Monday, August 15, 2005

Charles Darwin, Call Your Office

Kudos to Time Magazine for the remarkable fairness of their issue on Evolution vs. Intelligent Design. I can assure you that such a thing was not possible ten and twenty years ago. Indeed it convinces me that talk radio and the blogs are making a real impact on pushing the media dinosaurs toward more balanced presentations.

Astoundingly praiseworthy is the forum on pages 34 and 35. They allow four brilliant individuals, three of whom believe in God, to present their personal assessment of religion and evolution. Each one is given enough space to offer a cogent and well-written exposition of a viewpoint. To prove how truly open and fair this was, I should note that one of the four is Michael Behe, the man who is pointedly excluded from the leftward-rigged forums, as Hunter Baker has observed.

Even the main article is remarkably close to being down-the-middle. A few coded stink bombs are thrown in to appease the New York crowd (like mentioning that Behe has nine children and home-schools them), but it is quite balanced and informative.

And since the Darwin Wars are heating up, this might be a good time to reread my widely quoted and reprinted battle plan, written at the beginning of this year.


Tlaloc said...

from the article you wrote:

"Namely, that there are essentially two separate theories advanced by Darwin. The first is that the process of the world attaining its current form was characterized by evolutionary transitions in its phasing, which built themselves into permanence by providing in each instance a fitter form or functionality. The second is the idea that this could have happened by itself without a conscious design."

Bull. The second part is nothing to do with evolution. Science deals with how things work not the why. Living things evolve. Whether they do so because of some creator or due to impersonal forces is not a scientific question.

You are right though this is about a power grab, you just identified it incorrectly. Religion looks jealously toward the concrete advances of science and covets the same respect. SO it tries to sieze the mantle of true scientific endeavor to cover it's millenial old superstition.

James Elliott said...

I've seen some interesting pieces lately in The New Republic and the LA Times on Intelligent Design. The general gist, and one I agree with, is that ID is not a solution to a scientific quandary, but rather a religious one.

Intelligent design is the attempt to reconcile a belief in science with a belief in Scripture, pure and simple. You see, science puts the lie to Scripture as literal truth. This places doubt on faith. What is the faithful person to do?

ID is the attempt to reconcile creationism with modern scientific thought. It's not even science, but it's bad theology:

As Luke Timothy Johnson said, "God's self-disclosure in creation, therefore, is not like the traces of the watchmaker in his watch. God is revealed in the world first of all not through the 'whatness' of things but through the 'isness' of things. That anything exists at all is the primordial mystery that points us to God."

ID is really no solution at all. Not for scientists, and not for the religious. In today's modern world, it's just a shot in the dark at the "wishing makes it so" sort of thinking.

Hunter Baker said...

James, I'm guessing you've read zero from the leaders in ID. Your comment reveals no knowledge whatsover of the contentions made. Religion is not the ballgame here. It's a beneficiary, but not the main point at all. The presence of design doesn't necessarily mean God.

Tlaloc said...

Come on hunter, that's a joke. Religion is most assuredly the point. Creationism failed so they retooled it as ID. Does anyone honestly believe that the ID demogogues (dembski, behe, etc) are arguing for life having been started by aliens? Of course not. When they say designer they mean God and only God.

What's amazing is that they'd make this claim. With all the data we have about the myriad ways we are biologically programmed to be violent, racist, and generally bastards it's amazing that christians would think pointing the finger for all this mess at God was a good idea. The only sure conclusion from the "argument from design" is that if God did do it he's a jerk of the first order. Of course you already knew that if you are a biblical literalist. The literal God of the Bible is no one I'd want to have a beer with much less worship.

Hunter Baker said...

Read Behe's book "Darwin's Black Box" and get back to me. It hasn't been refuted yet and I don't suspect it will be. And I don't mean go find several people saying Behe is wrong. Read it and confront his argument and his evidence for yourself. Otherwise, this discussion is pointless.

Tlaloc said...

Hunter, Behe's book rests on the idea of irreducible complexity, which as used in this manner has indeed been shown to be false (i.e. yes it has been refuted thoroughly and repeatedly). It's the old argument about eye evolution and the false claim that it couldn't happen. Would you like to try again?

Tlaloc said...

I foyu'd like an example of how Behe's book has been refuted look at this:

The assertion that cellular machines are irreducibly complex, and therefore provide proof of design, has not gone unnoticed by the scientific community. A number of detailed rebuttals have appeared in the literature, and many have pointed out the poor reasoning of recasting the classic argument from design in the modern language of biochemistry (Coyne 1996; Miller 1996; Depew 1998; Thornhill and Ussery 2000). I have suggested elsewhere that the scientific literature contains counter-examples to any assertion that evolution cannot explain biochemical complexity (Miller 1999, 147), and other workers have addressed the issue of how evolutionary mechanisms allow biological systems to increase in information content (Schneider 2000; Adami, Ofria, and Collier 2000).

The most powerful rebuttals to the flagellum story, however, have not come from direct attempts to answer the critics of evolution. Rather, they have emerged from the steady progress of scientific work on the genes and proteins associated with the flagellum and other cellular structures. Such studies have now established that the entire premise by which this molecular machine has been advanced as an argument against evolution is wrong – the bacterial flagellum is not irreducibly complex. As we will see, the flagellum – the supreme example of the power of this new "science of design" – has failed its most basic scientific test. Remember the claim that "any precursor to an irreducibly complex system that is missing a part is by definition nonfunctional?" As the evidence has shown, nature is filled with examples of "precursors" to the flagellum that are indeed "missing a part," and yet are fully-functional. Functional enough, in some cases, to pose a serious threat to human life.

Click here to read more.

And yes I even read Dembski's response to "The Flagellum Unspun" and typical for Dembski it's completely off target and full of deceptions.

Tlaloc said...

Oh and lastly the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) also does a good job of demolishing Behe's adaptation of the pocket watch argument.

see here

Hunter Baker said...

Again, read Behe. I'll wait till you read Behe.

Francis J. Beckwith said...

I can only speak for myself. But prior to my law school work on ID, I had very little interest in the whole origins stuff. In fact, when I spoke at evangelical churches I purposely dodged questions about evolution, simply because I was sympathetic to theistic evolution and didn't care much for engaging the issue. So, for me, the retooling of Creationism carnard makes no sense, historically or conceptually.

I know that some of the ID guys--including Dembski, Meyer, Johnson, and Behe--come from similar backgrounds, and have little if any prior connection to the creationist movement outlined in Ron Numbers' works, for example. Clearly, some of these folks run in the same circles; but that is also true of the other side, whose ciricles overlap humanist, atheist, and freethinker communities. So, I think the NCSE narrative of ID being retooled creationism is paranoid nonsense.

The other problem is that most of the critics of ID are what I call "Protestant" skeptics. What I mean by that is that they don't think there's such a thing as natural theology. So, if let's say in a secular venue Bill Dembski defends ID but claims he cannot demonstrate the identity of the designer, but in a church venue he claims the designer is God, the critics say "gotcha." But, here a little Aquinas should help. According to Thomas, there are some truths that may be proven only by reason--the facts of chemistry, e.g. There are some truths that may be only known by faith--e.g., the doctrine of the Trinity. And there are some truths that may be known by both faith and reason--e.g., the existence of God. So, when Bill is in a secular venue--one which does not accept the truths only known by special revelation--he sticks only to those truths that can be only known by reason while not addressing the revelatory aspect of those truths that can be known by faith as well. However, when he is in a church venue--one which does accept the truths known by faith--then he brings that data into the picture.

All that Dembski is being is a good Thomist. But since the ID skeptics don't believe that in principle theological claims can arise from rational arguments, these distinctions are not even on their conceptual rader. My suggestion is that they become acquainted with the tradition they are dissing rather than relying on Isaac Asminov's Guide to Religion or some crap like that.

Tlaloc said...

"Again, read Behe. I'll wait till you read Behe."

Why would I waste time reading arguments already thoroughly discredited?

Locke said...

Listen Dr. Beckwith, these guys wouldn't know who Ronald Numbers was if he bought 'em a drink. They're functionally illiterate in this debate. (Hear the sound of them desperately doing a quick google search?)

Tlaloc said...

What's with all the spam?

James Elliott said...

Debate, Locke? When was the last time you actually wrote down some facts and tried to have an intellectual discourse? You're more of the "pithy comment to back up what I believe/Must ignore rebuttal that shreds my beliefs" kind of guy.

James Elliott said...

The problem with your argument, Dr. Beckwith, is that you assume once having read Aquinas et al., we will AGREE with his basic conclusions. They're interesting, but what if we don't AGREE? By your logic then, we aren't allowed to express dissenting opinion?

What do you do when some members of both sides believe that the very APPROACH of their opponent is flawed?

James Elliott said...

Thanks for deleting the spam.

Francis J. Beckwith said...

James. If you would read with a charitable eye, you will gain understanding. Reread what I wrote. All I was saying was that critics of ID tend to be "Protestant" in their understanding of natural theology, and for that reason they come to this issue with an epistemological grid that prevents them from considering the possibility that there are a cluster of beliefs that are both the deliverances of faith and reason. I did not say that Aquinas was correct (though I believe he is). All that I am suggesting is that he may be right, and that possibility should give pause to lesser minds such as ours who tend to confuse technological sophistication with actual wisdom.

It is interesting that you suggest that reading someone and not being convinced proves that the text is somehow flawed. Could it be that the reader is? After all, ID supporters who read defenses of philosophical materiailsm as a necessary condition for doing science and are not convinced of the arguments they read are told that the readers, and not the texts, are flawed, This seems like an instance of special pleading.

Since I read your suggestion and was not convinced, I can reject it on its own grounds.

SCR said...

Evolution is a sideshow. The only germane issue is the invalidity of the concept of 'spontaneous generation'.