Thursday, September 15, 2005

Be honest: Objections faith-based, etc

Here are news excerpts (all about ID), with my comments in square brackets:

Be honest: Objections faith-based, The Atlanta Journal- Constitution ... 09/12/05 Jay Bookman ..."Teach the controversy." That's all that advocates of intelligent design ask. Go ahead and teach what they call the scientific evidence for and against the theory of evolution. But at the same time, why not also teach the "competing scientific theory" that only an intelligent being could have created the marvel of the world around us? ... In making that argument, most advocates of intelligent design reject any suggestion that their approach is religion disguised in a white lab coat. Intelligent design is simply good science, they say, with all the rigor and honest inquiry that science requires, and it should be treated as such. .... In a recent Harris poll ... only 12 percent believe that evolution should be the only theory of human origin taught in our schools. President Bush takes that same approach, endorsing the teaching of both evolution and intelligent design. Unfortunately, though, I don't believe ID advocates are sincere about wanting to teach the controversy. If they are, they simply haven't thought through the implications. A controversy, remember, has two sides. And if alleged weaknesses in evolution theory are to be taught in our schools as science, then scientific evidence against the existence of an intelligent designer or God must be taught, too. That's how science works. If you propose a theory, you issue an invitation to others to shoot holes in your theory. So think about that: Do we really want science teachers exploring the evidence for - but also against - the existence of a designer? I don't think that's wise or useful for a number of reasons, but that's what a rigorous and intellectually honest debate would require. To take a tiny example, the existence of an appendix - which serves no purpose except to enrich surgeons - certainly calls into question the intelligence if not the existence of an ultimate designer. To take a larger example, would an intelligent designer allow the birth of babies so malformed that they are doomed to live only a few hours of a painful existence? And to change scales altogether, what kind of intelligent designer creates a world in which a massive hurricane wipes an entire city off the map? If the complexity of the eye argues for an intelligent designer of this universe, the random deaths of large numbers of innocent people can certainly be said to argue against it. ... When advocates of intelligent design deny that they are advancing religious faith, they aren't being honest. They're telling a lie, no matter how well-intended, and it's a lie that fools no one. Yet they want everyone to pretend to believe it. Trying to advance the cause of faith by dishonestly disguising it as science does a profound injustice to both. ... [Talking about "dishonesty" and "telling a lie", why is Bookman pretending that he is concerned that if ID was taught in schools, it might come off second best? If ID's opponents' really believed that, they would be the ones demanding that ID to be taught! ID has no problem with the evidence against design also being taught (that is what is already done now, implicitly and explicitly, when Darwinism is taught). ID has already addressed the counter-argument of evil design or suboptimal design. But ID per se makes no claim that the design, or the designer, is good (that - like the identity of the designer - is an issue for theology and philosophy): all ID claims is that there is empirically detectable evidence of design in nature. Mind you, Darwinists might find some of their arguments against design, e.g. "the existence of an appendix - which serves no purpose" could backfire against Darwinism's designer-substitute "natural selection", which Darwin claimed was "daily and hourly scrutinising, throughout the world, the slightest variations; rejecting those that are bad ... whenever and wherever opportunity offers, at the improvement of each organic being" (my emphasis):

"It may metaphorically be said that natural selection is daily and hourly scrutinising, throughout the world, the slightest variations; rejecting those that are bad, preserving and adding up all that are good; silently and insensibly working, whenever and wherever opportunity offers, at the improvement of each organic being in relation to its organic and inorganic conditions of life." (Darwin C.R., "The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection," [1872], Everyman's Library, J.M. Dent & Sons: London, 6th Edition, 1928, reprint, p.84)
If the human appendix is so lacking in purpose, as the Darwinists maintain, then students could reasonably be asked to consider how come natural selection has not eliminated it? Also, on the question of "vestigial organs" generally, it could be pointed out that while ID has no problem with their presence (i.e. "evidence of degeneration from an earlier, more optimal design") evolution has a problem with the absence of "nascent organs" ("evidence of a move toward a new optimal design")
"A serious problem with this argument for evolution is that whereas vestigial organs are known, nascent organs are not. If evolution were true, one would expect to see not just organs `going out' but also organs `coming in.' These new organs would be called nascent organs. The absence of such organs would seem to argue that although we have evidence of degeneration from an earlier, more optimal design, we lack evidence of a move toward a new optimal design. It would seem that if an intelligent Designer created optimal designs in the past and life's history has been a move away from that optimum, the presence of vestigial organs and the absence of nascent organs would be better explained by intelligent design than by evolutionary theory." (Wise K.P., "The Origin of Life's Major Groups," in Moreland J.P., ed., "The Creation Hypothesis: Scientific Evidence for an Intelligent Designer," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 1994, pp.222-223)
I have added this quote and the two tagline quotes below, to my "Problems of Evolution" book outline, PE 11.7.1 "Vestigial organs and structures ... Evolution needs nascent not vestigial organs and structures".]

Lawsuit over intelligent design moves forward, York Daily Record, Lauri Lebo, September 14, 2005. The attorney for the Dover Area School Board calls his client's decision to include intelligent design into the biology curriculum a "modest proposal." "That this very modest proposal is in fact a violation of the (First Amendment's) establishment clause is ridiculous," said Richard Thompson of the Thomas More Law Center. But apparently a federal judge thinks that it's at least a possibility. In a ruling Tuesday, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III denied Dover's request for summary judgment to throw out a case filed against the district by 11 parents over the intelligent design inclusion. He wrote that "genuine issues of material fact exist regarding as to whether the challenged policy has a secular purpose and whether the policy's principal or primary effect advances or inhibits religion." The trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 26 in Harrisburg federal court. "We're disappointed, but not surprised," Thompson said. ... [This presumably was always unlikely that a District court would summarily dismiss the ACLU's challenge to the Dover Area Board's one-minute reading of a disclaimer that evolution is only a theory. This might be a momentous first test case whether or not there is "a secular purpose" to point out to students that: "Darwin's Theory is a theory. ... The Theory is not a fact. [and] Gaps in the Theory exist for which there is no evidence ...":

"The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin's Theory of Evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part.

Because Darwin's Theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The defined is not a fact. Gaps in the Theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation, that unifies a broad range of observations.

Intelligent Design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view. The reference book, Of Pandas and People, is available for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what - Intelligent Design actually involves.

With respect to any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of the Origins of Life to individual students and their families. As a Standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on Standards-based assessments."

and "whether the policy's principal or primary effect advances or inhibits religion." One way or another this is likely to go all the way to the Supreme Court.]

Intelligent design old news to Darwin, Chicago Tribune, Tom Hundley, September 13, 2005. DOWNE, England -- So what would Charles Darwin have to say about the dust-up between today's evolutionists and intelligent designers? Probably nothing. Shy and reclusive, Darwin disliked argument. ... From his university days Darwin would have been familiar with the case for intelligent design. In 1802, nearly 30 years before the Beagle set sail, William Paley, the reigning theologian of his time, published "Natural Theology" in which he laid out his "Argument from Design." Paley contended that if a person discovered a pocket watch while taking a ramble across the heath, he would know instantly that this was a designed object, not something that had evolved by chance. Therefore, there must be a designer. Similarly, man--a marvelously intricate piece of biological machinery--also must have been designed by "Someone." If this has a familiar ring to it, it's because this is pretty much the same argument that intelligent design advocates use today. ... The argument continues unabated, and these days the intelligent designers and anti-evolutionists seem to be gaining ground, especially in the United States. A recent poll conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life indicates that 42 percent of Americans accept the biblical account of creation, while 64 percent said they support the idea of schools teaching creationism and evolution. For the overwhelming majority of scientists, however, the argument is settled: 146 years after the publication of Darwin's theory, it remains the bedrock of modern biology. ... [No actual evidence is ever presented for this sort of blanket claim by Darwinist that: "For the overwhelming majority of scientists, however, the argument is settled" in favour of "Darwin's theory" (my emphasis). It would be interesting to see the results of a survey carried out by a reputable polling organization asking: 1) "scientists" in general; and 2) biologists in particular, whether they: a) strongly agree; b) agree; c) neither agree nor disagree; d) disagree; or e) strongly disagree with the statement that: "Darwin's theory of the natural selection of random mutations is an adequate explanation for the evidence of design in biology." The results of such a survey might be very surprising!]

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

"BIOLOGISTS adduce as strong evidence in support of the evolution doctrine the existence in organisms of structures which they usually describe as rudimentary. If these were in reality rudimentary, that is to say, in a nascent condition, in the course of being developed, their presence would indeed afford strong support to the theory. Unfortunately for the doctrine, not one of these structures is rudimentary. Some of them are vestigial, that is to say, organs in a state of degeneration. If the evolution doctrine was merely that many types have degenerated since they were created or originated, then the presence of vestigial organs would afford strong support to it. What the doctrine demands is not vestigial, but nascent organs, and the latter appear to be non-existent. Such a state of affairs seems to strike at the root of the evolution doctrine. Better evidence of the assertion that for the last fifty years biological textbooks bring to light only that which is favourable to evolution and pass over unnoticed all that is unfavourable could scarcely be adduced than the fact that these volumes contain many references to vestigial organs, but none to nascent organs." (Dewar D., "Difficulties of the Evolution Theory," Edward Arnold & Co: London, 1931, p.24. My emphasis)

"I asserted (D. p. 24) that the theory of evolution requires for its proof, not vestigial, but nascent organs, because the existence of useless vestiges merely shows that animals may lose organs. I wrote: "although the anatomy of thousands of species has been carefully studied, it is impossible to adduce a single structure in any species which is indubitably or even probably in a nascent condition." This is clearly a very great difficulty of the evolution theory, I might almost say a fatal one. ... According to the evolution theory all multicellular animals are derived from one-celled ancestors, which exhibit nothing that can he called an organ in the strict sense. Consider now the vast number of organs and structures which are supposed to have evolved in the descendants of these organ-less ancestors; every differentiated cell, bone, cartilage, muscle, tendon, nerve, blood vessel, ganglion, hair, feather, scale, spine, shell, spur, antler, horn, hoof, claw, nail, tooth, tusk, antenna, appendage, every internal organ from the blood corpuscles to the stomach and liver. Every type of each of the above organs, according to the evolution theory, must have at one time existed in a nascent condition. Now consider the, million or so existing species of animals all of which are supposed to be in a state of flux, evolving. If these species be really evolving, the majority of them ought to exhibit nascent structures in all states of completion, from unrecognisable excrescences to structures almost ready for use. Not a single one seems to exist!" (Dewar D., "More Difficulties of the Evolution Theory: And a reply to "Evolution and Its Modern Critics," Thynne & Co: London, 1938, pp.51-52. My emphasis)

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