Sunday, August 28, 2005

US goes ape over evolution

This editorial on ID appeared in last Saturday's The Weekend Australian. It mentions a number of articles about (mostly against) ID, which I had considered posting and commenting on, so this saves me time by its summarising of them. My comments are in square brackets.

US goes ape over evolution

AFTER a century of seeing off the doubters, Darwinism is once again the subject of intense debate, this time by critics who say the world is too complex to be explained by a theory that says human beings are descended from apes. In the blue corner is evolution, while in the red corner crouches intelligent design, or neo-creo, as it is called by some opponents of the gathering push to have it taught in US schools alongside Charles Darwin's tried and tested theory, which dates back to his 1859 book On the Origin of Species.
[I wonder how many (if any) of these editors and journalists who pontificate on about "Charles Darwin's tried and tested theory ... [in] his 1859 book On the Origin of Species, have ever read it! It is indeed a "tried and tested theory," but found wanting! Here is what the eminent French zoologist Pierre Grassé wrote about Darwin's explanation of the eye:
"Our study will concentrate on the eye, the genesis of which is a major challenge to evolutionists. ... Charles Darwin ... recognized the weaknesses of his theory, which are increasingly apparent today. We are not surprised, then, to read in a letter to his friend the botanist Asa Gray: `To this day the eye makes me shudder, but when I think of the fine known gradations, my reason tells me I ought to conquer my fear' (Darwin, 1888. p.273, letter to Asa Gray, February 1860). We fully understand Darwin's fears and wonder what they would have been, had he been confronted with the anatomical and cytological complexity that is revealed by modern biology; he would have been even more worried had he known that selection cannot create anything on its own. .... The problem is to know whether random mutations could have given rise to an organ requiring, because of its complexity, a considerable number of data for its elaboration. The number of mutations must have been enormous for adequate ones to occur at a given point, by chance and to enable the organ to function. we need not belabor the diversity of the transparent parts, on the relationships between the intraocular fluid (aqueous humor) and the venous system (Schlemm's canal), among others. The complexity of the retina, of the sheaths, etc., need not detain us either; all this is extremely well known, but we must say that no recent publication inspired by Darwinism even mentions it. In 1860 Darwin considered only the eye, but today he would have to take into consideration all the cerebral connections of the organ. The retina is indirectly connected to the striated zone of the occipital lobe of the cerebral hemispheres: Specialized neurons correspond to each one of its parts-perhaps even to each one of its photoreceptor cells. The connection between the fibers of the optic nerve and the neurons of the occipital lobe in the geniculate body is absolutely perfect. The processes of the axons the outgrowths of the dendrites, and the connections with corresponding elements are so precisely laid out in time and space that as a rule everything works perfectly. In fact, the picture we have just sketched is even more complex; we did not consider the molecular structure which shows as many peculiarities of adaptation as the macrostructure (the subtleties of which were sometimes mistaken for imperfections; see Ivanoff, 1953), and we have neglected entirely the chemistry of a complex organ capable of multiple adjustments." (Grasse P.-P., "Evolution of Living Organisms Evidence for a New Theory of Transformation," [1973], Academic Press: New York NY, 1977, pp.104-105. My elipses)
The fact is that neither Darwin, nor his followers, have ever provided a detailed explanation of its origin of the eye, or in fact any "organ of extreme perfection and complication" (to use Darwin's own words) by the natural selection of random (unguided) mutations.]
Eighty years after the Scopes "monkey" trial in Tennessee left creationism with a bloody nose, the debate over evolution and its place in the classroom - traditionally a no-go zone for religion - gained new impetus recently when President George W. Bush said that "both sides ought to be properly taught ... so people can understand what the debate is about". The tremendous kicking Mr Bush received in the US media gave George Monbiot, writing in The Guardian, hope that "all is not lost in America". [The reference to "the Scopes `monkey'" is apt, because both it and "The tremendous kicking Mr Bush received in the US media" were contrived by the same evolutionist "US media." But for ID, the old newspaper adage, "any publicity is good publicity," applies. The more the media mentions ID (even if it be by way of ridicule and attack), the more the public will want ID taught! BTW, the editor did not mention the title of Monbiot's article in The Guardian, "A life with no purpose: Darwinism implies that the only eternal life we have is in the recycling of our atoms. I find that comforting." An example of Alfred North Whitehead's "interesting subject for study," namely a "Scientist... animated by the purpose of proving that they are purposeless":
"Yet the trained body of physiologists under the influence of the ideas germane to their successful methodology entirely ignore the whole mass of adverse evidence. We have here a colossal example of anti-empirical dogmatism arising from a successful methodology. Evidence which lies outside the method simply does not count. We are, of course, reminded that the neglect of this evidence arises from the fact that it lies outside the scope of the methodology of the science. That method consists in tracing the persistence of the physical and chemical principles throughout physiological operations. The brilliant success of this method is admitted. But you cannot limit a problem by reason of a method of attack. The problem is to understand the operations of an animal body. There is clear evidence that certain operations of certain animal bodies depend upon the foresight of an end and the purpose to attain it. It is no solution of the problem to ignore this evidence because other operations have been explained in terms of physical and chemical laws. The existence of a problem is not even acknowledged. It is vehemently denied. Many a scientist has patiently designed experiments for the purpose of substantiating his belief that animal operations are motivated by no purposes. He has perhaps spent his spare time in writing articles to prove that human beings are as other animals so that `purpose' is a category irrelevant for the explanation of their bodily activities, his own activities included. Scientists animated by the purpose of proving that they are purposeless constitute an interesting subject for study." (Whitehead A.N., "The Function of Reason," Louis Clark Vanuxem Foundation Lectures, Princeton University, March 1929, p.16).]
"The Christian Taliban have not yet won," he wrote. "But they are gaining on us." [It is significant that Monbiot and his ilk use the term "Christian Taliban" of ID. That indicates their resistance to ID is not primarily scientific, but moral, i.e. they fear that if the public came to accept ID, then they might also be more likely to accept Christian purposefull moral values and reject Monbiot et al.'s non-Christian purposeless moral values. This confirms Ben Wiker's point that "every distinct view of the universe entails a view of morality, and every distinct view of morality needs a cosmology to support it":
"Could it be that much of the impetus keeping materialism as the reigning view of science today is, as it was with Epicurus, moral in origin, both in the broader and in the more confined sense? I believe, in many cases, that it is. To be blunt, materialists often suppress (or simply dismiss) evidence of intelligent design because, consciously or unconsciously, they realize that the Epicurean moral world they comfortably inhabit (for it was Epicurus's goal to make the world comfortable) would be completely undermined if materialist cosmology were overthrown by intelligent design. In this materialists rightly embrace that most fundamental law mentioned in the introduction, that every distinct view of the universe entails a view of morality, and every distinct view of morality needs a cosmology to support it. Many materialists therefore rightly fear the intelligent design revolution because they realize that a moral revolution necessarily follows upon it. If an intelligent designer exists, then a divinely mandated moral code for which we are accountable might exist. If an intelligent designer is not part of nature, and hence is not material, then he could have created other immaterial entities such as the immortal and immaterial soul. If the immortal soul exists and God exists, and he mandates a moral code, then heaven and hell might exist. If heaven and hell exist and God exists, then we might, be held accountable for actions that are mandated or prohibited. All of this is quite disturbing, and materialists rightly fear it. Those who wish to be freed from it realize that materialism remains the therapeutic cure." (Wiker B.D., "Moral Darwinism: How We Became Hedonists," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 2002, pp.56-57)
And this further use of the ad hominem fallacy will backfire on the evolutionists, as the public increasingly realize that the ID movement is simply proposing a scientific theory that there is empirical evidence for design in nature:
"Design theory-also called design or the design argument-is the view that nature shows tangible signs of having been designed by a preexisting intelligence. It has been around, in one form or another, since the time of ancient Greece. The most famous version of the design argument can be found in the work of theologian William Paley, who in 1802 proposed his "watchmaker" thesis ... Paley argued that we can draw the same conclusion about many natural objects, such as the eye. Just as a watch’s parts are all perfectly adapted for the purpose of telling time, the parts of an eye are all perfectly adapted for the purpose of seeing. In each case, Paley argued, we discern the marks of an intelligent designer. Although Paley’s basic notion was sound, and influenced thinkers for decades, Paley never provided a rigorous standard for detecting design in nature. Detecting design depended on such vague standards as being able to discern an object’s "purpose." Moreover, Paley and other "natural theologians" tried to reason from the facts of nature to the existence of a wise and benevolent God. All of these things made design an easy target for Charles Darwin when he proposed his theory of evolution. Whereas Paley saw a finely-balanced world attesting to a kind and just God, Darwin pointed to nature’s imperfections and brutishness. ... Following the triumph of Darwin’s theory, design theory was all but banished from biology. Since the 1980s, however, advances in biology have convinced a new generation of scholars that Darwin’s theory was inadequate to account for the sheer complexity of living things. These scholars-chemists, biologists, mathematicians and philosophers of science—began to reconsider design theory. They formulated a new view of design that avoids the pitfalls of previous versions. Called intelligent design (ID), to distinguish it from earlier versions of design theory (as well as from the naturalistic use of the term design), this new approach is more modest than its predecessors. Rather than trying to infer God’s existence or character from the natural world, it simply claims `that intelligent causes are necessary to explain the complex, information-rich structures of biology and that these causes are empirically detectable' [Dembski W.A., "Intelligent Design," InterVarsity: Downer’s Grove IL, 1999, p.106]." (Hartwig M., "What is Intelligent Design?," Frequently Asked Questions about Intelligent Design, Access Research Network, 2003. My ellipses)
Again, evolutionists' routine use of "dishonorable methods" in support of evolution will indicate to increasing numbers of the public that evolutionists are "afraid to encounter the best arguments against their theory":
"In the final analysis, it is not any specific scientific evidence that convinces me that Darwinism is a pseudoscience that will collapse once it becomes possible for critics to get a fair hearing. It is the way the Darwinists argue their case that makes it apparent that they are afraid to encounter the best arguments against their theory. A real science does not employ propaganda and legal barriers to prevent relevant questions from being asked, nor does it rely on enforcing rules of reasoning that allow no alternative to the official story. If the Darwinists had a good case to make, they would welcome the critics to an academic forum for open debate, and they would want to confront the best critical arguments rather than to caricature them as straw men. Instead they have chosen to rely on the dishonorable methods of power politics." (Johnson P.E., "The Wedge of Truth: Splitting the Foundations of Naturalism," Intervarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 2000, p.141)]
In Newsweek, Jonathan Alter wrote that the "most clever thing about intelligent design is that it doesn't sound like nonsense". However, intelligent design, which has been described as creationism in a cheap tuxedo, had "failed the market test". [Again, the public will increasingly realize that those who keep describing "intelligent design ... as creationism" (when one of ID's leaders Bill Dembski, has stated that , "intelligent design is compatible with ... the most far-ranging evolution"; and another, Mike Behe, accepts "common descent" and believes that "evolution occurred, but was guided by God)":
"Where does intelligent design fit within the creation-evolution debate? Logically, intelligent design is compatible with everything from utterly discontinuous creation (e.g., God intervening at every conceivable point to create new species) to the most far-ranging evolution (e.g., God seamlessly melding all organisms together into one great tree of life). For intelligent design the primary question is not how organisms came to be (though, as we've just seen, this is a vital question for intelligent design) but whether organisms demonstrate clear, empirically detectable marks of being intelligently caused. In principle an evolutionary process can exhibit such `marks of intelligence' as much as any act of special creation." (Dembski W.A., "Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science and Theology," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 1999, pp.109-110)
"[Eugenie] Scott refers to me as an intelligent design `creationist,' even though I clearly write in my book `Darwin's Black Box' (which Scott cites) that I am not a creationist and have no reason to doubt common descent. In fact, my own views fit quite comfortably with the 40% of scientists that Scott acknowledges think `evolution occurred, but was guided by God.' Where I and others run afoul of Scott and the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) is simply in arguing that intelligent design in biology is not invisible, it is empirically detectable. The biological literature is replete with statements like David DeRosier's in the journal `Cell': `More so than other motors, the flagellum resembles a machine designed by a human' [DeRosier D.J., Cell, Vol. 93, 1998, p.17]. Exactly why is it a thought- crime to make the case that such observations may be on to something objectively correct?" (Behe M.J., "Intelligent Design Is Not Creationism," Science, dEbate, 7 July 2000)
have failed the credibility test!]
"So now its backers are seeking the equivalent of a government bailout, by going around their scientific peers to Red State politicians trying to slip religious dogma into the classroom," Alter wrote. [This is just fantasy built on fantasy. As the transcript shows, President Bush was just answering a reporter's questions, with what has been his position when he was the Governor of Texas. But I personally consider that if history is any guide, it likely that if these "scientific peers", whose personal philosophy is 90-95% atheist/agnostic:
"The 1998 NAS members perhaps provide a more immaculate sample of the elite than Leuba's starred entries did. Congress created the National Academy of Sciences in 1863, and after naming its first members Congress empowered them and their successors to choose all later members. Its current membership of 1,800 remains the closest thing to peerage in American science. And their responses validate Leuba's prediction of the beliefs of topflight scientists generations from his time. Disbelief among NAS members responding to our survey exceeded 90 percent. The increase may simply reflect that they are more elite than Leuba's `greater' scientists, but this interpretation would also please Leuba. NAS biologists are the most skeptical, with 95 percent of our respondents evincing atheism and agnosticism." (Larson E.J. & Witham L., "Scientists and Religion in America," Scientific American, Vol. 281, No. 3, September 1999, pp.78-83, p.80)
continue to deny that ID is even science, then they risk science eventually splitting into anti-ID and pro-ID streams.]
Not every US media outlet had closed its mind to ID, which has its origins in the biblical book of Genesis. Writing for AgapePress, which offers news from a Christian perspective, Jim Brown quoted a Dr Thomas Sharp, who claimed to have identified a "great shift taking place from Darwinism to intelligent design". [Again, claims like "ID ... has its origins in the biblical book of Genesis", will increasingly discredit as either ignorant or dishonest those who make them as the public increasingly becomes aware that ID is a scientific theory based on the evidence of nature, not on the Bible. Significantly, this editor of The Weekend Australian, fails to spoil a good story by mentioning that in his article this Jim Brown pointed out that "Dr Thomas Sharp" is a "young-Earth creationist" and from this perspective, not "all intelligent design theorists are ... biblical" (putting it how he presumably meant it) and that "Sharp is at odds with intelligent design theorists who believe the Earth is millions of years old":
"The debate over evolution vs. intelligent design is as hot as it has ever been, and one creation scientist believes now is the perfect time for Christians to enlighten the culture about their belief in God's creative work recorded in the Book of Genesis. Dr. Thomas Sharp, founder of both the Oklahoma-based Creation Truth Foundation and the Arkansas-based Museum of Earth History, cautions that all intelligent design theorists are not biblical. "The biblical view is that we don't hesitate to identify who the intelligence is," he explains. "[But] the unfortunate problem with  intelligent design across the board is that it's not all biblical." Still, intelligent design provides an "incredible support base for the biblical view," he explains, "because obviously the wisdom and super-intelligence of the Almighty God was the logos, or the concept, behind the creation of life and everything in the universe." Sharp contends that if Christians in America are able to "step up" and answer the questions about the hope that is within them, a spiritual awakening could occur in the United States. "We have the possibility in the near future, if the church in America can prepare herself and will engage the culture with biblical reality, that we can have an awakening in this country," he asserts, "because we're seeing a transition in worldview at the academic level. There's a great shift taking place from Darwinism to intelligent design." A young Earth creationist, Sharp is at odds with intelligent design theorists who believe the Earth is millions of years old. Despite that, he says intelligent design is a prediction from the biblical creation model that life, universe, and man are products of intelligent design." (Brown J., "Intelligent Design Proponent Optimistic About Current Worldview Shift," AgapePress, August 23, 2005)]
Across the border in Canada, Margaret Wente wrote in The Globe and Mail that intelligent design was proof that Canadians were "more intellectually sophisticated" than those "credulous Americans". [This sort of elitist arrogance will also backfire with the public.]
In his BBC column, Harold Evans predicted more epithets would fly because Mr Bush's "apparently innocuous few words are seen as another shot in the culture wars in America, where the frontier between religion and politics is jealously contended". [They weren't "apparently innocuous few words", they were "innocuous few words" by President Bush, as the BBC article says, it was just "an off-the-cuff response to a reporter". The BBC also is "Acting like a person who hits a car and then strolls up to the accident scene in the guise of an innocent bystander ... report[ing] all of this as a controversy about which it has no opinion -- and had no role in stoking" when "An honest headline on the story would read: "Press Baits Bush on Intelligent Design, Then Fuels Debate over his Response" (Neumayr G., "Darwin's Compost," The American Thinker, August 4, 2005)!]
Evans was not alone in noting that science generally was "in trouble with the Bush administration". [A "science" establishment that is a major combatant in "in the culture wars in America", and was so long before George W. Bush became President, on the opposite side of politics from that of the "Red State" majority, should not be surprised that it finds itself "in trouble with the Bush administration."]
In The New York Times, William Safire noted that it was the gathering of scientists who saw a designing intelligence behind DNA in a cell and the traditional creationists under one banner in the 1990s that had the "Darwinist scientific establishment going ape".
Citing the words of a respected neuroscientist, Safire advised the "red-faced disputants" to lighten up and have fun in the classroom discussing the evidence. [A "science" establishment that has chosen to be a major combatant in "in the culture wars in America", and was so long before George W. Bush became President, on the opposite side of politics from that of the "Red State" majority, should not be surprised that it finds itself "in trouble with the Bush administration." The question is, what is the "science" establishment going to do about it? If it follows its current policy of attacking and ridiculing the President and directly and indirectly those who voted for him (who after all formed the majority), then it is headed for disaster!]
Los Angeles Times columnist Dana Parsons had no problem with intelligent design being mentioned in the classroom alongside evolution, writing: "It's hard enough contemplating hundreds of millions of years having gone by, let alone grasping the historical link between a sea slug and Bill Gates." [This is a refreshingly modest article by Parsons. He admits that he "was a C student in science" (I assume that is the rule, rather than the exception among journalists) and that he is "not the one to explain the ins and outs of intelligent design versus evolution" but is "just a planetary resident wondering: How the heck did we get here?" Parson quite frankly acknowledges he has "no idea how, or if, ID could be taught in a science classroom", but he doesn't "see why high school teachers discussing evolution couldn't make it clear to students that not everyone buys into it" and nor would he "blanch if they outlined the arguments of intelligent design supporters." After all, "That is not the same as "teaching" it or giving it scientific credence." Parson's concludes with, "It's not my fault evolution is so hard to grasp"!]
In The Independent, humourist Miles Kington wondered about the "possibility of the world being created intelligently". He consulted a "cosmologist", who said: "If I were an intelligent designer, and I'd made the universe, I wouldn't mention it on my CV." [I could not find this "cosmologist", "Professor Barby Rank" on the Web, and nor could I find the full article for free (I was prepared to buy it but The Independent wanted to know far too much personal information before they would accept my credit card). But in that part of the article which was free, this Prof. Rank contradicted himself by conceding that, "the universe is so impressive to us humans that [it suggests that] someone much brighter than us must have created it. But it doesn't take much to be superhuman. Always remember that humans are very stupid and easily impressed"! Maybe in the full article Prof. Rank supplied his blueprint for an even more "impressive" and "superhuman" "universe" that he would mention on his CV! But then if we "humans are very stupid and easily impressed", how would anyone know if Prof. Rank's universe was better designed?]
However, The New Republic has taken the debate seriously, turning over the cover of its latest edition to the case against intelligent design in an article subtitled The Faith That Dare Not Speak Its Name. The author, University of Chicago professor Jerry Coyne, argued that intelligent design ultimately rested on the doctrines of fundamentalist Christianity, so its teaching in schools would be unconstitutional. "What we need in the schools is not less teaching of evolution but more," he wrote. Many Americans might still find the "creationist alternative psychologically more comfortable. But emotion should be distinguished from thought." [In this article which is too long to summarise here, Coyne repeatedly commits "the genetic fallacy ... a logical fallacy in which the origin of a belief, claim, or theory is confused with its justification," e.g. "You only believe in God because your parents taught you to. So your belief must be false ... This is a fallacy because the origin of the claim has no logical relation to its truth or falsity." For example:
"fundamentalist creationism has undergone its own evolution, taking on newer forms after absorbing repeated blows from the courts. "Intelligent design," as I will show, is merely the latest incarnation of the biblical creationism espoused by William Jennings Bryan in Dayton" and "But the creationists did not despair. They are animated, after all, by faith. And they are very resourceful. They came up with intelligent design. ... Intelligent design, or ID, is the latest pseudoscientific incarnation of religious creationism, cleverly crafted by a new group of enthusiasts to circumvent recent legal restrictions."
But even if that were true (which it isn't-the founders of the ID movement were not involved in the "repeated blows from the courts" resulting from attempts to teach "scientific creationism"), it is irrelevant. If "scientific creationism" is false and what's more has been ruled by "the courts" to contravene the doctrine of the separation of Church and State because it is based on the Bible, that does not mean the same applies to Intelligent Design, which may be true and is based on the evidence of nature.
Coyne admits that "these people [do] really believe in intelligent design ... They are not lying for their cause .... In fact, they view evolutionists as the duplicitous ones." Maybe that is because of evolutionists' use of fallacious arguments in support of evolution, like Coyne's use of the genetic fallacy above and his repeated use of the ad hominem fallacy against ID leader Jonathan Wells: "And here is Jonathan Wells, a member of Reverend Moon's Unification Church". Coyne does not seem to realize that Wells being a Moonie actually refutes his claim that ID is merely Christian "biblical creationism." Another reason why IDists might think that evolutionists like Coyne are "the duplicitous ones" is Coyne's spirited defence of "modern evolutionary theory (often called "neo- Darwinism" to take into account post-Darwinian modifications)," in this very New Republic article, when in 1992 Coyne co-authored a paper that found, "there is little evidence for the neo-Darwinian view: its theoretical foundations and the experimental evidence supporting it are weak:"
"We conclude-unexpectedly-that there is little evidence for the neo- Darwinian view: its theoretical foundations and the experimental evidence supporting it are weak, and there is no doubt that mutations of large effect are sometimes important in adaptation." (Orr H.A., & Coyne J.A., "The Genetics of Adaptation: A Reassessment," The American Naturalist, Vol. 140, No. 5, November 1992, p.726).]

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol)
"Problems of Evolution"

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