Tuesday, September 06, 2005

One side can be wrong (Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne, The Guardian, September 1, 2005) #1

Here is part #1 of my two-part response to an article by Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne in Britain's The Guardian. My comments are in square brackets:

The Guardian
One side can be wrong

Accepting 'intelligent design' in science classrooms would have disastrous consequences, warn Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne

[Yes, "disastrous consequences" for Darwinism (i.e. scientific materialism-naturalism), that is! This only goes to show how little confidence Darwinists like Dawkins and Coyne have in their theory surviving critical scrutiny (like any other theory or -ism) in school classrooms.]

Thursday September 1, 2005
The Guardian

It sounds so reasonable, doesn't it? Such a modest proposal. Why not teach "both sides" and let the children decide for themselves? As President Bush said, "You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes." At first hearing, everything about the phrase "both sides" warms the hearts of educators like ourselves.

[I am sure that the Guardian's readers will choke on their breakfast, reading that Dawkins' heart is warmed by the phrase "both sides", when it comes to evolution in general and Darwinian evolution in particular! After all, it was Dawkins who famously stated that anyone "who claims not to believe in evolution ... is ignorant, stupid or insane ... or wicked" (my emphasis):
"It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I'd rather not consider that)." (Dawkins R., "Put Your Money on Evolution", Review of Johanson D. & Edey M.A,, "Blueprints: Solving the Mystery of Evolution", in New York Times, April 9, 1989, sec. 7, p.34).]
One of us spent years as an Oxford tutor and it was his habit to choose controversial topics for the students' weekly essays.

They were required to go to the library, read about both sides of an argument, give a fair account of both, and then come to a balanced judgment in their essay. The call for balance, by the way, was always tempered by the maxim, "When two opposite points of view are expressed with equal intensity, the truth does not necessarily lie exactly half way between. It is possible for one side simply to be wrong."

[So what is the problem? If ID is "simply ... wrong," then why not teach it in schools alongside evolution? You would think that if the likes of Dawkins and Coyne were serenely confident that evolution was right, they would demand that ID be taught alongside evolution in schools.]

As teachers, both of us have found that asking our students to analyse controversies is of enormous value to their education.

[But such "controversies" are only those within the naturalistic evolution paradigm, "the standard scientific theory that `human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process.'" (Shermer M.B., "The Gradual Illumination of the Mind," Scientific American, February 2002. My emphasis). Under the rules of naturalistic reasoning, students are not permitted to consider "controversies" that would question evolution itself. The official scientific materialist party-line is that when it comes to any theory that questions naturalistic evolution itself (like Intelligent Design) it is automatically converted by the naturalistic paradigm into a non-theory, so there is no (and what's more cannot be) a controversy over naturalistic evolution itself, e.g.:
"The Discovery Institute, which promotes "intelligent design," a newer version of creationism, argues that schools should "Teach the Controversy." But there is no scientific controversy." (Lawrence M. Krauss, "School Boards Want to 'Teach the Controversy.' What Controversy?," The New York Times, May 17, 2005.]
What is wrong, then, with teaching both sides of the alleged controversy between evolution and creationism or "intelligent design" (ID)?

[Note the word, "alleged" before "controversy"! Evolutionists cannot, within their naturalistic paradigm, concede (and probably not even think) that there really could be "a controversy between evolution and" any theory that contradicted naturalistic evolution itself, such as "creationism or `intelligent design'."]

And, by the way, don't be fooled by the disingenuous euphemism. There is nothing new about ID. It is simply creationism camouflaged with a new name to slip (with some success, thanks to loads of tax-free money and slick public-relations professionals) under the radar of the US Constitution's mandate for separation between church and state.

[This is simply false, and what's more the general public will increasingly realise it is false, that "ID ... is simply creationism camouflaged with a new name." For starters, ID is based not on the Bible (as creationism is), but on the evidence of design in nature:
"Questions about Intelligent Design

1. What is the theory of intelligent design?

The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.

2. Is intelligent design theory incompatible with evolution?

It depends on what one means by the word "evolution." If one simply means "change over time," or even that living things are related by common ancestry, then there is no inherent conflict between evolutionary theory and intelligent design theory. However, the dominant theory of evolution today is neo-Darwinism, which contends that evolution is driven by natural selection acting on random mutations, an unpredictable and purposeless process that "has no discernable direction or goal, including survival of a species." (NABT Statement on Teaching Evolution). It is this specific claim made by neo-Darwinism that intelligent design theory directly challenges.

3. Is intelligent design based on the Bible?

No. The intellectual roots of intelligent design theory are varied. Plato and Aristotle both articulated early versions of design theory, as did virtually all of the founders of modern science. Indeed, most scientists until the latter part of the nineteenth century accepted some form of intelligent design. The scientific community largely rejected design in the early twentieth century after neo-Darwinism claimed to be able to explain the emergence of biological complexity through the unintelligent process of natural selection acting on random mutations. During the past decade, however, new research and discoveries in such fields as physics, cosmology, biochemistry, genetics, and paleontology have caused a growing number of scientists and science theorists to question neo-Darwinism and propose design as the best explanation for the existence of specified complexity in the natural world.

4. Is intelligent design theory the same as creationism?

No. Intelligent design theory is simply an effort to empirically detect whether the "apparent design" in nature acknowledged by virtually all biologists is genuine design (the product of an intelligent cause) or is simply the product of an undirected process such as natural selection acting on random variations. Creationism is focused on defending a literal reading of the Genesis account, usually including the creation of the earth by the Biblical God a few thousand years ago. Unlike creationism, the scientific theory of intelligent design is agnostic regarding the source of design and has no commitment to defending Genesis, the Bible or any other sacred text. Honest critics of intelligent design acknowledge the difference between intelligent design and creationism. University of Wisconsin historian of science Ronald Numbers is critical of intelligent design, yet according to the Associated Press, he "agrees the creationist label is inaccurate when it comes to the ID [intelligent design] movement." Why, then, do some Darwinists keep trying to conflate intelligent design with creationism? According to Dr. Numbers, it is because they think such claims are "the easiest way to discredit intelligent design." In other words, the charge that intelligent design is "creationism" is a rhetorical strategy on the part of Darwinists who wish to delegitimize design theory without actually addressing the merits of its case." ("Top Questions," Discovery Institute: Center for Science and Culture, December 15, 2004)
The Darwinists are `digging their own grave' with the public, by continually trotting out this false claim that "ID ... is simply creationism camouflaged with a new name" when it is easy to see (at least for someone whose mind has not been taken captive by the naturalistic paradigm), that it isn't. So the public will increasingly conclude that the Darwinists who claim it are either dishonest or deluded and so either way cannot be trusted in their other claims.]

Why, then, would two lifelong educators and passionate advocates of the "both sides" style of teaching join with essentially all biologists in making an exception of the alleged controversy between creation and evolution? What is wrong with the apparently sweet reasonableness of "it is only fair to teach both sides"? The answer is simple. This is not a scientific controversy at all. And it is a time-wasting distraction because evolutionary science, perhaps more than any other major science, is bountifully endowed with genuine controversy.

[See what I mean! By redefining "science" as applied naturalistic philosophy, Darwinists can then claim that anything outside their naturalistic paradigm (like creationism or intelligent design) "is not a scientific controversy at all." But their redefinition of "science" depends on naturalism being true (which it isn't). To the vast majority of the rest of us who do not accept apriori that naturalism is true, there is very much a "controversy".]

Among the controversies that students of evolution commonly face, these are genuinely challenging and of great educational value: neutralism versus selectionism in molecular evolution; adaptationism; group selection; punctuated equilibrium; cladism; "evo-devo"; the "Cambrian Explosion"; mass extinctions; interspecies competition; sympatric speciation; sexual selection; the evolution of sex itself; evolutionary psychology; Darwinian medicine and so on. The point is that all these controversies, and many more, provide fodder for fascinating and lively argument, not just in essays but for student discussions late at night.

[As far as "controversies that students of evolution commonly face", I have recently (2004) completed a biology degree and none of the above were presented as "controversies". But the point is that to the extent they are regarded as "controversies" within the naturalistic evolution paradigm, any answers outside that paradigm are not permitted. A recent example of this was in one of them, the "Cambrian Explosion":
"Evolutionary biologist Richard Sternberg ... editor of the ... Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, ... decided to publish a paper making the case for "intelligent design," ... Within hours of publication, senior scientists at the Smithsonian Institution -- which has helped fund and run the journal -- lashed out at Sternberg as a shoddy scientist and a closet Bible thumper. "They were saying I accepted money under the table, that I was a crypto-priest, that I was a sleeper cell operative for the creationists," said Steinberg, 42 ... "I was basically run out of there." An independent agency has come to the same conclusion, accusing top scientists at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History of retaliating against Sternberg by investigating his religion and smearing him as a "creationist." The U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which was established to protect federal employees from reprisals, examined e-mail traffic from these scientists and noted that "retaliation came in many forms ... misinformation was disseminated through the Smithsonian Institution and to outside sources. The allegations against you were later determined to be false."... James McVay, the principal legal adviser in the Office of Special Counsel, wrote to Sternberg, ... As Sternberg is not a Smithsonian employee -- the National Institutes of Health pays his salary -- the special counsel lacks the power to impose a legal remedy. ... It is hard to overstate the passions fired by the debate over intelligent design. ... The special counsel accused the National Center for Science Education, an Oakland, Calif.-based think tank that defends the teaching of evolution, of orchestrating attacks on Sternberg. "The NCSE worked closely with" the Smithsonian "in outlining a strategy to have you investigated and discredited," McVay wrote ... Sternberg ... holds two PhDs in evolutionary biology ... agreed to consider a paper by Stephen C. Meyer, a Cambridge University-educated philosopher of science who argues that evolutionary theory cannot account for the vast profusion of multicellular species and forms in what is known as the Cambrian "explosion," which occurred about 530 million years ago. Scientists still puzzle at this great proliferation of life. But Meyer's paper went several long steps further, arguing that an intelligent agent ... was the best explanation for the rapid appearance of higher life-forms. ... "I am not convinced by intelligent design but they have brought a lot of difficult questions to the fore," Sternberg said. "Science only moves forward on controversy." Sternberg ... mailed Meyer's article to three scientists for a peer review. ..."They were critical of the paper and gave 50 things to consider," Sternberg said. "But they said that people are talking about this and we should air the views." When the article appeared, the reaction was near instantaneous and furious. ... An e-mail ... labeled him a "Young Earth Creationist,"... Sternberg insists he does not believe in creationism. ... Sternberg ... no longer comes into the Smithsonian. When the biological society issued a statement disavowing Meyer's article, Sternberg was advised not to attend. "I was told that feelings were running so high, they could not guarantee me that they could keep order," Sternberg said. A former professor of Sternberg's says the researcher has an intellectual penchant for going against the system. Sternberg does not deny it. "I loathe careerism and the herd mentality," he said. "I really think that objective truth can be discovered and that popular opinion and consensus thinking does more to obscure than to reveal." (Michael Powell, "Editor Explains Reasons for 'Intelligent Design' Article," The Washington Post, August 19, 2005, p.A19)
Intelligent design is not an argument of the same character as these controversies. It is not a scientific argument at all, but a religious one. It might be worth discussing in a class on the history of ideas, in a philosophy class on popular logical fallacies, or in a comparative religion class on origin myths from around the world. But it no more belongs in a biology class than alchemy belongs in a chemistry class, phlogiston in a physics class or the stork theory in a sex education class. In those cases, the demand for equal time for "both theories" would be ludicrous. Similarly, in a class on 20th-century European history, who would demand equal time for the theory that the Holocaust never happened?

[This defining of naturalistic evolution as "science" and Intelligent design as "religion" is what Johnson means by "the Darwinists ... rely[ing] on enforcing rules of reasoning that allow no alternative to the official story":
"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. My emphasis).
Moreover it is fallacious. Dawkins himself, when it suits him (i.e. when he wants to attack it) has conceded that even "creationism" is a rival scientific theory (he includes it in the same category of "doomed rivals" along with the scientific theories "Lamarckism", "neutralism" and "mutationism"):
"But there are other theories that are most definitely not versions of Darwinism, theories that go flatly against the very spirit of Darwinism. These rival theories are the subject of this chapter. They include various versions of what is called Lamarckism; also other points of view such as 'neutralism', 'mutationism' and creationism which have, from time to time, been advanced as alternatives to Darwinian selection. The obvious way to decide between rival theories is to examine the evidence. ... In short, divine creation, whether instantaneous or in the form of guided evolution, joins the list of other theories we have considered in this chapter." (Dawkins R., "The Blind Watchmaker," [1986], Penguin: London, 1991, reprint, pp.287, 316-317. My emphasis)
And in my biology textbook, Dawkins discussed Paley's "argument of design", which at the time, "All undergraduates at Cambridge had to read":
"One of your books, The Blind Watchmaker, argues the case for the cumulative power of natural selection in the adaptation of organisms. Tell us about the metaphorical title of that book. The `watchmaker' comes from William Paley, the eighteenth-and early nineteenth-century theologian who was one of the most famous exponents of the argument of design. Paley famously said that if you are wandering along and stumble upon a watch and you pick it up and open it, you realize that the internal mechanism-the way in which it's all meshed together-is detailed perfection. Add this to the fact that the watch mechanism has a purpose-namely, telling the time-then this compels you to conclude that the watch had to have a designer. Paley then went on throughout his book giving example after example of detailed structure of living organisms-eyes, heart, bowels, joints, and everything about animals- showing how beautifully designed they apparently are, how well they work, how intricately the parts mesh together, just like the cog wheels of a watch. And if the watch had to have a watchmaker, then of course these biological structures also had to have a designer. My reason for beginning The Blind Watchmaker was Paley. He really saw the magnitude of the problem of adaptation when most people just didn't see how elegant, how beautiful, apparent design in life is. Paley saw that, and Darwin saw that. And Darwin was introduced to it at least partly by Paley. All undergraduates at Cambridge had to read William Paley. He at least put the question right. So the only thing Paley got wrong, which is quite a big thing, was the answer to the question. And nobody got the right answer until Charles Darwin in the nineteenth century." (Dawkins R., "Mechanisms of Evolution," in Campbell N.A., Reece J.B. & Mitchell L.G., "Biology," [1987], Benjamin/Cummings: Menlo Park CA, Fifth Edition, 1999, p.412)
Now if "Paley ... at least put the question right", then that was a scientific question, even if (according to Dawkins) "Paley got wrong ... the answer to the question" and Darwin "got the right answer". It is just special pleading for Darwinists to claim that their `no' answer to the question, "is there evidence for design in nature?" is "science", but the ID movement's `yes' answer to the same question is "religion"! The very fact that Darwinists continue to mention the design argument in biology textbooks, in order to show how Darwin (supposedly) refuted it, and spend so much time and effort trying to falsify ID's design argument (as in this Guardian article), shows that they really do accept design as a rival scientific theory.]

[Because of other priorities, this will now not be continued in part #2]

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

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