Dawkins is.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 5:07 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Mr.Encyclopedia writes "Firstly, There IS a difference between 'Creationism' and 'Intelligent Design'. It is a lot like the difference between 'Darwinism' and 'Evolutionary Science', where one is the proper scientific term and one is the term you use to make it sound stupid"

"Intelligent design" is not a scientific term. It is a wedge issue invented by a religious political movement. Seriously.

"If nothing else, Expelled did a pretty good job of demonstrating what a lousy philosopher Richard Dawkins is."

So what?
posted by krinklyfig at 5:10 PM on April 20, 2008


There is no scientific debate, because the anti-evolution side is not arguing from a scientific basis.

And that might be the point. You lock a philosopher and a scientist in a room and ask them to decide whether we're "real" or not (the first question to many philosophers is "do we exist?", which has been popularized and bastardized through the Matrix) and they'll never find a common ground. The methods of inquiry are fundamentally different. The scientist will take measurements and run experiments, and the philosopher will gaze at his navel. Neither can talk the other out of their positions because they each have different starting assumptions.

In the evolution/creationism debate, we have the same problem. Science can't disprove religion on religion's terms, and religion can't disprove science on science's terms.
posted by Leon-arto at 5:12 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Re. microevolution and macroevolution: for whatever reason, the book Prentice Hall Biology used in CA public schools uses the term macroevolution (though not microevolution).
posted by alexei at 5:12 PM on April 20, 2008


Then you're still making a circular definition: "Evolution is true because all biologists believe it. Anybody who does not believe it cannot be a biologist."

Okay, let me rephrase: You cannot be an Erector-set user who does not believe in metal". Plain enough? The whole of biology rests upon evolution. You cannot deny evolution and practice biology any more than you could be a lawyer who denies the existence of the law, or a doctor who denies the existence of germs.

And Mr. Encyclopedia, you're completely, fantastically wrong.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:12 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


There are plenty of (otherwise?) intelligent people and scientists that have concluded that evolution isn't the only answer. That doesn't mean they're going to trade their brains in for Bibles, unless you're operating with the straw man that intelligent design = Christianity.

Strangely, then, that almost all of them are Christian and many of those work for explicitly Christian (or possibly Judeo-Christian) organizations like the Discovery Institute.
posted by deanc at 5:12 PM on April 20, 2008


I hate that disgusting worm.

Wait long enough, he'll evolve.

Also, quonsar, you're not doing yourself any favours harping on that phrase of his. You know as well as the rest of us that he was clumsily referring to this. Try harder, buddy.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:14 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Anyone who tells you that God created the Earth, in whole, 6000 years ago, is telling you something that flat, absolutely, is not true.

There is no way to prove this empirically. The claim that the earth is only 6000 years old is perfectly compatible with any all observable phenomena. We do have to assume that said phenomena are illusory or misleading in some way, granted. But nevertheless strictly speaking scientific investigation and young theory are not mutually exclusive, if you are willing to interpret scientific evidence in a counter-intuitive way. (Two caveats: I do not believe in young earth theory; science if chock full of counterintuitive interpretations of evidence. So, the latter can't be good grounds for objecting to young earth creationism.)
posted by oddman at 5:15 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


And for that matter, why would organisms "evolve" to swap dna to begin with?

It randomizes your offspring faster than mutation does, but also only does so over a limited domain of the genome -- the parts that are different between you and your mate. For the parts that are the same, having two copies of the genes is a safety against random mutation.

More basically, there is no why. Darwinian evolution doesn't have any goals or reasoning. The right answer is just that dna-swapping happened, and after it did dna-swappers outbred dna-non-swappers.

If we assume there is no Overseer, what would be the chances of it happening at all, or the "benefit" to it?

There would be no way to know this except to conclusively demonstrate that there is no God or gods and then to do a census of the entire universe. If you put yourself in the mind of an atheist, their answer is that the chances of it happening are 100% -- it happened, here on Earth.

Asking what the benefit to it would be doesn't make any sense from a scientific viewpoint. More broadly, this sort of question bothers me. It smacks of the idea that if humans hadn't been directly zapped into existence from dirt, God wouldn't love us. That the same Christ who died on the cross to save the children of murderers and thieves and child-rapists and torturers and every other sort of sinner wouldn't have died to save the great^N-children of homo erectus, as if there were more dignity in being a murderous, raping thief than being a simple prehuman.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:16 PM on April 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


Leon-arto writes "You lock a philosopher and a scientist in a room and ask them to decide whether we're 'real' or not (the first question to many philosophers is 'do we exist?', which has been popularized and bastardized through the Matrix) and they'll never find a common ground."

And therefore that means they're both correct, just because the philosopher has questions about the nature of reality?

Well then, how about I hit you on the head with this hammer and see if that feels real to you?

Solipsism isn't really germane or relevant to these sorts of scientific questions.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:16 PM on April 20, 2008


You lock a philosopher and a scientist in a room and ask them to decide whether we're "real" or not (the first question to many philosophers is "do we exist?", which has been popularized and bastardized through the Matrix) and they'll never find a common ground.

There is an incredibly large range of epistemologies employed by and advocated by philosophers; many philosophers are, in fact, empiricists.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:17 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


You cannot be an Erector-set user who does not believe in metal

You don't have to know a single thing about the properties of metal to use an Erector Set. I can use an Erector Set without knowing or caring what kinds of bonds hold the metal together, or how magnetism works.

I can think that magnetism is the work of little gnomes, and you can think that it's a universal force transmitted over distances, and we can both put magnets together.

You can think that ID/Creationism/non-Darwinism is wrong without slaughtering logic to get there. When you use circular statements about "evolution is true because all biologists believe in it, and anyone who doesn't believe in it is not a biologist" you become the very thing that you decry in others.
posted by Leon-arto at 5:17 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


I love Conservatives. They defend genetic modification...

For the life of me, I can't figure out what this refers to. Help please?
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 5:18 PM on April 20, 2008


f you take anybody who considers themself to be a biologist

Is that how we decided who gets to be called a biologist these days? In that, case, I am one, too.
posted by adamdschneider at 5:18 PM on April 20, 2008


before we realized that the world actually went around the sun

This is something I've never understood about religion. There must be countless things that people and the church believed before science proved them wrong. I cannot fathom how a religious person (or, more correctly I guess, someone who believes God put us here) cannot simply accept that, like the sun rotating around the earth, it is, at the very least, possibly something that science has just yet to disprove. I don't see how that's such a leap in logic for such a person to make.

Do they say: "Okay, the church was wrong about all those other things ... but not this!"? If so, do they not realize that their ancestors were saying exactly the same thing about the last thing they believed that science disproved and that they now accept as obvious or at least true?

Konolia, I'm genuinely curious about this if you've got a minute to answer. (I'm currently infatuated with a girl who seems near-perfect to me... except she "has conversations with God" and I can't get my head around that, either.)
posted by dobbs at 5:19 PM on April 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


Solipsism isn't really germane or relevant to these sorts of scientific questions.

That's the whole point: you are assuming that science is the right tool to use to answer these questions. Somebody else has assumed that religion is the right tool to use to answer these questions.

I agree that there are plenty of empirical philosophers. But if you put Aristotle in a room with a scientist and ask them to prove the world is "real" then they'll use very different tools. There's no doubt that Aristotle would feel pain when you resorted to violence to prove your case, but that still doesn't prove that the world is real.

Here, the question is "where did life come from?" A non-scientific perspective is that "God put it there" and no tool of science can ever disprove that belief. Using science to try to talk people out of a non-scientific belief is like trying to break down the Berlin Wall with a wet noodle; it's the wrong tool for the job, no matter how deftly or strongly you wield it.
posted by Leon-arto at 5:20 PM on April 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


There are plenty of (otherwise?) intelligent people and scientists that have concluded that evolution isn't the only answer. That doesn't mean they're going to trade their brains in for Bibles, unless you're operating with the straw man that intelligent design = Christianity.

Name two.
posted by anansi at 5:20 PM on April 20, 2008


Flunkie^, I ^was not 'calling out' anyone here, nor did I necessary have one individual in mind. But surely many examples exist. Chris Hitchings, for one, whom I admire as a writer is very condescending and sarcastic, sort of the flip side of Ken Ham. And, really, a majority of the 'internet atheists'.
posted by dawson at 5:21 PM on April 20, 2008


Fuzzy Skinner: "I love Conservatives. They defend genetic modification...

For the life of me, I can't figure out what this refers to. Help please?
"

I think that's a reference to genetically modified crops.
posted by aerotive at 5:22 PM on April 20, 2008


To clarify @krinklyfig, I'm not saying the philosopher or the scientist would be right or wrong. I'm saying that they have two different viewpoints that are not susceptible to the other's form of reasoning. The scientist can scream at the top of his lungs "I measured it, it must be so!" and the philosopher can scream at the top of his lungs "we're all just brains in buckets and there's no way to verify that our sensory perceptions reflect some outside world!" and neither could ever disprove the other. Neither is necessarily right or wrong, the point is just that using science to attack religion as ineffective as using science to attack an Aristotelian philosophy. The two just don't speak the same language.
posted by Leon-arto at 5:23 PM on April 20, 2008


Leon-arto writes "That's the whole point: you are assuming that science is the right tool to use to answer these questions. Somebody else has assumed that religion is the right tool to use to answer these questions."

No, here's the problem. The ID people want it both ways. They want to insert non-scientific philosophy into science. Scientists are almost universally saying this exact thing, that the problem is what they want to accomplish is not really going to work within the scientific framework. I agree that there is more than one way to look at the universe. But philosophy is not science, just because you disagree with the conclusions of one or the other doesn't make them interchangeable.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:25 PM on April 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


Firstly, There IS a difference between "Creationism" and "Intelligent Design".

No, there really isn't. Intelligent design is a phrased coined by the authors of Of Pandas and People, a creationist biology textbook. The problem for them was that a court had already ruled that you couldn't force students in public school biology classes to learn about creationism, because creationism is religious doctrines.

So, okay, the authors say. The court said that creationism is religion. But the court didn't say anything about... umm... intelligent design. They didn't rule that that was religion, because we just made it up. So they went through their book and did some replacing. Among other cut-and-paste changes, they replaced "creationist" with "design proponent." We know this because in one instance their software or editor failed, and they were left with "cdesign proponentsists."

Further, the definition offered for "intelligent design" is the same, word for word, letter for letter, as the definition the earlier edition had offered for "creationism."

So, creationists think that intelligent design is creationism, even if they sometimes lie to judges for Christ about it. Why should you doubt their own words?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:25 PM on April 20, 2008 [31 favorites]


That's the whole point: you are assuming that science is the right tool to use to answer these questions

It is absolutely and without question not an assumption. Science works. Science discovers things, creates new things, and has its own built-in mechanisms for fixing itself when it goes wrong. If you're a fan of technological advancements, longer lifespans, and a better understanding of the world around you, science is pretty much the only game in town. We don't "assume" that science is better. We look at the options and go "oh, hey, science is not only a great paradigm, it has awesome results and succeeds where other paradigms fail!" The post-modernist horseshit canard where all paradigms and viewpoints are equally valid is a crock.

I agree that there are plenty of empirical philosophers. But if you put Aristotle in a room with a scientist and ask them to prove the world is "real" then they'll use very different tools.

Who cares? Aristotle is irrelevant.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:25 PM on April 20, 2008 [7 favorites]


Neither is necessarily right or wrong, the point is just that using science to attack religion as ineffective as using science to attack an Aristotelian philosophy. The two just don't speak the same language.

Aristotle might be interested in learning our language, though, unlike proponents of ID, who are more concerned with eliminating our language from the face of the Earth.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 5:26 PM on April 20, 2008


Leon-arto writes "I'm saying that they have two different viewpoints that are not susceptible to the other's form of reasoning."

Then what is the deal with Ben Stein's movie? Why is he demanding that science accept his non-scientific beliefs?
posted by krinklyfig at 5:26 PM on April 20, 2008


If nothing else, Expelled did a pretty good job of demonstrating what a lousy philosopher Richard Dawkins is.

Huh? I thought he was a scientist. The movie could have shown he sucked at ping pong, too. How is that relevant?
posted by dobbs at 5:27 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


anansi : David Berlinski, Francis Collins?
posted by dawson at 5:27 PM on April 20, 2008


Fuzzy Skinner: "I love Conservatives. They defend genetic modification...
--
For the life of me, I can't figure out what this refers to. Help please?"
--
I think that's a reference to genetically modified crops.
posted by aerotive


Hmm. That's all I could think of too, but I had no idea that was a "conservative" issue. I'll check back for the author's answer of course.

Thanks aerotive!
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 5:27 PM on April 20, 2008


The theory is, and always has been, that man and apes share a common ancestor. We are the result of micro-evolution, if you will (or must).

Wouldn't the common ancestor of Apes and man also be classified as an Ape? In fact, arn't humans technically apes? That's what wikipedia says.
posted by delmoi at 5:30 PM on April 20, 2008


My response to creationists is just, come up with a theory and then we can talk. Saying "god did it" is no more a theory than saying "it happened". You have to explain the details of how this force you call god enacted the coming into being, and you cannot turn to "it's magic" or you are not doing science. So you either have to make god empirical, or get out of science's way and just let them inevitably fail in their efforts, if you think it is ultimately not empirically knowable. But it is not science to cross your arms and shake your head and repeatedly say "that'll never work!"

On the other hand, it also irritates me that people get so defensive about natural selection that they're unwilling to recognize the weaknesses of the current science. Those quotes above about how we've created life from non-life plenty of times were a perfect example of the kind of mistakes people make because they have inordinate faith in the science that's already been done. If you think about it, the question of abiogenesis is actually pretty important: was the beginning of life a random and unlikely event, or an inevitable and common one? If the former, do all living things share a single common ancestor? If the latter, does that mean that "life" began many different times and in many places? Could we differentiate these "strains"? etc. The same series of questions can be asked about species differentiation - is it a random accident that occasionally happens, or a teleological inevitability that biology pursues? If the former, how are there enough to mate and begin again, and if the latter, do new 'branches' of the species form from the original again and again? For now we mostly just rely on the enormous amount of time the world has had to experiment, but it's not like we really have answers.

I think the questions about how life works are really interesting and complicated, and contemporary science is at least here and there considering somewhat more holistic or creative (or "emergent") models... we shouldn't become so worried about empty creationism to become blindly defensive on the part of evolutionary theory as if it's all figured out, though.
posted by mdn at 5:31 PM on April 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


"We do have to assume that said phenomena are illusory or misleading in some way, granted."

That's a pretty fucking big assumption, don't you think?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:32 PM on April 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


Using science to try to talk people out of a non-scientific belief is like trying to break down the Berlin Wall with a wet noodle; it's the wrong tool for the job, no matter how deftly or strongly you wield it.

Again, I'm not sure I follow. You seem to be suggesting that religious folk still believe, with the exception of evolution, what science has disproved in the past (e.g. that the sun revolves around the earth). I didn't think that was the case though science was used to "talk people out of a non-scientific belief".
posted by dobbs at 5:34 PM on April 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


If you're a fan of technological advancements, longer lifespans, and a better understanding of the world around you, science is pretty much the only game in town. We don't "assume" that science is better. We look at the options and go "oh, hey, science is not only a great paradigm, it has awesome results and succeeds where other paradigms fail!" The post-modernist horseshit canard where all paradigms and viewpoints are equally valid is a crock.

I fully agree that science does great stuff. I'm a fan of modern living. And we have science to thank for most of it.

But that doesn't mean that science is the ONLY possible means of discovering things about the world. Try to learn about romance through science and you'll not get far. Try to discover how to live a meaningful live through science and you'll get neurological studies but nothing fulfilling. Try to determine if we really exist through science and you'll find that we quickly run out of scientific tools to answer the question.

This has nothing to do with all viewpoints being equally valid. You're right that it's a crock. There are some viewpoints that are better than others.

But that doesn't mean that all the world is a nail and science is the only hammer. There are some questions that are not susceptible to science. The beliefs of creationists/ID-ists/[whatever we've decided to call them in this thread] is one such thing. They have a system of belief about why there is life on this earth that is not susceptible to science.

You, of course, have a belief about why there is life on earth that is based entirely on science. I don't know or care if you're right or wrong -- I strongly suspect that you're right, but it really doesn't matter. The point is not that anybody is right, but instead that you'll never ever convince them by using science because they start with such a fundamentally different assumption that they think science is the wrong tool for the job.
posted by Leon-arto at 5:34 PM on April 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


konolia: "The only thing I can say for certain to this crowd, here, on this thread is that none of us was around when life actually began. So I think it should be okay to question it all, every whit."

Don't forget to differentiate between evolution and abiogenesis, which is the science on the origin of life. Abiogenesis has been pored over and theorized far, far less than evolution. The prevailing theory of the origin of life itself is based on various theories, which Ben Stein mockingly paraphrases as "lightning striking a mud puddle." According to science, though, that seems to be the prevailing theory, but scientists aren't very decisive on this as there's no record of this event, just lab experimentations. It seems to me that a lot of scientists kind of shrug at this one.

Evolution, on the other hand, has a lot of evidence supporting its claims. Tons. Heaps. Landfills-worth. Countless species observations and study. Fossils out the wazoo.

Of course we can--and should--question both subjects, but when a creationist says to both "God made it!", it's intellectual laziness, at the very least. The problem is that creationists don't use solid scientific rigor with their claims, and when this is pointed out, they cry "censorship!" or whatever that their side isn't being heard. It's not heard because it's not science, it's theology.
posted by zardoz at 5:35 PM on April 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


i believe that free jazz could evolve from bebop, but i believe a vengeful creator had to design smooth jazz.
posted by snofoam at 5:37 PM on April 20, 2008 [25 favorites]


it's dishonesty on a scale that at least equals, if not vastly exceeds, that of which he is accusing others.

Well, if you like, I guess. Giving the benefit of the doubt to others, even when arguing, and hearing what they're trying to say as much as what they are actually saying, then addressing your arguments towards that: well, that's what separates us from the apes sound-bite media dipshits and talking-head destroyers-of-western civilization that have brought the tradition of constructive disputation to its knees.

The default assumption of yours here, that people will actually unquestioningly believe something that someone says, no matter how unsubstantiated, just because they said it, is probably not incorrect these days. But just mocking inaccuracies rather than correcting them helps nobody. When discussion is about fighting to win, everybody loses.

So, yeah, the whole 'HA HA DOODYHEAD!' just isn't all that constructive, but I know that you do tend to claim that intellectual vantage point as your meepzorpian birthright, so you know, carry on.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:41 PM on April 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


Oh, and Aristotle is a particularly weird example to choose as your head-in-the-clouds philosopher who wouldn't care for science, as he's famous for writing about physics, the generation of animals, the movement of animals, etc etc - he is often considered the first scientist. However, he is also very much concerned with how it all works in unity, and philosophy for him is the ultimate science that can help us understand the source or principle of "being" or existence (so not just how it works in relation to itself, but why is it at all, and why this way in particular, etc... so it's never "is it real" but "what is it, really")
posted by mdn at 5:49 PM on April 20, 2008 [4 favorites]


David Berlinski David Berlinski (born 1942 in New York City) is an educator and author of popular books on mathematics. He is a leading critic of evolution within the intelligent design movement and author of numerous articles on the topic.[1] Berlinksi is a secular Jew and self-described agnostic, and according to a 2008 Slate magazine profile "a critic, a contrarian, and — by his own admission — a crank." An outspoken critic of evolution, Berlinski is a Fellow of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, a Seattle-based think-tank that is hub of the intelligent design movement. Berslinski shares the movement's disbelief in the evidence for evolution, but does not openly avow intelligent design and describes his relationship with the idea as: "warm but distant. It's the same attitude that I display in public toward my ex-wives."

One, he's not an evolutionary biologist. He's a a philosopher and mathematician. Two, he's a fellow at the Discovery Institute. Not exactly a nonpartisan actor here.


Francis Collins Collins has described his parents as "only nominally Christian" and by graduate school he considered himself an atheist. However, dealing with dying patients led him to question his religious views, and he investigated various faiths. He became an evangelical Christian after observing the faith of his critically ill patients and reading Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis.

Now this one converts to evangelical Christianity after experiencing grief. Now remember, part of the caveat was, That doesn't mean they're going to trade their brains in for Bibles, unless you're operating with the straw man that intelligent design = Christianity.



I will reiterate my challenge, this time with a bit more clarity. Name two scientists with a knowledge of the field (evolutionary biology) who seriously discredit evolutionary theory. They must not be shills for neo-conservative-evangelical thinktanks. They must have published something that discounts evolutionary theory that was not ripped to shreds by their peers. I will make the prediction that this cannot be done. Sure their are plenty of Ben Steins, Kirk Camerons and astronomer/mathematician/engineers that truly feel that they understand the science much more than people who actually study it. These folks will undoubtedly have wondrous theories that are capable of supplanting evolution. However, I want an honest-to-gog evolutionary biologist who has credibly attacked evolution.
posted by anansi at 5:51 PM on April 20, 2008


I will reiterate my challenge, this time with a bit more clarity.

No, you'll reiterate it by setting all of the conditions in your favor. Again, you're asking for people who you define as biologists, but limit the possible set of "biologists" to "people who believe the thing you're trying to prove."

Proof by reference to authority isn't going to fly on MetaFilter, sorry.
posted by Leon-arto at 5:54 PM on April 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


Pope Guilty, I was not bringing religion into it at all. You are assuming that the only folks who might think of a different take on a theory would have to be theists. It would be best if you simply took my statements at face value.

All IDers are theists, every single one.

For one thing, I really and truly do wonder how in the crap something like sex could possibly evolve into what it is today? I mean, I do understand there are primitive mechanisms that involve two organisms swapping dna, but I am talking about sex as it is commonly practiced. Sorry, that's quite a leap of faith for me to take.

There are probably plenty of great books that will explain all of this. I don't know what they might be off the top of my head. Anyone know of some good books about evolution that might be helpful for an evolution skeptic?

Except you've already limited "biologists" to "those who think evolution is correct." If you take anybody who considers themself to be a biologist--including people who self-identify as "creation scientists"--you get a very different picture.

Well duh, Evolution is the central theory of all modern biology. I mean, a biologist who doesn't believe in evolution is like a physicist who doesn't believe in gravity, a chemist who doesn't believe in atoms, or an astronomer who doesn't believe in stars. In other words, not a biologist.

Then you're still making a circular definition: "Evolution is true because all biologists believe it. Anybody who does not believe it cannot be a biologist."

That would be a circular definition. Now, I happen to think that Evolution is true because it's self-evident from first principles. Another reason to believe it is that people have actually witnessed it taking place, right in front of their eyes, hundreds of times. That's right; people have actually witnessed one species turning into another species in their lifetimes!

If that's not enough, then the reason to believe it is that all the available evidence shows evolution to be true, and no evidence shows it to be false. Now it may be that all biology is actually like a cult, and biologists only interpret data as being in support of evolution because they're brainwashed, or because they are afraid they'll lose their grant money otherwise or whatever. But once you get to the point where you believe an entire scientific discipline is engaged in a giant conspiracy you're a bit past the bend, and clearly nothing would ever convince you to change your mind.

If nothing else, Expelled did a pretty good job of demonstrating what a lousy philosopher Richard Dawkins is.

Well, if you lie to someone about why you're interviewing them, then cut up and edit their statements to make them look bad, they'll probably look bad.
posted by delmoi at 5:56 PM on April 20, 2008 [11 favorites]


The point is not that anybody is right, but instead that you'll never ever convince them by using science because they start with such a fundamentally different assumption that they think science is the wrong tool for the job.

I don't personally have a problem with people who answer "God" to the question "Why is there life on Earth?" I have a problem with people who answer "An intelligent designer. Oh, and by the way, my answer (which is wholly unprovable and for which no evidence exists) should be considered a scientific answer to your question, even though it completely ignores the scientific method."

I don't really want to convince anybody that their understanding of the world is wrong, I just want it kept out of science classrooms and textbooks. Because it dilutes the meaning of the word science.
posted by 23skidoo at 5:58 PM on April 20, 2008 [8 favorites]


Wouldn't the common ancestor of Apes and man also be classified as an Ape? In fact, arn't humans technically apes? That's what wikipedia says.

Nah, apes are pongids. We're homonids. Apes are actually much cooler than we are.
posted by anansi at 6:00 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


All IDers are theists, every single one.
'Berlinksi is a secular Jew and self-described agnostic...'
posted by dawson at 6:01 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


'Berlinksi is a secular Jew and self-described agnostic...'

...who just happens to believe in creationism.

I mean, he can deny that all he wants, but he's a Fellow of the Discovery Institute- a position which pretty much demands creationism.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:03 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


And to think that the energy expended here collectively through flinging shit at each other could have been used to perform useful Mechanical Turk tasks.
posted by Krrrlson at 6:06 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


No, you'll reiterate it by setting all of the conditions in your favor. Again, you're asking for people who you define as biologists, but limit the possible set of "biologists" to "people who believe the thing you're trying to prove."

Proof by reference to authority isn't going to fly on MetaFilter, sorry.


Its limiting yes. If my toilet is clogged I call a plumber, not an exterminator who has some interesting ideas about plumbing. This is not proof by reference to authority. I do not need to resort to such means to prove my point. If someone is going to make a declaration that there are rational scientists that are not evangelical Christianity shills (not my claim) than damn well prove it. Don't list people who are obviously not what was specified.

The reason that the conditions are in my favor, is because I am appealing to science. Science is an adaptive, self-correcting system of inquiry. The ID folks are appealing to a book that was written almost 2000 years ago, that is static and unenlightened as regard to the technological and epistemological insights that have been gained over the last two millenia. I can't help but win.
posted by anansi at 6:08 PM on April 20, 2008 [5 favorites]


One thing all my science courses have tried to instill in me is that a scientific theory has to do two things: it must predict, and it must explain.

Unless it's string theory!

*rimshot*
posted by Justinian at 6:08 PM on April 20, 2008 [9 favorites]


PG, I'm not defending the man, or even saying I respect his beliefs, I am simply pointing out that 'All IDers are theists, every single one.' is a demonstratively false statement.
But when people child Francis Collings as someone who 'traded his brains in for Bibles' it's like arguing w/ young earth creationists. You can't even hope to make any difference, so one backs off softly, smiling and nodding.
posted by dawson at 6:10 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


chide, dammit. chide
posted by dawson at 6:11 PM on April 20, 2008


The point I'm trying to make is that I don't believe that he's not a theist, since he works for the Discovery Institute.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:15 PM on April 20, 2008


Ah...I see.
posted by dawson at 6:20 PM on April 20, 2008


I know this has been touched upon upthread with the quotation from JP2, but why don't more theists see evolution as the means by which the deity operates? Isn't a god who can create such a complex, fascinating system for the development of life more mysterious, more majestic than one who waves his hand and, hey presto, finishes the job?

Or are the IDers just waaaaay more vocal than the rest?
posted by Bromius at 6:20 PM on April 20, 2008 [4 favorites]


Nah, apes are pongids. We're homonids. Apes are actually much cooler than we are.

Apes can't be pongids, at least not good ones. Their thumbs aren't sufficiently pliable to work the Pong controllers very well.

Seriously, though, we represent a different evolutionary "path" than apes. We are similar enough to suggest the common ancestor, however.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:21 PM on April 20, 2008


At the end of the New York Times review of the film in question:

“Expelled” is rated PG (Parental guidance suggested). It has smoking guns and drunken logic.
posted by tractorfeed at 6:24 PM on April 20, 2008


Leo-narto, whatever one things of science's ability to answer questions, I think it is pretty clear that biology is one of those things where scientific inquiry is the best tool.

Evolution is not seriously questioned in biology any more than gravity is. What is controversial is the mechanisms by which evolution happens. Talk of intelligent design is outside the purview of science because it is not disprovable. It is similar to romance in the sense that intelligent design is asking why we feel certain ways about the world around us. In so far as science is interested in this, it is the field of cognitive psychology, not evolutionary biology.
posted by deanc at 6:25 PM on April 20, 2008


" 'We do have to assume that said phenomena are illusory or misleading in some way, granted.'

That's a pretty fucking big assumption, don't you think?"

Sure it is. And like I said, I don't believe in young earth theories.

If we accept that idea that young earth theory is wrong because it contradicts common sense, then we are placing common sense on a pretty high pedestal. Which, frankly, is all fine and good, I'm a big fan of common sense. So, where am I going with this?

Many scientists and philosophers argue that there is no such thing as free will. That is, they argue that the evidence (and scientific theory) suggests that we have no free will. Of course, common sense suggests that we do indeed have free will. Nevertheless these thinkers insist that free will is just illusory.

In other words they are happy to use common sense when it suits them and abandon it as non-sense when it doesn't. This is of course hypocritical.

If we are going to elevate the status of common sense, then I would think we should do so consistently. So, I hope that all of you who argue that young earth theory is an obviously stupid theory because it so clearly contradicts the evidence are equally eager in arguing for free will.
posted by oddman at 6:27 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Someone further up claimed that biology without evolution is like physics without math.

An interesting connection in light of Wigner's famous essay, "The unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics."
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 6:28 PM on April 20, 2008


I've never understood why people are opposed to the idea that we are descended from monkeys, even if that idea is a profound misreading of evolutionary theory. Monkeys kick ass! I'm happy to be a relative!
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:30 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


konolia writes "Why isn't it okay to question evolution? ...over the years many supposedly scientific theories eventually got blown out of the water by later facts...."

Because:

1. we're not talking about one study on the effects of chemical X on rats. We're relying on thousands of studies conducted over the course of more than a century, from Darwin's own observations in the Galapagos, through Thomas Hunt Morgans research on fruit flies, through the discovery of the genome in 1953, to the Human Genome Project. Not one study contradicts neo-Darwinism. This serves to tie to together and...

2. It underpins all of biology, including modern medicine. In the abscence of theis framework, biology and medicine become mere disconnected facts. with the framework of evolution, things make sense. Which leads to...

3. It has great predictive power. Neo-Darwinism predicts, for example, the sex ratio of offspring as a function of generic relationship. The actual sex ratios found in nature match very closely the numbers predicted on paper. In contrast the only "predictive power" of "Itelligent Design" is "X is complicated to be figured out", a prediction routinely disproved.

If you what to "question" evolution, you have to offer to replace it with something that has more conformation, more universal applicability, and more predictive power than evolutionary theory. Until you do, it's like offering levitation through Transcendental Meditation as a "solution" to the energy crisis. Even God-believing Christian biologists like Francis Collins aren't going to take you seriously.

And frankly, if someone wants to "question evolution", he or she need to understand it a lot better than Ben Stein seem to. Let him spend as much time trying to understand evolutionary theory as he spends dismissing it, then he can get back to us.
posted by orthogonality at 6:31 PM on April 20, 2008 [9 favorites]


Many scientists and philosophers argue that there is no such thing as free will. That is, they argue that the evidence (and scientific theory) suggests that we have no free will. Of course, common sense suggests that we do indeed have free will. Nevertheless these thinkers insist that free will is just illusory.

In other words they are happy to use common sense when it suits them and abandon it as non-sense when it doesn't. This is of course hypocritical.

If we are going to elevate the status of common sense, then I would think we should do so consistently. So, I hope that all of you who argue that young earth theory is an obviously stupid theory because it so clearly contradicts the evidence are equally eager in arguing for free will.


Er... no. Common sense is useful, yes, but when the evidence contradicts it, one must disregard one's common sense. It remains useful in other areas.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:31 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


If we are going to elevate the status of common sense, then I would think we should do so consistently.

Just because you're holding a hammer, not everything is equally a nail.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:35 PM on April 20, 2008


Try to learn about romance through science and you'll not get far. Try to discover how to live a meaningful live through science and you'll get neurological studies but nothing fulfilling. Try to determine if we really exist through science and you'll find that we quickly run out of scientific tools to answer the question.
100% Pure Handwavium™. First of all, psychology and anthropology have lots to say about romance and meaningful lives. I double-dog-dare you to walk into a psychology department and claim they're not doing science. Secondly, the solipsistic Matrix inspired clusterfuck of "do we really exist" is in no way an anathema to science. If you put a group of scientists on the task they would return with their answer, qualified with "as best we can tell based on our observation and our instruments, but there's still room for study."
There are some questions that are not susceptible to science. The beliefs of creationists/ID-ists/[whatever we've decided to call them in this thread] is one such thing. They have a system of belief about why there is life on this earth that is not susceptible to science.
I would like to know what questions creationism or ID answer or attempt to answer which are not susceptible to scientific inquiry. If claims are made about the world (it's too complex to have evolved naturally, or the world is 6000 years old, or the great flood killed the dinosaurs) those claims can be tested, and tested again as our tests become more refined.
posted by device55 at 6:38 PM on April 20, 2008 [6 favorites]


Bromius , it's surely more complicated than this, but I think it's pretty much that 'the church' taught things one way for 18 centuries, and the first chapter of Genesis was interpreted in a more literal way than, say, the book of Revelation was, and so it was seen as tantamount to rejecting God's Word. There are a great many Theistic Creationists, and within Creationism there are probably as many views as are in Evolution. It seems the most vocal ones, and the easiest to mock, are Young Earth creationists, who generally belong to one of the more traditional Protestant denominations. Among evangelicals, according to a 2007 Newsweek poll, 73% subscribe to young earth creationism.
I disagree that all IDers are Theists, though. Even in a Western, academic setting, but particularly among adherents of belief systems such as Buddhism or Jainism.
posted by dawson at 6:42 PM on April 20, 2008


I disagree that all IDers are Theists, though. Even in a Western, academic setting, but particularly among adherents of belief systems such as Buddhism or Jainism.

Again: name one.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:44 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Pope, I can't name one. I mean maybe if I spent some time looking. It's not that import to me. I'm under the impression that if I can name one person, even a vegetable vendor in New Delhi, you'd be convinced. Is the Dali Lama a theist? Does he believe in an intelligent creative force? It's just one of those things that seems obvious to me. You don't have to be a theist to believe that there is a design behind the madness. Do you?
posted by dawson at 6:49 PM on April 20, 2008


I've enjoyed following the news of this movie at the blogs of Mssrs. Myers and Dawkins, but I had already made my mind up about Mr. Stein. A couple of years ago I caught a Stein lecture on CSPAN - he was speaking to a group of hand picked college conservatives, and a young lady asked him what she should say to the kids on her campus who protested the war and other actions of the government, because this protesting upset her terribly. He told her this: He said that she should tell them that when he was a little boy in Maryland, there was segregation. And now there is not. And so how dare they criticize America?
Seriously, that's what he said.
He said that she should shame people who protest by invoking the civil rights movement.
To date, this might be the most intellectually dishonest thing I have ever heard, so I can't wait to see the film and find out if he tops himself.
posted by moxiedoll at 6:52 PM on April 20, 2008 [5 favorites]


What about Deists? I have a friend in the Unitarian church. We've never discussed it but I'm pretty sure he believes in some type of intelligent design, and I know for sure he's no theist.
posted by dawson at 6:52 PM on April 20, 2008


"Common sense" means "thinking in a manner consistent with my own biases."
posted by mr_roboto at 6:53 PM on April 20, 2008 [6 favorites]


"Theist" just means "belief in a god or gods". Deists would fall under that category most definitely.
posted by moxiedoll at 6:54 PM on April 20, 2008


There IS a difference between "Creationism" and "Intelligent Design".

I believe the term is cdesign proponentsists.
posted by dirigibleman at 6:55 PM on April 20, 2008 [4 favorites]


OK, I see yr point PG. I was using a narrow definition of theist, more of a monotheist one. I guess you are positing that anyone who believes in an intelligent, creative force by definition believes in 'gods'. Is that the point? Sorry if I was obtuse.
posted by dawson at 6:57 PM on April 20, 2008


ty moxiedoll
posted by dawson at 6:59 PM on April 20, 2008


Goatse: The Movie has more mainstream appeal

This movie--it is in production now?
posted by Kibbutz at 6:59 PM on April 20, 2008


Yeah, dawson, that's what I was after. Sorry to not be more clear.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:03 PM on April 20, 2008


well, not to start kissing or anything, but that was actually my bad.
posted by dawson at 7:07 PM on April 20, 2008


No kisses?

Aww.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:13 PM on April 20, 2008


konolia writes For one thing, I really and truly do wonder how in the crap something like sex could possibly evolve into what it is today? I mean, I do understand there are primitive mechanisms that involve two organisms swapping dna, but I am talking about sex as it is commonly practiced. Sorry, that's quite a leap of faith for me to take. And for that matter, why would organisms "evolve" to swap dna to begin with? If we assume there is no Overseer, what would be the chances of it happening at all, or the "benefit" to it? Why would an uncaring universe give a flying crap? Just saying.

There is a huge benefit to swapping DNA, aka sexual reproduction, especially in organisms with long (longer than bacteria's, at least) lifespans. If you are really interested in understanding this subject, I suggest reading Matt Ridley's book The Red Queen.
posted by amelliferae at 7:14 PM on April 20, 2008


Has no one considered the possibility that Ben Stein doesn't believe a word of what he utters n the movie? In my opinion, he's realized that there is a very zealous niche market that will consume any product and elevate any public figure that reflects their world view. Stein's made his living off celebrity, not intellect. This is long-term job security for him. But he's not an idiot. Of course he knows ID and creationism are nonsense.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:15 PM on April 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


Firstly, There IS a difference between 'Creationism' and 'Intelligent Design'.
Absolutely.

Specifically, the difference is that a "design proponent" is what creationists started calling creationists after the Supreme Court ruled that creationism couldn't be taught in public schools.

Well, except in those instances when they started calling creationists "cdesign proponentsists".
posted by Flunkie at 7:18 PM on April 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


but then over the years many supposedly scientific theories eventually got blown out of the water by later facts...

I find that most people who question evolution also have a tenuous grasp of the meaning of the phrase "scientific theory." They think "theory" is synonymous with "opinion".
posted by autodidact at 7:18 PM on April 20, 2008 [6 favorites]


"Er... no. Common sense is useful, yes, but when the evidence contradicts it, one must disregard one's common sense. It remains useful in other areas."

Well, sure, your point follows if you arbitrarily (epistemically speaking) decide that theory (based on empirical evidence or some other kind) trumps common sense. I'm not so sure that's a wise thing to do. At the very least, it's an open possibility that when theory contradicts common sense it's the theory which needs to be abandoned (or revised).
posted by oddman at 7:19 PM on April 20, 2008


No kisses?

well...probably after 13 shots of 4 Copas Blanco tequila, but only on the ear.
posted by dawson at 7:23 PM on April 20, 2008


As I understand it, Stein wanted to do this because he is "not a fan" of Darwinism because it was used by Nazis to justify the holocaust. Plus lets not forget he is still a huge conservative at heart, and about the biggest Nixon apologist this side of Charles Colson.

Which is ironic, because Nixon used Stein to justify his antisemitism.
posted by bunnytricks at 7:29 PM on April 20, 2008


You lock a philosopher and a scientist in a room and ask them to decide whether we're "real" or not (the first question to many philosophers is "do we exist?", which has been popularized and bastardized through the Matrix) and they'll never find a common ground. The methods of inquiry are fundamentally different. The scientist will take measurements and run experiments, and the philosopher will gaze at his navel. Neither can talk the other out of their positions because they each have different starting assumptions.

Man, if that were accurate, then all hope would be lost.

Thankfully, it really is a really shitty caricature.
posted by painquale at 7:33 PM on April 20, 2008 [5 favorites]


God, it never occurred to me before that William Safire and Ben Stein probably spent long stretches of time in the same room together. The floors must have creaked under the weight of their collective arrogance.
posted by Bromius at 7:33 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


29 pieces of evidence for macroevolution from Talk Origins, which has lots of careful explanations of the reasons why scientists believe in evolution. Talk Origins FAQ.

I was in the coffeeshop yesterday and heard a very blowhard-y guy going on at length about how there's this great new movie with Ben Stein, and they really stuck it to Richard Dawkins and "some professor guy, ZP Myers", etc. I exercised extreme levels of self-control, and kept my nose down in my grading.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:36 PM on April 20, 2008


Nah, apes are pongids. We're homonids.
That's an outdated definition (although there are still some who use it).

Genetic testing shows that we and chimps are closer to each other than either of us are to gorillas, and to gorillas than any of us are to orangutans. Nowadays, generally, pongids are orangutans, and homonids are humans, chimps, gorillas, and orangutans.

And "great ape" is the same as "homonid" (which, again, includes us). "Ape" includes both the great apes and gibbons.
posted by Flunkie at 7:39 PM on April 20, 2008


Dude! Now I really want to take his money.
posted by fshgrl at 7:50 PM on April 20, 2008


There are lots of ways to point out that the Bible speaks more to spiritual matters than it does to the biological without calling it "some silly 2000-year-old book". Doing so only reinforces the idea that science is by design anti-religion. Evolution and the scientific method stands on its own without the need to denigrate religion.

In other words, just because someone falls for the logical fallacy of thinking science must stand in opposition to religion does not mean that science must also be tricked into thinking it should respond in kind.
posted by turaho at 7:52 PM on April 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


What about Deists? I have a friend in the Unitarian church. We've never discussed it but I'm pretty sure he believes in some type of intelligent design, and I know for sure he's no theist.

All of us who have a belief in a God who takes an active interest in human affairs believes in some form of "intelligent design." However, that doesn't necessarily mean that we believe that it is a scientifically measurable phenomenon and field of study that is opposed to evolutionary biology.
posted by deanc at 7:55 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


What I do think is this-sometimes a person can look at a piece of evidence, and determine it must mean one thing, while another person from another mindset might look at that same evidence and draw a differing conclusion.

And if that second conclusion isn't drawn from credible scientific analysis of the evidence, it's an opinion.
posted by schoolgirl report at 8:01 PM on April 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


There are lots of ways to point out that the Bible speaks more to spiritual matters than it does to the biological without calling it "some silly 2000-year-old book". Doing so only reinforces the idea that science is by design anti-religion. Evolution and the scientific method stands on its own without the need to denigrate religion.

In other words, just because someone falls for the logical fallacy of thinking science must stand in opposition to religion does not mean that science must also be tricked into thinking it should respond in kind.


Pretty easy to say that on this side of Gallileo.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:23 PM on April 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


And if that second conclusion isn't drawn from credible scientific analysis of the evidence, it's an opinion.

And if that opinion can't be justified by facts and reason, it's crap.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:26 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


I usually don't comment on threads, especially ones as desperately ugly as this one, but I though I might chip in.

First, let's agree that faith and science are not mutually exclusive, and later argue that they might not even be inseparable. A person can have both faith and science in their life, and learn from both of them. This should not be an argument about whether science or the scientific method is “right”, or whether religious faith or belief is “right”. As Leon-arto said “Science can't disprove religion on religion's terms, and religion can't disprove science on science's terms”, which I think is the right idea but the wrong phrasing. Science can’t disprove a religious belief on religion’s terms, and religion can’t disprove a scientific fact on science’s terms.

Perhaps we can agree that there are cold hard a priori facts in this universe – for example that 1 + 1 = 2, and that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. There are facts that explain the fundamental workings of the universe that await to be uncovered, regardless of what the current religious or scientific thinking says about them at the moment (and we’ll save the “God can make 2 + 2 = 5” debate for another moment).

Perhaps we should also agree that when it comes to explaining these facts about the universe around us science and faith will, in no small order, choose to disagree. While science may not be able to disprove a religious belief on religion’s terms, and religion may not be able to disprove a scientific fact on science’s terms, we should take a look at an opposing framework – can science disprove a religious belief on scientific terms, and can religious belief disprove a scientific fact on religious terms?

Certainly, all sorts of religious beliefs have been disproved through the scientific method, whether it be the sun rotating around the earth or any of the others discussed in the thread above. This is because science backs itself through a methodology of questioning and testing, analysing and arguing, proving and disproving. There are facts that no amount of belief will change (let us avoid the discussion on whether belief gives meaning to language, for otherwise we may be trapped in Metafilter thread hell).

However, I am hard pressed to think of a single scientific fact that religious belief has disproved. This is because religion backs itself through indoctrination and orthodoxy, through faith and force of will. Religion is not there to explain the universe through research and investigation, but through the tenets laid down at the beginning of the faith, built upon by those who understand it best. However, belief and faith are the reasons why the scientific method is presented with such a challenge; rare, has it been, that belief and faith have easily let go of tenets once challenged by science.

So what is “Creationism”? Paraphrased by myself, Creationism is the belief that the universe and everything in it was created by a “God”. Regardless of whether it was 6,000 years ago or yesterday or a billion years ago, if you believe that a God created the universe, you are a Creationist. Creationism is part of a belief system.

So what is Evolution? Paraphrased by myself, Evolution is the process of change in the population of organisms from one generation to the next. Note that evolution is a process. If you believe that the cheetah and the leopard came from the same biological ancestor, you agree with evolution. In arguing against evolution, you can choose to argue with (a) whether that process occurs or (b) why that process occurs. Creationist and ID proponents argue against (a), not (b).

So what is “Intelligent Design” (ID)? Paraphrased by myself, ID is the “theory” that the universe is too complex to have been formed accidentally and therefore someone or something designed and created it that way. This naturally leads to the next question, “Well then, who designed it?”. If you are a proponent of ID and (honestly) say “I don’t know” or “aliens” then you fall into a very narrow category of ID supporters. If you say “God” then you are a Creationist. A Creationist who believes in ID, but still a Creationist.

Because the proponents of ID state it is a “theory”, they try to give the same weight to it that scientific theories have. However the word “theory” is only a label, and a cleverly picked one at that, as are all the ID terms (eg. “macro-evolution”, “micro-evolution, “Specified complexity”). ID is not a scientific process to be measured and observed, to be tested and analysed. ID is a one-off occurrence (ie the “creator” made everything just-so) with no possible way of scrutinising or testing. ID is not part of science. It is part of a belief system – creationism - and to be judged that way at all times.

That is not to say that science can’t prove the belief in ID unfounded. As shown above, science has the ability to test some religious assumptions and disprove them. However, in the way that ID is currently framed, it is nearly impossible to test, as it is a belief, an article of faith, held without regard to the scientific method and everything it stands for.

Can one hold a pro-ID and pro-Evolution stance? Certainly, if you believe a long time ago a “creator” made everything at the “start”, and since then we’ve been changing and mutating just the way that “creator” intended. You can hold that a central tenet of your being until the day you die. After all, the human capacity for self-delusion is limitless.
posted by Neale at 8:34 PM on April 20, 2008 [4 favorites]


At the very least, it's an open possibility that when theory contradicts common sense it's the theory which needs to be abandoned (or revised).

Maybe in philosophy classes, but not in science labs.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:34 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Can one hold a pro-ID and pro-Evolution stance? Certainly, if you believe a long time ago a “creator” made everything at the “start”, and since then we’ve been changing and mutating just the way that “creator” intended.

Deism is not the popular position it once was among the educated.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:46 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


For the sake of argument, let us posit that the "intelligent designer" of Intelligent Design is not Allah, The Great Jehovah, Brahma, or Enlil. Who, pray tell, is this "non-theistic" designer supposed to be? One designer? Many designers participating in the free market? A Design Cartel, perhaps? When, in the eons of time, did this demiurge (or demiurge syndicate) start into designin'? What did he or she (or they) design first? Did he or she (or they) design *everything*? In what order? Were there mulligans for certain designs that didn't work out? When the designing was going on, did the designer telecommute? And whose intelligent idea was it to use the same organs for procreation and excretion?

These are rhetorical questions, of course. It is not fairly possible to claim that "intelligent design" of a 350 million year old tikaalik was perfomed by human beings. Unless, of course, one believes that there were no ancient animals--that dinosaurs and humans frolicked together eating vegetables 6,000 years ago: to wit, the Young Earth Creationist paradigm. But this paradigm is centered on a tendentious literal interpretation of the Bible, and no human is contemplated as doin' the designin'. QED.

So spare us the suggestion that there can be "non-theistic" Intelligent Design unless you can offer a non-magical explanation for the concept.
posted by rdone at 8:48 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Maybe in philosophy classes, but not in science labs."


You say that as if science isn't just a subset of philosophy.
posted by oddman at 8:52 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh, and as an aside, evolution has finally given us a definitive answer to the ancient question, "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?"

It was the egg, laid by something that wasn't quite a chicken.
posted by Malor at 9:01 PM on April 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


More expansively: Eggs were around before chickens, and there is every reason to believe that the first chicken was hatched from an egg and no reason to believe otherwise: anything that doesn't come out of an egg fails a pretty basic test for chickenhood. So what laid the egg that the first chicken came out of? As Malor said, the chicken's immediate evolutionary predecessor, defined by drawing the line between chicken and protochicken anywhere you like.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:07 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


rdone: So spare us the suggestion that there can be "non-theistic" Intelligent Design unless you can offer a non-magical explanation for the concept.

To quote Neale above: aliens

QED indeed.
posted by cosmonik at 9:15 PM on April 20, 2008


It was the egg, laid by something that wasn't quite a chicken.

I've always found that to be the most interesting part of people's misunderstanding of evolution; the idea that everything has to have discreet and measurable steps, that somehow creature A gives birth to creature B with nothing in between.
posted by davejay at 9:16 PM on April 20, 2008


OK, to play devils advocate, what cause evolution?
posted by dawson at 9:20 PM on April 20, 2008


OK, to play devils advocate, what cause evolution?
Probability.
posted by Flunkie at 9:21 PM on April 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


Where did probability exist?
posted by dawson at 9:22 PM on April 20, 2008


What?
posted by Flunkie at 9:23 PM on April 20, 2008


I usually don't comment on threads, especially ones as desperately ugly as this one

Oh come on Neale, it's not so much ugly as just kinda dumb and redundant. WHERE CAN HAS PORBABILITIY?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:27 PM on April 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


dawson:"OK, to play devils advocate..."

Quite the opposite, actually.

Even so, would this debate ever reach a point where people are ready to discuss the causes of evolution, rather than the face of its mere existence, we would've made quite some progress.
posted by cosmonik at 9:27 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


There has to be something, some space/time/whatever for there to be probability, right? Again, devils advocate, (or the opposite) but I'm saying this is all a faith based mystery. There was nothing and then probability came into existence? How? Did it exist in a dimension? In a vacuum? How can there be probability if there is nothing happening?
posted by dawson at 9:29 PM on April 20, 2008


davejay, not to speak for Malor (at least, not any more than I already have), but the question is about the "first" chicken. He said nothing about the size of the distinction between this chicken and this prechicken, only that the distinction existed, which it logically must for there to be any such thing as a "first" chicken. The taxononmical details are left unspecified, so your objection isn't meaningful.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:30 PM on April 20, 2008


But stav, if everyone's too cool to take up one flag or another, who are we going to throw all these stones at?
posted by cosmonik at 9:30 PM on April 20, 2008


I don't know. I don't claim to know. Science doesn't claim to know.

Incidentally, do a global search and replace in your statement, changing all occurrences of "probability" to "creator".
posted by Flunkie at 9:31 PM on April 20, 2008


Thank God we can safely reject a shitty, unprovable idea like intelligent design, which is only a transparent cover for theism, in favour of the shitty, unprovable ideas of Dawkins and Dennett, which are transparent covers for Platonism.
posted by mobunited at 9:34 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Surely only biblical literalists can get upset with the idea of evolution?

If you take the bible as using simile and metaphor to pass along the teachings of the Christian god, evolution just becomes another miracle, indeed, an incredibly beautiful process which guarantees that the future is always getting closer to god's "ideal." You could even argue that stories of the rapture simply foretell a time when humans will evolve to the point where their god welcomes them as "fully developed" men and women, thus ending the "created" world and ushering in "paradise."

On the other hand, if you're going to take the bible literally, you've got your work cut out for you (pi = 3, sun around earth, slavery, etc., etc.). Nothing new is possible, as everything that exists has existed since Saturday, midnight.

The former viewpoint seems to be open and wondrous, the latter closed and jealous. In my life, I know which group I prefer to have dealings with.
posted by maxwelton at 9:36 PM on April 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


You are trying to play the Devil's advocate. You know the advocatus diaboli, the advocate of the devil; there's a freaking apostrophe there.
posted by oddman at 9:36 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Exactly Flunkie, 'probability' can be ones 'god' or 'unmoved mover' but at some point, it seems to me, there is a mystery that we can't comprehend. I have no real problem with evolution (Darwinism is another fish) but I do question where the cosmos began, and I don't see where religion or science has the definitive answer. It's what you are comfortable believing.
posted by dawson at 9:37 PM on April 20, 2008


Ah oddman , two errors in my statement and you point out the more obscure one.
posted by dawson at 9:38 PM on April 20, 2008


Metafilter: the degree of commonality that YOUR DNA shares with a tomato plant.
posted by SassHat at 9:42 PM on April 20, 2008


would this debate ever reach a point where people are ready to discuss the causes of evolution,

I already answered this: some mutations being advantageous and changes in the environment favoring particular genetic configurations over others.

Thank God we can safely reject a shitty, unprovable idea like intelligent design, which is only a transparent cover for theism, in favour of the shitty, unprovable ideas of Dawkins and Dennett, which are transparent covers for Platonism.

Evolution is not teleological, no matter how much you (and a lot of people, actually) want it to be.

You could even argue that stories of the rapture simply foretell a time when humans will evolve to the point where their god welcomes them as "fully developed" men and women, thus ending the "created" world and ushering in "paradise."

*sigh* People aren't evolving"toward" anything; the idea is incoherent. Evolution is about adaptation to one's environment, not some kind of progress toward an end.

Not. Teleological.

I have no real problem with evolution (Darwinism is another fish) but I do question where the cosmos began, and I don't see where religion or science has the definitive answer.

Both have ideas, however, and I'm pretty sure I know which one is more likely to have something useful to say about it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:42 PM on April 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


Exactly Flunkie, 'probability' can be ones 'god' or 'unmoved mover' but at some point, it seems to me, there is a mystery that we can't comprehend. I have no real problem with evolution (Darwinism is another fish) but I do question where the cosmos began, and I don't see where religion or science has the definitive answer. It's what you are comfortable believing.
Hardly. It's what you're willing to admit you don't know.
posted by Flunkie at 9:48 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


People aren't evolving"toward" anything; the idea is incoherent.

To be clear, I don't believe this. Also to be clear, I am generally incoherent.

I was trying (using a mind not well equipped for it, obviously) to suggest there were all sorts of ways to incorporate evolution into one's beliefs if one was a Christian. I imagine, if a Christian did so, they would probably imagine that evolution had an ultimate end.
posted by maxwelton at 9:50 PM on April 20, 2008


Hardly. It's what you're willing to admit you don't know.
I agree. So what's the argument. I (not to be snotty) am under the impression I'm being the more open minded* one here?
*bad word choice as it imples onthers are close minded and ignorant, which I don't mean, I simply mean, I DON'T KNOW, it's a mystery, and I don't see the need to hedge my bets either way, so I'm willing to entertain both as working in harmony.
posted by dawson at 9:53 PM on April 20, 2008


I was trying (using a mind not well equipped for it, obviously) to suggest there were all sorts of ways to incorporate evolution into one's beliefs if one was a Christian. I imagine, if a Christian did so, they would probably imagine that evolution had an ultimate end.

Reminds me of the Tree of Life- was that Aquinas? I don't want to definitely say it was, 'cause if I make any mistakes quonsar will scream about it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:54 PM on April 20, 2008


Reminds me of the Tree of Life- was that Aquinas?
I think that's Genesis, no? quansor is back in the trunk for the night.
posted by dawson at 9:56 PM on April 20, 2008


I agree. So what's the argument.
The argument is that your attempted equivalence of "at some point there's something that science doesn't explain" with "at some point there's something that religion doesn't explain" is not all there is to the story, and in fact there's a fundamentally important addition to the story which makes the two not equivalent:

When you ask a scientist "Well where did the Big Bang come from", he'll say "I don't know".

When you ask a creationist "Well where did the Creator come from", he'll say "The Creator always existed."

To pretend that there is no difference between those two, merely because neither of them successfully answers the question, is, at best, sophistry.
posted by Flunkie at 9:57 PM on April 20, 2008 [5 favorites]


Pope Guilty: I already answered this: some mutations being advantageous and changes in the environment favoring particular genetic configurations over others.

I was responding to dawson's "where did it all start?" line of questioning, as opposed to actual causes of instances of evolution. I also meant "people" generally, as in both sides of this particular brutalised coin.

Also Pope Guilty: People aren't evolving"toward" anything; the idea is incoherent. Evolution is about adaptation to one's environment, not some kind of progress toward an end.

And in the process of this adaptation, is it not moving from one modality towards another. Others have written here that it is not a single giant leap, but something done in phases, over time. Each a step towards the end-state of adaptation, whereupon the next change begins in the direction of the next goal; i.e. a process.

Whether there is an end-state which lies at the gates of fair paradise is highly debatable, of course.

On preview: That 'quansor's' a motherfucker!
posted by cosmonik at 10:02 PM on April 20, 2008


That's an outdated definition (although there are still some who use it).

Genetic testing shows that we and chimps are closer to each other than either of us are to gorillas, and to gorillas than any of us are to orangutans. Nowadays, generally, pongids are orangutans, and homonids are humans, chimps, gorillas, and orangutans.

And "great ape" is the same as "homonid" (which, again, includes us). "Ape" includes both the great apes and gibbons.


I stand corrected (or outdated, whichever). However, I still think that apes are much cooler than we are.
posted by anansi at 10:07 PM on April 20, 2008


Flunkie, I'm embarrassed by how many comments I have in this thread already (I appear obsessed) and I think we agree more than disagree. But. An honest scientist (and let's face it, some scientists are creationists) will face the question of where the first cell, or bang, or whimper came from, and most don't say 'I don't know, it could be aliens', rather they say anything but intelligence and shirk the question. I'm not trying to convince anyone, just saying I am not personally convinced by people who simply have no idea. If you are a skeptical evolutionist, it's a pleasure to make yr acquaintance. Most are atheistic evolutionists and as fundamentalist, emphatic and angry as the flip side in my, admittedly, limited experience.
I can't even understand the last hour of this thread. How can anyone claim to know the origin of the universes? (a/ or t/ heist). To me, and I'm chopped liver, that's hubris.
posted by dawson at 10:11 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


An honest scientist (and let's face it, some scientists are creationists) will face the question of where the first cell, or bang, or whimper came from, and most don't say 'I don't know, it could be aliens', rather they say anything but intelligence and shirk the question.
You're imagining that.
posted by Flunkie at 10:13 PM on April 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


WHERE CAN HAS PORBABILITIY?

I was thinking more "HOW IS BABBY CHIKKEN MAYDE??!?"
posted by Neale at 10:15 PM on April 20, 2008 [5 favorites]


You say that as if science isn't just a subset of philosophy.

At least in the areas of reality that science deals with, common sense or intuition can be helpful but is unreliable at best, and will get discarded if the "theory" that common sense embodies doesn't agree with repeated tests of reality.

Intuition is valuable, but not reliable, and at the end of the day, with respect to what science represents epistemologically and how it is conducted, does not lend faulty results an ounce of legitimacy. And that's true, regardless of whether philosophy students claim ownership of the scientific process or not.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:21 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


dawson writes "How can anyone claim to know the origin of the universes? (a/ or t/ heist). To me, and I'm chopped liver, that's hubris."

One of the problems with this question in the context of evolution is that the study of the origins of the universe isn't done by biologists. It's done by people studying theoretical cosmology and theoretical physics - people like Stephen Hawking. Evolutionary biologists don't really concern themselves with the question all that much, because, although it's interesting, it's not really part of their work. The theoretical scientists who study origins are still working out some big issues, like dark matter, expansion, etc. Those questions may eventually lead to understanding the origins of life. Right now, we're still hacking around the edges of the scientific disciplines which lead to that question. We may never get there, although chances are we will. I don't think an absence of the answer to that question invalidates evolutionary biology, because it's a separate issue and is not really addressed by natural selection.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:22 PM on April 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


But that doesn't mean that science is the ONLY possible means of discovering things about the world. Try to learn about romance through science and you'll not get far. Try to discover how to live a meaningful live through science and you'll get neurological studies but nothing fulfilling. Try to determine if we really exist through science and you'll find that we quickly run out of scientific tools to answer the question.

Romance, living a meaningful live, etc., aren't empirical phenomena that can be addressed by potentially verifiable propositions about the world. Such propositions are the domain of science, and religion has absolutely no business determining what can and can't or should or shouldn't be said by means of them. Not only does it have no business -- there's no possible way it could have any relevance to scientific discourse whatsoever. Belief is, by definition, wholly and completely irrelevant to science.

That said, science has nothing to say about what it means to be or how it feels to fall in love.

I see no contradiction here, no contested territory. Like a paradox which ceases to be once you look at it from the right perspective, this whole "debate" is about (if it's about anything at all) something other than what it appears to be about.
posted by treepour at 10:24 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


thanks all (well, most) for an invigorating and respectful discussion, I'm going to the bench now.
posted by dawson at 10:29 PM on April 20, 2008


You could even argue that stories of the rapture simply foretell a time when humans will evolve to the point where their god welcomes them as "fully developed" men and women, thus ending the "created" world and ushering in "paradise."

He's a gnostic. Burn him!
posted by infinitywaltz at 10:31 PM on April 20, 2008


And in the process of this adaptation, is it not moving from one modality towards another.

Not as far as anyone can tell, no. Teleological interpretations of evolution are popular, but there's no reason to believe that we're evolving "to" anything; it's a remarkably speciesist concept that is very gratifying to some mindsets but doesn't really do anything.

Each a step towards the end-state of adaptation, whereupon the next change begins in the direction of the next goal; i.e. a process.

You pretty much have to believe in some kind of inevitable apotheosis for this to make any sense.

An honest scientist (and let's face it, some scientists are creationists) will face the question of where the first cell, or bang, or whimper came from, and most don't say 'I don't know, it could be aliens', rather they say anything but intelligence and shirk the question.

No matter how much it pleases you to see scientists as the priests of a religion which is determined to wipe the filthy non-empirical hordes from the earth, wanting a thing does not make it so.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:42 PM on April 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


He's a gnostic. Burn him!

If you knew how out of shape I am, you'd realize you're just pouring fat on the fire.
posted by maxwelton at 10:47 PM on April 20, 2008


Or fire on the fat!
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:53 PM on April 20, 2008


Have any of the people who say "I believe in micro-evolution but not macro-." been able to pin down what would satisfy their definition of macro-evolution? Cuz if you define macro-evolution as speciation, we've got plenty of examples. What's left to prove?
posted by Monochrome at 10:55 PM on April 20, 2008


Oh, and as some are pointing out, the initial genesis is a problem in the theory; we have ideas about it, but we haven't actually managed to do it ourselves yet.

Our explanations are admittedly imperfect. They don't fully explain all the available evidence. But creationism not only doesn't explain the available evidence, it directly contradicts it. Humans, along with all other life on this planet, were not created exactly as we are. This is bedrock fact, an observation so powerful that it will never be overturned or disproven, only refined.

The theory of evolution is an explanation of what we know about where we came from. Even if you disagree with some or all of the interpretation, the facts don't change.
posted by Malor at 10:55 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Pope, my point was not one of teleology.

You've said evolution is adaptation. I am saying the act of adaptation is a process in itself. A process of switching modalities. A 'change'.

In going from a pre-adaptation state to a post-adaptation state, a class of organisms is changing from one state to or towards another. So it is, in essence, a move towards something - a particular direction. The direction of 'being able to reach the higher leaves', or the direction of 'loudly coloured feathers to attract breeding partners', or what have you. Evolution moves towards a goal.

I'm not saying this adaptation is according to some grand design of adaptations progressing from one to another, so there is no apotheosizing here. Merely saying evolution is indeed 'towards' something; not suggesting anyone knows towards what.
posted by cosmonik at 10:58 PM on April 20, 2008


can we just smoke a bowl, do some parakeet blasts, knock back some shots, make fun of quansor and get along swimmingly? I'll bring the limes and lots of salt.
posted by dawson at 11:00 PM on April 20, 2008


I'm not saying this adaptation is according to some grand design of adaptations progressing from one to another, so there is no apotheosizing here. Merely saying evolution is indeed 'towards' something; not suggesting anyone knows towards what.

The way you say it implies to me the idea that evolution is moving toward some grand end, toward some ultimate goal.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:10 PM on April 20, 2008


Ah, no - although I can see in the context of the above how it could've been read that way. In case it's still unclear, I'm saying that in adapting to any set of circumstances, evolution is moving towards a goal (i.e. addressing the circumstances which prompted the evolution), albeit not necessarily the over-arching teleological goal suggested by maxwelton above.
posted by cosmonik at 11:17 PM on April 20, 2008


I'm confused by the assertion that there are proponents of ID who are not theists. By definition, intelligent design adherents believe that an intelligent being is responsible for life on Earth. Do agnostic/atheist ID'ers believe in aliens?
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 11:25 PM on April 20, 2008


And there are plenty of scientists looking at stuff like abiogenesis, that is, "What happened before the first cell?" To say otherwise is either to admit ignorance of the literature or to just ignore what's out there. Research into autocatalytic sets and how odd it is that a patch of molecules with a hydrophilic end and a hydrophobic end tend to assemble into weird bubble-like sheets reminiscent of a cell membrane has been going on for quite some time now.

Then again, ID is well-known for quoting sixty year old science textbooks.
posted by adipocere at 11:25 PM on April 20, 2008


I'm confused by the assertion that there are proponents of ID who are not theists. By definition, intelligent design adherents believe that an intelligent being is responsible for life on Earth. Do agnostic/atheist ID'ers believe in aliens?

Other than the broad categorey of 'aliens', I can think of no other non-magical/non-theistic cause for life on Earth. So that'd be a 'yes'. Whether they're particularly numerous or actively engage in debate over creationism is another matter - I imagine they'd be quite hard to hold a coherent conversation with.

hmmm maybe they'd fit right in here
posted by cosmonik at 11:31 PM on April 20, 2008


I saw this opinion piece and thought of this thread.
As dumbness has been defined downward in American public life during the last two decades, one of the most important and frequently overlooked culprits is the public's increasing reluctance to give a fair hearing -- or any hearing at all -- to opposing points of view.

....

Whether watching television news, consulting political blogs or (more rarely) reading books, Americans today have become a people in search of validation for opinions that they already hold. This absence of curiosity about other points of view is the essence of anti-intellectualism and represents a major departure from the nation's best cultural traditions.
posted by dw at 11:31 PM on April 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'm confused by the assertion that there are proponents of ID who are not theists.

One prominent such person is David Berlinski. Though some doubt his sincerity. From personal interaction I could vouch that he is, indeed, a Jewish agnostic intellectual, but then some could argue that he's deluded himself. There must be others. Agnostics they are generally called. But the main confusion lies in the sad fact that I myself was using a narrow definition of theist that, in essence, included only monotheists. And ignored the idea that most scientists who believe in evolution are atheists, since a fair number, when polled, deny that they are.
posted by dawson at 11:43 PM on April 20, 2008


dw, we've considered creationism. It's hard not to. Old-earth creationism doesn't directly contradict the facts, but it's not science, because at its core, magic happens. "God made it so". Science is trying to figure out how it happened, and as soon as you get to "God did it", then all inquiry stops. It's not science, and it doesn't belong in science classrooms.

Young earth creationism, on the other hand, is entirely indefensible. It doesn't work in any way, shape, or form. There's a mountain of evidence against it, so much evidence that no human being could ever read all of it. The 'evidence' in favor, on the other hand, is a twisted interpretation of a multiply-times-translated book of myth from antiquity. That's ALL. Nothing in the real world supports it. Nothing.

We have considered these viewpoints. We have also rejected them. Old-earth creationism is not a useful tool to understand how the world works. It's probably harmless, but it's not science.

Young-earth creationism, on the other hand, is a blatant, ridiculous lie. It has been considered, and it's over and done with. It doesn't work. No more consideration is necessary, because no more evidence will be presented.

The Earth is round, it revolves around the sun, and it's billions of years old.
posted by Malor at 11:50 PM on April 20, 2008 [4 favorites]


You know, I just had an oddball thought... remember that idea floating around about 'ancestor simulations'? That is, the thought that our reality could be a Matrix-type thing that a vastly-evolved humanity is running to better understand its ancient ancestors.

I think it would be very amusing indeed, if it turned out that the simulation started six thousand years ago.... :)
posted by Malor at 11:54 PM on April 20, 2008 [4 favorites]


we can agree that there are cold hard a priori facts in this universe – for example that 1 + 1 = 2, and that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West.

There almost certianly are a priori facts, but these are not examples of them.

The second example is obviously not a fact at all, but rather just a familiar way of discussing our orientation here on earth to the sun. But it was just this non-fact (an appeal to common sense) that helped to make the falsehood of geocentrism prior to Copernicus seemingly more factual than heliocentrism. In point of fact, the sun neither sets nor rises; "east" and "west" are wholly perspectival and relativistic terms that cease to have bearing once we conceptualize ourselves leaving earth.

The first example is a real epistemological problem in the philosophy of mathematics, and a number of possibilities for conceiving about what numbers are and how they hook on to the world in physics, etc. But what seems likely, from a constructivist view, is that a proposition like "1+1=2" in and of itself is not an a priori fact, but an aposteriori fact. We agree on these terms in advance, and the terms must conform index-fashion according to the numerical semantics we assign them. (But mathematics does not reduce to logic, as Godel has shown: any complex and formal system cannot be shown to be wholly self-contained.) Thus, "truth" in mathematics is relative to the terms as we conceive them, and not a "truth" out there. Truth is really just an agreement of terms, at least in mathematics.

I think the boiling point of water on earth, the flash point of carbon, the molecular structure of a given compound, etc. are better examples of a priori facts. You just happened to chose one example that is actually notoriously problematic in epistemology, and one that is clearly not a fact at all but just a figure of speech.

(now back to the regular scheduled programming, and yes evolution, defined as a change in the gene pool, is a fact, duh.)
posted by ornate insect at 11:55 PM on April 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


Ornate, I'll cop to getting my a priori and a posteriori facts confused.
posted by Neale at 12:33 AM on April 21, 2008


Clicking around, it seems like Berlinsky is just some random contrarian dork who's here because that's where the party is. He doesn't have anything interesting to add to the conversation.

Come on, you people who insist that Intelligent Design has nothing to do with a Christian interpretation of God. If ID has nothing to do with religion, you can point me toward some credible, non-theist thinkers who support your claims.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 12:34 AM on April 21, 2008


The debate about whether scientists have created life in the lab is a total red herring. At this stage manipulation is far more important (and lucrative!) than creation. Conspiracy theory: creationists are being funded by Big Pharm to keep our minds off the real issue, which is modification and adaptation of life that already exists.
posted by telstar at 1:02 AM on April 21, 2008


freshwater_pr0n, I think I know what you mean, but again, it's not that important for me. If ten thousand non-theist thinkers rejected or accepted what I tend to believe it would not make a sexual congress. Berlinski cops to being a contrarian. But what about you prove that no one in the world believes like he claims to? I mean because it seems to be important to your belief system, whereas I just don't care. Are you (and by you I don't mean you per se) claiming that all evolutionists are atheists? I just don't see what the huge credibility block is with a person tending to lean more towards ID as well as not being so sure there is a personal 'god'. I may be missing something, but I get the feeling some here want to do the impossible, which is prove that NO ONE could possibly believe that the causation of everything was not mere random probability yet be non-committal re the existence of 'god', which would allow you to smirk, 'oh, but only people who believe in non-intellectual myths would believe in ID'. Why does it have to be black and white? Is nothing a mystery? And if I proved I hold advanced degrees in the biological sciences (I don't) and reject Darwinian evolution in favor of an honest 'I don't know', would that shatter yr world view?
posted by dawson at 1:15 AM on April 21, 2008


I am impressed by the scientists on this thread who have made some useful explanations of what evolutionary science does, explains, and produces. Quite good. But I am afraid that certain scientists who loathe, or who are highly disturbed by, believers do themselves a great disservice. Yes, yes, I know that there are a few moonbats who would in fact like to make a theocracy here, or would like to ditch scientific argumentation, but really! They are so few. A theocracy here would mean that the USA had already fallen (by definition we cannot be a theocracy), and then what would matter anymore? And sci. arg't. is so incredibly interesting and brilliant it will never be eliminated. It would be like saying we will eliminate language.

So why do you to whom I refer seem to rise up so emotionally against believers who want to enter the arena of "the history and meaning of mankind"?? It's a very old and respected line of debate. Up until about the Indust. Rev'n there was not this disdain for generalists. Profoundly learned people of many different intellectual and faith types wrote about "the history and meaning of mankind". It seems that with machines of detection, computation, mechanical authentication, etc. the debate got very skewed, and the masters of those machines, after applying more and more deeply embedded math and embedded societies of trust around their pursuits, became hostile and imperious about their territory. Maybe they are guilty about some of their bad products. ( I think the really great products that help mankind were those of engineers, not scientists.)

So, scientists, lighten up about the timeless, boundless, infinite unity of love coursing through the limitless, all touching, boundless, and continuitive universe. Stop obsessing over the way lightweights w/o training on your machines don't make your kind of sense. Do yourselves a big blessing, and go find deep, brilliant committed researchers and masters of all sorts of arts to debate with. People like Spinoza or Einstein (the world should be so lucky). I'm equally disappointed with religionists today, as well. Why aren't there at least a dozen lightning-brilliant orthodox Buddhists who are completely trained in math and machines to argue with the likes of Dawkins et al.? Or orthodox Jews? Or cardinals and popes? Arguing faith and belief is just as wonderful as arguing scientific theses and demonstrations. And it also can give us inspiring prose, as inspiring as Einstein's short papers at the beginning of the 1900s, or Aristotle's Metaphysics.

Much of what I have read in this thread has been off-balance... pitting highly trained masters of math and machines against "straw men" who believe in something humbly inexplicable, but yet so untrained as to appear conveniently unable to argue out of a paper bag. You guys need to argue with really talented believers who know your machines. Where the hell are those people? And any remark that they are dying out because belief in the boundless, continuitive, unified and infinite universe is wrong-headed and is by nature dying out is BULL.
posted by yazi at 2:30 AM on April 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


What disdain for generalists? Am I one of the “masters of math and machines” because I think this movie is farcical? I thought we were discussing "intelligent design".
posted by Monochrome at 2:45 AM on April 21, 2008


Why aren't there at least a dozen lightning-brilliant orthodox Buddhists who are completely trained in math and machines to argue with the likes of Dawkins et al.?
That would be because orthodox Buddhists are atheists who believe in the law of cause and effect and thus have no problems whatsoever with science in general or evolutionary theory in particular. Neither would they be invested in any creation myth as essential to what is at heart a philosophy that deals pragmatically with spiritual dis-ease attending the human condition rather than some over-arching theory of everything. I concede much speculation on the latter did occur in Buddhist milieu, but would contend it is a secondary at best aspect of the message of the dharma for orthodox Buddhists in most traditions of any substance or heritage (pace the various folk beliefs etc that have accreted in various cultural contexts).
posted by Abiezer at 2:54 AM on April 21, 2008 [4 favorites]


I know that there are a few moonbats who would in fact like to make a theocracy here, or would like to ditch scientific argumentation, but really! They are so few.

Unfortunately, they are not.
posted by grouse at 3:07 AM on April 21, 2008


Come on, you people who insist that Intelligent Design has nothing to do with a Christian interpretation of God. If ID has nothing to do with religion, you can point me toward some credible, non-theist thinkers who support your claims.

...whaaat? All that's been said above, that which you seem to have reacted rather severely to, is that there are 'some' people who believe in an ID scenario without believing in a Christian god.

These people see the source of human (& other) life on Earth as the result of aliens (such as in the case of Raelians and other UFO cults which believe in intentional panspermia/exogenesis), or a collaboration of non-divine yet not necessarily 'alien' entities (such as Thetans creating the universe in the Scientology creation myth).

Nowhere was it said that these people would be credible. A good portion of the people here can't point to credible theist thinkers. Credibility never came into it.
posted by cosmonik at 3:54 AM on April 21, 2008


Blazecock Pileon:At least in the areas of reality that science deals with, common sense or intuition can be helpful but is unreliable at best, and will get discarded if the "theory" that common sense embodies doesn't agree with repeated tests of reality. ... regardless of whether philosophy students claim ownership of the scientific process or not.

Yeh, I suspect the point he was trying to make is that science gets that attitude to common sense from philosophy. Plenty of philosophic viewpoints also are at complete odds with common sense.
posted by bonaldi at 5:14 AM on April 21, 2008


I tell you what's good about this thread, though: the favourites! Man, it's like people are racing to put on an "Hey! I'm With Stupid!" T-shirt.
posted by bonaldi at 5:15 AM on April 21, 2008 [4 favorites]


dawson: An honest scientist (and let's face it, some scientists are creationists) will face the question of where the first cell, or bang, or whimper came from, and most don't say 'I don't know, it could be aliens', rather they say anything but intelligence and shirk the question.

Honest scientists say 'I don't know' several times a year. It's called a grant application and it's how research scientists make their bread and butter. But if this is a problem for evolution, it's also a problem for the dozens of other theories that are treated as every day fact, such as the theory that aspirin is good for headaches. The reason why scientists who study the history of the universe tend to be methodological materialists (and yes, theists have made significant contributions to both the theory of evolution, and the theory of the big bang) is because all you can say about that conjecture is "god works in mysterious ways." Everything is possible, therefore no hypothesis, even the conjecture that the universe was created last Wednesday, can be falsified.

dawson: Why does it have to be black and white? Is nothing a mystery? And if I proved I hold advanced degrees in the biological sciences (I don't) and reject Darwinian evolution in favor of an honest 'I don't know', would that shatter yr world view?

What drives many of us up the wall is that it seems that people are making a special case out of evolution. If you choose to reject one of the most strongly supported theories in the history of science in favor if 'I don't know' then in order to be consistent, you should say 'I don't know' to such theories as the American Revolution, our sun is a star, and Jupiter is mostly made of gas.

Abiezer: That would be because orthodox Buddhists are atheists who believe in the law of cause and effect and thus have no problems whatsoever with science in general or evolutionary theory in particular.

Well, there is no single 'orthodox' sect of Buddhism, and they range from the explicitly agnostic to the polytheistic.

yazi: Where the hell are those people? And any remark that they are dying out because belief in the boundless, continuitive, unified and infinite universe is wrong-headed and is by nature dying out is BULL.

Well, to start with, belief in "boundless, continuitive, unified and infinite universe" can certainly apply to many atheists, who have considered the universe as the ultimate kid's playground. And why is faith and belief pitted against scientific understanding of the universe anyway?

konalia: One of the big problems with the creationist narrative that drove the development of multiple theories of evolution in the 18th and 19th centuries was that birds did not exist at one point in the past, while many families of animals quite alien to what we see today did exist.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:36 AM on April 21, 2008


"Intuition is valuable, but not reliable, and at the end of the day, with respect to what science represents epistemologically and how it is conducted, does not lend faulty results an ounce of legitimacy. And that's true, regardless of whether philosophy students claim ownership of the scientific process or not."

1) If I'm not mistaken Einstein had a problem with (and argued against) QM based on not much more than his intuition. So you know, at least one well regarded scientist seems to think that intuition can correct theory.

2) Philosophers don't claim ownership of science. Science, broadly speaking, is the rational investigation of the world. This is nothing more than philosophy.

3) Nice ad hominem there, very subtle.
posted by oddman at 5:47 AM on April 21, 2008


And is it just me, or was there once a time when discussion about how evolutionary biologists and by misplaced association, atheists* were such big buzzkilling bullies came towards the end of the discussion after creationists were checkmated by the evidence? Here, it seems to be the opening shot.

* Remember kids the plaintiffs, defendants and judge in Kitzmiller were Christian
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:51 AM on April 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't think many people deny that "intuition" is useful for scientists at the early stage of the process. The construction of hypothesis is very much an ill-defined domain. But at the end of the day, intuition must yield to systematically collected evidence, and Einstein's prejudice against the Copenhagen interpretation is one of his two big mistakes (the second being his knee-jerk rejection of an expanding or collapsing universe.)
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:58 AM on April 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yet, at least some theories of science (Kuhn's, for example) expect intuition to act as a corrective even in mature sciences. One might argue that this explains the impetuous to abandon Newtonian physics for Relativity.
posted by oddman at 6:11 AM on April 21, 2008


I think people should only be allowed access to the benefits of science and technology that they believe in. Evolution believers get the new antibiotics and viral inoculations, which are engineered with predictions made from the study of population changes over time. Creationists get whatever their Intelligent Designer chooses to create for them, in His mercy. Of course, since the Prime Mover created the viruses and bacteria as part of His mysterious plan, it may be a long wait.
posted by Cookiebastard at 6:24 AM on April 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


KirkJobSluder: Well, there is no single 'orthodox' sect of Buddhism, and they range from the explicitly agnostic to the polytheistic.

Not really, at least not in the (Western) terms used here - I don't think that there are any Buddhists that have a polytheistic belief in gods in the way thought of here. The gods are merely the inhabitants of different planes of existence, they have no power to create (or destroy) worlds. In addition, they are subject to the same impermanence as any other beings, arising and disappearing.
posted by daveg at 6:27 AM on April 21, 2008


konolia sex is relatively well understood.

There is even viruses-like DNA that infect certain asexual bacteria by giving them the ability to swap DNA, thus spreading the virus-like DNA. Basic single cell sexual reproduction naturally evolves from this. Initially sexual reproduction is still optional, but it speeds up adaptation, so eventually sexual reproduction become the preferred method.

Gender now has a rudimentary meaning given by variations in the genes that influence reproductive strategy, "have more offspring" (maleness) vs. "give lots of aid to offspring" (femaleness). At this point, everyone prefers the "most feminine" mates and males are just kinda within-species parasites. But you eventually find more extreme maleness & femaleness, which makes males unlikely to successfully mate with other males, and females finally benefit more from being selective than from choosing the most feminine mate.

So now you have a fully sexual single cell species. Well it may still have a hermaphrodite sexes in the middle, who females probably prefer to males, and who can probably mate amongst themselves. I think such three sex species do exist, anyone?

Well, delmoi said it above, gravity is merely a law of physics, evolution is a law of mathematics, creationists are just ignorant.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:29 AM on April 21, 2008


This is late to the party: a Jewish man saw Expelled and wrote a furious letter to Michael Shermer, who forwarded it to Richard Dawkins. Dawkins wrote an open letter in response.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 6:51 AM on April 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


jeffburdges: The origins of sex (which is a distinct and more fundamental question from origins of gender) are actually not understood as well as you let on. Evolutionary biologists basically thing that it comes down to one of two things, sex helps you dilute deleterious mutations on the population level (since genes mix instead of just duplicate) and sex makes a population more robust to changing environments. Both of these are true, but it's not well understood why these forces make a big enough difference to be worth it. There are budding yeasts (eukaryotes, not bacteria), for instance, that are able to reproduce either sexually or asexually. It is obvious that they are evolved to have sex, since quite a bit of machinery is required to have this occur, even though the individuals have a choice at any given time. The actual selection pressure that makes sexual reproduction beneficial for them on the individual level (as opposed to population level selection, which is an interesting can of worms) when it gives their offspring only half of their genome is a non-obvious question.

Also, bacteria can swap DNA, but it's not the same as sex for eukaryotes because it's not tied to cell division. My understanding (which admittedly comes from a rather opinionated biologist) is that it's not clear that horizontal gene transfer in bacteria is something that needed to be evolved per se, or if instead it's just a process that hijacked a pre-existing framework and was self-promoting or non-harmful. If bacteria didn't have to adapt to be able to do HGT, the same origins of sex answers may not apply.
posted by Schismatic at 7:17 AM on April 21, 2008


I'm a biologist whose every bit of research hinges on evolution, as does all biological research. As I've said before here, if I can't say the organisms living in my streams evolved there, then I pretty much can't say anything at all about them now--if their existence there is due to the arbitrary whim of a designer, then there's not much point in studying them.

I am also a theist. My conception of God is different from the stereotyped "old man in the sky" that so many people seem to be stuck on, and encompasses love among people, the forces of the universe, the laws of physics, the periodic table, and, yes, evolution itself.

By force of habit, I'm a member of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Like most other mainstream churches, the PCUSA has stated since 1969 that evolution is not in conflict with church teaching. Other mainstream denominations, ranging from the Catholics to the United Methodists to the Lutherans have similar statements. While some members of those denominations may be confused, one has to venture into evangelical, pentecostal, or charismatic denominations to find entire groups of people who think evolution is in conflict with their belief.
posted by hydropsyche at 7:18 AM on April 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


What does Chuck Norris have to say about this?
posted by Cookiebastard at 8:34 AM on April 21, 2008


If I'm not mistaken Einstein had a problem with (and argued against) QM based on not much more than his intuition. So you know, at least one well regarded scientist seems to think that intuition can correct theory.

And he was wrong, completely wrong. Even really, really smart people can be stupid sometimes.

My conception of God is different from the stereotyped "old man in the sky" that so many people seem to be stuck on, and encompasses love among people, the forces of the universe, the laws of physics, the periodic table, and, yes, evolution itself.

How does God being everything differ from God being nothing?
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:37 AM on April 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


And he was wrong, completely wrong. Even really, really smart people can be stupid sometimes.

I've seen this mistake happen a lot -- trust science, because it's based on reason and is therefore superior in every way to religion. The problem is, it's based on human reason, which is occluded by inherent biases and personal flaws. The history of science is littered with cases where a researcher has concluded something completely off conventional wisdom, only to be roundly ridiculed. Years later, new research confirms the researcher's conclusion. Even then, the amount of evidence it takes to change conventional wisdom varies from person to person, and in cases like global warming, there are those who just refuse to listen to evidence or just want to be contrary.

Science isn't perfect. Over time, though, the controversies should diminish, which is why all this "teach the controversy" crap from ID is pure BS. You can't point to holes and say "God," because holes will close and new ones open. You're playing whack-a-mole with the scientific record.
posted by dw at 9:01 AM on April 21, 2008


By force of habit, I'm a member of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

I'm PC(USA) as well, in the evangelical wing. Our church draws a lot of scientists, biotech researchers, even a well-known climate change researcher. And they all believe in evolution. They also believe God created the world, too, but it doesn't keep them from being biologists.

I think I only know 2, maybe 3 people who are hard-core Creationists, and only one of them is Young Earth Creationist. That's in a church of 500.

Other mainstream denominations, ranging from the Catholics to the United Methodists to the Lutherans have similar statements. While some members of those denominations may be confused, one has to venture into evangelical, pentecostal, or charismatic denominations to find entire groups of people who think evolution is in conflict with their belief.

For instance, the Assemblies of God, the largest pentecostal denomination in the US, holds to a "historical" view of Genesis.
posted by dw at 9:10 AM on April 21, 2008


jeffburgess: Well, delmoi said it above, gravity is merely a law of physics, evolution is a law of mathematics, creationists are just ignorant.

Well, actually I disagree with both of you on that point, because laws of science and laws of mathematics are fundamentally different types of knowledge. It is trivially easy to construct mathematically true rules for a universe that is radically different from the one we currently exist. There is nothing mathematically wrong with Newton's gravity, but it's still empirically wrong. And likewise, there are a whole horde of entities that are dictated by the mathematics of general relativity that lack an empirical justification from pocket universes, to white holes, to tachyons.

And really folks, do you really think that computational simulation hasn't been an important part of physics and astronomy?

Now don't get me wrong. I'm a big fan of quantitative genetics and evolution. But simulation is just a tool to generate testable hypotheses that allow us to better understand the parameters of our models. They do not elevate evolution to some transcendental law of mathematics.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:18 AM on April 21, 2008


And he was wrong, completely wrong. Even really, really smart people can be stupid sometimes.

This is another area where things are still being worked out. He may turn out to be completely wrong, but it's misleading to claim it's already been proven. There is more than one theory on the table, and there are still issues with the interpretation that Einstein questioned. And, he wasn't being stupid to question someone else's theory. That's the really important point here. The problem with creationism is not the initial impulse to question the parts of evolution that don't make sense to them. The problem is thinking that "god did it" is an acceptable counter-theory. It is not a theory at all. A scientific theory has to be empirical. God is by definition not empirical. As I said above, they are just saying "science cannot figure this one out". But that is not doing science. That is just watching the Wright Brothers and betting against them.

IF they have an alternative theory, another explanation for how life came to be the way it is, a suggestion that life has always existed exactly the way it is now (already disproved though), or if they want to explain the mechanism of god's power, then they can bring that in. It's perfectly acceptable to say, that just doesn't seem right... we need another theory. But to just say, that doesn't seem right... therefore it's an unknowable mystery - is not science.
posted by mdn at 9:24 AM on April 21, 2008


On the other hand, there are fungi who have 5 mating types where a valid sexual combination involves any two different mating types. But generally it seems that two mating types are ideal, although I wouldn't link it to such human cultural concepts as "have more offspring" vs. "give more aid to offspring." Those reproductive strategies are not associated with physical sex at all looking across the eukaryotes.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:29 AM on April 21, 2008


(But mathematics does not reduce to logic, as Godel has shown: any complex and formal system cannot be shown to be wholly self-contained.) Thus, "truth" in mathematics is relative to the terms as we conceive them, and not a "truth" out there. Truth is really just an agreement of terms, at least in mathematics.

just wanted to offer one point of clarification related to this--ornate insect's interpretation of incompleteness is not strictly consistent with godel's own interpretation of his work. far from reducing mathematical truth to empty formalism as ornate insect suggests, godel was an idealist and believed his work had demonstrated that mathematical truths can exist independently of the formal systems that describe them. putting his argument into simple terms, he argued that because any formal system can be made to generate truths that are inconsistent with the formal axioms of the system that generate them but also unavoidably true, these truths must exist in some sense independently of the systems in which they arise (i.e., the terms we use to describe them really aren't the thing itself; there are ideals that exist independently of the formal systems that attempt to embody them).

so, in fact, godel himself believed his work on incompleteness had proved that "the truth was out there" (in the sense that mathematical truths are not merely formal bi-products of the axiomatic systems that generate them), despite what ornate insect's comments might have suggested.

/aside
posted by saulgoodman at 10:05 AM on April 21, 2008 [4 favorites]


there are fungi who have 5 mating types where a valid sexual combination involves any two different mating types

fungi: the omnisexual sluts of the biological world.
posted by ornate insect at 10:06 AM on April 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


saulgoodman--I stand corrected.
posted by ornate insect at 10:10 AM on April 21, 2008


yazi writes "Much of what I have read in this thread has been off-balance... pitting highly trained masters of math and machines against 'straw men' who believe in something humbly inexplicable, but yet so untrained as to appear conveniently unable to argue out of a paper bag. You guys need to argue with really talented believers who know your machines. Where the hell are those people?"

Remember that ID started as a method to obscure the fact that it was previously called "creation science." There is no honest inquiry involved. ID/creation science has been inserted into political discourse as a wedge issue by creationists, not as a genuine topic for debate. A thread that has as its topic the new Ben Stein movie is by its very nature going to center on the political issues, and the basic misunderstandings by ID proponents about the science of evolution and natural selection (and all that is affected by it). The lofty conversation you want to have is possible, but it's not going to be easy to cultivate in this context.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:12 AM on April 21, 2008


yazi writes "I am impressed by the scientists on this thread who have made some useful explanations of what evolutionary science does, explains, and produces. Quite good. But I am afraid that certain scientists who loathe, or who are highly disturbed by, believers do themselves a great disservice. Yes, yes, I know that there are a few moonbats who would in fact like to make a theocracy here, or would like to ditch scientific argumentation, but really! They are so few."

Yeah, but they are affecting public education, grants, etc. I'd be fine with them if they'd stop trying to force their religious views through the legal system.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:14 AM on April 21, 2008


Pepperdine is one of the brightest indoctrination institutions shining as a jewel in the crown of the current American Reich. Ben Stein and Ken Starr, give me a break. And I see no conflict between viewing life through the perspective of evolution and viewing in in light of intelligent design. Life is intelligent, evolving life moves toward higher intelligence. The biosphere seems intelligently designed to me.
posted by Curry at 10:26 AM on April 21, 2008


it's really a pretty subtle distinction, ornate insect, and a common mistake--even during gödel's lifetime, his results were often misinterpreted in this way, and it's been argued that such misinterpretations (or more charitably, legitimate differences of opinion about what his results meant) contributed greatly to his general psychological decline.

here's a link with more on that point about gödel's incompleteness, dealing both with his take on 'mathematic realism' (a form of idealism that holds mathematical truths to exist independently of the formal systems that describe them) and his frustration over its misinterpretation. there's still plenty of debate about whether or not gödel's own interpretation of his results are correct, of course.


but more on topic: on this particular topic, stein is a moron.

let's leave it to scientists to determine what is or isn't science. and let's leave it to actors and politicians like stein to do what they do best: tell lies.

but most importantly, let's never mistake one for the other.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:40 AM on April 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Mr.Encyclopedia : There are plenty of (otherwise?) intelligent people and scientists that have concluded that evolution isn't the only answer.

Really? Or are there just people who see gradients to the specific mechanics of how evolution may work, and people who are using those gradients as a way of ignoring the entire body of study as something that interferes with their beliefs?

As people discuss the fact that "even scientists can't agree on what evolution is" or any of the other talking points that get trotted out in conversations like this, I like to suggest that it's similar to misspellings and grammatical inconstancies in the bible. People who believe in God don't throw out their entire document because of a few minor points that don't hold up with the rest of the body of work, and so do scientists not dismiss a hundred years of good science on the fact that something might not perfectly model. That they admit that the theory isn't completely 100% perfect doesn't mean that it's not accurate, it's just that it still requires some additional tuning. This should not be a rational argument point as a way to dismiss evolution, it's the way science works. By admitting that even the very best theories are still held up to scrutiny.

Leon-arto : In the evolution/creationism debate, we have the same problem. Science can't disprove religion on religion's terms, and religion can't disprove science on science's terms.

Then why does religion insist on trying? It's the creationists who insist on attempting to re-frame this discussion using scientific terminology, yet refuse to accept that those terms have a specific meanings. Science has little interest in disproving religion for the sake of argument. The existence of god isn't measurable or testable, and therefore it must be dismissed. It simply doesn't bring anything to the table in terms of forwarding our knowledge in any way that can be used, so why should science spend time trying to defend it?
posted by quin at 11:08 AM on April 21, 2008


I see no conflict between viewing life through the perspective of evolution and viewing in in light of intelligent design

I'll defend to the death your right to believe this. Just don't call it (or teach it as) science.

Thanks for coming out, and don't forget your gift bag when you leave.
posted by Artful Codger at 11:23 AM on April 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Religion is not there to explain the universe through research and investigation, but through the tenets laid down at the beginning of the faith

That's patently untrue of any branch of Humanism. It's also arguably wrong for the modern incarnations of Catholicism or liberal Judaism. Surely these are not remotely alone in embracing scientific explanations for our world. What you're describing is not a characteristic of religion per se, but of fundamentalist religions.

Religion provides comfort and explanations when none otherwise exist. It's just that individuals vary in what they consider to be the gaps remaining for religion to fill in.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 11:33 AM on April 21, 2008


The film was shown here in Ames, Iowa Friday... where Guillermo Gonzalez and Hector Avalos both hold forth. Avalos (professor of religious studies, who also happens to be an atheist and a profoundly intelligent, engaging man) was interviewed by the filmmaker and reports that the interview was a bit disturbing- and dishonest. see:

expelled exposed
And here's Avalos's info:
Hector Avalos

I didn't go see it. Didn't feel like hanging around with that sort of people...... Ames Tribune review
posted by drhydro at 11:43 AM on April 21, 2008


I much prefer Luther's response to a young student's question, "What was God doing before the Creation?"

His answer: "Cutting switches for the curious."
posted by Baby_Balrog at 11:59 AM on April 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Leon-arto: "Here, the question is "where did life come from?" A non-scientific perspective is that "God put it there" and no tool of science can ever disprove that belief. Using science to try to talk people out of a non-scientific belief is like trying to break down the Berlin Wall with a wet noodle; it's the wrong tool for the job, no matter how deftly or strongly you wield it."

So, if I read you correctly, you're contending that intelligent design, creationism and any other system that does not accept evolution, are not science. Do you therefore agree that such systems should not be taught in science class?

If so, we have no quarrell with you and what you believe or don't believe makes no difference to both me and Reality.

Personally, I trust the scientists here. It just makes more sense.
posted by JKevinKing at 12:19 PM on April 21, 2008


"we have no quarrell with you"

I meant: we have no quarrel

Preview is my firend.
posted by JKevinKing at 12:23 PM on April 21, 2008


I've seen this mistake happen a lot -- trust science, because it's based on reason and is therefore superior in every way to religion.

This is not what happened in the case of Einstein, however- he rejected quantum mechanics because it seemed intuitively wrong, not out of any kind of reason.

Life is intelligent, evolving life moves toward higher intelligence.

That is not how evolution works.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:33 PM on April 21, 2008


Leon-arto: "But that doesn't mean that science is the ONLY possible means of discovering things about the world. Try to learn about romance through science and you'll not get far. Try to discover how to live a meaningful live through science and you'll get neurological studies but nothing fulfilling. Try to determine if we really exist through science and you'll find that we quickly run out of scientific tools to answer the question."

Again, I believe the bone of contention here is not that science is the only path to the Truth. As you yourself pointed out, science says nothing on how to lead a meaningful life; science is at best part of what is beautiful, and good, etc. All granted.

However, we're talking about science class here. And learning science and critical thinking, in my opinion, are vital to the health of our nation or society or body politic, whatever you want to call it. So the attempt to taint science class affects us all, in a negative way.

Children can learn how to create meaning in their lives, or have it dictated to them, if you prefer with your children, on Sundays or at the dinner table.

They can learn science in science class.

It's that simple.
posted by JKevinKing at 12:41 PM on April 21, 2008


Ok, stealing a bit from P.Z. Meyers here, overthrowing the orthodoxy of a field in science can happen. It's happened over a dozen times in the 20th century. Heck, in my lifetime biological taxonomy went from five kingdoms, to two, and then to three based on evidence from molecular biology and biochemistry. In my lifetime there was a 360 degree change in theories that explain the end of the dinosaurs, and that debate is still kicking a bit. It's happening now with epigenetics.

How do you do it? You propose a reasonable alternative theory that does a better job of explaining the existing data, and you make a hypothesis about what eager young graduate students can expect to find while toiling away collecting hundreds of samples. Over a period of about a decade, if you are right, a trickle of peer-reviewed paper saying "wait a minute, this theory has legs" will become a torrent. Eventually, it will come to a head at a special session at a conference, that results in a new consensus.

That's how science works. There is no grand conspiracy that can't be overthrown by a handful committed people willing to show up with the evidence. Trying to win this battle on the school boards and in the movie theaters is done because...

...this debate is not about evidence...

...or science...

...it is about using ID as a wedge to sneak in more religion into education.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:15 PM on April 21, 2008 [3 favorites]


This is not what happened in the case of Einstein, however- he rejected quantum mechanics because it seemed intuitively wrong, not out of any kind of reason.

I think you're misunderstanding the relation between intuitive thought and reason. Einstein rejected it because it went against the most basic, common components of reason, reason at the most intuitive level. This doesn't mean it's necessarily wrong, as there may be ways to eventually understand why it can be true, but usually the point of reason is to explain what seems counter-intuitive. That the plane can fly can seem impossible, but once we understand the mechanics behind it, it no longer seems impossible: we can understand how it works.

What Einstein was dissatisfied with regarding QM was the claim that rather than explain the how of a particle both existing and not existing, it simply claimed that this was the case, that we have to simply accept that this is "how it works" - a particle both is and isn't in a certain place at a certain time. The cat both is and isn't alive.

A lot of contemporary scientists have moved beyond this "explanation" and looked for better ways to understand what this really says about the empirical data. There are many worlds theories and wavicle interpretations and holistic interpretations. Einstein was very much committed to reason - but reason does begin in intuition, which is to say, the foundational principles of rational thought have to begin with "what makes sense". He just wanted it to be consistent. I don't know where he would stand today given the research, but I don't think it's fair to say he was stupid & wrong - plenty of scientists do not promote a straight "just accept it" Copenhagen interpretation, but are at least interested in or concerned with exactly the questions he had - how it can make sense, or fit in with the rest of what we know about the world these particles ultimately form.
posted by mdn at 1:40 PM on April 21, 2008


This film, however, questions a straw man and poorly. Additionally interviews for the film were made under false pretenses, equates "darwinism" with Nazi Socialism, used copyrighted materials without permission, among other things. It's not an honest attempt at open discussion.

Yes. Meanwhile, let the empiricists go ahead and keep on 'defending Science' by beating down Bible-thumpers and skirting around the real philosophical issues*--I'll be over here enjoying the irony.

*real philosophical issues: The crux of the 'evolution debate' is not over whether the Bible is a science textbook [pretty obviously not] or whether animals at Galapagos became new species [pretty obviously so], but whether or not human beings can be fully explained as simply an arrangement of molecules moved by physical forces. That's the part that has people uneasy, not whether moths that blend in with bark can survive better or not.
posted by recoveringsophist at 2:39 PM on April 21, 2008


However, recoveringsophist, the thing there is that the sort of fundamentalism behind Exposed has little to bring to that debate, either. When the answer to all the tough questions is "God." people stop asking them quickly enough.
posted by bonaldi at 2:45 PM on April 21, 2008


Agreed, bonaldi. It's just that I'm sick of people equating 'making a fundamentalist look bad' and 'proving their Scientific dogma'. (Science as opposed to science)
posted by recoveringsophist at 3:32 PM on April 21, 2008


whether or not human beings can be fully explained as simply an arrangement of molecules moved by physical forces.

Evolution doesn't have anything to do with that. It's not an explanation of first causes. It's obviously not incompatible with religious belief, since the guy with the pointy hat says so. If anyone's doing any skirting, it's you, Mr Sophist. Looks like you haven't fully recovered yet.
posted by me & my monkey at 3:33 PM on April 21, 2008


recoveringsophist- Thing is, people are trying to use the Bible as the basis for a science textbook. Although it is dressed up as a book on Intelligent Design.

People such as Konolia find it hard to believe that we are related / descended from some simple organism(I do not think, however, that if you went back far enough, that I am the eventual result of an amoeba or something sliding out of the goo. That is just too big a leap for me. ).

Why? Because in their framework and viewpoint of the world, it is denigrating the notion that we are God's creation, that the earth is our gift from him, and that we are radically different than other animals around us. Evolution violates the complicated boundaries we have created to differentiate ourselves as a group of people from one another, let alone the boundaries erected to separate us from other species.

Food taboos and 'dirt' taboos are great illustrations of this. People think pig isn't kosher because it is a 'dirty' animal, but other animals improperly cooked or slaughtered could be just as 'dirty' so why doesn't Leviticus state that "thou shall not eat under cooked meat." Could it be that the the pig has traits some traits (cloven hoof) but not others (ruminate) so it could be considered as liminal or boundary crossing, therefore dangerous and off limits? To diverge a little, if God had dictated Leviticus to His people at Sinai, and he created all the animals in the world, why did he have to be vague and there are uncertain animals that need interpretation (such as you can only eat known Fowl. Why would God need to include that, instead of saying "you can eat turkey, yeah, you don't know about it yet, but just write that down so you know its OK in a few millenia"). Maybe Leviticus was written by people trying to describe a set a rules to help identify who was Jewish, so as to help a nomadic people form a cohesive cultural identity, and in the process codified their tribal taboos into their religion. But that implies the doctrine was created by man, not God. Of course, that is where Faith comes in.

Some people find the knowledge of how we were created enlightening, empowering and really even more delightful in the complexity and depth of the human being. In many ways it demonstrates that we are limitless in our potential and able to transform and change things for the better (or worse). However to reiterate above, this boundary shaking / transformative action is scary for lots of people, and it disturbs them. Some people who have become afraid have decided to make ID the pillar of their belief that shall not fall. If it were to go, all after it will crumble and there will be nothing for their self identity, nothing with which to define who they are, since they have been prescribed that they are Christian, and being Christian is being: X, Y, Z.

That is why I see this being pushed onto the political spectrum. Why abortion and sex education is a political issue, not a Health issue. Why Gay Marriage is an issue about Families, not Equal Rights. For a large enough base of people, these issues, which will have little to no day to day impact in their life (unless they are professional Pro Lifers), except that it challenges tenets of their Self Identity. Because if we are breaking the tenents and taboos of their religions and the world isn't ending, how could one reconcile that with their religion (and their community and their community leaders) and self identity without threatening it's collapse? One thing the human brain really knows how to do well is prevent us from shutting down, which something like a complete deconstruction of the self might cause for a bit, so it tends to steer ones emotional state via chemical reactions in other directions. I am not implying your brain is intelligent, just that it is like a muscle, and just as when you go into shock your body restricts blood to conserve the organs, when you enter brain shock, your brain pushes you to in a direction, for example, a rush of adrenaline.
posted by mrzarquon at 3:50 PM on April 21, 2008 [10 favorites]


Evolution doesn't have anything to do with that. It's not an explanation of first causes. It's obviously not incompatible with religious belief, since the guy with the pointy hat says so. If anyone's doing any skirting, it's you, Mr Sophist. Looks like you haven't fully recovered yet.

I should have been more clear when I used the term 'evolution debate'--I was referring to the flamewar writ large that consumes any related topics on the Internet between LOLXTIAN-ers and the LOLXTIAN-ed. I was pointing out (alright, snarking about) the hypocrisy that critics who accuse Expelled of attacking a straw man tend to go further and equate opposition to evolution with this evangelical cashcow.

When the term 'evolution' is used to describe the origin of human beings, it does involve differing views of the human person. While you (and the pointy-hatted leader and I myself) can recognize that the evolution of species and belief in a soul (or non-material equivalent) are compatible, the scientific empiricism that is closely and rightfully associated with evolutionary theory does not.
posted by recoveringsophist at 6:38 PM on April 21, 2008


(hit post early)

...this difference is what makes for such a chasm between the opinions and worldviews of the LOLXTIAN-ers and the -ed, driving evangelicals to bring their Bible into biology class and evolutionary biologists to write books like The God Delusion. Yes, people who bring the Bible into biology class as the only text are misled, to say the least. At the same time (IMO), people who embrace the scientific empiricism that drives most of evolutionary theory, modern anthropology, and Science (not science) but believe themselves to be more than a mass of molecules (a first premise for theology) are inconsistent.
posted by recoveringsophist at 6:54 PM on April 21, 2008


Well, let me just stir the pot a little by saying that I think a lot of, or at least many, people involved in the search for (ok, let's be generous here) other intelligent life in the universe have a stated goal of learning wondrous new things, but also a lot of them, perhaps subconsciously, also hope that such a discovery might really and fundamentally challenge the kinds of differentiating viewpoints and boundaries that, say, many evangelicals espouse (as mrzarquon talks about above.)

Having said that, I don't doubt that such a discovery won't happen (though I may not live to see it) but I severely doubt that it would ever shake up the evangelical point of view, it would just give them one more wedge issue to grind away at.
posted by newdaddy at 8:43 PM on April 21, 2008


Ben Stein is very smart in a very specific way, and a fucking retard in most others.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:18 PM on April 21, 2008


One thing I would love to see is a bunch of aliens come down, not look like or act like anything depicted in common scifi. When asked about the cow mutations, the abductions, if they had been here before (aztecs, xenu, pyramids, jesus, etc):

"Nope, just found you. Actually sent from the galactic congress on an aid mission. Your neck of the woods has been under a strict No Fly Zone for the last couple million years since the fubar with the dinosaurs. So everything you've experienced as otherworldy has been a creation of your own combined cultural minds. Actually we are surprised you've made it this far. Its something like going on a long vacation and upon return you find out that your socks have created space travel. One hell of a kicker isn't it?"

On a different note, the real question is: what do we do now? I mean we can't attack those LOLXIAN's for believing in creationism, it will only strengthen their resolve and make it a deeper aspect of their identity. Obviously it cannot be included in a science curriculum, because Intelligent Design does not have any mechanism for observation and confirmation. If there was, things like the prostate would come under scrutiny (design a gland around a tube, so as it swells with age, peeing is a man's most humiliating part of the day). But what is also going on is a group seeing its privileged status dissolve, and the fear and uncertainty that goes with it. Obama's reference to the Bitter folks embracing guns and the bible is very true, and when you are working multiple jobs just to feed your kids, how are you going to learn about all of these other worldly things while you see everything you have been told as true and good around you fall under scrutiny.
posted by mrzarquon at 10:20 PM on April 21, 2008


While you (and the pointy-hatted leader and I myself) can recognize that the evolution of species and belief in a soul (or non-material equivalent) are compatible, the scientific empiricism that is closely and rightfully associated with evolutionary theory does not.

That's not true at all. Scientific empiricism has nothing to say about belief, or metaphysics, or anything else that isn't capable of being framed as a testable hypothesis. You are just as off-point in this thread as the LOLXTIANs. You are mistaken if you think that Richard Dawkins speaks for the scientific community on the subject of religion. And it doesn't take an atheist to see that this "documentary" is disingenuous propaganda aimed at inserting religion into public life in the guise of science.
posted by me & my monkey at 10:57 PM on April 21, 2008


For the record I can believe in MICRO evolution, just not macro evolution...

I believe in Sci-Fi Evolution. Soon mankind will evolve beyond our physical bodies and become sentient beings of pure energy. Then we'll form a vast shared consciousness where we can hang out and argue philosophy. Trust me, you're gonna love it.

The Engineers | Creating since Day 8posted by ryanrs at 3:58 AM on April 22, 2008


Scientific empiricism has nothing to say about belief, or metaphysics, or anything else that isn't capable of being framed as a testable hypothesis.

But when you say 'testable' you mean 'measurable by the instruments of physics'. What it has to say about those things is that they do not exist.
posted by recoveringsophist at 4:53 AM on April 22, 2008


recoveringsophist: But when you say 'testable' you mean 'measurable by the instruments of physics'. What it has to say about those things is that they do not exist.

Um, what? May I point you again to Exhibit B in this conversation, the fact that all the participants in the notorious Kitzmiller v. Dover trial, with the exception of a handful of witnesses, were all Christian?

"Not a testable hypothesis" does not mean, "this does not exist." It means that we have to turn to other disciplines and other forms of inquiry in order to address them. Dawkins is certainly not the only voice in this conversation, you have Einstein, Gould, and Feynman had a great little essay pointing out that science can say how to deliver water, but it can't muster the economic and moral will to actually build safe water systems for impoverished people.

And examples of those other forms of inquiry include law, ethics, literary and artistic criticism, math, and history. There is a great essay by Feynman which said that while science can tell us a lot about how things are around an impoverished neighborhood lacking a safe water supply, it fails to drive the political and moral will to dig a trench and run a pipe 100 yards.

Dawkins is by no means the only voice in what is an ongoing debate about the aims and scope of science. To pull Dawkins out as a singular representative and ignore Gould, Feynman, and Einstein makes you guilty of the same kind of excessive generalization that you complain is polarizing the discussion.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:40 AM on April 22, 2008


Joy, that's what I get for writing before finishing my first cup of tea.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:42 AM on April 22, 2008


Or to put a finer point on it. While I expect everyone to be at least science-literate. I don't want for my lawyer to use the methods of science to argue my case. I want for him to argue as an idealist who believes that abstract notions of justice and a vast tradition of case law favors me in my case. I don't want for my art, movie, book, and music reviewers to use the methods of science to tell me about a work, I want for them to act as social constructivists describing perceived relationships to other works that I've encountered in the past.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:49 AM on April 22, 2008


But I am afraid that certain scientists who loathe, or who are highly disturbed by, believers do themselves a great disservice. Yes, yes, I know that there are a few moonbats who would in fact like to make a theocracy here, or would like to ditch scientific argumentation, but really! They are so few.

The entire OP is about a group of such would-be Theocrats. And they aren't as rare as you think.

So why do you to whom I refer seem to rise up so emotionally against believers who want to enter the arena of "the history and meaning of mankind"?? It's a very old and respected line of debate.

They can enter and be welcome. But these cretins are knowingly and deliberately lying about what that history is. "Comment is free, but facts are sacred".

Up until about the Indust. Rev'n there was not this disdain for generalists. Profoundly learned people of many different intellectual and faith types wrote about "the history and meaning of mankind".

Two things have changed. First there is a whole lot more knowledge meaning that being a genuine generalist is much much harder. Secondly, most generalists I know really aren't. Unless you have a grasp of mathematics at some level you can not call yourself a generalist. And as C.P. Snow pointed out, most people who favour the arts don't.

( I think the really great products that help mankind were those of engineers, not scientists.)

And the engineers would generally be dead in the water if the scientists hadn't got the theory before the engineers put it into practice. (And most scientists would be dead in the water if the mathematicians hadn't got the maths first. And so it goes).

Stop obsessing over the way lightweights w/o training on your machines don't make your kind of sense.

I don't care that my sister is effectively innumerate and will never understand something as simple as basic calculus (I care more about the fact she is a far better artist and musician than I could ever be). I would care if she tried to determine what could be done in a science classroom.

Why aren't there at least a dozen lightning-brilliant orthodox Buddhists who are completely trained in math and machines to argue with the likes of Dawkins et al.?

Who says there aren't. They aren't doing so because this whole issue is a crock of shit made up by Christian fundamentalists. The Dominionists here are trivially wrong - any brilliant orthodox Buddhist would end up on the side of the scientists.

Arguing faith and belief

Isn't what this is about. This is an attempt to control by force majeur what is taught and put it in line with the beliefs of a certain subset of society.

Much of what I have read in this thread has been off-balance... pitting highly trained masters of math and machines against "straw men" who believe in something humbly inexplicable, but yet so untrained as to appear conveniently unable to argue out of a paper bag.

I regret that what is being argued against here is not "straw men".

You guys need to argue with really talented believers who know your machines.

I've argued theology and the interaction between science and religion with a Witch Queen, a female Jewish Scribe (or rather someone who later became one), a Jesuit-trained Anglican priest (and Notorious Heretic - I've argued with several of those) and others of similar calibre. And none of them are exactly ignorant when it comes to science - to paraphrase my former parish priest (who has a Chemistry degree from Cambridge University) "Studying God's creation is itself an act of worship and only increases the wonder and awe you have for it".

I have and still do argue with such people. But one of the things that most offends me about Creationism and so-called Intelligent Design is the theological implication it leads directly to - God is a liar who has created his creation in a manner to deliberately deceive us.

Where the hell are those people?

To bright to fall for the idiocies of Creationism/Intelligent Design. When they pitch in to these arguments about Intelligent Design and Creationism they are invariably on exactly the same side as the scientists.

And any remark that they are dying out because belief in the boundless, continuitive, unified and infinite universe is wrong-headed and is by nature dying out is BULL.
posted by yazi at 2:30 AM on April 21 [2 favorites +] [!]


Oh, indeed but they gang up with the rest of the intelligent and educated people against those trying to foist a muddle-headed and misinformed belief system on the wider community by deceptive means. I'm happy to argue with those who are misinformed and acting in good faith - but that does not apply here.
posted by Francis at 7:48 AM on April 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


"Ben Stein's so-called documentary ‘Expelled’ isn't just bad, it's immoral"
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:13 AM on April 22, 2008


Yep, that was pretty much how I viewed it too.
posted by middleclasstool at 12:31 PM on April 22, 2008


And the engineers would generally be dead in the water if the scientists hadn't got the theory before the engineers put it into practice. (And most scientists would be dead in the water if the mathematicians hadn't got the maths first. And so it goes).

I think you have that backwards. Science is far more dependent on engineering than engineering is on science. This may seem counterintuitive at first, however a more historical perspective makes the relationship clear. Consider that scientific study first appeared in the late Iron Age and only hit its stride in the last 500 years or so. In Europe, the scientific revolution roughly coincided with the development of the blast furnace. Just about everything created before then was made without the benefit of science.
posted by ryanrs at 7:43 PM on April 22, 2008


Lizards Rapidly Evolve After Introduction to Island
posted by homunculus at 1:49 PM on April 23, 2008


I think this movie is great, because it inadvertently exposes everyday folks to the kinds of shams that creationists try to pull off through their bad faith reasoning.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:23 PM on April 23, 2008


That would be comforting, BP, if it weren't for the astoundingly, abysmally, embarassingly stupid people that inhabit the USA in great number.

Over sixty percent believe in the devil. Forty percent believe in evolution. Right there, Expelled comes out a winner.

Half your fellow citizens believe dreams can foretell the future. Thirty percent of them believe in goddamn witches of all things. One in five thinks it's possible to communicate with the dead.

Hell, twenty percent of the US citizenry is so retarded they believe the sun goes 'round the earth. In the twenty-first century. Un-fucking-believable.

You are surrounded by idiots.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:09 PM on April 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


You are surrounded by idiots.

Absolutely. We have a country to the south of us that attacks goth kids for sport and a country to the north of us whose entire sense of self-worth is wrapped up in ten guys chasing a piece of vulcanized rubber around a sheet of ice.

That's the real reason we're building this border fence. We really need to start on the northern one soon, though.
posted by dw at 10:44 PM on April 23, 2008


I'd be careful dw. If you insult hockey you might not be welcome at the Big Valley Creation Science Museum. (charity status paperwork is in progress)
posted by Gary at 11:27 AM on April 24, 2008


Half your fellow citizens believe dreams can foretell the future
Uh, I have actually had that happen to me. Several times.
posted by konolia at 12:03 PM on April 24, 2008


five fresh fish: Half your fellow citizens believe dreams can foretell the future... You are surrounded by idiots.

konolia: Uh, I have actually had that happen to me. Several times.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:01 PM on April 24, 2008


I once had a totally prescient dream where I got out of bed, walked into my kitchen, made some food, took my dogs for a walk, realized I was still tired and laid back down for a nap.

It was creepy how realistic it was.


What? Just because it's seeing into the future doesn't mean it has to be interesting, does it?
posted by quin at 3:09 PM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


One guess as to what I think of your intellectual, logical, and common-sense capabilities, Konolia.

Big Valley Creation Science Museum

Arrrgh. The retard species is invading.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:39 PM on April 24, 2008


FFF, you can think what you want. But the dreams were frighteningly accurate.

You don't have to be a Christian to understand that the world is a bit stranger than it may seem at times.
posted by konolia at 7:54 PM on April 24, 2008


One guess as to what I think of your intellectual, logical, and common-sense capabilities, Konolia.

i've had a dream that foretold the future, too - my intellectual, logical and common-sense capabilities tell me that my experience of reality is not limited by what you choose to believe

Thirty percent of them believe in goddamn witches of all things.

somebody's got to be buying all those books about witchcraft
posted by pyramid termite at 8:32 PM on April 24, 2008


Were dreams capable of predicting the future, one would have to conclude there is no free will. If there is no free will, there is no sin. If there is no sin, your faith is malarky.

You can't have it both ways.

Your capacity for self-delusion is unbounded, konolia. Indeed, self-delusion — or in kind terms, "imagination" or "deja vu" or "wish fulfilment" or "brain fart" — is the best explanation for what you may have experienced.

Unsurprisingly, you reject a conventional explanation and instead choose the magical one. It's the story of your life.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:33 PM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Were dreams capable of predicting the future, one would have to conclude there is no free will.

just because some things are predicted doesn't mean all things are - very sloppy logic on your part

If there is no free will, there is no sin.

not according to calvin - but that's what he thought and i'm not going to defend it

Indeed, self-delusion — or in kind terms, "imagination" or "deja vu" or "wish fulfilment" or "brain fart" — is the best explanation for what you may have experienced.

what would you say if i had written the dream down in my journal - and THEN had it happen in real life?

Unsurprisingly, you reject a conventional explanation and instead choose the magical one.

such as a magical belief that other people's experiences that contradict what you believe have to be wrong?

you need something better than the solipsism that says because you haven't experienced it, no one else can - and of course, you have nothing better - i wonder why you would even bother trying to deny someone else's experience - except that it must threaten you in some way
posted by pyramid termite at 10:01 PM on April 24, 2008


What you are proposing, re: dreams predicting the future, is both false and stupid. Time-cube stupid.

I am not going to debate it. If you believe in such utterly stupid things, so be it. It's not like your stupidity is likely to make a difference in my personal life.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:31 PM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


what's time-cube stupid is your arrogant belief that you can know my experience better than i, or that your experiences, or lack of them, can define reality

it's not a matter of "belief" - it's a matter of experience
posted by pyramid termite at 5:58 AM on April 25, 2008


I dreamed this morning that I had to take an enormous piss. And sure enough, when I woke up it turned out that my dream had predicted the future!
posted by five fresh fish at 8:03 AM on April 25, 2008


I dreamed this morning that I had to take an enormous piss.

which thread did you do it in?
posted by pyramid termite at 8:23 PM on April 25, 2008


I had a dream in which five fresh fish and pyramid termite had a pissing contest. I can't remember who won, but I think konolia exposed the winner to anus.
posted by homunculus at 8:39 PM on April 25, 2008


Ben Stein's anus, that is.
posted by homunculus at 8:40 PM on April 25, 2008


no, ben stein's anus collapsed upon itself and turned into a black hole - scores of dinosaurs and cavemen have spiraled into singularity, causing his voice to become higher and higher pitched as his colonic tension builds

it is truly a dangerous thing to follow in richard nixon's footsteps
posted by pyramid termite at 9:35 PM on April 25, 2008


Ben Stein outs himself as pro-child-abuse.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:55 AM on April 27, 2008


what would you say if i had written the dream down in my journal - and THEN had it happen in real life?

Me, I'd say it was interesting, but just a coincidence (a nice and spooky one though). Billions of people have a few dreams each most every night: it's not odd that they're occasionally strangely predictive. Ouija boards are right too sometimes.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 10:44 AM on April 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ben Stein comes off as even creepier when you read that 31 of 53 of the girls at the FLDS compound were impregnated.

Ben Stein is an evil man.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:52 PM on April 28, 2008


An interesting NYT story on Francisco Ayala, former priest and defender of evolution
posted by grouse at 8:48 AM on April 30, 2008


Ben Stein: "science leads you to killing people"
posted by homunculus at 11:57 AM on May 2, 2008


Today in US History, 1925: John Scopes was arrested in Dayton, Tennessee for teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution to his high school biology class.
posted by homunculus at 12:37 PM on May 5, 2008


So, I finally went and saw this documentary. I wasn't expecting much, but it was a lot worse than I could have imagined.

For a documentary, this film was frustratingly short on answers. A few of the pro-intelligent design talking heads mentioned that much of the Theory of Evolution didn't make sense or was very messy, but there was never any clarification about what or why. Ben Stein also claimed that Intelligent Design has nothing to do with creationism, and it was the fault of the media that people assumed that it was about God as the intelligent designer. So what is it about, then? A few talking heads (even Richard Dawkins) discussed the idea of extraterrestrial seeding. So this film seems to be saying that life is so complex that it must have been at least partially designed by a heavenly being OR aliens. Really? Are those our only options?

Much of the movie was riddled with little movie clips from the 1940s and 50s. So, there would be a snippet of an interview and then an ironic or cute movie clip would pop up and ruin whatever tiny sliver of objectivity might have been possible for the audience. I wrote 'TELL US WHAT YOU REALLY THINK PRODUCERS' in my notebook.

There were also plenty of misleading clips. One was also an animation of slot machines that tried to clarify why getting the appropriate proteins to form life is so improbable. It uses a lot of statistical sleight of hand (for example, the assumption that each event was as independent as a coin flip) and features a cartoon of evil Richard Dawkins. Also, they found the worst guy to speculate about how life came to be from inorganic matter. (My notebook reads 'Crystals!? Burger or Mineral?')

While the discussion about the knowledge of the complexity of cells in Darwin's time vs. today ('a Buick' vs. 'a galaxy') was interesting, it didn't really prove much other than the fact that we know a lot more about cellular biology than we did in the 1860s. They never explained how complicated something had to be in order to conclude that a designer was involved. How would someone attempt that calculation?

Other parts of the movie relied on shocking imagery and heavy handed metaphors. The entrenchment of evolution in academia was compared to the Berlin wall, Stalin appeared multiple times, and worse, a whole section of the movie focuses on how Darwin was responsible for the holocaust.

This was the point where I threw up my hands in the theater and checked my watch. Ben Stein took a trip to Hadamar to see where physically and mentally unfit persons were killed during the Nazi regime. They drew the conclusion that Darwin was responsible for the destruction of these individuals because Hitler was a fan of the theory evolution. "Survival of the fittest," right? This argument was further expanded to blame the entirety of the holocaust on evolution because of its bastard cousin, eugenics.

Okay, let's take a step back here. First, nationalism and ethnic cleansing have been around throughout all of recorded history (the Old Testament would be one source of records confirming this). Secondly, the Nazis didn't invent the concept of ridding society of the weak and infirm, for one, the Spartans did it thousands of years earlier. Eugenics was just the shiny 'scientific' wrapping that made the justifications for the horrors possible. If there was anything responsible for the scale of the holocaust it was the industrial revolution and government bueaucracy. But by the logic that this film puts forth, evolution caused the holocaust, not that bunch of assholes who used it as a tool to manipulate people.

Again, after that the film takes another left turn and blames the Theory of Evolution for abortion, euthanasia, and birth control, which (of course) are all tools used to dehumanize the poor, you know, the people who need lots and lots of babies. Finally, evolution is blamed for making lots of scientists lose their faith in God. One might even shoot himself if his brain tumor comes back. Okay, gothcha, evolution= pure suicidal evil.

What is galling is that the film makes a few good points about academia. It's true that it's awfully political and cliquey up in the ivory tower, and lots of people have their careers ruined for believing things outside of the mainstream. This happens in all branches of academia, and not just over intelligent design. Linguistics was an especially nasty place to be a decade or two ago if someone believed in a theory of generative grammar outside of the established order. Academia does need some scrutiny in this respect. But the 'OMG! BERLIN WALL! HITLER! STALIN! BILL MAHER! MARGARET SANGER!' tactic really ruined any chance for honest discussion.

Yeah, I want my $9 and my Wednesday evening back.

The funny part is that I went to go see this movie with my Bible study group. We have been studying various resources about creationism, intelligent design and evolution for about a year. We started out by reading the book of Genesis. After that, we read The Language of God by Francis Collins (it made a good case that evolution and belief in God are not incompatible, but lacked academic rigor). Two weeks ago we spent a weekend with a creation science teacher learning about arguments for young earth creationism (to summarize: lots of bad science, but it's easy to see why people fall for it). We will be starting Mere Christianity next week and later cap everything off with a lecture on the scientific grounding of evolution from a biologist.

Most of the members of my Bible study group are believers in evolution and one third of our members are atheists. None of us are studying this topic to make up our minds about what we believe in, but we live in a country where most of our fellow citizens don't believe in evolution. It would be nice to know why people believe in creationism and ID, even if those concepts seem crazy from the outside.
posted by Alison at 9:41 PM on May 7, 2008


It would be nice to know why people believe in creationism and ID, even if those concepts seem crazy from the outside.

I suspect a number of the people who promote ID/C do so for reasons of power: they wish to have greater control of their 'flock' and/or understand that the more ignorant/unthinking people are, the more money you can fleece 'em for.

Those that believe ID/C do so from ignorance or fear, IMO. Ignorance of the scientific method, basic logic, and simple mathematics; and fear that they'll somehow lose their faith if they give ground to common sense.

What I can't figure out, though, is why the ID/C people don't see that the why of Life is not the same as the how of Life. Two different buckets, requiring two different approaches.

It's hilarious that these self-same people happily use any amount of science-based technology in almost every facet of their lives, from medicine to foods to transportation, yet completey reject that same science when it comes to their singular issue. It's freakin' magical how science is supposed to have one immense blind spot for the convenience of their faith.

What's not so hilarious is that these malicious idiots are bound and determined to destroy the education system, and thus any chance of our long-term survival, just so they can continue to maintain their delusional "faith" in things they don't understand.

This is a terribly-worded rant, and I apologize. Off to bed.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:12 PM on May 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


In other Discovery Institute news: Michael Medved says something dumb.
posted by homunculus at 6:05 PM on May 16, 2008


Holy crap, you gotta post the quotable:
The idea of a distinctive, unifying, risk-taking American DNA might also help to explain our most persistent and painful racial divide - between the progeny of every immigrant nationality that chose to come here, and the one significant group that exercised no choice in making their journey to the U.S. Nothing in the horrific ordeal of African slaves, seized from their homes against their will, reflected a genetic predisposition to risk-taking, or any sort of self-selection based on personality traits.
Someone bitchslap that douche into the this century, please.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:53 PM on May 16, 2008


I suspect a number of the people who promote ID/C do so for reasons of power: they wish to have greater control of their 'flock' and/or understand that the more ignorant/unthinking people are, the more money you can fleece 'em for.

Well...yes. But, at a more theological level, it's all about Man being different from Animals.

According to the appropriate bit of literature, God made Animals on one day, and Man on another. God gave Man dominion over nature. According to those who take these things very seriously, animals don't have souls. When Spot knaws his last bone and goes to the Great Kennel In The Sky...well, he don't go to the Great Kennel In The Sky, because he has no soul.

And then us biologists come along and say, well actually fellas, man is an animal. See how he has two eyes, just like other mammals? Ears? Fingers? Four-chambered heart? Red blood cells, lacking nuclei? Man is actually related to other animals, and they are related to other animals, and they are related to fungi and plants, that are related to bacteria and protists. We've observed it. We've quantified it. We've experimented with it.

This causes deep theological problems; Man is supposed to be special because Jesus died to save Man from his sins. But if man is no different than any other animal, how can that work? Did Jesus die to save dogs from their sins too? Pine trees? Chlamydia? But dogs can't make a choice to follow Jesus, so how can they be saved? Is it only mans' intelligence that makes him special? But intelligence is different than having a soul, and besides, man isn't the only animal that shows some form of intelligence.

The response to this cognitive dissonance is, of course, to cut things off at the roots. Deny the science. Pretend man is special. In order to pretend man is special, you have to throw away the whole ideas of evolution and natural selection.
posted by Jimbob at 9:44 PM on May 18, 2008


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