Thursday, September 01, 2005

Show Me the Science (Daniel Dennett, New York Times, August 28, 2005) #1

Here is part #1 of my comments (in square brackets) on Darwinist philosopher Daniel Dennett's recent critique of Intelligent Design (ID) in The New York Times.

The New York Times
Op-Ed Contributor
Show Me the Science
Published: August 28, 2005
Blue Hill, Me.

PRESIDENT BUSH, announcing this month that he was in favor of teaching about "intelligent design" in the schools, said, "I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought." A couple of weeks later, Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the Republican leader, made the same point. Teaching both intelligent design and evolution "doesn't force any particular theory on anyone," Mr. Frist said. "I think in a pluralistic society that is the fairest way to go about education and training people for the future."

[President Bush and Senator Frist were only echoing the common sense sentiment of the majority of Americans, as indicated by yet another poll that found that the majority (64%) of Americans are "open to the idea of teaching creationism in addition to evolution" (Laurie Goodstein, "Teaching of Creationism Is Endorsed in New Survey," The New York Times, August 31, 2005. Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education, said the findings were not surprising because "Americans react very positively to the fairness or equal time kind of argument" and "it's the strongest thing that creationists have got going for them ... they do have American culture on their side." I will comment on that poll finding in probably my next post.]

Is "intelligent design" a legitimate school of scientific thought? Is there something to it, or have these people been taken in by one of the most ingenious hoaxes in the history of science? Wouldn't such a hoax be impossible? No. Here's how it has been done.

[This is just another Darwinist attempt to eliminate its competition, by ruling it out as not "a legitimate school of scientific thought" and now even a "hoax"! But as leading ecologist E.G. Leigh observed, this has long been Darwinism's modus operandi, "by eliminating competing explanations", and "not by providing evidence that natural selection among 'random' mutations could, or did, account for observed adaptation":

"The primary problem with the [Neo-Darwinan modern] synthesis is that its makers established natural selection as the director of adaptive evolution by eliminating competing explanations, not by providing evidence that natural selection among 'random' mutations could, or did, account for observed adaptation.... Mayr remarked, 'As these non-Darwinian explanations were refuted during the synthesis ... natural selection automatically became the universal explanation of evolutionary change (together with chance factors).' Depriving the synthesis of plausible alternatives, which seemed such a triumph, in fact sowed the seeds of its faults." (Leigh E.G., Jr, "The modern synthesis, Ronald Fisher and creationism," Trends in Ecology and Evolution, vol. 14, no. 12, pp.495-498, December 1999, p.495. My emphasis)
However, this will increasingly backfire, as the public more and more comles to realise that, "A real science does not ... rely on enforcing rules of reasoning that allow no alternative to the official story" but "would welcome the critics to an academic forum for open debate"(Johnson P.E., "The Wedge of Truth: Splitting the Foundations of Naturalism," Intervarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 2000, p.141. My emphasis)]

First, imagine how easy it would be for a determined band of naysayers to shake the world's confidence in quantum physics how weird it is! - or Einsteinian relativity. In spite of a century of instruction and popularization by physicists, few people ever really get their heads around the concepts involved. Most people eventually cobble together a justification for accepting the assurances of the experts: "Well, they pretty much agree with one another, and they claim that it is their understanding of these strange topics that allows them to harness atomic energy, and to make transistors and lasers, which certainly do work

Fortunately for physicists, there is no powerful motivation for such a band of mischief-makers to form. They don't have to spend much time persuading people that quantum physics and Einsteinian relativity really have been established beyond all reasonable doubt.

[This is the usual Darwinist fallacy of false analogy, comparing the Neo-Darwinian theory of evolution with a theory in the much more rigorous physical sciences, like "Einsteinian relativity". But to establish there is a true analogy between Darwinian evolution and Einsteinian relativity, Dennett would need to show that "the two things being compared resemble each other in important respects and differ only in trifling ways":

"THE FALLACY OF FALSE ANALOGY. Few techniques of reasoning are so potentially useful-or so potentially dangerous-as analogy. When we reason by analogy we attempt to advance our position by likening an obscure or difficult set of facts to one that is already known and understood and to which it bears a significant resemblance. The fallacy of false analogy arises when the comparison is an erroneous one that distorts the facts in the case being argued. Drawing attention to likenesses can be extremely useful so long as the two things being compared resemble each other in important respects and differ only in trifling ways. If, on the contrary, they are alike in unimportant ways and different in important ways, then there is no valid analogy between them and a fallacy of false analogy results. Merely to seize upon some slight similarity as a basis for concluding that what is true of one is also true of the other will usually lead one astray. ... To expose a false analogy-or an imperfect analogy, as it is sometimes called-it is necessary to establish that the two things being compared resemble each other in insignificant ways, while they differ in significant ways." (Engel S.M., "With Good Reason: An Introduction to Informal Fallacies," St. Martin's Press: New York NY, Fourth Edition, 1990, pp.150-151. My emphasis).
But as Dembski points out, "actually quite easy to see that Darwinism is not in the same league as the hard sciences ... how many physicists, while arguing for the truth of Einsteinian physics, will claim that general relativity is as well established as Darwin's theory? Zero" (Dembski W.A., "Introduction: The Myths of Darwinism," in Dembski W.A., ed., "Uncommon Dissent: Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing," ISI Books: Wilmington DE, 2004, p.xxi)]

With evolution, however, it is different. The fundamental scientific idea of evolution by natural selection is not just mind-boggling; natural selection, by executing God's traditional task of designing and creating all creatures great and small, also seems to deny one of the best reasons we have for believing in God. So there is plenty of motivation for resisting the assurances of the biologists. Nobody is immune to wishful thinking. It takes scientific discipline to protect ourselves from our own credulity, but we've also found ingenious ways to fool ourselves and others. Some of the methods used to exploit these urges are easy to analyze; others take a little more unpacking.

[Dennett answers his own question why there is such resistance to Darwinism. It is the only scientific theory that depends on there being no God (materialism) or at least a God that does not intervene supernaturally in the world (naturalism). But Dennett (as most Darwinists do) misstates the mechanism. It is not only "natural selection" but the natural selection of random (i.e. unguided) mutations. And apart from there being no evidence that "natural selection" did (or even could) do the "designing and creating [of] all creatures great and small", Darwinists simply assume (with no way of knowing that all mutations in the history pf life have been random, in the sense of unguided:

"There is a fifth respect in which mutation might have been nonrandom. We can imagine (just) a form of mutation that was systematically biased in the direction of improving the animal's adaptedness to its life. But although we can imagine it, nobody has ever come close to suggesting any means by which this bias could come about. It is only in this fifth respect, the 'mutationist' respect, that the true, real-life Darwinian insists that mutation is random. Mutation is not systematically biased in the direction of adaptive improvement, and no mechanism is known (to put the point mildly) that could guide mutation in directions that are non-random in this fifth sense. Mutation is random with respect to adaptive advantage, although it is non- random in all sorts of other respects. It is selection, and only selection, that directs evolution in directions that are nonrandom with respect to advantage." (Dawkins R., "The Blind Watchmaker," [1986], Penguin: London, 1991, reprint, p.312. Emphasis in original).
As Darwin's contemporary critic Samuel Butler observed, "the `Origin of Variation' [which today we would call mutation] whatever it is, is the only true 'Origin of Species'":
"The question is not concerning evolution, but as to the main cause which has led to evolution in such and such shapes. To me it seems that the `Origin of Variation,' whatever it is, is the only true 'Origin of Species,' and that this must, as Lamarck insisted, be looked for in the needs and experiences of the creatures varying. Unless we can explain the origin of variations, we are met by the unexplained at every step in the progress of a creature from its original homogeneous condition to its differentiation, we will say, as an elephant; so that to say that an elephant has become an elephant through the accumulation of a vast number of small, fortuitous, but unexplained, variations in some lower creatures, is really to say that it has become an elephant owing to a series of causes about which we know nothing, whatever, or, in other words, that one does not know how it came to be an elephant." (Butler S., "Life and Habit," [1910], Wildwood House: London, 1981, pp.263-264. My emphasis).
And as Darwin's friend the Christian botanist Asa Gray proposed, it is a perfectly valid scientific hypothesis "that variation [mutation] has been led along certain beneficial lines":
"Wherefore, so long as gradatory, orderly, and adapted forms in Nature argue design, and at least while the physical cause of variation is utterly unknown and mysterious, we should advise Mr. Darwin to assume, in the philosophy of his hypothesis, that variation has been led along certain beneficial lines. Streams flowing over a sloping plain by gravitation (here the counterpart of natural selection) may have worn their actual channels as they flowed; yet their particular courses may have been assigned; and where we see them forming definite and useful lines of irrigation, after a manner unaccountable on the laws of gravitation and dynamics, we should believe that the distribution was designed." (Gray A., "Natural Selection Not Inconsistent With Natural Theology," Atlantic Monthly, October 1860, "Darwiniana: Essays and Reviews Pertaining to Darwinism," [1861], Dupree A.H., ed., Belknap: Cambridge MA, 1963, pp.121-122. My emphasis).
Also, Sir Charles Lyell, the `father of modern geology', and another friend of Darwin, in his "The Antiquity of Man" (1863), sided with Gray rather than Darwin, by pointing out that "there is no tendency in the doctrine of Variation and Natural Selection" to preclude one holding "that now and then, and -only now and then, there is [or has been] a direct interposition of the Deity":
"Dr. Asa Gray, in the excellent essay already cited [Gray A., "Natural Selection not inconsistent with Natural Theology," Trubner & Co. London 1861, p.55], has pointed out that there is no tendency in the doctrine of Variation and Natural Selection to weaken the foundations of Natural Theology, for, consistently with the derivative hypothesis of species, we may hold any of the popular views respecting the manner in which the changes of the natural world are brought about. We may imagine ` that events and operations in general go on in virtue simply of forces communicated at the first; and without any subsequent interference, or we may hold that now and then, and - only now and then, there is a direct interposition of the Deity; or, lastly, we may suppose that all the changes are carried on by the immediate orderly and constant, however infinitely diversified, action of the intelligent, efficient Cause.' They who maintain that the origin of an individual, as well as the origin of a species or a genus, can be explained only by the direct action of the creative cause, may retain their favourite theory compatibly with the doctrine of transmutation." (Lyell C., "The Antiquity of Man," Everyman's Library, J.M Dent & Sons: London, Third edition, 1863, reprint, 1927, p.393. My emphasis).
In fact, Dennett himself admits, "that there are no sure marks of natural, as opposed to artificial, [i.e. "the earlier historical presence of rational designers"] selection" and that therefore "Darwinian Theory Cannot Disprove Intelligent Design":
"Indeed, all the biologists I have queried on this point have agreed with me that there are no sure marks of natural, as opposed to artificial, selection. ... Should this conclusion be viewed as a terrible embarrassment to the evolutionists in their struggle against creationists? One can imagine the headlines: `Scientists Concede: Darwinian Theory Cannot Disprove Intelligent Design!' It would be foolhardy, however, for any defender of neo-Darwinism to claim that contemporary evolution theory gives one the power to read history so finely from present data as to rule out the earlier historical presence of rational designers-a wildly implausible fantasy, but a possibility after all." (Dennett D.C., "Darwin 's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and The Meanings of Life," [1995], Penguin: London, 1996, reprint, pp.317-318. My emphasis)
So while Dennett dismissed out of hand "Intelligent Design" as "a wildly implausible fantasy," he did concede that it is "a possibility after all." Therefore if anyone is guilty of perpetrating "one of the most ingenious hoaxes in the history of science" it is the Darwinists like Dennett, who have elevated their personal naturalistic (and therefore false) philosophy to the status of a fact of nature!]

[continued in part #2]

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

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