Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed


According to a recent documentary, for all the talk about academic freedom in the world of the large American university system, it would seem that it extends only as far as the system defines it - especially with regards to the subject of origins and science. Noted speechwriter Ben Stein stars as host of the film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. Dr. Angus Menuge, professor of philosophy at CUW, highlights the film in an article included in the Concordia University - Wisconsin magazine Concordian, including some seemingly revealing details about the expulsion of talented scientists who apparently were ‘expelled‘ from their positions for mentioning the theory of Intelligent Design:

“In the current climate, even when academicians have a relevant doctorate and a track-record of peer-reviewed publication, their careers suffer if they argue that the scientific evidence points to an intelligent source involved in the creation of the world.

In 1992, Dean Kenyon, a biology professor at San Francisco State University, was barred from teaching introductory biology classes after he shared his misgivings about evolutionary theory with his students. William Dembski was removed from his position as Directory of the Michael Polanyi Center at Baylor University in 2000 after making his pro-design views know. In 2003, Nancy Bryson was dismissed from Mississippi University for Women immediately after she gave a lecture on scientific criticisms of chemical and biological evolution to a group of honors students. Three years ago Caroline Crocker, a cell biologist at George Mason University, was forced to leave after discussing problems with Darwinian theory and mentioning the alternative of Intelligent Design. More recently, Guillermo Gonzalez, a brilliant astronomer at Iowa State University and author of 68 peer-reviewed science articles and a college-level text book on astronomy from Cambridge University Press, was denied tenure after publishing the book, The Privileged Planet, in which he argues that our solar system is ‘fine-tuned’ for intelligent life and ideal for scientific investigation.”

Expelled has been, to say the least, a controversial film, widely criticized from various sources. There is debate on the veracity of the film’s claims, especially the one’s mentioned above with regard to the expulsion of university professors. Wikipedia has a rather extensive article detailing the reactions to the film.

It is beyond my ability to adequately judge the content of this film and its claims (for one thing I have yet to even view it), and I realize that on any side of an issue there can be a tendency to exaggerate evidence to make a point. That being said, I can’t but wonder, though, just how open the scientific community really is when it comes to discussing theories such as Intelligent Design (ID). From the commentary I have read thus far, the point made again and again from those opposed to ID is the complaint of religion masquerading as science. ID is simply not accepted in any way as a scientific theory by those supportive of evolution as the prime explanation of origins. Therefore, if ID was discussed in a secular university classroom, the immediate reaction would be: You are discussing religion in a science class!

As long as serious academic discussion is closed to consideration of ID as a real scientific theory, science is still held captive to its own philosophical presuppositions. Labeling it as religion is presupposing that any supposed evidence that may point toward an intelligent cause is mere religious wishful thinking, and not a valid conclusion based on what was examined. Even if the claims of Expelled are less than fully truthful, it appears that the secular scientific community is closed and resistive to any real discussion on a theory that goes against the gospel of evolution. What do they have to lose by opening the door? Are they fearful that the masses will suddenly find faith and turn to God and plunge the academic world into a dark age of superstition? Hardly.

23 comments:

Dave Grossman said...

You have a good point about scientists not taking ID proponents seriously. However, there is a good reason for ID to not be taken seriously. It isn't even remotely scientific. It doesn't measure up as a scientific field in nearly every criteria. There doesn't appear to be any evidence to support it that cannot be explained through evolution. It relies on the human inability to really fully understand and comprehend evolution in a real and physical sense. It is too complex by many orders of magnitude for us to clearly picture or simulate. It happens on time scales that we can't even imagine. This incredulity leads many people to the mistaken impression that some intelligent entity must have been involved. "It looks designed so it must be designed." Sure, it looks designed. The vast majority of what we observe in nature that appears to be designed has been shown to be explainable by known natural processes.

None of this precludes the possibility of the existence of an intelligent designer, of course. There may very well be some intelligence involved. However, that is for science to discover through research and not for Christians to impose on scientists due to their religious beliefs.

Let's be clear here; this is really the point. The ID movement is made up of mostly Christians who have an agenda to undermine evolution and promote their religion. This has been shown over and over again. There is plenty of evidence for this and Ben Stein has even admitted it publicly (much to the chagrin of many ID proponents, I'd wager).

The dishonesty of the ID community in their pursuit of Intelligent Design as if it is a science is what atheists and scientists object to. We're simply not going to let it stand. No matter how hard "cdesign proponentsists" (look up that word) push, there will be rational theists and atheists there to push back. Even the Catholic Church acknowledges the fact of evolution. That should tell you something.

Don Engebretson said...

Thank you for your comments, Dave. It would seem that my observations about the scientific community and the subject of ID were fairly on-target.

>>The vast majority of what we observe in nature that appears to be designed has been shown to be explainable by known natural processes.<<

Would this include the ultimate point of the origin of life, the claim that animate beings came from inanimate energy/mass, or that the origin of the DNA/RNA sequence began without a prior one - without an actual living host, as is normally observed in nature?

How also does the evolution scientist explain the seemingly astronomical probability required for natural selection to effectively occur?

Just a couple of questions that seem to be dangling out there for me....

scripto said...

"How also does the evolution scientist explain the seemingly astronomical probability required for natural selection to effectively occur?"

Seemingly is the operative word. If your mathematical model is contradicted by real world evidence such as the progressions found in the fossil record or new functions observed in the lab (nylon and citrate eating bacteria) then there is something wrong with your model. Behe doesn't do the experimentation to back up his assertions and Dembski doesn't bother to run his probability calculations through the math journals. They have made no headway because they seem curiously reluctant to try to convince the people best able to judge their hypotheses. Popular books, movies and strong arming local school boards is not going to do it. There is no supression. Substandard work is substandard work.

Benjamin Franklin said...

Don-

Those of us who remember the original discussion of intelligent design remember that challenges to Darwin’s theory of evolution were not met with outright rejection. Such challenges were met with invitations for ID proponents to show their evidence; to define their philosophical definitions; to define precisely what “design,” “intelligence,” and “irreducible complexity” mean. They were not faced with rejection. They were faced with counter challenges to define their terms and to show their evidence. Scientists have consistently proved to be open to alternate theories and alternative evidence to evolution. The problem was that, when challenged, the ID theorists couldn’t present any. “Design” degenerated into “irreducible complexity,” the definition of which turned out to be “those very occasional times when God — or something which may or may not be sort of like God — shows up in a currently inexplicable event. When “irreducibly complex” systems were shown to be “reducibly” complex the evidence was deemed “rejection.”

Not only did the scientists not reject ID out of hand, there are many Christian (not to mention Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, and Buddhist) scientists who accept Darwinian evolution and their religious convictions without discord or contradiction. One has but to read discussion threads in the Chronicle of Higher Education to see that “scientists,” “intellectuals,” even “professors” are not a lock-step world-view bloc.

Scientific careers are made by successful challenging of the evidence. Newton successfully challenged Aristotle’s 1500 year dominance of science and established himself as, perhaps the greatest scientist of all history. Einstein challenged Newton’s 500 year reign and established himself as a household name. A successful challenge to the Darwinian model of evolution would make a scientist’s career – don’t you think that, if people could come up with a real challenge they wouldn’t do so?

The danger with a movie such as Expelled is not that the true issues, freedom of academic inquiry, evidence based practice, the scientific method, and open inquiry will be subverted but that they will be perverted; that real inquiry will be stifled by an appeal to rhetorical and political manipulation and that viewpoint will determine right. Right makes right will be replaced, by visual, media manipulation makes right.

Don Engebretson said...

I appreciate your thoughtful replies. Given that I am not completely conversant with the ID/evolution debate, what source would you direct me to,especially where I might read up on "original discussion of intelligent design" and the opportunities/ invitations given the ID proponents to define their terms, etc. as you mention.

Also, it has been mentioned that people of faith embrace evolution. How do these Christians, especially, reconcile this view with their view of the source of their faith (the scriptures)?

scripto said...

You might try Miller's Finding Darwin's God or The Language of God by Francis Collins. They are both theists who have reconciled evolutionary theory with their faith.

Dave Grossman said...

"Would this include the ultimate point of the origin of life, the claim that animate beings came from inanimate energy/mass, or that the origin of the DNA/RNA sequence began without a prior one - without an actual living host, as is normally observed in nature?"

The origin of life, abiogenesis, only had to occur once. Though, it is possible that it has occurred multiple times. We may yet still find some other form of life on Earth that is not DNA based. No honest scientist would rule that out.

In the grand scheme of the history of life, abiogenesis really only covers a miniscule part. In fact, one could consider abiogenesis as the instantaneous chemical event that allowed for replication. This replication may have been as simple as some polymer chain that resembled primordial form of DNA. Then evolution would be able to act to generate the diversity of life from those early beginnings.

However, since we can never know for sure how this first replicating "organism" began, scientists rarely make any claims as to how it likely happened, only how it might have happened. Our inability to fully understand abiogenesis does not meant that there is a flaw in evolution.

So, to answer your question; yes, abiogenesis covers an tiny part of what is currently explainable through evolution. The theories about how evolution works are still being developed and tested. The fact that evolution has occurred is hardly in dispute among the vast majority of scientists.

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that it could be demonstrated irrefutably that the first DNA based organism was created by an intelligent designer. Perhaps we find some common DNA among all organisms that encodes pi in the DNA sequence. What does this tell us? It certainly doesn't mean that evolution is wrong. All it would mean is that abiogeneses was the result of an intelligent designer. Even granting you this, there is absolutely no reason to think that this intelligent designer is a "god" of any sort. The designer may show very few of the attributes ascribed to gods. The designer could be an alien entity from outside or even from within our universe. Or, it could be multiple entities. There is no reason to think that this "creator" has anything to do with the Biblical God, Jesus, Zeus, or any of the 3000+ gods that humans have invented throughout history.

Based on this, theists will have to rely on faith that this "creator" that may or may not exist is their God even though it does not follow from any arguments or evidence.

How also does the evolution scientist explain the seemingly astronomical probability required for natural selection to effectively occur?
Humans are not really capable of comprehending the exact orders of magnitude of time and space we are dealing with here. Just because it seems implausible doesn't mean that it is impossible. No mathematical model of the probability of abiogenesis or evolution occurring can be considered conclusive in either direction. That being said, there have been many evolution models created that generate results that are similar to what we observe in nature.

All observations seem to indicate that evolution is true. Other ideas like wave-particle duality from Quantum Mechanics are so unintuitive as to seem ludicrous. However, the observations fit the model so well that it is considered a fact. When the observations don't fit the model, you fix the model. We have very good models for the physics of the universe and evolution fits right in perfectly.

Dave Grossman said...

Regarding your request for more info about theists who consider evolution to be compatible with their religion, please check out this NOVA episode about the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/id/

Not only were the plaintiffs in this case Chrisitians but the judge was a conservative Christian appointed by Bush.

This episode documents the whole problem of ID very well and will probably answer many of your questions.

Rachel E. said...

There have been claims that ID is less than science.

Real science is objective observation. While studying science in upper levels of education, we are encouraged to observe everything without previous bias. We may look at a tree and assume it's dead because there are no leaves on it, as that's what's happened before in our previous experience. But it could be a new species of tree that does not produce any leaves. If a person decided to stubbornly assume the tree is dead, there would be no explanation as to why the tree does not rot away. This is an example of the process in evolutionary science. Because of a previous bias, fallacies in the name of science have to be made up to fill in the blanks.

More specifically, we can observe species changing due to natural selection (which has not been denied by ID). What we don't have are transitional links or immediate forms in our biology today or the fossil record of yesterday. In place of these transitional records, and due to the fact that natural selection is incapable of advancing an organism to a higher order, evolutionists instead have to say that it just happened. And it works. Scientists and teachers and normal, unassuming people everywhere hold on with all their energies to evolution.

Why would this be? It's quite simple - without any other opposition besides ID, it's easy to keep arguing for this, "real science," keep trying to convince everyone else that nothing else can be science, because there it is, and that's just the way it has to be. ID's connection with millions of believers in various religions doesn't help atheist scientists much.

However, there is no such thing as real science, for science is never fact. Science is constantly changing and being disproved. Saying one theory, ID, is less of a science than evolution is about as inane as saying the opposing sports team is less of a sports team than your home team.

Good grief. There are fallacies to every theory. But for a person studying biology extensively in college, I'm sick of coming up to a brick wall in genetics, for instance, and being told to just deal with the inconsistency being taught. As scientists, we're supposed to keep searching for the answers. If the answer is, an organism is so complicated on a molecular level that there is no way it can morph on its own without an outside force, then let it be so. We don't have to settle for theories we've been indoctrinated with for years and years just because it isn't religious and it's "real science."

ID and evolution have nothing to do with religion, but it's become that way for us in the scientific world. Our religious doctrine may echo what we are seeing in science, but neither should influence the other.

Henry Morris, a former evolutionist scientist was quoted as saying, "Many ...believe in evolution for the simple reason that they think science has proven it to be a `fact' and, therefore, it must be accepted... In recent years, a great many people...having finally been persuaded to make a real examination of the problem of evolution, have become convinced of its fallacy and are now convinced anti-evolutionists."

Dave Grossman said...

Regarding:
What we don't have are transitional links or immediate forms in our biology today or the fossil record of yesterday

This is categorically untrue. First of all, every species that currently exists is a transitional form provided that it doesn't go extinct.

The fossil record is full of transitional species. The claim that there aren't any is simply untrue.

I will refrain from trying to rebut the remainder of your comment. Suffice it to say that the majority of what you've said is factually inaccurate.

You apparently have verly little understanding of biology, evolution, and science and are filling up this lack of knowledge with ideas that you have either heard from other ID proponents or made up yourself.

I highly recommend reading ths site: http://www.expelledexposed.com/ which addresses many misconceptions about science and evolution.

Rachel E. said...

It's not very useful to waste time debating whether or not I have any authority on the subject or make any unjustified statements on why my comment was not factual, as the same could be said for any commenter here.

I understand you disagree with ID. That's been made abundantly clear. However, as you have already started to debate ad hominem instead of with documented information, I cannot begin to understand why you think evolution can be proven over ID. This is the bottom line of the entire discussion, is it not?

Thus, the root of my frustration with modern scientists and the approach of biology education. You would not believe an ID scientist if he told you an organism was created by an outside force. It is in the same way I cannot believe an evolutionist scientist when it is said that a claim is "simply untrue" without backing it up.

I'm not about to write a college thesis on the subject, and neither should you. We could throw around research all day and still, at the end of it all, believe the other is telling lies.

For the simplicity of a blog comment, I encourage those who claim to have open minds to truly look at the world around them objectively and recognize how some concepts being taught in science are truly impossible.

Dave Grossman said...

I cannot begin to understand why you think evolution can be proven over ID

Evolution has been shown to be correct to a level of certainty that is likely on the order of 99.99%. This is based on mountains of evidence from Paleontology, Biology, Genetics and other fields of science. All the evidence points to evolution as having occurred and no evidence contradicts it. The ideas behind ID have not only not been proven to any degree of certainty. The entire argument seems to be that some aspects of life appears to be to complex to have been designed so therefore, it must have been God. Though, since they can't just say they think it's their "God" when it comes to legal challenges, they have to water it down and say that it is some unspecified intelligent agency. Yet, every ID proponent except for admitted crank, Berlinski, is a theist and believes it is their god who is the designer.

Can you not see the intellectual dishonesty here? Intelligent Design is not science. It should not be shoehorned into public schools as an acceptable alternative theory. It's not even a theory. It's a religious agenda masquerading as science. This has been established over and over again and is very well documented by the very people who continually deny it. Isn't there something in the Bible about not lying? I'm pretty sure there is.

And you guys wonder why we're so pissed off? It's the exasperation of trying to defend scientific principles against cdesign proponentsists when they don't even play by any civilized rules of scientific discourse. It's a travesty that any of this is even happening. So much time, effort and money having to be spent to keep "academic freedom" bills from allowing creationists teachers to cast doubt on evolution when no such doubt actually exists in the scientific community, ID proponents, not withstanding (I don't consider them to be part of the scientific community.)

scripto said...

"Henry Morris, a former evolutionist scientist...."

You mean this Henry Morris?...

" The only way we can tell the true age of the Earth is for God to tell us. And, since He has told us, very plainly, in the Holy Scriptures that it is several thousand years in age, and no more, that ought to settle all basic questions of terrestrial chronology."

Former scientist indeed. Don would be the expert on this, but I would think that Morris' statement is as idiotic theologically as it is scientifically.

Don Engebretson said...

>>Former scientist indeed. Don would be the expert on this, but I would think that Morris' statement is as idiotic theologically as it is scientifically.<<

It all depends on the theological position from which you come. If one holds a low view of scripture - human origin, not inspired, fallible, etc. - then yes, such a view would probably be seen as 'idiotic,' although I think that theologians would put it differently even if they disagreed. For many of the mainline protestant churches today (UCC, UM, ELCA, etc.) reconciling evolution with the Bible is not a problem since it is already assumed by many of their theologians that the Bible is often little more than ancient literature filled with exaggeration and superstition. The purpose of interpretations is to filter out the human part and see if there is anything genuine to the first century writers, although even that is often held suspect as it is compared with 21st century thinking (e.g. views on the role of women, etc.) This is the end result of the biblical interpretation methodology known as 'higher criticism' (form, redaction, etc.) The Roman Catholic church, mentioned in an earlier reply, also has many theologians who have adopted this methodology, although I don't think that the church, per se, has endorsed it on any official level.

For the more conservative denominations, such as the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (of which I am a member), there is a high view of scripture, which is considered, as an article of faith, to be the inspired and infallible word of God. The interpretive model used here is often called the 'historical-grammatical', which endeavors to understand the Bible as it is written in its original historical context by examining it in the original languages (Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic). Reason is considered a handmaiden of faith here, and so evolution presents an immediate problem from the very beginning.

Ex nihilo creation by an almighty creator is an article of faith for many Christians, and the only way to embrace evolution as it is normally presented requires the believer to begin by rejecting any literal interpretation of Genesis. Since evolution and not the Bible must be taken first, the Bible is reinterpreted to fit the former, meaning that words like day in Hebrew, which *normally* mean just that -a 24 hour day (although it can mean more than this) - are taken now to mean eons stretching into indeterminate periods of time. Adam and Eve are interpreted as symbolic of humanity and not real people. Now the real theological problem comes when you get to chapter 3 which deals with the doctrine of sin. For those who believe in a real historical savior (Jesus Christ), taking the Bible symbolically at this point and assuming that the event as portrayed didn't really exist, pretty much destroys any real doctrine of sin and salvation. For at what point does man become responsible for his actions? At what point in his so-called developmental stage? Is he not responsible in the intermediate stage, but fully responsible later? And what about Jesus himself who believed in the Fall account? Pretty much destroys his credibility too as God incarnate.

Obviously, the Genesis account, if taken in a highly symbolic fashion, cannot be authoritative in the area of holding man responsible and requiring redemption. The plan of salvation, as held by the conservative Christian, unravels immediately without a face-value interpretation of this book of scripture.

Despite what some have attempted, evolution cannot mesh with traditional Christianity without one or the other suffering change. Unfortunately, from the view-point of those like myself, it is the Bible that must acquiesce and change to fit the evolutionary model and not the other way around. To do so would mean, for me, a denial of everything I have publicly pledged myself as a minister of the Word.

So how do I reconcile these issues as a person who also wishes to be a learned and thinking individual respective of science and the advance of information?

At first, it would seem that I am given a choice - either embrace mainstream thinking (traditional evolution), or be labeled as another intellectual idiot. This would seem the only choice if there were not other models to choose from, and very learned people who defended them. Of course, this depends on how they are viewed by their peers, and thus the ongoing debate.

In my view, evolution, despite claims to the contrary, is not entirely without its own philosophical bias. Whether one agrees with ID or not, it cannot be denied that many things in nature betray a sense of order and complexity, to some degree even beyond that of our own advanced technology. To rule out a place for any higher source of design, other than mere chance or natural selection, is, in my opinion, to make a philosophic decision, not a scientific one.

I am also not convinced that science is fully effective in determining the past when the time sequence goes beyond our current known observations. They are having to make assumptions on things such as the rate of decay that may have been quite different in a time in which we were not there to observe. Assumptions and inferences are not wrong, but they should not be raised to the level of fact.

Although it is claimed in evolution that abiogenesis is not integral to the model (it can stand or fall without it), it would seem that it is. This is the ultimate hurdle, defining how animate life arises from inanimate matter. Where in all of our science today has such a claim been shown to be even remotely possible? I would think that if it could be proven - and replicated!!, not only would all claims of ID and creationism crumble into dust, but one would find the discovery of all time.

I have other issues with evolution as well, but this reply is already too long for a blog. But since you invoked me as a theologian, it seemed that this was my entry point back into the discussion.

Rachel E. said...

As a Christian, I agree with Henry Morris's statement. People may see that as idiotic, foolish, whatever, but that doesn't really negate from my faith so I couldn't care less.

But, as it's been said, that's invoking theology in a scientific debate. I'm a Christian and I haven't even gone there - and certainly one statement of faith from one former evolutionist is not enough to entirely downplay the legitimacy of ID.

I recognize, Dave, that you're pissed off. But why the anger? You're confident in the 99.99% certainty of your position, and that's great. If I was 99.99% certain of most I believe in, then I wouldn't have to deal with doubt, and criticism couldn't bother me too much, because that's a very precise number.

But as for me, I'm concerned with the 0.01%. It's easy to see a figure so close to 100% and be impressed and then forget that there's still room for error. Could it be that ID can explain where evolution cannot?

Even though I strongly disagree with evolution, I'm not willing to write it off as a lesser scientific community. I give it a chance every time I walk into a biology class and sit down. I think that evolutionists are very intelligent people who are excellent scientists. What I don't appreciate, however, is the apparent obstinacy of evolutionists to engage ID proponents as intellectual equals.

Until this very basic form of respect can be reached, it isn't even worth it to discuss it. I'm very used to being written off as some stupid kid who believes anything she is told. Well, if that was the truth, I would be believing every bit of evolution that was fed to me back in high school.

Unless ID is a scientific threat to evolution, it wouldn't even be touched; it would be written off in a very similar fashion. But it hasn't been written off. It's a raging debate everywhere, and people are even getting pissed off about it, despite the heightened certainty. This shows to me, at least, that perhaps there isn't absolute truth and non-truth in science as there is in religion, and ID must be examined and taken seriously as being a component in science.

scripto said...

Don

I like what the Dalai Lama said when asked what would he do if science proved to him that any of his beliefs were in error. He said he would have to change his beliefs. Hanging on to a literal interpretation of Genesis as Morris, Ken Ham, et al do is a doomed enterprise. Morris made an idiotic statement but he is no idiot. He is familiar with the evidence which either shows that he is capable of unprecedented feats of self delusion or that he is a liar. I've been following the antics of ICR, Answers in Genesis and lately the Discovery Institute for 25 years now. Any theist who is interested in the question of origins could keep better company.

I was raised a catholic (although I consider myself kind of a hopeful agnostic) and the question of evolution was never a big deal for the church. I've read some pretty sophisticated accomodations between faith and science. Here is one of the more interesting ones on Evolution and Original Sin.

A young earth creationist position is totally untenable. That would mean that the last 200 years of research in biology, geology, cosmology and physics is totally wrong. That hardly seems likely. And without a process or even a defined design event, Intelligent Design Theory (whatever that might mean), is no better.

Don Engebretson said...

Scripto,

The Dalai Lama is a Buddhist, and since Buddhism is a non-theistic religion, evolution poses little challenge to their ability to change their beliefs. My faith, OTOH, is theistic and dogmatic, and is dependent, as I mentioned before, on the belief in an inerrant and infallible Bible, which reveals a true deity.

The article you references notes:
"Science, through its explication of evolution, has made untenable the traditional form of that doctrine, which is based on a too-literal interpretation of Genesis 1-3. We now know beyond reasonable doubt that the "Adam" of "the Fall" was not responsible for introducing physical suffering and death into nature, nor was any other human being."

Unfortunately, when science endeavors to say that religious beliefs are "untenable" and that they, through the scientific method, have determined "beyond doubt" that parts of the Bible are in complete error, they set up an "either-or" situation for the Christian. Either you embrace evolution and the implications that come from that view (which essentially must eliminate any idea of transcendent deity which is outside the scope of scientific observation and inquiry), or you hang on to your beliefs. You can not have it both ways.

As an agnostic you also have the freedom to pick and choose what you wish without changing your belief system, such as it is. I cannot. I cannot pick and choose in a similar fashion. For my faith system is a cohesive system that stands or falls on the question of the veracity of its claims.

It is beyond the scope of a blog comment section to adequately debate the truth claims of any particular faith, so I won't endeavor to try and launch into an apologetic defense of Christianity (which I am sure you would prefer I not do anyway). As to the science in question, I do not discount the last 200 years of scientific inquiry. There is a lot of science outside of the immediate area of evolution, which I see as only one small part of the whole. I still believe that many scientists have allowed philosophic bias to color their interpretation of the facts. The facts stand for both camps; it's the way the data is interpreted and the inferences that are made, that is the issue, as I see it.

scripto said...

"I still believe that many scientists have allowed philosophic bias to color their interpretation of the facts. The facts stand for both camps; it's the way the data is interpreted and the inferences that are made, that is the issue, as I see it."

I'm sorry, but there aren't two camps. Not in science, anyway. The controversies concerning evolution revolve around matters of process, not whether it occurred. The idea of descent with modification, for all existing creatures including man, remains unchallenged. No narratives from YECs account for the fossil distibution or the distribution of existing life. We are offered lame ideas like the hydraulic action of a global flood dispersing fossils in a manner that curiously mimics evolutionary progressions, continental plates cruising around like ocean liners, and hyper-evolution on the order of new species every generation to account for the diversity arising from a very few created "kinds"? This isn't a clash of worldviews, it's a clash of reason and superstition. When I see the mental gymnastics that intelligent people will go through to protect an inherited worldview, I have no hope that reason will prevail.

In actual science wrong turns can be productive and being wrong is no crime, particularly if it is approached honestly. Creationists, young earth, old earth and the intelligent design variety, can not afford to be wrong. No amount of evidence (and there is a mountain of it)will ever change this. It's sad, because some of these people could have actually done something to advance human knowlege.

Rachel E. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Don Engebretson said...

>>The idea of descent with modification, for all existing creatures including man, remains unchallenged.<<

How much modification? Obviously there has been modification in living things, and still is today. Or are you talking here of the change/modification of one species into another? If that is true, there is a challenge by some scientists. But if one does not recognize the legitimacy of the counter argument in interpreting the facts, then one could say “unchallenged” - from one point of view.

>>We are offered lame ideas …<<

I do not recognize these “ideas” as representative of those believing in a special creation/ID (or at least the way they are presented in this case.) Is this a caricature of some views out there, or the way you see creationism in general?

>>This isn't a clash of worldviews, it's a clash of reason and superstition….<<

Thus, you would have to say that religion, in general, and belief in deity are merely superstition as well, and thus irrational- true?. If this is true, from your point of view, then why even attempt to reconcile religious views with prevailing scientific views (as proposed before), especially if the latter means the necessary modification of the former, thus making science define religion? Does this not eventually lead to the irrelevancy of religion altogether, or make it just an ethical system generally agreed upon by some on how to order a given society?

>>It's sad, because some of these people could have actually done something to advance human knowledge.<<

It is interesting that many scientists from the past who did believe in a world created by a divine being are credited with advancing human knowledge in a number of very critical scientific fields. Or is this also contested by current evolutionists as well?

scripto said...

"How much modification? Obviously there has been modification in living things, and still is today. Or are you talking here of the change/modification of one species into another?"

A lot and both. Descent with modification is the best explanation for the distribution in the fossil record. Life now is different from 10 million years ago which is different from 60 million years ago which is different from 160 million years ago..etc. Or even if you ignore the well supported data concerning the ages of the different strata you are still faced with the problem of the distribution in the strata. People are not found with dinosaurs.

"If that is true, there is a challenge by some scientists. But if one does not recognize the legitimacy of the counter argument in interpreting the facts, then one could say “unchallenged” - from one point of view."

I'm sorry, Don but what scientists? There is a reason the ID people have retreated into their own insular world and the creationists have seen fit to open their own museum and publish their own "journals" and it is not because of some Darwinian conspiracy. They simply can't compete.

"Thus, you would have to say that religion, in general, and belief in deity are merely superstition as well, and thus irrational- true?. If this is true, from your point of view, then why even attempt to reconcile religious views with prevailing scientific views (as proposed before), especially if the latter means the necessary modification of the former, thus making science define religion? Does this not eventually lead to the irrelevancy of religion altogether, or make it just an ethical system generally agreed upon by some on how to order a given society?"

Well, that would be your chain of logic, not mine. Obviously there is a world full of Christians who disagree with you. I object to religion defining science and I don't believe science can contribute much to the innate human search for meaning.

Don Engebretson said...

>>I'm sorry, Don but what scientists? There is a reason the ID people have retreated into their own insular world and the creationists have seen fit to open their own museum and publish their own "journals" and it is not because of some Darwinian conspiracy. They simply can't compete.<<

I could certainly produce a list of scientists who believe in a divine creation or intelligent design (they are not hard to find), but I realize that this would be fruitless for this discussion if these men and their work were automatically discounted because of their views. Is there even one scientist who supports ID or divine creation that is taken seriously in the evolutionary community? It would appear that any work done by such proponents of creation are not recognized in the evolutionary community as legitimate science at all. One evolutionist wrote that a “problem for evolutionists is the tendency to dismiss elements of the Creationist model automatically, without even attempting to disprove it via the scientific method. This reactionary approach is counter-productive as it undermines the logic that is supposed to drive evolutionist thinking. And while evidence in many instances does favour (sic)the evolutionist perspective, in other instances it is difficult, at present, to make a solid claim either way.” Again, this was written by one who supports and defends evolution as a scientist.

>>I object to religion defining science and I don't believe science can contribute much to the innate human search for meaning.<<

I also do not believe that the purpose of science is to answer the question of meaning in life. As an agnostic, what would answer this question for you?

scripto said...

Well, it is up to the creationists to develope a theory to account for the evidence. Special creation at one time simply doesn't work. Unless they propose an endless series of special creations that happen to mimic an evolutionary process. ID is even worse, as it offers no process at all. Evolutionary theory is required to form hypotheses, test for predictions and account for the evidence in a coherent narrative. The literature is full of this. There is nothing comparable for Special Creation and Intelligent Design. It is a simple matter to do a pub med search and see for yourself where the work is being done. As I said before, creationism isn't being shut out, there is just nothing to test. They are not in the same game.

I'm not a real deep thinker so I guess living is meaning enough. Maybe my god gene is malfunctioning but I'm don't feel like I require anything more. I get satisfaction out of life the same way most of us, atheists, agnostics and believers do: working, raising a family, arguing on the internet.... That's what I meant by a hopeful agnostic (sometimes I'm even a praying agnostic, if you can believe that). I don't see any reason to believe that there is more to it than what we have in this life and that we can carry on beyond the grave but I kind of hope I'm wrong.