"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Monday, November 14, 2005

Debate And Switch

What is a small club like this for if not to have a convivial place in which to let off some steam?

In this context, I would like to comment about the debate in the Kansas school board about whether Intelligent Design should be afforded some diminutive mention in the science curriculum. The strategy of those who would deny the right to mention that "some believe that only intelligent design can explain such a high level of systematization" is to say that there are no serious scientists who believe such a thing. They say that one cannot legitimately make reference to the debate between random evolution and intelligent design because no such debate exists. We all recall Ted Koppel's breathless report that his staff had polled ten heads of Biology departments in universities and not one acknowledged that such a debate exists among legitimate scientists.

After a telephone conversation today with a friend who was parroting that position - a conversation in which I uncharacteristically blew a gasket - it occurred to me that I could vent in this venue my true thoughts and feelings. So, if the members of the Reform Club will forgive me, I will address my next remarks to these activists:

You f***ing liars. You outright frauds. You miserable creeps. To stand up there and pretend that the only legitimate scientific position in positing the origin of staggeringly complex organisms with trillions of interactive components is random non-systematic mutations modified only by the fact that the flawed ones are likely to burn themselves out?

It's one thing to pick that as the better choice in the debate. My side says that you can't create a thing with trillions of components and geometrically compounded amounts of possible permutations. And if you could get one with all the parts just right, there would still be plenty of intermediate ones that could survive. Your side says that it is reasonable to assume that all the guys without eyebrows died out, the ones without armpit hair, the ones with one eye, the ones with one nostril, the ones with one testicle, the ones without male nipples; none of them could endure the grueling survival-of-the-fittest reality show. (Survivor MMDDCCLLXXVIII was especially exciting, when they voted the males without nipples off the island into the sea.)

If the audience determines that you have the better argument, you win. If mine prevails, then I win.

But to say there is no f***ing debate? To say that no sane person can make a scientific argument for the existence of design, system, structure, plan? What total garbage! What absolute tommyrot, bilge and poppycock! Shame on you for your lack of elemental academic integrity.

Pfui!

Thanks. I feel better now.

18 comments:

Hunter Baker said...

Jay, the interesting thing about this debate is how the other side conducts it. They basically spend all their time trying to win through intimidation rather than by engaging the core arguments.

Thus, we hear about heads of departments, the number of scientists named Steve who endorse the Darwinian theory, etc. We don't hear much refutation of the primary critique because there isn't much there.

Jay D. Homnick said...

Which is what was pissing me off here: instead of doing the debate, we have to do the pre-debate debate about whether there is enough debatable to justify scheduling the actual debate.

Grrrrr!

tbmbuzz said...

Hunter Baker's comment can be perfectly turned around to describe the I.D./creationist crowd and it would be much more apt as a result. The "debate" here boils down to what exactly is science and the scientific method. The I.D. proponents wish to change the definition of science to include their beliefs based on faith. Wishing don't make it so.

Hunter Baker said...

I'm pretty sure you don't understand the nature of the arguments being made, Buzz. Either that or you are doing what Jay accuses the other side of doing, which is to center the debate on whether there should be a debate rather than having a debate!

tbmbuzz said...

In that case, Hunter, why don't we include astrology and alchemy and flat earth theory also in this "debate"? Your assertion that "the other side" uses invidious tactics against the poor, innocent, only-interested-in-truth I.D. proponents frankly rings extremely hollow. The scientific community has consistently engaged in the core debate. It is the scientific community which is under attack, not the other way around. What we see today are attempts to LEGISLATE science. For shame!

Hunter Baker said...

Buzz, I have zero interest in "legislating science." I've written a lengthy paper sent out for future publication in which I recommend exactly the opposite course.

However, I remain seriously unimpressed by the unwillingness of proponents of the dominant theory to engage in real debate instead of attitude and intimidation. I'm not a scientist and have never pretended to be one, but I can tell when someone is trying to win an argument dishonestly rather than honestly. That clearly seems to be the case here.

tbmbuzz said...

HB: "...I can tell when someone is trying to win an argument dishonestly rather than honestly. That clearly seems to be the case here. "


OK, this may be true, but it's true for both sides! Perhaps scientists are simply sick and tired of being forced to repeat the same arguments over and over again. :)

connie deady said...

Well, I think you rather miss the point science is science and religion is religion.

I wonder why people on your side get so worked up over something that seems crystal freaking clear to me. Scientifically there is no debate about evolution. To deny science is just whacked IMO. How evolution relates to what the bible teaches is to me the real issue. I have no problem debating it and even reconciling it, but as tbm says, ID is not science, it's religion.

But if you enjoy living in the past, so be it.

Bubba said...

Ok, since I WAS a Science major, not a Literature or a PolySci major as it appears most of those who post are, please let me ramble on for a minute.

The "Scientific Method" starts with a hypothesis, and tries to systematically go about to prove or disprove the hypothesis. “Science” is publishing your conclusions, along with your methods and materials, so that other “scientists” may review and prove or disprove your work with their own work, thus creating an open debate. “Science” relies upon “laws” (e.g., Gravity, Thermodynamics, Motion) which have come to be relied upon as fact after multitudes of experiments and an innumerable number of blackboards of mathematical equations seem to be able to describe and predict the outcome of experiments relative to these “laws”.

OK, where am I headed?

The statement was made “Scientifically there is no debate about evolution”. Balderdash. Go read some scientific journals. Open up a “Chemistry (or Physics) For Dummies” book. Use some intellectual integrity to subject your beliefs and theories to serious scrutiny.

Evolution is a theory that has been propounded, promulgated, and legislated without the accompaniment of hard scientific experimentation and data. In fact, the theory of Evolution is believable only after one has blinded one’s self to laws of Science which have been overwhelmingly proven and been accepted as fact for hundreds of years, such as Newton’s laws of thermodynamics, and the definitions of Entropy and Enthalpy. Alternatively, there is no debate about the veracity of Evolution only if debate has been outlawed in the public forum, or the debaters are shouted down or called “religious extremists” by those who are afraid that open, honest SCIENTIFIC debate would not substantiate their pet theory.

Q: Where did the large molecules come from?
A: They were put together from small molecules after having been zapped with solar radiation.

Q: Where did the small molecules come from?
A: Energy fused micro-molecules together.

Q: Where did the micro-molecules come from?
A: Nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms.

Q: Where did the Nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms come from (since “Matter is neither created nor destroyed”)?
A: (no answer)

Q: Where did the solar radiation or the energy required to overcome the laws of Entropy come from?
A: (no answer)

The statement was made: “…I have no problem debating it and even reconciling it, but as tbm says, ID is not science, it's religion…”

It is clear that to believe in the theory of Evolution as though it had been proven factually has become such a matter of complete 'faith', and is no less 'a religion' for its believers than the Evolutionists accuse those who believe in Intelligent Design, or “Heaven” forbid, those who believe in the Bibical account of Creation of having.

Hunter Baker said...

The whole "science is science" and "religion is religion" argument is stale. The proponents of ID are presenting a critique of the Darwinian theory. They aren't saying, "Well, the book of Genesis says . . ." Instead, they are saying, "This can't happen for such and such reason" or "the claims Darwinists make conflict with what we observe here and here." These aren't religious statements.

Jay D. Homnick said...

Wow, Bubba, I hope you get back here to read this: I want to thank you in the warmest way for your contribution. You put a great deal of time and effort into it; I am truly grateful.

This, I think, was what the Creator of blogging had in mind...

mdvoutlook.com said...

Amen, Brother Homnick. My sentiments exactly. This needs to said, and just as forecfully over and over and over again. Thanks.

James Elliott said...

Bubba, for all your "scientific" critique, you make a fundamental mistake, the same one that all the IDers make: To call into question aspects of evolution is not to make an argument for intelligent design. You have pointed out things that science does not yet have the answers to. To say that we don't have the answers to something and to say that the theory can't explain them simply because we can't observe them yet is a false conclusion, and one that should be beaten out of all philosophers and scientists by their intellectual rigor and honesty - unless they willingly forego them for ideology.

Furthermore, by the very standards of science you point out, intelligent design cannot be a part of the scientific debate: it can be neither tested nor observed.

Intelligent design has interesting theological and philosophical implications. But until some IDer comes up with scientifically testable and peer-reviewed evidence, that is where it will remain.

Jay, there is no f***ing debate because there is no way for ID to be science. It's so sixth-grade biology class I can't comprehend how you can't grasp it without it being deliberate and dishonest.

tbmbuzz said...

Bravo, James! You pointed out ID's fundamental flaw. As you say, ID claims that because science (i.e. the theory of evolution) cannot explain something (yet), therefore the explanation MUST be supernatural. Other than this explanation ID has nothing to offer, no scientific theory of its own. ID is intellectual bankruptcy at its finest and furthermore is simply boring. ID begins with complexity - a Supreme Being - and ends there. This is not an explanation, it is a last resort. (Never mind trying to explain the physical manifestations and phenomena perpetrated by this alleged supernatural Being onto this physical, observable Universe). Everything that's complicated or interesting about biology has a very simple explanation: "ID did it." Intellectual - and scientific - baloney, pure and simple!

Bubba said...

“Furthermore, by the very standards of science you point out, intelligent design cannot be a part of the scientific debate: it can be neither tested nor observed.”

You mean you have actually SEEN various stages of hominids walking down the street? (I mean other than perhaps an Al Quida operative or a Palestinian suicide bomber?) Have you ever seen new bird, insect, plant spontaneously appear in your backyard from one week to another? Since we are depleting the atmosphere of its protective Ozone layer at an ever increasing rate, we are becoming less and less protected from the magical cosmic radiation that is supposed to be making these changes.

Oh, these changes come on gradually.

I see, well, neither my father nor my grandfather ever mentioned seeing “something new under the sun” from the time they were boys until now.

Oh, these changes take thousands, perhaps millions of years to occur.

I see, well, it’s been less than 200 years since ole Chucky set sail and landed in the Galapagos so I guess there hasn’t been time for any of these species changes to occur yet.

Doesn’t this mean that Evolution “can be neither tested or observed”??

Sorry folks, I do not see any difference between Evolution, Intelligent Design or Creation. It takes "faith" to believe any of these.

tbmbuzz said...

Bubba, it seems that you are confusing hypothesis with theory and do not quite understand the narrow definition of what a theory is in the scientific sense. One does not need actual hands on experimental evidence to promote a hypothesis to a theory. For instance, no one has ever observed (much less experimented with in a lab) a black hole, yet no modern physicist questions the existence of black holes today.

Evolution is a theory supported by evidence from such disparate fields as paleontology, geology, genetics, and astronomy.

From an essay by Ker Than, Livescience staff writer:

"But what exactly is a scientific theory? Is ID a theory? Isn't evolution only a theory? If both ID and evolution are scientific theories, why should one be taught and not the other?

"A large part of the confusion stems from the fact that there is a big difference between how the word "theory" is used in science and how it is used in ordinary conversation. A hunch, conjecture or an educated guess can become a hypothesis. But a theory is much more.

"In science, a theory is an explanation that binds together various experimentally tested hypotheses to explain some fundamental aspect of nature. For an idea to qualify as a scientific theory, it must be established on the basis of a wide variety of scientific evidence. Its claims must be testable and it must propose experiments that can be replicated by other scientists.

"'[Evolution is] a theory in a special philosophical sense of science, but in terms of ordinary laymen's use of language, it's a fact,' said Richard Dawkins, a biologist from Oxford University, in a recent radio interview. 'Evolution is a fact in the same sense that it's a fact that the Earth is round and not flat, [that] the Earth goes round the Sun. Both those are also theories, but they're theories that have never been disproved and never will be disproved.'

"It is about as sensible to doubt that evolution occurs as it is to doubt that gravity exists, scientists say.

"On Earth, release an apple and it will fall towards the planet. This is a fact, and the theory that explains this phenomenon is the current theory of gravity.

"Similarly, all living organisms share a common ancestry. This is a fact, supported not only by the visible similarities in body structures among organisms, but more powerfully, by evidence from genetics. The theory that best explains these similarities is evolution.

"ID, on the other hand, is not a theory. It is a hypothesis, but it is not even a scientific hypothesis because there is no way to experimentally verify its central claim that a Supreme Being intervened in the creation of life on Earth.

"Like religion, ID is a belief. And while many people take their religion as fact, science would go nowhere if it operated that way. Many of the great discoveries—from disease cures to advanced technologies and trips to the Moon—would never have been possible without the rigorous scientific process that carefully distinguishes between belief and testable fact."

James Elliott said...

You mean you have actually SEEN various stages of hominids walking down the street? (I mean other than perhaps an Al Quida operative or a Palestinian suicide bomber?)

Bravo. You've managed to engage in both sophistry and an ad hominem attack all in one!

Have you ever seen new bird, insect, plant spontaneously appear in your backyard from one week to another? Since we are depleting the atmosphere of its protective Ozone layer at an ever increasing rate, we are becoming less and less protected from the magical cosmic radiation that is supposed to be making these changes.

Wow. Did your "science" degree include the word "junk" or "waste management?" Because that's the crux of this incredible inability to grasp what you supposedly are arguing about.

Oh, these changes come on gradually.

I see, well, neither my father nor my grandfather ever mentioned seeing “something new under the sun” from the time they were boys until now.

Oh, these changes take thousands, perhaps millions of years to occur.

I see, well, it’s been less than 200 years since ole Chucky set sail and landed in the Galapagos so I guess there hasn’t been time for any of these species changes to occur yet.

Doesn’t this mean that Evolution “can be neither tested or observed”??

Sorry folks, I do not see any difference between Evolution, Intelligent Design or Creation. It takes "faith" to believe any of these.


Yep, I think sophistry just about covers it. Didn't you take any anthropology classes? The fossil record is a pretty good indication such processes exist. I can't see the speed of light (I'm no physicist), nor can I see continental drift or stellar drift, but we know they occur by examining records. Anthropologists, geologists, astronomers, mathematicians, and physicists will all have to take umbrage with you here.

Hunter Baker said...

The fossil record is the big problem, James. There is no explanation of why new species come into being fully formed and complex. Consider the Cambrian explosion, when a flurry of new creatures show up with no predecessors and no further major changes ahead.